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Hog Creek Review
Allen County High Schools 2011

Creative Nonfiction
Allen East star Apollo Career Center star Bath star Bluffton star Delphos Jefferson star Delphos St. John’s star Elida star Lima Central Catholic
Lima Senior star Perry star Shawnee star Spencerville star Temple Christian
Freshman/Sophomore Division
Security Blanket
Corinne Metzger, Delphos Jefferson
Sponsoring Teacher: Joshua Vasquez

Corinne Metzger

                        As I lay in the darkness of the room, I tried to remember how we fell into that situation: a single mother with her two children struggling to live in a hotel. At first the room humorously reminded me of Wally and Beaver's room from the show Leave it to Beaver, beds side by side, each sibling was given a light to willingly turn off as they pleased.
            “Goodnight Wally,” I said jokingly as I turned out the light next to my bed.“Goodnight Beaver,” responded my agitated brother, Tyler, as he turned out his light angrily. Even though we both are very close, he didn’t seem to enjoy my lame references to 1950's sitcoms anymore.
            The quieter the outside world became, the more the silence began to scare me. I was only thirteen and being in an unusual room can be frightening at that age. Right when I was about to drift into sleep, sobbing from through the shadowed doorway broke the heart wrenching silence. I knew the tears were coming from my helpless mother. Throughout the day, she had been holding in her emotions, but her dark brown eyes were filled with too much sorrow and could not hide her pain. Hearing my mother cry further confirmed we were nothing like that perfect family shown on television.
            The extremely scary feeling of having no home and little food or money made my stomach turn, like I wanted to throw up. I closed my eyes, attempting to make the nightmare disappear, and slowly slipped into my dream.
            I saw my dad and mom happy, which is one of the hardest emotions for me to remember them sharing. They were embracing each other, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. They haven’t even tolerated each other for much of my childhood. My brother and I were laughing. That sore breathless feeling has been very scarce lately.   
            All the happy memories seemed to fade away, until my eyes open and I see my once angry brother sleeping peacefully, with the sunlight seeping through the curtains onto his soft face. I tiredly sat up in my new bed, and realized I was only dreaming. My first dream as a homeless child was like a home video replaying happily in my flustered mind. It was like being in a Wonderland, happiness and joy never seeming to end. Unfortunately my wonderland didn't last as long as Alice's.
            My frown then returned to its rightful place on my face. As I sat there, I could hear my mother as she talked quietly on the phone. I was still groggy since I had just woken up, but I tried to focus and secretly listen to her conversation.
            “I don’t know what we’re going to do,” she said to the unknown person on the phone,
            “I guess we’re just going to have to wait and hope that something comes up.” 
            I tried to quietly slide off of my bed so she wouldn’t hear me walking. As soon as my right foot hit the cold floor, the uneven board squeaked allowing my mom to know I was aware of her secret conversation.
            “I think Corinne is up, I’ll have to call you later,” she quickly said to the person on the other end. “Uh-huh. Bye.” As I heard the sound of the phone crashing down as she hung up, I walked into the doorway. Her concerned eyes stared into mine. She couldn’t tell if I knew about her conversation because I was managing to make my face blank, pretending to be content.
            “Good morning Sunshine,” she said with a fake smile.
            “Morning Mom,” I responded unaware of my slight attitude.
            “Would you like some breakfast?” she asked hoping to start a conversation.
            “I think I’ll just take a shower, I’m not hungry. Thanks though,” I said while walking towards the small bathroom next to my mother’s room.
            I turned the glass shower handle all the way into the red zone, hoping for a very warm splash of water to relax my tense body. I looked into my tired, sad eyes through the mirror.
            I was thinking to myself, a thirteen year old should not look like this. My eyes should be filled with excitement and joy, not pity and sorrow. I should wake up joyfully from a fun filled dream. I should gossip with my mother instead of trying to avoid her. My body shivered as a chill ran up my spine, as it broke me from my sad thoughts.
            I took off my pajamas and stepped into the used shower. The water was ice cold, making my body tenser than it already was. The disappointment of the water temperature reminded me exactly of how I felt about my mother. Her repetitive failures jabbed into my hope like a butcher with his meat cleaver. As I thought deeply about our family past, the cold water made my body shiver until I fell back into reality.
            I finally recovered from my freezing rain storm as I wrapped a fresh towel around my frozen body. I dried myself off, brushed my hair, and put my clean clothes on for the new day. Feeling refreshed I returned to the small, secluded room I must call my bedroom. On the way to my room, I passed my mother, as she was sitting in her room watching T.V.. I didn’t say one word. Silence was better than screaming. Tyler was awake, barely, slumped over in his bed. I slowly set my lifeless body next to his. The silence filled the empty, meaningless room. Without a second to think, a loud high pitched honking sound came from outside the hotel walls.
            It was our mother’s car horn. It was broken, like our family was, and it would not stop making its alarming noise. It reminded me of myself. Wanting to scream at the top of my lungs but not being able to break through quite yet. As we heard the sound of our mother closing the door behind her, as she attempts to quiet the annoying sound, before it woke the neighbors, Tyler hugged me. As a big brother would, comforting his scared, innocent little sister. Gently, like a blanket keeping me warm and safe. He didn’t let go. I began to cry as I heard random voices yelling at our mother, complaining about our car. As much as I’d like to have been the one screaming at her, I felt sympathetic for her. I wished for peacefulness as my mother slammed the door behind her in frustration because of our repetitive car horn.
            Tyler still hasn’t let his grip on me go. His love and protectiveness over me is as gentle as the hug he gave me in that sorrowful hotel room. Our bond has only been strengthened by our homeless experience. It’s still rapidly blossoming. He is my brother. He is my guardian angel. He is my security blanket.

Everything Nothing
Teresa Pohlman, Delphos St. John’s
Sponsoring Teacher: Chrissy Elwer

Everything, Yet Nothing
            “Well, here we are,” Karie Young said as she unlocked the door to the Young’s newly acquired house around noon on a warm Sunday afternoon in August.  “Our new home.”  After Karie stepped inside and looked around the foyer, she quickly edited her words, “Well, our almost-new home.”
            “Mommy, do Alea and me get our own rooms?” Alexandria asked as she tugged on her mother’s shirt hem.
            “Sorry, Alex.  There are only three bedrooms, so you two have to share,” Karie replied.  “But you can pick the room you want.”
            “Okay,” Alex exclaimed excitedly.  “C’mon, Lee-lee, let’s go.”  The two nine-year-old twin girls ran up the dirty stair steps to pick out their room.
            “I guess we had better get to work,” Karie said as she turned to face her husband Andrew and her eldest daughter Arianna.
            Arianna ran her fingers along the dust-covered banister and said, “I’ll start in the twins’ room.  Are the buckets and cleaning supplies in the back of the truck?”
            “Yes,” Andrew answered, “they should be towards the back.  I’ll start repairing the porch steps and railing.”
            “All right.  I guess I’ll begin fixing up the kitchen.”
            Arianna headed out to the beat-up red pickup truck parked in the driveway.  She grabbed two buckets and carefully arranged the cleaners neatly in them.  Then, she carried the bucket inside to the kitchen.
            “Mom?  Here’s a bucket and some cleaning supplies,” she said as she set a bucket down on the grimy countertop and emptied the remaining bucket.
            “Thanks, hon.” Karie said as she began to take all of the junk out of the cupboard that was left behind by the previous owner. 
            Arianna went to the sink and began to fill her now-empty bucket with water.  After it was full, she grabbed a rag and headed upstairs.  “I’ll be upstairs if you need me, Mom.”
            “Okay,” Karie, who was scrubbing a thick layer of dust off the cabinet shelves, responded.
             As Arianna started up the steps, she heard something creak.  Then, all of a sudden, the step that she was standing on splintered beneath her.  Her right foot disappeared into the floor as she yelped.  Luckily, the bucket of water didn’t spill everywhere.
            Karie came dashing into the room as she said, “Are you all right, Ari?”
            “Yeah, except for the fact that my ankle is bleeding,” Arianna said while she pulled her right foot out of the newly formed hole in the floor.
            “We don’t have any band aids, but we could use strips of cloth from outgrown clothes.”
            Fifteen minutes later, Ari’s ankle was bandaged with some striped cloth.  “Lee-lee?  Alex?” Ari called as she wandered through the second floor hallway.
            “What, Ari?” Alea poked her head out of a doorway at the end of the hall.
            “Be careful when you go down the steps.  There’s a hole in one of the steps.  Is that the room that you want?  Where’s Alex?”
            “She’s sitting on the floor.  Her face looks funny.”
            “Uh oh.”  The first thing Arianna saw when she entered the room was her little sister sitting on the floor with big eyes and a scrunched up face.  “Alex?  What’s wrong?”
            “Can’t…breathe,” she gasped.
            “Alea, go get her inhaler off the dashboard in the truck.  Hurry!”  Alea disappeared through the door.  “Once Lee-lee gets back, use your inhaler, then stay outside for awhile, okay?”  Ari watched as her adorable blonde-hair-blue-eyed sister slowly nodded in response.
            “Here,” Alea said when she returned a few minutes later.
            Alex inhaled two puffs of medicine.  Arianna asked, “Feel better?” 
            Alex nodded and hugged her older sister.  “Thanks.  You’re the best sister ever.”
            “Now, go outside and play while I clean your room.”
            Once the twins were out the door, Ari quickly scanned the dilapidated room.  The old bed was ripped and broken.  The mirror on the wall was cracked and covered in grime.  Also, the windows were impossible to see through.  A few of the floorboards near the window were broken and old, musty clothes filled the small closet.  “Here we go.  This should be fun.”
            Arianna began to wash the windows to let more light into the room.  Although it took her nearly half an hour to clean the thick layer of dust off the windowpane, the bedroom was now bathed in sunlight.  She then proceeded to carry pieces of the broken bed down the stairs, through the back door, and threw it into the enormous green dumpster that sat in the alleyway.  Ari trudged back to the twins’ room and continued working.  In what seemed no time at all, in reality it was two hours later, the bedroom was spic and span and ready to be moved into.
            Since the room was clean, Ari decided to take a break before she carried in the twins’ belongings.  “I’m done with Alea and Alex’s room,” she told her mother as she sat down at the clean kitchen table.  “How are you doing in here?”
            “Good.  I just have to finish scouring the oven.  Then, I’ll help you bring things in,” a dirty-faced Karie replied as she wiped the sweat off her brow.
            “All right.”  After Arianna drank a glass of water, she commenced to work.
            By the time dinner was on the table at seven o’clock, nothing remained in the truck, most of the rooms were grime free and the steps were repaired.                                 
            Andrew raised his glass of water and said, “I propose a toast to the Young’s, the richest family in the world.  Sure, we may not be rich in the money sense, but we are rich in every other way.  We are a close, loving family that cares about each other and that’s all that matters.  To us.”
            “To us,” everyone responded clinking his or her glasses together.
            “Great job on a job well done today,” Karie said. “Tomorrow we need to finish cleaning the living room and start putting everything in its proper place.”
            “Can I help, Mom?” an overeager Alea asked.
            “Of course you can help.”
            “Me, too. Me, too,” Alex squealed as she bounced up and down in her chair.
            “Yes. You can help, too, Alex,” Karie told her.  Then, she turned to Arianna and asked, “Did your art teacher tell you about the art contest that was advertised in the newspaper?”
            “Yes, she did.  I’m planning on doing a charcoal or chalk drawing for the contest,” Ari said.  “I am going to start on it tonight.”
            “Good. You have superb artistic talent and it’s great that you are putting it to use.  I want to see your completed work when it’s finished,” Karie said to her daughter.
            “Thank you, and I’ll be sure to show you.”  The rest of the meal was filled with chatter and friendly family banter.
            After the dishes were washed and put away, Ari climbed up the stairs and walked into her room.  She sat down at the old oak desk in the corner of her room.  From the single, brass-knobbed drawer, Ari pulled out her drawing pad and a pack of charcoal pencils.  Then, Ari began to draw.
            By the time Arianna went to bed that night, she had two, almost completed, charcoal illustrations.  The first one contained an intricately detailed mix of snapdragons, petunias and geraniums and a hummingbird hovering over the flowers.  Ari entitled it “The Great Outdoors.”  The second illustration depicted a partly dilapidated house.  A portion of the two-story house was decrepit.  It was falling apart and in poor condition.  The other half, on the other hand, emanated a sumptuous appearance.  Arianna designated this depiction “The Power of Love.”  Both illustrations contained great detail, in both the shading and the objects themselves. 
            The next morning Ari woke up at 6:00 and jumped out of bed.  She took a shower.  After, Ari pulled on her only good pair of jeans.  Then, she found her favorite, rainbow tie-dyed shirt and put it on.  Before she went downstairs to eat breakfast, Arianna sat down at her desk and finished her illustrations.
            “That didn’t take that long,” Ari said to herself.  She then stood up, grabbed her book bag along with her pictures, carried them down the stairs, and sat them on the floor in the foyer.
            As Arianna came into the kitchen, Karie, who was reading the Daily News, said, “Good morning, hon.  Sleep well?”
            “Good morning, Mom.  Yes, I slept well.  Did Daddy already go to work?”
            “Yes, he did.  Are the twins up yet?”
            “I don’t think so.  I’ll go wake them up.”
            Ari took the steps two at a time and walked into her little sisters’ room.  “Wakey wakey,” Ari said as she gently shook Alea and Alex awake.
            “Morning, Ari,” Alea said as she rubbed the sleep out of her eyes.
            “Morning, Lee-lee.  Morning, Alex.”
            “Morning,” Alex said groggily.
            “You better get ready for school.”
            “Okay,” the twins replied in unison.  Ari headed back down to the kitchen.  “They’re up.”
            “Thank you.”
            Ari pulled out her drawings, and said, “I drew these last night.”  She handed them to Karie once her mother put down the newspaper.
            “Wow!  These are good,” Karie exclaimed while examining Arianna’s work.  “All the details make it come alive, and it seems as if I’m actually there.  Good job, honey.”
            “Thanks.  Do you think I’ll be able to enter both of them in the contest?”  Arianna asked as she took a cereal bowl out of the cupboard and filled it with Cheerios.
            “I believe the limit is three,” Karie remembered.
            As Ari sat down at the table, she asked, “Where do I turn them in?”
            “The post office,” Karie replied.
            “I’ll stop there after school.  I want to show Cassidy and Olivia before I turn them in.”
            “All right,” Karie said.  “If you want, you can hang out with your friends after school.”
            “Thanks, Mom,” Ari responded. “I’ll make sure I’m home in time for supper.”
            At that moment, Alex and Alea burst into the kitchen.  “Good morning, Mom,” the two girls chorused.
            “Morning, girls.”  Alex and Alea began to chatter away. 
            Arianna excused herself by saying, “I have to go do my hair, now.”  She exited the room and went to the upstairs bathroom.  Ari swept her chocolate brown hair up into a side ponytail and secured it with a sparkly, purple elastic.  Perfect, she thought.  I wish my hair cooperated like this all the time.
            “Time to go,” Karie called up the steps.
            “Coming,” Ari said as she quickly brushed her teeth.  She quickly grabbed her purple jacket off her doorknob and went downstairs.  “Good bye, Mom.  I love you.”
            “I love you, too.  Bye, girls,” Karie hugged her eldest daughter and the twins. 
            “Bye, Mommy,” the twins said.  The sisters hopped onto the bus and found seats to sit on for the ride to school. 
            In no time at all, the big, yellow bus pulled into the school parking lot and let the kids off.  “Ari!”  Arianna’s best friends Cassidy Owens and Olivia Schafer greeted her with an enormous hug.  “Are you settled into your new house?” Cassidy asked.
            “Yeah.  We had to fix it up quite a bit.  Guess what I did last night!”
            “What?”  Olivia responded.
            Ari reached into her backpack and pulled out her artwork.  “Here,” she handed them to her friends to look at.
            The two girls were rendered speechless, a rare occurrence with the talkative cohorts.  “Wow,” Cassidy finally said.  “I’ve never seen anything so…exquisite.”
            “Me, neither,” Olivia agreed.
            “I’m going to enter them in a contest today after school.  Want to come with me?”
            “Why wouldn’t we?” Olivia replied.  At that moment the bell rang to go to first period.  “See you guys at lunch.  I love your pictures, Ari.  They’re awesome.”
            “Thanks.  See you later,” Arianna said waving to her friends and walked towards her first, and favorite, class of the day, which was art.
             The entire day flew by fast for Ari because she was looking forward to submitting her entries.  Before she knew it, she, Olivia, and Cassidy were at the post office.  Ari filled out the entry form as her friends chattered.  “Okay, I’m done.”  The three friends left the post office and walked to Cassidy’s house, which was only a block away.  “I hope the judging is done quickly.  I can’t stand the stress of waiting.”
            “I know what you mean,” Olivia said, “I had to wait three weeks before they announced the winner of the writing contest.”
            For the rest of the afternoon, the three girls rehashed the day and what goofy things their other friends had said or did, while laughing a lot.  At 6:00, Ari said good-bye and headed home. 
            The next two weeks of Arianna’s life were spent fixing up their new home, school, excess homework and fun times with her friends.  Then, the day arrived when the Arlington Post Office would announce the contest winners.  Arianna’s nerves ran high all day at school.  She couldn’t eat her lunch because she was so nerve-wracked.
            Olivia and Cassidy went with Ari to the post office for moral support.  Many kids surrounded the bulletin board by the front desk when they arrived.  “I’m so nervous that I am shaking,” Ari said to her compadres.
            “I’m sure you did fine,” Olivia reassured her as she squeezed Ari’s hand.
            The three friends made their way to the front of the crowd.  “I can’t look,” Ari said.
            Olivia and Cassidy looked at the list of winners.  “Um…Ari?” Cassidy said hesitantly.
            “‘The Power of Love’ came in first place!!”  Cassidy exclaimed in excitement.
            “Are you serious?  No way!!”  The three girls began squealing and jumping up and down.  “I can’t believe it!!  What’s the prize?” she said when she calmed down a little.
            “Five hundred dollars,” Olivia told her friend. “And an interview for the paper.”
            “Wow, that’s a lot of money.  It would help my family out a lot because we really need the money right now.”
            “You’re an exceptional person and I love you for it.  Good job, Ari.  You deserve to win,” Cassidy hugged her.  Olivia proceeded to hug her, also.
            “I better go home and tell my parents.  I’ll see you tomorrow.”
            “Bye, Ari, and good job,” Olivia said.
            “See you later, Ari,” Cassidy responded.  Arianna left the post office and ran like a robber was chasing her all the way home.
            She burst through the front door, and called, “Mom? Dad?  Where are you?”
            “In the kitchen,” Andrew answered.
            Ari proceeded to jog into the kitchen.  She stopped at the end of the table breathless. 
            “Is something wrong?” Karie asked, concerned.
            “No.  Everything’s great!  Wonderful!”
            “Okay, what happened?” Andrew was intrigued by his daughter’s palpable excitement.
            “I won the art contest!”
            “Awesome, honey!  I knew you would do well,” Karie hugged Ari.
            “Congratulations,” Andrew said as he joined in on the hug.
            “The best part is,” Ari said when her parents let go, “That the prize is five hundred dollars, and I have decided to give the prize money to you.”
            “Oh, honey.  Thank you, but I wouldn’t feel right if I accepted your money,” Karie said as tears came to her eyes.
            “Please?  We need to keep up on the bills this time.  I don’t really need it anyway.”
            “Oh, okay,” Karie said reluctantly.  “Thank you so much.  I love you, Ari.”
            “I love you, Mom.  I love you, too, Dad.”
            “I love you, too, sweetheart,” Andrew responded.
            At that moment, the phone rang.  “Hello?”  Andrew said when he picked up.  “Yes, please hold on.  I’ll put her on the line.”  Andrew held the phone out to Ari.  “For you,” he mouthed.
            “Hi. This is Sarah Gilden from the Arlington Daily Times.  I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions about the art contest?”
            “Sure, go ahead.”
            “How long have you been drawing pictures?”
            “Since I was a little kid.  I started out with coloring books.”
            “What will you do with the prize money?”
            “Honestly, I am going to give the money to my parents because I love them a lot and besides, they need it more than me.”
            “That is so touching.  I probably wouldn’t be able to give up that large sum of money, especially at your age,” Sarah said.  She then continued, “What inspired you to create ‘The Power of Love’?”
            “I guess my life and family inspired it.  I mean, all of my life, my family has moved to various houses, most of which we had to fix up.  The side of the illustration that is decrepit represents my family being poor.  The better-looking side represents my family.  My parents and twin sisters are my base and foundation.  Our family is very close, loving, and very supporting.  Some families don’t have that unconditional love, though.  I consider myself very lucky to have a family like this.  Basically, even though I have next to nothing, I also have everything.”

Junior/Senior Division
Everyday Sarcasm
Aimee Lugibihl, Temple Christian
Sponsoring Teacher: Amanda Sutton

“Some of the most wonderful people are the ones who don't fit into boxes.”- Tori Amos

            Houses. We live in them and furnish them with earth-toned carpets and couches, attempting to conceal any of the dirt or other elements of the outside world that manage to get into our four walls.  An army of ants or ladybugs or milkweed beetles, depending on the season, may manage to break through our fortress of insulation and drywall and paint.  We panic, throwing out accusations at the construction men who built the house or a husband who neglected to fix a hole in the wall near the window, as we lunge for the bug spray in the cupboard and attack the area with a vigor resembling the force of hurricane winds. 
            Streams of light flood into our four walls, our box, through windows.  We admire the outside world.  We look at the great unknown, but we don’t venture to touch it or experience it.  We are content to sit for days in our box, looking at what lies beyond.  We look at the sun, look at the way the wind invites the grains to waltz in the fields, but never experience how it feels to waltz with them.
            Sometime later we may take a road trip or a drive through town.  “Oohs” and “aahs” are heard as we admire what?  We are surrounded by a myriad of trees and intricately created grass and plants, but we no longer admire these things.  “What a beautiful house!”  What a beautiful box that does not allow any of the outside world inside.  Houses are nothing more than sterilized boxes that keep us locked away from the rest of the world.

“Ideas are like pizza dough, made to be tossed around.”- Anna Quindlen

“You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I'm not hungry enough to eat six.”- Yogi Berra

            It has often been said that going out for pizza is a good idea for a date.  Eating pizza.  Imagine a slice of pizza in your hand, the cheese oozing over the crust with toppings teetering back and forth and about to fall off, like a rocking horse near the edge of the Grand Canyon.  You lean in for a bite.  Warmth fills your mouth as you sink your teeth in, and you pull away from the slice.  But- you find yourself attached to the slice by a long string of cheese.  What do you do now?
            At first you try to pull the cheese string off the pizza and into your mouth by giving a gentle tug with your teeth.  Several tries later, it still hasn’t budged.  The fight becomes vicious.  You lunge forward, attacking the cheese with your mouth, pulling and tugging.  Eventually you have devoured all of the topping off of the pizza in the effort to break that single cheese string.  You are left with an unappetizing and topping-less, marinara coated crust; while your date is left wondering why you were just making out with the pizza slice.

“Caesar salad is one of my favourite lunch foods. You can shovel it in and talk at the same time.”- Janet Street-Porter

            Salad is equally as awkward as pizza.  Lettuce never stays on the fork.  Just when you think that you have pinned it down, it flips off of the fork, spraying ranch dressing and various other items across the table and into an unsuspecting person’s lap or on the floor for a tired employee to clean.  The cucumbers are always cut two times larger than the size of a normal mouth-span, and the thin and “fancy” carrot slices look like cheese.  Date material?

“It took hundreds of years for these woods to grow, and they leveled it in a week. It's gone. After they build new houses here, they'll have to widen the roads and put up gas stations, and pretty soon the whole area will just be a big strip. Eventually there won't be a nice spot left anywhere. I wonder if you can refuse to inherit the world.”- Bill Watterson

“Some roads aren’t meant to be travelled alone.”- Proverb

            Snow is not an unfamiliar sight in a winter in the Northwest United States.  Sleet may show up almost unexpectedly followed by a couple inches of snow.  With the snow come the complaints. 
            That’s right.  How dare the snow intrude on your carefully constructed and well-kept road.  Why, the plows will have to run for hours to clean this mess up.  It will take you three times as long to get anywhere.  When God created the world, He surely created your road first and had the snow sign a contract stating that it would refrain from spitting out its white wonder on your stretch of gravel.  And while we are on the topic, didn’t the animals do the same?  The little gray squirrels that seem almost suicidal, darting on and off the roads, shouldn’t they know that your stretch of gray on the ground is not their space?  Did they not sign a contract also?  Shouldn’t they know that they are permitted to go anywhere but on your road?  
            You tell me.

“Our generation has an incredible amount of realism, yet at the same time it loves to complain and not really change. Because, if it does change, then it won't have anything to complain about.”- Tori Amos

“We can evade reality, but we cannot evade the consequences of evading reality.”- Ayn Rand

The Event
Sarah Rohan, Lima Central Catholic
Sponsoring Teacher: Kent Krogman

    There it was again. That gut-wrenching feeling when everything you know to be true somehow changes; when your perception on truth and reality is somehow skewed. Did that really happen or was it another figment of my imagination? God, this happens way too much. Who WAS that person I kept seeing, the one that scared me half to death? 
            “Please, sweet heart. Just try to remember,” Kris swooned as she tried to coax the memories and emotions out from behind the block in my brain, which was fighting to keep them inside of me. This was the seventh time I’d been here, and with two other ladies before Kris. None of the “talking about my emotions” or “sharing my feelings” was working. I was up almost every night, waking after only a couple hours of sleep, not to return to that same unconsciousness until the following nightfall.
            I marched out of the door, throwing my gray purse over my shoulder and dragging my keys out of my tight jean pocket. I moved some of the ice out from around the handle of my red car and pulled the door open, plopping down in the cold leather seat begrudgingly. I forced the keys into the ignition and started my fifteen minute drive home from the doctor. 
            “How was it?” my mother presses as I walk in. 
            “Fine,” I mutter as I throw my bag on the couch and head for bed. As I lie down on my pink and green sheets, I keep thinking about that appointment. Nothing has been helping me. It would be so easy to not stop at an intersection, to take too many pills… I can’t keep thinking about this or it might become a reality, and I cannot afford to do that to my parents and my family right now. I close my eyes as sleep starts to seep into my brain and take over my body.
            Gasping. Fighting. The darkness is taking over. I can’t run fast enough. Why can’t I escape this thing? Why does he continue to haunt only me?
            I launch up into a sitting position on my bed. Gasping. I can’t breathe. Sweating. My chest hurts. I’m feeling light headed. It’s okay. Calm down, everything is okay. Why can’t I calm down? A whirlwind of thoughts is going through my head but only one stands out to me the most. I’m having another panic attack. I’m losing to my mind in the epic battle to gain control over this situation. I slap the radio and the lyrics start dripping out of the speakers. 
            “Let the rain wash away all the pain of yesterday...”
            Okay, I finally got a grip as my breathing got deeper and more rhythmic. That was panic attack number three in the past two weeks. What a seriously sucky way to start your day. And the worst part was that the day hadn’t even begun. I glanced at the blood red clock through fuzzy, morning eyes. It read that this panic attack had occurred at the most inconvenient time. Three forty-five in the morning. Thanks a lot. I stumbled out of bed and took a shower, hoping the steaming water would “wash away my pain”, and relax me. 
            After that I stumbled out to the front living room and turned on the television to some children’s show. That was probably the most relaxing thing I had done all week. I fell back into my childhood with this cartoon; the childhood that had no bad memories, no bad thoughts, no bad feelings. The time before the event had occurred and changed my entire life with it. 
            After watching two hours of children cartoons, I got up and got myself ready for school which consisted of tugging my crazy brunette curls into a tamed braid, smearing my face with the makeup necessary to help me look alive, and nibbling on a piece of what tasted like toast. The rest of the day was a bit of a blur. After getting to school and finding out I had failed both my Calculus and AP Biology exams because I wasn’t prepared, I decided it wasn’t worth it to pay attention anymore. I zoned out until one thirty, which was the time I was supposed to go visit the doctor again. 
            This time when I walked in, Kris wasn’t sitting in her regular spot. She was on the floor, her shoes kicked off to the side, and wrapped in a blanket.
            “Is something wrong?” I questioned as she patted the floor beside her, a gesture that she wanted me to do the same.
            “No,” she replied simply. “I am just trying out a different environment. One you may be more comfortable with. You see,” she began, “you will not be able to move on if you do not tell me what happened that night. And to do that, you must feel comfortable”, she said calmly, gesturing around the newly decorated room. 
            I sat down and she started a conversation about my family and my parents, how my grades were, what sports I was into. But I wasn’t really paying attention to the conversation she seemed engaged in. I was more thinking about what happened that night. Not stressing out about trying to remember the details, but just letting my mind wander to even the dangerous parts of my imagination. The places I knew in my heart would give me nightmares. But I didn’t care. I wanted to know.
            “Fine!” I yelled, right in the middle of Kris’s sentence. It felt like truth was about to burst from me, but right now with me trying to contain it, it was actually suffocating me. “Here’s what happened.”
            It was a Friday night and Meagan wanted to know if I wanted to go to the football game with her and her parents. I, of course, said yes because I loved football games. Well it got to around half time and the weather started to drop dramatically. Since we all sit at half time and aren’t doing cheers, we got colder so I asked Meagan if I could go to her car to grab my sweats from the trunk. She said yes, but was in a conversation with a guy that she liked, so I said it was alright if I went by myself. 
            “I walked out of the stadium and made my way down the tiny hill to the next parking lot. All of the sudden, a hand reached out to cover my mouth, while the other wrapped itself skillfully around my body, constraining my arms. At first I thought it was a joke because people in my school did stuff like that all the time. But the tighter the grip across my mouth got, the faster I realized this was not a joke. I was being dragged backwards into the woods, far away from the stadium where nobody could hear me. In a desperate attempt to get loose, I flung my head back, hoping to catch his head and cause him pain, maybe giving me that moment I needed to escape. I flung my head back as hard as I possibly could and he growled out a string of profanities as the back of my head collided with his lip, bursting it open.
            “I tried to get away but he held me tighter than before. I was screaming and kicking, but with being dragged backwards, that was kind of difficult. After what seemed like forever, he threw me down on the ground. I kept yelling and those screams of desperation earned me five punches to the side, as well as a slap across the face. He laughed and kept telling me it was okay.
            “He ripped my shorts off and started laughing at me. By this point, I couldn’t tell you if I was screaming or not. It was as if a total numbness had come over me, helping my mind deal with the situation at hand. Then through the numbness, I felt an agonizing pain ripping through my lower body. I remained still in hopes of being able to gain enough strength to try to get away if he moves. He slapped me again because I had stopped moving completely, but then kept about his sick business. After what felt like eternity, he got up, fixed himself, and left me, broken and half dressed on the sidewalk. 
            “I couldn’t move. I just lay there, broken and bloody on the sidewalk, waiting for him to return. Maybe he would actually kill me this time. In a way, I kind of wished that were the case. Anything would be better than how I felt right now. I struggled to move, but forced myself to get up and clean myself off with my underwear which were now streaked with blood, then tossed them into the trees. I slid my shorts up gingerly and examined my side. I was already bruising from the numerous hits, and had an achy feeling all over. 
            “I started walking back towards the stadium, but stopped at Meagan’s car, grabbing my sweats in an attempt to hide my brokenness. I limped into the bathroom inside the stadium and tried to fix what was noticeable. I walked up to my seat and Meagan asked me where I was. I told her I had to use the bathroom too and that’s what took me so long.
            “After the game, they took me home and I went straight to my room. I’ve been affected since with nightmares, flashes of the event, and depression.”
            Kris just listened silently and I got up and left her in the big office. I drove home quickly and locked myself in my room, realizing I had just come to terms with what was haunting me the most. That night, I had no nightmares.

A Home Is Built with Love and Dreams
Ashley Hook, Spencerville
Sponsoring Teacher: Georgia McMichael

A Home Is Built with Love and Dreams
            I once took the roof above my head for granted. I never thought about how the shingles on the roof protected my family and me from freezing rain and snow. I never fully appreciated the bed in which I slept until I realized that the cushions from the table in the camper where I slept were scratchy, lumpy, and far from the comfort of a soft mattress. I didn’t understand how wonderful having privacy was until I could never go somewhere quiet to think or do my homework which eventually wore on my patience and my emotions. Before the summer of my junior year in high school, I was naïve about the world outside of my house. The love of my family, however, supported me through one of the toughest times in my young life. I quickly learned that a house is made of walls and beams; a home is built with love and dreams.
            In February of 2009, my father lost his job. He had been injured at work and because of his injury, finding a job became impossible. Our bills began to pile higher and higher, yet a job was out of my father’s reach. Deadlines seemed to come quickly, and we lost our electricity first. My family tried to stay positive because we knew we only needed each other. We kept our lives together as long as we could. However, we soon lost our house.
            I remember crying as I packed all of my belongings. I couldn’t understand how something like this could happen to MY family. I didn’t want to move out of my house with no place to go. Luckily my parents had purchased an inexpensive camper the previous year. Camping had always been our special time with each other, but now my father suggested staying in the camper for two weeks until we found another house. I did not want to stay in that camper for any amount of time let alone as long as we actually lived in it, but I was taught never to abandon family. So I packed enough clothes in a suitcase for a couple of weeks and began a nine-month trial of the love our family shared with each other.
            Two weeks passed, and my dad still had not been able to find a job. The camper was cramped and chilly from the February snow. I remember how the cold became bone deep, and I could never quite get warm. The thin walls did not offer protection from the freezing winds. Imagine sitting outside when it is thirty degrees and snowing. Now imagine if that is how a person felt every time he came home from work or school. I hated the drive home because my car offered more warmth than the walls of the camper. The comforting protection and warmth of a house made me yearn for what we had lost. Instead of giving up hope, however, I turned to my family for comfort and love.
            Bumping into someone with every movement or trying to fit all six of my family members into the small front room to watch a movie was frustrating and often upsetting. The camper all of us lived in was only thirty-six feet long and eight feet wide. If the math is done correctly, that means six people, two cats, and one dog lived in a space of 288 square feet. That is roughly forty-eight square feet per person if the space from the appliances and pieces of the camper that also share that space is not subtracted from the available area to move around. The cramped space tested our family everyday but in the end only made us closer as a unit.
            The cramped camper made me miss the comforts a house offered. Not only does a house offer protection from wind, rain, and snow, it offers little comforts as well. Before this nine-month trial, I had not fully appreciated the bed in which I slept. The cushions from the table were itchy, uneven, and would pull apart from each other if I moved in my sleep. They were old and made of a scratchy material. The fabric was worn down and pulled apart at the broken zipper, exposing the orange foam underneath. It was far from the comfort of a soft mattress, but the closeness of my family made the terrible sleeping arrangement bearable.
            The crowded camper was unable to offer the small comfort of privacy. I did not have my own space to go when I needed to be alone. The camper was never quiet enough to focus or study for school. Constantly being with other people wore down my patience and made me frustrated with my loved ones. The close proximity wore down everyone’s nerves but instead of snapping and falling apart, we became closer in order to get through the rough patches.
            Weeks turned into months, yet my family still stayed strong and hopeful. The owner of the campground hired my mother in order to help us out. She worked as a waitress in his restaurant and any money she earned for tips, she was allowed to keep. She worked from seven in the morning until nine or ten o’clock at night to pay for the rent and electricity bill. My dad started mowing lawns for money to pay what bills he could. He also mowed the lawn at the campground and did maintenance work for the owner.
             The summer was easier on our family because we could go outside and appreciate the sunshine instead of being cooped up in such a small space. My dad had the freedom to cook outside, and on some days we even had picnics. The warm weather made our circumstance bearable. The summer brought back memories or the special moments we shared when camping as a family for fun.
            In June, my brother Matt signed up to serve in the United States Army. He and I have always been very close. When I was born, he immediately took the responsibility of looking after me. If I fell, he was there to pick me up. If I was crying, he would brush away my tears and hold me until I felt better. When he left for boot camp in August, I almost gave up hope. I felt that I had lost the one person I could turn to for anything. He had helped me through the roughest parts of my young life, and I didn’t know if I could manage on my own. I couldn’t tell him how bad everything seemed because I didn’t want him to worry about us while he was serving our country. The burden of having no one to go to felt so heavy on my shoulders, but I only told him  about the laughable moments of our situation. I wrote to him about chasing down our dog, Malachi, after he ran to catch a stray cat. I also told him about curling up with mom and dad to watch old movies and eat popcorn on their bed at the back of the camper. Those were the most memorable times I had during those nine months.
            Then in September, the youngest of my brothers, Shayne, left for college in Michigan. I felt my candle of hope slowly fading into darkness. I was the last child at home with no easy way out of our circumstance. I felt like I was useless and couldn’t help out my family when they needed it the most. I finally focused on the upcoming school year and looking for any apartments or houses that were affordable for my family.
            The start of my junior year was rough. Bringing homework home was the worst part though. I had no personal space to go when I needed to be alone to work or study. Not being able to tell my friends about my situation made spending time with them difficult. The only people who knew about the hard times my family had was my best friend, Taylor, and a woman who is like my second mom, Nichol. Taylor made living in a camper for nine months bearable. If I needed to get out, I stayed at her house; it became my second home. Nichol helped me to get my driver’s license. She paid for my driver’s ed because my parents didn’t have the money to spend on the class. These two people helped me stay sane, and I love them both very much. Without the love of my friends and family, this experience wouldn’t have been bearable.
            In December of that year, I made one wish for my birthday and that was to find a house before Christmas. On December 2nd when I arrived home from school, my parents took me to our new apartment. Everything about our new home was beautiful. The crooked, paint-chipped steps greeted me as we pulled into the driveway. I loved everything about it from the uneven steps to the thread-bare blue carpet. When I walked into the entryway, all I could think was a house is made of walls and beams, but a home is built with love and dreams.
            The nine months we lived in a camper have changed my life. I no longer take the roof above my head for granted. I appreciate the protection it offers me from outside elements. I am thankful for the mattress that comforts me at night. The door to my room now offers me privacy and a sanctuary where I can retreat when I need time to myself or a place to think and reflect. The ache for a home lives in all of us. I have been fortunate enough to understand a significant aspect of life: the walls around me and the beams overhead make a house. But my family and their loves and dreams make a home.

Big Sky
Kaley Core, Spencerville
Sponsoring Teacher: Georgia McMichael

Big Sky
            I looked out the small window of the airplane that I’d been on for about an hour.  I could see nothing but darkness.  It was almost eleven in the evening, and I had just awakened due to sudden turbulence shaking the plane.  I glanced out the window for a second time, but again there was nothing to see, no hint of the lights of any town or city nearby.  I dozed off after the turbulence subsided and awoke half an hour later to the annoyed sound of the flight attendant’s voice announcing that the plane would be landing soon.  I glanced out the window once more, with hope and excitement.  Sure enough, from my tiny window I could see the shimmery glow of thousands of lights.  As the plane descended, I could feel the excitement building within me.
            The plane landed, and I’d finally made it to Helena, Montana.  My mom, grandma, and I left the plane and retrieved our luggage from the terminal.  There’d only been a couple other passengers on the plane, and the small airport was relatively empty.  After the other few passengers cleared, the only people left were a security guard and a tall man wearing a cowboy hat.  The tall man came over to my mom, grandma, and me and introduced himself as Kelly Flynn.  Kelly was going to be our guide in the upcoming days.  He owned a 35,000-acre ranch where he had massive fields, hundreds of cattle, several horses, and a big, white dog.
            It was almost one in the morning when we arrived at the Flynn ranch.  Before we drove down the driveway, Kelly made my mom, grandma, and me all get out of the vehicle.  Although we were all tired, we didn’t question Kelly’s request and proceeded to climb out of the truck.  Kelly told us to look up.  We did just that, and the sight was breathtaking.  Although the sky was dark, it was the most brilliant shade of dark blue.  The stars were perfectly clear, shining brightly and stretching on endlessly in every direction.  This was my first experience of Big Sky, Montana.
            The next morning my mom, grandma, and I awoke in the small cottage that would be our home for the next couple of days.  This very cottage was the original homestead that had been built over a hundred years before the ranch was established.  We walked up a slight hill to get to Kelly’s house where we’d be eating breakfast.  It was here that we met Kelly’s wife, his daughter Siobhan, his wrangler Earl, and the other two tourists who would be joining us while we stayed at the ranch.  Their names were Ingrid and Aled.  Ingrid lived in England while Aled lived in Whales.  Both came to the Flynn ranch for the same reason my mom, grandma, and I did: to ride horses.
            After breakfast we had a little time before the horses would be ready to go so that we could ride.  So, my mom, grandma, and I spent the time exploring a small portion of the ranch.  A couple hundred feet from our cottage was a river that flowed down from the mountains.  The water was crystal clear.  I stuck my hand down in the water which was ice cold and refreshing.  I looked around and could see the tall mountains in the distance; they seemed to be hovering there beneath the bright blue sky.  I had never seen the sky so blue before in my entire life.  The sight was picture perfect.
            After taking in the view of the river and mountains, we wandered a bit longer until Earl came and told us that the horses were ready to ride.  I walked down the hill as calmly as I could, but my excitement was hard to hide.  Earl introduced each of us to our horses.  My mom and grandma both would be riding beautiful bays.  The horse I was to be riding was a small quarterhorse named Abby.  Abby was white speckled with brown and was a good four or five hands shorter than the lovely bays.  My excitement turned slightly to dismay because the horse I was to be riding wasn’t nearly as majestic as the other horses.  Although I was disappointed at the time, I found out quickly that Abby was a very special horse.
            Earl said that Abby was the kind of horse only a teenage girl could truly appreciate.  I didn’t understand this at first, thinking that he was only trying to console my disappointment.  However, once we started to ride, I instantly understood what Earl had meant.  Abby was a horse with an attitude just like a teenage girl.  She had a mind of her own; and there was her way or the highway, or so she thought.  Abby always wanted to be ahead of the other horses, and even though she was the smallest she was the first horse in the pecking order.  Abby and I made our rounds as we fought back and forth for quite some time until she finally learned that I would not give up on her.
            That first day at the Flynn ranch we spent touring a small part of the 35,000 acres.  We rode through the rolling hills that were at the base of the mountains.  As the day progressed, we absorbed the splendid view of the river, mountains, plants, and wildlife of Montana.  We came to a valley in the hills where there were two dilapidated homesteads and an old barn that was in good condition for being almost two hundred years old.  The homesteads had been built by pioneers who’d received land grants to live in that part of Montana.  The interesting part, however, was the barn.  It was built completely from wood.  It was rectangular and the architecture was as plain as physically possible.  What struck my interest was the fact that there was no door to the barn and the only opening was an entrance that was no more than four feet tall.  The entrance was built just tall enough so that cattle could go through.
            After a long day of riding, we went back to our quaint cottage to rest.  In the couple hours before dinner was to be served, Kelly asked us if we’d like to pan for gold.  Although I chuckled at first, I quickly realized that he was being serious.  So, we each put on a pair of rubber boots and grabbed a pan and a bucket and headed for the river.  Kelly showed us that the bucket was to be used as a seat.  So we mimicked his actions and turned our buckets upside-down and pushed them into the sandy soil.  We then filled our large, metal pans with soil from the bottom of the river.  Kelly showed us how to swirl the soil around in the water so as to get the sand and dirt out of the pan and to leave the gold at the bottom of the pan.  Although it was a very tedious task, I had a great deal of fun.
            That night we ate dinner and then roasted marshmallows over a fire.  Although the day had been warm, the night was cool.  The heat of the fire kept us warm.  Kelly and Earl told stories, and after hearing a few I began to feel sleepy.  As I got warmer, I could feel my eyes getting heavy, and it was harder and harder to concentrate on the silly bantering of Earl and Kelly.  My mom and grandma were both tired as well, so we decided to turn in early.  We said good night to everyone and headed for our cottage.
            My second day in Montana was by far the most exciting.  We spent the whole day on horseback.  We packed our saddlebags with our lunches because we would not be back until dinner.  Today, we were going to be herding cattle from the ranch up into the mountains.  I have lived on a small 100-acre farm my entire life where we have had both cattle and horses.  However, I had never helped move sixty head of cattle up a mountain before. In fact, other than Kelly and Earl, none of the rest of us had ever herded cattle.
            This second day in Montana was where I found out a very unique mannerism of my horse, Abby.  Abby loved herding cattle.  As I mentioned earlier she was a horse with an attitude, and this was perfect for moving the cattle.  Earl told me that Abby liked to be behind the herd, so I fell in position in the back with my grandma and Ingrid.  I was caught off guard when Earl told me to watch out if any of the cows or calves got too far behind the herd because Abby didn’t like that.  The first time a cow started to stray, Earl told me to take Abby right up behind it.  When I did this, Abby nipped at the cow’s hindquarters and the cow ran back up with the herd.  I started laughing; it was one of the funniest situations I’d ever seen.  This tiny, little horse that was barely fifteen hands tall was pushing around cattle that were over a thousand pounds! 
            Herding the cattle was going great, until we came to a heavily wooded area of the mountains.  Instead of the cattle continuing up the mountain, they all broke left and ran for the trees through a section of broken fence.  It was just like watching a movie.  I could just picture the slow motion movement in a western movie where the cattle take off through the mountains.  Although I should have probably helped with the cattle, I sat there with my horse and watched as the large herd ran.
            I didn’t register what was going on at first.  Then, I heard Earl yell to Kelly that there was a stampede!  Our next task was to retrieve all of the lost cattle.  Since we weren’t sure if we’d found them all, we had to pair up cows and calves before we could move the cattle through the next gate.  If any were missing, we were going to have to go back and keep searching.  Luckily, all of the cows and calves were present, and we had nothing to worry about.
            After the stampede, the cattle were tired which made them easier to move.  We herded them the rest of the way up into the mountains after which we stopped for a break.  After eating our lunches, we looked around the area.  This region of the mountains was where the Flynns kept their cattle when the temperature started to get hot.  It was cooler up in the mountains so this provided less stress for the cattle during the heat of the summer.   We saw some animal bones scattered throughout the area where we were resting, and Aled and Ingrid tried to put it together.  When they finished, they decided that the bones were from a cow-eating squirrel and that this was the official burial ground for the giant squirrels.  The animal bones were actually from a cow that had died.  In Montana since it’s very common for a cow to die every now and then, instead of burying it they just blow it up with dynamite to scatter the pieces.
            Our ride back down the mountain wasn’t nearly as entertaining as the ride up without Abby keeping the cattle in line.  However, the view was amazing!  As the sun began to sink, the sky faded into various hues of pinks and blues.  The sun was a dull orange color that melded beautifully with the pale colors of the sky.  In the distance I could see more mountains and at the base of those, the rolling green hills.  As dark began to draw near, stars started to light up the sky.  Nobody talked; we just soaked up the view.
            The final day in Montana we did more riding as well as some hiking.  We hiked up part of a mountain and saw a small mountain lion.  We also saw over a hundred elk which were in one of the hay fields.  Kelly said that elk are very common in Montana.  I’d never seen an elk before, and they were enormous!  In Montana, the hay farmers account for the amount of hay that will be eaten by the elk when they decide the sizes of their fields.  Elk eat over one ton of the hay produced by Kelly’s fields.
            We also saw white-tailed deer and several mule deer that day.  That morning Kelly realized that nine heifers had gotten out of the pasture so that night Siobhan, who is Kelly’s daughter, and I went looking along one side of the ranch while my mom, grandma, and Kelly went up through the woods.  Siobhan and I ended up finding six of the nine heifers by the neighbor’s pond and took them back to their pasture.  The other three were nowhere to be found.  By the time we were done with our search, it was dark and time to go back to the cabin where we were staying.
            The next morning I awoke and packed my bags.  We’d spent three days experiencing Big Sky, Montana.  In those three days I saw tall mountains, a stampede of cattle, and the clearest, most beautiful sky.  That day we went back to the airport, ready to head back to Ohio.  As the plane took off, I caught my last glimpse of the beautiful sights that I’d enjoyed the past three days.

Maranda Taylor, Lima Senior
Sponsoring Teacher: Jennifer Stepleton

       Laughter. Love. Peace. My mom, Keri and I, the three musketeers; having each other’s backs. I remember laughing until our faces turned red and our bladders were about to burst. You could always find us three no matter what time of day or night, sitting on the porch gossiping about everything! We always talked, whether it was about what sales were going on to whom we’re locking lips with. It was awesome! Never feeling left out or alone, always feeling safe and secure. I loved waking up every morning to the sweet birds chirping, smelling the still quiet neighborhood air. Every once in a while a train would rumble along the tracks as if it were chugging right through our house. I always woke up on my right side to see my bright neon green walls and the shimmering blue curtain on my window that always let in just enough light to wake me up peacefully. I somehow always found myself stuck in my covers, as if I had wrapped myself up as a cocoon; prying myself out of my soft warm blankets and silk pillows. Opening my eyes to see the warm glow upon sleepy faces, guaranteed to go throughout my day as I had planned it the night before. Not having to worry about anything. Comfort and support filled the air. Having goals that were guaranteed to be achieved; having that strong love and unexplainable connection with another soul. Life had never been better.  
            Waking up to my daily routine, planning to go throughout my day just as any other. Everything was okay. Knowing that today and precious life were guaranteed. Having the molded thought in my brain that everything was okay. That this was just another day; just another daily routine. Wake up, work, get off, go home; repeat. Wake up, work, get off, go home; repeat. That was my plan; my daily routine.
            10:00 a.m. Monday August 16th , 2010. Just another day. Wake up, work, get off, go home. This was my plan, my daily routine. But today, my daily routine was slightly interfered with. I had to be to work at eleven o’clock a.m. Prying my eyes open to the annoying alarm clock sound, I lifted my head to see Keri still peacefully dreaming; I sighed to myself, careful not to wake her up. I sat up in my bed, rubbing the sleepies out of the corners of my eyes. Why is my purse on the floor? Why are my glasses in the bottom of my purse?  Where are my cigarettes? They’re not in my purse. Keri probably has them. Maybe she woke up in the middle of the night and didn’t have a cigarette. Oh well. Its okay, I won’t bother her, I have another pack downstairs. Our air conditioner is on. Why is our bedroom door nearly propped open? “Ugh, Keri,” I said, automatically assuming it was her.   
            Finally getting the energy to roll out of bed, I start my daily routine. Wake up. I stumble out of our bedroom and into the hallway bouncing off the walls down to the bathroom. I hesitated to turn on the bathroom light knowing that it was going to blind my sleepy eyes. I flip the light switch on and heard one of my favorite songs on the radio, “Your Love” by Nicki Minaj; great song to brush my teeth to. 
            “Shawty, I’ma only tell you this once, you’re the illest! Got ta dot got doe! And for your lovin’ I’ma Die Hard like Bruce Willis! Got ta dot got doe! You got spark, you, you got spunk. You, you got something all the girls want!” I sang with a cracking voice, trying to keep it down so I wouldn’t wake up Keri. I was so anxious to go downstairs and smell the sweet aroma of caramel flavored coffee and sweet cherry turnovers in the oven. Mmm I loved those things! My mom would get mad at me because I always took the cherries out of the middle and just ate the frosted flakey crust that was still warm and melted in my mouth. Excited to go downstairs and see what my mom whipped up this morning, I flung my contacts in like I was a Frisbee throwing champion.

I loved my mom. She was the best mom a girl could ever have. She always had a smile on her face and a warming laugh that would fill up the entire house. When she laughed hard her nostrils would wiggle and she’d sometimes snort like a pig. She was very pleasing to the eyes. She had warm hazel eyes that said so much without speaking a word, and her body was short and plump. She dyed her bleach blond hair every week and styled it into perfection without doing too much. She had short blond hair in the back and one long bang on the left side of her face down to her chin. She was so proud of this new haircut that she recently got over the summer. “Sissy, check out my new haircut! Isn’t it sassy?” she’d exclaim. And every time, even if the stylist messed up, I’d always reply, “It’s beautiful.”

Sometimes, when she winked her one eye and pulled her glasses down just a bit, she looked just like Ms. Claus. She always had the Christmas spirit in her. As embarrassing as it was, our Christmas tree would stay up year round. She was a Santa freak! Like Santa, she was so generous and giving, always willing to help. She’d take a stranger in.

She had a sweet scent about her. If she was in the room, your nose would know it, judging by how much Rave hairspray you smell. I actually knew when she was ready for church because hairspray was the last thing she would do. And her hugs…they were the most secure and safe feeling in the world, her love radiated from one hug. And while she hugged me, she’d always pinch my butt cheek and say “I love you my beautiful brown girl”. I guess I was special. She had ears to listen and she never judged. Her words were full of wisdom and advice. She was always there for me, no matter what the situation was.
            Finishing up in the bathroom, I grab my cell phone and head downstairs. Mid way down the stairs I see that our front door is open. Sometimes my mother will wake up early and run some errands. It appears that she was in a hurry and didn’t pull the door shut all the way. I get to the bottom of the stairs…my extra pack of cigarettes is in our corner pool table pocket. I walk to the pool table, glance into my mother’s room. There was a pile of laundry dumped out on her bed.
            “She must have done laundry too,” I said to myself. Then I see her feet. I know something is wrong. My heart stops, my stomach sank, and my whole body becomes weak. I race over to her bed. 
            “Mom! Mom!! Mom!!!” I yell. “MOM!!! 
            No reply. No movement. Her feet are the only thing uncovered. They look dead…lifeless. They are so still and pale. My eyes start to examine her body quickly. Her whole head is covered up with a bath towel. She looks big and swollen. Her body is neatly tucked in under her beige plush blanket that I had just bought her for Christmas. Then I see the blood…she is lying in a pile of blood! My mom! No! It can’t be! I stumbled back into the wall, bouncing off the pool table in the living room and up the steps.
            “Keri! Wake up! Wake up!” I scream at her, flipping the light on in a hurry. The Keri that was once peacefully dreaming shot up out of bed. 
            “What?” Keri asked as she was still trying to process her thoughts.
             “Go check on my mom!” I yell at her.
            “What are you talking about?” Keri asked me with a worried look on her face. 
            “Go check on my mom! Go see if she’s okay!” I keep yelling at her. “I called her and she’s not moving! Go check on my mom! I can’t do it! Go!”
            “Ok, give me your phone just in case. Stay up here.” Keri tried to calmly tell me. And in a heartbeat she was downstairs. It only had been thirty seconds that I was alone in our bedroom, but those thirty seconds felt like a lifetime. In those thirty seconds I felt my whole world stop. I kept asking the horrible “what if” questions. What if she’s dead? I couldn’t take the wild thoughts running through my brain anymore, I had to go downstairs to see what was taking Keri so long. Without thinking about moving my body, I was already downstairs. I see Keri on my cell phone. Her eyes are wide and her face is pale, like she had just seen a ghost. 
            “Is she okay?” I asked, and then swallowed hard so my heart wouldn’t jump out of my throat. She put her finger up, telling me to wait. I ran outside. I couldn’t be in my house. I was scared. Keri came out right after me. “Is she okay?” I asked again.
            “I don’t know. I saw blood on her neck and couldn’t pull back the towel. I called my step dad. He’s a paramedic.” 
            “You didn’t call 911??” 
            “No. My step dad is on his way.”
            “No! Give me my phone! We need to call 911!” I yell. With a wobbly hand I tried to dial the three simple numbers. I couldn’t see my keypad! There was a well of tears building in my eyes. 9-1-1. I did it. The ambulance was on their way.
            “You need to stay on the phone with me. Try to remain calm.” The 911 lady said. “There should be a police officer that arrives first. Do you see him?” and as soon as she said that a police officer pulled up and ran out of his car.
            “He’s here thank you!” I said to the lady. 
            “Where is she!?” the police officer yelled.
            “She’s in there!” I yell back. And he shot through the door like it was on fire. Not a minute later two more police cars, an ambulance and a fire truck arrived. Keri and I were still trembling on the porch. 
            I remember screaming and feeling dizzy, like how you feel when you stand up too fast. I felt nauseas. My whole body was weak and I couldn’t control my movements; I looked like I had no bones in my body. Neighbors started to come outside and gather in a group. One of the detectives pulled me beside the house and told me to sit down. I did. One of my neighbors, Ms. Linda, held me and told me everything was okay but for some reason I knew it wasn’t. 
            “What’s taking them so long!? Why isn’t she out on a stretcher yet?!” I yell for everyone to hear me. Just then the paramedics came outside calmly. Two of them got back into the ambulance. The other paramedic was talking to a detective in our front yard. “Will someone tell me what’s going on? My mother’s in there!” And just then the paramedic slowly walked over to me.
            “There’s nothing we can do.” The paramedic said without the slightest care. My legs gave out and I fainted forward, thank God Ms. Linda was there to catch me. As I gained conscious I shot straight back up and tried to run back in the house. 
            “Let me go! I want my mom! She can’t be gone! She can’t be!” I cried out. No one would let me go. I had to stay outside. And even with all of my neighbors outside, I felt so alone. My entire world had just crumbled.
            August 16th, 2010 was the worst day of my life. I was forced to be on my own. But I’m only 17. I can’t go through the rest of my life alone. I was stranded.
            October 8th, 2010. It’s only been seven weeks and four days; the hardest days in my life. The morning that my mother was murdered was a living nightmare. It changed my life forever. I’m always terrified that something bad is going to happen to me. I can’t be in my own house alone, day or night. I refuse to go down in my basement alone. If I do go outside at night with someone, I’m paranoid and always looking over my shoulder. I have to look in the back seat of a car before I get in. Every little noise scares me. I can’t even sleep alone. My daily routine will never be the same; my life will never be the same.