Yummers & Other Stories Creative Writing Period 1 Spring 2010 Mr. Zervanos Connor McGuckin Yummers ―Avery! Avery Morris Reynolds! Get up, you goddamn burnout! It‘s one already. Don‘t you have to show up to that retard zoo you call a job? Or did ya quit that too? Can‘t say it would be a surprise.‖ ―Ughh.‖ You may not know this, but the crazed screaming of an angry senior citizen can pretty much wake anybody up from anything. Hell, maybe if I had Grandpa as an alarm back in college, I might‘ve actually made it to some classes. Oh, well. I guess having him for a roommate as my life turns to shit is just as good. ―AVERY!‖ Gramps screamed again. I should have known he wouldn‘t give up unless he actually heard me give a verbal reply. Finally making the complete jump out of a quickly missed unconsciousness, I sat up in bed and rubbed the sleep from my eyes. To cut off any further attempts at more screaming, I called out, ―Grandpa, I‘m awake. I‘m awake! Stop yelling!‖ I heard some shuffling from downstairs and then, ―Yeah, well, I want to go out and I don‘t trust you to be by yourself with all my valuables lying around!‖ Did I mention that my Grandpa is arguably the cheapest person in the world? Getting up from bed and walking over to the door, I called out, ―I‘d hardly categorize four cartons of lactose milk and a VCR as valuables, Grandpa. I think you‘ll be fine.‖ ―Ha!‖ was the reply from downstairs. ―Like I‘d trust you with anything that isn‘t bolted to the ground. Now get your ass up and out. If I don‘t see you down here in the next ten minutes, I‘m coming up and gettin‘ you myself.‖ Suffice it to say I was downstairs within five. The last time Grandpa forced me up from bed, it didn‘t go over very well. And that‘s, uh, that‘s the last time I‘m ever going to talk about it - ever. ―About damn time,‖ Grandpa said when he saw me. He was dressed in his usual outfit of jeans jacket, sweat pants, and a U.S. Navy cap tucked over his balding head. ―Gramps, really, you can leave me alone here. Didn‘t it ever occur to you that even if I did steal something, I‘d still be living here? And I really don‘t think that taking the twelve cents lying on your bureau is worth spending the next few months listening to you bitch about it.‖ ―Big talk from the kid who works at a Yummers. Avery for the hundredth time, if you don‘t like how I captain my fleet, well then you can go back to living with your parents. Actually let me rephrase that. You‘re not gonna be living with no parents. What you‘re gonna be living with, is whichever piss-ant, divorcee loving piece of shit that let‘s ya stay in their house. So how ‗bout you keep that in mind before you start belly-aching again.‖ I nodded. Unfortunately, he was right. Grandpa had taken me in when I couldn‘t stand to live with my mom and her boyfriend or stay at my dad‘s place. He may have been incredibly annoying all of the time and snore at an honestly impressive volume… but at least he was there for me right? ―Good. Now get to work, you little fruit. I‘ve got places to be.‖ ―All right Grandpa. I‘ll see you tonight, huh? But if I‘m not back by ten, I wouldn‘t wait up.‖ With Grandpa‘s grunt of acknowledgement, I was out the door and on my way to the car. The drive to Yummers wasn‘t a long one. It was probably five or six minutes when my car managed to work and the traffic wasn‘t too bad. I usually found these car rides as an ideal time to reflect on how much my life sucked. It was perfect; enough time to get some thinking done but not long enough to get seriously depressed. On this particular day I was concentrating on the time before I was living at Grandpa‘s. To be more specific, I was thinking about the week when I dropped out of college. Well it was really more like flunked out, but it sounds a lot more like I had a choice when I say ―dropped out,‖ so I usually go with that one. From the start I knew the whole college thing wasn‘t going to work out. I just… didn‘t care that much. Still don‘t. I got into college by making mediocre grades through high school and the fact that my Uncle Julian is on the board of directors. I didn‘t really deserve to be there, but I figured, ‗Hey, everybody‘s doing it, so I might as well give it a shot.‘ In the end it wasn‘t for me. Every day I was at college I started to get more and more terrified that eventually I would turn out like the students I saw walking around, a bunch of pretentious assholes that can quote Yeats and bitch about injustices they could really care less about. So yeah, that plus the fact that I was woefully ill-equipped intellectually, made it painfully clear that Ol‘ Avery wasn‘t going to be graduating from college. So after lasting almost a whole semester, I decided to throw in the towel a week before finals. Why waste anymore time? My parents took the whole situation pretty well – better than I expected anyway. But that‘s probably because they now had some information on me that could balance out the news that the two of them had been divorced for three months. Apparently they had been waiting on me to move out so they could separate for a while. In fact, behind my back, they had been seeing other people since the summer of my sophomore year in high school. So instead of going home to my childhood house and a pair of livid parents, I was going to be staying with either my dad and his bachelor pad or with my mom and her boyfriend Clint. Awesome. I opted for none of the above and chose to live with Grandpa. I knew he was a man who by all accounts should be in a nursing home, but at least he wasn‘t my mom or dad right? So I moved in with Grandpa and just dealt with the fact that sometimes… my life sucked. Soon enough, my morbid thoughts had taken me to the Yummers‘ parking lot. It was a large lot situated around an obnoxious purple and green building with a giant eye- sore of a sign. It was like a beacon for everything wrong with the world. It was a symbol of everything that I hated. So everyday, before work, I would sit and wait in the car for a few minutes. A few minutes waiting were a few less minutes working – and I hated working there. The building itself wasn‘t my only problem. I‘d be kidding myself if I say the idea of Yummers is the only problem I have at work. There are literally hundreds of things I hate about my job. For instance, my boss Dennis is arguably the biggest dick-head to ever exist. He‘s condescending, obnoxious, ―handsy‖ towards the girls, and always smells maple syrup. All in all he‘s the only person I‘ve ever seriously considered murdering. That wasn‘t a joke. I‘d kill him if I could. Another problem I have is the fact that I feel like my soul dies every time I have to sit through a lady bitching at me for screwing up their order. It‘s like, ‗Yeah lady, I know I messed up you order. I wasn‘t really paying attention when you told me. But let‘s be honest, do I look like I give a fuck whether you wanted extra pickles or not? No. So please, go back and eat your food.‘ The mental stress of dealing with that crap should probably have given me an aneurism, but I stayed. I needed the money. I needed to get my own place. That and the fact that my buddy J.P. would butcher me if I left him alone there were the only reason I stayed. Thinking of a new place and the well being of my friend, I took a deep breath and walked out of the car and into the resteraunt. The first thing I saw was Dennis screaming at some poor kid washing down tables. I hate my life. Two hours later I found myself standing at the counter about to blow my brains out. Anyone whose ever worked at a shitty fast-food establishment such as Yummers knows a few um, what should I call ‗em… ah, universal rules. These ―universal rules‖ apply to anything and everything in the fast-food industry. For instance, anyone who‘s ever worked a cash register (like myself) for more than an hour knows that three types of people can basically ruin your workday when they step up to order. These three categories of people are as follows: One – super hot girls. Not only is the situation awkward and intimidating because they‘re really hot and all that, but it‘s also just depressing. I mean some of the girls that come in here are just fucking smoke- shows, and of course you want to talk to them, but what the hell do you say? ―Hi, I‘m Avery. I work at a minimum wage job that requires literally no skill and offers no possible future success. I know you have the knockers of a goddess and everything but I feel like your eyes are telling me that you‘re definitely interested in me. So I‘m gonna do you a favor and ask you out on a date. I get off at nine.‖ No; never ever, ever, going to work. And I speak from experience. I remember this one time when JP was still new and tried a much toned-down version of that on a couple of girls. I‘m still not sure what was worse, the creeped out looks he got or the soul-crushing laughter that followed. After hot girls comes the second group – asshole kids. I‘m not sure what it is about middle schoolers, but I swear to God, every single one of these little turds comes in with, like, a pack of nine friends and an attitude. Last week I had this one little pre- pubescent butthole that pretty much set the bar for any other snot-nosed toddler who followed. Not only was he decked out in glow-in-the-dark braces and a G-Unit t-shirt but he also forced me into singing the Yummers theme song when Dennis was around. So for around half a minute I stood there like a jackass and sang a poorly written children‘s song complete with ridiculous hand movements. Not only was it chuck-full of cheesy rhymes and lyrics but it also featured the word ―yummy‖ twelve times. God, I hate kids. But I would gladly, gladly take an entire group of models or a seventh grade fieldtrip stopping by over what I had today, a diehard. It was around three in the afternoon when he came in. Being a weekday and kind of in between the lunch and dinner hours, the place was moving pretty slow. JP and I were spending our downtime as we usually do, making the toys from the Transformers Kids‘ Meals fight each other. I was about to make Optimus curb-stomp his Bumblebee when I heard the side door open. Regrettably, I stuffed Optimus down under the counter for later and turned around to get the customer -- big mistake. After three months on the job I can pretty much smell when a diehard‘s around and to put it plainly, this guy reeked. He was fat but not quite ―I need a little motor- scooter to ride in the grocery store‖ fat. Clothing wise, he chose to opt for a ridiculously lame man scarf, a ―Halo‖ t-shirt for the ladies, and of course, camo shorts. Because really, who knows when you‘re about to get sneak attacked? Judging by his awesome style and snarky disposition, I could already tell this was going to be a rough one. ―Hey, JP, buddy,‖ I stammered, trying to get out of it, ―you want to get this one? JP! JP, I said, do you want to… ‖ I turned around to get my seemingly deaf friend‘s attention but instead caught him ―subtly‖ power walking towards the bathroom. Damn it. It was up to me. I turned back around to the counter and once again locked eyes with the reaper. I don‘t know what it is about these diehards, but it‘s like they put the fear of God into you every time you stare into their eyes. They say, ―Hey, you. You‘re going to give me the best service humanly possible and I‘m going to walk out of here happy. But if you don‘t give me what I want… well, then I‘ll be forced to eat you instead.‖ It could be a special gene or superpowers, hypnosis, hell, maybe even gypsies. The only thing I do know… is that it works. So I put on my friendliest smile, dusted off my shirt and began my four minutes in hell. Not the traditional hell, of course. It‘s just my own personal variation that involves taking crap from some fast-food frequenter with a false sense of entitlement. ―Hello,‖ I began with forced peppiness, ―welcome to Yummers, where the burgers will always leave you saying ‗yummy‘. Can I interest you in our brand-new Yummers‘ Super Shake or Grande Fiesta Salad? They‘re both only --‖ ―I know how much they cost,‖ Diehard replied, cutting me off with a half pretentious, half nasally soprano. ―What I want –sniffle- to know is what your local specials are.‖ Oh, crap. Here it comes. ―Local specials, sir? I‘m not really a hundred percent on what you‘re taking about.‖ ―Ugh, you don‘t even know what your local specials are? I thought –sniffle- that the recession would have brought up the standards for an employee here, but I guess not. It looks like they still hire any backwater redneck with the ability of speech.‖ Well, I guess the thing about judging books and covers is right. At first I thought this guy was going to be super annoying, but really, he turned out to be a very interesting conversationalist. False. In reality, I couldn‘t even really reply to what he said because all I could do was think about reaching over the counter and punching him in the throat. He‘d fall to the ground coughing and then I‘d say something really badass, like, ―Yeah we have a local special. It‘s called a knuckle-sandwich, bitch!‖ Then I‘d walk around the counter and out the store really nonchalant and casual. Can you say legend? Unfortunately this little fantasy I was having made me zone out a bit and not hear what the diehard was saying. ‗Twas a real tragedy. ―I‘m sorry, sir?‖ I asked after he finished voicing his unheard comments. ―Can you repeat that? The burners can get pretty loud back here.‖ ―Ugh, they really do hire any insect looking for a job. I said, in San Francisco they can add Old Bay seasoning to your burger. In New Orleans they‘ll –sniffle- add a little plastic man in your chicken sandwich. Every city has –sniffle- regional items that aren‘t on the menu but you can still ask for them. Do you have anything like that? Or do I have to tell you what region you‘re in first? Ha – sniffle- ha.‖ Right then and there I made a decision. I decided that I was going to put so much spit in his food that I wouldn‘t even be able to deny having done it. I mean, really, I was already working a job that has pretty much staged genocide on any feelings of self-worth I‘ve ever had. Did I really care if they fired me? Boom; answer – no. So I put the peppy smile back on and said, ―That won‘t be necessary, sir. Let me just head to the back for a second and ask the cooks about any specials they know. Okay?‖ I took Diehard‘s roll of the eyes and aggravated sigh as my queue and made my way through the swinging doors and into the kitchens. A lot of people have misconceptions about fast-food kitchens. They think that they‘re dirty or gross or both. The truth is the actual kitchens themselves are relatively clean. Most of us employees working in them could really care less about what the kitchens look like. The only reason that they are anywhere near clean is the fact that apparently all fast-food conglomerates have devised a way to make sure every single one of their restaurants features a dick-manager on staff that can and will force his subordinates into cleaning the kitchens while they partake in some company food. Ours is Dennis. I hate Dennis. Ducking under a hanging vent, I made my way through the newly established clean kitchen and over to Charlie‘s station where he was getting everything ready for the evening rush. ―What‘s going on, Charlie?‖ I asked, jumping up on his counter and grabbing a piece of cheese. He kept his attention on prepping and replied, ―Not much, Ave, just working. Guess there‘s no customers up front?‖ I gave what I like to think of as my charming grin and said, ―Actually, that‘s why I‘m back here. I was wondering if you could… do me a favor.‖ Charlie picked his eyes up from the table and silently raised an eyebrow. ―All right,‖ I said, ―I‘ve got this guy out there who has just wasted the last two minutes of my life by being a pretentious goon. I‘m taking Class 4 Diehard, man. So I was wondering… if you and the other guys could, uh…start building up some… stuff. Then when I come back in, like, a minute, you‘ll all be ready. Plus, I‘m willing to take all the blame if he says anything. It‘s win-win, dude.‖ ―All the blame?‖ asked the giant Estonian. ―All of it,‖ I answered, hopping off the counter as JP walked back into the kitchen. ―So is that a yes or no, Char?‖ ―Ah, I‘m in a bad mood anyway. Maybe this‘ll vent some frustration.‖ ―Awesome, Charlie. Tell JP and the other guys, and I‘ll be right back with a burger to ‗dress up.‘‖ I walked back up towards the front to tell Diehard the good news and found him leering at a group of teenage girls sitting in a booth. ―Ahem,‖ I coughed to get his attention. ―Good news, sir, it looks like we do have a ‗regional special.‘ You must know your stuff; the cooks seem really excited to whip one up. Apparently they don‘t get the chance very often.‖ This seemed to please Diehard. He stood up a little straighter and his face got a tad more condescending. ―Yes well, most people don‘t –sniffle- bother to actually get to the bottom of things. I‘ve found the masses tend to act as sheep and just look for what‘s the easiest or most popular.‖ ―Uhh… okay. I‘m going to go check on your food. Gotta get this order out quick. It looks like the dinner diners are starting to arrive.‖ And they actually were. I hadn‘t realized how long dealing with this guy was taking but it must have been going on five minutes. To save some time I jogged to the back and over to Charlie. At his station, I pulled a burger from the stack and gave it to him. ―Go to work, buddy.‖ What happened in that kitchen is truthfully the most disgusting thing I‘ve ever been a part of. I tried to block out what happened. I tried to forget, but the spit still haunts me. So, so much spit. By the time a brought up the burger to the Diehard I‘d say it was around eighty percent liquid. But at the time I couldn‘t care less. I just stuck it on a tray and passed it over. ―Here you go sir, our very own ‗Regional Burger.‘ You‘re the first in years to ask for it so I‘m going to give it to you free of charge.‖ ―Ah, finally. Took you long enough. So what‘s in this thing anyway?‖ ―Actually I‘m not sure. The cooks gave it to me like that so you‘ll have to tell me how and what it is.‖ ―Humph. Whatever.‖ Diehard took his tray and walked over to the table next to the girls he was creeping on earlier. The next lady in line came up to me but I didn‘t really care. I was going to be fired in around thirty seconds anyway. I was going to sit back and enjoy the show. With mounting excitement, I watched as Diehard centered his tray and unwrapped his burger. Diehard lifted up the hefty pile of beef, cheese and spit to his mouth. It was going to happen. Then there was a snapping noise. I looked down and the now very pissed off lady in front of me was snapping at me. Shifting my eyes back to the main event, I said, ―Lady, if you snap at me one more time I‘m going to eat your fucking fingers off.‖ The line gasped. I didn‘t care. The line began shouting for Dennis. I still didn‘t care. Then Dennis came sprinting over. Do you think I cared? No. And then, just as Dennis reached me, Diehard took a big gross bite into the giant pile of multi-cultural mucus. You know, sometimes… my life doesn‘t suck. Life is Good, Why Worry? By Mick Conway BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP. ―Damn, it is 6:40 already?‖ Will asked himself groggily. To the left his big Harlequin Great Dane, Molly, was resting her oversized head on his legs looking at him with those hazel colored, droopy, sad eyes that seemed to ask, ―Do we really have to get up now?‖ Morning rays seeped through the checkered blue and white curtains, blinding his sensitive eyes. He got up, walked over to the alarm that was still going off, and pushed the button off. The alarm was located across the room so he wouldn‘t be tempted to just turn over out of bed and hit the snooze button. ―Molly, come on. Get your lazy butt out of my bed. You have to get up too, so you don‘t pee all over my bed again.‖ Once again those droopy sad eyes just stared at him until she finally got up did her doggy stretches, and walked to Will‘s side. ―That‘s a good dog, Molly. See, you aren‘t as stupid as you look, are ya?‖ He walked into the bathroom and turned on the sink, splashed some cold water in his face and stared at himself in the mirror. ―Okay, Will, it is Thursday. Only two more days to go and the weekend is all yours.‖ He wondered to himself if everybody else talked to themselves in the mirror or if he was just a weirdo, and as quick as the thought came into his mind, he thought, who cares, I‘m me, aren‘t I? I am the only Will Simms in the whole fucking world. ―Yeahhhh, today is going to be a good day and this weekend is going to be better. I can just feel it,‖ he sad out loud to himself. ―YO, WILL! What are you doing up there, banging out the morning wood or something? You have to get to school or you will get a Saturday,‖ his dad called from downstairs. ―Man, he has a way with words, doesn‘t he, Molly?‖ Will walked back into his room, got dressed within thirty seconds, and walked downstairs, out the door to his sweet silver Subaru Outback. It was his dad‘s old car, so it was free, but it bothered him a little bit that it was such an old man‘s car. The only good thing about it was the spacious trunk and how he could pull down the back seats and make a nice little bed in the back. He opened the car door, hopped in and turned on the car. It only took five minutes for him to get to school and he was in homeroom right before the bell rang. School was certainly the last thing on his mind throughout the day. All he could think of was the big lacrosse game tomorrow for the league championship, the big party that will go on after the game and the rest of the weekend. The whole day Will just went through the motions, but what else can you expect from a senior in high school during the month of May? When school was over he went to his best friend Anthony‘s house. They waited for their friend Charley to come home from work. Charley graduated two years before them and works as a chef in a café. Charley came home and they all went on his porch and did the usual after school/work ceremony by hitting their beautiful glass bong. After they were done engorging themselves with THC they played some wiffle ball and went their separate ways. Will went home, ate some dinner, watched TV with his mom, dad and little sister, Maggie, then went to bed early to rest up for the big day coming up. He woke up before his alarm went off and laid in bed staring at the ceiling for a minute until he got the energy to stretch and roll out of bed onto the floor. He stood up and walked out of his room into the bathroom to splash some cold water on his face. The smell of eggs and bacon was coming from downstairs, so like a zombie after the scent of human flesh, Will followed the smell down to the kitchen and found his dad there making breakfast. Will put together a delicious bacon and egg bagel melt and devoured it within seconds, washing it down with some fresh squeezed orange juice. He got dressed and went on his way to school. The only thing he could think of was the big game. It was the last game of the season and they were in the league championship against their rival school. Before he realized it, the school day was over and he was in the locker room suiting up for the game. He loved the feeling in the locker room before a big game: nobody goofed around at all and everybody sat in silence focusing on the part they played on the field. Finally, the coach came into the locker room and gave the pre-game speech on what was expected of specific players. After that, the team went crazy; they bounced off the walls and punched the lockers and head butted each other. They got into two single-filed lines and walked out onto the field as one. Lights and cheering flooded the stadium, filling every player with intensity; nothing was stopping Will and the rest of the team from winning. From the opening face off to the final whistle it was a battle. There was never more than a goal difference in the score through out the whole game and as everybody expected, the game went into overtime. On the first play of overtime Will got the ground ball from the face off man, Adam, and went on a fast break. It was four on three. Will passed the ball to Scott, who passed it down to Andrew, who dumped it to Greg, who was sitting right on the crease waiting to deliver the final blow. BAM! Greg put the ball in the back of the net and won the game. From there on out, the rest of the night was a blurry mix between an adrenaline rush and drunkenness. A mosh pit formed around Greg, and the team carried him back to the locker room where they took their pads off and relived the game by talking about every crazy play that went on. Will decided to get out of there and drove home to take a shower. When he arrived home, it was dark and silent due to the rest of the family still at the school, celebrating most likely. When he was out of the shower, he got dressed in khaki shorts and a LAX shirt. He said hi to Molly, who was lying on his bed as usual with her mouth wide open in what looked like a grin and her tongue hanging out to the side. When he was about to leave, he realized he forgot about something very important. He went back up into his room and opened up the closet door and rummaged through debris of clothing on the floor until he found it. A fresh unopened bottle of Captain Morgan‘s all for him and whoever else wanted some (he was feeling generous already). While waiting for his girlfriend, Taura, to come pick him up, he filled up a nice glass of coke and rum full of ice, and sat on the front porch sipping the delicious drink, reliving every moment that happened so far that night and imagining what else was in store. It worked out perfectly; right when the last sip went down into his stomach Taura pulled up and honked at him to get in. Will ran into the house and put the glass into the dishwasher and sped out the door into Taura‘s old white Jeep. ―Hey, Babe, great game tonight, you guys are amazing. “Yeah, you don‘t have to tell me twice. So, where are we headed tonight?‖ “Well, Billy G. is having a huge party and I know you definitely don‘t want to go.‖ “WHAT, are you crazy? Of course I want to go to Bill‘s. I love when he has big parties.‖ ―It is awesome that he is in our neighborhood, so if I really want to go home, my feet can carry me all the way to my house in about five minutes.‖ Bill is one of Will‘s many good friends that happened to live in the same neighborhood. It definitely wasn‘t a coincidence that six best friends happened to all move into the same neighborhood when they were six years old. The first to move into the neighborhood was Charles, who moved from Fishtown in northeast Philly. His dad got arrested for shooting someone that was trying to rob him in the middle of the street. Charles was the kind of kid who was always trying to get into fights, no matter when and where. The first time Will and Charles met they had an argument over a controversial call in an intense game of two square. It ended with Charles‘s fists in Will‘s face. They have been good friends ever since. ―Yeahhhh, that is great, so basically every time you come home from Bill‘s at night, I‘m sure your dad loves to find you wasted out of your mind.‖ With that Taura started up the car and drove down the street towards Bill‘s house. When they pulled up to Bill‘s, they noticed a Volkswagen Passat sitting out front. ―Well, it looks like Charles heard about the party already.‖ Taura always had a problem with Charles‘s overbearing personality. The two of them like to be the center of attention and in charge. They didn‘t mix well together, but they were always still friends in the end. Together Will and Taura got out of the car and walked through Bill‘s front lawn to his side door that led into his kitchen. The first thing they saw was Charles sitting at the kitchen table with Bill rolling up a blunt and a big bag pot under Bill‘s nose. ―Damn, this shit smells amazing! Get over here, Will, and smell it; I can‘t even put the smell into words. Look at me, man. I am tearing up. It just makes me happy on the inside.‖ Bill didn‘t even smoke pot, but he always got rambunctious right before he was about to throw down a huge banger. “ Allright, Billy, let me see it.‖ Will walked across the room, grabbed the bag out of Bill‘s long skinny fingers, put it up to his nose and took a big whiff. ―Damn, you weren‘t kidding. It smells like a mix between Hawaiian Punch and fresh pine needles.‖ Will was one of the biggest potheads around. Well, just about him and all his friends except Bill and Jan were big potheads. Jan is the second oldest of the crew behind Charley. He is Will‘s best friend Anthony‘s older brother. You wouldn‘t guess he is the older brother because Anthony is a solid forty pounds of pure muscle bigger. Jan is certainly the dad of the group always trying to keep everybody in check, making sure they don‘t get too carried away with whatever they are getting themselves into at the moment. He had the surfer LAXbrah look to him that all the babes loved. The shaggy blonde hair, six feet tall skinny muscular body with a model‘s smile always got him attention from the ladies whenever he entered a room. Unfortunately, he always gets hooked on one girl for a very prolonged period of time. Currently, he is obsessed with some hotty with a nice butt from his new job. ―Dude, Charley, where did you get this stuff from?‖ ―My backyard, grew it myself.‖ He said it with such a nonchalant voice as if everybody grew pot in their backyard. “Wow, that is pretty sweet. You must really know your stuff.‖ ―Of course, I do. Now start breaking this nugget up.‖ Charley handed him a big purple crystallized nugget. The smell of the bud stunk up Will‘s fingers as he broke it up and left a sticky coating of THC on his fingertips. Right at that moment, Bill‘s side door busted open and in came a kid with a case, followed by another random kid with a case and so on and so on. The line was endless, one after another; beautiful girl after beautiful girl walked in through the door, all of them wearing little short skirts and nice low-cut spring dresses. Will leaned over to Charley and whispered, ―Wow, you gotta hand it to Bill. He definitely knows how to throw down a good party.‖ ―Yes, he does, and who do you think taught him everything he knows, huh?‖ Will didn‘t have time to answer due to a tidal wave of Bill‘s friends flowing past him carrying him along in the current of adrenaline. He held his head up for air and went with it. The wave carried him downstairs to the pong table and stereo where some random rap song was being blasted. The bass was so loud it seemed to vibrate Will‘s insides. ―Here ya go, dude. You look out of place without a drink in your hand.‖ Some huge six foot five guy who was built like an NFL lineman handed him a beer and walked away as soon as he came. Beer after beer was handed to him and random girls would come up screaming obnoxiously loud two inches from his face, ―Hey, your cute. Do you wanna take a shot with me?‖ Of course, he couldn‘t say no to any of them, and in the end, that was his inevitable downfall. Slowly but surely everything became distorted, all the noises mooched together, his tongue became tied, and everything was just happening so fast that it seemed like God clicked fast forward on his time remote control. The last thing he saw before he hit the home run was Charley handing him a huge two foot bong. Blackness everywhere: it filled his mind, body and soul. Will was shot to another dimension; he no longer had control over his senses or actions; his mind was racing but his body was in the lead. The rest of that night would forever be cutout from his memory bank. He couldn‘t tell if he was dreaming or not until the squawking of birds snapped him out of the dark abyss he was lost in. Bright morning rays were attempting to shine through his tightly shut eyelids, until they broke the surface once he finally gained the energy and courage to find out where exactly he was. Bright white light broke through the slit of his eyelids and burned his sensitive pupils. Slowly, Will came back to consciousness and opened his eyes fully. He sat up, looked around and realized that he had wandered into a neighbor‘s yard and fallen asleep in a wooden swing set. There were kids playing in the backyard and as he stumbled out they stared at him as if he had ten heads and eight arms. He looked up and he saw that the kids were riding around on an awesome four seater golf cart. It was as if lights were coming down from the heavens, shining only on the golf cart. Will knew right there and then that he was getting a golf cart, no matter what it took. He walked out of the yard and went into the street. The sky was blue and cloudless, so he decided to just walk home. By the time he reached his house, it was noon and the sun was shining extremely brightly, causing beads of sweat to roll down his face. He called up his crew and told them each individually about the golf cart idea. Later in the afternoon, the gang all met up at Anthony's house like usual to play some quality Saturday afternoon wiffle ball. During the games Will told them about how he planned to steal a golf cart from the country club down the street where he used to caddy at. Everybody loved the idea and agreed to do it later that night. After multiple games of wiffle ball, Will and his friends went back into the woods and started up a bon fire and pulled out the two coolers, each filled to the brim with ice cold beer. The sun was sitting in the perfect spot in the sky. There was still light out but the Earth was beginning to cool down from the less intense rays. A nice cool breeze was blowing through the woods, rustling the leaves gently, making a perfect atmosphere for a nice relaxing Saturday afternoon after a huge party. Inevitably, the sun slowly sank into the horizon reflecting pink and purple colors onto the bottom of the clouds. Just like the sun not being to help itself from sinking into the horizon, the gang couldn't help themselves from drinking their beer. They were a perfect match for each other because none of them had a care in the world. Their motto always was and still is, ―Life is good, so why worry?‖ ―Hey, Will,‖ Charley yelled across the fire, ―how‘ bout you bring out that new bong of yours so we can pass it around the fire and break it in a little.‖ ―You know, Charles, sometimes I don't give you enough credit, but you definitely always have your mind set on the right thing.‖ ―You‘re damn right I do, mother fucker,‖ Charley replied with his usual matter- of-fact tone. Will took his new bong out of its nice cushioned carrying case, filled it with water and ice then packed the bowl and lit it up. After awhile, the beer started to run smoothly through their bloodstreams and the bong hits were making their skin tingle. After hours of rapping and making fun of each other back and forth, the time came. Out of nowhere Will yelled, ―Guys, it is time.‖ He paused for dramatic tension then continued, ―It is time to initiate my plan. We are going to take the railroad tracks all the way down the back of the golf course. Once we reach the golf course, we will go to the big garage where they keep the golf carts and I will open the door with the key I stole when I used to work there. The rest will be easy and fun, driving that bad boy home. Is everybody game?‖ In unison they all replied, ―We‘re game!‖ With that, they got up and took turns putting out the fire manually with their own bodily functions. It is always easy taking a whiz after drinking multiple brews. They took a short cut down to the railroad tracks that led through some back yards and little patches of woods. By the time they reached the railroad tracks, there were no clouds in the sky and the moon was shining brightly making the pale colored rocks on the tracks glow. They climbed the mountain of rocks to the tracks and went on the way towards their destination. On the way while passing over a little one-lane bridge, Steve, Anthony‘s little brother pulled out a carton of a dozen eggs and said, ―We have to have a little adrenaline rush before we get there.‖ It was like God wanted everything to go their way that night, so right at that moment a beam of light appeared in the distance and slowly got bigger and brighter as it came towards the bridge. Each of them took a couple eggs and took aim, waiting for the perfect moment to unleash the fury of yoke that awaited their helpless victim. The car was only fifty feet away when Steve began the count, ―Okay guys, on the count of three we open fire, ONE…..TWO…..THREE!‖ Little black shadows shot out of the darkness right at the car, causing loud thumps to echo through the silent night. Car tires squealed as the car came to a thundering halt. ―RUNNNN!!‖ Steve screamed and they all booked it down the railroad tracks, not stopping until they reached the far side of the golf course. The golf course was silent except for the sound of the little streams that ran throughout many of the holes. As they walked through the golf course a large cloud blocked out the moon‘s light, darkening the Earth once again. They smoked a blunt and went over the plan as they walked across the golf course. They reached the front entrance, where a glowing yellow light from the street lamps in the parking lot lighted up the clubhouse and garage. Silently, they walked to the back door of the garage and Will pulled out the key he had stolen months before he even thought of the idea to steal the golf cart. ―Okay guys, this is it. We are going to be in and out. You all are going to open the big garage door and pull the golf cart out. I‘ll close the garage door back up, and then I‘ll go out the back door again and lock it.‖ Everybody nodded in acknowledgment; they had heard the plan enough times already. Will put the key in the lock, turned it to the left, and then opened the door carefully. They turned the lights on and looked for the only four-seater golf cart. It happened to be in the very front, so it was easy to pull it out once they opened the big garage door. Once they had it out in the parking lot Will closed the big garage door behind the others, turned out the lights, closed the door and locked it behind him. Charley was already driving around the parking lot with Bill, Anthony, Steve, and Jan, all crammed in the three passenger seats. ―Yo, guys, let‘s get the fuck out of here!‖ Will screamed across the parking lot at them. Since it was two in the morning there were no cars on the street. They reached Anthony‘s house safely and they all drank a few more beers to top off the night. Waking up the next morning, they were all scattered, sleeping in random spots. Bill was passed out in a wheel barrel, Will‘s head was resting on the middle of the steering wheel, Charley was in the back of the golf cart curled up in the fetal position, and Anthony had somehow found a way back to his bed. Steve and Jan were fast asleep in the swinging bench underneath their porch. Will woke up first and noticed the golf cart was in the middle of Anthony‘s backyard. It was your average Sunday and they just messed around playing wiffle ball and shooting the shit. For the next week they messed around with the golf cart driving around the neighborhood and in the streets. Of course, they bragged to everybody they know about how they stole a golf cart. Later that week after the heist a goofy, red headed, lanky kid named Mike told Will that he saw an article in the newspaper about a stolen golf cart. They went up to the local Wawa, buy the newspaper and go right to the article about the stolen golf cart. The article stated that the golf cart was the head pro‘s own personal golf cart that he used to drive around the golf course. Later that day after driving the golf cart around, they saw a police car driving through the neighborhood. The police officer asked them if they saw a bunch of kids driving around a nice four-seater golf cart. ―No, officer, why? Are these kids dangerous?‖ Charley asked. ―Sorry, son, we don't have any information on them yet. All we know is that a golf cart has been stolen and there have been reports that a golf cart resembling the stolen one has been seen in this neighborhood with kids driving around on it.‖ ―Well, officer, we will certainly let the police know if we see anything fishy going on around here. We like to keep our neighborhood clean from any crime.‖ ―That a boy.‖ With that, the police officer drove away and left Will and everybody else staring at each other with startled looks on their faces. They were all thinking the same thing as Anthony blurted out, ―We need to get rid of this thing. It was fun while it lasted, but I do not want to get a criminal record just yet if I can help it.‖ Over the week they decided on what to do with the stolen merchandise. It came down to burying it in the ground, returning it at night time, or sending it crashing down the huge cliffs of the local quarry. Obviously they chose the later. . On Sundays the quarry is closed, so they drove the golf cart down the street and drove it off the road to get it around the locked front gates. They brought four things, golf cart, gasoline, matches and a cinder block. Driving through the quarry they heard the usual rumbling of rocks falling down the rusty shoots that were hundreds of feet long. The quarry was abandoned and they drove the golf cart up to the edge of the cliff. The quarry was a giant crater in the Earth over a mile wide and hundreds, if not thousands, of feet deep. At the bottom there was a large greenish blue pond that seemed to go straight down to the center of the Earth. Silently, they put the golf cart in neutral and pushed it back about twenty feet from the cliff's edge. ―Pour the gasoline on, Will.‖ As usual, Charley was ordering people around. Will didn't care, though. He wanted to pour the gas on and light the fire up. ―I am going to pour this whole container onto it. I want to see some fireworks.‖ He wasn't kidding, either, because he really did pour the whole container on until the last drops stopped coming out. ―Okay, now, Jan, you put the cinder block on, and I will light a match. Someone is going to have to get a stick or something to click the lever into drive without catching on fire.‖ Jan obediently put the cinder block down on the gas pedal and Anthony grabbed a six foot long sturdy looking stick. ―All-righty then, here goes nothing.‖ Will lit up a few matches and tossed them on the golf cart. Immediately it burst into a giant fireball that rose at least ten feet into the cool evening air. Without any warning Anthony, reached the stick into the flaming mass and pushed the lever from neutral to drive. It took off right away and fled straight towards the edge of the cliff. In a matter of seconds it was flying through the air. The sight was spectacular as gravity began to take over and pulled the doomed golf cart towards the bottomless pit of the crater. After what seemed like ages, the golf cart smashed into a field of boulders and exploded into a million tiny shards of flaming hot metal. Just like that, Will's dream of having a sweet golf cart to drive around exploded in front of his eyes. All of their eyes were glued to the awe-inspiring scene, until Jan spoke up and said, ―You know, guys, we should probably get the hell outta here. Wasn't our goal not to get caught?‖ With that they all ran their asses back to the neighborhood and went their separate ways back to their respective homes to relax, knowing that a rare and unusual burden had been lifted. On his walk home, Will realized what an awesome life he was living. There was never anything to worry about. Even when trouble came his way, it was the fun kind of trouble that every kid looks for and loves. He went home and ate some delicious ribs with his family and smoked a bong bowl on the top of the hill in his backyard. He went to bed that night, thinking about what life after high school was going to be like and if he was ever going to make it back alive from senior week. A week later Will and Anthony were walking down the aisle to graduation together with Jan, Steve, Bill and Charley, all cheering for them in the crowded audience. The next day the two best friends were on their way down to the Outer Banks for a highly anticipated senior week. It took eight hours and seven blunts to get down to their huge mansion of a house they were staying in. Just like expected, the house full of over twenty freshly graduated seniors was going crazy and taking advantage of the last little bit of time they had left together. Will pulled an all-nighter and went out onto the beach to watch the sun come up over the horizon. He sat on the beach facing the ocean watching as the sun came up slowly but surely. He saw an abandoned transparent green tube lying on the beach calling out for attention. He walked over to it, grabbed it, and walked out into the ocean until he was waist deep. He hopped into the tube, settled in comfortably, and shut his eyes. The last thing that went through his mind before he dozed off was, ―Man, what a fucking life I have.‖ Will and the tube went bobbing out into the ocean while the first sliver of the sun came creeping up over the horizon. There wasn‘t a single worry going through Will‘s mind. Samantha Finsterbusch Are Dreams Real? One cold and snowy night, Cara was driving to the airport. Her GPS took her a different way, she never been this way before. She was driving down a long curvy road. Cara did not even notice where she was. She was too focused on getting to the airport.. Cara had her radio loud. She could not hear herself think, but that is the way she always listened to it. Once, about three years ago Cara was driving and her music was so loud she did not hear the car honking behind her to stop backing up. She bumped the front of his car. She got in trouble for not being able to hear the honking of the car. For a week Cara had her music turned down, but then she went back to her old ways and the radio got turned back up again.. Cara hated no noise. She hated thinking about things. Cara knew that she only lived fifteen to twenty minutes away from the airport. It had been close to an hour of driving already. Her GPS never failed her before. She bought the most expensive one on the shelf. The guy who sold it to her even said all the celebrities use this brand. Cara was getting nervous. She pulled over, she got out her cell phone to try and call anyone, not that she could call anyone, no one would pick up for her. She was always to busy with work instead of being busy with her friends and family. It was no use anyways; her cell phone had no service. Again a piece of technology failed her. She kept driving, now she really was not paying attention to the road. She was panicking; she was trying to find signs or anything to lead her out of the forest. Then it happened. Cara did not notice the hill with the big patch of black ice. Right when her car hit that patch, she and her car went off the road. The only thing Cara had on her mind was her family. She thought she would never see her sister‘s baby, she thought about her mother being alone; now that her dad died. Cara thought about things that she never thought about. She was thinking about things that mattered in her life for once. Cara‘s car landed in a pile of snow, Cara hit the steering wheel, right before she got knocked out she looked out the window and saw a light shining though. She went to sleep. * Cara woke up in a bed she never laid in before. The covers were red. She looked around and saw all wood furniture. She started to panic, where was she? Thoughts ran through her head, she thought someone took her from her house; she thought that she would never see her family again. Cara smelled something cooking. It smelled like pancakes. Cara was really hungry so she figured if she had been kidnapped they would not mind sharing food with her. Cara got out of bed and kept over to the door. The smell grew stronger as she got closer to the kitchen. Cara saw that no one was in the kitchen; she saw a plate set up with three big, fluffy pancakes, bacon strips, scrabbled eggs, and a glass of orange juice. Cara went for the food. Her first bite brought her back to her young days, when she actually had time to eat a real breakfast. Once she hit high school she got concerned with her weight so she would just eat power bars. The taste of the pancakes made her think of her mom; she would always get up really early just to make them before Cara would go to school. Cara never really truly appreciated her mother. A man came into the front door. Cara remained seated. She figured if she was going to die she was going to die eating these delicious pancakes. ―Hello, how was your breakfast? I hope it was good. I mean after the night you had last night I figured you needed something really good in you stomach,‖ the man said. ―Who are you? What happened last night?‖ Cara said. ―Oh, sorry, my name is Ben. You do not remember what happened last night? You were in a terrible car accident. I was driving along behind you and saw you go off the road. Your car went into a tree. So I brought you back to my cabin. I was going to take you to the hospital but there is no getting there now. The snow is way to bad. You‘re fine now though. You will be staying here till the blizzard stops.‖ ―I can‘t remember that. But thank you so much. Thank god you were behind me, if not I would have died. So the snow is that bad?‖ ―Yes you will be staying here. So make yourself cozy.‖ Cara went back to her room and cleaned and made herself comfy. She thought Ben was really nice. She liked him, she thought she would never be able to let a stranger in her house but he is letting her stay. She stared at the brown ceiling. She thought how could things get so bad. She was so happy to be alive, now she could fix everything, she could get her life back together, right after the storm ends. All Cara could do is sleep the week out. * Cara woke up again to the smell of pancakes. Ben was so nice for doing this for her. Cara walked into the kitchen ate the pancakes. The house seemed to be even more quite. Cara noticed that Ben was not around. She called for him, but no answer.. Cara went to go put her plate in the sink. On the counter she found a little yellow note. On the note it said in one bold word ―HUNTING‖. Cara figured that if she was going to be staying here for a little longer then she might as well do Ben a favor and clean his house while he was gone. Cara started with the over piled dishes in the sink. She cleaned the kitchen from ceiling to floor. Next was the bathroom. It was dirty, there was mud all over, but she cleaned it. Cara never cleaned in her life. She always had her nanny clean for her. When she got older she just hired a housekeeper to clean her mess for her. Cara was selfish. She got really tired of cleaning the mess. She just figured she would do the rest tomorrow. It was getting dark out; Ben would be coming home soon. Cara went exploring around the house. She noticed that a door had been locked. Cara did not like secrets so she picked the lock and broke into the room. In the room it was cold and unusually quite. It was to quite, she felt bad for being in this room. In the room it was covered in bright blue paint, with white spots on the sides to make it look like clouds. The bed was not made. There were toys all over the floor. On the bed right by the pillow was a box. Cara went over to the box. She held it, when she tried to open it, it did not open. Cara really wanted to know what was in the box. She tried to pick this lock but it was to hard. Cara heard the front door open. It was Ben. Cara threw the box back on the pillow, ran out the door, while still shutting the door. She met Ben in the hallway. Ben asked her how her day was and she said fine. Cara asked Ben if he caught anything. Ben said yea he got a buck. After that conversation they went their separate ways. As Cara was turning into her room she saw out of the corner of her eye that Ben went into the room she had just been in. Cara tried to seek another peak of the room but Ben shut the door as soon as he got in the room. Cara turned to go back to her room. Again she lay on the bed, staring at the ceiling, thinking. Cara just wanted to go to the airport; she wanted to see her family again. Cara missed them. * Three days go by. The snow is still falling. Ben said the roads look a little clearer but the roads are still really bad. Cara had been doing the same routine for those three days she has been there. Cara had been eating pancakes every morning. She had been cleaning the house everyday. Ben went hunting everyday, he got home at night, and then he went to the cloud room. The days were getting boring. Cara wanted to spice things up, so she decided that she was going to ask Ben if she could go hunting with him. Ben said yes she could come she just had to be awake at 5:45 in the morning. Cara shrugged and said she would be up at 5:45. The alarm rang, they both were up and when it was 6:00 they left for hunting. Cara had to be quite while Ben went hunting.. Cara tried to use this time for talking. Her main goal was to get Ben to talk about the cloud room. She asked him every question should could to try and get him to talk. Ben got annoyed, he just wanted to hunt in peace, but now he had Cara asking him a hundred and one questions. Ben finally called it a day. This was one of the first times he never brought home a deer. Cara noticed that Ben was even more quite, she figured he was mad that he did not get a deer. Cara felt bad but then she thought Ben should not be mad, she was just trying to talk to him. When they got back to the house Ben went right to the cloud room. Cara thought that this was a pointless day. She just tried to get more information out of the person she is living with. Cara Was happy that she got to spend a little more time with Ben. Ben was not happy at all. * Cara gets up early to make breakfast for Ben. Cara notices the house is quite again. She guessed Ben went hunting. He never took her with him again. She was too much of a pain. Cara made pancakes, grits, and eggs. She had realized she had a skill in cooking. Cara set the table to look every nice. Cara heard a noise in the other room. She got scarred. Cara got a butter knife for protection. She walked to the cloud room, that is were the noise was coming from. To her surprise it was not anyone breaking in, it was Ben. He was lying over the bed with his head on the pillow. He was crying. In his hand he held the box. Cara opened the door just a little more, the door made a cracking noise. Ben‘s head jerked up. He saw Cara looking at him. Cara backed away from the dor. Ben used his sleeve to dry his tears. He went to his room after that. Cara was curios to know what he was crying about. She felt so bad for him. When it came to dinnertime, Cara came out of her room and went to the kitchen. Ben was arranging everything on the table. He put all the food out. They made a quick look at each other. No one wanted to say anything to one another. Ben sat down before Cara did. Ben began eating before her. Cara got hthe hint and sat down. She realized that is dinner was going to be in silence. Even though Cara wanted to ask Ben why he was crying she knew he would not tell her. So she just figured she would give him a day to get over it. Then she would ask him at a better time. * The day after Cara saw Ben crying the house was not the same. When they would see each other they would just walk a different way. They rather take a longer way to get to the place they wanted to then to sit and talk about what happened. When night came Ben asked Cara if she wanted to talk. That question shocked Cara. She agreed to talk to him. They sat down on the couch. The fireplace was going. Cara could just see that Ben was sad. Ben started his story of why he was sad. A month ago Matt, Ben‘s son, died. Ben took him into town to go get a check up at the hospital. As the checkup is ending, a food truck pulls up out front of the hospital. The driver delivers the food to the hospital. Matt started to get excited because after his checkup his dad promised he would get him a new action figure from the store. Matt runs outside the hospital. Right when he runs into the road, that food truck hit him. Ben started to cry after retelling that story. He showed Cara the box he was crying over. For the first time in a long time Ben opened the box. Inside was the action figure Matt wanted. Ben dried his tears. Then he asked why Cara was trying to go to the airport. Cara began her story she said she was on her way to the airport to see her sister‘s baby. She was going to be an aunt. Cara loved her family. She missed her family a lot. She is always working so she never sees anyone. She also lives far away so that is another factor of her not seeing her family. Cara wanted to see her family. Now after hearing Ben‘s story about his son she really missed them. She did not want to loose them. Cara went to sleep. * When Cara woke up she was not looking at the same ceiling she had been looking at. Instead of looking at a cabin ceiling she was looking at a plan white ceiling. She had no idea where she was. She was lost. Cara saw a man in a white suit walk by. Cara asked him where she was. The man told her she was in the hospital. He told her someone found your car on the side of the road. The doctor told her that she was knocked out when she got her. He told her she had been asleep for 32 hours. They brought you here. Cara asked who brought her here. The doctor told her someone named Ben. Cara could not believe this was happening. She could not get over the fact that she had been dreaming this whole entire time. Cara felt like her dream was so real. Cara needed to go walk around. She went to the waiting room. Cara saw Ben sitting on the couch with a little boy. Cara went up to him. ―Hi, do you know who I am?‖ ―Yes I think you‘re the girl I brought to the hospital after I found you in your car. Are you okay?‖ Ben said. Cara saw the little boy. She thought it was Matt. Cara just gave up. She really thought that it was not a dream but if Ben did not remember her then it must have been a dream. Also saw that Matt was alive so it was a dream. She was just curious why would she dream about him. Cara went back to her room. A half an hour later, Cara came out of her room to go get something to eat. She saw Matt running to the door. Ben a short distance away. Cara felt like she had déjà vu. She saw the food truck. Then she remembered that Matt went to the hospital to get a check up. Cara realized that she had to save Matt. She ran after him. As Matt went outside the truck was 20 feet away, Cara jumped in the way of the truck to push Matt put of the way. She managed to push herself and Matt out of the way. Cara felt a small body on hers. She felt This little boy hugging her crying. Cara heard noises, she heard people running over to her and Matt, then she fainted. * Cara again woke up in the hospital. She was not staring at the plan white ceiling. She was looking at all the faces staring back at her. Her mom, sister, Abby her new neice Ben, and Matt was there. When she saw he mom she jumped out of bed and hugged her. She never wanted to let go. Her mom was crying. Ben thanked her. Matt gave her a hug and kiss on the cheek. The doctor came in and told Cara that she fainted after she saved Matt. Ben told Cara that he is so greatful. He told her he would not have been able to live without Matt. Matt was his life. Cara just looked at Ben and thanked him. She did not know why she thanked him, she felt that she just needed to. After everyone left Cara thought about her situation. She was so confused. Her dream was a wish from Ben. Ben wanted his son to be back alive. In her dream she got to see what happened to Matt so she could save him. Then Ben would not be alone. Then on the other hand she did need to thank Ben. He brought her family to her. Being in the hospital the first time, Ben called her Mom to come out to see her. They were on their way that whole time. CJ Gamber Jessie ―Get up. Get up. Get up!!!‖ Josh‘s mother screamed at him. Josh opened his eyes, very slowly because he did not want to face her. ―Where the hell were you last night? What time did you get home? What was sooooo much better than spending time with your family?‖ Josh‘s mom said once he looked at her. He figured that if he just ignored her, it would all go away. She exited his room and slammed not just his door, but the hallway door as well. She was pissed and Josh was not about to get in her way. Josh took his time waking up. He rolled over to look at the clock. It read 8:37. ―Ugh,‖ Josh grunted out loud, annoyed by how tired his body felt. He just wanted to go back to bed but did not want to listen to his mother screaming at him. Josh rolled onto his back and raised his arms so as to stretch out. Josh lowered his arms and tried to think back to last night, but was having a hard time just trying to remember where he had started. He knew he had come in around 5:00 a.m.. Josh reached under his bed and grabbed one of the bottles that had a mixture of different pills in it. He unscrewed the cap and took a couple out and threw them down his throat, knowing they would make him feel better. Josh finally rolled out of bed and changed his clothes from last night that he had fallen asleep in. He then walked out to the kitchen table to eat breakfast. His night was starting to come back to him. Josh remembered drinking last night, drinking a lot. He also remembered music and a lot of grinding going on. ―Ewwww!!!‖ Josh‘s little sister Jessie cried out. ―What is on your neck?!‖ Josh went to find a mirror. It was a hickey, but he could not remember from whom he had received it. Josh was certainly not going to tell his sister or even try to explain to her because she was still just a child, seven years old. He started to remember Melanie, a girl he had gotten with at the party. ―How far did we go?‖ he thought to himself. There was also Theresa; another girl he could not remember how far he had gone with either. Josh went back to the table and poured himself some Honey Nut Cheerios. His sister sat on the other side of the table, giving him weird looks. Josh ate his cereal very quickly. He put his dish in the sink without rinsing it off and then put it in the dishwasher. He figured his mother could do it after yelling at him this morning. Josh then trudged back to his room. Josh was sitting on his bed. He had just taken a shower and felt refreshed. His mom asked him to run out and get some groceries for the family. At first he protested, but then thought that it might do some good to just get out of the house for a little while. Josh arrived home from the grocery store and called to his sister, Jessie, to come help him bring in the groceries. He brought in a couple bags and when she did not show up, he went to look for her. First he checked her room; Jessie was not there. He knocked on the bathroom and there was no reply. He then went to his room and found her in his room! She had found his secret stash of pills and was lying on the floor, not moving. Josh could not tell if she was breathing, but he knew that he had to get her to the hospital. Josh lifted her up off the ground and laid her gently into the car. Josh broke into action and raced to the hospital. He looked into his rearview mirror at his little sister just lying there on the seat(s). Her body seemed so lifeless to him. Josh was afraid of losing his sister. They had grown so close and Josh cared about her as if she was going to make a huge change in the world. They were stopped at a light. ―God dammit, change already!!‖ Josh said out loud. It seemed like it was taking forever to get to the hospital, but it really only took him ten minutes to get there with how fast he was driving. He rushed her into the emergency room and gave her to the doctors. Josh knew he was going to have to tell his mom and that now, since his sister finally had help, it was time to do so. Josh grabbed his cell phone out of his pocket, his hand shaking unstoppably. As he dialed the number, he could feel his heart pounding more and more, unable to make it settle down. He was afraid of his mom hearing his heart pounding through the phone and her finding out how nervous he really was. The phone was ringing. He began to think about how many times he had told Jessie to stay out of his room and never go in there. Josh felt the blood pumping through his veins, faster and faster each second. He was praying that he would not have a heart attack as his sister would need him when… if she needed him. ―Hello?‖ Josh‘s mom answered the phone. ―Mom, something happened to Jessie. I had to take her to the hospital!‖ ―What happened?! Is she okay?! What hospital are you at?!‖ ―I told her to never go into my room, Mom. You heard me tell her so many times, did you not?‖ Josh said as tears started falling down his cheeks. ―What happened, Joshua?‖ His mother was becoming more frantic with each passing moment. ―I never thought this would happen. I… I… I…‖ ―JOSHUA!!!‖ she was screaming now, ―WHAT HAPPENED!?!?‖ ―She swallowed some pills that I had in my room. I don‘t know how she got them. I thought they were in a safe place, somewhere that she would never find them even if she did go into my room. I‘m sorry, I‘m sorry, I‘m sorry.‖ Josh just did not now what else to say. His mother was screaming and crying and Josh just could not make out anything she was saying. Josh sat down, still on the phone with his mother, but his mind began to wander away from the conversation, back to a time when he was happy and felt like there was not a care in the world. Josh had started high school about three and a half years ago. He was new to the school but made friends really quickly. He was very athletic and was a star athlete as a freshman. It was as if he ruled the school as a freshman. He made many friends with upper classman who got him into drinking and drugs. Josh stayed pretty much the same in his sophomore year but his grades slipped a little bit. As his junior year rolled around, something very tragic in his life changed it forever. His dad had a stroke and died. Josh‘s dad was his number one fan with everything that he had done. Not only did this affect Josh greatly, but his family as well. Josh decided he needed to drop out and get a job so he could help his family survive. Josh got a job that paid him minimum wage but he worked every day, at least up until last week when he was fired because he was found selling drugs behind the grocery store. He tried to explain how he was only trying to earn a little bit more money for his family, but his employer did not want to hear it because of the strict policy on no alcohol or drugs on the premises. A doctor came to Josh and told him that his sister was stable but that she was still sleeping. Josh wanted to go sit with her. He had almost killed the person who mattered most to him in his life. ―You must think you are really hot shit!?‖ This grabbed his attention as his mother seemed to be more pissed off now than upset. ―Mom,‖ Josh began, ―I‘m sorry. I‘m sorry. I swear it won‘t ever happen again. Jessie is stable and going to be fine.‖ ―You bet it won‘t. None of that is ever allowed in my house, including the people who do it.‖ ―What are you trying to say?‖ ―I‘m kicking you out of the house, or you must go to rehab.‖ Josh was dumbfounded. There was no way he was about to go to rehab and do what his mother wanted. He expected his mother to be upset but never to kick him out. Josh knew she would keep her word, so there was nothing left to say to her. Josh waited at the hospital until his mother arrived, but stayed away from her once she did get there. Josh left to try and find a new home. He called a couple of his old friends but none of them wanted anything to do with him. They could see he was going nowhere and did not like his drug addiction. Josh walked around the streets, his mind just wandering again. He remembered when he and his sister were little, Josh would take her to the playground and push her on the swings. He could hear her voice. ―Higher, Josh, push me higher.‖ Josh started to cry. His sister seemed to be the only one who ever cared about him. Josh did not know where to turn. He did not want to go to a shelter, but he knew he could not go live at home. He only had the clothes he had worn on his back that day. Josh went back to his house to get a couple of other clothes because his mother was still at the hospital. He also grabbed the rest of his drug stash, knowing he probably wouldn‘t be able to get back inside. He slept under a tree for the first couple of nights. He awoke up with a bunch of aches and pains. With every pain he had, he was able to just pop a couple of pills to make it go away. Josh was able to survive with by feeling happy and almost pain free with the help of his drugs. Josh loved his sister but he was not about to give up his drugs. His drugs made him feel like he was not in this world. Like nothing else mattered. Josh understood that he needed somewhere else to sleep. Josh went to his house and tried the password to his garage. It didn‘t work, so he tried again and it still didn‘t work. She must have changed the password and the locks to the house and garage. Josh decided that he would sleep under his mother‘s car, which she parked in the driveway every night. This made him feel a bit better, like he was at home again… almost. Jessie had come home from the hospital some time ago. Josh was able to see this as he saw her through the window of the house one night. Was she missing Josh just as much as Josh was missing her? Josh had nobody. Every morning he watched his sister get on the bus, and was able to pop a couple of pills while he watched. He remembered her first day of school and riding the bus, how afraid she was. She wanted to stay home and be with Josh but she had to go to school. Josh did not want her ending up like him. She climbed on to the bus and went straight to the back, looking out the back of it at Josh until the bus turned down a street. Josh cared for her as if she was his own daughter. Josh would sometimes cook dinner for her when their parents were running late at work. He would also even have tea parties with her so she could feel like a proper lady. Now Josh didn‘t get any of those things. He only got to see her get on the bus and occasionally off the bus. In between, Josh went and found more drugs to help him get high. Josh‘s supplier had heard his story and was willing to give Josh a break with some deals because Josh was only able to use money from his bank account which was steadily decreasing because there was no source of income. With the decline of money, the drugs could only keep making him happy for so long. Josh knew he needed to change. His sister was too important for him to keep living like this. Josh walked around the streets, looking for a rehab place. He found a telephone booth with a yellow pages book in it. He was now able to look up the rehab building in town and started on his way there. ―Maybe, just maybe she will let me come home,‖ Josh thought to himself while finally spotting what he was looking for, the Stef Koveal Center. * After a couple months of being in rehab, Josh was allowed to leave and he went to his house. It hadn‘t changed much. The grass was a little taller, and the flowers had begun to spring out of the ground. He took each step slowly and kept his chin high with his back straight. That was part of his training at rehab. He arrived at the door and knocked three times. She opened the door and Josh smiled. ―Hey there… I‘ve been to rehab and I am a changed man,‖ Josh said to his mother. She hugged him very tightly and even started crying, something Josh had not expected. He hadn‘t realized how much he had missed it. Dakiel Jones Monica and Mike were married for thirty years; the way they met was like a fairy tale that every couple would like to happen to them. Monica and Mike met one night at Love Park after they both recently broke up with their loved ones. It was a cold night and the rain and snow had just stopped so the ground was icy. Monica was devastated that she just got dumped, while… absentmindedly she walked on a piece of ice not paying attention and slipped. Mike was on the other side of the park, shaking his head that he just got dumped, but he happened to take a look at the other side of the park and saw Monica on the ground. He raced to the other side and helped her up. Monica said she could never forget the first thing he said to her. ―What is a lovely young lady doing in Love Park alone and especially at night?‖ He asked, while he was smiling the whole time. From that point on, Monica and Mike knew that they were going to be together forever; they were thirty years right so far. Monica was attending school at Temple University and Mike was attending Williams Trade School. There was no sign of either one of them dropping out anytime soon. In May, college let out for their summer break, and during that break an unfortunate event occurred that Mike and Monica weren‘t ready for. Monica went to the doctors for her yearly check up, and by surprise she was told that she was four months pregnant. Mike loved Monica too much to ask her to get an abortion, so instead he knew it was time for them to take the next step. He asked her to marry him, and as expected, she said yes. During the time of the pregnancy, Monica worked at McDonald‘s and was getting paid $8.50 an hour as a manager, and Mike was an unemployed man who had a hard time finding a job because he didn‘t have a license to become a carpenter. All this stuff was occurring while Monica and Mike were still attending school, but as the time of the arrival of the baby was getting closer and closer things started to come about slowly but surely. Monica and Mike both dropped out of school during the eighth month of the pregnancy to prepare for the baby, and by their life events started to go downhill in their happy little fairytale they were living in. Monica and Mike lived in a small apartment on the west side of Philly that was kind of water damaged and dirty but they didn‘t care because all they needed was each other at the end of every night. The couple didn‘t want to go to their parents because they didn‘t want them to gloat in their faces that they had been right, so they just made the best of what they had. The part of West Philly that Monica and Mike lived in was not fit to raise a baby but that‘s all they could afford at the time so they had to make it work. When the baby was born Monica and Mike both agreed that they would make sure their child went to school, college, and moved out of West Philly no matter what it took. Years passed, Monica and Mike‘s daughter Sarah attended Bartram, where they had to wear uniforms so that was a big relief for them and a big money saver. As their daughter got older and older, Mike and Monica procrastinated about going back to school because they started to feel more safe and comfortable about their situation and thought that nothing could go wrong, but once again they were wrong. As time went by, the world started to get into a recession, and they were two of the people who got affected by it. Monica started losing hours at work and Mike still had not found a job, and without money, how were bills going to be paid, how were they going to be able to buy toiletries? All of these questions ran through the couple‘s minds night and day, but the real question was how were they going to fix it? One day Monica and Mike were watching Bonnie and Clyde ,and that‘s when thoughts started running through their mind and that‘s when Mike screamed out. ―I got it. We can be the new version of Bonnie and Clyde.‖ Monica just looked at him and laughed while she was shaking her head with disappointment. ―What about our daughter?‖ Monica said with a real dull look on her face. ―Our daughter is graduating this summer and she will be off to college. It is a perfect time to do this,‖ he said with a big smile on his face. Monica really had to think about this, but in the back of her mind she was thinking what else she could do and going back to school was not an option for her right about now. ―Let‘s start off real small,‖ said Monica with a confused look on her face. When Monica said that Mike looked like he had just won millions of dollars. ―So the plotting begins,‖ said Mike with a sneaky look on his face while he was guzzling down his beer. Pacing back and fourth wondering how they were going to plan out their robbery and where they should rob, Monica finally realized that she needed to go to the store because she had ran out of women‘s products. Then Mike suggested that they go to the CVS because he had to pick up his medicine, and that‘s where his doctor called in the prescription. "Let‘s go before it gets late," screamed Monica while she was still thinking about a plan that could work without them getting caught. "I'm on my way, you old woman. I‘m trying to find the coupons," yelled Mike. On the way to CVS the ride was quiet because all they could do was think about money and how they could think of a master plan to get some. They was up to do anything and everything; one of the ideas Mike brought up was to rob a bank, but they was both scared of the thought of going to jail and doing the time because they weren‘t experienced in robbing things. They arrived at CVS and immediately got her women products and his medicine. Mike realized that he had a coupon for Monica‘s stuff in the car, but he also noticed the money on the counter for the cancer foundation, and a big light bulb went off in his head and he finally had an idea. He told Monica to come out to the car with him to get the coupon and as they were walking out, he said with a big grin on his face, "Honey, I know how we can get money.‖ "How, you big loot?" replied Monica with a somewhat confused look on her face. The donation jar at CVS was sitting on the counter; we can steal it as a practice run. This was it; if they couldn‘t put a crime together real fast they wouldn‘t ever be able to commit any kind of robbery. Early that day Monica and Mike were supposed to bring their daughter‘s old costumes to the salvation army, but they had never gotten around to it, so they had masks in the trunk, but decided not to wear them because that would look very suspicious. The plan was for Monica to walk into the store with her hood on, and a few minutes after she walked into the store she would have some kind of asthma attack. While all of this was occurring, Mike would walk into the store, with his hood over his head and go right to the money and take it. The plan was set, and all they had to do was execute it right. Monica went as planned, walked into the store and had an asthma attack, you would think that she took drama classes before because she did it so well. Now it was Mike‘s turn, and he also did what was according to plan and took the money with no problem. It was a perfect robbery and plan that went well, well enough that Monica and Mike celebrated. ―We did it. I told you that it was going to go as planned,‖ said Mike with an enormous smile on his face. ―I know. It was kind of a rush. It felt like we were going down on the first drop of the rollercoaster,‖ said Monica while she was sipping her apple martini. Now it was time for them to think of another robbery, something with a higher value in money. ―I have an idea, but it will take months of planning and we have to do everything exact with no mistakes. Our next stop is the bank,‖ said Mike with a serious look on his face. ―Lets do it. I‘m ready if you are.‖ So it was set. Monica and Mike were really taking the meaning of the new Bonnie and Clyde, and if they executed this plan right people would be calling themselves Monica and Mike. It was like they were in school all over again, studying the whole bank. They had to make sure they knew everything about the bank, like the employees, the security, when it opened and closed, and so on. Months and months have gone by trying to put together a master plan, when suddenly it sparked in their mind. ―Why don‘t we just do it like Bonnie and Clyde, duh,‖ said Mike with a smirk on his face. The only thing we have to do is a little twist to it.‖ ―What the twist, genius?‖ Monica asked with a confused look on her face. ―To avoid a big scene and causing us to make an mistake, we have to do everything right. ―This plan is so crazy that it just might work.‖ Said Monica while she was going in for a kiss. So the plan was set; it was going to be like any other bank robber, with the guns, scared people, and so on but they have to do it when their closing. They had all their materials ready and now they just had to wait until the next day so they can execute their plan. Monica and Mike woke up the next morning excited but at the same time scared. They performed their usual morning tasks, washing up, eating, and watching TV. All day they slept without any interruptions, but when 5:00pm hit Monica and Mike knew it was time and everything had to be perfect from this point on. Thoughts were running through Monica and Mike head, like why are we doing this? The whole purpose for this robbery was for money so they could help out their daughter and take care of themselves. It‘s now or never, Mrs. Bonnie,‖ said Mike with a serious look on his face. ―Lets do it, Mr. Clyde.‖ Monica cried while leaning over to him to give him a kiss. It went as planned. Mike and walked in first and asked if he can see his safety box. Monica walked in and started a scene with one of the bank tellers so all eyes can be on her. While all attention on Monica the bank teller took Mike to the back to see his box and when they got to the back Mike put a gun to her head and told her to put everything into the bag. When the bank teller got finish Mike taped her up and locked her into the safe and walked out, and Monica followed him quickly afterward. ―It‘s done baby, we did it.‖ Mike said while he was laughing with excitement. ―Now lets go far, far away,‖ said Monica while she went for Mike hand. Bibi Kautar The Young Girl They had planned all summer to go fishing together in a small river known as Huntsville River, a couple of hours away from their homes. They had gone to almost every fishing destination except for this one. The two best friends had been told that the Huntsville River was not the best place for fishing. It was described by neighbors as the worst place to ever visit; instead of a nice river flow of water, it looked more like a swamp covered with shrubs, trees, and decomposed organisms such as flies, skunks, snakes, ducks, foxes, rabbits, fish, deer and squirrels. After hearing the same story over and over, the two best friends were determined even more to go and just see it for themselves. ―Eddy, are you ready?‖ asked Eric, holding two large fishing rods in both of his hands, wearing a yellowish brown suit, covered with all varieties of fishing badges, along with his hat. ―Yes! I just need to get out some worms from the freezer and a couple of other things,‖ replied Eddy. When he reached out for the freezer‘s door to get the worms out, he noticed there weren‘t any left from their last trip to the Delaware River. ―Okay! We should get ready to leave before sunrise,‖ said Eric. As he started the car, he looked to his right to Eddy, hoping that they were going to have the best time of their lives. ―Before I forget, we need to buy worms on our way,‖ said Eddy with excitement. As they turned into the narrow roadway to the river, they began to visualize and sense what they had been told by the neighbors. It was covered with shrubs and trees; it did look like a swamp more than a river. When they walked out of the car, they could smell something they had never smelled before. As they took every step through the dark alleyway to the river, they saw bright yellow eyes of animals that had decayed over the years, either dying of hunger or being eaten by other animals. ―We are finally here,‖ said Eddy, holding his hand over his nose, trying to escape the acidic smell of decomposition. ―We should get the boat ready, and everything else,‖ said Eric. They began to release the boat, hooked onto the back of the car. It was a nice small wooden boat for two people to travel along the riverbank. It contained a small icebox on the right corner and a supply box, containing fishing materials, such as fish hooks, fake worms, jellyfish, shrimp, and tiny plastic balls with strings hanging from them. They pushed the boat into the river and began to sail their way through the heavy odorous water. They rolled until they had gotten right in the center of the river. It was no surprise that no one was around. The smell was not as strong as it was on land. The water didn‘t reflect the color of any other river that they had gone fishing before. As they were getting ready, they felt a strange feeling of loneliness and sadness. ―Hoping to catch something alive out of this dump,‖ said Eddy, standing on the boat with his long black, white fishing rod in his left hand. On the end of the hook, the worm tried to escape, but it was no use. After throwing the fishing line, he sat down and pulled a nice cold beer out of the cooler. ―Eric! You have caught something,‖ shouted Eddy, who almost lost his balance. ―Oh, boy, this must be good,‖ shouted back Eric, with excitement. Both began to pull the fishing rod forcibly as if they had caught a whale. As they pulled it closer and closer toward themselves, they began to see something large and black. ―What is this thing?‖ shouted Eddy, still pulling on the fishing rod. His face with filled with joy and excitement, as if they had discovered something out of the sea. ―I am not sure. Maybe we should just let it go?‖ asked Eric. ―No! It‘s something big, and plus, we almost have it anyway,‖ said Eddy. When they finally pulled it closer, they knew it was something they wished they had not discovered. ―Maybe we should call the police,‖ asked Eric, whose body began to shake with fear. ―No! We should just throw it back into the river,‖ said Eddy. ―No! I am going to call the police,‖ said Eric. They rolled their boat back with the dead body to the land, and waited for the police officers to show up. They could not believe what they had seen or what they had found in such a nasty, disgusting place, where not a single fly could be alive. Two police cars pulled up after ten minutes. The two men in their black suits tried to comfort the two best friends, in their sixties, to get over the horror of their discovery. * She got into her car and wondered what they had discovered this time. She was known as one of the most popular detectives in the town, who had solved over two hundred cases and was never tired of doing so. Detective Jennifer Benson took a risk as a detective for the FBI, when she lost her seven year old daughter, Rose Benson, who went missing for about five months and was then found dead. The investigation went on for months and years, but not a single clue could lead to the suspect. She cried for months over the death of her little angel, but she knew she had to do something to get over the pain. ―Good morning, gentlemen. What do we have here?‖ asked Detective Benson. She had arrived a couple of minutes after one of the officers called in for help. As the police officers were answering her questions, they could not stop staring at her. She was in her forties but looked more like she was in her twenties. She was very attractive, six feet tall at least, blond hair with blue eyes and a body with nothing but curves. ―A young girl, probably seventeen or eighteen years old; it seems like she has been here for almost two weeks,‖ replied one of the officers. Less than ten minutes later, two more officers came by along with a coroner‘s car. Two officers tried to get the body out of the plastic bag for pictures, but it was of no use. Its pale dead skin had attached itself to the bag which made it complicated for everyone to watch the body coming of the bag piece by piece. ―Good afternoon, Detective Benson,‖ said the coroner. ―Hey, so what do you think happened to her?‖ asked Detective Benson, who could not take her eyes off of the young girl. She couldn‘t stop thinking about who might have done such a horrible thing to such a young girl, who had a whole future ahead of her. She sat next to the body and stared for a while. The memories of her baby girl came into her mind and tears began to flow down from her eyes to her cheeks. She came closer to the body, tried to examine it for any clues that could possibly lead her to the unthinkable suspect. When the coroner walked back from her office with the results, she quickly tried to wipe out the tears and the redness of her eyes. ―I‘m sorry,‖ said the coroner, with both of her hands on the detective‘s shoulder, trying to comfort her. She had been working with the detective for almost fifteen years and they had become very close friends. ―It‘s fine. Can you tell me what happened to her?‖ said the detective, who continued to rub her eyes, even though the tears continued to flow down her face. ―She was actually killed about a week and half ago, along with her three month old unborn child,‖ said the coroner. ―She was pregnant? Do you have any details of how she was murdered?‖ asked the detective. ―Not exactly, but marks around her neck indicated some strangling. We also have found burn spots on both of her legs and arms,‖ said the coroner. ―Thank you,‖ said the detective. As she walked out of the laboratory to her car, she wondered about how she was going to tell the young girl‘s parents that their missing daughter had been found dead by a river where you cannot even find a single living creature. At this moment, she began to hate her job, giving families the worst news that their husbands, wives and children had been murdered or that they were never going to see them again. Detective Benson was cooking dinner in her old apartment for her husband, when suddenly two investigators knocked on her door. As she opened the door, she could already tell that something was not right. When one of the detectives told her that her baby daughter was found but murdered, she lost her balance and dropped down onto her knees, wishing and praying to God that this was just a dream. She cried for days and months as the memory of her little angel was haunting her and she felt pain every second of her life and how hard it was to lose someone so precious, loving, caring, and especially so little. Families and friends came to help and comfort her, but the pain of losing someone always took that help and comfort back. After lunch, she stopped by a white big house, thirty minutes away from the police station. It seemed so quiet around the neighborhood. As she walked toward the house, she saw the young girl‘s picture on the mailbox. On the poster, she was described as an eighteen year old girl, with black, long hair, hazy or brown eyes, five feet tall, born on November 15, 1990, and she was seen last on April 1, 2010. The image of her daughter came slowly into her mind, as she read every detail of young girl‘s life. Her daughter‘s description was totally opposite, a seven year old girl with blond hair, blue eyes, four eleven, born on January 20, 1983, who was last seen on December 7, 1990, and she would have been twenty- seven by now. ―Hello, can I help you?‖ asked the lady, who had her head covered with a black scarf and looked just like the young girl on the missing poster. ―Yes. I‘m detective Benson and I am here to talk to you about your daughter or sister, Yasmeen,‖ she said. ―Is she okay? Did you find my daughter? Where is she?‖ she asked. ―I‘m sorry, your daughter‘s body has been found by the Huntsville River this morning,‖ said the detective, with a low pitched voice. As the words came out of her mouth, she hated herself right now, for telling the young lady what had happened to her eighteen year old daughter. ―No, that can not be. Please tell me, where is my daughter, please,‖ she mumbled with tears flowing down her cheeks. The shock of the news hit her heart and began to increase its rate, were she lost her balance and fell to the ground. The detective got onto her knees to help her out, but the young woman‘s body began to shake and she started to kick her feet and arms around. The detective tried to hold her down, but she did not have full strength right now. She just couldn‘t forget the day when she was told that her daughter was killed. The woman also began to scream and yell for her daughter over and over. Neighbors came out of their homes and some quickly rushed toward the detective to help. While the woman was passed out and calmed down, the detective called for help and the woman was then taken to the hospital. * It was three o‘clock in the afternoon when he had received a call from Huntsville Memorial Hospital about his wife, who had a sudden seizure. He rushed out of his small office, where he worked as a bank manager, to his silver Toyota. As he drove through the highways and roads, he could not believe that his wife had a seizure. Since they had moved to the United States with their two children, she had not had a seizure. As he parked in the visitor‘s only parking place only, he rushed into the hospital and checked every room. He did not have the time to wait or ask someone where she might be. When he walked into his wife‘s room, he saw the detective standing beside her was asking her questions. ―No. I have a son too. He is in school right now,‖ she responded. She took out a baby picture of the girl and held tightly to her while crying and trying to answer every question that the detective had for her. She talked about the girl‘s beauty and how wonderful she was, how happy she was to have her as a daughter. ―Honey, are you all right? How did this happen?‖ asked the husband. ―I‘m sorry, Yasmeen,‖ she paused, with tears. ―What about Yasmeen? Have they found her? Is she okay?‖ he asked. ―I‘m sorry. She was murdered and found dead this morning,‖ said the detective. ―No. You must have the wrong girl?‖ he screamed. His wife slowly brought her hand to his hand and held it tight. He came closer to her try to comfort her like any husband would. The detective told him, when and where she was found and in what condition. As words came out her mouth about his teenage daughter, his facial appearance went from a normal human being‘s to a white pale ghost‘s. ―Excuse me, I need to get some fresh air,‖ he said. After comforting the young girl‘s mother in the hospital, Detective Benson slowly closed the door behind her, trying not to wake her up. As she walks out, she notices that the husband was not there. She walks down from hallway to hallway; trying to track him down to ask just a few questions that might lead her to the suspect. She continues to search for him through the long hospital hallways from going floor to floor. * Sitting in the main-lobby with his large cup of coffee, he stares at this little girl, about five years old, with her mother. As he continues to stare at her while playing with her stuffed bear animal, she reminds him of his dead daughter. His hundred and fifty pound body begins to melt down the fat and bring sweat to the outside world from his skin as he sees an officer or a security-guard walking in and out of the hospital. He took a long sigh and laid his head on the soft sofa with his eyes closed. ―Please stop, Dad!‖ yelled Yasmeen, who was so excited to go fishing with her father after he promised her that she could get her driving license and also go to the prom but only with her girlfriends. ―Why did you disobey me? Didn‘t I tell you to stay away from boys? You not only had a boyfriend but you are also pregnant,‖ he screamed at her as she tried to free herself from his hands around her neck. She tried to release herself by kicking her father but she was too weak. Her hands were tied together behind and he put a cloth bag over her head so she couldn‘t see what he was doing or what he had with him. ―Please forgive me. I will never do such thing; please let me go Daddy!‖ she screamed and kicked her free feet around like a helpless animal about to get slaughtered. From all the kicking and screaming, she lost consciousness. He quickly took out the large rope and tied it around her legs then began to choke her as she was conscious. He took out the knife and began to cut her into pieces like an animal. ―This is your entire fault. You disobeyed and this is what you will get. I told you to stay away from boys, and you didn‘t listen to me. Not only did you have a boyfriend, but you had sex, lost your virginity, and became pregnant!‖ he screamed to himself. He took her arms and legs along with the rest of the body and put then a plastic bag with rocks and dirt. He tied so hard that no one could ever open it, and then he throws his daughter‘s body it into the river. ―Please forgive me, God. I had no other choice but this. What could I have done? She became pregnant and was not married. She disobeyed my rules and yours as well,‖ he mumbled to himself with tears as the body descended into the river. ―Excuse me sir,‖ asked Detective Benson. She was so happy she had found him after searching for an hour in the hospital from floor to floor. ―I am sorry, I must have gone to sleep or something,‖ he said. He looked surprised when he saw Detective Benson and his heart began to increase faster and faster. The sweat continued to increase when the detective took a seat right next to him. ―I know this is not a good time to ask you questions, but do you have any idea who might have been against or disliked your daughter, sir?‖ asked the detective. ―I told her to stay away from him and his friends, but she did not listen,‖ he said. ―Who?‖ asked the detective. ―Her boyfriend and his best friend,‖ he responded. ―Do you know where he might be?‖ asked the detective. ―Yes. He works at the automobile shop right next to the coffee shop on Hunt Avenue,‖ he said. ―Thank you. I will be leaving and I am very sorry,‖ said the detective. ―Before you go, is there anyway we can see our daughter?‖ he asked. ―Yes, I will pick you both up tomorrow morning and take you to the coroner,‖ replied the detective. * John Papa and Yasmeen began their relationship right after John had spotted her at the coffee shop, where she worked as a waitress. The moment he saw her, he knew she was the one for him. Her smile, eyes, lips, long black hair, brown eyes, and personality made him crazy and in love. She was also interested in his dark, brownish-black hair, brown eyes, muscular body and height, six feet tall at least. He was two years older than she, but it made no difference to both. They began to meet every day right after school at her job, which the only time she could. Her parents were very strict about boys and staying out late. As their relationship grew to a much higher level, she began to lie to her parents about working late at nights or that she was staying or sleeping over at her best friend‘s house. She asked her friends to lie for her if her parents called to check on her. She told John she wasn‘t allowed to date, especially an American boy, but John did not care what her father thought. Sometimes he wished that he could beat the hell out of her father after seeing her bruises on her legs and arms. He asked her many times where those bruises came from and she would just say that they came from falling down the stairs at work or that she had hit something accidentally but he knew that she was trying to hided from him ―Hi. Are you John Papa?‖ asked the detective. ―Yes, can I help you?‖ he asked. He looked a lot older than the young girl and very tired, with black marks all over his clothes and face from the motor oil. ―I am here to ask you some questions about Yasmeen,‖ she said. ―Is she okay? Have you found her?‖ he asked, surprised. ―I‘m very sorry, she was found dead yesterday,‖ she told him. ―What! No! That can‗t be true,‖ he said. The detective walked up to him and held him by the shoulder and sat him down on the couch. He wanted to ask how, why and when, but his mind had gone blank. His face turned red and he cried out his heart, not even caring that a woman was watching him while he cried like a helpless man who had lost the most important person in his life. He took out a stack of money from his pocket and showed it to the detective, and told her that this was their savings for their new life with their unborn child. He then threw the stack into the garbage can by his side and hit his head against the wooden chair, as the tears fell down heavily from his bright brown eyes to his cheeks. ―When was the last time you saw her or talked to her?‖ she asked. ―About a week before she disappeared. I talked to her on the phone about what we were going to due about the baby we were going to have together,‖ He said. ―So, you knew about the baby?‖ asked the detective. ―Yes, we talked about shopping for the baby, starting to live together, and how I will find a new job to support her and our baby,‖ he said. ―Was there anyone who might have been against you two or anyone who disliked her?‖ she asked. ―Yes, her father was always hard on her. She told me that she wasn‗t allowed to date because of her religion, Islam, and she was also forbidden from so many things,‖ he said. The detective had told him that her father knew about their relationship. He was shocked and could not think of how her father knew about their relationship because he had never met or seen John before, so how was that possible. He wondered but he had no idea, nor did the detective. ―We also talked on the phone but the following day. She came with her friend, Dana. She told me she had to say something really important, but I told her to call me that night or the next morning because I had a lot of work to do. I waited for her call all night long and the next morning, but the phone never rang. It was the last time I talked with her and saw her,‖ he said. ―Do you have any idea where I can find Dana or any of her other friends?‖ she asked. ―Yes, she works at the day care right around the block,‖ he said. ―Thank you for all your help and I am very sorry,‖ she said. * She got back into her car and drove back to the coroner. The coroner had told her that they had some DNA from her blood sample, which might help lead to the suspect. The result from the lab indicated that the blood and dead skin found under the nails of the young girl who tried to free herself by scratching the suspect, matched her blood and DNA. The suspect was someone related to her. The coroner also told the detective that the young girl‘s parents had came by to see her. The mother looked ill but she became worse when she saw her daughter lying there cold and dead with no arms or legs. The mother lost consciousness again and was taken to the visitor‘s room. The father came back in and examined her very closely. He just continued to stare at her and not a single word came out of his mouth. The only question he asked the coroner was, ―Who did it?‖ The detective walked out and began to stare blankly through the large window across from her. After talking to Dana, the young girl‘s best friend, she knew it couldn‘t have been the boyfriend or her. They both loved the young girl and could have done anything to save her from any harm, and besides, the coroner said that the suspect was related to the young girl. She remembered asking Dana whether the young girl had anyone else than her family, but she could not remember. She thought about the father for a second, but then it could not have been him. He was just strict because he wanted to protect her and his honor as a Muslim man. She sat down on the floor and waited for something to click her in mind. * On his way to the bank, he stopped by Wal-Mart and bought five gallons of gasoline. In his heart, he believed that he had done the right thing by murdering his daughter and cutting her into pieces but had felt some guilt inside. He felt guilty about not giving his daughter the chance to explain herself and the guilt of hiding this from his wife and the rest of the world. He cannot no longer stand and watch his wife and son suffer because of his daughter‘s mistake and his mistakes. After dinner, he helped his wife clean up the table and the kitchen. The wife walked her son upstairs for bedtime, while he stayed in the living room and began to read the Quran. He repeated the Arabic words over and over, asking God to forgive him for his actions. He put it back on top of the shelf and went upstairs to check on his wife and son. He kissed his wife and son good-bye and asked them to forgive him. He walked back slowly to the living room and took the five gallons of gasoline out of the closet. He slowly spilled and spread the gasoline around the house, covering the couches, chairs, bookshelves, and the kitchen. He came back into the living room and sat right in the center of it. He reached for the last gallon on his right and began to pour it slowly over his head and body. As he took out the lighter from his pocket with fear, he asked God to forgive him one more time. As he took his and his family‘s lives, their beautiful white house burned into ashes and the smoke from the burning flames waved itself around the town as if a volcano had erupted. Neighbors rushed and surrounded the area as the fire trucks and police officers pulled over. As they watched the house collapse into pieces, some had tears in their eyes while others just stood and wondered what had happened to such a great family. As the firemen and police officers walked in and out of the flaming house, everyone, including Detective Benson, began to hold and cross their hands, praying to god to save the family. Taylor Kazlo Nine Months of Hell ―I don‘t think I can wait any longer! I wanna see what she looks like: her hair, eyes, how tall she is. I hope she doesn‘t hate me.‖ The car comes to a stop at a red light. Traffic is slow; it looks as if there is construction going on up the street. Kendra looks out the window and watches people go by on the sidewalk. A lot of business people carrying briefcases and wearing suits look like they are in a hurry to get to work. Her head rests on the passenger side window and she makes a deep sigh. She looks out the front window and spots a pregnant woman crossing the street, struggling to hold up a couple bags of groceries. The woman looks as if she could be due any second. Kendra then looks out the window to the right of her and sees a mother holding her son‘s hand. Kendra slowly closes her eyes and thinks maybe if she falls asleep, she will not think about how nervous she is. She falls asleep and dreams about her life ten years ago and remembers about the worst nine months of her life, wondering if she made the right choice or not. * Kendra looks at the four sticks; all of them have a plus sign on them. She sits on the bathroom counter and puts her head into her hands and cries away. ―Where did I go wrong?‖ she thinks. ―How could this happen to me? I‘m only in high school.‖ Kendra looks down at the tile and sees how scummy it is. The shower looks from the mold infestation everywhere as if no one has used. ―This is definitely not a suitable environment,‖ she says to herself. She takes her cell phone out and scrolls down to Mark. Kendra does not want to press the call button, but something in her head tells her to. It is ringing. ―Hello?‖ he answers.‖ Kendra tries to speak but no words come out. ―Hello? Anyone there?‖ Marc says again. Kendra says with a crackling voice, ―Hey.‖ ―Oh, hey, baby, what‘s up? I was just about to call you.‖ ―Uhh…,‖ she slowly replies ―Everything all right? You okay?‖ he says with a concerned voice. ―We need to talk.‖ ―About what?‖ he asks nervously. ―Just some things, can you come over now?‖ ―Uh, sure, I‘ll be right over.‖ They hang up the phone. Kendra starts crying once again. She thinks about how Marc does not need this, and how he is too much of a good kid, that this will just get in the way. ―Should I have told him?‖ she thinks. She does not want this mistake to get in the way of his life. Kendra knows how good of a boyfriend Marc is. She knows that once she tells him he will be shocked, but he will step up and do what he has to do. The couple has been going out for two years now. They met freshman year in homeroom and they have been really good friends up until sophomore year when he asked her out. Ever since then, they have been inseparable. He has always been there for her. Since they both do not live the best life, they get through it with being together and there for one another. Kendra wipes all of the tears from her face. She looks into the mirror and stares at the reflection looking back at her. It looks like an innocent girl that could do no harm, but really, it is a girl that is screwing up, not only her life, but two other lives. * Kendra opens the door as she sees Marc pull in the driveway. He comes up and without even saying a word, hugs her, kisses her, and says, ―I love you.‖ All Kendra can do is smile because the big lump in her throat is telling her that if she says something, it will come out gibberish and she will start crying again. ―So, what do you want to talk about?‖ Marc asks her. ―Um… well… let‘s sit down.‖ ―Ok?‖ he says confused. ―This is not easy to say, but I want to first start off telling you, I love you.‖ The tears start back up. Marc hugs her and holds her in his arms. ―What‘s the matter, baby? You can tell me anything. I won‘t get mad, I promise.‖ Still sobbing, Kendra puts her head on his chest so now his shirt is getting all wet from her tears. ―I‘m pregnant,‖ she whispers. Still holding her, Marc does not say anything for a while. He is still shocked. Eventually, he picks her head up, looks into her eyes, and with both his hands holding her head up, he kisses her forehead and says, ―Everything will be okay.‖ * ―So what should we do?‖ Kendra asks Marc. ―We can keep it or even give it up for adoption, or… well…‖ ―Well what?‖ Marc asks. ―Abor,‖ As soon as Kendra is about to say abortion, Marc cuts her off. ―No! that is not the way to go!‖ ―Okay, well, it was just an idea,‖ Kendra says frantically. Marc has never raised his voice at Kendra before; this was a first. ―Sorry, but, I think we should tell your mom about this. She needs to know.‖ ―I really don‘t think that‘s a good idea. It will set her over the top even more,‖ Kendra says. ―She‘s going to find out eventually.‖ ―I know,‖ sighs Kendra. ―I guess you‘re right.‖ * ―What the fuck is wrong with you?‖ Kendra‘s mom yells. ―I thought you had enough fuckin‘ common sense to keep your damn legs closed! What are my friends gonna think when they find out my teenage daughter is pregnant? I‘ll tell you what they will think; they‘ll think you‘re a slut!‖ Kendra just stands in front of her mom as she hears all of this. Marc holds her hand. ―Look, it was an accident. It wasn‘t meant to happen,‖ Marc quickly jumps in. Kendra‘s mom stares him down for about thirty seconds without saying a word. Standing on the other side of the room, she leaves her spot and starts stumbling over to Marc, trying to walk in a straight line. ―Don‘t tell me it was an accident!‖ Kendra‘s mom says as she gets in Marc‘s face. He can smell the heavy alcohol on her breath. ―If she wasn‘t such a whore, she wouldn‘t have something growing in her fuckin‘ stomach right now!‖ ―Stop it!‖ Kendra says as she speaks up from the background. ―Look, Mother, what‘s happened has happened.‖ ―You gonna take care of the thing? Feed it? Dress it? Care for it? You got money?‖ ―No, but it didn‘t stop you from keeping me. I took care of myself all my life as you drank your life away. You took more care of your alcohol than you did me,‖ Kendra says. ―You are not gonna be anywhere near my baby and you‘re not gonna have a choice or an opinion on what we do with it.‖ Kendra storms out of the house and Marc follows her, smiling. All Marc wanted was Kendra to stand up to her mom. She has been pushed around by her all of her life, and he is happy that she finally ended that. * They sit in the small office as they wait for their adoption agent to come in. A lady wearing a pink floral dress opens the door. She goes over to Kendra first and holds out her hand, and as the lady goes to shake, she says in a cheery voice, ―Hi, my name is Ronnie. It is very nice to meet you.‖ ―Hi, nice to meet you too,‖ Kendra says. Marc gets up off his seat as Ronnie goes to greet him. They both sit down. ―Well, I have been going over your file, and it says you‘re six months pregnant with a girl?‖ Ronnie says. ―Yes,‖ confirms Kendra. ―Well, then, I would like to have you look at some potential parents who would like to adopt your baby.‖ Kendra and Marc search through files until they find the couple they have been looking for. It says that they live in a pretty big house and have been saving for a while just for a baby. ―This is it,‖ Kendra says. Ronnie goes to grab the file and when she sees the name, she says, ―I thought you would like this couple.‖ * ―My water just broke,‖ Kendra mumbles with her eyes still closed. Marc does not hear, he is still asleep. ―Hun, it‘s time,‖ she says louder as she shakes his arm trying to wake him up. He springs off the couch where they have both dozed off and goes straight to get the bag they have pre-packed. Kendra has never seen him this nervous and jumpy. They get in the car. As Marc flies down the road, Kendra calls Ronnie to inform her it is time. Ronnie calls the couple that are going to adopt the baby to tell them. They are on their way now. Kendra thinks about how nervous they must be. * ―AHHHHHHHHHH!‖ screams Kendra. ―Push honey. Push!‖ Marc says while holding her hand. Now three hours into labor, Kendra lies sweating on the bed. She did not think having a baby would take this long and hurt so much. She starts to regret ever having sex with Marc. This is not worth it. She is going through all of this pain for a baby that will not even be hers but a complete stranger‘s. ―Push, Kendra. You‘re almost there,‖ says the doctor as she is having another contraction. ―I see the head!‖ Kendra squeezes Marc‘s hand. ―AHHHHHH!‖ Sweat rolls down her red face. It is done. She hears the baby crying and catches a quick glance. The nurses ask if she wants to hold it or see it, but she says no because that will make things harder. ―I‘m so proud of you, hun,‖ Marc says as he kisses Kendra‘s forehead. She starts crying and lays her face into her hands. Marc holds her in his arms and reassures her that it is the right thing to do and how they will not be able to give the life the baby deserves. * Kendra wakes up and stretches. Sleeping in the car is not the most comfortable place. She looks out the window. They are driving in a nice quiet neighborhood full with kids. She hopes that everything goes well and hopefully she will not be hated. Kendra has made a list of things to ask about: school, life ambitions, crushes, hobbies, etc. She wants to know what the daughter she gave away ten years ago is up to. They pull into the driveway. ―Ready? Marc asks Kendra hesitates as she looks at the nice big house. Marc looks at her questioningly. She stares into Marc‘s eyes, and after a couple seconds she goes to hold his hand with the wedding ring on it and says smiling, ―Yes, I‘m ready.‖ Stefanie Koveal Rafi‘s Run After his long journey back, Rafi is welcomed home by an unrecognizable pile of rubble where his house once stood. He sees his oldest brother walking around outside. ―Is everyone okay, Alejandro?‖ Rafi asks with fright in his voice. ―Not the two little ones. Pick up the walls and start looking for them.‖ Rafi and Alejandro look frantically for what seems like hours for their two youngest brothers. Many Haitian soldiers are walking around, trying to help anyone in need. A boy about eight years old comes over with his rifle and badge and helps Rafi lift the heavy weighted debris. * ―Wake up! What are you doing here?‖ A soldier yelled at Rafi, early one morning. ―What?‖ Rafi asked confused. ―Come with me, cadet. We will teach you how to grow up.‖ At seven years old, Rafi‘s simple life living on a small farm in Haiti for years had been quite easy-going. He had a wonderful life until both of his parents died when he was seven, when his family had been robbed. Rafi‘s older siblings now had a large burden, to take care of the family. So, at seven years old, Rafi decided to take a chance of making his life better by running off to the Dominican Republic where there are more job opportunities. His journey took him a five-hour run. He had never seen a car or motorcycle, and only a few times had he seen a bicycle. The Dominican Republic had many curvy, bumpy hills that were not easy to trek over. He had to pass many militiamen, who were looking for suspicious people looking for ways to disrupt the country. It seemed like forever, but in reality it took him all afternoon into the night. At about 10 o‘clock at night, Rafi had been exhausted. ―I can‘t believe I didn‘t even think to find out where I should sleep at night,‖ Rafi thought to himself. ―I don‘t even know anyone who lives in the Dominican Republic.‖ So, at the end of his long journey, he fell asleep behind a bush next to a nice white building. The soldier who had awakened him dragged Rafi into the white building. ―I am General Paloma. You will be under my authority until told other wise, got it, little boy?‖ ―Yes, sir. My name is Rafi.‖ ―Well, then. Welcome to your new home.‖ The sun had barely risen, and the only sounds coming from the earth were the roosters crowing. He learned that this was the headquarters for the military of the Dominican Republic. That day, he started workouts to get into shape to qualify to be a soldier. He ran, climbed, and obeyed his commanders despite his bare feet, empty stomach, and tired mind. Rafi had no idea that some of those muscles aching in his legs even existed. These workouts were so painful that the only thing that would make him feel better was to throw up and to go for a jog. The jog was massaging on your his muscles, and throwing up made it easier to jog. At nine years old, Rafi had an obstacle course to climb up a tree, and he fell. His twisted ankle was in pain for months, but Rafi kept going because his militia officials would punish him. The good kinds of punishments would be to wash clothes, or even prepare food, as a woman would do. However, the punishments that nobody would want would be to burn the used communal ―latrine‖ facilities. They weren‘t even latrines; they were holes in the ground without even a covering. The horrid smell was enough to punish someone for murder. Rafi was looking forward to the day when he could leave and not have to worry about discipline. * ―Look! A hand!‖ screams the eight-year-old soldier. He lifts more of the rubble and spots Santo, one of the fourteen-year-old twins in Rafi‘s family. Thankfully, Rafi can hear some form of a moan coming from his little brother‘s painfully wheezing lungs. ―Santo! What hurts?‖ yells Rafi. * The day came when Rafi was old enough to leave the Dominican military. Although he was happy to be able to leave, he was still sad because of the great things that he would miss. He actually liked working out because when he would get bigger; the older boys wouldn‘t beat on him as much. In this world, it‘s every man for himself. If someone is too weak, they will only become weaker. He would also miss fighting for those who are in need. As a Dominican soldier, Rafi had helped many people who appreciated his help. He thought of it as his calling to help others. So when the time came at thirteen years old, Rafi took the five-hour run back home to see how his family was doing. ―We are still struggling, Rafi. There is no money in this country,‖ his older brother Alejandro said. ―If you want to help, go back to the Dominican Republic and find ways to get money. We haven‘t been able to breed any goats since we lost our last female four months ago.‖ * ―Haitian! Come over here and help get this kid out!‖ yells a Dominican who is here to help. Clearly, it is another Dominican who thinks he is the boss of the show. * So with that, Rafi ran back to the Dominican Republic to look for farmers in need of extra workers. On the way back, two Dominican men who looked angry stopped him. ―What are you doing here, Haitian?‖ the older one asked. ―Taking a walk, boys, just like you are,‖ Rafi explained. ―Just like us, huh?‖ he said, while pushing Rafi back. ―You are not just like us, boy.‖ With that, the older man took a swing at Rafi‘s face. Instinctively, Rafi took a swing right back. He used what he had learned in the military to defend against his opponent. He learned that once you‘re down, you would probably lose. So, Rafi pushed the man down while swinging at his neck. Rafi pressed on a pressure point on the neck, which temporarily knocked the man out. In the meantime, the other man was jumping on Rafi‘s back and choking him. Rafi slammed his elbow into the man‘s stomach while twisting the choking arm. He kept twisting until he heard a ‗snap‘ and knew that the man was down. He let go and started to run. Rafi kept running at a quick pace for another thirty minutes. He didn‘t want the police to be able to find him. By the time he was fourteen, Rafi would search for work by day and sleep in the local rice factory by night. Sometimes he would find work; sometimes he wouldn‘t. Work would be hard to find because of the lack of rain; you need rain to grow crops. But one day, Rafi was walking by a small village and saw a man smoothing out a cement floor in a house. ―Do you need any help?‖ Rafi asked the man. The man looked up at him, confused. He was wearing a Yankees hat, light winter coat, and long pants despite the eighty-degree weather. Clearly, this man was from the southern Dominican Republic area where it would usually be 105 degrees. ―Nice jacket you have there. Perfect day for winter wear,‖ Rafi said sarcastically. ―Yeah, it‘s not really bikini weather,‖ he said with a chuckle. ―The name‘s Mario. Grab a shovel there and make yourself useful. I‘ll feed you dinner if you help me out.‖ ―Deal, Mario. My name is Rafi,‖ Rafi said. And with that, started a long relationship that lasted for years. Rafi came back every other day to help Mario, and in return he would get a well- balanced meal. * ―There is no way we can get him out. I‘m sorry,‖ says one of the older soldiers helping get Santo out of the debris. ―What do you mean?‖ asks Alejandro. ―I mean, his leg is caught under that extremely heavy pipe. His leg will not survive, and he might not even survive himself. I‘m going to go help the Martirez family because their family needs to be treated.‖ ―Listen! You…‖ Alejandro yells at the man. With that, Rafi snaggs the man‘s rifle and points it at his face. * There was one farmer Rafi had done farm work for two days a week. He had been doing this for almost four years, since he was eighteen, and had a good relationship with the farmer. Despite his Dominican nationality, he still treated Rafi with good respect. That is, until one day Rafi was quite mistaken. ―Where is my watch, Rafi?‖ the farmer asked him. ―Watch? What watch?‖ Rafi asked. ―I had a watch sitting next to the back door. After you walked out, it was missing. Where is the watch, Rafi?‖ he asked with a stern voice. ―I‘m sorry sir, but I did not take your watch. Maybe a dog took it by accident.‖ ―Leave, Rafi. I am done with your services. But before you leave, give me the watch.‖ ―I said, I do not have the watch,‖ Rafi said, with a voice that replied back sternly. The farmer‘s face was smeared with anger. He reached into his back pocket and quickly pulled out a handgun and pointed it at Rafi. Rafi‘s quick reflexes beat him to the trigger. Rafi grabbed the gun while twisting his arm. He twisted it so much that his own arm started to hurt. Leaving the farmer on the ground, Rafi ran with his new souvenir. Rafi kept running, knowing that the farmer‘s sons would come after him soon. He ran back to Mario‘s village, hoping that the farmer wouldn‘t know where to find him. * ―All right, fine! You guys stay here while I get more men to help us lift this.‖ who runs quickly, and soon comes back with five other soldiers. ―You guys will lift, while I pull the boy out. Ready? One, Two Three!‖ And with lots of struggle, eight men lift the one piece of rubble to get Santo out. Santo‘s piercing scream gets the best of Rafi, being too pained to watch. * Rafi was almost to Mario‘s village, but while he was running he heard a piercing scream. He looked frantically for the cause of someone‘s pain, and what he found was a little boy in absolute agony. He was lying on the ground with dust floating around him. Rafi could see a motorcycle driving off in the distance. Rafi knelt down to help the little boy. His head had a huge gash flowing with blood, and he could obviously see that his arm was broken. ―It was him, that Haitian over there!‖ a man who was running towards them with the police yelled. ―It wasn‘t me! It was the man on that motorcycle!‖ Rafi yelled in his defense. With that, Rafi was smacked to the ground and tied behind his back. He was forced to walk beside a policeman on a motorcycle, tied to it like cattle. He walked for about eight miles to the jail. Rafi spent the night in jail. How could his life have turned out to be so unfair? He was awakened the next morning by a loud bang on the gate of his cell. ―That‘s him. I want him out.‖ a man in a military suit said to the police who worked the jail. When Rafi got out into the light, he recognized this general. It was the General Paloma who had originally introduced him to the military. After Rafi had been stuttering to find the words, General Paloma hushed him. ―Do not speak unless spoken to, you know that boy.‖ the General said with a friendly smirk on his face. ―This will be said only once, and it will not be repeated, got it?‖ ―Yes, sir.‖ Rafi replied with his hands behind his back due to respect. ―I was the man who his the boy with the motorcycle. I heard you were locked up for it, so I decided to get you out because you had always been a good soldier. Now go on your way, but do not repeat anything about this incident.‖ ―Yes, sir.‖ Rafi saluted him, and the General did likewise. And they were off, as if nothing happened. ‗I always knew that General Paloma had a heart hidden within that stiff soul.‘ Rafi thought to himself. So, at twenty-two years old, Rafi went back to Mario‘s home and continued helping him with his construction work. He did this for a few more months until he heard about the earthquake that hit his hometown in Haiti. He ran his fastest back home, thus resulting in a 3- hour time. * ―Rafi! It hurts!‖ Santo screams once he is free. ―Where is Chinego?‖ Rafi hands over Santo to Alejandro while he continues to hunt for the other twin, Chinego. It‘s getting dark, and is starting to become difficult to see. After hours of looking, Rafi starts to become frustrated. ―Santo is doing better than expected, Rafi. He‘s a strong boy and will pull through. Why don‘t you take some time to sleep? You are exhausted and need some rest.‖ Alejandro asked. ―I can‘t sleep unless our other brother is found.‖ Rafi replies. He prays to God right there, ‗it‘s your will God, not mine.‘ Rafi repeats that prayer over and over, and within a few minutes, he hears a faint cry a few feet behind him. ―It‘s him, Alejandro!‖ Rafi yells. They run over to where the light crying is coming from. Despite the large weight, Rafi and Alejandro lift the debris off of Chinego. ―What took you guys so long? I‘ve been crying like a baby for hours!‖ Chingeo giggles to his older brothers. ―Both of your brothers will be okay.‖ says the doctor who is examining the injured. ―Santo will need some more recovery time, but he will get better.‖ Rafi and Alejandro look at what was their house and let the devastation soak in. The rubble is all over the place. Nothing looks like what it had before. ―How are we going to get back to normal, Alejandro?‖ Rafi asked. ―A miracle, I guess.‖ Alejandro replied. ―Well, while we are here we might as well make ourselves useful. Put any wood in this pile, metal over here, and furniture over there.‖ Rafi and Alejandro continue cleaning for days, seemingly not getting anywhere. ‗It‘d be nice if there was an easier way.‘ thought Rafi. Right when Rafi is thinking that, he feels someone tapping on his shoulder. When he turns around, he sees a man in a winter coat and a Yankees baseball cap. ―Mario! What are you doing here?‖ Rafi screams, hugging his friend with shock. ―I could imagine that a man with construction experience could be useful here.‖ Mario says with a chuckle. ―Man, it‘s cold in your country! It‘s never been eighty-five degrees in my hometown!‖ With the help of Mario and more of his workers, the rubble is cleared out within the next week. Mario even stays to help build a three-room house for them. ―Thank you, Mario. You really helped us out a lot.‖ Rafi said. ―It‘s not a problem at all.‖ Mario replied. ―Just helping out a friend who always helps me out.‖ Ashley Merton Mr. Zervanos Bank Backfire Stacy and her mother fought about pretty much everything that was possible. Carol, her mother, felt as if Stacy took everything she had for granted and she was not thankful for her mother‘s wealth. Stacy always borrowed money to go out with friends, to go to the movies, to go get gas; she never paid for anything herself. Stacy could not stand her mother when she yelled all day long, and she just wanted to get up and leave most days. Stacy lost her father in a car accident when she was only a little girl, so she only had her mother to talk to, and they barely did any talking. One day Stacy was going out to dinner with Tara, her best friend. Stacy did not have a job, so she just got money from her mother to go out. Carol never said anything in the past about that but it was getting out of hand. Why is she always having to hand over all this money to her 17-year-old daughter? Stacy should have looked for a job instead of spending all of her mother‘s money. Her mother paid for piano lessons, sports she stopped playing, just about everything her whole life which a good mother should do, but now that her daughter was 17, she should help out and make her own money to spend. Stacy always pulled the no dad card out on her mother, and back in the day it used to work. Her mother gave Stacy everything that she wanted, and spent all of her time on her. Carol was a good mother, never complaining about Stacy a day in her life until one day Stacy started to not be polite anymore. She yelled at her mother, who tried to give her a hug; she demanded an allowance; she stole money from her mother‘s purse; she did just about every mean thing you could think of to her. Carol is sick and tired of her daughter treating her with no respect, and she wanted nothing more than to teach her a lesson. She needs Stacy to see that life was just not about getting everything you want, but about being able to work for everything that you have. * Stacy attended Washington High for school. She used to be a straight A student, always did well on tests, and never missed any homework. Now she got C‘s and D‘s on mostly every test, and she never brought home her textbooks to do her homework anymore. Carol attended the same school when she was Stacy‘s age, and she was in all honors classes and made honor roll every marking period, so she was well known there. Stacy‘s teachers always called home to see if something went on at home for her poor grades, but she never had an answer for them. When Stacy was younger, she was a completely different person; she always had the biggest smile on her face, but lately you can never catch her with even a grin. She always was generous and kind, but now it was rudeness and barely talking to her mother. She took everything she had for granted, and she never said thank you. Stacy really wanted to go out with her girls for the night, but it was a school night. Her mother yelled at Stacy earlier to start her homework, and Stacy said she did. She planned on telling her mother she was done, so she could go hang out with everyone. ―Mom, I need money. ―Can I go out with my friends?‖ Stacy said. ―Did you finish your homework?‖ Carol replied. ―Yes Mom, now give me some money,‖ Stacy continued. ―I‘m sick and tired of you demanding money, and I highly doubt that you did your homework. Go to your room and actually do it,‖ her mother said. Stacy stormed upstairs to her room and slammed the door shut. She had never been this mad before at her mother, but all the rage came out. Stacy decided to just go out anyway and not tell her mother. She needed to get money first, though, so she had to think of a way to get some. * Stacy was in deep thought for a while up her in room. She realized that she had her own account at the bank. Sure, she was told to stay in her room, but all of her friends were waiting for her, so Stacy got up and headed out the back door. She started to make her way to the bank so she could get her own money out. Stacy figured her mother would just ground her later on, so she wanted to get a lot so she will just stay out all night long with everyone. On the way to the bank, she started thinking of everything possible her mother would possibly say. ―Stacy, you are a disgrace, you have no respect for authority, blah blah blah.‖ Stacy was not looking forward to having this conversation with her mother, but she needed to be with her friends and not held hostage in that house. There comes a time in a teenager‘s life when she needs to experience the rush of leaving the house when told not to, so why not now? Stacy wants to get to the bank. She never used a bank account before in her life. She always watched her mother take out money, but never had the experience herself; this would be one exciting night. First, she snuck out of the house, and then she went to get money for herself to stay out all night with her friends. * Back in the day, Stacy was always nice and respectable and loved her parents. She was the child every family wanted to have. Stacy and her father were inseparable. They did everything they possibly could together in such a short period of time. Unfortunately, her father died when she was only seven, and she would never forget that day, ever. They were the two funniest people to be around when they were together, and they had so much in common. She had her father‘s eyes, but looked nothing like her mother. Sometimes Stacy‘s parents fought all night, but she did not understand what they were fighting about. Most nights they fought about money, but then other nights they fought about doctors. Carol was the only one with a job at the time, so they did not have much money that came in. Stacy‘s dad, Paul, unfortunately had cancer, so he was out of work and was mostly in the hospital. Stacy did not understand that her father would die, but she knew something was wrong with the way her parents fought. Stacy always wanted to be with her father. She always talked about him, she always said how much she loved him, and she always had a big smile on her face whenever he was around. Her mother would always try to get Stacy to go places with her, but she did not want to. She hated when her mother yelled at her dad. She never yelled back, but she told her dad she hated it. Once her father died, she started to lose that smile on her face. She was never happy, she never laughed, and she always cried. Her father was her best friend and she lost him. Her mother would always make things worse by saying things like, ―Stacy, I know this is hard for you, but you need to move on.‖ Her father was her world, and she was not ready to move on from that. Ever since those words came out of her mother‘s mouth, she had no intention of talking to her ever again. * Stacy arrived at the bank around 6:45. She told her friends to wait for her at Bertucci‘s so she could get her money out. She walked into the bank and a big smile crossed her face. She walked into this big building that she had never been in by herself and went straight to the front desk. She walked up to the lady in the blue shirt with a name tag on her. Her name was Tammy. ―Hello, miss, how may I help you?‖ Tammy said. ―Hello, my name is Stacy and I want to take forty dollars out of my account,‖ said Stacy. ―Certainly, miss, let me check your information. Then I will be right with you,‖ Tammy said. While Tammy checked Stacy‘s information, Stacy noticed a big white van outside of the bank. All of a sudden she heard, ―Everybody get down on the ground. I have a gun!‖ Stacy‘s heart raced; she threw her body to the ground and had no idea what was going on. She closed her eyes and kept them closed the whole time; all she heard were whispers. Stacy‘s head was bulging with all these thoughts about the robber; just run away because maybe they lied about having a gun; just wait this out and do not talk or move and maybe they can let her go. She had never been in a situation like this. She heard the bank robbers yelling at Tammy to fill their bags with all the money this bank had. Tammy was hysterical, and no one could do anything to help her. The worse part of this situation was that Stacy was supposed to be up in her room, not in the bank that had been robbed. Her friends must be so worried, she thought, and sadly, her mother had no idea what went on because she had no idea where Stacy was to begin with. ―Get up. ―Everybody get up slowly,‖ said the robber. ―If you even think about calling the cops before we are gone, believe me I will shoot every single person in the building,‖ continued the robber. ―Okay, we won‘t. Just leave us alone. You‘ve taken all the money to our name,‖ Tammy said. * Meanwhile Stacy was still on the ground, and Tammy was still freaking out. While the robbers still looked for more money, a guy stood up and yelled, ―Put the gun down. I‘m a cop!‖ Everyone was shocked; no one moved. The robber challenged the ―cop‖ and said, ―Sit back down or I‘ll shoot you.‖ All this talk about shooting people made Stacy nervous. She was still on the ground and had not planned on moving. The person who claimed he was a cop actually was a legitimate cop. He took out his badge and gun and flashed it to everyone and took the robbers down. He told everyone to get up and to not be scared anymore. So much was running through Stacy‘s head. She should have never left her house after her mother told her she was grounded. If she had obeyed orders, she would have never been in the horrible situation. Stacy paced back and forth for a while in the bank. She had the image of the robber in her head on replay. Stacy left the bank. As she headed back home, she ran into her friends near the corner store. Her best friend, Tara, had a worried look on her face. ―Stacy, where were you, and why did you ditch us?‖ Tara said. Stacy didn‘t like how Tara assumed she ditched them; now she should make her feel bad for accusing her of something she would never do. ―Well, Tara, actually I was a hostage at the Wachovia bank for over three hours, and I have never been that scared in my life,‖ Stacy said. ―And I was not even supposed to be out with you guys. I‘m grounded for being rude and obnoxious and not following orders, so you can‘t get mad at me anyway,‖ Stacy continued. She knew that hit Tara hard. She knew Tara was not like that kind of person to attack her for not meeting her somewhere, so now she kind of felt bad. ―Stac, I‘m so sorry. I had no idea!‖ Tara said. ―How did you get out? Are you okay?‖ Tara continued. ―There was an undercover cop in the bank with us, but he did not get up and say anything until the end when the robbers were just about to leave, and yes I‘m fine.‖ Stacy said. ―I‘m glad you got out safe and let me drive you home. Once you tell your mom this story she cannot possibly get mad at you for leaving,‖ Tara said. Stacy went with Tara who drove her home. On the ride home, Stacy thought about what she would say to her mother. * Stacy arrived home and ran into the house as she yelled thank you to Tara. Stacy sprinted up the stairs to her mother‘s room, but she was not up there. She sprinted back down the steps to the basement. She saw her mother and ran over and gave her a huge hug. ―Excuse me, miss. You have some explaining to do,‖ Carol said. ―Mom, I‘m so sorry, I‘ll never leave like that ever again!‖ Stacy said. ―I went to the bank to get my own money out so I could go hang out with Tara and go out to dinner, but there were robbers who robbed the bank and I was held hostage!‖ Stacy continued. ―I have never been that scared in my life Mom! It was horrible! He came out of no where and everyone in the bank was freaking out!‖ Said Stacy. ―Honey, just because you left the house without telling me, also because you are grounded, does not mean you can make up a story about where you were. That is low.‖ Carol said. ―Mom! It really happened; I‘m not making any of this up! It will most likely be in the newspaper tomorrow! Just wait and see!‖ Stacy said. ―Stacy, this is exactly what I‘m talking about. Do you think your own mother is an idiot? Even though you apologized for leaving, you are still grounded for leaving and not obeying my rules, and for making up a stupid story to try and save your ass.‖ Stacy stomped up the stairs and headed back for her room. There was no point in arguing with her mom, so she just let it go. Everything she said was true, but all the disrespectfulness and rudeness helped her realize her mother did have a good point. Even though she did not lie to her mother about anything this night, she let it go and took the punishment and never left home without Carol knowing ever again. My Nguyen Mr. Zervanos Creative Writing 5/20/2010 Long story MOVING-ON ―We will now inform the courtroom that Mr. Dillon and Mrs. Dillon are no longer husband and wife. And according to the law, Ms. Anna Dillon will stay with her mother, Mrs. Alexa Dillon. Until Anna is eighteen years old, Mr. Dillon is still responsible for Anna Dillon,‖ the judge informed the court after a quick meeting. Anna had never wanted this to happen. She predicted this would happen the time she saw her dad flirting with another woman in a coffee shop. Her mom cried and watched until everyone left the court. Her dad put on his sunglasses and left side-by-side with that woman on their way to the new car. The sky seemed as gray and gloomy as Anna‘s emotional state. She wanted to cry too, but she needed to be a strong shoulder for her mom to lay her head on. ―You are my only happiness and consolation!‖ her mom finally burst out with sorrow. ―Mom, you can always count on me. I‘m not going to leave you.‖ Anna hugged her mom tightly. She stood up and took her mom out of the courtroom, the place where her family divided, the place she saw her father the last time. From that day forward, her mother, Alexa, kept drinking and staying at home instead of going to work. Five days later, Anna tiredly came back to Wildcat High School as a senior after a long, downhearted winter break. All of her dreams of being accepted to Columbia University, getting straight A‘s, and enjoying her senior year were not important anymore. She felt betrayed and somehow she couldn‘t explain it. Anna was walking in the hallway and didn‘t pay attention to the crowd. Suddenly she heard someone yell, ―Watch out, Justin!‖ ―Oooops… sorry, I didn‘t mean to,‖ the guy that was being called Justin apologized to Anna. ―It‘s okay,‖ Anna said as she stumbled over her words; her huge eyes stared right at him. She watched as he passed by her and even turned to look at him when he walked away with his friends. Anna felt her heart beat faster and faster. She felt like life was smiling on her again after her father had left a week ago. ―What are you dreaming of?‖ Morgan came up behind Anna and tried to scare her. ―Do you know Justin Kelly?‖ Anna asked, blushing. ―The basketball captain?‖ Morgan was chewing a granola bar while walking with Anna down the hall. ―Yeah, Justin Kelly? He‘s hot! He just collided with me while talking to his friends.‖ Anna daydreamed again. ―Oh, Anna, he has been in a relationship with Adrian, a field hockey captain. They are a good couple; both captains, both--‖ Morgan didn‘t even finish her sentence. ―Adrian?‖ Anna cut into Morgan‘s sentence. ―God, where have you been, Anna?‖ Morgan was mocking. Anna quietly walked away in despair and left Morgan behind. The next day, she asked Morgan to go to the play-off basketball game instead of doing her homework. She felt that she fell for Justin more and more every day she saw him in school. And Justin started to notice Anna‘s presence at basketball games because he knew that she usually wouldn‘t come out on a school night; she usually spent time studying. ―Hey look, the nerd likes to watch basketball,‖ his friends poked at him. ―Who? Anna Dillon?‖ Justin replied as they were getting ready for practice in the locker room. ―Yeah, what made the nerd change her mind?‖ Landon teased back. ―Maybe she wants to have fun once in a while, I guess.‖ Justin seemed careless about the topic. ―Or maybe she wants to watch the basketball captain shoot the ball!‖ Matt said as he finally finished putting on his basketball jersey. ―Shut up, dude! Anna and I don‘t even talk to each other.‖ Justin smiled helplessly. ―But I saw when you guys bumped into each other in the hallway the other day, she gave you a lovely look.‖ Matt teased with the word lovely. ―Hey, let‘s bet to see if she shows up at Thursday night‘s game since we have calculus and economics tests on Friday,‖ said Landon, as he knew he‘d win the bet. The next day in Calculus class, Landon pushed Justin up to Anna‘s desk. Landon asked, ―So I guess you started liking basketball, huh?‖ His eyes were like a magic vortex that could pull Anna into it. Why is he asking? Maybe he gets distracted by my presence at the games? Anna thought quickly before continuing the conversation. ―Are you in my class?‖ Anna asked a question that tickled Justine and Landon. ―I believe so.‖ Justin was still smiling. ―We are having a district championship game tonight. We would really appreciate if you come to support us. Will you come?‖ Justin winked his eye. Without thinking, Anna nodded like a robot and she thought for sure that Justin started paying attention to her. The next day during the Calculus test, she didn‘t remember formulas and steps to solve the problems on it. Although she may have been smart, without reviewing and studying, she could never do well on a test. Anna regretted her decision and was mad at herself because Justin seemed to ignore her at the basketball game last night. She had skipped studying at night to go and support him just to have his attention, but now she had neither Justin‘s attention nor a good grade on the test. Three days later… Ringggg… Ringgg… Anna dropped her back on the floor and ran toward the phone. ―Hello?‖ Anna was out of breath. ―Good afternoon. I‘m the assistant manager from the Wachovia Bank. May I talk to Mrs. Dillon, please?‖ ―Hold on one sec,‖ Anna softly replied. ―Mom!!!‖ She yelled out toward the stairs because she knew that her mom was sleeping. ―Hello?‖ Anna heard her mom picked the phone up upstairs. She walked up to her room to get change and suddenly she heard something dropped on the floor that made a really loud noise. She frightenedly ran toward where she heard it. She saw her mom‘s tears were pouring out like rain. She picked it up: ―We had invited you to the court for a hearing about the house issue once but you never answered. This time, we are officially invited you and the family for the second court hearings. Please attend…‖ Now it was Anna‘s turn to drop the phone. Alexa, Anna‘s mom, was choked by tears and slowly slid down to the floor and lay there like a beggar. A beggar who begged for her old life back, and a beggar who begged for the love of family. She felt more lonely than ever. She complained angrily, wondering why she got treated like this. She screamed and again, she drank. Anna, once again, felt the world had betrayed her; her father had tricked her and her mom. Even in a dream, she couldn‘t imagine moving out of the house. Anna started feeling upset because her mom was being weak. She was irritated that her mom kept crying. She felt sick of the weakness and the tears. In Anna‘s mind, her parents were supposed to support her and give her the best life possible. She couldn‘t stand seeing her mom just lie there and cry. Anna was upset; she realized she needed to take care of herself and be strong on her own. Anna started feeling the distance between her mom and her. A distance that couldn‘t be explained by words, this was created because her mom was not caring about her anymore. Their lives never seemed to cross paths anymore. Despite the disappointments about her moving out of the house and Justin‘s ignorance, Anna was still eager to come to second period class, Calculus. Standing at the door, Anna let her face once again shade into a gloomy look. Justin was not in the class! ―Hey, what‘s up, Anna? Where‘ve you been?‖ someone asked from behind Anna. ―Oh my God!‖ Anna‘s hand was on her chest, indicating she was startled by Justin‘s calling. ―Sorry, I didn‘t mean to scare you right at the beginning of the day, but I‘m disappointed that you haven‘t shown up at the basketball games recently.‖ Justin‘s sweet smile was doing its magic job. While walking into the classroom side by side, neither Anna nor Justin noticed that they were being given an evil stare from a shadow that walked past. Luckily, according to Anna, they were working together in problem-solving groups and Justin asked Anna if she wanted to be his partner. They worked together happily. ―We‘re done, Mr. Matthew,‖ Justin called out loud when they finished early. ―Good work today, Anna!‖ He turned toward Anna. Anna smiled prettily, like a girl who was in love. She secretly thanked God who she thought was making the love between her and Justin. ―Tonight I have a basketball game; do you want to get together after so we can review for the calculus quarterly exam?‖ Justin offered so cutely that even a normal person couldn‘t say no. ―Okay, sounds good to me!‖ but really, Anna thought that it was what she expected. At night, Anna put on a summer dress that she had not worn for a long time. She went to the basketball game with Morgan, and there she saw Adrian walking with Justin on the way to where Coach Smith sat. As she watched the basketball game, Anna‘s mind was full of the image of Adrian and Justin together. She knew she was being unreasonable for getting mad at Justin, but she couldn‘t help it. And there were people cheering when Justin once again made the ―gold‖ goal that led his team to another district play-off game next weekend. The game ended in success and everyone flooded the gym floor. Anna saw Justin whisper to Adrian and that made her hesitate to move toward him. She stood still and didn‘t know what to do until Adrian left. Finally, Morgan pushed her forward and Justin smiled at her. Justin took Anna to his house instead of going out for what they called a ―successful night.‖ Justin asked her to sit on the leather couch in the living room. Anna felt awkward. She wished that someone else were there so the silence would be broken. Justin politely asked and went upstairs to shower away all his sweat and smell. He came down fifteen minutes later and the smell of Axe shower gel filled the air. He was in his white sleeveless shirt and khaki shorts that Anna thought looked nice on him. They started doing the review together. Justin put his hand down on the table tiredly and didn‘t even notice that it landed right on Anna‘s hand. He felt something soft and knew that she was trying to pull her hand away from his palm. He nodded but his eyes stared right into the book when she gazed at him. ―But Adrian?‖ Anna softly spoke. ―I‘m maybe a jerk to Adrian, but my heart told me that I‘m a good listener.‖ Justin held Anna‘s hand and let it touch his chest. ―So we are cheating?‖ Anna innocently asked and Justin placed his index finger on her lip. ―Are you gonna tell her?‖ Anna spoke, letting her breath heat up Justin‘s finger. ―Not until you respond to what my heart says,‖ Justin flirted. ―Do you wanna go out with me?‖ Anna slightly nodded her head with a happy smile on her face. She looked up worriedly, but his eyes seemed to calm her down. They went out to Friendly‘s, a restaurant that Anna was obsessed with. They were really into each other that they didn‘t notice anything else around them. The next day when Anna entered school, someone was waiting for her. ―Hey, you, slut, get away from Justin!‖ Adrian slammed Anna into the door behind her. ―Do you think you‘re so good that you can go out with Justin?‖ Adrian mocked Anna and Adrian‘s friends gave her a smirk. Anna walked away in embarrassment. She was almost crying because she had never faced this type of situation in her life. ―Adrian will never leave you alone,‖ Morgan said when they walked down the hall. And she was right. The next day, when Anna came to her homeroom, there were trash and banana peels beside her desk. Then the next day she saw a dead mouse in front of her gym locker. ―Ewww, that‘s gross!!‖ her classmates shrieked, disgusted as they passed by. ―Wait, when did they start going out?‖ one of the classmate asked the other on the next aisle in the gym locker. ―I heard that Bridget who was also in the hockey team with Adrian saw them at Friendly restaurant right after the champion basketball game.‖ The other responded. Anna heard. She was embarrassed and angry, but she was even angrier because Justin didn‘t know anything about it. Now she had a reputation of stealing another‘s boyfriend. She felt stressed and afraid that Adrian might come to her house to tell her mother. She finally decided to call Justin and tell him that they couldn‘t be together anymore. ―Is that the report card?‖ Alexa asked her daughter as she came back in from the mailbox. ―Um… yeah, Mom.‖ Her voice was low as she tried hard not to let her mother see or hear her. Anna‘s mom reached her hand out to indicate that she wanted to see it. Her face was not happy, indicating she knew something had happened. She suddenly threw the report card into Anna‘s face after she glanced at it. It was all C‘s and D‘s. ―What happened?‖ she yelled out. The principal had already called her earlier to talk about Anna‘s grades. If it were someone else, it wouldn‘t matter. But it was Anna Dillon – an IVY league potential candidate. ―Mom… I,‖ Anna stammered. ―All right, I don‘t think you need to continue further schooling. You can work at a drug store or something. It seems like you don‘t want to study. All you care about are boys and being in love!!!!‖ Anna‘s mom harshly spoke. ―No, I want to be in school! I don‘t want to end up working without any degrees.‖ Anna‘s anger started to explode. ―Listen, your lovely daddy stopped giving money to you, and I can‘t afford to let you go to college anymore. I figure this is a good place to stop.‖ Alexa walked away. ―MOM!‖ Anna yelled out so loudly she startled Alexa. ―You promised you were going to support me and let me go off to college; now where does all that support?‖ Anna angrily shook her fist. ―What? Are you going to punch me?‖ Alexa glowered at Anna. ―From the day Dad left, you treated me like I was a criminal, like I caused dad to have another woman. You don‘t know how to be a MOTHER!!!‖ Anna felt that she hated her mom; she felt that they couldn‘t live under the same roof anymore. She ran away from her house and slammed the door as loudly as she could. She wanted to call Justin badly, but she was afraid of Adrian. She walked and didn‘t know where she was heading. Her subconscious signaled her to stop at a bench. She looked up, and Justin was playing basketball on the court behind his house. She looked at him and couldn‘t hold her tears. Justin, who was so surprised, made one last basket before he ran towards Anna. They walked to the park and Anna couldn‘t stop crying. People walking their dogs in the park or going for a run stared at them non-stop. Eventually, they sat down. ―I hate my mom!‖ Anna stuttered in between sobs. ―She won‘t let me go to college because of some stupid reasons having to do with money and my grades. My life sucks! And I hate it,‖ Anna cried, her head now lying on Justin‘s shoulder. ―Well, did you hear back from any colleges?‖ Justin asked. ―Yes, I have been accepted to many schools… but does it even matter now?‖ Anna looked up with a wet face that made Justin stare at her for the same reason that he didn‘t even know. ―Anna, calm down. I‘m here. I‘m here for you.‖ Justin kissed Anna for the first time. He seemed confused and looked away embarrassingly like a guy who was really in love. The next day in school, Anna came to the gym just to see Justin. She felt happy and she needed Justin no matter that Adrian said to threaten her. Near the gym, something seemed to stop her right at the corner behind the entrance. ―How are you and Anna?‖ Landon asked Justin on the court. ―I don‘t know.‖ Justin sat quietly and stared into blank space. ―When are you going to stop? Adrian is going crazy. Did you hear about the other day? She put a dead mouse in front of Anna‘s mailbox?‖ Landon grew quiet, realizing Justin was not acting normal. ―A rat? In the mailbox?‖ Justin raised his eyebrows and stood up angrily. ―What are you so angry about?‖ Landon asked him, surprised, and he expected the answer. ―You are falling for Anna?‖ he investigated. ―No, I just was thinking that was typical of Adrian. And hell, no, I would never fall for her. Yesterday, I kissed her; she felt love but I felt nothing. Nothing, did you hear that?‖ Justin fake-laughed when he asked a rhetorical question. ―Hey, Anna, why are you standing here?‖ Matt, another basketball player, asked as he saw Anna standing at the corner of the gym. She ran away in tears and with hatred. She couldn‘t believe that the only hope of her life had betrayed her. Her mom didn‘t love her anymore; she couldn‘t go to college; and now she found out her crush had been playing love games with her. ―Why in the world have I been born into this life?‖ she thought as she walked slowly toward the football field. There she was, standing in the sunny weather in late April on the football field, and she wished that the wind could just blow her away from here like dust. She closed her eyes and let the tears slide down her face. She heard someone coming and she wished that it was Justin. ―Hey, Anna, it‘s Landon. I‘m sorry!‖ Landon approached, but he was afraid to touch Anna, afraid to comfort her. ―Why are you here and what do you want?‖ Her low voice made Anna different than she was before. ―I want to apologize for me and Justin. Since you started going to the basketball games, we guessed that you like Justin. I mean, usually you spend time studying, so that was a big hint. We decided to make a bet on it and…‖ Landon was looking down and suddenly looked up. ―You think I‘m a fool? Do you think I‘m an idiot?‖ Anna turned a hundred and eighty degrees right toward Landon. ―I‘m sorry.‖ Now Landon was being treated like a criminal. Anna cried and walked away again. She ignored Landon as he stood there and called her name. She felt even worse that Justin didn‘t bother to explain to her after what he did. She touched her lip softly, wanting to turn time back to last night. Now everything was gone! She went to a motel and slept there until morning. When she walked to school, she heard giggling but she was too tired to look up. It was actually not a physical tired, though. Someone collided with her again. She stood there without looking up and remembered back to the first day she met Justin. ―Oops, sorry, I didn‘t mean to.‖ Adrian was sharp-tongued. Anna looked straight at Justin, whose hands were holding Adrian‘s, with resentment. Anna could tell that Justin felt something ache inside him but she couldn‘t tell for sure. Maybe his heart? Or maybe it was his conscience? After she got home, Anna called Justin and told him that she needed to talk to him. Anna also realized that she had not talked to her mom since last week. She still hated her mom because Alexa didn‘t show any signs of letting Anna go to college. Anna walked out of the house and waited for her mom to ask where she was last night, but obviously she didn‘t say anything. ―Fine!‖ Anna thought. Here they were, on the bench where Anna and Justin sat last night. ―You are a jerk!‖ Anna angrily slapped Justin in the face. ―Why did you do that to me? Do you think that‘s funny to play love games with me? Let me tell you, I‘m not the kind of person you can take advantage of.‖ She pointed her index finger at him, and with glowing eyes, she slapped him again. ―I‘m sorry, Anna,‖ Justin finally spoke. He felt like a coward and knew he deserved it. ―Do you like me at all?‖ Anna‘s virtuous eyes looked up and wait for his nod although it might be a mercy nod. He waited. Then he held his fist. Finally, he said: ―Sorry, Anna. You are a very good girl. A jerk like me doesn‘t deserve to love you.‖ How many times had Anna cried? But this time, she let her tears quietly flow. She walked away and she knew what she was going to do. Justin raised his arms just wanted to hold her back but then it dropped hesitatedly. She went home and told her mom that no matter what, Anna wanted to live her life and not let anything get in her way. Ignoring the fact that her mom was stunned, Anna walked upstairs and cried like she never had before. She wanted to wash away the pain that she would never be able to erase deep inside her heart. She would become another person, she decided. She would not be weak. No one would ever take advantage of her AGAIN!!!‖ The next day when she woke up, she mailed an application form to Columbia University. Kaitlin O‘Connell Where‘d All The Good People Go? ―Put the milkshake into the spaceship, Kevin!‖ My sister was jumping up and down, anxiously awaiting the milkshake machine to begin the process of mixing. ―Okay, you want chocolate, right?‖ I asked my fifth grade sister, Elaina. ―Yes, of course! Kevin, how much longer will it take? I‘m thirsty!‖ ―Thirty seconds… wait… maybe less. Hey! It‘s done!‖ I said as I reached to take her newly mixed milkshake from the ―launch pad‖. ―Hooray! Thanks, Kevin, that was so cool! Can you make another one? I want to see it again!‖ My sister looked up at me with a huge smile on her face. ―Let‘s come back tomorrow and we‘ll do it all over again,‖ I suggested. ―Yes! And then we come the next day, and the next day, and the next day, and forever!‖ * The whole ride to Elaina's friend Dana's house is a battle for the radio. Jack Johnson's "Good People" constantly is switched to Ke$ha's "Your Love Is My Drug". It's is a terrible song as it is; the girl isn't even singing, just talking at different pitches. I don't see how Elaina enjoys listening to this, but I look over at her in the passenger seat, singing along to every single word. Partly because I want to listen to Jack Johnson and partly because I want to annoy my sister, I switch the radio back to Jack Johnson. "Ugh, Kevin, what are you doing? The song is almost over... just deal with it," she says as she smacks her fingers against the radio buttons, changing the song back to the untalented girl screeching stupid lyrics. I stop the car outside Dana's house and wait for Elaina to grab her bag in the backseat. "Don't forget to call mom or dad at some point tonight," I say, relaying the message my parents told me to tell my sister. "Uh huh, yeah. Okay, see ya," she says as she grabs the bag with force off the seat and shuts the door. As I drive home, I think about how much my sister has changed in the past few months. Mostly I acknowledge the fact that we're not as close as we used to be, even though we're close in age. I'm graduating this year and she's a sophomore, yet she acts much older than she really is. I just miss when we used to hang out more, or even talk more. I guess it comes with that age, though. * It‘s 5:20. Lacrosse starts in five minutes, so I head over to the field and put on my gear. I grab my stick and a ball and throw some shots at the net until my teammates get to the field. At 5:30 most of my teammates are at the field by now, so we start our warm up. It‘s our time to relax before the intense workout starts, so we‘re talking and joking about random things. ―Hey, Kev, did ya hear about your sister?‖ Matt, my teammate says, nudging him right before catching a ball. ―Oh, I heard about that,‖ Dan, another teammate of mine, replies, smiling and giving me a wink. ―Haha, well, we know you did, Dan. You can‘t keep your mouth shut,‖ Matt says to him. ―You‘re a lucky man, Dan. Lucky, lucky man,‖ Pete chimes in, laughing and shaking his head. ―Yeah, yeah. Very funny. Shut the hell up,‖ I say defensively, but I know they‘re joking. They do this with a bunch of girls; they just decided to pick on my sister today. Elaina will tell me if anything big is going on her life. At least I hope she will. * I come home from lacrosse sweaty, hoping to hop right in the shower as soon as I get in the door. Dan‘s having a party tonight and I plan on going. Because of lacrosse and our intense schedule, the team doesn‘t get much time to relax. When I walk through the door I see from the foyer that my parents are sitting in the dining room, drinking coffee, but not talking. Concerned, I go to see what‘s wrong with Mom and Dad before I get ready. They look up at me, at first looking worried, but my mom gives me a smile and says, ―Hi, Kevin, you relayed the message to your sister, right?‖ ―I told her to call you guys, yes,‖ I reply, annoyed because I always do what they say but they insist on interrogating me about it every single time Elaina goes out. ―Huh, okay. Thanks, Kev,‖ my dad says to me, not satisfied or reassured with my answer. My mom looked up to give me another fake smile, then looked down, sighing deeply. I can tell they are stressed, like they always are about this subject, and wondering the whereabouts of my sister. ―I can try and call her if you want,‖ I suggest, hoping they‘d let me go and get ready even after my offer. ―Can you? That‘d be great. Thanks, Kev,‖ my mom sighed again, this time with some relief. ―Mhmm,‖ I say quietly, rolling my eyes after I turn away from them and head up to my room. I select Elaina‘s number from my phone and hit the SEND button to call her. She doesn‘t pick up. I look at the clock. It‘s 8:14. I was supposed to leave for Dan‘s at 8. I call my sister again. ―Hi, this is Elaina. I can‘t get to the phone right now, obviously, so leave me some love and I‘ll get back to ya. Muah!‖ I hate her voicemail. I leave my phone on the bed to head into the shower when my mom walks in the room. ―Did you get in touch with your sister?‖ she asks at the door. ―Nah, I called a couple times but she never picked up. Hey, look, I‘m going to hop in the shower real quick ‗cause I‘m late for San,‖ I say, about to shut my bathroom door. ―No, no, no. You can‘t go out, Kevin. I can‘t have two missing children. I‘m worried enough about one being out,‖ my mom quickly replies. I turn around to her, red- faced in anger. ―Mom, are you serious? I never go out because of lacrosse and Dan is expecting me and this isn‘t—‖ ―I said no. I‘m sorry. You can go out next week with your friends but not tonight.‖ She gives me a sympathetic look and shuts my door. I throw my change of clothes on the floor, angrier than ever. I pick up my phone to call my sister one more time, expecting it to go to voicemail so I can leave her ―some love‖ and tell her how pissed off I am. However, after the third ring, she picked up. ―Hello? Kevin? What do you want?‖ she answered. I can barely hear her over the booming music and the loud talking and laughter. ―Where the hell are you, Lain? Why didn‘t you answer me? You‘re wasting my time and I‘m sick of it and because of you I can‘t go out. Way to go,‖ I say angrily to her. ―Did you only call just to yell at me?‖ she asks, when in fact she is the one who is yelling because of the noise from wherever she is. ―Whatever. Call Mom and Dad, like, now,‖ I command her. ―Eh, I can‘t. Can you just tell them I‘m okay and I‘ll call them in the morning? Tell them I‘m going to bed. Thanks, you‘re the best!‖ she replies, quickly adding in the last part. ―No! Call them now, Lain. I‘m not just going to sit here and take com—‖ I get cut off as the line goes dead. I throw my phone on the bed. My sister has become so frustrating. I open my door forefully and slam it and begin to walk over to my parents, who are still sitting at the dining room table. ―I just called Elaina and she said she is fine and she will you call you in the morning,‖ I say with an annoyed, monotone voice. ―Oh, okay, that‘s good, I guess,‖ my mom says with relief. ―Can I go out now?‖ I ask as I grab for my keys. ―Honey, it‘s too late now. Next week you can, okay, Kevin? Stay home with us tonight. We can watch a movie if you want,‖ my mom replies, expecting her offer to be as good as going out. ―Never mind. That‘s okay. I‘m gonna go to bed. ‗Night.‖ * The weekend goes by slowly since I spend most of it at home. For once I‘m happy to go to school just because I‘m getting out of the house. I‘m bitter towards my sister in the car because I feel as if I was grounded all weekend. If anything, she should have been the one grounded. She hasn‘t noticed my attitude towards her because she‘s too busy texting. I pull into a spot in the parking lot, and as soon as the car stops, Elaina hops out of it and walks towards a bunch of kids in my grade. The school day is going by slowly but it‘s almost over. As I‘m walking to my last class, I see my sister with Dana walking the other way. Usually when my sister and I see each other, we acknowledge each other with a head nod or a small wave. But this time Elaina didn‘t even look at me. As she walked right by me, ignoring my existence, I hear her say to Dana, ―I have to run so fast from the house. I can‘t believe we almost got busted.‖ My heart drops to my stomach. I can‘t feel my legs as I am in complete shock. Who is this girl who used to be my sister? She‘s not the same anymore. I can‘t focus for the rest of the day, as my mind is flooded with thoughts of the transformation of my sister. The awful thing is that my parents have no idea that Elaina is changing. They still think she‘s their ―little girl‖. I had some doubt that Elaina was behaving before hearing my sister say those words to Dana, but I bet they have no doubt. To them, Elaina can do no wrong. The drive home is more silent than the drive to school. The only sound is coming from the radio, with a song chosen by Elaina. I‘m not going to argue about that; that issue seems so little now. * For the next few hours, I sit on the couch and watch the clock, waiting to leave for lacrosse. It‘s finally 5:20 and I head to the field. When I arrive, I pull my stick from the back of the car and run to the net. Like always, I‘m the first to arrive. I throw shot after shot, making every one. ―Nice aim, dude,‖ Eric says to me, as he and a bunch of the other kids on the team start to show up. Practice is going smoothly as it usually does. After we finish our shooting drill, we do three laps around the field. Eric and I are in the lead with Dan and Matt right at our heels. I hear Dan and Matt talking behind us. They‘re talking quietly, which is out of character for the two most outgoing kids on our team. Because this is suspicious I try to tune myself out of what Eric is saying to me and listen behind me. ―I don‘t know, dude. Don‘t you think that‘d be kinda weird? We‘re almost done high school… just watch out. Don‘t do something too crazy,‖ I hear Matt say to Dan. ―She said she‘s cool with it, man. She‘s not that much younger, and plu, she‘s pretty mature for her age. She knows it‘s not gonna be anything serious,‖ Dan replies. ―I don‘t know. I just think it‘s weird. What if her brother finds out? You know he‘s protective of her and he can for sure kick your ass.‖ Matt punches Dan on the arm and they both laugh. ―Nah, Kev‘s a cool dude. He won‘t care,‖ Dan says. My heart drops immediately and I stop running. I turn around to face them as they almost run in to me. ―What the hell are you guys talking about?‖ They both look startled as I give them a confused glare. ―Nothing, man. Don‘t worry about it. Just stupid stuff,‖ Dan says quickly and continues running. I want nothing more than to get home right now and talk to Elaina. After our practice is over I head home immediately. * ―Elaina, can I talk to you for a sec?‖ I‘m knocking on her door. ―No, leave me alone. I‘m on the phone,‖ she replies, blowing me off completely. ―I need to talk to you, please. Just give me, like, two minutes,‖ I say, feeling pathetic because I have to beg to talk to my little sister. ―I said, leave me alone! What don‘t you understand about that?‖ she says, raising her voice obnoxiously. ―Lain, I‘m worried about you. Is there anything going on? I‘ve been hearing some things…‖ I stop talking because I hear her coming to her door. She slams it open and gives me a glare that could kill. ―Are you kidding me? Why are you still here? I told you to leave. Now shut up and go the hell away. God, what is up with you lately?‖ She slams her door closed. I have nothing more to say to her as I feel only frustration and anger. ―Who are you? I don‘t even know anymore.‖ With that, I leave and head to my room. * The week comes and goes. Elaina and I barely talk besides the occasional ―Can you pass the butter?‖ and other things to put on a show for our parents. It‘s Friday, and I‘m finally going out. Dan‘s having another party and I‘m excited to get out with the team. There are a lot of people at Dan‘s, so it‘s hard to find parking. Once I finally get inside, Matt greets me by hugging me. ―Yo, dude! You‘re here! Hey, everyone, Kevin‘s here!‖ My tipsy teammate gets a few people to say ―Woohoo!‖ to my arrival. ―Where‘s Dan?‖ I ask Matt after finally getting back his attention. ―Uhh… no idea, dude. Walk around a few times. You‘ll find him eventually.‖ He projects his voice so I can hear him over the loud music. I take his advice and mingle around. I talk to a few people while keeping an eye out for Dan. I lap around the house twice. It‘s his party; where could he be? Shouldn‘t he be with everyone else? I‘m not drinking, but the Arizona Iced Tea that I‘m drinking makes me have to use the bathroom. I can‘t find the door and I honestly don‘t feel like pushing around the crowd of people to try and find it, so I head upstairs to use the bathroom up there. I‘m walking past the closed doors of the upstairs when I hear a girl‘s voice coming from behind one of the doors. ―I don‘t know… I don‘t know if I should,‖ she says. ―Come on, it‘s all good. Feel comfortable with me,‖ a boy‘s voice answers the girl. I put my ear up against the door to hear more. ―I think I want to call my brother,‖ the girl says while I hear a bed creak. ―No! Don‘t. I don‘t think that‘s a good idea, Elaina.‖ I‘ll kill him. I bust open the door and immediately charge at the male silhouette in the room. I don‘t know who it is, but at this point I really don‘t care. ―Kevin!‖ I hear my sister say as she backs away from the mysterious boy and me. I push him forcefully into the wall, and I finally see the face of the kid with the hallway light coming from the cracked door. It‘s Dan. A look of disgust floods my face as I stare at this stranger, who was once my friend, in shock. ―If you ever go near my sister again I will kick the shit out of you.‖ I forget my sister‘s in the room and I turn to her. She‘s crying on the corner of the bed. I take her hand and lead her downstairs and out the door to my car. As soon as she‘s in the car and I shut my door, Elaina lets out a large cry and the apologies start to fall out of her mouth. ―Kevin I don‘t know where to begin. I‘m so sorry and I‘m a mess and I don‘t know what happened to me and you were right and… ugh… I‘m so sorry.‖ I can barely understand what she is saying because of how hard she is crying. I throw my arm over her shoulder. ―You know I‘m always going to be here for you. It‘s taking all of my self-control not to go back in that house and beat the shit out of that tool, but you‘re my main concern right now. I need to know that you‘re okay.‖ She hesitates for a few seconds and sighs. ―I‘ll be okay. Please don‘t ever let me become that way again. God, I feel so stupid.‖ She puts her head in her hands. I laugh. ―Not gonna lie, Lain, but it was so annoying,‖ I say, attempting to make light of the conversation. We sit in the car for a few minutes until Elaina breaks the silence. ―Kevin?‖ ―Yes, ‗Lain?‖ ―Can I ask you a question?‖ She looks to me. I wonder where this is going. ―What‘s up?‖ ―Um… can we get milkshakes?‖ We look at each other and both laugh. I pull the car into drive and head to Wawa. The car is silent again until my sister turns the radio on. She‘s going through the radio stations so quickly; I don‘t understand how she can comprehend what song is playing. She stops at 104.5, my favorite station, and Jack Johnson‘s ―Good People‖ is halfway over. Elaina puts her finger on the radio button, ready to turn it off. However, she looks at me and puts her hand down on her lap. She looks out the window while bobbing her head up and down to the downbeats of the song. I smile as I drive on with Elaina and Jack, my unconditional best friends for life Elise Rehoric Live and Let Die ―So, why don‘t you tell me a little about yourself today, Jess, a little about your childhood maybe,‖ he asked her, professional but with a look of genuine sympathy. She sat by the window, gazing out on the clear spring day. She knew that any normal person would love to have sympathy from others, but she was different, stronger now, perhaps. It annoyed her greatly that this man was trying to sympathize with her because, first off, she didn‘t know him. Okay, well, she knew him, but they weren‘t best friends. He was just the psychiatrist that her mom had recommended she see. Second, she didn‘t like when people felt sorry for her but had no deep connection with her. She saw the stares from people in the neighborhood, heard the whispers of ―I feel sorry for that poor girl.‖ Yeah, they felt sorry, but they felt sorry for anyone who didn‘t have as great a life as they did. They pitied those under them. He continued to stare at her, waiting expectantly. She sighed and moved towards the couch, putting her hands behind her head when she lay down. She figured he was there to try and help her but as soon as she lay down, the steel cables within her mind tightened, detaining her from sharing her deepest thoughts so she kept it light. ―I didn‘t have a horrible childhood, if that‘s what you‘re expecting to hear. It had its highs and lows, just like anyone else's. I had my dreams and expectations for myself. I made good grades throughout school and played sports. I had girl friends and guy friends, but I never had to deal with too much drama. I was never remembered for anything when I graduated high school. It was just another step in life to get through. I was accepted into every college I applied to and I was planning on going to New York University.‖ He stopped her then, asking her why she never went. ―Why didn‘t I go? Well, when I was eighteen, I met David.‖ A shock ran through her body; whether it was sadness or fury, she didn‘t know. The cables got tighter. ―Okay, so you met your future husband.‖ ―Yes…David. Look, are we almost finished here? I‘m tired today and have a lot to do.‖ ―We can be done if you‘re sure you have nothing more you want to say.‖ ―No, I‘m finished. ‖ He threw her one more sympathetic look before she left. She walked outside the place and sat with her head between her knees on the stoop. She didn‘t want to go to the psychiatrist anymore. It wasn‘t her idea anyway; it was her parents who signed her up. Slowly, she let her heart slow down and heard nothing except the sound of her own breathing and thoughts. She was so angry, but the funny part was that she was angrier with herself than anything. Why did she let this all happen to her? She was stronger than this. She grew up with three older brothers. Mentioning David‘s name was just one more reminder of how stupid she was. Ha, she had actually believed he would have changed… She was eighteen when she had met him. Fresh out of high school, the world of freedom was a beautiful place to her. Their meeting wasn‘t something that one would call romantic. She was getting a cup of coffee and on her way to a table, tripped on herself and would have fallen had he not been there to help steady her. He was tall and brawny, with dark brown eyes, almost black. She was instantly attracted to him, even more so when he asked her to join him for a cup of coffee. He made her laugh so much in their early days. He seemed so warm and gentle, like a teddy bear. They exchanged numbers and agreed to go to dinner that night. After that, they spent a great deal of time together. Every waking moment she wanted to be with him. He was her air, which he reminded her often near the end of their marriage. ―Hey, honey, how was the psychiatrist?‖ Jess‘s mom asked as Jess came into the kitchen. Her mom was one to nag and pick at your brain until it became mush. ―It was fine. I actually don‘t think I need to go back. I‘ll be fine without psychiatry.‖ ―Sweetie, that‘s not a good idea. I really think you should stay. He‘s a nice guy; he‘ll help you out. Don‘t worry. Momma‘s here for you.‖ She gave Jess a big wet kiss on the forehead. ―So we‘re having pork roast for dinner. Go get washed up and then we‘ll eat.‖ Jess had opened her mouth, ready to protest but snapped it shut, turned, and trudged upstairs. Why bother? She would have lost that battle anyway. She always had. She remembered her mother always nagging her about everything when she was little. ―Mom, I really like the blue dress for prom.‖ ―Hmm, well, I liked the pink one. I think we should get the pink one.‖ ―But, Mom, I hate pink!‖ ―It‘ll be fine, don‘t worry. Oohh, and we‘ll go get those matching pink heels to go with it! This is so fun, isn‘t it?‖ Before Jess had had a chance to answer, her mom had taken off in search of shoes. That was just a small taste of what her childhood was like. She had learned to accept her mother as who she was, or she had learned to just deal with her. She looked at herself in the bathroom mirror. The bruises were finally starting to fade; the scars, of course, would be there forever, physically and emotionally. It was tough living in the house again. She felt like a child. She wasn‘t, though; she was twenty- five years old. She had always wanted to be a journalist. Her parents, of course, had given her a hard time about it, saying that she should get into business and marketing or something like that. When she had gotten into NYU, though, she wouldn‘t let anything get in her way…until something did. Her future husband, David, had flown into her life like a breeze before a storm. Everything else became a blur. They had known each other for three months before they ran off and got married, not telling their parents until after the ceremony. Life had been just okay after that, though. Yes, just okay. David had gotten a job at an Apple Inc. company, and she became more or less a housewife. He had insisted that she not work. She didn‘t need to go to college. He would ―bring home the bacon,‖ as he said it. So she had given up on her future career. She cleaned the house and had dinner ready every night by six o‘ clock. She had become so bored with her life after a while that she had decided to join a gym. That was when the problems had started. * ―So, Jess, I really think we should discuss what happened. I know it‘s jumping ahead, but I know you‘re holding back from saying what‘s on your mind and the whole point of your being here is to open up and speak your mind. I know I‘m not your best friend, but I‘m here to listen to whatever you want to say.‖ Jess wasn‘t expecting this little outburst from the shrink. He was supposed to be the calm, patient one. Hmm, she was a little impressed by his authoritative action, though. David never asserted himself mentally, only physically. If she didn‘t tell him something, he would beat it out of her. Yup, that‘s how their relationship had turned out. She couldn‘t say that out loud, though. She knew the shrink had talked to her mother about her, but she couldn‘t put the words together to say what she wanted to say. ―You‘re here to listen to whatever I have to say?‖ ―Yes, of course!‖ He leaned forward in his chair, prepared to take in the information he thought she was about to give. Ha, he thought he had won the battle. Well, she wasn‘t giving in, not until she was ready, and she wasn‘t. ―Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I don‘t want to say anything on that matter. If you wanna talk about something, let‘s talk about how you and my mother secretly talk about me behind my back.‖ One of the steel cables snapped. ―Or if you really want to know something, maybe you should just beat it out of me. That usually seems to work for people!‖ She realized she had said too much and sprinted out of the office. She didn‘t know where to go, but she knew she was never going back there. The shrink was probably calling her mother at that very moment, plus she wasn‘t ready to go home. Hmm, she couldn‘t even call it home, not her home anyway. She ran to the park and sat under a blossoming cherry tree. She remembered May of last year. She had decided that she wanted to join a gym so she could actually get out and do something. She didn‘t have many close friends because she spent so much time with David, so she went alone. When she had gotten there, she saw that there were classes that could be joined, so she had chosen to join one. While she was stretching, another lady came up and introduced herself as Mary. They had gotten to talking and working out and then talking some more, and before she knew it, it was six-thirty and she was still in the gym parking lot, chatting away. When she realized the time, she asked Mary for her number and told her that they would have to get together some time but that she had to get home and get dinner started. She walked in the door fifteen minutes later and saw that the lights were off besides the kitchen. Maybe David wasn‘t even home yet. But when she went into the kitchen, he was sitting at the table, glaring at her. ―Where the hell have you been?‖ His eyes were burning black fire. She was frightened and felt uncomfortable immediately, something she had never felt around David before. ―I was at the gym and I met someone in my class and we just got to talking. I didn‘t realize the time. I‘m sorry.‖ The part of the memory that came next was crisp and clear in her mind, now and forever, because it was when her life began to go downhill. ―So the reason I‘m sitting here starving after working all day while you prance around here doing nothing is because you were talking to someone in a stupid, worthless, workout class?‖ ―It‘s not stupid or worthless! It‘s better than doing nothing here all day! I cook and clean every day, and if you‘re so hungry, why don‘t you make something for yourself?‖ She had started to get angry, but it was nothing compared to his expression. He got up and shoved the chair into the wall. He came up and grabbed her throat. ―Now, I‘m going to tell you what‘s going to happen. You‘re going to make me dinner and then you‘re going to clean up the kitchen. Then you‘re going to get cleaned up and go to bed.‖ He had said it in a hushed tone, like a killer who tells his victim it‘s going to be okay even when they both know what‘s going to happen. She remembered burning herself a couple times because her hands were trembling so much. That was only the beginning. Little had she known at the time that it was only going to get worse. The next day he had acted as if nothing had happened. She hadn‘t wanted to bring it up, so she didn‘t ask about it. Somewhat dreading to go back home and face her mother, Jess took her time making her way down the street. She felt so trapped. No one knew really what had happened in her marriage. Obviously, they could see that she got hit because of her bruises and scars, but no one knew what it had done to her. David had been her air for a long time. She had needed him near her. He had hurt her so many times in so many ways. She forced the tears back. She hadn‘t cried since before her divorce, figuring there was no point. So she kept her tears and her feelings to herself afraid to open up to anyone. She had never thought it would have turned out like it had. He had been so sweet… ―Jess, is that you?‖ a familiar voice called to her from the café she had just passed. She turned to find her old friend Mary having lunch by herself at one of the tables. She hadn‘t talked to Mary in long time, months perhaps. After the first gym incident, she hadn‘t been able to talk to Mary for long. Then when everything hit the fan, she had lost contact with her all together. She felt something different when she had seen Mary, something she hadn‘t felt in ages, comforted. ―Mary! How are you? It‘s so great to see you!‖ ―Oh, I‘m just fine. Come on and sit down; have some lunch!‖ ―Well, my parents might be wondering where I am.‖ ―Honey, you are twenty-five years old. They can just wonder all they want. You are an adult, so sit your butt down.‖ Mary was right. She was an adult. She didn‘t need to let her parents know where she was at all times. She sat down and they started talking about anything and everything. She knew that at some point Mary would ask her about David, which she did, but she wasn‘t expecting the response from herself. The steel cables that had been holding her thoughts and emotions in place unwound, not slowly as the shrink told her, but as if they had all been cut in one swipe. She started off by breaking down crying, and not just crying, sobbing. She hadn‘t wanted to shed one tear for him, but she realized that she wasn‘t crying for him; she was crying for herself. She had never allowed people to pity her and perhaps she had never let herself, either. It felt wonderful, as if all of the tension in her body was draining away. Jess saw Mary through blurry eyes. Although Mary looked a little freaked out by the outburst, she was there next to Jess in a second, rubbing her back, just waiting. ―I‘d like to say I‘m sorry, Mary, but I‘m not,‖ she sniffled after awhile. Mary suggested that they get their lunch to go so that they could be somewhere less crowded. They went to the park and had a picnic under the shade of a huge oak tree. At that point, the cables enclosing her mind had vanished. ―Oh Mary, it‘s been horrible. Ever since I joined that gym way back when, David became someone I didn‘t even know. Sometimes it seemed like he was getting better, or I made it seem like he was getting better. I left the house a couple of times to stay with my parents, and when I came back he looked like the old David again, telling me that things would change, get better. I believed him every time, until the last time. I just couldn‘t take it anymore. He put me down so many times about anything I did outside the house. First, he got angry if dinner wasn‘t ready, but later on, he started to find things that I‘d missed in the house. If a table wasn‘t dusted or a plate was left in the bedroom, he would go off. He would hit me…He slapped me silly a few times, leaving me dizzy on the floor. I had to get out, Mary…I had to. I believe that he would have killed me had I stayed. It could have been over something stupid, too.‖ For some reason, saying what she had just said sparked the memory of the night she left the house. It had been a humid, rainy night. She had been stuck in traffic because of an accident and had gotten home a little later than usual from the gym. As she walked to the front door, her arms glistened with the mixture of raindrops and sweat. She had been prepared to get hit by the wave of air-conditioning that usually greeted her when she opened the front door, but this time when she opened it, she felt a blast of heat instead. She had forgotten to turn the air-conditioning on. She wondered why David hadn‘t turned it on. She went into the kitchen to find him at the table with bottles of beer strewn about. She remembered having only one thought at the time: He will kill you. Get out. She tiptoed up to their room and threw a bunch of clothes into a suitcase and grabbed her essentials. She heard a sound from downstairs. Then she heard him, shouting. ―JESS! WHY THE HELL IS IT SO HOT IN HERE?!‖ She hurried down the front stairs but it was too late. He was already waiting for her at the bottom. ―Where the hell do you think yurrr going? Whyyy didn‘t you turn the goddamn air-conditioning on? You mess up everything.‖ It was hard to understand him because his words were slurred. He raised a hand, ready to hit her down, but she was ready. She slammed her suitcase into him, knocking him unconscious, and ran out the front door. She had called the cops upstairs already so by the time she had put her things in her car, they had shown up. She had never been as scared as she was that night… ―So we had to go to court and get everything settled. It‘s sad because I had to tell him I wanted a divorce in front of a witness because who knows what would have happened had I told him if we were alone. I got the house but I couldn‘t afford it on my own, so now I‘m living with my parents again and he‘s in jail for abuse. My parents made me see a shrink, but I just couldn‘t tell him what happened. I haven‘t been able to talk to anyone about this besides you.‖ She had rambled on and on until the sun went behind the trees. Mary listened patiently and never once interrupted. After she finished, Jess felt like a huge weight had been lifted. She didn‘t feel alone and she didn‘t feel like giving up anymore. Mary had been the key all along. Jess knew she never would have been able to tell the shrink, especially not one that she was being forced to see by her parents. Talking to a shrink was like talking to a statue. They were both cold and unfeeling. She never would have been able to tell anyone except a friend, when she was ready and when she chose to say what she wanted to say. Mary provided Jess with something indescribable; something a shrink would never have been able to give her. Jess felt loved and cared for, for the first time in a long time. She breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that she had finally gotten over the huge obstacle that had been standing in her way for so long. Mary had given her the boost she needed without even knowing it. Jess would owe her for the rest of her life. * Three years had passed. Jess had moved out of her parents' place soon after her chat with Mary. She realized that she didn‘t need nor want them to baby her. She could live her life on her own, breathing her own air. She applied to NYU again and was accepted. She was in her junior year of attending college and was passing with flying colors. She never knew she could be this happy without him. After her episode with Mary, she never spoke his name again. His words sometimes still floated in her mind though. “You’ll be nothing without me. I’m your air, baby; I’m the air you breathe. You’ll never make it without me.” She brushed them off. It was worthless to hold on to things in the past. What‘s done is done. It was time to move on. Cheryl Sampson Regret and Death I walked onto the Sparta High School property. I crept over to my group of friends who were positioned together in a small group. Very quietly, I placed my hands over the eyes of my best friend. She jumped a little with surprise; the loosely worn hair tie completely came out of her dirty-blond hair. ―Guess who?‖ I whispered. ―Hmmmm, Waverly Williams, why on Earth are you surprising me?‖ I let go, and she spun around to face me. She gave a short squeal and hugged me tighter than I would have imagined. ―Happy birthday!‖ she half sung in my ear. ―It‘s your day for surprises.‖ I half smiled; I hate surprises. Savannah set her backpack to the ground and unzipped it. She dug her hand into her bag and pulled out a large box with a ribbon on it. ―Now, I know I should just wait for your party tonight, but I‘m kinda hoping you will wear it there.‖ She bit her lip to the point where it turned white. My other friends watched anxiously behind Savannah. I slowly undid the pink ribbon and tore the wrapping paper. I slowly opened the box, and inside was a beautiful cocktail dress. ―Oh, Savannah, it‘s perfect!‖ I shoved the box to my left arm and gave an awkward one-armed hug. ―I‘m definitely going to wear it tonight!‖ I looked at the faces of the others; a wave of jealously was overcoming them. The warning bell for homeroom rang out to the courtyard in which we stood. We said hurried goodbyes and we were off to class. *** I walked out of my house to the backyard. ―Party in the USA‖ was playing in the background. Classmates started to arrive; everyone at Sparta High School was invited. I found Savannah in a corner with another friend, Layne. They talked in hushed whispers. ―Hey, girl, hey!‖ I called out to my friends. ―Hey!‖ They both replied with the same emphasis. ―So do you guys like the party so far?‖ I asked. ―Yes!‖ Savannah replied. ―Just about the entire senior class is here! Waverly, this is the best eighteenth birthday anyone has ever held.‖ Layne agreed with enthusiasm. ―You will never guess who wants to see you!‖ Layne said. I focused my eyes on her. ―Tyler!‖ She jumped up and down. My face lit up, while Savannah just scowled. This must have been the topic of choice before I interrupted. ―Really?‖ I was so excited. Tyler Tripply, the quarterback of the high school football team. Tyler and I first became friends at work, before he became the quarterback. We were friends and texted mostly every day. ―No!‖ Savannah said at once, interrupting my thoughts. ―He led you on three times already! Besides, what about Josh?‖ I snapped back to reality. Josh, my junior boyfriend, was not on the football team, but was in reality, a self-proclaimed dork. I met him while working on lines for a school play. It was love at first sight for us, even though Tyler was way cuter. But it was true, Tyler led me on three times before, then cut me off, separating us from talking for months at a time, then coming back again. A vicious cycle that I stopped the moment I meant Josh. Unfortunately, it seemed to be happening again. ―I know. I know. I‘m not going to do anything that‘s going to hurt Josh. One dance isn‘t going to hurt? Is it?‖ Savannah gave me the death glare, the face I hate to see on her. ―Please.‖ I put on a puppy dog face, clearly using my acting skills to my advantage. ―Your life, your boy toy, your regret.‖ She gave another disappointing look, but I forgot about it within a minute. I turned around to find Tyler. ―There he is!‖ Layne exclaimed, pointing towards the food table. I looked; Tyler was with his football friends his blond hair ruffled in the light breeze. I moved with ease around the groups of friends, and I reached him with in half a minute. ―Hey, Tyler!‖ I showed a perfect set of white teeth. He smiled back. ―Look who it is, guys…Waverly Williams! Happy birthday!‖ He pulled me into a tight hug, the scent of him surrounding me with every un- even breath I took. He let me go, and I stumbled backward about a foot. ―So how is my favorite 12th grader?‖ I laughed, knowing without a doubt that I wasn‘t his favorite. ―All right, and you?‖ ―Good, good. So thanks for having the party tonight. Tomorrow‘s a full moon, no good in my opinion.‖ ―Well, in truth, the rents wouldn‘t let me have the party then. But it‘s okay. Today‘s my birthday anyway.‖ ―Yeah.‖ He laughed. ―Waverly?‖ I heard his voice before I saw him. ―Happy birthday, baby!‖ he called out. Josh picked me up and spun me around to face him. I gave an apologetic look to Tyler. He shrugged and went to talk to the Bayside twins. ―Thanks, Josh,‖ I said when he let me down. He pulled a small box out from his back pocket of his cargo pants. I smiled. I took the small package and opened it. Inside was a beautiful necklace, my name as the design. ―It‘s gorgeous!‖ I squealed, turning around indicating I wanted it on. ―Just like you,‖ he whispered, closing the clasp around my neck. *** The sun started to fade. I was watching my five-year-old self from a distance, as if from another person‘s point of view. The full moon started to rise into the dark night; Jessica had not arrived yet to baby-sit me. Mom and Dad were getting anxious, watching the moon. I watched the scene unfold, Mom getting sicker, clutching her stomach. My five-year-old self was playing innocently in the corner with a rag doll. ―Linda,‖ my father‘s voice was strained, ―we can‘t wait anymore.‖ ―We must. She‘s only five.‖ The same strained voice came from my mother. The moon was at its highest; my parents looked like monsters. I was still playing with the doll. ―Human!‖ my mother called out all of a sudden. She lunged out for me, and I screamed; my five-year-old self looked up in horror. I awoke. I panted in my bed, my arm crying out in agony. I looked down at the scar, never realizing its true shape till now. A half crest, the perfect size for a bite mark. *** Josh slammed his door, coming around quickly to open up mine. He took my hand and helped me out of his old beaten up pick-up-truck. After watching a movie at the theater, we wanted to spend the rest of our Saturday night at my place. That night was a full moon, and my parents were supposed to be out. I led Josh to the front door of my house and slowly opened it. I smiled with ease; tonight the house was ours. ―You‘re so beautiful in the light,‖ Josh whispered. I looked down at my skin, which was reflecting the setting sun; it seemed to glow. ―Thanks.‖ I stretched up on my tippy-toes to give him kiss. He pulled my face closer to him, and together we moved across the threshold. ―WAVERLY!‖ I jerked back in surprise. ―Mom, what are you doing here?‖ ―The better question is, what is Josh doing here. I‘m sorry, son, but you got to leave, now.‖ My mom clutched her stomach whilst I scratched my eye. ―Sorry,‖ I mumbled. ―It‘s okay. See you tomorrow?‖ I swiftly nodded once. He quickly kissed me good-bye and was out the door. ―What is your problem, Mother?‖ I turned my attention to her in disgust. ―My problem? You‘re the one who is about to attack your own boyfriend!‖ Her eyes started to have a tint of red to them. ―What are you talking about?‖ I asked as I rushed past her to the stairway. ―Listen to me.‖ I spun around on the first step. ―You‘re eighteen now. You need to know.‖ ―Know what, Mother?‖ I asked with attitude. ―What is about to happen to you, what I did to you.‖ I sat on the step, not knowing where this was about to go. ―It happened the day after you turned five. It was a full moon. Your father and I needed to leave, but the babysitter never showed up.‖ My mind switched right back to my dream from the night before, but still did not understand why they had to leave, where they wanted to go. ―Your father and I are…‖ She stopped, too afraid to continue. ―Are what?‖ I asked, intrigued. ―Why did you have to leave in the first place?‖ ―We are, vampires,‖ she gulped and continued. ―I bit you--- by accident. Your father, he pulled me away from you before I could kill you. The three of us are now and forever vampires.‖ She quickly summed up the truth. ―What?‖ I asked, a sharp pain cutting through me. ―We had to leave. We promised ourselves we would never be in the house during a full moon because…" She stopped, clutching her stomach. "We didn't want to hurt you, didn't want to…" a deep breath, "hunt you. But," she stammered, "You‘re one of us now." Her eyes started to become redder with every passing second; her teeth seemed to grow too. ―Every full moon from now on, you will turn into one. I‘m so sorry.‖ She fell to the ground. I looked at my mom, her eyes bloodshot, her expression, fear, teeth exposed, thick fangs. I spun around, running to my room. My body hurt, worse than cramps, worse than breaking a bone. I slammed the door behind me; at that moment, sharp teeth spang up from the gums of my mouth, and I was thirsty. *** The wind swirled around me; I felt more alive than ever before. From my open bedroom window a breeze swept in from the outside, carrying a wonderful smell along with it, human. I wanted to hunt. I ran my wet sticky tongue across my new fangs, and sprang out the window with a light pounce. I looked towards the moon, and a wicked smile appeared across my face; I was off. The smell led me to the forest behind my house. I never dared to enter it before, but that night, all I wanted was to rip the flesh off my victim and suck the sweet sticky redness out of her neck. I was faster than usual, only as fast as an Olympic runner, not as fast as what was told in the horror movies. I continued to follow the scent into the heart of the forest; the smell dissipated. A low rumble sounded from my stomach, my heart stopped for half a beat, and I continued forward, ever so carefully. My own human blood pulsed through my veins; it wanted me to stop the hunt, to be normal again. I didn‘t stop, though; my vampire senses overtook my mind. ―Waverly?‖ I spun around fast. I crouched down to spring at the human who said my name. ―Tyler?‖ I asked, standing up out of my position to see his face more clearly. The scent wasn‘t human; it was vampire. He was standing over a girl‘s body, blood dripping down his mouth. My prey; I wanted to kill her. ―I knew I would see you sometime tonight.‖ He brushed his mouth with his hand and licked the remaining blood from his greasy fingertips. His own scar sparkled in the dim light. ―I was hunting, I smelled the girl, but looks like you already took her life.‖ ―Yes, innocent Patrice, the girl from Bio last year. Smart girl, should have never believed me when I said I wanted her.‖ He nodded his head in disapproval. So he lured her to her doom? I would learn how to do that someday. ―Well,‖ I cleared my voice. But before I could say one more word, his arms, his fingers, his smell, his lips were all around me. Nothing could distract me from this moment. Tyler‘s presence here was all I could focus on. We trailed away from the human carcass all drained of blood. In the gloomy light we kissed. I knew while I did it, that I cheated on Josh, but at that moment I didn‘t care. All I wanted was to be loved and to love somebody. Tyler used his strength as he ripped the thin fabric off my slim body. I used my own strength to return the favor. ―Why now? Why lead me on every other time, and this time not?‖ I said in between kisses. He knew what I was talking about. Every time we ever had a connection before, he would stand me up whenever we tried going out. ―Because, it was to dangerous before, me being a vampire, you not.‖ I stopped kissing him and looked up into his eyes. ―So you have been changing since September?‖ I realized, counting the months from then. He has changed no less than six times since his own birthday. ―Yes,‖ he said quietly. I shook my head and pulled his face back down to mine. *** Breathing became difficult, I never felt like that before. It felt wrong, as I cheated on Josh, but it felt so right at the same time. Birds sang around us, the scent of human blood still clung in the air. My throat burned, wanting to taste it. ―Waverly?‖ an echo of my name. I pushed Tyler off of me with all my force. ―Oh, you want to take charge now?‖ Tyler whispered, clearly not paying attention to the human who just called my name. He pulled me on top, kissing me again. I wanted to get away; I wanted to see who called my name, wanted to taste the human that called my name. Then my mind trailed off again, absorbed in the love Tyler was giving me. ―WAVERLY!‖ The noise was right next to us now, clearer than daytime itself. I peeked upward. Josh stood a few feet away; he watched us. ―JOSH!‖ I screamed at him. I tore myself from Tyler, ignoring his hands as they tried to grab for me to come back. I snatched the only garment that was still intact, Tyler‘s button-down shirt. Already Josh had turned around; he ran through the forest. The desire to sink my teeth into Josh was overpowered by my human instincts. I cheated, and he knew it. I flew across the forest floor after him; I caught up to him in a few strides. ―Josh, please,‖ I said, as I stopped in front of him. He knocked into me, but I only swayed an inch. ―No, you cheated on me!‖ he began to scream. ―You cheated on me with him!‖ One long skinny finger pointed to Tyler, who was still back in the clearing. ―I can‘t believe you, Waverly, you make me sick.‖ A sharp smell of blood floated to my nostrils, I ignored it. ―No, please, you must understand me.‖ I put my hand on his shoulder. Again Josh‘s human scent started to overpower me. ―No, I don‘t have to do anything. We are finished, Waverly.‖ He shoved my hand away, leaving me furious. At that moment my vampire instincts took over; I swirled around, grabbing Josh by the collar. ―What are you doing, Waverly?‖ he asked, his voice in a panic. He noticed my change in strength. I looked him squarely in the eyes, my mouth watering. Wait, what was I doing? I began to question myself. I released my grip a little, and Josh looked thankful. ―What are you doing?‖ I turned, Tyler standing a few feet away. ―Finish him!‖ I heard an owl in the distance. I looked back at my prey, my mouth getting hungrier by the second. His eyes seemed to be bulging out of his eyes. I lunged, not able to stop myself, and I bit him in the neck, sucking the life out of my used-to-be boyfriend. *** I awoke, like any morning, in my cozy, warm bed. Birds chirped, crickets sung, my mother sang, oh so softly, in the shower. I looked at my alarm clock, seven o‘clock. I remembered instantly what had occurred the previous night, instant regret filling my head. I whipped to my bedside counter and picked up the remote, forcing the TV on. ―…on the morning after the full moon, another three lives were taken. Two seniors at Sparta High School were found in this forest behind me, the blood drained from their bodies. Another was a middle-aged man found in an alleyway next to a local bar. Police have no clues to the murders. The only evidence found is each body has teeth marks alongside their jugular, in the shape of a crescent moon.‖ I shut the TV off, got out of bed, and peeked out the window. News reporters were everywhere, littering the street and my front yard. I closed the curtain, went back to bed, and started to cry myself to sleep. At that moment, the phone rang, with the caller id that stated ―James‖, Josh‘s family, without a doubt to tell me my boyfriend was… dead. Jelisa R. Smith Long Journey Away from Home Police and ambulance sirens fill the air while getting closer and closer to my neighborhood. ―Welcome to Huntsville, West Virginia,‖ says the sign hanging off the post with bullet holes lined up making the letter ―V‖. This is what I call home, my hood, where I grew up. Hearing these sirens is an everyday thing to me. Sometimes I wish I could get away, maybe move to a suburban area or another state and get away from all this craziness. I dream of it from time to time, and then I pinch myself to wake up. ―Dreams are only a figment of my imagination‖, I often say to myself when my mind wanders. I stare out the window in the sunroom, trying to figure out which block they are racing to so I can have an idea of why they are here. Everyone knows everyone in my neighborhood; it‘s like were a little family. I get out of the window and fix the blinds back. It‘s pointless, me sitting here looking out the window when I can get the scoop of what happened when the police and ambulance trucks clear up. The neighborhood loves to gossip and be nosey. You would think they would keep some things a secret, but nope, everyone knows your business. ―Reina,‖ my dad yells from the top of the stairs. ―Yes.‖ ―What‘s going on down the street? Why are all those police cars and ambulance trucks lined up blocking the sidewalk?‖ ―Dad, seriously? The same reason they are here any other time. Since they got the ambulance out here, a few people had to have gotten shot.‖ ―Damn, this neighborhood is just getting worse and worse. These black folk need to stop killing each other and get a damn education,‖ my dad mumbles as he walks back into his room and closes the door. When my dad was growing up, the neighborhood was not half as bad as it is now. He always says, ―That‘s when the white people were around.‖ You couldn‘t even hear so much as a pin drop, that‘s how quite it was. Taking a walk outside or going to the park was normal. You didn‘t have to worry about getting shot, someone robbing you, kids getting kidnapped or raped. Huntsville had the highest death rate in the whole county/and the highest percentage of kids that dropped out of school. Kids that were in the sixth grade were even dropping out. Father always told me if there is at least one thing I am going to accomplish while I am here on earth, that‘s getting an education. I had to at least graduate from high school. He said if I ever gotten pregnant I still could not drop out; I just would have to go to take night classes and raise my baby. I wouldn‘t have been able to graduate with my senior class, but I would have still graduated with a high school diploma. Getting my GED was out of the question; it‘s not the equivalent of getting a diploma in my dads‘ eyes. I graduated from high school almost a year and a half ago. I wanted to go to college, but my family is not financially stable enough to put me through college. Loans are good too, but paying them back would be a pain in the ass. Now I just work at a coffee house two blocks away from my house. The pay isn‘t that bad, but I make the most money off of my tips. I try to be nice and polite and sometime ass kiss so they can give me a big tip. One thing I did learn working there, you can go very far in life making conversation and being nice to people. Before that I was as evil as they come. My life was so miserable and I just took it out on other people. Living in a three-bedroom house with seven people could make anybody crazy. After my older sister, Renee, left to go to college, a lot of tension in the house cooled down. Most of it was between her and me. She is only a year older than me and she is the first child, so I felt like she had gotten treated better than me and they loved her more. Then again I always felt like an outsider compared to the rest of my siblings. I think it‘s because of my ―middle child syndrome‖; I needed attention and my parents lacked in that field. I don‘t have too much animosity toward my younger sister, Christian. I try to lead her in the right direction and make sure her head is on correctly. She is into having friends and being in the limelight. ―Being a follower does not get you far in life,‖ I always try to tell her. I don‘t really have a huge, crazy, spectacular love life, just a boyfriend that I have been with throughout my years in high school and after. Even though we were not in the same grade and he was three years older than me, he will still be considered, by me, my high school sweetheart. We‘ve been through so much together you would think we were married already. Matthew knew me better than any person alive. He knows what makes me happy, sad, cry, mad; anything you name, he knows. Lately, he has been really depressed. I don‘t know if it‘s because of the pregnancy or him working two jobs. He‘s been talking about taking me away from here, moving into a nice neighborhood. I want to and I wish he really could. My cell phone vibrates in my bra. I take it out. ―Husband,‖ reads my caller id. ―Hello, dear,‖ I answer. ―Wassup? How are my two babies doing?‖ ―Ahaha. We‘re good. I just finished eating a bowl of Fruit Loops. It‘s been crazy around here all morning. Police and ambulance trucks have been riding up and down the street. I think something must have happened at the Jeffersons‘ house.‖ ―Something is always happening around that ghetto ass neighborhood. That‘s all right because right now I‘m stacking this bread so both of my babies can live comfortably.‖ ―True. So when you get off work tonight?‖ ―My boss might ask me to stay until eleven. You want me to come pick you up when I get off?‖ ―Yeah that‘s cool. I have work at four until ten, so you can come get me from my house.‖ ―Okay that‘s cool. Well, I have to get back to work. Call me before you leave out for work.‖ ―Okay. Try to have a nice day at work. I love you.‖ ―I will try. I love you too.‖ Oh, how I love that man, I say in my head as I hang up the phone. I really don‘t feel like going to work today. Standing up for long periods of time makes blisters on my feet, and I start to feel pains in my lower back. Eight months pregnant and I‘m still working, on my feet for six hours of the day. Could this be any worse? Why did Eve have to eat that apple on the tree and make the rest of us females have to suffer? Giving birth is going to be the worst and best experience of my life. I just want to get it done and over with; this baby needs to come out soon. I might have enough time to take a nice hot bubble bath before I go to work; it‘s so relaxing and I need it right now. I put my bowl in the kitchen and make my way up the stairs to run my bath water. It happens so fast and out of nowhere: on the seventh step I fall back. I try to grab onto the banister, but I cannot get a tight enough grip, and my hands slip off; it feels like I died and woke back up. I awake in a hospital bed, with a monitor over top of my head. My father is right by my side and Ms. Angie, my father‘s fiancé, sleeping in the chair with her head leaning up against the wall. ―What happened?‖ I ask my dad. ―You tripped on Julian‘s skateboard while walking up the steps. You must‘ve not have seen it.‖ ―Oh my goodness. I did? Is everything okay? Is my baby fine? What‘s going on?‖ I say, starting to go into a panic attack. ―Reina, relax. Everything is going to be fine. The doctor said you have a few bruises but no long term injuries and you are too far along in the pregnancy to have lost the baby.‖ I start to cry for joy. If this is not a miracle, I don‘t know what is. I just tripped on a skateboard, fell down a flight of stairs, and the doctor said I‘m going to be okay? God really is watching down on my little one and me. All I keep thinking about is how it could have been worse. I could have gotten head trauma, lost my baby, or broke a limb. Luckily, it‘s only a couple of scars and bruises that can easily go away. I see Matthew through the window outside of the door, talking to the doctor. While the doctor is talking, Matthew has a disappointed look on his face. Matthew comes into the room, shakes my dad‘s hand, and makes his way over to me. ―Are you okay?‖ he asks while brushing my hair with his hand. ―Yes, I‘m fine. I‘m just happy it is what it is because I could have been in way worse condition. Why did you look so disappointed when the doctor was talking to you?‖ ―When I got that phone call, my life just flashed before my eyes. I could have lost the two most important people in my life. I don‘t know what I would have done. When I was talking to the doctor I was scared and anxious to see you, that‘s all.‖ ―Awe, babe, everything is okay. Just little bumps and bruises and I should be back to normal in no time. I‘m just so thankful.‖ ―I‘m thankful too.‖ The doctor walks in with the evaluation chart checking me and making sure everything is fine. I can go back home the same day, thank God. I‘m kind of happy because I don‘t have to go to work when I get back. Now I have a couple of days off of just relaxation with me, myself, and I. Oh, shoot, I forgot me and Matthew‘s six-year anniversary is tomorrow. I have no idea what I am going to get for him. Every year that passes by I try to make our anniversary at least the best day of both of our lives. Nothing too romantic, he doesn‘t like the candles or the slow jams. I will think of something, though. The doctors run a few more test, and then I will be ready to leave and go home. Ms. Angie helps me get dressed, while my dad gets my things and put them in the car. Renee calls the hospital to see how I am doing; she thought she missed the birth of her soon to be nephew/niece. I did not get a chance to talk to her because I am resting, but I will call her when I get back to the house, if I remember. Ms. Angie‘s daughter, Judah, brings me a cup of water and a pack of M&M‘s to munch on. She must have been reading my mind; I am so hungry and this hospital food is not working good enough. I‘m ready to leave here and not return back until my baby is on its way. I wake up the next morning with Matthew staring me in my face. This is a nice surprise, I say to myself. ―Hey, babe. What are you doing here so early?‖ ―You must not know what today is.‖ Oh my gosh, it‘s our anniversary. Why did he have to come here so early? Now I don‘t have time to go out and get a gift or a card. This is sweet and all but he just messed up my whole plans for the day. ―Of course I know what today is,‖ I say with a sly look on my face. ―So there is no need to ask me why I‘m here so early. I wanted to be here when you first open your eyes. I want to be the first person you look at every morning when you open your eyes for the rest of our lives.‖ He pulls a little black box out of his pocket. I start to get nervous; my hands and underarms start to sweat. Oh God, I say in my head. ―Reina, I know we had our ups and downs, but we worked through them all for six long years. I don‘t want to spend the rest of my life with anyone else but you. Seeing you smile and be happy is what I live for and I want to see that for the rest of my days I‘m here on earth. I truly found love spiritually, emotionally, physically, and I love loving you. Would you do me this favor and be the Mrs. Goshine in my life?‖ He pulls out the ring. It is so pretty. The diamonds are so sparkly. I am so in awe and shock I can‘t even get words to leave my mouth. I take a deep breath in. ―Yes, Matthew, I would love to.‖ He tells me to pack some clothes so we can hit the road to go on an early honeymoon. I wonder where we would possibly go in such a short amount of time. Right now, anywhere is better than Huntsville, Virginia. I run into my room and start to throw clothes around, looking for outfits to pack. I can‘t really try too hard to look cute because of this oversized belly I have expanding from my body. These maternity clothes have to go as soon as possible. I pack an overnight bag with my little personals inside; then I grab a suitcase from the closet and jam my clothes inside. My dad is not home to hear the good news, so I will leave him and Ms. Angie a note on the dining room table. I hope nobody cleans off the table and throws it in the trash, with their inconsiderate minds. Matthew takes my bags and throws them in the trunk. I jump into the front seat and adjust the seat. I need to sit back and relax my back during this long ride. Matthew pops in one of his c.ds with Gucci Mane on it. I personally can‘t stand it, but it‘s our anniversary, so I don‘t mind. I turn toward the window and fall asleep instantly. I wake up and the sun is just starting to go down. Matthew is still blasting his rap music; I don‘t know if he noticed if I went to sleep or not. He is in a happy mood. I love every minute of it. I sit back and watch him try to rap the words of the song. He looks so cute, but I just can‘t figure out how someone can listen to a song over and over again and still not know all the words. Yup, that‘s Matthew for you, mumbling every word but one or two. We are riding down the dark lonely road. There are no streetlights. The only light comes from the headlights of the car. All I can hear is the wind blowing through the trees, making a whistling sound, and the car engine rumbling. This car is not in the best condition, but it‘s not a piece of junk neither, a 1994 Buick Roadmaster. Matthew loves this car to death. One thing I can say about the car is he does always keep it clean and nice looking. I crack the window a little so I can get some air. The wind comes through the little opening, brushing up against my cheek and through my hair. I turn to Matthew to ask him when we are going to stop, but he just looks zoned out. ―Are we going to stop soon?‖ I ask. I really have to use the bathroom and I cannot hold it much longer. ―Don‘t worry. The exit is about three and a half miles away.‖ I really have to use the bathroom and it feels like we have been driving for days. The baby‘s butt bone is pushing down on my bladder, making me have to use the bathroom every half an hour. I turn to Matthew again, and I know he doesn‘t want to make a stop yet. He feels my eyes on him. He grips the steering wheel, like a kid hanging from a jungle gym, and gets into the right lane for the next exit. A little smile appears on my face. I am ready to release this bladder. We pull up to a Quick-E-Mart. I hop out of the car, limping, trying to run to the bathroom. Matthew gets out of the car after me, pops open the hood of the car, and a puff of smoke evaporates in the air. He examines the engine, trying to figure out what is making the rumbling noise. Matthew pulls out a dark stone that is jammed between the brake fluid container and the battery. While in the bathroom, I‘m rushing to get my maternity pants down so I won‘t pee on myself. I didn‘t know that holding your bladder can make sharp pains in your stomach. Well, I guess if you‘re pregnant and you do that, it will. I start to release, and then I look in the toilet and my pee is red. It looks like blood. I know this can‘t be good. The sharp pains in my stomach start to occur rapidly. ―Oh, Jesus. I think it‘s coming,‖ I scream. The man at the cash register can hear my screams. He runs to the bathroom door and knocks. ―Are you okay in there?‖ he asks. ―No, go get my husband,‖ I scream I hear his footsteps as he run to try and find a black man that may look like he can be my husband. Seconds later, Matthew bursts into the bathroom. ―Are you okay?‖ he asks. ―No, I‘m not okay, Matthew. I‘m about to give birth in the bathroom, on the floor of a Quick-E-Mart!‖ I yell to him. Matthew does not want to yell back at me. He turns to the cashier, who is in the bathroom watching me squirm on the floor like a worm, and yells, ―Call an ambulance!‖ ―Oh, God,‖ I yell. Matthew is by my side, holding my hand, trying to comfort me. ―You‘re doing well. Everything is going to be fine,‖ he says to me. ―You must‘ve not seen my stomach. It is the size of a beach ball, for God‘s sakes!‖ I yell with an angry look on my face. Tears start to fall from my eyes. This is the last place I want to give birth to a baby. I don‘t hear any ambulance sirens, so I might have to just give birth here. Paramedics burst into the bathroom with a stretcher bed, and they lift me up onto the bed. They race , rushing me to the back of the ambulance truck, which is parked slanted along the lines in the parking lot of the Quick-E-Mart. In the back of the truck I cannot seem to keep still and keep my eyes open. I still see Matthew by my side, though. He never left. When I open my eyes Matthew is standing over me. I really cannot remember what happened from the time I was in the back of the ambulance truck until now. It is probably because of all the drugs they gave me. I feel my stomach and it‘s not hard anymore. I turn to Matthew and ask him, ―Where is our baby?‖ He looks me in my eyes. ―She should be here shortly. They are just cleaning her off and running tests to make sure she is healthy.‖ A girl, I wonder what I am going to name her, I think to myself. Jade Marie Goshine sounds about right. ―Here is your baby, Mrs. Goshine. She is fine and healthy,‖ the nurse says to me, handing me my baby. I hold her in my arms. She is so little, so beautiful, so precious, and ours. ―Daddy‘s little girl,‖ reads her onesie. Matthew sits halfway on the bed, looking into Jade‘s eyes. ―She is beautiful, just like her mother,‖ he says, kissing me on the forehead. Victor Stitz Creative Writing Short Story The sun glares down onto the fresh cut grass and the smell of foot long hot dogs and popcorn is everyone around. The stands are filled with thousands of drunken adults and teenagers. They did not all come out just to see their beloved Cardinals play. They came to see the rise of a superstar. Mathew Coyle was the number one overall pick in the 2009 MLB draft. He was about to start his sophomore season in the big leagues and was the starting shortstop for the St. Louis Cardinals. As a Rookie he broke the single season homerun record for a rookie by 13 homeruns and led the National league in Runs batted in, earning him the National League Rookie of the Year award. This amazing talent had already made a name for him self after just one season of playing with the best players in the world. In sports nothing is promised. The same rule goes along with life. ―That was a wild night,‖ Charlie said to a slow-to-get-up superstar. ―How many shots did you take? I thought we were going to have to take you to the hospital.‖ Matt laughed. ―I don‘t remember anything. How did we even get home last night?‖ ―Some chick gave us a ride that we met at the club,‖ said Charlie. ―You let some random girl drive my Escalade?‖ ―Who me? No, Matty, this was all you.‖ Matt covered his face with his pillow and slowly asked the time. ―It was 2 p.m.,‖ Charlie said. ―You should probably get ready for that interview today.‖ ―Please tell me that‘s not today,‖ said Matt. Charlie was Mathew‘s best friend since they were in kindergarten. They were always looking out for one another and had each other‘s back no matter what. Charlie was Mathew‘s personal assistant and closely followed all of his assets to make sure everything was in order. Matt was hung-over from a long night of partying in Bristol, Connecticut. He had an interview with Stewart Scott on ESPN and was already running late. Matt with his good media skills did great with his interview and short after flew home for an evening practice. ―You have to get your shit together Matt, I‘m not going to tell you not to party. Just take it slower you got me?‘ Matt just nodded and put his headphones back in completely ignoring the friendly advice. Charlie began to get angry with Matt. Charlie punched Mathew in the arm waking him out of a deep sleep. Matt rubbed his eyes and yawned waking up with a slight confusion as to why Charlie had woken him up so fiercely. Charlie looked Matt right in the eyes ―Matt look I‘m going to be completely honest with you I think you are seriously screwing yourself with this lifestyle, before you made it big all you cared about was playing ball and getting better. I was always the one partying, now that you have all this success you have just lost control of yourself. You haven‘t been as sharp on the diamond and its only going to get worse‖. Matt looked annoyed by what Charlie was telling him. ―Charlie I know what you are doing and I appreciate it but I think I am doing fine, I have the third most homeruns in Major League Baseball. Shit Charlie! I am having a solid season were only two games out of first behind the Cubs. Charlie looked aggravated by what his long time friend had just told him. Driving back to their home in center city St. Louis there was a bit of a tension between the two men. Matt grabbed a quick shower and was off to practice and Charlie was stuck thinking about his friend. He is such a gifted athlete, he has the potential to be the best player ever to walk this earth and he‘s blowing it Charlie thought to him self. Charlie‘s Girlfriend Kelly came over later that night. She instantly knew that there was something wrong with Charlie. She asked Charlie what was bothering him. Charlie laid out every detail of his concern for his best friend. She agreed with what Charlie was saying and the two began thinking of ways to get through to him. Charlie‘s Blackberry started vibrating on the coffee table. Kelly where you at superstar? She said. ―Can you please put Charlie on the phone‖ said Matt with a serious tone. Charlie answered asking what was wrong. ―I got a Fucking DUI Charlie‖ said Matt. Charlie slowly put his hand on his head in disbelief. ―What the hell were you thinking Matt if you were drunk why didn‘t you just call me to pick you up‖ said Charlie. I wasn‘t even drunk; if it weren‘t for that bullshit checkpoint I would have never been in this situation. ―If you didn‘t get in the car after you had been drinking you never would have been in this situation.‖ What are the papers going to say about this man, you are turning yourself into a media target and it will only get worse. ― I know, I didn‘t want to interrupt you man I knew you were having a night with your girl I wanted to let you two be. Listen Matt Charlie said in frustration ― you need to stop this shit seriously, I‘m not going to sit here and watch you destroy your career. I have known you for too long man; you are my best friend you need to change your lifestyle. The two got home and Matt went strait up to bed. Charlie went downstairs to catch Sport Center to see if the news had leaked out. ―MLB superstar Matt Coyle arrested for DUI‖ read the headline for Sport Center as we‘ll as every other major news channel. Many anchors were saying that this slip up would severely hurt his next contract. The next day matt had a meeting with Tony LaRussa the head coach of the St. Louis Cardinals. ―So I here on the news you got a DUI, is that right Matty?‖ Said Tony. Mathew just looked him in the eyes and nodded his head. ―You do realize you are a professional athlete right?‖ Again Matt just nodded. ―Look were both adults here I understand you got a nice big contract and you feel like your set but believe me, I have been in this business for years, I have seen it so many times. A young talented player gets a nice big contract and they think they are invincible. You have children who where your jersey everyday. You have more fans than you even know about. You have such a bright future you cannot afford to screw yourself. This is strike one Matt an I am going to have to suspend you for twelve games that‘s just team policy.‖ Yes coach I understand Matt said in reply‖ Hey Matt Don‘t forget, Three Strikes and your out‖ Matt nodded and proceeded back to the locker room to suit up for practice. Matt was always a competitor he never took loosing easily. His suspension was finally over and he was excited to take the field. All the fans regardless of whether they were playing at home or on the road had always respected the talent of Matt Coyle. Matt came walking out of the Wrigley field instantly hearing people chanting ―ass hole!‖ over and over again. Matt was never yelled at and booed by fans before and for some reason it was really bothering him. The game started and Matt was preparing for his first at bat since his suspension. He stepped into the on deck circle and the yelling and chants continued. Matt had never played under this much pressure and has never had crowds be so disrespectful towards him. It‘s something many Major league baseball players have to deal with. Matt hopped into the batters box and was at bat the chants intensified and the crowd was beginning to really give it to him. Three strikes in a row were blown right by Matt. This was the first moment were all the advice of his friends was starting to kick in. He thought to himself about the past year of his life and saw the changes that took over him. Matt finished the game with no hits after four at bats. Everyone struggles in the game of baseball one time or another however something about this bad game really got to the mind of Matt. Matt continued to struggle in the series against Chicago reaching base only one time on a walk. For the first time on an off night matt decided not to go out with some of his fellow teammates. He stayed in his hotel room and thought long and deep about the recent turn of events. Jon Tindall CW Short Story 4/22/10 The Pursuit His name was Charles Johnson. To say he didn‘t like his name would have been an understatement. There was nothing to like about it because it was plain and common, or that‘s how he saw it anyway. In his opinion there wasn‘t anything good about his life. And while his looks weren‘t bad enough to crack any mirrors, he wasn‘t a ladies man by any stretch of the imagination. He had dark curly hair that could probably use a cut, a nose just a little too big for his face, and small blue eyes. He was sure his life was no different from countless others but at times he felt that no one could possibly understand. Now was one of those times and it left him pitifully kicking a pinecone down the railroad tracks. One particular kick, filled with repressed anger, sent the pinecone flying off the tracks. It bounced a few times before rolling into the dark shadows of the nearby trees. The next closest rock soon took its place. This went on for what must have been miles. When his journey had started the sun was high, but as Chuck looked up he was surprised to see the sun setting on the horizon. He was dirty and although he couldn‘t see the shade of his skin, he could tell it was burnt because it felt tight. He cursed his stupidity for not applying sunscreen, as most people would have done. The next station was less than a mile down the road, but Chuck lingered in the same spot for a few minutes, watching and waiting for a train. The plan was to hurl himself in front of it as it passed by traveling fast enough to crush anything that dared to challenge its gigantic steal body. It was going to be painless, he assured himself, but he found himself unconvinced. He didn‘t have any dramatic event that happened in the recent past, but he wasn‘t happy with his life and felt tired of searching for happiness and coming up short in the end. As Chuck stood in the dark, he was motionless. This was the most nervous he had been in a long time, and yet the only reason he shook was from the train flying down the tracks. Even if the locomotive didn‘t have a bright light to announce its arrival, Chuck would have known it was quickly closing in by the thundering noises coming from it. The conductor saw him but would not be able to stop the train in time. Chuck imagined the conductor‘s eyes opening wide upon the realization that there was a man on the track waiting to take on a few ton steel giant. The horn blasted as a warning for him to move. At the last moment Chuck flew out of the way and landed with a hard thud on a hill before he started to roll. When he finally came to a stop, his clothes were worn and torn and he was bruised and bleeding. Chuck supposed that he looked much like , but it didn‘t matter because, like his dad would say all you need is the breath in your lungs to fight another day. As he lay there, bruised and battered, a smile broke its way onto his face. With the adrenaline pumping through veins he felt great, it was the closest to happy that he had been in a long time. This was the closest to death he had been but certainly not the first dangerous thing he had done recently. He had started down the path of being an adrenaline junkie and he knew it. But hadn‘t people always told him the step is admitting you have a problem? If so, he had taken the first step but had no intentions of taking the second. He stayed that way long hours into the night gazing up at the stars with a kind of smile on his face and a glazy look over his eyes. The night was getting late and no one knew or cared that Charles Johnson was missing. When chuck finally got up the urge to end his hopeless life had passed. He stretched to make sure nothing was broken or even injured. And while he felt the aches all over his body, looking at the big picture he was okay. Brushing himself off he started to walk away as though nothing had happened. The clock read one o‘clock when Chuck rapped his knuckles on the front door of his girlfriend Elizabeth‘s house. Chuck hadn‘t meant to come here but when his legs stopped moving and he looked up he found that they had carried him here. He felt bad for coming so late but found comfort in the fact that it was a Saturday and everyone was most likely awake already. It was only as the doorknob started to slowly twist that Chuck remembered his clothes were torn and tattered. He imagined that his face was or was close to the color of fire truck with embarrassment and aided by the sunburn. As the door opened, Mr. Bennet was standing there with an inquisitive look on his face, as would expected of someone greeting a visitor so late. Mr. Bennet looked Chuck up and down and then motioned for him to come in. Chuck often got the feeling that Mr. Bennet disapproved of him but it was a topic that always eluded his many conversations with Elizabeth. Mrs. Bennet was standing just inside leaning against the kitchen island. She was a kind women with a welcoming smile and had taken an instant liking to Chuck the moment her little Lizzy had brought him home. Her warm heart must have kept away the wrinkles because she looked like she was in her late thirties or early forties but Chuck knew that she was at least ten years older than that. The warm friendly smile on her face quickly dropped away and was replaced with a look of genuine concern. ―Oh my God Charles, what happened to you?‖ She asked as she moved closer to examine him for injuries. ―You look like you were playing in the mud.‖ With the lights from the kitchen illuminating Chuck, Mr. Bennet looked him up and down a few more times before shooting his wife a quick glance, giving that same disapproving head shake and then leaving. ―Don‘t mind him, it must be past his bedtime‖ She said, giving Chuck a quick smirk. Chuck made up a wild tale about being chase through the town before finally being jumped by a gang of thugs. The last thing that he wanted was to make a black mark on his record with her and he felt the truth about his failed suicide attempt was a sure fire way to do that. His story was fabricated well and there was no hint of the deception behind it but somehow Mrs. Bennet didn‘t quite buy it. Regardless she let the topic drop commenting only that he should file a report to the police. Chuck climbed up the spiral staircase that lead from the living room to the upper levels of the Bennet house. He had done it so many times it had become routine so much so that he could have done it blindfolded. He walked down the hallway in the dark to where he knew the family kept the showering supplies. He grabbed soap the biggest and fluffiest towel he could find, but than decided he didn‘t want to waste such a good towel on someone like him. He kept some spare clothes in Elizabeth‘s dresser for occasions just like this. She was asleep when he came in and he didn‘t feel the need to wake her. Something was missing in his life and the he had known the reason for quite some time. It wasn‘t that he was mad at anyone more that his life lacked happiness and reason. What is it that makes people happy? He had been trying figure that out for many years since his dad left. He remembered the day perfectly; every detail in crystal clear memories as if someone had saved them on a hard drive which could not be deleted or destroyed. In most stories it is a cold rainy night, but for Chuck it was a bright sunny August day. It wasn‘t just any day however; this particular day was little Chuckie‘s 7th birthday. He was sitting in his chair all alone wearing his plastic red cowboy hat with the boots to match, watch the flames from his birthday candles flicker and slowly melt the multicolored wax onto the cake. His parents had stormed out of the dinning room to argue an unimportant issue at a louder volume. Being that the shouting and the fighting was not an unusual occurrence, little cowboy Chuck made a wish, squeezed his shut so his chubby cheeks were shaking from concentration, and blew all seven candles out. He had wish that the fighting would stop, and it seemed that some cruel birthday god had heard his wish and granted it. The fighting suddenly stopped and moments later Chuck thought he heard a clap of thunder but would later learn it was the front door slamming shut. Mr. and Mrs. Johnston would never argue again or even see each other for that matter. ―Where‘s daddy?‖ little Chuck asked as his mother returned into the room trying to conceal the tears running down her face. ―Gone‖ she replied and then started to cut the cake and scoop half melted ice cream as if nothing had happened. The memory still left him shaken but its effects had dulled as the years went on and he replayed it over and over. As he sat up in bed he tried to put his life into perspective. Something did not fit and he had to know what it was. He had to know the cause of happiness and the reason it continued to elude him. For a while now he had been thinking about the idea that happiness depends on what you own. It seemed so right. And that would certainly explain his lack of joy in life. In the days that followed Chuck took what he wanted when he wanted it. It started with a small candy bar but soon grow to larger things like video games and eventually would turn into a need take something as large as a bike. Sometimes he kept what he stole other times he sold it for money that he would never use. Pretty soon there was nothing that he hadn‘t tried to steal, nothing except a car. It was the only logical next step in his mind. By now he had realized that stealing the stuff brought him no joy but it was the excitement involved in the process. This was not enough to stop him from going through with his plan. He was walking down the street when he saw it. The car was an apple red 1967 Shelby Mustang 500. His heart skipped a beat and he knew at once this was the car that he was going to steal. He didn‘t know how he was going to get the blasted thing started but he slowly approached anyway. On the ground by the old cars doors, the sun was being reflected off a small object that caught his attention. Chuck bent down to pick up a key. A smile cracked across his face and he thought this was surely a sign that this was his path. He got in, buckled up and let the engine roar to life. By far this was most exhilarating theft so far. At 85mph, air flew in through the window throwing his hair around and making it dance as if it had a life of it‘s own. It was reckless and stupid but smart choices had never been one of his shinning characteristics. He pushed the mustang to its limits, weaving in and out of traffic lanes. He could imagine the looks of anger and shock he was receiving from the other drivers. He was also sure that they were all yelling, honking and cursing profusely at him, as if in retaliation he turned his music louder and gave a boyish grin that you might get from a naughty child who just got his hands on a piece of forbidden candy. Chuck was surprised at how long it took but it eventually it did happen. One moment he glanced in the rear view mirror and there was nothing to be seen. The next glance revealed something completely different however. Chucks heart sank as he viewed the flashing lights from the top of the cop car. The car was still a good distance from him and it was struggling to make any ground on the speeding Ford. Chuck had seen the shows and played the games, he knew there would soon be a blockade posted somewhere down the highway. The only problem was driving such a nice car on the highway or in a city was sure to draw too much attention to himself. And decreasing speeds meant the police would get closer. Still Chuck decided that staying on the highway would be a sure fire way of getting caught. The next exit looked promising so Chuck took it. He had been in the area before but it was not familiar to him. There was a small parking garage, which looked empty, and so he pulled in and drove to the bottom. His heart slowed down for the first time in the past hour and he breathed a sigh of relief. What Chuck had not counted on was the local cops routine patrol of the very same parking garage in which he had decided to hide. True to the cliché, time seemed to fall into slow motion as the black and white car pulled around and off the entrance ramp. The unfortunate thing about old red mustangs is that they tend to be rare and draw attention. If he had been in a Honda Civic or BMW the cop may have over looked things but as it was he got out of the car and approached. A few weeks later Chuck was sentenced to 5 years in jail on the charges of grand theft auto, resisting arrest and other minor offences. ―How do you pled?‖ The judge asked certain that he would be hear the all to familiar pled of innocence. Chuck stood and looked the judge right in the eyes, ―Guilty your honor.‖ Taking his seat with a sad expression on his face. Chuck was tried as an adult being that it was only a few weeks until his birthday. Elizabeth came to visit every once in a while and always promised that he had her heart and she would wait for him. Chuck doubted it and was sure she would soon move on as most young girls do. What was shocking to him was the realization that he was okay with this fact. Along with the time in jail the judge had also recommended a councilor, advice, which Chuck had decided to take. This was a new chapter in his life and while it had been starting rocky he would make it. Chuck found comfort in knowing once he got out he would be free and he would once again start his pursuit of happiness.
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