Quarantine by Kally Proctor

Quarantine

Anna

Day 18. 

It’s been 18 days since the world as we knew it changed. 18 days since schools sent us home, social distancing became the new normal, and face masks and latex gloves became “wardrobe essentials”. 18 days of home quarantine and counting.

One day we were in school as usual, except for the rampant rumors, like the one during fifth period that ten, ten students had tested positive for the virus. Those proved to be exaggerated, but no one knew what to make of the situation. Even today, 18 days later, no one seems to know what to expect. How much longer will this last? How much worse will things get?

We learned by email from the superintendent that school was cancelled “until further notice.” Most students and workers across the country probably found out this way, or heard an announcement from their governor  that schools and non-essential businesses would be closed until further notice. Until further notice? What does that mean? Weeks? Months? What are we supposed to do? Stay at home all day, every day? It sounds like if we are careful, we may not get the virus, but I think we might go stir-crazy in the process. In our house, we have five people living under the same roof, including my grandparents. Like all families, we have our moments even in the best of times. This isn’t the best of times.

This quarantine comes as Terra and I have started to become close friends. We hit it off that very first day of the semester, about two months ago. Now, that seems like an eternity, although my sense of time is warped. It was really only 3-ish months ago that Terra and I first met. Now, we’ve become inseparable. Of course, we are physically separated, but we make sure to keep in touch and create times to chat. In fact, we may even be communicating more these days, although electronically — by phone, text, and video chat.

Sometimes, I wonder if my friendship with Terra is moving too quickly. On many levels, Terra has taken the place of Marie. While no one can ever replace Marie, my re-emergence from sadness is mostly due to my developing relationship with Terra. Should I be getting this close to Terra so fast? Just months after her death? In many respects, I was living like the walking dead. My heart was beating; I had a pulse. But otherwise, I was going through the motions, not much more alive than Marie. The only thing I could really feel was sorry for myself.

I was in a bad place. I was stuck in a vicious cycle of nothingness, drifting and woesome — until that day when I stepped in to defend Terra. After that, things changed. I started to live again. Now, I can laugh and interact “normally” in school. I sing in the shower where I am a rock star. I can argue with my mother — now there’s a sign that things are getting back to normal.

While there are still times when I think about Marie and it still hurts deep down — that may never totally heal — I am no longer looking back and dwelling on Marie. My relationship with Terra has filled the void, something I thought might never happen. I now have someone to talk about things with… someone with whom to discuss just about everything: school work, classmates, teachers, future plans, or just joke around — all that, and more.

Why is it that our relationship is so strong? Is it that Terra and I are each so amazing, or that our connection is so special? Maybe a little of both. It seems a little strange that our friendship has developed to this extent in such a short amount of time. I think some of this closeness might be because Terra’s life was so disrupted before we met. Not the same as how I was traumatized, but there’s a similarity there on some level. Surely, she was fraught with anxiety over being plunked from her comfort zone and dropped into new and unfamiliar surroundings. She must have been eager to make friends. And while I was barely feeling anything, I must have yearned deep down for affection and friendship. I just didn’t recognize it.

All it took was a spark and the friendship started to blaze. Now, in retrospect, that spark came when I first approached Terra, just as Virginia had begun to bully her. A few minutes earlier, or a few minutes later, and we might not have ever “met”. Even though Terra and I are in the same homeroom, everything might have been different with that incident.

We certainly have fun together, as well as a lot in common, even though our backgrounds and some of our beliefs are different. Such as religion: she’s religious and I’m not. She believes God has a plan and I don’t even think there is a god. We talk about this stuff from time to time. When we do, we’re respectful. I think we’re mostly curious about the other’s position, exploring who’s “right” or if there’s even a “right” answer. I suspect the coronavirus must be causing lots of people to question things differently. But most of our interests and perspectives are similar to the point where we usually see eye to eye.

One of my favorite things to do with Terra is to discuss the future. We try to make plans so that we can be together as much as possible. I used to love to do this with Marie as well. We’re about to graduate from middle school and there’s so much to talk about, from graduation to summer programs, to high school, to the 8th grade dance. In fact, just before the quarantine, Terra and I were sitting together in the library, picking next year’s classes for high school!

Wow. High school. So many options, from electives to clubs. Terra and I picked mostly the same classes, except I picked Journalism and she picked Youth Leadership. Also, I take French and she takes Spanish. But otherwise, we should be together in Honors Math, Honors Science, and Honors English. And we both will be taking Social Studies, although we could get assigned different teachers.

But here we are on Day 18, and we don’t even know if there will be High School come September, four months from now. Some people are saying schools won’t be able to open by then. How do we live in limbo with suppressed hopes and dreams? I’ve been working hard, studying and following a formal schedule, but it seems sort of pointless against a backdrop of such uncertainty. No high school? Really? is that possible? The fact that people are even questioning the coming of high school is unfathomable.

We’ve already lost so much. Parts of my youth are gone. Unrecoverable. Our eighth grade spring field trip to Washington DC has been cancelled. This was supposed to be a highlight of our middle school experience, the culmination of everything as we approach graduation. Gone. What about the 8th grade dance — our version of a middle school prom — that was supposed to be at the hotel on the last night of the DC trip? Gone. And middle school graduation? That may be gone too.

I get like this every once in a while. It’s hard not to. This is such a crazy experience, and I don’t really know how to handle it. I become self-absorbed and start feeling sorry for myself. I get bummed out that I am missing out on so much. But at least I’m alive. I am alive while many others are dying, or dead. Hundreds of people are dead from the virus in Massachusetts, thousands in the US, tens of thousands in the world. So far. And people are still dying. There doesn’t seem to be any end to the dying, So when I get like this, I try to remember that at least I am safe, healthy, and alive. Same for my family and friends. I got like this with Marie too. I would dwell on how the loss of Marie affected me, all the while it was Marie that was dying. Is this bad? Am I bad? These thoughts make me feel petty and selfish.

Still, I can’t believe that, once again, I’m having to deal with death. I don’t think I’m supposed to have to deal with the drama and trauma of death at such a young age. I’m supposed to be focusing on being a good kid, good daughter, and good student. Having fun. Laughing. Sometimes crying over little things. Now, so soon after Marie’s sudden death, I am confronted by something even more unthinkable: a pandemic that’s claiming lives all over the world. Now, again, I am having to deal with death. Not only has my best friend passed, but a pandemic has hit, and it’s killing so many people. People who have family and friends, just like Marie. It’s hard to make any sense of any of this, but I try. And I’ll keep trying.

~ ~ ~

The days have started to blur together. Every day is the same repetitive schedule. Some people probably do nothing. I have a scheduled routine for each weekday. But it’s hard to keep one day separate from the next. By our second week of quarantine, the school started to give us review work and practice sheets to “keep our minds engaged” while they figured something out, but it’s nothing like real school.

I miss going places. I especially miss seeing Terra at school, hearing her voice in person. Seeing her smile– a small, closed-lipped, corners quirked upwards grin at first, evolving into a teeth showing beam as she gets happier. I’m even starting to miss school. Anything would be better than this. Everything feels bland. At school, before Terra showed up, I used to isolate myself from the other students. Maybe, if I’d known that soon I would be forced into this seemingly endless quarantine, I would have made more of an effort to interact with my fellow students. For now though, I’m stuck at home 24/7 with the same surroundings and schoolwork that doesn’t really teach me anything.

Terra

“Terra!” My mother shouts up the stairs. “Where are you? It’s about to start!”

“I’m coming!” I call back as I type one final sentence on my laptop. I shut my computer before sprinting downstairs to my parents’ office. That’s where we keep the monitor with the biggest screen.

“Oh good,” she sighs upon seeing me. She beckons to me with a wave of her arm. “Come over here,” she says. I walk over to where they sit on the study chairs, and my mom pulls me over to sit in between them. “We don’t want to be late for the service,” she frets. 

My mother is referring to our Sunday church service, which is now streamed live on YouTube. About a week after the quarantine began in our area, our priest sent out an email informing everyone that our weekly church services would be moved online. Since then, we have been tuning in every Sunday, at the same time we would usually go to church, to listen to his sermons. Of course, we do this in our PJs instead of our Sunday best. I guess that’s a good thing. Small things have become big things. Hanging out in our PJs is sort of fun and cozy, but it’s starting to get old.

I haven’t seen anyone other than my family members in person for a couple of weeks now. Every day, my parents call in to their work meetings, and I go through my classes via video chat. I haven’t even talked to Anna in a while, and I can’t remember the last time I went outside for an extended period of time…

Abruptly realizing I’d tuned out, I refocus as the priest mentions an event. Something about making baked goods to support our local healthcare workers. At that, I perk up. I remember Anna liked making cupcakes… I think she was even telling me on the phone the other day about these special dark chocolate cupcakes she used to make. I know she hasn’t made any in a while… since her friend died, but maybe she can teach me, and we can make them together for the event! Well… as “together” as over a video chat can be. When the service ends, I pick up the phone to call Anna. 

“Hello?” Anna’s voice rings out over the telephone.

“Hey, Anna,” I start. “I just had the best idea!”

Anna

I listen as Terra describes the baking event for the healthcare workers on the front lines. When she finishes, I exclaim, “Terra, that’s a great idea! What are you going to bake?”

“Well…” She starts, “I was thinking you could teach me to make those special dark chocolate cupcakes you were talking about?” I freeze for a second, just long enough for her to add, “You don’t have to if you don’t feel like it! I totally understand if that’s too touchy. I know it was something special you and…” Terra pauses. “Marie had. I-”

“No!” I cut in quickly, and Terra stops. “I’d love to teach you! Do you want to video chat on… Tuesday? I can show you how to make them then?” And although we’re only talking over the phone, I swear I can see Terra beaming her wide, happy grin.

“Great!” She says. “I’ll see you then!” And she hangs up.

At that point, laying on my bed, I stare up at the cracked, aging paint of my ceiling. Lost in blank thought, I mindlessly inspect the peeling coat. After a bit of suspended time, I start to move,  pushing off my bed to get up, and heading downstairs to the pantry in the kitchen. Opening the cabinet doors and moving aside a bag of coffee grains, two unused bags of dark chocolate are revealed, right where I had left them since giving one to Terra the first day she came to visit me. Otherwise, the stack has been untouched since… since Marie.

I close my eyes. Take a deep breath in. A deep breath out. When I open my eyes again, I reach into the pantry and extract one of the bags. One hand braced on the cabinet door, I bring it to my nose and take a deep breath in. The bittersweet scent of dark chocolate hits my nose, filling me with the aroma of childhood memories and nostalgia from just a few months ago when I was making dark chocolate cupcakes for Marie. Not long ago on the calendar, but yet a lifetime away. A wave of solemness hits me as I return it to its place on the shelf. 

“Well, at least I know it’s still good,” I mutter to myself. Taking another deep breath, I close the pantry doors. It’ll be good to finally use those bags. They certainly don’t do anyone any good just sitting there. At least this way I’ll be using them to support local healthcare workers. Maybe even the same ones who took care of Marie. The possibility hits me suddenly and I feel as though I’ve just tripped over my own thoughts. Then, I nod my head resolutely. Yes, this is the right thing to do. And with that, I walk away from the bags of dark chocolate sitting behind the closed pantry doors. I walk away feeling lighter than before. Maybe I’ll even have one of those cupcakes.

The Other Girl by Kally Proctor

The Other Girl

Anna

It’s been two months since Marie’s death. Two whole months without my best friend. Two whole months to mourn and cry and move on.

But I can’t find it in me to stop moping around. I can barely make it to school, let alone through school. I have no friends, and I don’t try to make friends. People sometimes approach me (adults mostly), make an effort to cheer me up… to no effect. In fact, I usually don’t even “hear” them.

I feel lost. Marie and I were sort of outsiders at school. Other kids mostly stayed away from us; if we didn’t bother them, they wouldn’t bother us… and we were fine with that because we had each other. Of course, that left me lonelier than ever when Marie died. I had no other friends to support me… just the solitude of my own thoughts.

My mom allowed me the day of the funeral and the day after off from school, but no longer. She told me it would be “good for me to get back into the swing of things,” but it’s not working. I go through the motions of everyday life — wake up, eat breakfast, go to school — but it’s an empty feeling. Sometimes, when I’m wandering the halls, I find myself reflexively turning around to tell Marie something, only to realize that she’s not there, that she’ll never be there. And then I sheepishly lumber on, more isolated, more sad.

Being alone in my thoughts all the time is the worst experience, because I don’t have any good thoughts. My biggest problem after dealing with my loneliness is trying to make sense of what happened. I can’t. Not now. Maybe not ever. I don’t understand how this could have happened; it just seems so random. If something like this can happen to Marie at such an early age, so suddenly, what’s the point? It can happen to any of us. It can happen to me. I could have been Marie. Why am I trying so hard to be a good friend, daughter, student, if things can change so suddenly? Marie had an illness, but she could have been hit by a drunk driver, or even lightning.

I don’t have any answers, which makes it harder. I just have my routine. I don’t have to think about that. I get up, go to school, come home, do my homework, have dinner with my mom, do more homework, shower, go to sleep (or at least try, often unsuccessfully for long stretches of time). The worst part of the routine is dinner with my mom. She tries hard to engage me, cheer me up, suggest activities and things I can do. I know she means well. I mumble my thoughts here or there, but mostly I sit silently, and the silence just makes me feel worse. Still, there is comfort in my routine, especially as a distraction from my thoughts.

So I get up every day and go through my routine. No one bothers me. It’s lonely, but I’m not sure how to do anything else right now. The other kids whisper about me at school, about “that sad girl whose friend died.” Not necessarily in an intentionally mean way, more filled with pity. They feel badly for me, but they haven’t really tried to reach out. And I haven’t tried to encourage them, haven’t extended myself to make friends. By this age, we’ve all settled into our cliques: the popular kids, nerdy kids, athletic kids, geeky kids, eclectic kids. We seem to have found our comfort zones. These kinds of things don’t change very easily in the best of times, and this isn’t the best of times.

Other kids are not the only thing I’ve been ignoring since Marie’s death. Unopened bars of dark chocolate sit in our cupboard. The expensive, fancy kind that Marie used to like so much. The last time I’d touched one was the day I found out. I was in the process of making Marie’s favorite dark chocolate cupcakes, but I never got to finish them. It hurts to think that Marie never got to eat them. Now, I can’t bring myself to touch them, although I can’t bring myself to throw them out either. So they just sit there, pushed to the back of the shelf, behind the heavy cupboard doors, ignored.

This morning, I ate my breakfast in silence. My mom looked like she wanted to tell me something, but I left before she got the chance. Whatever suggestion or encouragement she had for me, I didn’t want to hear it. When I walk into school, trudging my way to my locker, I hear a banging noise. I look up to see a small, skinny girl I don’t recognize, watching with distress as Virginia and her gang dump out her books from her backpack. I flinch. Virginia is one of the most popular, brattiest girls in school. She used to tease and bully Marie and I. I duck my head and begin to walk past, ignoring the ruckus. I don’t want to draw Virginia’s attention to me. But as I look up again at the unfamiliar girl, something makes me stop in my tracks. I think back to the time when Virginia had taken Marie’s bag. I’d stood up for Marie then, stepping up in front of Virginia. Before I realized what I was doing, I approached Virginia, empty backpack in hand.

“Leave her alone.” I said, standing between the dazed and intimidated girl and the bullies.

“Or what?” Virginia snarled in my face. “Are you gonna tell on me?” A few of the girls standing behind her chuckled, and I drew myself up a little taller. Virginia had always seemed taller than everyone else, but I realized that if I stood up tall, we are actually the same height. I looked her in the eyes.

“Give her bag back.” I said. I felt someone move behind me and the new girl shifted so that she was standing next to me. She still seemed afraid, but was glaring at Virginia with strikingly bright green eyes. Virginia looked back and forth between the two of us, uncomfortably. She’d always liked easy prey, probably the reason she had chosen to pick on this timid-looking, seemingly lost, smallish girl. But after I stood up for Marie, Virginia backed down and found someone else to pick on. This time, she threw the girl’s backpack on the floor and just smirked, before turning and stalking off, followed by the other girls.

Terra

Today is my first day at my new school. I wish it was the actual first day of school, but it’s January 4th, the first day of the second semester. We just moved here over the holidays because my father got transferred from Milton, Georgia, a town of approximately 40,000 people known for its top ranked school system, located 30 miles or so north of Atlanta. I didn’t want to move but it’s not like I had any choice. We spent most of Christmas vacation packing, driving, and unpacking. Christmas day was nice, but I mostly received cold weather clothes. I wanted wireless earbuds, but I didn’t get anything cool like that.

The thing I fear most is jumping into school in the middle of the year. I worry about both the classes and the kids. Where will I fit in? Is my math up to the level of their math? Will I be able to break in and make new friends? I’ve never felt this combination of fear and anxiety, along with anticipation and excitement. At my old school, when new kids arrived, everyone would be extra friendly and often they were making friends in no time. What would it be like here?

I have a few minutes before I need to go out and catch the bus. There’s snow on the ground. It looks cold, the opposite of what you would call inviting. It’s downright intimidating. We don’t have snow in Atlanta, except on unusual occasions, and never this much snow. It’s rarely, if ever this cold. Before I put on my new warm puffy jacket, pom-pom hat, and gloves, I pause to say a prayer. It’s a familiar prayer, but I add an extra line: “God, I know you have a plan for everything, please help make this one of your better ones. In Jesus’ name, Amen.” I cross myself and then go hug my parents before picking up my backpack and setting out on this new day, the first day of the rest of my life.

As I approach the bus stop, a few kids are congregating. At first, it looks like they are smoking, but I learn that’s fog from their warm breath converging with the cold air. My breath is doing the same thing as I play around with short and long bursts of air. As I get closer, I notice that no one is talking. I figure this is because it is cold. I ask a younger girl if this is the bus stop for my school and she nods and looks away, as if I was asking a stupid question. It was just my way of saying hi, but at least I know I am in the right place, waiting for the right bus. Then the bus comes and the ride is pretty uneventful. Some kids are conversing, and there is one really loud boy in the back, bragging about something, most likely exaggerating what he did on Christmas vacation. After about 10 minutes, the bus arrives at school along with a lot of other buses and kids stream in through four doors, bunching up to make it through.

I had visited the school the previous day and so I sort of knew where my classes are and where my locker is located. The first thing I do is head towards my locker, put my backpack on the ground, and dial the combination. I had memorized it: 32-6-27. Then, I notice that a girl starts to approach me, sauntering somewhat exaggeratedly with three other girls in tow. She is dressed fancier than I am, wearing white denim jeans and a sleek, leopard print jacket with fur around the cuffs and collar. My first thought is: how is she not freezing to death? The girl walks right up to me with her friends close behind and my heart swells. Maybe these well-dressed kids are part of the welcoming committee! I look at them eagerly.

“Well, who do we have here?” the lead girl barks at me.

“Hi, my name is Terra,” I respond, “nice to meet you!” I stick out my hand and she looks down at it for a second, like it’s a foreign object.

Then she blurts out: “Oh would you look at that. She knows her own name!” The girls snicker at me and I lower my hand in confusion, smile slipping off. The lead girl whirls back around on her heels, smirking at me. “Why don’t we help the new girl with her bags? A little ‘welcome present’ from us to her.” So I was right, they are part of the welcome committee. But as I smile up at them, the girl snatches the bag out of my hands, unzips it, and tips it over, dumping out the contents.

“Hey!” I shout, “What are you doing?!” She doesn’t respond and gives my bag one final shake. Just then, another girl happens down the corridor, does a double-take, and somehow decides to intervene, stepping between the lead girl and me. Maybe God is watching over me today. About time! I mumble to myself. Her brown ponytail swings as she boldly confronts them, diffusing the drama and causing the other girl to huff and walk away, evidently deciding this encounter isn’t worth any more effort.

“So,” says the girl who’d scared away the bullies, “what’s your name?” We were now bent over, picking my books off of the hallway floor and stuffing them back into my backpack.

“O-oh,” I stutter, surprised to hear her talking to me “I’m Terra.” She looks up from helping me pick up my things. With muddy brown eyes, she eyeballs me, sizing me up as we all do in that first nano-second when we meet someone. I guess she didn’t really get to see who I was when she stepped in between the bullies and me.

“Hi,” she says, “I don’t recognize you. Are you new around here?”

“Yes.” I confirm, “my family and I just moved here from Atlanta over Christmas. My father got transferred.”

“Nice to meet you, I’m Anna.” she pronounces, standing up. She wipes off her jeans as she sticks out her hand. I zip up my backpack and shake her hand back, swinging my backpack back over my shoulder. She puts her hands on her hips and tilts her head at me “What homeroom are you in?” she asks.

“Uhh…126.”

“Cool, that’s my homeroom too, Mrs. Grammercy, she’s strict but fair,” she says, smiling. “I’m headed over there now. Come on, you don’t want to be tardy on your first day!” She proclaims. And just like that, we’re off together strolling down the hall and into Room 126. Maybe not a “welcoming committee,” but certainly a nice outcome after all.

Anna

I’m not sure what I’m doing. I didn’t really expect to be standing up to Virginia, but it was exhilarating. It reminded me of how Marie and I would help each other. Looking at Terra as we approach our homeroom, she seems to remind me of a younger and more slight version of Marie, herself on the smallish side. Something provoked me to want to protect her. I feel like I’ve known her before. It’s strange. I almost laugh out loud: the first new person I meet and I’m drawn to her because she reminds me of Marie. Then, I do smile. Wait until my mom hears about today.

“What’s so funny?” asks the other girl, observing the smile playing on my lips.

“Oh, nothing.” I reply, “Well actually everything right now. Everything seems funny.” I look back over to Terra and she is glancing upwards, her lips moving silently. She seems to be…praying? She notices me observing and smiles. “It worked out because it is all part of His plan. It was one of his good ones.” She smiles again as she walks into the classroom, looking more comfortable and self-assured.

His plan? Who’s plan? God’s plan? She’s actually talking about God having a plan, and a good plan at that? Evidently so. Hmm, I say to myself, how can God have a plan when something like Marie’s illness can occur? Marie shouldn’t have died this young. She should’ve lived a long and happy life. I should still have my best friend. How could this be anyone’s plan? Her illness struck so suddenly. It all seems so…random. Then the bell rings and snaps me away from my confused thoughts and back to my routine. I lead Terra and direct her to a seat next to me just as our homeroom begins to make announcements.

Terra

I learn later that day that the girls that had dumped out the contents of my bag are considered the “popular kids”, led by a girl named Virginia. That was another thing that we didn’t have at my old school. The well-liked kids there were generally that way for a reason; they were nice and/or respected for their abilities and talents. Sure, there were cliques, but this kind of bullying was never present at my old school, it just wasn’t tolerated.

But for now, at least, Virginia and her crew seem to be keeping their distance. Basically, they are ignoring me, and Anna seems really nice. It was great the way she stood up for me. But I miss my old friends and I can tell that this place is different: it just doesn’t seem as warm and friendly as my old school. I was warned that people up north were more reserved and distant, initially less friendly, but I didn’t expect this on the first day. My teachers have introduced me or asked me to tell the class my name, but otherwise, no one has bothered to ask.

Still though, it’s only been a few classes. We still have recess and lunch. I look forward to talking more to Anna and learning about her. She seems…different. She’s obviously warm and friendly, but she also seems somewhat aloof and withdrawn. In fact, she hasn’t introduced me to any of her other friends, which makes me wonder who she was hanging out with before I arrived.

Anna

Gesturing my arm towards the back corner of the cafeteria, I say to Terra, “This is where I usually eat.” Two or three other girls sit at the opposite end of the table, whispering amongst themselves. They glance over at Terra and she gives them a broad smile and a friendly wave. The girls just roll their eyes before turning back to each other. Terra looks over the table once before plunking down and opening her lunchbox from home. “I have to go buy lunch,” I say, pointing towards the increasingly long lunch line. Terra nods at me once before tearing into a ham and cheese sandwich, and I turn around and take my spot in the lunch line. As I pass through the line and today’s lunch of soggy pizza is plopped on my tray, I wonder about Terra, her background, family, friends, school, etc. I grab a cardboard carton of lukewarm milk before heading back towards our table. I spot the table and Terra is…she’s… sitting by those girls. Talking to them. I gawk slightly at her, chatting happily, seemingly as if they’d been lifelong friends. Terra and two of the other girls suddenly burst out laughing at what the third one said. How is she making friends so quickly? I wonder to myself. And on her first day here too? Terra spots me standing a few feet from the table and waves me over with a wide grin on her face. I walk over cautiously and sit down next to her. “So I see you’ve made some new friends.” I say. She nods eagerly and turns back towards them, smiling the whole time. She does have a warm, infectious smile. Gotta give her that. I think I used to have a smile like that, but I haven’t been in a smiling mood for some time, given all that’s transpired.

Terra

I did it! I’m making new friends. I feel proud of myself as I throw out my wrappers and stack little plastic containers back into my lunch box. Anna throws out what’s left of her lunch and stacks the tray neatly with the others. As we walk in silence down the hallway on the way to our next class, she abruptly turns to me.

“Terra…do you want to come over to my house tomorrow after school?” she asks.

“Sure,” I respond, “I’d love to, let me check with my mother, but sounds great,” I say as I notice a smile flickering on Anna’s face as she heads into the classroom. As enthused as I feel about meeting Anna and her invitation to get together after school tomorrow, I am thrown off a little by her demeanor. She seems smart and nice, but something is a little different. Not sure what it is. Still, we have the same homeroom and a lot of the same classes, especially the advanced classes, so I’m looking forward to getting to know her better. Very excited, actually.

The rest of the day passes without incident. Before I know it, I’m waiting outside in the freezing cold for my bus to arrive. I rub my hands up and down my arms, trying to restore some heat to my frozen limbs and wishing for the warmer weather of Atlanta. When my bus arrives, I hustle on, claiming a seat for myself; the other kids grab seats next to their friends, or try to get one for themselves. Once we start driving, kids gossip and laugh loudly. Even inside the bus, the air is very cold. I bunch up in my coat until the bus finally arrives at my stop, and I quickly get off after thanking the bus driver (seemingly surprised by my niceties), and dash inside.

As the warm air hits and wraps around me, I sigh in relief and shuck off my outer garments. I walk into the kitchen to get a snack, where I see my mother sitting at the counter, a laptop open in front of her. The swirling white marble counter makes the sun-kissed tone of her skin pop, tan from so many years of living down South. Her dirty blond hair falls neatly to her shoulders and her emerald eyes sparkle in the sunlight. The corners of her eyes wrinkle as she smiles at me, but she still looks young, pretty. Everyone tells me I look a lot like my mom, with our shared hair and eye colors, but I think I look more plain.

“How was your day?” she asks me.

“Good,” I respond, tugging open the fridge to find a snack, “I made some new friends,” ignoring the part about my early encounter with Virginia.

“Great!” she says smiling back at me, “your father’s still at work, but when he gets home he’ll want to hear about everything.” Unpeeling a banana, I suddenly remember,

“Hey mom, can I go over to this girl Anna’s house tomorrow? She invited me and seems really nice. We have a lot of classes together. I told her I would check with you and get back to her.” I ask, taking a bite of my fruit.

“Sure,” she responds, “just give me her parents phone numbers so I can arrange it with them.” She turns back to her computer, and I smile as I make my way upstairs to my room.

Anna

“Hi Mom,” I call out as I open the door. I plop my bag down on the ground as she pokes her head around the corner.

“Hey, honey,” she greets, “How’s school?” Her forehead is slightly wrinkled in worry and a concerned smile appears on her lips. I ignore these things as I extract my homework from my backpack.

“Good. I think I made a new friend today. There’s a new girl that just moved here from Atlanta. We have the same homeroom and a lot of classes together. She seems really nice,” I say as I hear her feet slapping against the hardwood floor as she walks towards me. When I look up, she’s smiling broadly.

“That’s great Anna!” she gushes, “I’m so happy for you!” I stand up and my mom wraps her arms around me, engulfing me in a big, bear hug. I hug her back, smiling, before pulling back a little to look at her.

“Can she come over after school tomorrow?” I ask. My mom still has her arms around

me, still beaming.

“Of course,” my mom exclaims, “I can’t wait to meet her!” as I disengage.

“Thanks mom,” I say, before grabbing my homework and heading down the hall to my room.

Terra

I text Anna that my mom says it’s OK to go to her house tomorrow. I also have a question about one of the math problems in our homework. She says she’s been struggling with the same problem. Together, we manage to figure it out. That’s a good sign. Good signs everywhere, I hope it’s a omen of more good things to come. I’m so excited.

Anna

I can’t wait to spend tomorrow afternoon together with Terra. I have so much to ask her about her life, so much I want to know. I’m sure she feels the same way. Then, I get a little worried. I guess that means I’m going to have to tell her about Marie. How will that go over? Do I even want to go there? Realizing that she’s going to find out sooner or later, I decide it’s better that she hears it from me. So I start to anticipate the conversation. How will I start? I think I’m going to have to just sit her down and tell her there’s something I have to discuss. Then, I’ll probably just blurt it out. I hope I don’t cry, but I suspect I will. I wonder what she will think. I’m worried that she’ll realize that I’m a borderline basketcase, that I haven’t really dealt with Marie’s death. But on the other hand, it might be good to talk about all this, to get it out.

Then, I start to wonder about Terra: “What’s with this religious thing?” She thinks God has a plan and is an active force in life. I think things are random, I can’t imagine how there’s such a thing as a plan. Who would plan for the horrors, not just Marie’s death, but school shootings, and worse, wars and plagues. I don’t see a plan. I don’t think we live our lives as if there’s a plan. I think we just have to do the best we can do to make our lives good, to be good, do well, and try to have fun in the process. If bad things happen, we have to overcome them, I say to myself, realizing that I’ve been doing the opposite.

Maybe it’s time to move on. I can’t hold on to the bad memories forever. Marie…Marie would want me to be happy, so maybe it’s time I start trying.

Terra

Anna and I were able to take the school bus home to her house today. She lives in a moderate-sized house on a nice street, her house is panelled with white wood, turning brown at the bottom edges as mold and mildew starts to climb up the exterior, feeding on the beginning to rot wood. This is an old house, a house with history that’s been lived in for a while. Despite the age though, the house looks inviting, the shades are all thrown open, as if welcoming the sunlight inside, and bright flower pots brimming with wide-petaled pink flowers have been placed inside on the windowsills, as if to serve as reminders that Spring is not too far off. Not to mention that it was cold again today, and Anna and I were shivering by the time we got off of the bus. So it sure felt good to get inside. They have a gas fireplace which we turned on and stood by for a while to warm up, when all of a sudden, a woman’s voice called out from down a hallway.

“Anna? Is that you?” The voice shouted. There was a rustling sound as a middle aged woman comes out of a doorway down the hallway and walks to the living area. I see the resemblance between the woman — who I assume is Anna’s mom — and Anna, in their chocolate brown hair and muddy brown eyes, as well as the proud way they walk and stand with their chins up and their backs straight. “Oh!” the woman exclaims, “You must be Terra.” She holds out a hand, “I’m Anna’s mom, nice to meet you.” I shake her hand back, responding,

“Nice to meet you too.”

“It’s always good to see that Anna’s making some new friends.” Anna’s mom steps back. “Well, I have some work to do. I trust you girl’s will be fine on your own?” She looks over at Anna who nods.

“I can show Terra around.” Anna responds.

“I’ll leave you to it then.” And with that, Anna’s mom disappears back down the hallway, ducking back into the room.

Anna

When my mom ducks back into her office, I turn to Terra, “Are you hungry?” I ask.

“You bet,” she responds. “I’m starving after those laps we had to run in gym class today.” I lead Terra over to the kitchen, pointing her over to the cupboard to look for some snacks while I open the fridge to explore myself. 

“Whoa!” Terra exclaims from behind me, “Where did you get these?” I turn around to see Terra clutching a bar of gourmet dark chocolate and I freeze. I’d stacked up six of those bars towards the back of the second shelf. I don’t know what to do or say. Those bars have been untouched since Marie’s death. “This is really high quality stuff!” says Terra, “I love dark chocolate, it’s one of my favorite things.” She looks up at me, suddenly nervous, remembering that this is not her chocolate. “Can I have some?” she asks tentatively. For a second, I’m struck by the instinct to tell her to put it back, that she can’t have some because those are Marie’s special dark chocolate bars. They were her favorite, I thought about saying, I’m saving those for Marie. But then I remember. And I nod with a small smile. Someone should get to enjoy those bars.

The End

Author’s Note: While this story stands on its own, it is written as a continuation of the Gold Key award winning short story “Dark Chocolate” (essentially, Chapter Two). The original story will be renamed as “Marie” (Chapter One) and the novel itself will be titled “Dark Chocolate”.

Asian American Life by Isabelle Rideout

A Cry for Acknowledgement of All Us Asian Americans (For My Mother)

  1. Introduction

My mother has taught me many things

about race and racism

She has many opinions

many stories

many facts

that she shares with me

I know not how to turn them to prose

So I write these lines instead

 

  1. Asian-American

My mother is ABC:

American Born Chinese

Her parent immigrated here 

a very long time ago

She was raised in this country,

Born in this country

She speaks English

Her Mandarian twice as good as mine

But not nearly as good as her parents’

 

She is American

She is Chinese

She is Chinese-American

 

The hyphen connects her identities

My identities

It connects the country her parents come from

My grandparents

and the country she comes from

The country I come from

It represents her

and me

 

But the hyphen also

makes it seem like

one must qualify 

what kind of American they are

“I’m American and also Asian”

With a space, it becomes 

“I am Asian and a American”

fully both

All at once

 

I will use 

a hyphen for us

because I’ve already made it poetic

and a space for everyone else

because it’s trendy

and what I said above

 

III. Omitted Narratives, Forgotten Stories

But sometimes people don’t see that

my mother is American

 

Sometimes people don’t tell

the stories of her people

the stories of Asian Americans

Stories of America

The same America 

of the Gold Rush

of the Civil War

of the railroads

of basketball

of jazz

of NASA

 

That America chooses to leave us out

 

Some of these stories I only hear now,

In my idle searching

Our landmarks are so erased from the books

I never learn of

so many

Asian American firsts

So I will tell you now

how these stories go

 

People know many Chinese miners

came for the California Gold Rush

But do they know the Chinese miners’ distinctive clothes

made them the targets 

of white miners’ violent frustration

at all foreigners?

 

We have all learned about the Civil War

Asian Americans 

so often forgotten,

ignored in their small numbers,

were there too

Along with Pacific Islanders,

They fought 

Mostly for the Union

Sometimes for the Confederacy

Often without citizenship

Always for a country

that told them they were

Not American

 

The railroads represent

the peak of steam power

A shining accomplishment 

and a demonstration of America’s superiority,

they have fallen into

Disrepair

Rusting

Lying unused

When they were the future, 

Chinese workers built them

Many were killed or injured 

But they were not allowed 

to be in the picture

that was taken when

the two lines finally met

Connecting a country

that would soon stop all people like them,

Chinese laborers,

from entering it

 

The same year

Jackie Robinson

became the first African American

to play for Major League Baseball

Wataru Misaka,

a Japanese American,

broke the color barrier

for professional basketball

Why have I heard one’s name but never the other’s?

 

Jazz was created by African Americans

its history is filled with 

their stories

their pain

their sounds

I never knew Asian Americans

had a whole Asian American Jazz movement

in the ‘70s and ‘80s

infusing jazz 

with the sounds of our classical instruments 

 

When the space shuttle Challenger broke apart

killing seven people,

including Christa McAuliffe,

Ellison Onizuka was onboard

He had been the first Asian American 

and the first person of Japanese descent

to reach space

 

These are omitted narratives,

Pages never put in

Words no one thought to write

But still only a few

of the stories tossed aside

For not being dramatic enough

For not being revolutionary enough

For not making America better enough

 

Whose heros could have been found within these tales?

Who could have found the first person 

to do the things they wanted to do

if they only had heard this?

Who would have been inspired, 

knowing there was a place for people like them

all along?

 

  1. No, I’m Telling You it’s Racist

When my mom was at school, 

Classmates would mock everything

from Asian eyes

“Chinese, Japanese”

while referencing Asain stereotypes of laborers and beggars

“Dirty knees, skinned knees”

to her parent’s language

her language

my language

“Hahaha, what does ‘ching chong’ mean anyways?”

 

They reduced 

an entire language

filled with delicate sounds

and intricate idioms

A language that so much had been 

said in

written in

invented in

To a few silly sounds

“It’s just a joke”

 

I don’t really know

how often this happened

what the kids’ intentions were

or how much it hurt my mother

(One thing many children of Asain American immigrants 

have in common

is keeping their feelings hidden)

 

But I do know

she understands

Kids don’t say stuff like this to directly tease anymore

but it still shouldn’t be said at all

even by Chinese kids themselves

(my mom told me, clearly quoting something, that it’s called “self-hating racism”)

It is

at its core

in its origin

to the point of inextricability 

racist

And I shouldn’t have to be the one to tell people this

 

  1. Hey, is Anyone Even Listening?

I have heard

Asian American kids

don’t bother to speak up

about the racism they face

Because they know no one will listen

(I have my sources)

 

I know of people

who are speaking up

But no one is listening

 

My mother listened,

last year,

to a panel on Asian American health

It focused on the children of immigrants

but could apply,

to an extent,

to all Americans of Asian descent

When she tried to share what she learned

it seemed like 

No one was listening

 

Did you know that 

Asian Americans

have the second highest rate of depression?

Native Americans,

another “invisible minority,”

are first

 

But the symptoms of depression

are different

in Asian Americans

They keep showing up

They keep “doing well”

They keep getting good grades

There are stories

where kids show up

Until the day

they can’t take it

and disappear

because of a breakdown

or hospitalization

No warning signs

 

Asian Americans see themselves so little

in the media

in their curriculum

in their teachers

in their idols

that they often end up thinking of themselves

as white

There is nothing for them

so they take what they can get

and twist, 

smear,

hide, 

distort

themselves

to fit in

 

There is no place

for Asian Americans

to talk to each other

and form their identities

So they drop the “Asian”

They drop their parents and/or grandparents stories

of sacrifice and hard work

They drop amazing cultural legacies 

they were never told of

They drop who they really are

Even though they can never drop 

the way they are seen

stereotypes and microaggressions

high expectations 

(parents, people, themself)

and become just 

“American”

 

Some of the other things my mother learned 

that apply to me 

(to an extent):

Asian Americans internalize perfection and allow performance to define self-worth

There is no emotional crash 

like thinking I’ve done something poorly 

that I thought I was great at

Asian Americans don’t ask for help

I think of it as waiting 

until there is solid proof I need it

And I’m not lying

It’s because we don’t want to be a burden

If you want me 

to admit I need something to be explained again,

you need to ask twice

Because I hate bothering anyone

Ever

 

My mother tells me to speak up

So here are my words

Are you listening?

Latin Club Notice by Nathan Oh

Hello everyone, this is pretty much just for the 6th graders but anyway… Ms. Sands has started the new 6th grade Latin club. I highly recommend going on C days during our lunch. You get to play fun games, learn Latin, etc. Last time (the first meeting) we got to (attempted) to build a Roman arch, like the ones over in Europe/Italy. It’s quite fun again, I highly encourage 6th graders to come! Vale!

Opinion: FAA Drone Restrictions by Nathan Oh

Written in English class with support of Ms. Galvani

 FAA Proposes New Drone Restrictions

Should Drones be Restricted Even More?

Who Are Some of the People Flying?

Sailplanes soar around high over head, sport planes zip around, foam board planes climb high, multirotors looking for a lost plane and having fun, that one guy who keeps crashing, is this a weird dream that you have after staying up for too long? Nope! Just a normal summer weekend at most RC flying fields. As the Charles River Radio Controllers website puts it “…we consistently promote and enjoy the sport, education, and hobby of radio controlled scale flight.” Now if someone says that those people have to spend money and add extra weight to the plane when we’ve been keeping to ourselves, does that seem fair? In this feature article I’ll be discussing the new rule that might do that to the hobby.

The Basics 

Recently the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) proposed a new rule that would restrict drones, without transponders that would be able to broadcast to the internet via mobile phone. (So essentially I can’t fly with a transponder until I’m in 8th grade since I signed the annoying “contract!”). The point is that everyone everywhere can see where you’re flying, which seems like a violation of privacy. Although it would allow “non-compliant” drones to fly at “FRIA” sites which stand for FAA-Recognized Identification Area, but based on the wording on the FAA’s website it would ban drones that don’t have remote ID from having First Person View. “FPV” is where there is a camera mounted on a plane that streams video of what the plane “sees” to the operator. 

 

Bureaucracy

Also to apply to have a flying site be a FRIA you must be a part of a CBO (Community Based Organization) such as the AMA (Academy of Model Aeronautics) or the new Flite Test CBO, this wouldn’t allow for people to fly non-compliant drones in their backyards (front yards too!), In rural areas over their fields, or over their own property. That also means that things such as school RC clubs or a non-chartered club would have to cease operations. Since the AMA says that to be a chartered club you must have at least 2 members who are over the age of 18, which means they have to pay membership dues. Okay, that’s the basics.

Conspiracy Theories

There have been theories about why the FAA has proposed this, stupid pilots being one theory, DJI (Chinese drone company)  might be a problem as Flite Test Forum user PsyBorg says. “ The problems are with “Those guys” who don’t follow any rules and care nothing about the hobby only what they want to do. The other part is uneducated new pilots who have been drawn in by the DJI hype “Anyone can fly a drone…”” I believe that that is mostly or completely true since some uneducated pilots may not fully understand aerospace restrictions or using their drones inappropriately, such as spying on people etc. However, most hobbyists (drone pilots) aren’t like that, we fly multirotors, and planes appropriately without infringing on 

people’s privacy. We don’t send them too far since often times people have large investments in their aircraft, so we have an incentive not to lose it, unlike the drone swarms in Colorado. Even most people who build cheap planes like me tend to avoid being irresponsible since we know that if we don’t follow the legal red-tape (or yellow tape). Then we will cause laws like this, the media also focuses on the negative instead of the good. You hear about the drones swarming over Colorado, and causing flight cancelations at Gatwick on the news, instead of Drones save lives in Rwanda or FliteTest STEM uses drones to teach kids about flight. 

Aviation Landscapes

Although it has been good having an international group backing us, aka the AMA, I think along with my flying club that the AMA should be doing more, the FAA continuously puts chains on us and the AMA is just letting that happen without very much resistance. In 2018, the FAA said that we couldn’t fly above 400FT AGL (Above Ground Level). Most planes don’t cruise around at 400 AGL only around airports, (unless the full-scale pilot wants to get their license revoked (450 knots at 300 ft in a 172, haha.)) Should that be a problem. Most drone pilots don’t fly close to airports in fact many fly in large parks, or small residential streets so safety isn’t really a problem, the AMA hasn’t really fought back and quite frankly I’m a bit disappointed. I don’t want to be like Canada where you have to have a license and you have to 16 to fly. At that point I might as well just fly a “real” airplane.

More Theories

Another possible reason why the FAA is doing this, some people think that companies like Amazon want the drone airspace all to themselves. Personally I think that aliens are taking control of the government and want as much free airspace for them to land their craft during an invasion. (Haha just kidding there’s probably no aliens running the government… Probably). But seriously Amazon has tried to use drone delivery FliteTest Forum user sprzout says. “Amazon, FedEx, etc, will be cluttering the skies with hundreds of thousands of drones for delivery of small, under 55 lb items.I think that this may be true, since drones are a new thing and almost everything new has somehow been monetized, like the internet for example, website owners get money by showing ads, and people have to pay subscriptions to things like YouTube Premium, Netflix, even the news. (Or the actual internet!) So it just makes sense that as soon as drones become commercially viable (long flight times, ease of use, etc.) that companies will they to buy in, even when hobbyists have been doing fine for years, sometimes even being customers to these companies. Although you might want to take this with a grain of salt since for the most part I haven’t heard any evidence from official sources. 

Solutions

However there are some solutions that could happen such as PsyBorg puts it. “…the simple solution would be We get 0 to 400 ft Commercial UAS get 500 to 700 feet and full scale gets 900 to space. 200 ft of separation between the layers. No need for tracking or more personal intel gathering of the general public. That way the ONLY tracking needed would be for commercial UAS and full scale who would be more closely interacting and need to be identified. Putting more funding into education as well as mandating DJI and similar companies to properly promote UAS use would go further in accomplishing the goals…” Personally I think that they put it perfectly, although the one thing I think it could add is to have no UAS zones around airports, since you don’t want another Sully incident in the Charles River

Editor, I’m Done!

In my personal opinion, not trying to offend anyone I think this is an invasion of a hobby that has been minding our own business for decades, and now we’re getting new regulations that would put a halt to the spirit of flying flying in backyards, and in fields. 

I do not believe that this is fair nor should this proposed law become a full law and stop people from enjoying the hobby. 

 

Kawi Restaurant Review by Nathan Oh

Note: This is just an opinion and review, this is a popular restaurant you are entitled to your own opinion. – The Editor

Stars: 3/10

Hi,

I recently went to Kawi for a family event, I can not say how bad the food is, I’m still shocked by how people like this food. I will start with their “Wagyu Ragu” . It is really salty, no I don’t mean it’s agitated, it tastes like salt was dumped into it. Their raw fish was great, but then again it’s pretty hard to mess up raw fish, it was served in what seems to be lemon juice giving it a very nice kick. From here it all goes downhill. Their 28 day aged beef tastes as if it went bad 28 months ago. Their shaved ice had an interesting flavor to it. It tasted as if it had lemon and coconut in it. The atmosphere was very nice, both inside and out of the private dining room. The private dining hall had an “endless tunnel built into the wall and a karaoke machine. The waiter seemed very friendly and even sang along with the music at one point, which made the dinner a bit more pleasant and even a little enjoyable. I do NOT recommend this restaurant if you even consider it, (Kawi does not represent Korean food in any way.)

Brady to the Raiders by Mr. Rich

It appears I must revise my earlier prediction given the new rumors that have surface during the run-up to Super Bowl LIV about New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s future.

I am now predicting he will land with the Las Vegas Raiders.

Since my last column, it has been reported on the local radio station 98.5 the Sports Hub that Brady’s wife Gisele Bundchen is not a fan of Los Angeles, throwing into doubt the rumors that he would end up there.

It has also been reported that the Raiders might offer him three years and $90 million to come play for coach Jon Gruden. Apparently, Gruden is a fan of Brady’s and not a fan of current Raiders quarterback Derek Carr.

The Raiders are reported to have a strong offensive line, a talented running back Josh Jacobs and a solid receiving core. Plus, an internationally known destination like Las Vegas could be a boon for Brady’s TB12 brand.

I’m certain that after publishing this a new crop of rumors will circulate regarding Brady. As a matter of fact, there were also rumors last week that he was looking at a school in Nashville with his oldest son. The  Hulu commercial he appeared in during the Super Bowl seemed to hint that he would stay in New England. There was a report by Ian Rappaport that the Patriots were willing to pay him $30 million a year to keep him.

But as of now, I believe he is destined for Sin City. Until next week, of course.

The Wonderer’s Curse by Eva Smith

Prologue 

She didn’t know how she had gotten there. One moment she was reading her old childhood books, and the next she was strapped down in chains to a post. She didn’t know what was going to happen. There were policemen screaming her name. “Lilia! Lilia! Get down now! “

There was a gunshot, and the man beside her went down. She was being held captive, but she didn’t know why.

She was in Alandeir, the place where she was born. Her parents were assassinated in this town. Her brother was assassinated in this town. Everyone was. Except her. 

Chapter 1

She had woken up this morning to her foster mom screaming. She sprung up from her bed to find her gone. It was as if she vanished out of thin air. She ran out of her small, red cottage, and jumped in her old fashioned jeep. She started driving around when she saw a deer running in the snow. It was running right at her. She swerved, trying to get away before she hit it. Instead of hitting the deer, she hit a tree. Hard. Then everything went black.

When she awoke, she had a terrible headache. It felt like daggers going into her skull. And she was starving. She was in a small cot, in the middle of an old bedroom. How did I get here? Were even am I? She sat up, and her ribs protested in agony, as she realized that she’d probably broken a few in the crash. She looked around, and she noticed the place looked familiar. Like it was from her past. Then she knew it was. It was her childhood home before everything had gone straight to hell. 

She got up from her cot and went right to her old bookshelf. Everything was in the same, organized rows as it was from 10 years ago. The books were organized from her favorite books to her least favorite. In the first row sat her favorite book. Twilight. Her mother had given this book to her when she was just 9. It was the last book that she ever got from her mother, or anyone else within 3 cities. 

Footsteps sounded from the hall, and she jumped. She ran back to her cot and crawled under the covers just as a man came in. 

Breathing heavily, she lifted her head to look at him. He was tall, maybe six foot three, looked to be a few years older than her, probably 23 or 24, and had neat, dark brown hair, and light green eyes. He was quite handsome. “You’re  awake,” he said with a cunning smile. “ now what shall I do with you?” he started walking to her cot, and her heart skipped a few beats. A few seconds later he was standing right over her. He reached down and touched her long, amber hair.      “ Such beauty for a girl,” she didn’t know how to respond. “What’s your name?” he asked while stroking her pale cheeks.

“Lilia Harrison.”

“How old are you Lilia Harrison?”

“I’m 19, sir.” 

“You don’t have to call me sir,” he said in a tauntingly sweet voice.  “You can call me Darian.” She nodded her head and looked down.

 “Get up. Now.” his voice changed dramatically as he pointed at the door. “You must complete all your tasks that I throw at you if you wish to live. There is a list waiting for you on the table. So get out of your nightwear, and make sure to wear a coat. It’s going to be a cold day,” he tossed her an old, worn out coat and left her room.

She hadn’t realized she was holding her breath until she released it. She took a few calming deep breaths before crawling out of her cot and stripping off her sweaty nightclothes. There was a pair of clothes waiting for her on her old rocking chair in the corner. It was a pair of grey sweatpants and a plain white shirt. She climbed into her new clean clothes and walked into the hallway. There was a small, beat up wooden round table with a sheet of paper lying on top. Lilia picked up the piece of paper and read. She gaped in surprise. On the list it said that she had to cut down a willow tree, break the branches off, and then chop the trunk. She didn’t even know where to begin. She went into a little room that looked to be a living room. On the small couch sat Darian reading a book. “What book is that?” She asked as Darian looked up

“ The Depths Below. “ he replied while putting it down on a glass shelf. “What do you want?” 

“Must I do this list? I’d much rather help around the house. I could clean and cook to take things off your shoulders.” Wow. His shoulders were so broad and muscled. No. I won’t feel for him. She felt heat rising to her cheeks as Darian got up and stood right in front of her.

“Is chopping wood a little too hard for you, princess? Because I would prefer to not have to use one of my daggers on you if it is.” Lilia tried to step away, but Darian grabbed her by the elbow. “You must complete all your tasks that I throw at you if you wish to live.” He repeated in Lilia’s ear, and she cringed at his closeness. “There are axes in the closet. Go get them and get chopping.“ Lilia left in resistance to get an axe. Gods they were heavy. The base was a hardwood, and the head was a gleaming curve and point. It seemed to be made of pure tungsten. She went to the front of the house and opened the door. Outside was covered in shining white snow, and was blindingly bright. Squinting, she stepped down and the snow crunched beneath her feet. Lilia sighed a heavy breath and it clouded in front of her. Damn, it’s cold, she thought. She had a full body shiver. Dragging the axe, she stocked into the woods. Lilia looked around for a willow tree but found nothing.  Darian tricked me. How could she be so ignorant? She had been out hours looking for the damned tree for absolutely nothing. She trudged back to her old house and slammed the door shut as she walked in. “Why the hell did you tell me there was a willow tree when you knew very well that there wasn’t? She barked at Darian. “ I’ve looked all over the gods-damned forest looking for that willow tree. Do you really think it was funny to make me go out in the freezing cold and walk around the woods to find nothing? “

“First of all princess, you don’t talk to me like that. Remember I’m the one who saved you from freezing to death in your car? So you should be thankful to me. Not be an ass. You better be grateful tomorrow, or you’re going to be in lots of pain for the rest of the month. Got it?”

“Fine,” she sneered back at him. “Is there anything else you need me to complete?” 

“ go clean the dishes, and wash the bathroom. Both jobs aren’t the cleanest, so don’t squeal and cry if you break a nail.” she blushed and then went into the kitchen. In the kitchen there was a small sink piled high with dishes, and an open cabinet with barely anything in it. There were the same floral curtains covering the small window peering out into a shriveled up garden. She loved that garden very much, before she ran as fast as she could to get away from the horror.

CHAPTER 2

Darian didn’t know why he brought her back to his new house. He hadn’t known that this was, in fact, her childhood home. He’d found her stuck in a wrecked car 5 miles from here in the snow. She was almost a goner until he checked her pulse and it was still there. He quickly and carefully dragged her out of the car and lied her down in the back seat. He drove as fast as he could without going too much over the speed limit. Once he got back to his house he checked her to see if she had any major injuries and if he had to take the to the hospital. She had a few cracked ribs, and a huge gash down her hair line, so he cleaned it out and got a better look. The wound was already clotted so he knew that she was going to be fine. He debated whether or not to take off her clothes and clean her off.  No.  he thought to that idea. He carried her – a dead weight in his arms – to a child’s bedroom in the back of the house. He had decided the day he got the house not to disturb that room. It seemed… special almost. Like it was an important part of the home. He placed her down on the old cot and watched her, making sure she stayed alive. The next thing he knew is it was the next morning

“Crap,” he barked as he sprung up to check if she was still breathing. To his relief, she was, and her head already looked so much better.  He took a few breaths and then went into the kitchen to make himself breakfast.

Wayland Middle School