The Beast’s Sister

Have I ever told you I have an obsession with fairy tale retellings?  Because I do.  So without further ado, here is my latest attempt at retelling an old tale…

Ah, Beauty and the Beast.  A tale told time and time again.  You’ve likely heard it too, listened to it on your mother’s knee and begged her to read it again when she closed her book of tales.  Do you still love it?  Does a smile come to your face when you remember it?

I’ll wager it does.  Fairy tales often have such an effect on us.  They teach us to believe in magic and love.  They teach us we can defeat dragons and turn beasts into princes.  They teach us to hope.

And Beauty and the Beast did that for you, didn’t it?  You likely think you know every word of that story.  You think you can recite it as well as you can tell the story of your own childhood.  But you can’t.  There’s something you never knew, something conveniently torn from the fairy tales because it was much too disturbing.

The beast had a sister.  She had a name: Avelina.  She had a face, one with blue eyes, fair skin, rosy cheeks, and long blonde tresses.  And she had a story, too.  I know, because the story is mine.

My brother, Crown Prince Adolph Wilhelm Frederick VI, was not born a beast.  Yes, the moment he came from my mother’s womb, and perhaps even before then, he created a great fuss.  He insisted everything happen his way, and the entire palace heard his wails when he felt slighted.  But he also had a sweet smile, and an angelic little laugh.  I try not to forget these things.

However, the older he grew, the more beastly he became.  By age three, he controlled my parents’ court like a puppet master, making fools out of high officials.  By age seven, he gave harsh reprimands to the servants, inflicting punishments on those who defied his wishes.  By age ten, he dreamed up torture devices for my father’s prison.

How did he grow into a beast?  Perhaps we are all born with a beast inside of us.  But his beast was nurtured.  My father nurtured it by modeling beast-like behavior for Adolph.  The court nurtured it by giving him his way in every situation.  Most of all, I think the beast inside Adolph was nurtured by his own beliefs.  His beliefs that he was born superior to the rest of the world.  For being fair, for being male, for being royal, for being heir.  And they let him believe it.

I watched it happen with a measure of fear and sadness.  I was three years his senior and, as the court members whispered, three times his better.  Yet I could never inherit the throne.  Father insisted on a male heir, and the only person the court feared more than Adolph was my father.

Years later, when my brother discovered he had grown larger than I, he beat me with thorns.  He held me down, beat me, and laughed when the thorns tore my fair flesh.  The court felt their sympathy, but turned a blind eye.  No one stood up to Adolph.

When my parents discovered it, they felt disturbed, but not sufficiently outraged.  Father had a talk with Adolph, threatening to take away the boy’s sweets if he beat me again.  Adolph cried and promised that it was an accident.  He couldn’t help it, he promised, but he would never do it again.

This satisfied my father.  The court never suggested that Adolph be punished, and neither did my mother.  So I decided to forgive my brother and love him the same.  What was I to do?  Only later did I realize why my parents did nothing.  They could not face the fact that they had brought up a monster.

For a while, Adolph held back.  But within six months, he wanted to have his fun again.  So he pulled me out in the garden and beat my back, leaving me scratched and bloody next to the fountain.  When he left, I leaned against the fountain and wept.  A tear intermingled with a drop of blood, and they fell into the fountain together, causing the water to ripple.

I watched with fascination, gasping as the water started to spin round and round, and the wind blew my golden locks around my fair face.  Then I watched as an enchantress emerged from the water.  Her blue robes billowed over the entire fountain, and her exquisitely beautiful face radiated with pure power.

Now, you know this enchantress, don’t you?  Or you thought you knew her.  You thought she came disguised as a peasant asking for lodging, and when my brother refused her, she turned into her true self and cursed him.  That’s what they wanted you to believe.

When the enchantress asked what ailed me, I explained my plight and the nature of my brother, the crown prince.  The enchantress’s face reddened with a ferocious fury, her robes turning the color of blood.  With a cry of outrage, she yelled out a curse.

Tonight the king and queen of this castle shall die

            They’ll receive what they deserve without a cry

            And the boy, the son, the heir with fair skin

            Shall turn as foul without as he is within

            The rest of the palace, because they didn’t speak

            Shall lose themselves and turn to antiques

            But if this beast can love and be loved in return

            The curse shall lift and his life he shall earn

            Without further ado, she waved her wand to cast the curse, then disappeared without a trace.  And I watched my world crumble and fall.

That night I couldn’t sleep.  I wandered the halls, waiting, wondering when something would happen.  When the clock struck midnight, an awesome clash of thunder rattled the palace, and the enchantress’s curse rang through the air again.  The thunder made me fall against a grandfather clock.  For a moment, I couldn’t see through the pain.  If only that moment lasted forever.

The second I could see straight, I found the clock had the face of the watchmaker, his wide fish-like eyes darting about.  With a terrified scream, I scampered off, my slippers skidding on the marble floor.  I ran and ran up flights of stairs until I reached my parents’ room.  Instead of meeting a pair of guards at the door, I found the doors were the guards.

Pushing them aside, I fell at the foot of my parents’ bed, sobbing for fear that they had died.  When I saw them lying side by side, still human, still resting, I allowed myself to feel a flicker of hope.  But when I touched my dear mother’s fair face, it felt as cold and lifeless as ice.  I screamed, feeling for an absent heartbeat.  Then I felt my father, my darling tyrant, and his face felt just as cold.

For hours I cried by their side, and I believe the palace cried with me.  It really did cry, since the palace had become the servants.  Or the servants had become the palace.  I’m not entirely sure which.  Perhaps I shouldn’t have cried for my parents, the people who planned to entrust their kingdom to one as monstrous as my brother, but I could not help myself.  I still loved them.

The grief had such a hold on me that I did not hear a beast roaring through the palace, and never did I hear him tear down the door and scream my name.  I did not know Adolph was there until he tore me away from the bed, roaring my name again and demanding why I was not cursed.

When I saw him, a cold terror took over me, for he was the most frightening creature I could imagine.  I do not even care to describe him now, for surely it would disturb you, and I don’t think I could sleep tonight if I did.

Rosy lips trembling, I told him of my conversation with the enchantress.  As I finished, he stood on his hind legs, letting out a roar that blew the blonde locks from my face.  In a furious, violent passion, he reached out with his claws and tore my dead parents’ bodies in half.  Helpless, small, and weak, I begged and begged for him to stop.

But he did not hear, or refused to hear.  The Beast tore and tore until nothing remained but a pile of feathers, shredded sheets, and unrecognizable body parts.  When he finished his degenerate deed, he hovered over his heinous handiwork, panting.

Growling with dissatisfaction, he threw a handful of the mess behind him so that it landed next to me.  I couldn’t help it.  I let out a small whimper of despair as I covered my face, fearing what I might see if I dared look upon the space of floor by my side.

Remembering my presence, the Beast turned on me with a fury that could burn a kingdom to ash.  “You Avelina, you worthless animal!  This is your fault!  Why do you remain fair and uncursed when I am a hideous beast?  I’ll see to it that you live your days with a face as ugly as mine.”

So he took his great claw and slashed a wicked gash across my face, slicing open my fair features.  Then he threw me over his back and locked me into a tower, where he swore I would remain forever.

For a year, I sat locked up in that tower and feared to no end.  First I feared the Beast would come back and slash me to pieces.  Though he never came, and as the seasons passed, I came to the conclusion that he had forgotten me or couldn’t stand to see a human face.  Because even with the ugly jagged scar, I was more beautiful that he could ever be.

I watched him prowling the gardens, a frenzy of anger controlling his every movement.  I watched the servants mill about as objects.  And I watched the roses in the garden, the ones the Beast had beat me with, dying one by one.  Hope seemed to die with it.

Perhaps you wonder how I lived all alone and without food.  Some of the servants took pity on me and brought me morsels and water.  Other times I went hungry.  Perhaps you wonder why I didn’t leave my tower.  You think if the servants could come in, surely I could go out.  And you are correct.  I could have left my wretched prison at any moment.  So why didn’t I?

The answer is I feared.  Yes, I feared the beast, but with time, I realized I feared something more.  Every morning when I looked in the mirror and saw my once fair face, I feared I would see the face of a beast.  I convinced myself I would see fur replace skin and claws replace hands.

Why would I fear such a thing?  Because I had seen a human turn into a savage animal.  I had seen an innocent baby grow into a horrendous boy who turned into a true monster.  If my brother turned to a beast, why couldn’t any other person?  And if any person could turn to a beast, why wouldn’t I?

Every day, I saw my flesh, eyes, and skin.  I saw a human when I looked in the mirror.  Yet my fear became so strong that sometimes I truly believed I saw a beast.  And I decided it would be better, safer for everyone if a fiend such as myself remained locked in a tower and suffered for the remainder of her life.  I decided I deserved to suffer.

So you see, it wasn’t the fear of the Beast that kept me imprisoned in my tower.  It was the fear of myself.

You are likely wondering about the girl named Belle.  And if you are wondering, then the answer is yes, a maiden did come to live in the Beast’s palace.  At first, I felt relieved that the Beast would have something to distract himself with.  If he busied himself with trying to break a curse, then he would never return to torment me.

Yet, I feared for the girl.  So much so that I wished she would leave, despite the fact that she could break the curse.  I feared the Beast would slash her face open just like mine, perhaps worse.  When I thought of that, I wanted Belle to run away and never look back.

What happened next, you ask?  Did Belle break the curse?  The answer is that I don’t know.  I didn’t see it happen.   Because I ran away.  Finally, I looked into my mirror and realized I was human.  I was human, not beast, and I needed to leave the tower.  I would not be a prisoner anymore.

So in the dead of the night, I escaped.  I climbed down the side of the tower all the way to the garden.  When I reached the rose bushes, I took one of the last living flowers and threw its petals into the fountain water.  I do not know how or why, but washing my face in this water healed my scar so that it only became a thin line.

Then I ran.  I ran out of the garden, over the gate, and through the woods until I reached a place where no one knew who Princess Avelina was.  I settled there and built a life for myself.  A life of a survivor, not a victim.

And what happened to the Beauty and the Beast?  Well, I’ll wager Belle didn’t break the curse.  I’ll wager the beast either killed her or she ran away.  Or maybe she ran and kept coming back to torment herself.  Because in real life, beasts rarely, rarely turn into princes.

As for me?  Well, my part of the story has been kept quiet until now.  It’s been wiped from history, replaced with the lies people want to believe and want to tell their children.  But one day that won’t be.  One day, I will tell my story, tell it for all to hear, so people can know they’re not alone if they live with a beast, if he tore their skin.  I’ll tell it so that people will know what happens if they let themselves become monstrous.  I’ll tell it in hopes that if my story is known, there will be less beasts in the world.


Graduation Day: The Blame Game

Today is Saturday, meaning it is time for me to continue this lovely story.  Well, perhaps it isn’t so lovely, but I’ve started it, so you get to hear the end anyway.  As I have it planned, this will be the second to last part.  For those who are interested here is part one, part two, part three, and part four.  (wow, this thing is getting long)  For those who are not interested I have a summary:  Graduating high school seniors Joe, Ruth, and Fred remember and grieve the loss of Annemarie, their classmate and friend who committed suicide a year ago.  This part of the story opens with their graduation party.  (I’m not sure how good this section will be, but here it goes)


For the first thirty minutes of the graduation party, we just sat there staring at each other.  No one said anything, but I felt like everyone was screaming.  Even Mr. and Mrs. Jones, the parents hosting the party for us, didn’t want to talk.  And I figured it would all just go on like that until someone was brave enough to stand up and say the truth.  So I decided that person should be me.

“Okay,” I began.  A few people gave me surprised looks.  “So, at this party, I know we were supposed to sit around and share memories from school and stuff.  And we have a lot of them.  Some of them are good, but well… we all know that we share a lot of really bad memories, too.

“And some of you are probably wondering why I pulled that crazy stunt with the valedictorian speech.  Others of you already know.  So I’m just going to tell you all why.”

Everyone stared at me like they’d never seen me in their lives.  In a way it was true.  They’d never seen me like this, anyway.  They’d never really seen me be honest and reveal the true me.

“So here’s the thing.  When I became an upper classman, suddenly everything became about getting into college.  I wanted to get into a good school, and one of the things that would help me do that was getting first in my class.  Well, I didn’t think that would be too much.  All I had to do was work a little harder right?  Yeah, well it wasn’t that easy.  Not as long as Annemarie was in the class.

“No matter how much I tried, she always beat me.  Even in math and science, which were my best subjects, and her worst.  When I thought about it, I realized it was because she was just smarter than me.  I started to feel really down about myself, because I realized it didn’t matter how hard I worked, she would always be better.  There would always be someone better.  And I thought that being the best would make me some one, so that really bothered me.

“Annmarie and I had been friends for years, but I started to really resent her.  Most of you probably remember how I acted, and I’m not proud of it.  I put her down every chance I got, stopped including her in anything I did, and was pretty much just an enormous jerk.  Man, I don’t deserve half the credit any of you give me.

I started to get a little choked up.  Even though most of my friends knew this, it hurt to admit it.  It hurt to destroy the image of Fred, the gallant, smart, easy-going guy that everyone liked.  I depended on that image, but now I had to destroy it.  I owed it to my class.  I owed it to Annemarie.

“But that’s not the worst thing I did.  Because even after I was so awful to Annemarie and destroyed a valuable friendship, she still beat my scores.  And I wanted to be at the top.  So I started stealing her homework assignments.  At first I just took the assignments she had already turned in, so she couldn’t study off of them.  Some of her test scores dropped, and I caught up a little.  The teachers just thought she was getting disorganized.

“But it only worked for a little while, and she still was still ahead of me.  So I took the next step.  I started stealing her homework assignments before she could turn them in.  At first the teachers had some grace with her, but they started passing out zeros eventually.  And during that time, I kept bringing up my grades.  Part of it was because… because I copied her answers.

I couldn’t look anyone in the eyes now.  Some of my buddies looked at me with shock.  Like, no way, our Fred did all this?  It made me want to run away right then.  But I had to hold my ground.  Telling the truth was the closest thing I could do to redeeming myself.

“Although Annemarie was one of the smartest people I’ve ever known, it took her a while to figure it out.  I think it’s because she still trusted me some.  I mean, even if one of your best friends turns into a total jerk, you don’t exactly expect him to try to sabotage your grades, right?  Because that’s a really low thing to do.  But I didn’t deserve her to think me above that, and soon enough, she caught on.

“It was because I started to get too reckless.  I actually stole one of her essays and turned it in as my own.  She had worked extra hard on it, since she was trying to bring her grade up.  It was so good that the teacher read it out loud to the class.  The rest of you probably remember this part.  She ran out of the room and no one knew why but me.

“Gosh, I’ll never forget when she confronted me about it after class.  Here’s my advice to you all before you graduate.  Never betray someone.  Because when they find out, it hurts.  Not just because they hate you.  It hurts to know that you deserve to be hated.  She yelled and cried and asked where Fred went, the fun, admirable guy that she had been friends with since kindergarten.

“I just stood there, not knowing how to answer that question.  I wanted to know, too.  So I just stood there and denied everything, which was the worst thing I could have done.  And stay seated boys and girls, because this is about to get worse.

The words started flying out of my mouth before I could stop them now.  I felt like I kept all this inside of me like campaign in a bottle, and now that I took the cork off, stuff was spewing everywhere.  It wasn’t pretty, but it needed to happen.

“Annemarie wouldn’t stomach me treating her like that, so she told the teacher.  And the teacher took it to Mr. Jacobson.  When Mr. Jacobson asked me about it, I still denied it.  I had dug a hole so deep that I thought the only way to get out was to keep digging until I reached the other side of the world.  If I admitted to what I did, I was afraid everyone would find out the dark truth about fabulous Freddy, and I couldn’t stand that.

“Mr. Jacobson let it go, because my family is friends with his and my parents are on the board.  And here’s what’s worse.  I let him do it.  I observed an awful injustice—one that I could have stopped—and I let it just fly by.  Anyone with any character wouldn’t have done that.  So that’s the truth about me, who I am, and why I did what I did today.  And for the record, it’s the truth about Annemarie, too.”

Before I admitted it, I caught Joe’s eyes.  He gave me a nod, encouraging me to say it.  Because he knew it, too.  I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.  Hot tears streamed down my face and I could hardly choke out a word.  There was nothing I could do to stop the crying.

“That’s why she died.  It was because of me.”


I stood up, my face such a mess of tears and snot that I had given up on tissues.  No one really noticed though, because they were all gaping at Fred, who had reduced to a mess of uncontrollable sobs.  I felt a huge weight lifted off of me.  The truth wasn’t out in the open yet, but it showed itself, piece by piece.  And most importantly, we stopped pretending.  We acknowledged that something had gone wrong.

“Fred,” I started in a small voice.  “I really appreciate everything you said, but it’s not all true.”  He looked up at me with a confused expression, and I started blabbering.  “You know it’s not really your fault.  I mean, part of it is.  If I’m honest I’ve blamed you some of the time, but that was because it was easier than blaming myself.  It was my fault, too.  I helped kill her.”

My golly it sounded so dramatic when I said it (and the expressions of my classmates told me they thought so, too) but it just seemed really true to me.  I didn’t feel like I was exaggerating.  After Fred told his story, I felt like it was time for me to tell the truth, too.  So I did.

“We all knew Annemarie was getting depressed her junior year.  Fred told us part of the reason why, but I think there were other things involved.  Things we don’t know about.  Anyway, she started to look kind of different.  I had known her for years, so I knew when there was a change.  She always looked at the floor and she hardly looked anyone in the eye.  (Which was sad, because she did have the prettiest grey eyes.)  And whenever I did see those eyes, I saw they were puffy red and had dark circles under them.  She didn’t used to be that way.

“She also started pulling back.  I knew Annemarie was shy, but this came to a whole new level.  Whenever I asked her if she wanted to do anything, she always said she had to study, even though her grades were perfect.  Then she got disorganized with school (well, that was what we thought anyway) and her grades started dropping, which just wasn’t like her.  And she still always told me she had to study.  Then one day at lunch, a friend of mine (I won’t name her, but she knows who she is) told me she thought Annemarie was addicted to drugs.

I tried not to glance at Martha, but I could see her blushing out of the corner of my eyes.  I did love Martha (I really did) but that girl had to learn to get control of her mouth.  If anything would teach her, this would.

“Anyway, that seemed to be the missing piece of the puzzle.  I didn’t stop to think whether it would fit in Annemarie’s character to do something like that.  I didn’t even stop to think where on earth she might be getting drugs.  It just explained so much that I latched on to it, and because Annemarie was my friend, I determined I would help her.

“So one day after school I confronted her and told her (my golly, I actually told her) that I knew about her drug addiction and the other girls did, too.  I told her I didn’t judge her and I was there to help with anything I could.  Well, she just exploded.  She asked me how I would know that she had a drug addiction and where I would even get the idea.

“I had to admit that I gotten the idea from the school gossip.  (I felt so ashamed then.  I questioned my friend’s character because of what other people said.)  That just made everything worse.  She didn’t know about the rumors flying around about her, and by then everyone was half convinced that she took drugs.  When she found out the whole school was talking about her behind her back, she broke down, poor thing.

“I tried to help her, but she wouldn’t listen.  I deserved that.  She told me that her eyes were red from crying, the dark circles came from insomnia and nightmares, and that her grades were because of what Fred did.  She ran away after that, and I never really spoke to her again.  And what really hurts is that I instead of being a friend, I only showed her she didn’t have friends.  I showed judgement and rejection.  She died of it.


“well, i’ll take it from here.”  i stood up, brushing off my khakis.  ruth and fred were too emotional to say anything anymore.  besides, they didn’t know this part.  well, they did, but not as well as I did.  everyone looked kinda surprised i was even talking.  i kinda shut down after Annemarie died.  never talked or did anything friendly like that.

“so one day i did something wrong at school.  heck, i don’t even remember now, i’ve done so many dumb things at school.  but that time i got a detention for it, so i hadta stay after school in that room ya know?  and you straight-laced kids that have never even touched a detention slip won’t know what i’m talking about here, but in the detention room you can hear everything that goes on in jacobson’s office.  i mean everything.  wouldn’t believe all the things i heard.

“so yeah anyway, i heard annemarie’s voice that day.  and she was one of my best friends, so i knew that voice.  it kinda freaked me out at first, since she never got in enough trouble to go to jacobson’s office, but i figured it must have been some kind of friendly conversation.  then i heard what they were talking about, and i got real upset.  i mean, i was already pissed off at fred for the way he was treating annemaire.  one second we’re all best friends, the next he hates her.  i didn’t like that.

“and kinda like ruth, i was real worried about annemarie.  i mean, she wasn’t acting like she usually did.  when i found out what fred was doing to her, i just about blew it.  i mean, it was one of the dirtiest tricks i’d heard of.  sorry man, but it’s true.  and to find out my friends were going against each other like that just about killed me.  ’cause, you know, my friends were the only people i really trusted.

“but i decided to relax, because even though i never cared much for old jacobson, i figured he’d take care of the thing.  so i watched for a while.  and that idiot principal didn’t do a freaking thing about the situation.  he just let it continue.  i was getting more angry by the minute.  so finally i decided to take care of it.

“one day after school, i cornered old fred.  i told him i knew everything about him and annemarie and said that if he didn’t fix things real fast, i would fix them for him.  well, freddie here got kinda nervous, but he played it cool.  he told me to screw off and mind my own business.  i told him that annemarie was just about the best friend i had, and if anyone hurt her it was my business.

“then we started yellin’ at each other and i don’t even remember what we said, or even who threw the first punch.  you know how they talk about you getting so mad you see red?  well, i really think i did see red then.  i think the whole world just turned red as a cherry.  at some point, some teachers started pulling us apart.  i was so mad i can’t even remember who they were.

“but i do remember one thing.  and it’s the important part.”  suddenly i started to get all emotional and couldn’t talk anymore.  tears started falling everywhere, all those tears i’d been keeping in since the beginning of the school year, when i swore to myself that i wouldn’t cry about it anymore.  that was after dad told me no real man would cry over something for so long, and i should quit being a little girl and get over it.  i think that’s just about one of the worst things to say, and i kinda hate him for it, but i still stopped crying ‘cause i couldn’t stand the way he’d look at me when i did it.

“the one thing i really can remember from that whole thing is this.  when the teachers pulled me away, i was fighting and screaming and doing everything i could to get back to fred.  then i saw a couple of kids watching us from the doorway of the school.  some of you were probably there, but i don’t remember.  all I remember was that annemarie was there, those grey eyes of hers shining with tears instead of pride.

“ya see, i thought she’d be happy to have a friend defend her, but she didn’t see that.  all she saw was that two people who used to be such great buds were now practically trying to kill each other.  two of her old friends.  so instead of going to her and helping her like i should have, i just made another piece of her world fall apart.

“’course i got suspended for a week because of the fight, and i couldn’t explain anything to her.  heck, i couldn’t even ask her what she thought of the whole thing.  still don’t know.  fred didn’t get a single day’s suspension for the incident, mind you.  jacobson said it was because he only fought out of self-defense, but i can tell you it was more than that.

“and you know, by the time i got back to school…”  i couldn’t talk anymore.  i choked on these hysterical sobs, like the ones i had at the funeral.  gosh, i just couldn’t get a hold of myself.  i think it was several minutes before i could actually say it, even though i’m not sure anyone heard it.  “when i got back she was dead.”


They almost had the whole story.  They understood what they knew, but there were


            And pieces

            That they were missing.

            People are always thinking they know everything when they’re missing pieces.

            Here’s what they didn’t know:

            First was my family.  That was the original problem, the first one that threw me into depression.  There was no love in my home.  Not for one another, not for God.  Although my dad was a Baptist pastor, he had dozens of affairs.  Mom always kept her head down, accepting whatever he did.  Even the way he treated me, the unwanted child of an unwanted marriage.

            Then there was Mrs. Goneril, coach of the girls’ soccer team at Jude Christian Academy.  I knew I couldn’t play well, but I could play as well as most of the girls on the team.  With practice, I could have been as good as the star player.  Yet she didn’t let me on the team.

            When my timid freshmen self asked why I was the only one who didn’t make try-outs, she snapped at me, told me I had no talent and never would.  Then, being the naïve girl I once was, I appealed to Mr. Jacobson, sure he would do something to rectify the situation.  I think he looked me in the eye exactly one time when I went into his office.  He brushed it off like it was nothing, like my feelings were a cheap vase that he wouldn’t mind to see broken.

            I walked away from that office a shell of a person I once was.  My parents, who I was supposed to be able to turn to in times of trouble, who presented themselves as upright Christians, were liars.  Then Jude Christian Academy, the place that promised to nurture me and provide the caring environment that my family couldn’t, shattered me and stepped on the broken pieces.

            And then came everything else.

            Now, watching my friends, the thing I most wanted to tell them was that I didn’t blame them.


The Writer’s Warning

I’m participating in a writing challenge here, where you write a story based off of a picture.  I had kind of a different idea, so I decided to try it.

Evander sat on a moss-covered rock, removing his leather shoes to dip his feet in the cool waters of the gurgling creek.  Leaning his back against the red brick wall, he examined the surrounding scene.  The winding creek, the mist, and the birds could have come straight from his homeland of Edrana.  However, the brick walls possessed a queer foreign quality, especially with those peculiar lights.

Easing from his seat, Evander ventured forward, leaving his shoes behind.  He felt caught in between worlds—between nature and man-made structures, between dreaming and waking.  Something about the place made him feel more at peace than ever before.  A content smile spreading across his weathered face, Evander decided to explore this new world until he reached the edge of time.


The young hero turned to face the soft voice, his hand flying to his sword.  With a shock, he realized he wore no weapons, leaving him vulnerable to any attack.  Although he never parted from his sword, Evander faced the situation with an eerie calm, putting up his hands in surrender for the first time in his memory.

“I’m not going to fight you, Evander.”  The speaker sat perched on one of the lights, regarding Evander with a sad gaze.  She wore clothes unlike any he had seen before, especially on a female.  Instead of donning the simple frock of a peasant woman or the elegant robes of a noble, she sported dark blue trousers and a loose red shirt.

“Who are you?” he mused.  “An enemy?  A friend?”

The strange woman continued to give Evander a gaze full of inexplicable compassion and heartbreak.  “Both, I suppose.  I love you more than any other could, yet I have harmed you more than any other could.”

“Are you… my mother?”  Evander shook his head in confusion.  It couldn’t be possible.  His mother died giving birth to him.  Yet he could think of no other who fit her description, and in this strange land, anything seemed possible.

She laughed softly.  “In a sense, Evander.  But not in the way you think.”

“You speak in riddles, my lady.”

“I always have.  And there’s no need to call me ‘my lady’.”

“Then what should I call you?”

“Call me Lizzy.”

Evander frowned, once again looking over the woman’s foreign clothing.  “I have never heard such a name.  Where do you hail from, Lady Lizzy?”

She gave him a sad smile.  “You never do forget your manners, do you?  If you must know, I hail from another land, the land of electric lights.”  She tapped the light next to her for emphasis.

Evander raised a brow.  “How would you know of my manners?  Perchance you could have heard word of my deeds or my skill with the sword, but few speak with me long enough to decide whether or not I am a well-mannered person.”

“I know all kinds of things.”

“Well then, lady of the land of electric lights, do you know where we are now?”

Lizzy drew her knees to her chest, letting out a soft, rueful laugh.  “Oh, we’re not here.”

“What do you mean, my lady?”

“We’re in a dream.  This, like every other land you know, is a world of my creation.  I designed it to be a cross between your world and my own.”

“So you are not real.  You are but a character in my dream.”

If possible, Lizzy’s gaze turned sadder.  “I’m quite real.  I’m afraid it’s you who is the character.”

Evander took a step back.  He couldn’t be a character in a dream.  He had memories, emotions.  He had a life to wake up to.  “I do not understand.”

She looked to the side, fiddling with her red braid.  “You’re my character.  I created you and everything you’ve ever known.”

His jaw dropped in shock and he found himself needing to lean against one of the red brick pillars for support.  As outlandish as Lizzy’s claim seemed, he felt deep inside of him that it was true.  “My lady… what gives you such power?”

“Simple.  I’m a writer, and you’re the protagonist of my book series.  Everyone loves you.  The readers, the critics, everyone.  I’ve never written about a character I’ve loved so much.”

“That could not be.”

“Every word I tell you is true.  I can’t lie any better than you can.”

“You know I can’t lie?”

“I know everything about you.”

Evander paced in front of the creek, trying to piece the new information together.  “But my lady–”


“Lady Lizzy… if you are who you say—and I trust that you are—then what would cause you to seek me out?”

The smile faded from her eyes and her expression turned deadly serious.  Evander had seen that expression before on others.  He saw it on the messenger who told him his father had died in war.  He saw it on the healer who told him his companion was beyond saving.

“I have a message,” she whispered, tears forming in her eyes.  “I shouldn’t be here, and this will all amount to nothing, but I had to warn you—to see you—before I did it.”

A sickening dread filled him.  “What news do you bring?”

“I’m writing the last book of your story.  Millions have preordered it.”

“My lady, you speak riddles again.  Pray tell me what I need to know in words I can understand.”

Lizzy jumped from her perch on the light, landing with a soft thud.  She reached out her hand as if to touch Evander’s face.  Had there not been a river between them, he thought she would have.  “I’ve written you into a corner.  Only an unlikely miracle could save you.”

Evander’s pulse raced.  “Yes…and?”

“A miracle is on its way, but it will fail.”  Lizzy turned away, her voice dropping so low he could scarcely hear it.  “You won’t have a happy ending.”


Graduation Day– The Hidden Truth

Today is Saturday, which means it is time for me to continue this story.  Honestly I’m not entirely sure how much I like it myself, but some of you seem to be enjoying it, so I’ll continue.  For those of you who are interested here is part one, part two, and part three.  For those of you who are not interested, here is a summary of what’s happened so far:

It’s graduation day at Jude Christian Academy, an international Christian school.  Joe, Ruth, Fred, and Annemarie all should be graduating.  Something happened the year before that makes them all feel uneasy today.  It made Joe fail his classes last year, preventing him from graduating.  Ruth did better, but barely.  Fred is graduating valedictorian, but something is bothering him.  And Annemarie… is gone, but she’s watching them.  When Fred gives his speech, he emotionally falls apart, and it is revealed that Annemarie is a ghost.  (It’s much more interesting when you actually read it.) 


funny what the weather does sometimes.  when I walked home from graduation, it was pouring buckets, and you’d think it’d be sunny, ‘cause it was supposed to be happy day, you know?  and last year, with all that crap that happened, it was sunny.  every freaking day.  i really hated the sun for shining like that.  i know it’s dumb, but i did.

though during that time, the sky did have the decency to rain on one day.  i remembered that a little better than i wanted to.  i was sitting outside during the service.  just sitting there, letting myself get soaked and shivery cold.  it was actually the last time i talked to ruth.

“joe, why aren’t you listening to the service?”  she sat down next to me, pushing that frizzy blonde hair out of her eyes.  always getting concerned for others, that ruth.

“i don’t wanna.”  i didn’t look at her.  i just couldn’t.

she sat there for a while.  “why not?”

“’cause.”  i figured i had to tell someone, and it might as well be her.  “’cause I don’t care what that idiot pastor has to say.  it’s all a load of crap.”

then she gave me that look.  that oh my gosh I thought you were a better person than that how can you say such a thing? look“joe, I know you’re going through a hard time.  my golly, we all are.  but this isn’t the way to deal with it.”

“then what is the way to deal with it?”

“turn to god, joe.  find his love, his comfort.”

“oh yeah?  well, what did that comfort do for Annemarie?  did god’s love help frank become a good person?  and don’t even get me started on jacobson.  then there’s us to talk about.   we all believed in god, and look where that got us.  i’m done.  i’m just sick of the whole thing.”

she turned kinda pale and trembly.  “no joe.  no.  please, please don’t give up.”

“i’m not giving up on everything.  just on god.”

ruth looked so hurt and upset that for a moment, i kinda regretted sayin’ all that, but not really, ‘cause it just felt so good to say the truth.  she started to say something, then she just shut her lips and walked inside.  and we never talked after that.

and now that i could look back, it wasn’t just depression that made me fail all my classes my junior year.  it was that i hated jude christian academy so much.  ‘cause I could believe in god before i went there.  and you know, i make about as much sense as the weather.  i’d wanted something bad to happen to the school for so long.  now it had.  but it didn’t make me feel happy.  i just felt empty.


I could only remember three times when my family left me alone like this.  (When our dog died, last year, and today).  Not even mom tried to talk to me, which she usually did.  But I was kind of relieved, because there are sometimes you just want to be alone.  (Like when you’re staring at a picture of your kindergarten class and you think it might kill you.)

Taking a picture is like taking a piece of the world and freezing it forever, so that even after your world shatters and rebuilds itself a million times over, the world you took a picture of still exists in a small way.  But sometimes pictures just tell you how much you’ve lost.  (Like right now)

First on the left was Fred, with his crazy carrot hair and a splash of freckles.  (His looks never changed much, but I hardly recognized him anymore.)  Then came Joe, with sparkling dark blue eyes (which no one would remember without pictures because he stopped smiling) and his perfectly combed brown hair (which has been a mess ever since he lost his smile).  Then came me (and I can’t name all the things I’ve lost) and then came Annemarie (the biggest loss of all).

And I couldn’t stop thinking about Joe, and how life is so unfair.  (I know everyone says that too much, but that’s because it’s just so true).  Because last year, when the world fell apart, I stopped doing my school work, too.  I was just as bad as Joe.  And now here I am graduating and heading off to university, while Jude Christian Academy refused to give Joe a diploma.  So instead of doing what he wants this summer then going to the university of his choice, he had to do summer school and then go to community college until he could transfer.  (not that there’s anything wrong with summer school or community college, just that Joe should have had the choice)

That wasn’t because he was smarter than me, or dealt with the trauma any better than me.  Here’s the truth.  Mr. Jacobson didn’t like him.  Joe was ADHD and never a serious student like the rest of us, so Mr. Jacobson was happy for an excuse to throw him out.  I, on the other hand, was a just the kind of studious, happy, church-going kid that he wanted at his school.  So I was allowed to keep attending school and graduate.  It was so unfair.

I picked up another picture from the floor, one of our junior class, of all the people who had been my best friends throughout the years.  But even though I loved all of them, (I did, really) Joe, Annemarie, and Fred always had a special place in my heart.  Now Fred thought I hated him. (which if I’m honest, I did a little.  And Joe definitely did)  Joe and I hadn’t talked. (which was all my fault.  I really hated myself for showing him judgement when he needed love)  And Annemarie…

Blinking back the tears, I thought about how much I missed all of them (so much that it physically hurt).  Right then I made a decision.  I pulled out my phone with shaking hands, and for the first time in over a year, I texted Joe.  Coming to the graduation party tonight?

            Because even though I didn’t know if he would come or not (or if he would even read a message from me) I knew that we all needed each other more than ever now.


I didn’t go home after graduation.  I just took off and roamed the city without telling anyone where I was going.  My family didn’t call, so they must have known where I was, or at least that I wanted to be alone.  I had only done this once.  Last year.

As I walked around the park by myself, still wearing my graduation outfit, I thought over everything that happened, down to the last detail.  I remembered how Principal Jacobson stood in front of the room.  I remembered how we were all still talking and laughing then, since we didn’t know what he was going to say.  I remembered someone wondering where she was, then me feeling relieved she wasn’t there.  I remembered hating myself for that later.

But most of all I remembered what it felt like when Principal Jacobson announced the news.  All of the sudden the whole world started sobbing and screaming, but I just sat there, feeling like I had been run over by an eighteen wheeler.  I didn’t know if I should feel loss, pain, guilt, or indifference.  I felt all of them but the last one.

Then after that day at school, I just wandered around the city, not sure where I was going or where I came from.  For the first time in my life, I didn’t do any of my homework assignments, but no one noticed, because pretty much no one did homework that whole week.  What they did notice was that one day later, I started doing my homework again.  I was actually probably the first person in my class to start doing homework again.  And I started doing more homework than ever before.

Everyone thought that I did homework because I didn’t feel as upset as the others.  That wasn’t true.  I did homework because I felt as upset as the others.  I just dealt with it differently.  Even though I always played it cool and made jokes about having senioritis, I almost never stopped working.  It numbed the pain, somehow, and I thought I was accomplishing something.

Now that I was walking through the city again just like last year, I saw that I had accomplished nothing.


Here’s the awful truth about what happened last year.

            Here’s the tragedy that tore the world apart and took me away.  That revealed the dark side of everyone I know.  That perhaps showed our lovely school community for what it was.

            I died.

            The world piled on pain after pain, shoveled on shame, and tore away everyone I trusted.  Until I decided it wasn’t worth it.  Nothing could make me live through another day.  I was through.

            So I killed myself.

            I had no pills or poison, so this is what I did: One day after school, when no one was home, I went to my kitchen and took the biggest knife.  Then I locked myself in the bathroom.  And I cut.  I cut one smooth line across my left wrist.  For good measure, to speed the process, I cut the other.

            And I watched my life pour out.

            I left the world




            Now I was a ghost, watching from above.

Author’s  note: I don’t believe in ghosts haunting places.  I’m not sure if I believe in people watching us from Heaven, as happens in this story.  I just used it for the sake of the story.

Graduation Day– Ghost

So the story continues.  Part one is here and part two is here.  Or, you can read on without reading the prequels if you like.  This week’s episode is a little shorter.


I stepped up to the podium, holding on to my robe to hide my shaking hands.  Meeting the eyes of the audience, I cleared my throat.  They all stared at me with unblinking eyes, waiting for me to deliver my grand valedictorian speech so they could wipe their eyes, clap, and go home.

Taking a deep breath, I started spewing out everything I planned to say about the wonderful time I had at Jude Christian Academy and how much it prepared me for the great adventure of life.  I kept going on and on, faster and faster, not even caring if they could understand my words.  I was top of my speech class, but I just wanted to get off that stage as soon as possible.

I knew they would all wonder if I would mention something about what happened last year, but of course I wouldn’t.  If there was something I could never do, it was talk about that.  Because if I talked about it, I would have to tell the truth.  And if I told the truth, they would hate me.  They would also know how little I deserved to give this speech.  I should’ve been expelled, not honored.

I made sure I met the eyes of everyone in the crowd without maintaining eye contact for too long, just like my speech teacher told me.  Although I tried to avoid it, I made eye contact with Joe at one point.  Instead of glaring, he gave me this look that told me I was doing exactly what he expected, because lying and pretending was all that I was capable of.  Somehow that was much worse than glaring.

Getting more nervous, I looked away, trying to push the words of my speech out as fast as possible.  People started to give me strange looks, but I didn’t care.  I just wanted off that stage.  When my words became so jumbled I couldn’t tell what I was saying anymore, I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.

Man, that was a mistake.  Because as soon as I did, I got this picture of Annemarie.  Not from when she was a kindergartener with cute brown curls, but when she was sixteen years old, gaping at me with confusion and hurt, saying that I betrayed her.  Those grey eyes looked deep down in my soul, seeing all the darkest parts of me.

I gasped, my eyes opening wide again.  The audience put on fake smiles to encourage me, but some of them couldn’t hide their concern.  Or their disgust.  Then I saw my little brother Drew, looking up at me with scared wide brown eyes, wondering what was happening to the stable big brother he always knew.  And I knew he was asking something, too.  He was asking me to be the hero that he thought I was, to give him some one worth looking up to.  And I think that’s what did me in.

“I’m sorry,” I said, dropping my papers and backing away from the podium.  “I don’t deserve to give this speech.  I don’t deserve this tassel.  I cheated to get here.  The real valedictorian is Annemarie.”


It’s like a dam broke.  When Fred said that, all the tears held inside of me came bursting out, and I started crying so hard I wasn’t even sure what was happening.  I think I heard some commotion.  A mess of people started talking and crying all at once, while Fred ran off the stage.  Maybe someone put a comforting hand on my shoulder.

But all I could really do was cry and hurt and miss her and miss her and miss her.  I wanted Annemarie back.  I wanted her to give her valedictorian speech (and me the salutatorian speech).  Then I wanted for us all to talk and laugh about our memories, especially Annemarie, Fred, Joe, and me.  I wanted us to be best friends again.

That could never happen anymore.  We lost all that last year.  When I watched Fred breaking down (I really hate to admit this) I almost felt happy.  Not just because someone finally spoke the truth, but because he deserved this.  He deserved to hurt, too.


i’d been waiting for something like this to happen for so long.  dreamed it up so many times.  but when it actually happened i just kinda sat there, wondering what in the world was going on.  everyone was startin’ to get worked up about it, and jacobson tried to get fred to go back on the stage.  that idiot jacobson.  the one time fred’s right and he tries to correct him.

though thank god that fred didn’t get up there, ‘cause i couldn’t’ve stomached that.  ‘specially since jacobson wanted it.  i hated the guy more than fred.  so I just sat there, watching the salutatorian speech that no one was listening to, watching everyone freak out about what fred said.

and even after all fred did, i hadta kinda respect him for what he said back there.  ‘cause it took guts, and i was just so freaking glad someone finally told the truth.  or something close to it anyway.  so i sat there through the rest of that dumb puppet show of a graduation, feeling the closest to happy that i had felt in a long time.  “well annemarie, what do you make of this?”


I watched the truth start to unfold as graduation fell to pieces.  The administration tried to end the event as soon as possible, pushing all of the guests out before anyone could ask questions, especially questions that would ruin the school’s reputation.  When I saw Fred running off and crying his eyes out, I wanted to speak to him, to say that I forgave him for all he ruined.  But I couldn’t.  He had to deal with the consequences on his own.

            I never thought I’d live to see the day when Fred told the truth.  Or when any piece of the truth started to come out.  Then I almost smiled at my mistake.  Because I didn’t.  I never could.  I was never really there.

            I was a ghost.

Graduation Day– An Unfair Occassion

So this is part two of a series I’m working on.  The plan is to post one part each week.  You can find the first part here, although you can (probably) follow without it.


When I walked in the door, of course he had to be there.  “Hi Joe!” I called out, trying to act casual.

He turned around, giving me a glare with dark blue eyes.  “Hi.”

I started to feel my hands sweat, just like they always did when he was around.  It wasn’t just because he hated me.  It was because he knew the truth.  He knew what happened last year and how it was my fault.

“Joe!  It’s so lovely to see you,” my mom said, giving him a great big smile.  Joe didn’t bother to smile back, or even look her in the eye.

“Yeah… I didn’t expect you to come,” I said, which was true.  He stopped coming to any events last year.  After the school told him he didn’t have the credits to graduate, he hardly even attended.  So I couldn’t figure out why he showed up at the graduation of a bunch of people he didn’t like.

Joe’s expression when he looked at me made me want to bolt for the door.  “Well, we’ve known each other for an awfully long time.  Least I could do was come.”

“That’s right!” my mom said, not picking up the hint that Joe and I both wanted to end the conversation as soon as possible.  That or she pretended not to.  “You and Fred were in kindergarten together.”

Drew yawned.  “I don’t care about ancient history, mom.  Can we just go?  I want to get my tie off.”

“Young man, you will not have that attitude,” dad scolded.

I checked my watch.  “Right… umm… much as I would love to sit and talk about old times, I better be heading up.  See you around.”

I turned and started up the steps two at a time, trying to ignore Joe’s glare following me.  I’d forgotten that he was in my kindergarten class.  Our school was tiny back in those days.  There were only four people in my class—Joe, Ruth, Annemarie, and me.  We were all best friends back then.  Gosh, how did we get here?


didn’t expect you to come.  ‘course fred would say something like that.  no one’d expect the school looser to put his pants on.  forget coming to graduation.  i didn’t say anything else to him, his kid brother, or his parents as I pushed down the hall.

i swear, i really would’ve punched him if i could’ve beat him in a fight.  or if it would’ve done a thing.  ‘cause right then, I couldn’t think of one single thing worse than having to listen to that moron give some phony speech.  ‘specially if he fed us a load of crap about how much he loved school.

if there was something i couldn’t stand worse than fred, it was hearing people blabber about the holiness of our stupid international christian school.  there was a time when i actually believed that stuff.  back when i was a dumb little kid, but i knew better now.  i knew what lies were.  this place had taught me.

here’s the thing.  everyone has to learn at some point that life isn’t a pretty little fairy tale.  that there are more evil stepmothers than fairy godmothers, and when you do find a fairy godmother, she’ll lie to you and stab you in the back.  just like anyone else.  everyone has to learn that eventually.  it’s one of the stupid parts of life we all put up with.  but that doesn’t mean that everyone doesn’t hate the person—or the place—that teaches that lesson to them.  that’s why i would always hate jude christian academy.

while i plopped down in my seat and pretended to read the program, i wondered if anyone’d mention all that happened a year ago.  then I almost started laughing like a phycho.  ‘course no one would.  ‘cause it was the truth, and everyone hates the truth.  ‘specially when it hurts as much as that did.


When Mr. Jacobson stepped on the stage to address the crowd, I expected all the old emotions to come back. 

Hot, boiling anger. 

Searing pain. 

Death wishes. 

Then I felt relieved to see that not a single one could come.  Only cool, refreshing forgiveness washed over me, the peace that only God could give.  I used to blame Mr. Jacobson for my Choice, but now blame felt foolish and childish, something to leave in the old world.

            Instead of thinking about my Choice, I thought about how happy I was for my old friends.  How grand it must have been to teeter on the brink of the rest of their lives, to have everything that I had given up.  Music played and they walked on the stage.  Although I couldn’t regret, I still felt that I should have been there, experiencing this with them.

            I wished I could have told them I was here. 

I was watching. 

I still cared. 

But they would never know I was there. 


Every year at graduation, I wondered how I would feel when it was my turn to wear these funny outfits and hats.  I thought I’d feel so grown- up, so sure of my future.  Now that I would get my diploma within the hour, I still felt like a kid.  And I had no idea what I was going to do with my life.  (Well, I knew what college I was going to, but I had no clue what to study there.)

I smiled in front of the crowd, singing a song with my class.  It was hard not to wave back to my little brother, who was sitting in the middle with my family.  (All ten members, minus me)  To avoid looking at him, I searched for other familiar faces.  I found Joe watching us, which made me happy and sad at the same time.  I wanted him there, but I wanted him on the stage with us.

It was so unfair that Mr. Jacobson wouldn’t let him graduate with us.  I knew Joe failed his classes last year, but all of our grades dropped.  If my GPA hadn’t already been high, I would have failed, too.  And Joe’s suspension (which was unfair, too long, and unnecessary) had a lot to do with those grades.  In a way, I felt like a little bit of a traitor celebrating today.  It almost felt like graduation shouldn’t be happening, or that I should have been excluded like Joe.  (It would have been fair.)

As I kept smiling and singing, I caught sight of Annemarie’s mom.  It kind of killed me inside to see her.  I didn’t think she’d be able to come, after all she’d been through.  But she was there, smiling through the tears.  If she could do this, then I could too.  I forced a braver smile on my face and hit the high note.

But everything just felt so empty.  I wanted to grab the microphone and scream, “This isn’t right!  Just stop pretending!”  Sometimes people say there’s an elephant in the room.  I felt like there was a giant, stinking corpse of a dead elephant that everyone was trying to step over.

I swallowed the lump in my throat.  Nothing felt right without Annemarie there.

Graduation Day (Part 1)

Well, it appears that I missed my first scheduled post. >.<  Sorry, but I was BUSY.  Anyway, this story has been on my heart to write and…. yeah, we’ll see how it turns out.  

Disclaimer: Although the setting of this story is very similar to the one I grew up in, it is not necessarily based on that setting.  None of these characters based on real people, and none of these events are based on real events.  In other words, while this story might relate to my life in some ways, it is entirely fictional.


i straightened my tie in the mirror, trying to remember the last time I even bothered to put the thing on.  then i remembered the funeral, and it all came crashing down on me so quick that I wanted to just throw the stupid tie off and forget the whole thing.  or something dumb like that.  before anyone could walk in, i washed off my face a little so that no one could see how my eyes got all puffy red the way they do right before I cry.

funny.  i hadn’t gotten all emotional like that in a long time.  it made me want to forget about the graduation and just stay home like i wanted, but i promised them i’d be there, and though they can be kinda lousy, they’re all i really have.  if i’m honest.

so i walked out the bathroom door and went over to the kitchen to grab one of the muffins mom made.  she’d been trying to make a lot of my favorite foods ever since i lost all that weight last year.  it’d worked some, but i was still skinny as a pencil.  when i walked down the hall, i could feel dad glaring at me, even though he had his face stuffed in some old newspaper.

figured he’d be kinda mad today, considering the circumstances, but i didn’t really want to think about all the ways i’d earned the title of world’s most disappointing son.  failing my junior year and not graduating today was just one thing on the list.  when i ran into mom in the kitchen, she gave me this kinda sad smile that made my insides all twisty turny.  i was used to disappointing dad, but letting mom down really hurt.

“oh.  you’re going.”  her voice sounded surprised when she said it, which made it all worse.

“i said i would.”  well, we both knew that didn’t mean much.  i said i’d do all kinds of things.  like graduate, for starters.  “you?”

“i’m afraid i can’t joseph.” seriously, she’s the only one who called me that anymore.  she put on a fake smile and pushed a plate of muffins at me.  “i have a bible study today.”

yeah, figured it’d be something like that.  always some bible something or other goin’ on with her.  and of course my parents wouldn’t get off their butts for this.  who’d go to a graduation their kid wasn’t apart of?  well, a lot of people I guess, but not my folks.

“i can’t be late.” i grabbed a muffin and acted like i was in some big hurry, even though i had plenty of time.  i think she might’ve called out one last thing to me, but i didn’t hear.  i just wanted to get graduation over with as soon as possible.


“Essie, do you have any waterproof mascara?” I asked my older sister, who was using the same mirror as me.  The twins (Abby and Grace) were using the other one.

She smiled and handed me a grey tube, keeping the other hand on her curling iron.  (Essie was always the more put together one)  “Afraid you’re going to cry?”

“Oh I know it,” I answered, wresting the old thing open.  “My golly, I’m going to bawl and bawl to no end.  I just don’t know how I’m going to make it out alive.  Agh!  I got some on my nose.”

She laughed, pulling the curling iron out of her hair and letting a perfect blond lock fall to her shoulders.  “Here.”  She took a tissue and dabbed at my nose.  “I don’t know how you manage, Ruth.”

“Well I don’t either,” I groaned, making another feeble attempt at applying makeup.  (Without mascara, my eyelashes are invisible.)  “I make messes wherever I go, and I’m probably going to make a mess today somehow.”

“You’re not going to ruin anything.  Just relax and have fun.  It’s your day.”

“Easy for you to say.  When you graduated from high school, you got through your entire valedictorian speech without a hitch.”  I screwed the mascara cap back on, examining the clumsy makeup around my blue eyes.  It wasn’t much, but it was better than nothing.

Essie turned to smile at me, which just showed how perfect her makeup turned out.  (People told us we looked alike, but she was much prettier.)  “I stayed put together for the speech, but you should have seen me after the ceremony.  It was pretty bad.  But you don’t have to worry about ruining a speech…”  She stopped short, realizing what she said.  Without saying anything else, she started fixing her hair.  (It was already perfect)

I pretended like I needed to get something from my room, hiding my face so she wouldn’t see.  I ran down the hall to my room, almost tripping on my little brother on the way.  (That’s the problem with big families; you’re almost never alone.)  When I reached my door, I shut it behind me and sat with my back to it, relieved that no one was there.

I knew I was overreacting, but I wasn’t upset that I had finished middle of my class, even though I should have had a chance at salutatorian, maybe even valedictorian.  Burying my face in the skirt of my dress, I fought back the tears welling up in my eyes.  The whole day felt surreal and wrong, like we shouldn’t even be allowing it to happen after what happened last year.  (But there’s no pause button on life, and the world doesn’t have enough time to put itself back together when tragedy strikes.)


“Drew, if you don’t get off the sofa, you’re never going to make it to my graduation,” I told my little brother.

He yawned.  “I can’t Fred.  I’ve got senioritis.  Like you.”

I laughed.  “Dude, you’re in sixth grade.  If you have senioritis now, you’re in serious trouble.  At least I didn’t get it until I was a freshmen.”

“You got it and you’re still valen—valetori- something.”

“Valedictorian,” I corrected, pushing him off the couch.  He was still wearing his space ship pajamas, the ones I passed down to him.  I was a little embarrassed I ever wore them now.  “But I never would have made it this far if I didn’t learn to overcome the seniorities and work.”

“Okay,” he groaned, dragging himself off the couch and jumping up the stairs to his room.  Old Drew.  All he ever wanted to do was become like me.  If only I was really worth living up to.

“Valedictorian,” I muttered under my breath, turning to straighten my bowtie in the mirror and smoothing my bright orange hair before running through my lines again.  Hey, maybe I was being a little self-conscious, but today was my day.  After everything I’d earned, I didn’t want anything to go wrong.

As I practiced my role of happy-go-lucky, 4.0, Bible-reading valedictorian, I started to wonder what would happen if I showed the real me in this speech, the Fred that wasn’t so pretty.  I couldn’t help but picture it—everyone at Jude Christian Academy looking at me with disgust, my family crying with disappointment, and, worst of all, my classmates looking at me with these faces that told me they  knew all along.

“It’s not true,” I muttered.  “I worked hard.  I deserve this.”  But I couldn’t shake the feeling that the valedictorian tassel didn’t really belong to me.


            From above, I watched the community of Jude Chritian Academy filing into the room, chatting and laughing as they took their seats.  I wondered how I should feel about the place, the international Christian school that used to be my home.  But I stopped calling it home long before I found my real home.

My eyes scanned the room, searching for familiar faces.  I caught a glimpse of my mother, smiling as she talked to my old English teacher.  Her grey eyes, the ones I inherited, had a sad, distant look in them. 

But no tears. 

Not yet. 

Noticing the empty seat next to her, I searched for my father.  No sign of him.  My eyes flitted to my mother’s left hand, which bore a tan line around the fourth finger.

No rings.

            I didn’t feel surprised, or even disappointed.  Ever since I was old enough to add two and two I knew they didn’t really love each other.  My Choice gave them the excuse they had always been looking for.  Perhaps they’ll see it that way one day.

            Then I looked behind the stage, where the graduates stood, adorned in awkward blue gowns.  They laughed and hugged each other, whispering about nervous butterflies and plans for college.  If I still had pain, I’m sure I would have felt at least a twinge of sorrow at the sight.  I could be standing with them, getting everything they have if I had chosen differently.

            Out of curiosity, I searched for the person wearing the valedictorian tassel.  Then I saw it, draped around a pale neck holding a head of red curls. 


Of course. 

Had I not been well beyond bitterness, I would have felt it then.  Despite what everyone said about the students at Jude Christian Academy loving and caring for one another, I knew he would have done anything to rise to the top and get that tassel.  Anything.

            If Fred got valedictorian, Ruth should have made salutatorian.  The thought gave me some hope as I searched for her rosy cheeks and blonde hair.  But when I found Ruth, I saw her dressed just like the other graduates.  So she didn’t make it.  Pity.  She deserved recognition more than any of them.

            Although I knew he wouldn’t have any academic awards, I looked for Joe, too.  I looked into the face of every one of them two, three times without seeing his brown hair and dark blue eyes.  If I could have felt upset anymore, that would have upset me most of all.  As much as I wanted to have him near, I didn’t want him to end up like me.

            I wondered how they felt today, doing this without me.  Most probably would have ignored my absence, but I knew I must have haunted the consciences of some.  That was why I Chose to leave, after all.  Even though I knew now that I had made the wrong decision.  Suddenly I felt the urge to wave, just to see if I could get their attention, if they would see me.

            But I knew I couldn’t.  I was a ghost to them.  I always had been, in away.  I flitted about the halls without being there, joined in conversations without speaking, seen but never noticed. 

            And now

            I had




The Violin

IT’S CHRISTMAS EVE!!!  And it also happens to be Wednesday.  Since we don’t have Creative Writing class today, I took it upon myself to give myself an assignment and wrote another sappy Christmas story.  Merry Christmas!

His fingers turned stiff and white in the cold, yet he kept playing.  The violinist diligently tried to ignore the puffy white snowflakes dusting his thin clothes and the frigid air nipping at every exposed area of skin.  He tried instead to concentrate on the rich sounds emanating from his instrument.  Tried to let the rest of the world fade away until nothing remained but him and his violin.

Christmas usually proved the best time to earn some extra change.  The spirit of joy and giving made people more generous, slightly more willing to part with their prized, coveted coins to drop them in the hat of a talented lad with his violin.  Although not tonight.

On Christmas Eve, all bustled about their own business, rushing to finish last minute shopping, not giving the violinist a second glance.  None of them seemed to care that he had his own troubles, too.  None of them knew how hard he’d worked the last few months to give his family a happier Christmas tomorrow.  That only a few coins could give him just enough to buy their presents.

After finishing a particularly difficult piece, the violist hopefully looked around.  Lights twinkled over the Christmas market, where people crowded around kiosks and waited in line for warm sweets.  A steady flow moved in and out of the entrance, walking past the street corner where the violinist stood.  He looked down at his hat.  No more coins.  With a sigh, he lifted the violin to his cheek again, playing a cheery Christmas tune.

The girl pulled part of her scarf over her face to shelter herself from the frigid breeze, ignoring the sights around her.  Yes, the market looked beautiful, with the twinkling lights and sparkling ornaments.  Enchanting even.  Almost enough to put her in the Christmas spirit.  Almost.  With a sigh, the girl opened her small gloved hand and viewed its contents.  Just a few coins she received as an early Christmas present– her grandfather’s poor attempt at compensating for how miserable she felt spending this Christmas without her friends and most of her family.

She didn’t even want to shop, yet she didn’t have the heart to refuse her Grandfather’s gift.  He tried so hard.  Sullenly she contemplated her options.  Grandfather probably expected her to get toys, since he still viewed her as very young, although she felt much too old to buy herself a new doll.  And after all the gingerbread he stuffed down her throat in an attempt to cheer her up, the girl nearly gagged at the sight of sweets.  A new scarf and hat?  Totally impractical, considering how many she already had, but why not?

With an indifferent shrug, the girl meandered towards the kiosk at the exit, the one with the blue hat that caught her eye.  As she shuffled into line she heard something that inexplicably made her stop in her tracks.  Curious, she wandered over to the street corner where a boy played the violin.  She closed her eyes and allowed the instrument’s rich tones to carry her away to years gone by.  Years when she felt happy at Christmas instead of lonely.  Years when she had so much more… and gave more.

When the song ended, a few tears sprung to her eyes, even though she didn’t normally show much emotion.  Oh, how she wished she could go back in time to when she felt happy…  Then she saw the violinist forlornly looking at his cap, which didn’t fill with any more money, and noticed he didn’t have any gloves or a scarf.  Not like her.  His hands shook so much she didn’t understand how he could play so expertly.

She fingered the fringe of her scarf, remembering that only a moment ago she had contemplated buying another.  The girl knew what she should do.  Stepping forward, she emptied her coins into the violinist’s hat, offering a shy smile.  As he took a bow, his face broke into a grin so wide his rosy cheeks could have cracked.  He could hardly believe he finally earned enough to make his family a little warmer and a little fuller this Christmas.  The girl smiled and clapped, realizing she did feel happy, right there in the present.

And as the two parted ways that night, neither felt the cold anymore.

An Unexpected Return

Since many of my classmates are writing Christmas themed posts, I was inspired to give this Monday’s Minute Challenge a Christmas spin.  I wish I could have edited this more, but it happened to fit exactly in the 300 word limit.  I used the word prompt. (meaning I had to incorporate the words old house, winter hat, and skeleton key).

There are words left better unsaid, secrets that should remain hidden, and ghosts of the past that should not be revisited.  Those were the rules which governed Holly’s entire life, although she was coming dangerously close to breaking the third one.

“Just a short trip,” she muttered to herself, approaching the old house where she had spent her childhood.  “Go up, hide it, and leave.  That’s all.”

It was nothing but a remote wooden cabin laden with snow and twinkling Christmas lights.  Nothing that would intimidate anyone, especially someone like her.  So why was she nervous?  Taking a deep breath, she scaled the side of the cabin, easily finding every familiar foothold until she reached the attic window.  With nimble fingers, she picked the lock and slipped inside.  No one had noticed her yet.  Good.

Using the light of her flashlight, she tiptoed over to the closet and pulled out the long skeleton key.  There are ghosts of the past that should not be revisited.  No.  This was necessary.  Ignoring her urge to run away, she turned the key.  Click.  The closet door swung open, revealing a small collection of memories.  Dusty supplies, Rudy’s kite, even her old winter hat…

Swallowing the lump in her throat, Holly grabbed a small box in the corner and hid an object inside.  There.  No one would find it now.

“Holly?” a voice asked from behind.  Oh, no.  She turned to find Rudy standing in the doorway, a look of disbelief on his face.  “What are you doing here?”

Holly desperately tried to think of a response, something that would explain why she couldn’t stay.  “I…”

“You came home!”  He rushed forward to give her a hug.

“Yes,” she finally answered.  Because there are words left better unsaid and secrets that should remain hidden.