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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

My cell phone buzzed on the coffee table. I sighed and answered it.

“Hello?” I said in a dull tone.

“Leah? It’s your sister, Tiffany. Mom’s in the hospital.” She said.

I just sat there for a second. I stared off into space. Then I grabbed my keys as fast as lightening. I raced out of my dorm. My roommate stopped me by the entrance.

“Hey Leah, where are you going, you’re going to miss class!” She said.

“Don’t care.” I said back, pushing her out of the way.

She gave me a questioning look.

“My mom is in the hospital!” I screamed in her face. I ran out the door and raced to the emergency room.

That was four months ago. I had debated moving back to Seattle after college. Now, without my mother to hold me in Cleveland, I was free. I liked being stuck here rather than my mother being dead.

I noticed the garden across the street when I was walking to the grocery store one day. I remembered my mother’s Rose bush she had when I was a little girl. Then the doctor diagnosed her with ALS. The roses died. My sister went away to college. My mom went into a nursing home for a while. Then she came out and my sister and I moved to Cleveland to take care of her. A cold drop interrupted my thoughts. It rolled down my cheek. I wiped it away. That night I bought a packet of rosebush seeds.

When I came back to the garden I looked around for a shovel. I wanted to buy one the night before, but I didn’t have enough money. A woman leaned a small shovel against a wall and walked away. I quickly grabbed it. I searched for an open spot of land and dug as fast as I could into the ground. Someone tapped my shoulder. I pushed them away and kept digging. The person grabbed the shovel.

“Hey!” I yelled.

“This is my shovel you stole.” She said calmly.

“Oh.” I put my head down sadly.

“What are you planting?” She asked.

“Doesn’t matter,” I said walking away.

“You can borrow it,” she called after me.

I turned around and took it and went back to digging. We talked as I dug and planted. She wanted to know a lot about my mother, so I told her the whole story. Then she told me about her granny and the goldenrod she planted. It was getting late by then, so I told her I had to go. Before I left she told me I could keep the shovel.

When I came back to the garden a couple days later I saw a boy pulling weeds out from around the seeds I planted. It was very early in the morning and the sun was just rising. There was barely anybody at the garden. He looked up from the dirt. I noticed that his hands were rough and scratched like sandpaper. He saw me. So I walked over and said thank you.

“You should check on them every day, water them and weed ‘em,” He said.

I nodded. Then he walked off. But I didn’t notice where he went because I was focused of my roses. A small speck of green was coming out of the ground. It was withered and sad looking. I watered it thoroughly. I had planned on going back to school right away, but instead I sat down on the ground next to my mound of dirt. I took my textbook out of my backpack and studied. It started to get very hot so I went back to my dorm.

I came back that evening, when it had cooled off again. I watered my roses again. Right next to them was some goldenrod. I gently picked it up. I knew exactly what to do with it. I ran to the nearest bus stop and hoped on the bus. I was anxious the whole ride, but held onto the small flower with care.

When I got off the bus, I ran to the spot and dropped to my knees. I laid the goldenrod down gently right in front of mom’s headstone.

On my way back I called some friends and did some favors and earned enough money to buy a small shovel, and a pair of gloves.

Then I smiled, which was something I hadn’t done in a long time.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

It's time for a happy story.

I think it’s time for a happy story.

I sat at the window, staring. I watched the death melt and flow away. Everything is temporary, right? That’s what I told myself over and over during this season.

I hate winter.

Everything is dead.

The trees are dead, under those three feet of hideous, rotten snow, there is dead grass, and in every crevice there are small things with barely a pulse, trying to hang onto life.

But none of that matters anymore. Because now it is spring. I can feel it and I can smell it and I can see the air better. It’s so beautiful, this world.

And now the grass is wet and the color of hay because it was just raining and the grass is still dead. The sun came out though, now everything is marvelous. I want to stay out there forever. I want to lie down and feel LIFE beneath me; I want to feel a part of something.

Even the bugs, yes I miss those stupid little bugs. I hate bugs usually because I don’t like how they feel on my skin. It tickles and sometimes I can’t tell when there’s something on me and when there’s not and then I get paranoid and then everything hurts.

I don’t think about that right now. I ignore how cold my toes are and the fact that the bottoms of my pants are getting wet from walking through puddles. Not even the little things can ruin my mood right now.

The sky is so blue. I remember we learned at school why the sky is blue. But I wasn’t paying attention that day because outside it was raining and I like to watch the rain. Today there is not a single cloud in the sky either. I remember my father used to say this almost every morning when we walked to his car to get bagels for breakfast.

The wind is still a little cold. I’m sure in a few months I’ll be trying to remember how cool and fresh everything was. But now I’m hoping for it to be warmer faster.

I don’t feel so alone when I’m outside. Well, I do feel alone, but it’s a different kind of lonely. It’s the peaceful kind. I feel that even though I’m alone and if I cried, no one would be here to comfort me, my little complex world feel whole. As if the missing piece to my puzzle has been found, and after everything is put together, I can smile without having to convince someone I’m okay even though I’m not. I just smile because I’m happy and that’s what people do when they’re happy.

Despite everything that is happening with my friends and that boy, I am happy. At this moment, I’m so happy that I think I’m going to cry. Because when you cry when you’re sad, your heart hurts and the world looks like a single shade of gray. When you’re happy and you cry, things are brighter and you notice things you normally wouldn’t notice, like how there are so many blandes of grass so close to you. Then you remember how much you love your friends and family because they would cry for you too.

So I cry, because I’m so in love with my solitude.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Run. That's what you do when you're trying to get away, right? Okay, so I run.

I throw on a pair of shoes. I hope I'm doing this right. I'm not used to getting away. I'm used to staying trapped.

I feel my way around the hallway. It's dark and I can't risk turning the lights on. He might wake up.

I've been here for three months. I made it a priority to memorize every inch of the house. Stairs in two feet. Creaky board in five feet. I might make it.

The house looked like a shack. It was one of the smallest ones on the street. The outside was crumbling faded brick. The roof desperately needed to be redone. The window panes were barely hanging off their hinges.

I was to the door now. The hardest part. I left it unlocked and slightly open last night. This man must be really oblivious not to notice.

I slid through the thin opening. The only thing between me and freedom. Finally, I was going to make it.

The hinges creaked.

I stopped cold in my steps. Maybe I just imagined it. I was so paranoid lately. Then I heard the worst noise.

Rustling sheets. And the groan of an old bed frame.

I ran. This is what legs are for. Leaving. Going away. Disappearing. I don't ever remember running like this. But then again I don't remember anything past last week.

"Willow, come back!" I heard his voice. That dreadful voice. It was laced with worry for the neighbors to hear. But I heard the anger underneath. I wondered if anybody else could hear it. Or if that tone was special for me.

Run. Don't look back. He's old, he can't come after me. Run to the road. Get in a car. Don't look back.

I got to the main road and bent over, panting, to put my hands on my knees. I watched people out the window when they were running, and I saw them do this. So I thought I'd try it out. My pulse slowed and I regained my breath. I fell back on the rough, dead grass. This whole neighborhood was horrible. Garbage everywhere. Screaming. Hitting. Shooting. Small houses falling apart by the seams. But grass was nature. And nature was not that apartment. Anything was better than there.

I ripped up the grass and sprinkled it across my stomach. I saw little kids do this. Then adults would cone and yell at them. I wondered why it was bad to do. The grass was dead anyways, pulling it up was just making it dead in a different place.

A car pulled up beside me. A hideous noise sounded and I covered my ears and gritted my teeth.

"Ten bucks for that," the man inside said. He had a thick accent and stubble along his jaw line. His clothes were dirty and ripped.

"I don't have any money," I replied. I heard the man in the house talk on the phone and picked up words and phrases. I learned that "bucks" is another word for "money", which is a method of payment.

"Damn you're a stupid girl. That's okay, I'm sure you can make up for it. Now get in." His voice was harsh and rude. His last words were a demand, not questionable. It frightened me only slightly, but I needed a way to get out of this place.

I slid into the backseat of the car. The man gave me a strange look but didn't say anything. The car's interior was covered in dirt and smelled of old alcohol. I choked and gagged a little bit. I tried my best to hold any bodily fluids that threatened to escape down so I didn't offend him.

The man looked middle aged, much younger than the man in the house, but older than the boys I saw running frantically down the street at night. The boys that ran always cried. I watched them as they pulled out guns and waved them around. No one else saw when they returned to their houses, they sat and wept for hours. Humans are so fragile. I don’t particularly like them, I’ve decided.

Twenty minutes later the car started to slow down. I had been laying down across the moldy and faded leather seats in the back. When I felt the car slow down and turn I lifted my head up to see where I was. I peeked just my eyes out over the window, hiding from the world.

The house that I saw didn't look much different from the houses on the street with the man. It was dirty and run down, the driveway was long enough to hold the two cars that were parked there. There were patches of green grass, and a few bright yellow flowers that looked like suns bursting from the ground. This house felt so much more safe. Though still not safe in a general sense, because this man driving the car was a complete stranger.

The vehicle eventually slowed to a stop. The man turned around in the front seat to face me. I examined his face for the first time. He looked to be around twenty five, with darkly tanned skin that led me to believe that he spent a lot of time working outside. His eyes were dark and sunk far into his thin face. I felt smewhat bad for him, since he looked so tired and worn out. A flash of pity went through his eyes as he examined me as closey, if not closer, than I examined him.

"How old are you?" he asked in a curious tone, not treatening at all like he had been earlier when he told me to get in the car.

"I don't know," I responded. Which was the honest truth. I had no idea how old I am, or how I am, or anything about myself. But I recently learned that I enjoy flowers.

"How can you not know how old you are. Are you some kind of stupid-" His voice grew louder and louder until he was shouting at me. I felt my face contorting in a natural instint of fear. He must have noticed and caught himself before scaring me away.

"Sorry. You just seem like one of those weird girls wandering around. Can never be too careful, right?" Again, his fatherly tone was used.

This young man seemed to know a lot about this place, and since there was no one to tell me about myself, I might as well learn about my surroundings. "What weird girls?"

"Do you live under some kind of rock? The weird girls who stand out on people's lawns chanting things. No one can figure out what they're saying, probably some weird foreign language. But we can't get rid of them either. When they're not standing around being weird, they're just gone and no one can find where they went."

I had hoped any new information would spark some kind of memory in my mind, but nothing happened. But the news stuck to me and made me wonder further about these strange girls.

"Has anyone been able to talk to them?" I tried to look menacing so he would tell me, but he just returned my stare with a quizzical look.

"Why would anyone try that? This neighborhood is full of cowards. Anyone who isn't a coward brought out their shotguns."

"Shotguns? Isn't that a little harsh?"

He snarled, I guess it was meant to be a laugh, but his face was so contorted it only made him look more hideous. "That’s how this town works.”

I didn’t understand, but dropped the topic. "Can you bring me somewhere else? This house is ugly, and I don’t like it.”

The man frowned. “You haven’t paid me for the ride yet.”

“I already told you I don’t have any money. I don’t know what else you want from me.”

“You really are that stupid.”

Then the man in the front seat lunged at me. His movements were sharp, but predictable. His hands lashed towards me at the same moment I grabbed for the car door handle. I didn’t know exactly how to react to the situation, on account that I had no clue what he planned on doing to me. But I could guess it wasn’t very nice.

I rolled out of the car and hit the gravel hard. My shoulder and thighs burned where they scraped against the ground.