Journey of the broken

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Gaelyn

I had just arrived home from work, just stepping into the doorway, to hear my phone ringing. Frowning I picked it up.

“Hello?”

“Gaelyn?” it was my mother and from the sound of her voice I knew something bad had happened.

“What’s wrong?” I ask immediately knowing something was, I wondered if something had happened with Dad. I knew he was having high blood pressure problems.

“Have you seen the news?” she asked, and I could hear the tears in her voice.

“I just got home from work, I haven’t had the chance too” I replied as I strolled towards my TV.

“Find the news channel, it doesn’t matter which one because I’m pretty sure they’re all covering it.” Mom insisted as she sniffled into the phone again. I turn the TV to CNN. I was shocked to see them reporting news of a school shooting at Rose County High School. I sat down in my arm chair and stare at the TV. RCHS is where my little sister Sophia went to school. I hoped she was okay, I don’t know what I would do without her, and we’ve always been close, she wasn’t afraid to tell me anything.

“Tell me you know something” I say unsure of how I felt other than shocked. This was the last thing I had ever expected to happen at the school. Then again something like this always happened when you last expected it too. I close my eyes and say a silent prayer for those who had been injured and a prayer for those families were grieving for those lost. I hoped my family wasn’t among the latter but there would be no way of knowing until someone called. Or hopefully Soph would call and let us know that she was okay. Please let her be okay I thought as panic began to fill my veins. I had no idea what I should do, stay here and man the phone in case she called, or go to the school and wait for news there. I wasn’t sure about going to the school because it was bound to be flooded by worried parents.

“What do I need to do?” I ask, worry and fear battling within me for the top spot among the many emotions I was feeling. “I want to go to the school but at the same time, I know that’s not the place I should really be. Being among all those worried parents and siblings would only make things worse.” And make things really hit home about how bad the situation truly is I thought but didn’t voice my thoughts.

“Why don’t you come home and wait with us until we know what’s going on?” Mom suggested and it took me a minute to realize she wasn’t at the restaurant where she would have been under normal circumstances. Of course she’s not, there’s been a school shooting and she doesn’t know if her daughter is okay or not I berated myself.

“Of course,” I say hearing myself speak robotically, why was this happening now? I had just found out my longtime girlfriend Rachel had been cheating on me the entire time we’d been dating. To make matters worse she’d been cheating on me with my best friend Andrew Baker. Now on top of the pain I was feeling from breaking up with Rachel, I had to deal with the worry over a possibly lost little sister. Everything seemed to be going wrong at once and I wondered how I would have the strength to deal with it all, despite what people thought, I wasn’t as strong as I looked.

My English class had just finished, and as I was gathering my supplies together, I glanced at my watch. It looked like I was going to be a few minutes late meeting Rachel. The thought of being late made me groan, Rachel hated it when I was late to anything, and if I told her it was because my English was let out late she wouldn’t care. Rachel didn’t really care about anything but Rachel. To be honest it was a wonder we were even still together, her selfishness tended to get on my nerves, yet I stayed with her because I didn’t want to break her heart.

Finishing, stuffing my books into my backpack. I headed out the door and towards the student union building where I knew she would be. I wasn’t surprised to find her already there, but I was surprised at who she was with. Andy had always claimed to hate her guts because her selfishness and self-centeredness got on his nerves, so I didn’t really understand why they were sitting there laughing together. I wanted to go interrupt them but something told me to hold back and so I did. Boy was I ever surprised by what happened next, Rachel leaned over and pressed a kiss to Andy’s mouth. I sat there struck dumb as I wondered how long this had been going on behind my back.

Finally though I got up my nerve and approached the table, and I could tell by both of their expressions they hadn’t expected to be caught so soon.

“Someone want to explain to me what’s going on?” I growled, anger taking the place of shock. My mind wanted to deny what it had seen but my heart wanted to rid myself of the both of them.

“You weren’t supposed to find out yet” Rachel muttered and I turned to glare at her. “When would have been the best time to find out? When we were getting married?”

“Don’t kid yourself” Rachel snorted “I never would have married you, I don’t love you.” Anger filled my veins and I wanted to shout my hurt out. “Why have we been dating then?”

“I did it because I didn’t want that Annaleigh to sink her claws into you, but I should have let her, you’re not exactly good boyfriend material.” Rachel smirked, as she sat back on her stool and grabbed Andrew’s and intertwined their fingers.

“Sophia’s friend Annaleigh? What does she have anything to do with it? She’s my little sister’s best friend, she’s never really mattered. So you can’t blame this on her!” I had never felt like strangling a person before then I did now. Annaleigh was just someone my little sister hung out with. Sure, I felt sorry for her when she lost both her parents and then I used to bring Sophia to the park to see her when she would sneak out, and yes we had a few conversations afterwards. That didn’t mean anything to me, although I’d heard it meant more to her then I expected it to. If she thought I could fall in love with a then fourteen year she was crazy, I didn’t see her as anything more than a friend of my little sister’s.

“I think it’s more than obvious, I’m done.” I told Rachel, still having a hard time believing she would date my best friend behind my back. “One more thing how long have you been seeing Andy?” I avoid his eyes, fearing I would punch him in the face for betraying me like he had.

“Three years” Rachel replied and smirked as she looked over at Andy. I closed my eyes and sucked in a breath. Three years she’s been seeing him, the whole time we had been dating, she’d been cheating on me. I must have been the world’s biggest fool to ever believe that Rachel had cared about me as much as I had cared about her. Well, never again no woman would ever get that close to my heart again, I didn’t care who they were. I turned and walked out, angry and hurt, I honestly wanted to punch Andy’s face in, but fighting him wouldn’t fix the pain I felt, it wouldn’t change the fact that he’d been my girlfriend the whole time we had been dating.

Now I was home, and I had to deal with the possibility that my little sister was gone forever. I hoped to god, she wasn’t but I was starting to get a really bad feeling about this situation.

“I’ll be right over” I tell my mother, as I hung up and headed straight for the door. I needed to be with my family right now, I would be angry and hurt over Rachel’s betrayal later.

Thirty minutes later I was driving through the small town of Jacobsville, I had grown up in this town, my parents still lived here, but by the time I was in college I felt like it had slowly been stifling me and my dreams so I moved to a bigger city. I enjoyed it in Louisville, but I did occasionally miss the privacy that a small town could provide. I drove around the square; I marveled at how little the town at changed in the two years I had moved away. The town was still just as country as it had always been, I didn’t think that would ever change, not that I would want it too, because I enjoyed coming back for visits, I just didn’t think I could actually live here anymore.

I sighed as I pushed my memories away and tried to refocus on the point of this visit. My little sister hadn’t been heard from since this morning before the shooting had taken place. That didn’t bode well with me, I knew that if she was alright she would have somehow managed to contact us, and she had yet to do that. I had the feeling by the time this tragedy was over, we would be burying a very important part of our family. I couldn’t stand the thought of Sophia’s life being over before it really began, it hurt to think about. But I knew that I needed to start thinking about it because it could very easily become reality. I needed to face the fact that things were about to change and not necessarily for the better.

As I pull into the drive, I see Dad’s just getting out of his car. He must have just heard the news and come to wait and find out what’s going on. I pull into the drive and park right behind him, throwing my door open; I shut my car down and pull my keys from the ignition. Stepping out of the car, I slam the door behind me, and start for the front porch. The house was still as beautiful as have always remembered it to be, two story brick with solid white columns that in the middle was the stairs that led to the wrap around porch, which was surrounded by many types of flowers. I’d had a happy childhood here, and wondered if this would be this place that would break me.

“I’m guessing you’ve heard by now about the shooting?” My father turns to face me as we both reach the stairs. I nod.

“Mom called me as soon as she heard, I’d just gotten home from school.” I would have to be at work in a couple of hours, but I was thinking about calling in, considering the situation I had found myself in, waiting for news on my little sister.

“Is there any kind of news?” I ask already knowing the answer. Dad shook his head no.

“There’s not even a count of how many are dead yet.” That made me sick to my stomach. “Why would anyone feel the need to do this?”

“I don’t know, but from what I’ve understand they haven’t caught the shooters yet.”

“How have they not caught them yet?” I was flabbergasted. I would have thought they would have been captured by now.

“The only thing I know is there were two shooters, they’re believed to be among the dead but no one knows for sure.” I growled low in my throat frustrated at the lack of information. I could understand keeping what they knew on the down low in case the shooters were indeed still alive. But the families should have already been informed about their children. No one wants to spend the next several hours, worrying over the possibility of their child or sibling being dead.

“I guess we’re going to be in for a long wait unless she calls us.” I say as I head into the house. Mom was sitting in front of the TV, tissues clenched tightly in her hand. Her eyes were red from crying. The sight pulled on my already hurting heart. I couldn’t believe this was even happening. Today was certainly turning out to be nightmare, I wish I could go to bed and get and none of this happened.

I sit down on the couch in that sat not far to the left of the TV. My eyes going to the TV which was showing police entering the building. Students were sitting in clusters several feet away from the school. While some of the other students were still exiting the building. I couldn’t imagine the terror that must have been running through their minds. God only knows what they’ve been through in the few short hours since it started and had come to an abrupt end. I hoped they found the kids responsible for this and threw the book at them. No one should be able to get away with this; it was a nightmare of epic proportions.

“If she was really okay, she would have called or at least tried to call, I think it’s safe to say she’s been hurt or possibly worse.” I say speaking softly knowing we all needed to hear the truth.

“I don’t want to thank about Soph being gone” Mom said as tears welled in her eyes again. I hated myself for even thinking about it, much less saying anything about the possibility of Sophia being gone. I wished it was something we didn’t even have to consider. But with the situation being what it was, we had no choice.

“I don’t either” I tell Mom softly “But with what’s going on and the fact that she hasn’t tried to call, well it’s something we need to think about.”

“I know” she said her breath hitching on another sob. I really felt like a heel, I should have been full of hope of finding her alive and well. Instead, I was doubtful and more logical then I would have liked to be. Still I could have kept my feelings to myself; I didn’t have to share my negativity with everyone around me. Just because I was angry about Rachel screwing me over didn’t mean I had to share my bad mood with everyone else. Especially since they all needed my support with all the hell that was going on.

Unable to watch the news anymore, I pull my cell phone out of my pocket and headed out onto the front porch. Sitting on the swing, I remembered back to a time when I had been fourteen and Sophia and Annaleigh had been about ten years old. Annaleigh had just found out her parents had been killed, I remember watching her storm out of the house. I had stood at the door and listened to her cry her heart out. I usually found some other place to be when she came around but that night I’d been stuck at home. I remember how the sound of her sobs and tore my heart apart and I had stepped outside to comfort her on this very swing. Of course, the older I got the more I didn’t want to remember anything about that particular night, I didn’t want to be close to her. She was only my little sister’s best friend, that didn’t make her a friend of mine.

I wondered briefly if she was alright, I hadn’t seen her since the pool party I’d attended last year. I hadn’t said anything to her because Rachel had chased her right off. I still couldn’t believe Rachel had been cheating on me even then. I shake my head trying to clear my thoughts; I needed to spend my time worrying about Sophia and her lack of contact.

“Sophia, if you can please let us know you’re alright.” I say softly as I look up into the bright blue sky. Wondering how it could seem so peaceful when everything was in turmoil. While my world seems to be falling apart, everything else continued on like nothing life changing had even happened. It was amazing to me, how the fact that several kids were dead and who knew how many injured, and the world kept right on spinning as if each of their lives didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

Sighing, I turn back to the streets, and watch as people pass by, most not seeming affected by the news of what was currently happening. I wondered when we had become so desensitized to tragedy that something of this scale didn’t even appear to affect us.

One woman in particular caught my attention, Kelly Mead, who lived a couple houses down from Mom and Dad. She looked as calm and collected as always did, and I wondered how Annaleigh could put up with living with that woman. She didn’t look worried in the slightest about the fact that her foster daughter could be injured or worse.

“Mrs. Mead” I called standing up and hurrying towards her. I wondered if she’d heard anything about what had happened.

“Have you heard from Annaleigh?” I asked knowing depending on the hour that Annaleigh would have been with Sophia.

“No, but that’s not surprising the little brat wouldn’t call even if she could.” Mrs. Mead replied coldly and I was surprised at her tone. Shouldn’t foster parents care about what happened to the kids that lived in their homes? That didn’t appear to be the case with this one; it was enough to make me feel sorry for Annaleigh.

“I was just wondering because we haven’t heard from Sophia either, and it’s likely that they would have been together when the shooting started.” I said feeling disappointed that I had yet to find anything out.

“Yeah, well I don’t have time to worry about her right now, my other kids need me.” And Annaleigh didn’t, dear god, she was missing and this lady didn’t even care. Who do I call to get her license revoked? Sighing, I shake my head and head back to my spot on the porch swing. It’s a wonder Annaleigh wasn’t anymore messed up than already was, living with people like that. I shook my head, concern for all the kids that hadn’t been announced safe and sound, Annaleigh was one of them, my sister another.

“Keep them safe please” I mutter my prayer going mostly towards my little sister and her friend, but also extending to the rest the families with injured or missing children.

Several hours later after not hearing anything from any emergency services about the whereabouts of Sophia, I urged Mom and Dad to go to bed, telling them they needed to get rest in case something happened in the coming hours. I would still be awake, because there was no way I could sleep; because I would imagine her being scared and alone, and unsure of whether or not it was safe to come out.

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