The Secret She Took To The Grave
I sit on my bed, thoughts rolling through my mind, as I absentmindedly twirl my hair. I call it my time of reflection, thinking of every event or incident that occurred leading me to where I am today. More times than not it can be rather effective, but today didn’t happen to be one of those times. Once I step out of the shower I stare myself dead in the eyes in the mirror and whisper so softly it is barely audible. ’You got a good head on your shoulders’ You aren’t alone; You have Gerald, and although she’s gone she will always be with you. She would want you to be happy.”
I lay propped up on a pillow, against my headboard, staring blankly at my computer.
‘’Story of my life,’’ I say, not bothering to evade the sadness I’ve tried relentlessly to suppress over the past year and a half. This year I decided to take a creative writing class as one of my electives, thinking it would be a great outlet for me, as well as a great opportunity to flourish and share my work- that was until I received our first assignment...
My teacher Mr. Gonzalez instructed us to write a short story, and to incorporate three key components: a character that resembles ourselves, a major real life event that occurred, and how that real life event impacted us, i.e. our character. Although we weren’t asked to write an entire biography, it sure felt that way, as the particular event that comes to mind can’t be summed up in just 5,000 words. I bite my lower lip to prevent it from quivering, a nervous habit I picked up from my dad.. Not proud of it, as I am not particularly close to my dad, but you can’t choose your parents, so it is what it is. Thankfully my story isn’t going to be based on him, because that definitely couldn’t be summed up in 5,000 words…
I decided to open a separate word document for extra notes. I am typing very diligently, in full writing mode, when all of a sudden a thought protrudes to the forefront of my mind, making me lose focus: should I create a character resembling my brother? Mr. Gonzalez only gave us three major criteria, and my brother did play a big part in the major event I’m writing about, so it would make sense to add him in somehow, right? Despite the eight-year gap between us-him being the oldest- he and I were always close, and although he grew distant when our parents divorced, he completely cut me off when our mutual friend died just three months later. Now I’d be lucky to even get a text from him every other month, and it was only to ask for a favor…
After a long procrastination session, and a few tears, I decided to put him in. I just hope that he won’t find out. My entire body goes numb, as I practically push down on the keys of the keyboard, and at first I’m scared I’m going to break it, but after I wipe away my tears, I find my mojo again and get back to work. Although I can feel my stomach churning and my heart feels heavy, I shove those feelings down to deal with in the never near future and press on. Not many people know the story about my brother and how the divorce affected us, aside from a few friends and acquaintances, but to this day our extended family is still under the impression that we are one big happy family, which couldn’t be farther from the truth. I didn’t want to be the one to destroy the perfect illusion they had of us though, because to be quite honest, I didn’t want to either even though I lived the harsh alternate reality every day.
I was only eight years old when my world came crashing down, and although my brother was sixteen, it affected him the most which was why he withdrew from the family, from me. I can’t help but feel like I’ve been stabbed in the back, because I wasn’t the one that broke our family apart, and yet he cut ties with me as well. He didn’t even tell me happy birthday last year, which really discouraged me. Nobody knows all the sleepless nights I stayed up crying over mine and my brother’s broken relationship. It’s one thing to give up on your parents, but to give up on your siblings when all they did was try to be there for you… It makes my heart hurt just thinking about it.
I feel my eyes get watery, my vision getting blurred by the tears, and this time I don’t fight it. ‘’Why couldn’t you just love me like you used to?’’ I croak.
My heart heaves and I double over as the pain intensifies, and I start rocking until it subsides. “Why did you give up on me?” I mouthed to my computer screen and hugged myself. Thank God I’m alone, because I can’t even fathom the thought of someone seeing me look so pathetic. It doesn’t help that I’m one of those ugly criers and had no tissues so I’m a red puffy face, snotty mess. Not wanting to risk being seen by anyone, I opt for rubbing it all on my jacket. It was definitely going in the wash after I was done with this assignment. It takes me a good half hour to calm down as I stifle back the last bit of tears. I shake my head and try to regain focus, because I’m never going to finish if I keep letting my emotions get in the way- let me rephrase that, I can’t afford to let them get in the way. Especially with our ten page draft due next week, and I’m not even done with the first page… I suppress a sigh and sit up straight. It is going to be a long night, I think to myself and continue typing. I just hope it will be worth it in the end, because I know I am going to regret staying up so late already.
8:15am the next morning I wake to the distant sound of my alarm. I shut it off and turn onto my back all in one motion, staring up at the pitch black ceiling above me. I preferred sleeping in complete darkness because it felt cozy and easier to fall asleep. I can already tell though I’m not going to get the luxury of getting even five more minutes of extra sleep as the bright sun illuminates through my curtains welcoming in the new morning. Although I’m not a morning person per say, the hint of light in the morning also provides a sense of comfort and warmth. I close my eyes for a millisecond and curl into a cocoon, not yet ready to fully embrace the day. They say there are never enough hours in a day, and there are days I agree, but on the other end, I would be perfectly content with there only being eight hours in the day; eight hours of sleep equating to an eternity of sleep. I smile with my eyes still closed despite the impossibility ever happening, at least in this lifetime.
When I finally decided to open my eyes, only to remember I had an entire day to get through, and I couldn’t help but feel apprehensive for the unknown that lay ahead.Just thinking of all the endless possibilities made my stomach churn. Although I could say and do as I pleased, there was a part of me that held back due to the mere fact people were watching and/or judging. Call me spaz, coward, timid, whatever. I’ve been called it all, but that will never stop me from over analyzing things and keeping to myself. Guess we will see where that gets me today…
I’ve had a lot of labels attached to me through the years, some didn’t stick but most of them did. As much as it irks me to have those labels describe me and I know deep down in my heart they don’t define me, it’s hard to not let them. Of course you have your typical jock, nerd, prep groups, and I mean that’s great for those people that identify with those particular groups, but for me I am still a lost piece trying to find where I fit. Not to mention who do you know who has the first name Meadow and last name Shadow? Although I try to go by my middle name Dawn a lot of people refer to me as my last name Shadow. Not to my face, but I can hear it in passing and know they are talking about me. It can be bothersome at times, but I can’t really blame them for thinking the way they do. I don’t talk much and mostly all people see of me is my shadow in passing in the hallways, hence the nickname so to speak.
Don’t get me wrong though, I do have a group of people I co-exist around, and exchange small commentary here and there, but for the most part I just listen or keep to myself. I remember one time I approached this blended group of guys and girls, just wanting to be friendly and say hi, but they just acted like I wasn’t there, continuing to converse about the latest gossip, which I could care less about. Although it stung a little to be ignored, I just brushed it off and went back to my table to read. I’ve been told I was a timid person, that nobody felt comfortable approaching me because I seem standoffish, which I think is a fair assessment, however I think people also mistake my quirkiness and shyness as timid.
When it comes to making friends/meeting new people I hate confrontation, introducing myself and small talk, oh my gosh I cringe just thinking of having small talk… The day I introduced myself to the group that rejected me, however, I vowed to not approach anyone, that if anyone wanted to talk then they had to approach me first. If that makes me a coward or timid then so be it. All it takes is one time to do something to scare you into not doing it again, and rejection was at the top of the list of my greatest fears.
As I enter the cafeteria of Brooklyn Grove middle school, that feeling of apprehension turns into full on panic, and I try to take slow deep breaths to try and calm down. You can do this I think to myself. You only have two more months until Summer and then it’s off to high school. Oh frick another hurdle to get through… I was not ready to tackle high school… I’m barely hanging on by a thread in eighth grade… I take a couple more deep breaths and try to refocus. You can do this, I repeat to myself. You have done this numerous times. Just go through the motions, engross yourself in your school work, wait for the dismissal bell. Sounds simple enough.
I slowly exhale, thinking it would calm my nerves, but it only makes them worse as I maneuver through the crowded cafeteria for an empty table. After endless searching and feeling like a timid, self conscious loser, I finally spot an empty table in the very back. I waste no time, as I scurry head down, avoiding all eye contact to the table. Although I can feel everyone’s judging glares I could see my destination in my peripheral vision and decided to see this through nearly slamming into the table before slumping into my seat. I take a minute to catch my breath wincing in pain from the impact the table had on my side. So much for not drawing attention. Nothing I can do about it now. Plus, I still had a lot of work to do if I was going to get this assignment done in time.
I nearly fell out of my chair as I retrieved my laptop from my bag, gently setting it on the table before hoisting myself back up. More glares, but I disregard them because one, I know I look ridiculous, and two, if it works, it works. Mind your beeswax.I start typing, my fingers vigorously pressing letters on the keyboard. I had some character development, but I needed more characters and a precise storyline. I revert back to my empty word document I used for notes and start brainstorming ideas, eventually narrowing my list to four main characters.
Meadow Dawn Shadow Mr. Gonzalez 8th Period January 14, 2029
Nathan: jock, captain of the wrestling team. Inconsiderate of others; very prideful. Used to be Addison’s friend, but once he got on the wrestling team, he withdrew himself from her.Addison: shy and awkward. Mainly keeps to herself and doesn’t have many friends. Doesn’t fit into any particular group and is considered an outcast. Is also very creative and artsy and enjoys reading, writing, and drawing.
Cindy: very smart, having a 4.0 grade average. Not afraid to speak her mind and experience new things. Enjoys solving math equations, doing word finds and/ or puzzles in her spare time when she is not studying. Isn’t really social but has a handful of friends from math club.
Gerald:Addison’s twin brother and Cindy’s best friend. Is very outgoing and friendly. Is popular and is president of the math team, as well as captain of the football team. Is very competitive, popular and very protective of his sister.
I nod curtly. Okay, story time. I crack my fingers and get started. I decided to write in first person through Addison’s point of view since that’s easier.Keep it simple for my first draft. I can always go back and change anything later.
It’s dark. The sweet sound of silence is like music to my ears. This is what the darkness promised, I think to myself as I breathe in the sweet scent of vanilla pumpkin. The aroma fills the room, making me feel a sense of calmness. It’s a rather foreign feeling, as I generally have vivid flashbacks or never ending thoughts nipping at my mind. Anxiety 101 my brother calls it. I try to relish in the moment for as long as I can before those thoughts protrude to the forefront, giving me a pulsating headache as well as goosebumps all over my body.
I could feel my palms start to sweat, as well as my arms shaking uncontrollably. As if on cue, the goosebumps start to surface and I suddenly feel queasy and my head feels like it’s going to explode. I try massaging my forehead to ease the pain, but it only makes it worse. I resort to closing my eyes and focus on my breathing. In and out. In and out. In and out. In and out- out of nowhere, my throat closes up, and I start to panic as I start coughing profusely to clear my airway. Once I calm down, I suck in a lungful of air and continue to focus on my breathing. In and out. In… and out.
When I feel calm enough, I take one last breath , before slowly climbing out of bed. Subconsciously I walk to my closet and get dressed, yanking a plain red T-shirt from the hanger and a faded pair of blue jeans, pairing them with white sneakers. I am not much for dressing up so this is generally my go-to attire. I quickly get changed, applying last minute mascara and lip gloss, then head down to the kitchen for breakfast. I jump down from the bottom step and walk over to the freezer, passing by my twin brother Gerald in the process.
He is a born chef. He takes after our dad, who could make a decadent dessert with his eyes closed. Every year on our birthday Gerald tried to replicate his infamous upside down pineapple cake, and although I appreciated his efforts for trying, it just wasn’t the same and made me miss our dad even more. Not to mention I wasn’t passed down the cooking gene and it made me feel bad that Gerald had to do all the cooking even though he voiced repeatedly that he didn’t mind.
My mouth starts salivating at the sweet scent of pumpkin bread as I make my way to my seat on the counter. He catches me gawking and smiles. It reminded me of our dad as well. It didn’t help ‘’Hey there sleeping beauty. Want some breakfast?’’ He lifts up a black pan that has scrambled eggs in it. I nod, putting whatever I grabbed in the freezer back, and anxiously jump up to the counter. Before I knew it, a big steaming plate of eggs sat in front of me along with two slices of pumpkin bread smeared in some butter.‘’This is delicious!’’ I say in between bites. I don’t even think I tasted it- I just inhaled it like dogs do. ‘’Well that’s a relief. Thought after all these years you would get sick of my cooking.’’ Gerald remarks jokingly. I laugh once, then scarf down another mouthful of eggs. ‘’As long as you keep cooking like dad I will never get sick of it’’.It suddenly becomes silent. I stop eating to look up at Gerald, and instantly realize I struck a nerve. He looks at me for a long time. Although he’s practically dad’s identical twin, He doesn’t like being compared to him. He was a good cook, but that’s pretty much all he was good at. Anything else, you could say he was a disgrace at.
He wasn’t too involved in our lives, and eventually died of ‘’natural causes’’ on our eighteenth birthday, so that about ruined birthdays for us- at least ours... After that we moved to a different state, legally changed our names and moved into our own apartment.Despite changing our names though I still go by my old name, Addison. It is what everyone in our hometown calls me and it is what I am used to. I frown and put a hand on his shoulder. ’ ’I’m sorry... I- I didn’t mean to upset you Ger. I just forgot you don’t like being compared to dad… I am sorry.’’ I lower my head in shame. The silence continues to linger between us, and I hold my breath as I count the seconds go by. 1 potato. Two potatoes. Three potatoes. Four- just as I get to four I feel something over my hand. I look up to see Gerald’s hand over mine- a sad smile plastered on his face.