Chapter 5: Brie
Brie Reynolds’ sneakers smacked the cracked asphalt in the alley (with a manhole cover in its center, coated in grayish, dried gum), her backpack thumping against her with each step she took. Why did being 16 have to be so difficult? If only high school would end so she could leave the conceited sports teams and pompous cheerleaders behind. She turned a corner, dodging into another person’s yard (decorated with a blue picnic table and patio umbrella with daisies painted on it, despite the shabbiness of his neighbors), before diving through a loose board in the wood fence (its edges rotted) and into another alley, and forced to squeeze past an abandoned, green Cadillac (with rusted fenders and a missing left, rear tire) that nearly blocked her path.
Brie wished she could disappear. Once again, she had been forced to flee for her life from Jenny Sommers (the popular girl in her school who always had the latest clothes in fashion, dated the star football quarterback in a clichéd high school romance, and had recently received a Lexus convertible for her birthday) and her friends, who were just as spoiled. Because her father was a successful lawyer, Jenny had the best of everything and looked upon those who didn’t with disdain. Every year she picked a new target; this year, that target was Brie.
Alone, with her mother and little sister, Brie had been forced to be the parent. Her father had died six years previously in Afghanistan, forcing her mother to take on a second job just to pay the bills and keeping her away from home most nights, and the bad economy did little to help. The talking heads on television insisted that the recession was over and things were getting better. That may be the case in their world, but not in Brie’s.
In her house, it was as though the Great Depression had hit. She took her sister shopping for new clothes (which were little more than other people’s castoffs) at the Salvation Army. Transportation meant taking the bus or walking. Food usually came from bargain marts that sold canned goods with dents in them, or the local food bank, an activity that Brie loathed because every lazy scum, who never wished to work, but only wanted a handout, came too, along with the people who truly needed the assistance.
“One day, things will get better,” her mother had told her.
Brie wished things would improve right now as she crouched behind a dumpster, praying that Jenny Sommers and her friends would disappear.
“We know you’re here, Reynolds!” yelled Jenny. Her friends giggled.
“Come out, come out, wherever you are!” called Burt, one of Jenny’s friends.
Brie peeked around the peeling, green dumpster, doing her best not to gag from the stench. All of her exits had been cut off. Cursing, she wondered why she had been so stupid as to come here. Why didn’t I just go home when I had the chance? Brie shifted a bit, hoping they’d give up.
Someone had tossed a rock against the metal dumpster, chipping its already faded green paint. They knew she was there.
“You can’t hide forever, Reynolds!”
Brie spotted it: a small opening underneath someone’s fence. She bolted from the dumpster, heading straight for the tiny opening. Brie dove for it, scrambling to get through as her pursuers chased her. She lurched, but her backpack had caught on the wire. Desperate, Brie flailed her arms, scratching and clawing at the ground to get free. Hands grasped her ankles, yanking her out from what could have been her salvation. Brie found herself being pushed around from one person to the next until her head spun.
“What you gonna do, Army girl?” taunted Jenny.
Brie’s father had been in the Army, hence the name. “Just let me go,” said Brie.
“Not until we’re done talking to you,” said Jenny. Her friends laughed.
“Why do you hate me so much?” asked Brie.
“Because you exist.”
“Just let me go, please,” pleaded Brie.
“Look, Army girl is scared,” laughed one of Jenny’s friends. “She’s shaking.”
Brie tried to control her quaking knees, but the boy was right; she was shaking. She had never been a very courageous person. Brie always hated conflict.
“Why don’t you fight me?” Jenny shoved Brie.
Brie didn’t answer.
“Come on, Army girl. Get some balls!” Jenny shoved Brie again with a force that knocked her to the concrete.
Knee stinging, Brie just lay on the ground unsure of what to do. A tingling sensation prickled her skin as a yellow and orange light enveloped her.
“What’s that?” asked Burt.
“What’s what?” Jenny turned and watched awestruck as the light grew brighter and brighter until it hurt her eyes. Shielding them, she just stared at Brie as she disappeared behind the light.
Only bare pavement remained. Brie had vanished.