“I Dream, You Dream” by Chelsea Ealey

Tess sat up in bed, waking from a deep slumber to what she thought was music. The kind of music from a jewelry box. No, an ice cream truck. She wasn’t normally one to sleep in, but given it was Saturday, she didn’t completely discard the option. Looking at her phone, she had to close her eyes and look again, attempting to cleanse the sleep from her sight. The clock read 3:02 AM.

It couldn’t be. Why would there be an ice cream truck this early in the morning? She sat up, looking around the room. She thought maybe the TV was on, but that wasn’t the case. Tess got out of bed slowly, checking the living room next. She had a four-year-old daughter who hadn’t really grasped that there were certain times of day for specific activities. Maybe this was one of the times. She wandered in, expecting to see Addison on the couch watching television. There was nothing, yet the sound persisted.

Tess heard a loud thump from the other room. It made her jump, and the first place she thought to check was her daughter’s room. She opened the door to Addison’s room slowly, as to be sure not to wake her if the sound hadn’t already. As she peaked through the door, she noticed that there was no blonde-headed girl in the bed where she normally lay.

She opened the door further, looking around the room carefully, trying to spot her daughter. That’s when she noticed the curtain blowing in the early morning air. Through the window, Tess finally found where the sound was coming from. An ice cream truck, parked outside her house, playing the song that reminded her of her very own childhood. As she got closer, she watched as Addison walked towards the truck. She realized now that the loud sound she’d heard must have been the sound of the screen slamming down as Addison crawled out.

Tess ran to the door, throwing it open to see the door slide open from the truck. There was nothing to be seen but a pair of glowing green eyes. As she stepped out on to the porch, her daughter turned around to wave her mother goodbye. With that, long, black fingers reached out and grabbed Addison’s curls, pulling her into the van.

*                *                *                *                *

Sitting up in bed, to what she thought was her daughter’s scream, Tess ran to Addison’s room. She was nowhere to be found. In the distance, she heard the faint sound of music. The kind that comes from a jewelry box. No, an ice cream truck. She looked at the time. It read 3:03 AM.

Chelsea Ealey is a student at Hagerstown Community College.

“Beauty-ful Beast” By Esther LoPresto

“Make sure you get it right this time, Mindy,” he tells me as he settles into my chair. “Use more waterproof stuff. Yesterday’s rain nearly washed it all off.” His angry tone has become familiar.

“Sorry, sir.” Quietly, I close the door to the salon’s only private room.

“I have a reputation to uphold, woman!” He pounds his fist on the arm of my chair.

“Yes, sir, I understand. I mean no disrespect, but you were in a hurry yesterday.”

He sighs. “I know. It’s my own fault. All of it is.”

I start sorting through various cosmetics at my station in front of him. His vacillations between anger and sadness have become common lately. I catch a glimpse in the mirror as he uncovers his face: long, tanned fingers pushing back the black hood, removing the large, black sunglasses. He has brown eyes, a warm caramel brown. His fingers hesitate to pull off the black mask concealing the lower half of his face. He sees me watching him. I quickly duck my head and collect the necessary makeup and brushes.

Another sigh. “You try my patience, Mindy. But you’re the best in the city.”

I start applying the makeup. His face is several shades lighter than the rest of his skin. It’s my job to make sure no one notices that.

“And you’re the only one who has seen this.” There’s disgust in the word as he gestures to his face. “As such, I can’t reveal it to anyone else. The press would have a field day.” He closes his mouth and eyes as I layer on foundation. It’s three shades darker than the skin of his face, but it matches his coloring elsewhere. “Do you know what I’d do to you if you let word get out?”

“Yes, sir.” I pick up a pot of concealer, mixed specifically for his face. “You’d send an assassin after me and they’d never find my body.”

He laughs, a nice sound. “You got that right.”

My brush hesitates and I can’t hide a smile. I know it’s just an exaggeration; I’d keep his secret even without the fake threat.

“What are you smiling for?”

And the nice moment is over.

“Sorry, sir.” I neutralize my expression and get back to work.

Minutes pass in silence as I add more and more layers of fake, hiding the real man. Normally, we do talk a little. I’ve gotten to know the person he hides underneath the layers of fake; the truth that the cameras, the press, and the fans don’t see. He hides a caring heart, a slightly timid, introverted personality under the harsh mask of celebrity. He’s only a year younger than I am, and we live such different lives.

“Admit it,” he says, breaking my thoughts as I add on the final touches. “You’ve seen it. You think I’m hideous, don’t you?”


“Don’t lie.”

“Well…” I take a step back and look at the work I’ve done. With practice, I’ve perfected this look for him. A look that matches the face he had before. I’d studied pictures of him before the accident, chosen all the right colors to match his skin tone. I filled in what he lost of his eyebrows, and helped the hairs grow back. Noticed the nuances to highlight his sharp nose and cheekbones.

He’d seen the accident. Called the fire department. Risked his life to save the children in the meantime. None of them should have survived. The children were safe. And this man in front of me… he made it out with second and third-degree burns, still healing from the worst of them. Except for one covering most of his face. There was no healing it. Only surgery could fix it, which he planned to do when his schedule allowed. Until then, it was my job to hide it.

Celebrities’ faces are their money-makers. Without the face that everyone has always known, he’d be out of work. He hates his face because of the burns. He hides it under masks and makeup so no one will know. No one will see that good deed either.

I don’t know why I do it. I take a makeup-removing sheet and swipe it down his nearly finished face.

“What are you doing?!” He jolts up and grabs my wrist, not tightly.

Rather than anger, I see fear in his eyes. Fear that someone will see the scars I’ve revealed.

“You shouldn’t be ashamed, sir. It was a brave thing you did. I think you’re trying too hard to hide beauty inside a beast.”

“Her Eyes” By Norma Burcker

I had not gotten a full night of sleep since it happened. Every night I searched for anything the police could have missed, some clue that my girlfriend of almost two years did not just skip town without a trace. A needle in a haystack it seemed. I searched until my restless body could no longer carry on. Last night was no different than any of the previous. Falling asleep was dreadful. Every time I closed my eyes all I could see were hers. I am almost certain that the exact moment I fell asleep was the moment my alarm clock started blaring.

I opened my eyes and there she was, staring back at me from the frame on my desk. I rolled out of bed and walked over to it. I threw the frame against the wall. The glass shattered erratically all over my floor. I sliced open my hand on one of the shards while picking up the photograph. I held it for a few moments. I stared into her intense crystal blue eyes once more. I took the photo for a school project. She hated it, but I loved it. Her gaze could envelop anyone around her. The sunlight gave her long blonde hair a radiant glow as it fell over her shoulders. Her face was neutral, but her eyes, they demanded your attention.

I tossed the bloodied photo into a desk drawer. I couldn’t stand to look at her anymore. I cleaned the blood from my hands. No need for stitches. I had to hurry because it was already eight o’clock and I promised my boss I was okay. I was okay. I sleepily staggered into the shower where I met my demise. The drain had captured a few strands of her hair from her shower the morning before she disappeared. Everything got dark and blurry. I called my boss.

“Dylan? Is everything all right?” she asked.

“Yes. I’m okay. I’m just not feeling well. I won’t be in today,” I replied.

I hung up the phone. I was not okay.

Beads of sweat began to gather across my forehead. My heart was pounding out of my chest. I needed to get out of the house. I got into my car and started driving. I did not know where I was going or what I was doing. My heartbeat was now echoing in my ears like a drum.

“Where are you?!” I screamed.

“You know exactly where she is,” he said.

I looked over to my passenger seat and there he was. He only appeared when I felt like I was losing control. I grasped the steering wheel tight. I wanted to be in control.

“No, not you again,” I said. “Leave me alone!”

“Find her,” he said.

“Tell me where she is! Please!”

“You know where she is!”

“No I don’t!”

“Keep driving, you’ll find her.”

In that moment, he was gone. I hated him. He was cocky, aggressive, and everything that I was not. I needed to find her and he was making it a game. How could someone be so cruel? I kept driving like he said, though I did not know why I was listening to him. The drive felt familiar, but I could not figure out why. Then, I came to a gravel road and knew exactly where I was. I stopped and when I looked over I saw him in my passenger seat again.

“My parents’ cabin?” I asked.

“Go on,” he taunted.


“Just go!”

I turned down the gravel road that wound its way back to my parents’ cabin. It was about two miles away from the main road, but close to the lake. The old road was in desperate need of some repair. No one visited anymore. I could not figure out why she would be there. I guess he knew something I didn’t. Or maybe he was just playing games again. I pulled up to the cabin and exited my car slowly.

“Follow me,” he beamed.

I walked behind him as we made our way towards the cabin. With each step, I grew closer to finding her. My heart rate began to accelerate again. Something did not feel right. Everything felt like it was moving in slow motion. The wind, the birds, my feet. We entered the cabin and he led me to the basement door. I reluctantly followed him. The creak of the old steps permeated throughout the cabin. Something was wrong.

“What did you do to her?!” I trembled.

He laughed hysterically as he walked over to the chest freezer in the corner. He lifted the lid and there she was. Her lifeless body was cold, blue and bruised. I started to lose it.

“You killed her! Why would you kill her?” I shouted.

“That, my friend, is where you’re mistaken. You did it,” he laughed.

“No! That’s not possible,”

“Don’t you remember? She started packing her bags after she caught you talking to me. Said you were crazy. Then you, ya know…” He placed his hands to his own throat and made a gagging sound. He laughed hysterically as I stared blankly at the wall.

“No! I’m not crazy. I would never do that. Why would I kill her? Why? Tell me why?” I pleaded.

I awaited an answer from him, but it never came. I turned around and he was gone. His laugh echoed in my head as if he were at the end of a tunnel. I looked over to the freezer. Her neck was ringed red from strangulation. Even in death, she was beautiful. Her gaze pierced through my soul just as it always had. Her eyes were the guilt deep within me that I could never fathom. My eyes welled with tears as the events began to feel true. I walked over to her with trembling hands as I pressed her eyelids closed.

Her eyes would haunt me no more.

“Girls Like Girls” By T.C. Ranae

The room was filled with blinding strobe lights, sexual tension and the overwhelming stench of cheap weed that could hardly get you high. My best friend Will told me it would be a waste of time to go but I didn’t care as I watched Robin Hunter from my seat on the dingy brown couch on the left side of the house party. She wore a dark leather strap around her tiny wrist, a tiny crescent pendant necklace around her neck, red pumps and a short black fitted dress that accented her long tan legs and body perfectly. She brought the red solo cup up to her lips and took a deep sip, leaving a dark lipstick stain on the rim. She talked to Ricky Schwartz, captain of the North Hagerstown High School football team, the number one pothead of the school, the beloved son of the principal and, unfortunately, her boyfriend. She smiled at him before glancing in my direction. I felt my cheeks begin to burn. I began to remember the first time she looked at me. It had been freshman year in our chemistry class and we had been assigned to be each other’s lab partners. She’d smiled at me and that had been the end of it. I’d been hooked ever since. She was beautiful, smart, kind and so much more. She never had a bad thing to say about anyone. I wanted her.


I turned towards where my name was called to see a joint being shoved into my face.

“Are you going to take a hit or not?” someone whose name I couldn’t remember asked, eyes glazed.

I pulled my blonde hair over to one side, took the joint from his fingers and took a deep drag. I let the smoke sit in my lungs before exhaling. The taste sat on the back of my tongue, bitter. What a waste this was. I sighed.

“I’ll take next,” someone said just over my shoulder.

I turned to see Robin.

She smiled as she took the joint from me, our fingers grazing. She took a deep inhale of the smoke, plopped down in the empty spot next to me, exhaled and crossed her legs. Her short dress rode higher, a hint of a possible tattoo on her upper thigh. I looked away.

“So how’ve you been, Sam?”

I turned back to her. “Who me?”

She laughed and nodded as she passed the joint. She moved in closer and took my hand. “Yeah, you. Who else?”

I blushed. “Right.” I took a sip of the drink I’d been holding for an hour now.

She giggled. “You still haven’t answered my question.”

I gulped.

“Here you go,” a male voice said.

We both looked up to see Ricky holding a cup towards Robin. He glanced in my direction before turning it back to her. She accepted it and took a sip before turning her bright green eyes back to me. They sparkled as they stared into my dull brown ones.

She took my cup out of my hand and sat it down with her own. “Do you want to dance?” she asked as she stood, pulling me up by the hand.

“Uh, sure.” My heart raced with anticipation as she pulled me into the center of the dance floor, cutting around and through the bodies of the other party goers drenched in sweat. When we reached the center, she circled towards me and began to move to the beat of the pulsing music. Her arms wrapped around my neck and her hips swung to the rhythm of the song.

“Loosen up, Sam,” she laughed. She pulled me closer to her.

Her face was close, so close I could practically taste the coconut rum on her breath. It was strong. I wanted to taste it. I pulled back.

She stepped closer. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I just need some air,” I yelled over the music.

“I’ll come with you.”

Before I could respond, Ricky appeared and swept her into the crowd, giving me a sneer and leaving me standing alone in a sea of faces. I needed to get out.

My body felt heavy as I found myself in a dark hallway filled with numerous pictures I couldn’t make out. My fingers trailed against the wall for balance. I ended up in the back of the house and, fortunately, an empty room. I closed the door, walked to the opposite side and opened a window. I inhaled the air with greed before letting it go. I laid my head against the windowpane and sighed.

Robin couldn’t be mine. We’d tried it already. My mind clouded with the first time I’d touched her. It had been sophomore year at a party not much different from this. She had been wearing a black crop top, a pair of dark washed jeans, black leather boots and a grey crescent that hung from her belly button. She had taken glances at me all night, giving small smiles that showed the dimple in her left cheek. As the night continued, so did the drinks, and she eventually signaled me to go upstairs with her. We’d found an empty room in the back of the house and had let our attraction take over. I touched my lip. I remembered the way her kisses grazed against my skin and the way her toes curled when I touched her hip. She had smelled like vanilla and freesias.

I shook my head, pulled out my cell phone and contemplated calling Will. What was he doing right now? Parties weren’t his thing, so he wasn’t here but I needed him more than anything right now. He always knew what to do.

As I dialed his number, there was a knock at the door.

“This room is occupied,” I shouted, putting my phone away and hoping whoever was at the door would leave.

The door creaked open and in walked the one person I didn’t expect.

Robin smiled as she closed the door behind her and locked it. She walked over to me slowly but sensually and came down in front of me. A bruise was forming on her arm. “I looked everywhere for you.”

I stared wide eyed at her. “What happened to you?”

She covered the bruise with her other hand. “Oh that? It’s just a bruise.”

I moved her hand. “Yeah, a bruise the size of a fist. Was it Ricky?”

Her silence answered my question for me.

What I saw broke my heart. Her eyes were filled with tears. Tears I wanted to so desperately kiss away.

I finally spoke. “You need to tell someone.”

“I can’t. I can’t tell anyone.” She choked on tears, putting her head down. “He knows the truth. He’ll tell.”

“What do you mean he knows?”

She looked up at me slowly and before I knew it, her mouth was on mine. My eyes closed. The kiss was warm and gentle, just like I had remembered it. My hands were on her waist and her fingers were in my hair. I wanted more. All too soon she began to pull away.

“That’s what he knows,” she began to explain. “I’m the only girl he’s ever wanted.”

I gulped.

“He refuses to let me go and as long as I’m with him, he won’t tell my parents that I’m…” She didn’t finish but she didn’t have to because I knew what she was trying to say. I was living the same life. I couldn’t tell my parents either and it wasn’t just because they were always on business trips.

“It’ll be okay,” I said, stroking her cheek.

She held my hand to her face as if it were comforting, and maybe it was. In that moment, she was there, with me, and that’s all that mattered.

I kissed her forehead. “Let me take you home.”

She nodded. “Thank you.”

We were sitting in my black Sedan, outside of her dark house. Leaving the party without anyone realizing had been more than too easy. It had still been in full swing when we left, everyone too engulfed with themselves to notice anyone leave. She’d come with Ricky, but, by the looks of it when we were leaving, he had already left.

I turned off the car. “Are you going to be okay?”

She leaned towards me and kissed me again, so softly I wasn’t a hundred percent sure she had actually kissed me.

“Goodnight and thank you. No matter what happens, I promise, I won’t forget this, not this time,” she said before leaving the car and walking up to her house. I waited until I saw her walk inside and shut the door behind her. I started my car and left.

I wasn’t ready to go home. My head pounded, my palms sweated, my eyes burned and the car lights whizzing past were beginning to blur. My chest was so tight, I could barely breathe. My body was shaking and eventually I pulled over into Pangborn Park. I couldn’t drive anymore.

I pulled out my phone and called the only person who could help me at this point. The only person who knew everything about me. My best friend. He answered on the second ring.

“What’s up?” Will asked. The rasp in his voice made it clear that he had been sleeping. I glanced at the time. It was after one o’clock in the morning.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you. I didn’t notice it was this late,” I apologized.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“Nothing, it’s fine.”

“Where are you? Are you hurt? I’m getting dressed now.” I heard him moving quickly around his room. He swore at the same time I heard a loud thump in the background.

“No really, go back to sleep. I’ll be-”

“If you tell me okay or that you’ll be fine I’m going to cut your tongue out of your mouth when I find you. Where are you?”

He always had been a little dramatic. “Pangborn Park,” I sighed.

“I’ll be there in fifteen minutes,” and with that he was gone.

Will showed up in ten minutes in his red Chevy truck, wearing two different colored shoes, one green and one blue. His orange sweatshirt had “Susquehanna” written across it, his dream school. His black hair stuck up in the wrong places, and his glasses covered his tired blue eyes that normally wore contacts. He pulled me into a hug when I got out of my car.

He pulled away a little to see my face. “Are you okay?”

“I don’t know.” And with that I told him everything, from beginning to end. We locked our cars and walked through the park as I told him the details of how my night had gone. He listened attentively as always and I talked for what felt like hours because I knew I could with him. He didn’t judge me and he genuinely cared.

“So, then I took her home. She kissed me goodnight, I think, and told me that she wouldn’t forget this time.”

“Damn,” he said, wide eyed.

“Yeah, I know,” I sighed, before taking out a cigarette and placing it between my lips. Will took out his emergency lighter and lit the end. I inhaled it deeply before letting the smoke escape my lungs. What an ugly habit to take part in. We looked ahead of us, staring into nothing except the trees, lights and road that stretched on forever.

“What are you going to do about it now?” he finally asked.

“That seems to be the question of the night.”

“This really sucks, Sam.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“Well, whatever happens, I’ll be there for you.” Will took my hand in his.

I turned towards him.

“Thank you.”

“Now, let’s get you home.”

As we walked back towards our cars, I didn’t feel like going home to a cold and empty house. It would remind me that I was alone and that the only person I trusted would be on his way back to his welcoming home in just a few minutes.

“I’m not ready to go home yet.”

He turned towards me. “Your parents aren’t back from their business trip yet are they?”

I shook my head.

“Well what do you want to do?”

“I just want to stay out.”

And so we did. He climbed into the passenger seat at the same time I sat down in the driver’s seat. We made sure our doors were locked before settling into the soft cushion seats. Within minutes, Will had fallen asleep but I couldn’t stop thinking about what tomorrow would bring. The future was never certain and there were many ways this could end. Maybe, I’d get to school, with just a few minutes to spare, and would see Robin in Ricky’s arms, wearing the black sweater she only wore on Mondays with a pair of faded ripped jeans and black combat boots that came up to her knees. Ricky would smile, a smug smile, knowing he’d won and she would laugh and kiss him like she truly did love him. I would be heartbroken, once again, wondering if last night had even been real, and I would go to Will and he would comfort me and wrap me up in a warm hug that told me everything would be okay, even if it wasn’t at the moment. And then we would go about our day and back into the flow of things as if nothing had happen. I would put the memory of tonight away, leaving it to rot until eventually it was nothing more than something that brought a bitter taste to my mouth.

The thought hurt. Reality didn’t always have a happy ending and I was too much of a pessimist to think otherwise. But still a small part of me hoped for it not to end like that. That maybe, just maybe, at the end of the day when it was time to go home I’d find a note in my locker, like a cheesy old cartoon show, that told me she still remembered tonight like she promised.

“Insurrection” by Kaitlyn Martin

We clutch our muskets with white-knuckled hands. They are coming, aren’t they?

He’d said they were coming. Screamed it as he rode by leaving panic, terror, and fury in his wake.

Mostly fury.

I’d felt a shock of fear as I took down my gun from above the fireplace, an edge of bitterness as I strapped on my shot and powder, and a chilly resolve as I rammed the lead ball down the barrel.

I didn’t know what I felt as I marched out the door.

And now, here, waiting… I still don’t know.

This is it. Years of struggle and bitterness have brought us to this moment.

We’ve endured more than we deserved, resisted more than they expected…. were we now to face more than we could handle?

At least they would now know our intentions. No more would we crawl like snakes in the grass. No more would we knuckle under while we were treated as children.

They poked the bear with a stick, and now we are furious. They should have known better.

After today, they’d understand.

If we all lived to tell the tale.

Sweat stings my eyes, and makes my hands slick on the stock. I pick up a handful of dirt, and rub the grit through my hands. I pick up the musket again.

The stock doesn’t slide through my hands anymore.

Will to my left is pale, and looks like he’s about to cry. The boy is sixteen.

Joseph to my right is forty, a veteran, made of iron; he wants to shoot someone, right now.

I can’t decide which I want to do.

I close my eyes, say a prayer, and for once thank the Lord I have no wife, no one to think of—but other husbands are here.

Husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, all of one mind. All resolved. All together.

Long before we see them, we hear them. Footsteps approach. In perfect rhythm, step, step, step. Boots tramp on twigs and leaves and splash through puddles. Closer, closer.

We hold our breath as if one man, waiting for them to step out of the trees and into the clearing.

They step out, forward, and keep advancing. Is this when we start shooting?

No one shoots.

They stop. We hold fast. I release the breath from my tight lungs. My hand feels like an iron brace on the stock of my rifle, and my finger hovers over the trigger.

We stare at them and they stare at us, all of us frozen in time. Two groups of hardened men, brothers by any other standard, pointing our weapons at each other.

Blood red jackets versus brown wool coats; shiny new rifles against old scratched ones; ramrod straight lines facing a staggered, uneven row.

This is madness.

We all know it,but no one turns tail and runs, no one yells and attacks. No one moves, not a muscle.

I see a boy not much older than Will. He does not look like he’s going to cry. His eyes are hard, and he clutches his rifle, too. His back is straight, his sneer curling his lip. Fools, everything about him says. Try if you dare.

Their uniforms make them an easy target, but they don’t seem to mind. They’re not worried.

They’re exceptional, of course.

They’re better.

After all, isn’t that why we’re all here? Superior, excellent soldiers against ordinary, unimportant farmers?

Isn’t that the big reason?

I feel myself unfreeze. Heat builds inside me as I meet the gaze of each one. My own narrows.

Pretentious. Arrogant. Pompous. Haughty. Insolent. So proud, so full of themselves, every last one.

We are more than second-class citizens.

We do not exist to fill their coffers or pay for their wars.

We are not bound to their laws, their king, or their mentality.

My hand slides along the stock, bettering my grip. Near me, others do the same. We’re ready.

They shift uneasily, the first sign of weakness shown. They cast glances at each other, at their officers, unsure about the orders they’ve been given.

Somewhere, far off, the muscles in my shoulder and back are screaming. But I push it away, harden my gaze, set my stance, and slowly breathe.

They’re outnumbered, but the risk to us is high.

It doesn’t matter. All of my life has brought me here, for this time.

This is it. This is the moment.

How long can we stand like this, between life and death, between freedom and enslavement, between heaven and hell?

God above, will no one make a move?

Maybe not. Perhaps that is the wiser—

Someone fires.

One heartbeat.

Everyone fires.

“Having No One” (HCTW) by Sabrina Smith

I awoke screaming. Slowly, I calmed down as well I could before starting to cry into my pillow. I had no one. After glancing down at my wrists and the scars and scabs there I closed my eyes and tried to go back to sleep.

I awoke the next morning and changed out of my pajamas and into my usual black outfit, shoving an equally black jacket on over it. Then I went downstairs.

My father, a banker, glanced at me and pursed his lips, but chose not to say anything. My mother took one look at me and did the opposite.

“It’s been two months, Rosie,” she said, sitting across from me at the table. “You can come out of mourning.” I fiddled with my cereal and didn’t say anything. “I know you miss him,” she muttered. “We all do. But we need to move on.”

“I’m going to school,” I said abruptly, grabbing my bag and walking out the door. I didn’t look back at the massive house I’d exited, know mom would be watching. Instead I chose to look to the manicured lawn and the end of the driveway. Just as I arrived, the bus pulled up and the doors opened, allowing me to board.

Everyone greeted me with “Goth Girl!” I ignored it and kept walking to the back of the bus to sit, alone.

We stopped in front of the school a few taunting jeers later and I made my way to the locker I’d previously shared with my twin.

As I opened it I was hit with the realization I would have millions of times over every day: he was dead. I’d left it just the same for that reason. His things sat at the upper half of the locker, as if he was waiting impatiently for me to finish.

I filled my bag with everything I’d need for the day and closed the door.
My classes went by at a snail’s pace, frequented by the voices of those who I used to consider my friends making jabs at me.

My life was changed at lunch.

I sat in the back corner of the cafeteria, at my own table, under the flickering florescent lighting. Just like every other day, I imagined Alex sitting across from me, laughing. I unpacked my lunch. As I took a bite of my apple someone sat down across from me.

“Hello,” said a cheerful voice. “I’m Janet. Who are you?” For a moment I was stunned.

“Rosie,” I stammered. She smiled and began to eat her lunch as if there was nothing wrong. As I looked at her my eyes hurt. Even in the dim light her outfit practically glowed bright pink and green.

“It’s nice to meet you,” I said suddenly. She grinned.

“It’s nice to meet you. I’m new here,” she said, answering the question I never asked. “I only just moved from Windor.” I nodded and felt that it was my turn to make some polite conversation.

“What class do you have next?” I asked carefully.

“English with Mr. Hawthorne, I think.” I nodded, neglecting to mention I was in her class.

A week later she had grown on me. She had no idea that I like to take a razorblade to my wrists yet, and I hoped to keep it that way. Despite myself, I didn’t want to lose her.

“Why do they call you Goth Girl?” she asked one day. “Is it because you wear so many dark colors?”

I nodded. She moved on, talking at fifty miles an hour.

That night I made my way to the cemetery at the end of our street. I found Alex’s grave and sat down beside it.

“Hey,” I said. “I brought you something.” I laid a bluebird’s feather on the grave. “I know you couldn’t find one for your collection.

“I have a friend at school,” I continued, making myself more comfortable.
“Janet. I told you about her yesterday, remember? I want to tell her about- you know. I don’t know how, though. What do you think?”

“Rosie?” I started and turned. Janet stood behind me.

“What are you doing here?” we asked at the same time.

“This is where my mother’s buried,” she said, pointing to a plot a few rows down. “Cancer. Just before I moved here. Now it’s your turn, Rosie. Who’s this?” She pointed at my brother’s headstone.

“This is Alex,” I said. “He was my twin.”

“Hey, Alex,” she said softly. “I’m Rosie. It’s wonderful to meet you.”
I swallowed.

“How’d he die?”

“There was an accident. A-A drunk driver came down the road as I was crossing…. Alex was waiting on the other side and saw him. He pushed me out of the way.”

“Oh….. Oh, no. Rosie, I’m so sorry.”

“I’m sorry, too, about your mom.” She shrugged.

“We knew it was going to happen. It still hurt, but we got to say goodbye, at least.” We were both quiet for a moment.

“Jan, I need to tell you something.”

“What is it?”

“They- They don’t call me Goth Girl because I wear dark clothes. I-I’m suicidal.”

“I know.”

“You do?” I gasped and she nodded.

“I have since the first day I was here.”

“And you- you still came to sit with me?” She nodded again.

I grabbed her in a tight hug. She grinned and hugged me back.

“Thank you.”

I couldn’t help but think that, somewhere, Alex was smiling down on me.
From then on I left the jacket in my closet.

“Something More” by Savannah Shifflett

You can barely contain your excitement; you’re finally seeing your best friend in person, face to face, close enough to touch, for the first time in a year. You guys talk every day, but it’s different when you can actually hug her, draw her in close, and breathe in the scent of her shampoo, hoping she hasn’t changed it in the 393 days that you two have been apart.


She’s supposed to be at your house by ten in the morning, and you know she won’t be late. Taking a cold shower, you sigh in relief when you’ve finally got a break from the summer heat.


You pretend like you don’t take too long picking out your outfit before settling on athletic shorts and a crop top. There’s a minute after you put your hair in a ponytail where you look at all of the perfumes on your vanity, putting careful consideration as to which one you should wear, if any, but then the doorbell rings.


That’s the first thing that alerts you to the change in your relationship.


She tackles you in a hug as soon as you open the door, something you’re grateful for, and her hair smells just like it did when you hugged her goodbye last summer.


“You smell just like you did the last time I saw you!” she exclaims, and there is no way for you to express how happy it makes you that she remembered the shampoo she once called weird. “You’re right, that damn smell has grown on me, or maybe I just miss you so much I can’t even complain.” She punches your arm, only a mere couple of inches from your breast, and your heart stops.


She pulls her hand away quickly, rather than running it down your arm like she used to, and that’s the second thing that alerts you to the change in your relationship.


The first thing you grab before you head upstairs is food, an essential to a reunion sleepover. You two practically raid the pantry, carrying armfuls of junk up the stairs and into your room, plopping the chips, dip, cookies, and many other snacks onto your bed.

As soon as all of the snacks are laid down, she tackles you into the bed in a much warmer hug than the one you got by the door. She’s breathing in your ear, and you can hear the little hitches in her breath, a tell-tale sign of her giggle that you so adore.


You push her off, pretending to huff and puff as you feign anger, but she only gives you that smirk, the one that knows all of your tells when you’re acting, and you just know that there’s no way you’ll ever get away with the secret that you’re coming to terms with.


“Just for that, you don’t get to pick the first movie!”


“Whatever, you weren’t gonna let me pick anyway.”


You move your hand over your heart, acting flattered, “you know me so well; how did I ever survive without you for over a year?” The batted eyelashes are only added for dramatic flair.


“I don’t know dude, I am pretty damn awesome,” she responds without missing a beat, batting her eyelashes back at you, and you have to wonder if she’s also doing it to get the tears out of her eyes.


There’s a moment of silence where you’re remembering all the times that you wished she was there, and a small, selfish part hopes that she’s doing the same.


“Enough of all this sappy shit!” she proclaims, rolling off of you, careful of the snacks, and getting into her relaxing position on her, self-designated, side of the bed. “So are we knocking out five movies or two seasons?” She asks, tapping her unpainted nails against the bed in excitement.


“I’m offended that you doubt our binge-watching skills! We could definitely get in more than two seasons! The question is: do we want nitty gritty plot or a light comedic show?” You ask, going over the shows you’ve seen that fit either of those categories, but none of them stand out.


“Hmmm, I’m in the mood for one of those shitty romantic dramas,” she says, stroking her chin and looking off into the distance as though she’s saying something philosophical.


For as long as you can remember, she has been this way: hot and then cold, always changing her mind but sounding as though she had always thought that way.


You suppose it fits perfectly that you’re pretty set in your morals but not confident in them at all.


The choice of the night ends up being an ongoing TV drama, from one of those channels that are only geared towards teenagers, about this boy and girl that have been best friends ever since elementary school and once they get to high school they have to face the fact that they date other people while avoiding rumors of them sleeping together. It’s basically like every other show of its kind, but the obvious romantic tension between the friends hits a little too close to home for you.


Things would be a hell of a lot easier if your best friend were a boy though.


By the time dinner is ready, you guys are halfway through the second season, and after that, there’s only one more season you have to watch until you’re forced to suffer through a month or two of waiting for the new one.


Dinner is spent with your parents getting caught up with her, and you notice how integrated she is into the life of everyone in the house. You don’t think your parents would mind going to a house you share with her, your kids running around in circles, for a birthday party, or Christmas, or just to come over for a visit. They wouldn’t mind at all.


The both of you head to your room, racing up the stairs, and ultimately, she wins, just like always. You’re both panting, honest to god hands-on-knees panting.


“We’re fat,” she laughs, still short of breath.


“I vote we blame it on the adrenaline.”


You’re knocked out by midnight, curled into the fetal position, facing her, with a light blanket covering your ankles. When you wake up, it’s only two, and you don’t want to have to deal with the loud volume of the TV. You settle for watching her, trying not to feel like too much of a creep, as she breathes, in and out, in and out. In a matter of five seconds, she’s inhaling part of the pillow case. It covers her open mouth, stopping her from breathing, and just before you can pull it away, her eyes open, looking into yours.


“Weirdo,” she yawns.


“Hypocrite,” you yawn back.


“You look cute when you yawn.” She’s said this before but not like this, not five inches from your face, not looking deep into your eyes, not sounding 100% serious.


“You look cute always.”


She smiles, and it’s two in the morning, you’re both half asleep, so you take a chance.


As soon as you press your lips to hers, she yawns, and you pull away, forcing out a laugh. She frowns at you and your heart stops. “That sure as hell wasn’t an invitation to pull away.” Your mind has yet to fully grasp her words and your heart has yet to start to beat again.


She moves so that there’s only one inch between you two, but before long, she closes it.


You hold her hand as you walk down the stairs the next morning. Your heart is racing, but the pulse in her thumb is steady. It’s a comforting thought that she’s not nervous at all, that she’s 100% sure in the choices that you both made.


Your parents see your hands, and for a second they look confused, their minds running over everything they’ve seen from you in the past years.


“Do we have to sleep in different rooms when I come over now?” She asks, making light of the situation and taking the attention off of you like she always does. You love it.


“So long as you promise not to get her pregnant,” your parents say at the same time, and all of you laugh; that’s exactly how the two of you are together, best friends with the possibility of something more.


You’ve spent the whole last year without her thinking of the way her smile got your heart racing, how something that even remotely reminded you of her brought a smile to your face, and how at night, after you two had hung up, you’d cry and cross off one more day on your calendar, sad that she was so far away but happy that you were one day closer to seeing her.


As you sit down, laughing at the next joke that she cracks, you notice how her smile is contagious, and you know that she’ll never let yours leave.

“How to Save a Life” by Stephanie Eberly

It’s the same routine every day, and today is no different. Anne wakes up to the sound of her alarm playing ‘80s rock music, slams her fist on the machine to make it stop, and slides her skinny legs out from under her warm Star Wars blanket. Her pale feet hit the cold wooden floor, sending a shiver up her spine. She grabs a pair of jeans and a graphic T that were carelessly thrown on her chair the night before and slips them on. With shuffling steps she makes her way to the bathroom, slamming the door behind her. That mirror. Oh how she hates it. Sometimes she just wants to punch the wavy reflection and watch as the pieces shatter on the tile. Instead she glares at the sickly face peering back at her and goes to work uselessly trying to beautify the face she was born with. Cold water splashes, a pink towel dries, mascara darkens lashes, blush colors pale cheeks, contacts go in and come back out, glasses are placed, and the door is opened.

She walks down the creaky steps of the ancient house and into the kitchen where her mother stands over a sink full of soapy water. Anne thumps a bowl and spoon on the table and pours Reese’s Puffs until little pieces roll onto the table. She opens the refrigerator door and sticks her nose into the milk carton.

Her nose crinkles, and bile forms in her throat. “Ah, gross! Mom! The milk is bad again.”

“I’m sorry, sweetie,” she says without looking up from the pan she’s washing. “You can always pick some up on your way home from school today.”
“Nah.” Anne pushes the door closed and tosses the rotten milk in the trash can. “Whatever, I’ll eat dry cereal for the third day in a row.”

“You need to eat more than that. I can tell when you’re losing weight.”

“I’m fine,” she says, pushing the concern aside, and swipes the full bowl from the table, spilling little peanut butter and chocolate balls all over the floor. “Darn it.”

“What did you say?”


Her mother turns from the sink, her hands covered in suds. “I’m going to ask one more time. What did you say?”

“Nothing, okay? Just get off my back!”

“What did I do, huh?” It’s like something inside of her snapped. “All I ever do is take care of you. I cook, I clean, I work my fingers to the bone to make sure you get an education, and this is the thanks I get?”

“Mom, don’t. Just don’t”

“Ever since your father left, you’ve treated me as if I’m just a maid.” Her mom dries her hands and leans on the counter. “I’m your mother, Anne! Your mother. I’m sorry I couldn’t get your father to stay, but I’m doing the best I can!”

“Don’t!” Tears form in Anne’s eyes, and she presses her palms against her skull. “Don’t bring Dad into this.”

“But that’s what it is, isn’t it? It’s your father. You think I wasn’t a good wife to him, and that’s why he left. Isn’t it, Anne?” She turns to the window above the sink. “Come on, just tell me. I can take it.”

“Agh! I can’t do this with you right now.” Anne slings her backpack over her shoulder. “I’m going to school.”

Her mother never looks away from the window, as she clenches the countertop so hard her knuckles turn white. “Don’t forget your lunch.”

Anne grabs the brown bag sitting so innocently on the white counter, and the screen door slams behind her.

It’s always brought back to Dad. Two years ago, he up and left them one night, no warning, no note, nothing. He packed his bags and left. Ever since then, Anne’s mother has always been so self-centered, bringing every conversation back to “Oh, woe is me.” It’s pathetic. Doesn’t she see that her daughter is struggling, too? Growing up without a father isn’t exactly easy. The older kids see her as being weak, a wimp. She won’t—no—she can’t cry in front of them, so she puts on a mask to disguise the pain inside.

Anne kicks a piece of garbage along the sidewalk in an attempt to vent her emotions. But instead the garbage seems to evade her, and her leg goes out from under her, bringing her smack down onto the concrete. A couple of kids across the street point and laugh at her struggle. This day just keeps getting better and better. Sometimes she wonders if life is really worth living, to deal with all of these dumb people and their stupid ways every single day. Maybe it would be better if she just weren’t here anymore. No one would miss her anyway, and the world would move on.

These thoughts are pushed out of her mind as she approaches the front steps of her high school. Taking a deep breath, she enters the halls that are sure to one day suck all life out of her. Ignoring the crooked looks and stabs in the back, she moves through the crowd to find her locker. It’s located between Jamie, who doesn’t say much, and Josh, a football jock who only cares about his muscles and hair.

Josh is showing off his biceps to a group of cheerleaders as Anne approaches. He raises one eyebrow and nudges the blonde beside him. “Watch this.” As if Anne couldn’t hear him from a mile away.

He shoves her locker door closed, almost catching her fingers. “Hey, Anne. I’m surprised you actually came to school today.”

Anne bites her lip and clenches her fists. “Why do you say that, Josh?” If looks could kill, he’d be dead.

“Oh, you know, because the Comic Con isn’t for a couple of months yet.” Josh and the cheerleaders burst into a jostling laughter.

Anne feels her cheeks get hot. She self-consciously covers her Captain America t-shirt with her math books as she moves away from the lockers. She barely takes two steps before Josh slaps the books out of her hands and beneath the milling feet of the crowd. He proceeds to snatch the brown bag lunch from her hands and peer inside.

“What’d ya bring me today, geek?”

Kids all around her start to laugh. Little cliques chuckle to themselves and begin to murmur. They all know the daily routine. Anne brings the bagged lunch, Josh eats the lunch, and Anne goes another school day without a meal. Her hip bones protruded further out than last week.

Josh pulls out a napkin on which letters are scribbled in bright pink. “’I love you, sweetie. Love, Mom,’” he reads. “Aw, look who’s mommy’s little baby.” He puckers out his lip, tauntingly waving the paper in front of her.

She tries to snatch it from him, but he’s too quick. How could she have forgotten to take out the napkin? The one time she forgets… The napkin is pulled from his raised hand and passed around the newly forming circle of high schoolers. Laughter erupts. Fingers point. She can feel the anger boil inside of her, threatening to spill over and burn everyone around her. Jaw clenched, she leans down to pick up her books that are newly decorated with dusty footprints.

As she goes to stand, a field of white blocks her view.

“Want this, huh? Do you?” There towers Josh. He must really want to push her buttons.

Before she knows it, tearing is heard, and his outspread hands hold the pieces of what used to be her mother’s note.

Anne’s world goes blurry as her head fills with rage. Not her mother’s note. She can barely keep her body from shaking, and before she knows it, her fist digs into Josh’s chin. He slams into the lockers behind him, the shock knocking him off his feet.

“That’s how you want to play, is it?” His forehead bulges with anger as he regains his balance. “Come here, ya little pipsqueak.” He swings at her, but she dodges to the side, the books flopping to the floor once more.

She knows she will regret this later, but all she can think about now is how sweet the revenge tastes. Summoning all her strength, she lunges onto the jock’s back. Her arms wrap in a headlock and don’t let go.

Josh claws at her arms and takes a few wobbly steps backwards, struggling to get breath. Since the beginning of the fight, people have formed a circle around them, their fists pumping in the air.

Within a split second, the cold metal of the lockers slam into Anne’s back. Sharp pain shoots up her spine and numbs her already blurred mind. She feels her grip loosen, and she tumbles onto the ground.

Like an angry grizzly, Josh towers over her limp body. She can’t help but chuckle. Never has she seen him this angry, and today, it was because of her. The little pipsqueak. A surge of pride pushes out her chest.

“I’m gonna wipe that smirk right off your face, geek.” The last thing she remembers is his large fist coming at her face, then everything goes black.
Anne sits in the principal’s office, holding an icepack against her brand new shiner. Her head throbs with pain, but her heart beats with adrenaline from the fight. The fight. She actually fought Josh. She lost, sure, but she couldn’t help but feel a hint of pride.

The office door opens and in walks a balding, middle-aged man who looks like he ate one too many cheeseburgers. “Hello, Anne. I heard you got yourself into a fight earlier today, is that correct?” His eyes search the non-bruised part of her face in an effort to get a response. Upon receiving none, he pulls out a slip of paper from his desk. “You know we can’t let this go. There will be consequences.”

Anne continues to press the cold pack against her flushed skin. She doesn’t really care what this man is saying; she just wants to get out of the cramped quarters.

“Josh has been temporarily removed from the football team in an effort to curtail his temper.” A pause. “Anne.” He leans forward in his chair. “This little fit of yours will cost you two weeks of suspension. Do you understand?”

Two weeks. Maybe she could end all this drama during that time. All she would have to do is get the razor…

“We called your mother. She’s on her way.”

Anne snaps back to attention. “What?! My mom?”

The principal just stares at her, his hands placed calmly on his desk. “Yes, your mother. She will be here shortly to pick you up, and I’m sure she will have a few things to say about your suspension”

Her grip on the icepack tightens. “You didn’t have to bring my mom into this. She doesn’t care.”

“Oh, I’m sure she does, Anne. She’s your mother after all.”

“No. You don’t understand.” She can feel her whole face flush and her pulse quicken. “She. Doesn’t. Care.”

“Anne, now calm down.”

“No! Don’t tell me to calm down! All you people and your dumb ways. None of you understand. You don’t know me. You don’t get what I’m going through. I just want to get out of here. Two weeks to rid myself of all this crap! Good riddance!”

She rushes out of the office before anyone can stop her. Tears blur her vision and cause her to weave through the hallway. Somehow her free hand finds the door to the girl’s bathroom, and she stumbles in.

She grips the edge of the counter. From behind her crooked glasses, she scans the face staring back at her in the mirror. There she is, the good-for-nothing geek that everyone makes fun of. With that black eye, she’d be the laughing stock of the whole school—not like that’s anything new. What is the point of her life, when all anyone ever does is yell and laugh at her? No one cares that she is crumbling inside, that all she wants to do is rid herself of this pain.

She thinks back to her bathroom, to the razor blade sitting all innocent-like on a shelf hidden behind that awful mirror. Just one swipe across her wrist, that’s all she has to do. And then all this pain can be gone. She imagines it hovering over her veins, so close to taking the life from her. But the bathroom door opens, and her thoughts disappear like a vapor.


Anne gives a quick start, her darkened thoughts temporarily pushed back in her mind. A short, stocky blonde girl stands behind her, peering at her with green eyes. It’s one of the “smart, pretty” girls. The ones who ace math tests and raise their hands to answer every question in science. The ones who don’t care about lowlifes like Anne.

“You’re Anne, right?” The blonde searches for a response, but upon receiving none, moves toward a stall door. ”You know, I’ve always thought your love for Marvel is pretty cool. Don’t listen to what Josh and those girls say. They’re just jerks.” She smiles softly at Anne’s reflection. “You’re really pretty…even with the black eye.”

Anne stares back at the blonde, stunned into silence.

The girl looks down at the tiled floor and searches for something else to say. “See you when you get back?”

When she gets back? News travels fast. Anne finally gets her lips to move. “Yeah.”

“Cool. I’ll see you then, Anne.” She gives her an understanding smile before disappearing into the stall.

Yeah. Maybe she will see her in two weeks. She will. And now, Anne will look forward to it

“Young, Wild, and Trapped” by Danielle Eyler

Behind closed doors, Kathleen glowed just like her mom had said she would one day. Outside of her room, Kathleen walked around with her head down and her long hair hanging in her face. Her mother would no longer speak to her. Her father glared at her as she walked near him. Her ten brothers and sisters were not allowed to speak to her either. It broke Kathleen’s heart to see her family filled with so much hatred and disgust towards her. She prayed every night that things would get better, but it didn’t happen.

“Mary, come here now!” Kathleen’s mother would scold as the little five year old tried to run up to her big sister. The family had been torn apart by Kathleen’s rebellious actions. She didn’t want it to be like that, but that’s how it had to be. Kathleen hung her head and scurried up the stairs.

She shut her wooden bedroom door and slid against the wall onto the cold hard wood floors. She glanced down at her large baby belly and smiled as if life were perfect. “I’ll take care of you sweet baby.” She didn’t know how she was going to do it, but she was determined to do it. She was going to raise this baby whether her family wanted to support her or not.

Kathleen sat there for a while and prayed just like she had every day. She prayed for peace. She prayed for a healthy baby. She prayed that her baby’s father would save her from the family that no longer loved her. Buzz. Buzz. Kathleen ran over to her nightstand. She grabbed her cellphone which she hid from her family. The screen read, Alan. “Hello. Please come get me. I can’t stand it here any longer. They won’t even look at me or talk to me. They hate me,” Kathleen cried out in a whisper.

Kathleen glanced up at the grandfather clock that sat in the corner of her room. Her father had made it for her when she was just a little girl, along with a wooden chest that stored her first handmade outfit, crocheted afghan, and hair clippings from her very first haircut. The hour hand had just struck seven o’clock, so it was no surprise that Alan was calling. She held the iPhone 6 up to her ear that Alan had bought her after finding out she was pregnant. “Keep this with you at all times. If you ever need help, call me. If you ever feel signs of labor, call me,” Alan told Kathleen as he gave her his old phone that he kept connected just for her.

Alan always called every night at seven o’clock. That was his break at work. He would call to check on her. He would ask about the baby.

“Be ready in two hours. I get off work at nine. Only bring what is necessary. We won’t have a lot of room,” Alan stated. He thought back to the night he had gotten Kathleen pregnant. What a mess he had gotten himself into, but he knew he had to take care of it just like he was raised to do. “But, damn, it would be really easy to just walk away. Change my phone number. She’d never be able to find me,” Alan thought to himself for a brief second.

“Okay, I will,” Kathleen replied.

He worked as a bartender at the bar that sat on Main Street. He had started working there when he was 21 years old. His parents discouraged him from doing it, but he had always been the rebellious one and decided to do it against their wishes. At the time, he had been in a serious relationship with Hannah. She was the waitress that had shoulder length blonde hair, long eyelashes coated in mascara, and boobs that were popping out of her low cut V-neck shirt. All of his friends had been so jealous. “How’d you get a hot one like that?” They would tease him. Alan’s family, who attended church every Sunday, didn’t care for the reviling way she dressed. They had thought that Alan could bring something a little bit classier home. But, Alan was “in love.” He had fallen head over heels for her. The only bad thing for them was that both of them had crazy exes that constantly tried to create drama between them. After all, neither Alan nor Hannah had a good track record with relationships, so it shocked their friends when they celebrated their one-year anniversary of being together.

Alan had just left work. He worked a long eight hour shift that day. He was ready to get home to his downtown apartment and open up a nice cold can of beer. He was storming down the sidewalk. He had been frustrated all day. Hannah was bitching at him all day about stupid little things. She just loved to stir shit up between them when nobody else was. His cell phone buzzed. It was a text from Hannah that read, “I’m done. Goodbye. You aren’t worth my time.” Alan rolled his eyes and just texted back, “K.” He was so over her crazy personality. He turned on his street and that is when he noticed Kathleen dressed in her floor length, floral, homemade dress. Her old, black sneakers stuck out like a sore thumb. She was the complete opposite from crazy, sexy Hannah, but something about her innocence attracted him instantly.

He walked towards her and noticed the wooden cross that hung around her neck on a piece of twine. Alan couldn’t help himself but to approach her. “Hey. I have something good back at my place, want to come?” Kathleen was confused. What could he be talking about? A new bible? A new hymnal? A new handmade dress? After all, those were the good things in her life.

“A bottle of liquor is waiting back at my place for us. I’d love to get you back to my place and pour you a fruity little mixed drink.”

Kathleen quickly hesitated. She knew she shouldn’t talk to him. She knew she should turn around and walk the opposite way. She knew he was up to no good. But, she was scared. She felt like she couldn’t say no. She took a step and began to follow Alan back to his place.

That’s when it all started. Kathleen quickly fell for Alan. He was a rebel. He wasn’t like the men in her community. He wasn’t like the boy up the dirt road that her mom always swore she would marry. He was different. He was an outsider. He wore ripped up jeans and V-neck t-shirts. He wore a black leather jacket. His black hair was styled and not just covered up with a straw hat. He had a cigarette lit at all times.

They walked back to his place. She briefly thought about what she would tell her parents when they asked why it took her so long to go to town and get the fabric. “I’ll just tell them that I couldn’t decide which ones to buy,” she thought to herself as she cautiously held his hand and made her way to his apartment with him. The door opened and she had never seen anything like it. A large flat screen television hung on the wall above a gas fireplace. The large L-shaped leather couch filled the living room. Stainless steel appliances and granite counter tops light up the kitchen. The open floor plan and red painted walls modernized the space. The wood floors looked as if they were brand new. Kathleen was in complete shock. She had never seen anything like this. It was decorative. It was colorful. It wasn’t boring.

“I’m Alan. What’s your name, you little innocent beauty?” Alan asked as Kathleen observed every detail of his apartment.


“Okay, Kathleen, can I pour you a drink?”

Kathleen quickly felt nauseous. She never drank before. Her parents never drank before. Drinking was terrible! But she didn’t know what to say except, “um… I guess. What will it do to me?”

He giggled at her innocent little remarks, but poured her a drink anyway.

Kathleen began to feel giggly and light-headed. It didn’t take long for Kathleen to be lying on his couch, cuddled up to his cologne-scented shirt, and running her fingers through his thick black hair. “Tell me about yourself, Kathleen.”

Kathleen started, “I live in the community. The Mennonite community. As you can tell, I have to wear these long, homemade dresses. We don’t have any electronics. And I’ve never drank alcohol. We spend our Sundays at church with our community. We work in the fields way too much. And, being the oldest, I have to take care of all the little rascals while the parents have bible study every Wednesday night.”

“Shit, that sucks.”

Kathleen continued to sip at her mixed drink and they sat there and got to know each other. She felt so relaxed. Kathleen was nervous, scared, excited, and feeling crazy. She had no idea what was happening, but she didn’t want to stop. She never felt like this before, but she liked it. His hand rubbed her leg and she felt like she was falling in love. She looked up at him and smiled. Alan thought that was his sign to make the next move. So, he slowly took off his shirt. Tattoos covered his arms. He began to undress Kathleen. Kathleen quickly grabbed the blanket that sat on the back of the couch and covered her body. Her wooden cross got tangled in her hair as he slipped her dress off, but he continued anyway.

A few weeks had passed before Kathleen’s family asked her to return to town, which gave her a chance to find Alan and talk about the night they had shared. They were nervous about asking her to go because last time she didn’t make it home until the fabric store closed. But, they believed her. After all, she was their oldest baby. She had always been so sweet and innocent. And her dedication to the community and to God outweighed every slight concern.

Ding. Dong. Knock. Knock. Knock. She anxiously waited outside on the small porch. Her knees were wobbly and knots formed in her stomach. She prayed that he was home. She couldn’t stop thinking about that night they had shared. The night she lost her virginity to a man she had just met. The night she lost her virginity to an outsider. And worst of all, the night she betrayed her community by having sex before marriage.

The door swung open. His face lit up and he stuck his hand out. She grabbed it and went inside. “I thought I would never see you again. I had no idea how to find you. I thought about you every day,” Alan explained to Kathleen. He had been telling his friends about her ever since the night they hooked up. Although Hannah had texted him that night after work and said she was done, she was back begging for his forgiveness the next day. Alan couldn’t take her back, though. He could only think about that sweet, innocent girl.

“I felt the same way, but I remembered where you lived. My parents finally ordered me to return to town to buy a few things, so I knew I had to come find you,” Kathleen responded.

It was early in the morning and Alan had been getting ready to go to work, so he called in sick. He couldn’t go to work not knowing how or when he would see Kathleen again.

Kathleen ran to the bathroom and shut the door. She fell to her knees in front of the toilet and got sick just like she had almost every morning for the past few weeks. “Lord help me!” She silently cried.

“Kathleen? Are you okay?” Alan yelled through the paper thin bathroom door.

“NO! This can’t be happening. It can’t be true. What if she is pregnant?” Alan thought to himself.

Kathleen stumbled out of the bathroom and lay down on the couch. She began to explain to him how sorry she was for coming to his apartment and getting sick. She told him how this had been happening every morning and she had no idea why. She felt exhausted.

Kathleen was terrified. She had no idea why she felt so sick lately. She wanted to leave because she felt so embarrassed, but she wanted help, too. She wanted to feel better, but she wanted to run.

“Are you pregnant?” Alan shouted. “Damn. This can’t be happening. We only hooked up one time. But, really, you were so kind and beautiful. Your innocence glowed throughout the room. I couldn’t stop myself. But, honestly, I can’t have no baby with a girl like you. My friends would freak if they found out I got the Mennonite girl pregnant,” Alan continued to ramble.

Kathleen just looked at him with complete shock. She had no idea what he was talking about. She was determined that she wasn’t pregnant. She began to fill with anger. “Why is he saying all this stuff? I’ll never come back!” She thought to herself.

Alan reluctantly gave her a phone and told her to call him if she found out she was pregnant. Kathleen stormed out the door. She was in complete denial. She couldn’t be pregnant.

A few weeks had passed and during that time, Kathleen walked to the general store to pick up a cheap pregnancy test. She took it. It read positive. She couldn’t believe it. She called Alan and told him. He was shocked, but he knew he had to help her because that was his child.

Throughout the pregnancy, Kathleen would talk to Alan during his break at work. She would tell him all about her day, the doctor’s appointments that she had for the baby, and the way she had been shunned once her parents noticed her pregnant belly.

Kathleen was often haunted by the memory of her parents confronting her the day they noticed she was pregnant. They had both come into her room without asking or knocking. They stormed in. Their faces were red. Her dad was furious. Her mom was scared.

“You little….” her dad yelled. “How could you do this to our family? We know you have been trying to hide this from us, but we aren’t dumb. Tell us the truth right now,” her dad scolded as he stood right in front of her.

“How could you do this? We raised you better than this!” Kathleen’s mother cried out.

Kathleen didn’t know what to do. She had been trying to hide the pregnancy for five months now. She had begun to sew her own dresses just so that she could make them larger and more likely to hide the forming baby bump. Kathleen spent most of her time in her room, alone. She only came downstairs when her mother called her for dinner. Kathleen had totally distanced herself from her family, because she knew this was not a good situation that she had gotten herself into.

“I’m pregnant,” Kathleen cried. Tears rolled down her bright red face.

Her mother continued to cry after Kathleen confessed to her parents. Being her mom, she wanted to hug her and tell her that everything would be okay, but her husband had different ideas. Kathleen’s father grabbed his wife’s arm and said, “Let’s get out of her. We don’t need to be in the presence of someone this terrible. She betrayed us and she will pay for this.”

Kathleen buried her head in her pillow and cried. But, she was thankful that they hadn’t kicked her. She knew she had no place to go.

Kathleen’s bedroom was on the second floor of the farm house. A balcony wrapped around the first and second floor of the house. She quickly gathered her belongings in a duffle bag that her mom had made her when she was just a little girl. Pregnancy test. Bible. Hymnal. Wooden cross. Family picture. Cell phone that Alan had given her. Pink, blue, and yellow color swatches. Picture of the dream nursery. And the baby bible that she had purchased in town the day she found out she was pregnant. Kathleen slung the duffle bag full of her most important items onto her back. She slipped on her black sneakers and continued to her bedroom window. Luckily, it was warm outside, so her bedroom window remained open all week long. The small breeze blew through her room. Her hair blew back in her face. She grabbed the hair tie off her wrist and threw her hair into a tight bun.

She struggled to make it through the window. She pushed and squeezed. She had no idea how she was going to get her eight-month-pregnant self out the window.

Her big belly made it tight to get out through her bedroom window but, with a little extra strength and determination, she was out the window and standing on the balcony that she had once used to sit on as she read her bible. She stood there for a minute and caught her breath. She tiptoed around back to the staircase that went down to the ground. She made it to the ground without anybody noticing. That’s when she began her journey to escaping the community. Kathleen waddled up the dirt road; Alan was parked at the end of it. She waddled as fast as she could but, honestly, she was exhausted and worn out. She had also been experiencing a few contractions here and there. She continued down the dirt road. At the entrance of the community sat the white, jacked up Chevrolet truck that Alan drove. She slung the door open and hopped into the truck. They drove off into the sunset as if it were a scene from a movie.

They had returned to Alan’s apartment. The town was lit up. Couples were strolling around the streets. Some single girls were gathered in a cluster at the steps of Alan’s porch.

“Excuse us,” Adam exclaimed.

The girls quickly moved but their eyes remained on Kathleen. Kathleen waddled up the steps in her long, worn out, homemade, floral and plaid dress. She stepped on the back of her dress as she walked up the stairs due to a bad tear in the back of her dress. The single girls, dressed in their little dresses, continued to stare at Kathleen and whisper about her.

“Did you see those girls’ faces? They were like, why the hell is a good looking hunk with that plain girl?” Kathleen joked as she plopped her duffle bag on the couch.

Alan just laughed. He hugged her and she kissed his check. Kathleen was still terrified, but she finally felt free. They were together. Away from the community, away from the judgments. At eight months pregnant, Kathleen was exhausted and ready to lie down in bed. After all, sneaking out of her home would have been exhausting for anyone. Alan had offered to rub her back since she was experiencing extreme lower back pain.

Laying together in bed, Kathleen and Alan began to talk about the future. “So, I know this may not be important, but I couldn’t bring any of my dresses, and honestly I don’t think I will last in this town if I continue to wear my dresses. So, can we go shopping and get the baby and myself some new outfits?” Kathleen asked. Alan smiled at her and she instantly knew that meant yes.

Kathleen began to drift off to sleep. She was tired. But, she was still scared. She had so many things running through her mind, but she tried her best to just relax and close her eyes. Although she didn’t know it, Alan felt the same way. He was terrified.

“AHHHHH! AHHHH! ALAN! Come here! I think I’m having this baby,” Kathleen screamed. Alan was in his closet getting ready to go shopping for Kathleen and the baby. He hurried over to the bed, noticing that the bed was wet, grabbed his truck keys off the nightstand, and helped Kathleen make her way to his truck that was parked alongside the road.

By the time they had arrived at the hospital, the nurses had a wheelchair ready to rush Kathleen back to the delivery room. Alan remained by her side as they welcomed the small, five pound four ounce baby boy into the world. Minutes after the delivery, Kathleen explained to the doctor that she was still experiencing pain and contractions.

By ten that morning, Kathleen was holding their five pound baby girl and Alan was holding there five pound four ounce baby boy. She looked over at Alan who was glowing. “Can you believe this?”

It felt as if the whole world had just stopped right in its tracks. Both of the young adults’ lives had changed drastically. It really didn’t even feel real.

The nurse came in to check on Kathleen and the babies. “I have the paperwork here. Did you decide on names?”

Kathleen and Alan smiled at each other, “Yes!”

“Solomon is our baby boy. Delilah is our baby girl,” Kathleen told the nurse as she began to fill out the paperwork. “Both are biblical names,” she explained.

Kathleen and Alan held their babies. They survived that first night in the hospital. It wasn’t easy, but they did it.

Knock. Knock. Knock. Alan answered, “Come in.” Alan’s mom and dad had arrived at the hospital. They had never met the mother of their grandchildren before, and she was completely surprised to see two babies in the room. “Oh my gosh! Two? You didn’t tell me!” Alan’s mother exclaimed.

“We didn’t know. Kathleen wasn’t able to get a sonogram during her pregnancy. The doctor in the community who monitored Kathleen and her pregnancy checked the heartbeat but never mentioned that he heard two. We were very surprised, too!”

Alan’s parents both came over to the new parents to hold the babies. They cuddled them and lit up as they held their new grandchildren. Kathleen was filled with joy, but part of her was sad that her parents weren’t there to meet the twins. She knew they didn’t approve of her situation, but these babies were still a gift from God. “How could they not want to be a part of their lives?” Kathleen wondered.

“September Call Up” by Charles Rockwell

It all began to sink in once I got on the bus to the ballpark. The feeling was bittersweet. I was going to be making my Major League debut against the team that drafted me three years earlier and that I had rooted for as a child with my father. A couple of years after being drafted, I became “the player to be named later.” I had to start in a whole new system. It would be unlikely that I ever would play for my favorite team. The players and coaches were carrying on during the ride, but the memories of my path to the big leagues are running through my head like a movie.

I had been raised a Baltimore fan. My father would take me to games on a regular basis. He would tell me that, one day, I would be playing on that field. “You have a gift, and it is my dream for you achieve greatness.” I always thought he was giving me the talk that all fathers give their children. When I got older, my abilities to play baseball became more apparent. I would play on all-star teams. My parents would sacrifice so much to keep me playing baseball. While he never said it, I am pretty sure my father lost a job when I was eleven because he wanted me to be a baseball player. He told my mom it was because the company was downsizing, but I heard him out in the garage one night with his buddies talking about how his boss was going to make him work when he was supposed to drive me and my traveling team four hours across the state for the little league state championship tournament.

There were times I would begin to hate baseball. It was not really the game, but the pressure that came with the tournaments. We had to win but, when you are a child, baseball is supposed to be fun, not about championships.

A few years later, I would play in high school, and baseball became fun again. When I was an athlete in high school, it gave me status with my classmates. I wore my varsity jacket around my high school like a badge of honor. It was a big deal being named to the varsity team as a freshman. I had four years to improve before I could either move on to college or enter the first year player draft in Major League baseball. After high school, I chose to enter the baseball draft. When I was selected by Baltimore, my father was so proud and happy, he had tears in his eyes. Not only had his dream of me playing baseball professionally come true, but I was drafted by the team we had cheered for since I was a kid.

For the next few years, I played in the Baltimore farm system. I loved the game, but life on the road is hard. My parents would travel to some of my games, and I was always excited to play in front of them.

One day in August, I was finally introduced to the business side of baseball. The team I had rooted for as a child had traded me to Minneapolis. This was heart-wrenching. I wanted to be the hometown hero, and play my entire career in Baltimore. I wanted my father in his retirement to sit behind the dugout every home game. My dream had been taken away.

I continued to progress through the Minneapolis farm system. When I made it to AAA ball, I knew eventually that I would make it to Major League ball, even if it was only for a short time.

A few months later, I was on a bus heading to the ballpark for my Major League debut. As the bus pulled up, the ballpark seemed larger than when I was a kid. I entered the tunnel to the locker room, and the hair on my arms began to stand up on end. Today gave me the chance I had worked so hard to obtain.

When I found my locker, I sat down and looked around at all the other players. I knew some of them from spring training. Many of them I recognized from watching baseball on TV. I was finally one of them, even if it was for a September call up when teams expanded their rosters. My uniform was clean and hanging in my locker. It looked pristine. I pulled my jersey off the hanger and looked at the back. There it was in big bold letters “REYNOLDS.” My name on a Major League jersey. It was brand new and had never been worn by anybody else. Those eight letters had been stitched on the jersey sometime this morning, because I did not know I was coming to Baltimore until 8:30 last night. My first call was to my dad. I told him it was finally going to happen and I would be in Baltimore in a few hours. His voice sounded different. He was all choked up with emotion. He told me he would be there for my debut, and so would my Mother.

After I put my uniform on, I walked out of the tunnel to the dugout. The manager had placed his lineup card up early and I was astonished to see I would be the designated hitter for today’s game. I knew then I had to warm up. Walking out on to the field the grass, I noticed it was perfectly manicured. The infield dirt was as smooth as a pool table. “This is how baseball should be played,” I thought to myself. The large ballpark that surrounded the field made me feel very small.

When I got to the cage for batting practice, it did not go as well as planned. Most of the balls I hit rolled in the infield back to where the second baseman would be. Double play balls are the kiss of death in the big leagues. It had to be nerves. I rarely ground into a double play in the minor leagues. I had to get out of this rut quick.

“Don’t make me regret the lineup card I wrote this morning,” I heard from the dugout. I looked over to see the manager Bruce Johnson checking out my swing.

“I am going to fix this before the game starts,” I replied. It was now crunch time; this problem had to go away.

The hitting coach approached, and brought me to the hitting tunnels under the stadium to fix my nerves. This was exciting and disappointing at the same time. Having my swing worked on by a guy who hit over .350 four years in a row was a dream come true. Having my Major League career depend on him fixing the problem made me even more nervous.

When we were done, I went back to the dugout to see if my parents had arrived. I had reserved them some tickets behind the dugout. My parents were here. Dad was wearing a Minneapolis Jersey. I never thought that would happen, especially in the stadium we visited so many times before. “Nice shirt,” I told him. “I will get you a dirty one with our name on it in about four hours.” They both seemed excited but it was too loud to talk anymore.

Once the game started, my team was going to bat first. I was sixth in the lineup so the likelihood of me making a plate appearance during the first inning was slim. We scored three runs in the first inning when the short stop hitting fifth drilled a three run homer while I was in the on deck circle. Standing in the batter’s box, the outfield wall seemed a hundred miles away. The pitcher, another September call up, was visibly nervous. He had given up more runs than he had made outs. This was my opportunity to make first at-bat one for the record books. I hit his third pitch down the first base line. The ball shot around the outfield walls and corners like it was in a pinball machine. I hustled past second base and slid into third to make my first at-bat a triple. I got up and looked at my uniform. It was filthy like it should be. A clean uniform meant I had not played as hard as I should. The next batter struck out swinging, and that ended the inning, sending me back to the dugout.

“Nice hit,” I heard as I was walking down into the dugout. Bruce Johnson was looking over at me. “Next time, hit it over the wall.” I sat in the dugout for what seemed like an eternity while the position players took to the field.

Finally, in the top of the fourth inning, my next opportunity to hit happened. Down 0-2, I fouled off what seemed like thirty pitches before lining one to the base of the wall in left center. It was a stand up double. I thought these Major League pitchers were going to be more challenging. On a wild pitch, I advanced to third, and then scored on a sac fly.

In the sixth inning, I hit a solo home run that just squeaked over the outfield wall. I ran around the bases and then walked to the dugout. I waved my hat to my parents walking down the dugout steps. Sitting in the dugout, it finally dawned on me “I am a single away from hitting for the cycle.” This is a huge feat that most players never achieve, let alone in a Major League debut. I couldn’t wait to get back in the batter’s box.

I was three for three for the game when I stepped up to the plate. I was locked in. I just needed to slap one past the infield and leg it out to first to put my name in the history books. I was going to get a hit, I was certain of it. The pitcher stood on the rubber and set to make his first pitch. I tightened my grip on the bat. This was the moment of truth. I watched the ball leave his left hand. It was a fast ball, but it was heading right for me. I turned and it hit me square in the back.

“Not on my watch,” yelled the pitcher.

“You’re out of here!” screamed the home plate umpire, and immediately ejected the pitcher from the game. I wanted to charge the mound more than anything else in the world. He took away my chance to make history. I slowly walked to first, glaring at him.

The team trainer came out to check on me to see if I needed to come out of the game. I told him I was fine and wanted to stay in. There was still a chance, albeit slim, that I could get one more plate appearance.

We came into the ninth inning up three runs, and I was six spots in the lineup away from hitting. Their pitcher had a 1-2-3 inning. My chance at hitting for the cycle had slipped away. Our closer had only blown one save all season, and he had a three run cushion. The game was essentially over. Suddenly, for the second time this season, he blew a save, and we were going into extra innings. My dream was returning to me.
The two batters in front of me had made it on base. I stood in the batter’s box wanting a hit more than anything else in the world. After battling to a three-two pitch count, I slapped one into right field and ran as hard as I could to first base. The two baserunners made it home and my hit put us ahead by two runs. My hit caused the opposing pitcher to be replaced with one from the bullpen. I made it to second on a wild pitch but the new pitcher struck out the next three batters, ending the inning. When the top of the tenth was over, I walked back to the dugout, proud that I had hit for the cycle and put the team up by two runs. The entire team gave me the silent treatment.

Mark Williams, our catcher, looked at me and said, “stop gloating. It doesn’t count if you take more than nine innings to get the hits.”

Was he serious? He sounded serious, and I felt a ball in my stomach. Then the entire team turned towards me, smiling. They were putting me on. I had hit for the cycle. Just wait until tomorrow I told them. I should get better against Major League pitching.