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  1. 1. The Skull Spiders are part of the natural landscape of Okoto. This my be an "argument from ignorance" thing going. But somehow I doubt that the MoUP has the power to give life, only to corrupt life that exists (as witnessed with Makuta). So IMO the spideys would have to exist before the Ekimu incident. 2. If a creature (or perhaps even a villager) dies, it comes back as a Skull Spider. This sounds rather weird, but if a few small "Rahi" die and become Skull Spiders every so now and again, they wouldn't amass a huge army of them, presuming that a few of them get destroyed/eaten every so often. But if there was a massive shockwave to kill of a huge number of them at once, then a huge army of them could appear and become a problem. 3. Larger creatures, upon their death, become the Lord of Skull Spiders and similar villain-type-things. Given the normal rate of death, there probably would only be one of them at a time to direct the Spiders and keep them away from the villages. Now there are a bunch of them, and they could be mad at the villagers for causing their death via mask. And they want the masks for themselves to avoid something like that from happening again. I'm sure you can find a hole or two in this spiderweb. Go!
  2. Inspired by real life, my imaginary friends in the IDES, and music from The Lion King. Under the Stars Out in Cameroon, John was entering his sixth year of service, building schools and homes for families. When he received the phone call, he remained silent, said "yes" several times, and then hung up. "Oh my God!" he gasped, and he let himself crouch down, with his elbows on his knees and one hand in his dusty face. He continued working, but didn't say anything to anyone. "Are you right?" asked Kate, sensing that not all was well with John. Whenever he was in a strained mood, everyone seemed to be able to know. How they knew, he wasn't quite sure, because he was never able to tell when others were not doing fine, but he was different. If this had been any sort of bad news, he would have lied and said he was fine, but he couldn't say that. "I can't talk about it now." They finished their day's work, spend time with their African friends, but John resigned early and started packing with some help of his friend Roger. "Still not talking?" said Roger. "John, your poker face is atrocious." John sat down upon one of his bags. There was very little energy in his movements, and he continued to avoid eye contact. He was withdrawn, not in the same place as Roger. When he talked, he sounded as if he was about to cry. "I've been off in Cameroon for six years...Things have felt so right, but my life is changing so much. I've been so lucky to have you as a friend all this time, and Kate. Have so much on my mind right now, and I don't know what it all means." Roger knelt down next to John. "Do you know where to start?" "My father's dying, Roger, and he's only fifty," said John. "I haven't seen him in six years." He began to cry, and Kate walked in. "The last conversation I had with him was an argument," continued John. "He told me I should go to college, but I thought that my calling was here. But I miss home. Most of all, I miss Mom. When my parents got divorced, I almost never got to see her. I only saw her once a month, and I never spent much time with her during my life except for when I was a little kid, about nine years old. I haven't had my childhood in a long, long time, and I always figured it would come back, because I would eventually find it and I could just have that one special moment with everyone in the family and all my old friends and that thing I had when I was young would be with me again, you know? Now I can never go back, because in order to have that I need my entire family there, and now my father's dying and I'm never going to have that relationship that I wanted, like I thought I was planning on returning to America in two or four years, a changed man, because it made sense. I thought he would see who I became, see the types of things I dedicated my life to, and he would be proud of me and love me for it, and my mother would love me because she always loves me, and I could have everything I always wanted, but - but..." John returned to crying and tears streamed down his cheeks. Kate sat next to him and held his hand. "John, I'm so sorry," she said. Then she embraced him. Roger joined in and turned it into a group hug centered around John. "I want to tell you so many stories about him," said John. "I know you can do that," said Roger. "You're the best person I know when it comes to telling stories. I'll listen to every word." They finished packing, and after a couple of days they talked with everyone there who knew them and explained why they had to leave. Since they did not have a car, they walked the whole way to Yaoundé. The hike lasted for a couple days, since they each had their own bags to carry. The second night, as they settled in an open field of grass, started a fire, and unfolded their sleeping bags, John looked up at the stars and thought about Heaven. "Grandpa, I know that I talk to you sometimes. I guess Dad's going to be there with you soon." Kate and Roger sat to his right, poking the fire with sticks. They talked somewhat, but most of all, they listened to John tell stories about his father. "And the thing is, I guess I'm just upset that he never got to know me," he said, answered by the distant, ever-present crackle of the fire. "He was never good enough for me when Mom wasn't there to support him, so maybe I thought that my relationship could never be so deep because it stopped feeling the way that it should have felt. I've spent the better part of my life hoping that everything would be perfect again and that I could have the family I had when I was a kid, or at least, that's what I always thought. I always thought it was actually running away, but now it seems the exact opposite. When I turned twenty, I suffered depression because I was growing, because I was shocked at how far away my childhood was, and I was in despair because my next birthday would never be eight or nine, and that the one moment that always stuck out to me, the one that my whole life seems to be centered around, could last fore..." He looked and saw Kate and Roger sleeping, the orange firelight illuminating their calm, peaceful faces. No longer aware, but still there for him. Maybe that one moment that was his entire life was behind him. Maybe his entire life was now in this moment. "God, make this last." 24601
  3. Every household has what they consider their own Christmas traditions. Some go out of town to visit relatives, some stay home, and some go on vacations somewhere warm. Then there is the other traditional Christmas stuff. You hang the stockings, decorate the tree and house, cook turkey or ham or roast, you put the present under the tree, fill the stockings, and maybe read ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas’ or watch a Christmas movie. Every family does something different, which changes as they age or create their own family household traditions, and The Collins family was no different. There was mom, dad, Kaleigh (17), and Gabriel (14). Every year for Christmas, they had something special they did with their gifts to one another, and it all dealt with the bows. Kaleigh got purple bows on all her presents, Gabriel got silver bows, mother got blue bows, and father got green bows. They did this based on their favorite colors, which have changed over the years for the kids, but the parents’ colors remained the same. This year, just like the previous ones, they wrapped their gifts to each, and placed on the bows. They never used gift tags, just bows. When they woke up, they gathered around the tree and passed out each other’s gifts, giving the correct color to the correct person. They opened their gifts. Sometimes screams of joy would be heard, sometimes laughter, and sometimes just a simple ‘thank you (insert person here)’. After they were all done, the children began picking up wrappers, and when they had everything bagged up and there things were taken to their rooms, they returned to the living room. Their parents were still sitting on the love seat, but something was different. Mom had a big white ribbon with pink dots on it, ending in a big pink bow, around her midsection. There was also a pink gift tag, hanging off of the ribbon, and a pink bow about where her belly button would be and pink bows on the floor and in her hair. Kaleigh asked what was with the bows and ribbon and gift tag. Daddy took the gift tag off of mommy and handed it to Kaleigh. She quickly brought her hand to her smiling mouth and began sobbing. Gabriel asked why she was crying even though he knew why. She handed him the tag and it was as he suspected. The gift tag read: Do Not Open Until August 12, 2013. He brought the tag down to his side, and Kaleigh and Gabriel hurried over to their mother. They hugged her and she returned the warm embrace of her children. Congratulations and celebration filled the rest of their Christmas day and the excitement for next Christmas, in which they would add a new bow to their special family tradition. Any and all comments appreciated and accepted. Thank you!
  4. The alarm went off. She struggled out from beneath the covers. She wanted to go back to bed, but unfortunately her life no longer allowed her to do such things. She had three boys to get ready for school and had to make breakfast as well. She nudged her husband to get up as well, so he could get himself ready for work, as well as help her with the boys. Two were 8 and the other was 14. It was hard being the only girl in the house. Still she wouldn’t change a thing, except maybe getting some help with chores once in awhile, since she was what was called a ‘housewife’. At least she didn’t clean the boys’ rooms, just took their laundry, and they did the rest. And her husband would do cooking some nights as well when he got home. She went off to the twins’ room and flipped the switch. She told them it was time to get up and they squirmed around under the covers asking for five more minutes. She went over and pulled off their covers. They moaned as they slowly pulled themselves up and out of their beds and to the bathroom. She grabbed clothes from their closets and socks and bottoms from their drawers. She liked giving them their freedom with choosing clothes, but sometimes those old habits die hard. When the first one came back, she handed him his clothes and put the other’s stuff on his bed and left so he could change. She then went to the oldest child’s room, but he was already getting ready. He liked school and was very responsible, so she went to start working on breakfast. She first, stopped off at her room to make sure her husband was up. She heard the shower running, so she laid out his suit for work and went to start working on breakfast. She made pancakes and bacon and eggs. When she was done, all of the boys came out and sat down. They thanked her for the food and began eating. Being their father’s sons, they ate rather quickly, hardly ever taking the time to savor each bite. When done, the boys went for their backpacks, and to put their shoes on, while Becky and Jay talked about their schedules for the day. Jay would go to work and give his big presentation he put together discussing energy conservation and then stop and get some chicken from the store to cook for supper. Becky would take the boys to school and then do some laundry and housecleaning while they were at school. Afterwards, she would pick the boys up and take them to their taekwondo class. She would be able to relax for a bit whilst they were in class and probably do some folding of the laundry if anything. After this, her husband put the dishes in the sink and gave her a quick kiss on the forehead and headed off to work. She then yelled to the boys to get outside to the car, so she could take them to school. That’s when the fun started. One of the twins misplaced their math homework, but Becky knew where it was. She told him to check the computer desk in the living room. Sure enough it was there. Then the other twin just couldn’t find his other shoe. She told him to check under his bed and there is was. She never understood how one would find its way in there. It was probably the dog dragging their shoes around by the strings. It was just a little dog and she never seemed to chew the shoes, just managed to drag them around the house and leave them wherever. The only reason she considered under the bed was because she saw the dog in there the night before playing around under the bed. She assumed it was her pig ear, but then decided it could be the shoe, and she was right. The oldest was at the door when Becky and the twins went to it. Becky noticed a big wet spot on his shirt and asked what had happened and why it was wet. He said he got syrup from the pancakes on it and tried rinsing it off. She asked him to go get a different shirt and that she would watch it later to make sure all the syrup was off. He went and changed as the others went out to the car. They tried getting shotgun like they seemed to do every morning, but once again she told them that James, the oldest, got it because she didn’t want them riding in the front. She thought they were still too young and that it was dangerous. James then locked the door and hopped in the front passenger seat. She dropped the boys off and went home to do the housework. She cleaned the kitchen, and then she worked on laundry in-between cleaning the living room and bathroom. It was then time to pick the boys up. She dropped them off at taekwondo and then took a walk around the block a couple times while listening to her iPod, before taking a shower. Once out she worked on putting the laundry away when the boys and her husband came in all excited about thei r class and something else that they wouldn’t say. Jay was acting weird too. While they worked on homework, Becky tried helping Jay with supper, but he told her to just relax and watch something on TV until supper was ready. She did just that and when she could smell he was just about done, she went to try and set up the table, but it was already done. She was happy that Jay had done so, so she went and gave him a big kiss and helped bring the food dishes to the table. Jay called the boys and they had supper and Jay did the dishes, which really shocked Becky. Jay didn’t really like doing the dishes, but it was in such a good mood. She figured the presentation must’ve went better than he mentioned. The kids went to bed without a fuss for Jay, probably because tomorrow was the weekend, and then Becky and Jay went to their room. The next morning while Becky was fast asleep, she heard a loud commotion. She awoke to her children and Jay wishing her a Happy Mother’s Day. Of course! How could she forget it was Mother’s Day? This was why they were so cooperative last night. They wanted her to be happy and rested for her special day. Jay must’ve talked to them on the way home about it. They gave her her breakfast, like you see in the movies, on a little table they sat across her. They all piled gifts at her as well. She made sure to take a couple bites of her pancakes with strawberries and waffles and a few sips of her orange juice before opening them. She got perfume and some bath salts and earrings from the boys. Her husband they brought in some roses from the other room and gave her a wrapped square thing. When she unwrapped it, it was a photo of the boys. She was so thrilled he had done that for her and how cute they all were in the picture. Becky was so thankful for what her family had done for her and by the kind words they put in their homemade and store bought cards. She felt like the luckiest girl in the world. Thank you! Any and all comments appreciated.
  5. NIXIE DRIFTED UP ON THE BLUE, BLUE SHORES OF SOME DISTANT LAND. Her raft was ruined, and her thick, curly hair in her face. She was unconscious and incapable of really noticing that she had come to a stop. It was a while before she woke up. The calm, peaceful sun beat down upon her. She peered out at the world from behind her dark brown eyes, not really feeling anything, other than a deep desire to feel the sun as a gift of comfort and not as a reminder of her dryness and her lack of drink. She got up. Looked around. Shook her head. There was nothing but the green of tropical trees, the light tan of the beaches, and the aquamarine color of the see. It was beautiful, like some sort of paradise. She was alive. Yet for now, all she could do was roll off of the raft and sit there, her bottom in the sand, her hands on her lap as she looked out into the vast infinity of the see. She would need food and water soon, but before that she just needed to ponder what she had lost. No, she hadn't lost anything. Her friends and her younger brother were still out there, just out of reach. She new she would see them someday. it was just a matter of having faith and starting to search. Somewhere across the waters... She got up and grabbed her bag from the top of the raft. Its strap that was supposed to hoist around her shoulder was broken, so she used it as a rope and just dragged it across the sand. It formed a line, and the line disappeared into the trees. She had managed to spot without much difficulty the highest point on the island. It was a large rock outcropping, like a spine coming out of the earth. Along the way, she found strange new fruits and gave them a try, risking her life on the hope that they weren't poison. She tried their bright orange and yellow and green juices and was replenished. Ah, that was so much better. It wasn't enough to lighten up her head quite yet, though, so she decided she would make camp. That wasn't so difficult, since the leaves on this island were huge. In fact, some of them reached eleven feet across, by her guestimate, since they were about twice her length. It would be easy to make a tent out of them. But not here in the forest. No, she picked a few, rolled them up, and set them out on the beach and set up a tent there. There would be no bugs and no creepy things to crawl over her while she slept. The next day, she ate some more and gathered up food, and then she went back to the tall rock she saw. It took a bit of climbing, and her grip was only so strong, but she wanted to give it a try. She saw the jagged face of the rock through the trees and ran up to it, then looked for a foothold. She then, through force of determination, found a way up, and endurance came to her through the form of a continued sense of wonder. Once she was halfway up, she saw the world around her in an outstanding beauty. The bright blue area where the deep see came up to the sandy beach was beautiful. The island wasn't that large, but she couldn't gather its exact size until she got to the top of the rock that afternoon. She stood there, on a narrow pathway, able to look southease and northwest of the aisle, out upon the surrounding isle. It was about five miles across. "Hello?" she cried out. "Is anyone here?" No answer. "HELLOOOOO?" There looked to be no sort of settlement on the island. She figured she would leave, then. It wasn't worth staying if there was nobody here to help her. It was best to just pack up fruits onto the raft. She climbed down the rock to get back to the raft. "Hey, wait," said a voice. She looked around and saw a golden bug on the rock, about the size of the palm of her hand. It had eight legs along a segmented body, and then a front area like a centaur, which had pincers for arms and these two beady eyes on the ends of stalks, which swiveled about comically. He looked like a scorpion or a crab of some sort. It was a bit strange, but she had seen a lot of strange and unexplainable things since she had left home. "Hello, who are you?" she asked. "I'm the only person on this island," said the bug person. "But you're a bug," said Nixie. "A bug person," said the bug person. "What's a matter. Haven't you ever seen a dichester before?" "Have you ever seen a human before?" asked Nixie. "Come to think of it, I have no idea what you are," said the bug-person-dichester. "Well I'm leaving this island," she said. "I'm coming with you," said the dichester. "And my name is Jetty." "Nice to meet you, Jetty. My name is Nixie. And yes, you can come with me, but I'm leaving this island." "I know. I figured that you came on a raft, and I've been lonely for a while now." That evening, Nixie sat under the tent with a fire started to keep them warm and cook some fish that she caught, while she recorded her thoughts into her journal, the sole item she carried with her in her bag. She bit into a golden apple, and its juice dripped onto the pages, right on top of her brother's name. Then she stopped and contemplated it all. Where she was right now, the encounter she had with Jetty, and the leap of faith she was taking by setting her raft out onto the open ocean again. She came out of her tent and called out Jetty's name. He came scurrying over, leaving little dots for tracks behind him. They ate what food was left, but it was a quick meal. She wanted to drift into the night time and make as much use of the cool moonlight air as possible. Jetty got onto the recrafted raft while Nixie got out on back and pushed it into the ocean. After paddling along for a while, cutting her knee on a piece of coral, she pulled herself on and let herself dry off, putting herself at a distance from her bag so that she didn't get her journal wet. And so they went off with the stars in the sky, ready to discover another of the many islands out there, hopefully one that had friends and support. And when they looked out, there were many stars, and they were reflected upon the water so that the division between the heavens and the waters was impossible to make, and it was all one swirling cosmos. Nixie had seen this before, but this was during a vision where she was given sight over the entire universe, and she knew everything, and she knew where she was. She still wondered if that wasn't a dream, if it wasn't for how she had mysteriously came to a paradise once it was over. She could only wish that the same force was watching over her still, and she rolled onto her back and slept, with her new companion using her hair as a bed. It was a weird world out there, but it was also beautiful.
  6. SUSY HAD THE POWER TO TURN THINGS INTO ANY COLOR OF THE RAINBOW SHE CHOSE. It was a very potent power. She was going to make all the difference in the world with it. By that, of course, one can only assume that all the difference in the world equated to making children happier, and she was most often seen changing the colors of balloons and carnival candy. It was a pretty cool benefit, actually. She got to see the smiles of children all the time and she let them believe in magic and all that. In her mind, it was certainly making a difference.. Then her sister, Katy, found out that she wasn't just switching balloons and that it was an actual superpower. "Wait, seriously, can you actually just change the color of stuff at will?" she asked. "Yes. So?" asked Susy. "Can you change the color of my eyes?" Katy asked. "I always wanted blue eyes, but I didn't want them to be contacts. I want genuinely blue eyes." "What's wrong with the ones you have?" asked Susy. "I always liked your brown eyes." "But blue would be cooler," said Katy. "Why not? You have your superpowers. They're meant to be used, and you like using them to make life more fun. Why not make my eyes blue?" "I don't know," said Susan. "With great power comes great responsibility. I think your eyes were meant to be brown." "What's the difference between my eyes and those balloons?" asked Katy. "Well, a lot of things," said Susan. "You're a piece of art already so beautifully made. I'd hate to alter it. Balloons aren't that special. I don't think it's right. Please don't peer pressure me." "Alright, but could you change the colors of some of my clothes so that they match?" "Well, I guess I do that with my stuff every day," said Susan. She looked down at her Sunday clothes, which included a playful red tie half-taught around her neck and a red trench coat that made her feel nice and pirate-y. Red was her Sunday color, and she had orange for Monday, yellow for Tuesday, green for Wednesday, and so on, ending with violet for Saturday. "Sure. Is there anything you want?" "My prom dress isn't the right shade of pink. I'd also like some prismatic blue highlights," she said. "Something very artistic. Hey, there you go! Why don't you use your powers to be really artistic? You'd be the best artist in the world!" Susy liked that idea. After changing Katy's clothes, she went out to do a lot of "painting", although it was really just imagining any colorful image that came to her mind and willing it onto the canvas. She figured people really enjoyed that, too, just like they enjoyed balloons. It was different, but she still saw that it touched the world in new and unique ways. She even impressed a guy named Emperor Kraggh who did a lot of black-and-white pencil drawings and didn't normally see the value in colorful art. She painted chapels and buildings and giant murals with all the colors of the rainbow, glorifying sunsets and country life, city life, and life. She painted weather, childhood, adulthood, and the many things that people experienced between birth and death. It was all glorious, and she was sure she was making a difference. Then one day a man in a white suit and cape came to her. He had many, many superpowers and called himself Superman. "Susan," he said. "I heard you change the colors of clothes." "Wow, Superman. Yes, I do. What do you want?" "I also heard that you change the colors of balloons," he said. "Someone named Clark Kent wrote a very interesting story about it. I love how simple colors make such a huge difference in peoples' lives and spread so much love. I have a question." "Yes?" "Could you change the colors of my suit? They're all white, but I want a prism of the primary colors. My home planet is a world of crystals and light. I think it's a little more fitting." "Alright," said Susy. She touched Superman on the chest and a spectrum of three bright colors spread throughout: red, blue, and yellow, as bright as the laserlights from the crystals on Krypton. "Thank you," said Superman, and he flew off. Susy felt silly. She had no powers compared to him. And he was making a true difference. Then, a while later, it occurred to her that she created what might have been the mot iconic color scheme ever. And she lived on happily. It turned out that she really did make all the difference in the world with her power. ---------- For the sake of clarity and so that certain elements of this don't seem quite so jarring, this was part of an Ambage Write-Off, and it was our objective to write a Rainbows-themed story in 15 minutes. This was the first thing to come to mind. Looking at what everyone else wrote, I'm surprised to find that I'm the only person who actually played the theme straight. Almost everyone else used it to write something grim and/or depressing. Lighten up, folks! 24601
  7. IT WAS THE DAY AFTER HIS THIRTIETH BIRTHDAY, AND JOHN HAD TO LEAVE FOR THE WEST COAST. He had lived in New York for twelve years now. That was twelve years worth of friendships he had to say goodbye to. It was only the afternoon, but the sun was already down. He put on nice clothes and ran all the way to Diana's house. All my bags are packed I'm ready to goI'm standin' here outside your doorI hate to wake you up to say goodbyeBut the dawn is breakin' it's early mornThe taxi's waitin' he's blowin' his hornAlready I'm so lonesome I could die He knocked on the door to her apartment. The sound of feet coming down the stairs. She opened the door and he leaned against the railing on the front steps. Her short, golden hair framed her face perfectly. “Does it hurt to say goodbye one last time?” he asked. The coldness of the air turned his breathe into light clouds. “I was worried you wouldn’t say goodbye enough. It’s hard not having you around as a friend anymore,” she said. “It happens,” said John. “It’s an inevitable thing in life you have to get over.” “I’ve never actually…” she said. “Never?” inquired John. “Never ever?” “No,” said Diana. “I guess I’d consider myself lucky. But you get over it, I imagine.” “Maybe,” said John. “It depends on the person. I had friends for my first two years of college who then went their separate ways. I still wish we could keep in contact, although there’s nothing we can do for each other when we’re on separate coasts. I still really miss them. I can live still, but that doesn’t mean I’ll ever forget them and be nostalgic from time to time.” “You look cold out,” said Diana. “Come in!” Inside they prepared hot chocolate and sipped at it under the warm orange lights of the kitchen. It was an exceedingly nice apartment. It only lacked a fireplace. He wondered of Diana was expecting him. She was wearing sleek pinstripe pants and a beautiful violet blouse. Even though she was just his best friend, he felt oddly attracted to her. It brought back memories of when he so insecurely wondered if she was the one. He had to mentally slap himself, then and now. It wasn't right to think that. So kiss me and smile for me Tell me that you’ll wait for me Hold me like you’ll never let me go ‘Cause I’m leavin’ on a jet plane Don’t know when I’ll be back again Oh baby, I hate to go “Nothing heals the soul like a good cup of hot chocolate,” said Diana. She smiled and leaned her elbows against the table, closer to him. She really seemed to be waiting for him and didn’t have much to say. John sipped at the hot chocolate, and winced at how hot it was. He winked and smiled with one corner of his mouth while lifting the cup up to his face again. No, it couldn't be done. He had to put it down. Maybe it would get colder after a long while of conversation. “I really wish I could see you again,” he said. “I do, too,” said Diana. “What if I do come back?” “I’d still be here,” said Diana. “As nice as this place is, it’s still just an apartment. Sooner or later, with your upward mobility, even you will move on. This isn’t the house of someone who’s settled down.” “I’ll send you a letter if that has happened,” said Diana. “That’s very thoughtful…” said John. He tapped his foot. As inevitably happens in all such conversations, there was an awkward silence. “I think I’ll get working on that hot chocolate, then,” he said, and he continued to sip at it one bit at a time. “In case you’re labeling this as an awkward silence, John, don’t worry. I choose to think of it as savoring the moment.” John put down the cup. She leaned in and kissed him. John was conflicted, but he kissed back. “I just wanted to do that once before having to say goodbye,” said Diana. John felt ashamed. He kissed her back and he hadn’t even the slightest reason to. He was moving away, never to see her again. It was a shallow jab at pleasure. Yet it felt so good. It felt so sincere. It felt right. He looked into her eyes. “Maybe we’ll see each other again,” he said. “Would this be motivation for you to come back?” she said. Then the bombshell: “I think I’m in love with you.” John thought about how far away he would be. He would be on the West coast, thousands of miles away. He couldn’t come back regularly. He would have to prioritize her over so many other things in life. Yet, he could afford it. “Yes, I think I will,” he replied. He scooted his chair next to hers and embraced her. “I’ll never let you go.” “Tell me that you love me,” she said. “I love you, Diana.” There's so many times I've let you downSo many times I've played aroundI tell you now, they don't mean a thingEvery place I go, I'll think of youEvery song I sing, I'll sing for youWhen I come back, I'll bring your wedding ring The cups rested empty on the table now. In the next room, they they were both on the couch with John’s arm around Diana’s shoulder, both looking through old pictures that they and their friends had taken together. “Hey look, here’s that one time we met that girl named Aristotle,” said Diana. “I don’t mind that name,” said John. “I actually like it.” “So if we had a girl, you would consider it?” “Would you?” “I guess I would.” John could feel himself sinking ever more deeply into the couch as he grew more relaxed. Somehow, the ideas that were coming to his mind weren’t intimidating him anymore. They were so easy to articulate, so easy to share. “Diana, when I come back, will you marry me?” “I’ll have to remember that this is how you proposed,” she said. “Do I get a ring?” “No, it was just a spur of the moment idea,” he confessed. “But I’ve thought about it. We’re both established. We’re both ready to settle down. We’re best friends. We’re stable people. And we love each other. In our adult capacity to know what love is, it’s making sense to me.” Diana leaned her head into his shoulder. “Yes, John. I will marry you.” John rested his head on hers. So kiss me and smile for me Tell me that you’ll wait for me Hold me like you’ll never let me go ‘Cause I’m leavin’ on a jet plane Don’t know when I’ll be back again Oh babe, I hate to go The next day John was at the airport. He had called all of his guy friends to let than know and Diana had called all of her gal friends to do the same. It was now officially confirmed. Everyone knew. The held each other’s hands as they walked through the airport, an engaged couple. They both wore their business clothes. He had on his black tie and trimmed suit and she was wearing a woman’s business suit. While it was true that they both had work that day, they also wanted to make these last few moments count for each other. This was dressier than their usual business attire. He turned to Diana before he got on. “I don’t know what to say without being overly romantic.” Diana hugged him. “I’m fine with ‘I love you.’” “I will love you. Always.” They pulled apart. John looked at his watch. The plane left at five in the morning, and four o'clock right now. Passengers were expected to get on the plan a half hour before it took off. He picked up his roller. They were right next to the flight terminal. With half an hour left, he didn't have to hurry, so he wasn't picking it up to get going. He pulled out from one pocket a cube-shaped, fuzzy case. “I bought this at the last moment,” he said. “It’s beautiful,” said Diana, before she even opened it up. Then she did open it up, and it was, of course, an engagement ring. The only thing that could perhaps be an unexpected touch was that it was aquamarine instead of diamond. Diana had been born one month too early for diamond. “Can you say it again, now that you’ve actually seen it?” “It’s beautiful,” she said. She kissed him in the cheek. “When will we see each other again?” “I’ll be back on the holidays,” said John. “I’ll send you letters every weekend. Whatever you do, though, don’t send me letters back starting with ‘Dear John…’’ He looked into her eyes. They matched the aquamarine gem around her finger. He rested his forehead against hers. For just a moment, he could sleep before getting on the flight, let his mind escape to those far off places that it desperately wanted to go, and just rejoice in the comfort she gave him. Now the time has come to leave you One more time, let me kiss you Close your eyes and I’ll be on my way Dream about the days to come When I won’t have to leave alone About the times I won’t have to say… John was leaving on a jet plan. He didn’t know when he would be back again. Looking at his schedule, he just knew he would miss the first few holidays. As the ground grew smaller, he rolled his head to face the window, and just let the ever-changing scenery to lull him asleep. Then he dreamed of Diana. After all this craziness, he could finally settle down. So kiss me and smile for me Tell me that you’ll wait for me Hold me like you’ll never let me go ‘Cause I’m leavin’ on a jet plane Don’t know when I’ll be back again Oh babe, I hate to go ‘Cause I’m leavin’ on a jet plane Don’t know when I’ll be back again Oh baby, I hate to go
  8. Tina: Ok! This is where we store the music when no one listens to it anymore or until we are ready to put it out for sale to the public.Leah: Wow!Tina: Yeah, I know! It's a lot of music. Over here is where we catalog our inventory. I'll show you how it works.As Tina walks away, Leah sees a box on a bookcase and walks towards it. She touches the box and begins to open it. She sees a light and then..Tina: Leah!Leah shuts the box and hands it to Tina.Leah: I'm sorry! My eye caught the box and I couldn't help myself.Tina: That's alright. go ahead and speak to the others. I'll be right out.Leah: Alright! Once again, I'm sorry.Tina: Don't worry about it.Leah leaves and Tina puts the box back down.Tina: I knew she was the one. I know you can hear me. We will defeat you again. You'll never win. I have a week to get them ready.She leaves the room and then you see two guys looking in a crystal ball.Guy#1: Soon, your highness, you will defeat them and take over the earth.Guy#2: Get the others! You'll attack the city tomorrow night. The Shadow shall rise again!He begins to laugh and then the other one does to. Then back in the store, you see Leah walking up to the girls.Emma: Hey Leah! Is my mom driving you nuts yet?Leah: She's your mom?Emma: Yeah, I know! It's really not as bad as you would think. She's really cool.Amy: She's right!Tina: Are you guys ready to get back to work?They get to work and then it's closing time.Whitney: Finally, six o'clock. Now I can go shopping.Leah: I thought you guys were open longer.Felicia: Normally we are, but there is a huge thing going on tonight at Madison Square Gardens.Leah: Oh, I didn't know that!Tina: We will also be closing early tomorrow.Leah: How come?Tina: Inventory and cleaning. We'll close at three. Ok, well, I will see you guys tomorrow!They go outside the store.Leah: Have fun shopping!They go outside the store.Leah: Have fun shopping!Emma: You're not coming with?Leah: No, I've only been in New York for a week! I just wanted to get a job before I started sightseeing. Maybe I can shop with you guys another day.Whitney: Well, have fun! Come on guys, let's go shopping!Felicia: Hang on Whit! Are you sure Leah?Leah: Yeah! Don't worry! I'll see you guys tomorrow!Emma: Ok, we'll see you later!Leah: Bye!Girls: Bye!Whitney: Alright! Hurry up guys! I saw this dress on the way to work I wanted to get.They leave and wave good bye! Leah gets into her purse and pulls out her newspaper. She begins crossing the street until her heel gets caught in the drain. She tries to pull it out while a driver starts to fall asleep because he is drunk. A boy on the other side of the street on the sidewalk sees her and the car, so he begins to run towards her.Boy: Hey!Leah looks up and sees the boy and the car coming. She then feels the boy grab her and they fall to the ground, with him on top of her. The boy feels a shock between them. The car driver wakes up and stops the car because the stoplight turned red.Boy: Boy that was a close one, huh!He looks down at her into her eyes.Boy: Hi! Are you ok?Leah: Oh, yeah! Sorry!He gets up and then helps her up.Leah: Thank you for saving me! See you around.She walks off and then he follows.Boy: Wait!He catches up.Boy: You forgot your shoe!Leah: Thanks again.Boy: Do you need a ride?Leah: That's alright! I'm new here and I was just sort of about to go sightseeing.Boy: Oh, that's perfect! i have the best thing for sightseeing. Come on!He grabs her hand and then they run across the street to a moped.Leah: Is this what you were talking about?Boy: Yeah! Why?Leah: Nothing!Boy: Come on!Leah: I don't know!Boy: Please, I won't take no for an answer!Leah: Ok, fine, but I'll kick your butt if you turn out to be some sort of creeper.Boy: Deal!He takes her hand and she gets on. They start driving around and you see all the sights they see. You then see them at a beautiful area full of nature.Leah: Wow, this place is amazing!Boy: Yeah! I come here all the time. It is just so peaceful. Do you want to sit down?Leah: Sure!They sit down next to each other.Boy: So, where are you from?Leah: Michigan.Boy: Oh, my sister and I went there once with our parents!Leah: You have a sister.Boy: Yeah! She's older, though. Just by a year.Leah: Well, it's getting dark. Do you wanna go?Boy: Yeah, but we have one more place to go!Leah: Really? Where?Boy: It's a surprise!Leah: Ok!He grabs her hands and they run to his bike and drive to a park(bench) where they can see the sunset.Leah: Wow! How beautiful is this?Boy: Yeah! I love to come here just to think.Leah: What else do you like to do?Boy: I love to ride.Leah: Ride?Boy: My bike. I love speed. The thrill I get from it.Leah: I know what you mean. I enjoy driving my car down the freeway and just today on your moped.Boy: It's better with two.Leah smiles; followed by the boy.Boy: Do you want to go now?Leah: Just a few more minutes.They sit there for a little longer and then he takes her home. They both get off his bike.Leah: Thanks for showing me around.Boy: You're welcome!Leah: Oh, uh, let me give you my number. That is, if you want it.Boy: Sure!She gets a pen from her purse and writes it on his hand.Leah: Well, I'll see ya!Boy: Definitely!She walks up the stairs, takes her keys from her purse, and opens the door and goes in. He begins to get on his bike as he hears the door open.Leah: By the way!He turns and looks at her.Leah: My name is Leah.She shuts the door; he smiles, puts on his helmet, starts the bike, and drives off. Next day... Leah walks in. Leah: Hey guys!Emma: Hi Leah! So, how was your sightseeing adventure?Leah: It was... nice!Her cheeks turn rosy.Whitney: Oh my gosh! You met a boy, didn't you?Amy: Now how would you know that Whit?Whitney begins to open her mouth.Amy: Never mind, I don't want to know!Felicia: Is she right Leah?Leah: No!Emma: She is!Leah: Ok, yea, but it's no big deal!Whitney: Yes, it is! Come on. Tell us!Leah: Ok, Ok. Ok. Right after we left each other the other day, my shoe got stuck in a drain and I didn't see the oncoming car. All of a sudden, he grabbed me and saved me. I then thanked him and began walking away, but he followed because I forgot my shoe. We then drove around on his bike, went to a beautiful garden and a park bench where we watched the sunset.Whitney: Oh, how romantic! Except for the almost getting hit by the car thing.Emma: So, what's his name?Leah: I don't know!Whitney: That's not good girl.Leah: Well, I did give him my name and phone number.Whitney: Did he kiss you?Leah: No.Whitney: Did you kiss him?Leah: No.Whitney: He'll call.Felicia: What makes you so sure?Whitney: Just trust me. I know this kind of stuff.Tina: It's time to get back to work now. You can talk later.They get back to work. The 'boy' comes in.Tina: Hey Jay! You're late!Jay: I know. I'm sorry! It's just that I met this wonderful girl last night and I couldn't stop thinking about her.Tina: That's not an excuse for being late Jay. Just get to work.He gets to work stocking new CDs and fixing up the backroom, without knowing Leah works there. They keep missing each other’s sight, but they finally meet when they are going through cds in the same row and their hands touch. They both look up to see the other,Leah/Jay: Sor...Jay: It's you!They stare at each other.Leah: Hi!Jay: How are you doing Leah?Leah: Good! I didn't know you worked here. Why didn't you say anything?Jay: You didn't ask?Leah: Yea, I guess you couldn't have known that.Jay: When did you start working here?Leah: Yesterday.Jay: Oh! That was my day off!Leah: So, um, I didn't catch your name last night.Jay: Oh, my name is Jay. I'm Amy's...The group comes over to them.Amy: I see you met my brother Leah.Leah: Wait! He's your brother?Amy: Yeah!Leah: Oh!Amy: What?She goes over to whisper to Amy.Leah: Do you remember what I told you earlier?Amy: About what? Oh! Eww! You’re dating my brother?Leah: I'm sorry!Jay: Why can't she date me sis?Amy: I didn't say she couldn't.Jay: So she can? Leah, would you like to go out with me tonight?She looks at Amy, who just shrugs, signaling she's good either way.Leah: Sure!Tina: Hey kids! It's time to close now. You can go home Jay since you did it by yourself last time, even though you were late today.Leah: Did what?Jay: Inventory.Leah: Oh, ok! Good bye Jay! I'll see you tonight!Jay: I'll pick you up at nine.Leah: Why so late?Jay: Trust me. Inventory takes an exceptionally long time.Tina: Thanks Jay!Tina starts pushing him towards the door.Tina: We don't need to scare our new friend.They keep walking towards the door.Amy: Leah! How can you date my brother?Leah: I thought you were alright with my dating your brother.Amy: I am, but why him?Leah: Well, because we understood each other last night. There was a connection. We had such similar interests in things.Amy: Really?Leah: Yeah!Amy: Like what?Leah: We both like the same music and the thrill one gets from going fast.Felicia: Oh no! Not another one.Leah: What do you mean?Tina: Come on girls!Emma: Ok mom! Are you going to help this time Whitney?Whitney: Of course not Emma!They walk through the door to the storage room. You see the clock hanging above the door. It says 3:05 and then you see it at 6:58. the girls then leave the storage room.Tina: Ok girls! You can relax for twenty minutes, but then you need to get back to work. You've done great and we're almost done.While Felicia, Whitney, and Amy talk, Leah pulls Emma off to the side.Leah: Why does Amy not like the idea of me going out with her brother?Emma: She doesn't mind if you go out with him. it's just because of a part of the reason why.Leah: I don't understand. What part?Emma: The part of getting a thrill from speed.Leah: How come?Emma: Throughout Amy's life, her brother and her were best friends, and they did almost everything together. Two years ago, though, it was Jay's sixteenth birthday. Their parents got him his moped that you two rode on last night. He fell in love with his bike and then he stopped hanging out with her, except for here at work. At first he took her on rides with him, but she can get motion sick sometimes, so she stopped.Leah: That's terrible! Should I talk to him about it?Emma: I don't think I'm the right person to ask.Leah: You're right! I'll go talk to her.Emma: No need. They're coming over here.She turns around to see them coming.Amy: Hey you two!Leah: Hey!Emma: Hey!Leah: Amy...The store begins shaking and they all begin screaming as things fall. They all get in front of the storage room door. -- Review topic!
  9. She looks up, sees a man, and stands up against the nightstand nervously. Man: No! Don't be frightened! I noticed you in the crowd. Kara: Oh yeah! Is that suppose to make me less scared. Man: Sorry! I meant I noticed your limp. Are you injured? Kara: Oh! Um! My dad and I were in an accident just down the road. I sprained my ankle. Man: Oh! Is he alright? Kara: Yeah! I used someone's cell and alerted the authorities in the next town. I'll see him in the morning. He goes over and sits on the bed. Man: Here! He places his hand beside him on the bed. She looks at his hand. Man: Don't worry! I just wanted to check your ankle. Kara: Oh! Um! Ok! She goes over, sits next to him, and gives him her leg. He pulls back her pant leg and looks at her ankle. Man: I'm Luke by the way. Kara: Kara! Luke: Kara. That's a nice name. Ooh! Yeah! It's sprained. You should probably stay in bed. I could let you know when the party is over and you can take the bus back with the others. Kara: I don't know. I don't think the person that stays here would much appreciate it. Luke: I think he'd be fine with that. Kara: And what makes you so sure? Are you friends with the guy? Luke: Yeah, but I kind of have to be. I mean I'm stuck with myself. I can't just leave me. Kara: Oh! So this is your room. Whoa! Luke: What's wrong with my room? Kara: No. Your room's fine! It's awesome, but I don't understand why you would want to live in a cave. Luke: Well, when I was young, I found out I was allergic to the sun. Kara: Oh, that's terrible. I'm sorry! I didn't mean... Luke: Oh it's alright. It's not as bad as you think. I get to live in a cave. Who else gets to live in a cave and throw parties in a cave? Kara: No one I know. So, that kind of makes you like a bat then, doesn't it? Though, I'm sure it can get pretty cold at night. Luke: Well, I guess it does. I'd say this makes me more like a vampire, but I wouldn't say I like to drink blood. Kara: Well, a vampire wouldn't want to bite me, that's for sure. Luke: And why is that? Kara: Well you see I was born with a birthmark that's shaped like a cross, and as everyone knows, vampires don't like crosses. They're the same as a kryptonite crystal to Superman. Luke: May I see it? Kara: Sure. She pulls her hair back and he takes a close look at her birthmark and then he touches it, but she moves away. Luke: I'm sorry, but that is an amazing mark. I've waited so long to see it. Kara: Huh! What are you talking about? Luke: I'll show you! He looks down and then looks up with baby blue eyes and two long fangs protruding from his mouth. Kara sees this and faints. She begins to fall backwards towards the nightstand until he places one hand behind her head and one behind her back for support. He then lays her head on the pillows, pulls back the covers, and puts her legs underneath the covers, before turning to leave the room. When out of his room, he signals to Jay and Kasey to follow him. They smile and follow him to the stage. He grabs the microphone and the dj sees him and stops playing. The crowd stops dancing and looks at them. Luke: Are you all having fun? The crowd cheers. Luke: Good! We want to thank you all for coming, but now the party is over and it is time for you all to give us some of your life blood, but don't worry, you won't remember a thing. The crowd becomes puzzled as Luke and others in the room bow their heads. Luke and the other ones on stage look up with their baby blue eyes and fangs and they all smile, except Luke. Persons in the crowd then look at those near them who bowed their heads as well. They then raise their heads and the crowd becomes frightened. Luke signals for the others to go. The crowd screams and begins to run towards the exit. Two female vampires are the first to the exit who hypnotize two men in the crowd and then bite in the throat. Kasey and Jay then spring from the stage on two unsuspecting victims. Luke stays on the stage and watches. At the exit, people begin to frantically push on the boulder to get it out of the way with no success, screaming loudly. They then turn and you see all the already hypnotized victims and the vampires walking towards them. The victims are still scared even though there are more of them then there are vampires. A strong man, still with a beer in his hand, hits the bottle against the cave wall and begins to walk towards them. Jay walks towards him as the others smile. They get within three feet of each other and the man begins to swing the broken glass shard at Jay, but misses. He tries again, but fails a second time. He gets mad and begins swinging left and right at Jay and keeps missing because of his superfast reflexes. He stops and tries once more and nicks him in the face. Jay just smiles though, as the cut disappears slowly from his face after he puts a drop of his blood from the cut on his face onto his fingertip and licks it. The man's face becomes worried and then Jay reaches forward and grabs the shirt of the man's chest. The bottle drops from the man's hand and then he too drops to the ground and you then see Jay’s hypnotizing eyes. A girl screams and then everyone else begins to scream and run again. You see some fight back, including a girl who punches a male vampire in the face. He falls back and comes back up. Her face becomes shocked because she did not feel that the blow from her punch would have such an effect, but then he comes back up from the fall and she becomes scared again. Man: I like you. I think I’ll let you remember tonight. She screams and he slowly comes after her. She continues backing up until she hits the wall and feels the tapestry with her right hand to the secret room and sees she can enter it. He then, seeing she has nowhere else to go, jumps after her. She screams and goes into the secret room running. She wakes Kara up, who screams as she sees the man grab the girl's arm, and then look at Kara and say... Man: Oooh! Seconds! The girl then tries to get away from his grip and so he pushes her up against the cave wall. As he does this, Kara jumps out of the bed and runs to the tapestry. He sees her, quickly hypnotizes the girl who slides down against the wall, and then goes after Kara. He reaches her and turns her up against the wall. He then tries to bite the side of her neck with the black cross, which in turn acts like acid on his mouth, so he lets her go and tries to stop the pain. While he does, he faces towards the exit and Luke punches him, which forces him to fly backwards in the air. Kara hurries then and runs out and the hurt vampire gets up with an angry face until he sees that it is Luke. He calms downs to a cool and then you can see the acid burn on his mouth disappear slowly. Luke: Stay away from her. She's mine! Man: I'm sorry Luke. I didn't know she was yours! You never join us. Luke: Well you do now and I'm not 'joining you.' She's special. He then turns and goes back out. You see many people lying unconscious on table and the ground and some locked up in shackles hidden below the stage with frightened looks on their faces. Luke: Kara, there is no need to fear me. I do not wish to hurt you. We do not kill. You see her hiding behind part of the boulder blocking the entrance into the cave, scared, but peering out ever so often to see the location of all the vampires. Luke continues to walk closer to her position. Luke: You are a very special person Kara. You have a gift that is like a cure to this curse that we are forced to live. This is why I can't let you go yet. Many vampires become surprised and stare between Kara and Luke. Kasey begins towards the boulder to get her, but Luke grabs her arm, so she backs away. Luke: Before you can leave, though, a ritual will be performed in one week’s time when the moon is full. We must first assemble and when the deed is done, you may go free, but until then, you must stay here. I promise no one will harm you. He reaches the boulder where she is hiding. Luke: There is no use fighting me. You will always lose. He then pulls her out from behind the boulder. She continues breathing heavily as he pulls on her arm. You can see signs of pain from her limp and the "aahs" as she is pulled back into the room. Kara: Please let me go and all those other people too. Luke: I'm sorry, but I can't let you go yet. The others will be sent home tomorrow. Ty! Lee! Two male vampires come into the room. Luke: It's time! He goes over to the nightstand and pulls out a small, old book. He opens it and pulls out some paper that he hands to Ty and Lee. Luke: Now go, so they have time to prepare. They leave and he turns to see her still hiding on the other side of the bed. Luke: Now it's time to see if you are really the prophecy. Kara: What do you mean? Luke: I need a taste. Kara: What? No! Stay away from me. She begins to turn and run to the other half of the room, but his quick speed and high fly jump abilities allow him to get in front of her. She turns again to run and trips onto the bed. She scrambles to get to the other side but he beats her and knocks her nicely back onto the bed and gets on top of her. She uses her hands to try and get him off but he grabs her wrists and holds her on the bed. She still struggles but he holds her hands above her head and pulls back her hair. Luke: Just relax. It won’t hurt but a second. I'm sorry for this. Kara: No. No. Nooo. He bites into her neck and she becomes weak and dazed. You see blood drip from his mouth and the holes on her neck down to the bed. He then lifts up and licks his blood smeared mouth. She still lies there, breathing heavily, as he gets off his bed and heads towards the wall. He pulls a cord which opens an area above his bed where there are sun-intensity lights. He then walks over to the lit area where Kara lay and places his hand in the light. He sees no damage came to his hand so he gets on the bed and lets the lights fill his body completely. Luke: The light of the sun. I've waited hundreds of years to feel its warmth and tomorrow I shall feel it and see its face again. He turns to see that Kara’s blood loss has caused her to fall asleep. You then see her blood covering her shirt, neck, and face. You see Luke later coming out of the room connected to his room. He picks her up off the bed and carries her into the other room, which is a bathroom with an old fashioned, western movie style bathtub. He places her into the tub and you see the blood come from her body and clothes into the water. She then wakes up later to find that her clothes and her are clean. She looks around and sees Luke standing near the bathroom door. Luke: I cleaned your wound and dressed it. Kara: And redressed me. Luke: Yeah! Sorry! But there was no way to get the blood out of your clothes. Kara: Sorry! You looked at my body. Luke: You shouldn't feel embarrassed; you have a beautiful body. Kara: Um. Hhhm! Luke: You have a special gift. Your blood can change our species forever. To be able to walk in the sunlight is a miracle and to see the sunrise and sunset is a blessing that we the undead have been denied for hundreds of years. Your father is lucky to have such a beautiful and gifted daughter. He then walks over to her and sits next to her on the bed. She flinches slightly and makes a cross with her fingers, but nothing happens. Luke: That doesn't actually work. I promise you're safe. She puts her hands down. Luke: You are lucky to be able to experience a world that is both dark and light; both beautiful and terrible. All we see is the dark and terrible. You don't know what it's like to never know the joys of the world and to be held captive to the blood filled hunger that resides in us; one that is never fulfilled. One that starves for more and more until the creature inside us no longer waits for the once human host. You then see her father in a wheelchair at a hospital and a couple of policeman. Officer: We still have not heard from your daughter. She is not the only one. You said she was on a bus with a group of people going to a party. Joe: Yeah! That's what she told me. Officer: All the persons that were on that bus are also missing. You see a guy in the background with a long coat listening to their conversation. Joe: Are there any leads? Officer: We know from one of the kids whose parents didn't let their child go, that the party was somewhere in the desert. We have many officers combing the desert looking for any signs of the buses or the people that were on them. Now we are going to need for you to describe what she looks like to us. He pulls out a notepad to take his description of his daughter. Joe: She is 5 foot 9 with long curly brown hair and hazel eyes. She is wearing blue jeans, sneakers, and a black shirt. Oh, and she has a birthmark of a cross on her neck. Please find my daughter. After my wife died... She is all I have left of her. After mentioning his daughter's birthmark, the man in the background looks even more curious about the story Joe is telling. Officer: Don't worry sir. We won't give up until all those people are found. This isn’t the first time this has happened. They always come back after a day or so, but it’s with no memory of what happened or where they were. The man in the background then turns and walks away after speaking into a walkie talkie. Man: Finally. We found her. They have her though. Girl's voice: Good! Now find their hideout and report back once you have her. Man: I'm going now.
  10. The Locket It was a warm, sunny day. Kaila awoke to the sound of the alarm clock buzzing on her phone and quickly hit the snooze. She heard a plop and peered out from under the sheets at a figure hovering there. It was her roommate Shannon. She was stretching her arms and legs like she was warming up for track practice at school, but it was summer. Still senior year started tomorrow and she’d been really practicing a lot for the past month, making sure she was ready for when she would have to participate in school sports. Shannon wasn’t able to hang out with Kaila as much, but she always found time for her best friend. Kaila didn’t mind this however, because she’d been friends with Shannon since kindergarten, and was used to her busy schedule and her countless winning attempts of getting Kaila to join her while she trained. Kaila finally got Shannon to stop having her tag along since she wasn’t really the athletic type and didn’t enjoy training as much as Shannon did, though she was still small in stature just the same with some muscles. Shannon turned back to Kaila, who was almost back into her dream state. Shannon began, “Wake up Kaila! It’s time to stretch and shower and get ready for our busy day. Let’s go! Get up!” Kaila pulls the sheets up higher over her head. “I don’t think so.” “Come on! You know you can try and fight me, but I always win.” Knowing Shannon was speaking the truth this time, because Kaila knew Shannon planned this a month ago, Kaila pulled the sheets down and blew a puff of air upwards to push her bangs out of her face. “Fine! You win! I’m up!” “Thank you! I always do.” “Almost always.” “Fine. Almost always. Now move it!” As for winning in sports, however, she was in fact right. She is the fastest runner in our school and is great with hurdles and long distance. She’s never lost verse the other schools’ athletes since the eighth grade. She was the strong, athletic type, who worked constantly to improve herself and ensure that her chance for an athletic scholarship would be in her grasp. She also participated in basketball and volleyball, but due to there being other participants in the game, she couldn’t control the outcome too much on those games, but our school still does great just the same. They’d gone to state numerous times and their school was ranked as one of the top three schools in their state. As for Kaila, she was the really smart one. The ‘NERD.’ Shannon was smart too, but not like Kaila. Kaila had an eidetic memory, or photographic. She could recall images, sounds, and objects in memory with extreme precision. You could ask her anything about her past and she could tell you everything she did, what she heard, where she was, and who she was with. It did lead to many issues for her as well in her life. She stored information that wasn’t necessary or important to her, but it happened. People always thought it was a blessing when it came to school and such, but she found it to be annoying, so she tries to keep it a secret. All the students in her school were used to the fact that she had a photographic memory, so they no longer bug her about it. Anyways, back to yesterday. Kaila got up, took a shower, did her hair and makeup, and got dressed. Shannon had a special day planned for her friend. She wanted to spend the final summer day with Kaila, so she called her over to stay the night, and then was going to take her around the town to many fun planned activities. The final one was the best of all; it was a surprise sure to make Kaila very happy. She made sure Kaila looked real nice and dressy for it. The more Kaila got ready, the more she got excited. She thought Shannon was the greatest best friend anyone could have, so she started thinking what she could do for her in return. She couldn’t think of anything off the top of her head, but was sure she could think of something while they were out. First, Shannon took them to get some breakfast at IHOP. She knew how much Kaila liked their pancakes and waffles with strawberries and whipped cream. They sat and talked about what they were going to wear for their first day. They always liked to make a statement starting the new school year. Since this was their last year, they needed to make it the best one yet. Last year, they dressed up wearing their favorite football team jerseys and painted their faces. They even wore different colored shoelaces and ribbons in their hair. The other students always wondered what these two girls would wear, since this had been their tradition since middle school when Shannon didn’t realize her shirt she was wearing got a cut in the back, exposing her tank underneath. Luckily she had a sweatshirt over it. Their first period class was Physical Education, so when they were changing, Kaila noticed it. Shannon started crying, but was thankful no one noticed since they were the only ones left in the locker room. Kaila felt terrible, but then figured out a solution. She was a good sewer, thanks to her mother, and was always looking for new things to try. She recently discovered something in a magazine that she wanted to do, so she snuck back to her locker quickly, and grabbed her pink flowery scarf, her scissors, ruler, and her extra thread and needle She came back and told Shannon not to worry as she took her shirt and told her to explain to the teacher that she was having that time of the month issues and that she’d be right out. Shannon cheered up and did as she was told. Since the instructor was a male, they did not have to worry about him going to check on Kaila. She started working on the shirt. She cut a bigger slit down the middle, making the cut twice its original size. She wondered how Shannon didn’t realize this tear was ever there, but figured she was still half asleep when she was getting dressed and it would’ve been her younger brothers who cut the hole. They were just recently allowed to use the adult scissors and had been using them on all sorts of things. Even the poor cat had to go through the torment and it looked like it was patched together like Frankenstein’s monster. They were taken away from them, but it seemed they found where their mom put them or did it before they got in trouble and lost the privilege of using them. Kaila began cutting slits using her ruler on both sides along the slit and then grabbed her long scarf. She used the ruler again and measured 5 inches of the flower print and began cutting. She then called her mom and asked if she’d bring the other long flower scarf she had that matched the one she was using now, except it was purple instead, though the pink was her favorite. She explained the situation to her mother who stopped at the school with the scarf before heading off to work. Kaila thanked her mother, who praised her for the work she already had done, and continued working. The class wasn’t much longer and she wanted to have her work finished before it was. She weaved the scarf pieces through the slits and turned them into bows. Ring. Class was over and so was Kaila. She heard footsteps and watched as the girls came into the locker rom. Shannon was the last one in and sneaked over to Kaila at their lockers. She asked, “Is it better now Kaila?” Kaila smiled and opened her locker to reveal not one, but two shirts with the slits and bows. Shannon smiles and hugged her friend hard and praised her on how well done they were. They quickly switched and went to their next class. People were shocked on how unique their shirts were and all the girls asked where they could get one and the bows that matched them in their hair. Shannon’s only reply was, “You can get them from having as great a friend as I do.” Since then, Kaila and Shannon decided to do something big for the first day of school every year after that. Now Kaila found herself at the mall, looking at clothes to help determine how they were going to dress for their first day tomorrow. They agreed on wearing uniforms like you see in Catholic schools. Kaila decided she would sew their initials on the blazers and the school logo on the ties to show their school spirit. They choose short ruffled black skirts, with a Navy blue blazer with pink flowers on white on the cuffs, and a white button down shirt with Navy blue ties to match the blazers. They also looked at jewelry, including this locket that caught Shannon’s attentions. She said, “Look at this! This is so you Kaye. It is the coolest locket I’ve ever seen. It was heart-shaped with little pink flowers donning pink gems in the center of them. Kaila’s response was, “That is cool, but don’t you think you’re spending enough for one day.” “You’re right! I’ll get it Friday when I get my allowance.” After shopping, they headed to the bowling alley to verse each other. Thanks to Kaila’s special ability of memorization they never use the screen to keep track of score. Last time, Shannon bowled a 104 and Kaila got 146. She was really good at it because she knew what placement and speed would get her a strike, but she gets distracted because she keeps scores and sees other lanes out of the corner of her eye, so she never bowls a perfect game. This time there was only people in the lane to the right of them, so she did better, as did Shannon. Kaila got a 165, while Shannon got a 124. After the game, Shannon took Kaila, and went to eat at Red Lobster. Kaila loved their maple grilled chicken with rice pilaf, while Shannon got shrimp. They split the ticket as per Kaila’s request and Shannon said, “Alright, time for the big finale,” as they got into her car. Kaila smiled and couldn’t stop considering what it could be. She thought they might go to the movies. There were a couple she’d been wanting to see that weren’t exactly something Shannon normally watched unless she got Kaila to go to one that she didn’t prefer either. However, sometimes they would end up agreeing it was good afterwards. Anyways Kaila never would have guessed what they were actually going to be doing was getting their photos taken. Kaila didn’t really care about getting her photo taken because she could remember everything in her head, but Shannon and her parents both told her that is she ever wanted to show her children and husband or others in the future, it’s be nice to actually be able to show them. Even so, she tended to be camera shy, except with Shannon. She knew this was important to her though and that she would want to remember today too since she didn’t have a photographic memory, so she was happy to do it for a friend. When Kaila agreed it would be fun and that she was excited, which she still was because of how happy it made Shannon, Shannon went and confirmed their appointment. They then followed the photographer to the back and looked at the different backgrounds there were to choose from. They both agreed on the meadow drop with the sunlight on the tall grass and with yellow and pink and blue flowers. The photographer positioned them so that they would appear as if they were lying in the grass since the drop extended onto the floor as well. *click* He then had them sitting back to back with one knee up and their hands resting on them. *click* Shannon then stood up and had Kaila remain seated. Kaila didn’t understand what was going on until Shannon’s mother and her mother walked in with pink roses and something else she recognized. It was the pink flower scarf and the shirts with the bows on the back that she had sewn. Kaila was so surprised and excited for what her friend did and that she found a scarf just like the one she had. She stood up and began thinking about that day as she quickly hugged her friend. They changed the background to a creamy white and brought out two lockers, which she also recognized. They were the ones Shannon had bought them from the school a few years back, because they were getting new ones put in. She managed to get the ones they used in P.E. in middle school, except that Kaila suggested they switch and keep the others’ locker. She loved that idea, so Kaila took her #53 and Shannon took #55. Shannon and the photographer worked on setting them up in front of the backdrop, while Kaila and their mother watched. They hung the shirts inside, making sure the bows had some visibility and then they sat the way they had before with their backs against their original lockers. They had different ends of the scarf around their necks, with the excess hanging in front of the lockers, without concealing the shirts, just the hangers they were on. They held the roses in their hands next to their faces, resting their elbows on their knees. They turned slightly at an angle to face the photographer better. Kaila took the opportunity whilst the photographer was going to his camera and looked at Shannon who did the same. They both smiles at each other and then… *click* They looked at him as he responded with, “Perfect.” They all laughed and then they took one more picture before they were done. He gave them a look at the pictures on his computer and told them when they would be ready to pick up and their mothers said goodbye and told them how happy they were and that they would have to pick out some frames to put them in, which gave Kaila a great idea. Shannon took Kaila home and after many hugs and a ‘thank you’ and a ‘see you tomorrow’, Kaila hurried inside and asked her mom to drive her. Next day… Shannon was at school already putting all her stuff in her locker and hanging up her mirror and pictures. She was wearing the outfit they picked out the day before, but hadn’t put the blazer on yet and had a sweater on, because she wanted to wait for her friend. Kaila still hadn’t arrived and 1st period was about to start. As she grabbed the notebook, folder, and writing utensils for class she wanted for her first class, she saw Kaila. She walked towards her friend in her uniform and a box. Kaila: Hey Shane! Shannon: Hey Kale! What’s the box for? Kaila handed her the brown box with the beautiful silver bow on it and watched as she opened it. Shannon pushed back the tissue paper and there it was. It was the locket she had wanted. Her eyes began to tear as she gently picked it out of the box and held it between her fingers. Kaila: Open it up! Shannon looked up at her friend then back at the locket. She pulled the clasp and opened it to see the picture in the left half of it of them wearing the outfits in middle school. She hugged Kaila and asked her why she had got the locket for her, since she was gonna get it for her, but then Kaila reached into her blazer pocket and pulled out another one, and opened it to reveal the same thing in hers. Shannon: You have a picture! Kaila: I sure do. I want to be able to show my children their mother and aunt Shannon in middle and high school. Shannon: This is just our middle school… Oh, you mean to put the picture from yesterday in the other half. Kaila nodded and Shannon shed a few tears down her cheeks as she hugged her friend. Kaila reached in her other pocket and pulled out a tissue. Almost everyone was in class, so people wouldn’t see her crying. She wiped and eyes and then pulled off her sweater and put on her blazer and tie as Kaila put her stuff away and grab her stuff for their first class. They put on their lockets as well and the little pink bows for their hair. They closed their lockers and headed off to their first class linking arms. Thank you! Any and all comments appreciated!
  11. How I love Christmas! I love everything about it: the food, the snow, the decorations, the singing, the stories, and the presents. All the smells of food filling my home and the delicious tastes associated with them bring warmth to my body. The colorful lights hanging on homes and offices and shrubbery make the world look magical. When I decorate my home with them, it makes me feel like I’m living in a kaleidoscope. The snow is beautiful, covering the Earth with a blanket of white, and sparkling in the moonlight. I enjoy watching it fall and catching snowflakes like they’re rain drops. I also love building forts and snowmen and having snowball fights, then going inside for a nice cup of cocoa(with marshmallows) and snuggling in a cozy blanket. Then there are the presents. The bows and papers and boxes waiting to be opened and discovered, makes people’s eyes become bright, and brings wonder and amazement for what treasures lay inside. I enjoy when they still say Santa Claus on the tags, even though I’m older and I know he isn’t real. I continue to believe in him, though, because of what he represents. When hearing the stories about him, like the famous ‘The Night Before Christmas’, I become happy and remember the hope he brought me when I was little. He brings magic to children and gives life to their imagination. I also like the story of ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas!’ It shows what Christmas is really about; that it isn’t about the presents and lights and food, but about family. It’s about being together with the ones you love, who love you in return. I think something that shows this, which is my most favorite thing about Christmas, is the music. As stated by Plato, ‘Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.’ I didn’t always think this however. I used to think the presents were the most important thing. I would create these long lists that I would pass out to all the adults in the family and tell Santa about when I still thought he brought me presents. I was never much with helping with the decorations or food preparation even when I got to my late teens and graduated and moved to the dorms. That is, until I was in my second year at college and Christmas was just a couple days away. Since I enjoy stories, I think I’ll share mine with you… It all started the morning two days before Christmas in my college dorm at the local university. Many students went home to their families, but some remained, either having too far to go to get home, not enough money to go back home and then back to school in January, or because of the weather in their home states, making them unable to get a flight home. Two of my roommates already went home, because they happened to be my high school friends, so they just had to drive a couple hours to get home. Unfortunately for my fourth roommate, Gweyn, she was staying because she didn’t have the money to go back home and then come back again in January. She wasn’t the only one of my friends unable to go home though. Sam and J weren’t able to leave due to the weather, since school ended just yesterday. The airports had all flights to their home states cancelled. They might be able to make it home before New Year’s, but it appeared they would be stuck here for Christmas. Then there was Emma and Jules. They were the only university couple in our group. Sam has a girlfriend and Gweyn has a boyfriend, but they are back home at a different university or community college. They would have stayed in their respective cities, but this was Princeton. It’s a great Ivy League school that can open many doors. If they offered scholarships, Gwen may have been able to go home. However, due to the fact that they don’t, her parents pay the expensive tuition so she can go to her dream school, because of the amazing job opportunities she could get having this prestige university on her resume. She works at a local clothing store to support herself while here and gives any extra she can to pay back her parents. They were willing to pay for her to come home and then go back, but she felt bad about all they already spent on her, since she comes from Arizona, and the plane tickets can be quite pricey. As for me, I just love the campus and my friends. I can’t leave them behind and besides I only live a couple hours away. I’ll probably go home Christmas day anyway. Anyway, this morning Gweyn comes into my room and sits on me. Ouch! Cassie (that’s me): Get off Gweyn! What are you doing? Gweyn: Trying to get you up. Come on! Let’s go do something fun. It’s so boring around here without Sarah and Athena. All you do is sleep, sleep, sleep. Cassie: It’s nice. You should try it sometime. Gweyn: Ok! Fine! Guess I can go hang with J and the others. I toss the covers off. Gweyn: Seems that got you up. Cassie: Thought J went home. Gweyn: Well if you wouldn’t sleep so much, you would have heard him earlier when he stopped by. Cassie: What? He stopped by? Why didn’t you wake me up or something? Gweyn: Calm down! He wasn’t here that long. He just stopped to say that he wouldn’t be going home because there were no flights and he didn’t want to drive all that way. Cassie: That sucks. Gweyn: Yea…but he did invite us to go hang with him and Sam, Jules, and Emma tonight. Cassie: Really? Let me go take a shower and get ready then. We can head over early before the others arrive and hang. Gweyn: Hold your horse Cass. Don’t you want to know what we’re doing first before you go getting all pretty for him? Cassie: This doesn’t sound good and I’m not getting ‘pretty’ for him. I’m doing it for you actually. Gweyn: Oh really? Cassie: Yea! I mean you don’t get to see Tyler, so someone has to dress nice for you and tell you how pretty you look. Gweyn: Funny Cass! We all know you like him and he likes you, so just make a move already. Cassie: That’s easy for you to say. He’s gorgeous. How can I be the one to tell him I like him first? Isn’t that the guy’s job? Gweyn: Alright fine, but you’re gonna regret it. Cassie: Maybe. Now tell me what we’re doing tonight. Gweyn: I’ll tell you after you shower. Now hurry up, you smell funny. I toss my hoodie at her and head into the bathroom. I come out and find Gweyn sitting on my bed checking her Facebook on my computer. Cassie: Alright! I smell pretty. Tell me what we’re doing. Gweyn: Well, he wants to go caroling. Cassie: You mean singing. What? No thanks. Let’s just go hang with him until the others show up and then I’ll leave. Gweyn: Cass, come on! Why not? You have a great voice and it’ll be fun. Afterwards we can get some hot cocoa and you can snuggle on the couch next to J. Cassie: No Gweyn. I don’t do all that Christmas stuff. It’s ok when you’re little, but now that I’m grown up, I don’t have to. Gweyn: Please! Please! Please! She places her hands on my shoulders, while still kneeling on my bed, and gently shakes me. Gweyn: It’s not like you have any other plans. I know you love ‘Silent Night.’ I was about to tell her ‘no’ again, when my phone goes off. I see my mom is calling. I hit the ‘answer’ button and hold a finger up at Gweyn, who slides back on her knees. I put the speaker on as I reach my desk and brush my hair in the mirror. Cassie: Hey mom! What’s up? Mom: Hey sweetheart! I was just calling to see if you were going to be coming home tonight. Cassie: I actually hadn’t planned on it. I thought I could come home Christmas afternoon. Mom: Oh hunny! Why not? We’re going to celebrate tomorrow night at our place. It’s our turn this year and all our relatives are coming. You can bring some of your friends with you if you’d like. Any boys will have to stay in the basement though, you know how your father would react if they were even on the same floor as you. Plus, we’re going caroling tonight, it’ll be fun! Cassie: Thanks mom, but… I look at Gweyn. Mom: Oh no! What? You’re not going to sleep all day, are you? Where’s your Christmas spirit? Cassie: No mom! It’s not that. It’s just that… Gweyn hurries over and grabs the phone. She makes it so I can’t get it back, by placing it way up high, because she is about a foot taller than me. Gweyn: Hey there Mrs. Carter. Mom: Oh Gweyn is that you? Gweyn: Yes it is. Mom: Good! Can you tell me why my daughter isn’t coming home to spend time with her family? Gweyn: I certainly can. She turns and I voice for her to give it back, but she ignores me. Gweyn: She is actually going to go caroling with us tonight. Mom: Really? How’d you get her to do that? Gweyn: I told her how sad I was that I couldn’t go see my family and that if she would come sing with me, I wouldn’t feel so bad anymore. I give her a dirty look and put my hands on my hips. Mom: I’m sorry Gweyn. You know you’re always welcome here. You can come enjoy Christmas with us if you can get our daughter to come back home tomorrow. Gweyn: Oh I’m sure I can arrange that. I’ll make sure to take a lot of pictures tonight while we are caroling and I’ll bring them with me next time I come. I shake my finger at her and bow my head in defeat. Mom: Alright! Thank you Gweyn! I appreciate it! Gweyn: Anytime Mrs. Carter. Here’s Cassie. She hands me the phone and I punch her shoulder. Not hard, just enough to get my point across. Cassie: Hey mom! Mom: Why didn’t you just tell me you were going caroling with your friends? I would’ve been fine with that. Just try to come back home tomorrow ok? Cassie: I’m sorry mom! Guess it sort of slipped my mind or something. Mom: Or something is right. I hope to see you tomorrow. Love you! Bye! Cassie: Love you! Bye! I hang up and turn to Gweyn. Gweyn: Alright hurry and get ready. J is waiting. Cassie: I’m gonna get you back. Gweyn: I know. I can’t wait to take all those pictures to show your mom. We hurry up and get ready and head over to Sam and J's. Luckily only J was there, so we talked with him for a few hours before the others started showing up. It was now one o’clock. Gweyn mainly let me talk with J, while she watched TV. I sat next to J of course. Once everyone was there, Emma passed little books out to everyone. Cassie: What are these for? Emma: Those are the songs we’ll be singing tonight. So everyone brush up on your carols. I open the book and look at the songs. There were quite a few. There was ‘Walking in a Winter Wonderland’, ‘Jingle Bells’, ‘Joy to the World’, and other classes. I flip to the final page and see my favorite, ‘Silent Night.’ Everyone else finishes up and Emma says, “Let’s go everyone! Get your mittens and coats ready. We’re going to the cafeteria first for those who didn’t get to go home.” We get to the cafeteria and pull out our books. Emma takes lead and tells us what to sing. ‘Walking in a Winter Wonderland.’ All the students are staring at us. I hide behind Gweyn, but remain by J’s side. He gives me a quick smile before we start. J: You ready? Cassie: I guess we’ll find out. J: I’m looking forward to hearing you sing. I blush and open my book to the song. Emma begins to sing and we follow along. We continue singing and people smile at us as we walk by and stop ever so often at one of the tables. They stop eating and listen to us sing. I see some of the couples get closer together and I can’t stop myself from peeking at J. He’s looking. He is definitely looking at me. After singing numerous songs, we finish at the final table and everyone claps for us. I couldn’t help but smile at seeing how happy everyone was just for us singing to them. Some even came up and thanked us, telling us that they were feeling homesick and that our singing made them feel better. I recognized a couple of them from my classes when we would talk before the teacher came. I felt bad that they weren’t able to see their families and I was glad I made them feel better. I was especially happy when J grabbed my shoulders and told me how great I was. He thought I could sing really great, which made me unable to stop from blushing. After the cafeteria, we began walking around the halls and dorms and campus, singing to other students who were staying on campus for Christmas. We even had several students join us. I found it to be amazing how many joined our group and how the songs became better because we got louder and people would be able to hear us better. Since we didn’t have many extra books, we began to share with others. J gave up his and shared with me. After we had completed going about the whole campus, the extra students returned their books to Emma and thanked us for allowing them to join our group. Jules and Emma were going to go with them, but J asked if he could borrow Emma’s books, which she so graciously gave, before they left holding and swinging each other’s hands. Cassie: What are you going to do with those? J: Come on, I’ll show you! Are you guys coming to? Sam: I can’t man. Have to go call Savannah. Told her I was going to when I was done. J: That’s alright man! I’ll get you back at the dorms. What about you Gweyn? Gweyn looks at us and then smiles. Gweyn: You know what? You two go ahead. I actually wanted to call Tyler too and maybe my parents. Singing to those other students made me really miss them all, so I think I’m gonna call it a night. J: That’s alright! I know what you mean! I’m gonna call mine later as well. She turns around and hurries off as J turns to me. I can’t move. J: Come on! He grabs my hand and pulls me with him. Cassie: Wait! What’s going on? J: You’ll see. We aren’t done caroling yet. Cassie: You mean me and you? J: Yea, of course! It’ll be awesome! He turns and smiles and then back again. I melt in his grip and follow him to his car. I get in and he begins driving. It’s only 4:30. I didn’t think we went caroling that long. He keeps driving until he reaches the local hospital. We get out and head up to the building. Cassie: What are we doing here? J: I told you. Caroling. It’s time to brighten some patients up. We get inside and he talks to the front desk, then grabs my hand and pulls me to follow the nurse. Cassie: Where are we going? J: I asked her if it was alright if we sang to some of the patients. She said we could go sing in the children’s ward. Cassie: Oh! We get there and the nurse asks our names. There are so many children there with their families, some playing with toys in their hospital gowns, while others sat on their parents’ laps getting rocked back and forth. The nurse introduced us and said that we would be singing for them. J told me what to sing and so we did. The children gathered around us as we sung to them and some of their parents joined us. The children would smile and giggle, which made me feel so happy, so I looked up and smiles at J who smiled back. I didn’t blush or anything when he grabbed my hand, but just kept on singing. The nurse told us that we would only have one more song, because visiting hours were almost over. J flipped through the songs and picked my favorite one. J: This is my favorite! Cassie: Yea! Mine too. He let the others know and then we sang. Some of the parents went back to their children and began rocking them and holding them as we sang. Some of the children fell asleep and when we were done, I discovered I was crying. J grabbed me a tissue as the children who were still awake and their parents, as well as the parents carrying their now sleeping children, came up and thanked us. The nurse then led us out and thanked us as well. J: So? What did you think? Cassie: It was amazing! Seeing all those families sitting there, listening to us, I couldn’t believe how our singing just lit up all their faces. It was just like the students back on campus. J: Yea, music can do that! I believe that there is power in music that brings people together and allows them to feel better and forget about their worries. That’s why I wanted to come here. So many of these children and patients don’t get to go home for Christmas. They don’t get to spend all those special little moments with the ones they love. I begin to cry again. J: What’s wrong Cass? Cassie: It’s just that I feel like I’ve taken my family for granted after seeing all this. J grabs me and pulls me into a hug. J: You’re not the only one Cass. Sometimes things get in the way and others get pushed aside. Cassie: I know, but I feel so guilty now and selfish. I should’ve told my mom I was coming home. J: It’s alright Cass! You can still go home. There’s plenty of time. Be thankful that you’re able to and that you have such a kind, understanding family. I look up at him and he drops his arms. Cassie: You know? You’re right. Come on! I grab his hand and snake his keys out of his pocket. J: What’s going on? Cassie: It’s your turn to trust me. Let’s go! I get into the driver’s seat and him into the passenger as we drive off. Gweyn is sitting on the bed holding a picture of her family when J and the rest of us hurry in. Gweyn: Whoa! What’s going on here? Cassie: Pack a bag Gweyn! You’re going home. Gweyn: What? I hand her a plane ticket for a roundtrip back home. Gweyn: I can’t take this. Cassie: Yes, you can! You’re going home. Don’t argue with me. She tears up and then hugs me. Gweyn: Thank you so much Cass! This means so much. Cassie: I know, now let’s get you packed. We all go to the airport and wave goodbye to Gweyn as she gets on the plane and we wait until it takes off. Emma: So what now? Cassie: Now you guys get packed. I have a little surprise for you. Jules: I don’t like the sound of this. Everyone laughs and then we go back to the campus and get packed. We then head out and then all follow me. We stop at a two-story house and everyone gets out and looks at all the lights the house has. There are many lights on the roof and a fake Santa and reindeer on the roof as well, and candy cane lights lighting the sidewalk to the door. I turn to Emma. Cassie: May I have them Emma? She pulls out her little books and hands them to everyone. We all stand next to each other and J grabs my hand again. We share a smile and then begin singing. Silent Night. We walk up the sidewalk and as we reach the steps, the doors open. My mom begins to cry as she covers her mouth and calls for my dad and younger sister. They smile and my dad holds my mom as we finish the song. My sister and mom hurry down and begin to hug me followed by my dad. Mom: I’m so glad you came home. Dad: I see you brought some company. Cassie: I sure did. These are all my friends, whom you’ve met a couple times before. Dad: Yep! I remember these faces. Well let’s go inside. Girls sleep upstairs. Boys in the basement. Everyone laughs. Mom: I’ll make you guys some cocoa. Sister: Yea! Sissy’s back. Sissy’s back. Everyone heads inside, with J and I at the back. I begin to go inside, but he pulls my arm back and brings me close to him. Cassie: What are you doing J? My dad won’t be too thrilled if he sees just the two of us standing here. He might get the wrong impression. J: He wouldn’t be wrong. He looks up and then do I. I see mistletoe and then he looks back at me. I quickly look inside and see my family and friends in the kitchen where they wouldn’t be able to see us. When I look and smile back at J, he reaches in for a kiss. And all this was made possible, due to the magic of caroling. Life is one grand, sweet song, so start the music.-Ronald Reagan Thank you!
  12. Monday. Everyone hates Mondays. It’s time for kids to go back to school, while their parents go to work. I dropped my children off at the school and I started the long drive to work. My daughter, Anna, is twelve and her brother, Skyler, is seven. They are a couple months into school and they have been doing great in their classes so far. I make my way through the busy traffic of all the adults who are groggy from rushing to get ready to begin the work week. You see them sipping their coffee, biting their toast, and making sure ties and makeup and presentations are perfect and ready. Thankfully I don’t have to worry about all of that, because I am a nurse. I slip on my scrubs, name tag, and stethoscope, and then I’m off. I also carry a pager which I always carry, even to bed, so I’m used to always remembering it. The line of cars finally moved some more. Darn construction. I see my exit and get off on it. I come to a stop sign, where I have to wait for a whole row of cars to pass before I can go, and across the street to the other ramp, I see a man. He is looking for a ride. He has a sign, which reads: Heading to Minnesota. He looks terrible. His face is covered in hair with messy hair on top of his head and clothes that appear really worn and dirty. I always feel bad when I see someone trying to get a ride and it appears they have everything they own in a bag and they have to carry it everywhere with it. I’m sure it gets heavy with all that walking and the weather definitely isn’t always nice. It’s rare that people are willing to actually help such a soul, because you never know if they would still your car and stuff and leave you where they were just moments before. Also, if they would kill you in the process or take one of the passengers with them, so as no one could call the police. It can be hard to tell the good ones from the bad ones, especially if they have kids with them or a cute pet. The cars all pass and there is time for me to go. I drive away, regretting not being able to help him, but thankful I haven’t had to endure such hardship. I get to work and start my shift. I go to see my first patient and check her vitals. They are a mother and daughter, with the daughter having what appears to be a break of a bone in her ankle. I speak with them about what occurred to the daughter. The mother stated that her daughter was outside playing and came inside for something to drink, but when she went back out, she tripped going down the stairs. I check her ankle and try moving it, but the little girl screamed from my very touch. Seems the mother had to carry her into the hospital and into the observation room. I tell her that we are going to have to perform some x-rays, but it definitely appears to be a break. She nods in approval, but then asks what many patients tend to ask me when they come from low-income families. “How much is this going to cost?” Since she was asking, it meant that she most likely didn’t have insurance, but being a nurse, I am still supposed to ask. “Do you have insurance?” I asked. “No,” she replied. I then explained that it would involve many doctor visits and then how much it would cost for the x-rays, doctor visits, and cast placement and removal. Also what it would cost if crutches were necessary as well. She then began to tear up. I wanted to comfort her, so I explained that there are payment plans that we can offer her so she wouldn’t have to pay it all at once. Being a nurse, I have medical insurance through the hospital, so I haven’t had to worry about paying for doctor visits for my family. This made her feel slightly better and she thanked me for offering to help with more than just making her daughter feel better. I then finished my shift and went to pick up my children. My daughter and son were waiting at the front of their schools. I had asked Skyler how his day at school was and he was still talking about it when we picked up Anna and until we got home. We all went inside and they put their bags away in their rooms and got washed up as I went in the kitchen to see what my husband, Kyle, was cooking. He works as a math professor at the local university. So after he is done with his two morning classes, he comes home and does the cooking and I do cooking when I work night shifts or have the day off. I helped him finish cooking and have the kids set up the table while I told him about Skyler’s day at school and mine at work. He then told me about his day at work as well and then we put the food on the table and served the kids and ourselves. Kyle: So Skyler, your mother told me about the girl you like. Skyler: Mommmmm! I don’t like her. Anne: Skyler’s got a girlfriend. Skyler’s got a girlfriend. Skyler: No I don’t. He then starts to tickle his sister, but Kyle picks him and puts him back in his chair, as Anne and I giggle at the situation. Kyle: Alright! Alright! Let’s leave him alone. So Anne, we know about your brothers day, how was yours? Anne: It was awesome! Addy and I beat Sam and Dean in volleyball in P.E. Kyle: That’s my girl! Learn anything interesting? Anne: Oh yea, in Math, we learned more on fractions and in History, we learned about something called The Great Depression. Skyler: What’s a Great Depression? Anne: Well, it’s when this thing called a Stock Market Crash happened, and many people lost all their money, and couldn’t get jobs. Families became homeless and had to live on streets and struggled for food and shelter, even the rich were hurt by it. Skyler: Wow! That won’t happen to us, will it daddy? Kyle: No son. That was a long time ago. Things are different now. You guys don’t need to worry about that. Skyler: Whew! Good! Anne: Yea! We’re lucky. We have a good life, huh, mom? Katie: That’s right hunny! We do have a good life. Katie reaches over and grabs Kyle’s hand as she thinks about all the things that happened today to make her feel like they truly had the good life.
  13. THE HEART AND SOUL OF AMERICA ACADEMY'S A-TEAM WAS AN AMAZING GIRL NAMED ARISTOTLE. She was smart – brilliant, in fact – yet she didn't know what she was going to do in life yet, and therefore had no idea of what she was going to major in. She had an English major chosen at the moment, yes, but that was a front in order for her to qualify for a number of scholarships offered for that field. In truth, she had no idea what she would do with that major, and this was the third time she had changed, having first gone in declaring that she would be an Art major and then a Philosophy major and then a Theatre major. So she was like many people at that age, and didn't quite know herself. At the moment all she knew was that she was really smart, and so was everyone else on the A-team. Except everyone else had figured out what they wanted to do. The first was Adam, her very good friend who was going in to become a Theology major. It also happened that he always wore a red t-shirt. There was Aristocles, a wrestler and all-round athlete – but particularly a wrestler – who was majoring in Philosophy. It also happened he always wore an orange t-shirt. There was Anne, a political activist who was getting her degree in economics. It also happened she always wore a yellow t-shirt. There was Athena, who came from the farm and was getting her degree in Biology. It also happened she always wore a green t-shirt. There was Amadeus, a gal who could play seven instruments who was getting her degree in Music. It also happened that she always wore a blue t-shirt. Finally there was Aesop, a guy who had already starred in twelve plays in just his second year of college and was getting a degree in English. It also happened that he always wore a violet t-shirt. Then there was, after the final friend, Aristotle herself, who had a major, sure, but far from a permanent plan. The only thing permanent about her was her white t-shirt, except for when she spilled spaghetti on it. In which case people constantly speculated that it was her way of flirting with Aristocles. “No, we are worlds apart,” Aristotle would affirm. Spaghetti, why are you so misleading? Food spills aside, the white little princess of the A-team helped Aesop host a party at his apartment to celebrate February 29. Then Amadeus came over, and between her and Aesop they put together a selection of music that worked for their interests. Apparently, there was no better way of celebrating the special day of Leap Year than Phantom of the Opera. The connection was obvious. Now people came, and together the seven of them just ate pizza and discussed how it could be the meaning of life until Adam and Aristocles took it too seriously and got to the deeper implications of such a thought process. Aesop thoroughly enjoyed the subject as well, uniting all the guys on the matter while the girls groaned at how complicated discussion of pizza had become. Except Aristotle was a girl, and she actually joined the discussion enthusiastically, so saying “the girls” can’t be taken as a truthful generalized statement, and in this case it should just mean “all the girls who wore actual colors and weren’t the main character, because the main character is always the exception.” However, since another story written by this author covered this topic already, there will be no redundancy here and the topic will just be skipped over and we shall instead focus on the next thing that happened, which was Aristotle carelessly whipping pizza sauce on her white t-shirt. It showed up as an orange stain. “Mrs. Aristocles,” teased Athena, “It looks like you’re going to have to wear one of your husband’s shirts if you want to carry on!” Aristotle just rolled her eyes. Or rather, she looked up, then looked down. It wasn’t literally rolling, and it’s difficult to say why people would call out such a motion under a description like that, as the eyeballs don’t actually roll in the sense that they rotated about a horizontal axis and moved forward on a plane parallel to that axis, as one would geometrically describe the movement of a wheel rolling on a road, but regardless, this figure of speech has been used millions of times and its meaning is understood. If there was a more technical description of such a movement, it would not be used here because chances are that nobody would understand it. Right then: her reaction. So she ended up putting on one of Aristocles’ orange t-shirts. Athena and Aesop both “oooo-ed”. Aristotle rolled her eyes again, but we’re not going there. The bottom line was, she took it all lightly. And then she was the person who restarted the discussion on philosophy with regards to how pizza related to the way she incorporated pleasure and recreation into her worldview. But Athena was persistent. “Listen to me: you two are perfect for each other.” Aristotle realized that she was sitting absurdly close to Aristocles. He could put his arm over her shoulders. “Suuure.” Anne spoke up. “Hey, why do we always have to be shipping romances?” “Because Aristocles and Aristotle are perfect complements for each other,” said Aesop. “You can have one or the other, but you combine them into an Aristotlecles sandwich and you get a perfect, flexible, all-encompassing union that will address everything in the universe, which is what a good marriage has. No wait, I’m not putting that right, or at least as not as well as I could. What I’m saying is that they’re different in such a way that they aren’t opposites, but complements, and they complete each other.” “Hey, Aesop, do you just want a kiss?” proposed Aristotle. “What? No! Not from you. I mean, you’re pretty, but…” “I bet I could kiss you and Aristocles wouldn’t get one bit jealous,” said Aristotle. “This discussion is stupid,” said Anne. She left the table and turned on Aesop’s television to watch the news. There was more teasing, more eye rolling, and finally laughter as they concluded that Aristotle was secretly a guy. She was a tomboy, so she could live with that. “But wait, isn’t that demeaning toward women to say that the only way they can be cool is if they are more like men?” asked Athena. “No, not really,” said Aristotle. “We all have short hair and don’t wear skirts. That doesn’t make us more like boys, though. Dude, if anything, traditionally girly things makes you less girlish. Those people who wear skirts and makeup are just insecure and brainwashed by society. T-shirts and jeans: that’s the way to go.” “Aristotle, you look weird in orange,” said Athena. “I know, I feel naked without white,” said Aristotle. She got up and sat next to Anne, covering herself with a blanket. The news had changed from politics to current events. There was a giant earthquake on the news and a ton of tumbled buildings. “That’s just terrible,” said Aristotle. “I know. I wish I could make a difference.” And then Aristocles sat next to them. “Sucks, huh?” “Yeah,” said Aristotle. “Hey, Amadeus, can you turn down the music?” Amadeus turned down the music. Then everyone bundled around the television and turned up its volume. The statistics were grim. The body count was high. There were a lot of people who needed help. “This looked like a problem for the A-team,” said Adam. “Say that again,” said Aristotle. “What? ‘This is a problem for the A-team?’” “Yeah, that,” said Aristotle. “You mean…You want to hear it another time, but this time not asked as a question?” asked Adam, before Anne hushed him and crawled up closer to the television and kept herself just one foot away from the screen while she lowered down on her belly so that she didn’t block anyone’s view. Because you know, blocking views is very rude, and Anne would never do that. Although she had specific political beliefs, and if she ever ran for office there would be people who would say that she was very rude and lacked tact no matter how untrue that was. But that’s neither here nor there. Now Aristotle pulled the blanket over her like a tent. “Game plan time! Get under!” Everyone but Anne got under. And Amadeus, because thus far in this story she hasn’t whispered a peep. Five people and one blanket tent is a better ratio, anyway. “So what do you want to say, Aristotle?” asked Adam. “Alright, we’re the A-team, right?” asked Aristotle. “Of all the people on campus, we go around and actually do stuff. We’re the bomb. Unlike every other nerd on the video game design compartment, I have a life.” “Why are you brining the video game design department into this?” asked Athena. “You’re right. That’s completely irrelevant,” said Aristotle. “But it was a colorful comparison,” said Aesop. “No it wasn’t,” said Athena. “Most of those guys wear black. Unless you mean it was an orange comparison, because she’s wearing orange.” “Hey, just because she’s wearing orange doesn’t mean she’s my wife,” said Aristocles. “Alright, Aristotle, what are you thinking. Do you want to do a fundraiser? Because I can totally see us doing a fundraiser to help people get shoes.” “That, and we’re actually going to go out there and make a difference,” said Aristotle. “We can make a volunteer effort over Spring Break to clean up as much as we can. C’mon, we’re the A-team. We can do this! Between the seven of us, we can do the work of a thousand people because we’re just that good. Plus, Amadeus can keep spirits up with her music. Amadeus?” “Amadeus?” asked Adam. “Amadeus?” asked Aristocles. “Guys, she’s outside,” said Athena. Aristotle poked her head out for a moment and looked at Amadeus, who was nestled up on the couch that she now had all to herself. “Help me, Amadeus.” “What?” she asked. “Can you write really entertaining music for an earthquake/tsunami disaster pickup to help keep up good spirits?” Amadeus gave her a thumbs up. That was good enough for Aristotle. Heads back in the blanket. “Alright, so we have that taken care of. Can we each afford tickets?” “We’re actually doing this?” asked Aesop. “Are you being a skeptic?” replied Aristotle. “No, but this is sudden,” said Aesop. “Alright, but we each have our own skills, right?” began Aristotle. “Adam and Aristocles are wise guys – I mean wise men – who can make people feel better. Anne can be nice and just help move stuff around and it would help her career to say that she’s done community service. Athena, you can disinfect cuts people get on their feet, I guess? Amadeus, well, Amadeus can write great music to keep us all entertained. And with your English major and all of your theatric activity, you can make our stuff really dramatic, I guess, Aesop. Wait a minute…” “That’s all kind of useless,” said Aesop. “I just realized that none of us have any majors that solve real problems,” said Aristotle. “Wait, we’re the A-team and none of us have any competency in places that we need them! What’s up with that? I mean, we’re the A-team for Pete’s sake!” “I wouldn’t do anything for Pete’s sake,” said Athena. “Although I would for Aristocles’. Too bad he’s taken.” “Shut up,” said Aristotle, and she pinched Athena. “So none of us? None?” “You just noticed,” said Aristocles. “Hey, no offense guys, but we have useless superpowers,” said Aristotle. “You’re speaking in metaphor, of course,” said Aesop. “What if it isn’t a metaphor? I mean, there are comic book characters without powers who are considered superheroes. Look at Green Arrow. He’s awesome, and his superpower’s arching. What’re our superpowers? We can get into lively discussions. I want to have something like Green Arrow. I want to be able to do something cool,” said Aristotle. “You know, even in comics there are the people without powers whose sole power is to be good leaders,” said Aristocles. “Also, I have considered the applications of my worldview on this matter and believe that what you say about spiritual healing and emotional support is very important,” said Adam. “Yeah, well that’s all useless if you don’t also do everything you can to help someone’s overall condition,” said Aristotle. “Yes, I believe that, too,” said Adam. “But it doesn’t mean that I should have some sort of special talent that solves these problems. Isn’t it good enough that we just do what we can?” “I want the best I can to be enough,” said Aristotle. “That’s it. Everybody out. Everybody get out from under the blanket. You’re all useless.” “Technically it’s my blanket,” said Aesop. “Aesop, don’t start an argument with me over that. If you have an actual game plan, you’re invited to come back into the special tent. Do you have any game plan? No? Then you’re an illegal immigrant. Get out! Away with thee!” Everyone disappeared. Aristotle was then the only person under the blanket, which she let fall down and cease to exist as a tent. She crossed her arms and lay on her belly, thinking about it and just continuing to think about it. Then she made a call on her cell phone. It took forever, and no one answered. Dangit. That was the phone number of the people in the phone book who claimed they had all the answers in life. She had written the number down in case she ever needed one. The Phone a Friend option wasn’t going so well. Aristocles crawled underneath that space with a flashlight. “Hey, Aristotle.” “Hey, husband,” said Aristotle. She put her phone back in her pocket. “So I just thought I’d mention my two cents on the matter. Oh, and I thought I’d ask a question.” “Is it a game plan?” asked Aristotle. “Maybe.” “Because if it isn’t a game plan, you’d better get out.” For emphasis , she pointed out, in case one couldn’t tell which way to take when underneath a large but nevertheless finite blanketed area. “Well, this is obviously something you care about. How much would you say you care about this?” asked Aristocles. “A lot,” said Aristotle. “I mean, whenever I see things like this, I wonder why I’m doing something else with my life and just playing around and doing what’s fun, like staring in The Phantom of the Opera with Aesop. That’s just selfish of me.” “I agree.” “You’re not supposed to say that!” hissed Aristotle. “Woops,” said Aristocles. “Alright, so in your ideal life, you’d be helping people?” “Yeah, once I think about it.” “Well, let’s look at what the National Guard has to say,” began Aristocles. “The National Guard pays attention to these sorts of things. They help. They do the kinds of things that most people only ever get to do in video games. But let’s think about this in the bigger picture. They’re sort of like the Army, a highly constructive force that gets a lot of good done with the help of a lot of selfless volunteers who are willing to give their all in the name of making the world a better place. What does the army value? Well, a quick look at what programs will earn scholarships for people going into the ROTC shows a heavy favor for science and engineering. If that’s what the army values, then maybe that’s what you should value.” “Sounds good, but I’m not an engineer,” said Aristotle. “Yeah, but you have the can-do attitude of one,” said Aristocles. “I’m probably wrong though. No, you’re right, you’re definitely not an engineer.” “Reverse psychology…It’s working…” said Aristotle. “Alright, I’m pumped up. I’m super-smart. I can do anything. It’s not the most fun thing in the world, but I can see myself doing this.” “Well, that’s where I was using my philosophy in this discussion. Basically, I’ve differentiated between a life of meaning and a life of happiness, and ultimately I think that we should choose a life of meaning first without any intention of also trying to nab a bit of the life of happiness as well. You have to throw yourself fully to that ideal. Then, ironically, even though you gave up happiness, it comes to you anyway, because you live a good life.” “Eudaimonia,” said Aristotle. “Ah, a revelation. Wait, yes, it’s definitely coming to me. You know what? In order for this group to be truly multifaceted we need someone who has practical real-world talents.” “I heard that!” cried Athena. Aristotle cringed at her mistake. “But yeah, you know what I mean.” “I know what you mean perfectly,” said Aristocles. “So maybe you’re better off than us. Hey, if you’ll be the mechanic among us, we’ll be your infantry, your grunt laborers. Then you’ll be the woman with the plan.” “Haven’t I always been?” asked Aristotle. “Thank you for the idea, Aristocles. I’ll really think about this one.” That night, when the party was over, Aristotle tried calling that number again. Those people who had all the answers – they had better at least have the answer to their phone. They owed it to her. It didn’t pick up. Darn. Later she changed into a white t-shirt and tried again. Just because they had advertised themselves that way. She wasn’t going to give up until they gave her some answers. She was soul searching. Really, they owed it to her now. She actually needed them. This time the phone picked up. “Hello, this is Ian.” “Ivan.” “Ike.” “And Io!” Chimed four voices. “Hello, Four-I’s,” said Aristotle. “I’ve trying calling you hundreds of times before. It’s kind of hard to believe that you would be answering all at once.” “Well, you didn’t have any serious questions until now,” said Ian. “How did you know?” “We have all the answers,” said Ivan. “Can I just talk to one of you?” asked Aristotle. “Like, just Io?” “Of course,” said Io. “You guys, stick around though. Just don’t make a peep. We’re all in on helping you together. What is it, Aristotle?” “I’ve just been doing some soul searching,” said Aristotle, essentially repeating what the narrator said thirteen paragraphs ago. Thanks a lot, Aristotle. Good writing isn’t redundant. You just had to go screw this whole story up, now didn’t you? “And I’ve been wanting some answers to prevent me from making a really huge mistake.” “Do you have faith in what you’re about to do?” asked Io. “No, I don’t,” said Aristotle. “I mean, if I make the right decision, then great. If it’s wrong, though, I don’t know. I just wanted to hear your answer.” “Well, right now we’re helping with the victims in that earthquake and we’ve delivered shoes to over a million people right now. Using our genius as mad scientists, we’ve rebuilt one hundred homes perfectly. We’ll continue to make that difference with our genius. Is that the stuff you’d like to do?” “You’re totally my role model right now,” said Aristotle. “Wait, Io,” said the voice of Ike. “Excuse me, but the continuing conversation is going to have a lot of ‘he said’/‘she saids.’ Given that the narrator has already broken the fourth wall, I figured I might as well do that right now to justify switching to play manuscript format.” “Ike, I love you, but I have no idea what you’re talking about,” said Io. “It’s just that there’s a reader named Nuile who takes issue with the excessive use of the word ‘said,’” said Ike. “You scare me sometimes,” said Io. There was a pause. Aristotle had no idea what was going on. There was a slight staticky feeling in the air, something that she couldn’t quite place, but it died down, and she continued on under the decision to treat it as nothing, because it probably was. Io: I'm sorry we didn’t answer later. Well, technically I'm not, but the point is that there was a reason. You weren't feeling like yourself. For the sake of crispness, we'd figure we'd answer once you weren't dressed like your husband. Aristotle: He's not my...never mind. Io: Now that I'm sorry for. Anyways, now that you're in white, do you feel more like yourself? Aristotle: Yeah, I guess. Being on my own has helped me think this through. I'm unsure about this, though. I idolize you guys, though. I wish I could do what it is that you do. Io: Oooh, about that. The A-team is small talk. We at Four-I's are the major leagues. Actually, we're a league all on our own. Aristotle: Are you saying that I need to have your talent in order to really pursue a degree in engineering or science? Io: No, not at all. I was just being unnecessarily vain. I actually love that we inspire other people to be nerds – true nerds. But the definition of a nerd is Ivan's rant. The point is, I'm really glad for you. Aristotle: You mean that I should be a mechanic? Io: Do you really think we have all the answers? My friend, we've discovered that even though we're almost always right, we're not divine. We might have the answers here at Four-I's, but we don't give them out with authority. Are you really just going to take our word for it and let us make the decision for you? Aristotle: I wish you did. It would make things a lot easier. Io: And since when were things supposed to be easy for you? If I recall, choosing between a life of happiness and a life of meaning was an easy choice and a difficult choice respectively. So I suppose that life was meant to be ridiculously difficult. Aristotle: Food for thought. My friend Aristocles gave that whole meaning versus happiness gambit earlier. Io: I know. Aristotle, where are your values? Aristotle: I want to help others in ways that are real and important. Io: And you want to pursue a major that will help you accomplish that, even though what you enjoy is something different, because the sacrifice is worth it? Aristotle: Yes. Io: If that's what you know with your heart, why are we even debating this? It's just a matter of making that decision. All it takes is a little faith, and that seems to be your only struggle right now. What's holding you back? Aristotle: I want to give this a try, but if it doesn't work out, if I get bored with it, then it will have been a waste of my time. And really, a waste of your time, too. Io: But by your logic, so is a useless degree. If this is where your heart is, what have you to lose? Aristotle: Nothing? Io: Exactly. The only thing that's holding you back is fear of failure. If this is what you believe in, if it's something you value, then I can imagine no better life than dedicating yourself to this ideal. You have my encouragement and support, and right now the guys are behind me nodding their support as well. We're not telling you to go through with this, though. We're just saying that the idea makes sense. This is your decision. Make it, and goodness, once you've made that decision, stick with it! It's my sincerest desire that your heart remains strong. Aristotle: Thank you. Ian: You're welcome. Ivan: You're welcome Ike: You're welcome. Io: You're welcome. Our thoughts and prayers will be with you. The other side of the phone disconnected. Aristotle got on top of her bunk bead and looked at the ceiling, imagining a Periodic Table of the Elements poster on her ceiling. That was actually a very cool thought. Maybe that was what being a nerd was all about: not being cute, but caring about things that jocks and cheerleaders were too arrogant to see. She inhaled through her nose. Her name was Aristotle, and she could achieve anything she set her mind to. She wasn't going to disprove her own boast now, when she seemed to be facing the exact purpose for believing in such a boast in the first place. She closed her eyes and thanked the Four-I's for giving her their blessing. It made all the difference in the world.
  14. HENRY WAS SHIFTING THROUGH OLD STUFF. Old old stuff. It was so strange to look back on. He was eighty-nine, so his high school memories seemed like an eternity ago, and yet like it was only yesterday. Surreality, the strange serendipity of looking at the things that looked like they were written by another person, yet he could feel that young man inside himself. This was the young man who, in third grade, wrote terrible letters and random doodles all over his schoolwork, and in eighth grade still had a scrawling handwriting that seemed nothing like his own but was filled with familiar ideas...........Then he encountered the gold mine, his high school papers. He looked them over, read every single one. These were from when he was discovering who he was, finding out what he believed in and what he stood for in this world. Even then he was still at the beginning, but at least it was a beginning. These were the manuscripts for the pilot episode of his life...........But they were more than that. In spite of being a wealth of knowledge documenting his early sense of wisdom, there were stories behind each paper and each note. He found a notebook with a handwriting he now recognized as his own detailing his observations on “Beowulf”, and another with notes he took for Mrs. Peterson’s Biology class. He got into an argument with someone at that time over how notes should be taken. There was also an essay about Theodore Roosevelt’s “New Nationalism”. Henry could still remember what other people had to say about it, and friends he had in that class...........They were filled with memories. Some painful, some beautiful. But they were only memories now. He remembered being sad knowing just how inevitable that was...........He put down his old, old stuff. How was it that he was a man with thin white hair now? He had become so used to being an adult. It was almost unthinkable that he was once a teenager...........“How’s your studying?” asked his wife, Josephine. She entered his office with a loaf of bread that she had cooked...........“I don’t think I want to study,” said Henry. “Younger minds can figure out this political drama. You know what I think I want to do? I want to find my friends from high school. I haven’t seen any of them in over thirty years.”..........“Are you sure you can do that?”..........“The doctors say I have a month to live. What else do I have to live for? I want my old friends there with me when I die. The ones who knew me when I was a child.” He got up and grabbed his cane. Josephine helped him along. They discussed the matter more as they walked through the house and they came to the conclusion that they were going to go through with it...........So Henry made a few calls. One was to his dear friend Rob, his best friend in high school. After some digging, Henry managed to find his letterman Jacket and met Rob at his house, all the way back to his home town...........Rob lived next to the cemetery...........As it turned out, Rob took the initiative to make a few calls of his own and invite other high school friends, including Emma, who was once a cheerleader, and Agatha, whom Henry had once dated. He blushed to see her. There was also his football friend Randall...........“This is such an unexpected surprise!” said Henry. He counted heads. There were four of his friends. “Where’s Dave and Gerald?”..........“They passed away,” said Rob. There was silence. Rob tapped his foot...........“Oh,” said Henry. Those two, Rob, and himself had been the best of friends. They were inseparable. They were always there for each other. They went to each other’s birthday parties, had meals at each other’s houses. They were family, man – family. “I wish I could have been there for them.”..........So they spent the afternoon eating the stale food associated with old people and enjoying themselves in the pale pastel colors of Rob’s living room. They talked about life, how far they had come in the last thirty years, their grandchildren, and what they were doing now, only to find that nobody had been doing anything. Emma and Agatha left, leaving just the men to hold counsel among themselves...........“Show me where they’re buried,” said Henry...........They left Robs house and visited the cemetery. Rob crossed a hill and found their friends’ gravestones. They weren’t too far off from the place where Henry’s parents were buried. They stood there in silence, and then fell to his knees, where he bowed his head in prayer for a long, long time in memory of his old, old friends...........“I’m so sorry I wasn’t there. Now there’s only two of us left,” said Henry...........“I’m here,” said Randall. “It don’t matter that I didn’t eat with your folks. I’m still your friend.”..........“Rob, Randall,” said Henry, “I want to spend as much time as I can with you before I go. Will you be there for my funeral?”..........“Yes,” said Rob. “Henry, I really miss you. I have other promises to keep. Do you remember those things we said we’d do, but we never did them?”..........“I do.”..........“Dave and Gerald aren’t around anymore to complete it, but Randall can help.”..........It wasn’t the same Randall wasn’t part of those times when the four had gone camping together and dared to share their dreams.. Yet, it was better than nothing. “Yes, I would like that very much.”..........He bowed his head one last time to Dave and Gerald’s graves. He had promises to keep, to them, to Rob, to himself, to his parents, to God. Even at this late hour, it was still necessary for him to remember who he was. Even now, a child...........And so it was that the beginning was the end. 24601
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