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Hope Lauder This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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Suddenly there’s an enormous crash from the kitchen, and the entire room goes eerily quiet. It’s the type of silence that’s so intense, so full, that it rings in your ears. Everyone in the room thinks the same thing, but Mom is the only one who dares to breathe the word.

“Ben.”

Mom starts to run to the kitchen and her special blue Christmas dress shimmers with unintended movement. Her face emanates utter terror, with no trace of the shame that usually accompanies one of us doing something wrong. It is the most intense fear I’ve ever seen, and just looking at her makes me afraid too.

I brush the cookie crumbs off my lap and try to slip away. I wish that they would blame me for whatever happened, since it was, after all, my fault that he was alone. But I know that I won’t receive that blow.

I make my way through the press of relatives in the living room, using my small height as a cover until I get to Auntie Leena, my mother’s sister. She looms over me, her brown hair in a tight bun, as she grabs my arm. “Why don’t you stay out here with us,” she says, and it is not a question, but I leave anyway, tugging my arm away as I scurry down the hall to the kitchen.

Approaching the door I hear small, muffled whispers, and I ­decide not to go in just yet. Instead I wait with my back pressed against the wall and take a deep breath.

Fingering the hem of my best dress, I listen to the undecipherable hush of Mom’s ­murmuring and tell myself to ignore the low rumble of everyone else in the other room. I know what they will be saying, anyway. They will be whispering how Mom can’t handle Ben and me by herself, about how this is just another example of the incredible incompetence of Lilly Lauder. But it was my fault, not hers. They should place the blame on me, Hope, not on Lilly.

I stare blankly at the scuff mark on the opposite wall that the kitchen table made when we were moving in, and wish desperately that the three of us could climb aboard a time machine and wind the dial back to before Dad left. We could live happily in the days before Mom had to take another job and was never home, before all her nasty relatives descended on us for Christmas dinner, and before I had to watch my brother every single second.

I know I shouldn’t have left Ben in the kitchen by himself, and I knew it then, but Auntie Leena ­only makes her butterscotch cookies once a year and they’re the only part of her I like. Ben can handle himself for two minutes, I had told myself. Nothing will go wrong.

All of a sudden I feel the hot burn of oncoming tears. No, I can’t cry. Nothing’s the matter. He’s just knocked something over, I tell myself. Nothing bad has happened. They’re all wrong. We won’t mess up. We can’t mess up.

And yet my only nice dress crumples as I slide down the wall, hug my knees, and let the tears leak over the cookie crumbs on my lips and drop onto my new white tights.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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This article has 19 comments. Post your own!

Odyesseus said...
Dec. 13, 2011 at 11:11 am:
I think a lot of plates falled on him and broke and killed him
 
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WhiteBear said...
Jun. 9, 2010 at 2:38 pm:
WHAT HAPPENED TO BEN???? this is going to drive me crazy!!!!!
 
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aer0cean This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 19, 2010 at 12:12 am:
Very good- the cliffhanger adds much character.
 
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PurpleMidnight said...
Nov. 30, 2009 at 9:30 pm:
I LOVED IT!! Great job, but WHAT HAPPENED TO BEN!!! PLEASE TELL US!!!!!!!
 
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Carebear<3 said...
May 16, 2009 at 7:50 pm:
Oh what happened to Ben? I need to know! that is gonna drive me crazy!
 
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KaylaKissesAlways said...
Apr. 26, 2009 at 10:36 pm:
This is an amazing piece! It has detail and it hooks you in. It is good as a short story, but I would like to see it be expanded on. I like how you left the ending where the reader could make up what might've happened to Ben. Another good thing is how you showed the Narrator's emotion to past and recent events. Keep writing!
 
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delly said...
Apr. 15, 2009 at 9:49 pm:
great suspense but i agree with YeseniaG i wish i knew what happened to Ben

My First peice please comment/suggest on and rate please!
TeenInk.com/raw/Fiction/article/96955/Survival-Story-of-A-Seventh-Skunk/
 
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YeseniaG said...
Apr. 13, 2009 at 10:17 pm:
Good work. I wish I knew what happened to Ben though. Still, the suspense is good.
 
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ultrabookworm said...
Mar. 23, 2009 at 8:46 pm:
You have a very good style that keeps the reader wanting more, and it's also easy for the reader to relate to the story. Keep working on keeping the readers interested- you're doing great!
 
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Amanda B. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Mar. 21, 2009 at 9:27 pm:
I liked this story. It was very sad. I feel bad for Hope.
 
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Author girl001 said...
Feb. 13, 2009 at 8:21 pm:
More!!!! Gee, don't leaves hanging like that! Nice writing
 
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i<3you said...
Feb. 13, 2009 at 10:41 pm:
It was very good. Not all the way fantastic, but very very good. I believe in leaving readers in suspense as well, but I thought that was a bit much. Overall I enjoyed it.
 
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FAIRYTALES_don't_work_huh said...
Feb. 16, 2009 at 3:09 am:
Wonderful!!!! :) wrtite more please!!!!
 
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Zero_Kun said...
Feb. 10, 2009 at 12:44 am:
I want to know what happens to Ben now! Please write more!?
 
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roflchyeah said...
Jan. 7, 2009 at 10:36 pm:
Wow. It was touching and heartwarming. It makes the reader (me) want to know more about the character. Hope is selfless, as shown, but why is she selfless?
 
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darknesschic said...
Dec. 23, 2008 at 4:02 am:
nice story but next time tell what little boy did the impression i got was he died or got hurt
 
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Kim said...
Dec. 29, 2008 at 7:52 pm:
OMG!!!!!!!!!! This is the best story I've read on this site! It flows nicely, I love the character, and you captured the regret and fear of Hope perfectly(I have a 3 year old sister so this has happened to me lots of times...and I loved the part about Aunt Leena and her butterscotch cookies:). You should make this into a book! Just include Hope's past...I would totally buy this if it was at Borders.
 
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Gracie said...
Dec. 2, 2008 at 5:28 pm:
Loved this article. It made me wish it was an entire book. I want to know what happened to Ben. Great writing, you have a great talent. You know how to capture our attention and keep it. Can't wait to read more of your writings in the future.
 
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tweedle dee said...
Nov. 18, 2008 at 1:40 pm:
wow i liked this one and i have 3 little bros so i know what it's like! i was babysitting them one time and my littlest brother wondered off and i couldnt find him for 20 min. and i was sooooo scared but luckily found him under the bed lol! but great story, really! keep writting!!!
 
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