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   A premonition of doom raised goose bumps on Mary's arms as she pulled back the curtains in the living room. She watched as her husband buckled Billy into his car seat. Billy was a picture of excitement; his bubbly nature could not be suppressed. Today was the first day of school and he couldn't wait to start this new adventure. It was ironic that Mary had dreaded this day as long as Billy had waited for it.

The aroma of brewed coffee enticed her into the kitchen. She poured herself a cup and let it grow cold while she sat with her misery. Her grief was physical. It pressed on her like a weight until her shoulders ached. She wanted desperately to phone her husband, but she knew that his sorrow would only compound hers.

The clock struck ten; the closer it came to picking up Billy, the more she feared for the outcome of the day. As time advanced she became increasingly nervous, dreading what she would have to face in a little while. Again the clock ticked and with every beat she thought she would go out of her mind.

I'll never make it through the day, she thought, No, I've got to make it through the day for Billy's sake.

Mary forced herself to swallow some cereal even though the sight of her breakfast was making her nauseated. Her head was pounding, and every muscle in her body ached. Every spoonful seemed to bring a rush of memory; she wrenched when she thought of her first day of school. Just the thought of that day set her mind in a turmoil. Her emotions were now whirling in a dozen directions.

Her hands reached for a book; after a few minutes the words just blurred together. She had no idea what she had just read. Tears were now forming in the corners of her eyes; she tried to blink them away. What use are tears? Could they change the past? Could they heal the scars of the present? Could they alter the future? Knowing the answer she felt her heart twisting with agony when she recalled past events in her own life. All the tears in the world could not wash away her fears for her little boy.

Twelve o'clock, time to pick up Billy. A silent prayer was said as she locked her house door before walking to her car. The school was only a quarter of a mile away, but today it felt as if she would never get there.

Waiting in the car seemed like a good idea today. The schoolyard had the appearance of an overcrowded basketball court. The only way for a parent to make progress would be by dodging or weaving through children.

The school bell rang and more children came through the doors as if they were shot out of a cannon. Most of them ran to catch the bus or get into cars that were waiting for them. There's Billy, she thought.

"Billy, over here." She watched as Billy shuffled through a vast array of autumn leaves. It was then she noticed the little skip in his walk was gone and his shoulders were not as straight as they usually were. Lord, not today, thought Mary, not on the first day of school.

"Mama ..."

"Yes, Billy," she answered, closing her eyes because she didn't want to read what was in his.

"Mama ..."

"What is it, Billy?"

"Mama, what's a nigger?"


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 3 comments. Post your own now!

Jenny000 said...
Jan. 10, 2014 at 10:22 pm
So simple, yet so sad! I loved it :)
 
Supriya said...
Jul. 6, 2011 at 9:43 am
Great piece of writing!
 
JustEmily said...
Jul. 6, 2011 at 8:28 am
This was fantastic.
 
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