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So Much for Redemption
Yesterday did not go well. I spilled water at the dinner table, fell in a mud puddle, and had a fight with my sister Willow, which caused Mother to scold us. But today I am going to redeem myself.
I am polite at breakfast, I do all my chores nicely, and I get through a pleasant dinner. Then after dinner, trouble starts brewing again.
Willow and I are at the horse barn, cleaning the stalls because Father is busy watering the vegetables. We are sweeping up the soiled hay and replacing it with fresh hay.
“What are you doing?” I ask Willow as she climbs up onto the feed bin. She grabs the edge of the floor to the hayloft and tries to pull herself up.
“I’m going to try to pull myself up onto the beams,” she says.
“And be way up there?” I ask. “You’re crazy.”
“Why not? The cats can do it.” Willow swings her leg up onto a ceiling beam. I look up at her in disgust. I must admit that I am adventurous and might attempt something like this, too. But I would be too worried to watch myself do it.
“You’ll fall and break your neck,” I call up. “Come down now.”
“I don’t have to listen to you.” Willow is now sitting on the high-up beam.
“Yes you do. As your older sister I have to look out for you. Come down.”
“Oh, alright,” Willow groans. She climbs down from the beam and falls down into the hay.
“Are you okay?” I ask.
“I’m fine. I landed in the soft hay,” Willow replies.
“Good. Come down slowly now.”
Willow reaches the edge of the loft. She backs up and lets her feet hang down until they touch the feed bin. Willow lets her hands go from the loft floor and kerplunks onto the feed bin. Then she hops down onto the ground.
“See, I’m fine,” she says, holding her arms out as if for an inspection.
“You could have gotten badly injured.”
“Well I didn’t,” Willow says angrily. “I’m not a baby.” She reaches out and slaps my arm with a grunt.
I can’t believe Willow just hit me. I hit her back. She hits me. Then we start pushing each other. I push her into the wall. She pushes me into the wall. I push her harder. She shoves me with so much force that I feel myself reeling backwards. I land hard on the dirt floor, hitting my head.
When my eyes become focused again, I look up to see Willow’s face.
“Are you okay?” She tries to sound concerned, but she’s so fake-sounding.
I grunt with madness and get up. I am covered in dirt. I can’t go home like this. Mother will whip my dirty backside. I run out of the barn, past Willow’s smirk. When I get to the brook, I plop down on the riverbank and try not to cry. So much for redeeming myself.
Anger bubbles inside me. What will Mother and Father think when I come home all dirty? But I don’t really have to worry about that. I have Willow to blame. I’ll tell them that Willow was climbing up on the beams and I was looking out for her. She’s mad at me and shoves me in the dirt. Perfect! I won’t get in trouble. Except I can’t leave out the part about me hitting her, too. My anger calms down. Now I just have to take care of the dirt.
I look around to make sure I’m alone. Then I take off my dress and start to wash it in the water. The dirt comes off nicely, but leaves a horrid stain. I lay the dress out in the grass to dry.
The sun beats down strong on my back. I stare out at the rushing water of the brook. Impulsively, I get up and run into the water, in nothing but my undergarments. The cool water is immensely refreshing. I splash around in the brook, laughing, in my shift and petticoats, and I can just imagine what a sight I must be.
Suddenly a voice calls my name. “Lane? Lane? Are you there?” It’s my sister Charlotte.
“Over here,” I call. I come out of water dripping wet and Charlotte looks appalled to see me in this state.
“Why are you in the river?” she asks. “Willow told me you two had a big fight and she pushed you in the dirt. She said she didn’t care you were mad.”
“That’s just like her,” I grumble, “to not care.”
“Yes. Why are you in the river?”
“Well, I tried to wash my dress, and the sun was so hot and I thought, what have I got to lose? I’ll already be in trouble.”
Charlotte nods empathetically. “I wish I could swim, but I had better not.”
“Yes, you’d better not.” I try to wring out my sopping wet petticoats. “Charlotte, could you please run back and smuggle me some dry clothes?”
She looks uncertain. “I could try, I guess. Someone will probably see me.”
“Please? Just try.” I look at her pleadingly. “If Mother or Father catches you, tell them what happened between Willow and I and say I jumped in the river. They won’t get mad at you.”
“Okay, I’ll be very quiet and sneaky,” Charlotte says.
“Thank you Charlotte,” I say, very appreciative. “Hurry.”
She takes off running for the house, and I sit waiting in the grass. What I fool I am, I think as I sit there in my wet undergarments. Looking over to my drying dress, I think, My petticoat and shift can always dry out with Mother knowing, but I can’t hide the big brown stain on my dress. I keep telling myself that even if I get in trouble, Willow will be in just as much trouble. She started this whole mess.
Ten minutes later Charlotte returns, panting and out of breath.
“Thank you,” I tell her. “Did anyone see you?”
She shakes her head. Between breaths, she says, “Mother. . . was. . . in the parlor. . . and. . . Father. . . went on an. . . errand.”
I change quickly into dry clothes and realize how foolish I was to not ask for a towel. I squeeze as much water as I can out of my hair. Taking up my wet clothes in a bundle, I take a deep breath and say, “Let’s go back.”