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Finding Voice This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

Chapter One

Lain stood in the middle of a white room, holding a bag slung over her shoulder and a guitar case in the other. Against the wall next to the door sat a large rolling suitcase filled with clothes, books, and CD’s. Replaying over and over in her head was the scene which had placed her in this position

“Elain Swatch, may I have a word with you?”

“Ohh, Lainy’s in trouble!”

“Elain, I am very sorry to inform you that there has been an accident...”

Oh, those words; There has been an accident resonated so clearly in her head.

“What happened, is anyone hurt?!”

“I’m so sorry dear, but it’s your mom. She’s not doing very well. She has been asking for you.”

Lain remembered so well the rush to the hospital in the counselors car and the line at the emergency. Each of those people had needs that seemed irrelevant, a broken arm, a bleeding cut. Her mom had been in a car accident, her mom was hurt! Why could none of them see this? Why did none of them care?

The room they took her to was white with blue plush carpet. There were comfy, overstuffed chairs to sit in, but she didn’t take one. She needed to know what had happened, why were to doctors in white taking so long?

“Elain, I don’t know any other way to tell you this. Your mother didn’t make it. She died, on the way to the hospital. You were on her mind the whole time; she never stopped talking about you. I’m so sorry.”

That was all anyone could say; I’m so sorry. Evan as she slowly sank to her knees in the carpet, even as her neighbor came running in to comfort her, the words could not block out what the doctor had said; “You mother didn’t make it. She died.”

Two weeks later she was in a social worker’s office, listening to her neighbor explain her complicated life.

“Yes, both parents are living. Yes they were married. No, they divorced before she was born. They remained close friends; it was not a messy divorce. She was born almost two years after the divorce. Defiantly, she is his child. The mother never remarried, and the father left the state before he knew that the mother was pregnant. I don’t know where he is now; I don’t think he even knows about Elain. Look, my husband and I can take care of her just fine, we have children her age. There are no other siblings that I know of.”

On and on it went, the social worker asking questions and her neighbor answering. Finally, on their last meeting the social worker gave his decision.

“I’m sure that you could give her a good home, but we have located the father’s whereabouts and, considering what she’s been through, have decided that her father would be the best person for her at this time.”

The agreement had been that she would finish up her semester at her current school before transferring to her dad’s place after New Year’s. Most of her things had been sold at a garage sale while cleaning out the house where she and her mom had lived, and the other things she had kept-her electric piano, cello, 5 CD player, and a few other items from her house-had been carefully packed and shipped off to her new home a week ago. All that remained was for her to make her way out of the house and onto the plane bound for Golden, Colorado. She turned on her heel and left the room, pulling her suitcase with her.

Parked out front in a dark-colored car was her neighbor, waiting for her to get out. Once she did, Lain found herself in a huge embrace. One by one her neighbors and the few people she knew enough to be called friends came up and gave her hugs.

“I wish that you could have stayed here, my dear. Do remember to come and visit once you are settled,” smiled her neighbor’s husband. Lain nodded listlessly, she hadn’t spoken a word since her mom’s death, and had overheard the social worker setting up a therapist for her as soon as she got to her dad’s.

“Lain dear, we should get going. Your plane leaves in an hour,” called her neighbor from the front seat of the car. Willing hands helped to pack her suitcase and guitar in the back and she got into the car. People waved and shouted goodbyes and well wishes, but she didn’t notice. Pressing her face against the window, she tried to remember every detail of her home. She didn’t want to forget even a tree on her street where she and her mom had lived together so recently. Her neighbor looked at her worriedly, but she ignored the look. By now, she was used to getting worried looks from people and knew that it was best to ignore them, that way they would go away.

“Sweetheart, I wish that you could have stayed with us, but I think that it is impossible considering the circumstances. Please, do call as soon as you get to your dad’s house. He sounds okay, your mother would get dreamy-eyed whenever she started to talk about him. I think that you will really like him, and that you don’t need to worry about not meeting new people. A change of scene is usually helpful after going through a drastic life change like you are now,” babbled her neighbor. It seemed that, in the absence of anything else to do, her neighbor had decided to fill the empty air with her speech. Lain had never understood this, she felt perfectly happy in the quiet, it helped her to hear the music in the trees and in the everyday sounds of life. Her mother had understood this, and had left her alone when she had expressed her wish. Now, her neighbor’s prattle got on her nerves, but she didn’t want to say anything. Speech seemed disrespectful to her mom, who had been in her own way quiet and thoughtful.

“Good luck, this as far as I can take you. You have your ticket and know to go to the counter and get what you need, right? Take care of yourself now, you hear? And don’t forget to call as soon as you get there,” smiled her neighbor half-heartedly as Lain stepped out of the car and picked up her things from the sidewalk where the assistant had placed them after unloading them. She nodded to her neighbor and made her way through the entrance to the airport.

At the ticket counter, she got a lady’s attention and managed to make her way through the finer points of checking in without having to say. The counter lady was kind and got her a person to guide her through the airport to her gate. Once there, she pulled out a notebook filled with paper covered with music. Turning to a blank piece, Lain began to write a song, notes flowing together to create a harmony for the voice singing a melody. She wished that she could take out her guitar and try it, but thought that it might be a little awkward in the present company.

“Are you actually writing music? Can I see it?” asked a young man over her shoulder. Lain looked up with a start and saw him looking at her. She shrugged and handed it to him, feeling her face redden and wished that she could be anywhere else but right there.

“Wow, this is good, can you sing it for me? Or at least play your guitar? It looks like it sounds great,” smiled the man. She smiled back at him, but was saved from having to do anything by the announcement that her plane was starting boarding. Making her way over to the line, she crossed her fingers that he was sitting nowhere near her, and once she got on the plane she put her guitar up for good measure and found her seat before pulling out her Mp3 player and fitting the headphones over her head.

“Your father is a great musician, he has several records out. I’m sure that he will be able to help you with your talent,” the social worker had smiled. She had dismissed it, she was not talented, it was just something that came naturally to her like math did to some people and science to others. She knew that people were worried about her because she didn’t talk much, and because she spent almost all of her time locked in her room listening to music, but she didn’t see how it differed from sitting in front of the TV or computer not paying any attention to anything but the two bright, flickering screens. Besides, there was something about music, something timeless that the TV or the computer could ever compete with.

“Hey, we’re sitting next to each other! This is great, I’m in the music program at Colorado Christian, could you help me understand some of those rhythms you were using in that passage? I can read them just fine, but then that’s where my professor says I go wrong. Sure, he says, you can read it but can you explain it! Not on my life, I can’t!” smiled the young man she had met before boarding. She shrunk as far back into her seat as possible and hoped that he couldn’t see the immense blush spreading across her face. That was another reason she didn’t talk much, she could barely look a stranger in the face without trembling, talking to one was a totally different matter.

“Hey, its fine, I’m cool, okay? But, hey, you wouldn’t mind if I read some of your stuff, would you? I just want to see what someone who knows what they are doing can do with patterns and stuff,” the man said quickly, unfortunately noticing her blush. Hoping that it would get him out of her hair, she pushed over her notebook and turned her body so that she was facing out the window to the rising sun, her mom’s favorite thing next to listening to the songs Lain would make up. She began to silently cry, hoping that it wouldn’t alert her neighbor.

“We landing, thanks for letting me look at your stuff, it’s really great,” murmured the man, gently shaking her. She woke with a start and gave him a quick smile before hastily gathering up her things and opening the head compartment where her guitar was stored. Tapping her feet nervously, she waited for the line in front of her to file out of the small portal to the airplane. As soon as she was out, she began to make her way through the halls of the Golden, Colorado airport before finally making her way to the baggage claim. With trepidation, she picked up a pay phone and inserted three quarters before dialing the number the social worker had given her for her dad.

“Hello?” came a soft, musical voice from the other side.

“H-hello, I’m Elain, are you John?” she asked, swallowing nervously. She really hated talking to anyone she didn’t know.

“Oh Elain, I’m so glad you made it. Are you in the baggage claim?” John asked, his voice warming up like he was smiling. Elain nodded, and then realized that he couldn’t see her nod, so added a quick “Yes, I am.”

“Good, I’ll be there in a couple of seconds,” he said before hanging up. She hung up the phone as well and went back to the baggage claim where others from her flight were waiting. Looking around, she was relieved to see that the young man from the plane was nowhere to be found. A loud bleeping noise disrupted her train of thought and she watched the mechanical belt begin to move, creaking and groaning like it was three thousand years old.

“They really should invest in a new belt, don’t you thing?” asked the melodiouls voice she had heard over the phone earlier. She turned to see a tall man smiling at her.

“H-how did you know who I w-was?” asked Lain nervously. He smiled and pointed at her guitar case. Her name was printed in dark green on the white tag hanging off the handle. She looked down, embarrassed and felt his hand on her shoulder.

“I’m so glad you’ve finally come. I wish that I could have been a larger part of your life, but circumstances prevented it,” murmured her dad. She looked up at him and started to feel like this could be okay. Her mom had never really shown her any physical affection, and she had always wanted a mom who would hug her goodbye before school or give her a kiss when she came home. Despite this, she was still sad and missed her mom.

“Is this your bag?” he asked, taking his hand off her shoulder to point at a suitcase. She nodded, and he went over to wait for it to make its way over to him. Waiting for him to come back, she felt that her life was hidden from her, first off because her mom had never said anything to her about her dad, though her neighbor seemed to know almost everything about him. And what were the circumstances that had prevented him from becoming a larger part of her life?

“Okay, you’ve got everything, let’s go!” he came back smiling. John’s smile like up his whole face, something her mom’s smile never had. She stopped herself there, why was she comparing this man, who was practically a stranger, to her loving, caring mom? It just didn’t make sense that she would be even slightly happy in his presence. Why was she so happy, it seemed so wrong to feel this way so soon after her mom’s death.

Standing up, she grabbed her guitar case and swung her bag over her shoulder before following John out of the airport into the cold winter air of Colorado. She shivered involuntarily, and wished she had worn her warmer jacked instead of packing it.

“I hope you have something warmer than that, it only gets colder where we are going,” John looked over his shoulder at her. She nodded that she did right before slipping on a patch of ice hidden under the inch of freshly falling snow. Her arms flailed everywhere, but she still managed to fall flat on her back and small her guitar onto the cold cement.

“Opps! I forgot to remind you to watch your step. Don’t worry about your guitar, your case is strong enough to protect it,” John smiled as he helped her up. She dusted off her pants before picking her guitar again and following him, albeit slower and more carefully than before. As she followed him closely, she mused how he had seemed to read her mind and know that she was worrying about her guitar. Her mom had gotten it for her when she had turned twelve, and since then she had rarely let it out of her sight. It was the first instrument she had preformed a piece she had written herself, and was her only real friend because it had never expected anything from her except for her to be herself.

“This is our spot, just stick your things in the backseat there and get something out to do because we have a long drive ahead of us,” John explained as he opened the trunk of a beat-up Subaru Forester and lifted her suitcase into it. She placed her guitar case in the pack on top of her suitcase but brought her other bag into the front seat with her. After buckling her seat belt she pulled out her music notebook and opened to the front page. A handwritten note on a bright yellow sticky-note popped out at her.
Do you mind sending this to me?
I think I could make it sound really great. Here’s my address:
Mark Peters
2060 Mayberry Ave.
Apt. 16, Lakewood, CO

She stared at it a moment before she realized what he had written. Not having the slightest idea how to respond, she figured that she would ignore his note, though she did not throw it away. Instead, she turned to the page she had been working on earlier. Taking out her pencil, she began to add the vocals she had written out on the back of the program for her mother’s memorial service two days after the accident had occurred.

“She, you mom, told me how talented you are. Every year she would send me pictures of you hard at work on your piano or guitar, and music you had written. You have talent, my dear, I can’t wait to hear what you can do,” John smiled, looking at her in the rearview mirror. Lain looked up quickly, but then back down before she could meet his eyes.

“I just wanted to let you know, I cancled all of your thapist lessons, I feel that they don’t do any good, especially if you are anything like your mother or me, talking doesn’t really help,” he continued. She breathed and inner sigh of relief that she wouldn’t have to worry about therapists, the school counselor had been bad enough. He must have seen the relief on her face though, and laughed. Startled, she looked up and met his eyes.

“What is it? Did I do something wrong?” he asked, suddenly concerned.

“N-no, I-I’ve just never r-really heard laughter,” she stuttered, surprised that he had been able to get voluntary words out of her.

“What? Melody, you mother, never laughed around you!” John asked incredulously.

“Only f-fake laughs. I thought th-that s-she just d-didn’t know h-how to laugh. M-maybe she l-laughed wh-when I was y-younger, b-but I d-don’t remember,” she confessed, feeling like her stutter was now out of control, but still holding onto the faint hope that he hadn’t noticed, but no such luck.

“Hmm, we might have to do something about that stutter. Do you stutter when you sing?” he looked hard at her. She shook her head, feeling her face turn a bright red. Quickly she buried herself in her work, and though John didn’t say a word for the rest of the 2-hour drive, she could feel his eyes on her the entire time.



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