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The Last Message
It was the day before graduation. The June air hung thick. You could cut through the humidity with a knife. Most students breathed it in and felt the call of the summer beaconing them. They were used to the heat and welcomed the usual intensity as marking the end of school. The sun was bright and shone down through the smiles of the excited student body of Charles Montgomery High School in Georgia. The skies were as blue as the ocean and seemed to have the same consistency. They flowed and ebbed through those last few seven hours of school. The clouds were the fish swimming upstream, breeding season. The season of life was beginning.
It was an electric energy that sparked the students. Thoughts of pool days, tanning in bikinis, hanging out with friends doing nothing and everything all at once, kissing under the stars with their beloved beaus, skateboarding, hiking, fishing, reading, sleeping, eating, and having the best summer was on their immediate horizon. It was time to kick back and relax without the stress of school and deadlines.
Only the final bell, tears and hugging, and promises to keep in touch as friends parted ways to continue in the individual paths they would be taking, was remaining. Their futures were scattered leaves in the wind. Maybe they would be brought together again and they’d rest under the same tree. But those leaves would travel the world, fall in love, cry, smile, become a parent, get a job, lose a job, a parent, a sibling, they were moving up in the world. Only that last bell separated them from that moment.
In Mrs.Dorraine’s AP English class three nervous and eager girls sat in the back and watched the painful progression of the tortoise-slow clock. The windows on the left of their desk were half open, the thick air rolled in along with a pleasant breeze that tousled their hair. The other students were literally shaking in their seats. Legs vibrated as they tried to contain the instinct to leap forth from their seats and sprint to their cars to celebrate the freedom from prison they endured since Pre-K. Only ten painful minutes remained. In that span of insignificance they would feel the torture of the illusion of eternity. Eternity in high school was a nightmare.
Hanna Hart sat in the very back. She moved to Georgia halfway through the year and found her niche with her two best friends April Contess and Caroline Gills. They fidgeted with their pencils as Mrs. Dorraine droned on and on about mindless prattle. They zoned out all speech from the poor, oblivious teacher. Hanna only caught a few subjects she talked about. She spoke of swimming and how one should, “Look before you leap!”, which led into a story of her youth, a century ago. Sometimes Hanna wondered if the classic books like Mansfield Park, Macbeth, The Iliad, The Odyssey, were back in Mrs., Dorraine’s heyday. Many classes she recited fact upon fact about these various time periods as if she personally witnessed them with her bespectacled eyes. After all, she was as old as the earth herself.
Hanna tuned out her anecdote and gazed out the window. The grass waved in the wind, waving to her. She smiled and noticed her reflection in the pane. Her hair was in thick curls resembling the popular country artist Taylor Swift. Sometimes people even stopped her and asked if she was Ms. Swift. She had the same slight, slanted cat eyes. They weren’t blue though. If they looked closely they would notice they were the color of moss in the forests, jade green with specks of brown earth all mixed together. Her pouty teenaged lips seemed ready to belt out, “Love Story”. What was the most comical aspect of her resemblance to Taylor Swift, she could sing well. Although, she preferred not to. It wasn’t her forte.
Her frame was small and almost elfin. Her limbs were as billowy as the tree branches outside, rightly so. She was a dancer and had been dancing since she was five. Hanna could pick up dance routines in record time and produce results typical of a perfectionist. Dancing was a passion, but she was unsure of she wanted to pursue it in college. Late sophomore year when she lived in New Hampshire she had a mishap that crippled her for a year in dancing. Junior year was getting back into her groove and senior year was freedom of expression with her body. Senior year was a release through beats and meticulous counts. When she danced Tap, Jazz, and her favorite, Ballet, she was in her own beautiful world. That world she knew no pain and no fear.
A bee buzzed by the window and she turned away her thoughts buzzing inside her own head. She had to pick up her hat and gown for the graduation ceremony to be held on the school grounds the following day. Her heart beat in an anxious murmur in her chest. When would the class end and release her? How cruel it was to taunt the fifteen students begging to leave.
Then like a miracle the bell rang and the class jumped from the seats hollering and crying. The bells beep ended and Mrs. Dorraine retired to her desk with a reminiscent smile plastered on her wrinkled face. In her eyes she was taking pictures of the student’s faces, faces she knew she might never see again. In the mental files she attached good jokes, and moments with each of them. It was a priceless year book.
A few students walked up and said farewell to the kind teacher. Some girls were sobbing so hard Mrs. Dorraine was comforting them and promising that college was not something to worry about and high school should not me mourned but remembered for the good and bad times accompanied.
The trio stood in the door’s threshold and looked back as the teacher said her final goodbye.
“Go forth and learn.” Her normally casual goodbye she used for the end of every class seemed to at last have a meaning behind the words. At last they understood.
Hanna felt the nostalgia wash over her as she smiled once more at the teacher called a goodbye and waved, gazing at the room she wouldn’t enter again. Time moved so fast. Especially when one did not think to watch as it passed them by. One minute she was a little five year old handed her first pair of dancing shoes. She was the girl on cloud nine at her first dance. She was afraid as she was rushed to the hospital when she needed stitches and blood was gushing. She was left crying in the rain, her tears washing down her face. She crashed and burned and her leg never moved in quite the same way again. She was the girl putting a sold sign on her beloved house in New Hampshire. She was the girl with butterflies in her stomach as she walked through these doors. She was so many things at the moment, she was so many places, and moments, and ideas. In that millisecond she felt she understood. She understood everything. But the moment passed and she had many miles to go.
They walked out of the room. The halls were crowded. One student grabbed his binder and threw the papers in the air, and instead of picking them up, he picked up his girlfriend and twirled her around. His voice could be heard all around the school. He was the luckiest man in the world. His love agreed to marry him.
Hanna looked to April and saw a tear slid down her smooth ebony skin. April was beautiful, tall, and elegant. She decided to skip out going to college and take up an offer a modeling agency presented her earlier in the year. She’d move to Paris and begin the hard work of making it in the business of beauty. She lifted a manicured finger to her cheek and brushed it away, her raven hair falling into her face so no one could see the tears.
“It’s okay April,” Caroline said, giving her a one-armed hug. “We’re not leaving forever. We’ll be here again.”
“I know. It’s just hard to image that I’ll be in a foreign country and you two will be in college. Harvard for you, and Dartmouth for Hanna,” She sniffled. As much as she tried she couldn’t contain the wall of water pressing itself against her eyes. “It don’t feel right.”
“We won’t be so far away.” Hanna said in her sweet melodic voice. “The world isn’t big enough to keep us apart.”
The words seemed to calm April. The next second she was holding her head high as she sauntered down the hallway, in that model walk of hers. The girls walked out together with April in the middle and Hanna and Caroline on either side. Caroline was singing the school’s alma mater. Over the announcements, the song had been playing every morning the last week of school. The song continued to until they reached their cars parked side by side. Then Caroline stopped to make sure she had the correct address to the party for seniors at one student’s house. When April confirmed it they waved goodbye and climbed into their cars and drove off.
Hanna sat behind the wheel and put on the radio. Ironically, the first song to play was by Taylor Swift. She rolled down her windows and blasted the stereo pumping her voice into the air. She drove her sleek black car down the long roads of Georgia, the kind that never ended on a hazy early summer day. She stopped by the place that was handing out her cap and gown, thanked the woman, and climbed back into her car and drove back down the long road lined by trees.
The next song on the radio was her favorite song and fit her current situation that she just smiled at Fate. Everything was running so smoothly like a well-oiled machine. She picked up her graduation gear and tonight she was going to party at David Garnet’s house. When she moved here she was elated to find him in most of her advanced placement classes and to discover him at the dance studio. He introduced her into a new kind of dance; Hip-hop. Hanna in turn showed him the sublime beauty of ballet and even though he was setting himself up to be mocked, which would never happen considering he was one of the most well-liked guys at the school, he became a danseur.
From her tight jean pockets she felt her phone vibrate. She scanned the road quickly and reached down inside her pocket to retrieve it, careful to keep her one hand firm on the steering wheel. A few seconds later she was flipping her phone open and checking back on the road every few seconds. It was a text message from none other than David.
“R U Still Coming? :)” His text read.
She grinned and quickly composed herself. Hanna promised herself she’d never tell David how much she liked him. She cared about his friendship too much. After all Georgia was her new start. She sighed and typed with one hand on her full keyboard.
“Yes Can’t wait. :)”
She placed her cell down and noticed a car in the other lane that she was drifting too close to. She took her hand back to the wheel and corrected it in time. It wasn’t even really a close call. Hanna was over cautious.
When she drove into her driveway she saw her mother out front buried in the dirt gardening. Hanna grabbed her cell phone, forgetting her cap and gown in the back, and walked around to her front yard, she waved and called a hello to her mom and continued to her room. She was too distracted to hold a real conversation for more than two seconds. Her mind was swimming with images of David, especially when he danced.
There was no one alive who danced with as much life and heart as David, except Hanna of course. He moved in a fluid motion like water. His transitions were cool and smooth. Hanna danced like fire. She was full of passion and vigor and wanted to convey her emotions through movement. Hanna loved when she adorned her ballet, jazz, tap, or hop-hop outfits and David was watching her perform. She caught him once from the corner of her eye. He was enticed by the display of elegance, of perfected grace.
She walked up to her room and sifted through her box of memories. There were photos of her from her early childhood through to the present. Her curls were a lioness’s mane, the color of topaz in the spiraling tendrils. Her worn-out and too small ballet shoes with the fading pink ribbon were on top on the pile. She held the silk in her hand and let it fall through like sand. The memories still lingered. Concert tickets in New York and memorable souvenirs from the places she’d seen were under that. At the very bottom was her diary. A gold fountain pen was in between an unfinished page and she pulled it out for completion.
The hours passed as she gazed at the box of hopes and dreams, and bitter reminders, of longing to find a place, of perfection. It was her all wrapped up in a dusty shoebox she stashed in her closet. The diary was placed back inside the box and held with an admiring gaze before she placed the lid back and left it at the foot of her bed.
Her phone vibrated. Another text.
“Wat U Wearing????” Caroline the send line said.
Hanna looked to her duck alarm clock and practically jumped off her bed in haste. The party would start soon. She multitasked changing into white skinny jeans with a black leather belt that matched her pair of gently worn Chucks, and a silver sequences tank top. She gazed at her image in the mirror and decided that she needed to spice it up a little more. From her dresser she grabbed a black chocker necklace her dad gave her when she turned sixteen and she sloppily applied smoky eye shadow to vamp up her mysterious look for the evening. She pulled her hair into a messy bun and let strands of her curl hang loose. Once satisfied she grabbed her phone snapped a picture using her full length mirror and sent it to Caroline.
“Hawt Dawg,” Caroline responded almost immediately.
She tucked her phone into her front pocket and skipped down the hall humming so her nerves wouldn’t overcome her. She climbed into the car as black as the inky night and drove off in an excited stupor. There was no moon and the stars seemed to be playing hide and seek behind the it’s curtain. As the car moved along the pavement, the headlights danced across the black asphalt like the spotlight on the stage. The roads were empty as she took the back roads to his house. She knew them by heart.
The screen on her phone lit up.
“On way to D’s. Goin wit Car.” The text came from April.
“C ya Soon,” Hanna typed the text and sped along down the road.
David’s house was in back in the woods on a spacious lot his great-grandfather built. It was the southern plantation style house, minus the plantation. He was a businessman of some sorts, his business practices remain unknown. It was white with the Grecian columns and double stories, with a wrap around deck on the upper floor as well as around the first level.
The trees that lined the route to his house were littered with white Christmas trees to light the way. Car horns were honking as they proceeded down the curved stretch of his driveway. Hanna could hear the noises of her senior class and felt the wave of anticipation.
She parked her vehicle behind the easily recognizable yellow car owned by Caroline. She grabbed her keys and put them in her pocket and stepped out.
“Here :P” She texted to April.
She just hoped that she could find them in the giant mass of laughing, moving bodies. The fireflies were out and the cicadas were singing. It was an overload of her senses and she felt insecure for a moment in her sequence top and white jeans. Was it too flashy? Too out of place.
“Man, where u at?” April texted suddenly and Hanna rushed to reply.
“My car, Y?”
April texted a command, that was unusual. Was something wrong? Hanna figured that she could stay there and wait for April to come find her and tell her or go look for April herself. In the end she decided sitting by her car waiting wasn’t going to solve anything. So, she went off in search of the model-to-be.
She walked around the back of the house. Teens were all over the place, in the house, near the cars, walking in the woods. It would be a challenge to find her friends in this mess. She grabbed the cell and texted away to Caroline but she didn’t respond. The texts started flying from Hanna’s phone as she tried reaching her. What was going on? Then she received one from April. With only a few words, “I hate her,”
Confused, Hanna continued her search she sent texts to both Caroline and April and waited for replies. She was just passing the shed behind his house when she saw what her eyes couldn’t believe and didn’t want to take in. Caroline was held close to David as they kissed. Her body was pressed against the shed as he kissed her red lips.
Hanna stood stunned, mouth dropping open in a comic manner, although she felt like crying. She stood as a silent observer and took in the scene. His hand stroked her short silky brown hair. His blue eyes glowed, even though lights were far as he looked at the flower-print dress she wore and brown cowboy boots. His dark washed jeans had holes above the knee and his blue plaid shirt was open with a think cotton white shirt underneath. His shaggy blond hair moved in the wind. He leaned down and kissed her again.
Caroline pulled back abruptly and looked over at Hanna. She had gasped and chocked out a whimper without realizing. David’s eyes flashed to her, and that was more than she could handle. Hanna bolted from the scene of the crime. A most heinous crime that bit at her insides. And as she ran back to her car, tears flying through the air, she couldn’t help but ask why.
She shoved her key in the ignition and felt her phone vibrate.
“Han, wait let me explain.”
“Why,” Hanna gurgled out her question to an invisible entity.
Her hands were shaking and her vision was impaired but she had to go. She couldn’t stay. She received one more text. This time it was April.
“W8, I’m goin wit u”
In a flash April opened the door, and was sitting in the passenger side. For a minute they sat in silence before April apologized for Caroline’s behavior, “I’m sorry”. Hanna nodded and turned her face towards her window as she turned the car around and went back the long road home.
Hanna’s once pleasant thoughts were engulfed in a fire of sadness and anger. Her supposed friend had done that to her. How could she? How could he? They had a bond that couldn’t be described, because dancing needed no words it was movement that spoke. It spoke to your heart. And David’s movement with Caroline was a story she didn’t want to read.
“I saw them and tried stopping you girlie,” April said in her quiet tone.
Both April and Hanna’s phone vibrated. April swore as she flipped her new cell phone open. Hanna did likewise.
“I can’t believe her. She thinks we stayed at the damn party.” April closed her phone with an angry sound.
Hanna couldn’t find the words.
She received another text. April’s phone stayed silent. Her eyes were locked on the road. She saw no headlights; the roads were only a murmur tonight. Silence surrounded them and they were alone. She steadied her hand and reached for her phone again. Her mind was a mile away. It was stuck on the mental picture of them together. He held Caroline the same way he would for Hanna on the stage. His hand rested as soft as the first snowfall in the mountains of New Hampshire.
“Don’t answer that girl.” April warned. “She ain’t worth nothing.”
She flipped the cell and opened the text. What on earth was Caroline going to say? What excuse, what lies.
“Look,” Hanna chocked out, motioning for her to look at her cell phone. April looked down and read the message before she did. Her amber eyes flashed to the road for a moment and became as full as the moon which was absent from the sky.
“HANNA WATCH OUT!” She instinctively braced for impact.
Lightning struck. It was in a split second, a millisecond. The sound of metal grinding against metal followed. It was the sound of nails on a chalkboard and the shrill screams of utter terror that a young mind cannot absorb in that instant. The world was tossed and turned and contorted like a jigsaw puzzle. Everything was thrown together. April’s scream cut off as the airbag deployed and glass shattered in a boom, raining down in the car. The windshield had exploded upon itself.
The lights of the opposing car shined in Hanna’s eyes. The light drew bigger as the milliseconds added up. She didn’t even feel the glass hack her face apart like an axe and her beautiful skin became a shredded and blood oozed like the tears that no longer would come. Hanna was immune as the car beat her body and contorted it against the rough and jagged steel frame it produced. Her cap and gown ricocheted into the front of the car. The white was now red as the car, filled with the fiery blood. She watched the light fill her eyes.
She didn’t have time to gasp. The light swallowed her up and the metal was a tomb around her broken dancing body.
Then she saw no more. She danced no more. The dancer was forever still in a metal grave filled with her blood and lost promise.
Her funeral was held a month after she was supposed to graduate. Her family was there dressed in black, black expressions, everything was black. The entire graduating class showed up minus Caroline, and a boy named David Garnet. The prayers were said and the eulogy for her young, unfortunate death brought the mother to the point where she almost fell on the ground from her crushing despair. Her only child was killed by the hands of a car and a cell phone.
April, with much difficulty, wanted to be there when they laid her mangled body in the ground. The side window tore at her beautiful face. Long scar lines covered her body from head to toe and she now walked with a limp and a cane always. Mostly, she needed help to move and do the simplest tasks. Her dreams of walking the Paris runways were dead and gone.
Hanna was going to share her passion of dance. She had a promising future and dreams she could accomplish. But that all changed from one last text message.
She was never going to college. She wasn’t going to fall in love. Hanna wasn’t going to have children and dance professionally. She wouldn’t travel the world and learn new things. She wasn’t going to see her mother turn old and gray and visit her friends so they could catch up on life. Hanna’s life was cut short by a decision to answer a two worded text message.
As her mother wept for her child and her father chocked back the resentful tears. They walked forward and placed her box of memories on her coffin. They wanted her afterlife to have all the things that made her smile. Her first ballet slippers with the pink ribbon sat on top. Her pictures and souvenirs were scattered around. At the bottom was her diary with the last entry reading, ‘I’m going places. Tomorrow marks the day I officially start pursuing my dreams…I made it this far, and I still have a long way to go.’
But Hanna never got that chance.
April staggered forward and placed a blue cell phone in the open box. She left the phone’s screen flash on the last text message. Hanna never read the text that killed her. She shut the box of memories. The last memory.