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Quiet Sacrifice

He chased her across the playground – dirt and mulch flying up behind them both. Tears streaked down Scarlet’s face as Jack tempted her with a slimy worm. All she wanted was to feel her moms’ arms around her, and hide from that yucky boy. Her mom always told her that boys would get better when they grew up; but so far seven year old boys were just dirty and full of cooties. Jack always had a crush on Scarlet, always wanting her to come out and play, and go for bike rides. Sometimes Scarlet would pull on her pink rain boots and splash around in the mud, but then she started to grow up. Jack kept trying to get Scarlet to play, but when she wouldn’t he would always trudge down the sidewalk, pick some flowers, and go back to lay them on the porch for her. Everyone in town thought Jack was the sweetest little boy ever, but Scarlet was more interested in dresses and having sleepovers with her new girl friends.

Middle school came and eventually Jack gave up on trying to be friends with Scarlet. She was always so shy and had her head in a book; while he was always hanging out with friends and riding his dirt-bike. He still lived down the road from her, and every time he passed her house you could tell he still wanted to take her flowers. Life moved on though and Jack steered clear of Scarlet, not wanting to bother her. The years passed and all remained the same…
Eventually high school came and Scarlet and Jack shared the same English class. The two wrote, read, and minded their own business – never uttering a single word to each other all year. Scarlet spent her free time working in the public library; she had a passion for literature and always read aloud to children or quietly to herself in the backyard. Jack moved a little further away from Scarlet and traveled on the weekends to various dirt-bike competitions. Sometimes Jack would show up to school on Monday with the usual splints, crutches, or various braces from the past weekends dirt-bike accidents. Everyone would “Ohh” and “AHH” over him while Scarlet would just shrug it off like it was no big deal and thinking he was only looking for attention anyways. Yet deep down Scarlet always worried about Jack getting really hurt sometime, and even though she though he was annoying and petty, she still took care over her old friend.
Scarlet would avoid passing Jack in the hallways of school, but when she saw him she couldn’t help but be reminded of everything he had ever said to her. She knew how he felt and she had told him that she didn’t feel the same way. She knew that it hurt Jack and she could always see it in his eyes.

It was a Monday and the first shot fired around 9:45, the sound blasted right through the walls. Everyone in the school became hysterical and nobody knew what was going on. Scarlet sat in the library, it was her free period, and she became suddenly aware that there was something wrong. Voices sounded over the intercoms and alerted everyone to stay put; nobody in and nobody out. Jack sat in an upstairs classroom and became very anxious. His leg bounced up and down as he became consciously aware that Scarlet was probably alone in the library. He knew there was no way of getting out of class but he had to make sure she was safe. All those years of distance felt like nothing to him now. His heart pounded violently in his chest and he knew that it would be stupid to go find her, but he couldn’t help but want her safe. To see her sitting in her backyard reading in the hammock -- without a care in the world. Jack tapped his foot, the pounding in his heart growing louder and more frequent. Without his teacher noticing he jumped up and ran for the door, shaking the knob violently and escaping the room in which he was most safe. His teacher tried to reach after him, but quickly closed the door with a look of horror and fear in his eyes. Jack looked from side to side. He knew that he had to choose a way to get to the library, but he didn’t know which way was the safest. He struggled with reason and emotion and soon began sprinting down the north side stairs. Once he reached the bottom he was faced with the unexpected. A young girl, maybe a sophomore, just lying at the foot of the stairs, her hair matted with blood. He couldn’t tell if she was dead or not but he couldn’t waste time just standing there with a shooter on the loose. Jack raced down the hall and another shot blasted like a bullet in his own chest. That’s when Jack saw two people holding black shotguns…through the glass windows of the library.

Jack saw the fear on Scarlet’s face as tears streamed down her cheeks, settling on her knees and leaving damp spots on her jeans. The two boys stood there screaming insignificant words to a boy under a table. Scarlet looked up and saw Jack standing on the other side of the windows. She mouthed the words “get out” to him in fear of his safety. Jack knew he couldn’t leave her there, but he knew that he would risk everything to go in after her. His life seemed insignificant without her; even if he could only ever admire her from afar he felt he had to save her. Jack backed around the corner and began sprinting through the halls around the school to the back entrance to the library. It was closer to the bookshelves and out of the gunmen’s sights. Jack grasped the door handle and slowly tugged at it, slipping through and holding it as it closed quietly. Scarlet still looked in the direction where Jack once stood. She gasped when she felt cool hands wrap around her shoulders. Jack quickly covered her mouth and sat down beside her. They both knew there wasn’t much time and the future seemed anything but sure. So, Scarlet and Jack sat next to each other, their jagged breaths becoming one, and their eyes staring into each other’s.

Three shots blasted in a row and Scarlet let out a yelp. It was just enough to get the two men’s attention, and they headed in her direction. The two then started conversing in hushed tones and then one of them shoved his gun in the air. His hand wobbled unsteadily and he began shouting and asking if they knew anything about these two girls. Scarlet let out a whimper and the boy stalked forward pointing the gun at her. Jack could tell that this wasn’t going to end well so he jumped in front of Scarlet and threw himself over her body…

The sirens sounded and Scarlet sat their holding on to Jack’s hand. She kept whispering, “Everything’s okay, stay with me, you can’t leave, you have to be okay, you’re going to be okay. Everything is going to be okay.” She was trying to calm herself down but the sirens were too loud and the people in the ambulance wouldn’t tell her what was wrong. All she could see was the blood, and his soft lips trembling. The time seemed to pass slowly, and the car came to a long stop. The doors at Jacks feet swung open and doctors began swarming around. Suddenly he was taken away and Scarlet was left on the sidewalk in the midst of rushing doctors and passing victims.

Days passed and people came and went, dropping off flowers, or balloons. Always praying for Jack and wishing that he recovers. Everyone stared at Scarlet as she sat next to his bed, still wearing the same clothes with his blood smeared on her right shoulder. She never left his side, no matter what the occasion. People may have found her crazy, but she felt she had to be there. If he was to finally wake up and she wasn’t there it would devastate him. Minutes turned to hours, to days, all blurring together. Jack just lie there in the clean white bed hooked up to machines. Scarlet held his hand and slept with her head at the end of his bed…always waiting. Doctors and nurses came in checked the monitors, and always kept to themselves.
Scarlet didn’t feel like talking to anyone, and soon she fell asleep. She mumbled and shook in her sleep finally awaking to a nightmare. Her head still sitting on the bed she sobbed to herself in the darkness of the room. Something then grazed the top of her head and she heard whispering. “It’s okay; everything is going to be okay.” Scarlet lifted her head only to see Jack whispering and trying to smile down at her.





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