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There is nothing in front of you, nothing behind you. Nothing above, nothing below. You look around. This is your place. You can have anything, anything in the world. What you do with that anything is up to you. No one else can make that decision. Not your parents, not your teacher. Not your siblings or your friends. Not that guy you think you like or that girl who’s always your class partner. Just you and yourself. . . .
You’re jolted back to reality by someone’s voice. A crowd rushes before you. Your friend Sarah stands in front of you. Where are you? Someplace busy. Voices surround you. You look around and see more of your friends. Ahh, now you remember. You’re in the cafeteria. It’s third period. Sarah’s talking. You try and listen.
“. . . totally are blanking on me! What’s wrong with you?! Are you ok?! That’s like the fifth time this week that’s happened. Are. . . .” You zone out again. You want to be back in your place. No sounds at all. Just peace and-
“Zoey! Are you listening to me?! Zoey!!”
“Yeah, yeah calm down. I’m listening.” You say, “Let’s go I don’t want to be late for science.”
“Fine, but don’t do that again okay?” Sarah asks.
“Mmkay.” You mumble already drifting off again.
The rest of the day passes in a blur. During the class after science you don’t even bother to pay attention. When the bell rings signaling the end of the day, you run out of class almost forgetting to stop at your locker. You’re the first on your bus. A few precious minutes of quiet before the horde of people pour onto the bus. Only 30 minutes before you’re home. It seems to you as if every sound is magnified. The squeal of the bus tires, Cars whooshing past. You shut the window in your seat. You hear everyone talking laughing chewing gum. Your head feels like it’s about to explode. 9 minutes left. Music plays on the radio, phones vibrate with texts. Not much farther, but it seems like an eternity. People are coughing and sneezing. The bus rolls to a stop in front of your house. You breathe out a sigh of relief, not realizing that you had been holding your breath. Practically running off the bus, you nearly trip down the stairs. You trudge up your driveway, taking in deep breaths as you go. When you reach your door, you fish your key out of your bag and unlock the door. Slowly you twist the handle and push the door open. You take one step through the doorway and stop.
“Hello?” You call out. No answer. That means your mom isn’t home. Perfectly fine by you. You walk through your overly decorated foyer and into your tackily painted kitchen. You open the fridge to find something to snack on. Your eyes pass over spoilt cheese and milk, rotten fruits and lettuce, moldy sour cream and drinks way past their due date. You sigh. You open the freezer and manage to find an edible frozen pizza. You set it on the counter to thaw, and set the oven to preheat. Time to start your homework. You look for your bag only to realize that it’s still on your back. You sit down at the kitchen table and pull out the papers you think are your English homework. You attempt to start it, but only make it halfway through before drifting off inside your head.
A loud beep wakes you up. It’s the oven going off. You stand up slowly and walk over to the oven and open the door. You pick the pizza up and place it on a metal cooking pan. You slip the pizza inside the oven and set the timer for 15 minutes. Realizing you still have to finish your homework you sit back down at the table. You almost finished with your English homework when the pizza is done. Opening the oven you pull out the pizza and breathe the pizza smell in. Cheese, tomatoes, pepperoni. . . You grab a plate and two slices of pizza. Your mom and whatever guy she brings home will eat the rest. Its only 5:30 when you finish eating but you don’t mind. You have to get up early tomorrow for school.
Forgetting about the rest of your homework you go upstairs to your room. It’s the only room in the house that you got to decorate. The walls are painted a deep blue color and are only covered with a few pictures of relatives and friends. The bed and dresser are made of wood and had been found at a garage sale, but were elegant none-the-less. The room itself was very small. You supposed it had once been a closet. You grab a night-shirt off the floor and change out of your jeans and tee. You pad over to the bathroom and brush your teeth. You walk back to your bed and fall onto it. You can’t wait to be asleep. You yank the blankets out from underneath you and pull them up to your neck. Closing your eyes you smile in relief. Back to your place. Back to that sweet blank quiet. . .
Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep, Beep, Beep, Beep Beep Beep Beepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeep. Your hand reaches out to turn off your alarm clock, but finds nothing there. Slowly your head emerges out from under your blankets. Still not finding your alarm clock, you get out of bed. You drop to the floor and look under your bed. There it is, lying on its side. You must have knocked it over during the night. You set the clock back on your bedside table, and stand up. Looking regretfully at your bed, you walk over to your dresser and pull out your regular ensemble of a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. You settle quickly into your morning routine. Brush teeth, comb hair, eat breakfast, leave instructions for coffee out for your mom. Walk out the door at 6:15, stand at the end of the driveway and wait for bus. Get on bus, sit at the back, ignore sounds, and attempt to sleep.
The bus pulls into the school parking lot 45 minutes later. You follow the rest of the students off the bus and to the school. You forget for a second where your locker is but remember when Sarah runs up to you.
“Omg you aren’t going to believe this!” she exclaims loudly.
“What is it?” you say hoping that she’ll quiet down a bit.
“Well, Emma and Beth were going over . . . . “ Sarah blabs. You tune out and just nod look appalled and say no way every once in a while. You navigate your way through the crowded noisy halls, reaching your locker after being shoved, elbowed and kicked at least five times.
“What do I have first period?” You ask.
Sarah looks at you weirdly. “That assembly, remember? They said it on the announcements like 5 times yesterday.”
“Oh yeah, sorry. I’m still a little sleepy.” You say, still sounding a bit confused.
“Well I’m going to go drop my stuff off in my locker ok? Wait for me here.” Sarah orders.
“Okay.” You mumble out about 5 seconds after she walks away. You turn to your locker. What’s your combination again? You think really hard. 32 is the first number right? And then . . . 56 maybe. Then you just turn to the right and it should open. Fortunately for you it does. You breathe a sigh of relief a you shove your bag into your locker. You look around and see no sign of Sarah. A lot of people are still at their lockers. Should you just follow one of them to the assembly? That way you don’t have to listen to Sarah talk the whole time. But what if you followed someone who wasn’t going to the assembly . . . you’d get lost and Sarah would be mad at you. You sigh again. Better just stay where you are and wait.
After nearly 5 minutes of waiting, and everyone exiting the hallway, Sarah finally arrives.
“Sorry I took so long.” She apologizes.
“It’s ok.” You forgive her.
“We better go fast though, otherwise we’re going to be late.” Sarah says before tearing off down the hall. You sprint after her. Is this girl always so fast? Was she like this before? You and Sarah hurtle past the science wing, past the gym and up 2 flights of stairs. Sarah halts suddenly before two doors that you faintly remember as the entrance to the auditorium. A teacher stands guard next to them.
“Why are you girls so late?” he asks in a nasally voice.
“Bathroom.” Sarah answers sweetly.
And that couldn’t’ wait until after the assembly?” The teacher smirks.
“It’s that time of the month.” Sarah replies, still sounding just as sweet as before.
“Oh I- Well- You should have- Just go in!” He splutters out, turning red in the face.
“Thank you Mr. Smain.” Sarah simpers.
Mr. Smain glares at us as he opens the door and ushers us inside. We find seat towards the back of the room, and sit down. The principal glances at you as you sit down. She’s talking about the misuse of drugs and whatnot. You wonder how long the assembly lasts and what class you have after this. The principal announces a guest speaker. He’s an old man with white hair and glasses. You yawn as he shuffles up to the microphone. You tune out what he’s saying and drift off into your sweet blank space.
You are in your space, white, blank, quiet. Perfectly peaceful. It feels like you have all the time in the world. And you realize that you can just stay there. All you have to do is never wake up. You hear a voice calling out.
“Zoey, wake up. The assembly is over. You have to wake up!”
Ignore it, you think. Ignore it and it will go away.
The voice becomes frantic. “Zoey! This isn’t funny! You have to wake up right now! Mr. Smain is walking over! Zoey!”
Ignore it. Pretend you aren’t Zoey. Who is Zoey anyway? Not me, you think. Not me.
You hear another voice. This one is deeper and sounds angry. It must be Mr. Smain, you think. “What’s the problem here Sarah?”
Sarah? Who’s Sarah? Do you know a Sarah? You think you do. She must be the first voice that was talking. You hear her again.
“She’s not waking up! Why isn’t she waking up?!” Sarah sounds hysterical. Maybe you should wake up so she knows you’re okay . . . No. You like it where you are remember? Stay here. Someone is shaking you now. You don’t like it that much. You burrow deeper into your blank white peaceful place. There no one will make you wake up or shake you or yell. You here a couple last wisps of conversation as you drift off.
“Someone call 911! Get the nurse down. . .”