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Bright, Shining One
I go to a huge middle school, so I guess that’s why I don’t know everyone. I mean, I know everyone’s name, but not their story. And that’s what really matters in terms of actually knowing people.
I think that’s why I was so surprised when I first saw her after summer break. Sure, she was still recognizable with those big brown eyes, extremely curly blonde hair, and incredible height, but there was such a change in her that I wondered if I was the only one who noticed. I knew her name. It’s Phoebe Devlin. We’ve had the same homeroom for sixth and seventh grade, and probably eighth grade too. For the last two years she’s never really opened up much. She’d sit in a corner, dressed up in jeans or skirts but mostly dresses, and read books. All kinds of books. One day she’d have a book written in the Elizabethan period like Shakespeare, and the next day she’s reading something as modern as Twilight. I always thought it was odd, but I never asked her about it. I never actually talked to her, I was too afraid.
It’s not that Phoebe is very threatening. Other than her being the tallest girl in the school at five foot and ten inches, there’s nothing intimidating about her at all. It was just her popularity. I always thought she was too popular and important to want to talk to someone like me. It isn’t like I’m a total loser. I’m on the baseball team and I guess I’m pretty good, but I’m still not cool enough to associate with someone like her. She may be the silent type, but everyone loves her. In the hallways, it’s like she’s mauled by people who want to talk. Her free period is taken up by wandering through the school corridors, gossiping with other girls. And when she’s not in reading, doing her homework, or working on the school newspaper, I hear she’s always at parties or hanging out with friends. It’s like she never has down time because she’s such a social butterfly. Most people would think she talks too much, but that’s not the case. I’ve noticed that she really doesn’t say much in the conversations. I hear she’s a great listener and gives good advice. She can be trusted with secrets and usually helps people with their problems. Most people make her out to be a saint, so what’s wrong with her now? Why has everything about her suddenly changed?
Instead of wearing her usually fancy outfits, she’s dressed in a pair of sweatpants, low-top sneakers, and a hoodie; all shades of black and gray. Her usually glossy, golden, perfectly curled hair was now a tangled and dull mess. Her warm chocolaty eyes that normally looked on with such interest and compassion were now dead and lifeless. She walked through the halls hugging her books to her chest and bowing her head, meeting the eyes of no one. Suddenly something panged deep in my chest as one thought passed my mind.
‘I’ve never seen anyone sadder in my entire life.’
Days turned to weeks, weeks turned to months, and months turned to seasons. By the time spring rolled by, everyone had lost hope on Phoebe. They tried to talk to her, to convince her to go back to her kind hearted self. But she didn’t listen…or rather she did. But that’s all she did. She didn’t speak a word-except for in class-and she didn’t return to her normal self. And the worst part was no one knew why. It was tearing me apart. I had to see her every morning with the glassy look in her eyes. And I wished for the will to talk to her. Would she ignore me like the others? If she did I knew I would never be able to talk to her again, my confidence would be too bruised. But I knew on the inside she was hurting, and I hated knowing that yet doing nothing about it. I figured it was worth a shot. Even if she looked right through me and acted as if I wasn’t there, I’d be content in the fact that at least I tried. And that’s all I can do; try and hope for the best.
I decided to do it on her birthday, the seventeenth of April. This is the first birthday of hers I’ve seen where barely anyone said ‘Happy birthday’. It gave me an odd, queasy feeling, but I tried not to focus on that. I just focused on my mission: get the old Phoebe back. I knew where she’d be. After countless times passing the dark form on my way home from baseball games, I began to notice the form wore dark clothes, carried around books, and had particularly poufy blond hair. Obviously it was her. Why she would be sitting in the local park alone as late as eight p.m., I have no idea. But luckily she was there, right where I knew she would be.
I ran over to her. I had to lie a lot in order to convince my parents to let me out at this hour since it wasn’t a game night. I was supposedly at my friend Jared’s house, but Jared’s too busy studying for the upcoming math test to have anyone over. It’s not like my parents know, though. When I finally got to her, I sat next to her on the bench. Huffing and puffing from the brisk run, it took me a bit to gain my breath. When I did, I looked over at her to see her head tilted up toward the sky.
The luminous moon shone down on us, it was completely full. The brightness of the moon shadowed Phoebe’s neck and cherubic face causing her to look ethereal, like a fairy. A beautiful fairy. I blushed and immediately swept the thought into the back of my mind. ‘You aren’t concentrating,’ I thought instead. Then I finally got up the nerve to talk to her.
Except I didn’t.
She was the one who spoke first. “Isn’t it gorgeous?” she asked, her voice barely above a whisper. It was soft and delicate, as if it would break and shatter into a million pieces at the slightest thing. Like crystals.
I gulped and stared at the sky with newfound wonder. Woah… She was right, it was gorgeous. The moon was like a huge orb, floating above us, but almost in reach. It was teasing us, making us think we could just reach up and take it, but we can’t. No one can. And the stars, they were dappled all around the huge moon. The stars were dazzling me with their twinkling ways. Each glowed with their own shade of color. They danced around the moon, dancing from dusk until dawn. It must be tiring.
Phoebe reached up and made a fist with her hand. I knew what she was doing. She was reaching out for the moon, only to get a handful of emptiness. It’s like she knew exactly what I was thinking about before. This thought was creepy, but also reassuring in a way. Maybe it just meant we were one of the same.
This is where I finally spoke up. “You don’t have to be alone all the time,” I began. “Everyone misses you; the old you. What happened to you that’s so horrible you won’t even tell your friends?” I took a deep breath before continuing. “I know it isn’t any my business, but it must be hard for you. Everyone goes to you for advice, but who are you supposed to go to? We’ve never been close, we’ve barely even talked before, but seeing you like this… It’s just killing me Phoebe. No one should have to endure the pain of loneliness, even if they do wish it upon themselves. It isn’t right. Everyone should have someone in this world, especially someone as considerate and generous as you, Phoebe.”
She looked at me then, and I saw something in her eyes. They were no longer dead. A flash of life showed itself, but it ended as soon as it began. Taking its place were tears, which ran down her tinted pink cheeks and dribbled down her pointed chin. I immediately started freaking out.
“Uhh, I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings, really! Please stop! I…err…what do you want me to do? Anything, I’ll do anything to make you stop Phoebe!”
“Shhh…you’ll wake up the whole neighborhood,” she said with a giggle. She wiped away the tears with the long sleeves of a dark gray sweater. Her lips quirked at the ends, forming a sweet smile reminiscent of her old one. “I was only crying because with every person that talked to me before, they never mentioned anything about the pain I was going through. They only said how much they needed me. All they talked about was themselves. Never did they even try to understand my situation or misery. And that’s why I cried. Because you did Cameron.” She tucked some stray curls behind her ears and looked down at the book in her lap. It was Steve Jobs’s biography. “My situation is like one of those things you never talk about but secretly wish someone asks about it. And even then, when your wish comes true, it’s just too difficult to talk about to anyone. So I’m prepared to keep my story to myself. I don’t think I can ever tell what happened. There’s no way for things to go back to how they were. I’m sorry, but you’re attempts are useless. No one will ever change my mind.”
I sat there letting her words sink into my brain and I can’t help but think she’s wrong. That smile, that flash in her eyes, they’re signs that the old Phoebe isn’t gone yet, at least not completely. She looked back up at me, her face totally impassive. “I could walk you home. Its outta the way, but it’s too late for you to walk home alone.” She gave me a nod of agreement. While she was gathering her books, she spoke up again. “Did you know Phoebe means bright, shining one in Greek? It’s kind of ironic. There’s nothing really bright about me anymore.”
No. She isn’t right. There’s still hope of me bringing her back again. And I swear I won’t leave her side until then. She may say nothing about her is bright, that she will never get over this funk, and whatever else her delirious mind makes up but I know it isn’t true. I just have to chip away her hard, stone exterior and display the real Phoebe. And the real Phoebe definitely matches her name. She’s bright and gorgeous, just like the moon. I just need to help her find herself.
I know her name, but still not her story. But I believe that day by day, I will get closer to reaching my goal. I will finally know the real Phoebe, and not the emotionless void that harbors her body today. And with every smile, my hope to bring out the best in her will increase. And that’s all I can do; try and hope for the best.