All Nonfiction Bullying Books Academic Author Interviews Celebrity interviews College Articles College Essays Educator of the Year Heroes Interviews Memoir Personal Experience Sports Travel & CultureAll Opinions Bullying Current Events / Politics Discrimination Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking Entertainment / Celebrities Environment Love / Relationships Movies / Music / TV Pop Culture / Trends School / College Social Issues / Civics Spirituality / Religion Sports / Hobbies
- Summer Guide
- College Guide
- Author Interviews
- Celebrity interviews
- College Articles
- College Essays
- Educator of the Year
- Personal Experience
- Travel & Culture
- Current Events / Politics
- Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking
- Entertainment / Celebrities
- Love / Relationships
- Movies / Music / TV
- Pop Culture / Trends
- School / College
- Social Issues / Civics
- Spirituality / Religion
- Sports / Hobbies
- Community Service
- Letters to the Editor
- Pride & Prejudice
- What Matters
All the Kings Men
There was this smell in the air, and Helen did not know it at first. She was returning home from errands when she caught the scent floating in her living room, she checked the house over to find its source. The thin sulfur smell lingered about as she searched the kitchen and pantry.
She moved upstairs, putting the bags she carried in with her down by the front door. The smell grew stronger and more horrifying when she called out to her daughter Ashley, whom was home when she left.
“Ashley?” She called out, worried.
“Ashley?” She called again, fear rising in her voice.
Her careful striding motion up the staircase turned to a full sprint, skipping every other step until she reached the top. Head on a swivel, she checked both sides of the hallway, and saw two open doors leading to empty rooms. In front of her was the bathroom, the door sat ajar. Helen moved slowly towards it, her eyes shimmered like glass.
Thin smoke washed out of the room, the source was inside, tears already ran down her cheeks. She stood, holding the doorknob for a moment when she drew a heavy breath and opened the door in a brisk motion, as if acting on a courage deprived impulse. What she saw made a noise come from her mouth that no human should endure, something so wicked that even the mighty fall victim to its horror. Tears rushed like rapids, her awful cry echoed around the bathroom’s tiled walls.
In front of her was Ashley. In the tub she lay, her body crumpled and pale. Her thoughts and memories were scattered on the wall behind her, crimson red pooled around her young fifteen year old body.
In her hand was a small revolver, her father’s, in case of emergency. Something he taught her how to use on one of their outings to the local gun range. She had always known how important gun safety was to her mother and father, and was certified every year since she was nine. She loved those outings with her father, especially afterwards when they would go to the Green Mills diner up the road from the target range.
She would always get a small omelet, while her father got a large pile of pancakes, of which she always finished. She stated it was for her father’s health, so he wouldn’t feel obliged to eat them all. He agreed on the matter and said that he had to have half of her omelet to balance it out.
They would then laugh together, a memory shared on the warm August days that they would go down that stretch of road, when the leaves and grass were green and plump with life. The same days where the sun would cast an immaculate shadow under everything in its range.
No longer would they have another outing.
No longer would she paint portraits in her off time, which would collect in her room with the others.
No longer would she smell the autumn air as it filled with the dying leaves of October.
No longer would her heart beat seventy two times a minute.
No longer would she feel the warm hugs from her mother.
Or the tender kiss of another.
And no longer would she experience the “what ifs” of her life.
She is gone. Helen’s tears would not bring her back.
The EMTs wheeled the fifteen year old sized rubber bag out of the house, a mother’s mournful cries were heard over the ambulance’s sirens, before and after it parked out front of their house. Jack held his wife, even as his own river sources rushed with water. They watched their daughter drive off, without ever receiving her license, towards a cold morgue, alone.
One week and four days passed before Helen stopped crying, the entirety of her face had been red ever since. Deep lines seem to have formed in her cheeks from the constant tears. The two had kept the bathroom closed, even though the police cleaned it of its damp coagulated embrace. They haven’t even been upstairs since, they’ve been sleeping on the worn brown couch downstairs in the den off of the kitchen. Neither have had a decent sleep since, neither are capable of sleeping through the other’s sobbing and tears.
They wanted answers; actually, that’s untrue. They needed answers.
There was no note.
The next day, after Helen regained composure, she took a trip to Ashley’s High school. When she entered the kids were scurrying along to their next class, or lingering within their cliques. Chatter ran rapid in the halls, but quickly ceased when the bell rang for class. Now the students were running past Helen, one nearly knocked all the papers she held out of her hands, only a few slipped from her grasp. He ran off, not noticing his mistake and Helen bent down to grab the notes and documents.
As she gathered them, another hand reached down to grab Ashley’s birth certificate, which had fallen. Helen looked up into the eyes of a bright eyed young man. He was slender in frame, and his light brown locks were of a medium length and fell near his ears, covering them partially. He handed the paper to Helen, she stood taking it gently and thanked him. He looked up to her, and Helen just noticed the boy’s height was much less than her own, and she was only 5”4’. He spoke in a fairly quiet demeanor, and asked her why there were crayon drawings on the back. Helen was taken aback by the question, especially in how it was asked.
She answered politely on how her daughter found the certificate when she was young and Helen had bought her a set of sixty four crayons, the ones that came with a sharpener. She was so exited that she grabbed the first thing in her reach, which just so happened to have been an open folder containing the document in question, which lay on the desk in the living room.
She began to draw her family, Helen, Ashley’s father and Ashley herself, front and center as all three held hands and wore smiles and good intentions. The boy noted that it was a humorous story, and without missing a beat he walked away towards the band room without saying another word.
Helen felt much better meeting the student and wished she had asked his name, he might have known her Ashley. She began again towards the main office, and thus, to its secretary, a lively woman, a bit old but very quick. As Helen approached she looked at the name on the desk, “Mrs. Lloyd” were presented in large black letters, set in bronze.
Mrs. Lloyd looked up to Helen as she approached, she was on the phone receiving information and transcribing it to paper. She hung up shortly afterward and smiled at Helen.
“Hello, can I help you with any thing?” She questioned sincerely.
“I have an appointment with Dr. Vance?” Helen always had a soft voice, maybe even more soft given recent events.
“Oh, go right in through that door,” She pointed to an open door frame behind her “He’s expecting you.”
Helen nodded in gratitude and thanked Mrs. Lloyd to a silent degree and moved to the room described to her. Inside was a man of average height and stocky in weight, he gave a nod of notification, as he waved her into the room.
“Hello, er, Helen isn’t it?” He held out a large hand, Helen shook it in silence.
He gestured to an open seat and they both sat in unison. Mr. Vance spoke first.
“Now,” He groaned as he sat in his seat, the wood of the chair strained and the leather upholstery made soft squeaks when his own faux leather belt connected.
“You wanted to talk about your daughter.” He reaffirmed what he and Helen had spoke about on the phone. Helen nodded her head in agreement.
“Well, before I start I need to inform you of our neutrality policy here.” Helen became confused, this being the first she’s heard of this policy.
“Last year after large amounts of pressure from the evangelical conservatives in the area, we’ve been forced to reduce the talk of and about Homosexuality in school and by our teachers.” Helen was unfocused yet again, she was trying to find the words but they seemed lost to her. This didn’t seem to relate to Ashley at all, she wasn’t gay.
“Dr. Ma’am, Dr. Vance.” He interrupted.
“My mistake, but my daughter wasn‘t gay, I don’t understand.”
“Well that’s where the neutrality comes into effect; if any student is or is perceived as an LGBT teen, then we must remain neutral on any bullying done to them. Effectively.”
Questions were brewing in Helen’s mind, she did not understand any of these rules.
“Well how much did you reduce the ‘talk of homosexuality’ to?”
“Zero.” Helen massaged her temples, the light began to strain her and her sinuses began to act up.
“Was my daughter bullied because kids thought she was gay?” Helen asked bluntly. Dr. Vance leaned closer to Helen.
“In my honest opinion, since we started that policy. Yes, she probably was.”
Helen slid back into her chair, her head fell into her hands and tears seeped slowly through her fingers. Dr. Vance leaned back as well, and looked down into his lap in shame.
Helen, whom was growing accustomed to tears regained herself much quicker than usual and straightened herself out. Helen looked towards the Doctor, whom was focused still on his lap. Anger began to replace the melancholy state of her mind. Her questions, still unanswered had began to ferment from lack of attention drawn to them.
“Why?” Helen’s only form of a question was that of the most simplest.
“Why what?” The Doctor’s eyes finally left his lap.
“My daughter is supposed to feel safe here. You and your colleagues are supposed to protect her, because I can’t be here to stop whatever those kids might be saying to her, or doing to her.”
Helen knew she was angry, her voice raised a few dozen decimals and her rage had washed out her face, turning it a beet red instead. Even with that ire released like a dam, remaining steadfast against great white rapids, her watery tears found their way out, along with the destructive forces combined. All it took was one needle sized hole, one spark and the keg exploded, the wall collapsed and all its contained forces released in one swift motion.
“My daughters dead, I’ll never see her smile or laugh again. I can’t relax her and console her tears, nor can she me. We are both alone now,” Helen stood, consumed. Dr. Vance stood equal to her and moved around his awkwardly sized desk to calm her. Helen was shaking and gripping a paper in her right hand with great might.
“No.” Helen yelled, refusing silence and requiring an audience.
“You listen to me, do you have children?” Helen gave a loud inquiry to Vance who‘s head nodded in alignment with her question.
“Then how would you like it if your child came to the store where I worked, and some bullies came in and started-” Helen, who was still yelling, tried to find an example of what bullies might do, she found none.
“-Whatever, but what would you do if I didn’t help them, I just let them get picked on, like they don’t even matter?”
“It’s not up to me it’s the PTO and the local church I-”
“For Gods sake, she was only a child, a child damn it.” Helen stomped the ground, the thick brown carpet absorbed the shock, leaving a soft thud in Helen’s fury. Her index finger had punctured the paper in her hand, she dropped it, as it landed by her feet she assembled her things in a passionate, anger driven outburst. She rushed out of the office almost twisting her ankle in the heels that she wore uncomfortably to the school.
Dr. Vance chased after her holding the paper she dropped, uncrumpled to the best of his abilities, although the small hole created from Helen’s nail was disheartening to fix. It was Ashley’s birth certificate.
“Are you alright?” Dr. Vance asked, as Mrs. Lloyd began to move to Helen to assist.
“Yes I’m fine, I’m fine.” Helen said as she stood to her feet, her face flushed with emotions and embarrassment.
“You dropped this.” Dr. Vance held the paper to Helen, who slowly pushed it away from her sight, she began to move out of the offices.
“I won’t need that anymore.”
The small crayon wax, which had embedded itself onto the back of the paper which itself was printed fifteen years ago, began to run and smear along the creases in the paper. The hole, which was punctured by Helen’s own hand, and caused by distress and anger unimaginable, had pierced one of the drawn characters. The smallest one, with the biggest smile, had a large hole through her head.