Left Behind

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My footsteps echo in the empty hallway as I make my way to my last period class. Just a few minutes ago I was stuck in Mrs. Johnson’s office listening to her drag on about how hard it must be going through the situation involving my best friend. I understand that her job includes showing sympathy to students and helping them get through tough times, but I didn’t ask her to feel sorry for me. Honestly the only thing that seems to help is not thinking about it. Unfortunately, I can’t get my mind off the whereabouts of Jackie. Posters hang at every corner, stories are written in the newspaper and it’s as if the news anchors have nothing better to talk about on TV. It has been almost three weeks since Jackie’s uncanny disappearance and people still continue to gossip. The only other crime committed or event in our little town horrible enough to make the news was when a group of seniors robbed and trashed the local mini-mart two years ago.

Finally arriving to room 308, I slide my hand around the metal door handle and pull it open. Miss Sheldon looks up from her desk after hearing the dreadful squeak of the loose door hinges. As I walk toward her I scrutinize the room. A few of my classmates stop working to glance up at me. When I approach Miss Sheldon’s desk she greets me with a smile. Then she replaces the pass in my hand with a piece of paper.

“We just reviewed the lesson we learned yesterday and I gave everyone this worksheet for extra practice.” I stare at the worksheet as she continues, “ We only have about 10 minutes left of class, so do your best and whatever you don’t finish is for homework.”

“Thank you,” I reply turning around to look for an empty seat.

Miss Sheldon was the only teacher who had not given us assigned seats. It was great getting to sit next to whomever I want to, however if you arrive late to class you may end up with an awful seat next to someone you aren’t even friends with.

I spot a place to sit at the back of the room behind Gerald Kinser. The teacher’s pet usually sits at the very front of the room always answering questions, but for some reason he chose not to today. I take a seat in the uncomfortable chair and open my backpack to get a pencil. I take my time on the math problems and am meticulous about not making stupid mistakes. I was working on number 15 when Gerald turns around in his chair and says, “So I haven’t seen your friend around. Her name is Jackie right? Did she move or something?”

My jaw dropped astonished and speechless. Does this guy live under a rock? Jackie’s disappearance was all people talked about. In this town everyone knows each other‘s business. One time Miranda Jennings tried to dye her hair blonde using a cheap box kit and her hair turned green. Within a few hours the whole town knew about it. I can’t even imagine how fast news spread when people heard about Jackie. Just as I am about to reply with a sarcastic remark the bell rings. Gerald jumps out of his seat and heads for the door. I pack up my belongings and follow the other students. After exiting the room I am thrown into a large crowd of people leaving school. I rush past everyone occasionally bumping shoulders and finally reach the school’s main entrance. I push open the large double doors and am hit by a gust of wind that sends a chill down my spine. The sun is shining, warming the air as the wind fights to bring the temperature down. The few buses the school owns are parked out front and I weave through more crowds of people strutting off the school’s property. I never take the bus since my house is so close to the school. The woods near my house lead to an open area facing a small river. Above the river is an old railroad bridge. Jackie and I spent a lot of time there last summer when we first found it. I have not been there in a while though because, without Jackie, it doesn’t seem right. I cross the street and travel a little ways kicking stones until I come to the clearing in the woods. The entrance is easily missed, but I have gone through it so many times it has become obvious where the branches open up, revealing a narrow path. Not ready to go home, I choose to follow the dirt passageway scrupulously avoiding tree roots sticking out of the ground. The towering oaks shield me from the warm sun so I quicken my step. I reach the field where the rays aren’t blocked and the tall grass sways in unison. I run like I’m being chased and don’t stop until I arrive at the area of grass before the river. Setting my backpack on the ground, I take a seat to catch my breath. I sit there for a while. I watch the river flow and a small sailboat pass by.

By now it is late afternoon and the sun is beginning to descend. Feeling tired I stretch out my legs and lay down, but something sharp stabs my back. I shoot back up to a seated position and look behind me to see a jagged rock sticking out of the ground. I remove it from the soil and place it in my hands as I slowly meander down to the river and toss the rock. Over the summer Jackie tried to teach me how to skip rocks. I never got the hang of it though. As I watch the water ripple where the rock landed I hear something behind me. I turn my head only to recognize the familiar face I haven’t seen for weeks. Before me stood Jackie. My eyes grow wide and my mouth forms an “o” shape.

“Wow. Who taught you how to skip rocks?” she said giggling.

So many thoughts are racing through my mind at this point. My shock turns to rage. She disappears for weeks then just shows up out of no where and jokes around like nothing ever happened. There was so much I want to ask her, but I can’t. Finally my voice decides to work again and I begin to yell at her.

“What are you doing here?! Where have you been!? Do you have any idea how many people are out looking for you!?” Jackie stands there emotionless. Clearly she is not fazed by my reaction to her appearance. When she doesn’t say anything, I continued, “ Seriously Jackie, where have you been!? Your mom and dad have been so worried. This whole town hasn‘t be-” my voice was cut off by an on coming train whistle getting ready to cross the bridge. The sound gests closer and closer as it chugs its way across. I turn my head to watch it not even attempting to speak over it because anything I say would be inaudible. Still waiting for the last couple of cars to pass I look back where Jackie was standing to find the space now empty. The locomotive whistles once more as it disappears leaving me behind with nothing but a puff of black smoke.





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