A Choice

January 6, 2009
By Jessica Power, Placerville, CA

The sun hid behind the bleakness of the gathering clouds. A thunderous noise echoed through the timbers surrounding me. Salty tears rolled down my cheeks. Lighting flashed in the sky and rain started to fall.

My thick brown hair enveloped my freckled face. Rain drops rolled down the back of my neck. The rain felt surprisingly warm for this time of year. The wind seemed to moan as if feeling the pain I felt inside. My clothes clung to my pale skin like a child to her mother. I did not want to fight this battle anymore. The skies cried with me as I sat on bended knees.

Though I had lived in the same small town my entire life, I remained friendless. I was cast aside as though invincible. My mother had been dead for five years and my father, broken by his loss, threw his heart into his work. I stood alone in a sea of people tearing at my soul for being who I was. No one recognized me as I really was; a girl broken hearted, shattered by my loss, and torn by my pain. I lost the fight long ago, and my heart had had enough.

I walked through prison walls lined with silver lockers, clutching my bag within my small hands. Why do they all point and laugh as I pass? I tried to dodge their disapproving glances and fight back the tears. All eyes turned from me and a hush fell upon the crowd. I stopped, until footsteps came from behind me. I ran from them. I pushed my way through the students and out to the back of the school.
Tears fell and the cold fall air brushed against my face as I ran toward the empty football field. I sat down in the middle of the field with the cool grass beneath my now bare feet. I did not care that I was late to my next class when I finally trudged back inside.

Bling…..Bling….Bling….the final bell of the day rang interrupting my reverie. All eyes turned on me as I quickly stumbled out the door. My small sandaled feet caught on the lip of the door fame; I fell forward. An arm snaked out wrapping around my slim waist catching me with ease. I was safely standing back on my own two feet. His arm disappeared just as quickly as it had come. I did not dare look back, afraid of what I might find there. Yet somehow I still felt his eyes on me. My hair bounced as I continued to walk to my old Dodge truck.

The sun slowly descended behind the mountains as black clouds rolled in. I shivered and pulled my jacket closer, hoping to keep the chill out. I pulled in our driveway and as I slid out of my truck, small white snow flakes fell from the sky covering the forest with a blanket of white. After warming the house with our old black woodstove I stepped over to the small keyboard my mother had brought for me many years ago. Something pulled me toward it. I brushed my hands over the black and white keys savoring the thrilling sensation within me. Tears threatened to fall as memories of my mother filled my mind.

Years ago we had sat here together laughing as she tried to teach me how to play “Fur Elise”. Our love of music brought us closer but with her death the music perished as well. I started playing. The music filled the silence carrying my pain with it. I felt her arms around me as I played, which I had not done since her death. But the song slowly faded leaving the room silent again. I brushed the tears from my eyes and trudged into the kitchen. Dinner occupied my hands but left my mind free to roam.

Lyrics to a new song began to arrange themselves in my head. “Hum, hum, humm, hum.” My foot started tapping out a beat. For a moment life did not seem so pointless, so sad. I stopped chopping onions and shuffled to the keyboard. The tune soon took shape. I yanked a notebook out of my school bag and wrote it down. A smile touched my lips as I relished in the momentary happiness.

As the meat and onions simmered, filling the room with a delicious aroma, I wrote the words to my new song. That night my dreams were filled with the sweet melody; my heart felt at peace.

In the morning I drove to school; a slight peace lingering in my heart. The cold air chilled my skin, as the snow started to fall again. I pulled my hood up over my hair and slipped into the gathering students. During lunch I snuck away. The empty music room invited me toward it. A rather small but beautiful piano sat all alone in the corner, I strolled toward it.

I pulled my notebook out, and began playing my song on the divine instrument. The melody filled not only the room but my heart as well. There must have been footsteps but I did not hear them. Soon a guitar melted into my tune. I did not stop. I wonder who could be playing. Whoever it is they are very good.

My song came to its final note. I packed up my stuff and slung my bag over my shoulder. I headed toward the door trying not to be late for class again. “Amy,” a voice called my name. I heard my breath quiver and I wanted to run, instead I stopped. Something in me wanted to stay, and I let it win. I tried to will myself to speak, but my lips stayed frozen in place.

I heard footsteps behind me and my heart raced. I stood there, my entire fame as still as a statue. Then...I saw him. His green eyes met mine; we just stood there silent and staring. “That was a beautiful song,” he offered, a smile touching his face.

“Um, I…you….Thanks,” I managed.

He laughed and then, “So, you’re probably wondering who I am. I just moved here from Montana. My name’s Ethan.”

“How,” I looked away, trying to force myself to breathe again, “do you know my name?” Why did I ask him that? What is wrong with me? Of course he knows my name, EVERYONE here talks about me. He was bound to hear my name sometime.

And then as if reading my thoughts, “I really don’t care what they say, just so you know.”
So he had heard about me from them. GREAT! But wait he said he does not care. Could I really trust him?
It was a choice I had to make. Fear tore at my heart but I wanted to open up to let someone in…..
The bell rang shattering my thoughts for the moment. “I have to go,” I said over my shoulder as I hustled out into the halls.

I may have avoided his question, I may have run, but deep down I did not want to run anymore. The truth, unveiled itself with a simple question. Now all that remained was a will to answer it. I would win this battle!

The last bell of the day rang filling the classroom with a boisterous sound. I scooped my books up and rushed to my locker. Students shoved past me but I did not care anymore. I searched through the crowd but to no avail. With a penitent heart I stepped carefully toward my freedom. Someone pushed me out the door; I started to fall toward the snow covered ground. Strong arms, arms that I knew, caught me and set my feet back on the ground. A smile spread over my face. Ethan!
I turned to face him, “Sorry about earlier and thanks for saving me, twice.”

“It’s okay,” he slightly smiled, a good sign. “How did you know it was me?”

“You are the only one here who doesn’t hate me.” I smiled despite how much it hurt to admit that out loud.



“Are we friends now?”

“I…,” my gaze fell to the snow covered sidewalk, “sure.”

“See ya tomorrow then?”

“Yup,” I shifted my gaze back to his, “see ya.”
We stood, staring at each other again, as if trying to read what was hidden beneath the surface. My mind ran with questions while my heart longed to run. The battle still raged within, but I had finally made the choice to change. I would not run from them or myself anymore.

With one last glimpse at me Ethan turned and walked toward the parking lot. I watched him until he disappeared from my sight and then I sprinted down the sidewalk to my truck.

That night I sat for hours at my keyboard playing anything and everything I knew or could create. The music filled a void deep in my heart which for too long had remained vacant. The truth hurt but I realized no one had been holding me back but myself. I had to make the choice, whether to let people in or not, whether to trust or not. I had to push past their comments, their securitizing stares and live my life the way I wanted to, instead hiding behind my fear.

Things started to turn around for me after that. I made a few friends and put all my anger and loneliness into my music. I learned to trust people again, with Ethan’s help, and found a happiness I had not known for a long time. With a smile and friends by my side I graduated from High School that spring. One simple choice, the choice to open up, changed my life forever.

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