Counting

March 20, 2009
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Jenn Bradley was an odd one. She collected charm bracelets. Not the charms, just the bracelets. She had one charm and she would switch bracelets from day to day. Choosing a new bracelet had become a sort of ritual for Jenn.

Every morning she would press the snooze button three times, gather the will to maneuver herself out of bed, and stumble into the bathroom. She would quickly brush her teeth and wrap her hair into a bun with seventeen pins. Always seventeen pins.

After getting dressed she would walk over to the table in the corner. She would pick out the bracelet for the day. She had them in all the colors that were ever seen by human eyes. All the shapes and sizes imaginable; every variety of bracelet thought of, plus a couple nobody had ever seen because Jenn hadn’t worn them yet. It was a random decision. Every morning Jenn would turn away from the box and feel around it. Counting. She always wore the 23rd bracelet she felt.

Jenn knew there was no point in choosing the bracelet. Nobody would care, or even notice, if she didn’t change her bracelet. They wouldn’t even mention it if she didn’t wear one at all. It was such an insignificant detail of her life. Yet Jenn always walked over to the table in the corner because if she didn’t, those years never happened. They would have never existed. These tortuous bracelets were the only way to keep them alive.


The date is Semptember 27, 1987. Jenn, a mere girl of 6 years old, eagerly bounces in her seat. The nurses cast disapproving looks from the hallway. What kind of a parent would leave a small child unattended?

Jenn could think only of her mother and the baby brother she was about to meet. She hardly thought about the father who should be sitting next to her. The father who is in California without caring that a woman is giving birth to his son. No, Jenn had stopped think about him. Thinking about him hurt.

Every now and then Jenn would hear little snippets of conversation:
“–take her to the orphanage?”
“Kate will, she’s–”
What’s an orphanage? Jenn thought to herself. She dismissed the thought and resumed picturing her brother. He will have brown hair, like me, but it’s going to be straight. His eyes–Jenn looked up at the nurse standing in front of her.
“Hello Jenn. My name’s Kate.” Kate hesitated, as if afraid of what to say next. “Your mom went on a trip for a while, so I’m going to take you somewhere special until she gets back.”
“Will my brother come too?”
“Not yet. He has to stay here for a bit. He’s not old enough to go where you’re going.”
“Can I say goodbye?”
This question seemed to bother Kate.
“I–your mother already left. Sorry Jenn.”
So Jenn followed Kate out into the parking lot. It was a warm September day, so Kate left the top of her dark green convertable down.

After 20 minutes of windy excitement, Jenn saw it. Any joy melted away at the sight of the dark, gray building. This gloomy place that was her new home. Home. So fast it had changed. To Jenn, home was an apartment in a city. A fast, bustling city. But this rectangle was in the middle of nowhere. There was nothing homely about this building. This home.

“This place doesn’t seem very fun,” Jenn informed Kate as they climbed the stairs.
“Oh, it is. You get a pretty room which you get to share with–”
“But I don’t want to share a room.”
“When you’re a little older you won’t have to,” Kate said as they arrived at the door. She turned around and Jenn watched as her old life walked away.


Almost 10 years went by without any change. Jenn would wake up, throw on the drab uniform and trudge down the stairs. She would swallow the same lumpy oatmeal and then go to her classes.

Everything was covered up in this place. They used too much wallpaper, extremely thick carpetting, and very dense curtains. Even the teachers looked like they were hiding something. Hiding some terrible secret that everyone should know, but it’s more convenient not to tell.

After dinner was freetime, but Jenn never made any friends. She used her freetime for schoolwork. If she finished schoolwork, she would draw. Jenn was an amazing artist. Nobody ever bothered her because they knew that she wanted to be left alone. And she did. After Jenn understood that her mother and brother were never going to come for her, she stopped smiling. Jenn never spoke to anybody by choice. She was afraid of attachment.

On the 10 year aniversery of Jenn’s arrival at the orphanage, everything changed. That was the day Tracey and Morgan came. There were no more rooms available, so they were moved into Jenn’s room. Jenn was sitting in a corner drawing when they first met. Tracey was a tall girl with bright green eyes and brilliant red hair. Morgan, on the other hand, was small and chubby. She had frizzy blond hair and hazel eyes. They both had a sort of glow about them. Jenn had lost hers long ago.

She was a very plain girl. It seemed as if even her eyes had faded to gray over the years. She was a dark silhouette of a person. Jenn looked around the age of 12 even though she was nearing 17. Her tangled dark brown hair fell to her elbows, looking as if it hadn’t seen a brush in months. Dark shadows hung under her hollow eyes making it seem like she hadn’t had a peaceful night in far too long. In fact, Tracey and Morgan wouldn’t have seen her if it wasn’t for her skin. Jenn’s skin was a chalky white. Maybe, if she smiled. Maybe if she got a little bit happier, maybe she could pass for beautiful.

Her own depression had cast an ominous feeling about the room. Drawings covered every surface. There were sketches of trees, clouds, birds, even the room itself. But Tracey and Morgan couldn’t help noticing the same two faces. Jenn drew the faces of a woman and a baby enough times to cover a wall. The woman looked young. Happy. And the baby. The baby never looked exactly the same, but somehow they could tell that it was the same baby boy.

Tracey was always open to a challenge, but even she saw that this girl, this depressed little thing, would not, could not ever be happy. It was Morgan who decided to try. It was Morgan who said the first words to Jenn:
“Who do you keep drawing?”
It was Morgan who made Jenn cry. And she cried for hours, ignoring the two while they tried to comfort her. There was no comfort. Jenn would never seen her mother again. Jenn would never meet the brother that she was so eager to see. She had never cried for them before. But now, now was when it all came crashing down. It was Morgan who woke Jenn up.


Jenn’s birthdays at the orphanage had never been happy occasions. Just the same gray uniform. The same gray oatmeal. The same gray eyes staring from behind dirty mirrors. However, Jenn woke this May 23rd to find a wrapped box on her side table. Her twinkling eyes, back to their normal shade of light blue, looked over at the other beds to see two pairs of eyes, one green, the other hazel, staring back. Tracey was the first to scramble to her bedside, but Morgan wasn’t far behind. A chorus of “open it!” shortly followed, which Jenn obeyed with a laugh. Inside was a velvety bag. She opened the bag and out fell two dollars, a charm bracelet, and directions to the jewelry store.

“Well, what are we waiting for?” Jenn exclaimed. It was all the incentive Tracey and Morgan needed. All three of them jumped up and started running. They ran downstairs, outside, and kept going. The trio didn’t stop until they got to the jewlery store. Tracey grabbed Jenn’s hand and practically dragged her to the charms aisle. They spent the better half of an hour bickering over what charm to get. Eventually, Tracey and Morgan shut Jenn out of the decision because of how many times she had said no to one that they both liked.

It was now that Jenn realized that nothing seemed very clear. She blinked a couple times, but nothing changed. I probably need glasses. Didn’t mom once have glasses?

The other two burst out of the store and any thought of glasses were wiped from her head. She started chasing Tracey, trying to get the bag from her.


The date is December 17, 1998 and Jenn cannot see anything anymore. She has a small box full of treasures, all of which she can picture clearly in her mind. Once Tracey and Morgan found out about Jenn’s eyes they gave themselves a mission. They wanted Jenn to own every color before she went blind. And they did it. Jenn owns bracelets in all the colors ever seen by human eyes. All the shapes and sizes imaginable; every variety of bracelet thought of, plus a couple nobody had ever seen. Tracey and Morgan made those themselves. And the charm. Jenn doesn’t know anything better than the charm.


Counting. Numbers were the only things that made sense anymore. The only things that stayed the same. Jenn had three favorite numbers. 3, 17, 23. They all meant something special. 3 friends. 17 years old. May 23rd. Nobody else knew. Nobody else understood these seemingly random numbers. Numbers and the charm. These were the only things that kept her going. This charm that she never went anywhere without. This charm that she never did anything with it missing from her wrist. The charm is small. It has the shape of a heart. It’s not a fancy charm, but it means the world to Jenn. This charm that only has three words.

“It Never Ends”





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This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

Alison said...
Apr. 30, 2009 at 11:35 pm
HI! I thought you would have forgotten about me (:
Thanks so much. Sorry about the occasional typos. I'm bad at proof-reading.
 
Shannon E. said...
Apr. 24, 2009 at 9:15 pm
Hey! I really like this! It's very creative and I can tell you put a lot of thought into writing it. Great job! Hope it gets put in a magazine!! - Shannon (from Briarwood =) )
 
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