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Stand Still

Chapter One: Year One
“The hardest part of dreaming about someone you love is waking up. -- Anonymous


He was a year older than me at the time. He was the tall, blonde, handsome type, and I was in love. I went to school to see him; I did everything because of him. This door, the one I’m sitting in front of, is locked. And this school, the one that I’m in all alone, is quiet, bright, and empty. I’m completely and utterly alone, my greatest secret fear. Why me? Why did I have to get locked in a school on my thirteenth birthday? I would much rather be sitting outside in the beautiful, crisp fall atmosphere than sitting here, alone and unwanted. Sooner or later, I heard the footsteps. It turns out that I wasn’t alone, because he’s here. Matthew Anthony Phillips, the love of my teenage life, is locked in this sunny building with me. And, better yet, he has a dog with him.

“What’s her name?” I asked.

“Ginger,” he replied.

Hmm, I thought. That name fit her perfectly. She was an orangey-red color, chubby, and cute. Ginger looked warm and cuddly, and I wanted to hug her because I was absolutely freezing. So, of course, I did. But I had other questions. What was he doing here? My ride hadn’t arrived, and I guess his hadn’t either. But what about Andrew, his twin brother? Oh yeah! He was absent today because of the flu. My mom was supposed to pick me up from school at 4:00 to take me to my doctor’s appointment. Little did I know that I wouldn’t be alive to get in that van. So we sat together, petting Ginger and waiting. We waited for the sun to sink down below the horizon. We waited for our rides. We waited for the awkward silence to end. We waited, waited, and waited. Nothing. The sun would not set. Our mom’s were not coming. Time was standing still outside that door, that cursed, locked door.

The silence was uncomfortable, because I loved him and he knew it. My secret was about as secret as my hair, which could stick out just about everywhere because of its color. The dog was the only thing keeping me here, sitting. The dog and a desperate hope that I could still go home. It was that hope that kept me strong, alive. Finally I got over the fact that I was alone with Matthew and a dog in an empty school. The worst part was that, outside, the cars were still, the runner was halted, and the gas station was filled with unmoving people. Only we, inside the safety of the school, could move, sleep, live, laugh, love, and die. What if we died here? I thought, so scared of our future. I had never been so scared of what might happen in my life until this day.

The clocks said it was almost 8:30, so I decided to scrounge up some bedding for us. There was at least one bed in here, the one in the nurse’s office. And, since it was still daylight outside, we’d have to sleep in the auditorium or a classroom without windows. Lucky for us, I found a gurney along with the bed. Being the gentleman that he was, Matthew let me have the real bed and he slept on the gurney. I took the emergency blankets out of the nurse’s office while he moved the beds into the auditorium. Then I went around the school, looking for pillows or bean bag chairs. I came up with two pillows, one for each of us. When he finished moving the bed and the gurney, I made them up with the blankets and pillows. I hopped up on the bed and got comfortable. Ginger decided to join on my squishy throne, warming up my feet for me.


“I’m scared,” I whispered, feeling like a lonely fish in the middle of the sea.


“Me too. But don’t worry, we’ll get out of here eventually,” he firmly reassured me. But what if we don’t?! I thought. And then there were the biggest questions of all: why us? Why are we here? How did this happen? I tried to lay my head down and sleep, but my mind was racing. Matthew was already sleeping like a baby, snoring softly. How can he not worry? I thought, amazed. But he looked so cute when he slept, and his snores were starting to lull me to sleep, too. I guess we have time to worry later. STUPID TIME!!!!!!! I thought, drifting off into a deep slumber.

My sleep was plagued by nightmares. At midnight, I bolted awake because I couldn’t stand the dreams anymore. I ran out of the auditorium and threw myself into the hallway, where I burst into wailing sobs. Between breaths, I choked out desperate pleas to anyone who might hear me. After I lost my voice, I just sat there, bawling my eyes out. When I’d cried out all my tears, I sat there sobbing drily. I missed my family so much, I missed my house, I missed my life. I wanted to get out so bad........


I was so busy crying that I didn’t notice Matthew, who had woken up when he heard my screams. He was standing by the door to the auditorium when I looked up and saw him for the first time since we went to sleep. I waved shyly at him and beckoned him over. He walked over slowly.


“Hey,” I said quietly.

“Hey,” Matthew repeated, just as softly.

“Did I wake you up?” I asked, not looking at him, afraid that he might laugh at me for crying.

“Yeah,” he answered.

“Oh. I’m sorry,” I whispered, ashamed.

"It’s okay. What’s wrong?” he said.

“I miss my family. I want to go home,” I whispered, another tear rolling down my cheek.

“Hey, don’t cry! I miss my family too. It’ll be okay, we’ll be fine. I will do my best to make this place our home,” Matthew said, and then he put his arms around me. I cried into his warm shoulder. While I cried, he stroked my hair and whispered reassuring words into my ear.



We spent many nights like this, because I had nightmares so often. Rarely did happy things frequent my dreams. During the day, Matt (that’s what he told me to call him) kept his promise and did everything he could to make me happy. I opened up like a book about myself, although I always dodged around my feelings for him. He did the same, though I doubt he had anything to hide.

We would take walks down the halls together, with Ginger in tow. Occasionally we would go into the library and read or play on the computers. We always ate in the courtyards, because, for some reason, we could go in them. The food was taken from the cafeteria kitchens, where I would prepare it and put it on trays. The weirdest thing about the food was that it never spoiled because, technically, the year never changed.


The highlight of my day was working on our calendar. One day, Matt came up with the idea to write calendars on the walls to keep track of the days we were here. I made a calendar for the rest of the year, because why would we be here longer?



Halloween was upon us. We had been here for 28 long days already. Matt raided the teachers’ secret stashes of candy so we could trick-or-treat. I was the one who made the costumes. From Mrs. Cervantes’ room, I took the spare shoes that she keeps there. From the lost and found, I took two large overcoats and two hats. The black flats surprisingly fit my feet perfectly. In the bathroom, I washed the hats and overcoats and set them out in the sun. They should be dry by 8ish, I thought. I looked in my purse and located my makeup case. Obviously there wasn’t any Halloween makeup, but it might come in handy later.
While I prepared our costumes, Matt was placing two pieces of candy at each door in the building. The plan was to walk around and pick up the candy. It wouldn’t be as exciting as regular trick-or-treating, but it was the best we could do.


“MATTHEW!!!! Come here!!!” I shouted down the hall.


“I thought I told you to call me Matt,” Matt said, walking up behind me.


“Well, I had to get your attention somehow. Guess what we’re gonna be for Halloween!” I replied.


“I don’t know. Tell me,” he said, gazing at me intently with those startlingly green eyes.


“Guess!!” I persisted.


“Fine. Spies,” he guessed again.


“NOOOOOO!! We’re gonna be detectives, silly!!” I yelled, exasperated.


“Oh. Okay. Are we eating first?” Matthew asked.


“Well, of course. I can’t starve my hungry growing boy, now can I?” I said, teasing him.


“NO. What are we having?” he questioned seriously.


“Pizza, iced tea, and salad. Maybe cookies,” I replied.


“Yay,” he said sarcastically.


“Get over it,” I muttered, walking off towards the kitchen.


Sooner than I thought possible, Thanksgiving had arrived. We have already been in this lonely school for 52 long, long days. Everything was starting to get boring. Computer games and TV were starting to lose my attention. The food was becoming less and less appetizing with each passing day. But we didn’t lose hope, I didn’t lose hope. How much longer could we be here, anyways? And there aren’t many things to grateful for when you’re locked in a school. I’m grateful for Matthew, Ginger, food, and books. I’m extremely grateful to not be alone.


It’s December now. Fifty-eight days of this. But, we’re 58 days closer to getting out. This school isn’t exactly the best place to find holiday cheer, but I’ll do my best. Since Christmas is only 25 days away, I need presents. Somehow, I have to make enough presents, for Matt and Ginger, to make it feel like a real Christmas. AND, to make my life even more challenging, I only have everything in this school. In addition we need a tree.


Matthew must’ve been thinking the same thing, because, as I walked down towards the band room, I saw him. He was walking out one of the auditorium’s backstage doors, carrying a big, fake Christmas tree. I was so shocked that I stopped right where I was standing.

“What?” he asked, his voice muffled by the tree.

“Oh-uh…nothing!” I stuttered.

“Okay, good. Can you help me?” he asked.

“Sure. I’ll grab the bottom and you can have the top. Let’s put it in the foyer in between the moon and the earth, okay?” I babbled like a mountain brook.

“Whatever,” he replied.


So we took the tree (with lights) into the foyer, where we set it down in between the earth and moon. We dusted off our hands and telepathically---it seemed-decided on what to do next. He left in search of an extension cord, while I hurried to find (or make) ornaments.


First I checked backstage. Nothing. Next I looked in the chorus room. Nope. Then I looked in the guidance office. Nada. I stopped and thought for a second. What if I decorated the tree with lost and found jewelry? So I headed off to the office’s lost and found collection, which I now called the Bargain Mart. I dug through the containers coming up with the goods. Three necklaces, 11 pairs of earrings, five rings, two anklets, and nine bracelets in total. But, alas, this would not be enough for this huge tree!!! I then decided to check the girls’ locker room’s lost and found. There, all my numbers multiplied.

I went back to the tree and started hanging them up. I even went so far as to take off my own earrings and hang them gently on two branched. Then I stripped off all of the rest of my useless jewelry, and hung them up, too. When I finished, I put my back against the wall and slid down. Tears were welling up in my eyes. I put my face in my hands, remembering all of those Christmases past. And now, I yearn for home even more than before.


I drifted in and out of sleep, wondering when I should go put my presents for Matt and Ginger outside under the tree. Slowly, I rose from my bed and tiptoed out to the girls’ locker room, where I was keeping the presents. I grabbed as many as I could carry and quickly made my way to the tree. Gently as I could, I placed the presents on the floor and went back for more. On the plate we set out for Santa, the cookies were sitting untouched. My hand reached out to break off a piece, which I then shoved in my mouth. I went back to sleep, praying that Matthew and Ginger would like their presents.
When morning came around, I woke up, eager to see the presents. I was surprised to see other presents, also wrapped in construction paper, piled up next to mine. Hmmm, I thought, Maybe it was Matthew? The cookies on Santa’s plate were gone, and a note was sitting in their place. I picked it up and read it aloud:

“ ‘Why thank you for the delicious cookies. I always enjoy bringing presents to good children. Merry Christmas! Stay good!!



Love,



Santa :) ’”




I jumped, because there were arms now wrapped around my waist and a head resting on my shoulder. Too shocked to speak, I just stood there mutely. I knew who it was, but his actions were new, different.


“Merry Christmas,” he whispered into my ear, his voice husky and sweet.


“Merry Christmas,” I breathed, just now realizing that I had been holding my breath.



“So, breakfast or presents first?” Matthew asked.


“Breakfast, please! Are you cooking?” I questioned, hopeful.


“Okay. And I already cooked,” he added. We walked over to the cafeteria to grab our trays. When we walked through the door, I gasped. He had transformed it into a Christmas party ballroom. It must’ve taken weeks to make all the snowflakes and fake snow! How did I not notice?


“Do you like it?” Matthew asked.



“Like it? I love it!!” I squealed, throwing my arms around his neck and kissing his cheek (talk about heaven).


“Good. It took me forever. Follow me,” he said, blushing slightly. So I followed him to one of the booths that was set with real utensils, plates, and cups. We were having scrambled eggs, sausage, biscuits, and OJ. It looked heavenly, so I quickly sat down. Matt sat across from me, and then we dug in. We both rushed so we could get to present opening. Ginger sat next to us, whining because her breakfast had yet to appear. I took pity on her and tossed her a piece of sausage. I finished, grabbed Matt’s hand, and skipped out to the tree.



We opened Ginger’s presents first. She got a new bed, numerous hand made toys, a new collar, and a cute little sweater. Then Matt opened his presents, and I again prayed that he liked them. I gave him: a sweater, a flute lessons coupon, a cord bracelet (for when we parted ways), a hand made book, and a new quilt for his gurney. He smiled at me when he opened the card, in which I had written a poem. I was the last to open my presents, even though I didn’t need anything other than the ballroom.
My first present was a trumpet lessons coupon, just like the one I gave him. I smiled at the irony. Matt also gave me a beautiful anklet, a joke book, chocolates, and a coffee mug with jewels on the outside. I looked at him, so happy that he was here with me, instead of some immature jerk. Before I could really think about it, I flung myself at him and pecked his cheek. His face turned a dark crimson as I hugged him tight. Then I went over to Ginger and placed a kiss on the top of her head. I snapped a picture in my mind, never wanting to forget our first Christmas as one, happy family.

Sadly, it’s already February. I’m so surprised that we’ve been here for so long. It’s been like four months and eleven days! Today is also Valentine’s Day, February 14, my favorite gift-less holiday. But I don’t think it will stay that way because the only other person here is Matthew. We have a weird relationship, but there is definitely a bond between us. I still don’t think he likes me, so my Valentine’s Day will probably be a bummer.



I was napping on the floor in the library when I felt something----or someone----lie down next to me. Then I rolled over and came face to face with Matthew. My heart started to race and it was thumping so hard that I was again surprised he didn’t hear it. I gave him a questioning look. He just shrugged and then leaned and kissed me sweetly.




Fall has rolled around again, and our hopes are all long gone. We won’t be leaving this prison ever. But I guess it’s not so bad, because it turns out that he loves me too. I was so awestruck when he told me on that fateful Valentine’s Day. Now we’re the cutest couple to ever walk these empty halls.


My trumpet lessons are going well and I’m almost as good as----if not better than---- Matt. His flute lessons turned out to be an epic fail, so he decided to try to play the saxophone. I’ve been practicing my instruments for a mini concert all summer that I plan to play for him today as a birthday present. Today is his fifteenth birthday!!!
Since it’s Matt’s birthday, I have to make a cake. It’s going to be vanilla with chocolate icing and a cookie topping. I can’t wait for dinner because I made his favorite meal aka: hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, and salad with ranch dressing. I redecorated one of the many classrooms for our dining and present opening. A set of cool hands grabbed mine, breaking me out of my reverie.



“Oh, hey!” I said.


“Hello, Hanna,” he said back.


“What’s up?” I asked.


“I was just wondering where you were and what you were doing,” Matthew replied, shrugging his shoulders slightly.


“Are you hungry?” I questioned eagerly.


“Very. Is dinner ready?” Matt asked.


“Yeah. Follow me, si vous plait,” I replied.



We walked hand in hand to the “Matthew room,” as I call it. I led him to his chair and then drifted to my seat, where I perched gracefully. I motioned for him to sit across from me. He sat awkwardly in the desk. We ate out food in silence. When we were both finished, I jumped up and ran to get the cake. Sadly there weren’t any candles, so I just put cotton swabs with little paper flames in the cake. I jogged as fast as I could with the cake back to the classroom. But, when I got there, he was gone. I put down the cake, and slid to the floor. Please let him be in the bathroom, I silently prayed.
I waited. And waited. And waited. Dang it, I though, I dressed up for nothing! I had gone through the lost and found to get a pair of jeans, which I then cut and re-sewed to make a skirt. I made my shirt out of some skirt and put a ribbon in my hair. What did I do wrong?



Just as the tears started rolling, Matthew walked in holding the most beautiful necklace. He looked from me to the necklace and then back at me. I tried to plaster a smile to my face and wipe away those stupid tears, but it was too much. I broke down finally and wept, all my sorrows drowning me. All the stress from before, now weighing down on me, triggered by a simple misunderstanding. I felt Matt grab me and pull me up to him. It felt nice to have his strong arms around me, protecting my from drowning in all my pain. But I didn’t stop crying, even though he was back. I just couldn’t stop.



“Hey. I was listening to Pandora, and this song came on. It was called ‘I won’t let go’ by Rascal Flatts. I’m going to sing it to you now. Remember that I’ll always mean it. ‘It’s like a storm that cuts a path. It breaks your will; it feels like that. You think you’re lost, but you’re not lost on you’re own. You’re not alone. I will stand by you, I will help you through. When you’ve done all you can do and you can’t cope, I will dry your eyes. I will fight your fight. I will hold you tight and I won’t let go. It hurts my heart to see you cry. I know it’s dark, this part of life. But it finds us all and we’re too small to stop the rain. Oh but when it rains: I will stand by you, I will help you through. When you’ve done all you can do and you can’t cope, I will dry your eyes. I will fight your fight. I will hold you tight, and won’t let you fall. Don’t be afraid to fall. I’m right here to catch you, I won’t let you down. It won’t get you down. You’re gonna make it, yeah I know you can make it. I will stand by you, I will help you through. When you’ve done all you can do and you can’t cope, I will dry your eyes. I will fight your fight. I will hold you tight and I won’t let go. Won’t let you go, no I won’t,’” Matthew sang softly into my ear.



I’m still crying, but I’m not that sad. Now I’m just so sorry that I ruined his birthday celebration. His birthday! And then there was that beautiful necklace... I was just about to day sorry when he interrupted me.



“Shh. It’s okay. I can still open my presents,” he said, putting a finger to my lips.



“Yeah. I’m sorry. Thank you. And I really love that song. It’s nice to know that I have someone I can count on,” I whispered hoarsely.


“You’re welcome. I love you Hanna,” Matthew murmured into my hair.


“I love you too, Matthew,” I whispered, my voice muffled by his sweater, the one I gave him for Christmas.

Matthew opened his presents slowly. I gave him a photo album (with photos), a journal with the events of the past year, and a terrible---lame-excuse of--- series of home videos depicting our past year together. He flipped through the photos slowly, pausing every so often to point at some of the shots. After finishing, Matt looked up at me.

"You are a wonderful photographer," he said.

I shrugged modestly, suddenly feeling shy. Then Matthew started reading the journal. He looks so cute when he's reading, I thought. Just like with the photo album, he would pause and look up at me like "really? Is that really how you felt?" I would nod and motion for him to go on.

"You are a good writer," he complimented me again.

I smiled, basking in the praise. Then I picked up the camera and hooked it up to the computer. the files loaded to the computer in a matter of seconds. I motioned for Matthew to sit and then pressed play. The first video was rather short, because it was just us on Halloween. I started the second video, which was of us on Thanksgiving. The Christmas video was the longest because it included all of breakfast plus the present opening. Matt was smiling when he heard my gasp when we first went into our Christmas ballroom. Valentine's Day was the final video. I had hacked into the security cameras so it played back our first kiss. I took a video of the tapes, because it seemed that that moment needed to be included. Matt looked at me again, his green eyes twinkling.

"Thank you for the thoughtful gifts. I have something for you, even if your birthday is still 18 days away," he said. He took out the necklace that I saw earlier and put it around my neck. The cold silver chain sent shivers down my spine. I touched the little red heart, admiring how small the stones were. It's my favorite color, I thought. Then I realized it was a locket! I opened it, expecting a picture, when a little piece of paper fluttered out. Matt and I both reached down to grab it at the same time, our heads bumping. Our hands touched, and we both looked up at each other. Note forgotten, we started kissing passionately. We stopped abruptly, needing air. I reached for the paper. It read:

I love you, I want you, I need you.

It was short, sweet, and to the point. I felt like I needed to do something. So I did.



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