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Jaila’s Room This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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Her bedroom is falling to pieces. The first sign is the old door that, when I push it open, creaks and bits of paint fall to the floor. But the door is nothing compared with the rest of the room. The shaggy carpet is dotted with mystery stains and the lamp has a broken shade and no bulb. The walls are painted a dull purple that seems haunted by brighter days. They are covered in crayon drawings of made-up animals. In the corner is a bed frame with no mattress.

As I walk around the room, Jaila tugs on my sleeve. “Welcome to my room,” she says, with no pride in her voice.

Last fall, my brother picked out new bedroom furniture from the Pottery Barn catalog for his thirteenth birthday. When it arrived, I helped my parents move his old furniture to the garage.

My dad planned to throw out the old furniture, long enjoyed by my brother but now gathering dust. But it was still in great condition. We thought about arranging for its disposal, but then I had an idea. I knew that this was a chance for us to help someone in our community.

“Couldn’t someone else use it?” I asked my ­parents.

“It’s a shame to throw it out, but I doubt anyone is interested in buying furniture right now,” responded my dad.

“No, I don’t mean sell it. Couldn’t we donate it?”

With those words, I started searching for neighbors, teachers, anyone who needed a bedroom set. Finally my mom helped me call the local elementary school as a last resort. I was referred to the counselor who told me about Jalia, a fourth-grader, the daughter of a single, struggling mother. I was given an address and a telephone number, and I soon found myself in Jalia’s home. The moment I saw her bedroom, I knew I had taken on too big a project. Jaila’s room screamed for a complete makeover.

As I was leaving, Jalia’s mother said, “Anna, thank you so much for doing this. The room’s been like this for four years. Jaila never wants to have friends over because she doesn’t want them to see it. She won’t even play in her own room!”

When I was younger, I liked to play alone in my room so much that my ­parents were afraid I was going to ­become a hermit. But to me, my room was a private wonderland, my own fourth dimension. There, wild creatures roamed and I could be the beautiful princess. I could understand how much it upset Jaila not to have a haven of her own.

“I’m happy to help,” was my reply. And so my simple donation became a much bigger and more rewarding project.

The first day I arrived to help, I wasted at least an hour looking around and wondering how I could possibly fix the room. I had never painted a wall, let alone recarpeted a floor. At one point, I went to sit on the bed in frustration, forgetting there was no mattress, and fell straight through to the floor. I got ­nothing out of that day except a bruised butt.

The second day, I returned with renewed energy. I had enlisted my Girl Scout troop, and my mother and I herded them to Jaila’s house. We stripped the floor of the old carpet and removed the corpse of a bed frame. Then we used spackle to fill the cracks in the walls. I was there for 15 hours that day and every day that week.

That week was filled with the smell of paint and sweat. We replaced, repainted, and redecorated everything. And the final product was like the transformation of a hairy caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly. The moment we finished, we called Jaila into the house and blindfolded her. Taking her by the hand I led her down the hallway. It was time to show Jaila her new wonderland.

We entered the room and on the count of three she ripped off her blindfold. As she took in the fluffy new carpet, the fuchsia walls, and the striped bedspread on top of an actual mattress, I followed her gaze, in awe myself at the transformation. She turned, smiling, and grabbed me around the waist in a huge hug. Then she lunged for the bed. She bounced up and down, her rite of passage, and shouted, “Isn’t it so pretty?”

I turned to Jalia’s mom, who was still burdened by so many worries, and saw that she had tears running down her face. Her expression matched Jaila’s joy.

“Anna,” Jaila said.

“Yes?”

“Welcome to my new room!” she shouted
proudly.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.





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