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Waking up

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I screamed.



My life began the same way every morning. I was the first to wake up and the first to be yelled at. After being pummeled by a stream of nonstop cuss words, I would wait by the curb on my street for the ominous yellow giant to come devour me. The school bus my school could afford was evil, we all swore by the malice that radiated from it. The whole thing was literally falling apart; at some times it would break down while on the highway and made all of us tardy when we finally arrived in school. We froze like water in the winter and we melted like ice cream in the summer in that neon yellow school bus. It wasn’t even a normal yellow!

Inside the school was different. The rooms were remodeled and the sharp scent of fresh paint greeted you each time you walked inside. The floor was polished and slick, you could see your own reflection and pick the food between your teeth. The chalkboards were green and ready for the jagged nails of class clowns. The main lobby was clear and lighted with windows that now covered the whole front. Even leather seats were crisp and silky, enticing you to sit in it and doze off. Everything in the school was awake and alive; it made you wonder why in the world they didn’t go ahead and remodel the bus.

Class was a totally different thing. They were short and pointless. The teachers explained it good but the difficulty lay with the students themselves. Nobody paid a lick of attention to the teacher and that meant that they wouldn’t let any of the other students pay attention neither. So the classes were filled with the buzzing of anxious chatter while the teachers stood helpless and moved the students that they thought worth it to the front of the class. I never talked in class, I didn’t have any friends neither, so maybe that’s why I got something out of all those years in high school. But my favorite teacher was Mrs. Fay. She knew her stuff and she was no one’s fool. The students in her history class didn’t dare to let out a peep. The students had to work for her affection, they had to work for her approval. It was because of her that Allen High School had the highest ranking students in history in the state.

The morning of my first day of my sophomore year, the bright sky woke me up and told me that I was already fifteen minutes off schedule. I raced downstairs missing a step and skidding to the bottom. My family woke up, ready to yell at me for the noise I had done. I didn’t even wait to her the first onslaught of words and ran out to the familiar curb and waited. The bus came today just like every day and I got on next to the same person I had been sitting with since my first day freshman year. He was nice, he had freckles splashed on his face and his hair was a nice golden-orange. He wore iron rimmed glasses and was usually quiet. It was only during the last days of freshman year that I learned that his name was Derek Kinkle. I had to admit, I liked sitting next to him, he never asked why I was crying, yet he didn’t ignore me; it was like unspoken. I liked Derek Kinkle as a friend but he never did seem to want a friend like me. I was short and skinny, a pixie that had horrible acne, but Derek was tall and lean, and always knew where he was going. So that day on the bus, I was shocked to see that he wasn’t already seated in our seat, but had moved to the very front.

As I passed by him, he looked up and nodded at me. I was surprised but I said a small “hello” back in return and went to the very back to sit down. Even from the back I could see that he was fiddling with something in his backpack, the quick anxious glances that the back of his head took every moment it could. It didn’t feel right, I just didn’t feel like today would be normal. As soon as we all came off the bus, he was out of my sight, I weaved through the people and tried to catch a last glimpse of him but he must have taken a different route than the one the crowd was taking because I was swept away to my locker. I didn’t have any classes with Derek and I knew better than to go looking for him and to attempt a conversation. People just needed their space, you know?

After three classes with nonstop chatter, the bell rang with a satisfying chime that signaled the stampede of students to the lunch line. I ducked out of the hall as fast as I could and hid behind my open locker. The stampede cleared and out came the teachers from their classrooms. I waited for everyone to leave the halls as I took out some Advil from my backpack to ease my throbbing head. I looked into my locker and found a note, hanging from the open side. I had no clue to whom this note belonged to and wondered if maybe someone had gotten my locker confused with someone else’s.



Don’t go to lunch. Stay by your locker ~DK



DK? Derek Kinkle? Yeah that must be right. I flipped the note over to see if it said anything. It looked like it had been torn from a math assignment as the edge had half of a four and eight and had been hastily shoved in my locker. I didn’t know what to think about the note. Stay by my locker? But the lunch line was probably thinning by now, and I could snag a PB&J sandwich before they all went out! So I decided to just go to lunch, thinking that maybe this was just some stupid prank. I walked down the hall toward the huge beige double doors, lines of blue lockers lining the wall. I could hear only the soft squeaks of my sneakers and the swish that my arms made when they swung loose by my side. The coins in my pocket jingled together like a symphony and the air smelled like stale fries and crisp soda.

And that’s when I heard it. Before I could put my palms on the door to push through I heard five or six pops, like firecrackers. It scared me as I jumped back and anxiously clung to the cold metal hand bar of the door. It was like an explosion, I could hear the screams and the scratches the chairs made as they were pushed back hastily. The sounds of running footsteps flooded my mind as my last reaction was to flatten myself against the lockers. The students busted through the door, tripping on their own feet, and clawing through each other to get out of the cafeteria. More shots were fired followed with a shrill scream and the thud of bodies hitting each other. Some people coming out of the room were holding their arms or shoulders or stomachs; I could faintly see the crimson of their stained clothes beneath their shaky hands. I panicked and ran into the cafeteria, the air now smelling like fear and adrenaline. Several students lay on the ground, still and motionless, the chairs were pushed around, some on their sides and others just thrown to the side. Meals were unfinished, some drinks spilled and flies buzzing around the greasy tots. I looked up and saw him. Derek Kinkle, standing on a center table. Holding a gun. Mrs. Fay lay on the ground, her body shielded a tiny freshman from Kinkle’s sight.

I screamed.





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