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How I met her
It's not fault. I know it's not my fault. I don't know whose fault it is... but it isn't mine. I did not want this to happen. I can not make this go away. Trust me, I've tried.
I look around my room. It's a typical teenage room. It has posters of popular movies I like and pictures fill up a board. I have my cluttered desk and my backpack is leaning against my unmade bed.
I sit on my bed and look out the opened window. My bedroom overlooks the deck, where a lot of activity happens in the summer. The deck is empty right now with my family out. The only ones left on the early September afternoon are my little sister, Amanda, and me.
Although it isn't even past 11 yet, my room is too hot for my liking. I shut my window and turn on my air conditioner. I look at my closed door and decide to lock it. I turn on my music and crawl onto my bed. I lay there, curled up in a ball, with my phone next to my arm. A fast, upbeat song comes on and I change it to another song that reflects my mood. I pick a slower song with hints of pain woven through the words. I listen to the words, letting tears fall. As long as I'm alone, I never stop the tears from coming. I welcome them, although they don't do me much good. I pick up my phone and text my best friend, Melysa. She is always reliable and never lets me down.
As I wait for a response, I lay there crying. I feel horrible and it isn't the sick feeling. I feel like... I am crumbling to pieces. She finally responds, saying she is straightening her hair in her room. I tell her all about my horrible day.
Amanda and I had had a fight and that is why I'm locked in my room. Each text I receive, it seems as though we are talking in person. I tell her I can't take it anymore.
"Whoa Jess, don't think like that," she replies.
"I wouldn't have the nerve to do that. I've really only thought about running away," I send.
"Don't run away. It won't solve anything. If you run away, your friends would miss you and they would be deeply worried and depressed."
"I probably won't. Where would I go?"
"You could stay in my shed, but it wouldn't solve anything."
"Then what should I do?" I ask.
"Talk to your parents. Tell them how you feel," Melysa suggests.
"How can I tell them when I can't tell myself? I don't know what's wrong, that's the thing."
"Just don't do anything stupid Jess, okay?"
"You sound like a guidance counselor."
"That's good... isn't it?"
"Okay. Who's your guidance counselor?" Melysa asks.
I change the song again. "Mrs. Parker," I write.
"Why don't you talk to her? Maybe it will help."
I look down at the message. "I'll give it a try."
It's graduation day for me... eighth grade, pretty good so far. I stand out on the sidewalk saying good-bye to teachers and friends. My family is there to celebrate the special day with me, but I pay very little attention to them. I'll see them at lunch; I won't see my friends and teachers at lunch.
I walk over to my family. Amanda is there with her flute in one hand and her sheet music in the other.
"Aunt Lori, can you come to lunch with us?" she asks.
"I don't know," she answers. She looks at her parents. "It wouldn't feel right since not all of us are invited."
Amanda looks at me and I look at her. Everyone is invited. Knowing it will get ugly, I walk over to one of my teachers with Amanda.
We look like an odd pair. Amanda is my height though she is two years younger than me. She has on shorts and her music t-shirt, while I have a dress on and slight heels. Mom comes to get us and we drive to the restaurant.
"Who's coming?" I ask on the ride.
"Yaya and Papa," Mom says.
"What about Aunt Lori and Grandma and Grandpa and Dad?" Amanda asks from the back seat. I notice it's all Dad's family that won't be joining us.
Mom keeps her eyes on the road. "Grandma didn't think they were invited."
"But they were," I say.
"I know," Mom says.
I look out the window. So much for a perfect graduation. My family can't even behave for a special occasion! It is my eighth grade graduation! I'm going to high school in the fall. It's a big school and no one cares. Some family!
My graduation party comes quickly. The family is together again, but there are more. Amanda brings a friend, but none of mine can come. Aunt Lori is there and the entire time, she and I are firing insults at each other. I always start those kinds of things, but I can't help it. We don't stop insulting each other until she leaves. After that, really, our aunt-niece relationship is never the same.
The end of July rolls around. Amanda and I are going up to Maine for a week with Mom and Dad. We look forward to this the entire year. It's that special week where we haven't a care in the world. Mom and Dad don't have to work and Amanda and I have no school. Mom packs a nice outfit.
"What's that for Mom?" I ask when we are loading up the car.
"Ethel may not make it, so if I have to come down for the funeral, I have an outfit."
Ethel is Mom's grandma. She has been in and out of the hospital a lot over the past year. She has Alzheimer's disease and she hasn't been eating lately. She lived a good life with 90 years, but everyone has to move on.
A few days into our family vacation, the phone rings. Mom leans over and picks it up. From the look on her face, it's obvious Ethel is gone.
"Ethel died, didn't she?" I ask. I never really met the true Ethel. For as long as I can remember, she's never had a memory.
"She did. The funeral is Friday," Mom says.
"Why isn't it tomorrow?" Dad asks.
"Alyssa's sweet sixteen," Mom says.
"So, they took into consideration Alyssa's birthday party, but not our vacation we take every year, the same week."
Mom just shrugs. She calls Grandma and Grandpa to tell them they need to come up earlier than expected. Grandma suggests Mom and Dad bring Amanda and me down and they'll bring us up on Saturday. Mom doesn't want to do that and says it would help if they come up Thursday night.
"Ah, but Caleb and Kenzie are coming over to visit," Grandma says.
Caleb and Kenzie are my cousins. They are both under the age of ten and it's true that Grandma doesn't see them much.
In the end, it is decided that Amanda and I will stay up in Maine and Mom and Dad will leave at seven on Thursday night. Grandma and Grandpa will come up as soon as she sees my cousins.
One day, while Mom is making lunch in the kitchen, Amanda and I are talking to her. Dad is out in the back cutting trees. Only one thing Mom says sticks in my mind.
"After all we've done for them; they can't do this one thing for us. We let them live with us and now my grandma dies and she wants to see the kids first. Tell Lori to bring them another night, but no; that won't work," Mom says.
That means, our week long vacation is shorted and everything we usually do, we have to cram into four days. So much for a normal family vacation!
It's a week after Maine with our grandparents. Amanda and I decide to go swimming. It's a hot August day and the pool is cool to the touch. We walk down to the pool. Amanda gets right in and I check the filter and open the shed.
"Can you get the green floats out Jess?" Amanda asks.
I nod and pull them out, putting them next to the pool. I walk over to the stairs and take a step down. The water is ankle-deep and freezing.
"Come in," Amanda says, holding one of the floats.
I shake my head. "Not yet. It's freezing."
"No it's not." Amanda dives under the water to prove it. She comes up and smiles.
"It's cold," I say, gently splashing her.
She splashes back a little harder. I get out of the water and wrap my towel around me.
"Why are you getting out?" Amanda asks.
"You splashed me," I say.
"You splashed me first."
"But you know the rules Amanda. You don't splash someone until they are completely wet." I walk towards the door. "I'm going inside."
"At least put away the floats," Amanda says, raising her voice.
"No, you wanted them, you put them back. I'm sick of doing stuff for you. You yell at me when I say I don't want to do it for you and when I ask you to do one thing for me, you say no. I'm just giving you a piece of your own medicine," I scream.
I storm up the basement stairs. Mom is sitting on the couch in the living room doing laundry.
"What was the screaming about?" she asks.
"Amanda thinks I'm her servant," I say sourly.
Mom looks at me. It is the second time I have stormed out of the pool today.
"Go..." Mom says, unable to find the words.
"To my room? That's where I'm going!" I shout.
"No, go finish trying on your winter clothes!"
"I don't want to!" I scream and storm upstairs.
I slam my door, lock it and sit at my desk. I pull out my phone, angry tears streaming down my cheeks, and text all my friends. I wait for them to text back. I look at the window.
"I could leave right now," I think. "Only... Amanda is down by the pool; she would see me."
I look at the door. The kitchen is right below my room. I shake my head.
"I wouldn't be able to do it," I think. "And besides Mom is down there."
I know there is nothing I can do. I couldn't commit suicide. I'm not that girl. I couldn't run away. Where can I go?
A half an hour later, I get a text back from Maria. She tries to help me, but she just doesn't understand. She leaves. I finally decide I need to go for a walk. I need to clear my head.
I walk for an hour and a half. I can not find the strength to clear my mind, but I am able to stop crying.
It's a few days after the pool incident. Mom has the week off and we are going shopping. We get to the mall.
"Okay, Amanda needs something to wear to the shower," Mom says and we walk into a store. I become bored very quickly.
"Mom can I go down to the music store?" I ask. "I have my cell phone."
"Okay, we'll be here," she says looking at clothes.
I walk down towards the food court and go into the music store. I browse around looking at DVDs mostly. When I finished looking at everything, I walk back down to the store Amanda and Mom are in.
They aren't there, so I just assume they are at the music store looking for me. I walk back, but they aren't there either. I pull out my phone and text each of them three times and call Mom once. I get no responses. I buy a DVD I've been dying to see.
I'm walking back to the store they were in before when my phone vibrates. It's Amanda.
"We're in American Eagle," I read to myself.
I walk down to the other end of the mall, anger building up. They could've texted me, telling me they were going there, but no; they send me on a wild goose chase to find them. I walk into the store and see Mom at the back of the store.
"You could've told me where you went," I say. "I looked everywhere for you. I had my cell phone."
"You didn't text or call me," Mom says.
"Called once, texted three times," I say.
"No," she says and takes out her phone to check. "Oh," she says and cracks a smile.
I don't smile.
School is back in session. It's Labor day weekend. On Friday, Amanda and I have to house to ourselves. She makes chocolate chip pancakes for me for breakfast (I can't cook). After breakfast, I look at the list of chores Mom leaves for us. We have to fold the clothes. I gather the clothes from the dryer and bring them into the living room.
Amanda is watching a show on TV. I drop a sock and all she does is pick it up and throw it onto the pile. I fold all the clothes and put them into piles according to person. I pick my pile up and carry them upstairs.
I shut my door and lock it. I turn on my music and start changing the sheets on my bed, exerting my anger by throwing the sheets into a pile to go through the wash. Amanda knocks on the door and I open it.
"There are more clothes downstairs," she says rudely.
"Well, since I folded them all, I thought you could bring them upstairs," I say.
"I made pancakes for you and I washed most of the dishes," Amanda says.
"Ah, but you didn't have to. I could've had my standard breakfast of cheerios with a glass of milk. You never help me with the laundry and now, if you'll excuse me, I have to finish making my bed."
I shut the door and lock it once again. It is after that encounter with Amanda that I text Melysa, while crying in my bed.
It is the day after school let out for the summer. I put my book down and turn off my light. I lay there thinking about high school. It's half past nine and everyone is in their rooms. A beeping sounds. I stand up and walk to my door after realizing it is the fire alarm. Dad is frantically looking at all of the fire alarms, trying to figure out which one is going off every so often. I venture out of my room and start sniffing around for smoke. Amanda stays close to Mom.
"Over here! It smells like smoke," I say right outside my parents' bedroom.
Mom comes right over and I lead Amanda, who is convinced she will die, outside.
"I'm calling," Mom calls to Dad and goes to dial 9-1-1.
Outside, I hug Amanda's shivering body. It's misting out and the sun is long since gone. It's cool out with a slight breeze. Grandma brings jackets out for Amanda and me. We stand out there bare-foot. Mom is standing at the doorway talking to the operator while Dad and Grandpa are in the house trying to figure out which alarm is beeping.
"We're going to die," Amanda sobs.
I rub her back. "No we aren't Amanda. The fire trucks are on their way. Everything will be okay," I say, though I don't know myself.
I keep a calm face for Amanda. I had sworn I would in a crisis situation from the time I was ten when there was an oven fire in our house.
We see the lights first. They're flashing and waking up the neighborhood. I smile, knowing nothing bad will happen now. We have several fire trucks and a rescue truck pull up. Neighbors come out, woken up by the lights, wondering why fire trucks are here at such a late hour.
People tell us we can go to their house until they're done checking out the house, but we stay. Amanda is now a little better. She's not muttering we will all die anymore... that's a plus.
It turns out nothing is found, but that is a good and bad thing. Since they can't find anything, they don't know what caused the trigger.
"It could have been just an insect that crossed the beam and triggered the alarm. That's the bad thing with fire alarms. They don't know smoke from insects," the fireman says and we go back to bed.
It's my graduation party again, but it's the end. It's pouring out and many people from Dad's family are going over a friend's house. It's hailing and Dad is trying to catch some hail to show me while Amanda is in the shower. The hail bounces off the roof and lands on the deck, so he is trying to grab them as they bounce off the roof. That isn't working for him. 99% of the hailstones hit him on the head. I am standing under the protection of the roof laughing uncontrollably.
Four days before school starts, I get a babysitting job. I'm babysitting my neighbors, Hannah, 5, and Hailey, 3, for two and a half hours. This is one of the times over the summer I am truly happy.
While Hannah is watching a movie, Hailey gets bored and tries doing the splits.
"I can't do the splits," I tell her and show her.
She laughs and crawls under my legs. I smile and turn around and tickle her.
"Tickle me!" Hannah pipes.
I run over to her and tickle her until she's laughing.
"What about me?" Hailey asks.
I tickle them both and, somehow, I start having them fly through the rooms. They are laughing innocently without a care in the world and, to my surprise, I join them. When their parents came home, the girls told their parents how much fun they had.
"Were they any trouble?" the mom asks.
"Not at all. They had a lot of fun and I did too."
"That's good to hear. Here's 20 dollars for babysitting. Thanks so much Jess."
A few days after school starts, it's a long weekend for Labor Day. Friday night, after Amanda and I are on better terms, we bring our iPods outside to the backyard. I sit on the swing and Amanda is dancing to her music. Our neighbor, Chuck, is making his dinner on the grill in the backyard and is getting a kick out of Amanda dancing, who is not the best dancer. We are laughing and we continue until the mosquitoes start eating me alive.
"I'm heading in. The bugs are getting me," I say.
"Okay Jess. Let's head in," Amanda says.
I head up to my room where I try to write again. I haven't been able to write a story since I finished my last one after Maine. I finally give up and turn out the light for the night.
It's the next day and Amanda and I are doing a dance-off in the basement. Our music is playing in our ears and we dance and sing. We aren't the best, but it's still a laugh to try.
After a rest, Amanda stands up and dances to the Dora the Explorer theme song, but quickly changes the song when I start to laugh. Still, she makes me laugh just by singing and dancing.
As I sit on my bed, typing the end of this, I start to wonder. It's been a day since Melysa and I talked. I decide to talk to Mrs. Parker as soon as I can.