The Day The World Ended
Author's note: What would you say to your best friend if you only had one day left to spend with them? What... Show full author's note »
UnluckyAspen Rose Thompson. All her life, she hated being named after a tree, and then a flower, and then a lake. It sounded too peaceful. Aspen’s life wasn’t known for being that peaceful.
Everyone now knew about the accident that had killed her parents when she was two, the other accident that had killed her aunt and uncle when she was three, and the death of her grandmother when Aspen just turned five.
Aspen wasn’t known for being that lucky, either.
It certainly wasn’t good luck that landed her in a foster home with two younger foster sisters. And it definitely wasn’t good fortune that she was falling behind in her classes, giving her the worst reputation possible with the teachers.
The only friends Aspen ever had were her youngest foster sister, and the boy who lived in the house right next door.
Dallan was blind. He wasn’t always blind; he could see perfectly well until that day when he and Aspen were climbing trees.
“Careful, the branches are rotting up near the top,” Aspen had called in her little eight-year-old voice.
Dallan was almost at the top of the tree. He grabbed another branch and peered down to smile at her. “Don’t you worry. I’ve climbed trees all my life. This will be a piece of cake.”
The branch broke.
That had happened six years ago, but Dallan’s fall burned in Aspen’s mind like a scar. She would never forget it, and Dallan was a living reminder.
Aspen taught herself to spend as little time at her foster home as possible. Most of the time she was at Dallan’s house. His family was a lot more pleasant to be around. He had both parents, a little brother named Seamus, and chickens.
Aspen’s foster mother hated animals, or rather, children who acted like animals. There were many rules in her household, rules that Aspen avoided whenever she was out of the house.
There really was no other place to go than to Dallan’s. His house was a sanctuary no one could recreate.
“This one’s name is General, and this one’s name is Bambi,” said Dallan.
“How can you tell?” asked Aspen.
“Their feathers feel different. They’re not all identical.”
“To me they are.”
They were in the chicken coop, and Aspen was meeting the two new chickens that Dallan’s family bought. Aspen didn’t know how Dallan was able to feel the chickens and then tell which ones they were.
“Like you need more chickens,” said Aspen. “You’re already giving away free eggs because you have too many. Why did you get more?”
“Beats me. Ask my mother.” Dallan began stroking Bambi’s neck, and she clucked happily.
A scuffling sound by the coop’s door made Dallan’s hand jump back. Aspen turned toward the door.
A little boy’s head poked through the opening.
“It’s only Seamus,” said Aspen. Dallan relaxed.
“Your mom’s here,” Seamus said to Aspen.
“She’s not my mom,” Aspen muttered.
“Either way, you’ve got to go.”
Dallan turned in her direction. “See you tomorrow,” he said, smiling.
“Mom says I have to take you back to the house,” Seamus continued.
Dallan scowled. “She knows very well I can make it back myself.”
Aspen stared into his unseeing green eyes. Aspen’s eyes were brown, and since Dallan wasn’t able to see them, he couldn’t truthfully say “They’re the color of chocolate, not dirt,” as Aspen sometimes described them.
“See you later,” she said.
As Seamus stepped into the coop, Aspen ducked under the tiny door. Her foster mother’s blue car was parked in the driveway.
Through the window, Aspen could see the little girls, an eight-year-old and a four-year-old.
Aspen opened the passenger’s door.
Naomi’s face twisted into a grimace as she started the car.
“You smell like chickens,” she said. “You’re showering when we get home.”
“Whatever,” replied Aspen.
Aspen and Naomi didn’t exactly have a “loving relationship.”
If you loved someone, there was a bigger risk of never seeing them again. Aspen had made that mistake with her parents, and then with her aunt and uncle. By the time she was living with her grandmother, Aspen already knew what to expect. She decided not to love her foster mother. She had experienced enough disappointment.
Annie, the eight-year-old girl, started complaining the minute they left the driveway.
“Why can’t I go in and see the chickens like Aspen does?” she asked in her pleading voice that usually got her what she wanted.
“Because,” Naomi answered. “chickens stink. And I don’t need another child in the house who stinks.”
Aspen rolled her eyes. Naomi wasn’t really answering Annie, she was just trying to make Aspen feel bad, in the hope that Aspen would limit her visits to the chicken coop.
It was a surprise she hadn’t gotten discouraged yet. Aspen was stubborn and mostly did as she pleased. Naomi should’ve known this by now; she had known her for nine years.
In an attempt to make Naomi shut up, Aspen began talking. Naomi usually didn’t want anything to do with what Aspen had to say, unless it was “Naomi, I’m failing school,” or “Naomi, I got in a fight today,” or something like that.
“Dallan’s family got two new chickens. They’re Araucanas. They lay blue eggs instead of brown.”
At these words, Naomi only scowled
“That family,” she said. “They shouldn’t be using all their money to buy chickens, they should be using it to help Dallan. How long has he been blind now? Really, I don’t see why they’re not doing anything about—”
“Dallan likes being blind,” Aspen said coldly.
“That’s ridiculous,” replied Naomi. “No one could like being blind.”
“Can we just stop talking about it?” asked Aspen.
She pulled into the driveway and parked the car. Aspen got out as fast as she could.
“Shower!” Naomi called after her.
Aspen pretended not to hear. She raced into the house and slammed the door.
Besides Dallan’s house, Aspen’s bedroom was the only place where she could get some thinking done.
She had considered in years past that Dallan’s blindness was partly her fault. This, of course, was ridiculous; it had been Dallan’s idea to climb trees in the first place, but Aspen somehow linked her presence to the event. Everywhere she went she seemed to spread her bad luck.
Dallan didn’t blame her, and neither did his parents. Sure, it cost them a fortune to try to save Dallan’s eyesight, but in a sense, they were happy that their son finally had something that made him special and unique. It was as if Aspen had drawn back an invisible curtain to reveal Dallan’s character.
After an obligating shower, Aspen returned to her bedroom.
“Aspen,” called Naomi from downstairs.
“Do you have any homework?”
“Could you do it please?”
“What did you just say?”
“I mean, ‘Yes, Naomi.’”
Before Aspen began failing her classes, Naomi really didn’t care whether or not Aspen’s homework was done. After Aspen brought home a warning letter about her grades, it had been endless “get your grades up or you’re grounded” for Aspen.
Annie and Elsie, the four-year-old, were watching T.V.
Aspen pulled a crumpled math sheet out of her backpack that was hanging by the coats. She set it down and stared at it, tapping a pencil on the table. Fortunately for her, Naomi couldn’t tell the difference between really trying and stalling. She sat for about fifteen minutes, pretending to write things down and scratch them out, putting on her ‘I’m trying my hardest’ face.
After she felt she had wasted enough of her time, Aspen crumpled the paper up again and stuffed it back in her bag.
As she did so, Naomi called the younger kids to the table for dinner.
Naomi didn’t make dinner for Aspen. She said that Aspen was old enough to do things for herself, but Aspen translated this to, “Do whatever you want, I really couldn’t care less.”
As Aspen lay in bed that night, she contemplated what tomorrow would be like. She’d start off by having to wake up early, then going to school and getting yelled at by a few teachers, and then ending those torturous seven hours by getting in trouble for her incomplete math homework.
While Aspen finally drifted off to sleep, she heard thunderclaps in the distance. On top of everything else, there would be rain. Just her luck.