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The Bittersweet Doughnut
Driving away from the school with my face pressed up flat against the grimy window like an iron on a board while Mrs. Obeal drove away, oblivious to the events that had happened on the mountain, was the hardest thing for me to grasp. My tears sat, dried by the blistering heat of the Colorado summer sun, permanently with the memories I had made with my group of three friends. If only I had the privilege of keeping them, but the hardships that perplexed my mind after I left that school were the things that prepared me for a storm that was much more unforgiving than this one.
My friends were about nine or ten when each of them stopped their conversation mid-sentence. It was on a snow capped mountain in the summer of 2011, though I seldom think about it anymore. But when I do, all I can recall is a blinking keychain.
On a ground level, the temperature was almost 80 degrees with the sun that shone mercilessly above us. Ellis, my friend from 1st grade, motioned me over to the rusted penny press where her shiny piece of copper had been put to waste for a souvenir. “Dude, you’ve got to try this. Look, it even gives you the option of embossing Pikes Peak onto the coin.” She demonstrated to for me, taking out a quarter- the worst option as it has a high value to it- pushing a few buttons that had lost paint. A freshly pressed quarter with Pikes Peak embossed on it came out of the machine. I thought it was cool, but chose a penny to use instead, which I later lost in an old drier.
The rest of our posse, Onyeka and Tiffany, joined us as our knot-headed, fire-flame haired teacher, Ms. Crut, gave us our instructions for the bus. She had a sweet voice, but cruel intentions. “Alright, 4th graders, I understand that you’re nowhere near that age, but on this trip, you will act like respectable adults.” I scoffed and put a hand over my mouth to yawn. Adults, they were boring if you asked me. Ms. Crut threw me a glance as if she knew what I was thinking. “There will be no eating, drinking, shouting, or horseplay on the bus. Don’t talk to the bus assistants unless you need immediate help or they talk to you first. Once you get off the bus, you will stay with your chaperones at all times. Do not ask them for money to buy food; we have brought extra food for the students who don’t have a lunch.” I trailed off after that, thinking of the variety of foods available to us. I didn’t hear the rest until she said, “It’s time to load the bus.”
Ellis, Onyeka, and Tiffany followed after me onto the bus. For only $25 for each student to attend, the bus was luxurious. The navy blue leather seats weren’t too cold or too hot, and had enough space between them that you could stretch your legs. An ominous wetness was on my shoulder as Ellis embraced me. “What are you doing?” Her leech-like attachment to me was making me emotional. She sniffled and wiped her puffy blue eyes. “I’m going to miss you so much.” I averted my eyes as a male bus assistant passed by us to go to the rear of the bus. His taupe mop of hair made it nearly impossible to see his cerulean blue eyes. The first stubble of his manhood appeared across his philtrum, suggesting that he had just turned twenty. My mouth stood agape, how was it possible to be that attractive? “Yeah, yeah, I’ll miss you too, but that bus assistant is pretty. “ Ellis’s eyes rolled back. “Nia, he’s twice your age.” I wanted to add, “And?” but that wouldn’t be appropriate.
Onyeka startled us as her head bounced up from over her seat. “So… are you guys going to try out the keychains at the shop?” Ellis and I shrugged in curiosity. “Keychains? What are you talking about?” Ellis asked. Onyeka got cut off by Tiffany. “Oh, it’s just some myth that the Pikes Peak Shop contains a certain type of keychain that you touch, and if it shows your name, something bad will happen.” Ellis laughed. “Nia, you look scared. It’s probably just a hoax created to scare little kids.”
I stared out the window for the remainder of the ride, and then I heard a rumble and caught a glimpse of some yellow snow melting. I rubbed the thought out of my mind as the bus came to a halt. The boy who looked like he had just emerged from the late 2000’s went to the front of the bus. I couldn’t understand what he was saying, all I could focus on was the way his low voice resonated through the room like waves, rising and falling at the perfect times, enough to make me feel like I was floating through space. Reality hit me once the air of outside hit my face, immediately numbing every muscle in my body. I pulled out my lip balm; not knowing how much was enough. Each time I put on a layer, the air would dry it out.
I was surprised that the shop was only a few steps away from where the bus had stopped. It looked like a small cabin from the outside, but the inside was spacious. The aroma of deep-fried doughnuts came from the kitchen. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on them. Onyeka spilt up from Ellis and Tiffany, who were eyeing glimmering jewelry, and came to sit by me at the mini bar.
“Hey, I’m really scared of those keychains.” Onyeka laughed.
“Don’t be, they’re not going to hurt anybody. Did you know that the Pikes Peak Shop is the only place you can get these doughnuts? And also, they’re made without sugar.”
“That’s a cool fact, but who makes doughnuts without sugar?”
“Apparently they do.”
The girl behind the counter handed us our doughnuts. “That will be $2.50.” I reached into my purse and handed her the money. “Enjoy your meal.” She said as she collected the money. “You too. I mean-“ “It’s fine.” She said, returning to her computer. I never realized how delectable sugarless doughnuts could be. The oils the doughnuts had been fried in danced across my glands. It was too hot to eat, but I ignored the searing pain of the hot bread on my tongue and stuffed the rest of the doughnut in my mouth.
Once we had licked the remaining crumbs from our fingers, Onyeka and I went to where Ellis and Tiffany were eyeing jewelry. Tiffany jumped at the sight of the keychains that were blinking different patterns of colors. Onyeka, Ellis, and Tiffany laughed when the keychains showed their names on the screens. “C’mon, try it.” Ellis squealed. “No, but thanks.” Then, a shadow appeared behind me. I turned to see Portia, the snobbiest girl in town, with a lawyer as a father and a doctor as a mother. I could smell the onion from her beef sandwich she had just eaten. “You heard her, try it.” Why would I test out my own death? I winced as she pushed me towards the keychains. My hands were dripping by the time I put my hand on one. No name appeared. An inaudible “What” escaped Portia’s mouth as my name refused to pop up. “Try it again.” Portia said, as if she was worried. No name. “Ugh, get out of my way, you wimp.” She pushed me away and put her sturdy hand on the keychain. P-O-R-T-I-A appeared in bold letters. Baby hairs curled around the edge of her hairline as sweat poured over her face. I didn’t fret about it, going along with the “It’s just a hoax” notion that my friends had adopted, but they all seemed genuinely afraid this time.
Ms. Crut sashayed to the front of the shop. Before we headed down to the bus, I grabbed one more bag of doughnuts. It had gotten colder since we arrived. Eerie rumbles came from below. I was about 2 feet away from Ellis when she said, “Thor must be angry again.” My heart sank to my stomach. The yellow slush I had seen before had swelled to the size of a football, and it was cascading over the white snow. “Guys!” I yelled. “Get out of the way.” They looked in my direction, but couldn’t hear what I was saying and didn’t recognize the spot of yellow coming in their direction. Snow slipped underneath me as I ran in their direction, causing me to lose footing and roll to the left, the opposite direction that the snow was falling from. Tiffany’s golden hair swung over her shoulder as she looked behind her. It was then that she realized that the rest of the class was on the opposite side of her, Onyeka, Ellis, and Portia, too. A blanket of yellow slush barreled in their direction, the rumbles crescendoing. Soon enough, a compact snowball stood, condensed with their limp bodies. Once I finally rid myself of the snow that had enveloped me, I sprinted to the area they were standing. I saw one leg kicking. A Nike shoe stuck out of the ball of snow. I removed all of the snow. Ellis’s face had turned the color of the snow, sickly white. Her lips were a pale blue. Her head fell limp in my arms. The pulses of Onyeka, Tiffany, and Portia had all gone away. I saw a yellow light coming from the shop. The keychain knew all along. And all I could think was, why couldn’t it have been me?