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When I'm Gone; Prologue
Prologue-March 29, 1992
I heaved the black duffel bag onto the window sill and let out a sigh. A slight breeze blew through the window, caressing the back of my neck. I shuddered involuntarily. It was unseasonably cool for this spring night in Georgia.
Suddenly, my dad’s snores ceased and I froze one leg already over the sill. I heard them start up again and I released a long breath. I eased my leg back in and shoved the bag out of the window. It landed with a soft thump on top of the other bags already on the grass below.
I let myself have one last look at my room. The full moon outside cast shadows against the bare white walls. A lone mobile hanging above my bed twirled as the wind hit it. My closet door was open, showing me bare shelves and an empty clothes rack. My darkened grey eyes landed on my bed. The sheets were made and propped up against my pillow was a small piece of paper. I recalled carefully writing the letter, wanting my brother to find it first. Now, it sat on my bed, waiting to be read.
Before I could stop it, a tear slid down my bruised cheek. Soon, more followed and I choked back a sob. Scowling, I angrily wiped the tears on my face, wincing as I touched my swollen eye. I could feel it throbbing with pain as I took my hand away. It’s been a few hours; it has to be turned black and blue now, I thought bitterly.
I jumped out of the window and for a minute it felt as if I could fly. I landed softly on my pile of duffel bags. Scooping them up, I ran towards the black car idled at the corner of the street. I could hear muffled rap music coming from inside and when I opened the door, it poured out onto the streets. Eminem. I could faintly remember seeing him in a concert a few months ago.
“Can you turn that crap down? You’re gonna wake up my dad,” I called inside. I threw my bags into the back seat and shut the door. I jumped in the passenger seat and wiped one last tear off my face.
“I still don’t see why you’re doing this,” said a familiar voice in the driver’s seat. I glanced over at my friend Natalie as she started driving. Her dark hair was pulled up in a messy bun and her usually radiant brown skin was pale and glistening with tears.
“Nat, I can’t stay here. It’s gotten worse,” I replied pointing to my eye. I watched silently as Nat’s grip on the steering wheel tightened, making her knuckles almost turn white. Her breath came in short bursts as she tried to calm down.
“You can stop it, Claire. Call the police.” Nat’s voice was clipped. I sighed and tried to push back the tears threatening to overflow down my cheeks.
“Then Alex and I will be separated. I can’t let them take my brother.”
Nat sighed in agreement and I turned away. Black streets passed by along with a few cars driving with us. After a few minutes of silence, I could finally see the airport ahead.
“I’m going to miss you.” Nat’s voice cracked and I could hear her sobs as she pulled into the line of cars waiting to reach the entrance.
When we finally got to the entrance Nat stopped and held her face in her hands. Her shoulders shook and I wanted to reach out and hug her. However, my flight left in two hours.
“I know. Same here,” I murmured as I slid out and grabbed my bags. I sat them on the sidewalk and looked into the rolled down window. Nat was staring straight ahead, but the tears were still flowing down her cheeks. “I love you Nat.”
I jumped back as she started to roll up the window.
“Love you too.” Came her muffled reply as she drove away. I stood on the sidewalk for a few minutes, thinking that Natalie would turn around and come back to give me a hug, like a real goodbye. I soon gave it up and gathered up my bags once more.
The tears started to flow freely as I took a last glance at the city lights. The skyscrapers lit up downtown and I felt a small smile grace my lips.
“Happy birthday to me,” I said as I walked into the building.