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Janette, soundlessly sleeping, all bundled and tangled in her sheets was rudely awakened by silver and apple red alarm clock at 6:00 a.m. After pressing snooze multiple times, she finally rolled out of bed and stumbled over to her bedroom window. The lavender sunrise arose from the east. The birds were singing in their sensational tone, the pigs were taking their morning muddy bath, and the cows were in a clump mooing and eating their healthy organic breakfast. She rubbed her eyes and stared outside.
“Janette,” yelled Jodi, “if you’re not down here in 10 minutes, you’re finding your own ride to school!”
Janette looked at her alarm clock that read 6:21, “Did Mom and Dad already leave for work?”
“Heck yeah, they left about 45 minutes ago. They said they had some important meeting to go to or somethin’. The bus comes in 9 minutes so hurry up!”
Janette sprinted to her closet and flung the door open. She grabbed a pair of faded blue jeans, and black socks. Then she ran over to her chest of drawers and threw open the shirt drawer. Frantically looking and tossing and looking and tossing, Janette was determined to find that dark sea blue Abercrombie shirt. She turned her head and glanced at the clock that read 6:26.
“Janette are you comin’ or what?”
“Yea, I can’t find my shirt. Go to the bus stop without me.”
Janette heard the front door open and then close. She finally found the shirt and threw it on. She stuffed her backpack with the homework she neglected to put away last night, then ran downstairs and right out the front door. As she stepped outside, the bus pulled away from her driveway. Since she was not going to make it to school on time, she casually walked back inside the house grabbed a strawberry pop tart, then left preparing for a long walk to school. The sky was baby blue, the sun was barely peeking from the horizon, and the cool breeze caressed her skin. Janette began to approach an old bridge that was over the Mississippi river. While approaching the bridge, she realized she had never actually had a chance to see what the river looked like. Since Janette was a true dare devil, she decided to go right up to the rail and look over the edge. While walking towards the edge, she tripped over a tree branch and fell right through the hole in the railing and off the side of the four story bridge. Janette’s screams were the sounds of fingernails on a chalk board that could be heard for miles. After falling for three seconds, she landed on a king sized bed. Amazed to be alive, she sat up and took off her backpack. She looked to the left to the right and up, no one was in sight and the river had disappeared. A voice came from in the forest behind her.
“Hello? Is someone there?”
Janette peeked over the bed head, she saw a girl that she had never seen before. The girl had long blond hair that ended in the middle of her back. Her blue eyes were so light they looked like glass.
“Hi, I’m Bell.”
“Nice to meet you,” said Bell. “May I ask how you got here?”
With confusion Janette replied, “Um, I’m not really sure about what just happened. I was on my way to school, because I missed the bus, and all I wanted to do was look over the bridge to see how far down it was, and I tripped and fell.” Janette started to cry. She was startled from the craziness that had just occurred. “Is this heaven? Did I die? It’s so beautiful here.”
“No silly, my mom tells me that heaven is way prettier than this. If this were heaven, then I would have no pain.”
Janette was surprised. “What pain do you have?”
“Never mind that,” Bell smiled, “let’s just focus on making you comfortable.”
“Okay, then what school do you go to?” asked Janette.
Bell frowned, “School? What is school?”
“Wow, you’re good! You should become an actress. I really believed that you didn’t know what school was.” laughed Janette
“I’m not acting. I’ve lived in this forest my whole life. I don’t go to school.”
“Wait, you really don’t go to school?” asked Janette.
“I have lived in this forest my whole life eating apples and berries. I don’t go to school.” replied Bell.
Janette was stunned. “You know, you’re parents can get in trouble with the law if you don’t go to school.”
Bell stared at Janette with an empty careless gaze, waiting for her to break the awkward silence.
“Never mind,” said Janette “I’m 16, how old are you?”
“How old? What do you mean?” asked Bell
“Wait, you seriously don’t know how old you are? Don’t you have a birthday? How do you not know your own age?” asked Janette
“I am no age, age doesn’t matter. God will open his gates for me whenever he chooses to. He could open my gates today or tomorrow, age has no meaning.”
Janette was thinking about how crazy Bell just sounded. She started to think that Bell may have something wrong with her.
“If age has no meaning to you then what does?” asked Janette
“My life and living it to the best of my ability, with the people that I love and care about, right by my side.” Bell said, while heading into the forest to pick some berries for breakfast.
“Wait, Bell, can you please tell me how to get back on that bridge?”
“What bridge?” asked Bell while still turned around, walking towards a strawberry tree.
Janette stopped and pointed to the sky where the bridge was, “That bridge, right…right…where did the bridge go?”
“What bridge? There was never a bridge there, believe me I’ve lived here my whole life. Come on it’s almost breakfast time.”
Janette followed Bell into the forest still looking back for the bridge, but it was really gone. They came up to a beautiful waterfall and sat down.
“Do you live by yourself?” asked Janette.
“Right now I do, but I used to live with my courageous mother.”
“Where is your mother now?” asked Janette.
“My mother is in Nature’s Garden, it’s a hospital right next to Monotoko Mountain. My mom is very ill, she has stage 5 lung cancer. Dr. Nature, the doctor at Nature’s Garden, said that god will open her gates any day now. I visit her every day from 12:21 to 7:28.”
“Wow, I’m really sorry to hear about your mom. Why do you visit her from 12:21 to 7:28? Those times are very random.” asked Janette.
“Well, Dr. Nature only allows visitors to come for 7 hours and 7 minutes a day, she says it’s lucky.”
After breakfast the girls went for a swim in the Monotoko River and played in the waterfall.
“It’s almost time for me to visit her, would you like to come with me today?”
“Sure, since I’m missing school, don’t know where the bridge is, soaking wet, and have nothing else to do.”
Bell smiled, she turned her head, reached into her pocket, and took out a deer whistle. She blew it twice. Out of the woods came two deer, Lucky and Rainbow. Rainbow was Bell’s deer that she took and rode to Nature’s Garden every day. Janette hopped onto Lucky, and Bell hopped onto Rainbow. Lucky followed rainbow into the forest. After traveling for about three miles, Bell spotted some hunters in the forest.
“Janette keep up or they’ll shoot at Lucky.”
The sound of a bullet striking the air had traveled to their ears. Lucky collapsed and Janette flew off scraping her knee on a rock.
“Lucky!” screamed Janette
Bell jumped off of Rainbow and went to comfort Lucky. “He doesn’t look good.”
Janette hugged Lucky and begged her to be strong. Bell looked at the wound where the bullet had gone in. “Janette, you have to let her go. She needs professional help and by the time I get her to Natures Garden, it will be too late. It’s okay, it’s time for her gates to open.”
Bell helped Janette get onto Rainbow.
“Bye lucky, be strong” Bell said as she stroked Lucky’s head.
Janette started to cry. As Bell got on the back of Rainbow, Janette realized her knee was bleeding from her fall. She wiped away the blood and noticed the scar was shaped like a heart.
“Bye Lucky, I’ll always remember you,” Janette whispered as Rainbow stormed away.
Finally they reached Monotoko Mountain. Rainbow took them up the steep mountain, then down the steep mountain. They could finally see the hospital.
They got to the hospital right on time, 12:21. When they entered, Dr. Nature said, “Hello Bell, are you here to see your mother?”
“Yes I am. This is my friend Janette. We have been spending the day together.”
“Nice to meet you Janette,” said Dr. Nature.
Awkwardly, in a slow motion, Bell headed to the garden gates. Janette was close behind.
“Janette, how about you let Bell be alone with her mother for a few minutes. Can I talk to you?”
“Okay, I guess.” Janette replied slowly while still looking at Bell.
“Thank you for being so kind to Bell, her life has been very difficult and I’m sure you know why.”
“Yeah, my world would crash if my mom was dying from cancer.”
“Um, did you say her mom?” asked Dr. Nature
“Yeah, her mom has stage 5 lung cancer.”
“No, her mom died when she was only 11, I took care of her until she was 18. On her 18th birthday she asked me if she could live in the forest, and I said yes. She didn’t tell you, I see. I suppose she also didn’t tell you that she is the one dying from stage 5 lung cancer. She refused chemotherapy because she wanted to be with her mother.”
Janette was quiet, confused, and hurt. She had so many questions.
“Why didn’t she tell me? And if her mom is dead then who does she come to visit every day for 7 hours and 7 minutes?”
“She visits her mother’s grave every day. Her mother died at 35 because she accidently ate a poisonous berry from the forest. It seemed like her mother was a part in the forest. She absolutely loved it here and didn’t want to go back to the real world. She really enjoyed nature and all that it offered.”
All of a sudden an ear wrenching alarm went off and Nurse Mary ran in from the garden.
“Dr. Mother Nature, it’s time, hurry” yelled the Nurse.
“I’m so sorry Janette, but it’s time, Bell needs me to open her gate.”
Dr. Nature ran out through the garden gates, leaving Janette alone in the hall. She stood there confused, her eyes watering uncontrollably. A burst of adrenaline came upon her. At full speed, she ran towards the garden gates, screaming “Bell!” Right when she hit the doors, it seemed like a strong force was on the other side not allowing her to go any further. She flung back and hit her head on the ground. She tried to sit up but all she could see was a bright white light coming from the garden gates. She fell back and protected her eyes from the light. Sitting there, she felt helpless. All she wanted to do was see her new friend one last time.
“Janette,” yelled Jodi, “if you’re not down here in 10 minutes, you’re finding your own ride to school!”
Janette opened her eyes to see that she was back in her bedroom, in her bed. She looked at her silver and candy apple red alarm clock that read 6:21.
“That was a wild dream.” She thought to herself as she realized that it never happened. Calming herself down, she slowly walked to her bathroom, looked in the mirror and rubbed her eyes. The reflection of herself was something she would never forget. She was wearing her faded out blue jeans, with a hole in the knee, her dark blue Abercrombie shirt, and almost fainted when she pealed back the hole in her jeans and saw a scar that was shaped like a heart.