Pixels & Pages

Calling all creative teens! Send us your best poetry, stories, and artwork! Accepted entries will be featured on this page, with a chance to be published in Pixels & Pages, our annual Teen Magazine! Submit your work at any MCPL location, or online at www.mcpl.us/teenzone/publishing.
FEBRUARY 21, 2012
Elegance

Add a comment  (0 comments) posted by Adelle H.

Categories: 2011-12Teen Publishing ProjectVisual Art

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FEBRUARY 8, 2012
Good-bye
My image is unfamiliar in the mirror. I stare at it for over five minutes, trying to recognize the blonde girl staring unbelievingly back at me. I fluff my hair with my hand as I wipe away the tears that flow freely.
Is it possible that just a year ago he left?

The few memories I have of him flash through my memory. I try my hardest to show that we were best friends, but I know we weren't. I hate myself for that. We should've been.

He was older than I, probably by eight or nine years. I sigh and try to find a way to make my appearance less frazzled looking. It seems impossible though. I'm crying my eyes out in the girls' bathroom as my friends continue their boring, uneventful lives that don't involve death.

I regret the thought as soon as it crosses my mind. My friends were there when he left; it's not their fault that I'm not telling them what's wrong with me today. They would listen. They would care.

Shaking my head, I walk slowly towards the door. My fingers twist around the handle, but I can't fmd the strength to open it. My energy was drained from me when this morning started.

My house was quiet. We got ready without fighting or shoving to get into the bathroom first like usual. I got up on time so my mom didn't have to come to get me. I chose a plain, boring black outfit that was unlike the usual colorful clothes I preferred.

His presence seems to hang in the air.

"I wish you were here," I rasp, my voice is hoarse from twenty minutes of crying.

No one initially said it, but I know he's in heaven right now.

Everyone acted like it was the end when he died, but sometimes I fantasize about waking up in heaven with him waiting for me.

Then I could apologize and tell him everything I didn't get to tell him before he died.

And then when I was done with my sob story I could yell at him. Because I am mad at him. Because he deserves to be mad at. He did something that was totally unnecessary. He ended everything without even asking me or his close family if it was ' okay.

Since something was wrong with him he got to end it. I want to slap him.

Yes, I cried at his funeral wheri the taps were played and yes I cried myself to sleep the night I found out he was gone. And yes, I cried on the anniversary of his death, but I still want to slap him. I want to make him apologize for putting my godfather, his dad, in so much pain.

I press my hand against the cool door and look up at the tall ceiling. I wonder why they made a ceiling so tall. It's not like any normal girl would be that tall. She wouldn't be able to make it through the puny door. If they were going to make a ceiling that tall they should've made the door that tall.

Sighing, I pray for a few seconds. I pray for patience. I pray that I'll be able to see Keith and my grandma and my great-aunt the second I walk into heaven. I wasn't close to any of them and now they're gone.

I didn't get to say good-bye to any of them. I pray that the minute I walk into heaven I get to say good-bye ... and then hello.
 

Add a comment  (0 comments) posted by Emily N.

Categories: 2011-12Short Story/Essay Teen Publishing Project

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FEBRUARY 8, 2012
The Crook
The creaking floorboards gave him away. He dashed towards the exit hoping to get away. Beams of light searched the room seconds after he left. The door clicked shut. A successful get away.
 
The next day the news featured a special. Many robberies were occurring lately. The case of the red bandit was everywhere. No one knew who the red bandit was. All that was known was that he always left a red handkerchief. The latest story was that there was a break-in at a very successful museum. Three precious artifacts were gone.
 
The police were shocked. Some of the most valuable artifacts in the world were missing. The police wondered how he got them out of the top of the line security cases, got past the best security cameras, knew exactly where the real artifacts where hidden, and how the robber knew what would happen if they were all combined.
 
The artifacts were discovered five years ago. The legend said that when combined the user would be equipped with the most dangerous weapon in the world. Some even believe it could stall time.
 
The next day
 
"You are the only person who has enough experience to handle this," John, the head of the best archeology organization, explained. The artifacts quickly gained the attention of everyone, including the president. The president ordered an immediate investigation.
 
"I am on vacation! How do you expect me to get halfway across the world in an hour?" Tom, the oldest member of the organization, objected, not wanting another trip all the way to New York.
 
"Don't worry, our latest info says the next artifact is in Paris.
I want you at the security vault at six tonight. This is the last artifact remaining," John knew how to bait him into doing exactly what he wanted. The last sentence he knew would make Tom feel like he has a responsibility.
 
After a slight pause Tom replied, "I'll do it this time, but I want a full paid vacation to China then."
 
John smiled happily as he put down the receiver. Tom never failed at anything. This time, though, a lot more than a few dollars were on the line.
 
Tom found the museum with no problem. Signs for thirty miles were pointing the way. The museum had marble steps leading all the way up. A large parking lot was abandoned as the last tourist was leaving. Tom parked his car across the street, not wanting the robber to leave because someone was still there.
 
Tom silently studied the state-of-the-art technology of the vault. The thick armored door prevented any break-ins. You'd need a lot more than a few explosives to open this vault. The key pad was also one of the newest additions. It also was fool proof. Tom would've left if it were not for the fact that the robber broke into some of the secure vaults in the world.
 
Tom found a comer that was completely shadowed from another exhibit. It was four hours since he'd studied the vault. The security cameras' red light went off when he noticed a dark silhouette near the vault. He quickly took something out of his pocket. He pulled a cord from the key pad and connected it to the small devices.
 
Tom silently slid closer. The door gave a small click and opened. Tom sprang and crashed into the robber. Tom recovered slower than the robber who slipped out a small knife. Tom went to the door and tried to trap the robber inside. The door weighed a ton and moved very slowly. The robber lunged out of the vault and dove at Tom with the knife. Tom barely dropped to the floor as the robber sliced at where his head was. The robber continued after Tom as he ducked inside the vault. Tom stopped. A bright glowing was coming from a small object. The robber swung again, and the knife sliced the wall. Instantly an alarm went off. The robber's knife broke when it hit the wall.
 
The robber gave up and ran for the object. Tom saw what he was doing and went to close the door. Tom attempted to push the door shut. The robber reached the object and started to pocket it. Tom pushed harder. The robber ran for the small remaining opening. The robber was coming in fast. The door clicked shut as the security system kicked in. The large bolt clanged when the last step was done. The keypad was taken apart and didn't look good.
 
The police arrived shortly after; French police surrounded the vault and the curator opened the lock. The robber attempted to cut through the wall. He sat ready to be taken away.
 
The robber was an ex-marine. He had been relieved of duty after trying to access the most restricted files. He was a bomb diffuser and had plenty of experience on codes. The rest of the artifacts were found and relocked away. Tom was enjoying himself in China visiting everything there was to see.
 

Add a comment  (0 comments) posted by Justin W.

Categories: 2011-12Short Story/Essay Teen Publishing Project

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FEBRUARY 8, 2012
The Rebels
It was a dark and stormy night. We were driving down the road in my dad's old beater. My sister, Katie, was asleep in the backseat. She was sprawled 'out over all of our bags. I could tell my dad was getting tired too. The road we were driving down was in the middle of nowhere. We heard thunder and the lightning strikes were getting closer and closer to where we were. There wasn't a town for miles but we needed to stop and rest.

We came up to a curve in the road and on the left side we saw a motel. It was a one story building. The sign over it read "vacancies." My dad looked at me relieved. I nodded my approval. It looked just like any other motel you might find in a city. So my dad turned into the park,ing lot. After we parked, I opened my door and got out to stretch, while my dad tried to wake up Katie. Katie is not the easiest person to wake up. Unless she wants to get up, it is almost impossible to get her up.

Finally, she was up and we had our overnight bags in hand. We went through the front doors. It was a spacious lobby. There were pictures of oceans on every wall. The front desk took up the whole back wall and looked to be made of solid oak. To the right was a set of elevators, which I thought was kind of strange. Why would there be elevators in a one story building? I thought, maybe it went to a basement but I wasn't sure.

The man sitting behind the desk was scary-looking. His hair stuck up in all directions. His teeth were crooked when he smiled at us and his eyes were lazy. They wouldn't focus on us. They just kept moving around in his head. That scared me the most. My dad went up to him and said, "Excuse me? Do you have a couple of rooms?"

The man replied, in a nasally tone, "Yes we do. How many do you want?"

"One will be fine, thank you."

"That will just be $100." He said as he started typing on his computer.

My dad handed him the money in cash. The man turned around and went into a room just behind the desk. I guessed that was where he kept the keys to the rooms. When he came back, he handed us an old-style key with the numbers 401 written on the keychain it was attached to. Then he said, "Your room is on the fourth floor. Just take the elevator up there."
 
Katie was still out of it, so she didn’t hear the conversation that just happened.  My dad gave me a strange look and said his thanks.  We headed over to the elevators and pushed the button with the arrow pointing upwards. We had to practically drag Katie with us. She was still half asleep.     
                                   
On the fourth floor, we saw only two rooms, one on the right and one directly across from it on the left. I took the key from my dad so he could carry Katie along. I found that our room was on the right side. So I put the key in the lock and tried to turn it. I couldn't get the stupid thing to turn, so I wrapped my arm around Katie and handed the key back to my dad. He tried and after a little shaking and jiggling of the key, the door finally opened.

Before we even entered the room, we could smell stale cigarette smoke and garbage. It was such a disgusting smell that I couldn't stop myself from gagging. My dad was brave and entered the room to find the light. Once the light was on, we could see why it smelled so awful. All over the floor were empty cigarette packs, beer bottles, cans of soda, food wrappers, and clothes that looked like they hadn't been washed in years. They were stiff as boards when we stepped on them.

"Just stay here. I'm going to go back down to the lobby and speak to that man again about this room," my dad said and then he was gone.

"I didn't know what to do with my sister because my arms were getting tired from holding her upright. I walked further into the room, looking for somewhere to lay her down. All the furniture was covered with the same junk as the floor. The cleanest chair was all the way on the other side of the room. Great, I thought, now I get to walk through all this garbage.

I got over to the chair and set her down on it. She curled up into a ball and almost immediately fell asleep. I was glad to finally get feeling back in my arms. Now alii had to think about was where we were going to go now. My dad had already paid. Would we get a refund or just lose that money? I didn't have long to think about it, though, because my dad came into the room. "Well?" I asked.

"Well, nothing. We don't have anywhere else to go and the guy said all the other rooms are filled. I guess we don't have a choice. He said he will bring up clean sheets for the beds but that's about it," my dad said and smiled at me wanly.

I was about to protest, when I heard a noise from behind me. It sounded like someone shuffling their feet on a carpet. So I turned around and was looking for the source of the noise. My dad took that to mean that I was done talking so he wandered off towards where the kitchen should be. “Pssst,” a small voice said.
 
I looked around and still couldn’t see where it was coming from.  I started walking in the general direction that I heard it from, hoping that I would be able to see whoever it was that was trying to get my attention.

"Down here. In the vent," the voice whispered.

I looked down and I found the vent. The voice had been a small girl about ten or eleven with silky red hair. "What are you doing down there?" I asked.

"Saving your butt! Get the other two and follow me. Okay?"

"Saving my butt from what?"

"We don't have time for this! Just do what I told you to do and hurry!" she practically shouted at me.

I jumped at the force in her voice. It sounded like she was used to ordering people around. So I called to my dad and got Katie up again. We met over by the vent but this time the girl wasn't there.

"Why are we standing by the vent?'ls there a reason for this?" my dad asked.

"Y ... Yes. I mean ... I think so. There was a girl in the vent and she told me to get you guys and follow her," I replied.

My dad looked at the vent closely. Then, he bent down to look into it. He said, "Punkin, there is no one in there. Are you feeling okay?"

I was about to reply but the girl beat me to it. She said, "Are you ready yet? Get in here! We don't have a lot of time!"

Her voice echoed off the walls of the vent. I looked at my dad pointedly. "See? I told you there was a girl."

My dad looked flabbergasted. "Well, I guess that means we should follow
her."

We climbed into the vent. After a few feet, it became dirt under our hands and knees, instead of the usual metal of a vent. My dad was in the lead and I was at the back, with Katie between us. We came to a crossroad. "This way," the girl shouted back at us.

We came to a little cave only big enough for us all to stand up. Everyone had stopped moving. I walked up beside my dad, looking around him to see what they were looking at. It was a large chasm in the middle of the cave. A row of planks was on both sides. Between every plank were revolving battle axes that were larger than my whole body. It scared me just looking at it. I looked around trying to find another way out but from what I could see there were no other exits.

“We have to cross this.  The village is on the other side,” said the little girl.
 
“How do you expect us to get across this?” my dad asked.

I looked over at Katie to see what she thought about all of this.  She looked just as scared as I was. Neither one of us are very fond of heights.

"We have to time it right. You step on the plank, wait for the axe to swing past, then jump to the next plank. So on until we get to the other side. I'll go first and show you," she answered.

So she jumped to the first plank. We waited in silence as we watched the axe swing in front of her. Then, when it passed, she jumped to the next plank. I decided I didn't want to be the next one to go. I was too scared.

I was working up my courage. Then, finally, I jumped to the first plank. I waited nervously for the axe to swing past me. I could feel the air as it swung just an inch away from the tip of my nose. I waited for it to swing past another time before I jumped to the next plank.

I looked back to see if dad and Katie were following. Dad was talking to her. Probably telling her to go next. He didn't look like he was so sure he could do it. After a couple minutes of them talking, Katie made up her mind and jumped to the first plank. I realized I had been standing on the same plank for a while, so I watched the axe swing past, this time slicing a chunk off the tips of my hair, and jumped to the next plank.

I heard my dad grunt as he jumped to the first plank. I knew this was going to be hard on him because of his back and his knees. I was also worried about the planks we were jumping on. They didn't look too stable to me.

After jumping four more times, I looked up and the girl had already made it to the other side of the chasm. I still had at least eight planks still in front of me. I looked back one last time to reassure myself that my dad and sister were still okay, then, I jumped.

I had just jumped off the last plank, when I heard my dad scream. I stumbled and fell over. I sat up and looked at my dad. His right arm was missing and there was a lot of blood. Katie was standing just one plank from me, staring at our dad. We didn't know what to do. We knew he needed to get the bleeding to stop but we didn't know how we were supposed to do that from where we were.

"You need to get over here! The village doctors will be able to help you once we get there! Hurry! I can hear them. They are following us," the girl said.

I looked at her stunned, "Who's following us?"

"We don't have time for this. When we get to the village, you will get all the answers you want but right now your dad needs a doctor! So let's go!"
 
“Katie, you need to keep moving so dad can get across,” I shouted to my sister.

She looked at me and nodded, continuing to jump from plank to plank.

She jumped across and I caught her so she wouldn't fall like I did. The!1, our attention went back to our dad. He was breathing hard but he was still moving. I didn't know what to do to help him. So Katie and I just stood there waiting for him to get all the way across.

He made the last jump and I tried to catch him but he was too heavy for me. We both fell. I felt a sharp pain shoot up my leg from my ankle. I didn't have time to worry about that now. So, I just stood up, being careful with my injured ankle, and tried to help my dad get back to his feet.

The little girl saw how much trouble I was having and decided to come over and help me. Katie came over too and helped. With all of us lifting him, it seemed easier to get him back on his feet.       
           .
The girl said, "We have to go through this little tunnel now. You'll have to crawl on your stomach and use your elbows and knees to help move you forward."

I thought to myself, How is dad supposed to get through there? He only has one arm now.
I wanted dad to go before me so I could help him and keep an eye on him.

After a little arguing, he agreed and went first. I followed and Katie was right behind me. We could hear some mumbling from behind us. I remembered what the girl had said and decided that I didn't want to be there to find out what they would do when they found us.

Katie started pushing me faster. She said, "They're behind us! Move faster!"

The tunnel seemed to last forever. I didn't think I could keep going. We had been in this tunnel for what seemed like hours. My arms were burning, my ankle was still aching from my fall, and my knees were bleeding from all the little rocks we had to climb over. I knew my dad was feeling worse than I was and he was still going. I thought if he could do it, so could I.

I heard the girl's mumbled voice telling us that we were almost there. I could smell fresh air. It smelled to me like a rainforest. I couldn't wait to get to the end. I needed water and fresh air. I had never thought I was claustrophobic but after being in this tunnel for so long, I stated feeling very, very claustrophobic.

At the end of the tunnel, doctors were waiting to cart my dad over to a medical table, so they could start disinfecting his arm.  I stood up and looked around.  Men, women, and children were standing around watching us as we came out of the tunnel.  They looked like this was the first time they had ever seen any people outside of this place.

I had been right, it was a forest of some kind but it was like nothing I had ever seen before in my life. It all looked .very alien to me. The plants reminded me of something you would see on a sci fi movie. There were so many vivid colors. I was amazed.

I stared around in wonder as a male walked up to us. He said something to a nurse standing nearby. She put her hand on Katie's arm and led her over to a table to have something to eat and drink.

The man led me over to a chair near my dad and asked a different nurse to take care of my ankle. I was watching what they were doing to my dad when the man said, "I hear you have some questions you would like answered."

I had forgotten that he was standi.rrg there. He was shorter than me. His hair was an ashy blonde color. He had eyes that were the brightest green I had ever seen.

"Um ... yeah. I do," I replied.

He smiled at me reassuringly and said, "I'm the one who probably has the answers you seek."

"Well, first of all, why were we brought here?" I asked.

The Order's headquarters is in the motel where you were staying. No one that stays there is allowed to leave. The Order are the people that run the whole community. They decide who gets to live and who doesn't. They can't be trusted. So we saved you from having to deal with them."

"So ... wait. Who are you and why are you hiding from them? Have you done something wrong?"

"I am John Oswald and we are the Rebels. We haven't, exactly, done anything wrong but we oppose the Order. We are trying to get rid of them by any means necessary. They don't like it so, we have gone into hiding to protect our women and children. I don't know what they would do to us if we were ever found. I do know that the ones who leave here, usually do not come back. We don't know what has happened to them."

"
Are we even safe here?"

"We are safe for the moment but we will have to go somewhere else soon.
They were following your family and Mae. They know how to get to us now."

"How long before they come after you?"

“I’m not sure but I believe that they will not come for us until morning, so they can gather their armies and attack us in the daylight.  I’m sure you’re hungry.

Why don't I get you something to eat?”

Before I could answer, he was already walking toward a huge cauldron, hanging over a fire. I followed him over and noticed that people were sitting in groups all over, eating what looked like chunky soup. Their bowls were made out of leaves from the trees surrounding us.

He handed me a leaf-bowl and led me to a patch of clear grass for me to sit.

I sat down and felt the grass. It was soft like plush carpeting. John sat down next to me offering me his company.

I looked around for my sister. I saw her and the nurse a few yards from us.

The nurse had her hand on Katie's back leading her to a row of cots with roller coaster safety bars. She had Katie lay down. Then, she brought the bar down. One bar went over her midsection, one went !Jver her right shoulder, and the other one went over her left shoulder.

I started eating my chunky soup. We sat in silence as I ate. I admit that the soup was the best thing I had eaten that day.

"Do you think my dad will be okayr I asked looking over at the nurses and doctors huddled around the table my dad was laying on.

"I know they will do the best they can with the supplies they have," he
answered.

"Thafs not very comforting to know."

"I'm sorry. I told you honestly. Would you rather I lie to you?"

No but ... I don't know. I'm scared. He lost a lot of blood."

"They will do what they can. They have already stopped the blood flow.Now, they are disinfecting the wound. He will be okay as long as it doesn't get infected ."

"Okay"I said, looking down at my soup. I had suddenly lost my appetite. "I think, maybe you should get some rest. We will see how he is doing in the morning."

"Yeah, I think I should go to sleep. I'm exhausted."

We stood up and headed over to the cots. People had already started going to bed. I laid down next to Katie and pulled the bars over myself. Then, to John, I said, "Thanks for your hospitality and trying to help my dad. Good night."

"Good night" he replied and walked away.

I woke with a start. I looked around and no one was awake anymore. I knew something had woken me but I couldn’t figure out what it was.  So, I pushed the bars up.  Sitting up I checked my surroundings to see if anything was out of place or new.  Nothing was visibly wrong.
 
I started to lay back down, when I heard a crack. It sounded like a gunshot. I sat bolt upright. I wasn't the only one, this time, that heard it. I looked to the left and saw a large hole next to the tunnel he had come through that night. Men holding rifles were piling through the hole. I reached over and shook Katie as hard as I could.

"Wake up!" I whispered right next to her ear.

She opened her eyes and moaned. Then, she closed her eyes and went back to sleep. So, I shook her again with more force. She opened her eyes and looked at me.

"What?" she said in a whiny voice.

"Shhhh. You have to get up now," I whispered back.

"Why?"

"Just do what I tell you to do. We need to leave."

"Fine!"

She pushed the bars off of herself and sat up, looking around. Then, she saw the men coming through the hole in the wall. Her face went pale and her eyes widened. Sudden understanding flashed across her face. After that, she just looked terrified. So, I helped her up and looked around for another way to get out of here.
I didn't want to have to go past those men.

The red-haired girl from the night before, Mae, came up to us. "Follow me. There is an exit over there," she said and turned around, heading to the far wall.

I followed after her, looking behind me to make sure Katie was following.

When, we reached the wall, she pointed to a vent in the floor. "Go through there and follow the water until you come to a ladder. Go up the ladder and you will come out on the street. They haven't seen your faces. So, if you hurry, you can get away." She turned and headed back into the battle that was now taking place.

"What about you?" I shouted at her above the rest of the noise.

"I can't leave my people behind," she replied and kept walking.

Katie leaned closer to me and whispered in my ear, "What about dad?"

I looked where the table used to be and it was gone. I searched around frantically. Finally, I saw him. They had gotten him and tied him up so he couldn't move.

"He's tied up over there," I said pointing.

 She looked to where I was pointing.  “We need something to cut the ropes.”
        
We both searched around our feet for something that would be sharp enough to cut through it. She found a knife close by and picked it up.

We crouched down and moved as stealthily as we could manage. It got louder the closer we got to our dad. He was finally awake and I could see that they had put a gag in his mouth.

"Cut the ropes while I get this out of his mouth" I said to Katie.

We both went to work. We kept watch around us to make sure no one else was watching us. We got him untied and stood up, moving back the way we came.

"We
have to go through the vent. The red-haired girl, Mae, she said it would take us out onto the street," Katie said to dad.

He jumped into the vent first. Katie followed. Then, it was my turn. We landed in water that smelled horrible. I closed my mouth so none of it could get in. I swam over to a ledge on the right side and hoisted myself u. I looked back and Katie was already climbing up, with dad right behind her. We helped dad up onto the ledge. We could barely hear the noise from above anymore. We followed the water for miles, finally, coming to the ladder. I had Katie climb up first, just in case they had seen us. Then, dad went and I followed behind.

At the top we opened the man-hole cover and peered out. There was no one around us. We climbed out, being careful not to make a lot of noise. I didn't want to attract any attention. It seemed like no one else in the neighborhood knew what was going on right under their feet. With our arms around each other, we walked into the sunset, never looking back.
 

Add a comment  (1 comment) posted by Jessica F.

Categories: 2011-12Short Story/Essay Teen Publishing Project

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FEBRUARY 8, 2012
Four
 For my sake everyone pretends that the news isn't that important. That fmding out you only have four more months to live isn't a big deal.

 The doctor didn't try to sugarcoat it. He said it like it was but not in a mean way. He softly told me that my heart was shutting down. I didn't have much more time.

 Kenni sits beside me in a chair next to my hospital bed. I'm only required to stay here for the rest of the week. Then I get to go home, get comfortable, and wait out the remainder of the months for death.
 
Even ifno one else agrees, I don't want to die that way. I want to die doing something I love.

 I already made a bucket list. Kenni, Anddi, Nanni, and Monni helped me. We all wrote doWn something we wanted to do before my death.

 Kenni's the only one that got to stay here. She broke her ankle during softball practice one day so she didn't get to go to the game like everyone else. My older brothers are both at college right now and my mom and dad are trying vainly to get enough money to keep me alive.

 "Kenni?" I whisper.
 
"Yeah?" she sets down the Seventeen that she's reading to focus her attention on me.

 "Do me a favor," my throat still hurts from the lack of water I've had in the past few days. Mom keeps lecturing me about dehydration; but I have a theory that if you're about to die, God won't send another plague of disease on you.

 "Anything," Kenni flips her light blonde hair out of her face to pay more attention to me.

 "Get me ... a new list," I smile. The pain killers still not worn off from the surgery make me feelloopy.
 
 “Why?” Kenni asks. “We already made one.”
 
“Put on the list,” I continue, ignoring her. “Put that I want to go to Mt. Rushmore ... and I want you to come with ... and Anddi and them." 
 
"You sure? Mt. Rushmore's all the way in South Dakota."

Kenni pulls the list out from under the mattress of my hospital bed. She grabs a pen from a coffee cup nearby and scribbles down Mt. Rushmore.

 "I want to go ... to the beach," I grin. "Every one."

 "Every beach?" Kenni's shock shows in voice. "Do you think
that's safe?"

 "I don't care," I giggle. "I don't want to be safe anymore."

 The pencil scribbles down 'beach' on the page.

 "Anything else?"

 "Yeah," I manage to open my eyes to slits. "I want this morphine to wear off so I can actually talk to you without feeling loony."

!

 I wake up to the darkness of nighttime. A bouquet of flowers with an 'I love you!' note from Mom is sitting on my nightstand. Pryor, Gideon, Zane, and Dominic were here from the two foot wide white board leaning against the wall in front of me. It's decorated with pictures they drew and more 'I love you's.
 
My lips part in a small laugh as I think about how much Anddi and her older brothers fight. They wouldn't buy a whiteboard and scribble 'I love you' in sloppy handwriting. I guess everyone in my family just got used to saying it so much because they don't know when they won't get to anymore.

Kenni, Anddi, Nanni, and Monni are all asleep on the floor with sleeping bags and pillows and numerous blankets. I would've slid of my bed to sleep by them, but I'm hooked up to so many things that moving without breaking something is almost impossible.

I gently tap the button on the side of my bed that calls a nurse. I see a young, blonde girl wearing Winnie the Pooh scrubs through the fogged glass. She slowly opens the door. She’s been here long enough to know that all of my friends are going to be dead asleep on the floor.

 "Breakfast?" I whisper.
 
She smiles, nods, and quietly closes the door again. I'm not hungry, but I'm guessing they'll be when they wake up.
 
Glancing at the clock and considering the time they got here from the game last night, I'm guessing they're going to be asleep for a few more minutes.
 
Nanni usually gets up at 6:00 no matter what the day, but the softball game and uncomfortable floor keep her sleeping until 8:15.

 She wakes up just as the nurse walks in with a tray of cereal, apple juice, buttery blueberry muffins, waftles, and pancakes topped with butter and syrup.

 To everyone else the food must smell delicious, but I feel sick to my stomach.

 "Thanks," I whisper.  ..
 
"Beep me if you need anything else," she smiles and disappears out of the room again.
 
I stand up slowly so I don't rip the N out of my skin and carefully walk over by my friends.
 
The short distance puts me out of breath so I collapse next to Nanni on the floor.

 Unfortunately, the sensitive wires stuck in my back don't appreciate my fall too much, and a few are tugged out.
 
Since I've had those tubes in for about seven weeks, I feel the sharp pain. I bite my tongue and turn hopefully to Nanni.

 She's already called for the nurse and then gently helps me back up onto the bed.

 "Sorry," I whisper. "I wish I could do more."

 Nanni giggles and rolls her eyes good-humoredly, "You're still surgery-stiff. You'll get over it in a few minutes."
 
"Hopefully," I sigh when two nurses I don't recognize hurry in to patch me back up.
 
 I feel like Humpty Dumpty as they put me back together. For a few seconds too long I feel like I’m worthless and that four months to live is too long.
 
No, I tell myself stubbornly. God wouldn't have made you if you weren't worth living.  I find it hard to believe though.
 
Two hours after waking up I'm carefully set into Dad's white Suburban with Kenni, Anddi, Monni, and Nanni. Dominic was able to come home for the weekend, but my other brothers were still hidden away at college.
 
Sighing, I stare out the win~ow as we drive home. I try not to throw up in the neat little plastic bag the hospital so generously gave us for the drive home. I usually don't get sick after surgeries, but I'm feeling pretty nauseous right now.
 
No one says anything as we progress towards home. I don't feel like starting a conversation. Th~ silence is heavy but not awkward. I've been with these people my whole life.

 I was diagnosed with Ventricular Fibrillation when I was ten years old. I was scared, and I knew how rare it was for a kid to have this heart condition.
 
People tried to explain to me what Ventricular Fibrillation was, but no one ever really made sense. Dr. Barnerd moved into the hospital I was at. He's the best doctor I've ever had.
 
He made my disease the bad guy and me the superhero. He said I'd be able to fight it, but I think we both secretly knew I was never going to be able to outrun this.
 
Dr. Barnerd finally made sense of what I had. He told me Ventricular Fibrillation is a life-threatening heart disorder in which the electricity going through my heart is disorganized.
 
Because of this I have seizures suddenly and uncontrollably and loss of consciousness. Ever since I was diagnosed I haven't been allowed to go swimming, go on roller coasters, go on water rides, or be alone.
 
 I had my first seizure when I was ten; my parents were praying that it was just epilepsy – something that could be controlled even to the slightest-but the doctor knew something else was up. After a million tests the doctor finally came out .' holding a chart.

 "Nelli has Ventricular Fibrillation. We caught it early, so we should be able to manage this. I don't know how much longer she has to live. Let's talk about treatment options."

 I felt like someone had just announced the presence of cancer in me, but I knew that what I had couldn't possibly be as bad.

 Mom cried, Dad held her with a sick expression on his face,
and my brothers sat there.  .
 
I have to take Anti-arrythmic medications to help keep my heart up, but I know I don't have much time left.
 
For some reason, I'm okay with that. I don't mind that my disease is going to be the end of me. For some reason, I only feel bad for the people I had to pull into this.
 
I turn to look at Anddi. She smiles at me, but I see the rings of exhaustion under her eyes. I try to smile back but find myself wIncIng.
 
Anddi, Kenni, Nanni, and Monni are all angels. None of them deserve to be pulled around to hospitals with me.
 
We first met in pre-kindergarten. It wasn't a memorable first-meeting. We have other friends, but we all knew that we were going to stay best friends forever.

 I rest my head against the car door, thinking about everything that's been going on for the past five years.

 I was diagnosed with Ventricular Fibrillation. I realized how strong my family could be. I wished every night for five years that my disease would somehow leave.

 Kenni walks with me to my room. The air smells crisp and clean, thanks to Mom. She makes sure the house is spotless, the food is organic, and everyone takes their shoes off outside before coming in.
 
She thinks I’m fragile, that I might break at the slightest bit of wear and tear. She might be right, but right now I just need something to remind me that I'm alive and not sentenced to death.
 
Anddi plops down on my bed, her mess of brown hair _' fanning out on the fluffy heart pillow Grandma Gray knit for me. Every year she knit me a pillow for my birthday. Two years after I was diagnosed; she died of lung cancer.

 For a few erratic minutes everyone wanted her heart implanted in my chest, but the doctors refused. The cancer had spread over her chest, including tumors on her heart; giving me the heart would only equal more trouble.
 
Nanni snuggles Snuffs as he. waddles into the room. He licks her face with his big tongue before continuing over to Anddi to lie next to her on the bed.
 
Snuffs is probably the only pet Mom would ever let me get.

He's a Great Dane. I got him because Great Danes are prone to heart disease. It was almost ironic ~hen I found Great Danes online. Snuffs was just a puppy five'years ago and is still heart¬healthy, but I sometimes cry at night when I imagine him having to go through what I have to.
 
He shakes his floppy black and white speckled ears as Anddi ruffles his head fur.

 I smile, slowly walking over to a fluffy pink chair in the comer.

 "Where should we go first?" Monni asks as she starts tossing clothes from my hospital suitcase into the panda-shaped hamper in the comer of my room.

 "What'd you mean?" Kenni sits on the edge of my bay window.
 
"Nelli isn't just going to sit around waiting to rot," Monni grins. "We should go somewhere. How about to a Milwaukee Brewers game? I've watched them countless times on TV when NeIls was in the hospital."

 I smile softly, "How about a day of rest. I'm pretty beat." 

 “Deal,” Monni giggles, collapsing onto the bed with her head resting on Snuffs.
 
“Did you see that cute new nurse?" Anddi asks.

 "The one with the tats and buzz cut. He scared me," Nanni laughs.
 
"What about the blonde one?" I grin, falling into their easy conversation. "He helped me walk around the hall after my surgery."

 "Oooh, was he the one in the blue scrubs?" Kenni grins, "I walked over by you when he was helping you just so I could talk to him."

 "He was really nice," I add. "He had those earrings that
stretch out your ear."  ,
 
"Eww," Nanni wrinkles her nose. "That's disgusting."
 
"Dominic got them," I shrug.
 
Kenni rolls her eyes, "I was thinking about getting some that
stretch my ears out really, really far."

 Monni laughs, "Me too!"  ,-

 I sigh loudly, "You're so weird!"

 "Can't help it; we hang out with you too much," Nanni teases.
 
"Not my fault," I smile, resting my head against the back of the chair again. "But you do get to see some hot doctors and nurses so you're welcome!"
 
"Thanks," Kenni smiles.
 
"Can I ask you something?" I ask after a few seconds hesitation.

 "Sure," Nanni answers for everyone.
 
"Did you ever wonder what would've happened if I hadn't been sick?" I stare dreamily at the ceiling, trying to see the possible future and past.

 "We wouldn't be talking about hot nurses," Kenni starts.

 "We would've never made a bucket list."
 
 Anddi starts braiding Kenni’s shoulder-length blonde hair. “We would’ve never learned how to make French braids from Kelly."

 "We would've never met Derek," Monni whispers. Everyone falls completely silent. The hum of a lawnmower from down the street is the only noise along with a barking dog and the murmur of a car driving down the street.

  I remember Derek clearly. He had a heart condition. He never really gave me the specifics about it, but I know it was worse than mine.

He was never mad at anyone. He didn't blame people. He was the ideal guy, but he died three years after I met him.

 I shut out the memories of him at the hospital before changing the subject, "We would've never been this close."

 "That might not be true," Nanni points out. "I mean, we were friends before you got sick. We would've been friends the entire time."
 
I shrug, "Maybe."
 
"We'd probably still be friends," Kenni decides. "But we probably wouldn't be this close."

 Everyone nods and murmurs agreement.
 
"Hey," Anddi stands at the edge of my bay window, staring out into the neatly mowed lawns of the suburbs. My family used to live in the country in a 1965 Victorian house; but I needed to be close to the hospital in case something happened, and I needed to get to a doctor right away.

 This house was never really home for me. It has four bedrooms-one for me, one for my parents, and one with four beds in case my brothers come home.

 "What?" Kenni asks.

 "Look," everyone scrambles to get to the window, but I stay sitting. My head is still spinning from the loss of blood and surgery I endured just yesterday. I trust my friends to tell me what they see.

 "Nelli, your family's here, like, everyone!" Monni laughs.
 
"And all your hot cousins-I call the one with black hair!"
 
 Nanni hurries away from the window to hurry downstairs with Monni and Kenni hot on her heels.

 Anddi moves away from the window to come and recline next to me, “Hey, Chica.”

 "Hey, Bonita," I smile, resting my head against her shou~der as she slides next to me in the chair.

 "Are you scared?" Anddi whispers, her voice cracking.

 I close my eyes, searching my soul to see if I am. Every night I'm afraid the doctors made a miscalculation and I only have two more days. Every morning I wake up with the fear that this will be the last day to see my family and friends.
 
That's probably why my family's here now. Mom's
afraid ... am I? Death is inevitable. Every person will have to face it sooner or later. I just wish I got to'face it later.
 
Anddi, Kenni, Monni, and Nanni will get time to raise a family. They'll have lives after mine ends. The winds of time will take over, and I'll only be a distant memory.

 "Not of dying," I reply softly, "but of being forgotten." "You're unforgettable," Anddi smiles.
 And then we both start to cry.

 Carlos wraps me in a hug as soon as I manage to stumble down the steps with the help of Anddi and Nanni.

 Kenni is already helping my mom set bowls of freshly steamed carrots with a bowl of salad that looks limp from being washed and inspected so many times.
 
"Hey, Mom," I call out hoarsely.

 "Yes?" she comes running out of the kitchen, afraid that I might be dying right now.
 I smile, "Can we just have something normal families have at get-togethers? Like ... pizza or something?"

 Mom doesn't respond. I can tell she's fighting with herself. Should she give her dying daughter a good, healthy meal or take the chance and give her fatty pizza mixed with Mountain Dew and chocolate ice cream?
 
 “How about we meet halfway?” Pryor offers as he walks into the kitchen with a bowlful of Rice Crispy treats he probably spent all night trying to make. "We can have your salad and I can order a pizza."
 
Mom presses her lips together indecisively, "Okay ... but ask them to make it not so greasy."

 Pryor laughs as he grabs the cordless phone to dial the pizza delivery number. I bet he has it on speed dial at his house.

Kaylee hurries into the kitchen to give me a hug. "NeIls, I missed you so much! A year and a half in Spain makes it hard to see one of my favorite little cousins!"

I hug her back with a smile. "Did you get any pictures from
your trip?"  

As Kaylee digs through her giant leather purse, Nanni and Anddi walk into the living room where illY aunt just made a bowl of buttery popcorn.

Dominic throws open the door heartily. He's the closest brother in age to me so I smile at Kaylee before running over to give him a hug.

His muscular arms constrict around me as he lifts me into the air and swings me back and forth.

I laugh hysterically when Mom comes and tells him to put me down before he kills me.
Gideon and Zane arrive shortly after in a shiny red sports car. "New carT' I ask, staring out the window at the gorgeous red vehicle.

"Wanna go for a ride?" Zane holds the keys above my head.

"It handles like a charm."

I call Kenni, Anddi, Monni, and Nanni together so we can run outside.
Neighbors stare out at the small gathering of fancy and rusty cars that are gathering around the neighborhood. Zane jumps in the driver seat while Kenni, Anddi, Monni, and Nanni squeeze in the three seats in the back. I climb in the passenger seat, still grinning as Mom stares at us nervously.
 
Zane turns the key in the ignition to bring forth the pounding of a rap song I don’t recognize.
He turns it down slightly before speeding out of the small driveway and hurtling towards a stop sign.

My fingernails dig into the leather seats. He's going about sixty-five in a twenty-five mile per hour zone.

Laughing, he spins the wheel around and does a U-turn in the dead intersection.

"We're going to get in trouble!" I laugh~ good thing getting pulled over is on my bucket list.

Zane doesn't say anything as we race out of the intersection and down Elm Street.

People stare at us as the pounding base and loud roar of the car's engine fills the streets.

I roll back the sunroof to let flames. of sunlight lap at my hospital pale skin.

"Hey, maybe we could slow down," Monni offers tightly. I turn to Zane, "She's probably right!

I don't think Mom would appreciate a copper pulling us over on the family gathering! "

Zane smiles as he turns the base down and the volume to just a pleasant hum. We drive the speed limit back to the house, stopping at the intersection, where Zane pulls the car neatly back into the driveway.

I stare back at my friends who look like they just witnessed
something horrible.

"What?" I ask, confused.

"That was horrifying," Nanni shivers. "I almost died."

"I know, wasn't it awesome!" I laugh, following Zane back into the house with my four friends close behind.

After many hours of talking and pizza and stomachaches Monni's mom comes up the driveway to take her and my other friends home.
 
I give them all hugs, “We’ll have to talk more about Mount Rushmore. I want to go there first.”

"What about the beaches?" Kenni asks.

"Them next," I smile, waving at my friends as they skip _ ' down the driveway to Monni' s mom's minivan.

"Nelli, come help me clean this up," Mom calls from inside. I sigh as I walk into the living room where piles of paper plates and plastic cups are piled.

"Oh, mother, having another wild and crazy party?" I tease as I start piling plates on my arms.

She swats me gently with one of the plates as we continue to work.

I glance up from rubbing a stain out of the carpeting when I see the pager I was given over five years ago when I was first diagnosed. If the doctors found a willing heart donor that matched, I would get that heart and the pager would go off.

My fingers trace the familiar patterns in the metal. How many times have I sat here, begging/God to let that pager go off so I could just live for maybe two more years?

I want to turn away and get back to work but something holds me to the spot. I feel the presence of a worthy donor nearby. I close my eyes, praying that someone will give me their he art¬Beep.

My eyes fly open and I stare down as the red button flashes. "Mom!" I scream, dropping the pager back on the end table
to get my mother. "Mom!"

"What, what's wrong?" she runs over to me, her eyes wide with fear.

"The pager!" I feel tears sliding down my cheeks. "A donor!" The next thing I know I'm being hurried into the passenger seat while Mom speeds the four blocks to the hospital.
We don't speak, but our excitement hangs in the air obviously.
 
The hospital is swarming with cars when we get there.  Mom presses her hand against my back as we hurry to the front desk where a doctor is waiting.

"Nelli? We found a donor," he smiles, a haunted look on his face.

"Can I know their name?" I ask softly. "Just so I can thank them."

"Her name ... " he looks at his shoes and shakes his head.

"Her name was Kenni Green."

My blood runs cold, my fingers clench into fists, "Kenni?

But. .. but Kenni was healthy?" It comes out more of a question than a general statement.

"Kenni was in a car crash with four other people. The others are in critical condition. She's in a coma, but. .. she had a letter¬they all did-that said if anything happened to them where they wouldn't make it. .. they wanted you,to have their hearts," Dr. Dome smiles softly. "We have to get you in the operating room."

I feel numb as I stand over Kenni' s grave. I set the flowers gently down next to her. My eyes are bloodshot from the days of crying and pleading with God that it wasn't true.

I’d die in four months if it meant Kenni got to live.

Her heart beats in my chest, strong, promising that it won't give out or give me a disease.
The daily seizures stopped, the shortness of breath and heartburn did too. In Dr. Dome's words, I'm going to be okay.

But I don't feel okay. I feel horrible. The death of my best friend brought life to me.

My fingers curl into fists until my nails make crescent-shape wounds in my palms. I'm furious with myself

I came to Kenni' s grave alone. I needed some alone time. I wanted to tell her I was sorry.
My grief overwhelms me, and I collapse onto the grassy ground around her grave with shaking sobs.
 
How many more people were going to die today?  How many people would even be missed?

I rest my hand against the sleek, silver rock, "I'll never forget
 you."  

For a few moments I remember a conversation I had with Anddi a while ago about my fear of being forgotten.

I stare down at the ground. "I'm sorry. It shouldn't have been like that."

But it was and there's nothing I can do about it.

Wiping my cheeks I turn and walk back towards the red sports car where Zane is waiting.

I look where the grave is one last time, wishing I could see the real face of my lost best friend just one last time.

Closing my eyes, I picture her laughing with me in the hospital as we run down the halls with one of the cranky old nurses yelling at us. Kenni was the girl who would do anything.

She would be loud and obnoxious but gave some of the best advice I've ever gotten.'

Zane is silent as he slowly drives along the dirt path that leads towards the highway.

I crane my neck and stare backwards so I don't lose sight of what's left of my best friend.
Suddenly a wave of peace crashes over me. I press my hand against my heart to feel it beating reassuringly.

You're not lost, I think to Kenni as I start to cry again, you'll always be in my heart.

Add a comment  (0 comments) posted by Emily N.

Categories: Short Story/Essay 2011-12Teen Publishing Project

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FEBRUARY 8, 2012
Death

Death sucks But its

coming Faster Then
 
I like
 
I smoke
 
It came fast for my grandparents
 
Cancer
 
But when it comes It
 
comes
 
No one can stop it
 

Add a comment  (0 comments) posted by Ariel K.

Categories: 2011-12Poetry Teen Publishing Project

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FEBRUARY 8, 2012
Summer Skies

One summer day
my friend came up to me.
She said "I have something to say about
my ex-Scottie."

I sit up on the freshly mowed grass
asking what is it Sally had to say.
Replying "remember that day in class
when I said something was wrong?"
 
How could I forget that day, nothing went right.
Ali came to class, late.
Crying, I went over and hugged her tight.
Whispering did something go wrong on your date.
 
While, what Ali was about to say was
bad, real bad.
"On that very day,
my date was very mad."
 
When I got to his house,
he was in the kitchen,
unbuttoning some girls blouse.
I knew at that moment I should ditch him.
 
But I could not leave him this way, so I took a stand.
I was scared and ashamed.
So I then put my face down on my hand.
I realized that he could not be tamed.
 
I did not turn no more, when
he came a running.
I ran out his door
and never stopped running.

I did not know what to think or do
for that matter.
So I looked up at the sky.
and thanked God, for it was only a daydream.

Add a comment  (0 comments) posted by Ashley H.

Categories: 2011-12Poetry Teen Publishing Project

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FEBRUARY 6, 2012
Where Your Heart Lies

Add a comment  (0 comments) posted by Haley Y.

Categories: 2011-12Teen Publishing ProjectVisual Art

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FEBRUARY 6, 2012
How Wrong Was That Now?

Add a comment  (0 comments) posted by Haley Y.

Categories: Teen Publishing Project2011-12Visual Art

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