AAWC: Invisible Girl

Hey, everyone! Here’s my story for the final challenge of AAWC. 😦 Misty, I used the prompt — invisible — and mentioned an eagle.

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Vivian Tollman had always wanted to be invisible. If she were invisible,  she could sneak into the kitchen for midnight snacks, or spy on people she didn’t like. As far as she could tell, there was no downside.

Vivian had been wishing for the power for years. Every star, every 11:11, every birthday. Maybe, she thought, if I keep wishing, it will come true.

If she had known what invisibility really meant, maybe she wouldn’t have wished so much.

6:15 a.m. Friday. Time to get up for school. Vivian reluctantly kicked back her sheets and stumbled into the bathroom down the hall for a quick shower. The startlingly hot water drumming against her shoulders woke her up. Fifteen minutes later, Vivian climbed out of the shower, wrapping a fluffy white towel around her shoulders. She walked over to the counter, extracted the hairdryer from the cabinet beneath the sink, and straightened. A foggy mirror was mounted to the wall before her. But . . . something was off.

Vivian couldn’t see her reflection.

It’s just the steam clouding the mirror, that’s all, she told herself as panic crawled up her throat. With a trembling hand, she wiped away some precipitation on the mirror.

There was no denying it now: her reflection was not there.

She glanced down at herself. Her body was still there. So why was she not in the mirror?

Unbelievable explanations churning in her head, Vivian tightened the towel and dashed back to her room, where she pulled on a skirt, a tee, and a jean jacket. She whipped her wet black hair into a bun and pounded down to the kitchen. Her mom would help her figure it out. Vivian believed that her mom could make everything better.

“H-hey, Mom?” she started, coming up behind her mother at the stove. She nibbled her finger nails nervously.

Mrs. Tollman cracked an egg into a frying pan before turning to the staircase. “Vivi, is that you?” she called.

“Mom, I’m over here.”

Mrs. Tollman spun around with a confused look. “Vivian? Where are you?”

Frowning, Vivian touched her mom’s shoulder. “I’m  right here –”

She was cut short by a shriek. “Ahh! What is that?!” Mrs. Tollman brushed Vivian’s hand off her shoulder. She shook her head.  “I can hear you, but where are you hiding?”

Vivian was now on the verge of tears. Was her mom playing some kind of joke on her? Blinking rapidly, she scurried upstairs to her older sister’s room. Kayla Tollman was gazing at herself in her mirror, straightening her sweatshirt. It was dark blue, and had an eagle on it — her high school’s mascot.

“Kayla?” Vivian whispered from the doorway.

“Hmm?” her sister replied. She was applying lipstick now.

“Can you see me?” Her voice trembled as she asked the questions.

Kayla capped her lipstick and glanced at the doorway. “Nah. Are you a ninja or something?” She fingered the complicated braid she’d done in her dark hair. “Want me to do your hair, Vivi?”

Vivian staggered back to her bedroom. Feeling sick, she steadied herself against the wall. Was she . . . invisible? She’d wished for the power for years, but now that she had it, it didn’t seem so fantastic.

She heard her mom’s muffled voice coming from the kitchen a floor below. “Kayla, Vivian! I made breakfast. Come and get it . . .”

Then her older sister’s footsteps passed Vivian’s room as she made her way to the kitchen.

A minute later, Mrs. Tollman said to Kayla, “Where’s Vivi? I heard her earlier, but now . . .?”

“Don’t know,” came Kayla’s response. “She was in the hall outside my room a few minutes ago. Asked if I could see her.”

Mrs. Tollman sighed deeply. “That girl had better get down here soon, or she’s going to have to go to school hungry.”

Vivian crawled back into bed and buried her face in the pillow. A sob escaped her throat. No one in her family could see her. What was she supposed to do?

Kayla came back upstairs to brush her teeth. Then she left the house. Outside Vivian’s window, Kayla started her car’s engine and drove herself to school.

“Vivian! Get down here, girl, you’re going to be late.” Her mother ascended the steps to the second floor. “Vivian Tollman!” her mother bellowed, storming into her room. “The bus will be here soon. It’s your fault that you’re going to be hungry all day!” She yanked the teal blankets off the bed, and her shouting tapered off for a moment. Then she stomped out of the bedroom, combing the house for her daughter.

Vivian cried quietly.

Her mother was outside her door again. “Hello, 9-1-1? My daughter is missing . . . she’s eleven . . . her name is Vivian Tollman . . .”

Her mom thought she was missing. Missing.

Vivian would have given anything to be seen again.

Loren

AAWC + PTPWC: To Smile Again

I spend most of my time thinking about the accident. Maybe if I had been a little quicker. If I had paid more attention. Maybe then, it wouldn’t have happened.

But I was too slow. I was groggy. And it did happen.

No matter what I do, nothing will change the fact that my twin sister is dead.

We were ice skating on the lake in the woods behind our house. My sister, Amber, was the one who always wanted to go outside and do things. That’s why she was ready to go skating at eight on a Saturday morning. I, on the other hand, was content to sit inside all day and read to myself. That’s why I was only half awake when we reached the lake.

Amber removed the guards from the blades of her perfect white ice skates. She twirled in a circle on the ice before zooming gracefully around the lake. “Come on, Ash!” she sang.

My name is Ashlynn, but I prefer to be called Ash. It fits better.

I rubbed the gunk from my eyes, took off the guards, and stumbled towards the ice. I wasn’t nearly as good at skating as Amber was, but I still enjoyed it. I wobbled forward, and my ankles bent outward. The ice rushed up to meet me, colliding with my tender cheek. The freshly bruised skin ached, but I pushed myself to my feet and skated forward hesitantly.

Amber breezed past me from behind. “Slowpoke,” she teased, sticking her tongue out playfully.

And that’s when everything went wrong.

She glided toward the middle of the lake. It must not have been frozen the whole way through, because the ice began to break beneath her. Hairline cracks spread out like a web beneath her feet.

“Amber –” I shouted, trying to warn her.

Her startled brown eyes met mine a split second before she fell through the ice.

Amber!” I screamed, forcing my heavy, uncoordinated feet to shuffle toward the hole. I could see my sister’s pale hand gripping the jagged ice. After falling over several times, I reached the middle of the lake.

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Her hand was gone.

“No!” I shrieked. This couldn’t be happening. I ripped off my skates and down jacket and dove into the freezing water. The water was a murky blue, hard to see in. But I needed to find Amber. I plunged deeper into the lake, searching for a telltale wisp of dark brown hair, or a flailing limb. Nothing.

By now, my lungs were demanding air. I spotted the hole several yards above me and kicked toward it. When I surfaced, the crisp morning air hit my face like a slap. I hauled myself onto the ice and pushed my dripping hair out of my face. My soaking clothes stuck to me like an extra layer of skin.

“Amber!” I cried, peering into the water. The cruel, unfeeling water, which had swallowed my sister. “Amber?”

I sat by the hole in the ice for who knows how long. In denial, I kept telling myself, She’s coming back. She’ll surface any second. And she’ll stick her tongue out and say, “Scared ya.” Then I’ll punch her, because she did scare me.

She didn’t surface, of course. Because she had drowned.

Feeling numb — inside and outside — I staggered away from the pond. I left my drenched skates and coat by the hole. I trekked home all by myself, my emotions a mess, churning around inside me.

I dragged myself into our snug, cozy house, knowing that it would never feel like home without Amber. Mom and Dad were sitting at the kitchen table, obliviously sipping their morning coffee. If they noticed that I was soaked, or that I was missing my shoes and jacket, they didn’t say anything.

“Honey, where’s Amber?” Mom asked.

“Coming,” I muttered, unable to say that she was dead, that she was never coming home. I hurried up the stairs to the bedroom that I shared — had shared — with my sister.

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My half was lined with bookshelves, and scattered across the floor was a globe and a model of ship and a giant pillow shaped like a wolf. Styrofoam balls decorated like planets hung from the ceiling, which I’d painted to resemble a galaxy. Periwinkle and magenta and deep purple and midnight blue swirled across the ceiling.

I locked the door behind me. Red hot anger coursed through my veins. I wanted to flip a table or rip the head off my stuffed wolf. Anything was better than crying and feeling sorry for myself.

It took Mom and Dad four minutes to figure out that something was wrong. I could hear fabric rustling downstairs as they put on jackets. Then the front door swung open and their footsteps were muffled by the fresh snow. Soon, they would realize that one of their daughters was dead.

About ten minutes later, the front door opened again. The sound of my parents’ devastated sobs  tore at my aching heart. I would have done anything to change the past.

My pointless anger changed to helplessness. I gazed at my galaxy ceiling and pleaded silently, desperately, God, if you’re listening, please do something! I know you can work miracles. If you love me, bring her back to life. Please! I’ll never do anything bad again. I’ll be nice to everyone and work hard in school, I promise. Just please . . . please . . .

I knew, in my heart, that my bargaining would do nothing. A sinner like myself had no reason to try to barter with God himself.

There was a knock on my door. My mom’s voice, choked with sobs, said, “Ash, honey, p-please come out here.”

Slowly, I unlocked the door and stepped into the hallway. My parents’ eyes were red, and their cheeks were stained with tears. Wordlessly, they put their arms around me. Then they started to cry uncontrollably.

I cried with them.

The world — so cruel and unforgiving — kept moving on, despite the fact that my beautiful, vivacious sister was dead. It seemed like everything should be turned black and white until thing were OK again. But it would keep spinning in full color.

My parents released me after several minutes. I went straight back to my room.

I slept in Amber’s bed that night. Everything smelled like her, which somewhat eased my pain. Not that much, though, because I still cried myself to sleep.

My parents let me skip school for a week and a half. It was thoughtful of them. I barely left my room the entire time. And whenever my mother saw me, she would burst into tears. It was because Amber and I were identical twins. When my mom saw me, she saw Amber, too.

One of my friends, Jenna, got me a cat as a Christmas gift. She’d read that pets were supposed to lower depression or something like that.

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It was incredibly fluffy. All black, except for a white bib. It had shockingly intelligent emerald eyes.

“I want to see you smile again,” Jenna told me when she gave me the cat. “I miss you, Ash.”

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When I wasn’t thinking about Amber, I was thinking about traveling. I wanted to go somewhere where the people didn’t feel bad for me and frown sympathetically whenever they saw me. Every little thing in my home, my town, my school — they sparked memories of Amber. I wanted to go somewhere where Amber wasn’t haunting me.

I sat on the floor and spun my globe idly.

I needed to leave this place.

Jenna had to wait four months until she saw me smile again. Oh, yes, Amber’s loss still hurt. I doubted that it would ever stop, because these things never really do. The hurt just . . . changed. Instead of the denial and the anger and the depression that I felt every time I thought of Amber, I felt more of a fond longing. Memories of her made me smile sadly as I wished that we could have had more time.

But it was a smile nonetheless.

Loren

AAWC + PTPWC — To Restore a Faded Soul

   I squished my AAWC and PTPWC stories together. Misty, I included the word fade and I mentioned an eagle. Samantha, I used both prompts and mentioned both periwinkle and magenta.

To Restore a Faded Soul

     I dreamt of you last night. I had to sleep with all the lights on.

      Because you terrify me.

      What you are capable of — I didn’t know that anyone could wield so much power. Certainly no one could and remain kind. The power corrupted you, dear. You went too far, and the power consumed you until I hardly recognized you. You — my own sister. The power made you forget yourself. It made you forget me.

      So I tried to forget you.

      I decided to leave the family, lest I become like you.

     forest

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      I remember leaving you there on the wooden bridge. The one that let you see the whole earth: the soaring trees, tinted orange in the light; the proud, sloping mountains; and the river far below, glowing the color of a robin’s egg. I loved that view.

      You were angry that day. So enraged that it scared me. I knew you would not take my news well.

      I was right. When I told you that I was leaving the family, you screamed at me. Maybe it was my imagination, but I saw a faint red aura flare up around you. More magenta than red, really. Like there was some smidgen of kindness left in you, and it kept the aura from being pure, undiluted evil.

      I sprinted away, pulling my feet high so I wouldn’t trip on one of the wooden boards. If I did, and if I fell over the simple platform of the bridge, it would be a very long way down.

      You didn’t stop me, and I reached the nearest town. It was a desolate wasteland. The once-graceful buildings had crumbled to dust. The overgrown stalks of grass wilted. I was the only breathing thing in that place. And it was all because of you. Bitterly, I thought to myself, Are you proud of your handiwork, sister?

      I traveled on to the next town. That one, thankfully, was inhabited. In this place, people scurried across the streets like rats, their heads bowed, making no eye contact. Stores were left unguarded, and many starving people darted into abandoned grocery stores and stole food. They were doing their best to stay alive.

      Now that I had escaped your heavy presence, I wasn’t sure what to do. I’d always spent my days hiding from your wrath. But now . . .? I trudged down the town’s main road, looking for somewhere safe to rest.

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      That was when I saw the girl. She was sitting cross legged in the grass with a thin gray cat in her lap. The girl’s pure black hair was tied into a loose braid. Her shocking periwinkle eyes stood out from her porcelain skin. She looked less threatening than some of the other shady characters I’d seen roaming the streets, so I crossed the road and sat down next to her.

      “H-hi,” I started haltingly. “I’m Owen.”

      Startled, the scrawny cat yowled and scrambled away. The intriguing girl stared after it in dismay before turning her ethereal eyes settled on me. “I’m Trinity. You’re new here, aren’t you?”

      I swallowed hard. “Yeah.” My fingers dug into the dirt, and I snapped the stem of a flower. It was delicate violet. Shyly, I handed it to her.

      Trinity smiled softly and tucked the purple flower into her braid.

      That was the day I met my best friend. I stayed in that town for years, undiscovered by you. Trinity stayed, too. Eventually, when we were much older, we got married. I liked to think that you would have approved of her.

      Trinity and I had been married happily for years when you sent the postcard. It was waiting there on the porch, not in the mailbox where all other correspondence went. Just like you, I thought when I saw your name signed at the bottom, to fight against normal things.

      On the front of the postcard was the view from our bridge. Even though I hadn’t seen it in years, every detail was burned into my mind.

On a postcard.:

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      I flipped over the postcard. Written in black pen, in your familiar handwriting, was one sentence: Please don’t forget me and all the things we did.

      My eyes misted over. I’d never truly forgotten you, sister, even though I’d tried. You’d simply . . . faded. The peaceful you that hugged me daily and sang to wounded animals in the forest — that faded.

      But faded things can be restored. A smudged drawing can be brought back to its former glory by running a pencil over the already existing lines.

      And as I gazed at the postcard, I thought that maybe I could restore you.

      “Owen?” Trinity called, stepping out onto the porch. She was in her late twenties. She spotted your postcard and narrowed her eyes. “What’s that?”

      “Nothing,” I murmured, folding the paper quickly. “I just need to go on a quick trip. It’s important.” I kissed my wife on the cheek as I rushed into the house, eager to pack a bag and get going. Because I was going to find you. My older sister.

      You do give me nightmares. But I still love you. I believe that there might still be some good in you after all.

      I hitched a ride on a bus and got off at that first desolate town I found after I left you. Things were finally starting to grow there again. I didn’t linger, because the lonely place brought back all the fear and heartache I experienced after I ran away.

      Eventually, I reached our bridge. I choked up when I saw that the wooden slats were decaying. I had grown up here, and to see it falling apart . . . With carefully placed steps, I made it safely to the other side. I descended the cracked stone steps that led down to the robin’s egg blue river.

      “Thea?” I called. “Thea, it’s me. I’m here . . .” I wandered along the riverbank, heading for our old home. The cold, damp mist rolling off the water cooled the sweat on my forehead. It transported me back in time, to the time before the power ruined you.

      I was jolted from my bittersweet memories when I tripped over a thick mossy root and tumbled into the river. The cold water was a shock against my skin. Spluttering, I scrambled back onto the bank and hugged myself, shivering.

      “Are you alright?” asked a a stern feminine voice.

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      I glanced around for the owner of the voice. A tall woman, dressed in a dark green cloak, stood upstream. The hem of her cloak brushed the ground, and a hood concealed her face. All you could see of her was a long, pale hand holding aloft a lantern, and red hair spilling out from under the hood.

      “Yes, thank you,” I said, approaching her cautiously. “Who are you?”

      She brought the lantern closer to her face. Light danced across her soft features. “I am Cyra, protector of forest.”

      I had never seen her before in my life, even though I’d roamed the woods until I was thirteen. She must have become “protector of the forest” after I left.

      I cleared my throat. “I’m Owen. Please let me pass.” Cyra was blocking a flight of limestone stairs that led to our old home.

      “Owen –” Cyra repeated in an awed voice. “Of course.” She sidestepped so that she was no longer in front of the stairs. “May I ask what business you have in the forest?”

      I sighed heavily as I began to climb the stairs. Cyra trailed after me. “I’m visiting my sister, Thea,” I confessed. “Do you know where I can find her? I’m going to check our house, but if she’s not there –“

      “Oh,” she interrupted sorrowfully, coming to a halt. “Oh. Owen, please come with me. I can bring you to your sister.”

      The darkness in her voice made my heart twist with dread.

      Cyra swept past me and ascended the stairs silently. My anxiety about seeing you grew with every step.

      As it turns out, I had nothing to fear. Cyra led me past our old home. In the middle of a clearing beyond our home was a giant white crystal, probably quartz. Dark blue words were engraved in the crystal. Cyra slipped off her hood and bowed her head respectfully at the stone.

      “Where is she?” I breathed, even though I already knew.

      The words on the quartz were as follows:

      Here lies Thea Palar

Twenty-nine years old

      An elaborate, swirling eagle was scraped into the quartz below those words. There was a third line, but my eyes were almost too blurred with tears to make it out.

Never leave family.

      I crumpled onto the ground and pressed my forehead against the smooth crystal.

      I had lost you.

      “Your sister missed you dearly,” Cyra said softly after a minute or two. “I arrived to protect this forest a week after you left, according to Thea. She hardly left that bridge. Said she was waiting for you to come home. She hardly spoke, Owen, and I was deeply concerned for her. The winter months would come, and she would sit on the bridge through the snow and frost. She got horribly sick the Christmas after you left. She never made a full recovery.

      “I went to check on Thea yesterday morning, but she was gone. Turns out, she went to give you a note. When she returned today at dawn, she told me that much. But she never said what she wrote.”

      I reached into my jacket pocket and produced the postcard. I unfolded it and reread your words. To Cyra, I read aloud, “‘Please don’t forget me and all the things we did.'”

      Cyra continued, “I suppose the strain of traveling was too much for Thea. She . . . well . . . she passed away shortly after her return.” She faced the beautiful crystal gravestone. “I am sorry. She was a good friend to me.” Cyra left quietly.

      I leaned back and read the stone’s inscription once more.

      With Cyra gone, I allowed myself to cry for you. I was only with you for a few years. I wished desperately that I could reach back through the years and tell my younger self not to leave you. I was ashamed that I had let you fade. I would have given anything to have just a minute more in your presence.

      Never leave family.

Loren

AWWC — The “I Can’t be Bothered to Come Up With a Title, so There Won’t be One” Story

Here’s my entry for AWWC! The prompt was bright. I used it to mean intelligent. And, Misty, I mentioned my mascot when talking about a plastic eagle toy. Enjoy!

...He is far too intelligent. He knows how to use his brain in a way no one else does. He is a genius. That makes him dangerous...:

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      Braden gazed at the objects floating around his head. A Rubix Cube, a pencil sharpener, glassy marbles — all that and more bobbed around him. He sat at the white desk in his room, with his folded arms on the smooth surface.

      The knickknacks around him were being controlled by his mind alone.

      At only ten years old, Braden was smarter than an average adult. He’d read about a thousand books on varying subjects, one of those being a particularly fascinating one simply called Matilda, which he had finished that day. In the novel, written by Roald Dahl, a young but brilliant girl named Matilda discovers that she can make objects move with her mind.

      The idea had captured Braden’s mind. Control things with his mind? Like the fictional Matilda, he was too bright for his own good. In the book, all the built-up energy in the girl’s brain could be shoved out through her eyeballs and used to push things or make them hover. After reading the book, Braden decided to see if he also possessed this spectacular power.

      The minute he arrived home from school, he had locked himself in his room. He’d found a dusty marble under his bed and set it on the desk. Staring at the tiny orb, he gathered all his mental strength and pushed it at the milky marble.

      Nothing.

      “I’m not giving up on you,” Braden whispered, preparing himself to try again. Like before, he glared at the marble and focused all his thoughts on pulling that minuscule marble off the edge of the desk. No result. He sighed heavily, but didn’t give up. He would try a third time. This time, the young genius got tunnel vision. The marble was the only thing he could see, the rest of the world around him blurring together.

      Pull! his mind screamed. Pull!

      In a rush, the marble zipped off the desk and hit him between the eyes.

      Braden leaned back, rubbing his head. He plucked the marble off the dark blue carpet and grinned at it. It had worked! He really could control objects with only his mind! Punching the air, he danced around the room victoriously.

      His excitement growing, Braden riffled through the junk beneath his bed and produced a Rubix Cube. He hadn’t used it since he’d figured out its trick when he was seven. Now, he would use it as another test subject.

      He placed it on the desk and stared at it, unblinking. Since it was much larger than the marble, he figured it would take more mental energy to move it, and that it would likely take longer to harness that power. True to his theory, it took him nearly thirty seconds to lift it into the air. But it was gratifying nonetheless.

      Soon, there were a dozen assorted trinkets floating around his head. A small plastic eagle weaved its way between marbles. Braden stared at them, lost in thought, and amazed that he could do something so wonderful.

      He heard a soft thump coming from outside his locked door. It shattered his concentration, and the hovering knickknacks crashed to the ground. “Mother?” Braden called. He hadn’t expected her to arrive home from work so soon. “Is that you?”

      No reply.

      Shrugging, the boy turned back to his desk. It was probably nothing.

      But on the other side of the bedroom door were two burly men dressed in black. One, the leader, peered through the itty-bitty crack between the door and the wall. The other, pressed up against the hallway behind his better, asked in a barely audible voice, “Sir, why do we need to detain this boy? He’s only ten years old.”

      The leader leaned away from the door and met his comrade’s eyes. “He is far too intelligent. He knows how to use his brain in a way no one else does. He is a genius. That makes him dangerous.” He pulled a dart gun out of the holster on his belt and cocked it. “Children should not be trusted with such powers.”

      His heavy boot collided with Braden’s bedroom door. It splintered and crashed to the carpet with a thud. The black-clad men burst into the room.

      Braden’s head snapped around to look at the intruders. All he saw was the barrel of a gun, and he only managed a scream before a dart sprouted from his neck. He slumped over. Unconscious, but alive.

      One of the men scooped the boy’s limp body up and tossed him over his shoulder. They marched over the wreckage of the door and silently left the empty home.

Loren

AAWC — In the Mist

    This is my entry for challenge three of Misty’s AAWC. The prompt was broken. Oh, and I included my team’s mascot, too.

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      Once upon a time, there was broken girl, with a broken family, in a broken world.

      The world was fighting itself. One side of the globe against the other. Constantly, we lived in fear of the day when enemy troops would attack, or when a devastating missile would drop from the sky and kill us all.

      My father left to fight in the army years ago. He didn’t return.

      “He was a brave man,” my mother would often say, stroking the dank black hair away from my eyes.

      I didn’t want him to be a brave man. I just wanted him to be my father. I often wondered if he had died already, or if he was risking his life daily on the front lines. My favorite daydream, however, was that he was steadily make his way home. To us.

      My family lived in a small, pale blue tent, bleached white by the relentless sun. Rooms had been made by hanging sheets from the ceiling. It wasn’t the best arrangement, but it provided a little privacy.

      A small head, topped with unruly dark brown hair, poked its head into my room. The cream-colored sheet that marked off my space had been brushed aside as my little brother spilled into the room. He had developed amnesia several years ago; my mom and I gotten him to remember us, but sometimes his memory would short circuit, and he’d scream when he saw one of us.

      He grinned a gap-toothed smile at me, dimples appearing on his tanned cheeks. “Jen,” he whispered. “You’ve gotta see this.” He scurried to me and grabbed my hand, tugging me toward the door.

      I rose to my feet and ruffled his hair. “Yeah? What’s out there, Eli?” I followed him out of the tent.

      Mom was waiting outside the tent in her ratty bathrobe. Her hair stuck out at odd angles. She looked only half awake.

      The sun was just starting to come up, and mist lay over the ground. Eli pointed into the thick, damp grayness. “Do you see him?” he asked eagerly. “It’s Dad! Mom, Jenni, he’s come home.”

      My heart skipped a beat. Dad had come home? After years of wishing and praying, it was finally happening! Though the voice in my head told me that it was too good to be true, I peered into the mist. Maybe Eli’s eyes were better than mine, because I couldn’t see a thing.

      Mom glanced at me. The dark circles under her eyes made me want to cry. She hadn’t slept well since dad had left and Eli had gotten amnesia.

      I shrugged, to show her that I couldn’t see Dad.

      Eli could barely contain his excitement. “He’s right there! He’s home!” He grabbed my hand and squeezed it tightly. “He looks just like he does in the pictures you showed me.”

      I still couldn’t see him.

      Mom got onto her knees and held Eli’s head tenderly with both hands. “Baby, what do you see? Can you tell us?”

      Eli pointed into the distance again. “It’s Dad.” He was starting to cry. “He’s in his a-army uniform. There’s an eagle on his sh-shoulder. Can’t you s-see him?”

      Dad wasn’t coming home.

      Mom hugged Eli tightly. I crouched beside them and squeezed what remained of my broken family. Eli had an overactive imagination, and often had trouble telling fantasy apart from reality. Sometimes I wished I was like him. Fantasy — especially if Dad was in it — couldn’t be so bad.

      Some things are too good to be true.

Loren

AAWC — The Girl in the Album

   Hello! Here’s my story for challenge two of Misty’s AAWC. The prompt was photograph. I included my team’s mascot in a drawing my MC did of a bald eagle. Enjoy!

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      On the day that I left for college, I discovered something strange in the attic.

      Mom had told me to carry everything I wasn’t taking to college up to the attic, but I got sidetracked. I’d only brought two boxes up into the attic before I plopped onto the wooden floor and began flipping through drawings I’d done as a child. A leprechaun I’d drawn to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day; a bald eagle against an American Flag; and two stick figures holding hands were my favorites. I was flooded with nostalgia as the childish crayon drawings brought back memories.

      Once I’d finished looking at my art, I dug into a cardboard box filled with photo albums. I pulled out the top one — titled Our Family — and blew the dust of the soft leather cover. The particles of dust tickled my nose and threatened to make me sneeze. I flipped open the cover.

      The first image in the album was a group shot. My dad, wearing his favorite blue tie, was in the back. His arm was around mom, who had a giggling toddler on her hip. That’s me? I wondered. The young, smiling toddler didn’t look exactly like me in my baby pictures — then again, the resemblance was close enough.

      Then I saw the other girl in the photograph.

      Auburn hair pulled into a side ponytail. Bored hazel eyes, clearly indicating that she didn’t want to be in the picture. A filmy gray dress. That was me.

      Who was the toddler, then?

      Panic and bafflement creeping into my brain, I tried to tell myself that she was probably a cousin. But I’d been around ten years old in the picture — wouldn’t I have remembered her? And what was she doing in a photo album titled Our Family? It didn’t make sense. Swiftly, I flicked through the rest of the album. That girl . . . she was in almost every picture.

      I flipped back to the first page and squinted at the toddler. “Who are you?” I whispered.

      Tucking the album under my arm, I lurched to my feet and hurried down the stairs. I found Mom in my near-empty bedroom. She was tearing up, gazing around her. Clearly, she was lost in thought.

      She heard my footsteps and turned to face me. “Cait?” she said.

      I showed her the album, then pointed to the first page. “Mom — who’s this girl?” I asked, my finger hovering above the happy toddler.

      She brushed wispy red strands of hair out of her face. “Hmm?” She stared at the picture, her eyebrows furrowing. “I . . . um . . . Cait, where did you find this?”

      I perched on the edge of my bed, which had been stripped of its sheets. “It was in the attic,” I explained with a shrug. “Who is she?” I pressed.

      Mom shook her head, confused. “I don’t know, sweetie.” She raised her voice and called, “Sawyer? Could you come here, please?”

      A moment later, my dad appeared in the doorway. He wasn’t working that day, since it was the weekend. Even if it had been a weekday, he’d be home anyway — he would have taken the day off, because there was no way he’d miss my last day at home. “What do you want?”

      “Dad, there’s this kid in our photo album. I’ve never seen her before. Do you know who she is?” I showed him the picture.

      Like Mom, Dad had no idea who the toddler was. I left them to speculate about her in my bedroom while I scurried back up to the attic.

      I stooped down and picked up one of the drawings I’d been looking at earlier: the one with the two stick figures, holding hands. As inspected it a second time, I noticed details I’d previously overlooked. One stick figure was taller than the other; that one had red hair. The other one, the shorter person, was depicted with a diaper and a big smile. The small one resembled the mystery toddler in the photo album. Scrawled at the top of the page in sky blue crayon were the words Me and My Sister.

      I don’t have a sister.

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This one was short, I know. 😛 But I had a friend over today, which zapped my energy, so I’m a little too tired to write a full-length novel based on the word photograph. Plus, I’ve got to work on a story for Samantha’s PTPWC.

Loren

P.S. I got my soccer uniform on Wednesday! I’ve got two jerseys — one white, one dark blue. One is for home games, the other is for away games (I don’t know which one’s which 😛 ). My number is 12.