The following story is by guest author Anthony R. Taylor. If you like the story you can find more of his work on his blog by clicking here.
It was my last night alive, so I didn’t get any sleep. I am starting high school and I know that I am not going to get through this first day.
Mom didn’t really have to do a lot to get me up for school. I could tell that she was surprised. She came in and shook me like she always does, and I jumped right up.
I’m sure that she probably thinks it’s because it’s the first day too and I am all freaked out about high school.
I am freaked out. There is no doubt. But it’s about other things.
She leaves my room to get ready for work.
My dad has already left for work. He leaves way before we do. My dad hates his job like I hate school. I know that I’m not going to end up like him, that’s for sure.
Mom yells from her room that she is getting in the shower. That always means that I should be going to the bathroom, brushing my teeth, and getting dressed.
I hear the shower.
I get out of bed.
I go into the bathroom and shut the door.
I look in the bathroom mirror.
I hate my hair. It’s all knappy and frizzy and looks like shit.
Cathy Sawyer told me that all through middle school. She and all the rest of her bitches told me what is wrong with me every day at Robinswood Middle.
I get dressed quicker than normal because today I am wearing my favorite shirt and favorite pair of jeans.
I steal my mom’s brush and run it through my hair twice.
Today I won’t care what Cathy says to me. I want to see her at school today. It really is why I am going.
Mom is happy that I am ready. She asks if I have everything. She says that she can’t go back to the house if I have forgotten anything.
I tell her that I made sure I had everything.
Dad’s pistol is in my bag. It’s loaded.
Usually I’ll tap on to mom’s blue tooth that connects my IPHONE to the radio and I’ll play what I want to hear in the morning.
I don’t really play what I want to hear. I don’t use the blue tooth. Mom would hate it, and I would have to sit through her complaining about it. I can’t stomach that today.
Mom has her radio playing listening to the same assholes talk about the same stuff. I don’t know why she listens to them. This morning, I don’t really care.
I’m not finishing up my makeup in the passenger seat using the visor. I’m not really wearing any makeup at all.
Mom asks why. She is trying to talk with me. I can’t really hide how I feel this morning. She knows I am bothered. It’s lucky that it’s the first day in high school. This gives mom a reason to think that she knows why I am acting different. She tells me that it will be okay. She tells me not to worry about it and that it will be like it was when I started middle school from elementary school.
Mom is right about that. It will be like it was in middle school. I remember that first day and the other days after. I can remember not knowing many people or not having any of my old friends in my classes. My first day in middle school and in my first class I sat across from this girl with a sticker of a band that I listened to. I said something to her about it, and she gave me this look like why are you talking to me. What was wrong with me? By the end of that day I felt like I was this, like thing, that was twisted and weird and nobody wanted to have anything to do with. It’s something that you carry around with you and the others see and their only thing is that they are happy it’s not them. Some girls even use it to just screw with you. Cathy Sawyer is a girl just like that. She is going to die.
From: Jessica Curtain
Sent: Sunday, August 28, 2014 9:10 PM
To: Pamela Goldsmith
Again, I wanted to thank you for all that you have done for Cathy this past year and particularly this summer.
My divorce from Thomas, and the personal pain that it caused me, really made me blind to the effect that it was having on Cathy especially at her age. If I hadn’t let myself become so overwhelmed by the bitterness and frustration that my divorce brought with it, I might have been the better parent and recognized that there was something going on with my daughter. I don’t think that I will ever be able to forgive myself for letting things get so out of hand with Cathy. I am just so grateful to have been there that evening to save my daughter from taking her life. More importantly, I am so blessed to have found you and the therapy you have provided.
You have saved my daughter’s life.
Tomorrow, she starts high school with a fresh perspective and a new lease on life. She is only able to do this because of your insight as a therapist and your willingness to break down the stupidity of us as parents.
I know that Cathy has a ways to go in dealing with the pain and frustration. I know that her attempt on her own life (I can’t even say the word) is something that she is going to have to deal with again and again. But what’s important is that Cathy now knows that she has you in her life. Cathy also realizes that she can talk to me, she can talk to her father, and she can make it through this because the power is within in her. You have said that a million times in our sessions and I know now with just talking to her tonight about how excited she is to start school; I know she believes this.
Thank you. You have given us hope.
I’ll let you know how it goes tomorrow.
The restaurant was crowded. But that was typical for NICK’s CAFÉ on a Sunday morning.
Jeni Preston looked around to make sure that Bill was out of sight, and then she reached into her purse for the baby rattle and laid it on the placemat across from her where Bill was seated.
She had found out that she was pregnant on Friday, but she hurried back down to the pharmacy on Saturday to get another test because she wanted to be sure. Bill had started early mowing the lawn, and that is when she sneaked into the bathroom and did the pregnancy test again.
It was another positive. She had been sure.
Jeni came out of the bathroom being methodical about gathering all the evidence.
Bill would be nervous when she told him the news, but she also knew that he would be happy. Most of his time these last few months was taken working with Dorothy Caruthers who was mentoring him on transitioning to a high school environment as a middle school teacher. Along with that, Jeni and Bill had been trying for so long to get pregnant, and if she hadn’t had any result this month, Jeni was ready to schedule an appointment with Dr. Gracy to seek an alternative.
She looked up and saw Bill coming towards the table.
“You see, the food is supposed to be here. Every time you order and then…” Bill stopped talking. He stared down at the baby rattle. “Is this what I think it is?” Bill asked. “Are we?”
Jeni wanted to blurt it out, but the words got lost and the tears began to flow.
“Oh, my God, this is incredible,” Bill said. He sat down and picked up the rattle. “Are you sure-sure?”
“Yes, I took two tests. I knew. I know. We are.”
Bill got up and went over to Jeni and hugged her. This didn’t go unnoticed as the couple across from them stared and smiled.
“We’re pregnant,” Bill said.
The man sitting next to his wife across from the two kids pointed as the kids stared down at their cellphones.
“Welcome to the club,” the man said. His wife smiled at Jeni and mouthed “congratulations”.
Bill looked at Jeni. “New teacher – new job – new father all in the same weekend. Life just keeps getting better.”
Dorothy Caruthers had got to school early. Actually, Dorothy was always early to school.
It started 35 years earlier when Howard Boone, her first principal, had hired her as a high school English teacher right out of college. Mr. Boone was very clear about punctuality in the interview that day, and Dorothy listened. From her first school day to the last one this year before she retired, Dorothy determined to always be early and try to never be out sick.
Dan, her husband of 30 years, was always remarking about how dedicated she was to teaching and to those kids.
“You are betrothed to your profession. I’m the husband. How ironic is that? I’ll call in sick; I do not have any concerns in doing that if need be,” Dan would say.
The last two years Dorothy had called in sick more times than the past 33 years combined. She wasn’t the one sick. Dan was sick. Dan was in the early stages of dementia.
Dorothy had seen it coming. Dan would get confused about things. He stopped even trying to work on his crosswords in the evening. Part of Dorothy’s original attraction to Daniel Caruthers was his mastery of the English language. He had wanted to be a writer, but two kids and a mortgage changed that. However, he never lost his love of words.
Now Dan knew few words and mumbled incessantly.
Dorothy had scraped together enough money to afford a visiting nurse while she worked, but things were getting worse, and Dan needed more care than she could provide for him at home. He would have to leave their home. Dorothy was determined she would never leave him alone.
Over coffee and tears Dorothy put in her retirement to Dr. Cartwright who assured her that he along with everyone at the high school would miss her, but understood her decision.
This school year would be the last Dorothy would walk an empty school hall early and out to the front parking lot to help new kids get through their first day.
The car pulled into the driveway as Dorothy reached the curb. A young girl, obviously a new student by the look of fear and confusion on her face, stepped out of the passenger’s side of the vehicle.
“Your first day?” Dorothy asked the girl.
“Go straight through that gate, you will see the assignments posted in the courtyard. Don’t worry, you are going to be fine.”
The young girl was expressionless. Dorothy had seen that look over the years. She also noticed that the girl was leaving her bag behind in the seat.
“Don’t forget your bag. You’ll need that,” Dorothy said.
The girl quickly turned and slung the bag over her shoulder.
“I will,” the girl said. She walked towards the gate just as Dorothy instructed.
Dorothy watched the girl fade into the high school courtyard clutching her bag tightly. She wondered how this day would affect the rest of her life, the people she would meet, and the futures they would have.