This story is by Emily O’Neal and was part of our 2019 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
I pace the bare room. Though, let’s be real, it’s a cell. The gray cement walls and floor are cold and hard. My gray outfit of sweatpants and a t-shirt doesn’t do much to keep me warm, and I have no shoes. I woke up about ten minutes ago, having no clue where I am or how I got here.
I pound the white metal door to no avail.
“Let me out!” I yell. I turn to the camera in the top corner. “You hear me?! Let me go!” Silence.
I grumble and sit on the squeaky bed in the corner. Resting my chin on my hands, I wonder how long I’ll have to stay here.
“As long as we’re here, probably,” says a voice. I look up. Jessie leans against the opposite wall, her green eyes alive with mocking laughter. Her long white blonde hair with red and purple streaks, black leather jacket, ripped jeans, and a devilish grin makes me feel suddenly self-conscious of my clothes.
I sigh. “Where are the others?”
“Here!” Abi steps forward in the corner of my vision. Her pink pleated skirt sways around her knees as she hops in place. She wears a white shirt and purple sweater, her platinum hair in two pigtails on the sides of her head. Her green eyes sparkle more than the fake gems lining her shoes.
“Here,” I hear a whisper. I find Skye in the far corner, sitting with her knees to her chest, her face hiding behind her hair. Her blonde hair looks more bleached than the other two. She is my mirror image, but somehow more faded. But when she looks up at me, her eyes are deep and wonderful. Hundreds of shades of green, like broken glass pieces, put together in the best possible way. Skye’s eyes are my favorite.
“Ooo,” says Abi. “New place?” She quickly circles the room, then looks at me thoughtfully. “I preferred our old room.”
“My old room,” I mutter, but it’s no use. We’ve had this argument before. They are as much a part of me as my hands. Jessie comes and sits roughly next to me, but the bed doesn’t move.
“So! They finally found out, uh?” She asks, crossing her legs nonchalantly. I drop my head.
“Yep. Thanks to you guys, I’m stuck in a cell who-knows-where for who-knows-how-long, because people think I’m insane!” I flop backward. Abi comes and does the same thing on my other side. She giggles, and I smile involuntarily. Skye gets up carefully and walks up to us. She sits at our feet, back to the bed. Abi sits up and starts to do Skye’s hair. I sit up too.
“What about my family? My younger brother Noah?” I ask, suddenly worried.
“Oh, I bet they’re fine. Better without you, maybe,” says Jessie.
“What!?” I yell.
“Jessie, stop it!” murmurs Skye. Jessie cackles.
“Just a joke, calm down,” she says.
“Not funny,” I mumble. Abi bounces a bit on the bed.
“This’ll be fun!” promises Abi.
“How the heck can imprisonment be fun?” I ask sharply. Jessie nods in agreement.
“Well, we could take that piece of concrete,” Abi explains, pointing at a crumbly bit of wall in a corner. “And draw. Skye?”
Skye smiles. “Sure.”
“Okay,” I murmur, resigned. I get up, the bed’s old springs squealing. Skye, whose hair now has little braids in it, follows. I pick up a thinner chunk of concrete about the size of my finger. I turn to the three girls behind me.
“What should I draw?” I ask.
“A skull,” says Jessie. Abi laughs.
“Clichè, much?” She snorts. Jessie eyes her with distaste, then stands up to go stand by the wall again.
“How about a bird?” suggests Skye quietly. I smile at her.
“A bird it is.”
I put the concrete to the wall and try to draw a bird. The scratchy white line that I draw looks more like a potato than a bird.
“Here,” says Skye. She puts her hand on mine. I can’t feel her touch, but she somehow guides my hand to make a bird on the wall. I grin.
We finish a rough sketch. This time, it actually resembles a bird. I clap dust off of my hands.
“Thanks, Skye,” I tell her. She shrugs, brushing her hair back and leaving dust streaked across her cheek.
“You’re welcome,” she replies. I look around.
“So… now what?”
“Hopscotch!” Shouts Abi. Jessie rolls her eyes.
“That’s a stupid idea,” she complains. Abi stands up and huffs at her.
“Well, do you have a better idea?”
“All my ideas are better than yours!”
“Hey!” I shout. They stop and look at me. “Either stop fighting or go away.” When Jessie, Abi, or Skye fight with one another, I get a dull headache. As I rub my temple, I look at the camera, it’s cold eye following me. The people on the other end must think I’m crazy.
“You are NOT crazy!” cries Abi. “You’re eccentric, there’s a difference.”
“Yeah,” mutters Jessie. “If you want to be polite.” Abi elbows Jessie. Skye and I pull at the ends of our hair. I do this when I’m uncomfortable or nervous. Abi puts her hand on mine, even though I can’t feel it.
“I’m sorry. Here, we stopped. See?” She waves to Jessie, who crosses her arms and rolls her eyes. “And don’t worry. Everything will work out in the end. Right, guys?” Skye nods.
“Yeah, I guess,” says Jessie. I exhale and drop my hand from my hair.
“Thanks.” I start to pace, the momentary joy of the bird forgotten. Fear has taken its place. How long will I be here? What if I never see my family again? What do they do with crazy people?
“I’m not crazy,” I whisper. Abi nods approvingly. I look at them.
“But if I wasn’t crazy, I wouldn’t be here.” I close my eyes. “So maybe I am crazy.”
“So what?” I turn to Jessie. She walks up to me.
“So what if you’re crazy?” she says. “So what if you’re different? Who cares? It’s just people and their stupid opinions. It doesn’t really matter.” I glare at her.
“It does matter! I’m in a locked cell because people and their “stupid opinions” think I’m crazy! You may not care if we’re here, but I do! I want to go home!” I shout. Jessie holds up her hands in mock defeat, grinning. I growl at her and stalk the other side of the room. I glance upwards. Great. They must really think I’m insane now.
“Woah, guys, hey!” Exclaims Abi. Skye follows me over.
“Hey, she was just trying to help… in her own way,” says Skye. I shake my head, trying to clear it.
“I know,” I answer.
“And I did help,” says Jessie. I turn around. Abi looks excited.
“What?” I ask bitterly. Jessie counts down on her fingers.
The door opens suddenly. I jump, startled.
“Jasmine?” asks the doctor, his face full of pity and concern.
“Jas,” I reply. He nods.
“Would you like to come with me?” he says. I stare at him for a second. He heard me yell that I wanted to go home. Clever Jessie.
I turn to look behind me. Jessie smiles, head tilted, then fades. Abi blows me a kiss and follows in suit. Skye gives me shy waves and whispers, “See you soon.” Then she, too, disappears. Jessie, Abi, Skye. Jas. My imaginary friends. I face the doctor.