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Grade
8

What’s next?

Ever since I was twelve, I asked myself this question: What happens after you get married, have children, grow old? Do you sleep until you die? Then what do you do after you die? I’ve always wondered if someone could answer that question.

 

My dad had left the family when I was eight. He left us to rot in the wealthy, self-obsessed ideas of society. My mom got stressed, my brother got depressed, my sister went away, and I was stuck in the middle. My dad left me after an accident with a stoplight and a drunk teenager. That was the beginning of the end.

 

After sixth grade, everything went downhill. My brother, Geronimo decided he didn’t want to be in this world anymore. He wanted to be on the verge of death. Too many times have I seen my mom rush to the hospital, saying “Gerry there’s again”. So many times I saw my sister in tears, praying for hours straight. Nowadays, he just sits moaning and crying. One day, he’s going to go too. And he’s going to meet his father.

 

High school didn’t make anything better. Kids on drugs, teachers yelling over grades, SATs, and colleges searching for who’s right for them. My sister left while I was in 9th grade. Off to college, in Arizona.

 

I remember that day clearly.,

 

“Whatcha doin’, Carol?”

“Nothing.”

“Then why the suitcase? Another research travel?”

She looks up, tears in her eyes.

“Willow, I’m going.”

“Okay…”

“Don’t tell Mom. I’ll give you my address, but don’t tell her.”

I walk to her.

“Why?”

“I can’t anymore. Gerry, Mom, Dad. I just can’t. I accepted Arizona University. I’m done.”

“You’re leaving me?”

“I’m sorry, Will. I’ll call.”

“Just go. Something will be made with your room.”

“Will, I-”

“Shut up and go.”

That was the last I heard of her in person.

 

A year later, Mom decided she wanted to take on a new direction in her life. A new soul-mate. I was ready to pack my bags and go to Dad. I was getting to the point where I wanted to leave. David and Mom spent all of their time together. No time for Saturday-night bowling, Wednesday-night pizza, or even watching television together. David was the only thing that existed in her mind.

 

It wasn’t until 10th grade where I found my ray of happiness. His name was Augie Lee. With brown hair, hazel eyes, and dimples, you wouldn’t expect to see him hanging out with the biggest freak in school. Yet he insisted he wanted to know more about me. We hung out, played Pokemon on the Nintendo, and danced to Marina and the Diamonds on cliffs.

 

One day he was sitting staring over the edge of our favorite cliff.

“Aaron Millers just puked over Ms. Larenski’s desk and got a suspension and a one-way ticket to bathroom city,” I said, plopping down next to him.

“Why is love a game?”

“Because someone plays, and someone gets played with. Sometimes there can be two players and one dice.”

“But what if you don’t know if you want to play? You just want to enjoy the process of it.”

“Is someone being crushed on by Augie from Lee”, I teased, half-expecting him to sock me.

“Willow…”

He had tears in his eyes.

I didn’t want to see my sister in him.

“You’re moving?”

“What are you talking about?”

“My sister was an emotional wreck like you when she told me she was moving.”

“No, its just I-I kinda, um, want to say, um, that..”

“Stop mumbling and just say it!”

“Its just that, I think that, um, I, I mean I would like…”

“Ice cream?”

“No…”

“Pizza?”

“What?”

“‘Primadonna’ meets ‘How to Be A Heartbreaker’ in ‘Power and Control’ setting?

“Willow!”

“What, then?!”

“I love you, stupid!”

I smack him so hard he almost fell off the cliff.

“I’m sorry! I-”

“Shut up.”

We sit there until I get up three hours later.

“C’mon, Augie.”

“Where?”

“It’s Friday. Bingo night.”

“But…”

“I love you, too.”

I grab him and hug him until he starts gasping for air.

“Well,” he says, a grin spreading across his face. “What are we waiting for?”

 

I never knew how powerful love is. In one day, I stopped worrying about Dad, Gerry, Carol, Mom and David, and school. I could only think about anyway I could live my life with Augie. I used to mutter my name. Willow Patterson, Willow Lee, Willow Patterson Lee. I like it now.

  

    I wake up Tuesday morning to the sound of my alarm clock beeping and my mom screaming at me to wake up. As I get dressed, I think think of think of what to say to Augie. How about what's up love? Or I woke up with you in my mind, dear? I smile just at the thought.

 

 When I reach school, I scan the premises for Augie. Strange, he's not here. I check the only other place that I can think of. The boys bathroom. I walk in and find the stall with the most toilet paper. It creaks open and I can't believe my eyes. I scream and start sobbing. He's sitting there wheezing, with his hair partially ripped out. His face is swollen with bruises that are turning purple. His arms are marked with bloody cuts.

“Willow, I…”

“Who did this to you?” I scream.

“Jackson…”

“As in Jackson Roberts, your best friend?!”

I slump against the wall and crumple into a ball.

“Willow-” he tries to get up.

“No.”

“But I-”

“Stay here. You'll understand what happens when people try to mess with you.”

I walk out and find Jackson laughing with his friends. It's funny at how he cower when he sees me. I’m naturally taller than him and he looks like a powerless shrimp to me.

“Hello, coward.”

“What's your problem?”

I punch him in the face, before kicking him in the stomach. He stumbles back, and lets out a scream.

I grab him by the collar and whispered, “You're not worthy of anyone. So don't even try.”

He looks scared, angry, and even regretful. I shove him into a wall, and walk away. My eyes are burning with tears.

 

It's one month after the Jackson incident. I got a two-day suspension. But Jackson got sent to the police and has in-school suspension until the end of May. It's only January.

 

I walk out of the woods and enter the clearing dangerously next to I-94 highway. Augie has planned a picnic for us. Yes, us.

I see him with a huge picnic blanket and an equally big smile. “Willow!” He waves to me. I wave back and run to him. He has everything that I love. There are chicken wings, rice, brownies, soda, cupcakes, pizza, and my favorite: bran cereal. We eat and decide to dance.  The sun is setting and the wind is blowing from the highway. All of a sudden, Augie kneels. There are tears in his eyes.

“Willow”, he says. “Will you become my love?”

“Who wouldn’t?” I say softly. He scoops me in a hug and holds me there. After a few minutes, we climb on the ridge and watch the cars whip by.

“Augie, I love you.”

“I love you, Willow-” He's cut off and flies into the highway. He gets hit and tossed like a ball in a volleyball game.

“Augie!”

“He's gone, Willow.”

I turn around and walk up to Jackson. He stands there, smirking. My brain says to kill him. But my heart knows better.

 

“Jackson Roberts will be guilty for the death of two people. His best friend and the love of his best friend. Tell my mom the news and that I'm sorry and that I love her. I'm just done with life. Forever.” With that, I take a running leap into the running traffic. Now is my chance to meet my dad. To find out what’s next.


State
MI
Zip Code
48105