Motif 2017-2018 Sun Valley's MAGAZINE for The Arts

Emma Ryan

Erica Williams


Lucas Summers


Prey to Yourself


There’s a wilderness in you

Ravenous beasts and dying foliage

Mental territory that can’t be explored

It’s mirrored in your pupils

Forever out of reach

A stag without a head

Surrounded by winding, towering, trees

They’ve been witnesses to your fate

You’re thrown to the wolves

Warmth envelopes the sensations of being torn apart

The moon gives you motivation to struggle

Unknown phantom hands resuscitate the urge

You’re remembering now

Forgotten actions and obscene curses

You’re remembering now

Iterations and impulses

You’ve been misguided

A transformation begins

You find your head again

And the wolves are dead

Ben Kunze

Amber Kester


Brooke Lawton

Victoria Petrone

What Good is it to Remember?

Savannah West

It gets so much harder to remember the good when all I can see is bad. I know that they have nothing in common, but I can’t help getting them mixed up. Lately, nothing but broken glass leads my path. With each step I take, another shard rips deeper into my skin.

Now I know what you're expecting, but broken nails and running mascara aren’t the problems in my life. One thing I have learned, though, not every story has a happy ending. So here you go, my unhappy ending.

April 10th, 2001: A sweet baby girl, born into a family with barely enough money to feed four mouths. Little did she know two days after being released from the hospital… She would be cradled in the arms of a cocaine addict, as he snorts his last gram. Only a week and a half old, she shared a room with her five-year-old brother. One night he awoke from a vicious dream, tears coated his cheeks. His jaw snapped shut when he saw the drunken bastard stagger in through the door.

April 10th, 2002: Happy first birthday! Mommy and daddy don’t get along anymore. He loves the babysitter now, we’ll be okay. “What about Shiloh, where’s she gonna live?” She says as tears soak her cake. He walked in the door, Jack Daniels on his breath, she knew he had been to the bar. Mom slipped him a wrapped box, he passed it to his daughter, it was a Furby.

December 25th, 2002: Her very first Christmas without her parents together. It was different the year before when everyone had actually liked being around each other. This year she knew her dad was happier spending Christmas with his other family instead of her. She would hope and pray that one day he would come home for good. That day never came.

September 21st, 2007: “Today is the day, my dad is coming to pick me up, and I’m going to see his new house.” She was ecstatic to see her father after this much time apart. She wanted all of her friends to know, so she told them all. She wished he knew the pain of what it's like for a parent to tell you one thing and to hold it off until her eighth-grade year.

August 9th, 2009: Her father couldn’t even pay child support, yet he wanted to adopt three of his new wife's nephews and niece. They denied him for the reason that he had multiple arrests, tickets, and violations. This was also the year that his eight-year-old daughter suffered from anxiety and depression for the first time.

April 2009: This was her third year of soccer and her fifth year playing softball. It’s amazing how much you notice when one person, out of your entire family, isn’t there. She doubted that he even knew she ever played sports.

April 6th, 2011: It was her dad’s birthday today, she called… voice mailbox full. She called again, the same thing. She called one last time, he hung up before the second ring. Happy birthday, dad.

June 2014: The night before her eighteen-year-old brother’s graduation day. She lay in bed, wide awake, as a sound echoed throughout the halls. The walls told her secrets, that even mother couldn’t hide. “Why would you try to do this, Dennis?” She knew what those words meant, she had thought about that escape too.

I’m not perfect, neither is my life. I’m proud of it though because that is the only home that I have ever known.


Aislyn Catka

Alayna Pro

Ashley Baez

Erica WIlliams

Scholastic Young Artist Awardees

We are pleased to announce that the Philadelphia Arts Education Partnership (PAEP) chose the following photography and art students as Scholastic Young Artist Awardees. Out of the 17 students who submitted a total of 29 photographs and one painting, 15 received recognition. The students work was judged among the counties of Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia.

Gold Key Awards

The very best works submitted to local programs. Gold Key works are automatically considered for national–level

Joy El Kessler


Anna-Colette Haynes


Silver Key Awards

Stand-out works submitted to local programs that demonstrate exceptional ability.

Emily Deal

Across the Lake

Sami Haney

Orange Dahlia

Sami Haney

Spider WEb Diptych

Morgan Hinderhofer

Old Wood

Kylie Jamison

Abandoned Piano

JoyEl Kessler


JoyEl Kessler


JoyEl Kessler


Kyle Kline

Untitled 1

Michelle Spence


Honorable Mention Awardees

Accomplished works submitted to local programs showing great skill and potential.

Maria Baez


Christina Billie

Welcome To Halloween

Connor Boyd

The Pitch

Holly Damm

The Flick

Emily Egan


Sami Haney

40 Floors Up

Sami Haney

The Rose

Morgan Hinderhofer


JoyEl Kessler

Blur Face

Kyle Kline

Untitled 3

Maddi McElwee


Lucas Summers

Do you Surf Bro?
That I Thought I Knew

Hannah Kirkell

As long as you can remember

I’ve heard your prayers and praises

I’ve heard your pleas

And I’ve seen your sorrow

I’ve held your tears

And I’ve turned away

There have been more deaths than I can count

And yet I know all their names

I’ve seen you at your darkest

And on your best of days

I know inside you’re breaking

When you say that you’re fine

I’ve heard you bless my name

And then curse it moments later

You’ve still yet to realize

That I’m not your genie

And it doesn’t matter

Because when the world is in your hands

You can make different decisions

Learn to accept your pain

Because I’ve learned to give it

You’ve sinned and cast me out

Then crawl right back for assistance

Because you need me

I see all your memories

And I know your deepest needs

You’re weak

Weak without me

And you know it too

So open up your eyes

To a God you thought you knew

And I’ll keep saving lives

Of the people that I have know

Since the beginning of creation





Angela Eang



Joy EL Kessler


Wilbert Jarrett

As a child

Bringing love of the game by great people and members that encouraged

Bringing a new style to the game

No college experience

I can still smell the last game of highschool

People cheering knowing the future ahead of me

Drafted to the nba but also traded

Watching a few things from mike

2000-2001 season was the year

The first ring will be put first in the case

Years later

The second, third, fourth

Fifth, then the sixth, and

No more

No more gas

But now known as

A hall of famer

A legend

A legend



Michelle Spence

Grady Southern


A Love Lost

Emma Mansfield

He was a blissful wish, a glimmering light so bright

A shining star, shimmering and dancing through the night.

His eyes held the stars, and they sparkled for the moon

A simple gaze and the activity was over too soon

His laugh brought bursts of color to my world of black and white

I began to see life in new shades, and it was all from his light

I just could not believe it all came from one being

But it was clear, he showed me that I was finally seeing

His words held my heart, and in turn I held his

We were together at last, in romantic bliss

My patience won out and his eyes became clear

I was the one he really wanted, he just had too much fear

All those years of waiting, watching and protecting

All those years towards my heart he spent neglecting

But then it came true and my eyes were now bright

My fairy tale wish soared in my heart with such might

My love for him increased with each passing second

And with his own eyes to my own heart he beckoned

I came to him in open arms and celebrated this joy

My life was complete with this wonderful boy

In all my life I never wanted anything more

Of this I was absolutely positively sure

To help him grow and be his rock

To give him strength as his building block

But that light morphed to darkness as my grasp on him weakened

The colors went blank while my eyes grew bleak and

He slipped away from my hold

The full story yet untold

His ways made me weak but his words brought me higher

My heart felt abused, lit up, on fire

I just couldn’t bear the emotional pain

As I wondered, “What does he have here to gain?”

I asked myself questions but forgot to intake air

Broken thoughts swirled through my head, too much for me to bear

My aching and pain went unnoticed by my love

I had fallen in too deep, no way to reach above

My insecurities bled from my eyes as tears on my cheeks

My unspoken fears tumbling down in streaks

I was frozen in fear, hoping not today, not today

But his face told it all; there was no other way

His love turned to lust, and his hands fed his hunger

I couldn’t escape it, I felt so much younger

He towered above, and I felt so much smaller

While his words and his actions branded him so much taller

His eyes strayed from my grasp

And on another girl he found a clasp

And held on for dear life

I felt stabbed with a knife

Yet bleeding out and feeling numb

Is so much better than being dumb

And allowing for the home to be wrecked

Yet that mate has been checked

He hurt me in ways he could never know came true

Yet one glance at him and I recalled at the love I once knew

It seeps in my heart and abuses my soul

I guess for authentic love there must be an emotional toll

I gave it my all, he gave it his least

I was the shy beauty, and he was the beast

His claws shred my heart into an unrepairable heap

He broke me too much, I was in too deep

Now when my eyes glance over at him my heart doesn’t play hopscotch in the rain

I feel numb to the emotions, numb to the previous pain

When his body brushes against mine I flinch away in disgust

For I feel if he touches me my heart will turn to rust

His toxic grasp on my heartstrings burned them, welded them together

But his claws let go of that emotional tether

Leaving my numb hands and heart to pick up the scattered shards

I suppose he truly did knock down my house of cards

He defiled me, killed me, ripped me to shreds

But in the end I was the only one truly dead

He had a way of playing me when I just wanted peace

Well here we are, yet the pain will not cease

Now when I look in a mirror the numb twists the reflection

Every part of me is under cruel inspection

Not good enough, never good enough

He broke his one promise, blew his bluff

Well I guess I gambled away too much of my heart

Because he has it hung up now, using it to play darts

Emotion won’t due in a game with just numb

I guess he understood that; in the end he had fun

My walls are all back up now, I let no one else through

The last one who came in made my flesh wounds all new

I can’t take more chances, they’re now all used up

The tears of my soul have overflown my cup

I push everyone away, not giving a second chance

I don’t deserve or need a new romance

How could I, when even I can’t love myself?

How am I expected to just love someone else?

I’m hollow inside and have a rough exterior

But it’s to protect me again, from becoming even drearier

My trust has run dry, and I suppose I’ve given in

The love that I’ve lost has become his own win

Mimi Nguyen



Sophia DOugherty

Morgan Hinderhoffer




When I close my eyes,

I can remember the feeling of freedom;

The fleeting moments of free falling

When the skies opened up

And the stars fell to the earth.

But before we crashed,

Our wings fully extended,

And we flew back towards the sun.

Then, as Icarus, drunk on happiness,

We soared too high,

And our wings burnt off.

The clouds hardened,

Catching us before we hit the ground,

And the inspiration for this flight

Was when she cut me off,

And I flew from sky to dirt,

And lay motionless in the grass.

I closed my eyes,

Took a breath,

And exhaled, laughing at my near miss.

GRady Southern

Holly Damm

Ant Carlen




Why can't you see

Emma Mansfield

Why can't you see

You set me free

But weighed my heart

Tore it apart

Your honeyed voice

Made me rejoice

But your infection

Of my hearts rejection

Shows you didn't see

I was unhappy

Because your lies

Ripped me up inside

And I couldn't lose

The emotional abuse

You put me through

Why couldn't I lose you

You couldn't let me go

Or maybe throw

My heart away

It couldn't stay

Within your hold

It got too old

Why didn't you see

You were killing me?

Where was my chance

To leave this fatal romance

And escape your rule

But I was such a fool

For coming so close

Just another dose

Of all these fears

They shed my tears

All I could do

Was beg to you

Not to hurt me more

But then you lured

Me with your tricks

And just for kicks

Rubbed it in my face

Id always be last place

You know it's rough

Not being good enough

For the one you see

For eternity

And only them

But you condemn

My heart to hell

I'll never tell

Cause now you see

You've murdered me


Angela Eang


Sarah Bromley

One night, while my parents were at dinner with my dad’s boss, I invited my best friend Toby over to hang out at my house. Now I don’t live in some huge neighborhood with tons of big, fancy houses. Instead, I live on a dark and lonely street; in a house that looks just as dark and lonely as the street it’s on. My house is right up against the woods, so the woods are practically my backyard.

So I invited my best friend Toby over to hang out, and we were talking about the different bands that we like. All the sudden, we heard a knock at the front door. When I answered the door there was nobody there. About 10 minutes later, it started to thunderstorm. Half an hour later we heard a knocking at the door again and I answered the door. There was nobody there again. 20 minutes later, we heard a knocking at the door, again, I answered the door and there was nobody there, again. This continued for another hour or two. After the billionth time, it began to vex me. About 15 minutes later, the power went out from the storm. Toby and I clumsily found our way to the kitchen where my parents had some flashlights stored for when the power goes out. We began to wander around the house, so we could lock all of the windows and the doors. We then decided to station ourselves in my parent’s bedroom until they got home. About half an hour later, we heard someone vehemently knocking at the front door. I told Toby to go get it because I was too afraid. So Toby crept downstairs to see who was at the door. After I heard the sound of glass shattering, I heard some yelling and the sound of someone opening a drawer and taking out a knife. Then, I heard a loud, blood curdling scream, followed by hysterical laughter. I grabbed my flashlight and ran downstairs to see what happened. What I saw made my stomach turn. Toby stood over the bloody, lifeless body of a man that had just broken into my house. He was holding a bloody knife and laughing hysterically. I screamed, ran to my bedroom, locked the door, and called my parents. The police told them what happened.

I then decided that I had the audacity to stealthily walk downstairs and sneak past Toby. I was able to get to the bottom of the stairs before he heard me. He charged at me with the knife. I screamed and ran for the front door, but I was too slow. He tackled me to the ground. Then he slowly lifted up the knife, brought it down, and stabbed me right in the throat. He continued to stab me over and over again till he stabbed my heart and killed me. Just 1 minute after Toby killed me, my parents and the police arrived. They found me lying dead on the ground with Toby standing over my lifeless body holding the bloody knife that he used to murder me. My name is Aurora Brooks, and I was murdered by my best friend, Toby Rodgers.

Evan Taylor

Still Life
What does an alien look like?

Katie Fallon

On the planet Gliese 581g, there are organisms that us humans would refer to as “aliens”. The animal, referred to as a “Gliss”, has scales and small holes on their snouts and other areas of the body in small patches, the holes being important for the survival of this creature. The holes are what takes the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to convert it into oxygen and the scales protect anything else getting into these holes in order for the alien to not catch a disease. These holes can also help convert any saltwater into freshwater to stay hydrated at all times. These furry creatures that are fast and agile in the rough terrain are unusual to us humans and more studies are currently taking place to find out more about them.

In addition, a Gliss has gray fur that blends into the surrounding rocks, and big, black eyes that work at least twenty times better than an average human and help it see in the pitch black. In other words, this species is known to have extremely high quality night vision, even though it only needs it when it is on the side of the planet in the shadow because the planet is always facing the red dwarf; this is called a tidally locked planet. It has dark green paw pads on the soles of its feet so it can grip onto the rocks and slightly webbed paws to swim. Also, these animals tend to display large-sized ears to hear others of the same species calling for help or signaling there is food. Although they do not travel in packs, they do seem to take care of and help each other when they hear a signal, not being territorial of others in the same species.

Furthermore, each Gliss tends to be pretty small, reaching sizes of only about a foot tall and a foot and a half long in length. Considering that the gravity is three times stronger than on Earth, but the planet's radius also impacts weight, they would weigh about 12 pounds on Earth if they weighed 21.3 pounds on Gliese 581g. A long tail stretches out from these animals from their rear that can be up to a foot long by itself. The significance of these tails can be used to grab objects, including pebbles, to throw in the opposite direction to distract a predator and sneak away. These animals also can curl up, blending in and posing as a small boulder with moss.

From the ways that they camouflage and their physical appearance, it is obvious that their habitat is a rocky environment. This terrain surrounds different bodies of water, including lakes and oceans, and experiences low temperatures that have a possibility of ranging between -35 degrees to 10 degrees. The Gliss species planet, Gliese 581g, is Earth-like in the sense of its possible atmosphere and the distance from its own parent star (0.15 astronomical units). The planet is an exoplanet that can be found in the Gliese Planetary System and it orbits a red dwarf. It appears tidally locked to the red dwarf which means that one side is always in the light while the other is always in the dark. The planet itself is approximately 20.42 light-years away from Earth while the whole planetary system is 20.22 light-years away. This planet can be found in the habitable/ “goldilocks” zone, meaning that the planet has conditions that allow for life to survive, just like Earth. Along with Gliese 581g, there are thought to be four other planets in its system, Gliese 581g being the only one known to have these “aliens”.

Due to the colder temperatures, not many plants can grow; however, those that can include lichens, mosses, and small shrubs. These are the main sources of food for this alien species; however, because they are omnivores, they do sometimes consume small aquatic animals that can survive the cold climate. Since they do catch some of these marine animals to eat, they have adapted over time to having webbed feet. Moreover, as previously mentioned, this species can communicate. They signal the others if there is any food to share, if they are warning one another of a possible danger coming their way, or if it needs help immediately. They make a clicking noise, different pitches indicating what the signal is actually for. This is why their large ears are efficient to their own survival and the survival of their species.

This interesting species, called a “Gliss”, is extraordinary and unlike anything we have seen on Earth. It has adapted to survive the cold climate and the carbon dioxide-based atmosphere on Gliese 581g. Another adaptation it has made is to take any saltwater and convert it into freshwater. The strange alien species found on this exoplanet is interesting because it has a planet like Earth but has many physical features that are unusual and may not exactly be the image that comes to mind when you hear the word “alien”.

Erica Williams

Chris Pratt
The Longstanding Tree

Katrina Gines-Zedan

The sweet melody of Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” plays as I shuffle through my papers. The window is open and I feel the cooling spring breeze flow through and brush against my soft skin. “Here it is!” I shout as I pull out a worksheet mapping the different parts of the brain for my AP Psychology class. With the AP test coming up, I want to make sure that I understand everything. So far the class has been really interesting, but I never was able to get higher than a B+ in biology. My phone vibrates in my desk drawer and in surprise, I answer it.

A text from Stacy appears on my phone:

Hey Callie! Have you finished the Chem work?


I roll my eyes and reply:

Yeah I finished it at lunch. Want it?


Yes plz!


I go back into my purple folder and take out the worksheet for Chem, snap some pictures of the front and back on my phone, and send them to Stacy. Converting mass into moles isn’t even that hard if you paid attention in class and know how to do simple math, I thought. But sending the work wasn’t that much of an issue considering the fact that I finished the problems in about five minutes. I hear a car door slam and the front wooden door unlocks and opens. “Callie, I’m home!” my aunt yelled up the stairs.

I walk over to my door and go down the stairs to see my petite aunt standing in the kitchen. Her dark brown locks are tied tight into a bun while a few strands - that some may consider bangs - hang to the side in front of her face. “You’re home early,” I say still in slight shock. She turns to face me and I notice that she is fidgeting with the ring on her left hand. A beautiful ring crafted into a heart shape that still glimmers a sparkling silver just like the day she got it. “Yeah the trial didn’t last very long… Besides, I thought maybe we could go out to dinner tonight.”

I hesitate. “We can go to your favorite place? Red Robin? You can get that burger that you like and I’ll even get you a chocolate milkshake too!” she says as she blushes and her smile spreads from cheek to cheek. She had a natural glow about her that was beginning to fade. I answer, “I haven’t eaten there since… It’s okay. We can have something here?” I stumble on my words trying to find a way to tell her I don’t want to go without actually saying it. I used to like to eat there, but ever since I was twelve, it hasn’t been the same.

Her smile begins to turn into a frown and her eyes become weary. The spark dies into smoke that is now nothing. “If that’s what you really want, then we can do that.” My guilt suddenly triggers me and the words spew out of my mouth, “You know what, let’s go.” She looks at me and that smile reappears. “Are you sure?” she asks me.

I thought about it. Did I really want to go there after all these years? As many faults as my aunt had, I loved her, and she wasn’t home very often, so when would this opportunity come around again? “Yeah, I’m sure!” I say. We head out to the car and I hesitate when she unlocks it. She gets into the car, starts it, and waits for me to get in the passenger side. I stare into my reflection in the glass window and see my long, wavy, light brown hair and my deep brown eyes. I see the stubby nose on my face, just like the one my father had and the lush eyelashes I got from my beautiful mother. I see them when I stare at my reflection and my stomach clenches when I think of what I would give to see them again.

I snap back into reality and look at the car. Placing my hand on the handle of the door, I quickly snap it back and get in. Taking a deep breath, I buckle my seat belt and my aunt turns on Q102. As we drive into Delaware, I stare at the trees. All of them so tall and sturdy, it would take a tremendous wind storm to knock them down. I wish I could be like that.

A while later we return home and it is getting late. My aunt heads up to bed and I go back to my room to study a bit more before taking a shower and going to bed myself. The next day I wake up to my sounding alarm at the same time as every day: five thirty-three a.m. In my freshman year I would wake up at five thirty a.m. but then I started to give myself an extra three minutes of sleep. I quickly get ready for school and head out of the house at about six thirty-five a.m. like normal. Walking to school is always relaxing to me. I get to listen to my favorite music and think about all the things I had to do that day.

Unfortunately for me, it is Thursday which means I have work. I push through the day, getting as much of my assignments done as possible. At two fifteen, I leave school and rush home to get changed for work. Keeping my jeans and converse on, I change into my black polo shirt with the small rollerblade logo on the pocket. I brush my hair back into a tight mid-ponytail and grab my employee ID, phone, and keys before heading off to work.

Luckily on weekdays the majority of people there are little kids coming from daycare or babysitters bringing kids here because they don’t have anything else to do with them. Today, I am assigned to snack bar duty. As I stand slouching at the counter behind the bulky cash register, I hear someone say, “Hey. Callie, right?” I look up and see a boy around my age with dirty blonde hair and stunningly blue eyes. For a second I lose my breath before I can respond, “Uh yeah.. Yeah that’s me.”

I look at him trying not to be too obvious. “Yeah we were in the same bio class last year with Sikich.” Oh no, not biology class!, I thought. My cheeks begin to blush and butterflies whirl around in my stomach. I rush to try and remember his name but it couldn’t come to mind. How could I possibly forget his name? I just stutter the words, “Oh, yeah!” Awkward silence does not begin to describe what happened after.

A few seconds pass by when he finally says, “Oh, sorry. It just came to me that you may not remember me. I’m Noah.” I sigh in relief and finally remember. “Yeah! I remember, you were the guy who wanted to be a marine biologist, right?” Noah nodded his head and smiled. I could see his cheeks begin to glow a pinkish-red. “Yeah, I did… I mean, I do, I do.” I couldn’t help but smile and chuckle a bit.

My manager then came out from behind me and my smile disappeared. “What did you want?” I asked him. His smile went away and a confused look came across his face. I repeat the question as he sees my manager behind me. “Oh yeah, sorry about that. Could I get a medium Diet Coke and two slices of pizza, please?” I type the order into the old computer next to me. “The total comes out to seven dollars and thirty-three cents.” He hands me eight dollars and I put it into the register as he says, “Keep the change.”

A slight smile appears on my face as I begin to prepare his things. I then hand him the two slices of pizza and his drink. He grabs them and says, “It was nice running into you.” He smiles and walks over to a table where there is a little blonde girl with pigtails tied up in ribbons sitting there awaiting him. I watch as he hands her the one slice of pizza and she imitates how he eats his. I giggle at the sight of her when everything goes dark and I remember something.

I see myself sitting in that same booth with my parents when I was younger. They would pretend that the fries were planes flying around and then they would eat them. Sometimes we would even take the wrappers from our straws and throw them at one another. The sound of our laughter was never ending. That day was filled with complete and utter happiness. I haven’t felt that way in a long time.

Work dragged on for another five hours or so. When I get home, I finish off my homework and study for about an hour. For dinner, I eat some carrot sticks with ranch and a seltzer water. Around eleven, I head downstairs to get a glass of water when I hear a quiet sobbing sound come from the living room. At the bottom of the stairs, I creep around the corner and peek in. I see my aunt sitting in a hunched position on the loveseat by the window. In her hand is a glass filled to the brim with red wine and in her other hand is a photo of her and my uncle Jim. It shows her on his back hugging him and both had the biggest smiles across their face.

I remember the day that was taken. My parents, my aunt and uncle, and I had all gone down to the beach for the weekend. I remember the hot sand, the warm salt filled ocean water, the bright sun shining down on all of us. That memory I remember in color, unlike everything else nowadays. The color in this world is beginning to fade for me. Bright and beautiful colors that make up everything are turning into black and white.

I look back at my aunt sitting in the moonlight. I see the wine bottle on the side table that we had gotten two days ago now nearly empty. Tears flow down her once naturally rosy cheeks. A tear runs down mine and I rub it away. I forget why I even came downstairs and so I go back up to my room and go to bed. Lying under the covers, I look out the window up at the glimmering moon up in the nighttime sky. I close my eyes and I can see them again, as if they never left me, and before I know it, I fall asleep.

The next day everyone at school seems to be in a state of hyperactivity. Teachers believe it to be due to the fact that it is Friday, but that is just an excuse people give themselves to act crazy. I walk into my World Beliefs class and see Noah sitting there in the back corner desk where I usually sit. I walk back and as I approach he says, “Hey! What are the odds? You’re in this class too?” I set my binder and notebooks down on the desk next to him and say, “Yeah. You’re actually sitting in my seat.” He looks up and down as if I mean another seat before he begins to get up to move. I hold my hand out stopping him and say, “It’s okay. You can sit there just this one time. But tomorrow, I get my corner window seat back.”

Noah smiles at me, sits back down, and says, “Okay, deal.” We settle in and get our laptops out. Mrs. Buckmaster, bubbly as always, asks how we are doing and then introduces what we are doing next. We are currently in the middle of learning Buddhism and so she decided our final project for the unit will be done in pairs. I look around to find everyone already paired up, all except for him. “Wanna be partners, partner?” he says, looking at me with a bright smile on his face. I smirk and say, “I don’t have any choice, do I?” His blue eyes sparkle in the sunlight and his smile is the most white I have ever seen. He says, “Nope. You’re stuck with me.”

We begin to work on our project and decide to hang out after school. From the high school we walk to Cocco’s Bar & Grill. When we arrive, the waitress walks up and seats us in a booth on the upper level and hands us our menus. Both of us decide that we are not that hungry, so when the waitress comes back, we ask for a pitcher of Diet Coke and two orders of cheese fries. We go over the basic ethics of Buddhism and meditation techniques. As the hours pass by, we go from talking about the Dalai Lama to talking about our personal lives.

As we go deeper into the details of our families, we both unintentionally stop talking. In the silence, Noah looks into my eyes with a worried look on his face. He then looks away and says, “A few years, ago my father died in a car crash. I’m not sure what the direct cause of it was, exactly, but he died on the scene. He was on his way back from a business trip when it happened.” My mouth slightly drops and I reach out to hold his hand. “I am so sorry, Noah. No one should have to go through that at such a young age.” He looks at me and holds onto my hand. His eyes water and he continues to tell me about his father and how close they were. “We would go fishing every Saturday morning and to church on Sundays. I can honest to God say that he was my best friend. Now I just live with my mom and my grandmother, my dad’s mom. They get worried about me a lot so if I get a call, it’s probably from them.” We both laugh and move on to some more lighthearted stuff.

We talk until the sun sets on the horizon. I look down at my phone and see that it is 8:27 already. “Crap! I have to get home.” I say to him. He gets up and holds out his hand, “May I walk you home?” I grab his hand and hold it in mine as we walk all the way to my house. As we silently stride along the sidewalk, I look up at the sky and see the full moon surrounded by shining stars. Noah sees me looking up and he looks up as well. He then glances back at me and smiles as we finally approach my house. Standing under the stars with the moonlight shining down on us, we say our goodbyes and go our separate ways.

Entering my house, it is pitch black and smells of bourbon whiskey. I peek outside the window and realize that my aunt’s car is parked in the driveway. I tiptoe up the stairs as quietly as I can. I walk over to her room and place my ear up against the door to see if I can hear anything. The door flies open and I try to stop myself from falling over. My aunt stood there with mascara running down her face. “Where the hell have you been?” she asks me.

I politely respond with, “I was out with a friend working on a project.”

“Friend? You don’t have any friends.” she slurs.

“Well, I made one.”

“Awe, look at you making friends. Now, be a good girl and go make me a martini.”

She then slams the door in my face. I stroll into my room and throw my backpack onto my bed. I then head downstairs to make her martini. I look in the trash can and see another empty wine bottle. When I am done, I head back upstairs, knock on the door, hand her the martini, and go back into my room. Luckily it is Friday so I just turn on some Billy Joel and draw for a bit.

Over the weekend, Noah and I begin a texting conversation. It turns out that we have a lot in common, more than I thought we would. Over the next few weeks, when I did not have work, I spend the rest of my time with him. During that course of time, the empty wine, along with vodka, bottles begin to rack up in our trash can. One day, I go into her purse to borrow a five dollar bill for lunch and I find a silver flask. I pull it out and smell what is inside. It reeks of vodka.

Today, is May 1st.

I wake up a bit later than usual because it is a Saturday. When I finally get out of bed, I head downstairs and make an egg white omelet with American cheese and turkey sausage. The smell of the sausage and egg white fill the air. When I finish cooking my food, I put it on a beautiful plate and head over to the dining table. I open all of the curtains and allow the warming sunlight to shine through.

After eating breakfast I head back upstairs and continue to read - my favorite book - Just One Day by Gayle Forman. Around three o’clock my phone rings. I look at the screen and see a text from Noah:

Hey! What are you doing on this beautiful day?


Ummm… reading. You?


Do you want to go to the carnival with me tonight?


Hmmm… I don’t know. I’ll have to think about it.


Come on. I bet you don’t have anything else to do.


Fine. Meet you there at 6.


See ya there, partner!


Four o’clock comes around and I take a shower to freshen up. The boiling water heats me up and relaxes me. I then take the next hour to blow dry my hair and pick out the perfect outfit. I head over to my closet and look through every single top I have and sigh in frustration. “I seriously don’t have a single outfit I can wear for tonight? Really?”

I fall onto my bed and stare at my white chipped ceiling. I hear a knock on my door. “Open sesame!” she yells through the wooden door. I walk over, open it, and see her about to fall down . I grab her underneath her arm and lead her across the hall to her room and help her over to the bed. She falls asleep almost immediately. I find a bright pink post-it note and write that I am heading out to the carnival with Noah and will be back by midnight. I stick it on the cream lamp sitting on her night stand. I walk over and flip the light switch off so that she can get some rest. When I get back into my room, I walk over to my closet and say, “Okay. Round two.”

Everyone is out tonight. Parents with their children, teenagers, pre-teens, and then there is me. There are several rides that I have not been on in years and concession stands filled with all sorts of food that will make you gain a couple pounds. The lights brighten up the night sky and I can hear the cha-chings of the games. I walk up in front of the firehouse and search for Noah.

I suddenly feel a tap on my shoulder and turn around to see Noah in his usual t-shirt and jeans. He smiles, looks me up and down and says, “You look amazing.” I respond with a simple “thank you” and we head in. Lately the weather has been warm and humid so I chose a simple black tank top with a plaid shirt to wear over it, unbuttoned, a pair of dark jean shorts, and of course, my converse.

“What ride do you want to do first?” he asks me.

I look around and barely remember what it feels like to be on any of these rides. One catches my eye. Towards the center of the carnival is a ride that appears to look like paper airplanes that two people ride on, each on their stomachs. I point to that one and we run into the line. We only have to wait a minute or so until the ride stops and it’s our turn. Noah hands the ride instructor our tickets and he lets us in.

I pick one that looks pretty sturdy and we both get on. It’s head first and you lie on your stomach which instantly feels pretty weird, but I’m excited. Noah gets on next to me and then the ride instructor comes around and puts down the part of the ride that holds us in and makes sure it is secure. Noah turns and looks at me, his face only inches away from mine, and says, “You ready?” My stomach tightens and my heart begins to palpitate. My breath gets heavy and I hear Noah whisper, “Hey, look at me.” I look at him and see those beautiful blue eyes that I am so envious of.

My heartbeat slows back down to the normal rate as we begin to be lifted up in the air. I let out a slight squeal of excitement and nervousness. We are lifted into the air and the higher we go, the faster the ride gets. A cooling breeze blows in our faces and it feels as though I am flying. We are flying. I catch in the corner of my eye Noah glancing at me and smiling at the sight of me actually having fun. That feeling doesn’t very last long. Before I know it, the ride slows down and lowers us back to the ground.

As we get off, he looks at me and says, “So, what next?” We go on a few more rides and play a game where you throw baseballs at plates. The goal is to break at least three of the plates with a limited amount of baseballs. He buys each of us five baseballs and we begin throwing. I manage to hit five and he only hits one. With both of our hits combined, we won a large stuffed animal. He points at the large teddy bear with a blue bow tied around its neck and the guy running the stand takes him off the wall and hands him to Noah..

Noah then hands the bear to me and says, “So..”

“So…” I say.

“You have a really good arm.”

“Thanks. I’ve only played softball for about six years.” I say laughing.

“Really?” he says looking at my in shock.

“What? Are you really that surprised?” I ask looking at him.

“A little bit. I never took you for a sport-sy person.”

“Well…. I am.” I laughed.

We then head over to one of the concession stands to get some ice cream when Noah grabs his chest. I look at him concerned and ask, “Are you okay?” His face shows that he is in pain but he responds with, “I’m okay. Promise.” Within a few seconds, Noah falls to his knees holding his chest and wails in pain. I scream, “Someone help! Call 9-1-1! Hurry!” My heart beats out of my chest and I am in instant panic mode. I say to Noah, “It’ll be okay. The ambulance will be here soon. Hold on Noah.”

Before I know it, the ambulance shows up and the people put him onto a gurney and into the ambulance. Right before the ambulance door closes I jump in and sit next to him. The EMT puts a breathing mask over his nose and mouth and rushes to figure out what is wrong with him. Noah’s head turns to face me as his hand slowly reaches out towards me. I grab it and don’t let go.

When we get to the hospital, I stay out of their way and follow him as far as I can go. I sit in the waiting room and watch as doctors and nurses pass through. As I sit and stare at the floor my right leg shakes to the rhythm of my heartbeat. I think back to five years ago when I was spending the night at my aunt and uncle’s house. My aunt had received a call on her phone and she woke me up around eleven thirty at night to go to the hospital.

Sleepy and confused, I sat on one of the cold chairs in the waiting room leaning on my uncle Jim’s shoulder. A woman in a white doctor’s coat came out and my aunt and uncle went to talk to her. They were whispering but I could hear what she said, “Sarah was DOA and George didn’t make it through surgery. I am so sorry for your loss.” Time froze and my heart stopped.

“What!” I yelled at the doctor. I screamed and cried for my parents. All I wanted to do was see them again. My uncle held me back and took me outside for some fresh air, although that did not help me at all. A few days later we held the funeral and I played a song on the piano and sang their favorite song: Piano Man by Billy Joel. Family from all over came out to see them. I had my aunt and uncle. Before anyone else said their goodbyes, I walked up and stared at my parents. Their bodies lifeless, cold, pale, lying in those caskets to be buried six feet underground.

Just days ago they were kissing one another and we all laughed together about the most stupid things. They helped me with my homework and my dad was the one who taught me how to play softball when I was little. My mom had just gotten me my first container of clear mascara because my dad didn’t want me wearing makeup just yet. Then on a warm spring night, all of that disappeared in an instant.

“Are you Callie?” a woman asked. I look up to see a tall woman with short blonde hair and bright blue eyes. Behind her was an older woman with fluffy white hair and the same gorgeous eyes. “Yes. You must be Noah’s mom. It’s nice to finally meet you.” I say.

“It’s nice to meet you too. Although, I would have rather it been under different circumstances.” she says.

“Have you heard anything from the doctor?”

The older lady steps in and says, “He’s in surgery right now. He should be out in a few hours.”

“I can take you home so you can get some rest and then you can come and visit Noah first thing in the morning.” his mother says to me.

I accept the offer and she drives me home. That night, as I lie in bed, the stars aren’t shining as bright in the sky. The next morning I wake up early to go see him. As I walk into the hospital, I see his grandmother leaning on his mom’s shoulder. I make eye contact with his mom and she motions with her fingers the number “402.” I nod, smile, and mouth “thank you.”

As I approach room 402, I hesitate to go in. What do I say? What if he’s not okay? I think. Suddenly I get shoved into the room and as I turn around it is his mother walking by to go get another coffee. I smile and walk in to see Noah pale as snow lying in a hospital bed with IV’s in his arm. I go up and sit in the chair next to him and place my hand on his. His eyelids slowly open and he looks over at me.

“Callie… you’re here…” he effortlessly says.

“Of course I am. Where else would I be?”

He lets out a small laugh and then winces in pain.

“Are you okay?” I ask with concern.

“Yeah, I’m fabulous,” he says with a grin on his face.

His mom and grandmother come in with the doctor. I begin to get up when his mother tells me to stay. The doctor has a look of disdain and worry on his face. “So doctor, is he all ready to go home?” Noah’s grandmother asks. The doctor fidgets with the pen in his hand and comes out to say, “Unfortunately, he’s going to have to stay in the hospital and undergo treatment.”

“What treatment? For what?” Noah’s mother crosses her arms and her voice slightly raises.

“Your son has stage four heart cancer. He will have to undergo surgery and some serious treatment. He can’t leave the hospital. I’m very sorry,” the doctor says.

Time freezes again and the room spins and warps as if it were liquid being twisted in a swirl. I run out of the room, out of the hospital, and find a crevasse to hide in. I scream and yell and cry wondering why this is happening. He doesn’t deserve this. How could this possibly happen to him?

I run all the way home. When I come in, I slam the door shut behind me. I hear my aunt yell, “Where have you been all night?” but I ignore it and sprint up to my room. The next day I receive a text from his mom saying that Noah has been asking for me. I look into the mirror. My face is bright red, my eyes puffy, and my hands are a clammy white. Quickly I get dressed and go to visit him.

For the next few days I visit him in the hospital after school. I call out of work telling my boss that a family member is in the hospital and he allows it. Each day gets worse and worse for him. Although he tries to hide it, I can see his body weakening, his heart beating slower with every hour that passes by. On May 17th, I go in to visit him after receiving a text from his mom saying to get there quick.

I run to the hospital as fast as I can and get to his room. His mom and grandmother stand next to his bed, tears running down their faces, holding his hand. They see me in the doorway, panting, and give me a minute alone with him. On the monitor, I see that his heart beat is slowing down rapidly. He looks at me and smiles, “Callie… you made it…”

“Of course I did. What else do I have to do?” I say.

“Callie… I have something I need to tell you…”

“What is it Noah?”

“Take… my hand…”

His hand motions up a bit and I take it.

He says under his breath, “I love….”

“Noah?” I say.

The machine starts to beep and the doctors rush in along with his mom and grandmother. I begin to panic and move out of the way so they can help him. My lungs forget to breathe and my heart stops beating. His mother runs over to me and catches me as I fall onto the ground. We both cry, holding and comforting one another on the floor as the doctors lose him.

A few days later, I wake up and put on my black dress that I had bought the day before. I brush my hair and don’t even bother putting on any makeup. My aunt drives us to the church where we meet up with his mother and grandmother, along with the rest of his family. At the opposite end of the church rests the casket with Noah’s dead body. I slowly walk down, embracing myself for what I see.

When I walk up to the casket, I see his beautiful, lifeless body lying there. His eyes closed and his hands resting on his stomach. I look him up and down and remember how much fun we had in the past couple of months. His mother invites my aunt and me to sit with them in the front row. I am able to hold myself together for most of the service and the burial. But as his casket is closed and his body lowers into the ground, I think back to my parent’s funerals.

At the end of the service, his mother walks up to me and hands me a paper. She says, “He wrote this while he was in the hospital and asked me to give it to you.” I took the piece of paper and went to our favorite park up by the community center. I sat on the swing and opened the letter which read:

Dear Callie,

I am writing this to you while I am in the hospital, and if you are reading this, that means I didn’t make it. I found something out from my mom today that I needed to tell you. You know how I told you my dad died in a car crash? My mom told me today that she never told me, because she wanted to protect me, but my dad was driving drunk and he caused the accident. He crashed into a car that had a woman and a man in it who also died due to the impact. My mom then told me that they had a daughter.

Callie, it was the same night that your parents died. I am so sorry. I had absolutely no idea. Apparently my dad said he was on a business trip but she knew he was cheating on her with someone else. That night he got drunk and made the stupid decision to get in the car.

I am really sorry you had to find this out now Callie. I swear I didn’t know this when we met, so please don’t think badly of me. I want you to remember me as the guy you knew who was funny and always wanted you to be happy and live your life freely. Love with all your heart and live your life on the edge, because you never know when your last day may be.

Don’t live your life in sadness over my or your parent’s deaths. We will be looking down watching over you, and we will always be with you.

I love you Callie.

Forever and Always,


Connor McDermond

False Connotations

Hannah Kirkell

Everything is black and white.

It’s all sticks and stones

And words that kill faster than bullets.

We’ve been fighting to restrict gun use,

But the real problem lies within.

A single word.

A fallen command.

It can either uplift

Or demolish.

Why is it that we blame the receiver

For the things spoken to them?

Did they truly warrant this treatment?

These words out of our own mouths,

These shots that hit too close to home.

Are you aware of the poison you spread?

Don’t try to lie.

You shrug off the pangs of guilt,

And push on

Towards your next unintended victim.

You hate being called out,

Because you’re innocent, right?

And so you sit, relishing in your denial,

Because they’re just words.


Madelynn Delvacchio


Emma Mansfield

What I don’t seem to understand is

that no matter what I say or do,

I still won’t ever be enough for you.

And that bothers me

Well, it did

Until I realized

Your standards of me were pointless

Merely physical fantasies and desires

My heart was never in the mix

And I am ashamed to say

I fell for your little facade

I fell for the silent treatment

I fell for the mind games

The manipulations

The pain

I fell for everything because

I worshipped the ground you walked on

I prayed upon your feet

But that wasn’t healthy, was it?

I let myself grow attached to the most toxic thing in my life

I enabled you and let you stab me over and over

Yet each time the blade felt numb

Because of you

All I feel is numb now

You don’t have control over me now

My scars and memories of you fade each day

And one day you’ll be gone forever

Nate Ungarino

Will Smith
Impulsive Thoughts

Kayla Blackstock

This poem took Second Place in a Redwood Community Playhouse Poetry Contest.

I first found

Out when I was around

Twelve that life could be Hell

In America.

Perhaps if at this time

I can put it in rhyme

I can express the grime

To children in their prime,

As I was, at the time.

Michael Brown.

I realize that this is four years old

And I’m told

To get over

A tragedy that still holds

Near to me

But words that have the same vowels

Cannot summarize the so-called “scoundrel”

So I will preach my denial

And stop writing with bound….


That man has nine bullets in his body

That man had a family

That man was seen as a villain for the longest time

But he was still a human being

Haven’t we all commited a felony?

Maybe you stole a bag of chips

Or downloaded music illegally

Or sped

Or was named Philando Castile-

Maybe I should stop now

But no

I can’t stop

I shall never stop

Until all of my thoughts are pulled

From my head

And onto paper

Because if I don’t

My head will explode

Like Tamir Rice’s chest-


I’ve been trying

So, so hard

To escape how I feel

To escape my tears

To escape my screams

To escape their graves

But it’s useless

But you know what isn’t useless?

My words.

Emily Burke


Nate Smith



Judgement Days


I’m sorry God wasn’t kind

Gifted with a beautiful mind that fights against you

A constant argument with countless selves

They provide heavy books full of accusations and conflictions

Others pity and help you save face

They’ve formed novels that ground your paranoia

Accelerate the feeling of anxiety

And fuel your grief

Pages upon pages that make your eyes race

Your hands clammy and heart weak

You confide in countless strangers

To help drown out the countless selves

Finding solace in words that are kinder

Kinder than the ones that they scream at you in your head

Arms embrace

Lips meet

Comfort found

Only soon to fade

You return to the courtroom

And another hundred pages are written

And the cycle starts again


Emily Burke

Open Window


The Knowledge

Hannah Kirkell

The sun is out.

It seems that we’ve finally beat

The never ending winter,

But the temperature is said to drop tomorrow.

So I’ll make the best out of today.

I wipe away my fears,

And step out into the sun.

The warmth hits in an instant.

I can smell the newly budding flowers.

The knowledge that they’ll soon freeze over

Makes me rethink my happiness,

But everyone says

That everything happens for a reason.

And I know they’ll be back.

The coffee in my hands grounds me,

Keeping my eyes in front of me,

Instead of looking down at my feet

Like I usually opt to do.

Today is a new day.

The wind in my hair,

The pedals beneath my feet,

And I’m suddenly flying.

The birds are chirping,

My cats are stalking them

And trying to figure a way up the trees to reach them,

Even though they’re fat.

It smells like spring,

It smells like freedom.

The cars drive by,

And I can hear the radio

Of the ones with their windows down.

Every corner, every turn,

They make me think of life.

I know that I’m almost finished,

And the sheer knowledge of a second

Brings me closer to new memories.

I’m tasting my laughter,

And I’m watching the branches sway

In the gentle breeze.

I have finished my work,

And now it’s time to be free.

I set reminders for tomorrow,

When I’ll have time to fix my problems.

Today, I’m focusing on the present.

There’s a little bit of the old me,

A happier, carefree me,

That I can sense in today.

So I’ll ride today like a wave,

And fly through the ups and downs.

The old fire is burning,

And I remember my passions.

It’s more than just writing,

This is liberating.

It’s saving a memory for forever.

It’s the knowledge that as I sit and write,

I’m listening to Genesis.

And feeling the invisible touch of the wind-

Or at least,

I was in the past.

The past, where I made these memories.

And I’m smiling, and I can taste the wind.

It tastes like fireworks,

And lemonade in the summer.

It tastes like a good book,

And like a loyal pet.

This is knowledge that I’ll preserve forever,

Contained in the pages of this book.

The book of my life.


Michael Strehle

Spilled Water


The Wishing Stars

Jessica Cantor

We had shared nightmares, we had discussed dreams

We had touched the stars, we had lived for what it seems

The galaxy had taken him, far from where we run

Somedays I wonder if the mistake he made was purposefully to be done

When I look to the sky, I see the love that we shared

But I don’t get why he would go if he cared

At the end of the day, we both have to grin

For through the memories I can say we both win


Sara Chattin


We Played at Being Soldiers

Hannah Kirkell

We played at being soldiers

All throughout our lives.

Given guns at young ages,

War was glorified.

We played at being soldiers

All through twelve grueling weeks.

The time dragged by slowly,

But let it be said we weren’t weak.

We played at being soldiers

Until the call to fight.

We boarded the planes to battle,

And celebrated one last night.

We played at being soldiers

Until we saw the hell.

War wasn’t a game anymore,

One by one we fell.

We played at being soldiers,

Until we could not pretend.

No longer small town heroes,

We just wanted it to end.

We played at being soldiers

When the plane took us back.

Forced a smile for our families,

Like we could last another attack.

We played at being soldiers,

And signed another tour.

Because even though it’s hell,

We couldn’t stay away from war.

We played at being soldiers,

Under heavy enemy fire.

We stood under the bullets,

Unwilling to retire.

We played at being soldiers,

Shipped home with folded flags.

Twenty one shots above the grave,

Pinned medals we shouldn’t have.

We played at being soldiers

Beside our fallen friends.

Death in battle is an honor

Final breath the most commended

Nicole kugel


Hannah Kirkell

I think it’s funny how when you’re an inch from death, you regret almost every decision you’ve ever made.

If I tried harder in school, I might be sitting in a lecture taking notes instead of crouching behind a boulder as bullets whiz by my head. Maybe I’d be a doctor, a lawyer, a school teacher. Maybe I’d be happily married with children. Maybe I’d be the president of the United States instead of an expendable foot soldier.

The first thing they taught me was how to hate. We were supposed to despise the enemy with every fibre of our being. That would make the whole ordeal easier, they said to us.

All around me, fires blazed and shrapnel exploded. Battle cries and screams of pain echoed in my ears, making my heart pound even louder. Ahead, a bomb shell struck the pitiful wall we’d hastily constructed, sending charred men flying, and flames racing towards the sky. Peter gripped my shoulder and nodded, giving me much needed courage. A metallic blurr that I saw out of the corner of my eye flew about a foot to the left of my helmet. Nothing they said could have prepared me for the reality of it all.

I heard the familiar sound of flesh being ripped apart as Peter grunted and went as limp as a rag doll. He lay on the ground to my left due to the bullet that had barely missed my shoulder. I hit the dirt and huddled on the ground, my weapon forgotten. I was vaguely aware of the Captain yelling for me to get up and fight like a man, but I had no control over my limbs. The only thing I could think about was my best friend not two feet away from me.

His eyes were still open.

Somewhere to my right, a whoop came from enemy lies. I somehow forced my eyes from Peter’s listless form. Up ahead the colors were ablaze, smoke climbing towards the heavens. Bullets ripped through the thick fabric, defiling our symbol of freedom. Rage built, and Peter all but slipped my mind.

My hands slowly curled into tight fists, my knuckles turning white from the force. The hairs of my back stood on end and all I could identify visually were the flames licking the flag that I had helped raise not five hours ago.

They had no right.

Not my country.

I wanted vengeance. Vengeance for the flag, for Peter, for the other schoolboys drafted into this hell, who left loving families.

Blood roared in my ears and pounded in my head. I was suddenly aware of the weight of the weapon in my hands. I stood shakily to my feet, tripping over Peter’s outstretched leg. My throat tightened. My stomach churned, and tears formed in my eyes, threatening to spill.

I forced myself into an upright position, kneeling behind the boulder yet again. I peeked my head up, shouldered the butt of my gun, targeted an enemy soldier through the scope, and was just about to apply pressure to the trigger when I saw him grip a comrade's shoulder- just as Peter had done to me right before his life came to an abrupt halt. I hesitated, but only for a moment.

That moment was all I needed.

I pulled the trigger.


The younger man he had just comforted screamed, and time seemed to stop. Bullets froze in mid air, motion was suspended, sounds vanished.

All I could hear was the cry of anguish, and all I could see was the look of agony. And in that moment, in the enemy soldier, I saw myself.

Maybe we’re not so different after all.

Nicole Kugel

I wonder

Emma Mansfield

I wonder what the extent of your heart is

I wonder

I wonder what it would take to love you

I wonder

I wonder the amount of pain you’ve endured

I wonder

I wonder if you have ever glanced my way

I wonder

I wonder if you are up at nights with thoughts of me inside of your head

I wonder

I wonder if your heart beats faster in my presence

I wonder

I wonder if when you look at me you smile

I wonder

I wonder if my laugh causes a stir in your stomach

I wonder

I wonder if you’ve ever heard me laugh

I wonder

I wonder if you like oceans

I wonder

I wonder of the cold waves wash over your feet and the wind dances in your hair

I wonder

I wonder if you feel like you’re drowning in those waves when I’m not around

I wonder

I wonder if you feel suffocated when you see me with someone else

I wonder

I wonder if the salt flows through the back of your throat and you taste bile

I wonder

I wonder if you sink to the ocean floor in defeat after you see him hurt me

I wonder

I wonder if the seaweed catches on your feet and holds you down

I wonder

I wonder if my tears feel saltier than the bile in your throat

I wonder

I wonder if your tears join the ocean floor with mine

I wonder

Ashley Baez

Brooke Lawton

Dmitri Greco

Cameron Trainer

Another One

Hannah Kirkell

Everyone has given up,

But I have to push on.

Because, at this point,

Giving up would be wrong.

My shoulders strain from effort,

And my vision might go black.

I can feel a million soldiers

Resting on my back.

I tremble from exertion,

I hear them chant my name.

But I know if I somehow fail,

They’ll give me all the blame.

My arms threaten to give out

From shouldering their weight,

And if I let myself go,

I’ll be again filled with hate.

One more time,

Another one;

I’ll go down,

But I’ll get up.

I know I’ll hurt for days to come,

But I gave them my all.

Forcing myself to repeat torture,

And rising when I fall.

Sean Maher

Space Snake


Connor Boyd


"A Penny for Your Thoughts"

Amber Kester

Penny for your


They're simple little


It's insane how


A simple penny



Amber Kester



Dear Friend

Hannah Kirkell

Dear Friend,

You don’t know me-- or, rather, you won’t recognize this email address. Heed my warning. If you don’t, it might be the last thing you ever do. Delete this email immediately after reading. It may be your best chance of survival.

My name is irrelevant. If you really want to, I’m sure you could figure out who I am, but I’d advise against it. Please, for your own safety, don’t investigate. You’ll find this all to be true, like I did, and then they’ll hunt you down, like they did to me.

Have you ever noticed that time seems to have frozen? Let me rephrase that. When was the last time that any kind of advancement has been made?

I’ll answer that for you: you don’t know. You don’t know because it’s been years. The last change was the government shift back in 2045.

What does that matter? Well, I’ll tell you.

After Pearn won the election in 2044, laws started changing almost instantly. Pearn rigged the system, allowing himself to have an unlimited term in office. Congress loved him, the people loved him, hell, even North Korea loved him. His laws passed smoothly and quickly.

Then, in 2045, The United States of America was no longer a democracy. It was one step down from a dictatorship. Still, no one really cared. What’s the problem with a dictatorship if the dictator is a good man?

I’ll tell you why. It’s still a dictatorship.

Slowly but surely, Pearn stole our freedom. At first it was little things, things that seemed to benefit America. About five years down the road, children were taken to governmental facilities instead of schools. Twelve years later, they’d emerge, brainwashed and supportive. My son was one of them.

When he returned home, he was different. Naturally, that was to be expected; I hadn’t seen him in almost thirteen years. It was beyond maturity. His movements were precise and calculated. His eyes shone with spite. He rarely spoke, and when he did, he said as little as possible. The happy, go lucky boy that I once knew was gone.

While some may think that my son was the exception, that all the other sons and daughters were fine, those are people without children. People who overlook the dramatic shift in behavior. People who just don’t care.

You might be wondering why I’m telling you this. You might be wondering how this is in any way dangerous.

I’m getting to that.

As soon as you give them your child, the government will reward you. Taxes will be smaller, tendency to get ticketed is reduced. They want you to believe that you’re doing the right thing.

You’re not.

I have to be vague, because they are coming for me. I probably don’t have more than ten minutes left. There’s no use in running. That’ll only delay the inevitable.

I know too much. That makes me a threat to their system. Too many have accepted the new changes, and overlooked the consequences. I can’t do that.

Do you have a child? Yes. You do. Don’t send George in, friend. Have you realized why yet?

They kill him. They educate the children for twelve years, then, at graduation ceremony, right after the parents leave, they slaughter almost all the graduates in a mass genocide. Before that, they extract information and memories from the subject. It’s a long and painful process. The ones they don’t kill never leave.

While at their government-run school, the children created a new line of artificial intelligence-- one that can easily pass as human. The teachers and administration select a few key individuals, the smartest in the graduating class. They are kept alive, and remain at the institution, either teaching or continuing to advance the AI.

When they send your ‘child’ home to you, they send it with a bug. The government wiretaps, puts devices in the wall, and inserts monitoring systems into all electronic devices. That’s why I had to use this email, where my story can simply be written off as spam mail.

They’re coming for me. We don’t have much time. I need you to promise that you won’t send your children off. If their death isn’t reason enough, perhaps yours is.

Upon return, 53% of the machines malfunction. The ones that do slaughter your family, but to avoid suspicion, they do it in a way that could be easily accepted as suicide.

Are you afraid now? Good.

The other 47% live life as if they were human. There is almost no way to determine if the person sitting next to you is human or machine. They could be anyone. Your boss. Your neighbor. Your best friend.

My advice? Get a dog. The animal can sense the difference between humanity and stoicity.

My husband is dead. My daughter is dead. The thin walls did little to muffle their screams. The machine that took on my son’s form killed them.

It won’t be long before he breaks through my barricade and kills me. The wood is already starting to splinter. I wish I could have known this before welcoming who I thought was my son into my house.

I must go now. It is in the room with me. These machines are unstoppable. They were unintentionally programmed to be perfect-- perfect manipulators, perfect workers, perfect killers.



Maria Baez

The Struggle

Lauren Bondrowski

When I was about four years old, my Mom constantly asked me, “Why don't you ever talk?” I never really had an answer for her, so I wouldn't respond. Between the years of 2005 and 2008, I was in and out of a therapy office trying to help get my words out. Shortly after, I was diagnosed with Selective Mutism, a complex childhood anxiety disorder where children will not talk in certain environments. Being diagnosed with this disorder taught me that being comfortable in my own skin made it easier for me to communicate with people I never thought I would.

At first, I was too young to understand what I was going through, my parents didn't really get it either. My mom initially realized something was definitely wrong when it was my 5th birthday, and she made cupcakes for my class. I was so wound up about my class singing to me that I couldn't stop throwing up with the thought of it. One of my earliest memories would be when I would go over my friends house. Their parents would ask me questions like, “What do you want to eat?” or “How are you?” I wouldn't even be able to respond to them, I would just give my friend a weird look. I constantly thought to myself “Why can't I ever get myself to answer anybody’s simple questions?” My parents decided it was time I needed to get help. Finally they found one they knew would be right, I started with my therapist, Dr. Lauren.

Throughout the first couple of sessions, we would set new goals for me to accomplish in my social life. Before therapy, I was never able to talk to the waiter at restaurants, I would need to point or have my parents tell them what I wanted. The waiter would ask “What would you like to eat?” I would respond with a shrug of the shoulders. After therapy, I was able to tell the waitress everything I wanted with a lot less anxiety. The thing that was hardest for me, and probably my therapist, was that I never would talk to her, I had to write what I would say on a whiteboard for her to read. Dr. Lauren would always have so many questions for me. Even something as simple as “How was your day?” I couldn't get myself to answer with only a “good.” Even at my last session, I still wasn't comfortable to actually communicate with her, but she helped me to communicate with teachers, classmates, friends parents, waiters, etc. Making goals for myself helped me to accomplish more in my social life

Being so non-verbal is like speaking into a bubble and never having it pop. I remember in first grade, my helpful teacher would have to write in a tiny, emotional notebook about my communication for the day, and I would have to bring it back and forth between home and school. In the exciting, enjoyable summer before first, second, and third grade, I would go in to meet the teachers before everybody else so I would be comfortable with them. I remember in first grade, I fell down the bus steps, broke my arm, didn't cry, but I went a couple hours without even telling my parents that happened. Marissa, my first best friend, actually assisted me to make more friends and talk to my teacher in front of others. My parents could tell you that I used to have imaginary friends named Lana and Jana, they were probably around for four years. Once I felt more comfortable in my mind, I opened my big, red front door and let them go forever.

Plenty of times, in uncomfortable situations, I tend to “shut down” and not talk to anybody. If I have to talk publicly, it is hard for me to get the words out fluently and I feel like my throat has a million rocks in it. When I’m in an immense crowd of people, for example in Philadelphia, I get extremely nervous and quiet. Also, when something affects me or my family, I won't speak to anybody and just keep my thoughts to myself. My thoughts will end up eating my mind alive, and I won't express how I feel. When my pop-pop passed away, everybody would chatter to each other about how they feel, but I kept everything inside. As a matter of fact, whenever something affects my life, I will keep to myself. Something else I recall was this year, during homecoming season, I was nominated for homecoming court and a lot of people got angry. I would get trash talked and find it difficult to find myself during this time. I found out who were my real friends from this too, which was in fact, hard for me to realize. Overcoming this helped me to be who I am today.

If it weren't for everything I went through, I wouldn't be the communicator I am today. I learned to recognize when I am having issues and communicate with my family about it. I got myself to say a speech in front of my grade in fifth grade with knots in my stomach, but I got through it and won! Achieving my initial goal, responding to a waitress, helped me overcome my fear and realize that people aren't going to judge me for what I say. I helped to channel my anxiety through sports. In the summer going into fourth grade, I went to a Sixers Camp in West Chester. I was the only girl, so that gave me stress right away, but after awhile I realized I could keep up with them. I was invited to go to a Sixers Game and play on the court with other girls, and I even made a basket. Sports showed me that everyone is somewhat the same, and you also have to interact with each other to be a team. This past year, I was captain of the swim team which showed my teammates that I can be leader, and help them with their own problems. I am content with the communicator I am today.

This was the most significant thing to happen to me because it helped me build myself into who I am. This will always impact me because when I “shut down” I will remember everything I got through when I was younger, and that is easier to get my feelings out. I learned that this is who I am, and nobody can change that, I can just grow from it and become somebody better for me. This diagnosis showed me that communicating can be extremely difficult. Some goals were harder for me to achieve, but I’m pleased I was given this challenge in life to overcome.

EMily Burke

Journey of Change

Joy El Kessler

It's very tragic and painful to see babies die, killed or even left abandoned. Every day around the world there is a child aching for help. Sometimes it is very difficult to understand the lives of others. How can someone give life to a child and leave them near a dumpster or by a roadside? It hurts so much to see some of these cases. Have you ever had the opportunity to talk with an orphan - to ask what it feels like to be an orphan? I've lived most of my life as an orphan and I've known many others, so I know what they would say.

I lived in China for 12 years. Then God made it possible for me to join a family in the United States. My life in China has made me who I am today, and I am proud of who I am. Some people might say I'm just a lucky kid who found a family in the United States, but I am far more than that. Throughout our lives, we move from one story to the next. Whether we are listeners, readers or writers, we live our lives immersed in stories. I grew up in a life where other people would think as a tragic life, but I tell you now that my life was not a tragic! and I learned to love and was gracefully loved in this 'tragic life' by many other people who are not even biologically related to me!

I was born in the summer of June 24, 1999, usually you would think a newborn baby would bring joy to the family, but my birth didn’t bring any joy to my family, instead, it was disappointment.at that time, in Chinese culture that men are better than women, because a men could have a wife and it would multiply the family while a woman would leave the family and marry to a guy, so therefore, to have a boy is better than a girl. My family sees me as a disappointment and they didn’t even clean me, they throw me in a half-broken basket with some old fabric, left me outside of their back door with nothing to eat.

I was left there all day the next day and night. On the third morning, they thought I would already be starved to death by then, but somehow I was still alive, so that morning my grandpa carried me, with the broken basket to the office of the village, and left me by the door, thinking maybe the governor of the office would do something about me. When the sun comes out the next day, boom! There is a newborn baby in front of the village office. Nobody knows who I was and where I come from, as time goes by, there was a crowd gathered around me, some people were nice enough to give me some food because I was starving, but no one was willing to take me home with them. The people in the office didn’t take me, they just left me at the door, hoping someone would take me to their house. Finally, two boys came in, pushing people around trying to see what’s going on in the center of the crowd, the boys didn't have any sister so they think would be nice if they had a little sister. Then the boys rushed home and begged their parents to take me home. the parents thought wouldn’t hurt to take care of me for few days, and so I was taken home by the Xiang family, soon the two boys became my brothers and I had a place I can call my home, at least for awhile.

After they took me home, I was not in a good condition, I didn’t eat for more than 24 hours, my face looked pale, bloodshot filled my eyes, they didn’t think I was going to make it, but they still bought the nicest formula for babies to keep me alive. For the first few months, I couldn’t gain weight, they thought it might be the formula that’s causing the problem, so they switched me to a different formula, after few weeks, I was a normal baby.

I have to admit growing as an orphan wasn't so glorious! That, too, as an illegitimate orphan child is even worse. when I was in kindergarten, in front of you, people say that you are a chosen kid, at the back they call you a bastard. It hurts to hear other people call me that, but I didn’t fully understand what a real orphan meant at the time, I thought to myself, I had a family who loves so technically didn't think I was an orphan.

What irritates the most is the realization that I am not wanted by my own family. It’s hard when my life is shaped totally by the circumstances in which I have no say. I often question how an innocent kid could give so much distress to a family that they choose to place the child in the cruel world with some strangers and move on with life as if nothing happened. Still no regrets, I am really grateful for that dark period as it has made me realize and understand the value of love, care, trust, and family. It has made me stronger than most of the girls of my age.

Since I grew up in a different circumstance than others, I tend to handle my problems different ways. I don’t cry for the little things, I don’t quit easily. I used to underestimate people who would easily break down or quit when they are going through difficult times in their lives. I always found myself comparing my life to others, how we are so different but yet so similar. The difference is that I’ve experienced more difficult struggles at a young age than most other girls that are my age, the similarity is that no matter what we have gone through, whether at young or old age, we all care what others think about us. The society has a huge impact on to built and shape people in this society. Everyone cares what others think of themselves, based on the society, we're like flowers, and the society is the weather. if it's a good day we grow more beautiful each second passing by, but if it's a bad gloomy day, the flower tent to stay gloomy just like the weather. It’s like cause and effect, the society can build us up but it can also destroy us. Now I understand that people have different experiences and struggles growing up, and these experience makes them who they are and also their personality.

When I was nine, or around that age, we found out a unfortunate news- my mom is diagnosed with Myocardial Ischemia. Before that, my family’s income was decent, enough to live on regular bases. But when we found out about my mom’s news, we spent pretty much all our savings on her treatment, for a while, there was good news, but her health was not constant in a good shape, she has to go to the hospital at least once a month. After a while, it was normal, we didn’t think she’ll be gone in any day unexpectedly. Even till this day, I wonder if it’s a good thing that my mom died in her sleep, it would be easy for both her and me, but at the same time I wish I got to say goodbye to her, but her tent to think more aftermath, when me and my dad woke up that night realizing my mom was not breathing frequently, it sounded like she was having difficulty inhaling the oxygen into her body, her breath got louder and louder each time, me and my dad were getting nervous, so I just sat there expecting for her to wake up as my dad calls her name, with every moment pass by, and the name calling, she still didn't wake up. My dad’s voice got louder and louder each time, I can feel that there are fear and concern in my dad’s voice, I know there’s something seriously wrong, I got scared too so I started to call my mom’s name too, there was fear in both of our voice, our voice stopped a few seconds later when her heart stopped beating. I didn’t know what to think or react, there was a sudden chill in my body, my throat was hurting for holding back my tears. I felt alone and abandoned, even after she died I still couldn’t imagine that she’s gone.

It was weird and lonely living without my mom, the house felt deserted without her, I could see her shadow everywhere I go, the only difference is that she’s no longer with me anymore. It was hard for the first few months without my mom, but my dad and I were there for each other, I don't felt abandoned anymore, I still had my dad, it was his love that kept me strong.

About a year after my mom died, my dad decided to sent me to an orphanage in the city, where I could go to a better school and have a better education, other people might say my dad was just trying to get rid of me, but deep down I know he wants what's best for me. so I was sent to an orphanage where other orphans are. when I got to the orphanage, I felt 'normal' for once, the kids there are just like me- abandoned but their own parents for some biblical reason. Three years later I was adopted by a family in the United States.

I am very lucky and grateful because the family I have now brought me to the United States to be in their family. From all the disturbances I have undergone, I have learned to let go of the past and enjoy my life. I think that having a family is so very essential to orphans. There are a lot of other orphans went through childhood without parents, I was just blessed that I had an adopted family growing up.

Now I have two families, one in China and one in the United States, and because I have a family. I am not by myself. I am a member of a family and that has helped me to appreciate even more that I am part of an eternal family - the family of God.


Emily Burke

Hairless Cat
The Impact of Death

Norbert Josten

As a child I grew up with the forced motto of “Only Speak When you are Spoken To”, and I wasn’t spoken to often, I was already quiet enough as a young child, but when I experienced what was in store for my life, I’ve grown to almost completely shut out everyone and everything. There was no one close enough for me to speak my feelings to. In fact, the closer someone was, the more I would lock up my emotions around them. I guess it is easier to write about this and allow a teacher to read it because I don’t expect any response in return about my emotions.

Life completely turned around for me at a young age. The toys I found interesting, I lost interest in after I realized reality.

People die.

But for me as a child who, at the time, didn’t even understand why adults had all of these rules, but no explanations, realization of death pained my heart.

And every time I lost someone the pain grew and grew, and my words got closed tighter and tighter inside of me.

During each funeral, this straight face of mine grew more and more. People saw me as one of the strongest for never crying anymore.

“Ryan is very calm and well kept about all of this.”

And they were at every funeral with me. The darkest secrets are the ones kept inside for so long that they’ve grown onto you.

Looking back on how I got to this point today, I see that the light in my heart has faded, almost like a fading light bulb.

Emotion became uncommon of me.

My parents constantly tell me how I do not have friends, and how I try to be antisocial.

They seem to have moved on past everything. I know that those people are still dead, and that they once existed, however they let go easier than me.

They fail to understand that I am the kind of person that does not let go.

I have had friends from over the internet, and in school, tell me how it is not good to hold onto things.

I choose to hold onto these things because I do not want to forget.

I don’t want to let go of all of my memories of my loved ones. I know it is a terrible thing, to hold on so tightly to something that is gone, but I am willing to suffer to remember.

One of my biggest losses was my mentor, Murial Hans, who passed away from cancer. Not only was she the kindest woman I’ve ever known, but she was an amazing teacher. A master of martial arts, and a intelligent scout master, she taught me the foundations I needed to kick off of the ground and to train through my martial arts career and put me on my way to achieve the greatest honor of the Boy Scouts of America, the Eagle Scout Rank.

The other greatest loss was my cousin, Missy. She passed away from cystic fibrosis at such a young age. Having cystic fibrosis from birth, she always tried her hardest to live a life happily. However, as she got older, her cystic fibrosis tended to react more often. After being hospitalized all of her life, she wasn’t surprised to be in a hospital. However, little did she know, the last time she was in the hospital was her last time for good. Being one of my most loved people in my family, everyone was pained by her death, especially her newly wedded husband.

These two funerals were the most painful to me. Both of them were the lock on the door to me. After those funerals, I rarely left my room, except for school and to eat. I suppose since then, I have become a little bit more open, however I feel a tight bind on me still.

My parents continued to worry about my wellbeing, but in honesty, I was perfectly fine being shut in by myself. Living silently is a peaceful way of living. The only downside is that when I wanted to cry, I cried alone. Sometimes, when I was home alone, I would unbottle the rage and sadness inside of me and release it out on the house. It was the only form of venting that I ever allowed myself to do.

I do not think I have ever cried about anything in the presence of anyone after the events of my loved ones’ deaths. Some people were concerned, as they have never really seen me smile or frown. Even though I tell them not to worry about what was ever going on with me, some people refuse to let go just as I refuse to let go of everything else.

A recurring event in which I think of myself in a different way than others see me that is also connected to the event of my loved ones’ deaths is my happiness. People see me as almost as a mute. Some people have never heard me speak a word. For some reason, this seems to make people question whether I am depressed or have some sort of mental issue. However, while others talk about me to their peers I picture myself living a perfectly normal life.

“When was the last time you went on a date?”

I answered my father with, “Never, because I don’t want to go on a date with anyone.”

I don’t try to be antisocial, I would just rather spend time alone.

However, I do make my own decisions. I choose not to make plans with anyone because I’d rather be by myself at home.

It’s no secret that I do like to keep to myself. To me, walking passed hundreds of faces everyday is the equivalent to walking passed hundreds of trees to me. What I mean by that is, I notice the people, but I do not care enough to speak to them.

However, I do tend to be observant. In this day in age, it’s safe to be observant because danger could literally be anywhere.

During the last of the funerals, all of this kicked into play.

The smell of cologne and perfume filled my nostrils, while all I could look at was the seat of the pew in front of me. The lights dimmed by candlelight, and a emphasis of light around the casket in the middle of the isle on the end where the priest usually gives his homily.

With the sounds of weeping in one ear, and the whispers of those who were only acquainted with the newly dead corpse, I stood frozen, hands on the pew in front of me straight faced and there wasn’t a blink from my eyes to be seen. While my insides crawled, my mind was clear. That is, until I realized what I was doing. Closing up your feelings isn’t like shutting a door. IIt is such an odd sensation to feel and realize what you are doing to yourself when you close yourself off. When I find myself doing this, I become scared of almost everything.

Even myself.

What I’ve learned after thinking all of this time about everything, is that you cannot bury something inside of you because it will always find a way to resurface somehow. I can say that no matter how many times I dismiss anyone or anything, it’ll just build up inside and will release as a fury of emotions.

I hope that I’m alone during that moment, so no one will ever have to experience my furious wheel of emotions.

Sara Chattin

Making a Change

Kamrin Kutlus

It had all occurred so quickly, I never thought the change was going to really happen. I had always thought about moving to my Dad’s and even told my friends there was a chance I would not be coming back after the 4th, 5th, and 6th grades, but I always did. One day I had gotten into a bad fight with my Stepdad which caused some problems with my Mom and I, one thing led to another and my Mom had finally said, “Fine, go live with your Father.” It is not that I wanted to leave my Mom, I would love to still see her everyday, it is just that I wanted to leave the situation I was around, and I was finally able to make this decision for myself. When I arrived to my Dad's with the majority of my possessions he said to me, “You are finally where you belong,” but it still felt a little off to me. The thing I was most nervous about was switching schools and the first day was rapidly approaching. I knew optimism, confidence and perseverance would all be needed to help myself adjust to this new life and grow as an individual.

The day after I moved into my Dad’s house I had to go to my new school, Northley Middle School, for an orientation and placement testing. I knew I was not in my hometown anymore when I first went to Northley, it was a middle school and it was bigger than the high school I attended the previous year. When I went into my testing room I was surprised, the room was much bigger, open, and colorful than any of my old classrooms. I was a little bit nervous, I thought to myself, “No need to worry, everyone here is in the same place as you.” When I was done with placement testing, I went to meet with the guidance counselor, Mrs. Y, for a tour. As we walked around I realized that not everything was completely different, the lockers were the same size, along with the basketball court, and there was a swimming pool just like my old schools; seeing the similarities made me feel better about coming here. The biggest thing I took away from the orientation is what Mrs. Y said to my father as we left. She said “There is no doubt in my mind that your son has the ability to make his mark on this school.” Although I realized it was something that she is supposed to say, it gave me some motivation.

There was now just ten days before I would have to face the reality of being the new kid in school, which was a little funny to me because I had always wondered how it felt to come to a new school. I wanted to find a way to pass time, and maybe even end the summer by doing something fun. I walked around Brookhaven during those ten days, but I did not have much luck. The one small conversation I had was with someone, who ten days later I would find out is in my grade. It lasted a mere 30 seconds or so and it turns out we would barely ever speak again. These struggles left me disappointed but I was still hopeful. I decided to just lay low for the rest of the suddenly diminishing summer, knowing I had to prepare myself for what was to come.

The rest of the summer went fine like expected, but my comfort in this new environment soon disappeared like a shadow. It was now the first day of 8th grade and I was extremely nervous, although that is to be expected. An alarm was set for 6:30am to wake me up but I did not need it, I woke up out of anxiety around 5:45 am. I took advantage of my early start to the day and made myself a nice breakfast of eggs and bacon. My bus was scheduled to arrive around 7:48 and the stop was right around the corner so I left about three minutes prior; I timed it perfectly and walked up just as the bus was stopping. While getting onto the bus I felt awkward, I obviously did not know anyone at all and it felt as if everyone was staring at me. Walking into the school felt even worse to me. I was so used to being able to walk up to everyone around me on the first day of school and saying, “Hey, I haven’t seen you in forever,” or something of the sort but the reality was I had never even seen any of these people throughout my whole life. The best thing to do was just go right to my homeroom. When I walked into Mrs. Ritz room only two other kids were in there, and of course they looked at me like,“Who the heck is this kid?” I felt just like that during the rest of the morning, but it got worse.

The first lunch of 8th grade was by far the worst span of 30 minutes I’ve ever had. When I walked into the room I had absolutely no idea what to do. There were about twenty tables in the cafeteria and I decided to sit at table three because nobody was there yet. This was definitely not one of the better decisions I had made that day. I left my bag at the table and went to go get lunch, I later found out you could not just get up and get food whenever you wanted like you could at my old school, which made me feel like a kid. When I saw the kids sitting at table three I knew I was in for an interesting lunch. They seemed to be the jocks of the 8th grade, most of them were taller and bigger then I was, in my old school there were only about two kids the size of everyone at this table! As soon as I sat down every single one of them stopped speaking to stare at me, and then all of a sudden they all erupted. “Who are you,” “What do you think you’re doing,” “What is this,” I obviously tried answering in a friendly way, but some of them were not so friendly. I was told to leave and got a few chips thrown at me by this kid who I noticed they called Stritz. Food being thrown at me set me off and I started arguing with the kid for the next five minutes. Luckily lunch ended and he walked away before anything else happened, fighting would not have been a good way to start off my first day in a new school.

The afternoon went better than expected, nothing out of the norm had happened at first but I was surprised at what happened during the last period of the day.The class was put into groups of four at these large circular tables that were in the classroom and I had been seated next to a kid named Barry. At first glance he just looked like a skater kid who I would have no interest in talking to but I was definitely wrong about that. As soon as we sat down he began talking to me. I told him who I was, where I came from, the things I do, the generals. He obviously told me about himself and he seemed pretty cool. It turned into a solid conversation, which was the first one I had all day with someone my own age. Towards the end of class he asked where I lived, I said “Brookhaven, you?”, he replied, “Aw man cool me too, you should come to the park around 4 and hangout with me and my friends,” of course I said yes and told him I would see him there.

I left my house around 3:50 to go meetup with Barry and his friends. I knew it would take about twenty minutes to get there and left at that time on purpose. When I got there Barry went “Aye, what's up man?” acting as if it was a normal that I was there. He introduced me to everybody there; Eric, Matt, Tim and Josh. We went and played basketball for a while and they were pretty good but I was able to keep up. We were all hung out for about three hours that day, and just from that I was fairly optimistic that I had found my friends of the future.

The next day of school was much better than the first. Everyone I was hanging out with the previous day began telling new peers about me, which triggered everyone to begin talking to me. There was not a single class that day that I did not speak to anyone, it felt great. I was so relieved to feel accepted in the new school even though it was only the second day. At lunch I sat with all of my new friends and they seemed happy to have me there. There was not anyone at the table who would not talk to me and I met a few more kids I would eventually associate with a lot. When school was over that day I sat down to reflect. I felt as if I had regained my normal life back.

Over the next two months I continued to adjust, but now I was able to do so with comfort. Every single day of school was just like my second day of school that year. Having resolved my issues with adjustments in school I was now able to focus on adjusting to life at home. I began to form a stronger relationship with my father and actually feel like I belonged in my home. The move to my father's was definitely the most difficult task I have ever faced, but I was able to get through it fairly quickly but surely not with ease. I was confident in myself, optimistic about the future, and persevered through the difficult times to adjust properly to my new life in Brookhaven. During these times of my life I learned a lot about myself, I found out I was able to make difficult decisions that would lead to the best for myself and that I am able to persevere through difficult and stressful times.

Amber Kester

A, B-Typical

Kyri Colson

Contrary to popular belief, I don’t like chicken wings or anything else with wings actually. After a year and a half of being a vegetarian, the smell now makes me nauseous. Cookouts have kind of..lost their appeal as you can imagine. Obviously, I’m not the most beloved cousin in the Colson clan--not that that matters. Anyway, for what it’s worth, I’m never obnoxious in public places. And for what it’s worth, I haven’t met anyone who would truly describe me as an angry woman either.

Sorry, I figured I would get all of that out of the way first before I continued. I have come to learn, that other people find you way more approachable when you debunk their crazy myths.

It’s like a never-ending pop quiz; except, the questions I’m given are identical to the last time. Maybe the questions spoken out loud are in a more condescending tone; opposed to an ignorant native way, their words slathered in honey--all the same. At the time, I didn’t realize these answers would have been something I’d have to go over--and over.

And when it’s not the answers they expect...you’re an alien.

When I moved into the Penn Delco district, in fourth grade, I noticed I became a rarity. Which, is really funny because I’m not even that dark in retrospect, but in this little town of Aston, I stick out like a sore thumb. I was different, and as much as I would have liked to continue living in some fantasy world where ‘the world doesn’t see color’ you can’t ignore it when you’re the colorful one.

I stood in the hallway waiting for Mrs. Kane to open her classroom doors so I could stop staring at the other girls who already knew each other. It was truly pathetic, even more so when Amelia Ells, this little blonde girl with a cherub-like face, and an ironic Dora The Explorer bowl haircut, came up to me.

“Hi, my name’s Amelia.”

The little girl said her name like, ‘uh-MEEL-li-ah’, but my auntie always said it like ‘Ahh-mah-lia’.


“Can I touch your hair?”

Amelia was the first one who seemed to have the courage to come and talk to me. Even at that age, call it a feeling, but I knew if I shunned her away all of my other classmates would treat me like I just contracted the bubonic plague. At the time, I remembered feeling confused when she hesitantly reached over to tug one of my twists, fascinated by the multicolored ballies wrapped tightly around the ends.

She giggled slightly when the plastic kind of banged together. Then a swarm of girls rushed over when they figured I wouldn’t bite their little sausage fingers. I was their new puppy. Someone not dark or ugly enough to be classified as scary, but still incredibly different all the same.

I swatted at her; just as Lindsey Kane, the oldest teacher in Pennell Elementary, walked in with her breath faintly smelling like cigarettes and her hair resembling salt and pepper. She stared at me with a bit disdain and placed her hands on her hips.

Now, I’m not the type of kid who deals with authority too well, and not in the way that you might be thinking, either. If an adult even so much as glances at me the wrong way I start balling, I’m just a mess of snot and tears.

The Ugly-Cry.

It’s never a pretty sight.

But in the end, I didn’t find myself in the principal's office, she had taken mercy on me tacked on with a nice lecture that started with.

“Now, I don’t know about your old school, Miss. Colson, but we don’t do that here.”

I’ve never attended an inner city school in my entire life, so I was pretty sure we didn’t do that anywhere..whatever that was. When the bus dropped me off that afternoon, I walked a block down towards my house with my oversized book bag hunched over my shoulders.

My mother swayed in the kitchen cooking to her favorite song Paradise, by Stevie Wonder, the house always smelled like a spicy combination of sage and cinnamon incense. Jaquetta Colson was a company/concert dancer, turned studio owner, and moved around the kitchen like it was her on stage, feet tapping along to light hum of sizzling that came from her famous zucchini hamburgers.

“How was your first day?”

A not-so-simple-question, ‘the how was school’ was way more complex especially, as you get older. If I were to lie than I’d feel kind of rotten. If I was inclined to bravely tell the truth than my parents instinctually became worried. She’d call her ex-husband, my father, and they’d make a big stick about calling up the school--conveniently for me they were only on the same page for instances like this.

I decided to risk it.

“I don’t know. It was just, uncomfortable.”

That got her attention. This woman whipped towards me in such a quick fashion her locks almost touched the pan. A wooden spoon stayed perched in her hand; ready to strike at any moment. I began to play with the hem of this awful orange Ni Hao Kai-Lan shirt that I practically lived in.


“T-They all wanted to touch my hair, and they kept staring.”

Explaining the truth made me feel even more rotten.

“You’re new, smart, and beautiful. Shoot, if I were those kids I’d stare too!”

It definitely wasn’t the most foreign thing she ever uttered, (as far as typical mom-comforting goes) but at the time it seemed out of this world.Now in hindsight, it’s obvious that I was overreacting, but this event still significantly changed the way I saw myself in comparison to others around me--in any environment.

The next day I took a deep breath as I turned the corner towards my teacher’s classroom. Amelia and the other girls approached me more casually now that they were sure I wouldn’t bite. It was as if the swatting of yesterday had had more of an effect on Miss. Kane than anybody.

“Can I touch your hair?” She asked and the other girls backed her up simply by giggling in return.

“Sure, if only I can touch yours.”

Motif is



Created with images by Rendiansyah Nugroho - "Books" • cbaquiran - "birthday cake cake birthday cupcakes candles party" • PublicDomainPictures - "michelangelo abstract boy child adult background communication" • blickpixel - "stones wall heart" • David Clode - "Scarlet Macaw plumage" • InspiredImages - "heart care medical care heart health medicine" • kalhh - "alien light atmosphere" • Andrew Preble - "Autumn forest canopy" • Gabriel Matula - "Silver Girl" • SHINE TANG - "I See You." • Oladimeji Odunsi - "Power" • Pexels - "adult blur book business color colourful composition" • Daria-Yakovleva - "coffee cappuccino café closeup drink coffee cup" • NASA - "Bright Center Star Cluster" • Ludovic Gauthier - "untitled image" • janeb13 - "war soldiers marine bataile of okinawa may" • Amanda Dalbjörn - "Eyes tell no lies" • skeeze - "crawl mud competition race obstacle feet water" • Computerizer - "robot mech machine" • philm1310 - "secret lips woman" • nathan burrows - "untitled image" • Melanie Wasser - "F E A R L E S S // Darkness" • David Preston - "Yellow School Bus" • Brian Fraser - "Curlfest"

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