Aug 7, 2013

Excerpt from Adela Arthur

She ran because she had no other choice. She feared what would happen if she dared to stop. There was no time to think. There was barely any time for her to breathe. On her broken ankle, she ran. With her bruised arms, she ran. With her bleeding sides, she ran because she knew today was the day she was meant to die.
Her bare feet, covered with everything from wet dirt to dried, dead leaves to cold ice, took her farther into the forest. She jumped over the dark fallen log, not caring that the bottom of her pants snagged on the tip of it. She went on, running deeper, running faster, trying not to think. Thinking would stop her. Thinking would make her want to survive. Thinking would cause her to fight, and today she could not fight. She heard the screeches; she had seen their dark eyes. They were confirming what she already knew in her heart to be true. Today was the day she was meant to die.
Snow fell gently on her like small glimpses of hope. She loved the snow. But even today it, too, was against her. It knew. It blanketed the ground and froze her to her core. She slowed, but she didn’t stop running. Slowing was a mistake, though. Now she could feel the fatigue as it crept up inside her. She could feel the pain as it came into her ankle like burning knives slicing away at her. As the screeches rang through the forest, they too chilled her. Whether she slowed or not, she was meant to die today.
However, she had one choice, one option. What was to be her final ground? She had the choice of where she could die and it wasn’t going to be here. It wasn’t going to be in the depths of the dark forest. It would not be fatigue, or hunger, or even the evil creatures that dwelled inside that forest. She couldn’t die here. It wasn’t good enough.
She ran, but again her pace slowed. What a fatal flaw that was, for now she tripped over the root of a skillful hidden tree. Her body hit the iced-over, snow-covered ground, adding even more injuries to her collection. She touched her lip; seeing her blood on her hands shocked her, stilling her. She was bleeding everywhere, but for some reason that blood was what stilled her. That was her final fatal flaw because now she stopped running. Running had calmed her and now that was gone. A dry sob broke through her lips before the tears came. They broke so quickly they burned, blinding her.
She could think now. She knew to what her actions would lead. She knew she could hurt them all. But it had to be done; it was the only thing left to do. They would hate her. They wouldn’t understand. They would have told her there was another way, but there wasn’t. There just wasn’t. They wished for it to be innocent, clean, easy—but it couldn’t be. She knew there wasn’t another way. They knew there wasn’t another way. But they hoped, they prayed, but most of all, they feared. That they too were like her, that they too were only prolonging their agony. It wasn’t always like this. I promise you it wasn’t always like this. There use to be laughter and harmony, absolute and unfathomable harmony. They wanted that back. They needed that back. So she had to die today.
She heard it. She heard his foot upon the snow. Lifting herself from the ground with great ease, for she no longer hurt, she turned to him, all the anger in the world directed at him. He—with handsome blue eyes and blond hair—he was the reason she would die today.
 “I am not sure if you are the most reckless girl I have ever met or the wisest.” His soft, gentle voice rang out—his voice never much higher than a whisper. It was a deceiving voice. It was the voice of a friend, a brother, a father; it was a voice of someone who cared.
 “This you won’t win. Haven’t you heard? Light always wins. You scare and you terrify, but in the end light always wins. So you are the most reckless man I have ever met, for trying to do the same thing so many others have tried and failed to do,” she told him through her own tears.
He simply circled her before speaking again. “Now who lied to you, my dear? There is no such thing as failure. I have simply discovered ways that did not work.”
She looked forward, not speaking to the man behind her. There was no point wasting the few precious breaths she had left. Her tears flowed from her eyes, rolling down her cheeks like miniature waterfalls. He was the reason she would die today.
 “How tragic it is that you will not be alive for me to impart such a lesson upon you.” That was the last thing she heard before the darkness came. She hoped; she truly hoped she did not die today for nothing.



“Good morning, Ashland! It is officially Fall—” Slamming her hand against her alarm, Adela tried not to think about what today meant.
Oh today is going to suck, she thought as she lay in bed. Today was a dark day and on dark days you weren’t supposed to go out.
“Adela if you don’t get your butt up, I am coming in there,” the broken scratchy voice called from the other room. Adela tried so hard to ignore him, burying herself deeper in to the mattress and pulling a pillow over her head. All she wanted to do was rest on her dark day.
“Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday, my little peanut.” He burst into her room, singing dreadfully.
“I’m going! I am going,” Adela yelled, jumping out of bed as she tried to dance around the older man singing in front of her, until she ran into the bathroom, slamming the door.
However, he continued on in his awful voice. “Happy Birthday—”
I am in the bathroom. The water is running. You can stop now grandpapa!” she yelled again as she leaned against the wooden bathroom door.
She sighed when she heard his laughter fade and the gentle slam of the door as it closed in on itself. The second to last thing she wanted to do today was go to school. The very last thing she wanted to do was celebrate her sixteenth birthday. But did her grandfather listen to her? No. He was going to plan a “surprise” birthday party— which they could not afford—because turning sixteen is important, he said.
Apparently she was in the first stage of birthdays; the stage in which she should be excited to become older. He had told her there were three stages of birthdays. The first, the one she was in now, was excitement, the second was dread, and the third was pride. Pride that once again you had cheated death for another year. Despite her grandfather’s age, he claimed to be in transition from the second to the third. He could too, he didn’t seem to look as old as he was, but she knew better. Stepping into the shower, her mind continued to race on.
As you could see she wasn’t a fan of her birthday. To speak frankly, she hated her birthday. At sixteen she was not a legal adult for another two years and could not drink for another five. In all honesty, to Adela, all the birthdays between twelve and seventeen were pointless. Anyone who told kids different only said so to make sure teens didn’t shoot themselves in the face before they turned eighteen.
Adela sighed. She didn’t mean to be so cynical; she knew that was not the real reason she loathed her birthday. She hated it because it was a dark day. It was the day her parents died. It was the day she became an orphan. She could not remember it, the massive explosion that took them away. Each time she tried to call forth that memory, all she could recall was a bright light and sobbing around her. From what she was told, she was six at that time, and should have been able to remember something: their voice, their face, how their hands felt. However, she could not. It was her dark day.
She often wondered what they looked like. Each time she questioned her grandfather about it he would tell her to look in the mirror—for she was a perfect blend of the two. So she looked in the mirror every day. Adela knew that she had inherited her mother’s long, wavy black hair and hazel eyes, along with her father’s height in addition to his fair skin.
Had she known where her old house stood she would have surely gone back there. She would have walked among the rubble trying to find traces of anything that linked her to them. It was for this reason she knew that her grandfather had moved them to Oregon.
Wrapping a towel around her, Adela took a deep breath before wiping the steam off the mirror. She stared deep in to her hazel eyes she spoke, “Happy Birthday.”
Dressed, she began searching for the bus pass but could not find it anywhere. Ripping through her closet, dresser, and bed, she was still unable to find the blue bus pass, which hung from a panda bus-pass chain.
“I just cleaned this room.” Adela sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose. It had taken her forever to clean her room, putting everything neatly in its place, and it took her only five minutes to destroy it.
She would have given up her search for her wallet—there wasn’t much in there, just five dollars and an old movie stub if she remembered correctly—however, the school buses in Ashland now required every student to have a bus pass. Grabbing her backpack, she marched out, hoping that she had left her bus pass and her wallet in the kitchen. When she walked into the kitchen, whatever her grandfather was cooking made her stomach grumble.
“You look nice,” her grandfather told her as she rushed out in to the kitchen to search for the bus pass.
“Grandpapa you’re blind,” she replied, looking inside the fruit platter.
Despite the fact that she was dressed incredibly plain, something she cared less about seeing as how they were poor. She wasn’t joking, Grandpapa Keane was blind, and to the best of Adela’s knowledge, he had always been so. Luckily, he had impeccable hearing, which made his job as a musical instrument repairer quite easy, but not many people went to the local blind man to repair their guitar.
He chuckled under his breath.
“Yes, but I believe you look nice,” he told her in his dry, low voice.
Grandpapa Keane was a somewhat tall man, with silver gray hair that stopped at a little past his shoulders and a large wrinkle creased his forehead. But what made him truly memorable was his dry, scratchy voice. It sounded like he had a smoke stuck in his lungs, which he most likely did with the amount of cigarettes he went through. Grandpapa Keane always made sure to smoke outside whenever he thought she wasn’t paying attention.
“Thank you. Have you seen my bus pass?” She smiled, leaning into the counter beside him.
“Adela that’s cruel. You know I am blind.” He pulled his pale lips in to a thin line before he was unable to control his laughter.
“Ha-ha very funny. But if I cannot find my pass or wallet, I won’t be able to get to school on time. As much I would love that, I would miss my own surprise party.” Her dark long hair swaying as she moved toward the living room to continue her search.
He tried to deny it.
“There is no party,” he claimed.
“Ok grandpapa.” She knew better than to believe him by now. There was a party, there was always a party. The guest list was short; not many people could fit in their run down home at the edge of town.
“It’s in the car.” He laughed at her as he ate a strip of bacon.
 “We don’t have a—Grandpapa you didn’t!” she complained. He just ignored her, dragging himself out of the kitchen and through the front door.
There, sitting comfortably in the weed and fungus covered driveway of their home, was a very old black and blue Honda Civic. The colors suited it well; it looked as though it had taken many beatings in its day. The paint was chipping off on its hood; the tires looked depressed and tired. She ran her fingers over it as if to make sure it was really there. Bits of paint came off at her touch.
Adela smiled as she stared at the car before her. “It’s beautiful…” she told.
They could not afford this; she wasn’t sure how he had managed to even get her anything but a bicycle. That was why it was beautiful.
“I had the boy make sure it was safe.” The boy he spoke of was Adela’s best friend, Hector Pelleas, the smartest teen in all of Ashland, if not all of Oregon. You would not think of him to be the car fixing type, but he just knew things.
“Stop overthinking it and go to where ever it is you go during the day,” he said, throwing her the keys before walking inside.
She did not move, just stood there, shocked. She pulled on the door a few times; it seemed the rust on its outer edges had cemented it closed. When she took a seat the engine roared to life with great force before coughing like it realized it was not the grand car it once was in its prime. The whole car itself shook slightly as if it were a tractor-trailer.
“Hello?” she answered her old cell phone with the half broken flip screen.
“Glove compartment. Now go or I will be forced to drive you myself,” Her grandfather said before hanging up.
Opening the compartment it revealed not only her bus pass, next to her wallet, but it also let out a foul odor. One of which Adela did not even want to know the sources of. She pulled out her license with a frown. It was hopefully the last time that thing ever saw the light of day.
With all the technology in the world you would think they would be able to make the pictures flattering, she thought.
Shaking her head at the run down house in front of her, Adela backed out of the driveway. It may have been the first day of fall but it did not seem that way. She had only made it a few blocks from her home when the skies opened; a full on downpour ensuing as a result. But that was Oregon. One-minute perfectly sunny day and the next you’re under a cold waterfall. This was just one of the ways that today was going to suck. She could feel it; she didn’t know why but she had this odd feeling, like something bad was going to happen.
She parked in the student parking lot and watched as the students of Ashland High ran under their jackets and books to avoid the rain like animals clearing a watering hole. High school was a jungle and something bad always happened in the jungle. She double-checked her zipper on her backpack before putting it over her shoulder. As she zipped up her old tattered jacket, she took a deep breath and prepared herself for the mad dash she was about to take. The minute the door was open she felt the cold water soak her jeans. Closing the door quickly, she ran as fast as she could into the brick building.
It was only when she reach the safety of the school building did she slow. The halls were just as crowded as always; people tended to linger for some odd reason, forcing her to fight her way over to her locker where she prayed it would open. It always seemed to have a mind of its own.
“Ahh!” she groaned banging her hand against the red locker when it didn’t open, but that did nothing, as usual.
This locker always brought out the worst in her. All she wanted was her physics book. That was it. Today, the one-day in history Mr. Watkins was giving an open book test, and she couldn’t get hers.
“You can use mine.” Adela turned to face the owner of the meek voice.
There, standing beside her opening his locker with great ease, was Hector. She had known Hector for years. He lived on the other side of Ashland, the one with the nice homes where the porches didn’t break, and you didn’t have to share your bathroom with the friendly neighborhood daddy long-leg. If it were not for the fact that his mother and her grandfather were friends, then they never would have been. He was a short guy in comparison to the other guys his age. It did not help that he lacked muscle tone either. He was thin and wore clothes that only highlighted that fact. All of this, plus the ridiculous ties he wore around his neck all the time, his untamed sandy brown hair and glasses, made him the very definition of a nerd.
“Are you sure?” she asked him as he handed her the large textbook.
“Photographic memory, remember.” He laughed at her.
“Cheater.” Adela frowned at him as they walked to class.
“Jealous,” he responded.
She frowned even more because he was right. Taking her seat by the window, she noticed that there was no end in sight to the rain. Mr. Watkins strode in, business-like as usual. He was one of those teachers that didn’t have fun or a life outside of this school. Pushing his glasses farther up his hooked nose, he held in his hands a stack of crisp white sheets of paper.
I wonder how many trees had to die for this one test, she thought as she flipped through the hieroglyphic covered pages.
Even with the book at her side it would not have given her enough time to decode any of the symbols in front of her.
“If a cannonball has a mass of 150g and is shot from a muzzled cannon toward you with a velocity of 960m/s, what is its kinetic energy?” What did it matter if she were dead? Who in their right mind would stand there wanting to know how much kinetic energy was behind a cannon ball? Move. Problem solved; you’re alive and it did not matter what the kinetic energy was.
When the bell rang she sighed in both frustration and defeat. This was the bad feeling she had: failure. There was no way she was passing physics this year.
“That bad?” Hector asked. She just nodded, walking into the girl’s bathroom.
She hated to fail at anything. She hated letting people down, she hated letting herself down. She tried her best in everything but for some reason she did not understand physics at all. Washing her face, she hoped the water would calm her down. As she dried her face she stared into her reflection. There was a small crack in the glass.
All of a sudden, she no longer saw her own reflection. In her place she saw a woman with long, snow-white hair and black eyes. There was nothing else, just pure darkness. The paleness of her skin showed even more so with the green dress she wore. Adela moved and the woman followed. Suddenly, a wicked smile crossed her pale lips. Her hand reached out toward her, coming through the mirror. Adela backed away until she was up against the red stall doors. Pushing, she moved farther back, falling upon the bathroom seat. She could not tear her eyes away as the hand reached forward.
It seemed like the woman’s whole body was coming through the mirror. A deafening scream broke from her lips, as she slammed the bathroom door closed. With all her might, Adela tried to hold the door closed. Her heart pounded so vigorously that she could feel the ringing in her ears. Her arms grew weak and the stall flew open. The woman was gone and in her place stood Principal Pelleas, Hector, Wilhelmina and her followers.
“Ms. Arthur are you all right?” the red head she recognized to be Principal Pelleas questioned as she reached out for her. Adela was frozen, not just from her residual fear but also from confusion.
“No one is going to hurt you,” the principal told her softly as if she was a child. She squatted before Adela waiting for her to take her hand.
Adela blinked for a moment, trying to gather herself. Nodding, she took Principal Pelleas’s hand. Rising, she gazed into the mirror, until she couldn’t any longer. Nothing was amiss, however she knew what she saw—or had she just imagined it. Principal Pelleas looked between the mirror and Adela, her red hair swaying softly.
“Let’s go to my office, okay,” she told her, a hand on Adela’s back. “The rest of you head back to class,” she ordered.
Wilhelmina and her girls just stared at Adela with smirks on their faces, before leaving. Hector followed, but not before looking back one last time. Adela knew without a doubt, as she stepped into the crowded hallway, that the whole school would hear about her episode in a matter of seconds. What was worse was that she could not stop it. The only way to kill a rumor before it became a monster was to shoot it down early in the game.
Taking a seat in the leather chair in front of Principal Pelleas’s desk, she tried to avoid her green eyes. Principal Ellen Pelleas, the plate on her desk read. She was Hector’s mom, and basically her surrogate mother. Getting in trouble with her always followed them home. She knew her grandfather would most likely be talking to her sometime today or the next. Adela was not really okay with him knowing of her episode.
You would think she would have her accomplishments plastered all over the walls. Instead, she had pictures and small trophies of students around the school. There was even a picture of her on desk of the Grande Ronde River with a younger looking Hector; the only proof that that boy did more than read. There were quite a few plants in the room and everything seemed to be made of wood. It was very Zen and earthy. The antique looking mirror on the wall threw her off.
“Adela?” Adela turned to the older woman in the large chair in front of her.
“I am fine Principal Pelleas,” she told her. The longer she stayed in this office the worse the rest of the day was bound to become.
“Would you like to go home? I could call your grandfather,” Principal Pelleas asked her as she picked up the phone, preparing to dial.
“I’m fine. Besides, it would make it harder to pull off that surprise party I know you both are planning.” Adela couldn’t help the small smirk that played on her lips. The look on Principal Pelleas’s face said it all. She knew her grandfather was planning something; the car was just to throw her off.
“Fine you may go,” Principal Pelleas said, placing the phone back down. She and her grandfather had known each other for years. How, Adela was not sure. He had said something about a pottery class they had taken.
“And Adela,” she called, causing Adela to stop near the door. “Try to look somewhat surprised when you get home.”
Adela sighed before nodding and closing the door as she walked out.
All day people stared. They whispered behind her, teachers shot her worried glances. You would think it was the first time a high school girl ever cried in the girl’s bathroom. She wasn’t popular by any means so she did not understand why people even cared to begin with. People stared at her as if she had two heads. This was not the type of attention a girl wanted on her birthday. Sighing, she put her head on the lunchroom table.
“On a scale of one to ten, how bad?” she grunted up at Hector.
His sandy head rose from its place within the large textbook. He tilted his head to the side before glancing around the poster covered, over crowded cafeteria.
He pushed his glasses back up his crooked nose while he thought for a moment. “Eight and a half.”
“Urg, I hate high school,” Adela said, putting her head down on the table.
“Some good has come out of it, though.” He looked back down at her. She raised her head up, staring at him oddly.
“Mr. Watkins is reviewing his test on account of the rumor.”
“What rumor?”
“That the physics test was so difficult it caused you to have a panic attack in the bathroom.”
Great, she thought. That was probably one of the nicer things being said.
She just bit into her apple, trying to ignore everything around her. She just had to make it one more day. It was Thursday, someone was bound to do something stupid over the weekend and by Monday no one would care about her anymore.
“Hey, loser!” someone called. It made her mad that Hector’s head lifted back up as if his name had been called. She knew who it was, which was why she wasn’t going to turn around.
“I was talking to you,” the voice said. Sighing, Adela turned around and came face to face with Wilhelmina White.
She was that girl in high school. You know the one who seemed to be just too pretty be real; the one who would wear something ridiculous and the next day every single person had it on. Her flawless chocolate skin, brown eyes, and gorgeous soft dark hair made her the queen of Ashland. She had even done some modeling. People like her were the reason girls like Adela hated school.
“What do you want?” Adela snapped, rising up to be on equal footing with her.
“Cool down tiger. I just wanted to say thank you.” She smiled raising her hands up in defense, the girl behind her smiling, too.
Adela didn’t trust any of them, Wilhelmina did not say thank you, and she didn’t even believe she had heard the words before.
“I’m serious. If you weren’t such a freak I would be making up Mr. Watkins test right now.” She and her hyenas laughed before walking off to hunt for their next victim.
“I hate her,” she told Hector but he wasn’t paying attention. Instead, he just packed up his stuff, before walking away.
She stared at him oddly as he retreated. She would have stayed where she was sitting had it not been for the laughter she heard. Whether it was for her or not, she wasn’t staying. Walking over to her locker she found Hector standing there beside it, staring into his as if he was searching for something.
“What’s up with you?” she asked him, her arms folding across her chest as she leaned against her locker. She wasn’t even going to try to open that thing again. It was a bad omen.
He said nothing to her before sighing. Reaching into his locker he pulled out a small white box with a perfect blue bow on it.
“I, uh, wanted to give it to you before but you were freaking out about the test. Then the whole thing in the bathroom happened, and I knew you would hate your surprise party. So I figured this would be the safest time,” he rambled before handing it to her.
She just stared at it as if it was a foreign life form. She wasn’t sure what to say or do. She just wanted this day to end, no more gifts, no more surprises. He silently waited for her to unwrap it. Adela stared between him and the box. Figuring it would be better not to hurt his feelings, she pulled on the loose string. She did not know why it took her so long to open it, but when she did, she could not help the audible gasp that came from her lips. It was a simple heart within a small cage, but it was beautiful. She lifted it out from its place within the box, staring at it.
“I really had no clue what I was doing and my mom kind of helped me, I mean she knew what you would like and all,” he rambled again.
She didn’t know what taking the necklace would mean. Then again she didn’t know what not taking his necklace would mean either. She cared about Hector but not the way he wanted her to.
“It’s just a necklace, Adela. It won’t kill you,” he muttered awkwardly.
“Thank you, Hector,” she told him, surprising him with a hug before backing up and placing the necklace around her neck.
                He had just brightened her day without even realizing it. It was like the necklace had brought her good luck. No one or thing bothered her after that. The rest of the day was pretty relaxed. She walked into her other classes, laughed, and smiled with her classmates. She even made Mr. Rheam, her calculus teacher laugh, and that man never laughed.
As she left school she felt confident; that was something new, but she didn’t fight it. The sun was out and life was good for the rest of the day. To top it off, she planned on eating cereal with chocolate for dinner as she watched television on her bed. Life was looking good.
“Surprise!” She stared at her living room full of people she did not know when she opened the door to her house. In her own glee, she had forgotten about the party like an idiot.
At least I really did looked surprised, she thought as she walked in, preparing her face for the long night of smiles ahead. She would have a good time, she would smile, and she would laugh because she loved her grandfather enough. She would pretend that life was everything that it needed to be.

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