Short Story: The Storm

After her boyfriend breaks up with her in front of half the school, Hailey dashes into the storm.

Clouds billowed in the south as Hailey dashed outside, her flip flops twisting under her feet and her arms pumping at her sides. It didn’t take long for summertime dew to form on her brow, but she didn’t slow. The breeze concentrated around her, brushing over her skin and through her ponytail, relieving only the slightest amount of discomfort caused by the heat. She kept running.

Her physical angst had yet to suppress her emotional turmoil. Nothing could. It pummeled her mind harder than the hot, muggy weather exhausted her physique. Heartbeats thudded in her chest as roiling misery swirled within her stomach. How could he do that? Walk away as if she were nothing? Look at her and laugh when the burning sensation in her eyes had relented to tears?

The tops of the trees waved gently just before their trunks bent with fury from the first gust of wind. Hailey watched the tempest roar toward her as she gazed southeast. There, under the glory of the white clouds, was the swirling wall of dust and sand. Her foot slipped off her sandal and onto the hot concrete, but she sped on.

She’d been warned. Not worth it. Scum. Stay away. They’d all said the same thing. Still, Burk’s silky smile and that weirdly exhilarating tingle she got when he stood close enough for his breath to tickle her neck were intoxicating.

The first flurries of sand whipped past her, stinging her eyes almost as much as the tears.

“It’s over.” He made the statement in front of half the school as she stood with books in her arms, waiting for him to walk her to class.

She giggled. “Stop it, Burk. Come on.”

How had she been so stupid as to think he was joking? The soft gleam in his eye morphed into a sardonic luster, yet it hadn’t been enough to tip her off.

“I’m going to be late,” she said.

“I’m not stopping you.” He draped his arm over Lisa’s shoulders, who smacked her watermelon gum between blinding teeth framed by cherry-red lipstick. “Lisa has algebra.”

Wind lashed at her ponytail as the dust churned in umber sheets that latched onto her, sinking into hidden creases and lining her tear-streaked face. She squinted at the sky. A dim amber shone in the southwest, nearly concealed by the storm. Her arms still pumped as pain rose from her feet into her shins.

The last class of the day had ended, and she’d stared at the empty parking lot, wondering how to get home. Her backpack had fallen from her shoulder as she’d sunk to a bench. Why would Sarah have waited? She’d gone to the chemistry early, angry at Hailey for her servile attitude around Burk.

Sarah narrowed her eyes at Hailey. “You don’t have to do everything he wants.”

“I don’t,” Hailey sputtered. “Besides, he hasn’t asked me to do anything today.”

“So I didn’t see you slip him your algebra homework this morning?”

“I, I…he just wanted to compare answers.”

“With an eraser? Sure.” She turned her back on Hailey but stopped short with her first step. “He’s using you.”

The clouds, so gloriously white before, gathered over the roiling dust and sand. Though Hailey knew they were gray underneath, the dirt spun too thickly around her to see anything but filth. It wasn’t just on the outside, though, it also laced her insides, pouring in with every breath.

She’d let him cheat off her homework, given him answers in the guise of tutoring, prepared research for reports. And it took him breaking up with her to see it. A few silky sentences had taken who she was and twisted her into something she’d sworn she’d never become. She couldn’t recover.

Though her legs tired and her lungs burned, she continued. Rolling thunder soon crashed within the sky as fingers of lightening fought to reach her. Pain seared in her side, yet she pushed on as drops of water struck the pavement, drying seconds later.

The last car in the teacher’s parking lot had turned onto the road before she started home. A note hung on the door when she got there. Went to dinner for Grandma’s birthday, expected you sooner. Leftovers are in the fridge. Grandma’s birthday. Hailey had thrown her backpack against the wall and screamed. It hadn’t helped. Yanking the door open, she’d run.

And she hadn’t stopped.

A flash of lightning lit the sky, followed almost immediately by a crash of thunder. The sky burst open. Rain fell too fast for the dry ground to soak it up. Hailey’s ponytail plastered itself against her neck. Loose strands of hair stuck to her cheeks. Gritty skin softened, and Hailey jumped into the water rushing down the gutter. Water splashed her thighs. She stopped running. As she glanced up, the rain pelted her face and streamed toward her ears. Opening her mouth, tiny droplets caressed her dry tongue and throat. Arms wide, she spun in a circle.

So she’d been stupid—fell for a guy because he sent tingles down her spine? She wasn’t the first. Probably wouldn’t be the last. It hurt, but she could climb beyond the storm, start anew, blossom in a different way. But first…

She spun one last time and looked up the block. The house hadn’t changed. That was a good sign, right? After knocking, she waited.

“What?” Sarah had opened the door a crack and peeked through. “You’re soaked.”

“Yeah…” Hailey scratched the ground with her foot. “Burk broke up with me.”

“Oh.”

Hailey crinkled her nose. “You were right.” She startled as a crash of thunder ripped through the sky and the rain tempered. “I screwed up.”

“You did.”

“I’m not going to fall for that kind of thing again. I shouldn’t have in the first place.”

The corner of Sarah’s mouth raised, and she swung the door wider. “Well, he is pretty cute.”

“Not that cute.”

Sarah giggled. “Want some dry clothes?”

Hailey held her t-shirt out and glanced at it. “Nah. I’m good in these. See you tomorrow, okay?”

The door shut behind Hailey as she shuffled down the driveway. Sore muscles and exhaustion brought a smile to her face as she gazed at the street. A few fallen tree limbs blocked the sidewalk, and sand blanketed the road where water had run toward the retention basin. Lifting her eyes, she gazed at the sky. The last of the sunlight set behind the hills in the west, leaving red, pink, and orange painted across the remaining wispy clouds. Listening, she heard lizards rustling under the bushes and reveled in the fragrance of creosote and mesquite as it wafted through the fresh air of the renewed desert, cleansed by the churning monsoon.

                  Photograph by Alan Stark 2011
Please follow and like us:

Flash Fiction: Hope

As I considered what to write for this week’s blog post, I decided to write a piece that shows what it is like to deal with anxiety and school avoidance for both parent and child. Having experienced such crises firsthand, the story, though fictional, lives in reality.

Hope

Flash Fiction: Hope

The alarm rang, and I wanted nothing more than to ignore the blasted beeping. How could I face another painful day of watching my child suffer at the hands of the educational system? That’s how I felt, anyway. I rolled out of bed and shuffled to the bathroom where I took my time. Hanna needed as much time in bed as possible before I ripped her from safety and forced her into raging discomfort yet again. I’d stretch the time longer but the ongoing fight required all the time I had left.

Shuffling my bare feet down the cold, hard tile, I opened Hanna’s door. “Come on, baby, time to get ready for school.” The blanket flipped over her head as she clutched it closer. “I know it’s hard, sweetheart, but if you don’t go to school we both get in trouble. Come on, time to get up.”
Grabbing the blanket, I removed it from her body. Her small frame lay too tiny for so much angst and too big for me to dress. I always stopped short as I smothered my own frustrations. “Get dressed Hanna, now.”

Tears streamed down her face, her body shaking uncontrollably. Blue eyes pleaded with me to let her stay home—pleaded for me to protect her from the terrors she faced. “Get dressed and come downstairs. Start with that. Can you do that?”

She nodded. That was more than yesterday. I stepped outside the room and down the stairs to make her lunch, wondering if she would eat at home again. Five minutes later, I called Hanna, reminding her to hurry. The doctor called it anxiety with panic disorder. I’d seen nothing like it. Similar to some teachers, I had assumed she wanted to stay home—or come home. Isn’t that what kids do? Not according to the doctor. “Consequences without pressure require walking a fine line,” he said. “You must balance the two.”

How do you balance consequences without applying pressure?

Teachers complained about Hanna curling into a ball on her chair and crying silently. She occasionally lashed out if they pressured her without recognizing the signs of an oncoming attack. Her bedtime was always questioned. Every one of them showed surprise when I said she went to bed by 8:00 PM. They hadn’t seen anxiety like this either.

“Hanna, come downstairs, now.”

The creak of her bedroom door told me she’d gotten dressed—or not. Standing at the top of the stairs, Hanna’s shoulders dropped, her head hanging lower.

“We have to go, Hanna. Where are your clothes?”

Tears poured down her cheeks, puddling on the hard floor beneath her feet, and she crumpled into a ball. I stepped up the stairs and pulled her into my arms. “What’s hard today?” Hanna shrugged. “Don’t you want to see your friends?”

“I have no friends!” The words sounded angry, but hurt was the real emotion.

“What about Sam? Or Leah? Or Danni?”

She hid her head further between her knees. “They won’t talk to me.”

“Do you talk to them?”

Now her eyes filled with agony. “I try, but they just talk to each other.”

I rubbed her back. What could I say to that? “Baby, I need you to get dressed, okay? If you can make it to school, we can have warm chocolate chip cookies when you get home.” I paused, hoping she would stand. Nothing. “If you need to come home you can call, but you need to try.”

Resigned, Hanna rose and reentered her room. A minute later, she came out dressed in jeans and a striped top. I handed her a breakfast sandwich and her shoes as we rushed out the door.

I tried not to talk too much on the way there, but unlike Hanna, I talk when nervous. “The other day I read about a girl who wanted a hairless cat…”

“I want to be homeschooled.”

I shook my head. “The doctor says attending in a classroom with other students is better for you. Besides, I don’t know how to teach, and you’ve seen me try to write an email. I don’t know a noun from a verb.”

“I want to be homeschooled.”

My heart lurched into my throat. I couldn’t homeschool. I squirmed like a trapped squirrel. “So, if you could have any animal you wanted, what would you choose?”

Silence.

We pulled into the school parking lot late enough that I ignored the loading zone sign. Besides, technically I was unloading my daughter. I hoped. I opened the door for Hanna, who tucked her head into her knees, hiding her face. “We can’t do this Hanna, you need to go in.”
I had fought to get her on campus for months. At first, she attended every day, regardless of long fights in the morning. A couple of weeks ago that number diminished significantly as most days she either checked in late or came home early. Consequences changed nothing. This week, she’d already missed four days. I wanted to bang my head against the steering wheel, drive her home, wrap my arms around her, and tell her she didn’t have to go to school ever again. But I knew better. Life without school meant heartache as an adult. Besides, legally she had to attend.

Sometimes I hated laws, even when they made sense.

“Come on.” I reached my hand around her and undid the seatbelt. She fought me, trying to grab at the buckle. “Please Hanna. If I need to, I’ll stay with you, but you have to go to school.”

She lifted her head and met my eyes with hers—red, hurt, scared. I offered my hand, and she took it. Together we walked into the office where I checked her in. We’d spent twenty minutes in the parking lot. She was late. As she trudged toward her classroom, a tear ran down my cheek.

“I think I need to set an appointment to discuss Hanna’s anxiety,” I said to the receptionist, adding, “She’s seeing a doctor, but it’s taking too long.”

“I can set an appointment for you with Mrs. Langley. She handles the 504 plans and the IEPs for kiddos with needs.”

“I really just need to discuss her absences.”

The receptionist looked at me, a wan smile spreading across her lips. “She may need more, and that’s why we have these documents—to help kiddos like Hanna.” She touched my hand. “Last week when Hanna came up here to calm down during history, she couldn’t speak. I knew she needed you, but when I asked her if she wanted to go home she couldn’t answer me. Kids who want to go home usually speak up. Hanna has anxiety—the real kind—not like what the rest of us get. Keep taking her to the doctor, but let the school help, too.”

“What can the school do?” A scoffing tone escaped with my words.

“More than people let on. They can set her up with books and helps at home for the days she misses, absences can be excused, different environments are available on campus if she needs them. We can take care of her. Mrs. Langley, she’s good at it, and she knows all this stuff.”

My heart slowed. I nodded my head and forced the words thank you from my mouth. She squeezed my hand. “Next Tuesday. 9:00 AM.”

One more nod as I walked out the door, hope slowly easing its way back into my heart. “Thank you,” I whispered.

Like what you read? Share it with your friends on social media, then read more at kameomonson.com.
Please follow and like us:

Attending School Once More, Once More

While tomorrow marks the end of week three for my ninth-grader, my seventh and eleventh-graders wrap up their first week. As many parents know, it isn’t only back to school for the kids, but for the parents, too. Decades ago, society determined children should attend school wherever the bus took them, but my little Arizona town thrives on changing societal views. Here, the norm leans toward sending your child to the school best suited to their needs, and we have plenty of schools available. Though I never thought I would choose for my children to attend school outside the bus-zone (i.e. a charter school), I’ve found it to be best for them.

Currently, my children attend two different charter schools. My ninth-grader attends a brick and mortar school that follows the typical pattern of changing classes and making friends in the hallway. My seventh and eleventh-graders attend an online school that offers a classroom with licensed teachers four days a week. They can also work from home. While my eleventh-grader generally attends in the classroom, my seventh grader attends at home where she has access to help from yours truly.

Attending School Once More, Once More.
My seventh grader working on science.

This week, my daughter and I have worked together on Social Studies, math, and English. Of course, English caught my attention.

I remember my seventh-grade English teacher. Some of my friends probably remember her name. She was this tiny, wrinkled woman who always had a piece of nicotine gum stashed in her cheek. Most of my friends attended the high English class and often told stories of stealing the transparency sheets from the overhead projector. Me? I remained in the average class, and remember her squiggling sentences onto transparencies and asking us to place commas and periods in the correct places.

I don’t, however, remember terms like appositive, participle, adjectival phrase, or adverbial phrase. Though I did learn about misplaced modifiers from my mother, who always giggled about the dog sitting at the table. (‘I petted the dog sitting at the table,’ versus, ‘I sat at the table and petted the dog.’)

This week, when I went back to school, I read the lessons to my daughter and discussed various ways to remember each of these terms. We also learned how these phrases often represent more than one construct. For instance, a prepositional phrase, something I learned about my first time through school, can also be an adjectival phrase. Who knew?

Now, when my book comes out next week (What shameless plug? There was no plug. Okay, a little plug.), my daughter and I can dissect the sentences and identify the types of phrases. But I guarantee, we won’t find any misplaced modifiers. Mom should be proud. However, as you can see, I occasionally start sentences with and, but, and so. I even end a few sentences with prepositions—the horror! Maybe my fifth time through seventh grade will cure my bad habits. Not likely. (Was that an adverb? A fragment? What’s an author to do?)

Have you started school again yet? What grades are you in this year?

For Your Pleasure:

I personally enjoy quizzes. So I found a website with plenty of grammar quizzes for you to enjoy; many of them include what I’ve been learning with my daughter this week.

 

Please follow and like us: