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Let Me In (2nd Prize, Category 3)

April, 2014
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Knock, knock, knock, knock.

Mommy, please answer me.

Knock, knock, knock.

Mommy, please answer.

Knock, knock.

Mommy, please.

Knock.

Mommy.

I go to her door every morning of every day. She never answers, not anymore. Not if I’m hungry, not if I’m screaming, not even if the house was on fire. I don’t think she would care.

I crumple to the floor, knees first, my forehead sliding along the smooth bedroom door. I hardly feel the warm teardrops tumbling down my cheeks anymore because it happens so much. I sit with my back to the door, my tousle-haired head resting against the wood. I close my eyes, and I can feel myself falling again. Falling and being swallowed into the darkness of a memory of one day that’ll haunt me forever.

 

Tulips. Tulips and sunshine. I breathe in deep through my nose, and the smells of the wind, slipping in from the crack of the car window, soar into my body and warms my veins. I smile at the sun-kissed girl in the side view mirror, a secret smile I share only with myself when I’m in a state of pure bliss. And sitting here, in the front seat of my mom’s beat-up car with her and my little sister Sarah around me, ‘happy’ is an understatement.

“Cat!” Sarah squeals, pointing out the window. “Cat, Mommy, cat!”

Mom laughs, a sound of a million bells chiming in harmony. The soundtrack of my summers, really, as long as Mom had her favorite little daughter to press play. It never bothered me that Mom preferred Sarah over me because I was Dad’s favorite. But, as of 8 months ago, I was now favorite to a man who was about as gone as not having ever existed. I shake my head, not wanting these cruel thoughts to ruin yet another potentially perfect day. But all they ever did was scurry into the dark corners of my brain, waiting to attack.

“Sarah, you should put your seatbelt on,” I warn, turning around to face my endearing kid sister. “It’s dangerous.”

“Aw, don’t be a buzz kill, Anne,” my Mom teases, swatting my arm good-naturedly. “We’re almost home, anyway. She can do whatever she wants.”

I turned back around, rolling my eyes. Of course she can, I snark in my head.

“Sarah, honey, do you want to make ice cream when we get home?” Mom asks, turning around to beam at the angel in the backseat. “Or do you want to do something else? You can choose, sweetie, what–”

“Mom!” I cry out. “MOM! Watch out!”

Time is suddenly four times faster, but at the same time, drags at a speed slower than a snail. I feel my eyes widen to the size of an acorn, my vision sharpens, and I notice everything. I see, as fast as a lightning bolt, a giant German shepherd appearing out of thin air and sprinting across the street, chasing after a squirrel. I hear an ear-piercing shriek that could shatter glass and I realize that it belongs to me. I taste the iron tang of blood as I bite down, hard, to muffle my scream. I hear the squeals of car tires stopping too fast against asphalt. And I see Mom’s scratched, half-painted nails grip the steering wheel so hard her knuckles turn the color of an eggshell, and her foot scrambles to come in contact with the brake pedal. Mom’s reflexes are fast enough to prevent the dog from coming close to harm, but the momentum of it all sends Sarah flying towards the front of the car, head first, plunging through the glass and onto the hood of the car.

“Sarah,” Mom breathes out, her voice barely audible but shock obvious in her every exhale. “Sarah. Sarah!”

She fumbles for the door handle, hitting her head on her way out, but not noticing anything except the limp body lying on the hood of her car in a pile of glass shards.

I watch my mother sob like a distressed baby while cradling the best thing in her life and the only thing that I can process through my mind is how she’ll never look at me that way.

I know what the doctor’s going to say even before he reaches us. As if his face doesn’t say enough.

“Mrs. Abbey,” he starts, his cold, business-like voice bleeding with pity. “I’m very sorry, but your daughter didn’t make it. We did the best we could.” But it wasn’t good enough, I think, burning holes into his Ph.D. head. No degree in the world would be good enough.

The silence in the taxi on the ride back home is a contrary to the screaming and yelling in my head, and it makes me want to break another glass window and run away from my own mind. Mom can barely get herself out of the car, so I climb out my side, walk over to open her door, unbuckle her seatbelt, and put my arm around her waist, supporting her soulless body. Thankfully I have some paper bills in my pocket, and I pull them out. It gives me a fleeting memory of a completely different day, just 24 hours ago. The taxi driver searches for change, and his speed makes me surprisingly impatient and enraged.

“Just keep the change,” I snap at the innocent man, turning around to stumble to the front door. Fishing the keys out of Mom’s shorts pocket, I twist open the door, almost losing my balance under her weight, and gently place her on the couch. Then, I walk into the kitchen to get a glass of water, placing it on the coffee table in front of her, and I sit next to her as if I’m the mother giving her daughter a lecture. I stare into her empty eyes, which stare forward and would’ve been watching the TV if it had been on. Her hands rest, clasped together, in her lap, her brown hair a tangled mess because of a night of running her hands through it.

The silence begins to irritate me again, so I make an effort at a conversation.

“Mom,” I begin, then I stop, realizing my voice is too shrill and demanding for a situation like this. I try again.

“Mom?” I say, my voice as gentle as a rose petal. “Mom? It’s okay. We–you’re gonna be okay.”

I put my hand on top of hers, surprised and secretly glad she doesn’t flinch away from my touch, but also worried about her frozen state.

“Mom. Mom, can you hear me? Listen to me, it’s going to be okay. Everything’s fine, everything’s okay,” I babble on and on, waiting to come upon words that would trigger something in her mind. And finally, after an eternity of eternities, I succeed.

“It’s not your fault.”

Mom’s eyes refocus and her head turns to face me, each movement more and more robotic. Her vacant eyes settle on mine, and for a microscopic second, I swear I see a hint of compassion, pity, regret, guilt, and love, all mixed into one teardrop that drops from her eye and leaves a trail down her cheek. But as soon as the single tear disappears, so does the sentiment. She unclasps her hands and slowly, ever so slowly, gets up from her seat, leaving my rejected hand to slip back onto the couch. Her motions represent one of a sleepwalker as she makes her way to her bedroom door and disappears behind it.

 

It seems like forever.

I go to her door every evening of every day. She never answers, not anymore. Not if I’m sick, not if I’m yelling, not even if a hurricane tore up the land. I don’t think she even cares.

Knock, knock, knock, knock.

Mommy, please come back to me.

Knock, knock, knock.

Mommy, please come back.

Knock, knock.

Mommy, please.

Knock.

Mommy.

 

By Maggie He,

14 years, Shanghai American School - Puxi

 

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