Julie Bond grew up in Europe as a military brat. She found her very first permanent home in Landry, GA as a teen going into high school. Almost four years later, she's having pre-graduation jitters and flashing back to an incident of school violence she experienced in Europe. She attempts to convince herself that it can never happen again, but continually finds herself flashing back to that day no matter how hard she tries.
The people around her present any number of problems for Julie, and she's hard put to keep from drowning under all the issues. Then Michael--a cool guy she's had a crush on for the last three years—returns from traveling the US as a photographer, and Julie now has one more thing to distract her as she prepares to leave high school. One thing she firmly believes in: no one will ever invade her classroom with violence again.
Once again, the impossible happens. Once again, she's in a classroom with a madman holding a gun. Once again, she must survive.
The German word for attention echoes through my head as I sit in the last French class I'll ever take. In an instant, the comforting cream-colored walls of Landry High School vanish. I'm crouched under a table with tears streaming down my face. Three men and two women point huge, black automatic weapons at my classmates.
It's not real! I'm almost eighteen – not five.
Alex Starkey is a normal teenager with unfortunate initials. Initials which have been his nemesis his entire life. Initials matter when all the kids call each other by them instead using their names.
If that isn’t awkward enough, there’s Payne, who’s made a career out of bullying kids he thinks deserve it. Alex’s inits make him a target. Alex can deal with that on his own, until Payne crosses the line and tries to force him into doing things with long-range consequences. That’s when Alex stands up and faces him down.
The first Wednesday in August arrives not with the promise of a day spent in the Recreation Center’s pool. No lazy afternoon will float past while I play baseball or football with my buds. Band camp ended a couple of weeks ago, so sleeping until noon is no longer a luxury I indulge in.
Although I know what day it is, I revel in a dream –where I’m Mr. America. I flex my muscles, strut around a stage, and blow away the competition. This is my victory, my way of showing everyone that I’m the best.
Trea Jones has always known the bitterness of bigotry and abject poverty. Her half-Cherokee daddy disappeared thirteen years ago on the pretense of getting milk. Mama has done nothing but mourn his loss, and she blames Trea for that. Now that she's starting her senior year of high school, Trea hopes for something better, but she doesn't hold out much hope.
She loosens up on some of her rules. Her guy, Dave, proves to her that she is worthy of everything the others have. The last day of classes prior to the winter break, she's ready to share some stupendous news with Dave, but tragedy intervenes when her daddy texts while driving a bus. Trea is left wondering if she can ever be free of a curse that heaps a lot of bad luck on her whenever good things happen to her.
Where U @
The text is from my guy, Dave Woods. It's a code, a way for him to help me feel better about everything. Mostly, it's his way of showing me that he cares.
Kitchen. I roll my eyes. Cleaning.
Want to come do mine?
His return text sends me into a fit of giggles. That's something only he can accomplish.
More code, and this one sends fear shivers up and down my spine. I am in no way ready for school, but I'll have to go tomorrow, no matter what.
Lisa is so ready for a break from the grueling first semester of college. Along with five other friends, she returns to Landry, and hopes to have nothing but fun. Within days, one of the group is the victim of a vindictive stalker, and Lisa herself is now in the man's sights. No matter what she does, she can't shake this person.
Fred has a little problem, but he figures he can take care of it himself, if he achieves fame with his folk rock band, Olney-Oak Lane Sounds. Then he happens to see this beautiful woman, who turns out to be just like every other woman he's met. He takes care of her, and is immediately drawn to Lisa. No one will get between Fred and Lisa, absolutely no one.
On Christmas Eve, Lisa has to fight for her life and sanity after Fred kidnaps her. She turns out to be very different from the other women, in a way he never figured.
Christine Zephyr puts the keys to her mom's Volkswagen Beetle in the visor, shoves her bag under the seat, and casts a worried glance at the three small white boxes on the passenger seat.
These started appearing a few days ago, balanced on the ledge of her bedroom window. She'd called the police, but couldn't turn them in, until today. Now, she has to ask her friends' advice before going to the police again.
Lainie’s older stepbrother, Mark, is the bane of her existence. He always embarrasses her. She swears she hates him… until a terrible day when she realizes just the opposite is true.
Glancing in all directions, I sneak toward where I live. He can’t see me. I can’t let him know that I’m home. Not until I’m safely inside.
“Hey, Lainie! Do your friends know that you dance in front of the bathroom mirror every night? Maybe I should sell tickets.”
Face burning, I duck my head, running up the stairs and the last few feet to our apartment. How can my jerk of a brother do this? Turning, I stand in front of the door and scream out my frustration.
One more cigarette. Lydia continually fools herself, by imagining that she’ll relieve the stress in her life by smoking one more cigarette. Her habit results in being caught during finals at school, and being expelled. She learns who did this to her and vows revenge.
There is only one little issue left. Can she throw out the cigarettes or will she be caught in the same downward spiral as her brother?
Lydia draws hard on the cigarette, blowing toward the open window. She feels the stress of not studying for Government wash out of her, relaxing with each drag on the cigarette. Waving away the smoke wafting around her, she peers around the stall door.
Was that the bathroom door opening?
Taking two more quick drags, she drops the butt into the toilet and winces at the hissing sound. Flushing, she searches for breath freshener and perfume in her purse, liberally using both. Cautiously, she opens the door and glances around. Certain no one has seen her sneak the cigarette, she walks to the sink and checks her hair, sniffing furtively.
Grace Winston yearns for one last family Christmas, but she has to convince her brothers and sisters it's worth their while to come home. Her parents, while happy that she's been accepted at Oxford University in England, are pining away for their family to gather together.
She manages to force her older brothers and sister to help out, to come home, but it's up to them to bring the other – a brother who attacked their father to get money to feed his drug habit, and a sister who recently gave up alcohol and is raising four children under the age of five without their daddies. The family does return home, and they surprise their parents, but Grace is soon wondering if this was really worth all the trouble she's gone through, when no one acknowledges her efforts to make this a Christmas to remember… until she receives an early gift that leaves her certain things will turn out all right.
Grace Winston had celebrated her eighteenth birthday a mere three weeks ago, the same day as Thanksgiving. There were no thanks in her house, no special foods prepared to celebrate her becoming an adult, nothing to mark the day as unique.
Her parents hadn't said "Happy Birthday" until it was time to go to bed. Even then, the acknowledgement had sounded more like "goodnight."
It's not Mama and Papa's fault. They can't help how sad they are. My brothers and sisters should have come like they said they would. They're not even making false promises anymore. All of them claim that they have other plans for Christmas, and we need to get over our selfish desire to have the family together.
Parents, siblings, spouses, friends. People you love. People you thought loved you. People whose truth you keep hidden, even from yourself.
People who make you feel guilty for the harm they cause to you and others, by their choice. People who cause you to doubt yourself into thinking it’s your fault.
K.C. Sprayberry presents a collection of devastating short stories on relationship abuse. To those in the midst of such a relationship, stand up, stand free, and stand strong.
I sit in the crowded waiting room, watching people rushing around behind a set of hydraulic doors. Hunching my shoulders, I stare at them, wishing for the doctor to come through and tell me everything will be all right. It has to have been my imagination that her leg looked funny after she fell downstairs.
Please, someone, come out and tell me that Mom will be taking us home.
Pulling up my legs, I half turn and stare. The windowpanes are frosting. It might snow. I hope it doesn’t. Snow means no school. I want to be in school. Turning back, I watch in terror as the doctor slowly approaches. He’s looking past me. I turn and see flashing blue lights. He’s called the police. I can’t talk to the police.
Erin Sellers, an eighteen-year-old high school senior, hates teen drinking. She and her three friends – Bill, her guy, Shari and Jake - decide to use Twitter to stop a group, the Kewl Krew, from using their high school as the local bar. But the members of this group are just as determined to stop anyone from messing up their fun. Despite veiled threats to her safety, Erin continues her crusade.
To make matters worse for her, the stress of school and extracurricular work mounts and suddenly, shockingly, booze-fueled tragedy strikes. Erin is now under greater pressure as she spends all hours to produce a mural and other work to commemorate the death of a teen friend. Bill, Jake and Shari support her in all this...
But more tragedy lurks nearby… until it’s time to softly say goodbye.
The sound of liquid gurgling and a thunk distracts me as my art teacher, Mr. Janks, says he has a major announcement. An overwhelming urge prods me to confront the offender, but she'll deny my accusation, even though everyone in the vicinity knows she just chugged some vodka.
Do it! My hands clench into fists. Tell Laura to quit!
High school drunks totally piss me off. The urge to deal with the offender overcomes common sense. I start to turn around to give her a piece of my mind but stare in shock at my teacher instead.
Carla got in a car with a drunk driver. Two other friends in that car were also drunk. She put on her seatbelt. They didn’t. The wreck on their way home left her the lone survivor. Even with a horrific injury, her memory won’t let her forget anything.
I turned down the beer. They didn’t. I ignored the scornful comments. They laughed. I buckled my seatbelt. They laughed louder and refused to use theirs.
“Get real, Carla,” Janie had shouted. “We’re teens. Nothing can hurt us.”
Her scornful words ripped through me now. Janie wasn’t around to tell me that I had been right and she’d been wrong. I wished she was. I wished the guys were with us too. Anything to stop the horrible feelings churning inside me.
They were my friends. Things like this don’t happen to friends.
Don’t they? Didn’t Daddy talk to me about drunk drivers? Didn’t he tell me never to get in a car with one? Oh, Daddy, I’m so sorry.
I stood in the middle of the road, shivering from what I just experienced. A warm wind blasted past my face. Leaves swirled around, part of one settling on my nose. There was no energy left in me to move that leaf. Another blast of wind takes away the bit of greenery. I watched it dance and sway before it dipped below the edge of a cliff.
I stared at the car, at where it finally stopped. From all appearances, no one could have escaped that vehicle without help.
How did I get out?
Leslie’s friend dared her to run a yellow light. She did but never saw a drunk running the red light until it was too late. Now, her friend is hurt and she’s scared. Can she face the consequences of her decision?
Blue and red lights flash furiously. Leslie shivers inside the rough blanket and stares at the devastation. Beyond the lights is her mother’s car, or what remains of it. Of all the stupid mistakes she’s ever made, this is the worst. She shivers again when a stretcher appears out of the darkness and is quickly loaded into an ambulance. Lights along the highway slow. She moans, causing the officer standing next to her to jerk and stare at her.
Inwardly, she rails against the drivers that are slowing to watch the spectacle that is in front of them. A squeal of tires, a slamming door, and the frantic pattering of sandals on the pavement makes her look up. Mom is here. Tears drip down her face. Leslie knows that she’s in for it now.
She gathers the folds of the blanket closer. The tears continue to slide down her face. She’d been driving too fast, the light had changed too quickly, Millie had issued a challenge, and then there had been screeching tires and crunching metal and silence—such awful, loud silence.
Mom walks over from where she’d been talking to the police. She is crying. Leaning over, she takes Leslie’s hands in hers and look at her.
One more Christmas is all Dawn wants. Is that too much to ask?
With a little more than a week before the holiday, fifteen-year old Dawn and her dad share a heart-wrenching secret about her mom. She’s dying of leukemia, but no one suspected a thing; they all just thought she was tired. All Dawn has to lean on is a prayer—that her mom won’t die before or on this special day, so her five younger siblings don’t have to remember that during the holidays in the future. Will she receive her wish?
Robby Ryan got off the bus ahead of me. Not that I was that far behind him. We had the whole walk home, about a quarter mile on paved sidewalks, and no reason to hurry. He stopped and glanced at me, a sly smile on his face.
“Come on, Dawn. Quit being a slowpoke.”
We’d had a sort-of-friends relationship all our lives. He lived across the street and a few houses up from me in our little hometown of Monrovia, California. Robby was an older man, all of seventeen. I was fifteen for a couple more months, and that was the worst age to be in 1974. My parents were so old fashioned, saying I couldn’t even think about having a real boyfriend until I was sixteen—in February.
“I’m not a slowpoke,” I said to him, grinning. “Why are you rushing anyway? It’s not like we have anything to do except boring old chores.”
The illicit feeling of getting away with our budding romance sent a thrill through me. Who was I to argue with hormones? We had an attraction, built on years of each of us trying to outdo the other, a love of similar activities, even if my mom got all bent out of shape when I played football or went hiking in the hills above town.
“Any plans for our vacation?” he asked once I reached him.
“Plenty, but you know how it is.” I shrugged my shoulders. “Mom will probably decide to scrub the walls or move the furniture and I’ll have to help.”
A hitch in my voice was the only indication that my assessment of how I’d spend this break from school wasn’t quite the truth. Not that I’d tell a single soul that I’d been more of a mom to my brothers and sisters since Thanksgiving. Even Robby and his family didn’t know what was going on around our house.
Nobody knew, and it would stay that way as far as I was concerned.
Mom’s not really sick. She’s just worn out.