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Left Behind

By:Vi Keeland and Dylan Scott



Chapter 1



Nikki—


Brookside, Texas


I stand in the parking lot alone, rain pelts down on me so hard it should sting my fair skin, but I feel no pain. The navy sundress I’m wearing, the one and only dress I own, is soaked through, clinging tightly against my body. Squeezing my eyes shut, I pray to a god I’m not sure I believe in anymore, begging him to take the image that was just seared into my brain from my memory. But it’s no use. Closing my eyes only makes the visual of her lying there even more vivid. I force them back open to chase what I see away, but it doesn’t work.

My body begins to shake, sobs racking through me even before my tears begin to fall. It’s the first time I’ve cried since it happened. Time goes by, but I have no idea how long I stand there letting days of pent-up emotions wash over me. Eventually, the heavy rain begins to dwindle, my tears following its lead.

Headlights catch my attention in the distance, slowing before turning into the dimly lit parking lot. Ducking behind a nearby tree, I have no idea why I’m hiding. I only know I don’t want to see whoever it is. I peek my head out from behind the tall oak to catch a glimpse of the stranger. A woman parks, fixes her hair in the rearview mirror, and eventually gets out of the car. For a long moment, she stands motionless, looking at the words above the tall double doors.

Minutes later, a second car pulls in. This one I’m all too familiar with. Exiting her car, Ms. Evans spares no moment for reflection. She strides to the door, opens it and disappears inside without the blink of an eye. I’ve had lots of social workers over the years, but this one…she’s the worst of them all. I hate her. Watching her stroll so casually into my mother’s funeral reminds me of all the months she kept us apart. Time we could have spent together. Time I can’t get back now.

The sadness and tears gone, anger overtakes me. My limp body goes rigid, fists ball tightly at my sides. I hate her. So damn much. Feeling like a pot full of boiling water, the lid about to come flying off because the steam needs to escape, I search the ground for something to throw. Anything. Finding a muddy rock, I hurl it towards the car that took me away so many times. It clunks when it connects with the car, but the sound doesn’t satisfy me. So I find another and this time I wind up before I heave the heavy stone from my trembling hand. A loud shatter rings through the still parking lot. A hundred tiny pieces of glass fall to the ground as the alarm begins to sound. Oddly, the noise brings me peace.

I turn, feeling more satisfied than I have in days, water still dripping from everywhere on my body, and slowly walk towards home.





Chapter 2



Zack—


Long Beach, California


I remember the first time I laid eyes on Emily Bennett. Her family had just moved in across the street. The long white moving truck took up almost half of our block. I was sitting in my room on the second floor, peeking out the window. Most of the stuff I saw them unload looked like my family’s stuff…expensive area rugs, antique furniture— all junk I wasn’t allowed near. Stuff that looked boring as hell to a nine-year-old.

I was quickly growing uninterested in my spying, until something bright yellow caught my eye coming out of the never-ending truck. Twenty-six inches of gleaming chrome and bright canary-yellow high-gloss paint. No way. My mouth watered at the sight of the Schwinn Twin Back IV Racer I’d had my eye on for the last two months. I’m not sure if I was more excited to finally have a boy on my block to play with or that I might get to ride the new kid’s bike. I darted down the stairs two at a time, ripped open the screen door so fast it nearly came off the hinges, and raced across the street, completely ignoring my mother screaming at me to put shoes on. And pants. Yeah, in all my excitement, I ran out in my underwear. Nine years old and my damn mother was still buying me Batman briefs. The memory of running straight into the new neighbor, only to find out the new boy was a girl, seems like a lifetime ago.

Emily and I have been inseparable ever since. She let me ride the Schwinn the very first day I met her. Right after I put my pants on and my mother forced me to politely introduce myself to Emily’s parents— a very nice but serious couple who seemed a lot older and not quite as happy as my mom and dad.

I think I fell in love with Emily before I even understood what falling in love meant. When I was ten and my team lost the pee wee superbowl, Emily was right there in her cheerleading outfit, gushing over how I almost won the game for the whole team. And the next year, when my team won, Emily screamed and cheered louder than anyone. That was Emily— my biggest cheerleader, proud of every move I ever made and madly in love with me. How could a guy not love that?

But over the last couple of years a lot has changed. Emily has changed. Sometimes I don’t recognize the Emily from the yellow Schwinn. As I watch that same little girl, now all grown up, saunter to our table I search her eyes for a sign of the Emily she used to be. I’m sad when I can’t find her.

She’s still as beautiful as ever though. Emily tosses her hair. Long, blonde, and straight at the top, with curls starting midway down her back, it looks like she spent hours getting ready just to come to school. Knowing Emily, she probably did.

“Ready to go, Batman?” Emily returns to our lunch table after making her daily social rounds. Eight years later and she’s still torturing me about that day. Only, these days, she knows what I really have on underneath, dark grey Calvin Klein boxer briefs. The same kind she likes to grind her half naked body against a few times a week, but still won’t let me take off.

“Go without me. I’m gonna go talk to Allison Parker. She’s my partner for our English project.” I know my response won’t sit well with Emily, but I’m almost at the point of not giving a shit anymore.

“Really, Zack? Again? If I didn’t know better, I’d start to think you and the little nerd girl had something going on.” She knows Allison and I are just friends, that’s not what she’s really pissed about. All of her stuck-up friends meet in the courtyard every day after they’re done eating, and god forbid she doesn’t have me to tote around. Most days she doesn’t even talk to me anymore, but she hangs on to me like we’re goddamn connected at the hip.

“You won’t even notice I’m not there.” I stand and grab my books from the table, silently marking the end of the conversation. For me, anyway.

“Of course I will, and so will everyone else,” she whines, reaching for my hand.

And there’s the real reason that I’m getting bitched at for wanting to work on my English project. The captain of the cheerleading squad must be seen with the captain of the football team. The earth might tilt off its axis if all isn’t picture perfect in Emily’s world. But I’m a master at fixing my wrongs with Emily Bennett, so I slam my books down on the table loudly, making sure all eyes are on us. Then I wrap my arms around her tiny waist and pull her close, making it so she has to tilt her pretty little head up to look at me. Sealing my mouth over hers, I kiss her long and hard.

She’ll pretend to be pissed at my little public display of affection, but she won’t be. She loves every damn minute of the attention. And the more girls who sigh as she strolls by, the better the treatment I’ll get when I see her again after school.





Chapter 3



Nikki—


Brookside, Texas


The morning sun shining through the trees does nothing to lift my mood. After tossing and turning all night, I was more exhausted when I climbed out of bed than when I’d crawled into it.

Sleep depravation leaves me edgy and I jump when my cell rings. “I haven’t leaped out a window, Ashley,” I yell as I hit the speaker button on the phone, halting my cleaning of Mom’s dresser drawers. She means well, but she called four times already and it’s only 11 a.m. “Shouldn’t you be in math class?”

“I’m smart enough. Besides, I’ll get by in life on my charm alone,” she says sarcastically. “Calculus is for the dim witted.”

“Really? I always thought Calculus was for smart kids.”

“Nah. They just tell that to the kids with no personality so they don’t hop out a window. We tell them they’re bright, but what it really means is you’re boring as shit so you have to work twice as hard.”

“You do know people tell me I’m bright, right?”

“That’s okay, stick with me, I’ll dumb you down.” She pauses. “I only have English and gym left, thought I’d cut out and keep you company this afternoon.”

Surprisingly, I’m able to talk Ash out of cutting class, I know she wants to see for herself that I’m okay. That’s why I didn’t mention I found out I’ll be moving next week. Ms. Evans handed me the news this morning. Foster care. Again. Ashley’s mom agreed to keep me temporarily, but her trailer has less room than mine.

My frequent stints in foster care whenever Mom was hospitalized were usually short lived. I knew they were only temporary. But I still have almost a full year until I turn eighteen and I don’t even want to think about living with strangers for all that time. I can’t imagine surviving without Mom and Ashley.

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