Rotary-Summit Daily Short Story Contest Winner: 1st place
Last fall, more than 60 Summit High students submitted entries in the second annual Rotary-Summit Daily Short Story Contest. The Rotary Club of Summit County Literacy Committee picked the top three winners plus an honorable mention, and the students read their stories aloud to the Rotary Club earlier this month. Here is the story that won first place in the contest.
A Single White Rose
By Kaelin Roy
From my back porch it takes exactly 53 steps to get to the edge of the woods. I go there almost every day. I find my way down a path and through a maze of trees to the riverbank where the flowers dance in the breeze. All day, while I’m at school, I yearn to feel the soft grass, glistening from the dew, beneath my feet. It’s the place where I can escape the chaos of life. If I come home from school and hear my parents yelling upstairs, I don’t hesitate to walk right back out the door. At night, I lay in the meadow between the house and the trees. I look at the stars and the moon and dream of their simple beauty and how they light up the sky every night.
I don’t fit in and everyone knows it. I’m different. I’m usually writing or thinking about my special place. I don’t really have any friends so I mostly keep to myself. People don’t understand me, but I just know that if they came to my place by the river, they would. If I’m not teased, I am simply not acknowledged, and that is sometimes worse.
If I look out my window, I stare right into the bedroom window of my neighbor. He is my age, smart funny, popular and perfect in every way. I have loved Tristan since he moved in two years ago. I see the way he looks at me with empathy when his friends aren’t around. I always envision what it would be like to be the girl he adored. For me to be the girl he flaunted to his friends.
I am in the first month of my sophomore year. It is a Monday morning and I dragged myself out of bed. I combed my hair and rubbed my good, cat-like eyes. I sighed and headed to my bus stop. Everyone has been buzzing with excitement for the Homecoming dance this coming weekend. In first period, orchestra, I turn towards Tristan and ask who he is taking to the dance. He told me he asked his girlfriend. That’s all that we said that day.
After school, the bus drops me and Tristan off at the end of our street, as usual. We laughed and talked all the way to our houses. He joked about how much of a pain his girlfriend was around Homecoming time. She demands that his tie matches her dress. I walk into the house just as my dad hits my mom right in front of me. I run through the house and tear through the back door. I sink down to my knees by the river. I usually don’t cry, but now I allow myself to sob as much as I like. I don’t know how long I was out there, maybe minutes, maybe hours. I heard footsteps and when I looked up, Tristan was standing over me. He sat down next to me and we sat in silence for minutes before I broke down and spilled everything. We talked for hours and I felt closer to him than I’d ever felt with anyone. He said he had to go and gave me his phone number, saying I could call if I ever needed anything, even if it was just to talk.
That night, I drowned out the sound of my parents yelling with my iPod. I sat on my bed and started working on a way to style my hair for the dance. I walked over to my window and looked up at the sky. My eyes drifted down to the window across from mine. Tristan was pacing in his room, arguing with his girlfriend on the phone. Our eyes met and we shared an empathetic look. For the first time in months, I felt connected to something.
School went unbearably slow the next day. I didn’t have any classes or lunch with Tristan. When we got off the bus and took our normal walk, we both stopped in front of my house. Together, we crossed the meadow and found our way through the woods. We sat and did our homework together. We talked and I felt like I could confide in him and tell him anything. He told me he broke up with his girlfriend and for the first time in over five months, I had hope.
After school the next day, I went inside for a snack. I grabbed my backpack and headed for the woods. Tristan wasn’t there. Suddenly, I heard a rustling in a tree nearby. Startled, I looked up just as Tristan dropped from the tree and landed lightly on his feet. He told me he packed us a picnic dinner to celebrate how he was recently single. We finished our homework quickly. He asked if I’d ever crossed the river. I’d never even thought about it. We rolled our pant legs up to our knees and Tristan stepped into the cool water. He waded through about halfway before turning around to look at me. I slowly placed my foot in the creek. I watched as the water glided gracefully around my ankle. Tristan came over and took my hand wordlessly. Together, we crossed the river hand in hand. Things are easier with someone by your side to support you.
As we were crossing back over the river, Tristan lost his footing and fell in. I couldn’t stop from laughing and let out a giggle. He looked up at me with a mischievous grin on his face. He splashed me and I splashed back. Within minutes, we were both soaking wet and quite cold. We ran through the woods and out into the sunny meadow. We sprawled out in the grass and let the warm sun dry our clothes.
We were warm and dry by the time the sun started to set. I waited in the meadow while Tristan got the picnic basket. He spread the blanket and set out the meal. We ate and watched the fireflies help the moon and stars to light up the sky.
I started to rely on my iPod less. I replaced it with thoughts of Tristan and me. Splashing in the river, basking in the sun, and eating in the moonlight. I actually smiled around people. I even smiled to myself when I was alone. I smiled all day, until I got home from school. My dad’s stuff was all packed up and on the curb. He came up the door as I was walking up the driveway. He told me he was leaving for a little while but he would be back. He told me he loved me and I watched him drive away, my vision blurry with tears. I ran past the house and into the meadow. I couldn’t make it to the creek this time. I dropped to my knees and crumpled my body into a ball. I hadn’t seen Tristan, standing on his porch, watching everything. He knelt beside me and scooped me into his strong arms. He stroked my hair and told me everything would be okay as I sobbed into his shoulder.
The house was finally quiet but not in a good way. My dad was gone. No more of the fighting I had grown used to. I was sad again, but Tristan understood. He would still come sit with me even if I refused to smile, he would tell me jokes even if I didn’t laugh, and he would tell me stories even if I failed to respond to them. At the sound of Homecoming, however, I looked up at him. Happy to get a response out of me, he asked if I was going with anyone. I shook my head and looked down at the wildflower in my hand. Today was Friday, the dance was tomorrow. He joked around saying how I was too beautiful for any of the guys at our school anyways. I looked at him, searching for the cruel sarcasm I was used to, but I was met with a serious but gentle face. He asked if I thought he was kidding, before leaning in and kissing me. I felt dizzy, happy and wonderful. He asked me to meet him here tomorrow before the dance. I agreed and we went our separate ways.
It was Saturday night, one hour before the dance. I had put on my flowing, cream colored dress and entwined a small green and gold string into my loosely styled, curly brown hair. My makeup was done and I was ready. I crossed the meadow and walked the familiar path through the trees. I stood on the riverbank, waiting silently. I heard a twig snap and I turned to see Tristan all dressed up for the dance. He was holding a single with rose. Did he know they were my favorite? He slowly walked up to me and handed me the rose. He asked if I would accompany him to the dance. I nodded and he pulled me closer to him. He told me he loved me and I said it back. He asked my why.
Surprised at the question I said, “Because you saw me when I was invisible.”
Smiling, he said, “You have always been as visible and beautiful to me as the moon in the sky, Evelyn,”
“One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life; that word is love” – Sophocles
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