Rotary/Summit Daily high school short story contest: Paper hearts (third place) |

Rotary/Summit Daily high school short story contest: Paper hearts (third place)

Madeline O’Malley
Special to the Daily
Someone filling out university application form
Getty Images/iStockphoto | iStockphoto

The following piece was the third-place finisher in the 6th annual Rotary/Summit Daily high school short story contest.

I have learned in my seventeen years that life is not easy; this was no exception. However, it never occurred to me that life could get any harder, but I was proven wrong.

As I sat at my desk, papers scattered around me and a college application on my computer screen just waiting to be completed, I let out a long groan. Senior year was supposed to be fun, and, while it was to an extent, part of me was dealing with the task of finishing school work; however, there was another part, a deep part, which was struggling emotionally.

My fingers hovered over the keyboard, trying to figure out what to do, what to write about. The painful college essay. How did most seniors even manage to complete this? How did they know where to begin, what to talk about and how to open themselves up enough to let the college see into their soul?

“I don’t know.” I whispered, chewing on my lower lip as I looked at the prompt. I had to explain a challenge that I had overcome, whether it be physical, academic or emotional. I could write about that, or I could explain who I was; a part of me that wouldn’t make me without it, but how could the college expect me to open up to them when I didn’t even know them? I was not ready to strip myself bare for others to read, to allow my emotions to be revealed and to be judged. Then again…who says I had to? Heaving a big sigh, I ran a hand through my hair and glanced over at the door when I heard a knock from it. Who in the world could that be? Actually, scratch that: I knew exactly who it was — my mother; after all, we were the only ones in the house. Unless you count my dogs, but I doubt any of them could knock on the door — maybe open it with their noses — but they couldn’t knock.

“How’s it going?” my mother asked before I could even tell her to come in. It was something that she did constantly; she would knock on the door and then just come right in — not that I actually minded. It was something that I had gotten used to.

“All right, I guess … ,” I replied with a glum answer, glaring at the computer screen.

“You guess? That’s not a very exciting answer.”

“Sorry I’m not very exciting.”

“I didn’t say that.” There was a cutting edge in her voice, bordering on a light and airy tone as well as a “don’t you dare use that tone of voice with me.”

“You implied it.” I snapped before I could stop myself and immediately wished that I could take it back. My mouth felt dry all of the sudden, and I felt guilty, but I couldn’t actually bring myself to say sorry.

“Watch your tone of voice, young lady,” she scolded, and, before I could think about what I was doing, a loud groan left my lips, and I let my eyes roll. “Adaline Jones.”


“Watch your tone of voice.”

“You’ve already told me that; you don’t have to repeat yourself!”

“Adaline, I am the adult, and I deserve to be treated with respect.”

“If you don’t like it, then leave!” I screamed, watching as my mother took a deep breath to try and calm herself down, but I could still see how upset she was.

“You know what, when you’re ready to talk, I’ll be upstairs. I deserve to be treated with respect, and I’m not going to stay and be treated like dirt.”

With those piercing words, she left.

I slammed my door shut. Pain stabbed my heart and moved throughout my body; the pain of heartache. Pressing the heels of my hands into my eyes to keep the tears from falling; my breathing becoming ragged and my body began to shake.

The worst part about crying was trying not to cry. No one understood anything — how stressful applying to college was or the feeling of having no friends; it sucked, and senior year was not fun at all.

Taking a deep and shaky breath, I fell to the ground and buried my face in my knees, trying to keep quiet. The feeling of failure, disappointment and guilt flooded my mind, and I turned against myself.

You suck. I know.

No one will ever love you. I know that, too.

Why are you even here? You’re a disappointment to your mother, and you ruined her life. I know, I ask myself that all the time.

She’s better off without you. I know, shut up.

I was my own worst enemy, biggest bully and I wasn’t going to hesitate to give myself a good kick in the butt when I deserved it. People always told me that I was way too hard on myself, expecting more than anyone else and feeling like a total failure when things don’t turn out as I hoped. I get a B plus on my math test — oh, I could have done better, and I’m stupid. My mother believes that it was ingrained in my brain; I told them that they were being ridiculous. Though now that I think about it, they could be right, and maybe it is ingrained in my brain … after all, Asians are known to want to succeed. Kind of stereotypical, but it’s sort of true. I hated this, feeling as if I was a failure and was a huge disappointment to everyone around me, and sometimes I couldn’t help but feel as if everyone else would be better off without me.

After what seemed like hours of crying, I ended up with a huge headache, puffy eyes and the sound of footsteps clomping down my wooden steps. Without a knock or anything, my mother opened the door and poked her head in.

“Do you have something to say to me?” she questioned, crossing her arms over her chest.

Silence. Sorry. It was one word, two syllables and yet the hardest thing to say to someone — whether the person before you deserved to hear an apology or not. Why did it seem that such a simple word was the hardest thing to say?

“S-Sorry.” My voice was barely above a whisper, and my mother raised an eyebrow, leaning in closer.

“What was that?”

“I said I was sorry!” I told her louder this time, and, with that, I broke down into tears once more. I don’t know what was wrong with me — for the past three weeks, I just randomly started to cry. Nothing would initiate it; I would just cry.

“What’s wrong?” I felt my mother’s arms wrap around me and her soft voice in my ears.

“I don’t know. I just want to cry all the time. I feel like a loser; I have no friends, and I’m pretty sure that everyone would like it better if I were dead!”

“That’s not true. What brought all of this on?”

“I-I don’t know. I-I just don’t feel like people would care if an-anything would happen to me. None of my friends would care.”

I sobbed, confused how I moved from frustration with college applications to sobbing about my friends not caring if I was dead. I was a mess.

“People would care. Your family would care, and your friends would care. I would be very sad if anything happened to you.” My mother told me, hugging me close and I cried even harder.

“But they wouldn’t. I feel as if my friends would be glad that I was dead.”

Lately, I had been feeling as if my friends were moving on, applying to other colleges and getting ready to leave me behind. Maybe they were — after all, that’s what we were all doing, getting ready to start a new chapter in our life. It was scary, things were changing — I’ve always hated change, and I was scared.

“Turtle, your friends would care. I would be devastated if anything happened. Children are supposed to bury their parents, not the other way around.”

“Isn’t that a bit morbid?” I questioned, wiping my nose with the back of my hand and feeling the slimy snot that transferred … gross.

“Maybe, but it is true, or it should be, and parents seem to be burying their children more than people realize … I don’t want to have to bury my child.”

I didn’t know what to say. It certainly was a morbid way of thinking, but, then again, my mom had a point.

“I just don’t know what is going on. I feel so upset lately, and all I want to do is cry. I don’t think I have depression, or at least I feel that I haven’t been down long enough to be diagnosed with depression,” I confessed, sniffling a bit.

“I think you’re just going through a lot,” my mother told me softly as she leaned her against mine. “You and your friends are trying to figure things out; getting ready to start a new chapter in your life, and it’s just a very overwhelming time. Things are changing,” She laughed faintly and shook her head. “Not that you’ve ever liked change, but you’re going to have to accept it.”

She was right. I hated change, but, whether I liked it or not, I was going to have to accept it. I couldn’t live in the past forever, nor could I stop time and live in this moment forever — no matter how badly I wanted to. I knew one thing that would never change, though: No matter the fights, the screaming, yelling or arguments, my mother was always going to be by my side. It was still hard for me to begin to walk the down the path of independence, but I know that my mother will always be there when I call for her.

I was growing up, and things were changing; there was a chance I would lose my current friends and gain new friends, a chance I was going to make dumb mistakes as I got older and a chance that I was going to regret many things as well.

However, there was one thing I was absolutely positive of: My mother was always going to love me and stay by my side.

Madeline O’Malley was in the 12th grade at Summit High School when she submitted her story entry.

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