Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Surprised (09/06/07)
TITLE: Shades of Black, White & Gray
By Sara Harricharan
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Life is so black-and-white. Yet my existence is somehow shaded in gray. My own dismal palette while everything is empty and white.
Walls, floors, sheets and doctors, all in white.
I feel like a ghost of someone long ago.
Why does everything hurt so much?
“Happy birthday, squirt!” Jordan drums loudly on my nightstand, dodging the pillow that I throw at him.
“I’m not a squirt you goofball! I’m eighteen!” I squint into the mirror to check my eyeliner.
‘Not yet-you only turn a year older after you pick and eat your birthday cake.”
“I get to pick my cake!?” I freeze in mid-hairspray.
“Only if you hurry!”
Jordan. My big brother, a hulking ray of sunshine in this drab world. He was going to buy me a birthday cake, with his own money from his Easter bonus.
“Dana, honey, are you awake?”
The faint scent of lavender and jasmine hovers over me. Mom.
I want to smile even though her voice makes my head hurt. I want to open my eyes to see her. To know that everything is okay, but it hurts too much.
I am too tired and my head is so heavy. My mind is frozen on a memory I am forced to relive. One I cannot quite recall and can’t manage to forget.
The sounds and feelings are so close. The seatbelt jerking hard against my neck, the tires screeching in protest.
Jordan yelling and Janine screaming as the glass broke.
Is that why my head hurts?
Something is beeping in my ear.
Cool fingers feather my forehead and cheeks. My face is on fire.
“Write your thank-you notes later, Dana!” Janine jockeys impatiently from side-to-side at the kitchen doorway. “You don’t have to rewrite and personalize every single poem!”
“Yeah I do. I’m a poet.” I shove the last card in the envelope, licking the flap. “We can drop them off on the way to the store.”
“It doesn’t take that long to write a poem. C’mon, Dana, I wanna eat your cake!”
“It’s mine and you can’t wait to eat it? Are you trying to get me out of the house for some big surprise. I don’t like surprises, Janine!”
“Surprises are good for you. They keep you young. You’re eighteen going on ninety, now come on before my darling twin runs out of patience.”
I think I have hiccups. Mom is gone. I think she was crying.
Something kept honking nearby.
I feel so dizzy. What day is this?
Whispered voices dance into my ears.
“…could be serious…not sure.”
“Sometimes she’s awake, but she never talks.”
“I see…her vocal cords are fine. She’s the luckiest out of the three.”
Lucky. I am in a hospital. Everything hurts so bad I want to cry and I’m lucky? That’s crazy unless …
“Quiet you two, something’s going on up there.” Jordan frowns in the rearview mirror.
“What do you mean? I don’t see anything-Dana hold on to your cake.” Janine hands over my birthday cake.
I hold it carefully and smile out the window. A battered pickup truck pulls up to the right.
Glass explodes and something hits my shoulder. Hard.
The hiccups have stopped. The pain fades some, the nurse has just come and gone. I wish she could’ve taken this mismatched dream. I am living a horrible nightmare.
“Dana, oh honey you’re awake!” I smell Mom before I see her and her face is red and blotchy.
Her hand touches mine and there is some commotion at the doorway.
Jordan is standing there, on crutches, with casts on an arm and leg. He’s manages a smile in spite of his cut cheek.
The goofball. I raise one finger in greeting. He raises his arm cast.
“Hey move over, I can’t see her yet.” Janine is in a wheelchair, with something around her neck. She makes a face. “Your room is so dark. Can I open the blinds?”
I blink, slowly and painfully.
Janine calls for a nurse.
Everyone shuffles about until Dad arrives with a huge, red, leather bag.
Now everyone is smiling.
I think I’m seeing shadows.
Dad sets the bag near my hand and opens it.
A flash of red and silver is visible.
“Surprise!” Janine whispers. “We bought you a laptop.”
My eyes begin to burn.
“Happy birthday, Dana!” Mom chokes out.
I force one word past swollen lips. “Thanks.”
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