Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Year(s) (01/20/11)
TITLE: Fragile as Glass
By Amy Michelle Wiley
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“It’ll be all right, Ginny,” my father tells me, as we pack once again. He pulls me into a quick hug, but I see the fear in his eyes.
I shut my bedroom door so no one can see me crouching on the floor, below the window’s sightline. My curtains are never open, but I am aware of the glass behind them. Fragile glass.
Packing is a mindless thing. I crawl along the floor and reach my hand up into drawers, knowing exactly where everything is. There isn’t much of it.
A bang on the door makes me almost wet my pants.
“Ginny!” It’s just my little brother, Mich. “Mom says you should help me.”
I hear him run back toward his own room. Carefree. Careless. His windows will be wide open. Not just the drapes, but the windows themselves open to let the whole world in.
We’re in the car soon. All four of us packed in just an hour.
“Where are we going?” Mich shouts. He always shouts. Not caring that anyone could hear.
Mom quietly reads us the info the agent gave us on our new life. For Mich it’s all a game. A grand adventure that lets him travel the world, trying on all kinds of identities.
For me it’s a nightmare. I don’t care so much about the changing details. About the moves and lack of friends. It’s been that way for years. What I care about is the fear. It eats away at my core until I can’t do anything, can’t even breathe.
I stare out the window. Always watching. I don’t know what for. Everything is suspect. Everyone. At least right now we’re all together. I don’t have to wonder if Dad will come home from work. If Mom will come back from the grocery store.
“This is the year it all ends.” Mom looks through her visor’s mirror at me. “New Year’s Eve is tomorrow. Then just a few weeks until the final trial.”
“It’ll all be over.” Dad smiles. It’s a tired smile.
I don’t believe them. Don’t believe this will ever be over. What if they don’t find the guy guilty and he walks free? What if he gets someone else to do us in, even while he’s in jail?
Closing my eyes, I slump down in the car. I try praying, like Mom always suggests, but I don’t know. Don’t know if God really will keep us safe. He didn’t stop the bad guy from killing someone in the first place. Would He stop him from killing the witness?
So I ignore the questions, ignore the new year looming, and try to focus on breathing. In, out. In, out.
Dad stops for gas and stands in the open, holding the pump. He’s not careful. I climb from the car, my heart beating so hard I cross my arms over my chest so no one notices. But no one else is watching out, so I must. Someone has to.
And because I’m standing there, hidden behind the tank, I see it. A dark sedan with tinted windows is slowing on the road. The passenger window facing Dad is down a crack. Just a crack. Enough for a round bit of black metal to slip out.
I dive then, before it even registers in my brain as a gun. I dive—not away from the danger, but toward it. Toward my dad. Toward the gun. And I scream. “God!” The word rips out of me, toward heaven.
I slam into Dad just as the bang echoes. He falls sideways and something grabs my arm, yanking it sharply back. As the car speeds away, I see with wonder that red seeps down my arm. My arm.
It’s Mich who wails in the background. It’s me who faced the danger. Time seems suspended. Dad’s strong hands tremble slightly as he presses against my wound. Hot fingers of pain begin to dig into my arm then, prodding, burning.
And then I realize. The worst has happened. Yet here we are, still okay. Slowly I wonder if perhaps I’m braver than I thought. If perhaps God is bigger than I thought.
And perhaps—just maybe—this year will be okay after all.
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