By: Anvita Gurumurthy
No, no, no. No, no, no.
My shallow breaths became even more shaky as I dragged my legs to the next step, and then the next. I felt as if I had rocks in my pockets, weighing me down. I’m sure my dad’s hand almost broke that night from my constant and desperately tight grip on it. As I slowly climbed, the ancient gray walls seemed they had been going on forever. How much longer could this take?
I was reluctantly trying to climb the tallest tower in Porto, Portugal; the Torre de los Clerigos. I remembered seeing it earlier in the day from all the churches and restaurants we visited, since its remarkable height made it loom over the town, impossible to miss. But now, thanks to my family, I had to climb all 225 steps to the top.
After a couple more steps, I saw a hole in the wall about the size of a window. I later learned there had already been a couple of them, but in my panic I hadn’t noticed. The hole, seemingly black as I approached it from the steps below, suddenly brightened with millions of tiny city lights when I got closer. Mainly yellow, I saw them illuminate the entire city of Porto. The stout buildings, the flowing river lit up blue by the lights on the bustling bridge above, the little houses downtown-- I could see it all, just for a second. It was dazzling, but all I could feel at that moment was the sheer height of where I was looking from, made worse by the fact that even the tallest buildings seemed hundreds of miles away. I jerked like I had been given a shock and shut my eyes tightly.
I could feel my dad pulling me up more steps. I could even make out a little of his voice as he urged me to keep climbing. I knew my mom and brother had already gone way ahead of us. But the immense and quickly growing fear inside me took over my body. That, combined with the darkness, gave me the feeling I was having a dream. No, not a dream-- a nightmare.
Eventually, we reached a small balcony. It wrapped all around the tower in the same material as the walls-- ancient and menacing. Later, in the pictures, I saw that the balcony railing was beautifully sculpted with sweeping and gorgeous designs. But all I could see at that moment was the space between the railings, the pitch black sky with the lit city below. There were lights brighter than the sun wedged into the ground and my eyes took a long time to adjust to them, making me almost blind when I first got up there. I could hear my brother and mom, and I went to join them, grasping onto my mom’s hand and letting go of my dad’s so that he could take pictures. I tried to ignore the bright light from the ground, loud noise, and terror rising inside of me by focusing on the gray wall, but my curiosity got the better of me and I turned to look at the view. It was both stunning and breathtaking, but after a moment, all I could feel was the height. My knees wobbled like they were in a blender and I clutched my mom’s hand even tighter. My breaths got clipped and shaky as I struggled to calm myself down. Phrases I had heard before floated through my mind-- “Think positive!”; “Go to your happy place!”; “Smile!”.
I couldn’t. I couldn’t think anything. I couldn’t move. My mom and my dad started talking, and my mom and brother went up the stairs to continue to the top. My dad stayed, and began to tell me something. I zoned out of my panic enough to hear, “Come with me, we’ll take more pictures then go back down.” I felt a brief but genuine flush of relief at the fact that I’d soon go down. I stumbled with my wobbly knees to where my dad’s hand was leading me, which turned out to be the very edge of the balcony.
“No!” I managed to get out. “Not the edge!”
My dad seemed to understand and took me to the wall at the center of the balcony. I stayed there, back against the wall, while he went to get pictures. I saw the city below through the railings and the uncontrollable panic came over me. Again, my muscles felt like cement and my heart was racing as if I had run a mile. My only thought was: No, no, no. No, no, no. No, no, no. I repeated it again and again, giving into the fear and concentrating on the word. After what seemed like hours, I suddenly zoned back in and became aware of my surroundings-- the concrete wall behind me, the gilded railings in front of me. I realized I was okay. I could move again. My breaths were controlled and longer. Though I was still scared, and my knees still wobbled, I had somehow gotten my fear under control enough not to completely panic. Soon, I could see my dad walking back toward me. Slowly, I took tiny steps, gripping the wall, as I followed my dad back down. This time, the lights seemed to have dimmed, and I could look at them. I let go of the wall and took a couple steps on my own, for the first time that night.
I learned something that day. I thought about it as I descended the steps again with my wobbly knees. Fear isn’t something you can just make go away with positive thoughts. Accepting the fear instead of denying it, for me, is how I can get through it. Letting the fear come over me and not fighting it is easier than trying to convince myself I am not scared, because I am. So yes, I still have a huge fear of heights. I know I can’t just make it go away, and I’ve accepted it as a part of who I am. I’m not yet at the point where I can think about overcoming this fear or even control it well. I hope that eventually, I’ll get there, but for now, I am willing to allow myself to be scared, because for me, that is so much more doable than erasing it.
As I neared the final steps of the winding staircase, I could see the floor below me, flat and steady.
I gripped the wall again as I stepped off the staircase, following my dad. I paused for a second to take a deep breath. It’s over, I told myself, relieved. Walking towards the exit, the extravagant and old doorway, I felt a rush of cool air from outside and I let it flow through me. I stepped outside into the breezy summer night with lights all around, and leaving the experience behind me.
I woke up at 8 AM that day, so filled with excitement that I could barely believe what was about to happen: I was getting a bunny. I danced through the morning and after breakfast, I headed down to the basement to check on my future bunny’s pen. We had set her up in a puppy playpen and placed toys, food bowls, and more on the bright blue fleece bedding. Then I grabbed her carrier and my brother, dad, and I got it ready to hold the bunny. By then, it was around 9:30 so we got ready to leave, since my dad and I had to be there by 12 to pick up the bunny from the breeder.
We got into the car with the carrier and I could hardly contain my eagerness. The drive would take about two hours, since we were going to a special place to get the rabbit. All the shelters in my area didn’t have good rabbits (they needed special care and weren’t what we were looking for). So we found a good reputable breeder who lived fairly close and decided to go with that. All of this made the trip special, since this wasn’t just any bunny we were picking up. After two hours and a bit of trouble finding the house, we finally made it to the breeder’s front door.
She opened the door and led us down a set of stairs to her bunny room. The pink walls were covered in stacked and tidy hutches where bunnies hopped around in their big space to greet us. The rug was pink as well, and there was a fish tank in the back with a goldfish lazily swimming around. On top of the rug, a blanket had been laid out, and a pen surrounded it. Inside, a bunny sat, shy and timid. I was in complete awe. She was so tiny, and looked exactly like a stuffed animal. There were light orange markings around her face and on her back, and as she lifted her head to see us, I saw her big black eyes and I inwardly screamed in adoration. I had to remind myself to keep walking toward the chair the breeder had pulled out for me. She began speaking to us about the bunny and how to take care of her. She handed my dad a care sheet and bag with a little bit of food. Then, she turned toward the bunny, bent down, and swept her up. She then showed me how to hold her and then let me try it. I held her the way I’d been showed, and I honestly couldn’t believe how small and soft she was. It was so cool as she slowly got accustomed to me, and then too accustomed as she started chewing at my jacket zipper. Then I placed her gently in the carrier. The breeder asked me if we had a name yet. I told her what we’d been planning: Bubbles. Then we left, and we put the bunny right next to me in the middle seat and drove home.
On the way there, we stopped for hot chocolate since it was a cold day and there was still an hour left. My dad went inside to go get it so I could keep an eye on our bunny. I opened the top of her carrier-- a small door that allowed her to peek out but not get out. She was immediately up on her hind legs to inspect the area. She let me pet her and even tried to get out, at once showing me she was both mischievous and brave. Soon my dad came back, and so I closed the carrier and we drove the rest of the way back.
Finally, we arrived. It was raining, so I ran in (I didn’t have a hood) while my dad brought her inside. My brother was eager to bring her downstairs, and once he did, we lifted her out of the carrier and set her down in the pen. She at once explored all her “furniture”, sniffing and nudging around. My brother and I stayed downstairs with her for a while and watched her. We decided Bubbles wouldn’t be her name. We called her Cookie, since her markings were the color of a cookie. We were elated-- Cookie was something we’d been waiting for for so long, and she was finally here. That day couldn’t have gone better.
Oh, no. Here comes one of them. I better get ready for the-- OUCH!
“This couch is so creaky!” I hear the monster complain. Well, of course it is!
Being a couch can be so aggravating sometimes. There are just so many things to be annoyed with-- the biggest, of course, being the humans who own you sitting on you. There are plenty other things that come with it, though. From the time you’re manufactured, to the first time someone checks your price, to the horrid journey in a truck to get home, so many things happen that I just don’t know where to begin. Although there’s much more to being a couch, I would say the three main parts are: the constant need to move, the countless information you receive, and the perdurable bit-- when someone plops down on you.
You humans are very lucky. Whenever you feel a need to move, you just do so without even thinking about it. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for my kind. There are always humans lurking around, watching you. They will definitely notice if you move even a tiny bit, which creates an impossible situation for us. We can’t let the humans see us move. The fact that we even can is a secret that’s been closely guarded since even before we evolved from wooden chairs into the sophisticated furniture we are today. So although all we want to do is move, we can’t, thanks to the eyes that constantly watch us. Even when the humans aren’t there, there’s always a reason we can’t just get up and stretch out our creaky frames. There could be stuff on top of us (for example, what are those little puffy squares?), or maybe there’s stuff in front of or behind us that restricts our ability to move. As you can see, this aspect of being a couch certainly is incredibly irritating; it’s so hard to stay still when all you want to do is move.
Of course, the endless presence of humans does create some perks. Humans can be so careless and give away so much information without even realizing. We couches listen and watch whenever anything interesting comes our way. We know all our owners’ deepest secrets, simply because they talk about them, text about them, and do so much more that couches can see and hear. It’s truly amazing what a curious and often nosy couch can find out by just being there. Often, couches know more about the humans than they know about themselves! In that way, being a couch is great and comes with this big benefit.
Sadly, the one biggest and most obvious factor of being a couch relates back to what a couch is. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines us as articles of furniture for sitting or reclining, which is a completely true definition. Sitting and reclining are our main purposes, and it saddens me to say that it is what we are used for. But something most humans don’t realize is that when they sit or recline, it really, really hurts! During manufacturing, we are prepared for this, but the humans in charge of making us have no idea what it’s really like-- it still hurts a lot and takes so much strength and stamina. Most couches can hardly stand it, but what choice do we have? We must bear the pain that comes from the sitting and reclining of humans-- it is our job, after all.
To sum up, being a couch can be very challenging and demanding; you must stay still all the time and bear the pain of humans using you. Fortunately, you do get all the good gossip. Most humans have no idea what being a couch is like, but I hope this helped you. So maybe the next time you decide to flop on the couch after a long day, you’ll remember this essay on the plight of couches!
It is 6:00 A.M. Sarah is sleeping cozily in her bed when her alarm jerks her awake. She groans, knowing she must get up or she will be late for school, which starts at 7:00 A.M. She is incredibly tired and sleepy, so she is not able to pay attention in school. She fails her science test because she is too tired to concentrate. After her soccer practice, she gets started on her other work, which takes her until 11:00 P. M. to finish. Finally, she can go to bed. But Sarah knows she has to get up early the next day and will not get enough sleep. This cycle continues to repeat every day, and not just for Sarah. Teens everywhere are currently experiencing the effects of early school start times. This is simply not good, and school start times are to blame. Since 2014, 8:30 a.m. or later has been the recommended high school start time by the American Academy of Pediatrics (Crist). But most schools across America have largely ignored this. Teenagers are forced to wake up and go to school when their bodies are anything but fit for that. Many of them are dangerously sleep deprived. Some do not eat breakfast. These issues will affect their academic performance. Children truly are the future, but how can they succeed if this problem persists? If school start times could be changed, it will really help teens in numerous ways. Although they may create less time for extracurriculars, starting school later leads to teens getting more sleep, more time to eat a healthy breakfast, and teens having a better academic performance.
If school start times are postponed, teens will be able to get more sleep. Parents have noticed “that 60 percent of children under the age of 18 complain of being tired during the school day; 15 percent admitted to actually falling asleep at school” (“Should Schools”). If over half of America’s teens are suffering from sleep deprivation, it is imperative something must be done because at this age, sleep is vital for good health. When ample sleep is not received on a daily basis, chronic sleep deprivation occurs. Unfortunately, this problem cannot be solved by having teens go to bed early. Teenage phase shift is an issue that many teenagers experience, where their growing bodies do not create more melatonin, which causes them to not feel tired until much later in the night-- usually after midnight. Since school start times for teens are not compatible with teenage phase shift, they become exhausted the rest of the day, but cannot sleep at night (Romanek 15). Simply sleeping earlier is not a solution. If school start times for students who experience this were altered to fit their sleep cycles in a better way, it would benefit teens and allow them to get their sleep. If school start times continue to stay the same, even more teens will begin to go through chronic sleep deprivation, which can have serious consequences. Moodiness, concentration difficulties, poor decision making, memory impairment, and reduced academic and sporting performance are just some of the effects of sleep deprivation ("Teenagers and Sleep"). There is already a huge number of teens who suffer from these issues. If nothing is changed, gradually more and more students will become subject to problems like these. It is important to recognize how crucial it is to make sure teens receive a good amount of sleep each night. Sleep is incredibly important for teens, and it is not right that they miss out on it as it may cause many problems for them and affect them in numerous ways.
In addition, later school start times will allow teens more time to eat a healthy breakfast. Up to thirty percent of kids regularly skip breakfast by the time they are teenagers ("Case for Eating Breakfast"). If this many kids are doing this, there must be a reason. A big factor in skipping breakfast is that many students simply lack the time needed to eat a healthy breakfast, which can lead to serious repercussions. Studies show “that those who skip breakfast have an intake of calcium and vitamin C that is 40 percent lower and an iron intake that is 10 percent lower than those who eat breakfast” (Brody). Skipping the meal can have negative results such as these and can begin to create long-term issues for students who do not have time to eat breakfast due to early start times. Research shows “many older teens are busy until late into the night with homework, extracurricular activities, and part-time jobs. They go to bed late, then get up and rush off to school, too frantic to eat” (“Case for Eating Breakfast”). This ties back into the problem of sleep. Waking up early and not getting enough sleep is causing many students to skip breakfast, as many of them would rather sleep more than wake up to eat. Many of them are too rushed to have a balanced meal. Students are also up late doing work and therefore miss out on breakfast. Current school start times do not give students enough time to enjoy a nutritious breakfast, causing them to miss out on an essential part of their diet.
When later start times are implemented, students' academic performance will improve. Much research has been done on this, including “a study of roughly 1,000 children and preadolescents, [where] researchers measured kids' sleep and school performance and found that poor sleepers (who had difficulty falling asleep and woke up at least once a night) were significantly more likely to have school achievement difficulties. In fact, one of the best predictors of school failure in the study was children's fatigue (being difficult to arouse in the morning and falling asleep during the day)” (“Improve”). Even for pre-teens, sleep is obviously an important factor in school performance. Imagine how much of an effect it has on teens. If school started later, kids would receive more sleep which would result in them performing much better academically. An improvement in students’ grades can cause other rates to go up as well. In a recent study conducted by Pamela McKeever and Linda Clark from Central Connecticut State University, it was discovered that when high school start times were pushed back to 8:30, graduation and attendance rates increased considerably. McKeever commented, “As graduation rates improve, young adults experience less hardship after graduation, a lower chance of incarceration and a higher chance of career success,” (Malatesta). As proven by this study, school start times have an effect on many things. Higher graduation and attendance rates will lead to more students attending college and going into successful careers as young men and women. Even though it may seem like a small change to make, school start times can have a big role in accomplishing this. Graduation and attendance rates are important statistics that school start times can have a drastic effect on. A study published in Sleep Health, a journal founded by the National Sleep Foundation, looks at thirty thousand students across seven states in twenty nine high schools. A delayed start time at these schools caused attendance rates to go up to ninety four percent from ninety percent and graduation rates to increase from seventy nine to eighty eight percent (Crist). When these rates go up, students are able to learn and achieve more, since they will be coming to school more and are graduating. Most stable jobs require at least a high school diploma and by changing school start times, more people will be able to get at least to this level. Being at school more often also benefits students because it allows them to learn more and their academic performance will improve. Modifying school start times will lead to an increase in students’ academic performance.
Even though they may result in less time spent on after school activities, introducing later school start times will give teens more time to sleep and eat a balanced breakfast, and also improve their academic performance. It is important to remember how much of an impact these simple things can have. When new start times are put into place, they cause positive outcomes for everyone involved-- parents, students, and even teachers and faculty can benefit from this change. Tons of organizations out there are dedicated to this cause and all that’s needed to change this is support for ending this issue. So the next time you wake up in the morning feeling so tired you just cannot get up, think about how this is routine for teens everywhere, and it is up to us to change this.
Better Health Channel. May 2018, www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/teenagers-and-sleep. Accessed 4 Dec. 2018.
Brody, Jane E. "PERSONAL HEALTH; People Who Skip Breakfast Pay a High Price." The New York Times, 6 Oct. 1998. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A150134530/OVIC?u=wamslib&sid=OVIC&xid=737b084a. Accessed 20 Nov. 2018.
"The Case for Eating Breakfast." Healthy Children, AAP, 13 Feb. 2012, www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/The-Case-for-Eating-Breakfast.aspx. Accessed 30 Nov. 2018.
Crist, Carolyn. "Later School Start Times Catch on Nationwide." District Administration, vol. 53, no. 4, Apr. 2017, p. 24. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A490936968/OVIC?u=wamslib&sid=OVIC&xid=bb3674e2. Accessed 20 Nov. 2018.
"Improve Your Child's School Performance With A Good Night's Sleep." National Sleep Foundation, 2018, www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-news/improve-your-childs-school-performance-good-nights-sleep.
Malatesta, Elizabeth. "Let Them Sleep? Later School Start Times Improve Graduation and Attendance Rates." National Education Association, 13 Apr. 2018, neatoday.org/2017/04/13/later-school-start-times/. Accessed 6 Dec. 2018.
Romanek, Trudee. Zzz... Illustrated by Rose Cowles, Kids Can Press, 2002.
"Should Schools Start Later in the Day?" Current Events, a Weekly Reader Publication, vol. 98, no. 25, 30 Apr. 1999, p. 1S1. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A54561269/OVIC?u=wamslib&sid=OVIC&xid=3746ca7a. Accessed 20 Nov. 2018.
Along a leafy street in a section of a small town, silent, identical houses line the road and fill up the small space. The lawns of all these homes are clearly separated by the carefully manicured lawns that enclose each house within its own world. This story takes place in one of those houses: the Fletcher house.
Upstairs on the left of the house is a teenage boy’s room. It is tidy and clean, with all the schoolwork filed inside binders, and soccer gear sorted into the closet. A navy blue rug carpets the floor, and a big, neatly made, wooden bed stands against the wall. Next to it is a tall brown cabinet, lined with rows and rows of books. Attached to the cabinet, extending into the adjacent wall, is a mahogany desk piled with stacks of textbooks and binders. In the middle of it all, a fourteen year old boy sits on the rug, holding a fat book. He is engrossed in the story and reads with wide eyes behind gray rimless glasses.
On the opposite side of the house on the main floor is a young girl’s playroom. It is cluttered with faded toys of every kind throughout the room. The floor is lined with puzzle mats, worn and partially peeling. In the corner near a window is a plain, white, upholstered bed, with plain, white sheets. Other than the bed, the lack of furniture is made up for with the overdose of toys that coat the mat. The yellow walls that had once filled the room with color, were now chipping and dusty, providing little light in the already dim room. In the center of the room, a young girl lies on her stomach, eyes wide open to a storybook that lies open on the floor.
“Carter! Come downstairs!” Mrs. Fletcher called from the kitchen.
Carter, the teenage boy, groaned and shut his book. He sighed and stood up, adjusting his glasses. As he made his way downstairs, Mrs. Fletcher opened the door to the playroom to get her toddler, Marlee. Marlee bounded to her mother, leaving her book open on the floor.
“Mommy! Mommy!” Marlee giggled as her mother picked her up and whisked her away. Mrs. Fletcher entered the kitchen with Marlee to find Carter already sitting there, picking at a piece of lint on his trousers.
“Carty!” Marlee exclaimed, surprised to see her brother downstairs, since he mostly stayed in his room.
Carter glanced up at Marlee’s eager face briefly, then looked back down to the lint.
“Okay kids, now I need you to listen up,” Mrs. Fletcher began, setting Marlee down in her high chair. “That means you, Carter.”
With an annoyed sigh, Carter lifted his head up and propped it up on his elbow.
“I have a couple errands to run today and they might take a couple hours to finish, so Carter, you’ll be watching Marlee--”
“What?! No! Mom! I--” Carter immediately jumped out of his seat to protest but was cut off with a wave of his mother’s hand.
“Carter, no arguments. With your dad gone on his business trip, I could really use some help with Marlee. Can you do this?” Her tone made it clear it wasn’t a question and Carter glared at the ground and mumbled a reluctant: “Okay.”
“Yay! Carty’s gonna play with me!” Marlee clapped her hands together and shrieked excitedly, throwing her arms around her older brother, who pulled away, immediately annoyed.
“Okay kids, I have to leave now, but I’ll be back by 5, okay?” Mrs. Fletcher grabbed her bag from the kitchen counter. “Bye, Marlee! Bye, Carter!”
As she left the house, Carter turned to his sister and said, “I’m going to be upstairs. You can do whatever you want down here.”
“Nooo! I wanna go to the playground! Pleaseee!!” Marlee wrapped her tiny arms around her brother and looked up at him.
Carter sighed. He didn’t want to bring her to the playground. He didn’t even want to do anything with his sister at all. Ever since she had arrived in the house, he’d stayed away. He didn’t want to get involved in all this baby stuff, and had kept that viewpoint ever since. He was determined not to let it break, but it was like his mother’s announcement today had put the first layer on a lasagna of anger and distress. But despite his dislike for the situation, when Marlee hugged him again and pleaded, a small part of his heart tugged at his stony mind, warming and melting it just a little, so the heart could take over for once.
“Okay,” Carter heard himself say. “Let’s go.”
“Yippee!” Marlee ran to get her coat and flip-flops on, two skills she had recently mastered. She held open the front door and Carter followed, now regretting his decision since it had increased his lasagna. As they walked down the street, the cloudy sky put a damper on Carter’s already sour mood.
“Carty, Carty! Look at me!” Marlee yelled happily, then proceeded to do a sloppy but enthusiastic cartwheel on some person’s driveway.
“Marlee! That’s not our driveway! Get off now!” Carter scolded. He watched his sister’s face cloud as she slowly walked back, losing a little spring in her step. It made him feel odd, scolding Marlee like that. He barely spent time with her; he wasn’t sure he had the right to. Marlee joined Carter and walked alongside him, subdued, but only for a while.
“Did you know that yesterday, I saw this doggy when I was with Mommy at the store, and then I said hello to the doggy, and I got to pet the doggy! She was really soft and her name was Princess. I want a doggy now, so I can cuddle with her and she can play with me…” Marlee rambled on for a couple more minutes, but Carter had stopped listening.
“...and then-- Carty? Why aren’t you listening?” Marlee tilted her head and looked at her brother, confused. Carter didn’t hear her or look down. His eyes were focused on the bleak sky and the sagging branches of a nearby tree. Above him, the sky was silent as gray clouds stiffly barred the sun. Marlee shuffled uncertainly on the hard pavement lining the street of houses.
“Carty!” Marlee said again.
Carter’s head jerked down and he saw his sister pouting with her tiny arms crossed. “Carty! You weren’t listening!” Marlee complained. “I was saying that in pre-school the other day, Mrs. Springs taught us about--”
But Carter had stopped listening again. The sizzling hot lasagna had kept building up inside of him, and he couldn’t take it anymore. “STOP TALKING!” he yelled at Marlee, throwing his arms up and running them through his hair in frustration.
“Huh?” Marlee tilted her head, confused.
Carter tried to take a deep breath. He couldn’t shout at his baby sister. But his pent-up feelings got in the way and he continued to scream at her. “DO YOU EVER STOP TALKING, MARLEE?! DO YOU EVER JUST STOP BEING SO ANNOYING?! I CAN’T STAND HAVING TO LISTEN TO YOUR SENSELESS RAMBLINGS EVERY SECOND OF THE DAY. YOU LIVE IN YOUR OWN LITTLE WORLD AND I JUST CAN’T-- CAN’T… UNDERSTAND IT!” Carter’s lasagna was bubbling over now, and he couldn’t keep up. Just when he was about to let more steam out, he looked at Marlee properly for the first time since his outburst. She was silent, but tears flowed unsteadily from her big, grass-green eyes. Her chubby cheeks were streaked with tears and as she saw him looking, she reached a stubby hand up to wipe them away, failing.
“Sowwy Carty,” she cried. “I just wanted to be your friend! You’re my big brother but I never play with you! I don’t know what games you like to play, or if you like Sofia the First. That’s why I was so happy to play with you.”
At her pure words, something in Carter’s carefully constructed border around himself snapped off, bringing the whole thing down. His heart hung heavy as the moon, as he realized she was right, and he let his heart have control again. His brain was scared of Marlee. He didn’t know how to act around her. He had distanced himself so much from his sister she didn’t even know him.
“I’m sorry, Marlee.” Carter hugged Marlee, then pulled away. Somewhat awkwardly, and uncertainly, he reached out his hand and touched her cheek, wiping away a tear.
Marlee beamed with delight, and her smile said all there was to be said between them. “Let’s go to the playground now!”
Carter smiled and picked up his sister. He broke into a run with her shrieking in delight as they approached the playground. Marlee ran to the swingset and Carter ran behind her. Carter pushed her and she began to swing back and forth joyfully, laughing the whole time. Carter couldn’t help giggling as well.
During one particularly high push, Carter watched his sister swing high, seemingly touching the sky. The shapes in the clouds shifted and changed as they began to move. The sun peeked shyly through the clouds, as Carter’s lasagna started to dissipate. The playground shimmered as the sun’s rays gently touched it.
“Yippee!” Marlee cried as she swung high. Seeing this, Carter smiled slowly and launched himself in the swing next to her and flew high alongside her. Marlee was thrilled to see this and they both giggled as they swung themself up above the sky, which was now a striking blue, lit up by the sun’s gaze along with the vibrant colors of the playground.
Carter and Marlee soar up high and see a new side of town. Encircling the playground are cul de sacs of houses, with kids playing ball and parents chit chatting, babies entranced by rattles and teenagers out with their friends. The lawns blend together in a whirlwind of color. Carter and Marlee swing back and forth, their legs flailing and flying all over the place as they take in the swirling neighborhood before them.