by Erin Lucey ’20
“I will not let you down again,” I say as I hang up the phone.
But how can I know that I am the one,
Viciously destroying each and every ounce of progress,
When all I am trying to do is heal?
I hope that one day you will realize,
That nothing I’ve done was ever meant to harm you.
And when you finally see it,
Can you show me?
Guilt is a funny thing.
Just when you finally free yourself,
From its excruciating grasp,
You wind up running back,
Reaching, stretching with eager arms.
The Third Outing
by Erin Lucey ’20
February 14, 2014
Today will be my third time leaving the comfort of my cozy yet dreary, constantly bustling yet lonely hospital room since I moved in four months ago. I only really leave for very special occasions–the past two being my 25th birthday and Christmas Day. I was a little confused as to why I was leaving for Valentine’s Day. Ever since the accident I’ve had trouble remembering my relatives, for Christ’s sake. I was not sure why anyone would even consider taking me out on a date in this condition.
However, Mom begged me to say yes to this cute boy who visits my hospital room every weekend. I couldn’t decide if he was creepy. The first couple of months that I was here, I would often ask him to leave. I felt bad because he was always really nice, but I was having a really difficult time adjusting to my life here. I didn’t even remember my parents when I first woke up. I needed time to do the whole get-to-know-my-own-family thing. He was always super understanding, which I really appreciated. He would leave with a smile, never offended or frustrated, and would show up at the same time the next weekend like clockwork.
At first, I thought he was a volunteer for the hospital. Probably some random guy that was bored on the weekends looking for some easy community service hours, popping into the inpatient rooms and trying to chat someone up until he convinced himself that he has somehow fulfilled his duty. That first theory was shot down when I saw my mom talking to him in the hallway after I asked him to leave one day. Before they parted ways she hugged him and then kissed him on the cheek. My mom is not an overly affectionate person, so that was a dead giveaway that he is much more familiar than I thought.
After that, I was pretty convinced that he was a close family friend–someone I grew up with that happens to live in the area. He’d never mentioned anything about how we knew each other before I wound up here. I was surprised when he asked me on a Valentine’s Day date. While I did have a bit of a crush on him at that point, it did not feel like we were necessarily hitting it off during his short visits.
Anyway, he is here to pick me up right now. I ran back into the room to put the flowers he gave me in water before we go. Just as I lift the bouquet into the vase I see it…an engagement ring…with a note that reads “Round Two?”-J
Writer’s Block: “I swore to myself that this would be the last time…”
TWO WRITERS, ONE LINE: “I swore to myself that this would be the last time…
The Last One
By Erin Lucey ’20
I swore to myself that this would be the last time. But as I sift through the pile of potential suspects, I can’t help but torture myself with the thought that I must have missed something again. Okay, I thought, THIS will be the last time, and then I have to go home. Carly is probably one re-run episode away from falling asleep on the couch, trying desperately to wait up for me. I feel so guilty about how often I have been leaving her all alone with the baby. I’ve lost count of how many nights it’s been since I’ve made it home while little Troy is still awake. I had always promised myself that I wouldn’t be that type of dad, but at this point, I can only hope that my son won’t remember these days without me, and that soon I will learn to balance and separate my personal and professional lives. After we crack this case, I thought, I am never getting this involved in my work again. I am missing out on so much of my life, obsessing over the twisted acts of this anonymous criminal. By subjecting myself to this endless cycle of leads followed by deadlock, I am letting this monster steal life from me, too, though not with the same direct brutality as that used on these poor girls.
The dim light of my desk lamp begins to flicker, probably a sign that it’s time to pack up for the night. Hopeless, I am just about ready to give up. Maybe I am just too invested, but I can’t ignore the feeling that I am so close to cracking this. There must be something obvious that I am missing! Has it been right in front of me all along? This barbaric man is getting away with some of the most savage slayings I have ever seen. How could I let these innocent little girls down? As guilty as I feel for spending so much time away from my family, the guilt I feel for these young girls who have suffered, never to see their own families again, is unbearable. I can’t let this guy get away with this. With just enough incentive to look through those arbitrary clues one last time, I finally see it. Of course. It’s been right in front of me all along! I practically jump out of my seat. The killer! I know who he is!
I swore to myself that this would be the last time, but as the thrill of the enchanting power I held when taking the life of another person engulfs me again, I already know I am going to crave this feeling some more. Okay, that statement made me sound crazy. It’s not what you think. I do know that what I am doing is wrong. It’s not like I am one of those psychopaths that doesn’t feel any guilt. The truth is, I do feel really bad about it. Every day, the thought of just ending it all and turning myself in crosses my mind. But at the same time, what do I have to lose by continuing with my actions at this point? When they do catch me, I will probably already go to jail for life for what I’ve done so far, even despite my status as a minor. So why not chase the electrifying feeling all the way to the end?
I don’t quite understand how no one has even thought to question me yet. Do I really seem that innocent? Anytime I see my famous crimes on TV I completely freak out. How has no one noticed that? I always feel like I am making it so obvious! While part of me wants to just get caught and get it over with already, I can’t escape the intense desire to keep this up. How far can I go? How blind can they be? I must be really good at what I do.
Late Night Visits
by Sarah Kirchner ’21
I swore to myself that this would be the last time…
The last time I went into his room and
The last time I let him manipulate me with lies,
The same lies he told too many girls before me.
Those girls who I see too often and have to hide from,
Because they know just like I do.
They memorize the lies only to tell themselves
That he really means it this time.
“It’s only you.” Classic.
I swore to myself that this would be the last time,
That I left his room at 4 a.m.
And walked home alone in the dark.
The feeling of regret washing over me
But not enough to make me not go back,
Because he has a pull that I can’t quite refuse.
The way he smiles at me makes my heart beat faster,
And I never know exactly what to do.
He texts to me “u up?” and somehow
I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.
He barely does a thing,
Yet he’s become my everything.
I swore to myself that this would be the last time,
And one day it will be the last time.
It terrifies me that someday
He’ll really be gone.
I’ll believe in myself instead of his lies
So that one day I will walk out that door
And never go back.
by Erin Lucey ’20
Ten…Nine…Eight…I counted down, chanting with the crowd all the way to one. For the first time in I don’t know how many years, I was actually excited for this new year. A lot had changed in the past year, and I can count on one hand how many of those changes were for the better. I was desperately in need of a fresh start. Something new and exciting—a sign that things would soon be going my way. As everyone turned to plant a celebratory kiss on their neighbor, I locked eyes with the person who brought me to where I am now, though I can’t say that this was the type of change I had been praying for.
After the lingering countdown hugs, screams, and dancing died down, he approached me. “Hi Ella, it’s me, Tony. I know it’s been a while, but I’ve actually been looking for you for quite some time now,” the stranger explained. As I stared at him, the confusion in my eyes must have been painfully apparent because he grabbed my hand and pulled me off to one of the empty offices that hadn’t been locked for the event. “So, I know this is crazy, but some people know that we were there. They’re trying to figure out who did it, and they want us to talk about what we saw. I know it’s painful to think about, and going back to that night is probably the last thing you want to do, but I’m scared of what will happen to us if we don’t help them.”
I stared blankly into the concerned eyes of a man I’ve never seen before. “I-I’m really sorry. I think you have the wrong person. I have no idea what you’re talking about,” I said, clutching my jacket and heading back towards the noise of the party crowd. “No, Ella, you do. It’s about Addie. The night at the lake.” And that’s it. That’s all I remember before waking up here.
To All The Juice Boxes I Threw Away
by Erin Lucey ’20
Walking to school,
Our eyes were so bright.
I arrived with huge passion,
Though my body was slight.
A yellow ticket each day,
And I giggle as I wait.
There were lines on the gym floor,
And a chicken patty on my plate.
On go the years,
And still struck with such pride
I munched on my goldfish,
With my lunchbox open wide.
How slowly the days pass by,
Though life moves way too quick.
Soon I was shuffling through the halls,
With a swift snack amongst the brick.
Lunch became such a game,
And on my journey to win
My juice boxes and animal crackers
Went right in the bin.
But why did I not realize
That it doesn’t matter who sees!
And if I could go back
I’d sip them with ease.
Because packing your own bag,
Marks the day you have grown,
But you will not yet realize
You missed the time that has flown.
Although I regret,
I know their flavor is now gone.
And if I could go back,
I’d make sure to hang on.
Because all the time in the world,
Would never be quite enough.
When you can’t relive the days
Of the peanut butter and fluff.
Writer’s Block: “The envelope in my mailbox had no return address.”
TWO WRITERS, ONE LINE:
“The envelope in my mailbox had no return address.”
by Marisa Gonzalez ’18
The envelope in my mailbox had no return address. At first, I was quite shocked. Why would someone want to remain anonymous? Of course, once I asked myself this question, I realized how stupid that was. Someone would want to remain anonymous if they were evil, an escaped prisoner, a stalker, or a serial killer. Or, you know, it could be something as simple as the letter went to the wrong place or was from a secret admirer, but my brain does not automatically go to simple. Also, secret admirers are creepy. Why do they want to remain secret?
Anyway, I stared at the envelope for some time before figuring out what I should do with it. Do I throw it away? Do I open it? Will it explode? Will I find a key that will unlock a magical world? All of these questions swarmed around in my head as I just stood there and stared. I must have looked crazy. Finally, after 20 minutes of staring, I realized that the letter may not even be for me. It only had my address. For a moment I felt satisfied that I had actually made a realization but then I started thinking about what I should do with it. If it were not for me, then who was it for. What do I do with it?
I took a deep breath, cleared my mind and figured that the best option was to simply open it. If I didn’t open it, how would I know who it was for? Yup, that made perfect sense! So, I held my breath and opened the envelope, hoping my questions would be answered. Unfortunately, they were not. I opened the letter and it turned out to be addressed to me. But, that wasn’t the weird part. The contents of the letter were not what I was expecting. It read:
We have been keeping an eye on you. We are happy to say that you have not disappointed us. When you signed the petition to set Bilbo the Bear free from bear baiting, we had high hopes for you. Your activism is quite impressive as are your Facebook posts. You clearly care deeply for animals and we would like to speak to you. As you may have noticed, there is no return address. That was intentional as our organization is to remain a secret. I hope that you will be able to use that brilliant brain of yours to figure out where we reside.
I was very confused and freaked out. These people have been watching me. Wonderful. Although, they seem to love animals so that’s good. But still, they have been watching me. Also, I am supposed to find them with my brilliant brain. I didn’t even know I had a brilliant brain. But, these people thought I did, so I better figure it out. Once again, I went back to my staring method. Luckily, the method worked this time.
After staring at the letter, I began to think about National Treasure and how the Declaration of Independence had a secret message on the back. Ben and Abigail used lemon juice to reveal the message. Maybe this could work on the letter. Of course, I didn’t know where the address would be, so I used my brilliant brain and soaked the whole letter and envelope in lemon juice. It worked! The letter smelled of lemons and was pretty much damaged, but it worked!
An address appeared in the corner of the letter. I quickly ran inside and looked up the address on my computer. According to the internet, it was an abandoned factory. Awesome. Not scary at all. I took a deep breath, grabbed my coat, wrote a note to my parents, and took off on my bike to the factory, because I have a brilliant brain and thought going to a scary factory was a smart idea. Go me.
I biked to the factory and parked my bike outside. Upon seeing the building, I stood for what felt like hours just staring at the shattered windows and fallen wall. I think I would have stayed there all day if I hadn’t heard a bark. I jumped and turned to where the barking was coming from. A German shephard then came running at me. I tried to run back to my bike but the dog grabbed my leg. I shrieked and then I saw a figure in a dark hood coming toward me. I continued to shriek like a dying goose when the figure touched my shoulders. I shivered, gulped, and looked up at the hooded figure.
“Are you Macie Underwood?” The figure asked. I gulped again.
“Yes,” I stuttered.
“Well, welcome.” The figure then guided me through the door, down some stairs and I end up in the basement of the factory and inside a room that looks a lot like the Q Branch from James Bond. The figure took off its hood to reveal a middle-aged woman.
“Welcome,” she said. “Welcome, Ms. Underwood, to the Organization of Protectors of Animals.”
by Erin Lucey ’20
The envelope in my mailbox had no return address. Looking back, that should have been the first clue that something was off. But I was completely blind to the idea that something was fishy. I hadn’t seen or heard from Liam in over 14 months at this point!
The note I received appeared to be my saving grace; my only route to an explanation from him. So of course, to my current regret, I followed the shaky directions on the note to the café that is inside the subway station on the corner of Park Ave. When I first got there, I was nervous. Would he be angry with me for not finding him? Happy to see me and act like nothing happened? Anxiety. That is the last sentiment I remember entertaining as an awake, alive, independent-minded individual in the outside world. I simply did not know what to expect of that moment so long ago, but what actually happened that day had never come close to crossing my mind.
Honestly, I can’t even soundly assert that that day wasn’t a few hours ago, or perhaps years ago. As of now it seems that I will never truly know how long I have been “under” for. The next thing I remember after my final moment in that greasy café was the first hazy awakening that surfaced me to my current state of consciousness.
I know I’ve described this many times before, but I must keep reminding myself of what is real, as I am terrified of what will happen if I forget. Besides, I will forever be unsure which pages, if any, will ever make it out of here—if anything I am communicating will eventually reach another set of eyes.
The first time this happened, it felt like I had finally woken up from the deepest sleep of my life. Trapped in a barren white room, it seemed almost as if I was floating around, but yet still somewhat anchored to a point below me. In the far distance ahead of me I could see a rolling image, with a graininess that resembled a colorized scene projected from an old movie.
To my surprise and confusion, the scene was eerily familiar—something I had undoubtedly viewed before in my life. As I stared longer I could make out that I was watching an image of my mother, but not the way she was when I last saw her alive. Her face was fuller, eyes livelier—she was younger. I was watching a moment that had occurred within the first few years of my life, a time that I did not even realize I could recall. Images from the deepest parts of my brain were being projected before an unknown audience, and I was completely trapped, watching from afar.
At this “present” point, I am still unaware if I am alive or dead. My guess is that this consciousness I am experiencing was not the goal of whomever is responsible for my condition. As I continue to exist in this state of limbo, my images grow slightly further and further away each time I “wake up.” Though my hope seems to be growing smaller with my screen, I’m still holding onto the belief that there is a chance I can be freed.
—J.C.; 45th recorded instance of conscious awareness, Page 56, Date Unknown
by Erin Lucey ’20
Snowflakes fall from the generous sky,
Blanketing the grateful ground
with their grace and charm.
They cover each fear,
they hide every regret,
they mask every drop of pain,
and reveal only the sparkle of the frosted, silvery night.
Snowflakes fall from the resentful sky,
covering the sorrowful ground
with their culpable disgrace.
They slaughter each flower,
they massacre every butterfly,
they drown all the laughter,
and reveal only the hateful chill of their presence on the buried world.
But soon enough spring returns again.
along with each fear, each regret, and all the pain.
along with every flower, every butterfly, every echo of laughter.
And the snow slowly melts away, fading from the colorful earth
to remind us that:
Nothing beautiful can last forever;
and nothing terrible will stay for long.
by Erin Lucey ’20
Buzz Buzz. My eyes snap open to begin another day. I am hopelessly exhausted, though I rarely take more than eight or nine steps a day at this point. The balloons tied to the foot of my depressing hospital bed rustle and sway as I try to sit up. Over the past five months, my condition has been quickly worsening. By now I am prescribed nothing but a cocktail of painkillers, all intended to maximize my comfort as I sit here and slowly die. They say my condition is rare, and that the “treatment I have chosen” seems best for my life situation overall. Because I am a minor I am fully out of the loop, left out of the meetings that discuss my fate and trapped here like a dog in a cage.
While I know that there is not much that can be done for my illness, I sometimes feel that these doctors aren’t even trying. Like, isn’t it their job to think of something to do even when there’s nothing? Allowing a previously normal and healthy 16-year-old to sit here and die must fill them with at least disappointment, maybe even guilt? I’ve been trying to get some sort of explanation from my parents of the reasons, options, or rights that I have, but they have this fierce desire to “protect” me from the truth, trying not to scare me by always changing the subject. Today, however, I know that my parents won’t be visiting until after 4 p.m., so I am allowing my curiosity and stubbornness to take over while I still have the energy to feel them.
The nurses accidentally left the binder of my file on the desk in the corner of my room last night, so today’s steps are dedicated to getting to the binder, reading all the med lingo about myself as a patient, and getting back to my bed. It’s now or never. After four long deep breaths, I sluggishly swing my legs to the side of my bed, and grabbing onto the railings and side table, I am standing. As I trudge my aching body over to the desk, I am filled with a wave of motivation, a hint of thrill for what I am about to see. When I finally make it to the desk, I feel like I could collapse right there, but I reject the fatigue and grip onto the table for support. I just need to know what exactly exempts me from any experimental treatments for this disease. I was so healthy five months ago!
Opening the binder fills me with excitement and anxiety, though the first page I see is enough to stop me from flipping any further. The sheet that sits at the top of my file is a waiver, signed boldly and clearly by both of my parents, distinctly restricting the doctors from providing me with any of the known, previously successful treatments for my condition.
by Erin Lucey ’20
Let regret get lost in the noise
And pain be forgotten with the night.
Count down to the future
And be the reason it’s bright.
Bring with you those who inspire,
And abandon those who restrain.
Let the lessons stick with you
But the clock dissolve the stain.
Hoping to grow,
And planning to accept,
While promising to cherish
And have a soul well kept.
Holding onto the best,
But letting my heart enjoy the fresh air,
Because you can’t dance in the rain
Without wetting your hair.
Two Writers, One Line
“This Christmas was shaping up to be the one ever…”
by Marisa DelFarno ’18
This Christmas was shaping up to be the best one ever! Actually, no. That’s a lie. This Christmas marks another year where Natalie and her sister, Sara, have to endure dinner table discussion with their Aunt Claudia, who incessantly brags about her daughter, Jane.
Natalie and Sara huddle together at one end of the table while their mom and Aunt Claudia are seated at the opposite end. Porcelain dishes housing ham, mashed potatoes, and glazed carrots lay scattered on the table, obstructing the girls’ view of their aunt’s Raggedy Ann-red dyed hair with matching red lipstick, staining both her lips and teeth. Her powdery makeup is caked on, creasing into her wrinkles. The sisters attempt to avoid conversation by hovering their heads over their plates and stuffing their mouths with food. However, Aunt Claudia always finds a way to bring up Jane and her lengthy list of accomplishments…
Sara: (puts down her fork and rubs her stomach) All this food is giving me agita. I might go upstairs and lay down for a bit.
Natalie: (pushes her plate away from her) Oh my God, me too!
The girls rise from their seats and make a beeline for the stairs.
Mom: Wait, come back! Let’s all sit and talk. (nudges her head) We haven’t seen Aunt Claudia since last Christmas.
Sara: (takes a deep breath) Okay, fine.
Natalie and Sara drag their feet back to the dinner table as if they were made of cinder blocks and sit.
Aunt Claudia: (smiles) So, Natalie, do you have a boyfriend?
Aunt Claudia: (turns to Sara) Sara, what about you?
Sara: (without looking up from her phone) Nope!
Aunt Claudia: Oh, well, Jane and her boyfriend Henry are still going strong. Five years already! They just got themselves an apartment in Palo Alto. It is so beautiful over there in California. (spits as she talks) BIG bucks they are making now!
Natalie: Oh, good for them. I heard tha—
Aunt Claudia: They went to Japan together this summer, too! Do you want to see a picture of them in Kyoto? (whips out her phone from her pocket and scrolls through it before passing it around the table)
Sara & Natalie: (voices infected with indifference) Aww.
Aunt Claudia: Isn’t she gorgeous? So classy and natural-looking! I always tell her she should model! (points to her phone) Doesn’t she look exactly like Prince Harry’s fiancée? Oh what’s her name…Meghan Markle!
Mom: (leans in for a closer look) Why yes, she does. It’s uncanny!
Sara & Natalie: Uh-huh. Yeah.
Aunt Claudia: Anyways, Natalie, do you have any plans for after graduation?
Natalie: Um…hopefully grad school. I’ve been checking out a few creative writing programs and—
Aunt Claudia: Oh, Jane is into creative writing, too! But she only keeps that as a hobby. (laughs) She used to write prose, but now she writes code! (laughs at her own joke until silence fills the room)
Mom: You know, there aren’t a lot of women in STEM fields. I think it’s great—
Aunt Claudia: You all don’t know how proud I am that Jane is a software developer! She’s only 23 and look, she’s working in Silicon Valley!
Sara: Yeah, we know.
Aunt Claudia: Anyways, Natalie, what were you saying again? I forgot.
Natalie: Oh, well, I might take a gap year. Save up, travel, maybe take a GRE review course, and then apply to a couple of programs. (half-smiles and shrugs shoulders)
Aunt Claudia: Oh…(takes a long pause) And, ah, Sara, how are things at school?
Sara: (apathetically) Fine, I guess.
Mom: (turns to Aunt Claudia) Sara has been doing great in school! She got all A’s this quarter! If she keeps this up, she’s going to graduate with honors! (smiles at Sara, whose face is reddened with embarrassment)
Aunt Claudia: Oh that’s good, dear. You know, Jane graduated with honors in high school and later summa cum laude in college!
There’s an awkward silence. Sara’s eyes dart down to her phone and she fumbles with it underneath the table. Natalie’s phone buzzes. A text from Sara reads “kill me now.” The sisters exchange looks and a smirk.
Mom: (notices Aunt Claudia’s empty plate) Hey, we’ve got desserts. Do you want some Christmas cookies?
Aunt Claudia: Oh, yes please!
Mom: I’ll be right back. (disappears into the kitchen)
Aunt Claudia: Hmm, I’ve been talking so much about Jane. Let’s switch up the conversation. (grins like the Cheshire cat) Let’s talk politics!
by Erin Lucey ’20
This Christmas was shaping up to be the best one ever—or at least the best one my kids would see so far—when it all abruptly collapsed. Just as we felt that everything was falling into place, we blinked and it had all fallen apart. The tree stood lonely in the corner of the living room, lights unplugged and lively ornaments populating just the top portion of its left side. The children’s gifts lay tucked away in the attic closet, unwrapped and unseen. The house was empty.
The world saw its first broken Christmas 12 years ago, two months before the birth of my first child. For roughly a month and a half before the big day, new rumors kept surfacing that shocked the world and began to abolish the magic of the season. For the very first time in history, journalists had made their way to the very top of the Earth, to report on the subject we all wondered about, but wouldn’t dare question—Santa’s toy factory in the North Pole.
What they discovered astounded everyone who believed. Photos of the horrifying working and living conditions that his helpless elves experienced quickly circulated, and the world’s jolly image of Santa quickly flipped to the vision of a monster.
On the night of Christmas Eve of 2005, on his annual mission to deliver gifts to the nicest children around the world, he was assassinated as he flew over North America. The traditional celebration of Christmas was banned, and everyone promised to never mention the evil man or his Christmas practices ever again. These rules became stricter and stricter over the years, quickly making the celebration of Christmas with a decorated pine tree and “Santa’s presents” a hefty criminal offense.
I’ve always been particularly fond of the loving magic that engulfs the Christmas season, and couldn’t stomach the thought of my children never experiencing it as I did. As they grew up, I’ve slowly and subtly introduced the wonders of the holiday little by little. Starting with Christmas carols when they were babies, I’ve waited until they were old enough to keep the secret from their teachers and friends to decorate a tree, and allow “Santa” to bring them presents as a reward for their good behavior. This was supposed to be the first year of us doing it all.
As I wait here, surrounded by bleak cement walls and anchored with defeat, I wonder how it is that such a harmless and wholesome concept could become so irreparably damaged. Will Christmas ever regain its magic?
Left with nothing but my own inner holiday zeal, I walk up to the metal bars that enclose me and begin to gently tap with the side of my shoe, creating a calm and steady beat. Inhaling slowly, I quietly whisper just loud enough that it can be heard over my music, “You better watch out…”
And immediately a faint voice has joined me. “You better not cry…”
Two more voices have added to the harmony. “You better not pout…”
At least eight mouths are chanting now. “I’m telling you why…”
A door opens and guards come flooding in, but everyone in the prison is singing at this point.
“Santa Claus is coming…”
And at this very moment, I am sure that my family and I will always believe in the magic of Christmas.