Hello, I see you have stumbled upon my story. This story has a lot of sad subjects and gun violence. People with sensitive hearts or have been involved in gun violence may not want to read this short story. That being said, I have poured my heart and soul into this story so I hope you like it. Enjoy.


2. Maya

You wake up this morning the same as the last, in your single bed, on the mattress that’s as old and as tattered as yourself. The sheets are bunched up, molding around your body. The rips in the old sheet reflect the rips in your heart. Dissatisfied, you look over to your nightstand where your alarm clock is blaring some new and popular pop song that was on the radio and glance over at the reason you're still here. The small 8x5 frame collecting dust in the center of the mahogany wood table fills you with warmth and forces you to get up. You’re doing this for her, everything you’ve done in the past two years has been all for her. The light of your life, the mistake you would make all over again.

Walking to the bathroom has always been a challenge, you need to step over the baby bottles and diapers and avoid piles of hand-me-down infant clothes. Last week you could’ve sworn you had broken your ankle tripping over some electronic toy. You grimace at the memory, the drone voice of the toy mocking you as you step over it effectively this time. Shaking your head to rid of that dreadful memory, and others that occurred in sequence with it, you finally head to the tiny bathroom, not much bigger than a standard broom closet. You make a note to clean it, the dirty tub and sink and the dreadful smell coming from deep within the walls disgusts you, but in a strange way reminds you of your childhood. All of the times you hid from your brother during your childish games in the cabinet underneath the sink. You look down. This sink doesn’t have a cabinet underneath it, just an empty space, excluding the grayish-blackish mold in the corner reminding your mother that maybe this isn't the best place for Maya to live. Maya. The thought of her makes you smile, an over the top, unattractive smile only a mother could bare when thinking about her child. Stepping into the cold shower, (the heat hasn’t been working for months, you keep meaning to call someone about that) the water cleanses you. In a physical way, of course, but also metaphorically, the tepid water cleansing you from every wrong you’ve ever committed in your short life. The parties, the alcohol, how mean you were to your mother that one time, how you neglect your daughter. Enough of that, you decide, sadness and regret would do no good right now. You make the decision not to wash your hair despite it being a greasy mess, there simply isn’t enough time. Stepping out of the shower, which now resembles a safe haven, you feel as empty as you felt before getting in. It’s as if, when you're in the shower, all of your worries and problems flow away down into the mostly clogged drain. As you get out you lose the feeling of safety, of comfort. Depressing, really. Exiting the sorry excuse for a bathroom you go back into the bedroom and get ready for the day to come.

You've always hated loud noises. From when you were a child and heard fire trucks in the Fourth of July parade to when an intruder broke into your house that unbearable-to-think-about night and shot your father. Sure, the Fourth of July may seem a small speck of dust compared to other memories weighing you down, but it had its own little significance. You remember vividly the joyous look on your father’s face as you raced out to retrieve some off-brand candy the firemen and women were generously throwing out. The way his entire face crinkled like a pug or an old man as he smiled. Oh, how he smiled. Or the time when he taught you to ride a bike. You used to curse that aged bike, it seemed as if it was it’s mission to injure and frustrate you. It took a few hardworking months of refusal and nervousness and just plain madness, but just when you were about to give up, it finally happened. The look on his face when you finally sped past him on that old pink rusted bike that had once been your mothers was indescribable, you could only really, truly, describe it as happiness. The proudness, you recollect, was what you were most fond of. Would he be proud of you now? The choices you've made, who you've become, would he still look at you with that same face-crinkling proudness? Or would he be the dreadful word, the word you never wanted to think of as a describing word of him, never, disappointed. Would he be disappointed at you and of Maya? Would he be disappointed that you still have a panic attack every time you hear the loud slam of a door closing or the shrill sirens of the red and blues because it forces you to remember that miserable night? The funeral had been the worst part though, there's no denying. Watching his cold body disappear into the ground after a service that had been merely mediocre was devastating. Your father, your best friend, was gone. No more proud looks, no more hide and seek with your brother, there was no more emotion.

Driving to school in your beat up 2004 Ford Fusion was always the most peaceful part of your day. You could reflect on whatever you wanted, listen to whatever music you wanted, and crank up the air or heat as high as you wanted. It was the only time you got to dictate what you did with your life. Even though it was something as small as driving, it was important to you because it was the one thing you can control. You were a senior now, 18. Old enough to vote, old enough to live on your own, old enough to die.

First through third period flew by quickly. Fourth period however, was going by agonizingly slow. You already had a job, what was the need to be here anyway? Oh yeah, the reason was lying in your ripped red book bag. The picture, paper printed from the printer at the library, was the reason you were here. Education is important. How were you supposed to support her if you can't get a good job? Working at the local pizza restaurant (you could barely call it that) makes an okay living, if an okay living means food maybe twice a week and utilities that break if you even breathe on them the wrong way. So in summary, yes, education is important. But was Spanish? You could name less than three reasons why you would ever need to use any of your Spanish education. The only reason you're even taking Spanish is Maria, your mom's gardener. She can afford an unnecessary gardener, but can't afford to support her daughter or so she says, you think about this bitterly. Besides, how many times do you really even make conversation with Maria anyway? Your teacher, a woman in her mid 40s and a perfect real life version of Miss Trunchbull from Matilda, which happened to be your favorite movie as a child, interrupted your thoughts suddenly with a “Miss, are you even listening?” Of course you weren't listening, why would you be? “Yes ma'am.”

Fifth period came and went despite it being your least favorite class. Sixth period. Possibly the best class of the day, art. You love art. Anyone can be anything with art. Art is the best way to express yourself. As your pencil touched the off-white sketching paper, the weight of the day comes crashing down like electricity. The bolt goes through your heart, through your arm, and through your hand into the pencil which moves gracefully along the paper. You let the pencil decide what it's going to make, you feel as if it's the best thing about this messed up cruel world. Freedom of expression. You look down at what the utensil has created, a very soft and frail looking woman. The sketch is rough and scattered, but you know who it is. Mother. It seems you have forgotten who she was for a moment, only remembering her as the kind young woman who would sing Eleanor Rigby by The Beatles to you to get you to fall asleep at night, the young woman who would play board games with you, your father, and your brother when it was storming because, God, you hated storms. Something about the cracking thunder and blinding lightning gave you nightmares for weeks. Those memories glided through your eyes and then slided offscreen as if they've never been there at all. The sketch you see before you is all that remains, the old woman who told you that you'd never be able to take care of your own daughter. The old woman who told you you would never amount to anything, not with the drugs and all of the terrible things you did. That's okay, you're not sorry, it isn't your fault you're this way, right?

There's ten minutes left in the period. You've erased the sketch of your mother, you couldn’t bare to look at it. You're lost in your own thoughts again. Graduating, moving on, you should really go see Maya. You decide you'll go see her after school. Wrapped up in the endless thought trap that is your mind, you miss the first set of screams.

What you don't miss though, is students pulling you to the corner of the room. The students, what were their names again? The red headed one, he's Rob, or maybe John? What did it matter, in three months you would never hear of him again. So what did it matter-

More screams. And then a distant but definitely familiar deafening pop rang through the room. What was this horrible noise? You've heard it before, you know you have. Another bang. The noise reminded you of...nighttime? Of darkness and storms and your house and...your father. It must be a gun. Three more earth rattling roars from the deadly weapon erupt throughout the room, and through your skull. This couldn’t be happening, could it? This isn’t happening, what you think is happening, it’s just your PTSD messing with your head again. Two more bangs. This is real, the ear-splitting shrieks are coming from your classmates this time. The door is locked, the lights are off, and this isn’t just one of your daydreams. Gazing over at the other terrified students, their faces seeming as if they were trying to mimic Edvard Munch’s very own The Scream, you begin to realize this might be the end. This can’t be the end! You have so much to live for, Maya...that’s it, really. But it’s enough. The shadows of your tear streaked face could very well be in a horror movie. You don’t quite remember when the last time you felt true fear was. How could someone do this, play with the lives of others as if they were dolls in their dollhouse. How dare someone declare himself as God, declare himself worthy of deciding who deserves to live and who deserves to die. It was wrong, so wrong in so many ways, you couldn't comprehend what this person’s brain must be like. The emotions they must feel. Anger, desire, hurt.

You remember the sketch of your mother. The old, wrinkled woman smiling and looking up at you. She never smiles anymore. When even was the last time she smiled at you, a real smile, an over the top, unattractive smile only a mother could bare when thinking about her child? The last time you saw your mom was in a sketch and the last time you spoke with her was when you told her you loved her. That’s a lie, you remember distinctly telling her the opposite, actually. If you would have known, if you could have only known, maybe, just maybe, you wouldn’t have screamed in her face, wouldn’t have told her you hated her.

Knuckles wrap at the door. The handle is suddenly pulled and twisted, making the sickening noise of wood splitting. Kids in the room cry and yelp, but you don’t hear yourself joining in. The only thing you can hear is inside of your head, the pounding and you swear that your heart is where your brain should be because the pounding, the heartbeat, the sirens. The sirens? It’s the police, it has to be. They’re going to come and detain the man standing outside the door 10 feet from where you sit, they have to. The knob twists some more, sounding like it’s dangerously close from breaking off. They’re going to be too late, just like they were when your father was murdered. You know it now. That wood door suddenly is the only thing between life and death. Between a mother and her child. Was it only thirty minutes ago you were touching that door on your way into art class? It seems like a distant memory, like it happened years ago.

The door opens in one motion and a classmate of yours, he’s in your science class, walks in. His face, full of anger, full of a rage you can’t explain, surveyed the room full of fear-stricken students. All at once peers were screaming “Don’t do it Collin!” and “I’m sorry Collin!” So his name was Collin. You remember him getting picked on at lunch and getting made fun of in the hallway by the same people pleading and apologizing to him. Were they really sorry? Or were they only sorry because he was now holding a loaded pistol? It happened too fast. One moment Rob/John was looking Collin in his eyes, barely holding in tears, and the next Rob/John’s brains were splattered on the wall behind him. His blood was all over students and the walls looked like a crime scene. It was a crime scene. A fellow child, a young, innocent, undeserving child was now dead because of another young, no longer innocent child. This was too much. You were sorry. Sorry that you weren’t there for your brother or your mother when your father died. Sorry that Maya has to grow up with this messed up terrible life. Sorry for the way you treated yourself, indulging in drugs and the way you pitied yourself, disgusting. Most of all, you were sorry for the way you treated your mother. You now realize all of the support she’s given you, the acts of kindness, the way she tried to comfort you when your father died, everything. She did so much, and you were so blind. The moment you realize it, it’s too late. Isn’t that how it always goes? You take everything for granted until you lose it. You did it, did your mother? You can’t help but selfishly wonder if she had taken you for granted. These past few years she’s treated you like you weren’t that little girl who would run and hug her everyday when you got home from elementary school. How could she have so easily forgotten that little girl, and replaced the memory of an eighteen year old burnout who would never be like her. There’s no getting out of this, but you vowed that if you did, you would apologise to her. You would take better care of Maya. You would finish your education and get a job that would actually comfortably support you both. You would stop with the drugs and partying and focus on being a good mother.

Collin now turned and looks you in the eyes. No, this isn’t happening. Someone do something! The sirens are getting closer and you can’t just leave Maya and you need to apologize, you need time! Collins eyes are filled with hatred, but also filled with another emotion. Fear. Your assumption was right. He can’t do this. He won’t do this. You just have to convince him! You have a child and a sick, old mother at home waiting, you can’t die, he’ll understand, right? You open your mouth to speak, but nothing comes out. There must be a way to connect this to him so he’ll understand.

“Collin, I,” Bang. All you see is white, and you don’t even notice the immense pain growing in your abdomen, all you can think about is your beautiful baby girl waiting at home, wondering where her mommy is, why she won’t come see her. You need to see her. Before you can say anymore, you realize that you're bleeding. And not to mention, on the floor. How did you get here? As you whisper these words tears flow down your cheeks and you try to remember your mother, the young woman who would sing Eleanor Rigby to you to help you sleep. “I’m sorry.” and the world goes black.

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