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    April 2, 2016

    The Girl Who Lost Her Voice, a short story


    Her dad always told her not to, but she took the long way through the park anyway. Everyday when she came home from school she just wanted a few minutes of peace before she had to deal with her father.


    He wasn’t a bad person. He never hit her. Well, he almost did once. That was back when she still sang. She sometimes dreamt that he tried to hit her when she was little, but Mom would stop him. She had to promise herself she would stop thinking about how real that dream was.


    In the park, there was a rock. This rock was pretty big. It was taller than she was. It sat at the higher end of the park, next to some trees. She could see everything when she sat on top of it. She liked to pretend that no one could see her because she was hidden by the trees.


    She needed to pretend. She had to because she needed to feel like she was alone when she sat up there. She needed to feel like she could have a moment of clarity while no one was watching. Sometimes it tortured her that she had to pretend. She often daydreamed about living in a little cabin in the woods with no one else around. Then, she wouldn’t have to pretend anymore.


    The other thing she thought about when she was daydreaming was singing. She used to sing a lot, like a little girl with a joyful story to share with the world. She used to love singing. Now, she can’t remember the last time she actually sang anything.


    Every once in a while, her father would bring it up again, even though she asked him not to. It tended to happen when he was drinking. All she could do was feign a smile and change the subject or just leave the room. If he caught her on a bad day, she would retreat to her room and lock the door so she could plop down on the bed, bury her face in her pillow and cry. He’s a man. How could he know how the things he said affected her? It was moments like that when she wished her mom was still around.


    But, it was no use wishing for that. You can’t change the past. All you can do is deal with it and move on. She wished there was a way to get her father to understand that. Then, she remembered her father was sitting at home waiting for her. She checked the time on her cell phone. She had probably been sitting there daydreaming for a little too long. Great.


    She ran home. Well, she jogged home. She used to be a good runner, but not anymore. Her father was right where she expected him to be - in the chair. With a glass of scotch in his hand. Today, he didn’t look over to see her as she walked in , but he did say, “hello.”

    “Hi, Dad.”

    “Is it getting late?,” he asked as if he already knew the answer.


    “Are you sure about that?”

    “Yup,” she retorted. Why would he ask her that if he already knew? Maybe he wasn’t sure. He would be sure if he wasn’t drinking.

    “Your report card came today,” he said with drunken disdain.


    Oh no, she thought to her self. Why did she have to pick today to linger too long in the park? “Can I see it?,” she asked with trepidation. He held it up with the hand that wasn’t wrapped around his scotch so she could take it.


    American History: D; Geometry: C-. At least the rest of her grades were okay.

    “You want to tell me how you’re going to get into college on a scholarship with grades like that?”


    If she was careful, she could prevent him from blowing up at her, but she just didn’t have the energy today. Instead, she just sighed and said, “I don’t know, Dad.”

    “You don’t know?” He took another sip. “What are you going to do about college, Sarah? What are you going to do after you graduate?” He was escalating. “What are you going to do with your future?,” he yelled. She didn’t say anything.


    Was he angry with her or with himself? She looked at her father sitting there in his three piece suit, and she saw the irony in this image of a man getting angry with himself for not being able to do anything about the shitty future he saw ahead of him. Sitting there with perfectly combed hair, drinking scotch. Did he want her to be like him or not? If going to college was going to get her a life like the one he has, she didn’t want to go. She fought back tears and said, “I don’t know, Dad.”


    He looked up at her with a kind of agitated excitement. “Why don’t you know?,” he yelled through his teeth. He looked like he should be foaming at the mouth or something.


    She slowly turned around and walked out of the room with her head down. She knew he wasn’t really expecting an answer. She just didn’t want him to hit her.


    Sarah went into her room and sat down on the edge of her bed. Thoughts and ideas kept turning over in her mind. They felt incomplete and all jumbled together, as if her brain was misfiring electrical signals. She hated this feeling. She was just about to bury her face in her pillow when her phone rang. She really didn’t want to answer it, but it was Merrian. She didn’t want Merrian to worry about her.


    “Hey, Merrian,” she said forlornly. She knew Merrian would be able to tell there was something wrong, so she didn’t try to hide anything.

    “What’s wrong? Did your dad see your grades? Mine just came in the mail today.”


    “Oh, Sarah, you sound like you’re about to cry.”

    “I was probably just about to, yeah”

    “You know he’s just an angry old man, right?”

    “Merrian, he’s my father.”

    “That doesn’t make him not an angry old man.” Sarah smiled a little. Merrian always knew how to make her smile.

    “Listen, he’s family. You have to love family. There’s nothing you can do about that. But, after this year you can move out and get away from him and everything will be better.”


    Sarah had to think for a moment. She wasn’t sure about things getting better. There was probably a whole lot more she could say, but, instead, she just said, “Thanks, Merrian.” Every time she thought about leaving she thought about her father. She wasn’t sure she should leave because she wasn’t sure what would happen to him if she did. If this is how well he was doing ‘keeping it together for his daughter’, then things would probably get a lot worse if she actually left.


    She only had vague recollections of what happened after her mom died. She had passed while she was in labor with her little brother. The baby didn’t make it, either. After that, her father just imploded. He had only drunk socially before that. Now he just had so much anger inside of him. What would he be like if he wasn’t drinking so much? The more she thought about it the more she wanted a drink herself.


    She just felt like she had so much going on inside of her. The way her brain shut down sometimes and made all of her thoughts and ideas turn over and over like an insomniac probably should have bothered her more than it did. There were probably some good, useful ideas in there somewhere. She wished they would stand up and raise their hands so she could see them better.


    Sarah remembered seeing on the news once that there was a girl, about the same age as her, maybe one or two years older, that was already worth a million dollars. They said something about her teaching herself about finances. Sarah didn’t exactly know what it meant to be worth a million dollars, or any amount of money for that matter, but it sure would be nice to have that kind of money. Life would be so much easier. There had to be a way to have a better life. There had to be a way for her to get out instead of being stuck here with him.


    Suddenly, her mind turned to a memory she hadn’t thought of in forever. She was small, maybe five or six, and she was with her dad at her grandma’s house. It must have been Thanksgiving or something. There were a lot of people there. A bunch of people were sitting on the couch in the living room and she was singing for them. They clapped for her, and she remembered everyone telling her she was such a good singer. And she was so young! They must have just been being nice because she was little then.


    She wrote the memory out in her journal before she went to sleep. She hardly ever wrote in her journal. This book was probably about as old as the memory, but for some reason she felt like she needed to remember this one.


    The next day, she found herself wandering through the park on her way home from school again. She meandered through the trees that surrounded her rock, and found one to lean up against. As she sat down on the ground, she thought of that memory she wrote down in her journal the night before.



    Sarah whipped her head around to see a boy standing off in the middle of another clump of trees. This boy was cute. I mean, he was kind of pretty for a boy, but he was gorgeous. She stared at him for a few seconds before she finally answered him. “Uh, hey.” She smiled, and he came a bit closer.

    “I’m Blaine,” he said. He extended his hand out to her.

    Rather than shake it, she thought he was helping her up. He did that and then shook her hand as they came level to each other. She felt him looking deep into her eyes.

    “What’s your name?”

    “Oh, right, sorry. Sarah” She had to be brought back to attention.

    “Oh! Like the song,” he said as his eyes lit up.

    “Uh, what?” Suddenly, he broke out into song.

    “Sa-ra-ah-ah-ah-ah, Sarah, storms are brewing in your eyes. Sa-ra-“

    He was singing a little loud, so she cut him off. “I don’t know. I’ve never heard that song.”

    “Really? It’s a good song,” he reassured her. “It’s one of those cheesy 80’s love songs, but it’s a good one.”

    “Oh,” she said and she raised her eyebrows.

    “What are you doing hiding back here when you should be out there entertaining the people,” he said sweeping his arm out over the whole park as he looked out over Sarah’s rock. She furled her eyebrows and looked at him in amazement. It was like he knew. Then he turned back to her and said, “if I may say so, Sarah, you are much too dynamic and way too pretty not to be the one everybody wants to listen to.”

    “If I may say so, Blaine, you are eloquent, but how do you know?”

    “Now, that sounds more like you,” he said, smiling. He took her hand and kissed the back of it. “I’ve seen you here before. You like to sit on this rock, don’t you?” With her hand in his he led her over to the big rock so they could sit down together and look out over the park.


    “Why haven’t I seen you before?,” she asked him. “Aren’t we the same age?”

    “I go to the private school.”

    “Oh.” She raised her eyebrows again, and said, “do you like it?”

    “It doesn’t really matter if I like it or not. My grandparents have the money to send me there, so that’s where I go.”

    “Your grandparents?”

    “You’re very perceptive,” he said as he looked down and smiled at the same time.

    Sarah felt compassion for him. “I’m sorry. We don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to.”

    “If I tell you my story, will you tell me yours?” As he asked her this question, he got a look of serene potential on his face that made her realize her heart was doing something she couldn’t ignore. This boy was different. Blaine seemed to have a sensibility about the world that quickened her. “Yes,” she answered him.

    “I live with my grandparents. I’ve lived with them since I was five. I never knew my mother. My grandparents are good to me.”

    Right then, she could tell he was trying to convince himself of that last part. “But…”

    He chuckled, and said, “there you go again.”

    “Really, you don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to,” she said. She could tell this was a sensitive subject for him. She felt bad for him.

    “The funny thing is, I’ve never met anyone that made me feel safe enough to share my story with them. I mean, it could be a movie. It’s like the classic teen mom story.”

    “If it makes you feel any better, I only had my mom until I was seven. She was pregnant with a boy, but then she died while she was in labor. The baby died, too”

    “Wow, that’s rough.” He seemed like that made him feel better. “What about your dad?”

    “I think it killed him. Like, he just broke down. He was never the same after that. He drinks a lot,” she ruminated for a moment. Blaine could tell she was thinking about something important, so he didn’t say anything. Then she said, “ I sometimes wonder what life would be like if my mom was still around.”

    “Yeah, I do, too,” he said. “I’ve heard people say that the relationship between mother and child is special, somehow.”

    “I think it is. I mean, I hope it is. The life I live with my dad just seems so incomplete; there must be something missing. I keep thinking it would be so much easier for me to figure out what’s missing if she were still here.”

    “Yeah,” he said. “I just wish I knew what it was like to have a mom.” He had his head down, again, and he seemed to be thinking about something. Sarah was just about to ask him about something else when he broke into song again. “There is no life - no life without this hunger.”

    Sarah recognized the song immediately. She couldn’t believe it; he was singing her favorite song, so she joined in.

    “Each restless heart beats so imperfectly,” they sang together. “But, when you come and I am filled with wonder, sometimes, I think I glimpse eternity.”

    Blaine looked at Sarah with that same look of serene potential. Only this time, there was a heated excitement about it.


    “You have a beautiful voice,” he said as he took her hand again.

    “Thank you.” She could feel her cheeks turn bright red.

    “Are you embarrassed?,” he asked.

    “Totally embarrassed. I haven’t sung anything for so long.”

    “But, you sound like such a good singer. You sound like you’ve been singing for a long time.”

    “Oh, no, no, no,” she said. “All the crap my family went through just made me…”

    He looked at her expectantly.

    “I don’t know. I just feel like I don’t fit in most of the time. Most of the people that care about me enough to give me good advice still don’t seem to have anything to tell me that’s really helpful.”

    “I know how you feel,” Blaine said.

    “I’m glad we met..”

    “Yeah, me, too,” he said looking at her with a smile on his face that made her body feel a warmth she had never felt before. This was crazy. Was she crazy, or could Blaine really be the best thing that ever happened to her?

    “I would love to sing a duet with you, Sarah.”

    She smiled and her cheeks went red again. She felt butterflies in her heart. “I would like that.”

    “Should we go?,” he asked her.

    “I’m sure my father is wondering where I am.”


    Blaine stood up and got down off the rock. He helped Sarah down and they walked together toward her house.

    “By the way, how did you know that was my favorite song?,” she asked him pleadingly.

    “What. Raise Me Up? That’s a good choice for a favorite. Most people go for a mushy love song. Why is it your favorite?”

    Sarah stopped walking and thought for a moment, and Blaine stopped and stood with her. She looked at him, and the way she looked at him made him smile.

    “I think I’ve been waiting for someone who can raise me up for a long time,” she said as she looked deep into his eyes. Blaine’s smile widened, and Sarah’s eyes lit up like they never had before. She glowed with a feeling of love that was completely new to her, and it made her smile, too. Their faces got closer and closer until their lips finally touched. Sarah felt a slow, warm explosion course through her body. She looked at Blaine with an amazement that made him smile wide again. Then, he took her hand again, and they continued walking. Both of them could sense that life was going to be quite a bit easier for a while, and their hearts felt lighter as they walked.

    What Do You Think?

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