Temple Carrig School,
It is dark, past the hour of six on a Tuesday morning and I lie in my bed watching my father through the small crack in my mahogany door. He takes out an iridescent gun and starts to polish it, cradling it like a new born child. My sister and I always joke about how he loves his gun more than he loves us, though we know that this is only partly true. He puts the gun back into a deep cubbyhole wedged in the back of our kitchen cabinet and looks cautiously around the kitchen in fear someone is watching him. I see him make his way into my bedroom and I immediately turn over onto my stomach, burying my face in my pillow.
‘Time to get up,’ he calls and taps me lightly on my head. I grunt and arise from my bed, heading into my younger sister’s room. If someone was to ask me who my favourite person was I would always say my seven-year old sister Camille. As I enter her bedroom, I gaze at her lying so peacefully on her small mattress. I gently nudge her. ‘Time to get up. The bus is in forty minutes.’ I whisper in her ear.
I leave her bedroom and make breakfast. My dad has already left for work, his construction gear no longer out along the kitchen counter and his cereal bowl wedged high in our sink among the masses of unwashed kitchenware. For breakfast I have cornflakes with water and leave the small drop of milk for Camille.
We wait at the bus top. Cleveland High school bus is my worst nightmare, a hunting ground for bullies. I sit at the front, beside the bus driver who grunts an unfriendly hello each morning but at least it keeps me safe from being picked on constantly. Camille gets off at the elementary school around a mile walk from my High School and this leaves me alone and vulnerable for a long five minutes of the treacherous bus ride.
Cleveland High School was voted among the top 10 worst high schools in the United States of America last year, though this didn’t really seem to startle the staff and pupils that much. I am determined to graduate with straight As. My dream is to do medicine in a French university. I’ve already started saving up, though the only thing that would stop me from departing is my sister.
The moment I enter the school I am greeted by the looming metal detectors. I walk straight through them, as I usually do each day, consumed in my own thoughts. Though today my thoughts are interrupted by the high-pitched sound of the metal detectors beeping, as I walk through. My stomach drops, even though I know I have done nothing wrong. The tall, muscly security guard who I see each day but pay little attention to, starts to scan my body up and down for a dreaded weapon. He shakes his head and lets me go.
I have Calculus first thing. Calculus is my all-time favourite class. I am sitting at my desk tucking into some worksheets when suddenly, a deafening alarm rings through the school. It is different to our normal school bell, more ominous and menacing. I realise that this is no ordinary school bell.
‘It’s a school shooting,’ a terrified girl with big round glasses shrieks.
My heart wedges deep down into the depths of my stomach and sweat breaks out all over my body. I pray for Camille and my father and Mamma resting up with the angels in heaven. I sprint to the cabinet which holds hundreds of maths books. Already several other panicking students are crammed inside. My breathing is heavy and I wish to be anywhere in the world other than here. The sound of my heartbeat echoes through my ears and I begin shaking vigorously.
‘Camille,’ I think. ‘The elementary school.’ Soon I cannot think of anything but my younger sister lying in a pool of crimson blood. I imagine fifth graders littering the floor and a whiff of ammonia in the room after the multiple gunshots. I want to scream and run away to find Camille. This causes slight, salty tears to fall from my eyes. I wipe my eyes with the sleeve of my denim jacket and close my eyelids, hoping it will make the time in this cramped cupboard speed up.
‘It is only a drill. I repeat, it is only a drill.’ Our principal’s booming voice comes screaming out of the intercom.
I burst out of the claustrophobic cabinet, though my mind is still racing with images of my slaughtered sister. My breathing starts to increase rapidly and I feel like I am back in the cramped math cupboard. I try to grab onto a nearby desk but my trembling hands cannot grasp onto the edges. My heart pounds even faster, even harder. I try to take a deep breath to calm myself, but my breaths are sharp and shallow. My vision starts to get darker and narrower and it looks kaleidoscopic. I come down to the ground with a thump and as I lie there paralysed, all I can hear is the deafening sound of blood passing through my ears- thump, thump, thump.
When I wake up, I feel disoriented but my surroundings soon become familiar to me. The numerous human anatomy posters and the willowed baby blue wallpaper, tell me that I am in the nurse’s office. I sit up on the long bed, but my hands and feet are still numb. I spot the nurse in the corner of the room consoling a short, pretty freshman who has blood rimmed eyes and black mascara staining her face. She turns and her face seems to light up when she realises I am awake.
‘Ms Alvarez. Nice to see you have risen from the dead,’ she chuckles and her round, plump belly jiggles when she laughs.
‘Don’t worry Frankie. Soon you’ll be safe at home,’ she says.
I smile just to be polite and lie back down pretending to sleep so I no longer have to face the agony of talking with the Nurse. My head still throbs from my earlier panic attack, these are not irregular occurances for me. I concentrate on anything but the pain in my head and eventually the screechy ringing of the school bell signals the end of the school day.
I make my way out of the wretched nurses’ room, still slightly unstable. The swarms of students start to make me feel claustrophobic again, but I push my way through the corridor and dramatically exit the building, gasping for fresh air.
I walk the three mile journey to my small flat, we cannot afford the bus fare home. I motivate myself to get home quickly, because I always feel a little uncomfortable leaving Camille alone in the house for too long, especially in the neighbourhood we live in.
My feet ache from walking so far in my cheap runners, but I finally reach our flat. I turn the key in the door, that is painted a bold khaki and has a rusty number nine hung on the front. I am greeted by Camille, who seems to be over joyed by something.
‘Frankie, Frankie,’ she squeals excitedly. ‘I found a new toy.’
Her two hands are behind her back and she is giggling sweetly to herself. My heart swells as I look at her soft skin crease into a broad smile.
‘But I don’t know how to work it,’ she says curling her bottom lip into a frown.
I place my school bag down and approach her. ‘Come on! Show me what it is,’ I demand playfully.
She chuckles and runs backwards into the kitchen. Suddenly something alarming grabs my eye. The deep cubbyhole where my father keeps his expensive firearm seems to be completely exposed. I ignore my chuckling sister and frantically search in the cabinet where it usually lies.
‘What does this do?’ My sister eagerly inquires, but I am hysterically looking for the gun, knowing my father will kill me if it’s gone.
I turn to ask Camille whose sweet laughter echoes through the kitchen. I freeze. My panic that was once focused on finding the gun is now directed to something completely different.
My little sister, holds the shiny, silver weapon up to her head. Her small index finger just about wraps around the trigger.
I scream and it pierces through our apartment. ‘Put it down!’
‘I want to know what it does. It can’t be that bad,’ she says naively.
I leap towards her desperately trying to grab the gun out of her tight grasp. A deafening gunshot roars through the apartment block. I watch as my sister’s body crashes to the ground.
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