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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Write something in the YOUNG ADULT or TEEN genre (06/07/07)

By Rachel Burkum


I looked out into the crowd and picked out my parents’ smiling faces. I was tempted to wave, but refrained. They were so proud. So was I. There was a time when, if asked, I would have said I’d never make it to this day...

“Mom! I just -”

“No.” My mother’s words were final. “You’re not going.”

I threw her a look that could kill. I’d already made up my mind. I wasn’t a child anymore. I was sixteen. I might have to climb out my window after dark, but I was going to Stacey’s party whether my parents liked it or not. The most popular kids were going to be there, and I wasn’t about to miss it.

“Yo, Amber!”

I smiled at Todd. He was a senior and the most gorgeous football player I knew. The fact that he knew my name was enough to send me sky-high. “Hi, Todd.”

There were a lot of people at the party. Stacey had invited the best. I held my chin high, thinking of how I’d outsmarted my parents. They were always telling me, “No.” Ever since kindergarten, they’d been all over me not to do this, and not to do that. I’d always fought them tooth and nail, but now I was smart enough just to go around them altogether.

“Amber, come here!”

Todd was surrounded by a bunch of cheerleaders at the punch table.

“You’ve got to try some of this.” Vanessa giggled. “Todd knows how to make anything taste good.”

I glanced to the table and noticed the liquor bottle. My face grew hot. Why I was embarrassed, I wasn’t sure. Maybe it was because the nearest person of legal age was at least six blocks away.

“Um…” I knew I was making a fool of myself.

Todd raised his eyebrows. “What’s the matter? Haven’t you ever had a drink?”

I shook my head, mad at myself for not lying.

Vanessa held out a cup of spiked punch. “Well go on, then!”

I took the cup. Why shouldn’t I? I could do what I wanted, when I wanted. I could hang out with the friends I chose. I could ignore my bad grades. I could drink.

The cup was halfway to my mouth, when I saw a handful of partiers who had already had too much to drink. For some reason, I hadn’t noticed the beer cans when I’d arrived.

The cup rose to my lips. I saw two girls at the corner of the house, smoking. They were younger than me. Defiant as I was, something about that scene made me gag.

People all around me were having a good time. Stacey had done a wonderful job of getting a party together. But suddenly, it didn’t seem so grand. No one here cared. No one here gave a second thought about what they were doing. And as painful as the realization was, I knew that no one here really cared about me.

The taunting look in Todd’s eyes almost knocked me over. He didn’t want to socialize with me because he liked me. He wanted to mock me. Vanessa wasn’t giggling because she was happy. She thought I was stupid.

I looked down at my drink. Was it worth it? Did I want to run around senseless with the beer drinkers? Did I want to bend under the pressure like the two girls by the house?

I returned my parents’ smile, and finally gave in to a little wave. I was glad I had said, “No” two years ago. Todd had ended up getting kicked out of college. Vanessa was now a waitress in a bar. Stacey wasn’t even graduating.

I heard my name and stepped forward proudly to receive my diploma.

There was a time when, if asked, I would have said I’d never make it to this day. But I had parents who hadn’t given up on me. Somewhere along the way, God had worked in my heart, and helped me realize that there were more important things in life than hanging out with the “in” crowd.

Today was the starting of a whole new life for me, and I was going to meet it head-on.

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This article has been read 794 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lisa Holloway06/14/07
Good insights into teen thinking and what's really going on in that world. As a mother of teens, you give me hope. ;)
Kaylee Blake 06/14/07
Excellent! So relevant to us teens! Not preachy, but you defeinetly got your message across. Keep up the great work!!
Verna Cole Mitchell 06/15/07
I liked this story very much with its lesson about choices spelled out clearly.
Benjamin Graber06/18/07
Great job showing the rewards of saying "no"! Excellent story...
Terry R A Eissfeldt 06/18/07
I enjoyed this and found it very relevent and to the right age group. Good job.
Jan Ackerson 06/18/07
I like the multiple meanings of the title, and the framing of the piece in the graduation ceremony.
Dee Yoder 06/19/07
Your story is just right for teens. I think teens could relate to your character's choices and would enjoy reading this, too.
Joanne Sher 06/19/07
I love the framing of this, and the excellent detail, about the party especially. Great stuff, Rachel!