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

TITLE: Stained
By Jan Ackerson


When Jason was done with me, he sauntered back to the rec room where Derek and Mike were watching a baseball game. I heard high-fives, the popping of beer tabs, the cheering of the crowd.

I curled into the sour sheets, a burning shame radiating from my belly to my face. After a while, I shuffled stiffly out to Jason and asked for a ride home. He swore and chugged his beer. Silence was the third passenger on our interminable, ten-minute journey.

He never talks to me now.

Yesterday, he passed me in the hall. He was walking with a knot of jocks, laughing and shoving. “Hi, Jason,” I whispered, my back pressed into the lockers as they passed.

He ignored me and walked on. I saw him lean toward Mike, heard a sibilant syllable and a burst of crude laughter.

I remembered what Jason was like before. He had given me a stuffed aardvark, his football jersey, a lollipop bouquet. He had whispered sweetly, his lips on my shoulders and my neck: you know you want to…if you loved me…you’re torturing me…oh baby oh baby…

Blinded by unshed tears, I stumbled into health class. Mrs. Koch had a slide show—horrible images of the lungs and mouths of smokers. All around me, students were dozing, scribbling notes, flipping through magazines.

No one cares about lung cancer. It’s prom season.

I studied my planner, counting the days since…Jason.

An image appeared on the screen—some hideous internal organ, speckled with black. I ran to the restroom with my hand over my mouth and my stomach churning.

Afterwards, I splashed cold water on my face and decided not to return to class. Mrs. Koch’s lecture didn’t apply to me; I find smoking a disgusting habit.

I’m a “good girl.” The irony is not lost on me.

Retreating into the cool and quiet stall, I pulled my feet up onto the toilet and rested my head on my knees.

A cluster of girls walked in, chattering while they reapplied mascara and lip gloss. I heard my name, and Jason’s…then a word I never thought would apply to me…the scratch of pen on plaster…the staccato of heels.

When all was silent, I unlocked the stall to see what they had written.

It’s true, every word. I am…what they say I am.

So today, I have returned to this tiled haven. It’s quiet here, for most of the day, and convenient, for waves of nausea have come twice already this morning.

I’m an honor roll girl, and until this week I’ve never missed a health class; I know what this constant queasiness means. The cruel calendar confirms it.

Between classes, the restroom fills with sound. Gossip, giggles, the hum of the hand dryer, splashing in the sinks. Occasionally someone rattles my stall door, mumbles an apology, and disappears.

My head is filled with a buzzing that obliterates all thought.

With an effort, I pierce the buzzing with what I suppose is a sort of prayer. God and I have never been on the best of terms, but I attempt an unfamiliar, desperate plea.

Let it not be true. Let it not be true. Let it not be true.

I’m drinking water from the sink, my hands cupped, when a girl walks in holding Mr. Brookfield’s dorky wooden restroom pass. She glances at me warily, and with good reason; she has often been the object of taunting, with her Jesus tee-shirts and her dowdy denim skirts.

Guilty. I’m guilty. I am your tormentor, Rachel.

She gives me a nod and a timid smile. Her pink tee-shirt reads “I pray like a girl.”

I am damaged, stained, unclean.

Rachel takes in my blotchy face; perhaps she realizes that I was not in class today. Her eyes flick to the ugly scrawl near the mirror and back to me. She speaks in a low voice. “Are you okay?”

We lock eyes. I nod and turn away. This girl has no reason to be kind to me, and many reasons to gloat at my predicament. But she hesitates a moment, says “’Bye, then” and slips away.

When Rachel leaves, I stand at the restroom door and watch, noting the locker where she stops to collect her Brit Lit book.

Tomorrow, I will talk to Rachel.

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This article has been read 1424 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Sheri Gordon06/14/07
Wow. This gave me the chills. I believe you've captured the teen psyche perfectly. Although it is very sad, the reality of this situation would touch many teens. Great job with the young adult genre.
Leigh MacKelvey06/14/07
I doubt I will read another entry that will effect me like this one. The first person was so dramatic and the subject is the real deal.
You get right into the scene of the teanage world with your writing. Superb!
Marilee Alvey06/14/07
I, too, think you did a great job of getting inside the teenage head. This was real. The ending was real, too. Great job!
Leigh MacKelvey06/14/07
Sorry, there is no teanage world ... only a teenage one!
Dee Yoder 06/15/07
This is a moving story and sadly, so true for many young women. It fits the genre like a glove and has 2 distinct messages that girls, Christian and non-Christian, need.
Mo 06/15/07
Nicely done & thought provoking.
Helen Paynter06/16/07
Really drew me in - I thought it first that it was going to be a modern 'cautionary tale', and it would have been great as that, but you turned it into something even better. I liked the hint - just a hint - of hope at the end. As always, masterful.
Lynda Schultz 06/16/07
Powerful, and painful story. It begs a sequel. Good writing.
Joanne Sher 06/16/07
What an amazing job you did getting inside that girl's head. And your last line is so powerful and full of hope. I ached for her. Excellent.
Sharlyn Guthrie06/17/07
Wow! You know how to tell it like it is, and I have a feeling most teenage girls would read this, since you don't mince words. Very powerful!
Sharlyn Guthrie06/17/07
Wow! You know how to tell it like it is, and I have a feeling most teenage girls would read this, since you don't mince words. Very powerful!
TJ Nickel06/18/07
Great opening. "Silence as a passenger" is awesome, as is "Blinded by unshed tears". Great escape into the "buzzing" noise, and best of all, best of all of it - was the ability to keep Rachel from directly doing anything more than her past (of which we have little information) and to say a couple normal words, and having them make so much difference. Nicely done!
Verna Cole Mitchell 06/18/07
This is an awesome teen story, excellently written. The decription is outstanding.
Benjamin Graber06/18/07
Painful but powerful... Oh, we need a savior! Thank God He's given us one... :-)
Myrna Noyes06/19/07
What an excellently written, powerfully told story! This addresses a perpetually relevant subject for teens, and does so in a non-preachy, sensitive manner. Your word choices, descriptions, and dialogue are perfect! I am very impressed! :)
Catrina Bradley 06/19/07
Masterful writing! I felt sick with sorrow for her. Love the ending!
Sally Hanan06/20/07
Brilliant writing Jan. It was very realistic.
Jacquelyn Horne06/20/07
Good article. We never know when a kindness is lifesaving.
Kristen Hester06/20/07
This was so real, so well written. This really puts you there in the MC's mind. I'm so glad there's a hint of hope at the end. Great!
Sara Harricharan 06/20/07
Excellent. I think this is one of your best. The first person POV is very powerful. I liked the ending with Rachel though. It's the spark of hope at the end of the afternoon. Your title tied in so well with the rest of the story, I wish there was more so I could see what happens when she's given a second chance.
Rita Garcia06/20/07
Moving - touching - heartfelt! Powerful...Powerful writing!!!
Loren T. Lowery06/20/07
Great descriptive writing that put the reader right there not only in place but emotions as well. With your writing sytle, I could not but help but feel for the emotional turmoil your MC was experiencing. Great job!
Pam Carlson-Hetland06/20/07
This brought tears to my eyes. Unfortunately, the situation of which you write is all too common these days. You captured it all so very well. And I agree with the others, the hopeful ending is very powerful. No wonder you are in Masters.
joe hodson06/20/07
Wow! This is one of my favorites so far! Very well written. It was one of those where I forgot I was reading, and it played like a movie in my head. I felt like I could feel how the girl was feeling. Very good!
Pamela Kliewer06/20/07
In a word - WOW! This brought tears to my eyes... you really captured this girl's pain and anguish.
Julie Arduini06/20/07
This was the story I wanted to write and it just would not come together and God gave me something different. I know why now, God inspired you to do it and made it amazing, way better than I could have done. I won't forget this one, it was perfect.
T. F. Chezum06/21/07
Very powerful and well written. One of my favorites. Great job, as usual.