Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Write something in the YOUNG ADULT or TEEN genre (06/07/07)
TITLE: The 800-Pound Gorilla
By Joanne Sher
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"So, who wants to read it?" Joe, the junior class president, sat at the table, brushing his wavy brown locks from his eyes. Soon, all eight chairs were taken, and another dozen teens, making up the rest of the junior class of the small high school, were standing around the table.
Daphne sighed. "I guess I will. Hand it here."
Taking the envelope from Joe, Daphne flipped it over and removed a folded up piece of paper, neatly torn from a spiral notebook. Glancing over the contents, she gulped, then placed the letter on the table in front of her. The room hushed.
Members of the class of 2009,
So, did I surprise you? Bet I did. I've gone to school with most of you since kindergarten, and some of you consider me a good friend. And I'll bet you all thought you knew me pretty well.
Pretty Jenna. Happy Jenna. Joker Jenna. Perky Jenna. No Troubles Jenna. I guess I put on quite a performance, because not a single one of you has asked how I was doing, or if I needed anything, for months.
Well, now's my chance to answer that question. I'm doing terrible - lousy. Have been for a year, ever since Billy died in Iraq. Do you really know what it is like to lose a brother? Your hero? Obviously not.
Sure, you guys were nice enough the first month or so. But after that, every time I brought it up, someone would change the subject, or go find something else to do. Guess I was too much of a downer for you and your plastic little lives.
So I went back to being the Jenna you wanted me to be. Sweet, fun, silly, fake Jenna. Jenna, who didn't care about anything that mattered. You all seemed to like her better anyway.
But, do you know what I really needed? I needed someone to let me cry on their shoulder. Someone who would ask how I was doing and actually want to know the real answer. Someone who cared about my heart and soul, not just my clothes, what I got on my last test, or what I thought of some stupid teen flick.
Did any of you even remember that yesterday was exactly a year since Billy was blown up by that IED? Not a single one of you said a thing to me all day. Guess I wasn't bubbly enough to be noticed.
Well, I can't take it anymore. I hope you all grow up and have your wonderful, perfect plastic lives just like you want. Just know that I won't be there.
Nothing could be heard in that room but the sounds of heavy breathing, sobbing, and wailing. The students hugged one another, patted each other's backs, and bawled.
"I can't believe we were so insensitive," Daphne said between sobs, lifting her head off another girl's shoulder.
The others nodded.
Joe stood on his chair. The others turned and looked up toward him, despair and hopelessness in their eyes.
"We cannot let this happen again. We need to stop brushing off the tough stuff, and be there for one another. You guys are important to me. We've been through too much to lose anyone else this way. So, who's with me?"
A chorus of "me" echoed through the room, and hugs were abundant, like the tears falling from their faces.
The entire group turned toward the door, where Mr. Zach, the junior class advisor, stood with half a smile on his face.
"She's gonna make it, guys. The paramedics got here just in time, it seems. Jenna's on the way to the hospital now. She'll be in the hospital for a couple of days, but she's going to be ok."
A collective sigh echoed across the room as they walked toward their teacher. On their way, they passed the spot where they'd found their classmate not half an hour earlier, sprawled on the floor seemingly dead from a drug overdose.
"Guess we'll be practicing what we preached sooner than we thought," Joe quipped.
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