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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Gossip/Rumors (either or both) (10/28/10)

TITLE: Free Fall
By Marita Thelander


Head down, Hannah picked at her food and scoped the situation out with her peripheral vision. No one talked to her anymore. They were too busy talking about her instead.

She cringed at the sound of Todd’s boisterous laugh at the jock’s table. What’s done is done. Now her concern should be focused on Karl watching her everyday at lunch. The kids called him Creepy-Karl-er. Visions of squishy toy spiders and centipedes gave her the willies.

What’s he doing over there watching me all the time? Whew, he’s getting up to leave. Hannah started to gather her things to make a silent escape from the hell commonly known as the high school cafeteria. Or maybe it’s purgatory. Gym class is probably the appropriate high school version of eternal damnation.


Hannah stared warily at the black-clad outcast sitting in front of her. So stunned, she couldn’t even respond with a polite utterance.

“Meet me after school,” Karl slid a piece of paper with an address scrawled on it.

“And I’d do this because…?”


Something about Karl’s gentle plea softened Hannah’s freshly hardened exterior around her heart. She glanced around and noticed kids openly stared at the odd pair. She brazenly flung her long blonde tresses and scooped her things up. She noticed a ratty sketch pad on top of his books and realized she didn’t know a thing about Creepy-Karl.

“Fine. See you around three,” she turned to leave. What have I agreed to? Fear, tainted with stupidity, surged from her gut to her chest. She was becoming all too familiar with this emotion.

Hannah pulled the family mini-van up to the address Karl gave her. He sat cross-legged on a stump near the curb and didn’t budge until she stood in front of him.

“Well…” Hannah expressed impatiently.

“Come with me,” Karl uncrossed his lanky legs.

Thoroughly disgusted by the six inches of bright red boxers exposed above the studded belt and tight black jeans, Hannah tried unsuccessfully not to stare. He led her to a rundown detached garage set back behind the house.

Karl stopped and faced her. “I want to…well, actually, I feel compelled to show you something.”

Behind the bad boy image, Hannah saw a cute guy…if she looked long enough. Her eyes shifted to his black painted nails, then to his dirty canvas sneakers. For reasons beyond her comprehension, she suddenly felt at ease with Karl.

The glass paned door creaked open. When Hannah gasped, Karl nervously stuffed his hands into his pockets.

She approached the series of six canvases. “What is this? I mean, duh, they’re paintings…but they’re of me.” Hannah was officially creeped out now. “Are you stalking me?”

Karl stared at the anarchy symbol scribbled on the rubber-tipped toe of his shoe. “I call them Broken Angel.

Hannah studied the progression of her profile, from peaceful joy to painful sorrow.

“Just so you know,” Karl looked directly at her. “I don’t believe a word of what the kids are saying at school.”

“Why?” She followed his gaze from one canvas to the next.

“I see it in your eyes…the doorway to your soul.”

“He was so gentle at first; a month of sweet innocent romance. Flowers, small gifts…” Hannah studied each painting and could see the story unfold in her eyes. She touched the face on the fourth canvas. Who is this girl? Surely not me? “He became impatient with me and tried to rape me in my own driveway. I’ve not voiced it out loud until this very moment, but from the looks of these paintings, my parents must suspect something. I don’t even know what Todd’s been saying at school.” She turned to look at Karl for answers. “Do you?”

Karl nodded. “That you threw yourself at him and he made you stop because his father would shoot him if he did the new preacher’s daughter and got himself suspended from school. How would that look if the chairman of the board’s own son was expelled from King’s Academy for inappropriate behavior?”

Karl turned and picked up another set of canvases and laid them in front of the others. Hannah watched the unfolding of an innocent boy’s progression to a dark, depressed shadow.

“Th-That’s you...”

“I call them Fallen Angel,” Karl’s voice trembled.

“What did he…”

“Todd’s a ruthless bully…and then the rumors he spread…” Karl began to sob.

Overwhelmed with compassion, Hannah pulled Karl into her arms.

Instantly healed angel’s wings embraced and caught a free-falling soul.

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This article has been read 590 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Beth LaBuff 11/05/10
Wow, a full range of emotions are packed into this. I smiled at your creativity with "Creepy-Karl-er," and your metaphor with HS cafeteria as purgatory and gym class as eternal damnation is excellent. Your voice and tone in this story are perfect. The compassion shown by both Karl and Hannah is moving.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 11/07/10
Wow! Wow and wow! I can't even think of another word so I'll say it again-Wow!!
Cheryl Harrison11/10/10
Wow. This one gave me goosebumps. Very creative.
Rachel Phelps11/10/10
I love your title, so perfect. On the first read-through, I felt like the voice was a little over-the-top, but when I read it again, I recognized that teenager's POV. Well done.
Lollie Hofer11/10/10
Raw emotion, deep hurt, powerful imagery makes for a incredible, heart-wrenching story. It kept my interest (and heart) from beginning to end.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 11/11/10
Congratulations for placing 9th in this level and 12th overall!