I wrote this story during my Sophomore year at an SDA boarding Academy. In place of commentary, just insert “oh fuck, SERIOUSLY?!” at the end of each sentence.
I awake to the sounds of Christian music. Spanish Christian music.
“Uhhhh.” I grunt as I roll over in bed. The girl in the next bed rolls over and slams the snooze button on the alarm, looks over at me, and lies down. Her head jerks back up.
“Who are you?”
“I’m Holly, who are you?”
“I’m Aralyn… you look a little old to be in here, how old are you?”
“Hmm… nothing, I just thought they were killing all the kids unless they were under 13….”
I sit up in bed, “wait, what?”
“Don’t you know?”
Aralyn sighs, “Every time the government goes on a raid, they kill all the family members except those under the age of 13. these, they take back to special homes and raise them in the new World Wide Religion.”
“There training us to be priests! They think were young enough to be manipulated!”
I’m stunned. “So, you mean they… take…. little children?!”
she sniffs, “I am not a little child. But yes, they do mainly take those.”
I massage my abdomen, horrified at the thought of my little child being whisked away, knowing that it would grow up not knowing Jesus… I shudder. I would rather it be still-born than have that happen!
“So… why’d they put you here if your 16?”
“I left the church a long time ago.” I whisper, my cheeks going red.
What, its not a total lie!
Holly, my intention was not for you to lie about who you are!
“Oh,” said Aralyn, disappointed.
I consider telling her that I came back to the church, but before I can make up my mind the alarm rings again. Aralyn shuts it off, gets out of bed and stands up.
“Come on, we have to get dressed then go down to breakfast. By 6:30 or Mrs. Gladstone’ll ground us.”
I slide out of bed and reach for the nearest duffel bag. I pull out my gortex shoes, black velvet pants, and a lavender sweater with purple trim.
I follow her downstairs to the table, where approximately 20 children are eating scrambled eggs, ham, cereal and buttered toast at a large table.
Mrs. Gladstone walks up to me and says, “good morning, Holly! This is your seat.” she points to a chair between a girl with long blonde who couldn’t have been more than 10 years old, and another small girl around the age of eight, also blonde, only this one had glasses. I sit down and Mrs. Gladstone offers up a small, repetitive prayer. Then all the children start to eat.
I eat the cheerios dry, and buttered toast, but do not touch the eggs and ham.
One by one all the kids finish eating, in silence, then sit back and wait. I do the same thing. When the last kid puts down his fork, everyone stares at me.
“Darling,” Mrs. Gladstone says kindly, “you must eat everything on your plate before we all leave the table.”
“I’m vegan.” I hear myself saying timidly.
“I’m vegan.” I say, strongly this time.
Mrs. Gladstone shakes her head and clucks her tongue, “you poor dear!” she sighs and shakes her head, “you have no need to worry here, you can forget all the adventist customs your family has.”
“I am not vegan because my family was. In fact, I’m the only vegan in my family; you see, I choose to be vegan becuase its healthier.”
Mrs. Gladstone glares at me, walks over and snatches up my plate. “If you aren’t going to eat what we eat you can starve!” she pulls away from me. I think she is expecting me to argue back. When I stay silent, she snaps, “Go help Aralyn with the others!”
Aralyn pulls me away from Mrs. Gladstone and leads me down a long hallway into a large room with a bunch of cradles and cribs with kids ranging from infancy to age 4.
“This here, is the nursery.” she says.
I stare around at it. Seeing this reminds me of my own baby, gives me an idea of what could be its future. I shudder.
We wake the babies up one by one and feed and dress them, then we wake the 4 year olds, who can feed and, to a certain extent, even dress themselves.
Then, since it is a school day, we help the 4-7 year olds get ready for school, then we run out to meet the bus. It’ll be my first day at a new public school. Joy.
I sit with Aralyn on the bus.
“So,” I ask hesitantly, “How’d you end up here?”
“My parents and I were caught hiding in the basement during a raid on our town.” she says stoically, “they took my parents and older brother away, I don’t know what happened to them.”
“Oh.” I say quietly, “they took my mom and sister when we tried to go to Dominican Republic on a mission trip.”
we ride the rest of the way in silence until he bus pulls up to the school. Aralyn stands up, so do I.
“No Holly,” she says, “this is the elementary and middle school, this is where I get off. The next stop the bus’ll make is the high school.” then, in a low voice, “I’ll be praying for you.” I nod my thanks. She smiles at me, then leaves. I sit there in total shock. The bus pulls away. All the kids get off there. I’m the only kid in the house old enough to go to high school. I will be alone.
Dear God I pray, Help me, please!
The high school is much bigger than the one I went too; the one I went too was small, and only had 2 floors; one for the 9th and 10th graders and one for the 11th and 12th. The top floor belonged to the older kids. Unfortunately, this high school was not like that. It had about 4 floors, and there were a ton of classrooms, and frankly, I don’t do so good in bigger schools. I check my schedule..
1st hour Spanish 1 Room 344
Spanish class! Well, at least we start with a class I’ll be good in. lets see, 344… numbers that start with a 3 are generally on the 3rd floor, so, where is room 344 hiding. I must’ve gone up and down the hallway 40 times! A bell rings. I’m also late.
I throw down my schedule. “forget this schedule! I need a map!” I exclaim.
“Do you need help?” I jerk around. A Tall girl with blonde hair is standing there. I nod dumbly.
“Let me see your schedule?”
I hand it to her.
“Mmm…” she walks a few steps, turns a corner, then walks all the way to the end of the hall.
“Its hiding in the shadow of all these lockers.” She says, smiling.
“Thanks.” I manage to croak.
“Hey, no prob. Anytime you need help, come find me.” she turns to walk away, then stops. “Better go in now, your late. Sra. Sobre won’t like that.”
I find my voice, “aren’t you late too?”
“Yeah, its no big deal.”
“But why –”
“You needed help.” she smiles at me, “see ya.” She walks away. I shrug, open the door, and walk into class. I don’t know where to sit. I’m just standing there. Everyone is looking at me. I’m hot. I’m starting to sweat.
The woman, Sra.Sobre turns around, “who are you?”
“I’m Holly, I’m new.”
The woman frowns. “Fine, sit down.”
“Where?” she glares at me. “Anywhere gringa1!”
I blink, find an empty desk and slide into it, setting my backpack on the ground. Sra. Sobre is showing the students how to say things like, “hi, how are you? Who are you? I’m Holly, whats your name?”
Oh great Lord, they would have put me in a Spanish one class! This is so boring! Lord, how’m I gonna get through this!
I sigh, and start to pull out a bible. Then I remember that that woudln’t be a good idea. Instead I pull out a Spanish copy of a book called Fudge and start reading as Sra. Sobre drones on and on.
Suddenly the book is snatched out of my hands. Sra. Sobre’s face glares up at me.
“Since you find what were doing so boring, why don’t you come up to the board and conjugate some simple verbs for us?” she snaps. I sigh, get up from my desk and walk slowly to the front of the room. All eyes are on me, I hear students giggling into their books. I try not to feel embarrassed. I will show this teacher that she will not get the better of me. I will not feel stupid, rather, I will use this opportunity to show off.
Verb after verb is thrown at me and I conjugate it right, present, past, future, and imperfect, even conjugating for vosotros. Then she starts firing off rapid questions in Spanish at me. I answer them all correctly, making sure to look bored.
“Where did you learn to speak Spanish?!” she asks me in Spanish
“Most of what I know I taught myself, then I went on several mission trips to the Dominican where I got better at it. I also went to France with my family to visit my grandma, where I learned French. Then we all took a vacation to Germany to learn German. Then we went on a mission trip to Africa where I learned to speak setswanna –”
“Enough!” Sra. Sobre shouts at me. She looks at the book she has just confiscated from me, and, seeing that it is in Spanish, says, “very well. If you think your so smart, you can just spend this class in the principles office.” she hands me back the book. I sit down at my desk.
“Did you hear me?”
I think you showed off a bit too much Holly
I stand up and sling my backpack over my shoulder. She grabs me painfully by the elbow and marches me down to the office. The hallways are almost deserted, but nevertheless, I hold my head high. Tall-girl-with-the-blonde-hair walks by on the way to her locker and sees me. I look away and stare straight ahead. Sra. Sobre sits me down on a bench in the secretary’s office.
“Wait here.” she snaps. She walks in to explain what has happened to the principle. I feel a sharp pain in my chest. I miss my mom and my sister, I wish one of them was here to comfort me right now….
an arm wraps around my shoulders, “what happened?”
I force tears down as I explain to her that I’m too smart for Spanish 1 and I just wanna die and get it over with. She pats me on the back. When I finish, she whispers, “I’m praying for ya!” then, she steps out of the office.
Sra. Sobre walks out of the office, looking triumphant. “Get in there, kid.”
I slowly stand up and walk into his office.
He gives me a lecture on respect, and needing to put up with stuff I don’t think is important and how learning a foreign language is useful.
For petes sake! I already know more languages than you do! I even know more Spanish than the teacher!
The bell rings. “You’d better get to class.” He says, breaking into my thoughts. I nod, stand up, and walk out. Tall-Girl-with-the-blonde-hair walks by and asks me what happened.
“Lectured me about the usefulness of a foreign language.”
Tall-girl frowns, “yeah, I guess Sra. Sobre forgot to mention that you already know Spanish. She can be extremely mean sometimes. Come on, whats your next class?
The day pretty much goes by like that. I’m not that good at math, but when the math teacher hears from the Spanish teacher about me, he can’t help but attempt to embarrass me. (He and the Spanish teacher kind of have a thing going if you know what I mean) So then he gets me up to the board and starts doing algebra problems. Problems that I can’t do. So, after he and the whole class have gotten a chance to laugh at me, he finally lets me sit down.
My other classes don’t go so well either. By lunch I am so discouraged that I just want to cry, and I don’t know where to sit either.
As soon as I see the cafeteria I know I’m not gonna find a place. It is much bigger than anything I’ve ever been in, not to mention the noise level!!! I mean, I’m used to so much noise in the cafeteria that you can’t hear yourself think, but even so, this was louder than my old public school! I look around, no empty tables. I am just about to decide to eat lunch in the bathroom when a hand touches my shoulder. I whirl around, tense, but it is only tall-girl-with-the-blonde-hair.
“Hey, lets go eat someplace quieter.” puzzled, I follow her out of the cafeteria, down a long hallway to a door all the way at the end of it. Tall-girl opens the door of the darkened classroom. “This is the art classroom; Ms. Hacienda doesn’t‘ mind if we eat in here.” she takes her lunch, sits at a desk, then bows her head.
I sit down. She looks up. “You Christian?”
“Me too, I’m adventist.” that was probably a dumb thing to say, I realize seconds after I say it. How do I know I can trust her? Oh well. Better to die now anyway than to go through much more of this.
Tall girl raises her eyebrows, “really?”
I nod and take a bite of my sandwich, “your one too. I can tell. You don’t wear any Jewelry, I can’t see any cleavage, and you don’t look pregnant.”
She bursts out laughing, “are you sure I’m not pregnant?” then she laughs, “no, your right. But if your adventist, why are you here instead of jail?”
“I should ask the same thing of you.” I respond. Then I proceed to explain, “I left the church a long time ago, during which I got the piercings, and everything you see here. I only recently came back. The feds didn’t believe I was adventist so they took me away and put me here.” I burst into tears, “I wish they’d taken me with my mom and sister! Then I could at least be with them! And I could die with them too! I just… I just wanna die!”
Tall-Girl puts her arms around me. “I’m not in jail, because for some reason, the cops don’t think I’m adventist either,” she pauses, “only, they have no reason to think that. It was God, Holly, who told them I wasn’t. It was God who protected me, and its God who’s protecting you. For a reason.”
I spend the rest of lunch period in tears. The rest of the day goes by without a scene, and I manage to get through the day.
Tall-girl offers to drive me home. I start to tell her where I live.
“Don’t bother.” she says, I know where you live.”
“Mrs. Gladstone and I used to be good friends.”
As she drives, I tell her about math class, and how I don’t like my classes, I don’t like this school, and I want to die.
“Holly, God kept you alive for a reason.”
“yeah, to torture me as punishment for –”
“Holly!” she sighs as she pulls up to my house, “Just promise me one thing.” she says as I get out, “don’t commit suicide.”
I start to say that I won’t make promises that I can’t keep when all of a sudden I feel something in my abdomen. The baby can kick already???
“No,” I promise, “no suicide.” not until the baby is born. Then, I will take my life.
1Gringo is a term for American, kind of like “Yank”