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The Train Tracks


Lauren Heeke

The sound of the knock at the door interrupts my deep thoughts. “Who is it?” I croak.


        “It’s Mom. Can I come in?”


        “I guess,” I answer. The door creeps open and our matching brown eyes meet. Mom’s mascara is running down her face, and she hands me a tissue.


        I feel her steady arm work its way around as she joins me on the bed. It’s no use; nothing can comfort me. “Does everything happen for a reason?” I question.


        “I don’t know, Melissa.”


        “It isn’t fair!” I whisper, covering my face with my hands. Tears are streaming down my cheeks, and I know I look like a mess.


        “Sometimes, it seems as if it is all a dream, you know? Like it’s so bad it can’t happen,” Mom says, twirling a lock of her blonde hair. “This is one of those things. I know it hurts. Why would this happen?”  


        “Mom, this wasn’t meant to be. Why did God let this happen? Doesn’t He know how much it let us down? How much it hurts? How miserable it makes our lives?” I demand. I pull my hair clips out of my hair and lay down.


        “We have to accept this. It is reality, even if we aren’t sure how to handle it. Why don’t you try to sleep? I don’t know what else to say… I’m going to take a hot bath. Do you want Daddy to tuck you in?” Mom says.


        I shake my head no. Mom sets the box of tissues on my nightstand and leaves the room, the door creaking shut behind her.


        This can’t happen, it just can’t! I always thought it would never happen to me, I just thought it would happen to people I don’t even know. It’s all fake, just like Mom said. It seems like it can’t be real, like it’s some horrible fantasy. My best friend, my very best friend…


        My eyes glance around my pink room. They land on my corkboard, and I see the get-well card Lara sent me when I was sick. I also see the picture of us at the railroad track. Lara is smiling and I’m waving. Seeing that picture makes my mind drift off to the first day I met Lara…


        “Melissa, did you hear about the new girl in school? She sounds really nice,” my friend Cassie said, biting into the school’s mysterious tuna fish casserole.


        “Yeah. I heard. But what’s so nice about her?” I asked.


        “I’m not that sure, but Hannah said she’s a volunteer at a nursing home, and she helps out at a daycare.”


        “She’s not that great. I help my great-aunt Wanda, and I baby-sit tons of little kids,” I snapped. I had just gotten into trouble with a teacher for not having my homework, and I was not about to hear about how great the new kid was.  “Besides, has she ever skated down the biggest hill in town, while traffic was driving up it?”


        “Probably not… You are the biggest daredevil there is,” Cassie admitted, rolling her eyes and flipping her red hair behind her shoulder. “Well, just because you don’t want to meet her, doesn’t mean I don’t. And you wouldn’t mind too much if I asked her to eat with us too?”


        Before I could respond, Cassie leapt up from the table and dashed across the lunchroom to talk to the new girl, leaving me with two tuna fish casseroles. Perfect, huh? I was in a really bad mood, and I was about to have to eat with the new kid who would most likely ask me lots of questions.


        Before I had even taken three bites of my lunch, Cassie was back, with a tall, slim girl with blonde hair and brown eyes, just like me. “Hi,” she said, smiling. “I’m Lara. Cassie said you two wanted me to eat with you?”


        “Uh, yeah. I’m Melissa,” I answered. I scooted over to make room for her. She happily plopped down next to me, and of course, asked a question.


        “How long have you gone to school here?”


        “About two years,” I said through a bite of cornbread.


        “So you pretty much know your way around?” she assumed.


        “Pretty much, I guess,” I responded, starting to realize she was trying to make a new friend. I wasn’t too interested in her, so I added, “Cassie knows this place like the back of her hand, though. She knows lots of people, too.”


        “Uh-huh. I’ve lived here since I was born,” Cassie chirped. Her reddish freckles somehow had this way of shimmering when she was talking about herself.


        “Really? I lived in New York my whole life, but then we moved here,” Lara replied, her voice dropping on ‘moved here.’


        “New York? That’s cool. What’s it like?” I asked sarcastically, folding my arms. I think Lara sensed my negative attitude. Maybe I went too far; she was just trying to fit in.


        The new girl’s eyes zoomed right in on mine. Little did I know that she had a tart side, too. “New York is just about the best place in America. It’s also a great place to have an adventure,” she smarted.


        This made my eyebrows rise. Maybe she wasn’t so bad after all. “What kind of adventure?”


        “Anything from sneaking into the movies to taping a friend to the side of a bus,” Lara answered.


        “You… You did that?” Cassie stammered.     


        “Well, yeah!” Lara replied. “So what kinds of adventures are there around here, in Kentucky?”


        “One time I skated down a huge hill while traffic was driving up it,” I boasted.


        “For real?” Lara exclaimed.


        “Yup,” I said, an idea cooking up inside of me. “And if you want a real adventure, meet me here after the last period. Oh yeah, and Cassie, you can come, too.”


        Cassie raised her eyebrows and gave me the ‘no way’ look. “No, I won’t. I’m sure that whatever it is, it can do without me. I don’t want to get into any trouble, and I certainly don’t want to get hurt,” she stated.


        “All right, then,” I said, turning to Lara. “You in?”


        “Most definitely.”


        We all finished our lunch quickly and hurried on with the rest of our classes. After the last bell, I gathered my stuff from my locker and headed towards the cafeteria.


        Lara was already waiting for me. “Hey,” she said. “So where are we going?”


        “The railroad tracks.”


        “What will we do there?”


        A smile slipped on my lips. “You’ll see.”


        We left school and started toward the tracks. The sun poured over us, and by the time I had led her all the way there, we had both started to sweat.


        “Do you have to be home by a certain time?” I asked.


        “No,” Lara said. “Why?”


        “Good, because the rain doesn’t come for another ten minutes,” I explained.


        “Train? What are we going to do?!” Lara demanded.


        “We’ll see who can stand in front of the train the longest.” This was going really good. She wasn’t all that bad, and she seemed like she’d be a great friend, who actually got out and did stuff. I mean, well, I for one had never taped anyone to the side of a bus.


        Lara shifted uneasily. Her eyes darted from her feet to the tracks.


        “What’s the matter? You chicken?” I dared.


        “No! I just… I just… I’ve never done anything so dangerous, that’s all,” Lara said.


        “We could go back home, you know. Since you’re scared,” I chuckled.


        “I’m not scared. I was just surprised at how daring you are.”


        I couldn’t think of anything else to say, so I sat in the dirt and drew pictures with a stick. Lara did the same. After I had written my name and drawn a dozen smiley faces, the train’s whistle pierced the air.


        “It’s coming fast. Hurry up and stand by me on the track!” I instructed. I hopped over to the left side, with Lara at the right. The train was charging like a cheetah that hadn’t eaten in days.


        “Make sure your feet are in a place where you can move easily,” I yelled, since the train was so loud.


        Lara jerked beside me. “Oh my gosh Melissa! I can’t move my foot!”


        “Nice joke, Lara,” I screamed.


        “I’m not kidding! Help me! I’m gonna die! Melissa!” Lara screeched.


        I took my eyes off of the train for a second, only to find that Lara’s right foot was wedged between two pieces of wood, right where the train would come. It was about a hundred feet away.


        I jumped over to Lara’s side of the track and put my hands on her ankle, saying, “Pull, Lara, pull!” I looked up and glanced around the track, hoping to see somebody that could help. Trees, grass, flowers, bushes, dirt, but no humans.


        I tugged as hard as I could, but her foot wouldn’t budge. The train was nearing and we were both screaming our heads off. The steady chugging of it was pounding in my ears. Chug! Chug-chug-chug. Chug!


        The train driver must have seen us, because the brakes made a horrible, high-pitched, screeching noise. Of course it wouldn’t be able to stop in time.


        “I’m gonna die! I’m gonna die! Help me! PLEASE!” Lara pleaded.


        “PULL, LARA, PULL!”


        “I’m pulling!”


        I yanked her foot so hard she groaned of pain. The train was about ten feet away, screeching and blowing its horn, which only made things worse.


        “I’m sorry, Lara!” I exclaimed, but my new friend wasn’t about to give up.


        “One, two, three pull!” Lara hollered. She and I both tugged as hard as possible, and by some miracle, her foot came out just as the front of the train passed by.


        We were knocked backward and she fell on me. Then we both took a good, hard look at each other, and tears welled up in both of our eyes. “I’m so sorry!” I whispered.


        “I’m okay, I’m okay, I’m okay,” Lara panted, reassuring both of us. My eyes danced their way over to her foot.


        “Where’s your shoe?” I asked.


        “In the track. My foot came out, but my shoe didn’t.”


        “Thank goodness you’re okay!”


        “I know, I know.”


        “Some adventure, huh?” I said, a small smile appearing on my face.


        “Yeah, some adventure.”


        From then on, Lara and I were the best of friends, and our secret hangout was the railroad track.


      The train’s whistle blows in the distance, but I realize that it is just the dog whining.


      It seems like my life will never be cheerful again. How will I ever find another best friend? I want Daddy; he always seems to help.


      I sit back up and make my way to the door. I open it, and somehow my numb legs carry me to my parents’ room. “Daddy?” I call.


      “Yes, baby?” Daddy says. I scurry over to him, and his strong arms still my shaking body. I feel his unshaven face scrape the top of my head.


      “I love you, Daddy.”


      “I love you, too, Melissa.”


      “Why did that stupid cement truck have to crash into Lara’s car?” I ask.


      “Because God wanted Lara to come to Heaven and enjoy being up there. He wouldn’t want you to be sad, and neither would Lara. Do you think Lara would want you to be sad?”


      “No.” I think about what Lara’s reaction to this would be. She would say, “Oh, come on. I’m still with you spiritually, even if my body isn’t. It’s just another adventure. You can deal with it, can’t you? After all, you did skate down a huge hill while traffic was driving up it!”


      This makes me feel better, and I’m not so sad. I wipe my eyes and grin a little. Even though Lara’s body is lifeless, doesn’t mean her soul is gone. And she wouldn’t want me to gripe over it, would she? No, she’d want me to dry my eyes, stick up my chin, and say, “So what adventure is next?”

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