Underground

by Cayla Joftus, age 12
Underground Cayla lives in Maryland and likes Harry Potter.

“I let my arms float to my side

Weightless due to the gentle breeze

I close my eyes once more

And imagine that I am a bird

Soaring aimlessly through the sky

Only attached to the ground by

The cool ocean crashing

Against my ankles

Burying my feet in the moist sand”

Part 1:

The waves greeted the shore with a crash

They pulled away

They crashed

They pulled away

 

The heated rays of light find my skin

And glows down upon me

And when I look up at the magnificent ball of light,

It warms my face and closes my eyes leaving light

Dancing in my vision

 

I let my arms float to my side

Weightless due to the gentle breeze

I close my eyes once more

And imagine that I am a bird

Soaring aimlessly through the sky

Only attached to the ground by

The cool ocean crashing

Against my ankles

Burying my feet in the moist sand

 

The waves soaked my feet and ankles

Changing the navy blue on my skirt to black

Spraying the ocean mist in my eyes

 

As the breeze turns from gentle to powerful

I lean against it

And rely on it to hold me up

 

The calming neverending sound of the waves crash on the shore

The dark blue water reflects my personality

Mysterious

Dark

With no light shining through

The water tries to pull my toes in as the uneven sand washes over my feet

The smell of saltwater lingers in the air

And gusts of wind dry my tongue as bits of salt fall in

It tastes so familiar

Because it tastes like tears

 

The jagged rocks bounce off my feet

Cut through the sand

Twist through the water

Land mid-twist into the sand

While others got dragged and pulled

Back into the deep blue

 

The sand sticks to my feet when I step out of the ocean range

And the rocks that were once in the ocean pricked my feet

My feet slipped into my worn shoes

And they dragged as I got farther from the water

 

I passed the rusting railing and shell covered steps

I passed the old playground with the fading color

I passed the bike rack which no one has ever used

 

I got to the area that no one ever sees

I got to the area that is easily missed

I got to the area where if you look back it isn’t there any more

 

Inside is a grassy area

Where a giant tree is growing in the center

One of those trees with beautiful flowers in the spring

Plenty of colorful leaves in the fall

Manages to stay unique in the winter

 

Inside is a colorful area

Where flowers looked as if someone had taken the seeds in their hand

And threw them about carelessly

That are purple and blue in the spring

Yellow and orange in the fall

Becoming bright pink and white before dropping their seeds and dying out

Leaving the next generation to take over the area

 

My hand lays on the bark

My fingers tracing over the patterns

My palm sticky against the cool wood

My breath sucked away

Again

 

I stare at the rock off to the side of the area

That leads me away from my freedom

Into the captivity of the place

Away from my happiness

Into my sorrow

 

My watch ticks without a stop

Continuing the change of the numbers

Dragging me closer to reality

Ticking

Ticking

Ticking

 

One final look around marks my goodbye

My promise to return

My hatred to leave

 

My hand leaves the cool bark

My fingers abandon the jagged pattern

My breath returns with a jolt

 

I remove the smaller rocks behind the bigger one

Kneel down to duck under the larger rock

That separates fantasy from reality

 

My watch beeps

5 minutes

A look of horror replaces my longing

4 minutes

Carefully the small rocks are replaced

3 minutes

Running as quickly as I can

2 minutes

The only door with no security cameras doesn’t open

1 minute

Footsteps are approaching

30 seconds

Ducking beneath the window to remain unseen

15 seconds

“Avia, come with me,”

No more time

 

Part 2:

“Why were you outside?” he questioned

I remain silent

“I asked you a question!” he demanded

No answer

“Fine, I’ll call your parents then,” he said calmly

“No!” I jumped up

“Then why were you outside?” he roared.

“It was beautiful,” I whispered

 

He had laughed

I had held back angry tears

He had given out punishments

I had taken them

 

Cleaning the cafeteria

Erasing pencil markings off desks

The usual

 

My roommate was angry of course

“Why did you not take me with you?” she raged.

My clothes stank of cafeteria food

My fingers covered in graphite

And my friend was angry that she wasn’t invited

 

I’ll tell you about my roommate

Her name is Saphina

The stringy dirty-blond hair is always in a bun or braid

The pale blue eyes tell you a story words could not

The cherry red lips only smile for me

 

The place we are confined in is considered a school

The name sewn on to our uniforms is Taylor’s Institute for Troubled Girls

The names they call us are nothing close to reality

If I was troubled, then they were kind

 

None of the girls who went to Taylor’s Institute for Troubled Girls are troubled

They are simply misunderstood

They are no more than unwanted

They are seen as clearly as a shadow in the night

 

In the morning 104 alarms ring

In the morning 104 uniforms are put on

In the morning 104 girls are in the newly clean cafeteria

In the morning 104 girls plug their noses as they shove food into their skinny bodies

In the morning 104 girls are herded to class

In the morning 104 girls wish that they were understood and wanted

In the morning 104 wishes aren’t fulfilled

 

Classes are dull

Eyelids droop

The monotone continues

Minds wander

 

The concrete cube only changes for the black board and flimsy door

The marks on the blackboard only smudged

Never fully erased

 

Rows and columns of desks

Arranged so no one can talk to each other without the teacher noticing

Stiff bodies from stiff chairs

Knees cramping from staying in the same position

 

Dates of starts and ends of famous wars sprawl on the board

Names of heroes and villains bounced off the walls

Attention of girls slipping

Sliding

Into their own world

 

No hands are raised

No questions are asked

No tone changes

No attention returns

 

The bell brings the girls back to earth

Homework passed out

No one knowing any of the content

 

During lunch is the only time the girls ever talk in a teacher’s presence

Everyone seems to be the same in there

But none of us are friends

We are all family

 

Saphina and I do our homework together in the evening

Our pencils only stubs

Erasers covered in pencil markings

 

Curfew is 9 p.m

Which is the time the history teacher scouts the hallway for wandering girls

Footsteps echoing throughout the empty hall

Until finally they die away

Which is when I poke my head out the door

 

No one is in the hall except me

Which is confirmed by the history teacher’s door closing in the distance

I tip-toe two doors down

Which was left slightly open

I creep inside

No noise emitted

 

I crawl through the tall dry grass

Avoiding the view of the headmasters window

Quietly and silently

 

One by one the rocks are moved

Not daring to stand up

Slithering through the giant rock

Turning halfway through to replace the rocks

 

The area with the beautiful flowers is displayed in front of me

The area with the magnificent tree is proudly standing

My barefeet jog to the flowing greens that mark the beach

 

As soon as I step away from the flowing greens

The familiar sand is warm against my feet

I walk over to the steps and look at the pathway

Someone touches my arm

“Thanks,” she whispers

Soon they are only a shadow in the night

 

Creeping back to the school

On my hands and knees

Too dark to see too far ahead but light enough to see where I was going

 

The window right next to my door room is propped open

I grab the bar on the wall to pull myself in

And sneak into my dorm where Saphina is waiting

To hear the adventurous tale

 

In the morning 103 alarms ring

In the morning 103 uniforms are put on

In the morning 103 girls whisper in the cafeteria

In the morning 103 girls plug their noses as they shove food into their skinny bodies

In the morning 103 girls are herded to class

In the morning 103 girls wish that they were understood and wanted

In the morning 103 wishes aren’t fulfilled

 

None of the teachers notice

They never do

They never take attendance

And few learn our names

They are there to speak

We are there to listen

 

The monotone never stops

The grey walls next to the grey desks

With the grey door and the once black now grey chalkboard

You have to touch everything with caution in this prison

For the fear of it falling apart

The smell of chalk mixed with boredom and misery fills the air

The taste of breakfast or lunch still lingers bringing the taste of vomit as well

The taste of blood as tongues and cheeks and lips are bit

To prevent getting up

And leaving

For we have no purpose here

Or anywhere

 

In history class I sit in front of where she should be

The empty desk hidden amongst the others

My feet fidgeting hoping the empty desk wouldn’t be noticed

The clock ticks slowly

The lecture on who-knows-what continues

Trying to make my skinny body wider

Homework is being explained

Trying to look taller than my almost-five-feet self

For a fraction of a second no one talks

The bell rings

We’re freed

I succeeded

 

Part 3:

Tomorrow is Spring break

It’s when we leave the hatred of our school

And greet the hatred of our homes

 

There’s a train that brings us from and to the school

Stops at each one of our houses

Making the trip about two hours long

 

My house is the third to last

One of the farthest away

But still in the same state

One by one girls are dropped off to their houses

None of their parents are there to greet them

 

When the train screeches to a halt near my backyard

I take my bags from the upper shelf

Sling my backpack over one shoulder

And my suitcase in hand

I push open the doors

To find a greyed sky

Growing old

 

I enter a temporarily abandoned house

And walk up the perfectly polish stairs to what is considered my room

I lay on my couch and pull my laptop out of my backpack

Open it to my email and begin to type

One by one they reply

My proposal is sent to the whole school

None disagree

 

I go downstairs for a snack

My house rings with silence

The colorful colors inside looks dull and grey

It smell of cleaner and supposedly perfection burns inside my nose

Everything is perfectly smooth and every corner is perfectly sharp

My tongue tingles from the emptiness of the air

From the loss of love that my mother had brought

Now buried underground

 

I go back upstairs to eat my snack

And wait

I wait for something to happen

I wait

I will continue to wait just like I always have

Because nothing seems to happen

 

Then

The door opens and closes

The only sound audible is footsteps

A coat being hung up

Shoes being taken off

A bag being put down

My father is home

 

He doesn’t come to see me

He should know I’m here

Then again, it’s him

 

An hour later the door opens again

This time the footsteps join the sound of clicking footsteps

Clicking footsteps I’ve never heard before

Keys jingle

A phone rings

Something big has happened while I was gone

 

I walk downstairs from my room carefully

Trying not to make any sound

I peer over the railing to see this new stranger

 

Her hair is dyed blonde

Her eyes are brown

Her v-neck comes down a bit more than they usually do

Her skirt is so tight, I think it may burst

 

Socks cover my feet, muffling my footsteps

My dull brown hair is pulled into a messy ponytail

I walk into the kitchen where my father is talking to the stranger

For two minutes they don’t see me standing in the shadows

It’s as if I was one of them

 

“Avia,” my father said, nodding in my direction

The stranger looked startled that there was another person in the house

I stared at her

My father sighed

“Avia, this is my wife,” my father said

 

I wasn’t surprised that my father had remarried

I wasn’t surprised that she looked like that

That didn’t mean I had to be happy about it

 

My father didn’t tell me that he got remarried

He didn’t tell me that there would be another person living in my house

To him I was a shadow

Nothing more than part of the real image

This is what the teachers were supposed to see me as, not my own father

There were so many emotions wrapped up into one at that moment

I guess you could call me disappointed

 

At dinner, we ate together

We slept in the same house

When they were in the pool I was outside

He never talked to me

He never called my name

He never acknowledged my presence

 

I was third to be picked up on the train

We all had the option to put our things in the back car

When the train stopped for me both the girls came out to help me with my bag

I didn’t need the help

It was all part of the plan

 

By the time we were at the second to last stop

Most of the girls were no where to be seen

The conductor couldn’t see us

Much less wanted to anyway

At the last stop I went to ‘help’ the girl with her bag

And went to join the other 101 girls

 

When we arrived at school to conductor stopped

He didn’t come see if we were getting out or not

After 15 minutes of us

Holding our breaths and clutching each other the train drove away

With us in it

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