Student Samples: High School
Jasmine, eleventh grade writer
She wakes up crying.
Heart racing, mouth gaping, hands fumbling for purchase on a bedside table and the empty pillow beside her, Sasha opens her eyes, tentatively, blearily, as if reluctant to see anything but darkness. As the stuccoed ceiling of her bedroom swims into focus, she reaches a well-manicured left hand farther along the side table toward her alarm clock, while the right hand, battered by tension, anxiety, and teeth, forms a vice-like grip on the pillow cover.
Sasha brings the clock to her face, but even as she mouths “Four AM,” all she can think is It’s cold, I’m cold, and then, I’m alone. Eventually, she summons the effort to lift herself into a sitting position against the hard surface of her maple headboard. A few errant strands of frizzy, unkempt hair fall out of her ponytail and into her face. She chooses to ignore them, chooses to stay stock still in her bed, duvet covered knees drawn tightly to her chest.
She is in a state of purgatory, unable to fall back asleep and unwilling to skulk into the master bathroom, to crawl out of the oversized sweatshirt that’s become her second skin the past five days, to face the sunken eyes and sallow skin of Mirror Sasha.
She inhales. Exhales. In, out, in, ring, ring ,ring.
The telephone’s mechanical melody is like a foreign language to her, but after the fifth chime, a connecting is made, and Sasha dives for the handset she had set--just in case--on the empty expanse of mattress beside her.
She clicks the ON button and clutches the receiver to her ear. A voice greets her from the other side, and suddenly five days of prayers and curses and fear are lodged in Sasha’s throat.
She chokes out, sobs out, “But the doctor said-”
The voice stops her, soothes her, calls her a name that makes Sasha smile so wide, a torrent of pain spills out and away from her before she can even notice.
“So then you’re okay. You’re going to be okay. Oh thank God, oh thank God, oh-” She repeats the mantra over and over to herself, all the while planning and replanning the next day, the next week, the next month. Tomorrow she will call her mother, Wednesday she will redo her nails and clean every surface in the house, the Sunday after next they will take a stroll through the park and watch the sun set.
Sasha feels ten pounds lighter as she all but skips to the bathroom. She takes off her sweatshirt. She lets down her hair. She looks in the mirror.
She wakes up screaming.
by Alexis, eleventh grade writer
Leaning on my apartment’s windowsill, I gazed dreamily at the watercolor canvas that was the sky, splashes of crimson here and bits of amber there. Across the street from my nook in the wall was beginning a concert in the park, where people gathered like moths to a flame. Chic, elegant dresses swayed and glittered on those flouncing hourglasses of women, lightly grazing their skin like butterfly wings. The shimmer from the stage created such a glow—an aura of sorts—the astronauts above didn’t miss a thing.
It was delightful to watch the people from my bird’s nest, cozy and comforting—and lonely. Scanning the crowd apathetically, I was drawn to a break in the trees, past the clearing chock full of uptowners. Peeking from the darkness was a set of weary, forlorn eyes, looking as misplaced as candy corn at Christmas. The ducts of these eyes had long ago dried, leaving no tears behind, no escape to the innocence of childhood. These eyes had explored the depths of the world’s shadows and were tainted with fear and longing; longing to live a life of dollhouses and play dates, of dress up trunks and tea parties.
A feeble, fleshy hand reached up and swept a lock of matted hair aside. Looking up, the child noticed me, perched on my branch in the warmth of my haven. I felt the color deepen in my cheeks, like a schoolboy working up ample courage to smile at his crush. Silence graced the little one’s lips, but I heard—rather saw—the cries for help from within. For within those caverns of its mind, the child knew not of cool, crisp sheets or home-cooked meals. Nor did it know of the solace of a coat, like the hominess of an old friend’s embrace. The child’s mind raced with worry, fearing things even grown people avoid.
Gradually, the child receded into the darkness, the light from its presence fading and consuming itself in the steady mass of obscurity and gloom.
(Click here to view/print Jasmine, Alexis, and three of their classmates' character sketches.)