Table of ContentsRequired Prompt…………………………………………………………………………………2Declutter……………………………………………………………………………………………7They Mock Me……………………………………………………………………………………6Killer Words (excerpt)……………………………………………………………………………………………………..9Enigmas (excerpt)………………………………………………………………………………………………………….12She’s Asleep………………………………………………………………………………………16Speak For Me……………………………………………………………………………………17Required Prompt “Write a short story about two characters who are polar opposites of each other.””God,” murmured Rees under his breath.There was a rhythm to the quiet shiver of trees crowding the sides of the back alleyway of a lonely gas station store. The hush of fluttering leaves was usually accompanied by the occasional slow exhale and shuffle when Rees readjusted his buzzing legs, a cigarette balancing between his fingers. Now, however, just as he had slid down the wall with a fresh pack in his hand, the rhythm was ruined. Rees’ head tipped back until his head hit the brick wall, his eyes shutting closed. The obnoxious howls surely turned the corner to the alleyway. His alleyway. If this part of town wasn’t so deserted, he would sound loads more greedy, but nevertheless, it was still his. He sighed deeply and without remorse.Footsteps that usually strolled past onto the sidewalk strutted into the narrow alley, their stomps quick and messy. Their uncoordinated steps matched the screeching laughs that disrupted the almost numbing ambiance. Rees shifted his eyes to the sound, the messy curls that hung over his face cutting his vision into hundreds of pieces, but he could still make out the figures striding towards him on his right.He took a quick drag of his cigarette. The figures were two boys his age, he guessed, but were so bright, somehow- in a way that everything they wore or did or said had them clashing against nearly everything in view. The boys were clad in loose tanks and shorts, clearly dressed for the warm summer afternoons, but seemed unfazed by the chilling breeze that had replaced it as the sun set. One of the boys had a pack of cigarettes dangling from his hand.Rees had just begun to become confused when the boy holding the pack turned to meet his gaze. Rees had just taken in his disgustingly perfect sandy hair when he realized he recognized this boy. Morgan. His eyes immediately ached to roll back into his head, and he groaned internally as the boy’s eyes quirked. His clean, clearly in-trend shoes clicked towards him, another boy trailing behind him Rees had seen him around at school.”Hey,” he called cooly, seizing him up. Rees’ pale face and wrists popped out from the dark sea of his clothes and shaggy hair. “You go to Garcia,” he observed smoothly.His fingers slowly tapping at his cigarette, Rees didn’t make an effort to move the hair from his eyes. “Went to Garcia.”They had graduated a week ago.”Right,” muttered the boy in slight annoyance. Morgan paused to seize him up. “You, uh, you get in anywhere?” He said smoothly, smirking, eyeing Rees’ graying jeans and scuffed Doc Martens. “Yeah, actually,” breathed Rees, sitting up and running his hand through his hair. He looked up at the boy. “You?” he asked, his eyebrows raised.”Uh,” he blurted, straightening up. “Um, taking a gap year.”Rees clearly eyed the box in his hand. “Right.” The boy’s tightened on the box and Rees had to fight a smile. “You wanna light?”Rees swore he saw his eyes widen. He took a smug drag. “Actually-” muttered his friend, reaching for his pocket. “No, no,” Morgan stopped him quickly, whispering.Rees exhaled calmly and innocently.Morgan’s fingers fumbled for his pack, ripping it open and pulling one out shakily. “Here,” he said gruffly, stepping closer to where Rees sat. He pulled his lighter from his pocket, flicking it on. Morgan placed the cig between his lips unsurely. He knelt down to Rees’ level, his eyes darting.Rees lit the cigarette. He took a quick drag and stifled a cough. He stood up abruptly, backing up and pacing as he forced a choke down. The other boy tried to keep cool and leaned forward to get his cig lit, the yellow bright yellow lighter apparent in his fist in the darkness. The boys stood in silence, the smoke of nearly only Rees’ cigarette seeping into the night sky, much to his continued amusement. “Let’s go,” Morgan murmured abruptly. His arm hung low, the cigarette dangling on the tips of his fingers as if he detested it. “See ya,” he said quietly, his eyes shifted.He watched them turn to leave. “Hey,” Rees called, tilting his head. Morgan turned.”You, uh, sure you even want that?” Rees gestured to the cigarette hanging by his thigh. He had to fight back a smirk.The boy’s eyes narrowed. “Yeah.”Declutterdeclutter, declutter.stop, Frida, think, try to declutter.the music in your ears won’t calm anything, it won’t drown anythingit won’t keep anything in. squeeze your eyes tight, Frida, stick up your chin.declutter, Frida, declutter…but you haven’t found anyone trustworthy yet to help you clean up.no friend, no counselor- you can’t even tell your own mother.declutter, declutter.but god, why bother?because there’s a constant buzzing in your head, your ears, your chest. like leaves beyond the window you don’t dare cross- you flutter.declutter, frida, declutter!but first, you have to declutter to declutter to declutter. declutter yourself- stretch the tightened muscles in your limbs, fix the tangles in your hair. declutter your space- your desk, your mountain of sheets, the clothes in your chair.shut up, Frida, shut up! you can declutter this way.you need to shut up.shut up your thoughts- silence the voices in your head, their echoes never ending. shut up your own voice- god, you’re so dramatic. shut up the voices outside your door, the voices so cruelly emphatic.sleep, Frida, rest. then you can declutter.but first, to have to sleep to sleep to sleep. rest your mind- rest the thoughts, the worries-they’re miniscule things that you put some ridiculous meaning to.you need to rest your arms, your legs, still buzzing with your mind sleeping.they have ants crawling in them, at your trembling bones they chew.but Frida, nothing is working. nothing is shutting up, nothing is sleeping. your mind and your body are still about, jerking-so you leave.cry, now, Frida, just cry- so you can leave your mind.you’ve tried to mend your head, you’ve tried to declutterwhy don’t you just cry?drown your thoughts with wails and whines,because crying helps you leave. crying breaks you down, crying helps you ease.keep in mind, Frida, you’re not decluttering-you never will declutter your mind, you will only let it be.you’re pushing it down, deep into a gutterwhere thoughts rot and and feelings feed.declutter, frida, declutter. god, why can’t you declutter?you are the epitome of a mess.They Mock Mewhen I sit down to dinner with a drunken man, I already know my fate.I shift uncomfortably in a weak wooden chairand realize I’m late to eating early without him- the being that I so confusingly hate.today I don’t hate so unclearly- thinking of the cruel words he screamsmakes me clench my eyes until it blinds me, just nearlyinstead they burn horribly with pain and anger,and hot tears run down my cheeks, tauntingly searing.anger is searing my eyes, my nose, my throat.I want to push my plate away, but I breathe in and try to stay afloat.my food goes down quickly, and there are seconds I’m savingthat will go to time in the bathroom, where I’ll cough on my tears and gag and choke.it’s all too much, I want to get away-my room, the bathroom, the hallway, the garageall places I can’t avoid chaos if I stay. the chaos- it’s in my head and fifty feet from mebut distance never matters, anyway.the chaos feels so close, the shouts sound loudly from afar,as if I were standing right at a doorthat is left mockingly ajar. in these moments, I always realizethere is a busy freeway in my head where familiarity and comfort come togetherand I don’t have a car.Killer Words (excerpt)Celeste trudged up the hill of the front of school grounds, its green grass damp with dew. She quickly tucked her red hair behind her ears. Every breath she took was shaky as she tried to push burning anger back down into her throat. She walked up into the clearing of the courtyard, the main buildings standing tall behind clusters of trees. Their leaves were turning golden, and her beaten up Chuck Taylors pressed over fallen ones on the uncut lawn. Celeste glanced towards the side of the main building, where their tree stood, too tall and all too familiar. Ivy and Finn sat under the tree, conversing vividly, Ivy’s big eyes darting, her mouth moving with them. Finn was grinning wildly. Celeste scowled. God, they think they’re such morning people, she thought, rolling her eyes. At the tree, Ivy leaned to grab her orange bag, turning forward, and as to not be seen by her best friend, Celeste quickly darted behind some steps at the door of the hall.Celeste sighed quietly, dropping her bag and sitting down on the concrete, the bright sky casting blue hues on the ground. The ground was cold and hard. She reached into her bag and pulled out her phone, clicking it on and going to her messages. Despite the cool morning air, her ears went red as she opened the conversation she swore she would never touch again. It was with Ivy. She raised her gaze distractedly, scowling again. I am never talking to her again. She thought about it for a second, imagining her new life as a free woman whose friends could be the squirrels that ran around trees at lunch. She straightened her shoulders and shrugged to herself, feeling a surge of confidence. Her eyes narrowed. Then again, she guessed she would say hi if she saw Ivy in class or something. Celeste raised her chin. Yeah, I’ll say hi. I’m not going to be that girl, she thought. She looked down at her screen. There were dozens of little text bubbles were crowded on her side of the chat, with only one on Ivy’s. Celeste nearly scoffed out loud. God, she had the nerve, she thought once again.The night before, Celeste had been sprawled on her bed, her comforter scattered with folders and highlighters. Her red hair was fanned out on her pillow, and she rubbed at her tired eyes. She had been texting a girl she knew from her science class about homework. Celeste wasn’t asking her best friend, of course. Ivy never had it done before 11 pm. The girl from science had been giving the homework to Celeste–plus an elaborate explanation in about 50 different ways–when she finally groaned and typed a thank-you, wondering if she could ever escape this girl’s never-ending babbling. Thank you again, sorry for bothering you, she wrote, rolling her eyes. I was going to ask my friend Ivy, but she never does homework anyway.Oh, Ivy! She responded almost immediately. Celeste sat up, collecting the loose papers on her bed.”Yep, that’s her,” sang Celeste quietly to herself, wondering if there were any other Ivy’s at their school.She’s in my journalism class, the girl sent. She’s trying to get me to put some sort of “thriller” piece she wrote in the arts section. Either extremely detailed murder fiction is some new contemporary trend, or she’s trying to make it sound like it as an excuse. It’s so gory!Celeste’s eyes widened, and she dropped the papers. They landed on the edge of the bed, sliding down the comforter until they floated to her floor. Her fingers flew to the keyboard. What?! Her ears went red faster than she clicked send. The bell rang, and Celeste stood up, glancing back at their tree nervously. Ivy and Finn were gone. She exhaled deeply, tugging her jacket over her hands and starting quickly to homeroom. It was a strange feeling, being content that Ivy wasn’t there with her. Celeste smiled to herself, sliding hands into her pockets.”Cel!”Celeste stopped in her tracks. That voice was almost always in the back of her mind. She grimaced, her eyes falling closed. She wanted to disappear, but she just kept walking, ignoring it. “Celeste!” Ivy swung her arm onto her shoulder. Celeste could hear her grinning. “Where were you?””Stop,” muttered Celeste, shrugging her arm of harshly.”What?” Ivy exclaimed. She was fake pouting now. “What’s your damage?” She grinned and pulled at Celeste’s hair. Her head knocked back. “You fiery redheads.””Stop!” Celeste yelled, swatting her hand away. She turned around curtly to see Ivy, her hazel eyes widened. Finn stopped, trailing behind her, looking up wildly. He looked anxious. “Oh my God, Ivy–” he murmured, his eyebrows pulling together. “I was just kidding!” She interrupted, stepping back. “You know I love your hair–” “I don’t want to talk to you,” said Celeste simply. “I tried to, yesterday, but honestly, Ivy? You’re pathetic.” “I don’t want to text you,” groaned Ivy. “I’d rather talk like normal people do.” Celeste felt like exploding. She thought about every single call after call that she sat through the previous night, waiting for Ivy to pick up. She was fuming. Brown eyes met brown for a second. Celeste spoke in the quietest mutter, her voice deep. “Don’t talk to me. I swear to God, Ivy, leave me the hell alone before I slap your disgusting face off.” Celeste turned quickly before Ivy could say anything, shrugging her backpack onto her shoulders. She flung her red hair out from under her bag. They didn’t follow her as she walked away, and the click of her footsteps was only accompanied by the soft rustle of the trees. Enigmas (excerpt)It was miraculously Friday night, and the black velvet sky outside stood still and cool. Cole sat at the kitchen table, which was incredibly minuscule, but it fit him and Luna and that’s all that mattered. It was home. (Plus, he was sure that if he got a new one, Luna would frown at the unfamiliarity, not even knowing why she hated it. To be fair, he would too.)Cole was sipping a beer, staring out the open window, the moon shining on piles of leaves in front of the cabin, finished reports scattered on the table. The TV murmured, and he gazed to where Luna sat on the couch. A smile rose to his lips.She sat cross-legged in front of the TV, her favorite quilt draped upon her knees. He knew it was her favorite soap, as she always scurried to the living room at exactly 8:30 pm. She never missed it. However, this evening, it seemed like she was.Earlier, all of her friends had come to the house, and they had convinced Cole to let them play outside, the day rather golden despite it being the middle of fall. Stay close, Cole had warned, fighting a grin at her excitement. Don’t go far, okay? We won’t, Luna took his hands and nodded enthusiastically, a giant grin on her face. We’ll be right here.Luna had probably used every ounce of energy in her jumping into piles of leaves and chasing Parker. God, that McNeely kid had her strung on a string. So, tired out of her mind, Luna sat slouched on the couch, the TV casting rainbow glows on her face. She kept falling in and out of sleep, her eyes slipping closed as she tilted, falling onto her side. She pulled herself up again, her eyes shooting open until they would start to become hooded and it would repeat.Cole laughed as he watched her. It was endearing, her curls messily falling against the couch and her little hands clutching at her quilt. He got up from the table and walking over to the couch. “Luna,” he whispered. Her eyes opened and she sat up. “Hmm?” she asked sleepily, her eyes squinting at the TV.”Time for bed.”Her dad leaned over to turn the soap off. “Noo,” she whispered as the screen went black.”You’re tired, baby,” he murmured, leaning over to pick up her quilt, the ends draping onto the floor. He folded it messily. He eyed Luna’s slow blinks. “Hm? You’re falling asleep.”She frowned for a second, but turned to Cole and reached out her arms, really not bothered that he turned the TV off at all.”C’mon,” he whispered, lifting her onto his chest. She settled her head on his shoulder, her nose nudging his neck. She breathed in. He smelled like coffee and something that she could only identify as home. Even in her drowsy half asleep consciousness, she felt like the safest girl alive. Cole walked into Luna’s room, his paces slow and rhythmic. He was so warm, she felt as if she were melting into his arms. She pressed her face into his shoulder, her eyes fluttering at the feeling. Her arm ran sleepily up and down his back, following on the crease of his shirt. He got to her bed, leaning down to throw the bundle of soft covers back and bending down to place Luna down gently on the sheets. She sighed, curling into them, and Cole brought up the blankets carefully, tucking them up to her chin. She sighed and pressed her cheek to the pillow. Little curls scattered across it.Cole brought up the chair that was always next to her bed and sat. She looked up at him with sleepy eyes. He smiled, reaching up to push her head of curls back. He did it over and over, his rough hands gently running against her scalp making her Luna’s eyes droop.”Fun day?” he muttered, smiling softly. Luna hummed, nudging her head against his hand. “That McNeely kid wore you out, didn’t he?”She just smiled. “It was so much fun.””I bet,” he watched as she brought her hand up to rub her eyes. “Want me to read?” he murmured, grabbing the brand new book from her bedside table. He already knew her response.”Yeah,” she whispered, tilting her head up to him.Cole opened the book and looked down to her. His hand went back to her head, returning to the soothing push of her curls. Luna’s eyes slipped closed. He knew her like the back of his hand. When her dad’s eyes shifted to the book, Luna gazed up at him. The rough stubble on his jaw glinted, his hooded blue eyes shifting across the cover. She fought back a smile that she didn’t know the purpose of.”Anne of Avonlea…”It was the last thing Luna heard before she slipped into the hum of his voice reading softly, a jumble of words flowing through her ears. Everything went black, and in a snap, she was awake again and the chair was creaking. She felt her dad’s hands press down on either side of her, and he kissed her forehead gently. Her eyes were heavy. She didn’t bother to open them. “Goodnight, baby.”His words swam in her ears, and the light went out, and she fell back into the black velvet.She’s AsleepI press my ear against the door. I sigh, creeping back to my bed silently-the voices don’t sound familiar.to escape what i dread, I can’t be awake anymore.not wanting to greet the guests sounds rude, pretending to be asleep sounds sillier.I shove my earbuds in my ears quicklycurl my fingers, sprawl my arms, bend my knees.I become as paralyzed as possible,only limited to timed, slow breaths, and carefully swallowing thickly.my ears ring and throb as I try to feel at ease.my eyes flutter closedmy heart pounds in my throat.footsteps come near-the doorknob turns. and only God knowsinvisible glue is holding me together like a shameful coat.Speak for MeI can’t speak.I’m muted to my thoughts. it’s what my therapist tells me. “You’re not talking,” she says, “open up.” But I’ll be the loudest at the lunch table, talking about anything and everything except the thoughts that make me who I am, the ones that make me cry and panic. All that rushes out are jokes and laughs. There’s no practice there, so when I’m asked how I felt in the prior week, there’s a barrier at my lips, unable spit out a word. It’s an answer my therapist needs. I am baffled, speechless, although I shouldn’t be—I’ve recited my breakdown to her in my head the times I was sobbing in the restroom, on the verge of screaming at the dinner table, wanting to run out of class at school. There’s another feeling that comes from it: a feeling of guilt. It rises in a freezing silence, her eyes boring down on me, mine onto my hands on my lap. My hands are always moving, but I don’t make an effort to stop them because I know that when people busy their hands, it means they’re hiding something. I know I’m hiding something. I used to think that fact was nonsense until I started realizing I pulled at my hangnails while I was looking down at all of the words in my throat. I didn’t want to keep them down, but they shrunk into the most unreachable parts of me. In the end, my fumbling fingers talked for me, but the language they were speaking was incoherent.