—— Author’s Note ——
Thanks for checking out this page. So, what you need to know: “The World of Before,” is a short story I wrote. I wanted to share it with all of you. If you have any feedback, something you really liked or thought could be better, feel free to share in the comments. I’m always looking for feedback. Thank you again for reading. I hope you enjoy it.
THE WORLD OF BEFORE
I would not cry.
Except my crushed heart wanted to push the tears out of my eyes. It wouldn’t do any good, it never did.
“Colton.” Mom pushed open the door. I didn’t even acknowledge her presence. There was no way I was going to look into her green eyes and remember. Instead, I buried my head under my pillow.
“Supper’s ready,” Mom said.
The mattress shifted as Mom sat on my bed. Why wouldn’t she leave me alone? She always wanted to talk. Not me. The way I saw it, not talking, not thinking, about it meant I could push all that pain and anguish deep down until all I felt was numbness. Until all I felt was nothing.
“Not hungry,” I grumbled, the pillow muffling everything.
“Leave me alone!” I shot up, locking eyes with her. That was a huge mistake. Her eyes took me through time back to when life made sense. Back to before my world crumbled around me.
Slowly, she stood. She was almost gone…I was almost rid of my memories.
Then she abruptly turned around. “How much longer are you going to be like this?” Her voice cracked, and I would’ve felt myself crack, too, if I hadn’t driven myself into feeling nothing. “This isn’t going to bring him back.”
There was nothing I could say, so I just turned to face one of the dull-colored walls. The sun peeked through the blinds covering the lone window, spotlighting the photo. It was the one thing on my cluttered desk standing up.
Mom sighed, knowing nothing she’d say would change me. Hopefully, this would be her last try. “If you get hungry, there’s pizza downstairs.”
My bedroom door closed again, which gave me the freedom to crawl out of bed and walk over to that desk. To that picture. Each step closer was like a step out of reality and into the World of Before. That’s why every step broke the ice frozen around my heart.
I grabbed the photo. My dad was carrying me on his shoulders, a huge grin covering his dirt-stained face. We had just hiked a steep trail, and you could see the victory we felt shining through our eyes. My heart pounded; we would never take another hike again. I slammed my eyes shut, but it didn’t push away the desire to just have one more day together.
I would give anything for Dad to open my door and tell me the heart attack never happened. That it was all just a terrible nightmare.
I even turned to the door. Waiting. But I knew he wasn’t coming. My hands tightened around the picture’s frame as my eyes forced me to stare at that photo and remember. I could almost feel the grass beneath my bare feet and the sun shining on that perfect day….
I screamed and hurled the frame across the room as hard as I could. Glass shattered, but it was nothing compared to the shattering of my heart. I was just as broken and unfixable.
Mom rushed in, but I wasn’t staying. Pushing past her, I hurried down the steps, breaking into a full run once I made it outside.
Smoke stung my nose. Flames from a campfire off in the distance rose into the night, dancing their way around the midnight blue sky. A bunch of teens were gathered around that fire. Their laughter pierced my ears, and their joy stung my heart. Before Dad’s death that would’ve been me out there. I would’ve been talking with my friends and eating as many s’mores as I could grab.
Josh, a friend of mine, was sitting on a log close to the campfire, constantly checking his phone for recent texts as usual. Weston was close by, and Nate stood off to the side, far away from the laughter emitting off the teens. He was probably oblivious to the world around him, engrossed into whatever words shone from his book beneath his flashlight’s gaze.
I crouched behind a bush, watching. How many of my friends were waiting for me to show up? What if I did? Would they just look at me with pity hiding in the depths of their eyes?
“Are you hiding?” someone whispered.
I jerked around, almost losing my balance. A girl hovered over me with hands on her hips and a carefree grin. She looked like a girl who knew exactly where she was going in life. Was I that way three months ago? Life before Dad died was a blurr sometimes. Like my mind didn’t start working until the day I came home from school to face that crushing news.
“I’m not hiding.” I stood up.
“Looks like it to me,” the girl remarked.
I pushed past her. This was a horrible decision, coming here. What was I even thinking?
“Colton?” someone yelled, disturbing the night’s peaceful air. I whipped around and pushed down my instinct to run. Nate raced up to me. “Colton, what’s up? I didn’t expect to see you here.”
That’s because I wasn’t supposed to bring myself here. “I was actually just leaving.”
“How…how are you doing?” Nate ran to catch up to me as I began walking away. Whoever that girl was, she was gone now. How could I make Nate disappear with her? Or at least leave me alone? If I had wanted to talk, I would’ve been at that party.
“I haven’t seen you around lately. Outside of school, that is.” And this was how the rest of the hour went. Nate tried to talk, and I just went into an easy game of ignoring him. When he finally took the cue and left, air came rushing back to me. I was free. I could breathe now, without having to worry about keeping the act up that everything was alright. Nothing would ever be okay again.
The moon was high in the sky, and I needed to get home before Mom got too worried. But my feet were stuck to the forest’s floor, and my mind was trapped in the endless cycle of the last day I had with Dad. It all happened too suddenly, and I was left empty, desperate to just see him smile once more.
That girl was back with that same joyous smile and those same gleaming eyes.
“What do you want?” I snapped.
The girl looked off to the moon hanging above us. “I’m Eva.” Turning back, she locked eyes with me. Her smile faded slowly. “I overheard what had happened.”
She didn’t need to say anymore, for I knew exactly what she was talking about. Quickly, I turned around and started the hike back home.
“Wait,” she called, but there was no way I was going to stick around. She grabbed my arm, and everything inside me screamed for me to push away. Instead, I turned around to face her again. There wasn’t a hint of that smile.
“I get what it’s like to lose someone. My sis died two years ago in a car accident.”
I slid to the cold ground. What cure did she have that gave her back her smile? Eva sat down next to me, but her gaze was off to a distant thought. A distant world. The World of Before.
“How can…” I stopped, knowing my question sounded crazy.
“It will get better.” Eva slowly tore her eyes away from the sky to find me. “But you’ll never forget the one lost. You just can’t get lost in this world, too. You can’t trap yourself in the life before.”
Tree frogs cricketed in the distance, but my every thought was wrapped tightly around her words.
“Keep the pain inside you, and it will only get worse. Break through it and cry out. And never forget there is hope, and there is love that can heal. Let love heal you.”
“That doesn’t make any sense.”
“Think about it. You’ll find it makes perfect sense.” Eva stood up, gave her joyful smile, and walked away.
For an hour, I did think about all that had happened and all the people who were constantly there. They loved me, but maybe I had too many walls that prevented their love from breaking through. Eventually, my thoughts faded as my feet broke into a run. There was no thinking anymore, I just let my feet move me.
The house stood on the hill, with only one light shining through a window. Of course my mom would wait for me to find my way home.
As I reached the door, Mom threw it open. She must’ve seen me running to the house. I threw my arms around her, letting tears pour down my face in a constant downpour. Mom didn’t say a word, she just drew me closer to her.
It was odd, but I could almost feel a piece of my brokenness find its way back into place.