Maple

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
hi y'alls! wondering if i could expand this summarized story into a full-out novel... please give me your advice on how/whether I ought to get there! thanx for reading :)

Submitted: September 20, 2015

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Submitted: September 20, 2015

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I turn the corner to see the most massive building ever. Two stories of solid brick with gaping windows and jagged edges. My feet have stopped moving, and now I force them onwards. I have difficulty believing that enough kids exist to fill the place. This mansion is supposed to have the same function as my little desk at home. Wish I could go home now.
My mother, Tracy Dill, died last year when she was trying to take pictures of eagles in Yellowstone Park. They say she got too close to the cliff’s edge. Tracy was a famous photographer, an enthusiastic naturalist, a widowed hermit, and my only friend, my best friend.
When she died my world shattered into a billion pieces. A billion, that’s how many people there are, right? A piece for every human I hadn’t met, and now I was one of them. I realized that while I can survive off the wilderness for years on my own and photograph almost as well as my mother, I’ve never actually seen this strange human world.
Uncle Ben’s wife ran away several years ago, and he hasn’t been sober much since. His daughter, Rebecca, is in 7th grade and often sports a black eye.
Too soon I reach the cafeteria. I did not know that so many kids existed! I stand there frozen like an ice cube.
A short but lively girl bumps into me accidentally. “Sorry! Hey, are you new here?”
I nod. Was it my expression (I can’t feel my face) that alerted her or does she know everyone else here? “I’m Aggie. Wanna sit with us?” I nod again and follow Aggie to one of the kid-infested tables. Along the way she greets some people while they smile and say, “Hey, Aggie!” She’s friends with everyone, except for one boy at her table. Her burnt honey brown eyes flash at him. “Thought you’d have better things to do than hang with us.”
“Meh,” he replied, “I thought I’d give you a chance.”

Aggie introduced me to almost every face I saw that day, including all of the teachers. There was no doubt about it: I couldn’t have bumped into a better guide. Walking home, the school felt smaller, like maybe someday someone like me could belong there. 
That night when Uncle Ben got home, he punched Rebecca. The scary part was how she knew exactly what was happening. While she scurried of to get a napkin for her bloody face, I was still trying to piece together how his fist met her face. Rain drummed a lullaby through the night, and my tears drenched a pillow. 

Week Later:
Aggie says that I should find something to do afterschool, you know, like to fit in a little more. Of course I can tell that she wants me to join cross country with her crowd, but Mrs. Broy found me first. I was just going to watch Aggie practice after school got out, and Stacey Broy grabbed my shoulders. “Are you Tracy Dill’s daughter?” she asked. 
“Yes” during the custody case I’d only heard her name as Theresa. It was a bittersweat slap to hear ‘Tracy’, the way I usually called her.
“Maple, I was a friend of your mother’s growing up, and you look just like her.” She let her hand smooth down my dark hair. When Stacey looked back up at me her eyes were glistening. “You look just beautiful honey.” Then she couldn’t hold it anymore. When the principal and his vice rounded the corner, they saw us two blubbering on each other’s shoulders for Tracy Dill.
So that’s how I got into Mrs. Broy’s Fall Play. Apparently my mother was a stellar actress, but I’ve always been shy. As a result I got an understudy part. However the play kept me out of Uncle Ben’s house and for that I was glad. 
Aggie’s meets were always a lot of fun to watch, so I brought Rebecca along to keep her away from her father. Becky can scream! She nearly deafened me when Aggie sprinted across the football field. It wasn’t enough though, because the Madison girl out ran her. However Clove, the boy who was definitely not a friend of Aggie’s, took first place for the boys. Judging by her livid expression, it was time to take Aggie and Becky out for ice cream with the money Tracy had given me before Yellowstone and her death, saying, “In case of an emergency.”
When Becky and I reached the house, Uncle Ben was standing in the doorway, drunk and mad. He yanked us both in by our hair and started smacking Becky across the face again and again. I snatched a frying pan and before I knew what was happening, he was out cold. Becky hugged me and drenched my shirt with her blood and tears. I felt like stone. 
The next morning at daybreak I tied my sneakers. Then I laid some cereal on Uncle Ben’s nightstand and as I was setting down Becky’s favorite cereal she woke up, asking to come with me. What was I thinking? She couldn’t stay here with her father. So I filled her a water bottle, and we started jogging down Tyler Road. Along the way we met Aggie, so she joined us on a run to my old home. The place was still mine, but I wouldn’t be allowed to live here until I was older. It’s a log cabin surrounded by oaks and cradled by a stream. The nearest humans lived 5 miles down the lane, and Tracy never did drive much except to the airport or on roadtrips. So this was more like an island that I grew up on. 
I taught them which berries and plants were edible. I showed them the deer trails and my mother’s photographs. I taught them the call of a wood thrush, the bird with two wind pipes who sounds twice as gorgeous. I showed them my father’s old guitar that Tracy couldn’t bring herself to play after he died. The guitar has been silent for sixteen years now. 
We had so much fun that we spent the night at home, Aggie, Becky, and me covered in sleeping bags and drowning in popcorn on the floor of my room. The next day was spent in the same pleasant way except we had to go back into town for school the next day. Becky and I made sure the door didn’t squeak on its way closed, and tiptoed upstairs into my room. Since she was so scared of her father, I shared my room with Becky. Uncle Ben was now afraid to hurt Becky while I was around, so she joined cross country and I walked her home every day. I kept a knife in my pocket just in case, though. 
The next two months were a blurr. My theater friends all met up at Clara’s house once or twice to eat ice cream and ‘run over lines’. Mostly we laughed and played music real loud while discussing costumes.
Cross country was heating up. Aggie won some meets, but whenever she didn’t take first, Clove had a blue ribbon to wave in her face. One meet a long-limbed senior trampled all offenders, and his twin sister crushed the girls’ race. I could almost see steam coming off of Aggie, and Clove looked as if he were about to kill someone. They decided to do the course over again; racing each other. Becky and I stayed to cheer them on. After that, Clove never glared at Aggie, and Aggie wouldn’t flaunt her blue ribbons in his face or vice versa.
So the days passed quickly, with play practice running later and Aggie and Clove having a daily races after practice. Becky would walk to the high school, occasionally bringing her friend Carla to cheer or run. Every once in a while Becky would go to Carla’s house to pet their cats and eat spaghetti. 
Finally Clove and Aggie became official friends instead of mortal enemies, and he was dragged along on a trip to my cabin. He loved it so much and suggested we go backpacking on the next three-day weekend. I checked my calendar. Next week was the play.
When I was looking for Clara, I found her lunch sprayed all across the bathroom mirror.  Mrs. Broy threw me onto center stage as protagonist. Somehow it actually worked. I didn’t turn into a stone. I didn’t hyperventilate. In fact, I actually loved it, and judging from the curtain call, they loved us. 
Clara was there to grab me as I walked off stage. “You rocked girl!” she shouted in my ear. 
“Thanks!”
“Hop in my car after signing all your autographs, cuz we’re going to Ihop!”
Aggie and Clove promised to walk Becky home, so I accepted.
It was an amazing night. We ate until we couldn’t, then played salt or sugar. By the end of the night Elliot had convinced me that it would be entirely safe if he drove me home. It felt like a dream.
But as I passed the threshold, the dream dissolved into nightmare. Becky was lying on the floor, too hurt to move while Uncle Ben stomped in from the garage with a hammer, his breath full of beer. I pulled my knife and charged him, screaming the way you do to bears. He dropped the hammer, leaving a gash in the floor and making the house tremble in fear. 
Since he was stunned, I was able to knock him down and sit on him with my knife directed at his neck. Then I noticed that I was holding a pencil. My knife was still hidden in the dressing room. Fortunately this didn’t make much difference to Uncle Ben, though. Elliot must’ve heard the racket because he came in then. “Call 911!” I shrieked, “He’s trying to kill Becky!” 
Elliot obeyed immediately after skillfully roping the drunk man to a chair. Meanwhile I checked on Becky. She fainted in my arms before the ambulance came.
All I remember after that passed in a haze. I suppose we were in a hospital, Elliot there to make sure I didn’t fall over. Clove and Aggie were there too, saying something about being sorry that they let this happen. Then Aggie explained that we would live with her for now. Elliot came back and I noticed that he had left- everything was so dizzying! He brought Becky out with him, and she ran to hug me.

Uncle Ben is in jail, so Becky and I live with Aggie. She is the president of the middleschool newspaper and sings soprano in their choir. Meanwhile Aggie and Clove are both undefeated for this season. Of course, it does help that the twin long-limbed seniors have graduated, although, if they were to race, I’d still put my money on Clove and Aggie. Elliot asked me out to ice cream last spring, which turned into an all-nighter of staring at the stars together, swapping their ancient legends, and newly discovered nebulas. School wasn’t fun the next day, but he joined us that weekend on the ‘family’ trip to my old home. Elliot can play my father’s guitar. Tracy would be glad to see us here.

 


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