Mr. Keoline explained the rules, just basic things like no cheating or you’ll get the test ripped up and a zero in the grade book, do something quietly after the test, and be considerate of those still testing. And after that, he passed them out and the class nervously turned their eyes to the devilish papers and began.
Around 40 minutes into the period, some people were finally finished, including Jason. People were silently reading or doodling and some whispering among their friends. As he looked around, he noticed a blonde figure to his right that stood out somehow. Instead of reading or talking, she had an arm across her desk, the light yellow of her jacket turning light brown and grey from the doodles and notes on the desk. Her lips were pursed and turning downward slightly, her eyes looking at the binder paper before her, and her right hand was scribbling quickly with a slim blue pen.
Lena was her name. Jason had heard schoolmates and classmates talking about her, and yesterday Jason and his friends had laughed at her at lunch the day before. She was curled up in a silent ball, looking up at the clouds when they were playing basketball, and one of his buddies purposely threw the ball that hit her shoulder. While everyone laughed at her, including Jason, she stood up and threw her old and torn backpack over her shoulder and quietly walked to the back of the school, where put her backpack down and resumed her previous position.
She was different, that Lena: a quiet outcast with no friends. Jason felt sorry for the girl, her being all alone and with the whole school against her. But really, was it his fault the girl was weird?
He saw Lena in the halls after the final bell had run. She was tripped by a group of girl that laughed obnoxiously when she scattered her binder and books everywhere. He thought that the poor girl had just a bit too much making-fun-of, so he bent down and picked up a paper that flew from her hands when she fell. By the time Jason got up she had gathered everything else and was jogging away, already too far to hear him if he called for her.
He looked down at what he grabbed from the ground. It was writing, by Lena herself. It was obviously wrong to read other peoples’ things, but this time it was just too tempting. What went on in her mind? Jason read the neat and strangely girly print while walking home after school:
Sometimes, things happen that you just don’t expect. They can be good things; getting asked out by the person you’ve had your eye on for ever; an acceptance letter from a college you’ve always wanted to go; a little present from your friend just to celebrate finally talking to each other in Math and starting a friendship. And they can also be bad; tripping on a stair you swear wasn’t there before; the strap of a new dress ripping on your way to prom; the death of a loved one.
Everything happens for a reason, all being wound into the master plan God has for us. Maybe it’s so you can learn your lesson: you’ll never agree to a blind date again. Some things might go so badly that you’ll feel better when even the tiniest potential bit of good news or happiness reaches you: after your parents have forbidden you from going to the concert of your favorite band that’s only an hour’s drive away, your friend just told the lamest joke ever on MSN that still made you laugh so hard you have hot cocoa shooting out of your nose.
And sometimes terrible news makes you feel distant and isolated: your aunt just died. At first you don’t get it, but later when it sets in, what you’re feeling comes close to being described as white-hot pain and complete numbness. Why? You weren’t even that close to her, being even annoyed of her at times. But suddenly you’re regretting every little thing you did wrong, like wiping off the slobbery kisses of love she gave you on your cheek.
But in the end, as horrible as it was, you somehow benefit from it. Either it makes you a stronger person, or you learn to truly appreciate the life you have, or you realize that you need to respect everyone because you never know what’ll happen.
Realize that anything—good or bad—can happen. Don’t take that as a signal to panic, but as an excuse to live the best live possible. You’re currently in a quarrel now? Go fix it. Haven’t gone on a roller coaster yet because you’re creeped out? Do it. Do your best to control your horrible temper, or that bad habit of sarcasm that might hurt someone if you didn’t mean it to.
You never know if by being rude you’re making someone’s day terrible, or maybe they’ll move and the last thing you said to them was “You’re the biggest retard I ever met!” Remember that everyone has some good in them, even if it isn’t always evident. And the best way to bring out that good, is to be good yourself. Treat every moment like anything can happen. The point is, be the best person you can be, or something might happen and you’ll never be able to fix your mistakes.
What she had written lingered in Jason’s mind for the whole day, even partly during a very unpleasant surprise later that evening. While he was doing homework upstairs and his parents were playing with his little sister, Terra, their dog Dinny started barking and acting unusual. That’s when the shaking began. It just came out of nowhere; complete stillness and then sudden jerking and jolting. Lights flickered, the TV screen went blurry, dishes clanked as they broke. He could hear his little sister’s screams and cries of terror, and his parents yelling to take shelter as his dad picked up his sister in his arms and they all scrambled to get under the dining table, Dinny following. The tremendous shuddering of the land lasted for what seemed like hours, but in reality it must have been only 15 seconds more.
It took a long time to calm Terra down, but finally she went to sleep when the whole family was in her room. It took everyone telling her that it was very unlikely anything like that would happen soon, and Dinny would alert and protect her if anything happened. Convincing her that it was over and alright comforted not only her, but also everyone else, Jason noticed. It seemed like he was reassuring himself just as much as Terra when they said it was alright, and he went to sleep semi-calmed that night. Late, but he sleeped nonetheless.
The next day in 7th period, Mr. Keoline stood at the front of the classroom again, looking very distressed.
“As you must all know, we had a very big earthquake yesterday. Luckily enough, there was very few damage reported. But some have been impacted more than others. Lena is—uh--” He paused for a moment and stroked his chin a single time. “She’s not here today.” Jason had already noticed this, since he wanted to give her back what she had wrote. “Her family called in earlier to report that she was walking down the stairs when the earthquake hit, and…the sudden movements threw her off balance. It sent her tumbling, and she hit her head on the way down.” Mr, Keoline seemed uncomfortable saying this, as if the story wasn’t his to explain.
Jason gulped back the bile that was rising in his throat as his teacher was talking. Was she still alive?
“…Unfortunately, she has…gone into a coma, and is currently at the local hospital. Her family is asking that you pray for her…” The rest Jason tuned out on. Did Lena know that something bad would happen soon? Was that why she wrote it? Before he noticed that in the upper left-hand corner was the date of the day before, the day that the writing slipped out from her binder, the last day that she was absolutely fine.
Later that day, he bought a bouquet of daisies and visited her hospital room with them and the binder paper she had written on. He met her parents outside of the room and asked for permission to see her, since he didn’t want to worsen things by going in uninvited. Luckily, when he declared that he was a classmate they let him in.
Lena was painful to look at in the current state, head bandaged and lip cut. It almost seemed like she was sleeping. She looked too vulnerable, and it hurt to think that how she looked now was probably how she felt every day when kids were making fun of her. And Jason had been one of them just 2 days ago.
With a deep breath, he grabbed a chair and scooted it closer to the hospital bed. He began talking. He said everything that ran through his mind, from how he found Lena’s writing, to how he interpreted the meaning and his reaction to the news given in class.
When she didn’t even stir or show any sign of understanding after 20 minutes, Jason decided to do something he usually didn’t: pray. He wasn’t very religious, but it seemed like the appropriate thing, and her parents had asked for just that. So he prayed, and admitted that he was wrong. He asked for Lena to be well again, so that her parents and she could live happy lives, so that he could make things better between them, to not let him laughing at her be the last terms they left on.
And suddenly, she began to stir. Jason’s eyes widened. He called in her parents, and they came in and covered her with excessive hugging and kissing and muttered prayers. He gazed in wonder at the now recovered girl in the hospital bed, the writing he was holding, and out the window. Among the many lights of the city and glow of the moon, a single shooting star quickly raced against the black of the night. It then disappeared almost as quickly as it had come, and a single whispered word escaped Jason’s mouth: