(Pg) Teen Fiction by By Katy Devereaux
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Teen Fiction by
By Katy Devereaux
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Click here if you'd like to exchange critiques
It was pitch black outside. Except for a lonely street lamp that cast hazy rays of light onto a snow-covered patch of street, the rest of the neighborhood seemed to be shrouded in an impenetrable darkness. Pressing her nose to the frosted window pane, Brenna Kraft cupped her hands by her temples to block out the light from within her bedroom so she could (see-peer) outside. Squinting hard, she could see fluffy white flakes swirling (from-on) the wind in the pink glow of the flickering street lamp. It flickered a few more times and then went out completely. The following silence was so still and foreboding, she hardly dared to break it.
After a minute, Brenna sighed deeply and pushed away from the window. She flipped on the radio and a shiver raced through her entire body. Wrapping her arms tightly around her middle, she stepped to the vanity mirror over her dresser and tried to chase away the chills with a forced laugh.
"Look at you," Brenna told her mirror image. "You’re all bent out of shape over a little snow and a dark night? Grow up already! Nothing is going to happen. This is Michigan…the weather’s always like this in January."
As if to prove her point, the wind shrieked and howled past her bedroom window. Brenna turned, half expecting to see the lace curtains billow in the breeze like she’d seen in a horror movie once. But they remained motionless. Even the pale yellow color of the walls gave the room a sinister look because of the shadows cast by the antique lamp in the corner. Despite the (menagerie-Oxford English Dictionary. A collection of wild animals. An aviary. Suggest - 'collection') of pictures and the colorful quilt spread out over her bed, the (bedroom-room [her bed indicates it is a bedroom] ) had taken on an unsettling quality, probably due to the mournful wails of the wind and the sick feeling in her stomach.
Picking up a brush, Brenna went to work on her long, sunshine blond hair, half-listening to the song softly spilling out of her radio. Focusing on her appearance helped her relax a little bit. After touching up the mascara-coated lashes that fringed her green eyes, she tugged her baby blue sweater into place just as the song on the radio ended abruptly.
A short jingle introduced the weather, and an announcer’s voice came on in a rushed bass pitch: "The National Weather Bureau has issued a severe winter storm watch in effect until 6 a.m. tomorrow for the following counties: Hillsdale, Jackson, Ingham…."
The irony here is just killing me, Brenna thought as her stomach began to twist into knots.
Slightly irritated, she hit the off button on the radio with her fist and started to pace in the only unobstructed path in her cluttered bedroom. Piles of clothes were sorted so randomly along the floor that she could no longer remember which piles were clean and which piles were dirty. Books and papers were strewn on the floor in all of the gaps left by her clothes and were spilling off her desk like some magnificent waterfall, minus the magnificent part.
Brenna grimaced at the abominable sight and glanced at the clock…11:40. She still had about twenty minutes before her dad would go to bed; she might as well clean a little while she waited. Picking up clothes, she decided not to bother determining which ones were clean but simply shoved as many as she could fit into the hamper. Digging through the papers and paraphernalia actually turned out to be rather profitable, for she discovered some loose change, a couple (of) sticks of cinnamon gum, and some misplaced college applications. Under her bed, she located a missing gray sock, but when she plowed through her sock drawer to find its mate, she came across her Bible instead.
"What in the…?" Brenna frowned. How did my Bible get in my sock drawer? Maybe it got stuck in there accidentally when I was putting my socks away. Guilt started to creep in about what she was planning to do that night and how she obviously hadn’t read her Bible in a while. She also began to seriously wonder when she could be sure she had last worn clean socks.
Feeling uneasy, Brenna closed her eyes, opened her Bible, pointed to a verse, and looked. She had chosen Deuteronomy 25:4: "Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain."
Oh, now that’s spiritually enlightening, something within her chided.
Hey, I’m just covering my bases. At least I read something! She argued back. Besides, now I know what not to do to my ox. A quirky grin spread across her face at the thought.
The knock on the door startled her, but Brenna giggled at her jumpiness and hopped over the remaining pile of clothes to open the door. In the middle of a big yawn, her dad smiled at her with the phone in his hands. It could have been the dim lighting in the dark hallway, but Brenna thought he looked older than usual. The deep, weary lines across his forehead were embedded like trenches in a battle, and his hair line was the retreating army. His light brown hair was turning a bushy gray above his ears and the same color stubble was coming in all over his chin.
"Phone," he said, shoving the device at her with another yawn. "Keep it down, though, okay? I’m going to bed." He looked at her as if he knew there was something wrong with the clothes she had on, but the look faded as his eyelids drooped. Apparently he was too tired to make the connection.
"Okay." Brenna took the phone and closed the door. As soon as she was sure he was out of earshot, she let loose with, "I already know what you’re going to say."
"Then why don’t you listen to me just this once and don’t go…especially on a night like tonight!" the guy on the other end argued.
Brenna smirked at her best friend. "Come on, Trevor, you know I never get invited to parties. I have to go – it may be my only chance."
Trevor (blew-heaved) an exasperated (breath-sigh) into the phone. "Brenna, who cares? None of the people at this party are worth impressing. I want to know how you ever talked your parents into letting you go."
Brenna hesitated. She could almost picture the frustrated look that always appeared on his heavily freckled face whenever she argued with him. Eventually, his head would turn an uncanny shade of tomato red that would spread all the way to the roots of his sandy hair, as it so often did whenever he got worked up.
Trevor snorted. "Of course, why would you tell them when you can just sneak out of the house without getting a lecture or a ‘NO’?"
Brenna had a pithy comeback ready, but the flash of headlights (out-through) her window scattered her thoughts. "I have to go, Trev, my ride’s here. Save it for tomorrow."
"You’re not driving? Who are you riding with? Tell me it’s not Dan…." Trevor’s voice escalated and cracked on the last word. "Don’t (ride-go) with him in this weather, Brenna. You may not be here tomorrow for me to yell at you!"
Brenna hung up before the last word was (completely off his lips-completed), but his warning rang in her ears. He’s just jealous that he wasn’t invited. Who is he to lecture me anyway? Her glance fell to the "missing" Bible still lying open on her bed. I can’t think about this now. I’m sorry, God, but I promise I’ll start over tomorrow. Shrugging into her winter coat, she hit the lights in her room, and then walked on cat’s paws into the living room where she slid the phone into its cradle. Careful not to make a sound, she swished the sliding glass door open and slipped out on the back porch into the frigid night.
About five steps later, Brenna began to seriously consider going back to at least get a flashlight. No moon, no stars, only the beam of headlights far down the street offered her any sort of guidance. She clenched her teeth together to keep them from chattering and focused on the soft crunching noise her shoes made in the snow. The temperature was steadily dropping, while the rising winds chilled her to the bone and blew the snow into drifts. By the time she reached the car, her face was numb, her nose was running, and her hair was decorated with snowflakes.
Dan revved the engine on his brand new black sports car as she crossed in front of the headlights, then leaned over to open the passenger-side door for her to get in. Shivering, Brenna slid into the front seat and pulled the door shut behind her. She buckled her seat belt and twisted around to see Dan’s sister, Krystal, in the back seat.
"Hey, sweetie," Krystal greeted, flipping a strand of black, red-streaked hair behind her ear. "You ready to party?"
Dan hooted like a wild gorilla, punched the roof of his car, and squealed his tires as the (car-vehicle) left the (side street-curb). The car fish-tailed as he turned onto the next street, but he managed to right it without slowing down. Blasting (the-delete) music from his huge stereo system, he shot Brenna a cocky grin. "This is gonna be the best night of your life, Brenna….I’ll make sure of it."
Something about the way he emphasized that last part made Brenna uneasy. But then again, that was part of his personality. Dan had achieved a popularity that most guys only dreamed about, and he knew it. For whatever reason, he’d noticed Brenna a couple (of-insert) weeks ago and had been teasing her ever since. She had to admit she loved the attention, especially from someone like Dan, but he made her feel so (na´ve-This is correct. Your computer only knows it as 'naive') sometimes.
Brenna’s face warmed to a (gazillion-Ho Boy! Yes you can get away with this. We all know what you mean.) different shades of pink.
"Whoa, don’t get too excited on me," Dan joked sarcastically.
Brenna gave a nervous laugh, unable to think of anything witty, and just stared at him. Actually, that probably happened to him a lot since he had such striking features: dark persuasive eyes, short black hair, and a chiselled face. In every way, Dan was the epitome of tall, dark, and handsome.
"Why are you laughing?" Dan asked.
"I…uh…" Brenna didn’t have an answer. I am such a –
A deer jumped in front of the car, and Dan slammed on the brakes, cranking the wheel all the way to the left. The car skidded on the ice before spinning into a couple of donuts, missing the deer, and finally coming to a jerky halt. There was a pause as they all gathered their wits. Brenna unpeeled herself from the backrest and tried to still her racing heart.
Krystal punched Dan’s headrest. "Dan, you goat! You just rammed this seat belt into my belly button. I’m not wearing this thing anymore." She clicked off (her seat-the) belt and looked at Brenna. "I just got it pierced today. See?" She lifted up her shirt and showed Brenna the rhinestone post buried in her belly button. Brenna winced at the red marks around it, but secretly wished (she’d-Krystal would) put her seat belt back on.
"That was the bomb!" Dan said with a wild look on his face.
Krystal rolled her eyes and scowled at him, (a look which-an _expression that) made her look like a punk rocker wanna-be. Besides her belly button, she also had piercings (on-in) her nose, eyebrows, tongue, and ears – from the lobes all the way up the cartilage. Yeah, she’s pretty wild, but she’s so popular – and she can be really sweet when she wants to be.
Dan hit the gas and they took off once again. As they merged onto the highway, the radio went out, (permeating-filling) the car with an awkward silence. Brenna looked out the (car-delete. We know it is a car.) window expecting to see the countryside whizzing by at an alarming speed, but even more disturbing, she couldn’t see anything at all. Even from inside the car, she could tell that this was the kind of darkness you could feel. An unshakable feeling of dread crept over her.
"Hey, Dan," Krystal’s loud voice rattled Brenna’s tightly wound nerves, "Do you have your cell phone on you?"
Dan frowned at her in the (rearview rear-view) mirror. "Where’s yours?"
"I don’t have it," Krystal whined, "I think I left it at Jake’s."
"You left it at your boyfriend’s house?" Dan asked incredulously, but he dug through his right cargo pocket anyway and tossed the tiny phone back to her.
Brenna’s curiosity got the best of her. "Who are you calling?"
"Nobody, apparently," Krystal snapped, "You ever hear of charging your phone, Dan?"
"What? Let me see," Dan stuck his hand back for the phone and flipped up the cover.
"It says ‘low battery,’" Krystal said in a patronizing tone.
Dan smirked as he pocketed his phone. "It says I don’t have service out here anyway, O Miss Observant One."
Krystal let his comment slide. "Do you have a cell phone, Brenna?"
"No…sorry," Brenna admitted sheepishly.
Krystal didn’t say anything. Once again, Brenna felt herself being enveloped by the dark, suffocating silence. After sitting there for several tedious minutes, she was finally able to grab at the thought that was bothering her the most: What am I doing here?
Before she had a chance to guess the answer, Brenna saw Dan glance at her out of the corner of his eye. Although the mischievous look in his eyes made her suspicious, she still wasn’t prepared when he slammed on the brakes and jerked the steering wheel, throwing them into another series of donuts in the middle of the highway. Brenna planted her feet on the floor, braced herself against the seat, grabbed the door handle, and squeezed her eyes shut.
When she finally felt the car stop spinning, she could hear Krystal shrieking and Dan laughing. Daring to open her eyes, she discovered they were driving normally again. Dan was grinning smugly. Krystal’s face was flaming red, but her shrieks were gradually turning to laughter. Brenna didn’t find it funny at all; she’d never been so scared in her life!
She turned her head to look at Krystal when the laughter suddenly stopped. Krystal was looking out the window, but sensing Brenna’s stares, turned to look at her with an odd _expression on her face.
"You know what’s creepy?" she asked.
I can think of a few things.
Krystal’s voice hushed to a whisper. "We’re the only ones on this highway."
Brenna felt a chill race down her spine. She hadn’t realized that, but Krystal was right. Looking out the windows, she searched in vain for other headlights, but there was only darkness.
Dan huffed, obviously not finding the situation creepy at all. "Are you kidding? We should take advantage of this!"
By the time Brenna processed what he meant, it was too late. Dan was already throwing the car into more donuts in the middle of the highway. Forcing herself to keep her eyes open, she braced herself again as Dan showed off his spinning stunts. But on another set of donuts, Brenna caught sight of a light that popped in and out of her view in the same way a child might catch sight of a stationary parent while spinning wildly on a merry-go-round at the park.
Headlights. Brenna struggled to get her mouth to cooperate with the urgent message her brain was sending. Finally she sputtered, "C-Car…Dan!"
Dan started, flooring the gas pedal and jerking the steering wheel in the opposite direction. Nothing. The car continued to skid, grinding against the ice and sending vibrations up through the floor. The flashes from the approaching headlights got bigger and bigger, alternating with the dark nothingness. Flash. Dark. Flash. Dark. As the dim outline of the front of a truck became obvious in the (dark-night), everything went into slow motion.
Bits and pieces of her parents, Trevor, and various other images flitted in and out of her mind before she could grab any of them. Out of nowhere, a horn blared, obliterating her thoughts and filling her mind with a bright white light.
The sports car finally screeched to a halt. Blinking rapidly, Brenna brought everything back into focus. Dan floored it on pure instinct and adrenaline, but the tires only spun on the ice. As the inside of the car filled with light from the truck bearing down upon them, Krystal let out a blood-curdling scream. Dan swore. God help!!
Everything flashed out of slow motion as the truck crashed into them with the sickening sound of wrenching metal. Brenna knocked her head against the window at the impact, just as the air bag exploded into her chest, suffocating her with white dust. Knowing something grazed her shoulder but unable to see anything, Brenna then felt the car slide across the road like a hockey puck. It teetered on the edge of the shoulder before rolling down the steep ridge into a snow bank.
As the air bag deflated, Brenna gulped in huge amounts of the dusty air, sending herself into coughing fits. Finally, the dust settled, and she dropped her head back against the headrest.
"Ouch!" a throbbing pain shot through the side of her (head-temple). Delicately touching the spot with the tips of her fingers, she felt something warm and sticky leak out from between the strands of matted hair. Blood. Brenna almost went into a panic at the discovery, but quickly realized that seemed to be her only injury. It’s okay; I’m alright…But wait, what about –
Brenna suddenly remembered Dan and Krystal. The darkness in the car made it difficult to discern Dan’s form next to her. "Dan. Dan, are you okay?" No response. Stretching out her hand to jab him in the arm, her fingers came in contact with something hard between her and Dan, and she quickly retracted her arm. After hesitating a moment to build up courage, she reached up and felt around for the dome light.
To her horror, Brenna could now see that the hard thing between her and Dan was Krystal’s shoe. Following the legs up, she observed that Krystal was partially on top of Dan, her legs protruding at an unnatural angle towards Brenna. The upper half of her body was slumped over part of the steering wheel and the dashboard with her face looking out the passenger’s side window. Blood flowed from a long cut on her forehead into her hair and down the (rivets on-contours of) her face, (swirling-mingling) with her thick make-up. But the worst part was the empty stare in her wide eyes.
Brenna tried to scream, but it lodged in her throat and came out sounding more like the whimper of a wounded animal. Why couldn’t she have just worn her seatbelt?
Though Krystal’s body blocked much of her view, she could tell that Dan was in bad shape, too. His face was covered with bruises and scratches, and his right eye was completely swollen shut. Brenna timidly reached out over Krystal’s legs and felt his neck for a pulse, breathing a sigh of relief at the faint vibration against her fingers.
Although she was no expert, it looked like Krystal had shot forward when the truck slammed into the front driver’s side of the car; she had probably crashed into Dan on her way to the windshield, doubling his injuries. Rubbing her shoulder, Brenna realized that Krystal was also the cause for the scrape she’d picked up on her left side during the accident.
What about the truck driver? Surely, he would’ve called in the accident, Brenna thought anxiously. Where is he? He should’ve been here by now.
The stare in Krystal’s eyes became too much for Brenna. Slapping the switch on the dome light with her numb fingers, she plunged herself back into total darkness. She stared at the cracked windshield in shock, tracing the spider-web lines with her eyes. Although it was too dark to really determine how much snow was piled on top of the hood, Brenna distinctly remembered rolling into a snow bank. As a result, they were probably quite buried but still somewhat visible. As soon as the snow stopped falling, they would probably be rescued…
Oh no, Brenna could almost hear the loud thumping of her heart as she remembered, There was a snowstorm watch for tonight! I could be buried alive and no one would ever find me here until spring! Frantically, she pulled up the lock button on the door and yanked on the handle but nothing happened. Throwing her weight against the door with her shoulder barely moved it a couple (of-insert) centimetres against the heavy pressure of the snow packed against it. All she seemed to accomplish was aggravating the bruise on her head and giving herself a headache.
When the throbbing pain in her head finally subsided, Brenna noticed how cold it was in the car. Unbuckling her seat belt, she leaned over Dan for a moment, only to see that all of the gauges had dropped to zero. Various warning lights on the panel had lit up in a colorful arrangement of confusing symbols, many of which weren’t labelled, so she had no idea what they meant. Actually, as she sat in her mangled tomb, she realized she could no longer hear the engine running, which would mean no heat.
I may not be an expert on cars, but I’m pretty sure all of these signs are bad. The thought of freezing to death rose in her mind with frightening possibility. God, what is this? Did I survive that accident only to freeze to death?
The worst part was that no one knew where she was. Trevor was the only one who knew where she was going, but even if he were to risk venturing out into the snowstorm, he’d never find her half-buried off the highway in the middle of nowhere. Although she wore a warm winter coat, she knew hypothermia was inevitable in such frigid conditions and would probably set in at any time now. By the time the storm stopped enough for them to be seen, it would be too late. She was as good as dead.
At first, the thought of death was hard for her to fully comprehend. Perhaps it was only the cold, but she felt completely numb to everything. What was death like? Would it hurt? How could she die now when there were still so many things left to live for?
Images like mini commercials invaded her mind and filled her with grief over a version of her life that she would never see. Pictures flickered by of graduating, going to college, and getting married. All were things she desperately wanted. Just as quickly as the first icy tear slipped out from the corner of her eye, Brenna brushed it away with her mitten, zipped her coat all the way (up-delete) to her chin, and pulled her hood up over her head.
"This can’t be happening," Brenna’s voice wavered. "I’m only (17-seventeen)…I’ve still got my whole life ahead of me!"
Not anymore. You made your choice, the irritating voice inside reminded her. It was her choice all right, but she wouldn’t be the one who had to live with it. Thoughts of Trevor and her other friends going on without her were just about paralysing. But when the grief she would put her parents through came into focus, she cracked and let the icy tears stream down her face. As her nose started to run from the combination of tears and cold air, Brenna’s throat constricted with the sobs she just couldn’t (see-seem) to squeeze out, resulting in a pitiful choking sound.
But all at once, as if sensing her tears would get her nowhere, Brenna plugged the fountain of emotions bubbling up within her. What she needed more than anything else at this moment was peace. From the back corners of her mind, she remembered hearing somewhere that quoting Scripture had brought some people peace in the midst of difficulties. Try as she might, though, it had been so long since she had read her Bible that the only verse she could bring to mind was Deuteronomy 25:4.
"Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain," she whispered and shook her head. It wasn’t funny anymore.
Leaning her head carefully against the headrest, Brenna pressed her chapped lips together and pondered why she had read only that one verse. Why hadn’t she read something else? Something with some content and depth? Something that would help her get her relationship with God back on track? Oh, that’s right. I was going to do all of those things tomorrow.
Brenna pulled her right hand out of her mitten and stuck her stiff fingers in her mouth to warm them. Bowing her head in defeat, (Brenna watched-she saw all her decisions fall flat. God, if I had it to do over, I’d do everything differently. With that feeble prayer, she realized that she had been shaking uncontrollably from the cold for some time now, and those spasms were sending shooting pains up her neck. It felt like (cold-icy) water was flowing in her veins, making her cold all over and slowing everything down. Her eyelids began to feel heavy as drowsiness wrapped its arm around her. I’m sorry, God. Please forgive me for messing all of this up.
Brenna took her fingers out of her mouth, slowly and methodically (trying-attempting) to stuff them back into the mitten. She tried to shift positions, but never actually felt her body cooperate. Letting her eyelids drop a little further, she wondered how long she had been trapped in this car since the accident. It felt like days ago yet seconds all at the same time. God, would you…be willing to give me…another chance…? Brenna barely pulled her thoughts together before her eyes closed and everything blurred.
At that moment, a narrow beam of light fell on the car from up on the ridge by the highway and reflected off the (taillights-tail-lights).