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Courage

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A short story targeted at teenagers

Concentrating on putting one foot before the other, Denise silently walked on while all around her conversation intermingled with each other. At that moment, she was a robot- unthinking, unobservant, moving in an empty shell. She welcomed this self-imposed ignorance, not wishing to fall again into the blackhole of her thoughts.

She felt weariness invading her limbs. The combination of her sullen musings, frustrations and confusions. This girl now walking Yorkminister Road was no longer her, the one who had been so hopeful and accepting with life. She felt the changes weighing down on her, leaving her a stranger in this world where she had no control over her life. It might have been said that she grew wise to one more aspect of the world. And yet, the sorrow of gaining maturity had reached her as well. Now she sees the cruel aspects of reality whereas before all she saw was flowers and sunshine. But then she shrugged. She walked through the school’s front door, to another day that, regardless of her mood, would go on as always.

“Hi, Denise!” It should have drawn a more enthusiastic reaction from Denise normally. But now she could only feel the muscles on her face stiffen in an instinctive smiled. Then she was following her friends to class, moving mechanically towards the stairs. Someone may slit my throat right at this moment and I would not feel the slightest pain, she thought. This drew a sliver of a smile from Denise, even though it was a bitter one. She knew it was a kind of escapism to shut down all thoughts and emotions and that it didn’t help her situation one tiny bit. And yet, the seduction of it being too great to resist, she willingly gave herself over to it. Like it has been always.

She had no one to turn to. Her parents were the centre of her problem, even though they did not know it. They would have thought to conceal such an obvious fact from her. But how could they? Denise was not blind to their feelings. They were drifting apart. They had maintained their civilised manners to each other. However, expressions as simple as the way they looked at each other gave them away. In addition, the atmosphere of the whole house was different. Every morning she woke up to find the house an ancient deserted castle. Everything was preserved in such order and precision that you feel chilled to the bones. No sounds disturbed the air. No motions could be felt. Thick gray mist shrouded over the whole building, invoking in all living inside a feeling of foreboding and dreadful anticipation. It was as if ordinary life had been drained out of the house and now a sinister spirit inhabited it instead. Denise had never been so frustrated. The house was an unbreakable web trapping all of them inside. Sometimes she wished that she could walk out. But then she would be self-centred, avoiding, instead of solving problems. Is that what she wanted to become? No, she told herself again and again, no.

“Now what is bothering you? You look like someone who had gone through a lot.” Distantly, Denis heard her friend say. She almost replied unselfconsciously that, “Yes, I have.” At the last minute, however, she restrained herself. She had vowed to herself that she would never tell anyone outside of her family. It was a topic so personal and sensitive that she dared not discuss it with anyone.

On the other hand, though, she felt her determination weaning. More often now she wondered if her choice to keep everything to herself might not be only needless caution and foolish pride. Surely she needed counsel from an external source when she felt so lost. She knew as well as anyone that inside here there was no solution but all confusion. And yete Denis felt that she could not possibly discuss it openly with anyone. It was hard even to recount her problems to herself, how to explain to others? So the conflict within Denis went on. She wondered which side was going to win this debate? The affirmative, seeking release from the cage that she had walked into? Or the negative, urging caution over all other considerations? Before one side or the other could win, though, Denise quickly distracted her own mind away from such contemplations by thinking about something else… and then nothing. And so she had come to this stage of her life, to a stand-still.

Time held no meaning for her, she thought desperately. She could not even distinguish one day from another. Why live then, if her existence was no better than that of some mindless being? The helplessness that she felt at the realisation of it threatened to engulf her. At the same time, the realisation jolted her in a way that the shield of insensibility that she had so carefully constructed and continuously reinforced around herself instantly shattered. She had no choice now but to think over the whole situation. Then she would have to do what she had dreaded. Right at the moment she realised that she could run but she could never slip away from reality. Her problem was still there however she might choose to isolate herself from it. She was not proceeding with life as she should. Instead, she chose to remain behind. She could not help but make a long sigh, in relief.

All of a sudden, Denise felt the weight dragging her down being lifted away. Also, at the same time she felt remorse for all that she had lost for her indecision. She had surrendered to fate her control over her own life, even losing a part of herself in the process. It was now time to reclaim what was lost to her that is rightfully hers. She decided to confront her parents without any pretended delicacy as she would surely have approached her parents with earlier.

************************************************************************

Purposefully, Denise walked to the family room. She found two pair of eyes glued to the televisions. At that moment, Denise truly felt tension gripping her, and for a minute stood like a statue. Then, gathering all her strength, she walked to where her parents sat. Just before she started her speech, she felt a great change come over her but she no longer resented it but welcomed it with all of her heart. She had finally come to the new stage of her life that required her to face and confront reality instead of disbelieving it.



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