My eyes opened. Sitting up, I glanced at my clock on my nightstand, and read the green, fluorescent letters: 4:42 AM, three minutes before my alarm was due to go off. I stretched out my arm and turned off my alarm. Scrambling out of bed, I changed from my pajamas into a tank top and shorts. I yanked a brush through my frizzy brown hair, and stuffed it up into a ponytail. I left my room and tiptoed down the hallway, trying hard not to make any noise. Creeping down the stairs, I forgot about the step that always creaked, and as it did, I winced. I hated how small sounds were always magnified in the quiet. I stayed where I was for a moment, and, holding my breath and crossing my fingers, I listened for stirrings from my family. When they didn't come, I let my breath go, and uncrossed my fingers, relieved. I wanted to be alone.
I didn't bother with breakfast, as I wasn't really hungry yet. I pulled my sandals on, and walked out the screen door into our backyard, and then began trudging up the back pasture to the top of the hill.
The date was June 21, the summer solstice, the day with the longest sunlight hours of the year. I had gotten up early to watch the sunrise. I know it sounds a little weird, but it's a tradition of mine. I've always done it, as long as I can remember. The sunrise has always been special to me, put in the same category as the unicorns the six-year-old me believed in.
My older brother Ian used to come watch them with me, but now, at sixteen, he thinks it's dumb, and immature. Last night when I made the mistake of asking him if he wanted to accompany me, he just came up with an excuse in his wannabe manly way. "Can't, Beth, I gotta sleep well. I have a big all-star baseball game this weekend, and Coach will be really mad if I'm tired."
"Now Beth, dear," added my mother, who had been listening, "don't you think you are getting a tad old for that? I mean, you are thirteen years old."
Folding his Wall Street Journal, my father agreed. "Yes, Beth, you should call up one of your friends. Maybe they could pry your nose from that notebook of yours."
In response, I nodded to show I had understood. My parents seemed satisfied, and went on to more interesting conversation.
So often I feel like an alien in my own family, traded with their real daughter at birth. I mean, with the exception of me, my family is the typical American family. My father is a lawyer in a successful firm, my mother is a homemaker, and my brother the star of every sports team he plays on. The only reason we live in Vermont instead of New York City is that Mother needs to take care of her failing parents, who were prescribed "good, healthy air" along with many pills by the doctor.
I am the misfit of the family. I am quiet, studious, prefer the company of the characters in my books and stories to the flighty ditzy girls at my school, and am nearly always writing. My parents don't understand my writing. They think it is a little, silly hobby of mine, and hope I will outgrow it and become what they think of as "a normal girl." But I am far more serious about writing than they know. I want to be an author, and win the Pulitzer Prize. I know this is a big dream, but I also know it is what I desperately want to do. If only my writing came out on paper as it was in my mind.
I reached the top of the hill, and pulled myself out of my thoughts. In the west, the sky was still dark with night, a deep navy blue. Overhead that blue was blending with almost purple shades, which in turn were mixing with reds and pinks. In the east, I could see the glimmering pinks and yellows of the sun beginning to rise. My watch said 5:19. According to Internet data, the sunrise had begun.
Sitting down, not minding the dew on the grass, I just watched.
The blue and purple, once overhead, were slowly moving backward, opening up the sky to a whole palette of new colors. Oranges, coral-like pinks, reds, and yellows were streaked and blended in the whole sky in front of me. They were colors so amazing that I was sure there had never been a sunrise as beautiful as this.
There was an upward shaft of sunlight, so intense at the bottom it dazzled my eyes. Surrounding it was a sea of pinks and reds and yellows, which seemed to ripple as a real ocean does. I had never known there to be so many different colors! I felt as if there was nothing in the world but the sunrise and me.
It was then, as the sun burst from the horizon, so magnificent and regal, a ball of yellow fire, that I heard the voice.
"Your dream," it said, "follow your dream. You can make it. Keep on trying. Don't give up hope!"
I was dazed. Who is this voice? Who, or what, was speaking to me?
"Don't give up hope!" the voice said again.
And then I knew who was speaking. It was the birds, and the crickets, the trees, and the grass, the wind, the clouds, the sun, and the colors of the sunrise. But mostly me. It was I who wanted my dream to come true and I who would have to work for it.
"I'll get there," I replied. "I'll do the work; I'll make my dream come true."