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Reaching

Meri struggles to find her voice again

One word today, thought Meri.

*          *          *

Yesterday was three words.

For Meri, speaking was like a honeybee sting.

The bee has one chance to sting, then it dies. A word = a sting.

Meri talked plenty in her head, but talking out loud was dangerous.

Silence was better.

*          *          *

Meri sat on the dock on the lake at her adopted parents’ farm. They were kind people. She liked them a lot. The lake was grey. She saw her reflection.

She was black and white.

She was never good enough, always not right.

Meri thought about the day before yesterday.

The teacher had forced her to say eight words. The. Civil. War. Was. A. Long. Time. Ago.

Each word choked out like a revolting piece of moldy cheese.

Meri would rather drag a cow across the lake.

She hadn’t said more than twenty words a day for more than five years.

She remembered why.

It all started with five-year-old Meri. She was in a tiny apartment with a lady in a blue dress.

Back then, Meri was talking. Not just talking—she was being positively loud. “Meri, your room is here,” snapped the lady in the blue dress. Meri was face to face with a wall. She walked in and the lady slammed the door on her.

*          *          *

The room had faded, peeling baby-blue wallpaper. The floor was made of rotten wood with a wood cot in the corner. A small plate lay face down on the floor, and a bowl of oatmeal. Meri called for the lady in the blue dress.

*          *          *

She asked if she could have some more oatmeal. She told the lady it had fallen over.

*          *          *

The lady opened the door and her response? She glared at Meri.

*          *          *

“You’re just a stupid little foster kid. You don’t even deserve a bowl of oatmeal. You try and talk EVER again, much worse will happen to you.” Then she slammed the door on Meri’s finger. So Meri lost her words.

All the hours locked in the tiny room, Meri practiced making the words but never dared to speak them.

But soon enough she forgot even how to formulate the words.

*          *          *

Then the lady was caught after four years. Meri was put into her new adopted parents’ home.

Meri hoped that someday she would have the courage to say her words again.

Michaela Frey
Michaela Frey, 12
Herndon, VA

Jackie Cutrona
Jackie Cutrona, 13
Bedford, MA

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