To celebrate 100 years as a community organization, in partnership with Investors Group, the Kiwanis Club of St. John’s held a short story award this year, for high school students in St. John’s and Mount Pearl. Below is the third place winner. Pick up January’s print issue to read the winner.
“Halfway Out Of The Dark,” by Noha Shehata
I walked into her room for the first time since it happened, her mother trailing behind me. I think she was hoping that I would delay the view.
Neither of us wanted to go in. We stood in front of the closed door in silence for what felt like hours. Someone had to go in first, and I knew it wouldn’t be her. I hesitantly reached my hand for the doorknob, greeted by a cold, dusty surface.
It creaked open, her room being revealed piece by piece. It was exactly how I remembered it. I was expecting a dramatic change or an entrance that would grip at my heartstrings. But it was as if I was entering her room any other time. I felt like she would come up and jump on her bed once she got home.
We walked in silence, going through her stuff without uttering a word. It felt like the world had gone silent. There were no cars honking in the streets or airplanes flying overhead. Her brothers weren’t home from school yet so the house was empty. The air hung with stillness.
It didn’t feel real yet.
“Finn,” Her mother called to me from the opposite side of the room.
I walked over only to see her clutching Kaiden’s diary in her arms. We flipped through, most of the pages being to-do lists or notes for school.
But then we stumbled upon this:
December 17th, 2016
To whom it may concern,
People are constantly talking about sunsets. “We watched the sunset on the beach”, “They drove off into the sunset”, and on and on. But sunrises are more beautiful than people think.
Many can’t tell the difference, but to me, it’s blatantly obvious. They may have similar colours, but they are two completely different experiences.
I saw the sunset last night, watching the light disappear from the world. It started out as a burst of colour, flooding the sky with pinks and purples, but within half an hour everything was dark. The sky was almost black, shadowing over the world. I didn’t consider that to be a horrible thing. I was more of a night owl than a morning person for the simple reason that at night, everything was silent.
I grew up with three younger brothers. As you could imagine, silence was a rare occurrence in my house. The hours of 2-5am were the only time when it was just me and my thoughts. During that time, there were no consequences. Throughout the day, people constantly rush to get to their destination. This leads to crowded sidewalks and streets where all you could see is a canary yellow line of honking taxis. If you were close enough, you would see the flailing arms of the flustered drivers and hear their exaggerated sighs.
At night, however, lights only shone from rooftops. No one was trying to go anywhere, and that beautiful silence was something that only people who were awake got to experience.
All-nighters became a regular thing for me, usually caused by stress or over thinking. But on nights like tonight, I just wanted to be there for when the world woke up. When I saw the sunset overtaken by darkness, I decided that I would stay up and watch that darkness fade.
That night, there was a hockey game. My favourite team, the Los Angeles Kings, were playing against a weaker team. I was so sure that they’d win.
They lost 2-1.
It’s 2016 and I still get called a try hard when I tell people that I like hockey. They say that I watch it for the men. But I watch it because it makes me happy. It’s one of those little things that I look forward to, especially if I’m having a bad day. I’ll know that I only have to wait a few more hours until I can sit back and watch the game with my tea and food. That one thought could be enough to carry me through the day.
The next thing I did was read a book. I was one of those people that could read an entire book in one sitting if I set my mind to it, and that’s what I did. I read 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher. There are many stereotypes and speculations that follow this book. Yes, it is categorized in the young adult section of a bookstore, and rightfully so, but this is just one of the many hidden gems that can be found in that section. It brings up the serious and important topic of suicide and articulates it in a way that everyone can understand it. It was a book that helped me through a rough time in my life, as it did with countless other people. So yes, it is a young adult novel, but I don’t think it should be judged solely on that fact.
I finished the book at around 5am. After browsing through Netflix for what felt like a lifetime, I settled on watching something that I knew would not disappoint – The Way Way Back. Anyone who was a fan of the remarkable actor and comedic, Steve Carell, would know the movie.
The movie isn’t exactly a romantic comedy. Google defines a rom-com as a ‘film with a light-hearted, humorous plot, centered on romantic ideals.’ It’s not at all centered around romantic ideals, but it is a lighthearted and feel-good movie. At a certain point in my life, I watched this movie at least once a day. It made me smile, which was a hard thing to do at the time. The movie helped me become the cheery person that I am today.
Before I knew it, the movie was over. I looked out the window to see if the sun had begun to rise. At a first glance, I didn’t see anything. As I looked closer, I could see that the sky was no longer a pitch black. It had turned the colour of the ocean in the moonlight. Between that and the horizon, there was a small sliver of faded turquoise.
I made coffee while I continued to wait.
I read somewhere that when you pull an all-nighter, you should watch your caffeine intake. With my history of coffee, that was not an option. I started drinking it at an extremely young age. Though I’m not addicted, I don’t like going without coffee. It has become a part of my daily routine, and I enjoy the taste.
I pulled up a chair to my window and drew the curtains. I sat, waiting. At first, I was going to get up and try to find something to do. I could’ve gotten my Sudoku book or finished the unfinished math homework that I knew my teacher was going to check. Or, I could’ve done my writing homework.
Writing truly fascinated me. We’re putting down bits of graphite onto pressed trees, and those scratches make sense to people. When you put the lines together, you form words with meanings. A few scratches on paper can mean a lot to someone, people can have emotional connections with them. If that’s not magic, then I don’t know what is.
While I was lost in thought, things began to change.
They were subtle changes, the blue becoming a lighter shade and the small amounts of turquoise becoming larger and engulfing the sky. The birds started chirping, contrary to the popular belief that they only do that in Disney movies. The trees carefully began to sway with the wind.
You could tell where the sun was going to emerge; that’s where all the orange was. it was like a ball of fire detonated in the sky. Pink was radiating off it, eventually folding into purple.
All of this happened before the sun came up. My first taste of sunshine was when a golden nugget shone through the bottom of the trees in my backyard. It disappeared for a second and I thought, “Is that it?” But suddenly, there was a burst of light shining through the leaves. It got in between every crevice, delivering a bouquet of sunlight.
I smiled into the sun. It was that very moment that I knew. I knew that I was better.
I was finally happy.
I slowly sank into her bed as I folded the note. Her mother sat beside me, gripping my hand until it was bright red. I was speechless.
“She died right after Christmas,” Her mother broke the silence.
I never imagined that I would have to write a eulogy for my 18-year-old girlfriend. I never imagined that we wouldn’t go to college together. I never thought she’d leave.
It wasn’t fair. She had finally found a way around her depression, she had finally found a way to move on. Only to be taken by a drunk driver.
She was finally happy.
This wasn’t fair.
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