Mr. Lawrence huddled up next to his heater as he looked out his window. He watched the kids outside play in the snow laughing, giggling and smiling. They threw snowballs at each other, used trash can tops as sleds, enjoying themselves with family during the holiday season. Mr. Lawrence got up to get the hot chocolate that he just warmed up and dark it as he continued to watch the scene outside, but even the hot chocolate couldn’t warm up his despondent soul.
As the sun began to set, Mr. Lawrence put on a coat and boots deciding to take a stroll outside. He never really enjoyed these walks but he liked the fresh air, a break from his empty, lonely, quiet home. His house was the only house on the block that wasn’t decorated with holiday lights. Each house was draped in fun colorful lights full of joy and happiness. Mr. Lawrence walked looking at every house he passed making his frown droop even more. He hated the holiday season. He tried to avert his eyes and just look ahead, but the light coming through one house’s window caught the attention of his eye. Through their curtains he could see a family of about five getting ready to eat their dinner. They bought plates of food to the table as the kids ran around the dinner table chasing each other and laughing. One kid fell as he tripped on the carpet. Everyone stopped what they were doing to console the crying child. After a few seconds the child stopped crying. Mr. Lawrence continued to walk as he passed a couple who were holding hands walking close to stay warm.
When Mr. Lawrence reached the park, he sat on a bench, thinking. He didn’t like to think or sit on park benches, but he did. The park was empty except for the frozen snow. He thought of his wife. His wife died a few years before. She woke up one morning to put salt around the outside of the house, but there was no more salt; so as she walked out the front door to go and buy salt she slipped on ice slamming her head on the iced concrete ground and she died. Mr. Lawrence was never the same after that. He never left his house, not even for his wife’s funeral until recently. He never answered phone calls. He never opened his front door. He cut off all connections to his children and grandchildren who tried for years to connect with him, but he refused and they gave up. He sat there remembering all those holidays he shared with his family together; it always made him warm. But, as Mr. Lawrence sat on the park bench not even hot chocolate could warm him up.
Ruben sat in the dark closet crying. Crying really hard, even though his tears changed nothing deep down inside; he felt that something would change one day, eventually and that thought was what kept him alive the eight years of his life that he spent in this world
Through his tears he heard the laughter of his family in the front. The same family Mr. Lawrence saw through the window. But what Mr. Lawrence didn’t see was the kid in the closet.
Another family dinner without him, he thought. But, it was okay he would probably get fed today his mom seemed happy. He was used to it by now. He was used to a lot of things his mom did. But, he still believed things would change.
Ruben wiped his tears and turned on the closet light hoping his mother wouldn’t notice it was on. He grabbed the book that the nice woman who called herself a social worker gave him. If his mom saw it, it wouldn’t be good. That’s why he hid it in the back of the closet, a place she never went. He opened it to the first page where he drew a picture of his family including him hoping the image would come alive one day and make his life a little easier to live. He turned to the next clean, crisp page and began to write:
Why don’t you love me anymore? I know you used to and maybe one day you will again. You love Sarah and Zac and Joshua. But why not me? You beat me for fun. You starve me. You make me do everything in the house. Sometimes you make me sleep in the closet. I’m sorry if I did something wrong. I still love you Mom. – Ruben
Shariya and her boyfriend huddled passed an old man that seemed sad on a park bench. It was a cold night. Her boyfriend walked her home and said their good byes. Shariya walked into her house and awaiting her was her parents and the stranger and his family. Shariya’s parents scolded her for being late and keeping their guest waiting.
They all sat in the dining room and ate dinner. Shariya felt uneasy as she picked at her food. She looked up and found her parents eyeing her and that stranger staring at her. ” May I be excused?”
“No you must eat your food and enjoy the food with your new family,” her father said eyeing her sharply. Shariya sighed and rolled her eyes. She stopped eating and just stared blankly into the air thinking she couldn’t wait for this to be over.
“Why don’t we go and finalize the plans for the wedding in the living room and let these two get to know each other, ” Shariya’s father said to the others. They all got up and went to the living room leaving her and the stranger alone. They sat in the quiet for a few minutes. Shariya thought of how she was going to explain to her boyfriend that she a high school senior was getting married to some random person. How would she leave the one she loved for a person she did not know, she thought? She liked being Bengali, but didn’t like the things that came with it like arranged marriages. She couldn’t even explain to her parents that she loved someone else. They would never talk to her again and they would kick her out the house.
The boy across from her interrupted the silence. ” I know you hate me and I don’t want to make your life miserable, so I think I should cancel the wedding.”
Shariya surprised stay quiet until what he said had registered. ” I don’t hate you,” she replied.
“Yes you do. I can tell.”
“It’s just that I don’t know you and you don’t know me. Strangers getting married . . . ” Shariya stopped.
“Yea. I’m going to tell them before they finalize anything else . . . But I still think you’re pretty.” The boy walked into the living room and Shariya watched after him. She waited for the yelling to begin. Three . . . Two . . . One.”WHAT? Did she talk you out of it? Do you not think my daughter is beautiful? …”
” Grandma! Grandma! I want to learn how to cook. Can you teach me a recipe? Please,” Zade said jumping up and down as she ran into the kitchen. Zade was Mr. Lawrence’s grandchild whom he barely knew. She was at her house of her only grandmother.
“Yes, child of course I can, but you got to stop jumping first.”
“Okay, Grandma. I’m ready. Let’s bake some cookies.”
“Cookies? Child, you aren’t ready to bake some cookies yet. You have to learn from the beginning first,” her grandmother said.
“What’s the beginning?”
“The beginning is love. You have to learn how to bake some Love.”
“Love? Grandma, you can’t bake love,” said Zade giggling.
“Yes, you can. I have the recipe. Come over to the table and sit so I can tell you the recipe, ” said her grandmother walking to the table. They both sat at the table. ” To bake some love all you need is: me and you, two heart fulls of kindness, two armfuls of gentleness, two big hearts full of forgiveness. You may not even need an oven because it comes with warmth and heat. It’s like nothing out there and you can’t go wrong with it. Add a dash of sugar to make it sweeter, but with you it can’t get any sweeter.”
” I don’t think they sell that at the supermarket Grandma.”
“They don’t have to ’cause I got all I need right here. I love you, baby.”
“I love you, too Grandma, Zade said as she gave her grandmother two armfuls of gentleness.
Age 16, Grade 10
Benjamin Banneker Academy for Community Development