American Indigenous Teens & Young Adult

June 23, 2017

“Hey, Harper?”


“I really, really love you.”

Harper turns from where he’s watching the sky and smiles at me. God, he’s gorgeous. He just sits there, grinning, for a few moments before leaning into me and saying, “You too, Therly.”

I look back out at the ocean. Waves lap lightly at the peaceful shore. Sunrise is just beginning, staining the horizon with orange, and I’ve never really liked that color, but today it’s the most perfect thing I’ve ever seen. 

Everything for the past few weeks has been perfect, really.

I’ve always wanted to do something like this; I’ve always wanted to run away. I’ve always wanted to spend nights, giggling, alone in the desert. I’ve always wanted to jump into the ocean at 11 p.m. I’ve always wanted to snuggle in the backseat and listen to music turned all the way up and swear and wear whatever I want and bleach my hair and run on train tracks and drive all night without stopping and have a real conversation and sleep in a car and do all of the million incredible things we’ve been doing every single day.

Our car is parked in the lot of this California timeshare. The car used to be blue, but we’d hung out around a spray paint shop until we found an adult who would buy some for us, then stained the whole thing black. And hey, we actually did a pretty good job.

Oh, and we changed the license plate. It’s not valid, of course, but who’s gonna check?

Harper yawns. “D’you think anyone will realize we’re not supposed to be here?”

I glance around the empty shoreline. “Nah, two teens sitting on the beach at 6:30 a.m.? What’s sketchy about that?”

Harper makes a pffing sound and falls back onto the sand. “So, what’s on the itinerary for today?”

I lay down beside him. “Idk, I was thinking maybe KFC?”

Harper snorts. “Ah, yes, the most important of all, KFC--how could I forget?”

I whomp his stomach. “Shut up.”

Harper shakes his head, further entangling his thick brown curls in sand. “Fine, then, I’ll decide. Do you want tooo… I don’t know, go swimming? Buy some stupid inflatable rafts at 5 Below and off, off into the sunset…” He waves his hand vaguely at the sea.

I laugh. “Sure thing, pal.”

“Oh, so we’re pals now, are we?” asks Harper, pretending to be hurt. “We’ve been on the road for two weeks, and you’re breaking up with me already?”

I roll my eyes, then roll over until I’m practically on top of him. I hope he catches the mischievous look in my eyes before I press my lips to his, silently giggling. Harper puts his arms around my neck.

Harper was my first kiss, and I guess I’m hoping my last. I’ve had a lot of practice over the past fortnight. I know you’ll just roll your eyes at our stupid cheesy teenage love story, but this is real, I know it is. I love this boy with all my heart. He’s kind and funny and brilliant and he makes killer crepes and I love him enough to run away with him. Not like, “Haha, let’s elope,” but actually, I did.

He’s that perfect.

I pull away from him and smile. “So, it’s a plan, then?”

“Mhm,” Harper mutters. I think he forgot what we were talking about.

To be honest, so did I.

We sit back up, my head on his shoulder, and continue watching the sun rise. It’s almost completely above the horizon when we hear someone shout, “Hey!”

We stumble into a standing position and frantically locate the source of the noise. It’s a cop car, driving along the deserted beach.

Right towards us.

“Hey, you kids!”

Without speaking, we both take off running in the same direction. In typical angry-old-man-cop fashion, the police officer shouts, “Get back here!”

We’re almost to the timeshare. Barefooted, we sprint across the parking lot, hidden by shrubbery. I can hear the police car so close behind us. In just a few seconds, we’ll be in view.

We reach our black car. Harper reaches for the keys in his pocket, but I hiss, “There’s no time for that!” I dash to the other side of the vehicle, drop to my stomach, and wiggle under. Harper follows almost immediately.

A car door slams. The policeman comes running into the parking lot. From what I can hear, it sounds like he’s looking around. “Blasted teenagers,” he mutters, maybe ten feet away from our hiding spot.

I squeeze even further under the car and pray he won’t find us. Eventually, I hear him walk back to his car and drive away across the sand.

Harper and I wait a few more minutes to be sure, then crawl out from under the car. Harper gets in the driver’s seat, and I climb over him to get to mine.

The passenger side door hasn’t opened for months. Don’t ask me why, okay? It’s not like it’s my choice.

Although I don’t mind crawling across Harper’s lap as he laughs and playfully berates me.

I think Harper thinks everything about me is perfect, too.

But, gosh, he really is flawless. His hair is dark brown and impishly wavy. He’s got this beautiful smile with teeth just white enough to be believable and just a little less than straight (the teeth, not Harper--I’m his girlfriend), so not like frightening symmetry and blinding whiteness, but not yellow and crooked. He had braces several years ago, but he doesn’t wear his retainer anymore.

And that, if you ask me, is a perfectly reasonable decision.

I’m… not so sure about myself. I’m (mostly) Native American, but I’m normal. Before Harper and I ran away, I lived, in San Francisco, in a house, with my parents. And I went to school and my parents had regular jobs and I’ve never set foot inside a tipi in my life. Is all this really that far-fetched?

But here’s the thing. I “look white.” Or at least, people assume I am. When I tell them I’m indigenous, they usually just end up calling me Indian.

I’m not, though. Harper is Indian. There’s a difference.

I wish people would understand that.

I sigh and turn on the radio. “Thunder” by Imagine Dragons comes on. I nod along to the lyrics as Harper pulls out of the parking lot. I don’t ask him where he’s going; that’s part of the fun.

The windows are down, of course. I wave my hands in the wind and lean out of the car, occasionally, when I want to see how badly I can tangle my straight hair, laughing as it whips across my face. We drive along for maybe ten minutes, me leaning out the windows like an exuberant puppy, until we pull into the parking lot of a Target. 

Harper cuts the engine and looks over at me. “What do you say—bathroom break, grocery shopping, then eat breakfast on the roof of the car?”

We fistbump. “Sounds like a plan, stan.”

Thirty minutes later and we’re walking out of target, pushing a cart with at least eight or nine bags inside. We pay in cash everywhere—both our families are well-to-do, but Harper’s dad is like, uber rich. As part of our plan before we ran away, Harper withdrew money from his bank account that was supposed to be for college and savings and other bs stuff like that, without his dad noticing. We keep it, all in twenty dollar bills, in an envelope in the glovebox.

We picked up a lot of snacks like chips and Coke, but we also have a large plastic cooler in the backseat that we refill with ice from random gas stations for stuff like fruit and ice cream. Which we eat a lot of, by the way. 

Ice cream tastes so much better under the stars. 

After putting our groceries away, Harper and I share a bag of pretzels and a 2-liter of Dr Pepper on the car’s roof. We get lots of odd looks from people, but do you think we care?

Yeah, we don’t.

We’re done with the pretzels and it’s drivetime again, on the freeway this time. Harper’s pushing 75, 80 mph. He’s not stupid, of course; but everyone else is going practically that fast too. And what would be the fun in driving if you couldn’t feel the wind rushing rapidly by your face?

I bounce back into my seat contentedly and roll up the window. I swat wild strands of hair out of my face and look over at Harper, laughing.

“I love you,” I tell him again.

Harper grins and turns his face, slightly, to look at mine. “Love you--” he begins.

Hey, that’s kind of dangerous. Once he begins turning, I frown and say, “Harper--”

I look out the windshield. We’re drifting into the right lane, right in front of another car. I scream, “HARPER--”

And then we start to spin.

June 23, 2017

“I think she’s waking up!”

I moan and flutter my eyelids open. I’m in a--hospital?--in a bed, lying down. Mom and Dad are sitting by my side, their foreheads creased in worry. 

“Oh, thank God,” Mom cries and takes my hand. “Therly? Are you all right? It’s your mom, sweetheart.”

“M-mom?” I stammer. Everything aches. I swallow. That hurts too. “How did you find me?”

“You got in an accident, sweetie. When you ran away, and left your phone and everything at home without even leaving a note--we thought you were dead, oh, praise God…”

Dad picks up for her. “You were recognized by one of the paramedics. We came right away. We’re so glad you’re safe, Therly… you could’ve died…”

I scream. Mom looks up from where she was stroking my hand and gasps. “What’s wrong? Are you in pain? Should we--”

“Harper,” I sob. “Where’s Harper? Is he okay?” I struggle to sit up.

Dad pushes me back down onto the bed. “Hey, it’s okay, Therly--”

“No, it’s not!” I scream hoarsely. “Where’s Harper?”

“He’s dead, Therly,” Mom whispers.

I think my heart stops beating.

And now I’m thrashing, screaming, kicking and biting and yelling and crying, crying, Harper, Harper, where are you Harper, Harper--

June 27, 2017

We live in a lakefront house. Did I ever mention that?

I was discharged from the hospital--some time ago--I can’t keep track, I can’t remember. I think Harper’s funeral is this Saturday. Or maybe it’s next--I don’t know.

I don’t really remember anymore.

I’m at the edge of the dock in our backyard. It’s--I don’t know, ten p.m.? Earlier? Later?

I got into the backyard through the house’s back door. There’s only one of them. I told my parents I would be out for fifteen minutes, so, although they’ll monitor the front to make sure I don’t sneak out, they won’t check back here.

I think.

I look at the lake’s still water. The moon is a waxing crescent tonight. It’s beautiful. The white light reflects in a jagged, watery line across the lake’s surface.

It looks so calm. So quiet. I shift from my seated position until I’m on my stomach and reach the three longest fingers of my right hand down to touch the water.

It’s so cold. Or warm. No, I think it’s warm.

I shift my glance from the depths beneath me once more to the enchanting reflection. It’s really quiet tonight. No crickets, even. Just water. And light.

I scooch forward a little more until my whole torso is hanging off the dock. I slip both my hands into the water.

I feel something in it. I don’t know what. But I do.

I move forward further off the dock--deeper in the water--until I’ve fallen, quietly, into the lake.

My head is submerged in water. I look up, and through the surface I see the moon. It’s really beautiful tonight.

And then I close my eyes.

November 20, 2020 17:17

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Kate Reynolds
00:20 Feb 19, 2021

Wow. This story really captivated me from start to finish, and I don't say that a lot (bc my attention span is about the size of a small potato) and just... wow. God that was... so powerful and yet so sad. This was honestly so creative. I loved the adventure of two lovers running away together, which ended in tragedy. I do have an idea for the title, maybe something like "Just Another Typical Love Story" (Even though this is anything but typical). I just thought it would fit bc you have so many references that talk about "typical love stori...


02:59 Feb 19, 2021

i really appreciate that!! honestly, since any of the titles of any of my stories at any given moment are terrible, i'll prolly change it to that ;) thank you so much!!


Kate Reynolds
12:35 Feb 19, 2021

Ofc!! XD Anytimeeee


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Sundaran .
10:34 Nov 27, 2020

The way you presented the story was really good. There was a smooth flow to it. Good job


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Lourenço Amorim
01:36 Nov 26, 2020

This text is proof of your gift to write teen stories, both happy and tragic. I enjoy from the first line to the last. The slangs, the vibe, the plot, all ideas were great. The end was a bit too tragic but fit well the rest of the stories. Great work.


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Annette Lovewind
20:59 Nov 20, 2020

It started out really cute and then you gave us that ending...I like the story tho.


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