A body laid sprawled out on the ground in front of me. A dagger tumbled out of my hand and clattered to the ground. I stood there, shocked, my face turned ghost white.
I heard sirens wailing in the distance, but I couldn’t move. I stared at the body of my best friend and watched the blood run down his forehead.
A cop grabbed my arms and held them firmly behind my back. I couldn’t argue, I couldn’t speak. My mouth felt like all the life had been sucked out of it. All the words, thoughts, and music. Gone. A man with a freshly pressed blue uniform tried to pull me away, but I stood my ground. I knelt down, my tears falling on the body below.
The officer pulled me away, more forcefully this time, and shoved me into a screaming car. The red and blue lights were blinding me. The sirens haunted me. As they pulled away from the crime scene, it hit me. I was going to prison.
At age 13, I was going to prison.
All the evidence pointed to me. The place, the time, the weapon, even the motive. But how could I kill my best friend? Sure, we got into arguments, but we loved each other.
His stone cold face, full of betrayal, is tattooed into my mind.
5 years later.
I didn’t mean to steal the necklace, it just kind of happened.
Just like the television, the bag of chips, the bracelet, the car, and the diamond.
I guess I’m kind of getting on the cops nerves. This was the last straw. I’ve been on trial 3 times before today:
The first time, I stole a television. They had let me free because I had “learned my lesson”, but we all know I didn’t. I think even the judge knew he would see me again.
The second time I stole a car. Now this time, it was a much bigger theft, but the judge said I just needed some counseling. So, I got stuck with smelly Rebecka, my therapist.
The third time, after I stole a diamond, the judge said that Rebecka wasn’t helpful enough and assigned another person to help me. Obviously that didn’t work out too well.
The judge banged on his table, just like you see in the movies.
“I sentence you to one year in juvenile detention.”
I rolled my eyes. I didn’t care that much, at least that’s what I wanted him to think. I couldn’t have him believe he had power over my emotions. I slumped in the seat and my lawyer put her papers in a neat pile. She packed them into her briefcase and stuck out her hand.
“I hope to never see you in here again,” she said.
I shook her hand. “Same here.” I jeered and stood up, slinging my backpack over my shoulder. I followed her down the hall as news reporters held their microphones out. When you were part of the richest family in the state, people wanted to see everything that happened to you. One lady, about four feet tall, stuck a microphone in my face.
“How do you feel about this recent decision?”
“Fine,” I mumbled, smacking the gum in my mouth. My lawyer pushed ahead and I gladly followed. I’ve never been a fan of publicity. Interviews are not my mojo.
A police car pulled up and parked on the curb. I sat in the passenger seat. I wasn’t going to run away or anything, I was in enough trouble as it was.
The car smelled of mint and old ladies. Nasty.
“Hello, Ma’am,” The cop said as I sat down. He was a large man, wrapped in navy blue. He had a thin handlebar mustache that curled up gently at the ends. His hands could fit an entire pizza in them, but instead they gripped the steering wheel tightly. I could tell he was a bit nervous. The side of his mouth twitched as he smiled. “I’m Gregory, I’ll be taking you to the juvenile detention center.”
“Okay, cool,” I grumbled as he pulled the car away from the court building.
“What’s your name?” he asked, obviously trying to keep the conversation going.
“Heidi,” I paused, “And can you please stop talking? I just want to get there.”
“Alright. I’ve never heard of anyone excited to get to the juvenile detention center.” He chuckled at his own joke. I rolled my eyes and slumped in the seat, picking at my sea green painted nails.
When she arrived, I didn’t know what to think. She didn’t look like a criminal. She unloaded a small duffle bag from the car and rushed upstairs, not glancing at anyone.
The Hallow Juvenile Detention Center is a bit different. It’s kind of like a foster home, but for murderous, thieving, dangerous kids. We are put into rooms of two, but since I’m “so dangerous”, I sleep by myself. Until now.
“So,” The girl said, patting the knees of her blue jeans. “I heard you killed five people.”
What a great way to start a conversation.
“That is what the reports say,” My cheeks turned red. I always get embarrassed when people talk about the things I ‘supposedly’ did.
“I still can’t belive they’d make a 13 year old sleep in the same room as a 18 year old murder. Seems kinda dangerous,” she said, unpacking her bag.
“Let’s talk about something different,” I said.
“Why? What you did was pretty neat, well covering it up, not the killing.”
“Let’s talk about something else,” I said again, a little more forcefully.
“Chill out. I didn’t mean to get you angry. Are you gonna kill me or something,” she snickered.
“It’s not funny,” I glared at her, rage burning through my sparkly eyeshadow.
“Shouldn’t you be in some kind of private cell?”
“Well I’m not, so deal with it,” I snarled.
“Why are you so touchy anyway?” She asked, looking me straight in the eyes. Pretty bold of her.
“I didn’t kill anyone, okay? Is that what you wanted to hear?” I yelled.
“Yeah right,” She snorted.
“I didn’t kill anyone! I have been stuck in this stupid home, judged for commiting a crime I didn’t do! So yeah, I’m a bit touchy about the whole killing thing.” I screamed, getting right in that snotty face of hers.
“No I’m lying to you,” I said sarcastically, “Yes ‘really’. You might as well call me ‘Elia Wilkins, falsely accused of murder’.”
“Then why don’t you stand up for yourself? Tell people what’s what?”
“Because it’s pointless. I’m never getting out of here. Plus, they wouldn’t believe me.” I turned around and walked out of the room.
Everyone was asleep and the house was silent. I pulled on a coat and slipped out of the room, careful not to wake Elia. The floorboards creaked as I went down stairs. The light flickered on in the bedroom at the bottom of the steps and I stood transfixed. I couldn’t have anyone catching me, no matter what.
The lights went off and I quickly hustled outside.
Stars glistened above, shining in thousands of constellations. In the city, you don’t see many stars. A small blinking light moved across the sky. The space shuttle.
When I was little, I always wanted to be an astronaut. The freedom, the thrill, and the science all inspired me. I thought it could do it. I hoped I could do it. Once, when I was five, I made my own astronaut costume and refused to take it off. It was painted bright blue and, on the side of the helmet, I had my name written across in big, chunky letters. I thought the Thanksgiving photos that year were pretty funny, but my dad said differently.
My muscles tensed at my memory. I put my head down and walked to the shed that was positioned at the edge of a barb wire fence.
It smelled musty, the kind of musty in your grandfather attic, where leather chairs bask in the grime and old photos are covered in dust. I pulled a small chain and the lights flickered on. I stood on my toes and reached for a box that was labeled Case Files. Another box tumbled to the ground and a bag with a dagger fell out. I gasped and quickly backed away. I shoved it into the corner, only touching it with my foot, and opened the box in my hands. Paper after paper were piled on top of one another. As I sorted through the papers, I came to one labeled Elia Thomas. Perfect.
I still couldn’t belive she didn’t murder anyone.
I knew I had to do something about this miscommunication. I needed to tell people.
But what would I tell them?
Maybe she’s right. They’d never believe a criminal.
But she doesn’t deserve to be in here. And there has been a murder running lose for three years. That’s not good.
I sat down and started to read through her case file.
Yeah, Elia was not happy about it. In the morning, I proposed a solution; just find enough evidence that points to someone else and they will re-think the case. I already had found a few things that showed it couldn’t have been Elia. A couple more nights of digging and...
She said no. Harsh.
Even if I didn’t have her help, I was going to do it by myself.
I don’t know why.
I guess I just feel like I need to make a difference.
“Why do you steal? I’ve never understood why people do that,” I said one morning as we were sitting on the porch. Besides the case file incident, I have become quite fond of her.
“Well, some people do it out of habit, others for sport,” she sighed.
“Yeah but why do you?”
“I have always been the last thing on my parent’s mind, you know? Between work, finances, and church, they never have time for me,” She avoided my eyes.
“I see. So, you thought that with a court trial, they’d finally pay attention?”
“Well, not exactly,” she said, “It was more like they had too.”
“You're losing me.”
“My dad’s the judge in my town. That’s why he’s so busy all the time. I know it isn’t his fault or anything and it’s kind of childish, but it was the only way. I just thought after a trial or two, he may change his ways, but he didn’t. So, I kept going. You know the rest. Thing after thing got stolen. I even stole a car, though that was pretty neat.” She took a strand of hair and braided it nervously.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” I knew it was hard for her to talk about her background. “But while we are admitting things, there is something I should tell you,” I knew I had to let her know. I shouldn’t have kept her in the dark for so long, but I knew she’d be upset. “Because I am eighteen, I have to move out of The Hallow Juvenile Detention Center.”
“What? Moving out? You can’t!” I couldn’t believe it. I wouldn’t let it happen. “You can’t do that! You can’t do that to me!” I stood up, “I won’t let you go.” I sobbed. She was my only friend. She was the only person who believed I could be better, I could change. I turned around and stormed away, not looking back. She called after me, but the sound got drowned out because of my seething rage. I couldn’t have someone else leave me.
I wanted to matter to someone.
I collapsed by a willow tree, a leaf hanging over me. One leaf in a vast green ocean. My face stung from tears.
I don’t know why I was so upset, I had only known Elia for a couple weeks, but those weeks had been great.
The sunset was beautiful. Orange, red, purple, all mixing together to make the perfect combination. But it only lasts so long. Soon stars were peeking out behind wisps of clouds. I knew it was time to go inside.
I cracked open the door, trying not to wake Elia, when I saw that the lamp had been turned on.
“Elia?” I whispered, checking the jumble of sheets that was her bed. Nothing. I spun around and looked in the chair that sat beside my bed. Sometimes, late at night, I would find her reading there, lost in an imaginary world. Nothing.
Then I saw it.
A small piece of parchment sat on my bed. Her messy handwriting scrawled across it:
I had to leave.
I’ll miss you.
That was it. That was the last I heard from Elia Wilkins, falsely accused of murder.
I’ll never get to help her.
I’ll never get to change her situation.
But, I can change mine.