by rebecca yeomans-stephenson
Okemos High School
There is no light without dark.
There is no hope without worry.
There is no silence without sound.
3 years 9 months—
The thunder shakes the house as I crawl further under the blankets. The lightning cracks in the sky and lights up my room like the flash from a camera.
“Grandma!” I scream. I hear a movement and cover my head with the sheet.
“What is it baby?” I hear Grandma ask me. I don’t say anything, just lie in my bed shivering. I peak out and see Grandma walking toward me. She sits on the end of the bed and rubs my back.
“Baby, are you scared?” Another boom of thunder causes me to shake violently under the covers.
Lightning flashes in the window causing me to squeal and nod in response.
“Baby, there’s no reason to be scared,” Grandma stops rubbing my back and pulls me into a hug.
“Why?” I ask quietly.
“Well think of it this way. You know how every once in awhile I take you bowling at the bowling alley?” Grandma asks. I nod.
“Well God has just decided that tonight is a good night to go bowling. The noise you hear is just the ball rolling down the planks of wood. The light you see, that is just the lights that are set off whenever God gets a strike.”
“Really, Grandma?” I whisper.
“Of course baby!” She responds. “Do you want to count how many strikes He makes?”
“Okay.” I untangle myself from my blankets and sit on her lap. She strokes my hair as another blast of thunder and crack of lightening flash through the sky.
“One.” I whisper.
4 years 3 months—
“Eight . . . Nine . . . Ten! Ready or not here I come!” I turn around planning my route to find my grandma. I tiptoe down the hallway and through the open bathroom door. I reach for the shower curtain and throw it back. Empty. I tiptoe back into the hallway and head downstairs. There is one closet door that is open and I head in that direction. I pull open the creaky door and peer inside.
“Boo!” My grandma yells.
“AAH!” I scream and run toward the living room. Grandma runs after me and scoops me up giving me a big bear hug.
“Got you Sadie!” I giggle and push at her hands. She holds on tighter and sits down on the couch with me on her lap. I jump off and run to hide behind the coffee table. I look over it and stick my tongue out at her. Grandma laughs and stands up.
“Baby, are you ready for a story?” She asks.
I stand up and pull the first book I see off the bookshelf. I hand it to her and sit down on the couch next to her. Grandma pulls it open and begins to read. I lean into her and let her voice fill my head.
4 years 10 months—
I look at the bike looming in front of me. I feel like staring it down will make it seem less intimidating. Grandma comes out of the garage and hands me a little blue and green helmet. I fasten it, my eyes never once leaving the bike. All of the ones I’d ever ridden had had training wheels. And well, this one didn’t.
“Are you ready to try it?” Grandma asks.
“Ummm, I guess.” I whisper.
“Okay then.” Grandma helps me climb onto the big girl bike. I fit in the seat and reach for the handle bars. I feel Grandma’s hand on my back guiding me as I start to pedal very slowly forward. I wobble all over and start to lean to the side. Grandma catches me and helps me stay upright. She continues to guide me and I continue to pedal. Together we begin to travel down the road. I feel the pressure of her hand leave my back and for a split second I am biking all by myself. Then I fall. I roll into the grass scraping my elbow on the pavement on the way down. I sit up stunned. Grandma runs over to me seeing that I am about to cry.
“It’s okay baby. The first time I rode a bike I took a fall and landed in a rose bush.” Grandma smiles. I look at her and see that she is serious.
“Did you get any thorns in you?” I ask curiously, the thought of crying leaving my head.
“So many! They were a pain to get out!” Grandma smiles at me again and I laugh. She reaches out her hand and I take it. After lifting me up Grandma picks up the bike.
“Why don’t we try again?”
I nod in response and climb back onto the bike. Grandma puts her hand on the seat this time and guides me. I get into a rhythm and soon I’m pedaling down the street. I stick my legs out toward the pavement and come to a stop. I turn back toward my house and there at the end of our driveway is Grandma standing tall and proud beaming at me. I had done it, alone, but not alone. She was loving me from a distance, I could feel her pride and it made me smile.
5 years 4 months—
I looked at the sign, I couldn't read it but I knew what it said. Kindergarten. I reached for Grandma’s hand and she squeezed mine. She pushed open the door and I followed her into the room.
“Hi!” a woman in a blue dress said to Grandma. “You must be Lucille Wright.”
“Pleasure to meet you,” Grandma said as she reached out to shake blue lady’s hand.
“Is this Miss Sadie?” Blue lady gestured toward me.
“Yes, this is Sadie.” Grandma pulled me out from behind her. “Say hello Sadie.”
I shook my head and tried to hide behind Grandma’s skirt.
“Oh, is she shy?” Blue lady asked. “I know someone she’ll love.” She waved over a lady wearing a pink sweater and black pants.
“Hi there, are you Sadie?” Pink lady asked.
I nodded from behind Grandma.
“I’m Miss Chelsea,” Pink lady said. “What do you like to do sweetheart?”
“Draw.” I whispered.
“Well would you like to draw with me?”
I nodded and started to walk toward her pulling Grandma with me. Miss Chelsea sat me down at a table and I began to draw. A few minutes later I looked up and noticed Grandma wasn’t there.
“Where's Grandma?” I asked.
“She had to go, but I promise she will be back. If you miss her then you can draw a picture for her and give it to her when she comes back.”
“I nodded and reached for a crayon. I continued to draw and before I knew it Grandma was beside me again. I looked up at her and she was smiling down at me and my picture. It was of us standing on a rainbow. I said good-bye to Miss Chelsea and the blue lady named Miss Lauren. Then I reached for Grandma’s hand and together we left, the picture trailing behind me.
6 years 2 months—
I jumped out of the car and ran to the front door. I stood on the doorstep bouncing up and down waiting for Grandma. When she arrived Grandma knocked politely and about ten seconds later a middle-aged woman opened the door.
“Hello there! You must be Sadie! My name is Mrs. Sparke,” the woman said.
“Hello,” I said. I shook her extended hand and then looked up at Grandma.
“Have fun Sadie!” She said as she turned back toward the car.
Mrs. Sparke led me into her house and to a back room where two pianos sat. A small light brown one and very large shiny black grand piano. Mrs. Sparke pulled a chair up to the smaller piano and I followed her to the bench that sat in front of it.
“Alright sweetie we are going to start with basic scales and songs and work from there.” I started to play and instantly it was like I didn’t need to think. My fingers slowly picked up speed and they seemed to fly over the keys. Mrs. Sparke stared at me in awe.
“Have you ever played before?” She asked me.
“Not really,” I whispered.
“Really? Well, this is going to be fun!” She beamed at me.
Playing the piano was one of the easiest things I had ever done.
8 years 1 month—
I press my forehead against the cold window of the bus and draw little designs on the foggy glass. As we pull into the parking lot I notice all the little kids holding onto their parents hands, giving them hugs or a kiss, and knowing they would see them when they got home that day. I will never know that feeling. I float through my day in a quiet state, contemplating my situation. Grandma does not like to talk about what happened, but I know she thinks about her whenever she sees me. Grandma tells me I look just like her except I have my daddy’s eyes. I was too young to ever truly know my parents, but I still have an empty place in my heart, that feeling that when I come home from school they will not be there to greet me.
9 years 2 months—
Today was their anniversary. The day that 8 years ago the first curtain of darkness was draped over my life. I didn’t understand what it meant when I was younger but now I do. My grandma has been quiet all day, but I knew she would soon approach the topic.
“Baby?” She asked to get my attention.
“Yes Grandma?” I asked.
“Do you know why your parents left you Sadie?” She looked worried.
“No, I-” I stopped talking and looked up at her.
“Baby, they got married after you were born. They asked me to watch you so that they could go on their honeymoon. We didn’t know anything would happen.” Grandma was crying.
“Grandma?” I whispered.
“No, I have to tell you.” She wiped away her tears and settled into herself. “They took a plane to Venice.” I looked at her questioningly.
“It’s in Italy darling.” A weak smile spread across her face and then quickly disappeared. “Anyway they were travelling to Venice to begin their honeymoon. They landed safely and made it to their hotel. Everything was going smoothly. Then at about three in the morning a lit cigarette set the hotel on fire. Your parents were unable to get out of their room, it was too late.” Tears were leaking out of the corners of her eyes, and I could feel my heart drop in my chest. The hole in me had grown larger.
“Baby, I needed to tell you.” Grandma was crying now. “You are old enough to understand and I can’t handle this alone anymore.” I stood slowly and walked toward Grandma. I wrapped my small arms around her waist and buried my head in her shirt. She stroked my hair and rocked back and forth. I couldn’t cry, I couldn’t think, I couldn’t hope. I slipped out of our hug and walked calmly to my room. I shut the door, and climbed onto my bed. Across from me was a picture of my mother and father with a small pink and purple bundle in their arms. Me. I know they never truly left me, but still. The silence had been broken and the darkness only muffled my growing cries for help.
9 years 5 months—
I stare at the dress hanging from the back of my bedroom door. It was light blue and had a small white belt that wrapped around the waist. The bottom faded from the light blue to a darker ocean blue. It was very pretty, but I was still wary about the reason that Grandma had decided to give it to me now. She had told me to put it on, brush my hair, and be ready to go in twenty minutes. I slipped out of my pajamas and pulled the dress over my head. It fit perfectly and hung to about my knee. I walked over to my mirror and looked at my reflection. I cocked my head and stared at the picture directly below my reflection. My mother smiled at me in a blue dress much like my own. She had on a small gold locket. She was gorgeous, and I looked just like her. I tore myself away from the mirror and reached for my white sandals. As I was bending over to clasp them Grandma peered around the doorway.
“Baby, I found something you might like to wear with that dress,” she said.
“What is it?” I asked as I stood up and walked toward her.
“Turn around.” She was smiling. I obeyed her and turned around. I felt her hands sweep my hair to one side and something cold was set on my collarbone. She clasped the necklace and turned me back around.
“Now you look just like her.” She was beaming and I could see the tears brimming in her eyes. She quickly brushed at them and exited the room. I walked back to the mirror and looked at what had been placed around my neck. I reached up and felt a small heart. In the mirror I saw a small gold locket dangling from my neck. I looked like her. I looked just like my mom. I fingered the locket and found the small button popping it open. Inside was a picture, it was very small and I could just barely make it out, but I did. It was of mommy and daddy holding me. Their baby girl.
I blow out the candles and watch the smoke lift in swirls around our heads. Everyone claps and Grandma pulls the cake out from under me to take back to the kitchen. As we await our pieces I find myself distracted by the woman sitting opposite me. She resembles my mother. Thick brown hair and flashy blue eyes. She looks like me, except for the skin tone. Hers is pale while mine is a rich olive. Grandma floats back into the room carrying a giant piece of cake. She sets it down before me and I instantly dig in. As everyone finishes I politely excuse myself and head for the living room. A few minutes later the lady enters and sits down on the couch beside me.
“Hello there!” She said. She had a lovely smile, and a happy face.
“Hi.” I look at her but try to show little emotion. I don’t really know her.
“I’m Ainsley. Your mother’s older sister.” She reaches out her hand and I slowly extend mine in return. We shake and then release one another’s hands.
“Were you close?” I ask curiously.
“Yes, your mother and I got along very well. She was so anxious for me to meet you, I’m just sorry it took me this long to finally get around to it.”
I nodded and broke a tiny smile. She can’t be that bad if she and mom got along. Footsteps echoed down the hallway and Grandma entered the room. She smiled at Ainsley and then at me.
“Ah I see you both have finally met each other!” She came and sat down beside me.
“Baby, Ainsley was wondering if you would be okay with her staying with us for a while. She wants to find a job closer to home and get to know you. What do you think?” Grandma looked at me, trying to locate my response in my eyes. I looked between the two women and couldn’t help but smile. They were both letting me, the ten year old, make the decision.
“Of course!” I couldn’t help laughing as they both let out a sigh of relief.
“Thank you.” Ainsley was smiling at me while Grandma squeezed my hand. This was one of those times when I truly felt loved and appreciated. I felt lucky.
10 years 4 months—
My fingers flew down the keys ripping through the music while all of my hidden emotions were freed. The concerto came to a close and my fingers shook with the effort and feeling. Ainsley and Grandma were standing behind me, watching my hands.
“I have never heard anything so beautiful!” Ainsley laughed and came to give me a hug. “You are truly amazing!” She said as she enveloped me in her arms. Grandma was beaming at me and I smiled back at her.
“Sadie, would you like something to eat?” Grandma questioned.
“Sure!” I said as I pulled myself out of Ainsley’s embrace and headed for the kitchen.
“Should we tell her?” I heard Ainsley whisper to Grandma.
“Should you tell me what?” I interrupted as I peered around the wall into the living room. I saw Grandma look at Ainsley and then glance at me.
“Baby, as you know I’m a lot older than Ainsley.” Grandma started. I nodded to show her I was listening.
“Well eventually I won’t be here and someone else will have to make sure that you are safe.” She paused and looked at Ainsley.
“Your aunt Ainsley has offered to take care of you in the event that anything happens to me.” I just looked at Grandma, startled at the deep topic brought up in a matter of moments.
“Would you like it if Ainsley checked in on you and made sure that you are safe after I’m gone?” Grandma looked at me questioningly.
“I guess.” I sighed. “But you aren’t going anywhere right now are you?”
“Well I’m definitely not planning on it!” Grandma smiled at me relieved. But still her question haunted me. I don’t need anymore disaster in my life, there is already enough darkness to go around.
10 years 7 months—
Grandma pulled me into the shelter and closed the door behind us. Different noises drifted from cages around the room as animals moved and played. We approached the desk and stopped as a lady in a white dress looked up.
“Hello there!” The lady said.
“Hello,” my grandma said.
“How may I help you today?” The lady smiled at us and finished stacking a pile of papers.
“We are here to see your kittens.”
“Oh how exciting!” The lady said. “Then let me lead you this way.” The woman stood up and led us to a row of cages. Inside were small furballs wrapped up, sleeping, playing, or eating. Many of them looked up at me and even approached the entrance to the cage. As I continued to walk down the aisle I noticed a small gray kitten curled up in the back of the cage. It looked at me with deep green eyes, I could tell it was petrified. I stepped a little closer to the cage and peered at the kitten. The attendant noticed I stopped and turned to see which kitten I was taking an interest in.
“Oh isn’t she a shy little girl.” The lady pouted at the kitten and wiggled her finger at it.
“I kind of like her.” I smiled at the kitten and then looked at my Grandma.
“We’ll take her!” Grandma said. The lady in white smiled and reached up to unlatch the cage. She pulled the trembling kitten out of the cage and handed her to me. The kitten was shaking but finally curled up against my chest and began to purr very softly into my shirt.
I walked toward my grandma and the lady, who were settling the cost of the kitten. “Button, she’s cute as a button.” I smiled at Grandma.
“Button, I like that.” Grandma thanked the lady and together we left the shelter carrying my new found source of light. My true comfort.
11 years 1 month—
I can’t lose them. Not them. No one else. I sat in the purple chair outside the emergency room. Button was curled up in my lap providing me with the only warmth I had felt all day. Doctors ran in and out of the door next to me. I can’t lose them. Not them. No one else. They had been on the highway, only going out to buy groceries. A policeman came to my house, he asked me my name, and how I was related to the victims. I can’t lose them too! I was knocked out of my day dream as a doctor asked my name.
“Sweetheart, can you hear me” The doctor said. “Honey, what’s your name?”
“Sadie Wright.” I explained with a startled expression painted on my face.
“Would you mind coming in and seeing your aunt and grandmother?” I nodded and stood up following the doctor into the room. Grandma was lying in a bed breathing heavily. Ainsley was on the other side of the room. She was still. I walked toward Ainsley first and reached for her hand. She was not conscious but there was a small note lying on her stomach. I picked it up, it said-
I was hoping I would get to see you grow up and be there for you when you needed me to be. I asked to write this quickly because I know my injuries can’t be fixed. You are definitely your mother’s daughter, you are so strong and I am so proud of you.
I love you, and I was so lucky to have met you.
Your aunt and friend,
I stared at the note in my hand and felt the tears leak out of my eyes. Finally, I slowly turned toward my grandma. The only person who had ever been there for me through everything. Her breaths were coming farther apart as my eyes glazed over the injuries from the car crash. I walked toward her shaking.
“Sadie,” she whispered.
“Yes Grandma?” I said. I was breaking down, slowly falling apart.
“You are the best thing that ever happened to me. You made everything more bearable after your parent’s accident. You have grown into a strong and smart girl, you must remember that. You are special and extraordinary and I will ALWAYS be here for you no matter what.” She paused to gasp for air. I leaned down and gave her a hug.
“I love you Grandma, so much!” I was crying hard now and I could feel her shaking as she put all of her energy into giving me one last hug.
“I love you baby, you are my baby. Remember to look for the light in the darkness and that there is always hope. I love you.” We were both crying as I leaned into her. I felt her give me a kiss on the head and stroke my hair. I can’t lose them too. Stillness crept over her body and I continued to cry over the loss of the two women who actually loved me. They were gone, my last rays of light were stolen.
12 years 3 months—
My voice has been obliterated, hope lost, and light stolen as I enter the fourth foster home that I still refuse to accept as fact. I’ve lost everything.
14 years 2 months—
I have traveled from family to family never staying for too long, they could never replace the grandmother that raised me. She was there through family crushing moments that turned my life upside down yet somehow she managed to raise me to be a sweet little girl. Now at the age of fourteen I have decided to write all that I remember of her and the impact she made on me through music, the only thing that has kept me from completely breaking. I may never speak to anyone again but the least I can do is share my song. My silence needs to be broken.
Rebecca Yeomans-Stephenson is a junior at Okemos High School in Okemos, Michigan. Rebecca has been inspired by many great authors, some of whom are in her own family. She is fond of many writing genres and is pleased to have the opportunity to share one of her works with a larger audience.