Northside High School is a newer school, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have the same old problems. People form themselves into groups, they look down their noses at one another, but in truth, they've all got the same problems and fears. They all have insecurities, they all can feel left out, and they all want to be accepted, regardless of whatever their t-shirt says. We've got a pretty good school, it's on its own street and we have what we need: computer labs, a gymnasium, a football field, a parking lot, classrooms, and teachers and students of all sizes and colors.

At 7:00, my alarm did that stupid ringing thing that wakes me up from being on that nice beach all by myself, just me and no one else. Rolling out of bed was a chore; I was so warm and comfortable. I don't remember my bed being this warm and inviting when I crawled in last night. The thought crossed my mind that if I just took out its battery, its heart would stop beating, and I could go back to sleep. I could stay home and tell Mom the battery fell out when the cat knocked it over. That'd be great... Miss school, sleep in, wake up around noon, watch the news, and eat the cereal my mom hauled in yesterday. Damn, I've got a project due today in second block. My stupid Mickey Mouse alarm clock survives another day. I could tell today was going to be a bad day.

The dim vibration of the bus as it cruises its way through the maze of streets that is my neighborhood puts me to sleep faster than... whatever. Two minutes into my dream wedding and the speed bump we went over turns the aisle of my family gazing at me turns into the aisle of other kids giving me an amused stare. The best man turns into the weird kid in second block, holding his project so it doesn't get injured by the next rogue speed bump. My project! Dammit, there's another zero for me. How could today get any worse?

I could barely keep my eyes open in homeroom; I could hear footsteps running hard down the hall. Not the usual kids sprinting from the bathroom so as not to be too late for homeroom, though, It's the principal. We don't see her very much; I wonder what she wants that she'd have to run for. I'll never forget the look of sheer terror in her eyes and a panic in her voice: "Everyone get under the desk and turn off the lights! There's a student with a gun heading this way!"

Oh my god. What was going on? Maybe I did take that battery out and I'm just dreaming. Was this some sort of joke? No, it can't be, April's 5 months away. Who would bring a gun to school? The handbook says it's not allowed! Confused voices all around me started mumbling. We were so scared. I still couldn't help but wonder what gives principals the courage to work their way down the hallways a step ahead of a shooter to warn the students. I know that I'd be behind a desk, principal or not.

"Who is it?"

"Is he shooting anyone?"

Hey, it's the gum I put under here last year. Funny, I can remember that, but I can't remember to bring my stupid project. I bet on the brightside this'll delay the due date.

Any vague ideas that I might wake up with the news on were instantly taken out of my mind when I heard the most frightening sound in the world. There were some people outside the door running and screaming; we could hear the beating of their footsteps, and then BOOM! The sounds of running stopped with a thud and a slide. Everyone in homeroom screamed. It was the shortest scream I'd ever hear. This is serious, someone's just been shot. BOOM! A girl screams the highest pitch available to human ears. "OH MY GOD PLEASE - BOOM!" I wish I could see what was going on. BOOM! Nevermind. Over the intercom, we could hear the lady in the office telling everyone to stay in their classrooms, lock the doors, get under the desks and stay silent. Easy for her to say. This wasn't going on outside her window. Or was it?

We heard him coming closer, the gunshots growing ever more present. Almost as if they were already in the room. This time, however, the gunshots were accompanied by shattered glass and group screams. They were closer now, we could tell by the blood splatter on the window. BOOM! One less person crowding the hallway during chicken day. BOOM! It sounds like he shot through wood or something. We saw rubble from the ceiling fall through the window. Where were the police? Why did whoever's doing this pick the ENGLISH hallway? Who's doing this? What would drive a student to commit such a gruesome slaughter? These were the last things on my mind, the trump thought was Oh shit. Smoothly but suddenly, a face appeared in the window behind the falling dust from the hole in the ceiling. The last thing I ever saw were these cold, dim eyes looking at me through the window. He smiled a little. BOOM! He makes his way through the library, the atrium, outside, and up to the science wing.

"Get up; it's time for school sweetie." Maaaan I was just getting my revenge on that kid who put me in a trash can. I hate that guy. I got up and stretched, and headed for the shower. What a wonderful set of red lines on my face from sleeping with my face in my keyboard I thought to myself as I looked into the mirror. I guess I fell asleep playing Counter Strike, waiting for it to load. I should improve myself and learn to stop staying up so late; sike. My new Gillette fusion razor is awesome. I love how it just glides across my face, vanquishing all the bits of stubble. A few minutes later, clean shaven and ready for a new day, I walk out of the bathroom into the living room. From at least 5 places, I can see random family members and even myself smiling at me. I almost smile back when I hear the familiar racket of Scarlet's tail engaging the black bars of her crate. Yep, my sister forgot to take the dogs out. What a bummer, I think to myself as I head for the kitchen to make some waffles. As I pass her, she looks at me eagerly, as if I'm supposed to have waffles in there for her, too. Pushing down the toaster handle, I can tell today's a good day.It's about time I had a good day too. This entire week's just sucked. My favorite shirt's clean though, and nothing’s better than listening to music in the morning. Seeing as how today's a good day, I think I'll go ahead and dig up my reggae mix.

I find myself with plenty of time to walk to the bus stop, yet I still get there ten minutes early, because I don't want to risk anything. The idea of me having a good day that I have to keep to myself because I missed the bus is a frightening one. As I see the bus pull around the corner and focus its headlights on me, I remember we're supposed to be watching a movie in fourth block. This is good news to me, I can't stand math.  That girl in the back row is wearing a pretty premium shirt today. DUDE! Yes! No one's in my seat! No homework to make up before class AND the vice principal isn't supposed to be here today. Today rocks. After socializing in the courtyard with all 6 of my friends, we head upstairs into homeroom. There I am, sitting in my chair drawing random shapes and studying them, and finally finding a spot to put eyes, making it into some sort of geometric creature, when the principal bursts into the classroom telling us to get behind the lab tables and not to stick our heads up; there's a shooting. I felt my senses grow in vigilance. What was I thinking; I never have a good day. There's a lot of commotion at the thought that something like this is happening at OUR school. The stupid girl across the desk from me is just mumbling "Oh God, Oh God", and SOMEHOW finds the courage to pull her cell phone out of her purse and start texting people. What a dumb bitch. A few minutes later, we could hear loud booms down below us. I hope no one's hurt. OH MY GOD! He shot through the floor! Wow, that was dangerously close to my desk I think as I look at it from behind a balance. Please, please, don't let him come in here. I'm not ready to go, I’m still a virgin! I sure hope that girl on the bus is okay. She wasn't. We can hear someone running up the hall. Please, just be the principal to tell us it's over. BOOM! The glass window shatters. There was nothing but silence. Don't let him come in here, God, please! I'm not even religious, why am I begging God not to lead someone in here? Slowly, a partially gloved pale hand reaches through the broken glass and opens the door from the inside. Once the door is open, the hand makes its slow trip back out of the window, and there's complete silence. This is it, I thought. The door swings open but we see nobody coming in. I could feel my heart beating faster than ever. Regardless of whether someone's coming in, someone opened that door. At least that stupid girl shut up and put her phone away. I was breathing extremely hard, but as silent as if I were holding my breath.

Oh god, he's coming in.

He walks to the front of the room and positions himself so he's facing the lab in the back. Almost as if he's our teacher. If I make this out alive, I'll definitely learn something. He was wearing a black beanie on a warm day. His longsleeve shirt was rolled to his upper arm, disappearing behind a belt. So much for the school being safer with our shirts tucked in. He starts to step over the broken glass with his old Nikes. Who is that kid? Almost as if he were reading my thoughts, he looks RIGHT at me. Why is he looking at me? Does he recognize me? Am I going to be the first to go? The kid smiles a little, a disturbing expression to see on a kid with a gun, and reaches for the spray painted Styrofoam ball I used to represent a Hydrogen molecule on my desk at the front, next to the series of holes on the floor. He holds it up for a second, his eyes never leaving mine, as if he somehow knew it was there. Oh god, this is the end. He tosses it up and down in his hand for a few seconds, his facial expression hard and unchanging, as if he's carved out of stone. That damned look on his face. It's not cocky, or angry, or evil, or sad, or excited, it's just plain happy. Still fucking with the stupid ball, I start to think; well, sort of. What am I supposed to think about when my life is in danger? My mom? My family? My friends? That girl on the bus? Me? Wouldn't that be a little selfish? Who the hell am I supposed to think about? Should I think about religion? Whatever religion is true, I'm about to fucking find out. What if it's Christianity? Am I doomed to go to Hell? What if it's not? I all of a sudden don't want to find out. It looks like I've got almost no choice in the matter. I'm screwed if I die now. Jesus, I love you and I accept you as my savior, please come down here and kick this kid's ass. He stops playing with the ball, pulls his eyes out of my head, and continues to look at me. His gargoyle face seems a bit different now, in some way I can't quite put my finger on. I wonder what all the other kids in the classroom are up to. I hope they're okay. The happy looking kid tosses me the ball, turns around, and walks back out.  What the hell? I still have that ball. Looking back, was today a good day or a bad day?  There was a school shooting, but I avoided getting shot and sold my soul to the Jesus.

"Get off me you dumb dog." I hate mornings. Yesterday sucked, and today's going to suck. My birthday's coming up, and that's going to suck too. School sucks, I suck, you suck, this sucks. Screw everybody. Everything sucks but my dog. He's not really dumb; he’s just excited to see me. Dogs are the only creatures on earth that will ever love someone more than they love themselves. I stumble my way off the couch and bump into a wall. I take it back. He's dumb. Time for stupid school.

I hate getting stuck in traffic. These people are all stupid. They need to learn to drive before they get in my lane. Five minutes until the bell rings.

FINALLY, traffic's moving. Man I hate traffic. Why'd they get rid of the old entrance?  Now I have to drive all the way around into a stupid street and pass by all these dopey motherfuckers happily carpooling with one another and listening to music. Idiots. At least no one's in my stupid parking space today. Hey, it's my ex boyfriend. He sure is looking stupid today.  He needs to be shot. Dating me because he felt sorry for me. I hate him. Well, I don't know. They say to hate someone you have to love them too. Well, yeah I guess I hate him. With all my heart. This is making me depressed. Oh crap, the bell's about to ring for homeroom! One more tardy and I'm in stupid ISS with the other bad kids who teachers don't like or want in their classrooms. What's that kid in such a good mood for? Stupid kid. Get out of my seat you stupid hoe. Yeah, we all notice you and your stupid short skirt, let's all pay attention to YOU. Just because you've got a pair of boobs and a nice smile doesn’t mean you're better than me. Why isn't the guy over there interested in me? Am I too fat? Is it my freckles? Oh well, he's stupid. He should be shot. This school is stupid.

"Beep. Kids, DON'T PANIC. Stay calm. There's a student with a gun in the school. Stay in your classrooms and under your desk and don't make a sound. This is not a false alarm. STAY CALM."

I wouldn't have believed my ears if it weren't for some girl in the back, almost on queue, dropping to the floor and starting to sob. Did they just say there's a kid with a gun? Geez and I thought I was having a bad day.  People are probably overreacting. It's probably not even loaded. Just some hot shot who's having a bad day. I'm not going to take refuge under my desk with all these stupid kids. I WANT him to shoot me. I hate this life. I hate being that fat weird girl who no one likes. I hate going to school every day and driving past those stupid happy people and seeing my stupid happy ex boyfriend who never even liked me and getting sent to ISS for something stupid because none of the teachers like me or want me in their class and eating lunch with the stupid ISS kids. I don't belong with them. They all get along with each other, at least. No matter who comes and goes, they always seem to fit right in. Not me, though. I hope this asshole does blow my brains into the wall. Wow, maybe it is loaded. That was definitely the sound of a gunshot. I doubt they're coming in here, though. I'd like to see him try. I'd jump in front of him and yell, "SHOOT ME!" That would get people’s attention. That would acknowledge my existence to the rest of that class. That would take the spotlight off that stupid bimbo and the pack of idiots surrounding her for a day or two. BOOM! That was definitely closer. I think he's coming this way. Why won’t that stupid girl over there stop crying? Nothing's going to happen. BOOM! That was next door! I heard the teacher scream! Oh man, I hate that teacher. I don't know if I really wanted her to get shot though, that's pushing it a little. The door handle turns and swings open with a foot behind it, crashing into the wall next to it. This is it. No more stupid life, no more being different. I'll finally fit in and be just like everyone else. Dead. He must think he's cool, walking in here with a gun. BOOM! The guy I like's brains went flying across the classroom while everyone screamed. Oh my God, this is a little to real for me. His gaze turns to me.

"You want to die?" he asked. He spoke with perfect pronunciation and clarity. There was a somehow sad confidence in his happy voice. Say no! Say no! You don't want to die; you've got too much to live for!  There's life after high school! Once you graduate you never have to see these kids again! Remember what your aunt told you! You'll have the last laugh one day when they're serving you coffee! SAY NO!

"Yes," I whimpered. That definitely didn't sound as cool as I wanted it to. All the sobbing and praying and whimpering suddenly stopped.  All eyes on me, him, and the gun. He studied me for a minute, his eyes never leaving mine. They pierced through my face, as if looking for something he'd lost. Why is he staring at me? I should take it back, I didn't mean it.

"No, you don't," he said. BOOM! The gun roared with laughter as it spat a bullet into the forehead of the girl in the corner who could not stop crying.


I had a doctor's appointment today.

I am too tired for school today. Studying takes up way too much of my free time. I don't have time to hang out with friends, to watch TV, spam the home button on Myspace, talk to that boy who looks at me and smiles when he gets on the bus, or read. I feel as if I'm wasting my life. One day when school's done I'm going to take a vacation. Oh well, at least my scary story for Creative Writing is done. It's an important paper, just like every other paper they shove in my face. Do this assignment, because if you don't, you'll fail the class. If you fail the class your GPA will drop and you can't get into that fancy pants college. If you don't get into that college, your life will be ruined and you'll be stuck serving some fat lady coffee every day. I can print it at school during homeroom. My life is saved! I think today I'll wear my favorite shirt. My mom said not to wear it at school, but she's asleep. She'll never know. I hope the boy on the bus notices. It was a cold morning. Yeah, he'll definitely notice. I absolutely hate undressing in the bathroom and feeling the lack of the warmth of what I wore to sleep be replaced by the shiver that goes up my naked body before stepping into the shower. Once my body gets used to it, though, its heaven. Sadly enough, heaven only lasts either as long as your hot water supply or your time before the bus comes. I guess I should just get out and dry myself off. I really like this shirt. No time to model myself in front of the mirror, however. I don't want to be late for school. It looks like I'm some rap star walking out of the bathroom with all the steam behind me. I wish I had talent. I hear the bus coming, and dart out the door, forgetting to lock it.

Two stops until the nice looking boy gets on and our eyes lock onto one another and quickly move away, just like every day. Here he comes, letting the girls on first, as usual. He's so sweet. Wow, he definitely looks like he's having a good day so far. I guess the shirt I'm wearing helps I thought as his eyes shifted down from mine during our brief second of childish gazing at one another and fixed themselves for a split second upon my chest. We went over a speed bump, distracting him, and he sat down in his seat that he used to sit in a lot until some other kid had started sitting in it. That kid never leaves me alone. I think I remember him telling me he had some doctor's appointment in first block yesterday while he was trying to get my number. That'd explain why he's not on the bus. I change the channel in my mind back to the boy. I wish he would come over and talk to me some time. We spend too much time communicating with our eyes and not enough with our lips. Maybe I should talk to him. I've got nothing to say, I'm boring and he's not. I should talk to him anyway. I have a perfect chance right now, and he's sitting by himself. I could move up and sit next to him, introduce myself and start a conversation. I wish I had guts. Maybe I'll do it tomorrow. There's the old bus loop, the same teachers desperately looking for untucked shirts so they can write them up. and make the school a safer place. It's kind of sad when that's the highlight of your day. I imagine them sitting in the teacher's lounge bragging about how many friendly non-troublesome kids they threw that day into ISS for not tucking in their shirts. Why do we even tuck in our shirts? It's supposed to be to prevent people from hiding a weapon, but that's stupid. We never have weapon violence at school, and if someone wanted to shoot up the school, it's not like they would say "Damn, I have to tuck in my shirt, I guess I won't bring my nine to school today." I don't like sitting by myself in the morning. That's what people like that fat girl do. I thought as I watched some fat girl with freckles shoot a mean look at the object of my desire as he worked his way towards his group of friends and scuffled her way into homeroom. I wonder why she's so mean to everyone. I thought fat people are supposed to be nice.

The homeroom bell rings.

Luckily, my homeroom teacher is cool and will let me print my scary story in the library. I try making a game out of only stepping on the colored tiles. I wonder if anyone else ever does that. Halfway through the hallway, the doors to the library yards ahead of me, and only 6 more blue tiles to step on, I heard an announcement that a student with a gun was in the school. Immediately after that, I heard the hallway doors I came through slam shut. Almost instinctively, I jolted into the library and saw people scurrying under the desks. I found a hiding spot in the middle of the room under the desktops - all the corners were taken.

I could hear the sounds of breathing people all around me. I should have gone to print the paper when I was watching the fat girl scowl at my future husband. Aside from the breathing, everything was silent. Even the old piece of shit computers seemed to lower their voices. I was terrified. Damn it's dusty down here. The doorknob turned ridiculously slowly, as if he was fucking with us, then flew open. He didn't even look at any of us as he hurried his way past the desktops. I saw his Nikes go past me; I think he didn't know I was there. The shuffling stops immediately after I thought that, and starts back up, only more slowly, as if he's walking backwards. All of a sudden I see a black cylinder peek out from above me. BOOM! He blows a hole in my throat and walks right out the door, on his way to the library. His shirt was tucked in.

The homeroom bell rings 5 times and students pass back and forth past my view of the hallway from my desk. Gossip's too big these days. Why is it always so public as to who is fucking who, who's talking crap about who, who cheats on who with who's best friend, and who won a fight? The real question is who CARES? I will say, though, that I kind of miss high school politics. My group of kids comes in and talks about a fight over the weekend as they get to their seats. The guys almost immediately fall asleep at their desks, the girls apply makeup so those that are asleep will notice, and the girl in the front shyly asks to go print a paper in the library. I half consciously scribble my name on it and send her on her way, wondering how long she has until she's sent to the office for all that cleavage. She could hide a gun in there, after all. The speaker tone beeps, and I tell the gossiping teenagers to be quiet and listen to the announcements. No news of the next FBLA meeting came, however, nor did the outcome of Friday's football game. I'd have rather heard about the spanking we took than the news she told us.

How do you react when you're sitting half awake at your desks waiting for retirement one moment and the next moment you're responsible for 20 teenage lives? I wish I could say I didn't see this in the job description back when I first started.

"Alright, everyone, stay quiet and get under your desks," I said in the most confident voice I could conjure. "I'm sure we'll all be fine, just stay calm until the principal says its okay."

The class fell silent, the sleeping guys moved surprisingly fast for having just been snoring. A couple minutes passed and I was too afraid to move. BOOM! My heart stopped beating for a few seconds and I felt my stomach drop. A few girls yelped. I can't tell you how terrified I was. My mind was racing, from when my husband proposed to when my mother died to the girl I sent to the library. I only hope she didn't run into him. The door opens and he walks in astonishingly calm and cool for someone who just killed someone. He raised his gun towards me. "No! Please-!" BOOM! He made his way to the room next door. My husband was making reservations for my favorite restaurant when he heard the news.

Another day on the job. Being a cop is interesting. You get your crack heads, your disturbances, your robberies, nothing big. I'm too tired for this today. I can't believe the rookie got my patrol route. It has almost no crime! It's Green Island for Christ sakes! Why do I have to be here? I never get a moment of peace! Stray dogs, kids walking to their bus stops, nothing interesting happens on my old route. Maybe today’s the day nothing big will happen and I can just relax. That's when my walkie talkie said:

"Officer 1293 comes in."

Wow, must be another broken window. Whoopdie doo.

"This is officer 1293 at your service."

"There's a kid with a gun at Northside. We need you to get over there fast, this could be serious."

"Sure thing, boss."

Probably another kid who left his hunting rifle in his truck. I'll stop through a drive through on my way there. He can sit in the office a little longer. I want to try McDonald’s new breakfast burger.

The drive through line's packed. Oh well, more time to kill. Great, they have to make more. Alrighty, I can wait. I hope they didn't put too much ice in my drink.

About time, now to get to Northside and take the kid home in my car in front of everyone so people will get the idea not to bring guns to school I think as some freckled kid half consciously puts the white bag into my hands. Probably another dropout.  Sitting in traffic with all the late kids hiding looking into their rear view mirrors and putting their seat belts on, some hiding their weed, I take a bite into my breakfast burger. Pretty good stuff. Finally, I pull into the school’s bus loop and everything is silent. Wow, must be a pretty orderly school. Making my way into the office I hear sobs. Probably another teenage breakup. High school relationships are so stupid. They have a lot of growing up to do. I didn't meet my wife until I was in my twenties. The principal pops out of nowhere with tears in her eyes. Must be another... divorce? "WHAT THE FUCK TOOK YOU SO LONG? THE KID SHOT UP HALF THE SCHOOL, KILLED THIRTEEN PEOPLE AND THEN SHOT HIMSELF IN THE BATHROOM!" Ooooh man.  I miss the Green Island route.

My daughter works herself too hard. I try to give her what's best for her, and she never listens. All she ever does is study. As a child, I remember never really trying in school, not thinking of the consequences. Then all of a sudden, it's over and I can't get get a good job. Now, as a parent, I just try to make sure my kid doesn't suffer the same fate. I'm glad she's such a hard worker, but she's always stressed out and she does nothing but study and work on assignments. I don't even think I saw her grow up. One day she's sitting in a sandbox crying her eyes out because she lost her penny, and the next day she's got boobs and got her nose eaten off by a book. Why did I let her sign up for all the A.P. classes? What part of your life is the most valuable? Childhood or adulthood? Maybe sucking all the fun out of childhood and putting it into a hopefully mediocre adulthood isn't such a good idea. Can having a higher income as an adult outweigh the loss of your childhood fun? Who knows. Life's been so stressful for both of us since her father left. She never wanted to talk about it. I tried taking her to dinner last night to catch up on things, but she was too busy writing some story for Creative Writing. You'd think for two people who live in the same house, we'd talk more. I catch myself wanting to cry sometimes when I reflect on my day, and the only memory of her that day is "Thanks" when I hand her a microwaveable dinner through an opened crack of her door. I just want the best for her. She knows I love her, right? She knows she makes me proud, and I know she loves me, but why can't we be closer? Is it really that uncool to get along with your mom? I want to see her with friends. I want to see her in a steady relationship. I want to help her pick out a prom dress and one day a wedding dress. I wish she'd put her homework down some time and ask me about when I was her age. She's all I've got, and I'm all she has. We need to be closer.

I lie awake in my bed staring at the ceiling in the morning, thinking all this and hear her open her door and walk into the bathroom to take a shower. I hope she has a good day, I think to myself, knowing it's only half the truth. As wrong as it might seem, part of me wants her to have a bad day so she can come talk to me about it. It's so ironic that it takes a tragedy or a bad day to bring people together. Should I really feel this bad for wanting her to come to me with a problem? It's not that I want her to have a problem, I just want her to talk to me like she used to before her dad walked out. The water sure wasn't on very long. She doesn't even have the time to take a good relaxing shower before starting her day. Oh how I want things to be different. There's the front door closing, I doubt she even looked at the S'mores pop tarts I bought for her so she can have time to eat SOMETHING for breakfast before going to school. I guess it's time I got ready for work at the cubicle farm.

My job sucks. I'm not happy with it, but it's the only way to keep a roof on our head and it's the only way to give the dust a pop tart box on the counter to collect on. These three walls seem to get smaller all the time. At least I have my pictures to look at. She was as cute as a baby. I guess I should get back to work. There's an announcement from the boss, coming from the speakers all over the cubicle farm, speaking to us as if he possess the voice of God himself. Just another stupid pep talk about how we should bust our asses harder so he can buy more expensive cigars. I tune him out and continue typing up the sales records into the database. I wonder if I'll be doing this until I die. Whatever happened to those dreams I had, where I'd have a job that I love and a husband I love and a child I love all working out peacefully? Maybe God just gave me those dreams to help me through the days in high school where I sat by myself at lunch and had almost no friends. I hope my daughter isn't going through the same thing. I have no way of knowing, for all I know she might be the most popular girl in school. I jump in my chair and awake from my daydream as the phone rings.

"Sales, how may I help you?"

"There's a shooting at Northside, get over there quick."


Oh God. Please don't let anything happen to my only daughter I beg the sky as if someone's listening as I race across the maze of cubicles and to the elevator. These things are so damn slow when you're in a hurry. After years of waiting, I sprint out of the elevator and into the parking lot. I probably ran 3 red lights on the way to her school, and I didn't even bother using a parking spot. I clumsily darted out of my car into the attendance window, almost tripping, demanding to know what's going on. It wasn't very smart of me, not knowing if the shooter is still there. I honestly didn't give a shit. If my daughter isn't okay, then I've got nothing left and might as well find myself in the path of a bullet. BOOM! I hear a gunshot in the upstairs bathroom. I race down towards the social studies hall yelling her name, having no idea where I was going, and as I pass the library window, I fell on my knees and choked. I could barely look. My entire world was shattered. There she was, her legs sticking out under the desktops, in a huge pool of blood. After collecting myself, I jet into the library and yanked her out, the other students just staring from their hiding spots behind isles of books, just glad they weren't her. She was dead. I thought I told her not to wear that shirt. Why did he shoot her? Why couldn't it have been one of the fucks in the corner? I don't have anyone now, no husband, no child, and no mother. I rocked her and sobbed and sobbed until my face became puffy and red. "I never got a chance to talk to you about what's going on. I never told you I loved you before you left. I was awake, I was fucking awake and I never said I loved you before you I left" I gagged as my tears and breathing worked together to stop me from speaking clearly. It didn't matter. "I never made you put the books down and talk to me. I never got to help you through a breakup. I haven't watched a movie with you in years. I never got to be a good mother. I love you so much" I told the most important thing in the world to me as if the corpse was listening. I rocked her and cried and I don't remember ever letting her go, the eyes in the corners of the room just staring at me, expressionless.

It's been a year since my daughter was taken from me. I've kept her room exactly the way it was. The rain is pouring down on us as the other childless parents gather around the memorial and say our respects. As the mothers and fathers say what they came to say, the tears coming out of their eyes as hard as the rain coming out of the clouds, I was the only one who never said anything. I just looked at the stone memorial and never cried. I haven't cried since she died. I used up all my tears. My eyes moved across the pictures and the roses and the hand prints and the framed newspaper articles, and stopped on the photographs of the children. They looked so different from one another. There was a girl with red hair, some cute boy with a bored look on his face, one kid wore glasses, and one kid was black, a teacher, and my daughter's school photo. She was smiling at me. It wasn't a genuine smile, though. It was a "Hurry up and take the damn picture" smile. An alligator smile. The kind of smile she always gave me when I tried talking or doing something nice for her. The most awkward smile in the world. Regardless, I smiled back. How I could smile at a time like this, I'll never know, nor would the other parents looking at me waiting for me to talk because it was my turn. I remained silent. These kids are all the same. That jock and my daughter aren't any different when they're dead. All they are are dead bodies. They had problems with their parents, with their teachers, with their friends, and it all amounts to nothing. Absolutely nothing. All they are now are bodies in the ground. The shooter killed thirteen people that day. There were fourteen faces. Which one the shooter belongs to means shit to me. It doesn't matter. Even the kid who brought his gun to school and ruined lives is just another body in the ground now.

Northside High School is a newer school, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have the same old problems. People form themselves into groups, they look down their noses at one another, but in truth, they've all got the same problems and fears. They all have insecurities, they all can feel left out, and they all want to be accepted, regardless of whatever their t-shirt says. We've got a pretty good school, it's on its own street and we have what we need: computer labs, a gymnasium, a football field, a parking lot, classrooms, and teachers and students of all sizes and colors.

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