Ava Elisabeth

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2/5/2022 2:35pm

(content warning: self harm very briefly mentioned)

Dear Diary,

Sometimes I worry that I am lying to you, diary. My life or anyone’s, for that matter, doesn’t really follow narrative structure. It might be a lot more accurate, if I told you exactly what happened. But I don’t think it would be quite as truthful.

Number 1: The Knife

“Don’t touch that, you’ll cut yourself,” My aunt said, batting my hand away from the pair of scissors. She worked in the kitchen kneading bread dough aggressively. Her hands and apron were covered in flour, but somehow the rest of her was spotless.

My aunt kept her kitchen clean and neat. In fact, she kept her entire house clean and neat. It wasn’t like the house I was from. My aunt’s house wasn’t like hers. It was only noisey when it should be.

“Can I use them?” I asked, peering over the edge of the counter. I was young then. Maybe only seven or eight. Young enough to still respect fear.

She ignored me and dusted her hands off on her apron to fiddle the oven timer.

“I’m making a Valentine,” I said, clutching my piece of pink construction paper.

She stared down at me with raised eyebrows. She had a stern, thin nose, “I already told you, you can’t use the scissors. You’ll get hurt,”

“We use scissors at school,” I said, pouting.

“Does this look like a schoolhouse to you? Stop that pouting,” She said as she put the bread into the oven, “What do you need to be making Valentine’s for anyways? You shouldn’t do all that stuff. You’re just a kid, too young to go run off with boys,”

“It’s not for boys. Everyone gets a valentine, you give everyone a treat,” I said.

She washed her hands in the sink, “A treat? Everyone gets a treat? Is Halloween not enough?” She shook her head and tsked, “What is the point of a Valentine if it isn’t for someone you love? This is the end of the story, you don’t need the scissors,” She wiped down the floury counters with a worn rag.

“I do love all my classmates,” I wasn’t being entirely truthful, but at the time I was still under the impression that my aunt could be convinced.

“Oh sure you do,” She rolled her eyes, “You don’t know anything about love, you're a kid,” She threw the rag into the sink.

I looked down at the floor, “In church they say…”

“Am I talking about church right now? You can fold and tear the paper if you really want to insist on this Valentine’s nonsense, but I already told you you can’t use the scissors. I’m not going to tolerate anymore of this peskering, young lady. If you have so much time to pesker me, maybe you need a chore”

I immediately skittered out of the kitchen. If I had anything, it was a sense of avoidance.

My aunt laughed, “Now don’t you go making a mess with that, okay?”

I walked down the hallway with my now crumpled construction paper and frowned.

“Okay?!” My aunt shouted.

“Yes, Ma’am,” I called back.

I remember that conversation about the scissors sometimes. It feels like it was a fork in the path. One side chosen over the other. Or maybe not. My aunt probably didn’t think she was choosing anything. Maybe it is just a memory on the edge of parallel paths. A place where the bush is thin enough to see there was another path the whole time.

“I always fantasize about you,” the text read. I was a teenager. I thought I was old, but I wasn’t. I was still little.

“I’m supposed to like this,” I thought to myself, “I should want this,”

I sat in her house. It wasn’t noisey. She was out of the house. Even so, I still wanted to be hidden and quiet. I didn’t want to take an unnecessary risk by being noisey. I didn’t want to get caught. I crouched in a corner of the leaky attic. The only part of it that wasn’t covered in insulation. A crack in the roof let in a soft stream of sunlight.

“I should like this. I like this,” I thought.

“I fantasize about you too,” I typed. I pressed send.

“That’s so hot,” the text replied, “You should send me nudes,”

I pursed my lips and put the phone down on the floor. I wrapped my arms around myself.

“You like him, don’t you?” I thought to myself. I felt sick.

"You like sex, don't you?" I thought. I bit my lip nervously.

My phone buzzed, “Sorry, was that too much for you? I get it if you don’t like me at all.”

“No, of course, I like you :) You’re great,” I typed.

“Of course, I like him,” I thought to myself. I wasn’t being entirely truthful, but I was still under the impression that I could be convinced.

“No, I get. No one can love me,” the text replied.

“That’s not true...” I began to type, but then his message arrived first, “This is why I cut myself.”

I think back sometimes to the conversation about the scissors. I wonder who my aunt would have been if she grew up differently. How she might have seen me differently. If she might have cared for me in a different way. If she might have loved me in a different way. I’m not sure.

It was night now. The attic was pitch black and chilly. I could hear her sleeping in her room. Loud snores. Noisey, but not too noisy. My phone buzzed, lighting up my face.

“You’re so fucking hot,” his text read, “You’re so fucking sexy,”

I smiled, crouched in the corner of the attic. I felt small. I was small.

“You like this,” I thought. My stomach hurt in reply.

I felt sick, but I ignored it. If anything, I had a sense of avoidance.

I think back sometimes to the conversation about the scissors. I wonder who I would have been if I grew up differently. How I might have acted differently. If I might have cared for myself in a different way. If I might have loved myself differently.

“I need to go to bed, in case she checks on me,” I thought. She never checked on me, but I couldn’t take the risk. I didn’t want to get caught.

I silently, slowly, and carefully crawled down from the attic. I avoided the creaky boards until I reached my room. She snored away loudly. I let out a stagnant breath and crawled into my bed. My phone buzzed.

“I love you, Ava Elisabeth,” the text wrote.

I stared back at my phone. I wanted to ignore it.

“Was that too early to say?”

I stared back at my phone. "Annoying," I thought.

“I’m sorry, I just can’t help it,”

I picked my phone, “No, of course, I love you :)”
I wasn’t being entirely truthful. But I was still under the impression that I could be convinced.

I love you,
Ava Elisabeth

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2/1/2022 6:09pm

Dear Diary,

“You’ve never been in the woods behind Uncle Jack’s house?” Talon said. He was my cousin closest in age, only a couple months apart. The gaggle of little cousins followed us around like puppy dogs, nipping at our heels.

“No, not since I moved away,”
“C’mon we’ve got to go see it,”

Talon and the cousins took off running towards a wooded area not far from the backyard. I struggled to keep up with their pace. My aunt’s house didn’t have a backyard. We usually stayed inside.
The sun beamed down on me. The heat felt like it was melting me from the inside out.
Talon stopped at a trailhead and shouted something to the kids. He waited with a grin.
“C’mon slowpoke,” he laughed, “we always run through the woods down the hill,”
“It’s too hot,” I panted, bent over.
“Just take off your sweater,” Talon laughed.
“You don’t think they’ll mind?”
He laughed, “Who? Auntie Kate?”
“I don’t know Grandma or something,”
“Why would they care? C’mon, we can’t let the little kids get there first,”
I smiled. I pulled off the sweater and tied it around my waist.
I felt the breeze roll through the trees and over my shoulders. The sun felt no longer like it was melting my insides. Instead, I could feel the freckles on my shoulders warming up.
“Better?” He smiled.
“Better.”
“Last one downs a rotten egg!” He hollered as he took off in a sprint down the trail.
The little cousins squealed and leapt off running.
I shouted in excitement and took off after them. I was the slowest, but it didn’t matter.
My hair blew around me in the wind. I could feel my legs and feet connecting with the ground pushing me forward.
“Strong,” I thought, “Strong,”
The trees wsshhed past us. Birds flew out of them as we passed, alarmed by our loud crew.
We approached the hill leading back into Uncle Jack’s backyard.
My cousins whooped and hollered as we ran down the hill. I grinned.
“WOOO HOOOO,” Talon hollered
I laughed and joined in, “WOOOO!”
The ground seemed to push me back up as much as I pushed down. I felt like I was flying.
I leapt and screamed, “WOO HOO!”
“Ava, wait watch out,” Talon chuckled, reaching towards me.
I looked down too late. A tripped over a rock on the hill and tumbled down.
The momentum was too great. I began to roll down the hill.
My hair got tangled, as I bumped down the hill. I laughed and giggled, as dirt coated me head to toe, side to side. Well, I giggled until I reached the bottom of the hill, tumbling right into my Uncle Jack. He looked back at me with a spatula in hand. He stood over the grill with an apron.

I scrambled to my feet, “Sorry, sorry, I didn’t mean to,” I dusted off my undershirt and jeans.

“So you took off the sweater,” Uncle Jack said from behind the brim of his sunglasses.

“Well, I just thought, I mean, it’s kind of hot ,” I gazed around the backyard and tugged at my hangnails.

Uncle Jack bellowed with laughter, “I’m just razzing you, kid.”

I laughed with relief, “Yeah,”

He joined my laughter.

“Yeah, it's not like you care if I wear the sweater or not,” I laughed.

He laughed and grinned, “No, and,” he stepped closer to me, “it’s not as if anyone won’t know what your sweater looks like,”

I laughed nervously, “Yeah, everyone knows how grandma knits,”

“No,” He lowered his voice, stepping closer, “its because everyone already knows what your like,”

I froze. I focused on my breathing. “You’re right here, you’re right here,” I thought.

He leaned back and gave out a bellowing laugh. He returned to the grill, “You want a hamburger, kid?”

“You’re right here. You’re safe. I’m right here, I’m right here,” I thought.

“No, I think I am okay,” I barely spoke.

“A hot dog then?” He flipped a burger on the grill. It sizzled with grease.

“No, I think I’m alright, thank you,”

“Whatever you say, kid,”

A hand grabbed my shoulder, I yelped and whipped around.
It was just Talon.

“Hey, Sorry,” Talon laughed out of breath, “I would’ve warned you earlier, but,”

“You fell down the hill,” a little cousin squealed with laughter.

I smiled, “No, it’s fine, I wasn’t paying attention,”

“It was pretty funny though, you have to admit,” Talon said.

“I never, even had, I never even had fallen down the hill before,” One of the little cousins said tugging at my pants.

I looked down smiling, “I should practice more, so I can be as good as you,”

“Let’s go play a game!” Another cousin crooned. The other responded with yelps of agreement.

“Okay, let’s go then!” I smiled leading the crew of children away from Uncle Jack and the hill. I only turned back. Uncle Jack nodded at me with a smile. I didn’t smile back.

Comfortably?
Ava Elisabeth

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2/1/2022 5:31pm

Dear Diary,

“But you look so cute in it,” My aunt said looking at me in the mirror, “and your grandma made it for you, you can’t get rid of it,”

I stared in the mirror. The sweater was pink, ruffely, and big, even on me. It wasn’t my style. It wasn’t made of wool, but somehow it was still the scratchiest sweater to have ever existed.

“Well, it still fits you,” My aunt said squinting at me in the mirror, “It’s not like that cousin of yours who couldn’t even fit into his sweater,”

“Her sweater,” I corrected. My aunt ignored me.

“Sweetie, I just think you should try it out at least,” She grinned, “it can’t be that uncomfortable,”

“I guess,” I swallowed, “I can try it out,”

My aunt hugged me, “Aw sweetheart, thank you that means so much to me! Your grandma is going to be so happy to see you in this,”

I half smiled, as my aunt began to leave my room.
“Alright, well, get ready and then we are going to dinner at Uncle Jack’s, okay?” She said as she left the doorway.

“Sure, I’ll be right down,” I smiled.

My aunt closed the door and my smile fell. I felt uncomfortable. I didn’t want to feel uncomfortable. I wanted to like the sweater.
“It’s cozy. It’s comfortable,” I said aloud to myself, “It’s not like I have a problem with what’s underneath the sweater,”

“That sounded defensive,” I thought, “No one was thinking you had a problem with…”

I interrupted aloud, “I’m not being defensive. I like the sweater, I like the sweater, okay?”

“I’m not sure I am convinced,” I thought.

“You know what,” I began to rummage through my closet, “I just have to make it my own and it will be more my style,”

My thoughts didn’t reply. I smiled.

“Yeah, I just need to make it my style!” I grabbed a big jean jacket and a stompy pair of boots, “Yeah, yeah, I like this. I like this.”

I smiled at my reflection in the mirror and happily stomped down the stairs.

My aunt waited at the front door. She frowned.

“What’s wrong?” I asked softly.

“Oh, nothing, just, uh,” She licked her thumb and rubbed my cheek, “Make sure to take your jacket off when we get there, it’ll be,” she tsked and rubbed harder, “it’ll be too hot at Uncle Jack’s to wear that inside,”

“Oh, okay sure,”

“There you go,” She smiled, “I got it! Ready to go?”

Comfortably,
Ava Elisabeth

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2/1/2022 5:15pm

Dear Diary,

Do you ever get the feeling that you've been ignoring something?

We sat in the plaza outside our dorm. Casey had gotten a bag of phantom oranges from a care package and insisted on eating them outside. The bench we sat on was warm from the sun and well-lacquered, not a chance for splinters or holes in your jeans. As much as I hated to admit it, Casey was right. It was an ideal location to eat oranges.

“I think that is part of it,” I said peeling an orange, “I think the point is that it’s ambiguous that you don’t know exactly what it means,”

“But what do you think?” Casey interrupted. A spray of orange juice dripped out of her mouth as she bit down on a segment of orange. I scrunched my nose.

“I already told you what I think, I think it is meant to be ambi…”

“Well yeah, but you know what I am talking about right?” She grabbed another orange from the bag and began to peel it, “It seems like it is kind of a cop out to not define what you mean,”
She peeled the orange methodically, unfurling it into a one long swirl of orange peel. It was perfect and pretty.

I frowned, “Well why does it owe you an answer? Cop out makes it seem like you are owed a specific answer and I don’t think you are.”

She rolled her eyes, “It’s not like asking for specificity is a burden.”

“You aren’t asking for specificity. You are asking for it be defined in a way you understand with the terms you understand. That is a burden, I shouldn’t have to explain my existence to you with a language I don’t speak,” The orange peel came apart in small fragments in my hands. Some fell from my hands onto the floor. I watched an ant crawling towards the peel.

“Wait, what?” Casey said, turning to look at me.

“I mean, why do I need to define what I am based on your paradigm, when your paradigm wasn’t made for me to exist in, in the first place?” I tore the last bit of peel off the orange

“Wait, Wait, Ava, what are you talking about here? I am talking about the season finale of Elation,” She stared at me with an eyebrow raised.

“Oh, no, yea, that’s what I was talking about too,” I looked down at the pulp covered orange in my hand.

“You are also talking about a tv show? Nothing else?”

“Yeah, yeah,” I shifted on the bench, “Nothing else,”

The ant that had been crawling towards the peel grabbed it and lifted it above its head.

“Okay,” She said cautiously, turning back towards the sun, “but I still think the show runners could have been less ambiguous,”

“Yeah, yeah, I guess I can see that,” I mumbled, gazing down at the ground.

The ant slowly plotted away, leaving behind a path of crumbly orange pulp.

Maybe I am ignoring something,
Ava Elisabeth

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1/13/2022 11:25pm

Dear Diary,

Can I tell you a story? It is a long one, but I need to tell it. It is important to me. It's okay though, you don't have to listen. Just sit here with me, diary, while I tell it.

When I was a child, the noise in her house was just too loud. I couldn't bear the noise. I needed to fix the noise or hide from the noise. The noise was everywhere and everything. I needed to do everything I could to keep the noise from consuming me.

I knew if I kept my chest out in the open, it would get hurt. I didn't want it to get damaged. I didn’t want the noise to take it. I wanted to keep it safe.

So one moonlit night, I carried my chest into a forgotten part of the garden, a little run down shed with a rusty tin roof and peeling paint.

She would always send me to the shed to find tools. I would walk inside the musty, abandoned shed and find no tools to be found, only half empty bags of pesticides next to an empty metal shelving unit that rattled in the wind. It was so quiet in the shed. A lot different than the house. The light would stream through a crack in the wall illuminating dust particles floating through the air. It was so beautiful and quiet and slow.

She always insisted there were tools in the shed, but there never were. The first time I made the trip to the shed and returned with no tools she stormed through the back door, down the rotting wood deck, and through the overgrown garden.

"See!" She rolled her eyes, "You weren't looking hard enough,"

She bent to the ground a couple feet from the shed and picked up a rusted wrench. She scowled and stormed back into the house. I can't remember what I did. She left me outside, but I can't remember if... I can't remember if I followed her or stayed outside. Probably followed.

The second time she sent me to the shed for tools I knew I couldn't look in the shed. I knew she wouldn't believe me if I said there weren't any in the shed. So, I would find whatever I could, a knife, a book, a plate, it didn't matter. But I knew that the shed, the quiet, forgotten shed didn't deserve this. The shed was a place of quiet, of calm. I didn’t want to poison it with her.

The night I knew I needed to hide my chest, I knew the shed was where it would be unbothered, safe, alone. I was the only one who ever went in. She never tended to the garden, so there was no worry that she'd look. It was all mine. No one else could take it from me.

The night I knew I crept through the overgrown grass with my chest held as tightly as I could. I wore an old torn pink nightgown. I slowly opened the door of the shed. I didn't want to make any noise. I didn't want to be heard. As I stepped into the shed, I felt relaxed. All alone in the dark.

I can never remember how old I was when I put my chest in the shed. I think I was a small thing. Just a small thing all alone in the dark feeling relaxed.

Well I wasn't really relaxed, I was still listening. I was always listening, so I wouldn't be heard.I didn't want to be heard. I couldn't be heard or I might… or I might be caught.

Now that I think of it, I might have made the trip more than once.

I avoided the stray nails and screws on the floor of the shed and carefully placed my chest on the metal shelving unit, so as to not make any noise.

"It will be safe here when I need it," I thought to myself. I stayed in the shed breathing the moonlight streaming through the crack in the wall.

I turned back to the door and slowly opened it gazing out into the moonlit night.
I could feel my eyes widening and contracting. My pupils adjusting to the dark and moon light. This was my body's gift to me. I can adjust to the dark. Once my eyes adjusted, I spotted a cat running across the garden.

The cat froze as it saw me, mid movement, as if it had been bewitched by my standing there. My breathing became slower to make room for the cat. I could see the chest of the cat heaving. The cat was so quiet, so unseen. Two of the cat's eyes shone in the moonlight with its third eye closed.

I unconsciously brought my hand to my forehead and felt my third eye squeezed shut tight. I felt like I should feel sad and cry, but I didn't want to. The cat wasn't sad. The cat wasn’t crying I wanted to be like the cat. The cat didn't make any noise, just like me. We simply held each other's gaze.

Then as quickly as the cat had come, it left leaping over the leaning wooden fence held up by overgrown shrubbery and vines that lined the garden.

Without thinking, I whispered, "Can I come with?"

The cat didn't hear me. Or maybe it did. Maybe it just didn't want to disappoint me with its answer. The cat was long gone, but I wasn't. I stood in the doorway of the shed in a torn pink nightgown. The shed with my chest hidden away inside, stuck, affixed, alone. My eyes as big as saucers looking out at the garden. I felt a crack deep in my soul opening up, letting the moonlight stream in.

I left her house. I left that garden behind. I escaped here. I felt an air return to my lungs, noise come back to footsteps, and I felt my eyes adjusting to the light.

But it wasn't all over. I thought it would be all over. I thought that when I left her house my third eye would open up wide. I thought that when I left the crack in my soul would seal itself up. I thought that I could recover my chest, find it, and start right where I left off.

But time didn't stop. It is not how things work. Just because I stopped paying attention doesn't mean time stopped taking its toll. Time has done me no favors with my eye. It is still squeezed shut tight. Time didn't seal up the crack in my soul, I did. Day after day with concrete, I had to close it up. It still isn't closed now, but mostly. Even though its sealed, the insides were impacted. The insides are weathered by the sun and the moon, by the rain and snow, by the wet and dry. I can't get a new one. I can't buy a new one. I have to care for the one I have.

I went back to her house. I went to retrieve my chest. I wanted my chest. I needed my chest. See, when I moved, I couldn't bring my chest with me. I didn't feel like I needed it, nor did I have the time to pack it up. I didn't really have room for it either. But now I do. Now I want it. Now I need it.

I went back to her house. It looked the same. Well, it looked a bit better. Actually, no, it looked worse now.

I went back to her house. I felt the same as I did when I was little. Actually, I think I felt better. No, no I felt worse.

Again, I found myself going out the back door, down the rickety wooden deck, and into the overgrown, long neglected garden. I slowly opened the creaky door of the shed with a smile. I again felt the deep breath.

The shed felt a little smaller. Or Maybe I was just a bit bigger. Maybe both.
I smiled at the chest sitting on the metal shelving unit. It was exactly the same. No, a little smaller than I remembered. Or maybe I was just bigger than I had been.

It was only a little dusty, nothing had gotten to it. It was unbothered, safe, alone.

I pulled the key from my pocket and turned it in the lock of my chest. I swung the lid open with a happy groan. But it wasn't inside. My eyes widened. It wasn't inside. My breath left my lungs. Something else was inside. Shock. Disgust. Fear. I fell against the wall of the shed, causing it to shake and rattle. Dust fell down from the roof like a flurry of snow.

"Where did it go?" I whispered, tears pouring in my eyes, "Where did it go? I don't understand," I crawled back to my feet and peered inside the chest. It was no longer there.

The contents of my chest were replaced with a pile of wriggling, squirming maggots.

Panicked cries filled me up overwhelming my senses.

"This won't work. I can't use this, I can't," I covered my mouth with my hands muttering to myself, "I put my chest here to keep it safe, where did it go?" I glanced back into the writhing pile and gripped at my face.

With choppy, unrestrained movements, I ran from the shed and grabbed a rusty spade that lay on a barren garden bed. I rushed back into the shed with messy, loud steps.

I approached the chest and gagged. I felt nauseous and dizzy. I began to cry. I stood over the chest and dug the rusty spade into the chest. The maggots squirmed and writhed as I pushed them around the chest. "It has to be in here, it has to be in here" I cautiously pushed the maggots around. But as quickly as I moved them they would return to their places, making it impossible to get deeper into the chest. I began digging with more vigor, but the maggots would return again to a convulsing pile.

"No, no, no, no, no," I cried. My body felt seized by an electric force bypassing my brain. I drove the spade into the chest and scooped out a pile of maggots. I tossed them to the floor. I drove the spade in again. Tossed another pile. Drove the spade in again. Tossed. Drove. Tossed.

I screamed wildly as I felt a maggot crawling across my bare foot. I jumped up and down kicking at the maggots. They crawled over the surface of the floor creating a coating of writhing bodies. It felt as if they were all crawling over me, as if they were infesting every inch of my body. My body buzzed and shook. A final burst of energy ripped through my arms. I ripped the chest from the shelf and dumped it over pouring all the maggots onto the floor of the shed. The giant pile of maggots began to spread. The hoard of writhing, squirming creatures began to spread.

My eyes widened in horror. My mind left my body. I screamed at the top of my lungs, sobbing and shaking. I began to stomp my feet as hard as I could down onto the maggots. Stomp. Stomp. Stomp. They squirmed and squished and crunched. Stomp. Stomp. Stomp. I relentlessly stopped each maggot dead in their tracks. Stomp. Stomp. Stomp. Scream. Sob. Scream. Stomp. Stomp. Scream. Sob. Stomp. Stomp. Stomp. Stomp.

My mind returned to my body abruptly, making me realize I was screaming. I stopped. No more noise could be made by my body. I had let it all go in a supernova of noise. All the energy was gone. Depleted. The tears trickled to a stop and began to dry on my cheek. I listened. I might get caught. Fear grabbed my being. I fell silent. I listened. I listened. But there was no noise. Just the wind. I was all alone. The fear relaxed but left a sour taste in my mouth. I was all alone.

I looked around me in the shed. Sunlight was streaming through the crack. All the maggots were dead. They looked so small now. Their little corpses spread across the floor of the shed. I could see they were trying to get out of the shed, but I didn't let them. I killed them. I felt hot tears welling up in my eyes.

"I'm sorry," I whispered, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean that,"

Of course, the dead maggots didn't reply. Dead things can tell you how they are feeling or accept apologies. It was quiet. I was all alone in the shed. Just a small little thing alone in the shed standing in a graveyard of other small little things.

I sniffed and rubbed my eyes. I spoke louder, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean that"

"I didn't mean that,"

I don't know the end of the story yet. I can't remember it's ending. I can't remember if I found it. Something of it in the mess of dead maggots and tears. Or if I left the shed without it. Or if I didn't look for it at all and went back into the house, washed off my feet and went back to school. I can't remember.
But I know what I hope happened.

So I'll tell you about that diary. I'll tell you what I hope happened in the shed.

I squint at something on the floor, bigger than the maggots, different color. I squat down to get closer. A smile spreads on my face, but tears fall too. Different tears this time. Relief. They are relieved tears. It is right there. Sitting on the ground, withered, dried out, and half eaten is my heart. It is worse for wear, but it's still there.

"There it is," I say half smiling half crying, "There it is. There you are."

I take my withered heart into my hands gently, "I found you," I laugh to myself softly and sniffle, "You're right here, I found you,"

I laugh to myself, "I guess it wasn't so safe in the shed,"

I take my heart into my arms and clutch it tightly, "It's okay. I'm here now. It's okay. I'm right here. I'm not leaving you alone anymore,"

I stand back up, clutching my heart close, and step outside the shed. The warm sunlight falls over my body like a blanket. I feel it penetrating my bones and warming me up from the outside in. I smile, but feel tears. I touch my forehead and feel my third eye. Still closed, but softly weeping. I hear the quiet. Soft wind, tweeting birds, chimes in the distance. It is quiet. I turn away from the house. I turn away from the shed. I turn away from her. And I walk. I walk away. I walk home. I walk here.

I love you,
Ava Elisabeth

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12/29/2020 5:20pm

Dear Diary,

"What do you mean it's worth investigating?" I shouted smacking my hands on the reporters desk and leaning over it. I had walked to the Student Newspaper's building after finding it's location on the map.

"Would you quiet down please?" Lana answered, "I am doing you favor listening to your nutty theory, would you try not embarrassing me too?"

I narrowed my eyes and yelled louder, "Embarrassing you? I'M embarrassing YOU! You are a journalist who refuses to investigate the truth!"

Other reporters in the busy newsroom were staring now. Lana's cheeks were red. She glared at me, but continued to speak in her calm, quiet voice.

"Ava, please, you have no evidence, for all I know this Dennis kid could have been playing a trick on you, "

"You would rather SUCK UP to school donors than question the status quo!"

"Your evidence is weak at best, and a conspiracy theory at worst. The Meritocracy family has never caused us any problems, why should I invest valuable resources and time into a story that you could be lying to me about?"

I scowled and lowered my voice, "Lying to you?" The attention of the office weakened and they returned to their work.

"Ava, I mean this without any disrespect, but it is not like you are the most reliable person. You skipped out on at least an entire school year to chase some conspiracy theory, how am I to believe this isn't just another self destructive stunt?"

I paused and straightened my back. I had been in a study group with Lana two years ago. She had been a good friend then. Or maybe she hadn't been.

but her comment made me feel the impact of my actions. It was far more complicated than I wanted to acknowledge in that moment.

Her face relaxed,"See, it's not like I'm trying to be the bad guy here. I'm just looking out for the newspaper. We can't look into every single thing that passes through the office and I understand how alarmed you are. I am sure that your mental health has deteriorated from all the troubles you've gotten into, but this isn't that anymore. Everything is fine now. I just hope that you can get the help you need."

She smiled a close lipped, judgmental smile with her hands clasped in front of her. So self satisfied. So petty.

"HOW DARE YOU IMPLY I AM UNTRUSTWORTHY SOURCE, BECAUSE OF MY MENTAL HEALTH!" I hollered. The entire office turned and looked.

Lana shot up like an arrow, "WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?" She turned to her co-workers, "I DIDN'T SAY THAT," She turned back to me, "I DIDN'T SAY THAT! You are claiming things that aren't true!

"YOU IMPLIED MY MENTAL HEALTH IS THE REASON I FIND ALARM WITH THE TREATMENT OF MY FELLOW STUDENTS! ISN'T THIS IS A NEWSPAPER FOR THE STUDENTS, BY THE STUDENTS! SHOULDN'T WE INVESTIGATE WHAT AUTHORITY WILL NOT!"

"SHE IS CRAZY!" Lana shouted to her coworker, swinging up her arm to point at me and jabbing out her pointer finger, "SOMEONE NEEDS TO GET SECURITY!"

I paused at the sight of her hand. She wore a bronze ring on her pointer finger. I squinted, the emblem matched Casey's ring.

I took a step back and raised my arms up, "I'll go, I'll go!"


Love,
Ava Elisabeth

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12/29/2020 5:20pm

Dear Diary,

"What do you mean it's worth investigating?" I shouted smacking my hands on the reporters desk and leaning over it. I had walked to the Student Newspaper's building after finding it's location on the map.

"Would you quiet down please?" Lana answered, "I am doing you favor listening to your nutty theory, would you try not embarrassing me too?"

I narrowed my eyes and yelled louder, "Embarrassing you? I'M embarrassing YOU! You are a journalist who refuses to investigate the truth!"

Other reporters in the busy newsroom were staring now. Lana's cheeks were red. She glared at me, but continued to speak in her calm, quiet voice.

"Ava, please, you have no evidence, for all I know this Dennis kid could have been playing a trick on you, "

"You would rather SUCK UP to school donors than question the status quo!"

"Your evidence is weak at best, and a conspiracy theory at worst. The Meritocracy family has never caused us any problems, why should I invest valuable resources and time into a story that you could be lying to me about?"

I scowled and lowered my voice, "Lying to you?" The attention of the office weakened and they returned to their work.

"Ava, I mean this without any disrespect, but it is not like you are the most reliable person. You skipped out on at least an entire school year to chase some conspiracy theory, how am I to believe this isn't just another self destructive stunt?"

I paused and straightened my back. I had been in a study group with Lana two years ago. She had been a good friend then. Or maybe she hadn't been.

but her comment made me feel the impact of my actions. It was far more complicated than I wanted to acknowledge in that moment.

Her face relaxed,"See, it's not like I'm trying to be the bad guy here. I'm just looking out for the newspaper. We can't look into every single thing that passes through the office and I understand how alarmed you are. I am sure that your mental health has deteriorated from all the troubles you've gotten into, but this isn't that anymore. Everything is fine now. I just hope that you can get the help you need."

She smiled a close lipped, judgmental smile with her hands clasped in front of her. So self satisfied. So petty.

"HOW DARE YOU IMPLY I AM UNTRUSTWORTHY SOURCE, BECAUSE OF MY MENTAL HEALTH!" I hollered. The entire office turned and looked.

Lana shot up like an arrow, "WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?" She turned to her co-workers, "I DIDN'T SAY THAT," She turned back to me, "I DIDN'T SAY THAT! You are claiming things that aren't true!

"YOU IMPLIED MY MENTAL HEALTH IS THE REASON I FIND ALARM WITH THE TREATMENT OF MY FELLOW STUDENTS! ISN'T THIS IS A NEWSPAPER FOR THE STUDENTS, BY THE STUDENTS! SHOULDN'T WE INVESTIGATE WHAT AUTHORITY WILL NOT!"

"SHE IS CRAZY!" Lana shouted to her coworker, swinging up her arm to point at me and jabbing out her pointer finger, "SOMEONE NEEDS TO GET SECURITY!"

I paused at the sight of her hand. She wore a bronze ring on her pointer finger. I squinted, the emblem matched Casey's ring.

I took a step back and raised my arms up, "I'll go, I'll go!"


Love,
Ava Elisabeth

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12/29/2020 5:18pm

Dear Diary,

"What do you mean it's worth investigating?" I shouted smacking my hands on the reporters desk and leaning over it. I had walked to the Student Newspaper's building after finding it's location on the map.

"Would you quiet down please?" Lana answered, "I am doing you favor listening to your nutty theory, would you try not embarrassing me too?"

I narrowed my eyes and yelled louder, "Embarrassing you? I'M embarrassing YOU! You are a journalist who refuses to investigate the truth!"

Other reporters in the busy newsroom were staring now. Lana's cheeks were red. She glared at me, but continued to speak in her calm, quiet voice.

"Ava, please, you have no evidence, for all I know this Dennis kid could have been playing a trick on you, "

"You would rather SUCK UP to school donors than question the status quo!"

"Your evidence is weak at best, and a conspiracy theory at worst. The Meritocracy family has never caused us any problems, why should I invest valuable resources and time into a story that you could be lying to me about?"

I scowled and lowered my voice, "Lying to you?" The attention of the office weakened and they returned to their work.

"Ava, I mean this without any disrespect, but it is not like you are the most reliable person. You skipped out on at least an entire school year to chase some conspiracy theory, how am I to believe this isn't just another self destructive stunt?"

I paused and straightened my back. I had been in a study group with Lana two years ago. She had been a good friend then. Or maybe she hadn't been.

but her comment made me feel the impact of my actions. It was far more complicated than I wanted to acknowledge in that moment.

Her face relaxed,"See, it's not like I'm trying to be the bad guy here. I'm just looking out for the newspaper. We can't look into every single thing that passes through the office and I understand how alarmed you are. I am sure that your mental health has deteriorated from all the troubles you've gotten into, but this isn't that anymore. Everything is fine now. I just hope that you can get the help you need."

She smiled a close lipped, judgmental smile with her hands clasped in front of her. So self satisfied. So petty.

"HOW DARE YOU IMPLY I AM UNTRUSTWORTHY SOURCE, BECAUSE OF MY MENTAL HEALTH!" I hollered. The entire office turned and looked.

Lana shot up like an arrow, "WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?" She turned to her co-workers, "I DIDN'T SAY THAT," She turned back to me, "I DIDN'T SAY THAT! You are claiming things that aren't true!

"YOU IMPLIED MY MENTAL HEALTH IS THE REASON I FIND ALARM WITH THE TREATMENT OF MY FELLOW STUDENTS! ISN'T THIS IS A NEWSPAPER FOR THE STUDENTS, BY THE STUDENTS! SHOULDN'T WE INVESTIGATE WHAT AUTHORITY WILL NOT!"

"SHE IS CRAZY!" Lana shouted to her coworker, swinging up her arm to point at me and jabbing out her pointer finger, "SOMEONE NEEDS TO GET SECURITY!"

I paused at the sight of her hand. She wore a bronze ring on her pointer finger. I squinted, the emblem matched Casey's ring.

I took a step back and raised my arms up, "I'll go, I'll go!"


Love,
Ava Elisabeth

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12/29/2020 4:27pm

Dear Diary,

Casey was right, I did get lost.

I tapped my left foot absentmindedly with my eyes glued to the screen above me. I was waiting for the marquee in the center of the courtyard to update to the school map. It cycled through dozens of ads, before turning to the map for only a brief moment.
This led to my predicament of waiting for the map.

I looked around at the courtyard momentarily. I had ended up here after taking the path of corridors and secret passage ways I remembered leading to the cafeteria. But things had changed since I had last been here. Either the paths changed or I forgot the path. Both very real options due to Psychic High's constantly shifting landscape and my old memories.

The courtyard was apparently the center of the brand new Psychic High Student Shopping Center. It was brightly lit with string lights and smelt obnoxiously of coconut. Pop music hummed through delicately placed speakers. Around the courtyard were shops. All of the stores were familiar chain stores. Several students mulled around in groups looking into the wintry window displays with the familiar sparkly decor, winter gollums, and fake snow.

My eyes darted back to the marquee "A little slice of paradise in the heart of campus!" the ad read, "Psychic High Student Shopping Center". A gif of a palm tree with sunglasses danced next to the words. I glanced around and noticed the tall plastic palm trees the lights were strung between. I rolled my eyes.

I saw someone coming towards me from the corner of my eye. It was grinning student in a store uniform holding a tray.
They gave me a big wave, "Hiyaa!" They called out.
I didn't turn around.
"Yoohoo!" They called.
My eyes hurt from the bright marquee, but I refused to look their way.

The person tapped my shoulder. I whipped around, "Are you serious!" I barked.

They launched into their speech without missing a beat, unbothered by my anger, "Hiya! I'm from Bath and Body Works," They tapped on the logo on their shirt, "I'm Dennis and I was wondering, if you would be interested in a sample of one of our best selling bodies,"

I opened my mouth to speak, but Dennis kept talking, "Before you say anything, I want you to know our store is just right over there," They swung their arm to point at the store, "and you are always welcome to browse our selection of premium Baths and Bodies. We have our Semi-annual sale going on, which includes a two-for-one sale today on Baths and buy two, get two half off sale on Bodies. So, would you like a sample?"

"I..."

"Before you choose, If you are looking for more of a floral vibe, I would recommend our Cultural Appropriation Bloss..."

"I'm not interested," I turned around to look back at the marquee, but Dennis grabbed my shoulder forcing me in place.

"What the hell!" I shouted pushing their hand off my shoulder and taking a step back from them, "Where do you get off, you ..!"

Dennis' smile was still wide, but their eyes looked panicked. They clenched their fingers tightly around the tray handles, before interrupting "I'm begging you, my wage is taken for my living expense, commission is the only way I can get out of my debt with the family,"

I softened, "What? What do you mean?"

A women with an Bath and Body works apron peered out the store, "Dennis? What's going on?"

"Sorry, I have to go," They whispered. Dennis shoved a sample into my hand. Dennis raised their voice loud enough that the woman could hear, "Just a second, Maurice! Feel free to come by to the store anytime and mention my name for a 5% off coupon!"

Dennis rushed back to the store, disappearing back inside with an equally grinning, Maurice.

Bewildered, I looked back at the marquee.
My stomach dropped.
"Psychic High Student Shopping Center generously sponsored by the Meritocracy Family Foundation" The Ad read.

The rest of the ad was a family portrait, with a grinning Casey Meritocracy right in the middle, pink bow and all.

The scent of the coconut was feeling a lot more sinister.

Love,
Ava Elisabeth

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10/30/2020 12:03pm

Dear Diary,

My new roommate thrust a carton of Parisian goose eggs at me with a goofy smile.

“It’s just so nice to meet you!” She was a redhead wearing a big pink bow in her hair.

I took the gold covered carton reluctantly and walked into the room.

“Thanks,” I mustered.

“It’s really cool that we will be roommates!” She began to rattle on. I dropped my bag on the empty bed and grabbed my freshly purchased toothbrush and toothpaste.
“I mean I totally read your journal, well I mean,” She followed me as I walked into our bathroom,
“I didn’t actually read your journal, but my friend’s sibling read your journal and they said ‘it really showed the darkness of humanity”

I whipped around, “darkness of humanity?”

“Yeah! I mean, isn’t that what it’s about?”

“No, that’s not what it’s about,”

“What is it about then?” She asked.

I rolled my eyes and turned back around to brush my teeth, “it’s a journal,”

“Yeah, but doesn’t it mean something? Like why would spend so much time writing in it, if it didn’t mean anything?” I ignored her and she looked at me in the mirror, as I aggressively brushed my teeth.

She frowned and paused for a moment, but quickly picked up her talking, “why are you brushing your teeth? It seems a little late in the day to brush your teeth. Aren’t you only supposed to brush your teeth twice a day? Well, I guess when I had braces last year they said, I mean my orthodontist said, that I should brush three times a day but I never did that, you don’t have braces do you? If you did that would be weird since you are a junior and I don’t know any juniors who have braces still,”

I spit into the sink and pointedly avoided eye contact. She didn’t seem to notice.

“Well, I guess your aren’t actually a junior since you have to repeat your sophomore year since you skipped school so much,”

I gritted my teeth and placed the toothbrush on the counter. I brushed past her through the door frame summoning as much passive aggression as I could. Again, she hardly seemed to care and followed after me like baby chick.

“So I guess if you had braces it wouldn’t be that weird, since you are more like a sophomore, but it is still...”

I couldn’t hold up my passive aggression, “I’m brushing my teeth, because they are dirty,...” I paused realizing I didn’t know her name.

“Oh! I’m such a bad roommate,” she laughed, “I’m Casey, Head of Financial Assistance on the Student Council”

She outstretched her arm and held her hand as if she was a queen about the have her hand kissed by peasants. I noticed a gold ring with a emblem on her ring finger.

I scowled, “Head of Financial Assistance?”

She laughed, “I’m Casey Meritocracy!”

I stared back blankly.

“Wow, most people know about my family, but I guess you did skip a lot of school,”

I rose one eyebrow.

“My family basically built this country and they happen to be big fans of the arts! So, I’m head of financial assistance!”

I squinted at her, “you are on Stu-Co, because your family has money?”

“What!? No! I earned my position! I am just the best suited for it!” She smiled and skipped over to my bed. She plopped down onto with a big smile and leaned up against my bag, “Soooo? Want to do some fun roommate activities? We could hatch the goose eggs!”

I glared at her, “no,”

I walked to the bed and grabbed my bag out from underneath her. She stumbled, but was unfazed and followed me as I walked to the door.

“Oh c’mon!! It’ll be so much fun, plus I can show you around!”

I grabbed the door knob and she stepped in front of it.

“I already have gone here, I’m older than you,” I said.

“But you haven’t been here for like a year! You have been like skipping school. I bet you don’t even know how to get around anymore!”

“I wasn’t skipping school and I know how to get around my own school,”

“What were you doing then?”

I scowled at her, “get out of my way,”

She stepped to the side and tsked, as I walked out the door.

I charged down the hall, but she still
managed to call after to me, “well, I hope you won’t get lost then, because I’m not going to...”

I rolled my eyes and burst through the double doors out into the courtyard filled with cold autumn air.

Love, Ava Elisabeth


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