We're Just Kids (chapter One)

This is a short story- a little snippet from my novel "We're just kids". It's about a young girl who suffers from PTSD after experiencing a school shooting. If you want to get the complete book, you can buy it from the link in my bio.

‘’My life’’ ASHANTI!’’.

I heard my mother’s raspy voice. I could hear her footsteps, loud and ready to raise hell on me and the rest of the world. My bedroom door swung open, and she yelled louder, coming in’’. Ashanti Lalia John!’’. Whenever she was upset or serious, she would always say my full name, and there would be this scowl on her caramel-colored wrinkly beautiful face’’. Get up this minute!’’. She commanded. I removed the flower-patterned blanket from my body and sighed heavily. Honestly, I wasn’t ready to argue today or fight with my mother. I had a lot of battles waiting for me outside this house. I had to save enough energy for that. I wish my mother knew I was awake before she came in to scold me.

Today didn’t feel like a good day based on the early morning anxiety I had. Just like my therapist, Doctor John Hovers advised concerning my panic attacks. ‘’Calm down, breathe’’. That didn’t work. It never did. He said I should always stand in front of a mirror and assure myself that things will go well. Each day, I stood in front of the mirror with tears in my big brown eyes. Tears of anxiety, fear, and pain. ‘’You got this, Ash’’. I have probably said that a million times in my life. I didn’t have anything under control. Today was the day I would be returning to St James High School. An hour ago, I woke up from a bad dream. The same dream that had been reoccurring for months since the incident. The incident. The shooting, the panicking, the cries, screams, the bloody lifeless bodies sprawled around the marble floor. The floor was smeared with innocent blood. I could still remember every key detail of that afternoon. Every time I woke up from that dream, I couldn’t stop panting and found it hard, difficult to breathe, perhaps because the nightmare always ended with a gun faced to me. I told Mr. John that maybe it was a sign, informing me that my time of death was soon.

He contradicted, telling me that I was going through PTSD, that I was still finding it hard to move on from what happened. He was right. A year ago, something bad happened to me and my family, as well as other families in Chapo. On October 11th, by 3 pm, I was going to pick up my little brother, Gabriel, and sister, Afua, from the local elementary school. I went in through the back of the school in order to avoid seeing one of the teachers, Mrs. Karen, who had an issue with the company I kept and me. Something irrelevant, really. It all started when I heard one of the children scream. That’s when I figured something was wrong. The first two gunshots heard were enough to make the children panic. The teachers had probably assured them that it was nothing. They tried convincing the young ones that it wasn’t a gunshot they heard. They were wrong.

The series of shots fired after that were powerful. Powerful enough to make teachers run for their lives, leaving children to run also. Right then, it was every man for himself. The school had been locked. It was definitely an assassination attempt, and it probably took months to plan, considering the outcome. A woman and her boyfriend began to shoot around the school, killing every soul that walked around. They weren’t looking for anyone in particular. They came in like a hurricane, ready to take everyone out. Why did the culprits do it? No one really knew even to this day. My two younger siblings, Afua and Gabriel, didn’t make it out alive, along with 40 other students and eight teachers. The event went down as one of Chapo’s greatest terrorist attacks. The federal authorities had organized a memorial for the 50 individuals killed. The government had also made it their responsibility to make sure the affected families were financially covered after the event.

Well, guess what? Governor Malcolm, Money doesn’t bring back the children nor take away the pain we all felt. During the court trial, the woman who killed the people, Claire Saint, explained that she had no reason to shoot in the school. She said, “she felt like it’’. If she had the opportunity to do it again, she would. She was given life imprisonment after being charged with capital murder. That’s when I knew people in the world were not just wicked but were sick. Seriously sick. After the event had taken place, I didn’t talk for days. I was traumatized. Do you know why? I had found Afua dead, and Gabriel wanted to search for help. A few feet away from me, he was shot about three times by the gunwoman. One in the chest, the leg, and finally, the head. He died right in front of me. There was no way he would have survived the injuries. The woman would have killed me also if she wasn’t taken down by the military team. I still remember the look in her eyes as she struggled with the cops.

There was “crazy” radiating all over her. I’m talking serious-insanity-crazy. I don’t know if it was God’s plan that I was there to witness that, but it hurt. I couldn’t sleep for weeks. I was having nightmares about that afternoon, not to mention that I was seeing ghosts of the dead children around me. It was official. I had lost my mind. I had tried to put myself out of the misery. I was going to take my life and bleed to death. I was halfway done when my father, Gerald, stopped me. That was the moment my family decided to get me professional help. My trauma made my family take extreme measures by taking me to Hanson to get psychiatric help, and I had been away for ten months. Did the trip help? Honestly, it didn’t. But I had to pretend as it did. If not, I would be breaking my father’s heart all over again. My father hoped that I would get better. With everything he was going through, I had to pretend to be strong for him. I had to be his ‘little Ash’ who is better than ever; the little girl who loved to smile and sing classic songs with him.

I still have nightmares of the incident. I was so terrified of go outside because I felt someone was out to get me. I didn’t even want to go to school. I remember the last time I was in school before the trip of redemption; I heard a noise and mistook it for a gunshot. Some of my classmates said I had lost my mind that day. I didn’t think so. No one understood that I was genuinely scared for my life. The nurse had given me a powerful sedative that afternoon. That was the last time I was in school.

I know I wasn’t the only one who had lost family members in the massacre, but I witnessed my brother die in front of me. More and more, I figured out that people have different levels of mental strength. Now, I was returning back to St. James high school after a year. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, especially with the issue of friendship and fitting back in. Being normal. Within myself, I already confirmed the fact that I had no friends. No one had really checked up on me while I was away. A few did but the ones I expected to care for didn’t.

My therapist said in order to live a healthy life; I shouldn’t have so many expectations. That was hard because I had so many expectations for everyone, especially Ezekiel and Cierra. The death of my siblings was a starter to the James family tragedy. My older sister, Natasha, got kicked out of the house by my mother after she found out that the 27-year-old was having an affair with a married man, whom she had married five months ago. Natasha was the runaway daughter, but she sometimes visited when Mother wasn’t home. They had a terrible relationship. None of them were willing to fix it. My father and mother were about to separate, but my father, Gerald, the ‘optimist’ of the family, assured us that it would be alright, that there was light at the end of the tunnel.

His motto was ‘’everything would be okay’’. I knew it wasn’t, and it wouldn’t be. Sometimes, I wondered how he did it. Trying to make this family happy again. It was a lost cause. My mother, who liked to bake, sing, sew, and dance, was gone. The vivacious woman who loved to keep her natural hair healthy, who was so neighborly, was replaced by a woman who had her dirty hair in a messy bun for weeks, a woman who was more interested in a brand of alcohol than her children’s welfare. She just stayed on the couch with a cigarette in her hands, crying or just staring into blank space. It was like my siblings took my mom’s sweet soul when they died. She struggled with PTSD but claimed she didn’t need anyone’s help, much less a psychologist. GET THE HELL UP!’’. She roared at me again, hitting the bed. I groaned as I stood up. ‘’Better’’. She crossed her lean arms’’. It’s your first time in school. You should be early. With that, she left. She didn’t give me any pep talk on how to be better, how to deal with people today, what to say, how to behave. Nothing. Sometimes I think she forgets I’m 17 and not 24. I’m still a kid. Sometimes, I still want to be worried.

My father, Gerald, would have given me a speech for today, but he was in Hanson with my older brother, Luka. That idiot had issues with drugs and was stuck at a rehabilitation center till he decided that he wanted to be better in life. Luka was the one whom we all thought would die, instead of my younger siblings. He put himself in a lot of dangerous situations; drugs, gangs, and crime. He was the dangerous sibling. So, there you have it. My mother, who was delusional and slowly losing her mind, and my father, who was trying his best to make this family better but was slowly giving up, I was so sure of it. My brother dropped out of school for drugs and to be buddies with gang members, and my older sister left for a better life. And me, a girl still struggling with her demons. That’s the John family. That’s what I’m living with.

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