Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Welcome to winter 2014 issue of MU Voices

It's been an unusually long and harsh winter, and we're just starting to see signs of spring. Here is one sign of spring at Madonna University: the newest issue of MU Voices. On these pages, you'll read inspiring stories, thought-provoking poems, imaginative fiction, and compelling artwork.

We hope you enjoy this issue, and that you add your encouraging comments to the contributions that move you. Just as we have sought warmth during our severe winter, our authors and artists appreciate the warmth of a kind word.

Frances FitzGerald, editor

Here and Now, by DeCarlo Burris

This is my moment…
I have been told against my opinions
                        Transparent to the living
                                   My passion died before the ending
                                                Just at the beginning.
                        I determined how I would tell my story
                                    And through His glory
                                                I am free.

I Want to Do More, by D'Marco Redd

I want talk about how important community involvement, especially in our community. I’m a freshman in college. My major is sports management, and I hold a 3.6 G.P.A at Madonna University. Before I came to Madonna University, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life.

Real life was coming as soon as I graduated from high school. The next step was going into the Navy. I knew I didn’t want to go into the Navy, so I had to find the next step I was going to take to become a step closer to success. Before I graduated, I met this guy name Bryant George. I was a part of Real Life 101, and we talked about college and what the standards were to get into Madonna University. Even though I didn’t have the ACT scores or the grades, Madonna University and Bryant George took a chance on me. I’m glad they did because I continue to show them my intelligence and what I can do.

When the BLG program and Madonna introduced me to the idea of giving back to the community, I finally said, this is my purpose. One day we went to Christ Child House, where there were kids who were abused, neglected, and had nobody but themselves. We ate, played indoor and outdoor activities, and talked to them about different things. When the day was over, I knew it wasn’t enough; I wasn’t satisfied with myself until I gave it my all. I knew helping people was my purpose, and when I finally realized it, I decided to do more. When the kids from Marcus Garvey came to Madonna University, we talked to them about college, ate pizza, and took them to a volleyball game. When that happened, I still didn’t feel satisfied, and it felt like God wanted me to do more. I also wanted to do more for myself as well, help anybody out as much as I could. The kids need us more to be an influence, and really talk to them and show them the right path.

I didn’t stop there. When the Christ Child House came to Madonna University and spent time with us, the BLG students talked to them about life, we ate pizza, and—my personal favorite—we played basketball. After that event was over, we just had a reflection about what everyone learned and how they enjoyed themselves. We are really their brothers, and the BLG program really wants every single one of the kids to be successful in their own ways.

I love that I can give back and be there for the kids when they need someone to talk to. To know that you can possibly be their hero or really influence them is a great feeling and makes you feel good about youself inside.

At this point, I still didn’t feel it was enough, so I decided to volunteer at the YMCA. I’m really dedicated to my community and I really love my community. There be days when it is below zero degrees outside and raining, but I still walk to the YMCA for the kids and the community. I walk to the YMCA every day, even when it’s so cold I can’t feel my jaw, fingers, or anything else. The kids are worth it, and to be able to see them grow up and be successful is priceless. All kids need is a little guidance and someone to show them the way, and I’m going to be that kid who does it. I feel like this because when Madonna University gave back and accepted me into college, I knew I had to give back to others.

I’m going to continue to do it as well. I just want thank Madonna University and BLG program for giving me the opportunity. I also want to thank Real life 101 as well for investing in me and believing I could do it. To have support, in no matter what you do, makes a big difference in your life. For people to care if you go to school and make something out of your life is very powerful. The person I want thank the most is God. Without him none of this will be here or be possible.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

May 7th, by Jim Routhier

I joined the Army at seventeen. Fresh out of high school, that was me. I had graduated at sixteen, the result of an experiment conducted at my middle school to promote four sixth grade honor students directly to the eighth grade. I was a freshman at age twelve and a high school graduate at sixteen. At seventeen, you need the signature of a parent or guardian to enlist. My father provided the signature. That only seemed right since it was his side of the family that I was honoring by selecting the Army as my chosen branch of service. I had made it known at a young age that I intended to join the military after high school. I was actively recruited by the Army and the Navy. I chose the Army, just like my brother, my father, his father and his father had done. It was a tradition I was proud to carry on. Basic and advanced individual training at Ft. McClellan, Alabama, was followed by an assignment to a unit of the 24th Infantry Division at Ft. Stewart, Georgia.

May 7, 1985, was a Tuesday. I’ll remember that simple fact for the rest of my life. This was the day I became a man. I was 18 by this time. Legally an adult, but not so much emotionally, and not at all in terms of world experience. I was at my work area at the Company Headquarters of my assigned unit, Alpha Co, 3rd Combat Engineer Battalion at Ft. Stewart, Georgia. Working at my desk, I noticed that it was nearly time for the afternoon Company formation. I quickly secured my work area and headed for our Company’s formation area. In the case of Alpha Company, our assigned area was the parking lot of our barracks. Three times a day, my Company would assemble for formation. Every day, Monday through Friday, all 200 men assigned to my Company would assemble each morning, afternoon and evening. At these formations, we would form into our respective Platoons and a head count would be taken, followed by any announcements and hopefully, mail call, which meant letters from home. This particular formation went much like any other, without any direct involvement by me, until I heard the Company First Sergeant calling out my name and ordering me to report to the Company Commander immediately after the formation’s conclusion. I acknowledged the order, and shortly thereafter, the formation ended.

As I walked back to the Company Headquarters, I wondered why the Commander would want to see me. As part of my job, I interacted with him as needed, but for me to be ordered to report to him meant one of two things: I had done something really worth note, or I had really screwed up.  Before I even realized it, I stood outside the Commander’s office. Nervously, I rapped lightly on the doorframe to announce my presence, and stepped in front of his desk. After he returned my hand salute, he ordered me to “Stand at ease.” This command permitted me to relax from the position of Attention, but to remain standing in place.

Things happened fast after this. He told me he had an emergency message for me from the Red Cross. I watched him take a deep breath, and then his gaze met mine directly, “Your Father is dead,” he said simply.

I remember two immediate reactions: a ringing in my ears and my knees starting to buckle from under me. I grabbed the front of his desk for support. His expression changed; realization flashed across his face. I don’t think the proffering of a chair prior to delivering such news even occurred to him until just that moment. He told me to sit down in one of the two chairs that stood against the wall behind me. I sat down, the ringing in my ears subsiding a bit. He watched me silently as I struggled to fight back an almost uncontrollable urge to cry. I was determined not to show any more emotion in front of my Commanding Officer than I already had.

 “I suppose you will want to go home on leave,” he said.

His voice sounded like Ebenezer Scrooge asking Bob Cratchet if he expected Christmas Day off yet again this year. My Commander was not the most compassionate man. I nodded, still not having yet found my voice. He ordered me to report to the Company Clerk for travel orders. With that command, and the necessary information disseminated, he ended the meeting and dismissed me.

Our Company Clerk, Staff Sergeant Hartwig, was a decent man. Friendly, with a kind face, he adopted the new guys to our unit and made sure they learned the ropes and didn’t anger the other sergeants too much. He met me as I exited the Commander’s office and handed me handwritten travel orders already prepared in my name.  I left the Company Headquarters and quickly made my way to the nearest pay phone—no cell phones in those days—and called home.

It was during this phone call that hastily arranged travel plans would be made, and I would learn of my father’s cause of death. I learned that he had committed suicide using the shotgun, my shotgun, kept at his home. Unbeknownst to him, his action would shatter my family, and we would never truly recover from the effects of his decision. However, all of that would come later. For now, I hung up the phone, and started to walk back to the barracks. I had to first pack and then get to the airport. As I walked, I sobbed openly. My father was dead and, for the first time in my life, I felt truly alone in the world. Whether I was ready or not, I became a man on May 7th.

The Light of the Sun, by Laura Haldane

I stare down at my turquoise and yellow paisley flip-flops and flex my toes, trying to get the blood flowing again. I’m pretty sure my feet are turning blue, but it’s hard to tell in this light.  Socks would have been a great idea. I yawn, hoping this spectacle will be worth the pre-6:00 a.m. wake-up. I’ve never willingly risen before the sun—lugging myself out of bed any time before 9:00 a.m. counts as early in my book. I can already tell I will not be making a habit of it. But since an all-day car ride is the only thing I have to look forward to, I figure I can join the early birds, just this once.

I shift my weight around a bit in an attempt to prevent my legs from locking up. Two of my classmates and I wait in friendly silence on the sun-washed wooden dock that juts out into the Gulf of Mexico. We clutch cameras in our hands, eyes focused on the sky to the left of our position, watching for the first hints of the sun’s 6:11 a.m. awakening. 

Sunrises start slowly. At first, the sky stratifies into layers. Warm reds and oranges rest on the horizon like a blanket. A color somewhere between purple and blue dominates the rest of the heavens. The Gulf waters take on the same hue as the sky above, the shoreline acting as a stark boundary between the two. My breath clouds the air, mimicking the fog that drifts over the surface of the ocean.

The sky lightens in small increments, preparing us for what’s to come. A luminescent strip of yellow begins to creep over the treetops. As the light appears, I am suddenly more aware of myself than ever before. My body feels strange, but familiar at the same time. For one of the few times in my life, I am fully immersed in the present moment. I don’t think of the cramped white van with the California license plate we will soon be piling into, or the fact we will be leaving Mississippi for wintery Michigan in a few short hours. I pay no attention to my cold feet.

I forget I am on a dock in front of the Gulf Coast Research Lab in Ocean Springs in 2011. I feel as if I have been transported to a time long past. Pelicans and gulls appear as black shapes against the firmament, looking like flying, prehistoric creatures. The forest trees on the horizon transform into the canopy of a tropical jungle. If I ignore the lawn chairs and the dorm building behind me, I may as well be in the Mesozoic Era, when dinosaurs roamed and humans were not even players on the universal stage. 

This prelude to the sunrise feels like the tuning of an orchestra. The musicians begin to warm up, and the instruments come together to create an almost palpable burst of sound, a wave of noise that washes over the audience like a sentient breeze. In the same way, the individual wavelengths of light combine in a visual melody to herald in the start of a new day.

The sun’s halo appears first. Like the overture of a musical, it hints at the splendor that will soon follow. It starts off as a burnt orange and then slowly morphs into buttercup yellow as it rises in the sky, pushing back the remaining blue mantle of the night. For the first time, I am part of the audience for nature’s longest running show. I am at the figurative edge of my seat, eyes riveted on center stage.   

Finally, the curtains part and the star of the show appears. It bursts over the top of the trees, singing an aria for my eyes, rather than my ears. Its light illuminates the tendrils of fog, transforming them into tongues of flame that dance around the radiant orb. It quickly begins to rise above the trees, and my eyes tear up from its brightness. The Gulf reflects its brilliance as a second sphere appears in the water. 

I want to dive into the ocean and swim into the center of the sun’s reflected twin. I have just witnessed what feels like the dawning of the world, a spectacle as old as the Earth, yet new as the day that has just begun. I have experienced beauty in its truest, rawest form.  

In some of my memories, I’m looking at myself from a distance, a simple spectator, rather than a player in the unfolding action. When I recall the last day of my alternative spring break, I only see the sunrise. This remembrance plays out in front of me like a movie on a screen—and I watch it through my own eyes—perhaps because of the scale of its magnificence. 

In the light of the rising sun, I became just another miniscule part of the universe. Yet in my smallness, I did not become inconsequential, but momentous. I transformed into a being of infinite power and immeasurable possibility. I joined the world around me, connected with the sea birds, the twisted trees of the shoreline, and the waving water grasses.

The pictures I took make my heart ache with their beauty, but they are only a shadow of the spectacle. Two-dimensional mementos of that wild grandeur do not make up for the real thing.  But they have preserved the memory of that magical morning. For that, I am grateful.

Rachel Carson tells us, “In every outthrust headland, in every curving beach, in every grain of sand there is the story of the Earth.” Each daybreak ushers in a new chapter of this planet’s history. For roughly 4.5 billion years, the sun has poured its light onto this planet, providing fuel to the living creatures who call Earth home. This life-granting body has witnessed the entirety of human history and all that came before. What tales it would tell, if only it could speak.

Yet, the sun has a story of its own. Its legacy can be found in everything from the iridescent trees and jewel-toned flowers, to the miniscule phytoplankton and colossal whale. Humans, too, make up this narrative, of equal importance with all the other characters.

A law of radiation states that any object that absorbs light must also emit light. The sun passes its energy to us, and we glow in return. Sunlight pulses through the veins of all life. We must never forget that we are creatures of both sunlight and starlight. And we should never be afraid to shine.

Fadeaway, by Rebekah Phillips

We were used, by now, to seeing Alice sit by herself. That was fine with us. She didn’t fit in, and she knew it. Every game, she would sidle in five minutes early, her backpack slung over her shoulder, and she would sit down by herself on the bleachers as far away from everyone as possible. Reaching into her backpack, she would draw out a biology textbook, put it on her lap, and proceed to look studious and turn pages until the game was over. Who studied at a basketball game? Who, but Alice Palmer?

Over time, she had become the brunt of our jokes. Whenever one of us stayed home on a Friday or a Saturday night to study instead of going out with us to the frat house, or the bar, or the club, sometimes one of our apartments, we’d say, “Sure, you and Alice both.” We had never seen her drink, at least, not to the point that she would slur her words and forget who she was and who she was with and actually open up to us as a person. Dillon had managed to drag her along to one house party, and she spent the entire time smiling as if it hurt.

Dillon hated when we made these jokes. “Why can’t you just leave her alone?” he asked us, as close as he ever got to being mad. Alice was his, had been for two months now. He had found her in a biology lab and dumped Katrina for her. We never really recovered from that. Katrina was the star of the Apostles’ volleyball team, whom he had been seeing on and off for two years: Alice was nice, but she wasn’t one of us. It was a foreign concept, for one of our own to be dating a geek. She did biology homework at basketball games, for Christ’s sake.

We got used to her, but we never got friendly. She never tried to get friendly with us, either. Every game, for two months, we’d find her with her biology book on her lap, a yellow highlighter spinning in her fingers. She only looked up when the coach played Dillon, but it was more of a half-eye—she was looking at Dillon, but her mind was still off with Charles Darwin. It wasn’t like it was hard to spot Dillon. He stood out. He was 6”5, our center, and to top that off, he shaved his head. He was the first person you’d spot out there on the court.

Why did he like her? We never understood that. We knew she was pretty, but she had no self-confidence. Everything about her screamed that she was trying too hard. High heels she couldn’t walk in, skinny jeans she kept tugging up at the waist but down at the knees, hair she was continually pushing out of her eyes. Why did she bother? But beyond her nervous, fidgety beauty, all there was to her was school. She could talk our ears off about revolutionary scientific breakthroughs, lab accidents, evolution. Alice never talked about anything else. Anything that mattered.

She didn’t even know how to play euchre.

Everyone has those little phases, where they fall for someone they shouldn’t. That was, we hoped, all there was to Dillon and Alice. A few weeks more, give or take, to let the spell she’d put on him wane, and the whole thing would run its course. He and Katrina would go right back to where they left off, and Alice would leave our lives forever. They had to be feeling the strain; how could a basketball star and a bookworm ever be happy together?

Something changed the night of our game against the Northern Timberwolves. We didn’t even notice the dynamic had shifted. The girls’ game had run late, and we were scrambling. The roads were bad, so the bleachers were emptier than usual. Shoes squeaked on the floor. The dance team pranced, their pasted smiles wide and lipstick-y. And Alice had a smile on her face we’d never seen before.

There was no book on her lap, for one thing. Her eyes were feverish and over-bright, focused as never before on the basketball court. But it wasn’t Dillon she was watching. Her eyes were on the opposing team, the Northern Timberwolves. Well, we thought, life will go back to normal once the game starts. Alice will pull out her textbook and whisper the names of different nucleic acids to herself. All will be as it should be.

The announcer introduced us to each other in the pre-game parade, our boys making a show of how vivacious they were, how high they could jump. Dillon never seemed as vibrant as he did then. We could see him laughing with the assistant coach, his face flushed with excitement and adrenaline. All men look like that, before the blow. The dance team left the floor, dropping their Barbie smiles and pulling out their cell phones. Rammstein filled the speaker systems, and the game began.

Plays came and went. Fouls were called. None of us noticed. We were watching Alice, who was watching the Timberwolves. There was still no book on her lap, and we realized, slowly, that no book would appear. Who was she watching? 12, the stocky African American we had nicknamed Fatass, because of how far he stuck his butt out when he took a shot? 24, the point guard? 5, with the dreadlocks? Her eyes were following someone. But the pace of the game was moving quickly, even for us, and as soon as we thought we had him, a buzzer would sound, a ref would whistle, the coach would start to shout and swear and would pull someone back onto the bench. And he, whoever he was, would be lost to us.

17-15. 20-20. Never once were we in the safe zone, the security ten points gives us; we were always hanging on by the skin of our teeth, neck and neck. 25-30. 26-32. And Alice Palmer—who we secretly thought didn’t understand anything about basketball—was following every play.

Five minutes before halftime, behind by two points, a small, lithe boy stole the ball from Dillon and shot it from outside the blue line. For a second it rolled around the hoop, deciding if it wanted to go in or not. We held our breath and prayed. Then, slowly, wavering, it went through. The Timberwolves fans screamed. Alice stood up, clapping as we had never seen her clap before. “Brr-ent Olivers, number 1, scoring there for three points,” the announcer rumbled.

Brent Olivers. He had a name now. Alice was cheering for Brent. On the court, Dillon rubbed his forehead, then wiped his hands on the soles of his shoes. Even from the bleachers, we could see that a lost look had come into his eyes. Dillon had noticed that his girlfriend was cheering for someone else.

At half-time the dance team came out again, all smiles and insincere charm. Usually we would split up, succumbing to the call of the concession stand, making a quick dash to the restroom, moving across the bleachers and striking up a conversation with a friend sitting far away. We did not do that this time. We were riveted, watching as Alice smiled at the dance team with her chin on her hand. Someone sitting nearby her said something, and she laughed—Alice! Laugh! She sparkled for the first time, and we started to see a little of the person Dillon had fallen for over those shared biology labs. But no matter how beautiful she looked as she sang and danced along to “Timber,” we knew the end of her time had come.

Dillon in the second half was angry, desperate. He made shots he shouldn’t have and missed them all. He got three personal fouls called against him in the space of ten minutes. Pull him out, we pleaded silently with the coach. Before he costs us the game. “Dillon, for God’s sake, watch it!” the coach howled. But Dillon stayed in the game. We could only watch as Brent dived under Dillon’s long arms, too short and fast to catch, and made shot after shot. Alice cheered for Brent, every time. Dillon would lick his lips, his eyes flickering to an oblivious Alice, and the cycle would repeat.

Dillon’s chance came as Brent dribbled the ball cross-court. Dillon caught him, and they fell to the floor, kicking and grabbing like animals. The refs blew the whistle, but still Dillon fought. “Fifth personal foul for number 33, Dillon Ratz,” the announcer said, as the refs finally got Dillon off of his rival. “Two penalty shots for the Timberwolves!”

The coach pulled Dillon aside and spoke sharply to him, but Dillon wasn’t listening. He kept looking helplessly at the bleachers, towards Alice, longing to go to her.

Was Alice looking back at him? We couldn’t tell. Dillon took a spot on “the bench”—really, just a couple of plush folding chairs—but he wasn’t watching the game anymore, even though we were losing by ten points. He sat there, jiggling his legs, bobbing his head, his hands clasped tightly in his lap. Every few seconds he would look over his shoulder, towards his wayward girlfriend. Alice, who had eyes only for Brent Oliver, who did not seem to notice or care that her boyfriend was anxious and that we were losing. Well, this was what came of dating your lab partner. Katrina puffed herself up and smiled, sending pointed looks in Dillon’s direction.

None of us had expected that, when the time finally came to call off this charade, Dillon would look so frightened. He reminded us of a child waiting for bad news. But what could we say? Alice was not like us. She would never be like us. It was better to end this now. We tore our eyes away from Dillon and from Alice and encouraged our team to make up for the damage Dillon had done—that Alice had done. All the while Dillon shifted, unable to keep still.

We lost the game by fifteen points. We sighed, stretching out our sore muscles, and cast nasty looks at the opposing team. On the bench, our boys stood up and slowly shuffled towards the other team to shake their hands and say, Good game. Good game. For the losers, these words are always a lie.

When Dillon stood in front of Brent we flinched and held our breath, unsure of what to expect. A muscle ticked in Dillon’s face, and Brent laughed. He shook Dillon’s hand amiably, unaware that anything was amiss, and then moved on. Dillon stood there frozen, his eyes again scanning the crowd for Alice. We did not know if he found her. The audience was standing up and moving, and we could not see Alice for the crowd. What we did see, however, was Brent turning around again after the end of the line-up and walking straight to Alice.

We knew what would happen before anyone else. Dillon saw him and went after him, his jaw tight, murder in his eyes. Brent didn’t notice; his eyes were light and monkey-ish, trained on Alice. The crowd had thinned enough that we could see her rise to greet him. “Brent,” we saw her say, her lips forming his name as if she had been intimate with it once. We rose, too.

Dillon put his hand on Brent’s shoulder and turned him around to face him. “What’s your problem?” he snarled, and we could hear him even where we were. Slowly we were closing ranks. Across court, the assistant coach jumped up as he saw what was about to happen.

 “Dillon!” we heard him cry.

 Brent shoved Dillon’s hand off his shoulder. “What are you talking about?”

“Dillon,” Alice said.

The assistant coach forced his way through the crowd, but we blocked him as best we could. Let Dillon have his out. He needed to prove to himself that he was still in control, that he was going to leave Alice, and not the other way around. We would not let him miss out on that chance.

“Stay away from my girlfriend,” Dillon snarled, and Brent laughed, looking from Alice to Dillon.

“I didn’t know she had a boyfriend.”

Dillon pushed up against him. “Now you do.”

“Dillon.” This from Alice.

The assistant coach made it to Dillon’s side and started to pull him away. Brent’s coach, too, was hopping chairs to get to Jersey Number 1. “She’s my girlfriend,” he shouted as he was dragged away.

 “What’s his problem?” Brent asked Alice, but his coach, too, had grabbed hold of him, and was dragging him to the locker room.

Who was Alice watching leave? Both men left through the same door. She stood there, quivering, and then turned to us. “We grew up together,” she said, her voice higher pitched than normal. “I…was he jealous? Why was he jealous?”

Smart girls don’t know anything about the things that matter.

“Because you’re his girlfriend.”

 “Not really. I…”

 “Then end it. End it now.” That was Katrina.

 “I didn’t think it would be a big deal—that he would notice, and start to think...He never seemed to want me here. He always acts so ashamed. Ashamed—of me.” Her wild eyes met ours, darting from face to face like a convicted prisoner. She did not like the answer she saw there. Alice grabbed her backpack and ran, awkwardly, towards the boy’s locker room. We followed. We had boyfriends of our own that would come looking for us soon; they would want our ears, to complain about bad calls and fouls and hate on Fatass and that Brent Oliver who ran so quickly. Katrina was smiling, smug and assured. Dillon was hers again.

“She messed up,” we all agreed.

So what if Brent was an old friend? She had cheered for him when she had never cheered for Dillon. Alice did not understand and never would understand. It was better that she just leave.

She waited there outside of the locker room with us, watching as our boys slowly filed out and put their arms around us, off to dinner. We had expected this. She would wait for him, and try to explain away her behavior, begging for forgiveness. It did not surprise us that she had fallen in love with Dillon; it surprised us that he had fallen for her. Her heart would mend. Probably.

Dillon came out into the hall, his eyes on the ground. He looked up once, involuntarily, and Alice stepped forward, making a strange noise in the back of her throat. He stopped, still trying to find an answer in the tiles beneath his feet. Two months they had been dating, and they were as awkward around each other as newborn kittens.

“What was that, Alice?” he said, finally. “What was that?”

“He’s an old friend. We went to high school together.”

 “We lost the game to them!”

Alice smiled faintly. “He was always good at basketball.”

Dillon looked at her, and he did not like what he saw. “I can’t handle this right now.”

“Then when?” Alice blocked him, as if she was a center herself, guarding the hoop. “We should talk about how you never seem to want me around—how ashamed you are of me—”

“Ashamed?” Dillon spat, running his hand over his smooth head. “Ashamed of you? Christ, Alice.”

She winced. Alice was Catholic, one of the few of us who went to Augustine University because of religion, and not just because she was offered sports scholarships.

“It’s not as if you weren’t showing off how much smarter you are than me. Up there in the stands, always studying. I’m just managing Bs in my forensics classes but you—you rub my face in it.”

Alice’s face twisted. “Are you saying I’m too smart for you?” She looked at us. “That I’m a snob?”

Dillon’s eyes raked over us, too, witnesses to Alice’s outsider status. “You didn’t seem happy. I didn’t think I was making you happy. I thought that if maybe it were different, if I was smarter—”

“Well, that’s both of us, then.”

He shook his head, licked his lips. “Do you like him, then? That Barney Olivander?”

We hadn’t realized how much Dillon loved her until he said that. Men never mangle other men’s names unless they are jealous and hurting. We looked at each other, wondering. Could he really be in love with that beautiful dancing girl? Could she really be in love with our Dillon?

She opened her mouth, but said nothing. We watched her swallow twice. Then she hung her head in defeat. Dillon nodded once, pursed his lips. That was a yes, wasn’t it? She liked that Timberwolf more than her boyfriend?

It was the pain in his eyes that made us do it (all of us but Katrina, anyway). We reached out and gave her a little push. She looked at us, as if to say, Are you sure this is right? We gave a little, imperceptible nod. “Dillon,” she said. And she stepped forward, closer and closer, until she threw her arms around Dillon. His long arms wrapped around her, and he whispered into her hair. He held her as if he wouldn’t let her go—and she held him as if he was the only thing she was sure of.

We saw them later that night. For a little while, at least. We were drinking in one of our apartments, with the music too loud, doing what we always did on Saturday nights. We had almost forgotten about Alice Palmer when she walked inside, holding Dillon’s hand. She smiled at us, and we smiled uncertainly back. Katrina scowled. Alice didn’t seem to notice. Her grin just grew even wider. And we got the feeling that we would be seeing an awful lot of this new, laughing Alice, who for so long had been hidden behind biology textbooks.


Lone Island, by Jake O'Connell