The sun began to set in it’s orange-yellow glory. The metal bridge reflected the light of the big, yellow sphere. The river water reflected the rays of the sun, the heat waves bouncing off of it.
A girl was pacing back and forth on the bridge. Every now and then, she’d look into the river below the bridge.
Her knuckles cracked as she clenched her fists.
“Claire, it’s getting dark out,” the girl’s mother called into the cool spring breeze from their stubby old cabin. Claire looked at the charm, then at the river, then at the cabin and back at the charm. “Did you hear me?”
“Yes, Mom,” Claire mumbled, looking at the charm in her hands. Nine beads had already come out. “Just a second, okay? I’m… I’m doing something.”
“Alright. I’m sending your father out to check on you, okay? He’ll be reading a book on the porch,” Claire’s mother replied before disappearing into the house.
I can’t just throw it away, Claire thought to herself, still looking at her charm. My best friend gave it to me. My… my… my best friend…
When Claire lived back in New York, before she moved here in Carolina, her best friend, Mina Bell, had given Claire a gift before she had moved away. Mina had spent hours, maybe even days in stores, just to try and find Claire the perfect gift. At last, she found a keychain charm with dozens of tiny rainbow beads.
“Promise you’ll put it on your school bag everyday?” Mina had asked before Claire had jumped into the backseat of her dad’s car on moving day.
“Promise.” Claire had tucked the charm in her pocket as she took out her iPod and played some music, tuning out everything else in the world.
Now? That promise was shattered into millions of pieces.
Now, Claire squeezed the charm in her hand. She could feel her face heat up and turn red. Her cheeks puffed and her stomach squeezed into herself.
Just then, Claire’s dad came trudging onto the porch, plopping on the porch chair with a big ole book. “Howdy, Clarity,” he shouted over to Claire. She rolled her eyes.
“Don’t,” she said sternly, earning a violent laugh from her father.
Once again, she turned to the river and her face flushed up.
Gulping, Claire closed her eyes. But, without thinking twice, without any hesitation, Claire threw the charm into the glimmering river waters. As she watched the charm disappear, a whirlpool cooked up.
The sky turned dark as the clouds moved closer together. Even the whiteness of the puffy, cotton-candy clouds flipped into a shade of dark grey. Wind stirred up and piled into stacks. Smoke filled the air as the water began to rise, slowly, inch-by-inch.
“What is happening?!” Claire shouted over the roaring of the river wind. “Father!!”
“Come here, Claire!” Her father yelled, getting up from his reading spot and running over to the bridge. “Quick!”
“Quickly, Claire! There was a quick tornado warning on TV!” Her mother ran out of the house, hollering more and more things. But Claire was in a state of shock. As she made her way into the house with her parents, calmly but quickly, only one thought struck her brain.
Did something happen when she threw the charm?
“Come along and eat your dinner now,” Claire’s mother snapped. She whispered some other things under her breath, too, like, “Never listen the first time,” or “So irresponsible.”
“Ok, ok, sheesh,” Claire mumbled, climbing into a chair and picking at her fish with a fork. “What are we doing’ tomorrow?”
“First, let’s see if we’re alive by tomorrow,” Her mother whispered under her breath. Quickly, she properly replied, “You’re going to school, and I’m going shopping.”
“Great,” Claire said under her breath.
What would’ve happened if Claire had kept the charm?
“Looks pretty windy out there,” Claire’s father mumbled, chewing on a toothpick. “Do you think that maybe there were two tornado lookouts?”
“Naw,” Claire’s brother, Dillan, replied, smoking a cigar. “‘Sounds so fake that it’s nearly impossible.”
“You gotta stop that, Dill,” Claire said calmly with a scowl on her face. “Don’t you realize that there is a tornado out there, and you’re smoking?”
“She’s right, Dillan,” Claire’s mother interrupted. “First of all, you’re polluting the house. Second of all, you never listen to your sister, even when she’s saying things calmly and for the greater good!”
Claire thought it over for a second, but she was positive that maybe throwing the charm in the river brought her bad luck. “Why won’t you just listen to me?” Claire yelled, and her father ran up to her, grabbing her shoulders. “All I’m trying to do is help you, and you treat me like I’m… I’m nobody!”
Dillan smoked some more. “First of all, you are a nobody. You have no friends, and everyone ignores you.” Dillan lit a second cigar. “Second of all, if you think that I am polluting this house, then just move out.”
“Fine,” Claire huffed, just as her father hollered, “We would have if there wasn’t a tornado warning on the news!”
Claire’s mom burst into tears and started running upstairs. “Mom, wait!” Claire called, but her mom wouldn’t stop running. The noise of a door slamming shook the house.
“You are not leaving this house,” Her father yelled, so loud that it almost sounded screechy as Claire reached for the door knob. “You will to stay in the safety of this–”
“Let her go, Dad,” Dillan murmured. “What’s the use, anyways? She never listens–”
“She’s a WAY better child than you are!” Claire’s dad screamed, spitting in Dillan’s face. Dillan turned red.
Quickly but quietly, Claire bolted out of the house, looking at the messy river. The blistering wind hit Claire’s pale face. She ducked under her hoodie and literally ran with the wind. The river water was rising, very slowly, and Claire barely had any time to escape before the icy water pulled her under its currents.
The river was salty and the water stung Claire’s eyes. She puffed her cheeks with air, hoping she could last. Pedaling through the clear blue water, Claire searched for her charm, now that she had the time. Down, down, down she went, until finally, she felt the coal ground. Aaha! The charm was resting at the very bottom of the river. Swiftly, Claire clasped her charm and kicked to the top of the water, gasping for air as her head poked out of the water, her lungs burning.
Quietly, Claire tucked the charm in her pocket and raced home. After she showered and dressed into her nightgown, earned a very long lecture from her mother to never go swimming in the river again, she went into bed and peeked out her bedroom window.
Just as she had predicted, everything was back to its normal self.
The Next Day…
The next day at school, Claire sat on the curb belonging to the school’s playground with a pencil and a paper. Chewing on the eraser top of her pencil, she tried to brainstorm what she could write. She looked over at the kids on the play structure.
She wanted to write a letter to Mina and tell her everything. But she had no clue how and where to start!
“Wait, no… yes! No, that’s too complicated… ooh, I know!” Claire scribbled some words on the paper.
So far, she had written:
Yesterday was crazy! First, I threw that charm that you gifted me into the river below the bridge that is next to my home. I didn’t want to remember the day that I moved. Then, there was a tornado! I went inside and found my brother smoking his cigarette to bits! After that, I went outside and jumped into the river to try and find that charm. I found it, and when I was about to go to sleep, everything went back to normal!
Your charm is a true lucky charm!
Claire clapped her hands. “It’s perfect!”
“What’s perfect?” A girl asked, sitting next to Claire. She had lustrous brown hair that hung at her waist. “What are you writing?” She tried to peek over Claire’s arm.
“Nothing!” Claire said quickly–a little too quickly. Hurriedly, she pressed the paper up to her chest.
“Come on, can’t you tell me?” The girl asked, clasping her hands together. Claire sighed. “Or is it something personal, like a diary page–”
“No! It’s a letter for my best friend.”
“Can I see?!”
Claire scowled at the girl. “No, it’s personal. I’d rather not say…”
The girl puffed up. “My name is Kiera, and I always get my way.” Kiera snatched the paper from Claire, scowling deadly. She ripped it up.
“Hey!” Claire shrieked, her eyes burning. “I thought–”
“What?” Kierra asked, mocking Claire perfectly. “I already told you that I always get what I want. What’s your say?”
“I… I…” Claire stammered. Wiping her eyes, she stumbled to a recess teacher, ignoring several different laughs behind her. “Can… can I go to the office?”
“Why?” The recess teacher asked, crossing her arms.
“I… my mom dropped my sweater off, and… and I need to pick it up.” Claire played with her fingers. “It’s getting cold out.”
“Alright, but you’ll have to take a buddy with–”
Claire had already bolted inside as soon as she’d laid her fingers on the key that the teacher had given her. Quickly, making sure no teachers were by to see her, she ran through the hall and into the office.
“Clarity, but people call me Claire,” Claire finished as the office secretary got up.
“Miss Clarity, what shall I grant you today?” The secretary asked, leading Claire into the main office. “Did you get hurt? Need an ice pack?”
“No, I…” Claire wondered how she could lie to such a nice old lady. “…I need to call my mom. I feel like throwing up. Like, bad.”
Claire rubbed her tummy and made a gagging noise to complete the look.
“Alright,” the lady replied. “Come along, you can call home.”
The secretary handed a phone to Claire. Gradually, she took it, called her mom, and told her that she had a bad stomach ache.
In the car, Claire gagged, hurting her throat as she faked her horrible look. “We need to get her to the doctor’s,” her mom told her father.
When they reached home, Claire lied that she wanted to take Benji, their dog, on a walk. She took Benji with her, along with a paper and a pencil, and rewrote her entire letter.“There,” Claire whispered, scratching Benji’s ear as she put it in an envelope and dropped it in the delivery bin. “Now all we have to do is wait.”