Here’s my story! It’s pretty long, and it covers a subject I am very nerdy about :P
Run, Petra! Get out of there! You’re not safe! RUN!
Thoughts like these plagued my mind every morning. Well, for the last month, anyway. After Mother Nature sent down swirling masses of air down from the sky. Destructive masses of air, no less.
Let me tell you, watching your little sister die in front of you each day is traumatic. Move out of the Plains if you can. Otherwise, who know what will happen? Your life could change. You could become homeless in a blink of an eye. You could die. All thanks to mere temperature changes in the clouds.
“Stacey! You need to get up! It’s your first day of school!”
This was kind of ironic. It wasn’t September. In fact, it was April. Two months until the school year ended. But then again, since the storm last month, I haven’t set foot in any school, anywhere.
There were three very good reasons for this, mind you. One: my old school, Chesakee High, was destroyed the same day Petra left the world. Two: since our old house in Chesakee was obliterated, we moved out of Oklahoma and to Colorado so we could escape the hellhole that was Tornado Alley. Three: if I were to even look at a school again, I would be thrown into a seemingly never-ending pit of anxiety. Thanks, Mother Nature. Way to ruin my life and destroy my dreams of being on the A honor roll every semester.
“Coming, Mom!” I yelled downstairs. But it still took me three minutes before I even got out of bed. I did not want to go to school today. I would never be the same, especially in any school. Just another thing the storm changed.
I opened my closet, trying to find a good outfit to wear. I was refusing to wear any and all clothing items I was able to salvage from the wreckage of my old house; there were way too many memories tied to them, some relating to my dead sister. That’s why I easily skipped over my Chesakee Coyotes hoodie and decided on my new red and white hoodie I bought here.
Finally, I made it down the stairs with just under fifteen minutes before the bus came. Quickly, I slurped down some orange juice, grab my thermos with a smoothie I made last night, hug Mom, and I’m out of the house. My twin brother, Tyrone, followed me.
Silence filled the air, which was surprisingly warm and comforting (by Colorado standards, anyway). Finally, he says, “I miss her, Stace. She deserves to be here walking with us today.”
I nod, brushing some of my dark brown, almost black, hair out of my face. “Yeah. I’m glad we left, but, you know, we’ll never be the same.” Now it’s his turn to nod.
Five others are at the bus stop when we arrive. Immediately, they all turn their heads when they hear us approaching. They must have been waiting for us to arrive. To get a glimpse of these unknown Oklahomans who happened to be tornado survivors. That’s when the whispering starts.
“They’re here.” No duh.
“Aren’t they from that place in Kansas that got hit by a tornado?” It’s Oklahoma, you dummy.
“Yeah, I heard their sister died.” Gee, thanks. Way to remind us.
Tyrone and I step closer to them, exchanging weary glances as we go. It’s almost like we’re celebrities and they’re paparazzi, just waiting to swoop in at the best time to pester us. Finally, I hear the comment that I knew was coming, this one oozing out of the mouth of a girl with shiny, wavy blonde hair. She looks like one
of those snobby popular chicks from cheesy high school movies.
“What’s up with her scar?”
I feel like everyone here is staring at me like I’m a monster, even my own brother. Suddenly I want to run home, crying my eyes out until they feel like raisins left out in the sun too long. Not just because of embarrassment, but because of what’s tied to that scar.
It’s the one thing from the storm that I can’t hide.
Luckily, the steady purr of the bus’ engine is approaching, so I can escape from this dreaded awkwardness. When the yellow vehicle pulls up alongside the curb, I climb aboard. And suddenly, I feel the eyes drawn to
me yet again.
The school is only a mile’s drive from our stop with one stop to go from us, so it isn’t long before we’re released from the bus. Tyrone and I stopped at the door and look up. Then we turn to face each other. “See you at lunch, Stace.” Then he entered the building and turns to the left. He and I have different schedules for the entire morning. I’ll have to go alone.
I take a deep breath, and I pull open the door. It’s go time.
My locker isn’t far from my homeroom, which is why I’m among the first to walk into the classroom and take a seat. More kids file in, some sitting by their closest friends. Others take out books to read or study.
I decide to just watch.
A few minutes later, the bell rings. A young woman walks into the classroom as the bell chimes overhead. She has flowing brunette hair and glasses similar to my own: big and nerdy. She wears a button-down pale pink shirt and black leggings, paired with black high-heels. I decide she seems friendly.
“Morning, class!” she greets us. “I’m Ms. Nilsson. And the only reason I’m greeting you like this is because we have a new student!” She opens her iMac, and the SmartBoard behind her lights up. “Anastasia, why don’t you come up to the front and greet us?”
Any good feelings I had for Ms. Nilsson have vanished. Yet more eyes are glued to me as I walk to the front. I take my tall self up front and am somehow maintain a steady stance as I walk despite my nerves, even though I can never stand straight enough. Mom lets me know sometimes.
“Hi, I’m Anastasia Carras, but you can call me Stacey. I’m from Oklahoma, and I’m Greek. I moved here last month. And…I like swimming, hiking, and drawing.”
“Very nice!” Ms. Nilsson chimes in. “I’m the art teacher here. I’m sure you’ll like that.” She turns to the students sitting down. “Any questions for Stacey here?”
She points to a blonde girl in the second row. “Abby?” That’s when I recognize this Abby girl. She was the blonde girl from the bus stop.
“Why do you have a scar over your eye?” she asks.
And suddenly I’m transported back to that dreaded day last month.
The spring Oklahoma air was thick. I could smell the rain in the air. I loved that smell. It was nice and earthy, and I would usually drift off to sleep each day in the spring smelling it.
Nonetheless, Mom still took us to the park across the street, right next to Prairie Hills Junior High. “Us” was her, me, Tyrone, Petra, and my youngest sister, Cyrena. We were having a blast, playing Sardines and tag and swinging on the swings. That’s when we all felt it. Raindrops.
Normally, this wasn’t a cause for concern, even though we could hear thunder and see lightning off in the distance. Most storms in Oklahoma just blew right over us. But we could feel wind. You could practically see the air, it was so humid. It felt like a powder keg about to blow.
Sure enough, we soon saw rotating clouds off in the distance. The sirens were blaring all around us. We all knew there was a tornado warning in effect. But again, most storms don’t form tornadoes.
Mom, however, knew something was up. She had her phone open on the Weather Channel’s radar. A hook echo was beginning to form just to the west of us. And the storm was moving west. “Kids,” she called. “It’s time to go back. It’s getting pretty unsafe.”
And that’s when we all saw it. A tornado. It was a perfect funnel cloud, on the ground. It looked relatively far away, but close enough to cause concern.
It seemed stationary. My heart sank. I knew what that meant. It was coming directly for us.
We saw it widen as it strengthened and came closer to us. Cyrena was yelling her head off, and Mom held her. They took off across the street. Instinctively, Tyrone and I ran. We thought Petra was behind us.
It wasn’t until we were in our storm shelter in our backyard that we realized that she wasn’t there. I wanted to go out and find her. But Mom shook her head. I could see tears in her eyes.
I wanted to go so badly. We needed to be all together. But I heard the rumbling, which sounded like a freight train approaching.
Soon enough, it was upon us.
It was chaos in that storm shelter. Cyrena was sobbing, I was yelling for Petra to run, and Mom was just shaking her head tearfully. Only Tyrone was calm.
Until I felt a board smack against my forehead, just above my left eye. I still don’t know where it came from, but all I knew was that it hit. Soon enough, blood poured down my face. I felt dizzy.
Now it was Tyrone’s turn to scream. The last thing I remember before I fell unconscious was a tear drip onto my chest as the storm rumbled all around us.
I woke up in a perfectly white room. I felt dizzy all over again, it was so white. I hated it immediately.
I saw Mom at the foot of my bed, her head buried in her hands. Tyrone was comforting her, but I could see the tears in his eyes, too. Ironically, Cyrena was the quiet one now.
“Mom?” I asked. “W-what’s going on?” Where were we? Why was she so upset? What had even happened?
She looked up, tears brimming her eyes. “Oh, thank Jesus, Stacey, you’re awake. Well, you’re in the hospital. You had to get stitches. And you have a concussion.”
“Why aren’t we home? Where’s Petra?” My heart was sinking so fast, I was concerned it would fall into my stomach and straight through my digestive tract.
Tears were dripping out of both her and my brother’s eyes now. “Well…there was a tornado. And it…it took our house. It’s almost all gone. It fell. Our neighborhood took a direct hit.” She paused to swipe at her eyes with a tissue. “It was a high-end EF4. They said it might have been an EF5.”
“Where’s Petra?” I needed to know. I was sad our house was destroyed, but I was more concerned about my little sister’s well-being, thank you very much.
Silence filled the room. Finally my mom burst out sobbing, so Tyrone covered for her. “The playground equipment…it crushed her. They tried to save her. But…it was too much. She’s gone, Stace.”
It was only then that I felt pure sadness fill my chest. I couldn’t believe it. My little sister, the sweet girl who loved her family and hometown, was…dead. Not living. Couldn’t survive.
The tears were coming. They enveloped me in sobs, and I was dizzy and I could feel the stitches. I didn’t care.
Just imagine how Petra felt for the last two hours or so.
“Stacey?” Ms. Nilsson was saying. She sounded about three miles away. “You still haven’t answered Abby’s question.”
I swallowed and looked down, twirling my hair on my finger. “There was a tornado.” There. I finally said it. Her question was answered and people could stop staring at me. They knew why.
Somehow, I felt a whole lot lighter.