By: Rachel Kramer

"Awake ye muses nine, sing me a strain divine,

Unwind the solemn twine, and tie my Valentine."

- Emily Dickinson, from Awake Ye Muses Nine


I know I am dreaming, so why am I so scared? My heart races uncontrollably as I roam a thick forest of eerie trees that have gone bare from winter's chill. A girl appears out of the darkness, running full-speed, weaving between trees. She wears a white nightgown and her pale blonde hair bounces frantically behind her. I sense I know this girl, but her face is blurred, so I am left wondering.

The girl I know, but cannot place, keeps glancing behind her. Something follows close behind, but I can't make out more than a dark shadow. The shadow chases her to the edge of a river; left without a choice, the blonde rushes in. As if it is me, I can feel the ice-cold water as it pricks her skin, sending a shock to both our lungs. It hurts to breathe. The current pulls her under, and everything goes dark

Chapter One

In just a few weeks I will be sixteen, and I am immensely grateful for this. The last two years have been a nightmare, and it is only now that I am beginning to see puberty for what it truly is - adolescent torture. I'm sure it's different for everyone, but for me, puberty at fourteen meant large man-hands, of which I've thankfully grown into; as well as towering over most other boys my age. Now, at fifteen, I've discovered the horrors of becoming a "woman". Menstruation.

Basically, my hormones have lost their mind. I fight with my parents just about every day, and cry at the drop of a hat. In fact, just yesterday, I walked into the kitchen and saw that the dishes were dirty, and I just burst into the tears, for no good reason at all. I'm hoping to have my mental stability in check by the time junior year starts. So, I have about forty-eight hours to become graceful, and uncomplicated by emotions. God help me.

My father has also made a note of my irritability, and has given me my space; though I can't say if it is out of pity for my hopeless condition, or if he actually fears me. Mom, on the other hand, has a habit of smothering me. I know she only means well, but lately I've had no patience for such pretenses. She just doesn't seem to want to leave me alone. I am suffocating. At least, with school starting in just two days, I might be able to put some space between her and I.

Ah, junior year. There is a sense of excitement that courses through me, but it is mixed with the terror of the unknown; like the feeling you get at the bottom of your stomach as you slowly lurch up towards the top of the world's largest roller coaster, knowing any second you will free-fall hundreds of feet. It's thrilling.

I'll admit that underneath my anxious excitement, is a seed of fear. My mind asks questions that fill my head up with doubts. Will my classmates accept me, or will I be shunned? Will they look at me and instantly know I'm not nearly as confident as I pretend to be? What if I become an outcast, and like a stereotypical teen movie, I am snubbed, ridiculed, and publicly humiliated? I don't think I could handle something so horrible.

I remind myself that my best friends will be by my side. I will not be alone, and I'm grateful for the camaraderie I've found within my small group of friends - it is what holds me together in this terrifying world people call high school.

It is strange to think that in a few days time I shall be walking the halls of a place I can't decode, in a body I'm still trying to understand. I think it's sort of wretched of parents to throw all us teenagers to the wolves in such a precarious state. How do they even reason that this is fair? Do they not remember their own teenage years? Or perhaps they've looked forward to this for years, dying to put us through the same nightmares they had to suffer as teens. It's a vicious circle.

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