Highly Commended Story - Senior Category
“Uneven Beats” by Lleyton Beinhaker, Westfield Senior High School, USA, is the Highly Commended story in the senior category of the second biannual Short Story Contest 2018.
Lleyton is a creative and fun girl who loves to write. She is currently in the middle of writing her first novel. When she isn’t writing she is dancing on her dance competition team back in New Jersey. She has a passion of acting as well as she is in some school plays at her local high school.
The crisp icy air stretched from the sky, slapping my blushed face. Today was supposed to be a normal Tuesday. Where Gray would go to soccer practice and I would sit a victim to boredom as I jotted the word’s of Shakespeare’s “Othello” into my English journal. Yet, as I dashed down the uneven streets of Spring lake, holding my baby brother as his heart seemed to beat a new rhythm, it was anything but normal.
This morning began like every other, with the cross sections of pinks and oranges melting into the sky to come to a common surface of blue. Grayson sat locked to the couch, as his favorite show, Paw Patrol, aired its childish adventure’s that so enchanted my brother. My feet trudged down the creaky stairs leading to the white planed kitchen we’d gotten redone in November. The bitter feel of January snuck through the windows of our house as my mother stood at the stove, cooking Gray breakfast. My mother’s pale nurses uniform seemed to blend into the peeling walls of Knoll Terrace.
“Morning Emmy” I kissed my mother’s cheek as I brushed past her smooth blonde hair. She smelled of cinnamon and nutmeg.
“Morning mom.” My mother glanced down at my beaten up high tops that exemplified the color of blackish grey.
“We need to get you some new ones huh?” she frowned, “Those one’s look like goners.” “Don’t worry,” I echoed, “These are just fine for now.” Ever since my mother’s hospital had budget cuts, money’s been pretty tight. Besides, she could use that money to buy Gray a new coat or that bike he wanted for his upcoming 6th birthday. My mom chanted my brother’s name as she set his favorite red racecar plate and matching fork and Sippy cup on the counter. A small boy with soft brown hair and ocean eyes trotted in to greet up at the table. “Here Gray.” My mother handed my brother two small, chewable pills and an extra Sippy of water. When Grayson was born, the doctors detected a slight heart murmur. It hasn’t gone away since and since he is at risk of heart failure he needs to be medicated. I grasped my black heavy coat as I reached for Gray’s as well. I slipped his warm jacket around his arms as I stuck his pinked hands into his gloves. His small hat seemed to be no larger than my hand, yet to my surprise, it stretched over his tiny ears, weaving his hair in an orderly manner. His smile met mine as I zipped him shut. After velcroing his light up sneakers, my family snuck out the back door into the open world of pain and mystery.
The cold whip of the air seemed to tingle Gray’s nose as he grasps his glove around it. I wrapped my hands around his stomach and placed him on my back. We parted with my mom while she headed to take the train to Northern Hospital and I headed to take Grayson to school. We liked to play a little game on the journey where we’d shout out the name’s of dino’s alphabetically. He had memorized every dinosaur by the age of 4. Gray was so bright. He was able to speak by roughly 10 months and could read by this time last year. He was just like my dad when he was little, wide eyed and ready to learn more. My father died in Afghanistan 4 years ago when an expected bomb went off in his field. He was a medical researcher, sent there to help out during the war. I was only 11 at the time of the accident. Gray often begs me to tell him stories about dad since he was too young to ever remember. I would usually tell about the Sunday’s where my dad would take me to the lake down in Topeka where we’d skip rocks till sundown. How I wish my father was here to see how amazing Gray already is. He’d be so proud.
His small eyes expanded as we weaved through the city. His pinked cheeks widened to a cheesy grin. I watched as he pointed out new building signs or colors of cars. He was always so observant like that. I enhanced speed as I knew it made Gray giggle. The sweet hum of his voice filled the air. More and more I picked up speed. I was almost to his school when I heard the voice suddenly fade.
“Gray?” I laughed, “Did I rattle you bud?” No answer. He’s probably just observing Emilia. I assured myself.
“Grayson?” A sudden heaviness hit my back…. Then my heart. I stopped dead in my tracks and swung Gray around front. He was cold, pale and unable to stand up on his own. His eyes tettertottered open and closed as I sprung down the crowded street, flying by the signs and buildings my brother would’ve loved to point out. My lifeless brother’s body began to feel heavier and heavier as I accelerated. One more block till Lemon Ave, then turn left on Walter Street. I repeated in my mind over and over. Grayson’s small eyes locked mine as we finally sped through the hospital doors.
“Emmy!” my brother screamed with all the strength left inside of him as our hands began to unlace.
“Emmy, Emmy, Emmy….Emmy? Emmy?” Reality seemed to nearly punch me in the face as I looked up to see Dr. Monte staring at me, concerned.
“Emilia, we talked about this. Replaying that day in your mind does you no good. You did everything you could.” I nodded slightly as I angled my head towards the glass paneled window. I closed my eyes as a small, unsteady heartbeat filled my head with regret.