A moment in time and everything is gone.
Beads of sweat trickled along her skin as she opened her eyes to darkness. Her body remained contorted and twisted, scrunched into a tiny wooden box. Breathing heavily, fear pulsed through her veins. Her heart thumped as she listened to the nearby voices. Once the voices softened she wiggled and squirmed, pressing her hands against the tight lid. Finding it difficult to move, distress overcame her body. She gasped in horror. She then pushed harder, believing that her fate might be in the hands of the freaks. The top of the box finally budged. She took a breath of chill air. Rocking the box back and forth, the small crate eventually tumbled over, allowing her to untangle her limbs along with her small backpack. She removed her ankles from her neck, then popped her shoulder back into place. She stretched out her neck before slithering along the damp grounds. Disappearing behind the racks of costumes, her eyes fell onto the glitzy leotards. Memories suddenly flooded her mind, creating a pool of sadness. At one time, the glitz and glamour had captivated her mind. And, at one time, she knew what it was like to shine. Shifting her eyes, she grabbed a black outfit the moment voices began to escalate. Then she slinked through the rows of costumes as several entertainers stumbled upon the broken box. Appearing puzzled, they glanced around the tent. As they turned, she quickly dashed away. She ran across the dark property, pain riddling her leg. She then bolted across the parking lot, passing the fancy trucks that gleamed with electric blue. Turning the corner, she continued to glance over her shoulder as if they might come after her, and yet darkness loomed. She rushed down the city blocks. Now, far away, she found a restroom behind an abandoned bar. She locked the door, tossing her small bag onto the floor. Her heart raced anxiously. What if someone came looking for her? What if the entertainers realized that they had smuggled an extra freak across the border? As she glanced in the cracked mirror, anguish pained her soul. She began to wipe away the smears of blood. She removed the soft cast from her left ankle. For the first time in months, she suddenly felt free- free from the grueling afternoons, free from the evil that enveloped her soul. Her body no longer belonged to someone else. Circling the dark room, she found a lighter and flicked it on. The small amount of light barely helped. Yet her eyes immediately fell onto the weathered photo in the pocket of her pack. The image would haunt her forever. With dark hair and eyes as pure of ocean-blue, she couldn’t look at the boy in the photo without feeling waves of pain. Love remained along with the disappearance of her name. Looking away, she quickly changed into the black outfit, then grabbed a pair of scissors. She rashly cut off her chocolate locks. She grabbed the bottle of hair dye and proceeded to alter her entire appearance. Then she tried to disguise her pale eyes by switching them to onyx, hoping that no one questioned her discolored skin. Purple bruises remained. Sorrow also lingered, even in the light of doing the right thing. The taste of blood salted her lips and her ribs continued to ache. Turning, she took her old identifications and burned them in the sink. Her social security number was now gone, along with her birth certificate and passport. She no longer existed on paper. She tossed away the trash before taking one last glance in the mirror- white hair, black eyes, and no resemblance of her former self. She only had one last thing to do. Grabbing her tiny pack, she left the restroom and ran along the alley, repeatedly glancing over her shoulder every so often, just to make sure that the entertainers hadn't caught onto her scent. She eventually stopped after noticing a drain. Nervously glancing around, panic bubbled just below the surface. That’s when she grabbed the bloody gun from her pack and swiftly threw it down the drain, praying that it vanished just like her. She ripped the dirty gloves from her hands. Walking away, relief washed over her soul.
The bus station was crowded, the hour dreary. She stood in line, anxiously waiting with her new passport. She cautiously watched other patrons while keeping her head down. Were they staring at her, wondering if she happened to be the rising star on the flashy posters? Were they taking notes, just so they could inform the police? While families vacationed, and workers traveled, she ran away- away from the states, and away from the place that she once called home. At the ticket counter an elderly woman asked, “Where are you heading to tonight, sweetie?”
“Toronto," she answered. Her hands trembled as she handed the information to the woman. The woman studied the passport for a moment. “I’m going to visit my father for the summer," she quickly added to distract the woman. The lie rolled right off her tongue.
Handing back the passport, the woman printed out a ticket and a receipt. She smiled. “You have a long way to travel. Have a fun summer, Aberdeen.”
Returning a smile, she walked to the bus and found a seat in the very back. She curled close to the window as raindrops drizzled down. Her heart finally began to beat again. But as she sat alone, emotions came rushing back. The past twenty-four hours overwhelmed her thoughts. A tear eventually escaped, creating a trail of sadness along her discolored cheek. What she loved the most was now gone along with her old life. She couldn’t even hear the whistling winds of Kodaline Shore anymore. For an endless amount of time, she vacantly gazed at the weathered photo, remembering what was. Memories pained her soul- their endless kisses, the lakeshore cliffs, the hundreds of paper notes that symbolized their love for one another. Glancing at her hand, she twisted the silver ring around her finger, then peered at the simple note on the inside. A moment in time and you’re mine. AS. The plain ring still held the warmth of his heart, the touch of his hands. Blinking away tears, she pulled her jacket tighter around. She then placed the ring and photo in her pocket. Passengers crowded the bus, now that they were heading to Toronto. And soon, she would be three-thousand miles away from the small town that she once called home; she would be three-thousand miles away from the only person that she ever loved. Peering around, she wondered what others saw. Was she simply another defiant teen on the run, emotionally disturbed like the rest of her generation? Avoiding eye contact, she gazed out the window. She slowly closed her eyes, and prayed that she made it to Toronto before the cops caught onto her trail. A shady smile then clipped her lips, because somehow, through the hours of turmoil, she had done the unimaginable. She had erased everything, just so she could kill a man. Though in the end, no one would suspect that the girl behind the onyx eyes and ice colored hair could possibly be Lux Madden.
Eight Months Earlier
Seconds after his name had been announced, Arden opened the door and slid into his seat in the very back of the classroom. He grabbed his calculus book from his backpack. Throughout high school he chose to arrive late, just so Principal Emerson couldn’t corner him beforehand.
With sarcasm, Mr. Toole said, “Summers, you’re late again and it’s only the second week of school. Things are going to have to change. There's still eight months until graduation.” He adjusted his glasses and went back to his notebook.
Arden grudgingly nodded, thankful that most of the teachers loved him. He had a likable personality, along with a killer three-point shot, which helped the Wolverines basketball team win three state championships. Glancing around, he noticed his sister, Calla, sitting in the front row with one of her friends. They were making faces at him for being predictably late. Unlike him, Calla arrived at school a half hour before class to finish homework in the library. It was their senior year at Kodaline High, and he couldn’t wait for it to be over. The year had just begun, and they were already writing papers and taking tests, which seemed pointless. He and Calla had already been accepted to their college of choice. As a result, he continued to feel mentally absent, stuck somewhere between high school times and the future. He didn’t want to think about college. He didn't even want to think about his current classes. Because of his friendly personality, he lazily drifted through his high school years as the other Summers kid- the one who hung with the cool kids from the block. Everything about him was average. His looks weren’t striking, though he did have a few decent attributes that always helped him score with the girls, and win over the ladies in the attendance office. He wasn’t even the most talented athlete, despite making the varsity basketball team freshman year. Coach, however, refused to let him quit after he was caught drinking on the weekends. His grades weren't stellar either, yet decent enough to get into a state college. Unsurprisingly, he dated one of the more popular rally girls, Holland Lamay, for the past year and a half. Their peers had dubbed them the cutest couple in high school, nicknaming them Summers in Holland. A bit overt, he supposed. But the obnoxious moniker stuck to the walls of Kodaline like the posters celebrating the Wolverines success. After perfecting his three-point shot for the basketball team, and consistently scoring on the floor, he realized how easy it was to score with the girls, especially the rally girls. As a result, he had several girlfriends over the past years, two serious. When he began dating Holland, all their friends became friends, and everyone in school knew who they were as a couple. Peers now knew that he had dumped Holland over the summer. Of course, breaking up had personally effected their tight-knit click of friends, making senior year that much more distracting. Feeling confused, he chose to end their relationship because he didn’t know what he wanted anymore. He slowly began to drift along a different tide, one that didn't include Holland. He was tired of drinking. He was tired of getting grounded. He was even outgrowing the bad habits that he once enjoyed. By now, he floundered along a dotted line, including a summer stint at the local jail for a DUI. Having to sit in a jail cell for two days was humiliating. Having to explain the incident to his parents was even more horrifying. Currently he sat in class, doodling circles on his notebook while Mr. Toole reviewed the Calculus homework. He rubbed his eyes, glanced at the back of his sister’s head. Tall with dark hair and blue eyes, she too happened to be on the varsity basketball team and had a killer three-point shot. The only thing that wasn’t average about them was the fact that they were twins- the only set of twins among five-thousand classmates. Everyone knew them as the Summers twins, who lived along the shores of Kodaline, and were friendly to anyone. For the most part they hung with their close friends, although, they acknowledged anyone. Alike, they shared similar interests and social circles, but had different approaches to dating. While he rebelled, Calla attended dances with friends and focused on academics. Arden didn’t dislike academics, but realized early on how simple assignments were; he rarely had to study. And, he had a knack for talking his way out of any kind of jam, even if it meant flirting with Ms. Penny Fox, the squirrelly old maid who monitored the student parking lot.
Glancing up, he watched Mr. Toole rummage around his desk for their latest assignment, then hand out the packets as the bell rang. Class was then dismissed. Arden shoved his books in his bag and followed his sister to their locker, wishing to avoid a collision with his ex-girlfriend.
Locker doors slammed. Classmates crowded around, grabbing books for their last class of the day. Arden slouched against his locker as his ex-girlfriend claimed, “You said you would help out.” He groaned. She touched his tee. Somehow, Holland had cornered him in the senior hallway before their final class of the day. Holland was just a sophomore who shared a locker with another rally girl, their locker remaining on the third-level-wing of the high school. Seniors had the luxury of using the fourth level while the rest of the student body shared the lower levels. Only two weeks of school had passed so far, and already, the Summers’ locker appeared to be the sweet spot- a place where friends liked to gather between classes. Unfortunately, Holland and the rally girls also loved to loiter around, because why not? They were still friends. Even Arden didn’t dislike her yet, but he was trying to keep his distance, just to make sure that she didn't misinterpret his intentions. Of course, she continued to make him offers, making it obvious that she desperately wanted to get back together. Currently, she reminded him about initiation. Supposedly, it was Thursday night and he was to take part in the nauseating tradition. Every year, the returning rally girls welcomed the new squad members with a night out. Athletes were typically asked to participate, introducing the newcomers to Kodaline royalty. Ever since he was considered one of slickest players to pass for the Wolverines, the silver key had been in his possession. It was how he met Holland. She was just a freshman, not yet tarnished by the social dysfunction of Kodaline High. She was vivacious and energetic, and desperately wanted him. That night, after getting blasted by sprinklers, they disappeared from the group and hung out on the football field. They drank beer while lying under the speckled sky. Hours later, he dropped her off at the high school before heading home. Just a few days later, they began dating. Currently, she leaned too close for his liking. She twirled a curl of honey-gold hair around her finger and gazed up at him with those puppy-like eyes. She also wore her black and red rally outfit. Though he hated himself for noticing her looks at all. That's when he reminded himself why he didn't want to be romantically involved with her anymore. Still, he had a difficult time ignoring her perky chest, especially when her top purposefully suggested, "Look at me”. Smiling, she said to him, “Come on Arden. Everyone’s expecting you to be there. There’ll be beer.”
Feeling uncomfortable, his eyes shifted away from her chest and the sparkly paw-print that accentuated her tight tush. Why did girls always look more appealing after you broke up with them? And why did they continue to touch you, as if trying to change your mind? He glanced behind her, and found himself focusing on the girl who grabbed books from the nearest locker. Her back faced him, and she appeared to be staring at the ground. She didn’t look familiar. He knew everyone at school, but hadn’t heard any rumors about a new student entering the senior class. Then again, after breaking up with Holland, he had mentally checked out since last July. He supposed he wouldn’t know. Mindlessly gawking, she seemed miniature, even shorter than the rally girls, perhaps, 5'1 or 5'2. Her hair was woven into thick braids, resembling molten chocolate. And was it just him, or did she seem to be wearing too many layers for a warm autumn afternoon? It was ninety degrees outside and she wore a pair of overalls with a black sweatshirt. She looked completely out of place. He frowned, wondering who the mysterious newcomer was.
Holland suddenly interrupted his thoughts as she demanded, “Are you even listening to me?” She nudged his shoulder to get his attention. “What happened to you? We used to be so close.”
Arden slowly glanced back, his jaw clenching in irritation. She didn't respect his no kiss-and-tell policy, instead, choosing to share personal information with the entire school. She knew he loathed the behavior. Yet she continued to run her mouth off, ultimately ending their relationship because of her thoughtless actions. The moment he tried to get another glimpse of the girl behind Holland, he blinked in surprise. Suddenly, she was gone. His ex then tugged his shirt again. “I’ll be there," he impatiently answered.
“Pool. Ten o’clock and bring the key.”
Arden immediately slammed his locker door without saying goodbye, also ignoring the glittery note that Holland had left for him. Unfortunately, he was the only person who had the key to the lower-level pool next to the football field. Since access was limited, he had to go, or at least unlock the door for the rally girls. But like always, they expected him to partake. His friends also expected him to show, along with a couple of six-packs. Quickly disappearing, he hurried down the hallway to find the mysterious stranger. But all he saw was a black sweatshirt, turning the corner towards the tech department. Was it the same shirt that he saw five minutes ago by his locker? Half of the school wore black sweatshirts, since the Wolverines were black and red. Strange, he thought. For some reason, the girl seemed like a city kid rather than a Kodaline resident. Hearing the bell ring, he turned around and walked to his last class, realizing that he would never find the shorter student among the larger crowds. He wanted to skip English altogether and hit the gym; he wanted to get ready for the upcoming basketball season. Nevertheless, as he contemplated his future state trophy, a life altering moment was just around the corner. Because now, along the winding halls of Kodaline, Lux Madden followed.
Lux stood outside of the noisy classroom and glanced at her schedule. For the fourth time in the past three hours, she felt utterly lost. It was her third day of high school, and she had yet to figure out the layout of the building. Confusion glassed her eyes. The congested hallways overwhelmed her, and the loud groups congregating by their lockers frightened her. She felt anxious, constantly tripping over her shoelaces while receiving peculiar looks from the other students who wondered who she was. Starting the school year a week late, she recently moved to the small lakeside town with her gymnastics coach to train at his elite gym, built just for her and two teammates. She was a nationally ranked gymnast, a likely shoo-in for the Olympics in two years. As her guardian, Coach wanted her to finish her school credits as soon as possible, leaving her to enroll at Kodaline High three days a week. In the past, a private tutor worked with her between workouts and competitions. But her tutor remained in Ohio, now that they could no longer afford private schooling. The cost of training was difficult to cover. Luckily, she happened to be only eight credits shy of graduating with honors. After only two days at Kodaline High, however, she realized how aggravating public schooling could be. Kids stared in curiosity, wondering why she didn't resemble them. Hearing the whispers around the halls, they had already labeled her a snob, just because of her elite status. When someone asked, “Hey. Did you need some help?” Lux jumped back in fright. She glanced up, noticing a tall girl with brownish hair holding a stack of books. For some reason the girl looked familiar, as if they possibly had another class together.
Lux quietly said, “I’m trying to find 418.”
“Down the hall. I’m going that way. Walk with me…. My name is Calla. Calla Summers.” Calla smiled while extending her hand to welcome the newcomer. “And you’re?”
Hesitating, Lux remained silent. She didn't want anyone to recognize her. Together, they walked down the hall, passing the chemistry labs and biology department before entering the technology classroom. They found a couple of seats in the second row. Lux cautiously pulled out her notebook and flashdrive, noticing that she had left her ankle wrap and pain killers in her bag. Looking away, she said, “It’s Lux. Lux Madden.”
For a moment Calla studied the pint-size girl, wondering if she had heard her correctly. She knew little about girlish sports like ice-skating or gymnastics, but did remember reading an article about the talented gymnast who was on the move to the West Coast, after residing in the Midwest for over a decade. Now that she was face to face with the touted elitist, she looked nothing like Calla had imagined. Obviously, Lux felt uncomfortable. “It’s nice to meet you,” she said cheerfully. The bell then rang.
In a casual manner, Arden leaned against the counter in the attendance office while flirting with Kit Kloss, the same Kit Kloss that he had dated for a month during freshman year. At some point, they realized they had nothing in common and didn’t really like one another. Remaining friendly over the years, he liked to flirt with her whenever she worked in the office. She made his overwhelming absences disappear from the record book. Currently, he wanted to know who had been assigned the locker next to him. “Come on Kit," he said, flashing his enviable grin.
“You know I can’t give out that kind of information. It’s confidential.”
“Promise, I won’t tell.” Arden offered a dreamy gaze while playing around with her hair.
“Why do you want to know?”
“Right. I’m sure that’s it.” Kit shifted to grab the sports magazine that had been randomly left on the counter. She read it earlier. Just like Arden, she too was curious about the new student that was supposedly well-known, nationally. Everyone seemed interested. She tossed it across the counter to clue him in. “Page twenty-two.”
Arden frowned. He opened the magazine, glanced at the article. “I don’t get it.”
“Locker 4011 belongs to Lux Madden. The gymnast.”
Arden studied the photos before peering at the article. Where was the resemblance? The girl he saw standing next to his locker looked nothing like the sprite athlete in the photos. In one photo, she stood on the balance beam in a bright pink leotard, her leg behind her head. Her hair was perfectly pinned into a tight bun, her makeup bold compared to her ghost-white complexion. Smiling wide, she didn’t appear dull or out of place. He scanned the article, asking, “Why does a sophomore have a locker in the senior hall?”
“She’s not a sophomore.”
“The article says she’s fifteen.”
Kit shrugged. “She has enough credits to graduate in June. Private tutoring or something... And supposedly, she's very talented. Just moved here this summer to train.”
Arden glanced back at Lux's photo. “Can I borrow this?... Sports section. I need to catch up on the NBA.” Suddenly, he wanted to know more about Kodaline’s new resident, but didn't want everyone else to know that he was on the rebound, or that Lux Madden had caught his eye.
“Sure. Just make sure it’s returned to the library by Monday morning.” Kit watched her old crush walk away with the magazine.
Lying on his bed for hours, Arden studied the magazine while finishing his soda. He read articles about football and basketball, realizing that he hadn’t thought about sports all summer. Following his breakup, he hit the gym. He also worked for his father's car dealership while forgetting about everything else. He gazed at the photo of Lux, wondering why she interested him at all. Something about the girl seemed strange. Scanning the Internet, he found several websites touting her as the greatest hopeful for Olympic gold, along with her teammate who was just one year older. There were photos of her coach holding her in his arms, a gold medal around her neck, and a smile beaming from her face. She appeared like a child next to him. He too smiled while talking to a reporter. Reading her biography, Arden learned that she lived in Ohio previously, and trained nine hours a day while maintaining perfect grades with honors. She liked to read sci-fi and watch CSI. Arden frowned. Why would an elite gymnast abruptly move to a small lakeside town with her coach, just to attend public school after years of private studies? The blurbs of information left him curious. As he glanced back at her image, he pondered. Was she pretty under all the glitter? Was she even cute? Despite the uncertainty, there was something about the gymnast that made him take a second glance. As his bedroom door opened, he tossed the magazine under his bed, next to his stack of dirty magazines.
Calla walked in. “Hey I was wondering…” She stopped as the magazine slid out from under the bed, hitting her foot. She picked it up. She glanced at her brother, knowing that he hid items that their parents disapproved of under his bed, like dirty magazines or alcohol. So, what was wrong with a classic sports magazine? She flipped through the pages, suddenly backing up when noticing the familiar face that sat next to her in computer lab. Lux Madden. A crease was along the page, suggesting that her brother had been reading the article. But why? “Lux Madden?” she probed.
The moment his bedroom door opened, Arden assumed that his mom was checking to see if his homework was complete. He didn’t expect to see his twin sister. Weirdly, he liked their conversations. He liked how close they were, even if they fought occasionally. As fraternal twins, they shared something that no one else did, which meant they could keep secrets between one another without judgment. Without a doubt, Calla was his better half. “Have you met her?” he asked.
“We have a few classes together. You probably do too, if you bothered to show up.” Calla paused. “You’re not interested in her, are you?” She watched her brother toss dirty clothes into his laundry basket. Curiosity overpowered his eyes, making it apparent that he had spent some time thinking about Lux.
“No," he replied. "Her locker is next to ours. I think I bumped into her a few times. I wanted to apologize.” It was the truth. He had recklessly bumped into her numerous times without even realizing it. He even knocked over her books without offering to help. It wasn't until this morning at school, that he vaguely remembered seeing the dark-haired girl on other occasions.
Calla sat on her brother’s bed, glanced around his room. Over the summer, her brother had changed. And surprisingly, the first thing to go was his girlfriend along with her frilly pom-poms and poppy-red lip-gloss. Calla, of course, noticed the subtle differences easily. Others, however, were slow to catch on. Friends wondered why Arden dismissed their parties on the weekends, or chose to work on his busted GTO instead of hanging at Tumbler Lane- the local spot where teens gathered. “Baylor wanted to know if you’re going to Tumbler tonight," Calla said.
A glare flicked Arden’s eyes. Tumbler Lane was on the opposite side of the lake along the backside of the cliffs, where only abandoned homes and old barns remained. The road was treacherous, making it the ideal hangout for those who wanted no supervision. “I’m still grounded,” he reminded Calla.
“That’s never stopped you before.”
Arden looked away. Why did his sister care about his recent struggles? Rarely, did she participate in such frivolous outings, especially, if the rally girls were involved. Calla detested the bubbly cheerleaders who flitted around in short-shorts and cherry glossed lips. She did, however, want to make sure that he didn't drive home after a night of partying, so she'd pick him up occasionally. She even helped him sneak out of the house, just so they didn't lose their privileges. “I don’t want to deal with…”
“Kids, dinner time," their mom interrupted.
Calla immediately tossed the magazine onto the bed and disappeared from his room. Minutes later, Arden followed.
The gym was empty, the hour late. Lux stood at the end of the balance beam, her toes pointed. Sweat slicked her skin. She spun around tightly, focusing on the far wall before leaping into the splits. To the side, Coach stood as a spotter, counting down to her final combination. She took a deep breath, appearing completely emotionless. She then threw her entire strength into her last trick, as if it were her most challenging competition. She hated appearing weak in front of Coach, and would do anything for a simple pat on the back, even if his training methods were brutally intense. Sometimes she'd even cry, but only at home in the privacy of her bedroom. Tears weren't acceptable at the gym. Besides, she wouldn’t want it any other way. Her goal was to be an Olympian, and not just any Olympian, but an all-around gold medalist. Anything less wouldn’t satisfy her thirst for victory. If she wanted to be the best, she had to train with the best. That meant handling Coach's irate comments with grace. That meant ignoring his harsh treatment of her body. Flipping off the beam, she immediately stuck a perfect landing. Coach patted her on the back, then told her to wash up before heading home.
The smell of chicken and vegetables filled the small kitchen as Lux washed the dishes. Just like the previous night, Coach sat at the round table scouting out their competitors. Over the years they had fallen into a simple routine, much like a repetitive floor routine. She had to follow a strict diet consisting of lean protein and whole grains during the season. Therefore, Coach bought their groceries if she cooked. Following afternoon workouts, she would make dinner, and then do her homework, just to wake up at four and do it all over again. For over a decade, she had grown accustomed to the same schedule. She didn’t know any other way. She looked around their new home. It was small like the others, built on a two-acre lot of overgrown trees, and away from the main road that followed the lake. Neighbors seemed far and few, and it was more than apparent that the fixture-upper needed maintenance. But like their previous homes, Coach specifically chose this one because of privacy. He didn't want her to know what a cozy home felt like. He didn't want her making friends, or becoming attached to anything that could distract from training. As a nationally ranked gymnast and coach, they didn’t have time for luxuries as long as the gym remained top-notch and an airport was nearby. As a result, her new home felt chillingly hollow, except for a few medals hanging on the wall.
Currently, she sat across from Coach. She ate in silence, thumbing through her tech book while pushing her food around. Coach gave her a list of things to fix at morning practice. A few minutes later she walked into her bedroom and fell onto her bed in exhaustion. Medals cluttered her desk, her room decorated with ribbons and souvenirs from her fans. Gazing at the photo on the top of her dresser, a touch of sorrow followed. Her mother stared back at her, appearing beautifully at ease. She didn't even look sick. She didn't look like she had been battling cancer for years. Once a gymnast herself, her only wish was for her three-year-old daughter to follow in her footsteps. So, she gave her coach guardianship after her death. Formally, Coach had never adopted Lux. Lux, nevertheless, didn't question who her parent was, or what role she played in their family. They moved around the country in search of the perfect gym, finally settling in the small lakeside town in the west, not far from the city. Touching the photo of her mom, tears began to pool around her eyes. Life was difficult to understand. Death was even more challenging. Grabbing her schoolbooks, she popped in a CSI DVD. Then she focused on her English assignment. The teacher had already assigned a paper that wasn’t due until the following semester. The paper was supposed to highlight a profound moment in her life. With national titles to be won and ribbons to be tied, she didn’t have time for a silly high school paper. It didn’t bring her any closer to achieving her goal. Ordinary students just didn’t understand the extraordinary sacrifices that she made every day to pursue her dreams. Coming up blank, her paper also remained blank. A few hours later she fell asleep, her shoes still on.