By Sara Bergstedt

      Six o’clock came too soon.

      She wakes up to the sound of her alarm clock blaring in her ears. With a groan, she buries her face in the pillows in a failing attempt to blot out the tendrils of sound that pound against her temples like a jackhammer.

      She gropes for the curtain to the window and pulls it to shed some light on her room. Sucking in air between her teeth, she averts her eyes from the wreck her room has become. Clothes dangling from the open drawers of her dresser, books littering the floor, crumpled manuscripts on her desk. Pencils, paints, and fantastical maps are shoved into the corner.

       She does not have time to clean it all. All she has time to do is write. 

      Sitting up, brushing the mess of hair out her face and tucking it behind her ear, she dangles her arm over the side of her bed, searching for the smooth, comforting, familiar feeling of her laptop computer. Finally, her fingers latch on and she pulls it into her lap with a feeling of relief. She does not have to walk across the room to find it, nor does she have to tiptoe past the watchful eye of her father in his chair. Opening her manuscript, she begins to pound furiously at the keys, typing until all her worries melt away into a sea of words, emotions. She writes until all she can think of is the next word, the next sentence, the next chapter. 

      She’s in the middle of writing a catastrophe that involves an immature Mason and an espresso machine, when she suddenly glances at her clock.

      Seven o’clock already? She reluctantly parts with the hilarious scene and hurriedly shoves her laptop and charger into her plaid backpack, dragging herself away from her words and her characters, the one place that she feels at home.

      Stumbling into her bathroom, she tries not to notice the disaster before her. 

      Her bathroom is just as messy as her bedroom. She shares it with her sister, and unfortunately, her sister shares her skills in organization. Clothes are carelessly strewn about, piled in heaps next to the shower, and cosmetics cover the counter next to the sink. Toothpaste is in clumps inside the ceramic bowl, and the mirror is dusty. 

      Staring at her reflection, she cringes. Her hair is a haze around her face like a lion’s mane, her skin is pasty white and dark circles are under her eyes from staying up until the wee hours of the morning plotting, pantsing, and the like. Now she regrets it as a wave of exhaustion hits her full force and she clutches the edge of the counter for support. You need to take care of yourself, she hears Rachel chide. 

      I know, she whispers. Not out loud, of course. If anyone heard her talking to her characters from her latest novel, they’d think her insane.

      She unbraids her hair from its messy ponytail and brushes it out, formulating hairstyles for the day. For a moment she considers leaving it down, but one look at the dry straw-like consistency as well as the frizz casts that idea miles away. Glancing at her watch, she groans. 7:15. Where did her morning go? In only fifteen minutes, she will leave for school, and she has not even dressed or eaten breakfast. Such is the life of a writer, she grimaces. Shrugging, she carelessly ties her hair into a tight knot at the nape of her neck. Satisfied, she coats her lashes in mascara and walks back to her room, dodging a pair of pants here and a shirt there, trying to find a patch of carpet that is not covered in clothes. 

      Now back in her room, she scavenges for any somewhat-clean clothes on the floor. Normally she would find such clothes in the dresser, however, who has time to fold clothes and put them in the dresser, anyway, when they are writing a novel? With keen eyes, she scans the floor. Her plunder is a pair of black and white striped leggings and a gray hoodie and socks that appear to be clean, but she can’t be sure. Without a second to waste, she dons both of them. 

      7:30. She’s now in a time crunch. Racing to the kitchen, running past her family who is sitting at the table enjoying a hearty meal of biscuits and gravy, she snatches two slices of bread, pops them in the toaster, and taps her foot anxiously. Every second counts.

      I swear, if you don’t put something other than butter on your toast this time….she smiles as she hears Mason’s familiar voice echo in her ears. If only you were real, she purses her lips. 

      But just to oblige the voice in her head, she opens the fridge and removes the jar of rhubarb jam from the fridge. 

      A little variety is sure to cheer you up, she can almost hear Ada saying. 

      If variety was all I needed, she shakes her head, I’d be the happiest girl alive.

      When the toast pops up, she barely has time to apply a generous coat of butter and jam before 7:35 rolls around, and her mother is pulling out of the garage in their car. Grabbing a piece of gum, her phone, and her backpack, she races out of the house. 

      Now seated in the car in the front seat, she takes notice of the beautiful sunrise. It is fall, and hues of red, mahogany, orange, and yellow grace the boughs of the trees, making the county road picturesque. Leaves from the trees along the roadside add splashes of color to the dirt, blending with the blue sky in a different kind of rainbow. 

      But all she sees is the gray clouds overhead, the way even the clouds seem to droop, and a blanket of fog covers the ground. All she sees is the raindrops that begin their meticulous descent, and she cannot even see the sun anymore.

      Isn’t it beautiful? She knows that Hope would love the sunrise. But the cheery atmosphere of the morning does nothing to lift her spirits.

      The car trundles about the gravel road, each turn of the wheels bringing her closer and closer to the very place she does not want to go. 

      School’s never been easy for her.

      She loves to learn. She loves to write, and impresses all her teachers. She loves to escape in books, loses herself in math equations…. but no one cares that she has good grades. Good grades don’t get her friends. 

      Hours later, she sits alone at a lunch table, her sandwich in one hand, and Pride and Prejudice in the other. She revels in the prose, how each word tumbles together in sentences, paragraphs, pages…it takes her breath away. 

      Why can’t anyone else see it? She frowns as her peers walk by, looking down their noses at the girl with the book. She pretends not to notice as they whisper to their friends right in front of her, and concentrates on the syllables, the smell of the pages, the words that dance across the page and into her mind, each word melting together in a beautiful melody.

      She can’t understand why anyone would choose sports over a beauty like words. 

To them, the only thing that matters is how many baskets she can make, how fast she can run, how well she can serve the ball over the net. The only way to make friends in a small school is by performing feats that she simply cannot do. 

      People whisper behind her back, calling her crazy, saying how un-athletic she is—the horror, not liking basketball, she must be possessed by Satan himself! What is wrong with her, that sports is not her first priority? 

      She is used to their hurtful words, jabbing her like a million daggers, their jeers, telling her to stay down– she’s worthless. A tear slips down her cheek and splashes down onto the page, but she brushes it away. She tells herself she doesn’t care. She won’t allow herself to feel emotion, because it is the only way that she can hold it together. 

      She does not need friends. She has her characters. Sweet Hope, brave, good-looking Brian, timid Ada, immature Mason, and selfless Rachel. They are her companions. With them, she is safe. She does not have to worry about being hurt, being rejected. 

      Deep down, she knows it’s not right. She has her characters, but she can’t stay in a fantasy world forever. She will have to come out eventually and face the biting, bitter cold of the real world. She has no control. She has no sunshine, no roses. It’s all dreary, cloudy, and windy, exposing her aching heart.

      Little does she know that Someone does see her. He loves her. He gave His life for hers. 

      But how will she know this if no one will tell her? 

      How will she hear if no one will even walk ten paces across the lunchroom to minister peace and hope and love to this broken-hearted girl, who gives the facade of being in control, engrossed in a book that does little to ease the pain in her heart?

      Will she ever find hope? Will she ever shed her feelings of loneliness and depression? Or will she continue to be no more than a ghost haunting this school, a mere vapor in the endless mists of eternity, soon forgotten?

Sara Bergstedt

Sara can’t imagine life without the arts. She spends her days reading, writing, listening to music, hoarding chickens, and teaching her dog new tricks. When she’s not searching for the perfect word, she’s either spending time with her family, listening to her favorite songs, or outside with her various animals. She frequently critiques the plots of books her siblings are reading, driving her poor mom insane. She also dabbles in the sport of volleyball. 

She loves to play piano, sing in church, and tell stories. Scrolling Pinterest, pulling up Spotify, and the occasional bareback trail ride also occupy her time.

Her heart burns bright with a passion to use her writing to glorify God, as well as bring smiles to others’ faces.

Keep On Reading...