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Julia Turner, Academy for Performing Arts

     I sat in the classroom, eyes brimming with tears. I was used to this, the grief would come in waves, hanging over my head like the overcast clouds that loomed in the sky. This overcast was torture; I just wanted the sky to open up. I wanted it to snow. It hadn’t snowed since my grandma had died. She was gone, and I didn’t get to say goodbye. I had sat at home oblivious and defenseless against what was happening while she was losing her hold on life. Now here I was, a depressed little fifth grader counting the seconds to recess, so I could finally have peace. 

     I slowly looked around as my peers began to grab their coats and run out of the room. Sighing, I followed them, lagging behind as I watched them run to claim basketball courts, hearing them fight over the last jump rope. Usually I’d join in, but today I couldn’t handle the hysteria of the playground. Instead of joining my friends, I made my way towards the old birch tree at the edge of the field. I couldn’t remember a time when that tree wasn’t there, just like her. But I knew I’d have to get over that at some point. I sat down under the tree, feeling the gnarled roots beneath my legs. They grasped the earth with such a strong hold that I wondered if they could hold me too. Hold me the way she had. I rested my head against that patchy bark and closed my eyes. I let my thoughts wander even though I knew they would always wander to her. I knew this wasn’t what I needed but I couldn’t focus on anything else.

     Suddenly, I felt the winter wind blow through the tangled mop of hair on my head, leaving my ghost-like face exposed to the harshness of the cold. Beginning to lose feeling in my nose, I snuggled into the collar of my large winter coat, hearing my breath bounce off the fabric and hit my ears. I set all my attention on that sound, on the feeling of my hot breath fanning against my face, and suddenly I heard a noise. Slowly, I peeled my eyes open, watching the world around me turn from blurry dots to barren trees and empty baseball fields. But as my eyes made sense of the world around me, they noticed something else, a girl. She couldn’t have been more than fifteen, but her eyes showed wisdom. Not much, for her eyes were young, but enough for me to trust her. Her eyes were familiar. And that hair, a more kept version of mine. And her smile, I knew that smile. 

     And suddenly I could see perfectly clear. The girl was me, or maybe I was her. The confusion written clearly all over my face. She laughed lightly, understanding what was going through my head. 

     “Hi, Julia.” she said.

     “Hey.” I whispered, still unsure of whether she was real or if my grief had caused something to snap within me, whether it had created visions of myself in my head.

     “You’re gonna be okay.” She smiled softly at me.

     “What are you talking about?” She was starting to annoy me now. I didn’t want anyone to know I was hurting. I didn’t want people to worry.

     “Julia, I know you’re angry. I know exactly how you are feeling, because I've felt the same thing. You can’t spend the rest of your life grieving under this tree. You need to let your family and your friends know all the troubling things that are running through your head. If you don’t you’re just gonna end up pushing them away. They love you and they want to help you, but you have to allow them to. Trust me, it's what you want. 

     "It’s what Grandma would want.”

     She watched me intently as the tears began to spill from my eyes, blurring my vision once again. But this blur didn’t just come from the tears, it came from an ache that hid somewhere deep in my gut. A tumor of grief and anger bursting in my stomach and flooding my world with disillusionment. But her eyes, my eyes, were the only things I could see clearly. And seeing the tears begin to swell in those eyes made the ones in my own seem as if they’d continue on forever. It felt as if the sadness would follow me for the rest of my life, like the overcast sky covering the world in a dark unfeeling haze.

     A hand on my shoulder snapped me out of my heavy thoughts. 

     “Julia,” the tears in her eyes had stopped, but the trails they had left on her face remained like deer tracks in the snow. “Trust me. Please trust me when I say you are going to be fine.” 

     She stared at me, right in the eyes. In our eyes. And then she got up, stuffed her hands in her pockets, settled half of her face into the collar of her coat, took a few deep breaths, and left. 

     And just as soon as she had entered my life, she was gone, disappearing into the surrounding woods. And then I felt it, the sharp stinging sensation as something hit my nose. And then another, and another, and another until I realized what was happening. The sky had split. And the snow had come. The snow had come.

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