High school senior Ashley St. Helens
has suddenly found herself living a fairy tale life....
Which is not as much fun as it sounds.
Until... the other shoe drops.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

All the Ripples

I was halfway home before I remembered Harry. I should probably go back, I thought. He’s my ride. I had rushed out of the gym in such a panic that I wasn’t thinking clearly. I slipped off the shoes and ran like the wind.

My mind was such a jumble of thoughts and feelings that I didn’t actually notice my feet slapping the pavement until I saw the creek path up ahead in the moonlight. I leaned into the turn and felt the earth under my heels. And then I started laughing. I couldn’t believe I was wearing a dress—at full speed! I glanced up the creek, where the full moon was reflected in the water, and my mind calmed. I looked back—there was no one chasing me. I slowed down and caught my breath, and when I held my arms out to the side to cool my sweaty pits, I realized I had been clutching only one shoe to my chest. How had that happened?

Sylvia had screamed, scaring me half to death, just as Jeff was leaning down to kiss me! “Who is that? Who is that?” She was literally clawing her way towards us through the crowd. Apparently she had figured out what the heck was going on…but she still didn’t know who I was.

From the stage, Debra and Donna were pointing down at us and screaming, “There she is! There she is!”

“I think I’d better go,” I said sweetly, to Jeff, who was still holding me tightly. I ran through the crowd to the gym’s side door, where Mrs. Armor, my Latin teacher, was standing with a group of students. I paused among my classmates to twist off the amazing shoes—I didn’t want anything to happen to them, or to my ankles as I ran. “Veni, Vidi, Redii Domum,” I joked as I backed out the door. They all laughed, and pulled the door shut as I turned to run the mile home.

The bolt of fear that had shot through me when I saw Sylvia was gone; now my heart pounded from running. I trotted back up the creek path and peered up the street I’d just run down, but the other shoe was nowhere to be seen. For a moment I fretted about what to tell Harry, but I knew that he loved me and things would turn out all right. But that thought led to the next, like electricity in a step-up transformer: I also knew, in my heart, that Jeff loved me!

This time I danced down the creek path, twirling so my dress flew out and the crystals caught the moonlight. I skipped, I started running again, loving the cool earth on the soles of my feet.

The soles of my feet. When I hit the bridge, my steps rung like thunder and I stopped to still the noise and catch my breath. The soles of my feet on the wood, on the path, on the earth, grounded me. I had taken this shortcut when I was a child, and after things changed, I always slipped off my flip-flops when I walked by the creek. I had brought all my sorrows to this bridge, and cried so many tears over the edge. The trickling sound of the water and the cool shade of the leaves above had always made me feel better. I always found myself able, after a visit to the creek, to set my mind right about things.

I peered down at my toes, sticking through the railings of the bridge, and thought about how Harry had talked about the soles of my feet. Had he really said 'souls' or had I just heard it that way? Being barefoot did always calm me down. I was barefoot on one particularly bad and cold Sylvia day, many months ago, when I had cried my dreams out loud. “I want my life to be better,” I had wailed to a clotted winter night when my tears fell on the river's blanket of ice. “I know this is silly,” I had called out to no one, “but I want my parents back. I want love back.” I gripped the cold railing. “I don't care how, but I want love all around me. I want love all around me!”

I took some deep breaths and felt joy flow through my body like the water through the reflection of the giant moon. I noticed all the ripples were moving in one direction. I turned and finished my flight home.


From: Ashley <ash-prince gmail.com>

To: FTR <info fairytalereality.com>
Date: Wednesday, 22 Jun 2011 08:51:22

Subject: Nevada etc.

Hi Kristen,

Attached is the final installment of my story! But I just got off the phone with Nevada, and there is something interesting I want to share that is not in the manuscript.

I helped Michael put a friend of hers from college back in touch with her; he is kind of “putting the gang back together” to help tell her story for your project. Anyway, while they talked, she put some pieces together that she had to tell me about: it couldn't have been stomach flu that kept her away from the prom, since no one else had it, not even her childhood friend (I can't say his name; he's kind of a somebody now) who held her hair back while she threw up!

As we talked, the memory returned to me of Sylvia baking muffins for the prom committee the Friday night that Harry called. She never baked. (And I remember thinking that as I cleaned up the mess.) The next morning as they left for their mani-pedi-fest, she was carrying a tray to drop off at the gym for the prom committee. I noticed one muffin that had “good luck” written on it — I assumed at the time it was for Debra or Donna 
— but why was there only one of them? Now it’s all come clear: Nevada says The Girls presented it to her very sweetly. (Poor Nevada, to be poisoned more than once. It’s no wonder she wants to put those days behind her!)

We’re going to have to confront Sylvia about this one of these days...!  She’s currently in a twelve-step program so there may be hope.

Meanwhile, I’m so excited to hear about the staged reading! I can’t make it since my due date is the week after – and since it’s twins they might be here early! Harry was tickled that you thought to ask him to read his own part, but he’s away in Uganda speaking on civil rights issues. He said he’s got some friends in the business who might be available,though  — shall I connect you?




  1. This part, by the way, is dedicated to Mrs. Armour, my high school Latin teacher. She really let us have fun with the subject. Latin Club would have toga parties after school and do "chariot races" (on tricycles) in the hallways. Their motto, which I put into this story, was one of the first t-shirt designs I ever made. It means, "I came, I saw, I went back home."