Writing Challenge Winner: Summer by Kayley Roach

Kayley Roach is a 14-year old writer who participated in the Summer 2023 Elemental Writing Challenge in which she wrote a 5,000 word original short story this summer. Kayley’s contemporary romance follows the character, Kay, a high school senior preparing to graduate. Kay’s anxiety about the future manifests into strange mystical sensations amplified by the growing tension with her friend, Skye, who claims that Kay’s boyfriend cannot be trusted.

Read the full story below!

11:58am – After School

Sometimes, I wish I was a whole different person. I mean, I never really did ask to be who I am. All I know is that I was magically here one day and I’ve been living my life like this ever since.

I guess I decided not to do what I wanted and stay in bed till noon, but I guess I had to be there, you know. To say goodbye. If it weren’t for my best friend convincing me to come, I’d never have realized why I was being asked to come. 

If only I had stayed home… in my warm bed, writing my stories at home. But no. Instead, I had to go to school, even though it was only for two and a half hours. What was the point? Was the last day of school really that important? All I knew was that I didn’t want to go back… Ever.

“Kaynara! Get out of that bed right now or your debit card will be mine for the month!”  A voice called from the ground floor of her house. 

“Ughhh.” I groaned. “Why is Mom so mean? I just wanna sleep…” I said, drowsily.

I didn’t sleep a wink last night, (like I usually don’t) so I dropped onto the floor and crawled over to my closet, barely able to keep my eyes open as I browsed through my clothing options and grabbed the first two things I saw that looked somewhat appealing to wear. 

By the time I had gotten dressed, I’d let out a disinterested sigh. I pulled out my laptop and started to write my book, but I couldn’t focus at all on my writing. I felt like something was wrong with me. I’d never felt so disinterested in writing before, nor have I ever been so distracted. I put my laptop in my small backpack and threw it over my shoulder as I walked out of my room.

“Oh good, you actually woke up this morning.” Said my overly annoying older brother, Josh. 

“Good morning to you too, annoying older brother.” I say, nonchalantly.

He laughed quietly to himself as he took his last bite of toast and brought his plate over to the counter.

I sighed and started to eat my food as my brother came up behind me and ruffled my hair before walking off to grab his backpack, which was hanging from the coat hooks on the wall. I groaned to myself and took a sip of my coffee before cleaning up my plate.

I picked up my reusable coffee cup and took one last sip before running upstairs to brush my hair (again) and finish getting ready for school, like I always do. Except today would be my last time getting ready this early.

I picked up my hairbrush, letting out another disinterested sigh and slowly stroked it as I stared out my window, trying to find some interest in the view. After I finally finished brushing my hair, I grabbed my hair tie and claw clip and put my hair in a ponytail, letting my bangs rest beside my cheeks.

I tried to smile, even just a small bit, but it wasn’t worth it. I felt as though things are getting more and more dull than they used to be. I wished things would change, but it wasn’t worth trying… not without him. He was the only one who made life all worthwhile, but now? My interests are slowly decreasing and my contentment is running out.

“Kay!! You’re gonna be late for school!!” I hear from downstairs.

“Ack,” I say, panicking. “I must’ve lost myself in my thoughts again that I forgot about school-”

I shook away the feeling of the previous thoughts and ran downstairs, gripping the strap of my pale brown satchel bag. I was about to walk out the door when I realized that I had almost forgotten about my laptop! It was in my other backpack!! I set my bag down and start to run back upstairs, when Mom stopped me.

“Forgetting something?” She asked, revealing my laptop in her hand.

“Where’d you get that?-” I ask.

“You left it down here last night, what do you mean “where’d you get that?” She asked, making me have to think for a moment.

That’s when I remembered, I bought a new laptop, one for school and one for my personal stuff. I smacked my forehead in shame and sighed. 

“Right- thanks, Mom. I’ll see you after school…” I say, turning around to grab my satchel bag.

I open the latch and place the laptop inside gently before quickly getting up and heading out the door. 

As I was walking down the streets of my neighborhood, I saw my two favorite places in the world… Magnolia’s Bakery and The Book House. A cozy café right next to a local neighborhood library? What could make a better pair?

I stopped right outside the window in front of Magnolia’s and indulged myself in that wonderful smell of fresh-baked bread and homemade desserts sure to make you smile after a long day. 

Before I could continue my walk to school, I was stopped by Magnolia waving at me from inside the bakery. I smiled and waved back. 

“The food smells lovely this morning. I’ll come by after school with Mom, so I’ll be seeing you then.” I signed to her, since she wouldn’t be able to hear me from out here.

She smiled and signed back to me. “Thank you, I shall be seeing you soon, then! Have fun at school.” 

I smile and wave one last time before she nods and goes back to serving customers. I continued walking slowly, trying to keep the memory of that wonderful smell in my brain, so I could enjoy it for as long as I could. I so enjoyed seeing Magnolia, even if she was older.

I continued my walk to school as I started to notice the familiar trees surrounding the entrance of the school. I sighed, feeling somewhat relieved to finally be finishing school for the year. I stopped at the entrance to read the big bold letters one last time. Skyshore Coast High School was written in a very fantastical font above the entrance and carved into the building before me. 

I stopped at the doors of the school and pulled out my white headphones, decorated with stickers I made myself. I slid my phone out of my back pocket and opened my Spotify, clicking on my playlist of favorite songs. 

I hum a little bit as I walk through the hallways, looking quietly around for any of my close friends. All it took was me walking to class just to see my three best friends, Jesse, Adira, and Artemis. 

I walked over to them and smiled, waving quietly as I stopped in front of them. 

“Hey, what took you so long to get here, Kay? Sleep in again?” My best friend Adira said, jokingly.

“Come on, Adira, don’t be like that. We all know that if Kay’s ever late, it’s because she was sooo busy writing her book that she lost track of time.” Artemis said, joking with her.

“Hey, you guys, cut it out. If I were Kay, I would say that’s not how you say hello to someone.” Jesse replied, shutting them both up. 

I smiled, thanking Jesse before returning back to my conversation with the rest of the group. 

“So, did you guys try Magnolia’s new specialty at the bakery? Or am I the only one who knows anything about it, like usual?” I ask, slightly laughing to myself.

“I’ve had it, it’s probably my new favorite.” Artemis replies nonchalantly. 

“Wow, I thought you said the Cursed Wood blend would never be beat and it would always be your favorite?” I joke.

Artemis smiled. “Hey, people change, and I, for one, have definitely changed. Doesn’t my voice sound deeper?

I laugh hysterically at Artemis’ response, Adira quick to agree. We both laugh and laugh until we’re fresh out of air, wiping tears from our eyes after laughing so hard. 

“After school, do you guys wanna meet up at my house tonight? My mom’s letting me have an end of the year party with a few of my friends.” I tell them, remembering my conversation last night with Mom.

“You know I’ll be there. Besides, we have nothing to do at home, anyways.” Adira says, gesturing her hand towards her and her brother, Artemis. 

“I second that. My parents are going out with their friends, too. What time are we being requested to be there?” Jesse responds.

“Twelve hours from now, dress comfortably and bring anything to stay the night.” I say as I smile and point to the clock.

They all nod right as our homeroom teacher walks into the room, running his fingers through his brown hair, like he always does when he enters the room. I smile, seeing how he was one person I felt like I knew my whole life, other than Jesse. He always walked into the room with a smile and treated every student the same. He inspired me to follow my goals and do things I thought I could never do. I was pulled out of my moment of deep thought as he cleared his throat and spoke to the class.

“Alright, class. Today’s schedule is on the board. First, we will receive yearbooks, then, we will give you guys some time to sign yearbooks, look through them, and chat for a while. Then, we will head to the auditorium for the graduation ceremony, where you all will receive your awards and congratulate your classmates, then you will be dismissed for the year. Everyone understand the plan? It’ll be a pretty low-key day for the most part, so I don’t think it will be too hard for you all as graduating seniors, right?” He explains, everyone nodding in a dull-like manner.

He laughs quietly, but smiles. “I’m very glad I got to teach you all this year, and I wish you all the best in your future lives as adults in society. I hope you all find success and achieve all your goals, as well.” He says, with a thoughtful smile.

I stood there in slight shock. I was definitely not ready to become an adult with huge responsibilities yet!! It felt like everything was changing drastically, and I wasn’t prepared for anything at all. On top of that, I felt… different. Almost as if there was some sort of… power, surging through my veins. I gripped my hand tightly, feeling a sharp pain in my palm. I hid my hand behind my back and pulled my sleeve down to the middle of my hand, hoping nobody would notice my pain.

“Kaynara? Come get your yearbook.” My teacher said, looking up at me.

I completely forgot he was passing yearbooks out while I was deep in thought. I walked up to my teacher’s desk, my heels clacking as I walked across the classroom. I took my yearbook and walked back to my desk, sat down, and skimmed through the pages of the book. 

I smiled as I saw all the memories that I made with Jesse, Adira, and Artemis over the course of the year. It made me wish I could go back to being a teenager… Not having to worry about having a job, managing my paychecks… it’s a lot to take in.  I wish I could go back to my boring life before high school was about to end…

“Kay? You alright? You look depressed.” Jesse asked, somewhat jokingly.

I nodded softly. He didn’t seem to buy it though, seeing as he sat down in front of me and asked again. 

“I don’t believe that for one minute. Are you okay?” He asked again. I shook my head, accepting the truth. Should I tell him? Would he believe me? I contemplated these thoughts for what seemed like forever, but then I was drawn to a conclusion when Jesse smiled generously at me and said the most reassuring thing to me.

“Kay, you know you can talk to me, right? I’m here for you, all the time, anytime. If something’s bothering you, I want to help.” 

I smiled and hugged him. I don’t know what I’d do without someone like Jesse. He’s been there for me for what feels like forever. I sigh with a smile and he perks up a bit, as though he were preparing to listen. 

“So… I guess I feel kind of unsure about becoming… well, an adult. Having all these responsibilities to handle on my own, going on my own path… I don’t want things to change… I’d rather stick with the life I had here, no matter how boring school was…” I say, starting to feel the sorrowful tone in my voice.

He looked at me with an understanding look, slowly nodding in response.

“I know how you feel. I don’t want to become an adult either… I also would rather stay in the same boring school life with you and everybody else. Believe me, you’re not the only one who doesn’t want life to change. We’re in this together, remember?” He says, taking my hands.

I nod and smile again. “What would I do without you, Jesse? You sure know how to make a girl feel less alone in the world.” I say with a small laugh.

He laughs a bit and smiles at me. “It’s my job, you know. As your boyfriend.” He says, making me blush.

I nod and try to shake away my bright red cheeks. Although, Jesse seemed to notice them before I could get rid of them, so he teased me about it. Again.

“You’re so cute when you blush, you know?” He says, making me smile in all nervousness. 

“Stop it, I can’t keep a straight face with you!” I say, on the verge of laughter.

He laughs almost hysterically. “No way. I’ll never stop saying you’re cute, because you are.” He tells me as I look at the wall next to me, my cheeks still as red as a cherry. 

“Hey, I forgot to ask. How’s your book coming along?” Jesse asked, steering my attention away from the wall. 

I take a breath and smile, letting all thoughts of embarrassment go. “It’s coming along pretty well. Do you want to read it?” I ask, pulling out my laptop.

He nods. “Of course I do, your books are always so well-written!”

I let out a tiny laugh as I pulled up my book that I was working on before school. I turn my laptop in his direction and gently nudge it forward, allowing him to scroll through it.

The two of us go silent as he reads through my book, allowing me to look around a little bit. Minutes go by, and I felt a tiny tap on my shoulder. I turn around to see who it was, and see it was my classmate and the most popular girl in our class, Skye. 

“Hey, Kay. Can I call you that? Would you mind signing my yearbook?” She asks with a kind smile. 

I smile, gently. “Oh, yeah, sure. And I don’t mind if you call me Kay.” I say as I’m handed the yearbook with a shiny blue pen. She picks up my yearbook and opens it up.

“Mind if I sign yours as well?” She asks, politely.

I nod and find the signature page in her yearbook, and there’s not a single name on that page! I felt kind of… honored to be the first signature in her yearbook. She smiles as she signs my yearbook and I carefully sign my name in cursive and add a small note by it.

I hand Skye her yearbook back and she smiles as she reads my note aloud. 

“Hope you have a summer that’s as awesome as you are! Have a good one and keep being you! – Kay Ryalin.”

I smile softly as she thanks me for signing her yearbook. She returns my yearbook just as she walks off to her friends, asking for signatures. I didn’t feel friendly vibes from her, seeing as she was the most popular girl, and everyone agreed that she was very sneaky and manipulative.

“Hope we can be friends in our future lives! Have a nice summer. With love, Skye.”

Jesse waves a hand in front of my face, trying to turn my attention elsewhere.

“Hey, you might wanna look behind you, it seems like you have a line of people wanting your signature.” He tells me, pointing to the really long line of people standing behind my desk.

We both laugh as I get up and start signing each person’s yearbook with friendly messages and wishes for their new lives. After all that was said and done, I sat down with Jesse and asked him to sign my yearbook before sighing deeply. 

“You okay?” Jesse asks.

I nod. “Yeah, it was just a lot of people, so it kinda tired me out.” I say, laughing quietly.

“I get it. I’ve been trying to spend what little time we have here, but you’re always being dragged away from me!” He says, jokingly.

I laugh quietly as Skye reappears behind me, gripping my shoulders.

“Hey Kay, what’s up?” She asks as an annoyed look reveals itself on my face, making Jesse snicker.

“Everything’s great! Is there something I can do for you?” I ask.

“Oh, yes, I was just about to ask you when your party was, but I was also curious about one thing,” she asks.

“Are you inviting… Jesse?” She asks, worried.

I nodded slowly, hesitant about the way she asked me about Jesse. 

“Well, I wouldn’t recommend allowing him there, he’s got a really bad reputation, you know that, right?” She says. 

I jolted my head back slightly, in confusion. What was she talking about? I’ve known Jesse for years! Bad reputation?! I’d know about it if he really did, so she had to be lying.

“Skye, what on earth are you saying?! What on earth do you mean by that?!” I ask, highly confused.

“Oh, you don’t know? I was told that he was kicked out of his last school for starting fights and he attacked his last girlfriend because she hurt his sister. If I were you, I’d stay clear of him.” She says, giving me a worried look.

I just stood there, so in shock that I just stuttered nervously. Skye just stared at me, confused. 

“Kay? Kay, are you alright? What’s the matter?!” She asks, but I leave her no response.

Jesse hears the commotion and taps you on your shoulder. 

“Kaynara, listen to me. What’s going on? Is everything alright? Kay? Kay!!”  My hearing just went quieter with every question asked, that I heard this horrible incessant ringing in my ears. I gripped my head in pain.

I gave myself a moment to think, when all I wanted to do was run. Go home, and get some space. But first, I knew I had to talk to Jesse about this whole situation.

I took a deep breath and grabbed Jesse by the arm, pulling him out of the classroom.

“Okay, I need you to explain this to me right now.” I say, handing him a piece of paper with the details of my previous conversation with Skye.

I watched closely with a steamed look as he stopped and just stared at the paper. He looked up at me with the most concerning look ever. 

Who told you this?!” He asks, almost yelling at me.

“Jesse, why are you yelling? I was just talking with Skye and-” I tell him right before he cuts me off.

Skye told you about this?! That little-” He says, before moving past me.

That’s when I almost had a panic attack. What was he going to do to Skye?! I grabbed his wrist and pulled him back out of the classroom.

“Jesse. Now, you listen to me.  I get it, you’re mad, but that does not mean that violence is gonna solve anything. I’M NOT GONNA LET YOU BECOME MY EX!” I yell, shutting up.

Oh no. What did I just do? I can’t believe I just yelled at Jesse and brought up my ex… I hated Blaise, he was a jerk to me & my friends. I carefully studied Jesse’s expression as he just stared at my hand gripping his arm. That’s when I saw the clue that gave away what he was truly thinking. I watched as his eyes filled with tears, making me wish I hadn’t yelled at him. He let go of my wrist and took a deep breath, before his tears disappeared. 

“Kay, there’s a reason why I didn’t want you to know about that. Because that… that was before I changed. I changed for you.”

I sighed, frustrated. “Jesse, how many times do I have to tell you, I don’t want you to change for me!! I want you to stay the same person I met in eighth grade.” I say, tears filling my eyes.

“Kay… I only changed so I could be someone that you wanted.” He says.

“Jesse, I don’t need you to change to match what you think I want. I want honesty. I want to be able to trust you and you to trust me. Right now, I need to rethink how much I trust you.” I say as I walk back into the classroom just before we leave for the ceremony.

As I was listening to the principal’s speech, I thought for  a minute. Did I really just let that small moment break my trust… with Jesse?! I sighed, feeling that intense guilt in my stomach.

“I’m exhausted. Can we just skip out on the ceremony?” I whisper to Adira, who’s sitting next to me. 

“No way! We only get this once!!” Adira says, gripping my arm. At that moment, that’s when the sharp pain in my hand came back. 

“What the heck is wrong with my hand? Did I do something to cause this?…” I thought to myself.

I chose to ignore it, the pain slowly disappearing.

“Adira Kate.” The principal announced as I cheered her on before she made it up to the stage.

I listened for my friend’s names but I heard my own.

“Kaynara Ryalin.” The principal said, just as I got up nervously and walked up onto the stage, shaking his hand and receiving my certificate.

I walked back to my seat and all my friends surrounding me cheered, making me smile uncontrollably.

“Told you you’d make it.” Jesse says, nudging my shoulder. 

I smile, nodding back at him. “I could say the same to you. Pretty sure you’re next.” I reply nervously.

“Jesse Montlár.” He announces as we all cheer for him. Jesse stands on the podium, shaking the principal’s hand with a large smile, shaking as he takes the certificate. He holds the certificate into the air, cheering excitedly. His friends cheer him on as he steps off the stage and he sits back down next to me.

I smiled, later put deep in thought as the ceremony continued, before we were dismissed one last time.I said my goodbyes one last time, before heading home alone after that eventful day. When I got home, my room was a mess! 

“How did this happen?! Mom!” I yelled, walking to her room, when I saw her.

“Mom!?” I scream as my mother lays on the ground, a large bloodbath surrounding her. 

I was starting to panic. Did my father show up again?! This was bad… really bad! How did he know our new address?! I kneeled down beside my mother, checking if she was still alive before calling the police.

I couldn’t breathe. Today just had to be horrible. I lost Jesse’s trust… and now Mom’s in danger! 

I held my phone up to my ear, shaking with every breath I took. I heard a voice in the background from my phone when I sighed with relief.

“911, what’s your emergency?” The voice spoke over the phone.

“Please help, m-my mom’s been badly hurt, t-there’s blood everywhere a-and she won’t w-wake up.” I explain, tears breaking my words.

I explained the rest of the situation over the phone and quickly grabbed my hoodie before running to the door, impatiently waiting for help to arrive.

As I waited, I stared at my phone, thinking about calling Jesse, but then I remembered what happened earlier today. I started to shiver uncontrollably in fear, as I slowly dialed his number and waited on a dial tone for what felt like forever.

“Hello?” I hear from the phone. I was so happy he answered me, I couldn’t speak.

“Kay? Is that you? Are you… crying?” He asked, worried.

“Jesse…” I started to say, wiping my tears. “M-My dad came back a-and he hurt m-my mom… can you come over?” I asked, holding back tears.

“I’ll be right over. Just stay put, Kay.” I hear before the call ends and I wait for the ambulance.

Just as I was about to walk in and check on my mom, the ambulance had arrived and Jesse wasn’t too far behind. I ran over to Jesse and embraced him tightly as they loaded her into the ambulance. 

I ended up crying a lot that night as we watched the ambulance leave the house. The night wasn’t much better either, I was terrified by the fact that my father had shown up again… How did he find us? Why did he hurt mom!? All these thoughts kept running through my head as we waited at home.

I stared at my phone, waiting for a call back from the hospital, but there was nothing for hours. I sighed, laying back against the couch.

“They haven’t said a word since they left. What if something really bad happened and they’re not telling us?!” I tell Jesse.

“Kay, calm down. I’m sure your mom is fine, we just… have to hope that she’ll be okay. That’s all we can do right now, until they call.” He reassures me.

“Yeah, you’re right… but, what if I have to move again like the last time he found us?! I-I can’t start over again!!” I panic.

Jesse looks at me with worry spreading across his face.

“What if… I never see you again?” I ask, tears filling my eyes.

There was no keeping this thought back, seeing as I was bawling my eyes out in seconds just before Jesse pulled me close to him, embracing me.

“I-I can’t lose you too…” I say, my words shattered by tears.

After that, all I wanted to do was spend as much time with Jesse as I could. I hugged Jesse tighter as I wished this unbearable thought would disappear or I’d wake up from this horrible nightmare. If only I had stayed home, I would’ve been able to keep Mom safe!

I couldn’t believe it myself, but when a few days went by and Mom was out of the hospital and recovering, I discovered my theory was correct. We were moving… again.

I woke up that morning, getting the last of my things together before I went outside to put them in the car.

I turned around and realized that Adira had come over, Jesse, Artemis, and Skye appearing from the back seats of the car. I ran up to all of them, embracing them tightly.

“I’m gonna miss you guys.” I say, releasing them.

“Awh, don’t say that, I’m gonna cry!” Adira says, hugging me.

I smile, my hand lighting up. Everyone looks at me as I observe my hand.

“What’s going on?” I ask.

I started to notice the color of my hand to be a light purple, almost matching my purple streak in my hair.

Suddenly, the air started moving in the direction of my hand. I started to spiral my hand in a circular motion, the air forming a sphere in my hand.

Just then, everyone else’s hands lit up. Jesse’s was pale green, Adira’s was light blue, Artemis’ was red, and Skye’s was dark blue.

I studied each person’s color of light, when I realized… They were the colors of the five elements.

“So, does this mean we’re cool now? We’ve got magic!” Skye says.

“I thought we were already cool? Oh wait. We’re awesome!” Artemis replies.

Everyone laughs before Mom walks out of the house.

“It’s time to go…” I hear.

They all look at me with sad faces.

“Promise to visit?” I ask.

“Only if you do the same!” Adira says, hugging me tight.

I release them as Skye hugs me tight.

“Thank you for being such an awesome friend.” She says, releasing me.

“No, thank you. For everything. Even if you did kinda sell Jesse out.” I whisper to her.

I turn to Jesse, holding back tears.

“Don’t forget, you can always come see us, anytime, anyplace.” He says as he embraces me.

I kiss his cheek just as I release him.

“I love you.” I say.

“Not as much as I do.” He says.

I smile just as I hug my friends one last time.

“I love you guys. Don’t forget to call or text me if you need me to come back.” I say as I hop into the car and Mom starts to drive away. I turn back to my friends and wave until they’re gone from my view.

 Hours later, we got to the new house, finding our rooms. I walk into my new room and look around. My bedroom furniture is already there, taking the same spots it was in at the old house, nostalgia settling inside me.

I sat down on my bed, imagining my new future in this new house. All that I knew… I couldn’t wait to find out.

Alyssa Larue

Author: Alyssa Larue

I am the teen librarian at DPL and the epitome of a book nerd. When I'm not producing our teen or tween short films or getting glue everywhere while making a teen zine, I can usually be found with my nose in a classic, historical fiction, or fantasy read!

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