So Vandi dared me to write a short the other day.
Regulations: No less than 800 words, no more than 3000.
End word count: 3077
Subject: Homeschool girl labeled as goth.
She brushed her white stripe of bangs out of her line of vision, her pencil writing down her answers in her notebook. The front door opened and slammed shut; her crystal blue eyes flicked up toward the sound.
“Manga!” Mom was home.
“Hi, mom.” The fifteen year old called back lazily. She finished her science test and brought the notebook and the textbook out to the dining room.
“How was your day?” Mom asked, putting away groceries.
“Ready for correction?”
Mom sat down at the table and flipped to the back of the book. Manga read off her answers and waited as her mom calculated her grade.
Prepare for failure…
Mom set her pencil down and looked up at her daughter. “Honey… this is the fourth D you’ve gotten in a row.”
Manga stiffened even though she’d known what her grade would be.
“I know school is hard for you, honey, and I’m doing the best I can to help you. But—“
“But I still need to work harder even though I get raging headaches from staring at my books so long and I kill myself every night knowing I’m a failure!” Manga yelled. She snatched her science book from the table and ran into her bedroom, slammed the door, and flung herself onto her bed, crying and sobbing already.
“Manga, please!” She heard her mom’s voice through the door. “Honey, I’m sorry, I just want you—“
“Go away and leave me alone!” Manga screamed, burying her face in her pillow, suffocating herself.
The next day, Saturday, was the group meeting for the Christian homeschool group Manga and her mom were in. Manga stood in front of her mirror, smearing thick, heavy eye shadow across her eyelids.
“You ready yet, honey?” Mom called for the third time.
“No!” Manga snapped. “I’ll tell you when I’m ready and it won’t be any time near as soon as you want it to be!”
Her dyed black hair had been brushed carefully over her right eye, the white dyed streak in it strategically placed so that none of the whiteness was obscured. Sparkly black eye shadow sat on her lids so heavy it looked like she’d been punched. Eyeliner, mascara, heavy as well. Pale foundation and face powder, Manga wanted as much contrast in her features as possible. Her crystal blue eyes staring forcefully out from behind the makeup and black hair, her slender nose nearly lost as her lips stole most attention with their lipstick—black as well, except for the grey lip liner Manga was now applying.
Ten minutes later she stalked out of her room. Her mom’s eyes came close to popping when she saw her daughter’s outfit—black skin tight pants, frilly, layered blouse, and chunky metal jewelry, along with Manga’s favorite item of apparel: her high heeled leather boots draped round and round with fake plastic chain. But her mother held her tongue, and the two got in the car and drove in silence.
Manga was not looking forward to her meeting with her tutors. When her mom pulled her out of high school and started homeschooling her the beginning of her sophomore year, she’d looked for help and joined a homeschool group because she had no experience with teaching. As a result, Manga had three tutors among the other homeschool parents; science, history, and English.
They reached the park and Manga got out before Mom had even fully stopped the car. Snatching her backpack from the back seat, she stalked over to the picnic tables and flopped down, waiting for her teachers to look at her grades and fuss at her. Again.
A dozen other kids were playing on the lawn. They looked up when a new car drove in.
“Gothy’s here.” Someone said.
“I wonder what she’s failed this time.” Another commented.
“Who’s Gothy?” Jared, a senior, asked.
They turned and looked at him. “You seriously don’t know who Gothy is?”
“Guys, I haven’t been here in three months. I’m out of the loop. Who’s this Gothy girl?” Jared had only just come back from an extended missions trip to Asia two weeks before and wasn’t caught up on everything going on within the group.
“She’s the Goth sophomore who was pulled from Public for causing trouble and trying to fit in with the ‘bad kids’. So her mom decided to homeschool her and stuck her in our group cuz she didn’t know how to teach her anything.”
“Well, it wasn’t exactly that. Her mom works—she’s single, too—so she doesn’t have all the time she needs to homeschool Manga, so they worked something out with my dad and two other parents to be her tutors.”
“What’s her name?” Jared asked.
“Manga? What kind of a name is that?”
“Hers. We all wondered the same thing when she joined.”
Jared looked over at the tables where Manga was sitting, phone in hand, her thumb tapping the screen. “Does she ever come out and play?”
“Nope. And she avoids conversation when anyone tries to talk to her.”
After Manga was done frustrating her tutors with her grades and bad attitude, Jared came over and sat beside her. She gave him one glance, then continued playing with her phone.
Jared had no idea how to start a conversation with the girl. Her face was so full of makeup she looked like a walking canvas. And the white streak, plus those creepy blue eyes.
“You’re a sophomore?” He asked.
“How long have you been in the group?”
“Since beginning of this year.”
“You like being homeschooled?”
A shrug. “It’s harder to find trouble.”
Jared’s eyebrows shot up, but he didn’t reply. He got up and walked off after several minutes of silence.
Manga’s crystal eyes followed him. Man, he’s hot, she thought. With a head full of auburn red hair, darkly tanned face, and easy, rolling stride, she was surprised he wasn’t dripping sweat.
She stayed seated at the table, fiddling with her phone, and for the first time since joining the group, she wanted to go play with the kids on the grass.
Sunday afternoon. Mom was at work. Time to lean over her books until she couldn’t see the page any more for the tears in her eyes.
Manga erased the math equation on her paper for the third time. She rewrote it from the math book, and slowly, carefully, double and triple checking herself, went through the process of finding ‘x’. Once again, her answer was five numbers off—except in the other direction then it’d been the times before. She screamed and flung the notebook and textbook onto the floor as hard as she could. Sliding off her bed, she went over to the mirror, leaning on her dresser and staring into her own eyes.
“You are so ugly.” She whispered. “You’re stupid, you’re worthless. You’ll never be able to do anything useful in life. You’re… you’re a murderer. You deserve prison.”
“Manga?” She screamed a second time and whirled around. The hot red head from yesterday was standing in her doorway.
“What on earth are you doing here?” She shrieked. “How’d you get in?!”
“The door was open and no one answered when I knocked twice.” Jared answered.
“So you just came barging into the house? What if I’d been in the shower?!”
Obviously Jared hadn’t thought of that, for he looked decently ashamed. “Sorry.” He mumbled.
She glared and crossed her arms. “What do you want anyway? I don’t even know you.”
“I… the kids… yesterday, said… you kind of have a hard time in school and… I wanted to see if I could help or… something.” He knew his excuse sounded lame and stupid.
Manga tossed her head so her bangs hid her right eye. “No.” She answered simply. “You don’t care about my grades. Nobody does. You just want to get to know me because I’m the bad girl and you’re the good boy. Sorry, I’m not open for playing right now, come back later.” She made a shooing motion with her fingers.
He looked torn between protesting to stay, and being horrified at what she was implying. “Manga… I—I’m sorry. I didn’t… no, that’s not what I meant. I just wanted to—“
“Methinks the man doth protest overmuch.” She said with a little, wicked smile.
His features hardened and he took a step into the room. “Manga, you need help. And no one from our group has even tried to give it you. They know you’d just shove it away. I know that too, but that won’t stop me from offering it. Now why were you calling yourself names in the mirror?”
“Get out of my room.” She hissed, her hands curling into fists at her sides. “Get out. Now.”
He dutifully took one step back, standing in the doorway again. “Tell me why—“
“Get out of my house.” She cut him off.
“Manga, answer me. Why did you say you were useless and ugly?”
“Because I am!” She yelled, fighting to control herself and not fly into him with her nails and teeth. “Now LEAVE! Now! You have no right to come waltzing into my house and demand personal information from me!”
“Manga, you need help and I’m going to give it to you, even if I need to ram in down your throat!” He retaliated, taking a stride toward her again.
“I don’t even know who you are! You appeared yesterday at the group, and now you appeared in my house and you’re a stranger!”
He calmed, his shoulders relaxing. “I’m sorry. My name is Jared. I’ve been away on a missions trip the last few months, that’s why we never met.”
“A missions trip?” She spat. “What were you doing? Praying over the heathen and redeeming their souls for them?”
“No, we were explaining to them the Gospel of Christ and trying to lead them to the Lord.”
She sneered. “Shut up about God. I can’t stand you oh-so-holy Christians. I’ve never seen one ‘Christian’ act on their faith and try to help me or anyone else like me before. So sorry if I don’t quite buy into your whole ‘help the heathen’ thing.”
“I’m sorry no one has ever tried to reach you before, but that’s why I’m here.” Jared said.
“Too late. I don’t need you now. I needed you last year, but no one was there. Missed your chance, sorry, maybe next time. Good-bye, get lost.”
“What happened last year?”
She stiffened, realizing she’d slipped. “Nothing.” She answered hastily.
“Manga…” His voice was gentle, prying open the lid of her heart.
“I said NOTHING!” She screamed. She stomped past him, pushing him aside with her elbow.
Jared grabbed her arm and shoved her against the wall. “Manga,” His face was dead serious, his voice firm. “You need help, and you needed it a long time ago. I’m giving it to you now whether you want it or not.”
Her face crunched up as if in pain and she drove her knee into his stomach. When he doubled over, she shook his hand off her arm and shoved him away.
“You have no idea what I’ve gone through! You couldn’t even imagine! I’m beyond help! No one ever cared, and you don’t either! I don’t want help anymore, I just want to be left alone!” She screeched at him.
He sat on the edge of the bed, arms still wrapped around his stomach. “Manga… just tell me. Even if I can’t help, just tell me and let me try.”
Tears were spilling out from her eyes now and leaving trails in her makeup. She shook her head. Jared stood up and gently touched her arm again. “Sit down, Manga.”
“Don’t tell me what to do.” She sniffed, but dropped onto the bed anyway. She ignored him when he sat beside her.
“What happened last year?” He asked.
“Will you stop asking that?!” she screamed in his face, then gave in and started sobbing. Jared put his arms around her and she didn’t fight him. She cried on his shoulder for several minutes and when she was done, she rose and went to her dresser. Opening the top drawer, she pulled something out and came back to him. It was a picture, and she shoved it into his hands.
“You’ll hate me.”
“What is it?” He asked, looking from the grainy, black and white picture, to her.
“An ultrasound.” She mumbled through her hands covering her face.
“A what?” He asked incredulously.
“I KILLED MY BABY!!!” She screamed at him, lifting her head. “I said you’d hate me! That girl was INSIDE OF ME!” She pointed to the ultrasound. “And I KILLED her!”
He stared at her his mouth open. Tears continued to streak down Manga’s cheeks. “I’m a murderer.” She whispered brokenly.
Fifteen years old, he thought. Had an abortion…
She turned away, unable to look at him as she continued. “That’s why they took me out of public school. They couldn’t understand why I was afraid of walking to school. The road… I have to walk… we live in such a bad area. The alley’s… and gangs…” She swallowed. “I never told anyone. About her,” She nodded toward the picture. “About…”
“You don’t need to say it.” His voice stopped her gently.
“It happened twice.” She spit out bitterly. “Once when I was twelve, and once last year. That’s when… that happened.”
He looked down at the ultrasound in his hand.
“I would be a mother now…” She said suddenly. “I think about her every day. She’d be two months old now! I could have held her, Mom would have been a grandmother!” Her voice escalated with every phrase. “But I killed her! Because I was scared! I didn’t know what to do! I didn’t want to be a teenage mom, I didn’t know anything about babies! I—“
“Manga.” He touched her shoulder. “Calm down. There’s a way you can see your baby.”
She turned and gaped at him. “No.” She shook her head. “No, don’t give me any false hope, you jerk. I’ll kill you too.”
“I know where your baby is right now.” He continued. Her face belied her words; she wanted to believe him. “And she’s with every single other baby that’s ever been aborted. She lives without pain, or sadness, or sin. She has a perfect body.”
“You’re talking about Heaven, aren’t you?” Her voice was sour but her face was still clinging to the glimmer of hope.
He nodded. “You can go there too.”
She huffed and crossed her arms, turning away.
“There’s Someone Who is waiting to forgive you for what you’ve done. You just have to ask.” She still didn’t respond. “Jesus Christ was a perfect man, yet He did something that can make it possible for you to go to Heaven too.”
“What?” She still didn’t look at him.
“The penalty of sin is death, yet we can’t pay our own way. Jesus took our place and died for us. We only have to believe He did, and trust His replacement for us, and have faith in Him, and we don’t have to pay that penalty.”
She was silent again.
“Or… if you don’t believe Him, you have to pay your own penalty. You must be punished for your sin. If you die without trusting Jesus, you will be thrown in a lake of fire for all eternity. God doesn’t want any of us to have to go there. The lake of fire was prepared for the Devil, not us. But there is no other way for us to pay, besides burning forever. That’s why Jesus took our place. Because God wants to have fellowship with us, He wants us to be in Heaven with Him, but He can’t allow sin into Heaven. So Jesus, as God, took our place because He was the only One Who could.”
“And Hannah’s up there?” Manga whispered.
“Yes, she is. Because she never had a chance to sin, she is in Heaven with Jesus right now.”
“What about everything else I’ve done?”
“He’ll forgive all your sins if you ask Him and believe in His replacement.”
“How did He die?”
The question surprised Jared. “The Bible says He was beaten and whipped so badly He was not recognizable as a man.”
Manga turned wide eyes on him. “Like how they tore my baby apart?” She whispered.
Jared nodded. “And after that, they made Him carry His own cross up to where they would nail Him. It’s estimated that He hung there for nine hours before He gave up the ghost.”
“After He was beaten?”
“He did that for me?” She whispered.
He nodded again.
“Because I killed my daughter?”
“He knew I would kill her?”
She grabbed his arm. “What do I do? What do I have to do? Tell me!”
“All you have to do is pray with all the sincerity of your heart, and wholly accept and have faith in His substitution, and tell Him you believe what He did.”
“That’s it? That’s too easy.”
“You think God would go through all that and then make it hard for us to accept Him?”
She shook her head. “I don’t know how to say it.”
Jared bowed his head. “Repeat after me. Dear God,”
“Dear God,” Her voice was shaking.
“I know I am a sinner and I have done wrong, and I deserve to burn in Hell forever. But I also know that You loved me enough to die for me, because You wanted to have fellowship with me. I believe that You died for my sins and that Your Son’s death is the only substitution You can accept for judgment of my sins. Please come into my heart and save me and take me to Heaven when I die. Amen.”
When Manga was done, Jared opened his eyes and saw her staring at him.
“That’s it? That’s all?”
“Now what do I do?” She asked.
He glanced down at his watch. “If we hurry we can get to church in time for the evening service.”
“I’ll write mom a note.”
When Manga’s mom got home from work, she found a piece of paper on the dining room table that read,
“Went to church with Jared. I’ll be back after seven. Love you.”