The Day I Fell in Love

Sophia Kunkel, Co-Editor

On the day I fell in love, the sky was rain-speckled and dreary. Menacing clouds swirled above me as I walked home from school in mud splattered Converse shoes and a torn backpack slung over my shoulder. The only thought running through my mind was engulfed in annoyance, as I’d forgotten my hair ties in the morning—meaning that the fierce wind sweeping through my thick half curls spewed the strands over my face and blocked my line of visionI didn’t even attempt to wrangle these black locks from the grasp of mother nature because even if I could manage to regain control, the result was still the same: a tangled mess of hair which took hours to unthread.  

A few minutes later, I reached Mel, the crossing guard. He stood as stoic as he did every day, posture rigid like a soldier—which made sense, since I’d heard rumors that he had fought in Iraq—but his bright smile never dimmed for a second 

“Good day at school?” 

“Same old thing,” I said, shruggingI gave him variations of the same answer each afternoon because what else was I supposed to say? If I were truthful about my dismal high school experience—about how the only part of the day I looked forward to was reading in the library by myself and avoiding all my fellow students—he’d pass the information along to Mom and Dad and Grammie, who would all immediately leap into panic mode, thinking: She is just like Malachi.  

That was the problem with small towns like Haven; news (and gossip) spread like wildfire, affecting only those involved. Everyone else subsequently forgot about it a few days later.  

Well, if you need anything, you know where to find me,” he said with a nod, then motioned for me to follow him across the street when traffic had stopped. “See you tomorrow, Eleanor. And don’t forget to thank your grandmother for me, for those spectacular chocolate chip cookies. I would gladly donate more money to the AFSP if she delivered another few dozen.” 

“No problem, Mr. Mellwood. I’ll tell her that right away.” 

What I didn’t say was this: Maybe you should be more focused on why we donate, instead of complimenting the baked goods. There’s a reason—even though it’s been more than two years since Malachi passedas to why wstill collect annual contributions to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention 

Upon reaching the other side of the road, I continued into the park and took several shaky breaths, telling myself that there was no need to get so riled up about Mel. He meant well; he really did. And sometimes, that’s all we can ask of people.  

Landry Forest Park was in the dead center of my neighborhood, but my house sat all the way at the top of the hill, taunting me from afar. It was a dreadful climb upward, and the hike was worsened as I clutched textbooks in one hand and attempted to trek the rain-slathered slope with shoes that no longer had any grip and hair that continued to be a nuisance.  

It was at this point, with my skin slick with raindrops and my knees caked with mud, that I stopped abruptly. The bushes next to the dirt path rustled with an evil ambience, a suspenseful melody, and I froze. In this weather, retreating down the steep terrain would be practically a death sentence, but there was no way I could run up the hill before whatever was stalking the park got to me.  

So, being as indecisive as I was, I squeezed my eyes shut and hoped for the best.  

What emerged from the shrubs changed my life. When I mustered the courage to peek, I found myself staring into the big brown eyes of a scruffy pup, fur matted and bloody. It sat there whining pitifully, pawing my leg. Begging to be loved.  

My heart shattered inside my chest, like a thousand icicles piercing the deepest parts of my soul. It was a bitter cold feeling but one that I hadn’t experienced since what happened with my brother, and when I looked at the dog, I realized that although I couldn’t save Malachi, I could make a difference here and now. I didn’t have to mimic the world’s cruelty in my sorrow.  

I took the puppy home to my family. 

On that day, I fell in love with life again.  

I fell in love with kindness and hope and belief in a better future.