Today we bring you the second-place winning entry in the middle school division of the first annual Tracy Hurley Memorial Writing Contest. It was written by Elaine Russ, 14, from Covenant Christian School.
The Book That Belongs to Anna Bleak
By Elaine Russ
The rain bitterly slashed at the grimy windows and the thunder screamed loudly. Lightning flashed proudly and the wind pushed on every innocent thing in its path. She did not care, for she was inside and dry; however, she was scared. If he caught her, she would be severely punished. She took a deep breath and took a small step.
The faded floorboards creaked. They were terribly old and fragile.
Her heart pounded against her chest. She looked at her location. It was a pile of books.
Quickly, she strode towards them. Then she saw it, the brown book. She picked it up. A tear splashed onto the faded cover. Why? She asked herself.
Then she heard it, creaking of floorboards. He knew she was here. She must get away. She ran out of the small room, picking up her long black skirt to increase her speed. When she reached her room, she shut the door and collapsed, panting, onto the bed. When she knew the coast was clear, she began to read.
Before I begin to weave the tapestry of this book, let us get one thing straight. Anna Bleak was weird. She had dark, unkempt hair and dark, sunken eyes that contrasted sharply to her pale skin. She always wore the same thing: a black jumper that went past her knees, and black and white striped long sleeved shirt and tights. Black polished Mary Jane’s were always on her feet. Even in the hot summer months her unusual and dark outfit was upon her body. But perhaps strangest of all was her book. It was quite dog eared, with a brown leather cover. The pages were yellowed with age and crackled when turned. She was never without it and it must be a rather emotional book, for tears glistened in her black eyes when read.
If you do not believe the oddities of this person, just ask Sylvie Carter and Abigail Burkes. They know what I am talking about. They were in Anna’s first grade class at C.W. Controse Christian Academy. And to them, Anna was the most ridiculous person they ever saw. No one ever talked to Anna. Imagine the horror and disgrace! It makes me shudder, and this story is only a figment of my imagination and therefore, not real.
Our story takes place one chilly fall afternoon after school had let up. Sylvie and Abigail were sitting on a wooden picnic table on the playground talking when David Tontergoacogs with a small group of classmates hurried up.
“Sylvie! Abigail!” David called. “We’re headin’ on up to the old Controse mansion! Wanna come with?”
The old Controse mansion was a town landmark to all the children. Chester Wilson Controse established their school, was a preacher, and did many things for the town. He and his wife, Lucy, had lived in a Victorian mansion. One night, the two mysteriously died and the mansion fell into shambles. It was rumored to be haunted, for shrieks and screams could be heard from the mansion late at night.
“No way!” Abigail cried. “Not me! It’s too spooky!”
“Well I’ll go,” Sylvie stood up. “It’ll be fun!”
“Be careful, Sylvie!” Abigail called. “I only have one best friend!”
Sylvie grinned. “I’ll be fine, Abs.”
The group made their way to the old Controse mansion. The gray mansion matched the sky. Paint peeled and the shutters hung loosely from the grimy windows. The grass was long and full of weeds.
The children stood at the iron fence and peered in. David turned and grinned at Sylvie.
“Dare you to go in,” he pointed to the mansion.
Everyone turned and stared at Sylvie. Her heart began to beat hard.
“Alright,” she heard herself saying.
Everyone except David gasped, their eyes wide in horror.
“Think you’re so brave?” David challenged. “This is what you need to do. Go to the top floor and wave from that window.” David pointed to the small, circular window on a tier.
“O-okay,” Sylvie nodded. Slowly, she opened the gate and stepped inside. There was no turning back now.
The walk to the front door seemed like miles, when in reality, it was only a few yards. Sylvie pushed open the door. The hallway was dark, lighted only by sunlight. All the furniture had white sheets over them. The floorboards creaked under Sylvie’s feet as she walked. Up the staircase she went and then down the hall, until she reached a small door. Sylvie pulled it open and walked inside.
This room was different from the rest. Inside was a small bed with white sheets. Porcelain dolls sat neatly on a shelf with one on the bed. A small trunk lay neatly at the foot of the bed.
Sylvie felt confused. She did not know the Controses had children; however, there was no time to ponder this thought. She had work to do. Sylvie moved toward the window and waved, wondering if they could see her.
She needn’t worry; however, for the others saw her perfectly fine and were cheering her presence at this moment.
Sylvie grinned; she felt so proud! At least she did, until she heard a floorboard creak behind her.
Sylvie froze, and then slowly turned around. There, framed in the doorway, stood Anna Bleak.
Sylvie did not know what do or say. Then she ran past Anna. She felt her heart pounding in fear as she ran down the stairs and outside.
The next day, Sylvie walked across the playground. She had thought a lot about yesterday and now had a plan. Across the playground, she noticed Anna Bleak sitting on a swing reading her book.
Sylvie pasted on a smile and hurried towards Anna.
“Hi, Anna,” Sylvie remarked cheerfully.
Anna looked up in surprise that someone was actually talking to her.
“Listen, about yesterday, did I scare you? ‘Cause if I did, I’m sorry,” Sylvie continued.
“David dared me to go in.”
“Oh!”Anna looked shocked, “no, not at all.” She had a quiet voice that wavered as she spoke. “I was afraid that I scared you.”
Sylvie hoped for an explanation of the reason she was in the mansion; however, Anna did not give one.
Abigail was absent that day, so Sylvie played with Anna on the playground. And ever since then, the girls were friends.
A month later, Sylvie and Abigail were on the playground once again.
“Hi, Anna!” Sylvie called across the playground to Anna, who was reading. She looked up and waved.
Abigail made a disapproving noise. “I don’t see why you are her friend, Sylvie,” she informed Sylvie scathingly.
“Why?” Sylvie was taken aback. “What’s wrong with Anna?”
“She’s weird,” Abigail snapped. “And I’m your best friend! Not Anna!”
“Abigail, you and Anna are both my friends,” Sylvie explained. “I can have two friends, right?”
“No!” snapped Abigail, “absolutely not! You have to decided, Sylvie, Anna or me!”
Sylvie took a deep breath and chose each word carefully. “Anna Bleak has no friends, other than me. We have other friends too, Abigail. Everyone needs a friend, even Anna.”
“Well!” Abigail looked indignant. “I thought you were a better friend than that, Sylvie! Well I guess I was wrong!” Abigail burst into tears.
“Abigail-” Sylvie started.
“No! Get away from me, Sylvie!” Abigail cried. Then she jumped up and ran towards a group of girls.
Sylvie felt awful. Did I do the right thing? She wondered. Tears filled up her eyes but she blinked them back. Abigail and she had been friends since preschool.
With leaden feet Sylvie walked to Anna.
“I heard what you did,” Anna softly informed Sylvie as she sat down. “You didn’t have to do that, you know. I’m not worth it.”
“Of course you’re worth it!” Sylvie cried. “You are my best friend! Now, anyway,” she added as an afterthought.
Anna smiled. “Thanks, Sylvie,” she whispered. “You’re a good friend.”
“Hey!” Sylvie suddenly remembered something. “My mom said that since it’s Friday we can have a sleepover at my house. That is, if your uncle allows you to.”
Sylvie knew that Anna lived with her uncle. She was curious to know what happened to her parents, although Anna never talked about any of her relatives that much.
“Okay,”Anna agreed. “My uncle doesn’t mind if I go; he never cares.”
That was one thing about Anna that impressed Sylvie. Her uncle never seemed to care where she went. Sylvie had to ask permission if she wanted to go anywhere, even across the street to pick up a stray ball that wanted to take French leave.
“I’ll go help you pick up our stuff,” Sylvie volunteered. She was curious to know where Anna lived.
“Oh, no I can get it,” Anna quickly explained. “But thank you for the offer.”
Sylvie opened the door in excitement. There stood Anna, holding a small gray bundle.
“Hi!” Sylvie squealed. “Come on in.”
Mrs. Carter appeared around the corner at that moment, with the six-month-old baby, Maggie on her hip.
“Oh, Anna, is it? It’s so good to see you, dear. Do come in, darling, it’s so cold out.” Mrs. Carter shifted Maggie to her other hip. “I’m sorry if the house is messy, dear, four children and none the cleaner!” She chuckled.
“Come on, Anna, let’s go to my room,” Sylvie volunteered.
“Sure!” Anna agreed.
The two hurried into Sylvie’s room, which was painted a cheerful pink.
“Just dump everything onto my bed,” Sylvie gestured carelessly to the bed.
Anna set down the bundle and untied the knot at the top. The bundle turned out to be a nightgown. Inside were a toothbrush, hairbrush, her book, and a doll.
Sylvie frowned. She had seen that doll before. . .
All of a sudden, Sylvie gasped. One of Anna’s shirt sleeves moved up, and there were a number of purple bruises and angry red welts upon her arm.
“What happened?” Sylvie breathed.
Anna began to cry.
“Oh no, Anna,” Sylvie whispered. “I’m sorry-“
Anna shook her head. “It’s not your fault,” she whimpered. “It’s his. He-he beats me!”
“What?” Sylvie cried, “Who?”
“My uncle,” Anna whispered.
“Why?” Sylvie asked.
“Well, it all started with my parents,” Anna explained tearfully. “They were Chester and Lucy Controse. My mother’s brother, Ebaniah Bleak hated his sister, for she was a success at life and he was not. When she married my father, Uncle’s anger deepened. Then they had me. Uncle was outraged! He felt like his sister’s life was complete. So he killed them.” Anna began to cry harder. “In my mother’swill, it appointed Uncle to raise me. He didn’t want to, but he was in trouble with the law and looked down upon in town. He needed a job, see. So he raised me, even though he hated me. We live in the Controse mansion, that’s why you saw me. You were standing in my bedroom.”
“But isn’t the Controse mansion haunted?” asked Sylvie. “What about those horrible screams?”
“That’s me,” Anna whispered. “He hurts me all the time.” She gestured to her book. “That’s my mother’s diary,” she explained. “I have to hide it from him.
“Anna,” Sylvie felt her heart fill with regret for her friend. “I’m so sorry. That’s awful! I never knew.”
Anna nodded sadly. “Sometimes I try to run away, but he always catches me.” She shuddered. “And we have no phone to call the police, and they won’t believe me.”
“Should I tell my mom?” Sylvie asked. “She can call the police, and they’ll listen to her.”
Anna nodded gratefully.
Two hours later, the entire Carter family and Anna were sitting in the police station. An hour before, the police arrested Ebaniah Bleak.
A tall, hassled looking officer strode in. “Well, Miss Bleak, your uncle is behind bars. He’s probably never getting out.
“It’s a shame, though, child abuse,” the officer murmured, more to himself than others, as he filed out a report. “Most people don’t realize how bad it is. It is quite big in this country. I feel as if everyone realized that everyone is precious in God’s sight it wouldn’t happen.
“Anyway,” the officer looked up. “Miss Ann Bleak, is it? I suggest you should head over the foster center to find a new family.”
“Um,” Mrs. Carter spoke up, “Well, I’ve talked with my husband, and we were wondering if we could adopt Anna.” She smiled at Anna. “That is, if it is alright with you, dear.”
Anna gasped. “I would love it! Oh, thank you, Mrs. Carter!”
Mrs. Carter laughed. “You are quite welcome dear.”
On Monday, at school, Abigail found Sylvie and Anna. “Listen, Sylvie,” Abigail started. “I just wanted to say that I’m sorry. You can have two best friends, right?”
“Of course, Abigail,” Sylvie smiled. “I forgive you. You’re my best friend, right? Now listen to what happened on Friday. . .”
Before I end the tapestry of this book, let us get one thing straight, Anna Bleak Carter was a great person. Just ask Sylvie and Abigail. They know what I am talking about.