Prose, Grades 7 – 9: Third Place

One Silver Earring— Nina Smetana<

Chapter 1: A Hollow Shadow
It was a foggy November afternoon. One of those cold streaks had taken over my hometown of St. Paul, Minnesota. I shivered through my black winter coat, the down inside it doing nothing to help save me from the cold reality of winter. Even the trees looked aloof and conniving, piercing me with their icy glares. My animosity at the world grew and grew.
Why did cold have to exist? Why did my mother have to send me out to walk the dog in below-zero temperatures? I watched as a couple across the street walked their greyhound in silence, the only sound being the occasional snapped twig, frozen to the core. Only Rosie, her amiable personality never fading, trotted along happily in her built-in brown coat, sniffing every last thing until there was nothing left to sniff.
Rosie then stopped under a leafless tree, a hollow shadow cast over us, a remnant of what used to be many moons ago. She put her nose to the ground in curiosity, smelling another newfound object to death. Yet this one was different somehow. It seemed to glow under the pile of dead, deserted leaves. A dim, yet distinct ray of sunlight shone upon the pile, as if the clouds had parted just so I, Amanda Hope Ebony, could find a glimmer hidden in the dirt. It was as if it was meant specifically for me.
I reached my yellow-gloved hand towards the glimmer and pulled out a single silver earring. I examined it closely. Everything else seemed so dull compared to it, as if the world was an inky black night sky, and the earring was a lone star, shimmering alone, yet brighter and more glorious than anything has ever been before. Behind me I heard a crack, one more twig snapping under the weight of the heavy boot stepping on to it. I quickly slid the earring into my pocket and headed back home.
I stepped up the last grey concrete stair leading up to our big purple house. My home stood three stories tall, complete with a carpeted, boring basement and a musty old attic. I slept on the second floor, and so did my brothers and sister. The twins shared a room because they were only four years old, and my older brother, two years younger than my 14, got his own. And thankfully, so did I, although we did have to share a bathroom. You can’t even begin to imagine the rush in the morning to get to the bathroom before Mason.
“I need to shower in the mornings right after I wake up or else my whole day is ruined!” He tends to exaggerate. He exaggerates on showering in the morning, on how much he wants to get a television or go on a trip and how much he wants to go to private school, though he only does this on days he has a lot of homework.
My brother and I go to the same drab school: Denver High. Every day we would walk to school in the biting cold, so my mom didn’t have to pay the bus fee. It was only two blocks anyway. I didn’t mind the exercise — it was good for me.
I opened the tall white door, and a gust of warm air flew in my direction. Every part of my body tingled in warm delight. The smell of hot apple cider clung to every wall, wafting from our clean, organized kitchen to my red, dry nose, whipped by the cold. I unwrapped my fuzzy scarf from my neck and took off my jacket. I carefully took off my flowery knitted hat, which had done wonders for my ice-cold ears but not so much for my hair.
“I’m back!” I bellowed to my mother, who was probably upstairs working on her story.
“Thanks, Amanda, sweetie,” she hollered back. “I really appreciate you walking Rosie. I’m sorry I couldn’t get to it today.” I smiled in acceptance of her banal apology and walked into the kitchen. And then I saw a man in blue with thick grey hair.
“Dad!” I cried in jubilance. “What brings you home at this hour!?”
“Well, there were no doctors needed for the 3:30 to 6 p.m. shift and, as you know, that is the second half of my day, so my boss let me leave work to be with you guys,” he replied cheerfully.
“Yay! Go boss!” I exclaimed grandly. “But you do know I have homework, right?”
“Yep. I have a little homework of my own today, too. But after that we can play a round of Scrabble — you, me and the broski. And I’m going to cream!”
“I wouldn’t be too sure…” I began and sat down with him, sipping the apple cider Dad warmed up and crunching on pretzels. With every sip the cider seemed to thaw my frozen state. We chatted for a bit about his work and how not-busy it has been this week.
“It’s weird,” he told me. “It’s like everyone is too busy to get sick!” Suddenly I remembered the earring.
“Hmm…” I marveled quickly, then slung my green backpack over my shoulder and went over to my jacket. I fished out from my pocket full of knickknacks and trinkets a glimmering earring, closed my fist over it, and raced upstairs to examine my new, mysterious treasure.
I dashed into my room, ceiling to floor in medium green wallpaper. I jumped onto my swivel chair and did a few spins. When I stopped, even my black and white bedspread looked like it was moving around the room slowly. I rolled myself to my desk and turned on the lamp. I opened my hand and put the earring on my desk. I saw a faint imprint where the silver earring had been pressed onto the skin on my small, pale hands. I pulled a magnifying glass from under the pile of stuff on my messy desk.
Then I noticed something new on the silver plate of the dangly earring, like a faint carving onto the silver. I pulled the lamp over the earring and examined the carvings closely. They almost looked like letters… or initials. The letters read MG, and then there was a plus sign and a DF. If I looked with a careful eye, I could see a heart carved around the two sets of letters.
MG looked familiar. Then I remembered — M and G were my Mom’s initials, Molly Glasson. Was there a connection? I couldn’t be sure though. There was one thing that was getting at me: D and F were not my Dad’s initials. Who was DF and why was he on this one silver earring? There was only one way to find out.