Just Breathe, by Rachel Rodi

#Writerjam Fiction Contest 1st place-WriteLikeCrazy.com


                        Just Breathe

by Rachel Rodi

1,700 words

"Cody! Can you feed Coco?" my mother yelled from the kitchen. "Why can't you do it?" Cody screamed back as he laced up his cleats for soccer practice. "Because, I'm making breakfast," Mom retorted, standing in the door from the kitchen to the living room, her hands on her hips. This type of argument was normal in my house, but lately, it's gotten out of control. Mom and Cody have been arguing over every little thing. ‘Cody, take out the trash,' ‘Why can't you do it?' Blah, blah! Ugh! I hate it!

Oh, and by the way, my name's Sasha and when I was born, my lungs were weak so I have to use a machine to breathe. The person with the brown mop for a head is my brother, Cody. He's a junior at Hilton High. I am an eighth-grader at Bobford Junior High.

My dad left us when I was 2. Mom told me and Cody he went off to go join the military and serve our country, but I overheard mom talking on the phone with grandma. She was saying that he left because he couldn't stand looking at his disabled daughter anymore. I was 2 when I heard this, so it didn't make much sense to me then.

When I got older, the cruelty of his actions began to weigh on me. There were a few days where I was too upset to even drag myself out of bed. Let's change the subject!

Coco is our dog. Honestly, she looks like an over-inflated brown balloon. I think Cody feeds her too much. And as if to prove my point, Cody finally gives in and dumps a huge glob of food into Coco's bowl. Coco hobbles over and chows down. Cody stomps off to the door, picks up his backpack, and storms out, slamming the door behind him. I roll my eyes and turn on the TV.

Saturday mornings are boring but at least the channels play good shows instead of bad ones like during the week. I watch Animal Planet and stuff my face with bacon until mom leaves for work (P.S. she works six days a week). The second I see her car's taillights disappear around the corner, I turn off the TV and head upstairs.

My breathing device thumps against my chest as I scale the stairs. I'm usually not allowed to go into any room upstairs besides my room and the bathroom, but lately, mom's been working late, and Cody's been leaving the house more and more to go practice soccer with his buddies.

Recently, I've had the entire house to myself.

On Sunday, I explored mom's room.

On Monday, I explored mom's closet.

On Tuesday, I explored mom's bathroom.

On Wednesday, I explored the storage room.

On Thursday, I did nothing because a bunch of boxes fell on me while I was trying to get orange juice from the basement fridge, and mom had to dig me out when she got home.

On Friday, I did nothing.

Today, I'm gonna explore Cody's room. I walked to the end of the hallway where his door is. The sign on the door says, "Do Not Enter." I turn the knob and tug. The door flies open and my heart nearly stops at what the inside looks like. The entire room is a complete mess! Posters cover the windows, papers encase the bed, and everything reeks of month-old socks.

But that's not the worst of it. On the wall opposite his bed there are dartboards, each one with a picture of a kid that I don't recognize in the center. A boy with dark brown hair, a girl with blonde hair, a boy with black hair, and many others. Darts are sticking out from the pictures.

I gasp and my breathing device freezes up. I punch it and it starts working again. The other walls are littered with pictures of kids, each with a red X painted over their face. Empty cans of spray paint are strewn across the floor.

Why does Cody have these things? They can't be for anything good. I walk across the room, surveying the mess. I spot his computer lying open on his desk. Maybe this will give me some answers. I pull out the chair and sit down. The computer is open to his home screen which is a picture of a skull and crossbones. I move the arrow to the email icon. There is a 1 next to it. I click it. The email is from someone named Drake Willis.


Yo Cody

U still up 4 teachin Tobey a lesson ‘cause I am. Meet @ park. 9:00.


I checked the clock above Cody's bed. It was 9:45. But he's supposed to be at soccer practice! Is it a lie? Is he at soccer practice or the park? I have to find out! Just as I was about to close the computer, a ringtone sounded. I lifted the lid back up. There was an email from a different person named Harvey Scalle.

Hey Cody

U wanna take Mrs. Welsh's car 4 a spin after scool on Wednesday? It'll be fun. U can drive. Meet behind the scool @ 3:30. Will talk @ lunch. See u there.

Harvey    A.K.A. The Snake

What the …? What is going on?!?! The Cody I know would never do anything like this! He never breaks the rules! But now…this!  And if soccer practice was a lie.  I am going to get to the bottom of this and nothing will stop me!

The next thing I know, I am wheeling Cody's old bike down the driveway and into the street. I get on and start pedaling. I haven't ridden a bike in a very long time so I'm a bit wobbly but I can manage. I used Google Maps to memorize the way to both the soccer fields and the park. I decided I should go to the soccer fields first and recite the map in my head. Soon I find myself confronted with four large soccer fields.

All of them are empty. My stomach twists in agony.

I ride to the park. I pull up just in time to see a silver Toyota exit the parking lot. Cody's silver Toyota. The agonizing feeling in my stomach turns into a full-blown hurricane of pain. I fall off my bike and double over in the road. Thoughts swirl through my head at the speed of light.

Soccer practice was a lie, Cody was a rule-breaker, the kid named Tobey was "taught a lesson," will Cody take Mrs. Welsh's car for a spin? Cody lied, Cody lied, Cody lied. The last thought kept coming back. Cody lied. What else has he lied about?

My mind's racing at one million miles per hour. It's okay. Calm down. Just breathe. In and out. In and out. When I was calm enough, I rode back home. Cody was sitting on the couch, absorbed in his phone, and I was able to sneak past him unnoticed. I went to my room to sort things out. I needed a plan. I couldn't just watch my brother turn into some rule-breaking punk with no future. I can't tell mom about it, she would figure out I was in his room and bust me. I have to confront him while he's in the act. I have to catch him and Harvey when they steal Mrs. Welsh's car.

Sunday seemed to drag on forever. Cody shut himself in his room and only came out to eat or use the bathroom. I spent the day lying on the couch, watching cartoons. When it was time to go to bed, I was haunted by nightmares. Falling towards a ground that I would never reach, visions of my brother's face morphing into the skull and crossbones that formed his screen saver; they were utterly horrifying.

When it was finally time for school, I felt like I hadn't slept at all. I slept through most of third period and lunch.

It was the same story for the next day. Then on Wednesday morning, I woke with a sense of purpose. I told my mom I was going to the park after school. I didn't like lying, but I had to get my brother back! As the day progressed and the event drew closer, I began to doubt my decision.

What if mom found out I lied? What if the old Cody would be buried too deep for me to find? These questions swirled around in my head until the dismissal bell rang. It was 3:25. I had to hurry.

I speed walked to the high school and carefully navigated to the parking lot behind the school. 3:29. They would be here soon. I crouched behind a bush and made a peephole. By the time I was finished, I could hear footsteps coming across the pavement.

A hushed voice spoke, "You got the key?" Cody. "Yeah," whispered another voice that must be Harvey's. I heard more footsteps then the sound of an engine starting. Through the peephole, I spotted a bright red Subaru pull across the parking lot and exit towards the intersection of 65th and Roosevelt. I took this as my cue. I sprang out of the bush and ran towards the road.

"Cody!" I screamed punching my breathing device to keep it from freezing.

Cody's face popped out of the driver's side window. The light at the intersection was red. The car blew through it and a semi plowed into it followed by several other cars. I was in the middle of the road. Something slammed into my back. The world faded into darkness.

I woke up later in a hospital bed, my mom by my side. She stayed with me even after I was released.

One night, mom got a phone call. I heard her crying from my room. Something was terribly wrong.  She told me Cody didn't survive the crash. He will never breathe again. It's my fault. I should have been the one who was never able to breathe again. I was never able to in the first place.


Rachel Rodi

Rachel Rodi is a 6th-grader and has lived her entire life in Downers Grove, IL. An avid reader, Rachel often will read two books at once. She enjoys running, gardening, playing violin and hanging out with her friends.  A self-proclaimed animal lover, Rachel is the proud owner of a betta fish named Twister. Although truth be told, she really would love to have a dog of her own.  

Rachel's story won FIRST PLACE  in the July '17 #writerjam contest. I loved the well-developed characters in this story. The realistic dialogue, the building tension and the shocking twist ending! Congrats, Rachel!

Please show your support to Rachel and her story by leaving a comment and maybe sharing this with a friend who needs a good short story to read!

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