What Happened by Sarah Hafez

It’s a day like any other, Clare wakes up in her small, messy room. She takes a deep breath and gets out of bed. “Ughhh do I really have to go to school today,” she yells. But she ignores her annoyance and puts on her faded mom jeans, an oversized t-shirt, and some black converse. She brushes her dark brown hair and puts it in a high ponytail. As she stares in the mirror, lost in her own green eyes, she tells herself, “I will be okay.” Clare heads to her sister’s room, taken aback by the cleanliness. She has always wanted to be the perfect daughter, but Veronica has taken on that role. “Good morning, V,” Clare says. 

“Hey Clare. Let’s go eat with mom and dad,” Veronica replies. 

“Okay. Let’s go,” Clare says as she tumbles down the stairs. 

When they reach the kitchen, there is no one there. They look at each other confused. Their parents are usually sitting at the table, drinking their coffees and having breakfast. “Mom! Dad!” Veronica screams frantically. Clare starts to panic.

 “Is this a prank?” Clare asks, looking around to see if her parents are hiding somewhere. It clearly isn’t.

Clare follows Veronica and runs outside to see what is happening. She looks for the family car but doesn’t see it. In fact, she doesn’t see any cars on the street. Instead, she sees many distressed teenagers gathering around. There are people arguing, crying, screaming, and others that are confused and shocked. Most of them looked like they were freaking out and didn’t know what to do. But as Clare shifts her gaze, she sees Alec and Will, the most popular kids in school, with a group of others. They all seemed to be happy and excited, which was odd considering the situation. The only thing that Clare wondered at this moment was, what in the world is happening?

Veronica turns to Clare and says, “You should say something to try and calm everyone down.”

  “Why should I be the one to say something? I’m not good at talking to people. No one will listen to me anyway,” I replied. 

“Yes, they will. You are so good at talking and taking control. You can do this sis!” 

“No I can’t V. You know that I have anxiety and I don’t think I can do it.” 

“I promise I’ll be right next to you the entire time. I’ve seen how you talk to people when you are comfortable. Just pretend that everyone is blindfolded and in the middle of the crowd are mom and dad. Let me go get you the megaphone.” Veronica heads back into their house as if it was any other day. On the other hand, Clare was contemplating whether or not she should talk to everyone. But she ultimately decides to face her fear when she remembers what her dad used to say. “Be strong. Only by overcoming hardship can come ease.” Her dad would always tell her this when she was nervous or feeling anxious. She held onto those words as she mentally prepared to talk to all these strangers. 

Veronica comes out with the megaphone and hands it to Clare. Clare goes to the middle of the street and clears her throat. “Hi everybody. My name is Clare Mayfield.” She stutters as everyone looks at her. She closes her eyes and takes a deep breath. “I don’t know what is going on but we all have to calm down and try to figure things out.” Clare thinks of her mom and dad. Where are they now? How do I get them back? “This is a very stressful situation and we need to be united. As far as I know, all the parents have disappeared and we are the only ones left.” She looks directly in the middle and sees her parents smiling at her. She smiles back, “We will figure it out and we will try to solve this problem together. Let’s meet tonight at 7 p.m. at the local park and discuss the things we need to do.” She looks to the side and sees Alec and Will upset, but she ignores them and continues, “I’ll see you all later. For now, get some rest and try to relax.” 

Clare walks back inside her house and drops the megaphone. Veronica follows in with Amita and Zahra. She runs to them and gives them a big hug. Clare, Amita, and Zahra have been best friends since fifth grade and they are inseparable. “I love all three of you so much and I need you guys to get through this,” Clare tells the three girls in front of her. 

“We love you too. Clare, we will always be here for you,” Amita says.

Zahra holds Clare’s hands and tells her, “Whatever you need, I will be there to give it to you. Now let’s plan out what you are going to say tonight.” 

“Okay, so we need a few rules and orders. We also need some people in charge,” Clare says. 

“Let’s get started!” Veronica says. 

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After a couple of hours, they gather their notes and ideas and head to the park. Clare sees many people on their way and gets happy. Wow, they are actually listening to me, she thinks to herself. As they arrive, she starts to get anxious. To calm down, she relaxes her shoulders, takes a deep breath, and remembers her father’s encouraging words. “Be strong. Only by overcoming hardship can come ease.”  

She stands in the front, megaphone in hand, and starts to talk. “Hi everybody. It’s so nice to see you again. So here are a few things that we need to discuss. First, we should make a list of all the people that are still here. I don’t know how long we are staying here so let’s keep inventory on food, water, and anything else that can run out. A few more things; anyone with medical conditions that need to be treated should let me know and there should be living arrangements so one is left alone. Lastly, we need to figure out what is happening and how to get all the adults back,” Clare says confidently. The whole time she thought of how proud her parents would be and how much she misses them. “My main goal is to keep everyone safe and get back to our normal lives. Does anyone have any questions or things I forgot to mention?” Clare asks.

“Hi, my name is Alejandro, and I have a question. How will we find out what is happening? Do you have any plans?” He asks. Alejandro is a tall man, with olive skin and curly hair. Clare has seen him around but she has never talked to him. He seems like a nice guy. 

“Hey Alejandro. I have a few things to start with. Some people will be assigned to search the town borders and see if there is anything or anyone there. Others will search for clues in libraries, offices, and schools. If anyone sees something abnormal, then report to me immediately,” Clare replies. 

“Now we have two more things on the agenda. Jobs and leadership. Jobs will be chosen for you every week. We will all do different jobs. Some people will cook, others will clean, and others will help maintain order. We also have leadership. Everyone will get a chance to elect who they want to be in charge. I present myself as one of the candidates and if anyone wants to run against me—” Clare stops talking because of an interruption.

“I am Alec Williams, and I think that everything you are saying is wrong. Why should we bring the parents back? We can live by ourselves. No rules. No one to tell us what we can do. We have the choice to do anything. So why listen to this girl about all these rules and jobs when we can party all night and day. Follow me and I’ll give you anything and everything that your heart desires,” Alec screams and all his friends around him cheer. 

Clare is surprised. Alec wants chaos and no order. This has all gone downhill, she thinks to herself. “I’m sorry Alec, but I don’t think that is a good idea. We need to be organized and have rules if we want to return to our normal lives. Your way of doing things is wrong and it will cause a mess,” Clare says angrily. 

Alec replies, “Fine, whoever wants to do things my way come with me, and whoever wants to be boring stay with Clare.” He turns around and starts walking in the direction of his house. About twenty people follow him. What was Clare supposed to do now? 

Clare wraps up the meeting and heads back to her house. She is mad at Alec but she is mostly mad at the world. I can’t do this without my parents. I need them. 

——————————————

Two weeks later, there has been no progress on the situation. The search parties have been useless and they haven’t spotted any clues. But Clare is doing great as their leader and everything is running smoothly. There was also the fact that Alec and his friends have been partying nonstop, but she chooses to ignore that. 

As Clare heads to the park for lunch with Veronica, Amita, and Zahra, they see Alec, Will, and the rest of their group. They approach the screaming group.“What is happening?” Amita asks them. “We are here to take Clare’s power. Now you can come willingly or we can force you,” Alec says, staring into Clare’s eyes. “I’m not going to go with you. Stop acting so childish, we are dealing with a serious problem and all you’re doing is partying. Leave me alone.” Clare tells Alec in a fierce way that makes her seem confident. 

Alec and Will start to come closer with a rope in their hands. They want to imprison Clare and take her power. They want to cause chaos. But Clare wasn’t going to let them. She has to be strong, the way her dad taught her to be. “Stop! What are you doing?” Veronica screams as Alec harshly pushes Clare. Veronica runs to Clare and tries to fight them off but they are too strong. Clare struggles in Alec’s hands, wishing this was all a dream. She pushes, kicks, and tries to hurt them but they don’t stop. Veronica pushes Will and he falls to the ground. Will gets angry and suddenly his expression changes. He seemed happy but now he wanted revenge. He puts his hand in his jacket and pulls something out. It was a gun. He points the gun at Veronica and shoots her in the stomach. Clare couldn’t see what was happening but she heard the sound. All the screaming stops, everyone seems to be disturbed. Clare and Alec turn to see Veronica falling with blood everywhere. “No, what did you do! I need her!” Clare sobs as she falls to her knees. Alec releases his grip on Clare and says to the group of rebels, “Imprison Will. He is dangerous.” Immediately, two people who look like guards take hold of Will and drag him away. 

“Hold on V. Everything will be okay. I love you so much.” Clare says with her sister dying in her arms. 

“Just tell mom and dad that I love them and that I wish I was there to reunite with them.”

“No, you aren’t dying. You’re going to be okay. Please don’t leave me.”

“I love you big sis. I know you can get our parents back, don’t give up,” Veronica says on her dying breath. 

“No, this can’t be happening. I need you V. This can’t be real,” Clare sobs into her sister’s body. After an hour, Amita and Zahra pull Clare away and start walking to their house. Alec follows, holding Veronica’s body. 

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It’s been exactly one week since Veronica’s death. Clare doesn’t know how to deal with her sister’s death. They held a small funeral for her and buried her but nothing seems to give Clare closure. She locked herself in her room for two days, and didn’t eat, drink or talk to anyone. Amita and Zahra try comforting her but all she does is shut them out. So everyone decides to leave her alone so she can cope in her own ways. 

One day, Alec knocks on her door. She lets him in even though she doesn’t want to see him. But he has been in control for the past week and he has done a good job. He stopped the partying, imprisoned Will, and helped Clare with her job till she felt better. In all honesty, Alec feels guilty for Veronica’s death. He wants to make it up to Clare and tell her that he made many mistakes. 

“Hey Clare. How are you feeling?” Alec says as he comes into the room. 

“How do you think I feel? I watched my sister die in my arms without my parents. I don’t know what to do. I took control for V but she’s not even here anymore,” she says in a low voice.

“I’m so sorry. I can’t even imagine what you are going through. But I came here today to apologize for my actions and everything that happened because of them. I know that I was acting childish and that I should’ve just listened to you. Honestly, for once, I just wanted to be the one who told people what to do. I never wanted this to happen. Please forgive me,” Alec pleads. He actually seems sorry. Clare doesn’t blame him for Veronica’s death, she blames Will. 

Clare believes what he says, she tells him, “I forgive you for all of your actions. It’s not you I blame, it’s Will. I think that if we work together, we can get our parents back. Thank you for the apology. Truce?” She asks, extending her arm. 

“Truce,” he replies and shakes her hand. 

“I need to do something, but I’ll see you later,” Clare says, climbing out of her bed. She puts on a pair of slippers and walks out of her room. She needed to clear her head and think. So she heads to the woods where she and Veronica once buried a few items when they were younger. She wants to see if they are still there. Surrounded by trees and dirt, she finds the place. It is supposed to be marked with two wooden sticks, one with the letter V and one with the letter C. But instead of the wooden sticks, she sees something else, a gravestone. When she takes a closer look, she notices something strange. She is surprised to see her name on it. But she isn’t dead. Why would her name be on the gravestone? She thinks of her sister and her parents. She thinks of the wise words her dad gave her. After everything she has been through in the past couple of weeks, she finally found it. “The first clue,” she whispers to herself.