Soul Siblings is a serialized novella written by young writers, each taking responsibility for one or more chapters (or episodes). The novella features three high-school students experiencing problems that are, unfortunately, not uncommon among teenagers today.
Every month, a new episode will be published in our newsletter, The Full Circle. The complete story (so far) is published below.
Enjoy the story!
∼ by Ariana Moore
Eventually we all discover who we are or who we want to be… we didn’t always think that mattered. When you were five, most likely all you needed to know was that you were adorable and that people would feed you, put you to sleep and care for you, and all you needed to do was play and enjoy yourself. The thought of where to go to college was oblivious to you, and ideas about what you wanted to be when you grew up didn’t venture outside of princess or astronaut.
When does this end? When do you NEED to know who YOU are and where you fit into this world? Kids usually start planning out their future -- sloppily, stone by stone, making the pieces squeeze together -- in middle school.
High school, however, is when your plan needs to make sense: apparently to everyone else BUT YOU. Things don’t always go as planned, though; you get stopped, get pushed, get teased and almost everyone hits a rock that makes their WHOLE life change.
However, contrary to what I have been expressing to you, your life does not have to be a dark place; even in the darkest places there will be light and in some light there is a darkness that you can heal. This is a story of differences: of love, hate, hurt and three great friends who went through all of these things, but most importantly this story is about the light that shone in all three of them.
Soul Siblings - Episode One
∼ by Ariana Moore
I sat on the cold floor of the janitor’s closet resting my back on the dirty wall, placing my hand on my chest in fear that my loud heartbeat would give away my hiding place. This was shaping up to be the perfect ending to the worst day. My mind could not help but think of what had happened earlier that day.
Ms. Winchester woke me up an hour late and insisted it was my fault because I should be able to wake up on my own. “Well, I could do that if you would let me use my alarm,” I had said, which then gave her the right to make me walk to school, so by the time I got here second period had already started. I then proceeded to sit down just to be told by some chick in a designer skirt ‘this seat is mine.’ After I refused to move she knocked my books to the ground and walked past.
In third period the same girl passed me a piece of paper saying absolutely nothing at all; then I got detention for passing notes. Then in fourth period . . . the closet door swung open and I sat up straight, hitting my head on the wall. It wasn’t the girls who had been chasing me, it was a girl about my age. She was crying just like me, she looked scared just like me; however, unlike me, who was perhaps overly aware of HER, she hadn’t seemed to see me. She stormed past and sat down on the other side of the shelves and started to hit the wall punching and slapping and crying. I didn’t know what it was about her but I wasn’t scared. I liked this girl; she was, in her own way I could tell, just like me.
“Excuse me, are you all right?” I said, still pressed up against the wall.
The girl spun around and I could see her face better now. She had been crying so much that her mascara was running down onto her jacket and she was gasping for breath and was now obviously trying to make it look like she hadn’t been crying at all.
“Yes, I’m fine. I just come here sometimes when, you know, I… uh umm.”
“It’s ok, I understand . . . I mean it’s just easier to be alone sometimes,” I said, scooting closer to this mysterious girl.
“Yeah, what’s your name?” the girl said, wiping the last of the tears from her red face.
“I’m Tess. I’m a sophomore.”
“I’m Shelby, I’m a sophomore too, but why haven’t I seen you until now?” she asked.
“Yeah, well, I’m a midyear transfer, you see, because . . .”
Once again the door swung open and another figure entered the room. I guess it was just Run Crying Into The Janitor’s Closet Day. But this time it was a guy. He was crying and I thought I had seen something on his face, but before he could even look at us he had collapsed down on the floor into a crying pile. Shelby and I looked at each other and I could tell that we both had the same urge to give this crying stranger a big hug. Instead, Shelby put her hand on his shoulder and said “Hey, are you okay, dude?”
He shot straight up and stared both of us in the eyes, absolutely paralyzed. We then saw that he was bleeding from a cut on his forehead.
“What happened . . . did someone do this to you?” I said, embracing the boy whose tears had slowed.
“Two juniors slammed my head against the locker … but I’m ok,” he explained, matter-of-factly. He was tall and skinny and his voice didn’t sound like you would expect, but nevertheless all you ever wanted to do was hug him.
“Why would they do that?!” I asked, but it looked like Shelby already knew.
“I’m just not like them in certain ways,” he said moving away from the hug I had unknowingly given him.
“What do you mean, like because of your race? I didn’t think this school was like that,” I said, and now looking back I realized how ignorant that sounded.
“This school isn’t like that… I’m different in other ways,” he said, but the vacant look on my face gave him the clue he was going to have to spell it out to me. “I’m gay,” he said.
“That’s horrible” I said, and thank heavens Shelby knew what I meant.
“No, no, she didn’t mean your sexual preference was horrible. What’s horrible is how they treat you because of it!” Shelby interjected. “I’m Shelby and this is Tess, and the truth is we were all here for some sad reason: two girls wouldn’t let me go to the restroom in the girls bathroom because they think I look like a boy, and Tess - well, why were you here, Tess?” Shelby spilled. Believe it or not, I had already grown accustomed to how forward she was.
“Let’s just say no one really likes the new transfer student very much and rumors have already started to circulate.” I said, rolling my eyes at how ridiculous the whole day had been. “By the way, we never learned your name, did we?” I turned my attention back to the tall bleeding boy sitting in the middle of the room.
“Montelle, my name is Montelle,” he said as a smile glimmered across his face, “and I can already tell that we will never be without friends again.”
And we all knew what he meant. That in this small janitor’s closet a ginormous bond was struck and it would last for a long time.
Soul Siblings - Episode Two
∼ by Ariana Moore
We decided to meet again the next day and we did . . . every day for the next week, in the same janitor’s closet. We would focus on getting to know one person’s story each day.
Turns out that when Montelle told his parents he was gay, the only one who accepted him was his mom; not even his brother or sister accepted his sexual preference. Then his mother passed away from cancer, and his father won’t let him go in the house unless it is the basement. Montelle is currently working at McDonald’s to pay for meals, so Shelby and I started bringing him lunch. It took a while, but he finally agreed to accept the lunches we packed.
Shelby has been struggling with depression for 14 years now. Her father does drugs and her mother is an alcoholic. Shelby never talks to her parents, and after her grandma died there was no one in her family who loved her.
“What about you, Tess?” Shelby said, scooting closer to me.
“Yeah, what’s your story?” said Montelle, sliding backwards to lean against the door
“My story… you don’t wanna hear my story,” I said, slouching down against the wall.
“You hear that, Shelby, she’s shy,” Montelle defended.
“Yeah, I guess we’ll just have to tickle it out of you,” said Shelby, as she attacked me with scrambling fingers. I laughed so hard I couldn’t stop myself.
“No, ha ha, no, stop it!” I said, trying to push her away in a loving way, but Montelle rushed to the aid of the tickle monster and began to tickle me as well.
“All right, All right, All right!” I said, shoving them aside.
“A long time ago, when I was seven or eight . . . .”
I then began to tell them how my mother left me at the door of a foster-care facility and that I was never wanted, and so I would go from house to house, and that there was a time when I was transferred every month. Then, just two years ago I was with this elderly woman whom I really loved -- and one month ago she passed on . . . and then I was here.
“Wow, I’m really sorry! Who are you with now?” Shelby asked, scooting close to my side.
“A younger woman named Haley Brook. We don’t get along too well. She’s one of those people who don’t GET teenagers, and wish they were crazy cat ladies like her.”
“That sucks!” Montelle said, pulling his legs in to sit cross-legged on the floor. “I mean, being a foster kid isn’t ALWAYS bad, but you know there are downsides and upsides to everything, and certain people sometimes get more of the bad than good. I know a lot of foster kids that have GREAT foster families.”
“That’s the first bell -- come on, let’s get to class,” I said, itching to change the subject.
Soul Siblings - Episode Three
∼ by Ariana Moore
We snuck out of the janitor’s closet with some haste. We all had study hall first period so we walked shoulder to shoulder down the hall way… well we tried.
Mike and Jordan were on their way down the hall - the captain and co-captain of the football team. Yes, they were as thick as they sound. They walked right in front of me and then turned quickly to deliberately bump right into Montelle nearly knocking him to the ground but with a reflex Montelle grabbed Mike’s shoulder and steadied himself and in that moment, that one STUPID simultaneous moment, EVERYONE and I mean EVERYONE separated and then surrounded Montelle in the middle with Mike and Jordan. I walked into the circle; Shelby followed close to my side as we stood on either side of Montelle.
“Sorry faggot but I don’t like GUYS!” Mike pushed Montelle to the ground I rushed down to help him up “So don’t touch me! I don’t want to get your disease!”
I could tell Montelle wanted to cry, but he was very good at holding back tears. I had to do something. I looked at Shelby. She could tell, I was gonna wait for a teacher. I could tell she was going to say something. Something smart, witty and that would get her in trouble but what would she have to lose?
“Oh so, because he’s gay, he likes every guy he sees?!” she said laughing scornfully. She continued, “I ‘m sorry for laughing but I had NO idea you were THAT dumb!”
She walks up to him so close it’s like she has no fear. “ Just one question… WHY would he like YOU? YOU’RE RUDE, BRUTISH, STUPID, CRUEL, HAVE NO EMOTIONAL RANGE! AND IF THAT WASN’T BAD ENOUGH we ALL know you have made out with half the girls at this school WHILE YOU WERE DATING VERONICA!”
Mike moved his hand to put his hands on her shoulder like he’s gonna pull one over on HER with his ‘I’m so hot look’.
“Oh no, don’t touch me! You like girls, so you must like me… I WOULDN’T WANT TO CATCH YOUR DISEASE…” She turned around and grabbed Montelle and me by the arm, “Come on you guys, lets get to class.”
Shelby had spit his own words right back in his face, she had shut Mike and Jordan RIGHT UP. But most importantly, she proved something to me. No matter how much I and many others would like to pretend that everything is fair and equal when it comes to people, the fact is it’s not - not yet anyways - and we need to fight and work to get it like that. Today even though, it wasn’t a HUGE or INTENDED thing, Shelby stood up to those bozos and someday they will wake up and realize she was right!
Soul Siblings - Episode Four
∼ by Uma Grandhi
“C’mon,” I grabbed Montelle’s arm, and motioned to Shelby with my hand. She looked back at me, fuming, and reluctantly followed me down the hallway.
“Those jerks… how dare they…” Shelby muttered, seething with rage. Reaching her arm behind my back, she tapped Montelle on the shoulder.
“Are you alright? We can ditch class if you want…” she trailed off, now focused on Montelle and not on how she wanted Mike and Jordan to get hit by a bus.
Montelle looked startled. “No way, I’m fine!” He mustered a weak smile, which was so heart-breaking, I had to put my arm around his shoulder. He looked down, ashamed.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry you guys had to endure that, just because you are my friends.”
“Of course not! Don’t be sorry!” Shelby immediately piped up.
“Yeah, nothing’s your fault, Montelle. We’re your friends because we choose to be, and we like you for who you are.” I chimed in.
“Thanks, guys,” he sighed.
By this time, the crowd behind us had disappeared and dispersed into their separate groups. We continued to walk, our arms around each other’s shoulders, through the eerily quiet hallway.
“Oh, look, it’s the three musketeers!” someone whispered.
“More like the three misfits!” another giggled. Shelby tried to spin around, ready to throw anybody to the ground, but I stopped her.
“Look, Shel, study hall is right up ahead!” I pointed, trying to calm her down.
“Fine,” she grumped. We all entered the classroom and took our seats. Countless pairs of eyes stared at us. As usual, the volunteer teacher was late, so students were sitting on top of desks, turned to talk to each other. As soon as we entered the room, the chatter stopped.
I made my way towards my seat in the back of the room, giving a little wave to Shelby and Montelle. On top of my desk, the same girl from before, who was wearing a pink dress and high-heeled shoes and carrying what seemed like a brand-name bag, smiled fakely at me.
“Oh, is this your seat? Sorry!” she hopped off and went to join her other brand-name bag-toting, lipgloss- wearing, smirking friends.
Looking down, my eyes widened. Black Sharpie squiggles covered the whole top of my desk, where she had been sitting. Looking up, I saw Montelle and Shelby looking worriedly at me. Almost automatically, I smiled and waved my hand at them, to signal it was nothing. Apparently it was very unconvincing, because Shelby and Montelle both got out of their seats and walked towards me at top speed. What we hadn’t noticed was that the door to the classroom had opened slightly, and all of the students had taken their seats.
“Was it Laura?” Shelby whispered.
“Who?” I said, still in shock.
“Laura, the girl who was sitting on your desk,” Montelle pointed to Laura, who was facing forward, snickering hysterically at her oh-so funny joke. “She was also the girl who talked to you on your first day.” Just then, the door swung full open, and an elderly-looking, short, and frowning lady stepped through the door.
“Oh no, it’s the Crab!” Shelby whispered.
“Who?” I asked. Clearly, learning names at this school was going to be harder than I thought.
“Mrs. Crabapple,” explained Montelle, “quite frankly, I couldn’t think of a better name for her. Why did she have to volunteer today?”
“Miss Shelby Johnson, Mr. Montelle Harris, and Miss Tessia Parker!” she barked, searching for my name on her seating chart. Apparently, she knew my name perfectly well, With one knobbly finger, she beckoned us, an evil sneer on her face.
Soul Siblings - Episode Five
∼ by Uma Grandhi
As soon as the bell rang, Shelby and Montelle caught up with me at my last class of the day. Both of them had grim looks on their faces, and I could tell that they had already experienced some “difficulty” on the way over.
“Let’s go,” Shelby ushered me forward, looking straight ahead.
As soon as the three of us started walking together, people stopped their normal end of the day chatter and stared at us as we passed. Hurried whispers rushed out of the mouths of on-lookers, and a few giggled quietly. How stupid is this school? I thought, seriously questioning the choices of the students here. Don’t these people realized they are just wasting everyone’s time?
I started to think about things from a different point of view as we got closer and closer to the detention room. Not only are they rude, but afer high school is over, what else would they have accomplished? What will they do with their lives? I started to feel bad for these ignorant people, who couldn’t make room in the world for those who were different.
Just as I started to think of how the people at this school became so ignorant, we reached the classroom that we would be spending one useless hour in. Montelle opened the door and we each found a desk, dropped our backpacks beside it, and slumped down in our seats. Surprisingly, we were the only ones who had detention. Then again, I mused, who else could get detention in this school? They’re all positively perfect.
“Welcome to Detention,” Mrs. Crabapple grabbed a marker from the ledge in front of the whiteboard and printed ‘DETENTION’ in perfect teacher-handwriting. “For the next one hour, from 3:00 to 4:00, there will be no talking, reading, working on homework, or activity in general. Food and drink are prohibited, and that includes gum.” Here, she paused to frown at each of us in turn and write her instructions on the board. “If I catch any of you with any electronics, and in fact, breaking any of these rules, the consequences will be one more detention. You may not get up to use the bathroom or get a drink of water. Your parents have already been notified of your detention, so you don’t need to worry about their concern.”
“As if,” Shelby snorted.
“What was that, Miss Johnson?” Mrs. Crabapple turned to Shelby and menacingly stared her down.
“Well, Mrs. Crabapple, when you said that we wouldn’t need to worry about our parents’ concern, I laughed because almost none of our parents are concerned about us.”
What was Shelby doing? Montelle shot me a confused look, and then turned back to Shelby.
“Why would your parents not be concerned about you?” Mrs. Crabapple looked intrigued.
“We’re mess-ups, to them. We’re wrong.”
Shelby seemed like she had forgotten who she was talking to. At the time, I had thought she was just angry, and she had wanted to let it out. Now, I realize that she had wanted help. She had wanted to take the first step to help for a long time, but hadn’t known where to begin.
“Why would you be ‘wrong’? You seem like perfectly normal children to me,” Mrs. Crabapple sat down at her desk, giving her full attention to Shelby. For once, she didn’t seem to be angry.
“Well, since my parents are both so high all the time, they seemed to have missed my fourteen years of depression. And Montelle’s dad can’t love his son because he-“ she stopped short and looked at Montelle, who was just listening. Then, he realized why she had stopped. Looking at Mrs. Crabapple and then Shelby, he nodded.
Shelby picked up right where she had le* off, using the same sharp tone of voice. “. . . because he doesn’t like girls. Tess?”
She looked at me now. I had no idea what to do. If I said yes, we would bring Mrs. Crabapple into this whole situation. What could she do? Would she even care? Currently, she was just sitting at her desk with an expectant look on her face, but how could I be sure that she would actually understand us? Facing Shelby directly, I shakily nodded my head. I think my reasoning at the time was that I couldn’t leave my two best friends alone. Secretly, I think I wanted help as well. We must have all been too tired to put up with any more harassment.
“Tess’s mom couldn’t even take care of her, so now she’s moving from foster home to foster home. So, we’re not ‘normal’ at all. We’re different.” Shelby finished, a note of finality on the word ‘different’.
Soul Siblings - Episode Six
∼ by Uma Grandhi
After the gushing stream of words from Shelby’s mouth had subsided, Mrs. Crabapple looked at each of us in turn. For a while, the four of us sat in a somewhat terrifying silence. Then, the tension in the atmosphere snapped when Mrs. Crabapple spoke.
“I take it you didn’t draw all over your desk, then, Miss Parker,” she wore a small, sad smile that made me start to think of her as a human.
Dumbfounded, all three of us stared until I was somehow able to find my words.
“N-no ma’am,” I stuttered.
“You are all incredibly strong children. I had no idea this is what you were facing out of class. I must have made it more difficult,” she paused here and sighed, “and I apologize sincerely. You must be wondering why I was so rude to you. Recently, my husband passed away. I don’t wish to gain your sympathy for this, but to let you know. You have made me realize there is no point in being bitter. Thank you,” she ended, the same smile on her face.
“Rather than give you sympathy, we wish to give you empathy,” Montelle spoke up, sounding wiser than ever. Mrs. Crabapple looked at him, surprised. Then, a genuine smile spread across her face, making her look like she had not lost any of her loved ones.
“Ma’am, why do you teach?” Shelby suddenly asked, a look of curiosity present in her eyes.
After thinking for a moment, Mrs. Crabapple answered.
“I love seeing people learn new things,” she laughed. “Though by high school, most of the students aren’t having fun learning at all.”
“Can you tutor us?” I questioned, and suddenly looked down. That was not what I had meant to say at all, I had just wanted to thank her and get on with the rest of my high school career.
Apparently, my mind had other ideas and wanted me to reach out and talk to someone. Looking back now, I’m so glad it did.
“It would be my pleasure, when would you like me to help you?”
“After school, on weekends, whenever,” Shelby smiled at me and nodded. Internally, I breathed a sigh of relief. Thank goodness she wasn’t mad at me.
“Yeah, any time is fine,” Montelle added, looking slightly relieved.
“This weekend sounds perfect for our first session. I’ll see you at this coffee shop,” she opened her desk drawer, grabbed the stack of Post-its, and scribbled something on three of them. Handing one to each of us, she glanced at the clock.
“It’s about four o’clock, so you’re free to go. Don’t worry about your detention, it won’t go on your discipline record.”
“Thanks,” Shelby replied as she stood up. Montelle and I followed suit, and the three of us left feeling much better than we had felt upon entering the room.
“This weekend will be interesting,” Shelby smiled as we neared the entrance of the school. I couldn’t have agreed more.
∼ To be continued.
About the authors
Ariana Moore is an actor in the 7th grade Theater Emphasis at the Oakland School for the Arts. She has performed in the OSA production of Les Miserables, and is in her 5th year as a company member of the youth-run Greenwood Players Shakespeare troupe. Ariana loves writing, and hopes to transfer to the Literary Arts program at OSA when she reaches high school; she'd like to someday attend UCLA and study theater and creative writing. She lives with her parents, two dogs, two budgies, and her bearded dragon, Yantampa.
Uma Grandhi is a student in the 7th grade attending Thomas S. Hart Middle School in Pleasanton. One day, she hopes to become a marine biologist, and study ocean life. In her free time, she likes to write, draw, read, listen to music, and take walks in parks. She lives with her parents and her little brother, Jay, who is in 1st grade.
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