When Shawna Sarah Anderson was born, her parents were overjoyed. Friends of Sarah and Michael Anderson showered the ecstatic couple and their new baby with gifts ranging from pacifiers to beds. They all knew how long the couple had tried to have a baby, and how important their baby was to them already.
But after a month of life with their daughter, the young husband and wife weren't so enthusiastic. Shawna was what all the baby books had called "a difficult baby." She cried for no reason, and often, and her demands for food every two hours exhausted the couple beyond their wildest dreams. While they still loved their darling daughter, they finally fully realized how much work a baby was.
"Why?" thought Shawna. "Why won't Mommy come and help me?" The little girl certainly wanted Mommy to come and help her, but she didn't know how to get her to come. "Maybe if I cry, Mommy will come and help so I don't have to learn to do this silly thing." Shawna considered this, then hauled herself up again and took another few steps. When the unavoidable fall came, instead of just sitting there, she immediately burst into floods of tears.
As her mother rushed to her and swept Shawna up in her arms, the toddler thought how easy it had been to outsmart Mommy.
" Teacher SAID it was MY turn." returned the sulky four year old boy who had been playing with the blocks. Playing with the blocks was Shawna's favourite activity and she resented that it was the older boy's turn. She was about to yell a retort at the boy when she saw the teacher was looking in her direction.
She realized that the teacher had told the boy it was his turn to play with the blocks, and if the teacher found them arguing over the blocks, he would almost certainly be mad at Shawna, not the boy.
With a sudden idea, Shawna changed her tactics and said politely " But Fred, I thought you liked the sandbox better than those silly old blocks."
" Huh? " said Fred, stunned by the girl's sudden change.
" Teacher said I could play in the sandbox today, and I love it so, but I thought you would like it if you got an extra chance to play there." Shawna said with a sweet smile.
" Don't you like the sandbox?" asked a still stupefied Fred.
" 'Course I do" replied Shawna. " But you can play there this time, 'cause I'm feeling nice today. You don't have to though, I could let Anne play in the sandbox instead...."
" No!" Fred almost shouted. " I'll switch with you!" Fred wasn't going to let a chance like this by. After all, everyone loved the sandbox.
" Ok, Fred, then you go over there...You're welcome!" said Shawna as she steered Fred to the sandbox. She grinned to herself as she started to build a castle with the blocks....her blocks.
" No, Shawna isn't a good student, she's the best." replied Shawna's second grade teacher. "She gets along well with all the other students, her grades are first rate and she never speaks out of turn."
" So why did you call us here then?" asked Sarah Anderson a bit waspishly. She was seven months pregnant and a little annoyed at the thought of coming here just to be told that her daughter was a good student, which she already knew.
" Well Mrs. Anderson, she seems to be a little worried about your new baby" replied the teacher evenly. " Recently she has been asking me questions about new babies which you, as her parents, should be answering."
" Now I know from Shawna's behaviour that you are both very good parents, but I don't think you realize how much a new baby, even an unborn one, can affect a young child's life. All she knows is that suddenly her parents aren't spending as much time with her, and this scares her. If you sit down and explain to her about the baby, and maybe spend some more time with her, she will probably feel a lot better."
" Oh! We didn't even realise," said Michael. " Thank you for the advice, we will definitely act on it."
" Only doing my job" replied the teacher.
From behind the door where she was listening, Shawna patted herself on the back for coming up with such a good plan to make her parents pay attention to her. Then she hurried back to the room where her parents had left her innocently playing with her doll, so that they wouldn't suspect anything.
Shawna ran up to the hill where she and her friends usually played. With her long blonde hair flying, she bossed about the group of twenty or so boys and girls who counted themselves her friend. Shawna was a natural leader and fun to be around...when she liked you. She tended to have huge fights with her friends over trivial matters, and then forget them the next day. But it was worth it, for anyone who wasn't her friend was immediately branded as a "geek" and ridiculed by his or her peers.
After Shawna had picked the teams, the game started, and for ten or so minutes, the playing field was a melee of running, laughing children. But as Shawna took a break on the sidelines, she noticed a small girl sitting by herself at the side of the school. Gesturing for the game to go on without her, she headed over to the solitary figure.
" Hello Lynsay," Shawna said pleasantly, startling the girl out of the book she was reading. " Don't you want to come and play soccer with us?"
" Ohh, ummm, that's okay," Lynsay said, staring at Shawna through her glasses.
" Awwwww, c'mon Lynsay, it'll be fun," Shawna wheedled. " Let's go, recess will be over soon!"
Before the girl had a chance to protest, Shawna pulled her to her feet and half pushed her toward the playing field. " Here, you can be on my team, " Shawna said as she re-entered the game with Lynsay in tow. Ignoring the stares, for Lynsay was NOT the kind of friend Shawna usually associated with, she planted Lynsay in the middle of the field and yelled for the game to start up again.
At first everything went fine and Lynsay was just starting to enjoy herself when everything went wrong. After missing a kick at the goal, Shawna exploded at the small girl.
" Why did you miss that kick!!!! It was so easy! ANYone could have made that shot!! You are so incompetent! Why did I ever even THINK that YOU could be good at soccer!!!" Shawna yelled at the now terrified girl. As Shawna took a breath to fuel her for more ranting, Lynsay abruptly broke into tears.
" Oh sure, crying's gonna help you now," Shawna said contemptuously as her friends, alerted by the yelling come over to watch. They weren't sure what had set their leader off, but were VERY glad it wasn't them.
Abruptly the bell rang, startling the group out of an awkward silence. Lynsay, only sniffling now, seemed to gather strength, and said at Shawna, " I'm gonna tell the teacher about you. You can't yell at me like that."
" But Lynsay dear, he won't believe you. I'm just a perfect little angel to THEM," said Shawna sweetly, all traces of her explosion gone. She batted her eyelashes coyly at Lynsay and ran off laughing. And Lynsay knew, with a sinking feeling, that Shawna was right.
Meanwhile Shawna started to date, and, when she was fifteen, decided it was time to go all the way with her current boyfriend, Daniel, who was 18.
She obtained permission from her parents (who were under the impression that Daniel was her Science tutor) to go to " the youth centre for a lecture on the particle theory".
First they went to a bar, and Daniel shared several beers with Shawna, murmuring enticing comments in her ear the whole time. When they got up she staggered a little bit, feeling very happy and slightly hot. Daniel helped her to his car, and they headed down backstreets to a spot Daniel said "would help the mood."
They were zooming along a deserted road when Daniel leaned over to kiss Shawna. Suddenly a car appeared out of nowhere, startling them. Daniel, blinded by the oncoming car's lights, served right in front of it. Shawna screamed as the the car rammed into them, and then everything went black.
"I'm here Mom." The simple greeting pushed Sarah Anderson over the edge and she began to cry tears of joy. Shawna was surprised at how weak her voice sounded, and wondered what had happened. She opened her eyes to see that she was in a hospital bed, and hooked up to many machines which buzzed and beeped. Her mother and brother stood staring at her, the evidence of their recent crying written on both their faces.
" Oh baby, I love you so much," said her mother. " Do you remember what happened?" When Shawna shook her head, causing more pain to throb through her, her mother continued. " You were travelling down a backroad near the edge of town when another car hit you head on. Daniel is fine (your father is talking to him now), but you have severe head fractures, a broken leg and some internal bleeding. The doctors don't know if you will...How do you feel?"
"I feel..," Shawna paused as her father suddenly strode into the room, and whispered to her mother urgently. With a few polite words, her parents walked out to talk in the hall. Her brother left to get a drink, and Shawna was alone with her thoughts.
During her mother's description of the crash she had remembered everything, including what she and Daniel had been going to do. She had to force herself to remember what had happened, as everything she thought was covered in a dense fog of pain that clouded her mind.
Then she remembered what she had seen just after the crash, before everything went black. Shawna had seen her life flash before her eyes, and she didn't like what she saw. Shawna realized that all her life she had been deceiving her parents. It seemed like that was the only way she had known to get things. The crash, coupled with the powerful image of her mother crying over her (her mother had never cried before) made her realize that her parents really DID love her. They loved her, and she had spent her whole life lying to them.
It was at this point that Shawna's parents came back into the room. They were both very tight-lipped, and came over to stand on either side of Shawna's bed.
"Daniel told us everything," her father said quietly, with barely suppressed anger in his voice. "He told us what you were really going to do tonight, and that we were obviously not good parents because you had to..to LIE to get what you wanted."
"How could you do this to us?" sobbed her mother, crying again, but her tears were not of joy this time. "We loved you, and trusted you, and this is how you repay us?"
Through the thick fog and blinding headache that made it hard to concentrate, Shawna perceived that her parents knew, and were mad at her deceptions. She finally felt the flow of guilt that she had been suppressing for so long.
She realized that her parents had protected her, and loved her, while she had lied and hated them. They had never done anything that she could be mad at, only kept her from things that would hurt her. She didn't deserve parents as nice as these. Shawna finally knew what she had done to her parents, and she knew what she had to say. Now if only she could stay awake long enough. Her head hurt so much, and all she wanted to do was rest...
Suddenly one of the monitors on the side of her bed started shrieking a warning, and a nurse came quickly into the room. Still deeply hurt by their daughter's dishonesty and betrayal, Shawna's parents did something they would later regret; they turned away.
Wrapped in their own personal struggles, Shawna's parents did not hear their daughter's last words.
" I'm sorry," whispered Shawna, and then died.
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