They will hate you if you are beautiful. They will hate you if you are successful. They will hate you if you are right. They will hate you if you are popular. They will hate you when you get attention. They will hate you when people in their life like you. They will hate you if you worship a different version of their God. They will hate you if you are spiritual. They will hate you if you have courage. They will hate you if you have an opinion. They will hate you when people support you. They will hate you when they see you happy. Heck, they will hate you while they post prayers and religious quotes on Pinterest and Facebook. They just hate. However, remember this: They hate you because you represent something they feel they don’t have. It really isn’t about you. It is about the hatred they have for themselves. So smile today because there is something you are doing right that has a lot of people thinking about you.

~ Shannon L. Alder

You’re innocent until proven guilty,” Mandy exclaimed, unable to hide her gleeful smile. She missed the way people used to have normal conversations, used to be more caring for each other than themselves, back in the Seventies and Eighties. These days, she realized, neighbors kept to themselves, their kids kept to themselves, nobody talked to each other anymore. They went to work, went shopping and shut themselves up at home in front of glowing computer screens and cellphones… but maybe the nostalgic, better times in her life would stay buried, maybe the world would never be what it was. In the 21st century music was bad, movies were bad, society was failing and there were very few intelligent people left who missed the way things used to be… maybe though, Mandy could change things. Thinking back to the old home movies in her basement, she recalled what Alecto had told her. “We wanted more than anything else in the world to be normal, but we failed.” The 1960’s and 1970’s were very strange times, but Mandy missed it all, she missed the days when Super-8 was the popular film type, when music had lyrics that made you think, when movies had powerful meanings instead of bad comedy and when people would just walk to a friend’s house for the afternoon instead of texting in bed all day. She missed soda fountains and department stores and non-biodegradable plastic grocery bags, she wished cellphones, bad pop music and LED lights didn’t exist… she hated how everything had a diagnosis or pill now, how people who didn’t fit in with modern, lazy society were just prescribed medications without a second thought… she hated how old, reliable cars were replaced with cheap hybrid vehicles… she hated how everything could be done online, so that people could just ignore each other… the world was becoming much more convenient, but at the same time, less human, and her teenage life was considered nostalgic history now.Hanging her head low, avoiding the slightly confused stare of the cab driver through the rear view mirror, she started crying uncontrollably, her tears soaking the collar of her coat as the sun blared through the windows in a warm light.

~ Rebecca Mcnutt

Luke said that he was surprised when I showed up at his room. That he hadn’t meant to give me the wrong idea. That he would never have taken it beyond just kissing. And he looked so genuine. So trustworthy. So sorry about what had happened. He almost convinced me that I’d misread his signals.” Hallelujah pauses. “The whole time, I kept my mouth shut. I wish I hadn’t. But I was still so humiliated. And I felt guilty. I made out with him. I liked it. And no one made me go to his room.”Her voice breaks. She has to swallow past a lump in her throat.“I know Luke’s not a good guy. I know what he did isn’t my fault. It’s his. But still, none of it would’ve happened if I hadn’t gone to his room.”She’s almost there. Almost done. Almost heard. Something deep inside her hurts like it hasn’t hurt in a long time. But she knows that this gash had to reopen in order to heal. That’s how wounds work. They need air.“I knew I’d get punished, and I did. My parents grounded me. I was put on youth group probation. But I honestly thought Luke’s lies would just fade away if I kept a low profile. There’s always gossip about someone. This time it was me.”...“Luke is still telling people about what supposedly happened that night,” Hallelujah says. “And he makes fun of me. All the time. What I look like, what I say, my name. And he does this thing at church: whenever we sing a hymn with my name in it, he sings it like he’s hooking up with me. He sings the word ‘hallelujah’ at me. He moans it. And I hate it.” That’s one of the reasons she stopped singing: his voice, his fake grunts of satisfaction, ruining the music she loved so much.“You said,” she says to Jonah, “he wanted to keep me upset. To keep me from telling anyone what really happened. Well, it worked.” She pauses. “Until now.”“Until now,” Rachel repeats. Then she curses. “I can’t believe him. I can’t believe he got away with it.”“I let him get away with it,” Hallelujah says softly.“No. He’s the one who crossed the line. And okay, maybe you could’ve spoken up sooner. But if no one pushed you for your side of the story, that’s on them.” Rachel yawns and stretches. “And when we get home, we’re going to set the record straight.

~ Kathryn Holmes

I know what I'm talking about, Alecto! When I think of Jud, I think of the times he wanted to be a coal miner, the times he took Wendy and me sailing in the harbour, the times he showed me how to play soccer, but I forgot all the bullying and I’ll never understand why. And now you ask me, you ask me what happened once we were in high school. You said you didn’t understand what having a family was like, so ask me!” Mandy was shouting at him without even realizing it, her words sharp and unforgiving.“I….” Alecto started, hesitating for a moment. “You don’t seem like yourself Mandy Valems, not at all….”“No, go ahead! You want to know what having a real family is like?” Mandy snapped, turning to stare at him coldly. “Ask me what happened, I’ll tell you anything you want to know!”“…What happened?” Alecto asked quietly, looking nervous and confused.“I stayed late after school in shop class when I was in grade 9, trying to keep my lousy grades up. I was building a birdhouse, something like that, and that was when Jud and all his popular jock friends came storming in, laughing and swearing like a bunch of pigs,” Mandy continued. “So ask me what happened next.”“I… I don’t want to ask you what happened,” Alecto replied.“Ask me!” Mandy yelled.“Alright, what happened next…?” Alecto questioned.

~ Rebecca Mcnutt