I get so god damn lonely and sad and filled with regrets some days. It overwhelms me as I’m sitting on the bus; watching the golden leaves from a window; a sudden burst of realisation in the middle of the night. I can’t help it and I can’t stop it. I’m alone as I’ve always been and sometimes it hurts…. but I’m learning to breathe deep through it and keep walking. I’m learning to make things nice for myself. To comfort my own heart when I wake up sad. To find small bits of friendship in a crowd full of strangers. To find a small moment of joy in a blue sky, in a trip somewhere not so far away, a long walk an early morning in December, or a handwritten letter to an old friend simply saying ”I thought of you. I hope you’re well.”No one will come and save you. No one will come riding on a white horse and take all your worries away. You have to save yourself, little by little, day by day. Build yourself a home. Take care of your body. Find something to work on. Something that makes you excited, something you want to learn. Get yourself some books and learn them by heart. Get to know the author, where he grew up, what books he read himself. Take yourself out for dinner. Dress up for no one but you and simply feel nice. it’s a lovely feeling, to feel pretty. You don’t need anyone to confirm it.I get so god damn lonely and sad and filled with regrets some days, but I’m learning to breathe deep through it and keep walking. I’m learning to make things nice for myself. Slowly building myself a home with things I like. Colors that calm me down, a plan to follow when things get dark, a few people I try to treat right. I don’t sometimes, but it’s my intent to do so. I’m learning.I’m learning to make things nice for myself. I’m learning to save myself.I’m trying, as I always will.

~ Charlotte Eriksson

Have you seen Sam?” Mary asked.“What do you want with Sam?”“I can’t take care of all those littles with just John to help me.”Howard shrugged. “Who asked you to?”That was too much. Mary was tall and strong. Howard, though a boy, was smaller. Mary took two steps toward him, pushing her face right into his. “Listen, you little worm. If I don’t take care of those kids, they’ll die. Do you understand that? There are babies in there who need to be fed and need to be changed, and I seem to be the only one who realizes it. And there are probably more little kids still in their homes, all alone, not knowing what’s happening, not knowing how to feed themselves, scared to death.”Howard took a step back, tentatively lifted the bat, then let it fall. “What am I supposed to do?” he whined.“You? Nothing. Where’s Sam?”“He took off.”“What do you mean, he took off?”“I mean him and Quinn and Astrid took off.”Mary blinked, feeling stupid and slow. “Who’s in charge?”“You think just because Sam likes to play the big hero every couple years that makes him the guy in charge?”Mary had been on the bus two years ago when the driver, Mr. Colombo, had had his heart attack. She’d had her head in a book, not paying attention, but she had looked up when she felt the bus swerve. By the time she had focused, Sam was guiding the bus onto the shoulder of the road.In the two years that followed, Sam had been so quiet and so modest and so not involved in the social life of the school that Mary had sort of forgotten that moment of heroism. Most people had.And yet she hadn’t even been surprised when it was Sam who had stepped up during the fire. And she had somehow assumed that if anyone was going to be in charge, it would be Sam. She found herself angry with him for not being here now: she needed help.“Go get Orc,” Mary said.“I don’t tell Orc what to do, bitch.”“Excuse me?” she snapped. “What did you just call me?”Howard gulped. “Didn’t mean nothing, Mary.”“Where is Orc?”“I think he’s sleeping.”“Wake him up. I need some help. I can’t stay awake any longer. I need at least two kids who have experience babysitting. And then I need diapers and bottles and nipples and Cheerios and lots of milk.”“Why am I going to do all that?”Mary didn’t have an answer. “I don’t know, Howard,” she said. “Maybe because you’re really not a complete jerk? Maybe you’re really a decent human being?”That earned her a skeptical look and a derisive snort.“Look, kids will do what Orc says,” Mary said. “They’re scared of him. All I’m asking is for Orc to act like Orc.”Howard thought this over. Mary could almost see the wheels spinning in his head.“Forget it,” she said. “I’ll talk to Sam when he gets back.”“Yeah, he’s the big hero, isn’t he?” Howard said, dripping sarcasm. “But hey, where is he? You see him around? I don’t see him around.”“Are you going to help or not? I have to get back.”“All right. I’ll get your stuff, Mary. But you better remember who helped you. You’re working for Orc and me.”“I’m taking care of little kids,” Mary said. “If I’m working for anyone, it’s for them.”“Like I say, you remember who was there when you needed them.” Howard turned on his heel and swaggered away.

~ Michael Grant