Winner of the Brandon Public Library's 2018 Teen Short Story Contest.

A little girl was born into a family abundant with love. Her parents named her Nura, meaning “filled with light.” That is what she was to them, and in fact for many, that is, until she lost everything that made her happy.

It was one accident that destroyed everything. Her family was ripped apart, merely hanging on by a single weak thread of hope that things could return to how they were. Her once promising future was no longer possible. Instead, her free, independent spirit was trapped and strapped down to a hospital bed. The accident destroyed her heart, broke her spirit, and tainted her soul with a darkness she never knew she could possess.

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It infuriated her that it all just seemed to be a coincidence. That she just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Nura just watched it all happen. Life steered her into a seemingly inescapable fortress of depression, while she witnessed the destruction from the passenger seat. Nura’s life crumbled to pieces right in front of her eyes, and she could not do anything to stop it. Suddenly, Nura was not the embodiment of her name, no longer bright and hopeful, but instead cold and empty. With all the life sucked out of her, she was a fragile shell of who she once was.

“There’s a difference between being alone and feeling lonely,” was what Nura used to tell her mother, before the accident, when she would complain about how Nura needed to go out and make friends. She did not mind being by herself, in fact; she enjoyed the quietness. It was not until days after the accident that she had become all too familiar with the feeling of loneliness. The unexpected event left her paralyzed from the waist down, deaf, and with enough pain for a lifetime. Everything about her recovery was uncertain, whether she would regain her hearing or walk again. Now, Nura drowned in the silence that she was once fond of was, but had no energy to fight against it.

The first few days after the accident were a blur. She was numb to the world passing by her. People visited, get well soon cards were given, but her four remaining senses were too overwhelmed to process anything happening before her. Many tried to get through to Nura, but they could not break down the wall of depression and solitude built around her in fear of being hurt again. So, alone she suffered and endured the pain of recovery and of loss.

One day Nura’s nurse decided it was a good idea for her to get some fresh air and wheeled her outside. The nurse smiled and said something to her which only deepened the permanent frown etched on her face. Nura never understood why people would try to talk to her when they knew she was deaf.

Once she was left alone, she inhaled deeply. The air smelled almost sweet, like the aroma of cinnamon that would overflow from the kitchen to her room just months ago. Nura felt the sun on her skin for the first time in weeks. The warmth cloaked her like cozy blankets used to on lazy weekends. The whisper of a gentle breeze made her dark hair tickle the sensitive skin on her shoulders. Somehow, through the silence she could hear the soft hum of her mother’s voice shaking her awake. Nura closed her eyes and then she was there. Home.

Suddenly, in the still waters, there was a ripple.

Nura always spent her time indoors, but her unfamiliar surroundings, at that moment, awakened memories of what was most familiar to her. It was then when she realized she had missed so much. Nura had been too numb to feel anything. All her raw emotions flooded in all at once. The contrasting waves crashed and smashed and collided, causing storm to rage through the once quiet sea.

Nura felt everything.

A lump formed in her throat and it was hard to breath. Tears clouded her dark eyes as she relived losing everything that stole her light away. It was loud, now, too loud.

A face came into her view. It was a man with a dark, curly hair and worried emerald eyes that stared back at her. His mouth moved slowly but of course Nura did not hear it. She did not bother to wipe the continuous flow of tears down her flushed cheeks as she looked up at him through wet eyelashes. The man ran a hand through his dark locks. He was confused and unsure of what to do but felt compelled to help her.

So, he did the only thing he knew how. The young man gently wrapped his arms around Nura's small frame. Suddenly, she was pulled to the surface. Nura coughed and sobbed and gasped for air to fill her lungs. Pain stabbed at every nerve ending in her body. For a split second, the thought of not breathing at all seemed better than struggling, but then the man squeezed her tight as if to remind her that he was there. That was all she needed to realize how much she missed how nice felt to be held and comforted. He was her life buoy, and she held on tight afraid that the warmth she felt in that moment would vanish and the numbness would once again paralyze her mind just like it did to her legs. She cherished that comfort because she knew how horrible the results of taking things for granted can be.

Nura expected nothing of that man after that day. She could not have been more wrong. He showed up the next day after being escorted in by her nurse. She had been in bed all day watching random television shows when the man waved to her from the hospital room door. In the green-eyed boy's hands were two cans of pop and a tub of popcorn which he offered to her generously. Nura was hesitant at first, but accepted, and they both turned to the TV, which was playing a Halloween movie. She had almost forgotten about the holiday.

The man turned the subtitles on so that she could follow along with the movie. A shy smile tugged on the corners of Nura's mouth, which surprised her. She could not remember the last time her mouth stretched into the foreign shape. The curly-headed man grinned back and they continued to watch. For days this went on. Some days he would bring popcorn and a deck of cards; sometimes he would just sit with her. Nura did not know him, not even his name, but each time he'd walk through that door, Nura felt less and less alone.

The man kept her afloat.

Some days, Nura felt like she would never recover. Some days, the idea of slipping back into the cold, but inviting arms of depression seemed so much easier than swimming through the pain. He was always there to remind her she was more than just a broken spirit in an even more broken body. She learned to trust again, to not see everyone as a threat to defend herself against. She learned to lean on the people she loved in times of trouble and not to push them away. The man gave her hope. For once in a long time, days spent alone in the hospital, did not feel so lonely.

Slowly but surely, the silence dissipated.

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