It happened for the first time the day my sister, Rachel, left. It’s just the two of us kids in the family, so it was a big deal to all of us when she moved out for college. My parents (who’d always loved her more than me in my opinion) cried when we dropped her off, even though the school was only like an hour from home. She’d probably even come home every weekend. But it was still a big deal. I was the only one at home now.
Rachel and I had never been that close. We got along, but she was like 4 years older than me, so we didn’t have a lot in common. So when she left, I wasn’t too bothered. She’d hardly been at home at all anyway.
My parents didn’t take it well though. When I say they loved her more, I mean it. The whole way back in the car all they could talk about was how proud they were of Rachel and what a great young lady she turned out to be. As for me, when I asked if we could stop at Wendy’s, they seemed to not hear me. It was kind of annoying at first, but when we got home for dinner and Rachel was still all they talked about at the table, I was getting kind of pissed off.
“Mom, can I go to Erin’s?” I asked when I was done eating.
Mom finally noticed that she had another daughter sitting at their dining room table. “Not now, Grace.”
“What? Why?” They usually always let me go whenever I wanted to.
“Listen to your mother and don’t give her that attitude,” dad said, hardly looking up from his mashed potatoes.
“I just want to know why I can’t.”
Mom started tearing up. I hated it when she did that, it made me feel like a horrible person. “We’re having family time now. You always run off to your friends’ and don’t spend time with your family.”
I knew they were just emotional over Rachel, but it still made me mad. “Family time? Rachel’s not here, and all you two are doing is talking about her like she’s dead!” I stood up.
“Sit back down, young lady,” my dad said in a dangerous tone. He had anger issues, which is where I got my short temper from.
“I’m finished. Can’t I even leave the table?”
“You may be excused,” mom said disappointedly, “but you’re not going anywhere tonight.”
I walked to my room and slammed the door. They didn’t even love me, all they cared about was stupid Rachel. I kicked the leg of the bed and immediately grabbed my foot. Oww. I sat down on the floor, holding my throbbing foot. I just wanted to get out of this house.
That’s when it happened.
Everything got blurry in my line of vision and started swirling around. I felt dizzy and suddenly everything went black.
I thought I’d fainted, but I was still very conscious of what was happening. A faint light came into sight and everything got brighter. I blinked in the bright light and suddenly realized that I wasn’t in my room any longer.
I was sitting on grass on a hill right over a huge drop into what looked like the ocean.
It was sunny, and a warm breeze rustled through the grass and stroked my cheek. The waters crashed into the mountain I was sitting on. There was blue for as far as I could see. I turned around to see what was behind me. A forest rose not far from me. It was thick, and I couldn’t see anything past it.
I shook my head. This had to be a dream. But it was pretty realistic. I could smell the salt water and everything. I touched the grass. It all felt so real. I stood up and walked toward the forest. The trees towered me. They were some kind of fir, but their leaves didn’t start until higher up, so most of the trunk was bare. I walked in a little, not wanting to go too far and lose my way. The bark of the trees felt rough on my hands and the crunch of leaves and branches under my feet caused me to realize I didn’t have shoes on. I was wearing the exact same clothes I’d had on in my room. Weird.
After walking around for a while, I got back to the edge of the precipice and looked over the edge. Good thing I wasn’t scared of heights. I sat down and started thinking. If this was a dream, it was a long one. And really detailed. And it didn’t feel like one either. When do you sit around in a dream waiting for it to be over?
But what if it wasn’t a dream? That meant it was real. And I had no idea where I was or how to get out of here. I started to feel panic rise in my stomach. It didn’t make sense, but who knew? There was no other way to explain this.
I lay back in the grass and closed my eyes. Maybe I would wake up and all of this would be gone. The blades of grass tickled my ears. It was really nice actually. I would’ve enjoyed it if I knew where I was, how I got here, and how this was possible.
I don’t even know how long I was in that place, but nothing seemed to change, and I was getting more and more convinced that this was not a dream. I started walking toward the woods again. Maybe there was a way out.
I picked a direction and tried to walk straight. I had to end up somewhere. I tripped a few times over branches in my way, and my big toe throbbed. I was breathing heavily before the trees started thinning out ahead. When I got to the edge of the forest, I was literally on the edge of the precipice again. There was nothing below me but the swirling, crashing water. I guessed that this had to be a very small island if I could walk the whole length of it in such a short time.
That made me panic again. If all that this was an island, then how would I get off of it? What would I eat and drink? How would I survive?
“I just want to go home,” I whispered to myself.
And just like that, my vision started blurring and got black and the slight wind I’d felt on the island was gone. When I could see again, I was standing in my room, facing my closet.
I went to bed extremely confused that night.
The second time it happened was about a week later after lunch at school. Drew, Erin, Ryan, and I sat at our usual table off to the side, where we weren’t the center of attention but we could watch everyone else. I had a salad, as usual, and hated every bite, as usual. Meanwhile, Ryan was devouring a piece of pizza right across from me. As much as I loved him (he was Erin’s boyfriend, so I had to), he was driving me crazy. I just wanted to tear the pizza out of his hands and stuff it in my mouth.
I tried to distract myself by listening to Drew tell Ryan about the new video game he was really into. Erin couldn’t care less about that stuff. She lazily took a fry off Ryan’s plate and ate it. She could get away with that because she was super skinny. So it was just a typical day in the lunchroom.
That was when Kaylee and her squad walked by. They were the kind of people that you hated, but you secretly wanted to be them at the same time. One time I’d whispered to Erin in class that Kaylee looked like a fish when she puffed her cheeks while she was thinking, and one of her minions had heard me and told Kaylee. Since then, they’d made my life a living hell.
I hunched over my food. Maybe they wouldn’t see me.
It didn’t work. Kaylee stopped beside our table for a second and tossed her flowing hair. “Look, girls. Grace is eating a salad again. Too bad it’s not doing her any good.”
The other girls snickered and kept walking. Erin gave me a sympathetic look, but the guys were too busy with their discussion to notice.
“I need to go to the bathroom,” I mumbled and rushed out of the lunchroom before I started crying.
I locked myself in a stall and took deep breaths to calm down. I tried not to stare at the toilet. It would be so easy to get it all out of me. I remembered how satisfying it had always felt after I’d thrown up, and I started shaking. I had stopped doing that after my parents had made me go to a doctor. But it had been so much easier than trying to eat healthy. But I couldn’t do it anymore. I had given it up.
Then the door opened and I heard at least five girls walk into the bathroom. My stomach dropped when I recognized the voices. It was Kaylee and the girls. I couldn’t go out now.
I just want to disappear, I thought.
And it happened again. I got so dizzy, I thought I would pass out. The room went black, and when my vision came back, I was watching the waves crash against the rocks and smelling the sweet smell of pine mixed with the salty water.
I was starting to see a pattern here.
This time I didn’t panic. Instead, I sat in the soft grass and noticed that my backpack had come with me. How handy.
I had to test this.
“I want to go back to school,” I said out loud.
Instantly, everything started changing and I was back in the bathroom stall. I could still hear Kaylee’s voice outside.
I want to go to the island, I thought.
I want to get out of here.
I was back on the island. This time I took my time to relax and get myself calmed down. Kaylee and her comment suddenly didn’t seem like as big of a deal anymore.
I didn’t even know how long I’d been there before I went back into the stall, so I was kind of confused when I walked back out into reality.
“Grace, where were you?” Erin grabbed my arm when I walked out of the bathroom into the crowded hall.
“I told you I was going to the bathroom,” I said, feeling like I was missing something.
“You were there the whole time? Are you sick?” Erin looked stressed. I didn’t get it.
“What do you mean?”
“You skipped science, idiot,” Drew said, showing up out of nowhere. “Since when have you become a rebel?”
So time didn’t stop when I went to wherever that place was.
“I…” I stammered, trying to come up with a logical excuse.
“I was sick,” I finally said. “I think it’s something I ate.”
“You didn’t even eat anything,” Erin said.
“For breakfast. Eggs. Or something. I feel better now.”
My friends finally stopped asking questions and we headed to our next class. Instead of being upset about missing a class, I felt excited. This was amazing. I could leave whenever I wanted.
From that day on, my life changed.
Read part 2 here.