The 17-year-old Jack Amsbury sat in the classroom with several other aviation students listening to the instructor speak during the aviation awards ceremony.
Captain Louise Nicholson, a professionally dressed middle aged woman was speaking, "Each student is challenged physically and academically everyday of their training." Jack sat tall in his seat beaming with joy as he listened to Miss Nicholson speak, "Every student in this room should be proud of the rigorous academic program you have completed in your pursuit of your goals to become aviators."
Another Captain, Captain George Williams began calling the names of the graduating aviators when suddenly Jack began hearing a distant voice in his head. This made him slightly uneasy. He tried to block it out, but the voice became louder, and he could hear it was a soft lulling female voice calling his name, "Jack, Jack. Wake up Jack, you're going to be late for school." When he heard the word school Jack realized he was dreaming, and he quickly jumped up out of bed as his mom stood next to his bed ushering him up.
Running Late for School
"I've got your clothes ready, and a breakfast sandwich wrapped up to go. You can make it on time if you leave in 15 minutes."
Jack was still very groggy and stretching as he walked toward the bathroom, "I can't believe I slept through my alarm clock," he said in a gravelly sleepy voice.
Jack made it to school on time with not a minute to spare. The bell rang just seconds before he sat at his desk.
He is in his second day as a senior at Villa Park High School and does not want to mess up at the beginning of the school year. Jack wants to make it to graduation with the Class of 1982 with good marks on his record.
So far the week has been uneventful with teachers giving introductory lectures regarding the class expectations and lessons.
We Love You Blondie/Debbie Harry
But the third period class was different. Before entering the room, you could hear the Blondie song "Rapture" playing. Jack thought that was pretty cool and walked into the class in rhythm to the music. He could see the album playing on a small portable record player near the teacher's desk.
This was his Creative Writing class, an elective that he chose before the school year started. He knew right away that he was going to love this.
After all the students were seated and the roll call was completed Mr. Sjoberg (pronounced Show-berg) addressed the class.
"Welcome to Creative Writing 101. I purposely had the Blondie album playing when everybody was entering the class for a reason." Mr. Sjoberg paused and looked around the class and called on Jack.
"Jack, Jack Amsbury, do you know why I did that?"
Jack answered, "Yes, so we could get funky wit' it." The class laughed with Jack's comment.
Mr. Sjoberg nodded his head up and down in a positive manner and with a slight chuckle he said, "Yes, Jack, yes so you could get funky. But also, to let you know that I am not your typical teacher. This will not be just another boring class. This class will be about encouraging self-expression. In this classroom we will have conversations and the atmosphere will be encouraging and laid back so that everybody will feel comfortable speaking their mind even if it goes against what the other people in the class are saying. Remember individuality, self-expression, and diversity are good things. We grow and we learn when we express our own unique voice."
Mr. Sjoberg walked over to the chalkboard, and he wrote in super-sized letters, "What did you think?" He went on to explain, "Today's assignment will be to write about what you thought when you heard the Blondie album playing as you entered the room." One of the girls in the front of the class, Pandy Guzman, spoke out, "Oh, that will be fun," Mr. Sjoberg smiled at her comment, "Yes, it will be fun. But here's the catch; you must write it in poem form, and you will have eight minutes to write it. Keep it short. Maybe about five or six lines. And remember there is no wrong way to do this. It does not have to rhyme or be catchy. Just write your feelings as best as you can in a poem."
Mr. Sjoberg picked up an alarm clock from his desk and said, "Okay, I'm setting this for eight minutes. Get ready to write class," and he hit the alarm clock setting, and shouted out, "Go!"
While the students wrote their poems Mr. Sjoberg sat at his desk eating a celery stick.
When the eight minutes ended Mr. Sjoberg stood up and asked the students to put their pencils down. Then he asked if there was anybody in the room that needed more time to finish their poems, "Please raise your hands." Six students raised their hands. So, Mr. Sjoberg said that everybody will get one more minute to finish up.
After the minute ended, he asked Pandy to stand up and read her poem
Pandy stood up and looked at her paper then began reading:
"Blondie is my favorite band
I have their cassette in my hand
(She raised her hand up to show the room her cassette)
I play them all the time
They make my day sublime
So, when I came to class today
I was happy all the way"
When she finished Mr. Sjoberg clapped and encouraged the class to join in. He congratulated her on a great job.
Kyle Borne: "You Won't Like My Poem"
Next Mr. Sjoberg called on Kyle Borne, a skinny blonde-haired kid with long stringy hair.
Kyle stood up and let the class know they probably wouldn't like his poem.
"I hate Blondie
If I hear that high pitched voice once again
I just may smash up all the records
Maybe next time you can play the Dead Kennedys"
A few people gasped as he read his poem and a few others laughed.
Mr. Sjoberg clapped for Kyle but only four or five students joined in.
Mr. Sjoberg addressed the class and said, "This is a perfect example of expressing your own individual voice and that is what this class is all about." He looked over at Kyle and said, "Great job Kyle. And sorry but I probably won't be playing the Dead Kennedys tomorrow - but maybe The Clash."
Angelita Cortes' Poem gets a standing ovation!
Next Mr. Sjoberg looked around the class and called on Angelita Cortes. But she did not stand up. She kept her head low and her face down.
"Angelita," (pronounced On-hey-leetah with an emphasis on the “tah” at the end) Mr. Sjoberg said, "We would love to hear your poem."
The girl sitting in the desk next to her stood up and said, "Mr. Sjoberg (she struggled to say his name correctly) I am Angelita's cousin Estrella (pronounced Ay-stray-yah with an emphasis on the rolled "r"). She is very shy. Let me talk with her. She is a very good writer."
Estrella quietly spoke with Angelita for about a minute. Then Estrella addressed Mr. Sjoberg again, "She will read her poem as long as she can sit at her desk."
Mr. Sjoberg said, "Yes, that is fine."
As Angelita began reading her poem her voice was shaky and quiet and she spoke with a slight Spanish accent.
"Your voice is so uplifting
Dear Miss Debbie Harry
My favorite is "The Tide is High"
Your songs are very Merry
I love your hair it is so pretty
It's no wonder why they call you Blondie
I was so happy to hear your voice today
It made my day feel bright and Sunny"
When she finished reading her poem Mr. Sjoberg began clapping, then he stood up and the rest of the class stood up to give her a standing ovation.
Angelita sat in her chair with a closed mouth Mona Lisa smile.
Something happened to Jack as he listened to her speak. Her voice was so soft and tender that it caressed his mind like waves.
As the class applauded her, he looked over at her and he saw this most beautiful feminine girl with long black hair and a shiny innocence in her eyes. She had her legs crossed and sat there with an unusual sort of confidence on her face. He knew he had to talk with her.
After class he approached her, but she grabbed Estrella's hand and quickly walked away. That was such a confusing response he didn't know what to think. But this only intrigued Jack more.
All the rest of that day Jack couldn't get Angelita off his mind. He couldn't figure out why she grabbed Estrella's hand so tight and why she looked mortified. "Why did she run away from me so fast?" he thought.
Jack Confesses to Estrella
The next day in Creative Writing class he looked over where Angelita sits. Estrella was there but Angelita was missing.
After class Jack went to talk with Estrella.
"Hi Estrella, my name is Jack Amsbury."
She laughed and said, "I know your name. I hear the teacher call you during roll call every day."
Jack was embarrassed, "Oh yeah, I guess so."
Estrella just laughed, "That's okay."
Jack continued with his original question, "I was wondering about Angelita. Yesterday after class I came to say hi. But she grabbed your hand and looked so frightened."
Estrella explained, "Don't take it personal. She's very shy and she's afraid of boys."
"Afraid of boys?" Jack questioned, "Why is she afraid of boys?"
"I'm not sure," Estrella answered, "I think something happened to her. She's said to me a few times, 'the boys are dirty.' That's all she's told me."
"Well, I'm really interested in her," Jack was bold enough to say, "She is smart and beautiful. I hope that she will let me talk with her someday."
That day after school Estrella walked over to Angelita's house to let her know what Jack said.
"There's a boy at school who is interested in you," Estrella excitedly told Angelita.
Angelita's expression remained unchanged. She sat there without a response.
Estrella continued talking, "He's Jack Amsbury, the bl…"
Angelita cut her off, "Yes, I know who he is. I'm not interested in him or any other boy right now."
"Why?" Estrella asked.
"Well," she hesitated, "You know I haven't spoken with any boys, except for the boys in our family and you know what…" Suddenly Angelita stopped speaking.
"I know what Angelita?" Estrella forcefully asked, "What are you hiding?"
"Nothing," Angelita reluctantly answered.
The Little Angel in the Back of the Room
The next day in class Jack glimpsed over at Angelita. She was looking down toward her desk. She looked so sad yet so beautiful with her delicate eyelashes fluttering as she read the day's assignment. This little angel was so feminine and petite, only four foot 11 inches tall. All he wanted to do is take her and swoop her away from all the confusion and pain she's feeling. But she refused to acknowledge him. She wouldn't look at him or talk with him. She acted as if Jack didn't exist.
Later in the class while Jack was reading a passage from the creative writing textbook Angelita snook a look at Jack. She thought to herself that he looked so kind and gentle as he eloquently read from the book. He was her knight in shining armor with his strong masculine face and caring but confident expression. She wanted to fall in love with him. But she couldn't. She knew that if she let him in, he would hurt her as did the others. He would be rough and spit at her and call her names. He'd treat her like she was dirt. Then Jack's face looked mean and brutal to her, and she began to shiver, and she became scared. She couldn't help it. She burst into tears. The entire class looked over at her. Mr. Sjoberg walked toward her, but she sprung up from her desk in a rage of tears and ran out of the classroom. Estrella got up and ran after her. Jack sat at his desk. He was stunned at this commotion.
Jack walked over to the door of the classroom and saw Estrella holding Angelita in a tight hug as the tears came from Angelita's beautiful eyes.
The next day (Friday) Angelita was back in class and Jack had such a feeling of sadness and emptiness. He wanted so much to console her and hold her in his arms and let her know that everything would be okay. He wanted to protect her from whatever it was that was scaring her. But he knew he couldn’t, so he just admired her from afar.
Teams and Partners
The following week Mr. Sjoberg explained to the class how everybody would be teamed up in pairs of two and each pair would have to write a short 5-minute play. Each pair would be assigned a topic for their play. The class will have today (Monday) to write their plays and the rest of the week, Tuesday through Friday, to present their plays to the class. Then the following week the class would have a group discussion on each play.
Since there are 20 students in the class there would be ten teams. A small box was passed around the room and each student had to choose a number. Each number had a topic assigned to it.
When the box came around to Jack he reached in and mixed the little folded up pieces of paper around then took one and passed the box to the next person. Jack unfolded his paper, and he picked number three. The topic was getting a baby to stop crying.
After everybody had their numbers, Mr. Sjoberg went around the class and had each person read out their numbers so they could team up.
Mr. Sjoberg called Jack and he held his number up and said, "Three." After he read his number out Angelita leaned over to Estrella, "Estrella," she whispered, "Go trade numbers with Jack so you and I can work together. I also have number three."
Estrella quickly said, "No, Angelita you are going to have to face your fears sooner or later and Jack is one of the good ones."
Angelita pleaded, "Oh, come on." Estrella remained firm and nodded no.
Mr. Sjoberg called on Angelita for her number. She sat there with her head facing down and she whispered, "Number three." Mr. Sjoberg gently responded, "Can you speak up Angelita, we couldn't hear you." Angelita was despondent and refused to say the number. So, Estrella stood up and said, "She has number three." Angelita was furious but relieved and Jack was excited yet hesitant. For the first time in a very long time, he was nervous. He would finally be face to face with the little angel across the room.
As the other partners in the room joined together to start working on their projects Jack walked toward Angelita's desk. He stood in front of her, but she did not look up. She remained quiet.
"Hello Angelita," he said. She noticed that he pronounced her name perfectly. This gave her a sense of comfort, but she still did not look up to him. She sat still and remained quiet.
Jack struggled to find the right words to say to her. He stood there for a few seconds thinking. "Angelita," he said in a soft-spoken voice, "You are a very talented and smart girl and it is such an honor to me to have the opportunity to work with you. Please give me a chance. I will be 100% supportive of anything you say and do. I am here to help."
Angelita remained unmoved for a minute then she said in a surprisingly authoritative strong voice, "Well sit down here." She pointed at the desk next to hers. Jack obediently sat down but he was perplexed that she still had not looked up at him.
The two spent the next half hour hashing out ideas and before the class was over, they had their five minute play written. They titled it "The Baby's Smile."
As the class adjourned Jack told Angelita that it was a pleasure working with her and that he really enjoyed the time. Finally, she looked up and said, "You are a very smart boy."
Jack was in Heaven. She complimented him. She looked at him. Jack was doing acrobats and slam dancing in his mind. He was so excited.
A Confrontation with Emily
The first thing when he walked in the front door at home he yelled out for his mom, "Mom, mom, where are you. I've got some good news to tell you" There was no response except from his sister Emily. "Mom's not here. I have a friend coming over soon. I'd appreciate it if you'd stay in your room when they're here."
Jack responded, "Why? Are you ashamed of your adopted black brother? I'll stay out here if I want. I might even answer the door. Gee, if your friend's cute I might even kiss her."
"My friend is a he," Emily stated wryly.
"Even better," Jack said in a mocking voice.
Emily ran back up to her room and slammed the door behind her.
The Five-Minute Play
On Tuesday the teams began presenting their plays to the class. Each team went in the order of the number they chose. Being number three, Angelita and Jack were the last team of the day to go. Angelita and Jack had an even hand in writing the dialog of their play.
Angelita walked out in front of the class alone holding a doll wrapped in a blanket as she spoke her lines.
Angelita: My baby, why do you cry so much? I've checked your temperature and you're okay. Your diaper is clean and dry, and I fed you 45 minutes ago.
Jack walks in front of the class and starts speaking.
Jack: What's wrong Angel? Why is she crying so much?
Angelita: I don't know. I've tried everything - rocking her, kissing her, I gave her a toy to play with, but nothing works.
Jack: Well, that's something. I've never seen her cry like this before.
Angelita: I know. It's been going on for almost an hour and I'm becoming stressed out.
Jack: Here, (Jack holds his hands out) give her to me.
Angelita hands the baby over to Jack.
Jack cradled the baby in his arms and held her close. He rubbed his cheek against her cheek and spoke in a soft and tender voice.
(Angelita stood off to the side watching Jack with the baby as her heart melted you could see the comfort and delight in her eyes.)
Jack: My sweet baby, you are so beautiful, and daddy loves you. I love you more than anything.
(Jack spoke his lines with a true tender passion)
Jack: You don't have to worry baby. Daddy is here and I'm going to protect. I'll never leave you. I'll always be here for you. (Jack kissed the baby's face [doll's face] with each word he said.
Jack: I love you baby. I honestly love you.
By then the baby stopped crying, and Angelita was on the side with tears in her eyes. Jack gave such a believable delivery and she just knew that Jack could protect her from the horrible things in the world.
When the class ended Angelita had Estrella walk her over to Jack.
"Hi Jack," Estrella said as Angelita stood behind her like she was a shield, "Angelita asked me to bring her here to you."
Jack kept bobbing around trying to get a glimpse of Angelita as she hid behind Estrella.
"She wants you to walk her home," Estrella said.
"Of course. Of course, I will walk her home," Jack said, trying to temper his excitement.
Estrella turned around and whispered a few words to Angelita. Though this was Angelita's idea she was still very afraid.
Estrella moved away and there standing in front of Jack was Angelita. She was wearing a stylish pink dress with flowing sleeves and a white trim around the squared off collar. Her shoes were a white patent leather low heeled pump with a matching white hair band in her black curly hair. Jack froze for a moment. He couldn't help but stare at how beautiful she was. Her dark brown eyes shine with a sparkling innocence.
The Walk Home
He held his hand out and she took it and grasped it tightly. Jack was surprised at how tight she grabbed his hand. It was as if she was holding on for dear life.
As they began walking away from the campus Angelita said to Jack in a pleading voice, "Please don't let go of my hand. I need your hand."
"I won't," Jack said, "I promise."
"I know you won't," Angelita said, "But I just have to make sure."
They walked a little further. Jack did all the talking. He tried to keep her mind off her fears. He mentioned the beautiful trees, the nice sunny day, and what a fun teacher Mr. Sjoberg is.
Then, Angelita cut in and said, "I'm afraid, Jack."
"Why are you afraid?" Jack asked.
"I don't know," She answered, "I'm afraid of people."
"Why?" Jack asked, confused by her fear.
"Because I'm just afraid of them," Angelita said.
"There's gotta be a reason," Jack commented.
"Because some of them are really bad and they do bad things," she responded.
Jack was very saddened that this beautiful little angel was so scared. He just wanted to protect her from everything. He wanted to be her hero. Her protector.
"Well, I will assure you Angelita, I will not let go of your hand. I will protect you from the bad people. I'm bigger than them and stronger than them. As long as you're with me nobody is going to hurt you."
This made Angelita feel calm and secure. "I know," she said.
Over the next few weeks Jack and Angelita began doing everything together. Walking home from school, doing homework together, eating lunch. They were always together.
Jack became obsessed with Angelita. He was amazed with her mind. She was like a machine. She could figure out anything and everything. She could solve a geometric sequence in her mind within seconds. He was most amazed by her perfect memory. She can remember everything that she ever learned. She could remember conversations word for word from ten years ago. She could sit in an hour-long lecture without taking notes, then recite the entire lecture word for word from memory. Jack was fascinated by her intelligence. He has never known anyone like her before. But with that intelligence also came a very bothered mind.
The Football Field
After fourth period the two had lunch together sitting in the school cafeteria.
"How's your ravioli?" Jack asked Angelita.
"It's not bad," she answered, "considering it is probably frozen."
"Well, I like it," Jack said.
There was a quiet for about a minute then Jack decided to tread into highly personal territory.
"My Little Angel," he called her, "You always look sad. Are you happy Angel?"
"Yes, I am," she answered quickly.
"Then why do you always look so sad?"
"Angelita," Jack softly said, "I want to help you. I'm here to help, not hurt."
"You stop it Jack," Angelita snapped back, "Just leave it alone."
"But I can't sweetie. This affects me too and I want to help you with this."
"Well, you can't help me," she threw her fork down and got up and left the cafeteria.
Jack followed her to the football field. When he caught up to her, she was crying.
Jack grabbed her and held her in his arms tightly.
"Angelita baby," he said, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make you cry."
"It's not you Jack," she said, "It's those dirty men," she pointed out beyond the football field. Jack looked but didn't see anyone there. He was going to say something but decided it would be best just to let her talk.
Angelita moved out of Jack's arms and continued talking, "They want to kill me. That's why I'm not talking."
Jack started to say, "Who wants to ki…," but then he stopped, and he looked around and still there was nobody there. He was thoroughly confused and not sure what to do or say.
Then Angelita asked Jack, in a shaky, almost demanding voice, "Hand, where's your hand Jack?"
It was as if she was lost and didn't see that Jack was standing right next to her. He held his hand out right in front of her and she grabbed it quickly. "Oh, thank goodness you're still here. I thought I lost you," she said in an unsettled manner.
"Little Angel," Jack tenderly said, "I promised you I will always be here for you. I will never leave you. I'm your protector. You will always be safe when you're with me. I'm bigger and stronger than those dirty men. I will chase them out of town so they will never bother you again."
She looked at Jack and said, "I hope so."
"There's no I hope so," Jack said, "They're afraid of me. They won't come close to you. Angel, everything is okay. Have faith, Angel. Faith is believing that everything will be okay. Faith is knowing that there is good."
"Oh, you're good," Angelita said, "You're good and I feel safe with you."
It was there in the football field they had their first kiss.
There will be a continuation of this story titled Blackbird Fly (Part Three) in which Angelita's mental illness becomes the focal point.
About the Creator
Writing is a distraction for me. It takes me to places unknown that fulfill my need for intellectual stimulus, emotional release, and a soothing of the breaks and bruises of the day.
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