Authors: Melissa Cunningham
Clean Teen Publishing
Â© 2013 by Melissa Cunningham
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever.
Cover concept and design by Marya Heiman Copyright Â© 2013 by Clean Teen Publishing
Editing done by Cynthia Shepp
Typography done by Courtney Nuckels
Cover design done by Marya Heiman
Reluctant Guardian is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author's over-active imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Clean Teen Publishing
PO Box 561326
The Colony, TX 75056
Dedicated to my dear friend, Lisa.
Where ever you are,
may you find the peace and happiness
that always seemed to allude you.
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I should have realized that suicide was not my best option. But, like most teenage girls, I hadn't planned ahead. I never pictured my parents and brothers picking up the pieces of my broken life, or the empty hole I would leave in my wake.
I honestly didn't think anyone cared that much.
The medication I'd been taking hadn't helped matters either. My doctor prescribed it after the death of my beloved grandmother, who'd lived with us since I was a baby. Three months later, my best friend, Natasha, died from a brain tumor. Nothing could have shattered me more. Not just because Natty and I were closer than Siamese twins, but also because we shared a dark, horrifying secret.
Something I'd never told anyone.
Not even my parents.
Once she was gone, I didn't know how to shoulder that weight on my own. I was drowning in sorrow. I'd fallen into a dark pit and I had every right to take that antidepressant. My parents thought it would help as well.
I should have been more open about my feelings. I should have confided in my mom and dad and explained that the medication wasn't working. That in reality, I felt worse. But I didn't. I didn't realize the drug was affecting me adversely... until it was too late.
The only thing I wanted that night was to
feel anymore, to not have my heart ripping in two, and to not cry so hard that my whole body ached.
Would it be painful if I rammed my car into the tall pine at the curve of the road? Would it do the trick or just turn me into a vegetable for the rest of my life?
I took a chance and got what I wanted.
The headlights of my car shine brightly into the woods, pulsing with an eerie glow with each swipe of the windshield wipers. Deep shadows stretch past the foliage, the seat-belt sensor dings in the solemn silence.
I'm alone, staring at my motionless body as blood drains from a large gash on my forehead. The crimson rivulets drip down to my shirt, spreading like blossoming roses. For a moment, remorse tugs at my heart. I shouldn't have done it. I shouldn't have given up yet.
But things will be better now. I'm sure of it. No more nightmares, no more panic attacks, no more medications. And, definitely no more curious glances from friends, neighbors, or even my own family.
They all gossiped behind my back, and no one had truly cared. At least that I noticed. My family loved me, sure, but I'd been a drain on them, exhausting in my need for constant reassurance. The last conversation I had with my older brother had ended in a fight, and even my parents were fed up.
Just this morning my mother had lost her temper and yelled at me, saying she was tired of my self-pity, tired of my complaining, tired of my crying, and if I didn't clean up my act, they'd resort to more serious measures. I'm not sure what those measures would be, but it didn't sound good.
So, here I am, freeing my family of the endless annoyance of
They'll be sad at first sure, but they'll get over it.
People always do.
I look around, wondering why no one is here to meet me. All my life I've heard that loved-ones will appear and take my hand to guide me through the pearly gates of heaven.
So far, death is a disappointment.
Maybe my atheistic theory is trueâthat there is no God, no heaven, no angels, no afterlife, and I am just experiencing a lack of oxygen, my brain creating fanciful scenes of a heavenly occurrence.
When a strong tug pulls at my chest, I grow anxious. The world around me dims and I move forward, feeling drawn toward a strange pinpoint of light. It draws me as though a string is attached to my body, like a doomed fish being reeled in.
At first I resist, afraid, but curiosity wins out, and I move with it.
Then recognition dawns. The light. The pull. This is it! There really is a heaven and I am going there. It's all true! Relief floods through me in a wave of happiness. Deep down, I hadn't wanted to completely disappear. I'd wanted the pain to end, yeah, but I also wantedâno,
to know that death wasn't final, that my Gram and my best friend, Natty, live on. That their radiant lives weren't snuffed out completely.
Any minute now, the heaviness in my heart would dissipate and I'd be free, dancing through daffodils on heaven's hillside. I'll be in the arms of my best friend and grandmother. I'll be assigned my own silver-lined cloud.
Any minute now...
I follow the light, but after floating for what seems like forever, I realize that the rush of blissâthat blanket of warmth I've read about, still hasn't come,
I don't feel any different than I did before I crashed my car. I still carry my grievous burdens. I still ache over the death of my friend and the loss of my grandmother. The memories breathe inside me, alive and tormenting.
With one last glance over my shoulder, I gaze at my surroundings. The woods and broken car are far behind me like a distant dream.
I step forward, leaving behind the world I long to forget. Before me is a beautiful meadow of wildflowers. Many of the blossoms are varieties I've never seen beforeâthe colors, vivid and bright, and some, blindingly white. Reveling in the glorious scent of their fragrance, I forget for a moment why I am even here.
On the other side of the meadow lies a wide, glittering bridge embedded with diamonds, complete with silver handrails. I move through the swaying flowers, running my fingers along the tops of their velvety petals.
Wonder fills me.
This world is so big, so bright, and so beautiful. Hope blossoms like a helium-filled balloon, lifting my weary soul. My life will be wonderful now. I can release the heartache of my old existence. I won't have to think of the misery Natty and I endured for so many years.
A lazy smile spreads across my face. I am free.