This summer the library held a creative writing contest, "What Happened Next?" open to elementary, middle, and high school students. To enter, participants considered the prompt: Dig deeper into your favorite book/movie/video game character and write a story, poem, or essay that answers the question: What happens to ___ character after the book/movie/game ends? Each winner receives a $50 gift card to the store or restaurant of their choice, and gets their writing published on the library's website.
Eighth grader Fatima Ahmed, of Carpentersville, is one of our "What Happened Next?" creative writing contest winners. Below is her entry "A World Away: What Happens After." Congratulations, Fatima!
A World Away: What Happens After
~Two Years After The Book Ends~
“I’ll be off then. I’ll see you after the weekend.”
I kissed Daniel on the cheek, and he returned the gesture.
“Stay safe out there, Eliza. I’ll always be waiting here come Sunday.” Daniel said with one of his slightly overprotective faces. Instead of getting annoyed like how I might’ve a couple years ago, I smiled and reached to give him a last hug. Then, I excitedly stepped onto the train and waited for my stop.
It was an hour or so until I finally reached my destination. As the train doors opened, I was acknowledged by many faces full of curiosity and confusion towards my outfit. But, I was also greeted with a warm, familiar grin.
“Josh, it’s been so long!”
I couldn’t help but to reach and give him a hug. As he hugged me back, he laughed and soon pulled away, still grinning.
“As old fashioned as always, hm?” He joked, elbowing my side and gesturing to my bonnet. I just smiled and lightly nodded, before looking up. I was scheduled to be at Ambers’ house at 12. It seemed roughly 9 o’clock ish. Maybe before I headed over...
“Well, I was hoping we had time to grab some coffee and catch up, for old time sake… it’ll be my treat, alright?”
“You took the words right out of my mouth.”
I grinned back, and we were off. Josh led me to his car, a new car. I was proud he had finally paid back the money for the damaged car and saved up enough money for his own car. Many long hours of work. When he saw me staring, he waved in front of me.
“You there Eliza?”
I waved my hand back, my smile returning again.
“Just remembering the… accident from when I was here before.”
“Oh, right… I was able to pay to repair the car, and then save up enough for my own car… I hated that part of the day, but… I used to think of the good parts a lot while you were gone.
“Those were… good times..”
I bittersweetly smiled, turning my eyes away as I opened the car door and stepped into his car. It was neat and tidy for the most part, and it surprisingly smelled sweet. Then, I remembered the things people hung in cars to freshen them up. It felt like I could never get used to this life, no matter how many times I came to work over here.
In the car after that, we were a bit awkward. Mostly making small talk, like how my family was doing, and I asked how Racheal and the kids had been. By the time we had gotten to the cafe though, Josh told me we only had 30 minutes to catch up.
We sat down, and we both ordered coffees. While we waited, I noticed Josh seemed to be holding back, as if he wanted to ask me something. Finally, it came out.
“So… how did things go with that Daniel guy back where you live..?” The silence that came afterwards was uncomfortable. I looked down at my hand before answering.
“We ended up… courting, actually, but it’s… it’s complicated.”
And then our coffee came, and that was it. Instead of talking about that, we laughed and talked about our past and the present, possibly the future. I told him that last weekend was the first time I had babysat for Parkers, and how I already loved them all. Josh’s attitude was a bit different, but he only smiled and laughed more as we talked. I loved catching up with him, it brightened my mood. The atmosphere was very happy too, many people chatting around the coffee shop. Familiar and comforting. Before long, I suddenly remembered my job and finished my coffee, dusting at my apron.
“I think it’s a little before the time Kathy is gonna pick me up. Do you mind driving me to the station, Josh?”
“Of course. Let’s go.”
Josh finished his coffee, and was soon standing next to me. I couldn’t help but feel he was sad. I was sad too. I missed our fun times everyday together, but.. I had made the decision before. I was lucky to even be allowed to be a nanny out here. I was happy. At least now I knew I could see Josh sometimes.
“Thank you for the coffee, Josh. It was really good and… comforting.”
“No problem… it was nice catching up, y’know?”
I smiled and nodded, turning to look out the window. Next thing I knew, we were pulling up to the train parking lot. I spotted Kathy's car immediately. It was pretty hard to miss. A sleek black van, accented in turquoise with decals of a family of five and two dogs on the back windshield. And you couldn’t forget how the rims were also turquoise. I smiled to myself again, before turning to find Josh looking a little sad.
“It’s been such a long time and we’ve been together such a short time, but… we can meet again soon, right?”
“I’m sure I can. I really hope so. It was a short time, but I’ll never forget this time, alright?”
I reached over the middle and gave Josh a long hug, remembering the satisfyingly familiar scent of his. Then, I pulled away and exited his car, bringing along my bag.
I knocked on the window of Kathy’s car. Her head turned up immediately, and she placed down her phone, unlocking the door.
“Eliza! Good afternoon!”
She greeted me cheerfully as I hopped into the cars front seat. “Good afternoon Kathy. Sorry if i’m a little late, I was chatting with… an old, close friend.”
“Oh that’s no problem! I didn’t know you were popular here from.. Your rumspringa?”
“Oh no no, I wasn’t popular, but they were just someone close to me.”
“It’s good to know you still have friends around here though.” Kathy finished in a hum, clicking her seatbelt back on and beckoning me to do the same. I adjusted to the seat and clicked on my seatbelt. This was only the second time I had come to help with her children, but I loved Kathy’s personality. Her kids were well behaved too.
“So, this weekend my husband and I are going to go out, I was hoping..” From there on until we reached the house, we talked about what she wanted me to help around with, and what were the plans. Finally, we arrived and I lugged my bag over my shoulder as we stepped out of the car. I don’t think I could ever get used to how big Kathy’s house was. And I had the honors of even going in it. Kathy led me up the stone pathway to her porch, where she unlocked the double doors for us. I could hear some barks inside near the front, and some excited voices. Kathy then pushed the doors open, and stepped inside onto the welcome mat.
“Guys, we’re back!” Kathy called, and I smiled when I was the three gathered children.
I was immediately rubbed by their two dogs, Cupcake and Cookie, but I was also greeted with three smiling children. As I walked out the doors, the smallest girl ran into my arms.
“Eliza! It felt like forever until it was the weekend! I’m super duper happy to see you!” Wendy cheered with her freckled grin. I hugged her back, but soon straightened and looked down on her with a fake frown.
“You haven’t been causing trouble for anyone, have you?”
“No! I was a good girl! But Eliza, you gotta see my new play set mommy got for me! Come, come!”
She took my hand and began dragging me towards the staircase.
“Wendy, don’t be rude and start right away! Let Eliza go put her bags in her room, and let her at least talk with your siblings too!”
This might’ve not been the future I would’ve predicted a few years ago, but I loved every bit of it. I could still be with all my family and friends back in my town, and then still meet some of my friends here and enjoy this world. Maybe it wasn’t what someone else would want, but I was happy. I love my current world exactly as it is.