This story starts with a young girl sitting in class. Her long, curly, honey-colored hair is drawn back into a pony tail. A smile is painted on her face and there is a sparkle like the sun in her eyes. Yet no one seems to realize the smile is fake, the sparkle from unshed tears. Once people see her smile, they don't look any farther; and even when they do ask, "How are you?" or "Are you okay?" they never truly mean it. The only ones who know are the ones who don't have to ask: her friends.

A bell ringing suddenly interrupts her thoughts. It marks the end of the period, a signal to leave. As she comes out of her daze she notices the mad rush to get to the door. The girl doesn't care about that. She knows she'll get to her next class in time even if she spends another minute packing up. Rushing to the door seems so trivial. She wonders why people can't just appreciate the small things like butterflies, sunsets, and being alive. After the past week of torture, even the smallest thing that makes her happy is good. Wandering to her next class, she wonders why she is even in school. She remembers back to that morning.

"Would you like to stay home?" her mother asks.

"What would I do at home?" the girl replies.

"Alright," her mother relents, though there is worry in her eyes. After the Terrible Thing, who wouldn't worry?

She returns to the present as she sits down in the small, hardd. As the lesson begins her mind wanders off again, this time trying to remember what she did that morning. She doesn't know. She seems to have missed a lot of the past week. Her mind drifts back to when she first found out about the Terrible Thing.

"Please take out your homework," the teacher demands.

It's at that moment the girl realizes she forgot to do the homework. She knew she had written down the assignment, but couldn't for the life of her figure out how she forgot. The cold hard fact was she had.

The next few classes passed in the same way. She started zoning out in the how-could-this-matter way, but people just saw it as the I'm-tired-and-didn't-get-enough-sleep look. Finally lunch arrived. The girl took her time putting her things away and meandering down to lunch, even though the period was only 20 minutes long. There was a pleasant surprise awaiting her. On the table was a card from a few of her friends. She wasn't sure how they found out, but was glad they had and she hadn't had to tell them. She is thankful that she forgot about the Terrible Thing at least for a few minutes.

The rest of the day dragged on and yet she remembers none of it. On the bus ride home she tries to remember what happened in the past week. She remembers getting sick and learning of the Terrible Thing. She remembers that after she was too stunned to move. After a few minutes she curls up on the couch.

"Do you want anything? Can I do anything for you?" her mother asks in a gentle tone.

"No… the live version of Cinderella please," she finally requests in a quiet, meek voice.

She remembers starting to watch the movie… and then nothing. Slowly she starts to remember jumbled bits and pieces. She remembers making what to her seemed an odd request. The request was to see one of the girls she used to be best friends with, but wasn't that close to anymore.

The ride there seemed strange. The friend had moved since they had last seen each other. The shadows seemed to jump and there was a monster behind every tree and bush. Even her friend's inviting house seemed scary.

The girl pushed through her fear and they stumbled nervously up to the friend's room. There they played with Bratz Dolls, did each other's hair, and eventually ate dinner. The Terrible Thing went unnoticed for a bit. For dinner they had spaghetti with butter and garlic salt and some type of forgotten veggie. There was more, but she couldn't remember what.

Another memory floats in to her head. It's of some other friends. They all surprised her by coming over with crowns of plastic garlands and a basket of things to play with. They knew this was a hard time for her and were trying to show her they cared. She is extremely thankful. She stutters, trying to express her gratitude. She doesn't remember saying goodbye or going back upstairs, only looking at what was in the package. The wooden basket was lined with white shredded paper. On top of the paper were a few pieces of candy. There was a home-made blue, starry, garland crown, a small white hanging pail with dark blue silk flowers in it, and a book. She wears a watery smile for a fleeting moment. She vaguely remembers the trip to New York. A terrible, cheap hotel room, booked at the last minute.

Again her mind loses track of time. This thought seems dimmed and in black and white. A doorbell startling mother and daughter. No, she mustn't think of that. A cop at the door. NO! A strange request. Not the Terrible Thing. Too late the thought must play itself out. She knows something is wrong, she wonders if she or her parents are in trouble. She hopes not, but goes and sits in front of the TV, trying to take her mind off whatever the cop is here for. She hears a gasp, then a call for her stepfather. She looks blankly at the TV. The cop is in the room and asking if her parents want him to tell her. She knows what he is going to say and hopes with all her heart it isn't true. They are the absolute most dreaded words: "I'm sorry, your father is dead." A shocked moment of silence, then, "It happened this morning around 9:15. He was at his car getting something and his heart stopped. His coworkers tried to help him, but by the time the ambulance came it was too late." The girl is still too shocked to do anything, even cry. The cop gives his condolences and then leaves.

The five hour ride to the funeral seemed in some ways much longer and in others much shorter, probably because she just let her mind drift most of the time. It was hard for the girl to imagine that she would never make this trip with her father again. Never stay at the lake house in New Jersey. Never visit her aunt's house in Manhattan. Never redecorate her room at her father's house.

She remembers passing the office room in her house later in the day and hearing her mother's quiet voice telling the Rabbi what had happened. It still feels unreal to her. Still in shock she doesn't think of anything. A while later her mother and stepfather tell her that the funeral will be on Friday, two days later, in the cemetery on the border of New York and New Jersey. The rest fades from her mind.

The thought of redecorating her room made her regret the fight with her dad. The weekend before he died they argued over what colors to paint her room. She remembers how they argued right up until her father dropped her off at her mother's house. The last words he said were, "I love you" but the girl was still upset so instead of replying, "I love you," she just said, "yes," without giving him a hug. Had she known she wouldn't have let go. She wouldn't have wasted her time arguing. These things made her so sad, upset, and afraid that she never again left sight of her remaining parents without saying "I love you," and giving them a hug.

The funeral was held in an extremely large cemetery. It had rolling green hills dotted with tombstones in straight lines. The way the sun hit the grass made it seem to glow. That was where the girl wanted to be, left peacefully alone on the glowing, rolling hills. Instead she was pressed into bosoms and hugged from every direction. Instead of the peaceful quiet, questions and recounted memories assaulted her.

The girl was so overwhelmed she tried to hide behind her parents for a bit to calm and collect her mind. After a while she could face everyone, although she would never be ready. Her heart hurt too much to cry and the memories were almost too sad to bear. She remembers going back to her aunt's house and again being bombarded with questions she answered minimally. She remembers there being a feast to celebrate her dad's life and learning a bit more about her heritage.

The girl didn't remember that night, the ride home, or the weekend, though she knew they happened. How could such trivial things matter when her heart was ripped in two? How long would this pain last? How could she be sure that her mother and stepfather were fine every time they left her sight? Would she worry every time her parents were late? She couldn't answer those questions and to avoid others that she couldn't answer she wore a mask. Her mask was a smile, which people usually don't look through.