The story below is a winner from our Fiction Fantastic Young Writers Contest, open to all youth in Lane County. For more information on this contest, including how to enter, visit here. Support this program with a donation.
You can purchase this story in the 2022 Winners Anthology, Tales from the Deep Beyond here.
“The Notebook” by Emerie Martin, Pleasant Hill Elementary
Second Place, Elementary Level, 2022
By Emerie Martin
Pleasant Hill Elementary
As Nadine woke up to her brother staring at her, she felt a powerful surge of dread overcoming her. It was her birthday. The feeling swallowed her completely. “Oh shoot.” She gloomily sat up in her bed. “Hi, David.”
Her brother smiled and ruffled her hair. “Come on get up! It’s your special day!”
Nadine was mentally dripping with gloom and physically with sweat. Seven years to this day, Nadine’s father crashed in a car crash. Days and days after that were filled with tears and depression.
Nadine slipped on her blue slippers. She sighed deeply and went to the bathroom to do her morning routine. After she got ready she headed downstairs. “Hi, Mom.”
Her mom was drinking coffee and slowly, a small tear dripped down her cheek. “H-hi, baby.” Nadine patted her on the back and as soon as her mom was out of sight, she grimmenced. Her birthday, her special day, was a depressing reminder of her father.
She walked over to the fruit basket and pulled a banana out. She was stopped on her way to throw out the peel. “What, David?”
David pulled out a peculiar package from behind him. It was the size of a book. It was wrapped in yellow paper with blue speckles on it. The bow was gold and the card was attached by a string. “David this is sweet, but—”
David interrupted her. “It’s not from me. Mom and I are giving you our gifts at dinner after your party. Read the card.” Then he dropped the package into her hands.
“You realize I have a banana in my hands right?” but he had already left.
She scarfed down her banana as fast as she could and then checked the time. 7:26. “All right, four more minutes till we gotta go,” she thought. She looked at the card. The paper looked old and the package was covered in dust of all kinds. She opened the card and read one word. “Dad.” She read the whole thing.
Dear Nadine, I did this to your brother, and now it’s time for you. When your brother turned twelve, he got a gift from me. I bought his gift and your gift years before this day and stored it in the garage in case something happened. I may or may not be with you today, because, like I said, this was all bought and written beforehand. Anyway, Happy 12th birthday Nadiney. I love you so much.
She stared for a moment and took a big gulp of air. She felt her hands quiver and she repeated the last five words. “I love you so much.” She shoved the card to her heart, hardly remembering when she last heard her father say or write those five words. She smiled and felt the tears coming on. She rubbed her head and decided to open the gift. She delicately pulled the wrapping off, and untied the bow. She blew off the dust. She sighed and slowly pulled the gift out. Her brother crept over to watch. It was an old leather notebook with a flower printed on the cover. The pages were old but smelled like a new book.
Her brother tried to comfort Nadine. “Ooh! That’s cool. You can draw your horses in it.”
Nadine tried to pull together a decent smile. She loved her gift. She really did! She just had a side of her that felt disappointed. She felt guilt in feeling disappointed, especially since that was the last gift she would ever get from her dad. Her brother patted her on the back and then thrust her backpack to her hands.
“You have a bad habit of giving me something when I already have something in my hands.” David shrugged, but in a happy way, and he walked away.
After the car ride they were at the school. Nadine hopped out of the car, realizing that she had brought the notebook. She was about to put the notebook back in the car, but David interrupted her scheme.
“Taking the book to school? Aw, Dad would be so happy.”
Now Nadine would have more guilt if she left it in the car. She deeply sighed and slouched her way into the school.
She headed to her locker, hearing the piercing bell scream. She quickly jammed her locker combination and shoved her notebook in there. Her body calmed down after it was out of sight. She didn’t want Sandy to see it. Sandy was the popular girl, the girl that would shame someone just because they had the wrong shade of blue on their shirt. Sandy could make it so no one was your friend. No matter what it took, she would ruin your life.
Nadine looked across the hall to see Sandy putting down another kid. “No way! Your hair is so dumb. I can’t even,” Sandy said and flipped her hair. And her BFFs, her minions Andi and Randy flipped their hair, too. “Bye, Felicia,” Andi said, and Randy tugged her sleeve. “She doesn’t even deserve to be said ‘bye’ to.” The girl was actually Nadine’s friend, Tammy.
“Get lost, you Sassy Squad,” said Tammy in a jerk-ish way.
“You’re such a heedless kid. I bet you don’t even know what sassy means, you freak,” replied Sandy as she quickly turned around.
Tammy smiled and rolled her eyes. “You wanna play? Let’s play. The definition of sassy is Sandy and her creep squad. Now get lost and go torment some other kid.”
Sandy blushed, flipped her hair, and walked away.
Nadine walked over to Tammy. “Tammy? Why?” Tammy smiled proudly.
“She was being a jerk. I stood up to her.”
Nadine laughed. “Whatever. Anyway, I got a gift for my birthday today. It was a notebook.” Tammy exclaimed. “Oh yeah! Happy birthday! Oh, Emma! Come!” Emma, Nadine’s other BFF ran right over. “Omg. Hi, Nadine! Happy birthday!” Emma and Nadine fistbumped.
Nadine smiled and then said, “Bell is gonna ring again, so I need to get to class. Bye!” The group did their handshake and then departed.
Nadine opened the creaky door and sighed. Tasha, Miley, and Jack all glared at her.
“What?” Nadine angrily asked.
Tasha rolled her eyes. “We’re just happy that we have a father. Especially one that didn’t die on our birthdays.”
Nadine looked like she was ready to pounce, but her better side got a hold of her.
“My dad gets me a gift every year. Your dad used to. I bet they were flimsy gifts,” Jack added. Miley giggled. “I bet that her dad didn’t even get her gifts! He got her random pieces of paper glued together with a heart doodled on top.”
Nadine looked at her shoes. Then Tasha, Miley, and Jack all yelled at the exact same time. “Oh, we forgot. Happy birthday, freak.”
Nadine had the searing sting of tears gathering in her eyes. She wiped her eyes and walked to her desk. She pulled out a pencil and started to write the square root of 5.
Jimmy, like every day, kicked the back of her seat. Over and over, like an annoying song stuck on repeat. Today it was double the usual kicks, or as Jimmy liked to call them, “birthday kicks.” After multiple annoying “birthday kicks,” Nadine finished her math, turned in homework, and got up to sharpen her pencil every once in a while. Then the bell rang, which lifted a heavy boulder off her back. No more Tasha or Miley or Jack until lunch.
Nadine headed to the hallway and checked her schedule. Art was next and she needed her notebook. She crept to her locker and wrenched it open. She went to her notebook bin and scrolled through it. She didn’t see her book labeled “Art.” She only had five minutes to get to the far away classroom, and was starting to get desperate. “Ummm,” she thought, yanking junk and old scraps out of the locker. She pulled her cheeks down and moaned. Then she remembered her birthday gift. “Shoot.”
She grabbed her ugly notebook without looking at it. She tried to cover it up as much as possible. As she entered the classroom she opened the book quickly. So quick no one could see the cover, but inside was just as weird. The pages were tinted yellow and there were already some doodles on the occasional page. Nadine held her breath and tapped her pencil on her puffed out cheek, forcing it to release air. The lesson was starting so she flipped to the nearest blank page. She grabbed her pencil as Mrs. Wilson started speaking. “Today we are going to pick up where we left off—drawing animals. Now the kids who asked for a reminder on which animals they are doing are: Todd, who is doing the tiger, Jin, you’re doing the cockatoo. Oh Lilith . . . Hmm . . . Ah, yes, the chimpanzee. All right, let’s go!”
Nadine started to doodle her panda, adding a stick of bamboo in his hand. She smiled looking at his little nose. She added the tail and poofed the fur a bit. Then, after the shading, she sat in her seat waiting for Mrs. Wilson to come see it.
Everyone was staring at their paper or at the whiteboard, just waiting. Waiting for something. As everyone was lazing off, they got startled back into reality. Something banged on the glass. And hard. Everyone went to the back of the classroom and stared at the window. The glass banged again and some kids screamed. The teacher rushed to the phone and called the office, right as a final bang sent glass shattering everywhere.
Some kids got out of there as fast as they could, others stood there screaming, and some stood there, not screaming, but petrified. That last one was Nadine, as she saw glass shattered all over the floor and kids running and screaming. The only two questions asked were: “What is that thing?” and, “WHY ARE WE GONNA DIE?” No one answered either question.
A small black, white, and furry hand reached into the window, grabbing the ledge and pulling itself up. Then a second hand reached up, identical to the first and pulled itself in. It was a panda. A tiny baby panda holding a bamboo stick. Police officers and firemen were there and opened the door to see both happy and scary sights. Broken glass and a panda do not mix. The police raced to the humane society, and then got back to the school as fast as possible.
The teachers shoved all the sixth graders upstairs with Uno and several books to keep them busy while the “Panda Problem” was being dealt with. Nadine shadowed off to the corner of the room where her besties were. She looked at them and the only question they asked was, “WAS. IT. CUUUTE?” Nadine smiled and nodded. “Yeah, he was.” Tammy and Emma squealed so loud that it could have been a fire alarm.
Nadine laughed and pulled her notebook out of her pocket, remembering she shoved it in there. She sketched a chocolate bar to work on her shading. Emma crooned over the drawing. “MMM! Looks so good.” Tammy nodded in agreement. Nadine smiled and finished the last corner of the chocolate.
Tammy looked at it. “You’re good at that. Whose notebook is this? Is it yours? Is this the notebook you got for your gift?”
Nadine rolled her eyes, but in a kind way. “Yes, it’s mine. Yes again. And yes.” She smiled and shut the book and shoved it in her pocket. She clapped her hands together to get rid of the dust.
Right as she finished her clap, a huge chocolate bar appeared in front of her. “Wha—” she said so confused.
Emma screamed with delight. “YUMMY!” She broke off a square and tossed it to Tammy. Then she went to town on it.
Nadine rubbed her chin, confused. “Is this a type of magic or what?” she thought. The panda she drew, the chocolate, both appeared before her after she drew it. Then it hit her like a bolt of lightning. Whatever she drew in her little book, would come to life. She looked around worried, but then realized she was the only one who knew. She patted her pocket, excited to get home.
After several math and language arts classes , it was time to go home. Nadine’s mom came and picked her and Emma and Tammy up for her party. They got home and changed into swimsuits. Nadine was excited for the party, but was still pondering about her notebook, whether it was dangerous or not. She and her friends went outside and got in the backyard pool and threw water balloons at each other. After about thirty minutes of trying, Nadine finally convinced Emma and Tammy to spend ten calm minutes in the pool .
Nadine looked at Tammy while floating on her blue float. “So you know how the chocolate just randomly appeared?”
Tammy nodded. “Yeah. I dunno if it was a good idea eating it though.”
Emma rolled her eyes playfully. “You have to admit you enjoyed it. I SAW YOUR EXPRESSION IN. THE. FIRST. BITE.”
Nadine knew that if she didn’t talk, this all would lead to a water balloon fight so she jumped right in. “Okay, talk about that later. Anyway, it appeared right after I drew it, right?”
Emma nodded. “Yeah?”
Nadine replied, “And the panda appeared after I drew it.”
Tammy looked at her. “I see what you’re trying to say.”
Emma agreed. “Maybe we can pause the pool and check out the notebook.” They all hopped out of the pool and ran inside.
Nadine got them towels and they sat on her bedroom floor eating pretzels and trying to figure out the notebook thing.
Tammy squinted her eyes at it. “Doodle something . . . Hmm, like a dollar bill?”
Nadine looked at Emma and Emma eagerly encouraged her to draw it. “If it works, we will be rich! Hehehe.”
Nadine smiled and started doodling. “If it works, then it goes to people who need it. Also wouldn’t your parents get suspicious if you all of a sudden got rich?” Emma’s greedy face turned into a “oh, right” face.
“Fine,” she muttered, picking a pretzel out of the bag.
Nadine finished the shading and added an extra line for more realisticness. She closed the book, and sure enough, a dollar bill popped out of nowhere in front of them.
Emma snorted. “WE CAN STILL BE A DOLLAR RICHER!”
Tammy facepalmed her forehead and spoke in a silly way. “Remember people who need it, you selfish pig?” Emma’s smile turned into an innocent “I forgot” smile. “Oh well,” she spoke and grabbed the dollar, feeling its texture. As quick as it was in Emma’s hands, it got yoinked out again.
“I don’t trust you,” Tammy said calmly. Nadine chuckled as Emma got up and started chasing Tammy.
After the party was over, Nadine took a calm walk, wondering what to do next with her notebook. She sketched a tree, and sure enough a tree popped up in her neighbor’s yard. She sketched a few dollars and they popped up in her notebook. She kept moving, trying to think of the perfect thing to draw. She was about to draw a snack, because she was hungry when she heard a mutter behind her. She turned around and saw an old man, picking up the money and other random things left behind. As he got up, Nadine did nothing but run. So the greedy man ran after her, since she seemed to drop so many good things. She drew a crack in the sidewalk and the man tripped, but he grasped at her feet pulling her down, too. She smacked into the pavement, nearly losing consciousness.
Her neighbor, Mr. Yarn, yelled at the man. “Get out of this private property here. I called da cops and der comin’ for you. Ya hear me?” The man gathered all the random junk and took off. Nadine tried to pull herself up but couldn’t. She dropped to the ground and everything went dark.
Mr. Yarn must have taken her to the hospital, because when she woke up she was in a hospital bed. “Mom?” She helplessly cried out as her mom entered the room.
“Hey, sweetie, are you feeling okay?”
Nadine nodded. “Yeah.”
Her mom looked at her face and said, “You know about the notebook I guess.” Nadine nodded. Her mom smiled. “Your father wanted you to have it because he knew you would make the world a better place with it. And if you want—I hope you do—you can draw him and he will come back.”
Nadine started sketching, crying at the thought of seeing her dad, and more sketching. She added the shading and colored in a yellow shirt. She finished the hair and closed the book. Then, right out of nowhere she saw her dad.
“I knew that notebook would come to use Nadiney-Beany,” said her father. David smiled and a tear trickled down his gentle face. Nadine leaped out of bed onto him. The whole family started crying.
“You made me come back to life! That’s incredible.” Everyone cuddled up together.
“I love you, Dad. I love you.”