by Beth Saadati
“Every story has a villain because yours does. You were born into a world at war.”
–John Eldredge, Waking the Dead
Once again I googled Jenna’s name.
Stop torturing yourself, I thought. She’s been gone for a few years. You’ll never find anything new.
Sometimes it’s good to be wrong.
In wonder I stared at the screen then clicked on the link.
There it was. Brightshadow. An early forty-page version of Jenna’s book I hadn’t realized she’d published online. The precursor to the unfinished 58,000-word sci-fi/fantasy tale my fourteen-year-old girl would download from her laptop to mine the day before she died.
Without hesitation or concern about cost, I grabbed my credit card and ordered printed copies my remaining family could keep. Then, sight fixed on the manuscript before my eyes, I skimmed pages to read the words Jenna had written in my real-life once upon a time.
On any other day, Morgan would have fought back for all she was worth—but on this day she didn’t have any weapons besides her fists, and she wasn’t stupid enough to think she could overpower Keathan by sheer strength. Screaming for help was definitely an option, but something kept her silent. Unlike some people’s perception, Morgan wasn’t all sharp corners and harsh justice.
“Go ahead,” she replied, her now-gentle eyes piercing through every layer of Keathan’s heart. “But if you really want to find true courage—and I believe you do—then I can swear to you on my life that hitting me until I’m half-dead isn’t it.” As she pulled herself to her feet, the last rays of sunlight glinted off her hair and face. Standing in front of her, Keathan halted his fist in midair. Light flickered over her slender form, and he wondered why he hadn’t seen just how beautiful she was before.
More than 2,000 viewers had met Keathan, Jenna's composite character of the boys who’d bullied at school. And the protagonist, Morgan, who was . . . her.
“I bet you know how it feels when you want to cry yourself to sleep but you don’t because you think you have to be strong,” she replied. Keathan turned towards Morgan. “I’ll bet you know how it feels when you have so much pain that it settles down into a knot in the bottom of your gut and stays there for weeks at a time. I bet you know what it’s like when everything hurts so bad that you try to cry but you can’t.
You know. The heart knows its own sorrow. And I’m sorry for calling you a coward that one time. You do have courage and you do have honor, but you don’t let anyone see it. It’s like you have a wall around your heart.”
Morgan spoke quickly, for she feared her time to talk was short. “Something happened that hurt you, so you built a force-field around yourself so nothing could touch you anymore. But that’s not going to help in the long run. Because if you don’t take the risk of letting things hurt you, you’ll never be able to let anyone in to help.”