Palo Alto Weekly 16th Annual Short Story Contest
3rd Place - 9-11 year olds


by Kelly O'Reilly

Adriana Carranza waded in the warm water of the Atlantic Ocean. The gentle waves lapped the smooth sand. She saw a crab crawl out of its hideout. She picked up a perfect seashell and held it delicately and examined it. She made sure she studied the light pink lines and how the bottom of it was slightly blue. Then she dried it against her shirt and slipped it into the suede pouch that always hung around her neck. She observed the grainy sand of the beach. She wanted to remember it all, because she would be moving to Chicago in a week. They would be moving because her parents believed that Chicago would be a wonderful experience for her and her older brother, Carlos. She wished to stay here where she had lived for the eleven years of her life. She had been born and raised here, and she had hoped to always live on this island where everything was familiar to her and where her friends and family were.

Adriana lived on an island off the coast of Mexico called Veracosa Island. Veracosa Island was split up into three main sections. In the middle, there was the downtown area, where there were many small shops, a school, a town square, and a park. To the left facing Mexico, there was the city. There, most of the Veracosa population had their houses. And then there was the rural area. A tiny percentage of the island’s inhabitants had farms here. Adriana’s family owned a huge plot of land in the rural area.
As the sun sank below the horizon and into the sapphire colored ocean, Adriana decided she better start heading back to her house. And so off she ran in the cool, evening breeze. When she reached her house, the smell of vegetable soup and cornbread drifted in the air. That was her favorite meal. So she quickly washed her hands and went to the kitchen.

"Hello Mama"

"Hello dear. Papa isn’t back from work yet but he should be here soon. Dinner is on the table. You may sit but don’t begin to eat until Papa comes."

"I won’t."

"Did you wash your hands yet?"

"I just washed them."

"Okay then sit down."

Adriana went to join Carlos at the dinner table. Carlos had dark brown hair and dark brown eyes.
"Hey," he said, "where were you?"

"Down at the beach. What’s wrong with that?"

"Nothing, I guess."

There was nothing more to say, so there was a silence. Adriana heard a knock at the door. Papa was home from work. He gave Adriana a big hug, then they all sat down and began to eat their delicious supper and have a energetic conversation.

In the morning, Adriana brushed her hair in front of her mirror. The glass reflected an eleven-year-old girl with thick brown hair reaching her waist, big, dark brown eyes, and dark skin, the color of coffee and cream.

The rest of the week was spent on packing belongings. All of her possessions were packed into the brown boxes. The boxes were everywhere. Boxes lay in Adriana’s room. Boxes were strewn about the living room. There were even boxes in the bathroom. Adriana hated it. They reminded her that soon she would leave her house and move to a place that she hadn’t even seen before. On the final day while her family put the boxes in a huge moving truck, Adriana ran down to the beach for the last time.

At the beach, she sat upon the soft sand and sobbed a waterfall of tears. She cried and cried until she had no more tears left. Then with her eyes red and watery, she reluctantly left the beach and went to her family who were already waiting in the car. They drove to an airport and left Veracosa Island for good. A single tear trickled down her cheek as she waved good-bye to her family, her friends…her home.

Six hours passed. Adriana peeked out the window of the airplane. They were about to land. She looked down at Chicago, her new home. Cars were crowded in the streets. Many people were crammed on the sidewalks. She noticed that in Chicago, the roads were straight. The houses were built on the sides of the roads in long lines. Back at Veracosa, houses had been scattered everywhere. The roads curved and twisted to connect all of them. At Veracosa Island, the roads had been like a spider’s web. One who had never been there before could easily get lost. Of course that was only about the city area and the downtown area. The rural area had only a few lanes, like snakes, connecting them to downtown. Chicago was far more crowded than Veracosa could ever be. The second she glanced at the bustling streets and crowded sidewalks, she wished she was home. And they hadn’t even landed yet.

"Well, here we are!" said Papa as they opened the door to their new apartment. Adriana could tell that Papa was trying to be cheerful and make the best out of this tiny apartment.

Adriana scanned the living room. It had a red couch, a large, green armchair and a small, black and white television set. "Where’s my room?" she asked. "You and Carlos will share that room," Mama replied pointing towards a white door. She could hear Carlos groan. Back at the island, Carlos had his own bedroom and his own study. This was a large step down for him. Adriana opened the door leading to a cramped room with tan walls, the color of the sand at the Veracosa beach. The room contained two twin-sized beds with dark green blankets. Between them was a wobbly nightstand. There was a small closet for both of them to share and a chest of drawers for them to put their belongings in.

At night, Adriana couldn’t fall asleep. The cars outside were honking, tires were screeching, and police sirens were wailing. She tossed and turned. By morning, she had rolled her sheets into a huge, tangled knot.

It was the first day of school. Adriana plaited her long hair in two thick braids and slipped on a pale blue shirt and a denim skirt. She filled her book bag with a notebook, a pencil case, and a folder and went off to Liberty Elementary School. Her new school was one big brick building. There was no schoolyard. No Playground. No swings. No slide. Only the cold, hostile building looking down at her with a stern frown.

Class was boring. Her teachers had no enthusiasm or passion for the subject they were teaching. The children were rowdy and boisterous since they were cramped inside all the time. She was unable to concentrate on her work. At lunch they went to a concrete area outside to eat. Adriana ate her sandwich alone. She wanted to go back to the island. She hated Chicago. At recess they were all crowded into the gym. Her classmates teased her about the pouch around her neck. They teased her about how long her hair was and yanked on her braids. Her eyes filled with tears, but she forced herself not to cry.
At home, she ran to her room and cried.

"Adriana, come help me cut the mango for dinner!" Mama called.

" No! I don’t want to!" she choked with tears.


Adriana sulkily wiped her eyes, and then joined her mother in the kitchen. At least they had her favorite fruit in Chicago also. She grabbed a mango and began to cut. She grit her teeth and furrowed her eyebrows as she cut, pretending it was one of her classmates’ heads.

"Adriana, what’s wrong?" asked her mother.


"Honey, I know something is the matter."


"All right then. It just makes me so sad to see you like this. I wish you would tell me."

Adriana laid her head on her mother’s shoulder.

"Everyone at school hates me!" She sobbed.

"Oh honey, it’s all right. You’re a wonderful girl. You’ll make a friend. Just you wait and see."
The next day, Adriana tried to be as kind as possible to all her classmates. Still, they teased her. A week passed, and Adriana was desperate for a friend. She decided she should stop eating alone. That way, she could meet more people who might end up being her friends. But what if they teased her or just ignored her? She made up her mind to sit by herself. After all, if they wanted to be her friend, they could come over to her.

No one came to sit by her, as she expected. The day was a miserable one.

The next day, as she sat by herself, a thought trickled into her mind. Maybe others were as shy as she was. She would have to risk being teased and try her hardest to make a friend. She looked at the lunch tables. She realized that when she had been feeling sorry for herself, she hadn’t noticed that there was another girl who sat alone.

The girl had reddish brown hair and green eyes. Adriana noticed that the girl was seated in a blue wheelchair. Seeing her in a wheelchair made Adriana remember four years ago. When she was seven she had broken her leg. She had had to use a wheelchair for a while. She remembered how no one had wanted to be with her except her one friend, Rose. Without Rose she would have been miserable. Now as she watched the other girl eating lunch by herself, she felt sorry for her.

Gathering up her courage and confidence, Adriana picked up her lunch tray and went over to her.
"This seat taken?’ she asked, although she knew the answer.


She sat down by the girl.

"Um…hi!" she said nervously, hoping to start a conversation.

"Hi." The girl replied, looking down at her lunch tray.

"Um…my name’s Adriana. What’s yours?"

The girl nervously glanced at Adriana.

"Bridget. You’re new here. Aren’t you?"

"Yeah. I moved here from Veracosa. Veracosa is an island off the coast of Mexico."

Bridget was excited to hear Adriana’s stories about Veracosa Island. So Adriana spoke of how beautiful the beach was with the sun’s light reflected on the water. She spoke of the beautiful horses. She told Bridget how the roads curved and twisted. She told her of the seashells with light pink lines and their bottoms slightly blue. By the end of the day, she and Bridget were fast friends.

Bridget made them both friendship bracelets, and every day after school the two friends played together and talked. After two months, Adriana was convinced that they would be friends forever. As a sign of their friendship, Adriana gave Bridget the seashell. She gave her the seashell with light pink lines. The seashell that was slightly blue underneath. The seashell from Veracosa Island.

Judge's Comments:

An honest and ambitious dealing with serious issues that are handled sensitively. It addresses some larger world issues through one individual. The details and descriptions of the island made us want to go to this beautiful place.

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