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Sunset Race

When Montana’s world is turned upside down she has no choice but to compete in a new sport that is as breath-taking as it is terrifying. After facing each challenge in training one greater appears. But none as dangerous as the first competition, the Sunset Races.


The wind encircles me like a ghost trying to pull me to the underworld. One phrase rings out over the howling. “Go forward, and don’t look back.”

But like Lot’s wife I fear losing what’s behind me more than gaining what’s before me. And in that moment of choosing the past over the future the horror comes true. However, instead of turning to salt because of my inability to move on I experience a fate worse than death.

I survive only to watch as my loved ones suffer the consequence of my actions.

Chapter 1

“I’m pregnant.”

Instead of returning to the living room with a cake full of flaming candles for my sixteenth birthday, Lilly returns with a white stick revealing a little plus sign. I turn and face Jessica. Her eyes narrow, and she sucks in a slow deep breath.

“Guess it’s not the gift you expected,” Jessica says.

Before I can respond she weaves her way around the embracing couple and snags the cake on the kitchen counter. She doesn’t even bother to light the candles in the kitchen, but does it while walking towards me.

“Happy birthday,” Jessica says even though we are not technically related. However, after six years together Jessica is the closest thing I have family.

“You should make a wish their bundle of joy has giant ears and a crooked nose,” Jessica says half-jokingly. Deep down I know she’s happy for her family. But, we both know their good news will be the cause of my bad news.

I blow out the candles with one big whoosh then set the cake down on the end table while Jessica gets the plates, forks and a knife. Neither of us bother to cut a slice for Harry and Lilly. They are caught up in their own memorable event.

“At least Lilly didn’t take the test until after she baked my cake,” I say. We both sit on the couch in front of the television watching the end of a Friends marathon. What Lilly lacks in affection and mothering she makes up for in cooking.

Lilly’s squeals can be heard louder than before. I turn to look behind me and see her phone pressed to her ear. Harry holds her free hand and stands by her grinning.

“Well, sister. I could find out about switching my one bedroom apartment to a two-bedroom apartment if you want to move in with me sooner rather than later,” Jessica says.

“I don’t think the courts would give you custody over me even once you turn 18 next week,” I say.

“You and I have talked endlessly about sharing a place once you are 18. You know how Harry and Lilly are. All they’ve ever wanted is a baby, their own baby. Not two foster kids. I’ve overheard them talking before about how if Lilly ever got pregnant they would give all of their attention to their child,” Jessica says.

“Yeah, I figured as much,” I say. I bite my lip and take a deep breath. I was fortunate to be placed in Harry and Lilly’s home when I first entered the foster care system six years ago. While they don’t compare to my parents on many levels at least Harry and Lilly are alive.

The thought of moving in with a new family makes my heart feel like it’s caught in a vice. I am friends with a handful of other foster kids who were shuffled from home to home. I don’t want to become one of them.

“Do you think it’ll be easy to get emancipated?” I ask.

“No,” Jessica says matter-of-factly. She shrugs her shoulders, and gives me a smile. “But I will help you do it anyways,” she says. She rambles on for a couple of minutes, overjoyed. The day after her birthday she’ll be moving into her own one bedroom apartment.

Her new giddiness has more to do with the idea she won’t have to be alone in her new apartment for long more than my birthday celebration.

Eventually we each turn our attention back to the screen before us. The Friends marathon has been replaced by evening news. Normally I mute the news until Harry sits down to watch it, however, I’m too busy shoving vanilla cake with cream cheese frosting into my mouth. There are two men sitting behind a table. The famous newscaster whose name I can’t place is clearly interviewing the other man who has some sort of fluffy silk scarf wrapped around his neck instead of a tie.

“It will be a sport unlike any other before,” the fancy man says. “Simply go to our website, fill out the form, and upload a short video sharing about yourself and why you think you should be chosen.”

“What will the competitors receive?” asks the newscaster.

“All who enter round one of the competitions will have living quarters, meals and even be paid a small stipend during training. Those who make it to each of the three main events will be remembered forever in history.”

“And the winner of the final round?” asks the newscaster.

“He or she will not only be famous throughout the world, but will also receive a large cash prize,” the fancy man answers.

If I had to put myself in a category it would be halfway between girly girl who likes to shop, especially for accessories, and a sporty girl. I’m not much for team sports. However, there is nothing that beats the thrill of skiing. It is our only family activity and the thing I love to do the most.

“Earth to Montana,” Jessica says.

“What was that?” I ask without facing her. Instead of giving her my full attention I lean forward to hear the fancy man mention the name of the company website to go to. Satisfied, I finally face Jessica.

“So it’s a go for emancipation?” She asks.

“Yeah, why not try?” I say. And why not, I ask myself. Jessica takes our plates and forks into the kitchen. Then there is clang of the dishwasher door dropping down. I reach for Harry’s old laptop that Jessica and I now share on the corner of the table.

I am about to type the words emancipation in the Google search. However two other words are pressing down on me like a weight. A few seconds later I am waiting for the company name? website to load.

As Jessica closes the distance between the kitchen and the couch I bookmark company name page and begin the search for what it will take for me to become an adult legally.

I’m only paying a little attention to Jessica read out loud the steps it will take for me to become a teenager free from the Oklahoma foster care system. After five minutes Jessica switches from the state webpage to the gift registry section of the store Target’s website.

“We can have a housewarming party together with my birthday party next week,” she says. “Instead of gifts for me you and I can register for things we will need in our new place.”

“That sounds like fun. I’ve always been envious of those engaged couples scanning all sorts of random knickknacks in hopes a friend or rich relative will purchase them.” Jessica and I know our small group of friends don’t have a lot of money but half the fun of a gift registry is putting on a things you wish you could have not necessarily things you know you can afford.

As she scrolls through the bedding section oohing and ahing over different comforters I suddenly have a hard time catching my breath. In less than an hour I’ve gone from a teenager with little more on her mind than passing exams to a soon-to-be adult responsible for all of her own choices and finances. I knew that same as Jessica, when I turn 18 Lilly and Harry will no longer receive financial assistance and I’ll be out on my own. However, I never imagined that day would come this soon.

The more excited Jessica got the harder it got for me to breathe. A question pops into my mind. Am I ready? I remember us standing at the top of a black diamond last Christmas break. I looked down the steep mountain and tried to mentally prepare for the expected and unexpected. Though a beautiful site, the mountain can also be deadly.

Would this sudden change of events turn into something beautiful or something that ruins Jessica’s and my relationship? While I adore my foster sister though she is the oldest, she relies more on the than I do on her.

We would have a ton of fun staying up late as we want on Saturday nights watching movies in our own place, however living and working together I’d never feel like I had a break from her. Suddenly, I feel like I said yes to being engaged to someone I didn’t want to marry.

Sooner than expected I’ll need to make my own way in the world. Whether that’s joining Jessica working at the T.G.I.F. restaurant or being a competitor for a sport no one’s ever heard of, I’m not sure. Though it’s unlikely I’ll make the cut for whatever this new sport is why not try?

It’s time I start living out the one truth at the center of who I am. I can’t always rely on my foster parents. Though she has good intentions, I can’t always rely on Jessica either. She’s not much older than I am. That seed of truth I learned from my parents’ sudden death begins to grow as rapidly as Jack’s magic beanstalk. From now on the only person I can rely on is myself.

Chapter 2 Coming soon!!

1 comment (Add your own)

1. Marisa wrote:
Love it! I'm so excited to see how this story unfolds.

Sun, November 26, 2017 @ 8:54 AM

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