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No Two Totally Different

by Jeannette Benoit, age 16, Canada

The summer sun beat its rays down upon the lake in smooth, golden streams. And just as it hit, it was reflected back up into the soft, blue sky as if it had hit a tiny sliver of a broken mirror. It was Father's Day, and basically everyone in Lloydminster was gathered at Bud Miller Park for the annual Father's Day celebration.

Just like every other year, there were food stands, puppet shows, water balloons, and even a dunk tank. Everyone was enjoying the day, even though the sun was intense enough to melt the monkey bars. The little kids were all playing in the playground on the swings and slides. Some of the bigger kids were playing hide and seek in the tree maze. Young couples wandered the stone paths hand in hand, while older couples walked their yappy dogs around--straining to keep up. From far above, Bud Miller Park could be compared to a busy anthill, swarming with thousands of warm little bodies. No two exactly the same, but no two totally different. Little did these innocent citizens know that one of these tiny bodies had a slightly disturbed mind.

* * * * *

Walter had had a rough childhood. He never really knew his parents. His father died when he was just a baby and his mother couldn't cope with her husband's sudden death, so she turned to drugs as a form of false comfort, eventually leading to a deadly overdose. Walter had been passed on from foster home to foster home for at least twelve of his seventeen years, and the moment he turned sixteen he was free. He had been saving up from a part time job and had just enough to pay the rent on a one-room apartment. That was his ticket out of his horrible foster home, which he hated with a passion, and eventually out of school because he had to get a job to pay the rent money.

Lately Walter's life had taken a more positive twist. He met this girl named Mel when he was sixteen. They both worked at the Husky Truck Stop. She worked in the restaurant, and he pumped gas and worked the till. Some might call it love at first sight; others might call it a disaster waiting to happen. Their relationship bloomed over the months, and they became very close, although Mel's parents weren't crazy about Walter, since she was from a good home and it seemed that she would have no future with him. Her friends didn't like him much either because he was very possessive of her, and she would often come to school looking tired from a long night of arguing with him on the phone.

After the first bruise and a whole lot of tears, she broke up with him. But in spite of what her parents, friends and teachers told her, she still gave him another chance to prove himself. He always seemed to be able to squeeze his way back into the picture. They tried starting anew, but the verbal, mental, and physical abuse continued to hit Mel hard, until one day the light came on in her head. She knew what she had to do, and she did it one day. She told Walter it was over for good. He was heartbroken, because she was the only person he had ever loved in all his life. But instead of being sad or crying like most people would do, he dealt with his feelings in more violent ways. At first he threatened suicide. He would phone Mel every night and tell her he was going to slit his wrists, and that it was all her fault. But Mel was strong and did not get sucked into his trap once again.

When he realized that suicide was not going to work, he started threatening to kill her, her family and even her friends. This was more difficult for Mel to deal with. For the first few weeks she kept all his threats to herself because she was afraid of him. She couldn't sleep or eat, and she was afraid for her life. One day she decided she had had enough and she broke down and told her parents what he had been doing to her for the past three weeks. They immediately took her to the police station to make a statement and demanded that something be done as soon as possible. They didn't want their daughter to live her life in fear. She was sixteen and it was supposed to be a fun time in her life, not a living nightmare. Unfortunately, the police told Mel and her parents that there was really nothing they could do, since Walter was on medication and was seeing a counselor. Her parents argued and argued, but it did little good. All they did was call his house and leave a message on his machine warning him to stay away from Mel and to stop calling her.

For the next two weeks everything went all right. Mel never heard from Walter, nor did she see him. She felt a bit more secure in public since her parents bought her a can of pepper spray to defend herself, and she kept it with her at all times. One night, after basketball practice, she returned to her car to find a little note under one of the windshield wipers. It read "I THOUGHT YOU LOVED ME. WHY MEL? WHY? YOU HAD A CHANCE TO CHOOSE LIFE. WHY WOULD YOU CHOOSE DEATH?"

Walter's signature was scribbled in at the bottom. She could identify it perfectly. At first she was just shocked, then she became very frightened, and she figured she wouldn't be able to drive in such a state, so she got a ride to the police station from one of her teammates. She ran inside, still clutching the note in her hand, tears streaming down her fear-stricken face. She talked to the same officer her parents had argued with before, and begged him to keep Walter away from her. By the way the note was written it talked about somebody dying. She just didn't know if Walter had been talking about himself or her. And she really didn't want to find out.

* * * * *

And now, four months later, Mel's life seemed to be normal again. The way it was before Walter. She was at Bud Miller Park for the Father's Day celebration, and she was walking around the lake with her friends. Not a care in her mind, just like almost everyone else who was there that day. The police had assured her and her family that Walter had moved to a different province shortly after the last note he left for her, and they told her they'd keep an eye on him for her. Just knowing that he was so far away made it a whole lot easier for her to pick up the pieces of her shattered life and move on. And that's what she had done.

But something about the day, or about the way the bright sun glistened off the cool, blue lake reminded her of the walks that she and Walter used to take together on warm summer evenings. That all seemed so distant now as she thought about all the things that had occurred between then and now. And instantly, her good memories were overtaken by bad memories, and she fought to get her mind on another track. The last thing she needed was to ruin her day by thinking of Walter. And that was exactly what she was thinking as she heard the first gunshot ring out.

The peace was shattered all at once by the gunshot and the thousands of horrified screams that followed. The atmosphere had turned from relaxed to intense in a matter of seconds. The gun was being shot by someone in a black mask and a green baseball cap, who now stood on top of the Parks & Recreation building that was built just yards from the lake. The first shot was just fired to grab everyone's attention, and it served its purpose just as the masked man had intended. Everyone, including Mel, stared up at the masked figure in horror. And as soon as Mel caught a glimpse of his green baseball cap and faded blue jeans, she knew exactly what was going on. It was Walter, and he was back to get the revenge on Mel that he thought he deserved.

She took a few deep breaths, cleared her throat, and did something that she never thought she could ever find the courage to do. She began walking toward the building. It's about time for me to face my fear, she thought. "What are you doing? Did you ever once stop and think of what you are really doing?" She called up to him in a loud, yet very controlled voice.

"What makes you think this is the answer to your problems? Look at all these people down here. What did they ever do to you? What did I ever do to you? You need to reach down into your soul, past all the hurt and anger. Push aside all those painful thoughts and feelings, and find your true self. And when you find that true self of yours, ask him if he'd do what you're doing right now. Would he pull the trigger or would he climb down off the roof and start a new life? It's your choice. It's your life. But please, please reconsider what you had planned to do today."

That was all she could force out of her mouth before the tears started flowing silently down her face. Everyone's undivided attention was focused on the man in the mask. Thousands of innocent people stared hopefully up at him, just waiting and wondering. He slowly removed his mask and Mel was shocked to see that it was not Walter, but a boy from her school. A boy who had never been very popular and who a lot of the popular people liked to pick on. He too, was now crying. Even as he unloaded the other five bullets and dropped them into the rain gutter, the tears kept rolling down his cheeks.

The crowd of people below him started clapping and cheering as he dropped the last bullet into the gutter and set the gun down. He sat up on that roof just crying, thinking, and looking down at the thousands of little bodies. No two exactly the same, but no two totally different.