Chapter 1:

Popcorn and Soda

Honed Hearts

“HISS....Whoosh!” the sound of the bitter orange soda makes while it’s coming out of the soda dispenser. Stacks of cups and popcorn buckets are what I touch on a daily basis. It’s been the same… me being stuck on the edge trying to support the house as much as I can. But, she’s 17! She’s still a teenager! Doesn’t her parents do everything for her? Why does she have to deal with the problems? You’re right, but also wrong.


A high-pitched welcoming voice comes in from the entrance of the movie theater. When I hear that voice screeching my name, I know real well that it’s Lindsey. She’s so ecstatic all the time, so pretty, so popular. Who would hate her? Who would not be her friend? She’s already got tons of friends. I can assure you she broke at least fourteen hearts of boys. At most, thirty. She’s so perfect. You can even consider that I’m jealous of her. At least she has kind parents, spoiling her until the brink of death. At least she doesn’t have to smell the butter popcorn and not hear the loud soda dispensers everyday. But, I managed to become her friend, my only friend. How? Why a loser like me be friends with someone as perfect as her?

We met each other at primary school. The jolly bell rang, signaling that it’s lunch time. Every kid was so happy, skipping along, taking out their lunchboxes their moms would take hours to make. Lunch was everyones’ favorite time of the school day. I would say I WAS Lindsey in primary school and she WAS Annalise. When lunchtime struck, it would be a whole party. You see, as a kid I was so innocent. Not ready for what the teenage years would have in store for me. I was way more outgoing, happy to see my classmates and lunchmates every single day. My mom would always pack me not so good lunch, but it didn’t bother me anyway. Why would I need my mom if I have me? Baking has been my to-go ever since I entered third grade. I tend to pick up on things very quickly, like the ingredients listed on a menu book. My mom would teach me sometime, but she would always say that I’m way better than her, laughing. The baking kits were my treasure. When kids my age wanted stuffed bears or toy cars, I wanted a whisk. No, even better an electric mixer!!!

As numerous days passed, I would look through the shelves that were dusted, they contained mostly old in-depth philosophical books that my mom never read. While dropping through some kindergarten duck books I used to read, I stumbled across and found a collection of colorful baking guide books. I still remember that day where my eyes glowed as soon as I found them. Although the books were a little bit crumpled, I would love to browse through them and follow the recipes. They would become successful. As one egg cracks into a bowl. Butter into another. Milk into another, I grew fond of baking. The satisfaction of eating the sugar filled cakes, cookies, cupcakes after hours of steady preparement is irresistible. Cookies were my favorite to make since they were so easy to compose, especially the butter ones. I would always bring the sweets that I baked to lunch. No one would know that I baked it, they all ought-to think it’s store bought. “I’ll take two of your butter cookies, for two apples!!” a girl with ginger hair and freckles would say to me. “No way! Apples are nutritious.” I lie to her. I despised apples. The only reason why I denied her is because it took me a long time to make them to perfection and just the right amount of butter sugar balance. She starts to make those puppy eyes. “Well, fine I will give you one. Savor it, okay?” I give up. The kids around me giggle and I laugh just happily enjoying my child days. These kids were all who I considered friends. I see a hunched over small blonde who is sitting with a granola bar. At the end of the table. I stroll over to her and smile until my jaw hurts. She looks at me with dark eye bags. “Didn’t get enough sleep last night?” She ignores me. I put out a soft cookie and hand it to her. “Here, this should make you feel better,” I giggle. I skip away and then ever since then she would follow me wherever I go. When I would run across the concrete, she would follow me. Even when I’m in front of my house, she would follow me. I would finally say, “Hey… wouldn’t this be considered stalking, or whatever it’s called?” She nods. She runs over. “I-I want to be your friend?” I let out a big chuckle. “Is that why you’ve been following me all this time?” She looks down in disappointment. “We’re already friends!! Want to come inside?” Her eyes glimmer with surprise.

We would apply her moms’ nail polish on the weekends. Laugh, read magazines. Take selfies. Have midnight sleepover buffets. Of course, I would make the desserts. She would call me a pro baker and I would feel prouder than ever. We would be the best of friends until middle school came. That's when she became widely known and her parents became richer than ever. With the funds, Lindsey became flashy with her style and easy to spot. If you saw her, you would certainly know it’s her. Only the “cool kids” would hang out with her. As I went into middle school I dropped way down in the popularity pits. Lindsey became more quiet with me and she was always with different girls. I definitely wasn't considered a cool kid. Recalling all about this made me zone out exceedingly. I shake my head. It’s the present now. You can’t change the past. We are high schoolers now. Get it straight, Annalise.

“Hey Lindsey,” I welcome her while she runs over to me. It’s been a while since she came here. We rarely talk. She’s dressed so pretty, that the world around her is illuminated. Her rosy blouse complemented her minor makeup which wasn’t overdone. Besides, she’s pretty without makeup. Her blue eyes made the roses look like they were adrift in a fresh pond. Her hairstyle made her look like she’s a disney princess. She had heeled ballet shoes that made click-clicking sounds when she ran over. However, I’m surprised that she’s alone. She’s always with her friend group. “I didn’t know you worked during the night,” she asks while arranging her smooth blonde hair while a group of teenage boys are admiring her in the distance. I look down in embarrassment, “Yeah… I do haha. Did you come here to see a movie? Which one?” “Opal Findings 2nd Movie, I’m so looking forward to the sequel!!!” I know that one, it’s the one where a girl meets a boy and they fall in love. That’s it really. I always think those types of movies are cliche… boring... But, if Lindsey likes it, then I will be happy to assist her. “Here’s your card that you paid for previously and do you want any snacks?” I ask. “Of course!! Is there any of the caramel popcorn? Also, a small cup of mountain dew please.” While I arrange the plastic cups to find the best size, suddenly a new husky voice emerges.

“Hey!! Sorry did I make you wait? I didn’t know you already arrived here.” As I turn around I see a tall dark brown haired guy who is hugging Lindsey. I knew she wouldn’t have come by herself. She’s never alone. The popcorn is finished cooking and I arrange them into buckets.

“Annalise, this is my boyfriend, Zach.” she says with a bit of pride. He’s so handsome like the singers you see these days. He had piercing green eyes with luscious brown, sort of maroon hair. His jawline is the best part, defined. He was dressed like he was on a date which technically I think they are. He’s wearing a smooth blue denim jacket. The denim seemed to match with Lindsey’s cute jeans. I can tell other boys around us are getting filled with envy. But, I’m just getting more and more flustered, socially awkward. I’m not surprised that Lindsey would be his girlfriend.“Hi, I’m Lindsey’s friend,” I broadly state while he still has Lindsey wrapped in his arms. “It must take lots of audacity to work at a movie theater part-time at such a young age,” he says laughing. I don’t know if that’s a compliment or not, but I know I shouldn’t be overthinking. It’s a bad habit of mine. I laugh along too scratching my arm which isn’t even itchy.

“I’ll have whatever Lindsey’s having,” he continues. While Lindsey and Zach are having a personal conversation between each other, their voices are blinded by the loud soda dispensers, I notice that my shift is almost over gladly.

When the next line of people come, Lindsey waves goodbye happily, one hand waving towards me and one around Zach. As soon as they’re about to enter the movie room, I suddenly notice Zach peering me with seriousness for a few seconds and then, he walks along. It gave me uneasiness, but I have no time to think about him. I’ve got to get a move along and begin with the new sets of popcorn with the distinct soda flavors. No one today ordered the hotdogs anyways.


As I take off my uniform that is a little hot because of the small sweat that I had from hustling the long lines today, I feel a cold breeze of relief. It’s from the open doors of the entrance since it’s night and chilly. However, I felt a sort of comforting relief in my brain too. Another day finished. All of the people start to step out of their movie rooms either with their eyes a bit red from the sad tissue movies, or happy that they spent a nice day here.

“Annaliseee!!” that same screeching voice growing louder again.

“How was the movie? Did you enjoy it?” I ask smiling while she runs over towards me. “It was so good, I was satisfied with the ending, especially the part where they kissed in the rain…” her eyes were glowing. I didn’t expect much from Annalise anyways, she’s into those romance movies. Zach hurries along over with his empty popcorn buckets and soda cups. I instantly remember that uneasy look he gave me at the front of the movie room. I think my mind misunderstood it. Zach shouldn’t be a bad person, he’s Lindsey’s boyfriend.

“Shall we go now hehe?” Lindsey says jumping. Zach smiling holding up his food replies, “I will throw this away, you can wait for me all the way at the entrance there.” “Okayyy!!” she giggles skipping along towards the doors.

“Is it hard to be working here?” he says after Lindsey’s gone. “N-no…” I utter with surprise. “Your face looks all worn out. Do you want to walk with us? You can come over.”

Isn’t he going to throw out the food? Why is he standing here, just talking to me…

I manage to come up with a solution,“I’m all fine!! Haha, you should go, Lindsey is waiting for you.” He hands me a small sticky note and waves goodbye walking towards the entrance with a sort of wicked expression.

I pick up the blue sticky note after he leaves and the sturdy inked characters seem to be numbers with dashes separating them. His phone number?! Why? I don’t know if I should be throwing this away or not. I sigh. I slip it into my small leather bag. The vast movie theater is nearly empty and I pick up my bag finally relieved that the week is all over. Oh yes, and Monday is the first day of school. Just thinking about attending school and part-time work makes me almost sick. Now, the rest of the more older employees enter through the entrance ready to start their night shift. The smell of the butter and frilly carpets leave my nostrils as I leave the movie theater.

I’d say the only fortune that is assigned to me is that the movie theater is close to my house. I only have to walk a few blocks. The night cold breeze makes me shiver all the way to my bones. “Why is it so cold in September…” are the only words that are coming out of my mouth just stammering. My purple sweater isn’t enough to combat this. I start to run on the solid concrete tiles, feeling the icy breaths that are inhaled and exhaled. Running makes me remember the good days in middle school where I was with my friends on the yard. The quarantine I was put in right on my senior year made me isolated, sort of depressed. I remember I had this one friend who’s name was Paula. She was one of the first friends that I had made on the first day of school. She had short jet black hair and wore pink glasses. She was mainly known for being a nerd, a teachers’ pet.

“You’ve got to do PEMDAS!!” that cheery voice of hers echoing through my head. When I’m with her, even homework was considered fun. We would always walk together whether it was snowing to the point where my legs got numb, or those hot summer days which make you barely breathe of all of the humidity. We would race along the fields, laughing, holding hands. I remember her, first to lunch with that rainbow lunch box filled with apple slices and animal crackers. She was a smart healthy girl. One day, she came late to the cafeteria. While I was enjoying the rubber fries, I turned around looking for Paula. She soon appeared to a jolt in my eyes. Her left eye was bruised, a slight tint of brown.

“I-it’s all YOUR fault!!!!” she screamed with fury. Her voice in my ears brought a shocking lightning bolt. I have never seen her this mad at me. The cafeteria slowly became quiet as everyone turned to us. I felt like a thousand eyes were leering at me. I managed to say with a murmur, “What did I do?” Her, still in fury, “You were the one that made them bully me all this time!!” I’ve never been confused in my life. The last time I was this confused was when I was accused of wetting the bed at the age of six. “L-listen we can talk about this alone, but, I’ve never gone in any contact with any of the people that were bullying you.” I was talking with such persistence I started to stammer. I was telling the truth anyways. “I didn’t even know they were b-b-bullying you…” tears started to well up in my eyes. I got mad and said some things I shouldn’t have said, “Maybe, you should stop being so weak and defend yourself or just tell me for once!!!”

Then, she brutally screamed so much about how much she hated me while I was just sitting there, frozen. She wasn’t the innocent Paula I knew. Right after, she ran out of the cafeteria and never talked to me again. She was one friend I never wanted to lose. Never. And just like that she was gone, right before my eyes. Could I have stopped this? Probably. Those are one of the guilts I carried with me. Even my acquaintances disappeared, as the rumor spread through the whole school.

“PLOP!” I thoughtlessly drop my heavy leather bag as I realize how much I have been zoning out. So much that I forgot about the cold. I should hurry on over. I don’t want to get sick before the first day of school. As I quicken my pace, my breaths get heavier, the frosty air sucking into my teeth. I knew living close to the movie theater was good luck. I open the silver gate towards the entrance of my door and close it with a surprisingly unintentional loud bang. “Same old house…” I mutter to myself as I view the tall yet beautiful brick infrastructure. I open the door slowly and rush in as the warmth overwhelms me.

As soon as I turn around, I see my mom passed out on the seamless kitchen table with her head resting on her right arm, her pale face flustered. What’s around her brown short hair is an immense brown bottle of alcohol and empty plates with used tissues. Why does she have the cut-outs that I use for baking out on the kitchen table? I bought it just this Monday and I kept it in my room all of the time. I hope she doesn’t get angry for me buying stuff online. Namazon is the best place to get my baking kits. They come fresh, clean, and very quick. A snore grows louder and louder from my mom. She was drunk. Again. Instead this time, she is passed out cold. I almost pass out smelling the strong reek of alcohol from her. She’s getting worse and worse. I sometimes tremble in fear on how her future is gonna be like. I’m trying to support her in the best way possible. I pick up the oiled plates, empty cups, wine glasses, and the baking cut-outs. As I stroll on over to the sink, I just put the dishes aside, as I am exhausted to clean this mess from a “long” shift at work. I trudge along the stairs and into my messy room. I leave it uncleaned most of the time. I have a colossal lack of motivation.

I drop down the heavy leather bag and feel the weight of my shoulders tip off a bit. My hair is already messed up and in tangles. I know I should take a shower, but I just can’t. When I open the bag to have a snack that I bought at a convenience store, a paper slips out. I notice it’s from before, “Oh… it’s Zach’s number.” With hesitation, I reach on over to my bin, should I throw this out? Or should I keep it so that I can have an acquaintance. I’m lonely anyways, so it wouldn’t hurt to talk to someone new, right? But, he’s Lindsey’s boyfriend, why would I text him? No, why am I even thinking those thoughts? I have no intentions in doing something so cruel to Lindsey, but still, it’s a bit off. I will just text him in a friendly manner, nothing more. Wasn’t he a bit rude to me earlier though? I don’t know if it's probably just my mind.

I pick up the marble phone that's untouched all day and stare into the lockscreen. The memories begin flushing through me. I see the smiling faces of my friends. A photo that I will treasure forever. I haven't touched this phone for a week and there's no notifications at all. Just that I need to clean my storage. It’s been so untouched that my battery is at 14%. I hover over the phone button, still hesitant, but just while I withstand, I make up my mind. I pick up the blue note and type in the number.

Hi, it's me, Annalise, you gave me your number.” I briefly text him. What else am I supposed to say?? I quickly turn off my phone and drop it on my bed. The panicking starts to begin. I begin to chew my nails. I can't believe there could've been one hundred million children born out of my mom and it was me, the one who has social anxiety and an overthinker. An abrupt stop comes to my heart as I hear a ring. Is that a notification sound? Oh no, oh no. I just can't check that. I'm kind of surprised that he responded so quickly, but that doesn't distract me from the fact that I feel like I need CPR right now. My heart starts racing as I reach for my phone facing flat down on my blankets. I quickly open the messaging app and close my eyes. As I open my eyes slowly, I see a text floating in the white background.

Yeah, ahaha I remember you. I didn't know you would even text me. You finish your shift?A relief comes to my slight flushed face. I text him back without thinking, “Mhm, I finished it. Did you enjoy the movie you watched?” He quickly texts back like a jolt of light, “Nah, it wasn’t good at all. I wanted to leave, it was one of those boring movies. I pretended to like it because of Lindsey.” I can’t blame him for not liking it. Even me as the movie theater worker disliked it. That was how much of a terrible movie it was. I shouldn’t judge the things my friend likes though.

Another message sound rings after a solid minute, “Do you want to call?” Call. CALL?! But, my voice is nearly dry because of the exhaustion of popping popcorn kettles for hours. I think for seconds. Minutes. I forgot that I was even texting Zach. “Do you?” he asks again. My legs become restless. I thoughtlessly reply, dishonest, “Haha, sorry not today, maybe some other day. My mom is calling me right now.” He responds, I figured, of course, good night, with an emoji. I drop my phone and lie down on my bed. It's supposed to be soft, but it feels like a thousand needles are on it right now. I still can't believe I was texting a guy who has the charisma of a celebrity. Overthinking isn't gonna help now. I remember his smile at me as he left the movie theater. He's quite ominous, but leaves a good vibe too. I feel like weight is pulling me down on the shoulders. My door suddenly slams open.

“H-huuhh, Annalise, where wereee youuu this whole timme?” I recognize that slurred drunk voice. It's my mom, of course. How did she even wake up? Wasn't she passed out cold? I quickly lie up on my bed. I see a short, yet worn out figure barely being able to stand straight. “M-mom...” I mutter. I run over to her to help her. I put her arm around my shoulder. She hardly pushes me away onto the door. My head bangs on the wooden surface. I look down with complete shock, being unable to stand up.

“I asked you, WHERE WERE YOU?!!?!?” I flinch as she starts yelling at me. I can't bear someone yelling at me, especially my mom. I know that she's drunk, but tears start to well up in my eyes. “I was just outside at the park.” I lie hoping she would understand. Besides, if I tell her that I work at a movie theater without her knowing, she would go crazy. “YOU’RE SUCH A BAD LIER. YOU LITTLE… DON’T EVER COME HOME LATE AGAIN. I swear. I will punish you to the verge of death. Do you even know the situation we are in right now?” I burst out in tears, “I DO KNOW!! Why can't I do the things I want? I want to help you. I want to do everything to support this house!! Do I not have a right??”

“Did you just yell at me? Are you arguing with me?” She takes wobbly steps to me and powerfully pulls my hair. It hurts like hell. I can feel some hair start to come out as I feel defenseless. I try to gently push her away and run to the bathroom and slam the door shut. I can feel my face getting hotter and hotter as tears pour down my face like a waterfall. I close my face with my hands, whimpering. Sniffling. Head starting to ache. The door behind me bangs loudly as I try and close it shut to make it locked.

Muffled voice arises, “Don't you dare close the door on me!!” Whimpering like an idiot isn't going to help… “I KNEW I SHOULDN'T HAVE GAVE BIRTH TO YOU, YOU ARE A MISTAKE.” My heart drops. I leave my lips slightly parted, numb. Tears don't even come anymore. No matter the differences my mom and I had, she had never said that to me before. My heart is aching, killing pain. I feel like I can't breathe. “Come out, I have a bottle ready,” she yells. “I SAID, COME OUT!!!” The voice is slightly interrupted by a loud glass shattering sound on my door. I yelp in dismay. Flinching, like a thunderbolt striked me. After that bottle shattering sound, she was gone. I lay on the cold tiles of the bathroom floor, breathing heavily like a maniac. Slow tears emerging out of my eyes. As minutes tick by like hours. Hours feeling like years, I can tell it was almost midnight. I need sleep though, as school is literally tomorrow. My eyes are light red and it's sore like someone squeezed lemon into them. Heavy hiccuping is all that I've been doing for the past two hours. Another hour passes again.

I know I shouldn't be lying down like this forever. I get up, feeling the wet little puddle I've made on the dense tiles. I feel like I can fall asleep at any moment. I go to the sink and brush my teeth like a sloth. Feeling the cold water slap on my face makes me feel alleviated. As I go ahead to turn the metal door knob, I feel a little tensed up still, but remember, I can't stay like this forever. As I turn the metal knob slowly, the door creaks open, broken glass pieces are scattered across the floor. The more I turn the door, the more the glass clinks. I try not to step on the glass very carefully, a mouse lurking in the darkness. I know I need to desperately sleep, yet I can’t just stand all of the glistening sharp brown pieces of glass gazing at me.

I get a plastic bag that has the logo of Macys on it. While I gradually pick up the pieces, making sure it doesn’t prick me, I remember the distinct logo of Macys. The red star. So simple, yet iconic. Once I went shopping at Macys with Lindsey and it was one of the best times of my life. You already know the reason why. Since I consider myself a sociophobe, just having a short conversation with someone can make me spend hours thinking. I remember every little detail when it comes to this. What their smile looked like, what shape their eyebrows were, what tone they would say their words. I may even consider myself creepy. Not really though. I’m glad Lindsey doesn’t pay attention to those things. When we went to Macys, Lindsey would always go for the cute blouses or the cool cool crop tops, if you know what I mean. The ones that have flames on them, or unique roses. I would go for those baggy sweatshirts and zipped up hoodies that can be a little too oversized.

My thoughts about Lindsey and Macys are interrupted, remembering the loud slurred voice of my mom and what she said before. “I KNEW I SHOULDN'T HAVE GAVE BIRTH TO YOU. YOU ARE A MISTAKE!!!” I still have minor sniffles as the crying had been going on for hours. I manage to swiftly pick up the glass pieces and dump them into the Macys bag. I throw the Macys bag to the side of the bathroom door and head into my room, closing it as quietly as it can so that my mom doesn’t hear it.

The room that I had hours ago, doesn’t look the same compared to how it looks now. I walk across open snack bags and pieces of M&Ms on the floor, hitting my foot on a science textbook or two. I plunge into bed, lying down on my stomach. Pillow sinking into my face. “I just want to live in this pillow, why was I not born as a cotton ball instead?” I ask the same question over and over again. My eyes are burning from the tears, nose growing sore as it rubs against the cotton surface of my green pillow. The pain makes me hug my teddy bear more. I put a huge blanket over me, as it fills me with soft warmth, feeling some sort of comfort, but distracted from the fact I need to go to school tomorrow for the first time in a while. “How am I going to go to school tomorrow…” are the last words I mumble, before the blurry vision is the last thing I see, as I go into a deep slumber.

Honed Hearts