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by Andrea Rinard

We know where the hard corners are. We crouch together, our breaths slowing down while our hearts race, but we are quiet, quiet, quiet, quiet. If we are still and silent it’ll be over soon, and we can get back to Hamlet’s indecision and the Civil War and the laws of multiple proportions and espero, esperas, esperamos.

Jake is next to Moira. She smells like an apple made of jasmine, and he tries to scrunch himself in tight so that his leg isn’t pressed against hers. Becca is staring at the poster with the Gandhi quote on Mrs. West’s wall that says Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever. She rolls the statement around in her mind like a marble until the words stop meaning anything at all. Paul wants to check his email because his SAT scores should be posted today, and he just needs fifty more points, but he knows better than to pull out his phone because that’s not allowed. Anna forgot her lunch at home, and her stomach rumbles again and again, and Sergio looks at her and smiles. He will give her the bag of pretzels he didn’t want but didn’t throw away as soon as the all-clear sounds.

Mrs. West watches the door, looking for the shadows to pass under it. The window facing the hallway has a laminated black paper cover that was distributed at the beginning of the school year along with the new and improved security plan. One per classroom. The directions for the black paper curtain are on page twelve, and make sure every bit of the window is completely covered is in bold. Mrs. West thinks of her own children and wonders who they crouch with when they practice, when they rehearse what to do. Tears rise in her eyes, and she blinks hard. The doorknob rattles, and even though she knows it’s just the administrators checking the doors to make sure they’re locked, making sure they can’t see anyone through the windows, practicing feeling safe, it scares her, and she closes her eyes.

We crouch together, and it doesn’t really take long. From when the alert is issued to the announcement that it’s over, it may only be four minutes, but there are lifetimes in those seconds where we hide. We wait until we’re told we can get up and that everything can be normal. For now, though, we’re in a hard corner, and no one can see us.

Andrea Rinard is a Florida native, long-time high school English teacher, and emerging writer. Two of her life’s current luxuries are being a student in the graduate certificate program in creative writing at the University of South Florida and looking forward to participating again in the Yale Writer’s Workshop. Her work can be found in Wingless Dreamer and Prometheus Dreaming and is forthcoming in Crack the Spine and The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. You can read more of Andrea’s work at writerinard.com and follow her on Twitter @aprinard.