Fall, Freshman Year
Margaret Emma Brandl

Fall, Freshman Year

“The office is sending a sub,” Preston reminded us from the podium—then, “I’m going to find him.”

“Us too,” Marta said, grabbing my arm. By then the whole band was talking and moving around. A group of juniors and seniors had gone to the instrument room to get their keys, and Marta dragged me towards them.

“Lock up your stuff,” she instructed, kneeling beside her locker to disassemble her clarinet. “And hurry before the sub sees us.”

“How are we going to help?” Marta wasn’t sixteen yet—she didn’t have her license, and neither of us had a vehicle at our disposal.

Marta was emptying her backpack of textbooks, keeping just the essentials—her wallet, Chapstick, an umbrella. “My uncle lives a few blocks over. He works nights. He has a car.”

Everyone in the room was talking at once, making a plan for a search party. I saw Marta pull out her cell phone—only for emergencies. As I put up my own clarinet, she was exchanging phone numbers with a couple of seniors—two girls and a guy. I only half-heard them as they divided up St. Joseph County and beyond—I’ll take this neighborhood, I’ll go here, you go there.

I fumbled with the lock, trying to fit the metal curve into the round body. My hands were shaking, and everything seemed to be moving more slowly—the rush of shocking news combined with the urgency of leaving before we were found out. But as soon as I had fastened the lock I looked up and the room was nearly empty; Marta was holding the door open and calling for me. I jumped up, tripping over my own feet, and rushed after her through the band room and into the parking lot.


It was still cloudy and gray out, and our walk up the big hill to the neighborhoods behind the school was mostly silent. I was still afraid of getting caught, but Marta was on a mission. At first we were offered a ride by one of the seniors, but Marta turned him down. It was chilly still, and when the wind blew I regretted the thin jacket I’d chosen that morning over a more substantial coat.

Marta wasn’t cold, even in just the t-shirt; she said so when I asked. As we approached her uncle’s street, she explained: She didn’t want to ride with the guy who’d offered to take us because the noise of his old truck might wake her uncle from his daytime rest.

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Margaret Emma Brandl

is a Ph.D. candidate in English specializing in creative writing (fiction) at Texas Tech University, where she teaches English classes and serves as an associate editor for Iron Horse Literary Review. Her writing has appeared in Gulf CoastThe Cincinnati ReviewPithead ChapelHobart, and other journals.