Creative Compositions

Creative Composition of the Month: Tessa’s Backpack



Creative Composition of the Month is a monthly column courtesy of UFV’s Creative Writing Club. Every month, one short story, poem, descriptive essay, or other form of original work from UFV students will appear in The Cascade to enlighten your creative spirit. Happy reading!

Tessa’s Backpack
By Jenny Graham

On my Saturday morning walk, I cross the grounds of our neighbourhood high school for a break from the constant traffic. On my usual route around the tennis courts, and across the track, I notice a plaid backpack on a bench near the back entrance of the school.

As I get closer, I can see that it is clean, and almost looks brand new. The plaid pattern is pink and purple. Some poor girl is probably frantic with worry about where she left it.

There is no one in sight. The grounds are lifeless, with the exception of two crows who have found a sandwich in a brown bag. Chances are the backpack spent the night here. Sitting down beside it, I scan the area to make sure that the owner isn’t on her way back. I decide to start looking in the pockets to see if there is a name or a number written anywhere.

There is a small book that reads “Today” on the front cover. It is a daily prayer book with an address and name of a local church stamped on the back. Good. If I can’t find any other information, I can always drop the bag off at the church. The second pocket is more extensive. I unzip it, and peer inside. There is a textbook for Calculus 12 and a math test with the name Tessa at the top. The score is 98 per cent; this girl is smart. So why would she have forgotten her bag?

The large compartment is filled with clues. There is a binder, which I pull out first to make room. The binder has something written on the inside cover; it’s been scratched out with a pen, and is hard to read. It is a boy’s writing, I can tell because it is messy. It reads,“Tessa and Adam forever,” circled with a heart. With the binder out, I can now see a small boxed product at the bottom of the bag. I recognize it as a pregnancy test. It has been opened, and I feel the weight of the stick inside. My heart sinks and tears well up in my eyes. I start to understand why Tessa may have forgotten her bag. Now dropping the bag off at the church is out of the question. That could get Tessa into even more trouble, and that’s the last thing I want to do.

I sift through some loose papers: a UFV brochure, a Big Sister Application, and a scholarship form; barely able to see through the blur of my tears, I find a pamphlet for The Women’s Choice Health Centre. As I read, I realize it is for an abortion clinic. My heart skips a beat, and then sinks. I don’t know Tessa, but my empathy for her is all consuming at this point. Does she have parents that she can talk to? From the scratched out heart on her binder, I assume that Adam, if he was her boyfriend, wasn’t supportive. I find a folded note; it reads:

“Dear Adam,

When we decided to have sex you knew the consequences. It wasn’t my plan to get pregnant. I accept the consequences, why can’t you? I know you are trying to say that it isn’t yours, but I haven’t been with anyone else. I know your answer is to get rid of it, but it’s my body, and I’m scared. How do I bring a baby into the world that isn’t wanted?

Stop avoiding me! We need to talk…”

This wasn’t what I was expecting on my morning walk. This was heavy. I feel like a semi-truck has parked on my chest. Tessa needs help. She doesn’t need judgment, or religion, or a boy who walks away from his mistake.

I was meant to find Tessa’s backpack, and I would be open to whatever she needed from me. I don’t believe in chance. I think if we pay close attention at each fork in the road, we are given the opportunity to gain wisdom.

At the bottom of her bag is a phone number written in permanent marker. I zip up the backpack, sling it on my back, and head home to call Tessa.

Image: Simer Haer/The Cascade

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