Home > Cage & Magnolia

Cage & Magnolia
Author: KL Donn








Excitement courses through my veins as I stare around my very first office. I opted to come in for the summer program to help some of the more at-risk youth and learn more about the community I’ll be working in.

I’m unsure of when I decided to become a guidance counselor instead of a teacher, but I don’t regret it. I’m not interested in being a disciplinarian to the kids; I’d prefer to be their confidant. To be the person they’re comfortable enough to come to when they have a problem.

Middle school was my turning point in life. I was bullied so incessantly that I nearly committed suicide. Thought about it. Dreamed about it. For months on end, I wrote in my diary about how I would do it until, finally, the opportunity presented itself. I was ready. Prepared. Had accepted my fate.

But then she came.

Mrs. Campbell.

She noticed me on that Friday afternoon, saw something in me that no one else had paid any attention to, and made it her mission to ensure that I knew how much I had to live for.

If not for her simple question, I believe I would have gone through with it.

When you’re twenty-five, what would you say to yourself now?

My first thought was nothin’ because I’ll be dead. But then I spent the afternoon contemplating what I would say to my younger self if I had the opportunity to. The entire weekend passed trying to figure it out until Monday morning came, and I finally asked her what she would say to herself.

Her answer gave me pause.

This is only one part of your life. It can and will get better.

And then she told me how she was picked on a lot and how much she hated school. Mrs. Campbell never realized it, but she saved my life with that one question.

And now, here I am. Hoping to do the same thing for students who are like I once was. My focus is to help kids navigate through life when their bodies and minds are at war with one another.

“Mrs. Taylor?” Spinning at the meek voice, I see a girl standing hesitantly in the doorway. Her dark hair is tied up on top of her head, her face is makeup-free, and she wears a pair of ripped jeans and a baggy sweater with Crocs on her feet.

“Hi. What’s your name?” I smile and lean back against my desk, keeping my arms at my sides so she knows I’m open to conversation.

“Lucy. Lucy Michaels.” Her fingers twist in front of her as she looks down. “You’re the new guidance counselor, right?”

I nod and sweep my arm out, offering a seat on the couch that I had brought in or one of the bean bag chairs. “I am. My name is Magnolia.”

“Like the flower?” It makes her smile, and she finally accepts a seat in the cupcake-shaped bean bag chair.

“Exactly.” I flash her another smile as she looks around the room. I have a massive window on one side looking out into the school’s courtyard, and on each side, nestled against the walls, are two tall bookshelves. Sensing she’s here for something, I grab a stack of books and begin placing them on the shelves, waiting, hoping she’ll talk a little more.

I get through organizing two of the four shelves on one bookcase before I hear her ask, “Are you married, Miss Taylor?” I almost erupt with laughter.

Shaking my head, I respond, “No, never been married. I’m not entirely certain that kind of life is for me.” I’ve suffered from depression almost my entire life, never knowing how or when I’ll be triggered again. I do know I couldn’t put a spouse or children through that kind of uncertainty. I’d hate for anyone else to feel any sort of agony because of me. Stopping what I’m doing, I turn to look at Lucy. “Why do you ask?”

Her shoulder lifts as she chews on her lip. “My parents got divorced a couple of years ago. Mom took off, and Dad, well, he’s still heartbroken.”

“I’m really sorry to hear that.” Going to the mini fridge I installed behind my desk, I open it and grab two bottles of cherry-flavored water, my favorite. Offering one to Lucy, I sit in another bean bag chair shaped like an emoji face.

I take a refreshing drink of water, as the afternoon is sweltering, and wish I’d worn shorts instead of the jeans I have on. “My parents separated when I was a few years younger than you are, too, and eventually, they got back together.” Relating to kids in this age of technology is difficult, but divorce is one thing so many have in common.

“Did they shut down on you?” Maybe this is one I can’t relate to as much, but I will try.

“Them…no. But I shut down on them and myself.” Her brows pinch together, confused.

“What does that mean?”

Oh, how to explain suicidal depression and ideation to a teenager? I don’t want to. I hate the idea of her even thinking about it.

“I closed in on myself. I pushed my parents away, my friends. I was angry and sad. I wanted to run away but didn’t want to leave those I loved.”

She nods like she understands, and this, she just might. “That sucks.”

A laugh bubbles up this time, and I let it out. “It does. Did. It really did.”

And that’s how our relationship begins to grow and blossom—finding companionship in the unlikeliest places at a time when we both needed it.



Three weeks later.



“Miss Taylor?” I glance up from the paperwork I’ve spent all day working on—it’s a proposal to the school board about establishing an after-school program during the regular academic year so I can continue working with some of these kids I’ve spent the summer getting to know—and I smile at a waiting Lucy.

Waving her in, she drops down into her favorite seat—the cupcake bean bag chair. “What’s up?” I reach behind me and grab two bottles of cherry-flavored water. She’s grown as addicted to it as I have.

“I need to talk to you about something, but do you have to report it?” Alarm spikes my pulse.

“Well, that depends on what it is. If it’s a crime, yes.” I doubt that’s what this is.

Lucy shakes her head no. “Nothing like that.”

“How about you tell me, and then we’ll decide how to best proceed?” Over the last few weeks, Lucy has been to school every day, participating in the activities I have planned or even helping and being a role model to some of the younger kids from the neighborhood. As word has spread, my program has grown, and I hate the idea of it only lasting through the summer.

“You know I’ve been seeing Darius.” I nod as she picks at the label on her water. “Well, he made me do some stuff. I told him no, but….” Tears crowd her doleful eyes. “He wouldn’t listen to me, Miss Taylor…” Taking a mouthful of water, I wait for her to continue, plotting to give this boy a piece of my mind and possibly getting the police involved. We’ll see. My gut is screaming I know where this is going. “I took a pregnancy test yesterday and two more today.” I hold my breath. “I’m pregnant, Miss Taylor.”



One week later.



“Are you sure you want me here?” Sitting in my car in the parking lot of the women’s clinic, Lucy looks sick to her stomach. It’s early in the morning, and the protestors aren’t as big of a crowd as at other times of the day. Thankfully, the facility has volunteers who accompany clients into the building without too much trouble.

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