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Dear Clara -- fiction by Annie Zhu

Dear Clara,

Happy Birthday, Angel! I can’t believe you are already turning 10. It feels like just yesterday you were a baby. You used to cry nonstop unless I gave you a bite of your favorite blueberry muffin. And even though you don’t cry anymore, I know that you constantly crave those muffins. I have a batch baking in the oven right now as a matter-of-fact, and I wish you could be here to smell it.

When the doctor first diagnosed you with neuroblastoma, I remember sitting in the cold office, peering into your twinkling brown eyes, and promising you that “everything was going to be okay.” You responded with a toothless grin that melted my heart. I gladly gave up my dream of opening a bakery to spend more time with you in the hospital.

But you were stronger than any doctor could have predicted. Even though the battle was tough, with you constantly having to go back to the hospital, you never made it seem like a chore. And sometimes, I completely forgot you had the condition at all—especially when we baked together. I loved every second of you standing on that stool, whisk in hand, side by side next to me. When I accidentally spilled batter once, you took my hand, looked me in my eyes, and told me, “Everything was going to be okay.” I don’t know who made you such an amazing person, but just know that you are something special. You are my angel.

And I know you smile down at me with your twinkling eyes from heaven now.

You fought so courageously against neuroblastoma, and that will always be an inspiration to me. For the rest of my life, I will strive to be half as pure, sweet, smart, and loving as you were.

I love you.

I love you.

I love you.

You deserved so much better. I’m sorry you never got to finish all those blueberry muffins. I’m sorry that I couldn’t afford you to get that baking apron. I’m sorry I couldn’t save you. I’m so, so, so sorry.

You will always be in my heart.



[5.5 million likes] [1.6 million shares] [100k comments]

[Posted by Isabella Richardson]


Her eyes swollen and red, her nose stuffy, Isabella was an absolute mess. She had been live streaming for the past 15 minutes, grieving with her followers. “Thank you all for being here with me,” she remarked while wiping her tears. “I’m going to get some rest now, and you all should too.” Another pause to blow her nose. “Have a good night, everyone!” With that, she tapped her remote, ending the Livestream.

Tap. Tap. Tap. Isabella quickly activated her cleaning bot to pick up the tissues off her table, her kitchen helper to make her a drink, and her wall screen to pull up her channel’s statistics. No longer crying, the mother glued her eyes to the screen. 5,523,189 million likes… 5,523,192 million likes...5,523,193 million likes…. Opening her excel sheet, she checked whether her linear regression model of her latest post’s performance had been accurate, making some calculations and noting down some changes. While sipping her drink, Isabella switched to another account and browsed the Trending tab. She smiled at the sight of her Livestream being the #1 video and spent some time analyzing her competitors’ Livestreams.

Beep. Her machine indicated that it finished cleaning the entire room. Fatigue was settling upon Isabella now. She had spent the entire morning organizing and posting up a crowdfunding link for Clara’s funeral on all her social media platforms. The fundraiser was doing even better than she had thought it would. She decided that dealing with forging with the autopsy would be a task for tomorrow. As she brushed her teeth, Isabella scrolled through listings of hotels at the Malibu beach and checked out the first-class airplane tickets. A break after all the hard work was warranted in her mind.

Before climbing to bed, she had one last task. She went into her spacious walk-in closet, past the rows of exorbitant dresses, into a tucked-away corner. A black button about the size of a blueberry protruded from the corner and she pressed the button. This motion activated a light. Placing her hand on the wall, she let the luminescent blue light scan her fingerprints. Click. The safe swung open. In the safe was the poison she had used yesterday as well as the contaminated pots and pans. And the leftover poisoned blueberry muffins.

She breathed a sigh of relief. The safe was untouched, which meant that nobody stumbled upon it earlier that afternoon when she had guests over. Isabella liked hiding all her evidence in the nooks and crannies of her house because she could never be sure what the government did once they collected her trash. Who knew if they scanned for certain elements. Her qualms quelled, Isabella re-locked the safe, collapsed onto her mattress, and began drifting to sleep with one last thought hanging in her mind:

Clara sure did seem to enjoy those muffins yesterday.


Annie Zhu is a senior at Bellaire High School in Texas. She is the Co-founder of Bellaire Future Problem Solvers (FPS) Club, where she has initiated Fresh Hub, a program that redistributes food, and Readiness Across Mathematics (RAM), a program that provides STEM resources for students in disadvantaged neighborhoods. More than anything in this world, she loves working with her team to coordinate solutions utilizing technology and creative innovations. Annie is also a national medal winner of Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. In her free time, she enjoys reading, writing and dancing.

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