THIRTEEN‘s characters try to celebrate Christmas in an occupation zone.

Part 3 – Dad’s Gone

A timid knock came through his door and he knew it was Kim. She was so fragile he couldn’t yell at her to get lost so he opened the door allowing her to enter.

“Why you mad?”

“You wouldn’t understand.”

She tilted her head and furrowed her brow then smiled.

“Your dad. You always mad because of dad.”

“Yeah so what.”

She sat down on his bed curling herself up into a ball, as she always did.

“I understand. I mad too. My parents not here. Your mom try give us Christmas. Make us happy, but we not happy.”

Guilt filled Jack’s gut making him want to retch with disgust at how he’d acted. Of course she’d understand, she knew more about what was going on than he did, she’d lost more. She’d endured more. He remembered her face the first time he’d seen her, bruised, dirty, and tear stained. She was so lost. She still was.

When the soldiers had invaded they captured all the South Korean and Chinese nationals living in the cities and put them into the detention camps. Kim and her family were rounded up almost immediately and dumped into the arena to starve. Nick’s cop friends had smuggled her out and now she was living with them until the rest of her family could be rescued.

“I’m sorry Kim.”

“It’s OK I know. Mad dad not here.”

“Yeah. It’s more than that though, I’m made cause he didn’t want to be here in the first place. He left mom. He left me. He wasn’t here last year either.”

Last Christmas had been full out world war 3 in their house. His mom nagging at him to have fun, be happy, and enjoy the season, while all he wanted to do was scream at her for ruining their family, ruining Christmas. This year. Maybe his dad would have come this year, if the soldiers weren’t in the way. He wouldn’t even have minded if he’d brought Bonnie with him. He just wanted his dad home safe and celebrating Christmas with them.

Kim stayed quiet.

“I know mom tries and it’s not her fault. I just get so mad. I want to punch something. Kick at it. Beat it to a pulp. You know?”


He doubted she ever got mad. All she seemed to do was sit in a ball and cry. She barely ever talked. She was like a wounded bird nursing a broken wing. He wondered what she was thinking sitting there so quiet, in her safe ball. After a few minutes she looked up at him, tilted her head again, and said.

“You ready go help you mom?”

He nodded and followed her out of his room and down the stairs to where his mom was struggling to put the tree together. Branches were laid out all over the floor as she pushed them into the green metal trunk. She didn’t say anything to him, she just smiled and handed him the top of the tree.

“I can’t reach.”

Being tall was such a burden. He gave his mom a quick hug and then fitted the top onto the metal tube.

“There. Tree’s up. Where’s dinner?”

“You’re always hungry.” His mom rolled her eyes. “You too finish putting these branches on I’ll see if I can wrangle up some tuna fish and … cold leftover rice?”


“We don’t have much of anything else guys. Sorry.”

She went into the kitchen leaving Jack and Kim to build a Christmas tree.


Part 4 – Coming Soon


Photo on 2014-04-17 at 12.25 PM

Shannon Peel is the author of THIRTEEN, a novel about a boy, his mom, a cop and an invading army. THIRTEEN is the first book in a series about North American kids trying to adjust to life under a totalitarian regime after a surprise attack utilizing terrorist and conventional tactics. 

Click link to learn more about THIRTEEN, a book for boys & girls 10 – 14