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I saw her first standing in front of me, rubbing her pale fingers around on her temples with her eyes closed. The speakers gave a loud pop, a boom, and while the others just gasped and laughed, she gave a low gasping moan. And her friend put her arm around her and led her out. I watched them go.

I didn’t recognize her at first. My heart gave a pause, then quickened. Suddenly, something inside me had changed. Something was different. I hadn’t realized my daughter had survived.



The wind was marvelous, full of singing strong power. I stood on the porch with my hands open, mouth closed tight, shoulders limp under the weight of shock. Jenny wailed behind me.

Trees came whipping by, sludgy mud and thick rain, water enough to refill the shrinking Aral Sea. People swirled by, screaming and crying, holding bloody cuts and half-drowned children.

Jenny’s scream woke me. I turned, gasping with tears, and held her to my chest, breathing hard. I waded out into the dark whirling water up to my chest, held her high, begged prayers, and tried to swim even though I’d never learned. Panic sang in the air, laughed at the dead and dying bodies, danced on the heads of those who were struggling to breathe.

It had come like a devil in a whirlwind. Thunderous, searching, limitless. I heard the noises and rushed outside, Jenny following, scooting on her rump, crying for her lunch. The sky was black as hate, and I could do nothing but stand with my hot hands empty and shoulders weak, watching the gods wreak havoc on my city.

Jenny was bawling red, eyes scrunched up in that way babies have, no longer mewling for lunch but screaming in full-lunged panic and fear. I could feel it too, a scream rising in my gut.

Then a tree came flying past and knocked me down. When I shook the mud from my eyes and tried to shush the baby, the water round me was dark with blood. My blood. I felt my brain go white, my eyes suddenly hot and empty in a flashing pain. In a haze I watched an inner tube from someone’s backyard pool float past, with someone’s kid on it, crying as he gripped the tube with bloody knees. Smithy’s kid. Betty’s son. I yelled his name and threw Jenny and he caught her, looked down, smiled in a half-hearted way, and she quieted.

And then I couldn’t remember anything, just white and a sharp stabbing pain that was slowly overtaking the rest of my body, enveloping me, pulling me down.



I watched her go. Her hair was thick and dark and long, like my mother’s had been, and she was short, like me. Her slender wrists bore three watches each, and I laughed when I saw them at first. I think they all kept different times. Her friend was hugging her as they faded from sight. Watching the way she rubbed her temples reminded me of the migraines I got when I was pregnant with Jenny.

She looked familiar. Her face—thin, sharp-boned, quizzical—made me look at her more firmly, trying to remember who she had been.



White. Peaceful, blank white, and silence save a buzz somewhere in the depths of the rooms. I could hear someone speaking after awhile, and I didn’t want to sit up, but someone was forcing me upward.

Her face was round and fat and smiling. I never found out her name, just the nickname the other patients called her. Awley. She held my hand, crooned nursery songs, told me it was going to be okay. When my brain shook itself awake I sat up and screamed JENNY!

“Who?”

“JENNY!”

But I couldn’t reach Betty over the phone. Smithy was dead, they told me. Perhaps the kid was dead too. Perhaps Jenny was dead too. Perhaps—and then my thoughts halted and I refused to believe she was dead. She had made it out, the kid had lived, and was somewhere safe in a hospital. She must have made it out. She must have made it out.



I walked after her, as if in a daze. A sort of dream. The friend looked over her shoulder and saw me coming, just a short woman with silvery hair in braids, probably dangerous and glared at me.

“Excuse me?” I said softly.

She looked up. Her eyes were full of pain—or maybe it was just me, knowing what she must be feeling. Her head was low and her eyes half closed. Her friend stood and said, “Yes? She’s not feeling well, you should let her alone.”

“I’m Bly Withy,” I said, holding out my hand. “You can call me Bly. I’d—I’d like to ask you something.”

She nodded, held my gaze, looked confused. Was she wondering? Realizing?

“What is your name?”

Then I hesitated, stuttered, tried to explain. “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be scary or imposing or anything, it’s just—I lost a daughter in the hurricane here, years ago, and—and you look so like her. I—”

The friend was glaring at me again. “Can’t you see she’s not well? She’s got a migraine! Leave her be!”

“It’s okay, Emily,” said she. “I was a baby then, I think. I’m adopted.”

I swallowed. My face felt stony, my breathing shallow, my hands suddenly hot. I knelt before her. “That would work, I think. My daughter was named Jenny.”

She nodded. “My parents named me Jennifer.”

Then I stopped. “But what if it’s a coincidence?” I asked her. She wanted this as much as I. I could see it in her eyes.

“Why did they name you Jenny? I remember,” I tucked a thin silver braid behind my ear, “I remember that the day I lost her, Jenny was wearing a little pink jumper with a—with a monogram. It said Jennifer on it. Do—do you…? Did your parents ever tell you why?”

A ghost moved in her eyes, a white pale thing of recognition and shock and acceptance. I saw it in her eyes and my heart burst. I felt hot all of a sudden, all of me, from my toes to the scar on my scalp. A sob rose in my throat.

With a gasp and a fluid motion, she threw herself into my arms and buried her face in my hair, crying.


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38 comments

Rhondalise Mitza
15:00 May 30, 2020

Beautiful rendition of the prompt, Zilla! Many hearts to you and Jenny.

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Zilla Babbitt
17:38 Jun 01, 2020

Thank you!

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Vrishni Maharaj
10:35 Jun 01, 2020

Lovely story!

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05:32 Jun 01, 2020

I like this heartfelt story.

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Pragya Rathore
16:51 May 31, 2020

I really liked the storyline and characters Zilla!

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Zilla Babbitt
14:10 Jun 06, 2020

Thanks!

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Jessica X
20:40 Jun 08, 2020

You're story is amazing! The imagery is outstanding, and I really liked the characters in it! Great job! :)

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Zilla Babbitt
22:58 Jun 08, 2020

Thanks so much!

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Solstice Poon
19:29 Jun 07, 2020

This story is such an emotional roller coaster! It's so beautiful and powerful, in a unique way! Do you think you could also check out my story? (My writing isn't even half as good as yours, but I'd like some feedback from a better writer :D) https://blog.reedsy.com/creativewritingprompts/contests/44/submissions/18929/

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Zilla Babbitt
21:22 Jun 07, 2020

Thank you! I'd be glad to read your story.

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Zilla Babbitt
21:24 Jun 07, 2020

For some idiotic reason, the link doesn't work. What's your story's title?

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Solstice Poon
16:12 Jun 08, 2020

Haha, that's my fault. The title is "Bittersweet". Thank you so much!

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Zilla Babbitt
17:07 Jun 08, 2020

You're welcome!

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Abby Irwin
14:55 Jun 07, 2020

I loved it!! That was an amazing story! Great job.

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Arya Preston
04:51 Jun 07, 2020

The emotions are explored really well, this was just so beautifully heartbreaking. Great writing!

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Zilla Babbitt
15:11 Jun 10, 2020

Thank you!

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23:06 Jun 06, 2020

Beautiful

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Aiswarya Praveen
15:50 Jun 06, 2020

Amazing story! Wish I could get likes for my story! Good Luck!

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Zilla Babbitt
15:11 Jun 10, 2020

Thanks :)

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Aiswarya Praveen
16:20 Jun 10, 2020

Your welcome!

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Eva Gryder
15:05 Jun 06, 2020

Why are you so good at writing?! *cries in corner*

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Zilla Babbitt
18:04 Jun 06, 2020

Aw, thank you. I practice a lot and read as much as I can.

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Alka Sharma
14:47 Jun 06, 2020

Great

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Leila Adams
14:42 Jun 06, 2020

Wow, that’s powerful!

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Lexi Hamilton
16:22 Jun 05, 2020

Wow!

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Agnes Ajadi
04:53 Jun 03, 2020

I love this story!❤️

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Zilla Babbitt
14:29 Jun 06, 2020

Thanks :)

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Ranya Navarez
17:13 Jun 01, 2020

I love this!! It's awesome! It was amazing to read.

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Zilla Babbitt
17:39 Jun 01, 2020

Thanks so much :)

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Very lovely! 💗💗

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Zilla Babbitt
14:30 Jun 06, 2020

Thank you!

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No problem at all 😊

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Liezle Meredith
21:57 Jun 10, 2020

Like the way you use words and create emotion...Nice story

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Adam Wright
21:39 Jun 10, 2020

Beautiful story, and I like how the end circles back to the beginning

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Emily Nghiem
22:27 Jun 06, 2020

I love your descriptive storytelling and the poetry of your words. You make this seem effortless, which is the mark of the best writing! I had a bit of trouble placing the characters in a setting in order to follow the switch back and forth, which threw me off a little. Maybe it would have helped to refer to some kind of physical room or place in the beginning, so that an indirect hint back to that would bring the reader back to the present more clearly. (Such as if this was in a "hospital," referring back to a "hallway or doorway" would VIS...

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Zilla Babbitt
21:37 Jun 07, 2020

Thank you for your detailed review! I see what you mean, a visual description of the first setting. I intended it to be set in a sort of bleachers, or at a concert or game, but I hadn't gone beyond that.

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Emily Nghiem
22:52 Jun 07, 2020

^ Wow! At a concert or a game, that really works and adds social context, to a "safe" comfortable place where someone's mind could go into deep flashbacks, I can see that! You make me think of a time I went to a concert, and "wasn't really present" but grieving over other trauma in my mind, where my friends reacted much like the girls in your story! That is VERY realistic and can create more context around the girls. You are a genius! Amazing to me you can create such a complex relationship, yet frame the story where it seems natural. That t...

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Zilla Babbitt
23:29 Jun 07, 2020

Thank you so much! Your compliments seriously blew me away. Appreciate it :)

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