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Drama Fiction Sad

She visited them every night.

Some might have labeled her a stalker. A night-watcher, a bum, a girl clueless to the ways of the world. But they did not. They didn’t even know she existed. They never saw her tear-streaked face outside their window while they ate dinner, bathed in golden light.

And that might’ve been her favorite thing about them.

She was eleven when she saw them for the first time. It was their happiness that struck her, drew her eye, pulled her in and never let go. They were like a whirlpool, she always thought. Irresistible. She saw the mother, the daughter her age, the father, the baby. The love.

Irresistible.

She stayed close to them, from that day. Never interfered, never made herself known—simply observed.

 

I’ve never really kept a diary before. Never had the time. Or the money—even journals cost a few dollars.

I saw them today. I don’t know what to call them—the family, I mean. I’ll stick with “them,” I guess. There’re always four around their table, and one looks about my age.

I don’t know why I’m saying all this. I don’t have any poetic descriptions, or any worthwhile stories to tell. I’m hoping, maybe, this family can change that. Maybe they can change me.

It’s like how reading a book can change a person, I think. At least, I hope. When even though you’re nothing but a spectator, you feel their pain. You experience their triumph.

I think—hope—this might be like that. Maybe they can change me.

Maybe someday.


She knew the notion was nothing but fantasy. A daydream. She wrote the words nonetheless.

She crept in the shadows every night, following them home.

They walked in the home laughing, joking, smiling. The warm light from the door seeped out from the open frame. It enveloped them, pulling them into the home with fingers of love. She wished that she could feel the home’s welcoming arms, but rejected the thought. It was another fantasy.


I had a realization today.

I was watching them go back to their home, like they always do. The home itself was full of yellow, orange, brown—warm. The light seemed like it pulled them in. When they opened the door, it came out and welcomed them.

I thought about that as I walked home. I wonder why I call my place home—a home is what they have. The place that holds out warm, welcoming arms. Where I stay, there is none of that. My home holds out tendrils of shadow, reminding me who I am, where I come from.

I never thought myself a prose-y person, but sometimes, journaling forces prose out of you. Sometimes, life forces it out of you. It seems like the darkest times lay the most beautiful words on a blank page.

There it is again. Prose, coming from my dark abode. The irony of it almost makes me laugh, but it proves my point.

I wish my home could be like theirs. Maybe that’s why I want so badly to change with them. Someday, I want what they have. That’s all I want.

But that leads me to my realization. A home like theirs is not meant for me. I’m meant for the shadows.

But maybe someday.

 

She became obsessed. Not clingy, not creepy—only filled with an insatiable hunger for the light. She knew she couldn’t partake, but she couldn’t keep herself away, either.

So she settled for the outskirts. One foot in, one foot out. Watching them have dinner, filling their mouths with words of her own, crafting stories for what the daughter did at school or what the father did at work.

When she walked home, the rain washed away the warmth they had given her. She wrapped her arms around herself and tucked her chin to her chest. Her only coat was at home, next to her journal—she didn’t often need it this early in the fall. Nothing stood between her and the frigid wetness.


They always seem so…joyful. It makes me wonder if all families are like this. Most families seem to start out this way, but slowly, painfully, fracture into little pieces. Like a broken window. The shards of glass land everywhere, dig under your skin, bury themselves deep into your body.

Or maybe that’s just my family.

But they are different. So very different. If my family is a shattered window, they are a pristine panel of glass.

There I go with imagery again. In a different world, maybe, I could be a writer. Something tells me I might like that.

Maybe someday.

 

Three months passed. The pumpkins on their doorstep became Christmas lights above their driveway. Her routine never faltered, never changed. The family—that she now thought of as her family—grew. She stayed the same. Sometimes, the light from the doorway didn’t shine as bright as usual. She was cautious those days, and so were they. When they spoke over dinner, she could sense the tension from her customary place outside the house.

Whatever happened, they made up by the end. She stayed at the window, heart pounding in anticipation, until the moment where one of them broke down and the others rushed to comfort, to forgive, to heal together.


It was the daughter today. She came home, had a fight with the mother. I couldn’t take my eyes off it. But in the end, after dinner, they had a long conversation. They embraced at the end, like they always do.

I sat down there, with my back against the wall, staring into space. Wondering. Wondering what might’ve happened if that had been my mom in there, holding me. Things might have turned out so differently.

But I don’t have the luxury of wondering. They are the closest to an escape I can get. I want nothing more than to live in that fantasy. I know the odds—but despite them, something inside me still whispers:

Maybe someday.

 

Tears trickled down her face as she wrote that night. She didn’t have the luxury of wondering, she repeated to herself. But she wondered anyway.

And somehow, the wondering was the worst of all.

Numb, she turned the page and sketched. The first blank paper became a mess of jagged black lines, harsh cracks in the pure white. On one stroke, she ripped the page, but she hardly noticed as she dragged the pen over the paper. Her breathing quickened. Her hands shook. Sweat dripped down her temple. Her vision hazed red.

She took a deep breath and flipped another page.

On this one, she drew with steady hands. Easy strokes, forming a simple rectangle.

Two windows. One broken, one unbroken.

She tore the papers out of the journal and laid them out on the street in front of her. She had a foot in both worlds, half of her in the house with them, the other half of her here, in the shadowed streets.

She couldn’t keep torturing herself like this, torn between two opposites. She couldn’t become a living oxymoron. It would tear her apart as easily as her pen had torn the paper. She had to choose one world, one window, one drawing.

She closed the journal and fell asleep with the sketches in front of her.

The family was changed the next day. The daughter was nowhere to be found and the mother’s eyes were red and puffy.

The light didn’t shine through the doorway.

They fought. She didn’t know what about, but the mother and the father fought harder than she’d ever seen. Both left the room in tears. Only the father returned.

The father came to a standstill for a few beats before seizing the nearest cup and hurling it at the window. The window shattered.

She huddled against the wall of the house as shards of glass rained down, biting into her skin, burrowing their way into her flesh. Her features twisted in pain, but she didn’t cry out. She’d been through worse.

When the sharp hail subsided, she stood on shaky legs. Shivering, she let her winter coat fall to the ground. Her fingers fumbled in the frigid air, but she managed to pick the fragments out of her tattered shirt. Each one made the tiniest sound as she dropped it and it connected with the rest of its kind.

Moisture sprang to her eyes. Even the glass had something she did not.

She picked up her coat and gently brushed the shards away. Surrounded by a dusting of snow, glass sparkled on the concrete by her feet. A glittering reminder of something never to be repaired. A glittering reminder that hit her close to home.

Blood seeped from the deeper cuts on her arms, but she ignored it. A few scratches could never hurt her, compared to the gut-wrenching feeling that wracked her body when her gaze fell on the empty window frame.

She took a piece of the broken glass with her when she walked away from the house—no longer a home—for the last time.


I drew two windows last night, in this journal. I have one of them in my pocket, now—the other is somewhere in a gutter.

Did I choose right?

I’ll never know, I guess. But after what I saw with them, I had to make the decision I did. Being grounded, down-to-earth—it’s something that comes with being a street-orphan. I can’t choose fantasies.

I made the choice I had to. I made the choice that will make me stronger. I think I made the right choice.

But I will always wonder.

Maybe someday, I will know.

November 02, 2021 04:38

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25 comments

Jon Casper
09:31 Nov 02, 2021

Wonderful story, Tommie! I like the framework of the two alternating POVs -- third person to first person. It feels like she isn't envying some literal family, she's remembering glimpses of her own broken family from whom she has run away -- and from whom she is so estranged that she thinks of them as "them." Having an internal battle over whether she could ever belong with "them" again, which seems like something a runaway might contend with. The earlier reference to the broken window vs pristine panel ... vs the father shattering the wind...

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Tommie Michele
12:52 Nov 02, 2021

Wow, your interpretation is definitely a lot better than my idea—for some reason, I was less than inspired this week, so I took the prompt quite literally, but I tried to leave it pretty ambiguous because as a reader, taking stories and interpreting them myself is my favorite thing to do. Thank you so much for the feedback and the kind words!

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Tommie Michele
04:40 Nov 02, 2021

Line-edits welcomed with open arms! This draft is fresh off the word processor, so I don't doubt that there are some (likely egregious--did I spell that right?) grammatical errors. I don't know if I like this one enough to submit it to the contest, but maybe after a couple rounds of polishing I'll be more fond of it. Thank you for taking the time to read, and I hope you enjoy!

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Esther Kurisu
19:05 Nov 09, 2021

Wow great job! From the second I started reading it to the end I was captivated!

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Tommie Michele
20:56 Nov 09, 2021

Thank you, Esther!

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Renda Brooks
17:39 Nov 08, 2021

Your perspective on the prompt is fantastic. I enjoyed reading of the girl's struggle with watching "them" and her journaling. The entry "but sometimes, journaling forces prose out of you" resounded for me because of the solid truthfulness of it. Also, and then I will end the comment so as not to be so longwinded, the imagery and emotion of it all was outstanding. Thank you for the great read.

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Tommie Michele
18:28 Nov 08, 2021

Thank you so much! And don’t worry, I leave long comments all the time :)

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Elise Aries
17:03 Nov 07, 2021

I was gripped by the first sentence! The emotional scenes are written so clearly I could feel what the main character was going through. This is very difficult to pull off, so well done!

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Tommie Michele
18:45 Nov 07, 2021

Thank you! I’m trying to work on clarity in my writing and cutting out fluff while having vivid description, so this is very encouraging!

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Zz Entwistle
17:01 Nov 07, 2021

This story is sad and beautiful, fits the prompt so well, and I like the repetition of "maybe someday" and the symbolism of the broken window. "It seems like the darkest times lay the most beautiful words on a blank page" was one of my favorite lines. So meaningful! Good luck in the competition and well done :)

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Tommie Michele
18:45 Nov 07, 2021

Thank you so much!

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Barbara Mealer
14:29 Nov 07, 2021

A really good story and very powerful. Just a thought. If it was written as all as journal entries. What would she write for that last part?

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Tommie Michele
19:17 Nov 08, 2021

Thank you! I must admit, I don't quite understand your question--the last part of the story is a journal entry. What part do you mean?

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Cannon Taylor
19:33 Nov 06, 2021

Wow, this story was weirdly relatable. I like that the narrator can be seen as abstract or real - I prefer the abstract, personally. I love stories that are able to take such complex feelings and create something truly artistic from them. This is one of those stories I feel anyone could enjoy - it captures the human experience so well. I think we all have felt like jealous outsiders looking in. I’d say this is worth submitting to the contest, if you have the spare cash. Great job!

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Tommie Michele
22:33 Nov 06, 2021

Thank you for the kind words! I did end up submitting it—crossing my fingers :)

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00:50 Nov 06, 2021

Hi Tommie, I don't have time to do line by line but just wanted to let you know that I have read this story and I really like it. I especially like the ending, where all the creepiness is explained and the characters perspective suddenly makes sense. It's a great write.

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Tommie Michele
01:00 Nov 06, 2021

Thank you so much! I’m so glad you were able to read and enjoyed it :)

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Suma Jayachandar
04:42 Nov 05, 2021

Wow! this works so well both literally and metaphorically! Enjoyed reading it.

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Tommie Michele
05:24 Nov 05, 2021

Thank you so much! I’m glad you liked it :) I was not very inspired at all this week, but I’m happy I got something out and all the positive feedback is really encouraging!

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Alex Sultan
15:48 Nov 03, 2021

I enjoyed reading this! I know what you mean when you say inspiration won't flow but this was definitely worth posting - a good addition to your library of stories. I like the repetition of the title, and my favourite parts were the subtle POV switches. I really like how you build up the orphan character. It does get sad near the end. I like the first paragraph and the opening sentence. The simplicity of it is nice, and a good introduction to the story. It sounds like you and fits your style. here is what I have for line edits: A night-w...

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Tommie Michele
04:23 Nov 04, 2021

Thank you so much, Alex! A lot of edits, for sure, but much-needed and definitely not overwhelming. I made some changes and tried to add a little imagery. I'm not sure if I'm going to put this one in the contest--maybe it's because I wrote it in a pretty uninspired state of mind, but I'm just not sure if it's quite at the level it should be. I would love to know what made "Mirror, Mirror" and this story your two favorites! They're on pretty opposite sides of the spectrum (Funny story, I wrote "Mirror, Mirror" in about an hour on my phone ...

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Alex Sultan
11:48 Nov 05, 2021

I read over your story again, and the changes you made really polish it up. I'm so glad you took my suggestion on the Christmas lights. I really like this story now and I hope it does well in the contest. All the weather touches are nice too! It adds life to the environment, and I feel bad for the protagonist since it is out of her control. With 'Mirror, Mirror' I like the concept and time skip a lot. The writing style was very simple(I mean this as a compliment) and easy to read. It was such a cool ending to jump forward 30,000 days in it....

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Tommie Michele
13:12 Nov 05, 2021

Thank you! I definitely like it more with the polish—I wasn’t going to put it in the co test, but I changed my mind last minute. I’m looking forward to your next story, too! Definitely hoping for more inspiration this week, too. Good luck in the contest!

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S. Thomson
12:34 Nov 02, 2021

First of all, I wanted to say you are a really good prose writer. You are asking for line edits but you barely need them as you have a great sense of sentence structure and word choice. If I had to give a note, I would say that your uses of "she" and "they" are quite impersonal, which makes the characters harder to empathise with and connect to emotionally. Why doesn't your main character have a name? Maybe she could dig through their bins and find bits of mail with their names on. I also think the narrative becomes a little repetitive in...

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Tommie Michele
12:57 Nov 02, 2021

Thank you! I definitely don’t consider myself a prose kind of person, so your words are super encouraging. As for using “she” and “they” versus names, I wanted to give the reader the same kind of disconnected feeling as the narrator feels toward “them”. I can see how it gets a little repetitive—that’s definitely something I struggle with in my writing. A lot of the problem is that I haven’t had any ideas for what else I can put in between each of the narrator’s journal entries—this week was definitely not an inspired one for me, hence the no...

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