Contest #89 winner 🏆

254 comments

Sad

Hugo-

Day one, the hottest day in July. The kind of hot that makes the neighbors forgo underwear and plant themselves in front of oscillating fans. Feet planted in small kiddie pools filled with tepid tap water, topped off with bagged ice from the corner market. The breeze from the fan casting across the iced pools does nothing to diminish the warmth from their radiating bodies. Instead it pushes the sweat further across their faces and thighs until they are all shiny with sweat.


It’s nearly impossible to forget day one. You try, yet day one is the day you’ll scramble for breath. You’ll put on the bravest of faces to give your daughter Thea oxygen as you hold the side of her head to your chest. She will appreciate the firm pressure you apply to her quivering body. The grief inundating from her youthful frame, forcing you back- one, two, three, steps until you both collapse onto the couch. Sweat and tears, they’re all the same.


How can a girl live without her mother? How will I breathe without her modeling what a strong exhale looks like? 


It will be all she can say.


You wonder in your emotional greed, Where does she keep all of the passwords? Thea’s birth certificate? Is she allergic to anything?


Raeann-

Their day one is polar opposite of your day one. The body that carried you through life for the past four decades decided the narrative of living a nice long life is a lie. To find out that you’re going to die is far less painful than hearing that you are dead. The dead don’t hear pain. The dead don’t feel it either. 


It’s terminal, you have weeks at best Raeann. I’m so sorry. 


You are sent home with instructions of getting your affairs in order. Pamphlets titled, “How to tell your loved ones that you are dying,” as if there is a simple bullet point plan to button up all of your affairs before you go. 


Step 1, I’m dying. But I left a few lasagnas in the freezer for busy nights. 


Hugo-

Planning a funeral is foreboding. The weatherman says to expect more heat hazes. You don’t know exactly what that is, but you’ve already spent hours on the internet searching for a cure. What's another few minutes? 


Heat haze: also called heat shimmer, refers to the inferior mirage observed when viewing objects through a mass of heated air.

Relief floods your body, panic eases up. This isn’t the end, it’s all a mirage. It has to be. 


Raeann-

Everything after the first day is now called the in between, and that’s just how you’ve come to accept it. Call your mother more, but not so much that she suspects that there is something to be worried about. Mothers know. 


Revel in the fact that the word hug happens to be the first three letters of your husband's name, as he is the best hugger you’ve ever met. Hugging him a little bit longer feels like a possible cure for the incurable.


Forget the pamphlets, your family deserves a better send off than that. The blogs online say to leave a video diary for your daughter because she might forget the way the dimples tucked into your cheeks are deep enough to hold a cat's eye marble in each of them.


Don’t let her forget.


The idea of a camera taping your face not looking like your face is unsettling. It is then you decide on cassettes, they’re the happy medium. Even if cassette tapes are “so out of style,” they might be even more treasured due to the rarity of them.


Nothing screams a mothers legacy like antiquated methods of communication. Might as well break out the typewriter and ribbon of ink. 


Hugo-

In-laws, they’re a mixed bag. Naturally they have known your beloved Raeann for the longest. They created her so there is ownership there.


Let them visit and call and video chat.

It’s all that they will get of her.


You’ll be left with the daughter you share, and the smell of her lilac shampoo on the bed linens you agreed to buy at the big box store. The in-laws won’t get to smell her again, but you will, at least a little longer before the next load goes in the wash.


Raeann-

To make a mixed tape you have to consider two things:

Who you’re making the tape for and the occasion.


Remind yourself that this isn’t a John Hughes movie, and Thea won’t be walking away with the love of her life but rather losing you. Of course there are times when you hear a little melody on the radio and think to yourself, Thea would love this song. Then, add bits of wisdom and sayings to the playlists, for days when she needs advice but you aren’t there to give it.


A mother knows exactly what kind of music will make her daughters eyes sparkle, even if it is followed by a tiny eye roll. It’s some kind of magic to possess this kind of knowing about a teenager even if she is your child.


You wonder if anyone else will ever know your daughter this way.


Hugo-

She told you that there’d be tapes. That you’d have to give them to Thea, maybe one morning as you sip your coffee black and dark roasted the way that you like it. 


It’s important Hugo, it’s all I have left to give her. Well, and you of course. 


Those dimples, you won’t be able to say no to her and so you agree with a gentle head nod and deep hug. 


Through sickness and health was the vow? What about death and grief, what’s the vow look like after that?

More haziness.


Raeann-

Your last day comes twenty-nine days after your first. Cliche, that’s what the last thirty days will be. Like a film reel, memories click and spin for one last viewing in your mind's eye. Not in black and white, but in vibrant colors of finger painted construction paper and alabaster hydrangeas in wedding centerpieces. 


Wait until Thea nods off in the corner chair of your room, wrapped in the blanket you both sewed together out of your old shirts. Absorb the tiny bit of warmth from Hugo’s hand wrapped around the frail fingers on yours. These hands spent many hours laced together over the years and now his hands will spend hours pressing play for Thea.


It’s time for your strong exhale.


Hugo-

Pull the old cassette player down from the attic, blow off the decades of dust. 


Imagine the look on your daughter’s face when the carefully curated tapes are placed in her young hands with three freckles alongside the edge of her knuckles. The freckles lightly kiss her milky skin, and you breathe out a little in relief knowing that they look ordinary.


She won’t want the tapes. Her eyes might brim with orbs of salted water. A sense of begging will slip past her lips, Please daddy I’m not ready yet


You stare at the dimples she inherited from her mother, pressing your warm thumb into one of them as you hold gently to her chin. Picturing the future, you wonder who will take her wedding dress shopping, and who will take her phone calls if she loses a baby. 


It will be you of course.


Press play.


April 16, 2021 17:36

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254 comments

15:57 Apr 23, 2021

Congratulations on the win! This heartbreaking but beautiful story is such a deserved win. Great job!

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15:57 Apr 23, 2021

Congratulations on the win! This heartbreaking but beautiful story is such a deserved win. Great job!

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H L Mc Quaid
15:51 Apr 23, 2021

Beautiful and really moving. And tricky with the split POV. Well done. And congrats on the win! 🎆🎉

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Shea West
19:05 Apr 23, 2021

I was hopeful the split POV would pan out okay! Thank you.

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A.Dot Ram
15:38 Apr 23, 2021

Omg you won, and I haven't even read this! Crazy week. Super congratulations. I can't wait to dig in to this.

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A.Dot Ram
15:59 Apr 23, 2021

Ok, yes. This was such a poignant story, but what's most striking for me are your narrative choices. The split pov, but the way the voice speaks to each character, rather than from them. It feels fresh. It's all so pointallistic-- the way you focus in on certain details. Underwear, lasagna, freckles. It's psychologically authentic, and comes together to form a picture more vivid than a straightforward telling. I love your light hand on the mirage metaphor. There are so many risks in here, and they pay off. Congrats again.

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A.Dot Ram
16:08 Apr 23, 2021

And did you make a conscious nod to "The Craving" there at the end? I'm swooning.

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Shea West
04:01 Apr 24, 2021

I'm so glad you noticed those tiny details of underwear, lasagna, and freckles. I sorta threw the freckles in as a nod to, 'Could this be cancer?' sort of worry from Hugo. The mirage and heat waves just make me think of how sometimes we're just burning up in our own grief to even see ourselves to the finish line in so many ways. It wasn't a conscious nod! But I do adore that story so much! I had just come off a meeting with a woman who had lost her baby and she mentioned that her mother had passed a few years ago. How she said, she wishe...

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A.Dot Ram
04:54 Apr 24, 2021

You had so many good details. They made it yours and brought it (ironically maybe?) to life. Reading your work and watching you take risks and grow has been my pleasure.

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15:05 Apr 23, 2021

Congratulations on the win! Thanks for sharing your wonderful story, it really was sad, but sad in a good way. :-)

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Shea West
04:15 Apr 24, 2021

Sad in a good way is the best kind of sad. Thank you!

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14:47 Apr 23, 2021

i loved this story! the split povs, as aaron said, was a great call. the relationship between the characters and the segue from pov to pov was very natural and realistic. deserved win!

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Shea West
04:18 Apr 24, 2021

The pov to pov felt a little risky, but also felt right when the idea came to me. Thank you for reading.

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14:31 Apr 23, 2021

This is such a deserved win. Congrats.

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Shea West
04:19 Apr 24, 2021

Thank you Magical!

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Aaron Caicedo
17:49 Apr 20, 2021

This is marvelous! Heart wrenching, but so filled with love. The split POVs was an inspired touch, as well. Great job!

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Shea West
18:27 Apr 20, 2021

Thanks for the read + feedback.

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Rambling Beth
17:24 Apr 19, 2021

Oh wow, this was beautiful and heartbreaking all at once. Your prose seemed to flow like poetry and I really enjoyed it, though the subject matter of course is very difficult. The second person too! It's so effective. Drags us in as the reader and makes this story even more meaningful. I think I liked reading from Hugo's perspective best but both Hugo and Raenn's viewpoints were interesting to read. That ending broke my heart. Two words to end are so effective and you pulled it off so well. I really enjoyed this. <3

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Shea West
18:36 Apr 19, 2021

Thank you! I always think of the sentimentality of making a playlist for someone and what goes into that. Like High Fidelity, but on a bigger bummer scale was my goal here. Thank you for your generous feedback and for reading. I've been working really hard at writing more and trying things that feel hard, and I'd never written in second person...so I had to really stretch my wings here.

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Rambling Beth
20:17 Apr 19, 2021

I think you really made the second person work! I'm glad you have started writing more. :)

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Scott Skinner
04:00 Apr 17, 2021

A sad story indeed! The style of switching back and forth between the husband and wife worked well for me. I didn't pick up the relationship until you hinted at it talking about hugs. It seemed like they didn't really get to enjoy each other in the last month, they were both too worried about the future. That adds to the sadness of it all. You had some really great descriptive sentences in here that real set the scene(s). Even the very beginning - you're description about how hot it is was excellent. The story had good pacing too, it read...

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Shea West
04:29 Apr 17, 2021

Thank you! I have often wondered as mother if I were told how little time I might have left what it would look like... Because we mothers like to torture ourselves with such things😂 Thank you for reading it and giving feedback!

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Scott Skinner
20:20 Apr 23, 2021

Congrats on the win!!

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Donna Rowe
00:19 Apr 29, 2021

Who are you?! That was incredible! I loved it! I'm following you! I've been on a lot of these sites and read a lot of different stories and I have never followed anyone before now. I'm on my way to read your other stories and can't wait for more! Thank you so much! Look at all those exclamation points lol guess that alone tells you how much I loved that story! Also I wanted to tell you my thing is fantasy and sci-fi. That's what I was looking for when I found this site. Your story makes me wonder what I'm missing.

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Shea West
01:24 Apr 29, 2021

Hi Donna! I'm Cre'shea, but go by Shea here. Sometimes my kids call me mommylady, all one word😂 1.)I'm do glad you loved it! 2.)I'm a firm believer in using as many exclamation points as feel necessary!! You give me the highest praise by using all of them💙 3.)I would love it if you read any of my stories. Some of my favorites are Smile, Dahlias in the Bucket, An Alligator Hug etc. 4.) Thank you😍

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Donna Rowe
06:50 Apr 30, 2021

Thank you!!! So far I'm loving every story. Such a joy to read them. Cannot thank you enough for sharing. You're going to go viral girl! Will you remember us lowlies when you do lol? I'm just teasing you. I can tell by the way you write you have a beautiful heart and your something very special!

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ℤ ℍ☮️
20:36 Apr 28, 2021

This story was amazing and written so beautifully, it left me shook! Amazing job! It was heartbreaking and beautiful! It made me wonder. A true story makes the reader wonder! Well-deserved win!

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Shea West
20:38 Apr 28, 2021

Your feedback is great, thank you!

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Thom Brodkin
20:20 Apr 28, 2021

Wow, I both love and hate sad stories. We see our humanity most clearly through death. It gives us a laser focus on what is important. It also reminds the living that all our days are important. None of them are throw away days. You captured this so elegantly and completely in such a limited number of words. In some ways that is how it should be. Powerful things are often brief, like thunderstorms. Great job. Fantastic writing. Like I said, you have the gift.

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Shea West
20:29 Apr 28, 2021

I love/hate them as well...it's the torture I think we like to inflict on ourselves. Like the time I watched the movie UP! when I was 5 months pregnant.....Such a poor decision on my part! Thank you for reading Them!

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Black Swan20
14:47 Apr 28, 2021

That's absolutely amazing. I'm not surprised you won 😊. Good job. 👍

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Shea West
15:22 Apr 28, 2021

Thank you Raven!

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Lee Kendrick
13:22 Apr 28, 2021

I am a mere novice to short story writing, but there was something poetic about your story. Lots of soul and sadness in your story. Very well written. Just one thing I am confused about is the technical aspect. I saw no actual dialogue, inverted commas!

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Shea West
15:27 Apr 28, 2021

Lee, thank you for giving your feedback about my story. I too, am a novice...I just started really writing short stories back in September. With that being said, I will be the first to say that I am no expert here and likely have a million mistakes in all of my stories. There is dialogue, but's more implied with the italicized writing. I didn't want the dialogue overshadow the overall tone of the actual story, if that makes sense. My thoughts were along the lines of there not really being a lot of time to say all of the things one might w...

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Lee Kendrick
16:50 Apr 30, 2021

Thank you for setting me straight about this point. It's just that it threw me. I have not seen this way to write a story before, that's all. Best wishes in your writing Lee

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Shea West
17:17 Apr 30, 2021

No trouble at all! I think in my short time in the short story world I am learning what my style is, and heck sometimes I feel too lazy to press shift to get quotation marks LOL. Anyhow, thanks for your feedback!

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Angel {Readsy}
04:19 Apr 28, 2021

Anxiously , impatiently keenly enthusiasticaly, waiting for your NEXT STORY , NEXT STORY , NEXT STORY NEXT STORY STORY , NEXT STORY , NEXT STORY NEXT STORY STORY

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Shea West
04:27 Apr 28, 2021

Working on it now. Thanks for reading :)

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Angel {Readsy}
04:35 Apr 28, 2021

Up voting Up voting upvoting Up voting Up voting upvoting Up voting Up voting upvoting Up voting Up voting upvoting Up voting Up voting upvoting Up voting Up voting upvoting.

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Angel {Readsy}
04:35 Apr 28, 2021

Up voting Up voting upvoting Up voting Up voting upvoting Up voting Up voting upvoting Up voting Up voting upvoting Up voting Up voting upvoting Up voting Up voting upvoting.

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Angel {Readsy}
04:53 Apr 28, 2021

My friend birds are Woodlark ,Robin, Skylark, and the wren, their song is cheerful, clear, melodious , silvery-toned and ebullient and no instrument in all the world...that can afford more music then their melodious sound,,,I SEND THEM ALL TO YOU SO YOU WOULD WRITE A MAGNIFICIENT Story

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02:34 Apr 28, 2021

Congratulations on your win! Your story is beautiful and heartbreaking. It reminded me of a dear cousin of mine we lost some years ago, and of her teenage daughter. So sad. I only got to say goodbye through a Whatsapp audio :(

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Shea West
04:24 Apr 28, 2021

Mariana, I am so sorry you experienced such a loss. I cannot imagine not getting a chance to say goodbye. Thank you for reading <3

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Aiyana Henderson
02:14 Apr 28, 2021

While the story did confuse me at times in regards to the narration, I thought it was a pretty wonderful story about a mother's last wish before she departs from Earth.

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Shea West
04:25 Apr 28, 2021

Thank you for your feedback :)

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Elize Volschenk
16:38 Apr 27, 2021

This is truly moving. You showed the different ways people grieve about the same event, even while their lives are still very closely entwined, with heartbreaking beauty. Thank you.

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Shea West
17:01 Apr 27, 2021

Elize, thank you so very much!

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Evelin Smith
18:34 Apr 26, 2021

I've never read a story that makes me feel like this before. I say you achieved what most short story writers can't and for that, kudos.

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Shea West
19:22 Apr 26, 2021

Evelin, your words flatter me! I spent the week writing this story thinking it was complete garbage, and all of you here have restored some confidence I was lacking in myself. Thank you so much.

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Evelin Smith
02:52 Apr 28, 2021

:)

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Evelin Smith
02:53 Apr 28, 2021

:)

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Evelin Smith
02:53 Apr 28, 2021

:)

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Shea West
19:24 Apr 26, 2021

Evelin, your words flatter me! I spent the week writing this story thinking it was complete garbage, and all of you here have restored some confidence I was lacking in myself. Thank you so much.

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