The waves brush against my sides; pulling and pushing me sideways, forwards, backwards, and under. I feel the strength of the current, hungering for something more. Never being one for open water, I run, the water parting as though it was softened butter. After what feels like an eternity, I emerge. My tiny feet leave light footprints in the gritty sand. My ankles become exposed to the chilly air as I distance myself and the shoreline. Feeling something slimy grazing my feet, I reach down to take it off and my eyes glance downwards by habit, though I can’t see anything. Probably seaweed. I feel nothing but skin. Weird. I should leave it alone, but I can’t shake the feeling something’s off.
It’s probably nothing, I’ve just never liked seaweed. It reminds me of my mom’s second husband, Mr. Sweed. My mom married him when I was a toddler, and he never liked being called dad. He forced me to call him Mr. Sweed, but it was hard for me to pronounce so the first time I tried I said, Mr. Seh-weed. Only one extra syllable, but it wasn’t good enough. I promptly received two slaps to my cheeks.
“Learn how to speak properly.”
Tears started forming in my eyes,
“She’s a retard child. No more of my money is going to buy her toys. Time to grow up.”
My mother lost her spark that night. The brightness faded from her eyes, the lustre from her hair, the mintiness from her breath, the softness from her voice, the plumpness from her skin. She became dull, and hard, and shrill.
“You heard the man. Speak properly, Lucy.” Her taut shrill voice still echoes in my head. Most people can’t remember their third birthday, but I’ve never forgotten- not because of my memory, which is sub-par at best but because I’ve kept a diary alive through the years. Mr. Sweed left two months later.
I shake the bad memory out of my head, it’s a beautiful day today, no room for sadness. I keep walking and feel a little nibble on my heel, leaning backwards and brushing my fingers along the edge of my feet, I feel nothing. How odd. Heels remind me of Mr. Wright, James Wright, my mom’s third husband. He was obsessed with Greek myths and Gods. When I was seven, I received my first D on a report card, it was for gym and I had undiagnosed asthma. He said gym was my Achilles heel but he wouldn’t pay for a check-up when my teacher mentioned my breathing difficulty,
“Everyone has an Achilles heel, her’s is just physical activity. She’s going to be faaaaaaaat.”
“No daughter of mine will be fat. James, looks like you’re going to be saving money on food. And you, sleep in late because you’re not eating til Lunch.”
And I didn’t eat breakfast for exactly 47 days after that, according to my records. Her pointing finger squished my nose, though not in a loving way, and her taut shrill voice ping-ponged through my head, rattling in my brain.
I return to reality and keep walking. Keep moving forward, gotta keep moving forward.
That’s what my mom’s fourth husband said when he left my mom.
“We were drunk. In Vegas. It didn’t mean anything.”
“No, please, you can’t leave.”
“Listen here now, I stayed for a few months, providing for you and Lucy. I ain’t owing you anything. Just move on.”
“Please, please! I’ll kick her out, it can be just you and me.”
He left in his car and my mom left the house. She returned far after the streetlights came on. My hand was bleeding, I had cut it trying to open a can of food.
“Mom! Mom! Finally, you’re back. My hand hurts, what do I do?”
“Do I loooook likeee I knowww?” She slurred her words with a taut, shrill voice and stank of booze. I was eight. It was that night I stopped calling her mom. Maroon stains covered my diary entry that day. I remember how much it hurt to write, but I couldn’t stop writing, even for one day. I couldn’t stop writing.
A sharp bite on my calf brings me back to the present. I fall in the sand. It scratches the grooves in my dry elbow. I press my palms into my leg, trying to soothe the pain, but my fingers can’t seem to find an imprint anywhere. How peculiar.
I get up and keep walking, though to where I do not know. I got kicked out of my apartment earlier today. My roommate Nelly had invited some friends over for her birthday celebration. When I saw her blowing out the numbered candles,
I shouted and cried. I stormed into my room and Nelly rushed after me, exasperated.
“What’s gotten into you?” She demanded.
I was shaking in a ball in the corner. I tried to reason with her, to explain that I don’t like birthdays but I never managed to get the words out.
“Whatever, she’s such a weirdo anyway.” Everyone murmured, thinking I couldn’t hear. But I learned long ago how to blend in with the shadows.
“That’s it. That’s the final straw. You’re out. I’m going out with my friends and I don’t want to see you or your stupid books when I get back.”
“They’re not books, they’re diaries. And you can’t do that, I signed a lease.”
“They’re diaries.” She mimicked with a taut, shrill voice, a haughty look cast on her face.
“So now, the creep can talk. Ok, creep, I’m going to talk in a language you understand, if I see your books again, I will burn them.”
I left, I couldn’t risk it.
I feel a sharp pain in my stomach and I fall to the ground, this time unable to pick myself up. I hear paper rustle through the air and a half-soaked page falls next to me.
I write to you today as a goodbye. This will be my last entry. I have decided to live my life and in the words of my mom’s fourth husband, “Move on.”
Every word is like a dagger to my heart. No matter what I do, where I throw it, it will always follow me. I can never be free because just like a page, when I am stained, it lasts forever.
I feel a tugging at my legs. Light at first, but eventually forceful. My shirt rolls up and the sand scrapes my bare skin. I move closer and closer to the ocean. It pulls me in, hearing my call for cleansing, but I know it will never succeed. The waves roll over me, pulling me farther and farther into the sea. As a last meal, my eyes are afforded the taste of the sky. Brilliant white lights shining from distances farther away than I can ever comprehend, and yet, I can feel their heat. As the current slaps me silly, throwing me around like a rag doll, the ocean seems to produce a taut shrill voice.
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A really good story considering you wrote it in a rush. I love the concept of your main character reliving memories of all her mom's husbands. I love the sense of tragedy in this piece. It's almost magical realism, with the phantom pains and the light personification of the ocean at the end. Hopefully you see this before the deadline but here's some things I noticed: “No daughter of mine will be fat. James looks like you’re going to be saving money on food. And you sleep in late because you’re not eating till Lunch.” - 'til' not till. Also...
Thank you!! Luckily I did see it in time and thank you so much! Arghh, this is what I get for trying to use an editing software for a short story! They don't understand that I need a comma in places that might not be grammatically correct in a business letter! And haha, I'm glad you enjoy my writing enough to know when I don't upload stories! And thank you! Hahah, I'm so glad I know what magical realism is now (I learnt it like a month ago lol)! And yes thank you! The funny thing is, everyone interprets stories so differently. I got my mum t...
Any tips to improve for next time?
Umm, rereading this one I do have one thought: this is a more contemporary story than you normally write and I'm not sure you committed enough to that style. As I think of it, contemporary fiction is more about exploring themes, with linear/traditional storytelling being secondary. (As opposed to literary fiction where you use the story to explore a theme or genre fiction where storytelling is the goal and themes provide subtext). I think this story mixes literary and contemporary styles and each takes away from the other's effectiveness t...
Wow! Thank you so much! That was the best feedback I think I've ever received! It really means something when people's feedback is so complex and well, profound! It makes me feel as if I've really made leaps and bounds in my writing! I completely didn't think of it until you brought it up but yeah, I can really see what you mean! I knew there was something a bit off, it felt a bit short or unfinished, but I couldn't place my finger on it. And wow, the way you explained it made it so clear to me as why literature evokes such different moods a...
You're very welcome. Keep writing them and I'll keep reading them. :)
Hey Janey! Man, that was tragic! I liked that everything the main character was experiencing, reminded her of a past trauma. You have also mixed an appropriate amount of showing, which prevented the story, or should I say narrative, from feeling very 'told.' However, while reading it, I noticed that the overall structure and descriptions were reminiscent of a poem(before the dialogues). Any reason for that?
Thank you so much! And haha, I hadn't even noticed that until just now! I recently started writing poetry so that's probably why lol. Or maybe my sub-conscious to show the poetry of life? XD Hopefully, it didn't distract too much from the story! Thanks for your feedback!
Hey Janey!! Thanks again for asking me to read your story!! I'm so glad you did! This story is one of the most beautiful and sad stories I have ever read. The way you let us into Lucy's head gave the story so much more emotion and made it more real for me. Is it okay if I ask what inspired you to write this? You do not have to answer if you don't want to. The emotions are just so raw and straightforward. It feels so real to me. Thank you so much for sharing this piece with us!! You did a wonderful job!! :)
Awww, thank you! And yes, you can totally ask! But I'm not sure my answer will be that great. I was learning about symbolism in class and I wanted to write something with symbolism or something that could have multiple interpretations. So from there I was thinking about having someone who was facing their "inner demons" or something beyond their control. And I was also a bit upset when I wrote it so that probably shaped the story as well. Plus it was late at night. Otherwise, I'm not really sure where it came from, I just started writing. Ma...
No problem!! You're so talented!! That's so sweet of you to write for the voiceless. ❤
Awwww, thank you so much!! And likewise; the story of yours I read was about abuse victims so you're doing the same :)
Hi Janey, I thought you did a good job with this story. I really felt for Lucy, so you did a great job showing her emotions. The descriptive writing is also very well done. I see some great talent here. My only advice for now is to keep writing. It's like a muscle that you have to keep using or you lose it. I think you have a gift for storytelling, and I don't think it can be taught. Technical writing can be taught to anyone, but if you don't have the idea for the story, it won't matter. There are some great books out there that can help y...
Awwww, thank you so so so much! You've totally brightened my day and yes, I will definitely start looking at some writing books. Oooh, I'll definitely check that out! And nooo, I loved the comment, the length only added to it! I'm glad you enjoyed the read and once again, thank you! :)
Your very welcome Janey, thanks for the follow. If you need help please don't hesitate to let me know. I spend most of my time learning how to write better. I don't have any problem coming up with ideas, so I just keep writing away. I could recommend some books that I find very helpful, so you won't have to waste your time. Just let me know ;)
Oh of course! You're super helpful and a great writer- thanks for following me! ;) And ooh nice! Yes, that would help a ton! Thank you! :)
Hi Janey, there are two books that I have learned the most from. The first one is Stephen King's On Writing. The first half is a biography which you can skip. The second half of the book he talks about how to write better and gives a ton of great tips and advice. It applies to any genre that you want to write. I learned a lot from this book. The second book is The Elements of style by Strunk and White. This is a technical writing book that is only about 85 pages long. It gets right to the point and can help you write better. I hope this ...
Thank you so much, I'll definitely read them!! :)
Hi Janey, Wow, I can see real progress in your writing, Well done. It's a melancholy, reflective story. Some lines I loved: "it’s a beautiful day today, no room for sadness"and "But I learned long ago how to blend in with the shadows." A few comments/questions. I was a little distracted by the repetition of "a taut, shrill voice", but the end makes clear that it was intentional. So, I don't know whether playing with a different way to say it would be better or not. Just a question, I don't have an answer. haha. And this paragraph was re...
Awwww, thank you so much! And hahah, yeah, re-reading, it is a bit annoying but I don't know just yet another way to do that but, maybe I'll read a story soon where an author does it in a better way! Also thank you! :) And oooh, that's a really beautiful way to word it! I was trying to go for the anaphora, but you used "the" and that works a lot better! And awww, thank you! It's only because of writers like you that have been guiding me every step of the way! :))
Hi Janey! I liked this story a lot. There’s an ongoing sense of tension in both the present and the past, and the narrator is interesting with a strong voice. I liked the flashbacks in this story, they flowed naturally and developed the character well. The first paragraph is beautifully descriptive and grounds us in the present. A couple edits to consider: Instead of “My ankles become exposed to the chilly air and I make space between me and the shoreline.” Consider: My ankles become exposed to the chilly air as I distance myself from the...
Thank youuuu! Haha, I completely didn't realize I wrote seven twice but thank you for thinking I had a purpose to it- maybe it was my subconscious? XD And oooh the first edit, thank you so much! I was trying to remember the word "distance" as I wrote it but I couldn't! Good eye! Thank you so much! :)
Sorry, I haven't written in a while cause school's been pretty busy and then last night I decided, hey, I should write a story, and so, I wrote this in one night! Therefore, all editing is very much encouraged! Hope you guys liked it! :))
Your a good writer, I love how you got us to go into the minds of your character, and your descriptive detail, study, take some good courses in creative writing, nice work.
Thank you so much! And ya, definitely, I really hope to take some to continue improving my craft, plus, just like you said in your response to my comment, it'll be fun!!! :)