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Coming of Age Contemporary Sad

This story contains sensitive content

**This story contains one non-graphic depiction of sexual assault, and some themes of depression, please read at your own discretion**


My father used to tell me stories about kind people, about how he'd lost his wallet in a major city and some wandering soul had brought it back, about accidentally walking into one of the worst neighborhoods in town, only to have a nice man escort him home. He told me about people ahead of him in line who bought his customary morning coffee, people who held doors open, people who grabbed the back of his coat as he was about to walk into a busy street, head in a psychology book. Even after all of his stories, I didn't believe there were kind people out there, only people who wanted something, people who wanted to feel good about themselves, people who wanted to be needed, useful, liked. My Dad was just lucky, I thought.

That's why I was more surprised than grateful when a tall, lanky man pulled Terrence off of me.

“When a lady says no, she means no!” the man said. He couldn’t have been that much older than me, mid-twenties maybe, with uninteresting brown hair and glasses that stuck to his bird-like nose with those little clips that always leave uncomfortable red-marks.

“It's consensual,” Terrence said over his shoulder. He looked proud of himself for knowing the word, even as he placed one hand on my hip and another on my lower-back, pulling me close. I pushed him away at his broad shoulders so our bodies made a V, looking over his shoulder at the stranger who I wished was in Terrence’s place. I wished anyone was in Terrence's place.

“C’mon man, she looks terrified, you can’t really expect me to leave,” Lanky put a hand on his hip and glared when Terrence didn’t move. This was the last time I'd let Shauna set me up.

“Fuck off!” Terrence yelled.

“You’re hurting me,” I said, shifting my feet against the sticky floor of the stadium’s bathroom. Beer, wine, soda, urine, blood, anything could have been on that floor. Terrence surely wasn’t the only one to think of a quickie as the late-night traffic cleared. At least they swapped out the black lights for the flickering dimness of the safeties. I hated the eerie blueness of them, only letting you see flashes of teeth or the whites of people’s eyes. It reminded me of the Cheshire cat, people flickering in and out of existence with nothing more than pursed lips and a blink. I wondered many times throughout that night if, in closing my eyes and holding my breath, I could fade out of existence too. That would be nice.

Lanky pulled Terrence away from me yet again, but this time he stepped between us. Out of his back pocket I saw the glint of something that looked like a badge or lanyard of some sort. Not that I was staring at his ass or anything, I was just curious.

“You know what? Fine, she’s not worth this. This is the last time I let Shauna set me up.” Terrence marched away in a huff and I giggled over our first agreement of the evening.

Lanky turned around and gave me a strange look as my muffled giggles turned into laughter and that laughter into cackling. I laughed and laughed and laughed some more, basking in a glorious high that I knew would soon plummet into despair. It kept me peaceful for a while, that laughter. It kept me from thinking too deeply about what would've happened if Lanky hadn’t shown up. Maybe I would have had to lay on the absolutely disgusting bathroom floor, and that thought was almost worse than anything after. I wiped tears from my eyes and shivered though the air was warm and my cheeks too hot.

Lanky had gone to wash his hands when I started giggling, but he kept checking on me in the mirror, letting my adrenaline fade away. I really should have thanked him, but by the time I was done, I didn’t have the energy. 

“Look, that was rough, and I’m sorry it happened, but I really have to go. My wife is probably worried. Do you have a way home?” I nodded, but he didn’t look convinced, “Can I give you my number? I want you to call me when you get there.”

With that he was gone, and I found myself disappointed that my knight already had a chosen princess. My mind wandered to how good he would be in bed. A thought that deeply unnerved me. It wasn't that I was especially attracted to him, but he seemed to care, and something about Terrence's absence made me long for a caring partner. It wasn't that I wanted the sex, in fact I really wasn't in the mood, but having someone to hold and care for felt extremely important in those few moments after the men had vanished. I felt out of place without them.

I too left after a few moments of silence, making my way to the concert venue. No one was left except the clean-up crew. I was briefly surprised I was able to get back in, but I didn't think too hard on it as I made my way through the scattered plastic cups and confetti that stirred into glittery dust-devils in the breeze.

The stadium lights were still on and sometimes I could see a whirl of glitter across the way, a flicker of synthetic rainbows dancing on random gusts of wind. Foods like pretzels, popcorn, and gummy-worms turned into crushed soda cans, beer bottles, t-shirts, and the fluid from those weird little glow-sticks.

I hit five rows back and shuffled to the center of the aisle, plopping down and setting my feet on the back of the seat in front of me. I let my body slide down the chair until the underside of my ponytail started to pull, parting my knees -for the first time that night, thankfully- so I could stare at the empty stage.

The band was good, I thought to myself as if the statement could somehow represent the evening I'd had.

That's what people always did though, sum up their experiences for the day, the week, the year, with an "I'm good" or "It was fine", "I'm doing well, how are you?", the band was good. I never liked conversations where I had to lie, but maybe people just didn't have the time or energy to listen to the whole story. My whole story.

“Can I help you ma’am?” I sat up in my seat. The woman was in her sixties, I would say, with brown hair cut to a bob, and a purse clutched in front of her.

“Do I need to leave?” I asked. She didn’t have the orange vest the clean-up crew members wore, but I didn’t want her to call some brute to come and throw me out.

“No.” She turned to the stage. I waited.

“Can I help you?” I asked her, taking my original position in my chair.

“Do you want me to leave?”

“No.” I surprised myself by meaning it. Something about her reminded me of my mother, and more than anything I realized that that’s who I wanted. She used to say: 

Figure out what you need and make it happen

That would require me to know what I need, I’d say.

Only mothers know what people truly need. We’d always laughed because, even then, she rarely did know what I needed, or maybe it was because the joke was one only women could share. It was laughter over the belief that we were caretakers and always knew the best ways to make people feel safe and comforted and loved. I wasn’t sure what I needed until the woman came to me, but what I needed I couldn’t get and what I wanted I couldn’t have. I thought of Lanky, a man who went out of his way to help others. A man who seemed kind in the way my father described all those years ago. Maybe the nature of being a woman is knowing, but never getting what you want, what you need. Maybe the nature of being kind is the same. My father was kind.

“My brother and I came to this band’s first show,” the woman said, “it ended the same way. Shoes sticking to a dirty floor, and broken-hearted young women left behind.”

I wasn’t sure how to respond. Was I heartbroken? I didn’t feel like it, maybe a bit forlorn, but not completely lost. That was what heart-broken meant wasn’t it? I asked her as much and she chuckled, “living life is heartbreak, my dear.”

“Were you left behind?” The woman smiled, kindly, gently.

“No, dear, were you?” Her phone lit up and she sighed, “back into the fray, I suppose.” She made her way, shuffling slowly to the end of the aisle before she turned back, “Do you need a ride home?”

“No.” The woman paused.

“Be safe,” she said. It felt like a challenge. It always did. I thought about my dad, about Lanky, and the woman. Were they truly kind? Was I lucky, just as my dad was? I sat there for a long time before the stadium lights flickered off one by one, leaving me in the gooey afterglow of confetti and a night spent with the living.


June 03, 2023 02:52

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16 comments

Mike Rush
14:11 Jun 10, 2023

Evelyn, I've arrived a little late to this party. But I have enjoyed your piece. It's the juxtaposition of two scenes; one of action, the other, reflection. And there's some good stuff in the writing. This line, "so our bodies made a V' was perfect for giving us the immediate mental image. And these: "and I found myself disappointed that my knight already had a chosen princess." "a flicker of synthetic rainbows dancing on random gusts of wind" And hats off to your MC for being so honest in this line: My mind wandered to how good he wo...

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Evelyn Griffith
17:04 Jun 10, 2023

Thank you so much for your comment, and for understanding some of the complexities of the character. Sexual assault is something that everyone reacts to differently and as I was imagining this character it felt as though she was trying to brush off her feelings about the assault in the beginning of the piece, through the use of Lanky and her sexual and romantic wonderings about him. But then toward the end of the piece we start to see some of the shock and heartbreak that she feels over her evening. I struggled with writing this character be...

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Wally Schmidt
21:32 Jun 04, 2023

Phew this is a hard story to digest. I feel as a writer you have taken us on a roller coaster ride of emotions. Thankful that the MC had people support her when she desperately needed it. I found the character's release by laughing uncontrollably and stuggle to control her emotions really realistic. Not sure she would have been thinking about Lanky in any way but as a hero considering what she'd been through, but maybe. The writing propelled the plot forward and I think you did a really good job with this story.

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Evelyn Griffith
14:28 Jun 05, 2023

Thank you so much! I appreciate you taking the time to read it! I completely understand about the comment regarding how the MC feels about Lanky, and that was honestly something I couldn't quite understand either. Still, it somehow felt like it needed to be there. I feel like it just adds into all of the confusion that she must be feeling and even the sense of numbness/her wish for normalcy after Terrence. However, it is definitely something to consider further! Thanks so much for your comment and have a nice day!

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Wally Schmidt
15:18 Jun 05, 2023

That makes sense about having the MC's emotions all wound up and confused. Another element I really liked was how both she and Terence thought 'this is the last time I'm letting X set me up.' That bought a tiny bit of levity to a rather dire situation

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Evelyn Griffith
16:24 Jun 05, 2023

okay, thank you! I'm glad it came across that way! Let me know if there are any ways that you think I can help to lighten the tension in the same way. I wanted it to be a serious moment, of course, because it's a very serious topic, and of course some tension is good, but I don't want it to be so intense that people don't want to continue reading.

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Wally Schmidt
17:28 Jun 05, 2023

You know Evelyn, those are legit concerns. I sometimes skip over stories entirely on Reedsy because I don't want to read another story about sexual assault. They just weigh too heavily after awhile. Nothing much you can do about that. But there is always plenty you can do to raise the tension in a story without furthering the actual assault. IMHO. A lot of times psychological tension is just as tension building in a story. The MC constantly looking over their shoulder, imagining things etc.

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Evelyn Griffith
18:45 Jun 05, 2023

okay, thank you so much for the advice! I hope you have a great day!

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Ellen Neuborne
02:10 Jun 14, 2023

Interesting and complex women. I enjoyed reading this.

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Evelyn Griffith
03:25 Jun 14, 2023

Thank you so much! I appreciate the kind comment! Have a nice day!

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Steve Uppendahl
21:53 Jun 13, 2023

This is very well done. Writing this in first person was a great move and makes the plot and the narrator's emotions feel real and raw. You took a touchy subject and made it feel uncomfortable, confusing, sad, and real. I have a wife and four daughters. What your protagonist goes through is something I worry about. A lot. I like how your "lanky" hero is just a normal guy doing the right thing. Great job with your story! Write on.

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Evelyn Griffith
22:19 Jun 13, 2023

Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment! I'm glad that the MC's confusion was coming through well, and I'm glad that Lanky didn't seem like a central character but more of an intervening bystander. I wanted him to be just as you said, "a normal person doing the right thing" I didn't want him to have to be central to the story just because he was present when the main conflict took place. Thanks so much for your insights! Have a great day!

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Helen A Smith
18:22 Jun 10, 2023

Interesting the way you presented the story and the MC’s fortune in having a shiny armour turning up at the right time. It would have been so upsetting otherwise. Also her longing for the right person to be in her life. Someone who treats her well and respects her.

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Evelyn Griffith
19:36 Jun 10, 2023

Thank you so much for reading and for the comment! Yes, while I wanted the story to have serious/melancholy notes to it, I didn't want the MC to be completely alone. Thank you so much for noticing and taking the time to read! Have a nice day!

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Mary Bendickson
21:04 Jun 07, 2023

I liked your exchange with Wally just as much as I like your story. I am always amazed at how much thought and insight real talented writers can glean out of a piece. I don't have that gift.

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Evelyn Griffith
22:39 Jun 07, 2023

Thank you so much for your kind comment, but I wouldn't sell yourself short. One thing that I love about writing is that each writer is going to have different strengths and weaknesses. I like to think about the introspective nature of my characters, and how their thoughts fit into the story I'm trying to convey, but I am not very good at coming up with responses to the prompts that think outside of the box (as you did with "A Little Birdie Told Me..."). I think what makes the writing community so special is that we can all learn from each o...

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