72 comments

Mystery Drama Sad

The first time you see him, you’re on your way to his funeral. Your black car, driven by someone you don’t know, follows the hearse, which is driven by someone else you don’t know. One thing you’ve found in the last few weeks is that there are a lot of new people to interact with in a time where you have never wanted anything more than to be left alone. 


He is standing on the corner, on the last turn before the cemetery. He looks the way he did when you last saw him, when you had to identify his body. His limbs are at the wrong angle, barely supporting him, and his face… It’s distorted from the injuries but you can see the rage and accusation burning through. The sight of him cuts you and you remember your last view of his once perfect face, lying white on the silver table, surrounded by people with sympathetic faces and gentle questions. 


You screech at the driver to stop and he stamps on the breaks, alarmed. Flinging yourself from the barely stationary car, you stumble to the space he was in. It’s empty. He’s gone. 


There’s nobody else around either. But you know what you saw. 


Something breaks in you then: something you didn’t know you had left to break. It feels like you’ve done a lot of breaking recently. 


The driver that you don’t know approaches you cautiously and places a tentative hand on your shoulder. You let him guide you back to the car and finish driving you to your son’s funeral. It’s as horrible as you expected it to be and you can’t stop looking around for him. 


***


The second time you see him, it’s twenty-four days after his funeral. You’re in the garden, escaping the silence of an empty house. The dark dirt is hard from a stretch of sunshine and it isn’t breaking under your hands. You can feel a blister forming between your thumb and forefinger and the heat is beating down on the tender skin at your neck. You give one more stab at the ground and then throw the tool away with a furious sound. Nothing is working for you. You can’t seem to do anything right. You lean over so that your forehead touches the earth and allow yourself a moment to not be okay. 


When you look up, he’s there. He looks the way he did when he was five. His blonde hair ruffles in the faintest of breezes and he frowns at you. His little foot stomps in the way he used to stamp when he wasn’t getting his own way. You remember him doing it in supermarkets when he didn’t get a chocolate bar and you remember him doing it in church when he didn’t get picked to light a candle. Everything in you contracts. 


As you watch, he looks at the trowel you launched. It has landed in the vegetable patch he spent so much time creating and you realise the force you put into the throw has broken one of the trellises. You remember how carefully he painted them, choosing the deep red himself despite your advice for a brighter shade. You know he is angry. You’re not surprised.


You look down, unable to face the look you know will be in his eyes. When you look up, he’s gone. 


You are suddenly, abruptly, furious. How dare he do this to you? You’ve been living with his absence like an open wound and he can't even stay for a minute or two more? He must know, even in his childlike state, how hard this is for you. Five more minutes wouldn’t have been too difficult - you just want to see his face. 


You snarl. It’s an animalistic sound that you don’t know you’re capable of making. Before you have fully understood what’s happening, you are standing in the wreckage of his hard work. Splinters of bamboo and shredded plant life are littered at your feet and your blackened fingernails are torn and bleeding. A drop of blood hits the ground, startlingly red against the green of the destroyed foliage. When you realise what you’ve done, you sink to your knees and howl. 


*** 


The third time you see him is four months and one week after his funeral. You’ve been coerced into going to the farmer’s market with your sister, who thinks that you need to get out more. You have seen your reflection in the mirror and know that she is right. You pull the pale shawl around yourself tightly, though it is a warm morning, and follow dutifully.


You catch sight of him standing between a stall that sells honey and a stall that sells greeting cards. He looks the way he did at sixteen. His navy blue tie is on crooked and you remember reprimanding him for it; you fixed it for him and told him that it would help him make a good impression at his first ever interview. His hair is smartly styled and his face carefully blank. He stands, watching you and you drop the basket of fruit that you’d been persuaded to buy. 


You’re moving through the throng before your sister can register the dropped produce. It’s crowded here and a couple passes between you, blocking your view of him even though you’ve sworn that you’ll not take your eyes off of him. When they pass by, he’s gone. 


You whisper No under your breath and fix your eyes on the spot he was in. You don’t move. You’ll stand there until he comes back. You won’t move an inch, just as long as he comes back. You will stay there for hours, days, weeks just for him to please, please come back. You just want to see him. Just a glimpse. You’ll do anything. 


Your sister arrives at your side and tries to speak to you. You don’t realise that you’ve been whispering deals and promises out loud until she asks you who you’re talking to. She’s worried and you want to reassure her but you’ve struck a bargain and you have to stick to it. 


It’s a full hour before your sister’s panic overwhelms you and you allow her to lead you away. You want to reassure her but you can’t talk through the shards of glass in your throat. 


*** 


The fourth time you see him, it’s six months and three days since his funeral. You’re in the kitchen, chopping onions for a meal you can’t be bothered to make. The colourless chemical released is making your eyes sting and you cross to the sink to splash some water in them. 


He is standing in the doorway when you look up. He looks the way he did when he first left for university. He’s wearing a faded video game themed T-shirt and a look of tentative, teenage hope. He slouches against the door jam and you remember him standing like that just before you’d finished packing the car. You half hear his voice asking if you’re nearly ready, the same way he’d asked you all those years ago. 


You stare, drinking in the pale contours of his face and the angle of his shoulders. The water and onion juice are stinging your eyes but you hold them open as long as you can. When you finally have to blink, you know, even before you look. He’s gone. 


A sound escapes you, a low keening noise. It doesn’t compare to the sound of agony you’d made when you‘d first found out but it comes from the same source. 


You sink to the floor. The tap is still running and the smell of onions is turning from sweet to bitter as they slowly char on the hob. But you stay where you are, empty and grey, missing part of your soul. 


*** 


The last time you see him is eight months to the day after his funeral. You’re in the garden again, preparing to start painting. It’s the first time you’ve picked up your brushes since his death but there was something about the blush morning light on the tree tops that gave you the urge. It had taken an unexpectedly long time to find all of the things you needed and by the time you sit down, the light has changed. You still want to paint though so you look around for something else that is beautiful. Your attention is caught by the ruins of his vegetable patch, now overgrown with purple wildflowers and the new shoots of some stubborn green peas. 


You know that he’s there before you turn. The sight of him is a familiar ache now; it’s like a phantom limb that needs to stretch. He looks the way he did the morning of the accident. His blue eyes are sparkling with the light of adventure and you remember warning him against going too fast on his new motorbike. His voice is faint on the breeze, teasing you for worrying too much, reminding you to lighten up a little. You remember the last words that you said to him and you say them again, holding his gaze. 


It’s because I love you so much. 


He smiles in the exact way he had done that morning and, for the first time in such a long time, you smile too. You feel a sense of calm and the grey wisp of cloud blocking the sun moves slightly. The light blinds you a little and you have to turn your head away for a second. 


When you look back, he’s gone. 


But it’s okay. There’s pain still but you can breathe through it; it doesn’t wind you the same way it used to. Your easel stands in front of you and there is so much beauty to be committed to canvas. You pick up your brush, breathe in the sweet-scented Spring air and begin.

July 28, 2020 13:32

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72 comments

14:40 Jul 28, 2020

It captures memories that are so beautifully arranged it gives me goosebumps. I imagine a heartbroken mother having to face the harsh reality of her son's death and the aftermath of it all. You've placed her memories subtly, tidying it with the reality of his absence and it's wonderful. The end is remarkable because then, despite the rushing grief, she starts to paint again.

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Laura Clark
15:33 Jul 28, 2020

Thank you so much! I’m not sure I’m 100% happy with the ending yet - might rework it a little but I want the essence of it to be the same. She’s accepted his death and is at peace with her grief so she can begin to appreciate the world again. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment!

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I.B. Dunn
16:39 Aug 28, 2020

Ok so first comes my confession, I wrote a new story and I wanted your feedback so I went to check on your newest offering but there was nothing new to read so I was forced to work my way backwards to this story and I was blessed by the serendipity. This was so poignant I actually teared up while reading it. Now I am a natural crier when it comes to sad stories especially ones that involve the death of a child, but the story has to feel real to bring me to tears and this one most assuredly did. The use of the prompt was sheer genius. I c...

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Laura Clark
17:36 Aug 28, 2020

I have had a really overwhelmingly busy and horrible week and I can’t tell you how much this comment meant to me. Having someone say nice things about my writing is always lovely but knowing that you went out of your way because you want my feedback is really nice to hear. I will definitely head over and have a look at your new one.

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I.B. Dunn
18:21 Aug 28, 2020

Ok I am going to start my feedback of your feedback with another confession. It wasn't until I came back to write this that I got the title. This was obviously not a weakness in the title it a weakness in the reader and has taught me a lesson to be more aware of titles because they are a part of the story as well. So with that in mind and before I give you the response I intended let me say Bravo again. For two reason actually: first the title was, of course, perfect and makes the story even more perfect. Second the fact that I didn't p...

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Laura Clark
18:56 Aug 28, 2020

Titles aren’t an area of strength for me (working titles are often ‘squirrel story’ or ‘pirate angst’) and I have to work harder on them than writing sometimes so thank you! Thank you also for the lovely words. I wish I could upvote you more than once.

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Dunya Zatde
16:05 Aug 23, 2020

The more I read your stories the more amazed I am by the range of emotions you are able to express in your writing. And the more inspired I am by your choice of "voice" you write said stories in. I find it really interesting how you wrote this piece in second person as a "You" view. It sets a really very different mood from your other stories. Unlike 'A Familiar Tale' or 'The Dying Embers of Innocence' where the third person was apt, I feel the second person in this prose was SO fitting. It made all the difference. And the theme itsel...

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Laura Clark
17:09 Aug 23, 2020

I think the prompt this week was for second person but I think I’ve written in second person since because I’ve found it to be quite a powerful medium! I think you can project lots of emotion into your reader using it. Your comments continue to be a source of joy for me! Thank you so much!

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Dunya Zatde
20:03 Aug 23, 2020

Yes but even choosing the kind of story that will fit the voice is where creativity shines. I loved this story so much. And it felt so close to real life.😭😭😭

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Susana Franco
11:14 Aug 01, 2020

Wow, great story Laura! I am not a mother yet but it made me thought about being a mother and loosing a son, how horrible and painful it might be. You did a good job! Congrats.

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Laura Clark
12:35 Aug 01, 2020

Thank you!

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Jonathan Blaauw
19:34 Jul 30, 2020

I keep checking back to see if the t-shirt has been changed. I'm probably too emotionally invested in this story at this point to judge accurately, but I think it was better how you first had it. Just didn't want you to forget, because the story is perfect in every other way. If you do change it back, anyone who sees these comments in the days to come will have no clue what we're on about 😂

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Laura Clark
21:55 Jul 30, 2020

I forgot - thank you for reminding me! I’m going to change it back now because I agree - it was better before.

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Jonathan Blaauw
06:29 Aug 01, 2020

I thought of you and laughed when I saw these new prompts! You are apparently not alone in forgetting that it’s not summer everywhere. At least this time I didn’t have to look outside to confirm that it is still winter, or question my sanity (any more than usual, that is) because we’ve already done that this week 😊

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Laura Clark
06:37 Aug 01, 2020

I think you should write a story about a disgruntled South African listening to the radio, which is talking about how hot and sticky it is, while looking at a blizzard! I still can’t get my head around April being at the end of autumn, even though I do completely accept that it is! April was our hottest month this year. Also, I read your writing on the list website - the dark side to songs and movies based on books - and thought they were really good! I’d like to add Jar of Hearts by Christina Perri to your list of songs though. It’s ost...

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Jonathan Blaauw
07:06 Aug 01, 2020

There are so many amazing things here, I’m sure you’re a mind reader! A similar story idea crossed my mind (except we don’t have blizzards, not counting the ones at KFC of course). And I’m very familiar with Jar of Hearts, albeit the Dash Berlin Ft. Christina Novelli trance version, but I checked and it’s the same song. Gareth Emery Ft. Janet Devlin – Lost is another great one. I'm surprised they accepted that list because there are millions of songs that could’ve made it, but I’m not complaining. They’ve got about 8 others of pending approv...

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Laura Clark
07:35 Aug 01, 2020

I’ll keep checking so that when the others get approved, I can read them! I thought both lists were really interesting and I learned stuff! I agree - I thought newly fallen dark was better too. I didn’t think CoH was particularly strong but, hey, not gonna complain! Re: 3 stories. Ha! Hahaha! Hahahahaha. No.

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Claire Tennant
00:22 Jul 29, 2020

Laura, I sensed this too was based on a personal story and like your thought about my own, it has enough detail to know you have been there or you know someone who has. It is a very touching an and educational story. Having read Jonathan's assessment that "this is a frighteningly realistic story " of grief, I agree with him; you have worded it so well that the reader can appreciate it without blubbering PS I don't need much incentive to blubber Not only did I have time to read this I'd like to read more. Well done

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Laura Clark
06:09 Jul 29, 2020

Oh thank you so much! This is very kind. Thankfully this isn’t an autobiographical account but, like most people, I have experienced grief enough to be able to make a decent guess in this direction. Thank you so much for your lovely comment!

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Jonathan Blaauw
08:23 Jul 29, 2020

If you’d like to read a true autobiographical account, Laura’s story Newly Fallen Dark is a true story of how she deals with annoying lawyers. I think. It seems real. You’ll have to ask her. But, either way, it’s a great story.

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Laura Clark
18:28 Jul 29, 2020

😂😂😂 Shh. The authorities must continue to think that its fiction!

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Jonathan Blaauw
17:34 Jul 28, 2020

So sorry, been one of those unexpectedly crazy days. Something you should know though: the very first thing I did as soon as I could was hop on here and see if you had a new story. More than any words, I think that tells you how good your writing is. See? You do have fans! On to the story. I love it! Rather than trying to rework the unworkable prompt into something off the wall, you've gone for packing it full of emotional depth and it comes through strongly. The amateur psychologist in me immediately recognises the five stages of grief, ...

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Laura Clark
21:11 Jul 28, 2020

Thank you so much - that’s so sweet! I’m so happy that you saw the stages of grief, too. I loathe the title as it’s so matter of fact and I feel like it gives it away a little. But then, I haven’t talked about the five stages of grief explicitly elsewhere So maybe something a little blunter for the title is needed for some readers to make that connection? You’re good with titles - what do you think? Re: the ending - I like the way it’s ended but I don’t like the sentences that I used to do it. I think I can do better. I’m going to keep i...

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04:12 Sep 18, 2020

You have such an incredible talent when it comes to writing! Some of the things you write are just flawless. Everything flows off the paper like a poem and all the descriptions bring everything together. The way you used the prompt was full of raw talent and it was just so creative. -Eleny

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Shreya S
06:31 Aug 17, 2020

Hey, hey, hey! I’ve read this one before! I didn’t know you wrote it! But I thought it then and again now, it captures the feeling so very well. And I read in one of your comments that you haven’t lost a child, and yet you wrote about it so, like, perfectly, exactly how I think a person would feel if they did. I can’t relate to it, but I can certainly see how amazingly it is written and I can actually feel the persons grief too.

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Laura Clark
06:45 Aug 17, 2020

Thank you so much - I think if I had lost my child, I probably wouldn’t be able to write about it. The thought of it is painful enough. Thank you for your lovely comment!

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Jane Andrews
00:26 Aug 16, 2020

This is beautifully done, capturing all the raw grief of immediate loss and tracking the very gradual journey through the different emotions associated with the five stages. It had me thinking of the Seamus Heaney poem ‘Mid Term Break’ and also of a friend at university who died at the age of 22 after being hit by a car - like you said in one of the other threads, it’s the shock of sudden, accidental death that makes us unravel as we’ve had no time to prepare. You’ve done an excellent job of tapping into very real feelings.

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Laura Clark
07:20 Aug 16, 2020

Thank you so much - and sorry to hear about your friend. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment on so many stories!

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09:24 Aug 07, 2020

Wow.. Laura.. I can feel your pain and feel sorry for you.. You have captured the mood perfectly.. very good with the flow of the story.

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Laura Clark
09:45 Aug 07, 2020

Thank you! If it makes you feel better, it’s not a real life experience for me. I mean, I’ve lost people but not a child, thank goodness.

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Barbara Eustace
15:48 Aug 04, 2020

Laura, this is such a beautifully written story. As a mother of sons, I know the dread of letting them out of your sight as they grow into adulthood. You capture perfectly the anguish a mother would feel in this situation. Well done.

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Laura Clark
16:57 Aug 04, 2020

Thank you! Thank you taking the time to read and comment!

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P. Jean
21:07 Aug 03, 2020

I adore that he was at different ages and stages as he appeared. Gradual in the acceptance, beginning to learn just how long he will stay or go. I can only imagine the grief....you mention no husband to assist although grief is a very private thing. How you lose someone also creates different grief...long illness allows for grief that is like the Appalachian Mountains As opposed to the Rocky Mountains Which is grief from sudden loss. I’m glad I read this. I think I loved it!

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Laura Clark
22:15 Aug 03, 2020

Oh thank you! What a lovely comment! Yes, this is very much a sudden death. I think, in my experience anyway, that losing someone to illness is death by a thousand cuts. By the time they finally go, you’ve worked through a lot of the stages - often several times- and while it doesn’t necessarily make the after easier, the before is so much worse. I’m glad you enjoyed it though!

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Laura Clark
22:15 Aug 03, 2020

Also this evening has been a mad one but I’m planning on reading yours tomorrow!

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P. Jean
22:22 Aug 03, 2020

Not a problem at all. I have posted many. Some, as is usually 5he way, have more merit than others. I just mentioned the ones that gave me pleasure to write!

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Aditya Pillai
12:21 Aug 03, 2020

A really great piece of work! The sorrow, anguish and the overall pathos of it is so very well done. Each stage of grief has been represented accurately and I loved how the story ended with acceptance on a positive note (had it been me, like the pessimist ass I am, I would probably have ended it with a more twisted take on acceptance, if you know what I mean). The writing style and your use of phrases is masterful. Really enjoyed reading this, thanks for putting this gem of a work out here! Would love it if you go through mine too :)

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Laura Clark
12:47 Aug 03, 2020

Thank you so much for your very kind comment! I will gladly look at yours!

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Steve Stigler
02:01 Aug 03, 2020

This is superb work, Laura. I am very impressed by your use of the second person, and I love the use of gardening as your controlling image. Grief is such a raw emotion and difficult to write without it sounding stilted or melodramatic. You've found a very good balance here. Excellent story - well done!

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Laura Clark
06:06 Aug 03, 2020

Thank you so much! That’s very kind of you to say.

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Roshna Rusiniya
09:19 Aug 02, 2020

This was amazing! I think the second person narrative really worked well for the story. I could feel the pain radiating off the words! Loved it! ❤️

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Laura Clark
09:53 Aug 02, 2020

Thank you so much!

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Sayani Sarkar
22:41 Aug 01, 2020

It has always been tough for me to be able to write such deep emotional stories with such vivid descriptions of pain unless I've experienced it in some form. And if you've been able to do it then hats off to you ! It's really nice. The prompt actually gives you the idea of mystery but I never considered a take as such!

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Laura Clark
06:25 Aug 02, 2020

Well, I’ve experienced grief and being a new mother, I’ve spent a lot of time looking at my baby and thinking ‘Holy crap, I’ve never felt this strongly about anyone or anything. If she died, it would break me.’ So while hopefully I’ll never have to go through anything like this, it’s also not impossible for me to imagine, I guess. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment!

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Deborah Angevin
14:30 Jul 31, 2020

A well-written story, Laura. It was a very emotional and touching story! Would you mind checking my recent story, "A Very, Very Dark Green"? Thank you :)

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Laura Clark
06:59 Aug 01, 2020

Thank you! And yes of course.

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Hope Li
13:44 Jul 31, 2020

This is such a beautiful piece! Your descriptions are so well done (my absolute favorites being “you can’t talk through the shards of glass in your throat”, “the smell of onions is turning from sweet to bitter as they slowly char on the hob”). Your character’s emotional arc develops so naturally, and I love how you illustrate the five stages of grief. I personally felt as though there was a bit of a jump between stage four and five, or at least that I would have expected there to be a bit more “imperfection” in the acceptance stage (maybe a ...

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Laura Clark
14:05 Jul 31, 2020

That’s such a useful bit of feedback, thank you. I’ve edited slightly to take that into consideration - hopefully that’s improved the feel of the last section. I absolutely will check yours out - I’ll try and do it at some point this evening. Thanks again!

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Courtney Stuart
02:44 Jul 31, 2020

truly amazing. the memories of her son that you included here were heartbreaking, but they added so much to your story! i really liked how he became older and older as the story progressed, and how you ended with him showing up looking how he appeared to be right before he died. your ending, too was great, and i'm glad to see you were able to give your narrator a sense of peace. excellent job!

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Laura Clark
07:25 Jul 31, 2020

Thank you! I’m going on a reading spree later so am hoping that you’ve got something out that I can read 😊

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