Contest #160 winner 🏆

The Chandelier

Submitted into Contest #160 in response to: End your story with someone dancing in the rain.... view prompt

85 comments

Coming of Age Contemporary Fiction

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

There were gems in the chandelier right past the door of my home. I wasn’t supposed to touch the glimmering stones as they hung, but I would push up a chair and scramble on the rickety wood to brush them with my fingers anyway. It was addictive to paint the lines of my fingerprints along the surface. I would flick on the lights and watch them sway, imagining my mother on the dance floor, conjuring images of date nights when Mama walked out of the house with a black cocktail dress and her best pearls along with the smokey scent of her expensive perfume. 

There was no helping how they reminded me of Mama; the clacking as they collided with one another was the same noise her heels left on the ballroom floor. It was my favorite time to watch the dance lessons she took, hand in hand with a gentleman that smelled of the ocean and spoke with an accent—watching her dance, even practicing, left me with pangs in my heart, and there was nothing I wanted more than to be able to move as she did. 

And, if I could get away with it, I would pick up the little hook that clasped the jewel and tuck it in my palm, marveling at the punctures it left—red lines that showed their beautiful marks on me. Oh, the way the gold shone, like the breath of a setting sun against indigo waves, orange and bright as a flame. I wanted those marks because they made me more like Mama, with the angry indent from her bra that she stripped off with a sigh, the scars across her stomach from where the skin had pulled and made me. My god, I would’ve cut them myself. I never dared to use her lotion, never dared to do more than screw off the smeared cap and smell, but I would dig through the medicine cabinet until I found the tape and wrap my flat torse. I would go into her bathroom. I would take her razor and try my best to shave my limbs as she did, and when she came home to three red lines on my skin, she always knew. 

I kept everything in a little corner of my bedside drawer, in the jewelry box she had gotten me. She never found it; she never looked. But she would sit down on my bed. Unwrap the tape with careful fingers. Bandage my cuts, and after, hug me to her chest, surround me with the softness of her skin, pressing her lips into my hair. 

“You don’t have to shave yet, baby, or wear a bra,” she would say. I’d tell her I wanted to be like her, and I could feel the pull of her frown on my roots. “Like me?” Yes. “Shaving isn’t fun,” she would say, “It’s a chore. It isn’t something to want.” She never looked for the razor, though, nor the tape, and I never stopped trying to get it right. 

She caught me stealing from the chandelier once. The rain pounded on the windows like sheets of wax paper on that particular night. Thunder tapped its way across the sky, and lightning flashed far away, enough to show glimpses of the darkened hall. There was makeup smeared across her face, a stain on her cheek, and lines running down her neck. Her eyes wavered with tears as she stumbled outside of her bedroom, where I could still hear Daddy groaning the way he did when the beer bottles gleamed like copper in the dining room. Her tears brought some to my eyes. 

She froze at the sight of me, and we stared at each other. She looked so small from atop the chair, and the moonlight fell short of the hallway, allowing the shadows to stretch and consume her whole. A single tear fell from her eye. I tugged my hand away too fast—the chandelier shuddered, and a cacophony of clinks erupted in the air, wriggling like the sparkle sliding down her dewy cheek. 

Daddy shouted something from the other room. We both flinched, and I realized that it was no stain on her cheek, but instead a bruise, and the lines on her neck were like the ones the jewels left on me, dotted with blood. My stomach churned. She whispered to me, her voice more coarse than I had ever heard. She asked me what I was doing. I had sat down in the chair, stretched out my legs to brush on the tiles, and stood with my hair covering my eyes. Mama was pretty, even when she was mad. Not like Daddy, whose face bloated and swelled like a blister, whose mouth creased and whose voice struck like a fist. Mama had anger like smoke, leaching in and burning me from the inside out without saying a single word. My hands shook, my knees wobbled, the jutting joint shuddering without my control. 

She slinked forward; the nightgown slid against the carpet with a hiss. I closed my eyes. Her fingers brushed against my jaw, tracing down my neck. Her nails raked white lines down my arm, trailed into the jut of my elbow, and closed like jaws around my wrist. She examined the lines left by the jewels dropped to the floor. 

“Why do you hold them so tight?” she whispered. She did not sound like herself. She sounded young. Young and hurt. 

I had no answer; I could not open my eyes. The tears were falling now, dropping with puds on the ground. The thunder came again. Long hair brushed the top of my head as she looked out the window. She was quiet. I didn’t hear a single breath. She ducked to pick up the chain and opened the door, pulling me outside. 

The sound of the rain tripled, folding the silence and stowing it inside the house as she closed the door. She pulled both of us into the grass and mud as the rain came down. I smelled the pine trees, the leaves, the dirt, the worms, all mixing in a humid trench dug into my chest. 

“Doesn’t it hurt?” she asked me. She had to raise her voice for me to hear her over the rain. “To shave? Wrap your chest? To hold it so tightly?” 

Of course, I thought. 

She kneeled in front of me. Her nightgown smeared with the mud, and the light cotton clung to her as it absorbed the rain. I could see her shivering. “You want to hear a secret, baby?” 

I nodded, lips trembling. I was still crying; I couldn’t stop. 

“The only time I like dancing is when you’re the one watching. It’s the only time it feels real.” 

And then she clasped my hands in hers and stood up. She pressed my face against her stomach and began to sway. She was whispering in my ear. The tart smell of red wine offended my nose as she said things like, “You’re my everything,” and “I wouldn’t be here without you." I didn’t understand; I didn’t understand the steps she tried to teach me: left leg forward, right leg to the right, left leg over, right leg back. She slid the instructions between “I love you”s, and I stumbled, trying to keep up. I kept my eyes open even as they burned to watch our bare feet sink into the grass. Her grip was tight on my hand, and with the little piece of the chandelier hanging between us, I was taller than I ever was before, and I imagined what I would look grown, with her by my side, ageless and gorgeous as she was then. I imagined us dancing together until the music stopped, and I came upon the realization, the words echoing in my head just as she whispered them to me, with the gold digging into our clasped palms;

“Growing up hurts, doesn't it, baby?” 

August 25, 2022 21:42

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85 comments

Zelda C. Thorne
15:39 Sep 02, 2022

Congratulations on the win! This was gorgeous. Full of longing and subtext. Favourite line - "Mama had anger like smoke, leaching in and burning me from the inside out without saying a single word" Well done🎉

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Jaithri K
16:22 Sep 02, 2022

That was my favourite line too!

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Lee Disco
18:12 Sep 02, 2022

Thank you! I'm glad you liked that line, it was one of my favorites!

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Lizzie Gilchrest
17:06 Sep 10, 2022

So, I am a young aspiring writer and I've never been brave enough to enter into Reedsy- two reasons. 1: I'm too young to enter in the first place, and 2: I've always been very self-conscious about my talents (including writing). But I still have a Reedsy account because I LOVE getting inspiration from stories like these!! Amazing job- you totally deserved the win. Know that somewhere in the world an 11-year-old is looking up to you!!

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Sharila Surpal
04:09 Sep 14, 2022

11 year old!!! That’s so cute:) may you grow to be an incredible author.

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Lee Disco
12:47 Sep 15, 2022

This is so nice! Never be self-conscious about your writing; the more you write, the better you'll become. I have no doubt one day I'll be reading your win in the contest. Let me know when you submit, I'd love to check it out!

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Salmah Ahmed
09:55 Sep 03, 2022

Wow, loved this. This is the type of fiction I like, the topic ceases to matter and the style takes over, you could be writing about a butterfly’s wedding and make it powerful. It’s poetic and poignant, and I haven’t ever read a chandelier described so beautifully! Would love to hear your feedback on mine! Thanks for sharing!

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Lee Disco
16:25 Sep 03, 2022

Thank you so much for your comment! You're very sweet.

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Havana Summer
20:23 Sep 02, 2022

Amazing story! Well deserved win! I really liked how you compared the moms anger with the dads.

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Lee Disco
16:25 Sep 03, 2022

Thanks!

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Victor Eaves
03:24 Oct 02, 2022

Your pros are crazy good. I'm jealous.

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Eliza Troy
13:57 Sep 30, 2022

This was a lovey read. To me, I felt like I was ready an old Hollywood glamour through the eyes of a child. Congrats on the win - well deserved!

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Jw Asbridge
03:06 Sep 27, 2022

Emotion hangs from each word in the story like the jewels from the chandelier.

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12:08 Sep 24, 2022

The tears were falling now, dropping like puds on the ground. IDK why that was my favorite line and I know had I used the word pud, I would have struggled over using it, in the edit but, in the end, kept it right there. Great word, like one that came out of left field and fit. Loved the story! Congrats!

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03:23 Sep 17, 2022

Very, well written.Couldnt stop reading it.

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Rachael S
13:14 Sep 12, 2022

Stunning. I love the elegant descriptions of the characters and environment. I felt like I was there with the narrator.

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Lee Disco
12:40 Sep 15, 2022

Thank you! I'm glad you felt that way!

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Rain Zhang
05:27 Sep 11, 2022

Congrats on the win! The storyline for me is a little obscure. To my understanding, it's a story about a girl who wants to become mature and a mother who tells the bitterness of being so. I'm amazed by how you tangled the depiction of the environment and emotions and pushed forward the plot at the same time. The rain appeared very early in the story, only as quiet background music, and grew into a humongous monster devouring and suffusing everything. The mother and the daughter are facing different challenges in their ages, but were connec...

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Lee Disco
12:40 Sep 15, 2022

Thank you for the feedback! Let me know when you submit, I'd love to read it :)

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Chanel Terese
11:38 Sep 09, 2022

'Not like Daddy, whose face bloated and swelled like a blister, whose mouth creased and whose voice struck like a fist.' - god damn stunning and devastatingly beautiful. You took me somewhere else with the entirety of your story; a well deserved win.

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Lee Disco
12:41 Sep 15, 2022

Thank you, I'm glad you were immersed!

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16:06 Sep 07, 2022

Excellent! Nostalgic, sad, hopeful...Well done! Congratulations :)

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Lee Disco
12:41 Sep 15, 2022

Thanks!

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Jazmine Abuzaid
14:03 Sep 07, 2022

Amazing story. Great job on the win!

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Lee Disco
12:41 Sep 15, 2022

Thank you!

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Nattie Wons
02:16 Sep 07, 2022

Wow. Just wow.

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Lee Disco
12:41 Sep 15, 2022

Thank you :)

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Becky Baynes
01:52 Sep 07, 2022

This is beautiful.

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Lee Disco
12:41 Sep 15, 2022

Thanks!

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Lydia Whalen
21:31 Sep 06, 2022

well done this is a very well-written story

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Lee Disco
12:42 Sep 15, 2022

Thank you!

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Kevin Broccoli
16:18 Sep 06, 2022

"Mama had anger like smoke, leaching in and burning me from the inside out without saying a single word." I would have given you the win for that line alone. Great job.

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Lee Disco
12:42 Sep 15, 2022

Thank you, I'm glad you liked it!

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Viola Fahey
15:59 Sep 06, 2022

What a beautifully written story! I love the subtext. Each sentence felt lyrical.

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Lee Disco
12:42 Sep 15, 2022

Thank you!

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Eros Moreno
08:23 Sep 06, 2022

What a great story!, may i ask for the analysis?

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Lee Disco
12:43 Sep 15, 2022

Thank you! I'm afraid I don't understand what you mean by analysis?

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