Submitted into Contest #12 in response to: Write a story that features an ensemble cast of characters.... view prompt


Mystery Romance

(The first four chapters of this story are in the first four Armchair Detectives' prompts)

As he awoke, she was rising from his face. He reached to touch the corner of his mouth, where a recent sensation tingled, and she watched him be unable to. His arms were tied tightly, and her arms were covering her blushing face.

He didn't want to be in this place, a shed without its furniture, its contents a merely troublesome memory. He didn't want to be in this place below her, bound by her hands. There was coming a moral dilemma, and he thought he was becoming a good man, but this would surely be a test of it.

She was scared and feeling lonely beside him. She could already feel that things were going wrong. He wasn't looking at her. He was examining the room with his disquisitive eyes.

"What are you looking for?" she started faintly.

"You took everything away. All the stolen and forged goods are gone."

He thought, this is the perfect way to get myself out of this. I don't have to report something without evidence. It's conveniently out of my hands.

She thought, it's all he wants. To know the truth and have justice be done. To him it's meaningless that I am one of the criminals. He is not hurt that I am ruined. It has nothing to do with him.

She started to lie and say there had never been anything there. But she stopped herself. She wanted him to know the truth, if only to have him forgive and forget it. "I did. I don't want to get put in jail. That's not why I started stealing and lying."

He started to ask her why she was okay with hurting and deceiving people. But he stopped himself. He didn't want her to know he cared about her, he couldn't let her win. A good guy doesn't let the bad guys win. "You're a minor. You won't be blamed for this and you won't go to jail. But your father will."

She sucked in an awful breath. It tasted the same as when she'd heard those words a long time ago. "What makes you think my father is involved? You disrespect a dead man."

He was hurting her. Must he go on for his own sake? "I saw the culprit. I saw photos of your united family. Your father is the image of your brother."

"Yes, well, the maggots have started on the similarities by now."

He'd give a weak apology and hope this was not to become a scar on his heart no different than wholeheartedly loving her. "I'm sorry, but I don't believe your father is dead."

"Oh, like your belief has anything to do with it—!" she cried.

"Sandra." His firm, impassive utterance of her full name scissored through her words. "You lie. I'm sorry that your criminal father isn't dead. It would have been better if he was a good man dead."

He was looking past her tears. He said awful things so calmly. She blinked back the tears, wanting to hide them from being ignored. "So says the boy who was born with all the comforts of a law abiding father. Lucky you don't have to wish your father was dead. I decided I was grateful I even had one. I embrace his flaws."

"And does that necessarily mean you must make them your own? You have a duty to humanity to cultivate an intelligent, serviceable, and considerate character."

"I want to do anything I can to be like my father. I like doing this. I like helping him. Our innate duties are to our parents. You're the same. You probably cry at night, thinking, how can I please my father more?" Looking at his cryptic face, there was no belief in her words.

She was right. It was his father who expected him to be an upright, disciplined individual. From him, came the expectations of himself. The boy was trying to please these impressive, austere people. "If it comes to this, we have to give up our desires to please our parents, and please a higher authority."

"And you have no other desires?"

"I do not permit them."

"They've existed?"

He was deceiving her. He might as well not stop now. "They've been destroyed."

She didn't believe that even those past feelings were related to her. It was easy to deflate her hopes. You leave me with no choice. There's no one but you. There's no way out. I am the negative and you are the posi—

She is the positive and I am the nega—

We attract but then—


as if we're the same pole of a magnet.

But we're not the same.

"So what will you do for your higher authority?" she asked. She straightened her back and looked down at him over her nose.

She had wanted him to love her. Too bad.

What was his final decision? Here he was standing on a precipice. Turning around, there his father was, standing on solid ground, offering him his solid hand and a reliable, accustomed arrangement. Turning around, there was a void. She was making her way down. If he went that way, if he fell, he had no reason to believe she could catch him.

He had to stick with a way of life and people he could trust. He had to be someone he could trust.

He would follow his father.

"I'm going to track down the criminal and inhibit you from going down his path," he answered. His face cleared and became more attuned to one perspective, his viridity paling.

He had wanted her to think him wonderful. Tough luck.

She looked into his clear face and finally understood exactly what he was thinking.

Mystery solved, she thought.

"I'm going home now," she said, no longer emotional. "You can get out of your bindings and go to the police. Tell them everything, especially that I'm not to be ignored. If you can't jail me now, then you'd better be ready to do it when I come of age. I'll be there. I'll be worse and better than my father."

She rose with no expression. "You won't be able to recognize me the next time you see me, Marion. Goodbye. Thank you for laughing at my painting and offering graciously to send my father to prison."

Most of all, thank you for breaking my heart. I probably won't need it.

"If that's your choice." Their distant faces contemplated each other. "Next you see me, I won't be the same either," he said.

"As if, Marion. You'll never be any different."

She started walking out the door. Her voice echoed in the empty space.

"You'll only ever be different from me."

October 25, 2019 21:27

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Zilla Babbitt
19:48 Dec 10, 2019

I wonder why your Chapters stories are still pending? Are they more than 3K words? Also I like this story the best.


Hamadryad 77
18:23 Mar 23, 2020

Ah, I'm sorry, I didn't see your comment because I haven't been on Reedsy for a while. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my stories! This chapter was fun to write... I was trying to balance between the two characters, making them both leads at the same time because of the meaning of an ensemble. I wanted to use that idea in this chapter and as an overall theme for the stories being connected to each other, separate but equally important. Sorry for the wordy reply when it's been so long. As usual, nice talking with you!


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Hamadryad 77
19:09 Mar 23, 2020

Oh, and I don't know why they were pending for so long... I think they were within the accepted word count.


Zilla Babbitt
21:15 Mar 23, 2020

Huh! Maybe email one of the Reedsy people. I like reading back sometimes to different prompts and contests, so rereading this prompt and story was fun! Good to have you back on Reedsy :)


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