Contest #77 shortlist ⭐️

63 comments

American Drama

Alana’s mother had warned her about the rocks covered in ice near the edge of the lake. The Johnson boy had slipped and tumbled headlong into murk. In 40 degree water, he quickly sank in his heavy winter coat, started to hyperventilate, and drowned before anyone knew he was gone. 

“He’d only have lasted fifteen minutes or so before his muscles weakened. Blood moves away from the arms and legs towards the center of the body. Everything to protect the heart,” she said, touching hers. “The Johnson boy would have lost all coordination and strength,” Alana’s mother said. “He wouldn’t have known which way to swim until it was too late.” 

Alana still found comfort standing, gazing out the windows with a picturesque view of the lake. All seasons had their best features. In winter, black branches and twigs poked angrily through a pristine white blanket of snow; multicolored rocks jutted at odd angles, looking like old men trying to get up. In summer, the smaller rocks were splendid things to skip across the glassy surface of the lake and to inspect for sedimentary properties. 

Her mother would say, “Detrital sedimentary rocks result from erosion. Chemical sedimentary rocks result from dissolution.” 

Erosion and dissolution, Alana thought with a grimace. Like her marriage.

She’d come to heal from her nasty divorce in her childhood home. Perhaps her mother, fount of wisdom and patience, could give her the means to go on. It all seemed so hopeless with her angry ex. Every conversation was a minefield. 

As for her lover? Upon their affair being unceremoniously discovered, her lover simply called and said that his wife was willing to keep him and work on things for their children’s sake. And that was that.

It wasn’t until much later that she realized that her lover had begged his wife to stay. 

As for Alana? Her lover hadn’t chosen his wife over her; he had clearly chosen his life with his wife over starting a new life with her. Better the devil you know. Either way, his sudden absence left her in bone-rattling withdrawals. Like a junkie, fresh out of dopamine. Her therapist flatly said, “Just as you were a projection of something he is trying to work out, he was a projection of something you are trying to work out.” What did that even mean? But by then and in short order, her life was in carnage. 

She hadn’t meant for it all to go so wrong. Her marriage had been happy. Her adolescent girls, three emotional pink pom poms that bounced seamlessly from hysterical laughter to Greek tragedian tears, were with their father for the long weekend. In the new land of Acrimony and Weaponized Parenthood that she lived in, even this small favor of a weekend alone entailed half a dozen calls to lawyers at their exorbitant fee. 

This is not where she wanted to be. Sequestered. Isolated. Mulling over her place in the universe in the same living room where she pondered the existence of Santa Claus. She rested her forehead on the cold glass of the double-pane storm windows. It was the wee hours; she couldn’t sleep these days. Her mother would not be up for quite some time. 

Alana wanted to work through her talking points before letting her mother deconstruct her arguments, showing Alana carefully her flaws in logic and reasoning, the confirmation bias that made Alana believe things she knew to be untrue but held onto out of pure emotion. Was this really all her fault? Her ex kept telling her it was. And besides her mother—he’d been the only honest person in her whole life. 

The idea of being single again after being married for so many decades started like most bad ideas—with too many bottles of wine with other bored wives at a baby shower. 

“I heard Michelle Pritchard is getting a divorce—”

“It’s about time. Her husband is such an ox.”

“We went out line dancing with Michelle and her friends and I couldn’t believe how many men asked us to dance. I felt like I was sixteen—”

“My husband won’t go to counseling and I’m so fed up. I sit in the driveway and cry. I hate going home sometimes.” 

“Michelle Pritchard’s best friend from high school is getting a divorce, too. Her lawyer should have given them a 2-for-1 discount. You know how these things go.”

Alana did. She saw Michelle Pritchard—newly shed of thirty pounds—dressed in tight jeans and make-up at the grocery store at 8:00 a.m. Right after the morning car loop at school! Who was she trying to impress—the butcher? Alana watched Michelle Pritchard go out on dates, picked up by a variety of fairly attractive men, fresh off the It’s Our Time! dating app. Michelle Pritchard seemed to luxuriate in her newfound freedom—with the bonus of every other weekend off, as her boys were packed up for her ex-husband to deal with. 

Alana watched Michelle Pritchard closely, envying her new wardrobe and dazzling smile. While Michelle Pritchard went to happy hour with her new friends, Alana returned home to try out a new chicken recipe that her girls would hate and wear a new blouse that her husband wouldn’t notice. 

But her lover noticed her blouse. He had been a friend at work, really. Then more of a friend. Then an obsession. She had wanted them to get caught—to force his hand to do something. A grand gesture. Her therapist unemotionally chastised her: “Your affair—or what I like to call a distraction—purely gave you a sense of relief from the loneliness in your life. You chose not to take responsibility for filling the enormous hole that you created by having unrealistic expectations.” 

She quit going to counseling because her therapist was right. 

Her forehead was cold, as she continued to press it against the glass. She looked at the blanket of white outside, quietly muffling the normal sounds of the woods, the dead leaves rustling in the wind, the water of the lake.

The holidays would soon be upon them. The first season with the girls shuttling between two households, playing parents against each other in a guilt-inducing trial by combat. She closed her eyes and wondered what Michelle Pritchard was doing for the holidays.

Alana thought of her own childhood, her own adolescence, her own parent’s divorce and how deeply it hurt her. The sins of the fathers.

And much like the Johnson boy who didn’t notice the glazed rocks, using magical thinking to believe that his actions had no consequences, he boldly climbed all over the rocks covered in ice near the edge of the lake.

If only Alana had remembered that she had vowed to protect the heart, not the extremities, which had caused her to step tentatively on the frozen surface of a very dangerous lake—a lake that’d she’d tumbled headlong into, not knowing which way to swim until it was too late.

January 18, 2021 23:56

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63 comments

I think that the name Alana is beautiful. Your stories always inspire me and motivate me Deidra. Loved this story so much.

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Deidra Lovegren
12:13 Jan 23, 2021

Thanks 🙏🏻 Double L. Always nice to not just write for the void, you know? 😊

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No problem Deidra. Also, I totally understand. 😁

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Zilla Babbitt
15:05 Jan 19, 2021

This is so full of real life. I know a Michelle Pritchard! This is also a small lesson in "be happy with what you have." My one critique is that the last paragraph is nice but preachy. I think if you spread it out, either over the whole story or more than two paragraphs, it wouldn't come across so preachy. Nice mix of the mundane life with the magic of ice on rocks. Great job!

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Deidra Lovegren
15:12 Jan 19, 2021

The Michelle Pritchards of the world are single handedly ruining everything. Especially hot yoga, eyebrow threading, and frozen yogurt. You make a good point. I'll go back and keep my omniscient narrator less preachy. It's as subtle as a bat across the face.

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Zilla Babbitt
15:13 Jan 19, 2021

Couldn't agree more (though I love frozen yogurt).

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Deidra Lovegren
15:15 Jan 19, 2021

I cleaned up the last paragraph a bit. It is a moral tale, so let Aesop have his fable.

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Zilla Babbitt
15:39 Jan 21, 2021

I like it! It's not preachy but it holds a lot of wisdom as is.

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Deidra Lovegren
16:03 Jan 21, 2021

Hilarious that Michelle Pritchard is a meme.

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Zilla Babbitt
16:31 Jan 29, 2021

Yay shortlist!

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Deidra Lovegren
16:40 Jan 29, 2021

Totally did not see this coming...

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Zilla Babbitt
15:07 Jan 30, 2021

Pfft. I expect the next will be a win...

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K. Antonio
14:23 Jan 19, 2021

Alana is such a rich and developed character. Her emotions raw and relatable, her pain, her problems, the struggles, she seems so palpable. The imagery was great, but your character was so real, that this piece really highlighted her and her story.

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Deidra Lovegren
15:09 Jan 19, 2021

Alana needs to start writing a gratitude journal. (I'm only half-kidding.) She'll either buy a motorcycle, a tattoo of some obscure Tao philosophy, and a belly ring, or she'll beg her ex to take her back, swallow her anger, and raise her daughters with clenched teeth and Bible passages taped to the refrigerator. Not a lot of middle ground for our girl :)

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K. Antonio
17:54 Jan 29, 2021

OMG! Congrats!! I'm still in love with your character!

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Thom Brodkin
13:01 Jan 19, 2021

Your stories hurt my soul. There is a little of all of us in your characters. I could feel the cold. I could feel the isolation. I could feel the hopelessness. This is truly great writing.

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Deidra Lovegren
15:06 Jan 19, 2021

Poor Alana needs to wander down to the local bar and grill, eat a cheeseburger, and beat some local boy dressed in a flannel shirt at darts. Why waste a good mid-life crisis?

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Scout Tahoe
16:12 Jan 29, 2021

I thought I commented awhile ago--but I guess not. Loved this story. Congrats!

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Deidra Lovegren
16:20 Jan 29, 2021

Totally gobsmacked 😶

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Scout Tahoe
16:21 Jan 29, 2021

Totally deserved. :O

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Phil Manders
14:04 Jan 23, 2021

Ouch! Deidra. Middle age is such a tight rope.

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Deidra Lovegren
14:13 Jan 23, 2021

High stakes. Always... Phil Manders always a delight. 💕 You may like Jonathan Blaauw’s latest — he’s a million times the writer I will ever be. https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts/contests/77/submissions/51385/

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Phil Manders
15:03 Jan 23, 2021

I’ll take a look.

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J. D.
02:40 Jan 22, 2021

Loved this story!! So relatable and well paced.

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Deidra Lovegren
11:58 Jan 22, 2021

Thanks, JD -- High praise, indeed :)

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A.G. Scott
10:52 Jan 19, 2021

The descriptions are so juicy. I loved the one with the rocks looking like old men trying to get up. The paragraph that starts with 'For Alana?' is very confusingly worded in the first couple of sentences. You might think about cleaning that up. I also wrote about loneliness this week. Would love for you to check mine out if you have time! :)

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Deidra Lovegren
15:07 Jan 19, 2021

Yeah, you right. I tinkered a bit. Must have been a good mid-Winter week for lonely hearts. Lots of fictional characters are getting destroyed this week. Maybe Spring will bring some more uplifting fare :)

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Tom .
05:51 Jan 19, 2021

I love the echoes here. The head on the glass. The ice, the Johnson boy. I suppose it is not strictly a grass is greener, more the snow is whiter, moral tale. Good Job.

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Deidra Lovegren
08:50 Jan 19, 2021

“The snow is whiter” — yep. ❄️ Thanks for your taking time to read! It’s nice not laboring in obscurity.

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12:05 May 14, 2021

michelle pritchard- ruining lives since 2021.

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Deidra Lovegren
14:33 May 14, 2021

All "Michelles" are suspect.

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14:35 May 14, 2021

if your name is michelle, you have secret and/or evil agenda. it's a sad fact of being a michelle.

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Gerald Daniels
19:17 Mar 31, 2021

It might be a bit late to comment on this story but I'm working my way through all yours because I like them. Loved this, I can imagine it forming the basis to a romantic novel, which is a compliment, although, now I wish I'd just said "well done, excellent prose" Anyway I loved it. Super.

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Deidra Lovegren
19:38 Mar 31, 2021

“Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

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Gerald Daniels
20:27 Mar 31, 2021

Great line. I was going to quote from "Back to the Future" (favourite ever film) but I'd just show myself up.

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09:32 Feb 05, 2021

This is a very relatable story. I like it.

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S. Lothcraft
14:31 Feb 04, 2021

Just discovered this. Beautifully written, and very realistic.

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Deidra Lovegren
15:13 Feb 04, 2021

Thanks for coming by :)

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Rachel Smith
14:55 Jan 31, 2021

I really enjoyed this. I'm going to see the Michelle Pritchard's of the world everywhere now! Look forward to reading more of your stories

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Deidra Lovegren
15:38 Jan 31, 2021

Yep. Michelle Pritchard's are single-handedly responsible for the downfall of empires :)

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Susan Sidell
05:21 Jan 30, 2021

Love this story. You do a great job crafting Alana as a little broken, recognizing her self-delusion, and then left me, as reader, engaged enough to wonder if Alana pulls it together. So glad to have read this and I look forward to reading more!

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Phil Manders
19:02 Jan 29, 2021

Whoop! Whoop! Short list again Deidra. Well done you. You must share the secret with me. Thoroughly deserved (again).

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Deidra Lovegren
19:09 Jan 29, 2021

Thanks for the good wishes, dear Phil. I need to write less pathetic characters, but trainwrecks are my specialty. I'd like to think that apple falls from from the tree, but...

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Amaya .
17:23 Jan 29, 2021

Deidra yay shortlist!!

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Holly Fister
02:45 Jan 28, 2021

Beautiful ending, a nice way to tie it all together.

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Deidra Lovegren
08:52 Jan 28, 2021

The main character is a train wreck — always fun to write!

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Holly Fister
15:02 Jan 28, 2021

Agreed! I just wrote my first crazy character and I fully enjoyed the creativity it required!!

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Deidra Lovegren
15:06 Jan 28, 2021

Oooooo going to read. Your latest story?

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Holly Fister
16:39 Jan 28, 2021

Yes, thanks for reading! I love your work, by the way, and look forward to reading more of your stories!

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Deidra Lovegren
16:44 Jan 28, 2021

Some of my stories are much better than others. Just depends if the muses show up, or the Valkyries... :)

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Katina Foster
14:47 Jan 27, 2021

There's so much to this story and you've done it all so well. Layers of life lessons sprinkled throughout as well. But this line was exceptional: "three emotional pink pom poms that bounced seamlessly from hysterical laughter to Greek tragedian tears." Excellent work, Deidra!

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Deidra Lovegren
16:20 Jan 27, 2021

I wish I were as erudite as J. Blaauw tossed around wisdom and profound thoughts like so many adverbs... As for the tears to laughter? That's me in my chronically perimenopausal state. Wheeeeeeee

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