52 comments

Drama Kids Holiday

I was ten years old when Grandma asked me to hand over my life. I had been crouched under my bed for cover, curling my pudgy knees up to my chest and squeezing my eyes shut as if that would allow me to turn invisible. My breathing stilled as I heard the floorboards creak and yelp under her weight, as if calling a warning for her arrival. I crammed three stuffed animals underneath my pineapple-themed pajama shirt and five more between my legs.


I planned this hideaway weeks before that, knowing Grandma would barge into our house demanding for sacrifice. It had been a yearly Christmas tradition that my family established long before I was born, back when my older sister was a child. I watched year after year as my grandma demanded expenses to be made from her grandchildren. It was a fearful thing to witness and I dreaded the year it would be my turn as the victim. My mother had made it a rule that her children did not have to participate until they were ten years of age.


I always thought it was a stupid rule.


I held my breath when I saw white-toed tennis shoes approaching the bed. A hand lifted up the ivory bed skirt and I found myself staring into her wrinkly honey eyes, glistening with mischief. Waves of mousy brown hair dangled in front of her rectangle frames and a toothy grin stretched across her face, causing deep creases to form in her cheeks. I squealed and gripped my hidden stuffed animals.


“Found her!” Grandma called over her shoulder. She laughed, the sound high-pitched and teasing. “You know, your sister used to hide under this same bed when she was your age. I always thought it was a rather strange place to hide when I can see your feet sticking out from the other side.”


I looked down and saw that she was right. Well, it’s the thought that counts. Grandma reached under the bed and poked my stomach, where I was most ticklish. I kicked my legs, my five stuffed animals slipping out and revealing themselves.


“Come on out darling, we baked cookies!” She waved a plate of freshly baked goods atop a plate, steam wafting off them and into my nose, filling my nostrils with the sweet, wholesome smell.


I took a deep inhale, a scowl still planted on my chubby face though it was slowly dissolving with the sugary aroma. I crossed my arms, still lying on my side. “Fine, but only if Mama lets me have two before dinner.”


Grandma cackled again. “I’m sure I can persuade her to compromise.”


***


Not ten minutes later, I had crawled my way out from underneath the bed, stowing away chocolate chip cookies into my mouth. Grandma had left the room to ask permission that I could, in fact, spoil my dinner. Crumbs littered the perimeter of my mouth and I wiped them off with the back of my hand, my belly rumbling in satisfaction.


Grandma returned with two tan, cardboard boxes tucked beneath her arms. The word DONATIONS was scrawled along the side of both of them in thick black letters. I gasped and scooted away, reaching back under the bed to snatch my toys.


Grandma let out a deep sigh, bending down slowly, and finally sat down atop the tanned carpet, crossing her legs over one another. She patted the space beside her, inviting me over. I stayed put. She smiled, though it was weary. “Marlie,” she sang.


“I’m not giving up my toys. Not one of them. You’ll just have to deal with it,” I huffed and folded my arms. My resilient façade had given me extra time to protect my belongings. But alas, only for a minute. With one unfair, signature Grandma smile, my resolve began to crumble. I growled at my own betrayal.


Within seconds, I was begrudgingly packing old toys into a sad little box. I frowned the whole time.


***


Grandma invited me to accompany her on her trip to donate the boxes. I continued to resist, but only half-heartedly. At that point, what did it matter? My toys had already been stolen.


When we arrived at our destination, I scrutinized the house on the other side of the window. A modest one-story house sat on a poorly cared for lawn. Weeds sprouted up, climbing up the base of the house. The roof was patched up in several places and was surrounded by overflowing gutters. A scuffed wooden door stood at the entrance, guarded by an extra frayed screen door. I scrunched up my nose, unconsciously, but quickly covered it up with a sniffle when Grandma shot me a condescending glare.


We unloaded the car, dragging out three full donation boxes, and hauled them to the door. Grandma knocked and I hid behind her sturdy legs. A woman unbolted the door and swung it open. She grinned broadly and held her arms wide, embracing Grandma in a massive hug.


“Nora, it is so good to see you! I’ve already heated up the hot cocoa and started up dinner.” The woman began shuffling Grandma inside before noticing me, still gripping the fabric of my grandma’s pants. She paused and bent down to my level. Her eyes were bright, but there were deep circles below them, causing her to appear much older. Her dirty blonde hair was pulled up high into a scraggly bun. “You must be the granddaughter. Kacie, is it?”


I shook my head slightly. Grandma chuckled. “No, no. This is my youngest granddaughter, Marlie. She begged to accompany me today.” I gaped at her and Grandma winked.


The woman beamed. “Oh, good! Leslie will be overjoyed to see another girl her age.”


Grandma placed a hand on my shoulder, and we followed the woman into the house. It was not nearly as rundown as the outside, give or take a few scattered envelopes and forgotten shoes on the floor. The air was warm and smelled faintly of roasted potatoes. My mouth began to water. My donation box was beginning to slip from my grip, and I set it down on the carpeted floor.


A young girl waddled towards us, using one hand to rub the sleep out of her eye. My eyes widened as I took in the strange child's frame. She was exceptionally frail, her arms and legs no thicker than a stick, and her baby blue eyes were sunken in. Pale blonde hair fell in oily strands past her shoulders, some matted to her face. Even with her sickly appearance, the girl resembled her mother greatly.


“Leslie, dear, this is Marlie, Nora’s granddaughter. You remember Nora?” The woman gestured to my grandma. Leslie nodded, then coughed sporadically into her elbow. “They’ve brought new toys to you.” The girl’s gaze landed on the donation boxes held by Grandma and in between my feet. Her eyes brightened, glittering like stars.


“New?” she croaked. Her mother nodded, eyes glistening as well.


I knitted my brows together. My toys were for her? I glanced up at Grandma for answers and she responded quickly, as if expecting my question. She bent down to my height while Leslie and her mother wandered off to the sofa. “Leslie is suffering, darling. Has been since the moment she arrived on this earth.” My mouth dropped open, but only a tad. I whipped my gaze to Leslie, then back to my grandma.


“These toys—your loved belongings—bring Leslie an abundance of joy. Every year, she receives something new. And, I think, this gives her a reason to keep pushing. It gives her something to look forward to.” Her eyes began to fill with tears, even through her weary grin. She glanced towards the mother. “Darla, Leslie’s mother, is an old friend of mine. I want to continue providing for her family in any way God allows me to. Hence, the toys I so kindly ask you and Kacie to reconsider. Do you understand the importance of this yearly tradition now?”


I bit my lip. My toys and stuffed animals were important to me. More than important. They were my life. They stood by me when the dark was too much to handle in my lonely room. They were there when the first days of school were petrifying. They were there when I was sick time and time again, comforting me on my worst nights. Perhaps it was time to pass them along. I met my grandma’s eyes. “I think so,” I whispered.


Reaching into the donation box filled with my own belongings, I look out one particular stuffed rabbit. The rabbit was the brightest purple, fur still silky to the touch. It seemed to light up the entire room. I carried it over to Leslie and her eyes immediately latched onto the stuffed toy. She held her hands out, hesitantly. I gulped and handed her the first toy ever gifted to me. Leslie handled it with great care, cradling it in her lean arms.


“Hush, hush,” Leslie whispered, stroking the rabbit gently.


I stared at her with curiosity as she cradled my once loved toy and wondered if she knew how ill she was. Or if, like Grandma said, she was just waiting for the next year to present her new toys. I was not sure. But I supposed it wasn’t important. I took a careful seat next to Leslie and petted the rabbit along with her. 


She glanced up at me and said, words barely above a whisper, “Thank you.”

September 26, 2020 00:59

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52 comments

Leilani Lane
18:14 Sep 26, 2020

Ahhh!! This was so touching. That opening paragraph drew me in right away. I connect with this so much; it can certainly feel like an evil act to give away precious toys. I'm also a HUGE stuffed-animal lover (that's the type of toy I chose for my story, too!) and I bawled my eyes out when I did my first round of toy donations... but once I realized where they were going (and WHO they were going to!), I felt so much better. I think you captured the innocence of the child so perfectly! I'm trying to make my comments more productive on st...

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Maggie Deese
19:09 Sep 26, 2020

Thank you so very much, Leilani! Your suggestions were incredibly helpful and I have already made edits throughout. I'm glad you enjoyed it! Stuffed animals are very special to me, as well. The purple rabbit at the end is actually based off my own stuffed animal, which I still have lying on my bed.

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Leilani Lane
20:01 Sep 26, 2020

Of course!! I'm glad my comments were helpful. :) Aw, that's adorable!! It's always so fun to weave in real things from life into writing. :)

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Jonathan Blaauw
14:33 Sep 26, 2020

I just stumbled onto this one on my activity feed and I’m so glad I did. It’s a really well-executed story, full of emotion and brilliant descriptions. I particularly like how you first ground the importance of the toys in Marlie’s world firmly before revealing she’s going to lose them (although you hint at it from the start really well). The overall theme is a very powerful one. For children, concepts like sharing and parting with physical possessions aren’t built-in, they have to be learned, often painfully. But it’s a magical thing whe...

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Maggie Deese
16:21 Sep 26, 2020

Once again, I appreciate you so much!😭 These lengthy suggestions are what allowed me to get shortlisted last time! Also, I will be sure you are the first person I tell the next time I get shortlisted 😂👍🏻 I just made edits throughout the story, so I hope it is even better now! Your suggestion about "Kacie and I's" also stumped me, so I just changed it completely hoping it sounds better now. Also, I was thinking about adding a line at the end of the story along the same lines as the first line. Something like "I was ten years old when Gran...

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Jonathan Blaauw
08:14 Sep 27, 2020

That's a tough one. I see your thinking behind it, circling back to the first line, only having the meaning change, but, after reading it again carefully, I would say it's perfect as is and doesn't require the change. To have it work effectively, you'd need to kind of rewrite the whole ending, otherwise, that extra line is just saying what's already been said. And I know from experience that when you try rewrite one part, you often need to rewrite the part before that as well, and on and on until you've eventually rewritten the whole thing....

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Maggie Deese
14:07 Sep 27, 2020

Thank you for such wonderful feedback, Jonathan! I agree with you and will leave it as is. Its hard not to criticize my stories over and over again, but I'm glad I have such a supportive group on here ☺

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Justin Bales
21:41 Oct 11, 2020

I love the story, It's nice to remember others at Christmas time.

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Maggie Deese
21:47 Oct 11, 2020

Thank you, Justin!

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Keerththan 😀
18:33 Oct 10, 2020

This was so touching! I love your descriptions, something I am struggling to learn. I loved this story and this was a wonderful story. Keep writing. Would you mind reading my new story? Thanks!

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Maggie Deese
18:41 Oct 10, 2020

Thank you, Keerththan! I will happily read your story, but it will probably be later today or early tomorrow!

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Kristin Neubauer
14:11 Oct 10, 2020

What a lovely and tender story, Maggie. First of all, your descriptions were amazing. You created such a sense of fear and suspense as little Marlie was hiding from her grandmother. And such a sense of outrage with her beloved toys being taken. But such a heartfelt development - I have the sense that this is a real life-altering, coming of age moment for Marlie. And I love that you've done that without coming out and saying it. Great work!

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Maggie Deese
17:52 Oct 10, 2020

Thank you, Kristin!

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Thom Brodkin
15:41 Oct 06, 2020

I have often called myself a storyteller. I think I use it as a crutch for my inability to paint a picture with description and my weakness when it comes to dialogue. Somehow being a storyteller absolves me of these shortcomings. It's with that in mind that I comment on your story. It is a storytellers story. It feels as if it should be told sitting in front of a fireplace with a cup of hot chocolate next to you. It, unlike mine, has powerful imagery and fantastic dialogue. It mixes them so seamlessly that you almost don't notice how ...

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Maggie Deese
16:00 Oct 06, 2020

My goodness, thank you so much, Thom :') That was such a sweet comment and I truly appreciate you taking the time to read this and comment! I will gladly go comment on your stories; I remember reading them and I think I was busy at the time and forgot to leave feedback! Thank you again!

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K Lewis
23:07 Oct 03, 2020

This was really good - good humour and very sweet. I also thought having the character handing over the toy be themselves was a creative take on the prompt. I am curious though - do the toys always go to this one kid, and how long has it been going on for? The intro makes it sound like this has been going on for a very long time but the end suggests it might not be that long?

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Maggie Deese
02:18 Oct 04, 2020

Thank you very much! To answer your question, I was imagining that the grandmother has been supplying and helping other families for a long time. Leslie's family just happens to be the one she is supporting by the time Marlie is old enough to donate toys. I'm not sure if that makes sense and I probably should have clarified that more in the story. Sadly, it's too late to edit it.

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K Lewis
18:15 Oct 04, 2020

Cheers. Before you get too concerned, I have not slept much this week due to work. It is very possible/probable I am just being slow :)

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Maggie Deese
22:08 Oct 04, 2020

You're totally fine! I appreciate all comments!

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Cal Carson
19:30 Oct 03, 2020

Wow, so heartwarming and kind of sad, too! I was so attached to my stuffed animals when I was younger. When I had to give some away, each one I chose felt like I was betraying a friend. But I understood that there are people who need it more. So I can relate! Sweet read, I loved every minute of it and I'm looking forward to more! Would you mind checking out one of my stories and dropping some pointers?

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Maggie Deese
02:19 Oct 04, 2020

Thank you so much, Cal! I would be happy to read your story :)

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Alexandra Dyess
18:16 Oct 03, 2020

Omg I love her so much 😭 she’s so innocent and you captured her child-like innocence perfectly! I’m new to Reedsy and I posted my first short story on one of these prompts. Would you mind reading and honestly any critiques would be amazing!

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Maggie Deese
19:02 Oct 03, 2020

Thank you so much! I'd be happy to read your story!

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Alexandra Dyess
19:05 Oct 03, 2020

Omg thank you so much!! Be as critical as possible lmao

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14:36 Oct 03, 2020

What a great story! You are an amazing story teller!

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Maggie Deese
14:39 Oct 03, 2020

Thank you so much, Karlynn!

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16:31 Oct 03, 2020

Your welcome! If you have time can you read my story and let me know what you think. Thanks!

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Maggie Deese
17:45 Oct 03, 2020

Will do!

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Ola Hotchpotch
13:40 Oct 03, 2020

Wonderfully written story. You have written from both sides- the child giving away her favourite toy and another, receiving it. You also took care of, grandma's side. Well balanced story.

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Maggie Deese
14:40 Oct 03, 2020

Thank you for the kind comment! I'm glad you enjoyed it!

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A. K. Wilson
13:11 Oct 03, 2020

Sweet heartwarming story 💜💗

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Maggie Deese
14:39 Oct 03, 2020

Thank you! :)

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K. Antonio
12:21 Oct 03, 2020

I loved that opening paragraph. After reading it, I had to check what prompt this story was relating to. Thankfully I did, or else I would have started to think the main character was gonna die or be burned at the stake xD. I thought the story was very touching. I liked your use of verbs and the descriptions in general. When you said "I knitted my brows together..." I thought that was a great use of vocabulary. I liked the moral of the story. I liked that the main character was a 10 year old child, the entire plot and your idea lent ...

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Maggie Deese
18:06 Oct 03, 2020

Thank you for the kind comment! I love seeing people's reactions to the first paragraph; I'm glad I got everyone's attention, haha! I will gladly read your stories! :)

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Lauren K
15:47 Oct 02, 2020

Great story! I would read it over again! Keep writing! ~Lauren K.

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Maggie Deese
17:37 Oct 02, 2020

Thank you, Lauren!

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Rayhan Hidayat
12:14 Sep 30, 2020

So touching! Reminds me of the final scene in Toy Story 3. The first line made me think this is some kind of thriller, and the grandma definitely came off as a villain initially, but of course this is from a child’s POV and it makes complete sense that their world would revolve around their toys. Awesome job, keep it up! 😙

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Maggie Deese
14:22 Sep 30, 2020

Thank you, Rayhan!

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Rayhan Hidayat
14:49 Sep 30, 2020

No problem! And feel free to check out my latest story if you have the time 😙

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17:06 Sep 27, 2020

This is beautiful, Maggie! Because of when you submitted it and the first line, at first I thought you had decided to write an apocalypse story after all, complete with an evil grandmother. While I'm sure that would have been a fun read, this is much nicer. From what I've read of yours, you have a really good understanding of how the mind of a child works, and as a result you write children in a realistic, lovable way.

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Maggie Deese
17:26 Sep 27, 2020

Thank you very much, Natalie! That is such high praise given that I plan on being a children's author (I am planning my middle-grade novel as we speak). I really appreciate it!

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18:04 Sep 27, 2020

Oh that's awesome! Is that your project for Nanowrimo? I really need to figure out what I'm doing before I end up winging it like I did for camp this summer.

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Maggie Deese
18:10 Sep 27, 2020

Yes it is! I prepped and outlined in July for camp, so now I'm going back over my notes until November gets here. I'm beyond excited. And that's cool! I've always thought I was more of a pantser, but turns out winging it is not for me.

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18:22 Sep 27, 2020

That's a very smart way of approaching it. I sort of abandoned my main camp project in favor of some shorter pieces about halfway through the month, so I don't think winging it really worked. I'm trying to decide if I should continue that project, go back to a project I've been retooling every few years, or write something completely new. November will be here before we know it!

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Maggie Deese
18:48 Sep 27, 2020

Yes it is; almost a month away! I'm sure whatever you plan to do will be great! Go with your writer's heart!

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Juliet Martin
13:15 Sep 27, 2020

Ah this is great! I love the sinister opening which catches you off-guard - you execute a number of twists in the plot really effectively and at a nice pace, which makes your story really readable. It is also very cleanly written which I love. For some constructive feedback, you could try some more unusual/surprising descriptions rather than "honey eyes" and "honey-brown hair". Great story and really well-written though!

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Maggie Deese
14:08 Sep 27, 2020

Thank you, Juliet! I'm glad you enjoyed it. I will look back over that description and try to add more depth to it! :)

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S. John
03:55 Sep 26, 2020

This story really warms my heart. And your writing is flawless. Thank you for sharing!

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Maggie Deese
16:21 Sep 26, 2020

Thank you very much! I'm so glad you enjoyed it :)

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9 P🎈
15:11 Jun 21, 2021

Hi Maggie, Beautiful story, though unaware of the prompt and the genres, I misunderstood it something so opposite and weird in the beginning............something like child sacrificial and all😂 I know sounds so silly, (but this can actually happen if you forget to read the genres, drowned so much in the attraction of the title.) Well the story's so touching, inspiring and mesmerizing. The childish attitude of the character presented and described so naturally.............Very well done.👍 Would you like to read my stories?:)

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J.A. Blackmore
23:21 May 08, 2021

I really love this. BTW, would you mind reading my story: Their Choice?

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