Excellence in Short Fiction 2013 (Short Story Competition)
This is the 2nd year that Miss Steyne is putting her students’ work from her Creative Writing class to the test of real readership...and profit. There are only 6 entries (from Slovakia, Japan and Malaysia) vying for the award of €20 this year, but the winner is still in the hands of the readers of Perspectives and students of KAA.
Beginning today, we’ll be posting 2 short stories a day for the next three days. Each day, readers will decide which of each pair is best and come Monday, May 27th, we’ll have the final run-off between those 3 stories that have received the most votes.
Some of the stories are sad, some are funny, some long, most short; all took time and effort. We hope you enjoy them!
Me and Amy got married today. It’s our big secret. Because I like her and she likes me. Grandma says that people who like each other should be together before time parts them. I don’t really understand what she means but we felt like marrying each other so we got married. You know, Amy has beautiful brown hair and I like it. There were only three of us: me, Amy and my sister Jenny. Jenny is two years older than us, she is in the third grade. She said we can’t do it on our own ‘cuz we need a pastor to marry us and so she did it.
It happened in our tree-house, but not the normal one, of course. It was nice and warm outside but we didn’t want anyone to see us so we used the special tree-house. It was like in the movies mum watches every Friday night when she thinks I’m in bed. I picked some daisies the day before for Amy. I think she liked them ‘cuz she looked at them almost the whole time. I know she likes me, but I had kind of funny feeling in my tummy. What if she likes Jimmy more? But I wasn’t afraid because I’m not afraid of anything in the whole world! I was just thinking. But she said yes in the end and even smiled at me.
Then we went outside and played hide and seek in the garden. I won because I can hide much better than Amy and Jenny. And Amy’s mum made us our favourite lunch – sandwiches with tuna, tomatoes and cheese. Amy’s mum makes really good sandwiches. Just when I was finishing my last one and Amy already finished hers (she eats so quickly), Amy’s mum sat at the table next to Amy and said a scary thing. Amy’s family is moving today. That we can play for few more hours and then we have to say goodbye to each other. Amy started crying. I knew it was because we got married just today.
We went to our special tree-house and cried for few moments together. Then we played cards and then we painted pictures of our wedding for each other so that we won’t forget. We both love to draw. We folded the pictures and each hid them. Then we played our 5 favourite games. My mum brought us ice cream – lemon for me and strawberry for Amy. We ate it in our hammock and then read our fairy tale. We wrote it together last week. It’s very funny and we laughed so hard that our bellies ached.
Then Amy’s mother came and said they have to go now. We held hands and I watched them drive away. I tried not to, but when I got here, to my room, I couldn’t stop it. I miss Amy already. But I feel very happy about today, because we got married and did all the fun stuff in the world. I looked at the wedding picture Amy painted for me. I’m glad she is my wife.
I walked around the house.
The rooms were quiet. I smelled wood and fresh laundry and a faint whiff of perfume, barely a trace, a hint of lavender in the air. I took my time walking up the stairs. Every third step, I closed my eyes and leaned against the wood panel wall and listened. That’s how I knew he was down in the kitchen brewing tea. Again. Brewing tea was all he ever did these days. I think he wanted to take care of me, but didn’t quite know how.
It had started to rain by the time I reached the bedroom. The drops were so small they looked like fine mist from where I was standing. The battered swing in the garden pranced about in the wind. I wanted to take a closer look, but the window was on the other end of the room. I tried to move one leg forward, but it rebelled, and I was stuck, me and the pain, familiar by now, the burn spreading throughout my body like vicious sunlight. I sat on the edge of the bed. My head was throbbing and I wanted to scream, scream so loud the window would explode into a rain of its own, but I never do, so I kept silent. The pain yammered on and kept eating my body from within.
The bedroom door opened, and there he was, a teapot in his hand. A pale, clueless spirit of fire with red hair and a crooked half-smile, but I could scarcely remember him, and he never smiled any more.
He sat in my favourite brown chair in the corner, and gave me a sad look. The steam from the teapot smelled like sugar and strawberries.
I had no taste for food or drink since we returned from the hospital. I turned away and gagged. I had not felt myself for a lot of days.
“How does it feel?“ he asked.
I lifted my eyes and looked at him. I didn’t know what he saw in my gaze, but he went a little bit pale.
“It hurts,“ I said. “Inside.“
“You’re a good man,“ he told me. “I’m sorry.“ He bowed his head. He was crying, but didn’t want me to see.
“At least you are better now,“ I said bitterly.
“I do feel better,“ he agreed. But he didn’t stop crying. We had spent years together. My whole life had begun with him, and now my whole life would end with him. Things like that wouldn’t just go away.
“What will you do after I die out completely?“ I asked.
“I’ll... learn to live like a whole person, I guess.“ The tears had turned his narrow face blotchy. It blended with his hair. I wanted to smirk and say so, but forgot the quip in the next moment. My mind was going now, too; we didn’t have much time left together.
I was afraid. Of death, of pain, of the slow fade into nothingness that I couldn’t escape, of losing him, of losing myself, of losing the only life I had, and yet it hadn’t been mine in the first place. But I’d always been the brave one, so I tried not to show fear as I watched him open the plastic bottle, even though they’d taught him how to be brave on his own now, and he didn’t need me any longer.
“You’ll be lonely,” I said, and hoped my voice wouldn’t waver. “Who’ll protect you if I die? There’s never been only one of you before.”
But I could see he wasn’t listening. They’d made him much better at ignoring me in the hospital.
Cold shivers ran down my spine. „Don’t,“ I whispered.
He didn’t look me in the eyes as he ate his Thorazine, and made the darkness come for me.
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