This was also the first time I entered their Royal Palm Literary Awards. Three of my four entries were finalists, including Promises. Two of those three won!
And yes, I'm bragging and enjoying this for one more day!
Once I move on, I will have a lot of fun things in store for you as I gear up to release Touching Evil and prepare to MAKE A BIG ANNOUNCEMENT in early November for fans of The Syrenka Series. Of course, Halloween is quickly approaching, and that deserves its own time on the blog as well. :)
In the mean time, I thought I'd re-post the two winning flash fiction stories (even though I know it's long!). DISTORTED REFLECTIONS placed first and A LEAP OF FAITH won third. Enjoy!
PS - The spacing is being funky, so sorry! I can't get it to work....UGH.
Log Line: A young girls’ struggle with self image is captured in her reflection.
Title: Distorted Reflections
She stared at me in disgust…again. Scowl. Primp. Scowl. Curse. A ritual I should have been accustomed to, yet every day felt like a first. Living in constant angst at the inability to meet impossible standards, she punished herself. A knock at the door sent her into a tantrum.
"What?" The childish stomp and roll of her eyes masked her hidden maturity. A muffled voice from outside the locked door pleaded with the girl. Part of the normal morning routine. A few more scowls in my direction before she allowed him inside.
"I don’t want it!" she cursed at the visitor. Without saying a word he continued on his mission with a practiced nonchalance. "I’ll be back in twenty minutes," he stated while closing the door and ignoring her venomous stare. Frustration at its tipping point, she took one more look at me.
I could see the girl I once grew up with. Fun, full of life, and genuinely serene. A beautiful person with a promising future. She was still in there somewhere. Buried amongst years of hate and heaps of lies. Her eyes were now jaded with life and clouded by her mind. As she stood sideways to run her hand over her stomach, I thought that I saw a hint of recognition. Maybe she could be saved after all.
Her attention turned to the gift on the table, delivered by the unwelcomed guest. I could have been covered in warts and hairy moles all over my body and I still would have received a warmer welcome than what was sitting there. This was also routine. I could see the struggle so clearly written on her face, that I was almost experiencing her internal dilemma. And I sympathized. I didn’t understand it, but I could see how it had affected her. How it had changed her.
Slumping on her bed in exhaustion, she sat and stared at the table. Nearly ten minutes had passed before she picked up the apple. Rolling it in her hand, she gazed out the window in a trancelike state. Tears silently trickled down her skeletal cheeks. Suffering and torturing herself for reasons that I could not comprehend. She turned back toward the table and the plate full of nourishment. A single egg, half a slice of wheat toast, and the apple. It wasn’t much, but to her it was a feast. A feast that she would not allow herself to have. A feast that she couldn’t have because she didn’t deserve it. I had listened to her explain this thousands of times, pleading her case. Nobody cared. Not really. They'd heard it all before. Cringing with pain, she took a bite of the apple. Chewing bit by bit until it was gone, crying the entire time. When she was done with the forbidden fruit, she moved to the egg and toast. Finishing her breakfast meant privileges on the grounds. A chance to walk outside or talk to her brother and sister. She missed them, I could tell. When the nurse came back to her room to gather her plate, she stood silently in front of the mirror, staring into my eyes. "You did well today, Anna. The doctor will be pleased with your progress." Anna didn’t respond. When the silence stretched too long, the nurse began to leave and reminded her about the group counseling session starting in ten minutes. This time, he left the door open. Anna stood in front of me in a tank top and shorts. She slowly raised her arms out to the side and tilted her head in evaluation. Her keen eyes intent on seeing something that wasn’t there. She pinched her skin under her right tricep, pulling until it would stretch no more. She repeated the procedure on her other arm, her stomach, and her thighs. Each time tears would well up in her eyes and frustration would paint her face. Did she have to torture herself so much? Movement in the hallway increased and Anna sighed. "Why can’t I just be normal?" she pleaded with me. "I hate feeling this way." She turned toward her dresser and added three more layers of baggy clothes to her gaunt frame. She twisted her hair into a knot on top of her head and stopped one more time in front of me. Wiping the tears from her eyes and adjusting the sweatshirt over her bony shoulders, she smiled. Maybe Anna would be okay after all.
Log Line: A young girl misjudges the extent of her boyfriend’s commitment to forever.
Title: A Leap of Faith
Everyone stared at me. Their faces were full of pity, sadness, bewilderment, or disgust. Some passed in pairs, others stayed by themselves. Tears were prevalent on those who had cared the most. It was surprising to see who fell into each category; either the people that loved and missed me, or the ones who were only present for the show.
“You had so much to live for,” my grandmother whispered above me. She shook her head in disbelief while wiping a tear from her eye with a lace handkerchief. “I just don’t understand why.” Her small, gloved hand brushed against my cheek, and I wished that I could do more to comfort her.
But life was no longer an option for me. My fatal mistake had been trusting in my heart. Everyone told me that he was bad news, yet I didn’t listen. He was attractive, older, intriguing. And I was infatuated.
My sister wandered up next. She was only a year older than me, but my death had taken its toll. Her face was pale and gaunt and the dark circles under her eyes added at least five years to her eighteen. Red, puffy skin glistened with fresh tears. Her nose was running and I wanted to warn her against dripping snot on me. The realization that I would never talk to her again hit me like a brick wall. She was out there, and I was in here, trapped in my body on its way to the ground.
And I was trapped. If I would have known that this was possible, maybe I never would have jumped. Maybe I never would have climbed the steep cliff, walked toward that bridge, or let him convince me that this was the only way that we could be together.
“You are so stupid,” she said through gritted teeth. “What am I supposed to do now? Why did you have to be so selfish?” She was nearly yelling at me, but I understood why. “I will never forgive him for this.” She momentarily drowned in her grief, but then lifted her head and threw back her shoulders. “And I don’t think I can forgive you either.”
Anger. That’s how she dealt with life and I shouldn’t have expected anything different with death. I let her down and I left her. I chose him instead and now I was here. Perhaps it would have been easier to accept my fate if the parade of mourners had ended at that moment. But there was still one last visitor. One last face for me to see.
“Oh, Alice.” The dramatic sobs and exaggerated heartbreak weren’t enough to convince me of his misery. “I didn’t think you’d actually do it!”
Three days ago, I would have thought the same. I didn’t intend to end my life. Even while I stared at the old bridge, marveling at its height, I didn’t think about my impending death. I didn’t think about anything at all.
“She’ll never let you leave with me,” he had said. “She hates me.”
“She doesn’t hate you, Mark. She’s just being protective. I’m still her baby.” My words slurred from the alcohol and drugs mixing throughout my body. “Besides, I’ll go wherever you go.”
“Really?” he asked playfully.
I bent over to kiss him. “Really. I don’t want to live without you.”
The words were ironic now, but when Mark suggested that we spend eternity together, I couldn’t say yes fast enough. We stumbled along the steep path, laughing and joking about what would happen if we slipped. Mark reached for my hand when I was nearly to the top, lifting me those final few feet and wrapping me in his embrace. He smelled of sweat and man, and my hazy senses couldn’t get enough.
We walked hand in hand toward the bridge. Although the boards were rotten and loose, we managed our way to the center with very little trouble. I climbed between the iron bars, following Mark to the edge. Wind whipped through my hair, bringing with it scents of the earth, the water, and my freedom. I closed my eyes and smiled.
“You ready?” he asked.
I turned to look at his eyes and thought I saw the resolution for what we were about to do reflecting back at me. I nodded.
“On the count of three then. One. Two. Three!”
I bent my legs and jumped.