July Writing Challenge: Honorable Mentions — Jeana Schafer, Gabriela Rodríguez, Shaina Marrie Dayon, and Victoria Lisac
These entries from July's challenge were selected as Honorable Mentions. Those who completed this challenge are now encouraged to share their stories in the comments section of the "July Writing Challenge."
Finding Eternal Summer
The weather was uncharacteristically cold this season. The crops quivered in the icy breeze, cowering from endless flurries of snow. It was a dark, cruel magic. A common girl shivered in her family’s barn, tending to the two pigs and single cow, even as a king sat in a down robe by his large fireplace. As she tossed apple cores and other remains of her family’s food to the animals, the king pondered the shortage of food. An endless winter struck the kingdom a decade ago, and the people remained famished. Some crops were bred since to withstand the harsh weather, but most continued to fail. The king’s golden curls of hair have turned gray in his beard and at his temples, and wrinkles have dug into his pale skin.
The girl made her way to the chicken coop and struggled to keep her hold on the depleting pail of grain. She set it down by the entrance and ran back to the house, tears streaming down her face and crystallizing. “Mama!” she cried. “Mama! Come quick!”
A bedraggled woman with more gray in her hair than the king could imagine looked up from a kettle of water she was placing over a small fire in its small grate. Anna was not old by any terms. She was a married woman with three young children, and she was only just reaching the mark of thirty. Sickness aged her more than the cold alone. Elise, her eldest daughter whom always tended to the animals, was no older than eleven, though she had no birth records when she showed up at Anna’s doorstep. Anna looked to her daughter, saw the horror on the small girls pink cheeks and in her red eyes. “What is it?”
“The chickens. They’re all dead. Frozen.”
Anna sagged. The chickens, five in total, were some of the few food sources they had left. If not to trade for a sack of grain at the market, Anna would have cooked one for dinner now and again, and their eggs were the greatest staple of the family. “Alright, help me get ready. I will make a trip to the castle. This has gone on long enough. Our village is failing, and we need more food.”
“No, Mama! Let me go. I know the way, and you’ve been sick. A journey to the castle would kill you.”
The king went to see his queen as the small girl trekked through snow on the first of a three-day journey. It was the first time in a week he went to see his wife. She lay in bed, a skeleton under the heavy comforter. Her lips were purple and she shook, despite the hot towel over the top of her stomach and the steaming teacup at her bedside.
“Are you feeling any better?”
The queen took a long breath. “Have you imported more food to the different villages?”
The king sighed. “We both know why it’s so cold. I’ve been looking.”
More reports of sickness spreading made its way to the king’s ears by the time Elise stumbled up to the castle wall. She wouldn’t back down until the king agreed to see her, so she was finally ushered inside to express her peace to the king himself.
The king looked at the girl with long, dark hair hanging past her face in knots. He scrutinized her and her story. “You can help the entire kingdom.”
Elise followed to the queen’s chambers and saw a woman who looked much like her, right to the deep gold of her eyes. “My beautiful Summer,” the queen whispered. “How did you find her?”
“She returned to us.”
There’s an old story Elise used to hear at the market about how a kingdom cannot survive when a princess is lost. At her coronation as Princess Summer, which her adoptive family attended, the sun made its first appearance in a decade. Crops grew once more, sickness ebbed away, and the kingdom flourished in this new eternal summer.
The summer breeze told her that “cliché” was an understatement.
But she believed the tidal, relaxing movement of the ocean when it assured her that hope was on its way.
And really, it was.
In the form of a passing love, those from the movies and the stories you are sick and tired of hearing.
It came, crashing her down the way the waves pushed her body to the shore, leaving her breathless in the process.
She had looked so hard, trying to find the perfect piece that would fit like a ring to her finger. She had looked for that glow in her life that could make her finally find a meaning.
But when that last empty promise left her world broken in tiny pieces, she would not forget that summer ever in her life.
She knew this was not the end. Heartbreaks mend and people forget. She would surely find her true love. But having such a soft heart is a disadvantage when you’re looking for the perfect match.
And those three months surely proved the point. Summer solstice was a kick in the back; it would always come back.
Always come back,
but he never did.
Shaina Marrie Dayon
An End to My Eternal Summer
The sky is a cool shade of blue. The breeze, warm and comforting. A perfect summer day. Supposed to be. Papers are scattered on my table. I reach for a clean sheet of paper. With nothing else to do, I fumble for my pen and start to write:
How are you? How am I going to say this without bursting into tears?
Okay, so, hey I never told you about this. Probably because you’re my best friend and I don’t want you hurt, or because I just didn’t have the courage to do so. Here goes…
Riley… Ever since I met you, I learned to expect the unexpected. You brought a handful of surprises to my life. You brought color to my life. You kept me alive. You saved me from my darkest thoughts. You showed me the brighter side of life. You had me thinking that life was eternal with love. You set me free. You gave me the best summer of my life. EVER.
I never thanked you for that. I was never the showy type of person. Even if you were my best friend. And, now, I want to thank you. Nothing more could be said. Just.. Thank you…
How I wish I would’ve told you sooner, before it’s too late. But, I guess I was being a coward. I have always been that. Only YOU told me to be brave…
Love you… Not as a friend, nor as a family. It’s much more than that…. I wish you’d read this, wherever you might be…
This might not be the best letter a person could make, but I try… Even if it’s too late..
I love you, Riley.
I fold the paper and put it in an envelope. My eyes are watery with tears. Tears that are only for him… Tears that he would not see…
I go outside, grab my bike, and pedal my way to where he lies. The streets are looking much brighter today, but how can I enjoy that when there’s a rain cloud following me everywhere? The warm breeze blows and makes my skin tingle. I rest my bike on the sidewalk and stride silently through the yard full of headstones. I find his immediately and I sit on the grass.
“Hey, Riley…” I say as I absently pick at the grass. Tears start to roll down my cheeks.
“Riley, thank you for making me happy. You made my summer start with smiles… And now you’ve ended it with tears… You would’ve just let that stupid car hit me instead of you.. You don’t deserve to die…”
I can’t say anything anymore. My throat tightens from crying. I leave my letter on the headstone, not caring if anyone reads it. Looking up at the sky, I say, “Goodbye, Riley.”
Without any reason, it just starts to rain. I hurry and get my bike. I pedal as fast as I can, not realizing that the road starts to get wet. My eyesight starts to blur from all this water raining down on me. I wipe my eyes using one hand, and so I start to lose my balance. I try to steady the bike, but the ground is now slippery. I fall to the ground and hit my head hard. My sight goes black. For a second, my head clears the same time I hear a honk of a car and the screeching of tires.
Eternal Summer and the Love That Comes with It
Engulfed in the night sky filled with bright golden stars, she looked over at him. She didn’t have anything to say, she just yearned to memorize all of the intricate angles of his face. She wanted the image of how he got those lucky boy lashes that are dark and long all by themselves and how they rest softly above his dazzling blue eyes to be forever imprinted into her memory. He was lovely in everything that he did. She noticed every slight change of his facial expressions as he got lost in his own head while staring into the depths of our universe.
Can he see something I can’t?
He had been quiet for so long and began to seem distant, as if he had spotted another planet and somehow managed to travel there in his own mind. Just as she was about to ruin the moment he was having so that she could get his attention back, he slowly shifted his head towards her, and after a few seconds took his gaze away from the stars as well. When his eyes landed on her, she felt a jump in her heart. A sort of seize that you only ever feel when you’re about to do something reckless. Without her mouth knowing what it was saying, her heart took over and compelled her to blurt out an audacious “I love you,” and a wave of anxiety almost simultaneously washed over her. She started frantically apologizing for saying this, claiming she had no idea what had come over to her make her say that. Although, in her head she knew you shouldn’t apologize for love, and you shouldn’t try to tell your heart any differently than what it truly feels. With all of these jumbled up thoughts and emotions swarming around her, she didn’t notice the little grin growing on his face.
He started laughing and smiling even more because of how flustered she was, stumbling over her words and apologizing like she had been announced guilty of a crime. The only thing he could think to do was to grab her delicate hand and gently place his other hand on her beautiful, rosy cheeks. This seemed to send a calm throughout her whole body, and she eventually relaxed into him, though she was still trying to politely apologize under her breath. He looked at her and observed how petite and perfectly placed her features were, except, of course, for her voluptuous lips that he desperately wanted to kiss.
As he moved closer and their lips touched ever so softly, he whispered, “I love you too, my darling,” and together they got lost in their own universe…