November Writing Challenge: Honorable Mentions — Aditi Chanda and Andrea Wiwe
These entries from November'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 "November Writing Challenge."
Oh, to be young and in love
The prince lay at the bottom of the lake, hair gently swaying in the current, bubbles escaping from his nose every so often. Smiling, he watched the fish dart across his chest and hummed a tune to the silent weeds and still pebbles. Dust puffed up to his left as a crab burrowed in the silt, and he shook his head as he saw the approaching turtle. Just as he pushed off and took his first stroke, he felt something clamp around his ankle and looked back in exasperation to see the turtle staring him down. “Tiresias, I’m in no mind to hear any lectures about why I can’t spend today doing whatever I wish to do, so whatever it is you have to tell me, it can wait,” said Prince Kyros.
“Well aren’t we in a mood today!” chuckled the old turtle, and he swam off, expecting the boy to follow. Promptly turning his back on Tiresias, Kyros power-swam in the opposite direction, towards the mermaids and their siren songs.
Sitting cross-legged on the muddy bottom of the lake, brown eyes shut in concentration, he listened to the melodies wafting his way and took deep breaths. Fists clenched, he imagined pushing away all his bad moods and fears. Back straight and shoulders squared, he tried to face himself in his mind. Put on his imaginary blue boxing gloves, and took his stance in a corner. “Heavy lies the head that wears the crown,” echoed his inside-voice, and he began to punch away his turmoil.
Suddenly green eyes flashed in his head, bright and alluring. Smile-lines creased their corners and lashes blinked at him with trepidation. Those eyes held everything – the curiosity he shared, the fear he felt, the…the love. He shook his curly locks and gave up on his internal exercise. Uncrossing his legs, he pushed off and power-kicked to the surface, nose breaking the clear lagoon into waves and ripples as he took a deep breath of the earthy air, so different from his pure yet bland oxygen in the depths. Swimming to the shore, he almost stopped and dove back down, but knew he had to see it one more time.
Clambering onto the largest rock, shaped like a leaf and warm from the sun, he caught his breath and debated his feelings once again. The urge to look, to touch it again, overcame his doubts, and after shaking his legs he sat atop the rock. Watching the rivulets traverse the gray stone, he sighed and looked up at the tree spreading its branches across the auburn sky. Sunset never looked this good from under the water. Drier now, he stood to pick his way across the prickly ground to the base of the tree trunk.
Kneeling, he caressed the roots, as though searching for a particular one. In the darkness of the dusky sky he appeared to freeze – stock still, breath held, just for a brief moment before he stood once again, sucking his finger to stop the bleeding.
A shudder ran through the leaves of the tree, and with a whisper the branches twisted to reveal a hollow in the trunk, large enough to fit an orange in. Kyros reached a hand in and withdrew the locket – smooth, silver, and cool to the touch. Running his finger over the ridges, he cradled it in his palm. Shaped like a closed shell, it didn’t open up like those ones you see in the legends that you could put pictures in. He had liked to imagine there was a shiny pearl inside, but lately he couldn’t bear to imagine anything to do with it. With a sharp intake of air, he tightened his fist around the locket and threw it at the forest surrounding the lagoon. Spinning around and wiping his eyes, Kyros made his way back to the water and dove flawlessly in.
From the third tree to the right, green eyes, now filled with hurt, watched him go. The brown-haired young man walked out silently from his hiding place over to the hollow in the main tree, and whispered soothing words to the foliage. With a sigh the tree twisted again till it looked as it once did, and the boy moved over to the fallen locket. Picking it up, he pressed it to his chest. “Cassius, how could you have been so stupid?” he gasped, trying not to sob. Hearing a splash, he melted back into the shadows and stared at the lagoon a few seconds longer, before leaving it behind forever.
“Do you believe in magic?” you asked me seven years ago, when we were nine.
It was a beautiful night with glowing stars and a moon that shone so bright, that you could see it in the surface of the water.
But I didn’t answer you, and I asked myself: What is magic really? Is magic about wizards and wands? Or is it about stars and love and everything in between?
I didn’t know the answer to your question when I was nine. And I don’t know the answer now…
When I was six years old, I started walking in the woods. I found small lakes and birds; chestnuts and butterflies and coloured leaves.
That’s when I first met you: a little boy walking around, looking so lost that I ran over to you and asked you to join me in my making-cakes-of-mud-that-never-gets-good-game. I don’t know why you said yes, because truly I most have looked like a piece of sh*t, with brown mud covering my whole body. But you did say yes, and from that day we were friends — playing around in the woods and entertaining each other as only small children can do. We never said anything to our families about it because we were afraid they would dislike it. At least that’s what I told you. In the real world, I could have said it to Mom over and over again a thousand times, and she wouldn’t even have heard me. Since dad left us, she had been in a state of unconsciousness where she didn’t hear or see anything. She just was there. I had always thought the worst mothers were the angry ones. Later I realized angry is a lot better than the nothing ones.
So there we were, a little boy and a little girl, playing with each other every day for the next three years, you and me. I didn’t know your name, like you didn’t know mine; we decided that it would probably be for the best (just because we were kids, we weren’t dumb).
Eventually I said to you that you could call me princess, because, seriously, I don’t know any little girl who doesn’t want to be called princess! And so you called me, and I started calling you prince. You became my very own prince, and you saved my life. Until of course, the day you never came back.
It was a cold and wintry day in December. Last day we had agreed to meet, and I had turned up in my warmest clothes with both a knitted hat and mittens. But you didn’t come, my prince. I came every day for the next three months, but you never came.
You didn’t even come to say goodbye.
Three years later, when I was twelve, I walked into the woods again. It was a peaceful summer morning, and I sat down at the lake, the little lake we had discovered together, our lake.
My hands started to root in the ground beside — it was a habit I had gotten over the years — when my right hand suddenly felt a sharp surface in the ground. I dug further and then I suddenly saw it: a locket. It was silver and a little rusty with the most beautiful stars cut in the front. I opened it, slowly, it was a little hard, and then I saw what was in it: a picture of you and me. Tears started falling on my cheeks, first slowly, but soon after I found myself sobbing. My face in my hands crying the tears that hadn’t fell since you’d left me. I cried for me, and I cried for you. I cried because I missed you. I cried because I missed my prince.
It is winter again, a cold and white winter day with snow falling from the sky, and the world has turned into a white fairy tale. In that brief moment I find the answer to your question: there really is such a thing as magic in this big white world.
And in that brief moment in this big white magical world, I’m finally able to let you go.