October Writing Challenge: Honorable Mentions — Judith Winde, Mauli Chopra, and Jenna Weller
These entries from October'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 "October Writing Challenge."
A single tear, a dried flower
Shaking hands, trying to hold a teacup.
A red glowing cheek, embarrassed by the sheer thought of something.
A single tear, rolling down a woman’s face.
A laughter that fills up a room and makes everyone fall in love immediately.
She had always found them fascinating, emotions. We walk around life, pretending to have a meaning, pretending that our decisions are based on logic, on knowledge, on intelligence, made by our brain and only our brain. And yet again, our brain is the one thing that causes us to think that way, even though it knows better. None of our decisions are logical, none are based on knowledge. In the end, all we are are little kids being controlled by our emotions. We cry when our body tells us to, we laugh when our brain considers something funny, and we fall in love, quickly and easily, without knowing why, when our heart sets itself on someone and can’t seem to let go, no matter how much we beg it to.
Her hands are wandering above the gravestone, tracing the letters, but not quite touching them. Grief. One of the most intense emotions she had ever felt. Before he died, she had heard about it, heard stories about people who went mad because of it, who couldn’t bear the pain of losing a loved one. You can feel the pain physically, they had said. Not once had she believed them. But now…
When she read that letter, it felt like someone had quite literally stabbed her in the heart. The pain was sharp and breath-taking, but also never ending. The pain of a thousand deaths, instead of just one. A million little papercuts in her heart.
She had felt intense emotions before.
When her mother told her she was sick and she had to put down the cup she was holding because her hands were shaking too much. That was fear. And worry.
When she had been daydreaming again in a lecture and her professor called her out, the whole class laughed at her, and her face had started turning completely red. That was embarrassment.
When she had left her friends, her sister, everyone she knew and loved, left to start a new, more exciting life, she had cried a single tear at the airport. That was goodbye.
And when he had walked into her life, the one who should make her feel the most she had ever felt, when he made her laugh for the first time, made her dance around and made her feel so… complete. That was love.
But grief? Never, not once in her life, had she felt such a thing. It drowned her, made everything else invisible, made talking or eating or moving impossible. It almost killed her. And that’s when she realized she couldn’t make it stop. She couldn’t take one emotion and kill it. There was only one way out of hell. All or nothing. And she took all, every single emotion available, and she buried it away, just like she had buried him that day, and she decided to never, ever see them again.
She stared at the dried flowers that had once held such meaning. Lilies on his grave, because lilies were his favourite flowers. They had meant remembrance, love, and kindness. Now, they were just flowers. His gravestone was just a stone. The ring on her finger just a ring. And she was just a woman, standing on a graveyard in the pouring rain.
The Sense of Love
There were 283 pairs of eyes staring at her, but she only kept eye contact with the one that mattered most. She took a deep breath and opened up the crumpled piece of paper, with faded ink and many words and sentences crossed out, and began.
I have never been a big believer of the word perfect. It seems like a pretty word that would be wrapped in pink silk, and if you could scrape it off the dictionary and pop it into your mouth, it would taste like tart gooseberries. But the harsh reality is that it’s been a destructive word all my life, perfect grades, perfect body, perfect lifestyle, perfect, perfect, imperfect. So imagine my surprise when I finally understood why the word was created.
On a rainy Tuesday morning, I sat in biology, first period, across from you. We’d been sitting at the same table since the beginning of the year, but that day it felt as if I truly saw you, all because of the book you were reading. As Mr. Levine rambled on about the basic necessities needed in order to survive, I now notice that he forgot to mention the smell of your cologne. “The Scarlet Letter is a very complex book to be reading during bio, Jordan,” I whispered, and without missing a beat and without even looking up, he said, “That sounds a lot like you not knowing how to read different genres, Callie.”
And so it began, the flirting through useless banter because high school kids don’t know how to be real when all the influence we’ve had has been fake. Every morning, I would research and count the freckles on your nose instead of working. I would study your reactions and your body movement as if I was supposed to dissect you instead of the frog that you ended up dropping on the floor. Forty-five minutes seemed like nothing and everything, all because of you.
As our friendship grew into something undeniably complex, I then understood a part of me that I didn’t know existed. Artists can spend weeks and sometimes even years perfecting a piece, it’s hard to believe that it only took nine months for you, the most perfect boy, to ever be formed. The things you point out about yourself, weight, hair, personality quirks, and every flaw that you dig out of your body, as if you’re fishing for black fishes that will poison you, I love every single one of them. The way you smirk when I say something clever, the way you hold onto my waist as if your roughed up hands are only feathers for my body, the way your laugh haunts me during a bad time, the way your soul found mine in this lifetime and chose me amidst the other seven billion on Earth.
Love has been around longer than our midnight conversations and will be there long after we’re skin and bones in dirt. Every couple feels special and unique when they re-read their time together in certain moments, but we’re something incomparable to them because you’re the silence under a bridge on a car ride, and I’m the bridge itself. Two completely different things that exist in harmony and create something we can not only feel but experience, together.
She breaks eye contact and looks down at the fragile paper in her even more fragile hands. She ponders for a few seconds on whether or not to read out the crossed-out words before continuing, without looking up this time.
I will never be the same after colliding into your life. I will never not be unchanged completely because of the influence you’ve had over me. To be so captivated by another person is such a vulnerable feeling that I’m still getting used to. But I’d rather be vulnerable than not be with you for the rest of our lives.
You’ve taught me more than the teachers I’ve had in high school. You’ve given me a mirthful childhood with all the ice cream dates that my parents couldn’t provide for me. You’ve given me the feeling of feeling young as we grow into millennials who aren’t as trendy now. You’ve given me a million reasons to stay and live. Everything is and always will be you.
As silence takes over, she looks up and meets his almond puppy-like eyes and feels at peace. “I do.” Her echo carries down the hall, and cheers and champagne bottles erupt like fireworks as the pastor pronounces them husband and wife. The piece of paper slowly falls onto the ground as they embrace in a kiss. She wasn’t sure if it was her imagination or not, but his lips tasted slightly like gooseberries, and for once, life felt perfect.
I get there an hour early. My hands are shaking — from either the cold or my pounding heart, I don’t know — as I pull open the glass door and step inside, the rush of warmth and the sweet smell of pastries enveloping me as I take a seat in a booth next to the window. I shrug off my coat and reach into my bag.
“S**t. ” I must’ve left my phone at home. Hopefully he won’t text me to cancel, or else I’ll look like an idiot waiting here like a lost puppy.
My eyes take a quick sweep around the cafe. There’s light chatter and clinking utensils, and when a waitress comes over I order a green tea. I don’t know what else to do, so to pass the time and calm my nerves I watch as people outside try to dodge the orange leaves swirling in the wind, wrapping their coats tighter around themselves as they scurry down the sidewalk.
Do I look too dressed up for a school project? He’ll definitely think so. Maybe I should’ve opted for jeans instead of a dress.
The hour passes faster than I expect. And I finish my second tea when the next hour whizzes by. I’m actually standing and slipping my arm into my coat as the clock on the wall ticks near six when I hear someone rush through the door.
I look up, and it’s Peter. His face is red; he’s panting hard, and his brown hair is sticking to his forehead. It looks like he might pass out any moment when we suddenly lock eyes.
He gives me this broad smile. But it’s gone in half a second, and then he’s striding towards me as he slides off his backpack, and we both sit in the booth.
Suddenly I can’t meet his gaze anymore. I have to hide how my hands tremble by fiddling with the napkin. Why am I so nervous? It’s only a project. He doesn’t even care — he was almost two hours late, for God’s sake — so why should you?
Then I’m pulled from my thoughts. “I’m so sorry I’m late. I got caught up in some stuff with my family and — ”
“It’s fine, but we should probably get started on the project. This place closes at eight, and the slideshow isn’t going to finish itself,” I attempt at a joke.
He doesn’t smile.
Dear God, why didn’t I let him finish his sentence?
“Oh, yeah.” Peter drops his eyes. “Sure. That sounds good.” We’re both quiet as I take out my laptop and start typing.
— — —
I’m sprinting down the sidewalk like my life depends on it, because it kind of does. People glare at me as I whiz by, and I almost slam straight into an old lady, but I’m already two hours late to work on this project with a girl I like, and I can’t afford to stop now.
My family and I were at our usual biweekly visit to see my grandfather at the nursing home. We stayed longer than expected because he forgot who Mom was, and she had a breakdown in the middle of the community room. She was so upset that my dad and I had to practically drag her out of the building, and I completely forgot about my plan to meet up with Grace for our project until we were halfway home. I tried texting her but didn’t get a response, so either she didn’t see it or is thoroughly pissed. I’ll be surprised if she’s still waiting for me.
“S**t. ” I see her through the window of the cafe, tugging on her coat. Will she even want to finish our project now? I wouldn’t if I were her.
I throw myself through the glass door, all theatrics, and I’m trying to catch my breath when her eyes meet mine. Her expression is like stone, but I can tell she’s annoyed. I can hardly breathe, let alone say anything, but I’m slightly relieved when she sits back down at a booth.
Grace’s full attention is suddenly on the napkin in front of her. My stomach drops.
I’ve liked this girl since freshman year, and this was my one chance at actually being able to speak with her, but now she’s absolutely livid.
When I finally catch my breath, I try to form an apology. But Grace’s all business and cuts me off before I can finish my sentence. Of course she doesn’t want to hear about family problems from a boy who made her wait for him for two hours — I’m lucky she even waited for me in the first place.
She pulls out her laptop and gets to work.
I look down at her tea, wishing I could disappear.