In response to a writing prompt at: https://www.creativewritingink.co.uk/resources/writing-prompts/
I guide her hand. Letting her touch the soft, yielding petals. Making sure she doesn’t prick her fingers on the vicious thorns underneath the flowerhead. Her skin is like white tissue paper against the deep and vibrant red of her nails; the blue of her veins hiding the blood that lies thick and no longer courses through her. I can’t remember a time when she didn’t have her nails painted this way. “It gives an air of confidence even when you’re quaking inside.” She used to say. “Never let them know how you are feeling. Never show them your weak side. Look into the lights and take a bow. The camera will close in on your hands as they dance like the wind.”
Now everything about her is weak. Her hands as they grip her walking stick; her back as it bends, forcing her head down; her legs that can hardly carry her, her mind that searches frantically for the right words.
‘Who are you?’she asks every time I come and take her for a walk around the grounds.
‘It’s me, Mum. Jenny.’ It hurts when she asks. But I only have to say ‘Why can’t I go out and play?’ and she sees red, snaps back at me, as sharp as a Stanley knife. ‘You have to practice. You’ll never be a concert pianist if you don’t work hard at it. I don’t want you wasting time playing silly games with your friends.’
It hurts as much now as it did then. She could never understand it wasn’t what I dreamed of. My hands were made for caring for others. I wanted to be a nurse.
‘I have to go soon, Mum. I’m on night shift this week.’ She squeezes my hand, and her cloudy eyes look directly into mine. Her brow furrows and her lips, smudged with lipstick, pucker and gather like a drawstring purse as she tries to find the words.
‘Who are you?’she asks.
In response to a prompt at https://www.creativewritingink.co.uk/resources/writing-prompts/
My name is Harry. So pleased you could come today. It’s quiet back here, isn’t it? We had to be quiet as mice then. Father Andre was very kind. We weren’t the only family he hid. There were others. Hundreds. Come downstairs. I will show you.
We lay still during the day. Listened to the services. I would look forward to the organ playing and the hymns. So beautiful. Not the same sort of songs that we would normally sing during prayers, but still, so beautiful. It made it easier for a small boy to lie still when such music played. No. It’s okay. Don’t admonish him. What’s his name? Joshua. Yes, you little one. It’s very difficult to be quiet all the time, isn’t it? Imagine if you had to lie down on a cold stone floor all day. Very difficult.
The priest and some of his congregation would come at nightfall with food and water. Even take away the foul-smelling buckets for us and leave us clean ones. It didn’t take the smell away, but it made us feel a little more human for a couple of hours.
Father Andre? No. One day they beat him. Demanded he told them where we were hiding. My papa wanted to go up there and give himself up so they would stop, but the others pinned him down. Said he would be sending us all to our deaths. One man was not worth the lives of so many they said. My father cried that night. I had never seen my father cry before—I never saw him cry again.
Written in response to
Mary tried to write, her eyes brimming. Why would they make her do this? Make all of them do this? She finished her letter that told his date and time of birth, his weight, the name she had chosen for him, and placed it in the brown envelope. She was not allowed to write her own name. Her name was a slight of the holy virgin. Henceforth, she would be known as an Abomination number 356.
Where would he go? Sister Benedict had said it was for the best. “Who would want a mother with the mark of the cross? Branded as a slut and whore in the eyes of the church. Better not to know who she is than carry that shame.”
All the girls were sniffling, trying to contain their grief, knowing what would happen if they didn’t. They had all experienced the beatings, the days in solitary.
Unable to do anything else, she wrote on the outside of the envelope, hoping her beautiful baby would realise she hadn’t let him go through choice. On the bottom right-hand corner of the envelope, she wrote in the tiniest of handwriting, A356. Maybe her son could trace her one day. Sister Benedict snatched all the envelopes and disappeared from the room.
The girls left the table and raced to the windows. Looking out at the line of cars on the driveway, they waited.
A few weeks ago, I spotted a competition run by Flash500 who run a quarterly flash fiction competition But they were asking for stories up to 3,000 words for their Annual short story competition. The rules said that they accepted adult stories and also stories for children. As I have had my Writing for Children module assessed and returned, I decided to enter the story I had written for Assignment 4 where I had to show a power switch between two characters. My story was called Hidden Treasure, and I was absolutely delighted when it was longlisted, HERE and although it didn’t make the shortlist which you can also see on this link now (only contained the longlist when I got the email.) I was delighted to have got this far.
The whole experience has given me the confidence to believe in myself, and I shall certainly be entering more competitions from now on. In fact, I have entered the Bristol Short Story Prize and sent off a couple of stories to The Writing Magazine.