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Winter Contest (Prose) – The Wrong Present

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Old 12-10-2014, 10:20 AM
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Default Winter Contest (Prose) – The Wrong Present


The festive season is here and in full swing, and we have another contest for all of you. We all like getting just the right present, but what if it is the wrong present? Scribble away and present your story about ‘The Wrong Present’ whether fictional or real.

Entries:

Members are allowed one entry in the Prose contest. (You are welcome to enter our poetry contest as well.) Prose entries should be submitted as posts to this thread. The competition is open to all members of Writer’s Beat, including staff.

Members are requested to refrain from commenting on entries in this posting thread. Please use the Winter Contest Comments thread instead. That thread will remain open throughout the posting period and afterwards, and members are encouraged to let entrants know what they thought of their entries.

Word Limits:

Prose: 2000 Words

Edits:

Once an entry has been submitted, it cannot be altered. Any work that is edited after it has been entered will be disqualified. If you feel you need to make a small alteration (a misplaced comma, a spelling error), contact me or another member of the staff. If we feel your request is reasonable, we will make the correction on your behalf.

Closing Date:

28th February 2015, 12 midnight GMT

Judging:

Winners will be selected by means of a public vote, so you, the members of Writer’s Beat, will choose the winners.

After the closing date, a voting thread will be posted. Voting will commence on the 1st of March and close on the 15th of March 2015, 12 midnight GMT.



If you have any questions about the contest, contact a staff member and we will happily answer them for you. Now sharpen your pencils, fill up your inkwells and get writing. Good Luck!

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Old 12-22-2014, 04:50 PM
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Default My Entry for the Winter Contest

The Wrong Present

I am not particularly fond of Secret Santa gift exchanges. If you draw your best friend, you could really think about what you get him, or you could get her a gag gift or you could get him something in-between, like cookie dough. If you draw someone you don’t know very well, you could get her something very general, or take a chance and get something that he’ll either love or hate, or of course, you could get her cookie dough too, unless she’s allergic to gluten. Anyway, as soon as you draw that name, you have to choose from five options: thoughtful, gag, cookie dough, general, or specific.

A week ago, I drew Alex Young.

I know everyone who’s going to the party—it’s our piano class Christmas party, and my teacher only has ten pupils. Alex’s lesson is right before mine at four p.m. every Tuesday, so I see him once a week. He usually asks me how I am and I say that I am good (which is not grammatically incorrect, I am a nice person) and then I ask how he is and he says he’s doing well and then one of us mentions the weather or the newest movie or a teacher at school.

That’s all I know about Alex. That and the fact that he is a much better piano player than I am.

But everyone else knows Alex. As soon as I walk through the door, I see that. He is in the middle of a circle of eager faces. They’re laughing at a story and even though he isn’t the one telling the story, I can tell everyone is matching they’re laughter to his. So he’s popular. That’s one more thing I know about
Alex Young now.

I put my present down on the coffee table with the others. I suddenly feel very self-conscious about it—why didn’t I draw someone I know? Why didn’t one of these cool people draw Alex? Why didn’t I just get him cookie dough?

But, I’ve already agonized about this gift for a week. It is time for me to enjoy the party.

I stomp over to the circle. Marcy, Dillan, Alex, and a girl I don’t know have formed this gathering. It’s kind of hard to muscle my way in, but I do. Actually, Alex lets me into the circle.

“I’m just saying, it’s not the World Series if only America plays it!” Dillan says.

Dillan plays soccer. He’s attractive like a soccer player too. I definitely used to have a crush on him. Now, I look at Alex and wonder if he is attractive too.

“That is kind of funny,” I say without thinking.

“You follow baseball, Zoe?” asks Alex.

Everyone looks at me because he is looking at me. I remember that I hate popular kids.

“No, I actually don’t follow sports that much. I just meant—I had never thought about that.”

“Baseball movies are good though,” Marcy points out. She is trying to like sports for Dillan.

“What sports do you play?” the girl I don’t know asks Alex.

He chuckles a little. “I kind of like—just for fun—I play tennis.”

“Really? That’s so interesting. You look like a football jock.”

So New Girl likes Alex. Wonderful. I wonder if she was disappointed that she didn’t draw his name.

“No, I really don’t like football much.”

“You don’t?” I ask.

“I mean, it’s okay, but I don’t understand it very well.”

“Me neither,” she says.

“Me neither,” I say, as I down a glass of punch.

Somehow, Alex, New Girl, and I have become a separate circle and I’m stuck talking about movies with them. Alex and I don’t like any of the same movies, which disappoints me. I realize suddenly that I don’t want to be his friend anymore. I tell myself that I don’t care if he likes the present I got him and then I tear myself away from the circle as soon as my best friend walks into the room.

Cara and I spend the rest of the evening glued to each other. I eat a lot of cute, tiny sandwiches and smile and nod when my piano teacher talks to me. Finally, it is time for the gift exchange.

Cara has drawn me, which obviously thrills her. She gets me a purple scarf that I put on right away even though it doesn’t match the red dress I’m wearing at all. Alex actually drew New Girl, which is awesome because he gives her a box of cookies, and that is basically cookie dough.

Finally, Alex picks up my present. My stomach squirms. Everyone is so excited for him, so I look at the floor.

I got Alex a football. It was a calculated risk: something specific so maybe it would be special. It is the wrong present.

But he smiles really broadly and gives me a hug. “Guess what?” he says, “I don’t have one!”

I can’t keep myself from laughing. The last gifts are opened and everyone settles into their groups again. I’m so glad I’m still alive, I just sit on the couch, looking ridiculous in my red and purple outfit. Then Alex sits down beside me.

“Thank you, Zoe,” he says.

“You’re welcome,” I answer.

“You know—I can’t believe we never hang out during the year. I mean, we see each other, but, we… we should hang out.”

“Yeah, we should.”

He gently reaches toward me and takes my hand. And just then, I’m the happiest girl in the world. I can’t stop smiling—and Alex is smiling back.

Oh, did I forget to mention I love Alex? I should have said that in the beginning. This is how the story starts: “I am afraid to get Alex Young the wrong present because I am in love with him.”
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Old 01-19-2015, 12:08 PM
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Default Winter Contest (Prose) – The Wrong Present

< cut so I can submit this for publication >

Last edited by brianpatrick; 03-19-2015 at 09:27 AM..
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Old 01-29-2015, 02:27 PM
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Default THE WRONG PRESENT entry

THE WRONG PRESENT
by Agatha Christie 1000 words.

'Bye Cynthia. I've put it on the table. Happy birthday!' Husband, Robert, shut the front door and left for work.

Ten minutes later, Cynthia stood in her robe on the landing ready to go down and see what Robert had bought. As she approached the stairs, she felt an unusual chill. Looking up she saw he'd left the loft catch undone. The hatch was open and causing a down draught. The loft was a place she never visited. Robert was the only one who ventured up there, usually to store and retrieve his DIY tools. She'd come up later with the kitchen steps to close it.

Downstairs, she stood by the dining room door gazing at the intriguing package on the table. It was a large box haphazardly wrapped in pink birthday paper. She was supposed to open it while he was at work, she was sure, but decided to wait until he returned so he could see her happy face.

Trying to fathom out what could possibly be inside, she left the dining room to get dressed. It wasn't everyday she turned fifty. It must be something special. Sitting in front of the mirror, patting her face with powder, brushing her hair, she thought how lucky they were to have such a wonderful life. Since Robert took up his new job at the bank, they had so much more money to spend than they ever had before.

After breakfast, she circled the parcel like a lion stalking its prey, thinking of all the things she'd hinted at over the last six months: perhaps a handbag, one of those expensive ones she drooled over in the Sunday Times magazine; or, maybe, saucy lingerie. That would be a turn up for the books, him still thinking she was sexy enough for that kind of thing. Surely not a hat. She sighed in desperation. She'd often said how hats can change your whole personality.

She tapped in friend, Sarah's number.
'He's left it on the table, a big fancy package. Have no idea what's in it.'
'Lucky you,' came the voice at the other end.
'He's been very cagey recently, disappearing after tea, creeping about, climbing in and out the loft. Obviously he didn't want me to see anything, wanted it to be a surprise.'
'Sounds exciting,' said Sarah.
'Come to think of it, he's been making surreptitious phone calls too, for the past couple of months.'
'He is a crafty one isn't he?'
'Yes. Maybe there were lots of decisions to make, you know, about size or colour.'
'Or maybe, diamonds or emeralds,' said Sarah.
They both laughed.
'Don't think I'll open it until he gets back. Give myself more time to dream.'
'Phone me later. I'm dying to know what it is.'
'Okay Sarah. I'll let you know.'

Feeling excited about the parcel, and preoccupied with its likely contents, Cynthia floated round the house like a bird on the wing. Eventually she fetched the kitchen steps and steadied them beneath the loft entrance. From the top step she peered round the unfamiliar dark, space. As her eyes became accustomed to the darkness, she spied a box sitting on the floorboards. It was similar in size to her birthday surprise. When she scrutinised it from the hatch entrance, she saw it was wrapped in exactly the same pink birthday paper as her gift. She stood on the step, amazed by her discovery. It was puzzling. Why would there be two birthday presents?
She climbed down and returned the steps to the kitchen, more intrigued than ever. Had he bought two? Maybe the one in the loft was an extra surprise. She always knew there was more to Robert than anyone knew. She spent the afternoon at the hairdresser, preparing for the big night out. Once back home, she contacted Sarah.

'Sarah! It's me again. Guess what?' She recounted her adventure with the kitchen steps and her discovery in the loft.
'A secret gift. Wow!'
'Maybe the handbag's in the dining room parcel,' she said,'and the real surprise is in the loft,'
'Yes. That's it,'said Sarah. 'It's something he's picked himself, something you've never thought of.'
'Must go. I can hear the front door. He's home.'

Robert kissed her on the cheek as they both walked into the dining room.
'You haven't opened it?' he said, putting his briefcase on the chair.
'Thought I'd wait for you,' she said beaming.
They stood looking at the parcel.

'Give me a clue?' she said. 'Tell me the colour.'
He smiled. 'You just don't like surprises do you? Okay. It's blue, your favourite colour.'
She clasped her hands and clenched her teeth, thinking hard. 'Give me another clue.'
'I might as well tell you what's inside, if you're going to want clues all the time. Very well. It's edged with sequins.'
'Something sparkly! Something to wear.' She reached out for the parcel but the minute she tried to draw it closer, she grunted. 'It's so heavy,' she said. 'I can hardly move it.'

At once, Robert looked to the ceiling, hid his face behind his hands and groaned, like a man who knew all hell would be let loose if he didn't think quickly.

Cynthia finally dragged the box to the edge of the table. 'Gosh! Some present,' she chuckled. Slowly, she pulled away the pink paper and opened the cardboard flaps. She stood, rooted to the spot, unable to blink as she stared down, speechless. There was no blue sequinned cocktail dress, no expensive handbag, not even a monstrous hat. Instead, she saw thousands of pounds in fresh crisp twenty-pound notes, neatly parceled and stacked to the brim of the box.

She turned to Robert for an explanation.

'Thought you'd like something different this year, darling. I've got the blue sequinned dress in the loft as an extra surprise. I'll get it now.'

He darted out the room leaving Cynthia to work out for herself how their enviable lifestyle was funded.
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Old 02-07-2015, 05:50 AM
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Default Winter Contest (Prose) - Entry

The Wrong Present (1131 words) -- by Nil

I needed a coffee. Jen's excitement about Christmas typified our differences. She had shaken me awake and bounded down the stairs like a bunny on ecstasy. I trudged behind her, dragging myself in the direction of the Keurig coffee-maker. At the kitchen’s threshold, she grabbed my arm.

“This way,” she said, sounding like a child pleading with her mother for ice cream.

“Coffee first,” I grumbled.

“I already made you one,” she said. “It’s in the living room.”

I was annoyed. I don’t know why. She probably messed it up.

The lights adorning the tree were blinding, the wreath was crooked, and the vent on the fireplace was closed. I spotted a mug on the TV tray and snatched it. The coffee was cold.

Once she saw I was seated, Jen darted to the sad stack of presents under the tree. “You go first,” she said, reaching for a box wrapped in Santa Clause paper.

“No,” I said. I had suggested we skip presents altogether, but Jen had insisted. I was afraid she had gotten me something good, so I overspent. “You first,” I said.

She smiled slyly. “What, this tiny box?” she asked, holding up my poorly wrapped gift.

I nodded, and she tore into the paper like an animal.

“Oh baby,” she said as she lifted the lid. “It’s beautiful.” It was a set of large, perfectly spherical pearls beaded along a string. I had spent all of Saturday zipping around jewelry stores looking for a deal; there were no discounts so close to Christmas. She lifted the necklace out of the box, struggled with the clasp, and fit it around her neck. Then she scampered across the room and squished into me on the couch, nearly spilling my coffee.

“It’s perfect, baby,” she said. “I love you so much.” She kissed me.

“I’m glad you like it,” I said.

“Now it’s your turn,” she said. Dashing to the tree, she retrieved the box in the Santa Clause wrappings. It was cliché and over-the-top, just like Jen. I prayed that its contents hadn't cost more than the pearls.

“I hope you like it,” she said.

I pulled my grimace into a smile and caught her eyes. Everything had changed. The passion was missing; the love was gone. Even before we moved in together something was wrong. My stupidity had forced the move. I had suggested the arrangement to save money, and she had jumped at it. Living together amplified everything that irked me about Jen. Her perpetual insouciance and boundless alacrity were numbing. She formed no opinions of her own and refused to argue. Her toothy smile was always in sight. My house was my prison, and I was plotting an escape.

It hadn't always been that way. Jen and I started dating just before my father died. She stayed awake with me at the hospital, held me when I cried, and helped me write his eulogy. Without asking for anything but my love, she gave me everything I didn't know I needed. After two months, it felt like we had been dating for two years. And things only moved faster. She was an integral part of the funeral and its aftermath. She bonded with my mother. Then she introduced me to her quirky family, and they accepted me from the beginning. I latched onto them like an adopted child. We played card games and watched movies. I was mourning.

I dissected the wrapping paper, preserving Santa’s jolly face, like a surgeon opening a skull. It was a wooden box, scratched and dented. It looked faintly familiar. “What is this?” I said.

Jen beamed at me.

I clicked the clasp and flipped the lid. Shiner than ever, it was my father’s watch.

“I asked your mother for it,” said Jen, “and I had it cleaned. The gears were fine, so it should still work.”

When my father left my mother, he moved to Switzerland. Every month he wired us money – more than we’d ever had – from his new banking job. On birthdays and Christmases he sent us chocolates, although my mother never ate hers. After four years of only making crackly phone calls and writing pithy notes, my father returned. He was the same man to me, still sporting a bushy mustache and hefty paunch. His suit may have been more expensive, but I didn't notice. All I saw was his slick gold watch with more dials than digits. He had swapped my grandfather’s silver classic for a shiny gizmo that probably cost more than a car. I felt betrayed. The watch he had surrendered was an heirloom. It should have been passed on to me. Over the next several months I scavenged my father’s things, but I never found the old wooden box that housed my grandfather’s watch.

I stared at the shimmering gold watch in my hands, shaking my head. I didn't know how Jen had done it: she had found the old wooden box but placed the wrong watch inside it. The watch I held was everything I detested about my father. I averted my eyes.

“What’s the matter?” she said.

I continued to shake my head. “Thank you,” I mumbled.

“I understand that it’s difficult for you,” she said. But she didn't understand. She had mixed it up. She had gotten it wrong.

“Where’s the other watch?” I said. My throat was dry.

“What?”

I studied her puzzled countenance. She didn't have it; she never had. The wooden box must have been lying around from before Switzerland. Maybe my mother had put the new watch in it after my father died. It wasn't Jen's fault. How could she have known? It should have been the perfect gift. I smiled at her, trying desperately to convey my appreciation. She always tried so hard. She wanted this relationship to succeed so badly. I felt a pang of guilt.

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“For what?” She kissed me again and again all over my face. “Listen, I know it’s been a tough year, but now you can wear a piece of him everywhere you go. Wear it like a chalice.”

“You’re right,” I said, and I was surprised to find that I meant it. Yes, it was terrible that my father left, but he returned. He mended things with my mother and me, and we lived lavishly because of the work he had done in Switzerland.

“Thank you,” I said. “I love you.”

Jen and I dated for two more years before I cut ties. We were too different to get married, and at some point marriage is the only next step. I reminisce often about that Christmas morning with remorse. That watch – now resting at the bottom of Lake Michigan – cost me two years of my life.
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Old 02-15-2015, 09:21 AM
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The wrong present, >400 words

It was in the 6th of June, my birthday, when he pulled up to the gas pumps. I didn’t like him at all. He just looked like trouble. He had a beard, longer hair and was riding a motorcycle. It was shiny and new but it was still a motorcycle. It was even expensive, a Harley Davidson, but it was still a motorcycle.

The thing I dislike the most about him was the look on my daughter Carol’s face. I believe she saw him as a way out of this one horse town and away from this dusty wide spot in the road - that she hates.

My son Simon was quick out to help him with gas, it’s his job but… this man just looked like trouble.

He spoke with Simon a while and then headed toward the store, limping. He seemed to be headed toward me. I stood my ground and wondered what this man wanted.

When he was within a few feet before I noticed the eye patch; he reached inside his jacket and pulled out a letter. I couldn’t help but notice the two smaller fingers on his hand were missing.

He sounded choked up as he said. “Mrs. Jefferies, my name is Ben Tomson and your son, Frank, asked me to bring this letter to you today. He said to say happy birthday.”

This man, which I had taken an instant dislike to was Sargent Ben Tomson, the man in charge of the squad my son was in. He was also probably the last man to see him alive.

The tears formed in my eyes and there was nothing I could, nor wanted to do to stop them. I took the letter as I glanced back at him and saw the tear run from his good eye into his beard.
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Old 02-15-2015, 04:42 PM
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THE WRONG PRESENT

Julia sat on the couch crying. She wiped the tears from her eyes and blew her nose. She tried to clear her throat as she reached for the phone. She dialed and waited for someone to pick up. She heard a cheerful “Merry Christmas” with music blaring in the background. “Hello? I can’t hear you, who is this?” Susan said then yelled to her husband, “John turn the music down, I can’t hear who is on the phone.”

Julia heard the music shut off and tried to blurt out but all she could do was babble her words through the tears and finally choked out “Susan.”

Susan listened and asked “who is this?”

Julia sobbed and said, “It’s Julia” and blotted her eyes and wiped her nose.

Susan’s heart sank and she asked hesitantly “Julia, what’s wrong, what happened?” Susan immediately thought of Julia’s mother who had been sick for some time. She thought this was the phone call she had dreaded that Julia’s mother had passed away. Susan thought “no not on Christmas Eve.”

All Julia could say was “I need you.”

Susan took a deep breath and said, “I will be right there, hold tight sweetie.” Susan hung up the phone with tears in her eyes and looked at her husband John.

“What is it Susan? Who was that?” John asked his heart pounding in his chest.

“It’s Julia, something’s wrong, she’s upset. I need to go see if she is ok.”

John said, “ok, let me put a few things away and I will go over there with you.”

Susan looked at John as she grabbed a tissue and said “thank you baby.”

John and Susan cleaned up and turned off the Christmas tree lights as quickly as they could. They gathered their things and headed out the door. Julia only lived a few buildings away. They reached the door of the building in a few minutes and hit the buzzer for her apartment and the door unlocked. Susan and John scurried up the stairs as fast as they could. The sense of urgency grew as they got closer to her door.

When they arrived they found the door slightly ajar. Susan wrapped lightly and the door opened. Susan peered in asking, “Julia, are you here?” Susan scanned the apartment and found Julia sitting on the couch, legs crossed, a pillow clutched against her chest, and her head buried in the top sobbing.

Susan walked over to Julia, sat next to her, and put her arm around her. Susan leaned Julia against her and Julia buried her head in to Susan’s chest as she clutched the pillow. Julia sobbed and Susan patted her back and asked, “sweetie, what happened, is it your mother?”

Julia cried even harder and all she could blurt out was “no.”

A bit surprised, expecting to hear that her mother was gone. Susan asked, “then what is it sweetie, what’s gotten you so upset?”

Julia lifted her head and wiped her face and gargled out “David and I broke up.”

Susan’s mouth gaped open and she stared up at John who was scratching his head in confusion. John sat on the couch opposing Susan and Julia thought, “what the fuck.”

Susan rubbed Julia’s back and leaned her in hugging her. Susan looked at John and shook her head not really sure how to handle the situation. Susan pushed Julia up and leaned her against the couch. Susan went to grab some tissues but the boxes were empty. John, noticing the empty boxes stood up and ran to the bathroom and grabbed another box from the cabinet. He came back, tore off the top, and pulled out a wad for Susan and Julia. John moved the pile of used tissues with the box and placed it down on the table. He grabbed the two empty boxes and scooped up the tissues from the table and stuffed then in the empty boxes and took them to the garbage.

John rummaged through the kitchen cabinets and found mugs, tea, honey and a bottle of brandy. He put on the teapot and started working on some tea with honey and brandy hoping it would calm or numb her senses.

Susan patted Julia’s shoulder and stared at her puffy red eyes and bright red nose. Julia’s mascara was beyond running down her face. Susan could see the paths that her tears had taken over and over as her rouge made creek beds on her face.

John came over with three hot cups of tea and set them on the coffee table. Julia looked up and barely got out “thank you.” John smiled as he handed her a mug. Julia took a small sip and squinted, knowing there was a shot or two of brandy in the cup. She didn't even know she had any liquor then remembered the bottle of brandy David had brought over and they sat and drank hot toddies by the fire and made love all night long. This made her sob again.

Susan reached for the cup from John and took a big swig and almost choked. She wasn't expecting the brandy. John looked at her with a crooked smile as if to say “sorry, I should have warned you.” Susan smiled back almost thanking him for the alcohol. Susan laid the mug on the coffee table. Susan looked at Julia, laid her finger under her chin lifting her head. Susan stared at Julia and said, “ok, now tell me what happened.”

Julia held her mug close to her mouth and tried to speak. Susan reached for the mug pulling it out of Julia’s hands and placed it on the table. Susan stared at Julia and said “ok, take a deep breath and try and calm down and tell me what happened.” Susan’s voice was soothing to Julia.

Julia wiped her eyes and blew her nose. She took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and took another cleansing breath. She opened her eyes and began blurting it out hoping that if she threw it out there that maybe it would go away and she could pretend it never happened.

“I went over to David’s today. He had asked me to come by because he had something special planned for me. He was leaving tonight to spend the holidays with his family.” She huffed, and continued. “So I went over and when he opened the door, his place was decorated with a tree and lights and something was cooking in the oven. He held me in his arms, it was so wonderful.” She wrapped her arms around her shoulders, closed her eyes remembering how he felt. She took a deep breath as if smelling his cologne. She opened her eyes and stared at Susan then glanced over at John, more tears forming. “Anyway he hugged me and we kissed, I was so happy. He held my hand as we walked to the dining room table. He had the table set with plates, glasses and a bottle of Champagne. I was so happy. You know Susan; I had never met anyone so wonderful.”

Susan patted her shoulder and said, “yes, I know, I thought you two were perfect together.”

Julia spurted out, “I know, right, I thought we were perfect too.” She wiped her eyes and continued. “He sat me down at the table and told me to wait because he had a surprise for me. He said he would be right back. I couldn't imagine what it was. But when I looked up on the counter I could see a black box, a small black box, a ring box. I thought, oh my God he is going to propose. I knew it was right, I knew he was the one.”

Julia sobbed again. Susan grabbed the cup of tea and handed it to her. Julia took a sip and handed it back. Julia took another cleansing breath and continued. “I was so excited. I could hear him coming back down the hall when his phone rang. He answered it and immediately started arguing with someone. I heard him go back to the bedroom but I could still hear the conversation. He kept saying I am doing the best I can dear, what do you want from me hon? I didn't understand who he was talking to but my focus kept going back to that box. I couldn't wait; I had to see. I got up from the table, went to the counter, and opened the box. It was a ring, a beautiful diamond ring, with sapphires all around it. I couldn't believe it. I was in shock.” She held her hand out as if she was wearing the ring.

Julia laid her hand back down on her lap and continued, “I heard him get off the phone and I closed the box and ran back to the table. He came back to the table and I asked him who was on the phone, and that it sounded like a heated argument. He blew it off and said oh it was just family arguing about his flights. He dismissed the whole conversation and then said here is your surprise. He laid a square box on the table in front of me. I looked at the box then up at him and asked, what’s this? He said your Christmas present silly. Open it.” Julia said sarcastically and waving her hand in the air, obviously angry.

Julia blew her nose, threw the used tissue on the table, and reached for another wad of tissues. She cleared her throat and continued. “He sat down at the table and I looked at the box, then at him, and then at the ring box on the counter. He asked me if anything was wrong. I paused and said, I wasn't expecting this and I stared at the box in front of me. He asked again if something was wrong. I said I thought that was my present and I pointed to the box on the counter. He turned and looked at the ring box on the counter. He jumped up and grabbed the box and stuffed it in his pocket.” Waving her arm again, rolling her eyes and saying, “like I didn’t see him do that,” Julia huffed

I asked him if that was for me? He said no that was the wrong present. I could tell he was nervous. I stared at him and asked him who it was for? He just said nobody, it’s nothing. I was pissed, I knew he was lying. I screamed at him WHO IS THAT FOR! He dropped his head and said my wife.”

Julia buried her head into the pillow and cried even harder. Susan rubbed Julia’s back trying to comfort her. Julia lifted her head, her face red, snot running out of her nose and screamed, “his fucking wife, can you believe it! He is fucking married!” She sobbed again as she grabbed even more tissues. “I thought he was going to propose but I obviously looked at the wrong present! It wasn't for me it was for his fucking wife!” Julia paused and finished, “I didn't know what to do, so I grabbed my purse, and ran out of the apartment. I came home, shut off my phone, and have been sitting here crying all night.”

Susan wrapped her arms around Julia, and heard Julia say, “well Merry Fucking Christmas."
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Old 02-25-2015, 05:36 PM
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The Gift of Hope - 1549 words






I can't believe this is happening.


As I took those steps down the hallway with the urgency of a death row inmate, the faint glow of a

single bulb grew brighter. The sentiments I had tried to quell were brought to life, and I was

reminded of the night I proposed. The soft glow, the anticipation. The feeling of satisfaction that

awaited after the culmination of so many intricate moments stacked delicately one after another. I

was the yin and she the yang. I the darkness and her the light. It was destiny that had brought us

to that point, I had no doubt.


Tonight however, was inevitable.


Loving her was a gift. She was the glass half full. She was easy. Easy to laugh, to accompany, and

to love. With her nothing was difficult. The best of me was exposed as though I was constantly

bleeding out. I can only imagine it was the same for her at first, and that's what kept it alive.

This was the love I had felt in my dreams. The faceless woman who had visited me on so many nights

now had a face, and it was more pure than I ever could have imagined.


Although that love never faded, it had become harder to find. Like some memento stored away in the

dark corner of an attic, just knowing it was still there was enough. Well, for me it was.


She had asked me for a divorce.


I had always been consumed by the macabre. The matters of death and chaos fueled my writing. After

some time and a little success, I had to find other mediums. Painting. Songwriting. Even sculpture

and carpentry. I had become a multimedia conglomerate of everything that the average person tried

to ignore. If it no longer had the ability to breathe, grow, or love, it was a part of me. I was

the glass half empty.


Her name was Hope.


Two months after our unlikely nuptials I started developing symptoms. Nightsweats, fatigue, loss of

appetite. I lost about 25 pounds and had no idea why. I could see the concern on her face, my own

gauntness reflecting back at me. I eventually gave in to her requests and went in for testing.


Burkitt Lymphoma. Stage II. I was given a 50% chance of survival.


I initially refused chemo, but the silent persuasion of Hope changed my mind. I was convinced it

had been revealed how I was going to die, the only question was when. I didn't want to spend the

rest of my time with appointments, treatment, and constantly being sick. I wanted to revel in my

impending demise. I wanted to ride this sinking ship all the way into the ground. However, out of

respect for love, I went. I was going to die, but the least I could do was let her think I was

actually trying to live.


This was to be my grand gesture. My last gift.


“You and me against the world”, she would say, holding my hand through the chemo. “Everything's

going to be okay”, her hand on my back through violent convulsions so fierce they incited white

flashes and temporary blindness.


Her touch is what brought authenticity to her words.


Weeks after weeks went by, my ruse seemed to be working. Every morning she woke me with a smile.

Every night she rubbed my back and sang to me, thanking me for spending another day with her. The

days were filled with appointments, treatments, sick leave, and waiting rooms. She was not phased.

Constant. Encouraging.


The stress of not being able to deal with this in my own way mounted. Then, one night as I sat home

waiting, she walked in two hours late.


“Where the fuck have you been?”


“Excuse me? Nice to see you too”, she said, dismissing my question as sarcasm. She sat a small

black box on the table. “I got you-”


“I'm serious, where the fuck have you been!” Her eyes widened. We'd had disagreements, but I never

yelled at her, let alone accused her.


She took a single calming breath and spoke. “Like I was saying-”


I exploded. My composure was a rage filled balloon and her unwillingness to fight back was the

needle. I was in the wrong and I knew it, but I couldn't stop. Pieces of shredded latex spread out

like aircraft wreckage.


She eventually got a few words in, although nothing memorable. I never found out what was in the

box, just that it was an anniversary gift.


No matter how hard she tried, I simply could not buy into her propaganda even if she believed it

herself. As the poison crawled into my bloodstream she sat silent. This slowly became the norm.


“Hope, we're going to make it through this”, I said. I didn't believe it, but I wanted to make sure

she still did. The doctors had found no signs of remission, just as I had expected. She slowly

nodded with her hands in her lap.


“You and me against the world, babe.” She flipped through a random magazine and replied, “I know”.


Something was wrong. The woman I knew would sit through the last inning of an agonizing loss

because anything was possible. Never daunted, always looking ahead. She was an unaltered beauty,

sensible to the world around her. I was a dwindling fire and she had continued to breathe life into

me long after I had given up. For the first time, I was afraid. Without her, I was sure to be

extinguished.


That's when everything changed.


I dropped her off at work and went to my treatments alone. I brought her lunch when I was done and

told her I felt great even though I vomited out of the car window on the way there. I painted her a

picture of a sunset because they put her at ease and learned her favorite Bob Marley song.

I was pushing my love further than I ever had before, becoming someone else in the process.

I hadn't seen her smile in three months.


She decided to come with me to one of my appointments. A sit down with the doctor to review my

progress and reassess my treatment going forward.


“What do you think the doctor is going to say”, Hope asked.


I thought about it for a moment, because I hadn't up to that point. “I don't know, but I have a

good feeling.”


Hope looked out of the car window and smirked, “That's nice.”


I continued to drive in silence. I wanted to ask what was wrong. There was obviously an issue that

needed to be addressed, but my mind was too preoccupied considering what the next hour could mean

for my life.


Walking in to the office, I could tell there was only good news. Do you know why? The doctor looked

happy to see me. Unless he was the most sadistic son of a bitch I'd ever met, he had good news.


I was right. I was officially in remission. Although not completely immune from the cancer coming

back, it was an enormous step. It was the happiest moment of my life. As I stood outside of the

doctor's office, reflecting on the last several months and how my total despair had turned into

such a lust for life, I noticed many things for the first time. The trees adhering to the

gentleness of the crisp morning breeze. The shadows dancing on the sidewalk full of people below.

The robust yet subtle aroma of the coffee shop around the corner. Smiles shared between lovers and

kin. The kind that say I love you more than words ever will. My eyes welled with the realization of

all of these things, and of the greatest one of all. I had hope.


I looked next to me, to share this moment with my lover and best friend. She was gone.



##


I tilted my head around the corner, peering into the dimly lit room. Hope stared with a blank

expression at a blank wall. She looked like a conscious vegetable.


“Hey”, she said, without moving.


“Hey. Can we talk about this first?”


She finally broke her stoic pose, now looking at the nearly empty desk, and shrugged.


“Hope, I don't want this. I-”


“It's not always about you you know”, she spun her head towards me and locked eyes. Her intensity

had been made clear. “Do you really want to stay married to someone who has changed so much?

Someone who doesn't want to be with you anymore? Some who can't” She was right. We had both

changed. It was almost as though I had stolen or used up everything that was good about her. She

was miserable and didn't know how to be. I was happier than I had ever been, but a small part of me

still in denial knew that what had happened with us was entirely my fault.


“You can't fix me, that's what I do. You're living proof.”


I nodded, stepped towards the desk and signed the papers. We were divorced. She stood up, walked to

the door and paused. A slight smile crept over her face. “You're welcome.” She walked down the

hallway, disappearing into the darkness.
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Old 02-26-2015, 01:35 PM
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The wrong gift.

"Come with me, I need to show you something."
There was a coldness to his voice that I hadn't heard before. I shuddered as my breath fogged the early morning air. I checked my watch.
5.30am What could be so important at this time?
"Can't you show me later? You know I have that presentation later and..." His glare cut my sentence dead.
"Just come on. This won't take long. Trust me."
We made our way down Church Lane at a steady pace, with Marcus always one step in front.
"Where are we going anyway?" I asked in a hushed voice. Silence. The street lights began to soften as dawn slowly filled the sky.

"There!" Marcus pointed in almost grim reaper fashion. I looked down to a sodden patch of earth.
"What the hell is this Marcus? You drag me to the woods to show me some dirt?"
Cold and annoyed I turned to leave. Just as quickly Marcus grabbed my neck and pushed me forwards. I landed in a heap, covered in sodden mud.
"Dig" he ordered. I glared upwards. "Dig" he repeated, kicking fresh dirt towards me.

Two weeks earlier.

"Hey you" I offered in the flirtiest voice I had in my locker.
"Hey Sammie!"
As Jason approached me in the small office my heart began to flutter. His tight grey suit clung to his body. His thick blck hair fell neatly across his brow as he winked and offered me a cheeky grin.
"Are you going to the bash at Eddie's tomorrow?"
I shrugged my shoulders. Eddie Hargreaves was the office sleaze. The thought of spending an evening in his company made my skin crawl.
"I'm going" he said as he placed down a folder.
"I might then" I replied, smirking.
"You're not bringing him with you...are you?"
Jason and Marcus, my fiancee, had fought like cat and dog for most of their lives. They were brothers, separated by one year and a lifetime of arguments. Marcus was a manual man, following his Father in the building industry. Working in a office is not really work, he would often say.
"You really should try to get along better you know. You're brothers! You never know what tomorrow might bring. You should..."
"Marcus wouldn't care if I dropped dead tomorrow."
The look in his eyes reminded me of my fiance and I suddenly felt inappropriate.
"Don't say that!" I spat. "Of course he would."
Jason shrugged his shoulders.
"Well if he's going... I'm not. I don't want lectures about what a 'real' job is."
With that Jason grabbed a sheet of loose paper and scrawled something.
"Here" he said, handing me a small sheet "here's my number. If you want to come we can share a taxi...as long as he doesn't come."
Another wink. But this one was loaded with meaning. My heart fluttered again.

#

Beep Beep.
The taxi horn honked outside.
Blleeep Bllleeep.
My mobile phone flashed a text message. " We're outside xxx "
Marcus peeled back the living room curtains.
"You're taxi's here" he said, with no particular emotion.
Marcus fell for my lie that 'it was only the girls' going to the party and had to be up early to meet a buidling contractor on the new site in town.
"Will you be home late?" he asked, with the same dejected tone. "If you are then try not to wake me. I'm knackered."
Marcus lit a cigarette and slumped back into his chair.

I opened the taxi door and found Jason grinning in the back seat. I nervously glanced backwards, checking to see if Marcus was watching. The coast was clear so I hopped in.
"Where is everyone else?" I asked. Jason frowned.
"You said we. You said we're here in your message?" His frown flipped to a grin.
"Yes. Me you and the taxi driver." He winked again, filling me neck with heat. I rolled my eyes.
"Onwards good fellow" Jason joked to the driver and we set off on our journey.

"Eddie's house is that way?" I pointed towards the junction between Kingston Road and Tudor Vale.
"Eddie's a prick. We're not going to Eddie's"
I sat back, confused.
"What? Where are we going then? What's going on?"
Jason paused for a moment.
"All in good time Sammie. All in good time."
Although confused I felt safe in his smile.

We pulled up to a small cottage some twenty minutes later. The evening air tickled my ankles as Jason tipped the taxi driver.
"What are we doing here?" I asked.
"All in good time" he repeated again.
Jason walked me to the small door of the cottage. I could smell the freshness of the wooden beams.
"Is this a surprise party or something because I'm telling you now I don't like..." Jason hushed me with a finger on my lips.
"Ssshhh" he gently mouthed. With that he stood behind me and placed his hands across my eyes. I giggled, still totally unaware of what was happening. I could feel Jason fumble for the door handle and I heard the creaking wood as it opened. A waft of warmth spread across my face as Jason shuffled me forwards. A moment later he removed his hands.
"Open"
I slowly opened my eyes. The sight that lay before me illuminated my soul with unimaginable peace.


I arrived home just before midnight. I crept into the house and made my way upstairs. Marcus was fast asleep and snoring loudly. I slipped off my shoes and slid under the duvet. My mind was awash with thoughts. Marcus rolled over. His face inches from mine. I smiled. Safe in the knowledge that everything would soon be just fine.


"Lydia, if I tell you something will you swear you won't tell anyone?"
It was break-time at work and Lydia and I were sipping a hot mug of tea in the smoking area.
"Sure. Shoot."
I took a sip of tea, preparing myself.
"Last night I went this...this...place...with Jason..."
Lydia placed down her cup.
"Oh yeahhhh" she said, nudging me. "What kind of place?"
"Sort of a cottage"
"Oh yeahhhhh" she said even louder, tapping at my leg.
"No. Stop it. Nothing like that. He's my fiance's brother." Lydia curtailed her joking face and urged me to continue.
"Well..." I paused "No, forget it, you'll never believe me." I went to stand but Lydia prevented me.
"Did he touch you?" her face etched in concern.
"God no. No. I've told you it's nothing like that." I sucked in a deep a breath before I spoke.
"I spoke to my Mum and Grandparents in there. They told me what to do."
Lydia's face grew even more concerned.
"What?" was all she could say.
"I know. I know it sounds crazy. But it's true."
Lydia held her hand out and placed it over mine.
"Your Mum died last year Sammie. Don't you remember? And how long have your Grandparents been gone? Twenty years or more?"
I sighed deeply.
"Of course I remember. But last night I spoke to them. As clear as I speak to you now."
"Are you sure you and Jason didn't smoke any of that whacky stuff on your way to the magical cottage?"
I stood in temper.
"See. It's pointless. I knew you wouldn't believe me."
Brrrrrr. Brrrrrrr.
The buzzer sound for the end of break. I left a stunned Lydia and returned to my desk, still certain that what I'd seen and heard wasn't some delusion.


"Why did you tell Lydia about last night?"
Jason didn't seem angry in his question as we pulled into my street.
"I just needed to get it ff my chest. She didn't believe me anyway."
Jason switched off the headlights and pulled the car to a halt some twenty houses from mine.
"We don't want grumpy nuts to suspect anything. We'll take him there when he's ready. My Dad has a lot to tell him." I was slow to realise that he was referring to Marcus.
"And that's the reaction you'll get from everyone Sammie. So best keep it to yourself."
I nodded.
"Can we go there tonight?"
Jason smiled and handed me a small gift wrapped box.
"I've always liked you Sammie. I think you chose the wrong brother."
He leant in close. I could feel his breath on my lips. We paused.
"Maybe in another life?" he said, before pulling back. "Open it then."
I carefully unwrapped the box and pulled back the lid. Inside lay a metal key that looked hundreds of years old.
"It's yours now. Go as often as you like. I've made my peace. Once you're done, show Marcus. Let him talk to Dad."


#


"I said dig you slut"
I'd never felt such anger as I began to claw the earth below. Frantically I drove my fingers into the mud until I hit something hard yet small. I scraped off the soggy soil and my heart began to sink.
"That's it you slut. It's the key to your little dirty den...you know? Where you've been screwing my brother."
I began to weep.
"No" I repeated through salty muddy tears. Marcus kicked me hard in the ribs. I couldn't feel the pain.
"Don't you think I know? Don't you think I saw him drop you off last week? Don't you think I know what you two have been doing?" He kicked me hard again. This time anger filled my veins. I got to my feet as best I could.
"You idiot" I screamed. He grabbed my throat. I stared deep into his hate filled eyes.
"You've got it all wrong. This was a gift for you...for both of us."
Marcus seemed to recognise the truth in my eyes.
"What?"
Mud soaked and beaten I simply told him "Let me show you."


I slid the key into the cottage door as Marcus stepped out of his van.
"If this is some kind of..." Marcus groaned, but his words fell like mist as I stepped inside.
Darkness.
Emptiness.
I patted the wall for the light switch.
Click.
Nothing.
Marcus stepped in behind me.


"Done?".
"Done!" I confirmed.
Jason pressed his lips hard against mine. We watched the blaze grow for awhile before we headed out of town in Marcus's van.
I can still hear the desperate banging on the cottage door.
I can still smell the petrol.
The fire.
The newspaper headlines.
God gave me the wrong gift. The wrong brother.
And I fixed it. Just like Mum told me.
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Old 02-26-2015, 09:30 PM
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The Christmas Bomb
by FX Lord

Alas disqualified because it was a little over the word limit, despite it being implied by Tau that stories a little over would be accepted. I'm not happy about it but accept his decision.
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