April Writing Challenge: Honorable Mentions — Amber Finneseth, Gráinne Murphy, and Elizabeth Lepley

These entries from April'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 "April Writing Challenge."
Amber Finneseth
18
USA

Reflections

It was the first day of autumn when I sealed up Carrie’s room, with no intention of opening it again, and left her house for good.

When I last saw her, Carrie had just turned fourteen, and she was glowing with youthful energy. She was leaving the next day, so that night we climbed the tree in her backyard for the last time together and swore that we would remain friends and call often. She entrusted me with the key to her old bedroom then too, presented on a necklace chain as a gift. I knew that the key meant a big deal to her, and I was so touched at the gesture, I wore the necklace every day for a month after her departure.

I cradled the same rusty key in my hand now, warming the metal in my hands. What was once a symbol of love and friendship had become my curse to bear.

I was determined to get rid of it once and for all.

When I got back to my car, I popped open the trunk. Here I had stashed all the tools I needed for my mission: several stones and a small pile of rope, all atop one of the plaid scarves I used to wear in the winter. I quickly collected all these items and headed towards the river, determined.

The news of Carrie’s death had been sudden and horrible. I remember the coldness of the receiver pressed into my cheek as I listened to her mother explain what had happened, barely processing the words as she said them. After hanging up, I did what I always did when I was upset: I fled.

The Condemned sign in front of her house did not bother me that first time, and it has never bothered me since.

The door to her room had been left open. Chipped white paint covered the floor and cobwebs decorated the corners, but it was still Carrie’s room, and I flocked to the windowsill instinctively. I pressed my forehead against the cool glass as I began to sob, mourning the truest friend I had ever had.

When I finished crying, I turned towards the door and caught a glimpse of the large mirror that had been positioned above Carrie’s dresser. As I noticed the face reflected back, I released a gasp of surprise. The golden curls and blue eyes, ones that were certainly not my own, looked exactly as I remembered them, staring back at me intensely, trapped behind the glass.

I kept coming back repeatedly after that, the mirror in her room always showing her face. The image of my friend became a consolation in my more vulnerable states. No matter how much I changed, Carrie’s reflection remained a constant.

Near the end, however, I no longer felt the same comfort in her face. It was replaced with horror. I could never move on as long as the mirror remained in my life. I was tied to the house and the troubling image it contained. This imprint left behind had only caused me pain and despair, and I finally realized that I had to let go and end this obsession.

Ironically, as I locked her door, Carrie’s key, once her gift to me, became my ticket to freedom.

After a steep descent, I finally reached the edge of the river. I unfolded the scarf and ceremoniously placed the key in the center. The rocks came next, and I wrapped the scarf around them before tying it up with the rope.

Picking up the heavy bundle was difficult, but necessary. I swung it back and forth, counting to three in my head, and swiftly let go, saying goodbye.

The deafening splash in the middle of the stream was immensely satisfying.

It was done. It was over.

I was free.

I breathed a sigh of relief, letting my shoulders settle. Carrie was gone. I could relax.

As I turned towards the slope, I noticed my reflection in the river. I swiveled around to get a better look.

Carrie’s face stared back.

 

 

 

Gráinne Murphy
15
Ireland

And Then All the Stars Fell Down

My eyes are closed, and I’m guided forward only by his hand in mine. I can hear a key as it twists in the gate and then the oil-thirsty creak as the gate swings open. “Open your eyes,” he says, and I do. The grass in front of me has been set alight by the twinkling myriad of lights intertwined in the overhanging branches. A picnic blanket and basket have been laid out, and the tinkling water of the passing river makes this place seem almost ethereal. The moonlight glints off the water, and it transforms into a thing of beauty, water like curved scales as it ripples past. The key has unlocked another world.

I turn to him in awe, and his eyes meet mine; he looks almost nervous, unsure of my thoughts, unaware of my love. “Do you like it?” he asks, uncertainty colouring his words. I shake my head, and as his eyebrows crease. I step forward and whisper, “I love it.” Three words transform his expression. His eyes glow with feeling, the overhanging lights making them alive with colour: golden and blue.

As he gently tugs me forward, my hand, still clasped in his and each finger intertwined, is all I can focus on. I step carefully, not wanting to disturb this paradise. We sit down together, keeping our layers on, bundled against the air’s frosty embrace. I watch as he unpacks the basket and hands me a flask of hot soup. My hands shake slightly at the abrupt temperature change, grateful for the heat. Next he takes out his handheld radio, and a soft melody starts to float out and up, filling the air with the sound of music.

We sit and talk and talk about everything and nothing, interrupted only by the soft gulps of hot soup—that is, until he grabs my hands and pulls me up. Suddenly I’m in his arms, and we’re dancing. Frank Sinatra’s voice is filling the sky, and I can feel it. Feel it as I’m in his arms, as I’m falling apart. I’m holding onto him, and the stars may as well fall down; the sky could collapse as he is all that matters. This boy, my best friend, this boy, he holds me close, and everything disappears, everything fades away, everything but him. Him and Me. Us. Dancing as one under a starlit sky, and everything is perfect. He’s holding me, I’m in his arms, and he’s never letting me go. My beautiful blue-eyed boy, I never want this moment to end. He folds his scarf around my neck as we sway, and in that moment I’m floating. I love you, I think as the memory fades away, I love you.

Now I’m sitting here, skin weighed down by wrinkles, years of hair turned grey and loss etched in every bone. The clock ticks on the mantelpiece, the silence of an empty house deafens me. I should be used to this, I think, but how can you get used to nothing? I’m sitting in my chair by the window, the same way I have every day since. Since that day. That day. I squeeze my eyes shut, holding a scarf to my face. His scarf. The scarf. I breathe in his scent as even after all these years it still smells like him. A single tear rolls down my cheek. A single tear for all these years. It lands on the fabric, ten years of pain collected in the soft wool. He said he’d never leave. He said he’d never go. My heart shatters for his broken promise.

 

 

 

Elizabeth Lepley
14
UK

I Still Remember

I still remember February 18th. We were walking around the village when it started to snow. Your eyes lit up, and I’ve never seen you so excited. Jumping up and down, clapping your hands, repeatedly hitting my arm. As much as I loved seeing you like this, I told you we should probably go back inside, but you begged me to stay, so I did. Not long after, I noticed you getting cold. A pink blush was starting to spread across your face as you shivered. I was going to say we should go inside again, but the snow was making you happy, and I love it when you’re happy. I gave you my scarf. I’ll never forget the smile you gave me as you wrapped it around yourself.

I still remember February 27th. We got lost walking through that endless forest. It was scary. We didn’t have our phones, and it was getting dark. However, I have to admit I loved how you clung to my arm tightly, your head on my shoulder, eyes screwed shut. But I hated seeing you scared, so I started humming a song. Our song. I was terrible and completely out of tune, but it made you smile, and, oh wow, I love your smile. You started humming along as well and slowly opened your eyes. You gasped as you saw the glistening river in front of us. I’ll never forget the sparkle in your eyes as you took in the view.

I still remember March 25th. We were at your house and it was your birthday. You don’t like making a fuss, so we stayed inside watching some cheesy rom-com. Even though it was terrible, it made you laugh, so I didn’t complain. Once it ended I gave you your present, although you said you didn’t want anything. It wasn’t anything special, but you said it was the best thing you have ever received. It was a key. I never told you what it was for, and you never asked. I’ll never forget the words you said as you examined it in your hand.

Despite all that, you’re still gone. Despite everything, I still wasn’t enough. I never got to tell you how much you meant to me. I never got to tell you how much I care about you. I never got to repeat the words you said to me that night.

I love you.

 

 

Germ Magazine guest author
… is a contributing guest author for Germ, which means the following criteria (and then some) have been met: possessor of a fresh, original voice; creator of fresh, original content; genius storyteller; superlative speller; fantastic dancer; expert joke teller; handy with a toolbox; brilliant at parties; loves us as much as we love them.

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