These entries from July'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 "July Writing Challenge."
The first thing that caught my eye was gold. Gold, glinting off the spun hay that littered the empty barn like wildflowers. Gold, slanting through the cracks and glitches of the old, abandoned building. Gold, exploding from her hair in all directions, psychedelic, enchanting, lovely.
She was the embodiment of the perfect summer girl. Tan legs, packed with muscle and length, tucked up against her. Bright green eyes, the color of dew on the grasses, hidden behind closed lids. Long, tangled, golden hair, a country Rapunzel in her spacious, empty kingdom. She was exuberating warmth. She was a drop of sunlight. She was a faded Polaroid found in the hidden bottom of a vintage jewelry box. A hushed whisper. A secret. She was already a memory, living in the now.
I must have been standing completely still, intoxicated by the sight of pure radiance, for mere seconds, before a clear, slightly husky voice rang through the dilapidated barn.
“Well, are you going to join me, or just stand there awkwardly and ruin the ambience?”
I blushed, and took a few gangly, uncoordinated trips towards her. She was sitting on a hay bale with her back up against the stall, hanging her magical hair down the rotting boards, basking in the afternoon sunlight. I hopped up on the bale and sat cross-legged facing her. She opened one piercing jade eye.
“Colt, darling, must you sit there miserably? Why not join me?”
Her use of my childhood nickname, given to my too long legs in particular, made a shiver go through me. It had been so long since she last called to me from the loft in this very barn, back when it was up and standing. Thirteen years. And look at how everything had changed.
But she was still predominantly the same. Bossy. Wild. Open and free.
“What are you doing?” My voice sounded stupid even to my ears. I was a mess around her.
Her response was to grab my hand and give it a yank. I cautiously shifted so our legs mirrored each other.
“Now lean your head back,” she chided, and I tilted my head so the Oklahoma sun caught my pupils just right. I shut my eyes.
The board jammed into the back of my neck. The hay was poking all sorts of places it shouldn’t have been poking. Our knees were knocked together and I was instantly aware of every single nerve I owned from my patella down. But I was entrapped in the sun’s enthralling, awakening hold. It shot through my veins like shimmering heroin, warming my entire body, sending tranquility up to my brain. Every task I still had to do, every paper I had to write, every test I had to study for was buried underneath the simple thoughts of my entrancement.
The sun was lovely. And she was lovely. And the day was suddenly pure with the innocence of golden streams of light and eyes the color of mint in the summer sun.
It’s Friday again and Violet is humming a slow paced song as she opens the window of her minivan. It’s Friday again and she laughs to herself as the buildings and the grayness and all those serious faces fade away.
It’s Friday again and her lungs fill with fresh air and happiness as she approaches that old stable hidden behind a hill. It’s Friday again and her feet feel that downhill that is just too familiar and too negligent but causes her heart to catch a slower pace and her serious expression to soften.
It’s Friday again and a short girl is laying in that same old stable she used to play in when she was a child, and cry when she was a mad teenager, and now, when she has a job and a son and just too little time for herself. It’s Friday again and she finds her little pieces of peace and bliss and she hangs onto them and maintains them until it’s Friday again…
The science textbooks and the research of men rooting from centuries behind us claim that we have five senses, but I always end puzzled. There is the bitter, salty taste of tears on my tongue, a stale, abandoned aroma of childhood memories in the stable surrounding me, the rough texture of the straw beneath my fingertips, the faint echo of love-drawn birds greeting one another, and the fading sun over the horizon as if to say goodbye to an old friend he hasn’t seen in ages.
But one thing I’ve come to find over these ‘five senses,’ these components that supposedly complete us; they could never express the shattering of my heart, not physical but physical enough to rip my hope to shreds. They can’t represent the tape of his life slipping away playing in an endless loophole through my clouded eyes.
They cannot process the touch of his warm heart, or hear the sweet symphony of his embrace that did nothing but whisper sweet nothings into my ear. Maybe it’s the taste of his lips that I never quite experienced but still understood like it had been my own, that threw these senses off. They are the student in the rear of your easiest class, asking the simplest of all questions but no matter how explained, they can never quite get it. Like the smell that was his to own, the aroma of a sweet haven coated in home.
The wood structured around me fakes a protective bond when really all I can see are boards of hopeless ambitions that have yet to fail me. Almost as if the metaphorical ties of my life could ever be represented by inanimate objects and fictional characters, there is a cracked gate across the structure’s opening. It’s outlived the lifespan, but still stands as if it still belongs.
Maybe the senses were wrong.
Lauren de la Torre
The Girl Who Lived
I watch the dust dance through the wind and settle, as I take a long, deep breath of the clean country air. My soft blonde hair brushes my arm as I rise from a pen full of scratchy golden hay and hop over the long, wooden panel that holds it in place. Slowly, I drift outside and listen to the hum of bees and the quiet little chirps coming from the tops of painted trees. Oh, how those trees are full of beautiful, bright strokes, the colors forming some of the saddest pictures.
I hear the wind whisper a soft lullaby, as I do every day. I glance at the sky, seeing his face imprinted in the puffy, white clouds.
“Eva, it wasn’t your fault.” His voice stretches through the emptiness surrounding me as I wipe a river of tears from my eyes. My voice aches, silently in my throat, to tell him that no, it was my fault. My existence in this strange, unforgiving world has ended up killing everyone I have loved – my father, my mother, and my brother. With the small amount of energy I have, I stand and search the sky, hoping to find answers hidden within the clouds.
I gaze at the paintings I have decorated the trees with. The first tree is a picture of my tall, strawberry blonde haired mother, whose nose was like a hill, and whose smile made the whole world smile back. The next is of my father, whose solemn face simply proved that “looks can be deceiving”. After all, the little I can remember about him was his constant roar of laughter echoing through the small apartment I grew up in. The last tree, my favorite, is my brother, who had the most recent death of them all. His hair is a bird’s nest of red and his eyes are tired, repeating the same phrase I have heard many times before, “Don’t worry, Eva. Don’t worry.”
Every day, I wish I could join my family again, but I never have the courage. I’m just trying to hold on and keep going, because I know they would want me to live. Yet, all I can think about now is how my life is more of a death, and my death, another life.