These entries from November'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 "November Writing Challenge."
The Whisper of the Wind
The wind blew the window open, and with a quiet whistle the candle let its flame go to a small withering wisp of smoke. Outside a rogue snowflake gently caressed the windowpane before melting away to nothing. Claire bounded through the door at this moment and watched the death of the flame and the snowflake in silence. No one else seemed to notice. Claire made it her business to acknowledge as much as she could, to make everything feel special. She loved this house, but it was full of holes and could make you so cold and creak at night, scaring her. Really it was her imagination that scared her; she was always wondering ‘What if?’
Despite this heavyhearted way about her, she still had a lightness that people found infectious. Claire was kind to everyone and everything and was filled with magic and spirit. Her aunts declared her ‘Special.’ Her mother called her ‘Precious.’ The girls at school called her nasty names. She knew it was jealousy, but it never helped in the thick of the moment. Claire looked at the candle and wanted to draw from the strength of all these things around her, to rise up and seize the day. But Claire wasn’t fiery enough; she would worry about hurting someone, even if they were hurting her.
Claire sat quietly in her room. The storm had died down, and now the silence was deafening, her heartbeat thumping in her ears. She knew she had to face the outside world, but she felt safe in the house or out in the garden amongst the trees and the little creatures that also called the place home. As soon as she had to cross the road towards the school, the magic seemed to disappear, the colour seemed to drain from the world, and she felt the sadness weigh heavy in her heart, pulling her smile down to a frown. Her family had no idea. They thought Claire was happy and loved by everything and everyone, and who was she to burst that particular bubble. Despite the nastiness of a few, Claire was super kind to everyone, but she felt hated because of the darkness spread by a few. She let the shadow creep into her and cover her heart, strangling it. She only felt peace return when she stepped over the doorway of her house, especially if her mother had just baked her famous peach pie. Just the smell could transport Claire away, and she often wished it would. With each bite of the pie, she would build a little more to the daydream place in her head that she hoped would one day be her forever home. In this world everything sparkled, everyone cheered you on, people were happy for each other.
Today her mother was not even home, so there was definitely no peach pie. Claire looked at the calendar hanging on a rusty screw. Tomorrow would be her birthday. She had pretended, yet again, that she did not want a party. She just feared the room staying as empty as it was now, and loneliness was echoing around her, whirling around the room, snaking around her skin, goosebumps developing — it becoming harder to swallow. The wind seemed to whisper, “Follow me, follow me…….” Claire spun around and around until she hit the floor, letting the sound of the wind wash over her. The clock in the hall chimed to show it was midnight. Claire sat up with a jolt. It meant it was 16th May. Her birthday. She paused to hear if her mother had come home. All she could hear was the wind, still swirling and still beckoning her outside. She peeped through the window and could see there was more snow on the ground. She giggled with joy; fancy snow in May! What a treat. She pulled on her scarf and gloves and ran outside, heading for the woods, following the wind. The snow got heavier and heavier and quickly covered the little girl’s footsteps. 16th May. Claire’s birthday… and also the day she disappeared.
“Come on! Come on, Lucy!” My brother pauses for only a moment, stamping his foot. “Lucy, come on!”
“I’m coming! It’s not my fault you have longer legs.” I hike up my dress and chase after him. We trundle down the steps of our house, nearly pushing over Miss Grundle as she sweeps the steps.
Snowflakes crunch under our feet as we dash across the street, wandering around carts and buggies set up for the holiday. My brother waves to someone from school, and I say hello to Mr. Hoopler, who’s selling bags of chestnuts and peanuts.
“Where are you children running off to so quickly?” he asks. I just wave and keep running.
We cross the bridge over Maple Lake and enter the east side of town. It’s just as spirited as the west, decorated with hollies and lights and stars. My brother pauses by a shop window, and I stand next to him, gasping for breath. We stare at the candle-lit interior, drooling over cakes and pies and cookies. Finally, my brother drags his eyes away, and we stumble back into the street.
All around me, people are laughing and dancing and singing. Snatches of different carols wander beside my ear; songs of saints and angels and cold nights spent by a fire. For once, everyone is happy. We’re all excited to be here.
We dash into a crowd of shoppers, and for a moment, all I can follow is my brother’s red scarf trailing behind him. The wind is cold and deafening, but everyone seems so lighthearted. Instead of cursing our unruliness, they smile down at us. Perhaps they can remember a time when they were this joyful over a feast.
“Charlie, slow down!” I can start to see him now as we pull out of the crowd, and – SMACK – my brother stops, and I crash into him.
“There it is,” he whispers.
I look up. Standing before us is the most wonderful sight, the one all the people have been talking about.
Charlie turns to me. “Do you have it?”
I nod, and from my coat pocket I pull out a card. Charlie and I each made one. It isn’t much, but they all said, if you’re going to see him, bring a gift…
Everything turned silent then. We stood there, as if debating whether to go in. Soon we’d have to go back home, because tonight was the celebration.
“Do you think it’s true?” Charlie asks quietly. “What they’re saying about him?”
“Why wouldn’t it be?”
“Because, if it was… and we met him…”
“Then we can always keep hope.” I take a step forward, and cautiously, I open the door.
Later they would say noblemen came to meet him, but while we were there, only a few people remained. We watched as they each gave him a gift: toys and food and clothes. They left looking to the world in awe, as if they’d been born again.
“Hello.” A woman, sitting in a pile of hay, waved at us. This time, I shied away, but Charlie stepped forward and bowed like father usually does when greeting people.
“My name is Charlie, and this is my sister Lucy.”
She smiles softly. “It is a pleasure to meet you both.”
Charlie straightens and steps back. “We’ve come to, uh, to-“
“We’ve come to give him a gift,” I say. Charlie nods in agreement.
“I thank you both,” she says.
We step forward. The little boy is beautiful. Rosy cheeks, and a tuft of blond hair so light it’s nearly white. Blue eyes like the day-time sky. Charlie kneels in front of them, and I do too.
“Um… we couldn’t bring much,” he says, and he holds up his card, and I hold mine up too.
“It’s very thoughtful of you.” She takes them from us and carefully opens them. “These are beautiful. Did you make them yourself?”
I smile at the little boy, and he smiles back, letting out a little laugh. I would always remember it.
“If I may ask,” I say, still staring at the boy. “What is his name?”
The woman looks at him too. “Nicolas.”