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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: The Book Store/Library (06/03/10)

TITLE: Paper Fortress
By Holly Hoell


The slap came hard and fast across her cheek. “I heard you were talking about me,” Pam snapped!

A girl who had been sitting nearby got up and left as a group of girls surrounded Monica.

She was helpless and exposed, standing there crying like a coward, as they spewed a chorus of hateful words at her. The harsh words and mean looks were like nails of rejection and insecurity being hammered into her heart. Monica couldn’t believe this was happening. The girl who sat next to her in English class told her Pam was mad at her, but she didn’t think anything would come of it, she hardly knew her.

When they finally left, what remained was not the same happy-go-lucky person that had once graced the hallways. After the attack, Monica sat on the dingy blue carpet of a makeshift stage, crying. There was no one to comfort her.

A new dimension was now cracked open in her life. Fear greeted her with its cold icy touch of perceived helplessness and hopelessness. She was trapped in a place where danger was immanent. The school was different now. Dark and dreary, it was no longer a place to learn and make friends, but a battle ground filled with hidden dangers.

Monica exited the common area, to the hallways, leaving the smells of tater tots and cheeseburgers behind. She was desperately seeking to find a place she could retreat to; away from the lunch room, away from where all the girls would stand around and talk, and away from where they could get to her. She roamed the hallway searching for a safe spot. While agonizing over it, she saw the perfect place. It looked open and welcoming; she entered in. One thing was for sure, it was quiet.

Being in the library was normal business at school; no one would know she was hiding there. Her only other option, a hallway, would be troublesome. Students weren’t supposed to be in the hallways; anyone sitting alone, on the floor, would stick out like a sore thumb. There was the occasional couple that would go that route to neck, but that was far and away from her present situation; it wasn’t like she had boyfriends lined up to date her. She knew, in the library, she would not be interrogated; there were no questions to be asked about why she was there.

The library became her haven. At lunch time she would head straight there and stay till it was time for the next class. Few people went there, and those that did certainly weren’t looking for a fight. They were too busy doing reports, projects, or just lost in whatever they were reading. There was no interaction, only the sound of the occasional turn of a page.

For Monica, the library was also a fortress. The large bookshelves offered her protection. Being surrounded by them made her feel like she had stepped out of the chaos of loud chatter over the cafeteria tables, into another world. As if she was in a forest, surrounded with tall trees, hidden and protected by them. It was a serene atmosphere; there was nothing startling, just rows of books on the shelves.

Monica would sit down with a book and be lost the entire lunch period. Through the books, she was transported to any place she wanted to go, assuming the role of the bravest character. There was no limit to her escape. It was the oasis that she needed in order to transcend each day.

When she left, she would bring a book to class. Walking quickly to avoid any chance of an altercation, she would find her seat and bury herself in the story; not coming out until the teacher began talking. The book was her shield that she carried around with her. If she was busy reading, no one seemed to bother her; if they spoke to her, she could ignore them.

Each day she would go back to her Mecca, the library, where she would seek safety and arm herself. Had she only known of the real fortress, the protector and friend that would never leave nor forsake her, she might not have cowered from those girls; thus becoming much like an unopened book in the library. Prayer might have been her covering and she may have armed herself with scripture to bolster her confidence in Him, who she belonged to.

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This article has been read 373 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Patricia Turner06/10/10
Paper fortresses (books) seem to be very common retreats, particularly for the very young who feel they have no place to turn. Your last paragraph said it, but I'd like to have seen you show your MC finding the truth herself. A bittersweet tale. Good writing though with believable characters.
Seema Bagai 06/11/10
I could relate to the main character in this piece. The ending seemed a bit flat compared to the rest. Maybe including some of the girl's thoughts would help. Good work.
Christine Ramey06/13/10
This was an interesting read! I loved the way you used the play on words a lot! I could picture her hidding in the library and ducking as the people came in. That is how I related to it. Very good though. The first sentence...WOW!
Verna Cole Mitchell 06/15/10
You have a great beginning to your story and it's right on topic. You did a good job of picturing the library.
Dusti (Bramlage) Zarse06/16/10
I thought you had a very relatable MC, and your beginning certainly grabbed my attention. I have a couple preference suggestions, which you can take or leave as you will. The beginning was action-based and definitely caught my attention. I would have liked to have seen that carried throughout the story. Maybe other library visitors comment about the MC hiding between the shelves, or the librarian talks to her about seeing her every day. Just a thought!
Rachel Phelps06/16/10
Your beginning set the tone for a very intense story. I wanted to know more about what caused the conflict to begin with. I liked the message in this.