Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Time-consuming (02/24/11)
TITLE: Everything Went Dark
By Megan Starbuck
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He wasn't any better; he called me crazy just like they had.
Maybe I did act a little weird. I didn't know any better. I had no woman that I could ask how I was supposed to behave, and from past experience, I'd learned not to trust a man to tell me how to act like a woman. I am a woman, so doesn't that mean I'm always acting like a woman if I'm acting like myself? Even women don’t know how to act like women. So I wouldn’t have listened to them either.
Anyway, he made his attic my room, and the more I was in there, the crazier I got. I did things I never thought I would. I did things I didn't want to do. I felt I had no choice. I just wanted to be free, to see other people, to see the world. All I got was his attic. And a few hours in other rooms of his house. The crazier I got, the more he made me stay in his attic. He locked me up and hired an attendant to keep watch over me. He didn't have time for me himself.
I'd known I wasn't perfect from the beginning, but I didn't think anyone was. He wasn't. But I thought we could've learned to love each other. I always hoped he'd wake up and realize his mistake. But I slowly went crazier and crazier. All I wanted was sunlight. Not through a closed window...not even an open one. I wanted full, strong sunlight. My chalky lungs burned and ached for fresh air.
I could only sneak out of the musty room at night when my attendant was passed out from drinking. They think I'm the mad woman; I think she is.
One of the nights I snuck out, I saw her. No, not my attendant. It was Jane. And she was perfect—at least for him. I'll admit it: I was jealous. I wanted to be like her. She wasn't fancy, but she was fine.
So I wanted to be rid of her.
When I heard about the wedding, I was appalled to say the least—but not just for my sake. But also for hers...she didn't know.
I tried to destroy the dress. Nothing worked. But the day they were to wed, Jane found out. She found out about me. And, God bless that girl, she left him. She left him because of me.
Did she have a smidge of concern for how I might feel? No one really had before—at least not in a way that sacrificed as much as Jane did. I felt a little guilty; I was all that was in their way.
And I wanted to be like her. I was nasty—evil even. I was mad. Mad Bertha.
And he would never love me. Not like he loved Jane.
No one would.
I wanted to be like her. She left because of me—for me? So I'd leave because of her—for her.
The attic was consuming my time, my life. I could make it better for everyone. What did I have to lose? Surely she'd come back. And when she did, I didn't want to be in the way anymore.
I lit a match. I lit the house. I lit the attic. I hadn't seen so much light for years! I climbed the roof.
Wouldn't you know it, that dear, confusingly faithful and unfaithful man followed me there. He tried to stop me. Now he wanted to rescue me. Now, after years of killing me slowly, he wanted to save me from death. I had been closer to death in his attic than on his roof. I couldn't let him save me.
But I also couldn't let him die trying.
He had to live for Jane. She was going to come back. She was.
The rush of wind blew my hair above my head. The flames danced in my eyes and warmed my face like the sun hadn't done in years.
A thought occurred to me: he won't live here if the place is burnt. How will Jane find him? What will she do when she sees it? Will she know where to go? She has to. She has to!
The solid ground grew closer—closer, closer—until it kept me from falling further.
And everything went dark.
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