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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Savory to the Taste (07/26/12)

TITLE: What Wasn't Taught in Mother's Kitchen
By Laura Manley


The howling wind banged the storm shelter door against its frame jolting Belle awake with her heart pounding. As creepy and dark as the storm shelter was, it was a palace next to where she had come from. Oh, it wasn’t the living conditions she was escaping from; she had been very comfortable. No, what she couldn’t take any longer was the abuse from her mother’s latest husband.

The scrawny little twelve-year old pulled the fragmented curtain up over her shoulders she used for a blanket. She formed the book bag of clothes she had escaped with into a make-shift pillow. Some day she was going to live in a real house again but where people didn’t hurt her.

Up until Hank had arrived on the scene, it was just Belle and her mother. They did everything together from packing Belle’s school lunch to making nightly dinners. Her mother was a great cook and had taught Belle to appreciate every aspect of a meal. Belle set a table that would please the likes of kings and queens.

Belle’s frail mother had also taught her daughter to savor the taste of her food. She always told Belle the first thing about cooking was to learn to not only please the palate, but to please the eye.

“If you don’t have a pleasin’ dish to look at, it ain’t gonna taste as good,” Belle’s mother would say. Belle anxiously waited to help her mother cook her next creation; scrubbing vegetables, peeling potatoes, even doing the dishes was okay by Belle, just so long as she could learn. She stored those creations and memories into her memory bank so she could one day re-live those days with her mother.

Belle shook her head to get those memories out of her head. Yes, she was hungry and the thought of her mama’s cooking was torture. But her anger toward her mother was stronger than her need for food. Why hadn’t she protected her from the monster she called a husband?

Hank had crept into Belle’s bedroom since she was ten years old. Three days before when he came into her room she had refused to do as he asked. He kicked her in the back with such force that it still hurt. That was the day she started planning her escape.

As she lay on the cold foundation of the storm cellar, she set out a plan for the next morning. When she had left the house, she knew Hank would be looking for her. She remembered the storm shelter in the old Lambert home. Anything was better than her bedroom which held nothing but bad memories. She hated even entering the room she and her mother had so lovingly decorated in her favorite color…pink. Now she despised the color and the room because of what it represented.

She noticed a ray of sunlight coming from a crack in the storm cellar door. It was time to make her move. She gathered her book bag full of clothes and she followed the sunlight to the outside.

Belle devised a course that would keep her away from the route her step-dad took to work. The steep hill up to the main road would become her demise if she wasn’t careful. As she readied her eyes for the brightness of a new day, she made her way out of the shelter.
It took Belle some time to maneuver the hill. With each cautious step, she watched for the familiar car with her step-dad behind the wheel. Each time a car passed, she hid until finally, she climbed the last few feet.

Belle had passed the Fire Station across the street for years while walking to school. But today, it had a different look. She checked both directions and when there was a clear path, she made a beeline across the busy road directly to the Fire Station.

Belle ran up the flight of stairs. She instinctively knew that behind that door would be someone to help her. As she stood there with heart pounding, the aroma of food cooking brought instant memories of her mother’s kitchen. ‘Enough,’ she thought. Suddenly, the steel door flung open with great force.

Without thinking and in almost a whisper, the frightened little girl said… “I’m here to tell on my daddy.” Belle could tell by the kindness in the firefighter’s face that she had come to the right place… she felt safe for the first time in two years.

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This article has been read 398 times
Member Comments
Member Date
pam Leitermann08/02/12
All I can say is I want MORE! Very very good I loved it.
Ellen Carr 08/03/12
This is a very moving story and also very confronting. You've told it well. How sad to know that this is true for so many. Thank you for telling it.
Marita Vandertogt08/04/12
Excellent writing!
C D Swanson 08/05/12
Thnak you for this powerful and well executed story.

It was well written and touched my heart with sadness. Yet, I was thrilled at the ending when the little girl finally found help from the terror that was being inflicted upon her nightly.

So sad to know this really goes on...I pray for all of those in this situation that the Lord brings them to safety.

Excellent and thought provoking.

God Bless~
Amy Michelle Wiley 08/05/12
Very powerful story and you had some great writing elements. However, my red ink is to suggest even stronger showing and not as much telling. You have a lot of back story where you tell us about things that happened instead of showing us what happened. I also got confused about when the sequencing was and where we were in the timeline of the flash back, since it was sort of switching between flashback and backstory. Send me a message if you want even more detailed feedback. But all that said, I think this is a great story.
Helen Curtis08/05/12
This is an excellent story; I, too, lament that for many it is not just fiction but reality.

You have a great knack for suspense; I was hooked right from the start.

May I offer a couple of 'red ink' spots? The first is just a sentence structure thing:

". . . pulled the fragmented curtain up over her shoulders she used for a blanket."

This should probably be,

". . . pulled the fragmented curtain she used for a blanket up over her shoulders."

The only other thing I was a little confused about was the storm shelter. Did the Lamberts live in the same street? Did they know she was there? Perhaps the word "sneak" or something like this would let the reader know that Belle was hiding there.

The other option might be to give no information at all about the storm shelter; just leave it that she's in one, but whose it is is irrelevant to the storyline and therefore needs no explanation.

Overall I truly enjoyed this story and would certainly read more of Belle's story. Well done, great job!
Deborah Engle 08/05/12
You've written a moving story. The first sentence of the second paragraph confused me, and I had to reread it to sort it out. Other than that, it is a compelling read.
Myrna Noyes08/05/12
In reading your sobering and compelling story I see that you have a true flair for writing. Keep up the good work!

As far as "red ink," I would say I agree with the person who suggested "...the fragmented curtain she used for a blanket up over her shoulders," is a better way of structuring that sentence.

I look forward to enjoying more of your Challenge entries and watching you grow further as a writer! :)
Loren T. Lowery08/06/12
You write in a very compelling manner which leads the reader to know how it all will be resolved. This scenario is all too familiar to me. I liked the honest way you portrayed the mother, calling her frail which is a good foreshadowing of why she didn't do more to protect her child; and possibly why Hank also saw her as easy prey. So much of the story is yet to be told and you certainly have the writing skills to tell it. Great job!
Sarah Elisabeth 08/06/12
Such a tough topic to tackle. You did so in a sensitive way. I couldn't help but wonder, though, why she didn't go to her mother for help...or perhaps she did?

Much of my "red ink" has already been noted, so I'll just say keep writing and growing!
lynn gipson 08/06/12
Laura, this is just so touching and moving and kept me right up to the very end when Belle was in the safe place you took her too. I have no red ink because it looked great to me and I am not an expert. I loved this and would love to read more/ excellent!

God Bless, Lynn
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 08/06/12
Wow this is an intense story. You did a marvelous job with it. I could feel my heart pounding, the more I read. You managed to weave the topic throughout it as well. I think this is well-written and a tear-jerker.
Noel Mitaxa 08/06/12
You have opened up some real warmth that cracked by some painful reality and kept us in the mindset of your MC. Just a couple of slightly awkward phrasing have been noted, but in your line "a palace next to.." would read better as "a palace compared to..."
And "Hank had crept into her room" would carry more impact as "Hank had been creeping into her room..."
But these are minor adjustments to a very compelling read. Well done.
Verna Cole Mitchell 08/07/12
Your story carries excellent suspense, and I liked the ending very much. I thought you handled a tough subject with delicacy.
Jody Day 08/07/12
This is a serious subject that you handled sensitively. There is quite alot of telling vs. showing, but that takes practice. You've come to the right place. Compelling writing! Keep it up:)