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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Cousin(s) (05/22/08)

TITLE: First Cousin - Twice Vanished
By Lyn Churchyard


It was like a scene out of a B-Grade horror movie. The lightning flashed and the thunder rumbled just as my mother opened the front door, silhouetting the figure of a man on the front porch.

“G’day Kassey.” His scruffy beard made him appear even dirtier than he was.

I peered out from behind my mother and caught the smell of stale tobacco.

“What are you doing here Martin?” my mother didn’t seem too pleased to see him; whoever he was.

“I heard the old boy had died, and thought I’d come and see how my big sister was doing.”

Big sister? This man was my mother’s brother?

A movement in the shadows caught my eye and I realised there was a girl about my age standing behind him.

I smiled hesitantly and she smiled just as hesitantly back at me.

“Well I suppose you’d better come in.” My mother opened the door wider and stood aside.

“You remember my oldest girl, Alison, don’t you?”

Mum looked at the girl in surprise. “Martin, I haven’t seen you in twelve years. How could I remember a child I saw only once?”

Martin looked surprised. “Bin that long ‘as it?”

The girl stood nervously just inside the front door, unsure of her welcome.

“Why don’t you and Alison play a game or something in your bedroom?” It was obvious whatever my mother intended to say to her brother was not for our ears.

We sat on my bed, me at the head and this stranger at the foot.

“I... I didn’t know I had a cousin.” I said at last. Cousin! the word was only a hazy reality. “How come we’ve never met before?”

“We met once when we were about two or three; Dad told me on the way over here.”

“And we’ve never seen each other since then?”

Alison shook her head. “Weird huh.”

I leapt off the bed and dragged a photo album from the wardrobe. “Look at this,” I said, showing her a photo of two tiny girls standing together in a playpen. “Is this us?”

Alison nodded. “Yes, that’s us; mum has the same photo in her album.”

“I’ve always wondered who the second baby was. I mean, I knew that one was me.” I said pointing to the smaller of the two girls, but Mum never told me anything about you.”

Alison brushed the photo with a finger as if trying to remember something. “How old are you?”

“I’m thirteen.” I replied warming to her.

“I’m fourteen and I have three younger brothers and two younger sisters.”

Silence took over again as we both sought something to say.

“Um... so how come we never saw each other again?”

Alison shrugged. “We move around a lot. Dad isn’t very good at keeping a job for long.”

“So where are your mum and brothers and sisters?”

“They’re at home. My youngest brother is only a week old. Mum didn’t want to take him out in the cold.” Alison’s eyes took in my bookcase as she spoke. “You have all The Famous Five series,” she said excitedly.

I grinned, “You like The Famous Five?”

“Oh yes; I’ve read the series about ten times.”

I sat cross-legged on the bed facing her. “Who was your favourite character?”

“I like Anne. She’s quiet and shy, but when the others are in trouble, she forgets her fears and jumps right in.”

“My favourite is George,” I told her. “I wish my parents had called me Georgina.

For the next two hours, we – my newly discovered cousin and I – talked books, books and books. We both loved books about horses, we both loved stories about kids in boarding school. On and on, discovering so many similarities. But the biggest surprise was that Alison liked to write. I felt as if I’d found a soul mate. Then, as suddenly as the visit began, it was over.

I don’t know what my mother and Uncle Martin talked about, but he was very subdued when he poked his head in the door.

“C’mon, time we were going Ali, ya ma will be worrying about us.”

Alison stood and moved towards the door reluctantly.

“You will come again won’t you?” I asked desperately, not wanting to lose her again.

She smiled. “Sure I will.”

But she never did and I never saw my cousin again. I’ve often thought about her over the years, and even more so this past week.

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This article has been read 734 times
Member Comments
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Verna Cole Mitchell 05/29/08
You captured my interest at the very beginning and held it till the end in this well told story. What a shaame the cousins never met again.
Helen Murray05/29/08
A vignette well presented. Who knows, maybe it's not the end of the story.
Karen Wilber06/01/08
This has the ring of a true story because of the last line. If you ever send this off to be published you may want to change the last sentence because it won't have the context of the weekly writing challenge topic.

Good moods here - the B-grade horror movie, the nervousness, then the warmth and closeness. Lots of "show" in the pacing of the dialogue. I got engaged in the conversation to the point where I could see expressions (smiles, voices speeding up) that you didn't even write about. Well done.
Debbie Wistrom06/01/08
You wrote this story with heart and skill. Book lovers unite!
Sad ending, but it felt right.
Cheri Hardaway 06/01/08
Oh... I'm so sad for your loss. You did a great job of using dialog to tell the story. Maybe could use a few more commas, in places [but I have been accused of being comma-happy! =)]. I like how you used the photo and the books to bridge the gap. Blessings, Cheri
LauraLee Shaw06/01/08
I like this slice of life scene. The dynamic of this story was very very good. You portrayed the awkwardness of their meeting so well, building to the things the cousins had in common which sped the pace of the piece just right. Strong use of dialogue. Well done.
Sharlyn Guthrie06/02/08
You did a great job writing this sad cousin story, and engaging your reader. You illustrated well how quickly cousins, especially children, can often find things in common. I hope you can reconnect with this cousin someday.
Jan Ackerson 06/02/08
Super title, and really good job with the dialogue and dialect.

Some minor punctuation issues, and I thought the end fizzled a bit--maybe just ending with "But she never did..." would work better.

Estranged families make me sad. You did a good job with this.
Amy Michelle Wiley 06/02/08
You drew me in well to this snippet of a memory. Thanks for sharing it! I agree that the last sentence felt like a fizzle, but the rest of the story was great.
Marlene Austin06/02/08
Beautifully told! How precious to have a "fond" memory when it's the only one to have. :]
Joshua Janoski06/03/08
I really hope that you can reunite with this long lost cousin. I enjoyed hearing your story about her. You have a great conversational feel to your stories that makes them easy to just sit down and read. Good job!
Lollie Hofer06/03/08
Excellent story-telling. Great dialogue. Intrigue. Well done in all areas. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this well-written story.
Betty Castleberry06/04/08
This sure sounds like a true story. If it is, I hope you can reunite some day. I enjoyed reading about these cousins. Nicely done.
LaNaye Perkins06/04/08
You did a fine job on telling this story. I enjoyed it and I do hope you will get to see this cousin again someday. Well done!
Shirley McClay 06/04/08
Love the title!I was hoping for a happy ending... so sad. I agree that .. but she never did... would have been a stronger ending. Great writing.
Sara Harricharan 06/04/08
I love the title! It does fit perfectly with the' twice vanished'. I wish the two cousins had been able to meet again, I felt a little said for Alison, she'd just found a friend, one that she'd never get to see again. Great job! ^_^
Dee Yoder 06/04/08
Good story! I like your title, too; it hints at the mystery of the lost cousin. The characters have good definitions, too.
Beth LaBuff 06/04/08
Great work on this… I was captivated throughout. Your title is perfect. I was sad you never saw your cousin again.
Joy Faire Stewart06/04/08
Excellent opening paragraph and the rest didn't disappoint. It sounds like a true story and I enjoyed that.
Peter Stone06/04/08
What a sad story. You had me scanning between the lines to see what mysterious circumstances surrounded the tension between the girl's parents.
Aaron Morrow06/04/08
Nice work Lynne, I thought you did a great job on the dialogue. I really enjoyed the story and you built the stress between the mom and her brother up very smoothly from the get go. Great job!
Aaron Morrow06/05/08
Congrats on Level 1st place, Lynne! Outstanding Work!!!
Cheri Hardaway 06/05/08
1st Place, Lynne! Awesome job! Congratulations! Blessings, Cheri
Peter Stone06/06/08
First Place Lynne! Congratulations, and off to Advanced with you.
Helen Dowd06/09/08
Right on! You deserved FIRST! This was a most delightful story. I didn't want it to end. Your word pictures of the two cousins just put me right in the room with them, sitting on the bed, looking at the album, discussing books....The only disapointing thing was, they never saw each other again. But then, that should have been expected by your title...Great writing...Helen