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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Before and After (05/14/09)

TITLE: A Twisted Toast
By Sara Harricharan


I hid my tears in the bathroom of the church basement. No one would venture below with the bride’s last minute preparations taking place in the upstairs foyer. I had no reason to react, but only now my heart rebelled, throwing away scraps of common sense I offered, while destroying all semblance of sanity. The hurtful words spilled from my lips were matched with the looks of surprise, pain and finally, disgust.

Twelve years between us was a big gap for me. Alyssa had yet to acknowledge it. I had finally managed to sever the bond of sisterhood on the day I desperately wished it to be stronger and truer than ever. My stomach cramped and I willed the pain away, dabbing at my eyes while attempting to smile in the dimly lit mirror.

The tortured reflection caused another twist in the wretched knot within my chest. I exited, pushing away the complicated emotions. I could never forgive myself if I missed her wedding ceremony. Arriving late enough to cause a scene, I wriggled into an empty space among the stragglers in the back to watch the last bits of the ceremony.

Several hours later, the reception began. I stood with a glass of melted ice in one hand, hovering near the wall farthest from the hubbub. Chatter and smiles floated around me, just out of reach of my consciousness.

Eventually, people made speeches as I craved more drinks than healthy for my condition. I didn’t care what I swallowed as long as the pain froze. Even a split-second was enough to pull my mind together to pay tribute to the blissfully wedded couple.

“Shawnee!” Derek caught hold of my wrist, spinning me to the center of activity. “Cheers everyone! Speech! Let’s hear a speech from the big sis herself!”

I wobbled, struggling to keep my balance. The words streaming through my head were not censored and they spilled freely from my lips as the room grew quiet as Alyssa’s accusing eyes blazed bright.

She was waiting for me to ruin her moment. Again.

“Alyssa…um, congratulations little sis. Who would’ve guessed you’d be married before me?” Polite laughter echoed around the hall. “Thanks for your influence in my life. Before you came along, it was awesome being an only child and having the spotlight focused on my every breath. Life was perfect before you came along.” My hand tightened around the fragile glass stem. “After you, my life turned upside down. I traded pageants to spend afternoons at your speech therapy and band camp to learn sign language. I figured I’d gotten the world’s dumbest little sister.” My lower lip trembled, but the smile stayed in place.

Alyssa’s eyes begged me to be quiet, her calm demeanor melting before me. An uncomfortable silence filled the reception hall.

I ignored it.

“But you never gave up.” I took a deep breath. “It was your life and you took charge of it. When the doctors diagnosed you with words I couldn’t pronounce, your perseverance and God hauled you out. You didn’t care what others thought or what they said. I admired that about you.”

Alyssa’s eyes opened wide, sparkling with tears. Her fingers didn’t move…yet.

“Because of you-I learned to stand up for what I want…and what I believe in. You proved it didn’t matter what others thought about what need to be done-and you taught me ‘stuff’ that I’m can’t put into words.” The smile faded. “Congratulations again-I truly wish you all the best. You qualify to run as the world’s best little sister.”

I raised my glass in a toast.

When the cheers and drinks circled around, I slipped outside to watch from the windows. Her fingers flew in the air, her tiny face animated and glowing with a happiness I would never know. The glass snapped, clear slivers slicing through skin, producing red droplets to decorate my sea-green dress.

A dull pain. Both in my hand and stomach.

The white lab coat standing to the side of the green hedge made me grimace, the sleek limousine in the background.

“Shawnee, it’s time to go.”

The tag on his left shoulder read ‘Tennyson Medical Center’. Reluctantly, my feet carried me forward, to a new, distant future. “They found a cure?” I mocked, sidestepping his proffered arm.

“They found something.” Justin said quietly. “Did you tell Alyssa goodbye?”

I turned into the welcoming arms as the tears came swiftly and plentifully. “She won’t miss me.”


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This article has been read 821 times
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Catrina Bradley 05/25/09
I was with you right up to the end. ;) Now, of course, I'll be awake for hours puzzling over what is wrong with Shawnee. Good writing - as always your gave your MC lots of character in so few words.
Patricia Herchenroether05/25/09
You left me with soo many questions! Description of the MC's thoughts and emotions was excellent. But I need to know....help!
Mona Purvis05/25/09
I need a few more paragraphs please. Hmmm?
Betty Castleberry05/27/09
Rich characterization and well- written. I'm scratching my head a bit, too, although your explanation does help some. Kudos for this intriguing piece.
Myrna Noyes05/27/09
This was so intriguing and well-done, but...! You CAN'T just leave me hanging there at the end! Who's Justin? What is wrong with Shawnee, and what are they going to do to her at the Medical Center? Questions, questions! I want you to write more! :)
Loren T. Lowery05/27/09
Very intriguing and yes, I think a sequel is called for. I'm not too sure which sister I should most be concerned for!
Kristen Hester05/28/09
Very well written, but I was left with questions, too. It sounded like she was going back to a mental institution. Or was that an EMT because she cut herself on the glass? I want to know, too! Your characters are so deep and well described. I just wanted about 300 more words. Bravo!