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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Embarrassment (01/12/12)

TITLE: And the Flame Died Out
By Helen Curtis


Anna nestled herself into the warm, soft sand of the dunes. The saltbush created the perfect hiding place for her gangly, pre-teen frame. This was her place of comfort, the one piece of land on the face of the earth where she was just her. Usually it was enough, but not tonight.

The wind was gentle and quiet, as if trying to bring comfort, but to no avail. Anna blinked as it toyed with the tears balancing on the end of her long, dark lashes. Her emotions mimicked the rhythm of the waves below; anger crashed then ebbed away, followed by embarrassment, creeping up slowly and lingering on the shore of her soul. Driftwood and dead sea kelp lay on the watermark, a permanent reminder of the waves; in Anna's heart the evening's events were permanently marked by the shattered remains of a trust, once strong and pure, now destroyed.

The dinner party had been eagerly awaited by the entire family; the good, (unchipped) crockery and polished cutlery were to be brought out of storage in honour of their guests. Friends of the family since before her birth, in April 1948, Anna delighted in the company of the Baldwin's and made special efforts to look as ladylike as possible. She blushed slightly as she thought of Harry, their eldest son, who was certain to be attending with his parents. Anna had begged for extra rations of water and shampoo from her mother, hoping this may tame the wiry mop she had inherited as hair, and had spent an hour cleaning the grime from her tomboy hands. The one dress she owned, but rarely wore, she had pressed herself; clumsily manouevring the cumbersome, stove plate-heated iron had taken great effort and time, but Anna didn't mind. The Baldwin's were worth the effort.

At last they arrived and the group of friends were soon enjoying their meal of cornish pasties and her mum's award-winning tomato sauce, followed by the long-awaited steamed raspberry jam pudding and thickened cream. The laughter warmed Anna's heart; they did not have much, but this night she felt richer than any of the farmers' daughters who paraded their coiffed hair-dos through town. Even the thought of them snubbing their perfect little noses at the shabby, oversized clothes she wore - the vast majority of which were passed down to her from her brothers - didn't dampen her spirits that night. She could not recall feeling more content than she did at that moment, sitting at the table with her beloved family and friends.

And then it happened. Out of nowhere dark tendrils of dread squeezed her from her reverie as she glimpsed a book in her mother's hands.

That's not..?! Anna's heart started to thump; the crimson tide of embarrassment crawled over her entire body. Every eye was on her face; smiling, laughing, mocking as every word from her personal journal was read out loud.

In what seemed to be her worst nightmare, Anna's private thoughts had become the evening's 'entertainment,' and there was nothing she could do about it. For what felt like an eternity Anna listened as her innermost thoughts were blabbed and bandied about; every new page brought with it fresh shades of rouge to her cheeks, now stinging from the heat contained within them.

Every private thought, every brutally honest feeling she had ever wanted to confide in a longed-for but never-produced sister was spoken out loud. Her mother didn't even have the sensibility to censor out a long-held dream that one day, she might indeed become Mrs. Harry Baldwin.

Why, look everyone! She's even practised her signature!

Anna was numb.

When they finally tired of hearing the ramblings of a 12-year-old prepubescent girl Anna quietly stood and retrieved her written thoughts from her mother, and unobtrusively walked away.

She knew she should go back; the Baldwin's would have retired by now and her mother would be getting worried.

Let her worry! Anna 's pain-wrecked voice carried far out to sea on the tail of the wind, spurred on by ashes that flew from the small, insignificant fire lit by one whose soul had been made to feel equally small and significant.

The journal's pages crackled and distorted as they singed then burnt into oblivion.

Never again to be spoken of.

And the flame died out, never again to be relit.

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This article has been read 820 times
Member Comments
Member Date
C D Swanson 01/19/12
This was well written and held my interest throughout.

I felt so sorry for the child...I cannot imagine a mother being that insensitive to her child. It made me cringe, and I felt embarrassed for the MC.

Nicely done. God Bless~
C D Swanson 01/19/12
Looking at my comment, I realized I didn't add after:
"I was embarrassed for the MC" - to be moved and feel such emotions in a story, means the writer did an excellent job. And you have with this piece.

God Bless~
annie keys01/19/12
An emotionally moving story! I loved the part about her eyelashes and the hiding in the sand dunes; well done, I felt like I was a bystander, watching the story unfold.

My heart absolutely ached for young Anna; to be so humiliated by your own parent. Powerful story, well written.

Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 01/20/12
Oh what a heart-tugging story. The beginning drew me in for I knew for Anna to go to her secret hiding place something awful must have happened.

I was surprised when I realized this was taking place in the post WW II era. After I got over my surprise, I felt it added a bit of charm to the story.

I couldn't imagine a mother doing such a thing to her child then being worried about her where-a-bouts. But unfortunately there are mothers who just don't have a clue as well as ones who would enjoy tormenting her daughter. I could picture this as part of a novel. Anna would have lived an interesting life and I could picture several chapters of her escapades.
Hiram Claudio01/20/12
Like others, I too was shocked that the MC's villan in this story was ... her mother. The writing really drew the reader into this young lady's pain and seething outrage.

This is an excellent piece of writing!
Theresa Santy 01/20/12
I sincerely hope this is not a true story. I was mortified when the mother read the journal out loud!

This story was very well told, loved your descriptive phrasing. I absolutely adore the sea, and you nailed that scene, and you made me hungry when you described the feast.

Lovely, super-fantastic piece.
Terry R A Eissfeldt 01/20/12
Once being a 12 year old girl with deep and passionate feelings, I connected with your MC.
Wonderfully written!
Linda Goergen01/21/12
I too pray this was not a true story! What a pitiful excuse of a mother, that would use her daughterís private journal for entertainment. I would call that child abuse as it certainly would scar a child for life and make her mistrust ever sharing her feelings again! The embarrassment should have been the motherís...but she evidently had no sense of proper feelings! Hard enough weathering being a twelve year old and all the changes going on within her mind and body without having to endure something that humiliating! This was certainly well written for the readerís emotions are definitely stirred as they feel the embarrassment and pain right along with Anna!
Verna Cole Mitchell 01/21/12
Good writing provokes strong feelings. So you can be sure you wrote well. I wanted to pour the mother's sauce in her own lap.
Nancy Bucca01/21/12
Boy can I relate to your MC! Not that anyone has ever read my personal notes out loud, but you did in my POV do a great job describing the embarrassment a person may feel to be betrayed in such a way.
Very well done.
Colin Swann01/23/12
Interesting, but I think most teenagers would have grabbed their diaries off their mum if they were so insensity and stupid to try and reveal private thoughts.

The punctuation was a tad overdone in places.

But your descriptions were great!
Rachel Phelps01/23/12
The descriptions and emotions were spot on here. Really lovely wordsmithing at work. I was confused as to what would prompt the mother to do such a thing, and as to why Anna didn't stop her. The questions kept me from fully entering the story and experiencing it. Still enjoyed the descriptions.
Leola Ogle 01/23/12
Oh, poor, poor Anna! Being a 12 year old that kept diaries, I can feel every emotion this dear child felt at having her private thoughts and longings displayed so callously! Excellent writing! Good job! I hope this does well! God bless!
Noel Mitaxa 01/26/12
Very engrossing material that exposes the emotions of your MC and evokes our own empathy for her. I hope it rates well.
Hiram Claudio01/26/12
Congratulations on a well deserved 2nd place ribbon.
Leola Ogle 01/26/12
Yay Helen! Congrats!
Judy Sauer 01/26/12
Helen, your story is full of well written descriptions. It made me feel as if I was Anna. Well done.

Congratulations on a well earned 2nd place ribbon.
C D Swanson 01/26/12
Congratulations on your win. God Bless~