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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Personal Peace (06/01/06)

TITLE: Secret Place
By Corinne Smelker


He manhandled her roughly, opening the door to the closet with one hand, dragging her by her hair with the other. “Get in there you stupid child,” her father yelled.
“Good riddance,” her mother taunted. The door slammed, she heard the lock click, and she was enveloped in darkness.

Sobbing, Jackie crawled into a corner, away from the shoes, the stinky boots and old umbrellas that scattered the floor. How many times had she been banished to this coat closet only God knew; she had given up keeping count. Whenever Daddy had too much to drink, or whenever Mommy was strung out, which seemed to be more and more often lately.

How long she would stay in this prison was entirely up to her parents. Jackie never had any concept of time passing. Sometimes they would throw her in while it was day, and when they released her, the moon would be casting its pale light on the kitchen curtains. Summer was the worst. If she came into the house at the wrong time, and how was she to know when the wrong time was, her mother would scream invectives, grab her, twisting her arm all the while and dump her in the confined space. Once she had measured it; she could stand, but not lie down, her eight-year old frame was too long. The linoleum under her thin tattered clothes was cold, even in the summer and unbearable in the winter; her bottom would burn with the cold. Coat closet was a misnomer, there were no coats to pad her, or keep her warm. Jackie knew it only as her prison.

Slowly the sobs subsided, as they had many times before. There are only so many tears a body can shed before it is wrung dry. Jackie used the back of one grimy paw to wipe her nose, and sniffling still, maneuvered herself into the far corner where she had created some semblance of a nest, using the ripped umbrellas as a carpet. This was her ‘secret place’. There was no need to close her eyes to imagine it, the darkness was complete and absolute; she could imagine with eyes wide open.

“Secret place, secret place,” she muttered, and began to rock faster and faster. The rocking soothed her, and she shifted to make herself more comfortable. Suddenly she was transported to a beach – she had never seen a beach, except on TV, but she was there. She could feel the warmth of the sun on her upturned face; smell the sea air. All else was swept aside in the sudden images in her mind of swooping seagulls, laughing families, and the rhythmic cadence of the waves as they washed over her young, frail body.

A smile danced over her lips, and Jackie lay down on her little bed, curled up into a little ball. Outside the closet, outside in her house there were unknown dangers, but here in her mind she was at peace. Her mind could take her anywhere she wished to go – nothing could trap that.

Her eyes closed without her knowledge, and Jackie slept – a deep peaceful sleep. No matter the horrors she would face when she awoke, she could always go to her secret place.

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This article has been read 1212 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Christine Miles06/09/06
How I despise parents who can do this to children - they should go to Anger Management courses. One little blooper (I think, although my brain cell might be switched off!) - you say that the closet is too small to lie down in, but at the end, Jackie curls on her little bed and sleeps long and peacefully. Write well.
Helen Paynter06/09/06
Powerful piece of writing, handling the topic well. I think I've spotted another slight error - if she's only seen the beach on TV she probably doesn't know it has a special smell. TIny point, great piece.
Jessica Schmit06/10/06
This was so disturbing, but it should be. Incredible take on this heart wrenching subject.
Edy T Johnson 06/14/06
This is such expressive writing, it makes the reader feel as if she has become the child in your story. God bless your talent for his glory!
Sally Hanan06/15/06
You did a great job of describing how God gives kids -in circumstances like these- a way out.