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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Fearful (08/23/07)

TITLE: Mint and Roses
By Debbie Roome


“You little imp!” Jake shoves me against the filthy wall. “I’ll teach you to sass your ma.” I hear the slippery sound of his belt as it slides through the loops of his jeans. I shouldn’t have asked. I realise that now.

The first blow is a shock. A sharp, stinging cut that bruises and tears. I should be used to it, but I’m not. Waves of fear surge through me and as he strikes again, my bladder threatens to fail. “Don’t. Ever. Bother. Your. Mother. Like. That. Again!” Each word is punctuated by a blow.

When done, he grabs my arm and forces me into the wardrobe. “Please, Jake. I’m sorry. Please don’t lock me in here. Please, please. I’ll never bother Mom again.” The lock clicks and I hear him striding away.

Struggling for breath, I press my eyes against the crack of light at the bottom. Last time he locked me in here, there was a spider that kept crawling over me. I think of how its long, hairy legs tickled and shudder. I mustn’t think about spiders. Mrs Shaw told us at school that we should try and think happy thoughts.

I love Mrs Shaw. She teaches us life-skills and she’s the best teacher I know. I love the way she dresses. The silky shirts with shiny buttons and skirts that flow like the sea on a summer day. Her hair is the colour of soft fudge and she smells of mint and roses when she bends over to inspect my work.

My mother is the complete opposite. I think of how she stinks of cigarette smoke and beer. Of the brown bottles that litter our apartment, and of Jake her foul-mouthed boyfriend.

No. I tell myself. I must think happy thoughts.

This term, Mrs Shaw has been teaching us about families. How families work. About what is right and wrong. About acceptable punishment and how to ask for help. So many times I’ve wanted to ask her questions.

Is it alright for your mother’s boyfriend to beat you till you bleed?
Do all mothers drink so much beer?
What can I do to get Mom to love me?
How can I stop being so afraid?

Tonight I have another question to add to the list. Why is it wrong to want to go to Helen’s sleepover party?

I wake the next morning as the key turns in the lock. I’m instantly alert, stretching cramps from twisted limbs and flinching as searing pain grips my back. “You’re a mess.” Mom sneers as I struggle out of the wardrobe. “Get out of here before Jake wakes up.”

Mrs Shaw looks beautiful this morning and I imagine being part of her family. Her voice is sweet and tender as she talks about parents and children. As she describes how they can do fun things together and work as a team. By the end of the lesson, I finally acknowledge to myself that I have a problem.

It’s the longest journey of my life. Getting up from my desk and planting one shaky foot in front of another. I don’t want to betray Mom and I’m sure Jake will want to kill me, but I have to do this. I have to ask my questions and confide in Mrs Shaw. I’m only a couple of steps away now and the fragrance of mint and roses mingle as she reaches out her hands. I grasp them and tears start to seep from my eyes.

“Mrs Shaw. I think I need help.”

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This article has been read 1241 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Teri Wilson08/30/07
Heartbreakingly lovely story. Blessings, Teri
Dianne Janak08/30/07
Having been in a place like that, this moved me. No telling how many children, or teens, need to be heard. Secrets, sitting in the dark, can ruin lives. This really hit home to me. If only we could see through fascades into the hearts of the victims.
Sharlyn Guthrie08/30/07
You did a wonderful job of writing this heart-rending story.
Lynda Schultz 08/31/07
Marvelous. You know what broke my heart? This kid is in the closet trying to think nice thoughts and no matter how hard the kid tries, those thoughts return to the evil suffered. Your story is also a reminder to me that teachers should acknowledge that not all families function perfectly and talk openly about dysfunctional families. It might make kids who are living this nightmare feel safer in coming forward. Very good work.
Verna Cole Mitchell 08/31/07
This certainly did fit for "fearful," but it really made me sad. No child should ever have to be in a position like this, but thank God for those in whom they might confide. This is written extremely well.
Joanne Sher 08/31/07
Extremely powerful writing. Your descriptions are excellent. Wow.
Rhonda Clark09/02/07
You did a great job conveying the feelings here. This piece saddened me, but at the end I found a hope of relief.

Great work.
Laurie Walker09/03/07
Powerful. It's just amazingly powerful. Thank you for being brave enough to write it.
Jan Ackerson 09/03/07
So sad, and written with a great deal of heart.

I'm not sure if the present tense "works" for a child's voice, and sometimes the vocabulary is "older" than the child seems to be. Just a personal choice for me, though, and nothing major.

Your writing is skillful and beautiful, and I love the courage and hope at the end.
Deborah Engle 09/03/07
It is sad that these situations occur. What struck me is the fact that the child had to be taught that "normal" was not what she was living. I've personally seen that, too. What a wonderful expression of such a sad situation.

Marilee Alvey09/05/07
The title of this story drew me in. I'm glad I stayed. A heartwrenching tale told through the eyes of its little victim. Think happy thoughts, child. Help is on the way. God bless you for writing this talented, moving story...and sharing it with us.
Kristen Hester09/06/07
This is WONDERFUL! A very well deserved win. CONGRATULATIONS! I couldn't stop reading. I am SO SO glad the child asked for help at the end.

Sherry Wendling09/06/07
So beautifully told, I had knots in my throat. And you ended at just the right place.
Congratulations on powerful writing rewarded!
Sheri Gordon09/07/07
Congratulations on your EC. This is strong writing. Your descriptive phrasing is very good. Nice job with a tough subject.
Gregory Kane09/11/07
Wow. What an entry. I was left feeling outraged by the opening paragraphs. And I could smell the mint and roses by the end! I think that one thing that makes the article work is the simplicity of the language. Verbs are carefully chosen, adjectives and adverbs are delicately scattered, giving the piece a lightness that speaks poignantly of hope in the midst of adversity.
Pamela Kliewer09/09/08
This story touched me. I'm glad in the end the MC reached out for the help she needed. Good job.