Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Pen and Paper (07/17/14)
By Rachel Malcolm
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Crossing the room, Marie flicked on the table lamp, and slid a flat rectangular box in front of her. The papers crinkled as she lifted them from the box. At the bottom of the box were two pieces of clean paper and a blood-red pen. She traced the lines on her palm, remembering the day she had bought the pen and paper.
It was only two weeks after Doug and Megan had been killed in an accident. A friend had recommended that Marie get a journal to write out her emotions. Marie went to the little stationary store in the mall, but the journals had butterflies and flowers on them. She had shuddered at the dissonance and wandered until she saw this pen and matching paper.
She smoothed out the sheet before her. It had become as familiar as the inside of the bathroom door. The paper was storm-cloud grey, slashed with black writing lines, and framed with the same deep-red as the pen.
The very first time she sat down to write, the words came out as a hate letter to the man who had drunkenly taken the life of her husband and daughter. Dozens of times since then, she sat at the same table with the same pen to write more words of hatred. She never sent the letters; she kept them to read over and over.
Marie stood at the window—again—like she did every day at 3:20. She looked at the clock and then back outside. Finally, she went to the closet and grabbed her coat. Marie walked quickly against the bitter wind. She knew where to find Avery.
What is wrong with me? Why do I have this horrible fascination with this girl?
From the shelter of some trees, Marie watched Avery as she leaned against the bridge rail. The girl came here often. She had long, straight hair, while Megan’s had been shoulder-length, but otherwise they were very similar.
Marie staggered and pressed her face into her palms. Megan would have been her age! Why is she alive and my daughter dead? Why, God?
A gust of wind brought Marie’s gaze back to Avery. Her coat lay discarded at her feet. She must be cold. Marie was surprised at the feeling of concern that swelled her chest and felt like pain.
Kicking off her shoes, Avery hoisted herself up onto the bridge rail.
Marie sucked in her breath as she watched the girl sway in the wind as she clung to the thick cables.
“No!” Marie ran towards the bridge. Let her hear me, God. “Avery, Stop!”
As Avery turned her head, her feet slipped and she swung out over the turbulent water—grasping one of the cables with both hands.
“Hold on!” Marie shouted as she sprinted towards Avery.
She held onto Avery’s wrists and pulled as the girl used her legs to hoist herself back onto the rail. They slumped together and Marie could feel the iciness of the girl’s arms and the rise and fall of her chest as she gasped for air.
Marie clasped Avery’s face in her hands. Her own pain was mirrored in the girl’s eyes. “Life is a gift. Don’t throw it away, Avery.”
Avery shivered, “Who are you?”
Looking down, Marie struggled to find her voice. “I’ll tell you tomorrow after school. Meet at the park across the road.”
That evening she took out the last sheet of paper and the blood-red pen.
I’ve written that I hate you a thousand different ways. I’ve envied you that your daughter was alive and mine was dead.
Today, your daughter tried to take her life and I realized that I want her to live. I want her to love and be loved. I want her to marry and have children, because one loss—is too much.
I no longer want you to hurt like I am hurting. I forgive you.
“There’s mail for you.”
John took the bubble-wrap envelope from the guard and sat on the edge of his cot. His brow furrowed as he looked at the return address. He tore upon the envelope and slid out the single, folded sheet. A crimson pen clattered to the floor.
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