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Five Words [12 Genre Months]

I’ll be back, I promise—five words scribbled in black ink on a note. They were the first words I read that morning as I headed to pour myself a glass of milk. Stuck to the door of the fridge with a magnet, I thought nothing of it—he had left many notes as such. But that evening and the evenings after, I started to doubt he would ever keep his promise. Until one day, twenty years after he’d left, another note appeared.

Would you like to reconnect?—five words in a sans serif font blinked periodically on a card. They were the first words I read on a chilly December morning as I went to collect the mail. The card made no mention of whom it was from but I had an inkling. Still, I hesitated. My thumb hovered over the green ‘yes’ button on the device. Was this how I wanted to see him again? I decided to accept the request. And, there it was, the chronicles of his life.

I scrolled through the magazine of what he had been up to—the places he’d visited, the parties he’d attended, the food he’d loved, and the people he’d met and then left as digital memories. He was using a different name, or at least, not the name I used to call him. And, after I had flipped through the past ten years of his seemingly exciting and adventurous life, five more words called for action—would you like to chat? I clicked the green button once more.

“Hey Will, how’s it going?”

Will is typing a reply—the device read.

“Hey! Long time no see!”

Could I define this encounter as ‘seeing’?

“Long time indeed. What’s up?”

I wondered if I should bring up the promise he’d made twenty years ago. It didn’t really matter that he left—I moved on. I had my own collection of countries, events, food, and people, in my own magazine of life. But I wanted to know why he left, with no explanation, only to reconnect now.

“I thought about you recently.”

“That explains why you reconnected.”

“Haha! Still sarcastic I see.”

“Why all of a sudden?”

“I made a promise, remember?”

So he didn’t forget after all—those five words that left nothing but expectation. Five words that gave me no reason for his disappearance. Was he finally going to own up to his broken promise?

“Right. What’s up with that?”

“Well, I’m keeping my promise.”

“Are you serious right now?”

“I am back, aren’t I?”

Was he joking? Did he think this was acceptable—that a simple ‘hello, I’m back’ on a device was enough? Did he not think to be a little more courteous—to actually show up in person after all these years? Who gave him the right to hide behind a screen?

“It was nice ‘seeing’ you.”

I wanted to end the conversation there. And I could. All it took was a click of a red button and I would archive the entire exchange. I even had the option to ‘delete’. Then, I could toss the card out and carry on with my day.

“Wait, don’t go just yet!”

“What do you want, Will?”

“Look, I’m sorry all right.”

“Of course you are, Will.”

“Five words are too little.”

“You realised that only now?”

“I mean, on this chat.”

Five words was how the device worked. ‘Five Words’ was what it was called. It was ‘a small step for man, one giant leap for mankind’—their tagline on every highway billboard and at the top of every salesman’s pitch. It was designed to reconnect people in a disconnected world. And the rule was simple: only five words—no more, no less.

“I know that too, Will.”

“I have much to say.”

“Then say it in person.”

“I want to, trust me.”

“Right. I’m signing out now.”

“Wait wait wait wait wait.”

“Our friendship was long over.”

“Can you come to me?”

Was this another joke? Did he expect me to take the first step? I was not a pushover—I never was. If he wanted a convenient friendship, he came to the wrong person.

“No. You come to me.”

“I can’t. I’m… I’m sick.”

“Sick? What kind of sickness?”

“Life threatening, the doctors say.”

“Oh. Wow. I’m sorry, Will.”

“I’m not a good friend.”

“You left without an explanation.”

“Let me apologise to you.”

Perhaps I could make an exception this time. Perhaps, for a dying friend, I could put my pride aside. After all, he wanted to make things right… and in person.

“Where are you right now?”

“I left you a box.”

“You left me a box?”

“The Yung Brothers & Co.”

“Yung brothers? Who are they?”

“My lawyers. I’m really sorry.”

I was expecting the name of a hospital. I was actually willing to make the drive. Why did Will want me to meet with his lawyers instead?

“Your lawyers? Why your lawyers?”

“I can’t apologise in person.”

“What do you mean, Will?”

“I’m sorry. I should have…”

“You should have what, Will?”

“I should have said more.”

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12 Genre Months © 2018 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

(Click HERE for the list of stories in this writing challenge.)

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Posted by on December 6, 2018 in Original Works

 

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Wishing Well [12 Genre Months]

“Drop the coin and make a wish,” he told me. “But remember, it will only last a day.”

The moss-covered stone well, in the clearing of the town woods, was said to be magical. Every year, on the eve of a New Year, children would venture down a muddy path to where the stone well had been built. It was rumoured that the stone well, of which its depth no one could ever surmise, was the work of the early settlers who had sailed from Gaul. Though not in any historical records, many believed that the early settlers were Druids. After all, the strange occurrences in the small township of a thousand were often left unexplained. From the blooming of lavender in winter, to the display of red and green light streaming across one autumn night, one cannot insist that the place I called home was—for the lack of scientific explanations—magical.

“How do you know if it worked?” I asked.

“Make it an obvious wish,” my best friend, who had tossed a coin the year before, replied.

I was seven that New Year’s Eve. And so I made an obvious wish—a prayer, almost—that my parents wouldn’t go through with their divorce. That perhaps, for just one more day, we could be a happy family. And, though arguable that it might just be an educated decision on my parents’ end, they didn’t file the papers until I turned twelve.

Every year after my first coin toss, I returned to the stone well with my best friend. I made wishes, which were so realistically possible, that they never failed to come true. I was a child. I had yet chosen the path of a skeptic. It was only on my twenty-first year, when I returned home for the year end holidays, did I truly put the stone well and its supposed magic to the test.

“Are you sure you want to do this,” my best friend asked.

“Only for a day, right?”

“Correct. But remember how your parents stayed together for five years?” he recalled, almost as if he believed the fairytale to be true.

“Don’t tell me you still believe in this… wishing well.”

“Don’t tell me you have a reason for the frost flowers last summer,” he challenged—yet another bizarre phenomenon where the town lake blossomed ice crystals in the 40 °C heat.

“Yes, strange things happen here. But stranger things have happened elsewhere. Just Google it,” I stated.

“Suit yourself.” He shrugged. “I’m just saying, what you’re wishing for, if not for a day, can ruin you.”

I chuckled. What was the worst that could happen, I thought. If magic was indeed real, then I wouldn’t have to hurt anymore. If magic could save me from the agonizing pain—a pain I’ve failed to rid myself of for the past year—why not give it a try? And… if this magic decided to prolong its stay, it would be a blessing in disguise.

So on the night of December 31st, I met my best friend at the trail-head of the timberland with a coin and a torchlight in hand. We chatted about our school year for the entire twenty-minute stroll until, there it was, the stone well basking beneath the pastel moonlight. There was no one else around—the children had visited in the morning, the high-schoolers in the afternoon, and some of the adults had dropped by before their New Year celebration. At that hour, everyone was in town waiting upon the fireworks.

“You sure you want to do this,” he asked once more. “All you need is time. Wishing it away…”

Time—everybody told me I would heal with time. But how much time, nobody had an answer. They weren’t seeing her in class, watching her laugh with her friends, and witnessing the glimmer in her eyes when she held his hand. Oh, how I wish I could move on. But I was stuck—my soul crushed by a lost love over and over again.

“It’s been a year. I can’t—I’ve tried. Trust me, I have. I just… I can’t get over her,” I admitted.

“But wishing your feelings away isn’t going to make it better. You’re going to feel again after tomorrow. If… only if, the wish lasts a day.”

“I’m just going to wish to stop feeling for her. I’m not wishing all my feelings away.”

“Then make it clear when you toss the coin.”

“Don’t worry. I know what to wish for.”

And so I made my wish. I didn’t hear the coin hit bottom—no one has ever heard the echo of their wish. But from that New Year onward, I believed what some still thought to be a myth. The stone well was indeed magical. It had granted me yet another wish, but in the oddest way I thought possible. Because from that day, I never saw her again.

It wasn’t that she didn’t exist. She was alive. She was still in my class. I would sometimes catch her friends speaking about her. But, I never saw her. In fact, I couldn’t recall her face. She had become a ghost of a memory—a lost love that could never be found. And… it was all thanks to the wishing well in the little town of Bluestone.

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12 Genre Months © 2018 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

(Click HERE for the list of stories in this writing challenge.)

 
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Posted by on November 8, 2018 in Original Works

 

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Voices From The Attic [12 Genre Months]

Whispers, they often called it—unintelligible whispers between people. But unlike the visitors, I didn’t hear an utterance of a word coming from the dead space. In fact, I couldn’t hear at all.

I was raised in an old Victorian house. Every year, my father would order tins of white paint to keep the pillars, balustrades, and walls in pristine appearance. He would often check the floorboards—quick to fix even the softest creak. And every single time I asked him why he was in a rush to mend the walls and polish the doorknobs, he would declare his love for the place we called home.

My father claimed that our home held more history than the local museum. He would rattle about the heritage to anyone who would listen. But strangely enough, my father never once shared a story about its past—who built it, what happened to the early settlers, and why was it worthy of his love? Those common questions were left unanswered—the moment someone brought them up, my father would default to babbling about the weather. Strange, yes. But though his response always made me curious, I chose to remain ignorant.

For the most part, nothing bizarre occurred within the ever-white walls. The house wasn’t haunted—or at least, it never felt that way. Nothing moved or went missing, and there weren’t any cold spots as how TV ghost hunters would determine the presence of otherworldly beings. However, when I was finally old enough to host sleepovers, I began to wonder if my father had a reason for withholding his stories—if they were more sinister than I expected.

They said they heard voices, I told my father. Voices coming from the attic.

“Voices?” he asked. “What time did you girls go to bed?”

Ten. It wasn’t that late.

“You know what happens when you’re tired, right?”

I shook my head, clueless as to what my father was implying.

“You imagine things,” he merely stated.

My friends could very well be imagining the voices they heard. After all, children had a knack for exaggeration. But because of the whispers—claimed to have come from right above my bedroom ceiling—none of my friends would sleep in my house again. From that day onward, I had to go to theirs. And, for the rest of the summer, everyone thought my house was haunted.

Was I ever curious about the voices? Yes. But just like my friends, it was a fleeting curiosity. I was quick to forget the conversation I had with my father. And since no one else mentioned about hearing them, I forgot about it altogether. It was only after fifteen years—when my husband and I visited my parents—did that particular memory resurface.

“Are there people in the attic?” my husband asked.

No. Why?

“I… never mind,” he said.

What is it?

“I thought I heard something, that’s all.” When he caught apprehension sweeping across my face, he added, “I must’ve been imagining it—it was a long drive.”

Let me ask my dad.

“He’ll think I’m crazy.” My husband chuckled. “It’s probably just the fatigue. Let’s call it a night.”

I agreed—perhaps it was indeed the exhaustion. But as someone who couldn’t hear a single sound since birth, I found myself awoken in the middle of the night by an intrusion I least expected.

“I want them to leave,” a female voice whispered—words seemingly carried by the wind.

The hair on my nape stood as I pushed myself seated on the bed. While I contemplated waking my husband, I heard another voice—belonging to a man—reply, “They won’t be staying long.”

The voices were coming from above my bedroom—the same bedroom I slept in for eighteen years of my life. But as I gazed up at the ceiling, I saw nothing but well-patched plaster. Was I imagining too? Was it a dream?

“I’m leaving tomorrow. I cannot live here anymore,” the female voice insisted.

“They won’t harm us,” the other replied.

“Then why are we hiding?”

“I’ll… I’ll call him tomorrow.”

“Tell him we’re selling—I’m not raising our child in a haunted house.”

Silence followed after the woman’s declaration. There were no more whispers—no more voices from the attic. I strained my ears for a decibel of a sound, but I heard nothing. Assuming it was all in my head, I returned to sleep. But when the rooster crowed, I found it hard to ignore what I had heard. So I pulled my father aside after breakfast, hopeful for a reasonable explanation.

I heard voices last night, coming from the attic.

“Voices? What kind of voices?” my father asked.

Human voices. They were talking about us.

“What time did you go to bed?”

Dad, I’m not a child.

“Then you should know better than to ask.”

What do you mean?

“I mean, go to bed early. You shouldn’t be hearing anything.”

I don’t understand. Why-

“If they can’t hear you, you can’t hear them.”

Dad, you’re not-

“Forget it,” he sternly replied.

Dad, what’s-

“The weather looks good today, doesn’t it? We should have a picnic—I’ll inform your mother.”

From that day onward, I didn’t hear the voices again. There were no more ghostly whispers. The attic was silent. And not because I went to bed early. It wasn’t even because I was deaf. There were no more voices because there was a fire—a fire I would soon have to forget for this story to repeat itself, over and over again.

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12 Genre Months © 2018 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

(Click HERE for the list of stories in this writing challenge.)

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2018 in Original Works

 

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Broccoli | Internet | Papercut

Three papercuts on a Friday night. Two more on a Saturday morning—my weekend had gone off to a great start. The stack of recycled paper, of bank statements and reports, were placed inked-side down on the living room floor. They were brought home the night before—a collection from an hour of rummaging through my office drawers for dated paperwork—all because of a special request.

“We need them,” he told me.

“It’s important,” she chimed.

“How many do you need?” I asked.

“As many as you can get,” he replied.

“The more the better,” she added.

I heaved a sigh and scheduled it as a to-do on my phone. Though, that wasn’t actually required—they reminded me on Friday morning of its dire importance. It was as though there were lives depending on my simple task. And perhaps, there were. After all, the duo lived on another plane. Their existence different from mine. Their requirements of survival more challenging to fulfill. And since I chose to be a part of their lives, I valued theirs more than mine. So there I was, on a Saturday morning, directing them to the old documents I had gathered.

“Thank you,” he said.

“Yes, thank you,” she echoed.

“You’re welcome,” I replied with a smile.

I was tempted to see what they would do with all that paper but my day wasn’t over. I had to peel three carrots, cut two broccoli, season one whole chicken, and toss them all in the oven for lunch. The carrots and broccoli must be soft to the bite and the chicken must be tender, as how the duo often requested them to be. The food must also be served on white oval plates with a side of a red sauce they called, ‘Scarlet’s Shadow’. It was a meal they would consume if done correctly. But if it was too salty, too dry, or too hard for their taste, I would either have to reason with them or start over—thankfully, the former has worked so far.

“They’re not going to be easy,” a friend once told me. “Are you sure this is something you want to do?”

I had contemplated long and hard about my decision. And when I finally said ‘yes’, I wasn’t planning to go back on my word. As enthusiastic as those who chose not to embark on this quest, I was ready to take on the challenge.

“There’s a reason why people are pulling out of this program,” my friend added. “It’s not as easy as you think.”

“I know—I know it’s not easy,” I said. “But, I want to do this. I know it sounds crazy, but I want to do it.”

My friend nodded. “You have my support then. If you need anything—anything at all—let me know.”

“Can I call you over to lend a hand?” I joked.

“No way.” My friend waved her hands. “Anything but that.”

Oh, how naive I was when I first signed up. Fortunately, I was quick to learn. I had the internet on my side—connecting with those who were on the same adventure and finding solutions to the strange problems these creatures presented. But, I won’t say that the journey has been smooth sailing.

There have been many sleepless nights—pulling myself out of bed after an arduous day—to attend to their bizarre requirements. Those late nights were often followed by hectic mornings, where I had to ensure the duo had everything they needed before I rushed to my desk job. Then, came the demands. I was told to follow the manual given, but when I refused to give in to their wants, they would change forms—the strength they could muster in their fits of anger would leave me breathless on the floor. So yes, I was and I am, tired. I have cried in frustration and exhaustion. I have stormed out—leaving them screaming and shouting—in attempts to preserve my sanity. I have wondered what I was doing wrong—those clueless days were the worst of them all. But oddly enough, I have never considered giving up.

They are unlike me. They are different. They don’t understand my world. Thus, I have had to accommodate—to be their guide. And though they have never once showed comprehension—unaware of the things I had to do, the tough decisions I had to make, and the effort I put into my work with them—I hold no grudge. I have hope that one day they would see. Perhaps when they enroll in a similar program themselves, they would finally understand my ‘no’s, ‘don’t’s, and ‘stop’s. But even if they never grasp the hardships of my journey, I would still love them. After all, they are my children.

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Broccoli, internet, and papercut were words given by Billy Ho on Facebook. If you’d like to challenge me with your own 3 words, leave them in the comments below! There’ll be two more of this before the year ends and your word set might be used for one of them.

Now, it’s your turn! Write a story of your own with the three words given. You know the drill by now.

*To download the banner, left-click then right-click to save.

3 Words, 1 Story © 2018 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

(Click HERE for a list of stories in this writing challenge.)

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2018 in Original Works

 

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The Murder Of Lady Patricia [12 Genre Months]

The body of Lady Patricia was found sprawled at the foot of the hallway stairs. She had arrived at the party a mere ten minutes prior to her death—the night still young when she met her demise. It was a seemingly straightforward case with an evident cause of death. But if it was indeed as simple as I hoped it to be, I wouldn’t have been called to head the investigation. Oddities were my specialty. And the oddity that came with Lady Patricia’s passing were the five suspects—the people present during her murder—who were all below the age of twelve.

The first suspect was the young, blue-eyed Master Lucas, who proudly declared he had just turned five upon our introduction. He claimed to be in the kitchen when the incident occurred, snacking on a couple of forbidden cookies before dinnertime. The boy apologised for what he deemed as a serious crime—projecting a remorseful mien—but made no mention of the death that occurred in his home. It was almost, as if, he didn’t even know.

The second suspect was nine-year-old, soft-spoken Miss Matilda. During the entirety of our conversation, Miss Matilda kept her gaze on the polished oak-wood floor and fiddled with the frills of her pastel pink dress. She claimed to have been with young Lord Harry, clinking glasses of grape juice in the living room. According to her testimony, it was only after their conversation about her talking parakeet that she heard a series of thudding coming from the hallway—both Miss Matilda and Lord Harry found Lady Patricia in her lifeless state.

The third suspect was none other than Lord Harry. Lord Harry was the oldest amongst the five—barely a few months short of the age of twelve. He was the most respectable guest with a spotless family background. When I spoke to the young man, he confidently gave a detailed account of the night, proving he was indeed with Miss Matilda. But despite having an alibi, I wasn’t convinced—both Lord Harry and Miss Matilda claimed to be unaware of Lady Patricia’s arrival.

The fourth suspect was in her bedroom when the incident occurred. Miss Rebecca had to change out of her white dress when she accidentally spilled grape juice on herself. She claimed to have heard footsteps outside her bedroom door shortly before Lady Patricia’s murder. Miss Rebecca only left her bedroom when she heard Miss Matilda’s scream. The seven-year-old saw no one on her floor prior to and after the incident.

The last suspect was the only suspect who spoke with Lady Patricia. Master William had greeted her at the door, ushered her into the reading room, and offered her a drink. He informed her that dinner would soon be ready, before returning to the kitchen to check on the turkey in the oven. The ten-year-old claimed he had been preparing dinner with Miss Rebecca when the doorbell rang. But upon his return, Miss Rebecca was nowhere to be found.

After speaking with the young suspects, there were a few statements that didn’t match up. Miss Rebecca and Master William were shuffling from the kitchen to the dining room—in preparation for the party—but did not once see Master Lucas in his cookie thievery. The living room was located adjacent to the front door—sharing a hallway leading to the kitchen—which meant that both Lord Harry and Miss Matilda had to be speaking in high decibels to have not notice the doorbell. There was also not a single drop of grape juice, nor an extra drinking glass, to be found in the kitchen despite the stained white dress in Miss Rebecca’s room. And upon the arrival of the police, the roasted turkey was no longer in the oven but nestled in the center of the dining table complete with the feast for the night. Which begs the question: who was telling the truth?

Did Master Lucas have the strength to push a fully grown woman down the stairs? Were Miss Matilda and Lord Harry co-culprits of Lady Patricia’s death? Was there a more sinister cause of the stain on Miss Rebecca’s dress? Why did Master William set the table after a death in the house, or had the table been set prior to Lady Patricia’s arrival? And, the most baffling question of them all: why was Lady Patricia invited to a party, hosted by people outside of her social circle? Did the five children plot her death or was I over-complicating the case—was it the doing of an outsider who saw no threat in a house full of children? Or was it… simply… an accident?

I concluded that the most likely culprit was Lord Harry. He requested the assistance of Miss Matilda—a child infatuated with her best friend’s brother—to act as his alibi and rehearse the story he concocted. And though the young Lord had a spotless history, the evidence I’ve stacked against him could not be ignored. All I did was say he was guilty and the boy took the fall—it was that easy. But wait, who was the real murderer? Oh, how naive of Lady Patricia to even think she could get away. Out of the mouth of babes she often spoke, and out of the mouth of babes I shall rest my case.

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12 Genre Months © 2018 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

(Click HERE for the list of stories in this writing challenge.)

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2018 in Original Works

 

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She | Was | Red

She was Red.

It wasn’t just the long golden locks pinned up in a neat bun, the wine matte lipstick tinting her thin lips, or the pair of rectangle black-framed prescriptions she chose to put on. It wasn’t just the dark blue dress she was fond of wearing, the leather-strap analogue watch on her right wrist, or the uncomfortable white wedges she loved so dearly—constantly gluing the soles back in extension of its lifespan. Red was more than the body she dolled up in the mirror.

Red was quiet but not shy. She kept her thoughts to herself unless in the company of her closest friends. Red often wore the widest smile whenever she strolled into a bookstore as she enjoyed epic flights of fantasy—knights, dragons, and great adventures—and held no judgement toward questionable covers of captivating-titled books. Red was also an avid tea drinker. Sunday evenings with her best friend Amelia would be incomplete without a scone and a cup of freshly brewed chamomile.

Red was ordinary yet different. She was bold and daring, but never loud or boisterous. She was a calm in the storm—the anchor that kept their ship from drifting into the abyss. And if you didn’t know Red, you would think she was just like everyone else—a creative twenty-two-year-old with talents, dreams, and goals.

Was she Red?

No, she wasn’t. She didn’t like her hair pinned up. Even in the heat of summer, she would let her locks loose—curling past her shoulders. She also preferred a brighter lipstick and would rather spend a few minutes everyday putting on contact lenses than the convenience of Red’s glasses. Often, she would shy away from Red’s side of the wardrobe—donning one of her wavy, floral dresses, paired with her comfortable grey sneakers.

She wasn’t Red. She was always the life of the party. And when she shared her inner thoughts and feelings, she trusted her closest friends to keep her secrets. She enjoyed the company of her support system—making time to shop, eat, laugh, and play with Amelia, Sasha, and Joy. She was also a coffee lover. She would almost always order a cold-brewed americano every Saturday breakfast with the girls.

She was different yet ordinary. She wasn’t brave or fearless, but she was kind and jovial. She was wild at heart—at times reckless with her decisions. And if you didn’t know her, you would think she was just like everyone else—a carefree eighteen-year-old with talents, dreams, and goals.

Red she was.

For most, it would be hard to imagine waking up in a foreign body. But for Red, it was her life. In her world, she stood at five feet four with short black hair, bright blue eyes, and a narrow chin. But in this world, they saw her differently. Everyone saw the girl in the mirror—a face and body that didn’t reflect her inner being. And the best that she could do was try… to look a little more like herself.

Red knew that Gwen didn’t like it when she tied their hair in a bun or when she walked a whole day in wedges. She knew that Gwen would frown if she found herself in a bookstore or a library. Gwen would certainly sigh if she had to finish a cup of tea Red had ordered. But those were the only things that made her feel like herself—Red being true to Red—while she faced the outside world. And thankfully, Gwen understood.

Red was she.

For most, it would be hard to imagine a split life—how can one have two, and how can two be one? For most, it would be difficult to even tell Gwen apart unless they truly knew Gwen for who she was—if they could look past the blond, athletic-framed teenager with brown eyes, to see the person within. But despite the challenge, Gwen needed Red.

Gwen knew that Red struggled too. Their life had never been easy—a battle since birth. And without one or the other, they wouldn’t be alive. Without Red, Gwen wouldn’t know how to live. So as much of a separate being as they both may be—with different thoughts, interests, and feelings—they were still one. They were connected—joined in a way that made them uniquely them.

Gwen was Red. Red was Gwen. They were each other in a way different from us being us.

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She, was, and red were words given by Ethan Otto on Facebook. Ethan challenged me to make sense of these three words and I think I did a pretty decent job. As someone who has always been fascinated with the human mind, I hope this piece brings to light the world of mental health. Let’s all learn a little more about the people around us—understanding that some of us may be different but still worthy of our care, love, and kindness.

Now, it’s your turn! Write a story of your own with the three words given. I’m now challenging you to make sense of them!

*To download the banner, left-click then right-click to save.

3 Words, 1 Story © 2018 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

(Click HERE for a list of stories in this writing challenge.)

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2018 in Original Works

 

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Missing Buttons [12 Genre Months]

There were always two buttons missing—two buttons from my white, collared shirt, two buttons from the back pockets of my navy blue jeans, and two buttons from my black, iron-pressed blazer. I grew up with two buttons less than everyone else. And, it was never a problem despite the curiosity my strange circumstances stirred.

Growing up, everyone seemed to notice my missing buttons—my friends, their parents, the teachers, and the bullies. Nobody dared to ask where my buttons had gone to—some teased and made wild assumptions—but they were all very curious. From the way they parted their lips in hesitation of a question to the way their eyes darted to and from the loose threads, I knew they wanted to know. Alas, I myself had no idea where my buttons were. I didn’t remove them on purpose. There was no reason for me to un-thread them. They just always went missing in my possession. And the older I got, the more baffled I was by their mysterious disappearances. Yet, oddly enough, I didn’t see the need to find out why, how, and what. That is, until the day they reappeared—all of them… in my bedroom cupboard.

I had lived thirty-five years with two missing buttons from everything I owned. I had learned to adapt, using zips and velcros to hold things in place. People were still curious. I still shrugged in oblivion of the answer they sought. However, it wasn’t a predicament. I could live with missing buttons. I didn’t need them. But on the night of my thirty-fifth birthday, I found them.

I had just returned from a dinner with friends when I yanked my cupboard open for a clean pair of clothes. As the door clicked free from the magnetic lock, a heap of buttons streamed onto my wooden floor. At first, I thought it was a joke. Everyone I knew, knew about my missing buttons. There was a possibility that someone thought it would be funny to gift me hundreds of buttons to make up for all the missing ones. But while I cupped the buttons into an empty pail, I noticed something about them—most of them weren’t new. The white, plastic buttons had turned off-white, the metal ones had browned from oxidation, and the cloth-covered buttons were peeling from their seams. They were my buttons. And at the realisation of my past returning to haunt me, I hastily reached for the phone to give my mother a call.

“The missing buttons, mum. The ones from my shirts and pants—they’re all here,” I said, withholding not the apprehension in my voice.

“What about those buttons?” my mother asked.

“They’re here, mum. Right here, in my house—in my cupboard.”

“Just toss them out if you don’t need them,” my mother replied, too calmly.

“I know. I will. But why are they here? All of them—suddenly?”

“I don’t know,” my mother said.

“Wait…” My mother wasn’t reacting the way I thought she would—she was taking the event too lightly. Was she the culprit? Could I now heave a sigh of relief? “Was it you? Did you put them here?” I asked.

“Why would I put buttons in your cupboard?”

“This isn’t funny, mum. Are you and dad hiding in the kitchen or something?” I stalked toward the bedroom door, ready to call my mum out on her joke—ready for the birthday surprise. Unfortunately, such wasn’t the case.

“Ben, I wouldn’t take a five-hour flight just to put buttons in your cupboard,” my mother insisted—her tone now serious.

“Then how did they get here?” I demanded. “Who put them here?”

At that question, I froze. There was more to my fear—now rooting me to the ground. Who… put them here? Who was the person who had stolen my buttons for thirty-five years and had just decided to return them without reason. Was this person still in the house? Was this person watching me?

“Mum, I need you to ask dad to call the police,” I said.

“Ben, you need to calm down.”

“I can’t calm down, mum. Those missing buttons…” I paused, hesitating to leave the bedroom. “Someone was here. Someone put-”

“Ben, I need you to calm down.”

“How do you expect me to calm down? Someone-”

You… put them there, Ben,” my mother interrupted.

“What? What are you talking about?”

“Ben, I need you to listen.”

“Mum-”

“I need you to collect those buttons and throw them out. Can you do that?” my mother asked.

“I… don’t understand.”

“Just do as I tell you.”

“Why?”

“Ben, listen to me. You have-”

“I’ve got to go, mum.” I didn’t know what she was talking about. She sounded insane. “I’ll call you later.”

“Don’t hang up on me. I need you to throw the buttons away and tell me once you’ve done so.”

Why did she insist I do that? I turned to look behind me where the buttons had spread across the bedroom floor. But in the expectation of their disconcerting nature, I found them gone.

“Ben,” my mother called. “Ben, are you there?”

“Yes,” I replied. Where did the buttons go? How did they just… disappear. “They’re gone… the buttons.”

“You threw them out?”

Should I tell her that they simply vanished? I didn’t know what was going on. I wasn’t sure if I should continue to panic. Did I imagine it all? Despite the many troubling questions, I heard myself say, “Yes, I threw them out.”

“Are you sure?” my mother asked.

“They’re gone now.”

“Good,” my mother said. “Now, go to bed—it’s late.”

I hesitated to douse the mystery—to demand for an explanation. But instead, I did as I was told. After all, they were gone now—the buttons were missing once again. And honestly, that was all that mattered.

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12 Genre Months © 2018 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

(Click HERE for the list of stories in this writing challenge.)

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2018 in Original Works

 

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