This is a collection of the short stories I wrote in my Creative Writing class during my senior year of high school. They include two free-writes, one continued prompt, and a fractured fairy tale.
Several things are happening at once. Men Brawl in the nearby taverns, women gossip in the tea room, the children scream for their mothers in the dusty street, and a robbery has just taken place down the road from Old Miss Sullivan’s house. Babies cry from neglect and young girls cry from the attention. Unfaithful husbands take their mistresses while their wives plan their demise in the shadow of the night. Screams, so many unbearable, high-pitched, wanting screams…
How could it be that she was the cursed one? Why was she the one to suffer as her life slipped idly by, content to rid her of reason? Why did she have to endure the torturous nightly visits from a man she thought she knew? The answers never appear to her, yet she knows that it is all her fault.
The trials of others and the assumption that they have it worse is what keeps her lips tightly sealed when she sees the constable that seemingly glorious Sunday morning. He walked by her as she exited the church in his smartly pressed blue uniform. She wanted to part her lips, to let the sound of honesty pass them, but she could not. He would do more harm than he’d ever done before. Perhaps another bruise hidden beneath her tightly laced corset. Possibly another hideous burn from the cigars he smoked so freely. Or maybe a broken arm from an “accidental” shove down the steep servants stairs. So as the constable passed them by, murmuring a happy greeting with a smile below his handlebar mustache, she said nothing.
The day wore on and still she was quiet. Not a sound had escaped her lips for three years though the voices built up inside of her mind. Some say that she is mute simply because she knows her lack of beauty will never afford her a proper suitor. But they didn’t know the events that took place behind the pearly white walls when the moon rose, night after night, in the dark, foreboding sky. Still, despite what was said about her, she sat tall and took the casual verbal beating as only a mute young lady can do. Though, inside, she screamed for the opportunity to tell someone of the horrors she faced. Even if a single soul did not believe her.
The day passed agonizingly quick, as it always did, and she dreaded the sight of the house as the carriage pulled near. When it stopped, her stomach tightened as the memories of nights past flooded her mind. She froze in her seat, not willing to move, but was pushed forward by a strong, warning hand. The servants welcomed them as they entered with a cheery, “Good evening Mr. Bray. Miss Bray.” Not one of them knew of her misfortunes. And it wouldn’t matter if they did. They would do nothing to help her for fear of losing their wages and being put out on the streets. Such cowardly beasts, the lot of them. But, she thought to herself. Who am I to judge their character? At least they are loved by those who call them family.
She went to her room as any other night and sat at her vanity. She took the pins from her hair and stared at her reflection. Long, dull red hair cascaded down her back and she numbly brushed it, emerald eyes seeing absolutely nothing. Her face was a mask of complete nothingness; blank as a canvas before the painter stains it with their drab expression of the fading world.
The moon rose high into the sky and her heart thumped loudly in her chest. Cries of mercy shouted raucously in her mind as the sound of footsteps neared. She stood woodenly and moved herself to sit on the bed. She steeled herself for what would come; the inevitability of the sadness and hatred that would course through her veins and consume her entirely. The door handle turned and he entered the room. As he sat next to her, caressing her hair and murmuring in her ear, she imagined herself far away from this place of misery; somewhere without the dense fog of the London air, somewhere beautiful and secluded. A place she would not have to endure, but love. A place without pain, or shame…
He left the room almost as quickly as he came, the door clicking closed behind him. She lay in her bed, waited for the tears to come, and stared at the ceiling. As they started to flow, she hobbled to her washbasin and commenced her cleansing ritual. When she was finished, she donned her robe and descended the stairs with quiet feet. As soon as she entered the foyer, she slipped out the door and made her short, sad journey to the stable. The stars shone brightly in the black night, oblivious to the terrible deeds that had taken placed under its blind watch.
It was quiet, so very quiet. She meandered into the dank building and searched for any comfort her old friend might give her. Daisy, the gray and white speckled Clydesdale, lay in her rightful stable, nearly sleeping. She moved a bit closer to the napping beast and laid a pale, shaking hand on its flank. She sobbed as she looked at the caged animal, never called upon but for whenever the master requires her services. In that way, she could relate to Daisy.
“Miss Bray?” She jumped and looked behind her in the direction of the voice. Why hadn’t she heard the steps?
“I’m sorry, Miss Bray. I didn’t mean to frighten you.” The voice was male. He came out of the shadows and stood confidently, holding his coat tightly around his shoulders. He was tall with curly black hair and brilliant blue eyes. She tried to figure out why she’d never seen him working around their estate before.
“May I ask what you are doing out here so late? It’s not safe for a young lady such as you this time of night.”
What he meant to say was that it wasn’t proper.
She turned back to Daisy, the still resting horse, and watched her peaceful state. What she wouldn’t give to be able to sleep like that. With such calm and without nightmares! But it is only a fool’s wish. She would never be happy again.
“Miss Bray.” She jumped again, this time bumping her head against the pen door. She let out a yelp of pain and reached a hand to the back of her head. She did not know he was still there, that quiet little heathen!
He came forward and tried to calm her down. His hand brushed hers and she pulled back instantly. She tripped over a stranded saddle and fell backwards in a heap. Her robe had caught on a loosened nail sticking out from the pen door and it ripped from her body, leaving her only in her chemise. She stood quickly, silently fuming though her anger was plain on her face, only then, after the stable boy refused to look at her, she realized she was without cover. Hurriedly she picked up her robe, which now had a long tear down the front, and held it in front of herself. The stable boy was blushing furiously and stammering his apologies.
“F-forgive m-me, Miss Bray. I-I was only t-trying to help.”
Her own voice was so strange to her; she hadn’t even recognized that it was herself that spoke. Her eyes widened and her mouth hung open in shock. Three years. It had been three years since she last spoke and it was wasted on a stable boy? That wasn’t even the worst of it! “Help indeed"? Those were her first words. Her mind raced as anger boiled up inside her. Her silence had been wasted. Her ability to speak again, mocked by her simple words. After everything she’d been through, all she could say was “Help indeed”? Her shock began to ebb as she saw the stable boy staring at her.
“You finally spoke.”
What. An. Idiot.
“They told me you were mute.”
“Obviously, I am not. Anymore.”
Her eyes found the house and its dark rooms. She hugged her arms around herself as she stared, remembering why she’d been so silent for so long in the first place. A shiver took hold of her and she squeezed herself tighter. A gasp escaped her lips as she looked down to see a deep cut running the length of her arm. Her fingers were lightly coated with blood. A bit more forcefully so she couldn’t pull away, he took her arm and led her to a stool. He pulled a kit from the inside of his jacket and took out a bandage. He gently grabbed the robe from her reluctant hands and stared at the marked skin. Purple-blue and greenish-yellow bruises coated a great expanse of her exposed skin. She tried to hide them again, but to no avail. He snapped out of his shocked reverie and began treating her minor wound.
“Why do you stay, if he hurts you so?” He asked shyly as he worked.
“That is none of your concern.” She replied softly.
Her mind raced. No one except herself and Mr. Bray had ever seen her marks. To have nearly everything revealed, after three years, to a mere stable boy, left her mortified and stunned. Her eyes raked over the boys’ features. He was strong, his hands rough and calloused from the hard work. His cheekbones were high, skin tan from the hours spent in the rare but warm sunlight. She winced as he cleaned the wound.
“My apologies, Miss Bray.” She eyed him again.
“What is your name?”
“Thomas Cain, Mss.”
“Well, Mr. Thomas,” she sat straighter, summoning her authority. “You understand this does not leave the stables? You are to keep quiet.”
“Yes, Miss Bray.” He finished applying the bandage and handed her robe back to her. “Good evening, Miss Bray.”
She put her robe on and headed back to her room. As she sat on her bed, she thought about what Mr. Thomas had said. “Why do you stay if he hurts you so?” That was a wondrous question. She mulled over the pros and cons of staying in this terrible place and leaving to live a better life. She could get a new name, go somewhere new and make a brand new life for herself. Maybe she could go to Brighton. There, she could stay at the Grand Hotel and make visits to places such as the Palace Pier. Or, she could go to America. New York, most likely. That’s where dreams came true wasn’t it? Though, it would become a scandal and she would be at the topic of the gossip tree for the rest of her life. And what if he were to find her? What if going to America wasn’t far enough? What would happen to her then? He would bring her back, if he didn’t kill her, and things would be worse than they were now. She paced the floors and after twenty minutes of debating, she made her decision.
She laced her corset as tight as she could on her own and put on her green traveling dress. On her bed lay a small trunk filled with a change of three dresses and her few belongings which included her favorite book. She treaded lightly down the stairs and to Mr. Bray’s personal office. She pulled out a piece of parchment from a drawer and dipped the quill into the black ink. She wrote briskly, eager to get out of her nightmare before sunrise. Not waiting for the ink to dry properly, she folded the paper and sealed it with Mr. Bray’s wax seal. Quickly, she headed out of the door and to the stables. Mr. Thomas was nowhere in sight and the stables were quiet with sleep. She went to Daisy’s pen and said a brief but heartfelt goodbye. After setting the letter for Mr. Thomas on the stool near Daisy’s pen, she headed off and hailed a cab to the nearest train station; St. Victoria’s. The risk was worth getting out. It was time for her to take charge of her life. She was finally free.
Mr. Thomas woke early the next morning to the sounds of rustling hay. He sat up hastily and vivid flashes of the night’s events played in his mind. He could barely believe than any of it had actually happened. Seeing Miss Bray at such an immodest hour, bandaging her unfortunate wound, and hearing her speak! He bet silently that none of the other servants had ever heard her speak before. And then he remembered why. Those bruises that covered her radiant skin were deliberate and scathingly gruesome. He made his way back to the stables and found the envelope sitting on his stool. His name was on it. He ripped it open and read intently:
I am deeply grateful for the kindness you showed me and I am terribly sorry for the rudeness I showed you. It has been such a very long time since someone has shown me such a kindness. And nearly as long since I last spoke! (I thank you again for that as well.)
But I would truly like you to know that our conversation, if you shall consider it one, has given me the push that I needed. Hardly an hour after our talk, I packed my trunk and made my way to St. Victoria’s. By now, I am sure that I have boarded the train and am on my way to a place far from the busy London streets. That scared, beaten girl is no longer a part of me. As of now, I have begun anew, Mr. Thomas, and I shall hope, fervently in fact, to see you again as a reassurance of our newfound friendship.
And I shan’t forget to tell you (though I almost have) that I have changed my name. No longer will I be that shy, shame-faced Lydia Bray. I will make a name for myself (quite literally), change my life dramatically and for the better. Thank you again for giving me the confidence to take charge of myself.
Miss Charlotte Worthington
Edie jumped into the taxi, her spiky black hair as unruly as ever. She’d tried to tame it, but it had a habit of not cooperating when she needed it to. Her jeans were soaked from the puddle she’d run through accidentally, and her shirt was hopelessly rumpled. She let out a sigh as she told the driver where she was headed.
“Angel’s on Carpenter, please.”
The driver nodded and pulled swiftly and seamlessly back into traffic. Edie leaned against the back of the seat and rested her head. She stared at the ceiling as the butterflies fluttered in her belly. Her thoughts were consumed with where she was going and who she was going to meet. A smile broke her lips as she thought of how all this had started.
Three Days Earlier…
Edie was leaving for work in the afternoon fog, hoping that her day would go right for once. She turned the keys in the ignition of her small blue Volvo and her heart sank. “This can’t be happening,” she groaned to herself. “Not today, baby. Start!” But the car didn’t budge. She took her cell from her purse and dialed her best friend’s number.
“Hey,” he said lazily.
“Nick, my car won’t start. Can you give me a ride to work? I have to be there in twenty minutes.”
“Yeah, sure. Be there in a minute.”
She waited and waited for Nick to show up. Edie couldn’t believe that her luck had been so bad lately. She’d been late to work three times already that week, her boyfriend broke up with her four days before Valentine’s Day, and her brother was angry at her for some reason or another. She just couldn’t understand why everything in her life had to go wrong.
Nick arrived and she hurriedly strapped herself into the passenger seat of his silver Mercedes. The car started moving but Edie couldn’t stop fidgeting. If she was late, her boss would surely fire her. And that Edie just simply could not handle. Fifteen minutes, after the silent car ride, Edie was behind the counter at the bank, ready to start her shift.
She had been a bank teller for the last three years; it was not her ideal, nor dream job, but she was good at it. Her first customer came in and he put a smile on Edie’s face. He was tall and lean, slightly muscular, tan and graying hair. He came up to the counter and gave her an ear-to-ear grin.
“Hello, darling.” His voice was rough with age.
“Fifty from checking, sweetie.”
Edie blushed but did as she was asked. Her father had always insisted on calling her “sweetie” ever since she could remember. It didn’t bother her…much. But she wished he wouldn’t do it while she was at work. After all the signing and handing over of money was finished, they said goodbye, and he left.
The day went on without further event. So when five o’clock neared closer and closer, her spirits began to rise. Soon, she would be slipping out of these ridiculous dress clothes, kicking off her black heels, listening to Mozart or Beethoven, and sipping a glass of Chardonnay. Edie sighed as she thought of all this. About the bliss she would feel… But her daydream was shattered by the sound of someone clearing their throat. Reluctantly, she opened her eyes.
Before her, in a red and black plaid shirt and faded jeans, his tan skin glowed under the fluorescent lighting and his glacier blue eyes were peeking from under shaggy black hair. He flashed a smile at her and she could not believe how white his teeth were. They looked like they could light up a pitch-black room with ease!
“When you can tear your eyes away, I would like to withdraw one hundred from my account.” He was being very sarcastic as he slid the card in her direction.
She gave him a cynical smile and took his card. She looked at the name and nearly passed out. Her eyes glanced back and forth between the card and him, not daring to say anything. When she finally had a hold of herself, she let out a bitter laugh and went back to her work. She put in the numbers, withdrew the cash and just as she was closing the drawer, her sleeve got stuck. She groaned with obvious frustration and tugged. It didn’t budge.
“You know if you pressed-”
“I don’t need your assistance, thank you,” she hissed.
He backed away with his hands up. “Alright,” he looked at her name tag. “Edie.”
She closed her eyes and hoped to God he wouldn’t recognize her.
“Edie Carswell? From Farely High?”
She gave him a fake smile. “The very one.”
“It’s me, Tommy McClear. But you probably already knew that.” He pointed to the screen and indicated his account.
She turned her head and focused her attention on her stuck sleeve. He kept talking as she tugged on it, trying ever so hard to free it from its trap. Why was he talking to her? He was the devil reincarnate in high school. The typical jock. Always picking on the poor, lesser human beings because he felt like it. She hated those stupid, unforgiving, sons of - RIP!! Edie stared down at her shirt and couldn’t believe her eyes. Her constant tugging pulled her entire sleeved from her left arm. She stared incredulously at the torn sleeve and sighed heavily in frustration.
Edie looked away from her sleeve, put on the sweetest smile she could manage, and finished Tommy’s transaction. He signed and watched as she counted off the money into his hand. He pocketed the cash and nodded in her direction before leaving. At least he kept his comments to himself, she thought. The clock now read four-forty. Just a little longer and she could go home. She started to clear things from the counter when she noticed a twenty dollar bill sitting there, crisp and new. Tommy, that boneheaded jerk… She picked up the bill and headed out to the parking lot to see him getting into his bright red Camaro. She approached the car and knocked on the window. It rolled down and a burst of “Sweet Caroline” wafted from the speakers to her ears. She fought the urge to roll her eyes as he looked at her.
“You forgot this.” She thrust the bill into the car and smartly turned on her heel. Before she reached the door, someone shouted her name.
“Edie!” It was Tommy.
“I have to get back to work,” she said irritably.
“Here.” He put the bill back in her hand. “Get yourself something nice. My treat.” He started to walk away, hands shoved in his pockets, a smile playing handsomely on his lips.
Edie had no idea what had just happened. Had Tommy McClear, the jerk everyone knew in high school, just given her twenty dollars and told her to ‘get something nice’? He must have hit his head or something. She stared at the bill and noticed tiny, loopy writing on the bottom border. Edie guffawed. He gave her his phone number! What was she supposed to do with that? She wouldn’t call him. No way.
She pushed the distraction from her mind and went back into the building. It was completely empty, whatever customers still needing service using the drive thru. Still disbelieving and partially numb, she cleared her station and grabbed her coat. She left the building promptly at five o’clock.
Her night was spent alone, as usual, tuning out texts from her friends and screening phone calls. She turned on her radio, Beethoven’s 7th symphony floating from the speakers and poured the red liquid into the tall crystal glass. It wasn’t how she’d imagined it before, but she was still relaxed. She dug the green paper bill from her pocket and stared at it.
“Why would he give me his number?” She wondered out loud.
An hour or so passed, and Edie fell asleep, still wearing her torn shirt.
The next day was much like the first. Get up, eat breakfast, get ready for work, call Nick for a ride because her car won’t start again, and start her shift at the Chronicle Bank of Charisma. As she entered, wearing black dress pants and a short sleeved blue top, Amy, another teller, looked at her and smiled.
“I hear you had a flirty customer yesterday.” She fluttered her eyes wistfully
“He was not flirty.”
“That’s not what I heard.” She looked down at her hands as she punched in for the day.
“And what did you hear?” Edie asked sarcastically.
“That a tall, burly man came in yesterday and all but flung himself at you.”
“First of all, he was not burly. And he did not throw himself at me.” She was protesting rather feebly, but she just didn’t want to argue.
“Whatever you say,” she winked. “Did you use the money he gave you?”
“No, I have not.”
“Why not? He told you to get something nice, didn’t he?” Her eyes widened. “He gave you his number, too, didn’t he?”
Edie buried her head in her hands. She didn’t want to deal with this right now. Turning back to the gray computer and keyboard she typed in her username and logged into her account. Two hours passed and Amy had remained as silent as she could possibly be. But then lunch-break came.
“So, how much did he give you?” She asked around a sip of green tea.
“Twenty. I don’t know why you’re so interested. I mean, John and I broke up only two days ago.”
“So? It’s time to move on. And from the sound of Mr. Stranger’s visit, you’re doing just that.”
“I don’t want to talk about it.” She was getting angry. “My boyfriend dumped me because I’m not ‘pretty’ enough, my brother won’t speak to me, you keep harassing me over some guy, and my car won’t start!”
“I could fix that.” That voice drilled a hole in her already stressful day.
He approached the two girls, wearing a baby blue shirt and jeans. Edie wanted to tear off running in the opposite direction, but he was already standing in front of them. Amy was in complete awe, smiling more than was necessary at his athletic form.
“What are you doing here?” Edie snapped, her frustration getting the best of her.
“Well,” she started as a slow smile stole over his lips. “I came to make a deposit.”
“You were here yesterday.”
Edie sighed. He was taunting her and it was getting on her nerves. “Let’s go, then.”
She led him back inside the bank, with Amy following close behind. She went back behind her desk, eyed the piece of red cloth still hanging from the register, and felt a blush warm her cheeks. Tommy chuckled when he saw it but was instantly silenced with an icy glare from Edie. With a rough tug, Edie pulled the cloth from the register and tossed it in the garbage. She took the card he’d placed on the counter and pulled up his account. With extreme impatience, she waited for him to tell her how much he was depositing. But he just looked at her. His eyes penetrated her anger and frustration like a well-sharpened knife. Edie’s hardness began to soften. Those eyes were hard to deny and even harder to ignore.
“When you can tear your eyes away, I have a job to do,” she mocked him lightly.
He laughed. “And here I thought you didn’t have a sense of humor.”
She smiled and felt the blush return.
They stared at each other for what Edie thought felt like days. His constant stare bored into her as she gazed back. Why, all of a sudden, did she feel like taking him up on his offer to fix her car? Hadn’t he been cruel to her in high school? But that was in the past. Surely, obviously, he wasn’t like that now. She tucked a piece of her hair behind her ear as they still looked at each other.
“Edie.” Amy’s harsh whisper broke her reverie, and she didn’t exactly appreciate it.
“Grainger’s coming. You might want to put away the googly eyes and get to work.
Edie paled. Grainger was the manager of the bank. He was the definition of fear. Tall, imposing, and very threatening. And not to mention, he had anger issues as well. Once, he’d fired a girl for sniffling in his presence. Edie straightened everything around her and flattened the wrinkles on her shirt and pants. She was so frantic in her tidying that she hadn’t noticed Amy’s snickering behind her side of the compartment. She looked at her then turned her eyes to Tommy. He was smiling and chuckling slightly, apparently enjoying her discomfort.
“Ha-ha, laugh if you want. But I’d rather not get fired.”
“I guess I’d better go then,” he smirked. He pulled out a piece of paper and wrote on it quickly and neatly with Edie’s pen. When he finished, he slid the paper to her, winked, and walked out the door.
She looked down at the paper and read the loopy writing:
Sorry to bother you at work, but I wanted to talk to you. I’m glad that we’ve met again and am looking forward to the next time we meet.
No one should spend Valentine’s Day alone. Meet me at Angel’s at 7pm tomorrow.
That was how it had started. A chance meeting that had changed her future. Who would have thought she would be going out on a date (on Valentine’s Day!) with the most popular kid in her high school class? Her, the quiet, teased and unnoticed bookworm…
The taxi pulled in front of the restaurant and Edie’s heart fluttered like a hummingbird’s wings. Outside, under the red and white candy cane striped awning, stood Tommy. He was holding a bouquet of beautiful red roses and small box of chocolates. She smiled radiantly as she nervously approached the tall, handsome young man waiting for her with a caring grin on his full lips.