Long time no write, right? It’s been like FOREVER since I last blogged but I haven’t been slacking on my writing.
In fact, this summer I participated for the first time in the summer 2016 24-Hour Short Story Contest.
How it works is you’re emailed a short story topic on a specific day and you have 24-hours to come up with and write a short story that falls beneath a certain word count.
Writing Hindsight wasn’t the hard part. Chiseling it down to the designated word count was what drove me a little crazy.
I didn’t win, but my story Hindsight did get an honorable mention which to me was a good boost in confidence for someone who has never entered a short story contest of any kind.
HERE’S A LINK to the winners page so you can read the winning entries!
There’s another round coming up THIS Sunday! If you are a writer or aspiring writer who is looking for a writing challenge that will test your creativity and brain power, you need to sign up! It’s only $5 to enter and you can win up to $300.
But back to my story…
I was inspired by an episode of BET’s “Being Mary Jane” when creating Hindsight. One particular episode where Mary Jane’s friend commits suicide was very affecting for me and changed my perspective on the deep nature of suicide. I believe it did for everyone.
Let me warn that this may be triggering to some people who have been affected by sexual abuse or suicide. It makes me tear up a little whenever I read it so keep this in mind before reading.
I didn’t re-edit anything. Exactly how the story appears here is how it did when I submitted it. So excuse any misspellings or grammar errors :-/. Let me know what you think in the comments, please!
“Happy late birthday boss lady!” Bugsy said as I approached his hot dog stand. “Your secretary told me your birthday was seven days ago.”
“What types of mustard do you have today Bugsy?” I asked. My eyes on my phone, fingers scrolling through my emails.
“Geez Ms. Nova. Why always business with ya?”
I shrugged still waiting for his answer.
“I had a pure-breed schnauzer,” he said, sharing his daily random fact.
I looked up at him annoyed and let out a deep exhale.
“But now,” Bugsy continued, “he only has three legs,” he laughed.
I rolled my eyes.
“You know what, no hot dog today,” I said focusing back down at my phone. “Let me get a bottle of water instead.”
Bugsy handed me the bottle accidentally brushing his wet sweaty hand against mine.
“Ick!” I said to myself, tucking the cold bott1e under my arm and grabbing a napkin off his stand.
I paused. This moment seemed familiar.
That’s when I saw it, or thought I’d seen it.
I blinked twice when my eyes fell on the paper’s headline in the metal newspaper dispenser just a few feet away. The dispenser reflected the harsh sunlight, but that didn’t obstruct my view of the date on the newspaper.
June 3, 2009.
That’s impossible, I thought to myself.
My heart raced.
I snapped my finger in Bugsy’s direction then pointed back at the dispenser. “Is the date correct on this newspaper?”
Bugsy walked over, his scent of hot dog water reaching me before he did.
“Yep, July, 9 2016.”
“No that’s not what it says,” I said looking again. But he was right.
I glanced down at my watch and noted the time.
The bottle and my phone fell from my hand. I was half-way down the block when they hit the sidewalk. I dashed across the street, my heels clip-clopping quickly against the New York City concrete.
I only have seven minutes.
It took me all of three seconds to recollect the ancestor’s tale my late grandmama told my sister Zorah and I.
Every seven years we become new people. The ancestor’s believed that on the seventh day at the start of our seventh years we received a sign of a wrong we needed to fix.
“Some identify that familiar feeling as Déjà vu, a moment they’ve experienced before but can’t remember when, so they miss out,” my grandmama said. “But it’s more than that. The universe reorders itself for a small window of time, allowing you to correct a wrong. But you only get seven minutes to do so once you realize what you need to do. That’s the only time the universe allows. Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.”
Grandmama died a year later. Soon after, our mama met Jamie, a cop, and moved him in. A decision that ruined Zorah’s life. She was 13, me 8.
I’m pushing past people now. running as fast as I can. Cutting through traffic, cars screeching as I pass. My focus — the bakery.
That’s where Zorah goes, or went, every weekday at 11am.
Only five minutes left.
Looking back at it now, my older sister Zorah had it rough growing up. At night when mama slept, Jamie went to Zorah’s room. Strange noises and crying would come from there when they were alone. One night after my 12th birthday, Jamie turned the knob on my door, but Zorah begged him to leave me alone and come to hers.
Zorah moved out at 18 and took me with her. Mama didn’t care, she wanted her freedom.
I lived with Zorah until my 18th birthday.
I’d eventually want my freedom too.
She always had lunch at Sweet Sunrise, a bakery less than 15 minutes away from the stock exchange where I worked. Zorah invited me for lunch every weekday until June 3, 2009 – the day she took her life.
About a week after we buried her, I cleaned out her apartment and found a box of her journals. In them she detailed the abuse, her pain, and her want to leave this earth.
This was shocking. I thought she was happy. Even her online life proved this. No one knew anything was wrong until she swallowed four bottles worth of sleeping pills.
After her death, I realized if I’d asked her one simple question more often, she’d still be here.
If grandmama was right, I’ll get to do it now.
I cringed when I had to kick off my heels to run faster against the hot concrete.
Just two minutes left.
I stepped into Sweet Sunrise bakery gasping for air.
Panic then disappointment set in as I searched for her.
She’s not here.
My heart grew heavy in my chest, tears welled in my eyes.
I glanced at my watch.
“Nova?” she asked softly behind me. When I spun around there she stood. My sister in the flesh. Grandmama was right!
I wrapped my arms around her tight.
Then I finally asked her.
“How are you?”
“I’m fine,” she replied without even thinking about it.
I could see she wasn’t.
From the dark circles under her eyes that she’s worked so hard to conceal. Left behind from her nights crying alone. To the deep lines on her forehead from furrowed brows set with worry as she struggled to cope with her past.
I lifted her hands and saw the writer’s lumps on her fingers formed from her days of writing her pain on blank pages.
I looked up at Zorah and her forced smile.
“No sis, honestly,” I said pressing my hands to her cheeks, looking into her beautiful eyes with tears in mine. “How. Are. You?”
© 2016 Samantha Greaves