This is the day, my friends! Today you learn who the three winners are of the SEA Scribblers short story contest. Everybody all shriek in excitement together!!!
This contest was an amazing experience, and I was blown away by the sheer amount of people who entered. The talent and the clever usage of the prompts, the fascinating stories… there was so much to be in awe over, and Schuyler, Emily and I are incredibly honored in having the privilege to judge. You all did not make it easy on us. O.O
Anyone curious about who won?
We Three Gifts written by Sarah Holliday
Red, Yet White written by Victoria Marinov
Song for Liselei written by Elisabeth Hayse
Congratulations, ladies, and well done! I’m so excited for you all. ^_^
As for those of you who didn’t win, rest assured, your stories were wonderful. We had a torturous time nearing down to the Top Three and because of that we are each going to have an Honorable Mentions section to honor the talent of some of you amazing writers. Seriously, I was so happy and pleased by all the entries. Thank you to everyone for making this the best experience for the SEA Scribblers that we could have asked for!
Stardust: a retelling
The White City
And now for the Second Place entry…..
Red, Yet White
Doesn’t Aunt Mae get it that the last thing I need right now is a boyfriend? Especially not one who goes to a fancy private school and has rich parents. Or has never known any pain in his life.
I storm out of the back door and shut out Aunt Mae’s voice, pleading me to come back. No, I’m not going back. Bradley is an obnoxious, stuck-up brat. Anyone can see that. And besides, when he finds out who I really am, it’s going to break his shiny little heart made of golden foil. I don’t see why Mae is trying to set us up.
I mean, she and Uncle Tim aren’t annoying people in general, except that they resemble the nerds you see on Animal Planet. Uncle Tim could’ve gone and had a brilliant career in Wall Street, but instead they came here to the middle of nowhere in Virginia and bought a few acres of forest, for no other reason except to make a “sanctuary” for baby wolves abandoned by their pack because of deformities. They raise the wolves here. They – the wolves – are all supposedly tame, but I still don’t like going out in the back yard too often.
It’s much better than if I had gone to stay with Great-Uncle Carl, my other choice for Christmas. He’s this old, quiet dude with a mustache and he used to work with strategic intelligence. And besides, all the aunts on the other side of the family like to gossip that he was a spy for the KGB once. I’m not sure I believe that, but there’s no way I’m spending Christmas with him.
The cold air forces me to button my jacket and rub my arms where the raw skin is. I wish I had put ointment on them. The cuts are over a month old, when I had my last fit, but for some reason they’re not healing. And the cold is making my skin all dry and weird. I never get that in California. Nor do we get snow.
I leap over a patch of it, and Fassbender limps from behind a tree, wagging his tail. He comes up and sniffs my hands, and I rub his thick, warm fur.
From the first day I arrived, I guess Fassbender took the responsibility of watching over me. I didn’t think wolves have a protective instinct, but I guess tame ones do. He’s really sweet, and somehow the presence of another broken being soothes me. Although he has it better than me. He’s deformed physically, with his foot. I’m deformed mentally. And that’s breaking me physically.
I wonder why there isn’t a sanctuary for broken humans. Why is it that animals seem to get so many more privileges than people? It’s ridiculous.
As I continue walking through the forest, I see a couple younger wolves running playfully in a circle. A robin, feathers puffed up against the cold on a branch I pass under, sings a couple notes before taking off. My ears are beginning to get cold, and I let my hair down from its ponytail. It’s one advantage of having ridiculously thick hair. I can use it to warm my head.
Suddenly I realize that the candy cane Bradley gave me is still in my pocket. It’s all crushed now. I’ve never really liked candy canes. They remind me of myself. Bent, and so easily crushed. And red stripes.
I shove it back in my pocket and reach over to touch Fassbender. His presence is reassuring. I’ve never really realized what a difference an animal can make, and I’m sort of glad he’s by me. After several minutes I reach the fence that ends the property. The gravel road passes right by it, and I lean against the fence and stare at it.
There’s something inviting about roads. They stretch forever into the horizon, and you don’t know what’s over the bend. It could be something bad, but it could also be good. You would think with all that’s happened in my life I wouldn’t be so optimistic, but I guess I am. There’s always a chance for something different, if not better. I think that’s what’s keeping me alive. The hope that something better will come. I wish I have a promise that something better will come, because hope can seem so pointless sometimes.
This road has a bend too, and I want to see what’s beyond it. So I climb over the fence and tell Fassbender that I’ll be back in a little bit. He sits down and looks at me with those large, soft eyes of his, almost pleading to come with me.
“Sorry, boy,” I rub his head over the fence. “I’ll take care of myself, I promise.”
The gravel turns to rough pavement shortly after the bend. The forest grows thick around the road, but ahead I see a clearing. I walk toward it, not really expecting anything, just wanting something to keep me going down this road. Because I need something. Desperately. Before I do something stupid.
There’s a parking lot in the clearing, and it’s empty, except for an old pick-up truck that doesn’t look like it’s been driven since Charlemagne was crowned emperor. Across the parking lot a small, whitewashed church huddles in the clearing. Its steeple rises up toward the overcast sky, standing securely through the cold wind which suddenly blows through the clearing. Sudden memories come to me, of when I was in high school a couple years ago and my choir went on a trip to Europe, and we visited a cathedral. It had been so peaceful to sit in the old wooden pews with carved angels keeping guard high overhead.
I don’t suppose a small church in the middle of nowhere will have that same effect, but I walk up to the doors anyhow. They’re unlocked. I tug them and walk inside. The lobby is empty, and a couple papers on the bulletin board flutter when I close the door. The sanctuary doors open more smoothly, and I shyly tiptoe in. The floors creaks under my steps, and it sounds frightfully loud in the empty building.
I find a pew near the front and sit on the edge. It’s quiet and peaceful, but so terribly lonely. Loneliness feels like the ideal environment for dark thoughts to reproduce. And yet, the silence inside this church is soothing, in a way. The high ceiling and the grandness of it all somehow reminds me that my problems don’t really matter in the world. Nothing is going to be changed by my failures, and they won’t hurt anyone I love. There really isn’t anything to cry about, and I don’t really cry that much, but a couple tears slide down my cheek.
Then I hear the door open, and someone walks across the sanctuary. It’s probably just a janitor or something. I hope the person hasn’t noticed me. The last thing I need right now is someone to disrupt my precious privacy. Maybe coming here was a bad idea.
“Would you like me to sit with you?”
I look up. There’s a guy standing by me. If these emotions weren’t here now, I would probably laugh, because he really looks like such a typical nerd. With the glasses and messy brown hair and the sweater and everything. But I really don’t care now. I shrug.
“Sure, go ahead.”
He sits beside and looks ahead, and I try to ignore him. This is awkward. I’m always awkward around guys. I’m always awkward around everyone, actually.
“So, have you recently moved into the area?” he suddenly asks. “I don’t think I’ve seen you before.”
I wipe my nose on my sleeve, wondering why I wasn’t asked the normal “why are you crying” and “can I help you” that strangers normally ask me when they see me and my depression in the park.
“Kinda. I’m visiting my aunt and uncle. The Reynolds.”
“Oh, really? The ones who take care of the deformed wolf pups?”
“It must be great.”
“Yeah, I guess.”
I want to end this conversation. But I suddenly feel really rude, so I ask something before I realize it’s really stupid.
“Do you live here?”
“Yup. Just around the bend. My dad’s the pastor of this church.”
“So is your family here too?”
“No. My parents sent me here because they’re busy with some … legal things.” Their divorce, that is. I mean, they’ve never wanted me around anyway, so I’m sure why they really sent me away was so they wouldn’t have to drag their embarrassment of a daughter around at Christmas parties.
“Hey, I know this is awkward,” he says, “but is there any way I can help you? I just saw you were kind of sad, and–”
“It’s fine, really,” I cut him off. He won’t understand, especially if he’s a pastor’s son. There was this kid in my tenth-grade class who was a pastor’s son, and he was so perfect and holy and annoying, and I can’t stand these people.
He shrugs. “Alright then, I just though I could help. I guess I’ll leave.”
I watch him as he stands up. In a way, I don’t want him to leave. Someone else’s presence helps me from believing that I’m worthless and stupid, but he would never understand. He must have thrown his coat in the front pew and he reaches for it, and then I notice something, and stare, adrenaline surging through me. On his arms, there are lines, in the same places where my cuts are. Except mine are red. His are healed scars.
“You too,” the words breathlessly tumble out of my mouth before I can stop them.
He turns around and looks at me. “What?” Then, somehow, he understands. “Is that what–”
“Yes,” I nod, and the tears come again. “I – I hate myself.” I pull my hand from my pocket and see that I’m still holding the crushed candy cane, and stare at it for the lack of anything else to do.
Again he sits down by me and puts his arm around me. “I know,” he says after a moment of difficult silence. “I’ve been there. I did it too. I – I hurt myself too.”
So I’m not the only one in the world. I resist the tears that force themselves through my eyes and wonder what to say. I don’t know what to say. My feelings sometimes feel too complicated to be put into words.
“Have you ever heard of the legend of the candy cane?” he adds after a moment and points to the one I’m holding.
I remember something vague from when I was in kindergarten. My teacher read us a picture book about the candy cane or something, but I don’t remember anything. “No, I haven’t,” I answer.
“On Christmas we celebrate Jesus’ birth,” he says. “He came to be a shepherd to those who love Him.”
When I was little and my dad still dragged us to church I used to hear this stuff. I’ve never really thought about it since then, though.
“That’s why the candy cane is bent,” he continues, taking it from my hand. “Like a shepherd’s staff.”
“Oh,” is all I can say.
“You know He came to die as a sacrifice, right?”
“The red stripes – they represent the blood that He shed for us on the cross. He suffered so we wouldn’t have to. You don’t have to bleed anymore,” he softens his voice, “because He already bled for you.”
Why would anyone bleed for me? Why would anyone die for me? That’s what I never understood. “What about the white?” I ask hoarsely, running my finger across the candy cane.
“We can be white – washed clean of our sins, if we turn to Him,” the young man tells me. “As white as snow. Your wounds will be healed if you believe that He died and rose again for you.”
Not bleeding sounds wonderful – something that hasn’t sounded wonderful in a while.
“Can– can I come here on Sunday?” I ask. I suddenly want to know more. Maybe this guy can help me. Maybe – maybe I really don’t have to bleed anymore.
“Of course. Everyone’s invited.”
“Thank you,” I try to smile appreciatively. “Thank– thank you for everything. Well, I probably have to be going,” I stand up after a couple silent moments.
“Would you like me to walk you home?”
“If it wouldn’t be out of your way …”
“No, it wouldn’t,” he reassures me.
We walk out of the church. It’s gotten cold, and definitely darker. And it’s snowing. There’s something magical and refreshing about snow. As white as snow, my companion’s words echo through my head. I suddenly realize that I want to be like that.
We climb over the fence, and Fassbender comes trotting up and wagging his tail.
“It’s alright,” I see my friend’s reluctance and laugh. How good that feels. “He’s perfectly tame.”
“If you say so,” he says with a smile and reaches out to pet my wolfish friend. “What’s his name?”
“Like the actor? That’s an interesting name for a wolf.”
“Oh, I don’t know. I don’t really watch movies.”
“What do you mean you don’t watch movies?” he looks at me incredulously.
I shrug. “I don’t know. I’ve never really been interested. I don’t even remember the last time I watched anything.”
We continue silently through the woods and soon reach the house. I guess most of the sanctuary’s inhabitants have retreated into their kennels, which I’m thankful for. I wouldn’t feel safe in a dark wood with wolves around.
“Well, this is me,” I say. “Thanks for, uh, everything. I feel better.”
He smiles. I never noticed until now how kind and genuine his smile is. “I know what you’re going through, and I’ve gone through it. And I want to help you.”
“Thanks,” is all I can say.
“By the way, I was thinking, do you want to go see a movie together? After church this Sunday?”
“Um, sure, I would love to. I’ll ask my aunt, but I think she’ll be okay with it.”
“Alright then, I guess I’ll see you then. Oh, wait, what’s your name?”
That’s right. We don’t even know each other’s names. Awkward.
“I’m Destiny,” I say. “You?”
“Gabriel,” he answers. “And you have a unique name.”
“Thank my parents for that,” I smile and open the door.
“Oh, and, Destiny, I forgot to return your candy cane.” He hands it to me.
“Thanks,” I accept it and fumble for a moment in the dark. “Have a good evening.”
He returns my farewell and walks away into the dark. I close the door, walk into the lighted kitchen and dust my boots on the carpet. Uncle Tim and Aunt Mae are talking in the dining room. By their voices I can tell that they’re not discussing me, so I head that way. But before I head in, I look at the candy cane in my hand, and stop. It’s not my crushed one. This one’s whole and new, and bigger.
I smile when I realize that Gabriel must have had this one and given it to me. Fingering it, I think of our conversation in the church.I don’t have to bleed anymore, because One already bled for me.
I think from now on candy canes will taste better.