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Summer, 2010
24-Hour Short Story Contest
2nd Place Winner!

TOPIC OF THIS CONTEST WAS:

The young girl pulled another pair of pants from the pile of laundry. Between the hot black iron and the fireplace, it was stifling in the small kitchen. The only relief she could hope for was a small breeze coming from the window overlooking the distant waves. Her arm started moving methodically once again and, just as she started to fantasize about a forbidden swim, the iron stopped at a bump in the pocket...

Entries must touch on the topic in some way to qualify.


The Open Sea
by Liam Roberts, London, United Kingdom

Jasmine looked over her shoulder to see if Mum was around - no sign of her. She smiled to herself, and put her face deep into the basket of clothes - taking in the faint scent of detergent, the soft fabrics against her cheeks, the glorious warmth of the summer sun trapped here amongst the socks and the shirts. She felt hidden away, embraced, loved and silly all at once. She started to laugh.

"What are you doing?" the voice came from outside the basket.

Jasmine pulled her head out, hair tousled, red-faced. "Nothing." she said.

"I asked you to fold the laundry, not stick your head into it. What did I ask you to do?"

Jasmine glowed in humiliation, her pulse throbbing in her neck. "Sorry, Mum. It just smells nice."

Mum squinted, shaking her head. "You are a damn silly child. I've half a mind to wash the whole load again now."

"Sorry. I'm sorry." Jasmine pulled a shirt from the basket, quickly, folding its arms across the front, smoothing them out, envisaging a straight jacket. Envisaging Mum trapped in one, wrestling against the tightened bonds to no end, but to drive her truly mad.

Could I get Mum to wear one?

Mum returned to the kitchen. "I'll be waking Dad up in an hour for dinner. He'll still be jetlagged, so don't go jumping all over him, Jasmine. The last thing he'll want is you clambering around or singing in his ears."

Jasmine gripped the shirt sleeves and clenched her jaw. "As if," she thought. "As if Dad would mind." She turned her head to talk back to Mum, and then thought better of it. "Dad loves me," she wanted to say. "You're just jealous. You're jealous that you don't even love me."

She inhaled deeply, slowly, restraining her tears. The salty sea air blew through the open window in a gust, luring Jasmine towards it. She took another shirt, quickening her pace, folding it sloppily. "Why is it that Dad always has to go away on work trips? Why can't it be Mum who goes away? All of the time?" A gust of wind blew through the window, toppling the near-empty box of detergent, sprinkling white dust across the floor.

"For Christ's sake, Jasmine!" Mum yelled back, her voice high-pitched, almost panicked. "What <i>are</i> you doing in there?"

Jasmine said nothing, taking a pair of trousers from the basket

Mum came to the laundry room, stomping. "Jasmine! I'm talking to you!"

"I didn't hear you," Jasmine said, looking down, folding one pant leg over the other. "It's windy, I didn't hear you."

Mum took the spilled detergent box and grabbed Jasmine by the arm, wrenching her from the laundry, sticking the box into her face. "You see this? You like the smell of <i>this?</i>"

Jasmine cried out, but she was only shaken harder.

"Don't be such a klutz, and don't you dare pretend you can't hear me!"

Jasmine held her tears back, stubbornly, not wanting to reveal a thing, not wanting Mum to win. She just nodded. "I'm sorry," she said. "I won't do it again."

Mum let go, wiped her face, sniffed back her own tears now. Her lip quivered as she look down at her daughter. "Please," she said, before walking out of the room.

Jasmine turned back to the laundry table, her heart racing, angry that she didn't get to see Mum cry, yet proud she hadn't broken down herself. She suddenly felt older somehow, emotionless, as though every episode with Mum only wizened her further, caking her in grit, sidelining her spirit. She smoothed her father's pant leg, wanting him to wake up so badly.

She felt a bump in the trouser pocket, and she squeezed it. Hard and round. She reached into the pocket, looking over her shoulder for Mum - she was drying dishes, facing the window. Jasmine took the thing between her fingers, and slipped it on. It was a ring.

Excitedly, she took it out and looked at it, hanging loosely on her own finger. Her eyes widened. It was the familiar gold band, broad and beveled, that he wore every day. It was the promise of eternity, forged so elegantly as an endless circle. It was his fated love for her mother, and her mother's fated love for him. It was a trinity of faith, certainty, and will. And it was in his pocket.

Jasmine clutched her hand into a fist, covering it with her other, moistening it in her hot hands. Why did he take it off? Maybe because of the airport metal detector? Maybe he was scared of being mugged in whatever weird country he was in? Maybe he didn't want anyone to know he was married.

Maybe he didn't want someone to know he was married.

She slipped the ring into her own pocket, gazing out the window at the sea: this vast, unknowable world. How far could she cast this ring, how deeply could the sea swallow it? How many centuries until the freezing currents wear it completely away?

She bunched the last of the socks, her eyes unfocused, her mind buzzing, images of Dad placing his love in the hands of a stranger. I understand, I understand, she thought. She left the laundry room, finding Mum at the kitchen window.

She'd meant to ask if she could go for a swim. She'd meant to hurl the ring as far as she could, deep into the open jaws of the crashing waves. But a cruel whimsy took her over, making her smile, giving her power.

"Look what I found," she said.


What Liam won:

$250 Cash Prize
Publication of winning story on the WritersWeekly.com website
1 - Freelance Income Kit Includes:
-- 1-year subscription to the Write Markets Report
-- How to Write, Publish and $ell Ebooks
-- How to Publish a Profitable Emag
-- How to Be a Syndicated Newspaper Columnist Special (includes the book; database of 6000+ newspapers; and database of 100+ syndicates)

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Contest guidelines are HERE.


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