Do any of y’all remember when I used to write “A picture is worth a 1,000 words” posts? The idea was to find a random picture on Pinterest, and then set my timer and see how fast I could come up with a thousand-word story inspirited from said picture. The purpose was to help me learn to write short stories and to practice my coming-up-with-ideas skills. Plus, the story had to be exactly a thousand words, so that made the challenge more…challenging. (By the way, no brainstorming is allowed before starting the timer. That means I find the picture, like how it looks, copy it, and promptly start the timer.)
Well. I haven’t written any of those stories for a long time, a fact that became all too clear to me when I sat down to write one this morning. The story that plopped into my head was rather trite and cliché, but hey, I’ll get better as I continue practicing.
I’m posting my story from today, even though it’s not stellar, so I can look back after I’m back in practice with these stories, and see the difference. (You can read previous “A picutre’s worth a 1,000 words” posts here, here, here, and here.) And, if any of y’all want to be a part of the challenge, you can join up and post your story (just leave a comment with the link), or you can share it with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hardest Part: All of it, I’m out of practice
Title: The Meeting Place
I stared at the bench, my breath coming in puffs of whiteness. This was the spot. These were the street lamps. The trees. The hedge of bushes. Cold seeped in through the multiple layers I had piled on, yet I didn’t mind it. The shocking weather lent an air of disbelief to the world around me, as if it, too, believed that tonight was merely a fairy tale, a figment of my all too overactive of an imagination.
Leaning closer, I could see that some tracks had been made in the snow in front of the bench, although doubtlessly not recently. The wind was blowing with strong gusts and would have completely covered them if much time had passed. I looked back at my own tracks leading through the knee-high white fluffiness. The energy I had exerted making my way to our meeting place was far less than I’d spent arguing with myself for the last three days, trying to decide if I should come or not.
And now that I’d taken the leap and come? Well, perhaps she wouldn’t show after all. Maybe I would have to turn and trudge my way back to the street car. Maybe I would get lost in the drifts and have to build myself an igloo. Maybe this episode really was a dream and before long I’d be waking up in my cozy room, snuggled under the covers, having left my windows open, hence the cold I was feeling.
Stomping my feet to keep the blood moving, I surveyed the bench, tilting my head first one way, then the other. I could always displace the mounds of snow it was buried under and sit down while I waited. Or I could turn around and leave. I’d done my duty. I’d kept my promise. I’d come and with time to spare, but did she show? No. And it shouldn’t have been a surprise. It wasn’t a surprise. She’d been leaving me in the cold for as long as I could remember. Still, it hurt. The rejection fell over me in little freezing particles, much like the snow was doing at the moment.
Most people don’t get to choose their families. They don’t choose their parents, grandparents, aunts or uncles. And they most certainly don’t choose their siblings. But I had. And sometimes I wondered if that was the reason I struggled so much.
Although we’d been adopted by different families, I had insisted my sister and I never forget each other. When the rest of the bonds I had felt to my former world dissipated in the erosion of time, I held firmly to the ideal that one day we would meet up again, that we would stay together. Our visits were infrequent and proceeded each time by my excited anticipation, then followed by heartbroken tears as I came to the realization that I wasn’t needed. My sister got along fine without me. She had melted and melded into her family in a way that seemed perfectly natural. It hurt to know she’d moved on, that she’d found a new life, a new world, one in which I didn’t fit.
You’ve got to make an effort, Lilly. My sister’s words were the same each visit. They love you, you love them. They’re your family and you need to start acting like it. There was a time when she even refused to visit me for several years. Finally my begging and pleading had gotten to her, and I’d found comfort in knowing I was among my real flesh and blood.
Then we’d had a falling out. I finally had had enough of her mincing and bossing. She’d declared me immature. I’d declared her un-loyal. She’d declared me a girl who could only look backward, I declared her someone who professed to be too good for her roots. And the argument had gone on. When we left, it was without a backward glance. My last words were that she could move on with life. I would never try and see her again. She was dead to me, as if we really weren’t blood sisters after all. As if we hadn’t had the same beginning in life.
That was when we were sixteen. Her bitter accusations stayed with me for two years, haunting my memory, making me angry. Then I had learned to let go. Not only to the anger, but to the past. She had been right after all. We lived different lives. Our blood wasn’t enough to keep us connected forever. There were times when I even pondered the possibility of her planning out the fight so we’d have a falling out and I would finally move on with life. The thought, while painful, did have merit. After all, she’d finally succeeded in forcing me to stop using her as the crutch she’d been in my life.
Standing under the stinging coldness, my thoughts chased each other around and around. It had taken me nearly three years to finally admit that she was right. That our argument might have been for the best after all. And of course that’s when she contacted me. Her first initiation at reaching out to me. And it turned my finally-in-order world back into a land of chaos. I was scared of the reaction I would face when I finally saw her again, hence the reason I had nearly been absent. But I was here now, and she wasn’t.
“Lilly?” The voice was soft.
I swallowed hard and turned toward the voice.
Reaching out, she wrapped her arms around me. “I was wrong.”
I returned the hug then stepped back. “Wrong?”
“Family is important.”
I sucked in an icy breath.
“Adopted and blood family.”
I gave a simple nod.
“Can you forgive me? Be my sister once again?”
“I missed you during the last four years.” My sister smiled at me.
And the cold didn’t feel so cold any more.