Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Homecoming

While I keep working away at the novel, I thought I would share a short piece that I wrote earlier this year for the NPR "Three Minute Fiction" contest.  The rules were simple:  (1) use their first sentence as a prompt, and (2) keep the story at 600 words or less. 

Here was my attempt:


She closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally, decided to walk through the door. 
I watched in silence from my office.
I saw the way she looked when she studied the first photograph in the book.  I had made sure they placed that image prominently.  I knew that the sight of the child’s tiny body, so helpless and trusting, would win her for us.  She looked at it far longer than necessary.  I knew she would.  I also knew that images like that were the reason she rarely slept, and yet I kept adding to the collection in her mind.
"I'll do it," she said, raking her hand through her short dark hair.  "Only because of the little girl, though," she clarified.  "This is the last time."
"I understand," I said.  “We need the problem resolved by the end of the week.”
She nodded.
I nudged a thin file across my desk; she snatched it up without looking at it.  I watched the way she clasped it against her chest, her fingers pale with the strength of her grip.  Later she would study the file; she would commit every detail to memory.  That was how she worked. 
There had been many nights when I woke up to the sound of pages turning, only to find her sitting at our desk sifting through the photos and notes, her pale skin almost golden in the soft light of the candles that were clustered around our bed.
“Come back to bed,” I would urge her, my voice hoarse with desire.
“When it is done,” she would promise.
But then one day, she didn’t come back.  I didn’t try to find her; that would have been like trying to chase sunlight.  So I waited.  I waited a long time…and, when she was needed, she returned.
I stared across the desk at her; she looked the same as the last time I saw her…tired, but the same.
“You know,” I said, my voice low, “You don’t have to do this.”
She glanced down at the file before she returned my gaze. 
“Yes, I do,” she assured me, her dark eyes blazing with something akin to hatred; then she turned and left me again.
I leaned back in my chair and sighed, rubbing my eyes wearily.  It might be several days before she confirmed.  Once it had taken several months; another time it had only been a few hours. 
I reached for my coat and locked the door behind me.  I’m not sure how long I drove, but it had been dark for quite a while by the time I got back to my apartment.  I immediately dug around in the sofa cushions for the remote control and turned on the television to ward off the silence that always seemed to linger here.  It was a habit I had developed after she left, and I have never given it up.
The local anchorman wore a pink bow tie and his usual expression of concerned contemplation as he detailed the day’s atrocities.
“Authorities are asking for your help to solve a gruesome murder tonight,” he confided.  “Richard McNabb, a music teacher at ‘Jude & Leonard’s Music Emporium,’ was found dead outside his home around 9:45 this evening.  Mr. McNabb had been a ‘person of interest’ in the disappearance of his former student, six year old Emily Rhodes—“
So it was done.
I turned off the television and, with a smile devoid of all joy, I disappeared into the bedroom.  As I lit the last candle, I heard her key in the door.

Feel free to leave your thoughts, input, and suggestions (keeping in mind that the first sentence had to be used as written, and that the word limit was a mere 600 words)! 

Writers love feedback!


  1. You know how much I love this piece. It gives me chills. The work itself, of course, and the mystery behind their relationship and how this arrangement came to be... it's the most perfect kind of wondering.

  2. Yes, this piece is amazing!! I can't get over how scary/awesome it is. You should write a story to go along with it!

  3. That leaves me feeling all creeped out. Who are these two? For 600 words, you get a lot in there and still leave a lot to the readers imagination.

  4. I agree. Creepy and a little sweet, almost serene. Or surreal :) I really like the relationship between these two. It feels like the loss of their child took them apart and brought them together again.

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