Short story: The Sinister Lagoon

Disclaimer: This was written for a short story contest.


The Sinister Lagoon

“Attention all Springland County residents,” the radio announcer’s voice barked loudly, “we have just received word of an escaped prisoner from the Eastfall Prison. Investigators are not positive precisely when the escape happened, but they believe it was within the last few days. Springland County Sheriff Eric Shaw has issued a warning to all those residing in both Springland County and nearby areas. Please be advised that prisoner Madeline Dunn is considered both armed and very dangerous. If you see her, do not approach her. We repeat, do not approach her. Call the police immediately. Thank you all for your time. Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming.

“Awesome,” she heard Jace say. “We could use some excitement around here.”

“Wait, wasn’t she that chick who killed her cheating fiancé or something like that?” Curtis asked.

“Oh right, I heard she shot him like eighty times or something,” Madison chimed in.

“Great,” Chelsea groaned from the sandbar as she adjusted her tanning position, “just what we need – some unhinged psycho running around.”

Curtis jetted out of the water and sat down beside Chelsea.

“Aw, what’s wrong, Chels? You scared?” He questioned in a mocking tone. Then he leaned in closer and attempted to cop a feel. “Need me to protect you?”

Chelsea pushed his arm away in disgust.

“You wish.”

You okay, Avery?” Jace asked as he swam cautiously towards her. It was unusual for Avery to be so silent. She was the girl who could barely go five minutes without uttering a sound. Except for now that is. There was nothing emitting from her except for an eerie silence. No, she wanted so badly to say, she wasn’t okay. After all, there was a known murderer lurking around. How could any of them feel safe right now? Or at least safe enough to be out in the open with little to no protection. She was terrified, absolutely terrified. But she couldn’t let Jace know that. Not popular, charismatic Jace who all the girls in school wanted. Not the Jace that she unexpectedly bagged. Not the Jace she never deserved in the first place.

Avery simply nodded her head in response to his question. Her body stilled as she felt him get behind her and wrap his arms around her waist. His constant cinnamon scent wafting into her nostrils; his hot breath on her neck. It was all she could do to keep her composure.

“You’ll be safe in my bed tonight,” Jace said in the huskiest of voices. “I promise.”

Avery removed herself from his grip long enough to turn around to face him. Then she pulled him into a passionate kiss.

“Okay, seriously, get a room you two,” Madison said from a few feet away.

“We already have one,” Jace responded jokingly as he broke the kiss.

“Then use it.”

“We should be thinking about heading out anyway, bro. We’re seriously low on beer,” Curtis informed his friend.

“And we can’t let that happen, can we Curtis? Heaven forbid there’s no beer.”

“Screw you, Chelsea.”

Jace gave Avery an apologetic look, one she knew all too well. One that said he had to back up his friend.

“Curtis is right. We’ll go for a beer run and you girls can start dinner.”

“Yeah, I’ll get right on that,” Chelsea replied, giving the boys a sarcastic thumbs up.

Jace started to paddle to shore as Madison sidled up alongside Avery.

“Know what I don’t get? Why did she shoot him? Why not just go for his bank account or his reputation instead?”

Avery heard Chelsea snort. “Because cheaters don’t care about their reputations. And he probably was broke. No, she was right in serving up some revenge; however, she was wrong in the way she doled it out. She should have killed them both. I mean, why does the other woman get a free pass?”

Madison shot Avery a shocked look to which Avery responded merely with a shrug. That was Chelsea. Unfiltered, but loyal.

“You don’t know the whole story, Chelsea. Maybe she was lied to as well.” Madison’s voice quivered. “Maybe she thought he was going to leave his girlfriend.”

 Chelsea rolled her eyes. “You’re so naïve. I’m sure the two of them were going to live blissfully and unfaithfully ever after.”

“Maybe they were.” It came out barely as a whisper, but Avery heard it nonetheless. She slowed her pace and allowed Madison to walk in front of her. When Madison realized Avery was no longer next to her, she turned around.

“You coming, Aves?”

Avery nodded. “I’ll be there in a second.”

And then she watched them gather their belongings from the ground and head back to the main cabin. She felt sick to her stomach. How stupid could she be? It had been right in front of her face all along. The texts Jace would get and suddenly delete. The way Madison hung on his every word. The quick and darted looks in the hallway at school. They needed to pay for humiliating her this way. Stepping out of the swimming hole, she picked up her bag which had been situated on the rainbow colored beach chair. Sticking her right hand in, she fumbled through it until she felt the item she had so desired. Her lips formed into a smirk as her fingers ran across the sharp blade of the knife. It was poetic justice really. Avery had never seen it coming. And now neither would they.

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Book Review: I Was Here – Gayle Forman

“I don’t know if I had ever really listened to the words before, because when I did now, they were like a smack from her grave. It says you can still forgive her. And she will forgive you back.

But I don’t know that I can. And I don’t know that she did.”

– Cody Reynolds, I Was Here

Gayle Forman, author of books such as If I Stay, Where She Went, and Just One Day brings readers I Was Here, the story of one young woman’s search for answers in the wake of a tragedy. Meg and Cody were best friends. Where Meg ended, Cody began. They knew everything about each other. Except they didn’t. Not even close. Because Cody had no idea that her best friend was so depressed that she needed to swallow poison to make the pain go away. When someone takes their life unexpectedly, it’s natural for those around them to question why they didn’t see any warning signs. It’s also understandable to look for some reasoning behind their decision.

As humans we’re conditioned to ask questions about situations that leave us confused. Why? Because answers help us cope. Help us move on. And we cannot move on until we reach a conclusion, a finality in our quest for answers. So when Meg’s grieving parents ask their daughter’s best friend, Cody, who is like a second daughter to them, to pick up Meg’s stuff from school, she accepts, albeit reluctantly. Although combing through the remainders of Meg’s life feels all wrong for Cody, she continues doing so. While picking up Meg’s belongings, she meets her former roommates who were just as in the dark about Meg’s suicide as her parents and Cody, her supposed best friend. Cody also stumbles upon Ben McCallister, the guy who broke Meg’s heart.

Cody is looking for someone to blame – someone other than herself that is – for Meg’s heartache. At first, the person that fits that bill is Ben. Even more so after she finds e-mail after e-mail from Meg to Ben that for the most part go unanswered. There is one poignant response from Ben, however; the one where he tells Meg she needs to leave him alone. If only he knew the lengths she would go to to satisfy that request. Only it’s not that simple. Even Cody knows that. Most college freshmen don’t kill themselves over unrequited feelings. When Meg’s parents insist Cody keep Meg’s laptop, Cody gets an insight into her best friend’s world that she never saw coming. Meg had joined a suicide support group. But it’s not the type of group that dissuades suicide. Oh, no. It is one that encourages it.

This is a discovery that leaves Cody reeling and angry. Angry that people – specifically one person – would goad her obviously confused best friend into killing herself. This person and this group need to pay. Fueled by a myriad of emotions, Cody hatches a plan. She makes a profile for the page and begins to post in an attempt to lure out the man who helped Meg take her own life. And at first, Cody knows it’s all lies. But in a way, it’s also the truth. When she writes about losing her other half in Meg, she isn’t lying. And even though Cody goes into this knowing it’s a hoax, it doesn’t make it any less intoxicating when she is able to make contact with the user going by the name “All_BS,” fitting for an individual who offers death as a solution to those who are lost.

In addition to playing detective, Cody also struggles to keep her distance from Ben, who is intoxicating on a whole other level. He’s able to get under a skin in a way nobody else can, but it’s so wrong. So very wrong. Because this is the same guy who broke Meg’s heart. Between tracking down All_BS and her attempts to not fall into Ben’s trap like the many girls before her and Meg, Cody is barely holding it together. Maybe it would be easier to just end her own life the same way Meg did. After all, they were best friends, were they not?

Forman is able to take a book that appears to be about suicide and turn it into a story that is really much more. And she does it with extreme talent. At its core, I Was Here is about friendship, love, family, and finding oneself in a world that is more vague than certain. It’s about letting go while finding a way to hold on. And lastly, it’s about forgiveness; for those who are no longer with us and for those who still are and most importantly, for ourselves.

Fans who enjoyed Forman’s If I Stay will surely devour I Was Here. I certainly did.

Original Writing: Poem # 2 – She’s Okay

She’s Okay

They all look at her as an example of greatness

she’s never let them down

and she stands there, mask hiding her face

so they don’t see her frown

I’m okay, she states

but nobody seems to hear

I’m okay, she assures

but she’s not, she fears

She writes down these words to escape the pain

her bruises are all hidden well

she tries and tries but has lost the flame

she’s been expelled from hell

She tries to be the good one

daughter

sister

friend

but none of this seems to matter

she just wants it all to end

But nobody understands

Nobody even tries

All they see is smiles

Even when she cries

All they see is truth

When all there is are is lies

She’s Okay

She’s Okay they say

But she’s not

So why even try?

Original Writing: Poem #1

Hello, ya’ll. So, normally I use this blog as a book review sort of thing, but I want to evolve it into something more. I figured I would start posting some poetry I have had lying around:

Say

It’s okay,

you said what you needed to say,

forget the hurt feelings

left in the wake.

Are you unburdened now

do you feel safe?

It’s funny how quickly

the tables change.

Because now it’s me

left out in the cold.

Funny, you’re suddenly so silent now

Now that you have had your chance.

But it’s okay.

You said what you needed to say.

Conscience cleared

what a relief

No need to hide

who you are.

If I’ve made you feel bad

you’ve evened the score

this is no longer friendship,

it’s an all out war.

Who knows

maybe all of this will fade away

get erased

dissipate.

At least now

you feel heard

but let me ask, “friend”

what was the price?

No, you know what?

It’s okay.

You said what you needed to say.

Book Review: The Storyteller

“It’s easy to say you will do what’s right and shun what’s wrong, but when you get close enough to any given situation, you realize that there is no black or white. There are gradations of gray.” – Jodi Picoult 

And isn’t that the truth? It’s no secret to any of my family members or friends who one of my favorite authors is: Jodi Picoult. I’ve been hooked ever since a friend of mine gave me My Sister’s Keeper and I salivated over it. I knew from then on Picoult was an author to look out for. And I did. I’ve read nearly every one of her books save for one or two, and this book was by far the hardest for me to get through. As someone who is Jewish, I’ve been reminded over and over how atrocious the Holocaust was, and it was awful. In fact, I’m not entirely sure there is a word in the English language that can possibly describe how terrible it was and not just for Jewish people. Perhaps that is why it was difficult for me to read. The book isn’t based on any one real person per se, but Picoult is not an author to take research lightly. I admire her work ethic tremendously. This book was no exception to her thorough research. She spoke with Holocaust survivors. Knowing that, you understand that while this book is a work of fiction, the horrors people faced in the concentration camps were not and therefore, most likely, a lot of what is in those chapters is not fiction but ultimately too real.

That being said, what would you do if someone close to you told you they were part of one of the most vicious crimes against humanity, and then asked you to kill them? This is exactly what happens to Sage Singer. Sage is a baker who works alone and late at night/into the early morning. With a scar on her face, she considers herself unattractive and therefore doesn’t really warrant any attention. Being alone suits her fine. Sage meets Josef in a grief support group. To her, he’s just a nice old man. Until one day Josef reveals the truth. He was part of the Nazi SS Guard, and for that, he wants Sage to help him kill himself.

From there we’re taken on a painful journey when it’s revealed that Sage’s own grandmother, Minka, is a Holocaust survivor. And to find out if Josef really is who he says he is, we have to read Minka’s harrowing story.

Yes, at the surface, this is a book about the Holocaust, but at its core what it really is is a book about forgiveness. Who deserves it, who doesn’t, who can grant it, and who can’t. And if any decision we make is ever really the “right” one.

Book Review: The Geography of You and Me

Love can find you in the most unexpected places at the most unexpected times, like say an elevator during a blackout in New York City. And that is where we meet Owen and Lucy.

Seventeen year old Owen has been plucked out of his Pennsylvania home which he shared with his parents when a tragedy hits to the busying city streets of New York, which he hates.

Sixteen year old Lucy is a latchkey kid if you ever did find one, usually staying with her older brothers while her parents jet off to Europe. Only now her brothers are away in college and with her parents away too, she’s left to her own devices.

One fateful afternoon when Lucy goes to check the mail and Owen is on his way to the roof of the building (one of the few perks of being the new building manager’s son) they meet in the elevator. They’re not in there for long when it literally envelopes them in darkness and they are stranded. Soon the talking and banter begins. Although they are rescued not soon after, they decide to continue spending the day together.

Smith builds a very sweet, but slow-building romance between the two, a romance that is quickly put on the proverbial back burner when Lucy’s parents want her to come finish out her last two years of high school in London and Owen’s father loses his job as the building’s manager, sending them on a road trip to Anywhere But Here and We’ll Know When We Get There.

Communicating through postcards and e-mail, Lucy and Owen attempt to maintain their fledgling relationship, something anyone who’s ever been in a long distance relationship can confirm, is a lot easier said than done. As Lucy moves from Edinburgh to London and Owen from places like San Francisco to Seattle, and their communication dwindles, the two can only wonder: are some moments just meant to be fleeting? And can you really keep the spark going with someone you met in the dark?

Book Review: Five Days Left

What if you only had five days left? Five days to live the rest of your life, five days to spend with your spouse, five days to spend with your kid. This is a question plaguing both main characters in Julie Lawson Timmer’s debut novel, Five Days Left.

Five Days Left follows Mara Nichols and Scott Coffman, two characters who are each dealing with their own parental woes. Mara was adopted as a child and has since adopted her own little girl. Meanwhile, Scott and his wife are currently fostering the younger brother of a former student. Although they have never met in real life, the two each belong to a forum for parents of adoptive and fostered children. As the novel progresses and Mara and Scott face their seemingly separate journeys, Timmer manages to weave their interconnectivity beautifully as the reader jumps back and forth between Mara and Scott and their interactions in their own lives as well as between each other on the parenting forum.

Scott should be elated now that he and his wife are finally expecting a child of their own; however, knowing he must give up his “little man” in five days when the boy’s mother returns is killing Scott and it’s also taking quite the toll on his marriage.

Mara used to be a successful lawyer. She used to be happy. Moreover, she used to be healthy. But that was then and what is now is Huntington’s, a disease that is slowly taking her hostage and giving her no respite whatsoever. So Mara hatches a plan. Her birthday is in five days. Instead of letting Huntington’s kill her in the most humiliating and debilitating of ways, she will die on her own terms. She will take her own life.

Five days is all Scott and Mara have left.

This novel will make you cry, will make you angry, but most importantly it’ll provoke you to answer one simple question: what would you do if you only had five days left?

Book Review 5: Little Mercies

Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf

Heather Gudenkauf is one of those rare breed of authors who truly never lets you down. Sure, there are those who write and who write well, but it’s almost like going to a restaurant and ordering a meal and expecting it to be the same the next time. The texture is the same, the flavor is the same, but there’s something off about the meal. It’s just not as good as it was the first time and you find yourself wishing you could go back to that moment, to the very first time you ate that delicious dinner and pinpoint exactly what the mystery ingredient is.

But reading Heather Gudenkauf is like being able to experience that first amazing meal over and over again. In short? She doesn’t disappoint.

Little Mercies follows Ellen Moore, a dedicated social worker who is truly a bleeding heart for all of the neglected and abused children out there, after an accident thrusts her into the spotlight as a neglectful mother. Ellen has seen it all; the good, the bad, the ugly, but she never thought she would fit into the latter categories, but after a hectic morning, Ellen misses a crucial detail, her youngest daughter Avery whom has been left in her car in the sweltering summer heat.

As a reader who has been subjected to quite a few real life stories this summer on the news featuring parents leaving children in the car, it was frustrating. And yet, as a human being, a person who understands how frantic life can get, I found myself sympathizing with Ellen and crying right along with her, fervently stating, “It was an accident!”

As we’re there with Ellen and her family as they go through the motions in the aftermath of such a tragedy, we also meet Jenny Briard, a young girl who has traveled a long way by herself, a girl who has a connection to Ellen that neither are aware of.

Gudenkauf is able to weave this incredible web of connectivity where the ripples are unseen by the naked eye, but very much present. In the end we’re left to decide what should have happened, what shouldn’t have happened, why these events took place, and if there really is a bit of mercy even in the wake of destruction.

Book 4 Review: Just Between Us

Just Between Us by J.H. Trumble

There are many good, enjoyable books out there; some of them you miss after the fact; however, the ones that grip you and stay with you long after seem far and few between. This book definitely belongs in that category.

To be honest, the first thing that jumped out at me with this book was the cover. I found it by accident under my Young Adult recs and I am so happy I did. Of course once I saw who the author was I was completely on board, having read Where You Are earlier this year and enjoyed that one thoroughly as well.

But this book, oh this book. What can I say except for the feels. Luke Chesser is such an endearing character. He is so easy to relate to and love. I know he gets a bad rap from Trumble’s previous novel in which he was a minor character, Don’t Let Me Go (which I didn’t even realize Luke was a part of. So, of course I had to read that, too) but haven’t we all been a Luke? Whatever our gender, age, or sexual orientation, we’ve probably fallen for someone unattainable and then met someone else who is just as amazing who we fall even harder for and head over heels in love with, and unlike the previous relationship, this one is meant to last. And yet, what happens when the person we love has had their world rocked with a life changing diagnosis, and won’t let us be there for them?

This is the question Just Between Us explores, and does it with aplomb. Luke’s dealing with a lot when he develops a rocky-at-first bond with Curtis Cameron. In short, he’s had his heart broken by a guy who was in love with someone else, and his father is abusive and homophobic. To say he is unsupportive of Luke’s life is an understatement. Add to that Luke can be a bit of klutz on the field with his marching band and you get a picture of how not perfect things are in the beginning of this book for Luke.

And then there’s Curtis. Charming, confident, older. A band legend. How could Luke not fall for him, and when the two get to know each other better, how could he not fall for Luke? But just as in life, love and relationships are never easy, which is something we see happen to Curtis and Luke.

Just as things are really blossoming between the two of them, Curtis gets devastating news. He’s HIV positive after having a little too much fun his freshman year of college. Suddenly Curtis pulls back from his loving family and Luke, ashamed of himself, afraid of hurting someone else, not able to come to grips with the fact that he still has a long life ahead of him, and doing everything in his power to ignore his situation.

It’s so painful to watch Curtis keep Luke an at arm’s length, especially when anyone can see how much they love each other. There were so many times I wanted to jump into the book and knock some sense into Curtis, but reading every emotion he was feeling, I couldn’t help but hurt for him.

Trumble brings us back to an important topic: HIV. For some reason we have stopped talking about it and even thinking about it, but this story is proof that the stigma still exists as does the virus.

In the end, we’re there with Luke and Curtis as they struggle to come to terms with their relationship and left moved at their resolution

It’s been over a month since I finished this book, and I’m still thinking about these two, rooting for them and wishing I could stay with them a bit longer in their world just to ensure they are happy and in love, because despite whatever hardships and obstacles a relationship may face, unconditional love is always beautiful and can bring forth a rainbow after the darkest of storms.

If you haven’t read this book, you should. Like, now. And while you’re at it, read DLMG and WYA, also by Trumble.

I’m back/Book review #3

So, this was meant to be a blog where I reviewed books and television, but life got in the way. Now I am back with a vengeance!

Book review 3: Learning Not to Drown  by Anna Shinoda

This book was good, but haunting, like eerily haunting. I thought it was a very interesting and well-written premise about a family dealing with a son and brother who is an addict and whose addiction causes him to be in and out of jail.

Clare’s memories of older brother Luke are romanticized in a way. She only remembers the good and believes Luke will change, but then something happens that forces the truth about Luke to come out and Clare is faced head on with how she feels about Luke and how she’ll subsequently deal with the fallout.

Clare’s parents – her mother more so than her father – were difficult to sympathize with and really the part that made me want to throw my kindle against the wall. And that’s not a criticism of the author. Quite the opposite. It elicited such an emotional response because it’s so easy to understand how when one of your children is ‘broken’ according to societal standards, you become stagnant in denial land and your other children fall through the cracks; however, Clare’s mother’s stance of protecting Luke makes her very emotionally and verbally abusive to her other children, especially Clare, which was hard to read.

I agree when others say this is an emotional roller coaster of a book. Still, it’s a book I thoroughly enjoyed despite the uncomfortable parts.