This is the first week of Writer-in-Motion, where authors write to an image prompt. The 2019 image prompt is the above picture of a woman in trouble holding a flare. Giving Up My Daughter is the short story inspired by this prompt and the current mother of the main character of my work in progress. She is a mother who must give up her daughter and desperately wants help, wants an escape but knows there is none.
The goal of Writer-in-Motion is to “show how the revision process makes a huge difference to a gem in the rough.” (Jeni Chappelle) Participating authors were supposed to write “a 500-1000-word short story based on a prompt. ” Below you will find my short story that is a thousand words too long. Oops! And my notes and thoughts about the initial process and prompt. Find other short stories at Writer-In-Motion.
Giving Up My Daughter
She’d done it. She didn’t mean to. It was a total accident, but when thought sits and stirs and simmers for weeks, months, and then years, it becomes an inevitable mistake that lurches up from the dredges of one’s mind.
She’d finally snapped. For years, she’d watched the government assignments dictate the lives of their youth. Planning the futures of the children beginning at the young age of two. Sending them into battle as enforcers, burning hot kitchens as cooks, and backbreaking work as masons before they hit their twenties. Service rendered for the government’s care up to that point. Bah.
When her daughter’s name, Serenity Grace Knowles, filled her screen with Enforcer, Joyce nearly choked. She hoped for teacher, medtech, caretaker, but enforcer placed her directly into the claws of their government and in the line of danger. No. No. No. No.
She didn’t think. She acted. And it was done before it could be changed. Serenity Grace Knowles, Teacher.
“Now, Joyce Makayla Knowles, you don’t know what’s going to happen. You don’t know the future. Just keep it cool.” She slipped through the halls like a thief in the night, but it was day time and she was supposed to be at her post.
“How long till they figure out? How long did she have to hold her baby before they came for her?” It had been far too long since she’d gone to the Medi Scanner, her moods destabilized within a month, and she couldn’t remember when she last was there. That was it. That was why she slipped today.
Her flats slipped silently across the carpeted foyer, the wall-length windows showing a panoramic view of the world beyond, freedom. Only twenty more steps, a ride in her trans, and she’d be with Serenity once again. One more time.
She stood on the precipice of the roof’s edge, and now she was falling but her body hadn’t caught up with her mistake. No one defied the orders of their superiors. Yet today, she had.
A sob caught in her chest, and she forced it back down into the churning depths of her stomach. She’d treasure these moments.
Waroo Waroo the alarm sang through the air, a demon screaming chase her, chase her. It flew through walls and sang through steel and glass catching the heel of her shoe and twisting so that it almost fell off. Joyce ran. She left her shoe.
Her automatic trans navigated the electrical currents embedded in the streets slipping into the normal flow as if nothing was chasing her as if nothing had just gone terribly wrong, as if the Federal Bureau of Acceptance wasn’t bearing down on her to take her life. For Serenity. Joyce wouldn’t regret this day. Though it might burn in the minds of others, no one could trace back to what the initial edict was. No matter what happened, she’d made her little Sere a teacher. Safe.
The stupid smart car dropped her at her doorstep and she ran in to relieve the nanny. She might have twenty minutes. Probably more like fifteen.
She stopped in front of the green door and glanced up the twenty stories to her ledge. Sweet music trickled into the air from somewhere. Happiness. Joyce inhaled it. Drew it in and tried to keep it forever. Joyce exhaled. Purple flashing lights, the FBA’s signature signal, slashed across the wall. Joyce slipped into the building, her heart a wildling beating at its cage.
Every second she wasted was one she couldn’t spend with her little Sere. A tear escaped and Joyce rebound her hair at the nape of her neck. Why the skies had she done it? If there were a being out there that watched out for them like her father assured her every time they met, well, he’d certainly forgotten to stop her.
The purple lights slashed through her living room window as she finally entered the safety of her home. She wanted to call out for help. Find someone to rescue her from the rooftop she found herself trapped on. Light a flare and get lifted out of the nightmare her life had become. She’d endured as long as she could. It was for the best. What kind of mother had she become anyway? Absentee? Lifeless? Broken.
Pounding hit the door twenty stories below. It echoed through the paper-thin cement and slipped right up her spine.
“Mom!” Sere tore through the living room leaving the nanny at tea alone. “You’re hommmme!” Her tiny arms wrapped around both of Joyce’s legs.
“Thank you, Delia. I’ll take it from here.”
“You doing alright Ms. Joyce.”
“Yeah. Right as rain.”
Delia chuckled. “Same time tomorrow morning.” She nodded and slipped out the door.
“I think it’s tickle torture time.” Joyce choked back the tears and chased Sere, forcing her to run away so that she could hide her tears. They ran in circles around the furniture until Joyce slipped her hands under Sere’s armpits and hoisted her high to the sky and then together they collapsed to the floor, giggling, smiling, breathing in deep lavender breaths.
Joyce stilled and Sere seemed to read the moment with her infinite three-year-old wisdom.
“Mom, why are you sad?” Her little blonde curls slipped over her serious blue eyes that wore a pinch between them.
“I’m okay.” Joyce swallowed. “But the tickle monster’s going to get you.” The pinch lifted and Sere’s rosy little cheeks pinked as she squirmed to get out of her mother’s hands.
Pounding fists on a door down the hall sent Joyce’s heart stuttering. The blood drained from everywhere except her heart where it filled over full and began to bleed down her ribs and bones. She wasn’t even injured, and she was already bleeding to death.
Maybe someone would see her flare, maybe that being her father spoke of would come pick up her shattered life and put it back together. A squeal of delight from behind the settee drew her out of her morose thoughts. She would love Sere. Right now. Right here. They would have one more good memory, before. . .
Another door pounding resounded through the flat. They were no more than three doors away. Joyce crawled on all fours and snuck up behind little Sere’s back. She was peeking around the settee. “Mom?”
“Right here!” Sere startled and squealed again.
This time Joyce folded her precious little girl into her arms and kissed her forehead breathing in deeply the scent of lavender and powder filling her mind full of every moment from birth till right now, this last moment together. She urged her arms to memorize the feel. She begged her mind to hold on to the moment.
Voices and footsteps surrounded her thoughts. They were closing in on her. “Sere.”
“Yes?” She tilted her chin to the left and Joyce wanted to hold that image forever in her mind. Would her mind survive? Would her memory last? Would they ever let her see Sere again?
“I love you. I love you more than the stars. More than the air and the water and the food. I love you more than anything.”
“I love you too Mommy.” Sere wrinkled her nose and twisted her lips to the side. A question scrunched her forehead. “Something is wrong Mommy.”
“It had to be wrong for me to be able to make it right. Just remember. I love you and you are worth it.” A sudden crushing urge to fly out the window with Sere in her arms flickered with insanity through her. Maybe they could—
Stupid. No one could fly out of a twenty-story window and survive. No. This was goodbye.
Bang bang bang bang ricocheted through her living room. Sere’s big blue eyes rounded above her pretty pink cheeks. Joyce didn’t move. She clung to her. Clung to her one last flare. Would the being above see it? Would anyone come to find her? Would she really have to say goodbye to little Serenity?
Little Sere just held Joyce. The tiny arms under her own squirmed a minute and then squeezed as hard as they could. “Mom, are those bad men at the door? Are you going to let them in?”
“Serenity please understand. Mommy loves you.”
Bang bang bang. “Open up. It’s the FBA.” The man’s voice sent Joyce’s mind on fire. Not enough time. There just wasn’t enough. She inhaled her daughter’s precious scent. They sat there, behind the couch, silent, squeezing, memorizing.
Please please please please someone help. Help. She couldn’t leave Serenity. She was too young. What would she grow up thinking? What would they tell her?
“Ma’am we know you are in there. Open up. We just want to talk to you.” The man’s voice didn’t convince her. She’d lived too long under the government to buy the party line. She’d worked too long for the man in charge, and she knew, everything was rigged.
“Remember what Mommy?”
“Remember I love you baby.” She whispered it into her hair. Tears tripping their way through Serenity’s curls. Her precious little hands reached out and touched Joyce on both of her cheeks. “Remember baby.”
The voice outside quieted, the banging stopped, and then the silence splintered around the hideous ramming bar they broke through the door with. The demons had found her, knew her secrets, and now was the day of reckoning.
A man with a flat face and no hair lifted her precious screaming daughter from her arms. Joyce no longer felt her arms. Another man whose face seemed to all come to one point lifted her up by her armpits and spun her around cuffing her hands behind her back.
The flare no longer extended into the sky fell, tumbling end over end, into nothingness. No great being stopped the FBA. Nothing changed the course of the tears racing down those pretty pink cheeks. No. Life. Life ended in that moment, but it began for her little teacher. For her little teacher.
WRITER IN MOTION WEEK ONE – INITIAL THOUGHTS
THE PROMPT – Love the prompt.
It was exactly what I was hoping for. I had an idea of what I wanted to try and write, been planning it for a few weeks now, hoping it would coincide with what the prompt demanded. I just hadn’t pulled the trigger because I planned on trying my hand at my first short story during Writer In Motion.
I’ve only ever written long works of fiction or very short things like poems and songs. The idea of writing with less than 80,000 words seemed impossible, but then someone told me that it was more like writing a scene, and I was ready.
THE PLANNING – I’m a pantser trying to turn into a planner making me some kind of hot mess plantser. I planned the major points.
Sere’s Mother’s Story
Character building of mother coming home from her work as a life planner.
Inciting Incident – She discovers the FBA is after her when she goes against their plans for her daughter’s life.
Climax – leading up to the FBA killing her and her last moment – the tickle torture scene with her daughter. Her daughter’s last memory of her mentioned in the full manuscript.
Ending – leave it hanging but clear that she will be taken and killed.
I was going to plan more and then decided I didn’t need to. Mostly because I’d planned this scene in my head at least a hundred times.
THE WRITING – I’m really struggling with the idea of putting a rough draft out in the world. Everything I’ve ever read or been taught says to HIDE your mistakes, put your best foot forward, pin a smile on it or bow and make it show even when it won’t, but we all know that the pathway to right is through a winding one-lane road of wrong. I blame the practice of hiding our mistakes for the mistaken perception that some people suddenly make it. I assure you and myself, the path was and is arduous for most everyone.
For the writing session, the hardest part was getting going. That’s normal for me. I usually spin my wheels for a bit at the beginning. I always want to start a book at home in the kitchen or bedroom. It’s so plebian but I like the idea of it. Maybe one day I’ll be big enough to do what I want with the beginning. For this, I pushed myself to begin in the action. Instead of getting stuck in the mire of trying to introduce people, the world, the problem etc. I can’t stand introductions. I want to get to the meat and get it cooking!
I planned and wrote this draft in one forty-five-minute session straight from beginning to end which is typical of me. Now that I’m 2,000 words into the draft, the idea of cutting it down seems sacrilegious. I want to delve deeper, but I’m going to try and see if I can cut this. The greatest thing that I’ve enjoyed about my writing is trying things I think aren’t going to work and finding that I love the new writing better. So, I try everything, always in a new doc, and then decide afterward what I really do like and what really does work based on really trying.
After I plotted out the four main points I was going to hit, just like I do a scene, I ran with it for this first draft. On a side note, I would have had to do a TON more if I wasn’t using characters I’d already fully formed with all dimensions, a world I’d already created, and a style that is already sixty-four thousand words strong.
THE RESULT – It’s my first short story, and I have to say. I loved writing every word. I love the feeling of completion and hitting it so immediately. One minute, I started and forty-five minutes later, I was finished, and with too many words to boot. (Totally my style. Overwording!)
I used the prompt as an image in the main character’s mind, and she kept referring back to the flare. The flare was her desperate desire to cry for help in a world where there wasn’t any help. Her conflict, or situation, was self-made, but also a necessary rebellion in an unforgiving world of false acceptance and it was in fact as dangerous as standing on the corner of the roof of a tall building, and so that fit as well.
I struggled with the fear that I couldn’t write a short story. I also fought through the knowledge (fear) that I am an overwriter and therefore would not be a good fit for writing short stories. I had to just grit my teeth and put words to paper. Now that I’ve done it, I have another two or three I want to shoot out. I love it. I see a ton of short stories in my future. Like all writing, I’ll have to refine my skills at it.
Even as I write this post, I’m thinking my way around posting my rough draft. I hate the idea honestly. I’m still not sure I’ll do it or just bow out. I’m glad, either way, that I picked up the pen so to speak and participated. Thank you, Writer in Motion, this was fun!
I can’t wait to revise!