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For Serenity

Writer-In-Motion Week 3 – Critique Partner Round

This is the third week of Writer-In-Motion, where authors implement the feedback their critique partners have provided. I love working with critique partners because there is literally no way to read your own work without understanding it. There’s no way to become disengaged from the emotional connection to one’s word baby. There’s just no way.

Critique partners drive me to my best writing self. I love it and am so grateful to my critique partners.

4th REVISION – 3 Critique Partners

For Serenity  

Joyce scoured every line of the database. Her heart, a wildling trapped in its cage. Serenity turned two today, her career assignment day. Joyce spun the wheel of her mouse scrolling through the names organized by the government’s algorithms. Today, assignments were to the Acceptance Law Enforcers division.

Harmony Sentry

Fill Santo

Serenity Knowles

A thin thread snapped within Joyce. No. Not her Serenity. Sweat beaded her upper lip. Enforcers faced terrible danger. One quick click and she could change her daughter’s future assignment.

Joyce threw her head back and glared at the ceiling. “Just keep it cool.” She’d worked the algorithm for nine years. This was her job.

She scrolled over Serenity’s name and finalized the unthinkable, punishable by reconditioning, the extent of the law clearly demarked. Joyce nodded to herself.

Serenity Grace Knowles – Reassignment: Teacher.

Joyce didn’t think, just acted, clicking accept, and her blood dove through her body, escaping the sure fate. The screen blanked, and the warning appeared.

Internal Exception: Please wait by your terminal for assistance.

Wait. She snorted. She left the blinking screen and slipped out the back, gliding silently down the halls of her assignment. Enforcers were coming for her. There was no assistance.

How long until they traced the internal exception? How long until they figured out, she’d broken the law? She needed to hold Serenity before they came for her.

She forced a sob back down into the churning depths of her stomach.

Waroo, waroo, the alarm screeched into existence. She had to get out. She jogged into the foyer. The demon’s scream chasing her. Outside, it flew through the steel and glass walls like a banshee.

Joyce jumped into her pre-programmed car and hit the button for home. Anything could happen. They could escape. Couldn’t they?

She did this for Serenity and she refused to regret it. Though it might burn in the mind of her father. Serenity would live in safety as a teacher.

The car hovered beside her doorstep, and she ran in to relieve the nanny, passed the multiple apartment doors, up the emergency stairs. She might have twenty, maybe fifteen minutes.

Sweet music trickled through the air from somewhere. Happiness. Joyce inhaled it. Tried to hold it, forever. Purple flashing lights slashed across the walls.

A tear escaped. Why the skies had she done it? Serenity would be left without a mom. Joyce would miss the rest of her daughter’s life. Such a high price. But, only fifteen percent of enforcers live beyond the age of twenty-one.

Lights infiltrated the safety of her home. She wanted to call out for help. Signal someone to rescue her from the precipice where she now found herself trapped. Light a flare and get lifted out of the nightmare her life had become. She’d endured. Did it have to end like this? What kind of mother had she become? Absentee? Broken.

Pounding below 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.

The nanny stood, a question crossing her face. She nodded once.

“Thank you, Delia. I’m ill.” Joyce held her breath as Delia made her way out the front door.

Only a beat later Joyce declared, “It’s tickle torture time.” She choked back tears and chased Sere, determined to give her daughter and herself one last happy memory. They ran in circles around the furniture until Joyce slipped her hands under Sere’s armpits and hoisted her high. They collapsed to the floor, giggling.

Joyce stilled and Sere assessed the moment with her two-year-old wisdom.

“Mom, why are you sad?” Her little curls slipped over her serious eyes, a pinch between them.

“I’m okay.” Joyce swallowed. “You better hide.”

Pounding feet from the hall sent Joyce’s heart stuttering. The blood drained from her head making thought impossible. Sorrow replaced it, bleeding through her ribs and bones. She was uninjured and bleeding to death.

She tightened her grip on her imaginary flare. Maybe the Creator her father worshiped would come pick up her shattered life and put it back together. A squeal of delight from behind the settee drew her out of herself. She would love Sere. Right now. Right here. They’d make one good memory, before. . .

Thump, thump, thump resounded through the flat. They were only three doors away. Joyce crawled on all fours and snuck up behind little Sere’s back.

Sere peeked around the settee. “Mom?”

“Right here!” Joyce folded her precious little girl into her arms and kissed her forehead breathing deeply the scent of lavender. It filled her full of memories, adding this last moment together. She memorized the feel. She’d remember it after death. 

“I love you more than the stars. More than the air. 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’s wrong Mommy.”

“I made it right. Just remember. I love you and you are worth it.” A sudden insanity, a crushing urge to fly out the window with Sere in her arms flickered through Joyce. Maybe they could— Joyce stood and ran for the window.

Bang, bang, bang. The sound ricocheted through the flat. Sere’s blue eyes rounded above her pink cheeks. Joyce froze, clinging to Sere, her one last flare of life in this world. 

Tiny arms squeezed Joyce as hard as they could. “Mom, those are bad men at the door.”

“Serenity, Mommy loves you.”

“I know.”

“FBA, open the door.” The man’s voice set fire to Joyce’s thoughts. Not enough time. There just wasn’t enough. She squeezed her daughter tight. They sat behind the couch, silent, squeezing, memorizing.

“Ma’am, we know you’re in there. Open up.” She’d lived too long to buy the government party line. They rigged everything. 

“Serenity, remember.”

“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.” Serenity nodded.

Everything outside the flat’s door quieted. A second later, the silence splintered around the hideous ramming bar that broke through their door. 

A flat-faced, bald man lifted her precious screaming daughter from her arms.

Joyce reached for Serenity, but another Enforcer subdued her. She fought the man, but he spun her with ease and cuffed her, slamming her face into the couch table.

Turning her head to see Sere, she knew nothing would change the course of the tears racing down Sere’s precious pink cheeks. 

It was Joyce’s ending but the beginning for her little teacher.

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