YeahWrite! Super Challenge #2/1 – ‘How To Love’ | Now with lovely feedback!

Yeah Write is a resource I recently discovered through a Facebook group for writers participating in NYC Midnight’s 2016 Flash Fiction Challenge. 

Their Super Challenge #2 flash competition began this weekend, and I received the following prompts:

Emotion: Yearning

Event: Wear Outrageous Shoes

I had 1000 words to work with, and here’s what I threw together (literally threw together in about 3 hours, and eked it in before the deadline!):


.

How To Love

Sydney has been bounced around from family  for as long as she can remember. Have Jerome and Larry finally shown her what it means to love?


The doorbell rang and I jerked, sighing as I screwed the mascara wand into its tube. I cleaned the black smudge from beneath my eye and had just reapplied some powder to my face when my door opened.

“Syd,” Jerome called, “your young man is here.”

I turned as Jerome entered my bedroom without invitation. My foster parents’ first rule was that they could enter any room in the house sans invitation. It was cool with me, I had nothing to hide and I knew they’d encountered issues with foster kids in the past.

“Honey, you look completely gorgeous,” he said, a soft smile on his face.

“Thanks, Jerome. I love the dress. I’ve never had anything so pretty.”

He arched an eyebrow. “You know that you can call me ‘Dad’, if you want.”

I shrugged and pretended that I didn’t notice the longing on his face… the need to be something more than ‘Jerome, the foster dad’. He and Larry wanted to adopt me but I wasn’t sure I was ready. I’d been with them for six months and if I was honest with myself, it had been amazing. Still, I was afraid to tie myself to anyone. Afraid to trust.

“Larry is not going to like those shoes, girl,” Jerome said with a hint of laughter in his voice. “He wants you to wear the heels.”

“They pinch,” I said, trying not to sound petulant. “They’re in the box with the receipt so we can return them.” The amusement in Jerome’s eyes brought a rare smile to my own face.

“They don’t match,” he said, crossing his arms and waiting for me to counter what I knew to be one of Larry’s arguments.

I looked down at my knee-high, tie-dyed Converse. “They have blue in them,” I said weakly. “My dress is blue.”

“You’re going to need more than that, girl.” My shoulders slumped. “Go on, he’s out there chatting up your young man so the longer this takes…” He trailed off, leaning against the door frame as if to say he had all night.

Jerome was okay with me wearing the shoes with my prom dress. He embraced my quirks and my unusual taste in pretty much everything. He encouraged my individuality. Not that Larry discouraged me, he was just so very proper. He wanted everything perfect and he was very fashion-oriented, or as Jerome called it, ‘matchy-matchy’.

Jerome’s eyebrow arched higher so I squared my shoulders and lifted my chin. “I’m not a fifties housewife,” I said with confidence I didn’t feel. “My shoes don’t need to match. These are comfortable and they won’t give me blisters in five minutes.”

I watched Jerome’s face for a reaction. He gave me a considering look and then chuckled and opened his arms. The fact that he waited for the hug, rather than approaching me and assuming I wanted a hug, made me feel like crying. His patient invitation, along with the look full of need on his face, the need to be a dad—to be my dad—made me rush into his arms.

He sighed as he enfolded me in his comfortable embrace. “Before we go down, I wanted to tell you how proud of you we both are, Syd. You’re an exceptional young lady and we love you.”

I nodded as he released me and held me at arm’s-length. I was too choked up to speak and I hoped that he realized that was why I didn’t respond in kind. I wasn’t used to people telling me that they loved me and I couldn’t recall the last time I’d said it to anyone, if ever. I wanted to tell Jerome and Larry that I loved them, but I didn’t know for sure that I did. I wasn’t sure how to love.

“Jerome, Sydney,” Larry called from downstairs. “Are we going to get this show on the road?”

“Are you ready?”

I didn’t know if his question regarded Larry’s inevitable shoe disappointment or my first date. I had no answer for either question so I took his offered arm and allowed him to escort me downstairs.

Larry and Tomás, my teacher-assigned biology lab partner turned prom date, rose from the couch as Jerome and I entered the living room. I anxiously watched Larry as a myriad of emotions flickered across his face. Delight and pride showed first, and that need to be ‘Dad’ emanated from him, as always. Then his eyes found my shoes. His surprise and disappointment made my heart sink but when he met my gaze, I saw resignation and an amused acceptance in his eyes. He smiled and wiped at a tear.

“You’re a vision, Sydney,” he said, his voice thick with emotion.

Jerome and I exchanged a relieved glance and I thanked Larry before looking at Tomás.

“Wow, Syd,” he said with a grin, “you look amazing. I love your shoes.” He lifted his pant legs to show off his electric blue Chuck Taylors.

Jerome and Larry took a million pictures until finally, it was time to go. As Tomás escorted me to the door, I looked back at my incredible foster parents standing near the stairs, Jerome’s arm around Larry’s shoulders as Larry fought back tears.

I suddenly understood the phrase, ‘There’s no time like the present,’ and I turned back to give them a group hug. Their delight was obvious as I approached and put an arm around each of them.

“Thank you for everything.” My throat tightened so I said the rest quickly, before I cried. “You’re the best dads I could ever hope for… and I love you.”

Their arms tightened around me as Larry choked back a sob. “Thank you, honey,” Jerome said. “Now go on, your young man is waiting.”

I stepped back to see them smiling. “Go,” Larry said, “we love you, too.”

I went, my heart full with the sure knowledge of how to love.

end2

UPDATED WITH JUDGES’ FEEDBACK!

What the judges really liked about How To Love:

  • You blended the character’s dialogue with their actions well (crossing his arms and waiting for me…). The touches you added to give Syd teenager characteristics (the shoe choice, the date self-consciousness) felt believable and relatable.
  • Great use of dialogue and descriptive language.

Where the judges found room for improvement:

  • Jerome’s yearning was hit pretty hard even though that moment he tells her to call him. Dad clearly expressed his need. The last two paragraphs of the story didn’t add anything more to Jerome’s “your man is waiting,” which felt more like the story’s natural ending.
  • This story would benefit from another round of edits to make sure the focus is as tight as possible.
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