The writing challenge this time was for all writers to create a story but in diary format and to use the photo (an old journal) as inspiration. They had just 7 days to do so and to return their submissions to us. As always, it was a difficult task to judge the competition as we received such a variety of creative entries. The winning submissions are as follows and big congratulations to them:
1st Prize:£250 Sharon Lawson
2nd Prize: £200 Karen Carter
3rd Prize: £100 G. Lester
4th Prize: £75 Craig Hill
5th Prize: £50 Sarah Potter
Nothing But the Truth
by Sharon Lawson
December 1st 2005
I found your old journal today. I had forgotten all about it, my grief I suppose has just been too much to bear and contrary to what people say, no, time does not heal. I miss you as much now as I did then. I did store all your belongings away though Allan, not that they could ever be out of sight, out of mind. Today, I remembered anew, as the evocative scent that lingers on your jumper still, the cold sensation of your gold ring against my skin as if it mourns your touch, and now, this journal, they are all reminders of my loss and the treasured possessions of someone I loved, no, still love dearly. My fingers trace a pattern across the parchment paper. I realize I have traced your name in large scrolling letters. Ornate, determined, larger than life. The pages are all empty, they hold such promise you told me. Oh you were so earnest; each page epitomized our future together. Little did we know as we stood hand in hand gazing longingly at all of the antiques in that quaint old shop, that our time together would be so short.
No-one ever dies, that’s what my aunt always told me. They remain alive for as long as you remember to say their name out loud. Even the most powerful of thoughts can awaken those who slumber as waves of energy surge over their resting places until they lift their weary heads and smile, reassured of love and that they are not forgotten. I conjure up the image of you, my Allan, my bear of a man. I liked it the most when you would hug me close and I would be overwhelmed by the sensation of warmth and your fresh scent. That dimpled smile of yours was contagious.
Even my blackest moods couldn’t hold out against the warmth of your personality, I’d scowl and grumble but you’d just say, “Ginny, life is just too short for temper tantrums.”
You were right.
The sight of these empty pages mock me, so I have decided to write down my feelings, to remember and to recapture what we lost, if only in writing. I figure, maybe, just maybe, I can feel your presence close. I can only hope and pray that you are aware I keep your memory close to me.
I have only been half alive I realized today. Life has no meaning anymore. I didn’t even brush my hair today. It was too much trouble to try to unravel that tangle. Anyhow, who is there to impress? If I walked around naked, no-one would care or want to see my scrawny body. Even getting up today was a hardship when there is nothing to look forward to.
When you love someone so much and they fill every fiber of your being, you rely on them, in the same way that food and water becomes a vital component to survival, so does that loved one. My aunt always said I had the capacity to love big. Now I understand that she meant love too much.
Allan, you were my friend, my lover, my emotional crutch. You were my comedian, my accountant and my provider. You worked hard and brought home a lot of money. You wanted me at home all day, tending the house and cooking up your favorite pies, you wanted very little from me but my adoration and that came in spades.
We were an odd couple. You were so tall, oh and wide. The thought makes me chuckle. Once I couldn’t reach all the way around your middle. My arms were too small, but we both know your belly was too wide. You would pick me up as if carrying me over the threshold to each new house. We moved so many times that it made my head spin, but I’d have followed you to the ends of the earth. I can visualize you now, great goofy grin and those green eyes, oh how I melted when you looked at me all over. It was the only time I was truly beautiful.
This house stopped being home the moment you went away. There was an odd feeling that seeped into the shadows and turned the house cold. The house stopped living too. Now there are some cracks showing in the wall and ivy growing through. It’s like the earth is reclaiming this land. One day I will awaken and find that I have been pulled into the ground too, my body twisted with the rising onslaught of weeds and the curious green tendrils as they drag me down. I hope you will be there to rescue me on the other side.
December 3rd 2005
Today I plucked up the courage to sort through that case of clothes Allan. You’d be proud of me. I couldn’t get rid of them though. I know you would tell me to let go and to get on with my life now, but those clothes, they still remind me so much of you. I even placed them on the rug by the fire, spread them out, shaped them so that it looked like you were there, slipping into your clothes. I lay next to them, my fingers teasing the fabric where your belly would be, imagining that your skin is oh so close. The warmth from the fire was soothing, with the flames crackling, devouring the logs, I slept, curled up next to the make-believe you and for the first time, my dreams were sweet. Even in death, you comfort me. When I awoke, the bitter taste of the tragedy hit me all over again and I cried. My loss seemed worse this time, because I couldn’t hide behind my grief anymore, I knew you were never coming home. I packaged everything back up, but tidier at least and moved the case up to the attic. It’s out of sight, but I’m not ready to let go yet, if I let go of my grief and push you to one side, I might just slip into nothingness. I’m not sure but I think my grief is all that there is left of me, it holds me together.
I ventured out into the village for the first time in months I think. They stared at me like I was something strange, like I had just crawled out from under a stone. They wouldn’t have done that if you’d been there Allan. They respected you.
I even ordered your favourite cake in that little bakery shop you loved so much- I ate every crumb, but that’s when I noticed how bad I looked, when I caught a glimpse of myself in that big ol’ mirror. Grief makes you look wide eyed and wild it seems. I slunk away, feeling unwelcome.
December 4th 2005
I went through the box of letters today. There were so many from you to me. You had such large, scrawling handwriting and it took up the whole envelope. Do you remember I used to say I would buy you some of those big envelopes and even then your writing would run onto the back? We laughed so much didn’t we? How could God let your life be snatched away so quickly? When I read back through some of those letters, it was as if you were reading them out to me. I could hear your voice, your actual voice. I know it’s all in my head but it feels real.
Did you know how much I loved hearing from you? Those letters warmed me up inside and I could imagine your touch. I ached for you some nights, did you know that? I would imagine those big paw hands touching me and satisfying me again. I’d wrap my own arms around me and pretend they were yours holding me tight. Sometimes your letters would reveal more maybe than you meant to, I could feel your loneliness at being away from me. It was hard for you and you hated those around you.
“They are not like you and me Ginny,” you used to say.
Sometimes your letters would be positive and at other times, I could feel the pain, and sense the frustration and that you were counting down the days and even hours until we could meet again. As much as I hated being apart from you, I so looked forward to that moment when we could look into each other’s eyes and our problems would simply melt away.
Tucked in with all the letters, was that first book you got for me. I found the dried rose petals preserved in its page next to the words – ‘To my Ginny – with love’. The memory was so strong, I had to close my eyes and you came to me, you were there, I think if I had opened my eyes, your vision would have been standing so close to me. I wonder if I had actually reached out, my fingers expectant, searching for you, would I have felt you? I seem to be living in the past Allan. My auntie died the other week, so now I am completely alone. That scares me as I never thought I would feel like this where each hour drags by but the days and nights merge into one long torturous session. This house mocks me. It waits until I have finally fallen asleep and then, groans and creaks until I wake in fear, the silence of the house crushes me down into that great big bed.
December 5th 2005
I dressed up in my finest today. Did you see me? I came to visit you and brought some flowers. Your grave is the cleanest most well cared for grave, I’m proud of that. I feel sorry for all those others who mourn alongside over-grown graves and where the moss has covered the letters, stealing away the name. I will never let that happen to you Allan. It was quiet there today, only my sobbing that reverberated around the place. Just when I think I have no more tears left to give, they surge forward again. The sun smiled on us today, a weak but golden ray shone directly onto your headstone and I knew it was a sign, and I looked up and even smiled through my tears. Did you do that Allan? Did you make the sun shine on me?
The pastor stopped by and shook my hand. He’s not afraid of me. The others see my knotted hair and shabby clothes and they never make eye-contact, but he does, although today, I think I looked quite nice, less strange. He has kind eyes; they are all-seeing, as if God is shining the light of truth through them. Is that what it means when they say someone is just a vessel? Maybe I was really talking to God? He made me a cup of coffee. It was strong, too bitter for me, but it was in a nice cup. He told me I had to let go now. It’s been many months and how you would not want me to waste the rest of my life. I knew he meant well and it was as if I could hear your voice through his lips. That’s strange I grant you.
December 6th 2005
It’s a bad day today. I opened my front door and someone has painted witch beast all over the wood. Only last week someone painted the word scum diagonally down the door. It hurts Allan to think that I am hated. I have never done anything wrong in my life willingly and nor did you. Is it because I look like I do? Do I really scare everyone? You saw the real me didn’t you? I didn’t have to pretend with you, but then you always got me nice clothes, brought me a hair brush and even combed through those tangles when we first met. One day I tried eye make-up but caught my eye with the applicator, oh how it hurt. Do you remember Allan? You kissed away my tears and said you would make me an eye-patch and that I would still look beautiful. I hear of some men cheating on their wives and girlfriends but I was real lucky. You never did that to me, you had eyes only for me, I was ‘the one.’ You never lied to me either. The truth was important you said.
My aunty told me that I should count my blessings. She whispered these words to me on her death bed.
“Count your blessings my girl; you had a man that loved you. Many women never experience true love. Yours was short but that’s the sweetest kind.”
I was thinking all this as I was scrubbing the door. In the end I repainted it, it was a lot easier. Now it’s green, but looks kinda pretty. I wish I had a big ol’ padlock on the gate to stop the kids getting in. Why can’t they just leave me alone to grieve? The trouble with this world is that the kids don’t have respect.
December 7th 2005
It’s the anniversary of your death Allan. I am at the spot where our lives changed forever. That fateful moment that took you away from me. It’s the first time I have been back here. This used to be our favourite spot, so I don’t understand how something bad could have happened here.
I think you may be drawn to this place today and maybe I will feel you and be comforted. I have that last letter from you with me too; it’s burning a hole in my pocket, filled with secrets and your last thoughts. Did you realize that I could never open it? It’s not because I didn’t want to but, it’s the last time ever that I will hear from you and it’s so hard. They gave it to me after, well, after you had left this mortal world. But I couldn’t bear to hear you say goodbye, like you knew and had accepted it, or something. But maybe today, if I read those words, sit by that place where it all went wrong and if I think of you, perhaps finally, we can be together?
I can’t hear you Allan. I really need a sign from you today. I hurt so much and you are mean to not comfort me.
You are so quiet but I am sure you are near. You have to be with me today of all days.
The park is nice today Allan. It doesn’t feel creepy or sinister. There’s nothing here that says a tragedy occurred. It’s like I have blinked and it never happened. But if that’s true, where are you? Even the man with the hot dog stand is here; bet he misses your trade. How many dogs did you stuff in your face that first time we came here? I was amazed. Your face was all red and cute but you were real pleased that I thought you were funny.
That was one of my happiest times. It was simple but meant everything to me. I had never fallen in love or been loved back but suddenly, I was crazy in love and the happiest woman alive.
I am going to take out the letter now and read it and then reply to you, but I’m real scared………I’m trembling. After all this time, it will be as if you are reaching out for me from beyond the grave.
Allan I don’t believe you. Why do you say such things? Like it was your fault? You know you would never have hurt anyone. It was a frame-up. You were in the wrong place, wrong time, or, or, someone else looked just like you and they made a mistake. Allan. Talk to me? Please. Are you mad because I don’t believe you are guilty? How can my gentle giant be a killer?
It hurts so much. Did you think I didn’t hear the things people said about you? I wanted to stand up to them and cry LIARS! They said you wore a mask each time and had killed before, but this time they had proof. It was definitely you stealing from the banks and holding guns to people’s heads. You had that little angel shape scar on your neck and they said that’s how they got you. You didn’t cover it up well enough one day. But it can’t be right. They said you were an arrogant son of a bitch.
The sky has turned grey now. The sun has withdrawn and the air is chilled. It’s because of the lies isn’t it? God is angry with you for lying to me. You couldn’t have killed that kid and the parent. What about the security guard? You told me he shot at you first – when I asked you and I was all upset about their lies, you said I wasn’t to believe it and you were still my Allan. Liar!
I never thought to ask where you got the gun from that day. I really was stupid. Working away at home cooking up your favorite pies, never asking where you got all that money from.
This letter isn’t about you and me is it Allan? It’s a confession, a way to make your peace although you said that you did that during the time on death row. You turned to God. How those prison officers must have laughed at you, knowing that you were regretting what you did and yet it was too late.
I sit here now, writing to you and I feel such despair. I have never felt as alone as I do right now Allan. It’s like even your memory is tainted and you were all I had left. Did you know you were everything to me? I believed you were the one person in my life who would never lie.
I can’t go home. I just need to stay and think here on this bench just by the fountain where you came out of the bank guns blazing. That poor kid and the mother too.
I have to try to understand that you had a life that was secret to me, but that’s crazy right?
I’ve been here for hours and still nothing makes sense. I feel so tired, but it’s getting colder and I need to lie down. Maybe someday, I will love you again Allan, maybe we will meet again and our love will be strong still. But right now, I have to find my own solution to the realization that I loved a monster. I can’t remember you anymore right now.
Maybe these pills will help me to forget.