The small acknowledgement that my writing was worth mentioning gave me a much needed confidence boost. I'm my worst critic and often allow a small voice in my head to convince me that my writing has no value. The only people who read my work are friends and family. They are unlikely to tell me I'm a talentless hack. The mention gave me hope that someone outside my friendly group of readers might enjoy my writing. Even if I hadn't won anything, the experience was fun and I would recommend participating in the next contest on September 10th.
The prompt for the summer contest was:
Strong waves pounded the dark sand just a few yards away. Hidden by beach grass, they embraced, relieved to finally escape their wedding guests. His poetic whispers suddenly ceased as he leaned back, and said, "There's something I need to tell you..." (Maximum Word Count - 875)
Here was my submission:
Mark sat just beyond the tall grass, hidden from view of the beach house windows that faced the ocean. He hoped his absence would go unnoticed at the crowded reception. Eventually someone would find him - he was the groom.
The wind blew in bursts and Mark tightened his grip on the stack of letters, fearing the gale would scatter them forever. They couldn't be lost; they meant everything to him and Karen. These pages had started the journey that ended with vows to love, honor, and cherish her for
the rest of his life.
Each letter was carefully written on high-quality stationary, folded into thirds, and contained a dark blue cursive script on a single page. They were deliberately beautiful to show Karen the effort spent on each letter.
The wind exploded again and the papers crackled against each other like embers in a fire. A year ago Karen had received the letters, one each Friday night for six weeks. Mark stared at the last letter, remembering the night he delivered it. The evening was dark and raining, which seemed like perfect conditions for avoiding detection. He watched the house for any sign of movement and, seeing none, jogged the short distance from his car to the mailbox. As soon as the letter was out of his pocket the headlights of the car parked out front flooded the street with light.
He was caught.
"Are you a stalker?" Karen shouted, shielded behind her now open car door.
"No." Mark said, shielding his eyes.
"Why are you leaving me letters?"
"Don't worry, this is the last letter - I promise. I'm sorry if it scared you. It wasn't. . ." He trailed off and then tried to retreat to his car.
"Wait." She shouted. "Can I talk to you, just for a minute...not here...there is a coffee shop out on the main road, Javana, do you know it?"
"I passed it on my way here."
"Can you meet me there in five minutes?"
They talked for hours that evening. She was beautiful, even drenched with rain. Mark was usually introverted, but she made him feel comfortable and he shared more with her than any other woman he had dated. When it got late she thanked him for a wonderful evening and
the letters. She apologized for calling him a stalker saying that she couldn't believe anyone would legitimately write love letters anymore.
"It's like a fairytale." she said, and then wrote her phone number on a napkin, gave it to him, and walked out of the coffee shop.
Mark knew that evening that he could not live his life without her. After six months of dating, meeting her parents, and discovering a thousand other things he adored about her - he proposed. This morning he married her and it should have been the happiest day of his life,
if he didn't feel so guilty.
Mark heard footfalls in the sand behind him and turned to see who had finally noticed his absence. It was Karen.
"So this is where you're hiding." She said, and sat down next to him, pulling her knees into her chest and resting her head on his shoulder.
"I just needed a little fresh air."
"Me too. Rereading the letters, huh?"
"You should keep these."
"I told you, I don't need them anymore - I have you."
"Please. They were meant for you, and you should keep them."
"But I want you to write me new letters, as my husband."
"I need to tell you something."
"I didn't write these letters."
"What do you mean? I don't understand."
Of course she didn't understand. His memory returned to the last night in the hospital with his brother. Peter's advanced leukemia would claim him that night and he asked for one favor - he wanted Mark to deliver a letter.
Mark hadn't understood the request until Peter explained, "I'm never going to fall in love with anybody. I wanted the chance to tell someone the things I would say if I could live long enough to fall in love. So . . . I started delivering these letters, secretly, to a girl who works at a coffee shop near school. Now I'm in the hospital and can't deliver this last one."
Karen listened as Mark explained about Peter and the letters. Mark had tried to tell her the truth many times over the past year, but each time, his fear of losing her made him swallow his words. When he finished his explanation, Karen returned to the beach house without a word.
He watched her labored march through the sand but didn't follow. Was it over? Married and divorced on the same day?
When she finally returned, she took the letters, walked to the shoreline, and tossed them into the water. She turned back toward him and handed him the notebook and pen she was carrying.
"I don't . . ." Mark started but she cut him off.
"Like I said. I want you to write me new letters, as my husband."