Between The Cracks

The bowl lay overturned on the floor, a rough crack running down one side.  Michael turned away because it reminded him too much of himself:  broken and useless, but held together by some unknown force.

Before Nina left, she’d given him a cell phone.  She said, “Michael, call me if you need anything.”  He took the phone but didn’t believe she’d actually come.  Past experience told him people looked but didn’t see.  After his fourth mom punched his face during a drunken tirade, he’d written down the new words he hadn’t already heard so he could look them up later.  Then, not trusting his voice, he sent a text message to Nina:  I don’t like it here.

While his “mom” snored on the couch, wine bottle tipped on the side table, he rolled the frosty pink lip gloss between his thumb and index finger.  Maybe she was right; he’d be a prettier girl.  He unscrewed the cap and swabbed the shimmering pink across his lips.  It felt weird, but not all that unpleasant.  Next, he smeared the plum eye shadow on his lids, just like what he’d seen his moms before do.  He sucked his cheeks in and dusted pink powder on them.  He turned his head from side to side, studying his reflection.  I’m not a pretty girl, either.  Michael dropped to the floor and cried.

At eight years old, he didn’t have the best concept of time, but some time later, the doorbell rang.  His height prevented him from looking through the peep hole, so he unlatched the three locks and flung the door open.

“Nina!” On impulse, he hurled himself into her arms.

“Oh, Michael, what happened?” She stooped down and caressed his swollen cheek with her fingers.

He shrugged.  “Same as the others, I guess.”

She took his hand and led him into the house.  She paused in front of sleeping mom and snapped a few pictures.  She also took pictures of the empty pizza boxes and soda cans on the floor.  She dropped the phone in her purse and pulled him into the bathroom.  She soaked a washcloth in warm water, and then gently scrubbed his face.  Her touch was the kindest he’d ever known.

“There.  Now you’re a handsome boy.”  She smiled at him.

“Nina, don’t leave me!”  He threw his arms around her and soaked her shoulder with more tears.

“Come on,” she whispered.

In the car, she made a phone call.  Michael couldn’t help but overhear.  “Tracy, it’s Nina.  Yeah.  Well, I’m taking him with me.  When I get home, I’ll email the pictures.”  There was a pause.  “I know, but maybe I can change one person’s world.”

*****     *****     *****

Michael sat in the front row, squeezing a wad of damp tissues.   Many twenty-one-year-old men would stoically bury their tears, but he cried without shame.  He hurt and didn’t care if the world knew it.  His girlfriend slid her arm into the crook of his elbow and squeezed.  He appreciated her support, but couldn’t meet her gaze.

Numbed, Michael couldn’t focus his attention on what others said.  He might lose the little composure he had.  His head jerked when he heard his name.  It was his turn to speak.  He trudged to the front of the church.  He guessed there were at least three hundred people there.

“Nina Wharton was a truly beautiful person.  She saved my life.  When I was eight, I had already drifted through three foster homes after my birth mother died of a drug overdose.”

Michael paused so the lump in his throat could dislodge.  “She was more than a social worker to me- she was the mom I wished God had given me in the first place.”

He turned away from the mic and blew his nose.  “I remember when she rescued me from the last home.  Her boss warned her that she couldn’t change the world.  Nina responded that maybe she could change one person’s world.”

New tears streamed down his cheeks.  “She did just that.  Today, I say goodbye to my guardian angel- my mom.  I will never forget her.”  He leaned over the casket and stroked her cheek with his fingers.  “I love you.”

He hoped he’d one day feel whole again.  In the meantime, Michael found comfort in the chorus of tears that fell in time with his own pain.

~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-

This is my response to the Speakeasy weekly prompt, which is to write a response in 750 words or less, and:  1) Use the following as the first sentence:  “The bowl lay overturned on the floor, a rough crack running down one side.”; and 2) make some reference to the photo prompt, which pictured some cosmetics.  If you want to give it a shot, click the badge below to view the guidelines, then come back Tuesday to add a link to your posted response!

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58 thoughts on “Between The Cracks

  1. nrhatch December 1, 2013 / 8:46 PM

    Beautiful job, Janna. Way to jerk on our heart strings! I’m glad you flashed forward 21 years. HE MADE IT! Yay!

    • jannatwrites December 1, 2013 / 10:34 PM

      Thanks, Nancy! I originally had him as older than 21 on the last part, but when I did the math, realized the cell phone part wouldn’t jive with the technology of the time 🙂 Oops! “He made it” – that’s what I wanted to come across.

  2. mandyblake95 December 1, 2013 / 9:56 PM

    This story was so amazingly sad, and great use of the prompts.

    • jannatwrites December 1, 2013 / 10:36 PM

      Thanks so much for reading, Mandy! I actually cried when I wrote it…sometimes I really get into the stories 🙂

  3. Eleni December 1, 2013 / 11:10 PM

    So touching Janna. I love the metaphor of the bowl.

    • jannatwrites December 2, 2013 / 9:32 PM

      Thanks, Eleni! I appreciate you taking time to read it 🙂

  4. Eric Alagan December 2, 2013 / 1:25 AM

    A very touching, and I fear all too real, story that some among us might be harbouring.

    An excellent piece of writing,
    Eric

    • jannatwrites December 2, 2013 / 9:33 PM

      Thanks, Eric! I’m glad the story felt real. I appreciate you taking time to read it and share your feedback!

  5. J. Milburn December 2, 2013 / 5:34 AM

    Great work, Janna! We seem to have been thinking along the same lines a bit for this prompt. Very poignant and beautiful story about family.

    • jannatwrites December 2, 2013 / 9:33 PM

      There were some similarities, J. So much for me writing something totally unique 😛 Thanks for reading!

  6. Lance December 2, 2013 / 8:53 AM

    That’s first paragraph, through the first 80 or so words are so well crafted I was both amazed and jealous of your work. There’s a lot of emotional heft here and you delivered it so well.

    Great writing

    • jannatwrites December 2, 2013 / 9:35 PM

      Wow, that’s a huge compliment, Lance – thanks! I appreciate you taking time to read it!

  7. suzicate December 2, 2013 / 9:26 AM

    I cried with this one, touching.

    • jannatwrites December 2, 2013 / 9:39 PM

      I’m glad you felt the emotion of the story, Suzicate. Thanks for reading!

  8. Debbie December 2, 2013 / 1:00 PM

    Outstanding, Janna, though I’m having to type this through tears! What a lovely story, so apropos at this time of year. How touching and true that we might not be able to save all but we can save some!

    • jannatwrites December 2, 2013 / 9:43 PM

      After reading your comment, my first thought was, “I’m glad I made you cry” – but that doesn’t sound right at all, Debbie 🙂 It’s more accurate for me to say that I’m glad you felt the emotion in the story. Thanks so much for reading!

    • jannatwrites December 2, 2013 / 9:48 PM

      In this case, I think that’s a good thing, Momtheobscure 🙂 Thanks so much for reading!

  9. Tessa December 2, 2013 / 4:30 PM

    It made me cry too!

    • jannatwrites December 2, 2013 / 9:50 PM

      Thanks for reading and sharing your response, Tessa. This one was emotionally difficult to write, so I’m glad you “felt” it.

  10. mademoiselle101 December 3, 2013 / 3:39 AM

    beautiful and a very heartbreaking story … thank you!

    • jannatwrites December 4, 2013 / 9:34 AM

      Thank you so much for taking time to read it, Mademoiselle101 🙂

    • jannatwrites December 4, 2013 / 9:36 AM

      I’m glad you enjoyed it, Kathy! I really wanted to go for the bittersweet, because life is often like that 🙂

  11. ranu802 December 3, 2013 / 5:43 AM

    It is sad but a very nice story.

    • jannatwrites December 4, 2013 / 9:37 AM

      Thanks for reading, Ranu802. At least he was loved and learned how to love…that’s the up side to the story 🙂

  12. jenbrunett December 3, 2013 / 6:15 AM

    Such a bitter sweet ending. I like knowing that Michael will be able to pick up the pieces… and I believe he’ll find his wholeness. 🙂

    • jannatwrites December 4, 2013 / 9:38 AM

      I like to believe that, too, Jen. Had Nina not saved him, he might not have been capable of finding love and peace, but she showed him the way.

  13. ym1611 December 3, 2013 / 11:43 AM

    Beautiful Janna! 😀

    • jannatwrites December 4, 2013 / 9:39 AM

      Thanks, YM! Appreciate you stopping by 🙂

  14. Stacie December 3, 2013 / 1:03 PM

    You made me cry! Well done 🙂

    • jannatwrites December 4, 2013 / 9:39 AM

      That’s a big compliment, Stacie! (Normally I don’t set out to make people cry, but in this case, it’s good :))

  15. Michael December 3, 2013 / 3:48 PM

    That was good. So poignant. I’m glad Nina came for him. 🙂

    • jannatwrites December 4, 2013 / 9:41 AM

      I’m glad she did, too, Michael. Her line of work would not be easy – so much that is wrong and you can’t save everyone. It would be safer to not be emotionally attached, but I’m glad she didn’t do that.

      Ha! just realized, the character has your name – not intentional 🙂

      • Michael December 4, 2013 / 7:02 PM

        It’s a very common name. 😀

  16. tedstrutz December 3, 2013 / 8:16 PM

    Damn, Janna. That was tough and sweet to read.

    • jannatwrites December 4, 2013 / 9:43 AM

      Thanks for toughing it out and reading, Ted! (You never know what you’re going to get with my writing..I go from drunk calling an ex, to outrageous family gatherings, to a sad but hopeful story of overcoming a bad childhood :))

  17. Bastet December 4, 2013 / 12:18 AM

    Great heart warming story…really suberb…yeah for Nina and happy for Michael.

    • jannatwrites December 4, 2013 / 9:44 AM

      I appreciate you reading and sharing your comment, Bastet!

      • Bastet December 4, 2013 / 9:43 PM

        your very welcome Janna!

  18. pattisj December 4, 2013 / 8:41 PM

    What a touching story…now I’m the one holding damp tissues!

    • jannatwrites December 5, 2013 / 12:16 AM

      I’m glad you felt the emotion of it, Patti. It’s good to know I’m not the only who cried 😛

  19. irenebarnett December 5, 2013 / 12:22 AM

    Heartbreaking and beautiful Janna. Great job on this one!

    • jannatwrites December 5, 2013 / 12:24 AM

      Thanks, Irene! I appreciate you stopping by to read it 🙂

  20. Suzanne December 5, 2013 / 8:33 AM

    Janna, you made me cry too. We fostered children when I was growing up and the stories some of my foster siblings used to tell us about their other homes were just horrifying. I’m so glad this ended well for him, even if Nina did die in the end. Beautifully written story!

    • jannatwrites December 6, 2013 / 12:08 PM

      Thanks so much for reading and for your comment, Suzanne. It is sad that kids are exposed to such hardship. My kids think they have it rough, but they have no idea…

  21. Peggy Smith December 5, 2013 / 12:27 PM

    So bitter sweet. The best of us and the worst of us shown in a perfect frame.

    • jannatwrites December 6, 2013 / 12:12 PM

      Thanks so much for reading, Peggy. It is bittersweet…but at least it isn’t completely without hope 🙂

  22. Kianwi December 5, 2013 / 4:22 PM

    Really great story! So glad it ended like it did. Sometimes it hits me how much power an author has…I’m glad you chose to make things good for him 🙂

    • jannatwrites December 6, 2013 / 12:14 PM

      Thanks for your comment, Kianwi! I generally like to write stories with hopeful endings, so I’m glad you like how this one turned out!

  23. Eliz@MirthandMotivation December 6, 2013 / 5:27 AM

    Poignant, beautiful; a much needed story to be shared. Janna, I loved this.
    Elizabeth

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