That right there is a line from Wordsworth’s ‘A Character’. And it was also the prompt for this week’s QuickFic competition.
We asked for stories, of 250 words or less, inspired by that prompt – which you promptly delivered. We marvelled at how many strange – and marvellous – contrasts could be found in one prompt. You are all excellent.
Here are the two which we thought were just that extra bit excellent:
RUNNER-UP: Jamie Groves
A Hush Descends
The foreman pauses, a greedy pause, a selfish ellipsis, as all eyes rest on him.
“… not guilty on all charges.”
A murmur sweeps the courtroom, the public gallery erupts – I love that expression, so beloved of courtroom drama, but so true – and the respective barristers and solicitors shake their heads or allow themselves a glimmer of smugness. But I look at her, whose face I’ve known for nearly four decades, and I see.
I see the expectation, the unbearable unknowing as her fate hides behind the lips of the foreman. I see her jaw tremble, her lower lip tucked behind her teeth, her watery blue eyes imploring, the same expression as when she watched Cerys, 8 years old, the mother of Christ struggling to remember her lines when the Archangel showed up.
I see her eyes wince shut as the foreman takes his moment, her jaw clenched, as if she’s already heard sentence, seen the black cap, knelt at the block. Her chin I see tighten, dimples of despair, a helplessness unmatched since she lay, swollen belly smeared in jelly, desperately trying to decipher the sonographer’s expression.
I see her head fall, as those decisive two words are read aloud. Relief, you may say, the unburdening of tension. And for a glimmer of a millisecond, before the tears and glad smiles of justice served, at the corner of her cheek and the wrinkles round her lips, I see the fleeting suppressed smile of the woman who killed my daughter.
WINNER: Thom Willis
“You’re drawing me again,” she said. A simple, flat statement of fact which remained unacknowledged. She continued to stare out of the window and his pencil continued to drift across the paper, settling down to create borders around the soft off-white, shaping her face.
“I can never get it right,” he said after a while, reaching up to scrunch the paper from the corner. “Your face is impossible.”
She looked away from him, indifferently amused. “Maybe,” she said to her reflection. “Maybe you’re just bad at drawing? You never let me see your sketches. All I have is a bin filled with balls of paper.”
“You’ve never looked?”
“I don’t want to see my face crumpled and torn. I don’t want to know how I will look when I am old.” He said nothing to this. Swooped another silver-grey streak of graphite around her hair. Threaded pearls on the long strings around her neck. Crosshatched the shadow at the line of her jaw. The face on the page was blank. The face on every crumpled piece of paper was blank. He had reached the limits of his ability, and it was her.
Congratulations, Jamie and Thom! And thanks to everyone who entered. See you all back here next week?
Happy weekends, happy writing.