Kimberly Gould ~ @kimmydonn
Sheilagh Lee ~ @SweetSheil
Lisa McCourt Hollar ~ jezri1
Michelle Smith ~ @msmithbooks
Afsaneh K ~ @Afsaneh_Dreams
Chessny Silth ~ @ChessnySilth
Cara Michaels ~ @caramichaels
SiobhanMuir ~ @SiobhanMuir
Charles W. Jones ~ @ChuckWesJ
Jessa Russo ~ @JessaRusso
Phoenix Lavan ~ @PhoenixLavan
David A Ludwig ~ @DavidALudwig
Ruth Long ~ @bullishink
Ryan Strohman ~ @rastrohman
Nellie ~ @solimond
I love this story’s wit and your unique spin on the old trope of new relationship nerves. The powerful last line, though, takes the clever to a deeper level. Really nicely wrought from start to finish.
The cop buddies’ banter about girls and food could be routine, but the added complexity of the inoperable brain tumor flips the scene into the edgy unfamiliar. I really like how you expertly balanced humor and death against a backdrop of an already dangerous job.
This well-crafted scene plunges past the physical into the raw vulnerability of emotional intimacy, letting us witness an important and tender moment of growth in a couple’s relationship.* I liked how you managed to show development of the MC in such a short space—impressive. *Oh, wait. I didn’t mean PAST the physical.
This emotional scene between mother and daughter wrings the heart. I love your light touch, how you convey the anguish of both women without veering into the maudlin. Despite the horror of the situation itself, you end the story on an upbeat note; the reader can believe Clara and her mother will find a way forward together. Beautiful.
How Much This Hurts
By Michelle Smith
“It gets better, you know.”
Clara’s eyes opened and fell upon her mother, who hadn’t left her side for the past twelve hours. It was, however, the first time the woman had spoken since Clara had been admitted to the hospital the night before. There wasn’t much that could be said at such a time, of course. What could possibly be said to a sixteen year old girl that had attempted to take her own life at the very peak of her teenage years?
On the outside, Clara had it all: she had the clothes that everyone envied, the brand new car that was given in celebration of her sixteenth birthday, and the friends that parted crowds when walking through the school. Deep down, there was something that remained to be seen. It definitely wasn’t something worthy of jealousy, nor was it something that she wanted people to know about. It could only be described with one word: anguish. Some days, it physically hurt to be Clara and to even exist in her own mind. And she had become tired of feeling that constant pain.
Clara shifted in bed, the thick bandages on her wrist rubbing against the scratchy bed sheets. “How can you be so sure?” she asked her mother, who had reached over to take the uninjured hand into hers. “You don’t know how much this hurts, Mom. You just...you can’t know.”
Tears blurred her mother’s vision as she took in a deep breath, then proceeded to let go of her daughter’s hand before unclasping her watch. Clara’s mouth dropped open slightly when her mother showed her own wrist to her. “I do know,” her mom whispered, her gaze unwavering. “I know the pain. And I also know that yes, it does get better. If you need help, sweetheart, you need only ask.”
Clara felt her lower lip tremble as her eyes shifted from her mother’s wrists back to her face. “I want help,” she whispered. While softly spoken, the three hope-filled words seemed to echo throughout the small room. “I want it to get better.”
Her mother smiled, then took her hand into hers once more. “Then we’ll do it together.”