Updated: Jul 10, 2022
Globe Soup 7 Day Story Writing Challenge— “Dear John…”
Following a couple VERY deep and slightly off topic weeks worth of blog posts, today's will be slightly different than you're used to, but back on the topic of writing. Today I'm giving you My Two Cents on Writing Contests...
The following short story was submitted to the Globe Soup #7daystorywritingchallenge
It was my first attempt at a writing contest and unfortunately I didn’t win (or even place). I found the experience unique and challenging, and I am sure I will do it again. Even though I didn’t get recognized by the contest, I’m still happy with my submission. Would I maybe change a couple things? Ehhh… maybe?
But I still like it. And I'm proud of myself for putting myself out there and taking a chance to work on my writing.
Of the the submissions that did place in my category, I read two and they were really great, so I am not mad. I’m sure it was hard for the judges and I always try to remind myself that writing is subjective and who knows what exactly made them choose those over mine…
The challenge was to write a story in seven days given a mystery genre and theme. All contestants were split into 12 teams and assigned one of the following genres:
I was assigned Epistolary (a story told in the form of letters or journal entries)—Think THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK.
The theme was ‘Twist of Fate.’
Please feel free to email/comment your opinion of my submission! Hope you enjoy!
Theme: Twist of Fate
The following correspondence was found in the belongings of Mrs. Lorelai Lesko by her four children, after her death, at age 77, on June 27, 2023. The contents of these letters changed everything they thought they knew...
January 20, 1966
My Dearest John,
I realize as I pen this opening how cliche it will seem given what I'm about to tell you. However, as you are named John and will forever hold a piece of my heart so, therefore, will always be dear to me, there is no other way to begin.
I need to convey, this is the most difficult letter I will ever write. The English language does not contain eloquent enough phrases to express the depths of my emotions for you. The last thing on earth I would ever want to do is hurt you, but I fear that’s exactly what will happen. I wish I had the courage or ability to change our circumstances, but I don't. The situation I find myself in holds no perfect options, so I must make the best choice I can, for everyone.
Before I say what needs to be said, I feel compelled to explain what my heart is struggling with.
I'm scared, John.
I'm so scared and I want to be strong, but I don't know how. I'm scared for so many reasons, not the least of which is, I don't know how this letter will find you. Not only how the mailman will get it to you in a country so far from home, but also, what condition you'll be in if and when it does make it to you. I'm certain you're scared also. I can't imagine what you might be enduring over there, but it's horrible here too. I've experienced so many terrifying events since you left.
Last month I was playing bridge at Mary Sue Henson's house when she had an unexpected visitor. She thought it was the milkman who promised to come back that afternoon and bring something he’d forgotten the day before. She sent her six-year-old daughter to open the door, so as not to disturb our bridge game, and guess what, John?
It wasn't the milkman.
Instead, the doorframe was filled by two monstrous men, wearing dress blues, holding a telegram. The dreaded kind which everyone here recognizes instantly and hopes never to receive. The most horrible thing was, even Mary Sue’s six-year-old knew what it meant. The tiny girl let out such a horrific scream, it shook me to my core. I’m not sure I’ll ever get over the sound, and I think it will haunt my dreams forever.
This wasn't the only time, though. My best friend Abigail received a telegram about her husband, while we were having coffee at her house. She fainted and had to be taken to the hospital. Paul was only nineteen and they were only married twenty-four hours before his deployment. I don't think Abigail will soon recover from the shock of the news, and neither will I.
What exactly is happening over there? Not knowing makes life nearly unbearable for those of us left behind. Virtually everyone I know has a loved one serving and the fear of everyday tasks, like answering the front door, has become paralyzing. You and I weren't able to say ‘I do’ before you left, which means they wouldn’t notify me, but I still flinch every time the doorbell rings.
I shouldn’t be laying all these fears on you, given what I’m about to tell you, but I need you to understand my feelings, ahead of the unimaginable decision I’ve made.
Ok, no more beating around the bush… here goes…
Do you remember my brother Michael’s childhood friend, Peter? Well, he’s asked me to marry him and I'm sorry to say, I've accepted. In fact, it's the eve of our nuptials as I write you this letter. The smeared ink was caused by the unrelenting tears which began falling nearly the moment I said yes.
I understand if you’re so angry you want to stop reading right now, but please continue and I'll do my best to explain the entire story from the beginning.
A couple of years ago, Peter married his high school sweetheart, Jessica. Michael was the best man and I went with him. Do you remember? Anyway, they were a wonderful couple and it seemed like they would live happily ever after. He landed a good job as a salesman and inherited his childhood home down the street from my parents. Jessica got pregnant last year and it seemed like they were on track for a perfect life. Sadly, the universe had other plans, because Jessica died giving birth to their son. I accompanied Michael and my parents to the funeral and Peter, of course, was devastated. He’s an only child and his parents died last year. Jessica didn't have much family, to begin with, but she was out of touch with those who remained because they didn't approve of Peter. So he was left to raise a newborn on his own.
I'm sure you're wondering what all this has to do with why I'm writing you this letter so I'll attempt to get to my point.
My parents invited Peter and his son, Jacob, to Christmas a few weeks ago, and that’s when it happened. Peter discovered the secret I'd been grappling with and he gave me a way forward.
I suppose I've skipped ahead, so I should explain. A few days before, I discovered my own shocking news. I felt sick for several weeks and couldn’t seem to get past whatever illness left me unable to keep hold of any of my meals. I thought it was nerves or maybe a bad flu, and given my inability to even hold down water, I lost about ten pounds. Still, my dresses were beginning to fit tighter. I think you can imagine where this is going, my love.
The magical night we shared, the day before you left for that God-awful place, has left us with what should be a joyous gift. I should be ecstatic about the revelation, you know I've always wanted to be a mother. But given the circumstances—we aren’t married and you're a million miles away in a place, you may never return from—it was not such welcome news.
So where does Peter come in, you’re probably screaming?
Well, as I said, he was at my parents’ house for Christmas. He caught me in my bedroom secretly staring at myself in the mirror, examining the small bump which had formed on my belly, as a result of our night of passion months ago. He said he remembered finding his wife in a similar state in front of the mirror when she found out she was pregnant with Jacob.
We had a long talk about you, and what my plans were moving forward, given the news. I broke down in tears because I hadn't yet formulated a plan and felt hopeless about the options. He sat with me for a long time, helping me examine the possibilities.
Of course, there was the option of going to one of those ‘places’ where they allow you to carry your baby in secret and give it up for adoption. As I’d always dreamed of being a mother, giving up a child I already loved so much felt unthinkable. Plus, how could I possibly let go of the only piece of you I may ever get to hold again?
Another alternative was to tell my parents. If they would allow it, I could stay with them in hopes of your return. It was unlikely they would allow it though, given my parents’ conservative nature. Plus, if you didn't return, what then? People don't take kindly to single mothers of illegitimate babies.
The third, and initially least appealing, option we came up with was for Peter and me to get married. I know it sounds crazy, but the longer we talked about it, the more it made sense. There was more to consider than just our child. Peter and Jessica’s son needs someone, too. He can't be left alone.
I'm sorry, I fear I've gotten ahead of myself again. Aside from having nowhere else to go, Peter had an ulterior motive for accepting my parents’ invitation to Christmas dinner. He’d been called to duty. He found out before Thanksgiving and had been talking to the National Guard’s office trying to delay, because he didn't have anyone to take Jacob. He got it delayed, but he was leaving soon so he needed to find someone to care for the baby, and was becoming desperate. He came to dinner to ask Michael and my parents for help.
In another unfortunate twist of fate, while we were having dinner, my brother announced he too was being deployed, and it turns out, it was with the same unit as Peter. They leave for training in a little over a month. My parents were devastated by Michael’s bombshell, so Peter didn't feel like he could ask them. When he discovered my situation, he said the plan just popped into his head. If we got married, both Jacob and I would be cared for by his benefits. Plus, we could say the life growing inside of me belonged to him and avoid the unwanted questions about my delicate state.
I don't relish the thought. The baby I carry was made through our love and will always be
half your heart. But, the options are nearly impossible. There's more to think about than just you and me. Jacob needs me too, and Peter is a good man.
I’ve considered what will happen in the future. If you both come home, we'll have a mess to sort out. I’m sure you'll want to know our baby and by then Jacob will likely look at me as the only mother he's ever known. I realize by agreeing to this union, I have possibly made some unforgivable decisions for everyone involved, especially you and our child. I hope one day you'll understand and maybe even agree I did the right thing. Ultimately, I don't know what else to do.
Peter said if you come home and he doesn't, he expects—based on what he knows about you—you would raise his child as your own, without hesitation. If he comes back and you don't, he promises we’ll explain to our baby what a wonderful man Pvt John Lesko was. We’ll tell our child how much you loved them and wished you'd met them. We’ll explain how he/she was created out of love, but the world we lived in created impossible conditions.
The scariest scenario I can imagine would be if neither of you came back. I don't know how I'll explain the mess I'm in to the two helpless babies who have already become my whole world. I know this news will come as a shock, but the times don't allow for protracted decisions. I wish there was time for you to weigh in, but Peter is leaving so soon. I can only hope, I'm making the right choice. I love you, my dearest John, and if you've made it this far, I hope you understand.
Please stay safe, and come home, my love. Your child and I remain waiting, with bated breath along with Jacob to find out what fate awaits our strange new family.
December 12, 1967
To: Mrs Peter Prescott
From: Office of the US Military Casualty Unit
We regret to inform you that your husband, Sgt First Class Peter Prescott has been declared missing in action. His entire unit-503d Infantry Regiment-were unfortunate casualties of war in the province of Kontum, South Vietnam on November 19,1967.
He fought bravely and served honorably and we will never be able to repay the debt owed for his service to his country.
Please accept my deepest condolences,
President Lyndon B Johnson
That’s it today folks! Another one off weird post, but here's my final thoughts on writing contests. They're a different experience from any I've had as a writer; but, if you want to be a published author, I recommend finding a contest! They really push you out of your comfort zone and force you to examine your writing skills outside your chosen genre. Also, I highly recommend Globe Soup, their group is supportive and creative and very easy to submit to. The only thing that would have made this one any better is if I got feedback from the judges… but alas, it was a very full contest so I’m sure they don’t have time.
If you’ve read all the way down here, thanks for taking the time out and have a good weekend loves!
Rose Rayne Rivers
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