Perhaps I’m being presumptuous, but yours is a classic and striking example of art as redemption. Certainly I do not know if you or somebody close to you experienced the physical and psychological torment featured in your fine novel, but if you/they did, this book is a reverberating “I survived and shined!” The book itself, so far, has rocked me to the core.
The below is a sample from The Character, a story about child abuse and overcoming the pain with the use of friendship and imagination. There are many things that could act as triggers. Please make sure you are safe before reading. As with all writing, this is copyrighted material, please do not steal my work. This story has my heartbeat in every word.
Ash stood next to me. Both of us had our arms behind our backs and we were leaned forward, trying to see all the different flavors of ice cream behind the glass. I like to copy Ash. When he does something cool, which is almost all the time, I try doing it, too. It makes me feel like I’m almost as neat as he is. Right now, we’re trying to decide which type of ice cream to buy.
Today is a good day. For one thing, it’s Saturday, which means I don’t have to go to school and I get to spend more time with Ash. For another thing, Daddy went to see my grandparents in another city and won’t be home tonight. This means I knowDaddy won’t come to my room tonight. This makes me feel…lighter, happier, freer. And thirdly, just before I came to the park, where I kind of thought Ash might be waiting for me, I checked my piggybank. It’s where I save all the loose change that I find lying around the house. In it, I had nine dollars and sixty-three cents. This means that I have enough money to buy not only myself an ice cream but Ash an ice cream, as well. I feel grown-up. I feel special. I feel important, being able to buy him a special treat. Today will be a good day.
“What kind do you like to get?” I asked, tipping my head towards him.
The girl behind the counter looked my way but when she saw that I was talking to someone else, looked away again. Ash frowned and shook his head. Then he stood up straight again.
“How many different flavors are there?”
“They say on TV that they have thirty-two.”
“I think I’d like to taste test all thirty-two before I decide.”
A grin is tugging at his mouth. He arches his eyebrows and nods.
“I’d like to start by tasting lime,” he says.
“Do they allow taste tests here?”
“I don’t know.”
“Why don’t we ask and find out?”
I shrugged. I looked up towards the girl.
She comes over.
“Could I taste the lime? I’ve never had it before.”
She grabs a white spoon and dips some lime on it. Then she hands it to me. I turn and hand it to Ash. He licks a little bit of it off and then hands it back down to me. I try it, too.
“Hm. What about raspberry?” Ash asked.
I ask the lady for a taste of raspberry, and Ash and I repeat the taste test. I am ready now to choose my flavor but Ash decides he needs to try a bite of the lemon. I don’t really want to ask the lady for a third taste test. I know we’re not supposed to do that. But Ash smiles at me. He has the prettiest smile. I ask for the lemon. The lady sighs heavily and gets me a taste. While she prepares it, Ash uses his elbow to poke me in the side. I look up at him and he makes a silly, angry face. He is laughing because the lady is getting irritated. I frown and shake my head. Anger is not funny. She hands us the lemon. Then I get ready to order the kind I want.
“I think I need at least one more taste test,” Ash said.
I look up at him.
“Come on, one more. I’m not sure yet. I really need to taste the sherbet.”
I quietly ask for another taste test with the sherbet. The lady scowls at me but gets it ready.
I am poked again by Ash. When I look at him, he sticks out his tongue and puts his hands on his hips, then looks at the lady. I can’t help but laugh cause he is so silly. And it is kind of funny, asking for taste tests, even though we don’t need to. After this taste test, Ash tells me he wants the sherbet. I order a double dip sugar cone sherbet.
Once she had it ready, I said, “I want to order one more, but can I try the butter pecan first?”
Ash’s shout of laughter is my reward. He takes his sherbet from me and winks.
“Atta girl,” he said.
The lady is frowning at me, but I don’t care. I am smiling so big now my face hurts. Ash is happy.
***** ***** *****
“You have a chocolate face,” Ash tells me a little bit later.
We took our ice cream out of the store because we made the lady mad. We are sitting by the ducks in the park, the same place we first met. I really like this park. I take my hand and wipe away my chocolate face.
“I didn’t really need the taste tests, you know. I always get chocolate,” I said.
Ash smiles and looks toward the ducks.
Then he leaned sideways, closer to me, and said in a loud whisper, “I always get sherbet.”
I laugh at the look on his face.
“Sometimes it’s fun just to have fun,” said Ash.
I think about that for a minute before I shrug.
“I don’t like it when people get mad at me.”
He takes a bite out of his ice cream and then shrugs.
“But anger isn’t a bad thing, not by itself it’s not. I get mad a lot,” Ash said.
“Why do you get mad?”
“Well, for lots of reasons. If I can’t remember a story the way I want to, I get mad. Sometimes I even get mad if I can’t go to sleep at night, or if I wake up and can’t go back to sleep.”
He shakes his head.
“But, when I get mad, I tell myself a story, or sometimes I just go somewhere by myself. That makes it better.”
“Do you ever get angry, Anna?”
I think about this for a minute. Then I shake my head.
“What about at the kids at school? When they laugh because of something you do?”
“No. I feel embarrassed but that’s not the same thing as being mad.”
“You’re right, it’s not. What about when you think you should be able to do something, like maybe pass a test, but you can’t do it?”
I shake my head.
“Nope. I just cry then.”
He takes another bite of his ice cream. His is gone now. I still have a little of mine left. Ash tips his head back to look at the sky. It is a really pretty day today. The sky is so bright and blue, and it’s not at all cold. It’s not hot, though, either. It’s really perfect. I wish it could stay like this forever.
“Hey, do you see that bird?” Ash asked me suddenly, pointing up to the sky.
I did not see a bird.
“In the tree?”
“No, silly. Right there. See it? Straight up.”
I looked. I looked really hard. But I still didn’t see a bird.
“You’re fooling me. There’s no bird.”
“There is too. That cloud looks just like a red bird.”
I got it now. He loves to make shapes out of clouds. This time, when I looked up, I did see the bird shape in one of the clouds.
“How can something white look like red?” I asked.
Ash sighed heavily and rolled his head sideways to look at me.
“Seriously, Anna, use your imagination. That cloud is red.”
“If you say so. It’s moving anyway.”
A second’s pause.
“Hey, let’s follow it,” Ash said.
Ash was already on his feet.
“Come on, we’re going to follow that bird.”
I laughed. I liked that game.
“Maybe we’ll find its nest,” I said.
“That has its three baby birds in it.”
“Maybe we’ll get to see it pick up a worm to feed its babies.”
“I bet there’s a crow at its nest and the crow is about to eat the baby birds. We’ll get to watch the mama fight away the crow. Did you know there is nothing as dangerous as a mama when she’s protecting her babies?”
“That’ll be fun,” I said.
We were walking through the park. Both me and Ash had our heads tipped back so we could follow the bird cloud. It was really fun. I didn’t know where we were going, and I did not care because Ash was with me.
“Hey, our bird is changing!” Ash said suddenly.
I started laughing.
“It’s not a bird anymore, Ash! It’s a pretzel.”
“A pretzel? You turned my red bird into a pretzel?”
“Well, look at it! It’s a pretzel!”
I was laughing so hard. Ash laughed, too, his head still tipped back. Our pretzel bird was now moving slowly just ahead of us. It met up with another cloud. It stuck to the new cloud and changed again.
“Hey, our pretzel just got eaten by an airplane!” Ash said.
“No,” I said seriously. “Our pretzel bird just got on an airplane. It will help her reach her nest faster. She had to fly a long way away to find food for those babies.”
“Ah, well, all the better. She might get back home before the crow gets there.”
We were still walking. A minute later, our airplane pretzel bird began to stretch out. It got longer and longer.
“It’s a—ooph,” I said as I ran into someone. I looked up and saw the teenage boy I’d run into. My face got red.
“Sorry,” I muttered.
He ignored me and kept walking, but I heard him mutter, “Nutcase.”
My heart sinks. I was a nutcase. I was walking backwards with my head tipped up, trying to see where a cloud would go, and laughing because it kept changing shapes. I looked back at Ash. He smiled at me.
“Birds eat nuts.”
… … …