Friday, July 20, 2012

The Journal

The Secret Sits
We dance round in a ring and suppose,
But the Secret sits in the middle and knows.

This is the prompt that I found waiting for me for my Write on Edge challenge this weekend. There were many ways I could go with this prompt, but I decided it was time to address some family secrets in Carly's Story. This is a continuation of Family Dinner, but I wrote the previous excerpt months ago. So, if you go back in time to read that excerpt pardon any confusing transitions. Still a work in progress.

I hope you enjoy my take on this haunting Robert Frost poem. If are new to my writing and leave a comment, please let me know where I can find your writing so I can get to know your story, too.

The journal pages, touched and seen only by its’ author, now lay exposed on the kitchen table. The secret tumbled from the page causing the three of us to sit in silence, each absorbing the truth in our own private way.

“I remember that night.” Ilsa finally spoke. Her words soft, barely escaping her throat. She coughed, forcing the words to come out louder. “I remember that night.”

Greer sneered. “Impossible. You were a child.”

Ilsa ignored Greer. She reached for the journal, held it in her lap, and stroked the words her late sister had written. “We went to bed later than usual that night. Momma had been gone working an overnight shift to have the bakery well-stocked in the morning.”

Greer added, “She pitched a fit about leaving us alone that night. Dad hadn’t come around in days.She was worried he’d come around drunk, out of control.”

“Lena wasn’t home. Where did she go?” Ilsa questioned.

“The movies with a neighbor girl, “ Greer filled in. “She always had that ability to make friends. I was never that lucky.” Greer spoke this sincerely reminding me that she had loved her sister.

Ilsa continued to recount her recollections of that night . “Daddy never did come home, but Lena did. I woke up when the moon was high. Someone was crying.”

Tears started to pool in Ilsa’s eyes. I felt tears stinging my cheeks, too. “It was Lena. Huddled in the corner crying she didn’t look like a young woman, but a child. I remember wanting to ask her what was wrong, because I had never seen her like that. She was always so happy, so strong. No matter what hell we were enduring she was our light. I felt like a coward. I never went to her. I never asked what was wrong. I burrowed down underneath the blanket and went back to bed.”

“The next morning she was her usual self. I almost forgot about what I had awoken to.” Ilsa shut the journal, but kept it in her lap.  “I never knew he raped her.”

Oddly, relief consumed me. Months of keeping my mother’s secret, months of pent up anger would now not be mine alone. Ilsa and Greer would share my sorrow. I knew it was selfish, but I needed them to share this truth with me.

A small, nondescript noise came from behind me. John’s heart had grown weaker as the weeks wore on, he managed to shuffle from his room to the kitchen. The grief exposed on his wrinkled face verified that he had heard the entire conversation. He pointed to the journal and confessed.  “ Hell will soon welcome me and my sins.”


  1. Wow. What a secret. I like the interaction between the characters. The only suggestion I have is to look at this line- "Huddled in the corner crying she didn’t look like a young woman, but a child." - as it doesn't read like something someone would say but more as a description from a narrator. If you leave it in as conversation, I'd tweak the language a little. Otherwise, maybe take it out and use it more as a glimpse of the memory she's describing.

    1. I agree with your comment about that line. It was awkward for me to write. I think I was trying to make it obvious that she wasn't a child - which for readers reading the story from the beginning, they will already know this.

      It is the problem that I have with the prompts. I love them because they help me progress my story, but I feel like I have to explain everything because the excerpt is part of a bigger piece. Thank you for reaffirming that this didn't work! :)

    2. There were a couple of lines like that--read them out loud and see if they sound natural. Writing dalogue is a trick you have to learn, and that out-loud thing helps along the way. A lot of times you can say everything you already said, it just takes more words, more breaks--pretend you're telling it to a friend and use those words.

      Watch out, also, for the dialogue tags. Stick to "said," it's less distracting.

  2. Strong scene, very vivid. Quick correction: its' should be its. No apostrophe in the possessive form of it. Well done!

  3. Its', it's, its - I hate those three words! I can never get it straight when I should use them :)

  4. What a terrible secret, but releasing it, sharing the burden feels like the thing to do for your character, even with the other reaction at the end.

  5. That is the one of the worst possible secrets which I hadn't expected but the sharing of it lifted weight off of her shoulders. And John at the end? Wasn't expecting that at all either. I have to go back and read what happened before now!

  6. I'm going to have to go back and read too! I liked the opening here -- it's got enough punch to move this along even for someone who hasn't read the rest yet.