So, my cool sister Anna had this cool idea. I think it was Sunday night when we were accidentally having talking time. She had the idea for us to choose a photo and both write a story from it. It was rather hypothetical until yesterday when we got excited and decided to do it. 😉
We both hopped on Pinterest, sent our favorite pictures back and forth, and finally decided on one. We wanted something with more than one character that could literally fit any genre so our stories wouldn’t end up very similar. (And believe me, they are very different! XD)
Last night, during official talking time, we started writing our stories in notebooks, then finished them today, and swapped them for beta-reading. That part was extra fun. We had some good laughs while helping each other clarify and improve our stories. ❤ (And Anna was extra cool and gave me some of her chocolate.)
(The sorts of weird conversations we have…)
Our stories ended up being VERY different from each other. For some reason, I looked at the picture prompt and immediately thought dystopian. XD Anna, on the other hand, wrote a really cute, sweet, and meaningful contemporary story. I really love the descriptions in her story, and the message goes really well with the message of her blog and the message of her WIP “Eagledare”. (No spoilers.)
(Our picture prompt. We couldn’t track down the owner of this picture, but whoever you are, it’s awesome. 😉 )
Three random facts about my story (you can read it here): 1, the main character was originally named Erin because that’s all I could think of. 2, I patterned my idea of the stairwell off the stairwell in the nursing building at my school. 3, the first line popped into my head out of nowhere, and I had to fit a story to it.
Three random facts about Anna’s story: 1, “Nunchuck” is actually something she calls people as an endearing insult. 2, the house in it reminds me a ton of a house we visited a lot when we lived in rural Oregon. 3, I totally picture Mr. Flint as a 98-year-old man we knew years ago.
Without further talking, I present to you…
Truly Fantastic by Anna Willis
Life was officially horrid, she decided, and “fantastic” was definitely NOT the right word. Britt threw her backpack down at the base of the ancient, warped stairs and frowned at it.
“Fantastic day to you too,” her brother struggled up the stairs, dragging a dilapidated cardboard box after him. The stairwell groaned under the weight.
Stomping up after him, Britt rolled her eyes. “Nothing is “fantastic” about this move, bro, and you know it.”
He raised one sarcastic eyebrow at her from under his team’s baseball cap.
“Camp was way too short like always, then the second we get home, all ready to be school superstars, Mom and Dad decided to pack us off to some deserted jungle to live in a house older than great-grandpa.”
“AND there’s no cell service in this stupid place!” their older sister yelled, rocketing past with her nose in her phone and almost falling over the box.
Her brother flashed a big toothy grin, “Look on the bright side, sis, you only have bears to dodge while on your phone instead of rush hour!”
Ducking her arm, he fled as she gave chase. The sounds of thumping and heated argument burst from the loft, and Britt found herself wondering for a moment if the floorboards would hold.
“Honey?” a voice called from somewhere deep inside the woodstove Dad was trying to get working. “Electric company called and said the roads are too slick for them to get up and see what’s wrong with the wiring to the lights and oven.”
Great. Cold dinner, no TV, and no staying up past dark to unpack and learn the house.
From down below she could hear Mom’s panicked jabbering about a mouse nest she had discovered in a kitchen cabinet, and overhead rain drilled relentlessly on the tin roof so loudly it could make a person go insane.
Britt kicked the top step. Flinching in pain, she curled up on the loft’s thin carpet and bit back the tears.
“And on top of all that my head hurts, and it’s too cold in here, and… and,” she was sniffling into her arms now, “everybody is so grumpy.”
Heavy cloth dropped over her face, and the girl let out a muffled shriek, scrambling out from under it.
A boy comfortably straddled the bannister just above her.
Britt glared at him, “What was that for, Nunchuck?”
“Sweatshirt. Put it on.”
Britt glanced at it. “It’s too big.”
“It’s warm.” The boy dismounted the railing and forced the sweatshirt over her head.
He was right, and she burrowed deeper into it with a meek, “Thanks.”
“What are you doing here? I mean, who are you?” She was terrible at first impressions.
“Mom sent me from our cabin just across the crick to welcome you folks. You know you’re our first neighbors since old man Flint died? And he BUILT this place!” Gesturing toward the loft behind them, he continued with the hint of a grin, “I’ve already met your brother up there; showed him the attic trap door. Oh, and I met your sister, but I’m not sure if she met me… found a spot of patchy cellphone service.”
“Oh. Didn’t Dad lock the door?”
He shrugged. “No one locks their doors around here.”
Slinging one leg over the stair railing, he offered her a hand. She stared at it. “Come on, I want to show you something,” he urged.
“You’ve got to be like the most popular dude in school and years older than me,” she rambled, taking his help and climbing on in front of him, “Honestly, aren’t you way too old to be doing this?”
He laughed, and it blew her blonde hair into her eyes. “Never!” he cried, giving her a shove.
The walls blurred by and a small scream of delight escaped her throat as they slid down the ancient roller coaster. Rolling off at the end, she landed beside her discarded backpack, laughing tears.
“That was probably…” she squirmed in laughter, gasping for breath, “THE craziest, most childish thing I have done since forever!”
He flopped onto his back next to her and folded his arms across his ribs, waiting for her to stop laughing. Finally he spoke, quietly, “This is what I wanted to show you.”
Britt blinked, “What? Where?”
He lifted his arm and pointed straight up.
Moving her body up a few steps, a bubble of laughter rose inside her. “A crack in the ceiling? Really?”
“It’s more than that. Look closer.” His voice was perfectly serious.
Britt peered at the ceiling far above them and saw an array of subtle pastel colors gathered around the ragged break in the white plaster. It was a landscape scene, painted masterfully so that the ceiling repair was a beautiful mountain range with a sunrise melting into the emptiness above it.
Britt sucked in her breath with appreciation. “No one would ever know that was there!”
“I came by one day, and Mr. Flint had propped a ladder on these stairs and was painting on the ceiling. The house had settled at some point and broken the plaster in a big ugly gash.”
Britt pressed her tongue against the back of her teeth, hard. “Dad and Mom said this move was going to be a ‘fantastic change’ for us, but so far it has been everything but fantastic. It’s breaking the family apart and making everything ugly, just like this ceiling was.”
He shifted and tightened his arms around himself against the cold. She realized the sweatshirt must have been his.
His eyes were still taking in every stroke of the artist’s brush in the painting. “Ya know, Mr. Flint couldn’t completely repair that break,” he answered, “but he did his best and then worked to make the whole thing beautiful in his unique way. He was cool like that.”
Britt jumped to her feet, and, startled, he did the same. “I’m going to do that too. Help me?” She dropped her eyes and then raised them again, determined to start repairing things right then and there. “Listen, sorry I called you nunchuck… Friends?”
She flopped the long sleeve toward him, and he shook it solemnly.
Grabbing her backpack, Britt pulled out a half-eaten bag of marshmallows and ran to find her sister and brother. “Sis, stop moping and bring that pile of blankets. Bro, do you still have a flashlight from camp? Good, grab it.”
Minutes later they halted in front of the glowing, warm wood stove. Dad’s tired face broke into a grin at their surprise. “The neighbor guy showed me how!”
Britt matched his smile and victoriously raised the marshmallows in the air. “Let’s have a truly fantastic s’more party for dinner!”
Her new friend produced a pocket knife and passed it to the brother who excitedly skewered a marshmallow and promptly burnt it. Mom found bowls and served hot chocolate. Her older sister giggled and happily tossed her phone aside to rapid-fire marshmallows at Dad.
Britt dropped to her stomach to avoid the sticky war. The fire giving her face a toasty, tingly feeling, she whispered to the boy sprawled on the wood floor beside her. She wasn’t sure if he could even hear her over the cheerful chaos around them. “Thanks for showing me there really can be beauty.”
Wasn’t that great?