(Stefanie Allison shellebrating the conclusion of our tribute to Peggy Dobbs, with whom Stefanie had a special bond)
Good Evening, Again!
from the towers that are A Word with you Press in sunny downtown Moscow (well, downtown, at least!)
Just five stories away from being able to announce our finalists. Here is the third entry from one of our favorite contestants and former contest winner, Stefanie Allison. I am tempted just to say a few kind words, post this, and let it go…But I believe I will read it first…Give me few minutes, won’t you?…
…ok! Done. Like many of you who have watched Stefanie’s growth as a writer on this site over the past three years, I am conch-ous that someday shell be able to make a few clams with her writing.
by Stepfanie Allison
He’s singing that song again, I thought. I squatted down into the sand, running my hand through the soft grains. I felt around until I felt a shard of a shell.
“You always pick up the broken ones,” Tom said, squatting next to me.
“They need love, too,” I said before slipping the shard into my purse.
“What do you do with them?”
“Put them into a bowl in my room.”
“What happens when it gets full?”
“Get another one and fill that up.”
Tom allowed himself to fall backwards to sit in the sand. I didn’t mind that he was going to get sand on his tuxedo. I pressed my palm into a mound of sand and smoothed it.
“You can’t stop thinking about her, huh?” I asked. Tom stared out into the darkness of the Pacific Ocean.
“I think I’m allowed to,” he said. He began to run his index finger in the sand, not caring too much about the shapes he was making.
“Graduation is in two weeks. That’s plenty of time.”
“Bethany’s going to fly out to Arizona for orientation,” he said, as he bowed his head. He sucked in air suddenly.
“Do you want a tissue?”
“I just thought you might want one.”
“Well, I don’t,” he snapped. I kept my gaze on the sand, digging up another shell.
“Sorry.” He turned his head to me slightly.
“No, I am, Dess,” he whispered.
I ran my hand over the shell. It was black on the outside, but when I flipped it over, it was silver and when moonlight shined on it, I saw the rainbow. It was the shape of a crescent moon, with jagged edges on the curve.
He began humming again.
“What is that song?” I asked.
“It’s an oldies song I sing when I feel like this.”
“When you’re sad?”
“When I feel thoughtful.” I realized he often hummed this same tune when we studied together.
I wish he’d tell me what he’s thinking when he sings it, I thought to myself.
“Well, I don’t really listen to the oldies,” I confessed.
“You don’t know what you’re missing then!”
“You can’t miss something you don’t know. Or have.”
“Bethany’s not going to miss me.”
I gripped the shell.
“Why won’t you tell her then?”
“Because I know she’ll hate me.”
“Hate you? For liking her?”
“Good, because that’s a stupid reason for her to hate you.”
“She’ll hate me for loving her.”
I looked into my palm and saw that the shell had sliced my skin wide open. For a split second, I was fascinated by the red tide rushing over my hand.
“My God, Dess, that looks horrible,” Tom said, pulling out his handkerchief.
“Don’t do that,” I said, fumbling in my purse for tissues.
“Dess, you’re bleeding really badly,” he said, trying to grab my wrist.
“Your mom got you that for prom, and I don’t want you wasting a two-hundred dollar handkerchief because I was stupid.”
“It was one-hundred ninety, and I don’t care,” he said. “You’ll get blood all over your gown, and YOUR mom would kill me for that.” He threw the shell in the sand, soaked with my blood. He wrapped his hand tightly around my wrist before tying the brown handkerchief around my wound.
“Ball your fist tight,” he said gently. “We have to stop the blood flow.”
“I passed health class, thanks,” I said.
“…No. I am this time.”
I kept my fist tightly clenched, but Tom obviously didn’t think I was doing a good enough job because he covered my hand with his and squeezed tightly. I refused to take my eyes off of his hand holding mine, though I knew this was probably the first and last time I would see it.
“It’s too late,” I whispered. He ran his thumb over mine.
“I swear, it’s not too late,” he said tenderly.
“For what?” I asked. He raised an eyebrow.
“Shouldn’t I be asking you that?”
“I asked first.”
Tom continued to hold my hand, but he looked around.
“I thought I saw it,” he said.
Tom reached into the patch of sand in question before pulling out a white shell, shaped like a fan, complete with straight ridges running up and down.
It was unbroken.
“You don’t have any shells like this at home, huh?” he asked. I shook my head.
“I don’t know where I’d put it,” I said.
“Why not in the bowl with all the other ones?” I shrugged.
“I don’t know. I think it’d look funny mixed in with a lot of broken ones.” Tom took my unhurt left hand and put the shell in my palm. He folded my fingers over it and stroked my fist.
“Then you need to start finding a place to keep the unbroken ones,” he said.
“Why?” The corners of his mouth rose slightly.
“They need love too.”
Tom began to walk back to the hotel, rehearsing his speech to Bethany, and I held the shell in my palm, not trusting myself to not break it.