“He taught you the suffering of love. A lesson that nothing is permanent. You thought that you would be together for eternity. A childish promise. Do you forget this love and the lessons that came from it so easily?”
“I don’t want to remember. It doesn’t matter.” snapped The Woman, folding her arms across her chest, hiding her vulnerability.
“You are missing him. You are missing this first relationship, the basis of all you of deeper interaction with others.” The girl paused, waiting for a glint of recognition from The Woman. Finding none, she went on.
“Are you satisfied?” asked the teenage girl, motionless, expressionless. “Do you find what you are longing for in the affairs of a lonely teenager?”
The Woman narrowed her amber eyes, the sting of insult creeping. “I don’t want to miss anything. I want to see his memories. Be part of them. I want to share his happiness and be there to comfort his pain. A lifetime together.”
“A life together is shared experiences. Not living as a single entity. The choice you are making ensures that you have nothing to offer him, when it is possible to do so. The more of him you absorb, the more of you is replaced.” the teenager advised. “What are the names of your children?” she challenged, the darkness swirling around them.
The Woman smiled genuine at the mention of her children. “They are beautiful. With wide, blue eyes and blonde hair, just like Johnny. They look just like him.”
“What are the names of your children?” the teenager asked again, her tone an exact replica of her previous question.
The Woman could not answer the question but continued to smile, reveling in her children’s similarities to their father, in their heritage, in their hands that mirrored his, in their expressions that she had seen so many times in him.
Having proven its point, the voice disappeared taking it’s physical form along with it, leaving The Woman to stew in her thoughts. She savored what could have been a memory but was lost without definition and purpose.
(Page submitted by the author, A. Grams; ebook available here and here)
This page presents an intriguing puzzle, with its nameless characters and ambiguous setting. By paragraph six, though, we get the clues that, when taken along with the book’s title, tell us these are both ghosts speaking, and that they’re talking about some form of haunting in which the Woman is absorbing or possessing her former husband.
The elements of obsession and the psychology of the Woman’s inability to face certain aspects of her past are likewise enticing, and create a dark mood.
On the down side, there are moments in which the author is too overt for my tastes, as when the Woman folds her arms, “hiding her vulnerability.” The gesture alone tells me all I need to know; the added description is redundant. Later, the phrase, “in their heritage,” is similarly extraneous. The sentence it appears in would be stronger without it.
These and other slips of prose suggest to me a writer with some maturing to do. When the girl repeats her question, in a tone that’s “an exact replica of her previous question,” the author uses seven words to awkwardly convey what could have been accomplished simply with one: “unwavering.” Then there’s the muddled metaphor of “the sting of insult creeping.” A sting can be an action (the sting of a wasp) or a sensation (the sting of wasp venom taking effect in one’s skin). In neither case can a sting literally creep, though you can make a metaphor out of the sensation: “The sting of the wasp’s venom crept across my skin.” When you go further, and have the sting be metaphoric as well, you’re mixing metaphors, never a good idea. And to me, the sting of insult is an action, so having it “creep” is contradictory. I had to stop and think the phrase through to come up with an interpretation that made sense: the feeling of the insult’s emotional sting spreading or increasing in scope. A writer should never force a reader to do that much work to understand a piece of figurative language; it subverts the whole point of writing figuratively.
A last point: given the ambiguous terms used to identify the characters, I found it odd that the one named character had such a thoroughly generic name, “Johnny.” The notion of a woman pining for a man named “Johnny” just seemed very cliched to me.
There’s some promise in the concepts presented here, but the execution undermines that promise a bit too much to draw me in.
(Note: this is a page 28 review because the work is a novella less than 82 pages long.)