Here is a story by Maryah Harding written in our fiction writing class. The technique under focus was the use of setting in story. The assignment asked students to put a character in conflict with their surroundings and for that character to respond in an expected way.

Family Values

By Maryah Harding

            Light mist sprinkled across Adelaide’s porcelain skin, making it glisten with the icy drops. Her limp, midnight hair clung to her flushed cheeks.  The air was heavy around her as she walked down the abandoned road, the soft glow of the flame colored streetlights barely breaking through the harsh gray of the night.  Adelaide’s shoes made a gentle thud with each step as she bounded along the street.

“One pill, two pill, red pill, blue pill!” Adelaide sang out loudly, her lyrical voice sifting through the air like a bluebird’s song, the sound of cracking branches acting as a drum beat to her whimsical song.  Adelaide removed the bottle of pills from the pocket of her tattered coat and shook them, the rattle of the medication inside matching her angelic voice.

Adelaide stopped in front of the Clarence house.  The wind howled through the air and caressed her lightly soaked skin, the light mist turning in a drizzle of frozen kisses.  She opened the pill bottle and shook out the multicolored pills, letting them fill her palm.  She held them lovingly, like one would hold a fragile bird, frightened and alone. Throwing them into her mouth she swallowed them down, her tongue reaching for the droplets of water as the tightening in her chest began to fade and sweet ecstasy coursed through her small frame.  The looming house reached for her with open arms, shifting in the darkness.  Adelaide leapt through the dangling fence, the wood slowly rotting away from the abandoned house.

Adelaide’s girlish laughter tinkled through the roaring wind to the rotten front door and broken windows, the glass strewn across the damp floor boards.  The branches of the ancient trees scraped against the panes and drew black shadows across the ruined house, raking down the already scratched lumber.

“Mummy, Daddy, Cattie, I’m home!” Adelaide’s voice rang through the empty house, her creaking footsteps echoing through the house.  She gave a small twirl as she danced through her home, her fingers tracing the walls softly, like a man traces his lover’s delicate mouth with his rough fingers.  Adelaide entered the kitchen, her mother lounging in the antique chair, resting her head against the uneven table.  Adelaide skipped to her mother, wrapping her fragile arms around the older woman.  Adelaide gently kissed her mother’s crying eyes, the tears streams of red liquid on her wrinkled face.  She let go, watching her mother slump back into the position, her dress ripped and dried with dark stains, splashed in intricate designs across her body.

Adelaide left her mother to rest in the kitchen, humming one of the nursery rhymes her mother used to sing to her, “Here comes a candle to light you to bed, and here comes a chopper to chop off your head! Chip, chop, chip, chop the last one is dead!” Adelaide giggled softly as she waltzed into the living room, drops of water hitting the floor, leaking onto the moth ridden couch.

“Hi, daddy.  I’m home.  Guess what I learned today?” Adelaide prattled on as she curled up next to her father on the couch.  She leaned over and picked up her father’s ashen head and planted a kiss on his mouth, like little girls always do.

“I learned how to tie my shoes!  I did a good job! Teacher said so.” Adelaide returned her father’s head to his lap, his skin sagging against his brittle bones.  Her lips a darker shade of wine now as she ran her fingers through her father’s nearly bald head.

Adelaide left her aging father on the couch, making sure his head wouldn’t roll away like it had the tendency to do when she left him for too long.  She scurried up the steps to little Cattie’s room, making sure to skip the missing step.  Adelaide opened the door covered in ripped pictures drawn by careless hands, the absence of light hiding the content of the pictures from her smoky eyes.

“Cattie, are you sleeping?” Adelaide called out softly into the hushed room, the patter of raindrops hitting the window in a ceaseless pattern.  She crept softly into the room, stepping over the decaying stuffed animals, picking up Peter Rabbit Adelaide continued to her sister’s sleeping form.  Pulling the covers back slowly as to not disturb her resting form, Adelaide snuggled in next to her.  Lovingly she ran her fingers through Cattie’s matted hair, Cattie’s blue lips parted slightly as if about to say something.

As sleep enveloped Adelaide’s girlish limbs, she murmured against her sister’s deathly cold skin, “Don’t be sad anymore, Cattie.  Sissy will be able to play with you again tomorrow. And Mummy and Daddy will be there too.  I promise.”


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