Also, I'm super embarrassed to say that I left one of the honorable mentions off the list the first time I posted! I'm reposting the correct list here:
Deborah Rocheleau (also placed first)
Julie Potrykus (also placed second)
By Julie Potrykus, second place
Trouble to me was like southern honey: it was impossible to get rid of, I always got stung
by the things that follow (bees, boys in ripped jeans, people who want to see me dead) and large doses made me sick to my stomach.
If I was smarter than a pack of peanuts, I probably would plan how to ease Mama's mood
instead of something stupid like comparing honey to trouble. Mama stirred her tea with her
southern belle smile, but Mama wouldn’t be Mama if she didn’t accessorize her smile with her
Her glare and smile combination is one of those looks her mama should have told her not
to make or else her face would get stuck like that. Whether Mama’s face was stuck or not, her
face always resembled a murderous clown. Her thick application of makeup didn’t help her any.
Mama wasn’t exactly subtle about anything. Not her makeup, smile/glare or use of chamomile
tea. Chamomile tea and that creepy, crawly clown look meant one thing: trouble. Sticky, icky
I gave my dress a little twirl in front of the mirror while taking a peek at the bottle of
honey Mama had set down on my nightstand. Some fluffy biscuits with honey sounded
downright heavenly right ‘bout now, but the last thing I need was Mama having a heart attack
over the unnecessary calories even if they melted in my mouth like cotton candy. Mama glared
at the flabby belly like I was a cow at the rodeo. I crossed my arms over my stomach.
I sat down on the bed next to her, trying to ignore how my belly scrunched up when I sat
down. No biscuits and honey for me any time soon. “You could come too, Mama. Faith would
like that.” Faith already had a ticket reserved for her in case she decided to come even though
everyone knew Mama wouldn’t come. Mama never came to Faith’s events anymore.
Mama gave me her “how cute” eyes that every little girl in south knew from years of
getting it from their mama and their mama’s friends with she said something stupid. “Annie
baby, you know I have a pottery class tonight. I’m carpooling with Mrs. Smith. I can’t just
cancel on her now. That would be rude.”
Not as rude as abandoning your daughter.
Sometimes Mama didn’t make any sense. Daddy said it’s Mama’s right as a woman not
to make a damn bit of sense, but that was no excuse. ‘Course they both spent their fair share of
time making up excuses now a days.
I faked a smile before checking the mirror for wandering hair. I pinned a few stubborn
bangs back with some bobby pins.
“You look beautiful.” Mama stroked my hair with my brush to flatten any flying hairs.
The brush nudged the bobby pins too much, sending the bangs stubbornly back in front of my
eyes. Some things were just not worth fighting over.
The judge says: You have a lovely narrative voice. I was drawn in immediately. Nice work!
By Anna Schaeffer, third place
“You smell like a camel.”
“Man, I was going for cow pie, but I guess camel isn’t too bad.” My eyes survey the ceiling as I shove past my best friend’s brother and invite myself into the house.
“If you’re going to hang around, you need to at least be a gracious guest. I have the power to
evict you, you know.”
Commence eye-roll. I grit my teeth as I march toward the stairs.
“Don’t bother being a considerate host, then. I’ll show myself to Kari’s room.” I sense Brant’s eyes resting on my back as I ascend the steps, but I don’t dare turn around. Instead, I deliberately let out a loud sigh and feign annoyance. Actually, my irritation isn’t all fake. I’m not mad because he acts like I’m something my parents scraped off the bottom of Pecan Creek —which he does—but for other reasons, too.
Once my sneakers are firmly planted on the carpeted landing, I sneak a peek behind me. Brant’s reclining against the wall, staring me down, one mocha eyebrow cocked above those bottomless blues. I lift my hand and do a little wave with my fingers, then pretend to gag.
Okay, so I don’t exactly act like a sophisticated, seventeen-year-old Southern belle when I’m around Brant. But in my defense, he’s a solid two years older than me, and he still treats me like I’m a weevil in his cotton patch. I’m told guys mature more slowly than girls, but he’s a sophomore in college, for Pete’s I inhale and count to ten as I head for Kari’s room. Ugh, why do I let him get to me? I try to swallow my anger. Anger aimed at myself. My fingers tap-dance across the bedroom door before I let myself in. Kari and I have been best friends practically since kindergarten, so any concepts of privacy and personal space are long gone.
I find Kari sitting cross-legged on her bed. She glances up at me from her English assignment and grins. “Oh, hey Lena! How’s it goin’?” Her twang is thicker than the Georgia humidity and as syrupy as sweet tea, but it’s one of the things I love most about her. It’s just so friendly.
“I’m fine,” I say, quickly biting my lip before adding, and so is your brother. Just because we’re
totally comfortable barging into each other’s room doesn’t mean I’m always one-hundred-percent honest with my BFF. I usually am, but think about it: would it really be wise to spill the beans and say, I just pretend I hate your brother to hide my crazy-big crush on him, but I don’t want that to affect our friendship? Um, I think not. As it is, I feel like hacking up everything I’ve eaten in the past week whenever I think about Kari or Brant discovering my nutty secret. Besides, as far as they know, Lena Marie Collin doesn’t even have crushes. And I refuse to let them believe differently.
The judge says: I knew from the opening line this was going to be a piece with spunk and voice - great job!
By Nicole Godard, third place
The wind smelled faintly of smoke, carrying the truth of the sky through the window,
rustling the papers strewn across the oversized cedar desk. One scroll slipped silently to the
floor, unnoticed by its owner. The words scrawled across the parchment did little but reflect the
smoke in the wind and the shadow in the sky - and it was far less boring to gaze through the
window and breathe, even if the air was thick with the fumes of accomplishment.
"My lady, you could at least pretend to pay attention…" The voice pulled Alexis from
her musings as she reluctantly shifted her attention from what lay beyond the study's window to
the gently exasperated - and resigned - gaze of her tutor. She flashed him an unapologetic smile
and propped her chin up on her hand, tilting her head slightly to the side.
"'Pretend', Janus?" she repeated, sniffing disdainfully at the idea. "You should know I
respect you far too much to stoop to such petty deceit." Janus pinched the bridge of his nose,
struggling to remain disapproving.
"Please, Alexis… you know that your father demands I go over this each year." He
gestured helplessly to the sea of scrolls littering the desk. Alexis only rolled her eyes and
returned her gaze to the window.
"I am very well aware of my father's ridiculous preoccupation with this particular part
of history," she muttered. "As well as his hopes that constant revision of it will quell whatever
rebellious inclinations I may have." Crimson eyes slid back to her tutor's ice blue gaze and she
shook her head. "All it does is serve to bore me. You know I know this. Can we not move on?"
Janus sighed heavily, willing himself to not give in yet again.
"Your father will test you on this, you know," he reminded her. "We are nearing the Day
of Separation, and you know how patriotic he gets." Alexis snorted.
"Patriotic…" She sighed. "Yes, I suppose that is one word for it. We must be the only
race behind the Walls who celebrate losing a war."
"We are celebrating the advent of peace," Janus corrected. Alexis simply shook her
head again and shifted her attention away once more. Janus stroked his beard and gazed at
her thoughtfully. She was a terribly smart girl - probably too smart for her own good. Far too
beautiful, as well, with her raven-black hair framing an ivory-pale face and eyes the color of
fresh blood. She had all the makings of clan Matriarch - a role for which he was ultimately trying to prepare her. Emphasis on ‘trying’.
"A deal, then," he said at last. "Recite to me what you will recite for your father - and if
you do satisfactorily, I will take you outside to spar."
Alexis' eyes widened. Spar with Janus? Her tutor he may be, but she knew well enough his reputation. He’d leave her bruised and bloodied.
It would be completely worth it.
The judge says: A very strong voice and intriguing premise!