Writing Challenge: Create a scene with tension!

We love secret babies in romance! But what if the hero isn’t the father? Welcome to this week’s writing challenge!

In a youthful misstep, Arianna gets pregnant after a one-night stand with Charlie, a sexy and charming college classmate. She knows Charlie can’t be the father her baby needs, so she quietly leaves town to raise Ruby on her own. Shortly after, Charlie is killed in a car crash. Ari doesn’t want to cause Charlie’s parents and twin brother Michael any more pain, so she stays away from the funeral. But two years later, she’s changed her mind. She wants Ruby to have roots and Charlie’s parents to know their granddaughter.

It’s a beautiful spring day, and Michael feels lighthearted for the first time in months. Walking toward him is Ari — with a beautiful little girl who looks just like his twin brother!

In 3-5 paragraphs, show us their meeting! We’ve given you the conflict – you create the tension!

Write your scene in the comments below any time between now and Sunday, March 24, 2019, and we’ll get back to you on Monday!

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  1. Lakisha Friday

    It’s a fine spring day. The weather is just right. No need for a heavy jacket. A light sweater or light jacket will do just fine. Michael is sitting on the bench while his dog, a husky named Indigo is rolling around on the ground. Michael happens to look up to see someone he hadn’t seen in a long time and figured he never will. Ari Carter. Arianna. She was such a hottie then and still is. A little girl is with her.
    “Wow! She looks just like my brother. Michael thought. His heart began to pound a bit as they got closer. What would he say to her?
    Ari stops dead in her tracks. She thought she was seeing things. No, can’t be. Charlie is gone.
    “Michael? She said hesitant.
    “Yeah. Ari? ”
    “Yeah. It’s me. How are you? Ari asked awkwardly.
    “I’m good.” Michael replied. Who is this lovely little lady?
    “My daughter. Ruby. ” Ari said.
    Michael smiles at Ruby telling her she has a pretty name. Ruby shies away from him hiding behind her mother but she keeps her eyes on Indigo. Michael introduced them to his dog and asked Ruby if she would like to pet her. Ruby looks questioningly up at her mother who nods her head. Ruby slowly reached out to pet Indigo and the husky rolls on her back for a belly rub. All the while wagging her tail. Ari couldn’t help but stare at them playing with the dog. She wished it was Charlie instead. But that was a long time ago. She needed to let him know Ruby is his niece and she needed to meet her family.
    “Michael? Ari hesitates. Her stomach is rolling around like wheels on a tire. She needed to sit down. Michael makes room for her on the bench. Ruby is still playing with Indigo.
    “We need to talk. ”
    Michael listens intently to what she told him. He remains quiet trying to soak it all in. His twin Charlie had a one night stand and he is a father? Or was. Ruby does look like him. His niece? This is crazy. Ari stopped talking. She hoped Michael wouldn’t be upset with her. To her surprise he picked up Ruby and hugged and kissed her welcoming her to the family.
    “We’re having dinner tonight. You should come and meet the rest of the family. ”
    Michael said.
    Ari agreed. They chatted a bit more and Ari and Ruby leave the park. Michael sat down. Something though kept nagging at him. His parents would have been upset but they would have been thrilled to have a grandchild. Especially a granddaughter. He closes his eyes and sighed. He was there at the party with his brother Charlie. They were both talking to some girls and were drunker than a skunk. The lights in the bedroom were dimmed and they undressed and the next day she was gone. He thought he knew her name but he remembered a tattoo on her back of a butterfly faire and how she giggled when he kissed her back. How beautiful her brown hair was. Charlie had a beautiful brunette too that night. They went into separate rooms. He didn’t remember much about the girl his brother was with but the one he was with caught his eye. Even though he did recall her flirting with his brother along with her friend.
    Later they all met at his parent’s house for dinner. Mr and Mrs. Greer greeted Ari and Ruby with hugs. Michael could see the worried look on Ari’s face but he assured her things will be alright. Afterwards they gathered at the kitchen table where Ari decided to let them know they’re grandparents. Silence isn’t so golden. Mr. and Mrs Green look at each other and stare at Ari and Ruby. Could it be true and why wait so long to tell them? So many questions. Michael intervenes so Ari could get a break. He told his parents to give her some space and relax enjoy dinner and they could talk later. He didn’t want to ruin the dinner. It was brave of Ari to tell them. His mother is not thrilled at all but she keeps her cool but glares at Ari suspiciously.
    “Can I help? Ari asked as Mrs. Greer gathers dishes.
    “I guess you can. Mrs. Greer said.
    Ari helps her carry dishes to the sink. Michael notices something on Ari’s back. The glass cup in his hand falls to the floor in disbelief. No way. Could it be? Can’t be. He grabbed her by the hand pulling her away from the sink and out of the kitchen all the while Ari is protesting that she stay and help out.
    “What do you think you’re doing? He asked.
    “Excuse me? What are you doing? I was helping to wash dishes until you grabbed me Ari said.
    “You told my parents Ruby is Charlie’s child.”
    Michael said. But she’s not.
    Ari smacks him across the face.
    “How dare you! I know it was Charlie that night. You calling me a liar?
    Michael rubs his cheek. Stings a bit.
    “No, he sighed, I’m saying you’re mistaking. Ruby is mine.
    “But Charlie had a tattoo of a eagle with a cross in it’s mouth. Ari mumbled sitting on the floor. Michael reveal his tattoo. His brother didn’t have a tattoo. In fact, he didn’t like needles and faints at the mere sight of blood.
    “We need to talk. Michael said as Ari stares up at him still reeling from the sudden realization that it is Michael and not Charlie who is the real father. She wanted it to be Charlie for she loved him. Michael sat down beside her taking a hand in his.
    “What are you going to tell Ruby? “

    • Katie Gowrie

      Wow, great twist at the end, Lakisha! This makes an intriguing premise. One thing to keep an eye on is tenses–make sure they’re consistent throughout the scene. Well done!

  2. Jodie DeMarco

    This was it. The moment she’d rehearsed in her head a hundred times over. Ari straightened her spine and faced the tall, blonde man moving towards her. Several emotions played out over his face as he recognized her, and her daughter. Raw pain quickly turned to anger.
    “Hello, Arianna. ” He bit out, his once warm and caring voice now filled with an animosity that almost made her wish she’d remained a coward and far away from Michael Aviary.
    “Hi Michael, I was hoping we could talk for a minute.” she said calmly. Thankful that the fear she felt couldn’t be heard in her voice she made sure to look him right in the eye. It’d been years since he’d lovingly mocked her insecurities but she wasn’t taking any chances. Michael was her kryptonite. Sweet, kind, handsome – he’d swept her off her feet in no time. They’d been inseparable. That was, until they’d decided not to be. Four months of misery followed by one night of drunken stupidity may have created her greatest gift but it had destroyed any hope of them reconciling.
    “What makes you think we have anything left to say to one another?” He asked. He kneeled down and carefully brushed a tendril of hair from Ruby’s face. “Unless, you want to tell me why this little beauty looks too much like Charlie for me to ignore.” The little girl backed away shyly, turning her face into her mother’s flowing sundress. Pressing her hand against her daughter’s small head and taking a deep breath Ari tried to find the words to say how sorry she was.
    “It wasn’t supposed to happen this way, Michael. I wanted to tell you but it was never the right time and then –“ letting her words trail off she let the silence imply what she couldn’t say. Charlie’s death. The pain flashed again over Michael’s features. It hurt her to remind him but the time had come for Ruby to have everything she was missing out on. An uncle who would love her and support her no matter how much he was hurting. Grandparents who would dote on her and cousins to run wild with. She desperately needed family and if she was being completely honest, Ari needed it too.
    “Look, I know this comes as a shock. I’m sorry, I really am. Charlie never knew and I felt like I could start over and create a good life for Ruby but I was wrong. I was wrong to keep her from you.” She pleaded, almost losing the tight reign she had on her emotions.
    “Ruby? You named her after Charlie?” Michael asked in bewilderment. Just looking at the little girl you could tell Avairy blood ran in her genes. She was a cute little thing with wildly curly blonde hair and a mischievous look in her eye that resembled Charlie’s so much it made his heart squeeze in his chest. There was no question she was his. Standing back to his feet he asked again, “You named her after him?”
    “Yes, Rupert was in the obituary.” Ari answered softly. The breeze caught her dark hair and Michael’s hand twitched with the desire to push it from her face like he had Ruby’s. The glossy strands whispered over her skin in the wind and he had to force his eyes to stop drinking in the sight. He’d missed Arianna. At one time he thought she’d be in his life forever but when the storms of life came he’d been alone, and now he knew why. The woman of his dreams had conceived a child with his twin brother. A brother who would never get to claim this precious family as his own.

  3. Sally Freytag

    Michael stopped dead. Just as he thought he’d finally pulled is life together, in front of him was a mirage. Arianne – Charlie’s last girlfriend. But what Arianne had never realised, hooked as she was on his twin brother’s good looks and wild zest for life, was his own love. He’d had to watch from the side-lines as the lovely Arianne had painted the town red with Charlie, and then, unaccountably, had become quiet and serious, soon afterwards to disappear. The love of his life, except she’d never, ever, looked at him, and seeing her here now he knew immediately she was still the love of his life.
    Except he resented the hell out of her reappearing when he thought he’d finally laid her ghost to rest, along with his brother. After all, in his opinion, Arianne had been the direct cause of his brother’s death and love her or not, he could never forgive her for that. But what the hell…? A tiny little girl, tottering along with uncertain steps and who looked…oh, God help him…who looked exactly like Charlie! What the hell was going on? He drew back warily, until he realised Ari had seen him.
    ‘Michael.’ Ari stopped, a faint blush staining her cheeks.
    ‘Ari.’ Michael’s greeting was equally terse. ‘You’ve been gone a long time.’ He looked down at the little girl and again drew in a sharp breath. Charlie. Oh, yes, no doubt at all. Charlie exactly, his violet eyes and face shape, his nose. Even the blonde curls were the same, but this little one’s hair was down to her shoulders. He raised shocked eyes to Arianne and was glad to see a stain of red on her cheeks as she bit down on her bottom lip. ‘Whose is she?’ He bit out furiously. ‘No. Don’t answer that. It’s only too obvious. She’s Charlie’s, isn’t she? She has to be about the right age. I always wondered why the hell you disappeared after being so tight with him. He was pretty cut up about that, you know? You leaving, yeah? He went wild. He was drinking. That’s why he crashed. That’s why he was killed. Because you left him!’ He flung accusation after accusation at her, unrepentant even when he saw her eyes fill with tears and her hand covering her mouth.
    ‘You left him without any explanation! There one day, gone the next. Heartless bitch! And you never wrote, sent a card, texted…anything…when he died. But,’ his voice dripped acid and he looked at her with loathing, ‘you were pregnant. You were carrying his child! What right did you have, leaving him knowing you were carrying his baby!’ Michael’s voice broke and his hand came up to cover his eyes as all the pain of his brother’s death surged up in him, choking his voice with tears. When he finally regained control, his hand dropped and he looked at Arianne with hard eyes. ‘Okay. You’re back. Why? You’ve got a hell of a lot of explaining to do. To me, to Ma and Pa. And believe me, none of us are going to be happy with your excuses!’
    ‘Michael…Michael…I’m sorry. I thought it…after two years, I thought Ruby should…I thought you should…’
    ‘Should what? All it’s going to do is open wounds, isn’t it? Come looking for me to provide her with a father, have you? Why the hell did you have to come back?’ Michael shouted. He turned on his heel, almost running he left them standing there, tears running down Arianne’s cheeks, little Ruby clinging to her mother’s leg.

    • Katie Gowrie

      Lots happening here, Sally! Intrigued to know more about her sudden departure. The hero has a lot of angry remarks for the heroine here, and even though his anger seems justified, you might consider how you can make him appear a bit more consistent. We know she’s the love of his life, yet he says some angry things here and accuses her of coming back to town to use Michael to be a dad. It’s great that you’ve created tension at this early stage in the book, but we also want to be able to root for the hero and heroine to be together, so I’d be curious to see how you’d reconcile all this in the story. Well done! 🙂

    • Sally Freytag

      I was very tempted to run with this and go for a whole book but wasn’t sure if it might be plaguarism! Thanks for your great comments and yes, I agree Michael was a bit OTT but it was maybe down to shock/knee-jerk intial reactions? Again, thank you.

  4. Stephanie Thomas

    Arianna’s heart stopped. The sweet melody of the birds morning song faded into the rush of blood pounding in her ear. Her eyes locked as a vision of Charlie appear feet in front of her.

    “Mommy, ow!”

    Ari instantly dropped her daughter’s hand and kneeled down to her level. “Oh baby, mommy’s sorry, Did I hurt you?” she rubbed the offended hand between hers, kissing the tips of Ruby’s fingers.

    “No.” Ruby snatched her fingers from Ari’s grip and went running off toward the sound of bells. “Ice Cream! Mommy! Ice Cream!”

    “Ruby No!.” Ari snatched at her, but came up with air as Ruby’s little legs propelled her forward; toward the bells and toward her unknown uncle.

    Michael watched as a female version of his deceased brother sprinted toward him; his instincts told him to scoop her up as she tried to maneuver past him toward the bells. “Where are you off to in such a hurry?” He pulled her as close as he could despite her struggles; breathing in the soft, sweet smell of strawberries. His heart ached.

    “Mommy! Mommy!” Ruby screamed loud and strong. “Stranger Danger! Help!”

    Knowing what she knew, Ari, would have laughed at the sight of her daughter wiggling, kicking and screaming to escape the hands of her uncle if she wasn’t facing the unspoken truth that the life she and Ruby knew was over. It was clear by the vice grip Michael had on the screaming child that he knew he held his neice. It was clear that he realized he held the only thing he had left of his twin; his other half.

    His voice croaked as he spoke “We have to talk.”

  5. Kim Rammien

    The woman was so cryptic on the phone. Arianna, she said her name was. Michael vaguely remembered her from college as one of the pretty girls that Charlie had known through his fraternity. That whole frat scene hadn’t been for Michael so, while the twins stayed close, they often ran in different circles during college. Arianna had called the land line at the house when Michael answered. She said she had something of Charlie’s and asked if they could meet at the park. He didn’t know how excited he would be to get a little piece of Charlie he hadn’t had before. She wouldn’t say what she had but it didn’t matter; a watch, an old t-shirt, or even a notebook left behind after a study session.
    Michael had finally gotten to the point where he wasn’t sad every time he thought of Charlie. Now he celebrated the memories. Their mom was healing too. She had been so deeply depressed after the accident. She clung to Michael like a life line thrown to a drowning swimmer. Tears didn’t well in her eyes every time Michael walked out the door with car keys in his hands.
    As he approaches the play area where they are scheduled to meet he sees a gaggle of moms vigilantly watching over littles on the playground. There were three career women who clearly waited until they were established in life to start a family sitting at a picnic table. There were two yoga pant clad women, about his age, chatting it up while doling out organic snacks. Over by the swings there was a third woman pushing a little girl on the swings. She was gorgeous, exactly the type of woman Charlie would have liked. As their eyes met, her arms fell to her sides and the giggling little girl yelled, “higher, Mommy.” This must be Arianna. Something about the little girl made him smile.
    Arianna pulled Ruby from the swing. Her heart beating rapidly in her ears, she took the little girl by the hand and began walking toward Michael. Michael was Charlie, minus the aloof frat boy air. She had no idea how this would go. She needed Ruby to know her father’s family. She thought she had made the right decision when she didn’t tell Charlie about Ruby. Arianna hadn’t wanted to seem like that gold-digging girl that got knocked up by the rich kid on purpose, so she just left school to raise Ruby on her own. Then, when Charlie was killed, she questioned that decision. She had robbed Ruby the opportunity of ever knowing her father. She made up her mind to contact Charlie’s family when her mom had that breast cancer scare. Reality kicked in. The lump was benign, but what if it hadn’t been? Ruby would have no other family. She had to make this right.
    The smile on Michael’s face quickly melted away as Arianna and the little girl got closer. Did this woman really have the nerve to simply say to him ‘she had something of Charlie’s’? Clearly, this was more than a t-shirt or a watch. All he could think about was how his parents had missed out on the first couple years of their granddaughter’s life. How much could this have helped his mother heal, to have this little piece of Charlie walking the Earth? Anger darkened Michael’s mood and clouded his handsome features. His steps became more hurried and deliberate. He saw Arianna hesitate as she noticed the change in his demeanor. He tried to mask his fury, for the little girl’s sake. None of this was her fault. But Arianna, oh, she had a whole lot of explaining to do.

    • Connolly

      You did a fantastic job responding to this prompt! The tension is present throughout the scene, and readers would be eager to see what could possibly happen next.

  6. Orfanou Marianna

    He suddenly felt his blood pressure rise 10 notches…!!The girl he fell in love with from the first moment he saw her at school!The girl he never forgot…!What is she doing here?
    He went back in time..When they all attended the same school.Unfortunately he was very shy then and although he felt it was the same for her he didn’t do anything.Every time he tried to ask her out he got tonguetied and he couldn’t force a word out! Unlike him his brother who shared the same taste in women had come after her.For months Charlie followed her everywhere trying to convince her to date him.He could see that she was waiting him to say something.But he couldn’t.Not when his brother wanted her too…!
    And one day Charlie told him he had finally a date with Arianna.He had felt devastated…They dated for a few months and then they had a huge fight and she disappeared!Nothing!No one knew where she was!!Charlie didn’t want to talk about it and he didn’t pressure him.Charlie started to drink and sleep with anything that walked.He didn’t recognise him any more…
    And then the accident happened…They said it was due to drunk driving.His folks were devastated…He felt guilty for wanting the same girl and then for not making his twin talk to him.Oh…the grief he felt…!!Abruptely he came back to the present.And he watched mesmerized the woman and little girl approaching him.
    Oh my God!What had she been thinking?How could she explain her actions?She came to a stop and greeted Michael.
    -Hi…H..How are you?
    -Hi….I’m good..You…?
    Fine…Listen I..I have to talk to you and your family…
    -Is she who i think she is…?
    She nodded and he felt his head about to explode…!
    -What have you been thinking!He hissed..To hold such a secret…!My..my parents had every right to know about their grandkid;and I my niece!
    -Please..Let me explain…I..I had to leave town…My life and my baby’s life were in danger…!!My…my father was a violent man!When i told him i was pregnant he tried to make me miscarry by punching me in my belly..!!It was horrible…!!Her tears were running now…I woke up in the hospital with my best friend over me..It was a miracle she lived…!!I had to disappear!!
    -Why didn’t you tell Charlie about the pregnancy?He would have helped you!
    -I did….
    And she took Ruby in her arms and started running….
    To be continued….

  7. “Ari?” Michael stopped dead in his tracks. No! It couldn’t be! She had vanished into thin air. Without a trace. He thought he would never see her again.
    He could feel his heart hammering against his ribcage and hear the whooshing of his pulse within his ears. Surely he was hallucinating. Maybe he had somehow finally conjured her up. What with his constant wishful thinking. There wasn’t a day that didn’t go by without his thoughts drifting to her.
    “Hey, Michael. Yes, it’s me,” Arianna said softly, sounding a bit unsure. “I’m back.”
    Where the hell have you been? And why are you back? Why now?
    “Ari, what are you doing here? I thought I would—-“ His gazed drifted to where the soft, melodic voice had come from. He had been so shocked, seeing her, he had not noticed that she was holding a toddler. A beautiful little girl with wavy dark hair and piercing blue eyes. The same eyes that he and Charlie and their father shared. The same eyes that went generations back to their Slavic origin.
    What the f**k?
    “You have a daughter?” He managed to finally stutter out.
    “Yes. Meet your niece: Ruby,” she replied, still looking uncertain. “I know it’s a lot to take in right now, but I couldn’t stay away. Not anymore. I owe it to Ruby. And I owe to Charlie.”
    He could feel his head spinning and the bile begin to rise in his throat.
    He often oscillated between loving her and hating her. But now in this moment he hated her.
    Because in this moment, here she stood with the evidence and reminder of all that he had lost. The love he often yearned for, but could never have. The love that Charlie had robbed him of by one night of petty sibling rivalry and overinflated ego. It was easier to hate her and not Charlie. Charlie was gone. And he would give the world to have him back.
    He and Charlie were identical twins, but the similarities didn’t go beyond physical appearance. Charlie had always been the charmer. The one that was the life of the party and who always got the girl. The quintessential Mr. Popular. He, on the other hand, was more reserved and bookish. The one that could never muster up the courage to ask a girl out.
    He had gone to the library, where Arianna worked after classes, borrowing tons of books everyday, all the while trying to muster up the courage to ask her out. But he could never. But she must have known. It’s not like he could read ten books in one day. Everyday! That would be breaking some speed reading record. Yes, she must have known. She had to have known. And yet, she had slept with his brother anyway. And now they have daughter. His niece.
    “Michael, please…say something,” she pleaded.
    “I loved you, Ari. How could you?”
    “It was a mistake. A silly lapse in judgement. But Ruby is not a mistake. I will never regret her. Michael, you never—“
    “Just stop!”
    “I just want Ruby to know her family. That’s all.” Her voice was trembling and her lips quivered.
    “I’m sorry, Ari. I can’t do this right now?” Or ever. Why the hell did you have to come back?
    And with that, he spun on his heel and stalked away.
    “Michael! Please! Don’t go!” Arianna called after him. “It should have been you. Do you know how many time I have wished it had been you.” The last words trailing of into gentle sobs.
    Michael’s back stiffened as he walked away; her words felt like daggers piercing his heart. What had started as a beautiful Spring day, now felt like winter as the cold grief and anger stifled the lightheartedness he had felt earlier.
    Why the hell did you have to come back?

  8. Marianne LeDuc

    Michael blinked several times and kept his eyes focused on the child for a number of long nostalgic seconds and then looked back up at Ari who was still walking towards him. She had parked her car at the far end of the rounded driveway near one of the guest homes, so she was still about 90 feet away.
    Thoughts of the past were running through his mind as he took a few steps forward and then went down the steps of the front porch of his parents’ home so that his feet were on solid ground and more importantly, so he could get down to eye level with the mother and child who were still moving closer towards him and the house.
    Perhaps she does look like Michael, he thought, but she couldn’t possibly be his late brother’s child. Michael was his twin, however they were not identical twins. And while they may have looked like brothers, their facial features were visibly different from one another. As young children, they both had a thick head of wavy blond hair that would always get lighter in the summer sun of Nantucket. That was more than likely the only similarity between the child walking towards him and his late brother. But, as they moved closer, he couldn’t help but notice the almond shaped brown eyes with thick, dark long lashes. Sheer coincidence, he again thought to himself, dismissing the idea now completely from his mind.
    He studied Ari for two more seconds as they got closer. There was certainly no denying she was a stunning young woman. But why had she called him suddenly out of the blue and asked to meet with him to discuss something “important”? She had called him yesterday, early evening, and had said that she had managed to get his cell number from a mutual friend. While he never really cared much for Ari, he knew that his late brother had had a bit of a liking for her. He wasn’t aware of Michael ever dating Ari however he recalled her flirtatiously pursuing his brother once while both of them were at a football game with a large group of friends. Her behaviour at the time hadn’t impressed him. And whatever he may have thought about Ari, it was the tone of her voice when she called him yesterday that engaged him enough to invite her over to his parents’ home, where he was staying for a week before heading back to his job and his own apartment in Manhattan.
    “Well, it’s nice to see you”, he said as he extended an arm out and reached awkwardly as she moved in for what seemed like half handshake, half hug.
    “How have you been?, she asked while shifting her gaze from his eyes down to the little girl, who was holding her hand and standing carefully and quietly next to her.
    “I’ve been good”, he responded quickly. “And who do we have here?”, he asked gently and with almost a welcoming manner. The little girl’s cheeks suddenly went beetroot red and she quickly pushed her head into the side of her mother’s knee. “This is Ruby”, Ari responded, almost with a quivering in her voice.
    Before Charlie could reply, another woman’s voice could be heard calling out, “Oh my gosh, what a little darling”. It was Jennifer, Charlie’s girlfriend who came joyfully bouncing down the steps of the front porch of the home.
    “Hi there, I’m Jennifer” before Charlie could even turn and introduce the two women.
    “Hi, I’m Ari”, she replied somewhat hesitantly. She seemed surprised looking at the tall statuesque brunette who had her long hair loosely tied in messy bun and off her shoulders.
    Ari looked hesitantly at both of them, while Charlie gestured towards the porch, and stated “Come on in, perhaps we can sit down on the porch”, while looking down at the wavy little blond who was now staring up at him with big brown serious eyes.
    “Yes, please come on and sit down. I’ve got some homemade lemonade in the kitchen that I’ll go and get. Heaven knows we need it with this hot weather – and I’ll get some ice water as well”, Jennifer said as she moved quickly up the steps before the others.
    Suddenly, a wave of sheer horror shot through Ari like a sudden lightening strike. What the hell was she doing, she thought to herself. Charlie was so very different from his brother and always had been for as long as she could remember. She felt there was a calm coolness in his manner that always made her feel as if he had no liking towards her. And right this minute, while she started moving towards the porch with Ruby by her side, she felt that sense of strong dislike, albeit a polite dislike. Could she have made a terrible mistake in thinking she should come here and disclose everything. Heavens, what was she doing, she thought as she stepped up onto the porch and towards two chairs that Charlie was pulling out for them to sit in. Was she actually serious about disclosing the biggest secret of her life? What had gotten into her? This can’t be happening, she thought to herself as she caught a glance of his deep stern glimpse of her and then her daughter.

    • Connolly

      I like seeing the direction you took with your story. While others might have created characters who were angry with each other, it was interesting to see how the tension in your story manifested due to the sense of awkwardness between the characters.

  9. Marcie R

    As a cop, solving a murder always made Michael Talbot feel satisfaction. But as a man, he knew the victim’s family would always feel the emptiness of loss. Something he had firsthand experience with after his brother was killed in a high-speed car chase.
    Climbing the steps onto his front porch, he glanced at the park across the street to see a woman, holding a little girl tight in her arms, headed his way. She was tall, her long brown hair loose, the breeze tangling in the ends as she hurried up his driveway. His heart thudded as his skin turned cold. He didn’t want to wait, but he did. Because it was Ari.
    “I need your help.” She said in lieu of greeting, darting a look behind her.
    It’d been two years since he’d seen her and he shouldn’t be curious about the worry in her blue eyes, except he was. Because it was Ari. Still, he said, “I’m not sure I can.”
    “If not for me, then for Ruby. For Charlie.” She added on a quivering breath.
    A motorcycle rumbled down the street, drawing their attention. Then, something hurtled through the air. He tugged Ari’s arm, pulling her to the side of the house, making Ruby scream. While his heart told him not to get involved, his mind told him he had no choice.
    Because it was Ari.

    • Sara Jafari

      Hi Marcie,
      This is great! It’s full of tension for sure – I definitely want to know more now! I’d focus a bit more on the action in the last lines, as that’s really intriguing, and then you can become more introspective after the event, perhaps. But this is all great stuff – well done!

      Sara

  10. Sara Beth Williams

    “Ruby?” Arianna rushed forward, then spun around in a circle, eyeing the carnival midway critically. “Ruby!” Her daughter had been standing right beside her not thirty seconds ago while she spoke with the fairground’s information booth. She spun around again, then spied her dark-haired little beauty standing fifty feet away in front of a uniformed police officer dressed in blue with black shades covering his eyes.
    The raven-haired officer squatted in front of Ruby, a dazzling, and very familiar smile gracing his handsome face. No… it can’t possibly be him! It didn’t really matter who he was. The only thing that mattered was that Ruby was safe. Heart thudding, she rushed across the asphalt, clutching her purse, then immediately knelt down next to her daughter. “Ruby. I was so worried! Where did you go?”
    Ruby flashed her cheeky almost-three-year-old grin. “Mommy, big strawberries. Look!” She pointed toward the carnival ride beside them, with its giant spinning, white-dotted strawberries.
    While the officer continued to observe, Arianna hugged Ruby to her chest, ignoring the heat infusing her cheeks. This officer probably thought she was some crazy neglectful mother. She was anything but. “Don’t ever leave my side without asking, okay, baby? I would’ve brought you over here. Next time, please ask me.”
    “K, Mommy.”
    As the officer stood, so did she—careful to keep a firm grip on Ruby’s hand. “Thank you so much.”
    The officer removed his shades, revealing eyes as blue as the clear sky above. The same color as Ruby’s. As Charlie’s. She nearly lost her ability to breath.
    “It was nothing, Ari,” he said. “Mistakes happen. Little kids wander.”
    He looked so much like Charlie. Her throat burned. But it’s not him. He’s not alive. “Michael?” She nearly choked on her own whisper then cleared her throat and spoke louder. “I had no idea you…” She waved her hand in the air, her brain seizing up.
    “That I became a police officer?” He flashed another dazzling smile. She nodded, still unable to form words. “I’m one year out of the academy.” He planted both hands at his hips. “I heard you’ve plans to come over for dinner tonight.”
    She cleared her throat again and fiddled with her purse strap, hiking it higher on her shoulder. “Were you planning to come?”
    He leveled a gaze at her. “The moment I heard your name.”
    “Mommy, strawberries! Look, Mommy!” They were spinning around again. With a careful eye, Arianna allowed Ruby to walk along the surrounding gates and watch them spin.
    When Ruby stood farther off, Michael moved closer, his smile fading. “Anything in particular you’re wanting to talk about at this dinner tonight?” He gestured toward her daughter, who she knew looked incredibly similar to him. Same hair, same eyes, same skin tone.
    She suspected he may already know something. There was so much to tell him and his parents; how deeply she regretted her decision to ditch Charlie and hide in another town when she found out she was pregnant. How miserable she felt after learning of Charlie’s death. Not because she loved him, but because he would never know the truth. How ashamed she felt that she still chose to stay away. But how was she supposed to tell him anything in the middle of the midway at a county fair?

    • Sara Jafari

      Hi Sara Beth,

      This is great! You can really sense your character’s panic here, and I’m super intrigued about what will happen next (how will that conversation go down!). I would like to see more of Michael’s emotional reaction here, so you could dig deeper into his emotions here. But overall this is great, and very memorable!

      Thanks,
      Sara

  11. Fiona Marsden

    Two years. Michael Tate stared at the woman occupying the front step of his parent’s weatherboard bungalow. It had been more than that since he’d seen Arianna Bell. About three months before Charlie’s death. They’d been dating for months and then suddenly out of the blue, she’d vanished, quitting college while he’d been away on a field trip with his class.
    He’d barely had time to recover when Charlie had the accident. His twin had always been wild, giving up his scholarship to travel with his mates and every now and then dropping into the apartment Michael lived in at college. Poor Charlie. He had so many things on his conscience he’d spent the last minutes of his life apologising. Michael had never quite figured out what for.

    Ari watched Michael walk up the path, sheltering eighteen-month-old Ruby from his sombre gaze, tucking her against her skirts. She’d told herself it was infatuation. He’d been her first love, her last year at college. Now, confronted by the tall lean length of him, with those familiar dark eyes, her heart beat a little faster. It made her guilt at keeping him in the dark all the worse.
    She’d almost gone to his brother’s funeral, wanting to be there for him. But that last morning, the way he’d flicked her off was still fresh in her mind. She’d run home, broken hearted, cursing men who lost interest as soon as they got into your pants. She’d thought Michael was different. They were different. By the time she’d been strong enough to return to college, she’d known she was pregnant.
    He halted on the bottom step. “What are you doing here?”
    Drawing Ruby into the sunlight, she watched for his reaction. Would he be angry with her, happy to see Ruby? He seemed to be neither, staring at the little girl who was his mirror image.
    “Is she mine?”
    Ari nodded, her throat tight. Ruby was looking up at him, thumb in mouth as she often did when faced with strangers. Her fault. Ruby should have had the chance to know her father.
    “How? When?” His brows drew together over his long, slightly crooked nose. “How old is she?”
    “Eighteen months.”

    Michael’s stomach churned as he did the calculation. Even stretching things, the little girl couldn’t be his. Yet she looked like a Tate, with his dark eyes and hair and that dimple on the chin. He rubbed at it, feeling the end of day stubble, courtesy of his Italian grandfather.
    “What day? We were always so careful.”
    “Easter. The night before we broke up.”
    “I wasn’t…” he stopped. “Broke up?”
    Suddenly the pleading in Charlie’s eyes made sense. The desperation in his weak tones. “I didn’t know she was special. I didn’t know Mick.”
    Charlie’s child. That should have been his. He didn’t know whether to hate his brother or rejoice that there was a precious part of him in the world. A grandchild for bereft parents. He forced himself to focus on Arianna. How in hell was he going to explain this to her?

    • Sara Jafari

      Hi Fiona,

      Thanks for sharing your extract. This is great – you’ve raised lots of questions, and kept me wanting to know more. It’s got lots of tension too – well done and keep writing!

      Thanks,

      Sara

  12. For the first time in months Michael allowed himself to appreciate the sunshine. Charlie’s death had hit everyone hard, but no-one more so than Michael. The bond between twins was unique. One that only other twins could understand, and Michael felt like half of himself was missing. His parents had slowly started to put their lives back together on the other side of Charlie’s death, but Michael thought the part of him that could feel was lost along with his brother. Until today.

    Although it’d been almost three years since he’d seen her, his heart gave a little flip at the thought of seeing Ari again. He’d always liked her back in college, although he’d never acted on it. Michael and Charlie may have been twins, but they differed starkly in looks and personality – where Michael was cool and reserved, Charlie was fire and passion – and the minute Charlie announced an interest in Arianne, Michael stepped aside. No girl could ever see Michael in the shadow of his brother’s flame. But Ari had moved away instead, and now here she was, back in town and asking to see Michael. A small smile played on his lips as her watched her walk toward him, a new blond bob framing the sweet round face he remembered. He started to raise his hand in a wave but then dropped it in shock, for walking beside her was the ghost of his brother.

    “Charlie?” He tried to say more, but he didn’t seem to have the breath to form the words. His heart pounded so hard against his chest that it hurt, and he took a step back, away from the source of his pain. This can’t be happening. The little girl, all of two, hugged her mother’s leg as Ari smoothed her auburn curls, so like his brother’s, and when he looked from the child back to Ari her face crumpled.

    “Michael, I’m so sorry, I should have warned you about Ruby. I didn’t…” She took a tentative step toward him, her hand partly raised as if to touch him, but he took another step away from her, and the little girl that looked up at him through Charlie’s eyes. “I didn’t think the resemblance was that obvious. I thought we’d have time to…” but she didn’t get to finish.

    “Time to what, Ari?” he roared. “To break it to us gently? Two years wasn’t long enough for you to let us know we still had a piece of Charlie?” Michael didn’t mean to yell, but he’d been flat for so long and now his emotions were roiling. “How on earth could you think you had time, Ari? Look at her! She’s the image of him!” His head swam as he reeled with the ramifications of this new knowledge, and he bent over and put his hands on his knees, waiting for the nausea to pass. Ari tried again to take a step toward him, but he shook his head ‘don’t’ and the bile rose hot and burning in his throat. How am I going to tell Ari that the reason Ruby doesn’t have a daddy is because of me?

    • Hi Kat,

      This is awesome! There’s definitely a great deal of tension in this piece – and the dialogue is really powerful. Well done. One minor point – remember to keep the perspectives consistent – it’s 3rd person until the last line that slips into 1st person!

      Sara

  13. Kathleen Day

    Ari walked away from the home of Charlie’s parents. Not yet. She wasn’t ready. Twice she’d passed the two-story frame house, ducking her head. Three cars in the driveway, someone was home. Why did you come here then, you coward? She twirled Ruby’s stroller around 180 degrees. This time, I do it, I talk to his parents. When they recognize their son in Ruby’s brown curls and quizzical eyebrows, when–

    “Mama, look! Dada!”

    My God! Charlie’s twin brother stepped toward them and began to jog. Ruby had often stared at Charlie’s picture as Ari wove a fairytale of her handsome daddy. She knew her dada by sight.

    The jogger slowed, eyes fixed on the baby. Ari swerved her vision to the trees across the street. Not ready! She had practiced speaking to Charlie’s mom and dad. She had rehearsed every possible scenario: acceptance, disbelief, shock, happiness. Ari couldn’t begin introductions with Michael, her longtime crush, the reason she had settled, instead, for Charlie one night. She squeezed her eyes shut as Ruby chortled, “Dada! Dada!”

    She cast a sideways glance at Michael, now crouched next to Ruby. “Ari?” he said, glancing up. “It is you.” He stood and their eyes met and held. Michael–gentle, gorgeous, debate club president and too-busy-for-a-relationship Michael.
    “Hi,” she murmured.

    • Patience Bloom

      Kathleen, This is fabulous! Readers can sense the dilemma that Ari is carrying just as she’s about to take the plunge with the grandparents. And I like how you insert some romantic tension between Michael and Ari. Nicely done! A really good scene. –Patience

    • Kathleen F. Day

      Patience, thank you for giving me a boost when I really need it. I’m attending a writer’s conference Saturday and am trying my first FTF agent pitch.

  14. Rosemarie De Bruin

    Michael watched Ari and the child clutching her hand walk towards him. Arianna Baker was back. With a child? As they grew close he felt a chill brush his mind. The toddler could have passed for Charlie’s double when he had been the same age.

    “Hi Michael.” She hesitated. “How are you?”

    She was more slender than before, her face was pale and there were smudges under her eyes. She was still the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. He silently cursed as the old attraction welled inside him. He hoped it might have died after she left town, not long before Charlie was killed.

    “Ari, I haven’t seen you in ages.” His gaze involuntary returned to the child. He couldn’t believe the resemblance to his twin. He forced himself to concentrate. He felt off course, like reality was tilting and he couldn’t find the centre.

    “I didn’t know you had a child?” He heard the abruptness in his voice and fought to suppress it.

    “Um, yes. This is Ruby, she’s not long turned two.”

    “Hi Ruby, I’m Michael.” He hunkered down in front of the tot. Her big blue eyes peered at him from under a white blonde fringe as she slid closer to her Mum. He glanced up at Ari’s unruly black curls. “She doesn’t look a lot like her Mum.”

    Ari took a step back, her mouth smoothing to a thin line as she scooped Ruby into her arms. Great job Michael, now you’ve offended her. Rising to stand before her, he rubbed the back of his neck. This conversation wasn’t going well and he suddenly wanted it to go well. He wanted to comfort her, had life been tough for her lately? Was Ruby’s father still around? Her fingers were bare, but that didn’t mean anything.

    “We’re just going for a walk.” She looked down the leafy street behind him as she jiggled Ruby on her hip. She was walking here? Her old house had been on the other side of town.

    “Ok, I’ve been visiting the folks, my house is just around the corner.”

    She glanced back at him. “Are they home? Your parents?”

    “Yeah, why?”

    She eased past him. “I just wanted to pay my respects, you know, because of Charlie. I never got to say sorry for your…for their loss.” She stumbled over the words.

    He stared at her. She wanted to offer condolences. After two years? With a two year old child that looked like Charlie? Ari and Charlie? Michael felt cold. Please God, no. Not the girl who had claimed his heart since grade school.

    She went to move away.

    “Ari.” She turned back, her expression uncertain.

    “Why does Ruby look like she could be Charlie’s daughter?”

    Her face went white and her whisper was nearly lost on the breeze. “Because she is.”

    Something inside Michael died.

  15. Jill Ritenour

    Michael Bennett is reminiscent of his brother and the great family times they had coming out to the park. He is not sure why, but lately he has been thinking more about his twin brother Charlie. It had been a couple years since he and his family felt like they lost everything when they lost Charlie. Moments like these, just waking on a beautiful spring day helped to get him and his parents through the days of heavy thinking and wondering what his brother would be up to if he was still here today.
    Michael had just looked over at the sound of a child’s laughter and at first glance, he was sure that he must have been imagining the little girl. She was stopped at a higher spot sniffing the flowers but Michael couldn’t take his eyes off of her. He stared for only a moment because he didn’t want the parent or anyone in the vacinity to make inappropriate assumptions of him. He was a strange man, standing alone, at a park no less. Michael had turned away but his peripheral vision caught a figure waking towards him with the child on her hip.
    She was a beauty of sorts, not your average tabloid issue but more of a classic movie poster. As both figures got closer, Michael’s hands began to sweat knowing it had nothing to do with the weather. His heart skipped a beat and he wasn’t sure where the anxiety was coming from.
    Ari Leisure was feeling nervous, yet anxious at the same time. She knew that she was making the right decision but she wasn’t sure what the welcome would be, if any at all. She wasn’t worried about Charlie’s family not accepting Ruby, who wouldn’t accept Ruby? She was the greatest joy; the best thing that ever happened to her. Now, she had to convince Charlie’s family that Ruby would have been the best thing that ever happened to Charlie too. She didn’t know how it would go. she knew that Grace was on board but Michael, he was of the boat and not even waving at the passengers. She had to calm her nerves. He had a right to know and it was her right to tell him. “OK kiddo, are you ready to go meet your Uncle Mike? Well, he may not like Uncle Mike, he may prefer Uncle Michael? Oh heck, your so darn cute I’m sure you can call him anything you want. He is here, we are here, let’s do this!” Ari and Ruby entrred the park and followed descreetly.
    Ari approached Michael and placed Ruby down. “Hello, my name is Ari, Ari Leisure.” Ari extended her right hand. As Michael reached out to return the gesture, Ruby backed up behind her mother’s leg and grabbed on to her thigh. “Oh my. Ruby Charles you are not shy. Come on around here And introduce yourself.” At the sound of Ruby’s full name Michael’s jaw dropped. Those names, apart, would generally not raise eyebrows but for the Bennett family, those names mean the world. “Forgive me for sounding forward with such an introduction but, your daughters name, it’s beautiful. My grandmother’s.” Ari quickly interrupted.”I know. Forgive me for being so forward. Your grandmother’s name was Ruby and your Grandfather’s name was Charles. They loved one another very much. A great love story that I got the opportunity to read about. This is Ruby Charles. This is Charlies daughter, and I was a friend of his.”
    “Just a friend? I don’t understand.” Before Ari could answer He noticed his mother and father walking up from the bridge. When they reached Michael and Ari, you could feel the air get colder. “Mom and dad, what are you two doing here?”
    “Hello Mr. And Mrs Bennett. I am Ari Leisure. This is Ruby.” Grace and Dolton Benett knelt down to greet Ruby. “Oh my, look at you. The same curly blonde hair, the same Hazel eyes. I can’t believe it. Dolton can you believe it?”
    “No dear, it’s unbelievable, but here she is. Here he is.”
    “Wait a minute. You two know Ari? And how. I am confused and frustrated right now. I need some answers.”
    “Look, Michael, I have been talking to Ari for a few months now. She found me on social media and we started talking. I knew from the beginning that she wasn’t lying about Ruby. She and your brother were only together for one night but they were friends for a few years through college. She was Gracious enough to explain everything to me. She didn’t want to come back to town. She knew that Charlie wasn’t ready to be a father. He was young and mixed up in stupid. You can’t be mad. You know he wouldnt have been excited.”
    “Maybe not excited mom, but possibly excused. She still could have told him?”
    “You’re right. I could have. I could have told him if he didn’t spend more time drinking and telling me that he could never settle down because his place was in the wind. He and I were a mistake, but we didn’t make one. Ruby is the best. I think he would have come to know that. She is the last piece of him and now she has the other pieces, we have the other pieces. Are you going to accept that? Can you accept Ruby? I thought I was done assuming. Was I wrong?
    Michael bent down and looked Ruby in the eyes. “You know, maybe it wasn’t his time for her because it was his time for life to be over? He wasn’t ready for Ruby then but I am sure that he is smiling down on her now. Ruby Charles, you were either going to tear your daddy apart or make him the happiest man alive, either way it’s time to move on from what could have been to what will be.” As Michael stood back up Ari handed him a note. “Remember, I told you about Ruby’s name? This is a letter that your grandmother left for Charlie, before she died. He shared it with me as friend, I’m sharing it with you as an opportunity.” Michael put the note in his pocket and scooped up Ruby in his arms. “Anyone for I’ve cream?” Grace and Dolton Bennett joined hands as Ari followed in step with Michael and Ruby towards the entrance of the park.

    • Patience Bloom

      Dear Jill, A gripping scene indeed! And so full of drama. I like that you had layers to this family and give us information about how Charlie acted and why Ari might have kept their daughter a secret. To tighten the pacing a bit, I would keep this scene in one point of view–either Michael’s and Ari’s. Aside from this, nice job! –Patience

  16. Cheryl Anne Graham

    The Kensington family reunion is this Sunday after church, the bulletin read. As most people were related in some way to the Kensingtons she decided this would be the day to go. She was back in her old home town visiting her mom and dad and decided she would drive out to the campground and let them see her daughter, Charlie’s daughter. It was a terrifying prospect. They weren’t bad people but she didn’t exactly behave well herself and then to just leave, well her mom raised her better and she knew it. “Whatever it takes I’m going to make this right,” she said out loud to herself.

    While she was driving there all kinds of scary thoughts popped up in her head. What if they take my baby? What if they are so mad they won’t see her? She loved her mom and dad, but they were just getting by themselves, what with the economy being what it was, and she needed help. She had just lost her job and rent was expensive. She needed their help. The Kensington’s owned the lumber mill and employed almost everybody. If they wanted to help her they could and if not they could easily get a judge to say that their grandchild belonged with them.

    She found a place to park and saw all the beautiful banners proclaiming the day. What must it be like to have no problems and a rich well connected family. She didn’t know. She made herself get out of the car. She took Ruby out of her car seat and smoothed her sweet sundress, there were little suns with smiling faces on it. Smiles like her precious daughter looking up at her with enormous green eyes. “You deserve everything honey.” She took her hand and walked over to where the majority of the people were. She was looking for Michael. She had met him briefly when they were at college and she decided to go to bed with his brother. Her heart was pounding out of her chest while her Ruby was walking along with her, happily oblivious to her mommy’s worry. She was beginning to change her mind, go back to the car when she saw him, and like a bolt of electricity her saw her too.

    Michael didn’t know what he was seeing. Ari that woman who his brother “went” out with was walking over to him with an adorable little girl that looked like Charlie, like him. They were twins. It was eerie and yet wonderful. She had his eyes unmistakably. He waved, albeit awkwardly.
    Her heart lept for a moment. Would it be okay? Would it?

    • Patience Bloom

      Dear Cheryl Anne, What I like about this scene is that you do build in some set up details along with the tension of potentially disrupting her daughter’s life. What you should consider is adding even more of a sense of urgency to the scene. You have some at the end when Michael approaches. Well done, overall! –Patience

    • C A Graham

      Thank you Patience. Yes I see what you mean. I thought I had tension but it was more indirect psyche tension and not as direct. Like if the grandparents and Michael had a problem with her or something actually happened to make her afraid. I appreciate the advice so much.

  17. Patricia L

    Michael stepped out onto the wooden wrap around porch. It was a warm sunny day and a light breeze rustled through the trees. He could hear a lawnmower going, down at Taylor McKinney’s house. He closed his eyes for a moment and allowed the warm flow of the wind to calm him.

    It’d been two and a half years since Charles’ death. Michael convinced himself that he could move on but every time the sun rose and set, it was another day without his brother. It didn’t help that every time he looked into a mirror, Charles was staring back at him. Michael sighed and was about to sit down in a chair, to repair a car part he’d been working on, when he saw a vehicle approaching.

    “This can’t be real…” he murmurs to himself. A response to the sight approaching now.

    A woman behind the wheel, reminded him of someone from his past. Michael squinted pass the sun rays and shielded his eyes. There she was behind the wheel. He stood up and as he watched her exit the car, he also noticed a little girl in tow. Michael’s eyes blinked rapidly. The little girl looked just like his brother Charles. That dark hair and those piercing green eyes were a dead giveaway. Michael watched as his brothers ex girlfriend walked up to the house with purpose.

    “Before you say anything… I’ve got something to say first. This is Ruby,” she says as she sort of guides the little girl to the front of her. “And I know that I’ve been missing but I’ve got good reason. I want to make amends but mainly for Ruby’s sake. She deserves to know her father’s family…”

    Michael sort of stood in a frozen state. Did he hear her correctly? Charles’ daughter? Where have they been? Why would she wait so long? Then there was the bigger question. Michael was concerned for more reasons than one. There was that night they hooked up when Charlie was caught with Rebecca Hartley. Arianna, was Charles’ girlfriend at the time and needed someone to talk to. Michael? Well, he was just tired of his brother taking her for granted…

    “Uh, I’m…I don’t know what to say…”

    “Michael?” he heard his mother’s voice coming from behind him.

    Arianna panicked a bit. “This…uhm…I shouldn’t ha-”

    “Michael, did you fix that gear-” she paused mid sentence.

    Arianna sort of stood in a state. She wanted to flee but it took so much to get to this point without wanting to just forget about it all together. Charlie was such a playboy and she was the fool who loved him. But seeing Michael at this moment, brought so many memories back…

    • Patricia L.

      Michael stepped out onto the wooden wrap around porch. It was a warm sunny day and a light breeze rustled through the trees. He could hear a lawnmower going, down at Taylor McKinney’s house. He closed his eyes for a moment and allowed the warm flow of the wind to calm him.

      It’d been two and a half years since Charles’ death. Michael convinced himself that he could move on but every time the sun rose and set, it was another day without his brother. It didn’t help that every time he looked into a mirror, Charles was staring back at him. Michael sighed and was about to sit down in a chair, to repair a car part he’d been working on, when he saw a vehicle approaching.

      “This can’t be real…” he murmurs to himself. A response to the sight approaching now.

      A woman behind the wheel, reminded him of someone from his past. Michael squinted pass the sun rays and shielded his eyes. There she was behind the wheel. He stood up and as he watched her exit the car, he also noticed a little girl in tow. Michael’s eyes blinked rapidly. The little girl looked just like his brother Charles. That dark hair and those piercing green eyes were a dead giveaway. Michael watched as a blast from the past, walked up to the house with purpose.

      “Before you say anything… I’ve got something to say first. This is Ruby,” she says as she sort of guides the little girl to the front of her. “And I know that I’ve been missing but I’ve got good reason. First, I want to make amends but mainly for Ruby’s sake. She deserves to know her father’s family…”

      Michael sort of stood in a frozen state. Did he hear her correctly? Charles’ daughter? Where has she been? Why would she wait so long? Then there was the bigger question. Michael was concerned for more reasons than one. There was that one night they hooked up. It was when Charlie was out partying with Rebecca Hartley. Arianna, wanted to be Charles’ girlfriend at the time.

      Anyone with good sense would’ve left him alone. But Michael? Well, he was just tired of his brother taking good women for granted. Charles was the golden boy of the family and Michael was the tag along. Charlie had charm, wit, and an electric personality that women were drawn to. Michael imagined that Arianna was just another one of his victims. Charles chased her for a moment but lost interest. Michael assumed it was because he’d finally got what he was after. He titled his head in disbelief. He hasn’t seen Arianna in more than two years…

      “Uh, I’m…I don’t know what to say…”

      “Michael?” he heard his mother’s voice coming from behind him.

      Arianna panicked a bit. “This…uhm…I shouldn’t ha-”

      “Michael, did you fix that gear-” she paused mid sentence.

      Arianna sort of stood in a state. She wanted to flee but it took so much to get to this point without wanting to just forget about it all together. Charlie was such a playboy and she was the fool who wanted to be with him. Charles was the model athlete, partying heavily, and chasing tail. Michael was his complete opposite. Seeing Michael at this moment, brought so many memories back…

    • Deirdre

      You’ve established a lovely mood with your opening to this scene, and I loved the arrival of Michael’s mother and her shocked reaction. The possibility that Charlie might not be Ruby’s father also creates potential for tension. You might want to watch for small pov and tense shifts in your writing, but all in all, well done!

  18. B. Clyde

    Breathing heavily, Michael quickly pulled his t-shirt over his head letting it fall onto the grass beside him, enjoying the cool breeze on his bare chest. He leaned back against the trunk of a shady tree, felling the rough bark against his hot skin. He took a long sip of cool water from the bottle he’d stashed in his gym bag. He glanced at his watch. He’d made it back with ten minutes to spare. He met his parents beneath this tree in the park for lunch every Sunday. When he could, he squeezed a run in beforehand. He considered it a preventative measure to counteract the delicious fried chicken, cheesecake and Nanaimo bars his mother brought nearly every week. His breathing slowing now, he pulled a blue short-sleeved polo shirt from his bag and slipped it on. A little wrinkled, but definitely better than facing his conservative mother in a sweaty gym shirt. She was, afterall, a woman who wouldn’t go to a gym for fear she might sweat in public.
    Leaning back against the tree he watched two young boys throwing a frisbee back and forth just like he and Charlie used to all those years ago. He shook his head. It had to have been a decade or so since they’d last played like that. Where had the years gone? How had they grown apart so quickly? He’d always figured as identical twins their bond that would stay with them throughout their lives, that they’d have each other to rely on through thick and thin. It hadn’t exactly worked out that way. As they grew older their differences became more apparent and, somehow, more important than the bond they’d shared. Charlie had been so outgoing, a real charmer. He had a way of getting whatever he wanted and had always been the undisputed favourite with their friends, with women, even with their parents. No, he wasn’t going there again, not today. These past two years since Charlie had downed eight shots of vodka and wrapped his car around a telephone pole had been the worst of his life. He and Charlie hadn’t been at all close when Charlie had died, but he was still his brother. What he hadn’t expected was the fallout after Charlie’s death. He’d been astounded with how many messes Charlie had left for him to clean up. His mother had barely managed to come through the loss of her favourite son in tact, and Michael had seen it as his duty to keep his mother’s vision of her perfect son alive, no matter how inaccurate he knew it to be. He worked extra hours and ate ramen noodles to pay off the massive amounts of personal debts Charlie had accumulated. He consoled and kept seperate the many women who’d arrived at his funeral introducing themselves as his girlfriend. Three of them had even asked to deliver the eulogy! He’d even nodded sympathetically and agreed with his mother when she declared that someone must have spiked Charlie’s drink, because he would never drink, let alone drink and drive. He ran his hand through his sandy brown hair. He’d just paid off the last of Charlie’s debt nearly six months ago. He knew that as far as his parents were concerned he’d always be living in the shadow of a ghost, but he found satisfaction in knowing that he’d been a good son to his mother and done whatever it took to ensure she never learned the truth about her favourite son. Deep down he knew it would break her if she ever learned she’d really never known Charlie at all.
    His eyes returned to the two boys throwing the frisbee. One of them stumbled back and bumped into a beautiful woman, tall with chocolate brown curls cascading down her back. She laughed, a sing-songy, yet hearty laugh that seemed to echo through the trees. Michael sat upright studying her every curve as she bent to pick up the frisbee and hand it back to the boy, ruffling his hair as though they were old friends. She stood up and swept a handful of curls out of her eyes and behind her ears where they immediately tumbled back out again. She wore a red button-up blouse with too many buttons undone to be coming from the office, yet her strappy heels and tight skirt suggested she wasn’t there to join in a game of frisbee. Her eyes were the bluest he’d ever seen, so much so that he could make out their colour from fifteen feet away. He felt spellbound, staring at this perfect woman. This perfect woman who was walking his way. He’d been staring, and she must have noticed because the bright easy smile he’d seen only moments ago had vanished, and she was focused solely on him. For the first time now he noticed a little girl holding her hand, the same chocolate ringlets adorning her head. His heart quickened with every step the woman took towards him. Women never approached him because they were interested. Charlie? Sure, but not him. He was pretty sure he was about to get an earful for staring at her. He glanced at his watch. And with my luck Mom and Dad will get here just in time to witness me getting told off for ogling some woman in the park.
    “Hi,” the woman said a little uncomfortably.
    He felt his heart leap in his chest. She was even more beautiful up close. He dared not hope she was feeling the same attraction he was. He cleared his throat. “Hi,” he managed to choke out, unsure if he should offer up an apology for so obviously gawking at her.
    “Michael MacKinnon?” she asked, her eyes searched his and her cheeks blushed red.
    “Yes?” Hearing her address him by name snapped him back to reality. “Do I know you?”
    “No, not really.” She tossed her hair over her shoulder, and he was overwhelmed by the scent of jasmine. “But I’d like to get to know you.” The girl at her side buried her face in her mother’s skirt.
    “Well,” Michael rose to his feet. “That could be arranged,” he said with a wide grin.
    The woman blushed. “I’m sorry, I don’t think that came out right.” He felt his heart sink. Of course she’s not flirting with you. “I would like to get to know you,” she explained. She tugged at the little hands clinging to her skirt and gently turned the little girl to face him. “And so would she.”
    MIchael’s eyes widened. The little girl had her mother’s hair, but that’s where all similarities ended. The little face staring back at him was the same one that stared back at him in the mirror every morning when he shaved. He knew he’d never been with this woman, which left only one explanation.
    “Her name’s Ruby,” the woman continued. “And I’m Arianna,” she extended her hand nervously, smiling when at last he shook it. “I’m guessing you know she must be…”
    “Charlie’s.” The word fell from his lips like lead. Of course she was Charlie’s. Everything he’d ever wanted had been Charlie’s. Suddenly Arianna was just another one of his brother’s one-night-stands whom he’d have to convince that she’d been special to him. Unless she wanted more. Money perhaps?
    “I heard about what happened. I’m so sorry.”
    “Thank you,” His tone was guarded now. He didn’t want to clean up yet another mess for Charlie, yet the little girl standing in front of him was family.
    “Why now?” he asked. “It’s been years.”
    “Well, my own parents want nothing to do with me. I thought after they’d had a while to cool off they’d be reasonable about this whole thing but,” she paused. “We’re doing fine on our own, and I’m cool with it being just us but, I want more for Ruby.”
    She seemed to be waiting for a response. “More?”
    “You know, grandparents, family. I remember Charlie telling me how close your family was, how you met here at the park every Sunday for lunch. He said you were such a happy family.”
    “Well Charlie said a lot of things,” MIchael struggled to process it all. He saw his parents in the distance slowly crossing the grass, the vintage picnic basket held tightly in his mother’s arms. His mother. What would this do to her? Charlie, her perfect son having a child with some woman she’d never heard of? It could kill her. It would certainly send her back to the mental health centre where she’d spent the first five months after Charlie’s death.
    “I hope you don’t mind me showing up like this. I just thought, maybe, if your parents just saw her…”
    Michael was vaguely aware of Arianna talking but her words weren’t registering any more than Ruby’s pleas for a juice pack.
    “I just knew Charlie was on a downward spiral. He wasn’t ready to be a father…”
    Bits and pieces of her speech broke through, but his brain was focused on the situation at hand, and his eyes were focused on his parents getting closer with every passing moment. What was he supposed to do? He squeezed his eyes shut a moment. One last mess Charlie. One last mess.
    “Arianna?” he interrupted her, his parents so close now that he could hear the sound of his mother’s sandals crunching the fresh spring grass.
    She looked up at him startled.
    “Just, just go with it okay?” he asked.
    “Go with wh-”
    He cupped her face in his hands and brushed his lips lightly over hers. He felt her lips part in response as she kissed him back. His heart thundered in his chest and he felt the blood rush from his head leaving him dizzy. He couldn’t remember being so affected by a simple kiss since he was in middle school. He’d only meant to give the illusion they were close, he’d barely touched her lips, but she’d kissed him back so willingly. Was it possible she’d felt the same thing he had? Then it occurred to him. Charlie. In her mind, she was kissing Charlie.
    “Mike?” he heard his father’s voice behind him. He pulled away from Arianna, his face red, noticing the blush on her cheeks as well. He caught her eye and lifted a pleading eyebrow hoping she understood what he was trying to communicate. “Someone you’d like us to meet?” his father asked with a chuckle.
    “Yes, as a matter of fact,” Michael slipped his arm around Arianna’s waist and forced a smile. “Mom, Dad, this is Arianna, my girlfriend.” Arianna looked slightly confused, but composed herself quickly and offered his mother a warm smile. “And this,” he continued. “Is my daughter Ruby.
    His mother and father exchanged looks before his mother glared at him with disapproval. His mother was angry with him, Ruby had exploded into tears over not getting a juice box, and the most beautiful woman he’d ever met in his life was in love with his dead brother. He closed his eyes again. One last mess.

    • Deirdre

      You’ve given a lot of thought to character motivation and created an interesting backstory. I was struck by how you conveyed information about Michael’s mother by simply describing the lunch she made for him, and his concern about her reaction to his sweaty gym clothes – very good writing! I was surprised, then, when at the end of the scene Michael kissed Ari and proposed a fake relationship. That seemed out of character to me, and not needed for drama when you already have so many possible obstacles and emotional conflicts to work with. Character is key! Thanks so much for writing!

  19. Marie Adaes

    He watches her approach him. His anger reaching levels he didn’t know was possible. This little girl was his brothers daughter. Her eyes were the same color as his brothers and his own. He needed to het some answers from her. It had better ne a really good reason to keep this child away from his family. No, take that back there is no reason she could ever give him for this act of selfishness on her part. He wanted to through something. He gad to stay calm for the child. He waiting while she walked over to him. She now stood in front of him looking up at him.
    She knew this wasn’t going to be easy. The look on his face said it all. She thought she was prepared, now she doubted if she were ready for this at all. Her stomach ached with the anticipation if what he would say. Finally she spoke, “Hi, how are you and your family holding up these days?”
    His nostrils flared. Hr was not happy with thus situation. She had the gall to ask about his family. “Maybe if you came to the funeral you would have seen first hand how we were doing. Actions speak louder than words and yours are a library of information. What do you have to say? Oh and give me some bullshit about how you care. It’s obvious you don’t.”
    She was going to hurl. This was worse thsn she expected. How could she make him understand what she did was the best thing for her and his brother. “Michael please, it was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. Staying away hurt me too. I wanted to be there but knew it would bring more pain to your family. Please try to understand that.”
    He wasn’t having it, “Did my brother know about her. Did you tell him? If you say yes, I’ll know you are lying because he told me everything snd not once did he ever mention this.” He pulled at his hair, agitated with having this conversation.

  20. Marie Adaes

    He watches her approach him. His anger reaching levels he didn’t know was possible. This little girl was his brothers daughter. Her eyes were the same color as his brothers and his own. He needed to get some answers from her. It had better be a really good reason to keep this child away from his family. No, take that back there is no reason she could ever give him for this act of selfishness on her part. He wanted to throw something. He had to stay calm for the child. He waiting while she walked closer to him. She now stood in front of him looking up at him.
    She knew this wasn’t going to be easy. The look on his face said it all. She thought she was prepared, now she doubted if she were ready for this at all. Her stomach ached with the anticipation of what he would say. Finally she spoke, “Hi, how are you and your family holding up these days?”
    His nostrils flared. He was not happy with this situation. She had the gall to ask about his family. “Maybe if you came to the funeral you would have seen first hand how we were doing. Actions speak louder than words and yours are a library of information. What do you have to say? Oh and don’t give me some bullshit about how you care. It’s obvious you don’t.”
    She was going to hurl. This was worse than she expected. How could she make him understand what she did was the best thing for her and his brother. “Michael please, it was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. Staying away hurt me too. I wanted to be there but knew it would bring more pain to your family. Please try to understand that.”
    He wasn’t having it, “Did my brother know about her. Did you tell him? If you say yes, I’ll know you are lying because he told me everything and not once did he ever mention this.” He pulled at his hair, agitated with having this conversation.

    • Deirdre

      I think you’ve done a good job thinking about how Michael might react to this news, and creating tension between the two. And you’ve done so in a short scene without too much “telling”. Well done!

  21. Kathryn

    It was the first warm day after a winter of too much snow and too few days off. In Vancouver, people were already at the beach and he was glad that he could walk to his class along the shoreline.
    The girl walking toward him wore a yellow shift. “Was shift the right word?” he wondered.
    He could see white daisies embroidered on the hem line, vintage, he thought. He liked that, liked the girl too. She had straight dark hair and the child dancing along beside her was cute too, in something pink with a teddy bear clutched in her arms. The toddler was a polar opposite of her mum, pale with white blond hair that stuck out around her head. No one had hair like that except his brother, Charlie.
    When he recognized that the girl was Ari, he couldn’t say. At first he thought he was wishing the girl was a girl he had kissed, or maybe he recognized as soon as he saw her but at some point he knew. “She’s a mum,” he thought, “and her kid looks like Charlie.” Thinking about Charlie made his heart constrict, the car crash had them in a tail spin that they hadn’t come out of and here was the memory walking right towards him.
    “Ari,” he thought, “still gorgeous.” For a brief time he had thought that they might have something and then she had disappeared. There were rumors that she and Charlie had a thing going on, but that had gone nowhere. No one likes to say anything mean about a dead guy.
    “Ari,” he said stopping. “Who is the doppelganger? She looks just like Charlie.”
    “Her name is Ruby and she is Charlie’s daughter. That’s why,” she snapped at him. He remembered the snap and missed it.
    “Do you still play hockey?” she asked him.
    “Mummy, swing me,” the little girl cried, excited to see swings as they rounded the corner. It was impossible not to smile at the child happy to see baby swings in the park.
    “Is it alright to put her in the swing?” Mick asked.
    Ari nodded, and watched him scoop her up. He had strong arms and was making the swing exciting, pushing gently at first and then gathering a bit of height as the laughter bubbled up.
    “Are you looking after her on your own?” Mick asked, knowing the answer even before he asked it.
    He could see the signs of stress in her, not enough money and no help was tough.
    “You dropped out of your degree because you were pregnant?” he asked.
    “I want to tell your parents that they have a grandchild,” she said “for Ruby’s sake.”
    “Granddaughter,” he said, “niece,” she echoed.
    Mick nodded, “what about you?” he asked, “what do you want to be in the family?”
    He had a sudden urge to take her in his arms and hold her tight. It wasn’t fair Charlie had taken her home that night because he had a hockey game to play. He meant to call her before he left for the rink but that was hindsight. There wasn’t anything he could do about it now. And he didn’t even want to think what would happen when his parent’s saw Ruby.

    • Deirdre

      The opening of this scene, with Michael’s gradual recognition of Ari is nicely done. But his almost immediate urge to take Ari in his arms and protect her feels a bit “insta”, even though we know Michael and Ari have met before so there’s a reason for Michael’s attraction to her. You might want to try creating more tension by thinking about what feelings Michael might have that would complicate his attraction and cause more friction between the couple. Thanks for taking on our challenge!

  22. Kate Baker

    He closed his eyes and lifted his face to the sun letting the warmth soak through him, because today was different. The voices in Michael’s head which had caused months of horrifying flashbacks had finally silenced. Instead he welcomed the sounds of the park; the hum of bees on lavender, the clack of a stick landing on concrete for a yapping dog to retrieve, the happy giggles from a toddler.

    When he blinked and looked back at his surroundings he was sure he felt his heart stop. The little girl with impossibly curly hair fanned out her fingers as the dog cantered past her, dragging the stick across her pink patent shoes. She was dressed as if for a party, or church, or something more important than a walk through a park on a Saturday morning. He felt repulsed at himself for staring when his eyes refused to leave her face but the draw was too strong; he’d seen it before.

    The mother’s flushed cheeks almost matched her own blazing curls, redder and longer than her daughter’s. Transfixed he watched her stoop to reassure the child and wipe away a tear from beneath huge blue eyes, dark wet lashes like spiders against her skin. ‘It’s ok darling, the dog has to go back. He has to find his family.’

    • Deirdre

      While this doesn’t quite answer the challenge because Ari and Michael don’t meet, I really like the mood you’ve created and the subtle hints at what’s to come. Thanks for writing!