Separation Anxiety Award ShortlistNeedle In The Hay
Separation Anxiety Award Shortlist
Published 2017 by Needle in the Hay
This work is licensed under The Creative Commons License:
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)
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Authors: Tobias Madden, Sophie L Macdonald, David R. Ford, Jeanette Stampone, Andrew Szemeredy, Katarína Krajcirovicova
Cover art: Martin De Biasi
Edited by: Martin De Biasi
Introduction - Martin De Biasi
Moving Day - Tobias Madden
Darling, I Wish You Hadn't Done That - David R. Ford
Roses For My Love - Sophie L Macdonald
Time To Go - Jeanette Stampone
The Sentence of Love - Katarína Krajcirovicova
"Swirl" - Andrew Szemeredy
Martin De Biasi
"Breaking up is hard to do." - Neil Sedaka
Stories of people coming apart are the bread and butter of fiction. From the unreliable narration of The Good Soldier (Ford Maddox Ford) to the humour and pathos of High Fidelity (Nick Hornby) and romance of Under A Tuscan Sun (Frances Mayes) stories of separation and coming apart can be tragic, revealing, funny and twisted.
Our shortlist for the Separation Anxiety Award ran the full gamut of emotions and story types. Tobias Madden's Moving Day is a bittersweet parting with a twist, while Sophie L Macdonald's Roses For My Love is a supernatural tale of romance from beyond the grave.
Both Andrew Szemeredy and David R. Ford are darkly humorous in their efforts, at a contrast with Jeanette Stampone's deeply moving Time To Go.
Tobias Madden's Moving Day was the eventual winner for the Separation Anxiety Award, with one judge remarking:
An easy to like story well executed with the author making all the right decisions. Moving Day works on many levels though it did leave me with a sadness despite the somewhat whimsical revelation.
Despite Tobias' win, it was a closely fought contest, and every story on this shortlist has something that makes it worthwhile. Full details of the brief below, then on to the stories.
Compose a piece of flash fiction about a situation where characters are considering a break, split, an end to a contract, relationship or friendship.
Consider the motivations that each character has, and how they might conflict with what is in their hearts.
Write in the genres of literary fiction, romance, realism, surrealism, fable or folk tale (so basically no hard genre.)
Up to 600 words.
(Inspired by this prompt? Let us know at www.needleinthehay.net)
‘Please,’ Aaron said, pacing at the foot of the bed, ‘just hear me out.’
Tom sat silently, facing the wall.
‘I wish that we could just be together forever and live happily ever after and all that fairy-tale bullshit,’ Aaron said, running his fingers through his thick brown curls, ‘but real life just doesn’t work like that.’
Tom stared at the photo of the two of them on the wall.
‘We’ve been through a lot of shit together, Tommy, and I will always love y—’ Aaron’s voice faltered. He paused and rested his face in his palms, breathing deep. ‘I will always love you. You mean the world to me, but this thing – us – it’s run its course. What’s that line people always say in movies? “If you truly love me, you’ll let me go” or something? Well… that.’
Aaron felt the sting of tears in his eyes. He walked around the side of the bed and sat next to Tom, looking up at the photo on the wall. Tom didn’t say a word.
Aaron smiled. ‘One of my favourite days ever.’ He took Tom’s hand in his, and squeezed it gently. ‘I screamed until I lost my voice on that bloody rollercoaster, remember?’ he chuckled. ‘And you weren’t frightened at all. Nothing scares you.
Tom stared at the photo.
‘Which is why I know you’ll be okay,’ Aaron said, ‘when I’m gone.’ He glanced around at the moving boxes sprawled all over the room. Books. Computer. Salvos. Rubbish.
‘Plus, you deserve someone who’ll love you the way you still love me,’ Aaron said, standing up. ‘The way Jack loves Rose. The way Satine loves the penniless sitar player.’ (Titanic and Moulin Rouge were Tom’s favourite films.)
Aaron started to grab bits and pieces that were still strewn across the floor and place them into boxes, continuing to pour his heart out; the packing somehow made it easier to speak honestly.
‘I literally don’t think I’d be here if it weren’t for you, Tommy. There’s no way I would have made it through high school without you by my side. You were my friend, my study-buddy, my bloody psychiatrist, my rock, my – my everything. Tommy, I’m serious. Look at me, please.’
Tom looked straight ahead.
‘Okay, I get it, you’re angry. Be angry. It’ll make this easier, at least for you,’ Aaron said as he tossed a wad of papers into the Rubbish box. ‘But you have to know how much I care about you. And I wouldn’t be doing this if I wasn’t certain that it was the best thing for both of us. School is finished now; I need to move on. But mostly, I just need to find out if I’m any good without you.’
‘Aaron?’ came a woman’s voice from downstairs. ‘You good to go?’
‘Two minutes, Mum,’ he shouted in reply.
He finished folding the old, grey hoodie he’d just picked up, and placed it into the box beside him. He dashed around the corner of the bed and sat down, turning Tom to face him.
‘This is it, Tommy: our big, cinematic goodbye.’ He kissed Tom lightly on the forehead. ‘I’ll never forget you.’
Tom said nothing; his eyes stared blankly over Aaron’s shoulder.
Aaron picked Tom up by the arm, walked around the corner of the bed, and carefully placed him on top of the grey hoodie in the box marked ‘Salvos’.
Aaron sighed as he closed the cardboard lid over his teddy’s worn, smiling face.
‘I hope the next kid loves you as much as I did, Tommy.’
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