The Value of Criticism

This week I attended a new writer’s group. It was a sacrifice for the four of us to be there. We talked about our backgrounds and how far we had come that rainy night to meet. People that I had never met before, but hit it off right away, because we all had something in common – we loved to write. We each read something we had written, and then the others commented on the work and what could be done to make the work better. I learned a lot in that little exercise.

I choose to read a short scene I had written from a prompt put up in Fiction University by Janice Hardy. “He loves me: he loves me not.” Suggestions were given to me by the other writers to help deepen the character and arouse greater sympathy for the protagonist. Great ideas! So I did revise it, and here it is!

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He Loves Me; He Loves Me Not

“He loves me; he loves me not.” I chanted as I plucked the buttermilk white ‘Patience’ rose petals from my bridal bouquet. The petals floated to the ground like the first snowflakes of winter. They surrounded my floor-length heirloom wedding dress as if I were a statue made from ice. That’s what I felt like – ice – a cold, lifeless ice princess. I could hear my mother and bridesmaids pounding on the bathroom door, but I had locked it and placed a chair up against the doorknob. I had run in here, the place closest to the altar, after Jack announced in front of everyone he couldn’t marry me, because he, and Ross, his Best Man, were in love.

I tuned out their voices as I continued the chant. It had all been so perfect. We had met at school – in the library of all places! We talked. We laughed. We fell in love. We planned the wedding together. The colors, the doves, all the food at the reception. At that thought, I ripped off the remaining petals of the first rose and chanted louder, “He loves me not; he loves me not” over and over.

The reception was to be in the majestic banquet hall of the Americana Hotel. It was to be a forty-dollar-a-plate dinner. We had even paid for a small orchestra to play for the dancing and entertainment. I began to yank off the petals of the next rose in the bouquet at the thought of the first dance which Jack and I had laughed over as I stepped on his feet when we were learning it. He had always been the better dancer. Did those moments mean nothing to him? How could he do this to us? To me?  I ripped handfuls of petals off the second rose, and they fell around the lace appliqued hem of my gown as if a blizzard had struck.

“Judy! Judy let us in, sweetie!” My mother called from the other side of the door. She sounded very far away and to drown out her pleading I shouted louder, “He loves me; he loves me not.”

The beautiful cream rose in the middle of the bouquet was disappearing as I plucked and pulled the petals from its stem. My life was also disappearing before my eyes. Jilted at the altar for a man! I was never going to be able to love anyone else. I would live to be an old maid. I was washed up. Destined to be an ice-cold dead woman forever.

Cold, I hated being cold. That’s why we decide to go to Bermuda for our honeymoon. At that thought, I attacked the fourth ‘Patience’ rose. What was Jack going to do with the tickets? They were un-refundable. Oh God, I thought, He and Ross will probably go instead! “He loves me not!” I shouted. My throat was raw from my bellowing.

“Judy,” I heard my mother call from afar, “Judy, you have a choice. You always have a choice.” Her muted voice pierced my heart like a cupid’s arrow.

I shattered right there. The tears that had refused to come earlier began to cascade down my face, coursing a wet trail through the glacier pearls that accented the bodice of my vintage silk chiffon gown. I brought my hands to my face to shield my icy tears, but when I did, I could smell the overwhelming fruity fragrance of the roses left in my limp wedding bouquet. I swiped my nose with my elbow length satin gloved hands and sniffed. The delicate lemony fragrance reminded me of all the beauty that I had ever smelled, or seen, or felt. I snuffled and continued to wipe my now fading tears. I looked at the destroyed bouquet. I ravished the last flower and when I plucked off the last three petals I chanted, “I love him not; I love him; I LOVE HIM NOT!”

I slid over to the sink and splashed warm water on my face. My mother’s advice hovered in my mind, ‘You always have a choice, Judy.’ How many times had I heard that over the years? The hatred that had turned my body into ice slowly melted. I tidied up my appearance as best I could. I looked in the mirror realizing that I had always suspected this, but I wanted to believe we were in love. I think he did too. He had the courage to dispel the lie. I should have to courage to face those that still were here.  I took a big breath and threw the decimated bouquet on the floor with the blanket of rose petals. I turned, the dress swirled around me. I took away the chair and unlocked the door. I flung it open to see the worried looks of all the people that did love me. With the bravest face I could muster, in a raspy voice, I said, “So let’s party. We might as well celebrate me not getting married.”

 

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