For this week in my Creative Writing class, I had to write a scene between two characters showing tension without revealing the true reasoning behind it. I'm thinking I probably gave too much away in mine, but I love it nonetheless. "Little Golden Cross" is a short story I'm going to start working on within a month and I'll eventually post the full version of the story up here. Now, for the scene:
Excerpt from "Little Golden Cross"
Ester sat at the kitchen table, playing with her bowl of Cheerios. Her hair fell in front of her eyes and she didn’t raise her hand to move it; the strands of her golden hair dangled right above the lukewarm milk in her cereal bowl.
The footsteps coming down the stairs weren’t loud, but intentionally strong as though the steps were demanding a respect of their own. Ester smelled her father’s shampoo before he rounded the corner to the kitchen.
“You’re up early,” he stated as he sat with the paper under his arm.
Ester felt him eying the clothes she had worn the day (and the night) before. Normally, Ester would smile and enjoy a quiet but peaceful meal with her father, but something in her compelled her to reply.
“Yes, I got back early,” Ester said, “haven’t had the chance to change or anything yet though, father.”
Her father’s lip quivered, but they let no sound pass between them. She smiled to her bowl because she knew—they both knew, really—he would never say a word of what had actually happened; the shame was too much for the preacher to handle. Something about that knowledge thrilled Ester even though she could imagine the possible lecture that would come after church. For now however, Ester could see on her father’s face the words of his sermon running in a reel through his mind.
The early morning sun was rising higher over the trees and into the small kitchen. Ester expected to see the gleam of her cross necklace off the window pane that, most Sunday mornings, shot the sunlight straight into her eyes.
There was no sparkle, no shimmer, no hint of light bouncing off the object that most surely was there. She turned slightly in the wicker chair to her right, away from her father, and glanced down to her chest; only a few purplish marks lay on the skin at the base of her neck replacing the small golden cross. Ester looked at her father, neatly shaved, hair perfectly in place, staring intently at the same paragraph for ten minutes.
He must know I’m looking, Ester thought, yet she knew he had noticed the necklace was gone. That look of shame a young girl receives from her pastor hurts enough, and ten-fold when that man is her flesh and blood. Not ready to take that look, she was grateful for his little show. Why then, she wondered, did she want so desperately for him to look away from his paper and into her eyes?
As much as she hated that she hurt him, she felt no guilt and she wanted him to see that, see that she is the person he saw and not his little Ester anymore. She felt free, flying higher than her small Nebraska town and away to the place she only saw in daydreams. Then she felt a weight pulling her back down, back to the town she resented so discreetly for their hateful prejudices far too long, back to the small kitchen usually warmed by the morning sun. Covering the kitchen today was a chill of frustration, of humiliation, of ignorance to the truth.
Ester’s eyes looked out to the pale blue sky as her mind searched for her necklace’s location. She remembered now tossing it haphazardly on a dusty copy of As You Like It in that dim backroom of the bookstore, the air heavy with soft sighs sweeping down the rows of darkened novels. In that room, Ester felt the warmth she missed so desperately on this Sunday morning.
Beside her, the pastor cleared his throat as he folded up the paper. He rose, closing his eyes briefly to stop his hand from shaking, and left to grab his bible. Ester stood soon after and followed her father’s previous footsteps until she reached her bedroom. Rubbing her eyes, Ester yawned briefly before looking at her clock; she had twenty minutes to get ready for church.