Monday, July 8, 2013

Writing Challenge With Author, Sylvia Stypa!!

The Challenge:
In 3000 words or less, write about a young woman who decides to run away from home instead of marrying her the man she has been betrothed to. What happens when she decides to join a gang of thieves?

The Author:
Sylvia Stypa


     “Okay.  How stupid is this?”  Tamara Winston carefully tugged at the pocket of her pants, trying not to rip it.  She raised herself up on the tips of her toes and then unhooked herself from the drainpipe that she had snagged herself on.  

 “It’s just one thing after the other,”  she grimaced.

     So, maybe it hadn’t been a smart idea to crawl down the drainpipe from her bedroom window.  Maybe she could have quietly exited the house from the back door.  But this  had seemed to be the quietest way to leave the house.  It had seemed like a good idea until she had gotten her pants caught on the drainpipe.  Actually, there had been a moment where she thought she might fall and she had to gather her breath and her thoughts before continuing the climb down.  Wouldn’t it have been easier to just leave from the back door, she cursed herself.  But no, this was definitely a more dramatic exit.  Her parents had forced her into a position she just could not live with.

     “I can’t believe my parents would do this to me.”  Tamara tried not to let the tears pour down her cheeks as she dusted herself off and quickly ran towards her car.  She sat down on the cold, damp ground at the base of the large maple tree in the front yard and turned to look at the house she had grown up in.  She wiped the tears from her cheeks with the back of her hand and sniffed defiantly at the red brick house.

     Tamara had always been a good kid growing up.  She loved the horse farm that her parents now ran.  It hadn’t always been a horse farm.  Her grandparents had tried to make a go of it with the farm.  But they didn’t have much luck with the cattle.  For some reason or another, one or two cows always seemed to escape.  Or one of them would pick up a disease that the others would catch and her grandfather would either have to spend a fortune medicating or make the decision to slaughter them.

     Tamara’s father, Sam, always said that his parents got into cattle farming for the wrong reasons.  Sam’s father had gotten into it after a bet that he had lost at a poker game one weekend.  Sam’s parents were clueless when it came to farming.  Tamara wasn’t sure of all the details and wondered how someone could get into cattle ranching or farming or whatever it was called from a poker game.  But there it was.  It was an interesting story but something her father avoided telling.

     At least Sam’s father had picked up the farmland at a real steal.  It was at the end of nowhere and the previous owner had been extremely eager to sell it off.  The previous owner had restrained a laugh when Sam’s father had shook hands after purchasing the land.  Tamara’s father had tried to unearth the reason for the cheap price, but could never establish the reason.  At any rate, Sam had inherited the land from his father when he had died unexpectedly five years ago and had decided to turn it into a horse farm.

     People were very eager to board their horses at the barn which was called Winston’s Wish.  Sam had been very accommodating and had put in a very nice indoor arena with stalls by converting the old cattle barn into stalls with tack rooms for horses and had put in a wonderful outdoor arena with jumps.

     The barn was now filled to capacity.  Tamara had grown to love the horses and had one of her own.  She rode Gizmo, a beautiful bay American Quarterhorse, almost every day.  The farm would be hers one day or so it had seemed.  She had gone off to college to earn a business degree and was keeping the books for the barn and helped regularly with the chores.  Life had seemed almost perfect.

     Well, until her parents started nagging at her to get married.  Their daughter was getting up in years.  Don’t you want a nice man to take care of you?  They kept asking.  Tamara had managed to hold off on their ideas for a while but it seemed like they were getting desperate.  They wanted to become grandparents and Tamara was their only child.
     It had been humorous when they had first started bringing home different men from the surrounding area.  Tamara had felt like an item at an auction.  She had to smile at her grandmother.  Nan would stand at the door, warning her. 

 “This one is awful.  I don’t know what your parents are thinking.”  Or she would wink at Tamara with a glint in her eye and say,  “I think I’ll keep this one for myself.”

     Tamara would respond with, “You go for it Nan.”

     Dinners at the Winston house had become painful.  Tamara never knew what to expect or who would be there.  More often than not, Tamara would avoid dinner and would pretend to have meetings or work outside or try to meet with friends.  But it was difficult to avoid being at the house altogether because she never knew if someone would be there visiting.

     Until the day when the new neighbor from the farm behind the Winstons arrived to visit.  John Allington was a newly divorced man and had just inherited his parent’s farm.  Tamara’s parents had latched onto him with great delight.  How perfect this would be.  If Tamara and John would marry, the two farms could be combined.

     The only problem with John was that he was two inches shorter than Tamara, who herself stood at five foot seven.  Okay, that wasn’t the only problem.  John had a horrible lisp.  When he talked very quickly, he tended to send saliva spewing to the side of his mouth.  He also had some kind of nasal congestion problem which made him snort at very inopportune times and he was probably as wide as he was tall.

     Tamara had shuddered uncontrollably when her parents had him over for supper the first time.  Even Nan had looked at him with her jaw hanging open.  She muttered once to her son, “What the heck are you thinking?”  but had been unceremoniously shushed by both Sam and his wife, Nellie.
     Tamara had desperately tried to leave the dinner early by saying there was a horse who needed her attention, but her mother had clasped her wrist in a stranglehold that had left a bruise on her skin.  Tamara did wince in pain and cried out with a, “What the, Mom.”  But Sam had talked over the outburst and had smiled brightly at John.

     No wonder Tamara loved her Grandmother so much.  Nan saw the battle going on with Tamara and Nellie, so she quite willingly picked up a forkful of mashed potatoes and flung them at her daughter-in-law.  Nellie’s mouth dropped open and she brought both hands to her face where the mashed potatoes had landed and wiped the mess off, giving Tamara time to jump out of her seat and dash into the kitchen.  “I’ll get a cloth for that mess.”

     On Tamara’s way out the door, she could hear the commotion in the dining room as both her parents scolded Nan for her behavior.  She heard her grandmother exclaim,  “Why I thought you wanted John to feel right at home.  I’ve been waitin’ for a good food fight again.”

     Tamara ran out the door after grabbing her purse and ran to her car.  She needed to see her best friend, Suzanne.  Suzanne had moved into the city after graduating from college but the two young ladies kept in touch.  Suzanne kept laughing at Tamara’s parents tactics and the two of them devised plans on how to stop the constant “arrangements”.

     Unfortunately, they could not devise a good enough plan.  Tamara’s parents were on full steam ahead and determined to bind the two into matrimony.  John was at the house, almost every night for supper.  Nan’s behavior escalated into full out war on her son and daughter-in-law.  Her comments about John’s manners and appearance were consistently expressed but went unnoticed.  John seemed to be oblivious to Nan’s remarks and would chew happily along on all the free food being supplied to him.

     After one particularly distressing meal, Tamara had just barely fled the table in tears.  Could her parents not see what they were doing?  Could they not understand her feelings?  Tamara drove into town and stopped at her favorite hang out place.  A small diner and bar where a live band would play on Friday and Saturday nights.

     Tamara found Suzanne at the bar and joined her.  Tamara ordered a glass of water and a vodka tonic then grasped her head and shook it.  “Another wonderful Friday night dinner,”  she stated.

     “OMG!  I don’t know why my parents are doing this!  John is totally and utterly despicable.  I should be wearing a safety mask just to avoid all the food that he propels constantly from his mouth.  My mother is usually so picky about people’s eating manners and yet she sits there like this,”  Tamara sat back in her seat, folded her hands into her lap and pulled her lips tight with a frown locked onto her face, imitating her mother’s posture.

     Suzanne almost doubled over into laughter.  “And what does your dad do?”

     “He looks everywhere but at John and keeps talking.”  Tamara rubbed her forehead and grabbed the vodka tonic from the bartender and took a small swallow.  She shook her head.  “Oh man.”

     “Too bad your parents didn’t pick up on this guy.”  She nodded her head pointing to the lead singer of the band.  The band had just finished their set and were putting down their instruments.

     The lead singer was a tall, dark haired young man.  His black hair was short and shaped his head closely.  He looked up from the guitar he had placed against a stool and smiled at Tamara.  His bright blue eyes were shocking and the dimples in his cheeks were pronounced as he smiled.
     Tamara’s heart skipped a beat and she quickly swiveled her head to Suzanne.  “He is gorgeous,”  she proclaimed.
     “That he is.  And he’s coming this way.”  Suzanne turned and smiled at the handsome man as he approached them.
     “Good evening ladies.  Are you enjoying our music?”  His voice was deep and rich.  Tamara was enthralled by his speaking voice.

     “I just got here so I didn’t really have time to hear your songs.”  Tamara informed him.  Her hazel eyes locked on to his deeply bright blue eyes.  Her heart was beating rapidly against her chest.  Tamara felt her throat go dry and she took a quick swallow of her drink.

     “Are you going to stay and listen to our last set?”  The young man asked.

     “I might.”  Tamara said coyly.

     “Let me introduce myself.  Name is Randy Justice.”  He offered his hand first to Suzanne and then Tamara.  When their hands touched, Tamara felt a tingle race up her arm to her heart.  She bit her lips and tried to smile calmly.

     “Suzanne and Tamara.”  Suzanne offered.  “I don’t know about Tamara, but I am staying to hear the last set.  I’ve enjoyed the music so far.”

     “What type of music do you play?”  Tamara questioned.
     “I would call it folk art.”  Randy settled on a chair beside Tamara and watched her carefully.

     Tamara felt uncomfortable with the scrutiny and she kept looking at her friend to see her reaction.  “How long will you be playing here?”

     “We’ve got a couple gigs here in the city.  We’ll be here tomorrow night and probably next weekend as well.  Then we’ll be at another bar, not sure of the name offhand, for about three weeks.  So we’ll probably be around for about a month.”

     “I see.”  Tamara said.

     They chatted for quite a while before Randy had to join his band members back on stage.  Tamara and Suzanne watched them until the end and then were invited to stay with them for a while after the practice.  The band members were interesting and entertaining so they enjoyed their time together.

     Tamara had gone home that night with a smile on her face.  Her parents were asleep in bed by the time she got home so she avoided their frustrations with her until the morning.  Her mother was sure to let her know that John had been quite upset with her sudden departure.  She could not understand what her daughter’s problem was with such a nice young man.

     Tamara rolled her eyes as she thought about her mother and just shook her head.  Was her mother that desperate to have her only child married off that she would just about grab at anything?  Tamara’s attempts to let her mother know her opinion of John, fell on deaf ears.  Her father was the same.  She found herself avoiding her parents as much as possible and keeping herself busy.

     Over the next month, Tamara found herself sneaking out consistently to meet with Suzanne, the other band members and Randy.  Then it quickly became secret rendezvous with just Randy.  She felt herself falling in love with the debonair young man and realized that she would be heart broken when their band finally decided to move on to the next location.

     Randy’s band was called the Slippery Fingers and their music was very relaxing yet fun.  Tamara enjoyed their music and when Randy found out that Tamara had a business degree, he joked that perhaps they should hire her on as their business manager.  At some points, she felt as if Randy was being serious and would tell him that if he was, she would consider the position, even though she knew the pay wasn’t great.

     Over the same time period, Tamara’s parents became more and more desperate for Tamara to spend alone time with John.  Every time they could coincide their meals with Tamara and John, they would leave the table and drag Nan out of the room as well.  She could just imagine the coaching her parents were giving John and it rattled her.  Tamara had not bothered to inform her mother about her feelings for Randy.  It would be pointless.

     Until tonight, when Tamara had been cornered by her mother and Nellie had begged her daughter to stay for dinner.  Her mother had pleaded and had started to cry which had knocked Tamara into a guilty frame of mind.  Tamara had reluctantly agreed to stay.

     John had arrived with a bouquet of flowers and presented them to her, after ceremoniously telling her how lovely she looked.  Tamara shoved her hands into her back jeans pockets and looked down at her feet.  There was a hole in the toe of one of her socks and she wiggled the toe while rolling her eyes.  “Sure,”  she managed to say quietly.

      They sat down to dinner and before Tamara knew what was happening, Nan was being dragged out of the room by her parents.  Tamara swore she heard her grandmother call out,  “Don’t do it.  Run, Tamara.  Run.”

     John cleared his nose and his throat at the same time.  Tamara just widened her eyes at the noise and wondered how she could escape.  She did manage to start to push herself out of the chair when John again cleared his throat.
     “Tamara, I need to talk to you.”

     “Wh,… I mean, oh?”  Tamara did not sit back down into her chair.  Her chances to run were narrowing down.
     “I know we haven’t known each other for very long.”  John shuffled around in his jacket pocket.  “And we really haven’t had that much alone time together but I’m sure, in time, we can find out all kinds of wonderful things about each other.”  John took out a napkin and wiped the side of his mouth.
     He rummaged in his jacket pockets again and managed to find a small jeweller’s box which he pulled out and placed on the table.  “I know this might be sudden but I feel a real kinship with you.”

     Tamara’s eyes widened and her jaw dropped.  “I don’t know what you are talking about.”

     “Your parents have told me that you need a good man like me to take care of you.  They have assured me that they have our best interests at heart.”  John opened the lid of the box and a large diamond ring sparkled at Tamara.

     “Crap!”  Tamara shouted out.  “Are you kidding me?  We don’t even know each other.  How can you do this?”
     At that moment, Nan rushed into the room.  “Golly!  That’s the biggest diamond I ever did see.  But don’t you do it Tamara.  Don’t do it.”  

     Sam and Nellie rushed in behind Nan and they both stopped and stared at the huge diamond ring.  Nellie immediately grabbed Tamara and kissed both her cheeks.  “Oh, I’m so happy for you.  We’ll plan the biggest wedding this neighborhood has ever seen.”

     “What!  Are you kidding me!  I didn’t, I’m not,., No chance in hell I’m marrying John.”  Tamara flew out of the room and ran up the stairs to her room.  She slammed the door shut and locked it.

     So, now here Tamara was, fleeing her parent’s house and driving to Randy’s hotel room.  The Slippery Fingers were finishing up their last gig tonight and were planning on moving to the next job.  Tamara knew where they were staying and drove quickly to their hotel.

     Tamara parked her car and ran to the door of Randy’s room, knocking loudly.  Randy pulled the door open and when he saw her, he pulled Tamara into the lit room.  Tamara frowned when she saw the other band members sitting on one of the hotel room beds, piles of money and jewelry spread out between them.

     Tamara turned to look at Randy with a puzzled frown on her face.  “What’s going on here?”

     “Oh, sweetheart,”  Randy bent and gave Tamara a kiss.  “Did I forget to tell you about our side jobs?  We’re kind of like Robin Hood.  Take from the rich and give to the poor.  Sorta.  Kinda.  Welcome to our group.”


Young Woman Wearing Pearl Choker




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