Open Pen

Welcome Home: An Open Pen Critique

Today, we have a piece from Micahla. I don’t believe that she has a website (or at least, she did not include on in the form), but you might see her in the comments around this blog– she is really sweet and comments on a lot of my posts.

If you have the time, it would be great if you gave her a short comments on her work. She did not ask for any specific critique, so feel free to give her advice on anything related to this piece of her writing.

I hope you all have a wonderful Saturday!

God bless,

Gabrielle

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Welcome Home

By Micahla M.

“Please, Fern, don’t leave, I promise I’ll… I’ll do whatever you could possibly want me to, just don’t go!” she pleaded her face glowing with panicked heat.

“I can’t,” he whispered and began to untangle himself, Prim reacted violently, clinging to him and screaming her sorrow. “I need to go,”

Finally, with Ray’s help, Fern was able to untangle himself, Prim reached out to her brother. “No, no, no, no, no!”

“Prim, look at me,” he demanded, cradling her face, “You need to help Mama, you need to be strong, okay?”

To the sobbing girl this sounded too much like a good-bye and she cried harder. “No, you won’t die! You won’t!” she clutched at his hands as he pulled them away. “Just promise me you’ll come back, promise me you’ll live…. please!”

He kissed her tugging fingers lightly and walked away. She began to scream, a pain filled hollow cry. He disappeared into the masses, his back fading away. Ray loosened her and she crumbled to the ground, sobbing, “Promise, promise,” she cried into her hands, he stroked her back for a moment before disappearing as well.

She stayed on her knees until she was interrupted by two strong hands lifting her from the ground. Instinctively she knew who it was, the smell, the shape, the very breath of Paul gave him away. Prim wrapped her arms vine-like around him and clung as she sobbed, he was warm beneath her cheek, his hands comforting on her hair and back. “No, no, no, no, no, no, no-o-o,” she repeated the mantra, unable to hold the pain from her voice.

His body shifted and she knew he was bowing around her, closing in on her like a protective bubble. “Prim…”

“No!” she screeched into his chest, tightening her arms and wiping her tear stained face against his shoulder. “Don’t,”

She felt his lips feather against her hair and her heart contracted, crumbled.

“I love you,” his whispered words made her shove him away.

How could he? How could he say that and then leave? She pressed her hands to her face and turned away, shaking unbearably. She was aware he didn’t move and her life began to shatter around her. She couldn’t say it.

“Good-bye, Prim,”

She spun around and grabbed him in a hug, just a few more minutes, that’s all she needed. “Don’t-don’t say that, never say that,” she would not last a day if both Fern and Paul were convinced that they would die. “You’ll come back,” she insisted and stepped back, looking starkly at him out of a pale face. “I know you will.”

He nodded, his eyes bleak. His lips moved and she was sure he would say it again, would force her to notice the words. But she couldn’t now, not when war threatened, she didn’t want them to be his last utterance. Instead he sighed and said something she had prayed for.

“I promise,”

***

Covered in painted handprints, Prim grinned at their finished work, it wasn’t particularly beautiful or amazing, but it sure was lovely, for her anyway. The white poster had quickly turned from a simple ‘Welcome Home’ sign into a colourful splash of small handprints and larger footprints.

The kids didn’t look too clean themselves, paint covered any visible inch of skin and their clothes looked like something out of trash cans, but they were grinning in satisfaction and that was all that Prim really cared for. Too bad she’d have to face their parents about it later; she didn’t feel too worried though, it had been worth it.

“Well done, guys,” she praised and received a wealth of smiles in return; even Melissa, pretty, sweet Melissa had been subject to the paint fight that had commenced only minutes ago, yet she had thought to wear her hair up in a cap. Smart girl. “You run along and get cleaned up while the banner dries.” She instructs the youngsters, ranging from five to fourteen they could hardly be expected to help clean up the mess that they had created, she remembered being that age.

They hurried away without question, falling over each other in order to reach the pavement, freedom, and forgetting to watch where they walked in the process, red foot prints made paths in every direction.

“Talk about trouble,” Melissa snickered, sitting next to Prim on the paint splattered grass, her tanned legs, covered in green and red streaks, stretched before her. “You’re too good to them Prim, one day when we’re old and crippled those kids are going to make our lives difficult.”

Grinning, Prim stroked her hair and laughed, even her hair was paint covered, “Nah, they’re too sweet.”

“They’re parasitical monsters; do you really think they’d be as cute if you didn’t do everything for them?” she responded laughingly.

“Maybe… kids are something you need to work yourself around, Lissa.”

“So you should know.” She agreed teasingly, “Ms Kindergarten Teacher,”

Blushing and shaking her head, Prim denied the title heartily, “Not yet, but hopefully in the next few years it’ll be a possibility.”

“What?” Lissa demanded in irritation, “Girl, Mrs Rumen is all but begging your Ma to let you help out, she’s just as much putty in your hands as the children are. Besides, we all know you’re the only one in this town that actually wants the job of keeping those cretins clean and cool headed. My Pap, bless his soul, knows I would die after one day stuck with them. I don’t know how you do it or why, but I guess people think it’s admirable,” she offered amiably.

Shaking her head, Prim picked a trampled flower from the ocean of flowers around her and set about putting the petals straight. “I’m not a saint; you know that better than most anyone.” She grumbled the last piece in a ferocious blush, “I need to finish my course first and I do have time, Mrs Rumen isn’t going anywhere for at least a few more centuries.”

Melissa chuckled and glanced up at the blue-blue sky, “I don’t think Dr Wiles would agree with you on that one. But enough about that… tell me have you heard anything from the guys before we received today’s happy news?” her eyes softened and she grinned wickedly, “Don’t keep anything from me!”

“Nada,” Prim said on a sigh, “I’ve already told you about every letter Fern has sent, word-by-word.” She added drily, “I got no ground with these wonderers.”

“Mmm,” Melissa agreed, “I know what you mean, Joe all but told us we were to mind our own business, I don’t know if it was sleep talking or plain old fear, but I sure hope it was the former.”

“I don’t know how Mama does it,” she confessed to her best friend, “She almost lost the man she loved in the first war and ages later had to send the only man in her life to face the same.”

Blinking, Melissa wiggled her toes where they sat tanned and covered in yellow before her. Glancing at Prim, she schooled her features and whispered, “You’ve lost the most-”

“Ah, no, Lissa, don’t start with this again!” came the vehement reply in a sudden burst of conflicting emotions. “Please, stop right there, I don’t want to hear it, if I listen to another word about… about – you know what, I’ll stop talking to you! Permanently!”

“That’s an empty threat,” Melissa countered with a sour pout, “You have to talk to me, but fine, I’ll drop it for now. We can’t avoid it forever though.”

“I know, but I’ll take every moment leading up to it in stride.”

“Good, because I’ll be counting every second of it!”

They glared at each other for a minute, eyes clashing in a battle of wills, no real fight would be won and no happy ending would be reached, but they both knew what backing down would mean, defeat. And defeat wasn’t anything either girl took lightly; to give up was to forfeit any chance of any victory. Two pairs of fire filled brown eyes met and held, both demanding and questioning.  Everything around them ceased to exist for a second, the hot light nothing but background scenery.

Prim adopted a strained, casual smile, breaking the tension, “Let’s get cleaned up and see how far Mama and Mrs Simon are with that cake, did you say your mum was going to go over and help?”

“That’s what she told me,” Lissa shrugged and smiled back, “Who knows? She’s constantly forgetting things, she’s worse than old Mrs Kyle.”

“Mrs Kyle isn’t that old,” Prim stated pushing to her feet, she brushed the grass from her shorts. “Mrs Wicker is older.”

“By what? Six weeks or something?” Melissa replied following Prim’s movements.

“Firstly, by three years and secondly, you are terrible with math.”

“Can’t argue the truth!” Melissa agreed, good-naturedly. She looked at Prim for a moment, thinking back on the conversation that Prim didn’t want to hear, and shook her head. The discussion wasn’t worth her tears or any added pain, she’d forget it for a while then later she’d broach it again. “I’m thirsty, let’s get this all cleaned up then we can have a picnic down at the lake.”

Prim’s eyes gained its usual wild glint and she grinned at her friend.

***

“Take that, evil vermin!” Melissa was saying as she threw pebbles at the mound of ants nearby. She was clear of any and all paint, even that which had found its way under her manicured nails. “Scurry back into your hole and stay there!”

“They aren’t going to listen to you if you scream.” Prim scolded and made a move for the last apricot muffin.

“Oh no you don’t!” Melissa slapped at Prim’s hand. “You’ve had three already, I only had two. As far as my terrible mathematics goes, that muffin is rightfully mine.”

Pursing her lips, Prim flopped back down into the flowers, stretching her fingers out to run over the grass, “What happened to your diet?”

“What diet?” Melissa questioned as she licked the coating of icing sugar from the top of the muffin.

“The one you usually say you’re going to go on,”

“Oh, that,” she smiled a sugary grin, “You know it never lasts more than five minutes, not when your mother flaunts muffins under my nose.”

Prim snorted and moved her arms up and down, attempting to make an angel indentation in the flowers. “You carry on this way and you won’t fit into your dress for next week and I know how much you want to be wearing that for Leo.”

For a moment Melissa was silent. “I guess I forgot to tell you,” she lowered the muffin, “Leo isn’t coming back; he’s headed for London, visiting an aunt or something.”

“Did he write to you?” Prim sat up straight and stared at her friend, “If he broke up with you over a letter, I’m going to hurt him.” and she meant it too, Prim didn’t make idle threats.

Taking a bite of her muffin, Melissa shook her head. “I heard from his Ma, he wrote to her, saying he needed to ‘see a new world’, one where he could ‘grow’ or some nonsense.”

Frowning, Prim placed a hand on her friend’s black. “He said nothing to you? Just to his mum?”

Melissa nodded and finished off her muffin, licked her fingers. “Yup, but it doesn’t matter. I’d rather be in boring old Hagen with you than in cold, grey London with Leo.”

“I’d marry you… if you were a guy.” Prim said giving her friend a bear hug. “As much as I love you, Lissa, I don’t think you could give me kids and I want loads.”

“A whole dozen,” she improvised. She saw the opportunity to bring up the conversation of earlier but knew it would go unspoken and so let it slip away. Melissa fell back laughing blithely. “What would you name them?”

Lying down in the flowers beside Melissa Prim frowned in concentration. “I can’t think of any at this moment but I’ll make a list and get back to you at a later date.”

Melissa was laughing so much that her eyes began to tear. “You are a real stitch,”

“Why thank you!” Prim giggled, “I believe so myself,”

For a moment they lay like that, snickering in the field. It was a wonderful day; there was the good news about the boys’ imminent return, the paint fight and now this wonderful, careless lunch with Melissa. Prim was filled with so much joy she was sure she would combust into a billion flaming particles.

“I have to tell you,” Melissa finally spoke; she turned onto her side to look at Prim. “I am happy, but I’m also so terrified.”

Turning to face Melissa, Prim frowned, “Why?”

“I’m scared of finding out who didn’t come home.” she paused and closed her eyes, “Whose son didn’t make it? Whose father isn’t going to see their child’s hand prints on the banner? Most of all…most of all I’m afraid that-that no matter how many of them don’t return, I’ll still be happy to have some of them back.”

Silence filled the air as Primrose stared at Melissa, both the girls lay deathly still, the warmth of the spring sun cold on their skin.

Finally, Prim rolled away and pushed to her feet. “I think it won’t matter. If their gone or if they’re here they’ll still be mourned. Besides, if Fern doesn’t walk into town on Tuesday with the rest, I’ll be happy Paul and Billy and Ray do.” she blinked away sudden tears. “Come on, we have a lot to do. Church in in an hour and we look atrocious.”

Quietly, Melissa stood up and took their basket from amidst the flowers. She walked silently behind Prim for a minute. “What if Fern and Billy or Ray don’t come back? Would you still be happy just to have Paul?”

Prim stopped walking and sniffed, she didn’t want to think of it; she wanted the happiness of before back desperately. “I don’t know.” she admitted. “If only Paul comes back I might just die, he’ll remind me too much of Fern. He’ll bring with memories of those days years ago when we were all safe in our small town, he’ll bring back memories of staying out until midnight, laughing until our sides ached, dancing in the moonlight and he’ll bring back memories of saying good-bye. Every day I’ll be reminded that he was the one that lived, while Fern, Billy, Ray, the others didn’t. Because he was the only one that promised, the only one who promised he’d return.” Prim’s fingers curled into fists, she ground her teeth, “Worst of all he’ll make me think, make me think of…of-” Prim looked at Melissa desperately as her voice caught in the back of her throat, “Chances are, I’ll end up leaving Hagen too,”

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16 thoughts on “Welcome Home: An Open Pen Critique”

  1. Hey Micahla!

    I actually put my critique into a word document, so I could correct your grammar and add comments right where I wanted them. Is that okay? Since I got your e-mail in the form, I will be sending it to you that way.

    Overall, I found that your biggest problems were with grammar. I would highly recommend that you read Strunk and White’s Elements of Style. It is a tiny little book, but it is so helpful for writers! It talks a lot about grammar, but it does address other parts of writing. If you don’t want to buy the book, there is actually a free online version. Here is a link to that.

    I enjoyed your story (it was a short story right? Not a novel excerpt?) I especially loved the ending, and I also enjoyed the friendship between Prim and Melissa (though there was one part that I did not feel quite natural, but that is just my opinion– you will see my critiques in the word document.)

    Let me know if you have any questions about my critique!

    God bless,
    Gabrielle

    Like

    1. Hi, Gabrielle! Thank you for the critique. This is actually an excerpt of a possible novel I’m working on – I’m testing the waters for an idea with this one. Also thanks for the link, i’ll make sure to check the book out!

      Like

  2. I agree that the grammar was the biggest issue, along with some other spot-editing problems.

    Prim’s full name is only mentioned over three quarters of the way through the story. You need to either make Prim the entire name (if this is a short story), or say Primrose the first time you say her name.

    The part with the ants, and how Melissa was so infuriated at first and then was instantly happy was too abrupt of a change (plus, I can’t think of anyone who would throw rocks at an ant hill to make them stay inside).

    Then the part about Prim wanting to marry Melissa if she were a guy was just weird for me.

    At one point, you say “firstly” and “secondly.” No one says that in real life. Just say “first” and “second.”

    Finally, if this is a short story, it is missing a lot of content. I was a bit confused throughout the passage about several things, but I figured you would explain them at a later point in the story, but if this is it, you need to add a few details, like what war they are going to, and stuff like that. Also, your ending was too abrupt for the end of a story. If this is a chapter, it’s fine, but not for the end of a story.

    Having said that, I liked some of your relationships, and, with the exception of a couple of scenarios, your characters were relatable and realistic. I think you have a good premise, and could really expand on this.

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    1. Thanks for commenting, Olorim.
      Micahla, I agree with most everything that he said, but I think your ending was perfect for a short story. It might have been unsatisfying for a novel, but if your prose is a short story, then I don’t think it was too abrupt at all. I liked that you left the ending open to the imagination but had it reflective and foreshadowing the two possible outcomes.

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    2. Hi, Olorim! I honestly didn’t think about that name issue, thanks for bringing it up!
      This is an extract of a longer piece, hopefully with more context some of the scenes would make more sense. (Melissa’s ant scene will certainly have to be worked on…) Thank you for the advice and taking the time to read this!

      Like

  3. Hello Micahla!

    You have an interesting story here — it was an interesting read. =) I enjoyed reading about Prim’s emotions and all the situations in her life, and the mysterious topic of conversation intrigued me.

    As Gabrielle said, there’s much grammar you might want to fix. Also one of the main points which need improvement is your beginning. With all the actions and emotions it was quite hard to understand what exactly was going on, and I had to reread some parts to understand. You may want to read that part out loud and work on making it clearer for the reader to understand. =)

    Also there was another point which I found rather inconsistent: “ranging from five to fourteen they could hardly be expected to help clean up the mess that they had created.” I think twelve to fourteen year-olds would be mature enough to help with the cleaning-up if asked. I do understand that this effect was so that Prim and Melissa could talk alone, so maybe you can add another reason why the children left.

    Also, when you first mentioned Melissa, I imagined her as being one of the little kids, so I was surprised when she and Prim began talking. Maybe when you first mention her you can also somehow imply that she’s the same age (or around) as Prim.

    The paragraph beginning with “They glared . . .” seemed a little too dramatic, but that’s just my opinion, and you probably wanted to create that effect. =)

    This is pretty much all the main points I noted, and I hope my critique was helpful! You absolutely do not have to change everything that I pointed out here; go with what you think will make your story better. =)

    ~Victoria Nightsky

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Victoria! Ah, indeed I can imagine how confusing the opening must seem – I’m afraid most of the context is sitting in a Word Document as another part of this tale.
      Thanks for bringing up the point on the childrens’ age (and that of Melissa). I do tend to be over dramatic.
      Your critique is helpful, I assure you! Thanks so much for taking the time to comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Michala!

    First off, thanks for submitting! I admire your willingness to do so, and I always enjoy reading what people submit. =)

    Everyone else has provided very thorough reviews that noted several of the problems I found. The biggest problem for me was the lack of setting. What kind of plants, geography, and weather are these characters living in? You mentioned the heat and the flowers in the picnic scene, which was good, but what about the beginning, when the boys are leaving? Also, it would help if you indicated more what kind of time period this is. The use of “Mama” and “Pap” made it sound more old-fashioned, but then her talk about her course work sounded more modern.

    “Blue-blue” sky sounds a little amateur, like you couldn’t think of a better word to describe the sky. Maybe find a different adjective, like “brilliant,” or adverb, “strikingly,” to describe it.

    I didn’t understand Melissa’s fear that she’d be happy for those who did come back. Is she afraid that her happiness will be disrespectful of those who didn’t make it, or that she’ll forget them? To me, it’s natural to be even happier when some people come back, in view of the fact that many didn’t.

    The beginning was a little confusing to me, too—how exactly are Fern, Ray, Paul, and Prim related? I can infer some from the text, but I had to reread it several times to do so.

    However, I thought the ending was very fitting, I enjoyed Melissa’s and Prim’s interactions, and I like the ideas you explored.

    ~ Aberdeen

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Aberdeen! I’m usually more specific with setting, I’ve no clue what happened here! I’ll work on that – especially the use of ‘Mama’ and ‘Pap’, I understand your confusion over this entirely (now that I think of it, it confuses me slightly too).
      Melissa’s fear stems from guilt: she doesn’t want to be all happy while some of the men have died, but at the same time she’ll be glad some of them survived…I hope that makes sense.
      Thank you for the critique, I truly appreciate it!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No problem! That happens to me all the time. =) I’m glad you understand and it wasn’t just me going crazy. 😉 Ah, that makes perfect sense (about Melissa), and I thought that might be the case, so maybe just make it a bit clearer?
        Thank you so much for reading the critique and sharing! Keep writing!

        Like

  5. Great story! In loved the dialogue and descriptions. You did a great job at using creative words for things.
    I agree with Aberdeen that the beginning was sort of confusing. I never really figured out who the different boys were in relation to Prim, but with some inserted explanation that could be easily fixed. 🙂
    Great writing!

    Like

    1. The beginning seems to be rough spot for most people who read; I’ll be rereading that and making adjustments.Thanks for the comment, Writefury!

      Like

  6. Hi, Michala!
    I think the grammar part mostly got covered already, so I’ll go ahead and ignore that. 🙂 I really enjoyed the emotion in this story – several parts got me tearing up. I was feeling a little lost about the “thing” that Prim didn’t want to talk about, but I’m assuming that’s explained in the context of the full story, if this isn’t it. If it’s not, you might want to somehow explain that.

    You did a great job filling the story with emotion, and I think you’d really like these tips on erinkenobi’s blog. She’s a master at emotions, and your writing really reminded me of hers. You might want to try to pull out one object for more emotional impact – say, a piece of one of the guys’ clothing or something. But you did a really good job with that already.

    I was a little confused on who all of the guys were, and I’d also like to see what happens when they come home – who comes home and what Prim’s reaction was.

    And as for Prim, I felt like she was really relatable, and she felt mostly real, too. Obviously you can’t completely develop a character in this short of space, but you did really well with what you had.

    Overall, great job!
    C.B.

    Like

    1. Hi, Prov13! I’ll check out that blog you suggested and hopefully I’ll take something great out of it. Concerning the conversation Prim didn’t want to have, I’ve covered it in further writing of this work (But I’m glad for your concern on that behalf, it makes me happy).Thank you for commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

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