Our March Silver Medal Winner


Jessica van der Heide is a singer/songwriter with a passion for various creative pursuits. She received her bachelors of music in vocal music at Wilfrid Laurier University, and studied at Centennial College for a post graduate diploma in children's media. In her free time, she enjoys making music, writing, drawing, painting and sewing cute animal stuffies. If you feel like listening to any of her music recordings, you can find them on youtube or on Facebook.

What the judges had to say:

"Unique perspective."

"It takes skill and effort to accomplish character depth in such a story, and this author has accomplished that!"

"Immediately drawn into the relationship between the two main characters...the visceral feel of the setting was evident."


The photo prompt:



The unedited story:

THE LONG WALK
by Jessica van der Heide



Scriiiiiiitch, scriiiiiiiitch. Maddie dragged her small feet along the gravel path, her doll drooping precariously close to the ground as she trudged forward. She and Emily had been walking for what felt like forever, and she could feel the skin of her ankles rubbing against the back of her sandals. She imagined the August sun was taking a long, slow slurp from her shoulders, leaving them reddened and parched.

Scriiiiiiiitch, scriiiiiiiiitch.

“C’mon Mads, quit draggin’ your feet. This road’ll ruin your shoes before we reach the end of it if you keep it up.”

“Sorree Em.”

Maddie edged her toes forward in her sandals; pressing them into the little front slats.

Emily glanced down at Madeline and a thickness coated her throat; the dust started to swirl across her eyes.

It’s not a big deal. Mom said she and Dad will be back when it’s all sorted out.

Still, even as she tried to believe it, the promise felt hollow. They had disappeared for long stretches of days before, but this time felt different. This time they had dropped them off at “the end of their Great Aunt’s laneway”.

I mean, if you can call walking for half a day a laneway, sure…

“Em?”

“Mrmph,” Emily grunted in response, slowly pulling her attention back downwards.

“Are we going on vay-cay-shun?”

Emily couldn’t help but chuckle.

“Yeah, something like that.”

“For how long? I miss Dotty.” Dotty was a mostly-friendly chipmunk that frequented their back yard. Maddie had given her the name before she really learned to tell the difference between spots and stripes, and before she could pronounce the letter “s”.

“I’m not sure hun. Mom said she’d call us soon.”

“But dotty needs seeeeeeeds!”

“I’ll tell Mom to feed her when she calls, ok? Dotty ‘ll be okay. I promise.

Maddie huffed a small sigh and crossed her arms, sandwiching her doll between them.

“Hungry Mads? I grabbed a little something at the last stop.”

Emily almost wished she felt badly for swiping from that gas station store, but how could she? She’d barely had time to shove a couple changes of clothes for Maddie in the suitcase before they were rushed into the car. Whatever was going on with their parents this time, they were definitely not in caretaker mode. More like “getthekidsthehelloutofhere” mode.

Maddie’s eyes lit up, and she jumped a little bit.

“Picnic! Picnic!”

The girls shifted off the road, although that seemed a bit pointless to Emily, considering they had yet to come across another living thing since they got out of the car. Still, walking was one thing. Better to not leave a four year old with the impression that sometimes it was safe to sit down in the middle of a road. Emily opened the suitcase, pulling out a granola bar, an apple, and a bottle of water. She’d managed to take two of each item, but she was starting to question the existence of this house they were headed for. She wasn’t even sure which Great Aunt lived out here- not one she remembered meeting, anyways. Her parents weren’t exactly the visiting type.

Maddie ate the granola bar and all but a few bites of the apple with fervour. Emily cleaned up the apple, stem included. Sharp pangs prodded at her side. She thought about the other granola bar longingly, but knew it was better to wait. Just in case.

At least Mads is happier.


Maddie had begun bobbing as she walked, singing nonsense words strung together.

“Bloooga wooga, tip top a zip zop, a dip dip bloooop a woop dottayyyyy!”

Dottie was often the end to her little numbers, in some form of pronunciation.

“Encore, maestro!” Emily exclaimed with as much over-enthusiasm as possible.

“Em! Howwse!! Howwse! Howwse!”

Emily squinted for a moment, but there it was.

At least somewhere we can knock on a door, relative or not. Maybe at least fill up on water and use a phone.

“You’re right Mads, good job!”

The house rippled in the distance, as if it were waving the girls forwards.

Emily smiled at the little girl, proudly babbling about spotting the house.

Alright, here we go. See you soon, Great Aunt whatever your name is.


*****


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