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Prompt: clichés. Pick a cliché phrase and write a story around it.
The cliché I chose was ‘every cloud has a silver lining’.
TW: Friend’s death.
Gunshots, blood, running, running, endless running. The 13 year old girl’s heart felt like a drum, banging out a beat that would kill her.
An arm around her back; a word in her ear: “Go.” Cooped up for weeks, her legs struggled to hold her, bones covered with a thin layer of grey skin.
“You can do it, Alice.” His voice was familiar, but seemed far away, unreachable.
They were out of the room. She breathed. Air. Clean, fresh, blisteringly hot air. Her lungs inflated; her ribs hurt. But, still, she kept running.
The sunlight, barely awake, dying on the horizon, burnt her eyes. Her her throat was on fire.
Gunshots. Endless gunshots.
The banging, echoing behind her, hurt her ears. She cupped her hands over them, but they were roughly pulled away by coarse fingertips. “You have to be able to hear.” His voice, a whisper, his lips barely moving, seemed like shouting to her.
“I- I can’t-”
Hands grabbed her shoulders and she was hoisted into the air. “Be careful!” a voice called out. A shoulder in her stomach; she couldn’t breathe.
“Down,” she coughed. “Let me down.”
Gently, she was placed on the floor, but they were running again. Sprinting, now, for the end. The gate. Cars, that would take them away from this dreadful place. The place where she had been tortured, made to feel like she wasn’t worth anything, let alone the right to life.
And then she saw her.
Leah’s face lit up at the sight of her friend; her hand pulled a gun from the holster when she realised they had followers.
Gunshots. Bullets, whistling past her ear.
Machine fire, cutting down people trying to rescue her.
People were dying; because of her. It was her fault.
Bad people had died at her hands. She had held up a gun, pulled the trigger, ended a life, destroyed families, without a second thought. But they had deserved it. Hadn’t they?
This time, however, it was her comrades that were dying. Names, faces, lives, ones who she knew well.
Then, there was Leah.
“You have to!”
Alice’s best friend grabbed her upper-arm, pulling her away from the cars, away from her safe-haven. “Leah, what are you doing?”
The girl glared, and time slowed down. “She won’t survive going that way.” The enemy had looped around, finding another way in to kill her. “Come on!”
Shouting, screaming, crying.
Running, sprinting, surviving.
“Take her, take her, Oscar.”
“Where are you going?”
A gun, loaded. Ready to kill.
“I’m a distraction.”
And she was gone.
Alice watched her run. She shot. She killed. Men fell at her feet. Her plan worked – they went after the bigger threat, assuming there were others taking on Alice’s protectors.
There weren’t others taking on Alice’s protectors, for Leah had captured them all.
Blood poured over the sand. Dying screams echoed over the still air.
And as Alice watched, whilst she was told to keep running, running, running, Leah fell.
“NO!” Hands grasping at her t-shirt, keeping her from changing course. A heart-wrenching scream. Surely, enough to wake the dead?
Not this time.
One year. A year, since she died… for me. The girl, her short red hair barely reaching her eyes, carried the bouquet.
Alone. She didn’t need to run. She walked, slowly, carefully, choosing her steps.
The grave was well-kept, she saw to that. Shadows concealed her movements from Leah’s family as they gathered around the plot. They laid flowers. They cried. Then, they sighed, thankful that, at least, she didn’t die in pain. It had been quick.
They turned, and were gone.
Alice crept forward.
She laid the flowers; traced Leah’s name; sat; cried; wished, with all her heart, that they could change places. That she could be the one six feet under, not her best friend who had had so much to live for.
“Why?” Saliva stuck her lips together, her nose ran and she wiped it on her sleeve. She tasted salt, then a metallic tang. “Why you, Leah? Why not me?”
“She was always willing to die for you.” The voice behind her made her jump, and Alice turned to see a woman in a black dress, an orange flower – Leah’s favourite colour – pinned to her lapel.
Kneeling beside her, she continued: “We always asked why. She said she knew your potential. You could be something great.” More tears fell down Alice’s cheeks. “I think Leah knew she was going to die.”
“Oh?” Her voice cracked, and she coughed. A box was held out to her. Tiny, it fit into the palm of her hand; plain every where else, it was a dark brown; the only decoration was a triskelion embedded on the top.
“This was delivered yesterday morning, a letter said we were to give it to you. Leah must’ve given it to the post office, told them to deliver it a year after her death.”
Surprised, Alice took the box without a word, and the woman stood, her speech clearly over. She turned to walk away, but had only gone a few steps before she turned back and regarded the young, weeping girl, still mourning for her best friend a year later. Her hair was greasy, her thighs too thin, bags under her eyes and chapped lips.
“We don’t blame you,” she said. “Leah was prepared to do it, and I’m proud that it was for such a good cause. You’re going to be great, Alice, just you wait.”
The girl couldn’t speak, but nodded her gratitude. Smiling, Leah’s mother walked away.
Alice opened the box. Inside, there was a small necklace, in the shape of a cloud. Gently, she picked it up. The clasp at the side begged for it to be opened, and she did. A picture, framed by the smooth curves of the clouds, peered up. Two smiling girls, happy in each other’s arms. Fingers shaking, Alice traced the face of her best friend.
Her tears changed to ones of bitter-sweet happiness. Wherever Leah was now, she knew that she was at rest, knew that she was looking down on her. And she knew that, eventually, she would see her again.
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