Pen & Ink

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The Short Story Contest First Place Winner!

I’m going to get straight to the point here: we have a first-place winner for the Pen & Ink Short Story Contest! And here is the moment you all have been waiting for; the moment when I will announce this winner!

The first place winner of the short story contest is…









Drumroll please…





































Rue wrote a story called Remembering Laughter, which was written so well that I just had to give it first place. Rue’s story was both powerful, engaging, and emotional. Throughout the story were powerful themes, realistic characters, and edge-of-the-seat suspense. Overall, Rue’s story was amazing.

So now you all get to read this great story! Don’t forget to tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

Remembering Laughter

By Rue Arrow

“Do you remember, Thomas? Do you remember what laughter sounds like?”

I closed my eyes, picturing Leigh’s big brown eyes staring up at mine. Some things could change, but this… this storm of memories could not. I had always known that. And it haunted me.

“A little.”

“Can you tell me what it was like?”

I paused. Don’t look back. Don’t let the stitches of your heart rip again. It gets messier every time you try to piece it back together. “I don’t remember well enough.”

“Please, Thomas?” Her hands curled together, and she leaned forward.

Oh, go on. Just this once. For her. “It sounds like music.”

“Like when Mama played the harp?”

 “Except better. Like angels singing.”

“I want to hear an angel sing.” She tapped her feet together, making little clicking noises. “Do you miss it?”

I swallowed. No. Say no. You’re falling apart. “Yes.”

“Thomas? What does it look like?”

The thread keeping my heart together was unraveling fast. I bit my lip. Don’t let your heart rip all the way in two. It hurts. Remember how it hurts? “Dancing.”

My hand warmed as she placed her small fingers around my own. “Let’s dance.”

I felt the threads holding my heart together snap completely as I stood, but I took her hands, and we danced. Because if I couldn’t have laughter, I could at least have its memory.

A crisp autumn leaf crunched beneath my bare foot. I stared out at the field of little flowers, Leigh’s favorite place in the whole world.

“Do you remember anything new about laughter, Thomas?”


“What does it taste like? Try to remember.”

“Like fresh honeysuckles that you pick on a summer vine.”

“Like the ones that we used to find on the farm?”


“What does it smell like?”

I tucked my thumbs into the loops on my overalls, feet swaying. “Thunderstorms, oranges, raspberries, and spring grass.”

“All of ‘em at once?”

“All of ‘em at once.”

She leaned back, pulling her knees up. “I want to know it for myself, Thomas.”

“No one knows how to laugh anymore, Leigh. We’ve forgotten. You know that.”

“No. They’ve forgotten. You remember.”

“I remember what it’s like. Not how. I don’t remember how to laugh.”

She looked at me, eyes curious. “I think you do.”

My heart pumped faster, like raindrops right before they pour. Plip plop. Plip plop. Faster and faster until it all breaks loose.

“I think you could remember, if you tried.” She paused. “I have an idea.”

I waited.

“Teach me how to laugh. And as we go… you’ll remember too.”

I rested my head on my hand, thinking back to that summer. All the time we spent, trying to remember…

“I remembered something else, Leigh!”

She eyed the rope and wood in my hands. “What’s that for?”

“I’m going to build us a swing.”

“A swing?”

I nodded. “Yes. Look, I’ll tie the rope to this wood piece and then hang it from the tree. You’ll sit on the wood, and I’ll push you.”

“Are you playing a trick on me?”

“No. Honest. We used to swing all the time before.” …Back when the world was happy.

She crossed her arms, but the spark in her pretty brown eyes told me she was curious. I tugged on the ropes, making sure they were strong.

Perfect. “Okay. Let me help you up.”

Quickly, she pulled herself up; a confident look on her face. Stubborn little thing.

I grabbed the coarse ropes, pulled back as far as I could –and let go. She soared up and then back down, squealing as I pushed her forward again. “I feel like a bird flying far away!” She gasped. “Thomas, is this what laughter feels like?”


“I love it!” She sighed. “I want to remember.”

My fingers trembled as I slowed the steady rhythm of the swing. “Me too.”

“Oh but, Thomas, you don’t understand,” she dragged her feet, sliding to the ground and turning to me. “You do remember. You’re so close.”

I steadied my gaze, looking at her little face. “Your cheeks are the color of apples.”

She tilted her head. “Does laughter do that?”

“Yes.” I stepped closer and took one of her hands, walking with her by the river to watch the rippling water reflect the diamonds sparkling in the night sky.

Oh, Leigh. You think I remember. And maybe I do. But you are so much closer than I will ever be. You don’t realize I’m giving you everything I cannot keep. Because my heart’s forgotten how to sing… yours has not.

My head throbbed, and I rubbed my temples. We were so close that summer. So close to remembering. So close to flying and hearing angels sing.

“I feel different today, Thomas.”

Different? My pulse pounded. “Oh?”

“Yes. Do I look different?”

I studied her. My hands trembled. “Your eyes are alive.”


I ran to her, lifting her in the air. “Your eyes! They’re alive! Your eyes are dancing!”

She gasped. “And laughter—”

“—is like dancing!” I gently set her on the ground, heart drowning in bittersweet waves. When she remembered…I’d forget. And that was okay. I wanted her to be happy.

She clasped her hands together; then, suddenly, her face paled and she leaned against my shoulder. My heart stopped. “Leigh?”

“Thomas,” her voice was soft. “Let’s dance.”

So, we danced.

Her heart seeking to remember—almost ready to fly far, far away.

And fly far away she did.

A lonely tear dripped down my cheek, onto my hand. That was laughter’s only chance. Now it was too late; I gave too much memory away to learn it again for myself. Or maybe… maybe I was just too tired to care anymore. But it was okay.

Because the day we almost brought laughter back was the day Leigh finally heard the angels singing.

And she danced.

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15 responses to “The Short Story Contest First Place Winner!”

  1. Maggie Fixler Avatar
    Maggie Fixler

    This is an amazingly beautiful story!!!

  2. Amelia Avatar

    a oghapog haog hao RUE, THAT WAS SO SWEET AND PRECIOUS!!!! *heart is just…augh* All the sadness, the heartache, how sweet Leigh is … I LOVED IT!!!! <33333333333

  3. Daniel Amador Avatar

    Wow, that was really beautiful.

  4. Payton Gardner Avatar

    Wow that was beautiful!!!! Congratulations!!!

  5. Emma Rose Thrasher Avatar

    Oh wow, that is awesome. Definitely deserves a first.

  6. Allyson Jamison Avatar
    Allyson Jamison

    Woah. I’m speechless.

    That was absolutely gorgeous!! The way you wrote it was so emotion packed and beautiful. It was amazing. Wow. Great job!!!

  7. lilymay06 Avatar

    RUE *cries* That was beautiful! Just…beautiful. Thank you.

  8. meredithgundale Avatar

    WOW… just WOW…

  9. Rachel Avatar

    Ahh this story has all the feels and I LOVE IT!

  10. Ava Coulter Avatar

    *Has no words*

    Ok wow, I adored that! *wipes away tears* LOVELY story, Rue. Congratulations!!! Also, I would totally love it if this was a full length novel. Like, please. That would be amazing.

    1. Annabelle Avatar

      Agreed! You should totally lengthen this story!

  11. Tasha Avatar

    That was amazing Rue

  12. roseqaddams Avatar

    That was really beautiful!!

  13. Saraina Avatar

    AHHHHHHHHH MY HEART!!!!!!!!!!! Oh, Thomas and Leigh!!!!!!!!!! *cries* Okay, that was just gorgeous. So powerful and poignant, and such lovely prose!!!! The whole thing was so vivid – like, it’s the kind of story that needs a Pinterest board to capture its aesthetic. *sighs happily* Splendid job, Rue Arrow!!! <3 😀

  14. Micah {SGL} Collier Avatar
    Micah {SGL} Collier

    They were so close yet so far. Intriguing story. *has not read anything like it*