With a few days remaining to enter the Aesthetica Creative Writing Award, we celebrate the winning entry for the fiction category from last year, and present an extract of the short story; Roses are Red by Jennifer Roe. The story is a beautifully written tale of love, betrayal and vulnerability. It is seemingly effortless in its execution, yet layered with emotion and meaning that only becomes clear in the last few paragraphs. It is a perfect example of how the short story can be powerful in its brevity; each carefully chosen word precisely placed creates a story that stays with the reader long after finishing.
The 2013 Aesthetica Creative Writing Award was Roe’s first competition she entered. Since winning she has continued to craft short stories, entering multiple competitions and exploring different modes and writing styles. Having recently completed a degree in English, Roe will now focus on publication and entering short story competitions. Roe comments “I feel very privileged to have been recognised as a writer by Aesthetica and will be eternally grateful to the magazine for this wonderful welcome into the world of writing.”
Roses are Red (extract)
She wore white. The thin fabric surrendered to the breeze, whipping gently round her thin legs. She walked ahead of him. If he wanted he could reach out his fingers and feel her flowing hair tickle his skin. Instead he pinned his hand against his side. His eyes did not waver though; each time he blinked his heart would pang for those lost moments. They followed her every movement, like a moth drawn to the light. She swayed a little; keeping beat to that beautiful music only she was privy to. The whispering wind tousled the leaves on the trees that filled the park, daring anyone to utter a sound. An elderly couple rested on a bench at the opposite end of the green expanse; their heads close together. Their solitude drove a charge of anxiety and joy through his being, making his heart crash against his chest. His legs felt useless and weak against his onslaught of emotions. And still obediently he followed her, all the while keeping his distance.
She knew her way round the park; her brittle limbs carried her on a familiar route as her mind occupied another. She ambled through the weaving paths, content in her own world. For a wonderful, unending period of time their game of follow the leader continued. He would have followed her to the end of his days, but her mind had other adventures planned. Something caught her eye and suddenly her movements became focused and steady and she sauntered down a straight path, one he had followed before, many, many years perviously. Realising the destination of their journey, all joy fled from his body; a paralysing fear was all that remained in the wake of his bitter-sweet joy. He watched from a distance as she eased herself through a hidden passage, cloaked from the rest of the park by a copse of trees. His feet refused to move forward. He smothered a terrible urge to turn round and run, to flee from this secluded world and return to his own. But then, was his world any different?
His last time in that rose garden had been fleeting; their precious time together disturbed by cruel and selfish words; his words; each and every last hateful one. Back then his time was not his own. Not his time, his mind, his body. Not today. Today he had time. Today he had resolved to follow that girl, even to the ends of the earth, if only on her whim. Today his time was hers. He took a bold step towards that dreadful entrance and shuddered. He closed his eyes and let his feet carry him the rest of the way.
It had not changed, not in those long years they spent apart. He so longed to follow as she immersed herself amidst the roses. They climbed towards the clear blue sky, one higher than the other, in desperate competition. She was like those roses, stretched high above the world, swaying gentle in the wind. She had no cares for what lay below, for the thorns that pierced and tore his flesh. He tried to reach her but every time he struggled the thorns dug deeper into his broken and bleeding skin. And yet she grew, higher and higher, further and further away. She was too far away. Instead he watched from afar. Her hands were clasped in the small of her back, brittle fingers woven together. Intently she stared at the ornate flowers, bowing their heads as she passed. Her white dress and white skin stood in stark contrast to the vivid colours dancing in the air. The pavement she walked, planted by an artist’s hand, forced its way through the garden in a large ring. All the colours of nature danced around the ring. Except one. Red. Too wonderful a colour to be allowed to mingle with others, it occupied the heart of the ring. There it sat, adorned.
To read the full story pick up a copy of the Aesthetica Creative Writing Annual here.
Entries for the Aesthetica Creative Writing Award close 31 August 2014. For more information and to submit visit www.aestheticamagazine.com/creativewriting.
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1. Sarah Tod, The Time Has Passed. Aesthetica Art Prize Photographic & Digital Art Longlist. Courtesy of the artist and Aesthetica.