Posted by: Michelle Knoll | June 11, 2017

The Deadline

She held the pages in her hands, and winced, willing the tears not to fall. This was not how it was supposed to end. She had more things to write in this story,

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but there was no time.

 

“Take it. Just take it. I can’t do anything more with it.”

“Are you sure?” His compassionate voice almost tore her apart. No, dang it, she wasn’t sure! But she knew this was what she had to do.

“Yes. Yes, I’m sure.” Thrusting the pages toward him, she turned her head. She hated crying in front of him, always hated that. Even though she knew he wouldn’t ridicule her for that, she still felt stupid for it.

Releasing the pages into his hands, she finally let the tears come. Convulsing with sobs, she wrapped her arms around her body. Finishing stories is always hard. Walking away from a story always made her think, what if she could have done parts of it better? What if she’d forgotten to say something that was really important? But this story, this one particular story, was so hard to let go of.1684148

Why couldn’t she stop all these stupid tears? She squeezed her eyes shut and sniffed abruptly. It was stupid to cry. She’d done her best, hadn’t she? She’d written what she thought she was supposed to write, poured heart and soul into every single word. Or so she thought. So why now, at the end of the writing, did she feel like she’d done a horrible job? She felt like such a failure. All the stupid mistakes along the way. All the missteps, all the bungles. She’d tried to correct all the errors in her thinking that translated into errors in the writing, but she just wasn’t sure she’d completed the corrections.

And now, here it lay, the manuscript she wasn’t all too proud of, a mangled mess of plodding forward and backtracking and, and, oh, she didn’t even know what to call it!

Huffing loudly, she turned back at the man who was watching her, fists tight, eyes glaring. “Just take it and do with it what you want! I wash my hands of the whole mess!”

So why was he staring open-mouthed at her? Didn’t he get it? It was over! She was done! Finished!

“I’m sure it’s not as bad as you think it is. Really! I bet it turns out a lot better than you think.”

“Well, I guess it’s up to you now, isn’t it? It’s your baby now. Do with it as you please.”

She felt her face contort into ugliness. Dear God, why couldn’t he just say okay and walk away? And leave her in the depths of her despair? That’s what she wanted. She just wanted to be alone, to mourn over all the lost opportunities to make the story better.

This one had been so hard. The protagonist had fought her every step of the way. She cursed inwardly at the thought of this character – oh, what a character! – and how she’d tried to direct its path. But no, this character wanted nothing to do with direction. She’d point her protagonist in one direction, and invariably this character would chart its own path, make its own decisions, end up in some dead-end, and she’d have to figure a way out for it. Seriously! Some days she felt like screaming and throwing the whole thing in the trash!

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But she couldn’t. She loved this character and all of its flaws and mistakes and bungles and stupid excuses. She loved this character with all her heart. And that’s why it hurt so much. It was the one story she’d hoped to write with excellence. It was the one story that she’d give her life for.

But every writer has a deadline. And hers had come.

He reached out to her, but she waved his hand away1681782. She really didn’t want his pity right now.

“Just go. Take it. It’s yours now.” The finality of those words hit her soul like a death knell. She hung her head as more tears fell.

“Look, I’m sure it’s not as bad as you think. I can make something of this. I know I can!”

Her sardonic laughter filled the room as she stared at him. “Sure you can! Why not! After all, you are the master writer!” The minute those words escaped her mouth, though, she wished they hadn’t. Boy, that was a totally stupid thing to say! Because he was the master writer!

“I’m sure you didn’t really mean that.”

His eyes bore a hole through her soul. Oh boy, she’d done a horrible job with the writing, and now she was fouling up this meeting. Way to go, dummy! Boy, she really knew how to screw things up!

“I, I, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that.” Pressing her hands hard against her face, she sighed. “Dear me, I really didn’t mean to react like that. I’m sorry.” Looking up, she melted. There was that compassion again, all over his face.

“Apology accepted,” he said, a smile curling up from the corners of his mouth. He reached toward her again, and this time she didn’t refuse. She knew what was coming. In two steps he would be near her, arms wrapped around her, showering her with the comfort she desperately wanted, but was too upset to receive.

He was there. The tears came in full force now. Her face buried into his chest, the cries rose from deep within her soul. He never flinched, though she wailed and shouted and pushed against him.

“I tried! I tried so hard to make it a good story! I put everything I had into this! But every time I turned around, it went the wrong way! I feel like such a screw up! I couldn’t get it to come together the way it needed to! I’m a horrible writer!”

On and on she went, condemning herself for every single typo, every single grammar mistake, every single punctuation out of place, every plot failure, every scene poorly written, every everything. He held. He waited. She didn’t know why, but he remained right where he was, until she was completely washed of emotion and strength. And in the silence that ensued, she heard his low voice just above her head.

“It’s okay. You did your best. I’ll take it, and work with it. All is not lost.”

Sniffing, she relented. “Okay.”

“Will you trust me with it?”

Motionless in his embrace, she gritted her teeth. Did he have to ask that one particular question? For crying out loud!

But that was the rub, wasn’t it? She was so afraid it would turn in to a dismal failure, this writing she’d done. So afraid that it would totally flop, and become something of a proverb. So embarrassed at all her failures with it, and so frustrated that she didn’t have any more time with it.

“Well?”

Had she not given it everything she had? Didn’t she do her best? That was really the rub, then. She wanted to believe she had done her best with this assignment, with this writing, but in reality she just wasn’t sure. The constant nagging fears of it not being good at all had haunted her day and night.

“You’re not answering me.”

She had to face facts, right? She had to admit, she wasn’t all that great of a writer, not at all. And here was the proof: writing that she wasn’t proud of, now in the hands of the one who would evaluate all her writing. Oh, why wouldn’t the ground just open up and swallow her? That would be helpful, right about now.

“Did you even hear my question?”

Yes, dang it! She heard the question! The only problem was, she really didn’t know how to answer it. To the one person she should be able to trust most with her writing, she didn’t know what to say. Here was the moment of truth: was she going to trust the master writer with the work she’d done, with the assignment he’d given her? Was she going to place it in his hands, and walk away, and believe for the best? Or was she going to just die inside, and lose all hope, and just give up? Which way was she going to go?

Hang it all, this felt like stepping off a cliff without a hang glider. And she wasn’t all that fond of cliffs.

Well, all right. Fine then. She would give in. It was over anyway.

“Sure. Sure, I’ll trust you with it. Fine. Whatever.”

He pulled back and looked her straight in the face. “You sure?”

“Why not? It’s the deadline, right? I really don’t have a say in the matter any more, do I?”

It was all she could give, at this point. Please don’t ask for more, her eyes pleaded.

The look on his face said it all. “I’ll take that as a ‘yes’.”

“Okay then.”

“Okay.”

There was no more to say, and she felt like such a failure right now, she didn’t want to talk any more. He had the writing, he had her… word… that she would trust him to make something out of it. Turning away, she felt like dying. Or maybe part of her was dead already. Time’s up. End of the line.

Chuckling wryly, she mused: that’s why it’s called a deadline, right?

 

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