Here is my 700 word story for the Write Tribe contest incorporating the following 7 words in random order :
Ben ran down the dark street, the brace on his leg making his leg clump as it always did. At least he didn’t have to worry about being punched tonight. His father was so drunk that his aim was off but his yelling was right on target. Of course there was always tomorrow morning when he would wake up with a wild hangover and then Ben would get it.
“Why did you have to be born?” his father had yelled at him, trying to start a fight. “You’ve been nothing but trouble your whole life. No wonder your mother left us.”
Occasionally Ben received a postcard from his mother at the high school. She sent mail there so Ben’s dad wouldn’t find out and never included her return address. Why had she never asked him to come live with her? He was sure it was because her boyfriend Joe didn’t want him there.
Ben opened the door to the Laundromat and collapsed on a bench.
“Well, hi,” a girl said, folding clothes into a tidy pile. “You go to my school, don’t you?”
Ben looked at the girl. He recognized her but didn’t know her name. He never knew what to say to a girl, especially one as attractive as this one with her pale skin and long red hair hanging in heavy curls down her back.
“Yeh, I do,” Ben finally answered.
At eighteen, he hadn’t had much experience with girls and was convinced that they didn’t like him because of his leg.
“A bit late for long distance running, isn’t it?” the girl joked as she put a coin into the drier and added a load of clothes.
“Do I look like an athlete?” Ben answered bitterly, showing her his brace.
“I was just kidding.” She turned away and kept folding the clothes.”
“I apologize. I’m not myself tonight,” Ben said, shrugging. He buried his head in his coat like a turtle and closed his eyes. The bench moved and he saw the girl sitting next to him, watching closely.
“Didn’t mean to startle you,” she said. “I’m an artist. I like looking at people. Maybe I could draw you sometime. You’re Ben, right?”
“Yeh,” he said, his voice a hoarse whisper. No girl had ever wanted to draw him before. “What’s your name?”
“Allison, but friends call me Allie.”
“What should I call you?”
“Why that depends, are you a friend or a mere acquaintance?” she said laughing.
Ben looked away in awkward silence, his face hot.
“Just trying to lighten things up. You’re so serious,” Allie said.
Ben stared at the faded calendar hanging on the wall, forever stuck on March 2010. He was like that calendar, stuck in time, unable to move forward with his life.
Finally Allie put all her clothes in the laundry basket and reached for her coat.
“I’d better go. I still have homework to do. Take care of yourself, Ben.”
He didn’t realize he’d been sitting there for so long. Reaching out, he touched Allie’s arm.
“Please don’t go yet,” he pleaded. “I feel so alone.”
Allie put down the basket and sat beside him.
“You know what you need?” Allie said.
“What?” Ben said, his throat tightening as he tried to suppress a sob. His father accused him of being a baby whenever he cried.
“This.” Allie gave Ben a big hug.
Ben couldn’t remember the last time anyone had shown him any affection and he started crying.
“Let it out,” Allie said in a soothing voice, patting his back. “It’s good to cry.”
“My father beats me,” Ben said between sobs. “I can’t take it anymore.
“You don’t deserve that,” Allie said with sympathy. “What can I do to help?”
“I need to find another place to stay.”
“I live down the street with my mom. You’re welcome to stay with us,” Allie offered. “My mom knows a counsellor you can see. It’s not your fault, you know.”
“Thanks,” Ben said. Finally he had hope for the future.
Ben ripped the old calendar off the wall, tore it into pieces, and tossed it into the garbage.
It felt good to be taking responsibility for his life at last.