Over the summer, we teamed up with author Kamichi Jackson (K My Name is Kendra) for a fiction writing contest. To recap right quick, these were the details: Writers had to pick one of the sentence starters below to be their short story’s opening line, and use it to create your own original piece. Turns out, most writers loved sentence number two!
Check out the winning story below — you can also catch it in our fall issue (shipping between mid-September and mid-October). Then, head here and here for the two runners’ up.
The Search for Goddessa Brown
By Alana Jackson, 17
His piercing green eyes stared at her menacingly from under his tattered baseball cap. His shoes thundered on the pavement. Goddessa pulled her denim jacket tighter around her petite shoulders and walked a little faster.
The frightening man hastened his steps as well.
Goddessa reached into her pocket frantically for her cellphone. She had forgotten to charge it before she left work. She watched the brightly lit screen fade into darkness. Since she couldn’t take a digital picture, she decided to take a mental one.
I did too.
The man was tall, looked as if he was in his mid-30s with olive green eyes. He wore an old, dusty grey jacket with a ketchup stain on its left pocket and a tattered grey baseball cap to match. He had stubble on his face, but not enough to be considered a full beard. His shoes, heavy work boots, not only aided his unnerving stature, but also defined it.
It was late, almost midnight. Goddessa was walking home from her job at the Juke. She normally walked home with me, but I hung back to close up shop a little later that night. The man had been watching her for hours, every day for a week. I wanted to see what he was about. Little did I know, my persistent curiosity led to the disappearance of my good friend and coworker, Goddessa Brown.
Jamie took a deep, shuddering breath as he fought off tears. He felt as if he owed this testimony to Goddessa. He felt it was his fault she went missing. He wiped the perspiration off his forehead and the tears that failed to fall from his eyes. Jamie opened his mouth to continue, when he was interrupted by a reporter.
“If you saw the man and Goddessa the night she went missing, why didn’t you try to save her or call for help,” the reporter asked.
Jamie had heard the question, but he could only focus on how the reporter pronounced Goddessa’s name. Goddessa was adamant about pronunciation, especially when it came to her name. She always used to say, “It’s GO-ddessa not GODDESS-a, but you can call me Dessi so I don’t have to tell you this 3,000 times a day.” Remembering her sass, intelligence, and wonderful personality brought a smile to Jamie’s face. His happiness was quickly replaced with a sickening sadness, as he realized he may never see her again. He let out a stifling sob, but quickly regained composure. Jamie got himself together, corrected the reporter, and proceeded to answer the question.
“I wasn’t sure what would have happened if I had tried to be the hero,” Jamie said. “I was worried that he would hurt us both or even worse, kill us. I feel awful. I let my own fear and selfishness take away someone who was dear to me.”
Jamie looked around the room and noticed Goddessa’s mother holding a tissue and her sister embracing her grief-stricken mother as her sobs shook the room.
“I’ve tossed and turned about this for many nights. I blame myself endlessly for not trying to stop her abduction, but I am not the only one to blame here,” Jamie continued as he felt his sorrow turn into a slow, bubbling anger. “Why did it take the police a month and a half before they even acknowledged her disappearance? She should have been a priority for you! She’s a 17-year-old girl, long black and violet box braids, and full lips, kind of short, and brown … skin.”
Jamie didn’t dare go further.
The entire room had gone silent. The air had become uneasy. No one said a word due to fear of saying the wrong thing. The only sound you heard was slow, cautious breathing. Jamie had struck a political nerve. He tried to be shocked, but his mind just wouldn’t let him. He had known this from the start, but only now did he finally realize that it was the truth.
Jamie requested a break in the conference to get a breath of fresh air. When he was alone, Jamie quietly crept out of the courthouse. The truth had finally smacked him in the face. “If they don’t think that Goddessa’s life matters, or that it’s important enough to be a priority, I will find her myself,” he thought.
Goddessa was not only a dear friend and coworker to him, but she was also the girl he wanted to attempt to give his heart to. Whenever they had a shift together, it made him excited because he got to see her smile. Goddessa was intelligent. Many of her lunch breaks were spent hunched over a notebook, scribbling away the answers to math equations in the dim lighting of the Juke. Those were the nights she seemed the most beautiful to Jamie. He could vividly remember the way a braid would casually fall across her face when she looked up every time she caught him staring. She was the prime example of beauty and grace in his eyes. Thinking of the nights they had shared at the Juke made him feel more sorrow than determination, so he stopped thinking about it and swore to himself that if he ever found her, he would finally tell her how he felt.
Jamie began his journey to search for Goddessa. He retraced his steps from that night, replaying every detail in his mind. Jamie searched for hours. Those hours soon turned into weeks. It would have been helpful if the guy who abducted her had still been alive. When the police apprehended him, he was busy following another victim. He resisted arrest, and pulled a gun on the cops. Long story short, the man formerly known as John Faust, AKA The Casper Kidnapper, was shot and died on his way to the hospital.
Frustrated, Jamie sat on a broken concrete block in the middle of an alley. He still had no leads on where Goddessa was. He rubbed his hands through his hair. It was hopeless. Jamie sighed. He decided it was time to give up. There was no possible way she could still be alive now.
Hot tears welled up in his eyes, and he looked down at the ground to avoid them streaming down his face. Jamie blinked a couple times, and when his vision finally cleared, he noticed some patches of fabric on the ground — denim. Goddessa was wearing a denim jacket the night she went missing. Jamie also noticed a couple of stray braids and a light blue acrylic nail beside some of the fabric patches. They formed a minuscule trail on the ground that Jamie followed until he came to a piece of plywood covering an opening. He wasn’t 100 percent sure, but he decided to take a look inside, anyway.
He kicked the wood. It didn’t budge. He kicked it three more times and it finally gave way enough for him to push it off completely with his hands. Jamie felt triumph flooding his insides and hoped for the best, but he also knew he had to be careful. Slowly, he pushed away the remains of the splintered plywood and peered inside…
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