The Secret




This was a creative writing assignment from a couple years back.  We students were told to write a story from three different characters’ point of view:



Part 1-Gina’s story

     Homemade peanut butter rolls fresh out of the oven. Mom’s delicate-for-company-only china cups placed gingerly on a silver tray while the tea pot screams from the stove top.  Now Mom is spraying the tables with lemon Pledge for the second time this week, taking part of dad’s torn-up old t-shirt, and swiping the imaginary dust away.  She runs to place the dust rag in the hamper, along with her red and white apron.  I catch a whiff of her perfume as she rushes past me to check her appearance in the mirror that hangs in the hall.  She smooths her dark hair, then turns to inspect me.

     I am sitting on the floor too mesmerized by the goings-on to even put the heads and arms back on my dolls.  Something is up. Something unusual.  Mom spills the beans without a peep from me, “Now, Gina, I want you to be on your best behavior today.  Mrs. Hopkins and her son are coming over this afternoon for a visit.  Do you hear me?”

     I nod.

     “When David gets here, you play nice, ok? He’s a bit older than you, but I’m sure you’ll get along fine.  Now put this stuff away and scoot along outside.”

     Not many visitors ever venture on to our country patch, and up till now my usual playmates have been of the invisible persuasion.  So having a friend with flesh and bones should fill my 8-year-old heart with joyous anticipation.  But somehow, being ORDERED to play nicely brings out the ornery in me.

     I decide to slip away to my secret place, a sort of cave our mighty Blue Spruce makes as its lower branches fan towards the ground. When I’m there, I feel safe and hidden from the world, though our closest neighbors live at least a mile down the road.  The real danger is the spies, and the giants, and the cowboy outlaws that roam into my neck of the woods, and even, once in a while, an invasion of unfriendly aliens happens to my yard.  They’re all out to get my treasures.  You see, hanging by a twig in my cave are my secret decoder ring, a compass on a string, and a magical locket bearing the golden head of a lion.

     I’m used to protecting my territory, so I’m not really worried about this new threat, this David.

      Now a blue 1964 Chevy comes up the gravel road and stops in front of our little white house.  Mom, graceful as a dove, comes out to greet Mrs. Hopkins. Mrs. Hopkins smiles with red painted lips like the ladies have in the movies.  I am a spy for the Nited States govament, watching it all from beneath the fragrant tree.

     Then I see him, David, with his flat head and square face.  He is taller than me, looks about as tall as the sixth graders at my school who always pick on us littler kids.  I don’t like him already.

     Mom is scanning the huge yard with her hand, shading her eyes from the blazing August sun. She’s looking for me.  My stomach tightens up and I think I might pee myself I’m so scared she’ll call for me.  But she is in a hurry to usher Mrs. Hopkins into the cool house to enjoy their scrumptious peanut butter rolls, so Mom gives up on me for now.  David zooms around the yard with a toy plane.  My toy plane. I just want to sock him!  But I laugh to myself, because wouldn’t he like to know about my secret spot, and he is never, ever going to find it.  I’m prepared to hide away for hours with my rations of stale Crackerjacks and pink canteen filled with water.

     But David just keeps zooming around the yard, hopping over rocks and logs.  He stomps through the creek and stops to pick a few blackberries.  David crams the blackberries in his mouth.  His fat lips are all purple.  Those blackberries really look good. 

     My belly is growling.  It must be time for lunch. Why hasn’t Mom checked on me?  Can it be that Mrs. Hopkins has Mom so involved in conversation that Mom has forgotten all about her little girl? 

     Hours go by.  Days, maybe.  I’m hot, sweaty, and tired- and David has not even made an attempt to find me.  What is wrong with that big lug, anyhow?  I see what the problem is: he just doesn’t know what he’s missing!  I wait for David to zoom close by with the plane, then I jump out from my hiding spot with a loud, “Aha!”

     He looks at me blankly.  “Oh, hi.”  He says in a dull voice.

     “You can’t come in,” I tell him flat out.

     “In where?” he says, scrunching up his stupid face.

     “My secret cave.  It’s all mine, and you are NOT welcome!”

     “Oh, yeah?”  He says, taking a couple steps towards me.  He hunches down to have a look in.  I pretend to try to block his view, but, I mean, how will he know what he’s missing if I don’t let him see?

      Then you know what he says? He says, “What’s so great about that? It’s just a dumb tree!”

     I could clobber him, I tell ya!  Lucky for him, right then Mom calls us up to the house for a bite.


Part 2-David’s story

     So first thing Mom says to me when I get out of bed today is that she’s dragging me along to some meeting she has with some lady out in the boonies.  Get this, they got no kids for me to hang out with except a dumb girl.  It’s gonna be torture.  I asked Mom if I could take my bike, at least, but she said no.  Mom says we are only gonna be there a couple hours, so don’t get my shorts in a bunch. 

     The drive is taking forever and my back is stuck to the seat of the car; I’m sweating like a pig.  Mom has the windows down, but all that does is let the hot air hit me right in the face as we bounce along these dirt roads to nowhere.  I think I ate a bug.  That’s the only cool thing that’s happened to me all day.

     We stop at a gas station and Mom asks me if I gotta go.  I shake my head.  As the attendant fills the tank, Mom puts more of that red goo on her lips, sprays her hair till her curls look plastic coated, then wraps a thin scarf around her head.  What’s all the fuss, I wonder. 

     Mom is hitting every pothole in these bumpy country roads and it’s bringing my breakfast up to the back of my throat.  I think I might puke up the three extra pancakes I scarfed down at breakfast.  Maybe this will be cool thing number two.  For Mom’s sake I’ll make a real effort to bottle it up, but, hey, one more bump, and…just when I can’t take any more, Mom stops the car and says, “We’re here!”

     A real pretty lady comes out of the house to greet us.  She smells nice, kinda like a combination of peanut butter and lemons.  I don’t see the kid anywhere, which is fine by me.

     Mom and the lady go into the house and I scout around for something to do.  There’s a toy plane just laying there in the yard…a plane! Who woulda thought a girl would want to play with something like that? But anyhow, there it is, so I figure I’ll just help myself. 

     I’m on a special mission for the Air Force, taking down enemy bombers.  I’m being chased by alien aircraft, their laser beams coming at me as I weave around oncoming meteors! 

     Where is that kid?  She should see this.  It’s amazing. 

     AHHH! I’ve been hit!  I parachute from my plane as it takes a nose dive into the ocean.  Now I have to learn to survive in the jungle.  I find some strange berries growing by the water and pluck some off in my hand. 

     I sit by the water and watch the plane sink beneath the surface.  It’s too quiet out here in the boonies.  I miss the sounds of cars racing past my window and people rushing here and there.  If I was home right now, Jimmy and Todd and the rest of the gang would be hanging around, maybe playing some stick ball in the parking lot.  But this?

     Where is that kid, anyhow?

     I rescue the plane from its soggy grave and bring it back to life.  Putt, putt, putt, brrrrrrrrrraaaaaaaaaaaaaa, the plane soars again into the clouds, then something jumps out from behind a tree! It nearly scares the pee right out me.  That’s a secret I’ll take to the grave, believe me.  The guys at home would rib me to death.  Especially when they found out it was that snot-nosed little kid who did the scaring.

     I try to remain cool and say real casual-like, “Oh, hi.” 

     Then she says to me, “You can’t come in.” 

     I look around.  Is the kid all there? I wonder to myself.  I figure I’ll just come out with it. “In where?” I say, though I’m sure I’ll regret it.

     Then, get this, she says, “My secret cave.  It’s all mine, and you are NOT welcome!”

     Ok, I’ll play along.  I start to look around. I catch a glimpse of something shiny hanging under the tree.  You mean to tell me this is the big secret place?

     I decide to give it to ‘er straight.  “What’s so great about that? It’s just a dumb tree!”

     I swear the kid looks like she’s about to plow me to the ground.  I plant my feet for the impact.  I mean, I can’t very well run from a girl!  This one ain’t very big, but she looks like she might really do some damage. 

     Then her mom yells for us to come up and get some lunch.  I knew I liked this lady.



Part 3-Deloris’ story

     Since the divorce I’ve taken in laundry, mending, ironing, and even gone out to clean rich women’s houses while Gina’s at school, but I’m still not making enough to make ends meet.  The child support is barely enough to put food on the table.

     Not that it’s Reed’s fault, he’s doing the best he can, especially after that woman…that woman! That dreadful woman…how could she have kept Reed’s son a secret from him all these years? About 12 years now, Reed estimated, so that means the child would have been three when Reed and I married.  If I had been aware of the child back then, perhaps the marriage never would have taken place.  No marriage, no Gina.  Maybe ignorance really is bliss. 

     No sense crying over spilt milk.  This is the hand fate has dealt me; I’ll face it with grace, for Gina’s sake.  I’ll suck up my tears, put on a brave face, and do what has to be done.  Which reminds me, the rolls are ready to take out of the oven.

     The place looks nice, the tea is hot and ready in the china pot my mother-in-law gave Reed and me our first Christmas together.  Oh, that woman! How could she have known about the child and never uttered a sound? 

     Mrs. Hopkins will be coming soon.  Now, where has Gina gotten off to?  Ah, there she is, sitting on the braided rug in the living room, pulling the heads off her dolls.

     “Now, Gina, I want you to be on your best behavior today.  Mrs. Hopkins and her son are coming over this afternoon for a visit.  Do you hear me?”  I tell my daughter.

     Gina nods.

     “When David gets here, you play nice, ok? He’s a bit older than you, but I’m sure you’ll get along fine.  Now put this stuff away and scoot along outside.”

     Mrs. Hopkins pulls up in front of our little country home and shuts off the engine.  With every ounce of class I can muster, I glide outside to greet her and her son.  I try not to stare at the bright red lipstick Mrs. Hopkins has piled on, but it’s hard to look away.  I want to examine every nook and cranny of that orange powdered face.  I want to find out what, if anything, would attract a man to an obvious hussy like Mrs. Hopkins.

     I scan the yard for a sign of my 8-year-old daughter, but to no avail.  I know where she is, hiding again underneath the big tree.  Gina’s been spending a lot of time there alone since Reed packed up his things and left. 

     “Are you sure this is a good idea?”  Mrs. Hopkins says as she follows me into my quaint home and takes a seat.  “The kids don’t even know each other.”

     I lift the teapot and began to pour, first filling Mrs. Hopkins cup, and then my own.  “Well, that’s the whole idea, isn’t it?” I reply.

     “I guess you’re right, but don’t you think we should tell them…”

     “Tell them what?” I snap in spite of my dogged effort to remain poised.  “This is confusing for us big folks, let alone for a little kid.  Let’s just give them a chance to meet.  Then we’ll take it from there.”

     But this is sure to be a failed experiment if Gina doesn’t show.

     Mrs. Hopkins sips at her tea and stares out a picture window at her son running around the big yard alone with a toy plane in his chubby hand. 

     “And, um, just where is…”  Mrs. Hopkins starts.

     “Gina.  Our daughter’s name is Gina,” I answer too quickly.

     “Yes, I see.”

     “She’s hiding under a tree, but I’m sure she’ll get bored and come out eventually.”

     “I see.”


     “No, thank you,” Mrs. Hopkins answers, her voice dripping with honey. 

     A heavy silence falls between us as we turn our gaze towards the outdoors and David, who is now gobbling down a handful of blackberries.    

     I look at my watch, then back out the window.  It’ll be lunchtime soon. At least that’ll be one way to get Gina and David in the same room at the same time.      

     There’s David, taking the toy plane up out of the water.  Running, zooming, flying towards the big Blue Spruce. Suddenly Gina jumps from behind the tree and David stops in his tracks!  The kids are finally face-to-face. It seems as if they’re talking and getting to know each other.  I check the time again.  I hate to call the kids for lunch, but Mrs. Hopkins and I have agreed upon a two hour visit, and time is ticking. 

     I look over at Reed’s former lover and force a smile.  “I think you’re right, Mrs. Hopkins,” I say.  “There is no time like the present to let the kids know they’re brother and sister.  I think we should tell them at lunch.  What a nice surprise for Gina to find out she has a big brother.”


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