"Everybody has a secret world inside of them. All of the people of the world, I mean everybody. No matter how dull and boring they are on the outside, inside them they've all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds. Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands maybe" ~ Neil Gaiman (A Game of You)



Amelie became an adult when she was seven years old. That's also when her daddy died and her mommy stopped being a mom.

The thing she remembered most about the day of the funeral was all the people. There were people to help her into her best church dress. There were people to pull her hair back into a bow and curl the ends into lovely little ringlets. There were people with their arms around her mother. There were people who took her hand in theirs and led her first to the church, then to the cemetery, then back home. There were people coming through the front door of their house bringing casseroles and cookies and pies. And after that day, there were no more people.

She had woken up the next day expecting everything to be normal. But it wasn't. Her mother did not get out of bed. She did not shower. She did not make breakfast. Or lunch. Or dinner.

She took advantage of it, of course. She spent the whole day in her jammies. She watched cartoons until the grown up shows came on, and then she watched videos. She dug through the leftovers from all those people the day before, eating cookies and pie and very little casserole.

Sammy and Delilah didn't fare so well. They were just little, and they really needed their mom. Sammy was stinky before cartoons were up, and he spent most of the day crying at their mother's bedroom door. Delilah fell off the chair while climbing onto the table to reach the food. Amelie felt sorry for her, so she shared her cookies with her to make her feel better.

By nighttime, their mother still had not come out of her room. Amelie opened the door and peeked inside. It was dark. The large mound of her mother's body lay curled in a ball under the covers. Panic suddenly gripped her heart as she thought maybe her mom was dead, too. She tiptoed quietly up to the bed and poked the blanketed lump.


The lump moved and a muffled groan rose from the bed. Amelie sighed her relief.

"Are you getting up, Mom?"

She waited a long time, but her mother didn't answer. She quietly backed out of the room and closed the door again.

She walked into the kitchen and found one of Sammy's bottles in the dishwasher. She filled it with milk and brought it to him. She had him lie down. She found a clean diaper in his bedroom. She took a washcloth from the bathroom and soaked it in the sink. It trailed water as she made her way back to her brother.
"Don't wiggle," she said, but she needn't have worried. He sucked furiously at his bottle and his weary eyelids drooped. His breath came in quivering gasps.

She pulled off his dirty pajama pants and tentatively pulled the diaper away from his body. She washed and washed and washed his little bottom until it was pink and clean. There were sores starting, so she left him for a minute to run to his room for the baby powder. She came back and poured a whole bunch on him. She unfolded the diaper and scrutinized it carefully. She tucked it under his bum and fastened the tapes around his waist. It was a little loose, the first time. If he had gotten up and moved around at all, it would have fallen off. Instead, he let her pick him up and carry him to his crib where she lay him down to sleep.

She helped Delilah go potty and put clean pajamas on her. She tucked her into bed and sang a song to her, one that their mom had sung to her when she was little. She kissed her goodnight.

She brushed her teeth and climbed into her own bed. She was too tired to stay up past her bedtime. She snuggled under the covers and dreamed, for the last time, of chasing butterflies and swinging so high in the sky she was sure she could touch the clouds.


Today's prompt:  A coming of age tale.  To play along, visit Write Anything's [Fiction] Friday.


Anonymous said...

OH MY HEAVENS! This is just the START of a beautiful tale, right? I want to know what happens next. You sucked me in so powerfully I thought it was real. I wanted to cry with the Mom as much as I did the little girl. What a loss and what a powerful telling Shelli. I mean, Oh my gosh! Way to go!

Shelli said...

Karen, every aspiring writer should have you as a friend! Thank you so much, you are way too kind. And you know, that's one thing I love about these writing prompts -- you build up a little vault of awesome ideas that you could turn into a bigger story someday.

Nikki~Down syndrome Storyteller said...

I agree with Karen. Wow.

Shelli said...

Thanks Nikki! =)

Renee said...

Oh, Shelli...this is absolutely amazing. I have tears in my eyes from reading this...some of it touched a nerve for me. I too want to know more...what her to be okay...want her mom to get out of bed!
I was 7 when my dad died and my sister left home. I became the mom ome of the time after that....but taking care of my mother and myself, not other children. This really opened up a place in my heart...You are a FANTASTIC writer! Fiction writing is definitely a gift God has blessed you with.

Shelli said...

Why, Renee, we do know what happened to her -- she grows up to be a wonderful and inspiring woman who has the kindest heart and loves to help others. OK, if I flesh this out, I'll have to lead her on a rocky road to get there, but we're all familiar with that rocky road, aren't we? And thank you so much for your wonderful comments.

John Pender said...

Unfortunately, it seems a lot of first-born are forced to grow up in such a fashion nowadays. Good work.

Anonymous said...

Quite a poignant story, one that I'm sure is repeated far too often in our world. Well told.
Adam B

Walt said...

This was a sad story. I could feel for the mother and her tragic loss but to shut down and leave the children to fend for themselves is heartbreaking.

Well done, thanks for sharing

Shelli said...

Thank you John, Adam, and Walt. I think if I were to take it further, I would focus on her resiliency. Kids are amazing that way.

Laura Rachel Fox said...

A beautiful, sad story. I too would like to see this play out, through heartache and pleasures.

You may want to cut the opening line: "Amelie became an adult when she was seven years old. That's also when her daddy died and her mommy stopped being a mom." Just my opinion, but as a reader I would like to come to this conclusion on my own and your story is so well written that I believe I would have.

Shelli said...

Thank you, Laura -- that's an interesting thought. I do see how I could eliminate the first paragraph and go right into the funeral. I'll mull that if I go further with it. :)

Terry Haferkamp said...

Very touching and heartbreaking. I actually liked the opening line about becoming an adult at seven years old when her father died. You could leave out the part about her mom but I think it needs that opening line about her and the father's death. That is my opinion for what it is worth.

Shelli said...

Thank you, Terry, and your opinion is worth a lot to me! Since Laura's comment, that's the debate I'm having with myself. I'll have to play with it and see which has the most emotional impact.

I so appreciate the feedback!

NewToWritingGirl said...

I really want to cry now – first with Walt’s piece and now this. I can’t work out who I feel for the most, the mum or the girl. Wow. I don’t know if you remember the piece I did weeks ago about the wife dying and the husband not knowing? Well my aim for that was the exact emotion you just produced in me! Great story.

Shelli said...

Thank you, NewToWritingGirl, that was the effect I was going for, torn sympathies. And yes, I remember that story you did -- you definitely did well capturing the emotion of that piece. Like you, I found that focusing on the quotidian details emphasized the loss. Thanks for coming by!

Annie said...

I defiantly have tears in my eyes with this one.. struck a real nerve with me.
beautifully told - loved the childishness of the beginning - but as Amelia grew in strength and responsibility over a few hours - so too the writing strengthened, became more robust... excellent piece
visitors can pop over and see mine here

Claire - Gratitude Connection said...

What a compelling piece, I need to go and hug my kids now.

Shelli said...

Thank you, Annie and Claire, I appreciate that you came by to visit. And yes, Annie, your piece is well worth visiting!

kim said...

Wow!! I think this is the beginning of a new story!! Keep going!!

kim said...

Let me rephrase my last post. I get the spam stuff. 'my cousin sent me to this website. I love it!' Gee, thanks. Oh brother!! LOL!!! I think I'm going to start a new blog post with all these stupid spam messages sent to try to get me to their pathetic site. I can't get any traffic to my site, so I'll send a stupid message to your site, in hopes that you'll come to my site. All I need is few more clicks and I win the prize!!! Gesh. So in honor of you, dear: My cousin recommended this site. I love it!! :))

Shelli said...

Thanks, Kim -- funny story. My family safety monitoring blocks my mom's blog, but let's me go to, no problem. What the??? I like to Tweet some of the funny e-mail spam I get. It's hilarious.