Emma Gold

United States

"And from the ashes, a phoenix will rise."

Message to Readers

Please leave feedback if you enjoyed. This was a harder story for me to get right — finding the way to tell it wasn’t easy, but I think this way worked best.

I succeeded if you can feel the hopelessness in my voice, feel the hollowness that I sought to achieve, the emptiness I felt upon hearing those words. Did I? Please tell me.

Thank you.


December 7, 2020

The four of us sat in the car, the steady hum of the engine intertwined with the screeches of traffic. Crimson brake lights punctured the cloak of starless darkness; wails of sirens and horns and blasting music poured from the vehicles around us, an echoing tidal wave of sound ensnaring our car.

We waited at the red light. 

And waited. 

A thunderhead, gray against the black sky, subdued the moon’s gentle glow, and it was then that my mother turned around from the passenger’s seat and said, “We need to talk.” The lights in the car flickered and the shadows lengthened, shrouding her in shadows.

Ominous, those words; my brother, in the back seat beside me, shuddered. I stayed still, staring at my mother, half-blinded by the river of lights that swept by us on either side.

The traffic light flared green and my father, driving, stepped on the gas. The only sound was artificial.

Again, my mother ruptured the deafening silence. “Aunt Layla’s getting a divorce.” I blinked; my brother shifted beside me. “Layla and her son are going to come to stay with us.” No response. My mother, undeterred, powered on. “It’s only for a few months. You’ll enjoy the company.”

A shrill laugh tore from my lips as I stared out the window. “I’m surprised she didn’t leave him earlier.”

In the reflection of the glass, I watched my mother’s face, staring until the image was taken away by the highway and the light and the road outside. She offered a half smile. “At least she’s leaving now.”

I pressed a hand to the window pane beside me, a handprint blooming across the icy glass. “What about Bea?” My cousin not by blood. My aunt’s step-daughter, and the closest I had to a sister. “Is she coming, too?” I knew the answer even before my mother’s eyes grew soft and sad; even before the words slipped from her lips and whispered toward me through the air: “No. Not Bea.”


I remembered three years ago, when I’d been eleven and she only ten. It was night, Christmas Eve, and her family had come to visit. Snip. Snip. Scissors wove through thin, almost transparent paper, filtering the harsh electric light so that it cast a warm glow onto the rug. Coffee filter triangles drifted down, down, down to rest on the rug’s gray tassels. From another room, the warmth of a candle floated through the doorway to fill my bedroom with its quiet cinnamon scent.

We cut paper snowflakes and listened to the voices of the adults downstairs; they rose and fell and echoed throughout the house to compose a haunting music. I shivered and unfolded a snowflake, holding it up just as Bea’s own snowflake crumpled. One too many angles, one too many cuts — a damaged flower folding in on itself.

From where I sat, its odd appearance cast the semblance of a dog, tongue lolling out. A laugh escaped my lips and I turned to Bea. 

“C’mere,” I said, smiling at her. “It looks like a—” But my voice faltered as I saw her face, blue eyes darkened, stormy, her lips twisted into a scowl. She took a pencil from the floor beside her, bent over, and with vicious anger scrawled two words onto her ruined snowflake.

I flinched, taken aback, as she shoved the tattered filter at me, jabbing a finger at the two words she’d written, the lead dark and smeared but still legible. My brow wrinkled as I read them, then my lips parted. I snatched the pencil from her and erased those words, erasing them and erasing them until the paper had peeled beneath the utensil. Then I reversed the pencil and scribbled over the marks that hadn’t faded, scratching them from existence, hiding them from our parents’ eyes — her parents’ eyes — before shredding the paper into fragments so tiny that it was an impossible puzzle to put back together. 

I raised my hand to my lips and blew the paper out across the floor, scattering it, white fireflies dancing through the air before burying themselves in the rug.

It was then that I’d turned to Bea, my words hot and angry and low. I told her that she couldn’t say that, that her parents would be furious if they ever knew — and, with a wave of pain in my voice, that it hurt for her to say that to me. 

She only stared back, blue eyes shining and fierce, and confessed, “Layla and Dad scream it at each other, every weekend when he comes home. What’s the difference if I say it too?” 

My heart had shattered for her.

Just as it was doing now, three years later, when I learned that she was going to be left with a father that never cared.

A lightning surge of red flared in front of the car and I pulled my hand away from the glass, turning to stare out the windshield.

Staring, staring, staring, as a glistening red tear slipped down my cheek. Staring, staring, staring … as my heart fell apart.

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  • Emma Gold

    thank you everybody!

    3 months ago
  • anemoia (#words)

    sorry i'm so late to this... yes you captured the emotion. raw and absolutely painful. hollow and empty, yes.
    also, congrats on the peer review win! you wove constructive criticism w/encouragement very well. made me think harder and consider some developmental edits.

    3 months ago
  • seaomelette

    This was beautifully written, and you really captured the emotion! I'll definitely write you a review :D

    RE: (From my Lost in Translation piece, because I can't seem to comment on my own writing xD) "Mercy" is a fantastic word, but I feel that it explains only part of Kzem. The closest English phrase would probably be "anger management" lol, but even that doesn't come close enough. It's an untranslatable word, yep, and I don't think I'll ever find an English phrase that truly explains it.

    5 months ago
  • sci-Fi

    Hey this is so good! Good luck in the competition!

    5 months ago