Caroline – A Short Story


Here is the beginning of a short story I read. The author started writing it years ago and just dropped it. What do you think? Should they keep writing?

Light gleamed on the still lake despite the early hour. The sun was rising earlier these days, something 14 year old Caroline didn’t mind at all. She loved getting up early, but she was forbidden to get up and go outside before the sun was out. Their neighborhood was just too dangerous for a girl to be up and about alone at that hour.

Wearing her favorite dress, a tattered red sundress, Caroline ran outside of the shack she shared with her abusive alcoholic father and 3 older sisters. Caroline headed toward the small forest that bordered her father’s shack, just beyond the forest there was a calm, beautiful lake. That lake was Caroline’s place. It was the place where she forgot the condition of her life: her father’s frequent beatings, the pittance the family lived on, the work conditions at the factory she worked at. This lake was where Caroline could dream.

Caroline made her way through the forest as she had so many mornings before, she could have gotten to the lake with her eyes closed, the area was so familiar. A deep hole here, a fir tree there, an owl’s nest up there, it was the same as yesterday morning and all the mornings before that. When Caroline arrived at the lake she sat down, and rested her bare feet in the water, the cool water enveloping her feet and sending tingles up her spine. She threw her head back and relaxed, she was determined to enjoy the only peace, the only respite from her difficult life. She watched the turtles sun themselves and the schools of fish circle around her feet.

Caroline had plans for her life, she wanted to finish high school and go to medical school, she wanted to be a doctor. But the poverty of her family had prevented that, she couldn’t even start high school, let alone finish, she was needed at the factory, she had to make money so that they could all eat. Still, Caroline studied, she’d befriended the local librarian and a 15 year old girl Marcia who generously gave Caroline her old school books. She tried to squeeze an hour a day of study in. If her father ever found out, she was in for the beating of her life. Her father would be furious that she was depriving them the $35 she would have made extra if she’d stayed at work that extra hour every night.

Caroline stayed at the lake 15 minutes that day and dreamed of her futures as a doctor, how she would work at the local hospital, one of the best in the US. She was torn between being a pediatrician and being a surgeon. One thing she knew though, when she became a doctor she was going to do pro bono work on weekends at the small clinic near the poor neighborhood in which she currently lived.

At 7:30 Caroline headed back to house, put on her dull, gray uniform and grabbed her shoes. She went to the poor excuse for a kitchen and filled her small cracked bowl with porridge. She ate in silence, then quietly rinsed her bowl and headed out the door. She walked a block and a half before she realized she’d forgotten her shoes. She ran back to the house and slipped them on.

Caroline ran all the way to work that morning, she couldn’t afford to be late, the shift supervisor would dock part of her pay if she was. She ran as fast and as hard as her legs could carry her. As she neared the factory the air became laden with black smoke. Caroline coughed and pushed her legs harder, she had to get out of the suffocating smoke. She grabbed the handle of the factory door and pushed. Now she slowed her gait, she was 5 minutes early, and winded. She made her way up the 4 flights of stairs to the floor she worked on. She opened the door to the large room that normally held 400 women. While the seats would normally be almost full by now, today there was only about 50 women there.

“Where is everyone?” Caroline wondered aloud.

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