This one was my entry into round one, challenge one for the NYC Midnight 2016 Flash Fiction Challenge in July, 2016. Although it didn’t earn me any points with the judges, I’m sharing it here to keep myself honest and to get all of these stories housed in one place.
My prompts for this were:
Location: A frozen river
Object: A teacup
Synopsis: When her world is turned upside down by a home invasion, five-year old Nina must draw on strength, courage and wits to outsmart the bad men.
Clever Little Monkey
Nina knew she needed help, and soon. But she had run the wrong way when leaving the house, taking the path that led toward the river, not the road. When the bad men had hurt her parents, she hadn’t thought about where she was going. She had just run as fast as her little legs would take her.
It was Saturday evening, and Nina had been throwing a tea party, although Daddy had been drinking coffee. Of course, Nina hadn’t been drinking tea either; she and her dolls drank pretend tea from the yellow plastic teacups she’d received for her fifth birthday. She was just feeling the first pangs of boredom when the doorbell rang.
“Ellen, can you get that?” Daddy had called out to Mommy. “Nina and I are enjoying a spot of tea.” This last bit was said with a wink and a funny accent, making Nina giggle.
Mommy had answered the door, but oh, how Nina wished she hadn’t; two shouting men had pushed their way inside.
Unnoticed by the bad men, Nina ducked behind the sofa. She had to bite her lip so she wouldn’t scream when her parents were knocked down. She clutched the toy teacup as if it was a life preserver.
“GIVE ME YOUR MONEY! NOW!” The big man with the beady eyes pointed a gun at Nina’s parents.
Daddy’s phone lay just out of reach on the floor. Mommy said to call the police only for real emergencies. Nina thought this was a real emergency, so she scrambled for the phone and had just pushed the words “Emergency” and “OK” when the skinny man noticed her.
“Aw, hell, Butch. There’s a little kid here.”
Nina dropped the phone and froze. The big man looked at her and, as his eyes caught Nina’s, he smiled. It wasn’t a nice smile, though. No, Nina decided it wasn’t a nice smile at all.
“RUN, NINA! RUN!”
Mommy’s voice had sounded funny, but those words were all Nina needed to propel her toward the still-open farmhouse door and the desolate wintry landscape beyond.
“Goddammit. She’s a loose end. GO AFTER HER!”
She heard the bad man cursing behind her but darted away, the familiar scenery blurred by her tears.
Out of breath, Nina found herself beside the river where she and Daddy fished in the summer, when the riverbank grew lush and green. Tonight, it was a dismal white and gray. The trees stood stark and naked, the river’s waters frozen, hidden under snow.
Nina’s breath formed puffy clouds, and her tears made her cheeks feel stiff. Her “Frozen” pajama bottoms had ripped at the knee when she had scrambled through the bushes. This left a gaping hole where Elsa’s head had been. Nina had never felt so alone or so frightened. She still gripped her teacup tightly, a small, yellow piece of home.
Maybe he stopped chasing me. Maybe I can go home. Maybe–
Behind her, Nina heard branches snap and the crunch of feet in the snow.
“Little girl… where are you? Your momma’s real worried about you.”
The bad man’s voice snapped Nina back to reality. She looked left and right, unsure of where to turn. Then she spied the oak tree she had climbed last summer, when Daddy had called her his “clever little monkey.” Nina didn’t think; she just acted.
She climbed using knots and branches to pull herself higher. It was difficult to climb while holding the teacup, so Nina put the handle between her teeth. She wasn’t about to let go of it.
She was nearly midway up, where the branches diverged, when her foot slipped. Nina panicked, sure she would tumble to the ground. Her arms burned, but she managed to pull herself up.
Was she high enough so the bad man couldn’t see her? She didn’t know, but she held her breath and waited.
“Come out, little girl. I won’t hurt you.”
He was closer now, but Nina still couldn’t see him.
Maybe he doesn’t want to hurt me.
Nina almost answered. Cold and tired, she just wanted to go home. But, something made her hold her tongue.
Just then, the bad man appeared in the clearing beneath the tree where Nina hid. She sat as still as she could and hoped he couldn’t hear her breathing.
With every fiber of her being, Nina willed the bad man to look in any direction but up.
His eyes scanned the ground, following the tiny footsteps her slippers had left in the snow. Nina knew she was moments from being discovered, and she choked back a sob.
If only there was some way to make him go away.
Then, Nina noticed the teacup still clenched in her fist.
What if… Could it work?
With all of the strength she could muster, Nina threw the cup as hard as she could across the river, where it made a satisfying “plink” as it hit a tree on the other bank.
The bad man jerked his head in the direction she’d thrown the cup and started moving away from Nina’s tree.
“I’ve got you now, you little brat.”
Just then, Nina’s numb fingers lost their grip on the tree branch and the snow-covered ground rushed up to meet her.
Eyes wide with fear and unable to look away, she saw the bad man turn and lunge toward the spot where she now lay.
What happened next was a blur, as two policemen appeared in the clearing.
“FREEZE! GET DOWN! NOW!”
She watched one of the officers handcuff the bad man and pull him roughly to his feet.
Then, Nina heard a voice that was music to her ears.
“Nina? Baby? Are you OK?”
It was only a moment before Nina found herself enveloped in her mother’s warm embrace.
“It’s over now, baby girl. You saved us by calling 911! It’s all over. Let’s go home.”
Nina had never heard a better idea.