So I entered this short story contest a while back, which I promptly forgot about until a couple of weeks ago.
But anyway, it turns out I made the top 10! Booyah!
Here was my entry:
You, I Could’ve Loved
By Veronica Park
It’s incredible how much perspective a person can gain with time. The follies of youth become valuable learning experiences. Broken hearts will eventually heal into scars you’ll point to later, and proudly say “I survived.” Fond childhood dreams start to seem silly and short-sighted when you hold them up to actual, achievable goals—goals you’ve already managed to achieve, that is.
Real life, no matter how wonderful, is almost never what we expected.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what could’ve been. More in a general, nebulous sense than with any real clarity. What if I’d known then what I know now? That sort of thing.
Above all, what I’ve begun to guess is that I still don’t know anything. Not really. Odds are I’ll never really know anything worth knowing, until it’s too late to matter.
But . . . as I close my eyes and look for you, standing there on that forking road in my almost forgotten past . . . don’t be gross, I said forking, alright? . . . there’s one thing I feel like I might know for sure.
Here it is:
If things had been different, if I hadn’t done the things I did when I did them, or missed the chances I missed, or made the mistakes I made . . . ?
I could’ve loved you. Completely. Without reservation. Forever.
This probably won’t help you to hear it now. In fact, if I break our ten-year silence to tell you these things, it’ll probably sting like a sunuvabitch. I’m happy now, and you seem happy. But what if your happiness doesn’t go quite as deep as you think it does? What if, like me, you sometimes lie awake replaying scenes of our time together, just to realize later that those scenes never actually happened?
What if you still love me?
I can’t help but think that would be a fate more tragic than words. Because it’s one thing to secretly hope and dream, and quite another to look infidelity and emotional chaos in the face. Somehow, I get the feeling it would be a point of no return. For both of us.
Knowing you, you’d just put your heart on the line all over again. You’d tell me the truth, just like you always did. Without worrying about the consequences—without any trace of guile or insecurity. I hated you for that, back then. You were so sure of who you were, of your feelings, even at seventeen. God, you were so evolved, you incredible asshole. Whereas I was just stupid. Stupid, and young. And so afraid.
I wish I could tell you all of this. But I won’t.
This is a letter I’ll never send. It’s a confession I’ll never utter aloud. A seed of a feeling I’ll never let bloom into action. This is my ode to what could’ve been.
I’ll bury it deep in the past, where it belongs. Right next to you.
You, who I could’ve loved.
Here’s the link to the contest page/bio.
Fellow writers, check it out! They do like 3-4 of these contests a year, and IMO it’s great practice.