Thursday 26 July 2012

RFW - Challenge No. 41 - Three Things you could have done better

Welcome to Romantic Friday Writers Challenge No. 41 for Friday 27th July 2012. RFWers is a fortnightly challenge that is founded by and hosted by and Donna Hole. Challenge No. 41 is the theme, 'Three Things You Could Have Done Better'. 

Before we look at my text for challenge No 41, which is a continuation of my triangle drama about Paul, Jenny and Priscilla, you may want to read the whole story from the beginning. I have made a few small revisions. I have changed some details, such as reducing the seven years to only four years, to make the story work better:

Paul was waiting for his first wife, Jenny, to be declared legally dead. He could hardly wait to propose marriage to his new girl friend, Priscilla, a younger associate with whom he had been dating for three months. Paul's first wife went missing four years ago after her ship wrecked in a storm. There were lifeboats and survivors, but she was never found. Paul had asked his legal adviser about speeding things up. He did not want to wait seven years.
Paul invited Priscilla out to dinner at the new French restaurant, Victor Hugo. They had just finished their Lobster Thermidor, and were about to order dessert.
‘I'd like to have the Bavarian cream. What would you like, my love?’ inquired Paul as he returned the menu to the waiter.
‘Oh, that sounds good. I'll have that too,’ replied Priscilla, beaming with pride and expectation. This was no ordinary dinner. 
While they waited for their Bavarois au Chocolat, Paul dug into his jacket pocket and pull out a small gift-wrapped package and put on the table.
‘Oh, what have we here?’ asked Priscilla, lighting up like fire-fly.
‘A little present for you,’ said Paul smiling slyly as he slowly pushed the package on the white linen tablecloth over to Priscilla, ‘Please open it!’
Priscilla tore away the wrapping paper and found a small box. Inside was a beautiful emerald and gold ring with a hand-written note: Will you marry me?
‘Oh, Paul, you remembered my favourite colour! The answer is yes!’ replied Priscilla, in time before the waiter came with their desserts.
Paul smiled and was about to say something about their future together when the Bavarian cream arrived. Paul ordered coffee and surveyed all the well-dressed men and women sitting at white linen-covered tables, celebrating something, just as they were. It was then that Paul saw a woman who looked familiar. She was standing by the entrance, speaking with the head waiter.
‘What is it, Paul? Don't you feel well? You look as if you've seen a ghost.’
‘No, I'm fine. Couldn't be better!’ lied Paul as he was trying to think about what this meant. The woman he saw was Jenny, his first wife. He could see her clearly. Had she seen him? 
Paul paid the waiter and rose from the table, ‘Would you like to wait here while I get our wraps?’

 ‘No, dear, I'd like to use the ladies.’ I'll meet you at the door.’

As Paul approached the coat-check, a thin blond woman touched his sleeve.

‘Jenny! Is it you?’ whispered Paul.

‘Yes, Paul. Take this and call me. We need to talk,’ murmured Jenny as she shoved a note into Paul's hand. Paul unfolded the small paper as he saw Jenny march toward the exit.

‘Well, what happened last night?’ inquired Charlotte, Priscilla's roommate, ‘Did he propose?’

‘Yes!’ said Priscilla quietly showing her left hand with the emerald engagement ring.

‘So pretty! When's the wedding?’

‘I don't know yet. We didn't talk that much. He just drove me home and that was that.’

‘Maybe he was just tired.’

‘Yes, suppose so,’ replied Priscilla unconvinced.


There was a telephone number on the scrap of paper that Jenny had given Paul. He dialled and waited.

‘Hello Jenny, it's Paul.’

‘Thank you for calling. I have so much I would like to talk to you about. Would you be willing to meet me somewhere to talk?’

 ‘Yes. Where shall we meet?’

Jenny gave Paul directions to The Silver Spoon, a middling restaurant on the other side of town. Paul wasted no time. Is the magic still there? he thought as he took Jenny's hand and walked toward the entrance. 
‘Are you hungry, Jenny? I’ve already had dinner, but I can drink a cup of coffee while you eat something.’

Paul and Jenny sat down and placed their orders. Looking straight into Jenny’s face, Paul asked, ‘What happened? Why didn't you let me know?’
‘I couldn't. We were going to take the boat, which was why our names were on the passenger list, but we changed our minds at the last moment. Tom had got this idea to take an air-trip instead. Well, to make a long story short, we got off course and crashed on a tiny island. Tom was badly injured and we lost radio contact. I did what I could to help him, but Tom died a week after the crash. After that, I was alone.'

‘When did you get off the island?’

‘About a month ago. When I was found by the fishing boat, the embassy was notified and I was sent to hospital, where we started making inquiries as to who could help me.’

‘If I had only known. We all thought that you were dead.’

‘How are the children?’

‘Sarah was only two when you disappeared; Colin was four. My brother and sister-in-law have really been helpful with Sarah and Colin. They can't have any children of their own, so they want to adopt them.’
‘Please say that it has not yet been done.’
‘No, not yet. I have yet to get a final death certificate.’

‘So I am presumed dead?’

‘Surely, we can get this misunderstanding cleared when I show up alive?’

‘Yes, of course. I’ll get my legal adviser to help you.’
‘Do you still have any of my things, my clothes, books and such?’

‘There are still a few things left, that I could not part with, but I am afraid that we have already had an auction and sold most things.’

‘I see.’

‘To be fair and honest, I must tell you that I have been seeing someone.’

‘Oh? Is it serious?’

‘Well, I had thought that I might remarry. Four years is a long time.’
‘Yes it is. Try spending it alone on a deserted island. After Tom died, I only had one thought to sustain me: to stay alive, be rescued and reunited with you, Colin and Sarah. What do you think, Paul? Is it too late for us? I still love you, or at least, I still love the Paul I knew.’

‘I want to help you any way I can, Jenny. But I think the best thing would be for us to not be married again.’

Jenny put her hand to her mouth and tears rolled down her cheeks, ‘Four years. Think about it! Four wasted years. Please don’t throw the rest of my life away. Let's not decide today.  Let me see the children first at least.’

‘I’m engaged to be married. I gave her a ring. I need to speak with her. Your return  changes everything. I don’t know what to say.’
‘Do you still love me, Paul?’

‘Yes, Jenny, I do. I have grieved for you. I have wished and prayed for your return. But now that you are here, I am confused, bewildered and worried.’
‘Aren’t you glad to see me?’
‘Yes, Jenny, I am happy. Very, very happy that you are alive,’ said Paul and could say no more as tears flooded his eyes.

My text for Challenge No. 41, 'Three Things You Could Have Done Better' is in the form of a fictitious newspaper article: 

A Mrs Robinson Crusoe rescued after four years 

Jenny Holland, 32-year old journalist, is the sole survivor of a crash-landing on the tiny, isolated island of Derasepsy in the South Pacific. The pilot, Richard Smith, perished upon impact and Mrs Holland’s colleague, the well-known photographer Tom Norton, died of severe injuries one week after the crash.  

Miraculously, Mrs Holland survived the emergency landing unscathed and waited nearly four years alone before being rescued by fishermen. Mrs Holland has stated that after the initial shock of the crash, the grief of losing her two friends, and the physical strain of building a Robinson Crusoe-like existence, that it was loneliness and fear that were hardest to bear.

‘I was constantly afraid of hurting myself or becoming ill by eating the wrong plant or fish. I wanted to be rescued, but not by criminals who would have murdered me. I kept thinking that I must survive to see my children and husband again. That kept me going.’

‘There are, however, three things that I could have done better: 

First of all, a mother of two small children, age two and four, has no business doing dangerous work. I should never have accepted the assignment.

Secondly, if you are taking a risky voyage, you should have a ditch-kit with you. I had no tools with me, not even a pocket knife. It was thanks to Mr Smith’s toolbox that I had the means to survive as well as I did. I could make a shelter and kitchen utensils. I took whatever I could use. I used the airplane's stainless steel teapot to boil drinking-water. 

The third thing that I regret is not taking paper and pencil with me.  A paper page written in pencil can get wet and still retain its legibility. The battery to my laptop ran out. I had no paper or other writing equipment.’

In spite of this hinder, Mrs Holland has received several offers from publishers to write about her time as a female ‘Robinson Crusoe’.

‘Yes, of course, I can still write a book about my experience on the island, but it will be difficult to pinpoint exactly when things happened. I know when we crashed and when I was rescued, but the timeline between is not so clear.'

'What is more important than the book is getting back to being a mother to my children.’

[Text Copyright 2012 Christina Wigren]

Word count for 'Three Things You Could Have Done Better' is according to WordCalc: 400; FCA; Full Critique Acceptable

Best wishes, 

The characters and events in this text are fictitious; any resemblance to persons, living or dead, places, events or firms, is purely coincidental.

I have rewritten this text, but the revision will not be available for reading until the next challenge 'I need a change'. I will include all of the earlier excerpts (with revisions) of this story, before posting the 400-word text for the challenge for 'I need a change'.


First Commenter:
Denise Covey 
L'Aussie Writer

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