Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Free Short Story - Azalea's Choice

Below is a short story titled Azalea's Choice. It touches on a very sensitive subject, but the point of it isn't whether it's right or wrong. It's about the tough choices we often have to make in life. This was done for a very specialized theme. Though the publisher liked it a lot, they couldn't move forward with the project, so I'm posting it here for people to read. 

Azalea’s Choice

“Do you see anyone?” Azalea said.
Azalea’s sister, Evelien, peeked through the blinds. A soda can fell to the floor as she bent over to get a better look, the trailer’s kitchen sink and counter filled with garbage and debris. “No.”
Azalea moved to the opposite side of the trailer and sat next to her husband on the couch.
Hugo rested a hand on her leg. “Everything will be fine.”
Azalea took little comfort from those words, continuing to stare at her sister instead. Every time she looked at Evelien, she felt as if she were gazing into a mirror. Though a few years apart in age, the two could pass for twins. Dark hair flowed halfway down her back, and Evelien’s brown eyes complemented her bronzed skin tone.
“How are you feeling?” Evelien asked, backing away from the window.
Azalea swallowed. “Okay.”
She wasn’t, though. Azalea’s heart fluttered. Sweat beaded on her forehead, and her breaths were quick and shallow.
“You should drink some water,” Evelien said.
She opened a cupboard above the sink, the door nearly coming off one of the hinges. Evelien found a glass and held it under the faucet. Azalea watched as a murky liquid filled the glass. Evelien glanced at her with a concerned face, then dumped the water down the drain.
“We have some bottled water in the back,” Hugo said. “I can get it.”
“No,” Evelien said. “I’ll get it.”
Trash littered the floor, nearly causing Evelien to slip. She disappeared into the back bedroom, and Hugo squeezed Azalea’s leg.
“We shouldn’t have to live like this,” she whispered to him. 
“I know. I promise it won’t be like this forever.”
Azalea had heard those words before. She wanted so much to believe it, but her faith had dwindled in recent weeks. It’s why she was forced to make the hardest decision of her life.
“Do you hate me?” she asked.
“Why would you say such a thing?” Hugo wrapped his arms around her.
“I know how much you want a child. I do, too … eventually … but no child of ours should have to be raised like this.”
Hugo pulled her close. “It’s our decision. You don’t have to justify it.”
A tear descended Azalea’s face, and she quickly wiped it away as Evelien appeared.
“Here, sweetheart,” she said, handing Azalea the bottle.
Azalea forced a weak smile. “Thank you. Shouldn’t Dom be back by now?” she said after a long pause.
Like everyone else in the compound, Evelien’s husband Domenec had to work in order to live there. One edge of the facility, which divided Mexico and Texas, was fenced off, while a huge wall had been erected on the other side of the complex. It kept people from entering what eventually became known as “Free America.”
 Those who lived in the compound were only allowed beyond the wall on two occasions: a medical emergency or employment. However, only a select few were permitted to work in Free America, Dom being one of them. He’d passed the rigorous screening process all citizens were subject to prior to receiving their job assignment. The government found him to be a low flight risk and granted him this special privilege.
“Don’t worry,” Evelien said. “He’ll be here.”
“I’m sorry,” Azalea said.
“For what?” Evelien stared at her.
She found it hard to maintain eye contact with her sister. “For putting you and Dom in danger.”
Evelien knelt down in front of her. “You’re my baby sister, and Dom loves you like his own blood. You know we’d do anything for you and Hugo.”
Azalea bobbed her head. “I know, but we could be deported if we go through with this. Maybe even jailed.”
Evelien kissed Azalea on the head. “Whatever happens, we do it together. Okay?”
Azalea nodded again, a sense of pride and contentment rising up inside of her. A knock came, two knocks to be precise, startling Azalea and forcing Evelien to turn.
“That should be him,” Evelien said. “He said he’d knock twice.” She stood and put an eye to the blinds just to make sure.
“Dom?” Azalea whispered.
Evelien nodded and opened the door. Dom stepped inside wearing jeans and a flannel shirt, quickly closing the door behind him. Tall with parted black hair and a smooth face, Dom always looked and acted in a very professional manner. It’s probably why he was allowed to work outside the wall. He carried himself much differently than most men Azalea knew, including her husband.
“Sorry I took so long,” he said. “The drone patrol is pretty heavy this time of the day, so I didn’t want to look suspicious or attract too much attention.”
“I’m just glad you’re here,” Evelien said, hugging Dom. “Please tell us you have good news.”
Dom broke away from Evelien and walked over to the couch.
“We gave you everything we had,” Hugo said. “Was it enough?”
Dom took a clip of money from his pocket, offering it to Azalea.
“He didn’t take it?” Azalea said with alarm.
“He didn’t want it,” Dom said.
Evelien sidled up to him. “What does that mean?”
“It means he’s going to report us.” Azalea had no intention of hiding the fear in her voice. “They’re probably coming for us now.”
Dom shook his head. “No. I don’t think so.”
Azalea didn’t understand. “How can you say that?”
“Doctor Lawson is an outsider, but he’s someone I trust. He’s sympathetic to our situation.”
“Then why—”
“He didn’t take the money,” Dom said, interrupting Azalea, “because he doesn’t need it. He said you need it more.”
“But he’ll still help us out?” Hugo asked.
Dom’s demeanor didn’t change. “Yes.”
Azalea stood up and hugged him. She wasn’t happy by any means, but the news brought a sense of relief. “You’re taking a big risk, Dom. Thank you.”
Hugo and Evelien joined in, the four of them embracing one another. When they separated, Dom spoke again.
“You’ll go in tomorrow morning. We’ll say you’re experiencing abdominal pains and that you’re in your first trimester. Dr. Lawson will handle the procedure. He’ll report it as a life-saving measure under the circumstances.”
“Thank you, brother.” Hugo extended his hand and Dom grasped it.
“We’re not out of the woods yet,” Dom said. “We have to play this right, but I’m cautiously optimistic.”
“Thank you, baby.” Evelien kissed Dom on the lips.
Hugo gave Azalea a peck on the cheek, and she rested her head on his chest. The painful reality of terminating her unborn child in a few hours’ time threatened to eat away at her from the inside out. Azalea would no longer have this life inside of her, the life she and Hugo made together. It brought fresh tears, but imagining the pain and suffering their child would undoubtedly suffer in such a cruel world outweighed the alternative. Maybe in time she would learn to live with herself again.
And that’s when it came…
      Another knock at the door. 


  1. Wow! Interesting, Kevin. Why couldn't your publisher move forward with the project?

    1. I'm not sure, Susan. No reason was given. Maybe a lack of submissions ... or the topic being a little too sensitive to market to readers. I have no clue.