You're old and wise before your years; you know that, right? This story is amazing in every way, and my only concern is that the ending is simply too depressing, too dark, too final. As the author, you leave us with nothing of value, as if one recounted some tale from the Holocaust and then abandoned readers like corpses in an open grave.
This makes for a strong and unforgettable story, but I'm not sure the nightmare ends when your words do. What you've done is write an effective horror story instead of a sad "slice of life" recollection. Without a drop of blood or gore, you play your audience like a musical instrument that bellows with discordant tones and then finishes us off with a stick of dynamite.
To repeat, this works very well as a horror tale, but I'm not so sure that this makes the most of the story's true potential. I think it's an award-winning piece, but whether in the horror genre or as a tale of suspense and tragedy is the real question here.
The remedy, for me, (though you don't really need one) is to let Melissa live in the end. She might easily consider that suicide lets her off the hook too easily. She deserves to suffer in her own mind. Maybe in her mind, that's a more fitting punishment for her unforgivable deed.
But at least it gives her something, and gives the reader something to cling to. Some possible salvation down the road. Maybe she'll meet someone, fall in love, have another child. Who knows? Let the reader decide her fate. Instead of you, the author, being her judge, jury, and executioner all in one.
This needs some work, but not much. All things considered. I've given a few examples below. Know this, however, my friend: this is one great story and you've done a marvelous job with it. The reader is taken in, like a lamb to the slaughter, and halfway down, you start to slowly cut with your knife and never let up. On the contrary, you continue to cut deeper, relentlessly, without mercy, and in the end, abandon us bleeding on the highway as if we were just another traffic casualty.
Here then are some miscellaneous notes that indicate how a more thorough editing job would start to deconstruct your writing:
I like the obsessive compulsive OCD temperament of Melissa. We don't know why, exactly, but the text reads the same way, frantic, frenetic, breathless, barely in control, on the verge of a breakdown, some kind of active depressive, incoherent behavior.
I also have a protocol for dressing up in the following order: first socks, then underwear and the rest of the clothing. I can't close this paragraph without citing that every pair of socks or shoes must be worn first by the right foot.
In the paragraph above, the word "paragraph" is out of place. Is she writing a note or telling us a story? Change it however you wish, otherwise. Something like: I can never finish getting dressed without first slipping into every pair of socks and shoes on my right foot.
Be careful of overly long sentences.
Sometimes, I get unknown calls. Being a young secretary, in her twenties and dealing with different men every day has its perks: some men are also young, poised and good-looking, probably rich, but I'd never be interested because a part of me is shut to feeling anything towards anyone from the opposite sex.
In the paragraph above, you risk conveying the wrong meaning, which is that Melissa may be a lesbian. Something more like: ...but I'd never be interested because a part of me can never again love anyone of the opposite sex.
This leaves us with a mystery, but without giving anything away. And without steering us in one direction or another.
The room is pleasantly bathed in the soft yellow morning light and the ironwood-colored secretary is being showered by tiny specks of clothes fiber and dust.
Be careful of words with double meanings. In the paragraph above, you mean a secretary desk, a piece of furniture, but we stumble for a second because we're not sure at first. Whenever there's the slightest chance for misinterpretation, always clarify.
The eyes are piercing, even though they look just like mine.
The sentence above is too vague in meaning. It doesn't hurt to take the time to explain what you mean. And still not give too much away.
"How am I to say this..." He looks away and lays his eyes on, apparently, a white plant vase, placed on the corner of the office. I remain quiet, nothing occurs to me. "I have an odd request. It's not related to your work here as a secretary, but I don't know to whom I should address this."
Important: in the paragraph above, you make this same mistake on a frequent basis. Look at the same thing copied below:
"How am I to say this..." He looks away and lays his eyes on, apparently, a white plant vase, placed on the corner of the office.
I remain quiet, nothing occurs to me.
"I have an odd request. It's not related to your work here as a secretary, but I don't know to whom I should address this."
See the differences? The paragraph breaks are important and keeps the reader aware of who is speaking and who isn't.
"Don't you feel like having kids?" Her question pops out of the blue. I'm left unarmed.
In the sentence above, change the flow so that we have some nice variations. See the same sentence below: (and note again, the important paragraph breaks)
"Don't you feel like having kids?"
Angelina's question pops out of the blue. I'm left unarmed. Or,
Angelina's question pops out of the blue and leaves me unarmed.
I think Melissa's first name comes too late in the story? Have her boss call her by name.
Worth repeating: clearly delineate and identify who's speaking. It's better to be overly redundant that to leave a reader wondering who said what.
The moment I was dreading has come. I walk with a full bottle to baby Grace and her cry lowers to a murmur. I have to take her in my arms to feed her. Once again, I find myself holding old memories on the other side of my conscience. Hold it, it's almost over. The boss is almost there. He has to. I involve her tiny body with my nervous but firm hands and lay her in my lap in the angle that favors her to swallow better. Not long ago, I was doing this, every day. I rock her up and down in my arms, next to my breasts that had already fed a child. I child I neglected.
I copied the above because it is the most critical paragraph in the story. This means it needs to be the most well written part of the story. This one paragraph might take ten rewrites before it's right. It's close as it is, but could be better. I would leave off the last sentence, also. We don't need to know that yet. Just a thought.
Well done, my friend. One of the best pieces of its kind I have ever read. Seriously.
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