Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1604908-Autumnal-Awakening
by Nicola
Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Drama · #1604908
A writer faces her past to develop her future
The brisk autumn breeze wound its way through the tree branches and blew the dying leaves to their graveyard below. As the eight year old girl walked the city sidewalk on her way home from school, she looked around at the blanket of red and orange coating the landscape. There was a certain serenity to fall’s murderous tendencies, a beautiful gateway to the grim grey days that lay ahead.

Wrapping her scarf tighter around her neck to block the chilly air, the young girl was suddenly struck by a feeling of concern and woe. What if these leaves became cold lying on the ground? After all, there was no one to look after them, no one to take care of them. Surveying the hundreds of fallen leaves, she knew she would be unable to save them all, but at least she could rescue some. Picking up a few handfuls, the little girl stuffed the leaves into her coat pocket, determined to bring them home and keep them warm. This was her good deed for the day, her way of helping in the world.

When the girl arrived home, proud of her philanthropic endeavor, she pulled the leaves from her coat pocket and explained to her mother how she had rescued these poor living things from the harsh cold of the outside world. Her mother, having no time for such nonsense, immediately took the dirty pile of leaves and threw them in the garbage.

“But, mamma, I want to keep them inside so that they’ll be warm. They’ll shiver and freeze in the outside air. Please let me keep them.”

“Stop being silly. They’re just leaves. Now, out. Off to your room and do your homework. I need to finish preparing dinner.”

Defeated, the little girl walked somberly to her room, emotionally shattered by the afternoon’s events. Thinking of the leaves that now lay in the bin, she curled up on her bed and felt a couple of tears smoothly roll down her face.

How the simplest of life’s events can crush a child’s spirit and scar an adult’s mind.


Fall had crept into town early this year, cloaking the countryside in frosty mornings and bleak afternoons. Pressing the lock button on her remote and hearing the happy beep of her Volkswagen Jetta, Jasmine began to walk towards her local Barnes & Noble, whose sign shone like a beacon of hope.

As she listened to the crunching of the decaying autumn leaves with each new step, the memory of her childhood leaf gathering again claimed its place in her thoughts. Much had changed in the 32 years since the incident -- boyfriends come and gone; the arrival and departure of many a beloved pet; high school, college, corporate America, financial independence -- but one thing remained constant. Each year, fall’s arrival had launched the disheartening memory, and this year proved to be no different. Although the event brought tears to her as a child, the memory now conjured a peculiar uneasiness laced with a ribbon of sadness. Jasmine had long ago decided that the tangle of emotions resulted from trying to reconcile her childhood naivete with her adulthood cynicism. Regardless of the rationale, though, and the psychoanalysis, the memory always swooped into her mind on the wings of autumn’s arrival. Neither weaker nor stronger, but simply present.

Bending down, she grabbed a few of the canary yellow leaves, and after taking a moment to enjoy their vibrant hues, said quietly to herself, “If the ghosts of the past are going to come haunting anyway, I may as well welcome them with open arms.” And with that, she placed the leaves in her coat pocket and continued her walk.

Upon entering the store, Jasmine delighted in the aroma of fresh coffee, the sounds of Ella Fitzgerald, and the flurry of fellow book lovers that immediately bombarded her senses. While her first novel had been quite successful, her second novel was languishing in convoluted plot points and hollow characters, and she desperately needed to resuscitate her literary spirit. Here, amongst the many rows of books, which felt as welcoming as old friends, she would rouse her creative mind.

Having spent an hour winding her way through the book shelves and perusing a novel or two, Jasmine descended the escalator and walked over to the cafe. The rich smell of coffee had stalked her around the store in an enveloping stream, luring her like a beckoning finger. It was now time to indulge. Plus, time to celebrate, for already inspiration was rising within her and banishing the trouble cousins, stress and worry, who had been suffocating her imagination.

Jasmine took the closest available seat, placed her cafe au lait in the upper left section of the small round table, and withdrew from her bag her large notebook and red pen. Now the ideas were flowing, so fast at times that they bumped into each other and nearly ricocheted into oblivion, lost in a flutter. Jasmine tried her best to capture the barrage of thoughts, feebly organizing as she scribbled: plot, character development, backstory…. The frenzied outpouring proved a great release, like a swollen river of ideas breaking through a formidable dam of writer’s block. Her plan had worked, and her novel had been rescued. Well, almost. She would still need to weave all of these new details into the story when she returned home, but for now, this writer felt pleased with the afternoon’s accomplishments and took a satisfied sip of her coffee as she leaned back in her chair.

By the time she returned home, Jasmine possessed the fervor that seizes a writer’s soul and doesn’t release until page after page teems with inspired words and creative bliss. A gentle rain had started its tap dance upon the window as she prepared a cup of tea; its soothing sound producing a serene atmosphere. She always loved when she could write to the sound of rain. There was something inspiring about it.

Sitting on the couch with her laptop and her chubby black and white cat, Oreo, Jasmine began to sort through the many fragments and outlines scribbled in her notebook, adding here and there to her struggling novel. After an hour of dedicated writing and editing, she realized that one of her breakthrough ideas was not included amongst the others.

As she had started her car to leave the bookstore, she had suddenly realized how the creepy neighbor should best be introduced to the estranged older woman in the Victorian mansion. Knowing that the concept would be erased from her mind by the time she arrived home, Jasmine had jotted down the idea and stuffed the paper in her coat pocket.

She quickly arose from the couch, hating to interrupt her stream of creativity, and walked over to the closet to grab her coat. As she reached into the pocket to extract the golden key to her characters’ meeting, though, she felt something else and removed her hand clutching the strange contents. Jasmine looked upon the bright yellow leaves that she had gathered earlier and exhaled loudly.

“Oh, damn it,” she said with a defeated tone, slowly leaning back against the wall. “I had forgotten about the leaves.”

As if noticing the curtain beginning to fall, her newfound inspiration suddenly took a bow, moved off-stage left, and watched the house lights slowly rise in brightness. Jasmine’s evening performance had just been canceled.


Streaks of sunlight forced their way through the partially closed blinds as the ringing phone shattered the peaceful silence. Startled, Jasmine reached over to lift the cordless from its receiver and looked at the caller ID.

“Hello, Aurelia, and why are you calling me so early?”

“It’s 9:30, Jaz. 9:37, actually. Save the spiel about how you’re not to be bothered before 10 a.m., because I’ve heard it plenty of times before, and it’s a moot point now anyway. How’d the electroshock therapy of creativity go last night?”

“It started out well.” Jasmine rubbed her eyes as they tried to adjust to the bright light of morning.

“What do you mean started? Did you go to Barnes & Noble with your notebook and writer’s block and zap yourself back into creation mode?”

“Yeah, I did. A lot of new ideas came to me, including ways to rewrite some of the past drivel that I had allowed to pour upon the page.”

“OK… I’m waiting for the but, Jaz. Something happened. Tell me what it was.”

“You know my childhood memory about the leaves---”

“The one that hits you every autumn. Of course I know.”

“Well, as I was walking towards the book store, amidst the colorful remnants of fall, the memory washed over me yet again, and I decided to pick up a few leaves and place them in my coat pocket. Kind of like welcoming the past into the present. It was fine, really, and I had forgotten all about it until I had to get something from my coat pocket hours later.” Jasmine sighed. “I don’t know. It just killed my momentum.”

“My darling, dearest friend, we’ve known each other for eight years now, and you know I always tell you the truth.”

“Yes, often in the most blunt manner possible.”

“Nevertheless, the truth is the truth, and stop pretending as if you want me to sugarcoat things for you.”

“OK, Aurelia, fair enough. Go ahead. Speak your mind.”

“For whatever reason, this is probably the most vivid and haunting memory you have. It may not be some kind of debilitating trauma, but it’s still lodged in your psyche and clearly needs attention.”

“So, what do you suggest, doctor?”

“I suggest you write through it, morph it into something bigger. Incorporate this memory into a story, maybe in a kid’s story.”

“What the hell do I know about writing kids’ books? I’m a horror and suspense writer. Shall I have the leaves gruesomely murdering a small child?”

“I didn’t say it had to be your greatest masterpiece, and I didn’t say it even had to be published. But why not write something outside your usual world, Jaz? Why not challenge yourself as a writer to try something new, something different, while still expelling your childhood haunts? You often tell me that you can’t find real inspiration, but maybe you’re simply ignoring it, because you’re labeling it as something else.”

“I guess I’ve always looked at certain things as off-limits for my books. Things that felt too personal, you know? Besides, it seems kind of stupid to let something this minor bother me so much.”

“Well, maybe that’s the problem: you keep ignoring it, because you think it’s silly. Maybe it’s time that you stopped holding back and melded your two personalities together: Writer Jasmine meets Personal Jasmine. Put the second novel on hold for a bit and focus on this side story. Just write for the sake of writing and see what happens. You might surprise yourself.”

“OK, Aurelia. I’ll give it a shot.”

“Good. Let me know how you make out. And, Jaz, don’t you dare go back to bed. It’s 10:15.”

Smiling broadly, Jasmine hung up the phone and pondered her friend’s idea. For a few moments, her thoughts ping-ponged between crafting a new story and toiling on her unfinished novel, which remained on life support. Possessing a stubborn streak that would shock a mule, Jasmine’s immediate inclination was to push forward with her second book. The novel remained the priority, the current focus. The novel would pay her bills.

However, she also valued Aurelia’s sage advice, which had correctly guided her many times previously. When the two worked together at a downtown law firm that specialized in intellectual property, Aurelia had proved a valuable fellow attorney to Jasmine on quite a few trademark cases. She had steered Jasmine away from a tumultuous romantic relationship, and even discovered the cozy three-bedroom house that Jasmine and Oreo presently called home. Perhaps most importantly, though, Aurelia had persuaded her best friend to abandon the grueling 75-hour work weeks at the law firm and pursue her long-desired writing career instead.

With her inner lawyer automatically stepping forth to assess the situation, Jasmine began to form her cogent arguments on both sides of the story v. novel dispute. The decision quickly became clear, though, as a single thought floated to the forefront of the debate sparring in Jasmine’s mind: Even if the story drowned in mediocrity, the experiment would most likely prove to be successfully cathartic. And after all, wasn’t the main objective to expel the recurring past from the stifled present and hopefully lead to an inspired future?

Sitting on her bed with a glowing smile, wondering why this epiphany had eluded her for so long, Jasmine heard her cat enter the bedroom with an attention-seeking meow.

“Good morning, Oreo. How’s my precious kitty this morning?” Jasmine arose from the bed and approached her furry companion, who met her remarks with a meow of impatience. “It’s breakfast time, isn’t it? Come on, let’s get you fed. And then I’ve got work to do.”

Throughout her 45-minute run and subsequent shower, Jasmine allowed ideas to mingle and part freely as she attempted to form the personality and life of her new story. Obviously, her childhood memory would need to appear, but how was it to be woven into the plot? Perhaps it was simply a backstory for something grander, or maybe it should be the main focus of the tale. Also, what genre would best capture her memory and allow it to breathe upon the page? Should she remain with the literary styles she befriended years ago, or seek to broaden her abilities by attempting something foreign?

As she sat on the couch with her laptop and her large mug of English Breakfast tea, Jasmine’s mind raced with seemingly incessant questions, each leading her down a different possible path of creativity. She turned to the cat, who lay curled in a ball purring contentedly beside her.

“Well, Oreo, what did Robert Frost teach us? Perhaps it’s time we take our road less traveled.”

While the cat continued to sleep peacefully, oblivious to his owner’s dilemmas, Jasmine began to craft her new story; starting slowly at first and then steadily gaining momentum until her fingers could barely keep pace with her imagination. The mere act of translating her ethereal memory into the written word released a melange of emotions, an overwhelming concoction which razed the anguish of years past.

It was not simply this cathartic purging, though, which swallowed the darkness and disseminated light. Writing her first children’s book, Jasmine felt an obscure sense of liberation and excitement. Typical boundaries were blurred or altogether erased by the imaginary worlds and creatures that children relished. She could make the leaves speak, if she wished, and provide no needed explanation of psychiatric imbalance or indulgence of hallucinogenic drugs. They could speak, or even dance and sing like Fred Astaire, because anything was possible in a children’s story.

Jasmine delighted in this fact as she created her beautiful and touching story of a little girl who longed to offer her help to the dying leaves of autumn. An optimistic tale with an underlying lesson of caring for others, meant to inspire, entertain, and teach. A short story to rekindle a writer’s spirit.


“So, what’s going on, Jaz?”

Jasmine had asked Aurelia to accompany her to Barnes & Noble for a leisurely chat and a delectable cup of coffee. The past two years had shown themselves to be a hectic yet exhilarating period of time, the outcome of which the writer would never have imagined. While the two would often meet for a relaxing afternoon of caffeine-induced book browsing, this get-together was to serve a particular purpose. Selecting a table near the window, Jasmine began to share with her friend her delightful news.

“You know that I’ve spent the last couple of years consumed with Panay’s Leaves and the Mysterious Fall Day -- the editing, pitching, publishing, promoting.”

“Yes, of course. And the dedication paid off, because the critics seem to love it and sales have been good, right?”

“Well, sales are apparently better than good. The book has landed on The New York Times Best Sellers list of children’s books.” Jasmine couldn’t contain her elation in stating this fact, her satisfied grin splashed across her face.

“Oh, my god! Jaz, that’s amazing. I am so incredibly happy for you. See, didn’t I tell you?”

“You did. Once again, Aurelia, following your advice was the smartest thing I could have done.”

“Watch out, I’m going to start charging you a fee for all that great advice, Jaz.”

“I don’t know that I could afford that. I know what your hourly rate is at the firm.”

Sharing a laugh, the two friends began to discuss the newfound future of the successful children’s author, along with a variety of other topics; eroding the casual hours of the Saturday afternoon with a constant current of friendly conversation.

As twilight entered on tiptoes, a strong November breeze rattled the tree branches with a whistling hiss, commanding the attention of the two friends. Jasmine turned to the window and watched for a few moments while the vibrant leaves swirled and spiraled against the darkening sky before floating to the ground.

“Jaz, why so quiet all of a sudden?”

Jasmine looked at her friend and smiled. “Autumn has never looked so stunning.”
© Copyright 2009 Nicola (nicola at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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