This weekend we will be posting the five finalists for the 2018 Voorheesville Short Story Contest! These are stories that made it through the local faculty and staff judging panel, and were sent on to be evaluated by our professional writer panel of judges. This first story, Nicky Summerson’s “The Shooting Star,” reminded our judges thematically of Disney’s The Princess and the Frog, and “has the potential to make a commentary on the expectations created from the “Disney” fairytale narrative and the divide between working and wishing.”
The Shooting Star
Bam! Amara slammed the front door to her mother’s house. She just got home from a twelve-hour shift at the family-owned bodega in Harlem, New York. She was greeted by her mother blasting 90’s music.
“Amara, come say hello to your mother!” she shouted over the loud music.
“Okay mom, I’ll be right there!” Amara grunted.
It was obvious to Amara that her mother had been drinking. The house was permeated by the sickly sweet smell of vodka martinis. Amara then disappointedly shuffled to her room, knowing that her mom would forget about her in her drunken stupor.
Amara’s mom had been an alcoholic ever since Amara’s dad died three years ago in a tragic car accident. It still hurt Amara to remember that not only had she lost her father that day, but also her mother.
Amara then sat down at her small bedroom desk and pulled out her colorful sketchbook and pens. Drawing was Amara’s passion and she made it her duty to draw something every night after work. She even went to college at the Fashion Institute of Technology for fashion design and drawing, but unfortunately she had to drop out when her father died to help her mother run the bodega.
Suddenly she heard banging on her bedroom door and her mother busted her way into Amara’s room.
“Amara, why are you doing that silly drawing stuff again? You know it won’t get you anywhere in life!” Amara’s mom yelled drunkenly.
“Mom why would you even say that?” screamed Amara. “I could be the next Karl Lagerfeld, the next Yves Saint Laurent, or even the next Coco Chanel!” exclaimed Amara.
“Aw little Amara, you know that will never come true! You will be stuck with me running the bodega for the rest of your life!” her mother cackled.
And with that, Amara’s mom excited her room and slammed the door.
At that instant, Amara burst into tears. She felt as though her mom only told her the truth and that her dreams of becoming a famous fashion designer would never come true.
Amara then sadly closed her sketchbook, without having drawn anything, and put it and her pens away. After turning the lights off, she slid into her small stiff twin bed feeling more hopeless than ever.
All of a sudden, Amara felt the urge to open her window and look out onto the skyline of New York City. She and her father used to go up to the roof of their apartment building and watch the cars pass on the streets below and the lights in the buildings twinkle like stars in the sky. Amara then saw something shining in the sky out of the corner of her eye. It was a shooting star streaking across the sky. Amara made a wish for her dreams of becoming a fashion designer and she was filled with hope for the future.
Amara then slid back into her bed and fell asleep, feeling as though her dreams will eventually come true.
Three days passed and Amara felt as though she was stuck in the dream world, still connected to the night she saw the shooting star. Ever since then life had seemed hazy to her, as though time was just passing without any meaning. The third day of experiencing this was just like the other two except this day was Amara’s twenty-second birthday. Despite feeling slightly more enthusiastic about life, Amara was still stuck in a dreamlike daze.
On this day, Amara followed the same routine that she always does, which was wake up, eat breakfast, brush her teeth, and head to the bodega to work. The walk to the bodega was about ten minutes long and it gave her time to reflect on the shooting star and her birthday.
“Wow, I’m twenty-two now.” thought Amara, “I should really be doing something with my life instead of just being stuck working at the bodega. Maybe the shooting star was a sign to start following my dreams of being a fashion designer!” she daydreamed. “Hahaha, no that can’t be. Even my mother doesn’t believe in me.” she disappointingly said to herself.
Amara then entered the bodega. The bodega had a green awning that said “Harlem Grocery”. The windows were plastered with advertisements for local businesses and events. Inside the bodega was crowded with colorful products ranging from hair dye, to tide pods, to fruit loop cereal. The floor was checkered blue and white, giving it an almost vintage feeling. Amara then when behind the checkout counter and unlocked the cash register.
Amara then turned on the neon red and blue “Open” sign on the front window and almost automatically as if it were routine Shonda, and old friend of Amara’s father, entered the store. Ever since Amara’s dad died three years ago, Shonda has shown up to the bodega every morning for breakfast and to talk to Amara.
“Good Morning Shonda!” exclaimed Amara
“Good Morning to you too, my little Amara” Shonda said
“Now Shonda, you know I’m not little anymore. I’m twenty-two years old!”
“Yes Amara, I know. It’s just that I always promised your father that if anything were to happen to him that I would check up on you as if you were my own child. Anyways can I please have a hot black coffee with two sugars in it and a hot dog please?” Shonda asked.
“Of course Shonda.” said Amara.
Amara then began to brew Shonda’s coffee and take the hot dog off the heating rack when Shonda reached deep into her pocket and pulled out a crinkled yellow envelope.
“What’s that?” asked Amara.
“Oh, this? It’s your twenty-second birthday present! When we were going through your father’s belongings after the accident we found this envelope with a note attached ‘For Amara’s 22nd Birthday’. I’ve kept it sealed and safe for you until your twenty-second birthday, which is today!” Shonda explained.
Amara then took the envelope and opened it carefully as if trying not to damage its contents. Amara then pulled out an exquisite 1997 limited edition golden Chanel necklace with a large pearl attached as a pendant.
“Wow!” gasped Amara “It’s marvelous, I’m so happy. Thank you so much for saving this for me Shonda!”
Amara jumped over the counter and gave Shonda a hug. Amara then handed Shonda her coffee and hot dog and Shonda left the bodega. Now that Amara was all alone she thought about how expensive and elegant the necklace was. It shimmered in the pale fluorescent lighting of the bodega. The necklace was a beacon of beauty surrounded by the mundane objects of the bodega.
A thought then came to Amara’s mind, the necklace must be worth about $10,000 between its materials, its rarity, and inflation since 1997. Amara realized that this necklace was the way to jumpstart her dreams of having a career in the fashion world. If she sold the necklace, she would be able to afford a flight to Paris and at least three months rent of a studio apartment.
Amara decided to wait until the end of her shift to start her journey to Paris. At around 6 o’clock, she closed up the bodega, turning off all the lights, locking the cash register and shutting the large metal barrier in front of the store. Next, she walked home and immediately got out her suitcase, carrying it quietly making sure not to let her mom hear her packing. Once she was done, she told her mom that she was off the go to a club with her friends. Amara then headed towards the nearest pawn shop “EZ Pawn”.
She entered the dimly lit pawn shop and was confronted by the smell of cigarettes and dust. She then approached the nearest counter.
“Hi, I’m here to sell a gold necklace.” she said while handing over her golden necklace.
“Oh wow!” gasped the clerk, “This is a rare one! I’ll go to the back to make sure its real and then we’ll have a deal.”
The clerk came back momentarily, holding the necklace as though it was his firstborn child.
“I would like to buy this from you for $11,528.” he said.
“That’s a deal!” Amara chuckled happily.
“Here’s $6,528 in cash and we’ll wire $5,000 to your bank account momentarily” he said while handing over an extremely large briefcase filled with money.
About twenty seconds later Amara got an email notification that $5,000 had been wired to her bank account. She laughed with excitement because now she was finally on her way to fulfilling her dreams.
Amara took a taxi to the airport and bought a one-way plane ticket to Paris from American Airlines. It was an overnight flight so she had to wait for two hours to board the plane.
After waiting patiently for her row and number to be called, she boarded the plane. Her seat number was row 1 seat A. She was thankful that it was a window seat. After about ten minutes an old woman sat next to her and greeted Amara.
“Hello darling, my name is Esmeralda. What’s your’s?”
“My name is Amara, nice to meet you”
Esmeralda was dressed in a long flowing purple dress with brilliant blue beads lining the edges. She had a deep royal blue headwrap on with a pendant attached that hung over her brow like a third eye.
“So darling, what brings you onto this airplane today?”
“I’m going to Paris to fulfill my dreams of becoming a fashion designer.” Amara responded cheerfully.
“Well darling, you have a great future ahead of you, I can just tell! It is important for you to stay true to who you are and your wildest dreams will become reality! Now get a good night sleep, you have a big day tomorrow.”
With those words of encouragement, Amara felt shrouded in a soft loving energy which slowly lulled her to sleep.
That night Amara dreamed of meeting the head fashion designers of Chanel and helping them plan the biggest fashion show that has ever taken place. When she awoke to the rising sun over France, she looked beside her and saw that Esmeralda had disappeared and was replaced by a large old man who was currently snoring.
“That’s odd.” Amara said to herself.
It seemed as though Esmeralda had just disappeared or was possibly just a figment of Amara’s imagination.
Once the plane landed and Amara exited the airport, she found a newspaper and started looking for advertisements for apartments. Using the French she learned in freshman year of college, she was able to find an advertisement “Une Petite Appartement au Grenier a 7eme Arrondissement Pour €873”. It seemed like a great deal except Amara didn’t know what the word “Grenier” meant. She still decided to call the number underneath anyways. She then arranged to go and sign the lease later that day. In the meantime, she converted the $5,000 from the pawn shop into Euros.
Later, Amara made her way to the apartment. Luckily for her, when she arrived, she found out that all French apartments come already furnished and supplied with things like dishes and silverware. Unluckily, Amara also found out the “Grenier” meant attic and her apartment was the smallest unit possible. Despite this, the apartment was beautiful. It had shiny hardwood floors, pretty white walls, a sizable bathroom, and a twin bed. The most breathtaking feature was the view. Through the elegant vintage windows was a view of the Eiffel Tower. Amara felt at home. She then signed the lease and handed over her deposit and the rent.
Amara decided that she should take a walk around the neighborhood just to see what it was like. She strolled down the beautiful streets lined with coffee shops, high-end boutiques, boulangeries, small grocery stores, and the occasional high fashion store. While she was walking, out of the corner of her eye, she spotted a Chanel store. She decided to walk over and look inside. Right when she was about to enter the store, she saw at the bottom of the window a sign that said “Nous Embauchons”, which means “We Are Hiring” in French. Amara had butterflies in her stomach. She realized that this was her chance to start working for a fashion company. She immediately asked for and filled out an application.
Later that week she heard back from the store and found out that she was hired. Amara was very enthusiastic and learned all of the products that the store carried within three days of working. Her favorite section was the perfume section because all the different smells made her feel elegant and rich. The jewelry section was another one of her favorites because the necklaces reminded her of the necklace her father gave to her. She almost had a twinge of remorse for selling it, but she always remembered that without having sold it, she wouldn’t be pursuing her dreams.
Three months of working at the Chanel store passed and in that time Amara had worked extremely hard, so hard that in those three months she was promoted twice, from a general saleswoman, to the head of sales at the store, to assistant manager. She was extremely proud of her title and made sure to do everything according to the rules and procedures of the company. To Amara, one of the best parts about being promoted was that now she had her own office and during lunch breaks, she was able to draw designs, just like she had done back in Harlem.
One day the whole store was cleaned and closed to all regular customers because Madame Dauphine, one of the head fashion designers of the annual Spring Summer Collection, was visiting the store. It was a big occasion and Amara, as assistant manager, made sure that everything was prim and proper.
Right before Madame Dauphine arrived, Amara had been drawing during her lunch break. This time she was drawing a short coral skirt with an iridescent sheen paired with a loose turquoise chiffon blouse. She also added a pair of three-inch heels covered in shiny rhinestones. Right as Amara was finishing her drawing, Madame Dauphine arrived at the store. She was dressed in a sleek back jumpsuit with shiny black crystals sewn onto the fabric. She also wore Chanel logo silver earrings and a large black brimmed hat.
“Welcome to our Chanel store Madame Dauphine.” Amara said cheerfully.
“Thank you darling, now I will be just checking out the store and leaving momentarily.” said Madame Dauphine.
“Okay, if there is anything that you need help with just let me know.” Amara responded.
“Actually yes, could you please direct me toward the ladies room darling?” asked Madame Dauphine.
“Yes of course, down the hallway next to the offices and it’s on your first left.” answered Amara.
Something was seemingly familiar about Madame Dauphine to Amara. Maybe it was her accent or perfume, but Amara couldn’t put her finger on it.
While Amara was contemplating Madame Dauphine’s familiarity she heard a shriek.
“What is this?” Madame Dauphine yelled.
Amara’s stomach dropped, she must have found her drawings. Amara rushed to her office to apologize.
“Madame, I’m so sorry, I-”
“No darling, this is a masterpiece, don’t apologize!” exclaimed Madame Dauphine “This skirt, it’s iridescence is so experimental. The bright turquoise of the blouse is so refreshing and the shimmer of the shoes, it gives the outfit a ‘je ne sais quoi’. It is so beautiful. Anyways, the Spring Summer Collection is coming up and I would love it if you would join me in designing the outfits.”
“Yes, of course! It would be an honor to be part of the Spring Summer Collection!” Amara said.
“Well darling, join me at the Chanel headquarters this Friday and we will start planning”
“Thank you so much for this opportunity! I’ll see you on Friday!” Amara said excitedly.
Madame Dauphine then disappeared into her elegant black Range Rover outside the store and drove away.
For the next two weeks, Amara and Madame Dauphine worked on creating the Spring Summer Collection. All of the pieces in the collection were inspired by Amara’s original idea of bright colors with a layer of iridescence. One piece was a full-length aquamarine silk dress which was detailed with shimmering crystals. Another outfit was a short yellow chiffon romper. Amara’s favorite outfit was a traditional Chanel style pink tweed skirt and jacket, but with pearls sewn into the material to give it a three-dimensional essence.
On the day of the fashion show Amara was nervous but exhilarated. She finally had the opportunity to show her talent to the world. She thought back to when Shonda gave her the necklace. She had come a long way since then and she was so grateful for everyone who helped her along the way.
“Now darling” Madame Dauphine said, interrupting Amara’s reminiscence “Choose your favorite outfit and some accessories, you will be walking the runway today.”
“But Madame, I’m not a model.” Amara said in protest.
“Oh but darling you don’t have to be a model to simply walk the runway. You just need the courage to do so. Besides, it’s a tradition for the designer of the collection to walk the runway last so that everyone can clap if they liked the collection.”
“Alright Madame, I choose the pink tweed jacket and skirt. I also choose a gold pearl necklace to wear along with it.” Amara said confidently.
Amara then sprayed her favorite perfume, Chanel N°5, on her wrists and neck and prepared to walk down the runway.
Finally, it was Amara’s turn to walk down the runway. She stepped her way out onto the pink velvet runway and started walking with a confident and energetic bounce. The instant she stepped on the runway the audience started clapping. Her designs were a success! Amara beamed with happiness.
Once Amara stepped off the runway, she was congratulated by Madame Dauphine with a hug.
“Oh darling, I’m so proud of you. You stayed true to who you are and your dream of becoming a fashion designer came true!” Madame Dauphine said joyously.
“Thank you Madame, you believed in me and I am forever grateful for that.” Amara responded
“Now darling, you don’t have to keep calling me ‘Madame’, just call me Esmeralda” she said.
Amara finally understood why Madame Dauphine seemed so familiar. It wasn’t because of her accent or perfume, but because she had already met her.
“I remember you from the plane, thanks for the advice. It really helped” Amara said gratefully.
“Now I think you should head home and get a good night sleep, you’ve been working very hard the last few weeks” Esmeralda said with an almost enchanting tone.
Amara then walked home to her attic apartment. On her table she noticed a bottle of champagne. There was a note attached that said “Celebrate your success but remember your roots”. It didn’t say who it was from but Amara assumed it was from Esmeralda. She loved giving advice like that.
Amara opened the bottle and poured a glass for herself. Remembering the advice on the bottle, she poured a glass for her father and Shonda for allowing her dream to come true. She then glided over to her window and looked out at the Eiffel Tower shining brilliantly. She also noticed the beautify moon and stars in the sky. It reminded her of her father. Suddenly a shooting star streaked across the sky and out of the corner of her eye, she saw something faintly shimmering near her pillow. She walked over to her bed and picked up her pillow, almost miraculously, she discovered the 1997 Chanel gold necklace.
Amara then whispered, “Dreams really do come true, thank you.”