* Short story originally written for The Iron Writer Challenge in which no more than 525 words could be used to write a story that included the following elements: silk striped pajamas, an entitled victim, snow drifts, and any part of the lyrics to ‘Lyin’ Eyes’ by The Eagles.

You’ll see pretty soon that I chose ‘I guess every form of refuge has its price’ as well as ‘smile is a thin disguise’.

I know, I know. This is the second short story posted here with this main theme. AND the second story featuring ‘refuge’ in the title. What is up with that?! Frankly… I don’t know. Best not to question the muse I ‘spose.

But I do appreciate you taking the time to read it, of course. And please, please let me know what you think in the comments! 



Bad things have always happened to me. Always.

I’m not entirely sure what I did to the world in order to deserve such terrible treatment from it, but here I am – the victim of one terrible thing after the other. Over and over in a vicious cycle that’s brought us here.

I used to try to look at the positives, try to come up with some lesson I was meant to learn. But there isn’t one. Even if there was, I suppose it’s too late now.

The view from my window is about as bleak as the one inside my room. The seasons have changed and winter is officially here. Snow drifts are stacked high, the wind is blowing cold and furious. I’ve been wanting to go outside for days but today I feel lucky to be practically bedridden.

I pull the warm blanket up closer to my chin as though the view of snow has been enough to send shivers throughout my body. But it’s not the snow. It’s the cancer. And they aren’t shivers, not really.

“Mary. Are you ready?!” My mother shouts up to me, wondering if I’m ready for her to come help me move from the wheelchair to the bed. I don’t bother answering, she’ll come up when she wants to.

Later, after she’s lifted me out of the chair, she begins to help me change my clothes. Out of one pair of pajamas into another. I insist on wearing a particular set of silky, striped pajamas tonight. They’re my favorite and I want to look and feel my best.

My mother doesn’t understand, of course, but she doesn’t question it, knowing it’s easier to let me have my way than to justify an argument.

Before she leaves she kisses my face – both cheeks and then my forehead – the same way she’s always kissed me since I was a little girl.

She’s sweet, my mother. I know it breaks her heart to see me this way. I want to ease her pain, I want to tell her my plan but I can’t find the words. So instead I smile, a thin disguise meant to protect us both.

I’ve been thinking about this night for a long time. I’ve been planning and preparing for it for ages because the sooner I can leave this place the sooner she can start to move on.

I’m confident and ready, I’m sure of my choice, but that doesn’t necessarily make things easier.

Eventually, I reach into the nightstand and pull out the razor I’ve hidden. I hold it tight as I scribble a letter on my notepad, words of love meant to comfort my mother in the morning.

I know this will be hard for her at first. I know it will be hard for everyone. But soon they’ll recover and begin to comfort themselves with clichés. “She’s in a better place,” they’ll say, as if they have any idea.

The cancer will be gone, but so will I. The pain will be gone, but so will I.

I guess every form of refuge has its price.




I thought about including a ‘trigger warning’ at the beginning… I’m not sure what that’s meant to entail exactly, but I know some people might find the topic of suicide a little rough. 

But in that warning, I would have given away the whole point of the story. And when you only have 500 words to grab your audience, giving away the ending seems… well, like a waste of everyone’s time, I guess.

Also, I pretty firmly believe that a fiction story is meant to pull you out of your comfort zone. So there’s that.

Other people might disagree, of course, and I respect that. I’m open to debate and receptive of constructive criticism.



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