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Last lines: Becca is fired, and has a temper tantrum, knocking things over and starting a fire that Lily puts out, but the building is evacuated. The security guards escorting Becca get separated from her, but she is caught by a cop and arrested.


Lily, standing at the edge of the group, met Becca’s gaze. For once, Becca could read the expression on Lily’s face—disapproval and concern. Then Lily looked down, and lifted her cell phone to her ear, her frown fading as she listened.

The police officer pushed Becca’s head down as she got into the back of the police car, and slammed the door shut behind her. Out the window, Becca saw Lily standing in profile, smiling as she cradled the phone against her ear.

What’s she have to smile about? Doesn’t she care that my life is over?

(The End.)

*   *   *   *   *   *

“Lily Wasn’t There” is a short story I can’t quite get right. I’m hoping the feedback from WeWriWa will help.

Becca’s life hasn’t gone how she planned. Stuck in an accounting job she despises, she scrapes by with a paycheck that doesn’t buy her half of what she deserves. She wants to find a man before she’s thirty, get married, and never work another day in her life. While at work, she people-watches, and one particular coworker is often the focus of her attention–Lily. Lily is everything Becca hates–buttoned-up, bland, and overly dedicated to her job–or so Becca thinks.

About Caitlin Stern

I have a MA in English, and have so many fantasy/urban fantasy WIPs it's not even funny. I'm an avid reader of science fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance, biography, fiction, and anything else that catches my interest. I collect books, and bookmarks I find that are visually appealing and useful.

26 responses »

  1. chellecordero says:

    I haven’t liked Becca thinking of her as spoiled and selfish – feeling she is entitled to everything, However Lily’s smile certainly makes me wonder about her. Perhaps there has been some torment going on that we weren’t aware of? I certainly hope there is more to come of the story, perhaps a revelation and metamorphosis? Now you’ve got me wondering.

    • caitlinstern says:

      I didn’t plan any more, though now I’m working on a little epilogue about Becca, and I will put more Lily in my next draft.

      It’s meant to be Lily smiling at the phone conversation–not at Becca’s plight. Because even though Lily ends up an obsession of Becca’s, Becca was never too important to Lily. *She* has a full life outside of work.

  2. Gemma Parkes says:

    I wonder who’s on the other end of the phone? This snippet has certainly thrown up questions about Lily’s seemingly innocent behaviour!

  3. Frank Fisher says:

    You’ve turned what seemed like another day in the office into a full-blown mess – well done! I think Lily isn’t as innocent as she seems and feel bad for Becca.

    • caitlinstern says:

      Well, Lily isn’t an angel or anything… but she didn’t cause Becca’s temper explosion.

      I feel bad for Becca, too. Her life wasn’t full of love, or even much attention. Still, she didn’t have to almost set the office on fire. :/

  4. Well done. Lily is suspect here after Becca implodes. Is this the end? I hope not.

  5. Millie Burns says:

    Hmm, I have a whole different take on this…first she’s looking at her with disappointment and concern. Then, she’s on the phone and I’m guessing she’s heard something good about her family. That’s why she’s smiling. Becca is still Becca lost in her own little pity party and with no clue that life does not revolve around her.

    • caitlinstern says:

      That is *exactly* what I meant was happening!

      When I saw all the comments suspecting plotting on Lily’s part, I was quite surprised. The whole point of the story is that “Lily Wasn’t There”–Becca forms an opinion and gets angry when she turns out to be wrong, but for Lily… Becca just isn’t that important.

  6. I’m with Millie all the way. I take it that Lily had some concern for her semi-deranged, unpleasant co-worker , as one would, but then she moved on to something in her own life. End of story. So there was no arc for Becca? She starts and ends at the same place, well other than being fired and in a police car, so I guess things are worse…. The writing was excellent throughout all the excerpts but I never found myself engaged with Miss Becca. If this was meant to be Hitchcockian, with Becca really being the heroine and Lily really being the villain, I’m sorry I missed that due to only having excerpts!

    • caitlinstern says:

      I envisioned the change coming after the story ends for Becca, but I never wrote it, because I was trying to make the story about Lily–by showing little hints of her life.

      The consensus I’m getting is that I had far too few hints, though. Not sure if adding some more in will ‘fix’ the story–it may have been too experimental, after all. But it was fun to write–practice counts for something, right? 🙂

  7. Carrie-Anne says:

    I’m left curious as to why Lily is smiling and who’s on the phone. Though I’m not entirely sure if this is really a proper sense of closure or resolution, other than Becca getting punished for what she’s done.

    • caitlinstern says:

      Definitely going to write a few short paragraphs of epilogue, but I don’t really have any more to this story.

      Millie hit the phone conversation on the head, by the way.

  8. Doesn’t feel like the end of the story.

    • caitlinstern says:

      Hmm, yeah… Only that’s how I always meant to end it–starts with Becca thinking about Lily, and ends that way.

      Becca still doesn’t get Lily, but the reader is meant to. I can see I have some work on that last part, too.

      This is what I get for writing odd narration challenges down, I guess. 😉

  9. Sarah W says:

    I like the idea of Becca assuming she was important to “beige, little Lily,” and having that clearly be wrong by the end of the story.

    This may not be coming through as strongly as it could, though . . . maybe if it actually dawns on Becca that Lily doesn’t really care at all?

    I could see Becca trying to get Lily’s attention and Lily holding up a dismissive hand because she’s on the phone. . ?

    • caitlinstern says:

      That was what I was going for–Becca realizing, at least, that she doesn’t matter to one person as much as she thinks she does.

      But I can’t see Becca trying to get Lily’s attention. As much as Becca secretly craves it–with Lily as a big sister/mother surrogate–she isn’t at a point where she can admit she wants approval and friendship.

      But maybe I can make it work. I’ll think on it, thanks for the suggestion!

  10. Kate Warren says:

    I agree with Sue Ann, it feels unfinished somehow. Lacking resolution. Of course if that is the intent than bravo! Sometimes leaving the reader wondering is a stroke of absolute genius.

  11. S.J. Maylee says:

    Very, very curious. I want to know so much more about Becca and Lily. I think you’ve got us all well and hooked. 🙂

  12. See now I totally got the idea that the phone call Lily go was from her husband (thinking of the park scene) and that was why she was smiling. And Becca just doesn’t get it. She doesn’t get that shes not the center of the universe. I also think that aside from Becca being jealous she looked at Lily as a nothing. I think in the end it may be dawning on her that Lily may feel pity for her, but that’s about it. Becca is a nothing to her. Just my interpretation. 🙂
    The Murders of Polly Frisch

    • caitlinstern says:

      Yeah, that’s exactly what I meant for people to get!

      Clearly, trying to describe a protagonist through an unreliable narrator that dislikes and misunderstands them was not the best idea I’ve had.

      Ah, well. If you try and fail, you still tried. 🙂

  13. Technically why should anyone care about Becca’s life as she doesn’t seem to care about it herself?
    Really nice ending. I like how nothing Becca does or think is going to affect Lily. Becca is just a victim of her own mind. 🙂

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