October 2018. I am participating in Inktober (an online drawing challenge). To go with the drawings, I am attempting to complete a 200 word Flash Fiction Challenge. The plan was to post a drawing for each day. The images here show that I fell behind schedule… I would like to revisit this idea later.

The inspiration will come from the heroine’s backstory, information that the author knows but the reader of White Rose of Promise only captures glimpses of. There are no spoilers here.

Day 1: poisonous

Day 1 drawing

The door slammed. Maria Evangelina collapsed onto the single bed. The room was tiny, the curtains drawn. Her past life was over, and even the solo flight from Melbourne to Sydney was fading from memory. Zietta Maria’s poisonous words had found fertile ground. The teenager cried herself to sleep. 

Too soon it was morning. That door opened again. “It’s time to go to Mass. Nonna is waiting.” Maria Evangelina obeyed. Now she sat in the Cathedral, overwhelmed by doubt and fear. The weight of her sin was heavy on her soul. 

The priest approached. Her aunt broke the silence with the younger Maria’s shameful story. The devastated teenager looked away. Morning light streamed through a stained-glass window. The brightness shone directly in her face. She gasped in astonishment. It was as if she had stepped from this trouble into God’s presence. Her heart fluttered in her chest. God knew it all, and she still lived. 

Father Finnegan placed his hand on her head. Did he know what had happened? He smiled. He asked her to receive God’s forgiveness in return for her promise to be obedient. The teenager nodded. Hope blossomed and the darkness fled. So began her new life.

Day 2: tranquil

Day 2 drawing

Ria tossed and turned, unable to sleep. The room was stuffy and the window would not open. Her heart longed for home. 

Papa had been silent about when the fifteen-year-old could come home. Her aunt said her exile was forever. Ria was beginning to believe her.

Yesterday, an invitation came for her older relatives to attend the wedding of her sister – Sofia, her best friend. Ria was not included. Sofia was marrying Nicholas. Maria’s pain intensified. She begged God for forgiveness and wept silently. Hatred was a sin. 

Nonna and Zietta Maria would not be going – Melbourne was too far for Nonna to travel.

When sleep came, dreams transported her to her childhood. She was at the beach with her sister beside her. The world was bathed in silver, the moonlight glistening on the water. A gentle breeze brought her relief. They lay down on the soft grass. 

“It is tranquil here,” Sofia said, using this new word she had learned at school. 

“God must be here,” Ria replied. “He’s whispering in the wind. The priest says God takes care of His own.” 

Ria came awake. The breeze still lingered. Surely, God had remembered her.

Day 3: roasted

Day 3 drawing

“Where’s Ria?” Father Finnegan asked. 
“In the kitchen. She’s washing up.” 
“Why isn’t she eating with us?” 
“Her aunt said she’s fasting today.”
“She’s always fasting,” another teenager said, looking up from a plate piled high with roasted meat and potatoes. She’s weird.” 
Father Finnegan found the girl scrubbing a pot in the kitchen sink.

Tears were streaming silently down her face. She jumped when he spoke her name.
 “Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.” 
What crime could she have committed? It had been two hours since her last confession and she had only been here in the kitchen peeling potatoes.

Ria reached into her pocket to reveal a half-eaten crust of dry bread.  

The priest looked at her more closely. He hadn’t noticed how thin she had become. How could he have missed this when her aunt brought her daily to Mass and Confession? He prayed for a solution.

“For your penance, I want you to learn this Scripture: Man shall not live by bread alone.”  
“Yes, Father.”
“And you are excused from serving in the kitchen today.”
“Yes, Father.”
“Now take these potatoes, and you are not to leave the table until you have eaten every mouthful.”

Day 4: spell

Day 4 drawing

Ria sat hunched over the computer keyboard. The teacher approached and discovered the girl was using the touch typing software. She was the worst student in her year and showed little signs of improvement. There was a test this afternoon, and her marks would bring down the class average.

The teacher remembered reading the report from Ria’s old school. Those high achievements were not being seen here at St Matthew’s. Ria’s aunt said the girl was lazy, and the school should punish her. The teacher’s annoyance intensified.

“It’s lunchtime. You should be outside. You had time to practise at home.”
“I don’t have a computer,” the girl murmured as she hastened to obey.
The teacher was stunned. The aunt had not offered this valid excuse.

Ria left the room, reappearing in the courtyard. She sat alone, making no effort to socialise with the others. Something had to be done.
Remembering the old adage: Let the punishment fit the crime, the teacher marched to the office.

That afternoon a letter went home with Ria Fontana advising her guardian that she was on detention. Twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, the girl was to report to the computer room.

Day 5: chicken

Day 5: chicken

Maria looked up from her science notebook. Where was her lab partner? Why had she agreed to let that boy work with her when he left her to do all the work?

Of course, she had to concede the research idea had been his. ‘Does temperature variation effect chicken development in the egg?’ That boy had courage and determination, born out of surviving the playground taunts because of his Italian heritage. He had met the teacher’s many objections head-on.

But Maria hadn’t known this project would require twice-daily visits to check the temperature and to turn the eggs. She chewed on her pencil. What would happen to the developing chickens over the weekend?

With a thump, Guiseppe Amorosi threw his bag on the floor beside her. “You’re late!” she grumbled.

He shook his long black hair from his eyes, grinning in triumph. Maria guessed where he had been.
“Guiseppe! I told you to leave my sister alone.”

“Sofia likes me,” he laughed. “My name’s not Guiseppe anymore. Your sister said to call me Gypsy. I got Sofia to use her charm on the Lab Tech. He’s gonna look after our eggs on the weekend. Are you gonna thank me now?”

Day 6: drooling

Day 6: drooling

Ria sat up. The unseen monster that had pursued her in her dream could be hiding in her room. She imagined the devil drooling in the darkness, waiting to consume her. She jumped out of bed and fell to her knees, pleading with God to save her.

Morning came -another day. Her nightmare lingered. Ria joined her classmates in the line for the ferry. The other students were excited about their trip to Taronga Zoo. The teacher explained the purpose of the trip and handed out the worksheets.

Ria dragged herself along. They were supposed to be working in pairs, but she was alone.

A terrible screeching ripped the air. Ria whirled, the monster from her dream had found her! But what was this? Over the wall she saw two tiny black and white creatures tumbling out of a hollow log, biting and scratching, fighting each other. Ria watched in fascination, safe on this side of the enclosure. How could such small animals make such a horrifying din? The noises they made were terrifying, but these bundles of fur were adorable. She looked at the nameplate. Tasmanian Devil. (Sarcophilus harrisii) – Endangered species. Ria laughed. Her fears were defeated.

Day 7: exhausted

Day 7: exhausted

Ria was anxious. If she missed the last bus, it would be a long walk home. Twice a week, she rushed from work to the Business College. She was already weary on arrival, with no time to eat, because she had unfinished homework. Her aunt controlled her salary, and Ria’s allowance barely covered her expenses. She was no closer to purchasing a computer.

But Ria had something new to worry about. Her aunt only permitted her to study if Ria promised her work would not suffer. Today she’d fallen asleep during the lunch break. The teenager hadn’t told anyone in the secretarial pool about the course. The supervisor who found her open textbooks had asked many questions.

As Ria stuffed her books in her bag, the tutor approached.

“Someone from your office phoned today. If you complete this form, I can release information about your progress.”

Ria went pale, too exhausted to think clearly. She prayed for strength.

“Don’t worry,” the tutor continued. “It sounds like there’s a workplace traineeship available. The homework you’re struggling to manage will be replaced by real tasks in your office, making it simpler for you. If you are successful, life will become much easier.”

Day 8: star

Day 8: star

Ria’s first Christmas away from home was miserable. She missed the frantic preparations in her family restaurant. Last year, she had worked in the dining room, and she still treasured the words of praise her father had bestowed on her.

There was nothing for her to look forward to this year. No affection, no presents, not even a letter from home. Zietta Maria had written to the school demanding Ria’s exclusion from all the end-of-year activities. Her aunt judged the teenager unworthy of such entertainments.

It was Christmas Eve. Midnight Mass was in two hours. Ria was sent upstairs to the attic. She returned bearing dusty cardboard boxes. Under Zietta Maria’s stern watch, Ria wrestled the plastic Christmas tree into place. Nonna was lost in the past. Her aunt opened a box of handmade decorations. Nonna’s hand trembled as she selected a treasure. The distant look faded from her eyes.

“This is Rosa’s star,” Nonna whispered.”Remember, Maria.” Then Nonna blinked and looked across the room. A smile spread across the old lady’s face. “You must be Rosa’s daughter. How kind of you to visit.” Ria gasped in surprise as her aunt beckoned her forward, into her forgetful grandmother’s generous embrace.

Day 9: precious

Day 9 drawing

Nonna could no longer go out at night. Ria found it difficult to wait quietly while her grandmother dozed in front of the television. The volume was too loud, and Ria could not concentrate to read.

Finally, Zietta Maria came home from the evening service. Ria waited patiently until her aunt was satisfied there was nothing more for her to do. She was allowed ten minutes to get ready for bed before the light must be turned off.

The teenager lay in the dark. She slipped her hand under her pillow, bringing out the precious coins concealed in a handkerchief. Ria had found them in her bowl of Christmas pudding. Everyone had gone before she sat down to eat after serving in the Parish kitchen. Tomorrow she would buy a torch. Then she could read in bed without angering her aunt.

She experienced a small twinge of guilt at her concealment. She had confessed the temptation to Father Finnegan and tried to give him the coins. Father said she should consider the coins a gift of grace, for herself alone. She should spend them on something useful to serve as a reminder that she was a precious child of God.

Day 10: flowing


The sound of running water woke Ria. Her bedroom was near the kitchen. It had once been the maid’s room. Her forgetful grandmother often mistook her for the servant.

The teenager put her feet on the bare floor. She mustn’t wake her aunt. There was light coming under the door, and something glistened. Ria discovered the floor was wet. In alarm, she opened the door and looked out.

Her Nonna, wearing only a thin nightgown, was dancing in the middle of the flooded kitchen. All the taps were turned on. Waterfalls were flowing across the benches and onto the floor.

“Zietta Maria!” Ria shouted as she splashed her way to the first sink.

Her aunt appeared in the doorway, as Ria frantically lay down towels to halt the tide. Her aunt firmly took Nonna back to her room.

Ria was exhausted. The floor was finally dry, and she was wringing out the last towel. Zietta Maria stood silently in the doorway, watching her.

“I never thought I would hear myself thanking God for your presence. If you hadn’t been here, the downstairs rooms would be ruined.”

Ria bowed her head to hide her tears. Finally, she had done something right.

Day 11: cruel


‘Sticks and stones…’
The old playground rhyme was wrong. ‘Words can never hurt you’ was a lie. Ria knelt in the side chapel, not welcome in the main cathedral where her aunt was talking with the women who came to Mass each morning. Ria had completed all the prescribed prayers and was working through the list of words Zietta Maria had given her to meditate upon.

Father Finnegan would be here soon, and she must be ready to accept her penance for the sins she had committed since yesterday.

“Lazy, greedy, unworthy, ungrateful…” Familiar words – she was trying to change her evil ways. But today something had changed. A boy had offered her his seat on the bus, and she had smiled at him for his kindness. Her aunt had called her a “lustful whore.”

Her aunt’s cruel words were unjustified, but the unspoken words that sprang into her heart had pierced Ria’s soul. Today she would confess from her own list: “self-righteous, self-pity, pride, resentment, hatred, unforgiveness.” These were the words that the Father would hear and address. Father would show her how to take the pain from these words and replace them with God’s forgiveness and love.

Day 12: whale

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2 thoughts on “WRoPwritingChallenge”

  1. I enjoy your writing, you hold my interest and I have trouble putting your book down, Tim Berry just got me hooked and I appreciate you signing the book. I have looked and found your books here and plan to buy them and keep them. Keep writing you are good at it.

    1. Thanks for your encouraging comment, Judy. I am thankful that you enjoyed my book and that you plan to read more. Did you find my newsletter subscription form on the home page?

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