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Dream Quest One First Writing Prize Winner
Summer 2006
Sarah Fisher
of Duluth, Georgia - USA
In the Eyes of the Beholder

        Chelsea couldn’t believe her luck. That is bad luck. All her life she just plainly seemed unlucky. People always had kept assuring her that things would get better, but she could hear the doubt in their voices. She really couldn’t blame them though for these expectations as she had always been so unfortunately unlucky. Chelsea thought this awful fortune had been born with her. It was apart of her, without it she simply would be a completely different person. She first realized her misfortune at the early age of two. Her father, who had been quite the heavy drinker, had never been the type to say much good. He could always surely be found with a cigarette sticking out of his loud mouth, as he shouted between grunts. It had been well predicted that her father would leave their dysfunctional family; it was just a matter of time. That fateful day finally came on Chelsea’s 2nd birthday. Everything had seemed normal; Chelsea was celebrating her birthday with her mom, as her father was out at the local bar. To make a long story short, the day ended with Chelsea’s birthday cake smashed brutally against the wall nearly missing her mom. Till this day she had never spoken or seen her father, who was no more than a stranger to her.

        In Chelsea’s later teen years the worst thing imaginable happened to the poor soul. Her mother had just fallen terribly sick. Chelsea took this news hard at heart. Her mother had always been there for her and now there was a chance she would lose her. This possibility became a reality when doctors informed her dreadful news. One of the physicians took her hand and looked straight into her green-blue eyes. The sympathetic doctor had shaken her head with caring tears and embraced the still child. Their silence was enough. Everyone knew the time had come. Growing up had defiantly made her a strong person yet at this moment she felt so weak and to say the least vulnerable. Her mother had been her security blanket and now she felt empty except for the bad luck that mocked her.


        “Why, why me?” was the single thought that went through her head. Here she was stuck in a place she knew nothing about, except this town would be her new home. She took in a deep breath and sighed as she was in the middle of nowhere. She held tight on to her tote bag, as though she was afraid to lose it too. It was one of the last possessions she had left of her mother.

        “Have a nice day!” shouted the bus driver with his greasy hair and shabby beard. Before she could even respond he slammed shut the bus doors, almost as if to insure there would be no way to escape this new misfortune. She stepped away from the bus as it released a cloud of smoke that of course stained her clothes. She let the dust settled into their clothes as she had worst things to worry about. The wind seemed to be harassing her, as it demanded to blow her hair this way and that. She began to shiver and before long her face became a glowing pink. All she could do was laugh, but laughing soon lead to tears of misery. The tears rolled down her face, along with her eye make-up in a mess that covered her sunburned cheeks. She brushed back her dark hair and gave her face a good wipe. She could just imagine how pathetic she must look. She pulled her small sack-bag over her shoulder and took a thorough look around.

        There didn’t seem to be much to look at, except a small, southern diner just outside of the town. She crossed the dirt road, kicking up dust here and there. She walked up to the side of the diner and through homemade door. Chiming bells rang as the door banged behind her. She picked out a rolling stool located at the bar table. She settled her bag in the closet seat next to her.


“So what will it be?” questioned the waiter in a welcoming voice.

“Umm, I’ll just have a soda,” Chelsea responded.

“That’s all? How about our famous chilly fries? You’re guaranteed to love them.”
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“Okay, I’ll take that too. Do you have a restroom?”

        “Oh yes, once you pass the license plates on the wall, take a left, then past the collection of antique clocks and there you are,” the waiter said with a smile. Chelsea grabbed her bag and thanked the man. She glanced at all the license plates, amazed at how there were plates from all over the country, even one from Alaska. The clocks were a sight to see as neither two seemed similar at all. One even had the hands of the clock rotating the other way. She knocked on the bathroom door, but not a sound was returned. Gently the door opened with a long creaky noise. She laid down her sack on the sink surface and kept staring into the mirror at what was supposed to be her reflection. How did the once resilient girl turn into a weak susceptible being? Maybe she had always been that way, but always covered some side to her. She turned on the cold knob and then the hot one, till the water was warm to her satisfaction. Her hands splashed water all over her face, stripping away her weathered down face. She polished her face with a smooth powder, and a little bit of eye shadow. Next, she cleaned up her shoes and dressed in new sweater and jeans. Lastly, she brushed her hair into a fit ponytail. Now, she thought, she was better suited to meet her relatives. She quickly gathered her belongings and left the bathroom.

        When she came back to the bar she was received with a delicious dish of fries over flown with chili and hot cheese. To the side was a large soda with a white straw with red, stripe designs spiraling down. She picked up her drink and took a large, refreshing sip. And then she gulped down chilly fries, realizing how hungry she really had been. For a moment all her worries were forgotten, as she was in her own little world of good food.


“Excuse me. Is any seating here?” a stranger in a long over coat asked, as he motioned towards her bag.

“Huh? Oh no, nobody is seating here. Go ahead.” she returned with her answer.

“Hi, I’m Jake Robertem,” he mentioned as he sat next to her.

“Oh, I’m Chelsea Sander,” she explained with an extended hand. Her greeting was returned with a firm grip.

“So are you going to order something?” the waiter interrupted.

“Oh yes, I’ll have what she’s having,” Jake ordered. The waiter tore the order off with yet another smile. “So what brings you here?” Jake inquired with curiosity.

“Well, I guess you could say my bad luck.” Chelsea implied gloomy.

“Bad luck? Are you superstitious or something?” he questioned.

“It’s kind of complicated, but if you were me, you would start believing.” Chelsea further explained, “But anyway what’s your story?”

“Me, well I’ve lived here all my life, always known the same people, its kind of refreshing seeing a new face.”

Chelsea responded with a huge smile. Jack suddenly realized how beautiful she really was. “You know,” Jack mentioned, “You really should smile more. It really brightens up your face. Perhaps smiling could bring you luck.”

When had been the last time she smiled. Before her mother had----?

“Are you okay Chelsea?”

“Yeah, just thinking.”

Jack turned to the waiter,” I’ll have those fries to go. This should cover it,” he directed as he pulled out a crisp $10, “I’m paying for hers too.” The waiter nodded his head and packed the delicious meal.

“You really don’t have to do that,” Chelsea stated. “It’s no problem, don’t worry about it. Where are you heading?” “I need to find Henry Starlet’s place, my uncle.”

“Oh you’re Mr. Starlet’s niece. I can show you where he lives.” “That would be great, as I have no clue where it is.”
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         Jack nodded in agreement and the two of them stood up and headed to door. As Jack held the door for both of them, the icy cold wind hit them with a sudden rush. It was as if the wind was upset at the new incomer.

“Man, its cold,” Jack said between shivers,” It’s never been this cold.”

“At least it’s not raining,” Chelsea said, but she had spoken too soon. Immediately the rain came pouring down dripping their faces.

        “I think it’s because of my bad luck,” Chelsea explained as she put up her hood. “Don’t talk like that,” Jack scolded. Chelsea stared up at him like a puppy that had just been scolded. Jack realized her reaction and responded, “Because I don’t like you talking your self down, that’s all.” Chelsea tried to work up a smile and nodded at his advice. He continued on, “Personally, I think it’s all a matter of perspective. You know the way you look at things. Maybe you really aren’t so unlucky, just you think you are. Chelsea remained silent unable to come up with something to say. She studied his defined face. There was something about him that seemed so comforting. Perhaps it was his calm deep green eyes or his soothing voice.

        “Hurry, we better run,” Jack whispered in her ear, “We wouldn’t want your uncle getting all worried over nothing.” He gripped her hand tightly and led her through the town. Everything looked so unwelcoming. The trees seemed to stare her down and the streets looked rough and shady.

“Just over here,” Jack navigated as he pointed to the right. They ran straight down a narrow road, splashing a mixture of rain and mud, which left them a mess. From their left they heard a snapping noise of a large oak tree falling right behind them. With a jump at the racket, the two of them hastened their pace. Finally, they approached a small farmhouse next to an old aged shack. “Here you are. Now hurry up inside,” Jack commanded.

Chelsea did as she was told and turned to ask if he would be alright. There was no response; already he had left into the storm of the night.

She banged down on the door gently. Immediately the door opened with a big greeting from her aunt-in-law. She was a plump lady of short height, who at this moment was giving a huge bear hug to Chelsea.

        “Oh, I’m so sorry about your mother. I can only imagine what you’ve been through.” Her aunt consoled as they settled inside, “Your uncle hasn’t been quite himself lately, after finding out about the shocking news.” When the two of them entered the dining room, Chelsea’s cousins welcomed them. Her cousins had changed a lot from just the last time she had seen them which was over five years ago. The youngest one, Tina, had defiantly grown a few inches. She was now not just nine as she made sure to mention, but nine and a half. Next was Tommy who actual hadn’t changed much at all except for his new long hair that shagged over his eyes. Lastly, was of course Sandy, who was the same age as Chelsea. They at one time had been very close, practically sisters. Time had made them distant as so much had changed. At first there was an awkward silence, but soon it passed as Sandy popped a question.

“So what do you think of the town now, after all these years.”

        At first Chelsea hesitated, but then began, “Well, it was pretty hard to see in the dark and all, but the diner in front of the town seemed real charming. The food was pretty good.” Everyone stared at her in confused.

Her aunt spoke softly, “What do you mean? There’s no diner in the front. I mean there use to be, but that was ages ago.”

        “Sure there is. The real small one with the town’s famous chilly fries,” Chelsea responded. “Sandy, why don’t you show Chelsea her room. Get her acquainted with everything,” her aunt commanded and then turned to Chelsea, “You’re probably so tired,” her aunt ended the conversation quickly.

In that moment, Sandy grabbed Chelsea instantly and rushed her upstairs. Chelsea could feel the crowd of eyes watching her every move. She heard their whispers as she vanished upstairs. Tina said in a low voice, “These past weeks have been hard on her.”
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Tommy continued, “I think she’s gone a little crazy.”

“Now you two hush and get on upstairs. It’s getting late,” inquired their mother. Upstairs Sandy handed Chelsea a fresh, soft towel.

“Here’s the bathroom,” Sandy motioned towards, “and here you’ll be staying with me in my room,” she said matter-of-factly. Chelsea nodded her head gently and headed towards the bathroom. Chelsea prepared a warm bath, dipping her fingers to check if the water was to her liking. She hanged up her damp clothes on a drying rack and settled herself into the tub. She had barely been able to take in the warmth of the whole house. When she had entered it was as if a rush a memories returned to her, even the simplest details. Like the way the kitchen always smelled of hearty cooked foods. It was relaxing how the smell carried to wherever you where in the house. The whole house even had the same wallpaper she remembered. Little prints of flowers, but now here and there it was apparent how it was peeling and torn at the edges. There was nothing about the house that wasn’t homely. It was just overwhelmingly comfortable.

The next morning Chelsea was awoken with yelling and shaking of her arms.

“Honey wake up! A horse got out last night in the storm. We have to find them now!” The voice was of Sandy, who was frantically putting on a pair of pants and with a grab of Chelsea’s hand leading her outside. Once outside, Sandy left her on the search. Chelsea hadn’t even the vaguest idea where she was suppose to look. She decided to start with the rows of corn stalk that seemed to lead deeper and deeper. To her “luck” she saw the horse in the distance. She ran up to the beautiful horse that was the color of snow and to her surprise realized it wasn’t a horse at all. This can’t be true she thought to herself. A unicorn? She had the strange desire to ride the extraordinary creature. It waited for her to be seated and then took off, almost as if it had been sent for her. It ran well off her uncle’s farm and deep into the forest. The unicorn stopped once they had reached a painting handing on a sturdy branch. This was defiantly something you didn’t just see everyday, she thought to herself, the picture itself didn’t much sense to her. It was fairly large with images of different paintings inside a room. One of them was of herself She found this strange, but intriguing. She touched her finger up to the painting. It was still wet, but also it seemed to consume her finger. Chelsea wanted to thrust her finger back, but her curiosity got the better of her. Soon her whole arm was in and then the rest of her body. She could hear from behind the unicorn coming in.

         “Welcome. It’s about time, I thought you’d be here sooner,” spoke a familiar voice. Chelsea searched for a face as a lamp brightened up the room. “Jake, is that you? What is this? Why is there a unicorn? How did I go through?” Chelsea exclaimed with a whirlwind of questions. “I’ll explain. I’ll explain everything,” he answered, as he waited for her to have a seat, “On day I was cleaning out the attic, since no one had been there in years. I was gathering up stuff to donate when I came across a painting that was illustrated with other paintings. The odd thing about it though was it was still wet. I touched it and it almost seemed to be consuming my hand.”

“Oh, that was the painting in the woods? Why in the woods?” Chelsea remarked.

         “I wanted it placed where no could find it. I put it so deep out in the woods I was sure no one would find it, besides not everyone can see it. Anyway,” he continued with his discovery of the painting, “once I was devoured into the painting I was in shock. I found the paintings that I had seen in the original painting. There was one of the whole the town, that’s the one over there,” he pointed to the left of them, “there were many oil paints and brushes as if they were new. I couldn’t help but paint something. The first thing I painted was a large tree next to my house and then I continued for hours. And to my surprise I later found out that these things I painted had really come to life in the town, but lasted for maybe only a couple hours. I kept returning to this place and kept painting. Every once in a while the town painting would change. If a new house had been built, it would appear in the painting as well. Other times, new paintings would appear. They were paintings of people who needed some help in some way. Follow me.” Jake commanded as Chelsea edged to know more. Jake led her to the town's picture, “You see here,”
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he pointed to the bottom edge of the painting, “This is you. I saw you had entered the picture and I became curious because not many new people come into our town. Also I have to show you another painting,” he motioned her to the other side of the room where stood a picture of Chelsea. It showed how lovely she was and yet how troubled, “This painting had shown up month before you came here. I knew the day you arrived because you showed up in the town picture. Getting your picture, I knew I had to meet you, to be able to help you. So I painted up the old diner, figuring you would go there. Then talking to you I knew what your problem was. You believed you had bad luck. I knew to you it wasn’t a joke, you where dead serious. Look into the picture, and tell me what do you see? “Jack questioned gently.

        “I see someone who is unfortunate to have terrible things happening to her.” Chelsea stated. “I think otherwise. When I look at this painting, I see a girl who has gone through a lot and believes she is no longer worth anything. Yet there is a hint in her eye that seems to show that she will be okay. I see someone who is truly strong on the inside and only appears weak. She has dealt with problems and become stronger because of them. The stronger you are inside, the brighter your eyes in the picture seemed to get.”

Chelsea smiled with a boost of confidence,” You really see all that?”

        “Sure look at the painting,” he smiled back at her. She studied the painting a second time and recognized how vivid the brightness had become. She had started to smile and. Jack was pleased to see her smile and continued saying, “You see it’s all a matter of perspective, the way you look at yourself See each obstacle that you must venture as something that will make you stronger.” Chelsea listened to his words and began to understand that she had never had bad luck; it was just all in her head. She felt so much better; she suddenly hugged Jack, who was left surprised, but delighted. She thanked him for sharing his secrets. The secrets had opened up her mind and made her believe in herself.

        “I better go. My relatives will be all worried about me.” Chelsea said. Jack nodded his head, “Looks like your horse is ready too.” Chelsea turned around and saw that the unicorn had turned back into a simple horse. She gave him one last smile and jumped on the horse. The horse galloped out of the original painting and as she was back in the woods, she looked behind her and saw no painting hanging. Chelsea thought about what had happened as the horse brought her back to her uncle’s farm. She was met with Sandy who was thrilled to see her. “Oh good, you found the horse, but where have you been? You’ve been gone for hours!” she said with a mix of excitement and worry in her voice.

“I guess you could say I was finding a new perspective,” Chelsea said with a sparkle in her eye.
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By Sarah Fisher