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Our May 2023 Flash Contest was based on Prompt #251 (provided by Stone Soup contributor Molly Torinus), which asked that participants write an enemies-to-lovers story. Molly's prompt resulted in some of the most creative work I've seen submitted to the Flash Contest in a long time, with submissions ranging from a poem about the rivalry between pi and pie, an origin story for the pluot, and a mock interview between vanilla cake and chocolate cake. As always, thank you to all you participated, and please keep submitting next month!

In particular, we congratulate our Winners and our Honorable Mentions, whose work you can appreciate below.

“The Big Red Barn" by Elena Bonnette, 10
“The Girl Across the Bridge" by Aaron Duan, 12
“11:06 PM" by Lauren Kim, 13
“The Butterflyherd" by Mary Lane, 11
“The Captain and the Admiral" by Lui Lung, 13
“The Story of the Pluot" by Ariel Zhang, 11

Honorable Mentions
“40-Love" by Yuhan Cai, 12
“Yin and Yang" by Inaya Dar, 13
“Of Nighthawks and Roses" by Owen Duan, 12
“Vanilla Cake vs. Chocolate Cake" by Chloe Lin, 10
“Pie and Pi Share the Spotlight" by Ayaan Pirani, 11
“House Animal" by Melody You, 12

The Big Red Barn

Elena Bonnette, 10

Once upon a time, there was a Big Red Barn that walked on big, stumpy chicken legs. And inside that Big Red Barn was a big red robot named Pepperoni. And inside Pepperoni was a big red dog with the name Wild Cherry. One day the Big Red Barn, Pepperoni, and Wild cherry got very bored of living in Pasadena, so the barn decided to use its chicken legs and moved to Hollywood to become a romance movie star, and meet other barns to be friends with.

The Big Red Barn had always wanted to be a movie star, and was excited for this chance. The Big Red Barn waited and waited for his big break, and finally saw a notice for auditions for a love story set on a farm. At the audition, he noticed a Blue Barn, who looked vaguely familiar. He stared at her, trying to recognize who she was. The Blue Barn stared back with an equally suspicious look on her face. She quickly hurried away, and they parted. But, Wild Cherry knew who she was. Her great, great, great, great grandfather’s cousin's children’s second cousin’s mom’s dad’s worst nightmare.

So sadly, as it was, the Blue Barn and the Big Red Barn had to play the lovers in the big romance movie called Romance Under the Willow Tree. When it was time for the big mushy part, they were still glaring at each other, leaning in, and then, “BARK! RUFF RUFF RUFF! STOP!” Wild Cherry exclaimed,“Murderer!” The movie crew gasped. The Big Red Barn and the Big Blue Barn connected the dots. “I HATE YOU!!!” yelled the Big Red Barn. “WELL, I HATE YOU MORE!” screeched the Big Blue Barn.

“Hey! This isn't part of the script! CUT! CUT!” hollered the director. But the film crew kept filming and caught the rest of the argument: “I looked up the history of this family and I found out that your great, great, great, great grandfather’s cousin's, second cousin’s mom’s dad, used his big, stumpy, chicken legs to stomp on my great, great, great, great grandfather’s cousin's second cousin’s mom’s dad’s big red dog! And you killed him!” said the Big Red Barn, a sob catching in his throat.

“Well I looked up my family’s history and found that your great, great, great, great grandfather’s cousin's, second cousin’s mom’s husband’s cousin stole a piece of barn wood from my great, great, great, great grandfather’s cousin's second cousin’s mom’s husband’s cousin’s body! Stealing isn't nice so that's why I hate you.” They stomped off in separate directions.

Two years later, the Big Red Barn, Pepperoni and Wild Cherry were relaxing at a beach in Honolulu, Hawaii. They were there because they were bored with Hollywood and uncomfortable with the Big Blue Barn in their midst. Wild Cherry came back from surfing and he saw the Big Blue Barn. She ran up to Pepperoni and barked at him to translate his barks to the Big Red Barn. When the Big Red Barn heard this, he wasn’t too happy and tried to hide. But it was too late. The Big Blue barn saw him. She gracefully flounced over and handed him a gift. “I’m sorry for the drama at the movies,” she said. “It shouldn't matter about our ancestors' wrong doings, it should matter who we are now.” The Big Red Barn accepted the gift. “ I’m sorry, too. You have a kind heart. You’re not a murderer like your great, great, great, great grandfather’s cousin's, second cousin’s mom’s dad. Also, maybe it was an accident. I am very sorry. I will give you a piece of wood from my own skin to replace the one my ancestor stole.”

Then Wild Cherry barked in delight as the Big Red Barn opened the gift. It was a pair of XXL water shoes, a pair of XXL tennis shoes and a pair of XXL tap dancing shoes (tap dancing is very important in the barn culture). The Big Red Barn didn’t know what to say, so he put on the water shoes, grabbed a giant red surfboard and ran to the water, water shoes squelching, with the Blue Barn, the surfboard, and Wild Cherry. (Pepperoni stayed on the beach since robots shouldn’t get wet.) The two new friends sat on the surfboard and gazed into the sunset together.

4 ½ years later the Big Red Barn sent Wild Cherry and Pepperoni to pick out an engagement ring for the Big Blue Barn. It would be a perfect scheme. The Big Red Barn would be with the Big Blue Barn and she’d never notice the bot and dog were gone! Then he would propose to her! When he got to the park, she was already there. A few minutes later, when they came to a willow tree, Pepperoni and Wild Cherry came up behind the big red barn and slipped the box into his hands.

“Um, er, Blue, can we sit here for a minute?” The Big Red Barn asked. “Sure, Red. What's up?” asked the Big Blue Barn, as she slowly sat down under the shade of the tree. The Big Red Barn shook. He  was so frightened he almost dropped the box. The Big Red Barn slowly got down on one knee and said, “Will you marry me?” holding up the box with a beautiful diamond ring inside. The Blue Barn gasped. “YES!” she exclaimed. And then they did the part in the movie that they never did: they kissed, under a willow tree.

The Girl Across the Bridge

Aaron Duan, 12

Time turned and twisted until it was no more. The night of stars, fate struck in the sky, but the two of them had not a single clue. It was a sign of things to come, but of course, no one knew this until much later on.

14 September 1939

I struggled through the weeds in the garden trying to break free of their grasp, but my efforts were futile. That old gardener, I thought, while hopping around on one boot. The yellow glow of the castle could not reach the gardens, and I stood for a while in serenity, looking at the countless stars in the pitch-black sky. I made my way onto the bridge across the small stream that separated our land from the Marlingtons’ land – our enemies. They had tried to steal our wine recipe, and wine was the main source of our wealth. As I looked across the bridge, I saw a pair of eyes on the other side – a Marlington girl, probably. She stared at me warily before turning back. Just at that moment, shouts and screams from our castle erupted. I gazed at the sky and an orange inferno had torn a hole in the sky. I screamed and ran back across the bridge, and the fireball erupted behind me, scattering debris everywhere. The bridge was broken – and I was not going to see that Marlington girl for a long time.

20 May 1941

The winds of change were blowing across the land of Germany, and I had been drafted to go to war. On my way with the other men, I passed through a narrow street in Frankfurt. It was then when I saw the Marlington girl again. I still did not know her name, but she was riding in a horse-drawn carriage with her parents, and she looked at me for the second time. I heard her whisper, “I remember you.” She then turned her head away and mouthed, “The Mason Family.” Her amber eyes were still there though, gazing into my soul. It was at that moment that I realized we could never be friends, due to the long history of feuds between our two families ...

16 June 1941

I saw her a month later, a week before now, I was resting in Hamburg to be deployed to Russia. She was fleeing from Germany into Sweden, and I saw her running in the open, trying desperately to avoid the fiery bombs and bullets that dropped down from an even more fiery sky. I remembered the bomb on the bridge two years ago, she must have seen that too. And I knew that she did not want to be enemies anymore, she wanted allies. Friends. So, I made a decision.

A bomb was coming straight for her, so I threw myself at her and we both fell to the ground, and the bomb exploded a moment later nearby. I came face to face with the Marlington girl. She looked gaunt and hollow, and she said with surprising force, “You could have died there! What were you doing?” I rasped out, “I know that you’re not my enemy. And I know that you just want to escape. I want to escape too.” At that point of time, I was hesitant to leave my family and friends behind, but did not realize that they too had escaped, and were already on their journey to safety. Her eyes told me that she was on the same page as me. The Marlington girl finally started to relax and said, “You know, I really didn’t expect this war to happen. But I guess you have to deal with changes, right? Oh, and my name is Janet. I was working in the military hospitals before I decided to escape.” So that is her name, I thought to myself.

21 June 1941(Today)

It seems that me and Janet have a lot in common. We both come from wealthy families and have some military background and have an appreciation for natural beauty. Just today she pointed out a cardinal to me hiding in the trees. We have built a strong friendship, we must rely on each other, after all. Today morning, I was already starting to spot some signs of burning buildings and soldiers, meaning that we should be approaching Copenhagen. If we managed to board a boat from there, we can be free.

After a few more hours of hushed whispering, Janet and I looked ahead and saw a bustling city full of buildings and church spires. If we could just make it onto a boat, I thought. Then, I got an idea. I put on a plain shirt on top of my military uniform and give one to Janet to make ourselves look like fishermen. Good thing I had a spare one and Janet has short hair. Then, we sneak our way through the streets, avoiding any soldiers we saw, until we reach the port. We almost got caught by a soldier, but he let us go after he saw our outfits. I surveyed the port. There was a large ship about to leave. I made sure that no one was looking, and then jumped onto it with Janet just as it started moving. Our first taste of freedom for three years, we watched as Sweden draws nearer to us. I hugged Janet and said, “We made it.”

11:06 PM

Lauren Kim, 13

May 25

A week has passed since you came into my life.

It always happens at the same time, in the same place. The narrow alley, a block away from my house, 11:06 pm. Since the first night, I could sense your steps behind me. However, your footsteps always disappear at different times. As if you want me to follow you. I was terrified when I found out your pattern from the 3rd night and I still am terrified. But I have never tried to persuade myself to look back to check your face.

May 26

I was walking through the same alley today. I checked my watch, it was 11:05. The alley remained silent, but the silence didn’t last long. Again, it was you. I am still scared, but for some reason, I did not call for help.

May 27

Today, for the first time, I stopped walking midway through the alley. I was wishing for you to come to me, out of curiosity of course. But all I heard were your shoes scuff the ground as you stopped. Disappointed, I continued walking home. And then I started wondering if you might already know where I live.

May 28

Today, for the first time, I changed my speed and walked as fast as I could. And you did too. I felt a strange feeling of success. By the time I reached my house, my legs were so sore I couldn’t even feel them. When I arrived home, the question I had yesterday changed to a deep desire. I wish you knew where I live.

May 29

By the time I reached the alley today, I could sense that I was strangely exhilarated. At 11:06 pm, when you showed up behind me, I decided to walk as slowly as I could. And you did too. I didn’t want this moment to end. After a few minutes, your footsteps disappeared, leaving me alone with the endless, cold silence. Then I realized that, at home, it was always me and no one else, but I was not on my way home.

May 30

It was 11:05 and I stepped into the alley with a slight anticipation. I looked at my watch, it was 11:06. I waited for you for a moment. You weren't there. It was 11:07 pm, and you still had not appeared. I stopped walking, perplexed in shock. I even walked a few steps back. Nothing happened.

You never showed up tonight. I realized as I was standing, waiting, that I was drowning for you.

May 31

I stepped into the alley, almost begging for you to show up. At 11:06 pm, I heard your footsteps again. With a feeling of relief, I felt an immediate attraction towards you. Soon after, I was angry, almost furious with a million questions I wanted to yell out about last night. But instead, I stopped walking, heard you stopping and exclaimed — I love you.

The Butterflyherd

Mary Lane, 11

Onaria looked at herself critically in the mirror. With her light, lacy wingtips hung with jewels, most fairies would have agreed that she was lovely. But Onaria was not done. She put on a delicate blue dress woven out of the finest spider webs and braided her hair, intertwining it with threads of silver light. Putting on a tiara with a moonstone in the center, Onaria flew out of her tree.

“Why all the decoration?” asked Barrife, the grumpy gnome. “You look even uglier than usual.”

“I look especially nice today,” said Onaria, “Because I am meeting someone.”

Which is true, she thought as she hurried along. I am. I’m meeting Marcorel to give him a piece of my mind!

Onaria was the butterflyherd, who brought the local butterflies to fresh fields of flowers. Unfortunately, Marcorel was the beeherd, and he would do anything to have all the fields to himself. Only yesterday he had clipped a butterfly’s wings with shears, so now it could not fly anymore. Onaria dressed up so that she would look superior to Marcorel, who almost never washed his wings.

Though she was only seventeen, the young butterflyherd could talk almost anyone’s head off, and she decided to do just that to Marcorel. She stomped up to his tree.

She heard the crying of a little fairy child as she came inside. A small fairy girl with black hair and dark skin lay on a bed of heather. She was pierced all over with porcupine quills, and she screamed and sobbed, her tears mingling with blood. Her wings were mangled, and her one of her feet was cut. Onaria started to rush over to the child, whom she now recognized as Marcorel’s sister, when she stopped and stared. She saw Marcorel. Marcorel, killer of butterflies, bending over his sister and wiping the blood from her frightened face. How can this be? thought Onaria. He doesn’t care a thing about anyone.

Onaria unfroze and quickly began to pull out the quills, while Marcorel held the screaming toddler down. Marcorel glanced at her, and a look she couldn’t quite place came over his face. Gratitude? Forgiveness? Repentance? But there was something more Onaria had never seen before.

The two fairies bandaged the child up in moss and put a blanket over her. Onaria noticed how carefully her enemy tucked in the blanket. Now she hoped he would explain why he was being so gentle.

“Listen,” said Marcorel (and Onaria noticed for the first time how blue his eyes were). “Thank you for helping Eniele. She was attacked by a porcupine. I’m sorry about all the things I did to you. It’s just…there are not as many flowers as there used to be, and I was worried about my bees. Fairies are complaining that their bees aren’t getting fed. I only wanted enough flowers for bee food, and I didn’t know you would be so hurt. I always thought of you as an enemy, never as an ordinary fairy before. A kind, beautiful fairy. Will you forgive me, Onaria?”

Marcorel had tears in his eyes. “I never realized before how…well, that you would have enough of a heart to help my Eniele.”

A new fairy was revealed to Onaria, a fairy with a life, family, weaknesses, strengths—not just her enemy.

“Ditto.” That was all she said, but it was enough. She resisted the surprising urge to embrace Marcorel. “Maybe—we can figure out how to feed the bees.”

“Together?” Marcorel asked, his voice quavering. But Onaria had already rushed out of the tree.

The Captain and the Admiral

Lui Lung, 13

The open sea was unforgiving—she had experienced firsthand just how much. She knew its ruthlessness and the ugliness that shadowed the glory of her water-borne empire, but gods knew she loved it all the same.

The breeze off the ocean ruffled through the dark strands of her hair, and she breathed it in, the salt tracing the air so strong she could almost taste it. With the white-hot beating of the midsummer sun and the rhythmic lapping of the smoothly undulating waters against the edges of her ship, one could have called it peaceful.

She shuddered at the notion. Disgusting.

But to her good fortune, peace at sea was no more than a temporary illusion.

The familiar low sound of a horn echoed in her ears, quickly followed by the shouts of men, and a smile curved her lips.

She had been anticipating the thump of a pair of boots landing on the deck, and turned with merriment in her gaze.

“Admiral,” she greeted.

“Captain,” he replied with equal cheer.

Both crews remained perfectly still, tension winding into an ever-tightening coil as they awaited their commanders’ orders.

“Your seafaring life must be quite thrilling,” the admiral remarked. He took a step closer. “Adventure and treasure and an unfortunate side of pirates.”

“Pirates? How frightening,” she said with mockingly widened eyes; there wasn’t a trace of fear in her face or her relaxed frame as she moved to meet him halfway until they stood barely a foot from one another. “I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for them.”

“That should be easy enough. All you have to do is look in the mirror.”

“And perhaps I shall. I do have a lovely reflection.”

The admiral flashed his easy smile, sea-green eyes crinkling. “If only such a pretty lady didn’t dally in piracy.”

“If only such a charming man didn’t serve a fool of a king,” she responded without a beat’s hesitation. Each time they had met, it had been like this, stalking in circles like two wildcats, a flash of fangs here and there, but she did not forget how quickly that feigned amiability crumbled when they at last pounced in a whirlwind of fists and steel. The fact that the man was still alive and breathing before her after their countless past encounters across the span of a year made her cautious. No one else had escaped a fight with her unscathed. The captain jerked her chin towards his ship and the orderly, uniformed rows of the king’s men. “Well, Admiral? What brings you and your boys to my ship?”

“I could recite you the list, but we’d be here a while. How about we keep it simple, yes? There’s been talk of a certain lost artifact said to grant its wearer the blessings of the gods—power, wealth, all that a king could want. And what’s interesting is a certain pirate queen is said to hold the only map to it.”

“Then I wish you luck in tracking her down. I myself would never be in association with someone so unrighteous. Besides, I didn’t take your king to be the superstitious type.” Her hands casually drifted to the twin blades sheathed at her sides. She let loose a sigh, but she felt like her body was waking up, as she always felt at the brink of a fight. “It’s a shame, you know. Here I was, thinking you just missed me.”

The admiral’s smile took on an edge she had learned to recognize meant danger. “I find I need a reminder of your pleasing company.”

She pounced, daggers in hand, and he was ready for her. The stillness had shattered as their crews clashed alongside their blades.

How this battle would have ended, she wasn’t aware; she kept herself anchored in the moment, each breath and step and slash and—and then everything went wrong.

The stretch of sky above that had been colored a brilliant blue just moments before was now crowded with dense clouds of pitch, and the world had turned dark with it, consumed by shadows that seemed to have crawled out from nowhere at all.

She could hear screams of men and women alike, but she was blind as she shoved through the crush of bodies and the sudden darkness. She thought she might have heard pleads and prayers tearing from those beside her, but there was a ringing in her ears from the wind and the rain, the thundering above and the crash of the water. Then when she stumbled, the ocean swallowed her whole.

The captain did the last thing she’d expected to do. She woke up.

A face, blurred at the edges, hovered over her. Her vision slowly focused, and as she took in a pair of sea-green eyes and a tangle of brown waves of hair, she shot up, her head knocking into the figure’s. She already knew who it was, but every part of her wanted to deny it. He elicited a yelp of pain, a string of curses tumbling past his lips, and she reached for her knives to find only emptiness.

You,” she hissed, scrambling back, hot sand shifting beneath her palms.

“Me,” the admiral groaned, pressing a hand to his forehead. “Is this how you pirates say thank you?”

“You… What happened? And where did you put my knives?”

“You were drowning. I saved your life. What happened before that, only the gods know. I temporarily confiscated your weapons so you wouldn’t try to slaughter me the second you opened your eyes, but it seems you’ll find a way regardless.” He was still rubbing his head. “And I’m not going to apologize for any of that.”

She couldn’t argue with his logic, but she wanted to argue with him nonetheless. She didn’t trust him, and it was clear he didn’t trust her, either. What could she say to him—how dare you save my life? How could she explain that she didn’t want to owe anything to him, a man bound to the king? The admiral was someone who had lived with more than enough his entire life. Could he even comprehend the horrid feeling of being indebted to another?

“That might have been the most foolish decision you’ve ever made,” the captain informed him.

“Believe me, my dear Captain, I’m starting to see that now.”

“I can’t decide if I hate you or the gods themselves more,” she announced, pinning him with a glare.

“I saved your life. You would be a corpse at the bottom of the sea right now if not for me. Let that sink in—I saved your life! I don’t see why you’re complaining.” He paused. “Oh, and did I mention I saved your life?”

She moved to lunge towards him, but found an unshakeable, aching fatigue in her limbs. She settled for glowering. “I nearly just died, and now the last thing I’m going to see before I die out here in the middle of nowhere is your face. What else am I to do? Where did you even take us, you fool?”

“I thought you liked my face,” he said, arching his brows.

“The only thing I like about your face is how it feels against my fist. Now answer my question. Where are we?”

The corners of his mouth tightened. “I don’t know.”

She wished she didn’t believe him.

The captain had once thought she enjoyed being lost, the feeling of not quite knowing where she was or where she was going. She liked being surprised by whatever came next.

After this—if she even made it out of this alive—she wouldn’t be so sure of that. She felt lost in a way she had never known before, trapped on an unoccupied island with no way out with no ship and no crew and a man who was sided with the enemy. They had been here nearly two weeks now, every attempt of escape having failed; their only progress had been discovering the skeletal remains of whoever else had wound up on this island before them, and it didn’t make their plans of departure sound any more promising.

Against her will, a stinging gathered in her eyes. Her crew was dead, the last scrap of family she had dared to cling to. She had told herself otherwise, refused to believe it, but some part of her knew the irrefutable truth. Her fingers dug into the sand. She wanted to lash out and shriek like a wounded animal, but all that escaped her mouth were hoarse, half-silent cries and uneven, ragged breaths. She wanted to beg the waves to swallow her again and steal the breath from her lungs.

The snap of a branch under a boot had her head whipping around.

She wiped fiercely at her eyes with the backs of her hands. “What do you want?”

“A midnight stroll and a good cry. See, I didn’t realize this part of the beach was taken for nightly sobbing sessions,” he said. “Frankly, it’s quite selfish for you to take it all for yourself. Routinely crying my eyes out does wonders for my complexion.”

“Wander to the other side of the island. Drown yourself in the ocean. I don’t care what you do, just leave me alone.”

He inched closer, then lowered himself beside her, kneeling in the sand. “It’s a small island. I’m afraid you would still hear the sounds of my ugly sobs in the distance even if I tried to avoid you, so why not take the opportunity to gaze upon my wonderful face up close to make up for it?”

“Do you ever stop talking?”

“I think you know the answer to that, Captain.”

She had no prickly jab prepared. The tears had sapped her energy and her fury.

“If it makes you feel any better,” he continued, “I’ll probably give in and die before you and you can at least die in peace without me here—”

“Admiral,” she interrupted. “There’s something I should tell you. About the artifact.”

And how my crew, my family, is dead because of me.

“It was never meant to be found. It’s never been found. Perhaps no mortal is ever meant to wield that kind of power,” she said. “They warned me, the last bearers of the map. To even get to its location, its seeker must make an unimaginable sacrifice. I thought it would be treasures and riches, and those I could afford. I told them that whatever the price, I was willing to pay it. And they were right. I didn’t even begin to imagine that it would be…”

“Your crew?”

His vibrant eyes held a softness within them that was new to her.

“It’s not your fault,” the admiral said before she could speak again. “There was no way you could have known. And if I had really found it, I don’t know if I could have turned it over to the king.”

“That’s the first intelligent thing you’ve said,” she commented. “But if you had really found it, what would you have done? What is it that you want so badly?”

Those eyes lingered on her face, then shifted away. “What I want now, I’m not sure it could give me. Before, I wanted to be anyone else but myself. I didn’t want to serve the king for a lifetime. I wanted a life like yours.”

“Adventure and treasure and an unfortunate side of pirates?” she questioned.

He grinned, recognizing his own words coming from her mouth. “Just so. And what of you? What would you have done?”

“I wanted power,” she admitted. “I wanted to be unstoppable, even by all the kings and queens that the world had to offer.”

“Foolish,” he said. When her eyes narrowed, he promptly added, “You, the queen of the seas, wouldn’t need an artifact to do any of that. You know you truly terrified the king? He just about wet his trousers and dove behind the nearest potted plant whenever you were even mentioned.”

“Stop making me like you,” she told him sharply, trying to contain a laugh, elbowing him in the side.

With a huff, he simply said, “I can’t help it. It’s in my nature to make haughty pirates fall hopelessly in love with me.”

Despite herself, the captain let herself laugh. She saw the shock that briefly flickered across his features; she had surprised them both.

She couldn’t decipher the look that rested on the admiral’s face. “I’ve heard you threaten me in a new way every hour. I’ve heard you choke on a fish bone. But never have I heard you laugh, Captain.”

She could think of nothing to say to that, and so lifted her shoulders in a shrug. After a few beats of silence, she heard herself say, “I… I don’t know if I want that artifact anymore.”

“I don’t think I do, either.”

For the first time in weeks, maybe longer, she felt at peace; it wasn’t so terrible after all. Then she squinted. In the distance, something bobbed up and down on the waves.

Please tell me that you see that, too,” came the admiral’s voice from beside her. “Or am I going delirious?”

“Not delirious, no. Just moronic,” she reassured him, but her words were halfhearted. She was going to survive, and she was going to be free.

As the boat reached the shore, she rose to her feet.

She glanced over her shoulder. Tentatively, she offered him her hand. “Naja. My name is Naja Shariq.”

There was only the barest delay before his hand slid into hers, warm and calloused. “Thomas. Thomas Cole.”

She pulled him to his feet. “Pleased to meet you, Admiral Cole.”

He shook his head. “Admiral Cole died a tragic, honorable death in pursuit of the vexatious pirate queen. You may instead call me… Cole Thomas.”

Naja laughed again at his sheer absurdity, and Thomas looked at her like he was trying to memorize the sound.

He didn’t let go of her hand, and when she noticed, a strange heat crept into her cheeks. “You’re being serious.”

“I’m a dead man. I don’t owe the king anything. But if I recall correctly, you happen to owe me.” His fingers twined together with hers. “All I ask of you is to let me stay. Don’t tell me to leave you alone, Naja, because somehow, I will find you like I always have and I will give you hell.”

She blew out a sigh, but there was a smile playing on her lips. “We’ll see, Cole Thomas. We’ll see.”

For a moment, they were not the captain and the admiral. They were Naja and Thomas: the girl who was lost and the boy who would never stop finding her.

The Story of the Pluot

Ariel Zhang, 11


Ahem, sorry, excuse me! Once upon a time, in the land of fruits, a rivalry raged on. It was between two fruits, plums and apricots. (note: these are some of the least favored fruits.) Both wanted the spotlight.

But it was on May 4th that something important happened. Plum was walking down the street like he owned the place —

PLUM (interrupting):


NARRATOR (continuing):

Plum, you are not supposed to talk! Never mind, I’ll deal with you later. Anyways, as Plum was striding down the street, Apricot happened to be also striding down the street. However, curiously, they happened to be walking toward each other.

APRICOT (surprisingly interrupting):

“Ahem, I, the only Apricot, would like to add something. I am the protagonist/hero, and Plum is the villain/antagonist of the story.

NARRATOR (continuing):

Hmph. Anyways, none realized this. The fruits that witnessed this event looked surprised. Peach’s jaw dropped (what she had of a jaw). Apple nearly forgot to blink, etc. All spectators automatically assumed that they had become friends. That was until the two collided.

“Plum, watch your way, I’ve got a dent,” sniffed Apricot while staring at her dented stomach.

“Well, I’m sure everybody has more to worry about than your perfect flesh,” snapped Plum. Apricot crossed her arms and stared expectantly at Plum.

“Fine. Sorry,” he sighed.

“Well, I wish that you didn’t exist.”

Simultaneously, all the other fruits sighed. None wanted to be caught in one of Apricot’s pouts.

“Come on, just makeup! Or create a new fruit with an interesting name like Pluot, or Plumcot,” huffed Lychee.

“Personally, I like Pluot more than Plumcot. Plumcot just sounds like something stupid,” sniffed Apricot.

“Truce?” offered Plum.

“Only if you bring me on a date,” said Apricot flirtatiously.

And that is the story of the pluot. Long story short, for the rest of their lives, they lived like respectable human beings (oops, fruit beings.) Note: the pluots are their children.

Happily ever after.

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