You or your protagonist is walking in the park. You see a park bench, on its right side (left as you look at it) there is a yellow ribbon tied to it. It’s not big, just enough for you to notice it. Write at least 500 words on why the ribbon is tied on this park bench. If you get to 1,000 words, you easily have a short story.
The following short story is based on actual facts and did, truthfully, happen.
Yellow was Sarah’s favorite color. It was the color of sun rays as they streamed through the dusty windows, the cheery hue of buttercups and daffodils and the centers of daisies that bloomed in the spring and summer throughout Regency Park. It was a wonder, therefore, that Sarah married a man who disliked yellow as much as Mr. Brown.
Mr. Brown wasn’t a cruel man. He was as unforgiving as the next, and he beat his wife from time to time, but then, in the East End, who didn’t? He knew everything about positively nothing and would stand by it, too. But nonetheless, I’d always considered Sarah a lucky one. She, a woman nearing 40 and with two sons, had managed to secure a husband for herself. That was something to be admired. If my husband had died from a sudden bout of cholera like Sarah’s, I most likely would have turned to prostitution, like so many of our friends did. But Sarah? Her pride was too strong for that. She went to work as a maid in a better-to-do house near Regency Park, whence she met the gardener, and a year later, Mr. Brown was her husband.
Just as good, too. The wages of a maid – particularly a maid in Whitechapel – are not near enough to support oneself and two growing boys. She could have turned to prostitution eventually if Mr. Brown hadn’t come along when he did.
At first everything was as bright as the yellow ribbon Sarah wore in her dark brown hair. He loved the boys, and though Sarah had to continue to work as a maid, at least she and her sons were a bit better fed. Mr. Brown was a bit uncouth (like everyone in the East End), but a kindly bloke nonetheless. It wasn’t until he became ill that everything changed.
Perhaps it was his inability to stay hard that brought about his paranoia. He had been having trouble since before he met Sarah, so he couldn’t blame it on her. But Sarah had an appetite that was difficult to fulfill, and I’d wager three shillings he never once managed to satisfy her. I know what you’re thinking, that maybe she should’ve become a prostitute since she had the sex disease, but I already said, she had a pride on her. Besides, what’s wrong with asking one’s husband to give her some satisfaction?
Anyway, Mr. Brown had to stay in hospital for a time, and when his stay was over, he moved on to a convalescent home to finish recovering. Now that I think back on it, maybe he met someone at the home. Or maybe he just had too much time to brood. Either way, when he returned home, he was a different sort of man. He was paranoid, sure that Sarah was being unfaithful. He told her sons she was letting strange men into their home. Every morning he rummaged through the house looking for men before he went to work, and every night light matches into every corner, in case another bloke was hiding. One night he went through an entire box of matches!
Sarah was scared out of her wits. He was harsh with her, and she showed me the bruises from where he held her too tight. Then he started to sharpen a long knife in front of her after dinner, and she began to fear he’d kill her. I told Sarah to go to the police, which she did, but they wouldn’t do anything.
Then came the day. Though it was a year ago, I remember it like yesterday. It was frightening, having three murders in one night, two of which were Ripper’s. September 30, 1888. It was cold and raining already, and the streets were full of mud, the houses and windows streaked with wet residue of burnt coal. Poor Robby, Sarah’s oldest son, was there to see it all. Sarah made dinner for them all, like normal, and Mr. Brown, also like normal, took out his long knife after dinner and started to sharpen it, staring at Sarah with a wild look in his eyes.
Robby took the dishes into the little kitchen to clean them, and he dropped a bowl. He heard Mr. Brown scream,
“Who’s that, Sarah, a bloody man in the other room?”
“No,” she replied, “it’s Robby, only Robby!”
There was a scuffle, some more words exchanged back and forth, and suddenly Sarah cried,
Robby ran into the room just in time to see Mr. Brown holding Sarah by the hair, the blade of the knife against her throat, and a gash beneath the blade. Her throat gaped open, and Mr. Brown dropped her. She collapsed to the ground.
“You killed her!” Robby gasped.
But Mr. Brown wasn’t in his right mind. He looked down at Sarah’s body on the ground and gave out a kind of strangled cry (that’s how Robby described it), as if he just discovered his wife dead on the ground. He rushed to her side and picked up her body, asked Robby what happened, and Robby, still is shock, fell to his knees, weeping, and repeated over and over,
“You killed her!”
That night Mr. Brown turned himself in to the police, but no one remembered Sarah’s murder, cause there were two others that night, a Catherine Eddowes and an Elizabeth Stride (or something like that), who the Ripper got. They all remember the Ripper murders, but not my dearest Sarah.
Robby took the yellow ribbon out of her hair before the police arrived. Together we took the ribbon to Regency Park and tied it onto the arm of a bench. To this day, no one has touched it. Everyone seems to know it’s in remembrance of someone. But thanks to Jack the Ripper, only Robby and I truly know who.
Word count: 984