EF Academy short story winner: Letter to you by Benedetta
Our students at EF Academy Oxford were recently invited to participate in a short story competition organized by Head of Literature Emma Gernez, where creative students were encouraged to submit stories of up to 1500 words on any topic and genre of their choice. We congratulate Benedetta, from Italy, whose story won the competition!
As for the inspiration for her story “Letter to you,” Benedetta describes:
“Writing short stories is the perfect option to quickly immerse oneself in a world of memories and fantasy. I decided to write this story after seeing a romantic movie, and I was instantly inspired by it. I also liked the idea of a creating a letter to the reader, without a clear start, or a real ending. When I start writing, the ideas come as I go, so it was easy for me to turn the ink into a story. The only challenge was how to make the reader fall in love with the protagonist in only a thousand words, but I think that as dreamers and members of the human race, our souls are naturally attracted to love, in any form.”
Are you curious to read Benedetta’s winning story? Find it here below!
Letter to you, by Benedetta
The rain deleted every emotion in a humid New York afternoon.
I was just coming back from my last lecture of the day with a great pile of books and scratchy yellow wet paper. I could see the dark ink drift away to the angles of the pages, my essay, I thought, the one my professor never liked, but which still — somehow — managed to get a good grade. I didn’t look like a kid who knew how to do this type of thing, research essays, I mean. Nobody ever taught me how to do any of the things I’m doing nowadays, I realised while crossing some random avenue near the Jewish schools.
Raining is a form of metamorphosis that could erase anything, if it only had wanted, maybe even people, but was so depressingly aware of its annoying manners that it did not intend to mess too much with humans. There is not much to write these days, if you really think about it, everybody has already written about school, rain, parks, people, emotions, minds… but nobody truly seems to like something that is realistic. I mean, what’s wrong with reality? It’s the shitty place we are forced to live in. With yellow taxis, women in long coats, men with high waisted pants and awful hats, scarves and gloves. Anyway, I was coming back from my university when I discovered a little sign near a house entrance saying ‘Café Retro’. It was just a black and gold little metal sign on the corner of the old fence of a dark empty apartment under some stairs. The entrance door was of an unusually vivid green, that’s what mainly attracted my eyes to it.
So I decided to fix all my stupid papers under my arm and go down the little wet and shiny path that led to the Café. I knew it was not a Café, but I liked that they still named the place like this. The door was obviously open, and immediately an unmistakable smell of alcohol filled my nostrils with a sense of lightness and dull innocence, a Christmassy happiness that invaded my lungs as soon as I heard some lounge music playing and the far noise of male voices. I knew where I was. It was not the first time I escaped a gray and anonymous rainy day in New York to go to one of these places. What I liked the most about them was the lack of judgment that you could see in people’s eyes, contrary to every single street of the city, where people analyse every single stupid detail.
We are not who we are, we are what we want to be. That’s what I always say, and it’s nobody’s fault if I was not born straight, I don’t care. I love my life the way it is, I don’t have parents who worry about me anymore, no phoney relatives and no sneaky little sister to bother me. I am an independent soul that floats aimlessly in the past, like everybody else.
Café Retro was a clever, unsuspicious and unobtrusive name, I thought while I was closing the door behind me, turning and seeing exactly what I imagined I would have seen. I waited for weeks to find the perfect place (I almost got arrested outside the last one I used to go to), and finally I can feel at home again. Fuck the papers, fuck my soaking wet coat, I wanted a drink and good company. I threw the damn sheets on the corner of the floor and I went to the bar. It was a long and narrow little place, filled with yellowish ink paintings on the walls and old random photographs. The walls were covered with unusual and dark wallpapers, all different from one another, with medieval decorations of green, blue, brown and black. The corridor was illuminated by candles, and the temperature was irresistibly hot, with such an humidity that it was hard to breathe, but breathing was not a priority if you really dared to enter a place like that. The floor was of insufferably creaking sticky wood. A young man smiled at me from a random sofa in the entrance, and I smiled back, dazed by the whole atmosphere that started penetrating all my pores. I felt good, light, with no thoughts and no problems. I somehow managed to get a drink at the bar and found a seat near it. The bar was filled with men of every age, from fourteen to eighty three. I could see men of every height, weight, race, style and character. I was so happy I did not know what to do. It was just ten years after the war, and my mind still found it difficult to process the fact that I could find myself in such a terrestrial paradise without being shot in the middle of the forehead.
It all felt real the moment I saw you. I obviously did not know about you at the time, I just assumed you were there as a waiter or something like that because you were dressed so stupidly elegant that it couldn’t be anything else. At one point I felt my heart again, it had been more than thirty seconds after I saw your face, and I realised I had stopped breathing while looking at your polished hands collecting a glass from a sticky table. You were wearing a silk suit, who wears a silk suit in December? I thought. And I now realise I always knew the answer. It was you, it had always been you. Since that Friday afternoon you had been in my noisy and rotten mind.
So please, forgive me.
Forgive me for I have been trying to be a form of self I wanted to be for you, and not my true self. I still hate your nail polish, but how much do I love you…
Entering that stupid Café has been the most important, truthful, impulsive, vital and inappropriately romantic thing I ever did in my life.
I love you.
At EF Academy, we recognize the importance of creative expression and encourage our students to explore their artistic passions. Whether you’re an aspiring writer, musician, or artist, our school is committed to providing a supportive and enriching environment where you can thrive and pursue your dreams.