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R.A. Clarke Fiction

On the Inside

by R.A. Clarke

We jumbled off the plane and down the ramp, heading towards baggage claim.

“Come on, let’s go. Grandma will be waiting.” I just wanted to get to our destination. Being stuck in an airport a few extra hours, waiting for a delayed flight with two grumpy kids, had sapped my energy.

“Why do we have to come here every year? Why can’t she come see us?” Toby grumbled, the heels of his boots dragging.

“We visit your grandma because she wants to see you guys. And you know why she doesn’t come to our house.” I ran a hand through his hair, but he pulled away.

“I don’t get it though. She’s so weird.” Toby stuffed his hands in his pockets, a sullen look on his face.

“And why doesn’t she like mirrors?” Callie chimed in; her brows raised.

How can I explain Rhytiphobia clearly to an eight- and ten-year-old, when I don’t even fully understand it myself?

I sighed heavily. “As I’ve said before, she doesn’t like to be seen. She believes in knowing a person for who they are on the inside, and not what they look like. That’s why Grandma lives alone out here, and why she wears a mask. She’s not weird, sweetheart, just special.” I knew that wasn’t exactly the truth, but it would have to do for now.

My children had never seen their grandma’s face. Toby had barely been born when Mom moved away. Yes, her extraordinary fear of wrinkles was certainly bizarre, but I’d never say that to my kids.

“Why can’t she be special back home?” Callie pressed. She missed her grandma between visits.

“Maybe you should ask that question when we see her, and she can answer herself.” I patted my daughter’s shoulder.

We finally reached the baggage claim, which was already in motion. Thank the Lord. These metallic conveyor belts used to give the kids a thrill as they watched the luggage spit out and circle, eager to spot their bags.

“Well, as long as I get to see a castle this time, I’ll be happy,” Toby muttered.

“Yes, we’ll visit Dunrobin Castle for sure this trip. I promise.” Toby appeared satisfied with that answer. He was developing quite the little attitude. I blamed that new boy he’d befriended at school—a snotty thing. Maybe this time away would help straighten him out again.

We grabbed our baggage as it shuffled by, and I herded the kids out the door to find a shuttle. Piling into the closest one, we were off.

“Next stop, Grandma’s house!” I trilled.

“Yay…” My grumpy progeny echoed in stereo.

Until the shoreline came into view, the trek seemed to physically pain the children, both incessantly asking, “Are we there yet?” I, however, didn’t mind the trip. The Highland scenery was always breathtaking.

Eventually, our shuttle entered the seaside village of Golspie.

Callie scrunched her nose up. “So, why’d Grandma choose Golspie?”

The taxi driver glanced back with a wry smile.

“Sorry,” I mouthed to him, before answering Callie. “Different people like different things. She must really like it here, sweetie. And besides, if your grandma hadn’t moved to Scotland, we wouldn’t get the chance to explore it, now would we?” I smiled at her, trying to ooze enthusiasm. Meanwhile, I silently wished my mother could’ve at least chosen a less expensive location to escape to. Like, why not Canada? There were tons of places to disappear there.

Toby put his gamepad away as the taxi approached my mother’s cottage on the outskirts. In a whiny tone he asked, “Do we have to stay in Grandma’s tiny house, mom? Can’t we stay somewhere with a water-slide?”

“Flights cost a fortune, Toby, never mind booking a hotel room. Grandma’s house works just fine. Plus, the whole point is to visit with her.” I shot him a look that said leave it alone.

“Fine.” He crossed his arms in a huff.

We pulled to a stop in front of a quaint cottage wrapped in a spiderweb of leafy vines. A rough stonework fence circled the generous perimeter. The driver removed our luggage from the trunk. Ushering the kids from the car, I delved out several bills, thanking our kindly chauffeur.

He tipped his hat and retreated down the road we’d just travelled.

Here we go…

I led the kids to the door, which swung open before I could knock. There she stood, arms wide and vibrating with excitement. Ruby Mills. My mother. Grandma.

Her mask smiled back at us.

“Karen, my girl! Oh, I’m so happy to see you!” Mom grabbed me into a hug. “And my beautiful grandchildren!” She proceeded to wrap them up in hugs too. “I’ve missed you all.”

Though we’d had our differences through the years, our relationship somewhat distanced by her condition, she was still my mom. It felt nice to hug her.

Mom stepped back, bending down to squeeze the kid’s cheeks. “Oh, Toby, you’ve grown so big! And Callie, how pretty you are!” Stepping back, she waved us inside. “Come, come.”

Closing the door, I smiled. The house smelled like floral perfume and baked cookies. Tall wooden shelves filled one entire side of the living room, a book lover’s delight. Family photos, framed pictures from her beauty pageant days, and various paintings lined the walls. A silk sash draped across a shadowbox dedicated to the beauty queen extraordinaire. I even spied the same spikey sundial clock she’d had since the seventies hanging on the dining room wall—a favourite Mom just couldn’t get rid of. Everything but a mirror.

Not a single mirror anywhere.

Like usual, her world was perfectly in place, not a speck of dust visible. Since my mother didn’t go out much, her home was her castle.

“I see you got a new mask?”

Her hand flew to her face. “Oh this? Yes, I just got it last month. It’s much better than my last one. More lifelike, don’t you think?”

I nodded. “Yes, it looks nice. A friendly expression.” The mask was fair in skin-tone and conformed to her facial structure. There were molded almond-shaped holes for her eyes to peer through, and an opening at the base of her nose. A pleasant open-mouth smile was closed in by fine black mesh. It marred her true lips from view, only the motion of her mouth visible.

“Thank you,” she replied, shoulders lifting with glee. “I thought so too. Come!”

We followed through the living room and up the stairs. I spied my kids exchanging snide glances, quickly cutting them the mom-glare. They stopped immediately.

“Now, you guys get yourselves settled, then come down for some snacks. You’ll need refueling after that flight,” Mom beamed, hands framing her plastic cheeks. “I’m just so happy you’re here.” With that, she waved us inside and disappeared back down the stairs. The sound of her humming trailed behind.

The guest room was made up with two single beds and a cot. Cramped, but doable. The kids played rock-paper-scissors for the second bed, Callie’s rock vigorously smashing Toby’s scissors. I chuckled as she gloated, prancing around like a fairy.

Within minutes of unpacking, the kids were already asking when we could go sightseeing. I groaned internally.

“We’ll spend a couple days catching up with grandma and go adventuring after that.” I pulled my slippers on, ready to relax.

“Ugh, I want to go to the castle now,” Toby moaned.

“Enough of the whining, young man.” I levelled a pointer finger at him.

His shoulders sagged, sour-faced.

“Keep it up, and I’ll take your gamepad away too.” That warning elicited an appropriate response. Toby grudgingly wiped the scowl from his expression.

“Well, I’m excited to see Grandma!” Callie chirped.

“That’s great,” I replied, smiling. I paused to appreciate a large print hanging above the headboard. Mom was dressed to dazzle in a sparkly sky-blue ballgown, tiara and sash perfectly in place. All natural.

She’d been crowned Miss Texas at barely twenty years old, a couple years before I was born. ‘One of the best days of my life,’ she always said. It wasn’t until her thirties that she had her first plastic surgery operation. That led to several more procedures, spanning well into her forties. It was baffling how they afforded it all. Mom’s inheritance must’ve been bigger than she let on, or perhaps that’s why Dad worked late so much.

Regardless, people never paid much attention at first. A little nip and tuck wasn’t out of character for an aging beauty queen. Fading youth could be hard on a woman sometimes. Especially a woman as proud as my mom.

What nobody realized, however, including me and my father, was that something very serious was going on inside—a festering fear burrowing deeper, taking root where none could see. I’ve never known why her phobia developed. To this day, I wished I understood it better, but Mom doesn’t talk about it.

Turning away, I waved an arm. “Alright, kiddos, let’s head downstairs.”

Mom sat us in the kitchen with a plate of cookies on the table between four condensing glasses of iced tea.

“Mmm Grandma, those smell good!” Callie said, eyes lighting up. Food was the surest way to her heart, a trait she got from me. I, too, looked forward to sampling one, or several.

“Oatmeal chocolate chip. Your mama’s favourite,” Grandma replied, snapping a wink in Callie’s direction. The effect wasn’t quite the same without an animated arched brow, but it worked.

We sat down, digging in like starved vultures upon meaty morsels. Grandma chuckled, leaning back to enjoy the fruits of her labour. “I figured you’d be hungry.”

I laughed, my tongue snatching a crumble off my lip. A flash of white poked out from the edges of Mom’s mask, catching my eye. “So, how have you been?”

“Oh, good. Staying busy, you know. Been painting a lot of landscapes. Even sold a few online. Do you want to see my latest work?” Callie brightened at the mention of art—the creative one in the family. Toby didn’t have the same inclination, more focused on basketball and comics.

“I’d love to see, Grandma,” Callie answered quickly.

I made a mental note to inquire about the old hand-painted masks Mom used to wear. The colourful ones. I was certain my little artist would adore seeing those too.

“Perfect, you kid’s head out to the studio while I pack a few cookies for the road,” Mom said. Her studio was actually a converted shed behind the house.

The kids took off.

I lingered with Mom as she collected a goody bag, swallowing my last few gulps of tea. Unable to temper my curiosity, I joined her by the counter. “So, Mom, I couldn’t help but notice the bandages.” I pointed to the tufts of gauze taped to her temples. “What did you get done?”

Her cookie-filled hands stilled.

“Just a minor smoothing procedure for the crow’s feet. Nothing major.” She shrugged, shoving the last pastries into an already full plastic bag and zipping it shut. The serene smile on her mask disguised whatever discomfort likely graced her genuine face.

“Mom…” my voice held a note of scolding which she recoiled from, departing the kitchen in brisk strides. I followed, not dropping the matter. “I thought you weren’t supposed to have any more surgeries? Where did you get it done?”

She stopped in the foyer, spinning on her heels. “France. There’s an award-winning surgeon there who believed he could help by using an advanced technique. It’s really none of your concern.”

“It is my concern. You’re my mom and I care about you. You never told me you went to France.” I could hear the kids squealing and chasing around outside.

“Because I knew you’d try to talk me out of it.” Mom set the cookies down, crossing her arms. “This is my body, Karen.”

“But why would you risk it?” My hands flew from my sides, incredulous. About ten years ago, the doctors had refused to do any more procedures because her skin couldn’t handle it. “You could lose parts of your face entirely. Just think of what happened to Michael Jackson’s nose! I don’t understand why—”

“I miss walking outside without wearing a mask, Karen. That’s why!” Mom stomped to the coat closet and flung it open. “Do you think I enjoy being this way? I keep hoping another surgery will fix it… Besides, if it went badly, nobody would see it anyway.” For emphasis, she pointed to her mask.

I stilled, resting my hands on my hips. Blinking hard, I reclaimed the temper that had slipped. She’d just given me a rare glimpse into her inner world. It was a revelation. Mom was aware she had a problem—not just narrow-mindedly obsessed with her phobia. “And did it work?”

“No.” Mom put a wide-brimmed sun hat on, her motions crisp. A sombre sort of rage gleamed in her eye. “It’s not fully healed yet, but I can already tell nothing’s improved.”

Her plastic surgeries only helped for so long, if they helped. Wrinkles never stayed away for good. Age kept coming no matter what, and I remember by the third facelift, Mom hadn’t even looked like herself anymore. It’s when she got cut off, the masks began.

Taking a deep breath, I rubbed my neck. “I’m sorry it didn’t work out.”

“Are you?”

Her words bit deep.

“I know you’re embarrassed of me. Your mom, the freak. That’s why your father left. Why people started avoiding me. Why do you think I chose to move away?”

“Well,” I sighed. “I just thought you wanted to be alone. For whatever reason, you didn’t want to be near us anymore.”

“Oh, Karen…” Mom breathed, eyes softening. She shook her head. “That was never it.”

I approached her slowly. “Why didn’t you ever tell me how you really felt?”

The kids banged on the back door, bouncing up and down, shouting for us to hurry up. Mom waved, letting out a tired chuckle. Straightening her shoulders, she turned back to me and I knew the raw moment we’d shared was over.

“My silly old problems need not burden anybody else, Karen.” She grabbed the cookies, then clapped her hands. “Now, those children are about to burst at the seams! We should get out there.” With that, she slipped out the door, happily chattering on the way to the shed.

With a sigh, I followed. A sudden swell of sympathy rose from within, my thoughts churning. That was a huge step forward. Even if she didn’t see it that way, I did. If she was finally willing to open up to me, maybe I could convince her to speak with a professional. I desperately wanted Mom to find peace from this phobia ruling her life.

For the first time, I believed there was hope.


“Toby, come on!” I shouted at my brother, running up the stairs. His heavy feet pounded behind me, gaining ground quick. In seconds he blew by, throwing his body into a roll at the top.

Popping up victoriously, Toby announced, “Ha! I beat you!”

“Whatever.” I pushed past him, heading to the end of the hall. We didn’t have much time before Mom and Grandma came back from their walk. They let us hang out and watch a movie instead of going along.

But I had other plans.

“So, why are we going into Grandma’s room?” Toby followed me through the doorway.

I immediately pushed a puffy pinkish comforter out of the way and dropped to the floor, searching beneath the bed. Nothing.

“I want to find all her masks.”

Toby leaned against the doorway, his face twisting in confusion. “Why? We’ve seen her wearing them.”

“A few, but Mom said she’s got a whole bunch, remember? She said Grandma used to hand-paint them. Some fancy ones. She never wears those and I really want to see.” I opened the closet doors, spying boxes high on the shelf. “How much you wanna bet they’re in one of those boxes?”

It was too high for me to reach. As I looked around for something to stand on, Toby wandered around the rose-coloured room.

“Boy, Grandma sure loves pink.” He cringed, opened a dresser drawer.

I found a folded stool tucked in the closet beside a stack of mirrors, so I pulled it out. So, that’s where all the mirrors went… It was so strange. Not even the bathroom had a mirror.

Setting up the stool, I hopped on top and stretched for one box, but I still couldn’t reach.

“Ugh, it’s still too high. You’re taller than me, Toby. Come help!”

“Is this what you’re looking for, Callie?”

Spinning around, there stood my brother beside an open drawer, holding a mask in each hand. His brows were raised, a smug look pasted on his face.

“You found them!” I abandoned the closet, racing to his side. There had to be at least ten different masks piled inside the drawer. “Wow.” Gently, I picked them up one by one. There were a variety of skin-tone ones, each with slightly different expressions. Except for three. One was white with flowers of pink and purple painted all over it. It was beautiful. The second mask was pure black, the finish glossy and glittery, with veins crossing the surface just like dad’s marble countertops. The third mask was blue, covered in thousands of fine brushstrokes to mimic fur. I held it to my face, growling like a wolf before bursting into giggles.

“This is so weird,” Toby said, walking away from the drawer. “I don’t think Grandma will like us snooping around in here.”

“I just want to look. She won’t know.” I smiled. “Can you put that stool away?”

You put it away. This was all your idea.” He leaned against the doorframe. “What’s so great about those masks, anyway?”

“Look at these.” I held up the colourful three. “They’re works of art. I hope I can paint as good as Grandma does someday.” I stared in awe of each tiny detail.

“Yeah, I guess.” Toby plopped down on his butt, bored. “Hey, what do you think her face really looks like?”

I carefully set the masks back into the drawer. “I don’t know. An older version of her pictures, I guess.”

“I bet she’s got some crazy sick burn or something. Or maybe half of her face melted off like Two-Face.” He cackled, hands running down his cheeks in mock horror.

“This isn’t a stupid Batman comic, Toby.” I shot him a glare, shaking my head. I folded the stool and shoved it back into Grandma’s closet.

The annoyingly loud groan of the front door echoed through the house.

“Crap, they’re back!” Toby whispered, jumping to his feet.

I closed the closet as quickly and quietly as I could, then turned off the light. Toby was already three steps out of the room when I halted.

“What are you doing?” he hissed as I darted back into the room.

“We left the drawer open!” I whisper-shouted over my shoulder, rushing to the dresser. Frantically, my shaking hands slid the drawer shut. That could’ve been very bad. “Whew,” I breathed, then bolted down the hall with Toby. We dove into our room just as Mom’s voice called from the living room.

“Kids, where are you?”

“We’re just upstairs playing my gamepad, Mom!” Toby yelled, looking at me with wide eyes. “Callie’s kicking my butt!”

“Do you want to come down for a snack?”

“Okay!” we answered at the same time. Relief crossed our faces, with grins to match. Standing, we burst into giggles.

“That was close.”


Yesterday we checked out the castle, just like Mom promised, and it was pretty cool. I liked the old Scottish weapons hanging on the walls, while Callie slobbered all over the huge paintings everywhere. Going seaside was fun too, but otherwise our trip was kinda boring. Just lots of “relaxing” as mom called it.

More and more I wished I could see the face hiding behind Grandma’s mask. She was an awesome grandma, always nice and made amazing cookies, but who was she? Really? I felt like I was missing out. Nobody else’s grandma hid their faces. It didn’t seem fair. I mean, it couldn’t be that bad, could it?

Callie didn’t seem bothered by it at all. Mom and Grandma were getting along better than they ever had, talking and laughing all the time. So, was it just me? I couldn’t shake my curiosity.

I had to know.

The plan came to me as I lay in bed the next morning. Grandma was an early riser, her routine predictable. I’d just heard the shower turn on, pipes clanking from the pressure, and I knew this might be my best chance.

Slipping off the cot, I winced each time the springs squeaked. When nobody stirred, I quickly snuck from the bedroom and tiptoed down the hall. I should have at least ten minutes before she’s out.

Plenty of time.

Cautiously peeking into her room, I saw the light shining from beneath her bathroom door. Bee-lining it to the dresser, I quietly opened the drawer and removed all the masks. I also spotted the one she wore each day sitting on her bedside table.

I grabbed that too.

Out I went, brisking down the stairs, through the living room and kitchen, then out the back door. I sprinted across the lawn to the studio. I didn’t doddle, setting the masks on her workbench before rushing back into the house.

It was a solid plan. She couldn’t hide her face now. Anticipation mixed with building excitement. I’d finally be able to see my grandma.

I heard the shower turn off as I ascended the stairs. Settling back into bed, I smiled. Perfect timing.

Then I heard her scream.


“Where is it?” I frantically searched the bedroom for my mask, but it was nowhere to be found. “I swear I put it right here.”

I hovered over the bedside table. Perhaps I tucked it away in the drawer without thinking. Moving to the dresser, I pulled it open, but it was empty. No.

Tying my hair into a bun, the panic set in. I paced, trying to make sense of what might’ve happened. Tears gathered behind my eyes, and within a few blinks, they streaked down my face.

Someone took them.

“No!” I screamed, gloved fists slamming onto the bed. I felt betrayed, anger swelling. “Who did it?”

I stomped to the door, cheeks hot, but my hand paused on the handle, shaking. I couldn’t go out there. Not like this.

My masks served well to protect me from myself, to hide the wrinkles and keep the fear at bay. A fear that was unreasonable, and unrelenting.

Those masks also protected me from the world. Or more appropriately, the world from me. Nobody should ever have to see the hideous monster I’d become.

A ragged shriek ripped from my throat, my body sagging against the frame.

“Mom?” came my daughter’s voice through the door. “Are you okay in there?”

I straightened, startled. “Oh, yes. I’m fine, Karen,” I replied, trying to soothe the tremble in my voice. Did she take them? But we were getting along so well…

“Are you sure? Your scream sounded urgent. Can I come in?”

“No!” I blurted, quickly clearing my throat. “No, that’s fine. I’m good, really.”

“Alright…” her voice trailed off, footsteps moving away.

Now what? Cringing, I swallowed my reservations. I had to say something. There was no other choice, unless I planned on wasting away in here. “Karen?”

Her footsteps returned. “Yeah?”

“Do you happen to know where my mask is?”

“Your mask? Uh, no. You don’t have it?”

“No, unfortunately I do not. All of my masks have gone missing.” Shaking my head, I cursed the world. This was unbelievable.

“What?” Karen’s voice sounded bewildered. “All of them? Are you sure?”

My temper flared. “Of course, I’m sure!” Biting the emotion back, I lowered my tone. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have yelled. I just—I just really need my mask.” My entire body was shaking.

“Oh, for goodness sakes…” Karen’s footsteps stomped away, a muffled shout following in short order. “Kids! Get out here.”

For several agonizing minutes, I strained to hear what was being said through the door. They were speaking passionately back and forth, but too quiet to make out. So, it had to be one of the kids then… but why? Why would they do such a thing to their grandmother? Did they not know how important those masks were?

Wait … How could they know? Karen didn’t even know the full extent. Sure, she knew I had a phobia of wrinkles. But she didn’t know how encompassing that fear was, how deeply it affected me. Not only did it twist my thoughts around, manipulating how I viewed myself and the world, but it consumed my physical health too. The panic was debilitating. Just the thought of seeing my own reflection sent my heart into palpitations. I was fully aware, yet powerless to control it. It was constantly there, a silent passenger weighing me down.

It was difficult to talk about.

Multiple footsteps approached the doorway, and my breath halted, waiting.

“Mom, I’m so sorry,” Karen said, voice stern. “Callie’s getting your masks right away, but Toby has something he’d like to say.” She did not sound impressed.

Relief coated my frazzled nerves, the breath rushing from my lungs. “Yes, Toby?”

“I’m sorry I took your masks, Grandma,” he said, voice low and quavering.

“Thank you for the apology, Toby. May I ask why you took them?”

A moment of silence followed, accompanied by sniffles. Then his quiet voice answered, “I just wanted to see you for real, Grandma.”

My heart splintered in two, my mind racing through deeply entrenched insecurities. Could I really show my true self to them? Cold sweat slickened my palms. Family was supposed to love and support one another unconditionally, right? In theory, yes, yet my husband had done neither of those things. So many people pointed and stared. I went into hiding for good reason. What if the kids were horrified—scarred for life? I didn’t know if I could handle that reaction. I would love for you to see me, dear Toby, but you might never want to again.

“Here they are, Mom!” Callie’s voice rang out, clomping down the hallway.

Karen knocked. “I’ll set the masks by the door, and we’ll see you downstairs.”

“Grandma, Toby didn’t mean to make you mad. I know he’s sorry!” Callie blurted. Karen quickly shushed her and herded both children down the hall.


The door clicked.

“Karen, wait.”

I paused at the top of the stairs, glancing back. My mouth opened in surprise, then immediately snapped shut.

“Mom…” I breathed. There she was, full face revealed. Something I hadn’t seen in ten years. Half shielded by the doorframe, she wrung her hands, hesitantly stepping forward.

“I know it’s ghastly. Perhaps the children shouldn’t see,” she muttered. Her brows furrowed, looking down.

“No, it’s not ghastly,” I assured. “Not at all.” Walking toward her, my eyes moistened. Her face looked different than I remembered. The white bandages near her temples framed upward slanting eyes, set beneath two thin and slightly asymmetrical eyebrows. Her cheeks, stretched smooth once, had sagged with time. Implants filled the creases at the corners of her mouth, giving her a much rounder appearance than she’d ever had. Mom’s lips were misshapen from Botox, and because of all the skin manipulations, her nose also looked wide and flat. The scarf she normally wore was absent, showing sixty-year-old wrinkles adorning her neck.

Well-earned wrinkles.

She hadn’t removed her gloves though. Understandable, for her panic would be immediate if she spied the wrinkles there. It was a body part she could easily see. Despite the amazing bravery she was showcasing now, I knew she didn’t wish to experience that.

Nor did I.

“I thought nobody wanted to see me… and I understood. Accepted it.” She took a shaky breath. “But perhaps I was wrong to hide myself from the ones who love me most.” Holding my hands, her lips curled into a slightly lopsided smile.

It was lovely to see.

“You can feel safe with us.” I hugged her and let the tears pour. It felt like my heart might burst in my chest. We’d just turned a huge corner.

“Mom, where’d you go?” Callie and Toby came running up the stairs, freezing when they took in the scene.

Mom let me go, instinctively reaching for a mask, but I held her hand with an encouraging smile as my children approached. They were developing their own minds, and definitely tried my patience sometimes, but I knew they had good hearts. I prayed for their acceptance now, as a negative reaction could dramatically impact this fragile moment.

“Grandma? Is that really you?” Callie asked, eyes wide in discovery. She walked up without fear, inspecting her grandmother’s face.

“Yep, it’s me,” Mom said softly. “I know I look funny, but it’s still the same old me.”

“So, this is why you wear a mask?” Toby considered for a moment, eyes brightening. “You know, some pretty epic superheroes wear masks too.”

Grandma nodded, looking them in the eye. “I’m sorry I’m not the beauty queen I once was. Are you scared?”

I squeezed her hand supportively. Insecurity was a hard thing to shake, but I wanted to help her try. In any way I could, I’d be there for her.

Callie and Toby looked at each other before shaking their heads with confidence. As if on cue, they brandished enormous smiles and rushed forward to wrap their grandma in bear hugs.

I joined in without hesitation. That’s when I heard Callie utter the sweetest whisper.

“It’s what’s on the inside that counts.”


R.A. Clarke is a former police officer turned stay-at-home mom from Portage la Prairie, MB. She shares life with a sport-aholic husband, two adorable children, and an ever-expanding collection of novels-in-progress. Besides coffee and lake time, R.A. enjoys plotting multi-genre short fiction, and writes/illustrates children’s books as Rachael Clarke. She’s won international short story competitions such as The Writer’s Workout “Writer’s Games”, Writer’s Weekly 24-Hour Short Story Contest, and Red Penguin Books humour contest. She was named a Hindi’s Libraries Females of Fiction finalist and a Futurescapes Award finalist in 2021, a Dark Sire Award finalist in 2022, and her novella Becoming Grace won the Write Fighters 3-Day Novella Challenge in 2023. R.A.’s work can be read in various publications. To learn more, visit: https://linktr.ee/raclarkewrites

The Writing Disorder is a quarterly literary journal. We publish exceptional new works of fiction, poetry, nonfiction and art. We also feature interviews with writers and artists, as well as reviews.



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