Tough Decision

Pick one moment in your life where you had to make a tough decision—picking a college, quitting a job, going on a diet, putting a parent in a retirement home, etc. Now write about a fictional character who was faced with the same situation and choose to make the opposite decision. How did things turn out differently?

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620 thoughts on “Tough Decision

  1. LadyMask

    Sherie and her husband Bruce were on their way through what would be the toughest decision they ever had to make in their short lives together. Sherie had just had a child, she was told by physicians would not make it through the night. She had called Bruce in the most shaky and tearful voice telling him of the news. He went to the hospital to sit and talk with her and comfort her. About 4am the doctors came in and told them that their child had passed. Even with this horrifying news they were most adamant that they should make funeral arrangements immediately. No time to grieve in the least, no time to think of what had just slapped them both in the face and ripped their hearts out. She and Bruce had talked on into the afternoon. She had even asked if she might think it over in the privacy of their own home but, they said she could not leave the hospital until arrangements were made. So, they decided on a quiet funeral for the child and told no one of this taking place. If they were to grieve for the lost child, they would do it alone. They called the local funeral home setting the date and time. After the arrangements had been confirmed by the hospital and Sherie had one last time been visited by her doctor. They were finally allowed to go home. Three days later they went to the baby’s funeral. Five years later Sherie still mourns the lost little angel.
    -What turned out differently is the little one that passed had three older sisters and we had to cremate the baby instead of normal burial. Also it’s only been three years but, it doesn’t feel as if I can ever get past the hurt.

  2. Rhetoric922

    Here is my first attempt at this.

    Mr. Johnson walked down the hallway having just clocked in for work. He walked passed the cafeteria area towards his office when he noticed one of his students was already waiting for him.

    “Why do you look so tired?” she asked softly.

    “We’re about to talk about that.”

    Mr. Johnson opened the door slowly and both he and the student walked in. He sat in desk chair and she sat on a couch that he in there for students to sit in.

    “So let me explain. I didn’t get even a few minutes of sleep last night because of what you told me.”

    The young girl didn’t do anything but look at Mr. Johnson, not even tapping her foot or shifting her hands.

    “You admitted something to me, and then you asked me not to tell anyone which by law I am required to do.”

    Tears started to fill her eyes at this point.

    “PLEASE TELL ME YOU DIDN’T!”

    Mr. Johnson didn’t say anything for a few minutes letting the student get her tears out. Then he continued.

    “No, I haven’t told anyone what you told me.” This didn’t have the desired effect of stopping the tears. “Having said that, I also wasn’t able to sleep last night because I kept asking myself what I should do because what you confessed has serious implications for the both of us. I was unable to sleep because I am VERY worried about you.”

    “Wh-Wh-Why are you worried?” she said through her hands.

    “Because I look at you and all of the pain you’ve gone through,” Mr. Johnson said, his tone carrying more weight to it. “I look in your eyes sometimes and I see someone whose given up hope. That worries me because I also see the person you can become. I see a young woman who has a bright future ahead of her, but whose also stuck in the present because she let’s present circumstances destroy her hopes and dreams.”

    The tears started to slow down and she slowly lifted her eyes out of her wet hands.

    “I don’t know how I can keep on going on living like this. No matter what I do or say to people, nothing ever changes. A lady has already come to my house and checked on me and my sister and NOTHING CHANGES!.”

    “There is good out there for you, but you’ll only get that good if you keep working hard. You’ve come a long way this year and you are almost done here. You’ll be able to go to college and or get the career you want, but that will only happen if you keep your focus on your goals. If you need someone to talk, you know I am always here.”

    The bell range for the first class to start before either could continue the conversation. The young woman slowly gathered her things and stood up. As she did, Mr. Johnson saw something he hadn’t seen from her in a while; a smile.

  3. Doug Langille

    JAKE
    =====

    Jake hobbled in to the kitchen and half sat on his haunchs. The old dog’s hips didn’t quite have the elasticity for a proper sit. He more or less squatted and leaned against my leg.

    It was my turn to deal and we were in the homestretch. Shuffle. Split. Deal. It was my crib so I tossed the pair of sevens, hoping for a cut. She tapped the top of the deck with her index finger. I drew a card and placed it face up on the full stack. A three. Shit. I’ll have to peg my way to the finish. I looked across the table to the smirk I both loved and loathed.

    She went first. “Nine.” She looked at the dog and frowned. “What’d the vet say?”

    “Fifteen for two.” I countered and moved my peg. “Same as last time. He won’t know for sure without the biopsy.”

    A six. “Twenty one for two.” She pegged. “How much for that?”

    My turn. “Twenty-seven for four.” I reached down and scrubbed behind Jake’s ear. He smiled his dumb dog grin and leaned in even more. “More than we got. Kids go back to school next week.”

    “So, what do we do?” She looked in her hand. “Go.”

    “Thirty-one for two.” I pegged again. “Well, more pain meds. Bad for his liver, but he’s twelve.” I shrugged. Jake slid to the floor under the table between us.

    Back to her. “Four,” she said as she laid another card. “Jake, stop licking my feet.” He did.

    “Part of me thinks we should put him down. I asked the vet if Jake was suffering. I didn’t really get a straight answer.” I slammed my last card down for effect. “Ten.”

    “I’m glad you didn’t. I don’t think I’m ready.” She finished the hand, pegging the shit out of me. “Fifteen for two, three is five and one for last is six.”

    Her first count. “Fifteen-two, fifteen-four, fifteen-six and a double run of three is fourteen. Game.” She did a little victory dance in her chair. “Time to celebrate, Jake.” Nothing. Her voice shook. “Jake?”

    I bent and peered under the table. “Jake?”

  4. Gina

    She felt completely and utterly naked. That’s all there was to it. Scratch that, she felt violated – more like naked with a rectal thermometer the size of a pogo stick stuck up her derrière.
    Tabby’s stint as an RN hadn’t necessarily been laden with sunshine and roses, but it paid the bills. She had the option of moving virtually anywhere in the good ole’ US of A and landing a job without so much as a flash of her license to practice and Voila! Welcome to the team! And don’t forget the discounted lunches down in the cafeteria. Baked chicken and vegetable medley got old after awhile, but it beat doing the cooking yourself any day of the week in Tabby’s book.
    She repeated this mantra of “Why I Should Love My Job, Let Me Count the Ways” every morning as she rode the elevator six floors up and stepped out to swipe her ID badge before taking her place in the trenches. Nursing, a true war of attrition, she thought to herself. And then, one day, she had emerged from the relative safety of her trench behind the Nurses Station – and had finally suffered a true hit.
    Unassuming, sweet Texas drawl, visiting-from-out-of-town grandma in Room 607 had turned out to be one mean little lady. Tabby had never been too keen on the whole human-punching bag role that nurses often played, but this day had been different. This day, she had let it get to her. As the wretched woman, old – but not too old to know better, lay into her, yelling and threatening to rip out her IV if Tabby didn’t take it out, Tabby snapped. It was all a bit of a blur, but Tabby was pretty sure it started with her slamming her fat plastic three-ringed patient binder down on one of those flimsy over-the-bed tables; and it had ended somewhere in the vicinity of her yelling, “You’re crazy!” before stomping red-faced out the door. Not one of her most stellar moments by far.
    Her lapse in composure had led to an official complaint to the Board of Nurses by said “mean little lady”, a full investigation of Tabby’s work history, and psychological evaluations. Co-workers and bosses past and present had been questioned. It had been a humiliating process. In the end, Tabby was deemed fit to continue working as a Registered Nurse. No revoking of license, no corrective action, no anger management classes…not so much as an official reprimand.
    The entire process had caused an irrevocable change in Tabby, leaving her feeling fragile and vulnerable. Afraid to go back to work, afraid of being victimized yet again on the whim of some Coo-Coo for Cocoa Puffs patient – she quit her job.
    A change of scenery would be nice, she thought. Somewhere warm, where the sky was big and the pace was slow. A place where fears – her fears at any rate – could be laid to rest. Tabby looked down at the creased slip of paper in her lap. She’d always had a habit of shoving patient information sheets in her scrub pockets as a quick reference during her rounds. She’d find them laying around in her junk piles at home and shred them into tiny bits before chucking them in the trash – patient privacy and all that. Not long after quitting her job, she’d run across this sheet and kept it. Flattening it out, she read: Doreen Edwards, 629 Tarpon Avenue, Port Isabel, Texas, and plugged it into her GPS. Yes, that was one of the perks of being a nurse; you could find a job just about anywhere…

    1. Gina

      My apologies, this is my first time posting more than a sentence on this site. I did a cut and paste and assumed that all the paragraph spacing and font changes would transfer. A classic case of the “what happens when you assume” rule. Anyhow, I hope it’s not too difficult to read this way.

    2. Observer Tim

      Quite all right, Gina. We all learn; you’ll know more of WordPress’s quirks next time. This story is compelling enough that I strongly encourage there to be more next times – lots more.

      This sounds so very, very real to me. One of my sisters is a nurse, and she has repeatedly described similar scenarios. So far she’s resisted the temptation to lose it, but her tongue is a dangerous weapon. Oddly enough I find these tales of difficult people more interesting than her discussions of the life and death situations.

      I hope reality didn’t put you through that wringer, but I sense it really did. It’s amazing how many people become sharks when they smell blood. That’s what the “professional review” process is like. I’ve seen it happen to a good friend in another profession, and he ended up on stress-related disability afterward.

    3. Reaper

      Welcome to posting more than a sentence Gina. Generally with word just add an extra return between paragraphs because the formatting does go wonky. That’s a technical term. Good story, I definitely wanted some more so good job on that. I’ve had a number of friends that were nurses and it seems to be one of the hardest jobs out there. Not enough respect from doctors and the patients can’t yell at the doctor so they yell at the nurse. This read very true to what I know of the profession so you translated it well. Keep them coming.

      1. Gina

        Thanks to both of you for the tips and for taking the time to read my “stuff.” I really wanted to write more, but I’d already gone well over the 500 words and was afraid I might deter potential readers if it got too lengthy. Truth be told, I wasn’t sure who I wanted Tabby to be yet – quirky investigator or revenge-seeking psychopath. Either way, she’s going to confront her accuser. It can be a real challenge to develop a character in less than 500 words, but I had a great time trying!

  5. DMelde

    This is a piece of fluff I found floating around in my brain–

    Baboons have pink butts and I think it must embarrass them because whenever I see baboons walking around they’ll suddenly stop and quickly sit down, as if they’re thinking to themselves, “Oh crap, my pink butt is showing again.” I often see them sitting high up in the trees, stranded up there in-between the branches like so much rotting fruit, while a hungry lion paces in the savannah down below. Those might be good enough reasons to never want to be a baboon, but I think if I had it to do it all over again, I’d endure the embarrassment of having a pink butt, and I’d also risk being eaten by a lion. If I could go back to the time before I was born, I think I would have been tempted to have been born a baboon.

    My writing certainly reflects it at times. This could easily have been written by a baboon, or most certainly by a buffoon. My writing might actually improve, now that I think about it.

    I’d have a harem too, just a small one with no more than five females. After all, you need something to do when you’re stranded high up in a tree while a lion paces below… I wouldn’t have to get up early in the morning and go to work. That would be so nice. There’d be no more school or exams. And I wouldn’t be staring at a clock every day wondering what’s taking so long. Instead, I’d eat fruit all day (some of it fermented), belch whenever I wanted to, and for desert I’d have velvet monkey, Yum!

    There’s just one problem though, I’d miss my family terribly. What would my parents say if I had been born a baboon? What would the doctors have thought? Would they have shipped me off to the circus? A baboon would do great in the circus by the way, except for the cruel taunts from the human children, “Pink butt…pink butt…pink butt.”

    I guess I’m better off being human. I can still eat fermented fruit, and sleep late into the morning hours and not go into work every now and then. Now…I just have to work on getting that harem…

    1. snuzcook

      We have harbored some of the same thoughts, DMelde, at least about baboons sitting down whenever someone looks at them! This was a lot of fun.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I don’t think it’s worth it, DMelde. Even with the five lady baboons. When you’re driving around in your banana car and you make a wrong turn, some body’s gonna yell…….”You stupid baboon butt idiot!” And besides, how many lady baboons have you shared your favors with? I wouldn’t go around telling anybody.

    2. Observer Tim

      This is so wonderfully surreal, DMelde! I really and truly wish I’d thought of it. Of course our species is not usually a choice we get, but if we could I think there’d be a lot fewer humans about.

      Trivial point about baboons – when your harem are interested in your “attention”, their butts go from pink to a deeper red. That way you know they’re in the mood.

      Also, many humans have pink butts too. The difference is that baboons have fur on the rest of their body to make it stand out more. You can achieve the same effect by going commando and cutting the back part of your jeans away.

      Now that image is stuck in my head. Sigh.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        You have totally ruined my morning, Tim. Go slink back in your “Canadian Sunset’. Don’t come out until the pink thing is over. Sigh.

  6. Ahsuniv

    Okay, I didn’t think that I would be able to make it this week. It’s been one busy week for me unfortunately. But I made something up anyways. I want to add that this is a highly fantasized version of what would have happened if I had accepted a certain job long ago.

    ____________________________________________________________________________________

    ‘Yes, I will take the offer,’ I said to my new boss sitting across the table, grinning at me. Her hair stuck out in clouds of black, wiry hair.

    ***

    I stared at the zippered package in my arms later that day. I looked from the package to my boss’s face. I was hired to be a designer, not a delivery girl, I wanted to shout.

    ‘Sure, I’ll be there on time. Don’t worry, boss,’ I said instead, smiling sweetly.

    I honked as the line of cars belonging to the wedding guests refused to budge.

    ‘Ugh,’ I said to myself as I got out of the car, ‘I should have a blaring siren on my car. Heck, no one’s getting married if I don’t get there!’ I thought. I grabbed the package and sprinted towards the groom’s room, shunning the car. The jam was not likely to clear any time soon. Besides I only needed to hand the package to the groom and head back to the car. It was a matter of minutes.

    As I ran, I saw some of the wedding guests waiting around the garden and suddenly felt self-conscious. It felt like I was wearing rags in comparison to them. My hair looked nothing different from my boss’s hair and I understood perfectly well how it turned out like that. I’ll do a tutorial on YouTube for the look later, I thought. I was sweaty from running around the market for buttons all noon. My dress was crumpled and stuck to my sticky body. To add to the list, my shoe’s heel broke as I ran down the hall.

    I sat on the staircase and tried to stick the heel back into the nail. I felt someone sit next to me. I looked around to see who it was and suddenly felt my cheeks turn hot. He was the most handsome hunk I had ever seen. His tousled hair fell carelessly over his blue eyes. He looked vaguely familiar.

    ‘Hello,’ he said in a deep voice, giving a thousand watt smile.

    ‘Are you an actor?’ I said and clapped my mouth in embarrassment.

    ‘No,’ he said laughing. ‘I wanted to commend you on your excellent choice of dressing. I am Daniel. And you are?’

    ‘Oh, um, thank you. I am Marcy,’ I said, blushing.

    ‘Are you by any chance a stylist?’ he asked brusquely.

    ‘Yes I am. How did you know?’ I asked, feeling a heat creep up my face.

    ‘Something about your dressing. Would you like to be my personal stylist? I’m not particularly happy with my current one,’ he said, tugging at his paisley printed shirt.

    ‘Of course. I would love to,’ I said as I felt my heart leap with joy. I wondered why he even needed a personal stylist. He handed me his visiting card and walked away, waving a goodbye.

    I waved back and looked down at the visiting card. The name, “Daniel Penner”, was written in white letters over a black background with a mobile number at the bottom. Nothing else.

    I gave the groom his package and came back outside to see a huge poster being put up near the neighboring hall. Daniel Penner was smiling toothily from it, holding a guitar. I looked closer and realized that he was a singer. He seemed to have a performance in the next hall later that evening. Something clicked in my mind at that moment and I remembered seeing him in a music video on tv. Beaming, I bounded to my car, humming the tune of his song.

    1. snuzcook

      This is so much fun for the serendipity factor, Ahsuniv. If she hadn’t taken the job, if she hadn’t made that delivery, if she hadn’t broken her heel, etc. You’ve presented a very believable and likable MC, though is irritated at doing grunt work that would actually be a wonderful break from being stuck behind a computer all day like many of your readers; you have created a nice, happy-ever-after moment we can all salivate after.

    2. Observer Tim

      This is a wonderful “just so” story, Ahsuniv. This prompt has generated a lot of deep and serious responses; yours is simply fun. You brought a smile to my face that I didn’t think would happen. Thanks for the pleasant surprise!

      My red pencil says that “your deportment” or “your style” would be a less jarring fit than “your dressing”. It’s a minor issue, but I love finding them because that means the story is very near perfect and only needs a tiny bit of polish.

  7. carlyumz

    I’m a little late with this! Not usually one for writing about something so personal, but your other posts inspired me to dig deep and go for it.

    This was goodbye, but for real this time. From the outside it didn’t seem any different from the countless other goodbyes we’d shared, but we both knew that this was it. A goodbye without the promise of a sheepish hello at the other end of it. Game over.

    Mark looked at me with such sorrow and then pressed me against him with trembling arms. I willed myself to remember how his skin felt against mine, his scent, even the sound of his breathing. I traced the arch of his back with my hand and wanted to mourn for every second that I let pass.

    I heard Mark clear his throat and thought he might offer me kind words, but instead he just held me tighter. There was nothing for us to say that we hadn’t gone over so many times before. We both knew we were making the right decision and doing the honourable thing, but being right didn’t make it any easier. Neither of us wanted to start a relationship built on someone else’s pain and neither of us wanted to cause any more heartbreak. An indiscretion between your best friend and your girlfriend was one thing, but a serious relationship was unforgiveable. No matter how we looked at it, and for weeks we had tried, the only solution was to go back to being just friends.

    We both knew there was no way that would ever happen. I’d given us an awkward month or so before we both decided to quietly fade away from each other’s lives.

    I pulled away from Mark and watched him shake with tears. He didn’t try to hide his sadness, not one bit. So far I’d tried to make it easier, whatever that meant, by keeping it together as best I could, but seeing him so devastated broke me.

    So I wept, not just for the man I wasn’t supposed to be in love with, but for the whole future I was closing a door on. I wept for the years we would spend crash-landing from the high of university when we would need each other more than ever. I wept for our first cluttered house with grinning pictures of us on the walls that would never exist and for the couple who would spend lazy weekends together achieving little but feeling entirely grown-up. I wept for the talk of wedding rings that I would never hear and for the future plans that would exist only in our minds and never on the canvas we had foolishly set out for ourselves. We were doomed from the start and still we jumped in.

    The only thing I could manage was, “I’m sorry,” over and over again.

    I apologised to Mark so many times that day and yet the thing I was the most sorry for was talking myself out of what could have been.

    1. Jay

      I love it, Carly. Especially paragraph six. The whole story encompasses a depth of pain that is subdued by an awareness of necessity, which really brings this story to life. Always a pleasure reading your work. Thanks for sharing!

      1. carlyumz

        As always I enjoy reading your extremely kind comments Jay. Thank you! I’ve been away so have a lot of stories to catch up on this week, but absolutely love the prompt so going to plough through them. Let’s hope your story isn’t way down at the bottom of the page :)

        1. Kerry Charlton

          Thank you for the story Carly. Regardless of the pain and regret, it’s the most powerful writing I mever read about a love lost forever. Talk about high romance, you almost got me crying.

          1. carlyumz

            Ah you made my day with your comment Kerry, just wanted to thank you for taking the time to give me feedback :)

    2. Xevirus

      There is a lot, but I like best, I think, the last sentence. The idea that our apologies are often not directed at the ones who need or deserve them: it was she to whom she was apologizing, it was the boyfriend to whom she should have been apologizing.
      What differentiates this from a lot of the other entries (not all, mind) is the way that the decision is important because it involves so significantly the other people. Every choice obviously has ripples that influence everyone involved with everyone involved, but here any of the choices (stay with boyfriend/leave best friend, stay with best friend/leave boyfriend, leave boyfriend and best friend, run away joining an ancient convent in the woods of Appalachia) is loaded with potentially serious emotional stab wounds and potentially life-changing forks to at least one of the parties, and, realistically, to all three. And because the wrong has already happened at the time of this decision (which was set up to happen by a previous decision that, quite possibly went unnoticed), this particular point in time is also made powerful by its lack of clear right and wrong alternatives; they are all right in ways, they are all wrong in ways, but the reset button isn’t one of them, though the choice at the end of this would like to pretend it is.

    3. jmcody

      Wow. I’m just glad this is the opposite of true! When I was going over possible stories in my mind, I scrapped a lot of them because I couldn’t figure how to show how the alternate reality differed from what really happened. You did that very well here by talking about the presumably imagined life that you would never have together. Heart-breaking and well written. Carly!

    4. Observer Tim

      I found this story was one that grabbed my heart and twisted. I found myself easily dragged into the description and held there while the scene played out in all its desire and pain. You did an incredible job capturing the emotions of the main character (fictional you) and of Mark.

      I hope reality worked out less painfully, but I have a sense it was more different than opposite. Thanks for sharing this, carlyumz.

      1. carlyumz

        Thanks Tim, and for the sake of not spamming the board – a hearty thanks to Xevirus and jmcody for your feedback too. Without getting too soppy, everyone’s comments over the past few weeks (even the spot-on constructive criticism – no, especially that) has meant so much.

        And yep, reality worked out less painfully than my story I’m pleased to report! There was pain involved for all three parties at first obviously, but I believe that making the tough decision to pursue my current relationship was the right one. I’m certainly a shedload happier than I would be if the above alternative was my reality.

  8. mheather

    Margaret knew that what she was in was no different than what she had grown up in and had sworn she would never repeat. She had watched her mother suffer through decades of abuse both physically and emotionally delivered from one of the most charismatic men she had ever encountered-her father. All her young life she had promised to never put up with that and yet here she was.
    Her she was, 21 with two children and living under a spyglass. Early Sunday morning she spent prepping his hiking supplies for the week. She hadn’t realized that by Wednesday she would feel a profound sense of tranquility. After 4 years of anxiety in the first person and a previous 17 years of observed and peripheral anxiousness, this was a strange situation. Not watching the clock to see when he would be home and ensuring that she could account for every moment of the day including each encounter with someone. She didn’t have to stay within earshot and a two ring answer of the telephone. He was completely isolated on his climb and couldn’t get to a phone to check up on where she was, who she had run into, how long she was gone, what she was wearing.
    As Wednesday evening faded and she sat rocking the younger one in the chair by the window with the blinds partially open her thoughts drifted freely. Is this what the other people in the other homes felt? This sense of not having to share, edit, hide a part of their lives from the scrutiny and judgement of the people who loved them?
    Her boy was asleep in his bed with the blankets askew. 2 years earlier she had prayed for guidance in making her decision on whether to stay or go and asked that the gender of her child be the sign. If a boy came into the world she would go. A boy would be able to withstand the pressures of life without a male influence and her brothers would be able to act as his mentors. She hadn’t heeded the sign then. Now as she rocked her curly haired daughter she wondered if this sense of peace would be what she could give them as her gift in life. She knew that the handling of all practical matters would be easy enough….she did all the daily stuff now. She could do it. She would do it.
    On Saturday evening he opened the door and called out. Why was the living room empty? He called out down the hall and his voice echoed. As he moved further in slowly there was a different scent. Ahhhh, the little woman couldn’t have known what time he’d be home – in fact, he hadn’t been due home until tomorrow and yet she had the furniture hauled out of the living room so that the freshly shampooed carpets would drive. She knew how to keep her man happy.

    1. Observer Tim

      This is a touching story outlining not one but two major shifts in the main character’s life. I can see two alternate outcomes – one is that Margaret got out at the first crisis point (it’s a boy); the other is that she stayed. I hope whatever choice was made in real life worked out. I love the imagery and confusion of the controlling husband in the last paragraph.

      My red pencil says the first paragraph reads a bit awkwardly, like you were trimming it and missed a few of the details. Also, for the sake of my eyes I’d love it if you put an extra blank line between paragraphs. It enhances the readability.

      1. mheather

        Thanks for your comments. This is my first time putting something out into the world.

        I’ll take your red pencil remarks to heart and rework and for the sake of your eyes I will make sure I add the extra.

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