In response to The Vindicator’s fifth annual Love Story Writing Contest, 60 entries were submitted in an attempt to win one of three prizes.
The rules were simple. Complete this year’s love story, “Sliding Into Love,” in 750 words or fewer by the Feb. 3 deadline.
A couple of the endings were too long. A few missed the deadline. But most were exactly what we asked for — a creative, happily ever after conclusion — making the selection quite a challenge.
But our judges read every single one of the submissions, and after very careful consideration selected the following winners — yes, all men!
A total of 12 guys participated, most of whom were among the top contenders.
Ladies, what can we say?
We’ve got some real creative fellas in the Valley.
To read some of the other entries we received, visit our website at vindy.com and click on the “Love Story” banner located in the scrolling Features area of our home page.
Here is the beginning of the love story:
SLIDING INTO LOVE
As she watched the first big snowfall of the season from her apartment window, Jennifer Simon found that on that January day she wasn’t consumed with the usual annoyances of clearing the powder from her windshield, slipping on icy sidewalks or feeling the chill in her fingers and toes.
Instead, she saw a quiet Youngstown blanketed in white and felt like a kid again. She hadn’t been reminded of the memory in years, but she thought of the days when she and her family would head to the sled hill at Mill Creek Park and zoom down it, blushing from the cold and laughing off each tumble and pratfall.
The warm memory made the bills due at the end of the month and a long list of errands seem to melt away. Suddenly, feeling that same joy in the snow seemed like the only option.
Her excitement began to flicker a little as she searched her closet for something warm, longing for the full-body snowsuits that she and her siblings wore for the excursions as kids.
Getting creative with her wardrobe, she piled jeans over old sweat pants, a hooded sweat shirt over two undershirts and mittens over her gloves, with her coat on top of it all.
Even during the precarious drive through snowy streets to Wick Recreation Area, she felt free and weightless, much like the fluffy snowflakes gently falling around her.
In the still-insistent storm, there weren’t as many people on the hill as she remembered during snow days off from school. However, a few families and individuals with Jennifer’s same rush for adventure were sliding along.
She climbed to the top of the hill and simply watched for a while, occasionally shaking off the snow settling on her head and shoulders.
A family was breathless from climbing up the hill but smiling happily, and the father held up a rounded sled and yelled in her direction.
“Hey! What are you standing around for? You can use our sled for a ride down. We need a break anyway,” he explained as he shook the sled in Jennifer’s direction and smiled.
“Thank you,” she said earnestly, touched by the show of hometown hospitality. She felt a bit silly, now realizing the kink in her plan — how could she forget a sled when she wanted a sled-riding adventure?
“I’ll bring it back as soon as I’m done!” she promised, excited to get started.
Jennifer bent down, settled into the saucer sled and pushed off from the peak of the hill. As she gained speed, it was just as she remembered: The bite of the wind on her cheeks and the brief, blissful feeling of flying.
The harsh wind during her trip down also made her eyes water, and she was suddenly trying to blink away the moisture. Within seconds, she started to shriek as she found herself on a guaranteed collision course with another sledder.
They intersected like two high-speed cars, and sleds went tumbling through the air.
Getting up a few seconds later, Jennifer’s first reaction was anger. She’d come here to enjoy a perfect, worry-free moment.
“Hey!” she yelled acidly, poking a mitten-covered finger into the stranger’s chest after they both rose from their crash.
But then she saw ...
And the winners are
(entries are unedited)
First place: Dr. Frank J. DeNiro of Canfield. He received $100 in gift certificates to Rulli Bros.
... Jake Wilson, a childhood friend.
Shocked to see who it was, Jennifer laughed and apologized as she gave Jake a big hug. “Hey stranger — what brings you to town?” “I hear you live in the big city of L.A. where the sun shines almost every day.”
“Well, unfortunately, I am here for my father’s funeral,” Jake stated.
Sadly Jennifer answered, “I did read about it in The Vindicator. I am so sorry to hear about your father. He was such a nice man.”
“Actually, I came here today, Jake stated, to reminisce about the few good times that I had as a child with my dad on this hill.”
“I don’t know if you knew but I wasn’t real close with my dad,” Jake added. “He was a very successful businessman in town but making money was more important to him than spending time with his only child. After my mother died, I moved to California to just get away from it all.”
Surprised at Jake’s attitude towards his father, Jennifer said, “My mother worked as a secretary for your dad for many years. She often talked highly about him describing how well he treated her.
After my parents divorced, he treated me like family and often volunteered to take me and my siblings to this park to sled ride in the winter.
Actually, this is where I first met you on this exact hill. What a coincidence, some 20 years later that we meet again at the same spot.”
Jake replied, “I am glad you and your family admired him because in my case, as soon as I was 18, I was off to California to get as far away from him as I could. And fortunately, I will again be leaving for L.A. tomorrow night after I meet with his attorney to sign some important papers.”
“Well, I better get going. It was nice seeing you again Jennifer,” Jake said.
“Yes, it was,” Jennifer responded, “but while you are in town, let’s get together for lunch before you leave. “Here’s my number and please call me tomorrow. It will mean the world to me to talk about old times especially those at Wick Recreation Park.”
Jake agreed and put her number in his cell phone and graciously hugged Jennifer before departing.
The next morning in the attorney’s office, Jake listened intently as the attorney read instructions for him from his father’s will.
The attorney then handed him an envelope and stated to please honor his father’s wishes.
Upon leaving the attorney’s office, Jake quickly made his way to the car and immediately opened the manila envelope. Inside was a key to a safety deposit box at a local bank as well as a hand written letter.
The letter read as follows: “Dear Jake, if you are reading this, I have already passed. I know our relationship was somewhat distant, but I want you to know that I always loved you more than life itself. I understand I wasn’t the greatest dad but you were my pride and joy. Unfortunately, over the years, I kept a secret from you and your mother. I fathered a child, a daughter, named Jennifer. Her mother worked for me as a secretary and although it was a mistake, I loved both of them dearly. You may even remember playing with her at Mill Creek Park on the swings in the summer and sled riding in the winter. I enjoyed watching both of you play as I sat from a distance. I am now asking you to find my daughter Jennifer Simon, your half-sister, and tell her the whole truth. I enclosed a key to a safety deposit box where I put money away for both of you to pay bills. Please honor my request and tell her how much I loved her.
Love always, Dad.”
Jake was shocked over what he had just read. The girl he knew as a child and the one he just collided with sled riding on the hill yesterday is now his “sister.”
Jake thought this all had to be a dream or some heartwarming story one reads about in The Vindicator.
However, realizing the truth, Jake nervously dials Jennifer’s number to meet for lunch.
With envelope and letter in hand, Jake must figure out a way to break this incredible story to Jennifer and become the brother to a sister he never knew he had.