You've created a very interesting story around a very interesting character and situation. For a short story, it is critical to weave character development in with action as you don't have space to devote to character development separately. You do just precisely what a short story is meant to do on this point. Well done. A short story is also meant to focus on one event, one problem in a character's life, not a range of problems.
While you amply provide a back-story by way of flashback as part of your characterization, the back-story relates directly to the problem at hand: her connection to the world and how she lost it (which also foreshadows how she will get it back). Your focus on one single event, one problem is also well done.
Your vocabulary hits just the right tone. You are a sophisticated limited third-person narrator revealing the life of a woman who is not coarse nor simple, though psychologically damaged. Your vocabulary and diction level make her more accessible and define her social position (assuming I'm correct: at the start, I thought she was a pauper from the destitute lower classes but as you progressed, I converted her to a working class woman with some sound education).
A structural criticism, then, is that you might clarify in your first sentences that she is impoverished or of the working middle class: sort it out for us so we don;t have to do it. This is what makes her seem a destitute pauper: "They called her the face in the window. Practically everybody in the neighbourhood knew her; the woman who would sit in the upstairs window of her house." Maybe just change "neighborhood knew her" to "everyone had seen her," thus losing the connotation of short sentences plus "neighborhood."
Stylistic notes are these:
- "from an insurance policy she had stashed somewhere. " You either mean an annuity, not insurance, or you mean an insurance policy "payout." A policy that is "stashed away" provides not income at all. An insurance payout may be stashed away and be a hidden stash of money, and an annuity can provide annual income that can be stashed away for spending needs.
- "a world of noise people who brought danger, and did bad things to each other. " Correct the punctuation here by removing the comma. What do you actually mean "a world of noise people who"? Are you missing a word between "noise" and "people"? Or do you need a comma there. One or the other.
- “Another one?” she sighed: This is very popular, "blank" she sighed, but very awkward if not actually physically impossible. Be better than the competition and find another way to say what you really mean: she speaks and she is exasperated, lonely, angry, annoyed? What?
- What year is the flashback meant to be? The husbands dialogue is contemporary and colloquial. If the flashback is to anything other than the near past, his language is anachronistic (out of place).
- There is one logic problem. You say "upstairs window" and her cell phone on the "kitchen table." Is this a house? We picture a house at the beginning, and she is at the upstairs window of her house. But if so, why is she also next to a kitchen table ... in a kitchen. If she is in an upstairs flat, simply add the word "flat" or "apartment" in the opening.
You have a very good short story here!
PS: As Staff for eNotes, I'm removing most of your story because (1) you have some good comments from several people and (2) you are exposing yourself to having your story "borrowed" by Internet idea bandits.
I like it, but I would work on the beginning. A short story needs a quick exposition, the part where you introduce the basic characters and setting. However, I prefer to do this with a plot point rather than direct telling. As they say, SHOW not TELL.
I believe the story makes sense and that it flows logically. I like the understatement at the end of the story. I interpret the story as a reawakening of a woman's desire to embrace and experience life beyond her four walls. In essence, the woman, because of her care and concern for John Martinez, makes the choice (however difficult) to reach out and help him.
This is the beginning of her reconnecting to the world outside and around her. She knows she has to break the yoke - the burden - of confining herself to her house, isolating herself from the joys and trials of interacting with others on a daily basis.
The story provides a clear back story on why the woman is a recluse in her own home. Readers will understand why she has sheltered herself in her house - avoiding connecting with others because of her underlying grief and her wariness in being hurt again through relationships with others. I find the story easy to follow and straightforward in its presentation. It makes its point well in my opinion.
Great American Short Stories Teaching Unit