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Fiction: Little Sister’s Revenge (735 words)

“Don’t you dare touch my dresser,”   I ran after my brother, trying to slow him down as he made his way to the back of the house, but there was no hope for it.  I was an eleven-year-old girl who weighed almost next to nothing, compared to my fourteen-year-old brother, who was surprisingly strong for a bookworm. I just hung off his arm as I tried to weigh him down, but he pulled open the second to top drawer and slipped the little blue notebook out of its hiding spot under a folded tank top and three or four pairs of “Fancy Dress Socks” that my mother made me own, but I tried desperately not to wear under any occasion.   He hadn’t even hesitated or searched.  He just knew.

“How long have you known that was there?”  I asked incredulously.

“You don’t want the answer to that.”  SJ answered honestly, “So, do you have a day, in particular, you want me to look at, or should I just open and start reading aloud?”

I just stared at my brother with my mouth half hanging open.  I couldn’t believe what happening here.  “SJ, you will put that notebook back under those socks. We will both walk away and forget this ever happened, or else I will be forced to take drastic measures.  And you will not be happy if I have to take drastic measures.”

“What are you going to do, little squirt. I’m not afraid of you.” And then he opened the book and read aloud, “I’m thinking of asking Mom if we can put some temporary hair dye in for the party. I know that she raves about how good my hair looks naturally and how I shouldn’t do a thing to it, but I think I can convince her as long as I buy the kind that washes out after a week or so.”

And that was it. Not only had he called me little. Not only had he insinuated I wasn’t scary when we both knew perfectly well that I could be.  But he had open the book. He had started to read aloud.  It was time to bring in the big guns.

“MOM!” I may have been small, but I certainly had a set of lungs on me, and when I wanted to shriek, I really could.

“Little rat.”  SJ sneered, shutting the book and shoving it into my chest.  I stuck my tongue out at him as our mother came charging into the room.

“What? Oh Lord, Rose. What could possibly be happening to justify you shrieking like that? One of you had better be dying or the emergency equivalent.”

I briefly considered just saying that I had over reacted to SJ scaring me, to let the whole thing slide.  But he had read out loud.  And who was to say he hadn’t done it before.  No, it was time for SJ to get what he deserved for all of this.

“Mom. SJ was reading my notebook. Aloud. He’d threaten to read it to his friends.”  SJ was lucky the section that he read aloud was fairly innocent.  Had he read anything having to do with my crush of the time, Johnny, I would have turned on the whole water works routine, and really gotten Mom riled up.

Now, in the average family, a little sister might be able to get her big brother in trouble for reading her diary. He may get a lecture about respecting privacy and have to do some sort of official apology.  But in the Ashford residence, well, the sanctity of the diary was one that my mother made us swear by. SJ probably would have gotten in less trouble if I told my mother that he had physically hit me.    My mother started to tear him a new one right then and there, proving that my ability to shriek had been an inherited quality.

I slipped quietly out of the room with a smile on my face.  SJ’s torture was just beginning so there would be plenty of time to enjoy it later.

Right then, though, I had to figure out very, very quickly, a good safe place to hide my notebook.  This time, SJ couldn’t be allowed to find it. And I had to make absolutely certain that this kind of situation would never, ever, happen again.

 
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Posted by on May 25, 2017 in Stories

 

Fiction: After the Attack (665 words)

Harlowe blew in like storm winds, and headed straight towards Conlyn. “Take me to her. Now.”

Conlyn lead her upstairs but let her go into the room first.  He watched her walk towards the couch where the doctors had set up Hana, and take her in slowly.  Conlyn hung back, not wanting to stomach looking at Hana face on again.  Not like this.

Harlowe came to a halting stop halfway through the room, clearly unable to approach her sister.  After a moment, she turned to wheel back to Conlyn.  For a second he thought she might hit him.  And for a second he wanted her to.  He wanted her to beat him down, and he wouldn’t even have tried to stop her. He wanted someone to punish him for what he’d let happen to Hana.  He wanted someone to lay physical and proper blame on him so that he could stop blaming himself inside his own head.

But Harlowe didn’t take a swing.  She covered her mouth with both of her hands, blinking back tears.  She took two shaky breaths before slowly lowering her arms to her sides again.  “This wasn’t supposed to be her, Con.  She’s not a fighter.  She never should have had to fight.  I should have been there to protect her.”

“I’m so sorry, Harlowe.”  Conlyn was impressed with how steady his voice was. He felt like he was going to explode, but his voice was still steady.  “I was there, I should have never left her side.  I shouldn’t have let her get so close to this.  I’m so sorry. So, so sorry.”

Harlowe stepped forward and pulled him into a hug.  The way she placed her hands on his back, and rested her head against his collarbone remind him of the way Hana had hugged him.  Taller, but the same movements, the same attempt at comfort. He sniffed hard and was determined to not let a single tear fall. Not when her sister wasn’t crying.

“It’s not your fault, Conlyn,” Harlowe said in a strong voice, “This was bad people taking advantage of a good person, and even if you had been right next to her side something bad would have happened to you both.”  Harlowe stepped back so that she could look him straight in the eye. “In fact, Conlyn, it’s good you weren’t there when she got hurt.  Had you both been hurt, you couldn’t have brought her back to me.”

“I’m so sorry,” Conlyn said again.

“I don’t blame you.  I’m sure Hana doesn’t blame you.  She will get better.  She’s tough, and she will get past this. Okay. Don’t you dare underestimate my sister.”  Harlowe went for a weak smile, and then Conlyn felt guilty for the fact that Harlowe was trying to cheer him up when her sister was laying bruised and battered only a few feet behind her.

“I should go–let you have some family time.'” Conlyn went to step back, but Harlowe’s fingers tightened on his shoulders.

“Don’t you dare, Conlyn. Hana needs you here. I need you here. Whether you like it or not, you’re part of the family now.”

“Okay. Okay.  But I need a glass of water.  I’ll be right back. Do you want me to bring you anything?”

“A water would be great,” Harlowe answered, but she’d already turned away, slowly approaching Hana again.  He watched her kneel at the couch side and hold Hana’s hand in hers gently before he turned and headed down towards the kitchen.  Only there did he allow himself a moment to cry.  The cooks ignored him in a way that could only be considered a kindness in their own way. He ignored them too as he regained his composure and tried to put his own weak smile back on before he headed up again, a glass of water in each hand.  He sat down next to Harlowe, and together they kept a bedside vigil through the night.  No one dared suggest they move.

 
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Posted by on May 24, 2017 in Stories

 

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Fiction: A Very Merry Unbirthday (505 words)

Chris found Lizzy just inside the front door when he came home from work.  She was leaning carefully against the wall, arms crossed, staring at a spot on the floor that seemed to have offended her greatly.  Immediately he tried to remember if he had promised to do something for her and was coming up dry. She hadn’t even seemed to notice that he was there yet—so he pressed his luck, wrapping an arm around her waist and leaning into give her a kiss.  “Everything alright?”

Lizzy smiled, sighed, and waved her hand in the general direction of the living room.  “I want you to know I had nothing to do with this, and please don’t hold it against me.”

Chris took a quick look over his shoulder, but couldn’t see into the living room from here.  He leaned in to whisper to Lizzy, “Should I be afraid?”

“If you want to be,” Lizzy shrugged, slipping out of Chris’s hold on her waist and taking the first step towards the living room, “After all, they are your sisters.”

Chris winced and went through the calendar in his head.  It was his half-birthday—which was his oldest sister’s idea of the perfect day to give someone a birthday surprise because “they wouldn’t see it coming.”   Since he’d been out-of-town for his last birthday, he really should have expected this.

He steeled himself for the worst and then followed Lizzy into the room.  He was immediately greeted with two-party blowers in the face from the younger sisters, and a vision much like a party store had come to his living room to die.  There were three separate banners that read ‘Happy Birthday’ and one that even said ‘Christopher,’ Streamers of the blue, green, red, and yellow variety, about a dozen balloons already in various states of deflating, and three wrapped presents sat on the coffee table near a cake that looked like it might have gotten a little bit squashed in transport.

“Surprise!” Charlotte, the oldest, laughed, throwing confetti into his hair, “We got you, didn’t we?”

“You sure did,” Chris offered his best smile, making eye contact with the thoroughly not impressed Lizzy now leaning against an entirely different wall.  “The thing is—Liz and I kind of had a date night planned…And I don’t want to ruin her night.”

“It’ll be quick,” Charlotte insisted, dragging Chris by the arm to sit on the couch, “We’ll have you in and out in no time.”  She patted him on the arm distractedly while she armed herself with more Confetti.

Chris gave Lizzy a ‘save me’ look, but she just shrugged again, helplessly.

I’ll see you in about four hours, she mouthed, painfully accurately for any situation involving his sisters, and then she slipped down the hall towards the bedrooms before she could be asked to join the festivities.    Chris barely had time to call her a traitor in his head before he was met with another face full of confetti.

 
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Posted by on May 23, 2017 in Stories

 

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Fiction: Go, Team, Go! (510 words)

There was nothing quite like turning up for the team.  It was rare that their team came to this small town on the outskirts of the country, and they definitely could not afford to travel to see them.  But every third year or so—they came out to the little pitch that the town spent the better part of a month getting into proper playing condition. At that point—well, there was absolutely nothing that was going to put a damper on the fan’s enthusiasm.

Sera had been a fan of The Blackbirds longer than she’d even been capable of conscious thought.  Her mother told the stories of Sera strapped to her back, not old enough to walk on her own or talk in full sentences, but she was still dressed entirely in black, the feather drawn intricately on her cheek, screaming utter nonsense in her mother’s ear every time The Blackbirds made a good play.  Both her parents joked that her first real word was ‘Boo!’ when the refs made a bad foul call against the team.

So, today, she was more than eager to get going.  She’d been very exact with the make up now on both cheeks, her hair looked like it might fly away with so many blackbird feathers stuck into it, and she was dressed from head to toe in black and blue.  Her mother looked pre-exhausted at the sight of her daughter on the couch, and Sera would feel bad if she didn’t know perfectly well that her sports enthusiasm had been inherited. “Oh,” her mother said with feigned surprise, “Is there a game today?” she asked as she poured herself a cup of coffee from the pot that Sera had already made.

“Hardy har,” Sera deadpanned, “can we be ready to go in, like, an hour?”

“Hmm.”  Her mother took a sip of her coffee and considered how much of her sanity would be at risk if she tormented her daughter too much more. “Your father’s not even out of bed yet.  Do you really think that he can be dressed and ready to go in an hour?”

Sera jumped to her feet and threw her hand to her forehead in a sharp salute to her mother. “Permission to enter your room and rouse the troops, Ma’am?”

Sera’s mom gave a little nod of the head as permission, and waited as Sera sprinted off up the stairs.  She heard the bed squeak, then a thump, and her husband shouting “Son of a Bitch!”  Two beats more, and the muffled laughter and footfalls as her husband chase his daughter around the bedroom with a pillow, half threatening to knock her head off.  It was the way of the game morning.  She expected nothing less.

 
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Posted by on May 22, 2017 in Stories

 

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Fiction: Legal Theft Project–Dinner (574 words)

The camp was busy with people getting ready for dinner. People were dragging benches into places around the smaller social fires, pulling pots and pans off the bigger cooking fires, and laying out stacks and stacks of bowls and towels for the people to come and get in a few minutes.  Three dozen people all moving around each other with ease. It was fascinating.  I was never going to be able to figure out how to fit in here.

“Stick with me,” Alexa laughed at my shocked face, “I’ll show you what to do for now, and I promise that you’ll pick it up faster than you think.” She wrapped an arm around my shoulders, carefully to avoid the bandage near my neck, and dragged me forward into the throng.

I mimicked her exactly, getting a bowl and spoon and a small square towel, and then letting one of the cooks fill it up with a potato stew of some kind.  “Make sure she drains that bowl, Alexa,” one of the cooks said, waving a ladle in my direction, “She looks like her skin is about to fall right off her bones.”

“Yes ma’am,” Alexa grinned, “We’ll make her a useful member yet.”

“Have a good night, Dearie,” the cook said to me, “And welcome to the group.”

“Thank you,” I muttered more to the bowl of soup then to her, and followed Alexa away from the food toward the many benches slowly filling with hungry people.  At some point, Alexa came to a stop, and I almost crashed into her with my bowl.   She dropped down unceremonially onto one of the benches and started shoveling stew into her face. I sat down next to her, trying to balance the bowl on my leg and keep my napkin away from the slightly grimy benches before I took my first bite.

I wasn’t as hungry as I had been the day before, they had fed me well since they found me, but it was still an amazing feeling to have proper food.  And the fact that this stew was properly warm and freshly cooked—I could have wept.

“You look like you want the stew to have your babies,” Alexa commented.  I didn’t even realize my eyes were closed until that moment, opening them to find Alexa studying my face carefully. “It’s just potato stew.”

“It’s the most food I’ve had to eat at one time in months,” I answered honestly.

Alexa’s face fell. “Right. Sorry. Right. Most people joining are running away from cities or have been turned out by families because there are too many kids or something.  None of us were overfed by any sense of the imagination, but a bowl of stew was easy to come by.”

I took a second and then shrugged. “It’s okay.  I…” I trailed off, unsure how to finish. It had been a long time since I had food or social interaction, and I was having a weird reaction to both.

“I am sorry. Feel free to eat your food like you want to have its babies.” Alexa turned back to her bowl for a second before looking back up at me. “But—Don’t start like—actually trying to have its babies. That’s where I think it crosses the line from reasonable to crazy.”

I didn’t know what to do with her joke, so I just ignored it and put another bite in my mouth. Delicious.

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2017 in Legal Theft Project, Stories

 

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Fiction: Flight (99 words)

The only problem with the new apartment was it was only 3.7 miles away from the airport.

She fought the urge for the first six weeks. She stayed at home on her days off, hanging out with her roommates.  But one day, she sat in the yard watching an airplane fly over her head, and that was it.

It took her ten minutes to throw some things in a bag.  It took her ninety minutes to walk to the airport.   She spent seven minutes reading over the departure board, before walking to the ticket counter.  The next flight out was her’s.

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2017 in Stories

 

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Fiction: Planning (524 words)

It was a rhythmic thump, thump, thump.  Wanda made her way through the house, searching each room to see if she could find the source of it. Finally, she found her way into Clint’s little office and found him hitting his head repeatedly against the desk in front of him. She watched Clint carefully, trying to decide the best course of action here.

“I guess it’s not going well?” she finally asked.

Clint looked up and seemed to look through Wanda.  She began to wonder if he was suffering some kind of brain damage now and if she should insist that he go see a doctor. “It is not going well. It is slow torture. I made a terrible decision to take this job. I should not be allowed to pick my own assignments anymore. Save me from my own folly, Wanda.”

Wanda pulled a chair over next to him at the desk. “Oh, come on, Clin. It can’t be that bad.”

Clint lifted the screen of his laptop, revealing more cascading windows then the computer should be able to run smoothly. “There are almost no online sources. Everything means that I have to go see the research in person. And it’s not like it’s all stored in a central library or a big exhibit that I can visit, but dozens of places in dozens of different locales all over the country. And it’s not like I’ve got plenty of time to do it.  This was a rush job—so they want a full, finalized article in one hundred and twenty days, which means that I have to have a workable draft to them in, probably nine or ten weeks, so I have to travel to enough of these locations for the article to be well informed, but also get the writing done and not get completely burned out over the next couple of months.  This is not going well, and I hate everything.”

Wanda blinked, reading a couple of the screens, before leaning back in her chair, sighing. “This is a rough one, Clint.”

“Don’t let me pick my jobs anymore, Wanda. Save me from my own stupidity,” Clint cried, slamming the laptop closed again and letting his head bang against the desk once more with a sickeningly solid thump.

“We can fix this,” Wanda said with a lot more enthusiasm than she felt. Then her mind kicked into gear and she sat up a little straighter. “Yes. We can fix this.  Get me a list, Clint. Get me a list of the top places you need to go. I will make the most efficient plan you’ve ever seen. We will get all the research done, then, we will make a schedule for writing, and we will get this all in on time. Do you think we can do it?”

Clint looked up skeptically but saw the look of determination on Wanda’s face. It took him a second, but his face was set in grim determinations too. “Yeah. Yeah, we can do this.”

“Alright. Let’s get to it!” Wanda smiled, slapping her hand against the desk. “Get me a list, and let’s go.”

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2017 in Stories

 

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