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Monthly Archives: May 2017

Fiction: I wonder…(508 words)

I always wondered if those kids and teens I met growing up wonder what happened to me the way I wonder what happened to them. The characters that flitted in and out of my childhood, many of them left our small town as quickly as they could, just like I did. The ones who stayed, my parents never hesitate to inform me about their life–Samuel and Charlotte got married, Samuel took over his dad’s hardware store, Charlotte is raising their two kids. Richard and his brothers all took jobs down at the mill, and if I wanted to move back home, they always thought that Richard and I would make a good couple.

Then, of course, there was David. Everyone knew what happened to David when he got out of town. The Reality Show Singing Star of four years ago–the Main Street was renamed for him, and Mom says that he’s never stepped foot back in our little town from the moment he claimed his title.

But it’s the others I wonder about. Like, Sarah, who I had all but one class with junior year.  We talked a lot that year, trading notes and forming study groups, but then senior year I never saw her much again. In fact, I’m not even confident that she graduated with us. Maybe she got out of town early.

Then there was Anthony, infamous through the school as the curve wrecker for almost always getting perfect test scores.  He graduated in the middle of our class though, because he refused to do any individual projects or homework as a form of “Protest.” His mother was the type of woman who tended to get in trouble for going out to get her mail absolutely butt naked before assisting they had no right to tell her she had to be clothed on her own property. That did help boost Anthony’s popularity with the “Want to see an adult woman naked” crowd a bit before he left town.

Or there was Sandra, the school’s only goth, who would often be found during lunch sitting in the corner of the room knitting obnoxiously bright hats for “the Preemie Project.” She’d teach anyone to knit or crochet if they asked, and she helped me make a baby blanket for my youngest sister.

Or John, who did so many school projects and afterschool activities that we were all pretty convinced that he never left school grounds from the day we first stepped foot on campus as freshmen to the day we graduated. At the very least, no one I ever spoke to ever saw him anywhere but the school…

I idly wonder what happened to them, and perhaps selfishly, I wonder if they ever wonder what happened to me. How have all our lives changed, and what part of walking down those common school halls made it possible for us to get us where we are today? It’d be interesting to know.

But, not enough to head back to town for a high school reunion. No, thank you.

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2017 in Stories

 

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Fiction: Better Place (541 words) [Warning: Gun Violence]

His knee jerk reaction was to hate her in that moment. It was how he responded to bad things happening in his life, trying to drag down everyone around him, reminding everyone that the world was a shitty place and that she couldn’t possibly understand the pain he was going through. But then he remembered, and he took a second and looked at her. For the first time in years—he really looked at her.

It had been so easy for him to forget what she’d been through, too. After all, they’d only met because they ended up in the same home—sharing that same room far too small for the dozens of children who stayed there, all because they had suffered a tragedy that left them without a home or a family. But she had responded to her tragedy by trying to make the rest of her life, and those lives around her, as happy as possible. It was easy to forget in her whirlwind of positivity that it was complete devastation that brought her to this point.

Then, he remembered the details. He’d pushed it out of his mind because it wasn’t something that he wanted to think about—and he was lucky enough that it wasn’t his life to have to remember. But he remembered, during one of the nights they were together in that group home, sitting alone in a dark corner because she couldn’t sleep, that he finally worked up the courage to ask what had happened to her, and she had finally gotten the nerve to tell him.

Her mother was crazy and her father was a philanderer.  One night, when she was only eight years old, her father came home late—disheveled and a bit tipsy. Her mother hadn’t let her go to sleep. She had kept telling her daughter that she wanted her to see exactly what men were like, what kind of man her father was.  When he came in, she started screaming about smelling the other women on him, and how he wasn’t going to keep disrespecting her like this. When he told her to shut up, that he could do whatever he wanted, that was too much for her mother. The gun was already out of it’s safe, and she went for it now. She watched it all. Her mother took out her rage on her father, before taking it out on herself as well.

She was eight years old, sleep deprived, hungry, and had no ability to truly grasp what she had just seen. If the neighbors hadn’t heard the shots and called the police, there is no telling how long she would have sat there, just waiting. It was less than a week later that she was dumped into a group home because there was no one in her family that would have anything to do with her parents, let alone their offspring.

She had every right to be jaded and bitter and terrible.  She could throw it in his and everyone’s face that she had it worse than all of them. But she didn’t. She did the exact opposite of everything he did when he got upset. And just perhaps, he was the one in the wrong.

 
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Posted by on May 30, 2017 in Stories

 

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Fiction: Home Early (507 words)

Josephine had dropped her bag in the entryway, her keys still in her hand, hovering half way to the little hook where she usually hung them in the front room. She stared wide-eyed at him, just short of open-mouthed.

He smiled back at her—that little half twist of a smirk that she had seen many times before when he managed to pull off a surprise, like the time she thought he’d forgotten her birthday and made a panicked last minute reservation only to find her whole family waiting there for her in surprise. This was so much better than that time though.  Part of that was the fact that she still thought he looked damned fine in his uniform.

“Do you want me to go?” He asked, knowing full well that the answer was no, “Charlie can probably house me for a night or two.”

“Vince!” The keys joined the bag on the floor, and she ran forward, jumping at him at the last second, trusting him to catch her. He did catch her, kissing her as he wrapped his arms around her waist and she wrapped his legs around his back. “Thirteen more days. You’re not supposed to be here for thirteen more days.”

“Well, I can leave,” He smiled, easing her back down onto her feet. “I’m sure that Jack will let me crash with him for thirteen days.”

“No, don’t you dare leave.” She was standing on her own two feet again, but her arms were still wrapped tightly around his shoulders, forcing him to stoop just a bit to make up for their height differences. “How did you do this?”

“I called in a favor. And if we’re honest, got a little bit lucky.” He pressed his forehead against hers. “God, it’s so good to be home again.”

“And you’re really home? Here for good?” She asked eagerly.

“I’ve got to go in for a couple of days when the rest of the company gets home, to wrap some things up and finish the final paperwork. But after that, I’m all yours for a long while.” He brought his hands up to both sides of her face, holding her gently there, but not kissing her again yet.

“Okay.” She pulled away from him slowly like if she stepped away from him he might vanish from in front of her. Finally, she took a step and a half back, so that even his hands fell away from her face. The look on her face was still a strange mix of joy and disbelief. “Okay. I think. We need to not be in the living room anymore.” He raised an eyebrow, but she looked briefly around the room and nodded. “Yes. I think it would be best if we went upstairs. Like now.”

That goofy smiled grew across Vince’s face again. “Very well, Missus of the house. If you insist.”

“Oh, I do,” She turned on her heel, and he chased her up to their room. It was good to be home.

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2017 in Stories

 

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Fiction: Legal Theft–Lies (505 words)

He laughed around the panic clogging his throat, but his gun never wavered from its target. Jared kept his hands relaxed at his shoulders, not even looking at the barrel trained at his chest. “Okay. I don’t want to hurt you. As a general rule, I try not to hurt anyone. But if someone doesn’t start explaining to me what is going on, I am going to start breaking rules really fast.”

Riley and Jared shared a look and came to some kind of understanding that Mark couldn’t even begin to fathom.  “Mark. Don’t freak out.” Riley’s voice was low and calm.

Mark laughed again. “Ri. That is not an explanation. And maybe we don’t use our patronizing voice on the man with a gun who has just found out he has been LIED to for a long time.”

“Okay,” Riley’s voice was still calm. “I’m not trying to be patronizing. I’m just overcompensating for the fact that I am terrified right now.  Considering that you have a gun and are very angry at me can we agree that I have every right to be scared.”

“And I have every right to be angry!” Mark countered.

“Yes. Yes, you do.” Jared answered this time, his voice a little less calm, “I understand that you’re angry but to be honest I don’t think that I will be able to think clearly with that gun aimed at me. I’ve seen what a shot you are, Mark, I know I wouldn’t live if your finger so much as twitched. Can we compromise?”

“What did you have in mind?” Mark asked.

“I won’t move. Not even a twitch. And if at any point, you don’t like what is going on, you can retrain that gun directly on my heart and I won’t even complain. But if you could please give me the chance to explain without a gun trained at my heart I would appreciate it greatly.” Jared rambled perhaps a little too fast. He wasn’t very good at the calm and low that seemed to come naturally to Riley.

Mark considered this for a while, before slowly bringing the gun down to point at the ground. “One false move, Jared, and I swear—You’ve seen my training, you know I can get you if you cross me.” Mark countered.

Jared let his hands come down slowly as well, watching Mark carefully to make sure that the movements were allowed, lowering them until his hands were just hanging limply at his sides. His eyes followed the gun now—finally looking at the danger he had been in. He didn’t make any other moves, though, making sure not to anger Mark any further.

“Okay then,” Riley tried to smile, looking between the two men, “What is it that you want to know?”

“Everything, Riley.” Mark’s hand twitched on the gun, but he didn’t raise it again. “Tell me absolutely everything that I don’t already know.”

Riley looked once more between Mark, Jared, and the gun before she sighed. “Okay. Everything.”

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2017 in Legal Theft Project

 

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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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