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Fiction: Unintentional Change [Part 1 of 2] (518 words)

Cindy sat on a chair in the basement.  Matthew was pouring over book after book, comparing the blood that she’d given him under the microscope to the pictures covering his pages.  James sat slumped on the futon in the corner, trying to act casual, but he kept glancing back to Cindy to make sure she hadn’t moved. It broke his heart not to trust her. She had been such a good friend to them, for so long—but he didn’t know who she actually was. He wanted to believe that she didn’t know either. He wanted to believe she was just as shocked as he was to wake up after what should have been a fatal blow to the back of her head and neck.

But what if she wasn’t shocked? What if she was something he didn’t know, and he was there to hurt him, to hurt Matthew? What if she was the thing that Matthew and he had been drawn here to protect against?

He saw Cindy shift uncomfortably in her seat, and he realized he’d been staring at her for a while. He turned back to look at Matthew, who now seemed very still. That meant he was close. He’s almost figured it out and now he was just ironing out details before he presented his ideas to anyone else. James subconsciously relaxed. Matthew would have an answer soon. Whether it was good news or bad news it would be good to finally just have a concrete answer.

Slowly, almost like he was coming out of a trance, Matthew stood up straight at his work table.  After a moment, he turned to look at James, almost like he was in a daze. “James. I need to speak to you in the hall.  Now.”

It was the sharp tone in Matthew’s voice that caught James off guard. Matthew wasn’t the sharp-voiced type. It was that distraction that made James follow Matthew out of the room without thinking about the fact that they were leaving Cindy alone with several means to escape.

They had barely gotten into the hall when Matthew swung the door shut hard behind them, and pointed an accusing finger to the room. “Do you love her?”

There were two beats of silence, then James blinked and said, “No.”

“I’d advise you not to lie to me,” Matthew retorted, in full professor voice. It wasn’t often that James thought about the fact that Matthew was technically nearly double his age.  That was the problem of being immortal in a mortal world. Sometimes he forgot that he lived in a way that was unlike those around him.

James didn’t say anything else. He wasn’t stupid enough to lie again when he’d been warned. Matthew nodded his head sagely. “Well, why ask the question if you already knew the answer?” James countered, starting to get annoyed now. He had no idea what all this was about, and he didn’t appreciate the third degree in the meantime.

“I knew the answer, because if you love her—you did this to her. She’s immortal now—because of you.”

 
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Posted by on June 8, 2017 in Stories

 

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Fiction: Open for Business (519 words)

She couldn’t believe it had finally come to this. All those years of patience, of working hard, of dealing kindly to people and not letting people take advantage of her—she was finally here.

She stood in the middle of her own business. This was her store. She owned it. Other’s had helped of course, and she had investors that she had to do right by in the long run, but this was her store. Hers. No one else’s.

She let out a laugh and wrapped her arms around herself in a self-hug.

“Are you going crazy?” She turned fast to see her father standing in the doorway between the store part and the “employees only” section. “Because I would really hate to have you committed right before your big day. It would be such a tragedy. I’d be on the news saying ‘She came so close to her dream only to fall at the finishing line.’” He shook his head in mock disappointment.

“Oh, shush. Let me enjoy this moment.” She laughed again. He smiled widely at her.

“Of course, love, of course. You deserve this.” He crossed to the middle of the room and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “I am so proud of you. You know that, right?”

“I had a hint when you said ‘I am so proud of you’ about a dozen times today.” She laughed, letting herself be pulled into his side.

“Well, I am super proud,” He countered, “At least a dozen times a dozen proud. And I need to make sure you know it.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. Thanks, Dad.”

The silence drew on for a while, before her dad continued in a soft voice, “Your mom would be proud too, you know.”

She froze on the spot for a second.  Her Dad never mentioned her mom when he could help it, and since she was so young when her mother died, she tended to follow his lead. Her grandparents had taught her all about her mother, and what kind of woman she had been, and who she would want her daughter to be—but her dad always stayed quiet. Obviously, they never talked about it, but she’d always just assumed it was a grief thing. How he managed to cope.

“She would have been,” he repeated, gaining a bit more strength in his voice now. “She would be so proud of the fact that you got here, and that you got here by your own strength instead of cheating and scheming and she would be so proud that you believe in yourself.” He took a deep breath, like he’d just sprinted to get through that. “I think that you are going to be successful here, because I think she’ll be watching over you.”

She swallowed hard a few times, trying to get the knot her in throat small enough to talk around. “Thank you, Dad. Thank you for saying that.”

He gave her a squeeze around the shoulders. “Sure thing, Kiddo. Let’s go home. We need as much sleep as we can get before our big day tomorrow.”

 
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Posted by on June 7, 2017 in Stories

 

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Fiction: Family Home (572 words)

Eleanor was always excited when Grampy came home. She would rush to the front door when she heard his truck honk at the end of the long dirt drive, flinging herself down the stairs to greet him as he unfolded himself from the front seat of the pickup. He would scoop her up into his arms and swing her round, before pulling her in tight with an almost crushing hug. He always smelled of salt and sweat and fish, which she could never tolerate for too long—but it also smelled to her like homecoming.

He would place her back on her feet, grab his bag out with one hand, and hold her little hand with the other, and they’d make their way back up the porch steps. That’s usually where they went their separate ways. Grampy would stop for a second to hug Eleanor’s mother, his only daughter, and then march his way upstairs for a shower and quick shave. Eleanor would dip into the kitchen behind her mother, and start preparing Grampy’s lunch.

Ever since she was six years old, Eleanor insisted that she make it herself, carefully slicing pieces of bread off the big loaf (under her mother’s watchful eye) lathering them with mayonnaise and mustard, before carefully stacking lettuce, tomato, cheese and giant chunks of ham between the slices. She’d leave her mother to cut the sandwich into quarters, while Eleanor ran to the fridge for the potato salad and pasta salad that she and her mother always made the night before Grampy came home. With two heaping helpings of the salads, and the quarters of the sandwich carefully arranged on the plate—The plate was set down at Grampy’s usual space in the dining room.

During the meal, it was her mother’s turn though. While Grampy ate, he and her mom discussed the farm in the weeks since he left, what animals were doing well, doing poorly, and discussing the thoughts and plans that her mom had come up with while she was running the place. They stayed at the table until all the business was discussed. Eleanor never spoke during this, but she listened to every word, absorbing as much as she could. After all, one day it would be her job to run this place, and she didn’t want to disappoint them by doing anything wrong.

But once the business talk was done, it was Eleanor’s night again. They went to the living room, where Grampy would sit in his usual spot on the couch, leaning heavy on the couch cushions, propping his feet up on the coffee table. Eleanor stretched out along the length of the couch, resting her head gently on a pillow placed on Grampy’s knees. He would start telling her about the trip out on the boats for the last couple of weeks. She knew all about exaggeration and “fishermen’s tales” but she would still shut her eyes and listen to the stories, imagining them all happening exactly as he described them.   Eventually, she would fall asleep there on his lap, visions of giant fish and wild storms chasing her and her Grampy through her dreams.

The next morning, she would wake up in her own bed with no memory of how she got there—and would hurry to get dressed, desperate not to waste a moment of her Grampy being home before he went back out onto the boat again.

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2017 in Stories

 

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Fiction: Legal Theft–Sentencing (470 words)

He was not an innocent man. Even if he hadn’t come out and admitted to everything that he had done, the evidence was stacked high and far against him.  Everyone knew what he had done, even if they didn’t know the nitty gritty, they knew that he was not an innocent soul. They had no problem with him being locked away in the darkest tower for the rest of his life. Many of them even slept a bit easier with that knowledge.

He was not an innocent man. She knew that, even before this crime came to light. She knew the kinds of things he had done for himself and others in the past. She did know the nitty gritty of many of the crimes he committed in this city.  And she knew that if the orders came down from his boss, he could do horrible things to people she loved and held near and dear to her heart. And he would do it without hesitation because that was his job.

He was not an innocent man. But he had been an innocent boy. He was the boy who would come and find her during the storms, to make sure that she’d found some place with a roof over her head. He was the boy who would sneak leftovers to her, so she could eat a meal, even if it was cold and a little squished. Even when there wasn’t that much left over for him to spare. He had been the little boy who held her close in a dark alley with a hand over her mouth to keep her quiet while the gang he eventually joined came screaming down the streets, riding wild and ready to take it out on whoever they ran themselves into. And he was the boy later that held her as she sobbed in fear, and calmed her by kissing her gently on the lips.

He was not an innocent man. But there was so much more to him than the crimes he committed. She brought him food during his trial, and a blanket for his head when he was left chained out in the rain, and accepted the booing of the common folk who didn’t know her or what he had done for that scared lonely little girl.  She couldn’t feel the relief of his sentencing, or breathe easier with him locked away in the tower. She knew that the streets were safer now, for her and her daughter, but she couldn’t feel any joy in his being locked away.

He was not an innocent man. But that couldn’t stop her from loving him. And only his flesh and blood could keep her from locking herself away with him.

 
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Posted by on June 2, 2017 in Legal Theft Project, Stories

 

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Fiction: Rainbow (99 words)

This was the hardest part. Not the hours of pain and laboring before–I would gladly go through those forever if it meant that this part would go well.

No, the labor was done, my baby was born, and they rushed her away to check her and clean her. And I had to wait in silence while three backs faced me, huddled over my child, waiting in the chilling silence.

Then, amazingly, miraculously, there is a scream of a cry. My little girl is alive. They wrap her up and place her in my arms.  For now, all is well.

 
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Posted by on June 1, 2017 in Stories

 

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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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