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Fiction: Days Off (662 words)

A little bird chirped outside the window, and Crissa all but sprung out of bed.  It was spring. There was the smell of flowers on the wind.  And she had a free day today. It was going to be a good day.  

She slid on her slippers at the side of her bed, and spun herself over to the cupboard, swinging the doors open wide.  On one side, there were the bright blue robes of the sisterhood, what she would put on if she were heading to the temple this morning for her regular routine. But it was her break day, so she turned to the other side instead, where her sundresses were waiting for her. The dreaded winter wool dresses were already packed neatly and stored in the trunk at the foot of her bed.  She would wait as long as possible before taking them out again. 

But that was a thought for a late fall day. Today was spring.  But—still early spring, Crissa admitted to herself as she flipped through her handful of sundresses. So—she opted for the black knee-length dress with big pink roses all over it. A little bit dark, a little bit spring. A good mix.  

Crissa put on the dress and pulled her dark hair into a long plait.  She didn’t have to worry about gathering any of her other things today, so she made her way down to the dining hall empty-handed and feeling free.   Only then did she start to think about what she wanted to do with her free time today.  

She flumped down hard on the bench near the table, causing her skirt to poof out and settle down gently around her. Maisie and Briar looked at her, with minimal disdain. It wasn’t her fault that they were spoilsports on such a beautiful spring day.  

“Free day today?” Maisie asked. She was still dressed in the bright blue robes and had dark circles under her eyes. Crissa thought that probably meant that she had been up with the early group, meditating before dawn.  

“Yep. I thought I might go shopping in town.” Cassie turned to look at Briar, who was in a pair of blue slacks and a green blouse. “You’ve got a free day too, Bri?”  

“Yes.” She stabbed half-heartedly at the eggs on her plate while Crissa got her own breakfast off the communal plates. “I have no idea what I am going to do with my time though.”  

“Well, then obviously we are going to go for a walk down to town on this lovely day,” Crissa informed her cheerily, “Maybe we’ll get a drink. It’ll be fun. It’s beautiful out.”  

“Oh no,” Maisie sighed, offering Briar a smile, “It’s officially spring. Crissa is going to be utterly unbearable until there is frost on the ground again.”  

“Don’t be mean,” Crissa laughed, shaking a piece of bacon in Maisie’s face. “What are you up to today, Miss Maisie?”  

“A nap, first of all,” she groaned, resting her head on her hands, “Then I’ve got some one on one classes today. I’m most excited for Hana Shelton coming up from town, though. She’s a very talented girl, and I’m going to try another pitch to get her to join The Sisterhood today.”  

“Never going to happen,” Briar interjected, “She loves that farm too much to leave it in the care of hired help.”  

“But, she has so much potential.  She would make a great sister. Just think of all the things we could learn.” Maisie whined. 

“If you convince her to join the Sisterhood, I will take every single one of your morning shifts for the next five years,” Briar countered, “That’s how sure I am that she will never leave that farm.  

“You’ve got yourself a deal,” Maisie threw out a hand and briar shook it. “Crissa, you’re our witness.”  

Crissa laughed, taking another bite of her eggs. It was going to be a good day.  

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Posted by on November 9, 2017 in Stories

 

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Legal Theft: Visiting Dad (1141 words)

Marcus waited patiently for Lewis to arrive. He should have known better. Lewis, in the entire twenty-one years of his life, had never been on time for a meeting even once. Why would he expect him to start showing up now? Not like this was a hard day for Marcus and he could use the support of having a concrete schedule or anything. Nope. Lewis always moved at his own pace.

When Lewis came around the corner with a pack of fried dough in his hand, and a piece to be handed to Marcus—her forgave Lewis completely. It was the basis of their friendship that Marcus always forgave Lewis completely because it was the only thing that kept Lewis forgiving Marcus when he messed up.

“Does your mom know you’re here?” Lewis asked as a greeting.

Marcus laughed out loud. “She’d kill me. Then you for good measure. And then probably me again.”

Lewis took a thoughtful bite out of his dough. “Fair enough,” he conceded through his full mouth.

Marcus made a disgusted sound, which was only doubled when Lewis laughed open-mouthed with the bread still there.  “I hate you.”

“Course you do,” Lewis grinned, throwing his non-bread carrying arm around Marcus’ shoulders. “Lead the way.”

Marcus did just that. They walked in silence, chewing on their bread.  About a half hour later, they were leaving the outskirts of the town, making their way down the path through the woods, passing the occasional clearing where people had set up little camps. Some of them were the more permeant camps of people who worked in the city but couldn’t afford to live anywhere else inside the city limits. Others were the temporary camps of people who were traveling by but didn’t want any official record of them staying here.  It was one of the latter camps that they were looking for.

It had been almost seven years, but Marcus still recognized him as they approached the camp, as easily as if they’d seen each other the week before—although neither Marcus nor his father looked anything like the same as they had on that night seven years ago.

He finished the last bites of his bread and turned back to make sure Lewis had done the same. Together, they stepped into the little clearing, both of their hands half-raised, fingers spread, so he could easily see that they didn’t have any weapons in their grip.

“Hey Dad,” Marcus called, trying not to startle him.

The old man looked up from his little campfire, and gave his son a small smile. “Markie.” He stood up and shook his son’s hand. “And Little Lewy. Well, I never.”

“Oh, sir, no one calls me Lewy anymore,” Lewis chuckled, shaking the hand offered him.

“Well, I’m sure no one calls him Markie, and certainly no one calls me sir,” he laughed, sinking back down onto the log he was using as a bench at the side of the fire. “So—let’s agree. Lewis. Mark. And Dad or Jameson as our respective relationships dictate?”

“Sure, Jameson.” Lewis offered because Marcus didn’t seem like there was anything he had to say. Lewis and Marcus sat down on a log on the opposite side of the fire.

“So—“ Jameson prompted, but no one picked up the thread, “Well. Uh, does your mother know you’re here?”

Marcus didn’t find the question as humorous this time around. “You’re not in shackles, are you? Do you really think that my mother is at all aware you are in the same country, let alone the same town?”

“That’s…a fair point,” Jameson replied. “I know I’ve told you before, but I feel the need to tell you, again and again, I never meant to hurt you and your mother that way. But I can’t choose who I am and I can’t change my nature. It was foolish of your mother to think I could and it was foolish of me to try.”

“I know, Dad. I’ve heard it before, and you haven’t changed the song,” Marcus answered, softening despite himself. He hated his father and unconditionally loved his father all at the same time. It was such an awkward position to be put into. “Why did you ask me to come out here, Dad? This can’t be the first time in seven years you’ve been in the area. Why now?”

“I found something.” Jameson’s hand went to a charm that was hanging off his neck. “It was your grandfathers—and then it was mine for a while before it was lost. And—I figure that it should be yours. You’ll keep better care of it then I ever could, and you can keep it in the family if you decide to have a family of your own.”

He pulled the cord off from around his neck and handed it over to Marcus at the side of the fire. It was a silver disc, about half the size of Marcus’ palm, tied to a piece of leather cord. “It’s supposed to be good luck if you believe in that kind of nonsense. Your grandfather certainly did, and I know your mother does—I’m not so sure. But I’ll leave you to make up your own mind.”

Marcus turned the circle over and over again his hand, trying to figure out what the appropriate response was to a random piece of metal. “This is it?” he finally settled on. “You wanted to see me because you had a necklace to give me.” He could feel the anger starting to rise in his blood, and tried to stamp it down as quickly as it had appeared. His father was the one with the temper—and Marcus did all he could to try and hide the fact he had inherited that.

“Well, yeah,” His father looked a bit deflated, “It was your grandfathers, and I thought it was something you might like to have.”

Marcus considered tossing the necklace into the fire—but that was the temper talking.  That was something his father would have done. Not him. Instead, he slipped the circle into his pocket and gave Lewis a look that said it was time to go.  “Thanks, Dad,” he offered, starting to pack away from the fire.

“Will I see you again while I’m in town?” Jameson asked.

“I don’t know, Dad. I don’t know.”  Jameson didn’t press for a more concrete answer, so Marcus turned on his heel and walked away.  Lewis caught up with Marcus quickly, throwing an arm around Marcus’ shoulders again. “I don’t know why I thought this was a good idea,” Marcus confided.

“Well, at least we got some good bread out of all this,” Lewis offered with a grin. “That’s not nothing.”

Marcus laughed, suddenly remembering why he had invited Lewis to this. “Yeah, that’s not nothing.”

 
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Posted by on November 3, 2017 in Legal Theft Project, Stories

 

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Fiction: Cousins Story [Part 1] (915 words)

It was a rainy day in March when I came home to find too many cars in my driveway. Our neighborhood of townhouses didn’t leave much room for on the street parking, so I had to drive back out into the next neighborhood over to find a spot, gather my school bags in a way that was going to make sure nothing important was going to get wet, and triple check that my car was locked since I wouldn’t be able to see it from the house.

So, I was already in a bit of a mood when I finally made it into the house. This was not helped by the sound of my mother yelling. I knew there was only one person in the world who could make her yell like that, so I dropped my bags by the door and headed towards the living room to find my proof.

Sitting on the couch playing Xbox was my cousin Aria, the oldest daughter of my mother’s twin brother. I sat down hard on the couch next to her, turning up the TV volume a few more notches to help drown out the yelling. Aria silently handed me the second controller. We played in the sulky silence that only two seventeen-year-olds can probably manage for a few minutes before I sighed. “Were we expecting you guys?”

“Madison left,” Aria sighed back, going for a rather impress kill shot, “And from the sound of the earlier yelling—she took all his money.”

I let out a slow whistle through my teeth. “This might be the worst one yet.

“A-yup,” Aria agreed, “Dad really messed up this time.”

Aria’s mom had left when she was only seven-months-old. In the sixteen in a half years since, my Uncle Tom has lived with seven different women, encouraging Aria and later her half-brother to consider each woman like their new step-mother. None of them ended well.  This one, Madison, had been bad news from the beginning in my humble opinion but had given Aria a half-sister and there was no talking Uncle Tom out of it especially not with a new child involved.

Mom said it had a lot to do with abandonment issues. Uncle Tom had really loved his first wife, Aria’s mom, and now he felt desperate to cling to each new love, no matter how unadvised that love was.

Despite the Xbox, we heard the end of the argument. We knew it well at this point.  It started with “Okay, Tom, I can’t finish this with you right now.”

“Oh, come on, Holly.”

“No, Tom, I need some air.”

Aria paused the game and we both looked towards the stairs.  My mom appeared around the bend, pinching the bridge of her nose. After a moment, she realized the room was silent and looked up to see us watching her.

“Oh, hello, lovely ladies,” My mom grinned, coming the rest of the way down the stairs. “Having fun?” Aria and I just kept staring back at her. “Okay,” Mom clapped, “Melody, I need to talk to you in the backyard for a second.

“Mom, it’s pouring out,” I protested.

“Mel, now.” My mom said curtly, already half-out the back door.

“Nngh,” I groaned sinking boneless-ly into the couch.

“I’ll keep it paused till you get back,” Aria offered.

“Nah—I’m just bringing you down anyway.” I stood up and stretched, “When you’re finished, can you try to unlock the new sniper rifle for me?”

“Ten-four, cuz.” Aria was already sucked back into the game.

When I got into the backyard, I found my mother standing with her face turned up to the rain. “I hate my brother,” She said when she heard the door close. “I love my brother, but I hate my brother.”

“I know,” I answered.

Mom turned and looked at me. “Oh, I wish your father was here.”

“I know,” I said again. My dad had been around until I was fifteen months old. I was eleven months old when he was diagnosed with a glioblastoma—a fast-growing brain tumor. After he died, mom hasn’t even looked at dating as far as I could tell. I think Mom had some abandonment issues of her own.

“Melody, I’m going to need you to make a couple of sacrifices in the name of the family,” Mom smiled in that slightly sickeningly way that I was about to have to agree to something that I didn’t want to agree to.

“The cousins are staying here for a couple of days, aren’t they? While Uncle Tom goes and sorts this all out?”  I sighed, thinking of Aria’s air mattress taking up most of my bedroom floor.

“Not quite,” Mom gave me a look—before launching into the usual over explanations she always had prepared when she was going to ask me for something we both knew was going to be unfair. “Madison took everything, Mel. All his money, the TVs, Aria’s videogames—anything that could be of value—she stole it. Your uncle has five dollars in his bank account, $40 in his wallet, and nothing he can even sell to pay the rent.”

I let this information process before what my mom was trying to say fell into sharp relief. “Mom. No. You cannot be saying what I think you are saying.”

Mom put on her best ‘making good of a bad situation’ smile. “Your Uncle Tom and cousins are moving in with us for a while.  Won’t that be fun?”

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2017 in Cousins Story

 

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Legal Theft Project: Goodnight

Rain drowned the world in white noise. It drowned out the sound of her grandmother’s rocking chair. It muted the sound of her brother’s music. It–well, didn’t do much for her sister’s snoring from the other bed–but it did give her something else to focus on for a little while.

Lisa rolled over and watched the window. The light from the streetlight let the rain make strange patterns and shadows along the length of the window. She tried to make pictures out of them the way she used to lay on the ground, look at the sky and tell a story with the shapes of the clouds. These were yellow and black stories instead of blue and white, but they still calmed her–imagining a world that was so different than her own in any way. Eventually, her eyelids grew too heavy to keep open, but she kept making up the stories, telling herself all kinds of crazy things until she slipped away to sleep, hoping tomorrow night it would still be raining.

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2017 in Legal Theft Project

 

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Fiction: Our Place (495 words)

“The joys of being homeowners, love,” Harvey laughed brushing his bangs out of his eyes.

“I hate this,” Nyssa groaned, twisted sideways, holding the pipe in place so that Harvey could get back at it with the wrench.  “I want to have a landlord back.”

“Hold steady, dear,” Harvey sighed as he got the wrench in place, “and no you don’t.   We are taking care of this the same night we found it.   How long do you think it would take if we still lived at the King James house?”

Nyssa tried to blow a piece of her hair away from her eyes, with no luck.  “A month.  If Miss Johnson was in a good mood, it might be three weeks.  But a month easily.”

“Exactly. Okay, I think you can let go, it’s almost as tight as it’s going to go.” Nyssa pulled her arms out from under the table while Harvey tightened all the pieces the last little bit.  He pulled himself up from under the sink and wiped off his hands.  “I think, I hope, that should do it.” He turned to look at the faucet then turned back to face Nyssa. “Do you want to do the honors?”

“Oh, why not?” She sighed, stepping forward, and then flipping up the handle on the sink.

When the water started to flow, they both ducked down together to watch the pipes as if their lives depended on it.  After a solid minute of water flowing without a single drop coming through the pipe, Harvey made a crow of joy and wrapped his arms around Nyssa, knocking them both off balanced and sprawled across the kitchen floor.

After a lot of (slightly hysterical) laughter, they managed to detangle themselves and get up to turn the water off. This time, Harvey wrapped his arms around Nyssa in a more controlled manner, tipping his head down to kiss her gently on the lips. “This is our place, Ness. Yours and Mine. We can do whatever we want, and we can fix it when things go wrong.”

Nyssa let herself melt against him, turning to stare at the sink again as if it was one of the greatest wonders of the world. “Yeah, I guess it’s not so bad. We can figure this out.”

“Damn right,” Harvey’s joy at fixing the pipe was starting to bubble over again. “Let’s go find something fun to do in order to celebrate our handiness, shall we?”

“If by something fun you mean take a shower and then go to sleep because we both have to be at work much sooner than either of us want to admit, sure. I’m all for it.” Nyssa countered.

Harvey looked at his watch. Twelve fifty-six in the morning. His alarm was set to go off at six am. Suddenly, there was no more bubbling excitement. “Yeah, okay. Good enough for me.”

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2017 in Stories

 

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Fiction: Opening Doors (504 words)

“We’re not allowed in here,” the nine-year-old boy said quietly at the doorway, not bothering to hide the fear in his voice. The five-year-old girl heard that fear and hid from Linea behind the boy’s shoulder, still not letting go of the boy’s hand. “We can’t afford to be kicked out,” the boy continued, “We don’t have anywhere else to go.”

“Your sister is too scared to sleep downstairs,” Linea pointed out, “You guys have been here for three nights and she hasn’t shut her eyes once.  It’s my room, and I am allowed to do say who is and isn’t allowed to be in here.” She gave a small stomp of her foot with the determination that only a well-protected nine-year-old had.

The boy still looked hesitant to come into the room, and Linea crossed her arms over her chest and rolled her eyes. “If you want to be stubborn for your own sake, that’s fine, but that girl needs to sleep. Are you really going to let your pride prevent her from sleeping?”

That was the final blow. There was nothing that he wouldn’t do for his sister, and Linea had already figured that much out. Not that it was hard to figure that much out from him. He wasn’t shy about his love for her.

“Thank you,” he said, almost meekly. He stepped in and had to give the girl a gentle tug on the arm to get her to follow him across the threshold. “Come on, Nia. She’s letting us use her room so we can be alone. Isn’t that nice?”

The little girl gave the smallest of nods.

He looked up at Linea with a genuine smile.  “Nia, what do we say when people do nice things for us?”

Nia stepped out from behind her brother and let out the quickest and quietest “Thank you” Linea had ever heard before disappearing back behind her brother. He rolled his eyes good-naturedly at Linea like can you believe her?

“Nia, you can have my bed if you like,” Linea offered, “I know you’ve had a rough couple of days. I can stay with my mom in her room so you two can get some sleep, and that way my mom will know for sure that I let you two in here myself, and there won’t be any question of making you leave the house for being in here.”

She started to head out of the room, but the boy came forward and took Linea’s hand carefully. “Thank you. Truly,” He repeated earnestly.

“Of course. I’ll see you in the morning.”  Linea dropped his hand and shut the door behind her. It was only as she was walking towards her mother’s room that she realized that she knew the little girl was named Nia, but she had no idea what the boy’s name was. She would have to find that out tomorrow. Because she had a feeling that tonight would not be the last time that she was interacting with those two.

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2017 in Stories

 

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Fiction: Legal Theft Project–Retail Therapy (501 words)

“It’s not my fault—There was a sale.”  

Charles looked around the room at the dozen, maybe two dozen, bags that surrounded Georgia. “Oh my,” he muttered softly, carefully picking his way over to his arm chair, sitting down carefully. “Oh, Georgia, what did you do?”  

“I only went in for one thing,” She insisted, making a faster path around the bags than he had, coming to sit on his lap, “But it was a sale. A summer sale. The biggest sale the store had ever had. What was I supposed to do, say no?”  

Charles knew there was no point in trying to explain to Georgia that he would have expected her to say no. She’d never been the type of person to pass up something shiny and new, nor the type of person to pass up a bargain—so put the two together and she would have been utterly helpless. He’d known all this about her when he’d agreed to marry her, and he guessed he had to pay the piper at some point. Or—he supposed—pay the credit card bill to be more specific.  

“How much did you spend?” He asked warily, reaching up to wrap one of her curls around his finger. No point in delaying it. Might as well find out the damage now.  

Georgia at least had the decency to look a little ashamed as she said it. “Four hundred thirty-six dollars and ninety-one cents.” Charles flinched at the number, so Georgia rushed to add, “But I saved six hundred and seventeen dollars. That’s one thousand and fifty-three dollars worth of stuff all for less than five hundred.  It’s a deal.” Georgia said it with such hope. All she wanted was confirmation that she hadn’t messed up too badly, that Charles still loved her in spite of this, that he wasn’t mad.  

Charles sighed again, trying not to think about how many times he would sigh before this was all said and done. He did still love her, of course, he still loved her, and in the grand scheme of things, he couldn’t even be mad.  This was what she did. And if he loved her he had to love her for the full package, not just the parts he liked best.  

“It is a deal,” he conceded, and before he could stop himself he added, “I probably wouldn’t have gotten all this stuff—but you cannot deny that it was a deal.” Georgia frowned up at him adorably, so he wrapped his arms a little tighter around him. “Oh don’t. It’s okay. I know you can’t pass up a good sale. It will all work out in the end.”  

“I just—It was a sale.”  

“I know, babe, I know.” Charles dropped a kiss on her forehead. “And you just can’t pass up a good sale.”  

She curled in a little tighter, and he pulled her in to snuggle closer. “I absolutely cannot pass up a good sale.”  

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

 

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