Unbroken

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Copyright – Georgia Koch

It was premiere night and Zoey was nervous. Her new movie, a remake of Jaws, was already getting panned by critics. It’d seemed like a good career move.  Quality roles for actresses of color were rare, plus her character delivered the movie’s iconic line, We’re gonna need a bigger boat.  But, the backlash was swift.  Twitter was bombarded with hatred – racist memes, messages, videos – all targeting her. She hadn’t left her home for days.

The  car stopped.  She wiped her wet eyes and emerged with a luminous smile. The fans were calling her name.

 

For Friday Fictioneers.  

Inspired by the most recent attack on the actress and comedian, Leslie Jones. 

Feud

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The hundreds-year-old tree between the two houses was the only one still alive who knew how it all began.  Past residents of those houses, Ruby and Dottie, had stood under its wavering, winter-bare branches years ago and argued about some trivial, forgettable, nonsense.  Each woman, seething with rage, had marched inside and told their respective husbands not to speak to anyone next door again.

Ruby and Dottie were gone now. It was Ruby’s four-year-old great-great-granddaughter, Pearl, who decided to defy her mother and venture to the other side of the tree. Leaning against its trunk was Sam, Dottie’s great-great-grandson, who was absentmindedly playing with a pocket-watch he’d found in his attic. There was a folded note inside.  Before the children could open it, the wind picked it up and carried it away.  It was in Dottie’s handwriting, addressed to Ruby, and bore only the words, I’m sorry.

The watch forgotten, Sam and Pearl laughed and chased each other around the base of the tree, as she sighed with relief and showered them with blooms.

For Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers

Thursday Thriller – Rescued

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Read Part 1 – Calla

Read Part 2 – Tower

Read Part 3 – Beast

Read Part 4 – Rose

Read Part 5 – Quest

Read Part 6 – Banished

Read Part 7 – Transformation 

Calla hated hospitals.  She’d spent a good part of her childhood in them during the years her father was ill.  He died when she was thirteen.  A week after the funeral, when the phone had stopped ringing, when the neighbors had stopped coming by, when the house was closed-in and empty, stinking of days-0ld casseroles and wilting flowers, she poured herself a drink.  A whiskey.  Her mother was distracted by her grief, inconsolable, locked in her bedroom.  The alcohol was like fire going down Calla’s throat, but she drank every drop.  When the glass was empty, she poured another.  And another.  After she finished the bottle, she felt this delicious oblivion, like nothing could ever hurt her again.  She fell in love with the feeling, chasing it desperately for the next decade.  Her mother had tried, for years, to drag her back from it, to save her, but the pull was too strong.

Now Calla sat in another hospital, waiting for news of Edgar.  Catherine was beside her, her legs jittering nervously, her steely eyes facing the doorway of the waiting room.  She’d advised Edgar against having the surgery.  She’d spent the past few months trying to talk him out of it, but he was determined.  Even with the growth removed his face still wouldn’t look normal.  There was much work to do.  But this was the biggest hurdle.

Ash snoozed away in the baby seat at her feet.  All of their things, the ones she wanted to take with her anyway, were packed away in the trunk of her car in the parking lot.  Edgar had gifted her with a shiny new BMW a month before, thinking she was so far under his control that she’d never dare drive beyond the town’s limits.  How wrong he’d been.  She said her goodbyes him earlier as he laid in his hospital bed, right before they’d taken him into surgery.  Catherine had just left the room, leaving Edgar and Calla to sit in silence, the only sound being Ash happily gurgling in Calla’s arms.

“I would have helped you, you know,” Calla blurted out.  Edgar’s head whipped around.  He looked at her, startled.

“What do you mean?”

“I would have been a friend to you.  I would have agreed to help you.”  She wiped away a tear.  “I was so lonely then.  That’s what I was thinking about that day, at the exact moment you grabbed me, how lonely I was.  How sick I was of being alone.  I would have killed for anyone, a stranger, to just…notice me.”  She sniffed, shifting Ash on her lap.  “You didn’t have to do what you did.  You didn’t have to hurt me…”

“You would have taken one look at me and laughed…”

“I wouldn’t have.  I know what it’s like to be trapped.  I was trapped long before we ever crossed paths.”

She looked at his face, one of the few times she’d been able to see him without his mask.  Whether he’d ever admit it out loud, she knew he believed her.

“What about Rose?”  Calla continued.  “Why did you have to kill her?  You got what you wanted.  Me.  A marriage.  An heir…”

“She humiliated me.  Stole from me.  No one does that.” He snarled, turning to face the wall.

“She meant you no harm.  She just wanted to start over.  You hurt her over and over again but she refused to turn you in, even when I begged her to come to the authorities with me.  That’s the kind of person she was…”

“She was nobody.  Just like you.”

No one is looking for you.  His first words to her came back in a flash.

“When you come home, I won’t be there.”  She rose from the chair as Edgar turned toward her again, his bulging eyes filling with tears.  Calla was unmoved.  She was afraid, more afraid than she was the day she’d been taken even, but she had to try.  Ash couldn’t be raised in that house.

*

Dr. Knight, Edgar’s surgeon, entered the waiting room, a grave expression on her face that told Calla and Catherine all they needed to know.  Catherine began to wail, a horrible, keening sound that filled the room.  Calla felt nothing.  Just the anchor that had burrowed in the pit of her stomach long ago finally lifting.

Dr. Knight pulled Catherine to her feet and embraced her.  “I’m sorry,” she whispered.  “We knew the risks…”    Catherine nodded and sobbed into the doctor’s shoulder, muttering words Calla couldn’t understand.  Calla couldn’t bring herself to comfort her.

Once Catherine had calmed a bit, Dr. Knight moved to Calla, hugging her as well.  Calla found it all a bit strange.  The doctors that had all treated her father seemed detached when they delivered this news, like they couldn’t wait to get away from that room, the sounds of grief.   When Dr. Knight released her, she noticed a faint scar, pale pink, jagged, hardly noticeable unless one really looked closely, along the side of her neck, and held in a gasp.

What has she survived?  Was she outside, when I spoke to Edgar?  Did she hear? Did she…?

Dr. Knight’s eyes met Calla’s briefly, then she squeezed her hand and briskly left the room, disappearing into the busy corridor.

*

Calla turned down a road that was so familiar to her she could close her eyes and still remember every curve and bump in the asphalt.  She stopped in front of a modest house, red brick with dark green shutters, one-story, a driveway stained with oil and full of potholes.  She saw the blinds move, a pair of eyes peeking out.  Calla scooped up Ash and made her way up the drive.  The front door flew open before she even reached the porch.  Her mother put her hands to her mouth, her eyes watering as she laid eyes on her grandson.  She looked at her daughter.  Taking in her clear eyes, her healthy appearance.  Calla put her hand on her mother’s face.  Her skin was so soft, like Calla remembered, and warm.

“Mom,” she said with a bright smile.  “This is Ash.”

THE END

 

 

 

Morning After

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Tonight, Ava was staving off adulthood for a few more hours.  Her house party was in full swing.

“Can you guys keep it down?!” Her next-door neighbor screeched as Ava opened the door.

Liquid courage coursing through her veins, Ava flung the contents of her cup in the woman’s face as her friends chuckled.

The next morning, Ava stumbled into her job interview, head pounding, bleary-eyed.

“Thanks for coming in, Ava.” Her next-door neighbor sat opposite her and Ava couldn’t breathe. “Do you really want to do this or should I just send you on your drunken way?”

 

The Moral Mondays prompt this week is ALWAYS BE ON YOUR BEST BEHAVIOR.

Thursday Thriller – Transformation

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Read Part 1 – Calla

Read Part 2 – Tower

Read Part 3 – Beast

Read Part 4 – Rose

Read Part 5 – Quest

Read Part 6 – Banished

ONE YEAR LATER

Ash was up early. Early morning light slipped through the cracks in the drapes, giving the room a purplish hue. Calla yawned, then slipped out of bed reluctantly. The air was cold on her skin.  She lifted her son from his crib and relished his sweet early morning baby scent. Edgar told her he could hire a fleet of nannies and baby nurses to come running every time Ash as much as whimpered, but she refused. She trusted no one.

Catherine visited often, always wanting another look at her beautiful grandson. He was perfect. He had his father’s pale complexion and dark hair, but his mother’s soulful brown eyes and full pink lips. She ran her finger over her son’s smooth skin as she fed him, smiling when his eyes locked on hers. It was her favorite time of day.

She and Edgar had married in secret days after she’d agreed to return to the mansion with him. A judge, an old family friend, had been summoned to the property.  They’d stood, Calla in a hideous, puffed-sleeved ivory gown, selected by Edgar of course, Edgar in his dinner tux, under the archway in the parlor, rushing through their vows.  Calla looked at the floor the entire time.

After they wed, Edgar didn’t come to her room many nights, only a few. She always thought of something else, another place, a time long ago when she was happy, until it was over.  The rest of the time was for her and Ash. She read to him, sang him lullabies, took him on long walks in the sun on the beautiful grounds, which were now tended by a team of gardeners. Edgar was happier now that Catherine had finally released all of his inheritance, and rarely lost his temper.  He was obsessed with restoring the mansion to its original glory, as well as traveling the country looking for a doctor who would perform the risky, life-threatening surgery to repair his face. Since the growth was engorged with blood, there was a chance for irreparable blood loss during the operation. He thought it was worth the risk. Maybe he held onto some futile hope that one day she would actually love him.

There was a knock at the bedroom door. Breakfast. She ate all of her meals in her room now with her most favorite, and adorable, dining companion.  Esme, the new housekeeper, entered the room, carrying a tray that she set on the bedside table. She hadn’t warmed to Esme yet; the sight of her just made her miss Rose, plus she envied that the staff went home at night to homes filled with warm light and happiness, the laughter and footfalls of loving spouses and extended family.

“Mr. Henry wanted me to leave this too, ma’am,” Esme said, placing a folded newspaper next to the tray.

“Thank you,” Calla said with a tight smile, putting Ash on her shoulder and patting his back, hoping to elicit a burp.

“I can take him for a bit if you’d like,” Esme offered, extending her arms. “I have experience with infants.” Calla had overheard Edgar ask Esme to help more with the baby when he thought she was out of earshot.

“I appreciate that, but it’s okay. I prefer to keep him with me.”

Her face fell before she left the room, and Calla felt terrible. Esme probably thought she hated her. She just couldn’t risk letting Ash out of her sight. Ultimately, Esme’s loyalty lied with Edgar, not her.

Bouncing Ash on one arm, she reached for the paper. It wasn’t local, dated a week ago, in a city on the other side of the country. She opened it to see a short article, no more than a paragraph really, circled in dark red ink. Her knees gave when she saw the picture of the woman next to the article, and she sank onto the bed, keeping a tight grip on Ash. The name was different, but it was Rose. Her Rose. She’d been found murdered.

Ash began to whimper. She clutched him close to her chest and they wept together.

 

Read the final installment – Rescued

 

My favorite prompt during Story A Day in May was Rewrite a Fairy Tale, so I decided to tackle it again, this time with Beauty and the Beast in a serial form. 

Unforgettable

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The Funky Monkey was her favorite bar.  Or her new favorite bar.  Everything lately was brand new.  New supermarket, new manicurist, new apartment, new friends.  New life.

She was certain her boss had just replaced her on the sales floor when she hadn’t come in a few days in a row.  Her so-called friends had probably shrugged and ordered another round of drinks.  And Jared, the boyfriend she neglected to dump before she left town, had likely deleted her number and called one of his many admirers.  Good riddance.

She nearly fell off her barstool when she saw Jared speaking at a press conference on the TV above the bar, flanked by police officers.  The screen changed, and she saw her own face, a photo taken by Jared during a perfect day at the lake.  She looked nothing like that now.  Her hair was shorter and dyed jet black, her skin deeply tanned, colored contacts in her eyes.  She blinked away tears.

“You know that guy?”  The bartender asked.

She nodded as she downed another shot.

 

For Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers 

 

Memory

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“No!” Izzy screamed, running to hide behind Rebecca’s legs. Rebecca ruffled her daughter’s hair as her great-uncle, Otto, continued to demand a kiss.

“Leave my daughter alone!” Rebecca growled.

“Brat!” Otto spat as he left the room.  Rebecca scooped Izzy into her arms, nearly knocked over by a long-forgotten memory.  Another uncle, another family gathering, another girl.

Give your uncle a hug!

She felt his wet lips against her cheek, his hands hidden from view. Her stomach flipped, her anger turning to sorrow.

“I don’t like kisses,” Izzy tearfully whispered into her hair.

Neither do I.

 

The Moral Mondays prompt this week is WHEN YOUR BLOOD IS BOILING, SPEND AN EVENING IN THE COOLER.

Thursday Thriller – Banished

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Read Part 1 – Calla

Read Part 2 – Tower

Read Part 3 – Beast

Read Part 4 – Rose

Read Part 5 – Quest

“We’ll look into it, ma’am,” said the police officer, in a tone that indicated he’d do the exact opposite, tossing the form Calla had just filled out atop the messy stack of papers at the edge of his desk.

After Calla and Rose escaped the mansion, they’d split the money Edgar had given Rose for supplies and tearfully gone their separate ways.  Rose wanted to forget.  To drive miles and miles away, change her name and start over in a beautiful place.  Calla knew she was never going to forget.

Calla could tell the officer was trying to dismiss her, but she refused to move. “You aren’t going to go out there and arrest him?!”

The officer sighed deeply, folding his hands and staring at her as though the sight of her caused him pain.  “That’s not how it works, ma’am,” he said through gritted teeth.  “There has to be an investigation.  Is there anyone that can corroborate this…story?”

Calla thought of Rose, hoping she was sunning herself on a beach somewhere with her nose in one of her beloved romance novels, a pink beach rose tucked in her wind-tousled hair.  “No, there’s no one else,” she whispered.  “But I was held there against my will!  For months!”

“Yes ma’am, I heard you.  He took you and locked you away and attacked you and made you wear…” he glanced at the report “…Victorian gowns.”  He stifled a hiccup that sounded suspiciously like a giggle.  “No one has even seen Edgar Henry in town for years.  He’s a bit of a recluse and quite…errr…sheltered…by his mother.  It’s hard to imagine him pulling off something like this.”

“I know it sounds insane but it’s true,” Calla’s knees weakened, and she gripped the edge of the desk for support.  “I need you to believe me.  That man…is a monster.  You have no idea what I’ve been through.”

He sighed again, leaning back in his seat.  “I’ll send someone to bring him in for questioning.  But I can’t promise anything.”

Calla’s spirits lifted, but the feeling was short-lived.   Another officer called her that night, in the dirty motel room she was staying in at the edge of town.  She didn’t sleep, keeping her eyes on the flickering television screen, listening for sounds of movement outside.  The call with the officer was short.  Edgar had told the police that he was a friend, helping Calla with her sobriety by letting her live with him for a short time while she got back on her feet.  She’d been free to leave at any time, according to him.  Calla was unfamiliar with the town, hundreds of miles from her home, but apparently the Henry name was influential, even though their mansion was decaying, and the neglected grounds had to be an eyesore among the other fine homes surrounding it.

“Ma’am,” the officer said through the phone.  She’d been called ‘ma’am’ more in the past day than in her entire lifetime.  “We do see that you have multiple arrests for drug possession, public intoxication, drunk and disorderly…”

“I get it,” Calla interrupted.  “Thanks for calling.”  She hung up without saying goodbye.  She had to move quickly.

During the entire cab ride to the bus station, she kept checking the back window, looking for headlights, a shadow lurking in the trees.  She was certain the driver thought she was paranoid by the time the car came to a smooth stop in front of the well-lit terminal, which was still bustling with activity despite the late hour.  Maybe she would track down Rose somehow.  They could start over together.

As she was nearing the ticket counter, she felt someone grab her arm, squeezing so tightly she was afraid her bone would crack.  “I’ll always find you,” he whispered in her ear.

She shrugged her arm away, surprised at how easily he released her.  He was wearing the mask.  She stepped backward on trembling, watery limbs, hoping to put as much distance between them as she could.  He didn’t approach.  “No one gets away with humiliating me, with humiliating my family, the way you did today.  You can leave town, walk away right now, and look over your shoulder, every day for months, years, wondering if I’m following you, if I’m watching, biding my time.”  He slowly stepped forward.  “Or you can come back with me now.  Be my wife.  Give me an heir.  Live a life you could have only dreamed of before.”

“Or I can scream and have every security guard here running over in seconds.”  She squared her shoulders, hiding her shivering hands behind her back.

He nodded, taking another step forward.  “You could.  But you saw how that worked out before.”

She bit down on her bottom lip, hard, tasting blood, to keep it from quivering.  She looked at the ticket counter and thought of Rose, the warmth of her friendship.  Maybe they’d find a small apartment together, somewhere near the water, a healing place.  But it would be a life of restricted freedom – a life of fear and checking rearview mirrors and dark corners forever.  She turned, with a pained sigh, as Edgar extended his hand.

Read Part 7 – Transformation

My favorite prompt during Story A Day in May was Rewrite a Fairy Tale, so I decided to tackle it again, this time with Beauty and the Beast in a serial form.