Thursday Thriller – Descent

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Read Part 1 – Watched

Read Part 2 – Watcher

Read Part 3 – Harmless

Read Part 4 – Caught

She didn’t dance any longer.  She couldn’t.  Not after what Liz had done.   That last, violent confrontation.  A hotel maid had found her hours later, unconscious, in a pool of her own blood.  Liz was long gone.  Marley told the authorities the whole story once she recovered, but it was too late.  Liz seemed to have disappeared.

At first, it was easy to forget.  There was a flurry of activity around her.  The ballet dedicated a performance to her, honoring her onstage at the end with an award and a gorgeous bouquet of white lilies, which used to be her favorite.  She never told anyone that Liz used to send those to her too, always with a hidden, hateful message enclosed.  Friends invited her out, threw parties in her honor, her phone rang day and night.  But seasons change and people are fickle.  Marley had nothing to offer the world any longer, now that the one thing that set her apart was gone.  The attention faded, and she became something she’d never been in her entire life.  Ordinary.

She spent hours alone in her stuffy apartment, the sickly sweet smell of those dead flowers she couldn’t bring herself to throw out for some reason suffocating her.  Liz Randall.  That name swam in the darkness before her when she closed her eyes.  It had taken her a year.  A year of her slowly descending, retreating, hiding.  But she’d found her.

The door was open.  Liz was confident she would never be found.  Or just stupid.  Marley stepped into the tiny, squalid house, the oppressive heat and the stench of rotting garbage and animal waste bearing down on her.  Liz was sitting in a beat up metal chair, facing the window, her back to the front door.  She turned when she heard Marley’s footsteps.  Her mud brown hair was matted and filthy, a dribble of red sauce, from the pizza she’d just consumed Marley deduced from the greasy box on the kitchen floor, ran down her chubby chin. There was no surprise on her face as Marley approached.   She just closed her tiny, dark eyes as Marley raised the gun, knowing it would all be over soon.

*

Speeding home on a meticulously plotted route, Marley felt lighter than the breeze blowing through her hair.  She was finally free.  Somehow, she knew she would find a way to dance again.

 

 

Thursday Thriller – Caught

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Sorry for the late posting!

Read Part 1 – Watched

Read Part 2 – Watcher

Read Part 3 – Harmless

My tea is cool. I still wrap my hands around the mug, though I draw no warmth from it. It’s Marley’s mug. I remember it. Her lips have touched it. I imagine her, sitting by a frosted window in her old apartment, resting her sore legs and flipping through a magazine, sipping herbal tea. I wonder if my lips are touching the same places as hers.

Our conversation has reached another lull. I know that she will ask me to leave soon. Politely, of course. Dear Marley is always perfectly polite. But I’ll still be outside in the cold. Politely dismissed. I’m tired of being left behind.

Marley yawns dramatically and stretches, probably about to tell me about how exhausted she is and how badly she needs a shower and a nap. I’ve seen her do it before with other unwanted guests. Before she can say anything, I ask her the question.

“Why didn’t you recognize me that night?”

She cocks her head at me, a strange-sounding laugh catches in her throat. She will figure it out soon. Her thoughts are starting down the path, slowly leading her to the truth.

“What do you mean?”

“I waited outside for you for hours. I was freezing. But you treated me like just another…another…fan!” I spit out the last word violently because it offends me.

She knows now. She rises from the couch slowly and begins backing towards the door.

“I’m sorry, Liz…”

“I thought we were friends. We were so close in school…”

“Liz, there are so many people crowded around me after a performance. I probably didn’t see you.  I’m sorry, Liz. I’m so, so sorry,” she repeats.

“Not enough,” I say, standing and stepping closer to her.

“What do you want from me?” She asks, her eyes wide, tears streaming down her disgustingly beautiful face.

“Nothing,” I say honestly. Then I lunge for her.

Read Part 5 – Descent

A Grain

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My daughter has the best of everything. Her clothes are from the finest boutiques in town, her wardrobe rivaling mine in size and quality. Her hair has been highlighted and cut by my own stylist from the time she was small.    I’ve given her everything she’s ever wanted. Things she didn’t even know that she wanted. Private dance tutors, acting classes, beauty pageant wins, cosmetic enhancements.  We want her to be happy. I thought she was happy.

When her teachers told me that Riley’s interactions with another girl in school could be considered bullying, I dismissed it, taking it with a grain of salt. Didn’t all teenage girls argue? But then I met the girl, Cassie, and her mother, in the principal’s office, and I saw something I recognized in her sad eyes. Riley laughed the whole thing off in the car on the way home, and I joined in, wanting to make her happy, to reassure her I was on her side, but my heart wasn’t in it.

Cassie is gone now. When I found out the news, I locked myself in my bedroom and cried the rest of the day. Visions of my own youth tortured me. Disdainful looks from the pretty girls with their perfect skin and shiny hair. My desperation to be accepted, only to have doors slammed in my face at every turn. I thought about the day I gave birth to Riley, when I promised her that she would never endure one moment of suffering.

Today, I dried my eyes and got on the phone to find my daughter a lawyer. They want to put her in jail, but I can’t let that happen. She’s my baby.

For Story A Day

The Other Shoe

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Syd walked along the promenade, pulling her jacket tighter.  Her mood was pensive, introspective, that chilly spring morning. The sky was a clear, brilliant blue. The wind blowing off the water was fresh and invigorating, but frigid.  She had reason to feel apprehensive.  Her stepsisters were on their way.

How silly she’d been when her father had remarried, so excited at the prospect of having sisters after being an only child her entire life. She’d imagined late nights, giggling in the dark, secrets and stories flying rapidly across their shared bedroom, movie marathons, building a sisterhood that would last a lifetime.

What actually happened was that her father’s new wife took one look at Syd and decided she was common, beneath her, and it didn’t take long for her daughters to adopt her view. They took pleasure in making her life miserable, with their daily name-calling and cruel pranks.  Syd’s most painful memory was the day she came home from school to find all of her clothes torn and damaged by bleach, including a special gown that had been left to her by her mother.

After her father died, she’d practically become their servant. All the chores – laundry, cooking, cleaning, gardening, fell on her shoulders. It was clear, Mina and Piper were on one side, she on the other.

She had a new life now, attending college on scholarship, dating a great guy, one that Mina and Piper had also both been interested in, at their mother’s insistence, due to his pedigree. When Syd and William started dating after she moved to the dorms, her stepsisters had started ignoring her completely. Syd hated to admit it, but she’d enjoyed the peace.  What could they possibly want now?

They were approaching her, steaming cups of coffee in their hands, their pale cheeks flushed red from the cold, wisps of their identical red hair blowing in their faces. She’d heard their mother had moved away, marrying another wealthy man after squandering Syd’s father’s fortune, calling her daughters disappointments after they’d failed to follow in her footsteps. They were on their own, working multiple jobs to make ends meet. Had their new life humbled them?

As they spoke, Syd had her guard up, though they both apologized for how they’d treated her, tears pooling in their wide green eyes. She was still waiting for the other shoe to drop, though neither had asked for anything except penance. Something flashed in her mind.  Her father before he died. His daughter’s treatment was not lost on him, though for most of his second marriage he’d been too weak with illness to do anything about it. They’re your only family now, he’d said. Find a way to be happy.

Though Syd was still skeptical, she reached for her sisters and embraced them both, deciding, for now, to forgive.

For the Story a Day prompt – Rewrite a fairy tale

Thursday Thriller – Harmless

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Read Part 1 – Watched

Read Part 2 – Watcher

The city would welcome her back.  She’d conquered it once; she could do it again.  This was what Marley was thinking as a bellman helped unload her suitcases from the back of a cab.  She was at her favorite New York hotel. She’d run miles and miles away, changing her identity and hiding in the snow, only to learn that she wasn’t safe anywhere.

She was about to head inside the building when she heard a voice in the crowd.  Someone was calling her name.  A woman burst through the mass of people on the street, her cheeks flushed, frizzy hair flying, framing her face in a strange, brown halo.

“Hi, Marley!”  The woman said.  “It’s me, Liz.”

Liz?  Do I know a Liz?  Elizabeth Workman from college?  No, she always went by Beth.

The woman, sensing her confusion, stepped closer.  “Liz Randall.  From high school.  We were in drama together.”

Liz Randall.  She’d barely thought of her in years.  She hadn’t really thought of anyone from high school in years.  The girl who’d followed her around with worshipful eyes at every after-party.  The girl for whom she’d felt such compassion, seeing how she was tossed about and mistreated by the other girls.  But they’d never been friends, had they?  You wouldn’t know it by the way Liz was forcefully pulling her into a hug.

“Liz, it’s nice to see you again.”  They chatted briefly on the street.  Marley gave her the Cliffs Notes update on her life, leaving out the darker parts.  Liz told her about her life back in their hometown, her job at the hospital, her little cottage walking distance from the town square.  They quickly ran out of things to talk about and reached an awkward silence.  Marley shifted her feet uncomfortably as Liz stared her down with those same moony eyes, just like high school, a girl hoping to be invited.

“Would you like to come up?” Marley asked, not believing the words as she said them.  Liz nodded, her eyes brightening as she followed her into the lobby.

They’d have a cup of tea and then she’d say she was exhausted from her travels and needed to rest.  Liz would understand.  Shy, sweet little Liz from high school. She was harmless, right?

Read Part 4  –  Caught

Buddies

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I take a long sip of my smoothie and glance at Lisa, my workout buddy, wondering if we could ever be friends outside the gym.

“I have some news.”  She doesn’t hear.  On the television mounted on the wall, Entertainment Tonight is running a story about pregnant actresses over 40.

“Why are women these days waiting so long to get pregnant?  All those weird fertility treatments.  How selfish.  They’ll be 60 before…”

“I’m pregnant, Lisa.”

She sputters.  “Oh, errr, I didn’t mean anything by…I was just…”

I wave away her protests and smile.  “Spin class next Thursday?”

The Moral Mondays prompt this week is Listen Before You Speak.

 

Wall

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Mary Shipman

“You’re so sweet to always volunteer to close the store!”  Madison poked her bottom lip out in a bizarre show of solidarity.

Bree straightened an antique clock.  “You’ll make it up to me.”  Though you’ve never tried.

“Stop by the bar when you’re done if you want to hang out!” I never do.  Madison gave her one last pitiful glance before leaving.

Bree finished her duties quickly, then leaned against the back wall in the secret place the store’s owner had revealed to her.  The wall slid away, and Bree hurriedly descended the dark stairs.  Her true friends were waiting.

For Friday Fictioneers

 

Tequila

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This restaurant isn’t my style.  I would prefer someplace with peanut shells on the floor, a karaoke machine, shots of tequila lined up on the bar.  Dancing.  But there will be time for all of that later.  

Still, it’s sweet that Renee wants to take me to dinner to celebrate my college graduation.  We’ve been friends since we were five, when most of my friendships were determined by geography.  She’d been my next-door neighbor.  If we met today, I don’t know if we would even see each other, much less become best friends.

There’s a busboy clearing the table next to ours.  He notices my stare and winks at me.  Cheesy, I know, but I still blush.  Renee does not approve. “Joss, seriously?  You’re an educated woman now. Don’t sell yourself short.”

I watch as he carries something outside and follow him, mumbling an excuse to Renee. As I duck into the alley, he grabs me and pulls me close and I can’t think about anything else, other than the faint smell of tequila on his breath.

For Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers

Under

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“So, I have something to tell you.”

“Really?  What is it?”

Please don’t say you’re pregnant again.  Please don’t say you’re pregnant again.  Please don’t say you’re pregnant again.  

“I’m pregnant again!”

Of course you are.  You lazy, irresponsible, silly girl.  You can sit next to a man on the subway and get pregnant.

“That’s wonderful!”

“Thanks.  I know it’s probably not the best time…”

Ha!  That’s an understatement.  How old is your youngest?  Six months?  Your husband can’t keep a job to save his life.  All six of you in a tiny apartment.   And yet, how long have I been trying now?  18 months?  Two years, maybe?  And nothing to show for it but an exorbitant bill from a fertility specialist, two miscarriages and a drawer full of negative tests.  You’ve been blessed four times and treat it like a trip to the convenience store.  I hate you.  

“An unexpected blessing.”

“I’m sure your turn will be soon.  I always tell you – you just need to relax.  It will happen.”

Relax?!  Relax?!  How can I do that with you getting knocked up every year like clockwork?  Everyone complimenting you on your ripening belly while I sit next to you like an old dried up prune?  People staring at me with pity in their eyes.  Me smiling like everything is okay.  Which it isn’t!  Because you’re pregnant again.  You, who couldn’t even afford a crib for your last baby!   And you tell me to relax?  Screw you!

“I’m sure it will.”

She reaches over and clutches my hand.

“Thank you for your support.  It means a lot.”

You disgust me.

“Of course.  You’re my best friend!”