#SixWordSaturday – Victimized

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Silent screams.  The party goes on.

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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

 

 

 

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. 

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. 

​​Thursday Thriller – Quest

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Read Part 1 – Calla

Read Part 2 – Tower

Read Part 3 – Beast

Read Part 4 – Rose

I’m such a fool, Calla whispered as the cellar door slammed.   Edgar had grabbed her before she’d even made it out of the dining room, growling in her ear about how dearly she would pay for her mistake.  His arm gushed blood as he dragged her down the stone steps to the cellar, flinging her inside and locking the door.  Why couldn’t she bring herself to do what needed to be done?  Why didn’t she grab the knife and drive it right into his neck?

The cellar was smelly and dank, with just a tiny window so high up she’d never be able to reach it.  Rose brought her food and snuck her the occasional book, but she could never stay long.  When she asked if Edgar would ever let her out, about the things he was doing, saying, while she was locked away, Rose said that he was very angry, but that his mother would be returning from her travels soon and would be coming for a visit, expecting good news.  She stared back at her tellingly.

The next day was special.  The only day of the month when Rose got to leave the property, a large portion of Edgar’s allowance for the month, carefully controlled by Catherine of course, filling her small purse, keys jangling in her pocket.   She usually lingered in town before finishing her errands; she’d have a coffee at a sidewalk cafe, browse a bookstore, people watch.  It was so rare she got to see anyone besides Edgar and Calla.  But today, there’d be no time for that.  Today would be different from any other day Rose had since she’d come to the mansion.

Edgar didn’t look up at the woman who passed his door in the hallway that rainy morning.  Every inch of her skin was covered.  She was wearing Rose’s worn raincoat and gloves, with galoshes that came to her knees.  Her head was down and covered by a hood.  She walked quickly, purposefully.

Tears filled Calla’s eyes as she opened the front door and ran down the front steps to the drive, where Rose was waiting with the van.  She’d ducked out of the house earlier undetected, leaving the doors unlocked for Calla to follow.  Calla laid across the back seat, keeping her head low as Rose sped down the drive.

Read Part 6 – Banished

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. 

Thursday Thriller – Rose

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Read Part 1 – Calla

Read Part 2 – Tower

Read Part 3 – Beast

Calla pressed her lips together as her eyes ran over every inch of his face. Thick, jet black hair fell over his forehead, which was unnaturally white. He had an unusual nose, the bridge starting in the middle of his forehead and coming to a peak several inches above his lips, leaving a wide gap between his nose and mouth. Wet, blue eyes bulged out of their sockets and were lopsided, the left eye being much lower than the other. A grotesque-looking patch of skin under his right eye was engorged with blood and pulsating, as though it were filled with hundreds of tiny, slithering worms. Edgar stared at her, awaiting her reaction. She managed a tiny smile, and whispered, “It doesn’t change a thing.”

It was true.

The answer seemed to satisfy both of them, who moved on to their favorite subject – money. Calla stopped listening, her mind back on the woman who’d just disappeared into the kitchen.

The days dragged onward without much variation. Each day Calla spent much of her time alone while Edgar was wandering through the other, restricted, wings of the crumbling mansion, doing who knew what. The only thing that had changed – her bedroom door was no longer locked. She could move freely about one wing of the house, which meant that in addition to the bedroom, she had access to the dining room, kitchen, and library. It mattered little. All the doors that led to the other wings of the house, and the outside, were locked.

Every evening at dinner, Edgar chose another old-fashioned, unflattering, ill-fitting dress for her to wear. They spoke little, Calla living in constant fear of displeasing him. She wore the evidence of his displeasure on her skin. When she didn’t dress and come down to dinner quickly enough, when he didn’t like her answer to one of his questions, when her appearance didn’t meet his expectations, he vented his anger, violently, painfully.

The only bright spot in her days, besides her long afternoons in the library, was her time spent with Rose, the only servant caring for the sprawling property. She was a few years older than Calla, with the beginnings of soft lines etching her olive-skinned face. She had huge dark brown eyes even sadder than Calla’s, and chestnut hair scattered with gray that she always wore in a no-nonsense bun. Calla helped Rose with her work, and in return, Rose gave her information.  The first thing she learned – Rose was as trapped as she. She’d shown up to the mansion one winter day, inquiring about a job, and been attacked by Edgar and locked away. She was only allowed off the property once per month to go into town for supplies. Just like Calla, she’d been disowned by her family. No one was looking for her. It had been 10 years.

It was obvious to Rose that Catherine, Edgar’s mother, had no intention of ever giving her son his share of the family fortune in her lifetime. She never expected Edgar find a wife. And now that Calla was in the picture, she had no choice but to up the ante. She wanted an heir. Edgar hadn’t mentioned his mother’s words since that first horrible night, but Calla knew he would. She could feel him. Thinking about it. It was a matter of time. Whenever she thought of it, she felt the bile rising in her throat.

“Why don’t you run? The next time you get to leave?” Calla asked Rose morning they scrubbed windows in the kitchen side by side, looking out at the sunrise.

“Where?”

Calla said nothing. But that night at dinner, she grabbed a steak knife and stabbed Edgar through the arm. As he screamed and bled she swiped the keys from his pocket and ran for the door, holding her breath.

Part 5 – Quest

Sideways

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She hid, breathless, checking to make sure the Prince was no longer in pursuit.  What a mistake it had been to lie her way into the ball, and what a disappointment so-called Prince Charming had turned out to be.  He was an arrogant, spoiled daddy’s boy who’d dominated her attention the entire night.  She’d wanted to mingle, make some new friends, this being her first night out in years, but, no, he was “enchanted” by her, he said, refusing to allow her to leave his side.  Good thing she’d given him a fake name so he’d never be able to find her, ha!  It was only when she arrived home that she realized her shoe was missing.

 

The Six Sentence Story prompt this week is check.  I must have sideways Cinderella stories on the brain!

Thursday Thriller – Wallflower

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“Name?”  Meredith Skinner asks me as I approach the check-in desk.  Of course, she would be the one bossing everyone around, still. She wears a placid smile, no recognition in her eyes.  She’s probably already dismissed me mentally, reasoning if she doesn’t remember me, I must not have been worth knowing.    Not much has changed.

“Casey Thompson.”

The color drains from her face as she looks down at the basket full of pre-printed name badges, fumbling through them with none of the grace she always pretended to have when we were in school.

“Errr…I don’t…uhhh…see you here…” she stammers, her breaths coming quickly.

“It’s fine.”  I pick up one of the blank badges probably reserved for spouses and plus-ones and quickly fill in my name, sticking it to the front of my red dress proudly.  “Good to see you, Mer.”  I smile at her before entering the ballroom.  I think she’s on the verge of hyperventilation.

No one recognizes me at first, but I know them so well.  There’s Tommy Frazier, the former jock, standing next to Laura Brooks, well, it’s probably Frazier now too.  I read on the alumni website they’d gotten married right after high school.  There’s Tiff Stanton and Delia Jones, the party girls, out on the dance floor with guys I’m assuming are their husbands, but with Delia and Tiff, who really knows.  In the corner of the room, nursing a drink, is Cat Fiore, my high school bestie, who I hear is some do-gooder type now, running a charity that gets clean drinking water to people in third-world countries.  Penance.

I decide I need a drink if I’m really going to do this and head straight to the bar.  I haven’t even signaled the bartender yet when greasy Charles Macklin takes a seat next to me.   He was a player in high school, always chasing girls.  I don’t see a ring on his finger, so he must still be up to his old ways.

“Hello.”  He adds 100 L’s.  He smells like too much cologne and I wrinkle my nose, stifling a sneeze.

“Hi.”

“Are you here with someone?  I’m sure I would have remembered you if we were in school together.”

“You don’t remember me, Charlie?”  I ask, enjoying his look of confusion.

“Should I?”  He motions for the bartender.  “I’ll have a beer and she’ll take a…”

“Martini.  Dry.  Extra olives.”

He turns back to me proudly as though I should be grateful.  It is an open bar.

“So, why don’t I remember you?  Were you one of those late-bloomer types?  A wallflower?”  He chuckles.

“Well, I was a bit shy, but I’m sure you remember me, Charlie.  It’s me, Casey.”

I see him mentally scrolling through a list of all the Caseys he knows, having already decided I couldn’t be THAT Casey.

“Casey…”

“Casey Thompson.”

The bartender returns with our drinks but he doesn’t notice.  He mumbles some excuse about needing to talk to someone and rushes away, nearly knocking over a stool in his wake.  I notice he makes a beeline for Cat, whose eyes widen in surprise as he whispers in her ear urgently.

Of course they’re all shocked and running scared.  These people all thought I was lost forever, which is to be expected, since they left me for dead.

Read Part 2 – Smoke

 

 

Caged

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Source

“I know it’s only been three weeks since the roll-out but the response has been phenomenal...”  

Tonight was supposed to be date night.   As usual, Nate’s “quick work call” had lasted more than an hour.  Mary re-filled her wine glass and carried her plate into the living room, flipping on the television.  She’d gotten used to not being Nate’s first priority any longer.  He’d made a comfortable life for their family.  A gilded cage.  He didn’t know that long before his success, she’d trapped herself.  She still loved him.  She’d always love him.

The coffee-table book caught her eye.  A collection of pictures from the early 20th century.  A young girl was on the cover, forced to work long hours in a factory before she’d even entered puberty.  Mary imagined what her life would have been like had she been born during that time.  Maybe she would have gotten married when she wasn’t much older than this girl to a man she barely knew, no one caring what she actually wanted, her future already planned and assumed.  No escape.

Nate appeared in the doorway, signaling that he’d only be a minute longer.  A lie, but she nodded anyway.  Mary ran her hand over the girl’s solemn face and sighed.

For Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner

Inspiration

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Source

“Nell!  Nell!”  The reporters yelled from the crowd.  Press conferences weren’t her favorite.  But, the USA Women’s Soccer Team were big celebrities.  They had a legitimate chance of winning the championship this year.  And Nell was their biggest star.

“Okay, one more question, guys.” She hoped one of the millions of cameras in the room didn’t capture an image of her dour expression. “Allison – what ya got?”  Nell pointed to a young reporter in the front row and tried to smile.

“Nell – who inspired you to become an athlete?’

“That’s a great question, but there are so many great female athletes out there.  It would be hard to name just one.”

An hour later, Nell returned to her hotel room to find To Kill A Mockingbird sitting on the nightstand where she’d left it. She could see the corner of the folded yellowed note sticking out of the torn lining of the battered book.  She opened the book and the note fluttered to the floor.  It was from her mother, written over 20 years ago.

Nell – I have a feeling you’ll find a kindred spirit in these pages.  Love, Mom.

Nell opened the  book to her favorite passage and settled under the covers to read all about the adventures of Jean Louise “Scout” Finch, her favorite tomboy.

For Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner

I was saddened to read of the death of Harper Lee today.  I was a little girl with perpetually skinned knees and elbows, pigtails with ribbons that were always coming undone, and grass stains down the front of all of my outfits.  I was most at home climbing fences, digging in the dirt and playing imaginary games outdoors with my friends.  Scout was the first girl character I’d encountered who liked all those things too, which meant the world to me at a time when I felt the most misunderstood.  Ms. Lee may be gone but Scout, Jem and Atticus will live forever.