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.

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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. 

Purple

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The room was decorated in Marnie’s  trademark girlish fashion – bursting with pink and lace.  I stood out like a fly in the punchbowl.  I wasn’t invited.  Not to the bridal luncheon, and definitely not to the wedding.  Our friendship was long dead.  I was only there to show Marnie there were no hard feelings.  I smiled warmly as she gratefully accepted the wrapped gift from my arms.

When I heard the loud burst from the hallway, imagining Marnie’s ivory dress dripping with purple ink, I smiled wider. On second thought, I’ve never been that forgiving.

 

A sort of sideways take on the Moral Mondays prompt, which is Bless Those Who Curse You.

 

​​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.