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

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Thursday Thriller – Locked

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Read Part 1 – Awakening

Read Part 2 – Perfect

Read Part 3 – Elly

“Are you going to talk to me?”  Grace asked, sitting on the floor across from her mother.  Zadie stared at the wall, her lips a thin line, her eyes blank.

“What do you want me to say,” Zadie asked, finally, her tone defeated.

“I want to know why.  Why did you let dad – Robert – lock me away?  Why you let him hurt me?”

Zadie sat upright, drew her legs to her chest and looked out the tiny basement window.  She stayed silent.

“Did he really hurt you too?  When I heard you told the police that, I didn’t believe you.  I talked to Noah…”

Zadie looked back at Grace at the mention of her son’s name.  She hadn’t spoken to him in so long.  She lied to friends and family, said that Noah needed time, that he was too raw after everything he’d witnessed in their home.  How could she tell people her son hated her?  What would they think of her?

“…and he said he never saw or heard Robert mistreat you.  He doesn’t believe you.  But if he hurt you mom, if he really hurt you, if he was just really good at hiding it…” Grace slid from her chair and knelt in front of her mother, putting her hand on her knee. “…tell me the truth.  I’ll believe you.  I’ll help you.  Just look me in the eyes and tell me the truth.”

Zadie’s dark eyes met her daughter’s.  “Robert never hurt me,” she said coldly.

Grace sighed and moved away from her mother, sitting back against the wall.  “Then why?  Why did you let him just…”

“It wasn’t his idea…to lock you away…” she whispered.

Grace stood slowly, her eyes widening.  “What did you just say?”

“It wasn’t his idea,” Zadie repeated.  “From the time you were a very little girl, your father…he…looked at you….the look in his eyes…he loved you so much…”

“More than you, you mean,” Grace whispered, but Zadie continued without reacting, as though in a trance.

“…and then when he started sneaking around…going to your room at night…I just…I couldn’t stand the sight of you any longer.  When we moved cross country I asked Robert to…keep you hidden…I’m so sorry…”

Grace couldn’t listen any more.  She rose from the couch and ran out of the room, slamming the basement door and swiftly locking it behind her.  Zadie screamed behind the door, begging her not to leave her down there again, but it was just noise. Upstairs, Grace grabbed Elly and pulled her into her arms. She smelled sweet, like maple syrup and chocolate.  She carried her out the front door, her head resting on her shoulder.  Noah was waiting, his car idling at the corner, ready to transport them all to a new life.  They’d never go back to that house.

 

Kindred

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Lisa had said months ago it was a bad idea for the zoo to invite 35 rambunctious kindergartners for a private, behind-the-scenes tour.  And as usual, she’d been right.  A child had wandered off.  The zoo was locked down.  Every employee on hand was searching the property for the missing kid.  And she was annoyed.  It wasn’t that she didn’t like children.  She was just mystified by them.  She’d blocked out most of the memories of her childhood for self-preservation.  There wasn’t much worth remembering.

Lisa was racing past her office on the way to search the playground area again when she saw the tiny feet peeking out from under her desk.  She noticed the window she’d left open to let in the fresh spring air.  Just a small crack, but big enough for a tiny body to wiggle through.

“Are you Josh?” Lisa asked, kneeling next to the boy, who blinked back tears.  He nodded.  She extended her hand to help him up, but he shook his head no.

“I don’t want to go home.”

Lisa groaned inwardly.  I don’t have time for this. She was about to go ask her assistant, Charity, to coax the boy out when she noticed the tiny black marks on the inside of his arms, a few of them were fresh, the size of cigarette butts.  Her eyes ran over his face, taking in its gauntness.  And then she understood.

She yelled for Charity to call the police.

 

For Sunday Photo Fiction 

MWC – Tree

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Miniature Writing Challenge – Today’s challenge is a tribute to childhood. Write a short story, poem or haiku about children, for children or about a childhood memory.

He kissed me for the first time under a tree that smelled of summer.  We were both ten.  It lasted a second, if that long, and we parted, white and pink petals raining down around us.  I was thrilled and embarrassed and flushed red, letting out a tiny giggle as I turned and ran down the hill to my house.  The next day, nothing had changed.  He was still my best bud and I was his.

But today, as I watch my best bud marry his bride, a girl nothing like me, posh and upper-class, gracious and well-educated, under that same tree, our tree, I realize everything changed that day.  But it’s too late.  After the ceremony, I give him a kiss on the cheek and tell him I love him.  He pats me on the back and says he loves me too, but I’m sure he doesn’t know what I mean.   I skip the reception, and walk slowly down the hill again, reassured by the smell of summer in the air.

The Promise

Twenty years ago four friends had promised to return to this very spot on Labor Day, 2015, and unearth the time capsule they’d buried as children.  He doubted his childhood friends would remember, but Matt would keep his promise.  At least he was enjoying the hike. A butterfly seemed to be leading the way, landing on every bush and flower along the path.

As he drew nearer, he heard voices, jovial laughter.  Could it be?  He emerged from the trees and there they were.  Sean, Mike, and Landon, all holding shovels.  Sean picked up the last shovel from the ground and handed it to Matt.

“Couldn’t start without you, buddy!”

Matt smiled.  “Sorry, I’m late.”

For Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers!

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Ode to a Playground.”

This is so funny because my brother and I were just discussing our childhood home.   Our parents sold it about 15 years ago and moved on to greener pastures, but my brother decided to pull it up on google maps a few days ago and sent me the link.  It looks strange to have unfamiliar cars parked in the driveway, to see the yard and landscaping my father cared for meticulously appear a bit unkempt, but more than anything it felt strange that it wasn’t my home anymore.  I lived there for over 20 years.  Since I was an infant.  My brother came home from the hospital to that house.  I took my first steps there.  Learned to read.  Lost my first tooth.

Staring at the picture, I looked wistfully at the tress standing tall from the backyard, towering regally over the roof.  The same trees I played hide and go seek behind, that my dad used to hang hammocks and tents between so we could play make believe games.  The same trees my mom used to mark first base when we she taught us how to play baseball.  I see the porch where I said goodbye to the first boy I ever loved.  The driveway my brother sped into triumphantly after he got his driver’s license.  The puppy that found her way to our front door and decided we were her family.  So many memories.  The happy ones more than make up for the sad.

Whomever is living there now, I hope they have children.  And I hope that every once and a while, they put the video games and tablets down and venture outside into the sun and fresh air and play games, the same old-fashioned ones we used to play.

Writing 101, Day Eleven: My Backyard

Tell us about the home where you lived when you were twelve. Which town, city, or country? Was it a house or an apartment? A boarding school or foster home? An airstream or an RV? Who lived there with you?

Today’s twist: pay attention to your sentence lengths and use short, medium, and long sentences as you compose your response about the home you lived in when you were twelve.

Cozy is the word that comes to mind.  The home I lived in from infancy through adulthood was cozy and warm.  A sturdy brick home in suburbia with white shutters and a big porch that ran the length of the house.  The best part – the  backyard.  It seemed to go on for days.  A gentle sloping hill, great for riding anything with wheels.  Trees lining the fence on both sides.  And a two tall pines standing next to each other smack in the middle.  My dad used those trees to make a tent for us in the summer.  We weren’t allowed to sleep there overnight, but we’d stay inside it all day sometimes.  Pretending.  The backyard was many things to my brother and our friends during those days.  An obstacle course.  An Olympic course. An undiscovered planet.  A crime scene.  A cattle ranch.  A zoo.  A strange country where monsters and other furry creatures lurked everywhere.  It was all ours.

Sometimes childhood can be lonely.  You’re always full of stories and energy  that the adults in your world don’t always have time to entertain.  And your peers are all too eager to leave childhood behind prematurely.  Maybe school had been a disaster that day.  Maybe our parents were too busy to listen. Maybe our classmates were being jerks.  But we always had the backyard, spread out in front of us like a magical faraway land, where just being a kid was always okay.