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.

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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.

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.

 

Reputation

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The roar of the truck engine barreling down a dirt road pierced the calm of the Sunday afternoon.  It was Ricky, in his dad’s old truck, the one he’d spent nearly the entire summer after graduation fixing up.  CeCe leaned closer to the window to get a better look.  She could smell the rosebushes her mother had planted along the front of the house as a brisk wind blew through the screen.

Her neighbor, Sara, ran down the front steps.  She wore cowgirl boots and a flirty little sundress which swirled around her as Ricky lifted her in his arms.

CeCe’s mom tut-tutted behind her.  “That girl!  Running off with one boy after another every weekend.  She’s getting a reputation!”  Her mother put her hand on her shoulder.  “You can hold your head high.  You’re a good girl.

Her mother left the kitchen, and CeCe stole another look across the street.  Sara and Ricky roared past.  Sara held her hand out of the window, catching the wind, a huge smile on her face.

For Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers

Parents

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Seeing the familiar sunflower bushes that had grown outside the wrought iron gates since my childhood stirred up the familiar sensations of anxiety in the pit of my stomach.  I kept these monthly visits with my parents short and sweet.  I knew I was the black sheep, the youngest and least successful of the three children.   A humble bartender, college-drop-out, living in a small apartment on the wrong side of town.  Not married.  I could hear their questions now.  My stomach cramped.

At least my two older siblings wouldn’t be there.  The golden children.  I tried to avoid visiting when they would be here, but it still broke my heart a little that we weren’t close anymore.

“Mom!”  I called out.

“In here!”

My mom was lying in bed, unheard of at 12 pm, her face bare with dark circles under her eyes, staring into nothing.  I rushed to her side.

“Your father filed for divorce,” she told me in a hoarse whisper.  I embraced her sadly, feeling the tension release.

For Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers

Talent

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Photo – Jan W. Fields

Clare’s head throbbed as she listened to her young pupil Emily screech her way through her favorite pop song.   This girl is awful, Clare grumbled as she accompanied her on the piano.  When it was finally, thankfully, over, Gwen, Emily’s mother, clapped with reverential fervor.   When she noticed Gwen’s glare, Clare raised her hands from the piano keys and joined the applause.  Emily curtsied.

Gwen rose from the couch and handed Clare an envelope fat with cash.

“Thanks, Clare, I’m so glad Em has found something she’s good at.”

Clare smiled as she pocketed the envelope.

“So am I, Gwen.”

For Friday Fictioneers.

 

Friend

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I think it’s really over this time, Mom.   He dumped me.  He’s engaged.” Susan sobbed.

“I think it’s really over, Mom.  He’s moving out,” Casey sobbed.

“Oh, honey, I’m so sorry,” said Susan’s mom.

“That lowlife scum!” Casey’s mom shouted.

“Can I come over?”  Susan and Casey asked their mothers in unison, in separate conversations in opposite parts of town.

“Of course,” their mothers responded.

An hour later, two grown women, who were really just little girls on the inside, were tucked in by their mothers in the sweet-smelling bedrooms of their childhoods.  They both drifted off to sleep secure in the knowledge that there was one woman in the world with whom they could be honest.

Get Happy – Conclusion

Today I get to combine two assignments in one.  First I revamped my blog based on tips from Blogging 101 – Day 2.

Next – Open  University Assignment: Start Writing Fiction 1.4 Portraying a character

Now present your new character in the four different ways outlined in Activity 7. Here they are again:

  • Make a summary of what the character is like.
  • Show him or her through appearance.
  • Show him or her through a habitual or repeated action.
  • Finally, show him or her through a speech in a scene.

*

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There was a knock at the front door.  Sara had just stepped out of her dress and was about to pull on a pair of worn jeans and a t-shirt, preparing to meet up with some friends a few blocks away for a drink.  She wanted to spill all of the details of her date that never was.  Her eyebrows raised, she slowly approached the door as though there were some sort of deviant on the other side.  She never got unannounced visitors, especially this late at night.  Had the elusive Chet tracked her down and decided to apologize in person?

She padded across the dusty hardwood floor in bare feet and peeked through the peephole.  It was Amy.  Sara stepped back from the door and sighed.  Her sister was ready for round two she guessed.  Well, she was too.  She quickly whipped the door open and could tell she’d startled her, which pleased Sara the tiniest bit.  Sara just stared back at her, eyebrows still raised, as if to say, ‘Can I help you?’

Thirty miles away, in a sad little suburb in a sagging house on a toy-littered cul-de-sac, Amy and Sara’s mother, Helen, poured herself her fifth glass of wine of the night.  Her husband was settled in in his usual spot in front of the television in his armchair, laughing at some dumb, subtly sexist sitcom.  One of those where the wife is impossibly gorgeous and the husband is bumbling and overweight and goofy, but the disparity in their union is never mentioned.  Helen often wondered why the reverse was never portrayed.  A gorgeous guy dating an average-looking woman?  Perish the thought.

Helen stumbled upstairs to her bedroom, settled into her usual spot on her king sized bed that she usually slept in alone while her husband snored away downstairs in his easy chair, and opened her laptop.   She had a new email.  Unusual for that time of night.  She assumed her friends were already asleep.  At some point, after her girls had grown up and moved away, most of her social life had disappeared as well.  She hadn’t realized that most of her friends were ones of convenience, ladies she could talk to at school events and play dates as the kids ran around.  Much of being a parent was just sitting around with other parents, sipping bad wine and complaining about your husband.  None of the parenting books told you that, but it was true.

Now she was down to two friends she was in regular contact with.  An old college friend with whom she’d maintained her friendship throughout her marriage and the raising of her children, though it hadn’t been easy.  Marjorie was single and had never desired a husband or children.  It made things awkward when the girls were young, but now it was almost like things were back to normal.  They were both unencumbered, not that that meant her life was much more exciting.  She and Marjorie did little more than have lunches and talk about books they’d read.  They played around with the idea of taking a long trip together, just to the two of them, similar to an epic road trip they’d taken when they were 19, driving from their college in Georgia all the way to New York City on a whim to see some band perform.  But now, neither of them seemed to be able to make firm plans.  Maybe they both knew those days were behind them.

Her other friend was Nancy, a woman who was the mother of Amy’s long-time best friend, Amber.  They ran into each other all of the time, especially at all of Amy’s pre-wedding festivities.  Amy seemed to still be under the impression that Helen and Nancy were close, and always included Nancy and her husband whenever she planned family get-togethers.  The truth was, Nancy was a friend of circumstance.  She didn’t dislike her necessarily, they just had nothing in common beside their girls.  Whenever they were left alone they found that they had little to discuss with each other besides mundane things like the weather and fashion.  But sometimes they exchanged funny emails, usually stories about something Amy or Amber had done that confounded them or made them laugh.

Before opening her email, she checked Facebook and held her breath, hoping the first image that assaulted her eyes wouldn’t be that of her youngest, Sara, downing a shot of something dark and suspicious looking, which was usually the case.  But no, there was a picture of Sara in Amy’s living room, all made up, clearly Amy had done her makeup with a heavy hand, in a lovely dress that made her look like a cinema star from the 1940’s.   She looked like Helen 30 years ago.  The same chocolate brown hair; Helen’s mane was still lustrous and shiny but now tinged with gray, but she still had the long, lithe body from the Pilates DVDs she used religiously six days a week, and the wide green eyes that she’d bequeathed to both her daughters.

She stared back at her Facebook timeline.  Amy must have taken the picture of Sara.  Her mouth smiled, but her eyes told a different story.   “Off to a double date!”  Amy had written in the photo caption, followed by a million little smiley faces and other indecipherable emojis.  Sara looked beautiful, of course, both of her daughters were beautiful, but not quite like herself.  Poor Sara.  Helen knew this whole date thing couldn’t have been Sara’s idea.  Her lovely, free-spirited daughter.  She envied her a bit.  All that freshness and spontaneity and youth.  She did what she wanted and didn’t care what anyone thought.  Unless Amy was involved.   She had a vision, many years ago, of sitting in Chastain Park chatting with Nancy and hearing terrified screams coming from the sliding board where Amy, Amber, and little Sara, only two at the time, had been playing.   The slide was for the bigger kids, too much for her baby Sara, but Amy had pushed her, only figuratively she hoped, until Sara had gone down all by herself, screaming and crying all the way.  She ran to Sara, where she’d fallen face down in the dirt  after the slide had propelled her little body downward at warp speed, wiped the dirt from her face, kissed her still chubby baby cheek and dried her tears.  Sara buried her head in her shoulder as she carried her back to the bench.  “What a baby,”  Helen had heard five-year-old Amy whisper to Amber as they’d both snickered.  Sara had quietly sniffled in her lap the rest of the afternoon.  Helen had wished since that day that Sara would stand up for herself more when it came to Amy; clearly she’d been bullied into this blind date business, but she tried to stay out of her daughters’ squabbles.

She went back to her email and saw the new message had been sent an hour ago from Amy.  It was link to a hotel confirmation for a resort in the Swiss Alps booked in Helen’s name, a package that included multiple guided hikes through the mountains, and a link to an airline gift card that would more than cover first class airfare for two.  She clasped her chest and sucked in a deep breath.  Amy.  She’d remembered her whispers.  Helen could still feel the weight of her smaller head against hers, years ago on this very bed.  She’d felt so lost, disillusioned with life and marriage and motherhood.  She’d had no one to confide in.  All of her mom friends seemed so happy and content.  Marjorie would have just said, ‘I told you so.’  She had been convinced since college that marriage was just a sham perpetuated by a patriarchal society set on keeping women from realizing their true potential.  Therapy was out of the question.  Sara was so young and running wild, never noticing her mother’s unhappiness.  But it was Amy who would crawl into bed with her and ask, “Mommy, what is it?  What’s wrong?”  And she’d told her.   Her 10-year-old daughter had been the only person with whom she could be honest.  Horrible parenting, she knew, but she also knew those clandestine talks had saved her life.

Helen forwarded the email to Marjorie and said, “I’m in.  Are you?”  She only had to wait five seconds before she got her response, an enthusiastic, “YES!!!”

Helen closed the computer, steadying herself, then stood  and made her way back downstairs.  Walter was nodding off in his chair, the television and the dumb sitcom still droning on.

“Walter!”  She shook the chair to rouse him.  Her husband stirred and slowly opened his eyes with surprise.

“I’m going on a trip with Marjorie.  To Switzerland.  We leave next week.”

“Errr…okay….” he mumbled groggily.

“And when I get back.  I think we should see someone.  A therapist or counselor or something.   Our insurance should cover it.  Maybe not a top-notch one, but someone.  I’m unhappy, Walter.  I’ve been unhappy for a long, long time.”

Walter looked confused.  He was a simple kind of guy.  As long as he had his family, his TV remote, cold beer in the fridge and money in the bank, he was a-okay.  It was one of the reasons she’d married him.   She knew he would be loyal and sweet, only needing her and their little family, nothing more.  Unlike her own philandering father.  But she wouldn’t think about that now.  That would be a story for the therapist.  The only thing she had to do now was pack.  She hurried upstairs, without stumbling, seeming to have sobered up completely, leaving Walter’s perplexed face behind her.

Back at Sara’s doorstep, Amy was still standing in the hallway, waiting to be let in.  Sara saw something that slightly resembled regret in her eyes, and reluctantly stepped aside so Amy could get past her.  She’d changed too.  She wore her gym gear, a light blue jacket, yoga pants and two layered multi-colored tank tops, her face scrubbed and her hair pulled back.  She was such a beauty, so ethereal-looking, with her naturally clear translucent skin, auburn hair warming her face, her cheeks red from the cold.

Amy stepped inside and started to look around.  Here we go, Sara thought.  She knew Amy would comment on the hastily discarded dress on the floor, the books scattered all over the couch and her bed, since her apartment was so small she could see through the open door of her bedroom from the foyer.  There were dishes in the sink waiting to be washed and dried, a basket full of clean laundry waiting for Sara to pick through and find a clean top to wear out.   But when she really looked at Amy she seemed to be seeing her humble little apartment for the first time.

And she was.  Amy was seeing the wall of bookshelves their father had put up for her, remembering Sara always said she wanted a wall of books in her house when she was all grown up.  A declaration she made after she saw the epic castle library in their favorite movie as kids, Beauty and the Beast.  She saw all of the keepsakes for her travels around the world, a framed photo of her and a friend in the Andes Mountains, stunning pink and aqua blue coiled sea shells, unusual-looking red and brown rocks saved from various hiking trips, white sand collected from a Thai beach in a bottle, the words Samui Beach scribbled on the glass.

She saw another shelf lined with a collection of used vinyl containing some of her favorite bands and an old-fashioned record player. A well-worn guitar leaned against it, which Sara had spent many hours learning to play as a teen, despite Amy’s telling her it was a waste of time. The living room had a wide open space of empty flooring, the only furniture was a small, dark red love seat with bright throw pillows and a side table.  Stepping closer, Amy saw the framed photo that sat atop it.  It was her and her sister, arms around each other, the ocean behind them, the wind whipping their hair around their faces.  It was during their last sister trip.  Two weeks before she married Steve.  Of course Amber had thrown her a huge bachelorette bash a month prior, but this had been a special trip just for them.  They’d gone to Miami and had the time of their lives.  They’d sunbathed every morning, gone running on the beach every afternoon, eaten and drank whatever they wanted, and at night, they’d danced to exhaustion.

She realized her sister was different and free and mysterious, all the things she wasn’t, but that was okay.

“What is it, Amy?” Sara asked, arm crossed, but her face softened a bit.

Amy put her bag down on Sara’s loveseat and pulled out a bottle of red wine.  “I’m here to drink wine and dance with my sister.”

A slow smile spread across Sara’s face.  “What??”

“Put on Nevermind.”  She was still giving her sister orders, but this one Sara didn’t seem to mind.  She went to dig through the album collection as Amy braved the messy kitchen to find two clean glasses and a corkscrew, not an easy task, but as she returned to the living room she heard the beginning strains of Lithium.  She handed a glass to Sara and started to play air guitar.  Sara shook her head and laughed at her dorky sister.  When the chorus hit, they both began to sing at the top of their lungs and sort of jump dance around the room.  As Amy danced she looked at her sister’s flailing body, her hair whipping all over her face as she sang, then pictured her mother on a mountaintop, her closest friend at her side, breathing in the crisp, cold air and sighing deeply, an expression of profound contentment on her face.  Amy said to herself silently, ‘So this is what it feels like.’