Window

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Mother loved Louisa best.  Once again, Louisa had successfully convinced Mother to blame Gemma for one of her own infractions, sending Gemma to her room without dinner.  “I don’t want to see you again until morning,” Mother had said, clutching Louisa, who’d stopped fake-sobbing long enough to stick her tongue out.

Gemma opened her bedroom window and let in the sweet summer air.  She listened to the sound of her friends playing, families laughing, food sizzling on backyard grills.  She grabbed her sketchbook and pencils, gifts from Dad, and let her mind run free.

 

The Moral Mondays prompt this week is FREEDOM IS A STATE OF MIND.

Bourbon

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It was too hot to sleep. The air was so still in the bedroom that sisters Cora and Emily had shared growing up that they decided to move to the screened in back porch, praying for the slightest breeze. They hadn’t spoken in months. Their father’s funeral had drawn them both home, but only for a night. In the morning, they’d leave, continuing on  opposite paths.

Hours later, they were still awake, and restless, when Cora began to recall a memory. Their father, tiptoeing out of the back door in the middle of the night, venturing to the covered bridge that bordered their property. He would emerge an hour or so later, wearing a mysterious smile.

Barefoot, the women tiptoed through the dewy grass in their nightgowns, giggling, their arms around each other.  It was really dark those nights, but I’m pretty sure this is the place,” Emily said as they looked around for their father’s secret treasure. They easily found the shallow hole he’d dug. Inside – a half-empty bottle of his favorite bourbon.  Emily dusted it off and took a long swig as she sat in the dirt, passing it to her sister who followed suit.

They leaned against the dirty wall in silence, as a cool breeze began to encircle them.

For Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner

Thursday Thriller – Peace

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“I’m fine!  I don’t want any of your help!” Julie knocked over a glass of wine on the coffee table as she sprung to her feet, nostrils flared.

“Julie, we care about you.  We’re just concerned,” her sister, Heather, implored, extending an arm that Julie quickly shrugged away.

“Let us help.”  Her brother, Tate, stood next to the front door, trying to block her path.  His eyes searched hers for the sister he once knew.  She looked away, pushing past him.

“Please don’t contact me again.  Just. Leave. Me. ALONE!”

When she got home, he was waiting.  The guy everyone warned her about.

“Where were you?” He approached her in a slow, deliberate way that made her shiver.

“My family…they…they…called me…”  She backed away, farther and farther until she was pressed against the wall.

“You really expect me to believe that you were with your family this entire time?”  He never raised his voice, but each word filled Julie with an urgent, desperate terror.

She couldn’t respond with words.  She nodded frantically, swiping at the tears racing down her cheeks.  He was standing right in front of her now, so close that she could see the drops of perspiration forming at his temples.  She focused on his eyes, searching them for the man she loved, as his hands closed around her throat.  His shoulders released as she slid to the floor.

He left her there, in the peace of her dark, quiet apartment.  The phone never rang. She had no visitors.  She’d been left alone.

Purpose

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She told her mother she was taking a walk.  She barely looked up as Rebecca walked out the door, busy with Rebecca’s father and brothers, homework questions, dinner prep, chores.  It was a loud, rowdy home.   Rebecca had no place there.  She served no purpose  besides being in the way.

She sat on a bench and looked out at the city skyline, her teeth chattering as a bracing, cold wind whipped around her.  Despite the temperature, she unzipped her baggy hoodie, desperate to see it.   Her secret.   She peeked at her belly, a round orb, pulsing with alien movement.  She had no way of knowing if her child would be male or female, but she imagined a little girl.  She and her daughter, holding hands, swapping secrets, living in their own shared world.  This was her purpose.

For Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers

Illuminated

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Photo – Kent Bonham

The children were afraid.  The wind howled outside and knocked against their front door like a fearsome stranger trying to break it down.  It was one of those nights where Mom would stay gone for hours and hours on end, sometimes not returning until the morning, rumpled and wild-eyed, stumbling to her bed.    They huddled together as the girl reached behind her headboard for the book.  She spread it open across both their narrow laps.  Looking at each other, they smiled as the light from the book illuminated their tiny faces.  They blinked, then disappeared.

For Friday Fictioneers

Breakup

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Gina would have loved this cafe, Cara thought.  I miss her.

Her phone vibrated.  It was Gina again.  Her second call that afternoon.  Cara pressed ignore.

She looked up to see her brother, Alex, coming through the doors.  As he sat, he noticed the missed call on her phone before she could put it away.

“You know sis, if you and Gina…”

She shook her head vigorously.  “She hurt you.”

He rolled his eyes as though he were exasperated, but she knew he wasn’t.  “My big sis.”

She smiled back at him before signalling the waitress.

 

The Moral Mondays prompt this week is – blood is thicker than water.

Other

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Sean Fallon

No matter how many straight-A report cards he brought home or first-place science-fair ribbons he earned, Kurt would never be Todd.  He was the other son.  The day he realized that was the day he started filling a jar with batteries.

Kurt watched as the android, his twin, slowly stood, powered by years’ worth of batteries he’d re-charged.  It would join his parents in the car, headed to Todd’s latest game.  Kurt had no use for sports.  He turned out the lights and stared at the galaxy on his bedroom ceiling, tracing his name in the stars.

For Friday Fictioneers

Thursday Thriller – Perfect

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Read Part One – Awakening 

Four Years Ago…

There was a perfect family that lived in the house on the corner lot.  The Stephensons.  The wife was young and beautiful, with a tiny waist and a huge shiny smile, adorned with a gorgeous wedding ring that always glinted in the sun.  The husband was handsome and broad-shouldered.  He liked to swoop his wife in the air in the front yard and swing her in his arms as though she were weightless.  Her musical laughter could be heard throughout the neighborhood.  People always stopped and smiled.  Zadie and Robert, they thought to themselves enviously, what a couple! Their son, Noah, was their pride and joy.  So young, but such ambition!  And so smart.  Gorgeous, just like his father with his mother’s bright smile.

It was a placid Saturday afternoon.  Zadie was lying on a lounger in the backyard, sipping lemon water as she read Town and Country.  Her lips left a perfect red stain on the straw.  Robert and Noah were playing catch.  Noah had to perfect his spiral if he wanted to make varsity in the fall.

“Noah!”  Zadie called across the yard.  “Did you finish your chores?”

“Yes, mom!”

All of them?”  Zadie pressed.  Noah sighed heavily, and he and his father exchanged a knowing smile.  Women, they both seemed to be thinking as they smiled at each other.

“No, mom.  I’ll do my last one.”

“Thank you, dear.”

Noah dropped the football on the brilliant green grass and ran inside.  He prepared a quick lunch, a sandwich, fruit and lemonade, and arranged the items on a tray, then grabbed the key from the desk in the front hallway.  He ran down the back stairs to the basement, then unlocked another door.   A heavy, dark door, that opened with a loud creak.  There was a girl sitting against a bare mattress pressed against the far wall.  She was sickly and pale, but strangely beautiful, in an alien, other-worldly sort of way.  Her belly swelled in front of her.  There was an angry, red laceration on her cheek, evidence of her last escape attempt, crawling through a broken basement window.  The shattered glass tore at her skin.  Noah set the plate in front of her in silence and turned to leave.

“Noah?” She whispered.

He turned, reluctantly.  It hurt to look at her.  “Yeah, Grace?”

“Do you think I can come out today?”

“I’m not sure, Grace.  I’ll ask Mom and Dad.”

“Okay.”

Noah’s shoulders drooped as he locked the door behind him.  He’d stopped asking long ago.  Their answer had always been no.

He needn’t have worried.  It was the screaming that undid them.  The horrid, chilling, blood-curdling cries of suffering.  A passerby, just someone on an evening stroll with their dog, heard the sounds and called the police.

Robert swore that the screaming wasn’t coming from their home, that it must be someone next door, someone outside, but the officers were persistent.  They followed the noise, down the dark hallway and the dark steps, through the cobwebbed door, the sounds getting louder and louder.  They banged down the door, and there she was.  Or there they were.   There was Grace, Robert’s and Zadie’s oldest child.  Lying on a blood-soaked mattress, holding a very small newborn infant.

Robert was taken away immediately.  Grace and the baby to the hospital.  Zadie and Noah to the police station for questioning.  Zadie, an adept liar, made up an elaborate story of torture and abuse at the hands of her husband, rendering her too fearful to rescue her poor, defenseless daughter from the hands of her monstrous husband.  Noah refused to talk to the police, but quickly moved across the country to live with relatives.  He never spoke to his parents again.

Grace was sent to a facility for long-term treatment.  Robert was convicted of false imprisonment, rape, and a host of other perversions, sentenced to decades behind bars.  That left Zadie.  And the baby, a girl.  Named Elly.  Zadie, again, an adept liar, used her skills of persuasion to gain custody.  When the social worker placed her in her arms, the baby cooed.

“I’m going to get things right with you, I promise,” she told her.

Read Part 3 – Elly

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

Writing 101, Day Ten: Franks and Beans

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Tell us about your favorite childhood meal — the one that was always a treat, that meant “celebration,” or that comforted you and has deep roots in your memory.

It’s so funny to think of it now, but my favorite meal as a kid, simple as it is, was franks and beans. My brother and I visited my maternal grandmother often as small children. My Gram would always ask what we wanted for lunch – pizza? burgers and fries? mac and cheese? But we would always shout in a loud chorus, “Franks and beans!” Gram would chuckle and shake her head, heading toward the stove.

My favorite memory is a rainy afternoon, me and my brother sitting around my Gram’s dark wooden table in her warm, sweet-smelling kitchen, looking out the small window next to the cabinets as the raindrops streaked down the glass. I remember feeling so safe as my brother and I played some game we’d made up, the rules of which I can’t even remember now, as our lunch simmered on the stove. My Gram would pull a huge canister of our favorite beverage at the time, sweet peach juice, from her cavernous pantry and opened it with her dangerous-looking can-opener, deftly creating two perfect triangular holes on each side, it seemed like magic to me.

Looking back on it now, I realize now why that meal was always my favorite as a kid, besides the fact that Gram made it best, it meant fun, Gram’s house, playing with my brother, no worries, simplicity, safety, love. Not bad for a can of beans and some cut up hot dogs. Sometimes, every blue moon, and maybe today qualifies since there’s a full moon on Friday the 13th, I still make it for myself, curl up on the couch, watch cartoons, and pretend to be five all over again.