It Girl

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Marnie and Allyson hung out every single Saturday afternoon. They’d never cancelled, even when they were ill.  They’d just share candy and alphabet soup and watch movies under a blanket.

But that Saturday, Aria Franklin, the It Girl, asked Marnie to hang out. Marnie told Allyson that she was sick, so contagious she couldn’t have any guests. How was Marnie to know that she and Aria would run into Allyson at the store with alphabet soup and M&M’s in her basket?

“Marnie?”

Allyson blinked back tears as Marnie stood between her two friends, trying to resist the urge to run.

 

The Moral Mondays prompt this week is – DON’T STRADDLE THE FENCE

A Phase

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The comments had gotten more venomous. All of Riley’s social media accounts had been shut down, at her parents’ insistence, when the backlash had reached its crescendo, but she couldn’t resist reading the articles, the blogs. The world was talking about her.

Her mother had argued she was just going through a phase, an adolescent cruel streak, during the first principal’s office visits with Cassie and her mother. They’d laughed about the meetings on the drive home. At Cassie’s dopey pink nail polish and out of control acne, her face blotchy and red and dotted with craters, her mother’s dumpy figure, her wash-and-wear muumuu dress and flip flops.

They’d found Cassie a week later under the 6th Street bridge, lifeless and cold. Bullied To Death!  The headlines screamed. Rumors swirled. Riley and her friends could be charged with murder. Her mother had stopped laughing, going into defense mode, getting on lengthy calls with school officials and lawyers.

Riley’s own words had come back to find her, in blog posts, in comment sections, on social media. Do the world a favor and die. You’re worthless. You and your friends disgust me. The world hates you. Go kill yourself.

She wouldn’t cry.

She wouldn’t cry.

That would make her no better than Cassie. And Cassie was a loser.

She breezed through the front door. She ignored her mother’s protests, as she always did. Her mother could never understand that she still needed to feel young. She needed to drive her car. She needed to live. She didn’t know how many more days of freedom she had left.

The reporters were parked in front of the lawn, converging on her as soon as she stepped outside.

“Riley!” A redhead ran over to her, thrusting a microphone in her face. She’d been there every day since the story broke, not giving up despite the fact Riley had never spoken to her. To any of them. “Do you have a message for Cassie’s family? Or anything to say about Cassie herself?”

Riley stopped, turning to face the woman, feeling the tears spring to her eyes. She slipped on her sunglasses before anyone saw. “I hardly knew her,” she whispered.

For Story a Day

Today

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Source

Malory swiped the sweat from her forehead as she looked out at the parking lot.  Despite her youth, her back ached, her legs burned.  It had been a grueling job, but they’d finally finished. She and a few neighbors had worked practically nonstop the entire Saturday.  Together, they’d removed months’ worth of trash and junk, old furniture and broken toys, fast food wrappers and drug paraphernalia.  Malory was tired of looking of the window of her tiny apartment and seeing a wasteland.  She was tired of asking for help and getting only silence in response.  As far as the government was concerned, this was the middle of nowhere, they were nobodies, forgotten.  Change had to come through them.

Maybe tomorrow the lot would be trashed again. Maybe the government would never hear them.  Maybe no one cared.  But today, their neighborhood was beautiful, if only for a little while, and people were smiling at one another again.  Even the cynical neighbors, who told her that nothing mattered, that there was no point, poked their heads out of their smudged windows and marveled at the change.  Today, even if it was only temporary, they had won.

For Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner

Malory is a character in my manuscript, The Wildflower Project, a dystopian story set over 200 years in the future.  Read it for free here.

Thursday Thriller -Plot Twist

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The woman who opened the door wasn’t Donna.  I mean it was but it wasn’t.  The Donna I knew and loved only wore makeup on extremely special occasions, wore her naturally curly hair loose and wild, and favored ripped jeans with loose, flowy tops.  This Donna had hair that was blown straight and hung sleekly to her waist,  was stylishly dressed in a form-fitting white shift dress, makeup perfectly applied.  She looked like the girls who used to make fun of us back in school.

“Are you going to a funeral?”  I joked as she stepped aside to let me in.  The air in her warm apartment smelled sweet, like fresh baked goods.  My stomach rumbled.  She must have stopped at our favorite bakery this morning.

She cocked her head at me strangely, like a puppy that had just been chastised.  “Why would you ask me that, Stef?”  Her expression was deathly serious, until a loud ping sounded from the kitchen.  A noise so foreign in this place, it made me jump.

“My cookies are ready!”  Donna exclaimed.  I watched in a mixture of horror and amazement as she donned an apron, slid an oven mitt over her hand and pulled a tray of golden chocolate chip cookies from the oven.  “You have to try one after they cool!”

“Come on, Donna, knock it off.  We’ve got work to do.” I held up my laptop.  We were co-writing a  YA mystery novel about a series of disappearances at a fictional all-girls’ college in upstate New York.

I sat on the floor in front the coffee table, leaning back against the worn, dark brown couch, my usual spot, and opened my laptop to get started.  “About that,” Donna began, sitting primly on the sofa instead of on the carpet next to me.  “I think we should change the direction of the book.”

“Change the direction?”  I was ready to pull my hair out in frustration.  First some silly practical joke and now this?  “Donna, we’ve been working on this for a year!  We’ve already missed a deadline.  They need our first draft Monday.”

“I know.  And I don’t want to change too much, we can still use the college as a backdrop, but why not make it a romance?!  All the girls on a quest to find their future husbands!”

“Husbands?  These are 18-year-old girls?!”

“Becoming a wife is the greatest achievement any woman can hope for!”

“Donna!  Enough already.  This from the woman who called me a sell-out on my wedding day?”

“I’m so sorry about that, Stef.  I understand now.  I understand everything.  Chet has helped me.”

“Chet?”  Chet was Donna’s college ex-boyfriend.  He’d been crazy about her, but it was clear from the time they met that their pairing would end in disaster.  Donna broke things off with him senior year.  He didn’t take it well.  She ended up having to file a restraining order.  As far as I knew, she hadn’t spoken to him in years.

“Yes, Chet.  He can help you too.  Like he helped me.”

I heard a noise coming from the back of the apartment.  A feeling of cold dread spread through my middle.  I wanted to run, but I felt stuck, unwilling to leave my friend in such a vulnerable state.  My eyes slowly widened as Chet stumbled from the dark hallway, his hair mussed, his expression wild and menacing.  He held a vial of a red, suspicious-looking liquid.

I stood quickly.  “What have you done to her?!”  I screamed my throat raw, hot tears spilling down my cheeks.  He said nothing, just stood there, grimacing.  I raced for the front door but Donna grabbed my arm and twisted it.  I cried out in pain as something heavy smashed into the back of my head.

*

I woke up after I don’t know how long.  My head hurt a little, but it wasn’t so bad.  I turned to Donna, who was still sitting on the couch, and grinned.  “I think a romance novel sounds like a great idea!”

She clapped her hands in delight.  “This is going to be so much fun!”

Read Part 2 – Weapon

 

 

Thursday Thriller – Girls

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We don’t like Erin.  I can’t remember why.   We just don’t.

One day, Mina sat down at our lunch table and just started talking crap about her.  Her clothes, her voice,  her hair, her family, even.  Erin was out sick that day.  Mina never told Kristin and me why she stopped liking her.   Mina sets the tone for our little group.  It’s a miracle she even befriended us.  We were nobodies before she came here.

So, Mina invited Erin to come out tonight.  She knows Mina is mad at her, so she must have been shocked when she got the call.  Her parents never let her out on school nights, but they must have made an exception.  Because it’s Mina. Her parents are crazy strict but they love Mina.  All parents do.  She’s smart and funny and gorgeous and charming.  As my parents say, she’s “going places.”

Kristin and I are hiding in the closet in Mina’s bedroom.  She is going to trick Erin into saying nasty stuff about us, then we are going to jump out of the closet, surprise her, rough her up a little bit.  Nothing crazy.

I hear our cue from Mina.  I nod at Kristin and we leap from the closet.  Erin screams.  We pounce, punching and slapping and scratching.  Erin  tries to fight back but it is pointless.  It’s 3-on-1.  This is epic!  Is someone recording this?

Mina emits a guttural scream, then slams Erin’s head against her heavy oak headboard.  She’s knocked out cold and we all laugh.  When she still isn’t moving minutes later, Kristin checks her pulse with trembling hands.

Hours later, I’m in a cold interview room at police headquarters with a hardened female detective.  She sits across the table from me and asks, “Why did you girls do this?  What were you thinking?”

I shrug and lean back in my seat.  “We just didn’t like her.”  The detective’s mouth forms a long thin line.  “When do my parents get here?”  I ask with a sigh.

“Really soon.”  She gets up and leaves the room rapidly, shutting the door with a slam, leaving me alone with my thoughts.

 

Harm

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A girl had fallen in the snow.  Sara ran down the road, breathless, wanting to help.  There was no one else around.  People were locked up inside their homes, waiting out the storm.  When the girl looked up with a grimace, Sara gasped. It was Taylor Stokes.  Taylor was the reason why she’d had to change schools. The reason why she’d cried herself to sleep every night her freshman year. The reason for the jagged scars on the inside of her arm.

They limped slowly down the street to Sara’s warm house.  When they came through the door, Sara’s mother, Faye, was waiting.  She hadn’t seen Taylor since that awful day in the principal’s office.  The morning after she’d caught Sara with the nail scissors.  They’d moved to a new school district to keep the two girls apart.  And now here she was, in their home, needing help.

Faye iced Taylor’s ankle and elevated it, then called her mother, who said she would be there shortly.

“What were you doing out there in the storm?”  Faye asked.  Taylor looked sheepish.  They realized suddenly, she was there to do something nasty.  There had been little pranks, every once and a while, since Sara had moved.  A rude name spray-painted on the garage door or the driveway, an egg splattered on the car.  Faye said nothing.  Taylor’s mom arrived shortly after, full of humility and gratitude, and then they were gone.

“Why did you help her?”  Sara asked Faye later.

“Because it was the right thing to do.”

That night, Sara reached for the secret pair of scissors she kept under her mattress and threw them away.

For Sunday Photo Fiction

 

 

Gone

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I can’t believe I’m doing this, I mutter to myself as I follow Thad down the dark suburban street.  He’s peeking in car windows, seeing if an absent-minded owner left something enticing on the front seat.   Mom warned me about this guy and I should have listened.  Not that I would ever give her the satisfaction of knowing she was right.

“Whoa!” There it is, an iPad, sitting in plain sight on the front seat of an unlocked Ferrari.   It’s funny how living in an elite, gated community can lull people into a false sense of security.  They never stopped to wonder if the people they should worry about are locked inside with them.   “Let’s take the car over to Dylan’s and show ’em.  His parents are out of town for like, the whole weekend.”

“I gotta go.  Mom’s waiting.  She freaked last time I was late, sooooo…”

“Whatever.”  He turns his back and hops into the Ferrari, getting it started within seconds.  He attempts to speed away from the curb, but the back tire wobbles, spinning away from the car and rolling down the asphalt, into someone’s yard, then down the hill into the river that runs behind all of the houses on this street.  The doors lock.  Thad frantically tries to open them, but it’s too late.  It is a trap.  I duck into the woods across the street, a shortcut to my house.  Through the trees I see the flashing red and blue lights, hear the whir of the sirens.  I run faster, to the haven of my mother’s home, feeling grateful.

 

For Sunday Photo Fiction!