Category Archives: fiction

A Mother’s Love

balloons.jpg

They stoked up quite a kerfuffle right there in front of the principal’s secretary and several other parents. Angel’s thin frame shook in anger, cheekbones stabbing out through skin stretched over her hollowed-out face. She stood opposite her mother, Lilly’s grandmother, in a showdown just before the girl’s Kindergarten graduation was scheduled to begin. Two grown adults, mother and daughter, set to throw down.

Angel having been awake for 24 hours didn’t help her mental state. Her latest boyfriend kept her up the night before to sample his latest batch, which helped kindle the paranoia of her mother’s determination to get her six-year old taken away by Child Protective Services. She may not take the best care of Lilly, but she wouldn’t stand for anyone’s public criticism.

Lilly lived with her grandma, or the girl would’ve fended for herself the entire school year. Her momma might actually love her, too, but she loved her drugs of choice as much or more.

“What’s going on out here?” Mrs. Phillips rushed into the hallway at all the yelling to find the pair about to square off.

“I’ll be damned if that woman’s allowed in here to watch my baby’s program,” Angel said. “Can’t you see to it she’s kicked outta this school?” Her nose hovered so menacingly close to her mother’s that the rot from Angel’s teeth seemed the only thing keeping them apart.

The principal’s eyebrows arched, incredulous at the younger woman’s assumption. “Not if she’s Lilly’s legal guardian, Angel,” she replied. “And this altercation cannot happen here. You’re both going to need to settle down if you want to stay.” She glanced back and forth between the pair in search of any reaction to the contrary and noticed only a difference in weight and wrinkled skin between the two. Same bleached hair, same defensive demeanor. Angel might become a split image of her mother in a few years, if she lived to experience it.

Fortunately choosing seats on opposite sides the center aisle, the ceremony began without students or other audience members being any the wiser. “The show must go on, as they say,” Mrs. Phillips told her secretary. Unless someone moved out of the district before August, she’d have to deal with this kith and kin again all too soon in the new school year.

Thirteen children wearing miniature blue caps and gowns lined the wooden risers on the stage, and their families beamed up at them from folding chairs across the gymnasium floor. Cherubic Lilly grinned down from her row, and she raised a hand to wave at her grandma.

Our Write Side prompt: kerfuffle (one of my favorite words)

Photo: glasseyejack via Flickr

Leave a comment

Filed under fiction, writing

Keeping House

33490226346_6a03a36053_z

Patrice wouldn’t exactly call herself the domestic type, but James recognized that when he married her. Practically everyone who knew her realized the woman didn’t care to be the perfect housekeeper and cook.

That just wasn’t her thing, and she couldn’t understand how anyone could possibly be content to just care for her husband and kids. So many other activities tugged at her mind and begged, “Come this way. Do this instead.” Having a restless soul meant she agonized at staying still, and household duties dulled the senses, as far as Patrice was concerned.

On one occasion a man asked her, “Do you work outside the home?” She had to stifle a laugh before answering him. “Shit, as if working inside that place isn’t enough? And taking care of everything at the hardware store is just a trip to the carnival,” she mused. “Isn’t that a humdinger? I’ve got two full-time gigs going.”

True, their home had the trappings of a lower-middle class lifestyle – a front screen door with holes, manual garage door that didn’t open if it rained, and a taped-up window pane here and there —  but the man’s expression turned so sour when Patrice answered in such a surly manner. To her, having a job meant a steady check to manage the co-pays and balance left of what insurance didn’t cover from the doctors.

“Humpf, maybe he thinks you married the Queen of England, James. She just wanted to live in the country ghetto,” she muttered. Her husband shook his head but said nothing in return. He knew better with that mood showing. “It’s not like standing behind that counter listening to those good ol’ boys grouse about nonsensical shit for eight hours straight isn’t bad enough.” Three extra-strength pain relievers didn’t even touch the headache she’d nursed all day.

Regardless of its center sinkhole, the mattress felt pretty soft when her head hit the pillow around 6 o’clock. Other nights it was as early as 5:30. Finding her with a washcloth drying across her forehead, a book splayed on the bed beside her, and eyes closed, James might leave a warm cup of broth on the night table. Many times, he just sat and rubbed her back before he left a glass of water there in case she woke up thirsty in the night.

Patrice contended somebody didn’t have to keep a meticulous house to be a whole woman. Theirs wasn’t actually a sty, maybe just more “lived-in” than others who hired a weekly cleaner. Having her in-laws look down their noses at her about it didn’t set well either. So what if dust crusted a few ceiling fan blades and little cat-hair tumbleweeds wound in behind the t.v. cabinet?

Priorities changed, and the couple no longer joined everyone for holiday dinners and birthdays. “I don’t appreciate their condescension, James. They think you’re Ethan Frome or something, I swear!” He felt for her and did as much as he could to ease any worry or suffering. Daily life became a shared effort in their home, as it should be anywhere, at least in Patrice’s opinion. Why shouldn’t everyone play a part?

Family members weren’t as vocal about Patrice’s taciturn inclination once she went into hospice care.

“She woulda liked to see you and the kids a little more when she was living. ‘Specially since she thought so much of little Annie.” James rubbed the brown curls on his niece’s head.

“At least the day turned out nice for her service,” he said leaving the graveside. Gravel crunched under their dress shoes and covered the siblings’ awkward silence going to their separate cars. His sister’s furrowed brow hinted at a bit of remorse. He thought to himself, “Wouldn’t Patrice have snickered at that?”

James drove home in dread of a floor that needed swept and dirty dishes awaiting him there. Those things and a pile of unpaid bills on the table in an otherwise empty kitchen.

Our Write Side – Two Word Tuesday

(photo courtesy Old White Truck)

 

2 Comments

Filed under fiction, writing

Crossed Signals

drive thru.jpg

She didn’t ever pretend not to like or eat at McDonald’s. Truth was, Shannon had a serious love affair going with the dollar menu. Being broke made her frequent stops a necessity. With luck on her side, doing so left no acne or weight gain. Anybody who professed to avoid fast food at all cost had to be lying. What a bunch of fake, pretentious phonies, she thought.

A red truck caught her eye as she exited the restaurant. Shannon tried to hide behind the over-sized Styrofoam cup, straw planted firmly in her mouth to infuse some courage via caffeine. “Oh, great. There’s Lane. Why is this happening today?

Crossing his path was inevitable. Maybe a simple wave would suffice, so she flashed a half-heartened one at him as she quickened her steps in the opposite direction.

Too late. Living in a such a small town spawned such awkward situations. He’d already parked and walked toward her, a tentative smile on his face. A week had passed since his last text message and almost two weeks since their last date.

“Hey, how are you?” Lane sounded genuinely glad to see her, but she didn’t trust it.

Displeasure spread across Shannon’s expression as she tried to force her mouth into a smile. “All right,” she told him but kept walking toward her car. “You?” The response came out less than chipper, which mirrored her feelings at not hearing from him.

Lane looked at her back, confused, as she walked from him. “Doing well,” he said. “I’ve been meaning to call but was out of town all week for work.”

Shannon didn’t stop or even look at him as he spoke. Instead, she flipped a hand back over her shoulder in dismissal. Her only reaction came mentally. “I don’t want to listen to your excuses.

He didn’t understand why Shannon acted so cold. “Okay then,” he said dejectedly. “Have a good one.”

If sincere, and he truly meant for her to have a good day, the sentiment fell short of its intention. She wasn’t buying it.

She spun on him. “Just what the hell does that mean anyway?” Her anger began to roil. “A good what? A good lunch? A good trip? A good snog? Your flip comment is just too damn ambiguous!”

Lane backed away from her slowly, raising his hands to relent, wondering how he got into such a mess. “No offense, Shannon. I didn’t mean anything by it. I hope I didn’t hurt your feelings somehow.” That sorrowful expression made her want to believe him.

“Then just say goodbye. Wish me a ‘good day.’ Not a ‘good one,’” she emphasized. “I’m having a good day no matter what you say.”

She didn’t even know why she was so upset. They’d only been on two dates. No big deal. But didn’t we have a good time, she mused. We laughed a lot. We had fun.

It was simply the principle of the deal. The same old story. A blossoming friendship cut off before it had a chance to turn into anything more.

It’s not like I’m some mouth-breathing cretin. Whoever he likes probably works out all the time, never eats fast food, and has perfectly straight teeth. There seemed a chasm between her and the women she imagined him dating.

Shannon could see Lane still standing there in the parking lot, hands in his pockets and kicking at the asphalt with one foot, as she drove away. “So much for Valentine’s Day,” he muttered. “Guess I’ll just get a Big Mac.”

*Two Word Tuesday writing prompt – mess

(photo: wildwise studio via Flickr)

Leave a comment

Filed under fiction, writing

Hindsight

Pabst

Somebody warned me to watch out for that guy. Said he was no good, had done some time before. Another girl who went to high school with Trevor said she heard he got off from those charges, but neither one told what he supposedly did in the first place. His smile made me want to believe it was nothing.

He looked like a decent enough guy, kinda cute in a baggy sweater and clean blue jeans with no holes. Almost looked sorta preppy for a burner kind of dude. That short, spiky blonde hair with sleepy blue eyes that peered up from the pool table really got me. Looks can be deceiving, though.

“That one’s starin’ at you, girl.” My friend brought it to my attention. I set my mug down on the bar top and glanced to where she threw her head to point.

The group shooting pool shoulda been a warning in itself. None of them had a job and probably had to scrape together the dollar it cost to play their game. His partner might have even just got out of jail himself.

After we talked awhile, he asked if I wanted to take a little ride. I don’t know why I went out there. Shoulda known better. Maybe it was simple boredom.

“You and your friends oughta watch out who you talk to at that place,” he warned as we pulled out of the parking lot. The shiny white teeth that showed when he grinned surprised the hell outta me considering the string of chew he spit out the window.

“Like you?” I asked. Shrugging his shoulders, he tried to wink at me but just looked goofy instead of cute. He turned his attention to the steering wheel and swerved back into the right lane. Maybe we both had more to drink than I realized.

He said, “So, Candy, what’s a pretty little thing like you doin’ at a dive like The Bottoms Up bar?”

“It’s Brandy,” I corrected him. That was the second time he got my name wrong after I’d already told him once inside and again when we walked to his truck.

“Yeah, right. Like brandy the drink, not Candy the … cane. You know, at Christmastime.” He laughed a little and scrunched his face up weird, maybe trying to be sexy but failing miserably. I just nodded and watched the headlights stake out the route in front of us.

We passed the east side city limits sign en route to his little country house. A turn onto gravel and then several lefts and rights followed before we finally arrived. I didn’t remember having been that far out in the boonies before.

I looked around at the skyline when we parked in the driveway, trying to get a sense of the direction back to town and hoping not to need to know. A rickety step gave under our weight as we stepped up onto the porch, and the screen door creaked so loud I thought it might fall off the top hinge as he opened it.

“It ain’t much, but it’s mine,” Trevor said. He crossed the threshold into a dimly lit living room with dirty hardwood floors. “Make yourself at home.”

He got me a PBR and about drank his own in one swallow after we sat down on a sagging couch. The tweed fabric scratched the back of my legs as he wrapped his arms around my shoulders to pull me toward him. I noticed lines of chewing tobacco between the straight, white teeth of the mouth moving forward to engulf my own. After a long, saliva-filled kiss that I hoped was clear instead of Copenhagen brown, he got up and half-stumbled backward toward a hallway.

“Gotta take a piss,” he said. “Be right back.” He tried the pathetic wink again. I hate when people do that. Reminds me of Uncle Thurman who wore plaid pants and sold used cars at a lot over in Summitville when I was a kid.

Considering my bad choices that evening, I figured lots worse could happen besides a slobber-crusted kiss. After a swallow of beer to wash away tobacco taste lingering in my mouth, I opened the door as carefully as possible to not give myself away as I slipped into the darkness. Damp grass soaked my Keds when I sprinted across the yard and onto the lane. A half moon overhead spilled just enough light to show me the way.

I heard that door creak open and Travis holler behind me, “Hey, Candy! Where’d ya go?” Not daring to look back, I trudged on down the road with gravel crunching under my wet shoes.

Cutting across farmers’ fields to shortcut meant risking an electric fence in the pitch-black path or meeting a guard dog along the way, so I resigned myself to the road. I’d get back to town eventually if I just followed the telephone lines. It would just take a long damn time.

Hoping I was far enough away to not be heard, I mumbled, “How the hell do I get myself into this stuff? I need to find some other shit to do.”

If I didn’t laugh, I woulda cried. Maybe I’d get home by the time the sun came up.

***

Two Word Tuesday prompt at Our Write Side – boredom

Image: Brian Wilkins via Flickr

Leave a comment

Filed under fiction, writing

Unreliable Witness

internet-archive-book-imagesThat shabby little house sat back off the road behind trees limbs so dense they hid it from the sight of any passersby. You could only catch a glimpse driving by slowly in the wintertime or after the leave began to fall. Faded clapboards on the exterior looked nearly pink with age and negligence. The place resembled a shed with dust mites and rusted lawnmowers inside instead of anywhere a human being might sleep.

No one saw the accursed man who lived there, though. People said he got riled easily when kids snuck around there after dark, which many of them did on a dare at Halloween time. Smeared window panes kept people from seeing inside, though many children tried to look.

“We didn’t think he was there. Looked empty to us,” the older, Darius, later told the police officer. “That old dude snuck up on us – not the other way around.”

Those Barton boys lied so much, police officers didn’t believe the tales they told afterward. Juvenile delinquents, all of them. Having crack-head parents meant they spent a lot of time in foster care. Even though they grew up hard, they’d rend even the best situation into an utter mess. Wound up in juvenile hall over the incident at the house.

Even the most craven of people from town knew what happened was wrong. That old man should’ve been left to himself out there. Unfortunately, the Barton brothers either didn’t know any better or didn’t care.

“It was like something from a spooky campfire story,” the younger brother said later. “We went in through the back door ‘cause it was unlocked. So Darius said it was okay.” Dale worshipped his older brother and did whatever he instructed. The cops released Dale back to the foster parents, deciding he was too young to be held culpable.

Through all the denial from Darius, Dale told the truth. “He was waiting behind the door when we went in the kitchen. Smelled horrible, like he never took a bath. He breathed all over my face when he grabbed me.” Dale sobbed as he recounted the details, kept begging to see Darius.

“My brother hit the old coot to make him let me go. Darius told him to, but he wouldn’t do it.” His big eyes pleaded with them, gray crescents hollowing his face even more than fear but had no more impact than to accentuate the weariness of such a young child.

“It was so gross in there. Smelled like something dead,” he told them. “Something on the floor made it slick. That’s why they slipped and fell. That’s why that old man hit his head on the counter. Darius didn’t do it.”

The foster mother had to practically drag Dale out of the police station without his brother. Interrogators doubted such an elderly man posed much of an imposing threat, which cast doubt on the boys’ version of the facts. Officers said he might not make it through the night to tell his own side of what happened.

Dale cried even harder when they drove past the house on the way home. He blinked back tears and coughed through gasping bouts of trying to breathe.

Every light had been extinguished when emergency vehicles left there and the ambulance departed for the hospital. The place was different when Dale looked at it from the passing car. A pole barn light behind the shack was illuminated, which cast an eerie glow around its entirety and backlit the interior through its darkened windows.

Dale knew what he saw. Someone stood behind that grimy front glass, and the person seemed to watch their car. Everyone knew that old man lived out there alone. Though he’d been taken for medical treatment, someone was still in that house. Dale saw it that night, but no one believed him. He’d never pass the house again in his life.

He told his brother about it years later when Darius was released from serving time for manslaughter plus breaking and entering. He believed Dale. They’d been inside that house, and both boys knew better.

*Studio 30 Plus writing prompt – accursed s30p

image: Internet Archive Book Images via Flickr

Leave a comment

Filed under fiction, writing

Reunited

punch glass

final installment in Reunion series – following New Old Friends

Gwen and Jennifer continued their conversation with Gwen’s husband, Cameron, while sipping vodka-spiked punch that kept the trio in a celebratory mood. They rose glass after glass to toast health and friendship, and the awkward confrontation with Jennifer’s ex earlier in the evening was soon forgotten.

Other classmates stared from adjacent seats, perhaps jealous of their lively exchange, and seemed catatonic in comparison. Laughter exploded from their table and even caught the attention of Matt’s young wife. Despite her bedazzling appearance with no lines emerging  on her face like everyone else’s there, the poor woman looked trapped in a dutiful gloom of boredom. Anyone watching the scene would feel her palpable disappointment at coming to his 20-year high school class reunion.

She could’ve used a drink if not for her husband’s self-proclaimed, if not pretentious, victory over his alcoholism. Jennifer remembered their teenage dalliances during what seemed a short time but actually happened over two decades ago, how she and Matt practiced anything but safe sex. They, as stupid kids, drank a lot and took more chances than other not-so-lucky couples.

What she couldn’t recall was how she and Gwen ever became friends. Was it in class, at lunch, maybe even in the principal’s office? Jen saw enough of the administrative wing back when she spent several days in detention for skipping school with Matt.

Gwen seemed to read her mind. The woman confessed, “We only had one class together, Jennifer. Gym in freshman year. Back when so many girls bullied me because I was big. Bigger than any of them anyway.” Jennifer looked down at her lap in hopes she wasn’t one of them.

“Oh, no,” Gwen said efficaciously. “Not you. You were the only one nice to me in P.E.” Jennifer exhaled, glad to know she hadn’t been one of the culprits. “Or at least took up for me, though you didn’t really know me. You told them to shut up and leave me alone.”

Jennifer nodded, relieved. “I have to admit I don’t remember. Some of those girls were such jerks, I tried to not act like them. They could be so mean. At least I didn’t participate in that.”

Gwen’s husband sat quietly listening to their conversation and reached over to clasp his wife’s folded hands as she stared blankly across the room. Cameron sensed the subject’s obvious sensitivity, as Gwen absentmindedly rubbed the inside of one wrist. After the awkward silence, she nodded toward a group of people standing beside the dance floor. “A couple of them are right over there.”

Cameron and Jennifer turned to look at the bunch, and Jennifer recognized two girls she’d ran around with back in school. Gwen continued, “I was pretty torn up about all that for a while. Even into college when I met Cameron.” She squeezed her husband’s hand, and he smiled at her reassuringly.

“It was hard for me to come tonight, but I vowed to never let people like that bother me again. To be proud of who I am.” Gwen shrugged and laughed, “Cameron always tells me I’m beautiful, even though I know he’s exaggerating.”

“You are to me, hon,” Cameron said. He got up to refresh their empty punch glasses.

A brief silence followed his leaving before Jennifer finally said, “I’m really glad you came up to talk to me tonight, Gwen. I was pretty nervous about coming here myself because I didn’t want to see Matt. You’ve made it fun, and I forgot all about that despicable person. So thanks.”

“You’re welcome. And I want to thank you, too. You made my freshman year a lot more tolerable. Even if you didn’t remember me tonight.” She winked at Jennifer.

Jennifer’s mouth fell open in fake shock. “Was it that obvious?” They laughed.

“No worries,” Gwen told her. “It doesn’t matter, because we’re friends now.” She glanced up at her husband’s return to the table. He held three partially-filled glasses of punch, and Gwen pulled a bottle of clear alcohol out of her purse to fill the remaining space in each. “Let’s toast to that!”

*Studio 30+ writing prompt – efficacious s30p

Image: blogto.com

2 Comments

Filed under fiction

New Old Friends

Part three of Reunion series: previous installment – Dying Embers

pink drink

Almost everyone was dressed to the nines, most likely to try and impress each other. A high school class reunion is the opportune time to pretend to be someone a person is not. Matt had no pretense, though. The ragged jeans and faded polo shirt he wore made him resemble a ragamuffin, and he probably felt overdressed. Jennifer wondered if he owned any other clothing than a blue work shirt with his name stitched on the pocket.

She tried to make her mouth move as she stared at him, willed herself to come up with a snappy come-back to his rudeness, to say anything. Instead, she stood there slack-jawed and stammering while he looked at her expectantly. His bimbo wife joined him, having followed him across the ballroom like a lost puppy. Or just a jealous young wife. Jennifer looked beyond Matt’s shoulder at the woman clicking awkwardly on stilettos, which was easier than looking Matt in the eye.

Her old love was right there in front of her, and he waited for some type of response. He asked, “Are you already drunk? I’d say it’s pretty early in the night for that.”

Jennifer was stunned into silence, but the classmate friend whose name she couldn’t remember spoke for her. The woman was so tall she towered over Matt’s head. Unfortunately, her embroidered attire was almost as atrocious as Matt’s. Sweater Vest asked him, “What kind of hello is that, Matt? Pretty judgey coming from you. I remember you being quite the drinker back in the day.”

“Not any more. I’ve been in recovery for six months now, in fact,” he paused, staring at the woman. He moved the pair of sunglasses that rested on his balding head to a front shirt pocket. It had been dark outside for a few hours, so maybe he left them there instead of getting a hair transplant. “I’m sorry, I wasn’t talking to you,” he went on. “Jennifer …”

Standing next to Matt, his petite wife’s eyes flashed between him and Jennifer as if they volleyed a tennis ball back and forth. Hands on her hips in indignation, she clearly didn’t like being ignored by them.

“Oh, forgive me. I’m Gwen Collins,” Sweater Vest told Matt. “Of course, you wouldn’t remember me. You never spoke to me in school, but I’m a friend of Jen’s.” Gwen gripped Jennifer’s shoulder with a protective arm. She suddenly liked having the long limb around her in solidarity.

Gwen continued, “Congratulations on your new sobriety, but you don’t have to act so superior. We all remember how you used to act when drunk. Don’t be such a downer. This is a party.”

Jennifer finally found her voice. “It’s good to see you, Matt. And your wife.” She tossed her head in the wife’s direction, and the woman smiled at finally being acknowledged. “I was just reminiscing with Gwen, so please excuse us.” She got a tiny rush turning her back on Matt. Damn, she thought, is that all I could come up with? 

She waited a moment until the couple retreated across the dance floor and then told Gwen, “Thank you so much for that.” Jennifer felt a twinge of guilt at initially not remembering the big woman.

“Don’t mention it,” Gwen said. “Now, let’s go get a drink.” She grabbed Jennifer’s hand, grinned widely, and pulled her toward the table where her husband sat waiting. He lifted a glass as if to toast the women’s approach.

*Studio 30+ writing prompt – ragamuffin  s30p

photo: Sheri Wetherell (Flickr Creative Commons)

2 Comments

Filed under fiction, writing

Dying Embers

Part two of Reunion series: continued from previous post – The Past Catches Up

punch

The doors opened onto a festive ballroom full of balloons, streamers, and white strings of light that ensconced friends from what seemed like a previous lifetime. A large paper banner reading, “Welcome Class of 1996” spanned the stage above a rock-n-roll cover band. Classmates gathered in small clusters, much like cliques in a long-ago lunchroom.

Listeners nodded at talking heads across from them, plastic smiles plastered on faces pretending to be happier and more successful than their lives actually made them. Spouses stood slumped-shouldered at being forced to attend a party among strangers and people they may not otherwise associate with in public. Some looked up every few minutes to affect interest.

She ripped an adhesive name badge from its paper backing and moved into the space with the purpose of mingling. It’s not like the old days when I had to find my pack. I can talk to anyone I want here, she told herself. Spanning the room, she questioned herself, But who would that be? A few familiar faces made eye contact and grinned subtle acknowledgement, yet she wanted to get a lay of the land before approaching anyone in particular.

An exceptionally tall woman wearing an embroidered sweater vest approached to ask, “Jennifer, Jennifer Stockton? Is that you?” She searched her memory to decipher who the seemingly ancient woman could possibly be but found no answer lurking in her grey matter. How could I possibly have graduated with someone so old? Jennifer pondered.

“Hi,” she began and offered a hand to greet the woman but lost both arms to her bear-hug grip instead. “What’s with this shaking business? Come here, you!” she giggled, explosively invading her personal space with gangly limbs encircling her body. Her height towered above Jennifer so that her face smashed into one of the rose appliques on the pilled cotton sweater.

“Come on over and meet my husband,” the lady urged. “He’s over here eating, of course, just like always.” For the life of her, Jennifer couldn’t place her new-old friend’s name but followed obediently to the food table. An incessant monologue ensued, complete with career explanations and offspring descriptions. Jennifer thought the woman would prattle on forever, but she heard none of it.

Instead, her eyes locked on him from across the buffet. His visage was unmistakable regardless of the balding pate and sallow complexion. How could a person so previously handsome become so pasty? Maybe it was years of heavy drinking.

Matt looked bored. He stared into the pink concoction in his clear plastic punch cup, and a woman next to him yammered on at the couple standing next to them. Matt scanned the room until his gaze caught her own, but his dour countenance indicated no hint of recognition. Jennifer thought, How can he not know who I am?

The guy was and always would be a wannabe. He pretended to be important, almost an attempt to make others think he was as special as he found himself to be. He was unique alright … just like everyone else. Matt was a fraud and she knew it. He knew she knew it, although he tried to pretend he didn’t. Even back in school.

Yet her fondness for him stayed with her over the years regardless of it not being reciprocated. She felt an aching in the space behind her heart, that orange glowing space that so wanted to be filled.

Their eyes remained locked until his expression turned to one of surprised recognition.

Jennifer’s brow furrowed in disappointment at the delayed reaction. Why wouldn’t he remember me? She tried to concentrate on what Sweater Vest was saying, but she struggled to feign interest. Catching Matt’s approach out of the corner of her eye flustered her even more. She stared at Sweater Vest, nodding, faking a laugh. Anything to make Matt know he didn’t deserve her attention.

She felt a hand on her shoulder. Matt beckoned, “Jennifer, is that you?” Turning to face him, she acted shocked to see him. “Hello there, Matt,” she crooned and plastered a toothy grin across her face.

Jerking his head backward, he wrinkled his nose in disgust. “Oh, my God. Are you drunk? You smell like booze.” Jennifer felt mortified.

Studio30

*Studio 30+ writing prompt – prattle

(photo: the drink nation)

5 Comments

Filed under fiction, writing

The Past Catches Up

Dodgeball_Throw

She hated it when P.E. class became co-ed in their freshman year, even if they just played dodgeball. The guys always waited until the teacher wasn’t looking to throw the dimpled red ball as hard as possible to hit the girls. They aimed at either the bum or the boobs. Every time.

Mr. Ray Monroe once told her, “Pay no mind to them boys. If they pick on ya, that means they like ya.” She could never fathom how abuse equaled fondness. Mr. Monroe turned his head from that business. He probably threw things at girls when he was young, too.

The thought of their high school reunion being just a week away put her in a funk. Why put herself through such misery to see those same guys again? The people she wanted to stay in touch with were still her friends, and the others didn’t matter.

Her hometown hadn’t changed at all, and she doubted the people had either. Many stayed there after graduation, working mundane jobs to pay the bills. Survival would be difficult without an elixir to pass time, so the tavern earned a lot of that take-home pay. That’s how she imagined Matt’s life of subsistence to be unless things had drastically changed for him.

He’d be at the reunion. No way to avoid seeing him. His wavy red hair and deep, hearty laugh haunted her dreams. That wry smile. A repetitive invitation to reunite. Awakening brought back reality.

Unsure how to react at seeing him live instead of through a subconscious illusion in her sleep, she resigned herself to go anyway. Not going would otherwise feel like defeat. She took time off work to go.

She’d have to speak to him but wasn’t looking forward to it. He cared not one whit for how she felt, then or now, and his apathy left her heartbroken and despondent.

Three days passed with no sunshine, and she hated to wake in the morning to yet another rainfall battering the window. It took every ounce of mental energy to rise from bed and face the day. Want of coffee can convince anyone to at least venture from the solace of the bedroom to the kitchen for a cup. An extra-strong espresso started the morning of the reunion, and caffeine jitters got her through the day.

She put the gearshift in park upon arriving at the venue. Semi-familiar faces greeted each other with smiles at the entrance, and everyone shook hands while adhering adhesive name tags to save each other from awkward re-introductions.

“It’s time to get over this bullshit and face him. I’m not that intimidated girl in gym class any longer,” she thought and steadied her nerves. Reaching under the seat to grab the bottle and take a last long drink helped a little, too. “Here goes nothing,” she told herself and opened the car door to go inside.

*Studio 30+ writing prompt – mundane

image: commons.wikimedia.orgs30p

3 Comments

Filed under fiction, writing

Dirty Tricks

cemetery

Gravel-road cruising while getting drunk was not her favorite weekend activity, but stopping at a church cemetery off the beaten path rated even worse. Blythe agreed to go with a friend because the duo had been invited by boys, one on whom Caroline had a crush, and his buddy didn’t want to be a third wheel.

“Caroline, you are going to owe me big time,” she whispered in the girl’s ear when the driver turned to head out of town. Cute or not, these guys seemed up to no good. Alcohol only exacerbated their fiendishness.

Dylan and Bradley laughed, as if sharing an inside joke, and practically fell out of the truck when it slid to a stop. “I’m gonna go take a piss,” the driver announced. His friend chuckled knowingly and agreed, “Yeah, I gotta go, too,” and trailed after him. The two took off at a sprint and disappeared into the darkness beyond a line of decrepit grave markers. Whatever they aimed to do, Blythe wanted no part of it.

She grabbed Caroline’s arm when she started to slide across the seat toward the door. “This is not a good idea, Caroline,” she warned, but the girl jumped out anyway. “Oh, come on! Don’t be such an old lady, Blythe.”

Caroline pulled Blythe unwillingly out of the truck and across the grass, wet with dew, and headed toward the church. Blythe’s feet became soaked and grew cold, and she began to shiver. “This place is giving me the creeps,” she said. “I don’t think we should be here. It seems disrespectful.”

“Let’s go, Blythe! We should look for the guys. See what they’re up to,” Caroline urged as they crossed the cemetery gate. She could be such an airhead when she liked someone, especially a goofball like Bradley.

Blythe replied, “No way. I don’t care where those jerks went.” She regretted her decision when she gaped out at the emptiness surrounding her and suddenly felt scared. All she could see was a mist obscuring most of the landscape. A mishmash of tombstones stood in the distance, some upright and others leaning in disrepair.

Half expecting a revenant being to emerge above the monuments, Blythe crouched down behind one to hide. Her hands shook as she peeked around its rough stone edges to see if anyone else was near. Touching the grave marker chilled her fingertips even more. “Damn you guys,” she muttered under her breath, not daring to make any noise.

The vista lay menacingly in front of her. She felt in her bones that nothing good would come of the situation, and a chill ran down her spine. She thought of an old superstition about how a shiver meant someone walked across your grave.

“Come back, Caroline,” she whispered into the blank night as loudly as she dared. Blinking back tears, she squinted her eyes tightly in disbelief at the frightening sight a hundred yards or so away from her position. The girl froze in horror.

Spectral images floated above the lowest level of fog hugging the ground. She had a hard time believing her eyes and wished she hadn’t accepted her friend’s invitation to come out. Being back at home beneath warm blankets would’ve been so much wiser.

“It isn’t real! It isn’t real!” she kept repeating to convince herself while mentally berating Caroline for talking her into coming on such a hair-brained roadtrip. She felt a breeze rush past her that gently glided across her body and rose goose-bumps on her skin.

Blythe parted her lips slightly to call out for her friend but dared not bring the wraiths’ attention her way. She could hear the boys laughter echoing from out beyond the church yard but had no idea where they could be. Caroline was nowhere to be seen either, so Blythe decided it was now or never.

She jumped up and ran back to the truck to discover the keys still in the ignition, which solidified her decision to abandon them all. She felt bad about leaving Caroline, but it was every woman for herself.

Fleeing the scene as quickly as she could, Blythe glanced into the rearview mirror. She felt only slight remorse at seeing either Dylan or Bradley, but not knowing which one, running down the gravel road after the truck. His arms pin wheeled in the air as if grasping for help. Although slightly blurred by dust spun up from the tires, several wavering figures appeared to be following closely behind the boy.

“Sucks to be you,” Blythe groaned. She stepped on the gas pedal and sped away.

 

– photo: Garrett Gabriel via Flickr

s30p*writing prompt – revenant

Leave a comment

Filed under fiction, writing