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Posts Tagged ‘fiction’

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Writing prompt image provided by the good people at Happy Square Studio

The world is watching. We stand on an outcrop of rocks at the edge of a wood with red lanterns woven through the branches. The world is waiting and they cannot look away. They will watch me disappear, my back melting into the wall of trees. I pause, straining to catch movement in the space between the trunks. I don’t know if I can do this. I hear Miles exhale, his breath mingles with the murmur of the party behind us.

He reads the list in his hand saying, “There’s nothing here about how long this is supposed to take.”

“Roger is going to time us while we’re searching. He said the game doesn’t end until we find all the items on that list.”

“Always the despot.”

“We can just grab a few and call it a night,” I say and he looks at me. His smile is crooked and the wind ruffles his dark hair.

“Let’s just see how this turns out,” he says.

I don’t need to glance over my shoulder to see his brother shift his feet in impatience. Miles takes my hand. “Ignore them,” he says. “Keep your lantern up. We’ll be in and out in no time.” We start walking and it’s abundantly clear that we are not light of foot. Twigs and dry leaves snap in our wake, and my heart strains to keep pace with our steps. Steady now. Always steady.  It’s nearly time for the sky to blush with the first touch of morning. I look up, hoping to glimpse a familiar cluster of stars, but can’t see anything through the red.

“Tell me again why we didn’t stay home tonight?” I say.

“We are wild and social creatures, Olivia. Plus we were hungry.”

“Traipsing around in the woods past midnight in exchange for free food? I don’t know who wins in this situation.”

“You weren’t complaining during cake.”

“Roger knows my many weaknesses,” I say.

“Not as well as I do,” says Miles.

I turn to him, crumpling my mouth in mock despair. His eyes soften and I feel his thumb tracing my fingers.

“Want me to carry the lamp?” he says.

“I’m no damsel in distress.”

“Not even if your arm starts cramping up?”

“Then I may or may not concede.”

Miles stops for a beat, pointing at a blue ribbon fluttering feebly around a branch. Roger has no imagination. We contemplate who gets to climb and who stays on solid ground.

“There could be bears,” Miles teases, putting me at ease.

I toss my head back, laughing, and climb the tree. Bark flakes under my hands and I think of being swallowed by the earth and rising, taller, with time winding around my limbs. When I’m back, standing beside Miles, I hand him our first prize. He ties it around my wrist. The lamplight pools at our feet, causing our shadows to twine through the grass and fallen leaves, until we cannot tell where we end and a tree begins.

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three days to disembark

There were moments when she wanted to question who she was and who she had become. There were days when stretching her arms in a sun-salutation felt like release from the overwhelming pressures of the week. Then again she didn’t really have much to be stressed about. There were things in her life that changed drastically over the days and months that passed. Then there were things that felt as if they were always there and probably would always be a part of her. People come and go, experiences change as the seasons do. Everything was a transition from one plane to the next, and yet there was this nagging sense of longing to become part of something bigger. There were things in her life that she longed to do and places she wanted discover. So she couldn’t furrow her brow at people’s thoughts while her own words were left to sift in a trough.
“Tell me where this is going.”

Isn’t she on the road to self-discovery? Her glasses sit uncomfortably on the bridge of her nose. They are an extension of her sight, but sometimes she prefers the solitude of her room where her nose can be free of the weight. Tell me where you will be and where you are going. You had a moment of hope when his words appeared on your screen. You thought, How nice. How lovely. How wild how free. The practice today focused more on vinyasa. I wanted to take a breath and stay in downward dog for a while so I could feel it in my arms a little. There were positions that went over my head, but I appreciated the strength of the voice and the arms, the gentle way the hands guided my back deeply into the stretch. I wonder if I trembled to the core with nervousness.
“If you’re shaking then it’s working.”

Sometimes it’s good to just sit back and lean against something strong and stable. There is the alliteration waiting to be touched. Hasn’t it been such a long time since you have done this? Get the feel of the keys again. It’s much like music. But my back longs to have that languid stretch. It’s not so much that the beauty is missing. It’s more in the know-how.

“I want to know what’s going on with that poor girl.” You used to send pages that were unfinished. Why don’t you try sending them again? There are the question marks. There are those guiding hands that slide along the length of your back, how gently they encourage the alignment of stars. Your eyes watch the space between your thighs. And you exhale. Listen to your breath. Feel it course through the spaces between your spine. You don’t shiver because here the walls are solid and nothing threatens to tear through. The man is all gums and he smiles and nods you ahead of the line. Surprise lights the eyes, a shifting blue to green. It’s something that reminds you of the ocean. Do you miss the salt in the air or the salt on the skin? Think of a mountain who tastes the heart stone of the sea. One track has Vera Myles on the white cliffs of Dover, while the other leaves Buddy Guy wondering where the blues have gone. They know that landscapes change and buildings can collapse under the bone blind shrug of the sky. So here is the beginning of everything.

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the watchful

Farmer Oak awakens at the touch of dawn. The window is boarded up.
Light seeps through the cracks and he pulls the blanket over his eyes
while the cat curls into his shoulder.

There is a cup of water on the nightstand and a lamp with a bulb at half-life.
His stomach speaks.
Nearly breakfast.
Heavy footsteps walk out of the room next to his and pause at his door.
-Awake?
Says Tom.
-Nearly.
Says Oak.

Tom turns on the radio. Music sinks into the walls.
The cat turns over, mumbling something in her sleep.

Farmer Oak cranes his neck to look at her,
then pulls the blanket over her chin.
He shifts his weight. The bed creaks.
Her dark hair tickles his nose and he brushes it aside, gently.
She turns to him, still sleeping.
Her face, calm.
He is watchful.

 

—-

written for Memory

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charlotte

“You’re so strong,” Virginia says. “I can’t imagine having to put up with that. Having to see him everyday. Listening to him speak to Claire. They way they sound together, as if none of those months mattered.”
Charlotte drinks her tea carefully. She tilts her head to the right, looks at the table and forces a dim smile because it’s what her body does naturally.
“It’s not easy,” says Charlotte. “But the truth is I need the money.”
She thinks of Claire’s giggles and Max’s voice softening past the cubicle.
Virginia squeezes her friend’s hand sympathetically and Charlotte gently pulls away. She doesn’t want pity. She only wants to be honest.
A sunbeam slips through the clouds and past the window. Charlotte tries to hold it, turning her hand over on the table. The light hatches warmth on her palm and rests there.

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the first

The first thing he sees is the back of her head.
She wants to go to him. She wants to say so many things,
but she doesn’t know where to begin.
When she steps into the room, he pulls off his headphones
and stretches out his arms.
She notes the breadth of him.

People forget about the window. They move in and out. They carry themselves across the hall with heavy footsteps. They open the fridge. They close it.
They wash their hands. They fill their cups with water. They drink, deeply.
They say, “Good morning” and “Have a good night.” Everything must be good. People forget about the window and blinds. They forget how flowers wilt
without the sun.
“It’s so sad,” she says. “They’re dying.”
“Why?” He asks, though he already knows the answer.
They work in a place without any sunlight.
They smile as she says this.
They don’t know why.
They can’t help it.
They forget.
Why.

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on canvas

She held the cup to her lips and and felt the heat curl up to her glasses, smearing the lens with strokes of breath. She took a sip and swallowed. The sweet tea slipped into her mouth, and she held the taste of it on her tongue before it slid down her throat, coating her belly. She stared at the floor. Hard wood at her feet. Cold tile ahead of her. The future was vast, a blank canvas all smooth and white. Mila pressed a hand to the mug and felt the heat flow into her palm. The house was empty. Somewhere in one of the rooms music was playing a soft melody and she heard a burst of laughter from one of the neighbours on the street outside her window. The curtain held back the sky. It was Saturday.

She thought she heard footsteps in the room above her, but that was the house stretching under the afternoon glow during the time of day when everything is touched with a hint of gold.

Still holding the cup to her lips, she murmured into blue ceramic, “This is how it is. Life and its stillness. The sun on the back of a neck. Hard work. Happiness. Smiles and laughter. Sadness. Quiet tears that track across the cheeks. Shining eyes and the wind tossing hair about, roughly. One either pulls it up and away or pushes it back behind ears with fingers. Gloves. Hands in pockets. Some wear hats, other pull the hood over their head. There are scarves and open coats. Think of the trails. How hope rises above the covers with each awakening. This is new. This is old. This something to be remembered.

Look at me.
look at me look at me
I’m here.
I exist.
I matter.

We don’t know what we want or what we can give, or we have always known it, and we pull ourselves up to show them. I can’t give you what you want. But I have always known that it is better to be honest. Love all, trust few, do wrong to no one. Do I want to scar my skin with these words? What will they look like when time shapes my arms into folded flesh?

Here I am.
here I am here I am
This is what you want.
Come find me.

When life swells, the woman croons softly and traces her hand where she thinks the face will be, and her voice coaxes something beautiful. I think I heard you before I saw you. Perhaps once or twice. But that was the first time. Who is Colin? The other man. He is the one who isn’t real and lingers on the fringes. Say something.”

Mila paused at the sound of a key in the lock. She straightened. Someone was coming. The rest of her words swirled along the rim of her cup before drifting lazily up to the high stucco ceiling. She crossed her legs and looked at the door as it opened.

Then the rain fell and clouds shifted their shoulders with the scent of an early spring whispering to the sidewalks and parched grass, “Finally. Finally. Finally.”

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a silly woman

There was something about Claire that made him smile. He spoke about her constantly. He watched her work. Saw the way the light caught the brilliance of her teeth. Admired how she carried herself, light footed and sure. He noted the long hours she spent at her desk, always on time, never a moment wasted. He felt the shape of her name pass his lips every time he approached her with a question. She always answered him with a grin and a clear, tinkling laugh. Her eyes were bright and her skin was a coat of snow in the pale morning. But it was her hair that drew him. A dark, lustrous red that she always pulled back behind her ears into a neat bun. Today it fell across her shoulders in soft red waves. She was engaged to be married, but she kept this detail to herself and chose not to wear her ring in the office. Claire enjoyed Max’s attention and wandering eyes. She took a breath and straightened her back whenever she heard the faint ping of the elevator, and his heavy steps.
“Good morning,” said Max as her paused at her desk.
Claire absentmindedly rested her hand on her purse where her engagement ring was tucked safely in a pocket. She smiled up at him, her thin lips curved coyly. She brought her hand up to her hair, expecting a compliment which he promptly gave her. She thanked him quietly and tilted her head up before standing, tucking a strand of red behind her ear.
“It’s my last day,” she said and his face fell. Claire hastily corrected herself before he could speak. “Oh I meant my hair,” she said. “It’s the last day for my hair. I’m going to try blonde tomorrow.”
Max didn’t know what to say to this, but smiled encouragingly.
“I’m very nervous,” she said, waiting for another compliment.
“I’m sure it’ll be great.”
She grinned, baring her row of pearls, and she sat down again while he pulled out his chair at the cubicle across from her.
“I hope so,” she said.
“It will be a good change. Not that your hair isn’t good as it is. Any colour suits you.”
Claire flushed a delicate pink. It crawled up her neck and flooded her ears. James never said such things. They had been together three years and all he ever did was stay at home, watching his cartoons, which he never stopped talking about. Claire could only take so much of his grunting, and never a sweet word about her hair. Claire was a vain woman. She was tired of James. Somewhere along the way whatever it was that held them together became limp and dreary. But he made her an engaged woman, without him she would be a single woman, and Claire couldn’t have that.

So when James proposed in his fumbling manner of course she had nothing else to do but to say yes. How could she not? Surely she could have the ring and still see the men she wanted. James would never know. Besides, she thought, I deserve to be happy, and no proper woman can ever be happy alone.
This was a lesson passed down from Claire’s grandmother to her Claire’s mother, to Claire. It was a lesson drilled into her from an early age.
Claire once knew a girl who scoffed at this lesson, but Claire knew better.

Surely that small girl, who wore glasses, no make up, and preferred mountains of books to fine dining was the one to be scoffed at. The girl used foul language and her laugh was far too loud to be lady like. Surely it was she, not Claire, who was the strange one. Claire was sure that girl would grow to be a silly woman.

Claire straightened her back and lifted her chin at the thought. The girl had the gall to to tell Claire she was settling and being terribly unfair. The girl had the audacity to call Claire a liar who will eventually be full of regret and self loathing.

But Claire was no such thing. She firmly believed that she was simply a proper lady who was effectively securing herself in choosing what to say.

“Any plans for the weekend?” Max said, breaking through her thoughts. He always used the same grocery list of questions, but Claire didn’t mind. Max paid her the attention she wanted even if the conversation was somewhat lacking. They never touched. They couldn’t, considering where they were and their coworkers around them. But she often hovered near him when speaking at his desk, noting how his shoulders stiffened.
“Nothing else besides my hair,” she said. “It will be a whole day thing.”
Claire and James were hosting a dinner party for James’ father. It was to be a large and extravagant event. Claire already had her outfit laid out and told James to buy her earrings. One simply couldn’t host a party with old pieces. But Max didn’t need to know any of this.
Max didn’t have to know anything about her all. Nothing that was real. Only what she chose to give him.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the new you,” said Max swiping a hand through his hair nervously.
Claire noticed this and gave him another smile.
“Thank you,” she said. “I’ll send you a photo when I’m done.”
Max cleared his throat and the phone rang. He answered it.
Claire turned back to her work at her desk. She touched her hair.
Yes, she thought. Things are going exactly as I want them to be. No one needs to know.

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