Sunday, September 25, 2011
Today's muse: Sunday Scribblings
The prompt: Sometimes the best laid plans don't work out. What do you do then? Move to Plan B.
* * *
Jennifer straddled the toilet, peed onto the narrow strip. Why the hell did they make these things so damn small?
It only takes about ten seconds, the pharmacist told her. Ten seconds and her life would change. One line or two, it didn’t matter. The result would be the same. Things would change.
They would travel the world or they would raise a family. Learn new cultures or learn to parent. Both lives seemed filled with wonder and challenge, love and laughter. Peace and fulfillment.
Mark had assured her that either life was worth living and he’d gladly spend it with her. So they made plans; frightening plans, exciting plans.
Jennifer glanced down, her eyes darting between both windows, searching for one or two blue lines.
Jennifer held up the test when he opened the bathroom door.
Mark met her eyes. “Plan B, then.”
She smiled. “Plan B.”
Friday, September 9, 2011
It was Tuesday. That meant today’s special was shepherds pie. And shepherds pie guaranteed he’d be in for lunch.
Amanda Fischer wrapped an apron around her waist, pinned her name badge on her uniform, checked her appearance in the reflection of the pastry case. She walked the length of the front counter, topping up coffee cups.
“How are you today, Mr. Wendel?”
“I’d be better if you’d marry me.” This was Roger Wendel’s usual response.
“After fifty years of marriage, your wife would hunt me down if I snatched you away from her.”
Roger Wendel laughed, a loud barking snort that made Amanda smile. “You have that right.”
“I’ll have to ask her what her secret was to catch such a wonderful man.”
The elderly man waved her off, his cheeks crimson.
She was aware the moment Jason Everette walked in the door. Every woman in town was aware of him. Intense eyes, so dark it was difficult to distinguish the pupils, watched as though they could see right through you. It made a girl feel needy, thought Amanda, and just a little reckless.
Jason sat down at the counter next to Roger Wendel and pulled a laminated menu from the metal rack, pretended to read. He knew what he wanted, the reason he came for lunch every Tuesday—and most other days. It wasn’t the shepherds pie.
“The usual?” Amanda set a cup in front of him, poured coffee. She moved the sugar out of the way, knowing he took it black.
Jason’s lopsided grin brought out the dimple in his left cheek. It always made her heart hitch. “Am I that predictable?”
“A little.” Wasn’t it cute how his ears went pink when he blushed? “You’ve been coming in here for three weeks now. It doesn’t take long to notice a pattern.”
“I don’t like cooking for myself. It’s…” he moved a shoulder, an agitated gestured “…lonely.”
Roger Wendel made a show of clearing his throat. “A smart man would ask a woman over for dinner.” He stared at a point above the pastry case, speaking, it appeared, to no one in particular. “A smarter man would ask her to bring her famous apple crumble.” Roger slapped a few bills on the counter before leaving. “Just sayin’.”
The hollow in Jason’s cheek deepened. “Well?”
Outside, Amanda was calm, elegant. “Is seven ok?” Inside, she did the first-date dance.
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Today's muse: Three Word Wednesday
Today's words: erode, heart, observe
(I sure hope ThomG allows for conjugation.)
* * *
So flawless is the disguise, even the deceiver is fooled. Believing the lie. Living it. Embracing it.
It is true what they say, that such pretence only damages self. It is beyond repair; crushed into so many pieces, the stars cannot count them. Glue does not hold, and the toxic fumes cannot smother the pain.
Visitors ignore the ‘do not feed’ sign and offer sustenance. Day after day, they tug their bawling spawn past the cage. Tiny fists release bright helium orbs to the skies, but the cheerful globes cannot penetrate the fog above. Their suffocating taunts seep through the iron bars and render me wordless.
Despite constant rocking, the spirit has atrophied. The only muscle left thriving is the heart; but some have observed its erosion and predict apocalypse on a biblical scale.
The locusts cannot come soon enough.
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Today's muse: Succinctly Yours by Grandma's Goulash
The rules: Using the picture and/or word (the word is optional), write a story under 140 characters OR 140 words.
Today's word: Practice.
* * *
The bell of a new day rings, shrill as nails on a chalkboard. Obedience is a lesson she never seems to learn, despite the discipline. Each day she cowers in the corner, her dunce cap too heavy to bear, weighing down her pride. Mocking jeers seep into her rocking, fetal body.
She hides her face in bent knees. Though she’s had years of practice, she never mastered the art of deceit. Not like him. And if he sees her eyes he’ll know. He’ll know she plans to graduate today.
Thursday, September 1, 2011
Today's muse: Three Word Wednesday
Today's words: drag, mumble, penetrate
Some stories need to be told. Miranda's begins here.
And now, it continues...
* * *
She raced down a dark alley; mile-high walls of concrete speared up on either side. Behind her, heavy footsteps followed, unhurried, knowing there was no escape. There never was.
Over and over she ran down this narrow lane, came upon the same door that was always locked. As she struggled with the handle, willing it to open, the footsteps came closer until they were right behind her. Arms—dozens of them, it seemed—wrapped around her, groping and probing. Stale rum and cheap cigars filled her nostrils. Her stomach lurched.
“Miranda.” Craig’s voice penetrated the terror that suffocated her. “Miranda. It’s just a dream, baby. Open your eyes. That’s it.”
When she pushed away, he pulled her closer, wrapped his arms around her. He rocked her and crooned, as he would a frightened child, until she stopped trembling.
As the fog lifted and the nightmare faded away, Miranda was aware that she was being held, that Craig stroked her hair.
“I’m ok now,” she said, and rolled away from him. Embarrassed and ashamed, she sat on the edge of the bed. “I should go home.”
“What? No way.” Craig hooked an arm around her waist and dragged her back, coaxed her to lie down. He propped himself up on one arm. “Do you want to talk about it?”
Miranda closed her eyes. “No.”
“You need to.”
“No I don’t. And certainly not to you.”
“Why not me?”
Because, thought Miranda, I’m falling for you and I don’t want you to walk away like Gregg did. I can’t survive that again.
“Miranda, I probably understand a lot more than you give me credit for.” Her eyes shifted to his. He brushed the short fringe across her forehead. “He’ll keep winning if you keep it locked up inside of you.”
She crumbled then, covered her face with both hands and let the tears flow. It was too good to be real, she thought. He was setting her up so he could kick her down, she was certain of it. Once he knew how fucked up she was, he’d walk away, never looking back.
Craig said nothing. He simply wrapped himself around her, pulled her close and spooned behind her. “Close your eyes. I’ll be here when you wake up.”
That small promise, the certainty of it, made her turn and face him.
“I should have told you this before.”
“So tell me now.” He pressed his lips on her forehead.
And she did.
Craig listened in silence, his only reaction was to close his eyes at times. When he did, Miranda could see his jaw working as he struggled with his anger, but he let her finish. She waited for him to leap out of bed, tell her it was all her fault, say he couldn’t be with someone who had so much baggage.
“I have never met anyone as strong as you.”
“Most people would crawl into a dark cave and never come out.”
“I can’t do that.”
“I know. That’s what makes you strong.” He cupped her face, thumbed away the last tear. “Feel better?”
“Um. Yeah, actually, I do.” She felt light, like she was floating.
“Good. Think you can sleep now?”
Exhaustion hit her then. “Yeah.” She mumbled something incoherent as she snuggled into him.
He smiled as her eyes drooped. “Sweet dreams, Miranda.”
Craig was next to her when she woke, a protective arm around her. Miranda leaned into him. She was finally safe.
This is the end of Miranda's story...at least here. Stories, such as these, never really end. The nightmares never go away, they just become bearable.