Love Will Break Your Heart

What’s wrong with the world is the romantic comedies, Aida thought.

She’d watched Moonstruck a million times. She loved when Ronnie said, “Love don’t make things nice. It breaks your heart. It ruins everything.” Because that’s what Aida thought about love. Of course, in the movie Ronnie and Loretta ended up together. It wasn’t like that in real life. Aida knew that much was true.

Gabe died on a Monday eighteen months before. He had been sick for years. And yet, Aida still thought about him all the time. In the shower, she washed her hair and had conversations with him. Shampoo. Gabe, I miss you, why’d you leave me? Rinse. Gabe’s answer: I didn’t have a choice. Conditioner. Come back to me. Rinse. Gabe’s answer: I can’t. Love will break your heart.

For a while, Aida thought she had gone crazy. And for a while, she thought maybe she was talking to herself. Then she started reading about telepathy. She and Gabe were connected by a string. String theory, she’d never learned that in college, but knew it didn’t involve talking to your dead boyfriend through your mind. Could you really have telepathy with someone who had already left the earth? Aida wasn’t so sure.

On a Friday night, she sat on her couch with a bowl of homemade popcorn, watching Moonstruck for the thousandth time.

“What I need is to break the connection,” she said aloud to her cat, Ringo, to the ghost of Gabe, and to Loretta on the T.V. screen.

In bed that night, she stared at the popcorn ceilings. She thought about how much Gabe hated those popcorn ceilings. We should smooth those down, he said. I don’t want a big project, she had said. Now his scorn of the popcorn ceilings blossomed in her heart. She thought of his face, the feel of his hands on her body, before he had left her. She imagined a silvery blue string, and she cut the string. She imagined him flying into outer space as if he were an astronaut free falling away from the spaceship, floating further and further into oblivion. As his face disappeared, she sobbed and cried herself to sleep.

She woke up looking at the popcorn ceilings, and promptly threw up, just barely making it to the bathroom in time. The scum on the toilet haunted her, but she didn’t have the energy to clean it. She crawled back into bed cocooning herself in the warmth of the comforter. Sometimes she thought she could smell Gave in the comforter still. Once she came across one of his half-eaten candy bars, hidden in the top of the kitchen cabinet, and she bit into it as if eating it could bring him back to her. That was when she first thought she was crazy.

She stayed in bed for three days, calling into work and working through delirium mixed with hysteria with a touch of vomit. On the fourth day, she woke up, showered, put on clothes, and pulled a brush through the rat’s nest that had become her hair. She drove over to the Home Depot on 51st Street and walked in. At first she didn’t know why she had driven there. It seemed as if some invisible force had led her to the Home-Do-It center.

“Hi, I’m Bryan, how can I help you?”

Bryan had sandy blonde hair, and blue eyes. He had a smile like Ronnie in Moonstruck. Aida smiled back at him.

“I need to get rid of my popcorn ceilings. Can you help me?”

“Sure, come with me.”

Aida opened her eyes and stared at the white expanse of smooth ceiling above her head. She turned over in her bed and put her arms around Bryan’s waist. He turned toward her, and he kissed her lips.

Thanks Gabe, for showing me how to wipe the slate clean, she thought, as she snuggled against Bryan and fell back into the arms of sleep.

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Aurora Borealis

A short story to break my writing block. Started this a while ago, and decided to finish it today. Now I’m working on some more substantial writing. I hope to set goals and be more active on my blog again too.

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“Daddy, tell me about the aurora borealis,” Hetty said.

I sighed, settled down on to her bed, tucked the blanket under her chin, and began the story for the hundredth time in my daughter’s short life.

When I wasn’t much more than a boy I trekked up to Alaska to do some fishing. In those days you could hitchhike just about anywhere. I didn’t have a lick of money, but some kind strangers gave me a ride. Nobody worried about murdering and all that. I stayed up there to fish King Salmon. Worked for a guy named Kallik. Name meant lightning, he told me. And boy was he lightning. He’d get so drunk that the guy on his bad side could never see his fist coming.

We lived in a log cabin. Free board, and made a little bit of money. Not much mind you. A bunch of drifter guys just trying to make a living someway somehow. I didn’t have what you have, a family who loved me. I just had myself. I wasn’t more than eighteen. Just a boy really, and a drifter.

One day, Kallik invited me to hike with him. I showed up and he told me I looked just like a typical white guy—unprepared for the situation at hand. He drapped a fur coat over my shoulders and said I would need it. We would climb the mountain, he said, and meet some of his friends and family to watch the aurora borealis. We would camp at the top of the mountain, eat meat off the spicket, some shit like that. I couldn’t even imagine—not like I’d been in Scouts as a kid.

We hiked for what seemed like days. Kallik gave me jerky to sustain me. He had energy like a battery—just kept on going. Not me. I felt out of place that day. As we went up in the mountain, the snow came. I was glad I’d bought a good pair of boots with my first paycheck. I was grateful for Kallik’s fur around my shoulder. We walked for four hours—must’ve been, and then I saw smoke rising on the horizon, as the sun had started to drift down behind the mountain.

“That’s camp,” Kallik said, when we arrived at the top.

People sat around the camp site by the fire, in tents, playing music, talking, cooking food. I felt like I wandered back into time. I felt like I was intruding on some private ritual where I didn’t belong.

“When the lights come out, my people say it’s the spirits coming out to play, Kallik told me as he sat down on a log and held his hands in front of the fire.”

“I sat down next to him. A woman with a long black braid came out of the tent. I couldn’t help staring at her. Her eyes shone with a light I’d never seen before as if she could see the past, present, and future all at once.

“Why’d you bring the white guy?” she immediately asked Kallik, as she took a seat next to me.

“Dan, this is Meri, Meri, Dan,” Kallik said.

We ate and sat in silence for a while. The lights came out to play, and we stared in awe. A silence fell upon camp like the quietness of falling snow enfolding the world.

“It looks supernatural,” I said. “I can see why people flock to see this phenomenon.”

“Just science. Magnetic poles and such,” Meri said, sounding bored but giving me a cockeyed smile and a wink.

Kallik wrapped furs around our shoulders to keep us warm in the bitter cold night, and we sat staring up at the sky unable to look away from the beauty of existence.

“Mary doesn’t sound like an Inuit name,” I said, turning to look at the woman next to me.

Meri wrapped her arms around me and leaned her head on my shoulders causing my heart to beat rapidly and something otherworldly arose in me like the green lights dancing across the sky drawing us together.

“It’s M-e-r-i. Short for Meriwa,” she said, as I wrapped my arms around her and leaned in.

“Yeah, know what it means?” Kallik asked.

I shook my head.

“Thorn,” he said, with a little laugh.

“And your mom has been a thorn in my side ever since,” I said, wrapping my arms around my daughter, brushing her long black hair out of her face, and kissing her goodnight.

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I Held Your Heart Once

Here’s a short story (748 words) I wrote for Chuck Wendig’s weekly Flash Fiction Challenge. Let me know what you think about it in the comments below:

I Held Your Heart Once

“I told you this was a bad idea!” he shouted.

Yeah, as if the entire idea had been mine. We sat in the house on the gray floor, my fingers almost completely numb. I wanted to shove a knife under his ribs. I plastered a faux smile on my face.

“You start the fire then.”

“Fine,” he said, grabbing the stick and the stone from me.

I studied El’s face as the light in the windows began to recede and the bitter wind howled. His cheeks were gaunt. When we’d left they’d been full of meat. Now, we both looked like shadow people; skinnier than we ever should have been. The lines of dirt on his cheekbones would have made him look like a football player if he were bigger. But now they accentuated the emaciated look of his face.

I tried to blow the blue out of my fingers.

El shouted at the stick as if it had ears.

I went to the door.

“What the fuck are you going to do, Mare?”

“Going somewhere else. I mean we’ll freeze to death in here.”

“It’s safe and it’s warm.”

“It’s not warm.”

“It’s warmer than out there.”

I looked out the window. The ferocious snow fell barricading us into this desolate place. We were stuck, and it was my bad idea that had brought us up here. I thought there’d be food, maybe canned goods. But when we opened the door a vacuous wasteland of dust greeted us. The back window had a crack letting in a constant stream of cold air and snow. No wood, except for wet, snow-bound logs sitting on the crumbling front porch. I could feel El’s hostility aimed at me like an arrow.

“I mean who the fuck goes up the mountain. We should have been going down.”

My heart felt like a worn stone in my chest. I stood by the door, not opening it, with my back to him. He struck the rock against the stick. Heat remained aloof. There was friction in the air but not enough to start a fire.

“My hands are numb,” I said. I turned toward him.

He put the rock and stick down and looked at me. I could see his old face hidden in his new one. The old face I’d fallen in love with. His eyes which had looked cold softened and his face crinkled into a smile. His smile warmed me up, and I felt the once familiar spark. The one that had been missing for awhile now, the one that reminded me that I’d held his heart once.

“Come here.”

I stood still.

He stood up and walked toward me, measured steps through the dust of the room. He pulled my shirt off before I could say no. His hands on my breast warmed me up. Body heat, the natural generator. He took off his shirt and grabbed my hands. He warmed them with his, rubbing them together like the stick and the stone. He placed my hands on his chest.

He slid down my pants then pulled down his. I shivered, and he wrapped his arms around me. We were like two unlit pieces of coal trying to catch an elusive spark. I felt him enter me and shivered again. We had not made love in ages.

“I don’t have a condom.”

“It’s okay.” It wasn’t.

Our bodies moved together filling the cabin with warmth. I imagined soft lights. I imagined a rope bed with a soft mattress, blankets covering us. I imagined the smell of chicken cooking in the oven. I imagined our children.

When I blinked, I felt his hip bone against my inner thigh. I’d never felt his hip bone before. The barrenness of the cabin stole my fantasy. He moaned and I squeezed my arms around him trying to find the heat in what should have been passion. I didn’t want the fantasy of what we once had to end. But he pushed hard, climaxed, and rolled off of me. The frigid air pierced my sweat-smothered skin. El sat with his back to me and took up the stone and stick again.

I had been wrong to come here. He’d held my heart once but it has since shattered like an icicle.

A sudden spark rose from the stick. El lit the wood then turned to look at me with fire in his eyes.

The smoke was blue and grey and smelled like a promise.

Snow Mountain

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Rejection

 

I received my rejection from the Master’s Review yesterday. SIGH. 

Curses, rejected again!

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Here it is in all its glory:

Dear Lauren, 

Thank you for sending us “I Held Your Heart Once” for consideration in our Flash Fiction Contest. We really enjoyed reading your writing, and are flattered you chose to submit to us. This is one of our most popular contests, and we thank you for your patience while we read through all of the submissions. 

I am sorry to say that your submission was not selected for publication. It is clear that you are a very talented writer, and your piece stood out from the pack. Unfortunately, we had to decline some excellent stories, but we are grateful for the chance to read such high quality work. 

We wish you the best of luck with your writing and look forward to bringing you more wonderful stories. Part of our aim is to support great work from new writers and we consider every story we read an effort toward that goal. We couldn’t do this without you. We hope to read more of your fiction in the future. 

Thank you again, 
The Masters Review Team


In case you’re interested in reading my rejected piece, I’ve republished to this blog: https://laurengreenewrites.com/2018/09/06/i-held-your-heart-once/

What a nice rejection. I mean, honestly. I’m a very talented writer. I know this. I just can’t seem to get actually published. The thing about writing is that there’s constant rejection. A rejection letter can send you for a loop. I knew that story was good. It just wasn’t what the Master’s Review was looking for. That’s their loss.

So how do you deal with the rejection of not getting published? Maybe you take a drink. Or go for a run. Then you start writing again. Or you send out that piece that maybe didn’t work for the Master’s Review to someone else and wait for the next rejection letter to roll in…or if you’re really lucky, an acceptance.

I like to think about how J.K. Rowling was rejected a billion times before she became a published writer. I also like to think about how much I enjoy writing and sharing it with others. And about how sometimes my writing is just for me. That I need to write to be fulfilled, and if I’m never officially published then I’m never officially published.

Roll with it, baby.

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Home is Where the Pie Is

This week, Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenge involved writing about food. He did this as a way to honor Anthony Bourdain. I don’t really know much about Bourdain, but I do know about depression, and I feel like Wendig doing this challenge in his honor can get the word out to more people. If you’re depressed and feel like hurting yourself, please call the Suicide hotline: 1-800-273-8255.

So for this week, I wrote about Mila, and food, and the South, and traveling home. And it’s a little longer at 1997 words.

Home Is Where the Pie Is — 1997 words

Mila bit into a juicy piece of fried chicken. She licked her lips, tasting the grease and the salt. The chicken brought her back to humid nights, fireflies in the backyard, and red and white checkered picnic tables.

“Snap out of it.”

“Huh?”

“You were in another world.”

“Literally, I traveled back to my childhood,” Mila said. She set the half-eaten chicken breast down on the avocado cafeteria tray.

She and Clem had been on the road for days. They took the back road winding their way toward their final destination. In Oxford, they stopped at a little café called Bright’s. Mila ordered fried chicken with fried green tomatoes and pineapple cheese casserole with a glass of sweet tea. She ordered this as naturally as if she ate this food every day, and Clem stared at her.

“You ain’t from around here, are you?” the waitress said, stuffing the order pad into the pocket of her apron.

“I grew up down the road a piece,” Mila said.

“Always good to go home,” the waitress said, wandering back toward the kitchen.

Mila had two cups of sweet tea. Clem thought it too sweet and almost spit it out on first sip. He ordered water instead. Mila could feel the indulgence slipping into her bladder and filling it to the brim.

“I’m gonna run to the bathroom.”

“Want me to ask for the check?”

The waitress popped up beside the table, “What about dessert?”

Mila reluctantly sat down and crossed her legs to keep her bladder from exploding.

“What do you have?”

“The usuals: banana puddin’, blackberry cobbler, punkin pie, oh, and we have homemade peach ice cream.”

Homemade peach ice cream. Mila remembered lazy days on the front porch, escaping the 12 o’clock sun and scorching heat of the summer. She remembered her dad’s old brown bucket ice cream machine, the blue box of Morton’s salt, complete with little girl holding an umbrella, and the fresh peaches and cream.

“Can I pour in the salt, Daddy?”

She could all but taste her childhood.

“Homemade peach ice cream,” Mila said, and she rushed to the bathroom.

***

Mila met Clem on a blind date. They went to Meskerem, a favorite of Mila’s, but Clem had not been a huge fan. Mila had started her second job since college, was trying to write a book, and had just finished nursing a broken heart when her friend Ted said, “Hey, I think you should meet this guy Clem I work with. You two would hit it off.”

When she met Clem, she had been surprised, but she rolled with it not letting on. She hadn’t laughed so hard in years, maybe since the first time she’d smoked pot with her high school friends behind the gym. Clem made her cheeks red, her heart flutter, and he provided something she needed direly in her own life: humor. She watched him as he pretended to like the injera with shiro de kibbe. He made faces when he thought she wasn’t looking.

“Maybe Ethiopian food isn’t my cup of tea,” Clem finally admitted, “Next time, want to go to Dave and Buster’s?”

That night, securely outfitted in her grey lounge pants and striped shirt she confided to Ted who had stopped by for a night cap and some gossip.

“I really like him. I just don’t know whether I can date him.”

“Not a good kisser? I dated a guy like that once; let me tell you, it took all I could for me not to toss my cookies right into his mouth whenever he’d pucker up. Girl, you need to drop him like a fly if that’s what’s up.”

“No, I mean, he’s a great kisser.”

Mila thought back to the few hours before, when Clem had been such a gentleman. He opened the door for her. She started to walk in, then turned around, skipped down the step, and she, Mila, had made the first move, planting her lips on his. He tasted vaguely like Ethiopian food, gin and tonic which they had enjoyed at the bar afterwards, and cinnamon gum. When his tongue slid into her mouth, her heart beat fast, and she felt the spark—that elusive spark she had never felt before—and she knew this man who made her laugh so hard was the one for her.

“So what’s the problem?” Ted asked, sighing.

Mila hesitated a moment and then said, “He’s black.”

“And that’s a problem, why?”

“My parents would never approve.”

“Mila, dear, sometimes you just have to let go of your past. Things change”

Oh, how Mila hoped things had changed.

Six months later, Clem had proposed and Mila had accepted. And because of this, she felt they should go meet her family, the prospect scarier than anything Mila had ever faced before.

***

Mila and Clem both had the peach ice cream with real chunks of peach. A little taste of childhood. After they licked their bowls clean, they paid, stood up, and Clem took Mila’s hand as they walked toward the door. Old men in overalls and blue haired ladies stared at them. Mila and Clem walked through the spotlight pretending not to notice.

“We stick out here,” Clem said when they were out the door.

“Clem, we’re not in D.C. anymore,” Mila said, with a laugh, as she gripped his hand a little tighter and gave it a squeeze.

The road trip had been a successful one. They stopped in Memphis on the way down and had barbeque at Central. Clem declared it the best piece of meat he’d ever eaten in his life. They stayed at a hotel called The Royal, which sounded nice, but consisted of a sagging bag, carpet that felt covered in lotion, and mice or some other rodent skittering in the walls all night long. Mila said it was the same old adage: can’t trust a book by its cover. Clem nodded in agreement. Mila hoped her parents felt the same way about Clem. She wasn’t so sure. She’d never mentioned to them Clem’s cover.

Mila’s childhood home sat in a bed of green. Cows chewed up the lawn. Her father had acquired them recently. “You father thinks he’s a farmer in his old age,” her mother had said over the phone.

“A real farm,” Clem said.

“Not really. A hobby,” Mila said.

Mila’s heart raced. She did not know what her mother and father would do or say when she saw Clem. She felt like she had prepared Clem, but she knew she had not prepared her parents. She was just glad her brother, Bobby, had left town. She didn’t need his racist ass making any comments that might hurt Clem’s feelings.

Clem turned down the circular drive. The front porch greeted them warmly and the rockers gently rocked in the wind as if waving hello to old friends. The second step creaked as they walked up it. As a little girl she always tried to make it creak, and as a teenager she always feared the creak as she snuck in from late drunken nights out with friends.

Clem took her hand in his, giving her courage, as their black and white fingers intertwined, and Mila rang the doorbell.

Mila’s mom answered. She wore a rooster-covered apron splattered in some sort of food. She had her reading glasses perched on her nose. She beamed when she saw Mila, averted her eyes to Clem, and then looked back at Mila.

“Mila,” she said wrapping her in her arms. Mila’s mother smelled like her youth: warm baked biscuits, bacon and eggs, and homemade chocolate chip cookies.

“And you must be Clem. I’m Rhonda,” her mother said, putting out a hand to him. Clem shook it and beamed back. Then Mila’s mother pulled him into a hug. “No handshakes here, just warm hugs.”

The house smelled like collards and bacon grease.

“I’m making a meat and three tonight,” Rhonda said.

“What’s that?” Clem whispered to Mila.

“A meat and three veggies. It’s a Southern staple. Is Daddy home?” Mila asked.

“He went up to Garrett’s. I plum ran out of flour, and I’m making a cherry pie.”

“I wish you hadn’t cooked so much. We stopped at Bright’s and had a big lunch.”

“I hope you said hi to Howie.”

“I asked the waitress, and he wasn’t there.”

Howie was one of Mila’s numerous cousins. Mila couldn’t go anywhere in the Oxford area without running into someone she was related to. In high school it had been a joke for her to ask boys what their family lineage was, and then ask her mom, “Is third cousin distant enough?” People always said folks in Mississippi like to marry their cousins, but that was just because everyone was related.

Clem and Mila set their stuff down in Mila’s childhood room. Clem pressed his lips to Mila’s, and they hugged and kissed.

“That went well,” he said, still embracing Mila.

“Daddy might be different. I want to nap, you?”

“Sure.”

They lay in the queen size bed staring up at the ceiling. Mila could hear her heart beating in her ears, the way it did sometimes in the eerie silence of a quiet room. She looked over at Clem, and saw he was sound asleep. After awhile, she got up and walked down the stairs in her stocking feet.

The house smelled of pie. When she and Bobby had been little, their mother had taught them how to make the dough. Mila loved to take the fork and make little indents into the flour. She thought of it as artwork. She loved the way the house smelled with a pie baking in the oven, and even loved her momma when she would smack her hand when Mila tried to get into it before dessert.

Mila’s mother and father stood in the kitchen. Her father’s face had brand new wrinkles above the brow and Mila could barely believe how much older he looked.

“Baby,” he said.

“Daddy.”

“Maybe you ought to wake up Clem. Dinner will be ready in about five minutes,” Mila’s mother said.

Mila walked back up the stairs and woke Clem with a kiss.

“Dinner time. My dad’s here.”

Clem rubbed the sleep out of his eyes then followed Mila down the stairs.

Mila’s mother sat facing them and smiled warmly as they walked into the formal dining room. Steam arose from the rosebud platters that held enough veggies and meat to feed the world. Mila slid into her seat, and Clem sat across from her. Her father walked into the room, after washing his hands, and stopped suddenly.

“He’s black.”

The words hung in the air. Mila tensed. She looked at Clem. He burst out laughing, and soon everyone at the table was laughing.

“I’m sorry,” Mila’s dad said. “I just—”

“It’s quite alright,” Clem said, waving him off.

“I’m Paul,” Mila’s dad introduced himself, awkwardly patting Clem on the shoulder before taking his seat at the head of the table.

They passed around the chicken fried steak, collards, green beans with bit of bacon fat, and homemade macaroni and cheese, and everyone began to eat. When dinner was over, they sat with hands on their stomachs. Clem let a notch out of his belt.

“I’m always telling Rhonda that if she keeps cooking like this I won’t have a notch left to let out,” Paul said, winking at Mila’s mother.

“Well, it’s time for pie, so I hope you still have a little room left, Clem,” Rhonda said, walking out of the room.

She returned with plates of homemade cherry pie and one scoop of ice cream on the side for everyone. When Clem bit into his pie his eyes shone in ecstasy. He gobbled it all up in no time flat.

“This is the best pie I’ve ever had in my life,” Clem announced to the table.

Rhonda flushed with pride.

“Welcome to the family, son,” Mila’s mom and dad said in unison.

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Vengeance

Another Chuck Wendig challenge today. Chuck asked us to write a story about revenge. I decided to write about a victim of bullying, and how she decides to enact revenge on the bully.

Unfortunately, this story hits home to me. As a 4th grader, I was repeatedly bullied and physically assaulted by another child. I have alopecia, and because I was different, this little boy decided to pick on me. I didn’t tell my parents for a long time. I confided in my sister. She and I spent time sending him love and positive energy, as my sister thought this might make him change his ways. It didn’t.

The next year, my parents moved me out of that school into a private school. I have never forgotten what that little boy did to me, and to this day I wonder if he feels guilty about it. I also wonder what was going on in his life for him to treat me that way. Bullying is a serious issue and should always be addressed. I don’t want to enact revenge on my bully, but an I’m sorry would have been nice. The beginning part of this story is a autobiographical. Teach your kids to be kind and accepting, especially to those who are different.alo


Vengeance — 839 words

 

I had been obsessed with finding Burke Hardwich since about seventh grade. Lying in my bed at night, I pictured his 4th grade self. His two canines missing—never having grown back—and me looking up at him from the ground. The first time he hurt me, we had been lined up for music. He pushed me down, and I went skidding onto the black asphalt, my arm split wide open. I needed stitches. I told my parents it was just an accident.

The accidents continued. Burke would find me alone on the corner of a playground, and he would hit me in the stomach. He kicked out my foot while I carried a tray of spaghetti across the blue and white tile of the cafeteria, red sauce spraying the walls like blood.

I never told Mom and Dad how much Burke hurt me. I started having stomachaches. I sat in the office for most of my 4th grade year, waiting to make a phone call to Dad’s secretary at work who I could always depend on to pick me up.

Burke moved in 5th grade. I felt relief in his leaving of course. My tormentor was gone, and there wasn’t another one to take his place. But as the years went on I became more and more obsessed with Burke.

Fast forward to now. I’m sitting in a dingy apartment in Alabama, and I’ve just landed a job with Burke’s company. He’s a high-powered CEO. Making the big bucks. He’s married and has 2.5 kids, a white picket fence, and a dog. I have none of those things. I am alone. I have fixed up my appearance today. I’m wearing a red dress designed to accentuate my curves. I’ve had my teeth stained white, put on just enough makeup, and my hair has been recently curled. I look in the mirror, double-checking myself. I look hot. Who could say no to this?

My pseudonym is Camilla. The name means warrior, and that is what I am. For too long, I have let Burke destroy me, and now it’s my turn to destroy him.

In the office, I plant myself at my assigned desk. My heart beats fast in excitement, not nervousness. Burke comes in, chatting on his cell phone. He raises his eyebrows at me in acknowledgment. The skin in between his eyebrows crinkles up as he looks at me. I see recognition, like he knows me but can’t place me. Yes, Burke, you do know me—at least a previous version of myself.

He goes into his office. A few minutes later, he pings me. I walk in. I place my whole body up on his desk, and I cross my sleek legs. I tap my foot, and my heel slips on and off. I take in his look. His eyes run up and down my body, trying to make sense of what he sees. I know he wants to touch me. I can feel it. I like playing this game of cat and mouse with him. I like being the one in control, not the one flat on my back in the asphalt, or being punched silly on the playground.

The weeks go on. I make advances. At first, he doesn’t do anything. Then one day, there is a touch of my hand. A week goes by. My phone is set to record when he tells me what he wants to do with me. I smile and nod, playing along. That night, I send the audio file to HR. They waste no time in terminating him. I am exultant at his demise.

The next day, I show up at his door. His wife answers. She is grimacing at me.

“Are you her?”

“Is Burke home?”

“Burke,” she screams, and slams the door in my face.

He comes out his face tilted down in guilt and angst. I understand I have probably destroyed his marriage too, a fact that makes me giddy.

“You ruined my fucking life,” he says. “Why would you do that?”

“Burke, do you know who I am?” I ask.

I am playing with fire, being there anyway. He could call the police. He could say I have been stalking him. It would be true. I stand with my hands on my hips and stare at him. His face looks like a question mark. Of course, he would not know. I had meant nothing to him in 4th grade. I was a piece of garbage he had been intent on annihilating. He had put me away with all of the rest of his childish things.

I reach into my purse, and I pull out the 4th Grade class picture. I am in the front row, glasses, and bald spots from alopecia. Burke stands in the back, towering over everyone. I tap on my picture as realization spreads across his face.

“I’m sorry,” he says, shaking his head.

“Yeah me too. But now we’re even.”

I throw the picture at him, and I walk away.

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New Beginnings

Hello friendly readers! I’ve been off cruising, and I’m now just getting back into the swing of things with my writing. Today, I wrote a flash fiction piece for Chuck Wendig’s blog, Terribleminds. I also did something CRAZY, and I submitted a Flash Fiction piece to The Master’s Review. Wish me luck!

Today’s challenge is about real estate. To be honest, I started about three pieces before I finally settled on this one. It’s about memories, but with a little twist.



New Beginnings — 997 words

Cabin

Callie hadn’t been up the mountain in years. The path stood out, still worn by feet. Her father had taken her hand one day, walked her down the path to the valley below, and told her how this footpath had been worn by Indians long before white men ever settled in these parts. Callie never knew if that was true, but she liked the idea of an Indian family walking up to their tee-pee in the same place their log cabin stood.

The cabin stood strong like a soldier but worn and weary from battle. The clearing around the cabin had weeds that went all the way up to Callie’s knees. She bent down and fingered some of the clover by the wooden steps, thinking about how she and Maymay used to make clover crowns to braid into their hair.

Callie stood in front of the steps, amazed the cabin didn’t even have a broken window. It had obviously been deserted years ago. How long after she packed up a bag and disappeared into the moonlit night had the rest of them left? She would never know.

Callie walked up the creaking stairs. She turned and looked at the view. The mountain sloped down and huge evergreens towered up. She could barely see the creek running below and smoke from a rooftop at the center of town rose and disappeared into the blue sky.

She sighed and turned back toward the door. As a little girl, there had been a screen on the door. They never had air conditioning and the screen let the cool air in and the left the bugs out. She had sat on this porch with her sister, brothers, and parents and rocked in handmade rocking chairs while Poppa played the guitar and they all sang out of tune.

She felt a shiver as if the ghosts of her childhood had come up the mountain with her. She opened the door, listening to the familiar creak as the wood pushed against the frame. Dust swirled on the inside of the house, and she waved it away. Light began to filter in, and she adjusted her eyes.

Callie was shocked. Inside the house, her momma’s pink chair stood in the corner with an afghan draped over it. She remembered the afghan. Great Aunt Bertie had made it when Will had been born fragile and premature in the dead of winter. The rainbow pattern had been a favorite of Callie’s, and she remembered sitting on her momma’s lap and touching the coarse wool as Momma sang to little Will.

The bookcases lining the wall contained the Bible and all the classics. She took the Bible down and opened the front page. Her family’s history, inscribed in her father’s scrawling cursive stared back at her. Momma’s birth and death date. And Will’s. Her birth date and Maymay’s and her brothers’ names glared back at her. She thought of the days by the fire. The good old days, she thought of them, where they hadn’t had much but they’d had each other.

The fireplace stood empty, covered in ash. Her brothers hated to clean it out. They would sneeze and cough and complain until Poppa smacked their faces. Momma always came to their defense, but Poppa tsked tsked her.

Callie felt the tears before she knew she had started crying. She walked to the back into her momma and poppa’s room. The bed stood in the corner with dust bunnies under the frame. The mattress was long gone, probably buried with Momma. Will had been six that winter. He had been such a sickly child. He started coughing first. Momma thought he just had a cold, but it settled into his chest and he struggled to breathe. Momma became feverish within a day.

Callie remembered making dinner on the stove and begging Poppa to take them down the mountain to the doctor. She could hear their breathing from behind the closed door. Poppa refused.

“We don’t have the money for that. The herbs will work.”

Only this time, the herbs didn’t work.

Standing in the little room, she remembered the sound as Will took one last raspy breath and never let another one out. Four hours later, Momma did the same. Within a day, Poppa went out to the barn to make their coffins. He left them in the bed until they smelled, unable to stomach the idea of burying them.

Callie remembered sitting by their bedside and holding Momma’s hands. She could still remember Momma’s white face, her cold-stone dead eyes staring up at the ceiling. Poppa said people were supposed to look peaceful in death, but Momma looked fearful. Callie had never forgotten that look.

Six months later, Callie, fifteen years old, left the cabin for good. She awoke in the middle of the night lying in the bed she shared with MayMay. When she crept out onto the porch she stared out into the dark, trying to make out the two crosses. She turned once and looked back through the windows into the living room where she had grown up. She thought about Momma reading the Bible stories to her, with a heap of children gathered around, and little Will securely on her lap. She thought about Poppa with a pipe in his mouth and a grin on his face, rocking in the chair telling Momma not to rile the kids up before bedtime. But mostly, she thought of the two cold, soulless bodies who had sucked the joy out of the house. She hadn’t seen Poppa smile since.

Callie poured the gasoline in the living room. She had placed the Bible in her purse—one thing to remember everything by. She looked around before lighting the match. She tossed it into the puddle of gasoline and watched as the flames began to dance. She walked out the door and down the path as smoke began to fill the crystal blue sky.

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A New Life

Hello lovely readers. Today, I wrote a blog for Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge. The challenge this week was to write something with the prompt new life. 

A New Life — 650 Words

When Star turned thirty-one she wished for a new life. She even wished for a new name. The commitments of everyday life seemed too much, and like her name sake, she almost wished she could fizzle out or be sucked up into the nothingness of a black hole.

On a Thursday, she went to her job at Thomason’s Bolts. She sat at the front desk, staring at the wood-paneled walls, waiting for a customer to call or come in. The clock on the wall ticked away, reminding her of how little time she had left to really make a difference.

Mr. Thomason, who had a red mustache despite his head full of black hair, walked in, threw a file on her desk and said, “What the hell happened with the Parker contract?”

Star took a deep breath and stared at him. For years she had been waiting for this moment. She stood up, put her faux Michael Kors purse on her shoulder, and walked out much to the gaping Mr. Thomason’s surprise. She had felt like cussing him out, but instead she walked out with her pride still intact. A silent revolution of sorts.

Star had always trusted her intuition. She trusted it when she met Bobby Dixon at a night club five years back. She trusted it when she walked down the aisle with him two years earlier. She trusted it when she followed him to a Motel 6 on the edge of town three weeks before, and saw him walk into Room 504 with a bleached-blonde tramp wearing hooker heels. She even trusted it as she packed up the boxes in the two story end unit townhome they owned together and walked away from Bobby. Their relationship had grown stagnant, and she knew his transgression was as much her fault as it was his. At night, they had started to politely ignore one another. And she realized their life together had become boring, monotonous even, and who could fathom living out the next 50 or so years that way. Not her.

On Friday, Star sat in the airport. She had turned off her phone after approximately 52 phone calls and about 150 text messages from Bobby. Mr. Thomason had only called her once and left this message, “So I take it you quit?”

Star bought a one-way ticket to Peru. She had been there before. She had been a teenager, on the brink of adulthood, when her parents had dragged her to the rainforest. They had taken her to small villages tucked along the Amazon where they provided medical services for people in need. Her parents had been upset by the poverty of the people. Star had been entranced by the happiness they found in their simple life.

Star couldn’t explain it, but when she stepped off the plane and shook Señor Arizmendi’s hand, she told him not to call her Star, but to call her Zora.  Señor Arizmendi complied, despite the contradictory evidence of her passport.

They took a bus then a boat to the small village. When Señor Arizmendi stepped off the boat, all the children gathered around him, asking for candy and staring with their big brown eyes at Zora. She smiled and patted their heads, and she handed out the candy Señor Arizmendi had given to her in preparation for this moment. The children flashed toothless grins at Zora, and one small boy, who couldn’t have been older than four, placed his pudgy hand in hers and led her toward the one room school house.

Zora sighed in relief as she found her way in this new life. Zora found new meaning in this simple way of life. She found a way to relax and be happy with just being, surviving, teaching, and letting the children help her grown into the person she knew she had always been capable of being.

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The Frozen Rat’s Foot

So, this morning, I went for a run. And I was listening to David Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes. When I listened to it, I had this story idea pop into my head. Well, it wasn’t exactly this story but it started with Major Tom showing up on Halloween, and this teenage girl not knowing how to handle it. I checked Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenge and picked a title randomly, and the rest of the story just fell together. Haunting, not for the feint of heart, and probably a little eerie, but I had a great time writing it! Enjoy.

Major Tom had popped into their lives on Halloween. Delores remembered it, because in the weeks prior to his existence, she’d been listening to David Bowie on repeat. Delores thought it could only be a coincidence—his name. Delores’ mother didn’t believe in coincidences though. She said everything happened for a reason.

Jack and Sunny had been trick-or-treating, and Delores sat by the front door giving out candy. Too old to partake in the annual candy-haul, Delores resigned herself to the fact that getting older stunk. The kids groaned when she handed out Tootsie Rolls and Tootsie pops, the cheap candy, making her life even harder.

Major Tom, she didn’t know his name at first, knocked on the door. He had his arm draped casually over a fairy princess and threw a killer smile Delores’ way.

“Howdy,” he said with a wink.

“Hi,” the timid word barely escaped her mouth.

Major Tom had a way of making his presence known.

Delores could feel her mother behind her and smell her Obsession perfume. Momma bit her lip, stuck her hips out, and tried to look coy. Her flirty red hair that come from a box bounced as she sashayed all the way to the door, leaned down toward the Fairy Princess, and deposited a tootsie roll into her bag. Major Tom caught an eyeful of cleavage from Momma’s low-cut Gap shirt.

“I’m Hilda.” My mom hated her name. She put out a hand showing off bright red nails.

“People call me Major Tom,” he said, extending his hand toward her.

The Fairy Princess and I stared at each other, unaware our lives were about to change forever.

Major Tom and The Fairy Princess aka Candace aka Candy-for-short moved in with us two days before Christmas. Snow filled every crevice of the world, and the heat had been out for a week. Momma had bought food but couldn’t pay the heating bill. Major Tom would be our savior, she said. Only he wasn’t.

When they moved in Major Tom insisted on giving Candy-for-short her own room. Delores could not believe it.

“That’s not fair. I’m the oldest,” she said rolling her eyes all the way to heaven.

“You’ll do what he says. It’s about time we had a man to take charge in this house,” Momma said.

Delores stomped up the stairs. She kicked the bed frame, but only managed to hurt her foot. Hot tears streamed down her acne-pocked face. She wiped them away. Stupid Major Tom and Candy-for-short came in and had ruined everything in her life. Delores threw a shoe at her boom box. She turned the tape over—the one her father had given her before he died. She played Ashes to Ashes, “My mother said, to get things done you’d better not mess with Major Tom.” She wanted to barf or scream or both.

Instead she whispered so low that only the dust bunnies could hear, “I hate you, Major Tom. Something evil lurks behind those twinkling eyes.”

She threw her clothes in a box, gingerly untapped the David Bowie posters from the wall, unmade the bed and walked across the room to Sunny’s room. Sunny’s room had bright yellow walls. My Little Ponies littered the floor. When Delores walked in, Sunny bounced up to her.

“Want to play Barbies?”

“I’m much too old for Barbies, Sunny. Go away.”

Sunny hung her head and dejectedly continued to play.

Candy-for-short was given everything she ever asked for. Sunny and Delores often felt overlooked. Jack lived at the neighbors’ house and sometimes Delores didn’t think their mother even noticed he was missing. Major Tom’s eyes began to look eviler and eviler as dark circles formed underneath them. Momma started sleeping in every day. Major Tom and Momma fought and screamed at one another. Sunny and Delores barricaded themselves in their room, and Delores would play the David Bowie album Scary Monsters on repeat. She wondered how a scary monster had showed up in her house so suddenly and changed everything with such ease.

Soon it became apparent Major Tom had lost his job. He sat at home in the green easy chair, staring at the fuzz on the T.V., or he and Momma locked themselves up in their room for days doing God-knows-what. Food became scarce. Delores tiptoed around the house, afraid to make the hardwoods creak. Major Tom’s wrath had reached new proportions. Jack never came home. Delores wondered if the neighbors had secretly adopted him.

It all came to a head on Fat Tuesday.

Candy-for-short and Sunny sat at the kitchen table doing their homework. Their sallow skin seemed to sink into the darkness of the room. Their gaunt cheekbones haunted Delores. What they all needed was a good meal. Major Tom and Momma had locked the door to their room, and no one had heard a peep from them for at least a day.

“Go upstairs and play,” Delores directed the little girls.

Candy-for-short had been slinking around in the last week. Major Tom had been less and less present in all their lives.

“I just wish he would hug me still,” she had confided to Delores the day before. Delores had been secretly relieved when Major Tom grew quiet. His yelling had terrified her. Delores’ dad had been quiet, soft-spoken, and kind. Meek as a mouse her Momma said. Major Tom was the opposite: loud, boisterous, and down-right scary a lot of the time. Plus, he had taken away Delores’ mother, her ally in the house. Even though Delores knew her mother was less-than-perfect beforehand, Major Tom had transformed her into a nightmarish entity who Delores didn’t think she really knew.

Delores opened up the freezer. She didn’t know how it had gotten in there. She pulled it out and set it on the counter. She drummed her fingers on the counter trying to figure out the best way to cook it. Roasted, no? Boiled, ooh gross—all she could think about were her Momma’s boiled Brussels sprouts that made her gag. Fried. She settled on fried. Everything tasted good fried.

She pulled out the deep fryer and got to work, seasoning it, and breading it so it could be fried. She found a jar of green beans and nuked them in the microwave and made some white rice with a pat of butter to go with it. The smell of food cooking brought everyone to the kitchen. Momma and Major Tom stepped out of the bedroom, eyes blood-shot and faces white as ghosts. The girls bounded down the stairs, and even Jack showed up at the back door, eager to take his role as part of the family if it entailed a home cooked meal.

Delores had cut it up and served it on the rosebud plates her grandmother had passed down to them. She put a little scoop of rice, a serving of green beans, and the fried meat on the plate, arranging it with care for everyone at the table, the way her old-Momma used to do. Everyone dug in, eating like they had never eaten before.

Suddenly Major Tom crunched down on something hard.

He pulled it out of his mouth and studied it. His bloodshot eyes took on a quizzical look. Delores had only eaten her green beans and rice. She’d left the meat untouched. She stared at him.

“What’s this?” he asked.

“A frozen rat’s foot,” Delores said.

Forks clattered against the plates. Her family’s faces took on a look for simultaneous horror. Jack made a retching noise, and Momma ran to the bathroom.

Delores chuckled, shoveled her remaining food in her mouth, then walked out the front door intent on never going back.

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Party Over

This is another Flash Fiction piece for Chuck Wendig’s blog Terrible Minds. The theme of this story is, “Why is it so hard to accept the party is over?”

Party Over (997 words)

ping pong

Solo cups littered the ping pong table. Spilt beer stained the green ping pong court. A ball sat still in a puddle of Bud Lite or worse, PBR. Bodies littered the floor, some of them snoring, cuddled together as if they had just dropped down where they had been standing. Holly sat with her back against the wall. Her eyes wanted to roll up into her head. She had won, or was it lost, at Beer Pong. Either way, a lot of cheap beer had gone down her throat and now the room moved beneath her feet.

Dan stumbled into the room. He slid down the wall next to Holly, his shirt catching halfway up and revealing his left hip bone and ab muscles. He tugged at the shirt, trying to pull it down, as he sat down next to her. Holly felt electricity filter through her body and a longing to put her hands all over Dan’s body. But Dan was just a friend. Just a friend, she reminded herself. Hands off.

Dan leaned into Holly and nestled his head on her shoulder. She leaned into him, feeling her heart beat faster. She wanted to grab his hand and squeeze it.

“I drank too much.” Dan slurred all the words.

“Is there any beer left?”

“It’s 2 in the morning.”

She looked at Dan. Brown wavy hair had fallen forward in front of his eyes. He struggled to keep them open. She knew he would pass out if she didn’t talk to him.

“Maybe I should go.”

“Don’t go,” Dan muttered, pushing his body closer to hers.

“The party’s over.”

“Nooooo.” He drew the “o” out so long then crumpled into a laugh.

“Where have you been?”

Dan pulled his head off of her and sat up straight against the white wall behind him. His green eyes opened widely as if he were suddenly the soberest person on earth. He reached into his pocket and pulled out an empty Trojan wrapper. He placed it in Holly’s hand. A grin grew on his face and then he laughed again, as if this were a personal joke between the two of them.

Holly slumped further down on the wall. She felt a lump in her throat liked she swallowed a tortilla chip the wrong way. She wanted to tell Dan how she felt. She’d wanted for so long to say, “Why don’t you see me? I’m right here waiting for you.” But she couldn’t. It was never the right time.

She thought she would tell him tonight. She thought she would come to this party, have a few drinks, then sit down with him and say, “Look. I’m in love with you.”

But it didn’t happen. First, her best friend Lindsey showed up. They had a beer, then two, then a glass of wine. Lindsey dragged her to the middle of the party to meet some guy who had acne scars on his face. What’s his face? Michael? Or Bill? Something like that. Holly couldn’t remember, yet she spent at least an hour talking to him about his trip to Borneo last spring and all the intricate details of his life. When Dan showed up, Holly had her head close to Michael/Bill, with one hand on his bicep. She saw Dan flit his eyes at her and then walk away. Why should she care anyway? They were just friends.

And so when beer pong started up, Dan joined her and they joked and kidded around for awhile, but the next thing she knew it was 2 AM and she was drunk as hell. And she hadn’t said a damn thing to Dan. Well no fucking wonder. He was off screwing another chick this whole time. She fucking hated him for that. And now she felt like she could cry.

Holly tried to stand up.

“Wait, where are you going?” Except Dan’s drunken words made it sound like, “Late, where you glowing?”

“I need to go.”

Dan reached his arm up and tried to pull Holly back down onto the floor with him.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

Holly now stood in a crouch against the wall as if she were in an exercise class working on her hamstrings. The room seemed to spin around her, the ping pong table askew. She felt bile rise in the back of her throat and felt like she might throw up.

“What are you sorry about?”

“Getting drunk.”

“It was a party. That’s what people do.”

“I’m sorry, Holly,” only it sounded like, “I’m slorry, Horry.”

Dan’s slurs were getting worse, and Holly simultaneously wanted to run away and throw her arms around him. Instead, she sat back down on the floor with him.

“You have nothing to be sorry about,” Holly said.

She laid her head on his shoulder this time. He reached up and ran his hands through her golden-blonde hair.

I love you, Dan. The voice inside her head tried to goad her into saying it, but she pushed the words aside. They had both been partying and were drunk beyond all belief. He wouldn’t even remember it if she told him how she felt now.

How many more hours or days could she live this lie? Holly didn’t know. At the beginning of the night, she had felt so much promise. It would be like a romantic movie. She’d tell him, he’d throw his arms around her, and profess his undying love too. But life never played out that way. She’d wanted to tell him for the last year that she was sick of being his friend. She wanted more for their relationship, but there was something, some little part of her holding her back and she didn’t know why.

She closed her eyes, and she wished for the party to be over. The room spun out of control in the blackness of her mind. She leaned over and green colored vomit gushed from her mouth all over the hardwood floors. She wiped her mouth and knew tomorrow would be exactly the same as today.

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