Love Happens

I almost skipped Thain in Vain’s challenge again this week, but it’s the last one of the year and of all the challenges I’ve participated in since I started blogging, I’ve been inspired by this one the most. This week our prompt was Start your story with: “I’m telling you this story because you are the only person I can trust not to judge me . . .”

The first story I thought about when I read the prompt was really dark and I think that’s why I decided to skip it because normally I can’t get past that first idea to write something different. But this time, I was able to do it and I’m happy to finish this story challenge on a lighter note.

Love Happens

I’m telling you this story because you are the only person I can trust not to judge me. You are, after all, the love of my life; the person I trust the most in this world, and if I can’t tell you this and trust that you won’t look at me sideways on cold, rainy days when we’re alone in the house, then I must be mad.

I’m one of those weird fools who believes love can happen just like that! Snap your fingers, blink your eyes, oh shit, a connection just happened. And yeah, maybe you’re saying, “but that’s not love,” and you’d probably be right. But I believe it can start that fast and you really know, deep down, if a person is right for you or not, almost from the beginning. If only I’d known that sooner. I could have saved myself some serious pain and maybe not brought as much baggage along with me when we met.

I honestly wasn’t sure what to think when I signed up to date online. It was scary and strange, and I was wary after being hurt so many times in the past. I didn’t have much faith that anything would come of it, but decided to look at it as a new adventure; a new beginning.

It took a few weeks for anything to really happen and I was pretty lackluster when I saw your profile after you pinged me. I had a friend tell me to move on to the next guy, but my instincts kicked in and I answered your ping. It was crazy how quickly we were talking on the phone and before I knew it, we had plans to meet for dinner.

I was spectacularly nervous. Maybe that’s why when I first saw you, I took one look and thought, I’ll give this guy dinner and then I’m out. I honestly had no intention of seeing you again, talking to you again and if I’d dared, I might have just turned right around and walked the other way entirely.

I almost can’t believe those were my first thoughts after seeing you the first time, because little did I know that dinner would lead to drinks and six hours later we would be reluctant to say goodbye. I’ve never talked like that with anyone or felt a connection quite like that before.

That’s not to say this road has been an easy one. I might believe in connections and soul mates, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t take work to stay together. There have been times when I wasn’t sure we’d make it and I think it would have broken my heart for the final time.

What we have is truly special and has changed my life in so many ways. I just thought you should know that even though I wasn’t sure about you or us when I first saw you, I’m so happy I walked up, took your hand and followed you into happiness.

The First Time

This story was written for Thain in Vain’s weekly flash fiction challenge. This week’s prompt: Start a story with the following sentence: The first __________.

When I finished the story, I was thinking about it and those who are stuck in situations where their personal power is stolen every day, but not necessarily in a physically violent way. Sometimes abuse is a slow burn with hurtful words and silence, and it can be just as corrosive and painful as physical abuse. Those who manage to take their power back don’t always do it in one explosive moment. More often than not it happens in small moments of strength and it builds slowly to a level of confidence that allows them to finally stand in their power and make the decision that is best for them.

It’s a little over the word count at 513 words.

The First Time

The first time Maggie asserted herself in her marriage, their daughter was seventeen. It had been almost twenty years of living in the shadow of Elliot’s overwhelming presence and the verbal assaults he launched at her on a daily basis.

It wasn’t even something she planned. How could anyone possibly plan something like that? Especially someone who had shrunk to just a shadow of what she had been during the long years of hurled words that cut like knives.

She was in the kitchen when Cami walked in. Elliot was standing off to the side, his overbearing presence filling up every available space.

“Mom, can I borrow the car tonight?” Cami had been driving for over a year and had proven she was reliable and trustworthy.

Without thinking, Maggie answered, “Of course, honey,” at the same time Elliot said, “Absolutely not!”

It was exactly like him to say no first without pausing to consider why he was saying it.

Maggie looked over and saw anger creasing his brow.

“I said no and that’s final.” His voice was like ice, freezing the air around them.

“I heard what you said, but I told her she could.” She tried for a reasonable tone but realized her voice was shaking slightly.

Cami was momentarily forgotten as his glaring eyes slammed into hers. She refused to show fear even though her heart was beating a staccato rhythm in her ears and her palms were clenched in sweaty fists at her side.

“My word is final, and you know it.”

“Elliot, that car is in my name now, so the way I see it, you don’t really have a say here. I told her she could use my car, and she’s going to, whether you like it or not.”

From somewhere deep inside, she gathered bravery she didn’t know she had and held it up like an invisible shield. She turned towards Cami, effectively dismissing him and any retort he could launch.

“What time are you leaving?” Cami’s eyes were glowing with surprise and a hint of fear, but a slight smile curved the corners of her mouth.

“I’m leaving at six thirty. I was planning to be home by ten at the latest. Will that be okay?”

“Yes, honey. Where are you going?”

“There’s a concert at school and I told Beth I would come see her play.”

“Okay. Just be careful.” She smiled at Cami even though she could feel the anger undulating in waves from Elliot’s side of the room.

“Thanks, Mom!” Cami hugged her and retreated from the kitchen before her Dad could change anything.

Maggie finally turned back to Elliot but he was already storming out of the kitchen. She had no idea why he hadn’t said anything, but she was pretty sure she would pay for it later.

Somehow, in that moment, it didn’t matter.

She took a deep breath and a hesitant smile spread across her face as she busied herself in the kitchen. She felt a spark of something that had lain dormant for far too long.

She felt confidant.

A Treat For Sammy

I know I just posted a Sammy story, but after reading through my past posts, she was the only character I was excited about revisiting for Thain in Vain’s flash fiction challenge this week. The prompt: Revisit a favourite character from one of your past #FFC52 stories and write a new story about this character using the word “oyster” somewhere in it.

Surprisingly, I’m only slightly over the word count at 529. When the character flows like Sammy does, 500 words comes really fast. I hope you enjoy!

A Treat for Sammy

I’m sitting at Mom’s feet while she’s busy doing whatever it is she does with the box in front of her and even though she’s focused on her clicking, every once in a while she reaches down and pets my head and scratches my ears. It’s my favorite thing. Gruff already tried to get in on the love, but I growled at him until he hunkered down in the corner. This is my time with Mom and I’m not sharing.

It lasts long enough that my eyelids grow heavy and my head starts to droop.

But it never quite lasts long enough.

Mom pushes the chair back, making a god-awful screech. My ears twitch and the hair on my back stands on end. I jump up, ready to bolt to a safer noise place, but there’s no need. The noise stops as soon as Mom stops pushing on the chair and I decide it’s safe to follow her into the kitchen.

“Honey, I’m going to start dinner.”

Dad continues pacing back and forth in the living room. “What are you making?”

“I thought I’d try something new tonight – Oyster Stew. What do you think?”

“Is that for Sammy, cause you know I won’t eat it.” His pacing has brought him close to me and he leans down to scratch my ears.

Mom laughs. “There’s left over fried chicken for you and the kids if you prefer, although, I think you all need to start trying new things.”

Dad holds my muzzle and looks into my eyes, “What do you think, Sammy? Does Oyster Stew sound good to you?”

My tongue hangs out and I lean into his hand. All I know is that Mom is in the kitchen and if I’m not mistaken, it will soon smell delicious in the house.

Dad finally gets up and I saunter over to the kitchen. Mom has something in her hand that she just opened and I almost fall over it smells so good. I don’t know what it is, but I’m going to do everything in my power to get some. I might be a good girl, but I’m not too good to beg.

I plop my butt down on Mom’s feet and let my tongue hang out of my mouth while I stare at her hand.

Oh please, oh please, oh please.

Mom looks at me then looks to see where Dad is. I follow her eyes and notice Dad has paced into the other room. I look back at her and lift my eyebrows. Will she?

Smiling, she leans down and holds her hand out to me. I lick the treat out of her hand and swallow it, letting the juices run down the back of my throat. It’s hard to hold my eyes still. They want to roll around in their sockets, it’s so good. I lick her hand again, wishing for more but knowing I’m probably pushing my luck for another.

She whispers, “Don’t tell Dad. It’s our secret,” and with a quick swipe of her hand, she puts another into my mouth.

I must have done something right today!

Mom is so good to me.

The Truth About Lucky

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I’m just in time for Thain in Vain’s weekly flash fiction challenge. To be perfectly honest, I’m just happy I got something written. It’s been a rough week and I’m thinking my mood came through in my story. The prompt this week: Your narrator discovers an object (or objects) hidden in the family home.

It’s coming in at 502 words.

The Truth About Lucky

It’s been a year since Lucky disappeared. One day he was sick and I was laying by him all day, praying with all my might that he would jump up and go outside and play ball with me; and the next day he was just gone.

I came home from school expecting him to jump on me and lick my face like he always did, but he wasn’t there.

“Mom, where’s Lucky?” She looked at me with watery eyes and got down on one knee like she did when she had something serious to say.

“Lucky’s in a better place now and he’s not in pain anymore.”

“Whaddya mean?” I was wringing my hands and wanted to bolt out the door but I didn’t even know why.

“Oh, honey!” Mom grabbed me and held me. I stood stiff and let her hold me, not really understanding what was going on. She didn’t say anything else and I didn’t ask. I knew in my heart that Lucky would come back. He just had to.

But I also knew that Mom was saying something else.

I started looking for him when Mom and Dad weren’t home or when they were busy. I looked everywhere. I scanned all the missing dog posters on lamp posts and thought of creating my own, but didn’t know where to start or how to do it.

I looked pretty hard for the first few months but then other things started taking up my time. It’s been a long time since I went out looking, but I think about Lucky every day.

Last night, I dreamed about him and woke up to the sound of his barks. I jumped up and was about to run outside towards the sound, but then I realized how dark it was and I got scared.

But tonight will be different. I’m prepared. I have a flashlight, my hoodie and his favorite ball. If I hear him again, I’m going to follow the sound and I’m going to find him.

**

I’m so wired, I can’t fall asleep and I jump at every sound. It starts to get pretty late and I’m just about to lay my head on my pillow and give up when I hear him. He sounds like he’s in the backyard so I grab the flashlight and quietly make my way outside. His barks are louder now so I follow the sound all the way to the corner of the yard by the back fence. He’s not anywhere to be seen but I could swear he was right in front of me.

I don’t know why but I fall down on my knees and start digging. I dig, slowly at first, but then I start hurling dirt in all directions and my hands are aching. The hole gets pretty big before my hands suddenly hit something hard and I grab the flashlight and shine it in the hole.

Lucky’s barking has stopped, but it doesn’t matter. I see the truth now.

Reserved Seating

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Thain in Vain’s week 46 flash fiction prompt was: Study a stranger the next time you are in a coffee shop, on a bus or subway, in a queue. Write a story involving this stranger. You can make it a tragedy, comedy, horror, Sci-fi, mystery — whatever suits your style. Go!

This one was easy since I witnessed this very thing on the train about two weeks ago. I’m still rather in shock about it… I thought I would lighten it up with a little WoW speak, mostly because I miss playing it and have seriously debated restarting my account in the last two months. I don’t think I will, but it was fun for a while and it always makes me smile to think about all the good times I had when it was an overwhelmingly large part of my life.

This is a little over at 522 words. Enjoy!

Reserved Seating

Jared was waiting for the train when he saw Ben calmly strolling in his direction, a backpack slung over one shoulder and his hand haphazardly stuck in his pants pocket. Unlike most people, Ben had walked right up to Jared at this very stop over two years ago and started talking to him. It didn’t take long for their friendship to blossom.

“We totally pwned that dungeon last night!” Ben said as he sat on the bench next to Jared.

“Epic on every level. And that bow you looted? I wish I’d been playing my warrior. I would’ve rolled you for it.” Jared grinned, remembering the dungeon sweep that had taken half the time it normally did. “That tank really knew what he was doing. Wish our randoms were always like that.”

“No shit. I’m thinking we should create our own group.”

“Hard to do when you’re starting with two melees. Maybe I should level my warrior as a tank. Do you have a healer?”

“Yeah, but she’s not as much fun to play as my hunter.”

“I hear you, but you could always…” The train arrived, drowning out Jared’s words. He reached down to roll himself toward the train, but Ben was already behind him, pushing him to the ramp that had lowered so he could easily push the chair in. It hadn’t taken very long for Ben to naturally start helping and Jared always appreciated the friendly gesture.

Once on the train, Ben guided him to the area with a sign designation: “This area reserved for seniors and people with disabilities.” There were almost always people standing there, but they usually moved out of the way without a fuss.

This time, however, they ran into a problem.

The man standing in the open area looked average enough in his khakis and leather jacket, but when Ben politely asked, “Do you mind moving?” he responded in a way that made Jared sick.

“Yeah, actually, I do mind.” The harsh tone echoed through the normally quiet train and other passengers looked up from their phones to see what was happening.

Jared was completely baffled, but Ben responded in what he thought was a reasonable tone. “There’s a sign clearly posted.”

“I can read. I’m not an idiot!”

Jared wasn’t sure if the guy was going to move or not and he was dreading further confrontation.

“Look, I’m just trying to help my friend. Is there a problem here?” Jared could hear the mounting tension in Ben’s voice.

“I’m moving! I just don’t like you or your friend there coming on the train with your condescending attitude expecting everyone to get out of your way.”  His eyes flashed, anger resonating in every word. He slowly took a step to the right, allowing Ben just enough room to roll Jared into place.

Jared could feel the guy glaring at him as he set his break, but he did his best to ignore him. Thankfully, he exited at the next stop and the two friends continued their conversation in peace.

Later, Jared found himself wondering why some people reacted to him with such overt hostility.

Payback

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This is the entry for Thain in Vain’s week 45 flash fiction challenge. This week’s promptGrab the book (or your favourite book) you’re reading, turn to page 45, close your eyes, point to a word, and write about it! Have fun!

I used the book I’m currently reading and the word my finger pointed to was silently.  This story is somewhat autobiographical and was harder to put into words than I thought it would be. I don’t think it came across as funny as it really was, but I hope you will enjoy it anyway.  It’s 506 words.

Payback

Ruby couldn’t get to her car fast enough; there was at least six inches of snow on the ground and it was still coming down. Once inside, she started the car, cranked the heat and waited for it to warm up as she rubbed her hands together and blew on them wishing she had thought to grab gloves.

She wasn’t surprised her boss had let her leave early. There hadn’t been a customer in over an hour and they systematically started letting everyone go home who didn’t work the night shift. She was looking forward to a few extra hours with Jack and hoped Jamie was still awake so she could kiss him goodnight. Working nights was tough, but it was a decision she and Jack had made so they wouldn’t have to put Jamie in daycare. One of them would always be home with him.

After a few minutes, she carefully backed up and made her way through the snow-packed parking lot to the main road that wasn’t any better. Thank God home was only two miles away.

When she pulled up to the house, the garage door was still open. Jack usually left it open until he went to bed, but she was surprised he hadn’t bothered to close it on such a stormy night. She carefully parked her car and went to the door. Normally, she would have hit the button to close the garage door before entering the house, but tonight, she opened the door that led into the house first and was just about to hit the button when she noticed Jack. He was getting up from the couch to take Jamie to his crib and she was pretty sure he hadn’t heard her.

It was too perfect!

She could finally get him back for all the times he had scared her.

She left the garage door open and closed the door she was holding without a sound. Silently, she crept across the living room floor making her way to the hallway just outside Jamie’s room. She watched Jack gently place the baby in his crib and when he started to turn around, she jumped back out of view, adrenaline pumping through her veins in anticipation.

When she heard the door to Jamie’s room close, she made her move. She put her hand out to where she thought Jack would be, moved around the corner and whispered “BOO!” so as not to wake the baby.

Jack’s eyes went wide, he took a step back and punched the air with both fists one after the other. He stood there in a fighting stance ready to battle his assailant when his eyes focused on his wife and he finally realized what was going on.

“Ruby!  What the hell?  You scared the shit out of me!”

“I could tell! Your face was priceless.”

He walked up and kissed her, both of them laughing and shaking their heads in relief that she hadn’t been any closer to him when she jumped out and scared him.

Sammy’s Bad Day

It’s time for Thain in Vain’s weekly flash fiction challenge.  This week’s prompt: “You smell terrible. What happened?”  As soon as I read it, I knew I wanted to write about Sammy.  Besides, she’s fun and the last few stories have been dark and/or scary.  Below are the links to her first two stories if you missed them.  I’m over on my word count, but I can’t help it.  She’s too much fun to write and the words just flow!

Sammy’s First Hike

Gruff the Rat

Sammy’s Bad Day

The humans have left for the day and, as usual, Gruff and I are left outside to play. I don’t mind, though, because it’s getting colder and there are leaves everywhere. I especially love it when the smaller humans put them in huge piles. I wait until they’re finished, then I run and jump in them, rolling around and biting the leaves. They yell at me to stop, but I usually ignore them. After all, why make piles of leaves if not to jump and play in?

Gruff is playing in a pile and I make my way in his direction thinking I’m going to play too but I lose sight of him. I bark, wondering what happened. Did the leaves swallow him? Is he gone forever? I make it to the pile and stick my muzzle in, sniffing and pawing. I hear a yip and Gruff bounds out of the leaves and takes off. I lift my head up, swatting my tail and flicking my ears. That little guy gets me every time.

We play around a while longer then make our way to the sleeping hovel. He manages to wake me up from a perfectly good nap by pawing me right in the eye. I blink and lift up my head. He’s whimpering and kicking his paws. I lick him and push him with my paws until he settles back down. I lay my head back down and my eyes are just starting to droop closed when I hear something in the bushes. I lift my head back up, my ears standing at attention. I hear the sound again and jump to my feet, sniffing the air. Something is out there. I run out of the hovel and towards the sound, growling and barking. I stop right in front of it and hunker down, getting eye to eye so whatever it is knows I mean business. I can see it looking right at me and I’m just about to jump on it when it turns around and sprays me in the face.

I let out a howl and take off running in the opposite direction like a complete idiot. I’d feel worse about it, but the stench sticking to my tongue is vile and I do everything I can to get it off. I finally come to my senses and turn back towards the creature, but it’s gone. I bark in a random direction and pee on the spot it vacated. I pace the fence for a while, but it doesn’t return, so I make my way back to the hovel. I’m suddenly feeling the affects of an interrupted nap.

I flop down next to Gruff and bury my muzzle in his fur, trying to smell something different. He whines and moves and eventually gets up and leaves. I lift my head and watch him lay back down in the sun outside. So much for that. I put my head back down and wait for the humans to get home. Hopefully they won’t find out that I failed miserably at defending our territory.

**

I hear Mom’s car pull into the driveway and I’m waiting at the door anxiously when she opens it to let us in. I jump up and lick her face as she pets me.

“Hi Sammy. How was your day?” She leans in to kiss me but stops short. “God, Sammy, you smell terrible. What happened?”

I lick her face trying to get more attention, but she lifts up and grabs my collar. “You need a bath.” I follow her, not really sure what’s happening and she leads me straight to the place with the water. I stop in my tracks and hunker down. “Sammy, come! I know you don’t want to, but you stink!”

Somehow, she must know that animal got the better of me and this is my punishment. I bow my head in shame, but even though I know I deserve it, I also know she isn’t getting me in there without a fight. I sure hope she’s prepared.

Mona

 

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It’s time for the week 43 flash fiction challenge from the ever incredible Thain in Vain.  This week’s promptLet’s write a scary story! Use this picture as your inspiration!

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I watched the movie Oculus about a month ago with my son and it scared the crap out of me!  This story was inspired by that movie and, of course, the photo.  I hope you enjoy!

Mona

I’m sitting on a cot in the sparse room, legs crossed, clutching a blanket around me.  Dr. Lindstrom sits on a chair in the middle of the room, out of place but stoic, like a queen visiting her mentally disturbed subjects, offering what she thinks is solace but what comes across as disdainful judgment.

I know what she thinks. I also know why I’m locked in a room with bars on the windows.

“Are you still having the nightmares?”  Her voice echoes off the cement walls.

“Nightmare.  Just one.  The same one every time.”

It started right after dad brought the painting home from the flea market.  He was so excited he didn’t waste any time hanging it above the desk in his office.  I didn’t get it.  I had always thought Mona Lisa was an ugly painting, namesake or not.

“I’ll look into increasing your medication.  Let’s see if we can get them to stop.”

“It won’t help.  You can’t help me.”

“I can’t help you if you won’t help yourself.”  Her words bite at me with their razor sharp condemnation.

I bow my head and give in to the tears that never seem far away anymore.

That first night, I dreamed of the woman in the painting, only she was different, changed into something else.  Her face was wrinkled and morphed, her hands claw-like with cobwebs imprisoning them against her chest.  She looked straight at me, her inky black eyes popping out of her skull, blank expression never wavering.

The nightmares continued every night and bled into the daylight hours.  I started losing time, not remembering things I’d done.  My parents were concerned, but I think they were embarrassed too because they didn’t take me to a doctor or a priest.  Maybe they were planning on it.  Everything happened so fast, it’s hard to know how they would have responded in a week or a month.

“Mona, do you remember anything else about that night?  In our last session, you told me you went into your Dad’s office after waking up from a nightmare.”

“I don’t know,” I mumble into the blankets.  I’m so tired.

My tear-filled eyes close and I’m dragged into the darkness, leaving Dr. Lindstrom behind in the cell.

I open the door to Dad’s office.  My heart is beating loudly in my ears and my breath is coming in gasps.  I don’t want to go in, but something pulls at me, forces me to walk into the mostly dark room.  The house is still around me and I don’t hear anything but the maelstrom from my body.  My eyes dart around trying to see what brought me here and finally settle on the Mona Lisa with her bizarre half smile and slightly vacant eyes. 

Slowly, the image transforms into the demented image in my nightmare and I’m screaming, trying in vain to run out of the room.   She is standing now, stepping out of the painting, walking slowly, inevitably toward me and I am helpless to stop it. 

Belfry Echo

Thain in Vain’s week 42 challenge was to take any story previously submitted and finish it.  I read through a lot of entries but finally settled on TiV’s story she submitted for the week 38 challenge.  I remember the first time I read it wondering how Josie was going to get her revenge, so I decided to try my hand at it.  The first part of the story is hers in purple and I pick it up in black.  I hope you enjoy.

Belfry Echo

Josie Zefher stood in front of shelves full of heads in jars, animal and human, lined up like pickle jars in grocery store. She stared at the heads, shrunken and petrified. They stared back at her through murky green water and scratched glass.

A sign to the left asked customers not to touch the jars. She thought that seemed a tad unnecessary, until a jar containing a floating cat head caught her attention. The head was facing down, and she reached to jostle it back to face her. Just as her hand gripped the jar, a stern, female voice with a clipped tone cut through the stillness, “Please, do not touch.”

Josie snapped her hand back, “Sorry,” she called into the small space.

“Not to worry, dear,” said the voice from behind her. She turned to find an old, ancient really, woman, wearing a tartan shawl wrapped around a set of frail shoulders, her pursed and wrinkled face, rivaled those in the jars, with eyes hidden by sagging lids. It was her long, full hair, a coxcomb red hair that stuck Josie. It seemed wrong on her, but Josie couldn’t quite put her finger on why.

“I love your shop,” said Josie. She watched as the old woman hobbled closer, clinging to her cane, an elaborate wooden thing that resembled a branch with knots and knobs. He red hair fell forward, concealing her face. Too youthful, thought Josie. That’s it. It was not the hair of a woman half her age. She wondered if it was a wig.

“That’s nice to hear, lovie. The Belfry Odds likes you, too. Is there anything I can help you with?” Her voice was clear and strong. And too youthful, again Josie thought.

“Honestly, I just stepped in to waste some time before meeting my husband for lunch.” She checked her watch. She was to meet John at two at the new restaurant in the Warehouse District, and he didn’t like it when she was late. She understood, as he was a busy lawyer, and had finally made partnership. Sometimes, she it seemed she didn’t see him for weeks at a time, but she again she understood he was building a life for them.

“Before you go, sweetie, let me show you my most recent acquisition. It’s exquisite.

“I really must get going,” said Josie.

“Please, dearie. Humour an old woman.”

Josie sighed, “Okay, just for a few minutes.” Josie followed the old woman as she hobbled towards a small doorway at the back of the store. Josie looked at her watch again. She would hurry this along, humour the old lady, and have a great story to tell John. The old woman pushed aside a curtain of beads, the jittery cacophony startled Josie. The hair of her neck prickled at she entered the small room. She wanted to turn and leave (run), but didn’t want to offend the sad, old woman, so she pushed past her gut feeling and entered the room.

It was dark. She heard the flick of a lighter and crackle of a wick as a candle sprung to life, illuminating the small space. As her eyes adjusted to the light, Josie looked around the space that she was in, but that seemed to occupy her. She felt as though she had been here before, in this exact moment, thinking this exact thing. A rush of chemicals flooded her body, making her feel queasy.

“Over here, Joss,” a voice said from deeper in the room. It was the old woman’s voice, but it was different, deeper, and Josie detected a smirk. She was positive she heard the old woman say Joss, a name she hadn’t heard in a long time, but how could this woman know that name. She followed the flicker of the candle, deeper into the room.

“Here it is,” said the old woman as she came into view, her red hair, aflame and cascading around her face. Her cane was hanging on a shelf next to Josie’s head, and she was standing upright, holding a small, dark wooden box. Josie moved closer to the woman, and peered in the box. It contained a tiny human skeleton, nestled on a bed of purple silk. The pale, fragile skeleton was on its back, staring upwards with dark, empty sockets. Josie jerked back and turned to leave.

“This is Joss. You remember him, don’t you?” Josie felt her world shrink and implode as a cascade of memories flashed across her consciousness. She remembered how proud John was at the prospect of being a father. He had told their friends and family, decorated the baby room, and decided a name even before she had hit the first three months. He wanted to name the baby after his grandfather, Ross, but she didn’t like the name. He suggested Joss, and she feel in love with it.

She lost Joss at thirty-six weeks. She knew something was wrong. She felt the loss of the connection, but her body still needed to give birth. She hadn’t thought about it in a long time, choosing to look forward, yet the memory of dilating, pushing, and giving birth to death is ever-present, just behind the mask. Darkness spilled into her vision, as she sank to her knees.

“You don’t know this, but John sacrificed your first-born to me. He wanted to make partner. For his, for your, sacrifice, I have youth, forever. Josie saw the women grow younger before her eyes; the lines and wrinkles smoothing, green eyes growing bright, gnarled hands opening, curved spine straightening. Red hair glowed on the head of the beautiful young woman who now stood before Josie.

“Josie, I want you to have the skeleton of Joss. For your sacrifice, you will have revenge on anyone who has or will do you wrong. John did you wrong. So wrong. Get your revenge for Joss.”

Josie cried out in disbelief. Her pain palatable in the room. Her memories piecing together those last few months before losing Joss. She wanted to believe everything was okay. He barely looked at her and was not there for the birth. He was working on a critical case. Again, she understood.

But not now.

She looked at the woman and reached for the box, “I’ll take it.”

**

Leaving the artifice of the dutiful wife behind in The Belfry Odds, Josie quietly hurled accusations at John in the restaurant at lunch – cheating, lying, controlling – everything but the real reason she was vibrating with vengeance.  His phone buzzed through his shock and the mounting tension, managing to end lunch prematurely.  Without a word, she let him leave, let him think she would let it go.

She didn’t have a concrete plan until she arrived home alone, the box still clutched in her arms.  Dying was too easy.  He didn’t deserve something that simple.  He deserved a lifetime of misery to match the holes he had torn open inside her, one in her heart and one in her womb.

Sometime around midnight, she heard the lock turn in the door announcing John’s arrival and she didn’t waste any time continuing what she had started in the restaurant.

She shouted at him, threw things, and followed him in and out of rooms when he tried to disengage.  He placated her, begged her, shushed her, worried the neighbors would hear.

She was counting on it.

Finally, in a frozen silence that descended between them, Josie stood at the top of the stairs, John only a few feet away.  With a creak that echoed through the stillness of the house, Jose slowly opened the box she still held and showed him the contents.

She watched the color drain from his face and in that moment, she hated him more than she ever thought possible.

Before he could speak, she laid the box on the floor in front of him and without saying a word, hurled herself down the wooden staircase.

“Josie! Oh my God!”  She heard John scream before her head slammed against a stair and darkness swam before her eyes.  She didn’t feel her body smash against the hardwood floor at the bottom of the stairs, didn’t know how long she blacked out before coming to.

The first thing she heard was John’s voice.

“I don’t know why she did it!  Please, you have to hurry.  She’s unconscious.”

She slowly assessed her body, checking to feel how much damage she had done.  She assumed she had a concussion and her right side was throbbing, all the way from her leg to her shoulder.  She decided it was best not to move and continued to lay on the floor, eyes closed, slowly breathing in and out, waiting.

It didn’t take long before she heard the sirens stop in front of their house; heard John run to the door to let them in.  She heard them kneel next to her with their equipment, so many voices and noises swirling around her.

“Josie, can you hear me?”

She slowly opened her eyes.

“You’re awake.  That’s good.  Can you tell me where you’re hurt?”

Her soft voice barely made it past her lips. “Right side.”

She cringed when they put a brace on her neck and heard them lay a stretcher next to her.

“Josie, we’re going to lift you up onto the stretcher.  We’ll be as gentle as we can.”

She cried out when they lifted her, the pain intensifying.  Once she was on the stretcher, she opened her eyes and managed to find John.  He was standing a few feet away, speaking to a police officer.

“You’re saying she just threw herself down the stairs?”  She saw him nod and knew this was the moment.

Gathering what little reserve she had left, Josie screamed, “No!” as tears pooled in her eyes and escaped out the corners.

“It was John.  He pushed me.”

The Storm

flash-fiction-badge

This was written in response to Thain in Vain’s weekly flash fiction challenge where this week the prompt was: Two convenience store employees are stuck at work during a blizzard. 

I’m a little over at 517 words, but I hope you enjoy.

The Storm

Rand was at the counter when the door flew open and Gyllian stumbled in along with a flurry of snow that coated the floor a few feet past the door. The storm was getting worse.

“Gyllian! I’m surprised you’re here. That drive must have been brutal!”

She was slowly taking off her gloves and scarf, shaking off the lingering snow that had piled on her head and shoulders during the short sprint from her car.

“It was horrible. But honestly, I’d rather be here than home.” Her eyes looked pinched around the edges, haunted.

“Everything okay?” Rand didn’t want to pry, but there had been other days, other things he’d noticed in the six months they’d worked together.

His question was met with silence as she disappeared into the back room to deposit her layers in what was strangely called the employee lounge. It was a small, stark room filled with dirty linoleum, a table with a few broken chairs and a counter with an odd assortment of kitchen appliances, stains and garbage.

She returned quickly, knowing she was late for her shift.

“You can go, Rand. I’m sure it will be dead in here tonight.”

He chuckled. “Yeah, right! No way in hell I’m driving in that shit.”

Her smile didn’t quite reach her eyes as she busied herself tidying counters that didn’t need it. “Well, I hope you brought a good book. It’s going to be a long night.”

He watched her work, wondering what was so bad at home that she would venture out into the storm. He could only imagine how bad it must be, but he wasn’t sure how he could possibly help. He’d been attracted to her from day one. With her long blonde hair, soft green eyes and killer smile, it was hard not to be, and the attraction had only intensified after working with her. Her kindness and generosity touched everything and everyone around her.

He wasn’t sure if she felt it too, the electricity sizzling between them whenever they were close, but it didn’t matter. She had someone at home and he wasn’t a home-wrecker.

The trouble was, he knew she wasn’t happy. He also suspected it might be more. Makeup hid a lot, but it didn’t hide everything, and today was no exception. He hadn’t ever crossed the line into personal territory, but for some reason, the whiteout had started a tempest inside him and he boldly left the counter and walked over to her.

“Gyll?” He stopped only a few feet away from her and waited for her to turn. “I don’t want to pry, but I couldn’t help but notice…” His voice trailed off as his hand lifted and traced the slight discoloring underneath her eye.

She flinched as tears welled in her eyes.

She didn’t say anything. She didn’t have to. They both knew the truth, but it was too raw. Too real.

They spent the long cold night in the deserted convenience store, the storm raging outside not half so violent as the storm he started when he decided to cross the line.