Welcome! What a pleasure seeing all your eager, sparkly faces staring here at the dragon screen. Oh–you there–no disrespect, but let me hand you a tissue. Yes; that’s better. Thank you. And now to business: today is J. M. Barrie‘s birthday, and though Egg’s painting (“Past and Present,” below) came first by some fifty years, there’s something Peter Pan-esque about it, I think. I can’t wait to read the stories you spin from it.
Your judge today is Peter Pan-esque in her own way, or at least Pan-esque: story spinner, flash fiction obsessed Jess West. She bids you craft deep characters and vivid settings bursting with conflict should you wish your tale to catch her eye. Read more about her wishes (and about her) at her judge page.
Awards Ceremony: Results will post Sunday. Noteworthy #SixtySeconds interviews with the previous week’s winner post Wednesdays. I (Rebekah) post my own stuff sometimes on Tuesdays or Thursdays “just for fun.”
Now let’s get to it!
* Word limit: 150 word story (10-word leeway) based on the photo prompt.
* How: Post your story here in the comments. Include your word count (140 – 160 words, exclusive of title) and Twitter handle if you’ve got one. If you’re new, don’t forget to check the contest guidelines.
* Deadline: 11:59pm ET tonight (check the world clock if you need to; Flash! Friday is on Washington, DC time)
* Winners: will post Sunday.
* Prize: The Flash! Friday e-dragon e-badge for your blog/wall, your own winner’s page here at FF, a 60-second interview next Wednesday, and your name flame-written on the Dragon Wall of Fame for posterity.
***Today’s Dragon’s Bidding (required element to incorporate somewhere in your story; does not need to be the exact word unless instructed to do so, e.g. “include the word “bildungsroman'”):
Arithmetic. Writing. She taught me some geography as well—enough to know which quarters of the city were safe.
My mother was a seamstress. It seemed all women were. She raised me a builder.
It’s easy, being in a trade, when you see the materials you craft from before your eyes, and can imagine how you’ll put them together.
But homes are numerous here in the city. Aren’t there enough?
I’ll never forget my mother, one night, when she spoke about how important it was to be practical. Moonlight bathed her fair face, and she looked (I am not mistaken) toward the moon with yearning. That celestial body was a symbol.
After I realized how right she was to pine for something greater the city stunk more to me, and the people’s complaints and quarrels meant less. They don’t mean anything, really.
Against everyone’s wishes I’m going into the countryside to forge something new. I will make her proud.
Love the opening!
Ready or Not
You have thought of me all day. Now, I am a short distance from you lurking in the thin moonlight. You can sense me. I am near, and I am advancing.
I am sweeping through the door, past the decaying evidence of earlier celebration: the maniacal smile of sagging bunting, chairs askew from stilted parlour games and dirty plates on which morsels of too sweet cake sit next to the left over flesh and bones of fowl. The air is stale.
On your guests’ departure celebration turned to trepidation . You know something is on the horizon, but you are uncertain of its nature. You know a change is coming. You anticipate it.
I am moments away, and so you bow in prayer. These moments dissolve and I am here passing through your young skin and skeleton.
For I am the the hour, the minute, the second that marks your eighteen years.
Glad you liked it. Thank you.
Love the vivid descriptions, really nicely done
Thank you very much.
‘Oh, my dear Sarah,’ I say, and I weep as I crouch. The dank drawing room wavers around us. ‘I am sorry, but no other words will suffice: Our mother is dead. Our mother is dead.’ A word sequence to switch off the human brain, dark syllables with low meaning.
Sarah’s face grows slack, her hand a stone cairn where I clasp it.
The old chair rises up to slow her collapse…
From that day on, her face can be seen at our window. staring up at the kaleidoscopic whirl of sun and stars, out over the docks that shift and bustle like driftwood below; she is silent.
I am only twelve. My back is braced, the bones turned askew since birth. There is no work on the docks for a twelve-year-old crippled orphan, so I beg.
Sarah is fourteen and has come of age. Despite my wishes, she marries a wealthy old man.
I die young.
Love the line about the chair rising up….
Thanks, Steph. I was also quite taken with that phrase.. 🙂
Meeting Mr Verne
Ian Martyn (www.martynfiction.com)
‘Oh, Mother, why did Pa-pa have to go?’
Isabelle comforted her child and for the thousandth time wished with all her heart she could turn back the clock. Henry had been everything she had dreamed of in a suitor, debonair, kind and handsome, with a sizable independent income. He had swept her off her feet. When he asked her to marry him she had almost swooned with happiness.
After the wedding he’d uttered what were to become those fateful words, ‘We shall honeymoon in Paris’. The journey was divine, first class, champagne. She remembered how the bubbles tickled her nose and made her snort. But that first night, their wedding night, Henry had met Mr Verne with all his silly schemes. First he was off for eighty days, then it was that foolish journey to the centre of the Earth. And now, she sobbed along with Charlotte, all their money was being wasted on going to the moon.
Very nicely done!
“There’s no shame in the blood,” her mother confides as they sit by the window.
She cannot agree but is not yet able to voice it. Her gown still hold its coppery tang and small frame feels buckled by the enormity of the changes being wrought within her.
She buries her face in her mother’s lap as another anguished howl escapes her.
Her mother’s gentle stroking and soothing begin to relieve tense muscles.
No more words pass between them. Both stare at the waning moon, lost in thought and memory.
Eventually, she’s able to speak, her voice hoarse:
“I’m unnatural, mother!”
“Nonsense, child. It’s all nature! Every beast has a cycle.”
“Is that what I am now, a beast?”
“It’s what we both were when the moon was high. The wolf lives in our blood and we upon the blood of others.”
“We’re cursed then?”
“Or blessed child. Or blessed.”
Nice tie-up of the picture and the theme.
Push to Restart
by A J Walker
Clara softly patted the back of the head in her lap in practiced comfort, while Flo continued to sob into the velvet of her sister’s dress.
Despite the early hours the light of the moon made the bedroom eerily bright. The breeze periodically twitched the curtains sending wisps of dust into the moonbeam, the day’s smog ghosting briefly into isolated existence.
Flo sat back, ‘What have I done?’ She grasped the flaps of Clara’s dress, aware of the dampness from her tears.
‘There, my sweet,’ Clara said, ‘Everything will be alright.’
Flo tried to look into her sister’s eyes for reassurance, but Clara was staring at the moon. Even in this light Flo could see a grotesque bruise blooming up on her cheek.
She turned towards the bed and saw the distorted outline of her father beneath it.
‘Will he be with mother in heaven now?’ Flo said.
Clara stroked Flo’s blood soaked blouse, ‘He will not be with mother.’
The night air was cool on her back as she buried her face in her mother’s musky gown, eyes irritated from the tears of frustration. Her mother merely stroked her hair, staring up at the filling moon as it illuminated the darkness.
“You will understand someday.” She whispered, gently lifting the girls chin to look into her young face. “You will find me when the time is right.”
Standing, she calmly held back the grasping fingers of the child, swallowing the unfamiliar emotion as she walked to the window, breathing in the crisp air as it swept around her.
“I look forward to welcoming you as a woman my dear.” She said, smirking at the hope in her heart.
For a moment the luminescent moon disappeared in a shroud of black as it burst in the small nursery.
Leaping up the girl grasped the windows edge, catching one last glimpse of a shrieking silhouette as it flew into the night.
When I wed my husband, I knew I had made a connection with a long-lived, powerful, and, of course, rich family. What I soon learned was how that family maintained its lofty position—a pact with a powerful being who required the sacrifice of every firstborn son when he turned thirteen.
When I first felt the quickening in my womb, I prayed for a girl; then wept inconsolably when my son emerged.
He has always known; that’s part of the family tradition. Until two days before his thirteenth birthday, he’d borne it with typical, burgeoning male bluster. On his birthday eve, though, he asked I stay with him while his father prepared for the vile ritual which would ensure our continued wealth and status.
I soothed my son to sleep. When the moon rose, I murmured the incantation which would render me a widow with a living son.
Frankly, my family was older, more powerful, and, now, more wealthy.
@unspywriter (Maggie Duncan)
Hard Decisions in a Black and Yellow World
The whale oil lamp cast the room yellow. Anna had gotten ready for bed before crying herself to sleep in Jenny’s lap. Jenny sat there, feeling trapped. If she moved Anna would awake, and tears would resume.
They had both worn black, mourning their parents. Jenny studied their portraits, separated by the window, just as they had been separated by her mother’s infidelity. She studied the moon, yellowed by coal soot hanging in the air.
The woman from the orphanage has rejected them. She and Anna were the daughters of an adulteress, and they didn’t want to expose the other girls to such. The expectation placed on them was to become someone’s mistress, put up comfortably in a back street flat.
She set her jaw tight, mentally rejecting living as the sinful woman. Jenny would rather die hungry and homeless than to be than to become a consort.
She studied her younger sister. Would she make the same choice?
“Sacrifice” by Mary Cain (Word Count 160)
The black material was soft against Victoria’s skin as she buried her face, trying to smother her tears. She reached for her mother’s hand, holding onto it tightly like a child would.
But now she was a woman.
“Mother,” she pleaded, staring up at her mother, the moonlight illuminating her pale face.
“You must be strong, Victoria.”
More tears fell, and Victoria embraced her.
“This is all my fault,” her mother cried. “I knew this day would come, but I won’t let him take you.“
A loud crash shook the room, rattling the furniture. The women jumped to their feet, fear gripping them.
“Go.” Her mother ushered Victoria to the window.
“Victoria, please! My time is over but yours is beginning.”
Victoria held her mother, the pain in her throat unbearable.
“I love you.”
With one last look, Victoria leapt from the window, arms stretched wide. Light engulfed her and out of it a small robin emerged.
Charles had expressed interest in Lydia, but as with most the feelings were unrequited; Charles wasn’t aggressive in her pursuits, her heart was just prone to false hope and falling in love with the idea of love, rather than accepting the reality of her intendeds. She considered it romantic to look past “minor flaws” and seek a deeper connection; she failed to realize that love doesn’t mean “skipping” over anything, but instead embodies us with the strength to work through it together. At the bitter end of one such lesson she took comfort in the embrace of her mother who tried to impart on her the wisdom of her years, but she knew it was knowledge that could not be learned through words, only through painful experience. For Charles that experience would come in the form of Anita, bringing forth a strength and passion Charles had tried to force with others but came freely and easily for Anita.
Like Glass In Your Mouth (And Stone In Your Veins)
Lucille knew that this day would come. It was as certain as the setting sun and as unshakable as the shackles of time itself.
Her mama knew it too. Lucille could see it in the tremor of her hands, the way her eyes lingered on the curves that Lucille’s gowns couldn’t hide.
“You’re a good daughter,” her mama whispered as she carded her fingers through Lucille’s hair, ignoring the way that Lucille’s tears soaked her gown. “I was much crueler than you.”
The words were an absolution that felt like glass on Lucille’s tongue but she swallowed them down and waited until her mama’s hand stopped moving.
She wiped her tears first because the women of their kind did not cry. She had much to do, there was the funeral to arrange and she would need to find someone to court her. There were so many plans to make, but first she needed to get rid of the arsenic.
Have I mentioned lately how much I love those dark little twists you come up with?
It’s rather fun to keep on the dark side of things and I’m glad you liked it!
John Mark Miller
My sister’s heaving sobs drew me to her bedroom.
“Oh, Eleanor!” she cried when she saw me, flinging herself into my comforting arms. “They told me to never come back. They despise the things I’ve done!”
Ella, still wide-eyed at sixteen, had run away from our parents’ strict morality despite their warnings of the world’s many dangers. Just as I had done, so many years ago.
Poor girl. I had been ready for the thrills the world offered, but the shock had been too much for Ella.
“Sweet, beautiful Ella,” I thought as I watched the black clouds crawl away, revealing a full moon. “They were right – the world offers sweet thrills, but they come at great cost.”
But she would understand in time. My fangs glinted in the moon’s eerie glow, a symbol of where my prodigal wanderings had taken me.
Her soul was hungry for a thrill.
And so was mine.
I bolt awake, heart choking me. My daughter, taller than me in only twelve years, stands half in the moonlight. Trembling.
“Something’s wrong,” she says, grabbing my hand. “Can you come with me?”
She leads me to the light, and suddenly I know. I tried to prepare her, but how could I?
“It’s your period,” I tell her, when she shows me.
She cries. I hold her close, my child who forever needs physical comfort over words.
“Can I still play basketball?”
So many times, I have told her anything will still be possible. In that moment, it’s all forgotten in the sight of the first blood.
I brush her hair back and tell her all of it again. She stops crying. I don’t let go.
When I tuck her into bed, I crawl in and pull her close. My child. My young woman.
Tilly’s body wasn’t yet stiff when I’d lowered it into the garden, but in these things, the old ways were best. Get it gone and move on. I shouldn’t have even let Mallory name it, but she was as pig-headed as her father, and who can stop a young girl from dreaming when the moon is high?
Probably would have been best to have given her the brew as soon as she’d quickened, but it looked like the war was coming to an end, and for the first time in generations, there was hope. And she’d be growing during the winter, when the fields were fallow – we could afford to take a chance.
But now it was spring, and the earth was ripe, and the war claimed more lives every day. It was just Mallory and me from here on, and the corn wouldn’t plant itself. We couldn’t afford a mouth that couldn’t feed itself, not now. Maybe not ever.
Heavy… and deserving of a heartfelt “Woof.”
The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same…
Margaret Locke (@Margaret_Locke or http://margaretlocke.com)
Heavens above, will she ever stop this caterwauling? Edith stared at the moon outside the window, which hung heavy in the sky. Much like her head in the face of all this histrionic grief.
The hands holding hers gripped ever tighter. “Why doesn’t he love me, mama? I want him to love me!” a muffled voice wailed. Tears dampened Edith’s skirt.
“Oh, child. You are too young to speak of love.”
“You were seventeen when you married papa!”
Edith sighed. The sobbing increased. “You just don’t understand!”
Oh, I do. More than you will ever know. She thought of the shimmering ball gown she’d worn that night, of the heated whispers, the walk in the garden…She’d been young once, too.
Her face grew wistful as she gazed at the bright orb in the sky. Oh, to be seventeen again. Smoothing her hand over her daughter’s hair, she waited for the tears to subside.
Thank God I’ll never be seventeen again.
LOL! Good period details. 😉
I love the dichotomy between “oh to be…” and “Thank God I’m not.” Very well done!!!
“Are you sure?” she sobbed against my woolen skirts.
“No, it’s possible it will skip a generation.” I stroked her hair, aware of how little comfort I was giving her. The first time was always the hardest and Pearl seemed so small and vulnerable beneath my hands.
“Will I..will I hurt anyone?” Pearl looked up at me with tear stained cheeks.
“It’s best you don’t ask those questions. You’ll find that you don’t always want to know the answers.”
She laid her head down in my lap and eventually the wracking sobs turned to the quiet sniffles of a scared little girl. I waited patiently and watched the clouds drift against the waxing moon. In a few days Pearl would find out what she truly was.
“Are you the reason mother isn’t the one giving me the talk?” she whispered.
I sighed heavily. Yes, little sister, sometimes you don’t want to know the answers.
The letter had come that morning. Mom read it right away but the girl couldn’t read it herself until later that evening. She already knew what it said. It contained the name of the man she had already said good-bye to.
In the distance the steady booming of cannon fire was a constant reminder of the war of brother against brother. Inside, her mother’s steady breathing was the only sound. It was a constant reminder of what Death had brought to her doorstep. Her mother hadn’t moved since learning that Daddy wouldn’t be coming back home.
She crept to her mother’s chair, laid her head in her lap and grasped her hand tightly. She wished upon a star and prayed that her mother wouldn’t give up. The horizon glowed orange even though dawn was a long way off.
This was no time to be afraid. It was time to make Daddy proud.
Two simultaneous sounds made her turn to the window. One was the first chime of a clock-tower striking midnight. The other was the soggy squelch of a large coach becoming a small pumpkin.
Cinderella turned her head toward the window too, unmuffling her sobs and leaving a snail-trail of snot across the Fairy Godmother’s lap. I bet that won’t wash out, thought the Fairy Godmother.
“It’s over,” wailed Cinderella. “You said I’d go to the ball, and you lied.”
“I didn’t mean to,” said the Fairy Godmother. “When they sent me here they didn’t tell me that you were only fifteen.”
Cinderella blew her nose in the dress. I’m not even going to try washing it, thought the Fairy Godmother, it’s going straight into the fire.
She felt deeply sorry for the girl, so close to womanhood, yet so far away.
Though perhaps not that far away. Cinderella suddenly looked up.
“Can I keep the shoes?” she asked.
“I didn’t mean to, I didn’t! I swear! Please tell me it can be undone, please! I’ll do anything!”
“Cherie, stop blubbering. I know it was an accident. Your mother knows. The party guests know.”
“I can’t believe it… everything was wonderful, and Bernard and I were talking, and I swear he was going to ask me to dance, and then…”
Cherie collapses and sobs some more.
“Your hormones got away from you, is all. You got some… unexpected results.”
“I don’t want to be an enchantress! I don’t! I want to marry Bernard. Please help me!”
“We’ll do everything we can, dear. I’ll call together the Council, and we’ll try to reverse the damage.”
“I love him, Auntie. But I can’t marry him, now. Not until…”
“We will do all we can, Cherie, but understand: If we can’t undo your little accident, you will be marrying a toad.”
150 words w/title
Calliope cried for hours after Circe told her the Sacred Coven rejected her on Circe’s recommendation. Sighing impatiently as she stared at the moon, Circe endured the increasingly uncomfortable feeling the flood of tears caused in her lap. She was at her wits end, ready to pound her fists on the back of her sister’s lowered head, when Calliope suddenly sniffled and stopped the faucet.
Calliope raised her head and narrowed her red-rimmed eyes. “You’re my big sister, you might have stood up for me.”
Circe pulled her soaked dress away from her thighs. “You are not ready. Still a child, no discipline, and you still haven’t memorized your spells.”
“Really!” Circe watched her stumble as she clambered to her feet. “Jealous of your clumsiness?”
“My power.” Calliope thrust her hands above her and chanted.
Circe’s laughter died. The black cat in the chair blinked and hissed.
Calliope frowned. Now what was that spell that brings her back?
She let the sponge linger over her mother’s twisted mouth for a beat, a millisecond, before moving on to her arms. A quote from her youth, delivered by the near-lifeless carcass she was washing, fueled the machinations of the sponge.
The words began to lacerate. Her brother was the oak tree or redwood, stately and resilient. Her sister was likened to an orchid, cultured and pristine. A fragile beauty of sorts. Captivating.
“What about me momma, what am I like?”
“A weed, dear. A weed.”
She carried those barbed words into adulthood, when the impact of her dismissal opened wounds. A puncturing of her innocence.
A weed. Untended and wild, a nuisance. A blight on land and family, valueless.
She lightly guided the soapy sponge over her mother’s warped legs.
“Where’s Josh and Lily? I need them here.”
“They couldn’t make it, momma, they’re busy.”
Abby dipped her hand into the bucket, rinsing away decades of filth and silence.
Chris Milam @Blukris
Smoldering piece here. I fear if I get too close the flames will bite. Love the metaphor.
“momma” was a nice touch.
Thanks for the feedback.
The Strong One
I heard Mama scream and ran into the bedroom. I watched her lift his lifeless body. She held him for several long minutes. I broke the silence. “Mama…” She looked toward me and then blankly past me. Absently, she passed baby Jonah to me and stumbled across the floor to her rocker.
Mama was still rocking when I saw Lizzy coming up the lane from school. I wanted to keep from upsetting Mama more, so I stepped out to meet Lizzy. I explained what had happened in the best way I knew how, but I mustn’t have done a very good job, because she ran inside and buried her face in Mama’s lap.
I re-entered the house to find Mama absently smoothing Lizzy’s blond curls and felt a pang of jealousy. I wished momentarily that I was small enough to crawl into Mama’s lap and let her take away my troubles.
Now it’s my turn to be the strong one.
The Night’s Vigil
It was the night before the end of past and present; before the dawning of the new. The moon shone full upon the white of her nightdress, as they kept vigil together before the anticipated parting; a parody of that hanging from the farthest wall, premise and promise within its folded fabrics. Alice held Ruth’s head in her lap, hands at her temples, fingers worrying either side of her face in constant circles.
“You are sure?”
“Yes.” No more. Her face remained hidden, voice muffled by the intervening fabrics.
“What of John?”
“He is married.”
“To his duty.”
“It is done – and now I can do no less.” A pause. “The rest is nothing after that. I must secure our future.” The sudden break in sound betrayed her; the moisture seeping into Alice’s skirts, though the stain itself would pass.
Her eyes would clear by morning, no remaining redness to tell its tale. Tomorrow Ruth would walk towards her future.
“Annette, they are such children. They run and they burn in the fires they set.”
“I’m scared, Mama.”
“Hold to thy heart and be brave.”
“But they will come.”
“So will he.”
“Annette, it is your day. Already the eye of Mathalon has found us. Even as he boils their blood, he sees us by this window. He is close.”
Suddenly axes crash and splinter our front door. The rioters are here. Flaming torches shatter the windows downstairs.
We hear the flittering of wings drawing closer with the pitched squeaking of tormented souls. Within the smoke of our burning home a thousand bats suddenly swirl about us then coalesce into him.
Mathalon stands tall, cape fluttering with the flames, hand inviting Annette: “Come to Papa.”
From the folds of my funeral dress I raise the pistol and shoot him.
In rage, Annette turns at me, all fangs. I fire the second silver bullet.
“It is ended.”
@CliveNewnham – 160 words
The Pleasure You Desire (160 words)
On a night when the city is bustling with boys celebrating their last day of captivity, you are not supposed to be sad. They’re in every corridor and street corner; waving goodbyes to girls who used to ignore them, to men who once oppressed them and to mothers who still want to caress them. They all look forward to this—all but you.
They dream of oases filled with treasures, of castles that house sages and of gardens filled with women who have mastered the art of pleasure. You dream of nothing but her.
Some hide the tears lurking behind their eyes with bravado, while others spend the night burying their fears in wild parties. Their mothers long to kiss them one last time before the yellow moon ducks under the cloud. They’ve all chosen their partners—all but you.
Here you are, weeping into her lap. She is all the treasure you seek, all the pleasure you desire.
The moon glowed, a jealous re-telling of the sun’s daily journey. How many nights had Cassandra spent in its company alone, unable to quiet her mind long enough to find the sweet oblivion of sleep? And how many of those nights had Marianne snored and dreamed the time away?
But tonight was different.
Marianne wailed and bawled and screeched. Her breath came and went in frantic huffs as she threw herself over Cassandra’s legs. For the first time, she had to endure the harshness of reality.
“How could anyone be so cruel, sister?”
Cassandra did not answer.
“To be murdered in the street like some common criminal! When h-he had- we had everything to live for! And now… what do I have?”
Cassandra’s gaze did not break from the moon’s gleam. She recalled how the whites of his eyes had flashed in the dark, wide with disbelief, shining in pain.
“Why sweet sister, you have me.”
~Taryn Noelle Kloeden
Charlotte lay her head in my lap.
“I don’t want to go,” she said between the catches in her throat.
I stroked my daughter’s hair.
“I know. But you must. It is your destiny.”
“I’m not ready. I’m too young.”
I tried to be brave, so that she would.
“I know that’s how you feel now. But you are far more worldly, more capable than you realize. This… arrangement has been our way for centuries. Without it, there would be no peace. I realize it’s a lot of responsibility to place on the shoulders of a 16-year-old. But you will rise to the challenge.”
“I wish it did not have to be this way, Mother.”
I likewise wished it were not so. But for 1,000 years, our family has maintained power by sacrificing the King’s eldest daughter to the Beast of the Mountain.
It is Charlotte’s turn. It is her destiny.
Coming of Age
“But they say it’s all a lie!”
My daughter’s cry stirred labels I’d struggled with for days. I shook the doubts away.
“I will always be your mom.”
Smoothing her hair while she calmed, I watched the luminescent moon shift shapes, clouds the sculptors. My excitement renewed. I’d come-of-age.
The tales were identical. They’d understood the need, made the decision and been granted new life. Society condemned them as intolerant hateful shining ones. I’d thought them fairy tales until the day my matronly grey-haired sister bloomed into a young lady.
“Jenny, one day soon you’ll understand.”
I broke from her grasp, scurried to the window and fell on my knees. I searched beyond the midnight sky and orb of light for the One who’d created it all. Words flowed from my heart like a prayer.
“Take all of me.”
A gasp transformed into giggles. “It’s true!”
I turned, caught a radiant image in the mirror. We could almost be twins.
My Artist’s Impression of the Truth Inside
I have painted a picture which portrays the truth.
I am a mound of anguished brushstrokes, knelt and bent in despair, hiding my face from the molten red that already pools beneath the folds of your skirt.
And on your face is sorrow at having to go, although- I confess- my paintbrush may have placed it there.
I have remained true to the promises that I made you, during your time on this earth. The moments that followed this one, I have not portrayed. And so no-one will see you as I finally saw you, when the form of my dearest friend lay cracked apart upon the floor and you stood before me; mature, educated, and ready, now, to leave.
Yet the picture I have painted portrays the truth, for like my pining heart it is drenched in shadow.
And in the sky, as cold and silver as the moon, I have painted the spaceship that took you home.
Lucy crouched at the mercy-seat of her sister, Emily. She buried her face into Emily’s dress in an attempt to block out the world. Darkness could become friend, her comforter; she let it envelope her, layer by layer.
Then she felt Emily’s hand on her head. She slowly looked up through watery eyes hoping to see the benevolent smile of kindness. But all she saw was a pained look on Emily’s face; a pain which pierced into the depths of Lucy’s soul.
Lucy looked into her face. Trying to pull at the cords of compassion that she knew lay just behind that anguished look. “Emily not this; anything but this! I’m too young for this, my birthdate is deceptive.”
“Lucy, I have walked with you through many things. Things which our mother would have if the cruel twist of fate had not snatched her from us. But now you have got to stand alone. You must marry him!”
Everyone was sorry.
The soldiers said that they were sorry, and the telegram said that the King was very sorry, and even Mummy said that she was sorry as she thanked them and saw them out of the parlour.
But I wasn’t sorry.
I was just mad.
Sophia threw herself into Mummy’s lap and sobbed for poor Daddy, killed in the war, and Mummy sat in her chair and stroked Sophia’s hair and watched the stars blossom in the sky like nothing had ever been any different.
“You’re the man of the house now William.”
I nodded, packing my bags as Mummy sang the old nursery songs to Sophia, the pale rising moon shining on her tears.
Daddy’s spare uniform was still too big, but I used an extra belt and stuffed his old boots with newspaper and strapped on the bulky rocket pack that would carry me to the moon and back.
“I know Mummy. I’ll fetch him home.”
Thinking ‘Happy’ Thoughts
( 159 )
Sitting in the window seat, bathed in moonlight, Rebecca Trelaine stroked her daughter’s hair as the girl sobbed into her lap, hot tears slowly soaking her flannel nightgown. “Calm down. You’ll make yourself sick.”
She gave a sad smile at the hopeful look. “No. You’d still be required to go.” She tenderly wiped ashen cheeks free of fresh tears. “It’s not so bad. Every woman in our family has gone through this. Our very own rite of passage.” She tucked a lock of hair behind the girl’s ear, cupping her cheek. “Think of it as an adventure. Full of wonder and delights. Think of all you’ll see and do outside these nursery walls.”
“Everything will be fine.” She could barely hold back her own tears at the lie as she left the bedchamber.
When the elderly bridegroom arrived early the next morning to claim his young bride-to-be, they found the nursery empty and the window wide open.
Haunting, with an ending that leaves me hopeful.
No More Secrets
(160 Words) – Entry #2
Loraine’s sentient hair curled around her mother’s fingers, drawing her closer. Warmth spread through her body under Leda’s touch.
“Why didn’t you tell me before?”
“I’ve kept this secret for sixteen years. Your father doesn’t know we lived and I didn’t think you would understand.”
Loraine pulled back from the embrace. “Understand what? That my father tried to kill both of us—simply because I was going to be different than other kids?”
“He was trying to protect us both—or so I am told.”
“From what? And you don’t protect people by killing them!”
“Your father was confused and scared—he didn’t know any better way.”
“Loraine, I want you to know; you saved both of our lives.”
“Me? How? I wasn’t even born yet.”
“I didn’t understand until later, but somehow a tendril of your hair coiled around my heart—and started it beating again. I thought I had dreamed it until you were born with these abilities.”
I like what you did with this – it’s beautiful and mysterious and it could go so many places…
The waning harvest moon hangs low in the sky. I gaze at it vacantly while my child weeps in my lap. There is little I can do for her, save perhaps strong tea or bitter poultice; it is well past the time of pointing fingers and blame. You, whom she loved, are come and gone like the fleetingly warm winds of an Indian summer, and my child’s belly is swollen now with your sin.
Tonight she will walk unseen across the moor to dark water, black as your deception. Swaying on the shore, she will weep bitter tears and provoke the roiling clouds with her grief.
One foot, and then two, she will enter the water, hungry waves climbing over her knees, hips, breast, and neck. Smothered screaming as red-rimmed eyes roll back. And from deep below, as bubbles stream up and burst, the old trees will shudder and cry out, shrieking; icy winds echoing with your name.
The moon was new the night he made his vow to the Silver God, the night he joined the shadow-walkers. His mother and sister saw him off at the window. A cold wind was blowing.
They begged him not to go, but he was already halfway across the windowsill. “When I return I’ll be a walker, mother, a holy man, and we will want for nothing!” An eerie sound like bells chimed on the wind and the candles on the writing desk sputtered out.
“If you return,” his mother corrected.
There was danger, yes—the chance that the Shade would swallow you whole, that you would lose yourself in it, that you would become shadow only, a sacrifice. That was the thrill of it.
“Expect me back before the moon is full,” he laughed.
As he leapt into the dark he imagined the two of them waiting by the window, night after night, their faces bathed in silver moonlight.
-John Murray Lewis
Her Only Children
Her own childhood seemed so far away on nights like these, when she comforted the little master. Soon he would leave the nursery and she would be sent back to the kitchen or be forced to find another position. She couldn’t find it on her to regret the choices she had made.
She’d never thought when she was a child that this would be her lot in life; to raise the children of others. She had accepted it though and no longer yearned for her own babes. The children that she guided to adulthood were hers, even if they were not fruit of her body.
She’d watched them, raised them, loved them. It mattered not who they belonged to in name, in all ways that counted, she was the one who watched them come of age. They were hers, for better or worse.
Word count: 143
From Here (160)
Tethers detach with ease, whimsical, they are.
She breathed heavy into the hem of my dress, a hiccup of a sob, then the breathing again. My hand, numb, patted her frizzled hair. Like this most nights. Since she was born, too.
The moisture from the night air flirted with my nostrils, tantalizing. That’s when I knew it would happen. There’s never an epiphany. Just is. Just will be. Then.
Neighbors would come eventually, once the sobbing had properly coated their walls. Guilt tinged, then fleeted, no time for it.
I had waited and waited. The far-off distance beckoned with the promise of a tryst, of something enthralling. Not this. Not overflowing dishes, threads and needles, and late night head-patting.
The moon’s glint seemed sardonic in the night sky, as if aware of what I was to do. But the moon was a mistress I didn’t answer to.
She had come of age next morning and I had come and gone.
Destroyer of Worlds.
Ilse gently ran a hand through her son’s hair as he rested fitfully. Soon, he would terrorize the lands, but for now– in this moment, he wasn’t the monster they feared… he was her beloved son, Eric.
She did her best to enjoy their last peaceful moments together, but he was too close to adulthood now. There was nothing she could do.
“Remember, you’re my son and I love you no matter what,” she whispered.
She stifled a gasp when she saw the circle of light in the window behind her… it was full now… what would come next was inevitable.
As if he sensed the change, her son rose and gave her an almost evil smile. She watched in horror as he transformed before her.
He was longer Eric, he was Koltath the Destroyer, and with the expansion pack now downloaded and installed he would dominate in World of Warcraft.
*** Judges Entry, just for fun!***
Coming of Age
(Ode to The Killing of Old Men)
by Jessica West (@West1Jess
Ma waited until Brother John left to take Pa to the cliffs, held her grief inside until he couldn’t see her tears or hear her cries. We’d always known this day would come. There comes a time in every man’s life when he’s no longer a useful member of society.
“We’re civilized,” the politicians said. “We won’t watch our elders die a slow, agonizing death. We’ll send them to Heaven on the wings of sweet surrender, with their pride.”
Even at thirteen years old I knew that was a fancy way of sayin’, “Let’s just push the old folks off a cliff.”
Later that night, when John returned, eyes red and puffy, I let go and shed my share of tears. I’d hoped he couldn’t do it. Ma stroked my hair as I wept into her skirts like a child. After that night, though, I was a child no more. I came of age the same time my Pa did.
“Fighting the Wolves”
by Laura Emmons
“Say your prayers, Lissy.”
“Can I say them with you?”
“Of course, we must all pray.”
“Dear God, welcome Father, and protect Mother and me. Help Mr. Stone not be mean and let us stay here.”
Outside the window, the London skyline looked innocent under the full moon.
Stone’s words still echoed. “There be wolves on the moors, widow. Now, if’n I make a woman outta that girl ‘a yours, you can stay here long as ya like. Just bizness, see. There’s plenty’d like ‘em soft, like her there.”
There were wolves here, too. Lissy still prayed in my lap, too afraid to kneel at her bedside three feet away.
No. At first light we’d journey to Northumberland, walk if necessary. My needlework skills guaranteed me a job at the Stiles School for Young Girls, paying two guineas a month. Lissy’s tuition was three-quarters of that, but if we survived the journey, we could learn how to fight the wolves.
~Widowed and Betrothed~
They’d shared a room for sixteen years. They’d probably share it for sixty more.
Cherie buried her head in her sister’s lap.
“Hush…” Sansa said. “It’s not as difficult as they say. Just a moment of pain, and it’s over.”
Cherie sobbed again. “But why can’t I just stay here with you?”
“You’re of age now. But you’ll be back here soon enough, my darling. Soon enough.”
Cherie snuggled closer, trying to feel her sister’s baby move. The embryo was quiet, like his father had been.
“I love him.”
“You’re not supposed to.”
“I don’t think I can…”
“You can,” Sansa said. “He’ll just feel a moment of pain, then it will be over.”
Cherie felt her sister’s baby move. It was a tiny adjustment, as if he didn’t want to be noticed by either his mother or aunt.
“As soon as you’re with child. When you’re with child, you can come home to me.”
155 words, channeling my dark side… @USNessie
The Freshest Flower (159 Words)
Hannah ran her hands over Charlotte’s head and began to uncoil her thick gold hair. Charlotte smelled of sunshine and flowers, of rain-washed earth and spring. She was so fresh and new.
“Will he like me, Mama?”
“Of course, my dear. He has chosen you out of all the fine young ladies in the county. You are a very lucky girl.” Hannah took her daughter’s chin in her hand. Charlotte’s skin glowed even in the pale moonlight, and her blue eyes sparkled with anticipation. “You are like a beautiful flower that has come to full bloom.”
“Then I shall I be happy? As happy as you and father?”
Hannah allowed her eyes to drift towards the open window. Clouds drifted over the gleaming moon obscuring its light. “Bend your head, Charlotte. I must finish with these pins.”
“But I’ll be happy?” Charlotte said, bending obediently.
A hot tear ran down Hannah’s cheek. “As happy as your father and I.”
*** Judges Entry, just for fun!***
(Rebekah made me write this story. :))
Sins of the Mother
The full moon was partially shadowed by the fleshy arms of the tree. Jenny rushed into the room and buried her head in my lap, giggling. “Mama, I must go there.” Third time this month! The leaves rustled in the wind. I knew that sound so well. I sighed and gazed warily at the tree and rising moon, so familiar and yet so charlatan.
Jenny had never rebelled before. This will pass, just the rite of passage for coming of age. I consoled myself. The lies we tell ourselves to keep our secrets buried.
Jenny’s nightly visions of the magical place in faraway land make me shiver. She is eager to explore the world. I want to warn her. Don’t get lost, Baby! I remember that land of nightly revelries and binges. The land of so many promises and betrayals, so many lost boys, and the man who refused to grow up, who left me alone to fend for Jenny!
Crisis of 1885
SVBookman 160 Words
Janet smoothed her daughter’s long hair and whispered “Shush, my little lady. All will be fine.” The young girl’s head and body was racked with emotion. Janet had not even been able to get her daughter to speak of what had happened. She knew it dealt with the Johnson boy, the rascal. The mother breathed short, shallow, and fast to keep from tensing and adding to her daughter’s troubles.
Finally, she spoke. She looked up at the older woman’s sweet face and said with all embarrassment and with hushed tones, “He, he wanted me to to…”
“Yes,” continued mother with some urgency.
“He wanted me to … kiss his his…” again the pause. Janet was dreaming up ways to kill the boy without anyone finding out.
“…Kiss his … hand! Oh, mother, how could he ask me to do that so soon?” The tears started freely again.
Janet tried to let the air out slowly. Oh, to be young again.
by Laura Carroll Butler
Father never considered the consequences of his actions. He had married Deirdre knowing she loved another man. Father was incapable of love; he cared only for the position Deirdre’s dowry would purchase. It was a good life, nonetheless, Deidre giving him Tamsin and Moira, two daughters who greatly resembled her. When the third child came, there was no hiding her paternity. Father threw them out, Deirdre and the infant with her lover’s coloring and Tamsin became the lady of the house.
Now Father was gone, the income squandered and Tamsin and little Moira alone in the dingy, rented flat they could no longer afford. Tamsin considered the letter she had just received as her sister wept joyfully: “My dear Tamsin, at last we can be together as a family. Now that Father is gone, I can marry the man I’ve always loved, the man who is truly yours and Moira’s father.”
The Woman in the Moon
How often in childhood had she visited me? Crept into my bedroom through my open window, dressed in a gown of silver gossamer, to spirit me away?
High above the sleeping world on a beam of magic light, my troubles seemed so distant. Rabbits in the nighttime field, young lovers in their secret places, cannot avoid her gaze. Unseen, I learned so much with her.
My mother knew before I did how a girl becomes a woman. If only I had listened. No matter what my sisters said, nor how my father fumed, I knew my path to womanhood lay with my secret love.
I never dreamed my love would leave. For forty days and nights it rained. I wept. Like moonlight on a stormy night, my magic world had disappeared. When at last the light peeked through again, it was not the illuminating magic light of childhood; it was the merest sliver of wisdom.
The Hard Way
Mary’s sobs were muffled by her mothers lap. She finally came up for air, “Are you sure it will be tonight Mama? Perhaps the curse will skip a generation?”
Her Mother gently shook her head, “I remember when I turned sixteen all those year ago and the curse was passed to me. I was so very afraid, but there is nothing to fear. In time you will learn to control the hunger, just like my mother taught me.”
Mary rubbed at her eyes, “How did she teach you?”
“There is only one way to learn such a lesson, the hard way.”
“Did you learn quickly?”
“It only took one night.”
The clouds finally shifted from the full moon. Mary felt her body ripping and reforming, and then there was a terrible hunger. There was only one source of food in the room. Her mother didn’t make a sound as Mary devoured her, and the lesson was learned.
I had nothing to say. I remained silent, my head resting on my sister’s knees. I’d come so far, but it wasn’t enough. I spent my entire life waiting, and for what?
I started young, as most do. In the beginning, I was nowhere near ready, but I’d grown and changed since then. The possibility of my failure was always hidden in the back of my mind, though I tried not to think about it.
I failed. Why couldn’t I have been better?
My sister rested her hand on my hair, eventually adjusting it so her fingers brushed mine. I wanted to cry, but my face was already stained with tears.
The cool night air flowed in from the window. I took deep breaths, relishing the soothing feeling that coursed through my veins, though not enough to calm my racing heart.
The thick, heavy sound of footsteps pounded on the stairs, telling me my time was up.
And I wept.
The moon stared through the window with unbecoming boldness. Jenice’s head was buried in my skirts, trying ever so hard to not draw the attention of our mother.
“Marme,” she whispered between stifled sobs, “what is happening to me?” Another panicked sob broke from her lips. “What will Mother do to me?” The crushed, defeated quality of her whispered voice tore at my bosom. Dearest little sister mine.
My hand smoothed Jenice’s hair as I gazed up at that saucy moon. Inhaling deeply, I remembered my own time at Mother’s hands. I felt the muscles around my eyes and mouth tighten. She would not so scar my sister’s life. “Mother will not know.
“You are coming of age this month, dearest Jenice. It can be frightening, but it is also wonderful.” I could not help but gaze back at the moon. My teeth clenched. Mother must never know that Jenice has also inherited our father’s gift.
copyright Beth Peterson
Oh shoot! To get it posted in time, I didn’t get the title in. 😛 ~~ In Sisters We Trust ~~