Written for Trifecta. Quiet little Kat had 16 years of living under her cinched belt when she caught the eye of Rory Reynolds. The boy who ran the popular crowd with a toss of his shaggy blonde bob. The teacher had assigned Rory and Kat as partners in Food Tech. Together they burnt the creme brûlée and over-salted the croissants and devoured shiny cinnamon rolls. He got frisky and grabbed her wrist to lick stray icing off of her pinky finger, no thicker than a pencil. The act of wrapping his rugged hand around her childlike wrist aroused desire in an unnatural place. He could snap her in half by flexing his football-enhanced arm. He wanted to know how small every part of her would be.
"There's a party on Saturday. At Chuck Fisher's house. You should come."
"I don't know him."
"He's my buddy. I can invite whoever I wanna."
"I'm not much of a party girl."
His fingers continued to encapsulate her wrist. He turned her hand around and began tracing the creases on her palm with his finger.
"You can bring a friend."
He scribbled his number on the back of her hand, blue pen scraping blue veins.
"Call me if you want a ride."
She enlisted her best friend to tag along, a heavy girl with greasy bangs and thick glasses. They sat in the corner like spies, like mice so tiny they were invisible. Until Rory took her by the wrist to an upstairs bedroom with yellow walls. He pinned her against the bed, his breath severe with stale whiskey. He kissed her and she kissed him back. When he started tugging on her jeans, she asked him to stop.
"Let me go!"
He grunted. She thrashed.
Moans converged, pleasure festooned by pain.
"You're an animal!"
He looked up and growled.
"You better believe it."
Written for Tipsy Lit Prompted: describe a family tradition that has changed over time. Mother bakes a cake and the children play games in the great outdoors. Maybe they sing, maybe they have candles, maybe they don't. Gifts are bestowed upon little dimpled Johnny, the birthday boy, gifts that are handmade with care. A bear knit by grandma. A pretty picture by sister. A picture book by best friend. Flowers from mother's garden. A car built by father out of wood. A car built by brother out of sticks and sweets. This was a good old-fashioned birthday party.
Johnny is now Grandpa John. Allison, his granddaughter, also has her birthday parties at home. Her mother hires a professional party decorator to impress the adults and her father pays a magician to mystify the children. Because children need to be entertained. They suck on lollipops and juice boxes and when her mother brings out the buttercream cupcakes nearly the size of Allison's head, cacophony breaks loose. Every classmate and old friend and cousin within reasonable driving distance runs at top speed in a different direction. But the parents are on their seventh bottle of champagne by then, so they giggle and chatter on.
It's a party for everyone! Everyone but Grandpa John who sits in the corner with his hearing aid turned down, observing the madness with amused, grateful eyes. When Allison finally sits before the piles of shiny gifts, she is so high and happy that she barely stops to look at each present she opens. Her friends, on the other hand, don't hesitate to put the gifts to good use.
When the last one has been opened, the exodus begins. Hugs and high fives and coats and extra cupcakes shoved out the door. Wrapping paper litters the floor like a rainbow-colored blizzard. Little Allison falls asleep upon the snowflakes, lips and cheeks red as cherries.
An excerpt from the novel I started last year during NaNoWriMo that I'm just now getting around to editing. Follow the blog for more updates on my work in progress. Gloria stands up with a dramatic flourish, touching her belly. “Ralph and I are having a baby.”
I drop my fork and stifle a bellow. “Are you joking?”
“Why would I joke about that?”
“Because you don’t want kids. You don't even like children.”
My sister sits back down, staring at me with a familiar hatred. It's the same look Jerry's wife gave me. I cannot hold her gaze and I cannot look at anyone else for fear of reflecting the abomination onto an innocent. I know now that looks can kill. I pick apart my food instead.
Ralph clears his throat. “Gloria and I have been planning this baby for a long time,” he says.
“We built the house with children in mind,” she adds.
“Now you’re going to have more than one?” I say. Isolde squeezes my leg under the table in warning.
“Well, one at a time,” she says. My head spins, threatening paroxysm. Gloria isn’t allowed to have it all. She already possesses a career she loves, a house so new and clean you could eat off of the floor, and a handsome husband who squeezes her every time she walks by. I may have none of those three things, but I have three babies, three boys, three reasons that my life isn’t a total loss. The candle light blurs and my heart burns in the inferno that becomes envy if it goes unchecked for too long. My plate is full and my appetite has returned to its usual void. My stomach feels heavy and if I were alone, I would stick my finger down my throat and vomit. Vomiting is like a release for me, like a sneeze or an orgasm or a bloody cut.
There is no time, shouted the wrinkled man with a folded spine, wildebeests running across his eyeballs. He wished he were one of them. Getting the hell out of there. If she gathered everything she wanted from her cabin, they would be sacrificed to the sea. Anna took a long gaze at her jewelry box and gilded picture frames from the doorway. The old man hissed at her as he hobbled towards the exit. Really, her hesitation lasted the smallest of moments, but a split second becomes eternity when you can hear the ocean gushing towards you, when you're already in the belly of the ship, below water, practically daring the ocean to swallow you whole.
He wasn't ready to go home to the angels. Though he'd lived a long and full life, he couldn't ignore the feeling that he had many more good years on the planet. He had great grandkids with full heads of red hair and the most achingly beautiful granddaughters an old man could imagine. He had no wife, he hadn't had one for a while, but he had children and true friends and a house down the street from a deep blue lake where he fished every day from May through September.
The girl stepped back into the room. She was drawn to her things like Sleeping Beauty to the spindle. She had gold in her eyes and the devil on her shoulder. The man yelled from his belly, stop! You're going to drown! But the sound came only from his throat. Spindly and quiet. He'd run out of that kind of power decades ago.
He hated her. She didn't deserve to live if she believed pretty things to be bigger than a life. What did she think would happen if the ship went down? Did she fancy herself a mermaid? Did she think she could outrun the ship, the weight of the ocean, the force of God? He staggered towards her, purple fingers stretching for her ivory neck.
Follow me now, or you will die.
And then he turned and fled. He wanted to look back but he feared this would kill him. He did not see his life flash, rather the faces of his children hurtled through his mind at an alarming speed. With each face, he climbed another rung of the ladder. He was the last person saved from the ship.
In response to this week's Tipsy Lit prompt: write about an adult topic seen through a child’s eyes.
When the sun beamed its mustard face through the window, Tanner could squint his eyes and see a rainbow swaying in his Mommy’s mirror, smiling at him like the man in the sweet shop. His neighbor lady, Dawn, said good things always followed a rainbow. She wore messy rainbows on her clothes every day. She made them herself, and she made one for Tanner, too.
“Ugh. Do you have to wear that shirt? It’s so hippie-dippy,” said his Mommy, her voice scrunched. Mommy hated Dawn, but she still let Tanner fall asleep on Dawn’s couch every night, scratchy and moldy, cartoons fading into dreams.
Tanner’s Mommy didn’t work all day like other mommies. She smoked her special sticks and painted her toe nails pretty and yelled at Ricki Lake and made snickerdoodle cookies. Her friends came over sometimes and they drank from tall brown bottles in between kissing on the mouth. They kissed like their tongues tasted of custard, or something else you couldn't stop tasting. Tanner felt funny on the underside of his tummy when they panted and licked like the stray puppies who rolled around the neighborhood. Sometimes his Mommy gave him a lollipop and changed the TV to cartoons and took her friend by the fingers.
“Now be a good boy while Mommy has grown up time, okay?”
“What’s grown up time, Mommy?”
“It’s when we talk about grown up things.”
“What are grown up things?”
“I’ll tell you when you’re older.”
The men smiled big yucky smiles, their teeth sharp as the big bad wolf, while she ruffled his hair and winked one eye. He listened for the click, the signal she’d pushed in the lock, and then he pressed his ear against the door and listened for grown up things. But they didn’t talk. They jumped on the bed and Mommy made sounds like she was eating a box of chocolates or slipping into a bubbly bath.
Sometimes Tanner tip toed back to the TV like a good boy and sometimes he walked down the street slow as a tortoise, hunting for friends that didn’t want to be caught. He offered a freckled girl on a strawberry bicycle a lick of his lollipop one day.
"It's strawberry! You'll love it!"
"Gross!” she screamed, pedaling away, calling for her daddy. Tanner wished he could call for his daddy, but he already knew that no one would come.
Mommy’s friends always left before dinner. She cut hot dogs into octopuses and baked chicken into dinosaurs. He drank big boy milk and she gulped purple mommy juice and they smashed their glasses together and said “cheers!” After dinner, she packed up her big black bag with underwear and sparkly shoes and a funny wig. He liked the long yellow one best because it turned Mommy into Rapunzel. Mommy loved to be beautiful, she said it felt like she’d captured the stars in her pocket.
At work, she twirled on a stage, and she did it so nicely, like a fairy princess, that people gave her money. Whenever Tanner asked her to dance for him, she grabbed his hands and they spun around the living room until they fell to the ground in a happy pile.
He tried to wait up for her always, but his eyelids grew heavy as rain clouds. Always. When the stage set her free, she carried him from Dawn’s couch to his bed so that he awoke in a different place than he’d fallen asleep. He loved waking up in his own little bed, counting the cars on his bed sheets.
But one morning, he woke up on Dawn’s couch and it felt like the world had cracked open for a one-eyed hairy monster to crawl out. It chewed up his brains and left him dead but alive and itchy. Dawn’s face, round as the full moon, appeared before his nose, asking him if he wanted rainbow loops or frosted flakes for breakfast.
“I want Mommy.”
“Well I'm not sure where she’s at, little guy.”
image credit: themusicreunion.com
For this week’s prompt at Tipsy Lit, we are to write about insanity. What would push your character over the edge? How would they snap? Is it a one time, violent snap and then return to sanity or do they cross over forever? What does that look like? Do they know they’re crazy? I’ve learned to adapt to my mother’s quirks. She doesn’t attend parent-teacher conferences without Jasper the guinea pig peaking out of her carpet bag. My teachers look at me a bit differently after they've met my mother. She dyes her hair a different color on the first of every month, hues of copper and sunshine and mahogany, because she believes it keeps others from recognizing her. Never mind that she has worn the same obtrusive floppy hat and cat-eye sunglasses and shade of Revlon lipstick (burnt sienna) for longer than it takes to turn over every cell in the body.
She lists her occupation as “Mother” although I fit the role better than she does. I cook the spaghetti and clean behind my own ears and forge her signature to pay the bills and intercept the phone calls. After she got arrested last year for too many prank calls to the 911 operator, I started locking up the telephone. She hurled a crystal vase against the wall the first time I did it, but I scurried out the front door by the time it shattered like an airplane crashing. She never mentioned the phone again.
I wish I could say that something happened to make her this way, and I suppose it had to be a lost chapter of her childhood, something she will never admit. Because her photo albums tell a different story. She led a privileged life, a girlhood of equestrian endeavors and private schools and holidays in the Mediterranean. She achieved her first expulsion at my age (thirteen and a half) when she walked through the halls of her prep school naked as a newborn.
These days, from what I can tell, she devotes her life to stretching. She calls the yoga mat her sacred space. She can twist her limbs into a pretzel and she can sit cross-legged all day long. I bet she was sitting cross-legged, looking zen as a Buddhist priest, when she made those phone calls.
Sometimes I hate her. When I tell her so, she threatens to jump off of the Aurora bridge. I know she would do it. It's too easy to close my eyes and see her broken body flattened in a parking lot, human flesh turned to red paint. She says I’m her only reason for living. And so I have learned to swallow my hatred when I feel it, blistering my heart instead of my mother's. I can’t help but love her. It’s like an addiction.
In response to this week's Tipsy Lit prompt: let’s see what kinds of locations/professions we can imagine ourselves (or our characters) in. Write a scene that describes the location in a way that also gives us a sense of the person who works there. There was no way out. She had to force the door open upon arrival, pushing clothing and spike heels and sundry items out of the way of the viridescent particle board on hinges. Even so, every time she wanted to leave, her belongings had managed to sneak their way back against the door as if plotting their escape, peeking under the crack for fresh air. The only window was old and painted shut, but at least it was single pane.
She lived in a one-room apartment with a closet-sized bathroom and no closet at all. In one corner, a sink and an electric range comprised her kitchen. The countertop was the color of the ripe flesh of a mango, and the fridge was child-sized. If she bought a six-pack of Corona, she had to drink four bottles in one night because there was only ever room for two. Warm beer rotted her insides. She’d wanted a microwave since she moved in but she could never save enough. Every bit of her monthly allowance went to rent, food, drink, pot and paints.
She had a knack for running out of food and money simultaneously. After starving for a day or two, assuming she wasn’t in the middle of a masterpiece, she would show up on a friend’s doorstep, bringing a painting she’d discarded before finishing, claiming that it came to her in a vision after their previous visit, and they would be so flattered that they inevitably offered her a drink or a snack or a whole meal. She never invited them to her place. Most of them didn’t know where she lived. But no one ever stopped opening their doors. Someday those paintings would be worth something.
She painted in front of the bay window. Beyond all of the buildings and smog and cement, she could see a sliver of ocean. Always waiting for her, no matter the blackness of night or the numbing of her mind.
She sold a few paintings at a farmer’s market, standing like a pathetic hippie in her long skirts and gladiator shoes and John Lennon sunglasses and vermillion lipstick and homemade earrings, praying to Jesus that the people of Los Angeles would see beyond her youth and recognize her for who she was.
The sales were demeaning and the tent cumbersome and the afternoons stifling. She quit selling at the market as soon as she’d earned enough for a queen mattress. A real bed helped her to dream. She had no other furniture. No dresser or shelves or couch, nothing but an easel and paintings and books stacked everywhere like the buildings around her, and piles of clothing and jewelry hanging from thumbtacks on the walls that were splattered in paint. Not in any particular pattern because she hated patterns, but she loved colors.
Written for Trifecta. The prompt is to write a 33 word piece that has a color in it. There goes life. Hurtling onward with the cavalier velocity of fire-engine red. That metallic taste on your tongue you never notice until its gone, like the shooting star that borrowed your dreams.
Written for Trifecta. The prompt is to use the third definition of "charm." When we could no longer talk, when comebacks grew superfluous as cheese-stuffed pizza crusts and apologies became lodged between the ribs, we walked. We didn't make contact with accusatory eyes nor spindly fingers. We didn't know how to live apart, and we fought like angry cats while together. We were wine and chocolate, frick and frack, sunlight and water. Together we tasted like divine pairings, we could accomplish so many things and be so many iterations of our best selves, and our worst.
We wrote a screenplay together in a day, each picking up where the other had left off, weaving the plot in ways no one could prophesy. We got high off of the imagined drama. The impossible love triangle, the precise professions made by the man to charm both of the women at once, the compromises each character made for their own unhappy ending.
Our trusted friend was the only son of a Hollywood producer, hot shot and loaded. After reading it, he couldn't speak through his elation. We stared at one another like mutes. I opened a box of wine and we clinked three glasses together. When we'd drained the last of the crimson, our friend moved his lips.
"Brilliant. Fucking brilliant."
We were going to make a movie.
My husband and I made love in the middle of the day and the middle of the night. We climbed mountains, settling upon the highest rock with a picnic lunch, only satisfied with the widest angle of the world. We dined on oysters and shopped using credit cards. We lived the dream like we owned it.
And then I changed my mind. Or perhaps my mind changed me. Changed us.
"We have to fix the ending."
"It's too sad. No one likes a film that's ultimately depressing. No one."
"We wanted it to be realistic, remember?"
"What's so unrealistic about happy endings?"
Everything, it turned out.
Written for Trifecta. The prompt is to use the third definition of "crack." There were no words in her mind, no being left to be, no imagination tugging at her lapels every time she laid down to sleep. Avery's talent had been siphoned away, like the bone marrow from a willing donor or the breath from a man who'd hung himself.
But Avery was neither willing nor suicidal. The sentences slipped out through the hole in her heart. Where everything important to her had once resided with vigor. The husband that disappeared, and the son with him, and finally the career as a writer. They called her promising. She abided by her dreams and built something from nothing. Until evil kidnapped her everything.
She sits in coffee shops and watches the people, the pages before her as blank as the first snowfall of winter lit by the dawn. They look so proud, climbing out of smooth shiny cars, faces pointing towards the sun like flaxen sunflowers. They beam at one another with nonfictional jubilation, they focus on their work when they sit, they curl their tongues and bite their lips and pucker their eyes. Life pours out of their crevices because they know they have everything. Avery wants to warn them, she wants to slip each of them a note.
If you have everything, then you have everything to lose.
She moves to Paris to write. Where cafe tables populate sidewalks and sidewalks meander into unmarked alleyways. Where children chain smoke and women with ripe round bellies drink glasses of wine. She buys opium from a street peddler with a chipped face and she smokes it over the electric stove in her rented white-walled studio. She hears words strung into run-on sentences. She presses her ear against a crack in the wall, but the voices aren't coming from the neighbor she's never seen.
The voices are coming from inside of her head.
Written for Trifecta. The prompt is to use the third definition of "fly." "I'm here," the little one announces, chest taut with hope.
His mother ignores him as easily as she flouts the tax man. She's talking on the phone and looking out the window, running fingers through broken yellow hair. She speaks in a low voice sweet like honey, whispering secrets and lies, topped with whipped cream and cherries.
"Who're you talking to, mommy?" But he knows the answer already: the clients. Every time he asks to become one, she lights up a cigarette and blows the smoke in his face until he coughs. He'll cough forever if she'll keep looking at him.
He says, to no one in particular, "I'm hungry, mommy." He bites his lip, it's almost as chewy as a gummy worm. He approaches his mother. He stands close enough to smell her perfume. Roses fused with nail varnish. His favorite scent in the world.
She turns away from him so that her bottom is in his face. Ripe and round as a peach. He can't help it. He's so hungry. He bites her in the ass. She drops the phone as her arms fly into motion, swatting at him with both hands. He runs away, the screen door slamming in her face. She doesn't follow him.
He hides behind the neighbor-man's truck where no one can see him. The man's belly is so big that the boy thinks there might be a baby inside even though his mother says only girls can grow babies. He watches as the man grills hot dogs, one after another. He drools like the skinny mutts who roam the trailer park, the dogs too ugly to feed, or love.
When the man drops a hot dog onto the gritty earth, he doesn't shout "dammit!" or "fuck!" Instead, he peers into the shadows where the boy hides and he calls to him.
"Hey boy, do you want this one?"
Written for Trifecta. She looks between her legs, white paper stained crimson. It wasn't supposed to happen this way.
Her body, round as Mother Earth, heaves, like the ship against the waves. She tries holding her breath, drowning herself in the murky density of the mind.
"I want to die!" she shouts when the pain subsides. But her voice comes out of the wrong end. It travels inward rather than out. She doesn't have much time until the next attack. Thought falls into the shadow of suffering. The core of her cramps.
"You're going to survive," a man says. The tightening squeezes the life out of her. She climbs into his words.
You... Will... Survive...
She lives inside of the words. Intellect dissolves and their essence cradles her in an Elysian cocoon. She knows she is dying.
"Let me go," she says. "Throw me to the sea." But the interlude doesn't last. Force demands freedom. The big boom, the beginning of the universe, travels through her body, splitting open her pelvis. She bares down, until she realizes she is about to break in two like a seashell.
"Push your hardest, then let it go. Push, let go. Push, let go."
Push... Let go...
The first time she opens up, she does not break, she widens. Heaven passes through the hole in her body.
Faceless arms hand her a tiny child, naked and disoriented. Blankets, a hat descends, gloved fingers point her nipple between miniature lips. She holds his squirming body against her own. She looks at the suckling chin, a chin she already knows well. She thinks of nothing, not of love or of pain, but of what she has learned about mothering.
The hardest part is letting go.
Written for Trifecta. She soaked in a bath tub topped off with a bottle of champagne too flat to drink. She held a book in one hand and a hand-rolled cigarette in the other. She burned candles, their flames balanced on all four corners like controlled suicide threats.
Still holding the accoutrements, she submerged her head, allowing alcoholic bath water into her nose, ears and mouth; while locking her eyes shut like windows. She decided to count the seconds.
At the same moment she hit ten, the ten-second countdown began. Her drunken neighbors shouted from the apartment below, echoing through the walls, through the water, invading the perverted hideaway of her thoughts.
Ten! Nine! Eight! Seven! Six! Five! Four! Three! Two! One!
She broke the surface, squeezing air into the very bottom of her lungs, and it was not unlike being born. She heard, though she wished she didn't, bells and explosions and the silence of a far-away kiss. Exhaling every last drop, she completed her first breath of the year.
On her second breath, she dragged on the cigarette and resumed the novel where she'd left off. She was free of anticipation as she lived in the shadow of expectation. Everything that mattered was behind her, or so she believed.
Written for Trifecta. I tell him before the curtains open. He doesn't flinch.
During intermission, he turns his head as if this limited range of motion requires infinite strength. He looks at me through tinted eyeglasses, and he says, “so you’re rich. You’ve been rich for two years, and you thought it best not to tell me. You let me waste away my life driving that truck until I went near-blind. Is that correct?”
I return his gaze, black glass reflecting black iris. Resentment pressed against aversion like lovers meeting in a kiss, or a blow.
“I’m telling you now.”
He rises, knocking his glass onto the floor with a rogue piece of fleshy hip, my relief as intense as a choir of angels. The lights dim, and I grasp my own wine glass, hollow yet whole, transfixed by the performance and the unfettered existence unfolding at my feet.
Relief relaxes into a giddy, heady, blurry evening. I crush the shards of Leroy’s wine glass with the heel of my boot, and then I introduce myself to the piano player. He lives alone in an apartment downtown, in the top half of a high rise. Before he succumbs to sleep, we share a cigarette and he says I should make myself at home.
I sit, pressed against the cold window, gray plumes curling from my mouth and memories sailing through my head, everything dissolving into the invisible wind that blows on the other side of the thick glass. I memorize the panoramic view, balls of lights piercing the absence of light; I suppose this is all our universe is.
When the sun rises, I do not mourn the end of night, the pastel glow melting the rooftops into one continuous dream. I am ready to start again.
(Adapted from my current manuscript in process.)
Written for Trifecta. When he walked out that door, he closed it behind him like he was sneaking away f0r another midnight tryst with one of the girls, not realizing I awoke every time he cleared his throat.
I wished he would slam it with the same force he used when we were fighting and the fighting turned to fucking, eyes wild and wrists bound. I wanted to run after him and shout the insults I'd written in my head in as much detail as a sonnet. But he didn't disturb the neighbors with their sleeping babes, so I didn't, either. That's always how it was. I didn't do anything without his permission.
He packed his suitcase, which I'd given to him last Christmas, like he was preparing for another trip to New York City, counting socks and matching outfits. Black and black. Blue and brown. The same colors as the bruises on my arm. His dark eyebrows cinched together, calculating his most prized possessions, like a mother gathering family photos and ancient heirlooms before the fire swallows them whole. Except for he had a lot more time. He had everything in the world, including time. Including me.
Though he took with him only what fit in that single thrift store suitcase, once he'd left, the apartment was hollow. Like my mother's eyes after she'd died. Like the two year old baby down the hall who didn't walk or talk. Like the clouds that hovered but never washed our dirty alleys.
I clawed open the medicine cabinet to find it empty; the pills like marshmallow pebbles and the powders like pixie dust were as gone as my husband. I searched in every crack, every shadow, every pocket for redemption. For secret money, for a water-marked love note, for a sign that my life wasn't over.
Written for Trifecta. "When you die, you will come back as a snake," said the strange new girl with strawberry hair and oriental eyes, as if she were casting a spell on my brother while we waited under crispy red trees for the school bus. Ramona had moved in with her grandmother in July and she wore only black, even on the stickiest summer days while the rest of us were up to our chins in the community swimming pool.
My brother, Chase, vexed Ramona by claiming that Mrs. Augustine was not her real grandma. Ramona spent the whole bus ride staring at Chase, giving him an eye so evil my mother would have covered his buzzed blonde head with a blanket. She was superstitious about things like that.
Ramona didn't have one friend. She stalked my brother at recess, watching him like a cat waiting to pounce. Sometimes I didn't notice it was my turn on the monkey bars because I was busy watching her watching him.
One morning, when my breath cut the fog, Chase asked Ramona to stop staring at him. She whispered, "never," and goosebumps prickled the back of my neck. I wanted to confess our troubles to mother, but Chase forbade me. He believed in courage over weakness, silence over scandal.
On Halloween, Chase dressed up as death and I turned into a black cat, whiskers and all. We begged mother to let us go trick-or-treating on our own. She walked and we needed to run. We wanted more candy than houses in our neighborhood. We wanted to hedge our childhood with sugar. Even then, we sensed it would be over soon.
The first thing the driver saw was a black cat in the road. Not me, but a real black cat. She swerved to avoid it, like pulling your hand out of boiling water. The last thing she saw was a skeleton flying through her windshield. A little boy, wearing all black and white bones.
Written for Trifecta. He squints because he is nervous, examining the silk sweater, which is finer than white sand. Usually, he judges silk only by touch. The eyes of a saleswoman rest on his back with intention. God made him a thief, but at least he can trust his intuition. He sets down the shopping bag and glides to a rack of silk dresses, rubbing the slippery fabric between his thumb and middle finger. Underneath his designer jeans, he wears three pairs of silk boxers.
The first time he discovered silk, his parents were on a cruise in the Bahamas. He'd woken up minutes before sunrise and padded into their room while the nanny slept. At five years old, his mother's dresser held treasures more precious than the doctor's trove of lollipops, comic books and plastic horses. He rifled through her top drawer, inspecting each item as if looking for flaws.
At first, his favorite was a thick, shapely bra, red and lacy. He wanted to take it into bed and cuddle with it, he didn't know why. Then he found the silk underwear, which he did take back to bed, rubbing the material between his thumb and middle finger until he fell asleep. When the nanny found him in bed with his mother's lingerie, he didn't know to feel uneasy. But after she scolded him, he did.
At age eleven, he stole an eggplant-colored silk robe for his mother. She thanked him, but never wore it, so he took it from the hook in her bathroom and threw it under his bed. He would never give her another gift. At 17, he opened a shop on eBay selling silk items. He got $75 for the eggplant-colored robe. At 20, he is richer than all of his friends, including the ones who work in construction.
The saleswoman continues to watch him, so he catches her eye and asks for a fitting room. When she turns her back, he disappears.
Written for Trifecta. She scratches her cheek, wondering if this is a psychological or a physiological response. She's no longer sure of what's real and what's imagined, or if the line even exists. Something real can be imagined and something imagined can be real.
Does she hear spirits because she doesn't want to be alone, or because they're there? Whispering in her ear, tickling her face, playing with her hair.
Is she sick because she wants to be? Are the ghosts here to lead her to the other side? Or is she dead already?
All she knows is that she knows nothing. Which is why she makes no decisions for herself.
She learned during her life as a foster child that the only way to live is by blind chance. She would do whatever they told her to do. If she disobeyed, they would hate her. Since she had no love, she was petrified of hate.
When her foster mother told her to finish her dinner, she did. When her foster brother told her to take off her clothes, she did. When the social worker told her to keep her mouth shut, she did. When they told her to leave, she moved out. When a rich man offered to take her off of the park bench and into his bed, she followed him. When she got sick, she told no one because there was no one to tell..
She is ready to die.
I see the bullies. Two boys. Their victim is a little girl whose chromosomes are all mixed up. “What are you doing?” I bark in the exact tone my father uses with me when he’s disappointed, the voice that taught me how to fear. I recoil at the coldness in my heart, and everyone, including the pig-tailed girl, freezes as if paralyzed by an icy wind blowing across the tropics.
Without a glance in my direction, the perpetrators drop the girl's ratted blankie and disperse. I shake my head until my world becomes a blurry mess, mourning the death of innocence and the birth of evil.
Back in the classroom, the boys behave well for the rest of the day, returning to their usual disruptive selves by the next. If they had seen my stare, the sorrow they spawned, the good behavior may have lasted a week, but you cannot force someone to look you in the eye.
Written for Trifecta.
Adapted from the manuscript of my first novel.