We lived by the mantra, ‘no regrets.’
At seventeen, we stripped and plunged into the murky river, moving our friendship into “more” territory. We had no apologies, even after cranky old Mr. Sitkowski waved his shotgun barrel at us.
“You kids git on outta thar!” He bellowed.
We’d giggled at his rage as we walked to shore. (Even with a season of good rain, the river couldn’t overcome nine years of drought and barely came to our waists.) Wearing a shroud of youthful exuberance, neither of us had the good sense (or decency) to cover ourselves as we emerged and stumbled up the muddy bank.
“Good lawd!” Mr. Sitkowski whipped his head to the side to avoid seeing our nakedness. “Ya’ll ought not be showin’ that stuff. Git dressed!”
We’d snickered again at his Southern-accented indignation. One time, he’d told us his parents emigrated from Poland and rode a breeze to Ohatchee, Alabama and some years later, settled near the Verde River in Arizona. (Turns out he was much friendlier when not trespassing on his land at midnight.)
We grabbed our clothes off the willow branch while Mr. Sitkowski, with his back to us, leaned on his shotgun like a cane and ranted about the trouble with today’s youth. We shared a conspiratory smile and a nod before we slipped into the brush. You grabbed my hand and led the way as we ran wearing nothing but our skivvies! I didn’t even feel the thistles dig into my bare feet as we wound through the weeds.
My dreamer’s mind saw this as the perfect story to tell our grandchildren- when they were of age, of course.
Reality toyed with the fairy tales rooted in my head. We graduated and went to separate colleges. The daily phone calls dwindled to weekly, and then petered into infrequent letters resembling the impersonal updates sent with Christmas cards. After a full year passed without any communication from you, I came to terms with my future.
Until you found me again.
After nine years, you’d called and I eagerly answered. You suggested we meet and I didn’t decline. I couldn’t. Once clean-shaven, you’d grown a stubbly beard. Your lean frame bulked up and I fought to not stare at the tight muscles pulsing beneath your black t-shirt. But you had the same eyes- the ones that could melt a “yes” out of me no matter what you wanted.
You’d wanted to go back to my place. I should’ve resented the suggestion, because I knew what “catching up” meant. Still, my heart couldn’t muster a “no.” I convinced myself that my teenaged notions of us spending our lives together would come true. In a way, I’d been right; like a fortune cookie prediction, or some kind of eerie premonition.
*** *** ***
I steal a sideways glance at you, handcuffed beside me wearing a matching orange jumpsuit. Oddly, orange is flattering on you. I decide the light stubble on your jawline is incredibly sexy. If it weren’t for the packed courtroom, handcuffs and ankle shackles, I’d kiss you right here.
That fleeting thought unnerves me because you are at the core of everything I don’t want to remember. I’ve had over a year alone to build up hatred for you, but love prevails. Stupid, obedient, errant love. The kind of foolish feelings I’d had for you since before Mr. Sitkowski busted us skinny dipping in the river.
“We’d like to call Audrey White to the stand.”
My name cuts through the endless loop of self-recrimination. A temporary reprieve, I know. The bailiff escorts me to the stand. I place my hand on the Bible and swear to tell the truth. A smirk crosses my lips at the thought of anything I have to say being oath-worthy.
I sit and brace for what’s coming.
“Ms. White, do you know the co-defendant, Cooper Bradshaw?”
“We were in bed together when the police arrested us, so I’d say I do.” My attorney winces at the sarcasm. Stifled giggles ripple through the courtroom.
“Order!” The judge slams her gavel twice.
The prosecutor clears his throat. “When did you begin your affair with Mr. Bradshaw?”
“1999. We were seventeen.”
“When did you resume the affair?”
“Three years ago, Cooper called and we met for coffee.”
“Is that when you began planning his wife’s murder?”
“Objection!” My lawyer shouts.
“I never planned to kill his wife. I mean, I didn’t even know he was married.” I catch a glimpse of my lawyer shaking his head so I stop.
“So you accidentally shot your lover’s wife in her own home?”
It sounds worse when he says it. “Yes. I mean, no.” I sigh in frustration. “Cooper was in the shower and I heard a noise downstairs. I told him there was someone in the house, but he didn’t hear me over the running water. I panicked and grabbed the revolver from the nightstand drawer.”
“How did you know he kept a gun there?”
“I watch movies. Everyone keeps a gun in the nightstand. Or under the mattress.”
A few chuckles slip out, but a stern look from Judge Thomas quells them.
“What happened next?”
“The bedroom door opened and I pulled the trigger.” I look down and rub my thumb over a black smudge on the orange fabric stretched across my left thigh. “I later found out it was Chandra Bradshaw, his wife. It was an accident.”
The prosecutor looks at the paper in his hand. “Is it also an accident that Cooper called his wife at 2:11?” He turns to the jury box. “Fourteen minutes before Chandra came home.”
A new lie? Cooper’s expression reveals nothing.
We’re facing life in prison. Doubt settles in my stomach. I see it in the jurors’ faces, too.
The realization dawns that our entire relationship wasn’t fate, rather one accident after another.
We’d always defined ourselves by the ‘no regrets’ mantra, but somehow, in the shock of betrayal, my regrets have become too numerous to count.
This 999-word story was written for a contest held by Write On Edge (thanks, Atreyee, at Brewmeacuppa, for the heads up on this one!) This is a voted contest for a chance at publication. Details are below… if you want to join in, there’s still time – click the badge above to view their site
- 1000 word limit, all genres of creative writing are welcome.
- linky is open until Friday, February 21, at 11:55pm Pacific
- Use the F. Scott Fitzgerald quote “It takes two to make an accident.” as an opening/closing line or draw inspiration from it, your choice.
- Community voting opens 2/22 and closes 2/28 at 11:55pm Pacific.
- Community and editorial choice winners will be announced on Write on Edge and Bannerwing Books on Monday, March 3, 2014.
- All entries must be original work, only published on your personal blog/website, and by entering you give Write on Edge and Bannerwing Books permission to reprint your entry in Precipice, Volume III‘s print and digital formats, as well as permission to edit for grammatical, spelling, and typographical errors.
Recently, there was a gun scare at my son’s middle school. Thankfully, the report of a man with a semi-automatic weapon on campus ended up not being a threat.
That afternoon, his backpack hit the floor and I asked, “How was your day?”
Shoulder shrug. “Fine.”
“I heard there was a lock-down at your school.”
Another shoulder shrug.
“Well, were you scared?”
“Figured it was another drill.”
“You didn’t think an hour was long for a drill?”
Yet another shoulder shrug.
“Where do you go when you’re in lock-down?”
This time I got an irritated sigh; a step up from the shoulder shrug. “We sat under our desks. What did you do when you were in school?” (Said in his snarky ‘you’re-an-idiot-please-tell-me-I’m-adopted’ tone.)
I paused. “We didn’t have lock-down.”
This realization spotlighted the gap between our generations.
Back in my day (now that doesn’t make me sound old, now does it?) I remember “stranger danger” as the big threat. Some pervert offering candy or asking us to help find a lost dog was something our parents feared. Now we hear about home invasions where someone breaks into the house and takes a child while the parents are home. Oh, and it’s often not a stranger.
We didn’t have cell phones or the internet (now I REALLY sound old!) but we were able to leave bullies behind when we left school grounds. These days, meanness has taken to social media where it stalks victims 24/7.
All this got me wondering if school shootings really happen more frequently, or if more media coverage makes it seem that way. Google led me to Wikipedia, where I found a lengthy list of US school shootings dating back to 1760. (We’ve come a long way from Dewey Decimal System-filed card catalogs.)
I scanned the list and made a list of shootings that have occurred on elementary, middle and high school campuses since the 1970s, when I began attending school. In my counts, I didn’t include suicides at school or teachers/adults shot by students or exes.
1970s= 9 shootings
1980s= 18 shootings
1990s= 19 shootings (interestingly enough, sixteen of these incidents occurred BEFORE Columbine)
2000s= 18 shootings
So far in the 2010s, there are 19 shootings. This is disturbing, especially since we aren’t even halfway through the decade.
I worry about my childrens’ future, but I have to laugh because each generation laments the next generation’s journey to Hell in a hand basket. The dangers seem more pervasive from one generation to the next.
Maybe there’s something to that. Maybe each generation can rightfully lay claim to owning the “good ‘ol days.”
Then again, I believe there’s always room for improvement.
Don’t blame the sinner. Our future was destined to end before we began; poisoned by the serpent. You brought me- your angel- to your castle… my knight on his stallion, determined to save me. I tried. I really did. But my flawed nature reared its ugly head and consumed me… changed me. I embraced the devil within that re-emerged. Any goodness I had is submerged in your river of tears.
Stephan crumpled the note and hurled it into the fire. He watched as the edges flamed, curled and turned to ash. He unclenched his fists and stormed out of his study.
He stalked the labyrinth paths in the garden, refusing to release the tears as Emory expected. He paused when he heard a faint giggle carried on the breeze. Emory. He peered over the manicured hedge and through the tree branches at the gazebo. Lights lined the support posts and beams, illuminating Emory’s golden hair spilling down Robert’s chest as she rested her cheek on his shoulder. Stephan’s gaze focused on Robert’s hands, which held her waist with inappropriate familiarity.
“I will not cry for you!”
Emory and Robert separated and stared open-mouthed at Stephan as he jumped the hedge and rushed toward them.
“How could you betray me, brother?”
“It’s not his fault.” Emory reached for Stephan’s arm.
He jerked away from her delicate fingers.
“I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
Stephan drew a knife and lunged toward his older brother. Emory stepped aside.
Robert deflected the blade and knocked the knife from Stephan’s hand.
Emory let out an eerie, anguished cry.
The two men halted, mid-wrestle, both startled and intrigued by the peculiar sound.
A large python circled their ankles. They lifted their feet to elude the scaly noose, but the snake tightened its grip. It slithered up their legs, squeezing them like a spent tube of toothpaste. Pressed together, the men realized struggling was no use.
“Emory, please help,” Robert begged.
Stephan gasped as the snake inched up their waists and around their chests.
Emory watched in silence as her two loves disappeared inside the python’s coils. She lacked guilt for her involvement and the decency to turn her back.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered. “It’s in my nature. Don’t blame the sinner.”
This is my response to the Speakeasy weekly writing prompt. This week, we were asked to write a response under 750 words (mine is 377) and: (1) Use “Don’t blame the sinner” as the first line; and (2) make some kind of reference to the media prompt- a painting called The Chess Queens, by Muriel Streeter.
The challenge is open to everyone, so if you’re intrigued or inspired, write your response and link up! Click the badge below to visit Speakeasy’s site. Have a beautiful Monday!
icy sheets shift in water.
My day job- the one that pays the bills- has been crazy since the beginning of the year. I’m now three projects deep with more on the horizon and am beginning to feel the effects of longer hours and less sleep. It feels like I’m treading water, as I do my best to “get it all done.” I’m doing, but my “to do” list isn’t shrinking.
For some reason, this made me think of a photo I took a couple months ago of a lake with large sheets of ice in it. The kids liked to hear the “plink” as they lobbed small rocks onto the thin layer of ice. They also giggled at the “ker-plop” of rocks that broke through and hit the water.
I stood on shore, mesmerized by the partially frozen water. The ice sheets didn’t fight for position. They didn’t shatter under the pesky pelting of pebbles from mischievous children. No forces worked to break them up or move them out of the way. They bobbed in the water and were just allowed to “be”.
I decided that I want to be more like a sheet of ice. No, not frigid and slippery! Instead of exerting force to control my circumstances, I want to be able to co-exist with them. Rather than struggle to get everything done, I want to accept that sometimes that’s an impossible idea. I want to contemplate what I have done more, and focus less on what remains to be accomplished.
I need to take time to just “be.”
Oh, and to write about it, of course
Thanks so much for visiting and reading. Have a beautiful day!
Andy descended the steps into the dimly lit parking garage. The heels of his Italian leather dress shoes clacked against the concrete, echoing around him. A wave of foreboding rippled through his body. He stopped and strained his senses to detect the presence that prickled his skin. Nothing. He continued to his car at a brisker pace.
He exhaled a relieved sigh once inside his car with the doors locked. Before he could shift to reverse, he felt something press against the back of his neck. Then he recognized the familiar scent of vanilla and citrus.
“I see you’re still counting dollars. Always the workaholic. Let’s go count some stars.”
Sophie McClaren. He thought about running, but he didn’t know what she held against his neck. It could’ve been a knife, a grenade, a lipstick tube, her finger. She’d used it all before.
“What do you say, Andrew?” She caressed his chest with her free hand and giggled when she felt him shiver beneath her touch.
“You need to leave.”
Sophie let out a bitter laugh. “You tried to make sure that happened.”
“Look, we weren’t meant to be together. I love Anabelle.”
“Ah, Anabelle Rockefeller. The woman you killed for, whose wealth saved your family.”
His jaw tensed. “My family had a fine standing.”
Andy hesitated, but still unsure of what jammed into his neck, he obeyed.
“Are you sorry?”
Sophie leaned forward, her breath tickling his ear. “You proclaimed your love for me and asked me to marry you. Then you sealed your promise with a diamond ring- your own design. Two weeks later, the stock market crashed. It became known as Black Tuesday, but Wednesday was darker. Don’t you remember it?”
His grip tightened around the steering wheel, but he said nothing.
“Fine. We’ll go over it again.” She crawled into the front seat, revolver barrel pointed at him, but out of his reach. “Turn right here.”
Andy caught a glimpse of the weapon. He contemplated a move but decided against it. He thought he could reach it in a stretch, but she was crazed enough to pull the trigger.
“You picked me up in your daddy’s Ford to take me to the river for a romantic evening picnic. After caviar and wine, we kissed, and more. I gave you everything. I’ll never forget what you said before you shoved me into the frigid water knowing I couldn’t swim.” Sophie’s lips pressed into a thin line and anger flushed her cheeks. “You said, ‘no one could ever know what happened here’.”
“That was a lifetime ago, Sophie.”
“Four lifetimes, actually.”
“When are you going to give it up?” Andy shouted. “You’ve killed me four times already. No matter my incarnation, I find Anabelle. I love Anabelle!”
“You overlook the fact we find each other as well. Andrew, darling, I think I figured out what went wrong. Oh, turn left here.”
Andy frowned. “The lake. I get it. This time you watch me drown so I know how you felt.”
“I only seek your promise fulfilled.”
Andy parked near the lake shore. “Let’s get this over with.”
Sophie led him to the edge of the water.
She lifted her gun and fired two shots; one to his left shoulder, and the other to his right leg. She handcuffed their left wrists together before nudging him toward the water. Writhing in pain, Andy stumbled forward. Sophie pulled them toward the center, trembling as the water splayed icy fingers over her body.
“This time, my love, we go together.”
This is my response the Speakeasy weekly prompt, which is to write a piece in 750 words or less (mine is 594) using (1) “No one could ever know what happened here.” anywhere in the piece AND (2) some reference to the video prompt- OneRepublic’s song “Counting Stars.”
The challenge is open to anyone who wants to participate. If you’re curious, click the badge below to view complete guidelines. Thanks for reading!
Cupid’s a terrible aim.
Some say the affliction stinks-
The object of my unrequited
deflector of my
a gorgeous kitty.
A lonely skunk.
This is my silly response to the Trifecta weekly writing prompt. I’ve been absent for a couple weeks for this challenge but figured I could handle 33 words. But you can be the judge of that. No, really, you’re the judge because it’s a community vote week
You have 48 hours from when the challenge closes on Thursday to vote for your favorite. Click on the tricycle image to check out other entries- or even better- submit your own!
Here’s the challenge: this week we’re asking for exactly 33 of your own words about love gone wrong. But we’re asking that you not use any of the following words: love; sad; tears; wept; heart; pain.
My poem is written from the POV of Pepé Le Pew- one of my favorite Looney Tunes characters! Poor guy did everything he could to woo his lady love, not realizing that she was a kitty, not a skunk. I’d post a photo, but don’t want to be busted by the copyright police
Thanks for reading – have a great Monday!
We sprawl in the grass,
pictures in the sky.
as the puffy images pass-
he sees what I can’t find.
“See the dragon.
a wide-brimmed cowboy hat?”
“And look, there’s a cat
next to a Radio Flyer wagon!”
Patient with my blindness,
draws in the air with his fingers.
For a split-second, I do see
Then the wind
my moment of clarity
by absolutes and responsibility.
to do it all again,
my son’s vision carries me.
This is what I came up with for the second week of Quotespiration. Here’s this week’s quote:
“I showed my masterpiece to the grown-ups, and asked them whether the drawing frightened them. But they answered: “Frighten? Why should anyone by frightened by a hat?” My drawing was not a picture of a hat. It was a picture of a boa constrictor digesting an elephant. But since the grown-ups were not able to understand it, I made another drawing: I drew the inside of the boa constrictor, so that the grown-ups could see it clearly.” – from The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
If you’re inspired by the quote, please join in! All you have to do is write a response in less than 1,000 words, post it on your blog, then go to Anecdote Love’s site and link to that post.
I wanted to bring your attention to another fabulous (super-talented) writer – Suzanne Purkis at Lucid Edit. I’ve read her writing for a long time now, and her stories always pull me in with her creativity and masterful use of imagery. Well, Suzanne recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds needed to help her complete her novel, The Ending. If you have a moment, please check out her campaign page – she’s got a video explaining her novel, and a link to an excerpt so you can read for yourself. If you aren’t able to contribute, I hope you can at least leave her an encouraging comment
Have a wonderful Thursday!