Shadows of Herself (Fiction)

07-18 Flowers

Sophie squeezed through the creaky, half-opened door of the blue line city bus.  As coins clinked into the metal fare box, her breath caught.  Perfumes, leftover pungent lunches, labor and worn leather boots (all amplified by the latest heat wave) assaulted her.  Even after two weeks of this commute, the odor still came as a shock.  Every time, it brought back memories of indecision.

“Move behind the yellow line.”  The surly driver jerked his thumb over his shoulder.

She stepped across the painted line.  Before she could find a seat or even an appropriate place to stand, the bus lurched forward.  She stumbled and her satchel slipped off her shoulder, bumping a man on the head.

“Watch it!”  He shoved the bag.

She saw him shake her shoulders and then slap her face to make her talk.  Her mother wilted like a bouquet of cut roses.  Brianne’s reaction had been swift; deadly.  Her mother hid the damaged brass lamp and dragged her second husband’s body to the basement until she could figure out what to do with him.  The smell became overpowering.

“Sorry.”  She reached for the smudged chrome bar overhead.  Steadied and easing toward the back, she scanned for an empty space in the crowd of heads.  No one made eye contact.  The blue collars gravitated to one side of the bus.   Across the aisle, the lower-level white collars kept heads bowed, tapping on digital screens.

No one ever noticed her, or suspected her past.  After her step-father’s death, a new self emerged- Julia.  Memories of past selves toppled in her mind like a bumped chain of dominoes.  Dawn… Lynette… Tracee… Anita… Gena… Rochelle.  So many fresh starts, but Bri always managed to stain them with the burden of death.

The bus heaved to a stop and more people crowded in behind her.

“May I sit here?”

The man wearing paint-splattered overalls and a ball cap stained with sweat and dirty fingerprints tilted his face to her.  “No entiendo,” he mumbled.

Sophie clenched her jaw.  It was the same every day, no matter which side of the bus she asked.  “Usted tiene dos asientos.”  She pointed to the empty seat beside him.

He exhaled a weary sigh.  Instead of sliding toward the window, he shuffled into the aisle and gestured for her to sit.

She bit back annoyance and smiled.  “Gracias.”

The man slumped beside her with a grunt.

The exchange reminded her of Mexico, which made her think of Jason and the evening he spent with Rochelle on the Ensenada beach.  He’d come too close to harming her- closer than anyone.  She blamed her vulnerability on the emotions stirred by having recently lost Nate.  She’d loved Nate, but couldn’t make him stay.  When she returned to the United States two weeks ago, Sophie emerged.  Rochelle was sacrificed to Bri as soon as Jason gasped his last breath.

Beside her, the odor of a day spent working outside emanated from the man’s clothing.  The air conditioning choked out intermittent spurts of semi-cool air, so she reached up to slide the window open.

“No.  Too hot.”  The man gestured toward the window.

Sophie dropped her hands to her lap.  “Lo siento.  No entiendo,” she muttered, turning toward the world outside.  She had about 29 minutes before she’d reach her stop.  Her seatmate’s leg relaxed and his thigh pressed against hers.  She scooted toward the window in an attempt to regain her violated personal space.

As usual, vacant thoughts gave way to remnants of past dreams; shards of glass scattered among her trail of selves.  Like a dandelion’s puffy pollen, little by little, those dreams shifted paths and floated away on passing breezes.

Nate.  Instead of them clinging to each other, they grew apart.  Instead of breakfast in bed on their honeymoon, she rode the blue line home from work.  She’d slipped from his loving embrace.  Instead of growing grey together, he grew cold beneath her hands.  He’d described their emotional separation as the result of passing time and neglect, much like the corrosion of metal in the salty mist of ocean air.

Reflecting upon the endings, beginnings and transitions, Sophie decided she wouldn’t change any of her decisions.  The person behind her let out a jarring sneeze.  She cringed when spray landed on the back of her neck.

I wish I would’ve taken Nate’s car.

Despite the vague sense she should be overcome with guilt, of all her choices, it was the only thing she regretted.

~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-

This is my response to the Speakeasy weekly prompt, which is to write a piece in 750 words or less (mine is near the limit!) using (1) “It was the only thing she regretted.” anywhere in the piece, AND (2) making some kind of reference to the media prompt, the song Over the Valley by Pink Martini.  The challenge is open to anyone, so if you want to join in, click the badge below to check out the site!

Some of you who read Lost and Found (my Speakeasy story from last week) may notice this kind of goes with it.  It takes place after that story and clues us in a little more on her past.  At the moment, I’m not planning on developing this further, but based on past experience, my plans don’t matter too much… if a story wants to be written, it will nag me until I write 🙂

I’m still in the middle of computer issues, but in the interim I’ve reclaimed our old Vista computer, which had been relegated to the kids for the their computer use.  (Is that a form of child abuse?!)  Sorry, but this OS is not a shining moment for Microsoft.  I’m going to attempt a complete wipe out and reload of my regular computer… wish me luck (I’m gonna need it…)

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73 thoughts on “Shadows of Herself (Fiction)

  1. suzicate July 7, 2014 / 9:29 AM

    I am so glad your stories nag you to write them…they entertain and delight those of us who read them.

    • jannatwrites July 8, 2014 / 12:39 AM

      What a nice comment – thanks, Suzicate!

  2. philosophermouseofthehedge July 7, 2014 / 1:37 PM

    Nag. Nag. Nag ( just a little reinforcement in case the story is tiring…)
    Sooo good. Really
    That “Nate…..” paragraph is wonderful

    • jannatwrites July 8, 2014 / 12:42 AM

      Hehe… thanks for the promptinh, Phil :-D. I’m glad you enjoyed the story… I swear, the delays in posting due to navigating computer issues have resultedin more second-guessing my posts… this was the second version of the story and I considered going for three.

  3. Widdershins July 7, 2014 / 2:26 PM

    This is one scary glimpse inside the head of a serial killer. Unless she’s referring to goldfish! 🙂

    • jannatwrites July 8, 2014 / 12:43 AM

      Hehe… goldfish- that would be a twist, Widdershins!

  4. Emilio Pasquale July 7, 2014 / 2:35 PM

    I always look forward to your posts, lately. You are just unbelievable. Does your imagination know no bounds? And, is it purely imagination? 🙂

    • jannatwrites July 8, 2014 / 12:46 AM

      I appreciate the kind comment, Emilio! Imagination or reality? Can’t tell you.. or I’d have to kill you :-P. Only kidding, of course. It’s all imagination (my imagination has always beenover-active).

  5. Carol Ann Hoel July 7, 2014 / 4:40 PM

    You’ve created a character that thinks for herself and acts accordingly, without remorse. Sounds like the start of a scary novel. What’s happening on the next page? Blessings to you, Janna…

    • jannatwrites July 8, 2014 / 12:48 AM

      It seems I have a few beginnings… nowif I could just work out the rest of the novels, haha! Thanks for reading, Carol Ann.

  6. Eric Alagan July 7, 2014 / 5:18 PM

    What a bus ride – reminded me of the bus rides I endured in 1970s Singapore – but without any aircon.

    • jannatwrites July 8, 2014 / 12:49 AM

      Some of the details were taken from my summer of riding the bus to work several years ago. It was not a pleasant experience, Eric!

  7. nrhatch July 7, 2014 / 7:25 PM

    Achoo!!! That would gross me out. As would the smells and the closeness of unwashed humanity.

    She should have taken Nate’s car.

    • jannatwrites July 8, 2014 / 12:51 AM

      Yeah, it made me cr8nge, too. Big regret, not taking the car 😛

  8. rcprice July 8, 2014 / 10:47 AM

    I’m never disappointed when I read your stories.

  9. thewizardsword July 8, 2014 / 11:07 AM

    I truly love seeing your name on the grids Janna. Your stories never disappoint! This one is wicked good, but then aren’t they all~!

    • jannatwrites July 9, 2014 / 11:35 PM

      Thanks, Susan. I’ve been going though an annoying ‘doubt everything’ phase, so I do appreciate your encouragement!

  10. DragonSpark July 8, 2014 / 12:59 PM

    (Didn’t read the first. I’ll go do that after this) So she’s a psychotic killer? Her voice seems so innocent. She speaks of false identities like if they were some girl’s dolls. It’s intriguing. I feel like a dragonfly (pun intended) approaching a fire. She’s the fire.
    Congrats on the great post! See you ’round!

    • jannatwrites July 9, 2014 / 11:36 PM

      Dragonfly approaching the fire… good one, DS 🙂 She is an accidental serial killer… she didn’t set out to do it, but each time, she can’t stop it.

    • jannatwrites July 9, 2014 / 11:38 PM

      Gotta watch out for the quiet ones, I guess 🙂 Thanks for reading, LHN!

  11. Sean July 8, 2014 / 2:40 PM

    This had that same feel as the other story. It fits that they are connected. If it wasn’t for the word count limitations, you could have went a bit crazy with it. I think it left some gaps a little open but I think that is just due to limitations that you had to stay within. It’s hard to expand on one part and have it clear enough that you are comfortable with and then try to fit everything else in there. You have a very creative way with this type of story, sure it’s fiction lol. Couldn’t resist but then no one will ever know. Thank you for taking the time to create this fictitious piece and look forward to the next segment if the feeling grabs you, at night from under the bed, and you feel like expanding on this story line. Take care, I’ve done enough rambling, I”m thinking lack of sleep may not be a good thing.

    • jannatwrites July 9, 2014 / 11:40 PM

      Hehe, going ‘crazy’ on a story about a serial killer could have ramifications 🙂 Yes, there are definite limitations when word count is involved. On the up side, it leaves room for further expansion later (you know, if I was one to actually finish the stories I start!) Thanks for stopping by to read it, Sean.

  12. J. Raven July 8, 2014 / 4:58 PM

    I love the split between her past actions and present situation. So many realities bubbling beneath the surface. Really makes you wonder about the people you encounter on a daily basis. Great job with this!

    • jannatwrites July 9, 2014 / 11:40 PM

      It does make you wonder the secrets lurking beneath the surface of those we pass each day. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts, Raven 🙂

  13. diannegray July 8, 2014 / 7:40 PM

    I want to know more now. She is a very interesting character indeed (I was just hoping she would kill the person who sneezed on her – iky!) 😀

    • jannatwrites July 9, 2014 / 11:41 PM

      The sneezer deserves to die, Dianne! (Okay, maybe that’s harsh, but geez, Kleenex, people 🙂 )

  14. Kathy Combs (@Kathy29156) July 8, 2014 / 8:41 PM

    Your stories are always so well thought out, flow so well. I am glad your stories beg to be written. They are quite extraordinary. You possess quite a gift for writing and weaving a tale that always manages to captivate me from beginning to end.

    • jannatwrites July 9, 2014 / 11:42 PM

      You are so sweet, Kathy – thanks for taking time to read it! Funny thing is, I’d written an entirely different response. The idea to tweak it to fit with the last story came to me after the fact.

  15. Celine Jeanjean July 9, 2014 / 3:40 AM

    The bus commute feels so real, you really captured that perfectly! And I love the look into a serial killer’s mind, what a fascinating character. A great interpretation of the prompt!

    • jannatwrites July 9, 2014 / 11:44 PM

      I did take some of the bus details from my own experience. (Riding a bus during the summer in Phoenix is not pleasant at all!) Thanks so much for reading, Celine! I think this week was the first story of yours I’ve read for Speakeasy. When my computer issues settle down, I want to read more on your blog 🙂

  16. Zara July 9, 2014 / 8:04 AM

    Ooo I love this! 🙂

  17. Brian Benoit July 9, 2014 / 12:02 PM

    Great Janna! And I love how your main character keeps adopting new personalities, and that those personalities are aligning with each week’s stories (apologies if I should’ve caught on to this sooner, but it’s a really cool concept). Really enjoyed this!

    • jannatwrites July 9, 2014 / 11:47 PM

      Actually, you’ve caught on well… this is a take off from last week’s story, so it’s not like I’ve been doing this for 20 weeks or anything 🙂 Thanks for reading, Brian!

  18. mbarkersimpson July 9, 2014 / 12:37 PM

    A fantastic addition to Lost and Found; I thoroughly enjoyed the journey into Sophie’s past, and as usual your descriptive prowess blew me away.

    • jannatwrites July 9, 2014 / 11:48 PM

      I’m glad you liked the continuation, Mel! I went back and forth on how to write this one, so I’m also happy the descriptions worked for you!

  19. tnkerr July 9, 2014 / 6:59 PM

    Nicely done Janna. Good luck with your ‘puter!

    • jannatwrites July 9, 2014 / 11:50 PM

      Thanks, Tnkerr! I managed to re-install the OS but still can’t access the internet. I really wanted to fix it myself, but I may have to turn it over to a co-worker to help me out. I’m really not that techie 🙂

  20. dutifuldreamer July 10, 2014 / 6:53 AM

    spooky…just read the prequel ass well…i see a lot of scope for this man killer….a novella may be? 🙂

    • jannatwrites July 15, 2014 / 5:50 PM

      Perhaps 🙂 Thanks for reading both parts, Dutifuldreamer!

  21. Suzanne July 10, 2014 / 9:42 AM

    Ooh, I like this continuation of her story. Very intriguing past she’s got there. And I like her matter-of-fact approach to it. I also like how her internal world seems so incongruous with the bus ride she’s on. Fantastic use of the prompts! 🙂

  22. inNateJames July 10, 2014 / 10:41 AM

    I like how you built the tension by making the male seatmate unaware of the female’s penchant for violence. Put me on the edge of my seat. Ha!

    • jannatwrites July 15, 2014 / 5:51 PM

      Good thing she didn’t snap his neck right there, eh? 🙂 Thanks for reading, InNateJames!

  23. Blake July 10, 2014 / 1:05 PM

    I read and enjoyed the prequel (I seem to remember thanking you for body count on that romantic beach…) and I was impressed with how you developed the scenario here. Whereas the first story led up to the twist ending this was a pure character study and I thought you fleshed her out beautifully. Also liked the occasional lyrical observations that cropped up: “Like a dandelion’s puffy pollen, little by little, those dreams shifted paths and floated away on passing breezes.” Very well phrased indeed.

    • jannatwrites July 15, 2014 / 5:52 PM

      Thanks for your thoughtful, in-depth comment, Blake. It helps to know specifics of what reached a reader.

  24. gem July 10, 2014 / 1:15 PM

    I liked the flashbacks, even if it made the pit of my stomach uneasy….but I guess that is good writing, as I felt I was her. Great job!

  25. Meg July 10, 2014 / 5:23 PM

    So glad you followed up with a related story. Really well written and you captured this discomfort of a crowded bus perfectly. She’s a serial killer but a likable one!

    • jannatwrites July 15, 2014 / 5:53 PM

      I’m glad you found her likable. I hoped she would be, because it seems unnatural, really, to have sympathy for a killer 🙂 Thanks for reading, Meg!

  26. Miss Lou July 10, 2014 / 11:16 PM

    A novella in the making? Perhaps an entire series… each story having its own.. 300, maybe 400 pages worth?

    Any link you have that relate to this them, please link me to them (so I don’at have to go hunting)

    ML
    xx

    • jannatwrites July 15, 2014 / 6:00 PM

      Thanks for your interest, ML! I will certainly let you know if this story continues 🙂

  27. joannesisco July 13, 2014 / 5:34 AM

    A very chilling story. I would love to see where this one is going 🙂

  28. frederick anderson July 14, 2014 / 2:05 AM

    I think you should develop her further. Very interesting character, nice, nice, nice!

    • jannatwrites July 15, 2014 / 6:01 PM

      Thanks, Frederick! I guess her past makes a ‘killer’ story 🙂 (I know, that was bad….)

  29. imab00kworm July 14, 2014 / 3:36 AM

    I’ve had a hectic week (an it look like you have too) so I didn’t get to read other entries before today and wow! As always you have an amazing way with words (which I would say is the reason or at least A reason for you being at the top so often) 🙂
    I don’t think I can say much that hasn’t already been said so if rather not ramble for ages repeating everyone. Good luck with your computer! I have windows 8 and though I don’t often use said computer (the new version of windows being one of the reasons) it took me a while to understand how to go aroun it and even now I haven’t mastered it ^^’

    • jannatwrites July 15, 2014 / 6:07 PM

      Thanks for reading, and for your kind comment, Imabookworm! Thanks for the computer wishes – I’m hoping my dad can help me out with it later this month. Fingers crossed 🙂

  30. Sandra July 16, 2014 / 7:57 PM

    Janna, your characters and stories are always amazing. I don’t know how you come up with your twists and plots and flashbacks. I wish I could do fiction Janna-style! 🙂

    • jannatwrites July 17, 2014 / 10:40 PM

      Thank you so much, Sandra! Your comment is so sweet 🙂

  31. Imelda July 17, 2014 / 11:58 AM

    What an intriguing character. Though I do not like/trust her seatmate in the bus so much, I think that Sophie/Rochelle is the scarier of the two.

    • jannatwrites July 17, 2014 / 10:43 PM

      She is pretty scary, Imelda. He might’ve been better off to give up his seat rather than share it with her!

  32. pattisj July 26, 2014 / 9:43 AM

    I half expected her to kill her seat mate! Apparently, she does have some control over her inner demons. She should have taken the car!

    • jannatwrites July 30, 2014 / 9:18 PM

      Hehe, I imagine it was quite tempting for her, Patti! I’m sure she really does regret not lifting the keys 🙂

  33. Sarah Ann August 14, 2014 / 11:58 AM

    I’m glad you linked this to last week’s story. I like this character – despite he being a cold-blooded killer of course. I would love to know more about what went wrong between her and Nate – I’m a bit worried about him growing cold beneath her hands. I suspect she isn’t speaking metaphorically. Good use of flashbacks too to fill in her history.

    • jannatwrites August 14, 2014 / 10:44 PM

      Hehe, it is a little strange to like a killer, isn’t it, Sarah Ann? 🙂 No, it wasn’t metaphorical… she is ‘hands-on’ when it comes to killing.

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