A Sign (Fiction)

09-21 Flower Butterfly

Sharon twisted in the recliner, the springs squeaking under her repositioned weight.   The steady beep of the monitor echoed in the room, same as it had before she dozed off. She stood and stretched her back before taking two steps to the bed. She brushed some strands of dark hair from her friend’s pale forehead and paused when she thought she saw Crista’s eyelids flutter. After a full minute with no response, Sharon decided it must’ve been a spasm.  Or her own wishful thinking.  Exhausted, she slumped into the chair and closed her eyes.

For nearly a month, Sharon had spent her afternoons at the hospital, tethered by worry and guilt. The surreal replay of that night ran through her mind whenever silence crept in. They had been out celebrating the night before Terry’s wedding. They had reached the first club safely. It happened on the way to the second club. The details, like much of her adult life, were fuzzy, but she remembered the commingled sounds of screams and shattering glass- and the numbing shock of the steering wheel slamming against her face. She swallowed hard, willing her lunch to not make a second appearance. Since that night, she hadn’t had even one drink; marking her longest “dry” spell since high school. Too little, too late.

“Butterfly.”

Sharon gasped and scrambled to her feet when she saw her friend’s eyes open and her arms stretched outward. She rubbed her shoulder. “I’m right here,” she whispered. She pressed the call button to summon the nurse.

Crista closed her eyes and mumbled, “I want to be flowers.”

Sharon furrowed her brow, clueless how to respond. She noticed the daisies on the table next to the bed and wondered if that’s what she spoke about. “The daisies are beautiful.”

Her arms remained outstretched, rigid.

Continue reading

Rolling in the Deep – Speakeasy #161

Ominous clouds...(since I can't locate any ominous shadows!)
Ominous clouds…(since I can’t locate any ominous shadows!)

Paulina struggled to untangle herself from the satin sheet. Perspiration beaded along her hairline as she gulped air and flailed her limbs.

Her neighbor freed her legs and she tumbled from the bed, landing in a heap on the floor. “Did you have another nightmare?”

After several minutes, her labored breathing slowed enough for her to talk. “It wasn’t a dream. Robbie was here.

“That’s impossible.” He stretched across the bed and rubbed her shoulder as she huddled on the ground. “Didn’t you say she died of anaphylaxis years ago?”

“She was my best friend.  It was my fault,” she whispered. Whether awake or asleep, guilt always managed to worm its way into her psyche.

“You had no way of knowing the gravy contained nuts. No one could’ve guessed.”

“I need to go for a run.” Paulina scrambled to her feet and headed to the closet, her bare feet slapping on the hardwood floor. Her nightie dropped to her ankles and she pulled a sports bra over her head.

“Why don’t you come back to bed and try a different workout?”

She glanced over her shoulder. Though tempted by his teasing smile, she held firm. “I’m suffocating. I need fresh air.”

“I’ll wait right here.”

She pulled on jogging shorts and grabbed her running shoes and socks. “Maybe you should go home.” She kissed his forehead. “See ya.”

*****

After fifteen minutes, Paulina slowed to a stroll. She fought to catch her breath. Is this how Robbie felt?

“Yes.”

Paulina stopped and looked over her shoulder for the source of the voice. The only people around congregated near a group of children playing soccer. No one paid her any mind. She shook her head and continued to a park bench to rest.

Once seated, she leaned over and dropped her head between her knees. Her heart thudded against her breastbone with such ferocity, she half-expected the bone to crack. She tried to soothe her panic, but once again, her thoughts drifted to Robbie. Did her heart feel like it would explode?

“It hurt worse than knowing your best friend betrayed you.”

Paulina’s eyes widened.

“You pay me back in kind and reap just what you sow.”

“R-R-Robbie?” Paulina’s stomach churned and nausea crept upward. “It can’t be.” The clouds shifted, casting an ominous shadow on the ground. A prickling sensation inched up her left arm.

“I’ve waited six years, six months and six days. The man-beast promised the time would come. I’d begun to doubt and thought I’d been betrayed again, but indeed, he planted the seed of guilt and fed it until it flourished.”

“I-I couldn’t go through with our plan.  It didn’t feel right.”

“We almost had it all. We could’ve had it all.

“Robbie, I’m sorry.  I feared you’d go through with it anyway, so I added crushed cashews to the gravy.  It was an impulsive move that I regret.” Paulina covered her face with her hands to hide her tears. “I miss you so much!”

“Me too.”

The sun shone through the clouds again. Paulina felt her guilt ease into a peace she hadn’t felt in years. She rested her back on the bench, lightheaded- almost giddy. She felt a pinch on her arm, followed by an intense burning sensation coursing through her veins. Her throat tightened and panic rose.

“I forgive you, but I made a deal that can’t be undone.”

Paulina tried to form words.

“Her lips are blue!” A shrill voice shouted. “Call 9-1-1!”

She felt breath slide down her throat and compressions on her chest. The sun’s brightness became more intense. For an amount of time she couldn’t gauge, she basked in the radiating heat. Then, she heard a man’s voice announce, “time of death: 8:53 AM; anaphylaxis.”

Is this how Robbie felt?

This time, she had no answer.

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

This is my response to the Speakeasy weekly prompt, which is to write a piece in 750 words or less (mine is 644) (1) using “The clouds shifted, casting an ominous shadow on the ground.” anywhere in the piece, AND (2) making some kind of reference to the music prompt, which is Adele’s Rolling in the Deep.  Oh, and as an added challenge, it’s the last week of “family-free” writing, which means no family relationships.

The challenge is open to anyone, so if you’re curious, click the badge below to check out the guidelines and link your own story!

Too Late

He spied a blonde wearing too much lipstick and anger.  Hates men.  Yeah, she’s certainly my type, he mused as he clinked the ice in his glass.  It had been… eons, it seemed, since he’d had a drink, and even longer since he’d practiced his craft.  He supposed the digging gold with his sweet lies and tender kisses had been added to the lengthy list of sins to atone.

She looked right at him.

He smiled, lifting his glass of ice water.  Fate.

She turned away.  “Tell the creepster in the corner to quit staring at me!”  Her voice carried through the bar.

The bartender shook his head.  “Sweetie, no one’s there.  You’ve had enough.”

She pierced the man in the corner with her seething glare.

He raised an eyebrow.

She stood and swerved her way toward him.  “What’s your problem?”

He leaned back and crossed his arms over his chest.  “Got none.”

The bartender approached and put his hands on her shoulders.  “Sylvia, honey, you need to sleep it off.  I’ll call a cab.”

She slapped his hands.  “I’m talking to…. to… what’s your name?”

“He thinks you’re talking to yourself. ”

“N-Nick, you can’t see him?” Her voice wavered.

The bartender shook his head.

“I’m outta here.”  She fished her keys from her purse and staggered out the door.

The man followed.

“Get the hell away from me!”

He wrestled the keys from her and shoved her into the backseat.  He didn’t need her address; he already knew where she lived.

The woman safely at home, the man sat on the curb and looked up.  “Well?”

The misty apparitions of the children pinned under his wagon’s wheel two hundred years ago gave him his answer.  He could still smell the moonshine on his breath.

He buried his face in his hands and cried.  His Hell was an eternity of trying to right his wrongs; saving others to save his own soul.

Always grasping for hope just out of reach.

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

TrifectaPicture11-1This is my response to Trifecta’s writing prompt:  write a piece between 33 and 333 (mine is 331 words using the following word/definition:

CRAFT (noun):  3 :  skill in deceiving to gain an end <used craft and guile to close the deal>

Click the tricycle image to view Trifecta’s site, to read other responses, or submit your own.  Everyone is invited to play along!

Once again, this is a community-voted challenge, which means that readers have the opportunity to vote on their three favorites by visiting Trifecta’s site after the challenge closes on Thursday, at 7PM Eastern time.

Guilt

Guilt gnaws,

Like worms at an apple’s core.

Conversation replayed;

Continuous track ‘til 3AM.

Barbs aimed,

Hit target-

Victory is bitter.

Dawn comes,

Sheds new light-

Tearful apology offered.

Accepted.

Freedom granted…

 Temporarily.

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

Guilt happens to be one of my demons, however, it is often more insidious than this.  In an argument, I’ll generally clam up and not say anything at all…because I know if I say anything in anger, it will destroy.  No, guilt sneaks up on me hours after a conversation, sometimes waking me in the middle of the night, making we worry that something I said came out wrong and I hurt the person’s feelings.  Guilt pulls on me until I call the person to apologize or explain. Most of the time, I’m met with confused acceptance because they weren’t bothered at all.

I know for a fact this affliction is hereditary because I’ve taken such calls from my mom.

TrifectaPicture11-1This was written in response to Trifecta’s weekend writing prompt, which they asked for for 33 of our own words that exorcise a demon.  One of your own, or one from your imagination.  Let it bleed on the page.

I’ve bled, you’ve read 🙂  This is a community voted challenge, so if you like what I’ve written, voting opens on Sunday at 7PM Eastern time on Trifecta’s site.  If you have time, check out the other entries (or write one of your own).  The tricycle picture will take you to Trifecta’s site.  As always, I appreciate your visit!

Turns Out That Bribery is No Substitution for Will Power

Back in November, I did a post announcing that I was going to participate in the Holiday Weight Loss Challenge at my work.   (Click here to read that post.)  Well, mid-January has passed and my weigh-in is history.  How do you think I did?

  1. Held my own – nothing lost, nothing gained
  2. Failed miserably – hello hips!
  3. Lost a few – lightened my load

By some miracle (or near starvation) I lost four pounds – c. is the correct answer.  My teammate also lost a couple pounds, so we succeeded at the challenge, according to the rules of the contest. 

Before you get too excited, I have a confession to make:  I didn’t change my eating habits drastically until the last week.  The challenge acted more like a speed bump; it slowed me down a bit, but didn’t stop me.  Of course I inflicted a respectful amount of guilt upon myself every time I ate something sweet or snacky.  During the last week, I ate mostly salads.  If I didn’t have a partner, I probably wouldn’t have even done that much.

While I’m unburdening myself, I’d like to also confess that I have not tried any of the exercises that I clipped out of my October issue of Health magazine.  That’s right; I have not done even one of the exercises once.  The dog-eared pages have been waiting patiently for me to visit again, and I have failed them.  Yet I can’t bring myself to recycle the magazine because I *might* try them someday.  (This is the same argument that I have when it comes to evaluating the clothing in my closet:  I can’t get rid of “X” because I could still wear it.  It doesn’t matter that I haven’t worn it since 1999.)

I have to admit that the challenge has taught me one thing:  bribery cannot take the place of will power.  Since I have no will power, I’m left exactly where I started – or worse, because I didn’t win any of the prizes in the drawings, and this is how I celebrated my meager weight loss:

I didn’t think it was possible, but yes, I have sunk to a new low.  I devoured a medium Oreo Cookie Blizzard.  I’d say that pretty much cancelled out the four pounds…but what a yummy way to gain 🙂  I’m hoping that I show more will power with working on my second novel in 2011.  On that note, I’d better get writing!

What’s your most successful way to get on track after straying from your goals?