Tag Archives: Realistic Fiction

38. Strain

The third floor walk-up had seemed like such a good idea on paper. It was safe, unlike the garden level apartments, and it was stay warm when the either changed: totally ideal. Until trip four from the U-haul, that is. He leaned on the wall to catch his breach, closing his eyes. Sure, the walk-up had been loads cheaper than the building with the elevator. And gym. And wireless internet in each unit as a standard…

Why had he picked this building again? He bent down to pick up the box that he’d gotten this far, groaning as he felt a pull in his lower back. After the two friends that were supposed to assist him cancelled, he probably should have hired movers. But the reasons he was in this building and not the high rise with a view of the lake wasn’t because he preferred the neighborhood.

“Oh, are you moving in?” He could feel his eye twitch when he heard the voice. What other reason would he have to be standing, half hyperventilating, with a box labeled ‘kitchen” in the middle of the hall? He opened his mouth with a witty remark, but he promptly swallowed it.

Long brown hair, freckles ,and huge…Eyes. He could forgive the fact that she was apparently an idiot. He straightened his back, adjusting the box so he could hold out a hand.

“Yeah. Name’s Jake.”

“Mary.” she shook the hand. “Here, go set that down and let me change my shoes. I’ll help!”

“Oh no, that’s-”

“The stairs are awful. It’s not a big deal. I don’t have to go to the gym if I do, right?” she winked before unlocking her door. “I’ll meet you in the lobby.”

He licked his lips as he watched her disappear behind the door. It was probably his fastest trip up the last flight of stairs, that was for sure. He caught his breath again inside of his own door, leaning on the wall again.

As promised, Mary was waiting in the lobby, long brown, hair tied away from her face. She was on her phone, so she didn’t see Jake gawking at first. He cleared his throat awkwardly and she finally looked up. Tucking the phone away, she walked over to him.

“So…Is it just you, or do you have like a roommate?”

“Oh no, just me. I cat sit when my friends go out of town, but that’s about it.’

“Oh you’re moving into one of the studios up there then? I know a few of them were empty. Lack of an elevator tends to turn people off pretty quickly.”

“It’s basically free cardio right?” Jake laughed, trying not to wince at the way it pulled at his sore muscles. “Besides, it’s only two flights. The boxes just make that part hard.”

“That’s true.” Mary followed him to the U-Haul.” I hope you don’t have any like big furniture of anything. You’re best off taking bigger stuff in through the back.”

“Nah. It’s all IKEA crap. Should probably toss most of it, honestly.” he climbed up into the back of the truck. “Pawned most of the decent stuff off on my kid brother going to college.”

“That does make it easier.” she rocked on her heels as he pulled a few of the last boxes down. “What school?”

“Something on the East coast. I didn’t really listen.”

“Spoken like a true brother.” Mary laughed, taking the box that was passed down to her. “Right. Let’s get this done with.”

 

Between the two of them, it certainly went much quicker. She was more than happy to take one of the beer Jake had gotten for his friends.

“A few of us were going to go to the bar to watch the hockey game tonight. Since you’re newer to the area, you should come.” She looked over at him from her spot on his couch.

“Yeah, sounds good. I dunno if I’ve ever watched a hockey game…” he thought about it for a moment before shaking his head. “Nope, never have.”

“What? How?”

“We don’t have a team in Nebraska.”

“Fair.” she laughed.”Here, give me your phone. I’ll give you my number. So I can get a hold of you and let you know when we’re going.”

“Oh. Uh yeah.’ he blinked, handing it over. That was way easier than he thought it would be. “So like, your friends and your boyfriend or what?”

“No boyfriend. Just a bunch of people from work and old school friends. We grew up on the sport.” she punched her number into his phone and handed it back. “Send me a text so I have yours.

He absently licked his lips as she he watched her chug what was left of her the beer. She smacked her lips, setting the bottle down on one of the boxes.

“Anyway, you probably need to get your necessities together. I’ll text you when I have a time.” she stood, walking to the door.

“Yeah, sure.” he waved as she stepped out and closed it behind her.

Maybe the third floor wouldn’t be so-He winced as his back tightened when he stood up…Maybe the third floor walk-up wouldn’t be so bad AFTER a shower. And heating pad.

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Writing Class Week 2- Food

WEEK 2 PROMPT! Two pages about your favorite, or least favorite, food. I went with favorite. Because my mother’s Cheesecake is the best thing, and I only get it like 2-3 times a year because she’s evil. There was a second prompt this week as well, but I’m actually working on that one still and turning it maybe in to something longer. Will update it when I get to somewhere I like with it. But for now: Cheesecake time.


“Michael McDowel, you get out of that kitchen right this instant.”

“But Mooom.”

“You have until the count of three. One.”

“I just wanted to see what smelled so good though.”

“Two.”

“I haven’t eaten since like…Lunch and that was so long ago!”

“Two and a half.”

“But-”

“Two and three quarters.”

“UGH! Fine.”

LInda smiled when she heard the thudding of her son stomping up the stairs. She never had to get to three. She was glad for that, considering she’d have no idea what she would do if she ever did. It was effective though, and that was what mattered. She waited until she heard his door close upstairs before she pulled herself up from the comfortable chair she had sunken into about twenty minutes ago. It was probably as good a time as any to check on how everything was progressing anyway.

She always bit off more than she could chew when it came to the holidays, without fail. This year she’d agreed to two appetizers on top of the desserts she always brought. But, Linda supposed, if it meant not having to suffer through the sad excuse for a seven layer dip that Debbie brought last year she would stay up a little later to make sure everything was edible. The gauc in it had tasted like dirt. And don’t even get her started on the sad excuse for Pinwheels that someone had brought. She shuddered at the thought of it.

Her kitchen smelled divine as she walked in, taking a deep breath. The artichoke and crab dip was just about ready to come out of the oven. Toasting the bread could wait until the morning, to make sure it stayed nice and crunchy. Speaking of crunchy: Next was to fry up the bacon for the bacon wrapped figs. Which meant that she could check on the most important thing she would bring with her to Christmas dinner tomorrow.

 

Linda’s most vivid memories with her grandmother were when she was sitting in the kitchen while Gamma, as she had called her, toiled over supper for her and her parents. She came to live with them before she was even born, and couldn’t imagine a life where the woman wasn’t always there. Gamma was old world when it came to working in the kitchen. Nothing was done by measurements, only by feeling and years of working the same recipies. A young Linda was fascinated with the way everything was a pinch, a dash, a flick of an old, creaking wrist.

Her mother had translated most of the recipies in to actual measurements, keeping them in a little book in a drawer for the day that Gamma wouldn’t live with them any more. But there was one that eluded her: Cheesecake. Gamma learned it from her mother, who learned it from hers, and back and back for what seemed like forever. Linda’s mother could make it just fine, but she still couldn’t quite explain that the measurements when written down never seemed right.

“Well, don’t just sit there and kick your feet.” she could still hear her grandmother say before she jumped down from the stool pulled up next to the counter. “Go and grab the mixing bowl. We have work to do.”

 

She smiled fondly at the memory as she opened the fridge, scanning for where she left the bacon so she could get started. Of course, her eyes lingered on the plate where she’d already cut up the cheesecake. Always into bite sized squares. She was never really sure why that was the tradition, as slices would probably have been better. But one and a half by one and a half inch squares were how they’d been serving is since the 40s. If she had to guess, it was so you’d have room for other cookies, and cakes and-

The plastic wrap had been pushed up slightly on one side from the plate. She was certain she had wrapped it up quite tightly, and hadn’t put anything else in the fridge that could have nudged the wrap in any way. Scanning the plate, she stopped as she saw an empty space near the middle: a perfect one and a half inch by one and a half inch empty space.

“Michael!” Her son’s laughter as she shouted his name made her far less angry than she wanted to be.

Apparently, Linda thought, she’d need to count faster from now on.

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9. Leather

Something about the smell of old books always made her feel young again. If she had to guess it was the years she had spent sitting at her grandfather’s feet, listening to him tell stories of his travels all across the globe. She took a deep breath as they stepped into the old study, sighing contently.

“Smells like-”

“Mold?”

“Way to kill the mood, Greg.” she rolled her eyes. “History. It smells like history books. You know, like a library.”

“It may as well be one.” Greg sighed. “Come on, let’s sort this quick. The appraisers should be here around three.”

“I wish you wouldn’t have called them until after we had time to look through it all. It would have given us time-”

“I don’t have time, Cassidy. You might be a…Freelance writer or whatever you’re calling it now…But I have three kids and a business trip on Friday.” He shook his head. “Anything worth money goes. The rest you can deal with on your own time.”

Cassidy bit the inside of her cheek, a little bit harder than she probably needed to. Better to cause a little cut than a fight. Their dead grandfather’s office was no place for an argument after all.

“Fine, whatever.” She finally said. “He used to keep the older stuff in cases. He had to downsize from those when he moved here though.”

“Damn so they got exposed?” Greg groaned. “Nothing to be done for it I guess.” he scanned the room. “Where do we start then?”

“Fiction was always to the right.” she wasn’t surprised that her brother couldn’t remember that. “Should be alphabetical by last name. Non-fiction is probably done by the decimal system.”

“I’ll leave that part to you then. You remember what his first editions were?”

“They’re probably changed from when we were young.” Cassidy walked to the wall she was sure the nonfiction started on. “He was always buying and selling.”

“Fantastic.” Greg raked a hand through his hair and stepped to the opposite wall. “Suppose we can ignore the paperbacks?”

“Since we’re speed searching? Probably. I can double back later. We aren’t selling the place right away.”

Greg nodded, stepping away from the book cases to instead open a window. It was bound to get dusty as they started moving things around. As much as Cassidy loved the smell, she’d rather not walk out with lungs full of dust.

Cassidy skimmed titles, trying to recall the ones from when she’d first helped her grandfather set up his catalog. A few of them were easy, considering the gold leaf embossing on the covers and side. Those she stacked gently in a pile on one of the chairs. Glancing over her shoulder, she saw that Greg was absorbed in the titles. He wouldn’t notice if she took a little more time on just one…

She slipped a book from the shelf and ran her fingers along the cover. For the skins being old as they were, they were still soft under her fingers. She smiled as she traced the letters of the title. It was an old plant encyclopedia, which Cassidy used to press flowers in to. The pages smelled like roasted marshmallows as she turned through them, keeping her nose close.

She paused on one of the pages, a long faded violet pressed there. Cassidy smiled, picking it up carefully. It did flake a little, but stayed mostly in one piece. When she heard Greg sigh again, she placed it back inside and closed the cover.

“Anything good?”

“A few of the older ones. No idea if they’re worth anything.” she hugged the book to her chest without turning around.

“I have no clue what I’m looking at. I’m gonna go check in with the art appraisers downstairs on those paintings.”

“Yeah, sure thing.” she released the book slowly, setting it back on the shelf. “I’ll take a look at that side. Make coming out here worth their time.”

Greg nodded and walked out of the room leaving the door open just a crack behind him. Cassidy sighed contently, fingers hitting every spine as she sauntered to the other side of the room. Greg might not have had time for their grandfather’s treasures with his children. But Cassidy? She took in a lungful of dust and leather.

She would make time.

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Writing Class week 1- Personal Item

Week 1’s prompt was to write 2000 words on an item that was important to you. I went with the amazing Hufflepuff scarf a friend got me for Christmas last year. No coffee pots were harmed in the writing of this drabble.


 

Snow was always the hardest thing to wake up to after she moved to Chicago, she’d decided. She could deal with the rain, and the summers where some days the temperatures got into the hundreds: Fun fact:, it was not always colder by the lake, she didn’t care what the weatherman said. But GOD the snow. It meant having to wake up even earlier so that after a shower she could blow dry her hair so it wouldn’t freeze. She’d made that mistake the first day it was under thirty. It was a miracle she walked away without any damage to it. As much as she’d hated living in Atlanta with her parents, at least it was livable all year long. You’d have thought after two years into the city, she’d have gotten used to the impossible weather. Most days it really wasn’t so bad. She’d really started to feel like a true Midwestern girl, transplant or not. She could just run to Starbucks, grab some overpriced hand warmer of a drink and-

As soon as the frigid air hit her cheeks, she knew she was nowhere near ready to call herself a Midwestern girl, no matter how many bad dates to North Side bars she’d been to or how many beers got spilled on her in the bleachers at Wrigley. She was perpetually freezing from September to April, starting the moment she stepped off the moving truck and into the wind. Doctors promised it wasn’t an actual medical condition, but four layers of clothing and the tremor of her body said otherwise. She groaned, finding herself wishing she had a vacation day left that she could spend. But no, she just HAD to go to that third wedding. If everyone from back home could stop that would be fantastic. Or rather, if she could stop being asked to stand up to the weddings that would be even better. It was going to be another Christmas of “Oh sweetie when are you bringing a boy home” and “You know that nice Jackson boy is still single.” Single and as appealing as a wet blanket.

The second gust of wind had her nearly doubling over, pulling the collar of her coat nearly up over her eyes. An Uber was the only logical choice. Waiting for this stupid bus was going to give her the flu…But a quick check of her bank account reminded her that rent had just been paid…And she’d definitely have to risk the flu or an overdraft…At least her new doctor was cute.

 

No one could really fault her for the sniffles as she dragged herself to her cubicle with a view of the mostly gray city street fifteen floors below. After all, it was perfectly reasonable to be freezing in December. There were a few half asleep grunts that were meant to be “hello”s as she dragged her booted feet across the carpet, a trail of footprints following after her. It was hard to be polite when you were pretty sure your eyebrows were frozen off. As much as she actually did need the coffee now, it would have to wait until she changed out of the clunking boots and into something more appropriate and less waterlogged. The hat and gloves were the first things to come off, sitting in a pile on the corner of her desk as she finally made it behind the felt walls.  Next came the jacket, draped over the chair with the little belt tucked up so it didn’t get caught in the wheels. She’d already had to stitch it back together once because of the damn things.

“Morning Em.”

“Morning Gabe.” she yawned as she flopped into the chair, starting to unlace her boots. “Good weekend? You and Melanie went to the Kindlemarket, right?”

“Yeah it was great. Got a few new little wooden ornaments for the tree this year. You got a package after you left for the day on Friday. They left it with me so that the mail room didn’t lose it or something.”

“A package?” Emily blinked. She didn’t remember ordering anything last week, although it was entirely possible. Drunk Emily loved sober Emily’s amazon wishlist. But she never had anything sent to the office. Especially not after Tess’s mysterious vibrating package incident. ‘New phone that turned on in the box’ my ass. “Uhm, yeah thanks.”

She took the box from him, squinting to read the ship from address on the pre-printed label. It wasn’t a shop she recognized, and it wasn’t an amazon box, so it was completely lost on her. She blinked, setting it on the desk.

“Know who made coffee this morning?”

“Elanore.”

“Ugh.” She wasn’t sure the burnt taste had come out of her favorite mug from the last time the woman destroyed the office coffee maker. “Tell me someone is going on a run.”

“Mary is. I’ll tell her to grab your regular.”

“You’re a saint Gabe.”

“Tell me something I don’t know.”

The two of them laughed as he went back to his own cube a little down the row. She waited until she had her flats that always stayed in the bottom drawer of her desk on to look back to the box. She picked it up and gave it a small shake. No clunking or shattering, so it wasn’t anything breakable. Setting it down again she stared at it, as if something was about to jump out of the corrugated cardboard and bite her.

“What the heck are you…” she grabbed the scissors from the cup next to her computer, snipping the tape. “Please don’t be loud or embarrassing or something.” She winced, finally tearing the flap back to take a look.

A nicely wrapped box was inside of the box, which confused her even more. She never did gift-wrap options. Certainly not if she was getting something for herself. She pulled the box out, tossing the shipping box into the trash. Maybe it was from mom? They had promised no gift exchanges this year though, so she had to believe it wasn’t her. Although she wouldn’t have put it past her to get something anyway. She smiled a little and shook her head.

“Freakin’ Mom.” she pulled at the ribbon and set it aside. “Now I have to find something for her. Great.”

She paused when she took the lid off and finally did away with the last of the wrapping paper. The yellow was impossibly striking, and definitely not something that her mother would have picked out for her. Ramona loved black, and grays, and…That was it really. She picked up the fabric and it uncoiled from its pretty presentation, a pile of canary and black on her lap.

“No way…” the stitched emblem of a badger at the bottom of the scarf on either side made her grin more widely than the prospect of coffee. “This is fantastic.”

From the Hallows mark tattooed behind her right ear, to the collectable wand on her nightstand, she never made it a question she lamented being an unfortunate muggle. The scarf was stunning, and the correct colors and everything. She wrapped it around her neck, hiding in the warmth of the fibers. She nearly forgot to look for a card, finally digging through the mess of wrapping paper.

“Emily- I remembered when we went to Trivia the other night that you said you were a Hufflepuff. Hopefully you don’t have one already. Merry Christmas, Greg.” She read it outloud, fingers tracing over the letters. “He remembered?”

I mean, the last category of the night had been a question about obscure character names and she spelled them perfectly on the first try without so much as a blink of an eye. As memorable as that was, she figured that it absolutely ruined her chances for date number three. Greg had been sweet, drank good beer…Had a really cute cat that had a smooshed in face that purred like a boat motor. Definitely at the very least an 8 out of 10. I mean, he chewed with his mouth open a little bit, and snorted when he laughed…Although she supposed the snort was at least a little cute. 8.5 out of ten then.

Emily had completely forgotten they met up outside of the building and he’d had to buzz to get let into the first floor lobby of the building and out of the snow. Of course he had her work address, and they’d never gone to her place so he couldn’t very well have sent it there. She fingered the yarn at the edge of the scarf as she thought about this. Maybe her encyclopedic knowledge of the ingredients needed to brew a polyjuice potion hadn’t totally ruined her chances. The scarf at least meant she could call him again, she figured.

 

“Greg? It’s Emily.”

“Emily? Hi.”

“Am I bothering you? Sorry, it’s my lunch break at the office. I can call you back if-”

“Yeah no, it’s cool. Just grabbing a cup of coffee. Our machine at work broke. It’s the worst.”

“I’m sure. Sorry I..Haven’t called or anything I just thought-”

“Yeah no it’s-”

“I mean I-”

“Totally I get it. I’m sure there’s-”

“I got your gift.”

That finally got him to be quiet. He cleared his throat, and there was the soft slurp of him taking a sup of whatever he’d gotten for coffee.

“You did? Good. I was..Getting worried I had the address wrong or something.” he laughed nervously. “You didn’t already have one, did you? I remembered that you didn’t have a scarf at the bar so… I figured it wa safe if nothing else.”

“No I don’t. It’s perfect. Thanks.” she pushed it away from her mouth so she could speak without it muffling her voice. “I..Figured you didn’t want to see me again to be honest.” she blushed as if he could see it. “Most people get a little weirded out by the nerd thing. It’s sort of buried on the Tinder profile, you know.”

He laughed and she let out a small sigh of relief. The microwaved dinner in front of her wasn’t the thing that was making her stomach flip for once.

“I don’t mind the nerd thing.” He promised. “It just kinda caught me off guard. I mean you…Don’t really look like the kind of girl who knows…What was the name…”

Mafalda Hopkirk.”

“Yeah that. You don’t look like the kinda girl who knows who Mafalda Hopkirk was off hand…I mean if you asked me something about the story behind the Forgotten Realms I’d be able to give it to you so I guess I’m not all that different.”

“Wait really?”

“Yeah. Do you-”

“Every Tuesday and conventions three times a year.”

They both fell quiet again, Emily with the biggest grin on her face, on the edge of her rolling chair.

“Myhtrill Lostwillow. Human ranger and member of the Emerald Enclave.” the vaguely Australian accent he effected actually made her giggle.

“Tinkerfalia Stonegear. My friends call me-”

“No way we sat at the same table a few months ago.”

“We did not!”

“You don’t really forget a name like Tinerfalia. I was playing my assassin. The one who-”

“Fell from the window out of the princess’s bedroom.”

They said this at the same exact time. Her laugh probably distracted a few of her close by co-workers. She found that she didn’t much care, though. When they finally caught their breath, Greg spoke first.

“So…Do you want to go and grab a drink tonight then, Tinkerfalia?” he kept the australian accent as he asked. “I’m sure that a gnome like you knows where we can find a fine cup of ale.”

“I may know a good place or two.” the squeak of her voice definitely had one of her co-workers stand and look around for the source of the noise. She pulled the scarf up, as if the canary yellow would hide her instead of make her a target for eyes.  “Oh and Mythrill?”

“Yeah?”

“You can call me Tink.”

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52. Taboo

New kids in school really weren’t a big deal. Rural life was rough, so families moved in and out all the time. And besides, it was the new millennium: the age of the city. Technology, culture, and masses of people meant that corn fields and dirt roads lost their allure. Even the people who were there seemed stuck in shades of grey, like the much beloved westerns on their mostly static TV sets.

Church was every Sunday, in the sweaty, ancient building. Ladies all wore dresses, and the men all wore the one suit they owned and would one day be buried in. And every face in the congregation seemed to be as white as the communion wafers that melted on their tongues even with all the time in the sun.

“We have a new family entering our community today.” the lumpy little priest wiped sweat off of his forehead. “And I ask you to open your hearts to them as your brothers and sisters. Would the White family please rise up?”

A husband and wife, a handsome young boy that you almost couldn’t see over the pew, and a beautiful teenage girl shyly stood . Their dark skin caused whispers to flare up, and people stared. One such gawker was the mayor’s boy, his bright blue eyes trained on the girl. She caught him and smiled as well, waving her fingers just a little. When he raised his hand to do the same, his mother snatched his arm and pulled him to face forward again.

“Thank you, brothers and sisters. Now, let us pray.”

 

When Joshua saw the nasty slurs painted across the garage of the White family’s house, he was sure he knew where they had come from. The boys in his class loved to cause trouble, and when he offered to help clean it up, Mrs. White just smiled.

“You’re a fine boy, aren’t you Joshua.” she shook her head. “No no, now you just run along. You’ll upset your Mother, standing around here and ending up  late for school.”

“But Ma’am, I really would like to help.”

“My husband will take care of it. Now you run along.”

“But I…Yes Ma’am…”

 

The teacher said her name was Ruth, like the one in the Bible, and Joshua was sure it was the prettiest name he’d ever heard. There wasn’t an empty desk by him, but the way that Delilah pursed her lips made him wish there was. When he walked by her otherwise empty table at lunch, he wished that he hadn’t already promised Thomas that he’d help him figure out his geometry homework too.

“Look at that. Ain’t even walkin’ home. Must be from the city.”

“Well y’see that car? It sure ain’t for cartin’ stuff around a farm.”

Ruth and her little brother both piled in to the sleek, black car as it pulled up. The others he walked with had stopped to stare, some of them to snarl. Joshua simply stood with his hands in his pockets, waiting for one of them to start off down the road. He was relieved when he heard the car move away after what felt like an eternity.

“My daddy says we ain’t supposed to talk to them.” One of the second graders adjusted her backpack as she took four steps to keep up with the two steps of the older kids. “Because he says they ain’t supposed to be here.”

“Well then, where are they supposed to be? They live here, don’t they? That’s what the Father said.” Joshua shook his head. “That doesn’t make sense at all.”

“Well, he says we’re supposed to listen to our parents first. And mine say that they’re a tattoo, and bad.”

“People can’t be a tattoo, Martha.” one of the older girls rolled her eyes. “Your momma didn’t call them a tattoo. Taboo, that’s what she said.”

“That doesn’t make any sense either.” Joshua sighed. “A family can’t be a taboo.”

“Well you go ahead and tell that to your god fearing momma then. See where that gets you.”

 

The next day, Joshua paused in front of Ruth’s otherwise empty table at lunch. She was doodling something on a sketchpad, apparently unfazed by her lack of company. She even blinked those big brown eyes as he sat down across from her.

“You’re Ruth, right? I’m Joshua. We’re in the same class.”

“Yeah, I’m Ruth.” she looked down at the hand he had extended to her. “Shouldn’t you go and sit with your friends?”

“Well, I thought that I might like to be your friend.”

Joshua has one of those smiles that was infectious, and it never failed. Ruth smiled as well, closing her little drawing book.

“Well all right, I suppose you can go ahead and try.” she shook his hand before folding hers on the table in front of her.

“Well all right.”

 

“I don’t know what I did wrong with you Joshua! You used to be such a good boy, and now you son’t even listen to me.”

Joshua’s mother had dragged him up the street after she saw the girl turn the corner towards her own home .Joshua rubbed his arm as it was released, looking down at the peeling linoleum tile of the kitchen floor.

“I was just bing neighborly, Momma.” he muttered. “Like you always tell me to be.”

“I told you to leave that girl alone. She’s a temptress.” she made the sign of the cross over her thin chest. “Oh your good grandfather would rise up and teach you a lesson boy.”

“Momma-”

“No. You go right up to your room. You wait until your Daddy gets home. We’re going to have a talk about this.”

And like a good son, he said the prayers his father gave him and read all the passages about obeying your parents and not falling to temptations. He tried to be a good boy: to not be tempted to disobey his parents, for that was the greatest taboo. He shuddered when his parents used the same language that the second grader had, but counted off the last bead of his rosary loud enough for his mother to hear in the other room.

Finally done, he set the chain back in the dish on his bedside table and grabbed his backpack. Before flopping on to his mattress, he dug a small piece of paper out from one of his notebooks. As he unfolded it, a beautifully drawn rose appeared, with a signature in neat script, and a ten digit number. It seemed that Joshua would have to get used to nights shouting the rosary through thin walls.

 

 

 

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25. Collide

It is never a good idea to walk through a crowded hallway while getting lost in a book. Some people don’t exactly take kindly to being bumped in to with no apology. Not that Beth was a particularly rude girl. You see, she would just…Forget sometimes, that’s all. She would start reading some new book on the morning bus to school. Of course, being that she was a good student, it would stay in her bag during lessons. If it was a particularly good one, though, you could see her itching to get back at it the whole of the lesson.

The moment the bell rang, though, it would be back in her hands. She was always the person out of the room, and the last person that you wanted to be stuck behind in the hallway. Oh Beth always made it to class right before the bell rand, but it was always close. And if you were behind her and had to go further than she did? Well, you were better off just stopping by the office to pick up the late slip you were going to be sent to get and take your time.

The teachers loved it, of course. A public school on the No Child Left Behind list from hell,t hey were just glad to see one of their students was still reading for enjoyment. Enjoyment until someone for fed up and knocked her in to a locker, but enjoyment none the less. She dusted herself odd when a boy in a hurry shouldered her in to the nearest row of them.

“Rude.” Beth muttered under her breath, pushing her classes back to where they belonged on the bridge of her nose. “You could just say excuse me.”

Naturally, the boy was already down the hall and around the corner. She shook her head, though, happily going back to the lien in her book. It was such a good one, she never minded reading it more than once. She even mouthed the words as she read and walked again.

It wasn’t often that she got bumped in to twice so rapidly. It also wasn’t often that the other person happened to fall on their backs as well.

“Sorry, sorry, I wasn’t paying attention.” the boy said. “Oh, your glasses.”

When she took them from him and put them back on, she blushed a bright pink. The boy was trying to pick up all the papers that he had dropped, shuffling them about to put them back in order.

“It’s okay. Here, let me help.” she grabbed a few of the pieced before they could be stepped on by the other people rushing through the hall.

“Thanks.” he took them gladly, noticing the book still on the ground. “Is that yours? It’s a good one. I’ve read it like three times.”

“What? I mean yes, it’s one of my very favorites.”

Beth didn’t bump in to too many people in the hall after that. She was much too bust with the boy who stopped to say sorry.

 

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56. Music

Phillip was by no means a musician. Beyond air guitar when he was alone in his room, and that one time his sister dragged him to a karaoke bar (he was drunk, and never again), the most musical he got was listening to the radio. But, after about ten o’clock at night, he’d sneak into the back corridors of the music hall, to the practice rooms there. With the mirrors, and the fact they were mostly soundproof, they were absolutely perfect for practicing his speeches. He had been the next one out at nationals last year, his coach had told him. This year, he was determined to make it to that final round.

So, he slipped through the student entrance, able to use his ID card to get in. He was always silent as a mouse, just in case there were still other people roaming around. He frowned as he entered and noticed that his usual room, the first one right by the doors, was occupied. No matter how much a creature of habit he was, he couldn’t very well knock and demand the person leave. Then someone would know he hid here at night. Somehow, that felt worse. Phillip shook his head, turning to walk down to the far end of the hall.

He blinked when he heard sound, turning his head to the occupied room. The door was open just a crack, enough where it wouldn’t seem like it from the inside. What was impossible not to notice, however, was the beautiful music that came through it. All that Phillip could tell was that it was a string instrument of some kind. He paused in front of the crack, trying to peek in and see who was playing.

Not that he’d know whoever they were,though. And the musician wasn’t standing near the door, so all he saw was the glow of the fluorescent light inside. He shook his head, walking down tot he far end of the hall. he paused at the last door, to catch a few more notes. With a sigh, he firmly shut and locked the door behind him.

This went on for the whole of the next week. Apparently, Phillip lamented, someone else had discovered the time of night when the rooms are empty. And they were also a fan of his favorite room. Though it made sense. Right by the door. Easy in, easy out. Whoever it was, they were always there before he arrived, and stayed until after he had already gone. He really only knew because whoever they were still, apparently, didn’t know how to work a door. Most of the time, it was some classical piece. The third night, though, he was sure he heard the cords to a pop song. It caught him off guard, the way it still fit so well. He ended up with it stuck in his head and was unable to concentrate that night.

On the last night of the week, he came in to the door completely open. It was as he was leaving, close to midnight. The sweet sound of whatever piece the musician was playing echoed through the empty hall way. The door must have come all the way open since the person never bothered to check to see if it way closed. And there was just that one door to get him out to the parking lot, if he didn’t want to wander and get lost in the concert hall. He’d have to be quick and quiet then.

A few steps in, he since. He’d had to wear his heavy boots with the rain and snow they’d been dealing with so late in the winter. The echoing of his footsteps made the music stop. Clearly, the musician would now realize that, whoever they were, they had let the door come open. He pulled the scarf up, to attempt to hide his face better.

“Hey, worry about that, man! I didn’t think anyone else was in here. Probably messed you up, huh? Juries and all, I’m just a little-”

The violist stopped, looking over his shoulder and setting down his violin when there wasn’t an immediate response. His hair was long, red, and would likely be a wild mess if it wasn’t tied to stay out of the way. His eyes were dark, almost black. they seemed to sparkle when he looked Phillip up and down.

“You are…Totally not a music major. No instrument case…Unless you’re a vocalist?”

“You’re beautiful. Shit! I mean…The music thing…violin…thing….I’m a speech major. On the team and…stuff…”

“What the hell are you…Oh! Talking to yourself ticks the roommate off?”

“Like you wouldn’t believe.” Phillip breathed a sigh of relief. “I’m Phillip.”

“Mason. So…Beautiful, huh?”

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