Wednesday, May 24, 2017

OneWord: Stunt

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I couldn't believe the stunt he'd just pulled.   He'd gone from nobody to king of the school in seconds -- and while it made the administration look bad, he'd done it in a way that hurt nobody and caused no harm.   He would be a legend.  If only he had stopped there...

Friday, April 7, 2017

#FridayFlash 68: Returning

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This one is for Catherine, who asked "but what happened before?"
Annie -- your "what happened after?" is a much longer story ;)

Thanks for reading!

----

"You have to take her," the frantic whisper commanded.  Leesha grabbed the brown bundle of fabric as it was shoved at her, before realizing what it held.  Who it held.

"What?  No.  Your highness, I can't..."

"She is not safe here," the voice less frantic, more commanding.  The queen speaking rather than the mother.  "My husband will kill her.  You must take her, and I cannot know where she's gone.  Keep her safe.  Keep her secret.  Until the time is right for her to return.  You will know when the time is right to tell her."

The queen handed Leesha a small sack.  Its contents jingled as she grasped it, letting her know exactly what it contained.  Its weight suggested there was enough money to last a lifetime.  

The queen's face softened as she looked at her first-born daughter, cursed with hair pure white, as her own had been.  The baby gurgled in her sleep and the queen reached for her, but as Leesha moved to hand the child back, the queen quickly stepped aside, straightening away from the child and glancing quickly over her shoulder.

"You must go now!"  The lines deepened on her forehead, but the tension evident did not disguise the pain in her eyes.  

Leesha gave a small curtsey and backed away from her queen's haunted gaze.  What did she know was coming?  Why would she fear the king?   What could possibly be bad enough that she would send her beloved daughter away with a maid?   And why her? 

Leesha's mind whirled with questions as she returned to her chamber to gather her meager belongings.  She made her way through the castle sticking to shadows and rarely used passageways, grateful for the princess's silence.  She looked longingly at the route to the kitchen, but didn't dare visit there with the child.  She didn't know how long she'd have before someone missed the girl, or if the queen would protect her if she were caught.

She thought wistfully of the friends she'd miss and hoped one day she'd be able to return.  Leesha had no family to miss her, she was sure that was a large part of why she was chosen.   What the queen didn't know, what nobody knew, was that she did have family.  The question was whether that family would take her back in.

She glanced at the baby's face – only her eyes visible through the blankets, and those mostly hidden by shadow.  Her white hair was covered – an oddity here, Leesha would take her where she would fit in, a place where Leesha never had.

She scanned the field and saw nobody before leaving the shelter of the wall and walking calmly but quickly toward the northern gate.  She'd picked a side exit, off the normal guard route, where she knew there'd only be one guard.  She hoped it might be a friend, someone she could convince she was never there.  Or, failing that, someone who could be paid to forget -- at least for a little while.

Leesha heard sounds up ahead.  Two people?  There were never two guards here.  And then her eyes widened and a smile touched the corner of her lips as she realized what she was hearing.  The guard, being less than diligent, had found himself some company to occupy his long shift.   Leesha's luck held as the baby slept while they slipped out the little-used exit.   

She hurried across the field, trying to hold the child in such a way as to not jostle her.  The steady rhythm kept her sleeping, and her silence was necessary to their escape.  She reached the forest but found the trees too think to cut through, so stuck to the edge, hiding in the shadows.   She shortly found a path -- one of the smaller ones she knew lead to town.   

Never before had the dark seemed so complete, the night so overwhelming.  But still she walked even as adrenaline began to give way to fatigue.  By the time she got to town, shed concluded she couldn't seek help; not with the princess in her arms.   To do so would be to risk not only herself and the child, but also any who helped her.

Terrified, Leesha hid the girl in a hollow of a tree off the poorly used path and hoped she'd make it to town and back quickly enough.   She quickly bought travel necessities and foods she could make into a gruel for both of them before visiting the docks.  A reasonably safe place, Leesha affected a bored countenance while negotiating travel for herself and her daughter up the river.   Her heart beat wildly from the lie, but the weathered boatman didn't even look at her, just agreed to a price and told her to return before his crew finished loading.

Leesha hurried back, fear making it hard to swallow, but the baby was still there and fine, just starting to fuss and wave her tiny fists in the air.  She fed her quickly before rebundling her, careful to ensure her hair was entirely covered.

Only once the boat was on its way with Leesha on it, did the reality of what she was doing sink in.  As she dozed on the gently rocking ship, she remembered the village shed left as a girl.  A small village it was bound by stricter rules than most.  She recalled as a young child, visitors had been encouraged, but by the time she was a teen and ready to explore herself, things had changed.   A wall had been built that few were allowed to cross.  For the good of the village, the elders said.   They knew what was out there and had to protect against it.  Those who wished to leave could, but they were not guaranteed to be welcomed back.  Leesha was afraid the hard words she had exchanged with her mother before leaving would ensure she would not be permitted to return.

The journey took several weeks, and while there were some challenges, they made their way there together and unharmed.  The wall was much smaller than Leesha remembered, and the gate stood open.

keelah!” Leesha heard a childs excited shout and the nostalgia it brought helped calm her nerves.

The baby whimpered and Leesha softened her hold.  She focused on calming the girl as she entered the village shed sworn never to return to.  As she looked up a woman stepped out of the crowd, her face pale but proud.   Not a welcome, but more encouragement than Leesha had expected.

She held the bundle out and uttered the lie that would change lives. Mom, Id like to introduce you to your granddaughter.  Jezina.






Friday, February 17, 2017

#FridayFlash 67: A Flash of Colour

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Follow the lemmings, she thought as she joined the hundreds of commuters filing two by two down the stairs to exit the train station.   Her whole life had been an adventure.  She loved that her friends watched her, bemused, to see what the next twist might be.  But now she who loved light, colour, and openness trudged between the tight grey rows of skyscrapers.

At the first red light, she looked around, determined not to succumb to the temptation to stare at her phone and complete the transformation into “one of them”.  It was a little defiance, but the only thing she could do to keep her sense of self.  On the opposite corner, she noticed a teenage girl wearing a brilliant red cape. Most unusual though was that the girl was looking right at her. They made eye contact as the light changed.  The girl pointed with her chin over her shoulder, spun around and left; her cape billowed behind her as people blindly shuffled to allow her to pass through.

Lizzie elbowed her way to the front of the crowd, eyes scanning the limited routes.  A flash of red flickered at the edge of an alley, and without allowing herself to consider her motives, Lizzie trailed it.  This alley was noticeably quieter and calmer.   The masses of people continued down the main road.  Up ahead the girl looked back over her shoulder, gave a mischievous wink, and let herself through a gate.

Lizzie was sure the gate hadn’t been there yesterday.  She would’ve sworn this was a dead end.  She looked behind her, giving a moment’s thought to the safe and responsible option of continuing on to work.  She dismissed it instantly. 

On closer inspection, Lizzie decided the gate had been there forever, she’d simply missed it.  It was ancient, yet opened smoothly when she pushed through it.  She heard the latch click behind her and turned to look back, relieved that everything was exactly as she’d expect to see and then amused at herself for considering anything else.  But when she faced forward, her world had changed.  The girl still stood waiting for her, but no longer was she standing in a city alley with office buildings on either side of her; in front of her lay something from a storybook – rolling hills of green, trees off to one side, and a castle in the distance.  A frantic look back revealed the city Lizzie knew, and she reached backward for the gate.  The cold metal in her hand was reassuring, but as she opened it, she felt an almost overwhelming sense of loss.  She allowed the gate to close again which dulled the sensation significantly, but her fingers turned white with the intensity of the grip she kept.

“What…?  Where…?” usually articulate, she found herself unable to formulate a question that would address the situation she found herself in.

A bird calling in the distance was the only answer she received.  It was not a city bird she heard. 

Lizzie’s feet felt rooted in cement.  She could not go forward if she wished, but nor was she inclined to tolerate the intense misery of the gate.  The other girl’s hands were interlaced in front of her while she stood quietly.  Her eyes shone of wisdom and experience well beyond what her age should allow.

“Who are you?” Lizzie’s words came out barely more than a whisper.

“I was once as you are now.  I made my choice; now you must make yours.”  Her melodic voice had a hypnotic tone to it that suited the look in her eyes but not her youth.

“How did that work out for you?”

The girl’s eyes crinkled as she let out a short laugh that instantly set Lizzie at ease.   The woman-girl paused for a moment, looking away from Lizzie before answering.

“My choice had consequences,” she spoke slowly, as though considering each word.  “Some were very hard,” she gave a gentle laugh, making Lizzie wonder how much time had passed that such hard results could now have happy memories.   Lizzie waited for her to continue, but the girl had her lips pressed tightly together.

She phrased her next question carefully.  

“If you were to do it again, knowing what you know now, would you make the same choice you did?”

The girl gave the smallest of nods before speaking, “Yes I would, but realize I did not face the same choice you have in front of you.  Your choice is your own, but if you wait much longer to decide, you’re going to be late for work.”

The reality check startled Lizzie.  What was she doing?  She had to get to work.  She needed that job.  She opened the gate and felt the sense of loss wash over her.  Her feet were still unwilling to move.  Reaching into her purse she smiled; she never missed a day so nobody would care as long as she called in – and given that she was seeing fantasy countries in a dead-end alley, she was clearly in need of a mental health day.

Her relief at the simple solution disappeared instantly when she discovered she had no service.

“Really?” her guide rolled her eyes, suddenly seeming entirely like the teenager she appeared to be.

So go to work like a responsible adult or play hooky for a little while?  That was the decision Lizzie tried to rationalize, but she knew in the part of her soul that’s reserved only for truth, that the choice she had to make would be immeasurably more significant than that.

She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, thought about everybody important in her life, and realized that every one of them would understand that she needed to make the choice they never would.

So with fear and excitement warring for control over her emotions, she let go of the gate and walked towards her next adventure.

OneWord: Loss

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The loss seemed horrible at the time, but ended up being the best thing that could ever have happened to me!  I was devastated, thought life would never be the same...   And it wasn't.  It was better.   Wonderful, insanely, incredibly better.

Friday, January 27, 2017

#FridayFlash 66: Glitter and Tears

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Star light, start bright, first star I see tonight
I wish I may, I wish I might,
Have the wish, I wish tonight

A child’s rhyme, uttered by a lonely, slightly intoxicated, barely-adult woman.  It had never occurred to me that the magic of childhood didn’t actually end at age 18, and that my starlight wish just might have the power to come true.   What did I wish for?  Money?  Health?  Love?   No, those would’ve been useful.  I, I wished for a fairy.  You know – fictional fluttery creature that farts glitter?  Yeah, that’s what I wished for.

Now before you get all judgemental on me, let’s insert a moment of realism here.  Starlight wishes don’t come true and fairies don’t exist.  So there is no way in which I should be held accountable for what happened next.

Absolutely nothing.  

At least, that’s what I now wish had happened.  Alas life, I have learned, is not, in-fact, always fair. Because ever since that day, I have had the questionable privilege of having my own fairy.  I kid you not.  Instead of a cat or a dog, I share my life with a magical, winged, glittery creature who can be seen by others only if she wants to – which I’ll give you a hint, never happens.

Okay, I could live with the questionable sanity – I never claimed to be normal to begin with.  But the problem is, my fairy is unbearably, well… Fair.   In every sense of the word.  She spends nights primping while I sleep and is physically ill whenever she sees someone she deems less than fair.  So no, I don’t have an obsession with glitter.  It’s fairy vomit.  Ugh.

But worse than living with an insanely vain glitter ball is the realization just how unfair the world is. I’ve spent years trying to balance the scales – helping the homeless and under privileged, fighting social injustice.  It’s not because I’m a good person or socially motivated; it’s because since before I finished uni, I've lived my life with a little fairy who throws a tantrum every time she sees something unfair.  Because of her I have this reputation of being a much better person than I am.  I should appreciate it; I can certainly acknowledge the personal growth and social awareness she’s raised in me, but the reality is that even my closest friends look at me oddly now when I say or do things that the real me believes.

Most of my friends managed to outgrow their youthful errors in judgement, but it seemed mine was destined to influence my life forever.  Until one day, after yet another relationship was ruined by the brilliant combination of my obsessive commitment to ridding the world of inequality combined with my occasional “hallucinations”, I finally snapped.

“It’s not fair!” I glared at the bane of my existence, fingers balled into fists, ready to throw a toddler-level tantrum of my own.  “It’s not fair that I’m stuck with you!  I didn’t know fairies were real when I said that.  Why do I have to pay for that ignorance forever?”

Her eyes grew wide as her wings drooped and her ever present sparkled dimmed.  “You’re right,” she whispered as her eyes shifted down and away from me.

Before I could apologize, feeling instant soul-destroying regret for snapping at her, she was gone.  

And I learned how unfair life really is.