The Letter- Short Story

(Short story written to investigate a book idea)

“I just can’t…” tiny fingers stretched toward the object bobbing in the water just out of reach.  Determination flashed in gray eyes as the girl sat back to think.

“Lena,” she said to a doll made of dried seaweed and dry rotted material, “if I could just find…”

A bright smile possessed her face and her naturally saddened expression was transformed by the tweak of lips and crinkle of eyes.  “Of course!” she cried.  Excitement propelled her to her feet, and she crossed the barrier’s edge to an old, forgotten shed.  The door was barred, but on the side of the shed where the water lapped at the wood, a fungus grew, weakening the wooden planks.  The girl worked at the wood until a hole appeared, small in size but large enough for her nine-year-old, wiry body to fit through.  Once inside, she climbed on a pile of debris to wipe the square window down with the hem of her sleeve.  The light entered the shed, though sight couldn’t not penetrate the window.  It was impossible to remove the years of wait and worry from the glass, but this suited the little girl’s needs for discretion.

She rummaged around the shed looking for a make-shift tool, something she could use to drag the object in the water closer to her.  And then she found it- a stick about three feet long with a curved hook at the end.  Someone long ago smoothed down and rounded the sides, or maybe it was smoothed by the waves when it was once drift wood.  It didn’t matter to the girl how it formed its shape.  All she knew was that it felt like she’d received a gift.  Her fingertips did not touch when she grasped the stick, but she was able to manage it reasonably well.

She hurried through the hole to the pier where Lena and her object waited, nodding up and down as if acknowledging that she was its true owner, that it had finally reached its destination.  “You’re home now,” the girl told the object as she reached her new tool, hook end out, toward the water.  “Just a little…” she wedged her bare foot into a space in the landing so she could lengthen the last inch without plummeting to the water below.

The hook reached around the object and guided it to the girl.  She looked back at Lena, smiling widely, before focusing all her attention on the warm, oblong glass in her hand.  She rested herself, crossing her legs under her, in the same covered corner where Lena waited.  Something stopped up a small, round opening at the skinny end, but she could see there was something inside the glass, something the little girl desperately wanted to get to.  So she risked removing the brown, cracked stopper and emptied the contents into her lap.

“Lena, look!” The girl whispered, her eyes widening.  “Paper!”  This was a find in itself, as paper was scarce and limited only to what the people here could salvage from the sea and dry without damaging it.  Her mother spoke of it; the girl had seen it in the rare books that wandered to her people; it was how she learned to read, but to have a piece of her own?  One no one had ever seen? The little girl would keep it forever.

She felt strangely vulnerable, all of the sudden, so she scooped up Lena and her glass and paper find to make her way to the abandoned shed. No one came to this side of the barriers anymore, and she was glad, but that didn’t take away the feeling.  Once in the safety of the shed, the little girl let out a nervous laugh.  “We can’t be too careful, can we?” she asked Lena.  She perched on the edge of a dirty patch of light, skirting the darkness.  Gingerly, she propped Lena up facing her and opened the paper to properly see the treasure she found.

She read it silently at first, then aloud to Lena.  The light began to wane after the thirtieth read-through and the girl decided this was her secret. So, she found a hiding spot in the dilapidated shed where she hid the glass and letter she found that day, and every glass and letter she found every day after that for ten years, and somewhere in that time she vowed she would find the passion, the experience that these letters expressed.  Even if that meant she had to do what no other Seer could do. Leave.

The Waiting Sun, Short Story-Revised

Last week, I couldn’t get over how horrible my short story was. I mean, it really, really sucked. So, instead of writing a new, crappy short story, I revised last weeks for the two hours I would have committed to writing a different one. Here is the revised version. I like it MUCH better, but there could be more love for it in the future. ❤

 

SS Prompt

 

The Waiting Sunset

Revised 2/19/15

When Helena was young, she made friends with a boy named Waylon. One day, she decided she loved him while eating a carambola. She felt an older boy who knew about strange fruit, marine biology, and details of death and cared enough to share it with her deserved her affection, no matter that he was a ghost.

Helena wasn’t sure how to tell Waylon, so she hid it away for the whole of fourteen months. There was nothing spectacular about the night she told him she wanted to spend the rest of all of her moments with him. They lay on her bed, his feet to her shoulders and hers to his, laughing about how someone pelted Helena’s geometry teacher with a paint ball during third period, but the teacher couldn’t identify the culprit through the newspaper he was reading when it happened.  Waylon laughed because, if he had been alive, he would have thrown the paint ball. Helena laughed because she could appreciate the act but would never have done it. When the humor died Waylon’s hand soothed his hair and landed cold on her ankle. His thumb moved back and forth. Chills spread over Helena’s body, and urged her to tell him this was how she wanted the rest of her life to be. Waylon stared at her for long, agonizing seconds before he told her, “Don’t wait up for me. I have some things to do.” He crossed over the blankets, kissed her cheek, and vanished.

Six and a half years later, Helena has managed to convince herself that Waylon was a dream—a magical, complicated dream that life just couldn’t quite match. She graduated college with honors and works as a marine biologist’s assistant gathering killer whale excretions and seal vomit. She racks up hundreds of volunteer hours at the crisis hotline and fosters stray cats until permanent homes are found for them. She even dates a bit. The current boy wonder is a pastor’s son who is planning to be a pastor himself. Helena isn’t unhappy or happy. She just is.

Today, Helena celebrates her birthday. At the bus stop, arms hugging her waist, she closes her eyes and allows herself this small indulgence; she remembers Waylon. It’s the only day of the year she lets herself think about him because he has a tendency to take over her everything if she’s not careful. Helena doesn’t dwell on his shoulders or eyes or smile, although those things are memorable, but what she revels in is the way he made her feel. So important. So alive. So complete. She’s proud of what she has built for her life, but, Helena has to admit, all of the respectable things that she throws herself into have yet to replicate fourteen months of rightness. Day-to-day this doesn’t bother her, but on one’s birthday a person should be self-aware, so it does today.

When the good feelings of the past spawn a strange present feeling, unexplainable and unquenchable, Helena doesn’t want to remember anymore. Her lids rise and she raises her head to see a figure coming toward her. He has a small, distinguishing limp to his walk. The bus stop, the sidewalk, the sun, the breeze—all her surroundings shift and blur, while his lines sharpen. Helena’s knows her memory housed Waylon perfectly, not forgetting a freckle or scar, and that exact image stands before her with his crooked, joking grin, while she waits for the punch-line.

“I told you not to wait up.” Waylon reaches out his hand.

It’s an urge, a necessity, to take his hand. Even after all these years, he is magic and power and need, and Helena wants to orbit him like the moon to earth. After such a long, painful absence, she doesn’t resist. When she touches his hand, the wind tornadoes around them, lifting them off the ground, and places them, more softly than she expected, on a worn path leading to a cliff.

Helena feels herself fade, reduced to a watermark. The best of Helena is within her, and she lets that self out with each step she takes toward the edge. Beyond the cliff a sunset silhouettes the tall grass while causing the clouds and the water that reflected the sky to look more heavenly with its golds, purples, and whites.

Waylon only notices Helena.

Since his death, she was what kept him from total condemnation every time the temptation came to end it all again. After Waylon died the way he did, he found himself stuck here on earth, fighting the feelings he felt when took his life. Every. Single. Day. It was a special kind of hell, darker and more isolated than anything he felt while he lived. But that’s what hell wanted him to feel, so when it presented respite from the pain, he would take it, no matter the cost. And he almost did. But who was to say that if he did there would be peace this time?

He met Helena a week after his death. He leaned against a light pole, crying. She asked if there was something she could do for him, something to make him smile, and she offered up her cream cheese Danish with a crescent moon shape bitten out of the side, so Waylon knew Helena knew how good it tasted and was willing to let him have it anyway. Ghosts don’t eat, but the gesture got Waylon through another day.

Helena was the only one Waylon found who could see him, but she was also the only one who saw who he was on the inside, too. She didn’t stop the desolation brewing inside him, but she distracted it, and as the friendship grew, she made him step back and face it. All the while, the demons came at his darkest moments shaped like the people he loved from his previous life, declaring their disappointment, pushing him to bargain the rest of forever for numbness from the pain. He almost did once or twice. But in the end, there was Helena. Helena, who knew everything but would not leave Waylon to suffer in solitude.

Waylon pulls her to a stop and strokes her cheek. “I missed the way your mouth twitches when you are just about to figure out the answer to a question.”

Helena touches her lips, embarrassed, but he moves her hand and holds it to his still chest.

“I’m no longer…” The word alive isn’t audible. It doesn’t have to be.

Waylon shakes his head. “I’m so sorry.”

“Are you here…” to stay.

“No.” but then he smiles and says, “And neither are you.”

Helena grasps his shirt, pulling him closer. “I can’t go back now.”

Waylon breathes deeply. “You have no idea how much that means to me.”

“I hope as much as it means to me.”

The sun sinks lower and Helena tenses from fear of something impending.

“You have to choose. The cliff or the land.”

Her voice climbs as high as her disbelief. “Jump from the cliff?”

“Have some faith, Lena.” Waylon’s smile is a dare. “You don’t have to jump. You could turn around and walk that way.” Waylon pointed to an expanse of land that blurred the harder you tried to focus. “I can guide you through either gate, but I can only stay on the side of the one I chose.”

“And which one did you choose?”

“I can’t answer that.” He shifts feet. “That’s cheating.”

“When have you ever followed rules?” Helena asks, memories softening her face.

“Since they were the only way we could have a chance to really be together, even,” he places his hands on her shoulders, “if it’s a small one.”

Helena closes the distance between them in a glorious hug. “Can we just…be for a while?” Just in case.

Waylon shuts his eyes for a moment, lifts his chin upward, and then nods his head. The air around them freezes, leaves dancing in the wind hang lifeless around them, the sun stops its decent. Everything is a statue but Waylon and Helena. “He’ll stop this world for a while, but when it begins again and the dark closes in, you have to choose.”

Helena tucks her hands deep in her pockets. “Okay. Who is He?”

“I can’t answer that, either,” Waylon says as he sits in the still grass.

She raises her head toward the coloring clouds and says, “Well, thank you, He,” before lowering herself beside him.

She thinks about asking why—why did he leave, why didn’t he love her enough to stay, why didn’t he say goodbye. But that would be a waste of time, so she tells him how—how much she missed him, how he made her whole, how she wished she had more memories to pull from than the year and two months granted, how she managed to live a life she was pleased with, though she wished it was with him.

Waylon doesn’t offer an explanation. Where he went. What he had to do to get here. He just talks about what he thought of her boyfriend, what Helena deserved, how important she is to him, how she saved him, and what he wanted to do to her for the rest of their existence. Helena blushes and curls into Waylon’s lap and they kiss until they can no longer distinguish individual blades of grass and the leaves, suspended in the air, fall to the ground. The sun is sinking again.

Waylon brushes the dirt from her shirt. “It’s time.”

“I know.” Helena crumples her face. Waylon’s expression lightens and he lifts Helena, spinning around and around. She laughs whole-hearted, and she gives Waylon her potential last kiss. She can’t worry about what decision he made. Helena knows that the only way she will be happy with herself is if she decides on her own merit, but she prays Waylon will walk with her through the gate she chooses.

Helena unfolds and reveals a level of peace she had experienced only briefly in her earthly life. “I was happiest when I took a risk to be with you, no matter the outcome of that moment.” Helena looks toward the cliff. “Maybe choosing the risky path here would lead to the same.” She looks to the sky. “Do you hear that, He?” She yells. “I choose the cliff.”

Waylon walks her to the edge hand-in-hand. They face each other in silence. Helena nods and they both push their weight over the edge.

On the way down to the water speckled with the fading sun she hears Waylon’s voice. “Good choice.”

The Waiting Sun, Short Story

 

SS Prompt

Visual Prompt

The Waiting Sunset

It didn’t matter that Helena’s reputation was spotless white. It didn’t matter that she was on the President’s list in college. It didn’t matter that she volunteered in soup kitchens. It didn’t matter that she dated the pastor’s son who would also be a pastor. It didn’t matter because what she was doing right now cancelled all that other stuff out, and she didn’t even care.

It was an urge, a necessity, take Waylon’s hand and walk with him to the cliff. He was magic and power and relentless and she wanted to orbit him like a planet or moon. She had since she met him at sixteen years old, and now that he was standing in front of her after such a long, painful absence, she couldn’t resist.

She felt herself fade with each step she took, reduced to a watermark, a memory. The cliff was a silhouette in the sunset, causing the clouds and the water that reflected the sky to look more heavenly with its golds, purples, and whites. Waylon only notice Helena and caused her thoughts to falter by grazing his thumb against the inside of her hand.

A good girl would not have such a reckless friend.

But if she did, the friend would not be a boy.

But by chance it did happen, the girl definitely wouldn’t fall in love with the boy, certainly not after the boy told her what he was.

But if she did, a good girl wouldn’t act on her love. Not with her lips. Not with her hands.

Especially not after the boy told her what he did.

But even if she did, good girls would not forgive him his past, but would forget her feelings for him, shun him, and keep herself pure.

Helena was a good girl but couldn’t leave Waylon to suffer alone, though everyone who knew him before he became what he is had no problem with it. Waylon took Helena’s choice to stay away, disappearing one night and not returning the next, or the next, or the next.

Five years had passed. Five years of convincing herself that Waylon was a dream—a wonderful, complicated dream that had been the high point in her very good life. On the day he came for her, Helena was leading her very good life. She had graduated college in Public Relations, she’d racked up hundreds of volunteer hours, she held a job at Children’s Services, and she fostered stray cats until homes were found for them. She was everything she was expected to be, and she wasn’t unhappy. She just wasn’t happy.

At the bus stop, she stood with her arms wrapped around her waist and she closed her eyes. Helena allowed herself this small indulgence today because it was her birthday; she remembered. Not Waylon’s look or his eyes or his smile, although those things were memorable, but Helena chose to remember the way he made her feel. So important. So alive. So complete. If Helena was honest with herself, all of the good things that she threw herself into were just attempts to replicate the way Waylon made her feel. And normally that wouldn’t bother her, but since today was her birthday, the day one is supposed to be self-aware, she remembered what life could have been.

Helena pulled Waylon to a stop before they reached the edge of the cliff and asked, “How did I get here?”

Waylon stroked her cheek and said, “I missed the way your mouth twitched when you were just about to figure out an answer to a question.”

Helena touched her lips, embarrassed, but he moved her hand and held it to his still heart. “You’re getting there.”

“I’m no longer…” The word alive wasn’t audible, but Waylon always knew what she wanted to say.

“I’m so sorry.”

“Are you here…” to stay. Helena was afraid of this answer.

“No.” but then he smiled and said, “And neither are you.”

“Don’t send me back. Please.” Helena grasped his shirt pulling him closer. “I can’t go back now that you’re here.”

Waylon breathed deeply. “You have no idea how much that means to me.”

“I hope as much as it means to me.”

The sun sank lower and Helena tensed with fear and unknowing. “What do I have to do?”

“Just choose. The cliff or the land.”

Her voice climbed as high as her disbelief. “Jump from the cliff?”

“Have some faith, Lena.” Waylon’s smile was a dare. “You have to choose. Jump or turn around and walk that way.” Waylon pointed to an expanse of land that blurred the harder you tried to focus. “I can guide you through either gate, but I can only stay on the side of the one I chose.”

“And which one did you choose?”

“I can’t answer that.” He shifted feet. “Against the rules.”

“When have you ever followed the rules?” Helena asked, memories softening her face.

“Since they were the only way we could have a chance to really be together, even if it is a fifty-fifty chance.”

“Let’s just be for a while. Can we?”

Waylon shut his eyes for a moment, and then nodded his head. “He’ll stop the sunset for a while, but when it begins again and before it gets fully dark, you have to choose.”

Helena tucked her hands deep in her pockets. “Okay. Who is He?”

“I can’t answer that, either.”

She lifted her chin toward the coloring clouds and said, “Well, thank you, He.”

Waylon’s expression lightened and he lifted Helena, spinning around and around. She laughed whole-hearted for the first time in five years, and they fell disoriented in the cliffs high grass, a deep breeze cleansing Helena’s numbness. She thought about asked why—why did he leave, why didn’t he love her enough to stay, why didn’t he say goodbye. But that would be a waste of time, so she told him how—how much she missed him, how he made her whole, how she wished she had more memories to pull from than the two meager years of high school.

Waylon didn’t offer an explanation. He just talked about what he thought about her boyfriend, what he thought Helena deserved in life, what he wanted to do to her for the rest of their existence.

Helena blushed and curled into Waylon’s lap and they kissed until they could no longer distinguish individual blades of grass. The sun was sinking again.

Waylon brushed the grass from her shirt. “It’s time.”

“I know.” Helena crumpled her face.

Then, she unfolded and revealed a level of peace she’d not known in her earthly life. “I was happiest when I took a risk to be with you.” Helena looked toward the cliff. “Maybe that would be the same in death.” She looked to the sky. “Do you hear that, He?” She yelled. “I choose the cliff.”

Waylon walked her to the edge hand-in-hand. She couldn’t understand his neutral expression. Had she chosen well?

They faced each other in silence. There was nothing left to say. He would take her to her chosen gate now, and he would either enter or turn away. Helena nodded and they both pushed their weight over the edge.

On the way down to the water speckled with the fading sun she heard Waylon’s voice shout. “Good choice.”

The New Year is Upon Us Continued

Okay, here is the promised Goal Post (haha) that I promised in January. I have, in fact, been late on this post because I have been über focused on completing said goals and have forgotten to share with y’all where my efforts have been.

I hope I’m forgiven.

I really hope to have my book to my beta readers by the end of February. I’m getting nervous about this deadline because even though I’ve been working diligently, I’m not near through and I’m 10 days into the month. I’m on chapter 3. Please get faster as I get more practiced, Revision. There are big Things to be done.

Something that I’m pretty excited about (yet feel super vulnerable about) is my goal to write a short story once a week, starting last week. I’m sharing them with you guys even if they are horrible. I posted the first one on Friday. (It’s pretty horrible.) Here’s the reason for Short Stories: I want to practice getting ideas to paper faster and smarter, so I’m trying short stories with a limit on the time I spend on them. I spent two hours on the one from Friday from the time I found a prompt I liked until I finally MADE myself stop writing/editing. Maybe at the end of the year I’ll pick a few to edit and submit to things, but that’s not the initial goal.

I have my Writing goals planned out, an idea for Things To-Do with the Family, and a super skinny skeleton for things I want to do personally. This month, I’m cleaning out my closet for me. It’s not wild or crazy, but I think I’ll feel better when I can see my clothes instead of treading on them. 🙂 I’ll pick these person to-dos month-to-month. One can get overwhelmed, you know. Ha!

I hope y’all are inspired and inspiring!

Onward and Upward!!!

–Mea

My Father’s Hands, Short Story

Short Story Pic

Photo prompt for short story

“Improvement, I think,” Dad said after he got over the shock of the freshly printed handprints all over the wooden walls of our living room. I found a can of white paint in the shed, wrenched open the lid and began to create before I could even contemplate that anyone else would see anything but the beauty I saw. Sixty-two thirteen-year-old girl handprints might cause some to scoff and turn their nose up. But not Dad. He patted my head and asked what was for dinner.

This was one reason I loved him: in the midst of war and work and worry, he could see something others couldn’t. He laughed more than anyone I knew, finding enjoyment on a side street, in a jar on the table. I had no brothers or sisters and nights were lonely while he worked the late shift. I told him this one time, and the next day I came home from school, he had added his handprints to mine on the wall, and I didn’t feel quite so lonely.
I was sixteen when he died. Factory said it was an accident. Some piece of some machine had corroded and some person had to fix it. Dad always was the “person” when no one else wanted to be. He crawled under heavy metal shapes and tried to make them fit, but they would have nothing of it and fell onto him in protest.

My uncle took me in, but I screamed and threw his things until he let me stay in my childhood home. My first night back there, I leaned on the wall covered in hands and cried until I slept. When I awoke I pressed my palms into my swollen eyes and went to the bathroom. When I came back in the room, the wall looked strange. All of the large, fatherly handprints moved to outline the shape of where I’d lain, as if they were trying to cover me. But…paintings don’t move. Walls don’t comfort. Father’s don’t die.

I crossed the room and touch the prints. They were warm when the rest of the wall was cold. I traced the palm and thumb and wished I could lace my fingers through the imprint of his and pretend. I called his name and the index finger flinched. I flattened my hands on the walls and pressed my cheek there, too, and hoped and hoped and hoped until I saw another twitch. A whole hand moved. Then, two…and three and four. I backed away to see the white handprints swirl like a hurricane on the dark wall until the collage of them resembled an abstract portrait of my father’s face. The hand-eyes blinked. The hand-ears listened. The hand-mouth spoke. “Hello, Rilla.”

My mouth dropped open and my tears were scared away. “Dad?” I inched closer. “How do I know it’s you?”

The portrait smirked. “My smart girl. That is the right question to ask. You know it’s me because your heart tells you so and because I know that you have a passion for agricultural studies and for…Marcus who sits in the third pew.

“ I…” I stammered because it was true.

“I’ve seen how you shy from him at church and how you flush as you are now when he does speak to you.” He winked. “I’m not as unaware as you think.”

“You aren’t as alive as I think.”

“That’s true,” my father said. “But I feel this is a gift nevertheless.”

“A gift from who?” I asked.

“From me, I suppose.” And the face smiled through the hands and I couldn’t help but feel joy-sunshine joy, blooming flower joy, forever joy.
My father stayed with me as the years passed. Marcus and I began dating. Then, we married and had a child. The farther into life I got, the less I came to the wooden wall. Not because of a separation between us. I suppose it is just how creating a new branch of life with another works. You don’t love the trunk of the tree of life less; you don’t forsake it, even. You just…aren’t focused on it so much, tending to your own offshoots and leaves.
I came to my father’s wall after news of our leaving. Marcus could no longer support us here. He had to search for something new, and he found it somewhere new. Rosie was three.

For the second time I sobbed to my father, but this time it was me who had to leave. One whitewashed handprint floated to my cheek pressed against the wall, while the others formed his face and begged me not to cry.

“It’s time for you to live fully in this life. If you stayed with me you would always be only half here and I wish more for you than that.” His kind face drooped. “In truth, it has long been time for me to wholly embrace my death. I, too, have only been somewhat existing.” The fingers making up his eyebrows twitched upward imploring my understanding.

“I didn’t know you were unhappy.” I clasped my hands and backed away, shamed by my selfishness.

“Oh, no. Not unhappy. You have always been my happiness on this earth, and because of my stay, I have seen you marry someone who loves you without condition. I have seen my grandchild grow to favor your lovely mother’s face and your sincere soul. I would not trade these years. But,” my father heaved a sigh, “I am tired.” He was quiet for a long moment, and then said, “This is welcomed. You will not have to leave me behind and I will have my rest.”

I placed my hands on my father’s faux face. “You have given me your life and your death. I can’t tell you how grateful…” tears pressed my voice back down my throat. “I know you love me. Please tell me you know how much I…”

He looked to the side, distracted. He nodded and came back to me. “I have to go.”

“Forever?” I asked.

“No, not forever. Just until you can find me again.” His fingers created a marvelous smile. “Your mother and I will be here.”

“She’s with you there?” I wiped my cheek clean, but new tears dirtied it again.

He nodded and two hands reached for me. “Now. Live a strong, brilliant life. Love your husband and your child with everything you have, and when you are old and have worn out your days, we will be together again.”

I watched each hand print, one by one, join mine, as if all those years ago they had never moved at all. And as each hand found its permanent place, each piece of my father I grasped so tightly floated away until I was full of his sweet memory but not the jagged shards of grief and loss. I left the house once the hands stilled. A cleansing rain pelted my face and I promised myself I would be strong and I would be brilliant. For my father and for me.