The Winner

wesley-eland-678737-unsplash

Photo: Wesley Eland

 

It was never about the money, or the endless calculations, or the disappointment she learned to expect and accept. The odds were against her. She knew that. Everyone said so. Many laughed.

And yet …

She could scarce believe it when she saw the numbers and date and words line up, when she knew that for once — in the way that mattered most — she was the winner.

She rubbed her eyes. Checked everything again.

She called to double check. Her heart thrumming in her chest.

She wrote down every detail: The place. The time. The plan. The day when her life would forever change.

Or had it changed already?

That night she tossed and turned and even though she finally fell asleep, she woke before dawn with her heart aflutter, and gazed into the ceiling till the morning brought with it the first few rays of sun.

A day reborn. Herself, perhaps, as well.

Nights will never be the same, she thought. Nor mornings.

Nor any other time in any other hour. Winter or summer. Light or dark.

She counted down the days, excited beyond words and somewhat frightened — should she tell? Who to? How much to share? How much to keep to herself?

Eventually she’ll have to. …

Oh, there will be a celebration! She could list in her mind the friends who’d rejoice with her. She could also note the dread of recognizing those whose green-eyed-monsters might awaken. Will she lose friendships over this? Will jealousy taint what she’d never quite dared to believe would be awarded her?

“I won the lottery,” she whispered to herself, holding the bit of paper between shaking fingers. “They’ve checked it out and they’ve agreed. It’s approved. Two more weeks … I won’t believe it till I’m there. Till after. Till I’m back home with a new life in my hands.”

She pulled out the photo. Drank it in. The ebony chubby cheeks. The dimple in the elbow. The eyes. These eyes …

“I’m coming, Bomani …” She kissed the picture that the orphanage included with the adoption papers. “Mama’s coming for you, my little son-to-be.”

 

 

For V.J.’s Weekly Challenge: Lottery

 

Glacial Undertones

Glacier AmitaiAsif

Photo: Amitai Asif

 

He will carve mountains

For them.

Slow but steady

In his pressure.

Relentless

In the calculated cold of his

Convictions,

That curl like tight fists

Under an unquestioning love.

He has carved himself

In the process,

Into valleys of sacrifice.

Carved them, too,

Into mirror images

To reflect the truths he holds.

He will carve mountains

For them,

Heavy-handed and doggedly

Protective.

Glacial with volcanic undertones.

 

 

For Sammi’s Weekend Writing Prompt: Glacial in 66 words

 

 

Remotely Social

Heidi House AtaraKatz

Photo: Atara Katz

 

She’d have preferred to not have even as much contact with others as the job required, but the alternatives were worse, and she couldn’t argue with the benefits:

A roof over her head.

Supplies.

A stipend for the necessaries.

The most-days-solitude.

Granted, there were days when she could feel the walls press close around her and the vistas felt airless. She’d scan the horizon, then, wondering when someone would stop by that she could talk to. Vulnerable in her need, her fingers would reach for the radio, yearning to hear a voice that was not her own, and she’d make some excuse about checking the weather or changing the date of the next airdrop.

And yet she could not wait to end the conversation – if that was what one could call the brief exchange with the dispatch to arrange a fly-by or a stop-drop of supplies – so the last of the vowels could evaporate into the quiet.

Human contact suffocated her.

Its lack bore holes into her soul.

It was untenable, and all she could do is try and find some semblance of balance between loneliness and overwhelm.

There were no roads to the respite cabin, only footpaths, or for those who braved the crosswind, a rocky field in which to try and land a chopper. The nearest town was a hard three-days trek through the mountains.

Once in a while she’d see a shepherd who’d misread a storm and sought shelter. Sometimes another ranger would stop in during an upkeep task, to resupply or send an update to headquarters. Those were hardy, silent persons like herself, who welcomed a warm bowl of soup, a place to dry their clothes, and a break from the wind, but needed little in the way of clucking.

The trekkers, for whom the respite cabin was intended, thankfully limited themselves to the brief season when the weather was most forgiving. Her outpost was stationed on what was a remote route even for the most intrepid hikers, and yet some evenings in midsummer the small cabin would be bursting at the seams with chatter and the smell of unwashed feet, damp shoes, and giddy overconfidence. The bunks slept eight. To have even three occupied felt to her like eighty.

The trekkers would all leave in early morning, bellies full of oats and faces flushed with sleep, and she would not know if their eagerness was for the day’s exertions or to get to where they could safely gossip about the agonies of trying to wrest a word out of the reticent resident ranger.

She’d grow skinless by the time fall brought with it a piercing cold and the relief of rarer human sightings.

It would be weeks into winter before her fingers reached for the radio, pining to hear another person’s word.

So she was not prepared for the knock that came, an hour into night in early winter.

There was no storm. No ranger’s late arrival. No shepherd.

Just a youth. Half-frozen and her belly swollen, and in her eyes a look that pleaded urgent need even as it warned to keep a distance.

It could have been herself.

Fifteen years back.

 

 

 

For the SoCS prompt: Social

 

 

What If?

Photo prompt © Ceayr

 

“Are you sure this is the house?”

“It says 345.”

“What if it’s the wrong number?”

“It’s not.” She unfurled a sweaty fist to show him the piece of paper and its slightly smudged pen marks. “It says right here.”

“What if you wrote it down wrong?” His eyes met hers, mirroring her apprehension and amplifying the seeds of doubt that tightened shoots of worry in her stomach.

She shook her head, courage evaporated.

It was one thing to flee their miserable surroundings. Another entirely to knock on the door of the father who’d rejected them even before they were born.

 

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

 

Homespun

astronomy background constellation cosmic

Photo: Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

“Can’t say I’ve known all along,” he said.

She snuggled deep into his lap, safe under the quilt, warmed by his heartbeat, listening to the song of the stars as they marched across the canopy of the world.

A different sky. This was.

The other half of life, perhaps. Better, even, now that she found home.

She, too, hadn’t known. Rotation, yes, but only as rounds of emptied hope.

Though her soul perhaps did know. It must have seen the edge of the world spin, and held on, to keep her whole.

 

 

 

For Sammi’s Weekend Writing Prompt: Spin in 92 words

 

 

First Day Out

transition

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

It’s been a long time since she was able to hold her head up.

She knew every crack in the ceiling. Every shade of light on the walls. Every spider web.

They kept the latter undisturbed.

“Let them be,” she’d asked when the housekeeper had come in one day, armed with an upended broom. The matronly women had frowned only to have understanding effuse her face with something between pity and compassion.

“You keep ’em company, then,” the housekeeper had said.

She’d cried a little after the woman had left the room, tears accumulating small pools in her ears. In them was the relief for the small thing she could still control to protect, and the hollowing despair for how much of it she’d lost, that she begs company of arachnids.

Months passed since.

The webs accumulated. Elaborated.

The seasons changed.

She watched the spiders, and found her own cobweb to hang on to and get stronger.

She learned how to control a torso that would no longer answer to her command. She found ways to manage the awful dizziness of gravity. She made peace with her chair and its straps as her adopted exoskeleton.

And she was strong enough, finally. To hold her head up.

A gentle sun licked the edge of the gate. The mostly overcast sky offered her pallid indoor skin a needed measure of protection. A glint danced on the fence’s wall and she practically felt it.

As tender and tenacious as a spider web strand.

“I’m ready,” she smiled. “For my first day out.”

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto prompt

 

 

Rosie Rhymes

Ring-a-ring-a-roses KateGreenway MotherGooseNurseryRhymes 1881

Kate Greenway, Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes 1881

 

“Ring-a-ring-a-roses; A pocket full of posies; Hush-hush, Hush-hush; We’re all tumbled down!”

“She can play like this for hours,” Mary sighed.

Alice gazed at the child, who with arms spread wide to the sides, continued to spin about the garden’s green, dipping a curtsy at the final line before going back again to the first. Her pitch was perfect and her voice was sweet, but the bouncy ringlets and pinafore over a knee-high calico dress only highlighted the oddity.

It was adorable when Rosie was six years old. The girl was nearly thirteen.

“How’s Rosie’s schooling coming along?” Alice tried.

Mary’s smile faltered for a second before a placid screen unfurled over her face. “Just fine,” she breathed. “It’s coming along just fine, dear. Did you try the rose-petal marmalade? Mrs. Hannah outdid herself this year.”

It is like watching a wind-up toy, Alice thought. She never could get her sister to speak candidly about the child. None of them could. They all knew much was wrong, yet it was nigh impossible to discuss it. There’d been some concerns before the accident, of course, though Rosie had been very young then and much was explained away as the idiosyncrasies of an only child with an active imagination.

Then the accident happened and it was as if Mary had stopped the clock. On her own life as well as Rosie’s. The child seemed content enough, delayed and mostly mute outside of singing as she was. But how much did any of them know about the child’s true reality and potential, and how much was her mother’s doing, impeding her growth?

“Ring-a-ring-a-roses …”

Rosie’s singing rang in Alice’s ears and suddenly she could not stand it any longer.

“Mary,” she pressed, “I know this expert …”

Her sister raised a delicate hand. “We have all we need, Alice.”

Alice shook her head. “No, you don’t. I love you, and I know you love Rosie dearly, but she’ll be a woman soon … and she can’t stay six forever. Let me get the both of you some help. It’s not about trying to force her to do what she cannot, if she cannot … I mean, I know she’s a little …” her sister’s eyes stopped her. Brittle. Angry. Warning.

“… I … I can see she seems happy,” Alice inhaled and paused, hoping for a relenting crack in her sister’s eyes.

There was none.

“Indeed she is happy,” Mary clipped. “And we shall keep it this way, shall we?” She turned her head a tad, so that her eyes rested partially on the closed wing of the manor where the stone would forever be a bit dark, and partially on the child she’d frozen in time. The sweet girl who did not need to know more than what she’d known the day before she had tipped a candle onto paper and accidentally, fatally, set fire to her father’s study. “Now, about that marmalade!”

 

 

 

For the SoCS prompt: Rhymes with rosy

 

Pinned Hopes

Photo prompt © J Hardy Carroll

 

She planned every detail.

The dress. The cake. The decorations.

What games to play. Who to invite. The invitations.

She fretted over treats and props. The seating arrangement.

The day dawned bright. The weather fair.

The flowers gifted blooms. Butterflies came to visit.

The cake turned out close to perfect.

The dress fit well. Even her hair cooperated.

She breathed it in.

She smiled.

She waited.

The only thing she did not foresee

Was no one showing up,

And only her mama there

To wrap a scarf around her eyes

To hide the tears

As she pinned the donkey.

 

 

 

Note: Dedicated to all the children whose parties turn to pain. To those who are all too often left invisible due to social awkwardness, adversity, disabilities visible and invisible, social isolation, bullying, and the myriad ways indifference (let alone direct cruelty) can a child’s soul maim.

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

 

Dive Right In!

Photo prompt © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

 

The water glistened.

Gloria shook. “I don’t think I remember how.”

“Just do it,” Jody said. “It’s like riding a bike. Your body never forgets.”

I never had a bike, Gloria thought,  and there is much I worked hard to have my body forget. Especially since that day.

“It’ll come back to you,” Jody urged. Ordered, almost. “Dive right in!”

It was the edge in the trainer’s voice that did it, and what it brought back was not welcome.

“No.” Gloria pulled her swim cap off. “Not here. Not yet. Not today.”

 

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

 

A Heart, Missing

Heart Yael Yehuda

Photo: Yael Yehuda

 

There stands the empty crib

The room that will not hear

The sounds of cries or coos or laughter.

There are the walls,

Fresh paint

Fresh pain

For the awaited,

For a broken chapter.

A heart

Missing

Breast and breath

For an eternity of loss,

Till the hereafter.

 

 

Note: Dedicated with love to all empty-armed mothers (in all their manifestations and realities and outward presentations), on this Mother’s Day.

For Debbie’s One Word Sunday: Missing