Lip Service

assorted hanged clothes near white light bulb

Photo: Henry & Co. on Pexels.com

 

“Oh, but you will love this!” the seller gushed, her purple tipped pixie cut bobbing in time with the movement of her thumbs on the screen.

“Do you really think so?” the matronly woman twirled tentatively in front of the mirror, unaware that the saleswoman hadn’t even raised her head.

“Absolutely!”

“I’m worried the color is too bright,” the woman fretted and patted down frizzy wisps of hair long past the time for touching up. She smoothed the folds of the dress over her midriff. “Also, I don’t know about the pattern. Don’t you think it is too young for me?”

The saleswoman paused in her staccato typing long enough to glance at her customer. She stilled a yawn. Less than an hour before she could close, return the piles of discarded tried-on clothing to their hangers, and be free from the need to constantly reassure strangers that they looked better than they did or could.

“This color is all the rage,” the seller noted in the half-petulant, half-coercive tone she’d found tended to move her less assertive customers into feeling that to not buy the item would somehow mean they were backwards, dated, or wasting her time.

A long moment passed. More preening from the customer.

“It does not really work with my coloring,” the woman frowned. “Or is this just the lighting here?”

Not much would work with your coloring, the seller swallowed a retort. “It is all about the right combinations,” she said instead. She plastered on a smile, put her phone down, opened a jewelry box, and pulled out a small black tube.

“Here, let me,” she added, twisting an orange mass out of the bottom part of the tube and reaching for the woman’s chin. “All you need is the right lipstick.”

 

 

For Linda’s SoCS challenge: Lip

 

 

Overreach

Photo prompt © Roger Bultot

 

“I never meant to hurt you.”

Samuel’s words were sincere and still she found herself looking away as to not see his eyes, where a lie was sure to peek.

“The gardener should’ve never let this grow so,” she responded.

Samuel stilled, confused.

She did not explain, for perhaps it was not only the leafy fingers arching over the path and latching onto her living quarters that had been given leave to cross beyond what was sensible.

“Some bridges need be cut,” she added cryptically. “Good-bye, Samuel. Will you send the gardener to my drawing room on your way out?”

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

 

That Night

Photo Prompt: © Ronda Del Boccio

 

That night, when the children went missing, they fanned out, flashlights in hands and a dark crawling about in their hearts, which even the large projector brought out by the local sheriff’s office could not stop the spread of.

They looked in every corner, under brambles and in culverts and in places too small to hide a squirrel, let alone a child. The three had vanished so completely, one could have believed they had been naught but phantoms.

Yet phantoms wouldn’t have left canyons in souls, eroded deeper with the daily grief. For the kids were never found.

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

 

The Cursed

close up photography of hand near window

Photo: Renato Mu on Pexels.com

 

They were never meant to be

Accepted.

 

They were never meant

To be

Approved,

Or approved of.

 

Cast-offs,

They were the anathema

To all some saw as

Civil

Or normative

Or worthy of.

 

They were cursed

By those of privilege,

Who for added

Privations

Then denounced them

As being

Incapable of

Love.

 

 

For Sammi’s Weekend Writing Prompt: Anathema in 52 words

 

 

The Place

Photo prompt: Sue Vincent

 

“I’ll take you to the place,” she promised.

“The place where you came from?” the boy pressed. “Your before home?”

“If it is still there,” she nodded, her eyes clouding over with something between wistfulness and worry.

She watched his eyelids flutter as he curled onto his side and into sleep. There was much to do and little time for it, and still she couldn’t bring herself to rise from his cot. It wasn’t how she thought it would be. It felt too soon. He didn’t know a thing.

Not that she really had a choice, anyhow.

The place. She wasn’t sure exactly what would happen when they got there, or what it would mean to her or to the boy she was entrusted to protect. What would her protection of him entail now that she’d been discovered?

She gazed at the child. He was hers. At least as far as one could belong to someone else, he was.

Most people thought they could not look more different than each other. Her translucent skin to his ebony, her pale eyes to his endless pools of black, her sprinkling of wispy flaxen hair to his rich dark mane. She’d kept his hair in cornrows for tidiness and practicality, but often enough she coaxed him to let her undo them so his hair rose in a magnificent halo about his head. Her princely lion of a child. They didn’t have such locks where she’d come from. He truly was one of a kind.

“Adopted?” nosier people would ask what many others thought but didn’t dare to verbalize.

“In a way,” she’d respond, knowing full well that the answer raised more questions, yet she refused to lie. For he wasn’t. Adopted. Not in the way they’d think.

He was. Just. Hers. Seeded in her before she even understood what he was or would become.

And they were as alike as any, anyhow, considering where she was really from.

A noise jarred her and she looked up to see a mouse scurry across the cabin floor. It reminded her of other footsteps: dangerous and inevitable and far less welcome.

She got up and as the night deepened she did what had to be done. Finally she secured a small bag to her bike and hoisted the still sleeping child into her lap. She wrapped a strip of sheet around them so he could remain snug against her while she pedaled.

She rode through the woods till morning lit the trees and the birds fleeted ahead of her wheels and small living things skittered into the bushes to avoid her.

They knew, she thought, that she was not of them, and neither was the boy who nestled, oblivious, with a head atop her breast.

There would be no hiding who they were. Not anymore.

The light intensified to shine beyond the sun.

There it was. The place. The bright beam.

She dismounted and her legs shook not from hours of pedaling, but from knowing.

And from failure.

She let herself be found out before he was adult enough to continue. She did not protect him long enough to fulfill the promise he held for their kind.

The ship’s beam wavered and the gears in her heart thudded as the light shimmered sorrow through her skin.

They’ll take only him.

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto Challenge

 

The Tour

Photo prompt: Sandra Crook

 

“We’ve come a long way from small children crawling under looms,” the proprietor boomed, arm sweeping proudly across the antique refurbished mill.

The group of portly men nodded sagely.

One of them patted a balding pate, florid face sweating in tailored wool. He was gratified to see another man masking a yawn.

The two-hour Textile Investors Tour satisfied requirements for business expenses, but the real draw of the area was a manicured golf course, good wine cellars, and a particularly discreet hotel concierge.

Too bad, the balding man thought to himself. A few crawling kids would’ve been right fine.

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

The Colonists

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

They would come out when dark was complete under a moon that was yet to be reborn.

First a scout would be sent. One not quite old enough to have their wisdom be missed, but not quite so young that they’d be careless or uninformed. It was an honor and a worry, both. For not all scouts returned, and laws dictated that no one is to follow and the outing abandoned until the next dark comes. The safety of the colony outweighed any singular life, no matter how heartbroken they were over losing one of their own or how many nightmares wracked the communal dreams for many sleeps afterwards.

Most times, blessed be the hidden stars, the scout would return safely. If they confirmed that all was as it should be, any who could walk would funnel topside through the tunnels that honeycombed their underground world, and out into the rocky canyon which was formed a million years ago by a whip of light from the stars.

The colony would climb over hills of leaves and navigate the muddy ponds at the bottom of the canyon, all in silence that only the heartbeats in their collective chests would pierce. For the predators were many and the colonists were small and peaceable. They lacked fangs or claws and were opposed to weaponry. The universe that sprawled beyond the walls of their rock canyon provided the provisions they required. They took the danger with the blessings.

Once beyond the relative shelter of the canyon walls, they’d fan out to forage and gather: edible leaves, stalks of grass for feed and weave and bedding, acorns, nuts, seeds, berries, and the occasional fallen fruit or discovered tuber that required many hands to trundle back into the tunnels where they lived.

They’d work until the elder who tracked the darkness passed the whisper to return, and they would fall in line to carry the final batches home.

The last to enter the canyon would pull a broom of leaves behind them – a gesture of traditional thanks for the sustenance, and a practical act for sweeping away many footsteps. The ancients had tunneled pathways for them to emerge into the night from, but there was no need to make those very pathways highways to decimation. They took care to not be known.

With all returned, the elders would seal the rocky door and bless it closed, and the colony would sigh relief as the rock itself would seem to whisper as it settled into slumber til the next unborn moon darkened the sky.

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto Challenge

 

Meet The Rain

Photo prompt: Dale Rogerson

 

“I want to go up, Papa!”

He looked down at the downy head, at the small frail finger pointing at the Big Wheel. “It is too high, Son.”

Your heart can’t take the excitement, he thought but didn’t say. The rain made tracks on his cheeks but he didn’t wipe them. The hospital said he could take the boy home. There was not much they could do for his son anymore.

“I want to go up, Papa,” the child insisted. “I want to meet the rain there. It will be my friend tomorrow … when I go live in the sky.”

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

  • Dedicated with much love to E., who I’m certain is excellent friends with the sky and the rain … and whose promise to send “hellos with the rain” broke our hearts even as it had become the gift of healing and courage to her parents.

 

Reclaimed Royalty

 

https://naamayehudadotcom.files.wordpress.com/2019/03/7d39a-co.jpg?w=615

Lord O’Neill’s Cottage, Ram’s Island (from article in the Dublin Penny journal – 1830s) 

 

He’d come from royalty. Or at least from those who should’ve been but history had been too blind to realize their value. He’d seen promise in his older brother James: a lust for power and a need to force his will onto others. But James hadn’t shown enough self-preservation for a prince. A pity … but at least it left no issue of seniority.

Since childhood the conspiring doctors tried to claim him ill with “grandiosity.”

His mother failed to see. “We come from farmers, Thomas. Always have.”

Perhaps she truly believed her forefathers were but serfs to the O’Neills, but he knew better. He’d seen himself in the drawing, and it fit what he’d always known: He was destined for more, a royal progeny.

He’d take the island by force. It’ll make them realize it was past time he reclaimed what was his by rights, even if forgotten by history.

 

 

For What Pegman Saw: Northern Ireland

 

Out Played

Photo prompt: © Anshu Bhojnagarwala

 

“It’s an effing eyesore.”

“I don’t care.”

Martin balled his fists but Susan just gazed at him.

She said nothing but he knew: Raise a finger on me and off to jail you go. The judge was clear: Anger-Management or prison. Martin took the former but could swear Susan’s infuriating behavior intended to get him the latter.

He inhaled slowly before turning away. “When Sanitation fines us,” he growled, “it’s all yours to pay.”

“Fine,” she shrugged. “Though I think they won’t.”

He glared. “Why? Got connections?”

“Nope,” she patted the rotting piano. “I’ve registered it as street art.”

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers