A Stranger’s Eyes

conner-baker-dXpWscmNgXw-unsplash
Photo: Conner Baker on Unsplash

 

Her hand clasped the steering wheel and she fought against the tears that threatened to blur the road ahead.

The wheels whirred over miles and miles of black as the stars spread a rotating canopy over her car. A bug atop a line drawn in the sand, she was. A smidgen on the wide expanse of life under the heavens.

She won’t go back.

She could not allow it.

He had her squelched under his thumb for so long that she did not recognize her own face in the mirror. Her eyes had become a stranger’s.

“There are times,” her mother once said, “when a woman must believe herself. You may think yourself broken, but you will love again the stranger who was your self.”

She’d thought it cryptic at the time, melodramatic.

She understood now. “I’m coming home to myself at last, Mom.”

 

 

 

For the dVerse Prosery prompt: Love after Love in 144 words

 

 

The Keys To Happiness

alfred-schrock-IEK9fXzLZKs-unsplash

Photo: Alfred Schrock on Unsplash

 

Two years, and he could hardly remember how he’d managed to survive before.

The rush. The never ending tasks. The constant worry. The being pulled a million ways by demands and the dreams of others.

He’d run on fumes for months on end, then crash and burn in ways that hurt not only himself but also the ones whose lives were closest. All those bridges he’d burnt.

It was the last burnt bridge that had paradoxically saved him. It became a light from burning embers. He’d flown out to care for an ailing uncle, but in truth just to escape the consequences of another interpersonal disaster. He expected to discover his uncle, who’d been the family’s previous pariah, on death’s door. What he did not expect was to find him so content.

“Live here,” were his uncle’s last words. “Need little. Use less. The Keys saved me. Claim your turn.”

 

 

For What Pegman Saw: Florida Keys

 

Her Song To Sing

jorgen-haland-tAR3hvcfom0-unsplash

Photo: Jorgen Haland via Unsplash

 

And so she stood

Among the rocks

That piled,

A pyre of life’s debris,

Like so much refuse

Of what had

Once been

Beloved goals.

 

And so she sang,

The words still raw

Against her lips,

Her livid

Scar of

Soul.

 

The song, she knew,

Was more than

A sum

Of her whole,

And beyond any meaning

Voice could

Hold.

 

And so she stood

Amidst the wreckage

Of her faith

Atop the middling shards

Of hope.

 

And she recalled

The seeds long planted

In her core,

Beneath the thickets

Of lost calls,

Awaiting, perhaps,

This very annihilation

As invitation

To grow bold.

 

 

 

(Dedicated to all who are feeling broken. May they find the seeds within their core. And grow bold.)

For Sammi’s Weekend Writing Prompt: Song in 102 words

 

Cleaning Up

lighted matchstick on brown wooden surface

Photo Sebastian Sørensen on Pexels.com

 

No amount of soap and water could clean up this mess.

Even if I were to try, I wasn’t quite sure how I’d go about it, or if the effort was worth the results. Perhaps it’d be better to burn the whole thing to the ground and start from scratch.

I eyed the matches on the stove and looked at what I could no longer justify keeping around.

I wouldn’t miss most of it. Or so I had to hope.

My fingers struck a match and I held the small flame to the ring, amazed as always by how easily it grabbed hold and circled to make a blue-yellow-purple circuit of heat.

The fire leapt and danced and hissed.

I sighed.

It was time to wave good-bye. I needed a fresh beginning.

I set the kettle on to boil, sat back down, and hit “Delete.”

 

 

 

For Linda’s SoCS writing prompt: Clean/Dirty

 

 

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

 

 

The Intertwined

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

“Meet me by The Intertwined tonight,” the note said.

Nate trembled. He fingered the rough edge of the faded construction paper and the sensation lifted him into memories filled with the scent of glue and the sounds of children.

It’s been how many years since? Thirty. At least.

He inspected the note again, as if expecting more words to appear among the scrawled letters on the hand-torn bit of yellowed-green. None did.

It was not signed, but even after all this time there would be no mistaking it. Not by him.

Elinor.

Kindergarten sweetheart and schoolyard tormentor, both.

What did she want? Where had she been? Why write him now? Why him? Why this way?

Tears pressed behind his eyes and he was surprised by their intensity. The last time he’d felt that way (well, the last time he consciously admitted to it being so), was when he’d seen that ad, twelve years ago. The image of it unfurled behind his mind’s eye, never really forgotten: “Missing. Elinor Bricks. Age 23. Long dark curly hair. Blue eyes. Medium height and built. Last seen walking into the woods south of Sparrow Street, wearing blue pants, gray jacket, sneakers, and a brown messenger bag.”

Two weeks of searching before the police had folded their tents and left the flyers for the wind and squirrels.

Three months before he could sleep.

Four years before he let himself date anyone. Two more before he married. Five before he lost Marianne and little Morris as the baby tried and could not be born.

Could that have been only last year?

His heart had been hollow. Since.

Now this.

“Meet me by The Intertwined tonight,” the note said.

Their ancestors had planted those trees over a century ago. Hers and his. Far apart enough to stand alone. Close enough to weave together roots and canopy. They were a symbol of connection. The place where marriage took place and funerals left from. Where roots spread fingers to hold on even as they reached to grip new spaces. It was the very place where past and present, love and life and loss and longing intertwined.

His fingers spread over the bit of paper, reaching to embrace it, and interlacing words with the unknown.

He trembled.

His heart thundered.

“I’m sorry, Marianne.”

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto Prompt: Rooted

 

Not For The Amenities

Photo prompt © Jean L. Hays

 

“Lush, ain’t it?” The sixteen-year-old shivered in her short jacket.

Frosty patches dotted the monochrome shrubbery. She nudged one with her sneaker. “So, why exactly did you choose this godforsaken nothingness for your midlife crisis? Couldn’t have been the view, or the amenities.”

It’s fixable, Branden thought but said nothing. He’d worry more if Lizzie didn’t quip. And anyway, he knew she knew why they’d had to move.

Lizzie sniffed. He offered a tissue but she leaned into him, seeking a rare hug.

“Mama would’ve loved it here,” she whispered. “Even if we hadn’t lost everything to the medical bills.”

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers Challenge

 

 

Life Abridged

willie-fineberg-unsplash 10th st bridge Pittsburgh PA

Photo: Willie Fineberg via Upsplash, 10th St. Bridge, Pittsburgh, PA

 

She waited.

One more step and she’d have gone more than half-way across, but she found herself unable to move further. She sat on the asphalt, frozen by cemented legs.

So she waited. It was early, but sooner or later something will come by and she’d find out the price of her betrayal.

All her life she’s been bordered by this bridge, the yellow metal rising like a sun in her horizon: untouchable, unapproachable, dangerous.

They were raised to never cross it.

“Evil lives beyond this bridge,” her father had preached in daily sermons in their basement, the family huddled on aching knees and wreathed by incense, fear, and smoking wicks. “Leave here and your soul will be eternally forsaken. Abandon my teachings and you will not be saved.”

Well, she’d had enough. She could tolerate no more of his invasive ‘instruction.’

And she was ready.

To not be saved.

 

 

 

For What Pegman Saw: Pittsburgh, PA

 

The Cost of Living

smallpox hospital Roosevelt Island IngeVandormael

Photo: Inge Vandormael

 

She had come to make a new life.

She found illness. She found death.

And life, perhaps, hiding in the shadows

Of her convalescing sorrow,

Waiting

To take hold.

 

She had come in search of meaning.

She found a babble of confusion.

Within. Without.

Rising skyward. Buried underground.

She found hope, too. For things she didn’t know

Even had names

But sprouted meaning

In the corners of what she believed

Was ruined,

But had in fact been opened

To allow in the winds of change.

 

She came seeking answers,

And found the cost

Of living

Paid for little more than added questions,

And that she had to look

Quite closely

At what wasn’t there,

To find

What she did not even know

She had been searching for.

 

 

 

Photo: The old Smallpox Hospital on Roosevelt Island (a narrow island set in the East River between Queens and Manhattan).

For What Pegman Saw: Manhattan Island