Cake To Go

three line tales, week 170: an unhappy birthday party

Photo via Unsplash

 

She spaced the candles as her grandmother had instructed. Not equally, but with one candle lording over a bigger chunk. “You’ll remember me by it,” Gran had said, “and by the sour faces of the ladies when they see you’d saved me some cake to go.”

 

For Three Line Tales #170

 

 

The Eyes Have It

Palawan Island CaneSugar Sweetie DvoraFreedman

Photo: Dvora Freedman

 

There are stories,

In there,

Behind the dark irises’

Glare.

More than words,

Being said,

With her piercing eyes

Instead.

 

For Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Eyes

 

Tea For One

Reena Saxena

Photo Credit: Reena Saxena

 

It will be tea for one. Again.

She boiled the water in the pot they’d gotten on their honeymoon in Venice, and she spread the tablecloth he’d always said reminded him of his grandma’s parlor (and had always added “in the best way possible” when she’d frown).

She rearranged the mismatched chairs left from the two sets they’d combined when they moved in together, but then returned the plaid one so it rested half-turned to the table and half-facing the radio. Like old times. Like the many evenings when she’d mend some this or that or mark her students’ lessons, while he’d lean forward onto one palm and watch her from the corner of his eye even as his attention was on his favorite broadcast.

“I have eight favorites,” he’d often chuckle. “One for each day of the week and two on Sunday.”

“But none as favorite as you,” he’d always add, just because he knew it pleased her to be reminded that she mattered more …

 

She turned the burner off when the kettle wailed, a lone wolf in the night. She spooned some of the good tea into the teapot, and poured the water on the leaves to let it steep, then capped the pot and dressed it with the cozy she’d made from his favorite sweater when it had too many holes to patch and too much love to throw away.

“You don’t toss away much,” he’d tease her, and they both knew it was both compliment and understanding. They’d grown with little and later had even less, so she had learned to not let go of things too easily.

“I do keep you around, don’t I?” she’d tease back … some days only half in jest for how he’d manage to so exasperate her. Muddy shoes inside the house and socks that never quite made it into the hamper, and an infuriating tendency to not recall the milk or pay the mortgage. Never mind remembering her birthday or their anniversary.

Or the time he’d strayed from vows … and bore a hole into her heart that never fully mended.

She’d forgiven him for that. Of sort. Or as much as anyone can a betrayal. For she’d come to understand it was based less on his disrespect of her as it was on his embedded insecurities. He’d cried in shame when he’d confessed his indiscretion and she’d ended up comforting him, feeling both tender and resentful.

He’d bought her the tea caddie after that. The hand-carved thing of beauty had cost a ridiculous amount and did little to improve upon the one they’d had already … other than in how it served as a reminder for the cost of pain and of his commitment to penance.

 

She passed a finger over the caddie’s rounded top and felt each curve like a canyon of memories in her heart. When she’d fallen ill after their failed attempt at parenting, and the bills kept mounting, he’d almost sold his beloved radio to make payments. Yet he’d refused to discuss letting go of the caddie.

“It is worth a small fortune,” she had tried.

“And that is exactly why it is befitting of you that it stay,” he had replied.

 

She sighed and sat and poured the tea into her cup and watched the steam cloud the glass as the fluid rose like unabated sorrow.

It was their anniversary. The third since he’d left her, this time to where no tea caddie and no amount of tears could remedy.

“Do not hasten to follow,” he’d begged her promise when they both knew it was time. “Go on and live for me.”

Perhaps she wouldn’t have promised had she known quite how bereft she would be without him. Yet she had given him her word, and she was not about to introduce betrayal into the fabric they had so labored to repair.

It will be tea for one, again. Today.

 

 

For the Sunday Photo Fiction Challenge

 

Towering Time

windows SmadarHalperinEpshtein

Photo: Smadar Halperin-Epshtein

 

Windows blink

Sun and shade.

Emptied glass

Peers ahead.

While the dome,

Ivy wrought,

Towers time

Boggles thought.

 

 

 

For Travel with Intent’s One Word Sunday: Tower

 

Fury

Photo prompt © Sandra Crook

 

He retreated to behind the fence during low tides and sharpened his claws on the aging timbers. He nursed his rage on fantasy and fed his fury on abandoned sea-foam. Some days the seething rose a hurricane that only freezing wind subdued into a smolder. He hissed. He breathed. He knew. He waited.

The time would come.

Waiting both allayed and fanned his urgency. He scraped his restless agony into the wood, that hewed abomination they’d forced onto his bay to tame it. As if it, he, could be. Tamed.

When time returned he’d vanquish them and show no remedy.

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

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

 

 

Out-Wheeled

Out-wheeled NaamaYehuda

Photo: Na’ama Yehuda

 

At the spot

Where one heart stopped

And others pause

To ponder,

It stands

Out-wheeled into pallor

In grief

For what was lost

And what might have been

If there hadn’t the need

To mark this

Post

For a life that can

No longer

Wander.

 

 

 

Click here to find more information about Ghostbikes.

For Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Wheels

 

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 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