Middle Child

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Photo: Keith Kreates

 

Her rooms were in the middle of the castle, hovering above the center of the river, sandwiched between two layers of guard rooms, bordered on both sides with sentinel halls.

Her residence, her very life, was perched between the woods on one bank and the manicured gardens on the other, split between one land and another, between a grand promenade entrance on one side and an into-the-wild entrance on the other, belonging to both and owned by neither. It was so by design.

Oh, she was no prisoner. She had the freedom of the castle and the pleasures of the adjacent lands. She could go riding or strolling, hunting or frolicking, visiting or picnicking. As long as she made sure to spend the exact time on either side of the river, as long as she took heed to show no favor, no preference, no prediliction.

Three of her attendants were timekeepers. One from each side of the river. One from a foreign country altogether. All three carried hourglasses and were charged with maintaining synchronicity. Disputes were rare, for they would mean a cease of all outdoor activities till the disagreement resolved, cause a strain on her well-being, tarnish their families, and lead to possible replacement. The timekeepers kept discrepancies to a minimum.

The comparable reality extended to everything: An exactly equal number of ladies in waiting from each side of the river, exactly the same number of servants, workers, soldiers, guards, and tradesmen who were allowed to live and work in, or gain access to the castle. The same number of her dresses had been made on each side of the river. Half the furniture, too.

The constant balancing act was tedious. It was also necessary.

“You are the bridge,” her governess had explained to her when — still a child — she was fed up with being shuttled across the castle mid-activity, so equal play time on the other side can be maintained. She did not want to have two of everything and be required to play with each equally. “You were born to end five hundred years of bloodshed.”

Her parents had defied odds and had sought alliance instead of massacres. They’d built a bridge over the fear and hate that endless war had fed. They’d began construction on the castle. They’d birthed her.

The people had watched and waited.

She was barely toddling when her parents’ carriage had gotten ambushed by some who’d believed that ending the alliance would enliven the centuries-old feuds. The warmongers were wrong. They’d killed her parents, but not the want for peace. People on both sides of the river came for the murderers. People on both sides worked to complete the castle-bridge and ensured the princess could be raised in its center.

It was on that day, cocooned in her governess’s lap, in the room above the river that had for generations divided her people, that she truly understood: After so much distrust, an exacting fairness had to be the glue that would hold peace till lasting trust could grow.

No betters. No less-thans. Not even the appearance of favorites.

The efforts to keep it so were sometimes so precise as to be ridiculous, but she preferred to err on the side of the absurd, rather than risk her people any harm.

She was the princess on the bridge.

Her rooms were in the middle of the castle, hovering above the center of the river, sandwiched between two layers of guard rooms, bordered on both sides with sentinel halls.

Her residence, her very life, was perched between the woods on one bank and the manicured gardens on the other, split between one land and another, belonging to both and owned by neither. It was so by design.

 

 

For Kreative Kue 238

Nuts About Her

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Photo: Herrmann Stamm on Unsplash

 

He does not like the new way the kitchen’s been done.

He does not like the curtains she’d chosen.

He cares naught for the way she turned the couch around

Or how she leaves the garage door open.

He will never get used to the stuff on her nails.

He detests hosting all of those book clubs.

He’s did not want his Foosball exiled downstairs

Or pink bottles to take over the bathtub.

Some days he thinks it had been better before

She showed up to give life a stir,

But she does make him laugh and he cannot ignore

The fact that he’s just nuts about her.

 

 

 

For Linda Hill’s SoCS prompt: Nuts

 

 

Perhaps

Photo prompt: Janet Puddicombe

 

The morning was overcast but the weatherman promised afternoon sunshine. “A perfect day,” the man in his not-quite-fitting suit gushed, and Lola felt protective. No one better dare mock him!

It didn’t take a doctorate to recognize what he woke in her: Her father, hiding repeated humiliations, readying to leave for yet another job interview that he already knew would likely go to someone younger and better educated, with no giveaway accent and a lighter complexion.

“Go get’em, Dad,” she’d tell him as he’d fuss over the knot of his tie or the papers in his attache.

“Thank you, Querida,” he’d say as he buttoned the jacket for his only suit, the one that didn’t fit him as it should. Or perhaps never had. He’d certainly gotten it off the rack.

She’d tried to convince him to get one tailor-made.

“I’m no big boss, Querida,” he’d always shrug her off. “Just a man looking for a job. Perhaps one day, Lola, when you’re a doctor, for your graduation, I’ll buy me one.”

She eyed his favorite flowers. Bought as she had those days, to cheer him up.

“Perhaps,” she whispered, buttoning her cape, “you’d have gotten that suit. Today, Dad.”

 

 

For the Sunday Photo Fiction challenge

 

The Project

photo by David Meredith

Photo courtesy of David Meredith, photographer

 

“I know we can do it!”

Richard infused his voice with all the pep he could muster.

The house was a dump. He wanted to put a match to it. A tent would be better to live in. The very prospect of what fixing this wreck-of-a-building would entail had him exhausted in advance. He’d fixed homes before: this project would be measured in years, not months or weeks. He could almost see the creepy crawlies inside walls, the rot above the ceiling, the mold under the floors, the who knows what in the rafters.

He hated it already.

Who buys a house sight unseen? What on earth did she expect?

“It’ll be great!” He enthused, his arm protectively around her shoulders.

She’d been so proud to find a house that could fit them all and within their minuscule budget, further shrunken since he’d lost his job. She wanted to surprise him.

He hated seeing her devastation when they arrived at their new home, belongings and kids crammed into one truck.

“The children will learn so many skills,” he stressed. “You’ll see. We’ll go room by room and prioritize.”

“It’s a disaster,” she sniffled. Looked up. Smiled. “And I love you.”

 

 

For Sunday Photo Fiction

 

 

 

 

First Summit

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Photo: Simon on Pixabay

 

He grew up in the shadow of Sagarmatha, where people’s moods shifted with Miyolangsangma’s and with the weather on the mountain foreigners insisted on calling “Everest.”

“Sagarmatha is her palace,” Dādā warned. “The uninvited should not trespass into the realm of the Goddess of Inexhaustible Giving. She turns many back. Some die.”

Most in the village agreed, and still they sent men to guide foreigners to the summit. Faith did not pay for necessities, while the visitors, eager if unequipped for the altitude and Miyolangsangma’s moods, paid well. Surely the Goddess understood.

“Foreigners are ignorant,” the old man argued. “But you know better than to show irreverence.”

He did know better. But Dādā needed medicine.

“I’ll stop by Rongbuk Monastery,” Garvesh proffered on the eve of his first ascent. “I will get the monks’ blessing.”

“It will not stop Karma,” his grandfather sighed. “Or what may be our last goodbye.”

∞ ∞ ∞

Trivia and Glossary:

  • Dādā — Grandfather in Nepali.
  • Sagarmatha — The Nepali name for Mount Everest. The Sherpa people believe that the mountain and its flanks are imbued with spiritual energy, and one should show reverence when passing through this sacred landscape, where the karmic effects of one’s actions are magnified.
  • Miyolangsangma — The “Goddess of Inexhaustible Giving” is a Tibetan Buddhist Goddess who Sherpa Buddhist Monks believe had lived at the top of the mountain.
  • Rongbuk Monastery — Also called the “sacred threshold to the mountain” is an important pilgrimage site for Sherpas who live on the slopes of Everest in the Khumbu region of Nepal.
  • Sherpa — One of the major ethnic groups native to the most mountainous regions of Nepal (as well as certain areas of China, Bhutan, India, and the Himalayas). The term sherpa or sherwa derives from the Sherpa language words Shar (“east”) and Wa (“people”), which refer to their geographical origin in Tibet.

 

For What Pegman Saw: Mount Everest, Nepal