Just A Hat

Photo prompt © Jan Wayne Fields

 

She could not decide.

She knew the others were getting impatient. That they believed she ought to have made up her mind.

“It’s just a hat,” Marissa hissed, a bit too loudly to have wanted to keep Betty from hearing.

“It is,” Betty whispered. Her voice shook but she couldn’t help it more than she could stop blush from traveling across her cheeks and down her neck to meet her chest.

And yet … Mom had asked for pink … How?

Her breath hitched. No way she could admit color-blindness and not get kicked out of the new Hue You Artist Colony.

 

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

 

 

The Truth

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Photo: Randy Laybourne on Unsplash

 

There was something she didn’t share, but knew.

She held it, close, against her heart. A snuggle for her spirit. They could not take away what they did not realize she understood.

So she hid her comprehension. Her perceptions. Her realizations that what was presented as truth, was not.

Real Truth, that which resonated with her soul, was different. It sang.

She’d been quite young when she’d learned how to discern the babble from the song. It hadn’t been easy to maintain Truth, to blanket her face with masks of complacent adoration. Still she labored at it, keeping hope afloat.

 

 

 

For the RDP Sunday prompt: Truth

 

 

Taking Off

Photo prompt: © J Hardy Carroll

 

He packed his bags late at night, tiptoeing around the sleeping figures of his flatmates. His plan would only work for one.

Well, two, perhaps … But much as he wanted company, he knew from experience that the only person he could truly rely on was himself, and he couldn’t afford to add the caprice of another human into an already iffy situation.

He made his way through quiet side-streets, ears perked and eyes peeled. He would approach the lot from the back, scale the pole, rope and lug his luggage up, distribute the weight, check the dials.

Takeoff before dawn.

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

 

 

Night Walker

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Photo: Martin Adams on Unsplash

 

She’d appear out of her bed

As if in dream.

An apparition in their kitchen.

A small figure levitating up the stairs

From the nursery,

A flannel nightgown sweeping over the cold floor

And her bare feet.

They might’ve wondered

Why she had become

A somnambulist,

Had they not needed to keep

Any odd thing

Completely clandestine.

So they latched the front door

High,

And kept the very secret

Of her night-walking

Under the covers

Of unspoken sleep.

 

 

 

For the Weekend Writing Prompt: Somnambulist in 78 words

 

 

Hide And Go Seek

memory SueVincent

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

It was the best place to play hide and go seek.

At least, that’s what they wanted him to think.

It was also the best place to go missing.

Not that they’d tell him. …

He had no reason to suspect anything was amiss. Not when the whole troop of them had ran together all the way to the weathered monoliths that dotted the small glens by the ancient cliffs. Not when the game had ensued with much merry running and grabbing and stone-circling. Not even when most of the children had headed back home for supper as dusk neared, but he was invited to stay “and play a bit longer” with a handful of the most popular kids.

He was new in town. He felt included. He felt welcomed.

He should have felt scared.

“He just disappeared,” they later said. “We thought he’d gone home with the others.”

“It has happened before,” their parents nodded, wrapping arms around the shoulders of their feet-shuffling children and forming a united wall against the ashen faces of the boy’s parents, the newcomers who never should have come, who never could belong. “The boy must have wandered away in faded light and fallen into a sinkhole.”

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto

 

 

The Two Stones

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

She shivered in the early winter chill and pulled the woolen cloak around her. The wind whipped her hair – always unruly – into her eyes. Her fingers stung. The day was above freezing, but the cold damp still had a way of swimming through her clothing to steal away her body heat. Her face felt stiff and she rubbed her hand over her cheeks and chin to warm them.

She picked up her pace only to slow down again once she neared the stream. The slope was treacherous and she did not fancy the possibility of a dunking in the bone-chilling water. How different this was, she mused, from the summer days of her childhood, when along with friends she had raced down the slope with the absolute intention of being the first to splash in.

The stream had seemed bigger then. Wilder and yet in some ways tamer.

She did not know at the time the other stories it could hold. The risk it would foreshadow.

She was still an innocent then.

As if in answer to her mood, the wind picked up and buffeted the edges of her cloak around her legs, threatening to unclothe her. She pressed her lips together in determination and shook her head. Not here. Not now. Not ever.

Not again.

The stream was lower than expected for the time of year, but she knew the looks could be deceiving. It wasn’t just depths that could kill you. Or the flow.

She picked her way carefully to the bank. She stood a few yards downstream from the ancient laundering stones that jutted at the widening where the narrow brook burbled into a seemingly placid pool before splashing down in tiny waterfalls at the other end. The women still used the flat rocks when she was a young girl. They’d crouch on the stone to slap the fabric as the stream carried away the suds and dirt and the occasional bloody stain.

Moss now covered the stones and she knew it wasn’t just the change of season that had led to the greening. Women had laundered in all seasons. They’d break through thin ice to brave the numbing cold if they had to.

But no one had used the rocks for a long time now.

Perhaps not once since.

It had been a late summer day, the warm air filled with scents of aging flowers and over-ripe fruit and a whiff of sweat. There was the ‘thwack, thwack’ of scythes from the fields and the hum of bees and the calls of children and the wailing of a baby, cranky for the breast. The laundering stones were draped with wet fabric, the water foaming slightly with the soaps.

Then came the scream.

The rush.

The hush.

The wide-eyed horror.

Two small children, tangled in a vine, floated to bump against the rocks at the end of the pool, the current threatening to carry them over and downstream. Like broken puppets on a string.

They’d been playing and must have banged heads under water, or on a sharp rock, or on some other, less understood, thing. Their thrashing would have been noticed, but they must have been lost to the loud playfulness of others, or to the slap of clothing and the scrape of washers against stone. Or to how quickly they dropped.

She shuddered as the image superimposed itself on the empty coldness.

Everything changed after that. She only came here one other time since. And not with company.

The family of the man who had been a child at the time still wielded power in the town. She wouldn’t have been believed if she had told, that the dreamy boy who liked to twirl in the sun and who no one dared tease, had drawn a slingshot in mid-dance and used his spin to hurl small sharp stones into the children’s temples. The “thwack, thwack” was not only from scythes. She wouldn’t have been believed if she’d blamed him for the death of her pet rabbit, even though she’d seen him kill the trusting ball of fluff. Or for holding her down and poking her where no one should. She kept quiet and let the secret nibble holes in her insides.

It wouldn’t have brought the children back.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered, bending to touch the water with her fingertips.

The bodies had long been buried, but their souls could not be. Not without the truth.

She rose and wrapped the cloak tightly around her. The clouds gathered and she saw a crack of lighting in the distance. A low rumble chased it, chastening or soothing, she could not tell.

She forced the air into her lungs and turned away.

She will be leaving again. The secret will remain.

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto

 

 

 

Keeper of the Chandeliers

 

As chores went, this was her favorite.

Granted, she made sure to keep her face flat and convey just enough tremulousness to allow it to be seen as challenging. Her superiors liked giving her challenges that needed overcoming. Especially when those could be served along with mundane duties.

She wasn’t supposed to have any, so she hid her preference. Yet inside her she rejoiced every time she was assigned the task. She was expected to approach every detail with utmost diligence, no matter the dexterity required. And at any height. Even on a rickety ladder.

Others trembled doing this, too, but hers was with pleasure, not fear. It felt like flying. She took her time, and the results were pleasing enough to be noticed. Or perhaps it was the added bonus of not having candle-wax drip onto one’s head mid-prayer.

Because before long she was made Keeper of the Chandeliers.

 

 

For Crispina’s Crimson Creative Challenge

 

 

 

The Key

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Photo: Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash

 

It was the key that would change everything.

He only found it because Cooper, ever disobedient, had slipped the leash and ran off the trail and into the thick of the woods. Again.

Deena thought his walks in the forest were cruel.

“It is his breed’s nature to hunt scents,” she’d inevitably complain about the leash, ruining what calm there was to be had in an afternoon walk. “How can you chain him to you when he’s meant to run where his nose leads?”

In Leigh’s view, walking the canine on paved sidewalks where there was no loam or crushed insects or chipmunk poo for Cooper to breathe, was actually far crueler. And so, like they often did when it came to disagreements, they ended up taking the easier way out by splitting the walks between them.

Deena would walk Cooper in the mornings in the neighborhood, where the most the dog could sniff was garbage cans and the occasional fellow leashed-pooch’s butt. Leigh walked him after work, and almost always in the direction of the woods, where in some ways they were both of them at home and both straining against some kind of leash.

It wasn’t perfect and sometimes it was lonely, but he preferred it that way. Quieter. With none of Deena’s nattering about minutia that he found excruciatingly boring to listen to and only slightly less indecent to ignore.

Not that he’d say that to her. Life was better when some observations were kept to oneself.

Like about keys …

He’d been running after Cooper when he tripped on an exposed root. A stream of words he’d learned while serving on a Navy ship spilled out of his mouth, when a shape manifested on the leaf-strewn forest floor. And it was as if a switch flipped and turned his mouth dumb.

He swallowed but there was nothing. His body shuddered with the memories of how quickly a mouth can turn devoid of moisture. That, too, he’d learned while serving on the ship.

He shook it off to make the involuntary shaking into an act of volition. Still his heart whooshed in his ears as he took a knee to the wet ground and reached for the key.

He didn’t know how long he remained frozen, fingers hovering without actually touching the bit of metal. Long enough for Cooper to return to investigate. Because the next thing  Leigh was aware of was Cooper’s wet nose, sniffing at the object of his master’s interest, licking Leigh’s fingers, breathing on his cheek.

“Move,” Leigh nudged the canine gently out of the way.

And Cooper, for once respectful without bribery, obeyed, and stretched with head on paws, his tongue dangling and his long body smeared with something Leigh noted to himself in passing would need scrubbing off with soap before being allowed back indoors.

“It’s the key, Cooper,” Leigh whispered. He was awed. He was aghast. “But how?”

It’s been eight years, five months, and two days since he’d lost it. On a different continent, in what felt a different world, in the middle of a battle, and not two hours after he’d sworn to his dying best friend that he would guard it with his life and bring it home to the fiance Mark had left behind.

“It was to be my wedding gift to Deena,” Mark had gasped, fighting for every breath. “She doesn’t know about it. I was waiting to tell her. It’s the key to my safe.”

 

 

 

For Linda Hill’s SoCS prompt: Key

 

Fortified

 

They’d fortified the ceiling.

So they said.

The old structure needed periodical reinforcing.

So they said.

The thickness of the walls supported their claims. The deeply recessed windows. The heavy coats of paint on ancient plaster.

‘Twas all a ruse. Of course.

The false ceiling hid a warren of crawl-spaces and narrow hiding places. A stream of escaped slaves was followed by a flood of those fleeing Nazi persecution and thereafter a steady trickle of modern-day refugees.

The ceiling hid them all. Young and old. Broken and defiant. Desperate and bewildered. Men and women and the all-too-heartbreaking child.

Some stayed a night. Others for longer sheltering. Hilda had stayed the longest. A girl on arrival, she was almost a woman at war’s end. She emerged educated. In silence. In stealth. In compassion.

She became the guardian of those who followed.

Fortified with hope of one day needing it no more.

 

 

 

For the Crimson’s Creative Challenge

Note: Dedicated to all the heroes who — often at tremendous risk to themselves — had managed to shelter the needy, the desperate, the voiceless, and the vulnerable during times of injustice, persecution, violence, horror, and hate. To all who do so still. May we one day need to do so no more.

 

Unspoken

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Photo: Kelli Tungay on Unsplash

 

He couldn’t bring himself to tell her.

Instead he left breadcrumbs. Glowing pebbles on a midnight road.

Receipts. ‘Forgotten’ notes. His boots in the garage, muddy though the yard was not.

Liminal clues in hope she ask him where he goes …

Refugees sheltering in the woods.

Perhaps she already knows.

The mud this morning on her shoes.

 

 

 

For Sammi’s Weekend Writing Challenge: Liminal in 57 words