{Writing Wednesday} – “It was the Only Road…”

Writing Prompts. Every writer has used them at some point in their career, (whether willingly or not.) They’re like an adrenaline shot to your muse. You know, usually.

Looking for a way to keep our writing fresh and versatile, my friend Anna and I are going to be starting a prompt inspired post that we call Writing Wednesdays.

Breakdown: Every first and third Wednesday of the month, on both Anna’s blog and mine, we’ll post a prompt that we’ve either found or come up with ourselves, as well as our own flash fiction or short story for that prompt. Please feel free to join us! Just make sure that when you post, you link your work back – and comment with a link – to one of ours so everyone can read yours too!

PROMPT: First Line – “It was the only road out of town but in retrospect, taking it was a terrible decision.”

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{Writing Wednesday} – “I Don’t Think You Understand”

 

Writing Prompts. Every writer has used them at some point in their career, (whether willingly or not.) They’re like an adrenaline shot to your muse. You know, usually.

Looking for a way to keep our writing fresh and versatile, my friend Anna and I are going to be starting a prompt inspired post that we call Writing Wednesday.

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Breakdown: Every first and third Wednesday of the month, on both Anna’s blog and mine, we’ll post a prompt that we’ve either found or come up with ourselves, as well as our own flash fiction or short story for that prompt. Please feel free to join us! Just make sure that when you post, you link your work back – and comment with a link – to one of ours so everyone can read yours too!

 

PROMPT: First line – “I don’t think you understand.”

(From @WritingPrompt)

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Daily Prompt: Write Here, Write Now

Write a post entirely in the present tense.

—————-

Decisions. We make them every minute of every day, whether consciously or not. Cereal or toast. Blue shirt or green. Right or left. Death or Mercy.

And every decision that we make affects our future. Sometimes those decisions only cause the tiniest ripple in the timeline, other times they can shift the whole thing around on itself. There’s no way of knowing in advance just what affect your daily choices will have on the future.

Unless you’re like me.

I have an ability – some might call it a gift, but I’m not so charitable. When a person makes a decision, I can look forward and see what will happen because of that choice. It’s not so much predicting the future. I can’t just look and see anything, it has to be something based off a decision and I can only see it once the choice has been made.

Like right now, the old man sitting at the table in the corner there, he just decided that he’s going to take the train into Manchester to see his daughter. The whole thing settles in front of my eyes, unrolling before me like a road. See, now that he’s going to take the train, I can see what happens.

He forgets his umbrella at the station – it rains when he reaches Manchester – he gets pneumonia – he dies in the hospital in exactly thirty-nine days.

I close my eyes and try to shake away the vision. They aren’t always so unpleasant as this one, but a lot of the time they are. After all, everything ends in death eventually. Some choices just get you there faster.

Every second of every day, decisions are being made by people all over the world. I can see those decisions. My name’s Sophie and I’m a Choice Seer.

————

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The Long Lost Letter | Daily Prompt: Your Days are Numbered

It’s January 26. Write a post in which the number 26 plays a role.

——————-

Today was Friday, and Jason hated Fridays. They meant there was two days ahead of him with no work and nothing better to entertain himself with. Another weekend of sheer boredom and a complete lack of social life.

On the way up to his flat  he stopped at the mailboxes and, after fighting with the stubborn lock on his box, grabbed out the handful of envelopes. He then stormed up to the cramped flat and began flipping through the glossy mail, tossing them into little piles on the kitchen table. Bill, bill, advert, garbage, advert, bill, letter…

Wait, he never got letters, not since Aunt Maggie died two years ago.

Frowning, Jason squinted at the envelope. It was aged and worn, the paper yellowed and one corner torn. The address was written in a cramped script and smudged ink, addressed to Eleanor Matthews. It took him a minute to realise that the number on the address had been smeared; what looked like a three was actually a two.

“Incompetent,” Jason grumbled irritably. For a minute he considered just tossing it in the trash and leaving it, but his hand hesitated above the bin. The letter was clearly very old. It must’ve been lost at the post office a while and just discovered. He felt the envelope – there was a distinct rustle of paper but there was also something else inside the envelope, something small and much thicker.

With an annoyed huff, he threw the rest of the adverts and grocery coupons on the table and let himself out of the flat. It was easier not to wait for the lift so he jogged down the stairs to the second floor and then checked the numbers beside the doors. Twenty-eight, twenty-seven… Ah, twenty-six. Jason tried to wedge the letter beneath the door but it wouldn’t fit through the narrow gap. Resigned, Jason knocked.

It took a minute before the lock on the door clicked and it opened. The woman beyond the door had to have been at least in her seventies, with closely cropped white curls and clusters of wrinkles around her mouth and eyes. She blinked up at him pleasantly with pale blue eyes and adjusted the collar of her floral dress. “Hello, young man, can I help you?”

“Yes, sorry, it’s just the postman gave me a letter and I think it was meant for you,” Jason explained. “You’re Eleanor Matthews?”

She giggled, a sound almost too girly for a woman of her age. “Oh I haven’t been Matthews for a long time,” she said. “That was my maiden name.”

“Well this is for you then,” I said, handing the envelope to her.

Eleanor accepted the envelope, glanced at the return address, and a startled sob escaped her. With a thumb she slit the top open and glanced inside. She immediately put a hand over her heart and Jason was surprised to see that her eyes had welled with tears. “Ma’am, you okay?” Jason asked uncertainly.

“I just – I never expected to get a letter from him again,” she said.

The hand clutching the envelope was shaking and Jason watched her pale face hesitantly. “Ma’am, do you need to sit down?” Jason asked. Eleanor had her free hand pressed against her mouth and she nodded. Jason took her arm and led her into the living room of her flat, easing her down into an armchair. He hovered awkwardly for a moment before sitting down on the sofa opposite her. “Is there anything I can do for you?”

“No, it’s fine. You’re such a dear,” Eleanor said, finally looking up from the envelope to meet his gaze. Her eyes had reddened and there was a tear sneaking down her cheek. “It’s just – this letter came fifty years too late. And still, I’m am so, so glad it arrived.” She reached into the envelope and pulled out the bulkier object; a slim, silver ring with a little square diamond.

“Is that-?” Jason stopped, wondering if he was going too far in asking, but Eleanor smiled at him.

“Would you like to hear a story, young man?” she asked, and when Jason nodded, she began to spin a tale. It was a story of a passionate romance; a young girl, just turned eighteen,  met a brave soldier. They shared a wild summer of love then he got the papers, he’d been called to return to service. He flew to Vietnam at the beginning of the autumn with a promise that he would return home and marry her and give her the perfect life.

“For three months I received letters, and then one day the letters just stopped,” she said. “I waited for months and months but nothing new ever arrived. I thought that he had grown tired of me, the silly little girl that was completely enamoured with him. I thought he must’ve gotten bored with me or found himself someone better.

“I was heartbroken, of course, but with time I got over it. The war ended, I married a carpenter from my hometown, and we had a wonderful life. It wasn’t until I was a grandmother that I finally found out the truth. My Freddie had died after four months in Vietnam, in a firefight in the jungle. That was why he’d never written, why he’d never come home to me.”

She admired the modest ring in her hand, her eyes watering. She slipped it carefully onto her finger above the gold band that already sat there. Then she pulled out the letter and unfolded it, her eyes narrowed as she squinted down at the faded ink. “I can’t read this,” she said, “I need my reading glasses. Or, could you, love?”

“Oh, sure,” Jason said, taking the paper as she offered it out to him. He smoothed out the paper and cleared his throat. “My dearest Ellie. I miss you more than ever and I count down the days until my tour is over and I can come home to you. Until then, I want you to wear this for me. I found it in a shop here in Hanoi. I promised you that one day I would return and marry you and give you the life you deserve. This is my first step in that. Love always, your Freddie.”

Eleanor sniffled, dabbing at her eyes with a tissue she’d pulled from her pocket. “Oh Freddie,” she said. She twisted the ring around her finger and then sat up. Her eyes were still red but she was smiling. “He was such a lovely man.” She tucked her tissue back into the pocket of her dress and then leaned over to pat Jason’s knee. “Would you like some dinner? I have a casserole in the freezer that I was going to warm up.”

“I’d love to,” Jason said with a smile.

And that was how he earned himself a weekly invitation to Eleanor’s flat for dinner, and how Fridays became his favourite day of the week.

——————-

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Daily Prompt: Sweet Sixteen

Write a post inspired by your sixteenth birthday.

—————

“Knock knock.”

I open my eyes blearily, stretching languidly beneath the blankets and then rolling onto my back. The door to my bedroom is open an inch and through it I can see three different eyes watching me – two blue and a green. When they see that I’m awake the door opens wider and suddenly my room is filled with bodies and the smell of warm baking.

“Happy birthday!”:The three of them chorus together.

I sit up and the smile that takes over my face is instantaneous. “Thanks guys,” I say eagerly, my eyes falling on the hot pink sheet-board cake. Happy Sweet Sixteen Baby is scrawled on the top in curly white icing and there’s a semi-circle of sparkly candles above it. It’s obvious that my mum made it herself – the B in baby is a bit lop-sided and the icing is thicker on the left side – but it still makes my heart swell.

“C’mon, make a wish,” Mum says cheerfully and she comes around to sit on the edge of the bed. She holds out the cake proudly and grins at me over the flickering candles.

“Okay,” I say and nod. I close my eyes, thinking over the list of birthday wishes I’ve been making over the last year. This is it, D-day. Which one do I pick?

“This year, Sunshine,” my brother teases. “Before the candles melt all over the cake.”

I open one eye and stick my tongue out at him. Then I take a deep breath, squint at the candles, and blow. I watch hopefully as the flames wink out one after another, and finally the last one gutters to its death.

“Yay!” Mum cheers. She beams at me, wiping a bit of frosting off on her finger and rubbing it on my nose. “Means your wish’ll come true.” I smile, rubbing the frosting off onto the heel of my hand and licking it up. It’s sugary and creamy – buttercream, my favourite.

“Our little baby, sixteen,” Da says, his arms folded over his chest and his eyes looking a bit watery.

Sixteen. Sixteen years old. My mind goes back to my wish and I bite my lip, looking at one of the half-melted candles. 

This is going to be a good year.

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Help I’m Stuck in The Rut!

Wow I have been having a terrible time with trying to write blog posts lately. That’s why, for those of you who follow me, I have been posting a long string of old poems and short stories just to have something posted each day. I did so well for about two months and now suddenly it feels like my well is dry. I sit down, pick a topic and sometimes even a tentative title, and then I stare at the blank screen. And stare, and stare, and stare.

After a while you really start to hate that little blinking cursor. Popping in and out of existence there at the beginning of your empty document, taunting you with its promise of productivity and providing nothing but an annoying distraction.

Maybe I’m being a little melodramatic…

The thing is though, I think I’ve fallen into a bit of a rut. This might be in part attributed to the fact that school has started up again, and getting the reading list for this semester was a bit of a blow. (Twenty novels in thirteen weeks. AH!) It might be that it’s getting down to crunch time in my preparations for my big spring break trip out of country – 7 weeks! – and I’m stressing out about that.

But really, if  you want the honest truth, it’s all my muses fault.

See, my muse has a pretty one-track mind. It can literally only focus it’s attention on one genre at a time. So when I started this blog two months ago, it was because I was stuck on my novel and I was using this as an excuse to force myself to write something. Well in the last week my original fic muse has geared back into life. It does this so rarely that I’ve been devoting all of my attention to milking this burst of energy for all it’s worth, which means my poor little blog has fallen by the wayside.

God, if I treat my children like I treat my writing babies, I’m going to be a terrible mother.

What am I even talking about anymore? Oh right, The Rut.

I can say with a fair bit of certainty that every single person on this site has at some point experienced The Rut. Your writing is going along swimmingly and then suddenly you get high-centred in a ditch. You can try and stamp on that accelerator all you want but all you’re doing is spinning your tyres, probably kicking  up quite a bit of dirt in the process. There are tricks you can use to try and help, and if you’re lucky maybe one of them actually works, but in the end the odds are that you’re going to have to call for a tow.

This is me calling for a tow.

I need your help to get me out of this ditch. I just passed seventy-five followers, so I know there are a few of you out there reading this. To get myself writing, about anything, I am asking for your suggestions.

Got a topic you want me to share an opinion on? One of my previous stories you want me to elaborate? Want me to write a poem about a noodle?

Leave suggestions in the comments and I promise that I will fill them all, no matter how ridiculous they are. It’s my payment to you for pulling me out of this ditch.

Also my payment for reaching 75 subscribers! Holy crap where did you all come from?! I never in my wildest dreams thought my silly ramblings and half-assed flash fiction would ever gain this size of a following, and I want to thank you all every day for your support.

Cheers and musketeers!

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The Colours of a Day

“Red in the morning, sailor’s warning.”

I murmur the old saying to myself as I climb out of my car in the building’s car park. I take a moment to stare out at where the sun is just beginning to rise above the city skyline, staining the low-lying clouds a bloody scarlet. I don’t remember exactly what the hell that saying means, but my grandad used to say it all the time. Something about the weather, I think.

. . . . .

The ringing of the telephone startles me out of my paperwork and I glare at the stupid thing for interrupting me. I don’t know who thought it was clever for every desk to have a bright orange phone. This is a bank, for Christ’s sake. Orange phones are hardly professional looking, in my opinion.

Too bad I’m just a lowly investment banker with no say in the interior decorating.

“Zach, you gonna answer that?” Garrett asks from the next desk, arching an eyebrow at me pointedly. “That’s what you’re supposed to do when it rings.”

“Piss off,” I say, rolling my eyes as he laughs. I pick up the hideous orange handset. “Worthington Bank and Trust.”

. . . . .

“These are for you, Zach.”

I feel an unconscious smile steal across my face before I can stop it and I look up at the vision of perfection. Amanda, the office secretary and girl of my dreams. Her dress, the colour of summer sunshine, brings out the gold in her hair. She smiles brightly as she sets a stack of files on the corner of my desk. With a little wave she turns to walk away.

“Hey Amanda,” I call out impulsively.

“Yeah?” she asks, turning around.

My mouth goes dry and all of that moisture shoots instead to my palms. I rub them against my thighs below the desk and clear my throat. “I just – ” The words lodge in my oesophegus no matter how hard I try to force them out. “Uh, thanks.”

She looks a little confused, a narrow ridge appearing between her eyebrows, but she smiles again. “No problem.”

I wait until she disappears from sight and then I let my head fall forward onto my desk with a dull thunk.

. . . . .

I prod disinterestedly at the leftover spaghetti heaped in the tupperware bowl in front of me. The sound of a chair scraping across the tile makes me look up just as Garrett drops heavily into the plastic chair. It groans with the effort of supporting his weight. It’s not so much that he’s fat, he’s just – big. Okay, and a little fat. He’s built a bit like a linebacker who’s gone to seed, because that’s exactly what he is.

“Hey Zach,” he greets, opening up the crinkly plastic sack he’s brought with him. When he pulls out the tupperware he frowns. “Ugh, rabbit food again.”

Garrett’s wife, Kayla, has decided to take his doctor’s recommendations for losing weight to heart. She’s stripped him down to a practically vegetarian diet that the man of cheeseburgers is having a hard time dealing with. For the past three weeks, all of his lunches have come in varying shades of green.

“So, did you ask her out?” He changes the subject without preamble, his own nutritional woes forgotten in his eagerness for gossip. Apparently the look on my face is answer enough though because he sighs and rolls his eyes. “Dude, grow a pair, would ya?”

“Screw you,” I say, shaking my head.

Garrett laughs. “I don’t understand you, man. You rock an investment presentation and are pure confidence with clients, but you’ve got no game with the ladies. What gives?”

I twirl the spaghetti around the plastic fork and shove it in my mouth in what I hope is a dignified silence.

. . . . .

We all know what it means when Greg marches into the afternoon meeting in his blue suit. The power suit. We have an important client coming in today then and he’s trying to impress.

“Met with a big client this morning,” he announces to the room in general on his way to the head of the conference table. “Marshall Trent, billionaire. Made a shit ton of money in the water sports business, invented some new kind of surfboard. And now he’s looking to invest that money. We need to convince him that he should trust us with his tons of money, got it?

“Now I will be heading up tomorrow’s pitch to him, of course, but I want a wingman. Or wing-woman,” he adds diplomatically with a glance at Maggie, the office’s only female banker. “I want one of you in there to back me up. So I’ve been going over files all morning, checking your numbers and seeing who is my best choice. Miller.” I look up from the scrap of paper I’ve been doodling idly on. “You’re in the game.”

“Me?” I say in surprise before I can stop myself.

“Yes, you,” Greg says with the faintest hint of a smirk playing under his moustache. “Unless you keep asking stupid questions like that. In my office as soon as the meeting ends, we’ve got a pitch to plan.”

Across the table Garrett shoots me a grin and a subtle thumbs up. My chest swells. Two years working here, fighting my way to the top of the chain, and all that work’s finally paid off. Tag-teaming with the boss on a billionaire client. This is the big leagues.

I’ve finally made it.

. . . . .

I sling my shoulderbag over my back and head for the front of the office. I’m walking on air after my successful planning session with Greg and I’m psyched for tomorrow. I round the corner and the front counter comes into view. Amanda is sitting there, chatting on the phone. She spots me and smiles, gesturing for me to wait up for a minute.

“Alright, I will fax those over first thing, Mr. Kilpatrick,” she says into the ugly orange phone. “Thank you, and have a nice night.” She sets the headset down and then stands up, smoothing out her dress. I lean forward against the counter, crossing my arms on the cool granite surface. “I heard you got the Trent account. Congratulations.”

“Thanks,” I say, feeling a comfortable warmth blossom on my cheeks. “But I haven’t got the account yet. That all comes down to tomorrow.”

“You’ll do great, Zach,” she says with a confident nod. She reaches across the desk and sets her hand on my arm, sending my stomach on a roller coaster of flips and spins. “I just know it. You’re the best at this.”

“Thanks,” I repeat. This is it. I can do this. I glance down at her hand, still resting on my arm. Her fingernails are painted a bright indigo. “Amanda,” I start before I can lose my nerve. “Would you – I mean, if you’re not doing anything, of course. You wanna go to dinner sometime? With me?”

“I would love to,” she says almost before I’ve finished my question. “Friday?”

“Friday,” I agree a bit breathlessly.

“Great,” she says. She grabs one of the business cards from the desk and flips it over, scribbling something hastily across the back. “Here’s my address,” she says and hands it to me.

I glance down at her cramped, curly script and grin. “I’ll pick you up at seven.”

. . . . .

The temperature has dropped outside as I make my way back to my car and a wind has picked up. I pull up the zip on my jacket and shove my hands into the pockets to keep them warm. The sky has turned dark. Rolling clouds have covered the sky in a blanket of gray painted with pale lavenders where the sun is still struggling to break through. I can smell it in the air, that heady pressure of humidity clinging to my skin.

“Here comes the rain.”

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