Archive for November, 2013

All the Signs

I heard a knock at my door. I stood up awkwardly then sat back down. “Come in,” I said resignedly.

It was my friend who was coming over to study. I didn’t know him all that well but the fear of an upcoming test brings all sorts of people together.

“How’s studying going?” he asked while he sat down at the chair by my desk. I shoved my Chemistry textbook into my backpack while I answered, “I mean, test preparation has never been my favorite thing.”

He pulled out his laptop. “I’m with you there, right along with the rest of the college students out there.”

“Oh, I don’t know. I feel like there are some people who really do like studying. Especially the one’s at the Big Fancy schools,” I responded while I pulled out the notebook for World History.

He laughed. I didn’t really know why he was laughing and so I turned a few pages in my notebook before I put my thoughts together and remembered my review sheet was in my folder.

We eventually started to study. Occasionally we had some conversation.

He seemed to start most of the conversation. “Is this your only test this week?”

“No, I have a few more. Organic Chemistry and Composition and Literature both have big tests or projects,” I replied with a sigh.

“That sucks,” he replied. I looked up to gauge his sincerity. People seemed to lose sincerity when they were worrying about themselves, which often happened during finals week.

“How about you?” I asked with little to no feeling in my voice.

“Nothing too bad, I chose an easy major for a reason.”

We went back to studying.

“You really into movies?” he asked a few minutes later, gesturing to my movie collection, which was rather extensive.

“Yeah, I guess so.”

“I’m more into music, ya know, feeling the beat at the gym?”

l looked up at him with a facial expression that probably made it clear I did not feel the beat when I went to the gym. I actually really did like music but he didn’t need to know that. We just needed to study.

“Am I asking too many personal questions?” he asked of me when there was a lull in study-talk.

This got my attention. “What possibly gave you that idea?” I replied with sugary sarcasm.

He gave a sheepish smile. “Sorry, I’m going to head out. I tend to get too personal, too easily.”

I almost told him to stay but decided against it. I’d rather not get closer with someone whose mood seemed to change with the review question we were on.

He walked to the door and was reaching his hand to it when he instead went for the sink mirror and opened it. I was looking at him incredulously, “What are you-“

“I knew they’d be here. So what do you have? Schizophrenia? OCD? Depression?” He read the bottle. “Ah, depression. Had it a long time. He pointed to the empty tic tack box on the bed. “Coping thing? Having something to concentrate on? I bet you overload yourself with classes every year. Take yourself down without anyone’s help.”

He looked at me with the look of someone who has disowned his child. “Bet you had me pegged for a nice guy, huh.”

And then he left me. I sat there for a few minutes, unable to move. No one had ever seen my antidepressants besides my parents. Many of my friends, the trustworthy ones, knew I had depression.

I eventually got up and put the bottle back behind the mirror. Maybe when people saw me, they saw through what I saw in the mirror and saw the pills. Maybe everyone thought I was crazy.

His tweet later that night said it all. The signs are all the same, I can spot em from a mile away.

So I was just another depressed person for him to spot. I must have all the signs.

Set Me Free

The longest moment of my life was when I said goodbye. The moment was too short still. I hardly got to say goodbye. He was the crown prince and I would be his queen. One foggy afternoon we were together in the castle. He was about to embrace me, when the Dark Ones attacked the castle. I see now that we should have been more prepared for it. We should have thought it would happen, but we did not. His father, King Sebastian, was ill, and with the kingdom preoccupied with the matter, it was the opportune time to invade. They slashed King Sebastian where he lay in his sick bed, kidnapped Francis, and became our ruthless leaders. They sold me, along with Sophie, a castle maid who was present, into indentured servitude. At the Inn where we were to serve, we were literally bound.  The Dark Ones possess a sort of magic that whatever they say is made permanent. When they sold us, we acquired chains around our ankles. They were light chains – a chain that would retract and extend according to where I walked in the inn. It was light enough that for a moment I could forget about it. But then, if I tried to go out the door of the inn, the chain would drag me back. I never stopped trying to escape, and it never let me fully forget that I was a slave.

It’d been three long years since we arrived as the house maids of Buckshire Inn. Every day Sophie and I scrubbed and washed cleaned. Every day Sophie saw into my downcast soul and put her hand on my shoulder. “Your prince will come.” Everyday she tried to instill a hope in me.

Every day I answered, “That he will.”

This morning wasn’t any different in that respect. She repeated her worn out expression.

“That he will,” I responded. I looked up from the floor I was scrubbing and saw her face was aglow. “What is it?”

“Oh, you haven’t heard?” She squealed softly. “They say he’s out.”

I only frowned.

“He’s escaped from the Dark One’s camp. Gone.” She searched my face.

I swallowed and tried to put all the pictures of Francis out of my mind. “Are you sure?”

“The talk is all over the kingdom. The Dark Ones are terrorizing villages, looking for him.”

I sat down on the sudsy floor, trying to take this in.

“That’s it then,” she continued. “He’s going to rise up against them. The Dark Ones.”

“And if we could defeat them, don’t you think someone would have done it already?” I asked.

She shrugged. “Little is known about the Darkness. Surely they have their weaknesses, too.”

I was a bit skeptical, but I knew she was right. I fingered the bright chain on my ankle. If the Dark Ones were no more, their power would be gone. I would be free.

“And once he defeats them, he will come for you.” I looked up at her and she looked at me sternly. “He will, Alisha.”

“He’d better.”

That was all I could say, for it was the refrain of my heart. I’d stopped wishing for merely Francis long ago. What we had together wasn’t even particularly wonderful. When The Dark Ones took away what was mine, it was not my prince that I meant. It was my freedom. I would never stop waiting for it to come back to me.

Overcoming the Fear in Writing

by: Rebecca Taylor

I personally find sending out my work frightening and between blogging, monthly newspaper articles and calls for writing, I have probably sent out over eight hundred different texts and had most of them returned with a form letter. Still, I continue to write because sometimes, people like what I write, sometimes I get an acceptance and that is an amazing feeling.  So, for this month’s writing topic, I’ve decided to tell you some things you need to remember when sending out your work:

 

  • The most important thing is that no matter how many rejection notices we receive, we remember why we write – because we love it, because it is a part of us and we know that somewhere out there someone is going to like what we wrote.
  • We must be proud of our work. We took the time to sit down and put the words to paper/keyboard and after we’ve edited it, we’ve come up with something we want to share with the world.
  • We need to know that when we send our work out, and it comes back, it doesn’t mean we cannot write. It just means that our work didn’t fit the present need or wasn’t what that editor/panel of editors or judges was looking for. When you have only so many pages to fill in a specific time period and lots of talent, tough decisions must be made.
  • We need to get in the habit of sharing our work. If we do it infrequently, it is more frightening but the more I send out my work, the easier I find it to receive those rejection letters and I just type them into my Excel file and move on. I accept it and move on, knowing that someday that rejected piece of writing could make a lot of people happy or might even make me a lot of money. There are lots of famous authors who started out just like us. Were they frightened by the writing process, maybe but they found a way to get their work into our hands.
  • Use writing websites to share your work with other writers. The other writers will be in the same boat as you when it comes to you reading their writing.
  • While our writing is personal, we have to know that when it comes to sending it to publishing companies, it is a business deal and we must understand that while our hearts and numerous hours were poured into the writing, for the editor, it’s their business, whether it is a volunteer or paid position.
  • Know that when it comes to feedback, the ultimate decision on whether or not to make changes is yours but we must at least consider what the reader is saying. We can become too easily attached to our writing, to the words we spent so much time writing to know what we should change, what parts drag down the stories or what lines inhibit the flow of the writing.

 

I hope you find this advice helpful. Whether you’re just starting to write or have been writing for a long time, we are still going to have to go through the writing, sending and waiting processes. It might take a while but our writing has potential to find a niche somewhere or you could decide to self-publish, but that is a topic for another time.

Identity

“What do you mean, I was closed off?”

“You aren’t like that anymore! It was just how it seemed last year,” replied my best friend.

“Matt, how did you even become my friend if you thought I was closed off?” I asked him, giving him an incredulous look.

“C’mon, you don’t need to stress this,” he replied with a weary frown at me.

I didn’t even register that he’d replied because my mind was racing back to the previous year. Had I really been closed off or was it just his perspective? Someone had just mentioned the other day about how I show more emotions now.

My mind eventually circled around to the idea that maybe they were right. The fearful part of me wondered if it was my inner personality and I wasn’t who I thought it was.

“I didn’t think I was closed off but I guess I could see it,” I said as I turned towards him again and away from my thoughts.

He raised his eyebrows, “You realize that this isn’t what you need to dwell on?”

It was my turn to frown, “I never try to dwell on these things, it just ends up happening.”

He gave me a parent-y look with eyebrows raised, mouth in a straight line and eyes focused.

“I’ll do my best to think of other things,” I replied with an eye roll.

He smiled. “Good.”

Writing: Embracing Language

This week in my fiction writing class, my professor showed a video by Stephen Fry. Afterwards, my professor told us to embrace language.

Call me presumptuous, but I can guess what you’re thinking. Embrace language? We’re writers. Of course we do that. Our job is to embrace language. Right? Right. Sometimes we need a reminder.

We often forget how much power words really have. That old adage “sticks and stones” is absolutely senseless. Words can hurt. Why do you think the concept of ‘reining in the tongue’ is so prevalent? Yet if we only look only at the negative side of the equation, we miss so much. Words can be ineffably beautiful, too.

I encourage you to fall in love. The next time you write something, pay attention to your word choice. Keep an eye out for love. The next time you read, notice the words that catch your eye. We all have those words we just love. You know what I’m talking about. We like how that one word sounds when it rolls off our tongue. My list of favorite words is long and ever growing, but a few of my personal favorites are odd words like corrosive, juxtaposition, and zeal.

Try it out. Look at a dictionary and thesaurus. Use words you wouldn’t normally use. Take an adventure.

Don’t just fall in love with a story; fall in love the words you use to tell it.

Watch Stephen Fry’s message about language.

Against the Norm

by: Rebecca Taylor

“I want to marry you, Steve, but I cannot go against everything that I believe in, in order to do that,” said Beth Robbins sitting on a park bench next to her fiancé.

            “Come on, Beth, why are you so against our parents announcing our engagement?”

            “Because we can do it ourselves, we are adults, we don’t live in our parents homes, and they aren’t paying for the wedding. It is us; we made the decision to get married. I don’t want our announcement or our invitations to say, ‘John and Vivian Nordell are pleased to announce the wedding of their son Steven to Elizabeth, daughter of Andrew and Teresa Robbins.’”

            “Would it be that big of a deal? No matter what the invitations or announcement say we will still love each other the same.”

            “You don’t get it, I feel very strongly about being able to get ahead in life. Women are always portrayed as the weaker gender. I want to be thought of as Elizabeth Maria Robbins. I don’t want to go through life being thought of as Andrew and Teresa’s daughter or Steve Nordell’s wife. I am my parents’ daughter and I want to be your wife but I don’t want that to be the only reason people accept me. I want my accomplishments to have value. Even though the world revolves around familial associations, we are all our own people. I don’t want to be stifled by who my family is.”

            “I’m not going to take away your voice, Beth; you are entitled to your opinions. I just want my parents to be happy.”

            “You’re taking their side instead of mine, and while you are also entitled to your opinions, are you always going to side with them after we’re married? We need to have a united front on things, that’s the only way we’re going to have a successful wedding and marriage.”

            “You’re going against all traditional weddings; most people are conventionalists unlike you.”

            “Maybe there are more people than you think out there who believe what I do but are too afraid to actually do it. I want our wedding to be about you and me. I want us to announce the wedding; I want to walk down the aisle by myself.” We need to be equal; nobody is expecting you to be called Mrs. Steve Nordell,  giving you away or expecting you to be a shadow of me.

            “What does your father think about that?”

            “He’s accepting it, I think he would have liked to walk me down the aisle but I do not believe it is necessary. I learned to walk before I was two; now I am twenty-six, and more than capable of doing it on my own. I also don’t want ‘who gives this woman’ as part of the marriage ceremony. It is old fashioned and chauvinist, nobody asks ‘who gives this man.’ I have my own life, I do not need anybody to give me away; it sounds like some old toy that needs discarding.”

Why do you have to be so stubborn, Beth, this is our wedding. It shouldn’t be so difficult to plan. Sometimes you and your feminist views get in the way of all simplicity.

 “Having a traditional wedding won’t change who you are.”

            “I don’t want to sacrifice who I am and what I believe, just so your family and probably some of mine get what they want. This isn’t about them. This is our wedding, yours and mine, as long as we agree nothing else matters.”

            “I don’t see why we are complicating things for one day, wouldn’t it be easier to put aside your feminist views just for the day so that we can have a wedding where everyone involved is going to have a great time.”

            “Maybe we don’t know each other well enough, I think we should put off our wedding plans; we can’t even decide how to announce it right now.”

            “Beth, I’m sorry. We love each other; I don’t think we should wait. We can work this out.”

            “How? You don’t understand how I feel. It is important that I feel valued. I want this wedding to be one of the most wonderful days of our lives. I want people to see our way of thinking; I don’t want my views to be debated on or the focus of the wedding. I just don’t want to regret not having the wedding I believe in just because some people think my ideas are ridiculous. I don’t know how we can be married if you can’t accept that. I’ve got some thinking to do, give me time, Steve, I’ll call you when I’m ready to talk about this,” and Beth got up, walked down the tree lined path toward the Boulevard that would take her home, her shoulder length blond hair blowing in the wind, her grey eyes sad. I’m doing the right thing, I have beliefs, and nobody should make me change them. I’m not an uncompromising person, but there are some things in life that I don’t think a person should waver on. I am a modern woman and will not be treated like a pouting child just because I know that I am right. If I do this wedding the way he wants me to, I will always feel like I sacrificed my values so we would not have to discuss the real issues. I may not fully resent him for it now but someday I would. What if I married him in the traditional way and someday we have a daughter and she wants to be free of the stereotypes which society have when it comes to women, how could I tell her that I believed the same things when I was her age but didn’t stand my ground, what kind of a role model would that make me?

            Steve sat on the park bench for a few minutes, stunned, never had he thought that Beth would walk away just because he did not agree to her terms. I’m fighting the issue because I want Beth’s parents and mine to be happy, I don’t want them to be left out. It is traditional that the parents announce the engagement and that the father walks his daughter down the aisle. Somehow, I need to make her understand and I think I will have to get our parents involved, it’s the only way. I need to save this engagement and making her see reason is the best chance. Otherwise, who knows how long it will take to make her come around to my way of thinking.

            It wasn’t long before Steve was sitting in his parents’ living room discussing the wedding.

            “Weddings are very stressful on the bride, trying to make every detail perfect,” said Vivian Nordell.

            “I want a simple wedding and I don’t care about the little details like the flowers or the colour of the napkins. Beth and I can’t agree on the concept of the wedding. Traditional is the easiest way, it’s been done so many times before. She wants to have a feminist wedding, where we announce the wedding, her father doesn’t walk her down the aisle and no ‘who takes this woman’, and I don’t know how the minister will announce us at the end of the wedding because she doesn’t want to be defined by her familial connections.”

            “What does that mean?” asked John Nordell. “Do you mean she isn’t going to take our last name?”

            “I guess so; Beth claims traditional weddings are chauvinist.”

            “I had a traditional wedding; it doesn’t mean I can’t think for myself. I like the family inclusion in weddings, it is an opportunity to meet the in-laws and get to know our future daughter better.”

            “Beth was very moody this morning, when she is in feminism mode, she isn’t the same lovable woman that I want to marry.”

            “Are you sure you know her well enough?” asked John.

            “We went out for two years before I asked her to marry me, how much better am I supposed to get to know her?”

            “You can know some people for a lifetime and never really know who they are,” replied Vivian.

            “When you were engaged, did everyone just get along or were there all kinds of debates about things?”

            “There were many problems along the way, the flower fiasco, and the number of guests to invite. The worst was the menu. Your father’s mother wanted to use china dishes and have an elegant sit down meal. My parents thought that we should have a buffet with paper plates, save having someone do dishes when the reception was taking place.”

            “What did you do in the end?”

            “Sit down meal with paper plates,” laughed John, “it’s funny thinking about all the silly little fights we had with our in-laws and each other back then, but at the time it felt like the world could end or that the wedding was never going to take place.”

            “So, you think that Beth and I will be able to make ours happen too.”

            “Yes, you just have to stand tall and fight for what you believe in.”

            “She’s going to do the same thing,” answered Steve running his hand through his chocolate coloured hair.

            “You have to reach middle ground just like we did with the meal and plates,” said Vivian.

            “How much can I compromise, she wants a wedding that people will think is a mockery. You said yourself how much you were looking forward to announcing the wedding.”

            “Of course we’re looking forward to announcing it, you’re our only child. This is our only opportunity at having a wedding of this magnitude in the family.”

Steve sighed; he could hear Beth’s words echoing in his ears, “this isn’t about them. This is our wedding, yours and mine, as long as we agree nothing else matters” It’s our wedding, what about what I think. I’ve dreamed of the moment your father walks you down the aisle to me for almost as long as I’ve known you, why deny me the chance to see him smiling, you on his arm. I don’t know what to tell you, Beth, I don’t want to back down. If we could only agree on this, the rest should be easy. The ceremony is the most important part because it ties us together for the rest of our lives.

            On the third day, Beth was sitting in the mess hall of the fire station where she worked as a firefighter, instead of eating her fingers drummed loudly against the veneer tabletop.

            “Hey, Beth, what’s bothering you?” asked one of her coworkers Frank.

            “You probably wouldn’t understand.”

            “Try me, I’m a good listener.”

            “It’s the wedding plans, Steve and I can’t seem to agree on anything. I haven’t talked to him in three days.”

            “Take it from a married man; you won’t solve anything by not talking.”

            “I just don’t know what to say to him to make him understand my point of view. I don’t want a traditional marriage, I want an equal partnership and having a customary wedding isn’t going to allow us to do that.”

            “Can you compromise?”

            “I’d like to but he doesn’t want to see things my way. By having a contemporary wedding, we won’t sacrifice anything. I am a modern woman; I don’t like old-fashioned thinking, as a liberated woman I want to walk myself down the aisle, forego the ‘who takes this woman,’ keep my last name and not be introduced as Mrs. Steve Nordell.”

            “Those are different views, Beth, and you have been with this department for four years, we have gotten to know and respect you and your modern thinking but maybe Steve isn’t used to the new way some women think.”

            “He knows that I have views about certain things where women’s rights are concerned but mostly he’s worried about me hurting his and my parents’ feelings. My parents have known my views for many years and while sometimes sceptical have come to accept them; his parents will have to live with it.”

            “What is your opinion on men opening doors for you?” asked another firefighter Joe.

            “Opening doors for someone is common courtesy, nobody wants a door slammed in their face, but holding the door open is not gender exclusive. Opening the car door on the other hand, I don’t understand it. I am capable of doing that for myself.” 

            “You fought your way into the hearts and minds of this department, and while not everyone was sure about having a woman on the team because of physical standards and maybe some outdated ideas, you proved your weight around here. I have no doubt that someday you could make fire chief,” said Frank

            “I’d just like to get married first; I can wait thirty years or so to make fire chief. I’d like to be a training officer or a firefighter instructor first. I would love to inspire more women to think about it as a choice of career.”

            “If you want it, you’ll do it, tonight when the shift is over, talk to Steve, you’re both too stubborn for your own good, and if you don’t talk about it now, you may not be married when you’re ninety.”

            “Very funny, Joe,” said Beth, “I’ll talk to Steve tonight and see if we can’t get everything sorted out. Thank you.”

            “I hope it works, your finger drumming isn’t one of your most becoming qualities,” replied Frank.

Before Beth could respond, the fire bell rang and everyone in the station raced to get ready for whatever was ahead.

            That evening as she left the station, Beth called Steve on her cell phone and left him a message to meet her at her apartment as soon as he got a chance. He arrived forty‑five minutes later with a take-out order of Chinese food.

            “Steve,” said Beth giving him a hug, “I’ve missed you.”

            “I missed you too, let’s sit down, and talk. I promise to listen to all of your opinions and no matter what we decide on, we’ll do it together.”

            “Deal,” said Beth going into the kitchen to get some plates and cutlery for the meal. Then, she and Steve sat down at the kitchen table, food containers spread out in front of them and started eating and talking.

            “We have to reach a compromise. These last three days without you were miserable. I never want us to be apart. We need to stick together, for ever and always,” said Steve.

            “There’s something we agree on, I’m all for those vows being part of our marriage ceremony.”

            “If your father is okay with not walking you down the aisle I can accept it and we don’t need a ‘who gives this woman,’ you’re right it is kind of sexist. It can just be our names on the engagement notice and invitations; I think I can convince my parents that they will still have an important part in the ceremony.”

            “Of course, they will I want them there front and center, they’re our parents, I just want us to make plans without help, it’s our day.”

            “You don’t want to be defined by me, what exactly do you mean by that?”

            “It means I won’t be taking your name when we marry. I want to be Elizabeth Robbins forever, if someone happens to call me Mrs. Nordell once in a while, I’m not going to have a fit but that isn’t what I want to be called. I am my own person.”

            “I guess I can accept that, as long as you understand that in everyday life when people are trying to determine family connections, we will be associated together and I will be called John and Vivian’s son, you will be called my wife and your parents’ daughter.”

            “I’m okay with that as long that isn’t who I am always defined as; I don’t like it when who you are related to is all people remember. While we are going to be together for the rest of our lives, we will have combined and separate lives. Our birth names are our roots.”

            “That’s fine with me, but what will happen when we have children?”

            “I don’t know, we’ll figure it out, I don’t want our children to feel like they are stuck with having a write a really long name because we couldn’t decide on which name to choose. I suppose they’ll have your last name unless we choose short first and middle names and then they could have both or maybe Robbins could be a middle name like Sara Robbins Nordell.”

            “That sounds pretty. We’ll have to think about that but first we need to get married.”

            “First we have to plan the wedding. Would you be okay with the minister says, now I present the union of Steven Nordell and Elizabeth Robbins instead of Mr. and Mrs. Steven Nordell.”

            “But it sounds so good,” answered Steve reaching out to touch Beth’s hand.

            “It does to you but how would you feel if they said and now Mrs. and Mr. Elizabeth Robbins?”

            “I guess I get your point.”

            “Our love makes us one, a union,” said Beth, “But we are not one person, we are individuals joining together to make a life and I want that to be how we perceive our marriage, no false pretences. We are equal and need to share responsibilities fifty-fifty, that includes inside and outside work. As we do it, we can figure it out so that one of us isn’t always stuck doing the chores while the other enjoys themselves. If we work together we can both benefit.”

            “You mean you don’t want to be stuck washing the dishes, while I watch a movie?”

            “Steve!”

            “I’m just teasing, Beth, of course we’ll work together.”

            “That’s good because I want to watch movies too, curled up in your arms. Besides, we’re going to have a dishwasher.”

They both laughed, their once sad and anxious eyes now smiling. Eight months later at St. Gabrielle’s Church, Steve Nordell waited at the front of the church wearing a tuxedo for Beth Robbins to walk herself down the aisle wearing a beautiful white dress that made her glow. The ceremony was perfect, the wording had been carefully chosen by the minister and the wedding party. The happy couple had struck out on their own for their celebration and gone against the norm. 

Special Bonds

Calling them special might be a bit of a stretch. Not many would really believe you because they were just normal high school students with their knockoff coach purses and top siders. The looked average, they really did.

But to call them normal would not quite fit either. They could certainly act normal in the Hollister shirts and bored faces in the classroom. It wasn’t that they didn’t fit in but when it came right down to it, they did not fit in.

It all started with the English class. Whereas math classes were jokes and games, English classes continually got more in depth with feelings and views. It barely took a week for everyone to connect and for the class to drop the little friendship clicks and become one click themselves. They did not realize they were a click. The nonverbal body language when they passed in the hallways and the funny jokes they passed as they separated to go to separate classes were all things they did not know they did. Everyone else noticed, of course. Their bond really was strong.

You may have experienced a similar sort of special bond (not the same of course) if you have ever done any of the following:

  1. Seen a movie in theatres and walking out feeling dumbfounded. You may even have discussed the movie later over drinks with one of the people you went with.
  2. Listened to a really great sermon and learned something that you could apply in your life along with other people.
  3. Been stuck on a school bus that stalled and had to make friends with people you’d known of for a long time but never really known.
  4. Looked someone in the eye and saw something there that just couldn’t be described but also couldn’t be broken.
  5. Walked out of a near death situation with a group, feeling like you were on the cover of a magazine for your brilliance.

Can you relate? Perhaps.

However, what made this particular group peculiar was probably not that they had a Facebook group for the class. Perchance it was because of the teacher, who really set the mood for the students.

It’s the same reason as many books make it to the New York Times Bestseller’s List; it’s an abstract idea, an intangible concept.

After hearing all of this, you probably don’t immediately think of the love and power dichotomy. Let me explain.

The class had a sort of love for one another. Possibly twisted or strangely started but a love nonetheless.

The power went unfound for a while. Young high school students don’t necessarily see the power of a class although they usually acknowledge the power of a click. Funny, really.

Right before graduation was when I discovered the power. I had just finished reading The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (by E. Lockhart) and was on a feminist, power hungry trip without really knowing it.

If your anything like me, you’re probably wondering why I’m telling you this. What does it all mean?

It means that I started a secret society. Along with occasionally reading a book as a class and often posting on our Facebook group, we do secret society type things.

I’m writing this down in a journal so that my children will know if for some reason the power of the group leads me to a near-death incident while we are working together. I love them very much and am close with many of them even to this day.

I am also writing this down so that if anyone else happens to go through my belongings and read my old notebooks full of random scribbles, they might consider the dichotomy of love and power.

That they might try and find their own special class.

Ghost Town

Everyone told me I was a strange child. I was always “too” something. I was told I was too unladylike, too loud, or too giddy. When I was punished for my actions, I was too sulky. Their words built something inside of me, something that wouldn’t erupt until much later in childhood.

As I grew up, I spent my days terrorizing my nanny and hiding from my older, girlish sisters. I would run around the perimeter of our estate, creating a mud pie on every stump and stone before my nanny could catch me. Whenever my parents came home and found me covered in mud up to my nose, they said they were disappointed in my character. If it wasn’t my mud pies, it was something else. “Talia, your lack of gentleness concerns me.” My mother’s reprimand became a refrain.

One day my parents and two older sisters went on a trip – it was a funeral of a distant relative, an event deemed too mature for us young children. I was left behind with my baby brother and the nanny. Then it happened. That day I had a mother, a father, and two sisters, and the next day I was told a buggy crash ended it all. My only adult relative was an old aunt with dementia, and she wouldn’t have me.

My baby brother and I were sent off to New York Children’s Home.  Overnight my life had turned into a ghost town. It was so empty, living in that dusty room at the Children’s home. I never got to see Elliot, my little brother, as he was so young he didn’t even eat meals in the same building I did. Every morning I got up to do my chores and sit through lessons only to go to sleep and do it again.

The ridicule I’d suffered worsened since I left home. Your hair is too frizzy, Talia. Cross your ankles. You shouldn’t speak so much. Really, Talia, you ought to know these things. It was constant, grating on my nerves, and all the tension built up inside me. Each comment was like the friction of one stick upon another, and I knew that one day I would start on fire.

Today is the day that sparks fly. I’d been at the Home for seven years. I was 16, but everyone said I looked not a day younger than 18 or 19. Somehow the orphanage had aged not only the inside of me but the outside as well.

I had a plan: escape, chop my hair off, buy trousers, and then join the military draft. It was, after all, 1917, and America was part of the war. It was my chance to get away from my old life and really be a part of something. It may be a rather ghastly and lonely experience, but it was everything I wanted.

The day before I planned to escape, a strange boy approached me.

“You’re Talia. I’ve been looking for you.”

I stared, waiting for an explanation.

“Lewis.” He stuck out his hand. I stood stock still. “I know your brother, Elliot.”

I’d been over this before. “Leave it alone. It’s not funny anymore.”

“What?”

On the day I found out that my brother died, I cried in front of all to see for eighteen hours straight. No one would let me forget. “When will you all just stop? He died so long ago.”

“Who told you that?”

He seemed so genuinely confused that I explained.  “A nurse. I asked her about him every day. Told me he caught the pox and didn’t make it. He was always a sickly child.”

Lewis blinked. “He’s still here. Alive. He heard that you were still here, and wants the two of you to break out together.” If there was anywhere else I could run to, I would have. He was spouting off nonsense. “He would’ve come himself, but he wasn’t feeling up to breakfast. You’re right – he’s always been sickly.”

“And how would you know that?” I had no reason to trust him.

“He’s my bunkmate.”

My voice rose, my face flushed. “You people are always trying to get a laugh out of me. I’ll have none of it.”

A nurse turned around and shushed us, but Lewis persisted.

“Listen, Talia. Elliot wants to get out of here.”

“If you two don’t quiet down –” The nurse turned on us again with an evil look in her eye.

“He tried to attack me, to hit me,” I announced loudly, for her to hear. “I was only trying to get him to leave me alone.”

“The nerve of some boys.” The nurse scuttled towards him, shouting. “Off with you.”

Lewis trotted off before he was caught. I couldn’t say I was sad to have him go. Lewis was just another mean, bullying boy who tried to use my past against me. He was a sadist, that’s what he was. Although that’s what I told myself, a tiny part of my mind chose not to believe it. Throughout the day, his words stayed with me. Elliot wants to get out of here.

That day, I did my chores. I sat through my lessons. Night fell, and the dawn was about to rise. I had stayed in the same position all night, upright and awake.

Finally, I got up. Peering far under my bed, I grasped at the darkness. I found it – my sewing kit. Opening the wooden box, I groped carefully until I found the one thing I needed – a scissors. We weren’t supposed to have those things – sharp objects could lead to a revolt, a riot, we were always told. Yet I took the risk of being caught because it was the last thing I had of my mother’s.

Scissors grasped tightly in my fist, I tiptoed out of the sleeping room and crept into the restroom in the hall. One toilet, a leaking sink, and a mirror the size of my palm. I pulled the string and the light bulb flickered on. I stared with resolve at my grungy face in the grungy mirror.

Tomorrow I would escape. After breakfast, I would slip away. A couple of the girls owed me favors, and so I would implore them to keep quiet as I vanished down the hall. They would tell the nurses an elaborate lie that I had been summoned to the headmaster’s office, and then they wouldn’t ask any more questions. I’d find a way to keep hidden until no one was watching and I could slip out the back door. I’d enlist and be in France before anyone knew I was gone.

I glanced at the scissors in my hands. This was my first step. I held my breath and began the tedious process of chopping off my hair. Once the floor was littered with my frizzy locks, I felt suddenly exhausted. I must have fallen asleep on top of my hair trimmings. The next thing I knew I heard shrieking.

“Talia, what have you done to yourself.”

“Where did you get those scissors?”

“Talia, your hair.”

Nurse Margaret appeared and pulled me off the floor with a painful grip. “Your behavior has warranted a visit with the headmaster.”

Perfect. That was part of my escape plan, visiting the headmaster. They made it so easy for me.

Nurse Margaret took it upon herself to escort me. She rushed me past the sleeping room, down the stairs. We walked beside the line of girls and then the line of boys waiting for their breakfast. I saw Lewis standing in line, talking to a shorter boy. The boy’s back was turned, but for some reason I knew. Lewis hadn’t been lying.  I craned my neck to see him as Nurse Margaret pulled me along. Finally I wriggled out of her grip.

“Talia,” she screeched. “Come back here.”

I kept my eyes focused on the auburn boy next to Lewis.

“Talia.”

The headmaster emerged from his office and strode towards us. “What is this all about?”

I heard Nurse Margaret explain my reckless behavior and blatant disobedience. Still, I could only look at stare down the hall.

Lewis turned his head. Elliot stood beside him, apparently jabbering away, still with his back to me. Elliot’s head of auburn locks reminded me of my own, and the way he held his shoulders was simply familiar. I swallowed around a lump in my throat. It had been no joke. He was my flesh and blood.

By now, other children had turned to look. Nurse Margaret was watching me, I was watching Elliot, and suddenly Elliot turned around. Down the hall, his dark eyes locked on mine. A look of understanding passed between us.

“Talia Daubney.” It was the headmaster now. “If you refuse to listen to me, I will have no other choice than to tell you it’s time you are on your own.”

I jerked my attention the headmaster. I was being kicked out?

“You are of age. It is your time.”

Other children heard this and gasped in terror, but I could’ve danced for joy. They forced me to leave before I could even escape. My original plan was working and freedom and France were so close I could almost taste it.

But then I looked towards Elliot and Lewis. Everything was moving in extraordinarily slow motion. They watched me with gaping mouths. I saw Elliot attempt to stifle a cough. My heart swelled with concern – Lewis was right. My baby brother was still a sickly child.

The headmaster motioned me back towards the stairs. “Go on now. Grab your things.”

All of my plans came flooding back. I would buy my own britches, join the army, fight for a cause, and never have to deal with the inconveniences of family. How I longed to be free, on my own, with no strings or pressures. I shook my head. “Confound it all,” I muttered to myself. I turned to the headmaster and Nurse Margaret.

“I will go,” I started, my voice strong. “But I will take those two with me.” I pointed to the boys’ breakfast line. The other boys parted around Elliot and Lewis to reveal who I referred to. Lewis’ eyes widened. I couldn’t just leave him. Without him, I wouldn’t have found my family.

“You can’t,” started the nurse. “They’re so young, only –”

“You said I am of age. They will be my responsibility, my ward.”

The headmaster and Nurse Margaret now looked at me with gaping mouths. They couldn’t find any real reasons to make me stay.

Already the wheels were turning in my heads. I would find a job somewhere, as a seamstress shop, perhaps. I knew how to sew decently enough. The rest of the details didn’t matter much at the moment.

“We’ll be off, then.”

That was when I knew I had a family again. Elliot, Lewis and I were an odd trio, but a family nevertheless. No more ghost towns for me.

Upon leaving the orphanage, we truly had no place to go. I had done what I could to locate my only known relative – old Aunt Bessie. She had died a few short months ago. She had left something to Elliot and I – her flat. It was dusty and rat-infested, but it was something. I found a job at a seamstress shop across town, and Lewis worked in a furniture shop. Elliot occupied himself with learning how to read and keeping his strength up.

“I’ve never gotten to ask you,” Elliot said one day. “What happened to your hair?”

“I chopped it off.”

Elliot’s eyes grew wide. “On purpose? What’d you do that for?”

I grinned and tousled his hair. “I was a different person then.” I left it at that. Life with my improvised family was far better than life could be on my own.

The Blaze

by: Rebecca Taylor

The sound of splintering wood was unbearable. April Gleason wanted to switch off the television but she couldn’t, she had to know what was happening. She turned down the volume but that didn’t change the horror she felt inside. She wished her husband were home. But he wasn’t, he was at the scene of the horrible blaze. He was there and as she sat in front of her television screen, she could feel herself getting hotter and hotter as if the heat was coming at her.  It was around midnight; there weren’t any lights on inside the house but the scene of the blaze in front of her lit up the house like they were all on. The flames shot up like cannons into the dark moonless sky and April watched as the inhabitants of the house were led away from the scene of the fire towards a waiting ambulance.

 The reporter was standing across the street telling how the Meunier family had been lucky they had all escaped with their lives. Mr. Meunier had sustained some burns and there had been some smoke inhalation for other members of the family but nothing life threatening. This good news did nothing to calm April’s fears. She wasn’t an unfeeling woman, just worried about her husband and the father to her two children who were sleeping through the horror she was watching. She didn’t know why she did it to herself, always sitting up and watching the news when her husband was called away in the middle of the night. He worked shifts but this didn’t usually bother her, the worst was when he was on call and rushed out of bed, dressed quickly and drove to the fire hall two blocks away. Tom was her soul mate and when he was in danger, she knew it; she got a feeling inside like her heart was going to explode just like the burning building and sometimes she had to force herself to relax and breath. She knew that Tom had the best fire training that there was available and that he worked with an experienced bunch of firefighters but she couldn’t help being afraid. She knew that life held uncertainties for everyone but with his job placing him in harm’s way all the time she didn’t know how she managed to get through it but somehow he always came home.

She watched the black smoke on the television spiral upward as her husband’s crew continued to battle the blaze. Then the screen switched off pitching the room into darkness. She tried a light, nothing. They must have had to shut off the power because of the blaze, she thought. She made her way feeling to a drawer where there was a flashlight and extra batteries. She turned on the flashlight, made her way back to the sofa, and set the light down on the coffee table. She could have lit some candles but she could never bring herself to do. She was afraid the cats would knock them over and they would get out of control and start a fire in her home. She huddled under a blanket on the sofa and tried to think happy thoughts but fear shook her to the core, at least when she watched the horror on the television screen the media would tell her if something happened to her husband. She had been married five years and although she took life in strides and tried not to dwell on the dangers of her husband’s job the harsh realities behind it were always there. After a while, she got up and started pacing the room, she felt like a caged animal. She knew her husband loved his job but sometimes she wished he had a nice safe job selling nails in a hardware store or something where he worked nine to five and was always home at a certain time.

 

“He wouldn’t be happy,” she told the shadows in the corner of the room. “He’s good at what he does and as much as I don’t like it, I wouldn’t ask him to change. It’s this living with fear of losing him that I hate. The sleeplessness on nights like this, waking up when he works night shift because I know that he’s at a fire or the feeling I get in the day and evenings. Not every fire touches me; it’s the ones like tonight with the billowing clouds of smoke, the noise, and the ugly red flames. The loss of a house for that family has to be devastating but this town will rally around them like they always do. Sometimes he has to go to other counties and help them out too because there aren’t enough firefighters. The volunteers and first responders are great but it’s the equipment and the expert training that men and women like my husband have that make the big difference. “Come home safely,” she prayed putting her head in her hands.

            It was just starting to get light out when the power came back on. April flicked back on the television but the news wasn’t on, it was too early. She hadn’t had any word from the fire station and hoped that meant Tom was safe. She started the coffee, took a shower, and got dressed. Just as she’d finished her first cup, the door opened and Tom walked in. She jumped up from the table and went over to meet him. He met her in an embrace and kissed her peach scented hair.

            “I’m safe,” he whispered, “everyone made out okay. You didn’t get any sleep after I left did you?”

            “No, but there’s a few hours before the kids get up, come on.”

April sighed, relieved to have her husband home. Together they walked up the stairs, arms linked to get a few hours of precious sleep before the chaos of family life began for the day.

Particular Groups

It has been a busy week and so this is a teaser beginning for the story that will be completed next week. Hope you like it!

-Trixie

 

Calling them special might be a bit of a stretch. Not many would really believe you because they were just normal high school students with their knockoff coach purses and top siders. The looked average, they really did.

But to call them normal would not quite fit either. They could certainly act normal in the Hollister shirts and bored faces in the classroom. It wasn’t that they didn’t fit in but when it came right down to it, they did not fit in.

It all started with the English class.

Written Therapy

- saving my sanity one word at a time -

coolpeppermint

memories and musings

Poet's Corner

Poems, poets, poetry, writing, poetry challenges

lying for a living

make it a good story

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

(Somewhat) Daily News from the World of Literary Nonfiction

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.

Coco J. Ginger Says

Poems and stories of love & heartbreak.

Plenty of Pages

This isn't paper, and we don't necessarily write about paradise.

Make a Living Writing

This isn't paper, and we don't necessarily write about paradise.

Be a Freelance Blogger

Learn to make REAL money blogging for hire

Lightning Droplets

Little flecks of inspiration and creativity

Star Spider

The Musings and Writing of Star Spider

The Dreamers Adventures

This isn't paper, and we don't necessarily write about paradise.

YA Writers - Alumni

This isn't paper, and we don't necessarily write about paradise.

Jeff Korhan

This isn't paper, and we don't necessarily write about paradise.