Archive for May, 2014

When I was in High School

It’s funny how high school drama sticks with a person. I graduated high school four years to the day, and yet I can still picture the look on his face when he told me he loved me, and then the look on his face a few weeks later when he said he didn’t. That was junior year.

I suppose we all made mistakes that year – Tina totaled her dad’s car, I slept through a shift of work, and Louise accidentally blabbed about her crush to the whole school. But he – Jeremy – made a the biggest mistake of all. I couldn’t handle all of his lies. “I love you,” he said. He was never an honest guy, but I was blind to a lot of things when I was a junior in high school.

All of these things floated around in the back of my mind everyday. In between my classes and studying and long night shifts, a painful memory or two would invade my day.

But today, I’ve decided, I won’t let it stick with me. I refuse to let this perfectly joyous day be ruined by an fiendish man. And so I strode right up to the grocery story, intent on having a peaceful time of errand running. I grabbed my toothpaste and other odds and ends with a bounce in my step. No painful memories for this girl. Once in line at the check-out, I heard something familiar. The customer in front of me chuckled at something the cashier said. I knew that chuckle.

The customer turned around. I knew that face.

He blinked in shock, and I blinked back. “Hi,” he said.

How could I respond to that in a way that’s not lame?

“How’ve you been, Mia?”

“Fine,” I said whimsically. I had nothing else to say, and I laid my items down on the conveyor belt, hoping that he would leave me be.

“You know, it’s been so long since we talked. I’ve been thinking for a while about writing you a letter.”

“That’s really interesting,” I said. “I’ve never thought of doing the same.” I inwardly cringed. What happened to being cool and collected?

“In that letter I would have apologized.”

Now I looked up.

He grinned, as if something was truly joyful, and I knew he was kidding about the apology part. “I’m sorry that you didn’t understand relationships back then,” he said. “Hope you’re a better person now.” He flashed  me a grin, took his plastic bag, and turned on his heel.

When I a junior in high school, I would have sulked like a dog with it’s tail between his legs, reeling from Jeremy’s tumultuous wake. But now I shrugged.

Like I said, it’s funny how high school drama sticks with you. It’s also funny how people change, or in some cases, how little they change.

Rapid

By Christian Sopkowiak.

It was too late. The river had begun to fill my lungs and I swear I saw the darkness they talk about when you are dying. The unfathomable weight of my drenched clothes began to contribute to my drowning. The lack of oxygen in this prison was becoming unbearable. What sucked most of all, I could not even see the sun.

My entire body was submerged under the tortuous blue of the water. The rapids were destructive that day and of course, I decided to try the canoe today. It was stupid, in hindsight. But, I was drowning, dying, losing, and trying to…

My scalp felt the rays of the sun for a moment and I knew I would have a moment of air. That liberating moment occurred seconds after the sun graced my head. My head bobbed out of the water for about ten seconds.

The heat radiated across my face and I gulped all the air I could. I used all of my strength, my muscle, and my will power for those ten seconds. The rapids tore me back down and I tried to remember the taste of the air.

Immediately, my body jerked towards one side then it ripped towards the other. My head snapped to the left when my body went to the right. The water tore me without thought or reason. One moment I would be towards the shore and the next, I would be drowning in the brunt of the rapids. My head snapped to the left, this time. I knew I would be jerked somewhere next so I put my hands out to try to stop the water from pushing me but that was only my instinct, not my logic. I was under for, well, a few more minutes I suppose before the rapids gave me another moment of air.

I raised my hand out of the water and the rapids decided that meant I got my chance. They ripped me out of the water, for a moment, and I swallowed the air. I gasped, opened my eyes to see boulders everywhere. But, I heavily inhaled that unseen remedy as my head once again enjoyed the sun’s warming rays. I swear, air tastes so damn good when you need it.

Then, I went back. The rapids once again grabbed me and did not let go. This time, I opened my eyes under water to see the damage. The water was moving sideways then upside down then towards me. I also saw my feet, they were dangling, lifeless it seemed. The water had taken them too. The water began rushing towards my pupils so I closed my eyes. That was when I slammed into the boulder.

The rock was sitting the midst of the rapids and my body crashed into it. I grabbed onto the boulder, my ribs felt broken, my legs mangled. I struggled to gasp for air, let alone breath. The water wanted me for itself, it kept trying to tear me from the boulder. I needed air, somewhere, somehow. I swear, the boulder had crunched some of my ribs to bits and my feet were numb. Every breath began to feel like my last as my ribs attacked my skin and my lungs began to give up. So, I climbed up or at least I tried to. The rapids kept coming, trying to pull me down for more. My adrenaline must have been pumping because I did it. I was able to get my eyes above the water and I saw the sun again. In that moment, I wanted to wait there, forever, and look at the pale yellow light above me.

Image

Beyond the Bridge

A fictional story based on the picture prompt

 

By: Rebecca Taylor

 

                As children living in a small town, it was always a treat when our parents rented a cottage and we got to go swimming and canoeing in the river. We often canoed under the bridge but our trip to Gold’s Lake meant that we didn’t cross over the bridge by car. My sister and I used to play games of what was beyond the bridge – was it a giant city or a magic village, maybe there was royalty that lived there in a castle, or a gold refinery or…and the list went on. Now, that I’m an adult and I had a chance to get out and see for myself what was beyond the bridge, it makes me kind of sad because while there is a city, there isn’t really anything that unique about it, unless you think that the house down the street from where I live is special in its fluorescent pink paint with the bright yellow trim. Being in the city is like being in most places, there are people, some are nicer than others, there are coffee shops and restaurants, some I’d rather eat at than others, there are office politics and ladders to try and climb to get better opportunities. There are places of truth and justice, of good and evil, of right and wrong, but this is life and I am happy making my place in it, even if being beyond the bridge didn’t hold the same allure as it did when I was a child. And, the most amazing thing might still be on this new side of the bridge, a wonderful man who I recently met and who has asked me out on a date, this evening. I’m getting ready and am hoping to not be too nervous but whatever happens, I’ll know that I took a chance just like I did in coming to work on this side. I know too that if ever I want my small town life back all I have to do is get in my car and make the drive back across the bridge. Knowing it can go both ways is a very freeing experience. 

Adventure Awaits

“You know you want to come along.”

I rolled over in my bed and glared at the window. I saw the Tim’s lean frame through the window and was pretty sure I could make out a grin on his face. I also knew that if he was here, I was going to leave with him. The thing to know about Tim is that he always wears the most beautiful jeans from Buckle and that he is quite manipulative.

“I’m sleeping, go away,” I said in a mock-sleepy voice. I had hardly slept the last few nights. If anything besides manipulative, Tim was predictable. I could see his restless heart probably better than he could and knew he was about done with this place.

See this here is how it happened. We got recruited right out of high school. They bring in kids from all over the U.S. They train us and then send us out into the world to do quests or some crap. They didn’t really give us much detail but we are trained in most of the same stuff that the army is trained in along with professional business-speak and such. I could work in an office or be an assassin. The missions vary but this is a private company owned by some crazy old man who seems to want to control the world. It is all a little odd but we get paid really well and right out of high school, I wasn’t ready for the ramen college life and so I took up their offer.

“Don’t make me come in there,” Tim said, starting to hoist himself up through the window.

I went the two steps it took to cross my cabin and opened the door in a resigned manner. Tim often came to visit me. He was my closest friend here and we were probably the closest friends out of the group. But we didn’t really hang out with the same people when we did group activities, didn’t quite attract the same person, I guess. My friends were lamer and I knew it.

He walked in and sat down at my reading chair. I hated when people sat in my reading chair but his jeans were pretty damn nice today and I could see that even through the darkness. I decided to let the chair thing slide, like I usually did with him.

“Why don’t you want to go?” He asked me, putting his “I’m all ears” face on.

I climbed back into my bed. No sense in wasting the warmth of my comforter.

“I’m sorry, what?” I asked. He rolled his eyes. I always used that line when I really did want to talk about something but was being a pest about it.

“I’m waiting.” He told me, getting comfortable in his chair. I put the pillow over my head. He and a few of his friends had decided they wanted to go out and see the world and find a quest of their own because we had been here longer than any of the other training groups and we still hadn’t been assigned a place to go. We wondered why they hadn’t sent us out but all they would tell us was to be patient. It was odd that we hadn’t been sent away to a job and we were getting impatient.

He gave it about thirty seconds and then got up and I assumed started walking to the door. I heard his hand grab the knob and I peeked out from under the pillow.

“Wait.” I told him.

He came back and this time sat down on the bed next to me and looked down at me.

“So? Care to enlighten me?”

“Ugh. I’ve already close to killed my parents by going here versus being the good kid and going to college. If this falls through they’ll do that annoying parent thing where they are all disappointed.”

“That’s not the real issue though, is it?” He said, scrunching up his eyebrows.

“I mean…” I braced myself for this explanation. I was glad he wasn’t the type to laugh. “I think your friends are cool and whatnot. However, I just don’t think this will be a good fit. Like they think I’m cool ‘cause I’m friends with you but I’ll be the odd one out. I know this sounds lame but I feel like it’ll be uncomfortable.”

As usual he didn’t laugh. He pondered the room for a moment. I waited in my somewhat patient manner and tried not to move around too much. I was restless.

He looked back at me, “I see what you mean. But let me tell you, you don’t give yourself enough credit. People like you a lot more than you know.”

I couldn’t look at him. I had always been awful with compliments.

“Okay, lets go,” I said and then didn’t move. “Its just kinda warm here and out there, not so much.” I gestured to the outdoors.

Tim looked peered down at me and I felt like he was trying to decide something. I looked away for a moment and next thing I knew his face was inches from mine and he kissed me.

“I’m pretty warm, too. Grab your stuff.”

“Okay.” I smiled because I knew this would be my greatest adventure yet. He started to get up and I said, “Hold on.” I sat up and grabbed his shirt and kissed him again.

He pulled back and looked at me with a smile, “Quit distracting me and get your stuff. I’ve gotta wake the others.”

He walked out, his Buckle jeans still as nice as ever, and I started packing.

It was time to move.

 

 

 

Waiting

 

Twelve days. It’s been twelve days since I’d seen Jared. I didn’t want to worry. To follow after him even though he told me to stay, to constantly look towards the bridge he crossed over, hoping to see him racing back over to me. I didn’t want him to think I didn’t trust in his strength, his intellect. Him. So I waited, just like he said.

But it’s been twelve days. Nearly Twelve whole days.  287 hours, 47 minutes and 32 seconds.

I dug the heels of my bare feet into the ground, barely wincing as the rocks scrapped at my skin. It gave me something to focus on, something other than the lack of his presence beside me. I’m not clingy, I swear. I just didn’t realize how nice it was to have someone around, other than me, Lucy and Kay. And how worried I’d be when he was gone.

“Still waiting?” Kay leaned over my shoulder, pressing a cool hand to the back of my neck. His fingers were wet, as if he dipped them in the river. He must’ve been trying to catch fish with his bare hands again.

“Yeah,” I said. Read more…

Burning Bridges

“You can’t uncross your bridges.”

“I know,” I said.

We sat on the edge of the river, hanging our legs over the edge of the concrete bank. The water glittered a few feet below us.

“So what are you going to do?” Walter asked. He was always so pragmatic.

I looked at him. He’d just found out my deepest secret, the secret that I wasn’t who I said I was, that I had a shady past, and yet he seemed as calm as ever. “Aren’t you even curious?” I asked.

He shrugged and looked at me with those loving brown eyes. When I met him two years ago I had an inkling that we’d become best friends. I was right. “Your past is your past, Emily,” he replied. “If you want to tell me, I’ll listen, but I won’t ask.”

I grinned a little. “It’s Avery. My name’s Avery.” I paused for second. Of course Walter wouldn’t ask about my past, he was too gentlemanly for that, but he still deserved to know. “I witnessed a murder a few years ago. Back when I was a part of a gang.”

He tried to hide his shock, but he’s not that good at pretending.

I chuckled. “Yes, I was part of a gang. I was a newbie, and not comfortable with making hits or really hurting people. I saw something I wasn’t supposed to, they knew that I saw, and I freaked. I ran. I had my name changed. Dyed my hair red – did you know I’m a natural blonde? – and cut my hair short like this. Oh yeah, I got glasses, too. Since I ran I thought it was going to be okay.”

“You never went to the police?”

I shook my head. ” If I did that, I knew the word would get out eventually that I was the snitch, and I didn’t want that. I wanted to live.”

I was silent, and he stared straight ahead, thinking. The whole conversation had started with me telling Walter that my past had caught up with me. My old gang had found me. I saw a couple of them outside my house this morning, and another one while I got my groceries at the General Store. I thought that I was safe here.

He looked at me now. “Back to the original question. What are we going to do?”

“You said ‘we.'”

“I did,” he said, and I managed a tiny grin. “We could go to the police now.”

“But they’d ask why I didn’t go to them before.” All of the accumulated worry from the past couple years swam around in my mind.

“You have nothing to hide.”

“But they’ll be suspicious.”

“Avery, you didn’t do it. You were in the wrong place at the wrong time.” He looked straight into my eyes as he said it. “I’ll go with you to the police station. Tell them what you know, and you can be put in real protective custody, and the real murderers will go away for good.”

I looked out at the river, wishing it would wash away all of my worries. “I thought I’d never have to deal with this. I thought I’d burned my bridges when I ran here.”

“We can’t burn our bridges. Well, we can try, but there are always ashes. There are always the parts and the memories that we can’t hide from. The only thing we can do is acknowledge that bridges cannot be uncrossed and keep walking.”

I nodded. At least I wouldn’t be walking alone.

Bridges

Bridge

Writing Prompt: Sometimes bridges are crossed, never to be un-crossed.

The Truth

by: Rebecca Taylor

It mattered, I had tried telling myself that it didn’t and I could move on. But the truth was, I couldn’t hide from the way I felt about my wanting to be a mechanic. My parents didn’t understand. My dad and his new wife thought I should go to an upscale college not far from them. After all, my dad had money now and he wanted to show people that he could make things right for his family after so many years of living from paycheck to paycheck. My dad hadn’t really worked that hard for his new money though, it belonged to my stepmom, her father owned a big corporation and my dad is reaping the rewards. Now, don’t get me wrong. My dad is a nice guy, but sometimes he doesn’t make the smartest choices. I know that he loves my stepmom, and he’s going to love my little brother or sister once he or she is born this fall, but that doesn’t change the fact that he doesn’t want to listen to what I want. I’m seventeen years old and most of the time I live with my mom. We live in an apartment in the school district I grew up in. It’s a nicer apartment than the one we had when my mom and dad were together because my dad set us up. My mom said we were doing just fine on our own, but he insisted. I guess he didn’t want to look bad, him having so much and us living in a run-down apartment block.

            Who am I anyways? Beth Connelly, a senior in high school, who likes mechanics class more than any other class at school. I like getting my hands dirty fixing things and changing tires. I don’t want to go and see in a classroom and learn how to become the head of a company or a corporate lawyer or anything like that. My mom isn’t sure that I should be a mechanic either, but her reluctance is based on the fact that she is concerned that I will have a problem finding a job, because no one is going to want to hire a female mechanic, at least not for the right reasons, she said. I told her not hiring me because of my gender is called discrimination and that is against the law.

            “I know that,” she told me, “but you’ll be fresh out of school and that means you won’t have the experience everyone’s going to want to have and that will make it easier to hire a man over you.”

            “I’ll knock on doors, I’ll find somewhere, and someday maybe I will start my own garage.”

            “Those are pipe dreams, Beth,” she said, “you need to have a steady job, something that is going to feed you and pay the bills, otherwise you could end up working more than one job and never have time to see your kids or your husband.”

            “I don’t want kids or a husband, at least not now,” I had answered, “I want to have a chance to be a mechanic. What’s wrong with doing that? Most families own at least one car if not more, there’s work out there for me. I can go to the vocational center and get all the training that I need. I can get my papers in it; I’d still be pursuing a post-secondary education.”

            My mom and I changed the subject after that. We weren’t getting anywhere. I know she doesn’t have enough money to send me to school to be a mechanic anyways and my dad does but seeing as how I’m not doing what he wants, he probably won’t give me the money, but it doesn’t matter. I can work after high school, I’ll waitress or be a cashier, or pump gasoline to get where I want to be. For a while, I thought I could just go along with what my dad and stepmom wanted as if it didn’t matter that I had other plans for MY life, but I’ve changed my mind. Being happy matters and going to school and being bored because I don’t care about classes like corporate economics, isn’t what I want. Once I graduate from school, I will have to work for forty or so years before I can retire, doing what I want is going to matter. My family might not like it, but that’s too bad because I’ve decided to be honest with myself and with them. The truth is I am going to be a female mechanic and anyone who doesn’t like it can just learn to get over it. 

Hair dye, who am I?

It mattered, I had tried telling myself that it didn’t and I could move on. But the the truth was, I couldn’t hide from the way I felt about my hair.

The blond dye just wasn’t working for me. I used to have a dark brown hair and I had decided to try out this new color one day. I studied myself in the mirror and then went to apply my mascara, thinking that if my makeup looked good maybe no one would notice my weird hair color.

Who was I kidding? I loved the attention I got for a new hair color. I absolutely soaked them up with cutsie little “thank you’s” and a giddy smile.

Of course, it wasn’t really the hair that I was concerned about. I was worried about who I was and who I wanted to be. I was concerned about my appearance and how I wanted to come across. Maybe I was too focused on what other people thought but I didn’t know how to evaluate myself a different way.

I supposed I did know. I knew that my self-approval needed to come from the inside. It needed to come from the fact that Jesus made me in his image and he loved me more than any person on earth could ever love me. Some days this seemed like an easy task. Jesus loved me and that was all I needed.

But other days I just wanted someone to approve of who I was. I wanted someone on earth to show me their love. I wanted to be successful and famous and yet humble and kind.

I wanted it all.

Yet all I had was a new “do” and some fresh shampoo and conditioner for dyed hair. I finished with my makeup and fluffed my hair.

I looked in the mirror and told myself “Jesus loves you” and then left the room. Maybe this dye would help out after all.

The Formula

It mattered, I had tried telling myself that it didn’t and I could move on. But the truth was, I couldn’t hide from the way I felt about that little town.  Well, now I can’t hide my feelings. When I lived there, I was an expert at it. I suppose it’s time I be honest with myself.

Two years ago, my law firm told me there was a little town hundreds of miles away that needed help organizing their brand new law firm. And who was randomly chosen but myself. Now let me set the picture for you – I am no hick girl, and realizing that I had to go down to that hickville law firm made me sick to my stomach. I mean, that place is the epitome of nowhere. Where would I buy my shampoo? My salon brand shampoo cost 15 bucks a pop, and I highly doubted Waterville’s little General Store carried that.

But, as my boss reminded me, I was “on assignment” and there was no turning back. And so I turned away from my New York life and said a hesitant hello to my new hickville home.

I was right about the shampoo. The general story only sells two different kinds – men’s and women’s. And, when my last bottle ran out, I traversed to the nearest high end salon – 157 miles away – only for them to tell me they don’t carry it; it’s probably only a New York thing. New York was another day’s drive away, something I surely didn’t have time for, and I trudged back to my room in the Waterville Inn.

I hated that the grocery story only carried when brand of everything, and that there was only one movie theater in town that played one show each week, and that the number of cows in the nearby fields were double that of the town population.

Everything there is so tiny. Except people’s hearts – their hearts are huge. Mrs. Hugo, the lady who ran the inn, asked me on my first night there if she could make me casserole. She knew I was from out of town and told me I needed a “real home cooked meal” to “fatten” me up. Then the kids that always played in the park told me the neighborhood gossip. “Old Mr. Klondike was flirting with our second grade teacher again.” “You know that couple walking across the street, holding hands? Heard they’re fixin’ to get engaged.” They told me all about the who-likes-who of Waterville, as if we were all best friends having girl time.

Just so you know, I survived my assignment. (Spoiler alert, sorry.) Thing is, I’m on the road now, on the way back to my New York firm and New York apartment and New York shampoo. But the thought of going home to New York only brought stress and images of my chaotic life. The peace I had felt while living in Waterville, on the other hand, was nothing like I’d ever experienced.

I always thought life had a formula for success and personal peace. A fast pace and no time to think and continuous work would no doubt equal peace. But that formula I had tried in New York never equaled what I wanted it to.

I paused at a stop sign longer than normal in order to think. If I stayed in Waterville, I could still do what I love – practice law. And I can live with kind people, and hundreds of cows and off-brand shampoo.I made a U-turn and sped back to my lovely hickville home.

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