How the Cookie Crumbles

Life and scribbles on the far side of SIXTY-FIVE


Shanghai, Part 5 – Nanjing Road

Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

Tummies full, when we left the restaurant around 12:45., the weather had become humid.

http://www.travelchinaguide.com/cityguides/shanghai/west-nanjing-road.htm (what’s on offer)

The shopping area is pedestrian-friendly with an occasional trolley/mini tour bus. Prominent other than McDonalds and Haagen-Daaz, were expensive elite, famous brand-name stores. I wondered how the young couples afforded their purchases. Rich daddies, I suppose.

The English Group 8 turned down (yet another) museum tour which added more (boring) shopping time. This time Sue and I struck out together. Four hours to kill. My poor aching feet.

We decided to explore beyond the main street. On a shabby side street a couple of blocks from Nanjing Road, I bought a bottle of Dynasty wine in a grocery/variety store ($10.00 CAD / $8.00 USD). I had to borrow money from Sue again as I had scraped all the cash from my wallet for the silk-filled comforter and pillow before lunch. A corkscrew would be helpful, but the store had not nor any facsimile. I decided to worry about that later.

If we needed the Happy House while shopping, Jackie had advised, any large hotel would accommodate us. Timing is everything, isn’t it? We chose the Sofitel Hotel where we had to walk past a security guard. Nervous, but avoiding eye-contact, these fine western ladies strutted in as if we belonged and ended up on the garage level.How did we get lost? Ph-ew the gas fumes.

Sue headed to a glass elevator. A lanky Caucasian man, fisting his briefcase handle, joined us inside. He noticed our confusion and described the location of the closest ladies’ washroom. He had come from Michigan on business eight years before and considered himself a local now, his return to the U.S. doubtful.

Shopping Nanjing Road  (pictures galore)

Out on the street again, Sue spied a Haagen-Daaz restaurant. We were ready for a good sit out of the heat and a cold ice-cream. We had two doors from which to choose: one with a lineup and the other with none. A waitress stopped me at the door. Her voice raised, she said, “Wrong way!” The lineup at the opposite end of the restaurant was where we must enter. Oh?  Why had the other door been open? Back to the sidewalk and the other door we trotted to join hordes of others. It didn’t take long, though, before we were seated.

We waited—and waited some more. Three young girls who’d arrived after we had were already given menus. Not us, the only older Caucasians. We waited. With the earlier rush over, I chalked this up to bad service. Was this abuse because we dared walk through the wrong door? A girl finally came bearing glasses of water with lemon wedges and menus. We didn’t touch the water.

Good thing we weren’t in a hurry. A waitress toddled over and took our order. Finally. One scoop of ice cream (chocolate with pralines) cost 33 Yuan each ($5.50 USD). We waited and waited for our order to arrive, but I didn’t mind. It was a relief to take a load off and sit in the air-conditioned restaurant.

Our bill took forever to come, too. I wondered why not go up to the cash with our dish to show what we’d ordered and pay. At home, we’d have done this no problem, but Sue, usually outspoken about most things, wasn’t comfortable doing so. In the end, we did anyway, but the cashier appeared frazzled. His rhythm had been broken and he made us wait. Again. I now owed Sue 83 Yuan, (not quite $14.00 US). That’s what I get for leaving money in the hotel safe.

© 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

Two things I noticed while window-shopping. We had been discouraged from interacting with beggars, who were uncommon. Where were they hidden? I noticed only two: one a disfigured man shortly after the bus dropped us off; the second, a miserable old man who shook a rusty tin can in our faces wanting a donation while we sat in a park. He rattled the meager contents, but we ignored him. He scowled and moved on, sneering over his shoulder. I hoped he hadn’t put a curse on us.

Except for a handful of citizens over the age of 40 or 50, most everyone on the street appeared to be under 25 or 30.
~ * ~

Next on June 30th – Shanghai, Part 6: Dinner and a Show

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

FYI: This is a re-blog of the best parts of my trip in 2014.

~ *~

I am currently on an unplanned sabbatical. Please bear with me. Hope to return soon. 
Thank you for reading and for your kind and continued support.

		
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Have You Met Luna Saint Claire?

Horns blare! Drumroll, please. It is with pleasure I introduce guest Luna Saint Claire who today shares background information about her début novel The Sleeping Serpent.

Luna is a costume designer and author residing in Los Angeles with her husband, a philosophy professor. She loves blues rock and Indie music, often setting her Pandora station to Damien Rice. Her personal style can best be described as eclectic bohemian. Though she now enjoys running and yoga, she spent years of her youth in the ballet studio. Her part Native American heritage informs her work as a designer and influences her storytelling.

final-hi-res-sleeping-serpent-cover-ebook

 Thrilling as The Girl on the Train, twisted as Gone Girl, and tortured as Wuthering Heights.

 

Losing Myself

by Luna Saint Claire

Vampires are real. Not the paranormal kind with blood and fangs, but rather emotional vampires—the ones who use manipulation and compulsion to seduce. Charming and magnetic, they appear to be perfect—the answer to your prayers. Truth is, they have targeted you.

I think we have all been there on some level. When you meet someone who you connect with—someone who seems to know who you are, and what you need. It happened to me when I met a charismatic healer. I was hitting middle-age, mourning my youth and beauty, and bored with my conventional and circumscribed existence. He had a keen ability to quickly identify my vulnerability—often called the inner wound—and hook me through my lack of self-esteem, vanity, and fears. He made me feel beautiful and important to him, and gave me confidence, opening me up to the possibilities surrounding me. Being married, I, fortunately, didn’t have a romantic relationship with him. Yet, he still had influence over me. He was a shaman and yoga master who used the power of Kundalini for the dark side of self-interest—his desire for wealth and fame.

teaser-she-was-the-storm

A dark healer hooks their victim in the chakra that holds their wound—where they are weakest. In the seduction phase, he showered me with his attentions. He made me feel a part of him—of something larger, and somehow more alive. Before I knew it, I was caught in the spider’s web, struggling for survival, craving the drug that was his flattery, approval, validation. Then slowly and methodically he began tearing me down. It may have started with an argument where he lost his temper and then apologized, excusing himself by saying he was frustrated or had a stressful day. Over time it escalated to berating until I barely registered the verbal abuse. If I was unavailable at work or didn’t pick up his call, or couldn’t respond immediately to his demands, he would threaten to end our friendship. When he flew into a rage, I would be the one to apologize for causing his distress. He played a cat and mouse game of pushing me away and then reeling me back in. I couldn’t bear the thought of abandoning him, but I no longer recognized myself. I had become a shadow of my former self and my self-worth had been shattered.  

I wasn’t the only one bound to him. As a successful healer with his own celebrity, he possessed an entourage of beautiful, successful Hollywood women. He ensured we each believed we were the most important person to him.  I excused his behavior, saying he was nervous with a fear of abandonment, but I didn’t know about narcissistic personality disorder. Persons with this disorder do not have the capacity to love, treating others as an appendage. They operate on instinct to procure what they need, though they will never feel gratified. Just like in a vampire story, a narcissist drains another’s life force in the attempt to fill the echoing emptiness within. His affliction was the cruelest inhumanity, and his pain and suffering could never be assuaged. The extreme drama he created when his demands were not met were a plea for validation and stemmed from his fear of abandonment. The rages and meltdowns provided a euphoric high empowering him in the face of feeling worthless. I felt compelled to fix him, even though I knew I couldn’t.

How much longer and at what cost could I continue to open my veins to quell the storm that tormented him? Like many of the other women who had become ensnared in his cannibalizing web, I was faced with the choice of bleeding to death or reclaiming my life. I learned from a friend in 12 Steps about chasing the high, trying to regain the elation once felt in the initial phase of a relationship, be it with a drug or a person. Getting it back had become my obsession. The craving, desperation and painful longing—that was the addiction talking.

review-the-vegas-reader

Once I disentangled myself from him, I reflected on what had called the relationship to me. It had been my fear of aging—of becoming invisible—no longer having heads turn when I walked into a room, no longer feeling desired. Weathering this personal storm was a valuable experience that made me stronger and wiser. It is only through such an eroding experience that I believe one can transform. Whether by free will or fate, my encounter with a narcissistic sociopath provoked a storm that shattered my perception of identity, duty, morality, and self-worth. The storm didn’t blow in from the outside. I was the storm. Its turbulence forced me to confront the darkness, uncovering my secrets and my pain. 

Purchase ↓ Available on Amazon (booklinker) myBook.to/SleepingSerpent

US   UK   AU   CA   iTunes   B&N   Kobo

Contact Luna:   Website   Amazon  Facebook   Twitter   Goodreads   Pinterest   Instagram   Tumblr   Spotify

 

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#BlogBattle 8 – Prompt: Melody

Find the Rules at Rachael Ritchie’s blog: http://wp.me/p7rsge-cB

Genre:  Historical Fiction/Western

Prompt:  Melody

Words: 750

The Best of the Best

Bob’s tea cooled on the table beside him. “I bet there isn’t a person alive who hasn’t heard of you. Your husband must be proud.” The young reporter slid to the edge of the armchair. He had not been keeping regular notes. Perspiration beaded his forehead though the temperature wasn’t hot. He drew out an overlarge cloth hankie out of his breast pocket.

Sixty-five-year-old Annie pursed her lips. Hair, like a fluffy cloud, she patted her husband’s hand on the patterned horsehair sofa between them. “Young man, I earned a living doing what I do best. It’s how I met my Frank.” She smiled over her shoulder for a long moment, then switched her attention to the eager visitor.

Bob stuffed the damp hanky into his pants pocket.“But you were a woman. The best sharpshooter ever. How’d you do that?” Pencil in one hand and small writing pad in the other, he waved them around.

“Practice.” She held his gaze. “How’d you learn to read and write?” Her tone signaled he had overstepped.

Coarse blond brows squished together, he pressed back into the chair. “How’d you learn to read and write?” he repeated after her.

horseb-2062043_960_720-pixabayShe muttered to herself, but the reporter, absorbed, did not understand. “This generation…” She shook her head. Her husband’s laugh sounded like a bark.

“How old were you when you started practicing. I mean how many years did it take to get good, you know?”

“We were poor and had a lot of mouths to feed. Hunting with my father, I trapped small animals for food from the age of five. He died when I was six and by seven or eight, I used his old rifle to hunt. I was good from the start. Natural-like. Mother didn’t like it, but I learned to shoot a variety of guns. I helped feed our household of five siblings and hunted enough game to sell to the grocer.” Annie clasped hands to her chin. “It was hard times. Mother married again but her new husband died soon after and left her with a new baby—another mouth to feed.”

“You were a tomboy with all that hunting, I bet…”

“We were Quakers. I never wore pants like a boy and didn’t climb trees for fun. After supper, we gathered around Mother singing hymns. One melody stayed with me all these years, though I no longer remember the words. By ten I was sent to live at an orphanage. In exchange for work, I received a basic education and learned to sew. The Edingtons were good to me.” Annie closed her eyes and leaned back into the sofa.

“But when did you join Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show?”

“Mr. Stannard, is it? You are impatient. Some years after I met Ducky, here.” She tipped a shoulder toward Frank. “Do you know how we met? A hotel owner invited me to a shooting contest with the Frank Butler. I was fifteen—and I beat him! And everyone else.” Face aglow, she giggled like a young woman.

“I didn’t mind.” Frank cleared his throat. “Once I laid eyes on that pretty girl, I was lost. Sure better than me.”

“A year later, we married. Been together almost half-a-century. We traveled everywhere: Spain, Italy, and Paris; even to England to perform for Queen Victoria. We still ate a lot of beans.” Annie arched her back and bent forward as if to stand. Her husband, older by ten years, helped her to her feet.

“Wait, are you leaving? I still have many questions…”

annie-oakley-391456_960_720-pixabay“About twenty-five years ago—in 1901 was it? We were in a train wreck. Annie suffered a spinal injury, which paralyzed her for a long while. She had many operations but came back, shooting and performing. The last few years her health has deteriorated. She’s frail and tired.”

“You starred in movies, too, didn’t you?”

Frank gave the reporter a long look, his wife supported in the crook of his elbow. “My wife is not well. Perhaps another time? See yourself out. Good day.” He whisked Annie out of the room.

Bob Stannard remained glued to his chair, blinking. With narrowed eyes, he gaped at the paper and pencil in his hands. Two words stared back at him: Annie Oakley. He grinned. No notes, but he had met the best sharpshooter in the Old West. She doesn’t look so old. Her skin is smooth as a baby’s. I’m coming back.

The screen door slammed on his way out. “Oops, Sorry.”

The End

© 2017 Tess and How the Cookie Crumbles

Images courtesy of Pixabay


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#BlogBattle – Week 62

Prompt:  Photograph

Genre:  Drama

Check out the rules:  https://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/

eatPizza-377761__180

Image by Pixaby. No  attribution required.

Broken

Shoulders curled, Marlene dropped a wobbly chin. “How has it come to this?” Leaning back into the kitchen counter, her voice dropped to a whisper.

“Shocking and a long time coming, but I’m not surprised—are you? Hey, this is a nice place. ” Alice peeked into the living room.

Marlene’s chin shot up, brown eyes bulging, accusing. “What are you saying? Not surprised.”

“Easy, sweetie. You have to admit Charlie has been mutating for years—even before you thought he might be fooling around.” Alice flicked pensive, Barbie-Doll lashes over her girlfriend’s anaemic complexion. Child-like hands dropped to narrow hips.

“Mutating.” She sniffed. “Good word. In equal parts, I’m tired of thinking about him and can’t stop. If I wasn’t eligible for the government pension… If my son hadn’t found this place and moved me in to help cut expenses… I don’t deserve this.”

“Nobody does, sweetie.” Alice reached for her sturdier friend. “The kids are grown and making their own way. You will too. The worst is over.” The women hugged; neither spoke. Alice pulled back. “Tea? Sit.”

“Remember the first little house we bought. Charlie was so house proud. Tore down and put up walls, painted, cleaned. And then… Marlene’s mouth quivered. “The babies kept coming and a prouder father you’ve never seen until…” Resolute tears drifted to her chin though she swabbed them with a shirtsleeve. “When did he begin to resent them? Us?”

“Hey. Change of subject—what did the discovery process shake out?” Alice grinned and helped herself to a sip of tea, pushing back into the kitchen chair rails.

“He’s ignoring e-mails, letters, and telephone calls. My lawyer says a court order will force him to hand over financials. Don’t know if he’s hired his own yet. Did I tell you Breann found a wad of bills stuffed into a jar in the basement rafters? I should have pocketed all of it.”

“What?” Alice set the mug on the kitchen table with a thwack. “You didn’t? Not like you—what about for decent groceries for you and Breann?”

“I mock-handed him the jar after I lifted all but $100.00 wrapped around strips of newsprint—I’m no saint.” She snorted into a palm. “Thought he’d have a stroke. Reminded him the stove didn’t work, the furnace needed replacing—it hadn’t worked for three winters—the ensuite toilet didn’t work… Thought he’d hit me. Grabbed the jar hard enough to break but didn’t, and slammed out of the house.”

“I’m your best friend. You never said. What an actress. I wondered why we met in spurts, in coffee shops—how did you stay warm?”

“Electric heaters. Expensive, but I wasn’t paying the stupid bills. The kids left one by one before the first winter was half over. Breann was the last.”

“What if he skips town?” Alice paced the narrow kitchen, her short legs stabbed at the floor like chopsticks at an empty plate.

Marlene shook her head. “He’s hanging on to the house, though it’s falling down in pieces.”

The other woman stopped, hands in her hair. “I’m amazed you hung in so long. What made you cave?”

Marlene rose to plug in the kettle again. Back turned, she shook her head, running plump, ringed fingers over the electrical cord. The silence stretched until the kettle’s noisy heating element sputtered. “I died a little after every lie and every calculated promise till I didn’t recognize him anymore, or me. The screaming fights—you don’t want to know.”

“I knew you were having problems—doesn’t every couple—why didn’t you say? Did you talk to anyone?”

“Yeah. The oldest, Cathy, the one with all the kids. Forcing my children out was the worst. I wanted to leave, but where could I go—no money of my own? Remember when Charlie, Jr. came out? I told you, right?”

Alice nodded, fading copper curls bounced around her creased, waif-like face.

“That man went crazy roaring this was no son of his. Tore up the house, broke everything in his path if it wasn’t already broken.”

“But Junior is his splitting image. What did he have in mind? Send the boy back?” Alice cackled and slapped her knee.

“Worse. My fault, he said. Wished my boy had never been born.” Eyes dull, bruised half-moons sagging underneath, Marlene stared into the distance. “Broke young Charlie’s heart.

“Computers saved me. I took classes at the library. Printed out reams of his chats and he still lied to my face. To. My. Face. My kids were gone, nothing in the house worked, only a microwave for frozen dinners. I’d had it. With only the clothes on my back, I took a cab to Cathy’s and her houseful. Where else could I go?”

“I’m starving. Anything to eat? You’re no mouse. What took you so long?” Marlene stuck her head in the fridge. “Not much here. Let’s order pizza.”

Lips compressed, Marlene gathered bleached hair, snapping on the elastic from her wrist. “Avoiding temptation. Sorry.”

“Oh? Expecting young Charlie for supper?” Alice opened cupboards till she found dinner plates.

“Don’t know. We’re free spirits. Wine?” Not waiting for an answer, she sauntered into the living room. Alice found wine glasses and pulled out her cell for pizza delivery.

 

“So, how is it on your own—I mean with Charlie, Junior?” Alice grabbed the wine bottle on her way to the living room.

“Fine. You bet I’m mad, though. This isn’t the life I’d pictured.” She snatched the remote and plopped into a chair. “CNN, okay?”

“Wait. Your couch, right? Coffee table. How’d you get them out?” Alice appraised the room and chortled.

“He changed the locks, but the kids and I broke in while he was at work. Took what I needed.”

Alice smiled wide. “Oh-oh. Trouble’s coming. Does the lawyer know?” She leaned to fill her friend’s offered glass.

“Funny enough, I have his blessing. No one suggested we were splitting up before I left. He locked me out. Simple.”

Alice poured what little was left in the bottle and tossed it off. I have a couple bottles in my overnight bag. “Girls’ night. Wait there.” She grabbed her bag by the front door.

“Use the back bedroom on the left, second door.” She heaved herself out of the chair, followed Alice down the hall, and gave her a tour of the rest of the house. Another bottle relieved of its cork, they settled back in front of the television.

Alice swung round as if struck by lightning. “Shh. Turn it up.”

“What?” Marlene sloshed wine over the back of a hand in her haste. She licked it up and thumbed the volume button until the sound blared too loud. She thumbed it down. “No way.” Mesmerized by the image on the screen, she tore her attention away and centered on her friend. Tears obscured her vision though she made no sound. Mascara streaked her cheeks. Alice set down her glass. Grabbing Marlene’s hand, she unpeeled her fingers from the goblet and set it down, too.

“Where’d they get that photograph? Wait. Cathy took it of her father on our 25th anniversary. I thought she’d burned it.” Marlene wavered and would have sunk to the floor had Alice not pushed her into the sofa. Mouth flapping without words, she turned her attention to the television screen.

The words tumbled out of the excited news reporter as if he had to tell it all in five seconds.

This just in. Police stopped a suspicious driver on old Highway 99 as his car wandered from one ditch to the other.  No additional traffic on the road at the time. Incoherent when apprehended, his blood alcohol level was well below the limit. On checking the car for drugs, a dead body—not yet in rigor mortis—was heaped like rubbish in the trunk of this man’s Mustang.

A close-up of Charlie in his best suit filled the screen, hair fuller by six years and eyes clearer and present.

“Crap. What about our divorce?”

Alice pursed her lips. “And your assets? He’s given you the shaft again, hasn’t he?”

“No way. I want a divorce before his case goes to trial.”

“Call your lawyer. Now.”

The End

I have been challenged by  Gary here, another #BlogBattler, to  capture the wife’s POV following Week 61 found here.

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles. All Rights Reserved.


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#BlogBattle – Week 60

BlogBattlersBadgePrompt: Duplicitous 

Genre: Contemporary

smashed-879876_960_720 Pixaby no attribution reqd

Crushed

“It was home—old and decrepit—but ours. Every nut and bolt. We stayed on when Frankie had to quit the mine ten years earlier. It was rheumatoid arthritis in his hands and feet. He had trouble holding a coffee mug—I stopped pouring him a full cup. No need for him spilling it and burning himself, right? He wanted n0 help—had to do it himself. You can’t blame a man for that, can you? Then we found out he had chronic silicosis from the mine. The house went downhill after that.

“I was raised in this little house and barely finished high school when my parents decided to visit Niagara Falls—they’d never had a honeymoon, you see. Well, they never made it home. Some crack-up on the highway, a huge pile up of cars and them in the middle of the wreckage. No. I won’t talk about it even after all these years. I have outlived them by more than double their lives, but it still hurts. You know. Lucky for me, Frankie kept showing up to help in the garden and looked after things needing to be repaired. We knew each other since first grade but were never friends or anything. Till…

“We married not long after—him my best friend from day one. Of course, he moved to my house afterwards. Where else would we live? The smell of that lake is in every pore of my being. I have to see it every day and wonder if I’d know how to breathe without it. Frankie had already hired on at the mine after high school. With experience under his belt, he soon enjoyed the position of drift foreman. Then the arthritis began in his forties, and wore him down. The damp underground didn’t help either. A few years later, he couldn’t trust his hands and walking hurt—even standing took work.

“The kids were grown and gone to the city by then. No opportunities in this little village. Anyway, young people want to leave home, don’t they? My son became a school principal with two kids already in the workforce, and my daughter, a textile designer, had twins finishing university. The young people came to visit every summer and loved the clean air and quiet, the only noise the echoing croak of ravens especially when the city kids wanted to sleep in.”

“Excuse me. The snack cart is here. Do you want anything?” Needles stopped clacking. The rattle of glasses and wobbling rubber wheels clanked outside the doorway. The talking woman waved the question away.

“We were satisfied with a simple life, food on the table and a dry place to sleep. A warm and safe place to raise our kids, you know?  Small comforts, not greed.

“The vultures in polished shoes descended from whatever high tower in a big city. Their offer, distasteful and arrogant, broke Frankie’s heart. It was hurtful and insulting. What did these suited— so young— know about real life? Those duplicitous, land-hungry, double-dealing shysters wanted to raze our homes to build what on our lakefront property? A huge retirement home on the water, they said. Ha. I believed not a word. My money’s on a casino so they can steal more cash from unfortunates and a hotel to keep them here until they’re sucked dry.

Where were we supposed to go, Frankie and me? Him with his disability check and me who’d waitressed only that one summer before we got pregnant. I had another three months to wait before the old age pension kicked in, not enough money between us to move to the city where everything cost a mortgage.

“Some days worse than others, my Frankie in constant pain, didn’t need their harassment. Where on God’s green acre were we to live our remaining years? The neighbours called a meeting in the Legion Hall. We swore to stick together and not give in. Every day someone showed up knocking on our doors. Talking-talking. Got so bad we shut our windows and doors. Can you believe they stood outside and jabbered on and on because they knew we still heard them from inside? Then they called a meeting at the Legion where we hollered no-no just-go.

Mrs. Stirling died from the constant pressure, I’m sure, her a widow since her husband died in the mine years before. Her kids sold the house faster than you can snap your fingers. Guess they’d rather erase their memories of home. Why had they not considered preserving the house for their own retirement like a few of their generation? Everything they needed for a good life was here—boating, fishing, swimming, friends. The perfect retirement community without huge costs and low property taxes. True you had to drive 20 minutes to the next town for most necessities, farther if you needed bigger items. In the beginning, we’d had two wonderful grocers, but no more. Diminishing returns, you know as the population moved away.

Still.

We didn’t need much after Frankie had to retire early. The mine closed a couple years later —the gold mined out, you see. Small businesses moved out as did inhabitants.

“One by one, the neighbours gave in to the fast-talking robots in dark, gleaming suits. None of them young anymore, sick with age or injuries from the mine, living on disability, needing money to make ends meet.

It was the pain that killed Frankie and the silicosis robbed him of breath. I knew he wanted to die and I came this close to helping. As always, he saved me from the decision though we’d agreed upon a plan. Always thoughtful to the end. Lost without him, I thought I’d perish, wishing I would. It was as if someone had ripped out my heart.

“My kids and grandchildren left for the drum and hum of Toronto and Montreal after the funeral and I was alone. Yes, they had begged I come live with them, half the time with my daughter and half with my son. Not for me I told them. I have my house and a few friends. Though Frankie and I visited both our  children years before, we hated the noise, too many cars, and the awful pollution. Everything rush-rush, honk-honk. No way—forget it.

“Didn’t those city boys come calling again knowing I’d just lost my Frankie. This time, they sent a woman to wear me down. I’d talked to my son, but he held no faith with my holding out forever. There were only three of us left and I wasn’t about to be next to throw in the towel. I told the shellacked, skinny-butt female no way was I leaving the only home I had ever known. Is this what I’d lived my whole life for? To be forced—forced—out of the home I’d made, to land in some strange somewhere for my retirement. Not right, I said. She didn’t budge. A tough cookie, this one. Is this a good job for a woman, wearing down old men and women? Widows? Widowers? Sick people? Me?

“Two weeks after Frankie’s funeral there were only two of us standing fast. That’s when it happened. I saw the shiny new Bentley or was it a Mercedes—doesn’t matter—cruise up the road. In my haste, I fell and broke my hip inside the door. Maryjane, the long-time widow across the road, heard me scream. I must have passed and remember nothing. She called the doctor and we had to wait 30 minutes for the ambulance she said. We don’t have an ambulance service in our village, you see.

“I haven’t been home since the accident. Nobody will tell me anything about my house or if the last neighbour gave in. Pneumonia is killing me and I am still in a plaster. My children don’t visit. It’s like I’m dead already, except for the pain. I have no idea where I am or what place this is.”

“Not true, Mom. I visit every day and Paul flies in as often as his work allows.”

The silver-streaked head stirred towards the voice. “Who are you talking to? There’s nobody here but me.”

The younger, blonde woman sprang up, dropping knitting to the floor.  “Mom, I’ve told you many times, we never abandoned you. I had you transferred to Toronto as soon as medical staff allowed, to have you close, to visit you daily.”

“Who are you? Nurse. I want to call my daughter.” The woman’s voice lowered to a whisper, her stare painful, and eyes damp.

The End

Rules of the Battle

  1. 1500 wordsmax (effective May 2016)
  2. fictionaltale (or true if you really want)
  3. PG (no more than PG-13Content – let’s keep this family friendly!
  4. Your story must contain the word(s) from the theme and/or be centered aroundthe theme in a way that shows it is clearly related.
  5. State theGenre of your story at the top/bottom of your post.
  6. Post your stories on the 2nd & 4th Tuesday of the month, by 11:59 PM PST
  7. Go for theentertainment value!
  8. Put a link back to your #BlogBattle Short Story in the comments section, and/or include a link to a battle post (not a page) in your own blog post (it creates a “ping-back” which will alert me and our friends to your #BlogBattle post).
  9. Use the hashtag#BlogBattle when tweeting your story.
  10. Let us know if you have a Facebook author/writer page so we can LIKE it to stay connected.
  11. Have fun! Check it out at http://blogbattlers.wordpress.com

The poll for voting will be added the Wednesdays after the Tuesday Story Posts. You’ll have until the Monday prior to the Next Story Tuesday to read the submitted stories & vote for your top three. That gives you two to three weeks to read and vote! Please consider the expert use of the theme word when choosing.

The Winner and the next theme word will be announced the following day, on Wednesday.

* * *

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles. All Rights Reserved.

For More #BlogBattle stories, check out the tab above

 


65 Comments

#BlogBattle Week 53 – Bun

To celebrate, the one-year anniversary of #BlogBattle we will not be writing a new story for the battle. For Week 53, Rachel at http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/  has suggested the following:

  1. Choose one of your #BlogBattle stories from the past year
  2. Edit it however you would like
  3. Reblog/repost it next week on Tuesday, March 15th.
  4. Make sure you specify the genre and the theme word

Voting will be done from the compilation of awesome stories presented!

Genre: Humor

Theme Word: Bun

bakery-737476_960_720

Bun?

 

Clunk. Sylvie plonked the groceries on the floor by the front door. Shrugging off her coat in a rush, she headed to the kitchen. Halfway, she made an about face, hung her coat in the closet and grabbed her shopping bags.

Her cell spun on the counter, but she ignored it while it vibrated in circles. Purchases stored, she put on the kettle and dropped into a kitchen chair. The Thompsons and Millers were due at seven; she had time to change her planned dessert. What shall I bake special for tonight?

The kettle clicked off. She sighed and rose to make tea. The aroma of herbed roast beef filled the kitchen. Mr. Crockpot, her ever-faithful helper, hard at work again. She peeked through the glass lid and gave it a loving tap. Okay, five minutes—maybe ten—and I’m off to set the table.

***

Half an hour later Sylvie laid out fresh clothes and headed to the shower. She frowned into the mirror, turned this way and that, smoothed faint lines around her eyes and stroked her temples, caressing hints of gray threaded through mousey brown hair. Time for a color. Forty-one in a month. Imagine… Stop!

As always, the front door clicked open and slammed shut at exactly six o’clock. Sylvie smiled and rushed down the hall to meet her husband while inserting an earring. Arms outstretched, she rushed to embrace him.

“George, darling.”

Eyes aglow with pleasure, he let out a bark of laughter, caught her in his arms, and spun them around a la Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

***

At 6:51 p.m., the doorbell chimed. “I’ll bet my favorite shoes that’s my mom and stepdad. Always first. Always early.” Sylvie arranged pots on the stove in readiness for turning on during cocktails.

“Mom and Dad Thompson. Come in, come in.” George kissed his mother-in-law’s powdered cheek and shook hands with her new husband, the lucky owner of dense cloud-white hair. “Welcome to our home, Frank.” Before he dispensed with their coats, the doorbell announced another arrival. “Mom. Dad. Come in.”

Sylvie tossed her apron into a kitchen chair and joined the families, waving them into the Great Room. The still bare fields and garden were spectacular through the wall of unadorned plate glass windows.

“How are the twins doing at university?” her mother asked.

“They’ll be finished in less than two months and have to face the real world,” George said, a faraway look in his eyes. “How about drinks?” He rubbed his hands with zest. “The usual for everyone?” Nods and echoes of agreement ensued. “What will you have Frank?”

“What?” George made a drinking motion. “Whiskey, neat.” He looked about not knowing the routine.

The parents settled into their established seats. The women sank into the sofa facing the garden and the men into La-Z-boys across from them, footrests popped up at once.

General greetings exchanged, George delivered drinks on a tray and raised his glass. “A toast to our health at this happy gathering.” Glasses extended, nodding and hear-hears resonated around the room. The seats too far apart, only the mothers clinked glasses.

“Excuse me, one moment.” George disappeared around the corner. Upon his instant return, Sylvie sprang from her chosen hard-backed chair and exchanged a glance with her husband. He presented a white plate to the room. “Look what came out of the oven.”

“What’s this about done? Gun? What did he say? His new stepfather cupped a hand to his ear and squinted at his wife.

“He said nothing of the sort,” she said, eyes twice their usual size. One hand grazed Mrs. Miller’s lap. They gawked at each other, then at Sylvie.

“I said, look what I found in the oven.” George grinned wide. The tip of his ears crimson tinged, he tipped the plate several degrees.

His father scratched his chin, wiry salt and pepper eyebrows squished to attention over his nose. He studied the faces around him. “So?”

George set the plate on the coffee table and wrapped an arm around his wife’s waist. They grinned like children with a secret. Sylvie leaned her head back against his shoulder. Both mothers gaped at each other, their husbands, then back at the young couple while their spouses sat with mouths flapping.

George’s father shifted in his seat. “Will somebody say something? What in heck’s going on?”

 Blinking, her mother leaned forward, voice soft, hesitant. Cautious. “How do you feel about this, Sylvie?”

“Mom, I’m fine—ecstatic. Aren’t we, George?” He nodded. They rocked side to side, his arms wrapped around her, chin on her shoulder.

“I need another drink.” His father raised an open palm. “No, I’ll fix it myself. Haven’t a clue what you’re talking about.”

“Dad,” George said, his voice subdued. “We’re having a baby.”

His father’s brows shot heavenward. “Why didn’t you say so in plain English?” Empty glass in hand, he hugged his son and placed a resounding smooch on his daughter-in-law’s cheek. “Do the boys know? Bet they’re excited.”

“You’re the first to know.” George said. “I only found out an hour ago.” He suppressed a smile in his wife’s hair.

The grandmothers shook their heads and heaved themselves off the sofa to join the hug-a-thon. “It’s like starting all over again,” said her mother to Grandma Miller. “I wouldn’t want to do it.”

George’s deaf stepfather scrambled out of the chair and raised his glass. “I’ll drink to that. What are we celebrating?”

“We have a bun in the oven,” his wife shouted in his ear over the melee.

“We do? Take it out before it burns.”

The room rang with laughter. He joined in too though he still appeared confused.

The End

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles. All Rights Reserved.
Image Credit: Pixabay. No attribution required.


62 Comments

#BlogBattle Week 48 – Prompt: Chasm

To join us and / or to meet the wizard behind this challenge click below:

http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/

Rules:  

  1. 1000 wordsmax
  2. fictionaltale (or true if you really want)
  3. PG(no more than PG-13Content– let’s keep this family friendly!
  4. Your story must contain the word(s) from the theme and/or be centered around the theme in a way that shows it is clearly related
  5. Go for the entertainment value!
  6. State the Genre of your story at the top of your post.
  7. Post your story on Tuesday, by 11:59 PM PST
  8. Use the hashtag #BlogBattle when tweeting your story, put a link back to your #BlogBattle Short Story in the comments section of this page, and/or include a link to this page in your own blog post(it creates a “ping-back” which will alert me and our friends to your #BlogBattle post)
  9. Have fun!

Each winner will receive the awesome #BlogBattle Winner Badge to display with their winning story on their webpage.

**********************************************************************

Part 1 here

Part 2 here

coffee-667052__180

Image  from Pixabay. No attribution necessary.

Along Came Polly – Part 3

“What is that awful noise? ‘There birds in here?” Raising her bird’s nest bedhead, Grace unglued a puffy eye. “Wha…?“

Frrrrrr frrrrrr frrrrrr frrrrrr.

Blinding light suffused the room. She rolled over, face pushed into the pillow.

“Never known you to sleep this late. Everything okay, baby sister? Here. Brought you coffee.” She plunked a mug on the night table and dropped into the tub chair alongside, already fully dressed in Khaki pants and white blouse. “Polly, talk to me.” She sipped her coffee.

Her sister rolled over; grabbed her glasses. Squinting at Grace, her fingers fumbled for the coffee. “Why’s it so darn bright?” Grasping the pillows, she swooshed them against the headboard, and scooted back, leaned in and sighed. “Thanks for the coffee.”

“It’s past nine—you didn’t answer my question.” Grace lifted her mug. “You look like something the cat threw up.”

“Says you. Truth is I didn’t sleep well, at-all, at-all, at-all.” She slapped a hand to her mouth to stifle a yawn. I fell as if into a chasm at the first hint of day.

“Oh? Do tell.” Grace’s eyes wandered to the window as if she could care less, ever watchful from the corner of an eye.

“Tommy called last night. I didn’t pick up.” Polly turned her cup round and round studying its contents as if reading tea leaves. “Terrific coffee, sis. You’re looking perky. You had me worried last night.”

“Uh-huh. This is news? Boohoo for Tommy. What’s really eating you? Don’t bother fibbing ‘cause you can’t fool me, like you think you’re doing.”

“Duh.” Polly made a face. “Better get up if I want more coffee.”

“Cut the crap already, what did you get into when I went to bed?”

“Nothing.” Hazel eyes innocent and enormous, she bowed to her coffee.

“We’re sisters, but you are trying my patience.”

“You heard any rumours about family secrets—being the older first child—you know?”

Grace’s mouth dropped. “What are you talking about?” Forehead furrowed, she swung her head around like a puppet, blinking, scanning the files in her head. “This isn’t like you. What’s going on? Is Tommy blackmailing you into marrying him?”

Polly snorted, coffee splattered over the lily-white bedcoverings. “Sorry-sorry-sorry.” She bounced out of bed hauling off the stained candlewick bedspread and top sheet. “Forget Tommy. He’s not news.”

Grace grabbed the bottom of the heavy spread. “Laundry tub, downstairs, I think. I’ll start the soap and water. Bring the vinegar?”

“Here. What do you know about granddad and Uncle John?” Polly swished the soapy water while her sister added the vinegar.

“What an odd question. I have no idea what you mean.”

“Uncle John was not to be trusted. Dad worked his fingers to the bone in Grandpa’s business.”

“Oh yeah? What if you’re wrong? How about breakfast. I’m starving. ”

Polly watched her sister through lowered lashes. “Wrong? I don’t understand. Dad was the good son. Worked and slaved—he saved Granddad’s grocery store from ruin. Uncle John was the black sheep. Everyone said so.”

“Or scapegoat. Help me lift this in the tub.”

“What?”

“Let’s play what if. Coming?”

“What if what?”

“Both Dad and Uncle John worked for Grandad, right? What if Dad had a gambling problem?”

“What? No way.”

“What if he had sticky fingers and helped himself to the till and the store check book.”

“I don’t believe you. Is that why—?”

“Why, what? You want eggs or oatmeal? Why, what?”

“Nothing. Eggs. You too? Great. I’ll do the eggs.” Polly opened the fridge.

“Back in a shake. Have to rinse the bedspread.”

“I’ll do it. It was my fault.”

“Thought you’re doing the eggs? Get cracking. When I return, I’ll expect answers. Tut tut.”

* * *

“Grandma’s spread is good as new. It’s in the washing machine now. You still look like last week’s leftovers. Why couldn’t you sleep and why all the questions? Good. I’m starving. Let’s eat.”

“Coffee?” Polly grabbed the pot and poured two cups. “Going to the attic today?”

“Tut tut. Come on. Clean slate. What’s on your mind?”

Her mouth full, the younger woman chewed and chewed. And chewed. Eyes growing by the minute, she swallowed hard. “I found something in one of the boxes last night.”

Eyes narrowed, Grace clutched the mug to her chest, still as a statue. “What?” Her voice gruff, she cleared her throat.

“It’s better I show you. Be right back.”

Lost in thought, Grace jumped at her sister’s reappearance. Polly thrust the paper under her nose. Studying her sister’s impassive face, she dropped into her chair. Arms around her torso, she rocked in place. The air sizzled with tension. Grace fanned herself with the birth certificate. The women stared at each other.

“Anything else in the box you found this?”

Polly blew out a breath. Her body sagged. The words spilled out in a tumble. “Know anything about this?” She gripped her fingers till the knuckles turned white.

Grandpa handed over the business banking to Uncle John when dad’s bad habits surfaced. The checks to cash were for his gambling debts. He paid them off in person, in cash. Uncle John didn’t want a paper trail.

“And the birth certificate? Why was brother Frank a secret?” Her voice, though a whisper, cracked.

Grace exhaled loud and long. “Mom couldn’t kick dad out, but she’d had it with him. He up and disappeared one day. Frankie was born a year before you, but he wasn’t right…died. You came seven years later.

“Before dad left—“

“No. Grandpa lived to see Frankie. Not grandma. It would have broken her heart. Everybody’s gone now. I’m glad I’m moving into a gated retirement community. Too many ghosts here. You should come.”

Polly shook her head, hand up open-palmed. “I don’t understand, then who…? Not Uncle John, of course, because he was…

“I guess he wasn’t.”

“He’s my fa…?”

The End

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles


65 Comments

#BlogBattle Week 47 – Prompt: Forest

To join in the fun and / or meet the wizard behind this challenge click below:

http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/

Rules:  

  1. 1000 wordsmax
  2. fictionaltale (or true if you really want)
  3. PG(no more than PG-13Content – let’s keep this family friendly!
  4. Your story must contain the word(s) from the theme and/or be centered aroundthe theme in a way that shows it is clearly related
  5. Go for the entertainmentvalue!
  6. State the Genre of your storyat the top of your post.
  7. Post your story on Tuesday, by 11:59 PM PST
  8. Use the hashtag #BlogBattle when tweeting your story, put a link back to your #BlogBattle Short Story in the comments section of this page, and/orinclude a link to this page in your own blog post(it creates a “ping-back” which will alert me and our friends to your #BlogBattle post)
  9. Have fun!

Each winner will receive the awesome #BlogBattle Winner Badge to display with their winning story on their webpage.

**********************************************************************

chest-371386_960_720 Pixabay

Image  from Pixabay. No attribution necessary.

Along Came Polly – Part 2

Part 1 here

Grace’s eyes swept the attic one last time. Enough for one day. Her sister grumbled, teetering on the ladder, an arm hugging a box and the other white-knuckling the beam.

“You okay, baby sister? What’s the matter? Out of shape?”  She stooped near the top of the folding ladder with a chuckle. Forehead glistening, Polly glared back, face a blistering red. “Going to live to your 60th birthday?” She shrieked with laughter till she choked with a coughing fit.

Polly stumbled to the floor below and released her box. Thump. Folded at the waist, she gasped for air, knees clutched as she heaved. “Make way. Coming down.” Grace sing-songed in a cheerful voice. The ladder quivered and creaked beneath her weight. Her sister already halfway to the kitchen, booted the box down the hall. A tap gushed water. A cupboard door slammed. Arms around her box, Grace peered around the corner. Her sister gulped water as if it might be her last chance to drink. She grinned and whacked the wall with the flat of her hand. Polly spun round, the glass grasped tight, eyes huge behind tiny granny glasses.

“Something in the dust you ate? Settle down, Grace. Aren’t you thirsty and tuckered out?” She grabbed another glass, filled it with water and handed it to her sister, who glugged it too. Simultaneously, the women dropped into chairs eyes locked on each other. Polly broke the stare first. Slamming her glass on the table, she giggled like a school girl. “You should see your face.” Yanking the kerchief off her head, she wiped her forehead. “I’m all sticky. Mind if I take a shower first?”

“Go. Where’s the day gone? I’ll rustle up something to eat. What do you feel like?”

“Surprise me.” Polly, rescued overnight bag in her hand, had made her way half-way to the bathroom, her voice faint.

* * *

 “How many boxes do you suppose there are?” Polly settled on the floor in front of the sofa, slicing the air with her mug. “A couple dozen?” Tucking the fluffy white robe from her sister’s guestroom around her knees, her chin pointed at the ceiling.

Eyes glazed, Grace shrugged in her pink velvet robe and stifled a yawn.

“Did you see the trunk buried beneath the boxes? I’m anxious to peek inside first thing tomorrow. What if it’s locked?”

“We’ll find a way.”

“Grace, are you all right? Too much, too soon? You haven’t had time to recuperate after the flu. Off to bed with you.” Led by the arm, her sister toddled down the hall to her room. “Sleep as long as you like. Don’t you dare get out of bed till you smell the morning coffee.” Polly pulled back the covers and padded the mattress. “First, hugs.”

The boxes in the living-room had lost their appeal. Plunked on the carpet like discarded presents, Polly eyed them with trepidation, but only for a moment. Ignoring her cooling coffee, she tore the top off the nearest box, her curiosity overpowering. Envelopes of bills and receipts bound with disintegrating elastic bands filled the box to the brim. Mouth pinched, she removed layer upon layer of envelopes. Disintegrating rubber crumbled in her hands and onto the gray carpet. On the bottom lay a large record book. She flipped through the pages, stopped and blinked. Wait a minute. What is Uncle John’s signature doing on the checks? The bills were in her grandfather’s name. Some checks were for five hundred and one for a thousand dollars made out to cash. Strange. Why cash and why such large amounts with Uncle John’s signature?

A page floated into her lap, less yellowed than the book pages. Light-headed as if floating in a dream, Polly dropped the book and unfolded the paper, heart clenched like a fist. Unable to focus on the writing, she closed her eyes. Why am I so nervous? This has nothing to do with me. Her head hurt as if gripped in a vice. She peered at the writing. A birth certificate? Still the words swam in a murky fog. She gripped the sheet and brought it to her nose. Too close. Back again, the words became clearer, sharper. Polly dropped the paper as if her hands burned and stared into space. Not possible. She covered her face, rocking against the foot of the sofa.  No. No. No.

Her cell chirped in her handbag on the sofa cushions. Not wanting to talk to anyone, she ignored the phone, but as always her curiosity won. She dug the cell out of her purse.  Tommy. Why didn’t he give up? How many times did she need to explain she liked her singlehood? Re-marrying was not in her future. She chucked the phone to the cushions concerned with more important matters.

This must be some kind of mistake. She planned to do a birth record search online, but not tonight, though tempted. This latest development had sucked the life out of her. Not confident she would sleep, Polly threw the paraphernalia back into the box anyway, shut off the lights, and tiptoed to the guestroom, the unsettling evidence clasped to her chest. She stopped at her sister’s door, her ear to sleeping mumbles. A chilling thought struck her. Sometimes, a forest of trees hides what you’ve always known or thought you had.  

To be continued

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles


67 Comments

#BlogBattle Week 45 – Prompt: Dive

To join  and / or meet the wizard behind this challenge click below:

http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/

Rules:  

  1. 1000 wordsmax
  2. fictionaltale (or true if you really want)
  3. PG(no more than PG-13Content – let’s keep this family friendly!
  4. Your story must contain the word(s) from the theme and/or be centered aroundthe theme in a way that shows it is clearly related
  5. Go for the entertainmentvalue!
  6. State the Genre of your storyat the top of your post.
  7. Post your story on Tuesday, by 11:59 PM PST
  8. Use the hashtag #BlogBattle when tweeting your story, put a link back to your #BlogBattle Short Story in the comments section of this page, and/or include a link to this page in your own blog post(it creates a “ping-back” which will alert me and our friends to your #BlogBattle post)
  9. Have fun!

Each winner will receive the awesome #BlogBattle Winner Badge to display with their winning story on their webpage.

***********************************************************

woman-933488_960_720

Goldilocks?

An unusual number of parked cars clogged the street in front of her apartment. Sandy grumbled and turned left twice to the underground garage, at the back of the building. She reached for the remote but it wasn’t on the visor. “Where the…?” An impatient car horn sounded behind her and inched forward closer. She tapped her horn back at him. Wait. The driver laid on the horn again like there was a fire.

Though early spring and breezy, Sandy’s armpits soaked through her light jacket. Blinking in concentration, she pawed the passenger seat, in the crevices, and on the floor. No luck. Her head snapped at the thump on her driver’s window unable to identify the face bent towards her.

“Open the window.” A man’s voice growled the words, and pixel by pixel, she discerned a human face: short clipped beard, mustache, angry brown eyes, nose skimming the glass. “Well?”

She snapped into action and cranked the handle a couple times. “Sorry. I’ve misplaced my remote. Let me in with yours and I’ll be out of your hair.” She wound up the window, forced a smile and set her hands on the steering wheel. Eyes bulging, he threw his hands into the air. Muttering something colorful, he slapped the window again, and stomped off. Heart racing like a thundering locomotive, her focus on the garage door, Sandy gripped the steering wheel. The double-door creaked and yawned open. Without skipping a beat, she lurched forward and around the corner to her designated spot.

Parked, then out in a flash, she noted the remote on the floor on the driver’s side. She dashed towards the trunk, grabbed her parcels and raced to the elevator. She did not intend to share the pleasure of his company in such a cramped space. Before the door slid shut, a hand plunged to the button on the wall outside without success. Muscles tense and rigid, Sandy shrieked and watched the door slip to its final destination. “Yes!”

The elevator stopped on the third floor. Sandy grasped the handles on her shopping bags and backed into a corner. Old Ma Murphy, as the the tenants called her, tapped her way into the elevator, the splitting image of the famous Einstein. “Hello, dear. Don’t you look a fright. Everything okay?”

Sandy raised a clutch of bag handles to her chest and exhaled. “Sure. I’m good. Had a tense moment with a nasty driver.”

“One reason why I never took up driving, especially these days.” The door creaked shut an inch from Ma Murphy’s behind. She poked her cane at the scruffy carpet. “Mrs. Swain is home from hospital. In need of pleasant company, she said. Going to make her tea.”

Sandy glanced at the red floor numbers. Creak. Creak. They stopped on five. Old Ma Murphy pointed the stick at her packages. “Ever wonder if you spend too much money on nonsense?”  She said, “Tsk-tsk,” circled round and shuffled out, shaking her head. “Young people these days.” The door scraped to a close and rocked upward taking its sweet time to the 11th floor.

Her floor was empty.  Already smells of early suppers cooking reminded her she’d forgotten lunch. Dropping the bags in front of 1105, Sandy fished for keys in her purse. She came up empty. This isn’t happening. It’s not happening. Hairline damp, she stamped her foot and tried again. Teeth clenched, fingers fumbled and clawed. They closed around the key ring. A door slammed in the hall, but she didn’t look up. Instead, she stabbed the lock and pushed the door with more force than intended.

Inside, she leaned against the closed door, eyes and ears on alert. Something odd hung in the air. A sixth sense held her back, wary. There couldn’t be anyone else in the apartment. She’d made enough noise to wake up the dead, hadn’t she?

The kitchen on her right, she tiptoed inside. No one and nothing. Why is it, she wondered, when you think an intruder might be in your house you don’t run for help? Instead, you choke on your heart, crossing fingers no one’s there. She grabbed the meat cleaver off the counter and almost called out, ‘Is someone here?’ Stupid question. Would an intruder answer, ‘Yes, me, the intruder.’ Living- and dining-rooms clear. Nothing worth stealing anyway.

Short of collapsing from tension, Sandy crept down the hallway. Had she shut the bedroom door before going out? She turned the knob with exquisite care, and pushed in the door, not allowing it to slam. The hair on the back of her neck prickled. One door left: the bathroom. She listened. Not a sound. A strong aroma of orange blossom bubble bath enveloped her.

Beyond terror now, Sandy wrenched the door open. A body took a dive beneath the bubbles, red-painted toenails trailed in the air. She’d recognize them anywhere.

“Clarisse. What are you doing here?” Hand thrust in the water, she shoved the head down, panting and collapsed on the floor. “How’d you get in?”

The body popped up, short hair clinging to scalp and face, gasping for air. A pale hand swept across her eyes and over her forehead, teeth gleaming like piano keys. “What a way to greet your little sister. Don’t you check your texts? We’re celebrating your promotion.”

“How’d you get in?”

“You gave me a key, silly.” Clarisse arched ink-black brows and rolled her eyes. “I buzzed and buzzed until a cute guy with a beard and mustache let me in.”

Sandy dropped the cleaver and covered her face. “You almost gave me a stroke.”

“Drama queen. Out—and then it’s your turn. We have a double date tonight.”

“Who? Not…”

Clarisse wiggled wet eyebrows.

The End

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles


42 Comments

#BlogBattle Week 44 – Prompt: Worm

To join  and / or meet the wizard behind this challenge click below:

http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/

Rules:

  1. 1000 words max
  2. fictional tale (or true if you really want)
  3. PG (no more than PG-13) Content – let’s keep this family friendly!
  4. Your story must contain the word(s) from the theme and/or be centered around the theme in a way that shows it is clearly related
  5. Go for the entertainment value!
  6. State the Genre of your story at the top of your post.
  7. Post your story on Tuesday, by 11:59 PM PST
  8. Use the hashtag #BlogBattle when tweeting your story, put a linkback to your #BlogBattle Short Story in the comments section of this page, and/orinclude a link to this page in your own blog post(it creates a “ping-back” which will alert me and our friends to your #BlogBattle post)
  9. Have fun!

Each winner will receive the awesome #BlogBattle Winner Badge to display with their winning story on their webpage.

***********************************************************************

happy-new-year-1105854_960_720

Initiation

The clock said ten past noon, but it was five o’clock somewhere, right? Tara twirled the generous celery stalk in her Bloody Caesar in careless coils, head in a fog. A splodge of drink splashed onto the island countertop. She ran a finger over the wet splosh and plunged it into her mouth. Waste not; want not. She didn’t laugh.

The highball glass clasped against her chest, she circled to the window over the kitchen sink. Hefty storm clouds gathered thick and low, gray as grimy mop water. Freezing rain blistered the glass and refused to abandon the pane. Like me. Frozen, grasping. She swirled the celery again and took a bite. Lifting the glass to eye level, she said aloud, “Happy New Year Baby,” and took a swig of Clamato and vodka, the reckless splash of hot sauce a slow burn down her throat. Her eyes bulged. A hack attack overtook her. She reached for more Clamato, then vodka, but put it down again. Today I celebrate January 1st. Alone. No need to get plastered and maudlin.

Tara shook her head. Waves of chocolate-colored hair grazed her shoulders and danced around her somber, pixie face. Something click-clicked in the silent house. She held her breath, froze listening—not the storm—what then? The creak of the front door and a jangle of keys—and brazen footsteps. Fixed to the ceramic floor like a post, she shot out a hand to ward off the intruder. “You!” The word exploded out her throat, leaving her weak and baffled. She set the glass on the island and slumped her petite frame over the surface to brace herself.

He halted mid-stride, his back stiffened. “Hi-dee-ho and all that.” The smile slipped a degree and lifted again. “Seems I’m in time for cocktails and lunch?” He looked about. “Maybe?”

“You have a nerve. Get out. Get out.” Tara glowered, staring him down with every ounce of strength in her hundred and five pound body. ”You copied the keys?”

“Settle down. I came to wish you all the best for the upcoming year.”

“Answer the question.” Her color bloomed from flushed to flame-red. Fists clutched into knots, she banged the island’s laminate top. “You copied the keys? How dare you?”

He had the grace to blush to the roots of his blond crewcut. Coat unbuttoned, he bounced from heels to toes, an innocent smile plastered across the face she once found attractive. “Let’s not fight. Fix me one of those, will you?”

Tara gasped, disbelief on her face. “Where did you think I’d be when you planned to rifle through my house? The divorce is final. You don’t live here anymore.”

Plunging hands deep into his pants pockets, Harry lifted colorless brows as if in surprise. “Where else would you be in this weather?”

“Liar. You thought my mother’s.”

“You used to be a sweet, loving woman. My, you’ve changed… Drinking alone in the middle of the day… Won’t share a drink with your husband…”

“Ex. Ex-husband.” To control her internal tsunami, Tara wrapped jelly-like arms around her middle and leaned against the sink cupboard. “You’re a liar and now a thief. How I allowed you to worm your way into my life, I’ll never understand. Once was more than enough. You’re nothing but a worm with a capital W, a sneak, a schemer. How had I been so blind?”

He altered his gaze from side to side and back again, everywhere except her face. “All’s I want is my wine-making kit. The one my brother gave me.”

Her voice harsh, Tara croaked out a hoarse laugh. “You had plenty of time to claim it all. Everything’s gone.”

“What do you mean, gone? Gone where?”

“Gone. Gone. Hand me the keys. Now.” She lurched forward, open-palmed, teeth gritted till they ached.

He blinked in quick succession and rocked on the balls of his feet. “Who’s the thief, Tara? Gone where?” His voice shook, squeaked like a child’s.

“Keys first.” She drew in a ragged breath, and waited, shoulders taut. A headache hammered at her temples.

He blanched, a lost expression on his face for the first time in the year since divorce proceedings began. Tara’s heart softened. No. His scheming…

“But my brother ordered it for me special.”

“Harry, you better sit.” She guided him to the kitchen table and chairs where they’d enjoyed many a meal during their seven-year marriage. “I’ll get you water.” He remained immobile, a stature carved from stone. “Here. Drink up.” He blinked at the glass, but didn’t lift a hand.

“I never believed you’d go through with it.” He plucked at the crease in his pants, muttering as if to himself.

Tara dropped into a chair facing him knee to knee. “I feel terrible. I do. The thing is you had nine long months to collect the rest of your things. How many times had I reminded you? Two months ago, I cleared out the basement and garage and hauled everything to Salvation Army.”

“Two months?”

“Yup. A week after I asked you the last time and mere days before the decree absolute.” I don’t want to feel bad for you. Leave. Go already.

“How’s about a shot of vodka instead?” His chin pointed to the water.

She scrutinized his face, gauging her next move. “Okay, one shot, and you leave. I’ll not join you in a drink.”

He considered for a nanosecond and searched her face as if he’d never seen her before. “When did you get so tough? I remember the ‘fraidy cat who jumped at her own shadow.” He sprang from the chair. “One for the road and I’m out of here.” She snatched the bottle and poured.

He gulped it in one swallow, stared at the empty glass, and slammed it on the counter.

“Hi-dee-ho.” He grabbed his coat.

“Harry, didn’t you forget something?”

“What?”

“My keys? I won’t ask for my razor back.”

* * *

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles.