How the Cookie Crumbles

An irreverant view of life after SIXTY-FIVE


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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 7 – Prompt: Shine

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

Genre:  Folklore

Prompt:  Shine

Words: 700

See No Evil

COUNTRY LIVING HELD NO INTEREST FOR ZELDA, but she changed her mind after meeting Harvey. A red-haired free spirit, she jumped at the chance to attend a party with the well-to-do stranger. Well, they had crashed grocery carts and he apologized by buying her a coffee. Now, the idea was nothing but hard work.

No rain for months, dust stole inside though Zelda had wound the windows tight. Lost was not a place she liked. The gasoline level in the Dodge Dart hovered around a quarter tank. Where was that fancy house Harvey said to meet him at the party?

A thermos empty of water lay on the passenger’s side of the car’s bench seat. Her small purse leaned against it. A white-knuckled grip on the steering wheel numbed her hands but she paid no attention. Where were the farmers or cows?  The only living creatures soared overhead. What were they? Buzzards? No, not large enough. Crows? Why so many and nothing else around?

Zelda passed a dilapidated shack. Hope flared. She slowed. Nobody. Nothing moved in the crushing heat. Parched and sweating, she swallowed to work up saliva without success. The crows swarmed lower, beady eyes scanning the interior of the car as if on a mission.

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An enormous lump in her throat brought tears to her eyes. She unpeeled her grasp on the steering wheel and pounded it with the heel of her palm. Had she taken the wrong country road? What if she ran out of gas? A mere three or four hours of daylight remained. What if the crows surrounded her car? Creepy.

Like a shimmering mirage, women in long summer gowns dotted an expanse of velvet green lawn straight ahead. Men in black ties and fancy suits bent an ear to them, swirling filled glasses. A smile as broad as Saturday night replaced Zelda’s earlier sagged cheeks. A Victorian-themed party.

Zelda beeped the horn and turned into the long drive. No one took notice. Puzzled she beeped again, catching a glimpse of her glistening forehead and frizzy hair. She drove to the back of the mansion. Where were the cars? Too hot to think, she snatched the white purse and headed to the trunk for her luggage. “Whoa.”

A David Niven character studied her movements as if memorizing each one. Hands deep in his pockets, his eyes were sharp as a bird’s.

“Harvey. That you? Thought I’d taken a wrong turn. What is this place? Where are the other houses?”

Knees limp as cooked noodles, she remembered his slow smile from the one other time they had met. He snatched her bag. “Come. It’s cooler inside. Freshen up and we’ll dance your cares away.”

And how they danced, he the perfect partner, self-assured and charming. She did not remember how the night ended.

~ ~ ~

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By morning, the air had cooled. Zelda’s body ached in all the wrong places. The urge to stretch overcame her before she opened her eyes. She screamed but what came out was the yowl of an angry cat. She noted with horror how she itched from the scratchy grass where she had slept. Outside? In the grass? A compulsion to groom gripped her. She choked on her own black fur. Fur? But it does shine. I’ve gone mad, haven’t I? Where is the mansion?

The rattles and clicks of a hundred crows swooping and calling to each other broke the silence. To the uninitiated ear, it sounded like raucous laughter over a private joke. One called to another and they plunged like bullets for the skulking black cat in the overgrown field.

“Zelda. Come back. Has no one told you the love of money is the root of all evil?”

 

A mansion had existed one hundred years before. One sad night a meeting of magicians had pushed their luck too far. Someone changed a famous woman named Lady Noir to a black cat and no one knew how to change her back. The magicians dispersed. When asked, they had no knowledge of the lady’s whereabouts.

Every summer afterward, a handsome man invited an attractive woman to a party where the mansion once stood and she too disappeared.

End

© 2017 Tess and How the Cookie Crumbles

Images courtesy of Pixabay

 


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#BlogBattle 6 – Prompt: Cowboy

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

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

Prompt:  Cowboy

Words: 990

The Devil is in the Details

Anita picked up the cordless and counted down the speed-dial list with a finger. No wooing, nor scheming, nor monetary enticements had worked. She had made the effort each time with high hopes. Nothing had changed in five years. She drew in an unsteady breath. The phone chirped in her ear. Once. Twice. And again. A tired female voice answered.

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“Hello, Grandma, that you?”

I’m not your grandma, darnit. Simmer down, Anita. She rolled her shoulders and pasted a smile on her face. Everyone knew a smile traveled through the telephone and out the other end. “That you, Sylvia? How are you? How are the boys? What about Emma?” Her face hurt but she maintained the smile though her jaw quivered and her eyes leaked.

A pause and an impatient sigh. “Everyone is fine. To what do I owe the pleasure of your call?”

“You’ve been on my mind. Miss the kids like crazy.” Anita bit her lip. There, I’ve said it. “Haven’t heard from them in ages. Something wrong with your Skype? I guess everyone has things to do and places to go.”

“Grandma, they’re busy with homework, baseball, and ballet. You know how it is.” A door slammed. Rowdy arguing followed; a girl’s shrill voice sliced through her brothers’ booming power struggle. The sounds muffled a moment. “Quiet. Can’t you see I’m on the phone?” A muffled drone filled Anita’s ear, then the sound of footsteps clomping on ceramic.

“Are you there, Sylvia? Can I talk to Emma… please?” Anita’s heart thrummed. How can she refuse? I know Emma’s there.

“It’s just—alright but make it quick. She has ballet in a few minutes.”

“Before you go, I have an idea. It’s been so long, I thought I’d come up to see you all for a couple days. Save you fare and travel time. Don’t want to be any trouble. I’ll stay in a hotel. How about it?” She ran a sleeve over her eyes, the smile cemented in place.

“I’ll have to talk to Phil. See what his plans are.”

“I don’t mind staying with the kids, if you have special plans—save you a babysitter.”

In the silent pause, Anita pictured her daughter-in-law’s eyes roll. “They’re teenagers and Emma is ten now. Here she is.” A hushed drone and a young voice gushed through the miles between them. “Hi, Grandma. How are you? I miss you.”

“Bless your heart. I miss you too, and your sweet face. We haven’t Skyped for months. How about this weekend?”

“Maybe. Gotta go, Grandma. Mom’s waving her car keys at me.”

* * *

“She offered to visit again, Phil. I can’t manage it: me working, you never home, the kids with their lessons and friends.” Sylvia paced before her husband, each point punched onto the pads of her fingers with a lacquered nail.

Her husband threw his arms in the air. “What do you want from me? The guilt of turning her down is killing me. Guilt over making extra work for you is too. Can’t keep putting her off forever. Figure something out that works. Get it over with, okay?”

“She’s your mother and a lonely old woman. I’m not up to playing nursemaid. I work all day, too, and have a household to run. Will you at least be around to help out?”

Phil pulled out a chair. “Sit. You’re making me dizzy.” Hands shoved in his pockets, he paced.

* * *

Separated from foot traffic, a bird of a woman sat in a wheelchair. Dark, wraparound glasses too large for her, covered half her small face. She clasped a red carry-on on her lap. The airport attendant behind her held up a sign with two words: Anita Martin. Phil rushed through the Arrivals door, his wife took her time behind him.

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“Mother? Are you all right?” Sylvia crashed into him at his abrupt stop. The attendant nodded and melted into the crowd.

“I’d recognized that voice anywhere.” Anita raised a hand for a shake. “That you, Sylvia? Good to see you both. You still have those cowboy boots you bought in Texas. The hesitation of your left foot since you busted your knee in football has always been a dead giveaway.”

“What’s with the chair, Mom.”

“Those are some ugly glasses, Grandma.” Sylvia made a face. She always spoke before thinking.

His mother-in-law ignored the affront, offering a weak smile instead. “It’s a long walk in today’s airports, sonny.”

“Gotcha. So… are you walking or riding?”

“Riding if you don’t mind. Too many people around and I’m slowing down these days.”

“You’ve lost weight haven’t you, Grandma? You’re not sick, or anything?” Sylvia studied her mother-in-law’s slight frame with a frown.

Anita clenched her teeth. “Don’t you worry about me. Let’s roll, sonny. Can’t wait to see Emma and the boys. Will they have classes tonight?” Leaning forward, she pursed her lips and hugged the case in her lap closer. “I can’t believe I’m here. The flight attendants took good care of me. Did you know they don’t serve free meals anymore?”

* * *

A supporting arm beneath his mother’s elbow, Phil guided her through the open door Sylvia had keyed open.

‘Powder room, Grandma?”

“Call me Anita. Please. Your timing is wonderful. Where…?”

“Around the corner and down the hall, first door to your right.”

The older woman toddled forward, a hand on the wall as if for support. Sylvia watched and sucked her teeth. She elbowed her husband’s ribs. “Something’s wrong with her eyes.”

“She’s fine. Just tired and shaky after the flight.”

“I believe she’s going blind, Phil. We’ll be stuck with her forever now.”

“Hush. If that’s true, we have to do right by her.”

Sylvia’s jaw dropped.

“Your mom and dad have each other. She can’t live alone—and so far away.”

“But…”

“She’s my mom, Syl. Oh my god. It just hit me. Being an only child is a curse.”

The End

© 2017 Tess and How the Cookie Crumbles

Images courtesy of Pixabay


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#BlogBattle 5-Prompt: Adore

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

Genre:  Historical Fiction

Prompt:  Adore

Words: 780

Oh, Henry!

Love of learning amused and absorbed him. A good-natured boy, Henry hid a quick and vicious temper but when he played, he played to win. “Giving up already, lads?”

His cousins William and Charles slid from their horses. Fair-haired Charles, the more outspoken of the two, pursed his lips. “Henry, give it a rest. My backside is raw as a side of mutton. We can hunt again another day.”

Brow furled, William curled his lip. “The hounds need water and a rest as do I. The early spring sun is hot and burns, does it not?”

Henry sized up his companions beneath dripping lashes. Perspiration slid from his ginger hair to his flushed cheeks. He swiped a sleeve over his face. On the cusp of his eighteenth birthday, his energy and stamina exceeded theirs though they were of similar age. The hounds yelped and clustered around. “All right, men. Point taken. Methinks I need a tankard of beer to cool off. Follow me.”

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The horses dispensed to the care of the stable grooms, the young men joked and jostled each other like schoolboys up the dusty path to the main building. Large-boned but lean, Henry, the tallest, strut with a confident swagger, kicking up dirt behind him. Long strides thrust him a fair distance ahead of his cousins. Inside the palace, he raised his voice. “Cook. We have need to quench our thirst and meat to fill our bellies. Hurry, else I expire.”

Hearing the commotion in the dining room, Henry’s grandmother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, hastened to his side. “The physicians say your father is weak and may not last the night. Eat your fill but hurry.”

Henry’s father, the king, had been ill for some time but his imminent death chilled him. Arthur, the first-born, had died. His mother had, too within a year. Henry had not been the favored son though his father strove to protect him from harm as second choice of heir to the throne. Now he might die within hours. He had never considered anything in life but continued study and the eventual rise to the role of Archbishop of Canterbury. His mother and grandmother had groomed him since birth.

Lady Beaufort hurried away.

Charles and William gaped at the news. “You’ve been heir to the throne since Arthur died. You knew your father wouldn’t live forever and as the only son left…” Charles patted Henry’s forearm.

Over-heated staff scurried in and out of the kitchen. They placed tankards of beer before the young men. Steaming platters of fragrant meats and pies and fish arrived in a flurry of countless hands.

Henry slumped in his chair. “Alas, I did—and did not. These seven years since Arthur’s death, I considered this often, but I am not for ruling. I prefer my books and music, jousting and wrestling. King? I do not want it.

“Father and I had a terrible row about a year ago. I told him I couldn’t do it. I had never seen him so angry. “‘You must carry on the Tudor line,’” he said. “‘This will be your responsibility after I am gone, like it or not.’” He laid hands on me as if to kill me. Wish he had, then I would not have this terrible weight on me.” He dropped his head in his hands as if to crush his face.

William grabbed a drumstick and sank his teeth in to the bone. He ripped off an enormous bite; juice dripped down his golden chin stubble. Mouth too full to speak, he chomped and nodded.

Charles surveyed the offerings but held back. He punched William’s upper arm instead. “Listen, Henry. It will be fine. You are smart and have a fair face. Who doesn’t adore you? Think of all the wenches and ladies-in-waiting at your disposal. King by day and seducer by night…”

“How can you speak thus or even entertain such depraved thoughts? I am not the sort to partake in the pleasure of the flesh before marriage. This is a sin. Stop right now.” He raised a sweaty palm.

Face pale as goat’s milk, Lady Beaufort reappeared wringing her hands. Henry jumped up before she covered half the distance between them. He slogged after her, chin to his chest. His cousins avoided eye contact and bent to the task at hand: the agreeable indulgence of mouth-watering food.

* * *

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Henry’s coronation occurred two months after his father’s burial. Lady Beaufort enjoyed herself at the banquet but died one day later on his eighteenth birthday.

Henry took to politics after all. A new era began in part due to his intelligence and forward thinking: some changes good; others less so.

 

The End

 

© 2017 Tess and How the Cookie Crumbles

Images courtesy of Pixabay


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#BlogBattle 4 – Prompt: Iridescent

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

Genre:  Fairy Tale

Prompt:  Iridescent

Words: 990

Oliver Goldglimmer

Flapping knobby hands, she coughed and sputtered. The air cleared of sooty smoke, Olive Goldglimmer blinked at her surroundings. “Oh, that hurts.” She rubbed her tender tailbone. “Might I not have a soft landing once in a while?” A vigorous chorus of robins overhead drowned out her words. “I’m talking to myself again, aren’t I?”

Olive studied the multi-hued flowers above her. “So sorry. I didn’t mean to crash into you, pretties.” Feet straight out in front of her, she slumped over her knees to relieve pressure from her battered vertebrae. “Where the heck am I? I’ve never been here before.” Rubbing a cheek, she further smeared her soot-sprinkled face. “Have I?”

A fleeting thought occurred to her. Finger pointed in the air to hook it, her eyes bugged out at the sight of the string tied there. “What’s that for? Let’s see, I-I-I… Can’t remember. Can’t do spells. Can’t fly… Might as well die.”

“Divine colors, these flowers.” Fingers reached upward to stroke the velvet stalks and feathery softness within her reach. My home is in grazing fields filled with red clover, yellow buttercups, and lush grass for those big animals—cows, I think. Sorry, I’ve squashed a few of you. I better get off, hadn’t I? Dear, dear.”

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Olive rolled her squat six-inch body from one side to the other, pushing off with an elbow. “I did not forget how to stand. Been doing it all my life, haven’t I? Come on-n. I can do this. Come on-n.” The rolling motion found her face in the dirt. She giggled. Her knees knew what to do. A push with her hands and she tripped over her long, shimmering gown. “Dear, dear. The young fairies have the right idea with their short skirts. Not appropriate on someone of my age.” Erect at last, she swayed to steady her balance. Her gray-streaked hair, once cranberry, had fallen out of its pins. Tiny fingers hastened to secure it back together and out of her face. “I must look a sight. Still talking to myself. Well, so what.”

“Sorry flowers. I didn’t mean to crush you.” Lined face softened, she blew a kiss, one foot already poised to toddle through the forest of blossoms. Home. What if I’m lost for good this time? A flicker of brilliance in the crushed greenery attracted her attention. “Oh, dear. Oh, dear. My pouch of found and rescued treasures.” She flushed with guilt and pleasure, the pouch clutched to her ample bosom.

“I remember—I cast a spell… What was it? I had it… Oh, dear. Oh, dear.” Oh, for Petey dragon, never mind. It’ll be a long walk home.”

Olive trudged and trudged. The sun slid toward the bruised horizon like a raw yoke on a fingerprinted wall. The temperature cooled. Birds chirped less, weary from their daylong concert. Floral smells scented the air. Olive pushed on in a never-ending field with not a creature in sight.

Someone or something whistled, drawing to her. The sound pierced her ears. A teenage boy, she guessed, in torn pants and a faded plaid shirt, repositioned his straw hat. A blade of grass in his corner of his mouth, he looked neither left nor right.

She flew into his face and tumbled earthward. “Yoo-hoo. Ouch.”

He brushed at his face as if flicking off a fly.

“Hey, you. You, Tom Sawyer person, you. Stop!” Olive skipped behind him to catch up. That’s when it hit her. “He can’t see me.” In desperation, she grasped a pant leg and hung on. Swish-toss. Slam. When had he stopped?

He growled, combing his surroundings. “Who’s there? Where are you?”

“Down here. They call me Olive. I’m lost.” Olive pulled with all her strength till she found his shirt pocket.

“I don’t know what or where you are but get away from me.” He switched the stalk of grass to the other side of his mouth and tramped on. Dusk drifted downwards like a gray fog, stealing the little light left. The moon rose cheesy yellow, face in a smirk as if It had heard a bad joke. A stone’s throw away, a dark shack surfaced out of the ground.

Olive sensed rather than saw her aura light up a hair-thin stroke at a time. It must be the last day of harvest because this happened the same time last year. Her heart swelled with dizzy exhilaration, knees weak and bendy. All her magic had not vanished—not yet—though her ability had lessened. She had not minded ageing, nor the forgetfulness, nor the loss of vitality—well, a little. Losing her spark, her zest for life had caused sadness, yet she understood the map of life.

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She shook off her reverie. The boy approached the cabin. In her excitement, Olive fell out, arms waving, wings fluttering. Up. Down. She floated. “Wait, wait.”

Hand on the doorknob, the boy dropped his chin, paused, and turned to the darkness fully arrived. A crazed yell tore out of his throat. He yanked open the door and slammed inside. Up-down, Olive floated, a streak of vacillating glow like a light posse.

The door squeaked open. A rifle barrel preceeded the boy. “Stop. What are you?”

Olive reared up and flew into his face. “Don’t shoot. Let me explain.”

* * *

The boy had listened and nodded.

“I live in a place called Aurora. Will you help find it?”

“My pleasure. I know my way around a fairy tale or two. Name’s Tom Sawyer. Pleased to meet you, Olive Goldglimmer.

Maybe for the last time, Olive’s wings opened iridescent and supple as in the days of her youth.

“Come inside. Can’t do anything tonight. Hungry?

“I could eat. Have you nuts or berries?”

“A real fairy. Shoot. Never heard of any your age. Know something? You remind me of my grandma—the one my author wouldn’t give me. Everybody has one, don’t they? Even me.”

The End

© 2017 Tess and How the Cookie Crumbles

Images courtesy of Pixabay


63 Comments

#BlogBattle 3 – Prompt: Air

Find the rules at Rachel Ritchie’s blog here.

Genre: Suspense/Thriller

Prompt: Air

Words: 970

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Kitten or Mouse

Julie pressed back against the wall of the Fish and Tackle shop as if to melt into the paint and woodgrain. He had found her. No other reason for his appearance in this crack in the world atop the U.S./Canada border. Three years. Why now? Stroking her windpipe, the relentless thumbs and her struggle to break their pressure flashed before her like a bad movie. He breezed past in his signature Mercedes, still the same one, looking neither left nor right, a silver streak in the sun.

Weak-kneed, she gulped lungs full of fishy autumn air. Her paralysis abated; a headache blossomed.

“Are you all right, Miss?” A chubby teen reached out in support of her elbow.

Oblivious to his approach, Julie screamed. Hands clenched to her chin, she nodded but tracked the car’s disappearance over the boy’s shoulder. Up the hill, she slogged on leaden legs to the parking lot. No shopping today. The teen squinted and shook his head.

A miracle, he lived. So, Markus had evaded both jailers and creditors. To save his neck, he’d wanted to sell their real estate business, but she vanished after the choking incident. Not possible without her signature—unless, he had finagled her autograph. Of course, he had, or he’d be dead. Teeth clattering like loose Chicklets, she backed the car in behind the little green house on the dead-end street.

Inside, she locked the doors and snapped the blinds shut. Nerves jangling like unraveled electric wires, she turned on the black and white portable television, the sound turned off. Front door to hallway, to the kitchen, and back she paced. Why was he here?

The landline rattled a rotary grumble. Other than old Widow Schumacher across the road, no one phoned her. She picked up. “Hello, Anna?” Tense, her voice cracked. “Anna… is everything alright? Anna…” Julie slammed the phone into its cradle, a sob choking her. Wait a minute… She peeked between the curtains in the front room. Eyes closed, Anna relaxed on her verandah, face toward the milky fall sun.

Julie massaged her knotted forehead. Could be a wrong number. Right? Marcus showing up is a coincidence? What’s he want? He wouldn’t recognize me after the work I’ve had done. My voice… Shoot—my voice hasn’t changed.

The walls closed in like sentries—bad ones—pushy, determined, smothering. How did he get this number? He doesn’t know my name. Get a grip, Julie. Breathe in. Breathe out.

Br-r-r-ring. Julie jumped back though the whirr originated in the kitchen. She tiptoed to the curtains. The widow’s chin had dropped to her chest.

Neck and shoulders clenched, her tension grew in drowning waves. The black phone droned on like a loud purr, like his voice purring, purring like a cat, watching the mouse sweat and then bam! He always won—later if not sooner.

The first time had been over her signature and a password. He said she’d never leave him. He wouldn’t allow it. The next time she knew he’d finish the job because his mouse had fled. What did he want now? Three years ago she had an escape plan and a nest egg. This time she had no time to plan, but her nest egg safe, grew.

The phone stopped; the silence eerie like a yawning vacuum. Julie stood at the edge staring into the abyss, ready to jump.

Br-r-r-ring.

“Stop.” Julie covered her ears. She found herself peering through the curtains again, the widow gone.

Silence slammed into her like a brick wall. Time to get out of the house. She grabbed her purse.

Br-r-r-ring.

What if it isn’t him? She picked up the receiver.

“Hello, kitten.” His practiced smile burned into her ear. “I like the red hair. Some people have been anxious to pin your disappearance on me—but without proof…” He raised his voice, the smile erased. “I want my briefcase back…”

Julie laid the receiver on the small table, grabbed a scarf, and tiptoed out of her house. The car in neutral, she coasted down the incline to the street. This mouse isn’t your plaything anymore. She high-tailed it with no clear plan in mind, other than crossing the border into Maine. If he knows about the hair, he knows what I look like. How did he find me?

First things first. Lie low in Maine for two or three days.

* * *

She stayed away an extra day. Hair mahogany and lips watermelon pink, she parked a block away from home and strode up the street to Anna’s in sandals instead of heels. Hidden behind bold sunglasses, she scanned her house. It wore a look of abandonment and melancholy. She knocked. No Anna.

Nothing stirred not even the fallen leaves. Across the street, she picked up four daily papers left in her absence and checked the mailbox. Heart on the verge of imploding, Julie tried the back door. The phone rested on the table as before. She hung it up to stop the awful beep. The newspapers dumped in the trash, she retrieved the latest one. Flashes of blue without sound earned a switch-off. How long before he knocks on my door?

Lightheaded, her heart continued the Watusi. Water on the boil for tea, Julie dropped into a kitchen chair and unfolded the paper. A three-car pile-up exiting the Canadian side took the lives of one man and sent three others to hospital. The kettle whistled. She examined the wrecks in full-color. A shiver passed over her. Something familiar… “Shut up!” She slammed off the offensive shriek.

The deceased, a Canadian, remains unidentified until next of kin… Anyone with information…

1983 silver Mercedes Benz 300 SD…

R.I.P. Better you than me.

Free. Free. Free at last. No peering over my shoulder.

By the way, Markus, your briefcase is safe.

The End

Image courtesy of Pixabay

© 2017 Tess and How the Cookie Crumbles


50 Comments

#BlogBattle 2 – Prompt Thorn

Find the rules at Rachel Ritchie’s blog here.

Genre: Fan Fiction

Prompt: Thorn

Words: 920

Thorn

She slept long and deep. The man paced and stopped. “You’re awake.”

Piercing jade eyes glowered in the near dusk. Thick sheets of dark hair covered her like a blanket.

“You’re curled so small. Let me help you.” His blood raged when they touched. Knees limp as young clover, he kept his balance. The girl slapped away his hand and rose unaided. Spellbound, he watched her gaze about—a head shorter than he—blue-black tresses swung in slow motion, her movement fluid as water.

A low whistle escaped his lips. “The Creator made you a different design. Interesting. I like.” Man stroked his chin. Chest and arm muscles bulged. He circled her with the ease and stealth of a cat, while his blood stirred as never before.

“Who are you?” The words came slow and spaced apart. She tilted her head.

“I’m…I’m Man. The Creator gifted you to me.”

“What is gifted? What is this place?”

“Paradise.” With open palms, he swung muscle-bound arms about. Bird chatter, insect thrum, and the soft rush of waterfall crammed the garden air. “This is all ours.”

The girl yawned heavy-eyed.

“You are Woman.”

“Wo-man,” she said, sampling the new word. “Wo-man.”

“Come. I have much to show and teach you.” She drew back from his touch.

~*~

Days faded into weeks. Where one walked, the other followed. The two roamed the spectacular garden, eating a multiplicity of fruits and nuts abundant to them.

“Have I seen everything? I feel we’ve walked in circles. What’s in the middle of this garden?”

Man bit his lip. “There is something—the most extraordinary tree in the heart of Eden.”

“Show me.”

He could not deny her. “There are rules. You must promise.” She ignored him, traipsing ahead. He tapped her shoulder, chin pointing. They entered a grassy clearing. A snake slithered across their path. Sssss.

apple-1681465__340-pixaby

“Stop here,” he said a hand on her shoulder.

“Wow.” Woman gasped and pulled on his hand. “What is this tree?”

“Forbidden fruit—The Tree of Knowledge. Everything is ours but not this.”

“Why not? This makes sense to you?”

“Enough. We must leave.”

The next day, Man could not find her. Desperate, he searched everywhere. “Woman. What are you doing here again? Stand back.”

“They reflect my image. Se-e-e.”

“You’re playing with fire. Come.”

Another day, Woman disappeared again. He found her in the orchard once more. “You mustn’t come here ever again! Temptation is great.”

On her third visit, she crept closer and gaped, entranced.

“Go ahead. Touch it.” The voice drew her like a magnet.

“Who’s there? Where are you?”

“Here I am. Sssss.” An over-sized, brown frog-like face peered out among the branches, spiked tongue flicking.

“I’ve seen you before. You speak?”

“Come closer. Closer. I won’t bite.” Hypnotic murmurs tugged till the woman lost all resistance.

Snap! She plucked the lustrous orb and thrust it into her mouth. Juice oozed over her chin. “S-o-o good.”

Man materialized out of thin air. “What have you done?”

“Taste.” She brandished the bitten apple beneath his nose. The sky dimmed, the garden faded into dull shadows of gray. The wind shrieked and blew a wild streak of swirling breath around them. The animals hushed and disappeared.

“No. I can’t.”

“Why can’t you do something I want for a change?

“No.”

“I’ll play your favorite games all night if you wish. Come o-on. You won’t be sorry.” She twirled the red and white fruit before his mouth.

Man tore into the offered fruit. Before he swallowed, thunder crashed and lightning ripped the sky.

“OUT. No more free lunch for you. A deal’s a deal.”

“I’m sorry, my Creator…”

Woman pouted. “Wuss. Don’t blame it on me. You could have said no.” She fixed a claw-like grasp on his forearm.

Man’s mouth flapped.

“Don’t look at me.” Woman stopped, pensive. She flung his arm away, aware of their nakedness for the first time. Examining a grove of massive leaves, she seized Man’s wrist. “Help me tear this off. She shielded her body from the angry rain and his ever-watchful eyes.

“Rip off another.” She winced, tracing a map of his frame in her head, from shoulders to waist to heels. “This one’s for you. For heaven’s sake, cover yourself.”

“All is not lost, Woman. We still have each other.”

“Sure we do. And a bun in the oven. I see you’ll to be a thorn in my side for the rest of my days.”

The rain pelted their tender skin like buckshot though they had no knowledge of what that was. The wind bawled and churned. “Where will we spend this night of fury?” Rain and wet hair lashed her face. One hand braced against the leaf, she spun round to place an open hand against his chest. “Well? I need to dry off and soon.”

Man shook his head, free hand raised to the sky in supplication. Fingers of lightning shot towards the ground followed in a nanosecond by a deep grunt of thunder.

The Creator roared in anger. “As you said, Man. Not all is lost. Now you must work hard for a living instead of savoring the cushy life I had planned with her for you.

Man hung his head. When he glanced up, Woman shook her head. “Let’s go. Do I have to do everything around here?”

The lashing rain turned to a fine drizzle. The animals peered around bushes and from the trees and watched two round-shouldered figures trudge into the night until they vanished.

The End

© 2017Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles.


61 Comments

BlogBattle Prompt – Resolved

BlogBattlers are back. Let the games begin in 1000 words.

Read the rules here:  https://blogbattlers.wordpress.com/rules/

Genre: Tall Tales (a tough one)

Prompt: Resolved (words 987)

Resolved

Have I ever told you the story about Grandpa Muckle’s house? No? Annie’s 10-year twin nephews leaned forward where they sat on the floor cross-legged.

After our grandfather died, your father and I helped clear out the house. We were eighteen and twenty. Rick positioned the painter’s ladder beneath the trapdoor to the attic. He had waited a long time to peek inside that forbidden place, but he paused.

“Go on. You don’t expect monsters, do you?” I concentrated on the square in the ceiling, too. Chewing on the end of my ponytail as was my habit, I thought I’d choke on it.”

“Grandpa wouldn’t allow us to explore up there, remember,” Rick said. “I’ve always been curious why.”

“Maybe he never finished it like Dad.”

Your father blew out a breath and gave me the look. Thick Styrofoam clad the removed board.

“Flashlight.” I poked him in the ribs with the one in my hand.  He heaved himself through and sneezed.

“Bless you. What do you see? Anything interesting?” He disappeared into the dark, wordless.

More curious than nervous, I sprang up the ladder after my brother. With a click, the room flooded with light. We gaped like dazed children, pulling dust covers off in a hurry: four white chairs; a matching table; a single bed and dresser; a dollhouse and an ornate trunk. Everything white except for the trunk, which was painted a slick ebony shine. Smooth white-painted walls encased the room. Rick dropped into a chair and I slid into another. The chairs spit us out on the floor, bouncing back into shape toward the trapdoor. They wobbled like rubber, the legs bendy and weak to accommodate our weight and size before pop and shriek.

“What happened” My eyes rattled in my head like in a cartoon.

“What is this?” Eyes glazed with shock, Rick’s voice cracked. “Is this the Twilight Zone? I don’t know what to make of it. Do you?” He surged upright, then paced the black and white tiled floor. Hands deep in his pockets, he slumped against the wall. The wall stood firm.

Attribution: Pixabay

Image Attribution: Pixabay

In one corner, the trunk beckoned. Dust motes danced over top as if in invitation. Childhood dreams of treasure chests and pirate’s treasure awakened again. My brother’s voice faded. The chest waited. I struggled with the lid. No go. Locks require keys. I didn’t see one. “Help me open this.”

Rick lost no time patting down the lacquered box. No luck.

“Seems strange it’s sitting off the floor. Is that a skid under there?” I pointed.

Rick clutched the bare wood. “Help tip this over.” We stooped hip-to-hip and heaved in unison.

The trunk weighed less than it looked. A half-dozen grunts and huffs later, it lay on its side. Rick found something taped to the bottom. Whoever guesses what gets an extra cookie.”

The twins elbowed each other. “The key—the key.”

“You’re both right. Your dad fitted it in but it refused to turn. He tried and tried. Nothing. What to do?”

The boys shared a probing stare, freckles bright. “Oil can.” They high-fived.

“Aren’t you smart? Great answer, but it still didn’t work.”

“Did you see inside the trunk or not?” Trevor’s face reddened.

“Patience. Sometimes patience conquers all.”

His brother breathed deep, the chords in his neck engorged. “What did you find? Something good, I hope.”

I raised a palm. “The key wouldn’t work because someone had bashed the lock. With a screwdriver and hammer, my brother somehow worked his magic. The lid lifted like a charm and guess what?”

“What? What? Pieces of silver?”

“Rubies and diamonds?”

“Something better than that.”

Faces incredulous, the boys squinted. “No way. Nothing’s better than gold or silver.”

“Inside—wait—inside lay a white robot, an R2D2 look-alike—sort of.” The boys scrambled onto their hands and knees.

“No way. Did it work?”

“Did you charge it?

“Hey ho.” Rick called from the hall, “What are you guys doing?”

“Tell us about Grandpa’s attic and the robot in the trunk. Did it work?”

Rick pointed a finger at his sister and pursed his lips. “You didn’t.”

Taupe-penciled brows peaked, she crossed her arms. The boys frowned contemplating their aunt and father.

“Did it work? Come on, Dad.”

A silent deliberation transpired between brother and sister. “Come here boys.” Rick flopped into the center of the sofa. “You know Aunt Annie tells tall tales, Right? Remember the one about fool’s gold in the backyard?

Three sets of eyes scrutinized Annie. “You wouldn’t.” she said.

“What part of the story did I interrupt?”

“The robot, Dad—in the black chest.”

“Of course, him. He had a note taped to his gray metal chest.

I have no experience and no action. I’m worthless. Sorry.

“What happened to it, Dad?”

“You know this is Grandpa Muckle’s house. Your aunt liked it so much, she renovated it and hoped future Muckles will too. You haven’t seen the attic?”

“So, what about the robot and the crazy furniture?” Trevor brayed.

“Your aunt made up the story about the crazy furniture—it’s make believe. The robot—you have to see for yourselves. Let’s get this resolved. Come on.”

Rick pulled down the new-fangled stairs to the attic and led the way. He hit the lights.

“Look at this. There’s furniture, but it’s ratty old patio stuff, a dog carrier, and a sewing machine…Where’s the robot? Trevor, the older twin, scurried from corner to corner and stopped dead. He laughed and laughed. “Come here brother.”

“This stovepipe tinman is no robot. Aunt Annie, when you tell a tale, it’s a tall one.”

“But, no treasure? That sucks.” Trevor backed away. “Where’s the trunk? Did you check for secret compartments?

His father shook his head. “No trunk.”

“The only true thing is this black and white floor. You got me, Auntie. You too, Dad.

Younger brother whooped. “Hey, Trevor, is that a suit of armor?”

The End

©Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles.


60 Comments

#BlogBattle – Week 63

Prompt: Hero

Words:  1461

Genre: Drama

Check out the rules:  https://blogbattlers.wordpress.com/

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Image by Pixaby. No  attribution required.

Butterfingers

The family reunion lurched into full swing.

Will Bailey’s back dug into the battered picnic table Stick-like joints folded elbows to knees like a grasshopper enjoying the sun. They unfurled with a snap, a closed fist smashing a wayward volleyball from shattering his head. Crack.

“Wow. Did you see that, guys?” A crimson-cheeked fat kid raced forward, slack-jawed.

Perspiring teenage boys and girls milled around Will, anxious hands patted his back and shoulders. A hand still at half-mast, his booming laugh replaced a self-satisfied grin. ”It’s nothing. Back to your game boys and girls. Which side is winning again?”

The boys, rowdy and energetic, high-fived. A reedy boy leaned forward. “I can’t believe the girls whooped that wild ball so hard, Uncle Will.” Adam’s apple bobbing, he smirked at his friends. “Surprise. Surprise.”

A raven-haired girl fought her way through the throng and crossed her arms. “The girls? It only takes one, buster, and that would be me—Penny.” She poked a thumb into her chest. “Little old me.” Hoisting herself to full height, the curvy girl stood no more than four feet from naked heels to the top of her head. The boys snickered and shook their heads.

“You do have a mean serve, girlie. Maybe you’ll learn to straighten it before you kill somebody?” He pointed at his nephew. Intermittent gasps sputtered in the crowd. A couple girls whispered, heads bowed, stealing glances at his hand. “When’s the last time you hit the ball half that hard?” He churned the air with open palms. “Go on and play fair.” The boys shuffled off elbowing each other. Will folded his gangly form once more, eyes closed, face to the sun.

Hot and limp from chasing the ball, someone threw a T-shirt heavenwards. “Last one in lake is a loser.” Bare feet pounded the sand, churning it in all directions as they passed organizers filling the park’s stone barbeque surfaces with meat. The sound and smell of sizzling burgers already worked on their appetites. Soggy tees soared like damaged birds only to nose-dive with a thump. Unzipped shorts followed, marking a wide trail to water’s edge. Dozing sunbathers and excited children at play in the sand slowed the rambunctious flock. They wove in and out around them, pushing and tugging, shouting and squealing at the top of their lungs.

Will ran a hand through thinning white hair and smiled. He dropped his hand and studied it. After all these years, he still wasn’t used to it. He turned with a start at the light hand on his shoulder. “I didn’t hear you come up, Josh.”

The reedy nephew pleated himself on the bench beside him. “Dad’s always saying I look more like you than him. Weird, isn’t it.”

Will studied the seventeen-year-old, a corner of his mouth twitching. “Seems so. A hardship, is it?”

“No-o. A comment—is all.” Josh toed the patch grass. “Good to see you. It’s been a long year since the last family picnic. We never see you.”

“You know I can’t drive, right? Can’t afford one of them fancy cars, neither. Even if I had a license, they probably wouldn’t renew it at my age. Something on your mind, Josh?”

“Not really. Wanted to talk without interruption. How you been keeping?” He squinted over his shoulder, breathing in through his nose. “I’m famished. Given the opportunity, I’d eat a whole cow not just a couple burgers. Why does food always smell so good outside?”

Will chuckled, pushing hands against the bench to rearrange his lean rump on the hard surface. “Fresh air and exercise, I suppose. I’m good for an old geezer and the shape I’m in. Thanks for asking. What I’ve missed—can’t lie—was playing sports and the freedom to do as I pleased.” He lowered reflective sunglasses to peer over the top. “Is that your mother bringing food?”

Changed to a dry Tee, Josh rubbed his chest and belly. “That’s mom. Bless her.”

“Son, my hat—is it under the table? The dang sun is frying my brains like steak.” The high-pitched clang of an iron dinner bell pealed in the distance. “Thanks. That feels better already.” He raised a hand in salute to Josh’s mother.

“Why don’t we move you and your chair into the shade? High noon. It’s hot enough to fry bacon on my nose.”

“About time you put your hat back on and moved out of the sun. Can’t chat—don’t want a stampede. The young ones are over eager now the food’s ready.” She chuckled, a buttery sound. “Later, Will.” Plates smacked down, she was gone.

“More comfortable in the chair, Uncle Will? Let’s eat.” Half the burger disappeared in one bite. He chewed, a look of bliss on his face. A raspy noise like someone coughing up sandpaper forced his eyes open. “What?” He bit off another hunk.

“It’s a pleasure to watch you eat. I used to put it away too when I was your age. Don’t want much nowadays.”

“Why do you come to these reunions? Nobody pays attention to you. I don’t even know half my cousins—there’s new ones every year—you can’t know many. The older people are busy cooking, serving and packing up again. Why do you bother to come so far to sit ignored?”

Will chewed and looked away. “You’re all the family I have. No fun living alone in the retirement home. Still enjoy counting the additions to this huge family every year. My friends are gone or dying. I’ll be gone soon, too.”

“Are you sick? Why don’t you live with us? Never understood why you didn’t in the first place. You wouldn’t be lonely in our house. Guaranteed.” Josh leaned over the plate in his lap, earnest brown eyes studying the man he wanted to know.

“Your father has badgered me for years. Can’t do it, son.”

“Why not? You’re Dad’s only brother. Why the heck not?” A crimson river of heat rushed from his chest, over his face, to the roots of his pale blond brush-cut.

“You have your hands full with six aunts and cousins, never mind your mother’s side of the family. I have good 12-hour care. I’m good.” A quick wink and he speared a forkful of potato salad. “You’re right. Food tastes a hundred times better outside.”

Josh dove into the salad and bit into the second burger, thoughtful, eyes assessing his uncle. He swallowed and cleared his throat. “How come no one talks about what happened to you? I want to know, but Dad always makes excuses. I’m not talking about idle curiosity, understand?”

“Nothing to tell.”

“You’re a hero and nobody talks about it. I don’t understand.”

Will heaved a deep breath, wiping his face and hands with a crumpled paper serviette. Like I said, nothing to tell, but if I can answer, I will. What do you want to know?”

Josh grinned scraping together the last of the salad on his plate. “Easy one to start. Why does no one call you Bill Bailey? Why only Will?”

The coughing-sandpaper sound began low and grew in volume. “It’s nothing to do with the song. I was named William, shortened it to Will by my teens. Once I heard about the song, I made it clear my name was Will and nothing else. I’ve had the song hummed enough times to lose my sanity.”

The boy slapped the folded paper plate against his knee, then grew serious. What happened to your legs? Dad says you never married.”

It was the Vietnam War, son. I drove a jeep over a landmine… End of story. About not marrying—why sentence a young woman to a life of caretaking when she can do better?” A shadow of sadness flickered across his face and vanished. He handed the half-finished plate to the boy. “I’m done.”

“And the finger? What happened to the top half? Do you mind if I ask?” Nervous hands slid up and down his thighs.

This time, Will honked when he laughed. His nephew heaved his webbed sun chair closer, exhaling.

“That’s a funny story—stupid if you want to know. About 20 years ago, I worked a table saw, moved the wrong way, put my hand out to catch my balance, and well, lobbed it off. Passed out—don’t know how long. Afterwards no one could find it.” He shook his head. “Dumb accident.”

Neither of them spoke for long minutes.

“I want you to promise you will come visit more often and stay over a few nights.”

 

Once Josh’s friends knew him better, they liked hanging around Will. No one noticed the wheelchair after a while. His habit of stabbing the air with a finger when excited was another matter.

The End

© 2016 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles


72 Comments

#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.