How the Cookie Crumbles

Life and scribbles on the far side of SIXTY-FIVE


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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.

phone-1833631_960_720-pixabay

“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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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.


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

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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.


39 Comments

#BlogBattle Week 33 – Prompt: Lurk

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 this awesome #BlogBattle Winner Badge to display with their winning story on their webpage:

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

IMG_2361

Previously:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Choices

Part 5

 

“What’s going on?” Carol hovered at the top of the stairs.

Steve slipped both hands into his pant pockets. “Seems the neighbor can’t open her door.” His wife tore down the stairs and peered over his shoulder.

“Victoria. What’s wrong?” She grabbed the doorknob.

“Let me.” Her husband’s hand covered hers. He shouldered his way past.

“Can you fix it?” She grabbed his sleeve.

“Don’t know the problem yet.”

Straightening her shoulders, Victoria spun round, lips like a hyphen. Will this night never end? She punched numbers into her phone. “I’m calling a locksmith. Thanks anyway.”

“A locksmith at this time of night? Maybe Steve can help.” Carol stepped outside. Steve was already turning up the adjoining driveway.

“Hello. For some reason, my key doesn’t work.” She raised a forefinger, then changed it to an open palm. “Yes, it’s a deadbolt.” She turned from her waist as if to shield her conversation from the man standing two feet from her. “I see. I did hear a loud clunk on my way out earlier.” She nodded and gave her address. “Thanks.”

Since the rain had dissipated, the night air seemed warm, the of scent fall’s leaves pungent, a reminder winter hung in the background. Carol lingered behind the privet. “Come over for coffee till they get here.”

“Thank you. It’ll be only fifteen or twenty minutes. The locksmith lives close by.” She studied her shoes a moment till Steve turned to leave.

His wife safe in the house making preparations, Steve paused at the bottom of the driveway. Victoria stumbled, reached out a hand to prevent a full body collision. “What’s your problem? Why do you hate me?”

His jaw set in a hard line, he stared her down, eyes cold and steadfast. “You don’t remember me.”

Her head shot up. “Remember you? I know nothing about you. I’m new in town, remember?”

“You best think on it.” He gave an ugly laugh. “Let’s go or the wife will think we’re up to no good.” He snorted and jogged up his drive leaving Victoria on the sidewalk, mouth dropped wide enough to catch fireflies.

“Honey, I’m ho-ome.” He yanked the door open wide. “You coming?”

“What are you two up to out there?” Carol gazed down from the kitchen landing

“Don’t lurk, Carol. It doesn’t become you. We were discussing the problem with her door.”

Victoria rushed in and squeezed past Steve. “Sorry, dear neighbor. My brain’s sawdust. I’m dying for a coffee. The baby’s doing well. Still sleeping?”

Carol nodded. “So far, so good. Sit.” She pointed to the set table.

“Thank you. Nice. Can you believe it’s after 10:00 already? I hope the locksmith is as good as his word.”

Steve hung back, shoving hands into pockets and removing them again. He slumped into the chair next to his wife, across from Victoria, who buried her nose in her mug sipping the hot liquid.

“How long have you lovebirds been married?”

Carol beamed and reached out to caress her husband’s forearm. “One and a half years.”

Victoria blinked to cover her surprise. “I see.”

“My first husband and I divorced. Enough said. What about you?”

“Divorced. Do you mind a nosey question about Sylvie?”

“You mean why doesn’t she talk? She’s always been a quiet child—like her father—she talked around age three, then less when Sarah started talking. By the time Ryan arrived, she’d stopped completely.”

Wide-eyed, Victoria searched the girls’ mother’s  face across the table. She clamped her mouth shut, but couldn’t break eye contact.

“We had her checked. Physically she’s fine and has no hearing problems. The doctor wants to send her to a therapist, but feels she’ll talk when she’s ready.”

Honk. Honk.

“Must be the locksmith. Thanks. Talk later. Bye.” She sprang out of the chair, grabbed her belongings and flew out the door, slamming the wood and storm doors harder than necessary. An A to Z Locksmith Please van glowed white next to her house. A short male with thinning hair nodded in her direction. “Take your time.”

Breathless she explained about the clunk when she’d slammed her door earlier.

“Tube door?”

“Yes.”

 

“Could be the key cylinder fell inside the door.”

* * *

The next morning, mousey brown hair gathered in a ponytail, Victoria lugged groceries through her now fixed side door. Steve slipped outside as she ran out for another load. “You almost gave me heart seizure.” Jaw clenched she ignored him and proceeded with her task.

Leaning against the house, he glanced over his shoulder. “We need to talk.”

“Nope.”

“Let me ask you one thing. Is your father’s name Stephen Hackett?”

She flinched, tightening her grip on the groceries. “He died five years ago. What’s it to you?” She lowered the bag back into the trunk. “What do you want?”

“Didn’t your mama never tell ya to look the person you’re talking to in the eye?  Look at me when I’m talking. Think. Better go inside.”

Victoria gaped like a baby bird working its beak, waiting to be fed.

* * *

Little did Victoria know what lay in store when Carol invited her to dinner a week later. The food was delicious, the company pleasant, yet an electric tension crackled in the air.

Over Spanish coffee, Steve cleared his throat and dropped the bomb. “We played as children a handful of times. You were twelve and I nine. Do you remember me?”

Victoria strained to read his face. “No-o.”

“My mom delivered Avon and saved old samples for you?”

“Vaguely.” She squirmed in her seat, hands clutched in her lap.

“We were poor and I hated you who had everything. I couldn’t believe when you moved here. Small world.”

Carol stroked his arm.

Victoria frowned. “Why…?”

“Stephen Hackett was my father. Ditched us like yesterday’s leftovers when I came along. Didn’t give us one crummy dime in support. Went back to his real family. You got it all, and me—nothing—not even him.

The End

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


45 Comments

#BlogBattle Week 32 – Prompt: Mars

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 this awesome #BlogBattle Winner Badge to display with their winning story on their webpage:

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

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Choices

Part 4

Sporting a practiced smile, Victoria smoothed Sylvie’s brow. “Sleep.” She straightened like an automaton and headed for the door. Hand on the jamb, she glanced over her shoulder. Good. The girl’s breathing sounded steady and even.

Heart strumming like a Spanish guitar, she sprinted down the hall to the kitchen. A car door slammed. She seized her purse and coat off the chair, but froze when a key slid into the lock and Steve bounded in, but halted with a jerk at the top of the steps, a foot suspended in mid-air. Cocky as a barnyard rooster, he plastered on a smirk.

“To what do I owe this unexpected pleasure?” He wiggled bristly black brows pantomiming the likes of Groucho Marx of vaudeville and slapstick fame.

Clearing her throat, Victoria proceeded to throw on her coat. “Maybe you should first ask where your wife is. She’s at the hospital with the baby.”

“What’s wrong with my son?”

“All I know is he has a high fever and won’t stop crying.” She bit her lip. With the little contact she’d had him, she’d never looked at his face. She did now, startled by his puzzled voice. He had that suave dark look about him Latin men exuded, but on him it came off as arrogant. A curl hung down his forehead adding to the Sal Mineo look she’d seen in old movie magazines her mother still hoarded.

“Your wife took a cab to Emerge. I’ll stay with the girls if you want to find her.”

“I wouldn’t mind spending more time with the girls either.” He crossed burly arms across a broad chest, leaned against the door frame, and snorted.

“Keep your tone down.” Fists clenched till her nails cut into her palms, Victoria listened for activity from the bedrooms. “It’s the least I can do as repayment for the other day.”

“Cozy. Already we’re exchanging favors. What’s next? Christmas cards?”

Mouth flapping like a fish out of water, words failed her. Victoria slapped her purse and tried again.” What is wrong with you? Where have you been living? Mars?”

Steve rocked back on his heels squinting down his nose at her. “Little Miss Perfect has all the answers.”

“Wha…?”

“I got a wife needs me.” Nostrils flared, he blew a noisy breath. Color rose in his cheeks as he spun away and down the stairs in a huff.

Victoria fanned trembling fingers against her breastbone. What’s his problem? This has to stop.

Lost in thought, muffled voices dragged her back to the present. Whipping off her coat, she tip-toed towards the sound. Talking, then laughter. Sylvie wasn’t in her bed. Victoria gasped, a fist to her mouth. By the light of the half-opened bathroom door, she made out two forms in Sarah’s bed, her older sister’s head on her shoulder while she mumbled in her sleep. Mesmerized by the sleeping twosome, she remembered three sisters cramped in a bed during her own youth, out of necessity not choice.

She dared peek into the bathroom mirror and shrank back. She might as well be naked: face pale as a ghost without her usual makeup and lips bloodless and grey as a corpse. Instead of crying with humiliation, she hastened to laugh inwardly. This is last minute after all, an emergency.

Back in the kitchen, she paced, looked around for a book, a magazine. Anything. The wall clock above the art-cluttered fridge showed 9:15 p.m. She flicked on the light in the living-room. A stack of movie magazine littered the coffee table. She laughed out loud. Carol and her mother were cut from the same cloth. She grabbed the heap and settled into a kitchen chair. First, tea called to her.

Victoria checked the kettle, plucked a mug from the drain board, and rummaged in her purse for the Ziploc bag of teabags she carried. The kettle shrieked. She poured the water and jumped sky-high at a disruptive jangle. Water spilled all over the counter. Oh great! It buzzed again; the ringing insistent. She threw a tea towel on the flood and followed the noise.

“Hello?” She stretched and twirled the black cord around her fingers. “How’s the baby?” Victoria let go and watched the rubber covered wiring spring back to its original curly shape. “Wonderful news—yes, he left here about ten minutes ago.” The clock on the fridge wall read 9:33 p.m. “See you soon.”

Victoria cleaned up the wet mess on the counter. The tea cooled past her liking, she drank it anyway, rinsed the mug and returned it to its last place. The magazines returned to the coffee table, she dropped into a kitchen chair to wait already checking her cell for missed calls or messages. Nothing. A yawn reminded her how long the day had been.

A distant, but building drone, fragmented the silence. Soon the noise drowned out the steady tick tock of the clock. A car door slammed, and then another. A murmur of voices outside and then inside the kitchen. The baby asleep, Carol smiled wide, eyes shining. Dressed and prepared to flee, Victoria squeezed her arm as she headed to the door.

“Wait. Don’t go yet. Back in a sec.”

Steve gave her a darting gaze and disappeared down the hall.  Victoria shifted her weight and admired the floor.

“Would you like tea and a sweet?”

“Maybe another time. You must be tired. Goodnight.”

Nerves dancing a rumba, Victoria hastened down the drive. She blew out a breath unaware she’d been holding it. She slipped her key into the lock.

Nothing turned. Nothing touched. Nothing moved.

She stomped on the rubber door mat and flapped her hands.

“Problems?” The nasal voice dripped with sarcasm over the low privet fence, separating their properties.

To be continued

 

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


58 Comments

#BlogBattle Week 31- Prompt: Scar

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 this awesome #BlogBattle Winner Badge to display with their winning story on their webpage:

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

Part 1

Part 2

Choices – Part 3

Victoria shut off the hallway light at the top of the stairs, and hesitated. She tiptoed to the bedroom window, the way illuminated by the streetlight across the road. Nerves tighter than a cat’s, she giggled and slapped a hand over her mouth. She crept to the window, but couldn’t see a living being through lazy rivulets of dark rain. No matter how she smooshed her face against the glass, it wasn’t possible to see straight down.

She drew the curtains and felt around for the bedside light switch. Except for the tick-tock of her wind-up clock, no other sounds came within hearing range. Heartbeat slowed to match the clock, she collapsed on the bed. Victoria stared at the ceiling oblivious of its existence.

A small displacement on the mattress beside her shoulder interrupted her reverie. Time had stood still for only a couple minutes. It was 7:37 p.m. “Marmaduke. See anything out there?” The tom settled on all fours as if ready to pounce, blinked and wiggled his ears. His head moved back and forth not unlike someone searching for the right words to announce bad news. “Guess I’m the only ‘fraidy cat here.” The cat stretched a hind leg and groomed himself.

“I might as well get into bed and catch up on my reading. Be right back.” Victoria rolled off the bed with the cat at her heels.

While brushing her teeth, the day’s latter events crossed her mind. She’d called a taxi to deliver her key to the auto club. By day’s end, two young studs, driving in tandem, delivered the car to the office after closing. Gold Membership had its merits. At last she smiled into the mirror, toothpaste trailing down her chin. Marmaduke turned tail and sashayed away, tail high in the air.

An insistent pounding on the side door erased the smile. Now what? She grabbed a towel, stumbled down the stairs, and stopped. The cat already waited below the stairs by the side door. She peered around the corner though a yellow cotton curtain covered the door’s upper window.

“Please help me.” A voice muffled and sobbing pleaded.

Victoria sprang into action, seized the cat,  and wrenched open the door. “What’s wrong? Come in. Come in. I thought you were at the school. I didn’t hear your car return.”

The wind carried the baby’s bawling from next door. “We didn’t go. Steve’s not home. My baby’s sick and a cab’s coming… to the hospital. Can you please watch my girls? They’re already in bed…”

“Sure, sure. Here’s the cab. I’ll hurry.” Victoria charged upstairs for her cell and purse. She yanked her coat out of the hall closet. Tenting it over her head against the fine mist, she slammed the door. What was the clunk when the door banged shut?

She noted the driver had parked too close to the house. The neighbor’s side door wide open, she raced inside and up the stairs. The layout different here, she stepped into the kitchen. Mother and howling baby careened towards her. “Careful. You don’t want to trip.”

“ThankyouI’mCarol. You’re a life-savor. Can’t reach my mother either.” The women held on to each other, one cradling her baby, the other supporting his mother. The cab driver didn’t exit the car to help the struggling women. Or open the back door. “Get in on the driver’s side.” Victoria rushed back to the house. The taxi reversed down the drive.

I’m in a stranger’s house whose husband gives me the creeps. What if he comes back before she does? The thought stuck like a scar.

She’d kicked off her wet shoes at the door. Barefoot in the center of the kitchen, she surveyed her surroundings. The furnishing was neat, but in need of serious updating. The kitchen cabinets begged sanding and repainting or complete replacement. Chipped paint and cracked doors frowned in embarrassment. Countertops showed wear past their due date and the floor tiles were of the old asbestos type. The sense of someone watching jolted her heartbeat. No-one else in the house but the girls, right?

A glance over her shoulder triggered an involuntary gasp. “Sylvie. I thought you were asleep.” Except for worried hands clutching and unclutching each other, the girl stood rooted to the spot, eyes glazed and unblinking.

“You remember me, right? You and Sarah came to visit the day I moved in?”

Her nod, though slight, proved she understood.

“You wonder why the baby stopped crying and why I’m in your house?”

Another slight nod. Eyes blinked shut for an instant and flicked open. The hands slowed their twisting. “Your momma took a taxi to the hospital with your brother. He’s sick. Want me to tuck you in?”

The girl gaped about as if looking for something. Or someone.

“Your daddy isn’t home either. That’s why I’m here.”

The girl tilted her head, brow furled in thought. Victoria held her breath and waited. I don’t know a thing about kids. Hope I don’t spook her.

Sylvie loosened her hands, smoothed her long pink princess nightie, with tiny steps approached her and grabbed her hand. With a shy smile to break many hearts to come, she tugged till Victoria followed. In the bedroom’s doorway, a long forgotten question popped into her head. “Do you need the bathroom before bed?

The girl shook her head.

“No school Saturday but a girl needs her beauty sleep.” Victoria smiled and pulled back the covers. The girl slipped in, eyes wide and searching. “Don’t worry. I’ll be here till someone comes home. Sleep tight. Maybe you and sister Sarah will visit again soon.”

Sylvie smiled. Sarah twitched and sighed in her sleep in the other bed.

The long-suffering roar of a mutilated tailpipe shredded the quiet night.

To be continued

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


49 Comments

#BlogBattle Week 29 – Prompt Ride

The brains behind this challenge can be found at

#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 this awesome #BlogBattle Winner Badge to display with their winning story on their webpage:

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

Choices

Victoria hated long-distance driving. Hazel eyes gritty, she pulled into her new street and coasted to the curb. The red brick house still charmed her as much as the first time she’d seen it a month earlier. The realtor must have hired someone to trim the lawn and sweep the driveway. Was that a special service? She blinked bleary eyes for moisture and chuckled. Birds twittered along the tree-filled road graced with only eleven houses and an elementary school tucked in one corner of the dead-end street. She flicked off the car radio and gaped with wonder. The sun sneaked over the horizon. Sleepy heads lingered in dreamland in the safety of their beds early on this Saturday.

Six months ago, Victoria wouldn’t have imagined any of the recent changes in her life: a promotion, the move 600 miles to a strange town and a house. A house, not an apartment. She released the brake and drifted into the driveway, the Chevy’s motor a soft purr.

Meow.

“We’re home, Marmaduke. Come on. I’ll show you around.” She glanced into the rear-view mirror before slipping out of the car. She vibrated with excitement.

Meow.

She grasped the cat carrier from the back seat, keys already pointed towards the side door. “Gotcha. You’re going to love it here. So will I.”

The side entrance area was small, understandable for an 80-year-old house. She tripped up the handful of stairs to the main floor. “Oooh.” The living-room furniture had been arranged the way she’d planned in her head: the taupe sofa in the center of the space, facing the fireplace, her black area rug laid between the two. Down the hall boxes marked ‘kitchen’ cluttered the counters. The table and chairs were arranged for instant use. A huge basket wrapped in cellophane sat dead center. Coffee, tea, and mugs waited within. No need to search through her own boxes yet.

Meow. 

“I know, sweetie.” Zip. “Out you come.”

The white and ginger-smudged cat poked his head out and sniffed, pointed face cautious. He leaped towards the couch, changed direction and looped down the hall to investigate. Victoria stepped out to the car for her coffee-maker and luggage. While the coffee brewed, she slipped upstairs. Her bed set up beneath the sloped ceiling in the story-and-a-half awaited only sheets and blankets. “Oooh, Sam, what a jewel you are.” The spare bedroom had also been put to rights.

She’d anticipated the movers’ arrival first due to her own late start and the realtor had agreed to let them in, but this was far beyond her expectations. Too early now, but I must call Sam before lunch to thank her.

* * *

Marmaduke sprang out of her arms into a Meerkat look-out stance. She clutched at the cat, but he escaped to her feet, front paws on the armrest. He gawked at the intruders, tail thumping against the cushion. Victoria sat up and locked eyes with two raggedy children in her living-room’s threshold, hands clutching each other.

“Hello.” She rubbed her eyes. It was still daylight. Noting the mug too close to the edge of the coffee table, she pushed it back to safety. Guess I fell asleep… She swallowed a yawn.

“Your cat gots spots like a cow. You gots kids?” The shorter girl peered over her shoulder and stepped forward dragging her older sister along. The taller girl’s eyes grew by the second.

“No, I don’t. What are your names?”

“I’m Sarah—I’m four. That’s Sylvie—she’s seven. She don’t talk.”

“Nice to meet you. How’d you get in?”

Sarah giggled into her hand. “We comed in the door. You gots cookies?”

Victoria shook her head. “I just moved in—haven’t bought groceries yet. Where’s your mother?”

“She’s asleep on the bed with my brodder. He’s our new baby.”

“Where do you live?”

“Next door.” Sarah pointed in the direction of the side door. The girls spun round and raced down the stairs and outside before Victoria hopped off the sofa to follow. She watched the ragamuffins sprint down her drive hands clasped as if glued together.

From an all adult building to a house and now to kids in the neighborhood… What a ride the last month’s been. I hope this isn’t a mistake.

* * *

Marmaduke swooped from one window sill to another till he’d settled on the one fronting the street. “Say hello to the school kids for me since I’ll never see them.” Victoria stroked his head before leaving each morning at 7:00 and sometimes long after suppertime upon her return. The cat settled in the same spot all day seemed to never move.

Over the next month, she saw little of the neighbors except in passing, but she heard plenty through her open windows during the early fall. The baby bawled loud and hearty. His father, Steve’s rusty Ford broadcast its comings and goings with a howling muffler.

One Friday morning the sky opened up and gushed rain as if it might never stop. Victoria became drenched in the short sprint to her car. Running late, she gunned the Chevy out of the driveway and around the corner, where it quit. Not another vehicle in sight, she tried starting it. No luck. Again. Nothing.

She whipped out her phone to call CAA, but couldn’t hear for the deafening noise. Passing in the opposite direction, her neighbor, Steve, stopped and smirked. He wound down his window as did she. “Need a ride?”

Her head bobbed like a dashboard dummy. What choice did she have?

 

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


65 Comments

#BlogBattle – Week 16

You ought to check out Rachel’s blog below, for the rules and join in:blogbattle-award-1

http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/

The prompt this week is …spaghetti… + up to 1,000 words

Spaghetti and Tomato Sauce

Lois packed an overnight bag. She hadn’t been away from little Ryan since his birth almost 18 months earlier. There was no alternative; she had to go. One last check: cosmetics, extra socks, a change of clothes, toothbrush. Everything else she’d borrow from her mother. She took a deep breath, zipped and carted the bag to the front door where she dropped it.

“Parker, I’ve loaded the dishwasher and set the timer.” Hands on narrow hips, she glared at the newspaper concealing her husband in the living-room. “Parker!”

The rustle of paper shuffling broke the tense silence. “You say something?” He lowered the paper to reveal watery blue eyes, one eye engrossed in the print and the other flickered in her direction.

“I know neither of us is happy with this situation, but I have to go.”

“Why can’t one of your lady friends look after Ryan?” The paper rose by millimeters creating a wall again.

Lois marched to the Easy Boy and flattened the paper to her husband’s knees. “Look, I’d take him with me if I could, but my hands will be full. My mother needs me.”

He folded the pages and dropped the bundle on the floor. “Don’t be like that. We’ll manage. Just one night, right?”

“I’ll be back by lunchtime or mid-afternoon. You’ve read the instructions. Any last minute questions? He’s a little boy and an easy kid. You won’t have any trouble.”

* * *

The next day, Lois rolled into her driveway tired, but happy. Her mother’s tests had gone well. Hair pulled in a ponytail hinted of not too distant younger days instead of her current 35 years. She retrieved her paraphernalia from the trunk and scanned the neighborhood. So good to be home. The smell of fall already hung in the air though the trees hadn’t changed color yet. Laugh lines engaged, she hummed to herself as she strode to the front door.

Wouaaa.

“No!”

“What th…” Lois kicked off her shoes and dropped her bags. Ryan never kicked up a fuss. She dashed towards the howl in the kitchen. Her jaw dropped. The kitchen had been redecorated in red noodles. Both father and son were covered in spaghetti and tomato sauce as well.

“Come on, little man. You like this sh—stuff. Yum-yum.” The baby’s hand collided with the spoon and sent it flying in his mother’s direction. She stepped back in time to avoid a splatter. “Thank gawd you’re home. Look, Mommy’s home, Ryan. Isn’t that nice?”

“Mama-Mama.” Grubby fingers working, chubby arms stretched to reach across the distance.

Ryan wriggled and crawled from the center of the kitchen table, sauce and spaghetti stuck all around him, his little face covered from his hairline downwards. Only his eyeballs appeared untainted. His mother snatched him before he reached the edge. A giggle bubbled up her throat, then grew to an enormous belly laugh as his gummy cheek stuck to hers. Parker sucked in a quick breath and chuckled too. The boy pulled back, eyes wide as he examined his parents and put a gooey hand to his mouth and joined in. Lois pointed a finger at her husband’s head and hooted. “You have more food on your head than hair.”

“Mama-mama.” Ryan rocked himself in his mother’s arms, thumb already in his mouth.

“Mommy’s home, baby. Let’s clean you up. It’s past your nap-time.” Lois ruffled his thin blond hair not unlike his father’s.

“I guess I’ll start on the kitchen.” Parker ducked his head and made a clucking noise.

“One question. Why didn’t you put him into the highchair?”

“He fought like a tiger—arms and legs spun like a propeller. He’s a strong little kid.”

“What’s for lunch? I’m starving?”

“Oh. A can of soup and a bun okay?

“See you in a bit, I’m dying to hear about your time together.”

* * *

Changed and showered, Ryan asleep, Lois poured a coffee in the sticky kitchen. “The stained laundry is ruined. By the way, what did you do with the soiled diapers? They’re not in the diaper pail.”

“Phe-ew. I didn’t know what to do with them, but I had to get them out of the house.”

Eyebrows raised to sharp peeks, she set her mug on the table. Parker squirmed in his seat, a flush rushed from his neck to his ears like a bruise. He twisted the mug in his hands.

“I’ve never been alone with Ryan before. I had to think of something fast.” He rubbed the back of his neck, looking everywhere but at his wife. “What do you do with them?”

She sat back in her chair arms folded and head tilted. “I told you. They all go into the diaper pail. What did you do?”

“I buried them in the backyard.”

“Wha— Maybe you ought to bury all the spaghetti stained clothing as well.”

The End

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


61 Comments

#BlogBattle – Week 15

Originator of this challenge:

http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/

This  week’s prompt is …rage… + up to  1,000 words

Rage

The new neighbors arrived Saturday morning. Four screaming kids exploded out of the beat up van, voices shrill in the quiet street. Harry powered off and leaned on the handle of his lawnmower. He reached for the cigarette tucked behind his ear and lit up. A plump blonde slid off the passenger seat, pouty mouth streaked blood red. As the brood of kids, all under eleven or twelve, tore up and down the lawn and driveway, a reedy scarecrow of a man appeared at the back of the van and proceeded to unload luggage and cardboard boxes.

“Don’t just stand there, Louise. Open the damn door and come back help me.”

“Can I have the key first?” Her hand snaked forward, palm open.

“Oh for crikey sake. I gave it to you already.” Glass rattled in the box he plunked on the ground.

“Nope. Check your pockets.”

“Don’t give me no lip. I said— You must have slipped it into my pocket. Here— You’re ticking me off woman.”

Harry smoked the last of his cigarette, stared at the grass at his feet and then, across the road. The kids huddled together in a tight knot, quiet now, the girl half a head taller than the tallest boy. The squeal of bad brakes shattered the short-lived silence. A box-like moving van lumbered up the street and stopped in front of the empty house. A lanky twenty-something male jumped out of the passenger’s side and sprinted up the driveway.

“We need to back into the driveway, so’s we can get started? Okay?”

“Can’t you see I’m unloading here?” Scarecrow man spit a gob on the driveway, his hands in tight fists.

“I’ll help.” The young man gawked over his shoulder at the driver.

Harry crushed his smoke in the grass, dropped the butt into his shirt pocket and started up his mower. The rusty van drew up in front of his house, but he ignored it. One more pass and he was done. Turning on his heel, he headed to the backyard.

“The new neighbors have arrived.”

“Oh, yeah? What are they like? Any kids?” She stopped weeding and sat back on her heels, shading her eyes against the sun.

“In a word, trouble—with four kids.”

 * * *

After supper, Harry took out the garbage as usual, snapping the lid on tight and secure. The summer sun slid lower behind the garage. A screeching and wailing rent the air over scraping utensils across dirtied plates inside his house. His head snapped in the direction of the ugly noise. The girl pulled on youngest brother, the other two shadowed them out the side door. Hands in his pocket, Harry ambled down the drive as if deep in thought, an eye on the kids. The van still parked in front of his house afforded a clear view up the empty driveway.

“You don’t tell me nothing. You hear.”

Crash. Smash!

“Stop it. You’re hurting me. Let go.” The woman howled like a banshee.

The kids shuffled away from the door as one, the girl’s arms enclosing her brothers. At that moment Harry caught her eye. She lifted her chin high and turned away. Harry marched towards the house as his wife, a frozen grimace on her face and eyes wide, rushed out the door.

“I’m surprised nobody’s called the cops yet. Call them.” No sooner had the door slammed behind them when a siren moaned in the distance and stopped. Then, again. Closer this time. Two car doors slammed shut. Harry hurried outside as had all the residents on the street.

The police cruiser blocked the bottom of the drive. One burly uniform rushed to the door. The other corralled the children to the cruiser. “Stay inside. I’ll be back.” He rushed towards the house.

“What are you doing in my house? Get out!”

“Sir. Calm down.”

“Ma’am, are you all right? Let’s go into the other room.”

“Don’t tell me calm down. This is my house. You get out.” The words exploded in a guttural roar. Harry, as well as the curious on-lookers disappeared inside their houses.

“Your rage isn’t helping anyone. Hey! Put down that knife, sir. I said. Put. It. Down. Now.”

* * *

An officer on either side strong-arming him, scarecrow man in handcuffs tugged this way and that, and screamed obscenities spittle flying every which way. The woman, Louise, flew out of the house brandishing an umbrella and whacked her husband on the head before one of the uniforms grabbed it from her. ”Pick on women and innocent children will you. Don’t you never come back, you hear?”

“Mommy, mommy.” Her children ran into her open arms. “Shh-shh. It’s going to be okay.”

The girl stepped back first. “I can’t live like this anymore. Yelling, screaming, no groceries, always moving in the night. This isn’t a good life for us kids.”

“It’s okay, Sweetie Pie. I have the keys to the van. We’ll leave tonight.”

“I’m not going. I want clean clothes, a clean bed, regular food and a normal kid’s life.” Two fingers of each raised hand wiggled to suggest apostrophes. “We’re not coming with you.”

“That’s nonsense.” Louse blinked and rubbed an eye smudging the already runny mascara. “We need to get some clothes and things. Come on. Help me.”

“I am not going into that house ever again. We’ll wait out here.”

The three boy nodded like dashboard bobble heads. Louise stared at her daughter with narrowed eyes. “I’ll be right back. Forget the junk inside. I’ll get my purse. One moment.”

As soon as the door slammed behind her, the kids hoofed it across the road to Harry’s house. They didn’t knock. They simply slipped inside.

A voice outside screeched. “Where are my children?” Curtains swayed up and down the street. Louise twisted around a time or two, threw back her shoulders and scurried towards the van.

The End

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


58 Comments

#BlogBattle – Week 14

Come join us. For details, check out

http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/

This  week’s prompt is …frog… + up to  1,000 words

No More

Frankie’s nerves were as brittle as her fingernails. She hated the house since the divorce, and everything else afterwards. Thoughts of selling it weighed heavy on her mind. The whole rigmarole involved overwhelmed her, but she had no alternative, had no idea what to do next. Would she survive the wait between selling and moving? Should she have called the priest?

She pretended to read the paper, but watched her five-year-old daughter at play instead. Thick black curls bobbed around the serious little face. Forehead pinched, Suzanne tucked her doll into the toy pram muttering under her breath. “Bad dolly. You go sleep. Now.”

“Dolly’s not bad, Sweetie. Babies are never bad.” Frankie folded the newspaper and tossed it on the coffee table. “Maybe it’s not her bedtime yet.”

“She not listen all day. Baby needs sleep to grow big and strong.” Her mouth in a pout, the little girl yanked the carriage handle and headed for the hallway. Where’d she learn those words?

“Suzanne, Mommy’s running your bath now.”

“Don’t want no bath now.” Leaving the carriage at the bottom of the stairs, she raced upwards as fast as her pudgy legs allowed.

Temperature adjusted and water streaming, Frankie poured in fragrant bubble bath and listened to the busy footsteps overhead. Then silence. “Mommy, what I come here for?” The girl’s call sounded puzzled.

Clamping down a giggle, her mother’s nose crinkled. “I don’t know. You didn’t tell me.” She sing-songed the words back to her daughter. Silence continued. Mandy, skulked out from wherever she’d been catnapping and tore up the stairs after her precious. Susanne soon thumped down the stairs, short arms under the black cat’s belly, whose legs hung limp as a ragdoll almost brushing the floor.

“Bath time, sweetie.”

“Mm-mm. My favorite. Strawberry.” Suzanne dumped the cat and pulled at her clothes. Mandy sauntered into the bathroom and hopped onto the edge of the tub, content to watch the suds froth. Suzanne bolted and climbed in, her mother close behind pulled off her purple Tee, then turned off the faucet. The girl squealed; Mandy curled her tail tight around her and relaxed on all fours for comfortable guard duty.

Crash.

Frankie froze, washcloth in mid-air. The cat recoiled and dashed towards the sound. “Sit tight, Sweetie. Mommy will be right back.” She handed Susanne the cloth. “Don’t move. I’ll only be a sec.” The girl, too involved with her singing, paid no attention. Twinkle, twinkle weetle star…”  One foot over the threshold, Frankie flashed a quick glance towards her daughter and dashed down the hall.  Mandy sniffed at the framed picture leaning upright against the baseboard. She stared at air and bounced about the room. Not again. At least no broken glass this time. Frankie scrutinized the empty spaces in the room, her face pinched, brows drawn. She plunked the picture on the coffee table and rushed back to the bathroom.

“Good girl. You waited for me. Out we come. One. Two. Three.” She plucked up her daughter wrapping a towel around her. “My, oh my. Somebody smells go-od.” The young girl clapped and shrieked. Frankie bit her lip as she clutched her daughter and buried her face in the girl’s damp curls, a frog in her throat.

“Tomorrow, we’ll buy a new pillow for the rocking chair in your room.”

“Can’t. The lady upstairs won’t like it.”

Lips flopping like a guppy, Jackie cast around for words but nothing came out. “W-w-what lady?”

“The lady that lives in my room. Can I have a drink, Mommy?”

“A small one, ‘kay? What does she look like?”

“Like a gamma, and gamma hair.”

Frankie fought to keep her voice light. “Is she a nice lady?” She set the girl on a kitchen chair and poured an ounce of water into a glass. Sounds like the lady I saw when we moved in, but that was seven years ago.

“She sits in the rocking chair and sings to me sometimes.” Frankie handed the girl the glass.

“Mommy. Let go.”

No-one and nothing is messing with my baby. Blinking to suppress determined tears, Frankie released the glass. “How about we have a girl’s night and you sleep in Mommy’s bed tonight.”

Suzanne yelped and clapped. The cat streaked into the kitchen, eyes black, fur standing on end. “Mandy we sleep wiff Mommy tonight.”

* * *

Her daughter asleep, the cat curled beside her pillow, Frankie crept downstairs. While she let the water out of the tub, she peered into the living-room. Strange. The picture wasn’t on the coffee table. It hung on the wall where it belonged.

Pushing fists into her mouth not to cry out, Frankie closed her eyes rooted to the floor. No more ifs or maybes. She’d made up her mind. Enough. Let us make it through this night. No more ghosts at the foot of the bed, nor children in the basement nor white-haired ladies singing to my child. No more falling pictures. 

Time to leave. Morning wouldn’t come fast enough. She shut off the lights and rushed upstairs to her sleeping, daughter. Not even the cat twitched when she slipped into bed. The rain outside picked up, the crimson maple thrashed the windows. Sleep didn’t come. The house creaked and sighed. Frankie tossed.

No more. Time to say goodbye.

Something or someone knocked on the bedroom door. The cat sprang up and glared at the sound. Frankie squirreled closer to her baby.

The End

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