Friday, July 29, 2011

Stronger Stuff

Title: Stronger Stuff
Word Count: 1328
Genre: Realistic Fiction

This is a semiautobiographical piece that I started writing about 3 years ago. In going through my files this summer, I found it and finished it up. I'm curious as to who you sympathize with more, the man or the woman. Both had their problems and difficulties, but one of them has to be the victim, right?

Stronger Stuff

Meet me by the bridge at dusk.

That's all the note had said. No signature, no address, nothing except the single sentence. But, she didn't need to wonder who it was from. The sharp letters were as familiar to her as her own sloping handwriting. She sighed and folded the note back up, placing it carefully in her purse.

He wouldn't have sent that note to her if it wasn't important. Despite her reservations about seeing him again, she knew she would end up going. There was no way she could deny the tug the note had over her. She sipped on the last of her afternoon tea, her one pleasure after a long day at work. It was the only thing that seemed to calm her down these days, now that he had left and taken his calming presence with him.

A quick peek out the window told her that she had to get ready. The sun was dipping low in the sky, and if she didn't leave soon, she would miss the appointment. She made her way into the kitchen and washed out her cup, thinking about what he could possibly want to meet her for. Making her way to her hall closet, she pulled out a long pink scarf, her long coat, and an umbrella. She didn't particularly want to leave the warmth of her house to go out in the drizzling cold, but she couldn't leave him waiting for her.

It was a fifteen minute walk to the stone bridge in the park. There was little foot traffic so late in the afternoon; just a few people walking their dogs before turning in for the night. She looked down at the river flowing freely under the bridge. The water seemed so calm, but she knew it ran strong. An orange leaf floating by showed the current moving along quickly, while the few raindrops falling from the sky left ripples in the surface.

It was starting to get dark. He'd be here soon, if he wasn't already waiting nearby. She closed her eyes and took a few deep breaths. She heard a few leaves crunch behind her, but she continued to look out over the water.

“Hello again.” His voice was soft, sweet, just as she remembered it. “Thanks for coming.”

She turned to him and melted at the sight of him. He stood there, proud and confident as ever, save for the small blue circles under his eyes. He smiled brightly, making her stomach flutter.

“What do you want from me?” she asked, confused as ever. Her heart ached a little, knowing she would never fully recover from the loss of him.

“I needed someone to talk to. You're the only one who would understand.” He looked at her, his eyes pleading. Her gaze dropped to her hands, fighting the urge to bound into his arms.

She heard him sigh and lean against the railing next to her. “You know, this is where I first told you I loved you.” He paused and placed a warm hand over hers. “It's still true, you know.”

She pulled her hand away and closed her eyes, urging the tears to stay at bay. “I am well aware of what has happened here. If you love me so much, why do you keep pushing me away, only to draw me close again?”

He shrugged. “I need you. I just can't... be with you.” He shifted his weight.

She turned to him quickly, her eyes flashing with anger. “You can't be with me, and yet you won't leave me alone long enough for me to move on. To try to scrape together some semblance of my former life, before you took me by storm.” Her breathing became erratic, and lightening flashed overhead. He held his hands up in surrender and took a step back.

“Calm down now. I just wanted to talk....”

“Of course you just wanted to talk. And as soon as you have whatever it is you're worried about off your chest, you'll leave again until you need me again. You don't care about me, certainly not to the degree I care about you.” She turned her back to him, closing her eyes tightly against the onslaught of emotions.

“If this is about me and Brian...”

She wanted to scream in frustration. “Of course this isn't about you and Brian. This is about me. This is about my need to be human again, not some shade of my former self. If you actually cared about me, you would be able to see that. I'm miserable, and you're just keeping me there while you go and move on with someone else. I don't care who it is you move on with; I love you enough to wish you happiness, but I want to be happy as well.”

She could hear him breathing quietly behind her and held her breath for his reaction. She couldn't imagine it would be a good one. There was entirely too much tension in the air and his temper would flare worse than hers had. Their tempers matched so well, it always made for explosive arguments when either was stressed.

He brushed his fingers along her shoulder and sighed. She stiffened beneath his touch, her nerves on edge. “You're right,” he said softly. “I should let you go. But I find myself craving your company at the strangest of times. I'm not strong enough.” He lifted her hand and kissed her knuckles softly.

Her knees shook beneath her and she used her other hand to steady herself against the stone wall. “What did you need to talk to me about?” she asked, her voice barely a whisper.

“It's my dad. He still won't talk to me.” He tugged on her hand pulled her into his arms. “I'm not sure what to do about it,” he mumbled into her hair.

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “Just give him time. You're his only son. He'll come around. You just shocked him.”

“It wouldn't take much to shock him,” he chuckled. “He's lived the straight and narrow his whole life.”

She nodded, but remained silent. He continued to talk, letting the weight of the world off his chest, it seemed. She listened, savoring the feel of his arms around her, the feeling of safety she felt. She reluctantly pulled away as he finished his catharsis. The rain had stopped, leaving a crisp chill in the air.

“Thank you,” he whispered in her ear. “I don't know what I'd do without you.”

“I didn't do anything,” she muttered.

“You listened. You gave me hope again.” He leaned down and softly kissed her cheek. “You make everything seem better.”

She shrugged and smiled weakly. “I should be getting back.”

He glanced at his watch and nodded. “Let me walk you back.”

“No, that won't be necessary,” she said forcefully, placing her hand on his chest. “I could use the quiet time,” she added.

He nodded and gave her one last hug, then set off for his home once again. As she stood there, watching him leave, a tear rolled down her cheek. “Goodbye. I'll miss you.”

Turning on her heel, she started the stroll back to her own house, making a mental list of the loose ends she'd need to tie up before she left town. It was a cowardly move, she knew, but a necessary one. He needed to find someone else to confide in, and she just needed to find herself again. Three long years she had spent in his company, becoming absorbed in his world. Now, it was over, and she had to become her own person again, not half of a couple.

What doesn't kill you only makes you stronger.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Michael's Mission

Title: Michael's Mission
Word Count: 1,144
Genre: Fantasy

Yes, I know it's been forever and a day since I posted something. But between writing and school, school will always come first. But now that I'm out for summer break, I'll have a little more time to write and edit and whatnot.

First up is another character sketch. This one is for Michael Cline, the second main character in my Hidden Souls universe (the first is Sophia Carson, and her character sketch can be found here). I started writing this back in November, just to try to get inside Michael's head, but he didn't want to let me in too far. So I picked up the document again a couple days ago and banged out the rest.

Note once again that this is a rough (as in almost hot off the press) draft. It's unedited, probably full of mistakes (both grammatical and chronological), and gives a little more away than I'd like, but as the novel is about Sophia, and not Michael, I figure that's okay too. Enjoy!

Michael's Mission

People were walking up the hill, gathering in a small circle at the top. He stood at the bottom, watching them idly, before seeking shelter from the sweltering sun under a large oak on the edge of the circle. A man within the circle pulled a Kleenex out of his pocket and dabbed his forehead to stop the sweat from running down his face and onto his freshly pressed shirt. Several of the ladies had papers that they were using as fans, while others didn't seem to notice the heat at all, too focused on the speech in the center of the crowd. He stood out in his jeans and black t-shirt, but no one seemed to notice.

The crowd bowed their heads in prayer, and he took the time to watch the faces. Everyone he knew, even some he didn't, were standing there. People he hadn't seen in years had gathered here on this bright summer day. His family stood in the center of the crowd, huddled together as if for warmth despite the heat. The steady cadence of the prayer came to a conclusion and the crowd collectively murmured 'Amen.' There was a slight paused before the crowd shifted, moving closer to the center, then dispersing one by one.

He watched as the older couples filed out one by one, followed by his friends, heading down the hill to their cars parked along the narrow road. None even glanced his way, almost as if they were purposefully avoiding him. He appeared unfazed by this, as if it were a normal turn of events.

Finally, the crowd thinned enough that he could see his mother and father standing next to the preacher, his mother leaning against his father for support. His younger sister stood a little off to the side, her eyes blank and unfocused. He straightened and walked towards her, holding out his hand to offer her support. She shook her head slightly, then turned away and stalked down the hill to where a man was leaning against a small blue car.

His mother let out a soft sob, then turned to her husband and clung to him for support. He whispered reassuring words in her ear, though tears were streaking down his own face. After a moment, both walked slowly towards their own car, leaving only him and the preacher. The preacher looked down at the ground and mouthed a few words, then followed the rest of the crowd towards the waiting cars.

He remained, looking down at the hole in the ground where they had lowered his body. There was a pile of dirt artfully hidden with a black cloth, the edge of a shovel sticking out slightly. He swallowed, then turned to watch the cars as they drove away, one by one. Never before had he felt this alone, looking down at his tombstone.

Michael Richard Cline
Son taken before his prime
June 9, 1984 – August 10, 2007

Letting out a groan of frustration, he looked up at the sky. “Why? Why me? Why did you have to take me away and then curse me by leaving me here?” he shouted, falling to his knees and letting out a sigh of despair.

Glancing down the hill, he saw his sister standing there in the arms of the man who had been waiting by her car. Feeling a sudden surge of anger, he marched down the hill to them. The wind picked up slightly as he moved, rustling the leaves of the trees and his sister's skirt. She shivered and huddled further into the man's arms. As he approached, he heard her sobbing softly.

“It's all my fault, Simon,” she cried. Michael slowed his approach.

Simon shook his head and rubbed her back slowly. “Nat, it's not your fault. It was an accident...”

She shook her head quickly. “I asked him to drive home. I knew he couldn't leave until late, but I insisted he come anyway. And then it started raining...”

Michael shook his head. “Natalie, it wasn't your fault. I'd made that drive hundreds of times.”

Simon held her at arms length. “It was an accident, Nat. Someone was driving too fast down the mountain, and he just got unlucky and went through the light at the wrong time.”

She whimpered softly. “If I hadn't insisted that he drive down that night, he would have come the next morning, when it wasn't raining, and he would have made it home safely...”

Michael reached out a hand for her, but Simon pulled her to him instead. “You can't blame yourself. He wouldn't want that, and you know it,” Simon argued.

Michael sighed softly and nodded, then looked at Simon with narrowed eyes. “You had better take care of her. If you hurt her at all, there will be hell to pay.”

Simon kissed Natalie's forehead, then opened the door to the car and led her in. A few minutes later, the pair was driving away into the distance. Michael stood on the side of the road and watched them, even as they drove out of sight.

“It's not very healthy to hang out around your grave, you know,” a soft voice chimed behind him.

Startled, Michael spun on his heel towards the voice, only to find a girl that looked as if she were only ten dressed in a short white dress. “Who are you?”

She shrugged. “Who I am doesn't particularly matter. You're upset that you died, and you're upset that you're stuck here. Not what you were expecting out of the afterlife, I take it.”

He frowned slightly. “I don't... How can you see me when no one else could?”

She smiled. “Not everything is as it seems, Michael. You have not yet completed your purpose in life, so you'll remain here until you do.”

“What if I don't want to remain here? And what is my purpose?” Michael asked, crossing his arms over his chest.

The girl's eyes twinkled. “You'll figure it out eventually, when the time comes.”

His jaw clenched. “And what am I supposed to do in the meantime? No one can see me or hear me, so I can't interact with anyone, and I can't touch anything. What am I supposed to do in a physical world when I'm not a physical being?”

The girl tilted her head and watched him for a moment. “You're very educated, Michael. Perhaps you would best be suited exploring the interests you didn't have a chance to explore during your life.” Without waiting for a reply, she faded, leaving Michael to shout in frustration at his new situation.

“Have it your way, then,” he shouted. “I'll find my way, but I'm not going searching for it. I'm going to do things my way.” With a sudden burst of wind, he disappeared, leaving the cemetery empty once again.