Disinterest (#4)

Why didn’t you come?”

“I had a thing, I told you.”

“What thing?”

“A thing! Just a thing… A work thing.”

“A work thing…” His voice trailed off. It was that kind of trailing off that told you that the other person didn’t really believe what you were telling them but were too scared, too tired, or just too disinterested to ask further about. In his case, she knew, it was a kind of disinterest from which there was no coming back: the kind that she had figured out before him. Sure, he seemed to be genuinely disappointed about her missing his performance, but his indignity was all just for show. A talented actor who couldn’t let go of a role he’d played for five long years. He just hadn’t figured it out yet.

She picked up this morning’s newspaper which he had left folded neatly on their breakfast table next to her toast. The entertainment section was on top, a piece about last night’s play at the center. She scanned it. Apparently his interpretation of Sherlock was already being handled as one of the best of the current theatrical season. Just another punch in the gut for her. He hadn’t even bothered to tell her how his performance had gone last night. She had to read about it in the paper. Without a word she flipped to the international politics section.

They spent the next twenty minutes in silence, she eating her toast and reading the paper, he peeling his oranges and staring off into space. This had become more or less the norm during breakfast, him refusing to communicate with her. Without being fully aware of it, she knew, he was trying to drag her into a silent war. It was another one of those things people did when they couldn’t or wouldn’t admit to themselves that they had lost interest in someone: pick a fight, any fight. And this silent, oppressive atmosphere he unwittingly generated was his chosen battleground. But she wouldn’t let herself be dragged into this particular arena. He could forget about that.

She peaked at the clock on the wall from around her paper. He had already started peeling his second orange. Good. Just a few more minutes and she could head out for work. As he tore the orange apart, some of its juice squirted in her direction.

“Could you please be more careful with that? I’d like to not have to change before work again, thank you very much.”

“I’m sorry, honey, I didn’t mean to.”

“Oh, by the way,” she said as she got up, putting aside the paper, “I have to work late again today, so I might just have dinner at work. That okay with you?”

“It is what it is what it is, I guess,” he said and popped a piece of fruit into his mouth.


 

Context for this piece: Each day of this new year I will be setting aside about half an hour to write a short text, any kind of text. I will use four random prompts generated by an app called Writing Challenge, with five minutes of writing dedicated to each prompt, bringing it up to a total of 20 minutes of writing for each text.

The prompts are marked in bold letters and a full list can be found here:

  • Start with a dialogue that begins with the words “Why didn’t you come?”
  • Include a newspaper in the plot
  • Include the word “war”
  • Include “a piece of fruit” in the last sentence
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Ballerina (#3)

 

What the hell are you talking about?!” And off she went again on another one of her rants. He sighed, not too passionately or it might just give her more incentive to raise her voice even louder. So far none of the people riding the subway with them were staring. Yet.

“All I’m saying is that Ella wasn’t the one who decided this. So cut her some slack. She has feelings, too, you know,” he said, trying to keep the accusation in his voice down to a minimum. He really couldn’t blame her for getting angry about this. But her anger had a tendency of drowning out everybody else’s needs. Mostly his. Maybe that was because he never got angry at anything. Not even when it would probably be the healthiest thing to do, for him and everyone around him. There always just seemed to be too many other feelings to consider, too many other people getting angry, or sad, or disappointed that there was no time left for him to do so. In those kind of situations she would get angry on his behalf. And then at him, for not getting angry himself.

“I’m very much aware of the fact that Ella has feelings,” she brought out through gritted teeth. Good. She was making an effort to reign in the fire inside of her.

“Still, that was MY grandmother’s necklace. I should have gotten it, not fucking Ella!” She spat out Ella’s name like a bad taste in her mouth, a sour look on her face. The elderly lady sitting on his right stared wide-eyed at her last words. He smiled at her apologetically, but the old lady was already moving to another seat at the other end of the cart. He sighed.

“Ella is your brother’s wife, even if not by blood, she is technically also your grandmother’s granddaughter,” he said. Damn. Wrong thing to say. He could tell that she was livid now. He needed to shut her down, and quickly, before she gave in to her temper, after all.

“Besides, you haven’t worn any jewelry in over a decade, so who cares about that necklace. It’s not like you’d ever put it on or anything. Let Ella have it, at least she can make use of it.” That had been a cheap shot, he knew. He also knew that he had hurt her with that, but at least it had drained her of most of her uncontrollable anger.

“I just wanted something to remember her by…” It broke his heart to hear the pain in her suddenly quiet voice. He stared down at his shoes. They passed two subway stops in silence before she spoke again.

“She used to wear that necklace all the time.” She closed her eyes as she spoke and took a slow, deep breath.

“When I think of Gran, I think of that necklace. And the smell of lemons. I don’t know why, but she always smelled like fresh lemons.” Her eyes still closed, she slowly lifted both her arms, bringing her fingertips together in an arch over her head.

“She bought me my first ballerina outfit when I was 10,” she said. He smiled at the recollection of her and Gran dancing together, the afternoon they had spent pretending to perform Swan Lake for a vivid and excited crowd that cheered them on. Until her mother had come to pick him up. And he shuddered at the memory of how his mother had reacted when she’d seen the ballerina outfit. How his mother and Gran had gotten into a huge fight about it, and how he’d barely seen Gran a handful of times since that afternoon 12 years ago. How he’d shut her up inside of him, together with the memory of the ballerina outfit.


She began to speak in a quiet voice as the silent tears cascaded down her cheeks, “This is my stop.”


Context for this piece: Each day of this new year I will be setting aside about half an hour to write a short text, any kind of text. I will use four random prompts generated by an app called Writing Challenge, with five minutes of writing dedicated to each prompt, bringing it up to a total of 20 minutes of writing for each text.

The prompts are marked in bold letters and a full list can be found here:

  • Start with a dialogue that begins with the words “What are you talking about?”
  • Include a necklace in the plot
  • Include the word “ballerina”
  • Begin the last sentence of the story with “She began to speak in a quiet voice”

 

The Little Girl (#2)

 

She escaped when she was eight years old. That was twenty years ago, but the dreams she’d almost forgotten about had started coming back a few nights back. She’d been woken by one just now. The clock on her nightstand read 3:30am. Wonderful. Another night without sleep. She threw the thick bed covers off her sweaty legs and made her way into the tiny bathroom of her tiny apartment. The light shone blindingly into her face as she hit the switch over the bathroom sink, so it took her a full minute of rapid blinking to see the little girl standing barefoot in her bathtub.  

The girl was wearing a plain beige nightgown and nothing else, and looked no older than 6, her long hair parted in the middle into two pigtails. Trying to decide whether or not she was still dreaming she asked, “Who are you?” The girl’s eyes widened at the words, as if she too was doubting the reality of this scene. There was something familiar about it. About all of this.

She let go of the sink that she now realized she’d been gripping hard, and crouched down on her knees, bringing her face level with the girl’s. Arranging her features in what she hoped would be a soft expression, she offered a hand to the trembling little girl in her bathtub and said, “I have no idea what’s going on right now, either, but let’s find out together, okay?” She smiled, and with that the girl reached out a shaking hand to grip her calm one, and climbed out of the tub.

“How about you sit down on my bed while I make us a cup of tea.” The little girl just nodded, staring at her as if in trance, her trembling slowly ebbing away. She wrapped a thick blanket around the girl before turning to the left corner of her tiny apartment that served as a tiny kitchen. Neither of them said a word as she stood with her back to the girl, waiting for the water to boil. She’d only moved to this apartment two weeks ago. It was too small for the price they were asking, but the moment she’d first set foot into the tiny space, she’d felt a comfortable warmth spread through her chest. She had felt at home. So she’d signed the papers, right then and there. And now she understood why.

She placed a dark red tea bag into each of the cups of steaming hot water in front of her and carried them to her bed. Her hands no longer shaking, the girl took the offered cup in both hands, bowing low the hot steam rising from it. The bed made a wheezing sound as she settled down next to the girl, her own cups steam riding up to moisten her cheeks. They both sipped their teas in silence, shoulder to shoulder.

“It’s going to be alright,” she said into the tiny room. “It’s all going to be alright. You are strong, you are remarkable. Even if it might not be now, it will eventually be alright.” She set her cup down on her bedside table and leaned back against the wall her bed stood next to. Still silent, the little girl imitated her, leaning her small frame against hers, and closed her eyes. She put her arm around the girl’s shoulders, pulling her closer to her, holding her tight. She was starting to feel dizzy, probably from the lack of sleep, so she too closed her eyes and drifted into sleep.


Context for this piece: Each day of this new year I will be setting aside about half an hour to write a short text, any kind of text. I will use four random prompts generated by an app called Writing Challenge, with five minutes of writing dedicated to each prompt, bringing it up to a total of 20 minutes of writing for each text.

The prompts are marked in bold letters and a full list can be found here:

  • Start the story with the words “She escaped when…”
  • Include a dialogue that starts with the words “Who are you?”
  • Include the word “together”
  • End the story with a character feeling dizzy

Lucid (#1)

 

Crystal.

Clear.

Transparent.

See-through.

Basically non-existent.

Except that it did exist, and very much so. Her cheek was resting against the smooth surface of the kitchen table, the water-like liquid right in front of her. If she brought it up to her eye, even the little vial the liquid came in all but disappeared. Just like that. As if it had never really been there in the first place.

Her long legs bumped into the square kitchen table as she let herself fall back into her chair. The vial gave a shudder and the calm of the liquid was disturbed. She closed her eyes to the ripples tearing through the liquid, took a deep breath and recited out loud: “He has three sisters. One older, two younger. One still in school – the youngest, one married – the oldest, one estranged – the second youngest.”

Lie.

Eyes still closed, she began again: “He has three sisters, one older, two younger. One still in school – the youngest, one married – the oldest, one estranged – the second youngest.”

Lie!

A frustrated snort escaped through her nose. She tried a third time: “He has four sisters, one older, two younger, one twin. One still in school – the youngest, one married – the oldest, one estranged – the second youngest, and one dead soon – the twin. “

True.

She opened her eyes, and sighed. The vial looked empty again. The coffee maker behind her gave a splutter as it pushed the last drops of brownish liquid through its tubes. She stood up, carefully this time, so to not bump into the table again, took a cup from the cupboard over the kitchen sink, and poured the coffee into the cup. She’d left the notebook on his desk, he’d find it tonight, latest by tomorrow morning, maybe, but that would be soon enough. As she poured, the ripples made by the crystal clear liquid almost instantly vanished from the otherwise smooth surface of the coffee. As if it had never really been there.

“Your brother won’t be home until later tonight, I think,” she called.

“That’s okay, I’ll just have that cup of coffee you offered and then I’ll be out of your hair,” came the other voice from the next room.

“Coming right up,” she called back, carrying the cup out of the kitchen with a smile.


Context for this piece: Inspired by a lovely friend from long ago I have set a  new writing challenge for myself. Each day of this new year I will be setting aside about half an hour to write a short text, any kind of text. I will use four random prompts generated by an app called Writing Challenge, with five minutes of writing dedicated to each prompt, bringing it up to a total of 20 minutes of writing for each text.

The prompts are marked in bold letters and a full list can be found here:

  • Include a vial filled with poison in the plot
  • Include a dialogue that starts with “He has three sisters”
  • Include a notebook in the plot
  • End the story with the word “smile”