Xia reached over and grabbed her daughter, frantic to quiet her cries. No one could know about this little one. No one.
A rushed and mumbled lullaby filled the room. The din of voices from the neighbors t.v. sifted through the wall and almost drowned out her words. Lei still cried, so Xia sang louder, afraid that someone might hear them.
Soft light shone through the thin curtain, and Lei calmed. Her dark eyes locked on her mother’s face. Xia knew her daughter was smiling, but it wouldn’t be obvious to others. Lei was missing most of her upper lip.
A freezing wind blew through the room as the door opened. Shen ran in with the cold and sat down in front of the wood stove, holding his hands out toward the warmth. Jin closed the door and sulked to the range, where he readied a teapot.
“I am sorry I did not get that for you. Lei was crying, I could not leave her.”
“I did not expect it.” Jin sat next to Xia on their bed and took Lei from her arms. He tucked her blanket around her and touched the dark, soft hairs on her head.
“She is lucky to have you. Others would have abandoned her, made their wives get rid of her.”
“She is ours, same as Shen.”
“They will fine us for keeping her.”
“We can’t pay.”
“They will take her then!” Shen turned from the warm stove.
Jin and Xia looked at Shen, pained that their young boy had to live with their same fears.
Shen continued, “I know what they do. I hear boys at school, they say horrible things.”
Xia went to her son, and placing a hand on his shoulder said, “Only listen to your father, he is the one with a good heart. You learn many things from him, all good.”
“I will work to pay the fines. I want Lei to stay.” Shen cried.
Jin’s voice rose from the bed. “No. You will go to school and get a good job. Do you want to walk miles every day in this freezing weather to find work? No. You will stay in school.”
“But Lei -”
“Lei will not be taken!”
In a perfect writing world, I would head to the mountains for a few weeks. All alone, writing, reading, researching. Ah, but wait, I live in the real world. I live in a world with two precious children, and a devoted and loving husband. I would miss them dearly (just as I did during my recent trip to the Jackson Hole Writer’s Conference). I love my life. Sure, I wish I lived in the mountains, that I had more time to focus on my writing, but do I really need weeks or months alone to accomplish my goals? And more importantly, could I do it?
One of the debut authors highlighted in the most recent Writer’s Digest wrote his novel in two months. He spent the time at his parent’s lavender farm in Washington state while they were out of the country, and wrote.
Although I have mentioned how lovely a private weekend or week long writing retreat would be, staying any longer than that would send me clawing at the walls. I don’t like sitting for hours at a time. I fidget. I get distracted by shiny things, dull things, flat things, and round things.
When I shared this man’s story with my husband, I said, “I would need a stash of M&M’s, lots of water, gallons of coffee, I would take multiple trips to the bathroom, and I would stare out the window, wishing I was outside.” He was quick to remind me of a 7th grade boy I used to tutor. I would complain that he constantly sharpened his already nubby pencil, go to the bathroom, ask for more water than was necessary. It drove me nuts because I knew he was stalling. I thought he had issues, and it turns out we are a lot alike!
The idea of being alone for two months, with only my writing to focus on sounds a little appealing, but then I am reminded of who I am, and I know it would send me home crazier than I am to begin with.
That was the year I didn’t care. The year when I ran free on the glen, the wind blowing my hair, creating tufts of rustled brown messes. I paid no heed to what it looked like. The breeze caught my skirt, making it swish around my waist. I cared not who saw. I felt the hot sun on my skin, soaking into my body, warming it like an oven warms delicious bread. The perspiration gathering at my brow did not embarrass me. I was free that year.
It all came before the shift. A divorce of magnitude. One caught up in the tabloids, one spoken about by every blog reading citizen. I was no longer free. The weight of the world’s eyes now hovered over my every move. What will she do? How will she handle this?
They need not have worried. In fact, they worried more than I. What I most despised, and remember most keenly to this day, is the freedom that I lost. I lost it with that last warm breeze. It slipped away with the kite as the wind snatched it out of my hands on that clear summer day. It escaped my reality as I watched my mother and father, standing on the edge of the veranda, gazing at me through darkened eyes. Something had changed.
I sit now, wondering if my skirt is covering my thighs, making sure my hair is in all the right places. Everyone is watching. I have lost my freedom.
This flash fiction was created for Writer Unboxed “7 Days of Summer Flash Fiction Contest.” Write 250 words inspired by the visual prompt. (Todays story was not submitted for the contest, only created for my writing pleasure.)
Once, Twice, Three Times a Lady
Have you ever experienced a moment when you felt beautiful? A moment when you, as a whole, were ready to take on the world? I had a moment once.
The smell of cherry blossoms filled the early evening air, I stood in the middle of a grass field. My white dress blew gently in the wind, the breeze lifted my soft dark curls and threw them lazily around my shoulders. Mark was next to me, intently listening to the band as they began a new song.
The first sultry words slid out, and I recognized it immediately. Once, Twice, Three Times a Lady. I turned to Mark, wondering why they would play my song.
His hand slid around my waist, his eyes full of love. “I’m sorry I was called out of town on your birthday. I hope to make it up to you.” His adoration for me was etched in his face. At this moment he could do no wrong.
This is from a Write on Edge Prompt.
Go to This Day In Music, and discover what was number 1 on the charts in the United States, England or Australia the day you or your character was born, or any other special day in your/their life, if you prefer.
Listen to the song(s) and let it inspire you. In 300 words or less.
It was a rainy night in Dusseldorf, Germany; muted lighting played off the sidewalk, making for a romantic stroll. Izaak’s fingers laced through Edy’s as peaceful feelings eased through her for the first time in weeks.
Izaak leaned over and spoke close to her ear. “Where would you like to go after dinner?”
Edy watched as a man in a long black coat stared at her from behind his glasses. She recognized him by his gray hair and striped tie. No matter how much money he made, he always wore the same tie. It was Gerhard Richter. Edy hadn’t seen him in months, but she couldn’t forget he had made her life a living hell. A smirk crossed his usually solemn face, and he was gone.
“Edy? Did you hear me sweetheart?” Izaak wondered if she could hear him above the rains constant pattering. “I asked where you would like to go after Zum Schlussel?”
“Are you okay?” Izaak had stopped walking now, the awning above them kept the incessant deluge of water from pouring off the oversized umbrella.
Edy’s eyes avoided his, and she adjusted her coat. She thought she could keep this from him, but she thought of the day he might find out on his own. Possibly run into Gerhard Richter himself, and what then? Gerhard wouldn’t keep silent.
“Did you see Gerhard Richter pass us just moments ago?” Edy slumped back against the brick wall.
“No. Do you mean the artist, Gerhard?”
“Yes, the artist.”
“And what has your mind so preoccupied with his passing by on the street?” Izaak asked.
“He holds my family’s story in his hands.”
Izaak was amused. “You knew Gerhard?”
“All too well.”
“Zum Schlussel isn’t much farther.” Izaak gently pulled her forward, hoping Edy would tell him why the sight of that man had so upset her.
The hum of voices in the pub was worse than the pattering rain. Izaak slid across the small booth, sitting close to Edy. “Tell me about Gerhard.”
“I told you my father owned a gallery until a few years ago.”
Izaak nodded, and took a drink beer.
“Gerhard is the reason it no longer exists.” Edy ran her fingers through her long wavy hair. “He blamed my father for turning the Cologne Cathedral to another artist for their stained glass window, when in fact he was the sole craftsman that the Cathedral had ever considered.” Edy banged her fist on the table. “My father did no such thing. Gerhard received the commission in the end. But before that, he destroyed my father’s business and our family.”
Izaak had met Edy just months after her father had lost his gallery. “Why would he do such a thing?”
“Gerhard is ruthless. He sees only himself, and this makes him blind.” Edy used the edge of her napkin to wipe the tear that slid down her cheek.
This prompt is from Write on Edge: Red Writing Hood
I challenge you with this opening line:
“It was a rainy night in Dusseldorf…”
You have 500 words.
doorbells bring holiday sneers
The doorbell rang, my daughter went sliding across the wood floor.
“Got it!” Her enthusiasm reverberated through the house. “Got it! My cousins are heeeerrrre!” Camry flung the door open. “You’re here. Finally.”
My sister-in-law nodded. “Mmm – hmmm.”
Her kids ran past me, pushing me out of the way while my “Hello’s” went unnoticed. Shelly dropped everyone’s bags in the entryway.
“Here. I’ll help you with those.” I slipped several handles over my arms.
“Ugh, she makes me so mad. All I wanted to do was get settled in our rooms, let the kids run around. They were stuck in a car for three hours. Three hours! She just doesn’t get it. She always wants to do her thing, her way!”
“Okay…” I had no idea what to say. Shelly got along fabulously with her mom when she wasn’t in the same town, and if I joined this rant, I’d have hell to pay later.
“What room are we in?”
“Just down the hall.” I led the way.
“Is it next to the bathroom? Because I know how old houses have noisy plumbing… it keeps me up and I can’t lose sleep. Ugh, then my kids climb in my bed, and I hate that.”
“Right. Well, the plumbing shouldn’t be a problem unless you plug the toilet. Then noise won’t be an issue.” I set their luggage down as nicely as I could and headed for my bedroom.
Quietly I closed the door, leaned against it and took a deep breath. I walked to the tall window that overlooked a thick forest of pine, and reminded myself to focus on what the holiday meant, and that I had my immediate family to celebrate it with.
Then ever so gently the snow began to fall.
This came from a Write on Edge prompt: Red Writing Hood – The Doorbell
Craft a piece of fiction around the holiday season. Begin the piece with “The doorbell rang,” and end with “snow began to fall.” The middle is up to you.
The entire thing should be under 300 words.