prompt: peacock, puzzle, electric

If it hadn’t been for the photo on the front of the box, there’d be no way to tell the puzzle was supposed to be a large, colorful peacock. It’d been three hours and Ryland had finished the border, started filling in one corner, and the lightning continued in earnest outside the window. This wasn’t Ryland’s first hurricane, but it was the first since he’d moved out on his own. His first one alone. 

Like clockwork, his mind started to run down the mental list. There were enough batteries for his five flashlights, the shutters had covered the windows since the night before, and the food stores were stocked. Lightning flashed again and Ryland’s fingers clenched around the puzzle piece. The only reason there even was a peacock in the first was because his mother always did puzzles during hurricanes. With rain pounding on their roof, she’d declare them to be calming and time consuming. Once the electricity went, they were able to be done by candlelight or flashlight. 

Lightning struck again, overhead the electricity flickered and even with the puzzle, it was nothing like the storms he remembered growing up. Too quiet inside meant that everything that happened outside only sounded louder. He never felt more alone.

prompt: mountain, mustang, object

Out of the corner of her eye, Mary could see Frank’s smirk flickering every time she gripped the mustang’s leather seat cushion. He liked to see her gasp and squirm at things, like an object that amused him, or perhaps endeared him. As they drove twenty miles over the speed limit on a midafternoon mountain road, Mary couldn’t care less why he smirked. Instead, every time she saw it, it reaffirmed a conclusion she’d been entertaining for a year:

It was time to end thing with Frank. 

Their five years together, her second long term after–No. She wouldn’t think of Roger and everything she threw away. Not today, not right now, not with the determination finally fueling a fire in her veins. Thoughts of him, of her poor decisions…. No. She clenched her fist against the seat again. Right on cue, there was Frank’s smirk. 

As soon as they parked this car. It was over. 

prompt: ferry, candy, darkness

The wind hit Sandra’s face, a faint spray from the bay splashing across her cheek. She could sit inside the ferry’s cabin with her friends, but something about the cotton candy colored clouds and the sun setting into the horizon beckoned Sandra outside. 

They were running away. Her family–back on the island, already cast into the darkness of night–had no idea that when they woke they’d be missing a daughter. Her friends, as well, all of them, slipping off into the night. 

The wind rushed by Sandra’s ears, a whirl so loud it managed to push away her thoughts, the mild panic, the exhilarating freedom. On the other side of the bay, she would step foot into her new life. But for now, it was only her and the ferry, under the cotton candy colored clouds, escaping the darkness.

prompt: flirt, pink, open

There’d been a row of pink tulips lining the path, the last time Stacy walked up their stone entryway. Now there was nothing but snow, the brightness of spring buried. When she reached the door, Stacy didn’t need to turn the knob to know it would no longer be left open for her, that Carol had locked it–changed the locks even–months ago.

Now, Stacy knocked and waited.

Carol took her time answering, the dog they’d rescued together barking as she waited, as if labeling her an intruder. She’d missed Rose for months, the way she acted like a lapdog even though she weighed nearly ninety pounds. It was a manageable feeling to focus on, compared to the bone-aching loss of Carol.

The door opened, and there wasn’t a welcoming smile, only a barely there flash of pain in Carol’s eyes before she shuttered it all away behind a wall that Stacy no longer had permission to pass through. It was hard to believe this woman used to laugh with her, flirt with her, used to love her–How quickly all of it could turn into this, buried like pink tulips under the snow.

prompt: television, church, fresh

“It’s not a religion, Ben!” Alice’s voice had surpassed shrill a half a dozen exclamation points ago and now settled somewhere in the vicinity of ear-splitting. “It’s a television show.”

“Yes. One that comes on every Sunday.” 

“Like church?” 

Ben kept his gaze on the television, knowing that the way he chose to answer the question would directly affect his wife’s mood for the rest of the day. “Of course not, sweetie.”

“Sweetie,” Alice mocked. “That’s fresh.”

He never won with Alice these days so instead of trying, he finally ripped his gaze from the television and locked it on Alice’s steely grey-blue eyes. “My show is obviously more entertaining than church, dear.”

Alice’s face turned red. She let out a half-growl, half-shriek noise, and then she pivoted towards the front door, slamming it behind her, presumably off to church. Ben turned back to the television, and counted down the minutes until his favorite show. 

prompt: frosting, blanket, clock

“Really, if you think about it, the sun is one giant clock.” 

Rebecca let the comment hang in the air between their beach towels, the waves crashing against the shore filling the silence instead. It didn’t take long for Sam to break it yet again. 

“I guess sundials have been around for forever.”

Rebecca hummed in agreement, sitting up to look at the ocean and try to tune out her brother’s observations. The endless blanket of blue reached the horizon and far beyond that, not locked to the land like she was. 

“And, like, the sun has been around for longer than the ocean, even.”

Rebecca clenched her jaw. If she owned a car, Sam wouldn’t even be here, but instead she had to beg him for a ride and sit through is inane chatter. She stood and walked towards the water. There was a puff of foam that the waves had stirred up lining the shore like frosting.

Through the wind she heard Sam shout, just loud enough for Rebecca to hear him, “Looks a bit like frosting!” 

Rebecca let the comment hang in the air for a moment. Then, in nothing more than a whisper, she admitted to the ocean, “That’s exactly what I was thinking.”

prompt: friendship, train, strawberry

The familiar comfort of Strawberry Fields and the countryside rushing past, those were the things Carl tried to focus on. The rock of the train along the tracks would act as a soothing rhythm, if he’d let it. 

Living is easy with eyes closed

Carl closed his own, as if the song was an instruction, and he thought about all his own misunderstandings, the ones that had led him to this train, to the familiar trip home with a familiar song in his ear, but nothing more than that–No one waited at the other end, sitting in the station full of anticipation. No one; an old familiar song provided more friendship and solace than anyone living or dead. 

Nothing is real, And nothing to get hung about.

Carl opened his eyes, across the train car his gaze locked with a stranger, an elderly man, old enough to be his father, even though his father had passed away far younger than Carl was now. In that moment, a connection, a spark of humanity, nothing more than an acknowledgment of each other’s existence. But it was something real, and Carl found himself hung up on it long after the train pulled into the station.

Living is easy with eyes closed, but tonight, Carl decided, he’d go into town for dinner.

prompt: asphalt, thunderstorm, chocolate

Rain hit the asphalt in an unrelenting staccato rhythm that meant many things, but mostly it meant Francine would be late. Again. Marc let the curtain fall over the window as he retreated back into the living room in defeat. 

It’d been so long since he’d last seen her chocolate eyes. 

From his well worn spot on the couch, he leaned his head back and closed his eyes, allowing himself a brief moment to remember the way her eyes would lighten to amber under the afternoon sun. Recalling the memory was simple enough, but the onslaught of emotions that accompanied it had never been easy for Marc to bear. 

Instead, he opened his eyes again, fixed them on the television, and waited. 

Come Whatever

They’d said goodbye a hundred times already, but Greg knew he’d say it as many times as Jack wanted.

Greg walked the path along the side of the football field, behind the bleachers and down the row of trees that separated the school grounds from the lake. There was only one tree with a trunk thick enough to lean against, and that was where he was heading.

It seemed as if no one else was around, the rest of their graduating class out on the front lawn, where the rows of fold-out chairs and the stage were set up for graduation. But he knew he wouldn’t be alone back here. Not today, when the clock was ticking and they were both due on planes in opposite direction in a day’s time. And this was the last time they’d be on their high school campus together.

Continue reading “Come Whatever”

Yellow-Bellied Love

The pencil snapped in her hand and he was grateful because it gave him something to look at instead of the cruelty in her eyes. “You’re nothing,” she spat. “A coward. A yellow-bellied fool.”
 
He winced at the words, a scathing reply on his own tongue that he swallowed down. But then resentment followed, why could she spout vile but he had to take the high road? “Call me a coward, but at least I’m not the one sabotaging this relationship because you’re scared of a little criticism.”
 
“You’re criticism is garbage, Jeremy.” She crossed her arms, turned to the window and threw the pencil pieces at the glass. She liked to make loud noises when she was angry. “Why should I value your opinion?”
 
It was like a slap in his face. “Because, you love me?”
 
Her laugh was tight and short. “Yea, cause that has anything to do with this. You call me a coward for wanting to do more, see more. You call it running away.”
 
“It is running away!” His voice boomed across their living room. “You’d be leaving me.”
 
God, he hated when she rolled her eyes, and there she was, rolling. “I’ll be gone for six months. It’s not the end of the world.”
 
A hot flush crawled through his body because he hated that he cared more than her, that he so obviously was the more invested one. “Fine,” he said. “Go.”
 
“I don’t need your permission,” she reminded, spite in her words despite getting everything she wanted.
 
He saw red, but it blurred from the tears in his eyes. “You did. But you don’t anymore.” And then he walked to the door.
 

 

Three words: Pencil, Yellow, Garbage
Mood: Angry

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