Embraced Intoxications

Another inhale and it settled in her lungs, tingles running down her arms. She loved this cloudy feeling of languid existence. The pungent smell of weed dissipating in the air, as the kitchen timer goes off.

“Let High Kitchen begin.” Franklin spun away from the oven and waved the spatula in the air like a composer leading an orchestra.

Her smile formed lazily, sitting on her face with familiarity. She’d only been coming to Franklin’s apartment since last semester but the couch already carried a well-worn press of her body. The way he winked at her over the meal sparked warmth at the base of her spine, even when they were both sober. It wasn’t the only reason she kept coming back but it was one of them.

Most people find the “munchies” aspect of this particular intoxicant annoying but Franklin embraced it. In fact, he chased it. Loved the need to mix hunger with lowered-inhibition creativity. Or maybe it’s just that the high… highlights. Two ingredients that seem incompatible are suddenly mixed in a new light.

It wasn’t hard for her to get off the couch with Franklin. Especially when he reached a hand out to help her, but missed, intentionally, to run it through her hair first -the pulled strands causing ripples of pleasure down the back of her head to settle deliciously in her neck- before helping her off the couch.

In the kitchen is a concoction. A casserole of leftovers and condiments. Despite its sordid beginnings, it smelled good. So did Franklin, when he stood this close.

“Care to taste?” He asked.

She automatically read innuendo into the question and he noticed her blush. It turned his grin into something smaller, shy yet inviting.

She loved coming over here. She rubbed his shoulders, scrapped her nails across the soft skin of his neck. This cloudy feeling of languid existence, she pressed in closer to him and embraced it.

Makeup for Happiness

She opens the door with a radiating smile to accompany her greeting. I see it right away against her pale cheek, under the layer of makeup and painted on beauty. A trail of black smeared along her cheek, hastily swiped away in the direction of her ear.

But the smile is still there.

She makes us drinks with a practiced hand as I train my eye away from the evidence of her tear and its corresponding sorrow, away from the story she’s trying to hide.

Instead, I accept my drink and listen as she introduces me to their other guests.

I wonder if anyone else has noticed the dark line under her foundation or if her easy laughter is an adequate enough disguise. I look towards her husband too, smiling on the couch as his wife entertains. I wonder if he has had tears of his own today, only they’d be easier to hide without traces of mascara.

“We have an announcement.” Her words interrupt my search of her husband. All attention is drawn to her.

Immediately, I assume divorce. Immediately, I see their breakup playing out, only hours before, in this small room that now houses too many guests.

There is silence for a moment then the hint of new moisture in her eye. “We’re having a baby.”

And that’s when I remembered that tears have many origins, including happiness.

Bells on the Mind

The bell tolls every fifteen minutes instead of on the hour. It quarters her time, her life, her mind, until it takes fifteen minutes to eat lunch, read a memo, stretch her legs. The human mind is habitual and Sarah’s mind was no different. She allowed the nearby church bells to move her around her day like the hands circling a clock.

Then one day it stops. Nails are boarded over stained glass, the shingled roof caves in and the bell never chimes again. Except, of course, in Sarah’s mind. The paint starts to chip, the building is resold and refashioned, but for Sarah the song remains.

When new employees expand the company, they notice Sarah’s strict routine. One obnoxious intern sets his watch by it. Few are left to tell the story of the bells and to explain Sarah’s quartered life.

Some ask Sarah herself, why she puts her fork down with finality at the quarter mark, why she packs her bags to leave only as the hour turns.

As a reply, Sarah looks merely bewildered.

The Kleptomaniac

It’s the rush that brings Anne back each time. The sizzle of adrenaline that pushes through her veins, igniting them like nothing else ever would. It’s this rush, she likes to imagine, that clears all the clogged arteries acquired with age.

She waits for the woman to step out of the room, off to get refreshments in the direction of the kitchen and pulls her Census baseball cap securely onto her forehead. Becoming a surveyor was the easiest way Anne had found to enter, invited, into another’s home.  Sure, it only came every ten years but after three rounds, she looked forward to the fourth. Anxiously awaiting her forty-eighth birthday in a way few others do.

Anne had eyed it the moment she had breached the doorway – her target.

An inconspicuous silver bunny figurine. It was on all fours, small head nudged to the side and it reminded Anne of the farm she used to visit in the summers with her family.

It was easy to lean forward, the cool sting of the metal against her palm and with just a shift of her body the figurine dropped into her purse. The action took less than a minute and passed completely unnoticed.

She lets the feeling buzz under her skin throughout the interview, living in the fleeting moment.  She shakes the woman’s hand and is ushered to the door, confident that she would be quickly forgotten. In her decades of surveying, the nation’s people had only filed four complaints.  Peoples clutter all too easily becoming her trophies.

Truth or Dare

“Truth or Dare?”  Sally asked with her nose tilted towards the ceiling, as if the entire game were beneath her almost-ninth grade sensibilities.

“Dare.”  Jake spat.  He crossed his legs so their knees brushed and added, “only chickens choose Truth.”

Sally had chosen Truth.

Despite being a year older, Jake knew she had the romantic experience of a fifth grader -as in, none at all.

She blushed, eyes meeting his for a moment before dashing away just as quickly.  He smiled as he watched her squirm. They were only playing this game because Sally had questioned him after Jake called himself “Daring”.  As if his love for skateboarding and habit of questioning authority failed to settle his reputation in the eyes of his next-door neighbor.

So now, it was the two of them, face to face and pushing each other’s barriers.  Now, through this game, Jake knows that Sally thinks he’s cute.  Her Truth settled, unmentioned, between them.

Sally’s eyes kept flickering from the ceiling to Jake and back towards the closed door.  He knew she’d pick something lame.  Her fingers kept turning into her sweater sleeves and he wondered if she’d make him run around the neighborhood naked or do all of her homework for a week.  No, Sally wouldn’t trust someone else to do her homework.

She bit her lip, eyebrows drawing together and he tried to read her mind.  When the blush reddened on her normally pale cheeks, Jake knew she settled on a dare.

“Kiss me.”  Sally said flatly.  Her eyes stopped their dance and drilled him with a stare.

Jakes jaw dropped as he realized he wasn’t the only daring one in the room.

The Tree

Prompt: Favorite tree
It was a tree born from death, my daughter’s swinging tree. With thick curving branches that dip low to touch the grass and a trunk that requires three of us to link arms just to reach around.

From my spot on the porch I can see three of the eight simple crosses marking the passing of my family. Grandaddy and Grandma, bright under the summer sky. The corner of my own mother’s own freshly painted wood, almost invisible in the late afternoon shadow.

I’ll be buried under this tree some day.

The shriek of Rosemarie’s laugh and I lift my hand to see the silhouette of her frame as limbs fly through the air. The old plank and rope swing had it’s last ride five summers ago. Now rubber and chain propel her with a sure trajectory.

I can’t stop the small smile even as I wipe away the unexpected tear.

The tree is inescapable. Just as Rosemarie lands, she is running back too it. Using the makeshift ladder constructed by my own brother three decades ago. Rosemarie calls it her Stairway to Heaven. It goes higher than she would dare. She settles instead on a low branch where I know she’s hidden a handful of toys. It’s wide enough to sit comfortably, nestled within a canopy of leaves. I can hear her playing.

The clouds move and the sun floods through the branches. I can now see Auntie and my baby sister, both weathered by time. I wonder where my spot will be underneath the tree.

A foot emerges, Rosemarie’s sneakers, only the size of my palm. She’s walking down carefully with berries in her hand and pride on her face. She uses one to crush along the ladder, painting the wood piece a bright blue. She pops another in her mouth.

This tree born from death creates life, my daughter’s swinging tree.