How To Find What You Came Here For

Hi everybody! If you're looking for something specific, and you don't see it right away, check the labels to the right. I've tried to make sure that all my Write On Edge responses are clearly labeled.

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Monday, June 1, 2015

Polished



She bent her head closer to where her hand was splayed on the metal vanity, the ridiculously tiny cap and brush clutched in her left hand, breathing in the strong fumes from the nail polish a few inches away.

The left hand was never a problem. Somehow the cap holding the tiny brush was bigger when her dominant right hand held it. The dark red polish went on smoothly and evenly. The bold color standing out against her pale skin.

Her right hand was another story. No matter how slowly she went, how careful she was, the polish was uneven and streaky. It was also on the skin around her nails, and she knew from sad experience that trying to fix that would only end in tears.

"Honey, are you ready to go?"

Her hand jerked and the bottle of red polish tipped at the brush of her fingers. In excruciatingly slow motion she saw it begin to topple, and her right hand lift from the table to catch it in ill-fated reflex. The spread of the thick polish was slow, and looked a little too much like blood for her comfort.

"Damn it!" The squeaky floorboard just outside their bedroom door sounded, and Leanne spoke without looking over her shoulder. "Bring me some paper towels, would you? I've spilled the nail polish."

Dave didn't say anything, but she heard him open the door to the closet in the hallway. While he retrieved the roll, she put the cap back on the nail polish and moved it out of the way. Two paper towels appeared over her shoulder and she took one to mop up the worst of it. He crouched next to her and soaked part of the other paper towel in acetone to finish the job.

By the time the puddle of red was taken care of, even the nails on her left hand were smeared and covered in bits of paper towel.

"Leanne, we're going to be late if we don't get going."

"I know, I just wanted..." she waved her hands, smeared with dark red polish.

"To look like you just gutted a baby rabbit?"

Leanne's mouth dropped open in shock and she stared at her hands. "Oh God, you're right. I do look like I've..." A snort surprised her and made them both laugh.

Dave grabbed a couple of cotton balls and soaked them in acetone and started gently wiping her fingers clean. "I have to admit it's a look. I'm sure everyone at the banquet would be impressed. Well, impressed and worried." He glanced up and smiled, and her heart jumped just like it had every time since the first day they'd met.

"I wanted to look nice tonight, when they gave you the award. My nails are so weak right now, and they've turned that awful color. I should have just gone to a salon and had them done."

He kissed her fingertips and pulled her to her feet, guiding her to the full-length mirror next to the door. She looked at their reflection. He stood behind her with his hands on her shoulders, more than six inches taller, with a swimmer's lithe body and dark hair that waved back from his face with just a little gray at the temples. The open, smiling face that made his patients trust him when they were at their worst was more familiar than her own, these days.

Her eyes tracked reluctantly down to the stranger standing in front of her husband. A short cap of silver hair highlighted cheek bones that were a little too sharp, a body thin enough to be frail, and the straight fall of silky fabric where once there had been curves.

"You sparkle, Leanne. Why polish a diamond?"

Their eyes met in the mirror, and in his she saw the beauty she couldn't see with her own. She let him tug her down the stairs to the waiting car.

"So what's on the menu tonight?" she asked as she slid onto the seat he'd warmed for her.

Her husband shot her a look. After thirty years of marriage she knew that look meant that whatever was about to come out of his mouth would be outrageous.  She wasn't disappointed.

"Roasted rabbit?"

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Hummingbird



Hummingbird

Tiny, fragile wings
Driven by strength beyond size
Improbable flight

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Magnolia


Maggie woke in darkness so complete it weighed on her eyelids and pressed her into the blankets she could feel under her bare shoulders. She'd never liked waking in the dark, even as a child, but the rush of fear she expected never came.

She should have been screaming, maybe crying, but she wasn't. The weight pressing her down was the effect of whatever drugs she'd been given. Part of her was relieved that she'd been spared the fear she should have felt, but part of her wondered about the reason for that mercy. If it was mercy; she couldn't be sure.

Her breath eased in and out, steady and calm, while her mind raced ahead. The last clear memory she had was leaving the DA's office, turning, and checking to be sure the heavy door had locked behind her. In the space where she should have a picture of herself walking to the bank of elevators was nothing but the darkness that surrounded her.

There was no walk to her car. No ride in the mirrored elevator to the fourth floor of her apartment building. No taste of a microwaved dinner eaten at a table covered in briefs and notes. Nothing but the handle of the door in her hand.

And the heavy scent of flowers.

The image of the flower danced just out of reach. It was familiar, she knew that much. White petals against dark green leaves, something as well known as her own face. Concentrating on the image and the name that went with it pushed back some of the weight holding her down.

A flash of light scattered her thoughts like sparrows, each taking a bit of the memory with it until she was left with only the darkness of an interrupted memory.

The face appeared above her without warning. Round and doughy, with watery blue eyes that studied her carefully. Thin lips turned up in a satisfied smile.

"Hello, sweet Magnolia. My own southern flower."

The overpowering fragrance of the flower poured over her and sparked memory. Creamy white petals bigger than her hand, falling from the tree in her grandmother's front yard. Long, waxy petals in darkest green circling the flowers that perfumed every summer night she'd spent there.

Magnolia.

Not Maggie. Not the name she gave to everyone she'd ever met. Magnolia: the name her grandmother had insisted on when she'd stroked a twisted finger down her new granddaughter's pale cheek only moments after Maggie had been born.

When a clammy finger followed the same path, her soul shuddered where her body could not, and the thin smile deepened into something darker.

The sickly sweet smell remained long after his Magnolia had wilted and withered away.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Man of Steel



David fidgeted on the table and heard the paper he was sitting on rustle. The exam room was cold, but for some reason his ass always managed to be sweaty and stick to the damn paper. It was like all his worry centered on those two cheeks, and while the rest of his body froze they just got clammier.

He knew when he stood up the paper was going to come with him and he’d end up peeling it off.

Aggravation managed to replace anxiety for a few seconds, but it didn’t last. His mind zipped back to the reason he was sticking to the paper covering the exam table.

David had told his boss that Jenny was making him come to the doctor but he had to admit, to himself at least, that he was just as worried as his wife. The coughing fit he’d had a few nights ago had scared both of them, especially when he realized he’d coughed up a little blood.

He hadn’t told Jenny about that.

And he’d checked his life insurance policy with the HR department the next day.

His dad had coughed up blood, at the end. Every time David closed his eyes, he saw his dad in that hospital bed set up in the living room. The shriveled body, eyes glazed with pain, the hospice nurse hovering – it was on an endless loop in his head.

When the door opened, he forced himself to sound casual.

“Hey doc, so am I dyin’ or what?”

Dr. Marks gave him a smile and shook his head.  “Let me show you something, David.”

He slid an x-ray up on the viewing panel and David leaned in to get a closer look at his lungs.

“See this, right here?” The doctor used a capped pen to circle a bright spot on the film.

David frowned.  “Yeah.  Is it…” 

Dr. Marks shook his head.  “No, it’s not cancer, David.  It’s a steel ball.”

“A what?” David jerked back and stared at the doctor.

“A steel ball, about the size of a marble.  It’s been there a while, too.”

David looked back at the film and started to laugh.  “It’s my steely.”

Seeing the doctor’s confused look, he grinned.  “Back when I was eight years old, playing marbles was a big thing on the playground.  I put my steely – a steel ball bearing the size of a marble – in my mouth, and I accidentally swallowed it.  Choked on it, really.  Scared the crap out of the teacher.”  He leaned it to look at the film again, and laughed.  “I can’t believe it’s still in there!”

“For now, but it is going to have to come out before it causes any more trouble,” Dr. Marks told him.

David stood up and peeled the paper off his ass. Relief chased the images of his dad away and made him a little giddy.  “Just tell me when doc. ‘Til then, I guess I’m an honest-to-God man of steel!”


This is my response to a prompt from Light & Shade Challenge - their picture was an x-ray, but not of lungs, which is where my story led, and the word limit was 500.  I sneaked in under that with 498!  Thank you for stopping by, and PLEASE let me know what you think in the comments!

Also, a BIG THANK YOU to my cousin, Anna Beagley, for her amazing help with x-ray questions!
  

Monday, January 19, 2015

100 Words - Better Than

Image courtesy of Wiki Commons and in the Public Domain


Annika shivered in the cold air and watched the tiny shadow that was Russia slip below the waves. It was an optical illusion, but losing sight of her homeland as the ship sailed out into the open ocean chilled her more than any Siberian winter.

“We’ll be fine, Annika.  Better than, even.”  Evgeny turned her toward the warmth of the common room. Her husband believed what he said – he always did, even when reality failed to agree.

And now they were sailing to a horizon she couldn't see, a future she couldn't know.

She refused to look back, or regret.







This post is a response to the Light & Shade Challenge - which was to write a 100 word response to the picture above.  A selection of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite was also offered, which is what led to the Russian connection for me.  100 words is HARD!  Tell me what you think in the comments below, and thank you for stopping by!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Camera Obscura



The box arrived slightly battered, engulfed in tape and stickers that proclaimed its fragility to a world that obviously hadn't cared.

Hannah stared at it for a few seconds before she dropped her keys in the bowl she'd picked out when she and Brian had bought the house.  It was the first thing she'd bought specifically for their new home, and she'd decided it was a home warming gift to herself.

They'd been married fifteen years, bought the house seven years in. She'd selected every piece of furniture in the house with her flair for color and composition.  Flair that had helped her become a  successful photographer in the Chicago area.  Anyone looking for a unique portrait wouldn't have long to wait before someone suggested Hannah York.

Hannah York - her married name.

Brian had once accused her of marrying him just to get out from under her father's name. She'd been supremely pissed, not the least because he'd been right. At least, he'd been partially right.

She'd married Brian because she loved him; being able to change her name had been a bonus.  Like a double exposure that hadn't been planned, but turned out to be exactly what the client wanted.

Her reflection in the beveled mirror above the bowl reminded her that she was Hannah York, and ghosts from the past had no power over her.  She took a breath and turned back to the waiting box.

It was bigger than she'd expected, although she really couldn't say why.  When her father's solicitor had called to say he was shipping something from her father's estate, she hadn't asked any questions.  The details of her father's death had been splashed all over the tabloids, and she really didn't want to know any more.

"Famous Photographer Alastair Neville Found Dead With Model"

Her mother had called to warn her, but it had been too late.  Her newsfeed had been full of the story almost as soon as it had happened. Then the solicitor had called, and Hannah had just wanted to get off the phone as soon as possible.

She pushed the box through the doorway to the living room and over to the overstuffed chair she liked to read in.  It was a huge, bright orange chair with electric blue trim, but the box was several inches higher than the arms on the chair, and wide and deep enough that it wouldn't have fit if she'd been able to pick it up to put it there.

Climbing over the arm of the chair and sinking into the cushions with legs crossed, she reached for the letter opener on the table beside her and started slicing the tape away.  The London address wasn't familiar, but knowing her father she was sure it was expensive and exclusive.  She let the blade slice across the numbers before opening the flaps of the box.

Bubble wrap.  A lot of it.  Random bundles of bubble wrap, all sizes and shapes, carefully packed into the box with no room left over.

Frowning, Hannah lifted the first bundle out and carefully unwrapped the protective covering.

A tiny Browning camera - just like the first one he'd ever bought her.  He'd promised to show her how to use it, but then hadn't been home enough to keep that promise.  She'd figured it out.  Eventually.

Leaning over the arm of the chair, she put the camera on the floor and reached for another bundle. As she worked her way through the box the collection of cameras on the floor grew until she started having trouble finding a place to put them down.  Holding a Nikon that her father had used to photograph Machu Picchu instead of attending her ninth birthday party, she pushed the much lighter box away from the chair and slid to the floor.

The Nikon joined the growing circle of cameras as she reached back into the box for the next camera.

By the time Brian walked through the front door, the box was empty and laying on its side outside the circle of cameras, and Hannah was sitting with the Browning in her lap.

"Hannah?"

She opened her eyes and turned to look at him, her face blank.

"You OK?" He took a step into the room, but stayed well back from the cameras on the floor.

Hannah took a deep breath and let it out again before she nodded.

Brian took a step closer and looked at his wife's calm face, trying to gauge the emotion - or lack of it - he saw there.

"I don't know how I'm supposed to feel.  I don't know what he wanted me to feel." She looked at him and waved her hand over the cameras.  "Do you know what these are?"

He hesitated, "Cameras?"

She shook her head.

"His life.  He sent me his fucking life.  What am I supposed to do with that?" Her voice rose until she was nearly shouting the last question.  "These damn cameras, and the pictures he took with them, were always more important than our family.  More important than me. Now he's dead, and his last act is to send me the fucking cameras? Jesus!"

She fell back against the chair and closed her eyes, working to get herself back under control.

Brian crossed to a bright green chair and sat down.  He considered the collection spread on the floor, and quickly calculated its worth at somewhere above a couple million dollars.  The cache of his father-in-law's name would push it even higher.

"Hannah," he hesitated, not wanting to make things worse.  "Hannah, look at me.  Please."

Her eyes opened and gazed at the ceiling for a beat or two before she lifted her head from the seat of the chair to meet his steady gaze.  He could see tears in her eyes, and knew she'd make sure they didn't fall.  Not for her father.

"I can't tell you what he was thinking." Honestly, Brian was pretty sure Alastair hadn't been thinking at all, if the rumors of his drug use were true.  "I can't tell you that, but I can tell you this:  he didn't know you.  I don't think he sent these to you to hurt you, I think he sent them because the one thing he knew about you...the only thing he knew about you...was that you were a photographer.

"I don't think he..." Brian stopped for a second, then plowed in.  "He wasn't thinking of you, of how you'd feel.  He was thinking of himself, and what he'd like to inherit if some guy he knew died. So he sent you the cameras."

Absolute silence followed, and her eyes stayed locked on his without blinking.

When she finally spoke, the words were slow and quiet.  "You're right.  You're absolutely right."

She didn't say anything else, and he couldn't make himself leave it alone.  "I am?"

"You are.  I'm making this personal because I loved him, but it wasn't personal for him.  It was never personal for him, unless it was happening through that little black box in his hands."  She looked down at the Browning in her lap.  "I loved him because he was my father, but he didn't love me and it wasn't personal.  It really wasn't."

Hannah laid the camera on the floor and rose to her feet so quickly that Brian sat back in surprise.  She stepped carefully through the cameras and slid into her husband's lap, wrapping her arms around his shoulders and pressing her face into his neck.

He wound his arms around her, pulling her in close.  "I love you."

She leaned back and smiled, "I love you back.  And that is personal.  Let's go to that Italian place downtown for dinner, I'm starved."

Brian looked over to the cameras and back.

"What about..." he nodded his head at the silent circle on the floor.

"I'll order a case for them. A lot of them are practically antiques now, vintage at the least.  They'll be an interesting display."  She stood and took his hand.  "It'll wait.  Let's eat."

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Capturing Christmas



A pink slip of paper the size of a postcard, fluttered out of the mailbox when Leanne opened the little door.  She caught it in her hand before it made it too far and added it to the small stack of junk mail and greeting cards that had been with it.  The artificial breeze from the air conditioning felt wonderful after the sticky heat outside, but it wanted to grab at the papers she was trying to hold on to.

The lobby of their building was empty and being glad for it made her feel like a Grinch, but it meant that she could get into the elevator and up to their apartment without answering any questions about Gage.

That quick trip in the mirrored box up nine floors was the only time she was able to relax these days and she'd really started to look forward to it.

Inside her apartment, she dropped the cards and mail on the table next to the door and made sure her keys stayed on top of it all.  Crossing to the phone, she dialed the apartment manager's number.

"Bradley Apartments."

"Hey Mr. Nomen, this is Leanne Pond.  I got your note in my box - is now a good time?" She knew what he was going to say but she couldn't stop herself from asking.  Good manners drilled into her as a child trumped exhaustion, or she would have just stopped by without checking while she was on the ground floor.

"Ms. Pond!  No prob, come on down!  I got 'em waiting for you."

The trip down to the lobby gave her a chance to check her phone for messages and sigh heavily when there were none.

Mr. Nomen's door popped open as she crossed the lobby.  She was never sure if he watched people through the Judas hole so he'd know when to do that, or if he just had the trip timed after close to thirty years on the job.

"I've got 'em all right here, in bags so you can carry 'em easier.  You headin' over now?"  The lines on his face folded and refolded like origami when he spoke; Leanne always thought he should have one of those Shar Pei dogs so they'd match.  Gage had laughed all the way to the apartment when she'd told him that in the elevator one day.

"Yes. I had to work late so I'm a little behind tonight."

The lines folded themselves into a sculpture of concern as the apartment manager handed her the three large bags pull of packages.

"Ms. Pond, you take care of yourself now.  Gage don't need you gettin' sick!"

She forced herself to smile and wrapped her fingers around the bag handles.  "I will, Mr. Nomen.  Thanks for bagging these for me."  With the bags in one hand and her keys in the other, she backed into the lobby before he could ask about Gage.

***

Why do elevators have mirrors? she wondered as the car rose silently.  Her reflection offered no answers, but it did give her the chance to inject some cheer into her expression before the doors opened.

"Hey Leanne!  Three bags today?  Nice!" The nurse at the desk smiled and Leanne wished she could siphon off some of her energy.

"Yep.  Go Facebook, right?"

"Absolutely!  It might as well be good for something other than gossip, stories about alien abduction, and political arguments.  You need any help?"

Leanne smiled and shook her head.  "No, I've got it.  Thanks!"

Standing at the door halfway up the hall, she took a few deep breaths and gave herself a little pep talk about staying positive before she pushed the door open.

And walked into Christmas.

A carol she couldn't quite identify played softly and sparkling lights covered everything that didn't move.  A small tree on a bedside table glittered in the corner as it turned slowly.

"Mom! I got to have eggnog today!"

The bags were dropped on the foot of the bed, covering the Santa Claus blanket folded there, and she moved in to wrap her arms around the shoulders of the teenage boy grinning at her.

"Eggnog?  Where did they find eggnog in July?"

He shrugged and held up a glass filled with creamy white and flecks of brown; the strong scent of nutmeg confirmed that it was real eggnog.

The quick visual study was a habit she couldn't break, any more than her reflexive good manners. She took stock while she tasted the holiday drink.  Hair that couldn't decide if it was brown or blond, in curls that any woman would kill for, deep brown eyes and thick eyelashes, and a finely chiseled face that leaned more toward pretty than handsome.

Gage looked more like his father every day, and that broke her heart a little.  The thought of her ex-husband made her want to check her phone again, but she didn't want Gage to ask about him, and if he saw her look he would.

"You ready to open the presents?" she asked, acknowledging that she was hoping to distract herself as much as her son.

"I got more?  Is that what's in the bag?" He reached past her for the first bag.

"Nah, the bags are underwear.  I figured you needed some new pairs."

His laugh filled the room and he shook his head.  "You wouldn't do that to me, you love me too much!"

She slid her hand through the soft curls of his hair and pulled him forward to kiss his cheek.

"You know me entirely too well, munchkin."

His hand swiped over the spot she'd kissed and he put the palm of his hand on her forehead to push her away.

"Geez Mom, watch the PDA!"

Leanne settled back in the chair next to her son's bed to watch him sort through the boxes she'd brought.  Each box was carefully inspected to see where it had come from - it occurred to her that he enjoyed seeing the different cities, states, even countries, even more than what the boxes contained.

Gage wasn't going to make it to Christmas and he knew it,  The doctors and nurses didn't like to hear that sort of thing - keep it positive, was their mantra.  She was a realist, and she'd raised her son the same way whether she liked it or not.  He wasn't willing to ignore the reality of his disease so neither would she, but he was determined to make something positive happen.

He'd wanted to celebrate Christmas early and she'd made that happen. His idea to make Christmas happen early for all the other kids was an impulse she'd happily encouraged.  Anything to distract the both of them was a good idea, as far as she was concerned.

Gage's post on Facebook asking for toys had gone viral.  What she'd brought with her was just the tip of the iceberg - most of the packages were sent directly to the hospital, and her son wrapped those during the day.  The ones that came to their apartment they did together.

Each box was opened and what was inside and studied closely before sorting it into the piles on his bed.  Dolls, teddy bears, electronic games with extra batteries, and everything in between joined the designated pile.

They chatted about her day and then about his day while he sorted, and she carefully put the emptied boxes back in the bags.  When she was back home she'd record the names and addresses of the senders for the thank-you notes her sister sent out for her.  Soon enough the boxes were tucked away and the bed was covered in colorful toys.

"Time to wrap this up!" He laughed every time she said it, which was why she kept saying it.

A bedside table was pulled over and a plastic tub of wrapping paper and bows came out from the small closet.

Leanne had to admit that Gage was far better at wrapping than she was, so her job was to stick the label with the age the toy was appropriate for on the bottom.  The wrapped toys went onto a cart by the door.

Too quickly the bed was empty of toys, the cart piled high with colorful packages, and the plastic tub of supplies put back where it belonged.

It was time to go.

"You sleep tight, baby boy." She leaned in and held his face between her hands, giving him a smacking kiss on the forehead before he could squirm away.

"Not a baby!"

"My baby!"  The ritual made them both smile as she pushed the cart out into the hallway. Her heart felt lighter when she got to the desk; it always did after their wrapping sessions.

"Lots of packages today, Emily," she told the nurse.

The nurse came around the desk and pushed the cart the rest of the way into the room behind it.  "They look amazing, Leanne.  Gage does such a good job with the wrapping.  You should see my presents - half of them come open on their own!"

She laughed and nodded.  "Mine are just as bad.  I think he learned how to wrap presents just so the Christmas tree wouldn't look so sad!"

"Well, I can tell you the kids really get a kick out of this. Gage is a great kid, to think of this."

Leanne looked down and busied herself with her purse until she was sure the tears that wanted to fall were under control.

"It was his idea to put it on Facebook.  I never thought it would be this successful, though.  Well, I've got to get home, I'll see you tomorrow night!"

She was humming, "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" as she got on the elevator.

The woman she joined raised her eyebrows and laughed.  "It's only June - a little early for Christmas, don't you think?"

Leanne grinned at her.

"It's never too early for Christmas!"





***


What says Christmas to you?  The presents?  The food?  The smell of a pine tree in your living room?  If you had to capture Christmas one last time, what would you absolutely HAVE to have?  Comment below!