FWF – A New Beginning

It’s so hot in this car that I have to roll down the window. The hot desert wind shooting by my social worker’s speeding car is ten times better than the stagnant air I’ve had to put up with since her AC is broken. It broke last month and she still hasn’t fixed it.

“How much longer?” I ask, allowing the breeze to dance around my face, efficiently waking me up from my stupor.

Tina sighs. “For once, can you just be patient, Thora? We’ll be there soon.”

I feel like she’s asking too much of me. Usually a new home is in the city, but this time they are keeping me in the dark about it and a girl gets impatient, especially me. We’ve been driving for three hours. To where, I have no clue. There seems to be nothing but desert on all sides of us with no end in sight.

Choosing to not respond to my social worker, I stick my hand out the window. The bracelet my mom left with me–two woven bands separated by various green and blue stones, and one I distinctly recognize as turquoise–glints back at me. I’ve worn this thing as long as I can remember. It’s all she left behind before she disappeared. Because of this bracelet, I still think she’s alive. No one else does.

I wave my hand around, riding the wind, as though wielding a wand. If only I could magic myself out of this car and to wherever my mom is, then I wouldn’t have to be shuffled from foster home to foster home again. Unfortunately, magic doesn’t exist, I don’t know where my mom is and I wouldn’t know where to go. After a few minutes, my hand goes up and down with the wind without me really controlling it. Again, I’m lulled into a nap.

The jerk of the emergency brake jars me awake. I hate it when Tina pulls that stupid centerpiece. My fifteen years in the system never cured me from the uncomfortable stomach lurch that inevitably followed. I swear it is her lot in life to only purchase cars with a centerpiece E-brake. Don’t ask me why.

“All right, I couldn’t tell you before, but you need to brace yourself,” she says, turning toward me. My head rolls along the leather seat to look at her as I try to gather my foggy brain power. Sweat dampens the bottom of my hair against my neck and I welcome the brief coolness it brings. “This family is technically your biological family.”

My head and body snap forward. I thought I was the only one left of my family. As I wait for Tina to spill the details, my chest won’t let any breath escape.

“Apparently, she’s your mom’s cousin. Somehow we found her and she’s expressed interest in taking you in.”

I raise my eyebrows. No one ever wants me. I believe the words “more trouble than she’s worth” is a permanent fixture in the mouths of my many foster families. And it’s kind of true. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t listen to orders very well. When I want to do something, I do it regardless if they tell me explicitly not to.

“Now, before you go AWOL like you did last time, please just …” she searches for the words for a moment. “Be good. That’s all I ask. You only have a couple of months until you’re 18 and can do as you please. Until then, stay out of trouble, okay?”

I roll my eyes at her. That speech hasn’t held onto my conscience yet and I’m betting it won’t stick this time either. She does seem more serious than usual though.

It’s beyond amazing that any of my family could be tracked down, so we’ll see if I want to follow the rules or not. It all depends on if they’re crazy or mean.

Since we’ve obviously reached our destination, I look outside and freeze. A small brick house stands completely unoriginal from the others on the street. The only thing that distinguishes it from the other houses is a tree house in the tree in the backyard. Other than that, it has the same square-ish exterior, the same placement of the same white door and windows and the same chimney poking out of the roof on the right hand side–just like all of the neighboring houses. All of the grass is green even though it is early September. And as far as I can tell, there is no broken cement anywhere on either side of the street.

Kids scream through the sprinklers at a couple of houses. It was one of those neighborhoods: a place to raise a family. The last time I was placed in a neighborhood like this, I was ten. My distaste for it came from the fact that it made me think of how I likely would have lived with my mom were she still around. After that, I asked Tina to only put me with families in the busy city, a place where a traditional family life was a little more uncommon so I could avoid those feelings of misery. Apparently that particular request of mine is disregarded this time because a “blood relative” is involved. Just lovely. Note the sarcasm.

Welcome to suburbia, Thora.

Thanks to this week’s FWF prompt by Kellie Elmore, I was able to piece together a better beginning for one of my WIPS. I cannot express enough thanks that this prompt triggered such an inspiration for this story and I’m stoked to be giving it more attention now that a critical piece is now making sense. 

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sanity

It’s ten-thirty-two in the morning and I’m sitting on a bench. I’ve been waiting for what feels like hours. For nothing. A bird flies overhead. The bird doesn’t like you. The bird just wants to fly. I wish I could fly. There have been days where I wish wings could just burst out of my shoulder blades and take me into the skies. You’ll never fly.My brother said he’d meet me here. It’s three minutes past the time he said he’d be here. He’s not coming. Maybe he ran into an old friend. Maybe he thinks you’re crazy. Maybe he forgot he was meeting me. Maybe he thinks you’re not worth meeting. Whatever the reason, it’s nice to be outside. I don’t get to do this very often. Usually I sit in my house. Alone. with nothing to do but watch television. Only more voices to add to your head. He said we’d get coffee. Coffee makes you sick. Coffee is bad for you. I think I’d rather get tea and a scone. You pansy. You’re not worth meeting. You would think my brother would be here by now. But he’s not coming. He said, “Come on, Lucy. Just come outside and meet me tomorrow. You won’t regret it.” Yes, you will. So far I don’t. It’s beautiful out here. That’s because you’re uglier than everything else. The sky is blue. How your skin should be.The flowers are in bloom. Like you never were. And I know that my brother will come see me for the first time in years. If you only knew…

{from Jan. 2011}

Hidden Away

When I stop to think about it, I realize that I have never seen a window. I see the word in books, but the lack of real, concrete description often has me wondering of what a window truly looks like.

In one of the books I’ve read, a maiden throws her hair out of a window whenever her mother calls for her to let her up. And in others, people see the world outside through glass and window panes, sometimes catching their reflection in them. They can be small or big, square or round, and sometimes spanning stories of a home in elaborate fashion. Come to think of it, I’ve never seen my reflection either.

Even still, the writers of these books assume that everyone knows what a window is. The only impression I get is that it is a hole, either covered by glass or not, that is in a house, a cave or some other structure. People can see beyond the hills that surround where they live, a garden, or even oceans as far as the eye can see. The problem is, I don’t see, not really.

You see, there are no windows where I live. For some reason or another, the builders of my cottage neglected to put any windows in. If I want to see outside, I physically have to open the front door to see the narrow stone pathway, lined with daisies, that leads to a thick wood that surrounds me on all sides. It’s like I live in a perfect circle of the forest, even though I noticed one summer that one edge of my little circle is completely flat. I guess you could call it a half circle, but it’s a little more, making it the shape of a wheel of cheese that has only been partially sliced with a sword.

Though I may not know what a window is, I know these neck of the woods better than anything else. However, I don’t know what lies beyond them. I threatened to run away when I was twelve and intended to make good on that promise. Only I got horribly lost after traveling for nearly seven hours in a direction I wasn’t even sure of. Luckily my best and only friend was able to track me down before I could reach any animals that could easily stalk and hunt me in the night. Sometimes I hear wolves howl at the full moon, but I’ve never seen any with my own eyes aside from those drawn in the books Dyna brings me.

The woods seemed just an endless expanse of trees, though I know at some point they must end. I will get beyond that barrier at some point, but until then, I’m following my father’s orders by staying put. Then again, I’m practically forced to follow orders. He is, after all, the King.

The Cabin by the Lake

“Come on, Ty! Let’s get out of here,” Lisa whines behind me. “This place gives me the creeps.”

I roll my eyes before turning back to face her on the porch. Her arms are firmly crossed in front of her chest, making her boobs pop out a little on top. I find myself distracted. If she gets scared, she’ll cling to me. Shaking my head, I force myself to look at her face and try to snap myself out of the thoughts she sends through me.

“Come on!” I mimic her tone. “It’s just an abandoned cabin.”

I turn back around. The sign clearly says, “No Trespassing,” but I don’t care. Shoving the signed door open, I start to walk in. And then she yells.

“Tyler!”

An exasperated sigh leaves me. Swearing to myself this is the last time I turn around for her, I grab her hands and beg.

“Come on, Lees! Don’t be such a baby. We’ll be in and out, I promise.” She gives me a worried look. “I just want to see the place.”

Now she’s looking everywhere except at me. When she looks into my eyes, I pucker my lips in a pout. Only a couple moments later, she caves. “Fine! But in and out, okay?”

Finally! I smile at her. “Okay.”

When I go to drop my arms, Lisa holds tight to my left hand. Damn, you’d think I’m taking her to her death here. It’s just a moldy old cabin!

That’s what it smells like at least. The wooden slats covering the floor seem to have been soaked through. They don’t creak under our weight, but our footsteps sound heavier than they really are. The walls have a dark green growth on them. A moist scent reaches my nose; it’s sort of pleasant but not. Above a brick fireplace, there’s a large cracked mirror. Whoever lived here last also left behind a ripped couch that is lopsided for some reason. Not that I’m surprised–who would want it anyway?

This is awesome.

I run my hand along the peeling wallpaper. It’s sort of oily and greasy; I can’t tell which. My hand comes to an open archway into another room.

Without warning, a few bats fly past us and out the door. Lisa shrieks and I’m partially deaf for a few seconds. Her grip on my hand is like a fucking vice so I try to lessen it. I’d like to keep my fingers, thank you.

“You can’t let me go!” she whispers as she clings, instead, to my jacket. “That scared me.”

“Like I said before,” I say, “baby.”

“I’m not a baby,” she pouts. She looks adorable so I can’t help but laugh at her.

“Then prove it,” I say, throwing my arms out to the sides. She is taken aback for a moment. But after considering it, she sticks her nose in the air and walks bravely into the room the bats came from. Whether that’s true bravery remains to be seen.

“See?” she says as she stands in the middle of the insanely dark room by herself. I’m not sure if it’s meant to be a dining room or study. Either way, it’s too dark to get anything done in now. I can barely see the outline of her figure which sends my mind spiraling elsewhere and I consider taking her right here, right now.

“Oh, yeah,” I chuckle. “How courageous.”

I walk into the room. Before I’m barely two steps in, Lisa says something that makes me stop.

“Are you touching me?”

“Huh?”

“There’s a hand on my leg. It’s yours, right?” Her voice gets higher with nearly every word. My own hair starts to stand on edge.

“How can it be?” I ask, completely baffled. She had to be pulling my leg because I’m certainly not pulling hers. “I’m, like, four feet away from you.”

“Seriously, this isn’t funny, Ty!”

I don’t know what’s touching her, but it’s probably nothing. Probably a left behind blanket or something.

“I’m not touching you,” I assure her. “Just come back to the entryway, okay?”

It’s silent for a moment.

“Lisa?”

“Tyler,” she whispers again, and I freeze. Something doesn’t feel right. “I can’t move.”

That does it. I make my way back into the dark room, feeling my way around trying to find her. The shape of her body has disappeared in the darkness. I’m not sure where she is.

“Okay, Lisa, don’t worry, okay? I’ll get you out of here. Say something so I can find you.”

She says my name softly but it sounds like it’s coming from all sides of the room. That doesn’t make this any easier.

Then I step into something wet. Really wet. It feels like I have submerged my foot into a puddle.

“Lisa?”

She doesn’t answer; a gurgle of water does.

Before I know it, what felt like a puddle has traveled up my legs to my knees.

“Lisa!”

I bolt back to the entry way as fast as I can. I won’t be able to do any good if I don’t get out of there. Water splashes up on me. I swear I’m stepping on things I don’t remember being on the floor on my way in here. When I make it past the door frame, I can see the water spilling into the rest of the landing, all from that room.

Under the water, a hand and an arm reach outward. A fake green gem sparkles up at me. Lisa. But that hand isn’t dead. It’s clawing it’s way towards me. As I turn to run, the hand grips my foot. I trip and fall face forward. With strength I’m sure Lisa doesn’t have, I’m yanked back into the dark room and under the water.

I try to climb out, but it’s like I can’t help myself as I seep into the depths of the house. As soon as my head’s under water, a song starts to resonate around me.

You hear the door slam and realize there’s nowhere left to run
You feel the cold hand and wonder if you’ll ever see the sun

My eyes snap open and I’m looking up at my blank ceiling. Thank God… just a dream.

I roll over and snatch up my cell phone. It’s Lisa.

You close your eyes and hope that this is just imagination, girl!
But all the while you hear the creature creeping up

 

“Thriller” ceases to play when I answer the call.

“Tyler! Where are you?” Her voice is startled. I’m taken back to my dream for a moment.

“Sorry, I fell asleep. I’ll meet you in 15?” I say, rubbing my eyes.

“Oh, okay!” She sounds so happy and carefree that I smile. She’s okay. It wasn’t real even if it felt like it. “What did you want to do? Get costumes or carve pumpkins? Or are you still dead pressed on checking out that creepy old house?”

I pause as I remember that abandoned house I kept passing on my way home from work. The one with the “No Trespassing” sign on the door right by the lake.

“Your choice, sweetie.”

She pauses for a moment too. She probably wasn’t expecting that. “My choice?”

“Yes, your choice.”

The Third Hour

I slam myself against the cave wall, petrified of what I have just seen. With the bow tight in my hand, I edge my head around the corner of the cave so I can see past the red stone.

Never did I ever think I would see my brother be pushed to his knees. I may even be more stunned that a sword is unsheathed and staring him straight in the chest. My breath catches and I’m silenced, which may not be such a bad thing. If the men dressed in gold plates heard me, we would both be screwed.

“Where did she go?”

Okay, now the fact that that is a woman’s voice may be the biggest stunner of all. It’s a female wielding that sword? It took me a moment too long to realize that she was talking about me.

Ashton shakes his head at her and says, “I don’t know.”

“Oh, come now, boy,” the woman snarls as she steps closer to him, raising the blade of the sword to his neck, “Siblings are able to locate each other in this world. Tell me where she is.”

My brother turns his head in all directions. For one fleeting moment, his eyes pass over mine but he shows no sign that he did. That shine is gone–the shine that we earned when we started this journey, the shine that told us we could still go home.

“I swear I don’t know,” he says lowering his head. “Now will you let me go?”

That’s when I notice his hands are bound behind his back. This is so much worse than I thought.

I consider the group surrounding my brother. There are at least seven of them so I have no chance at taking them down. My hand starts to shake.

We are supposed to do this together. We are only in the third hour–twenty more to go after this. Alexander Cardone told us we would face challenges beyond our imaginations as we worked through each planet, but I never imagined we’d be separated. He told us we had to work together. Now I don’t know if–

Wait, we are only separated here! I can go back, shake Ashton awake and we can start the hour over again. They did say we could do that if we fail an hour.

With that, I push myself away from the wall and walk to the very back of the cave. As I reach the back wall, I allow my body to fall backwards straight to the ground.

Right before my head collides with the red earth, I wake with a start underneath the bright silver cap again. Hastily, I unwrap my wrists and remove the cap from my head. Ashton is laying next to me, his breathing slow and the cap blinks a red light on top.

“What happened?”

I’ve never heard Alexander Cardone sound so angry. Turning around, he storms right past me and takes the cap off of my brother’s head.

“He was captured,” I scramble over my words, “I–I thought I could come back to bring him back.”

“Damn it, Maddie!” The red light in the cap fades away so no light shines. “Who captured him?”

“It was a girl; I don’t know who. There was a group of men with her. They were all dressed in gold plates.”

The anger seeps from his eyes. He walks to a chair and rests his hands in his head.

“Anoni.”

What?

“Who’s Anoni?”

“She’s part of one of the other pairs of siblings we sent to try and stop the destruction from coming. She’s been hiding out in the third hour ever since she got stuck there last year when her brother died. She never returned and she found a way to release the connection between Earth.”

We can get stuck in another galaxy? They never mentioned that could happen.

“So what does that mean?”

Alexander Cardone exhales. “It means she’s turned off your brother’s ability to come back.”

My heart stops and my eyes fly to Ashton’s form. He’s still breathing.

“He’s in a coma now,” Alexander Cardone continues, “until we can somehow restore that connection.”

With that, I run from the room. My brother and my best friend… gone. I nearly want to run out of the building and never come back.

But if I don’t then my brother may never get back and the world may come to an end.

Getting Away

“Wake up!”

“Hmm…”

“Wake up!”

“Hmph!”

“Come on, Trina! Get up!”

The blanket is ripped from my body. The chill immediately makes goose bumps stand at attention all over my body. Blindly, I reach around me in search of cover, but all I feel is the grass and the small feet of my sister, tapping impatiently.

“Go back to bed, Kelly,” I mumble as I roll over and curl my arms and legs up to my stomach.

I did not sleep well. The roots beneath my back made sure of that. We’ve been on the run for two weeks, but barely any sign of —

“Fine! Don’t mind me if you get eaten alive then!”

My eyes snap open and roll over to see what Kelly is freaking out about. Well, now I see she has every reason to panic.

Dripping fangs are bearing down on us from the mouth of a beast sitting on a tree branch. Now, this isn’t your normal tiger or crocodile kind of beast. We’re talking a four-hundred pound scaly quadropod with large eyes, a bear snout, saber-tooth fangs, and paws that could grip my entire head in a single grasp. A purple tongue slithers out and across its teeth as the beast curls its shoulders. It’s ready to pounce.

“Kelly,” I say getting onto my feet. When I put my arm protectively in front of her, I feel Kelly’s hands grip my forearm.

We had come so far; we were so close to the border. Our freedom is practically right here. I should have known we wouldn’t make it out alive. If the men who captured us didn’t find us and kill us themselves, these beasts would finish the job.

“Kelly, you listen to me,” I speak quickly and quietly, “You run. Okay? As fast as you possibly can. No matter what happens, I won’t let them take you again, so you keep running, you understand?”

I see her nod her head.

“When you reach the outside, find an adult and tell them to take you to the police. Tell them everything you’ve gone through and tell them every name you heard while we were trapped, okay?”

She nods again, this time slower. My little sister, so strong even in the face of danger. Sometimes I wish I could be like her.

“Ready?”

She grasps my hand once more and looks into my eyes.

“Go!”

She darts from out behind me into the brush as I start to scale the tree. These beasts don’t like touching the ground if they can help it; if there’s anything I learned by being trapped for six months in that hell hole, it was that. Those stupid scientists created them: a hybrid of a gila monster, a tiger and who knows what else. All I know is that there’s something in the ground that throws them off balance, making it harder to catch prey.

Sure enough, a moment later the creak of a branch tells me the beast is on my trail. Better me than Kelly.

I make it up about a dozen feet from the ground to the thickest branch that can hold me. With support from higher branches, I sidle my way along until the branch of another tree can carry me further. A snap of wood and a snarl draws my attention. The beast has already taken my place in the tree I was just in. As quickly as I can, I put a tree trunk between us.

Looking around, I notice there’s a deep ravine just beyond the thick branch my feet were shaking on–my only way out. The moment I feel the beasts strong paws climb onto the tree I’m in, I don’t hesitate. I run and then jump.

The wind rushes by, making my ears whistle. Right before I hit the water, I pinch my eyes closed and hold my breath, wanting this whole mess to be over.

*   *   *

“Is this her?”

A man’s voice rouses me. Water laps up onto my legs in a slow rhythm. My hands and forehead sting.

“Trina!”

At the sound of Kelly’s voice, I open my eyes and am blinded by the sun. With all the strength I can muster, which isn’t much, I try to push my body up.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa, easy there,” the man speaks again. His hand is on my shoulder. A tickle in my throat makes me cough. Kelly comes into my vision, splashing water as she runs toward me.

“Trina!” She kneels next to me. I want to hold her but I can’t even lift myself up, so I give her my hand. She takes it eagerly. “You okay?”

“I will be, I think,” I say, my throat feeling like it has dirt in it. “What about you, Kel?”

“I’m good,” she smiles at me. “I found someone to help!”

I finally am able to roll myself over enough to see the man. After his head blocks the glare of the sun, I see the face that appeared late in my bedroom six months ago. The face that told me not to scream. The face that said someone was coming for us, that they weren’t to be trusted. He had said he would come for us as soon as possible. Now he was here. A smile cracks through my parched lips.

“Hi, Dad.”

FWF ~ Gentle One

It’s far past my bedtime. Daddy would be furious if he knew I was out in the woods behind our house again. Ever since dusk, it’s been bugging me for so long that I just have to be out here right now. I have to find out what I saw.

I make my way past crooked trees, keeping my eyes peeled for any sign of movement. The glimmers disappeared this way, I’m sure of it. After a few minutes, I notice that I’m approaching a swamp from the squelch beneath my feet and the dull shimmer of water some fifty feet away from me. I stop, not wanting to venture too far into the messy mud.

Glancing around, I cross my arms in front of me and feel goosebumps erupt on my skin. It’s much colder than it was a moment ago. The chill came on a subtle breeze. I look to the direction I feel the wind coming from and gasp. There’s the white glimmering flash again!

The longing to know what it is overwhelms me and I start to walk over. Every step I take towards it makes the wind blow harder until I finally feel like I can’t breathe from the pressure on my chest. Have I walked into a wall? That’s almost what it seems like.

The glimmer is only a little bit closer to me now, even though I feel like I should be closer. Wait a minute… it’s getting brighter and brighter! The light is coming towards me.

A voice speaks, “You need to go home, Silas.”

I can only muster a squeak. “Wha?”

“We are the Fae and we have been assigned to protect you, gentle one,” the voice continued, “only you’re not supposed to know.”

In an instant, the light surrounds me and I’m warmed from the outside in.

The next thing I know, I’m looking up at my ceiling with my bed sheets on top of me, wondering what on earth I saw at dusk. A strange glimmer or sparkle, was it? I consider going out to the forest despite Daddy’s temper. But then I change my mind and doze off to sleep while dream of fairies.