Jane Hale – Bucket Full of Dreams

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Bucket Full of Dreams

By Jane Hale

Remember when we were kids and wore our bathing suits to feed the horses so we could go swimming at the creek when we were finished?

Living on adjoining farms, you rode over to my farm to get away from a house full of sisters. I was an only child and happy to have a make-believe brother. You loved to draw. I loved to make up stories. Together we produced some children’s illustrated story books. Your oldest sister sent them to a publishing house. Our series “Bronco’s Bucket List,” written while we were horsing around, became a five-star winner on Amazon.

I close my eyes and see two kids lounging on the bank of the creek. You are wearing Mighty Mouse boxers. I’m sporting my pink teenie weenie yellow polka-dot bikini. We dreamed big dreams. We wrote our own bucket lists. I wonder what ever happened to the list?

In a happy-ever-after world, our relationship might have become more than make-believe brother and sister. In the real world my parents died in a plane crash on their way to my graduation from MSU with a degree in journalism.

Your family attended my parents’ funerals. You rode over to my farm later after everyone left. You helped me grieve as we visited the barn, now empty of horses and the door padlocked. We wandered down to the creek almost dried up from drought. We discussed our plans for the future. I’d been offered a job with a publishing house in Columbia. Your creativity in drawing evolved into a world of CAD software.

I gave a toast at your wedding reception which was held at my family farm I’d sold earlier to your oldest sister. My reference to Mighty Mouse was appreciated by your sisters and rewarded by a wink from you.

You gave a toast at my wedding including a remark about my pink teenie weenie yellow polka-dot bikini, causing my husband to give me a reproving look. Your sister saved the day by producing a bucket she’d painted pink with yellow polka dots, filled with wedding presents.

Each year we exchanged Christmas cards showing how our families grew as we each added children. Your card always included a drawing of Mighty Mouse. Our card contained a poem about a bikini.

The year my youngest left for college, my husband died of cancer. I fell into a stage of depression. Your sister invited me to stay with her on my family farm, now her home. The few weeks I spent with her were my salvation. I later returned the bucket she’d painted and given to me as a wedding present filled with thank-you gifts to her.

She shyly pulled out a folded piece of paper and handed it to me. “Read it, Grace.”

My eyes filled with tears as I reread our bucket list compiled as youngsters on the bank of the creek where we spent hours swimming and composing together. She’d underlined one of the items on the bucket list. It read: One day may we both be able to bring laughter to a world filled with harsh reality.

I sat with your family group a few years later when your wife passed away. You stayed with your brother who’d bought your parents’ farm.

I accepted your sister’s invitation to spend the weekend with her.

Years passed with each of us remaining single. Your sister kept each of us up-to-date on failing relationships.

One weekend I received an invitation to a family reunion your sister had organized at her farm.

It read: We always considered you family, Grace. I hope you’ll be able to attend. I’d like you to be my guest for the weekend.

I was not surprised to receive a note from you saying you were attending the reunion and hoped I’d be there too.

I was surprised to arrive and find you and me the only people attending besides your sister who had a smug self-satisfied look on her face. She said, “The others won’t arrive until tomorrow, but I’ve arranged a special treat for the two of you.” She handed you a blank drawing pad and pencils. To me she gave a blank notebook and pencil. “Why don’t you two wander down to the barn and on down to the creek? See if you can’t create something worth publishing.”

Happy to be together again, we headed toward the barn thinking we might find she’d bought a horse or two. Instead we found the old barn door still padlocked but with a pink bucket with yellow polka dots hanging on the door handle.

Looking inside we found a folded paper. It was our bucket list with the item underlined: One day may we both be able to bring laughter to a world filled with harsh reality.

Was that a hint of tears I saw in your eyes when you read it?

Laughter drifted over the creek filled with a summer of rain when you handed me the pad on which you’d drawn a middle-aged man with an exaggerated belly hanging over the waistband of his Mighty Mouse boxers.

You chuckled when I handed you my tablet on which I’d written: “There once was a young lady named Grace, who wore a yellow polka-dot bikini, pink with lace. When she jumped in to dunk, her bikini, it shrunk—a lot. Now, Grace is just one big yellow polka dot.”

As we walked back toward the farmhouse hand in hand, I thought of one of the other items on our bucket list: No matter what kind of weather, may we always be together, through thick and thin.

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Please visit Jane on her page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ozarkwritersinc/

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Lynn Miclea – Bucket of Life

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms. Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support!

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Bucket of Life

by Lynn Miclea

Squeezing pressure. Hard to breathe. My chest ached. My jaw hurt. Dizziness flooded through me and I felt weak. I stumbled to the phone and called 9-1-1. Didn’t feel well. Nauseous. Felt awful. Could not take a deep breath. Shuffled to the front door and unlocked it. Lay down on the floor in front of the unlocked door and hoped they would get there in time. Darkness.

Surrounded by a flurry of activity. I was placed on a gurney. I felt a mask pressed to my face. I felt movement and heard sirens as the ambulance raced to the hospital. Felt hot and sweaty. Would I make it? Not sure I would survive. Darkness.

A room. Surrounded by doctors in blue scrub suits. I ached all over. Felt heavy. Something was horribly wrong.

“We’re losing her again.”

I floated up. Surrounded by brilliant white light. Warm and soothing.

“Clear!”

Who was talking? I looked down from the ceiling and watched my body bounce on the hospital bed. Doctors frantically moved and worked on my body. But I was up here above it all. That wasn’t me anymore. I was light and free. No more pain.

The light softened and I was surrounded by dazzling yellow flowers. They were so beautiful. And butterflies—hundreds of them. Thousands. They were exquisite. What was this place? Where was I?

A figure approached. Familiar, but looked different. My mom! She looked like she used to look when she was younger.

“Mom!” I called out to her.

She approached, a smile on her face. “It’s not your time.”

“What? No, I like it here. I don’t want to go back.”

“We’ll meet again, I promise. But there’s something you still need to do down there.”

“No, I’m done there. I want to be here with you.”

Beautiful music surrounded me. Beethoven? Chopin? Mozart? I wasn’t sure. But it was familiar and overpowering. I loved it.

My mom had something in her hand. “You have to go back and do something.”

“No, don’t make me go back.”

“Here.” She handed me something.

“What is this?” I looked at it. It was a small bucket.

“You’ll know what to do.”

“Huh?” I looked at the bucket—it was pink with yellow polka dots. What was this for?

“Clear!”

I bounced on the bed. I was so achy. Pain radiated throughout my body.

“She’s back!”

“Jenna, can you hear me?”

Where was I? I tried to respond. My eyes wouldn’t open. My mouth was dry.

“I see movement. She’s responding now.”

My eyes flew open. Doctors surrounded me, peering down at me.

“Jenna, can you hear me?”

I nodded. What happened to my dream? I remembered having such a nice dream. I couldn’t quite remember it, but it was nice.

A mask was placed on my face and I relaxed. There was a flurry of activity. I was moved to another gurney and wheeled somewhere. I slept.

***

A month later, I sat at my kitchen table for lunch and sipped an iced tea. I had recovered from my heart attack, but that really scared me and left me feeling vulnerable. And recovery was slow—I still didn’t feel great. I was alive, but I was not sure for what. Here I was, in my late sixties, retired, and no close friends. Why had I even survived? What good was my life?

I finished my sandwich and drank more iced tea. Feeling fatigued, I closed my eyes and let out a long sigh. It felt good to relax, even if I was still achy. Vague memories of a dream flitted through my mind, but I couldn’t quite catch it. I remembered seeing my mom. It had seemed so real. And she had given me something. Something important. But I couldn’t remember what it was.

I got up, placed the dirty dishes in the sink, and wandered aimlessly into the garage. Glancing around, everything seemed in place, except … what was that? It looked like a few of my storage boxes had been moved. But I didn’t remember moving them.

I moved closer. A pink handle of some sort stuck out next to one of the boxes. Something tickled in the back of my mind as I slowly reached forward and pulled on the handle. A pink bucket with yellow polka dots. What the … I gasped as the memory flooded back. The dream! That’s what my mom had given me in that dream! Nooooo!

How was that possible? I never had this object in real life. This was a dream object. It crossed over from the dream world into the real world. It made no sense. A shiver ran through me.

I looked inside the bucket. There was a folded piece of paper at the bottom—a note with writing on it. I cautiously pulled out the note, opened it, and read it.

Hartview Bridge. Today. 2:00 pm.

I felt my heartbeat quicken. My mouth went dry. What was this? I felt a vague pressure in the air. Was I having another heart attack? No, I felt okay. Just a vague overall pressure. I didn’t know why, but I knew I had to be at the Hartview Bridge at 2:00. I glanced at my watch. I’d have to leave in ten minutes. I didn’t want to be late for whatever it was.

I arrived at the bridge with five minutes to spare. I quickly scanned the area but didn’t see anything. Then movement caught my eye, and I squinted and started walking closer. A young teenager, male, maybe fifteen or sixteen, walked to the middle of the bridge. I felt that pressure increase. I still didn’t understand it, but I knew this young man was why I was here.

I quickened my steps and rushed forward. As I got closer, I could see that his hair was disheveled and his face was streaked with tears. Now twenty feet away, I could hear gasps and choking sobs coming from him.

He climbed up onto the first of three rungs that spanned the length of the bridge. I knew instantly that he intended to jump. I sprinted to him, and as he climbed up onto the second rung, I grabbed him around the waist and pulled him down.

He gasped and sputtered and spun around, looking at me. “What the hell? Leave me alone!”

“No, please don’t jump. Please. Talk to me. Whatever it is, don’t end your life. You’re needed here.”

He scowled and looked angry. “You don’t know me. You don’t know anything.”

I nodded. He was right. I had no idea what his life was like. “Please just talk to me.” I spoke softly. “My name is Jenna. What is your name?”

He hesitated. “Shawn,” he whispered.

“Shawn, whatever you’re dealing with—”

“No, you don’t understand. I can’t take it anymore. I’m tired of the bullying. I’m tired of getting beat up.” His face contorted and he sobbed. “Everyone hates me and makes fun of me because I’m gay. But that’s who I am. I can’t—”

I squeezed his shoulder. “Actually, I do understand. My cousin is gay and I know what he’s been through. And I’m bi.” I hesitated and then went on. “Shawn, I promise you’re safe with me.” He sniffed and nodded. When he stayed and didn’t run away, I continued. “Can I buy you lunch? Please? Let’s talk.”

He nodded and began sobbing again. I reached for him and hugged him. I held onto him. After a couple minutes, I felt his body relax and I felt him cling to me. My heart broke for him. As we walked to my car and I took him to lunch, the pressure around me eased, and I knew that’s what I was here for. And I also knew I was the right person to help him.

***

A couple weeks later, I went into the garage to get a bottle of water. I felt a familiar pressure building. It occurred to me that I had not looked in that bucket in a while. I picked up the pink pail with the yellow polka dots and looked inside. Another note was at the bottom. How was this possible?

I picked up the note and read it.

439 Magnolia Blvd. Today. 10:30 am.

Chills ran up my spine. I felt gripped by that same pressure as it increased. I knew I had to be there. And I had to leave right away.

Parking my car two houses away from that address, I walked toward the building. It was a modest, two-story, gray house with white shutters and white trim. What was I doing here? I walked closer to the house. The lawn had been recently mown, and the hedges were neatly trimmed.

Shouts from the second story drew my attention. Looking up, I saw smoke billowing out of one of the windows. A woman, holding a baby, leaned out the window as flames shot out behind her. She wailed and looked around frantically. “Help!” she called out. “Is anyone there?” She screamed. “I’m not going to make it.” Flames licked the wall around her. “I’m sorry, my baby. Please survive.” She threw the baby out the window, trying to aim for some shrubbery.

I saw the baby flying through the air, screeching, its little arms flailing. I rushed forward toward the baby and caught him as he fell into my arms. I held him and rocked him as I heard sirens racing toward us. I glanced up and saw the woman straddling the window, ready to jump. She looked toward the sound of the fire engines and then saw me holding her precious baby. I rocked her sweet baby and talked to him as his mother’s heart-wrenching sobs filled the air. Within moments, firefighters rushed over with ladders and they climbed up to rescue the woman.

A few minutes later, I handed her the sweet baby, who was now cooing and reaching for his mama.

The pressure around me eased, and I knew I was done. I got back in my car and headed home.

***

Confusion settled around me. Who was putting the notes in that bucket? Why was I chosen for this? How long would this go on? But I received no answers.

Later that week, I felt the familiar pressure building again, and I ran to the garage and looked in the pink bucket. Sure enough, there was a note in there.

Lake Granada. South side. Today. 3:00 pm.

My gut knotted up. What was going on? Why me? I didn’t understand any of it. But I also knew I had to be there.

Parking my Honda in the parking lot by the lake, I checked the sign to make sure I was at the south end of the lake. I was. I got out of the car and looked around at the peaceful setting. Graceful sycamore and maple trees surrounded the lake. A cool fresh breeze blew off the water and washed over me as I walked toward the lake.

I thought I heard something. The pressure around me intensified. Again I heard a sound. Whimpering. Coming from the lake. I ran to the edge. Something was in the water—a small dog struggling to stay afloat. I could tell it was fatigued and could not make it to shore. I quickly took off my shoes and socks and ran into the cold water. The dog went under, then came back up, its snout barely breaking the surface. I swam as fast as I could. The dog saw me coming and tried to hold on, but I could see it was losing strength. It went under again just as I reached it. I quickly grabbed the furry brown dog and pulled him out of the water and held him to me. He clung to me as best he could, panting, making small whimpering noises.

Holding the poor dog in one hand I slowly made my way through the water to the shore. Breathing heavily and climbing out onto the small sandy area, I looked at the dog. I was fatigued myself, and I knew the dog would not have lasted much longer.

Grabbing an old towel from the back of my car, I sat down in a grassy area and examined the dog as I dried him with the towel. He looked like a terrier mix to me, exhausted but okay. I sat with him a few more minutes, drying him and comforting him. He licked my face. He was a sweet dog and looked like he had been well cared for. He must have gotten lost. He had a collar and a tag, and I called the number listed. The owner answered. Yes, he had lost his dog and had been frantic, trying to find him.

We made arrangements to meet, and I felt the pressure ease.

***

I hoped that would be all I was requested to do. I did not want to be in this position. I was tired and confused and still did not understand any of it.

The next week, I felt that familiar pressure building again. Reluctantly, I went into the garage and looked in the pink bucket with the yellow polka dots. Another note.

Market St. and Fourth Ave. SW corner. Today. 11:00 am.

Did I want to do this? I had to. I had no choice—it was compelling. The pressure was building, and I knew I needed to be there.

I parked my Honda down the street and walked to that corner. I didn’t see anything unusual, and I felt uncomfortable standing there just waiting for something to happen.

The pressure increased. Traffic was busy at that intersection, but not busier than usual. The light turned green, and I saw an older man waiting to cross the street as he watched the light but not the cars. A van was barreling down the street, and it was clear that it was not going to stop—it was going to run the red light. The man stepped off the curb, into the path of the van.

I jumped forward, grabbing the man’s arm and pulling him back onto the curb. “Hey—” he yelled as he fell back onto me and we both crashed to the sidewalk. “What the hell—”

The van rushed past us, the wind and dust kicking up behind it and blowing over us. We both stared after the van. “It would have hit you,” I said softly.

The old man looked at me. “I just wanted to get a newspaper,” he muttered.

“Are you okay?”

He nodded and I helped him get up. “Thank you, miss.” He ran his fingers through his thinning hair. “Thank you.”

I felt the pressure ease, and I patted him on the back. Before I left, I warned him to look both ways at the traffic before he stepped off the curb, and to be safe.

***

There were no more notes for a couple weeks, and then it started again. A few times each month I went on assignments, following the instructions on each note as it appeared. As much as it was rewarding to help others, it was also a bit unnerving. It was hard to wrap my head around it, and I never felt worthy of being in that position.

After about six months, the bucket remained empty for a few weeks. I wondered if it was over. Was I done? Who was sending the notes anyway? And how? It was all baffling and also exhausting. And I still did not understand any of it or why it was happening. And why me? Was I supposed to learn something? Make amends for something? I had no idea.

Then I felt the pressure build again. I made my way into the garage to the familiar bucket and pulled out the note.

Your living room. Today. 8:00 pm.

Huh? What or who would need my help in my own living room? But I knew I would honor the call. At 7:30, I sat on the couch in my living room. All was quiet. I turned on the TV and watched the news. Almost 8:00. The pressure increased. But no one else was there.

The pressure suddenly intensified. My heart pounded. My heart felt like it was exploding in my chest. What was this? My jaw ached. No! Nausea overwhelmed me and I broke out in a sweat. I ran for the phone. My legs gave way and I collapsed after a few steps. I could not reach the phone. It was hard to breathe. My vision grew black.

The room now flooded with bright light.

My mom was here again! “Mom!”

She smiled and opened her arms to greet me. “Hi, honey.”

I felt light and free. Brilliant yellow flowers were everywhere. Butterflies filled the air. A sweet, delicate fragrance washed over me.

I remembered that I had questions and needed answers. “Mom, how did the pink bucket appear in physical form? And why did I have to do all that? And why me?”

She laughed and glowed with love. “It will all become clear as you meet with your guide. That will happen shortly. Then you will understand all of it.”

“Okay.” That made sense and satisfied me for now. I smiled back at her as the butterflies danced around us. “Can I stay here this time?”

She nodded, as warmth and light radiated from her. “Yes, you can stay. Welcome home, honey.”

I was floating and it was intoxicating. Sparkles of glittering light flowed endlessly around me. That beautiful music permeated the air. A powerful sense of love enveloped me. I couldn’t help laughing as joy bubbled up within me.

The answers to my questions could wait. It was all okay.

I was home.

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Copyright © 2019 Lynn Miclea. All Rights Reserved.

Please also visit Lynn’s blog, like the story there, and follow her at – https://wp.me/p4htbd-oIPlease also visit Lynn’s website for more information on her books – https://www.lynnmiclea.com/

Rochelle Wisoff-Fields – With This Ring

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms. Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support!

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With This Ring

By Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Laura Gwynn cradled her month-old son in her arms. Lulled by the steady rhythm of the train taking her from familiar Pennsylvania to unknown Missouri, she shut her eyes. How had it come to this?

She longed to confide in Mama or cry on Papa’s shoulder. This was never to be. Mama died of consumption and Papa couldn’t live with his broken heart. Laura had no siblings. Left alone at fifteen with nothing but a rundown farmhouse and a barren field, she sold the property and moved to the city. When she went to deposit the money from the sales at the bank, the teller’s deep brown eyes and dazzling smile captivated her. It didn’t take long for her to fall in love with Thomas Gwynn.

Not long afterward, she accepted his proposal making her a bride at sixteen.

Thomas had a bright future with the bank. He promised her jewels and servants. Instead, he managed to get himself arrested for cheating at cards. The night before his scheduled trial, the men he had cheated lynched him, leaving Laura a widow at seventeen.

Filled with pity for her, Mr. Willoughby, the bank president, loaned her the money to cover Thomas’ gambling debts. He provided her with room and board and a position as a maid to pay off the loan.

Afraid she would lose her job, she kept her condition a secret. However, her small build and short stature made it impossible to hide for very long.

Mary and Charles Willoughby, who desperately wanted children, offered to adopt Laura’s baby.

“He’ll be heir to the Willoughby fortune. Surely, you see the wisdom in this.” Charles, an imposing presence with bushy white eyebrows and balding pate handed her a contract. “If you sign this, the child will never have to work a day in his life.”

Laura pressed her palms against her belly. The baby kicked against them. She remembered Thomas’ words when they wed. “You are now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.”

The child moved again. Laura refused to sign and uttered a feeble whisper. “I—I can’t.”

“You can,” Charles thundered and waved the paper under her nose, “and you will!”

“Oh my dear, consider your little one.” Mary grasped Laura’s hands, her faded eyes awash with longing. “Why you’re a wee child yourself.”

So certain Laura would relent, Mary put a full layette together. She made sure Laura ate well and didn’t do any heavy lifting. While Laura didn’t mind being pampered, she had no doubt as soon as Mary Willoughby had the baby in her clutches, she would cast Laura out on the street.

During her seventh month Laura noticed an advertisement in the newspaper for mail-order brides. Pictures of potential husbands accompanied mailing addresses. Laura scanned the blurry photographs.

A young man with a pleasant face caught her attention. Alfred Cromwell. He listed himself as a truck farmer in Harrisonville, Missouri. She winced. More than she hated farm life, she hated being servant to a pair of vultures with designs on her child—bone of her bone, flesh of Thomas’s flesh.

She had a photograph taken and enclosed it in a letter.

A month later Mr. Cromwell replied in scrawling longhand.

“5 May 1890

“Dear Mrs. Gwynn,

“I’d be right proud if you’d be my bride. I ain’t got much to offer but I got a sturdy cabin that could use a lady’s gentle touch. I promise to do my best to make you happy. If you accept, I’ll be sending you a train ticket.”

“Yours truly,

“Alfred C. Cromwell”

How could she refuse? The baby would be here any day.

The promised ticket arrived a week after Jason’s birth. One night, as soon as she felt strong enough, Laura packed her suitcase with her few belongings and Mary’s layette. She swaddled the baby, tucked him into a large wicker basket and laid a light blanket over it. Without so much as a note of explanation, Laura stepped out into the night and made her way to the depot.

By now, the Willoughbys had discovered her treachery. Did they send someone after her? The countryside zipped by. Jason opened his brown eyes and squinted at the early morning sunlight. Laura’s heart thudded against her ribs. She hadn’t told Alfred about the baby. What would he say—or do?

***

Clutching a bouquet of roses, Alfred studied Laura’s photograph. “She claims she’s almost eighteen and a widow woman, but she don’t look much older than fourteen, does she, Bert?”

“That’s a fact, Alf.” His brother Bert let out a long slow whistle. “Didja happen to tell her you’re nigh onto thirty-seven? You was a might younger when that picture you put in the paper was took.”

Alfred’s face warmed. “I mighta forgot to mention it.”

Bert’s wife Ginny adjusted Alfred’s necktie. “Don’t you worry none. You’re still a fine specimen. Any gal would be proud to have you. As for her being a widow, it don’t matter how old a woman is. If her husband dies, she’s a widow. Plain and simple.”

The train pulled up to the platform, its whistle heralding its arrival. Alfred tightened his grip on the flowers. He surveyed the passengers exiting the train. “She says she’s not very tall.”

Ginny shielded her eyes with her hand and craned her neck. She pointed. “Wonder if she could be that little girl with the big basket slung over her arm.”

Alfred inched closer for a better look. The girl in question was clad in black from her bonnet to her shoes. She stood on tiptoe as if she were searching for someone.

“Mrs. Gwynn?” He stepped toward her. She couldn’t be more than five feet tall, if that. “Laura?”

She raised her head to reveal surprised blue eyes and freckled cheeks framed by sleek amber locks. “Mr. Cromwell? I thought—”

“—I’d be younger?” He took her suitcase and handed her the bouquet. “I can explain that.”

A tear made a trail through her freckles. His heart sank. He reached for the basket. “Lemme carry that for you.”

“No.” She blushed and shrank back. “I’ll carry…it.”

She laid the bouquet on top of the basket and slipped her hand through the crook of his offered arm.

“I hope the ring I bought ain’t too big.” He pointed to Bert and Ginny who waited in the carriage. “There’s our best man and maid of honor.”

“You mean…?”

“I figured we’d go straight to the courthouse while we’re in town.”

Laura bit her lip.

“Unless you’re a-changing your mind. I’ll understand. On account I lied about my age and all.”

She flashed a quivering smile. “No. I gave you my word. My mama used to say it’s bad luck to get married in black.”

“Hogwash!” He helped her into the carriage’s back seat and climbed in beside her. “Let’s get ourselves hitched.”

A noise came from Laura’s basket. “That ain’t what I think it is, is it?” He leaned over and pushed the blanket aside. “You never said nothing about no baby.”

Ginny turned in her seat, her gray eyes sparkling. “Now ain’t that something, Alfie? I guess you ain’t the only one keeping secrets.”

***

A week later, Laura cuddled Jason and drank in his sweet scent. Alfred’s snores came from the front room where he slept on a palette on the floor. On their wedding night, he had gathered his blankets and left the bed to her and the baby. “I don’t expect you to be beholding to your wifely duty until you’re ready.”

Although Alfred couldn’t hold a candle to Thomas when it came to looks, he had nice enough features. She liked his sky-blue eyes and dimpled smile. The honest face of a simple man.

She held her left hand up to the lamp on the roughhewn night table and studied her new wedding ring. Unlike the cheap band Thomas gave her, Alfred had taken great care to choose one with style. She admired the way the intricate filigree shimmered in the light.

A hollow sense of desolation and shame flooded her as she reflected on her wedding day.

The tight-lipped justice of the peace droned the marriage ceremony as it was written in his book. Ginny held Jason who howled from “Dearly beloved” to “I now pronounce you man and wife.” Laura clung to her slightly wilted bouquet to keep her hands from shaking. Alfred promised to “love, honor and cherish.” All the while he glowered at the baby.

***

Alfred leaned against the doorjamb and watched Laura sleep. Her son curled up in the crook of her arm. Morning sunlight illuminated her flaxen hair which splayed across her pillow. Her long eyelashes fringed her translucent cheeks. He ached with longing, but he’d vowed not to push her.

She opened her eyes. “Good morning, Mr. Cromwell.”

A month had passed since the wedding. She still refused to call him by his first name and continued to wear black. Ginny assured him his young bride would warm up to him. She just needed time. How much time? His back hurt from sleeping on the unforgiving floor.

“Good morning, Mrs. Cromwell.”

***

Laura decided it was high time she repay Bert and Ginny’s kindness with a home-cooked meal—fried chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans from the garden.

The older woman provided good company and made Laura feel welcomed and appreciated. More than that, she made Laura feel like family.

While Bert and Alfred worked the fields, Ginny helped Laura put the finishing touches on gingham curtains. As her needle flashed in and out of the cloth, she chattered, regaling Laura with amusing stories about Alfred.

“He’s always been kind-of awkward and tongue-tied around women. I’m the one who suggested he send away for a bride. Honey, you could be exactly what the doctor ordered.”

Laura put down her sewing. “Could be?”

Ginny leveled her gaze on Laura. “You ain’t man and wife yet, are you?”

Laura’s cheeks blazed. “I said ‘I do.’”

“‘I do’ don’t amount to a hill of beans when you’re dressing like a widow and dragging your chin on the ground. Alfie deserves better and so do you.”

Hours later, fingering the pink polka-dotted fabric of her new dress, Laura grinned. “Ginny’s right.” She dropped the green beans in salted water and stirred them.

“Why don’t you look purty, Mrs. Cromwell?” Alfred circled his hands around her shoulders. “Smell nice, too.”

She whipped about and gently poked his shoulder with her spoon. “Please, Mr. Cromwell. Don’t disturb the cook.”

He dropped open his mouth. “Are you flirting with me, Mrs. Cromwell?”

The baby in his basket whimpered. Soon the whimper grew into a squall. Laura heaved an exasperated sigh. “He can’t be hungry. Would you mind holding him while I fry the chicken, Mr. Cromwell?”

Alfred knelt and gathered Jason in his arms. “You sure is growing, son. Come to Papa.”

Laura’s pulse raced. “What did you say?”

“I—I know I ain’t his pa. It jest slipped out.” Alfred held the baby tighter. “I ain’t no fool, Laura. You didn’t marry me for love. You married me to get out of a bad situation. Fact is I do love you and this here young’un. Would ya consider allowing me to give him my name?”

She sank down on his lap and wreathed her arms around his neck. “My darling Alfie. Cromwell is a wonderful name.”

Jason’s indignant cries rousted Laura from Alfred’s deep and lingering kiss. She looked up to see Ginny and Bert.

Bert chuckled. “Time for dinner yet?”

“Come to Aunt Ginny before you suffocate.” Ginny lifted Jason from Alfred’s shoulder. “Looks to me like dinner’s gonna be a bit late tonight. Your ma and pa got some serious business to attend to.”

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Please visit Rochelle’s website at https://rochellewisoff.com

Authors’ Words – Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman

Prolific author Neil Gaiman was born and raised in England but moved to the United States in 1992, where he continues to reside outside Minneapolis. He is well known as a master storyteller working in a variety of mediums who mixes modern reality with the fantastic.

Gaiman began his career as a freelance journalist, writing for various British newspapers and magazines. He later moved into many other areas of writing, including comic books, screenplays, fiction, young adult novels, children’s books and nonfiction. Gaiman’s critically acclaimed comic book series The Sandman ran for 75 issues, from 1989 until 1996. The Sandman was later collected into a series of 10 graphic novels. In addition to creating The Sandman series, Gaiman has been called upon to reimagine other comic creators’ works, including The Eternals miniseries for Marvel Comics and an issue of Spawn for Image Comics. The Sandman series inspired a number of spin-off series by other writers as well as spin-offs by Gaiman, including Death: The High Cost of Living.

Gaiman’s fiction includes Neverwhere, which was originally conceived as a BBC television miniseries; Good Omens, a humorous novel about the apocalypse co-written with Terry Pratchett, who is known for his comic fantasy Discworld series; the short story collection Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions; and American Gods, which garnered numerable awards including the Hugo, Nebula, Bram Stoker, SFX and Locus.

The many awards Gaiman has won give evidence of his talent and popularity. His young adult novel The Graveyard Book won the Newbery Medal in 2009. Coraline won the 2003 Hugo Award for Best Novella, the 2003 Nebula Award for Best Novella and the 2002 Bram Stoker Award for Best Work for Young Readers. In 2000, The Sandman: The Dream Hunters won a Bram Stoker award for Best Illustrated Narrative. Issue #19 of The Sandman, entitled A Midsummer Night’s Dream, won the 1991 World Fantasy Award for Short Fiction.

Resources:

https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/neil_gaiman_461447

Please note: Image from the Internet… no source available. Credit to photographer. Bio from the Chicago Public Library Site.

E. C. Fisher – Sally Lou Daisys

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms. Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support!

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Sally Lou Daisys

By E.C. Fisher

A legend exists in Rockford Fall, North Dakota, about a young girl who carries a small pink-with-yellow-polka-dotted tin around. You can hear her skip along gravel roads or hop on concrete sidewalks, her tin bucket swinging and rattling along with her. She sounds like a cheerful young girl who is only out to play, but she is anything but cheerful.

In this backwater town not located on any map and far from modern society, Sally Lou Daisys is a vengeful spirit who kills bullies or those who step out of line. It was isolated generations ago to protect the world from Sally Lou as her vengeance seeks any who dare oppose her.

Every generation, without fail, there is always one, one who doesn’t believe the legend, who tests their mantle against her. He or she sets the present generation straight and makes them toe the line. Rockford Falls is the most pleasant town; courteous people, with smiles on their lips, but only their lips.

Every day is a battle, a fight with oneself, to control the urge to shout, yell, or curse. Sally Lou is always watching, waiting, skipping and hopping along through the town. She monitors her captives, waiting for those who brandish ill will. She doesn’t act against the innocence of youth. When a child becomes an adult at fifteen in Rockford Falls, the gloves come off and they’re fair game.

Within a town so isolated, you’d think the residents would have just faltered and stopped having children. You’d think that, right? But, alas, with nothing else to do, people fornicate like rabbits. Maybe it’s the fear that drives them to coupling. Maybe it’s revenge, let their kids feel their grief. I don’t know. Sally Lou holds a death grip on the town and we’re nothing more than offerings to slake her appetite.

Did you hear that? Shh. Listen. Sounds like gravel being kicked. She’s coming.

Did I forget to mention, you can’t escape this town. Visitors may enter, but no one can leave. Oh, what did I do to gain her wrath? Everything. This is my suicide attempt. Without fail. One hundred percent guaranteed success rate. I’ll end this suffering and pray for an afterlife. If hell is my fate, then I welcome the sweeter embrace.

You may find my words contradicting my actions. Don’t be mistaken. This is more like a game of tag. She is going to work for my death. I will parade her around this town. Shouting her name. Let them all see. What can I say, let my death entertain them.

The sound of her cheerful giggles increases as she draws near. The rattle of her bucket and gravel weakens my knees. I curl up in a ball, shut my eyes tight. The sounds abruptly stop behind me.

‘Sally Lou, skips a few, carrying her pail beside her

‘Her dress is blue, with red-stained hands

‘To pluck the heart she desires

‘Be not worried, be not scared, for your death is one of joy

‘In the ground, your soul be bound, in the garden of folly

‘In despair, you lie here as my hand reaches for you

‘I grip your heart and pull it out

‘Feast your eyes, I gain my prize and place it in my pail

‘Sally Lou, hops a few, carrying her full pail to her garden

‘She digs a hole and sets the soul

‘Adding another to her garden of folly

Visit E. C on Facebook and give him a like! www.facebook.com/ecfisherauthor

Doug Blackford – Some Days

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms. Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support!

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Some Days

By Doug Blackford

“Daddy! Daddy! Look!”

“You’re doing great, baby!”

What else was I supposed to say? Being a single dad was both the scariest and most rewarding thing I’d ever done in my life, and that was counting three tours in Afghanistan and getting shot twice. I was proud of my little girl riding Blanca on her own, but it terrified me she might fall off.

“Don’t grip the reins too tight, baby. You wouldn’t want someone yanking hard on your mouth. Hold them firm, but not tight. She only needs a little of a tug for direction.”

“I know, Daddy!”

Ten-year-old exasperation crept into her voice, but it just made me smile. I think we’re all like that at that age. Truth be told, the aging mare didn’t need the reins at all, but not all horses were trained to respond to neck taps or voice commands. Better for Liv to learn the regular way before teaching her anything more advanced.

My wife didn’t want Liv riding alone until she was at least ten, but riding with me was okay. Today was Liv’s tenth birthday, so I’m sure you can imagine her delight. I mean, what little girl doesn’t want a horse at some point? The fact we had several only made it better.

My government disability helped, but it wasn’t enough to make all the ends meet. I still needed to make a living, so boarding and hosting trail rides covered the difference. Blanca was my horse — a beautiful white Appaloosa with just a smattering of black on her flanks and hindquarters. She had been all sorts of spirited when she was younger, and she and I had numerous discussions and arguments about that fact, but she was in her late teens now and had settled into a middle-aged comfort zone. Every once in a while we’d play the game when it was just us, but she was very careful with Liv.

“Watch, Daddy!”

Liv urged Blanca into a trot and stood up in the stirrups. Her legs bent with the changed rhythm of the gait, but I could tell by how far Blanca’s head was angled down that Liv was pulling too hard on the reins to try and keep her balance.

“Put your butt back in that saddle, young lady!”

To her credit, she sat down quickly, and I motioned for her to come over. I continued leaning against the top split rail of the fence with one forearm and rubbed Blanca’s nose with the other hand when Liv pulled her up.

“You can’t pull on the reins that hard, baby. Blanca’s not going to throw you for doing it, but that hurts her mouth. Her mouth is just as sensitive as yours and that bit in her mouth is made of metal. You have to use your legs to keep your balance when you stand up, not the reins. Understand?”

She had her eyes downcast and a slight pout to her lips, playing up the look of chastisement and hurt feelings to the hilt. She knew she was doing it, too. I swear, girls seem to become ever more self-aware at a younger and younger age. I don’t recall them being like that when I was that age, but then again, us guys seem to be pretty clueless around then, and later, so I probably just never noticed.

“Don’t even. I’m not upset and you know it, so quit with the puppy dog.”

Liv giggled a little and raised her eyes to meet mine. Hers were so brilliantly blue that there was no doubt she had gotten them from her mother. The sudden pain of the gut punch caught me off guard when I met those eyes. My heart felt like it skipped a beat and it was all I could do to not gasp for air as my wife’s face filled my vision.

I covered by ducking through the rails and rubbing Blanca’s neck with one hand and resting the other on Liv’s leg.

“Look, I just want you to learn how to ride her right so you’ll both enjoy it. You’ll be amazed at what she can do when she trusts you to ride her right. You’ve seen me ride her without you. She can do all that with you, too, once she trusts you not to hurt her.”

Liv showed every indication of understanding when she nodded. “I know, but it’s hard!”

Of course, she had a ten-year-old whine at the end — always impatient. I did my best not to chuckle at her, but couldn’t keep from smiling.

“I know. It just means you’ll have to practice. I guess that means you’ll have to ride her a lot.”

I’m not sure there is anything better in the world than seeing your daughter full of happiness and love, but when it’s directed at you, well, words cannot describe it. It’s something you have to experience to understand. She damn near leaped out of the saddle and into my arms, then started kissing me all over my face.

“Thank you! Thank you! Thank you, Daddy! I love you! Thank you!” Liv pulled back her head and looked in my eyes again with a wide grin. “Did I say thank you? Thank you!”

I could laugh now and did. “Yeah, okay already. You’re welcome. Happy birthday, baby. One rule, though. You can only ride when I’m around to watch. I know you’re smart and all, but no riding on your own until I say you’re good enough. Deal?”

“Awww, really? Yeah, okay.”

“Promise?”

“I promise.”

I let her down to the ground and leaned down to kiss the top of her head. “Now go unsaddle Blanca and rub her down. I’ll come hang up the tack and turn her out when you’re done.”

“Okay, Daddy.”

I watched her pick up the reins and lead Blanca off to the stable. I needed a few minutes to collect myself after the gut punch. I was still feeling it.

It had been over two years since my wife had died of cancer. I had reached a point where I could go without thinking about it some days. Not most days, but some days. It had happened quick — six months from start to finish. She didn’t know anything was wrong, then it was, and by then the doctors said it was too late to reverse the damage. They could try all the standards, but it would only delay things and make her miserable in the meantime. We went with the painkillers and that was it. We made the most of that six months until she became too weak, and then she was gone.

Twenty-plus years gone, but they were wonderful years. Our love of horses brought us together while I was in the military, and the love of horses was what helped me and Liv get through the loss of her mother. It wasn’t always easy, and we certainly had our bad days, but riding Blanca together had helped us bond and find joy amidst the pain and anger. I missed her, but I could endure the sadness now without breaking down or falling into a depression.

It only took a few minutes to feel solid again, passing through shock and sadness to remembered joys and a daughter with her mother’s eyes. I headed towards the main stable, but cast a glance towards one of its side doors, knowing what I would see.

My wife had bought a pink pail with polka dots while pregnant with Liv. She used it to feed her horse, Char, but she would never tell me why. She told me the reason shortly before she died and then I understood.

“Char isn’t much older than Liv, so when she’s old enough to ride him, he will still be a fire-blooded Arabian. He will be a handful for her. He needs to trust her and the best way to get a horse to trust you is familiarity. Besides riding it, the best way to do that is to feed it. I use the same pail to feed Char every day, and only Char. And when I’m not strong enough to do it anymore, Liv will do the same. You’ll teach her to ride and when she’s old enough, she and Char will be ready for each other.”

The pail hung on the side door, where it had always been put since my wife had gotten it. It had been repainted a couple of times to renew the paint, but it always hung in the same place. Char’s stall was the first one inside that door. My wife, always thinking of the future. Char was always going to be Liv’s.

Just the sight of it made me smile again. “Not yet, love, but we’re getting there.”

As I approached the stable, I yelled, “Liv! Don’t forget to feed Char!”

I grinned as Liv yell-whined back at me, “I know, Dad!”

Sometimes Daddy, sometimes Dad. Still about equal, but she was growing up. That was tomorrow’s terror. Today was not one of the bad days.

Copyright © 2019 DJ Blackford. All Rights Reserved.

Please visit Doug Blackford’s blog and follow him: https://smithandscribe.wordpress.com

Kelli J Gavin – Bucket

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms. Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support!

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Bucket

By Kelli J Gavin

I have been told it is too small

My bucket, that is

Too small to hold it all

Hopes and dreams should be big I am told

Bigger than what my bucket can hold

I believe it is just the right size

It contains everything I need

Happiness

Memories

Love

Faith

Kindness extended to me

Forgiveness

Lessons learned

Gratefulness

But what it contains is mine

A little bit of who I am

Of what I have become

When I pour it all out

I gaze at where I once was

Savor where I am now

It is altogether inspiring to me

That my small bucket holds

Everything I need

Hopes for my children

Dreams for my loved ones

Satisfaction of a life being lived well

Stop worrying about my bucket

Start addressing the hole in yours

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Please visit Kelli’s blog and follow her! https://kellijgavin.blogspot.com/2019/06/bucket.htmloodnes

WRITE THE STORY: June 2019 PROMPT

June 2019 Prompt

Write the Story June 2019 Prompt

Here’s the plan:

You write a story of 3000 words or less (doesn’t matter, can be 50 words or a poem) and post it on the author site that you want to promote. Please edit these stories. We will do minor editing but if the story is not written well WU! reserves the right to reject publishing it.

Send the story and link to the site via Facebook Messenger to Deborah Ratliff. Put “Write the Story” in the first line of the message. We do ask that you join Writers Unite! on Facebook to participate. https://www.facebook.com/groups/145324212487752/

WU! will post your story on our blog and share across our platforms, FB, Twitter, Instagram, etc. WU! will also add the story to the Write the Story page on our blog…where it be for all to read along with the other stories.

We do ask that you share the link to the WU! Write the Story page so that your followers can also read the works of your fellow writers.

The idea is to generate increased traffic for all. May take some time but it will happen if you participate. The other perk of this exercise is that you will also have a blog publishing credit for your work.

The June prompt is posted above… write the story!

Periodically throughout the month, we will post the current prompt as a reminder.

DO NOT post your story to this prompt. The idea is to have your STORY or poem published on your site, the WU! blog and shared to gain followers for your writing. We will not accept a one- or two-line caption. For the most part, we are fiction writers and poets…. please write a story or poem, not a caption.

If you have any questions regarding this, you may ask the question in the comments.

Thank you.

(Please note: the images we will use as prompts are free-use images and do not require attribution.)

Doug Blackford – The Hollow

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms. Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support!

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The Hollow

By Doug Blackford

You seldom think about the end of something when it is at its beginning. It is something new, perhaps a symbol or an advancement of what came before. It has its entire future ahead of it and may endure long after your own existence has ended. Yes, you may think about that part of the end — your own, but seldom a thought towards the end of the creation you leave behind.

I remembered when it was built. I saw it when it was new. I walked its hallowed halls. I spoke in its main chamber. I also recall burying its architect, one friend among countless others I have bid goodbye over the centuries. Time lays low all things, eventually. Like water, it is persistent and patient and cares not one whit about your opinion of it. It is inevitable.

It was built from stones carved from the same moors in which it stood. A great swath of The Highlands that had known nothing but clan wars for centuries surrounded it in all directions. The Bloody Moors, they had once been called. I had shed more than my share of blood on them, my own and others. If all the dead here rose at once, there would be a considerable population problem. There was no end to it, until High Church.

There had been churches built, spreading the word of the Christian God and converting many of my people from their pagan worship. It did not stop the warring between clans. It only gave them more reasons and excuses to prove they were more “righteous” than the other clans. If anything, it made things worse. In my many centuries of life, I have witnessed more people killed in the name of religion than any other reason.

Such was not the case with High Church. It was part church, part combat arena, part government, and all neutral. No weapons were allowed inside its walls. All disputes had two avenues of recourse — diplomacy or combat, sometimes both. All physical confrontations were to take place in the arena and were to be unarmed. The stakes and rules inside the arena were determined by the participants and no interference was allowed. Any infraction of any rule had one warning and one of two penalties. Many were banned from ever stepping foot within the walls again, and a few dozen were executed in the early years, but it became clear that it made more sense to just obey the rules.

No clan had any more authority or rights within High Church than any other. All were treated as equal, whether small clan or large. The Bishop of High Church was the ultimate authority within its walls, but held none over the clans themselves. That dubious honor belonged to the Lord or Lady of High Church, though I only recall one Lady. He, or she, was elected each equinox and could serve no more than two consecutive terms, so one full year.

I tell you this because it worked. The wars didn’t completely stop. Not immediately. It’s in our blood and we do not care much for change. How’s that for irony? Me, reluctant to change. Ha! In any case, it did reduce the warring between clans. In time, over a century in fact, they did stop. You had the occasional border skirmish, but no more all-out clan-against-clan wars that decimated our population. High Church became the central seat of government and we enjoyed a relatively peaceful and prosperous 150 years. Then invasion came. Like the aforementioned water and time, it was inevitable. We had something others wanted. Too often, when someone wants something someone else has and they perceive themselves to be the stronger of the two, they try to take what they want. Such was the case, but they erred. As I said, war is in our blood. It was never far below the surface — just banked like a fire in the hearth. It kindled back to full flame in an instant.

Time destroys all things eventually, but humans usually get to it first. I lost everyone that was still important to me over those years. I have lost many more friends over the centuries since. There have been many more wars. There have been other creations as great as High Church, but they too have been laid low. Most recently, the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris suffered that fate. Almost 200 years to finish its construction, then laid low in a single night.

Why I still live, I cannot tell you for sure. I was born in the sixth century, though I can’t say exactly when. We used seasons to mark time. Calendars haven’t been around forever, and they have changed a few times since we started using them, plus I really don’t remember a precise year, much less a month and day. The best I can figure is I upset or killed the wrong person in my youth and was cursed for it.

I don’t know if I can die. I have tried a few times, but I always wake up all in one piece. Sometimes years will have passed or I will find myself buried. I was buried for a long time once. Over 120 years had passed when I saw the sun again. Some would say, “Immortality! Give me some of that!” It is not an exhilarating existence. I have known a multitude of people, some famous, and I have seen some amazing things and places, some now forgotten, but I am tired. And empty.

War will always be in my blood, but I no longer have any passion. I care for nothing. Death no longer moves me or angers me. Life no longer amazes me. Beauty leaves no impression upon me. I have lost all faith in humanity. I have seen too much, but I cannot even remove my eyes to stop seeing it. They grow back. I only wish for it to end, but I have no idea how to end it.

And so, I sit here in The Bloody Moors, next to the last remains of High Church, waiting for I know not what. I can hear the vernal equinox celebration coming from the town bearing its name over and down the hill. All they know are mostly wrong stories about how their town got its name. High Church has become like me. We are both empty and irrelevant, echoes from the past with nothing but hollow shells to mark our existence in this age.

I sit and I wait. I am The Hollow.

Please visit Doug at his blog: https://smithandscribe.wordpress.com

Calliope NJO – My Journey

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms. Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support!

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“My Journey”

By Calliope NJO

A place of ruins filled with memories of the past. The breeze carried voices of the people who once inhabited this place. If one dug underneath, I would not be surprised to discover the remains of the warriors who once battled to save this kingdom.

I didn’t know if anyone else did, but I heard voices carried over the breeze. Crying and screaming for the next order in the hopes it meant retreat. Horses stomped and cried as loud as their riders did.

If I listened hard enough, swords clanked together as a distant warrior shouted that arrows rained down on them. I took a deep breath in and smelled the salty air as the waves crashed. I closed my eyes to entice peace. It worked because when I opened them, the breezes stopped as did the noises.

I needed to take all this back home with me to create that story. A novel about a love lost in battle. About that princess who waited for her warrior to return so they could live the rest of their lives together.

Almost as if someone heard my thoughts, I felt a strong urge to walk towards the window remains. I needed to dig. Without tools, I had to use my hands. I didn’t mind getting my hands dirty because the greatest of treasures sometimes required to be dug up to find them.

Two piles of rocks, and about as many piles of dirt later, I found a book. Water and dirt soaked into it. That and whatever ink had been used to write with made it tough to read. I believed I was brought here for a reason and I needed to try to at least understand the pages. There had to be a way.

I tucked it in my bag and walked away. I vowed never to forget this place and all that it had.

When I returned home, down the hallway, into the bedroom, and on the bed I went. I wished I could have slept, but that proved impossible. Those voices kept tickling in my head.

People say that playing music the opposite of that earworm often helped to kill it. Beethoven’s Fifth often cured that, but nothing could counteract cries and screams of battle.

Prayer may be a possibility, but I never thought of myself as religious. My only choice was to wait.

The house had a master bedroom and a writing room. Poster boards encompassed the walls. Everything from a landscape and architectural board to a rough outline of names and plot points. They took up an entire room.

If anyone came in, they might have commented on how funny it looked. This story needed the space though. A new story about an exotic place, all that material needed to be there, but word count dictated otherwise. What and how to cut I had no idea.

I took a closer glance at the book I found, and an unusual phenomenon happened. The pages cleaned themselves up, and the words became brighter and more visible. Maybe Grammy’s gift had been passed on to me.

She used to tell me stories of such events happening to her. I thought it was because grandmas tell wild tales. After this experience, I started to understand her better.

All that information and I had no notion where to start. Yes, from the top, but I had no concept what was considered the starting point. I needed to tackle this on my own because nobody would understand. My job was to find the story.

We sewed new clothes, baked bread and cooked stews, and with her help, explored the abilities we had. Growing up, I enjoyed my stays with her. I felt empty when she died.

I clung to that book and read it multiple times. About to put it away, the realization that the book was not a personal diary but a recount of events came to mind. There were descriptions of dinners and ceremonies but nothing intimate. No stories written from her point of view filled with feelings or interpretations. I couldn’t imagine not reading into that.

Another thing I missed was the note on the first page: I hope this pleases you, Your Majesty. So maybe her mother or father had been overseeing her writing this. She needed to hide something, could have been a love interest.

Well, not much to go on, but it gave me a place to start at last. Her words became mine as if her soul inhabited my body. I didn’t recognize the wording so she must have had some part in it.

Three years in the making and the final draft done, getting it looked over by my editor was the only thing left to do. It got saved in a thumb drive and put aside for safekeeping.

The thought of a break and a walk among the living for a change sounded enticing. A personal celebration for getting that story finished. A good steak dinner with baked potato and sour cream, green beans, and a salad sounded so good. A slice of cheesecake for dessert. A very rich idea but a very well-deserved treat.

I opened the garage door so I could pull the car out. Not sure what I expected to see, but the same Lincoln Town Car parked across the street with the same yellow Volkswagen Beetle right behind it.

I laughed at myself and shook my head. The thought of losing my mind rose to the surface. A bit of food would help to alter those thoughts.

I sat in the car and couldn’t get over the fact that a big hole still lurked in that story. Something that she didn’t want me to know or the rest of the world to know. That hole in the wall when I punched it after Mother told me writing was not a real job but a complete waste of time came into full view. My hand broken, I had to drive to the ER one handed since Mother refused to take me. Things sure got heated after Grammy—

That was it. My story needed that interaction with the parents. My own experiences told in story form. Thumb drive out and loaded, I rewrote the entire story.

* * *

Love From a Window stared back at me. I couldn’t help but think it all started from a trip to look at ruins of a castle. I insisted on them using my picture, it seemed fitting, and I couldn’t be happier.

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