Cheryl Ann Guido: The End

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 End

By Cheryl Ann Guido

She stood beside the antique wood-burning stove reflecting on her life. On top of the cast-iron burner, a percolator slowly brewed her favorite beverage, dark rich coffee. The steady rhythm of the pops that coincided with tiny brown bursts of liquid hitting the glass top was hypnotic. Such a pleasant, calming smell, she thought, as she inhaled the smoky aroma, letting the steam travel deep inside her nostrils.

Her faithful dog Molly was curled up on a brightly colored braided rug in front of the fireplace. The logs would burn just long enough. Molly lifted her head and wagged her tail. How she loved that mutt. Molly had been at her side for nearly ten years. It was good that they were together, especially now.

The percolator went silent, signaling that her coffee was ready. As she poured some into her favorite mug, she was reminded of her grandfather. After his wife died, he built this cabin, way up in the mountains. It was supposed to be his personal retreat, but there were many times that family joined him.

As a child, he had told her his dream of wanting a place where he could be free of modern conveniences, a place where he could escape from the world and be one with nature. Here, there was no electricity, no running water. Water had to be drawn from the well behind the house, one that he had constructed himself after days of using a dowser rod to search for the precious liquid. Lighting was provided by candles and kerosene lamps. The only heat came from the fireplace, though it was enough to warm the one-room home. She remembered his excitement when he found the antique stove at a junk shop. Chopping wood would keep him in shape. He told her as he went to work, cleaning it up and polishing it to a brilliant shine. Being a carpenter by trade, he made all of the furniture, a wooden table with four chairs, a bed, and some shelves to keep supplies. The one piece that he was most proud of was a wooden rocking chair. In it, he would sit on the front porch, smoking his pipe and rock for hours. In the late Fall, when it became too cool to sit outside, he brought the rocker in and placed it in front of the only window in the house so he could still observe the winter wonders of nature. How many times had he told her that these things were all that he needed for his life to be complete? He was right. Now it was her turn.

She picked up her mug, grabbed a wool blanket, and settled down in the rocker, throwing the blanket across her legs. As she watched some cardinals flutter from tree to tree, she thought about her world, a world that had been in turmoil for years. Everyone on the planet lived with the daily fear of annihilation as its leaders threatened to destroy their enemies with nuclear bombs and other deadly weapons. There was so much hatred, so much conflict and refusal to work with one another in the name of peace. Yet here, in the quiet of the mountains, the birds sang, the lake was crystal clear, and the trees hid all of the ugliness. Here it was easy to forget.

A rabbit hopped onto the ledge of her window. It cocked its head, picked up the carrot that she placed there every morning, then scampered back into the woods. She smiled. She would miss this when the time came. She wished that she could gather all of the forest creatures together and just will the evil in the world to go away.

A wet nose shoved itself under the palm of her hand. She looked over at Molly, who had joined her and now rested her massive head on top of the blanket. She scratched behind the dog’s ears as she sipped her coffee. It won’t be long now, she thought. The planes had flown over a while ago. A few minutes later, the earth shook. Plates and glassware had tumbled off of the shelves and crashed onto the floor. It was then that she decided to make some coffee, a last little bit of enjoyment.

In the distance, a blinding glow lit up the sky. The fiery light grew bigger and bigger as it slowly advanced with a sound that roared like a thundering freight train. She placed the now empty cup on the window ledge, then wrapped her arms around Molly, watching the wall of flame coming closer and closer until it finally consumed the trees outside of the cabin.

“I love you, Molly.”

She buried her face in the fur on top of Molly’s head and kissed her as the world went white, and they became nothing.


©2020 by Cheryl Ann Guido

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Rylee Black: Home Again

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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Home Again

By Rylee Black

I took the turn off the main road through the barely visible opening in the dense trees like it hadn’t been fifteen years since I’d last done it. As I bumped and jolted along, memories of a time when this uneven and rutted path had once been a smooth and meticulously cared for road tugged at my heart.

About a mile up, the trees thinned as I neared the clearing. Butterflies danced in my stomach and my chest tightened in anticipation — or was it dread? — at the thought of what I’d find at the end of this road. Given the way things had gone the last time I’d been here, it was a bit of both I supposed. My breath caught at the lump in my throat and my eyes burned when my childhood home finally came into view.

I pulled my old Jeep to a stop just past the spot where the yard had once begun. Guilt and indignant self-justification warred inside me over my long absence from this place as I took in the dilapidated state of what had once been a beautiful two-story home with bright white paint, pale yellow shutters, and a lush green lawn bordered near the house by overflowing flowerbeds.

The yard was now an undefined patch of dirt broken sporadically by mounded clumps of yellow straw. Tangles of dead plants and thriving weeds vied for dominance in the flowerbeds. The once brilliant paint of the house had faded to a dull unidentifiable color interspersed with patches of the shiny silvery grey of weathered exposed wood. Most of the shutters were long gone. Those that remained hung awkwardly askew by single hinges and waved listlessly in the breeze.

In the haze of an emotion too complicated to name, I slipped out of the Jeep. The thud of the door closing broke the quiet, and a flock of birds rose noisily from the leafless old tree that I’d once used as a means of sneaking out as a teenager. Dust sifted up and danced away as I made my way up to the sagging porch. The steps sloped at an unnatural angle and the railing was missing almost all its spindles.

Only the frame remained of the screen door. I swung it open, and as my hand settled on the doorknob, visions of that day so long ago washed over me like a flood.

Daddy and I screaming at each other. Momma in tears pleading for us to come back inside and talk. Assuring us we could work things out. Trying to calm Daddy down enough to be reasonable. But there was no reasoning with Reverend Able Trevelyon. He was a proud man of God and a pregnant unwed teenaged daughter, even one who’d just turned eighteen, was a disgrace he would not tolerate.

In the end, the words we’d thrown at each other had done irreparable damage. I’d hugged Momma, told Daddy just what I thought about him and his pride, then jumped into the waiting car of my best friend Kaleigh.

She’d dropped me at the bus station with a vow to keep my secrets, and the promise of a room at her aunt’s place in Florida. Next thing I knew, I was going to college at night and online while raising my daughter alone in a strange city hundreds of miles away from home. I’d severed ties so completely I hadn’t thought I’d ever come back here to this house, but here I was. Momma and Daddy were both gone now.

I’d lost touch with Kaleigh after she’d married a rich guy and moved to Morocco or someplace like that. Momma and I had exchanged secret phone calls for years. She’d begged me often to come back home. Vowed I’d be welcome. But I’d known that was just a dream of hers. What I hadn’t known was that she’d been dying and had been trying to mend the family before she succumbed to the cancer. When she’d suddenly stopped answering my calls, I’d broken down and called Kaleigh’s mom. I wished I’d done as Momma had asked if only to have been there to say goodbye.

 “Mom? Are you okay?”

I smiled and swiped the tears off my cheeks as I turned to my daughter. “Yes Maddie, I’m fine.” I’d never told her the whole story. I hadn’t wanted her to know how unwelcome her existence had been to my father. I squared my shoulders and smiled. “Let’s go in, shall we?”

Her blue eyes were filled with concern. “We don’t have to, Mom. Not if it’s going to make you cry.”

Her worry almost brought on the tears again so I wrapped her in a hug and squeezed her tight before she could notice. “How did I get so lucky to have you for my daughter, huh?”

She squeezed me back. “I don’t know but you sure couldn’t get much luckier.” With a giggle she pulled away. “Want me to go in first?”

I looked back at the old, scarred door. My heart ached with regret. Not for leaving, but for the pain I’d caused Momma. And for not being here when she was dying and would have needed me by her side. But this was our home now. I was going to have to make peace with my past if this was ever going to work.

The letter I’d gotten last month from the lawyer telling me Daddy had died and left me the house and land had been a shock. I hadn’t been sure what to do. My work as a freelance editor meant I could work from anywhere, but Maddie was a different story. She was a sophomore in high school. Moving back home would mean she’d leave behind friends, the leading role in a play she’d been dying to get, and the only home she’d ever known. But she’d insisted moving was what she wanted to do, so here we were.

“Mom? Let’s just go. Maybe try again tomorrow. Or not. We only rented the house in Florida. We could always kick them out and take the house back.” That last bit had been offered in a teasing tone.

I shook my head at her silliness. “We cannot kick Bill and Tracy out of the house. They signed a lease. Go ahead and do the honors. Just be prepared. From the looks of the outside, Daddy must have just quit trying after Momma died.”

She looked up at me, her big eyes searching mine, then grinned and shoved open the door. When I hesitated, Maddie grabbed my hand and pulled me inside. Dust motes floated in thick clouds on the weak beams of sunlight coming through the dirty windows. The air was laden with the musty scent of a home long neglected.

The house looked exactly the way it had the day I’d left only more cluttered and covered in thick layers of dust. There was no way it had gotten this bad since he’d died, Daddy had only been gone a couple of months. My statement about him giving up after Momma died had been accurate.

Maddie tagged along as I walked from room to room lamenting about how sad Momma would have been to see her home in such a sorry state. Every so often I’d stop and pick up something of hers and hug it before setting it back down. Maddie had eventually grown tired of my weepy stories and asked me where my room had been. When I told her it was upstairs, the last door on the left, she’d dashed off to check things out.


Almost an hour later, Maddie was still upstairs rummaging through my old room. What I could make out from what she kept yelling down to me, Momma hadn’t changed a thing and my room was still filled with all my childhood treasures. I was sitting in Momma’s rocker by the window clutching her mug to my chest like a drowning swimmer clutching a lifeline. I’d found it on the windowsill where she’d so often set it down and then forgotten that she had. My heart lurched painfully at the memories of her hollering to me that she’d lost her tea again and me reminding her to check the window.

“Oh Momma, I wish I could have been here for you. I wish I’d known.”

I was startled out of my pit of sadness and regret by a knock at the door. Who could that be? How had anyone known we were even here? We hadn’t stopped anywhere in town.

Maddie came clomping down the stairs dressed in one of my old outfits and wearing high-heeled wedge shoes that were far too big for her. She paused on the landing, her gaze going from me to the door and back.

“Mom? You want me to get that?”

I set Momma’s cup carefully back on the windowsill and swiped at my cheeks. “No baby, I’ll do it. You stay back. We’re pretty far outside town and I have no idea who it could be.”

I pulled the curtain on the door aside just a bit and peered out. When I saw who stood there, my heart stopped. I dropped the curtain like I’d been burned. My hand flew to my lips and I took a stumbling step back. What was he doing here? What was he even doing in town? Momma had told me he’d never come back after college. Said he’d landed a job in the city working for a big law firm. His not being here had been the only reason I’d even considered moving back.

Maddie rushed to my side. “Mom! What’s wrong? Who is it? Do you want me to call 911? Do they even have 911 in towns this small? What do you want me to do?”

The fear in her voice brought me to my senses. I shook my head. “No, it’s okay. It’s not anyone who would hurt us. I was just surprised is all. I do want you to go back upstairs while I talk to them though.”

“But Mom…”

“No arguments, Madison. Go back to my old room. I’ll only be a few minutes. And close the door when you get there please.”

“Oh, all right, fine.”

I watched her as she dragged herself upstairs one slow step at a time. Periodically she’d look back over her shoulder hoping I’d change my mind. I stood with my arms crossed waiting even when the visitor knocked again.

When she’d disappeared into the room, I smoothed my hands over my hair, took a deep breath, and swung open the door. My heartbeat quickened and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. He was the guy I remembered but so different at the same time. He’d grown up from the gangly high school heart throb he’d been the last time I’d seen him into a tall, outrageously handsome man.

We both stood there staring at each other for several long seconds. Finally, he broke the silence.

“Claire. It really is you.”

I pressed a hand to my chest to try to hold together a heart that nearly shattered at the wonder in his voice. “Morgan, what are you doing here?”

“Murdock called. Said he’d seen you drive by his shop headed out here. I had to come see for myself if it was true. What happened, Claire? Where have you been all these years? We were…” he paused when his voice cracked. “What happened?”

“Momma told me you’d gone to work for a big law firm in the city. What are you doing back in Lamont?” My attempt to keep the dismay out of my voice ended up making me sound critical and bitchy.

His brow furrowed. “You talked to your Mom? She told me she hadn’t heard from you. I was in the city, but Dad got sick and asked if I wanted to come home and take over his practice. I hated the city and jumped at the chance. Now it’s your turn. Where did you go, Claire? Why didn’t you talk to me? You never even said goodbye.”

“Wow, you’re Morgan McCall, aren’t you?”

I turned around in dismay at Maddie’s words. No, this couldn’t be happening. “I told you to stay upstairs, Madison.”

“I was worried, so I came to make sure you were okay. Do you know who this guy is? That’s Morgan McCall. He’s like a famous attorney. Jenna and I did a report for school on that big case he won.”

I closed my eyes. I vaguely remembered Momma saying something about him winning some big case, but I hadn’t wanted to hear it and had changed the subject. I didn’t watch TV and rarely looked at online news. It had been a high-profile murder case if I remembered correctly and I had no interest in that sort of thing.

Morgan hadn’t said a word since Maddie had shown up beside me. I turned and wanted to weep when I saw his expression. He stared at her taking in her raven hair and blue eyes that were exact replicas of his own. I could see his mind working furiously. There was no way he could have any doubt. The resemblance was uncanny.

He started to say something, but I stopped him with a shake of my head. “Maddie honey, Mr. McCall and I are going to go out on the porch and talk. Would you please go see if there’s anything in the kitchen to make some coffee please?”

Her nose wrinkled. “Eww, how can you drink that stuff. Could I talk to him after I make it? Jenna will be so jealous. She had like a major crush on him when we were…”

“Maddie, please.”

She flounced out of the room on a huff and I stepped outside and closed the door. Morgan gave me an incredulous look.

“That’s my daughter isn’t it?”

I didn’t want to answer him.

“Claire? Is that why you left town? Why didn’t you tell me? I would have taken care of you. Of her.”

I sank down onto the old rocker Daddy had spent countless hours in and searched his face. I couldn’t tell if he was angry, but the hurt was unmistakable. Would he try to take her from me? He and his family had money. Lots of money. But it was time to quit running.

“Yes, she’s yours. You were on your way to great things, Morgan. You had a full-ride scholarship to one of the most prestigious law schools in the nation. I couldn’t ruin that for you. If I would have told you, you would have stayed in Lamont. Your parents already hated me. Hated that you were dating the preacher’s daughter.” I searched his eyes frantically. It was no wonder he’d become such a successful attorney; his face gave no hint as to what he was thinking. “I’m so sorry I kept her from you. I was young and scared and Daddy was so mad … Please don’t take her from me Morgan, she’s all I have.”

He squatted down in front of me and took my hands in his. “Claire, I would never do that. You’re her mother and it’s obvious she adores you. I won’t say I’m not hurt and more than a little angry that I missed out on fifteen years of her life. I wish you would have trusted me. We could have made things work. It would have been tough, but we could have done it.”

“Daddy said you and your parents would make me give her up. That the McCalls wouldn’t want an illegitimate child muddying the waters. He said that with the kind of money you all had I wouldn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of keeping her. He wanted me to end the pregnancy. I couldn’t let any of that happen.”

“Hey, don’t cry. I know how he could be. And I think you know Mom and Dad aren’t that way. They didn’t hate you. They just wanted…” He lifted our joined hands and raised my chin up so I was looking him in the eye. “That’s all in the past. We’re both back in Lamont now and I’d love to get to know her.”

More than anything I wanted to fall into his arms and tell him how I’d never stopped loving him. “What will your wife think about you having a teenaged daughter?”

“That’s not an issue.”

“It’s not?”

He pulled me to my feet, never letting go of my hands. “No, it’s not. I don’t have a wife.”

I couldn’t stop the flare of hope. “You never married? Why not?”

He pulled me closer. “Because I’d already given my heart to a little red-haired preacher’s daughter. I love you, Claire, I never stopped. I know a lot of time has gone by. Neither of us is a teenager anymore. If you’re willing, I’d like to see what happens.” He pulled back. “Wait, there’s no Mr. Trevelyon is there?”

The hope flared into happiness. “Nope, no Mr. Trevelyon. Never has been. My heart was already taken too.”

He touched his lips to mine. The kiss was tender and full of promise.

“Holy cow. Jenna is going to be over the moon jealous now. Not only did I get to meet Morgan McCall, but he’s my dad. This is so cool. So, you guys going to get married or what? I gotta go call Jenna.”

By the time Morgan and I jumped apart at Madison’s words, the screen door was already bouncing against the door frame as she ran inside to call her best friend. I laughed at the mix of emotions on his face.

“Welcome to life with a teenager, Mr. McCall.”

His answer to that was to pull me back into his arms and kiss me again.

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Marian Wood: A Weapon for Murder

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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A weapon for murder

By Marian Wood

10th January 2020

A man in the garden

Staring out of the window, Marsha dropped her favourite mug. Steaming hot coffee swept down her legs as she saw the hooded figure in the garden with a long knife. Cursing at the pieces of china on the floor, her heart was pounding as she jumped across the kitchen and turned the key in the back door.

Sitting on the kitchen floor, she reached in her pocket and dialed. Listening to the usual message, the figure was now banging at the back door.

“Hello, police, there’s a man with a knife trying to get in.”

“Okay, your address please and we’ll send a team out.”

Giving her address she struggled to talk.

“They’re banging on the door.”

“A team is on their way.”

“Mum, what’s going on?”

“There’s someone out there with a knife.”

“Flipping heck, it’s chucking it down with rain and that’s Freddie.”

“Freddie. Why the hell is he in the back garden with a machete.”

“Oh mum, machete.”

Opening the door, Freddie fell in.

“My god, Stella, it’s raining cats and dogs, I was drowning out there.”

“Freddie, why the knife? What’s going on?”

“It’s cool, Muffin found it.”

Crying, Marsha now shouted, “Take that bloody thing out of here, get rid of it.”

“Hello, police.”

“Sorry officer, there’s been a misunderstanding,” Freddie said.

“Sir, please put down the machete.”

Putting it on the kitchen floor, he was confused. “Sorry, Muffin found it as we were walking over here.” Stammering now, he said, “I didn’t mean to scare Marsha.”

Another officer wearing gloves picked up the knife and placed it in a large bag. Shaking his head, he looked at the Jack Russell, wagging his tail. He sealed the bag and handed it to his colleague.

Two weeks earlier

Terry sat staring at his pint, wishing his problems away with beer. Not sure how to tell Marsha about what was happening, the threats just kept coming. As the cold froth slipped down his throat, he shook, replaying the previous evening. The shouts echoing around the dark alley as the brown-haired man had grabbed and slammed him hard against the wall.

“Your money, now.”

“I’m broke.”

“Boss wants his money, you know the consequences.”

“I have none.”

“You have till tomorrow, then ‘Big Red’ will be after you. You know what that means.”

He knew who ‘Big Red’ was. He was notorious for getting the job done, in any way possible.

Sitting watching the bubbles in his beer, he heard a shuffle behind him.

“You Terry?”

“Who’s asking?” His heart hurt his chest as he turned around and saw the man with a bald head and snake on his right arm.

“You’re Terry, come outside with me.”

Picking up his beer, he reluctantly got down from his stool. He didn’t have the money and now started praying.

Baldie nudged him towards the door.

“You won’t need your drink, walk.”

Tripping out of the bar, he now saw the gang and van standing outside. Terry started to shake again, he wanted to be left alone with his drink. He could feel the world closing in on him as two men appeared and bundled him into the van. As the engine rumbled, he could feel his hands being bound behind him.

What now, where were they going?

“Right Terry, boss wants a word with you.”

“I’ve already said, I’m broke.”

“Well, this won’t end well then.”


About an hour later. Terry found himself in front of an almost seven-foot, red-headed brute. As he pulled out the long knife, Terry knew what was happening next. There was no way out of this. His mess of losing his job and talking to a loan shark had ended here.

Why hadn’t he just talked to Marsha?

Hands bound he could hear the jeers as the brute slammed the shiny metal knife into him. He was aware of the blood oozing out as the world turned black around him.

This was it, he couldn’t pay up, so ‘Big Red’ had taken his life. His life in exchange for a few measly thousand pounds.

Terry missing

It was after Marsha had phoned the police that his body was found in Fort Wood, an hour from her home. Death by stabbing, a cruel grisly death. She had no idea what had happened, suffering a huge shock her nightmares had started.

Seeing Freddie in the garden, she had thought that they had come for her. Walking across her garden brandishing a machete had been a stupid act. Sitting with a police lady and Stella, she agreed that counselling would be helpful.

Meanwhile the police interviewed Freddie, needing to know where he had found it. Taking them into the garden and down the long path into the woodland at the back, he proudly showed them the thick bushes it had been lying under. The detective spoke into his radio.

“Sarg, get the dogs here, will you? We need to check there’s just a machete.”

The bodies

Twenty minutes later the dog van appeared. Freddie watched fascinated as four Alsations were put on leads and led into the Wood. Ten minutes later he heard frantic barking and then radio activity.

“We have two bodies here, buried, we need to tape off the wood now.”

Freddie was shocked. Finding the machete, he didn’t think about Terry. He had been with Stella a short time and was known for being thoughtless. His hobby was computer games, war, and fighting.

Why hadn’t he thought of murder?

The gang found

The police were aware of ‘Big Red,’ but till now had no hard evidence against him. Having retraced Terry’s steps, they found he had lost his job and spoken with the ‘Brown Fox’ pub. They had a description of the bald-headed man that had taken him away that night.

From there they had found his gang and had since been searching for the murder weapon. It appeared they now had it. Once identified, they hoped to have all the evidence complete to lock the gang away for a long time. The body count was rising, and Terry had not been the first.

Relaxing and reflection

Putting her feet up on the settee, Marsha looked at Stella.

“Are you seeing Freddie tonight?”

“I’m not sure mum, I’ve been wondering, what sort of man thinks waving a machete is fun?”

“Oh love, put it down to computer games. I hope he’s learnt his lesson. Hopefully, if he finds a machete again, he will phone the police immediately.”

“What do I do mum?”

“See him again and take it slowly. Get to know him. Life is too short to live by what if’s. If he hadn’t found it, the gang would still be killing people. He’s a hero really.”

Stella thought about this.

Maybe, she would see him again. Give him the benefit of the doubt. They hadn’t been together long, and she didn’t really want things to finish before they had really started.

Losing Terry, they had learnt that life can be cut short at any time. It is important to live in the now. Both relieved that his killers had been found, they comforted each other that they were safe. They now knew why he had been killed and were reassured that they were not next.

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Sharon L. McAleer: A Friend’s Journey With Dementia

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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A Friend’s Journey With Dementia

By Sharon L. McAleer

“I’m so happy that you came,” Cathy Newman said to her sister Betsy Stevens as they were driving to the airport.

“I almost didn’t come.”

“Why?” Cathy asked and turned towards her sister in the passenger seat.

“I was afraid of losing myself while caring for mom.”

The soft hum of the car tires on the road could be heard during the break in the conversation.

“I understand. Taking care of mom can be time consuming and emotionally demanding. What changed your mind?”

“A talk I had with my best friend Janet. She even published a short story about it in a women’s self-care journal. Would you like me to read it to you? She sent me a copy.”

“I would love to hear it. We have plenty of time before your flight.”


Janet Crewston had a lot on her plate between changing jobs, moving her family into their new home and directing her father’s care with his assisted-living facility. Along with her family, writing was her passion. Lately, her creativity just wasn’t working for her, so she thought a change of scenery would help get her writing groove back. She decided to escape to their family cabin on Lake Poltion for a few days while her husband kept an eye on their children.

It was late winter heading towards spring and Janet could feel the air gradually getting a little warmer each day when she went to take her daily walks in the woods. There was a lot less activity at the lake this time of year and she thought that may help get things done. She was struggling with the final edits of her second novel. She thought editing this one would be easier than the first, but it was proving not to be the case. Maybe it was a tougher subject for her to write about, but Janet felt it had more to do with where she was in her life at the moment.

After working on her manuscript all morning, Janet got up from the desk to find the mug. It was the one her dad gave to her when she first started writing short stories after college. She was known to walk around the room when she was brainstorming and that mug got set down in some very unique places at her house and here. As she continued to check all of the usual spots, she heard a knock at the door. She shook her head, knowing it would eventually show up, and walked towards the door. When she opened it, a woman of shorter stature and long brown hair stood there wearing a purple ski jacket and a matching knitted hat. She was holding two cups of coffee from Cabin Brews, the only coffee shop in town.

“Hello, Janet? How’s the writing coming?” Betsy asked.

Betsy Stevens and her family lived at the lake for a few years before Janet’s family moved in. Their cabin was the fifth one down the shore from Janet’s.

“Pretty good. I finally made it through all of the edits and the revisions are done in the manuscript. Now I need to do one more complete read through to make sure it all makes sense. What do you have here?” she asked and pointed at the brown paper cups in her friend’s hands.

“A little treat from Cabin Brews,” Betsy replied and handed her one of the cups. “Your favorite chai tea latte.”

“Thank you, Betsy. I was just getting ready to make some but couldn’t find my cup.”

“Did it get misplaced during one of your brainstorming sessions again?” Betsy asked, smiling at her friend.

“Yes. You know me too well. But it’ll show up. Isn’t like it walked off someplace.”

 Both women chuckled.

 “Do you have a little time to chat? I don’t want to interrupt you if you are in a writing groove.”

“Sure, I always have time for you. Come in and have a seat.”

Both women walked over to an oval oak table that separated the kitchen from the living room. Betsy took off her coat and hung it on the back of the chair before she sat down. Janet took a seat in the chair next to her.

“What’s on your mind?”

“I received an email from my sister Cathy today. She wants me to come back to Maine and help with my mom’s care. She says it’s too much for her to do by herself.”

“How’s your mom doing?”

“She’s about the same. The dementia seems to be holding, thanks to the medication.”

“Caring for a parent is a pretty big commitment. You know I’m having issues with my brother who doesn’t want to help out.”

“I know. But I don’t know if I can just take off and go to Maine. With Adam and the boys, I’m pretty busy here.”

“Have you talked to Adam about it?”

“Yes. He says I should go for a month or so and help out. We talked to his mom and she mentioned she could help out with the boys if needed. Adam said I may regret it if I don’t spend the time with my mom now while she can still interact with me.”

“As our parents are getting older and have more health-related issues, it’s hard to know when they may be too sick to remember who we are or pass away. I agree with Adam and I’m sure Cathy would love to have your help.”

“I know. It all sounds good for everyone else. But what if I’m just not into it?”

“What do you mean?”

“What if I just don’t want to be a part of it? What if I feel good about the time I’ve spent with my mom already? What if I don’t want to take care of her?”

“Well,” Janet replied. “I’m not sure what to say. I thought you would want to be with your mom.”

“I love her and all, but I’m not sure I want to take care of her.”

“She took care of you.”

“I know Janet, but,” she hesitated and took a sip of her coffee. “No one really understands. I just don’t want to do it.”

“You gotta have a reason. Are you afraid to do it? Did your mom make you mad about something?”

“No, it isn’t anything like that. I just want to do my own thing and not have to take care of anyone else’s stuff. Is that wrong of me to want it that way?”

“No, it isn’t.”

“I’ve just seen how much it takes for someone to do it. I have friends who are exhausted when they have to do all of their stuff and take care of an aging parent too. Cathy has even vented to me that with taking care of mom, she has lost herself in all that she has to do for everyone else.”

Janet thought about her own situation. She realized she was in the same boat. Doing everything else before her own priorities was probably one big reason why writing wasn’t as much fun as it used to be.

“How are things with your dad?” Betsy asked as she got up and grabbed a package of cookies from the kitchen counter and sat back down again.

“They are good. Just trying to stay on top of his house repairs and expenses.”

“Are you still planning on selling it?”

“Sam and I are happy in our house and my brother can’t afford to live there.”

“Has he found a job yet?”

“He’s living with his friend in Masonville. I’m not sure if he is working or not. I haven’t heard from him.”

“Doesn’t he call to check in on your dad?”


“I don’t understand him.”

“Well, not to be harping on you, but you’re thinking about not helping your sister with your mom’s care. Kind of like what my brother is doing to me.”

“At least I check in to see how she’s doing. And I do talk to my mom once a week,” Betsy replied, sitting back in her chair with her arms folded across her chest.

Sometimes Janet wished she had help from her brother, but figured he would just be more in the way of her handling their dad’s affairs if he were around.

“Were you planning on going out snowshoeing today? It’s the perfect day for it,” Betsy asked in an attempt to change the subject.

“You’re right. It’s a good day for it. And it would be a great break from my writing. Would you like to go with me?”

“Only if you want the company.”

“I could always use your company,” Janet responded and walked over behind her friend’s chair and hugged her from behind. Betsy smiled as she snuggled into the hug.

“OK,” Betsy said as she exhaled a deep breath. Janet could see Betsy relax a bit. “Can we walk over to the field and see if the foxes are out there?”

“I checked it out a couple of days ago. It looked like they were setting up their den. The mom is probably pregnant with the cubs coming soon, but we can take a look. Let me change clothes and we’ll get the snowshoes from the shed,” Janet said as she was walking from the table into one of the bunk rooms. “Can you make sure we have cocoa and marshmallows in the pantry? It will be the perfect thing to warm us up when we get back.”

“Sure,” Betsy replied.

She got up and walked over towards the pantry. After checking for the supplies for cocoa, she looked through the window and saw Janet’s writing mug sitting in the sill.

“Hey, Janet!” Betsy called out.


“I see you left your mug in the window.”

Janet walked into the room as she was pulling her green knit hat onto her head and saw Betsy pointing at her mug.

“Oh, there you are,” Janet responded and walked towards the window, but stopped about three feet before she got there. “Do you see how the shadows are playing off of the cup? That’s one of the things about winter. The sky can get so grey, but it is still pretty light outside.”

“The sun is playing behind those clouds and lighting things up.”

“Nature is an amazing thing. Let’s go outside and get some fresh air.”

Leaving the mug on the sill, they walked out of the cabin and into the shed. They put on snowshoes and started walking down the snow-covered dirt road heading into the woods. Janet filled her lungs with deep breaths of fresh cold air. She remembered walking on these paths with her dad when she was a kid. Janet smiled as she remembered watching her dad fixing things on the cabin before his dementia started setting in. Then a memory of Betsy’s mom came to mind.

“Do you remember when your mom was helping my mom with her hair before my dad took her to The White Pine for their fiftieth anniversary? They were both giggling like two girls getting ready for prom. My mom shared that memory with me many times before she died.”

“She did?”

“Yeah. And my dad remembers that day as being one of the happiest days my mom had after she was diagnosed with breast cancer.”

“We watched them from the pontoon on the lake,” Betsy replied, walking behind Janet. “And thought they were acting weird.”

“Because we couldn’t figure out what was so funny.”

“Now I know what it was. They just let themselves enjoy each other. Two friends just like us. You know what, Janet?”


“I miss my mom.”

“I’m sure you do. It has to be hard for you to be here and her in Maine.”

“It’s more than that. Ever since her dementia started, it has been hard for me to interact with her on the phone. I’m not feeling our bond like I once did.”

“My interactions with my dad are the same way. I try to share with him what we are doing and what the boys are doing. He just kind of smiles at me but I know his mind is messing with our time and making it hard for us to communicate.”

Janet stopped and turned to look back at her friend. Betsy was smiling with tears in her eyes.

“Janet, I need to go to Maine and be with my mom. I need our time and those special moments to hold in my heart.”

“Those moments are not only important to you; they will also be important for her. It will help her to feel you there for physical and emotional support while she is on her scary journey. I think about my visits with my dad. Sometimes I feel like I did more harm than good and sometimes I feel like we had a great visit. But it’s more about being there for them, like they were there for us growing up.”

Janet felt Betsy’s wet cheek against hers as she gave her a hug. She felt Betsy’s weight as she relaxed in her arms, relying on Janet for comfort.

“What happens if I lose myself in the process?” Betsy asked.

“You just roll with it when you see her,” Janet replied. “You don’t know how she will feel and you don’t know how you’ll react. Each day can be very different. Just let yourself be in the moment with her. And be sure to take time out for you.”

Betsy let go of the embrace and took a step back from her friend. She smiled and wiped her face with the back of her multi-colored striped mitten.

“Let’s go and see the foxes if they are there.”

“OK,” Janet replied.

The friends smiled at each other and turned around on the path in the woods and Betsy led the way as they headed towards a clearing. There was a small hill on one side of the field where the woods started up again.

After a few steps, Betsy stopped and turned back to look at Janet. She waved to Janet to come closer and held her pointer finger up to her lips, motioning her to be quiet. Janet approached slowly and quietly and put her hand on her friend’s shoulder with a smile as they watched the mother fox coming out of the hole the foxes had set up for their den.

“Looks like they will be living in the same place as last year. We’ll have to check in again later in the spring to see if they have had their cubs yet.”

After a few moments of watching the fox, Janet tapped her friend on the shoulder and motioned for Betsy to follow. Betsy walked back on the path towards the woods and took one more look at the den and continued to follow her friend. As they started across the road leading to the cabins, Betsy said, “Thank you for listening, Janet.”

“You’re welcome.”

“I’ll call Cathy today and see when she needs me.”

“I’m sure she’ll be happy to hear from you.”

“Why didn’t I want to help my mom?”

“You had a valid concern. Giving yourself and time up for others isn’t the easiest thing for some people to do.”

“But, she’s my mom.”

“Some people are built to be there emotionally for others. Some people have a harder time with it. Your mom will love having you there in whatever way you are able to.”

“Thank you, Janet,” she said as they arrived at the door of Janet’s cabin.

“Do you want to come in for a cup of cocoa?” Janet asked.

“No thanks. I’m going to go and call my sister. Can I have a rain check?”

“Sure. I understand.”

Betsy gave her friend a big hug. After taking a few steps, she turned around and gave her a smile. Janet waved to her and walked into her cabin. She went to the window and picked up her special mug. She held it in her hands for a minute and remembered her dad. That mug was more than something to drink cocoa out of. It was a symbol of inspiration and support from her dad.

She made her cocoa and added mini marshmallows, the way her mom had always made it for her as a kid. Then she sat in the big comfy chair and stared out at the frozen lake. She thought about how tough it was for her to take care of her dad with everything she had going on in her own life. She had never been afraid of losing herself in the process, the fear that Betsy had, but had felt it happen to her more than once. The dementia may be taking her dad away little by little, but for now, he was still here with her and her family. She was grateful to be there for him on what must be a scary end-of-life journey.

After setting her mug in the sink, she went back to her desk to journal about her day to clear her mind and help her get ready to read her manuscript.


Betsy just finished reading the story when the women pulled up to the airplane terminal.

“Thank you for sharing that with me Cathy. I didn’t know you felt that way about caring for mom.”

“It was my initial reaction to it. I’m so glad I came out to spend time with my mom and my sister.”

Both women got out of the car. Cathy grabbed Betsy’s bag out of the trunk and came around to the passenger side.

“It was so good to see you,” Cathy said and reached out to hug her sister.

“It was good to be here.”

“Are you coming back soon?”


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 Please visit Sharon on her blog: https://selmapverde

D. A. Ratliff: The Mug

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 Mug

By D. A. Ratliff

I hadn’t been here in a long time.

Not since my grandfather’s funeral, when my father had the funeral director swing by as we returned from the gravesite. My dad told us to stay in the car as he exited, brand new padlock in hand. He strode with a purpose to the building, pulled away the crime scene tape, and padlocked the latch at the top of the wooden door. Just as purposefully, he returned to the limo and announced, “No one will enter there again.”

That was twenty years ago. No one in the family had returned. My parents had retired to Naples, Florida, a few years before, and I was now the senior partner of the family law firm in Charleston. My brother left the firm after a few years to become an FBI agent and lived in San Francisco. He hadn’t been back to this place either.

I sat in the car, reluctant to move, staring at the ramshackle old service station. The metal awning over the old gas pumps bent toward the ground, and a gaping hole in the repair bay garage door was evidence someone had tried to break in to steal something. The windows weren’t broken, which seemed strange to me, but then the station sat back a bit from the road, difficult to see from the overgrowth. Besides, one look at the property and it was apparent there was nothing worth stealing. 

Glancing at my phone, I saw it was time for the man I was meeting to arrive. I picked up the padded manila envelope and slipped out its contents — a single sheet of paper. Across the top in my father’s cursive scrawl was a note.

Savannah, I have transferred ownership of Dad’s property to you and Jackson. You and your brother do with it what you will. 


Taped to the bottom of the note, the padlock key.

My fingers hovered over the key, almost afraid to pull the tape off. It seemed like a betrayal to my father’s wishes. No, this needed to happen. This long chapter of our lives needed to end. I pulled the key off the paper and got out of the car — time to unlock the past. 

Weeds growing from cracks in the broken, worn asphalt were tall, and I picked my way through the thicket to reach the front door. I remembered the padlock as shiny and silver, but a dull silver lock worn down by the weather greeted me. Would the key work? Panic rose in me as I wondered. 

The key wouldn’t go in. The lock appeared rusty. Well, this wouldn’t do. I wasn’t certain why the man I was meeting even wanted to see the inside. The real estate agent who contacted me said the developer wanted to raze the place and put up a modern convenience store with gas pumps. If we decided to sell, there would be nothing left here anyway. 

I was still trying to get the padlock open when an SUV pulled up. A sign on the side said Davis Developers, Charleston, SC. I knew about them before the agent contacted me. One of the attorneys in the firm had drawn up a contract with them for one of his clients. I inquired about how they were to do business with, and he informed me they appeared honest and negotiated in good faith, but I still didn’t trust developers. 

The man got out of the vehicle. “Ms. Edwards?”

“Yes. You are Mr. Davis?”

“I am. Jonathon Davis, but please call me Jon.”

“Savannah Edwards and I go by Savannah.”

“Nice city, Savannah.” His smile was warm, and for some reason, I felt totally at ease with this man. 

“My mother was from Savannah. Since she was marrying into a family with a history of two hundred plus years in Charleston, she decided to remind them where she came from, hence my name.”

Jon laughed. “I like your mother already.”

My heart skipped a beat. Why did I tell him that? Back to business.

“I understand you wanted to see the interior of this building. Have a bit of a problem accomplishing that. After my grandfather died, my father put this padlock on, and well, the lock is corroded.” 

He nodded. “I think I can fix that.” He returned to the SUV and opened the back hatch, returning with a can of lubricant. “Never go anywhere without this.” A quick spray into the lock mechanism and the key slipped in. He removed the padlock and opened the door. “Let me go in first and make certain the structure is sound.”

After about thirty seconds, he called out. It was safe. My breath caught as memories of my childhood came flooding back. The old ladder-back chairs that Jack and I spent hours sitting on with the books Gramps insisted we read when we stayed with him. The chips racks still held old bags of chips, and there were a few glass bottles of soda in the small cola machine. I walked behind the counter and then wished I hadn’t. The bloodstain was dark and faded, but it was still there. I felt a bit wobbly and grabbed the counter for support. He noticed.

“You all right?”

“Uh, yes. The air is just a bit stale in here.” 

He looked at me as if he didn’t believe it but nodded. “Yeah, it is. I’d open some windows, but someone sealed all but the front window with plastic. Wonder why they did that?”

I laughed. “I can tell you. The old air conditioner never worked correctly. My dad was after Gramps to replace the windows and get a better AC, but he liked this place just the way he bought it. It was pretty rundown, but it was the way he wanted it. Lined the windows with plastic to insulate them.”

At the mention of the windows, I walked over to a small window, drawn by the coffee cup sitting on the dusty ledge. Gramps’s coffee cup. He drank copious amounts of coffee, and the station always smelled like coffee brewing. It seemed out of place as I remembered the cup always sitting on the counter near the cash register. The light drifting through the thick scratched plastic sheeting covering the window made the cup look like a shadow. That’s what I felt. As if this place was a shadow in my heart. I shook off the feeling as I realized Jon was talking. 

“Makes sense. I know you must wonder why I asked to see inside if we are only going to tear this place down. To be honest, part curiosity. I do love old buildings, but also, I have learned over the years that there are sometimes valuable items in these abandoned places that the owners never realized. I like to meet the owners of the property and want to be certain that if something was salvageable that the family had first dibs on it or could negotiate it in the sales contract.”

I admit his words stunned me as I was unaccustomed to such honesty, but then I dealt with corporate law — not a lot of honesty in that realm. “I’m appreciative of that, Jon. I doubt there is much of value here other than memories.” 

He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out an envelope, handing it to me. “This is our offer. I believe you will find it fair. However, we are open to any counteroffer and will consider any change in terms.”

I read the contents, and he was correct. The offer was fair, and more than I expected. “Thank you. My brother and I will discuss this, and I’ll get back with you promptly.” 

We parted company, and I returned to my office. Before I called Jack, I called Dad. 

“Savannah, you know I want nothing to do with this.” 

“Dad, you can’t run from this. Jack and I both would rather you and Mom get this money.”

“Not discussing this.” 

I changed the subject, asked him about Mom, and then said goodbye. 

When I reached Jackson, he wasn’t sympathetic. “What in god’s name is wrong with Dad? It’s been twenty years, and he still won’t accept that someone murdered Gramps.” 

Not wanting to get into the decades-old argument again, I told Jackson the terms and that I would scan and send him the offer. Two days later, we agreed to the terms with only minor adjustments and drew up the contracts. 


We arranged for the closing to occur for thirty days later, and I found myself nervous. I decided to prepare the contracts and other documents myself and was surprised that Jon Davis was handling his end personally. We decided to hold the closing in a conference room at the firm, and as the time approached, I was shaking. 

I didn’t want to admit that I felt an attraction to Jon. Years had passed since an unfortunate marriage and testy divorce, and I had plunged headlong into my work, done with romance. The fact that one man could stir my emotions so quickly unnerved me.

The closing went off without any issues, and as the agents and title people left, Jon lingered. “I wanted to thank you for making this process so seamless. Not always the case.”

“No problem, we try to do things efficiently around here.”

“That you do.” He paused. “It’s after one p.m., let me take you to lunch as a thank-you.” 

I stammered out a yes and told him I would meet him in the lobby as soon as I took the documents to my legal assistant to file. 

We walked to a favorite restaurant of mine, and after ordering, Jon asked me about my grandfather. 

“I noticed the day we met at the station that you seemed uneasy. I decided to look into what happened there and I am sorry if I stirred up emotions about your grandfather.”

I sucked in a breath. I had not talked about what happened for years, but I wanted to tell this man. “No need to apologize. Your offer allowed my family to get past this. I want to tell you.” I took another breath. “My grandfather was a prominent judge in Charleston when my grandmother died of cancer. I was three, and Jackson was five, but I remember how sad everyone was. Gramps was devastated. She was the love of his life, and she was gone.” I fought back the tears, my voice breaking. “He took leave from the bench but never went back. Turned his back on everything and bought the service station. He had always tinkered with cars, so this was his only way to cope.”

“That must have been very tough.”

“My father was — is a driven man. He was always a good father, but he never dealt well with my grandfather giving up all he worked for and repairing cars and selling gas. Jack and I spent a lot of time during the summer and on weekends with him. Those chairs in the station were where he made us sit and read books. He allowed us to get a bag of chips and drink each day.”

Jon smiled. “He sounds like a good guy.”

“He was. Then when I was fourteen, our world fell apart. His mechanic showed up for work and found him in a pool of blood on the floor behind the counter. The cash register was open, money missing, his wallet, watch, and wedding ring gone. My dad fell apart internally. He never showed it outwardly, but I overheard him with my mom. He hated that his father had run away as he called it and blamed Gramps for putting himself in that position. On the day of the funeral, he padlocked the station and everything inside. He ordered none of us to go back.”

“Then, I showed up.”

“Yeah, and it forced us to deal with it.” I stopped as the server brought our food. 

Jon reached across the table to touch my hand. “We don’t have to discuss this.”

“No, I want to. It’s time to get it out.” He withdrew his hand, and my skin felt cold from losing his warmth.

“I read that whoever killed your grandfather was never found.”

“No, the trail was cold. With so many fingerprints from customers, there was no way to tell who was there last and no security cameras. The police interviewed over two hundred people and nothing. Not knowing destroyed my father.”

“Are you certain you wanted to sell?”

“That is kind of you to ask, but yes. Dad deeded the property to Jackson and me, and we wanted to be rid of it. Hoping that it would clear out the demons.”

At that point, I changed the subject. We talked about his plans for the area and also the project he was finishing up in Beaufort. He said he would be gone for a few weeks and then back to start clearing out the station property. As we parted, he asked if I would go to dinner with him when he returned, and I said yes. 


Jon texted me often while he was gone, and the first week he was back, we went to dinner. A habit we got into at least twice a week. I learned he had been married as briefly as I had been, and both of us had decided to avoid entanglements. I was beginning to rethink my stance and was hoping he was. 

He had kept me informed of the progress on the property. The first order of business was to dig up the gas pumps and tanks, grade the front lot, then raze the building. He asked me if I wanted to watch but I couldn’t. 

Then he called. “Savannah, you need to come out here now. I have something I need to show you.”

I could tell from his voice he was serious, and I canceled my next two clients and drove to the site. I was surprised to find a police car there. I entered the building to find most of it, except for the counter, emptied. A metal box, a small piece of paper, Gramps’s coffee cup, and a tire iron sat on the counter. 

“Savannah, you’re here. Good.” 

He introduced the officer who said he was going to call a detective and left. 

“What’s going on, Jon?”

“I left your grandfather’s coffee cup sitting in the window until the last. I felt better with him here to the end.”

“I was surprised to see his cup sitting on that ledge. I never remember it anywhere but on the counter, unless he was holding it.”

“There was a reason it was there.” 

“Why, what do you mean?” 

“I left it for last. We are bringing in the bulldozers tomorrow to raze the building. When I went to pick it up, there was a note with a tiny key folded in it underneath.” He pointed to the note. “The note says, I killed him. The proof is under the windowsill. We pried up the sill and found this box inside.”

He lifted the box lid. I gasped. Inside was a wallet, a ring, a watch, and cash along with a letter. Jon picked up the letter. “I’ve already touched the letter, so the officer said no harm to read it to you. It’s dated June 15th, nine years ago.” He began to read. 

My name is Sam Franklin, and I killed Judge Tarleton Edwards. I didn’t mean to kill him. It was an accident. After I left work, I parked my truck at Jones’s Bar and waited for him to leave. I acted like I was getting sick, and I snuck out the back door of the bar and went to the station. I needed money or I was gonna lose my truck. I was getting the cash out of the register when he showed up. He was mad after all he had done for me. Said he was calling the cops and went for the phone. I panicked and picked up a tire iron sitting on the counter and hit him with it. I didn’t mean to kill him. I didn’t. I took his wallet, ring, and watch to make it look like someone else took the money. I showed up the next day as if I just came to work and found him dead.

I was so scared. I didn’t spend the money cause I was ashamed. Mr. Edwards gave me a month’s pay, and I used it to keep my truck, but my guilt has been with me since then. Then a few weeks ago, the doc said I was gonna die within months, cancer. I wanted to return his things but was too scared to own up to what I had done. I managed to break into the bay and found the coffee cup and decided I would use it so you would find the box. He always had that cup with him. 

I used the tire iron to pry up the sill and hid the box and the iron in the wall. Left the note and the key under the cup.

I am so sorry. He was good to me. I loved him and those kids. Forgive me. 

I reached out to touch the tire iron. Jon grabbed my hand and pulled me into his arms. I collapsed against him sobbing. 


After learning who killed Gramps, my father seemed relieved to have closure. Jon and I were now living together, and one day he surprised me with the two chairs, the snack-food rack, and the cola cooler from the station. He had the items refurbished, and they were now in the family room of our new house. And on a shelf in the living room, Gramps’s coffee cup sat next to his photo. My favorite mug.

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Lynn Miclea: The Best Apology

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 Best Apology

by Lynn Miclea 

Ashley sighed as she left the coffee mug on the windowsill in the den. She couldn’t remember how it started, but a mug placed on the windowsill had become a signal between her and Robert. A signal of apology, of tenderness, of caring. A sign of love.

Usually it was a way of apologizing when one of them did or said something wrong, and words were too difficult to speak. A mug left on the ledge said it all. I’m sorry. I love you. Please forgive me.

She knew she had been rough on him that morning. He had tried to help her with cleaning the kitchen, and she had criticized his efforts. But he was doing his best and wanted to help. He meant well, and she had been too quick to put him down. And now she felt bad. She hoped he would see the coffee mug soon so they could get back on good terms.

Her head held low, she left the den and shuffled into the living room. She hated when they argued or put each other down. She always regretted it. Despondent and sad, she sat on the couch. Please find the mug soon, she thought. Being upset with each other always filled her with sadness and longing. She let out a long sigh.

A few minutes later, she heard his footsteps and turned to see Robert enter the den, with a mug in his hand. The soft clack of a coffee mug being placed on the ledge reached her. Did he leave one too?

She quietly stood up and entered the den and watched Robert looking at the two mugs that now sat on the window sill.


He turned to her, surprise on his face. “Ash, sweetheart.” His voice was soft. “I’m sorry. I know I should have—”

“No, no,” she quickly interrupted him. “It was my fault. I’m sorry. I should never have said what I did.”

He opened his arms, and she ran into his warm embrace, breathing in his familiar scent, feeling his love wrap around her, as her sadness and regret melted away.

He kissed her on the top of her head. They held each other for a few minutes, enveloped in warmth, forgiveness, and love.

Robert finally pulled back. “You know what two mugs mean, don’t you?” he asked with a chuckle in his voice.

Ashley looked up into his warm eyes and saw a twinkle there. “Two mugs?”

“Yes,” he said, his eyes smiling. “Two apologies mean we both are sorry and we love each other very much. And,” he added chuckling, “it means the best kind of making up. Come on,” he said, taking her hand and leading her toward the bedroom. “Let’s make this a really good apology.”

She laughed as she strolled with him into the bedroom, their hands clutched tightly together. She gazed at the man she had deeply loved for years. Then she grabbed him and kissed him. “Two mugs is definitely a good thing. And I do want to show you how really sorry I am.”

Robert gave a hearty laugh as he took off his shirt. “Oh, my sweet, beautiful wife,” he murmured, leaning in for another kiss. “I love you more than you know.”

Ashley giggled. “Let’s make this the best apology ever.”


Copyright © 2020 Lynn Miclea. All Rights Reserved.

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Calliope Njo: The Tree House

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 Tree House

By Calliope Njo

“Grandma, where are we going?” Megan, my little adventurer, came to visit me.

“Up over here.” I pointed to the largest tree we had.

When Ben was younger, I used to ask him about it. Typical Ben shrugged and told me it’s a tree.

It got to the point I wondered if the tree was only supposed to look like one. I only thought that because the thing could hold an entire business building and not bulge. It grew at least three feet every year since the day we married and never stopped. I assumed someone transported a sequoia tree when they weren’t supposed to.

When Ben died, I buried him between the bulging roots. I couldn’t prove it, but I could swear on the Bible that the tree moved so it covered his body. I had no idea until he died that he made a treehouse complete with windows and a door. Something needed to be done about it and I went outside to figure out what.

I patted it when we arrived. “You see, Megan. It’s a treehouse.”

“Wow. It’s ginormous.” Her eyes and mouth opened wide.

Leave it to a kid to find the perfect word. “Yeah. That’s one way to describe this thing.”

“Can we go inside? Can we? Can we?” She bounced with a big smile on her face.

“Well, if you stop impersonating a rabbit, we can go inside.”

She swung open the door and ran in. That girl didn’t need sugar. She had a natural energy store somewhere in her small body.

My boy always said, “She has two speeds. I’ll let you guess which ones.”

It didn’t take a scientist to figure what he meant, like father like daughter.

We went up twenty-four steps and into the main area. Megan ran everywhere. I didn’t want her to knock over anything so I grabbed her.

“What?” She looked down. “I’m sorry. I forgot.” She peeked up again. “It’s just so big.”

“Yes. I know. Remember though, running is for outside. Not inside no matter what kind of building it is. Understand?”

“Yes, ma’am.” She sat down on a cushion. “Grandma, how come there’s a cup on the windowsill?”

I didn’t notice until she pointed it out. It had a very old picture of me on it. If memory served me right, it was the day I bought a new dress. Nothing special nowadays, but back then it meant someone could afford something nice and new. A purple flower dress on a pale yellow background. I saved up for a long time to get those white shoes too.

“Grandma, I’ve been trying to get your attention forever.”

“Oh. I’m sorry. I got lost in the picture. That was a brand-new dress. I don’t remember who took the picture though. That was a long time ago.”

“How long?”

Good question. “Long before you were born.” It had to be well after high school when that picture was taken.

“When are you going to give me this house?”

Did I hear that right? “Not everything goes to you, young lady.”

“But this will. I love it. I so want it. It’s gotta be mine. Just the so-perfect thing for me to have forever and ever.”

“We’ll see. How about if we go have some lunch?”

“You didn’t answer my question.”

I didn’t answer your question on purpose because I’m losing my patience. “It’s time for us to go.” Memory seemed to have left me when I looked at the cup in my hand and forgot it was there still. I put it back in its spot.

“Fine. I hate you.” Her arms straightened and she balled up her hands.

“Megan, I don’t know what’s gotten into you.”

When she pouted, she reminded me of her father when he couldn’t get his way. She sniffled too like he used to do.

I waited for her to stop. She hung her head then lifted it enough for me to see her eyes. Then she crossed her arms.

From somewhere this voice boomed. “Now.” It shook the entire tree.

Megan ran screaming all the way down the steps with me not far behind. “I don’t like to be yelled at. I’m telling.”

“I don’t know where that came from but that was not me.”

She and I looked at the tree as it moved its branches as if putting them where hips were supposed to be, then we stared at each other.

“Grandma. I’m sorry. I used to really, really like this tree now I’m not so sure.”

Right there with you. “How about some lunch, huh?”

“Kay. I’m cooking. I can make sandwiches.”

“Sounds good to me.”

She ran ahead and I couldn’t help but wonder where that voice came from. Would I be senile if I thought Ben said that? Trees don’t talk and that one did. There had to be a logical explanation for it.

I didn’t think I was gone that long but Megan had a full spread out with apples, baby carrots, potato chips, two plates with sandwiches on them, and two waters.

I smiled at her, hard not to do at times like these. “The ham and cheese sandwich was super. Thank you.”

She smiled back. “You’re welcome. Could I go outside and play? I promise I won’t go in that tree.”

“Stay around the house where I can see you. In the meanwhile, I’ll clean up a bit.”

“Kay. Thanks, Grandma.” Out she went.

After cleaning the kitchen, the floor in the front entry needed to be swept, so I did that while she played outside. I couldn’t help but wonder where that voice came from. No magic potion or hocus pocus involved.

Maybe somebody put those new-fangled devices around it as their idea of a joke. That had to be it. It could’ve been done while I went grocery shopping. Time for that nonsense to be put to rest.

Megan came in a couple of hours later. “Sorry, Grandma, but I went treasure hunting. Look what I found.” She held up a wooden box.

I never knew of its existence until then. I recognized the work. Ben must’ve made it. I turned it over and saw his initials. I flipped up the latch and… all those papers.

That box was stuffed full. All of them in his writing. I found the land deed which I thought was a copy. The one that was put into our safe was the one that came with it. At least so I thought.

This one listed the original owner as someone different. I didn’t quite remember the name but I knew it wasn’t Hershel Greensburrow. The land was given to Ben on the promise that the tree would stay where it stood. It would not be altered in any way, shape, or form. Must always be loved, and the last promise, never to remove any belongings that had been placed inside.

Well, that promise was broken because of the treehouse. I remembered him building it and the papers that went along with it.

After dinner that night, I put Megan to bed. I went back to the safe to take a look at the papers in it. The company he used may still be in business so I made a note to call them first thing.

Megan got picked up after breakfast. I would be a rotten grandmother if I said I was glad she was gone, but I needed the freedom to investigate all of this.

I called the company and they were indeed still in business. It took a few times, but they were able to tell me that the project wasn’t to build the treehouse but remove it. They had every big machine come and it wouldn’t budge. They made an agreement to quit and only pay for the time since the job wasn’t completed as ordered.

The rest of the papers were his notes. I didn’t read Latin so I had no idea what it said. I didn’t know he knew it either. The subject never came up.

I tried looking for the original owner, but with only a name and post office box, I couldn’t find him. It seems he lived in this town for a while and then vanished. He didn’t leave a forwarding address.

A lady up the street from me taught Latin a long time ago. Maybe over tea and cookies, she would help me figure it out. Somewhere in all of those notes, there had to be an answer.

I found her one morning as she walked by my house. Out of boredom, she took my papers and promised to return them. I didn’t know what else to do so I had to trust that she would.

Sure enough, that afternoon, she came back with both the original and her interpretation. She didn’t drink tea and hated cookies. She was happy to be able to do something as retirement wasn’t fun.

I took them to the dining room table and read them over. It didn’t appear that Ben wrote these notes but that man did. It seemed that tree embodied his soul. The papers listed his efforts to accomplish that task. In summary, he made a deal with the devil. Hershel Greensburrow couldn’t take being separated from his wife. He buried her remains on the property and wanted to be with her for all of eternity. He found a way to do that. Once done, it couldn’t be undone.

“Heavens, Ben. What did you do? Oh, dear.” I wanted the house, sure, the picture-perfect home. “But, oh Ben.” We owned a burial site.

Tears came into my eyes. They flowed down my cheeks. I wiped them away with my hand and willed them to stop. No sense crying over something that I wasn’t responsible for, or a part of.

I went outside and looked at that tree and those tears came again. Maybe if I left them alone they would stop. That was when the ground moved, like a heartbeat. The ground thumped under my feet.

I ran as fast as my old legs would carry me, grabbed my purse, and left. I didn’t want to have any part of that house. Chances were that Megan told my boy everything with a few laughs along the way. He would laugh even more so when I finished telling him everything. I needed to figure out a way to tell him without making me out to be some kind of loon.

The car had a mind of its own. We always came close but never pulling up to the driveway. I kept thinking we but there was only me. I made an effort to pull in and stop the car.

A deep breath exhale followed by a deep breath inhale. The next thing I knew someone shook my shoulder. “What?”


“Oh. Shawn.” I rubbed my face. “I… I’m not sure what to say.”

“Well, how about if you come inside. It’ll be easier now than later.” He pointed up. “It’s about to rain.”

I looked out the window, past Shawn, and at the dark grey clouds. “Oh. Right. OK.”

Once inside, I told him everything that happened. I half expected him to take me to a mental hospital, but no, he told me he would investigate after the rain.

That family portrait above the fireplace was done last year. I remembered that dress because it took a long while to find it. A maroon princess-style dress for her to wear for the portrait. She almost ripped it off after that so she could play outside.

The rain stopped at last. My son left me there so he could explore by himself. I only hoped the house would behave for him. I told him where to find the papers in case he wanted to look at them.

It didn’t take any time for him to return. “Well, I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary so I’m going to tell you what I told Megan. You’re imagining things. Not a bad thing just remember to not let your imagination run wild.”

“It’s not. I know what I saw.” I stood up. “You see here. I’m old and grey, yes. However, I’m not some batty old lady looking for the spaceship to come back. Hmph.” I grabbed my purse and left the house.

When I got back, I looked around and didn’t notice any evidence he even investigated. All the papers were still there in the same spot. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. That was when realization struck. The logical thing to do in a strange situation is never to approach it with emotion. I did and I owed my boy an apology. He always used to love pies so a peach pie it will be.

I went back inside the tree and sat in the chair by that window. I looked at that cup and wished for time to wind backward. There were a lot of questions that Ben needed to answer.

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Rita H. Rowe: Escape

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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by Rita H. Rowe

She walked up the path, the chill of the closing winter making her clutch her yellow tattered anorak around her. The wood in the basket was still wet from the morning dew and she was working out how she could create the fire quickly. There were still some burning embers in the fireplace when she had set out, but she had been out for a very long time, more than two hours, she had estimated, much longer than she had expected to be. It was just that the deer, a baby sambar, had come so close to her, she had almost touched it. 

The peace she had felt had been so overwhelming, she wanted to savour it for as long as possible. It had been a long time since she had felt that way, so she sat on the cold ground near the stream and watched as the fawn lapped at the water, oblivious to her presence. She was kicking herself for not filling up the woodpile the evening before because she had been so tired, but as she watched the animal, so wild and so tame, so carefree, she felt envious of this beautiful creature but was glad she had this chance to be so close to it. As she watched mesmerised, the deer turned its head and looked at her. She held her breath, afraid it would get spooked by her presence, but after a few seconds, it turned its head toward the stream and continued lapping. Not wanting to disturb it, she sat still until the deer turned its head, looked at her again and wandered slowly away. 

She looked at her wrist, a reflex she had not ridden herself of yet, and realising she wasn’t wearing a watch, looked at the sky, which was barely visible through the heavy fog. She had lost track of time again and she frowned, realising that this was happening far too often. She got up, the cold air hitting her without warning and she shivered. Looking in the basket, she saw a few sticks and decided she would collect some along the way — just enough to warm herself and make some breakfast, or lunch, with no idea of how much time had passed — and then she would go out again and get some more. She hoped it would get warmer, but it was not looking too likely. 

She began to hurry, holding the basket in one hand and pulling the anorak together with the other. In the distance, she could see small puffs of smoke rise from the chimney and she smiled — the wood in the fireplace had lasted longer than she had hoped. She quickened her pace; almost danced through the brambles that led to the back door.

That’s when she saw it. The mug on the windowsill. 

She froze and the familiar fear bolted through her. Still clutching the basket, she put her other hand to her mouth, letting go of the anorak, which slid slowly off her shoulders. Staring at the foggy window, she tried to reason with herself. She could have put it there herself, a lingering habit from days past, where she would make herself a cup of coffee, stare out of the window and dream of a better life, an escape. 

Escape. Escape meant freedom, but with it came fear, paranoia and above all, loneliness. Leaving him was the hardest thing to do because she still loved him. But her mind was ravaged and she knew if she didn’t leave, he would take her into his world with him and there, she knew she was doomed. 

Her friends had never seen the problem, they could never see past his charm and money, and even when she tried to talk about him, they brushed it off, calling her spoilt and ungrateful. She was on her own. So, when it was time, she knew she was alone. And alone she had been, for the past three years. Her life was simple now, living in a small rented farmhouse, fifteen kilometres from the town of Omeo, where the nearest neighbour was two kilometres away. 

Friendly people they were, the townsfolk, but they asked so many questions. She would smile and answer in monosyllables, hoping she wasn’t coming off as rude. But mostly, they left her alone whenever she came to town for supplies and when she was ready to submit something to her publisher. She always wished he could read the articles she wrote and know they were hers. He would have been so proud, would have shown them to his friends, proudly proclaiming the talents of his wife. But he could, would, never know. She had been careful about that.

She had been careful about everything and her escape had been successful. Holed up in the woods, she spent most of her time writing on her old laptop. When she was ready to submit her writing, she would drive up to town in her rusty blue ute and use the internet there. She never looked him up, as tempted as she was because she knew she would be vulnerable if she did. 

At night, she would clack on the laptop until she found herself nodding off. She wouldn’t go to bed earlier than that because she knew where her thoughts would lead and she knew the temptation may be too strong to ignore. So, most nights she would spend on the couch till sleep was unavoidable and there she would stay until the light of the early dawn would pierce through the trees and into her window, rousing her from her sleep to begin yet another day alone.

Now, standing in the middle of the path, staring at the window, she willed herself to move, but she still stood frozen, mesmerised by the silhouette of the mug that she saw was steaming up the windowpane. 

She heard a voice, a female voice that sounded familiar, and then another, male this time and she screwed up her face, trying to decipher what they were saying. Then there was another and yet another, these ones unfamiliar, but they were all trying to say things at once and she fell to her knees, dropping the basket and clasping her head. She shut her eyes tightly, but that only seemed to amplify the voices. 

There were images too now, blood, so much blood, and his face, his face spattered with pieces of white and red, looking up at her in confusion. His mouth was open and he was trying to say something, but when he opened his mouth, all that came out of it was red spit bubbles. Then his eyes stopped looking into hers and his face was still. 

The voices stopped and she slowly opened her eyes. Raising her head and looking toward the chimney, she saw no smoke. She looked to the window again and screwed her eyes trying to focus. It wasn’t him; it wasn’t his mug. There was no mug. He would never drink coffee with her — or anyone again. He was in the ground. She had put him there.

Realisation set in and as she screamed, she passed out.

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Kelli J. Gavin: May the Night Take Me

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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May the Night Take Me

By Kelli J Gavin 

I can’t do this anymore. I live my life waiting. Waiting for my next meal or for it to rain. Waiting to find something to catch the rain in. Hoping it will be today. I wait to hopefully smell coffee brewing again one day, but until then, I hold my mug and remember a time when drinking the first cup each morning was the best part of my day. I wait for the hunger to subside, and for that pain deep in my gut to lessen. I wait for all of this to end. But will it? Will it ever be any better? The only way out is death. I pray some nights I will die in my sleep. Yet I continue to rise at dawn each new day.

I used to wait for Carrie to return. She must have been overcome by the road gangs. I wished that would happen to me. Not that I could have taken her place, more so that I would have been with her and benefited from the same fate. A fate that meant I wouldn’t be here anymore. Waking up each morning and taking my first conscious breath, I wish for death. It is the only thing I wish for anymore. 

Carrie and I had been together for ten years before the invasion. Ten years is never enough time when you are with the love of your life. She made me feel like a better man, one that could and would succeed because Carrie was by my side. My wife, my cheerleader, the lover of my soul. 

When I ripped my leg open on a fence I was attempting to jump over, Carrie said she would go in search of medication, antibiotics, anything that could help me. She wouldn’t look at me, but kissed me hard and told me she loved me. Loved me so much it hurt. As I lay in that bed wincing from the pain in my leg, I didn’t ask her to promise she would return to me. 

The first six months, I believed she was coming back. The next two years, I let my thoughts get the best of me. Carrie left me, lied about getting medication and never had any plans of returning. How can it be true? If she even felt an ounce of what I have always felt for her, she would never be able to live separate from me. I was knitted to her and she to me. At least that is what I have convinced myself. Something must have happened to her.

My leg has never fully healed, yet I was able to rid myself of infection. The scarring is still painful to the touch and my pronounced shuffle of my weakened leg announces my arrival at our community meetings. The community meetings I now run. I am in charge. A small group of 37 which was once a large group of 94. Sickness raged and many have given up. Given up in the night. Given up on the hope a new dawn sometimes brings. For now I will stay. I will lead this hodgepodge group. I will direct and mediate. Until we decide what to do next. But then, I will pray again that the night will take me.

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Alfred Warren Smith: A KISS WITHIN THE CUP

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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By Alfred Warren Smith

Drink to me only with thine eyes,

and I will pledge with mine.

Leave but a kiss within the cup

and I’ll not ask for wine.

The song was one of the smaller, basic, note-learning lessons as she began her piano lessons long ago, before the real beginning of her career taking root when the concert halls grew larger, and the itineraries more exotic.

But it was the words, not the music, that stuck with her.

Between concerts she’d find herself humming the melody, and at home, in her loneliness, she sang the words.


Resigning herself to maiden solitude, she was surprised when love kicked in the door and a man who surrounded her with a whirlwind of love and solace entered into her life. She gladly, gratefully, let him sweep her off her feet until she found herself at the altar in a flowing white gown.

She couldn’t see the well-wishers, the priest, or even the veil for all the tears she couldn’t stop crying.

Her groom only smiled, lifted the veil, wiped them away, and sealed his vows to her lips with his own.


As the day-to-day of marriage glazed over the passion of the wedding, she was sipping her tea one day when he said to her, “You always leave lipstick on the rim of your cups.”

“Do I?”

“Yes. You don’t need the lipstick, you know.”

“I suppose. I guess I’m just used to wearing it for the shows.”

“You’ve always done it, though. Champagne glasses, water bottles, everything bears the imprint of your lips.”

“Does it bother you that much?”

“It doesn’t bother me at all.”

“Then why bring it up?”

“I just find it odd, but endearing.”

She twirled the cup slowly with her fingers. “I suppose it goes back to my childhood. There was a song I used to play when I was just learning…”

She told him the lyrics.

“A kiss within the cup?” he said, teasing.

She smiled and blushed.

He took the cup from her hand and took her in his arms.

“Make me your cup tonight,” he said.


As the concert halls got smaller, so did the money, and so did his ability to supplement them.

“No one needs me,” he said.

“I do.”

He shook his head, and she kissed him and held him as the weight of the world began its inexorable press.


In the polar opposite of his courting, his fading away was slow and torturous. As she cared for him she fought through her own pains as the phone stopped ringing, and time exacted its large toll in small change.


There were cracks in the walls that let the drafts in now.

The view of the wooded fields was dimmed by the clouds in the sky and the cataracts in her eyes.

She heard, more than saw, the rain as it hit and streaked the filmy windows. Aware of the warm water on her own cheeks, rolling over the flaked red lipstick she’d applied to dry lips, she took a sip of her tepid tea and pressed them to the rim to leave the common mark he found so oddly endearing.

Turning her back on the dismal day to spend it with bright memories at the piano, now in dire need of tuning that would never be, she left the cup on the windowsill for him to see, pulled her robe tighter, and shuffled on slippered feet back to her loneliness. The atonal pitches of her quavering voice filled the silence.

“….Leave but a kiss within the cup,

and I’ll not ask for wine.

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