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The Floor Sounded Better than Sleeping Next to the Enemy

A short drabble I wrote recently while taking the train home to visit family. Is it purely fiction or is it all real? Maybe parts of it, but I’ll leave that up to your imagination.


“Did you just stay up and party about our win?” I asked as Carson walked up.

He scrunched his face and shook his head. “Unnnnnngghh…tell ya at Starbucks,” he muttered as he pointed to hotel lobby. He stifled a yawn as we dodged families and couples checking out, exiting through the sliding doors and walking behind the hotel shuttle to reach the street.

“You room with anyone from your section?” Carson asked.

I shook my head and explained that I worked out an arrangement with a friend from colorguard. Carson sighed before he muttered that I was lucky.

“Senior perk,” he grumbled, “why do I have two more years until I’m there?”

“Oh stop whining,” I replied with a roll of my eyes, “She didn’t have a roommate for this trip and I asked the right coordinator. We thought we’d have to find two more people, but turns out we didn’t have to.”

Carson rubbed his eyes, his glasses lifting slightly off his nose. “At least you got the person you wanted.”

I stopped short and turned my head. “You knew you could pick anyone to room with for this trip, right?”

He snorted as he crossed his arms, fingers digging into the soft flesh of his biceps. “No Yinee, I didn’t. I actually agreed to room with Taj and Bryce a few weeks ago – then we got stuck with Christophe!”

“Then you should have asked someone else so you didn’t get a random assignment!” I replied, shaking my head.

“Let me rewind a bit,” Carson corrected, “no one assigned him to our room – Bryce asked him, but I’m pretty sure it was out of pity for him. I mean, Bryce asked if Taj and I were cool with it, but what was I supposed to say? ‘Yeah, Christophe can’t room with us.’ I’d be a jerk then, right?”

I nodded as I pressed the Walk button, keeping my eyes on the sign.

“So, they wanted to throw a big party in their room after the tournament and you tried to sleep through it?” I guessed.

“Who’s in the roller coaster group again?” he asked.

My head snapped in his direction at the question.

“Walk sign is on!” the disembodied voice announced from across the street.

Carson stepped down from the sidewalk and began to cross at a brisk pace. I followed, turning my head to cough.

I should take one now, I thought as I reached the other side. I dug around in my purse for the bottle of Zycam, pressing the heel of my hand against the cap.

“Ew, you’re sick Old Lady?” Carson asked as he nudged the button for the opposite side. He inched away and hugged the pole, casting a wary glance in my direction.

I tapped out a single melt tablet in my other hand and tilted my head back as I dropped it into my mouth. My lips twisted into a grimace as the fake orange flavor met my tongue and started to dissolve.

“Not contagious,” I corrected him as I threw the bottle back into my bag. “This is Day 6 – I’m just congested now.”

“Uh huh, sure…” Carson said with a sharp nod. “Sorry, but who’s in the amusement park group today again? Is it just us?”

“No, you, me, and Wilson,” I replied. “I almost thought we’d have my friends from the saxes, but they were just being trolls on my post. Figures, I always thought one of them was full of –” I trailed off, holding back the word threatening to slip out.

Carson relaxed, dropping his arms to the side. He mumbled something about being happy it was just the three of us and I turned my attention back to the tablet in my mouth and trying to finish it up before we reached the coffee shop. Next time I’m checking the other flavors.

Once the sign changed, we stepped off the sidewalk, walking side by side in silence.

“This is disgusting,” I announced as the final nub of the tablet dissolved. “I mean, it works but why did they think orange was any better than cherry?” I shook my head and sucked my saliva, trying to get the orange taste to go away. “Hey, you didn’t tell me why you look dead.”

“Cause I slept on the floor,” he replied with a pointed look.

I frowned and stared at him in disbelief. He had to be kidding me – this guy managed to get conned out of a comfy bed after the final tournament? While I didn’t know his roommates very well, Bryce would always stick out in my mind as the guy who covered his case in stickers from In-N-Out and couldn’t get enough of their Animal Fries. Taj was smaller than Carson and incredibly sarcastic, but not rude. As for newbie Christophe, he rarely was spotted without a smile or joking smirk on his face.

“Seriously? All right, who do I need to smack for kicking you to the floor?” I demanded as I crossed my arms.

Carson held his hands up and shot me a surprised look. “Whoa, easy there Old Lady! I know it might not sound normal, but I actually asked for the floor!”

I scanned his face and Carson nodded several times.

“No really, I asked for the floor.”

“Then why are you complaining?” I asked. “Please tell me someone at least gave you a pillow and a blanket.”

“Oh yeah, no I got those,” Carson added. He shoved his hands in his pockets and glanced around the strip mall we were near. “Look, it was either that or share a bed with Christophe! I mean, you’ve seen the guy right? He’s a giant – he pretty much needs the whole bed!”

I snorted and dropped my arms to the side. “Carson, you’re exaggerating – the kid’s not that tall!”

“I say he is!” Carson shot back.

“Well, how did he take it?”

Carson shrugged his shoulders and began walking toward Starbucks. “Oh hard to tell. He seemed surprised but I told him he should just take the bed – no big deal. He let me have the other pillow and the top blanket. You know, it actually wasn’t that uncomfortable if that makes sense. Did you know Bryce snores pretty loudly?”

I bit my lip as I followed him across the parking lot, looking left then right for cars. “No, I didn’t and I probably wouldn’t have known that,” I replied as I zipped my jacket up. I reached out to grab the handle but Carson beat me to it, swinging the door open and standing to the side, making a mock bow.

“After you, Old Lady,” he said with a smug smile.

I rolled my eyes as I slipped through the door and joined the long line, standing on tiptoe to see the bakery counter. Carson walked up behind me and leaned to the side to see the drink menu ahead.

“What are you getting?”

“A bagel and a cup of water,” I said. “You?”

“I think…I’m gonna have that chocolate chip Frappuccino drink and something from the case,” he announced before straightening up.

***

“Can’t stand him!”

“Who?” I asked as I spread a thin layer of cream cheese on my second bagel half.

Carson’s eyes darted from the window to the line, checking to see who else was here that we knew. I followed his gaze and noted that there were mostly strangers, maybe a few of the popular kids from band tucked in the corner of the cafe. A large group of them from various sections stood up at that moment and walked past us to toss their trash. One of the guys raised a hand in my direction before following the group out the door, coffee cup in his left hand.

Carson watched them leave before turning back to me. He leaned in and lowered his voice, “Christophe.”

I raised a brow at him and he huffed as he leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms.

“Am I missing something or did he empty his spit valve on your shoe when I wasn’t looking?” I asked.

He shook his head. “Just gets on my nerves. He acts like everyone’s his friend and he’s annoying. I swear he thinks life is one big laugh to him.”

I took this moment to take a big bite of my bagel, trying to chew quietly as I listened to Carson lay out his reasons for hating this kid. It seemed a little unfair to the poor guy but then again, it was like the old saying from grade school – you’re not gonna like everyone and everyone isn’t gonna like you.

Yeah, it was definitely good that it was just the three of us taking on the biggest, baddest coasters at Six Flags today…

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Coalite – Chapter 5

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Author’s Note: This chapter was written with a nod to today’s Daily Post challenge. There is some language and a small graphic description at the end. Proceed with caution.

“Thanks for the wise advice – very ‘useful’ indeed,” Lenny replied.

“Anytime Miss Raincloud,” Baine said. “Good luck finding this mystery guy.”

“Yeah thanks,” Lenny muttered as she hung up. She tossed her phone into her messenger bag after the call and drummed her fingers on her knee. So much for having another lazy summer start.

She checked her watch and glanced over at the cafe, silently debating whether she wanted to grab a muffin before meeting Val or wait it out. Before she could make up her mind, her phone buzzed again.

Val

Just finished – yay! lunch soem place?

Sent 11:48 AM

***

“God I am SO glad that this semester is O.V.E.R!” Val declared as she stirred sweetener into her iced tea.

“Final hard?” Lenny asked.

Val shook her head and crumpled the sweetener packet into a little ball. She placed it on the table and the waitress stopped by to grab it and the crumpled straw wrappers. “Thanks!” Val said to the waitress before she left. She took a sip of her iced tea and continued.

“No there’s this girl who was in 3 of my GE classes who was a total, ugh…even bitch isn’t good enough to describe her!” Val said.

“Erm how so?”

Val pursed her lips together and took on a haughty persona, eyes rolled toward the sky. “Well this material’s a breeze for me, I mean, I learned it at my old high school! After all I was, the best, in my school! This school should be thanking me for even choosing them over Yale and Stanford!”

“Wow sounds like a real charmer,” Lenny said as she tried to suppress her laughter.

“Oh it gets better,” Val warned her. “She one time took a look at my paper topic for Self-Discovery in Writing and started editing it without asking! Fiona was supposed to be proofing it and somehow this chick weaseled her way over to her and told Fiona that she was supposed to be editing my paper! And might I say that this was all during class?”

“Didn’t your professor say something?”

“Nope, she didn’t notice – too busy helping Mr. Worrywart with the Tiger Aunt problems try to perfect his already perfect essay,” Val replied. “So I come back from the bathroom to find her reading my paper and it’s covered in red ink. Like really, I swear there was no freaking white space left on the page!”

Val paused to sip more iced tea before continuing. “So I’m really pissed but I’m trying not to let it show when I take my seat and she slides the paper over without looking at me. She then caps her pen, sticks her nose in the air, and says, “You’ve got a lot of work to do to make that better. I’d take all of my suggestions if you want an A, by the way.” I mean, seriously? Did she really have to say that?!”

Lenny winced before breaking off a piece of bread and eating it. The waitress returned with their food and placed the plates in front of them.

“Anything else?” the waitress asked.

“No we’re good,” Lenny replied. “Thank you.”

Val stabbed a piece of romaine with her fork and shoved it into her mouth. “You know what I said to her?”

“No what?”

“Thanks for the wise advice – very ‘useful’ indeed,” Val said. She picked up the pepper and added it to her side salad.

“How did she react?” Lenny asked as she cut her burger in half.

Val rolled her eyes as she began cutting her chicken. “Oh she said that it was ‘very useful’ and that I should be very grateful that she offered to help. Help? Ha! Fiona was supposed to be helping me, not you!”

“Well what’s her major?” Lenny asked.

Val scrunched her nose and paused, fork mid-air as she thought about it. “Ummmm…I think its some Civil/Peace major with Comm. She said she was in the writing class to find a distinct voice for her writing. As for the other classes, yeah I’m sure she probably flunked the AP versions in high school and just doesn’t wanna admit it.”

“Well you’ll never have to see her again, unless you absolutely wanted to,” Lenny joked.

“Oh sure Lenny, I wanna take her clubbing and hey, maybe we can get matching outfits!” Val shot back.

***

“Gonna go help your grandmama in the shop today?” Val asked as they drove back.

“Yeah probably,” Lenny replied.

“You want me to drop you there?”

“Nah it’s cool,” Lenny said. “Can you just drop me at home so I can get rid of my book bag? I’ll probably walk there.”

“You sure?”

“Positive,” Lenny said. She glanced out the window as Val entered her neighborhood and turned into the cul-de-sac. “Thanks again Val.”

“Of course,” Val said. “See you soon?”

“Definitely,” Lenny replied as she unclipped her seat belt and grabbed her book bag. “See you!”

Lenny closed the passenger door and jogged up the steps of her grandma’s house, fishing out her keys from a pocket in her bag. She inserted the key into the lock and turned it, opening the door and closing it behind her.

“Gran! You here?” Lenny called out. She walked into the kitchen and saw that the faucet was spewing a thin line of water into the sink. She shook her head and quickly turned the knob all the way to the left to turn it off. Gran was starting to deal with arthritis so Lenny could forgive her for not being able to turn the faucet off all the way. She paused when she noticed 2 small blobs of red in the sink and she looked closer to see what they were.

Her blood ran cold and she quickly made her way upstairs. “Gran! Everything okay?”

She reached the top of the stairs and ran to her grandma’s bedroom, yanking open the door. Nothing, except the neat comforter and fluffy pillows leaning against the headboard. Everything looked to be in order but something was off. She heard a noise coming from her room and her spine stiffened.

She quietly closed the door to Gran’s room and headed in the other direction to her room across the hall. She gripped the strap of her empty book bag as she walked cautiously towards her room. Maybe she was overreacting – Gran was probably fine and just tidying up her room to keep busy, like she would do sometimes.

Lenny hesitated at her door and bit her lip. She could feel something electric in the air, not light and pure like the magic she was learning but something sharp and cold. She gripped the knob in her hand and turned it.

She pushed the door open slowly, only to have coffee-colored fingers pull it open quickly from the other side. A face appeared around the other side of the door and met her gaze with moss green eyes. His short dark hair stuck up at different angles and his red-pink lips curled into a smirk.

“Hello Millennia,” the stranger greeted her. “About time we met – heard a lot about you.”

Lenny straightened up and dug her fingers into her palm. No one called her by her real name – the stupid name her mom gave her because she thought it sounded so new age. This stranger appearing in her house while her Gran was gone was no coincidence. Judging from his appearance that Baine gave her, it was clear who was standing before her.

“Are you the incubus that the bartender told me about?” she asked.

The stranger made a mock bow as he threw his arms out in a grand gesture. “You found me. Now, we have some unfinished business we need to deal with.”

“Frankly, this business was finished a few seconds ago,” Lenny said. She threw her book bag at him and zeroed her gaze on the doorknob, pulling it shut towards her and locking it. She wasted no time dashing down the stairs to grab her keys to book it out of there as quickly as possible. She yanked the front door open to see the stranger standing in front of her with his arms crossed over his chest.

“Didn’t your mother tell you it was rude to slam doors in strangers’ faces?” he asked with a raised brow.

“Not when it comes to demons,” Lenny shot back. “Get the Hell out of here before I use the entire knife block against you.”

The stranger started laughing, doubling over at her statement. Lenny ignored him and ran to the knife block to grab the biggest knife out, only to find it was sticking in its slot in the block. The stranger appeared before her, guiding her hand away from the block.

“For the record, steel blades don’t do much damage to us,” the stranger said as he let go of her hand. “We just heal very quickly without a scratch. Now if we’re talking blades forged by light or angel-made weapons, then yes we would take some damage.”

“Thanks for the wise advice – very ‘useful’ indeed,” Lenny retorted.”I’ll try to remember that as you try to kill me.”

The stranger held his hands up in defense. “Who said anything about killing you? Actually wanted to thank you.”

“Oh that’s rich,” Lenny said. “A demon is thanking me – what for?”

The stranger smirked, “Well get a clue Warlock Girl. My sister is dead and its all thanks to you.”

Lenny blinked and stared up at the stranger with raised brows. “What?”

“She was, as the humans say, a total bitch, but hey I think we’re all a little better off without her in the world,” he said with a shrug of his shoulders.

“Don’t give me this ‘Thanks for killing my sister’ spiel – what do you mean she’s dead?” Lenny demanded. “I only stopped her from charging at me with an invisible wall. She was supposed to be just knocked out, not dead.”

The stranger leaned against the counter and blinked. “That’s not how I found her. Long after you left, I went out looking for her to clean up the mess she probably made and I found her with one eye swollen, a blood pool by her mouth, and bruising on her body.”

Coalite – Chapter 1

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“Yeah, sorry but there’s no such thing as Insta-Beauty in a bottle,” the girl droned from behind the counter. “If I were you, I’d kick the diet soda for starters and drink water instead.”

“But, but, but you’re a witch – thought this was something you could do!” the customer wailed on the other side of the counter. She leaned over the counter and blinked through raccoon eyes of blue mascara.

The girl crossed her arms over her chest and shook her head, trying to hide her disgust. This brat was one of the many idiots who stumbled into her shop looking for a miracle cure, whether it be a weight-loss potion or some spell that would instantly make her the prettiest girl in school overnight.

An older woman emerged from the back, drying her hands off on her apron. She patted the sobbing customer’s hand and gave her a smile.

“Now dearie, try not to cry,” the older woman said. She looked over at the girl aiding the customer and asked her to grab some of the fresh carrots that were picked from the garden. The girl shrugged her shoulders before pushing back the curtain covering the back room and searching the stock for the carrots. She heard the sink running and she saw that the carrots were sitting in the sink, the water still running.

We’re in a drought Gran, she thought as she turned the knobs off. She picked up the carrots and dried them off with her apron.

“Can you mash some up Lenny?” Gran called from the front. “Mix it with a bit of honey and lemon juice too.”

“Sure,” Lenny answered. She pulled down a pestle and mortar from the shelf above the sink and wiped them clean with her apron. She reached for a knife in the cutting block and began chopping the carrots into smaller pieces, placing them into the mortar. Lenny grabbed a lemon from the bowl and cut it open, squeezing one half of the lemon into the mortar and wrapping the other half for later. She pulled the honey container from the tray holding Gran’s varieties of tea and shook it upside down to get the sticky stuff to run down to the tip. She squeezed a bit into the mortar and replaced the container before mashing the mess together.

This was just a basic mask that Gran was probably going to give this girl to use for a while. No magic with this one – anyone could have figured that out. Sometimes she just wished that Gran would let these morons figure it out the hard way instead of giving them false hope. They already had a rather distorted perception of who they were and what they were capable of in the mortal realm – no point in trying to play up to it.

The concoction began to resemble a slightly lumpy paste that had a very orange hue to it. Lenny removed an empty container from the cabinet and filled it with the contents of the goop. She screwed the lid on tightly and wiped away the remnants with a paper towel. She sighed deeply and brought the jar out to Gran and the customer who was having a meltdown about going to prom or homecoming or whatever with the best boy and blah blah. She heard it all before – hot guy asks not-so-hot girl out and she freaks out over her appearance before the whole ordeal. 80% of the cases that came through here ended up in tears because they were ridiculed publicly a la Carrie, 15% were stood up, and the rare 5% got their fairytale ending. This one wasn’t bad looking to begin with but she could do without the blue mascara, last decade’s smoky eye, and the fading ombre ends on her hair.

Gran accepted the jar and handed it over to the girl with a smile, telling her to use it every night before 7:17 PM in dim lighting. The girl accepted the jar curiously and asked for the cost. Gran stated that it was free of charge. The girl brightened and practically skipped out the door, clutching the jar tightly to her chest.

Lenny rolled her eyes and shook her head. “I hope that’s it Gran,” she said.

Gran shot her a look and turned to face her granddaughter. “I didn’t tell her that special time for no good reason,” Gran said with a knowing look in her eyes.

Lenny groaned and threw her hands up in the air. “Gran! You can’t keep helping these sob cases!” she said. “At some point, it’s gonna come back to get us.”

Gran sighed and removed her apron. “I saw no reason to not help that poor young lady,” Gran replied. “And besides dearie, not everyone is endowed with your looks.”

“There’s so few of us left Gran,” Lenny said. “We can’t draw too much attention to ourselves. Remember what happened to your friend Rose?”

“I’m being cautious, trust me,” Gran replied. She patted Lenny on the shoulder and studied her. She looked nothing like her late daughter – rather more like her own mother or Lenny’s great-grandmother. The black-brown hair that fell in razor-ended layers, the medium blue eyes, and the fair complexion with peachy undertones made her a spitting image of her mother back in her prime. But that’s about where the similarities ended – her granddaughter was blunt, hot-headed, and distrustful of everyone whereas her mother was a free-spirit with a smile on her face and an eagerness to help others in need.

Lenny sagged her shoulders and looked around the shop before meeting Gran’s eyes again. “I’m sorry Gran,” she said. “Look, its just, I don’t wanna lose you because you did something that could have been avoided.” She paused before wrapping her Gran in a hug.

“You’re all I have left,” she said, forcing herself to hold in tears that she refused to shed. She hated crying, especially in front of people.

Gran embraced her back and smiled. “Dear, I know that you worry about this old bag of bones but don’t you worry too much,” she said. She let go of her granddaughter and held her at arms length.

“You should answer that, I think its your friend Val,” Gran guessed before the phone rang.

Lenny laughed as she walked over to the phone and picked it up. “Hello?”

“Hey you,” Val replied. “So there’s this sick nightclub that opened up downtown and I’m dyyyying to go scope it out. You game girlie?”

Lenny bit her lip and jutted her right hip out as she leaned against the wall. Val liked partying and checking out hot guys at the places they went, as well as ranking them on her RevUzs profile for everyone to see. But lately Val had been trying to pair her off with random strangers at these places and it was starting to drive her crazy. Val couldn’t see it, but Lenny noticed that she always seemed to end up with another, well non-human, like herself. Never any other warlocks like her but the last few were a weird combo of a Zohu (part zombie part human), a vampire, and some kind of gila monster man who liked flicking his tongue out a lot. The latter got too close and Lenny nearly tore his tongue out of his scaly head with her bare hands. Val was upset and bought the guy a drink to make up for it. But in Lenny’s defense, the guy had been trying to put his tongue past the back part of her shirt.

Gran was watching her and waved at her to go. She mouthed that Lenny should go, maybe wear those new shoes and leggings that they just bought.

Lenny shot her a weak smile and straightened up. “Yeah sure I guess,” Lenny said. “But no matchmaking tonight – just wanna have it be a girls night only.”

“Deal,” Val said. “I’ll swing by your place in 30 minutes?”

“Yeah sounds good,” Lenny said. “See you.”

The Letters She Never Sent (A Short Story)

Author’s note: I just realized that I failed to do a post yesterday and I will be submitting 2 posts today.

The father unlocked the door to the apartment and the mother entered with hesitation. She forced herself not to cry as she looked around at the studio loft, left exactly the same as her daughter had left it. Newspapers were stacked neatly on the coffee table, a throw blanket was piled in a lumpy mound on the sofa, and a mug with a tea bag sitting in it on a worn cardboard coaster.

The father squeezed his wife’s shoulder and sighed heavily. It killed him to see this empty place without her there – opening the door and greeting them with her warm smile, running to get them some coffee, or telling them to just “Make this space your place” once they entered.

“We should start going through her things,” the father said as he looked around the room. “We only have a few days before the lease is up.”

The mom nodded as she began folding the throw blanket into a neat square and she took the mug to the kitchen to wash.

The father wandered into his daughter’s room and began taking down her corkboard of dreams, goals she had accomplished, and a small calendar of events. He chuckled lightly as he looked at her doodles on the dates of the calendar, like a panicking figure with a speech bubble screaming, “FINALS?! PLEASE BE JOKING!” or the birthday cake doodle on March 11 for her friend Abby. He placed the corkboard down on the carpeted floor and began to unplug all of the cords for her laptop, lamp, and surge protector. As he pulled the cord for the surge protector out from behind the desk, it got snagged on something and he made a face as he tried to pull it free. After a few more tries, he shook his head and decided to just pull the desk out and get the cord and whatever it was getting caught on free. He groaned as he pulled the desk toward him and he got up slowly. It was getting harder to keep bending down and getting up like he used to.

He freed the cord from behind the desk and furrowed his brows when he saw something sticking out of the back of the desk. He pulled the desk out more and rotated it to access the back. He walked around the desk and knelt down to see that the paper backing on the inexpensive desk, a hand-me-down from her older brother, was ripped and a corner of a box or maybe a binder was sticking out.

He tore off the rest of the backing, which had been tacked down with wall putty, oddly enough. He pulled on the corner and a large box flew out into his lap. He grunted when the full weight of the box hit him – it was heavy! The mother had finished cleaning up the kitchen when she heard all of the noise in the bedroom.

“Artie what’s going on?” she asked as she came into the bedroom. Her eyes widened as she zeroed in on the box in her husband’s lap. “What did you find?”

Artie stood up and heaved the box onto the bed. He yanked off the lid and saw that the box was filled with letters. Different names on different envelopes, some of them packed to the gills while others were not. On top of the letters was a single note folded neatly on top.

The mother reached in and unfolded the note. Artie went through the box and recognized most of the names: her old best friend from Texas, the loud hussy from her sophomore dorm days, the idiot poet who tried to woo her in 8th grade…

“Artie you need to read this,” the mother said. She handed off the note and watched as Artie read it.

Hey,

If you found this secret stash of letters, then either you’re really nosy or maybe I’m dead. I guess all of this started when one of my Lit teachers talked about letter writing and how personal it used to be. It was when I was coming home from service one Sunday that I thought about writing these letters, these confessions, I guess you would call them, to some of the people I crossed paths with. It was a lot harder for me to say things to people in person, especially since it was really easy to screw things up and say the wrong thing.

So if I’m dead, please pass these letters out to everyone in this box. Don’t go opening or destroying someone’s letter before they get a chance to read it.

Good luck in life and remember that you can make any space your place!

Always,

Tess

“What should we do with them Artie?” the mother asked once he finished reading them. He closed the lid on the box and picked it up.

He began carrying it to the door and he called over his shoulder, “We should give these out at the service next week. It’s what our little girl wanted.”

***

Artie was never one for speeches but everyone on his side of the family made him get up and say a big speech about their beloved Tess. He had rehearsed it in the mirror and had made edits on his notes. The day came and he got through his spiel before presenting the box to the attendees on the podium.

“I was cleaning up Tess’ apartment and I found these letters hidden in her room,” Artie began. “They are addressed to many of her friends and family and she asked that they be handed out to the respective recipient. So would you please come up after the reception and find your letter?”

Artie carried the box down from the podium and he spilled the contents out onto a table nearby. The audience hesitantly started coming up one at a time and began sifting through the letters. Then one of Tess’ more obnoxious friends rolled his eyes and dashed up, shoved past other attendees and fished his letter out.

“It’s like the freakin’ Hunger Games,” the guy groused as he returned to his seat.

Artie bit his tongue and ignored the young man’s comment. He hated that kid, Marcus was his name, because he came off with an air of entitlement. But then again, his stupid parents had spoiled him rotten until he graduated college some years ago and what was he doing? Nothing but mooching off his parents and wining and dining with various women.

He watched as Abby opened her letter and she smiled, touching her hand to her chin as she read it. Marcus ripped the letter open, skimmed it, then twisted his face into a scowl before crumpling the letter and tossing it onto the seat nearby. Artie’s sister-in-law opened hers and began sobbing loudly. Knowing his little girl, she probably mentioned something to her about her frivolous spending habits and how she didn’t need to try to impress anyone.

He remembered one time where Tess had come home dressed to the nines in a clingy ensemble from Dolce and Gabbana with a flashy Dior coat on over it, courtesy of his sister-in-law. “Dad,” Tess said. “Can you or Mom say something to Aunt Rema about me spending time with her? I wanted to just have a cup of coffee with her and somehow it spiraled into ‘Let’s go to 5th Avenue and eat at this fancy restaurant. Oh Tessie dear, look at that darling Dior – that would be gorgeous on you honey! Let’s get that and oh is this the newest handbag line? Only the best for my Tessie. And how about a fabulous pair of heels – you can’t go wrong with Louboutins!’ I mean, really?”

He felt someone nudge his arm and he snapped out his trance to see it was his son Vincent. He had a letter in his hand and he hadn’t opened it.

“You gonna read what your sister wrote?” Artie asked.

Vincent shook his head no and stuffed the letter into his pocket. “I’m just not ready yet.” He clenched his hand into a fist and looked at the ground. “Dad, why did that asshole have to shoot Tess that night?”

Artie clapped a hand on his son’s shoulder. “I won’t understand why he did that, but somewhere in his mind it ma-“

“It makes no sense Dad!” Vincent hissed. “He had money and wherever his next high was. And Tess was just trying to help that stupid girl from her Finances class – what was her name? Danielle? I hate both of them. Hate them!”

Artie was about to say something but Vincent stormed off, his face flushed. The mother came up to him and sighed as she watched Vincent leave. “His temper again?” she guessed.

“Emily, give him some time,” Artie sighed. “One day he’ll feel calmer about this whole thing.”

***

Vincent poured himself a cup of coffee for the day and he retrieved the paper from his front door. He read the date and closed the door. It was his sister’s birthday. If she had been alive still, she would have been 20. He bit his lip and stared around his condo for something. He walked back to the kitchen and set down the newspaper and coffee mug before heading to his bedroom in search of her letter.

It had been two years since her passing. He felt bad that he left the funeral in a huff but he was angry for what had happened. He practically yelled at the jerk who shot her when he took the stand to guilt him. The jerk had slumped down in his seat and refused to meet his eyes. Coward.

Vincent fished out the letter and slit the top open with his finger. He hesitated for a moment and slowly pulled the contents out. His fingers trembled as he unfolded it and began to read it.

Hey Vinnie,

I guess if I was still 11, I’d write how much I hate you. It probably would be filled with reminders of how you put my favorite unicorn plush in the shredder when I was 5 and how you told my first crush that I would turn him into an ugly frog with a single kiss. But now that I’m 18, I guess, things haven’t been so terrible with you.

Yes I probably shouldn’t have screamed like a little brat when you told me to stay away from Josh but in the end, you were right. Oh and by the way, I gave him two black eyes and a bruise on his gut when he tried to make a move on me after our date. Well actually it was really me sneaking out after you said no and Dad said no, only to realize that it was a big mistake to even go. So go ahead and say it, you knew it.

I wish we could have spent more time together. I know you were busy with your banking job and I was starting to figure what I wanted out of life. But I kind of missed seeing you.

Please try to keep it together for Mom and Dad. It won’t be easy but I know that you’re kind of the rock in this family.

Don’t forget your stupid little sister with her dumb unicorn doll.

Love,

Tess

Hardest Thing to do is to Say I’m Sorry (Welcome to Confession Session Chapter 11)

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“How was your Brother-Sister Day?” Devon asked me when I got back. “I hope it went better than it started in here.”

“Yeah it was good,” I replied. “We watched a movie and had breakfast. It was good catching up with him.” I sat down in my desk chair and decided to check my Facebook page.

Devon got off of her bed and slammed her heavy Math book shut with a thud. She came over to me and watched as I checked for messages and updates. She placed a hand on my shoulder.

“Since it sounds like it was such a great day, I won’t put a damper on it,” she said.

I looked away from the screen and creased my brows at her comment. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Devon coughed and made a face. She looked uneasy about telling me whatever she had to tell me and I nodded at her.

“Just spit it out Dev,” I said. “What’s up?”

Devon shifted her feet and gripped her other arm as she began telling me her news. “Jesse stopped by when you were out. He was hoping to talk to you but I said you were out with your brother. He wouldn’t say what he needed to talk to you about, but I’m guessing it was pretty important.”

I fiddled with the tail of my braid and Devon continued, “I’m sorry Kay, I didn’t mean to ruin your fun day. I know its been…a month I think, since you last talked to each other. …You know, you don’t have to talk to him right away. You could give it a couple of days.”

“Did he seem angry?”

“Nope, he seemed kind of quiet and almost…almost as if he was sorry,” Devon said.

***

Thursday was a blur and filled with more of Rachelle’s snotty complaints about bad stories. Friday finally arrived and I still hadn’t talked to Jesse.

My alarm clock went off at 8:45 AM and I lay in bed, staring up at the ceiling. Just go and get the talk over with.

I sat up and reached for my cell phone which had a new text message from Jesse.

Jesse

When are you free to talk?      Sent at 8:20AM

I typed back Now.

***

I drummed my fingers on the bench as I waited for Jesse to show up. He had told me to meet him on campus by the stupid abstract scribble sculpture that was donated by some rich donor. The wind cut across my face and I zipped my jacket up to the neck collar to keep warm. Surprisingly, it was pretty gloomy-looking today for the west coast.

“Hey,” Jesse said as he sat down beside me. He had a bouquet of white daisies in his hand, each one had a piece of paper with a string tied onto the stem.

Before I could ask what the flowers were for, he cleared his throat and pulled one from the middle to hand to me. He prompted me to read the paper attached to it.

I was too proud to admit that I was wrong.

He handed me another daisy once I looked up. I overstepped the boundaries we set between the two of us. 

This process continued 4 more times as he handed me the daisies.

I have no idea what I am to other people. Funny seemed like the natural choice to go with.

I suck at being a good boyfriend. Ask any of my ex-girlfriends and they will tell you.

I hate my dad right now because he decided to leave my mom.

I have never slept with anyone. I might talk big but I haven’t done anything yet.

The last one made me raise my eyebrows and I looked over at him.

“What about that girl you brought back to the building?” I asked.

Jesse made a face and leaned back against the bench back. “Her? That’s Dana – she’s in my lit class and she claimed she needed to study with someone for the next exam. I did better on the last exam than she did so I guess that’s why she approached me. Then she spent the entire session talking about her life and girl stuff and I snapped at her that we were supposed to be studying. Then she left in a huff to hang out with someone else.”

I snorted at the thought of Dana throwing a big temper tantrum after having someone else shut her down. “Yeah I saw her the next day when I came back from hanging with Dany. There was another guy looking for her.”

“I’m guessing she wanted something from him or the other way around,” Jesse speculated. “Either way, I could care less about her. She probably flunked the latest lit exam anyways. No wonder she’s failing.”

“So what now?” I asked him.

He looked at me and sighed. “Can we go back to square one? I’d like a do-over.”

“That works for me,” I replied. “Good to have you back old friend.”

“The feeling’s mutual.”

Oh Brother Why Art Thou Here? (Welcome to Confession Session Chapter 10)

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Pound, pound, pound! “Mac?” Pound, pound, pound!! “Mac Attack?”

I pried my eyes open and groaned at the sound of someone knocking at my door. My clock read 8:18 AM which made me groan louder about this idiot at my door. I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes and threw back the covers.

“Mac-intosh?” Pound, pound, pound!!! “Please don’t tell me that you’ve been kidnapped or else Mom will kill me for being a bad brother.” Of course, it was my brother. This was right up his alley – wake me up at the crack of dawn by pounding on my door and calling my name in between knocks.

I peered at him through the peep hole of my door and waited for him to start pounding on the door again. As he knocked, I yanked the door open, making him temporarily lose his balance and stumble forward into my room. His hand caught the corner of my desk and he used it to steady himself.

“Good morning Bryce, nice entrance you made there,” Devon yawned from her bed.

Bryce made a mock bow and he thanked her. “Sorry to wake you Devon but I came to bug my sister,” he said.

“I don’t get an apology for being woken up on a Wednesday morning?” I demanded.

Bryce turned to me and wrapped me a bear hug. He rumpled my hair for an added effect and said, “Nope, cause you’re my baby sister. And besides, Mom said you didn’t have class until later.”

“At noon Genius,” I darkly replied. At that moment, my computer screen flickered from its sleep mode and flashed that I had a new message. I stepped towards my computer to see it was an e-mail from my professor who taught my Wednesday class. She had come down with the flu and was having trouble keeping fluids down, which meant that she was going to be out for a while. Bryce read my e-mail over my shoulder and I winced when I saw his smile in the reflected in the computer screen.

“Wonderful! We can hang out all day,” he said as he clapped an arm around my shoulders.

“Oh goody.”

Bryce took a seat in my desk chair and pointed to my dresser. “So let’s get dressed and out the door. Chop, chop! So much to do, not enough time in the world to do it.”

***

“So aside from forcing me to get up early and dressed in a flash, where are you taking me?” I asked as we drove down the street in his car.

“Well naturally I’m taking my sis to get breakfast and we’re going to see a movie, anything but that stupid vampire one,” he said.

“How’s work?”

“It’s good,” he said as he put on his directional for a street parking spot that was opening up. “I’m past all of the busy work and starting to get into the fun stuff.” He watched as the car currently in the spot turned the wheel, pulled forward, and zipped out into the street. “Crazy son of…” he murmured as he parked the car.

***

Bryce took a sip of his coffee and sighed with a smile on his face. He drummed his fingers on the table and looked around the cafe space curiously.

“So uh Mac Attack? I’ve got some good news and some bad news,” he began as he looked back at me. “You know how I said I’m finally starting to do the fun stuff? Well the fun stuff involves me traveling abroad for a month or so to Seoul to represent the company. But on the bright side, you won’t have me around to magically knock on your door to sweep you away for coffee and a movie for a while.”

I nearly choked on a sip of my juice.

Bryce stared at me with a straightforward expression as he said, “Don’t die on me. Mom wouldn’t like that. She’s already not thrilled that one of her little babies is going further from the nest than she’d like.”

“But that’s great news! The traveling I mean, not you being gone for so long,” I replied. “Congratulations Bry.”

“Thanks Mac Attack,” he said. “It’s nice to know that you don’t completely hate me for being a brother.”

Our breakfast plates arrived and Bryce picked up his fork and knife and began digging in. I ate slower than he did and he gulped down sips of coffee in between the bites. At one point, he put down his fork and knife and wiped his mouth with a napkin.

“By the way, I thought we talked about how you and comedy don’t mix,” he began. “And yes, I’m still on Facebook sis. Don’t worry though – Mom doesn’t know about your performance yet.”

“Good, keep it that way,” I replied. “Jesse made me go up and talk. I only went to the event because he made me listen to a performance about sex. Then he made me get up and do something. I was mad so I-“

“Went on a rant? Yeah I know,” he replied. He rubbed his hand under his chin thoughtfully and looked over at me. “So what happened with those two unfortunate victims who suffered your wrath?”

“Both ignored me for a while,” I replied. “Emma forgave me just recently and Jesse’s still ignoring me.”

“Sorry I couldn’t have visited sooner,” he said. “I’ve known about this for a while since it popped on my news feed with your name tagged to it. But as I said earlier, its been nuts.”

“Thanks for being concerned but I’m all right.”

“Really Mac? Find that really hard to believe right now,” he said.

I looked down at my plate and he reached across the table to touch my hand.

“Mac, Mom said something about this Jesse-guy being your friend right?”

“Yeah, where’s this going?”

“I’m just saying, he might not want to admit he was wrong. See, most of the guys I know just don’t like being told that they were wrong and it takes time for us to accept that,” he said. “Don’t give up on him yet Mac. I think because you did call him out by name and attacked something he thought he was great at, he’s just giving you the cold shoulder longer.”

I looked up from my plate and thanked my brother with a smile. He grinned as he rumpled my hair and murmured, “Now that’s the Mac Attack I know. So what movie do you want to see. And it better not be that vampires one or that serial killer one. The serial killer one earned a stinker rating from what I heard.”

I laughed and threw up hands up in the air. “I don’t know what’s out but whatever sounds decent to sit through, I guess.”

Everything’s Gonna Be Cool (Welcome to Confession Session Chapter 9)

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“So let’s talk about Amber’s story,” Professor Sykes began as we settled into our seats. He looked around the table for hands to go up and Rachelle’s hand went up.

Rachelle flipped to the middle of the story and read aloud this passage, “A birthday party? Who throws a 21 year old a birthday party? Leave it to my friends and co-workers to try to give me something to compensate for all those lousy years of nothing that my parents never gave me. But trying to be the best sport I could possibly be, I plastered a fake smile on my face and mingled amongst familiar faces and strangers alike. After listening to a boring conversation about Millie’s great-aunt having a stroke, I excused myself to drown my sorrows in a bottle of red. It was when I was yanking the fridge door open that I felt her staring at me. I turned and didn’t dare believe what I saw. A woman who looked like an older version of me.” She paused after reading it and looked over at Amber. “This section seems dense. Almost as if you were trying to rush to get to the end of the boring stuff and trying to reach the exciting moment sooner.”

Amber flushed pink as she looked down at her notebook and hastily scribbled notes to herself for improving her writing. Poor girl.

Wilson raised his hand and said, “I think you developed a great protagonist Amber. I like her tone and mannerisms – she’s not like other female protagonists I’ve read about.”

This comment elicited a smile from Amber who looked up quickly to meet Wilson’s eyes before she buried herself in writing again. A few more students raised their hands and gave Amber feedback. She seemed a bit hurt by Rachelle’s comment as she continued to write down the suggestions to improve her writing. Her eyes stayed glued to her notebook as she wrote frantically until Professor Sykes announced that we were going to move onto Chance’s story.

Professor Sykes thumbed through the pages of Chance’s and smiled. “I am pretty impressed with your descriptions, language, and pacing on this one Chance,” he said. “Anyone like to comment on his story?”

This time I beat Rachelle’s hand to comment first. She glared at me sulkily and I ignored it. “I really like how you gave us the formats and styles of social media to move the story along. It feels like we can see Tyler’s private life and it feels more realistic.”

Chance nodded and thanked me with a smile. Rachelle shot her hand up and Professor Sykes allowed her answer next.

“Why did you make Abby a mystery girl?” Rachelle demanded. “It seems like a cliche to me since its been done before.”

“Face it Rachelle, everything’s been done before,” Wilson broke in. “It’s Chance’s story, not yours.”

“I liked that Abby was a mysterious type!” Amber spoke up. “It added to her persona which is a bit bad-ass and cool enough to make slick entrances and exits.”

“All right everyone, one at a time,” Professor Sykes said. “But you all made some great points there. Anyone else like to comment?”

No one else raised their hands and I could see Rachelle still fuming over being interrupted by Amber and Wilson. Chance seemed amused by everything happening around him. When no one said anything else, Professor Sykes checked his watch and announced that the next batch of stories to be read and marked up were from Quigley, Franco, and Jillian. They passed their stories out before everyone began leaving for their next class or for a break.

Chance packed up slowly and looked over at me as I stood up with my bag on my shoulder. “Hey Mckayla, you wanna go grab coffee or something right now?”

“Yeah sure.”

We walked out of the classroom and headed down to the campus coffee house. The line was long, thanks to it being in the high 50s today, which translated to cold for the west coast. Chance fished out his wallet and scanned the menu to see what was available today. I pulled my wallet out and looked at the menu. The coffee house was notorious for switching everything on their menu every week so it was always good to check before ordering.

“You know what you want?” Chance asked me.

“Uh yeah I’ll just have a peppermint hot chocolate,” I said. “You?”

“I’ll probably get a cup of Rainforest Rage,” he said. “You ever had it before?”

“Nope. All I know is it is a dark roast.”

***

Chance took a sip of his coffee and made a face.

“Guess the Rainforest wasn’t so raging for you?”

“It’s bad. Tastes more like water,” he muttered as he pushed the cup away. “Oh well.” He settled into his chair and drummed his fingers on the table.

“Thanks for the nice comment back there,” he said after a long pause. “Rachelle looked like she was going to rip me a new one.”

“She seems to enjoy finding the littlest things to pick at and then she complains about them,” I retorted as I set my cup down. “Well except for Wilson’s story. But then again, I think its because she likes him.”

Chance rolled his eyes at that. “Yeah he keeps talking about Amber. He lives down the hall from me in my dorm and he asked her roommate about her relationship status. So that’s a no go there.”

“Ah drama. It never seems to disappear as we get older,” I sighed.

This made Chance laugh and I smiled as I took a sip of my hot cocoa.

“How’s life been ever since the confessions thing?” he asked. “Word has it that you pissed some people off.”

“True,” I confirmed. “My RA and my friend got mad at me. My RA forgave me but my friend hasn’t yet.”

“Hey its his loss,” Chance said. He looked around the coffee house before looking at me.

“So uh, you probably saw my stupid confessions,” he said.

“Yeah, yeah I did, ” I said. “And uh, I’m guessing that you must have been to every party that anyone who’s anyone has thrown to see that many tarted-up girls.”

Chance groaned and put his head down on the table. “Don’t remind me! Ugh, I can’t believe some of these chicks who think that not wearing underwear is a good thing. Trust me, I’ve seen too much f-ed up stuff happen at the parties I’ve been to. You name it, I’ve probably seen it.”

“Sorry to hear that,” I replied.

“Nah its all good,” he said. “Glad to know there’s some standards left. Thanks for being normal.”

“Uh yeah sure,” I said. “So who is Chance Wen? Aside from being a soccer player who wants out and writes really good stories.”

Chance threw his hands up and stretched. “Well, I’m a Psychology major with a minor in Graphic Design. I like making vector graphics. I hate early morning classes. And I like a good bowl of guac with chips. What about you? Who is Mckayla Tang?”

“I’m an English major looking to either double major or minor in Theater. I like curry rice. I’m not a fan of living in the dorms because I really don’t relate to anyone on my floor, save for a few people. And I like cold weather.”

Chance grinned and nodded in approval. “Well I’m glad we met in Creative Writing 101,” he said. “You have any other classes today?”

I checked my watch and made a face. “Yeah I have one at 2:45 and I need to get the reading done for it. But thanks for having coffee with me. It was great.”

I stood up from my chair and he followed suit, picking up his cup to toss in the nearest trash can. “Worst. Cup. Ever.” he declared as he threw it in.