She curled around the stuffed animal, weeping tears she thought would break her. Surely no human could contain this much hurt and survive. She hadn’t wanted to cry, had fought it tooth and nail; she’d tried being angry, shredding a small pillow and tearing out it’s stuffing, like an angry cat. When that had failed, when her tornado of furious emotion had left her spent, she’d laid on the bed, panting and tired.
That’s when the tears started. At first, there was just one or two, easily discounted as sweat from her angry rampage. Then, as she started thinking about what had happened, what was happening, more tears. A trickle, which stopped shortly after starting. She took a deep breath, convincing herself that it was over, and she’d survived. Being angry had worked, and she was over it.
She decided to test the wound, like a child probing a recently healed cut. After all, if she was over it, she wouldn’t have any problems looking at it, would she?
“Sarah, you know you can’t just walk into my place like this!” His big brown eyes and full lips that naturally rested in a self-satisfied smirk, combined into an expression of superior amusement at the world around him, even now, when he was breaking her apart.
“Ethan, I walk in on this, and you start blaming me? You’re having sex with her!” She gasped at the blow vocalizing what she’d walked in on gave her heart. “With Laura… Laura? My roommate, Ethan! I know that you’ve cheated in the past, but it’d always been with women I didn’t know. I could just turn the other way. But Laura?!” The woman in question paused in getting dressed, and opened her mouth, as if to say something. “Oh, don’t even. Don’t you dare even think about talking to me. We’ll have this out later, right now I’m talking to him.”
“Sarah, just calm down, okay? It’s not what it seems; it –”
“Not what it seems?” She blinked. Shook her head slightly, as if having encountered words in some foreign dialect. “It seems like you and my roommate were screwing. What else would it be?”
“Well, okay,” his tone was slightly defensive, “it was what it seems. But, you have to understand…” his voice trailed off at the flash of murder in her eyes.
“What, Ethan, do I have to understand? What exactly could you possibly say that would make this all better?”
His voice was quiet as he dropped his eyes and stared at his hands. “You have to understand, Sarah, that I don’t love you. I never did love you.” She thought she would fall, the words came as a shock. Her mouth opened slightly, striving for air that wouldn’t seem to enter her benumbed body. He looked at her, and tears were in his eyes. “All of those other women… I was trying to get you to break up with me, Sarah. I knew you’d known about them. I thought you would have enough self-respect to walk away from me.”
She let out a keening note. Words couldn’t come to her, not now. Laura spoke into the otherwise quiet room. “Ethan and I have been dating for almost as long as you two have, Sarah. We would have told you, but… well, everyone knows how you feel about him. We didn’t want to hurt you.” Sarah’s eyes locked onto Laura’s, and now anger replaced the false sympathy in Laura’s voice. “You never understood him, the way I do. You never gave him what I do. And still, with all of your fights, with all of the other women, with all of the insults, you remained. You just wouldn’t let him go. Had you done the right thing, just walked away, none of this would have happened.”
“No, Ethan, she has to hear this. Sarah, you stifle the life out of any man who’s with you. Then, when they try to break away, you tell them how much you need them. How you couldn’t live without them. How they’re the center of your world. How could any caring person walk away from that? This is your fault, Sarah. He didn’t love you, but you made him stay. Now, you’re going to blame him for trying to make himself happy? That’s just more of the same selfish Sarah-behavior.”
Sarah’s mind whirled, as she gazed at blue silken sheets she’s laid in so many lazy afternoons. Suddenly, the world seemed to go still, and the light trickling in from the shuttered windows seemed to be too bright. Asking in a calm, glassy voice, “is this true?” She wasn’t sure who she was speaking to. Wasn’t sure it even mattered.
“Sarah, you always knew that you cared about me… asked me to care about you… what I’m trying to say is… I’m sorry, Sarah. I just… I never loved you, but I wanted… needed… you to walk away from me, so that I knew you’d be okay without me.”
Her eyes refusing to meet his, she looked instead at the wooden dresser, and the pictures resting there. She’d always wondered why her picture was never placed there. She nodded, slightly, as if to herself, and murmured, “you want me to be okay. Alright then. I’ll be okay.” Then, without a word, she walked away.
That had been two hours ago, and she’d gone to the apartment she’d shared with Laura, there to destroy that small heart pillow Ethan had given her for her last birthday. And, as she poked at the aching memory, new tears welled up inside of her. These were bitter, and massive, and she thought they’d never stop. She pulled her smiling stuffed animal to her, curling around it like the ache that fisted around her heart, and prayed that she’d die before the tears drowned her.
Across town, two newly freed lovers held each other and murmured that they’d done the only thing they could, reassuring each other.
Attention Short Story Authors –
Flash Fiction Chronicles, a blog devoted to the art of short-short stories, is having their fifth annual String-of-10 Flash Fiction Contest. The basic idea: they give you ten prompt words, and you have until this Saturday (Feb. 9th) to write a very short story (250 words or less) that seamlessly incorporates at least four of the ten words. There is no cost to enter the contest, and the prizes include money, publication, t-shirts, books and other cool stuff. Each author can enter up to two stories. I entered last year, and had a total blast writing my story! It’s a great mental challenge, and a great workout for your author muscles. So, why not give it a shot?
You can find the rules, prompt words, links to past winners and all other relevant info here:
Also, for those who dig writing longer…
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I’m writing this now, today, even though I don’t plan on actually posting it for Quite Awhile. Why? Because I’m completely excited! In the immortal words of Danny Kaye “at last I can start suffering and write that symphony.” Only, in my case, it’s “that short story.” Only I’ve already been writing. Yeah, it’s exactly like that – only different.
What on earth am I talking about (because, you obviously haven’t read the title of my post?) I’m GETTING PUBLISHED!! That’s right. This little kittengirl is ON HER WAY! Recently, I submitted a short story that I had written several years back, to a project that’s being published by Bibliotheca Alexandrina – an anthology on sacred journeys. It was a story that had a voice very different than what I normally post – a (for me) very ethnic piece, that pays homage to my New Mexican upbringing. I’d written it as a response to a writing challenge, and never really thought about it since then, but as I felt that it fit the new project, I figured “what the heck – might as well try.” Apparently, they thought that it fit the project as well, as they accepted it.
My first thought, upon seeing the acceptance letter was that the project was probably a skeezy thing (self confidence? I have none.) My second thought was “do I need to get an agent now?” My third thought was “okay, so how do all of these rights things work? Obviously, I’m not going to be getting paid for this go around, but what if I wanted to get paid in the future – how does that work?” Which led right back in to the “do I need to get an agent now?” deal. My last thought was “okay, so, I’ve met my goal of getting published – do I want to continue to pursue this?”
And, that’s the question, isn’t it? I’ve always wanted to be published. Well, I’m getting published. So, technically, that means that I’ve met my goal, doesn’t it? Is it time to re-visit my life’s ambition? Is it time to make a new goal? Or… should I stop now? Going on is much scarier. It means not possible, but certain rejection. If I stop now, I don’t have to worry about that. I’ve made it. I’ve gotten published.
….but, this publication just means that someone thought that my words are worth reading. And, my friends and family – the same people who have told me over and over again that I have the talent to do this – they’re rooting me on. They think that I can do this. That I’m worth reading. So, stopping now… it somewhat feels like a betrayal to everyone who’s supported me. Someone thinks that I’m worth publishing. People think that I’m worth reading. That validates my feeling that I should be writing and should be pursuing this. So, I’m not going to go with goals, now. I’m just going to go after more.
From the other side of the Styx
Using mythological creatures as a persuasion method for selling things
Baby changing station
Rating: 4 paws
One quote from the book that I particularly cared for: “Men have feelings too, you know. You bruise the petals of my manflower.”
Summary of the book in one sentence: Beauty Queens is a wonderful story about how the Liberal Agenda triumphs over Crass Commercialism Ideals.
First paw consists of the writing style – this is the technical aspect of the book. It was a bit disconcerting, the different points of view and snippets of commercials interspersed through out the book, but I think that Bray actually handled it well, and it wasn’t so jarring that it threw me out of the book. It was definitely a departure from first person, single protagonist writing, and, to be honest, I loved the snippets. Also? she’s hilarious. At least, she feeds my sense of humor. And, as her audience, that’s really all one can ask for.
The second paw is “emotional connection” – basically, was I *interested* in what I was reading? Even while I wanted to throw something at the characters from time to time, I was emotionally connected to them. Actually, me saying that I wanted to throw something is probably a pretty good indicator that I was emotionally connected to the book. And, it’s certainly a book that, simply because of the values it’s preaching, is going to make people connect – either in a good way, or a bad. It rather depends on how one reacts to the values, and preaching.
Third paw is plot – akin to writing style, but purely about The Story. As it’s political/social commentary and satire, and it’s also very Agenda-ed writing, the plot is very predictable and easily seen through. Of course, there’s not much that one can do about that, with Agenda-ed writing. I think that the blatant humor running rampant throughout, and the highly entertaining and endearing characters more than made up for it, though.
The last paw is “Other Stuff,” which is pretty much anything that doesn’t go into another category but is still note-worthy. While I very much enjoyed the book, it also made me want to go read something that was the exact opposite, afterwards, simply to have a more balanced world view. That’s purely a “me” thing, though. Also, I read this book over a year ago, and I still remember bits and pieces of it, and would be more than happy to re-read it. I thought it highly enjoyable.
One of the things I’d read in books about conventions was the main characters being annoyed by the questions con goers would ask, like “How do you come up with your ideas?” I thought that that was a pretty silly situation, and couldn’t possibly be true to life. Until I went to my first panel, and one of the girls in the audience asked “how do you make your characters do what you want them to do?” I was flabbergasted. I felt like asking her “seriously? Did you HONESTLY just ask someone how to write? You just do it.” Of course, I didn’t say that, because that would have been incredibly bitchy of me, and I generally try to be a nice person, but I had that moment of wtf that many authors write about.
The author in question replied with “you learn how to kill your darlings.” And, that got me thinking. Now, maybe it’s because of the way I write – it’s mostly first drafts (as I need to find a crit group that will give me ways in which I revise,) and, for the most part, it’s very free form. I “simply” step out of the way of myself, and let my fingers do the work. That’s how I do it, anyway. And, maybe, because of this, I don’t really feel like I’m doing the writing. I’m half convinced that there’s some muse who’s working my fingers and keyboard and saying what I’m putting down. (Not really – I’m a fantasy writer. I get to be creative. Unless, it really is true, in which case, I owe her about ten tons of burned incense.)
In any case, while I might be incredibly proud of something I’ve written (’cause, damn, my muse can create some wonderful things,) nothing that I write, to me, is indelible. Nothing is sacred. Let it all burn! ….well, some of it. Maybe. If there’s a good reason for it. And I was presented with the changes in a gentle fashion. And if I get chocolate.
Really, I don’t think that any writer actually enjoys revising their work and editing. If they did, they’d be editors, instead of writers. (Although, as I’ve learned, many are both, and quite good at both.) But, for me, it’s the creative spark that makes me want to do what I do. It’s creating something out of the ether. I don’t want to revisit things I’ve already done, and changing them – I’ve already told that story. Let me move on to something new! But, as they say, writing is really 10% inspiration, and 90% perspiration. I’m ready to start with the work outs of revision. Show me my darlings, and I’ll show you some corpses.