Marie excused herself from the table shortly after that and went for a walk outside. It was finally cooling down a bit after the hot day, and the temperature outside was quite pleasant. Milo followed her outside, gamboling aimlessly around her legs as she walked.
The sun seemed to go down early here, possibly because the trees were impossibly tall, but the sky was still bright enough to go by. Marie headed down a side street on a whim and walked slowly, looking at all the plaster houses. There were a few styles of architecture she recognized from somewhere, and a lot she was unfamiliar with. She missed the different materials of the houses back home. God, there were certainly enough trees around to build a whole house out of wood.
Milo barked, and Marie turned her head to see what he was looking at. There was a little girl, maybe eight or nine, sitting alone on the steps of one of the houses, watching Marie from the safety of the gaudy green guardrails up the sides of the steps.
“Hello,” Marie called to her. “I didn’t know there was anyone else here.
The little girl held out her hands to Milo, who ran to her without hesitation. She was a skinny little thing, all elbows, with two long, thin braids framing her gaunt face.
“You have a dog?” she asked Marie. “You must be really rich.”
“It’s not my dog,” Marie explained. “I’m just talking him for a walk.”
The little girl nodded sagely.
“I want a dog, but Mam says we can’t have a dog because dogs cost too much money,” the little girl said. “What’s the dog’s name? Is it a girl dog or a boy dog?”
“His name is Milo,” Marie said. Milo thumped his tail enthusiastically against the ground a few tails.
“He’s funny,” the little girl replied.
“What’s your name?” she asked.
“It’s Elsy,” the child responded, absentmindedly flicking one of her long braids behind her. Marie felt a chill run through her spine. The girl did look remarkably similar to the cook Elsy – dark hair and eyes, ember skin, a dainty nose on a large face.
“And how old are you, Elsy?” Marie said, trying to keep her voice steady. She like her heart was beating out of her chest again, and she wondered almost hyserically if there were any heart doctors in the vicinity.
“I’m seven, almost,” Elsy said proudly. She stood up off the steps, still clinging to Milo. She was barely as tall Marie’s shoulder.
“Can I walk with you a little ways?” the girl asked hopefully.
“Of course,” Marie said in her most convincingly cheerful voice
It’s definitely starting to sink in exactly how many words 50,000 words is. I just hit 14,018 after banging out about 2,000 today, and apparently to stay on target I need to hit about 20,000 on Saturday, unless I want to end up doing a few 10,000 word days near the end.
Thankfully, I still have plenty of plot to get through. Surprisingly, the hardest part for me has been writing this story in order, but in a way it’s good, because I have to write through the tedious explainy bits.
Ah well. We shall see, I suppose. It is only Day 4.
Marie slid into the shower after waiting what seemed an eternity for hot water. Although the water pressure left something to be desired, there was soap like smelled like eucalyptus and something citrusy she couldn’t place. Grapefruit, maybe.
She leaned against the smooth, colorfully tiled wall and slid down to sit on the floor, picking up her right foot in her hands and pulling it close to inspect the bottom. Despite being hopelessly dirty, it was painfully blistered, and Marie caught her breath when the hot water hit her damaged skin.
“Shit!” she swore, as she gingerly began to wash off the dirt.
“Ow. Shit ow. Shit.”
It was a full hour later when she finally stepped out of the shower, scrubbed pink and flushed with warmth. Marie thoroughly inspected the clothes that Elsy, the woman in overalls, had given her and smelled them. They were clean, mercifully, and smelled almost floral.
The white linen pants were generously baggy, although lucky they had a drawstring closure, so that if Marie tied them tightly and folded them over several times, she wasn’t tripping over them. The bright blue shirt was heinously ugly, but was at least a closer match to her size. She’d saved her own underwear and bra, much to Elsy’s protests, washed them in the sink and left them to hang dry. They were still somewhat damp, but at least they were hers.
She gingerly put on a pair of too big flip-flops Elsy had leant her and emerged into a narrow hallway painted a fading, medicinal pink. The walls, like the rest of the small house, were constructed of some sort of plaster, smooth and cold to the touch. At the end of the hall, she turned through an open doorway into what apparently passed as a dining room, a sort of dark, low ceilinged affair with a small rectangular table and a mismatched assortment of chairs. The four weirdos she’d met that morning were clustered around it – Elsy, the fat one, Galen, the tall skinny guy, Hershel, the old man, and Alice, the wild woman.
“About time,” Alice grunted, taking a sip of what was evidently one of a series of drinks. Marie took the empty chair between Hershel and Elsy and inspected the meal that had been laid out for her.
“Some freshly fried chicken, a nice rice pilaf with some toasted nuts, and a little fresh fruit,” said Elsy with pride. Marie nodded her thanks, turned the plate so that the chicken was as far away as possible, and picked up what looked to be a slice of mango.
“You want a drink?” Galen asked. He had his right hand firmly gripping the handle of a pitcher of something.
“What is it?” Marie asked, suspicious.
“Red wine sangria. Freshly poisoned,” Galen said dryly.
Marie stared at him.
“Don’t mind Galen, he’s just an ass,” Alice said, shooting the tall guy a vicious glance across the table. He shrugged, poured her about a pint of sangria and slid it across the table.
She nodded her thanks and attacked another piece of fruit, realizing she was starving. Marie took a generous slug of sangria.
“This is fabulous,” she sighed, taking a second sip.
“It’s also real fucking strong, lady,” Galen replied, reaching across the table and refilling her glass.
Hershel turned to Marie and held up a small medic case.
“Alice mentioned you were running around in the forest barefoot last night,” he said. “Can I see your feet?”
“Right now?” she asked, a forkful of rice almost to her mouth.
“No time like the present,” Hershel replied firmly, and patted his knee. Marie shifted awkwardly in her chair, kicked off a sandal, and gingerly perched her foot where he indicated. He pulled out a few antibiotic pads and got to work. Marie tried her best to ignore him and continue eating, although the ointment stung.
“Not a chicken fan?” Galen asked when she pushed her plate away.
“I’m a vegetarian,” Marie explained.
The four of them stared at her.
“What the hell is a vegetarian?” Galen asked, picking up a piece of her chicken.
“Very funny,” Marie spat.
Word count – 14018
“Look, he’s right in the back of the photo in the blue shirt,” I said my finger hovering over the glass. Alissa peered over my shoulder.
“Huh,” she mused, “it totally is him. He’s probably been stalking you since graduation.”
“Lis!” I laughed, “That’s so creepy!”
“Hey, he’s your boyfriend, not mine,” she shrugged.
“Connor is not my boyfriend. We’re just dating.”
I shrugged and looked at the photo again, the one of me and Alissa at our college graduation. I’d invited Connor, the boat captain I’d had my eye on, over for dinner the previous night, and he’d pulled the picture down and recognized himself in the background.
“Why was he there, anyways?” Alissa asked, moving back over to the stove to stir her marinara sauce.
“His sister was graduating. He’s two years older then us.”
I rolled my eyes and put the picture back down, joining her in our microscopic kitchen.
We’d been living together in a ramshackle apartment exactly 57 steps away from the canal for 3 years now. The apartment was tucked away on a badly paved road facing the inlet, a street officially named Canal road, but popularly called Bird Shit Alley because of the poor level of maintenance and the flocks of geese and seagulls who liked to gather on the short strip of grass separating the street from the water.
The apartment itself was barely holding it together. The blue paint was peeling off of the splintering wood porch and the floor creaked and shuddered at the tiniest vibration, but it was home.
Right now, home smelled like spices and tomatoes and charred meat. Alissa looked over at my pan of meatballs and wordlessly handed me the tongs. I nodded and stirred.
“Wanna spoon me?” Alissa asked absentmindedly.
“I think that’s your girlfriend’s job,” I quipped, pulling out the silverware drawer and handing her a long handled spoon. She laughed and dipped the spoon into the simmering marinara, tasting it gingerly.
“Hmm,” she mused, re-dipping the spoon and holding out for me to try. I licked the tip and smacked my lips together.
“Hmm,” I said. I grabbed the salt shaker and flicked it liberally over the pot. Alissa stirred and tasted it again, giving me the thumbs up.
“Mangiamo!” she yelled.
Hey y’all! I’m really pushing to finish this story by Sunday. It’s gonna be tight.
Meanwhile, I really want to thank y’all for the MASSIVE outpouring of support I been getting during this little project of mine. I’ve gotten so many likes and views and whatnot – yesterday’s post had 90 viewers! and it’s been so excellent to feel the love!
I LOVE YOU GUYS.
I couldn’t find my damn cap among the massive sea of them littering the emptying rows of seats.
“Shit,” I said, clutching the blue and white tassle in my right hand while restricting the motion of the throng of medals and cords and paraphenalia around my neck with my left.
“Looking for this?” Alissa called, holding up my painstaking decorated PARCELL WUZ HERE cap. I smiled and snatched it from her, putting it back on at a jaunty angle.
“Thanks Barton,” I said, pulling her in for a hug.
“Anything for my roomie,” she replied, giving me an extra squeeze.
“Goodness gracious, four years already,” Penelope interrupted, pulling Alissa away from me. Penelope was Alissa’s latest conquest, a curvy thing with gauged ears and choppy pink hair.
“Would you look at that,” I replied flatly. I looked around for my parents and spotted them talking to Alissa’s mom, a perpetually cheerful woman with graying black hair and a penchant for cooking Italian food.
“Let’s get a roomie picture!” I cried, waving my parents over and throwing my arm around Alissa. Penelope scowled and backed away.
If you’re confused, start here.
The first person I told was my best friend and roommate, Alissa Barton. We lived together in a ramshackle apartment exactly 57 steps away from the canal, where we’d been living since we moved out of our parent’s houses 6 years prior. She was everything that I was not – a hiker and a biker, a carnivore, and a land lubber. She was the turf to my surf.
“Well damn, looks like Ariel finally kissed Prince Eric,” she said putting down the dish she was washing and spreading her sudsy arms wide. I stepped into them and she hugged me tight, dripping joyfully down the back of my t-shirt.
“Did I just hear wedding bells chime?” Alissa’s girlfriend, Marlene, popped her head out from Alissa’s bedroom and yelled down the hall.
“Yes ma’am,” I called back, and Alissa grinned.
“Come give the blushing bride your blessing, sweetie,” she yelled.
“One second, girls, I’m indecent,” Marlene answered. A minute later she waltzed into the kitchen wearing an oversized t-shirt and a star spangled thong.
“Sweetie, you’re still indecent,” Alissa frowned.
“Call it a preview of the bachelorette party,” Marlene laughed, planting a sloppy kiss on my cheek, then grabbing for my left hand. She gave the ring a onceover and nodded her approval.
“Congratulations, darling. Will it be a summer wedding?” she asked.
“We haven’t discussed it yet,” I replied, “ but I don’t see any reason to rush into things. I’m sure we’ll take our time, build up our funds a little, all that.”
“Knowing this one, she’d be married barefoot on the man’s fishing boat, three years from now, holding a bouquet of kelp and a live lobster. And I’ll be the maid of honor dressed in a seashell bra and nothing else,” Alissa joked.
I laughed at that.
“You’d do it for me, wouldn’t you, Lis?” I teased.
“I’d do anything for you, Sarah,” Alissa said, smiling. We made eye contact, and she didn’t look away.
“Hello, standing right here?” Marlene interjected. She grabbed Alissa’s hand and pulled her in for a kiss. I rolled my eyes.
“Really, Sarah, I’m happy for you,” Alissa added, grabbing my arm as I turned to go. Marlene released her own grip on Alissa.
I awkwardly patted Alissa’s hand with my free one.
“Thanks, Alissa,” I replied, “I’m happy for me, too.”
I turned and walked down the short hallway to my room, closing the door behind me. I could hear sounds of hushed dissent coming from the kitchen, and I sighed. First Paula, then Josephine, then Alice, and now Marlene.
I found myself subconsciously twisting the ring around and around my finger and I looked down at my hand. It was a pretty thing, carefully crafted, and it fit my finger well, but I’d always found wearing rings to be awkward. I took it off and flexed my fingers.
I just need a break, I thought. I put the ring on my dresser.
I looked at the clock. Jesus, it was 9:15. I had work in 45 minutes. I stripped off the clothes I was still wearing from the day before and ran for the shower.
Hey internet. So I just found out yesterday about Glimmer Glass’s June Open Fiction Contest, which closes on June 30th, and I decided, yesterday, to enter the contest with a story I haven’t actually written yet.
So in honor of my temporary insanity, this blog will be dedicated to the story I’m writing, working title Drift, until the 30th, because frankly I don’t have time to write a story and a blog post at the same time.
I’m just going to post sections of the thing, unedited and in random order, and when it’s done I’ll post the polished version.
Deal with it.
The day that Connor proposed was hot for May, and as we walked along the shoreline the foaming waves rubbed against our ankles like well-worn lace. The sensation was welcoming nudging the soft sand in between our toes as it came and pulling the ground away from us as it went. Connor was my anchor, calm, quiet, accepting of the pull of my hand as the water pulled at me. He always walked just above the waterline – I always had my feet in the ocean, no matter how cold.
“The tourist season will come early this year,” he remarked, as we climbed the steps to the pier. It had become a tradition of ours to picnic on the first nice weekend of the spring.
I nodded, stepping lightly down onto the floating docks right at the end of the pier. It was reserved for incoming boaters who pulled up to take lunch in the few restaurants that dotted the shoreline, and although it was a nice day, the dock was empty.
“I already have tour groups booked through June and into July. Looks like paddle boarding is finally going mainstream,” I replied.
“You don’t say?”
“I do say. I might even turn a profit this year.”
Connor chuckled, taking off his backpack and sitting down at the edge of the dock. I joined him, dangling my feet off the edge so my legs were splashed by the salt spray dashed against the hard wooden edge of the structure. My feet, already numbed by the cold, looked bleach white under the water, rippled by the currents forming around my ankles in the gentle tide. The dock rose and fell gently, and I felt Connor’s arm reach around me to brace against the movement. I snuggled into him, and we watched the seagulls wheeling in the distance.
“I do think your new Paddlebrew tour is going to be a huge hit,” Connor said to fill the silence.
“If they don’t end up getting too drunk to paddle home,” I laughed.
“Well, that’s why you’re dating a boat captain,” he joked, “I can come pick you up.”
“You’d put ten inebriated strangers on The Lochness for me?” I smirked.
“I’d do a lot of things for you,” Connor said, suddenly serious. His eyes searched for mine and I met his gaze.
“If you let me, I’ll keep doing things for you as long as I’m able to. I love you, Sarah.”
Just like that, the ring was in his hands, a flashing sapphire in a sea of diamonds perched on a thin silver band. I felt the dock underneath me buoyed up on a great wave as I inhaled.
“Oh,” I exclaimed, out of surprise. Connor raised an eyebrow.
“I mean, yes,” I exclaimed, as the dock gently floated back down, rattling against it’s metal mooring.
“Yes,” I added, although somehow the ring was already on my finger, and he was kissing me, and far above us, the wheeling seagulls were crying out.
Yes? a little voice inside me whispered as my heart started to beat faster, but the sea kept flowing beneath me, and the dock kept rising and falling, and Connor kept his arms around me until the high tide came and went.
Continued from here.
At some point the dog disappeared.
Marie wasn’t paying attention. The stream of tears and mucus and smeared mascara flowing from her face was coming too fast and too furiously to concentrate on anything other than trying to stem the waterworks. It was never ending. Marie kept trying to find the tissues in her purse, before remembering she no longer had her purse, which made her cry harder. She searched around her and found a large leaf, which she blew her nose into with a loud honking snort.
God, she hadn’t cried this hard since her former high school boyfriend had left prom with her former ex-best friend.
There was a rustling in the bushes. The dog reappeared, leaping from the long underbrush with his mottled tail held high. Marie gave a little shriek of surprise and threw her arms up over her face. It was a useless defense, because the dog managed to lick her face anyways, panting and mashing his huge head againse her chest. He seemed somewhat more exuberant than he’d been earlier, and although the light had change, Marie could have sworn he was less grey around his face.
“Milo, heel!” A gruff voice called, to which the dog immediately responded, bounding over to the side of the grizzled looking woman who had called him. She was leaning against a tree at the edge of the clearing, her tan arms crossed over her chest, which was not ample.
Marie stood up, sniffing.
“Who are you?” she managed in a thin whine.
The woman gave her a once-over, snorted, and jerked her head without speaking.
Marie gave her a long uncomprehending stare.
“Follow me, you halfwitted bimbo,” the woman finally said, “and stop sniffling. You’ll get us both shot.”