Let’s kick off the new year by getting things done sooner rather than later. (At least that’s what I’m going to start with. We all know it doesn’t always happen that way).
My new personal goals for this year are:
Read 45 books
Complete 4th novel
Write 12 short stories
Finish the Grimm Fairy Tale Cross Stitch
Finish one medium cross stitch project
Finish one larger cross stitch project
That’s all I’ve got on the list so far. I may add to or take away as the year goes. What are you up to this year?
And to keep things going in the right direction (or the write direction, wink wink) let’s start the year with a short story prompt:
When Bobby tells a joke, you’re always wondering if he’s going to take it just a little bit too far. He’s got this image of himself as outrageous and controversial, when in reality he…
Complete the Story
Unlike the last few years, I’m not going to try and connect all my stories together. I’m just going to write about whatever strikes me. I feel like I get better ideas that way that sometimes lead to longer stories (my novels, for example).
I told Eddie it didn’t hurt too badly. “Give it a couple of minutes,” he said, smiling that smile of his. Like he knows it’s going to hurt, and like he’s secretly going to enjoy it. Eddie has this habit of being by my side when times are tough. He was there when we had the great idea to get tattoos.
Five Years Ago…
“We should get the water mage emblem tattooed on us,” said Eddie as he took another drink.
“I love that idea,” I said. I punched him in the arm. “Let’s go tomorrow. It’s raining right now.”
“Good point,” said Eddie settling back on the couch.
The next day we made our appointments and met with a tattoo artist.
As I sat there getting my ink etched into my chest, Eddie was in the chair next to me getting the same stamp.
“This hurts,” he said.
“No kidding,” I answered.
“I kind of thought it wouldn’t really hurt,” said Eddie.
“It’s permanent, and they do it with needles. What part of that did you think wouldn’t hurt?” I asked.
“Seriously though, when you’re ready to call it, let me know.” He slapped me on the shoulder and made his way to the dance floor.
I just shook my head. Eddie was right about a lot of things, but not this. He did have a way of knowing when enough was enough though. Like the time we’d went to jail.
Six Years Ago…
“Can I have another?” I asked the bartender. The place was packed. Mages were perched on every stool and chair. More were lined up around the pool tables. The dance floor was covered with graduates celebrating.
It was a tradition for all graduates of The University of Mages to spend the evening getting wasted in The Four Elements, the oldest pub in London. Following the day’s ceremony, they’d all teleported discreetly to London.
The party was going strong. The drinks were being drained almost as quickly as they were being served.
Eddie and I were having a great time.
“Look what we have here, boys. The water mage sisters,” said a voice from right behind me.
I barely turned my head and looked at Eddie. We didn’t have to look to know who was calling us “sisters.” The only person who thought something like that was funny was Ben. Ben lived across the hall from us in the dorms. He was an earth mage. He was big and dumb like an ox. His favorite past time, other than being big and dumb, was picking fights with anyone who wasn’t an earth mage.
There was always a bit of rivalry between the different elements while at university, but Ben and his classmates took the rivalry to a whole other level. For them, it was all out war. They fought with any one and everyone who wasn’t an earth mage. It made the years at university very long. Eddie and I were glad they were over.
“Don’t,” I said to Eddie. “It’s not worth it.”
“You’re right,” he said.
“Look at the two twin sisters finishing each other sentences. Aren’t they so cute?” Ben said in a taunting sing songy voice.
“However,” said Eddie as he sat his cup on the counter and turned around swinging.
The fight didn’t last long. The police had been told to stand by. Not only was a graduation party at The Four Elements a tradition. About half the party-goers ending up in jail was also a tradition.
I watched Eddie dancing with all of my sisters at the same time. They thought of him as another brother. I laughed as they all joined in the chicken dance.
There was no way I was going to be dragged into that ridiculousness.
I saw Annie coming toward me through the dancers with a smile spread across her face. Okay, so maybe there was one way.
She grabbed my hand and I joined her on the dance floor. We did the chicken dance, followed by the YMCA, and ended up doing the macarena before I finally got an opportunity to steal away again.
Eddie found me standing further away from the dance floor.
“Never thought I’d see the day when you’d willingly do the chicken dance,” he said shaking his head.
“You’d be surprised what you would do for the right woman,” I said. I was watching Annie chat with relatives. She worked the room, making every one feel like they were our special guests. She really was special.
Four Years Ago…
“Move the couch to the left and tilt,” I said.
“I’m trying,” said Eddie. “There isn’t anymore left for it to go. Unless you want me to move it through the wall.”
“Please, don’t,” said a voice from behind Eddie and the couch that I couldn’t see around.
“Hey, doll,” said Eddie. “We’ll be out your way in a few moments.”
“Great. Don’t call me doll,” the voice said.
I couldn’t see her, but I could see her converse shoe tapping on the other side of the railing. She was not so patiently waiting for us to unblock the stairs.
Standing there like a couple of idiots trying to fit an oversized couch up the stairwell in front of a potential mate was enough to motivate Eddie to try harder. He pulled and hefted and the couch moved.
As I made my way onto the landing, I saw her for the first time. I gave her a half-hearted smile from over the side of the couch.
“Hi, my name’s Charles. Looks like we’re going to be neighbors,” I said as I smiled and walked with the couch.
“Annie,” she answered. “Welcome to the building.”
I didn’t see anymore of her that day.
I would get to see every day for the rest of my life after today. Eddie was wrong. This was one adventure he wouldn’t understand. I would never be done with her.
November 2021’s short story of the month (Super late)
The day was scorching hot and bone dry, the air smelled like burnt toast, and everyone’s nerves were on edge. Only Zeke was calm. He patrolled the perimeter, making jokes about women and how stupid they were.
“Hey, knock it off,” said Charles. He placed his hand over his chest pocket where he kept a picture of his fiancé, Annie. He leaned back feeling the wood of the makeshift fort they were currently waiting in. He couldn’t wait to get this over with. One month from now he would be married, and his life could begin. This silly game felt like the last of a very long to-do list he had to finish before he was finally done being a child. He was ready. Ready to grow up. Ready to start a family. Ready to start a career. His service to the Elders was complete. He was now his own mage. There were a lot of exciting career fields a water mage could go into.
The water mages were tired of waiting. The games were always like this—get there, wait, and wait some more. The Magic Elders staged one game a year between different teams. It was a way for mages all over the world to get together and meet.
This year, they had decided that each team wound be a different type of magic. This left the teams unevenly matched. Certain types of mages were more common than others. For example, there were more earth mages than water mages, and more fire mages than air mages.
As they sat in their temporary fort waiting for the start, they weren’t even sure what their objective was.
Zeke was still making jokes that were inappropriate. He clearly didn’t care who heard. He made another crack about women being dumb.
A water mage in a blue robe stood up and pushed her hood back away from her face. She crossed her arms over her chest.
“You need to stop telling those jokes.” When she said jokes, she used air quotes.
“I’m just saying,” said Zeke. “In my experience…”
“Don’t finish that sentence,” chimed in Charles.
“Why not?” asked Zeke.
Charles nodded towards the mage still standing and glaring at Zeke. “Pretty sure, she’s a princess or something. Very powerful mage.” Charles bowed slightly. “Your highness.”
She curtsied in return.
Zeke opened his mouth and then snapped it shut again. Even he wasn’t dumb enough to purposely piss off royalty.
Charles never got a chance to see how Zeke would react, and the princess never got a chance to tell him what she really thought.
There was a loud boom followed by tiny pebbles raining down on them.
“Take cover,” someone yelled.
He didn’t need to be told twice. Charles, Zeke, and the princess all dove into the tiny makeshift room. It was the only place in the fort that anything resembling a roof.
“What is happening?” asked Zeke.
The pebbles continued to rain down on their fort.
“Well, if I had to guess, I’d say the earth mages have found our fort and are attacking.” She looked outside and saw the ground covered with tiny grey rocks. They covered every square inch of the area inside the wooden fort wall.
“Shouldn’t we fight back?” asked Charles.
“Fight against what?” The princess reset her hood. “I haven’t seen any mages yet. It was just pebbles. They’re just showing off. Trying to draw us out. I say we sit tight. Let them get in closer and then we go for it.”
“Go for what?” asked Zeke. “You seem to know a bit more than the rest of us about what is going on right now. What’s our objective even?”
The princess opened her mouth, but she never answered because another mage listening in on their conversation shook his head. She shrugged. If she wasn’t supposed to tell the others, fine, she could keep a secret.
Charles saw the princess respond to the other’s look. “You both know something,” he said. “I get it. You were probably told not to tell anyone. But how is it that you know something the rest of us don’t? You’re royalty, and I’m guessing tall and silent here has some powerful family too. You guys always come to the mage games knowing more than the rest of us. I don’t even know why they invite the rest of us.”
Neither the princess nor the silent mage said anything in response.
Charles glared at them both. “You’re really not going to tell us anything?”
Both shook their heads.
“Great. That’s just great. Okay, Zeke. How do we fight someone we can’t see and fulfill a mission that we have no idea what the goal is?”
Zeke shrugged. “I say we just run out there and hit ‘em with everything we’ve got. Maybe we’ll get lucky.”
Charles stared at Zeke for several minutes trying to decide if he was being serious. Zeke just stood there blinking. He was fully serious.
“You know what. I think I would like to be done with this sooner rather than later, and if the two that have information aren’t sharing, let’s just go for it.” Charles pulled his hood up. “You and me, Zeke.”
Zeke pulled on his hood too. He nodded.
The two walked out of the little ramshackle building, walking carefully over the piles of pebbles that rolled around under their feet. They didn’t even hesitate. They pushed open the large gate and walked out of the fort.
There standing in formation for as far as their eyes could see were the other mages. The earth mages were in the center and made up the majority of the ranks. They were flanked on either side by the fire and air mages. They were all just standing there.
Two water mages versus the entirely of all the others.
“Right. Any ideas?” asked Charles.
“Only one,” said Zeke as he clapped his hands and started running right at the assembled mages.
He wasn’t casting, and he continued running straight for them.
“If you can’t beat them…” said Charles as he too ran into the armies.
In big news, I finished and published my third book!
You can buy it in print or e-book from Amazon!
The rest of my time this month has been spent trying to not cough. I’ve been sick for two weeks now. Yes, I have covid. Yes, I’m vaccinated. No, I’m not happy about it.
Anyhow… if you are here for the prompt of the month… here it is! (Sorry it’s so late this month).
I told Eddie it didn’t hurt too badly. “Give it a couple of minutes,” he said, smiling that smile of his. Like he knows it’s going to hurt, and like he’s secretly going to enjoy it. Eddie has this habit of being by my side when times are tough. He was there when…
The moon broke through the clouds, and the four of them stood there, frozen, waiting for something to happen. They were in the middle of an open field, and it was as if a spotlight had been trained on them. Suddenly, without warning a shrill scream filled the air.
Daisy, Sean, and Clarissa turned to see Mr. Smith still frozen in place.
“Run,” the teens yelled in unison.
They didn’t wait to see if he followed. They hoofed it as fast as possible for the nearest tree line, but Daisy and Clarissa knew that even the trees would be little protection against such a creature.
TWO DAYS EARLIER
“You’re not going to believe what I overheard my mom and dad talking about,” Daisy said as she plopped into a seat. The practically ancient desk chair creaked as she dropped in.
“Easy on the furniture, Daisy,” said Mr. Smith walking down an adjacent row to the front of the classroom.
“Sorry,” Daisy mumbled, yanking her bag over her head and dropping it loudly on the floor.
Mr. Smith shook his head and sighed. Daisy was one of his best students, but she moved about like a wrecking ball.
Daisy waited for their teacher to be out of hearing range before she continued.
“Anyway,” she hissed barely above a whisper. “As I was saying, you guys aren’t going to believe what I heard my parents talking about.”
“What?” asked Sean. He was still new to their friend group, and he felt like he needed to be engaged in whatever Daisy and Clarissa talked about, even if he wasn’t really interested.
Clarissa turned around to join the conversation.
“Well?” Clarissa asked. “What are you so worked up about?”
Daisy crooked her finger and motioned for her two friends to lean in. “They said there is a harpy in the woods right outside of town.” She opened her eyes wider. Her face was pasted with a mischievous grin.
“So?” asked Sean. “Why are you so excited about it?” He really didn’t get girls sometimes. What was so exciting about a harpy? Daisy and Clarissa had grown up as a part of the magical world. He’d only recently learned that he too had magic. Seeing a magical creature didn’t seem like that big of a deal to him.
“A harpy,” Daisy hissed. “Can you imagine?”
Sean poked Clarissa when Daisy turned around to put her books on her desk. He didn’t say anything but when Clarissa looked at him, he raised his hands in confusion.
Clarissa shrugged. “It’s just one of those things that Daisy likes. Think of it like a collection. She is trying to see as many magical creatures as she can. She has a notebook that she writes in all down in and keeps track of dates and stuff. She’s weird like that.”
Mr. Smith only caught a part of their conversation but when he heard Clarissa say “magical creatures,” he tried to eaves drop some more. The students stopped talking though and settled down as the rest of the class showed up.
He gave the class an assignment to keep them busy. While they worked, mostly in quiet, he made notes in his own journal. He was keeping track of every time someone in town mentioned magic or anything magic related. He’d lived in this town his whole life, but it wasn’t until Daisy started attending his classes that he’d began to notice something else was going on and no one was talking about it. No one except for a handful of random teenagers.
At first, he assumed the kids were talking about a game or show, but the more he listened, the more he understood they were talking about the real world. And then as if to confirm his suspicions, he’d started finding strange tracks in the woods. He loved hiking and had been pacing the trails around town since he was a boy.
He knew there was a magical creature in the woods. He was going to find it and learn the truth that was being kept from almost everyone. If magic was real, people had a right to know. Why shouldn’t everyone know about it?
He wrote in his log: D, C, and S mention m.c.
As soon as he started paying more attention and actively tracking the secret chatter of those around him, he’d discovered that certain people talked about magic quite frequently. They didn’t even hide it really. Most people probably assumed, like he had, that the people were talking about something fictional.
Mr. Smith was determined to prove that it was real.
NIGHT OF THE FULL MOON
“We should go hiking on that trail behind the high school,” suggested Daisy.
“What? Like, now?” asked Clarissa. “It’s dark.” She went back to painting her fingernails.
“Yes, now. I’ve read about harpies. On nights with a full moon, they go hunting. Tonight there’s a full moon,” Daisy said as she sprang to her feet and yanked her curtains open.
“I’m in,” said Sean.
Clarissa’s mouth fell open.
“Don’t look so surprised. I’m curious.” He really was. Ever since class a couple of days ago, Daisy had talked about nothing but harpies. Sean wanted to see one for himself.
Mr. Smith saw some teens walking along the tree line as he was sitting on the bumper of his jeep changing out of his hiking boots. He’d stayed later than he meant to, and it was much darker than he expected. There was a full moon, but it kept getting covered by clouds.
As he watched, he counted three distinct silhouettes. He tied his boots and followed them.
They weren’t even trying to walk quietly. The three of them were making so much noise that he was able to catch up to them and trail them without any of them noticing.
“What are you going to do if you see it?” Sean asked.
Daisy tapped the pocket on her chest. Her journal was safely tucked away inside. “I write about it,” she said wistfully.
“That’s it?” asked Sean. “I don’t get it.”
“Don’t try to make sense of Daisy,” said Clarissa. “She’s been doing this since we were kids.”
Mr. Smith couldn’t believe what he was hearing. The kids were yammering on about magical creatures as if they saw them all the time. He distinctly heard them mention fae, leprechauns, and mermaids. Were they all real? How did they manage to stay hidden?
“Stop shouting,” said Clarissa.
“Tell me what’s going on,” yelled Mr. Smith.
A look passed between Clarissa and Daisy. Daisy shook her head.
“What are you talking about Mr. Smith? We’re just hiking in the dark. We’re not looking for anything,” Clarissa said.
“I don’t believe you.” He was so mad he couldn’t speak. His ears felt like there were drums inside of them. He needed to calm down.
The teens didn’t move. They weren’t sure what was going on. They saw Mr. Smith was following them as soon as they started to cross the field. Now he was yelling about crazy things.
They didn’t stop running once they hit the trees.
“Go, go, go,” said Daisy. “Harpies will eat people.”
“What?” yelled Sean. “Why did we go looking for it then?”
“What about Mr. Smith?” asked Clarissa. She was worried they were going to get in trouble. They’d lead a human to the harpy, even if it was an accident. The Magical Elders frowned on humans knowing about the magical world.
They collapsed in a heap once they found the parking lot.
Getting to his feet, Sean pointed at Daisy. “You’re going to get us all killed. From now on, no more.” He stomped off.
“No more what?” asked Daisy.
Sean didn’t get a chance to answer. Another scream filled the air. This wasn’t the harpy. There was a distinctive human quality to it.
This is a busy month for me. I am trying to keep my blog going, edit my third book, and prep for NANOWRIMO.
Editing is going well, but I may be getting to the point where I need to send it to my editor. A fresh set of eyes might be good at this point.
Blogging is… well, you’re here, so good.
And prepping for NANO is new for me. I’m not normally a prepper, but I’m trying something new this year. I’ll keep you updated on how it goes. I’ve just started prepping today, so it’s very, very new to me.
If you’re here for the prompt for the month:
The moon broke through the clouds, and the four of them stood there, frozen, waiting for something to happen. They were in the middle of an open field, and it was as if a spotlight had been trained on them. Suddenly, without warning…
Complete the Story
I’m excited about this one! It’s October and the prompt has a moon in it! This seems like good karma to me!
After my father’s stroke, he started crying all the time. He cried about everything; sentimental commercials, pop songs on the radio, or saccharine movie endings. It was like he couldn’t stop crying. It was such a contrast to the man he’d been before that I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to interact with him.
Growing up he’d been stern, and my mother was the one who my brother and I went to when we needed comforting. The one and only time I’d seen him cry before the stroke was when his dog of fifteen years passed away. He didn’t even cry or get choked up when my wife and I announced we would be adopting a baby because we couldn’t conceive one. He’d just nodded.
The first time he broke down in the car was on the way home from the hospital. After being there for several days, I knew he was relieved to be released, but I didn’t expect him to cry. Having a stroke was terrifying. I didn’t say anything. I thought he was most likely just happy to be alive and out of the hospital.
The second time it happened later that day as we were sitting in my living room watching tv while my wife, Annie, prepared dinner in the kitchen. I was busy reading an email from my boss about the work I would need to catch up on the following week. A commercial for the Humane Society came on, and my father burst into tears. They weren’t subtle silent tears. He was balling, the crocodile tears leaving streaks on his face. His nose was snotty, and he reached for a tissue all while trying to stammer out, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”
I just shook my head. I didn’t know what to say.
Over the next week, it kept happening. On Saturday, my brother arrived at my house around lunch time. We’d decided it was better, for now at least, for Dad to stay with one of us. We would have to trade off until work slowed down for me. Flood season was always a busy time for a water mage.
My brother walked up the path to my porch. He didn’t speak but arched an eyebrow when he saw me.
“I’m guessing since you’re standing out here waiting for me, that you want to tell me something without the rest of the house hearing it.” He stuffed his hands in his pockets and rocked back and forth slowly waiting for me to speak.
“So, about Dad…” I didn’t know what to say. I felt like I was tattling on the man who’d been such a fierce figure in my life. I know my brother felt the same. “He’s been different since he got out of the hospital.”
“What do you mean?” my brother asked.
“He’s just not himself.” I still couldn’t say it out loud. It was too strange. “He keeps…”
“Come on, out with it. What could be so hard to say?” My brother was always the more impulsive of the two of us.
“It’s just that. He keeps crying.” I finally said.
“Crying?” He looked at me like I was losing my mind. “Dad? Our dad?”
“Well, he’s been through a lot.” He stopped rocking. “Our Dad?” he asked again.
“Yeah. I know. It’s weird. Everything sets him off. Tv, music, reading, you name it. I just wanted to let you know so when it happens you won’t be concerned.”
“Well, it’s too late for that, I’m concerned now. Our dad doesn’t cry.” He paused and opened his mouth like he was going to say something, but then stopped.
“Yeah, I know.” I clapped him on the back.
The next day, I was casting spell after spell working with my team to try and redirect some troubling weather formations, when I got a call from my brother. Nothing we were doing was making a difference. Sometimes mother nature had her own plans, and nothing we did could change her mind.
“Let’s take a break,” I told my team.
I called my brother back, and he picked up before it even rang once.
“Chuck,” he said, “you have to let Dad stay with you. I can’t… I just can’t handle him like this.”
“Calm down,” I replied. “It’s only been one night. It couldn’t have been that bad.”
“It was. He’s not the man I remember. I know it’s sound dumb, but I can’t be around him when he’s like this. It’s too much for me.” He paused only for a moment before he said, barely above a whisper, “It’s like he’s a broken man.”
“Don’t be that way. The doctor did say that what Dad went through might cause more changes over time, including his personality. Near death experiences change people.”
“It’s too much. Our dad doesn’t cry.”
“You can handle this. Give it a few more days at least,” I told him before hanging up.
I went back to work and finished my day, but I kept playing that conversation over and over in my head.
On the way home, it was like it was on surround sound in my head. All I could think was, “Our dad doesn’t cry.” Over and over. I didn’t know what to do with those words. I felt the same as my brother. What was wrong with us? Our dad had almost died; he was entitled to cry.
I don’t know if it was the song on the radio or what, but a tear fell slowly down my cheek. I wiped it away, but it was followed by another. What was wrong with me? Was I losing my mind too? Why was I crying? I needed to pull myself together, if only the radio would stop playing such sappy music. I jabbed at the radio knob, and the car was filled with silence and the sound of me sobbing.
I turned off at the next ramp and parked my car in a space away from prying eyes. I cried, and I cried.
When he tried to express himself with words, he could never get it right. But with his hands, he could shape things, mold things, and make things. He had discovered that gift as a young boy when he fell in love the first time.
He was only six, and despite his young age, he fell in love with Cheryl. She was his nanny, and much to his liking, she was younger than the previous ones.
She always played the games he liked, and she sang him to sleep. But the reason he fell in love with her was that she made cookies with raspberry jam on them.
He drew her pictures that she proudly displayed in the toy room. He sang her songs that she learned by heart and sang back to him.
She began working for his family in the spring, and she joined his family as they spent the summer at their beach cottage.
It was the best summer of his life. They would spend all day at the shore. Some days he swam, and others they would build elaborate sandcastles.
One afternoon in addition to himself and Cheryl, there were some young men loitering at the beach. They were loud and Cheryl seemed distracted by them. She kept smiling and looking in their direction. It never occurred to him that he was her job, and she really wanted to frolic with people her own age.
One of the beachgoers approached. He was smiling from ear to ear.
“Hi there,” the newcomer said to Cheryl.
The child watched the exchange between Cheryl and the young man with interest. How could he get Cheryl to bat her eyelashes and smile at him like that? He knew Cheryl loved him too; she had too.
Cheryl talked and flirted for several minutes with the young man. At the end of their conversation, she made plans to meet him later.
“It’s a date,” she said as her new friend walked off to rejoin his cronies.
The rest of the day the child was inconsolable. Nothing cheered him up. The lunch wasn’t the food he wanted. The sun was too hot, and the water was too cold. He wasn’t tired and didn’t want to nap. He didn’t want those stories read to him. And no, he didn’t want a song.
The next few days Cheryl was distracted and prone to daydreaming. Sometimes she didn’t even answer when he asked one of a thousand questions.
He was losing her. He knew it. He needed to do something that would impress her and win her heart back.
As the days passed, he couldn’t think of anything. What was he supposed to do? He was only six.
He sulked and fussed with Cheryl even though he wanted her to like him.
Summer started to wind down. After that first date, Cheryl sometimes took days off.
On the days she returned, the child was always at his worst. He couldn’t help it; he knew he was losing his tenuous hold on her.
He needed to do something, anything, to win her back.
One day, near the end of summer, he was made to stay near the house. The sky was an unsettling shade of grey, and the clouds were unfriendly.
He was allowed to go outside, but he had to stay in the yard. He walked in circles around the house. Cheryl sat in the back prepping vegetables for supper.
After walking around the house so many times, he was creating a path in the yard, he stopped to play in the dirt. He was not within eyesight of Cheryl. She would have stopped him. If he got dirty, he would have to be bathed before dinner.
He dug a hole about the size of a dinner plate and dug down and down until he had a nice little pile of dirt. He intended to keep digging. He was trying to get as dirty as possible. The more dirt, the more time Cheryl would have to pay attention to only him.
As he reached his hand into the hole to scoop out another handful, the texture of the earth was different. The dirt he’d already removed was a chocolate brown color with little grey pebbles throughout.
This new layer was stickier somehow and the color was lighter. He had to push harder to move it out of the hole. Once he had a handful, he held it up to examine it.
It even smelled different.
It was clay. He’d seen a pottery studio on one of their walks through the beach town. The sign in the window said the pottery was made from locally sourced clay. And he’d found some of his very own.
He scooped out more and more until he had a pile in his lap. Then he closed his eyes and pictured one of the vases he’d seen in town.
He wanted to make Cheryl a vase. She would like that. She liked flowers, and if he made a vase, she would think of him every time she put fresh flowers in it.
He moved his hands around the clay molding it the way he imagined it should look. In his mind, he was making a beautiful curvy vase.
When he opened his eyes, he was disappointed. It was still just a pile of clay.
His brow furrowed. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes again. He had to make a vase. He was desperate. The summer was almost over.
When Cheryl hadn’t seen the boy for several minutes, she walked around the yard until she saw him playing in the dirt. She didn’t want to disturb him. He looked so content.
She would have to give him a bath before dinner, but it was worth it for the few minutes he was not behaving like a brat.
She went back to prepping vegetables on the back porch. After some time had passed, and it was nearing time to take the boy in, he appeared holding the most beautiful vase she’d ever seen.
“Where did you get this?” Cheryl asked.
“I made it,” he said proudly, sticking his chest out.
July 2021’s short story of the month (better late than never).
“Clarice,” said her teacher.
“Clarissa,” she said, correcting her teacher. Names were important. For years, she’d been embarrassed about her name and wished it were something ordinary. But then something happened that changed her mind. That day was always at the forefront of her mind.
She’d almost made a fatal error. She’d almost been consumed by a dark fae. She shuddered just thinking about the fae’s claws, teeth, and foul presence.
“Clarissa,” Daisy hissed at her trying not to attract their teacher’s attention. “You’re doing that thing again.” Daisy’s brow was wrinkled, and she was a shade pinker than normal. Something was wrong with Clarissa, but she wouldn’t talk to Daisy about it.
“I’m fine,” Clarissa whispered back. She faced forward. She couldn’t afford to get detention again. Her parents would be furious.
Mr. Smith glanced in their direction. He pressed his finger to his lips but didn’t let it stop his lecture. Mr. Smith tried not to glance too frequently at the girls, but this town was getting to him.
He was starting to believe in magic, and he had a sneaking suspicion that these two girls were… well, for lack of a better word, witches. All he knew was something was going on that defied explanation, and the more he looked into the strange occurrences, the more he saw a pattern. A pattern that included the families of both Daisy and Clarissa.
As soon as he finished his lecture, he wrote the assignment on the board and reminded the class that this was independent work, no asking their neighbors for help. Some reminders he needed printed on signs he could wave around every few seconds, including “no cheating.”
The rest of the period was uneventful. Mr. Smith sat at his desk waiting for the students to turn in their assignments and leave. Clarissa lingered, waiting for everyone else to exit. Daisy hesitated at the door but decided against saying something to her friend and went to her next class.
Clarissa cleared her throat as she stood a few feet from Mr. Smith’s desk. He was gathering the assignments and trying to tidy the stack into something neat enough to stuff into a folder.
“Yes, Clarissa, what is it?” he asked.
“Please make sure to get my name right,” she blurted out and then dashed out of the room.
He just shook his head in confusion and considered it another one of those weird teen outbursts that happened from time to time.
During their lunch break, Daisy and Clarissa sat in silence eating. Daisy kept looking up at Clarissa between bites, but she didn’t know what to say. She knew something was wrong. It’d been going on since spring break. Clarissa overreacted to everything. Who cared if Mr. Smith called her the wrong name? It was no reason to draw attention to yourself. Daisy’s philosophy was to stay under the adults’ radar as much as possible.
Sean plopped down across the table from Daisy and elbowed Clarissa as he took items out of a brown bag.
“Don’t,” Clarissa said, sliding away from him a few more inches.
“Sorry,” Sean said holding his hands up in mock surrender. He raised his eyebrows and looked to Daisy.
Daisy shook her head and mouth, “No idea.” She shrugged.
“So,” Sean said trying to break the awkward tension created by Clarissa’s outburst. “Big plans this weekend?”
Daisy shook her head again. “Not really. Clarissa and I were thinking about going to the movies on Saturday. Do you want to join?” She reached across the table and stole a few of Sean’s Doritos.
Clarissa didn’t mean to snap at her friends, but ever since Mr. Smith had called her the wrong name that morning, she’d felt like a dark cloud was following her around.
She closed her eyes and wrapped her arms tightly around her body. Maybe if she counted imaginary sheep, she could calm down.
“What are you doing?” asked Daisy barely above a whisper.
Clarissa opened one eye and looked at her friends. They were both staring at her wide eyed with raised eyebrows.
“Sorry,” she said letting go of herself. “I’m…” She didn’t even know how to finish that sentence. “I’m not feeling well.” She looked down at her lap trying not to let her friends see the tears filling her eyes.
Sean slid closer to her but didn’t reach out to touch her. “Hey, we’re here for you. You can tell us. What’s wrong?”
Clarissa nodded and wiped the tears away. “Okay, but not here. Not at school. Can you guys come over today after band practice?”
Her friends nodded in unison.
Daisy and Sean arrived at Clarissa’s house together. As they were walking up the sidewalk, they couldn’t help but speculate about their friend.
“What do you think is going on with her?” asked Sean.
“I honestly have no idea,” said Daisy. “Whatever it is though, it’s nothing good. I’ve never seen her like this.”
Clarissa’s mom, who never stopped cooking or baking, handed them each a piece of pumpkin bread and a cup of tea before letting them head upstairs to find Clarissa.
Clarissa ushered them in and shut the door. She cast a spell that soundproofed the room. Daisy and Sean exchanged a look because Clarissa never used her magic unless she felt threatened.
She sat down on the floor with them and folded her legs.
“Okay. I’m going to tell you what’s been bothering me, but you can’t tell anyone. Not your parents, especially,” Clarissa said staring them down. “Swear it.”
They both nodded and said almost in unison, “We swear.”
In the back of her mind, Daisy made the promise, but she also knew that if her friend was really in danger, she would break that promise.
Clarissa swallowed and began her story. “I know you won’t believe it. I still can’t believe it sometimes. Even though I have waking nightmares and see it everywhere I look, I can’t believe I…”