Real Life

December 2020’s short story of the month

As a kid I’d spend almost all of my allowance money on going to the movies. I’d go see a double feature on a Saturday afternoon and emerge from the dark theater into the blinding sunlight, and it seemed like it was the “real” world that was made up and fake. I’d walk home and invent stories about the people in town, like Mr. Roberts, our mailman, who was clearly an evil villain and secretly a vampire.

I wanted desperately for magic to be real and for it to triumph over some unknown emerging power. I wanted to travel to space or find out that I was actually a member of some distant royal family. They’d just misplaced me at birth. The movies were better than the small town I lived in. Everyone was better looking, and even though the obstacles the characters faced were earth-shattering, they always overcame them in the nick of time.

I wanted there to be something more. I didn’t care if it involved danger. I just wanted something to happen. Nothing ever happened here. No one ever murdered anyone because of a tragic love triangle. No criminals set up shop in town. There were no traffickers or smugglers. There wasn’t even a village idiot. I lived in the most boring town in the whole world. The biggest thing that happened this year was the town council voted to put in a stop light. We didn’t even need a stop light. They just wanted to feel “fancy.”

Someone needed to tell them that having a stop light wasn’t fancy. It was needed to control the flow of traffic and prevent accidents. We didn’t even have accidents here, not bad ones anyway.

Our newspaper was filled with pictures of school age children posing with participation trophies alongside the most recent winners of whatever the local charities were raffling off.

Instead of escaping to the movies this Saturday, I was standing on main street like the rest of the town, waiting for the tape cutting ceremony for the new traffic light. As I stood there next to my parents and sister, I scanned the crowd. I knew everyone. I saw all of my class mates. They all looked about as thrilled as I was to be idling along the street for something that I didn’t care about.

As I crowd watched, my eye landed on three girls who attended my school. The oldest was in my grade; her name was Mary. Her younger sisters, Angela and Tilly, were her only friends. They were an odd family. In fact, the more I thought about it, if there was a secret in town, it had to be something relating to their family. They were just slightly off, even for this town.

They kept to themselves, almost exclusively. I couldn’t put my finger on what was out of place about them, but they were an odd bunch. I’d bumped into them once at the movies; they were there with a boy close to their age and a woman I didn’t recognize. It was literally the only time I’d seen them go to the movies. That was fairly odd. It was one of the only things to do around town, and the sisters had only been once in their whole lives.

What did they do all the time? What were they hiding? Their parents weren’t friends with anyone either. They were always polite to everyone, but they weren’t a part of the community in any real way.

I watched the sisters as they looked bored just like the rest of the kids standing around. There was a loud boom as a cannon was fired at town hall. It was followed by the sound of the marching band beginning the parade.

They were actually having a parade for the inauguration of a traffic light. This town was so lame. The parents of the sisters were watching everything with fascination. None of the other parents were that enamored with the situation, but their parents watched everything with a sense of awe and wonder.

The sisters realizing their parents were distracted, used the opportunity to sneak away. I looked up at my own parents. They were carrying on a conversation with the family next to them. I also made a break for it.

I took a few steps away from my family and then checked to see if anyone noticed my movement. Everyone was distracted. I wove my way through the people and got behind the crowd. The longer I was moving, the more everyone pressed forward to watch the parade. I quickly found myself near where the sisters had been standing.

I moved behind the crowd again and searched for them. I didn’t see them anywhere, but there was an alley between the barber shop and the antique store. I dashed towards it but stopped short of turning the corner. Instead, I peaked around. I saw them casually walking arm in arm away from the parade. They turned behind the buildings. I tucked my hands in my pockets and strolled through the alley following in their footsteps. I didn’t want to run because I might draw unwanted attention, but I wanted to know what they were doing.

As I came around the building, I slowed and tried to peak around the corner. I saw them running off towards the park. They were giggling and laughing so I ran after knowing they wouldn’t hear me.

Once they crossed onto the green grass of the park, they all ran straight for the playground. I ran until I was in the park, but made for the trees so I could watch them.

They were just being normal kids. They were climbing and running and sliding. They laughed loudly and freely. I’d never seen them at the playground before. It occurred to me that this was something their family didn’t do very often.

After they’d ran around for several minutes, they made their way to the swings. They each took their own and where swinging back and forth in no time.

I felt like a fool. I’d chased after them hoping to learn their secret but they didn’t have any secret. Other than having an overprotective family. They were just kids.

I was about to leave and return before my family came looking for me. I watched them.

Mary jumped from the swing when it was at its highest point. She didn’t fall clumsily to the ground and land with a thud; instead, she went higher and higher and then gently glided down touching the ground almost gently.

I shook my head. How did she do that?

And then her sisters did it too. They moved in a way that didn’t make sense. How did they float? They should have fallen like every other kid on the swings.

Once they were all back on the ground, they joined hands and spun in a circle chanting a nursey rhyme.

I sat down against the tree. What had I just seen? It didn’t make sense.

I turned to spy on them again, but they were gone. I scanned around but didn’t see them. I walked back towards the noise of the parade. I could hear someone on a glitching mic discussing the momentous occasion.

I felt like I’d just left the movie theater. Nothing felt real. The real world was fake. The sisters were real. I knew it down to my bones.

New Friend

October 2020’s short story of the month

She was the new girl. The one who sat in the cafeteria at lunch alone. Maybe she was from the next state over. Maybe she was from another country. I wanted to know everything about her: her mother’s name, her favorite movie, if she had brothers, sisters, what she ate for breakfast—in other words, everything.

In my ten years going to this school, we’d never had a new person. No one ever moved to this town. They moved away and never came back. Well, there was that one family, but they were weird, even for this town.

If I wanted to make friends, I needed to move fast. Every kid in the school would be chomping at the bit to get to know her, my sisters included. My family was well liked in town and my younger sisters were considered popular, but everyone, including my family, considered me an odd duck. If I wanted a chance at a new friend, I needed to make my move now.

She’d already been here for a week, and every day she sat in the cafeteria alone. No one had invited her to sit with them. See how weird we all were. We didn’t even have the decency to invite a newcomer to share a meal.

I got up from my seat and grabbed my tray. I walked slowly over to where she was sitting. I didn’t want to move too fast and draw attention. If the others knew what I was up to, they might suddenly become interested. I also didn’t want to run up to her and seem like a lonely weirdo.

When I got to her table, I stopped and waited standing across from her. She slowly looked up at me. She didn’t say anything. I guess I was going to have to break the ice.

“Mind if I sit here?” I asked, indicating the seat across from her.

She shook her head causing her messy up-do to slip a little. Several pieces of hair fell out of her tie and brushed her shoulders.

“My name is Mary,” I said, hoping it would prompt her to talk, but she just sat there. She stared at me for a while then went back to eating her sack lunch. It looked like a ham and cheese sandwich, and she was piling the crust directly on the table and only eating the middle.

I wasn’t going to let her shyness prevent me from making a friend. I needed a friend. In this small town, you didn’t get many chances to make them, and this late in high school, it was almost unthinkable to gain anyone into your social circle.

“So…you like it here so far?” I asked.

She just shrugged.

“Yeah, that’s how I feel too, and I’ve lived here my whole life.” I wasn’t giving up.

She finished shredding her sandwhich and reached into her bag for something else. She pulled out a juice box and inserted the straw. She drank it until it slurped loudly and then flattened it on the table and put it back in the bag.

Meanwhile, I was taking small bites of what our cafeteria considered spaghetti and trying to think of something else to say.

“Do you like your classes?” I asked. She just shrugged again. “I haven’t seen you in any of mine.” I waited, hoping it would prompt her to say something about her teachers. I was determined to get something out of her. “I have English right after lunch. What about you?”

She shook her head.

That didn’t really answer my question. “Well…” I was running out of ideas. I looked up at the clock and saw that lunch was almost over. “I’ll see you tomorrow,” I said gathering my tray and heading to my locker.

**********

The next day I went straight to her table. This time I didn’t say anything. She had a sack lunch again, and I had what the cafeteria considered a hamburger. There were large chunks of orange in it, which were obviously carrots. They weren’t subtle about hiding vegetables in the food.

She ate her sandwhich just like she had the day before. She pulled the crusts off and dropped them on the table. Then, she pulled her jucice box out and emptied it then proceeded to flatten it. She finished by putting all of it back in her sack to be thrown out. Then she just sat there watching me eat.

I didn’t speak. I thought maybe if I just sat there smiling, she might be tempted to say something. She didn’t. We ate in silence, and just before the bell, I left and went to English.

*********

The next day I decided on yet a third tactic for getting her to talk. When I sat down with my chef’s salad from the cafeteria, and she opened her sandwich, I just started talking. I didn’t wait for her to answer this time. If she couldn’t be bothered to speak, or was too shy, I was still going to make her my friend.

“I’ve lived here my whole life. I have two sisters. You might have met them. I’m nothing like them. They are kind of popular, and I’m more like you,” I paused realizing she might have taken what I’d just said as an insult, but she didn’t say anything or even react. I kept talking. I told her about my parents and my grandparents. I told her about what I liked to eat, when I wasn’t at school. I told her about my favorite movie, and retold it scene for scene. Just before the bell, I cleared my tray and went to English.

As I sat down in English, Tracie tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around to see what she wanted. She rarely spoke to me because she was part of the more popular crowd.

“Yes?” I asked.

“Why do you keep sitting alone at the first table and talking to yourself during lunch?” she asked.

“What are you talking? I’ve been sitting with the new girl.” I thought maybe they hadn’t seen her. But she had sat alone for a week before I’d joined her.

“There is no new girl,” Tracie just stared at me.

I turned around but all through class I sat there wondering if she was just messing with me. At the end of the day, I went to the office. I knew how I could learn the new girl’s name. I asked the secretary but she told me there hadn’t been any new students this school year.

********

The next day at lunch, I sat with the new girl again. I didn’t speak this time. I just watched her as we ate. She watched me back. I didn’t smile at her this time. When I stood up to go to English, she winked at me.

October’s Short Story Prompt

I swear September was yesterday… This month is flying by for me.

It might have something to do with the fact that I spent all last week in pain and finally went to see a doctor yesterday. He thinks I hurt my rotator cuff. I was folding laundry and BAM, instant pain that has not gone away. Who gets hurt folding laundry? Seriously. This is a sign of two things. One, I’m getting old. Two, folding laundry is dumb.

Anyway, I am working on getting things done now that I have real pain meds on board. So, here is the prompt for October’s short story of the month:

She was the new girl. The one who sat in the cafeteria at lunch alone. Maybe she was from the next state over. Maybe she was from another country. I wanted to know everything about her: her mother’s name, her favorite movie, if she had brothers, sisters, what she…

Hope everyone is having a better month than me! Happy reading and writing this month!

Trouble, Trouble, Trouble

September 2020’s short story of the month

She kept pacing the living room, back and forth, back and forth, not saying a word. It would have been easier if she had just come out and told us how disappointed she was, announced our punishment, and sent us to our rooms. But she wanted us to apologize, or explain, or something.

Finally, I couldn’t stand the silence any longer and I slammed my fists on the table. “It’s not fair,” I said with all the righteous indignation a ten-year-old could muster. “It wasn’t my fault. It was her idea,” I added, pointing at my sister Angela.

“No way,” Angela said, shaking her head back and forth. “It was her fault,” she added, pointing down the couch to our youngest sister Tilly. (Her name was actually Matilda, but she hated that name).

Tilly stuck her hands in her armpits and also shook her head. “Nope. No way,” she said.

I knew what was going to happen. I was going to get blamed. I was the oldest; I always got blamed. Dad jokingly would call me a ring leader, but not this time, it wasn’t even my idea.

********

Earlier that day

It wasn’t looking good. It was raining, and our aunts were visiting, which means we were stuck inside with our boring cousin Malcom. Malcom was the biggest tattle tell in all of creation. We could never do anything fun with him around.

So far, we couldn’t get him to leave us alone. He followed us like a puppy, except he was a stinky whiney annoying puppy.

“Why don’t you stay here in the library with Malcom?” I whispered to Tilly. “You guys can read books and color and baby… I mean, maybe, you’ll have fun.” I was trying to convince Tilly to give up her day so at least Angela and I could have fun. She wasn’t falling for it.

“No way,” she said, shaking her head. “I want to go with you two.” She crossed her arms and planted her feet. There was no way I was changing her mind.

“What about you Angela?” I looked at her pleadingly.

“No.” Angela shook her head and had the same stubborn look that our mother always did when we weren’t going to change her mind. “Why don’t you hang out with him, and Tilly and I will go off to play in our room?”

“No way,” I said. “He’s a baby.”

“That’s why we don’t want to play with him either,” said Angela.

Malcom was younger than any of us. He wasn’t actually a baby, but he was a snitch. We could never use our magic when he was around. He always told our mother. And the day was wasting away. We rarely got a whole day without our mother supervising us, and spending our free day with Malcom was unbearable. And that’s when I got a wonderful idea.

“What if we make it so that he can’t leave this room?” I asked.

“What?” asked Tilly and Angela at the same time.

“We magic the room. We can lock the doors. Or freeze him. Or stick him to the floor. There are lots of ways we can do it.” I smiled from ear to ear. I was so proud that I’d thought of a way around our cousin problem.

My sisters, however, didn’t look happy. They both had furrowed brows and were looking at me like I was crazy.

“We can’t use magic on him,” said Tilly.

“We could get in trouble by the council,” added Angela. “It’s forbidden to use magic on other casters without being licensed.” She shook her head.

They were right. We would get in more trouble than we could handle if we magicked our cousin.

“Okay. Do you two have any better ideas then?” I asked them. I started tapping my foot impatiently. We really were wasting our whole day with this.

“What if we just tell him he has to stay here?” said Angela.

“He won’t listen to us,” I said.

“We can say his mother said he has to stay here,” added Angela.

It wasn’t a horrible plan, but it might not work. We had to do something though.

“Okay. Here’s what we’re going to do.” I leaned in and lowered my voice so they would move closer. We were in this together. “I’ll tell him, and then we leave quietly. No bolting. He’ll suspect. Once we are out of the room and down the hall, we’ll make our way to the foyer and then we’ll run to our room and lock the door.” I paused hoping they were taking it all in. “And, if he comes knocking, we don’t answer.”

They nodded in agreement.

Within five minutes, we were in our room with the door locked. We went straight to work building the best rainy-day fort out of every blanket and sheet we could find. We used magic to make them float exactly where we wanted them. We spent the rest of the afternoon in that fort casting light spells. We each would summon a tiny ball of light no bigger than a firefly and send it floating throughout the enclosed space. By the time our mother caught us several hours later, the blanket tent was filled with twinkling orbs bouncing off the fabric and our noses. We were lost in fits of giggles and happiness, and we didn’t notice when our door opened and our mother’s shoes clacked on the wood floor.

And that brings us back to the living room. Our mother and her sisters finished their luncheon and discovered Malcolm climbing a book shelf in the library with no one watching him, and incidentally, my mother had tasked me with his care earlier in the day.

Our mother stopped pacing. She turned slowly to face all three of us.

“You’re all in trouble. It doesn’t matter whose idea it was. It doesn’t matter who said what. It doesn’t matter who locked the door.” Her voice was getting louder and higher the longer she listed things.

She looked in my direction and said, “I expected better from all of you.”

She clearly meant me. I sunk further into the chair.

“Malcom is family. We treat our family better.” She resumed glaring at each of us in turn.

September 2020 Prompt

I have been working on my novel again, and it’s on track to release later this year!

I’m still working on my short story of the month though, and I managed to get caught back up to where I should be at this point in the year. (It’s all coming together).

Here is the prompt I am using for September’s story:

She kept pacing the living room, back and forth, back and forth, not saying a word. It would have been easier if she had just come out and told us how disappointed she was, announced our punishment, and sent us to our rooms. But she wanted us to apologize, or explain, or something. Finally, I couldn’t stand the silence any longer and I…

Complete the Story

If you haven’t been following me that long, let me explain how the short story of the month works on my blog. Generally, I post a prompt, and then, by the end of the month, I post a story using that prompt. However, this year I’ve added some additional challenges to push myself. The story needs to be at least 1000 words, and the stories are all taking place in the same “world.”

In fact, so far, the stories are all taking place within the same family, over several generations. The family is magical, and despite that, they have normal family drama, just like the rest of us.

If you want to write a story using the prompt, please do!

Happy writing and reading this month!

Title Reveal

For those of you who read the first book… book two is almost done… it’s time for the big title reveal!

Black Market Unicorns will be available soon in paperback, e-book, and on Kindle unlimited!

Tell your friends!

Happy reading and writing everyone!

Love Letters

June 2020’s short story of the month

After the funeral, I spent the next few days in the attic, reading the letters my mother had written him in the years before they were married. He had never been the sentimental type, so I was surprised to find a whole box of them, carefully bundled. Holding on to something that served no practical purpose was completely out of character for my father.

Even more surprising was how many times my mother wrote to my father about not wanting to go through with their marriage. At first, I felt like I shouldn’t be reading them. They were very personal and not written to me. My curiosity got the better of me though. They were from a time before I was alive, before I was even a thought. They were proof that my parents, with their seemingly perfect life, had personal struggles just like the rest of us. The letters made me see them both in a new light.

The bundles only contained the letters from my mother so I had no idea what he’d written in return, but he must have said something convincing because they’d been married for over 50 years when my mother had passed last year.

I read them slowly and got lost in trying to piece together what must have been going through both their minds back then. By the time I gathered the letters and took them and a few other items out to my car, I was struggling with my mother’s reaction to her arrange married.

Even in this day and age, magic users are paired up and their families arrange their marriage. The idea is to keep the magic genetics strong. One of my own daughters was challenging the traditional way we did things and refusing to get married. She’d already declined three arrangements. Our family was from a long line of powerful users, and when my daughters were finally ready to wed, they’d had multiple offers. We allowed our daughters to meet and choose from the offers, which was fairly progressive of us, but it wasn’t enough for my oldest.

I put the small box of things in my trunk and paused before I got into the car. I gazed at my parent’s house. My two sisters would go through the house later in the week and then we could put it on the market. Soon it would belong to someone else, hopefully another family would thrive in it’s walls. It felt strange to be parentless, even though I was already a grandmother myself. One of my daughters had a baby a few months ago, and the youngest was pregnant, though she hasn’t “announced” it yet.

My oldest daughter, the strongest user in the family, she would probably never have children — or get married. It was such a waste. She’d definitely inherited her father’s power more than the other girls. To think it might end with her was weighing heavily on me lately.

As I drove home in the afternoon light with the wind blowing through the windows, I couldn’t help but think of my mother’s letters again.

My daughter could never see them. It would only further strengthen her campaign to prove that marriage wasn’t necessary. I needed to destroy them. They may have been precious to my father, but they would only lead to more drama if she discovered them.

I waited until my husband fell asleep in his recliner reading a dusty old book. I gathered the bundled letters and made my way to the kitchen. Throughout the evening as I’d absentmindedly cooked dinner and tidied things, I came to a decision about the letters.

I wasn’t just going to destroy them. I was going to use them in a spell.

In the pantry, I gathered the ingredients I would need – rose petals, lavender, and something to bind them… something strong… dark molasses.

My daughter would be furious with me if she knew what I was about to do. I’d raised my daughters to never use magic when they could do something for themselves. And I taught them to never, under any circumstances, try to raise the dead or make people fall in love. Both magics never worked out the way people wanted them to.

I boiled the rose petals, lavender, and honey in water from a mineral spring. I let it boil down some and then placed the letters in the pot so they were submerged in the liquid.

I took a deep breath and cast my spell. I wanted my daughter to fall in love and the love would be unbreakable, no matter what trials came their way.

When I was finished, I opened my eyes and there was a flash of magenta flames from the pot. I watched as the spell rose up and was caught by a breeze coming in the open window.

It was done. I looked into the pot and all that remained were ashes. I tidied up so that there was no evidence that I’d been working a spell. As I was putting the pot back in the cabinet, I was startled by someone clearing their throat in the kitchen.

I stood up and my husband was standing there smiling at me.

“I think it’s time for bed, my love,” he looked around the kitchen thoughtfully. I could have sworn I heard him breath in deeply as he walked out.

I wondered if he suspected something. I didn’t often cast spells with out discussing it with him. He was a much stronger caster than I, but mostly we were just used to discussing everything with one another. After a lifetime of marriage, there wasn’t much we didn’t know about each other. That’s what I wanted for my daughter.

As I closed the window, I looked out at the night sky and hoped that the spell would work. I should have known better though. The truth about love spells is that they are often cast out of desperation and that fear and anxiety get mixed with the hope and longing causing the spell to twist and distort.

Lesson Learned

April 2020’s short story of the month

It was different, writing on a typewriter; the clatter and noise, the resistance of the old keys forcing her to really put effort into each letter. She imagined she was writing the next best-selling novel. This momentarily distracted her from the reality of what she was really doing – writing a history paper that was all ready past due.

Meredith, who preferred to be called Mary, stopped for a moment and looked at the neat rows of black letters on the new white paper. She smiled to herself, but it quickly faded. She didn’t want her mother to know that she was actually enjoying this.

Her mother was making her write the paper the “old-fashioned” way to teach her a lesson. Mary was forbidden to use magic in any way to help. Not to mince words, but she was being punished, and rightly so.

Mary had put off the assignment until the last minute and then tried to conjure a finished project. Her spellcraft needed work though. Much like her normal school work, Mary had a bad habit of not practicing her spells like she was told to.

Making her type the paper on an old typewriter without magic to aid her was her mother’s idea of teaching her that just because you could use magic didn’t mean you should. Mary tried to point out that if her mother had let her turn in the original magicked paper, at least she might have gotten a passing grade, but because she failed to turn in anything, she received a zero. And to top it off, she would now be taking history during summer school. Her mother was still making her write the paper even though her teacher said at this point it wouldn’t matter one way or another.

Mary spent the rest of the afternoon flipping through her history textbook and various old books she’d pulled from the family library. She worked diligently at the kitchen table until her mother told her to take a break so they could set the table for dinner.

Promptly following dinner, Mary pulled out the heavy typewriter again and got back to work. She was still typing away after her mother tucked both her sisters into bed.

Mary heard her mother enter the kitchen but didn’t look up. She was in the zone and didn’t want to lose her train of thought. Her mother sat down across the table from her but didn’t speak.

Finally, Mary got to the end of a paragraph about a particularly gruesome battle. Mary was discovering that writing about history could be entertaining. She wondered how so many humans could go about their lives not realizing that magic was real, especially after they read about wars and famines and other horrific catastrophic events.

“You can’t turn this in to your history teacher,” her mother said while skimming through the pages stacked neatly on the table.

“Why not?” Mary asked.

Her mother had to suppress a smile. “Mary, be serious. You cannot write a paper about how magic was used during the civil war and then hand it in to your normal school teacher.”

“Why not?” Mary countered with all the smugness of a rebellious teen who didn’t care what the world thought. “It might do Mr. Hunt some good to read some real history for a change.”

Her mother just shook her head. “Dear, remember something I’ve told you over and over again. Humans believe their own version of the truth.” She paused and smirked as she read about how witches placed curses on cannonballs and muskets. “This is the world we live in. We keep our secrets for our safety and for theirs.”

Mary was sitting back now with her arms crossed firmly over her chest. This was not the first time the battle line was drawn between mother and daughter, and it wouldn’t be the last.

“Maybe it’s time we stop keeping secrets.” Mary didn’t want to say something else, but she couldn’t help herself. “Maybe it’s time we stop being scared.”

Her mother just shook her head. “We’ve been over this. If humans knew we had magic, bad things would happen to our kind. Very bad things.”

“You say that, but the world is changing, it’s 1990. This isn’t the middle ages. We have power, and we basically can’t use it. Think of the good we could do for this world if we stopped hiding.”

“Enough.” Her mother stood and slammed both hands on the table at the same time. “If you want to know why we live the way we do, you are looking in the wrong history books.” Her mother worked a spell and the table was covered with books open to horrific drawings and paintings.

Each one depicted a scene from various times in history when witches were persecuted. There were women being burned alive and others being held under water by men laughing. The truth was that most of the women who died during witch hunts weren’t even true witches. Real witches were better at hiding their powers, but they had stood by and saw what would happen to them if people knew the truth.

The books open before Mary were handmade books that had been passed down in her family. One of her ancestors had been at each of these terrible events. They had witnessed the cruelty of living with no secrets.

Her mother picked up the history paper Mary had spent all day on and with a deliberate snap, the papers turned to ash.

Adventure

March 2020 Short Story of the Month

To call him stubborn would be polite. Not that politeness mattered to him. Malcolm would probably describe himself as principled. Those closest to him would probably use different words, like jack ass. He never broke the rules. He made the rest of us uncomfortable. We never asked him to tag along when we were going to use magic because he was worse than having our parents around. He NEVER allowed us to use magic within a five-mile radius of a non-magic user, and when we did, he would purse his lips and tap his foot. Then the second we got home, he ratted us out. He was my least favorite cousin.

This summer his family had spent an inordinate amount of time with us. Something was going on – something the adults didn’t want us to know about. As much as my sisters and I had tried to discover what the meetings were about, Malcom had thwarted us at every attempt. The grown ups must have told him to keep an eye on us.  

Today though, we had a plan. Two of us were going to take him on an adventure. The other would pretend to not feel well, and then after the others were out of the house, the “sick” one would be free to nose around and find out what the grown ups were up to.

The problem, however, is that we all wanted to be the one to stay home.

“I’m the best at sneaking,” said my youngest sister.

“Mom is more likely to believe me,” said our middle sister.

I looked at both of them and realized quickly I would need to pull rank because time was running out and the two of them could argue like this for ages.

“I’m the oldest,” I said. “And I’m staying. You two find a way to keep Malcolm busy for as long as possible.”

Their collective groans didn’t stop me. I returned to my room and got back into bed.

Not long after that I heard feet running down the hall and then one door opened. I heard the murmur of their voices. My sisters and Malcolm were talking. Then the door opened again and they came to my room where I lay with the blanket pulled up to my chin.

I peaked at them through squinted eyes. “Turn the light off,” I said barely above a whisper. “My head hurts. The light.” My voice trailed off as if I didn’t have the will to finish.

Malcolm took a step nearer but my sisters stayed behind. Even with my eyes barely open, I saw one of them roll her eyes.

“You’re not coming with us?” Malcolm asked.

I grunted. “Not today.”

I saw him doing some mental calculations. He was definitely meant to spy on us. How could our parents put him up to something like that?

“It’s okay,” my youngest sister said. “Come on Malcolm. We’ll tell her all about our fun later. Wait till you see where we’re going.” She was doing her best to sound enthusiastic, and she elbowed my other sister to chime in.

“Yep,” the other said. “It’s going to be super fun.”

If there was ever a contest for vaguest description, my sisters were winning it.

“Maybe I should stay here,” suggested Malcolm. “Your sister might need someone to entertain her and bring her drinks.”

“No,” I said a little too loudly. I fell back and shut my eyes acting like the sound of my own voice hurt me. “It’s just a headache. I’ll be fine alone.”

“It’s related to her woman time,” said my youngest sister.

Malcolm went white. “Okay, then. Let’s go.”

After they left I rolled my eyes. I don’t know how my youngest sister knew that would work, but it did. She was quick.

I didn’t get out of bed immediately. I let the house settle. I heard other people moving about downstairs but everything was muffled.

Then I felt it. The house went absolutely silent. Our house was in the country; it was never this quiet. You could always hear animal sounds outside, and my parents had several windchimes along the porch beams. I couldn’t hear any of them. The house itself often creaked, even during the day, but not right now. Everything was still.

One of the grown ups had cast a spell. Maybe they didn’t know I was still here, but I was definitely inside the bubble. I would need to move about without making any noise. They were sure to hear even the tiniest of noise with everything else hushed.

I turned on the bed and placed my feet on the floor one at a time. I didn’t stand up but let my weight gradually slide that way. As soon as I was standing, I wanted to run down the hall and slide down the banister and get to the kitchen as quickly as possible, but I didn’t want to risk it.

The only way I could think to get down there without them noticing me was to use magic. My mother would be furious if she knew, and luckily Malcolm wasn’t around to rat me out. I cast a flying spell on myself. I wasn’t great at them. My spells didn’t last long, but I had pretty good control over my movements.

I flew out my room slowly and looked around the hall. No one was around and I didn’t hear any movement in the house to indicate someone had felt my spell being cast. My sisters and I were always casting small things around the house, so hopefully I could continue to go unnoticed.

I floated down the hall past empty rooms and headed for the stairs. At the landing, I did another quick search to sense if my movements were being noticed – nothing seemed amiss.

Uneventfully I made my way down the stairs and through the foyer. I was floating outside the kitchen door when my spell began to waver. I tried to recast but I didn’t work it out in time. I fell flat on my face just outside the door and smacked my face into the kitchen door that was being held firmly closed.

It took about two seconds for the door to open. My mother was on the other side. She didn’t even say anything; she just pointed toward the front of the house. My charade was at an end.

I went outside to join my sisters and Malcolm. I sat on the front porch and waited for them to return. Hopefully their adventure was more exciting than mine.

Turkey Dinner Stalemate

January 2020 Short Story of the Month

Present Day…

I stopped for a breath before cutting the turkey. I wanted to appreciate the moment. Seeing everyone there, sitting around the table, almost felt like we were a family again. But if we had been a real family, my decision wouldn’t have caused a war. I knew standing against generations would be challenging, but I thought my own family would understand. They didn’t have to agree with me, but they didn’t have to openly fight me either.

This dinner was a weird momentary truce in a cold war that I started by refusing to marry Phillip.

********

Two Years Ago…

I looked around the parking lot and saw my siblings’ cars already parked. I was the last to arrive – like usual. I slammed the door and anticipated all the grief I was about to get.

I glanced up as I walked. The sign over the diner had three letters out and two more were flickering. Why didn’t my mother just fix them? Sometimes I didn’t understand her.

All she had to do was blink and the lights would be working again. Did she think the broken ones added character? That would be just like her.

Just because I could, and no one was around, I made one of the broken ones come back on. My family hated when I used magic out in the open. They were terrified someone would see me. I didn’t care. Early on I realized that even when confronted with the truth of magic, most people refused to believe it was real. Their brains couldn’t handle it, so they ignored it.

I sighed audibly. I was dreading this meeting. My mother had said there was “big news.” I had a pretty good idea what it was about. Why couldn’t this wait till after Thanksgiving? It was only a few days away. The whole family would be gathered – it was one of our more pleasant traditions.

Maybe the rest of the family already knew and I was the last to know. That would be par for the course with my parents.

Opening the door, a bell tinkled over my head. Every person at the counter turned and looked in my direction. Every person was also a member of my family. My parents were both behind the counter. Both of my sisters and their husbands were sitting at the counter with coffee and pie. No one was eating their pie.

My mother pursed her lips as I approached. I sat on the only empty bar stool between my two sisters. They were both younger than me, but they often acted like I was younger than them because I was “less of an adult.” I was in my thirties, unmarried and without children. I was also guilty of not “settling down” – an apparently unforgivable sin among my family. They all lived here in town, but I liked to travel and moved almost as soon as I was done unpacking my last box every time.

It always surprised me how magic users were some of the most conservative backward fuddy-duddies.

My mother placed a piece of pie and a cup in front of me. My dad filled it with coffee and winked at me. I couldn’t help it; I grinned at him.

“Now, you two don’t start,” my mother said.

My dad turned his back and put the urn back on the warmer. I smiled as I added sugar and lots of creamer to my cup.

My mother didn’t waste any time.

She cleared her throat. “I’ve asked you all here because your father and I have an announcement to make.” She paused, and they held hands to show their solidarity.

“That’s right,” my dad added. “Big news.” He was grinning so big it stretched his mouth too far over his teeth. I didn’t like it when people smiled like that. They looked manic.

My sisters kept peeking at me in a not very subtle way. I whispered to them, “I can see you, you know.” They both sat up a little straighter.

My mother was intermittingly frowning and then forcing herself to smile. Whatever she was about to say, she didn’t want to.

“A match has been made,” she said looking directly in my eyes.

“No,” I said. I honestly wasn’t surprised. My family seemed to be under the impression that I just didn’t know how to look for a husband. What they failed to understand is that I didn’t want to find one.

Amongst magic users, one of the steadfast unwritten rules was that magic users married other magic users. By marrying and breeding together, magical lines became stronger. I’d all ready refused three matches over the last ten years; why did they think this one would be different?

My mother stared at my dad and motioned with her head that he should handle me. He and I always got along better than my mother and I. However, I didn’t like being handled.

********

Present Day…

“Hey!” my sister yelled at me. “Stop daydreaming and cut the turkey. I’m eating for two here.” She rubbed her belly and smiled at it.

I scowled at her. I didn’t care if she was pregnant. She didn’t have to be rude. I lifted the knife and simultaneously opened my mouth to say something. Before I could get a word out, my dad stepped up behind me and said, “Let me handle this.”

I sat down between my sisters and tried not to look at them. As I glanced at my dad, he winked at me.