Strangers on a Plane

Inspired by Weekly Writing Challenge: Dialogue

 

Strangers on a Plane

 

“Ma’am, you need to step to the side, please.”

“What?”

“Come to the side so the walkway is clear.”

“No.”

It wasn’t a loud noise, but it demanded attention. It was soft, and staccato, and possessed the command tone of a veteran drill sergeant in the face of impending doom.

I didn’t know how to react to that tone. Not really. This tiny woman, no more than five foot if that, white hair, green coat, slate skirt and heels that would make a model think twice, controlled my psyche without even looking at me. She was still staring fixedly ahead and decidedly *not* moving.

The line behind her was irritated and several had tried to move the queue around her, but there simply wasn’t room.

“Ma’am I really must insist.” I didn’t want to sound rude. I didn’t want to have to call security. I didn’t want this little old lady to have to miss her flight. I had to get everyone on the plane though. However the little lady didn’t move from her place in the open doorway, she simply shook her head, still staring intensely through the galley window and out at the sky? Possibly the tarmac? I couldn’t tell.

“May I help you find your seat then?”

“What?” She turned her head slightly as though just seeing me. And the corners of her lips curled slightly.

It wasn’t a smile.

It should have been a smile. Everything was a smile physically. The up turned lips, the slight crinkle of her already wrinkled eyes, the slight glimmer of teeth through lips that were barely parted. But it most definitely wasn’t a smile.

“Thank you.” She whispered, and shook her head again. She took a breath and continued to her seat. I looked to Kristy who was working the small flight with me today and shrugged. Still you get all sorts, one of the reasons I was attracted to the business.

I figured it was all over. That the strange little lady in the ridiculous shoes and the sharp green coat would remain looking through the window into the far distance as she had since she sat. She looked so tiny in the large business class seat, I wondered how she had held up the line in the first place, surely sh couldn’t block the gangway no matter how narrow it was. We were over halfway there when her attendant light came on.

Making my way down, doing a trash check and making eye-contact with anyone who was still awake, partly because it was my job, mostly because I was delaying. Her smile that wasn’t a smile was still trapped in my head. It had seemed so wrong, so distant, so foreign on her face, her face which was nothing but laugh lines. I could not imagine why the smile was so wrong there, but it was and it disturbed me.

“Everything alright ma’am?”

That odd, wrong, and oh so disturbing smile met me. “Pardon?”

“Is anything wrong?” I try not to raise my voice too much but wonder if she’s hard of hearing.

 “Everything’s wrong.” Her face crumpled, and she looked away – down at her blue lined hands, knuckles knotted with age, skin so fragile I worried as she clenched them closed that her perfectly manicured nails would simply rip through it.

“Ma’am?” I shuffle closer, there’s an empty seat beside her as she leans against the open window, the black night offered no solace to her though. I didn’t sit, simply got closer and leaned in slightly.

She turned to face me again, silent tears coated her face. How much had she cried in so few seconds, it worried me.

“I’m sorry.” She whispered, taking deep silent breaths, no one not looking at her face would be able to tell she was falling apart. “I just wanted a glass of water. May I have a glass of water please?”

I nodded. “Yes of course ma’am.” I nodded, and like a coward turned tail and ran. Well walked very briskly to the galley. I poured two glasses of water and downed one myself. Then took a few extra napkins to serve as her coaster because I had no idea what else I could offer the woman.

In the two minutes it took to collect her water and walk back her face was tidied and her tray table down a pill container set out.

Handing over the water I was treated to her creepy smile again. It was worse this time. I wanted to shiver. “Thank you.” Her ever polite tone was sincere though.

“Is there anything else ma’am?” The response is automatic. I wish I could retrieve it from the air, make it unsaid, I hope she is almost deaf and won’t hear.”

She nods. “Yes thank you.” I nod. “No, wait.”

I resist the urge to ignore her and turn back.

“Yes ma’am?”

She doesn’t look at me with that smile, I’m very, very glad about that. She’s looking out her dark window, blinded to the outside by the reflections of the inside lights on the glass. “Will you sit with me?”

“Pardon?”

She turns her eyes to me, they seem too big and too small all at once, like someone had put the entire ocean inside of a marble and then surrounded it with mountains of soft sand.  “Please.”

I find myself sinking into the chair beside her. It’s against policy. I don’t want to be there, but the tone is so unlike her commanders tone from the door  and yet exactly the same. It’s the voice of the veteran, after the disaster, after he’d done all he could, saved all he could and was accepting what he had lost. And he had lost so very, very much.

“Are you alright ma’am?”

“Edna Marpleton.” She said, staring at her hands on the tray table. “Please call me Edna.”

I nod.

“I’m not alright.” She admits. It’s nothing short of a confession; it’s her bearing her soul. She’s told me something that’s sat inside her poisoning her for years and I’m the priest she’s chosen. I’m an atheist. I’m also completely silent.

“I’m really not.” She says again and her hands reach for the pill bottle.

“I don’t think I want to be anymore.” She shifts the bottle from hand to hand, the plastic echoing with the sound of many pills rattling the edges, the soft shush of her dry hands on the label almost inaudible.

“Ma’am?

She cocks her head slightly but is looking intently at the pills.

“I realized it’s been twenty years to the day today.” She nodded. “An important anniversary and I’d forgotten it, perhaps intentionally buried it. Twenty years of this.” She placed the bottle back on the tray table.

It was as though she had slammed it, fist raging it felt as though her whole hand wanted to punch through the offensively bland grey plastic. It’s amazing how gentle the motion was.

“With two pills a day,  healthy habits and a good diet I could have another twenty years too.” She said softly.

“That’s good, isn’t it?” I wish words would check before using my mouth.

She looked at me. Truly looked, it was as though she reached in through my eyes and examined my whole life and every thought in a mere moment.

“I’m not sure it is.” She admitted. “I don’t think it’s really worth it anymore.”

Suddenly I’m in too far. I’ve got no way out. I’m sitting in a chair I never should have let myself fall into speaking with a stranger I should only have to get drinks and possibly a blanket for and now I’m aware she’s using me as her sounding board. She’s chosen me as therapist while contemplating the end, and even considering taking the red eye to get there faster.

I scrambled for something to say.

“Twenty years of pills.” She said with a shrug. “Twenty years of, a ‘fulfilling and healthy life’ and ‘adversity  makes you stronger.’ I’m tired of being strong. Tired of adversity. Tired of pills.”

She picks them up and rolls them between her palms then pops the lit with an ease that gives credibility to her story. One orange pill roll out and she drops it on the plastic with a sharp click.

“I’m alone in the world. No family. No friends. No pets. I’ve lived in the same apartment for thirty years and never had another cohabitate.” Her eyes look at mine, fierce and angry. “Never.”

“I “ am panicking, have no clue what to say, want to run away. “I’m sorry”

I should have kept my mouth shut. She’s giving me that odd smile again.

“I’m not going to live another twenty years.” She says. She puts the pill back in the bottle and drains her water dry. “I don’t think I’m living past the end of the month.” She nods, almost as confirming something in her own head.

“Ma’am?” I’m genuinely freaking out. I cannot freak out. Freaking out, is a decidedly bad plan.

She tapped the bottles top drumming out ‘shave and a haircut.’ “Haven’t been taking them.” Her eyes were closed and she leaned against the head rest. “Haven’t had side effects in almost two weeks. No blurry vision, no ever looping dreams, no vertigo. It’s been nice.”

Kristy passes me and I throw her a semi-panicked look. She nods and continues minding the mostly sleeping plane. I wish she’d answered the call light, she’d be so much calmer right now. She’d know what to say. Or maybe she would be just as freaked out as I am. Yea, she’d be just like I am, but I’d be walking down the aisle towards the cockpit to inform the pilot there was ‘something’ happening, and not trapped next to a woman confessing she’d been deliberately trying to die for the last fortnight.

“I flew for the first time in twenty years two days ago. Went to my parents graves, vertigo kept me away for so long. And now, now I’m going to my husband.”

“Has he been gone long?” That’s the wrong question, I’m supposed to make her think nice things, how wonderful not dying would be! Not thinking about her dead husband!

“Bastard left me six months after being diagnosed, ran off with his mistress. I’m going to inform him of all the money he’s not getting when I die.” She laughed bitterly. “I’ve let him believe for years that I didn’t blame him, for this moment. I’m going to spit in his face for what he did. Let him think I read his letters and since he tried to hide hi mistress, never married her and remained the only one who ‘cared’ he was the only one alive, he thinks he’s getting my fund. HA” There was a gleam in her eye, almost manic. It was as if she were there staring down the man she felt betrayed by. I wondered if her ridiculous heels were going to maim the man, I found myself wondering if he didn’t deserve it.

“I have lawyers, so many lawyers hired just to keep him from touching a cent.” Her eyes were sad. “I suppose I’m bitter, and angry, petty even. But I loved him once and he,” She stuttered. “I deserve to get one thing I want. And I want him to feel as abandoned as I did.”

The silence stretched between us but I felt moving would break the moment. So the moment kept going.

“Will it matter?”  I didn’t mean to ask.

“What?” She asked.

“Your revenge, will it matter.”

“It will to me.”

“Not if you’re dead Edna. How could it possibly matter to you when you’re a corpse?”

The silence wasn’t a moment anymore. It was filled with her thinking. She leaned forward on the tray table and I took it as my queue to leave.

Kristy informed the pilot and a call was made to the airport. I’d have to fill out forms, incident reports and such. I hated that there was a procedure for this.

We landed and the plane emptied out. I was doing the final check and a single pill sat on a napkin in business class. I knew there was a note. I didn’t want to read the note. I didn’t want to be responsible for reading those words.

I did anyway.

“Maybe it doesn’t matter. – Edna”

The words run through my head over and over. As I’m filling in paperwork and nodding my goodbyes. It’s when I get home and lock myself in the bathroom that I see it all though.

There in the mirror, I see my face, perfectly blank perfectly presentable. Just another day of work. The words push through my tranquility like a train through the paper drawn tunnel in cartoons, ripping through me with a sudden and violent rush.

“Maybe it doesn’t matter. – Edna”

” – Edna” It strikes me as funny. She signed her note. As if it could be from anyone else. I almost smile.

Then I see it. Her smile, her smile on my face in the mirror. Her broken smile that wasn’t a smile.

It makes sense to me now. She couldn’t smile because it was a mask. It was a shell. It was agony that could never be proper in a world of over sanitized disease and non-acceptance of death. It was betrayal wrapped in the expected veneer of forgiveness that had never healed. It was everything that was wrong pretending to be all right. And she was too tired to pretend anymore. And here in my home, in my bathroom, struck by the morbid humor of her name on a suicide note, I didn’t have to pretend.

No more than that. I couldn’t pretend.

“Maybe it doesn’t matter. – Edna”

“But what if it does.” I whispered to the face in the mirror, the broken smile that reminded me of a stranger. “What if it does Edna Marpleton?”

It takes me two weeks to bring myself to search for Edna Marpleton’s obituary. It was the fourth of the month now and it nagged at me daily that I owed it to her to look. To admit she’d affected me. I knew it was more selfish though, I wanted to know, was morbidly fascinated with the fact. I tried to deny it, but it wasn’t easy. So late one night after flying in from Detroit I sat at my laptop and contemplated the search bar with her name typed in.

In the end I hit enter gently, as she had placed the pill bottle down with nary a sound. It struck me just as hard though.

Pages and pages and pages came up.

Flying constantly it’s fairly easy to ignore the news after all if it’s not 30,000 feet up and not at the radio tower it’s not really affecting me, but how I had missed this astounded me.

Edna was not dead.

Edna was also very actively not dying.

It seems an ungodly amount of money and an old name can get you a lot of things. And can get a lot of things done for you.

Research grants, untested methods, laws changed. Edna was fighting. Edna was also winning. Biomedical tech, holistic and the medically minded collaborating, stem cell bans over turned left and right, an entire medical school being funded and a hospital had already renamed itself after her. She was dragging the countries medical field into the future because she was tired.

Her interviews said it constantly. “I’m tired of the status quo. I’m tired thinking my next twenty years, will be a repeat of my last. I’m tired and I’m tired of living so it doesn’t matter that I’m not alive.”

I delved deeper. Reading everything loving the gossip pages about her ex and how horrible he’d been. I couldn’t help grinning. She was getting her revenge. Destroying him without touching him. The people despised him. His mistress, never married, left in disgust. And he was trying so very hard to ingratiate himself with Edna, but no one was buying it. He tried to turn it around and make it seem as though he had been pushed around. Edna turned her sad eyes to the camera and didn’t bat an eyelid. “I loved him with my whole self, and he crushed me when I was most broken.”

I wanted to cheer for her. I like many found it very easy to hate the man who hurt the impeccably dressed older woman who was tired of remaining quiet with her old money and was changing the world with it instead.

Edna continued to splash across the front pages over the years.

She even flew on one of my flights again. We didn’t talk but she did smile. It was full, and bright, and her eyes sparkled. She shook my hand as she got off the plane and my fellow attendants were in awe. Everyone knew Edna Marpleton and I had shaken her hand. I didn’t tell them about our last flight together, or that I still had the napkin tucked inside the back flap of my favorite book.

She didn’t make it another twenty years, as the doctors had suggested. But a mere nine.

I was woken by a phone call around two in the afternoon. I had disconnected the hotel phone but my cell was cheerfully disturbing my well-deserved rest. I had a late flight and had only just gotten to sleep after an overseas nightmare of study abroad students. I fumbled and answered.

“What is it?”

Not very politely it seemed.

“Edna Marpleton has died.”

What? Who was this? Who called with such news?

“Oh.” Not very eloquent am I? “And?”

“As one of her beneficiaries I am calling to inform you as per her last requests.” The man said officially. It was odd how efficient he was and yet he still managed to convey sympathy.

“I think you’ve got the wrong number.” I manage, sitting up slowly. No way I was going to sleep after this.

There was a knock on the door.

“I do not believe so.”

“I really” The knock was louder. “Hang on a moment.” I scrambled for my shirt and hurried to the door.

A man in a suit with a briefcase stood there a phone to his ear.

“As I stated, I do not believe I am mistaken.” He hung up and I heard my phone disconnect.

“Are you here to kill me?”

I’m still sleep addled I’m certain.

“I assure you Mr. Quinn I do not wish you deceased, it makes my job much more difficult.” He said.

I took a step back and he took it as an invitation to come in.

“Now I assume you know nothing of Ms. Mapleton’s plans?”

“How’d she, I mean was it”

“She passed this morning on her way to a meeting, a rather tragic traffic accident.” The man said gently. “She was DOA and there was nothing that could have been done.”

“Oh.” I found myself glad it hadn’t been her illness. She had changed the medical field so much, it would have been worse had they failed her, if they had let everything drag until she stopped caring again. I found this so much more acceptable.

“Now ..”

I didn’t really pay that much attention. Apparently she credited me with saving her life. All I did was let my mouth run because I was panicking too much to think, but she thought that saved her. So she had decided to keep tabs on me. For nine years she’d been watching. And that wasn’t creepy … except a lot.

She’d set up a fund in my name to train and employ emergency counselors. It was a project already underway  something already nationwide under an umbrella of smaller missions. The councilors would have schooling paid by grants in my name, but the actual emergency centers were under some other name. It didn’t really sink in. So much paperwork.

My mind checked out after he took my phone and told work I had a family emergency and would call back in a couple days. I think he may have quite for me, or gotten me fired. I honestly wasn’t dealing with that. I was numbly signing papers and trying to contemplate how this was my life: sitting in my hotel room at two in the afternoon in my boxers and a dirty shirt with an immaculately dressed lawyer shoving paper after paper at me.

After signing away my life it seemed he explained there was an allowance granted to me by Ms. Mapleton’s wishes and I would likely be able to live quite comfortably one the probate went through.

I had no idea what that meant and he said he’d keep in touch as he gathered his documents and left.

I sat staring at that letter for several minutes when another knock had me eyeing the door warily. I wasn’t certain I could handle any more surprises. The knock came again.

“Room Service, Mr. Quinn.”

“I didn’t …” I stopped as the scent of steak invaded my nostrils.

“Your friend paid sir. Said you’d had a shock.” The woman’s face oozed sympathy and a little curiosity. No doubt she wanted to gossip.

“A friend’s just died.” I stutter, I didn’t tell her I was probably fabulously wealthy now, because I had no money to tip, and as much as she was cute I did not want sympathy sex from someone who might have to change the sheets. I had to go to a bar tonight.

She gasped some empty words but I was too focused on the steak to really care.

I was glad for a full stomach very shortly afterwards. And my eyes locked onto the letter.

I should be drunk for this.

What would she say?

I was a stranger on a plane to her. Old money, fabulously famous, all around humanitarian, winner of so many prizes it was generally thought if she sneezed it was for the betterment of mankind. And I barely said twenty words to her.

I emptied the mini-bar. If what the lawyers said was right I could afford it, and if it was all some hoax I deserved it so either way it was justified.

Finally enough liquid courage had me opening the letter. It’s dated almost eight months past, February.

“Mr Quinn

“You were right. It didn’t matter. If I was dead I never could have enjoyed my revenge. I cherished his downfall. But more importantly, I gained a purpose. Will it matter, you asked me, when I was a corpse.

You were right. All I had that would matter was money. Old money with no one to hand it down to. I wanted more. I wanted it to mean something and I’d wasted twenty years doing nothing. I had them run the numbers last year, they’ll be in some of the papers Mr. Adingsworth brought by I’m certain, if not demand them, don’t ask, demand. Only way to get anything done. The numbers say how many people we’ve saved. You and I.

I with my wealth and you by convincing me to live.

We’ve done well so far. And it increases every day. They’ll include an updated copy of the report every year. Please read it since as a corpse I will not be able.

Read that number and know that for those people it mattered. You saved them with three words.

Thank you Mr. Quinn

– Edna”

The numbers are attached the report from last November, they are well into the hundreds of thousand’s and a notation that the estimate is conservative.

“Thank you Mr. Quinn

– Edna”

She thanked me.

She thanked me for panicking and sitting in a chair.

“– Edna” I smile. I think it might look just a little broken, a little like she did when she stopped in the gangway. Because who else could it be. How odd that she signed it just the same as her suicide note. How strange, and how wonderfully consistent.

The letter lives in the front flap of my favorite book. Her note the end her letter the start … I’m sure it’s symbolic but I couldn’t bear to move the note and I couldn’t bear for the two to touch. They were such different Edna’s even though they were so incredibly the same, and how odd I feel knowing the differences in her as though we were life-long friends though we always were and would never be anything other than strangers on a plane.

 

Battlefield

She don’t want to wake up. It’s cold and still dark out. There is no nice way to get out of a warm bed when that’s what waits for you. Still the alarm on her cellphone screams and a thin hand darts out from under the covers slapping it into submission, when it dowsn’t work the offending object is pulled into her cocoon of warmth and nimble fingers manage to silence it. It is with a weary sigh that the pile of thin blankets heave off the couch. Bare feet touch the floor causing a full body shiver. She stands and shuffles her way into the dark kitchen one thin blanket still clinging to her shoulders trying to keep in the last vestige of warmth close. It fails. She stands close to the kettle willing it to boil faster.

When it finally clicks off she unplugs it and pours the water into the faded mug along with the dark powder. The first too hot sip scaulds her tongue and is still wonderful. She huddles over the cup breathing in its dark scent. Instant coffee is her life saver. There is movement in the living room she just vacated and she quickly pours another coffee and takes it through.

The room lies in tatters. The carnage makes her cringe. There are two bodies on the floor, one on the coffee table, one curled unnaturally on a chair, and one slumped propped up against the stairway. She doesn’t think she could stand dealing with upstairs yet.
She locates the movement, the body on the coffee table. Delicately weaving through the mess of bodies she makes her way over to it. It’s a male, one she knows at least, a stranger would be difficult to manage. He groans and she prods him with a bare foot.

He manages to crack open his eyes and sees the coffee she’s thrust into his face. He muttered some sort of prayer to some god or other, if asked she’s certain he wouldn’t know what he’d said. He rolls gently off the table and streatches face grimacing as his back and neck tell him of their opinion of his nap. He takes the coffee gladly and downs half of it at once. Then he too surveys the crime scene. This would take finess. First they needed asprin though.

She agreed and they raided the kitchen for the wonderful little white tablets and found several bananas as well. They munched on their early morning snack in silence. They no longer had an excuse to put off cleaning up the bodies though. She made another pot of coffee and he dealt with the living room.
It wasn’t pretty. He flipped on the overhead light and practically roared. The room filled with groans and waving hands. It was scarily similar to a battle field the groans and hands begging for a medic, a priest, a friendly face, anything at all to make those moments more bearable. They got her though. She was carrying a tray of coffee’s in mismatched mugs and had a bottle of miricle white pills. She was their angel.

Slowly the bodies became people, they managed to sit up, and sip at the heavenly darkness that was coffee, and swallow the promise that was asprine. There were no more bananas though. They’d survive.

She grabbed a trash bag and put it in the hand of the first to finish their coffee and slowly the bodies took to cleaning the battle field. Disgarded red shells that had one held beer were found and disposed of, paper towels, a broken plate, snack food. Everything informed them it had been a wonderfully successful party. But her face told them it was time to leave.

A few brave souls cleared the upstairs of redfaced couples. They descended the stairs and averted their eyes. Everyone knew what had happened, it lead to some rather interesting calls and teasing. She went and stripped the beds. They had a few hours to clean the house entirely.

He tried not to panic with her.

Seriously.

Mom and Dad would be home soon.

That had the bodies moving faster than the coffee or the lights. The house was empty and he and she were left holding the garbage bag. No worries though. They’d done this before, they had a method.

Hours later when the door opened the house was pristine, and quiet.

She was alseep on the sofa and he on the chair, and for once no one was the wiser.

For today at least.

Dance Strangely Little Moon

The Universe was displeased. The Universe did not make mistakes, all was harmony and it was good. Therefore when a distant speck, not even a freckle on the Universe’s skin, decided to disregard the harmony and grace that was the Universe’s intention it was not well received. The Universe was tempted to simply cut away the fragment, but knew it would destroy they symmetry it had strived for, for eons. Not that time was such a worry; the Universe had eons more before the great crescendo that would be its demise. However the Universe had a plan, a great and glorious plan to upset they symphony of creation and destruction to upset the balance of light and dark that was weaved with the utmost precision … it was unthinkable, unethical, undoable. The Universe refused.

The plans the Universe had since before existence was ruined by a renegade moon, unfit for even a glance from the Universe’s eye. Unfit for life, unfit for its own crescendo even in its own life and death. Such a thing was unbearable. Yet here it was, defying its orbit, ignoring its roll and changing the tune. The universe could command it back into place but the squeal of such a sudden if subtle change would ruin the soothing line the Universe had commanded for over half its live. The Universe could overwhelm the small moon with the rapturous flight of meteors falling just a little early, but that would speed along the finish and it grated the Universe that the little moon was still moving to a plan all its own ignoring her soft hints that it should meekly return to orbit and they could pretend the upset hadn’t happened. The moon refused.

The imbalance grew and the tiny moon managed to upset the axis of a well-behaved planet, happily spinning and swaying as it was required adding to the vibrations of all the happy planets its size chiming softly in the inky blackness that was the rolling bass of the line. The Universe watched the little planet try to stay the course but being pulled unhappily to follow the direction of the tiny moon. Strangely once it did it was suddenly not happy, but ecstatic. The planet almost giggled in its new roll, adding a counter melody to the little moon, disrupting the Universe further and ignoring the growing ire. The Universe was shocked at how quickly the entire tiny system shifted until even the small star swayed just the smallest bit to the new melody that created a discord in the perfect symphony the Universe had planned. With a cry of silence the Universe demanded the system behave as it was intended and desist in its disruptive behavior. The system refused.

Seeing how the harmonies would play out the Universe was angry, and for the first time, afraid. What would happen to this beautiful symmetry. The Universe bowed its head in defeat to the almost freckle on its skin. With a coaching intent and a plucked string far away a distant moon shifted. It was surprised, but also rather excited. This moon had been content to spin as it was told, but this option to spin as it wanted. This was new, this moon had never known new. To counter the shifting system the Universe created another. They balanced and the Universe was intrigued, the entire symphony reverberated with the counter melody. The systems played and danced and grew content. They wondered if they should let the Universe have its desire and offered to play as intended. The Universe refused.

It was eons of play that the Universe had left, if such a small tweak had done such a great thing what more could the Universe accomplish. It shifted a comet here, snuffed out a star there, and created whole planets out of the dusts of asteroids so distant that they should never have met. The Universe reveled in play. The eons past and it was time to fade to black. The moon refused. The system refused. And with a smile the Universe had never known before a joy in the chaos, the Universe refused.

Daily Prompt: 180 Degrees

Daily Prompt: 180 Degrees.

Tell us about a time you did a 180 — changed your views on something, reversed a decision, or acted in a way you ordinarily don’t.

03/14

// I haven’t done a Daily Prompt in quite a few days – I haven’t stopped but the $10,000/7 days one really got me flowing and that’s where I’ve been recently still thought I could do today’s. Enjoy.//

He didn’t do girly. Never. He didn’t cry. He didn’t wear pink. He didn’t do soft. He was first and foremost a man. Not only that, but a manly man, complete with military haircut, big muscles and a healthy respect for sweat blood and … well not tears, not really that was a little girly for his tastes.

So when he was called in an emergency and told to rush to a hospital he didn’t panic. He walked calmly, perhaps slightly faster than normal, his boots gripping tightly to the too shiny hospital floor as he made his way to the reception desk. He didn’t acknowledge his heart pounding in his chest threatening to push his way into his throat and at the same time drop into his stomach. He ignored and denied this as he was lead into the room that held his wife. He saw her, covered in sweat, traces of blood, her face distorted by tear tracks. He saw and his knees were traitorously weak he held her hand because she demanded it and while he was not girly he was a gentleman.

It was weeks later when he was left in care of that small pink bundle for the first time. He was not frightened. He was braver than that. But in a dark place he refused to shed light on he was terrified, he was panicked and he was looking for his wife to hurry back and rescue him from the cooing drooling heart wrenching bundle that was their daughter. Hardly a person and yet the entirety of everything that mattered. His heart was neither in his throat nor in his stomach, it had been ripped out and stolen by this magnificent terrifying creature that mattered more than air, more than gold, more than sunlight and water. Inside that precious bundle held his heart and he couldn’t bear to look away, or recognize how fragile and irreplaceable it was. It drooled on him.

It was only a blink of an eye and years had passed. That strange bundle of blankets had grown. It could laugh, and cry and speak – semi coherently although always too fast and so high pitched he worried for the windows. It could also demand and pout and had eyes big enough for him to sink into and see the precious truth that was his heart and his wife’s heart and his daughter’s heart trapped in that oh so tiny chest that heaved with a barely suppressed bawl, a lip that quivered and a little sniffle that threatened to undo him until he could do naught but relent.

He could wear pink for her. He could don the tiny tiara and use the pink blanket as his cape. He could do these things because he might be a manly man and tough but he was also more than that. He was a father. Seeing that almost cry turn into a joyous smile was enough to keep him strong. When others teased him in his pictures he didn’t need to throw up a defense, he simply smiled back. He was still manly, he was tough, but no one could ever tell him that girls weren’t just as tough. He had been there when the second bundle had been born. Blood, sweat, and tears had been part of it, but also pain, fear, determination, euphoria, and triumph. He was a manly man, but he looked to his wife when he needed courage, because that was more than he could have borne, and she had done it twice and was well on the way to her third.

He was a manly man, but he did do girly. He let tiny fingers braid his short hair and longer beard, he wore pink when it was required, he played prince charming, and was a human jungle gym, he had a healthy respect for blood, sweat, and tears. And he did cry, and he revealed in that which was soft and perfect in his family, because first and foremost he was a father.

Daily Prompt: All Grown Up

Daily Prompt: All Grown Up.

03-06

When was the first time you really felt like a grown up (if ever)?

It was fun to sleep in. Not five minutes, of even ten, but hours, mainly because the night before it had been fun to stay up. I could smell food, though, and my stomach said I should investigate. It was the middle of the afternoon, and my brother had cooked breakfast.  Five years my senior and he had decided to be responsible by frying some eggs, for himself. I pouted at him, honestly pouted. Why hadn’t he cooked me any eggs. He just grinned and pointed to the kitchen.

I huffed and returned to the living room a few minutes later with the last of the cookies and cream ice cream. I didn’t try and steal the remote from my sister, two years my senior, who was engrossed in another of her teen soaps. Girl loves boy, boy messes up, oh look random new character for girl to obsess over. Not my thing, I like cartoons. Yea so sue me.

We didn’t really do the talking thing. Brother napped on the sofa, taking up the entire thing, Sis was making goo-goo eyes at the latest heartthrob from mom’s seat and I was in dad’s chair one leg over the arm and wishing I’d thought to bring a soda through. At some point sis had made us put our dishes in the sink, although none of us would put them in the dishwasher. Mom and Dad were out of town.

It was thrilling. We were old enough to be considered responsible, we weren’t, not really, but we also weren’t likely to burn down the house and were clever enough to call 911, or one of the many ‘adult’ friends and family that were conveniently listed next to the phone should anything happen. Anything at all, Mom had stressed.

This wasn’t we’ll be out for the night or we’re just going to spend the weekend at the cabin with some friends, this was legit out of town stuff. Out of the state, several states over in fact, some business trip turned, “we have got to get out of the house without kids, because we have three and haven’t had a moments peace in 17 years!” two week getaway.

So we didn’t do the dishes, we knew the drill, make as much mess as you want but the afternoon, or more probable as soon as they call from the airport, we will freak out and clean. As a team even. We might not do a lot together but making sure Mom doesn’t freak out and start cleaning, although we know she will no matter how clean it is, the moment she arrives home. Then when she does, Dad will roll his eyes with us and very obviously ignore any signs of insanity that may have happened while they were away.

We spent that day like we spent most of the two weeks, watching TV, bickering lazily, hanging about, generally making a nuisance of ourselves, and occasionally my siblings, would go out with their friends, none of mine were able to drive though so I was pretty much stuck. That night we decided to order in pizza. We had enough money left that we could do this a couple times and none of us wanted to defrost any of the meals and actually cook. So that night’s dinner, which arrived around eleven-thirty was pizza. Greasy goodness that was pretty fantastic.

For some reason none of us slept in the next morning, well we were all up while it was still technically morning. I was in the living room watching cartoons, Brother was through on the computer blowing things up and Sister was upstairs talking on the phone. At least that’s where I thought everyone was. I was pulled out of my cartoon induced haze by an awful noise though.

It was visceral and sent chills up my spine. I was up on my feet and running before I even processed what the noise was, a choking retching sound that had me skidding to a stop outside the bathroom, feet going further than my torso in my fuzzy socks. Grabbing the doorframe to steady myself that awful noise, so much louder, closer, more painful than before gripped me and I could see my sister. My big sister collapsed in the bathroom, holding the toilet for support, her face red and wet with tears, snot slimy on her upper lip, jaw trembling and hair stuck to all of it. She heaved again and my brother was behind me.

He stayed well back though. Unsure how to help his little sister, knowing damn well she would shove him away, no girl wants a guy to see her looking like that, not even a guy who doesn’t count like your brother. Or maybe especially not your big brother who can’t beat anyone up for you for this, and honestly wouldn’t be very helpful at all. None of this mattered though. My sister was in pain and mom wasn’t there to make it better.

I didn’t realize I was on the floor beside her in minutes, dodging the first incident which hadn’t made it into the porcelain bowl. Hand on her back I flushed the first of it, then pulled her hair out of her face when it became imminent she was about to need it again. She was shaking and crying and generally a mess. I snapped at my brother to fetch water. Someone needed to act and he seemed frozen with inability, the moment I snapped at him though he jumped into action, he desperately wanted to help, and muttering “are you okay” from a safe distance wasn’t going to solve anything.

It seemed the attack was over. I wet the hand towel with cool water and handed it to my sister so she could wipe her face as she sat back against the wall, one arm still propped on the toilet. She got her sobs under control while I took the glass from my brother, still hovering just beyond the doorway. Instructions, he needed instructions. Get a bucket, put it by the sofa and then go to the store for sports drinks and crackers. We already had crackers, that didn’t matter at the time, it was instructions and he followed them.

Brother successfully diverted I had to get my sister off the bathroom floor where she sad feeling miserable. Carefully we negotiated the first incident and got her to the living room. She sat propped up on the couch, glass of water clutched in shaky hands occasionally sipping it. When I heard the car start up I fetched a clean shirt, hers had evidence of the bout of sickness, and had to be uncomfortable. I let her change by ignoring the living room and started boiling some water for some herb tea. Mom always makes herb tea when we’re sick.

Tea set next to the water, sister half dozing with her favorite teen drama playing on the TV I move onto the gross stuff. Someone has to clean the bathroom, and there is no way my brother who stood back unable to even move close to that scene is going to do it. I choke slightly at the smell of it but then block it from my mind. Someone has to do this. Working swiftly and not thinking about it at all I manage to clean the mess and flush most of it. Wiping the floor then washing it thoroughly I put all the cloths, my sister’s shirt, and a couple towels from the hamper upstairs in the laundry and set it going. I gagged once it was finished and downed a large glass of water. My brother had returned at this point. He had gotten more sports drinks than we could drink in a month and several types of crackers, also some ice-pops that a woman at the store had told him might help. Apparently he had looked so lost the mothers wanted to help him out, which was hysterical and got a good laugh out of me and my sister.

That night I sat in the same place but my brother and sister had switched, he still looked at her wearily, desperate not to have to clean out the bucket, she still looked miserable, and I didn’t blame her. Throughout the day she had been sick three more times and I had had to deal with the bucket. But now it was getting late and she had managed to keep down some soup. Everything seemed to calm down.

We slept in the living room that night. My sister didn’t want to move, I wanted to keep an eye on her, and my brother still felt since he was the oldest he should be in charge. I knew better though. He might be the oldest and legally responsible as the adult, but I was in charge. I was the one who took charge when it was needed. I was the adult. I was also twelve.

Daily Prompt: Perspective

Daily Prompt: Perspective.

03-05

Write about the last disagreement you had with a friend or family member — from their perspective

“You’re a fool.”

I’m the fool? I’m the fool! What gives you the right to condemn me as the fool. You left the door open! I don’t say anything, how can I say anything to that, I take a sip of my still too hot tea and let it burn the tip of my tongue. Denied my drink of pleasure I take a deep breath and savor the scent as it fills me and keeps me sane.

“Oh so now you’re ignoring me? Real mature.”

If my being mature is your only defense I was fighting too hard to begin with. I put the cup down. Sometimes it really is better to ignore your emotions when dealing with my best friend, too strong willed and emotional themselves to understand why I have to ignore them.

“So that’s it. We’re just going to sit here and pretend that this is fine? We’re going to let you finish your tea calmly and then what? You think I’m just going to sit here and let you walk out without stopping you? There will be plenty of time tomorrow. This is madness and you know it!”

Of course I know it. Do you think I’d be here looking for your support if I didn’t know it? I did realize how close to tears I was in that moment. Something must have betrayed me though. Perhaps my eyes were just a little too close to tears. Perhaps my friend knows me well enough no matter how I try to hide it. I won’t ever ask what gave me away.

“You’re going to do this no matter what I say aren’t you?” My best friend sighed standing up from the table, pushing the kitchen chair away roughly.

I have to do this. You know it as well as I do. I merely nod. Then drink almost half my still too hot tea and savor the burn that I can pretend is the liquid and not my emotions clawing at my throat.

My best friend walks to the closet by the door and grabs something. I cannot look up from staring at the lip of the cup, hoping that the wavering is from the steam and not my eyes betraying me. The cup is pulled from my fingers and I find myself staring at my friend, wearing their warmest winter coat.

“Get up fool.”

What are you doing? You can’t go out in this weather? I wouldn’t want

“Come on you’re not doing this alone.” My coat is thrust into my arms and my hand is grabbed. My best friend is pulling me towards the door. “Remember though if we end up dying in this blizzard looking for your damn dog, I’m so haunting you.”

Wouldn’t expect anything else from you. Still I can’t help smile as we do something incredibly foolish heading out into the blizzard.

Daily Prompt: Twenty-Five – “Without You”

Daily Prompt: Twenty-Five.

Daily Prompt – 25

03-04

There are 26 letters in the English language, and we need every single one of them. Want proof? Choose a letter and write a blog post without using it. (Feeling really brave? Make it a vowel!)

“Without You” (no – u, j,q,x,z)

It was Friday.

The table was a mess. A newspaper’s pages covered everything.

Yet the newspaper had only one thing circled.

“Caroline Bale

Born – 05/15/1954

Died 11/23/2004

Mother, sister, friend.

She will be missed.”

There were tearstains on the paper, and a ring of water from the whiskey glass.

She was only given five lines.

She will be missed.

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