I’ve just sent 3 of my stories out into the world. Will any of them get accepted? Is it terrible that I try not to hope? I want them to be seen by more than just me and the handful of people I’ve let read them. I’m just scared. I’ve read a lot of rejection letters. I’m also more emotional because of the pregnancy. So I’m going to put myself out there more by posting samples of the stories I’ve sent.
The scent of the rose drifted up. Ashley sniffed the flower, but did not smile. She didn’t know what to say. Should she say thank you? Should she throw the flower back in his face? Yes, she still cared about
…” There was sympathy in her voice, sorrow for the pain. Chad
He peered into her. The longing inside him reached her. Was she weakening? “I want you to come home, Ash.”
Ashley breathed deeply. No, she did not want to move back in with him. She no longer wanted to marry him, if she ever really had. How many times would she need to say this? How many more times would she have to hurt him with her words?
had never noticed them drifting apart; he never noticed much of anything. Chad
“I’m not moving back in with you,
. I don’t want to have to say it again. I don’t want us to keep hurting each other.” Chad
Ashley held back a sigh. Her day had been going so well. Another argument was the last thing she wanted. She thought she had left that behind when she’d moved out. “I told you before, I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. We tried to make it work… For a while I thought it was going to, but you didn’t really change. You did what I asked you to do for a few weeks, then everything went back to the way it was. I can’t live like that. You shouldn’t have to either.”
“You’re wrong,” he declared, like a candidate wanting her vote.
“No, I’m not. We’re going to take some time apart…take a break. Can’t you just give it some time?” Ashley’s body language lowered, her shoulders slouched. It was time for
to go away. Chad
It was as though he had expected it all to get better today. One visit. One rose. She would return with him, and everything would go back to normal.
clenched his jaw. His hands formed tight fists, nails digging into skin. He fumed inside, Ashley could see it, but he wanted to keep control. He wanted her to come home. Chad
Ashley didn’t know what to do. She wanted to just walk away. Go inside her parents’ house, her home again, and forget that
had ever shown up. That’s all she wanted. A quiet, uneventful day. Chad
Cautiously, she took a step back.
moved forward. Why couldn’t she get away? “I’m going inside now, Chad .” Why couldn’t he let her go? Chad
“No, you’re talking. I’ve said everything I have to say… Just give me my space.” Ashley half-grinned, attempting a conclusion. She shut the car door and turned to walk to the house.
* * *
Paul and Nikki exchanged a brief glance. Their father seemed to be in a pleasant mood. Maybe today will be a good day. Henry is in a good way. We can all have an enjoyable breakfast. Maybe I’ll have a whole week without anything bad happening.
Nikki watched firmly as her father began to take the food she had prepared. As he finished, she nodded to her brother to begin taking the food he wanted. Paul seemed to force himself not to ravage his breakfast. He placed as much food as he could on his plate without his father taking notice. Once it was there, Paul looked at his father, who remained captivated by his daughter’s culinary delights. Paul restrained himself and managed not to inhale the meal. Nikki noticed that he did eat quickly though.
“Nikole?” Henry was suddenly staring at his daughter.
“Yes, Henry?” she answered immediately.
“Aren’t you hungry for this wonderful food you were so kind as to prepare for us?”
Kindness had nothing to do with it. She glared down at her plate and saw only half a slice of bread and one sausage. Nikki did not feel particularly hungry. “Sorry, I guess I don’t have much of an appetite this morning.”
Quiet fell over the table. Henry contentedly ate his breakfast. Nikki could sense his thoughts. He enjoyed every succulent bite, as he had so many times before. He felt no need to raise his voice or punish his children. He watched them so fixedly, every bite they ate under his scrutiny. Paul consumed his food with great care, appreciating every bite. Nikole nibbled at her breakfast. What a polite lady he had made her. Perhaps her appetite would return later in the day. Each child was so disciplined; Henry fell deeper into his calmness. There was nothing to interrupt his mood. All Nikki wanted was to let her father finish his food, clean the kitchen and go to her room.
When Nikki put the last bite of her food in her mouth, the phone rang. Henry angered immediately. “Who could be calling us this early in the morning?” A discernible annoyance appeared in his voice; Nikki quickly rose out of her seat.
Before picking up the phone, she glanced down at the digital display; it read 11:27 a.m. She took a deep breath and spoke to the caller. “Hello, Kritisch residence.”
“Nikki, is that you?” A familiar voice was on the other end. Blood rushed to her face.
“Yes, may I ask who is calling?” Nikki knew who was on the line; she knew everything that was about to happen.
“Nik? It’s me, Danny.”
“Danny.” A whisper, Nikki allowed herself a momentary tingle. Danny was actually calling her house. It’s Danny! Why is he calling? Did I do something stupid last night? Did I embarrass myself? Is he calling because he doesn’t want to ever see me again? Nikki’s thoughts were jumbled, interrupted by Henry.
“Nikole?” Her eyes met her father’s intense stare. “I would like to know who’s on the phone.”
Adolescent excitement crashed down around her. Fear took over. Nikki stated a half-truth she hoped her father would accept, “It’s just someone from school, Henry. No big deal.” She attempted a dismissive though respectful tone.
“Nikole, what have I told you about having your friends call at this time in the morning on Sunday!” Henry gritted his teeth, and Paul slid down further into his chair. Henry spoke through clenched teeth. “Get off the phone now. We haven’t finished our meal.”
Nikki turned herself away from her father as a tear welled, but she held it back. She breathed deeply, hearing the caring voice of her friend, “Nikki, are you okay? Was that your father? Can you talk?”
She had to end it swiftly, “Look, Danny, I’m kind of busy right now. I can’t talk to anyone. I’ll see you at school tomorrow… Bye.”
“But Nikki . . .” She hung up. Nikki took a difficult breath and turned to face her father.
He now stood out of his seat, his eyes focused sharply on his daughter. Without thinking, Nikki strode back to the table and cleared the dishes. Everything was cleaned. Paul had eaten all that could fit inside his stomach. Nikki felt her father’s eyes on her back as she moved around the kitchen. She opened up the dishwasher and put in the plates, cutlery and whatever else was dishwasher-safe. As Nikki worked, Henry stared harder at her. Her anxiety had returned, the day of peace gone. She stole a glimpse of her brother. She could see the tears filling his eyes. Eyes at that age should still be innocent, not full of dread.
* * *
Frail hands reached into the musty closet. It was dark. She had forgotten the light. Stupid. The thick wool jacket was rough against thin skin. The heavy coat emerged and she stepped back. This was once light as a feather. Slowly, the jacket covered her small frame. She breathed deeply. One hurdle crossed.
Socked feet shuffled to a wooden bench by the closed door. She shook her head, looking down. Her socks always managed to fall, though new. Did ankles shrink? Weight traveling to the torso. Another failure of age. Another un-improvement.
Bones creaked as she bent, sitting slowly. No more plopping down on a bench. She carefully slid on comfortable loafers. The thick soles cushioned against harsh tile and bone. She wiggled her toes. A sneer curled as she pulled up the socks. Too old to mutter curses. Rising, a hand quickly reached to her back, bracing herself. She was a little stunned at how fast her hand moved. Small favours.