#ThrowbackThursday Fiction: Watermelon Season

I dreamt I ran him over, and the white women from work watched. Their eyes sought to spite me. I screamed to get help, but no one moved. “You’ll burn in hell for this, bitch,” the woman in the center sneered. Her face grew redder with the inflection in her voice.

Looking in the rearview mirror, I see his blond hair first, combed to the right, the sides buzzed a little too close to the scalp. He stands behind my trunk, and I think about my dream, how I stood before a lynch mob as he lay dying. I’m tempted to shift the gear in reverse, fulfill the prophesy and accept my fate, but I take the key out of the ignition, shoulder my purse, and step out.

“Hey,” he says, waving both hands.

I nod, glance over my shoulder at the eight-floor office building looming over the parking lot.

“So do you have any plans for the weekend?”

I shrug. A car pulls into the empty space beside me. It’s the woman from my dream. Her brunette hair is chopped short to her ears, with an inside hook curl at the ends all around, not a strand out of place. She cuts her eyes at me, and I quickly look down at my feet.

“Well, if you’re not busy, I was wondering if you wanted to go to the watermelon patch.”

“Seriously?”

He shakes his head, and his hair shuffles to the front of his face. He smiles, but I don’t smile back, and the loud door slam to the right turns our attention to the woman spying us over the top of her car.

I step closer and whisper so she can’t hear. “Because I’m black, you think I like watermelon.”

“No, no!” His eyes widen. He backs up and instinctively looks to the woman, who still stares. She’s barely taller than her own car; she has to stand on her toes to watch us. I wish she’d go inside already. My throat tightens at the thought of her lassoing a noose around my neck and stringing me up on the branches of one of the magnolias lining the walkway leading to the building.

“It’s watermelon season. My uncle owns a watermelon patch.” He slaps his chest. “I like watermelon. I thought…”

“You thought what?”

The woman finally leaves us, but not before casting a scolding look in my direction. She must be content that he’s in no danger. He’s completed his job in offending me, and now I will leave too, scurry off to my tiny cubicle in the back of the office, segregated from the rest of them, and do my work silently as I’m told.

When the woman is out of earshot, he shoves his hands into his pockets and sighs. “I’m trying to ask you out on a date. Obviously, I’m not doing a good job of it.”

I watch him as he looks everywhere but at me, and I wonder if he too is thinking of the consequences of my saying yes, if he’s dreamt of my death by his hand, of a mob of angry black women shooting curses, taking off belts, breaking off switches to whip him with—the same weapons his people used to beat our souls down into the ground.

“We don’t have to go to the watermelon patch. We could do something different, like the movies, or dinner—what kinds of food do you like? I just wanted to do something different, something out of the box. You’re special, you’re different. I just wanted to do something nice for you.”

“Just be quiet.”

He instantly shuts his mouth, midsentence, and I lean against my side mirror. He waits for my answer, but I’m lost for words. My mind is stuck on “You’re special, you’re different.” Is he referring to my blackness? And again, I fear this proposal will only lead to our combined demise, that I will again be reminded of what we are. I am black, and he is white, and the world will always hate us for what we mean together, for what we are about to do.

And so I tell him, “I like watermelons too.”


Originally published May 27, 2017.

#ThrowbackThursday Poetry: No Weapon

“Behold, I have created the blacksmith who blows the coals in the fire, who brings forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the spoiler to destroy. No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is from Me,” says the Lord.
Isaiah 54:16-17, NKJV

Photo by wu yi on Unsplash

God made dirt, dirt don’t hurt.
The blind blessing we recited
as children over spilled food
on the dirty linoleum before
placing it back in our mouths,
swallowing with the confidence
that because God made it,
we cannot die.

But did God not create man,
and does he not hurt me
every day? From his heart
brews my downfall.
Date rape—
White supremacy—
Mass shootings—
A black, bitter coffee
he drinks with grit,
though it’s still boiling.

Shall I eat this bread
retrieved from a floor
on which a murderer may tread,
dragging my family and me
in a trail of blood behind?
God made him, right?
He cannot hurt us.


A revised version of the untitled original poem published February 4, 2015…may revise again later.

#ThrowbackThursday Fiction: Harvest Wedding

Happy Throwback Thursday! This story, originally published October 8, 2014, started as journal assignment for a fiction writing course in college. The prompt was, “When I first heard the song . . . ”

At the time, the song I constantly had on repeat was Trey Songz’s “Almost Lose It,” which is about a wedding. Unfortunately, this wedding turned horribly sour. If you ever read or seen the Spanish play, Bodas de sangre, you can guess what happens. Actually, the original title for this story, when I turned it in for class, was “Blood Wedding.”


Harvest Wedding

Saturday afternoon in mid October. The leaves were just beginning to change colors. Beautiful reds, and oranges. With the right wind, they would break from their branches and swirl through the air until they found the right beautiful woman’s head to adorn. I was that woman, and I was walking down the aisle at Mt. Zion AME, about to start a new life with the man of my dreams, Prince Rossario. He truely was a prince; dressed in a crisp, black tux with the burgandy of his vest peeking above his jacket. Our colors were orange and Merlot red, the same as the fall leaves. The perfect harvest wedding.

As I stepped closer to my future husband, I saw the tears in his eyes sparkle. There was a gravitational pull in his gaze and I let it take over my muscular functions and pull me closer to him. I was gliding, not walking, down the aisle.

Everything was as it should be until someone came bursting through the doors behind me. Instantly, everything and everyone froze. Even the wedding song had abruptly stopped with a scratch just as it was reaching its climax. Prince’s glowing face immediately darkened into a look of dread and fear as his eyes grew wide, tore away from mine and moved past me to the dark figure standing behind me. A loud gasp came from the throat of the best man, Johnny, as he turned a disbelieving look in Prince’s direction; his bottom lip quivering.

My heart stopped and my tears that were tears of joy only seconds prior, quickly turned cold and anxious as they sliced a path down my cheeks. I slowly turned around to face the creature that had deliberately stolen the attention of every one of my guests in that sanctuary. To my astonishment, I came to face Constance Applewood, an old friend—really acquaintance—from college who had dated Prince before I came into the picture. She obviously wasn’t invited. I made sure of that. What bride wants her fiancé’s ex-girlfriend at her wedding, slouching in the front row, patiently waiting for her moment to object to the marriage and invoke chaos throughout the church as she pounces on the innocent woman in white, clawing her nails into her flesh, not quite sure if she wants to kill her rival or just scare her away, but indisputably willing to do anything to get her man back?

Prince thought I was being overly dramatic to think that Constance would go through such lengths. He assured me that his and Constance’s relationship wasn’t even a relationship; just two good friends who spent a lot of time together and occasionally had sex once or twice or three times; a faux-relationship that ended once he met me. Of course I had to remind him that less than a week after we started dating, I found “HOMEWRECKER” keyed into the side of my black Toyota Camry.

Seeing Constance stand before me confirmed that I was right not to invite her. Unfortunately, the absence of an invitation didn’t stop her from crashing my wedding. It wasn’t her presence that had shocked me and everyone else in the sanctuary. What inflicted horror into the eyes of the guests, myself, and the wedding party was a wedding dress identical to mine. From the rhinestones that trimmed the bodice to the ruffles of the gown to the design of the lace on the veil to the length of the train behind her, it was all the exact duplicate of mine. The only difference, an unmistakably huge difference, was that here dress was black. Even the bouquet she held in her hands was composed of drooping, brown flowers and weeds. The tears pouring from her eyes caused the murky mascara to run dark veins down her face. She began to shake as her screeching voice wailed, “This wedding is over!” She dropped her bouquet to reveal the shimmering, sharpened blade of a butcher knife.

“Oh, God!” someone screamed from the crown, and suddenly, chaos erupted throughout the church. Everyone swarmed toward the exit doors, unsure of the terror to follow but certain that they weren’t staying behind to find out. Guests were bouncing off of one another, trying to elbow their way through to freedom. Babies could be heard squealing in the background as they were being torn from their mothers’ arms in the midst of the mayhem. Young children were being trampled under the combination of high heels and penny loafers. In the center of all the running, tripping, falling, jumping, flailing of arms, tossing of clutch purses, scratching of pew legs across the floor, tumbling and crashing of flower vases, the epicenter of all the screams and shrieks stood Constance. Her obscure eyes pierced into my soul and it was as if she were pointing the knife right at my heart. It was reminiscent of the cheesy dramatics of a C rated action film, except there were no cameras rolling and no director to scream “CUT!” so that my stunt double could take my place. Oh, how I wished it were that way.

When the pandemonium finally subsided and all that was left in the church were those still frozen at the altar, and Constance and myself—more like yin and yang—standing in the middle aisle, silence engulfed the church once again. The tension in that sanctuary was so thick it could be cut with a knife. Unfortunately, tension was not Constance’s intended target. I dropped my bouquet and ran to the altar to stand next to my groom.

Prince wrapped me in his arms and spoke up to the menacing woman in black. “Constance, have you lost your–”

“Shut up!” she interrupted him. “You don’t get to speak.” She took a few steps closer and everyone scattered to opposite corners of the church. Johnny inched to the door behind Constance, hoping to escape unnoticed. Three of my bridesmaids created a barricade of pews in the far left corner. My parents and future in-laws hugged each other while trembling underneath the organ. Prince and I crouched behind the podium with the reverend. It wasn’t the best place to hide because no sooner than peeking over the edges of the podium did I find Constance hovering over us with the blinding blade in her hand.

Prince held up his hands in surrender. “Constance,” he started. “I get it. You’re upset.”

“I’m upset?” she blurted, in shock of Prince’s little words to her.

Reverend Jacobs stood up and approached Constance. “Sweetheart, give me the knife. We can resolve this in a peaceful manner.”

“Stay back!” she demanded, pointing the knife to his chest. She turned to Prince. “What does she have that I don’t, huh? Is, is her hair prettier than mine? Is she skinnier than me? Does, does she please you better in the bedroom?”

I wanted to correct her by saying that I was a virgin, but images of her carving me with the knife reminded me of the importance of silence.

“What is it?” she continued.

“Constance.”

“What is it!”

“I love her!”

I melted when he spoke those words. I wanted to jump into his arms, kiss him passionately, and profess how much I loved him too. Constance could not succeed in breaking us up or this wedding. I was confident of that. Her behavior, no matter how irrational, would not force him to change his feelings for me. He knew the day he met me—Super Bowl party at Johnny’s house. I was wearing a Richard Sherman jersey and held a hot wing in one hand and an open Bud Light Platinum in the other. He walked right into me and promised me that I would be disappointed and that Peyton Manning would expose Sherman for the mediocre cornerback that he was. By halftime, he was begging me for my number.

“But you don’t love me.” Constance’s voice had softened. She begin to lower the knife.

“Constance, we were never that serious. You gotta know that. When I started dating Alicia, you told me you were fine with it.” Prince held out his hand for the knife. I rose to my feet as gracefully as I could without stepping on my train and inadvertently stumbling into the butcher knife that separated me and Constance. I stood behind Prince, wrapped my arms around his waist and looked at Constance over his shoulder.

“I didn’t think you were gonna marry her!” she said. “I thought . . . I thought . . .” She turned her back to us. “I guess it doesn’t matter now,” she whispered, shrugging her shoulders.

Prince started toward her, but I pulled him back, squeezing his torso with the little strength I had. He turned to the reverend, who stepped to Constance and touched her shoulder. “Sister,” he began.

Constance didn’t turn around. She raised the knife above her head, and before the reverend could snatch it away from her, plunged it into her chest, right into her broken heart. I screamed. My parents and in-laws hidden underneath the organ screamed. My bridesmaids behind the barricade of pews screamed. Johnny has already exited the sanctuary.

Constance’s body collapsed to the floor. The reverend dropped to his knees. His hands hovered over the end of the knife in her chest, debating if pulling it out would help save her life, or just accelerate her inevitable death. He bowed his head to pray, his hands still hovering over the knife.

Prince broke free of my grasp and ran to the opposite side of Constance. He cupped the back of her head in his palm and repeatedly slapped her check, screaming, “Why? Why would you do this?” When he looked up at me, I could see the tears in his eyes. They didn’t sparkle. They didn’t tug at my heart, draw me to want to be closer to him and his bleeding ex-girlfriend. I backed away, let the weight of my wedding gown press me down to the floor. I heaved loud sobs, and when I saw the first teardrop land on my left hand, void of a wedding band, I knew we had missed our harvest.

—Nortina

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#ThrowbackThursday Fiction: Reunion

It’s Throwback Thursday! You know what that means . . . Time for another blast from the past. I absolutely love this story, “Reunion.” It’s probably one of my favorite stories I’ve written on this blog. Originally published January 20, 2015, you could call it a fictionalized autobiography. I still feel this way around teenagers. It’s the main reason why I would suck as a teacher—at least a high school teacher. Hell, sometimes even middle school students scare me. I’ll stick with the babies and toddlers for now. 

Speaking of reunions, my high school reunion is coming up in three years. I’m not all that excited about it. I doubt if I would even go, but if I do, I would really like some accomplishments ticked off my list, so those bratty popular girls who made my life hell won’t think I’ve done nothing for the last ten years.

Those accomplishments would be to finally get a full time job, have all my student loans paid off, have my book published, and be moved out of my mama’s house . . . or married, whichever comes first. But to meet a guy, date him for a while, fall in love, and get married all in three years sounds a bit illogical. Then again, I have a coworker who did just that. Got hired full time, started dating a girl who like guns and dogs and snowboarding just as much as he did, had a baby, bought a house, and now they’re getting married next month. All this happened in a span of two years! So, at this rate, hell, anything is possible.

But I’m not holding my breath, so let’s get on with the story . . . 


Reunion

It’s been ten years since I graduated from high school, and they’re still doing the same old, tired cheers.

“I don’t see one white girl,” my older sister, Anita, whispers to me.

“Basketball cheerleading squads are predominantly  black. They’re like step teams. Even at some of the white schools, unless they’re those rich white schools. The white girls cheer during football season.” I wonder if I assume this is true because of my Sociology degree, or if it only applies to my small, North Carolina hometown.

We are seated in the small gymnasium of Ben L. Smith High School to watch my nephew Domenic play in the final game of the season before playoffs. He’s a freshman playing on the varsity team, and is one of the leading scorers. The game is deep in the third quarter and the opposing Page Pirates have just come back from a fifteen point deficit at the half to take the lead, but I can’t seem to take my eyes off the cheerleaders.

They are sitting in the first three rows of the middle section of the bleachers. There are nine or ten of them, all black. When they say their cheers, slapping their thighs and stomping so loud, the bleachers shake, their voices are so deep and gruff, it’s as if they were yelling at the players instead of cheering them on. An occassional high-pitched chirp exists the mouth of one of the girls, though I still can’t pin point which one it is. Maybe it’s one of the skinnier girls on the end, with the long black weave—the AKA in training.

Their green uniforms are tight—too tight for underaged high school girls. They don’t have to bend over too far for anyone to see their butts. The two biggest girls on the squad look to be wrapped in seaweed. Their stomachs poke through their waist high skirts like the pouch of an older woman who has had at least four kids. When they step onto the court to do toe touches for made free throw shots, I cry for the strained seams. At least they’re sitting down for most of their cheers, though. The girls on the dance team moving with the marching band on the other end of the gymnasium are only wearing tights and t-shits, and they’ve been romp shaking and dropping it like it’s hot since halftime.

Were we that raunchy in high school? I can’t remember. Maybe the kids in my class were just as grown as these girls are. I wasn’t among them, though. I was always  that mousey girl who faded into the background and observed everyone else having fun around her. I still am.

The boys are just as intimidating—and they’re tall. Why are they so tall? I feel as if I’ve reverted back into my awkward teenage years, hunched under a bookbag twice my size and hiding behind a book to avoid all eye contact with anyone who may feel invited to tease me. A boy wearing a snapback, sagging skinny jeans, and a gray t-shirt sits in front of me. He reminds me of the guy I lost my virginity to junior year. Wayne Allred was his name. Wayne had the reputation of turning all the good girls out, and junior year he had his eyes set for me. I would say the sex was consensual, but I didn’t have much of a choice. He had a reputation to keep, and whether we did it or not, he was still going to brag about it in the locker room to the guys. So I let him lead me to the balcony of the auditorium after school while the theatre students rehearsed Hamlet on the stage below. It wasn’t pleasant at all—nothing like the movies. He was rough. He covered my mouth with his sweaty t-shirt to muffle my yelps. A week later my guidance counselor called me into her office to talk about a boy I’d been hanging out with after school. She hinted that she knew more than she was letting on, but she wanted me to tell her myself. I didn’t say a word. The rest of the year I went straight home when the final bell rang.

“I’m gonna get some nachos,” I say to Anita. I walk along the sidelines, ducking just as a blocked ball comes hurling my way. Despite not getting hit, the students in the bleachers burst into laughter, and I feel all eyes on me. I scurry out of the gym to the concession stand in the lobby.

“Nachos with cheese,” I tell the PTA member behind the counter. I slide her a wrinkled five dollar bill. She puts the money in the register, gets the last nacho tray from the rack behind her, and hands it to me. I pick up one nacho—the hot, melted cheese dripping from the chip—and sticking out my tongue, I put it in my mouth and chew slowly, savoring the saltiness from the nacho and the smoothness from the cheese. When I look up, two teenage boys are staring at me.

Crap.

“What’s up, girl,” one says. He pulls up his oversized pants and licks his lips.

“Hello,” I say. I lower my head and turn towards the gym, but he grabs my arm.

“Wait. What you in a hurry for? You got a name?”

“Raquel.”

“Ok, Raquel.” He rubs his chin, as if he had a beard to finger through. “My homie wanna holla at you.” He points to his silent friend next to him wearing a faded Robert Griffin III Washington Redskins jersey.

“I’m too old for you.”

“Oooh,” Oversized Jeans says, teasing his friend.

“Man, whatever. I don’t want her ass,” Jersey Boy says, waving me off as he walks away.

“All you had to say was that you wanted me,” Oversized Jeans says to me. “So, what’s good?” He holds out his arms, inviting me in.

“I’m too old for you,” I repeat, though I really don’t feel like I am. I feel as though I’m shrinking into a younger, more timid self. This boy’s hold on my arm makes me nervous. His grip is tight like Wayne Allred’s when he lead me up the stairs to my shameful deflowering.

“What’s too old?” he asks.

“28.”

“You ain’t no damn 28,” the friend says, returning to the conversation.

I look at the Student Resource Officer standing next to the door to the gym. He intentionally doesn’t look our way. What’s the point in having police in schools if they don’t bother to intervene when someone’s getting harassed?

“Let go of my arm,” I whine.

“You really 28?” Oversized Jeans asks. “You don’t look it.”

I guess I wouldn’t when half of the girls at this school look and dress older than I do. While in the gym, I saw a girl wearing jeans with large cutouts at the thighs, revealing fishnet stockings underneath. Another had a baby on her hip. A part of me hoped the child was just a younger sibling, but I knew better. Anita herself had Domenic young, but at least she was out of high school.

I snatch my arm from the boy’s grip and start towards the gym. I can feel them walking behind me, their eyes examining me. I know they’re going to follow me to my seat, sit directly behind me. They’ll talk and joke about the way I look loud enough so that I can hear. They’ll debate about what sexual positions I like, and what new things I might have learned since graduating high school—territory they haven’t yet discovered. They’ll dare each other to make a move on me. Oversized Jeans will stay behind after the game, and on Monday, brag to Jersey Boy, that I let him hit after everyone left. They’ll compare my 28-year-old vagina to that of the girls they’ve had sex with or imagined having sex with. Ten years later, and I’m still the subject of teenage male sexual exploration.

I turn away from the gym and instead walk out of the front doors to the parking lot. Anita will just have to text me the score and how many points Domenic made later. I’ve had enough of high school.

—Nortina

Rumbling Thunder

Love Haiku #9

Thunderclap wakes me
in bed, void of your body
heat. I remember

a time when your eyes
lit my room as lightning, your
love gushed like driving

rain. In the distant
shower outside my window,
I think of you. How

you smashed into me
like hurricane winds and kissed
me with tempest force.

You are my storm, Dear
Lust. When darkness descends, I
burn for your fire.

—Nortina

Lovely Curses’ Next Serial Story: You Decide

Earlier this month in my Agenda post, I told you that I was eager to get started on my next serial story, but I that needed your help in deciding. Which one of my favorite Short Story a Day May stories should I expand into a series?

Well, the votes came in, and there weren’t many, so I’m reopening the poll, because I really want to engage my readers, especially those of you who stuck around while I was dealing with my chronic writer’s block. You’ve truly been loyal and I want to reward you!

So yes, YOU have to decide! While I do have my preferences, I won’t be making the decision this time. I’m leaving it up to you. The future of my blog is in your hands. No pressure…

To refresh your memory, here are your options.

  • Widow — A story about a woman who sets her house on fire, killing her husband and infant child. If chosen, this series will begin before the events of “Widow” take place to explain what led her to such horrendous act of violence.
  • For the Sake of Humanity — In this dystopian, post-apocalyptic tale, a young woman takes her adopted ward on a quest to find the last remaining humans on earth. If their search is successful, she’ll avoid having to go through with the promise she made to the young boy’s dying mother to not let the human race die with them.
  • Dreams are Real — Does true love every really die? Lovers grow apart, they embark on separate paths that lead to different careers, pursuits, marriages, kids, etc. But one day, someday, they eventually find their way back to each other, right? If it was meant to be. This story is all about the possibilities of a nostalgic lover’s dreams of reunion coming true.
  • One Night Stand — This story is a continuation of the “White Jesus” storyline. I haven’t quite developed a plot for this series, but it would have a very urban, Living Single vibe to it. This series would follow the shenanigans of three friends: Lyndra, the main protagonist, her ex-boyfriend, Levon, and his buddy, the philosophical pothead, Philip, aka White Jesus.
  • Dry Spell — In this fun, witty tale, a 34-year-old, sexually inexperienced divorcee, tries to get laid with the help of her promiscuous, sexually liberated friend.

You have your five choices, now it’s time for you to vote! Let me know your favorite story in the comments. Eventually, I’ll probably serialize all these stories, but your selection will take top priority. You have until next Thursday to cast your vote. I’m really counting on you, so don’t let me down!

 

Visitor in the Rose Garden

I hate being left home alone. Especially at night. I see things at night. Things I can’t easily explain away. It’s best just to go to bed early, right after dinner, when Aaron leaves for his shift at the hospital. Even though sleeping on a full stomach is never recommended. Indigestion, weight gain, not to mention the phantasmal dreams. But at least they’re just dreams; I can wake up from dreams.

A man in my rose bushes—now, that’s very real.

I dial Aaron’s cell and it goes straight to voicemail. He’s either in surgery, or he’s just ignoring my calls. I think he’s picked up more night shifts on purpose. He wants to get as far away from me as possible; he thinks I’m bat shit crazy. With him working at night, and my mundane 9 to 5, we only have two hours in the day when our schedules overlap, and still it is too much for him. But I wouldn’t be like this if he’d only show some concern for why I don’t feel safe, spend the night with me like any husband would, lie with me at least until I fall asleep. That’s not asking for too much, is it?

The man never moves, only stands there and watches me wander about the house from window to window. I’ve tried to convince myself that it’s something less terrifying, like a light post or a tree. Trees tend to take a different form when the sun goes down. But there are no trees in our backyard. No street lights either. Because we live way out in the sticks, a forty-five minute drive outside Savannah. The only sign of civilization for miles is a single-story Baptist church with chipped paint, cracked siding, and a parking lot riddled with potholes. It’s congregation can’t be more than three members, including the pastor, because that’s all the cars I see parked around its doors when I drive by on my way into town.

We don’t go to that church. We don’t go to any church. I haven’t been inside a sanctuary since my daddy died when I was sixteen, and I was so anxious to get out of that hot, stuffy box of a church, with no air conditioning, packed with a bunch of self-righteous parishioners who babbled on and on about how holy and godly a man Daddy was when he drank too much, cursed like a sailor, and the only gift he ever left me was a trail of cigarette burns down the back of my thighs.

But now I feel the urge to get on my knees and pray for protection. Even though the figure still hasn’t moved, and when I look too hard, sometimes I can’t even tell if its human. But there’s a mass of darkness between my bushes, darker than the blackness of night, which even out here isn’t all that black because we still have the moon and the stars to lighten even the darkest hour. Sometimes, especially when the moon is full and the sky is cloudless, it’s almost as if the night has passed hours early and dawn is just beginning to break over the horizon.

That’s how I know something is there, something that’s not there during the day when I’m out in the yard, circling in the spaces between the bushes, bumping into nothing solid blocking my path, and pruning the branches, making sure to avoid the thorns, cutting off a few of the fuller roses that have bloomed beautifully under the sun, unfurling their petals to expose their most delicate inner regions. Those I take inside and put in a vase of water, their sweet scent filling the room, and even though they last only a day, maybe two, I pretend Aaron has given them to me, out of the love he bears in his heart for me.

It stands three feet above my tallest rose bush, making it at least seven feet in height. Sometimes I can distinguish a head from shoulders, and when it’s windy, long locks of hair. I used to hold onto the hope that it is Aaron, sneaking home just to check on me. The lost romantic in me loved that. The idea that he would risk a patient’s life just to make sure his lonely wife was taken care of, that nothing was amiss at the house.

I’ve given up hope on that now. If he does leave the hospital early, it’s to see another woman. A woman who is less worrisome, more tolerable to make love too. I even know her name: Stella. He doesn’t bother to delete the emails from our shared account. They come right to my phone too. Her pleas to have her pipes cleaned again, long overdue. The adrenaline rush she got when they did it in the patient record room, bodies pressed up against dusty file folders. Pictures of her positioned on her bed in risqué poses wearing nothing but a sheer lace-trimmed negligee.

I wish this thing would come in and kill me already. It would be a relief to Aaron. One less problem to deal with in his busy, busy day. How did we come to this; when I would be seeking death to unburden his shoulders? Was there a moment in our relationship when everything just changed? Divorcees always say that it is, that you may not have noticed when it happened, but in hindsight, you always knew it was there. But I can think of nothing—a word, a gesture, a forgotten birthday or anniversary—that would’ve caused me to lose my husband’s love.

I open the back door, and I half see it turn its head; probably shocked that I’ve finally come outside to greet it, or maybe it’s just my eyes adjusting to the night causing my vision to jump. Before my trepid heart can change my mind, or before it disappears, I dash toward the figure in a full on sprint, unsure of what to expect—if I’ll be overcome with fear or gladness to have arms wrap around me, lift me up into the air in a warm embrace. But anything is better than spending another night alone in my cold bed, the white noise of an empty house seeping in to haunt my dreams.

—Nortina


Alright guys, what do you think of Fright Night FridaysEvery Friday night, I’ll try to post something spooky, something paranormal, something suspenseful, something that would surely give you a fright. Are you brave enough to stick around?

June Writing Bug: What’s Next on the Agenda?

We did it! Yay! ¡Lo Hicimos! 

Now that I’ve shown my age ( 😉 ), let’s talk about writing, and writing A LOT.

After wallowing in my own self-pity for many months due to the incessant beast that is writer’s block, I’m happy to announce that I’ve caught the writing bug! For the last two months I’ve been writing nonstop, posting almost every day for April’s A to Z Challenge and May’s Short Story a Day Challenge, and during the first week of May, I also participated in the poetry challenge, #fapalywo. My followers have slowly started to come back to visit, now that I’ve assured them I won’t disappear again. It feels good to be back to form.

But now it’s June, and I don’t want to wear myself down by committing to another month-long writing challenge. I could already feel it starting to become a burden toward the end May. I was reaching for good short story ideas. The last week and a half of prompts weren’t all that inspiring, so I really had to force myself to write something. The ironic thing is the stories I posted in the last week of May seemed to have been the most popular. That is truly a confidence boost, so thank you. (You really like me!)

One of my goals for May was to write a new short story to submit to literary magazines. I haven’t had anything published since 2015, mainly because I haven’t written anything. For the second half of this year, it is my hope to change that. Unfortunately, that will have to wait at least another month, because I didn’t get to write the story yet. I have an idea for what could be a strong story. To give you the basic premise, it’s a redemptive tale about a wayward woman who wanders into a church service one Sunday morning and has a life-changing experience. I’m still working out the details in my head, but while that story is still in progress, another rose to the surface while I was deep in the trenches of Short Story A Day May.

In short story #10, “I Can’t Stay,” I was exploring a story that came to me in a dream a few years ago about a woman who is running from her current boyfriend and has a “chance encounter” with her ex/the one who got away. I brought it back and expanded a little more with short story #31, “To Rewind Time,” and I think short story #26, “A Mother Still,” will also be a part of that story arc. So I will spend this month further developing the story and bringing it all together, and hopefully by July, I’ll be back to submitting to magazines and receiving more rejection letters than acceptance notices. (Hey, you gotta laugh at these things sometimes).

One portion of the Short Story A Day May Challenge that I really enjoyed was novel week. It not only gave me the opportunity to do some further sketching for my NaNoWriMo novel, Lost Boy, but I also got to revisit some characters I haven’t looked at in two years: Jessica, Whitmore, and Bruce, from my 2015 A to Z Challenge melodrama, Love PoetryAnd it gave me a wonderful idea—Why not write this novella (which I should have finished in 2015) for Camp NaNoWriMo in July? Camp isn’t as strenuous as the real deal in November; at least here we can choose our own writing goals, so if I don’t make it to 50,000 words, I won’t be a total failure. Camp will also prepare me for writing (and hopefully finishing) my first novel, Lost Boy, for NaNoWriMo in November. (My heart is pounding just thinking about it!)

So I took fifteen minutes to sketch out a quick outline for Love Poetry, which is slightly different from what I posted back in April 2015 but not too much, and for July (so you don’t think I’ve disappeared again), I’ll be taking a chapter out of fellow blogger, Marquessa’s, book (I hope she doesn’t mind), and while all my focus will be on completing Love Poetry for Camp NaNoWriMo (what’s ironic is that I first attempted to write this novel back in 2014 for, you guessed it, NaNoWriMo 😀 ), I’ll be re-posting my 2015 A to Z Challenge, along with other Whitmore and Jessica related stories (because I have more than a month’s worth). If you’re a new follower since May 2015, you’ll be getting a treat, and for those of you who’ve been here a while, a blast from the past!

Getting back to June, I have a few ideas on where I want to take this blog moving forward, but I need your help.

First, I am overdue for another serial story. If you want to check out previous (completed) serial stories, read the Buried Series from the beginning here, and my 2016 A to Z novella, 26 Husbands—26 Unusual Deaths here. I thought my next series would be Oceanview, but while attempting to write Part 3 for one of the Short Story a Day prompts, I went completely blank. So that story goes back to the drawing board for now. However, I did write a few stories that are a little more developed and could possibly be expanded into a series. Below are the links to those stories. Which one do you think I should turn into a series? Vote in the poll, and I’ll reveal the winner next week!

For the Sake of Humanity

Widow

Dreams are Real

One Night Stand (from the “White Jesus” story line)

Dry Spell

 

Was there a story not included above that you would like to see in a series? Not a problem. Let me know in the comments, and I’ll consider it in the voting too.

Also in June I’m doing a test trial for a new Flash Fiction writing challenge. Last year, I hosted a short-lived challenge, Moral Mondays, which was fun, but too much of a commitment for me at the time. I may be shooting myself in the foot here, but I’m bringing back the Monday challenge, because we all need a little Monday motivation, right? This challenge will be One-Minute Fiction. As the title suggests, you’ll be challenged to write a flash story in one minute, no more no less, based on the prompt (a word, a phrase, a photo, whatever I’m feeling for that week). Sound promising? It should really light a fire under your bum and set you up for a whole week of writing! If it’s a success, I’ll keep it going; if not it’ll end June 26. (womp, womp )

Other June personal blogging ideas:

  • Throwback Thursday – Share a post (fiction or poetry) from the past.
  • Fright Night Friday – Post a frightful (thriller, suspense, paranormal, etc.) story or poem every Friday night. (You already know I love a good ghost story.)
  • Book Reviews – I have a lot of book reviews in my arsenal. I think I might reserve these posts for Saturdays.

So what do you think? Are you excited for June? Do you think writer’s block is plotting its revenge? Would you be interested in purchasing Love Poetry if I were to self-publish it? Do you plan to participate in the one-minute fiction challenge? Are you looking forward to the next serialized story? Or maybe you’re waiting for me to mention the one left unfinished…I’m being really secretive about it.

You’ll see why in due time… 😉

By the way, are you enjoying these beginning of the month goal setting posts? They’re my way of holding myself accountable, but sometimes I think I’m just talking to myself. Prove me wrong and leave a comment!

To Rewind Time

I remember that he’s married now, so I ask about his wife.

“Pregnant,” he says.

I wait for details, but he only adds, “Very pregnant.”

Out of decency, I think to congratulate him, recite some drivel about how happy I am for him, how I wish him nothing but the best—all lies.

“How’ve you been?” he asks. Such a generic question, but there’s a hint of genuine concern in his voice, as if he’s picked up on my misery—I make no effort to hid it, and he had always been empathetic toward my feelings, even when he was the cause of my grief.

I look up into his eyes, and their weariness makes me feel safe. Reason would convince me that his visible tiredness is because of a demanding wife who, big with child, has driven him to take extra shifts—ringing up chips and smokes for night owls and runaways like me being less strenuous than whatever hormonal crisis is unfolding at home—but I hold onto hope that seeing me again for the first time in five years has brought him to hate his own life, as I do mine.

“I’m being stalked by my boyfriend,” I tell him.

He laughs at what he thinks is an obvious joke, and a customer I don’t hear approach from behind taps my shoulder. It startles me so that a current of electricity shoots through me, surging underneath my skin, and it’s as if I’ve literally jumped out of my own body. I drop my bag of nabs along with the gallon bottled water onto the floor, hitting my big toe, and bite my tongue to keep from crying out.

“Excuse me, ma’am, I didn’t mean to scare you,” he says. He bends down to help me, but I push him away and quickly gather my things— I’ve stayed too long anyway. What good will it do me to explain to an ex, happily married, that I’ve continued making bad choices, even after he was gone? I’d be giving Craig more time to find me and force me back into his bed. I’ve wasted enough time; I must leave.

But I make the mistake of turning back before I exit the door, and he stares at me as he takes cash from the other customer. And I am still frozen by the door when the man rushes past, and we are again left alone in this silent gas station, save for the hum of the coolers on the back wall, there to let us know we are still being watched.

“Why don’t you call the police?” he asks.

I’ve tried. Even amid campaigns to end domestic violence, to look for the signs, pay close attention to the most subtle, they don’t believe me. The absence of physical scars doesn’t help, and the fact that they know Craig further discredits my case.

“He is the police,” I say.

“Damn.” He drums the tips of his fingers against the counter. I notice the nails are clipped too close to his skin, and I wonder if he still makes a habit of chewing them. He turns his head toward the short-circuit television, which displays the security cam footage in the store, and I step back, just out of shot, as another customer walks in, drawing the cool air outside with a draft. The bell above the door jingles, and I look down at the time on my wrist watch. Fifteen minutes and counting.

“Hey.” He comes from behind the counter, and in two strides he is right on top of me. I forget how tall he is—almost seven feet. He towers over me. I remember how he frightened me at times, even more when we argued. Now his eyes show a fierce anger, the deep amber in his irises pops out as in those of a predator, and all I want to do is faint into his arms like a damsel.

“I get off at eleven. Will you wait?” he asks.

I know I shouldn’t, and it’s selfish of me to keep him from his growing family, to worry him with my own feeble problems, especially when I’ve done this to myself, but his breath on my lips drowns me. My eyes roll closed, and I imagine how different my life would be if five years ago I had only said those four simple words he was desperate to hear come back to him as he cradled the velvet box behind his back: “I love you too.”

—Nortina


We’ve finally reached the last day Short Story A Day May, and today’s prompt sought to mock me. In attempt to write a story about a writer, I decided to write a story about a writer who couldn’t think of anything to write, and . . . well, I couldn’t think of anything to write. So I went back to an earlier story, and added to it. I’ve decided this will be the story I write for literary magazine submission (since the other one didn’t come together like I had hoped). I hope you enjoyed all of these short stories. Some were harder to write than others. Expect a reflection and “What next?” post to come soon!