The moon shook and curled up like gentle fire. I held my hand up to her caressing the sparks, trying to cajole them back into unwinding. The night would end and if she did not unfurl her grace the sun would have a hard time rising. She resisted my touch, her eyes downcast and her lips pressed into dying denial. Beyond her head I could see the skies split into what was meant to be a sunrise but the sun had shunned the skies. I sensed his presence in the moon’s depths, beseeching her to uncurl her round petals. Behind me, the clamour of the city and wails of hungry infants were calling me back to the lands and I dropped back, helpless, drifting through the clouds.
It was a grey daylight drizzle that welcomed me as I opened my sore eyes, spent weeping for moon’s demise. The sun was nowhere to be seen, without his bride of night to glow again he was not so keen. I looked around the city from my balcony anticipating sunrise but only amorphous grey met my eyes. I realised I had to dive again into Morpheus realm and cross the rivers of the shades of the night to try to coax her again into undying so the sun could shine his light.
When I emerged on the other side, the strangest sight met my eyes. The moon was lying down roaring with laughter as the sun was tickling her feet with his rays. Her woes of the night forgotten she seemed much besotted and the sun could barely contain his heat as he beamed at her, happy she was finding back the fun in the nights. Around them, the clouds were awash with a buzz of curiosity and anticipation – which explained the grey drizzle of that morning. I cleared my throat and asked timidly if we could finally have some shine and they could choose which one would go for it. When I left, they were sorting it out with a match of rocks, scissors and papers.
My eyelids fluttered, warmed by the sun’s beckoning. I woke up to another gorgeous sunny morning. All was well in the skies.
She shrieked. Her mother ran in from the other room, wondering if she hurt herself. She was standing there, trembling, her face contorted with fear as she gazed at the middle-aged woman in front of her. Look she screeched at her mom, who is that fat woman? It is you, answered her mother, tears running down her face.
She looked at herself in the mirror. Time had passed faster than she imagined. Ten years! She could not believe that this had happened. The words of her mother explaining everything drowned into the distance and she only picked up bits and pieces so akin to the bits and pieces of herself that she was now picking up, recollecting her past as she examined that unknown paunchy dull woman. …Catatonia… you were… depressed… never reacting… I took care of you despite …fed you… combed your hair… bathed you…
The grandfather clock seemed to pound the seconds synchronised with the beating of her heart as she reached out to the image of herself and the vision of her hand with its strange reflection, chubby with the nails crooked and bitten off was another shock. Ticks and tocks, how many more shocks, her mind whispered. She still could not believe so much time had passed without her even living those moments truly. Of essential time she had not felt the chime, she told herself. It was as if someone had stolen those years, hidden them away from her. Oh but to find the key to the treasure chest and wind back those memories to contemplate!
She looked back to her image, the weary tired eyes with the crow lines extending towards the cheeks. Those cheeks once so rosy and spruced how they were all faded now sad and grey. That sagging tired jawline could sink the spirits lower than wine she thought to herself as her finger traced them slowly towards her temples. Her head was aching now and she pressed her temples hard wincing under the pain but glad to be feeling again something at least. All those years gone by that she would never be able to witness like grains of sand they had seeped through her fingers and would never come back. What had happened to him she wondered. Tempus fugit… a cackling voice repeated over and over in her mind as she sunk to her knees.
Written in the context of FRIDAY FICTION with RONOVAN WRITES Prompt Challenge #9
Ally reached her childhood home late and knew her parents would be worried. She could not tell them that it was because she had spent so much time trying to convince her husband to join her at least for this Christmas gathering. They would not understand. “Why waste time on those vultures living off my money” he had jeered at her before getting upset as she pointed out that she was sending them money from her own earnings. Unabashed he had grumbled that it would still be the same as his own money as it was the couple’s money she was sending that would be better dedicated to their own household.
“Be back in time for the Christmas gathering in my CEO’s house. You know how important this is” he had yelled at her while she was driving off. She hated the Christmas parties at his CEO John’s place. Everyone was fake and would get drunk in no time putting on a forceful cheer and they all despised her courteously because they thought she was being a snob. Not only did she not drink making them feel awkward before the wine’s fumes had overpowered their brains but she also had great difficulty pretending to laugh at their coarse jokes. She did not think any amount of wine would get her to enjoy them really.
The strain of those five years of marriage in between fights about who would pay which bills and forceful cheer in trash Christmas parties was getting the better of her nerves. She felt particularly nervous and downtrodden tonight but from the corner of her eye she could see her parents rushing across the dining room to open the door for her as they had spotted the car from the open window. She hastily painted a cherry red Christmas smile on her lips and struck a dance to her feet as she walked gaily towards them, the breathing picture of happiness.
Mom, Dad, I missed you so much she gushed, holding them close to her heart – and this was no pretence.
They hugged her back, giving a sidelong look to the car as they did and her heart fell. She disengaged with regret from their embrace and asked her dad for some help with the gifts all the while chattering mindlessly about how Robert was so sorry that he would miss yet a fifth Christmas party but his bosses had extra work for him – not really a lie she thought to herself – and he would have to represent the brand again so could not accompany her this time as well. As her dad took out some large gifts out of the trunk she pointed out cheerfully that those were from Robert for all of them – a flash of how he had scowled as usual when she bought such presents with her own money crossed her mind’s eye and she shut it off fiercely. Her parents were beside themselves with joy at Robert’s usual thoughtfulness and generosity and her mother kept cooing about how lucky her daughter was to have found such a perfect husband.
Now the next small glitch she thought while entering the house. She had never got on really with her younger brother who always had ratted on her for every little thing while they were growing up but it had become worse since she got married and had left the house. Every time she was back, he would treat her with a distant hostility although it had been quite okay the first Christmas that she had come over with Robert just after their marriage. Whenever she visited, he would not make her feel welcome, to the contrary even and would pointedly keep treating her as a guest, as if she did not belong there. He had even made it a point to take over her room so she was never able to stay over when she visited – not that she would have been able to as she rarely travelled to see her parents anyway but it would have been comforting to know her room was still there for her, which it was not.
As she entered the home, she caught a glimpse of her younger brother rushing up to her/his room, as if to lay a claim again on his captured territory she thought slightly irritated this time. Christmas dinner had started early as had become the tradition ever since Robert stopped accompanying her – right from the second year of their marriage actually – and her parents realised she would have to go back home and prepare a Christmas dinner for him too at home, for when he would be back from work. Little did they know!
At last they were all seated in the small dining room which was bright with love and Christmas carols that everybody kept bellowing to, adding to the growing confusion and happiness that rang through the room. A single neighbour, now an adopted son for festive occasions, was banging away at the piano before her mother decided it was “time to put some goodies into all of us”. They had barely set about cutting the turkey when the phone rang. Her mother told her it was Robert so she rushed expecting something terrible had happened or he would not have disturbed that brief moment with her family.
Something terrible did happen, yes, Robert told her breathlessly over the phone. It was something to do with a burnt turkey – the CEO’s wife, Linda, had for once wanted to prepare a home-cooked meal for Christmas – and Robert and his “resourceful wife” were being called in to help save the situation so they would need to be there much earlier. Linda had no idea where she could get something which resembled a home-cooked turkey so Ally was the obvious solution for her to “fix the Christmas spirit” as Linda coined it. Apparently Linda had not discovered Google or Bing yet and Ally was her google in town.
She started out whispering that she could not leave so early and had to at least have the turkey to which her husband answered some colourfully unpleasant remarks about “fat turkeys” at his expense. As her mother stood in the doorway for a while she added in a stage whisper that the whole family was delighted at the gifts he had thoughtfully got. Her husband gave a nasty chuckle telling her she was being a fool continuing to pretend and that for all he cared she could tell them right out that he thought they were just vultures and he would not dream of giving them any costly gifts and specially not to that sullen younger brother of hers who was so silly trying to make friends with him. All really very simple folks who did not understand much about how it was important to be seen with the right people and as far as he was concerned, they were definitely not the right people to be seen with.
He scoffed at her for trying to make her younger brother like him the first Christmas by buying him an exorbitantly expensive telescope – a gift her brother had always dreamed of but never dared to ask for – which she had passed off as a gift from Robert while she just got him a comic book. The following years she had stonily kept this lop-sided approach to gifts as she had first desperately wanted her family to like Robert and then she had got caught up in this huge lie which she felt she could not get out of without hurting her family. She hung up promising she would do her best while her husband was still chuckling at how silly she was and did not realise that the efforts at keeping people happy were best employed with people who could help you achieve something, which her family clearly could not and she should follow his guidance as he had gotten rid of his own family and their demands a long time ago.
She walked back to the dining room thinking of an excuse to come up with, some spices she had forgotten, a stuffing she had not thought of, a second turkey for the neighbours when she stopped dead in her tracks as she saw her younger brother coming down from his room. In his hand was the handheld phone which was paired with the main line. Just a look at his face and she knew he knew. He was looking at her very intently. Her mother popped her head through the dining room door again asking if everything was okay. She started telling her that perhaps she would have to go because she had forgotten… before she finished her brother cut in “Ally will not tell you the truth mom because she wants to keep you happy” – her heart fell and her mind screamed inwards, no please – “but her husband is not well and she has to leave early to be with him so she was she just saying she forgot something not to worry you” continued her brother, his eyes still focused on Ally.
Her parents packed her off with some turkey and other home-made goodies together with a lot of kisses and hugs but her younger brother had disappeared. As she reached the car, she caught a glimpse of someone emerging out of the shadows in the parking lot and realised it was him. Tom, she started but he just reached over stepping into the light as he did and squeezed her hand, his eyes ablaze with a light she had never seen there before. He inched towards her and then fully embraced her, his head resting on her head as he did. They stood for a few moments. Neither of them spoke. Make sure you stay the night next Christmas, said Tom giving her a shove at the shoulder. He had not done that since she was 9 and he was 5. It had been their favourite challenge years ago. I will she said shoving him back at the opposite shoulder with a grin. Your room will be ready said Tom. He smiled at her and squeezed her hand again. She smiled back and the Christmas cherry red of her lips kept twitching upwards as she drove off towards a burnt turkey and a blonde wreck to tend to. Of course she would be able to “fix the Christmas spirit” she thought. She felt the warmth pervade her. Christmas was in her Heart.
This story was written based on Ronovan writes Friday fiction (a bit delayed as I did not have my laptop and it is difficult to write a lot on an android so I could not write my second story).
Ping back and rules here and I am aware what I wrote is not exactly a flash fiction 😀
King’s College Cambridge 2008 #10 What Sweeter Music John Rutter
The sky was grey. Jenna hated when the sky was grey. It felt like it would fall on her head as the clouds hung low and foreboding. She felt she could almost touch their dark rim. She sighed and put on her black leather coat to match her black tights. She would have to take a taxi to St James as none of her relatives would pick her up. She paused in front of the kitchen ledge in front of a large old parcel. Her hands reached out slowly but she forced them back in her pockets. Somehow, she found they had made their way back to the parcel, caressing distractedly its faded paper flowers. She picked up the parcel almost against her will and rushed out as the taxi honked again angrily. She must have been daydreaming because the neighbour yelled at her that the driver had honked at least five times and the rest got lost as she grimaced a smile towards her neighbour’s scowling face and ran leaving her grumpy neighbor’s words to trail away behind her.
The taxi dropped her right in front of St James. At least one advantage for not driving to the place she thought to herself. She entered and saw them all lined up in a small row. For such a celebrity there were much less people than she would have imagined. In fact there seemed to be only the closest family. Looking at them from far she imagined them to be some consortium of crows cawing at each other, the queen crow, her aunt, throwing her wings about in an absurd way. She moved closer and felt more than she saw her aunt stiffen, all drama wiped out from her frame. Hello Aunt Estelle, said Jenna. Nobody answered even as she turned towards her cousins greeting them. Cold looks met her attempt at friendliness. Jenna’s hands fell to her sides. She heard one of her cousins whisper to another that she should not be here after showing such ingratitude towards their dad. She squared her shoulders and moved forward. This was not about them. It was her right to be there.
Another cousin, the daughter of another aunt whispered that it was all Jenna’s fault that people even gave credit to those awful stories that came up and that had spurred the investigation that caused her uncle’s heart attack. Jenna gritted her teeth. She had heard about the young piano student’s mother complaining. It was certainly not her fault. She had only flung a box of chocolates at her aunt and uncle screaming that she hated her uncle and had disappeared so many years ago. People had thought she was being extremely ungrateful towards this couple who had taken her in at 10 when her mother was first ill. People had blamed her for the way in which she left. Jenna straightened her posture and stared ahead. It was not her fault that it happened to be a box of chocolates that the little girl gave her mother saying that Uncle Elliott, the piano teacher, had given them to her to be a very good girl. It was not her fault either that Uncle Elliott did not actually know what was the true meaning of a good girl and that the girl’s mother did not agree to his notion of it. It was not her fault that the police did not share either Uncle Elliott’s ideas on what a good girl was.
Jenna stared at all her cousins in a row, at the various aunts and uncles who simply looked away when she looked at them, trying to establish eye contact and make them understand that she did not mind anymore. This was not about them anyway, she told herself again. She remembered Ralph’s suggestion on letting go and moved forward quietly. The casket had a glass portion at the top and she could see her uncle smiling back at her. Her hands felt damp and chilly as they clutched her pants and the edges of her leather jacket. She reached slowly into the large bag on her shoulder and drew the parcel out. As she fumbled, her hands too sweaty, the old paper tore and all her cousins, aunts and uncles gasped as one by one more than a dozen small chocolate boxes fell from the parcel, the chocolates falling out from the boxes and spraying the coffin brown and white. Jenna stared at the messy coffin which looked like someone had vomited all over it and looked back at her cousins who had now closed in on the coffin looking aghast at her and at the coffin. She looked back calmly, not feeling any sweat anymore on her palms. It was as if the parcel and its contents had dried off all the sweat forever when they fell from her hands onto the coffin. Her aunt Estelle raised a hand as if she meant to embrace her but Jenna backed away from her. She broke through the row of her cousins and walked, never looking back. This was not about them.
This post was inspired by a prompt from the Ronovan writes series with this week’s prompt being about a family gathering.
She looked at his face, a picture of an angel. His hands against the teddy bear she had put next to him. It always made her catch her breath when she saw him so serene and peaceful in his sleep.
He was almost always such a naughty boy when he was awake and she had to scold him often, too often perhaps.
She kneeled down and grazed his cheek with her lips. It did not feel quite right. She stared at him. Something welled inside her as her friends propped her up.
She looked down at him, the teddy bear almost his size squeezed into the carving out of the pine tree she had chosen. She thought it should have been her, more white hairs on her head and many more wrinkles to her face lying in a larger sized coffin with him a young man looking down at her, happy she had lived such a full life though sad to let her go.
It was not meant to be this way. Her throat was still parched, all throughout her an aching fire moved but the tears would not come, not yet.
Tomorrow or someday, sometime it will rain but today there was only the fire and the desolation
It will rain – Bruno Mars
FRIDAY FICTION with RONOVAN WRITES Prompt Challenge #5