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Not supposed to…

My Indie Ink challenge this week brought up some difficult things. I wrote this as fiction because I can’t write it well as anything else yet, but this is pieces of reality from years ago. I was challenged by A Lil Irish Lass with the line “That was something you were never supposed to see.”


“I just walked in on him. They were in our bed. How does he think that’s okay?”

“You’re in an open relationship. What’s the problem?”

“Apparently it’s possible to cheat in an open relationship. One of the rules we have is that we always know what’s going on with the other person. If he’d wanted to sleep with her and he’d talked to me about it, it would have been all right. I wouldn’t have understood, but I wouldn’t have objected. She’s tall, yes, and young, but not very bright, and her teeth are awful. Of course, so are his, so I suppose that doesn’t matter to him. I’m rambling about teeth while my boyfriend is screwing someone in my freaking bed.”

“They didn’t stop?”

“He looked up at me, more angry than anything else, got up, walked over to the door, shut it, and as he shut it, said, ‘That was something you were never supposed to see.’”

“That’s not good.”

“Would you please help me pack? I am not staying, and I know how bad he can get if he’s in a temper and doesn’t have an audience.”

“What do you mean? He’s always so sweet to you. I’ve seen you overreact a few times, but I’ve never seen him angry.”

I turned around and pulled up my shirt. The welts from a few nights ago that he’d applied so carefully after I had embarrassed him in front of his friends were still there, more bruised than red at this point. “He’s not sweet unless there’s an audience. I thought I could be good enough. I thought I was the problem. I thought, if I just worked hard enough, cooked well enough, was smart enough, he’d stop hurting me. In public he’s so nice. I thought it was my fault.” I pulled my shirt down and turned around. “I just realized how much I’ve come to depend on him for my sense of self. I’m with a man who can cheat in an open relationship and then get angry at me for it. If I go back without someone else coming along, I’ll pay for it tonight. I don’t think I can do that again.”

“I don’t even know what to say. I can’t imagine him being abusive to anyone. He’s so gentle. Everyone knows how kind he is!”

Tears were starting to leak out. “Where else would I get welts like that? It’s an open relationship on his side. The only times I’ve done anything were at his direction, and if I even flirted without his say-so he flipped his lid.”

“I just don’t believe it. You’re too smart to stay in an abusive relationship. The only people who would do that are stupid or desperate. He’s not that kind of guy, either. He’s sweet and sensitive and cares about people. I can’t believe you’d say that about him!” She left, angrily, slamming the door behind her.

I sat down on the floor, suddenly aware of how alone I had become in the years that he’d been separating me from my friends and working on his to make sure they had a particular view of the relationship. I probably wasn’t supposed to see that, either.


Karla V. answered my challenge here.

Rain

I’m participating in the Indie Ink Writing Challenge, and this week Mean Girl Garage was my challenger. I, in turn, challenged Michael, who responded in a very interesting way.

My challenge was “Then the rain came down…” and this is what came out. I am rather enjoying writing fiction lately, so you get another odd little story.


The water elemental rose up in front of her, knocking her off her feet. She scrambled up, knowing immediately that she only had one shot. She knelt down, aimed carefully, and held down the trigger. The adapted flamethrower erupted, covering all but the highest point of the elemental in flames. The elemental immediately disappeared into a cloud of steam.

She sighed, looked around, untangled her horse from a nearby tree where it had gotten caught while trying to run away, and rode into town, flamethrower securely stowed. The problem with using a car around an elemental was that so many things could go wrong. Horses were just easier.

Once the horse was settled and she had packed away all of her gear, she went to find food. The townspeople were eager to hear how she had vanquished such an impressive foe. She started by telling them of other elementals, how each needed to be handled differently, and then told the story of tracking this one and hunting it to its death. She had actually never taken down a water elemental before, but, as she had guessed, fire worked well. She finished talking and said she would be getting on her way.

As she left, she noticed that the clouds were darker than they had been earlier in the day. She shrugged and decided to ignore it. Having good raingear took care of many discomforts, and it was not more than an hour’s ride to home.

She saddled up the horse, packed up the gear, made sure she’d stay at least mostly dry, and headed out.

Then the rain came down…

No ordinary rain. This came in sheets, seemingly focused on her. She felt the water getting into every possible opening, and within a few minutes, despite being covered in the best rain protection she could buy, she was soaked. The horse was twitchy, clearly unhappy, and kept shifting and jumping.

“Easy. Not too far. We just have to get home.”

She was feeling somewhat uncomfortable, not in any definite way, so she decided to get off and walk the horse instead of riding. It had been a long day for him, too.

As soon as she got off, he settled down. She began slogging through the mud, and soon her feet were wet, too.

She felt an odd tightening on her skin, as if she were wearing too-tight clothes everywhere. Even her scalp felt like it was being compressed. The water began to move on her body, and she realized, suddenly, that steam was also a water elemental’s form. She hadn’t stopped it, just slowed it down a little.

As she fell, writhing, into the mud, she dropped the reins. The horse watched her without curiosity for a short while, then ambled towards home.

Mail order bride

It’s time again for the Indie Ink Challenge! We started out with just the editors challenging each other, but decided that it would be more fun to open it up and see who wanted to join in. Ever week we are challenged by a different person. This week I’m being challenged by Andrea. I’ll post the prompt at the end of the story. I’ve never been much on writing fiction, but this was rather fun. My Plaid Pants answered my challenge on her blog.


“Let us go somewhere romantic this weekend. A lake. Somewhere quiet, where it can be just us.” Her heavy Russian accent still charmed him.

“I think that’s a great idea, honeypie. I’ve got a tent and we’ll pick you up a sleeping bag. Y’know,” he wiggled his eyebrows suggestively, “one that’ll zip up with mine.”

She smiled at him. “Of course. If I am to be your wife, we need to get to know each other better. Too many people here.”

The next weekend they went camping. It was a beautiful spot, a small, quiet lake without too many mosquitoes, even in the middle of summer. She stayed wrapped in a voluminous dress with a large hat until sundown, and then she took off the dress and hat to reveal a swimsuit that covered everything necessary but no more. He looked at her in wonder.

“You look awful purty!”

“Thank you. I do try to take care of myself.”

“When I went on those internets to see if I could find me a wife, I kind of expected that she’d end up bein’ one of those gap-toothed ugly women, y’know? Somebody like you…damn, I hit the jackpot!”

She smiled, that same slightly reserved smile, but he didn’t notice.

“You go swim, and I’ll get the tent set up. Then you can show me how a good Russian wifey cooks for her man.” He wandered off in the direction of the truck, humming tunelessly.

After he set up the tent, he came to check on her. When she saw him coming she walked out of the water slowly, making sure that he was paying close attention. She dried herself off and began to work on dinner.

“That ain’t enough for both of us. I eat a lot. If you want food, you’d best make enough for yourself.”

“I will be fine. I am not terribly hungry. Yet.”

“Whatever. Just don’t think I let people take my food.”

She finished cooking and made sure he was settled in, packing away the food like he was starving.

“I’m going to get clothing on. I am slightly cold.”

“Whatever.” Still shoveling the food, he paid no attention as she walked away.

When he had finished eating, he leaned back in his chair, let out a satisfied sigh, and burped loudly. “Hey, you ain’t half bad as a cook. Maybe I will keep you around.” He patted his lap, looking around the campsite. “Come on, baby, time to get to know each other better.”

She was suddenly beside him. “Of course,” she purred. She settled onto his lap and twined her arms around his neck. “I am looking forward to my dinner now.”

He looked at her blankly. “What?”

“You are going to be my dinner. I am going to suck your blood.”

“Baby, if you want something to suck, I got it for you right here!” He grabbed his crotch suggestively, somewhat impeded by the fact that she was still on his lap.

A trace of irritation showed on her perfect features. “No. I will open your jugular and drain you. I am a vampire.”

He smiled broadly. “Oooh, you like playing games? I think you should be my teacher and hit me with a ruler. I don’t much like blood games.”

She snarled a little. “You are not sharpest marble in flock, are you? I am going to kill you by drinking your blood. I have never met a man so stupid as you!”

His grin started to fade. “You wanted to marry me. You don’t want to kill me, honeypie. You’re a sweet little thing.”

“Not sweet. Not at all. I did not live seven thousand years to be stopped by stupid man. I need food, and you are prey.”

A dawning realization began to creep across his face. “But…but…” he sputtered. He grabbed her, threw her away from him, and ran for the truck.

She laughed. “All tires are slashed. You will not go anywhere.” Her accent was getting thicker. “Come back, stupid little man. It is dinnertime.”

He ran for the woods, but she was suddenly there, still laughing. He lunged for her throat, hands outstretched, and found himself on the ground staring up at her. That sweet face was not quite human anymore, and she looked very hungry.

“Ah,” she said as she leaned down and traced her very sharp fingernail along his vein. “I have heard that here, you eat wife when you want her to be happy. I do not know what that means. In Russia, wife eat you.”


The prompt was “Write a horror story or a comedy that includes a lake, internet dating, flat tires and bleeding.”

(Mostly) Fiction – Exhaustion

Some days.

Some days the exhaustion catches me unawares.

I work with children who are hurt and broken, who desperately want to feel loved but are terrified of it. I work with children who scream, kick, claw, bite, and are sometimes borderline feral. Not babies, not little ones, but 6, 8, 10 years old. They can do damage if you aren’t careful.

I drive home in the quiet at night, holding close the knowledge that I go home to peace. I have a hard time staying awake sometimes.

I get home to others needing things, but these are things I can do without thought. Feed the dog. Water the lawn. Wash dishes. Then my needs: brush teeth, braid hair, sleep.

If it hasn’t been too long of a day, I can read a little. If it has, I can barely keep my eyes open.

These children. Other peoples’ children. I love them, want them to be happy, but someday they will go home. I will most likely lose track of them then. It pulls the life out of me to watch them hurt so much, to watch them wish so hard for the people they love to pay attention to them, to think about them, to care about them.

I know the parents resent me. I spend time with their kids. I teach them to read, to cook, to enjoy little things, and they come back to their parents proud of what they’ve done. What parent wouldn’t resent that a little? These parents aren’t quite stable, sometimes, so the resentment comes out in nasty barbs, said to their children, aimed at me, thrown at me when children are angry. I know where they come from, but still, they sting a little.

I hold them, sing to them, make sure they know someone cares. I can give them that. I pay attention to who they are, what they like, how they interact. One is mostly only angry when tired. Another gets afraid and lashes out. Another just wants silence and can’t find it, even when there is no noise.

I can only help so much. I could not do this all the time. I need to be able to sleep away from their pain.

Sometimes the exhaustion catches up and I turn on the shower, sit down in the hot water, and let the warmth wash away the tears I shed for them. I sit sometimes until the hot water runs out, letting their stress and pain and anger and unhappiness run off of me.

I can’t build walls. They need to be loved. I am hurt without walls, though. I can only do this for so long.

I sing “Dona nobis pacem” to them. I tell them that it means “Grant us peace”. They don’t know that. Sometimes it is the only way I can reach them, holding them and singing until they can stop screaming and start remembering how to be calm again.

Their injuries are not on the surface. They are terrified of being left, being hurt, being shamed, being yelled at. They are afraid of being wrong, because wrong got them in trouble. They want so much to be accepted, but believe that they are unacceptable people.

There’s only so much I can do. I hope they remember the peace and that someone, somewhere, cares about them. I don’t know what they will remember, though. I can give them a joy in books, the pleasure of making something that tastes good, the knowledge to be able to come up with something to do when they are bored, and, possibly, a small bit of peace when they hear certain pieces of music, even if they don’t know where the peace comes from.

I let them go. They are not mine. I can just give them a little part of myself, and that will recover. They pull at my heart, though, even when they have gone home.

Fiction: Love means…

“Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”

Worst line from a movie. Ever.

The reason it’s the worst line from a movie is that there are people out there, both men and women, who actually believe that. They think that love is all about forgiveness and forgetfulness, especially if it’s the other person doing the forgiving and the forgetting. If you ask them to forgive or forget, though, you are asking too much.

I can kind of get behind forgiveness. I mean, people are people, and people screw up sometimes. You can remember something, though, without having to grind it in every day. You can’t completely forget something without running the risk of becoming a doormat.

I have a story to tell. About a friend. Yeah, I know. “A friend” is about as transparent as it gets. This is a conglomeration of people, though, not just one person, and not just me. I was in a bad relationship for a long time. I left. Life is very good now. That’s all that matters, for the purpose of this story.

I’m going to go with the guy being the abuser. It doesn’t always work that way, I know, but it’s the easiest way for me to tell it. I have heard a lot of these stories, and some of them end well. Many, though, don’t.

Girl meets boy. Boy is much more experienced. He seems very sweet at first, woos her, pays attention to all of her likes and dislikes, and makes sure not to push too hard. He asks her to move in with him. She refuses at first, then eventually gives in. Life is wonderful for a little while. After the honeymoon period is over, he starts getting more critical. He isn’t necessarily critical of her, at least not at this point. He’s critical of her friends. He doesn’t say they are bad. He just suggests that maybe she could do better. He points out any deficiencies, tells her they are not really good enough for her, and makes a point of complaining about any time she spends with them. If he spends time with them, too, he is the center of attention or he is not happy, and when they leave, he tells her all of the things they did that were unkind to him.

If he’s good at it, he undermines all of her friendships. If she’s really lucky, she keeps a few friends.

She loses touch with her family. Every time she wants to call them, there’s something he urgently needs from her. If there isn’t something he needs, sometimes he’ll just ask for sex, saying it has been a while and he misses her. Over time, she will not talk to her family much.

When she is sufficiently separated from her support structure, he begins tearing her down. He compares her to his previous girlfriends, and she always comes out badly. He compares her to people they meet, people who still have the glow of newness and unfamiliarity on them, and she never comes out looking good. “Why can’t you be more like…” becomes the beginning to a lot of questions, and she doesn’t have an answer. She thought they were doing all right, but she begins to doubt, thinks, perhaps, that she is not doing enough.

He wants her to quit her job. She has support there, too, and it threatens him. Maybe he offers to help her get through school, because school and work are hard to do well at the same time, and she could do so much better with more education. If she refuses, he starts complaining about the time her job takes away from their relationship. He tells her their friends look down on him for having such an uneducated girlfriend. He pushes constantly, calls her at work, says he misses her, and the quality of her work starts degrading, just slightly, because she can’t focus like she used to.

Maybe she’s one of the strong ones. She keeps her job, her lifeline to feeling less lost.

If she goes back to school, that, too, will eventually take up too much time. Either that or it will be a waste because her grades aren’t perfect and he doesn’t see why he should keep paying for it if she’s not serious. If she tries to do homework at home, he tries everything to distract her. “Let’s go out to dinner!” “We haven’t seen our buddies in ages – let’s go play pool. It won’t take long, you’ll have time to study.” As soon as she sits down, he comes up with something. If she objects, he gets angry, says she clearly doesn’t care as much about the relationship as he does. He’s putting her through school and now school is more important than he is. He works to make her feel indebted to him even more.

If she stays at school to study, he is not supportive. He says she doesn’t feel like the house is home, clearly, as evidenced by the fact that she doesn’t want to study there, to spend time with him at the same time she’s studying. Oh, and the house is never clean enough or decorated nicely enough, which is her fault, because she clearly just doesn’t care enough about the relationship. It’s always something.

The pattern, no matter the specifics, are that he gradually pulls control away from her, gets rid of all of her support, and then makes sure she feels unsure and afraid of everything. He sets himself up as the only sure thing in her life, even if his presence constantly hurts her. She believes that she isn’t doing something well enough. If she could do things right, he’d be happy.

That’s the key to this whole thing. He gets her into a position of wanting to please him, then he is impossible to please. He has power. She doesn’t. If she makes the mistake of being proud or happy about anything, he tries to make it look useless. He works on making her feel like nothing she does is good enough.

This is where the story stops, because it can go a few different ways.

One: she gets help – family, friends, a therapist, whatever. Someone gets through to her that she’s better than this, that he’s cruel and controlling.

Two: she stays, and eventually he has complete control. No one knows her as anything other than his shadow, and she has nowhere to go.

Three: it gets worse. He starts hitting her, and she defends him. He makes fun of her in front of other people and she supports him. Eventually, perhaps, she ends up in the hospital, or worse.

This last bit isn’t a story.

You may know someone in an abusive relationship. You might not know it, though, because abusers are very good at hiding who they are. They can look like perfectly nice people.

If you have time, volunteer at a women’s shelter. Help out at a crisis call center. Become part of the solution. If you see yourself reflected in this portrait of an abuser, get help. It’s possible to change, but you have to want to change and stop hurting people.

Most important, though, if someone asks for your help, try to give it to them. They may need you more than you can imagine.

Licks

He watched her wrap her tongue around it, licking it, clearly relishing the sensation. She made a noise of enjoyment deep in her throat and he shivered a little.

She sucked, licked around the base, then sucked again, passionately.

She stopped, took a deep breath, licked from the bottom all the way to the top, then back down and around and up. He couldn’t take his eyes off of her.

She breathed in as she licked, slurping a little. His breath shortened.

She started sucking in earnest, stopping now and again to lick the base and wrap her tongue carefully around its rigidity. His breathing grew rough.

She finally finished, licking up the last few drops.

She looked up at him between her lashes, teasingly.

“What? I like popsicles!”

Fiction-toothbrush

Sometimes something runs around in my head until I write it out. I do not lay claim that any of this is good; it’s just what is there sometimes. These pieces will tend to be snippets without much background. They have nothing to do with any part of my life. I just seem to need to write them.

—————-

“You can leave your toothbrush here,” he said as he walked by the bathroom. He took three steps down the hallway and waited.

He heard her choke on her toothpaste, rinse, spit.

“What?” She came into the hall.

“You heard.”

“You don’t like clutter. I’m leaving tomorrow to go home, which is fourteen thousand miles away. Why would I leave my toothbrush?”

“Maybe you’d come back sooner.”

She stood in front of him, head tilted slightly up. “I thought you were coming to visit me next.”

“Four months is a long time. It’s symbolic. You know you have a place here.”

“I don’t. You are my friend. I don’t leave toothbrushes at friends’ houses.”

He reached up and brushed his fingers across her cheek. “He was my friend. I miss him. Despite that, I somehow managed to fall in love with you.”

She looked stunned. He looked worried.

“You waited until the day before I have to leave to bring this up?”

“I didn’t even know I was going to tell you until last night. Now if you decide you can’t stand me you only have to deal with me for another twenty-eight hours.”

She shook her head. “I don’t know what to say.”

“Just think about it. I needed you to know how I feel about you before we go back to emailing as our main communication.”

He held out his arms, just a little, as he had done so many times before, and she leaned in for a hug. His lips touched her hair. They both stepped back at the same time.

“So,” she said, in a purposefully normal tone of voice, “what are we up to today?”

“Well, first order of business is definitely breakfast. I have waffles ready to go whenever you get hungry.”

She smiled up at him. “Let me get through a shower and I’ll be right down. Do the waffles have walnuts?”

“They can!”

He went downstairs. She watched him go, shook herself, and retreated to the bathroom.

The morning was as normal as they could make it. Waffles for breakfast, swimming, hiking, lunch. They talked about light subjects and teased each other about silly things – his irritation with anything out of place, her frustration when she ran out of things to read. They made it through lunch, then found themselves sitting, looking out at the vast landscape, content.

“It’s peaceful here.” She looked over at him. “I have to work to fit peaceful times into my life, and here it’s just…” she waved her hand at the scenery “it’s almost unavoidable. The cars are all on the other side of the hills, and you have this land that just keeps going. If you hold still, the only noises are bugs, birds, and breathing.”

“It takes a little bit of getting used to. When I moved here, I was restless a lot, but it’s gotten so I miss it when I’m out in the rest of the world. I’m around people, at school and work, but I can always come back to this place, where it’s silent if I need it.”

“It would be easy to grow to need this.”

“I was worried about you coming to stay for two weeks because I thought you would take away the silence, but you’ve kind of sunk into it and accepted it. I thought I’d be happy to see you go, just like I have with everyone else who has come to visit, but I’ll miss you.”

The silence was suddenly less comfortable than it had been.

He reached over, touched her hand, and got up.

“I’m going to go work on the piece for a while.”

She nodded.

He went to his studio, saw her head out to her favorite spot under a tree. He began to paint, layering colors and textures to get the effect he was looking for. He didn’t notice when she came in almost an hour later, sat down quietly on the floor, and watched. She stayed, still and quiet, until the sun began to set and the light changed too much for him to continue. He looked around, blinking, and swore quietly, then jumped as he saw her.

“I didn’t see you! I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to abandon you. It was just coming together.”

She smiled, stood up. “Don’t worry about it. I enjoyed getting to see what you do.”

“I can’t usually focus as well when people watch. I guess you are an exception to a lot of rules.”

She smiled her crooked, not-sure-how-to-take-that smile that he’d seen before.

“Take it as a compliment,” he said, and watched her smile grow into a grin.

“I like what you are doing with the colors. I’m not good at colors or almost anything artistic, but I know what I like, and that just appeals to me in a kind of challenging way, if that makes any sense.”

“Not really, but that’s ok. I’m glad you like it.”

She took two steps, suddenly in his space, and he looked down at her, startled. Her arms went around his neck, and he wrapped his around her waist. He jerked back too late to avoid getting paint on her clothes, but she steadied him. “The clothes don’t matter,” she murmured, and his arms went around her again. She rested her head on his shoulder, tucking her face into his neck.

“I still miss him.” She didn’t speak loudly.

“You were with him, and happy, for ten years. Of course you miss him. I think I’d be worried if you didn’t.”

“I don’t know how to love anyone else. We matched, and where we didn’t, we worked it out. We didn’t fight because we worked through things. I don’t know if I can love you without hurting you by missing him. Which is convoluted.”

“You don’t want to let yourself love me because you miss him?” Amusement and a certain gentleness were in his voice.

“I didn’t say it made sense. That’s just where I am right now. You matter a lot to me, and you helped me through living with his death. I just never really expected anyone to be interested in me again. Especially not you,” and now her voice was amused, “the famous artist who could have anyone he wanted.”

His arms tightened around her. “You’re the only one I’ve wanted for a long time. I just didn’t figure it out fully until about a week ago. I’ve gone on dates in the past six or eight months, but I end up feeling dissatisfied. I’ve spent two weeks with you, together almost constantly, and I’m happy.”

She leaned into him.

“Maybe I will leave my toothbrush.”