My 10,000th word

I’m back at this NaNoWriMo thing again… instead of my trilogy I’ve decided to go in a new direction…

Stargazer is an alien invasion story told from the perspective (mostly) of the Conover family… Emmy (aka Stargazer) is the teenage daughter of President Evelynn Conover and the girl that is going to keep her family safe… this was originally supposed to be a short story but the story seed grew and I’m super excited (read:terrified)

so I mentioned my 10kth word… if this isn’t a sign I don’t know what is… lol!

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For The Love of Jay

Hey Guys!

I know it has been a while since I last posted a story… I hate to admit it but I haven’t been writing as much as I should… Over the summer I took a creative writing class that afforded me the opportunity to, not only flex my creative muscles, but to also boost my self esteem… I hate to come off conceited but I was literally (not figuratively) the best writer in the class… I can cite sources if I need to… lol!  This short story is one of the assignments… I got a 97 on it by the way…

 

“The patient’s name is Amber Halladay.  She has been diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder and borderline personality disorder.  She is here as part of a plea agreement to get her treatment instead of locking her away in prison.  We are here to determine her fitness to return to society.”

            The doctor sitting at the front of the room continued talking.  The bright lights of the hospital conference room hurt her eyes as she looked for a safe place to land her eyes.  All the eyes in the room, the doctors seated in front of her, the few people sitting in the back of the room, made her uncomfortable.  She wanted to return to her room but knew that this meeting was a formality.  They weren’t going to let her out.  Not after what she had done.

Amber was accustomed to being alone in the shop.  The only time people ever came in was to pick up the orders they placed online.  The only friends she had while she worked were the printers she used on a daily basis.  Most days she listened to music in her ear buds to break the monotone of the printer’s hum.  She kept her head down and her hands busy refilling toner in the printers and cutting and filing photos.

Amber’s routine was disrupted when she noticed she wasn’t alone in the shop.  Across the room, at the end of a row of computers, sat a young woman with her hair tied back and a pen gripped tightly in her teeth.  Amber noticed her eyes were fixed on the screen and her hand made slight movements with the mouse.  She watched the woman intently watching her movements.  Her heart stopped momentarily when the woman made eye contact with her.

“Is there anything I can help you with?” Amber asked with a shaky voice.

“No but thank you.”

“Well, I have to close up soon.”

“I’ve been staring at this picture for too long anyway.  I should just head home.”  Amber stepped out from behind the counter and approached the young woman.  Over her shoulder she could see a bright orange tulip with several small black dots on them.    “I tried masking the black dots but there are so many it effects the background.”

“Do you mind if I try something?” Amber asked, taking control of the mouse before the young woman could answer.

After a few decisive clicks and drags of the mouse, the black dots on the orange tulips were gone.  The young woman breathed a sigh of relief before hugging Amber tightly.

“You are a miracle worker.  How did you do that?”

“I just used the color matching tool and layered the orange over the black.  It takes a little extra time but it’s less stressful than trying to mask it.”

“My name is Jay, by the way.”

“I’m Amber.”

“Well thanks again, Amber.  I have to get this to print before my gallery opening tomorrow night.  You just saved my career.”

Amber was beginning to feel like a stranger in her own skin.  She fidgeted around, stomping at a toner stain in the grungy carpet.  Though she only just met Jay, she was taken with her.  She appeared to be framed in sunlight, even in the harsh florescent lighting of the print shop.  Her skin was smooth and taught and gently tanned from her time in the sun.  Amber tried to remember what she was taught about eye contact and found a fixed point over Jay’s shoulder to look at.

“So how much do I owe you?”

Jay’s melodic voice snapped Amber out of her head. “Owe me?”

“For the computer time.”

“Oh, right.  That would be seven fifty for three hours and forty-five minutes on the computer.”

Jay dug into her well-worn messenger bag and pulled out a ten-dollar bill.  She followed behind Amber as she walked to the register at the front of the store.  Amber ran the transaction through the register and handed Jay her change.

“You know I can print the photos here if you want.  If it will save you any trouble.”

“That’s sweet but I get all that taken care of on campus.  My computer crashed and it was easier to come here than go all the across town.  You should come to my opening tomorrow.  I would love to have you as my guest, seeing as you saved my skin and all.”

“I don’t know.  I wouldn’t know what to wear.”

“It’s a gallery showing on a college campus.  What you have on now is perfectly fine.  It starts at seven but whatever time you can get off is fine with me. Will I see you there?”

Amber managed a weak smile and a nod.  She felt her heart pound as she watched Jay dash out of the shop.    She allowed her mind to wander to what Jay was like as a person as she started the closing routine.  She swept the store and shut down the computers as she tried to determine the scent of Jay’s fragrance. She turned off the lights and was about to walk out the door when she discovered a flash drive on the floor in front of the door.  Written in blue cursive was a capital letter J and she knew exactly who it belonged to.

Amber held the device tight in her hand as she walked out of the shop.  The air outside was cool, stinging her flushed cheeks.  She had something that belong to this woman that had breezed into her life to confuse her.     Her mind raced, thinking of all the amazing things that could be on this small device.

She was living well on her own, keeping up with her rent and bills, and maintaining a steady job.  For some reason this woman was breaking all that.  She wanted to know as much as she could about her, follow in her footsteps to learn what it was like a day in the life of Jay.  The conversation she had with Jay was the first meaningful conversation she had with someone since she dropped out of college.  She longed to talk to someone about something other than photo quality and print size.  She saw something in Jay that she hadn’t seen in anyone before.  She saw a companion to share her life with, a face that she could wake up to, a warm body to share her empty bed with.  Amber only just met Jay but she saw herself falling in love with her.

Amber rode the bus back to her apartment with the flash drive still clutched in her hand.  Her head was crowded with competing feelings of lust and disgust.  She knew that she didn’t know the woman but couldn’t help how she felt.  Instead of going home, she walked three blocks to a small library behind her apartment building.  She was tired but wanted more than anything to see what was on the flash drive.  She sat at a computer and inserted the drive.  It took a moment for the computer to recognize it but after a few moments the contents of the drive were laid out in front of her.  There were nearly a thousand pictures laid out in three separate files.  She opened the first file and started scrolling though.

A lot of the photos were posed pictures of people around the college campus.  As Amber scrolled through the second file, she began to see more personal and candid pictures. She couldn’t help but smile when she saw the first picture of Jay she had come across.  It was buried under the hundreds of other photos and it was just Jay, in the mirror, taking a picture of herself.  The room was small and bare, with white walls and no decoration.  The boxes in the corner suggested moving day.  This was Jay, fresh out of high school and in her first semester of college.

There were more pictures of smiling people she assumed were Jay’s friends.  They were people frolicking on the beach and sitting by a bon fire.  There was a set of pictures with Jay in a Wonder Woman costume, her long curly hair cascading around a plastic tiara.  She was flanked on both sides by people dressed as the other members of the Justice League.

Amber paused for a moment on that picture and touched the screen.  She continued to scroll through the file until she came to the end.  As if she had no control over her hand, she found herself opening the second file.  The first photo to come up was a photo of Jay lying in bed with the sheets covering her naked body.  The room was dimly lit and Jay was looking at the camera with soft sparkling eyes.  The next photo she was reaching towards whoever was taking the picture, causing the sheet to fall away.  There were several more photos like this, with Jay’s long limbs coiled around a man in coital passion.  Her heart ached the more she scrolled through the file.

Amber logged off the computer and removed the flash drive before rushing out of the library.  She walked back to her apartment, her footsteps quick and her breath erratic.  She squeezed her eyes shut, attempting to force the images out of her mind, as she climbed the stairs to her third floor studio.

The room was bare, faded yellow walls and curtains that were constantly closed.  The air conditioning kept the room near meat locker temperatures.  The setting sun cast eerie shadows on the floor, adding to the tomb like feel of the room.   Amber curled up on the bed, fully clothed, and tried to go to sleep.

The only thing that gave her any comfort was the thought of Jay.  She knew she had only just met her but there was an undeniable attraction to her, an attraction she was raised to think was immoral and wrong.  Amber was the only daughter of Reverend Mark Halladay and his wife Christine.  She was adopted at the age of eight but they raised her like she was their own.  Though her parents’ raised her in a conservative home she had normal experiences like sleepovers and birthday parties.  It wasn’t until she started puberty that her parents started to change.

Her mother refused to buy her pads when she started her period because she thought that Amber had done something to anger God and when she showed an interest in other girls, her father beat her and locked her away in the basement until she admitted to him that she was wrong.  She had attempted suicide by cutting her wrists but her mother found her before it was too late.  During the unhappiest times in her life, Amber was forced to plaster a smile on her face and get through it, lest the congregation know of what was happening to her.  There were a few parishioners that she could have gone to but the thought of the punishment from her parents was enough to keep her in line.

Jay was the first woman since she moved out of her parents’ home that even caught Amber’s attention.  She tried going to college right out of high school but that was no better than being at home.  The college her parents chose for her was more an indoctrination camp than a place of higher education.  The abuse continued which caused her to have a mental breakdown.  She decided on her own that she was going to move out and start living her life, her way.  Seeing Jay in the shop brought up feelings she hadn’t been allowed to feel since high school.  They were all rushing back at once causing her head to feel crowded.

The next morning Amber awoke early and got dressed for the day.  She put a floral print dress in her purse to change in to because she was leaving to Jay’s gallery opening right after work.  She skipped breakfast and got to the shop early.  She started up the computer behind the counter and plugged Jay’s flash drive into it.

Amber knew exactly what she wanted.  She opened the file, dragging and dropping individual photos into a template.  With her duties to the shop getting in the way, it took Amber until closing to finally print and bind her project.  She wrapped it in a sheet of brown paper and closed the shop.  She changed into the dress and headed out the door, humming as she walked across the street to the bus stop.

She was happy with how her project turned out and she was certain that Jay would love it as much as she does.  She used only the best photos and made sure to touch them up just enough to accentuate her natural beauty.  She knew that Jay was going to see this and see what is in Amber’s heart.  She was going to make Jay fall in love with her.

Amber got off the bus at the college campus.  She followed the signs that led her to the Arts and Humanities building where people were milling around.  She tightened the laces on her Converse sneakers and fidgeted with the button on her dress before walking inside.  The ground floor was a long hallway of glass walls.  To her left was an empty gallery of sculptures and to her right was an artistically lit room with all of Jay’s photographs hung inside.  She entered the room cautiously, careful to swallow the knot of anxiety that was growing in her throat.

She wound her way through the crowd when she saw the photo she had helped Jay with the day before.  It had been printed on a four-foot by six-foot-long canvas and was framed in an intricately carved wooden frame.

“Oh my God, you made it!” Jay squealed.

She came from behind the wall that divided the room.  She was wearing a romper with a plunging neckline.  The fact that she wasn’t wearing a bra caused Amber’s throat to tighten.

“Yeah.  I couldn’t miss your big night.  The photo looks amazing.  Is that canvas?”

“Yes.  I got it printed in the nick of time.  Thanks again for your help yesterday.”  Jay wrapped her arms around Amber’s neck.

“It was nothing.  That’s what I was there for,” Amber said, choking out a chuckle.  “Speaking of yesterday, you dropped this.”  Amber pulled the flash drive out of her messenger bag and handed it to Jay.

“I didn’t even notice it was missing.  You saved my life, again.”  Jay held the drive clutched in her hand and close to her chest.  Fear and panic played across her face for half a second before her attention was drawn away.

Jay excused herself to meet a tall, muscular man, Amber recognized from the pictures.  Her heart thumped loudly in her chest as she watched Jay’s fingers interlaced with his.  His large hands held her waist firmly as he leaned in for a kiss.  Amber tried to look away but her eyes were transfixed on the way he touched her, the way she touched him.  She wanted to know what she had to do to get Jay to act that way towards her.

“Babe, I want you to meet Amber.  She helped me with the tulips.  Amber, this is my fiancé, Nate.”

Amber didn’t take his hand at first, thickening the tension between the three of them.  She grabbed a full champagne flute from a passing waiter and raised the glass in a toast.  She downed the contents of the glass in one sip, the alcohol giving her the courage to give Jay the present she worked so hard on.

“I made you something, as a thank you gift for inviting me tonight,” Amber said as she took the brown paper wrapped package from her bag.

Jay opened the wrapping, eagerly anticipating what was inside.  The smile fell from her face when she saw the cover of the spiral bound book Amber had given her.  “What is this?”

“’For the Love of Jay’.  It’s something I threw together before coming here.  It’s a photo book.”

All levity and color left her face as Jay turned the pages of the book.  There they were, the contents of the second file, artfully laid out and carefully edited so Nate is out of all the pictures.  Jay turned the pages of the book, horrified by the images that she saw.  She tried to maintain her composure but the fact that her privacy was invaded and put on display prevented that.

“What the hell is wrong with you?  You went through my photos?” Jay asked, angrily throwing the book down.

“I thought they were beautiful.  I think you’re beautiful.  I just wanted to show you how much you mean to me.”

“How could you think this was okay?  I don’t even know you.”

“But you will.  We have similar hobbies.  I can help you whenever you get stuck on a project.  We were meant to be together.”

“You’re sick, Amber, sick.  I want you to get out of here and take this with you.”  Jay picked up the book and shoved it into Amber’s chest.  “I never want to see you again.”

Jay stormed off with Nate close behind her.  Amber was left standing in the center of the gallery with more people looking at her than the photos on the wall.  She could feel her neck and chest flushing and her breathing becoming more shallow.  Her fist tightened around the champagne flute, shattering the glass and leaving the stem in her hand.  She didn’t feel the glass pierce her palm or the blood trickle down her finger and on to the floor.

Emotions were running wild in Amber’s mind, chief among them was rage.  She laid her heart on the line and Jay crushed it under a designer high heeled shoe.  She forced her way through the crowd, finding Jay by the door to the building.  Amber didn’t see the people standing around or hear the words of warning that were being yelled from over her shoulder.  The only thing she could see was Jay with her cell phone to her ear and a look of disgust on her face.

Amber turned Jay to face her and with a fluid motion she jammed the broken stem between Jay’s ribs.  The only sound she could her was the thud of her fist hitting Jay’s chest and the sound of her breath leaving her body.  She removed the stem and proceeded to stab herself in the neck with it.

She collapsed to the floor beside Jay, a pool of blood forming around her head.  She watched as a rush of people came to Jay’s side, as Nate pressed his blazer on to her side to stop the bleeding.  There was no one to come to Amber’s side and she was okay with that.  She knew that she was going to die and there was no need for anyone to worry about her anymore.

She wished she knew why she did this, why all of her emotions came up at once.  The only joy that came of the situation was knowing that Jay was now a part of her, her blood flowing in her veins.  She could hear the sounds of sobbing and yelling mixed with the sound of approaching sirens.

“Do you have anything to add to these proceedings, Miss Halladay?”

“I wanted to die that night.  I didn’t understand why I hurt her then but I do now.”

            “Why did you hurt her?”

            “I didn’t have the proper coping mechanisms to deal with my jealousy that was triggered by rejection.”

            “Do you think you have been rehabilitated, Miss Halladay?”

            Amber didn’t answer right away.  She ran her finger over the keloid scar on her neck that had formed over the three years since she had been admitted into the hospital.  She looked over her shoulder to see Nate sitting in the back of the room, across the aisle from her parents.  She hadn’t seen her parents since she dropped out of school and wasn’t sure if she could handle living under their roof again.  She knew why Nate was there.  He was there to make sure she staid locked away.  Her heart dropped a little when she noticed the gold wedding band on his finger.  She wanted Jay to be with her forever but the only thing her actions succeeded in doing was bringing her closer to him. 

Amber hung her head.  She blamed the tears that fell from her eyes on the harsh florescent lights.  “No, Doctor.  I don’t think I have been rehabilitated.”

 

 

You Just Lost The Game…

that’s it… it’s over for you… You thought about The Game and now, whatever your streak was before, it is over… sorry… not sorry…

I heard about The Game about a year ago as I sat around the table of my World of Darkness game… We were talking about games like Secret Service and Shatnered where sometimes the other people around you don’t know what’s going on… then someone mentioned those two words that sent one member of our accord in to a long stream of obscenities and the person that mentioned The Game into an incurable fit of giggles… once she recovered enough to tell me what was going on I became part of The Game…

fast forward to a few months ago… the setting is the Adult Nerdfighters group on Facebook and a seemingly innocuous post crossed my news feed… You Just Lost The Game… those five words sent me into a blind rage that made my accord member’s reaction seem tame… months had passed since I joined The Game and I had not had my streak broken… no one I live with is part of The Game so there was no fear there…

image

people’s reactions to losing The Game vary from resigned humor to utter and complete frustration… and also blind rage… but why is that… The Game is intended to be forgotten… winning the game means you forgot you were playing… by the time that screenshot was taken, three other people made posts about The Game and each time I reacted the same way… “GOTDAMMIT! that’s not cool!”

if The Game is meant to be forgotten why do people get such a kick out of trolling others into anger? anyone have any ideas? I would be interested to hear them…

Fleeting Moments

week 15… romance… ugghh… I hope you like it because I sure didn’t… lol!

 

Amanda saw Bruce from across the room.  She got dolled up in hopes of seeing him again.  They were both Senior Chief Editor of Acquisitions at First Light Press, she in Chicago and he in London.  They spent countless hours talking on the phone and video chat but rarely got to see each other in person.

Amanda tuned her back to him as he glided across the busy restaurant towards her.  She quickly reapplied her lipstick just as he placed two glasses in front of her.

“Whatever glass you choose will tell me all I need to know about you,” Bruce Stark said to her with his smooth British accent.

Amanda saw that one glass was a white wine glass filled with a pale golden liquid and the other glass was a short round glass with the dark drink that barely went covered the bottom of the glass and a large spherical ice cube.  Amanda took the short round glass and raised it to her lips.  She took a small sip, savoring the smoky and slightly sweet taste of the aged sipping rum he gave her. He downed the contents of the wine glass, winking at her before he turned to leave again.  Amanda felt an overwhelming need to follow behind him but stopped when her hand grazed the cocktail napkin.

In neat block letters was a note and phone number on the napkin under her glass.  She looked at the note closely, unsure if it was the alcohol or the napkin that was making her lightheaded.  She looked up in time to see him smile at her before disappearing into the busy London street.

Amanda Freeman usually enjoyed being single.  She could jet set across the country whenever she wanted but it was growing more difficult for her to come home to an empty house every night.  She rushed to put on her coat as she walked out.  She stood on the curb as she dialed his number.  Much to her surprise, she heard a phone ringing behind her.

“Are you following me?” He asked.

“How did you know I would come out right away?”

“I told you, everything I needed to know about I learned inside.”

Bruce sauntered over to her and took her hand.  His fingers were icy interlaced with hers but it didn’t matter.  He leaned in and kissed her, softly at first then with more power and passion.  She stood on her tiptoes and wrapped her arms around his neck.

“Let’s get out of here.  My place is just around the corner.”

“What kind of woman do you take me for, Mr. Stark?”

“The kind of woman that I want to spend the rest of my life with.”

Amanda was grateful he was holding her because her knees buckled.  She found his dark, piercing eyes and broad shoulders very attractive but chose to keep it professional for the sake of both their jobs.  He interlaced their fingers as they walked to the corner to catch a cab and didn’t let her go for six years.

Amanda and Bruce had a secret long distance relationship for two years before he proposed to her at the top of the London Eye.  She said yes and immediately quit her job and moved across an ocean to be with him.  He kept his job with First Light Press while she did freelance editing work.

It was a typical morning in the Stark household, Bruce was packing for a business trip and Amanda was rushing off to a meeting with her client.  They met in the kitchen for their customary light breakfast in the kitchen before going their separate ways.  It wasn’t until she had reached her office that she realized that she had picked up his phone by accident.

“MS. Freeman, your husband is here to see you,” the voice of Amanda’s assistant said over the intercom as Bruce entered her office.

“I didn’t realize how busy you actually were, babe.  Your phone has been ringing off the hook.”  Bruce placed her cell phone on her desk.

Amanda didn’t respond.  The only sound in the office was the sound of her fingers typing on the keyboard.  After five minutes of continuous typing she closed her laptop and placed his phone next to hers on the desk.  His smile faded quickly when he looked at the screen.  On it was a photo of a young, blonde girl sitting on a bed wearing nothing but a smile.

“I am so sorry.”

“Not as sorry as you’re going to be.”

 

“That was the last thing anyone heard you say to your husband.  What did you mean by that?”

“I was angry and hurt.  I don’t know what I meant by that.”

“This photo, is that why you did it?”

“Did what? I have no idea why I’m here.”

Detective Inspector Winters adjusted the papers in front of her, taking her time to carefully choose her words.  “When was the last time you spoke to your husband?”

“That day in my office.  I kicked him out of the house and haven’t spoken to him since.”

“Is that why you didn’t report him missing?”

“Missing?  Bruce isn’t missing.”

“That’s because he was found last night stabbed to death in his flat.”

DI Winters slid a photo of Bruce Stark across the table.  She could feel the contents of her stomach lurch into her esophagus at the sight of her husband’s dead body.  The disgust at seeing her husband like this soon gave way to anger towards the detective.

“Is this how you tell me my husband is dead, by bringing me in for questioning?”

“Mr. Stark was heard arguing with a woman in the flat.  Your finger prints were found at the scene.  Your assistant tells us that you had a fight with your husband about him cheating around the time he went missing.  All this evidence points us in one direction and that’s at you.”

“I used to live in that flat, of course my fingerprints are there.”

“Where were you two nights ago between eleven o’clock pm and two o’clock am?”

“I was in bed asleep.  My assistant drove me home after I was discharged and I went straight to bed.”  Amanda dug around in her purse and pulled out a folder with the logo of Manor House Hospital embossed on the front.  She opened it and laid it in front of DI Winters who scanned the contents.  “I had been working nonstop since my fight with Bruce and I fainted at work.  An ambulance was called and I was admitted.”        Winters’s face softened when she looked up from the folder and saw tears in Amanda’s eyes.  She knew the grave mistake she had made in waking her up and dragging her down to the station like that.  “I don’t know who he was arguing with two nights ago but I can guarantee that it wasn’t me.”

Amanda stood and walked out of the room.  She was almost to the elevators when Winters caught up with her.  They rode the elevator down in silence but instead of getting off at the lobby, Winters offered to drive Amanda home.

“Are you married, Detective Winters?” Amanda asked, breaking the silence of the car ride to her house.

“I’ve been married for two years.”

“Bruce and I were married not much longer than you.  When you say ‘I do’ you honestly think it’s going to be forever.  I was going to make him meatloaf for dinner when I told him.  He would have been scared but it would have been the best news he ever got.  I know it must seem naïve to think that but he would have some around.  It must be some sick joke that he’s dead and I’m three months pregnant.”

“Maybe this will give you a chance to slow down and appreciate what you have now.”

“I hope you’re right, Detective, because what I have right now is some serious planning to do.”

 

 

The Nursery

I AM BACK, PARTY PEOPLE!  I got over my post-NaNoWriMo slump pretty early and boy does it feel good… This is (supposed to be) week 14 and the prompt is fear of failure… I think I nailed it on a few different levels and I hope you enjoy…

 

1              “I want to go home.”

“You are home, darling.  This is where you belong.  Now do it once more then maybe you will eat tonight.”

Willa stood perfectly still.  She lined up her shot as the woman wrapped a blindfold over her eyes.  She visualized the target at the other end of the room as she steadied her breathing.  She trained for the better part of a year for this one moment but she was fearful, fearful that she wouldn’t live up to the expectations her sister set when she graduated the year before, fearful of letting her parents down and washing out of the program.  All she had to do was hit the target dead center and she was done.

Her instructor, a tall woman with her hair pulled back into a tight bun, stood behind her.  “Do you see the target, Willa?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Then fire.”

“Willa, don’t!”

A voice she hadn’t heard since she joined the program called out to her.  But it was too late.  She had already pulled the trigger.  She tore off the blindfold in time to watch her best friend, who was bound and gagged, crumple to the ground.  Her instructor walked over to the body of the young boy and rolled him over.  She took out a small ruler and placed it on his forehead.  She took a few measurements before walking back over to her.

“Congratulations, Willa, you passed.”

 

“Lawson, your daughter is refusing to come out of her room and we are already running late,” May Collings called to her husband from down the hall.

“I don’t want to go.  You can’t make me do something I don’t want to do.”

“It’s not as bad as you’re making it out to be.”

“I don’t want to be like Dresden.  I don’t want to be like you either.  You can’t make me go.”

“Your father is going to be out here any minute and he will be very upset if you’re not ready to go.  Please, Willa, do this for me.”

“He’s not my father.  I want say goodbye to Caudell.  You haven’t let me see him in forever and I don’t want to leave without saying goodbye.”

“Honey, I think it’s best if you don’t see him until you get back.”

“Why?”

“You just have to trust me, Willa.  You will see him the moment you get back.”

Willa opened the door to her bedroom and her mother walked in.  Laying across her bed was Willa’s private school uniform and leaned against the wall by the door was her duffle bag.  May could see that her daughter had been crying and wanted desperately to console her.  She placed a loving hand on her daughter’s cheek just as her husband came down the hall.

Lawson Clarke filled the doorway to his stepdaughter’s bedroom.  He wore a bespoke black suit with handmade leather Oxfords.  May took an abrupt step back as Willa snapped to attention.

“What seems to be the problem here?” Lawson asked.

“Sir, nothing, sir,” Willa responded, causing her mother to cringe.

“Why aren’t you dressed yet?”

“I don’t want to go.  Sir.”

May’s gut reaction was to step between her husband and daughter but she stopped with one gesture from him.

“What did you just say?”

Willa looked into his eyes defiantly.  Even though he was the only father she and her sister ever knew, she hated him for the way they were treated.  Dresden, who was older than Willa by a year and a half, fell into line quickly.  Willa was the only one of the two that went out of her way to stand up to him.  Even though she was only thirteen, she was eye level with her stepfather.  May liked to joke that the reason they butted heads so often was because they were so similar, a joke that Willa did not appreciate.

“I’m not going.”

Lawson reached out a massive hand and slapped Willa.  It was something she was expecting so she was able to brace herself.  She didn’t fall over or cry out.  She had no reaction to the painful blow to her head that caused her vision to blur momentarily.  She continued to stare into his eyes as her mother wept in the corner.

“Put on your uniform and be downstairs in two minutes or you’re not going to survive long enough to need to say goodbye to your friend.  Do I make myself clear?”

“Sir, yes, sir.”  The venom in her response found its intended target when she saw a small spasm in Lawson’s cheek.

May and Lawson left Willa’s bedroom to give her time to change out of her pajamas and into her uniform.  Once she was dressed, she climbed out of the window into the large tree right outside her window.  She crawled across the large branch and into a small hollow space in the trunk of the tree.  Sitting with his arms wrapped around his knees was Caudell Lake, Willa’s best friend.

“I take it being nice didn’t work,” he said hugging her as she crawled in.

“I didn’t try nice.”

“Well, that explains the bruise forming on your face.  Let me guess, you bypassed nice and went straight to bitchy.”

“They want me to be like Dres and I can’t.  I can’t just blindly do what I’m told.”

“You’re going to have to learn where you’re going,” Caudell said taking her hand in his.

“We can run now.  I found my father.  He will take us in if we leave right now.  No one will think to look for us there.”

Willa cringed at the sound of Lawson bellowing her name from the ground floor of the house.  She squeezed Caudell’s hand before she started to crawl back into her bedroom.  He pulled her back into his arms, kissing her deeply.

“Just so you don’t forget about me,” he said with a sad smile.

Willa hugged him again, imprinting the feeling of his arms around her waist and the smell of his shower gel in her memory before crawling out of the hole and back into her bedroom.  She brushed off the dust and dried leaves from her uniform before joining her mother and stepfather by the front door.  She watched as he climbed down from the tree, locking eyes with him just before disappearing into the car.

The drive to St. Olga’s Academy for Girls was tense.  Willa, May and Lawson rode in the back of their personal limousine in silence until they pulled into the gravel driveway of the school.  A severe looking woman and a young man in a uniform similar to hers were waiting as the car pulled up.  The young man took Willa’s bag from the trunk and immediately took it inside.  Willa had her hand on the door handle when Lawson broke the silence.

“Once we get out of this car you are not to touch her, May.”

May looked like she wanted to protest but swallowed her feelings and got out of the car.  That only made Willa hate Lawson even more.  She stormed out of the car from the opposite door than the adults.  The severe looking woman was the headmistress of St. Olga’s and the one that was going to show Willa around the school.  Willa could sense the woman’s gaze lingering on the dark read handprint that was growing across the right side of her face and thoroughly enjoyed the angry look the woman gave her stepfather.

“Welcome to St. Olga’s Academy for Girls.  I am Headmistress Kelley.”

“Willa Pearson, nice to meet you, ma’am.”

“Follow me and I will show you to your dorm.”

“Can I see my sister?”  Willa asked before following.

Kelley was halfway up the stone steps when she stopped and really looked at Willa.

“You’re Dresden’s younger sister.  If you’re anything like your sister, you’re going to fit in nicely here.”

Reluctantly, Willa fell into step with the headmistress, leaving her mother watching as she walked away.  She didn’t have to turn around to know that May was crying but stole a glance back at her as Lawson forced her into the car.

Willa rarely saw Dresden while they were in school.  The only time they got together was the fifteen minutes they got for meals.  They were not allowed to talk so the most they could do was sit close together.

It was during one of these meals that Willa was taken abruptly from her sister’s side.  Dresden didn’t look surprised at all.  She had no discernable reaction, only whispering a quick apology as two men dragged Willa from the cafeteria kicking and screaming.

The men deposited her in a dark cramped room, restraining her to the chair they forced her into. Willa fought against the restraints but they were tight and she wasn’t able to move much.  She screamed at the top of her lungs to be let out of the room.  It wasn’t until her voice was hoarse and her muscles were tired that Willa finally gave up fighting.

She sat still, whimpering and weeping as homesickness set in for the first time for her.  Her mind wandered to the last time she saw Caudell.  His bright green eyes and crooked smile staved off the thoughts of suicide that were fighting their way into her mind.  She tried to imagine the times she spent hiding in the hollow of the tree with Caudell holding her.  He promised to run away with her when they were old enough to support themselves and she planned on holding him to that promise.

She was beginning to drift off to sleep when the lights turned on suddenly.  It took Willa’s eyes several minutes to adjust to the bright light.

“Welcome to the Nursery, Willa,” a modulated voice said over unseen speakers.  “This is where you begin the training that will change you for the rest of your life.  This room is going to start filling up with poisonous gas.  The door behind you is your only way out.  You will die if you don’t make it out in under fifteen minutes.  Your time starts now.”

Willa took a deep breath before contorting her body so she could remove her hairclip.  It was a multifunctional hairclip that had many tools, chief of which was a serrated edge that could be used as a knife.  She worked the hairclip between her wrist and the thin fabric restraints and wiggled it.  It was slow going at first but once the fabric started to rip, she was able to free herself by tugging hard.  She made short work of the restraints on her other hand and her feet and dashed to the door.  It wasn’t until she was sure that she hadn’t breathed any of the poisonous gas that Willa exhaled.

The door that she went through opened into a hallway that she had never seen.  Though the rest of St. Olga’s looked ancient and weathered, this hallway looked brand new.  The walls were empty and painted bright white.  Willa walked down the hall slowly, cautiously checking each door to make sure nothing else was going to jump out at her.  She made it to the last door on the left and found it open.  She entered and found a group of girls standing in a semicircle around the door.

Dresden’s apology as she was forced from the cafeteria became evident.  Standing in the back row was her elder sister.  The confusion of the moment paralyzed Willa and the other girls took advantage of that, pouncing on her and beating her mercilessly but Willa stayed on her feet.  All the confrontations she had with Lawson was good training for what she was experiencing at the moment.

After a few moments, Willa noticed that some of the girls were slowing down.  Her window was finally open.  She grabbed the first girl by the collar of her shirt and slammed her forehead into her nose.  The next three girls she took out with a sweeping backhanded punch.  The remaining girls were taken aback by her savagery and most were hesitant to attack again.

A bell chime and the girls stood up straight.  The room was quiet enough to hear the sound of heels echoing in the hall beyond the door.  A woman Willa hadn’t met yet stepped through the door flanked by two men in scrubs.  The men carried away the girl that Willa had knocked out and the remaining girls lined up against the wall closest to the door.  The woman walked over to Willa who was still breathing hard.  The woman was tall and thin with angular facial features and a severe expression.  She kept her jet black hair pulled back in a tight bun and wore a thick coat of bright red lipstick that stood out in stark contrast to her pale skin.

She circled Willa, looking her over like a bull at auction.

“Well done, Willa.  You passed the first test.”

“What test?  Who are you?”

“Who I am is not important.  What is important is that you passed the first test to enter the Nursery.  Congratulations, we’ve never admitted anyone as young as you before.”  As if it were rehearsed, the girls lined up against the wall began to clap in unison.  “The Nursery is an elite training program for girls with your special gifts.  It is rare that we get two girls from the same family but seeing as Dresden will be graduating soon, it’s time we brought you into the fold.”

The woman with the severe expression was standing next to Dresden now, moving her long blonde hair off of her shoulders.  Though Willa never connected with her sister, she wanted nothing more than to rip the woman’s arm off for touching her.

“And if I refuse?”

“Then you will be attending Dresden’s graduation.”

The statement didn’t seem like much of a threat to Willa but it was enough to turn her sister white as a sheet.  Instead of continuing, Willa nodded in contrition.  She fell in line behind her sister as she and the other fourteen girls of The Nursery were marched out of the room and through the bowels if the school.

Such was Willa’s life for another year.  She went from sharing a luxurious dorm room with one other girl and living in relative comfort to sleeping in a cold, cramped cell with five other girls.  The instructors of the Nursery used meals as a motivator for perfection.  If you didn’t perform your assigned tasks exactly as you were told, you didn’t eat.  For her first few days in The Nursery, Willa was too distracted by her plans to escape that she didn’t earn her meals.  She decided that the best way to get back to Caudell was to follow the program.

She followed the program better than the instructors expected of her.  She didn’t have her sister to lean on anymore.  She stumbled a few times but was able to find a groove that got her to her own graduation a year early.

It started out simple enough.  All she had to do was get the fifteen rounds in her Glock 19 into a hole precisely in the center of the ten ring of the target fifty feet away.  She accomplished the task with ease.  She fired the gun in quick succession, careful to steady her arm and her breathing so she hit the same hole each time.

Willa envisioned the paper target in the wall in front of her as the woman wrapped a thick cloth over her eyes.  What she couldn’t see, what she couldn’t know, was the final test had nothing to do with her accuracy with a gun.

She saw him, lying on his back, dead with a small black spot in the center of his forehead.  She still had another magazine in her pants pocket that, thanks to the torturous training of her instructors, she could load into her gun and empty before the woman could react.  But she couldn’t move.  The only thing she could focus on was the sight of the only man she loved, dead by her hand.

The memory of the last time she saw him was vivid in her mind.  She wondered what they would be doing in this exact moment if he had taken her up on her offer to run away.  The only thing that made Willa’s time at The Nursery bearable was the idea that she was once again going to be with him but now the severe looking woman took that away from her.

“St. Olga’s Academy for Girls is a front for a top secret intelligence agency.  We don’t work for any government in particular, we just work for who pays us the most.”

“Is that why you use teenaged girls to do your dirty work, low overhead?”  Willa asked through clenched teeth.

“We find that young girls are easier to mold into the living weapons that we need.  They don’t ask questions and they aim to please.”  Willa kept her eyes locked on Caudell’s body.  “He had been trying to write to you ever since you got here which made it easy to choose the one for your graduation ceremony.”

“And if he hadn’t?”

“There are plenty of other subjects we could have used but we like to eliminate any and all distractions and a boy in love with his best friend is the biggest distraction of all.”

Willa’s insides felt like hot lava.  He loved her and she him but they were never going to have their happy ever after.  She dropped the gun at her feet as tears began to fall from her eyes.

“Why?”

“Why what?”

“You already had Dresden.  Why pick me?”

“You’re special.” She smiled, tucking a lock of golden hair behind Willa’s ear.  “I get why they chose you.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leaving NaNoLand

well… I validated this morning and I won… BY THE SKIN OF MY TEETH! lol! I’m sure I will add more to the story but that’s January Me’s problem… right now I’m watching Terminator Genesys and enjoying the mocha brownies I made and I will worry about writing later… lol!

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I’m really happy with the general plot of my story… the more I write the more confident I become in my chances of getting published…

to those that are still in NaNoLand I say continue on… you’re doing better than those too afraid to start…

and to those that won and have left NaNoLand have a drink on me… you earned it…

Greetings From NaNoLand!

so I have been super busy with school and graduation and NaNoWriMo and I haven’t had the time, energy, or brain capacity to write content for the blog (as it is I’m writing this blog post on my phone)… I don’t want you guys to forget about me so I’m posting my contribution to the #writershaming that’s going around…

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I’m sure she’ll understand… and if not I’ll just buy her something awesome when I get the book published… lol!

you probably won’t see any new content from me until December but I will definitely pop in with more proof of life photos like this one… lol!