Friday, February 2, 2018
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Flash Fiction: Travel Woes

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This week’s prompt was to write a story about travel woes of some sort. I came up with a riff on Sliding Doors, which was one of my favorite movies when it came out (when Gwenyth was a movie star and not a shill for pseudoscience). I’m not crazy about this one, but let me know what you think.

Hannah sat in a seat right in front of the gate for her flight, idly scrolling through her phone, tears pricking the corners of her eyes. She looked up at the “Departures” screen but nothing changed. Five more hours. Five more goddamn fucking hours before she would even get to board. It would put her on the flight she originally booked home from this conference. He would be expecting her by then.

Well, if she had to wait that long, she might as well spend it tipsy. She headed for the bar and ordered a beer, but when it arrived she found she wasn’t in the mood to drink. She stared at the untouched glass for several moments, trying to picture what she must look like.

“Stuck here too, hey?” A voice to her left. Hannah assumed they were talking to someone else, so it was several moments before she lifted her head. Average-looking guy, brown hair that could use a haircut. Hard to tell sitting down, but he didn’t look particularly tall. Brown eyes, that, while kind-looking, were unremarkable. Hannah turned back to the bar.

“Yeah. Next flight home isn’t for five hours.”

“Is that why you haven’t had any of your drink? Need to make it last that whole time?” Oh great. A would-be comedian. She offered a hint of a smile at the joke, but still kept her eyes on the bar.

“Ok. I’m sorry. Clearly you’re not in a social mood. I’ll leave you alone.” He shifted over a seat, lifting his hand to the barkeep.

“I wanted to get home early because I’m pretty sure my fiancé is cheating on me,” she blurted out. What the hell did she say that for? She covered her mouth and tilted her head back, cheeks flaming.

“Oh. Damn.” Hannah glanced over at the guy. He looked concerned, and a bit uncomfortable. Probably regretting that he even talked to her. He picked the wrong girl to pick up. The thought was instantly hilarious, and she began to laugh. Uncontrollably. For long enough that he probably thought she was crazy. Hell, maybe she was. If he was smart he would have left by now. She glanced over again. Nope. He was still there, looking mildly alarmed.

“You’re still here.”

“How do you know?”

“Because I can see you,” she replied, frowning. Now he laughed.

“No, how do you know he’s cheating on you?”

“Oh yeah. That.” She took a sip of her drink. “It’s a bit of a story.”

“I’ve got time.” He took a sip of his, shifting in his seat so he was facing her.

“Yeah, I guess so.” She took another sip. “I was actually booked to take the flight I’m on again now, and Jake was supposed to pick me up. I texted him to remind him and when he didn’t answer, I called him. His voice just sounded funny, you know? And I swear I heard a woman’s voice in the background.”

“So you don’t know for sure.”

“No.” Hannah shook her head. “I booked an earlier flight so I could get home and maybe…I don’t know, catch him in the act, I guess.”

“And now you won’t.”

“And now I won’t.” She drained her glass and thumped it on the bar.

“So what are you going to do now?”

Hannah shrugged, letting her gaze unfocus. “I don’t know. Ask him maybe? See if I notice a reaction? I’ve got—” she glanced at the clock behind the bar “—four and a half more hours to figure it out.”

“Well—”

“Hannah.”

Well, Hannah, if you like, we can figure it out together. We’ll be the next Sherlock and Watson.” He signalled the bartender for another drink for them both.

“Why are you being so nice to me, uh…”

“Mark.” He stuck out his hand and she shook it. His hands were warm and slightly calloused. “Because six months ago, I was you.”

***

Hannah sat in a seat right in front of the gate for her flight, idly scrolling through her phone, tears pricking the corners of her eyes. She looked up at the “Departures” screen but nothing changed. She should be boarding any minute. Then she had a two-hour flight to figure out what she would do, what she would say, if she did catch him. And what if she didn’t? Was she imagining it or did he just cover his tracks well?

“Ladies and gentlemen, at this time we would invite all passengers in rows thirty through thirty five to board. Please ensure you have your boarding passes and photo ID ready.” Hannah checked her boarding pass for what felt like the ninetieth time. Seat 32A. Window seat.

She grabbed her carry-on, slung her purse over her shoulder and joined the line of people. Please let me sit next to someone who doesn’t smell, she thought. When she reached her row, she was the first one there. Maybe this flight wasn’t full and she would get the row to herself. She sat down, then bent forward to stow her bags under the seat in front of her. As she did, she felt the seat shift as someone else sat down. She tilted her head to look. Average-looking guy, brown hair that could use a haircut. Hard to tell sitting down, but he didn’t look particularly tall. No discernable odor.

Hannah sat back up, shoving her earbuds in her ears. She stared out the window, half-watching the baggage cart load the bags onto the plane, tears blurring her vision. Suddenly, she was startled by gentle tap on her shoulder. It made her jump and gasp aloud, her heart hammering in her chest. She whirled to face the guy in the seat, swiping at her eyes with her knuckles.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you. It’s just that they’re doing the safety announcements.” He smiled apologetically. His brown eyes were kind-looking. “Hey, are you okay?”

“Yeah.” She wiped her eyes again. “No.” She sighed. “I think my fiancé is cheating on me.”

“Oh. Damn.”

“Yeah. I took this flight so I could get home early, maybe catch him in the act, I guess.” She sighed again. “I’m sorry. I don’t even know why I’m telling you this.” She started to put her earbuds back in.

“No, no, it’s okay. Sometimes it’s easier to talk to a perfect stranger, you know?” He stuck out his hand. “I’m Mark.”

Throwback Thursday, Public Humiliation Edition

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Some people post old pictures for Throwback Thursday, but I decided it would be so much better to tell you all a story. A story of a time, long ago, when I endured what might have been the most mortifying event of my life. It’s also maybe one of the funniest.

When I was in grade 7, my best friend (we’ll call her Lucy)and I basically ruled our elementary school, or at least we thought we did. We were part of a foursome of girls that resembled “Heathers” about as closely as 12-year-old kids could. We were in choir, volleyball, and out-of-school recorder band (don’t laugh, we learned how to play “The Greatest Love of All” on those suckers). We were lunch monitors, crossing guards—back when it was a great idea to have kids try to stop cars from running over other kids—and we were office monitors.

It was kind of a big deal to be an office monitor, because only the most responsible students were granted the privilege. We were basically the secretaries when the paid one was on her lunch break: we made copies, answered the phone, and a bunch of other stuff that is not important to this story. What is important is that we were taught how to use the overhead PA system, usually to let one of the staff know when they had a phone call (I’m guessing nowadays the staff room just has a phone in which calls could be transferred, but they didn’t then).

One day, we were goofing around and Lucy was teasing me because I had a huge monster crush on this boy (let’s call him Dave). In retrospect, he was probably a bit suspicious because—surprise—12 year old girls are not especially subtle. He was definitely not my first crush, and since I had not had an actual boyfriend yet, I was fairly experienced in the whole unrequited love thing. I was fairly certain he was not interested, and I was actually pretty sure he liked this other girl (I don’t actually remember her name, so now it’s Ruby), who was taller than me, and had probably kissed a real boy before. Nevertheless, Lucy teased me mercilessly about him, and decided to pretend to announce my crush over the PA system.

Now I’m sure, dear reader, you know exactly what happened next. In order to use the overhead microphone, you first had to slide a switch to on, then press and hold a button while you speak. The previous user had failed to turn the switch off, so when Lucy pressed the button and announced that I had a “gigantic” crush on Dave, she announced it to the entire school.

Thinking back on it now, the staff probably had the laugh of a lifetime, and I’m sure the principal had trouble putting on her stern face to tell us how just much trouble we were in. We should have been suspended, she said, but because of our brown-nosing service to the school, our only punishment was that we were never to be office monitors again.

At this point, I will confess that a small part of me hoped that, rather than being at least as mortified as I was, Dave would suddenly discover his deep and profound love for me, and all would be grand. This did not happen. In fact, I don’t think Dave uttered a single word to me, unless absolutely necessary, for the rest of the school year. And, I moved away that summer and never saw him again.

But now that I think of it, I did learn something: real life isn’t like a romantic comedy. Which is kind of a bummer, actually. But at least I have a good story.

Lose the Booze aka Send Me Your Mocktail Recipies

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After considering how much this is probably going to suck, I decided to sign up for the BC Cancer Foundation’s Lose The Booze February fundraiser. For the entire month (thank all the gods it’s the shortest one) I will be alcohol-free, in the hopes that you, dear friends and family, will send a donation to the BC Cancer Foundation. You can check my personal page here.

If you can donate some money, that would be awesome. If you can’t, you can still help by sharing this link, or the link to my personal page. Or, you can send me your sweet, sweet mocktail recipe. I will post a photo of my “‘Mocktail’ of the Day” on my Instagram feed, every day throughout the month (just a warning that some days it might just be Fresca in a wine glass).

If you want to join me, you can register here. Cheers!!

Flash Fiction: Song Lyric Story

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This week’s challenge was to take a song lyric and use it as a theme or basis for a short story. I took a line from the Foo Fighters song “Everlong”–ostensibly a love song–and turned it into something…different. Bonus points for spotting the lyric.

“You’re not drinking anything,” he said to the woman at the bar, as he sat a chair apart from her. Even though she wore jeans and a flannel shirt, like most of the hipsters here, she looked out-of-place. Maybe it was the long, white-blonde hair that fell in loose waves nearly to her waist, or just her general vibe. She turned to face him and behind her over-sized, dark-rimmed glasses were the iciest blue eyes he had ever seen. She stared at him just long enough to make him uncomfortable, then her full lips curved into a smile.

“The bartender hasn’t seen me yet.” Her accent was strange, not quite British, but close.

“Let me fix that,” he replied, raising his arm. “What would you like?”

“Whatever you’re having.” He ordered two glasses of scotch, neat. She moved over to the seat beside him, crossed her legs, and looked him up and down before cocking her head. He had an uneasy feeling, like she was assessing her next meal. When the drinks arrived, she snatched his hand as he reached for his.

“You’re married,” she breathed, stroking her thumb over his wedding band. Her touch sent a jolt through him he hadn’t felt in years. He was instantly hard, and he thanked all the gods for loose-fitting jeans as he shifted in his seat.

“Heh, yeah,” he murmured, letting her continue stroking his hand in slow, lazy circles. He reached for his drink with his right hand, feeling light-headed and giddy before he took a single sip. The scotch burned, and went down wrong, making him cough. He yanked his hand back as he used it to cover his mouth and turned away from her. He could feel his cheeks redden, even as the coughing subsided. Christ. He hadn’t felt this awkward around a woman since his age ended in ‘teen’.

“Are you all right?”

“Yeah—yeah.” He was too embarrassed to look at her; instead he stared ahead as he took another sip. This one was better. He heard a scrape as she moved her chair closer to his and he gasped as her fingertips stroked his thigh. Then he could feel her warmth as she brought her head closer to his. She smelled like springtime, like cherry blossoms and fresh-cut grass. Like the fresh, clean breeze after a rainstorm. He took a deep breath, his head reeling.

“Where’s your wife?” She breathed into his ear. It took him a moment to remember. Hell, he was having trouble remembering his own name.

“Out of town. Conference.”

“Good.” She flicked her tongue across his earlobe. “Let’s go.” She didn’t have to ask twice. Grabbing her hand, he bolted from his stool, tossed a few bills on the bar, and led her out the door.

She drove—one hand on the steering wheel, one hand on his leg—to his place. He could barely focus well enough on their surroundings to give her directions. Every time he tried to un-fog his mind from his blind lust, to really consider that he was about to cheat on his wife, she seemed to sense it and her hand would inch ever closer to his crotch. When they reached his driveway, he leapt out of the car before she even cut the engine, afraid if he stayed in there any longer he would come in his pants. He fumbled in his pocket for his keys, dropping them on the ground with shaky hands.

“Allow me,” she said, bending down to scoop them up. She stalked ahead of him to the door and he suddenly felt like a puppy, struggling to keep up with his master. She chose the right key without even asking, and smoothly opened the door. As soon as he was inside, she closed the door and pinned him against it with her hands. Slowly, torturously, she brought her body in closer, a predatory smile on her full lips. She pressed her hips against his and crushed his chest with her full breasts. He groaned. His heart raced, his breathing heavy and ragged, as if he’d run at top speed for too long. He closed his eyes, expecting her to kiss him. But she didn’t.

“Good. Breathe out, so I can breathe you in,” she whispered, her face milimeters from his. With just a small movement he could have captured her lips with his but he couldn’t move. Lust pivoted to alarm, as he realized he was paralyzed. His eyes flew open.

Her face was still a hair’s breath from his own, her eyes closed. Every time he exhaled, she inhaled deeply, and he could feel his energy, his vitality, being sucked away. His legs would have collapsed from weakness if he could move them; instead he stayed pinned to the door like an insect to matting paper. His heart began to slow its rhythm. Finally, apparently satiated, she leaned in and kissed him. Her lips were icy cold at first, but they warmed against his, and he felt some of his energy returning. He returned her kiss, deepening it, running his tongue along her upper lip. She tasted like cherries.

“Mmm, delicious.” She drew back a bit and opened her eyes. They glowed like a blue-hot flame. She took his hand and pulled him away from the door; he found he could stand on his own again, although he felt dazed, like he had been woken in the middle of a dream. Maybe all this was a dream. He let her lead him through the living room and up the stairs to the bedroom.

“I thought—”

“I was done with you?” She asked, kicking off her shoes and unbuttoning her shirt. “That was just the appetizer. I’m here for the buffet.”

 

Flash Fiction: The Danger of Undeserved Power

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It’s been 4 months since I’ve written any stories, so I feel just a teensy bit rusty. But when I read the prompt for this weeks Flash Fiction, I immediately thought about how royalty inherit their power without having to actually earn it. Then I thought about how the evil queen married into her power in Snow White (possibly because I’ve been watching A LOT of “Once Upon a Time” on Netflix). Then I began to wonder, what if Snow White actually got to have some agency; to make the calls instead of having everything happen to her? What if she decided to rescue herself? This story is the result. Hope you like it!

Almost there. Neve pulled her cloak close around her as she reached the hallway to the queen’s bedchamber. There were two guards: one tall and skinny as a broomstick, complete with mousy blonde hair sticking up in all directions, the other, squat and fat and sound asleep, his ample backside drooping over the sides of the wooden chair in which he sat. She knew she was invisible—the magic cloak saw to that—but she still held her breath as she crept past the guards, holding the cloak against her body so as to not disturb the air.

“Eh! You feel that?” The skinny guard reached over and poked her companion with the butt end of her spear, narrowly missing Neve’s back. Neve froze. She wasn’t careful enough. Her heart stopped dead, then began to pound so furiously she was sure the guard could hear it.

“Uh?” the large guard grunted, and Neve could hear him shift in the chair. She crept forward as much as she dared, then turned her head towards him.

“Wake up, you great lazy oaf! I felt something, like someone going past. Only I don’t see anyone.”

“Jus’ a draft,” the other slurred, closing his eye again. “Castles are drafty.”

“Don’t you think I would know the difference between a draft and someone walking past?” Neve heard a creak as the slender guard rose from her chair. “I’m going to investigate, and if I find an intruder, I’ll be sure to inform her majesty that you were sleeping on the job. I’m sure she’ll be her usual understanding self.”

“All right, all right, let’s go check, then.” The larger guard slowly lumbered out of his chair, grabbing his spear. Neve had to fight every impulse to rush for the chamber door; instead, she flattened herself against the wall of the corridor, pressing her hand against her mouth to quiet her breathing. She waited until the guards passed her, then, heart still threatening to explode from her chest, she crept behind them, keeping far enough behind that hopefully they couldn’t hear the rustling of her clothing.

They paused in front of the heavy wooden door.

“After you,” sneered the fat guard. He stepped back, and so did Neve. The skinny one looked nervous.

“Er, maybe it was just a draft.” She also stepped back. “I wouldn’t dare wake the queen unnecessarily.” Damn it. Neve could go no further if one of them didn’t open the door. She would have to wait until they returned to their post; even then, they were likely to hear the door opening.

“Then again, if there is an intruder, and we did nothing, the queen would nail our nuts to the wall.” The skinny one stepped forward again, quietly easing open the door. She pointed to herself and the room, and then pointed at the other guard and further down the hallway as she slid through it.

Keeping a wide berth around the larger guard, Neve slipped past him and into the room, stopping just inside to ensure she didn’t walk into the other one. She expected it to be completely dark, but a single candle burned on a small table beside the bed. The emerald velvet curtains surrounding the bed were drawn shut.

The last time Neve had been in this room, the curtains had been a soft, white muslin. She remembered the mornings snuggled up beside her mother, watching the curtains glow brighter as the sun rose. But that was long ago.

The guard was several steps into the room, giving space for Neve to slide against the back wall to a corner without alarming her. The guard glanced around, shrugged, and then tiptoed backwards out of the room, carefully closing the door, leaving Neve alone with the queen. Her stepmother. The one responsible for every drop of misery that befell her since her mother died. The one who tormented her, turned her into a scullery maid, and then tried to have her killed. The one who robbed her of her birthright, then ruled the kingdom as a tyrant.

Neve took a couple of deep breaths, letting her anger and frustration harden into a white-hot rage. She pulled the hood of her cloak off as she drew her dagger from the sheath at her hip. Then she silently strode towards the bed.

“Snow White. I didn’t think you’d have the nerve.” The queen twitched the curtain aside, but did not rise from the bed.

“To come back here, or to kill you?” Neve raised the dagger as she neared the bed.

“Either. ‘The fairest in the land.’ ‘Pure as the driven snow.’ You were never designed to be a murderess.”

“Things change.”

The queen’s laugh was a harsh stridor as she sat up. She looked nothing like the steely beauty she once was. Her eyes were ringed with dark circles and her entire face sagged. Her hair fell in limp grey strands over her bony shoulders. Her nightgown, the same emerald shade as the curtains, hung over her gaunt frame like a shroud. Neve gasped and took an involuntary step back.

“What—?”

“Happened to me? I spent so much time envying you. Your beauty. Your charm. Your goodness,” she spat. “I spent years watching you through my mirror, never noticing what it was doing to me. Not until you disappeared with those dwarves and I could no longer see you. Not until it was too late.” The queen stood, her back hunched, and raised her eyes to meet Neve’s.

“If you kill me you will get your revenge, yes, but you will set yourself on a path that leads right to this,” she croaked, pointing at her sunken chest. Neve lowered her dagger and took another step back. The queen pulled open a drawer of the bedside table and pulled out a green vial. “I never showed you a glimmer of kindness, Snow White, but allow me to offer you this one favour. My life is over; there is nothing for me now. Let me take this poison and die in peace. You get your kingdom back, but you get to keep your light. Your grace. Your beauty.”

Neve nodded. As she moved to pull the hood of the cloak on once more, the queen tipped back her head and drank the potion. Then she pulled her thin lips into an icy smile that froze Neve.

“Foolish girl! Do you think I would give up my power so easily? That I would give it to you? Your kindness, your compassion, has been your greatest weakness. Now watch what it has earned you.” Before Neve’s horrified stare, the queen grew taller and younger, transforming once again into her former self. Neve could feel her own back buckle on itself, could feel her muscles weaken. She raised her dagger but her eyes began to cloud over; she couldn’t see to aim. Her knees began to crumple; with the last of her strength, she hurled the dagger in the queen’s direction. Then she sank to the floor.

“No! You can’t! It’s not possible!” Neve didn’t have the energy to even lift her head, but she knew the blade struck home. She felt the thud as the queen fell, could smell the metallic tang of blood. Then, she felt the spell begin to wear off. Her back straightened, her limbs lengthened, and her energy returned. She sat up and looked at the dead queen. Then she pulled up the hood of her cloak just before the guards burst into the room.

New Year, New Site!!!

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Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

YOU GUYS. I’m so excited to start this new website. My old site, www.runnerskye.ca was created with a focus on running, and racing, and while I am still running, I’ve also been writing, and living, and well, I wanted a site that was more general. One where I can post my fiction stuff, but I can also ramble about my life and the world around me, too.

2017 was a pretty eventful year, and not just because of all the HOLY CRAP IS THE WORLD COMING TO AN END stuff out there, but because of some pretty major personal stuff, too. Here is a quick run-down of what happened:

  1. In March, I separated from my husband of 11 years. Without going into detail, it was an adjustment, but I am a happier mother, and person for it.
  2. My brother nearly died of a sudden cardiac arrest about three weeks later. Getting the news was arguably the worst day of my life. Finding out he was going to be okay was one of the best. He’s fine now.
  3. In June, I took a plane and visited my sister in Bella Bella for the first time. She’s only been living there for about 10 years, so it took me long enough. It was a blast, and I wish I stayed longer and I definitely want to go again. Maybe when it’s not raining the whole time.
  4. In August, my friend Steph and I took our kids to Vancouver including Science World, the Vancouver Zoo, and the Lego store. Despite the hot, smokey air, we had a great time.
  5. Got a stress fracture in my right foot and spent the month of September off work and the month of October in an air cast. It wasn’t fun but, mentally, I took it was better than 4 years ago, when I had (not nearly as painful) stress fractures in both feet. It’s mostly healed now, just a twinge now and then. While I was off, I decided to be productive (ha ha) and watch all of “Game of Thrones.”
  6. For my birthday, I went to Vancouver and attended a rock concert all by myself for the first time. Silversun Pickups (Google them). It was awesome, not scary at all, and I would totally do it again. In fact, I have a ticket for Foo Fighters in Seattle next September and I can’t wait to go.

 

So. What will 2018 bring? I hope for some more adventures, some more writing, and *shrugs shoulders*. I didn’t really make resolutions; more like very loose list of things I want to do. In no particular order they are:

  • Learn to be happy with the body I have. This one’s a tough one. Every year, I usually make some goal to lose less weight, but don’t really make any kind of plan. And while I would like to avoid getting so big I have to buy all new clothes, I’m really kind of done with not liking what I see in the mirror. I’m still going to run; I’m going to work on doing some strength training, too. But I spend way to much time and energy wishing I was skinnier, even though I know it won’t make me any happier. I’m going to quit giving it so much mind-space.
  • Write more stuff. That’s where this site comes in. I want to post at least one short fiction piece per week, but also do some other posts when I have something to say.
  • Uhhhh, I guess I need to consider the whole dating thing, specifically, online dating. I’m not going to lie; online dating terrifies the pants off me (pun half-intended). I think it’s partly because it wasn’t really a thing the last time I was single (many, many, many, MANY moons ago), and partly because it seems like a giant cesspool of jerks sending unsolicited dick pics. But there must be some nice, nerdy guy on there somewhere, right? I do promise that if I take the plunge, I’ll report back because it’ll probably be hilarious (and maybe a bit humiliating).

Anyway, I do have a story in the works to put out this week, too, and I’ll post a link in the usual places when it’s up. In the meantime, if you want to tell me how your 2017 went, or your goals for 2018, I’d love to read them.

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