Solstice

Here is a short story I wrote on the Summer Solstice, June 21st, 2017. I like it a lot, I’m looking for a magazine that is right to submit it to.

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Solstice

 

I struggle with self-love. Love, to me, is so intimately close and personal that there is no room for imperfection. I know myself too well to love myself. I choose to look for love in places where I can’t find imperfection. God, I struggle with imperfection. I can find relative perfection in things I don’t have the chance to examine, like the sticky hands of someone else’s lover, or fruit taken from said hands to be used in a solstice love spell. I like things I can’t have. It’s compulsive. I struggle with things I can’t have. I can’t help but notice small imperfections in others possessions, things I’m sure they would never notice themselves. The fine blond hair that sprawls like a meadow across his forearms, for example, only visible when hit by the light of the setting sun. Or the stray black hairs that stand alive with static, holding themselves above the hoi polloi of coarse, shaggy hair that touches his collar and his bright pink ears. Thinking of everything I can’t have, I burn a bag of chamomile, lavender, and hemp and pray for self-love in the form of love from anyone else. I breathe in the smoke. I do things with him and around him to make myself known. I don’t eat, or I do. I come home at two in the morning, hair dripping, skin paved with dried chlorine, clothes soaked and smelling like someone else’s pool. I take his towel out of my bag, shocked that I have it. I sleep with it. I owe everything to his real lover. I owe them everything for keeping him away from me. If he was really mine to love, I would have nobody to love. If he loved me, I would be too close to love him. He would cease to be perfect. I know myself too well to love.

The Peach Pit (Short Story)

This is a short story I wrote in about a half hour. I used the word “cross” and words that start with the letter “p” for no real reason, it’s just what came to my mind when I sat down.

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The Peach Pit

He and I sat cross-legged across from each other, looking cross with our arms crossed. It crossed my mind that we were at a crossroads, one I was cross to recross. Something was across, and our eyes crisscrossed between the others crossed arms and the pit of a peach perched in a pile of perished peonies. My interest was piqued at his perennial placidity, and I pondered the possibility that we were recrossing a reposed crossfire, and I pretended to present him a phantasmic peace offering. Perhaps too much cross recrossing of a crisscrossed crossroads had precluded us from peering across to each others cross predisposition pertaining to the perpetrator; the peach pit perched across us in a pile of perished peonies. It crossed my recrossed psyche that I was proficiently displeased with the pit, and upon my prompt departure, I pressed the pit into the pile of peonies that had presented the crossest crossroads I had ever had to cross and recross in my entire life. I was placated, but not permanently.

New Story! May/June

This is a first chapter I wrote in the middle of the night… I like it, I’m either gonna develop it into a short story or novelette.

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Two Stoplights, Three Lighthouses

“I would like to be called Estella now.” Estella said, clutching her copy of _Great Expectations_ to her chest. “Estella resonates with me deeper than I knew possible. The way Havisham brainwashes her into becoming a cold, heartless yes-ma’am is no different than what society has done to us as Gen-Y. They want us to lay down and take the brunt of the failed economy, Social Security’s collapse, the environment, to fix it all when the boomers finally croak. I say no. I want to continue Estella’s story into my own life and break that great expectation. I choose to say no.”

Estella’s friends all nodded and said, “you are so right Estella.”

—-

Days later they were sitting on the beach. The kids let the water wash over their bare sunburnt legs and watched pieces of plastic bags and aluminum cans get stuck in the pebbles at the edge of the water. The sun hung low in the amber dome, and despite the clear sky, the beach felt shady.

Estella pulled a tiny green sprout out of the ground beside her. “I’m bored out of my mind. There is nothing to do here except go to the beach and get divorced.” A thin black salamander ran over Rudolph’s leg. He shivered and glanced at Estella out of the corner of his eye. He was planning what he could say, it had to be good, it had to be fun.

He surprised himself by saying out loud what he was planning on saying out loud. “My sister has the keys to the school greenhouse, we could go hang there I guess…” He knew his voice had shook. The group responded with the sound of crashing waves, seagulls, and otherwise silence. He watched the silhouette of a seagull dip down to the surface of the water and kept talking. “I know a guy who hides his weed under a pot in there. He wouldn’t notice if we…” Estella seemed not to have heard, as she snapped a twig in half and discarded the two pieces in the thin tide surrounding her legs. Audrey brushed her hair out of her eyes and turned toward the water. Silas looked like she wanted to say something, but she too was watching Estella. The kids were all quiet. Rudolph was thinking of anything else he could say to break the sounds of the beach with his voice when Estella clapped him on the shoulder, sending a cloud of dust out into the orange sunset air. She stood, brushing the sand off her long freckled legs.

“Great idea, Rudy. Let’s do it. You’ll drive?” She said it as if she was giving him permission, and didn’t even finish speaking before striding across the wet beach to the sand covered parking lot, already headed towards his van. Dust and sand fell off the back of her patchwork sundress, and the other three kids chased after her, as if they were trying to catch stardust off a comet. Maybe if they gobbled up enough of it they could keep pace. Rudolph blinked hard and wiped his eyes. The sun warmed the back of his neck as he followed the others to his car.

The halls of the high school were deserted. Even teachers go on summer vacation, but why they did this was beyond the kids. The greenhouse, however, was still humming with life. Vines in fifty shades of green spilled out of jars and cans and halves of water bottles. They clung to the steel framework of the structure and reached like spiderwebs across the panes of foggy glass. The air was wet with precipitation. They found the weed as the sun was disappearing behind the bleachers through the frosted glass windows. “Damn, there’s enough here for us to each have our own!” Rudolph said, pulling the paper bag out of the terra cotta pot. The greenhouse was close quarters, and the verdant room smelled like warm soil and steam. Estella knelt on the floor and tore pages out of _Great Expectations_ to roll the blunts in.

“Don’t you ever want to read that again?” But from the way Carter eyed the hemp it was clear he didn’t care what it was rolled in. Audrey took the first blunt from Estella and eyed it like a virgin.

“It’s a library book.” Estella answered, tearing out another page. Once she had rolled four blunts to her satisfaction, she took out a silver lighter with a skull on it, stolen for her from the gas station by Rudolph.

“Why don’t I get one?” he was the one who got them in, after all.

“I don’t really like it when you smoke, Rudy. You’re cuter sober.” Rudolph looked disappointed, so Estella said she might share hers with him. “Besides, you have to drive us home.” She flicked off her flip flops, buried her yellow painted toes in the dirt and lit her blunt.

A half hour later the five friends sat in a circle on the floor, metal table legs and withered vines surrounding them like stonehenge. In the middle of the circle was a poppy plant in a lentil soup can. There were three small flowers on it that Estella was holding her lighter to, one at a time. The group watched with fascination.

“Poppy flowers make opium. Opium makes dead soldiers. Dead soldiers in Vietnam. Fuck poppies. Wizard of Oz and shit.” The group nodded in fervent agreement. “Fuck poppies.” echoed Carter. She was wearing stars as a crown and the moon sat in her eyes. The delicate red and yellow petals wilted and turned brown before completely burning up, and pools of black water appeared all around them. The water was warm and fluffy and light, like the soil, like a soul. The poor flower shriveled in its can. When there was nothing left to burn, Estella held the lighter up in front of her and stared into the tiny blue flame. The group did the same. After a minute she clicked it shut and fell onto her back with a heaving sigh. Rudy dropped beside her and pushed the right side of his face into the floor, cement covered with a half inch of topsoil. It smelled like dirt. It was after all, dirt. Estella was pinching clumps of it between her fingers and letting it drop onto her chest. He watched her drop it onto her forehead and rub it into her skin. She giggled.

The other kids were watching her, waiting for a queue. I could tell it was more than weed they were smoking, because there was an extra smell in the room, like paint and gasoline. Audrey was incredulous at the similarity of her left hand to her right. After an hour it was time to go.

—-

As soon as Rudolph dropped the kids off at their respective houses smelling like weed and dirt and that extra special ingredient, Estella shouted that she had left her book at the school, and if they found it they could ask the library who checked it out, and they would know she broke in, and- but Rudolph had already turned around, they could go back to get it.
She picked it up with both hands and dusted the dirt off the cover. The greenhouse felt different now that it was just them, alone, in the dark. “Lets do something fun.”

She grabbed his hand and led him out to the football field, where she more or less shoved him to the ground. She knelt over him and before he knew it she was kissing him, and his mouth was full of fire that was sinking down into his gut. He was burning from the inside out but he would manage it, because her mouth tasted like weed and maybe strawberries, and the grass around them was growing so tall, it covered them completely.

“You are beautiful.” She said into his neck.

He kept his eyes open, and focused his blurry vision just past her wild hair on the full moon above them. Little pieces of starlight dug into the bottoms of his arms, and the cold wind hitting his chest made him realize his shirt was off. He felt his body sink further and further into the grass, and he let himself be taken by the Earth. The would go together. Silver smoke was billowing out of the hole in the sky where the moon was, falling on them like a spotlight. Venus was falling in to retrograde.
Rudolph Hesso lost his virginity at the fifty yard line and would live to remember as little of it as he could while still knowing it happened.

Then it was over and they were walking to the car, shaking moon dust off of their clothes. Rudolph’s eyes were still blurry with light and sound and feeling.

When they got to her house, Estella waved to Rudolph as she ran up her front steps. His eyes were fogged over and projecting stars. He rolled down the windows and was about to pull out of the driveway when he saw an un-smoked blunt in the passenger seat, wrapped with a page from _Great Expectations_. He stuck it in his pocket and drove away.

—-

“I love you.” Rudolph told Estella the next day, sitting in front of the grocery store in his car. The air conditioner was on and the windows were open.

“Two stoplights, three lighthouses.”
“What?” He turned to her. She had reclined her seat all the way back so her head was basking in the light coming through the skylight. She blew smoke from her camel out through her nose, which today was adorned with a white gold nose ring; a birthday present from her aunt, a convicted drug dealer.

“In this town, there are two stoplights and three lighthouses. We live in a beach town on the coast of North Carolina, there are more lighthouses than stoplights. There are more seagulls than people, more garbage on the streets than high school graduates, and more fucking volcanoes than original thoughts.” She lifted her legs to rest them on the dashboard and rested her sunglasses on the bridge of her thin sunburnt nose. Her black toenail polish was chipped. Her sunglasses were cracked. “How stupid does a man have to be do take a town with a booming tourism industry and render it an empty wasteland after a mere decade in office? Really, I’m curious.” She threw her cigarette out the open window and sat up, her matted brown ponytail whipping the ceiling.

“Did you hear me? I love you.” Rudolph said it quieter this time.

“You don’t love me.” She lit another cigarette. “Even if you did, I couldn’t let myself love you back. I could never be someones first love, it’s too much pressure.” She threw put out the cigarette on the arm rest and stuck the butt behind her ear.
“Well what am I supposed to do?” Rudolph stared blankly ahead, watching a young woman with white hair fight a seagull for her sandwich in front of the store. The seagull wanted to kill the woman, all the woman wanted was her sandwich.

“Love someone else first, I guess. If you had already loved someone I could love you back.” The seagull was winning, but the white-haired woman would not give up easily. “Like Audrey. If you went out with Audrey I wouldn’t feel so lousy about you loving me.”

“Estella, I’m not into Audrey, I’m into you-“

“But you feel that way about me, right? So could you do it for me?” He sighed and put the car in drive. “C’mon Rudy. If you could just go out with her for a while, I wouldn’t have to be your first.”

“You _were_ my first…” he muttered.

“What?”

He sighed and resigned himself. “Ill ask her out, if it means that much to you.”

Estella smiled and lifted her seat upright, re-lighting the cigarette from behind her ear.

—-

They drove aimlessly for a long time, in silence. Estella ripped pages from _Great Expectations_ one by one and threw them out the window. In the rear view mirror, he could see the pages littering the road behind them, like confetti.

Mini Story Contest Entry

This is a short story (under 200 words) I wrote for a micro story contest… The theme was “clean” and I wanted to take it to an unusual place… I’m fond of this one, although it is kind of hard for me to re-read. I don’t usually write in this style.

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The Cheater

You will want to be clean. Oh, when I have finished what I came here to do you’ll want to be so clean. From the first word I speak I can see your skin raise in anticipation and desire. My outstretched palm awaits the keys you hold tight by your side. I could have gotten them tomorrow, but I wanted this. This moment. For you to expect, to become smitten with the idea of it all. To wrap yourself in the idea that I would kiss you, press you against the wall. It would dissolve into the breathless, toe-curling sex you never got from you-know-who. We were having sex right now, I could see you picturing it. When you dropped the keys in my hand, I made sure to graze your fingertips with mine. Shudder. Recoil from my red hot touch, then realize, as I walk out the door, I was only here for my keys. You wanted so much more. Now all you want is to feel clean, but even that is too much to ask. Because you can wash away sex, but you can’t wash away what is still happening in your mind. You can’t cleanse yourself of me.

The Witching Hour

This was a ten-minute writing prompt I did yesterday. I like it. although the style is very confrontational and direct, a departure from my usual style. It was written very late at night, so it is stranger than usual.

The Witching Hour

I can perform miracles and if you sit in my booth at the very back of this truck stop diner, I may grant you a wish. The wish will be of my choosing.

Between the hours of two and four AM, the bones of my spine fall out of their row, and my neck cracks every time I turn my head. I order two drinks. One for me and one for you. You’ll pay, but I’ll add a special ingredient to yours that will send clouds of purple smoke curling above your head, like a halo of dirt. The smoke will coat your teeth with a film, and it will stay that way long enough for you to not want to eat the fries you ordered. I am hungry this early in the morning.

My teeth are long and gray. They remind you of dried chewing gum. My nails are short and yellow. From now on, everyone’s nails will remind you of my nails. I double my height, and my dry knees, broken again and again and re-set at the wrong angles, scrape against the bottom of the table. You lean forward on the table for a kiss. You will want to kiss me again and again but I fill your mouth with a cigarette.

My hearing ears and seeing eyes can tell you are uncomfortable. Your ears cannot see and your eyes cannot hear, and they will fail you despite your scrambled instructions.

You bend over and I transform you into my cane. I lean on my cane, you silly thing, and grant your wish. We get a milkshake at the bar. The waitress admires me and scorns you. She knows you, but she pretends she only knew you. A grilled cheese to top it off.

You shoot sparks from your place leaned against the bar, and I allow you to become a cat. You perch yourself on a stool beside me and rub my knee in hopes of reciprocation of affection. I turn you back to a cane.

I am no genie and your one wish is almost over. I want you to enjoy it more and more. You do.

You do.

Things My Mother Told Me- Short Story

This is a short story I wrote that was accepted to Canvas Literary Magazine, which you can buy here. I really like this story, it’s my first one to be accepted to a literary magazine.

Things My Mother Told Me

        My mother used to say if it sticks it’s probably glue. Back then, she wore pastel dresses with matching heels and purses and smoked a pack a day. She looked like the mother preparing the family dinner in every Norman Rockwell painting, which made me feel like we were holding her back, her non-perfect family. Like clockwork, she would set the table each morning for a big breakfast that only I would eat. My dad left for work early, so he would run into the kitchen and say gotta go sweetheart. She would ask him to take some bacon or sausage, but he would say  I’m already late as it is, peck her on the cheek and run out the door. My mom would sit down at the table across from me, open a magazine and pin it down with her elbows. She would sigh, heavily and lingering, and then light a cigarette. I grew to love the mixed smell of the smoke and syrup that hung over each of our lonely breakfasts. While I ate, I would stare out the window at the grey, overcast morning sky. By the time I finished my pancakes, she would have closed her magazine, opened a window to let the smoke out, and sometimes she would leave in her banana yellow mustang to go for a drive with the top down. She would get back way after I got home from school, with her hair all windblown, eyes puffy, and usually with a new dress. She said to me that money is happiness, and lack thereof is sadness. And therefore, she was a very happy woman.

        My father used to tell me, the beautiful ones are the most dangerous, so get tthose ones first. He would sit me in the front seat of his charcoal grey corvette and smoke his fancy cigars. He pushed hard on the brakes and never rolled the windows down. It was terrifying and exciting, but I pretended it was only exciting. His leather jacket smelled just like him, cigars and cologne and something else I couldn’t place. I would sit in his stuffy car and close my eyes and take a deep breath. He would take me to his office downtown and I would say hi to all his coworkers. My favorite was his secretary, Millie, because she had a bowl of caramels on her desk and let me fill my pockets with them. I would sit on the floor of my dad’s office and listen to the keys of his typewriter click, click, click, making money, making money. I would think, someday, I want to be just like my dad.

        My brother loved to tell me, his generation was gonna change everything. My brother let his hair grow long and wore jeans with big holes in them. He had lots of vinyl and lots of friends that liked to yell. He papered his bedroom walls with posters. I used to lay on his bed on my stomach while he did his homework and listen to his records, turning them up to drown out the yelling coming from the den. Sometimes when my brother wasn’t home, I would go into his room and just look at his vinyl, or take one out and run my hand across it, feeling the miniature race tracks that made music. One time, I was reading on the couch late at night and my brother got home from a date. They stayed in the front entrance. He and the girl were yelling a lot and then I heard him slap her hard. I had never been scared of my brother before then. He seemed like a different person, because my brother wouldn’t hurt a fly. She started crying, but he kept yelling. The door slammed and he stormed up to his room stomping on the steps. I never told anyone about that, and I definitely never asked him about it.

        My sister said to my mother, there’s a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance. When my sister and mother talked, I knew not to bother them. My brother said my sister was my mother’s rock. I thought that was funny, because dad should be her rock. When I asked my sister about that, she sort of snort-laughed and answered without looking up from her homework. Dad couldn’t be moms rock if you covered him in cement and let him dry in the sun, she said. My sister was very smart and got into lots of good colleges. She got lots of scholarships too, even though my dad could afford to send all of us no problem.

        When my mother kicked the wall of the kitchen in her pink heels, she said, ain’t nobody worth trusting in this life who comes to you free. She didn’t talk to my father anymore unless she was yelling at him. She stopped coloring her hair and let it grow out brown. She started smoking more and more, then stopped altogether. She bought all new dishes for the kitchen and had our neighbors over to celebrate. The new dishes were white with light blue checks on the edges, and they had little pink roses painted in the middle. I would sit and stare at my plate for ages after I finished eating, and pictured the garden where those roses could be. Usually, I imagined myself there, in the garden. It was by the beach, I decided. My mother repainted our kitchen from light yellow to mint green and bought a cyan blue couch with no arms. She stopped wearing lipstick and started wearing blush. She had to sell most of her fancy dresses to buy groceries. She lost weight and gained it back and then some. She subscribed to more magazines, just to look at pretty clothes she couldn’t buy anymore. She cleaned the house. She forgot to make dinner. She slept until noon or didn’t sleep at all. She listened to my sister, turned up the radio, and danced. Sometimes, she would play one of her old vinyls and cry. I would smile at her from across the breakfast table.

        My father took me to work less and less because he was too busy to entertain me all day, he said. He came home late and brought my mother fresh flowers. When I did go to work with him, I took extra caramels from Millie’s desk, to account for the times I missed. I liked to tell Millie all about my brother and his friends, my sister and her scholarships. My father must have liked Millie too because he left my mother to marry her and bought her all the pretty clothes my mother couldn’t have anymore.

        When my brother left to change the world after high school, he told me to always stand up for what I know is right. He and his friends set off the day after graduation, and we all watched him drive off into the horizon in a busted up van. I got his bedroom and all the records he left behind. Two months later he was arrested at a protest, and my sister got him out on bail. Apparently, that was enough world changing for my brother because he came back home with my sister to live with us. He slept in the basement. He got a job at the gas station. He cut his hair.

        When my sister went off to college, she kissed my cheek and said that hard work pays off. She came back home a month later when my brother was killed in a car crash on his way to work. Again, she said, there is a time to mourn and a time to dance. I suppose she meant that to be a time to mourn. My mother cried on her shoulder and stopped wearing makeup. My sister finished college and moved to Chicago.

        When I graduated high school, my mother said to me, it’s not about how many times you fall down, it’s about how many times you pick yourself back up. She took up painting after I left for college, and sold her art in art shows. She opened an art gallery and let other artists sell their things too. She sold the house I grew up in to buy a small apartment near the gallery. She painted the walls hot pink and coral and aqua and made dream catchers and clay pots. She didn’t need those pretty clothes from magazines anymore, and she didn’t have to wear makeup to be pretty. She adopted a cat and smiled at strangers. She paid for the person behind her in line, even when she hardly had any money for herself. She laughed more and wrote me letters while I was at college. She said nothing makes you happier than making someone else happy. And I think that’s important to remember. I think she was right.

The Drawer- Short Story

This is a short story I am very happy with;  I’ve spent a good amount of time editing it, and I’m planning on entering it in a short story contest.

The Drawer
I lifted my head from the pillow. I had taken a nap on the sofa. The window had been left open, and the sea air was nipping my bare arms. I lifted myself to a sitting position and brushed the static stray hairs out of my face. I picked up my silk scarf from the coffee table and wrapped my hair back in it and stood to close the window. Too late I realized my legs had fallen asleep, and in surprise, I fell to the floor. Every time I slept that way my legs fell asleep. I sat on the worn carpet and waited to regain the feeling. Folding my hands in my lap, I admired my ring. It was only a simple gold band, but it was from Thomas, which made it the most beautiful item in my possession. I watched the ring catch the sunbeams streaming in through the open window as I ran my hand over the fraying fibers of the carpet. A loose thread caught my eye, just at my feet. It was a part of the mane of an ancient lion, sticking out as a faded yellow against the dark maroon background. I started tugging at it, trying to pull it loose. It isn’t that I minded it being out of place, but it clearly was unhappy where it was. The thread deserved to separate from the perfect unity of its brothers. It was a tricky little string, and it took me getting onto my elbows before the rug released it from the mane. I held it above my head like a trophy when it finally gave, and although the full feeling hadn’t returned to my legs, I stood and shakily walked over to my window. Holding the fiber out over the crashing slate waves, I ceremoniously released it to the whim of the tides. I watched it fall, and managed to trace its path between the bulging swells, following it for a brief second as it was lifted to the tip of a curl, riding along the foamy gray spray. Then it disappeared into the endless ocean.

After the string was swallowed up by the ashen water, I looked down and noticed a small pink flower on the sill. It was a delicate little thing, a bright fuchsia with bright yellow stamens. It must have blown in from a tree ashore. The petals seemed to be made of crepe paper, they were so thin and fragile looking.

I leaned back inside and pulled the heavy glass panes closed. As soon as the window was shut the billowing crash of the waves beyond sounded as if it was inside a conch shell. The window latch was freezing cold, and when I absently laid a hand on the sill, I realized it was covered in the saline ocean spray. I touched my fingers to my mouth and let the salt sit on my lips before licking it off. It woke up my mouth, and I let myself slowly slide down the wall to enjoy the awareness of the acrid taste. I smacked my lips together.

Curled into a ball, I ran my fingers up and down the indentations left by the carpet on my legs. From across the room I noticed my knitting basket was back. I was in no mood for knitting now, but from my spot against the far wall I enjoyed looking at the pleasant colors of yarn, Thomas left for me this time. I could see a green the same color as my vase. The vase sat on the floor, atop my stack of favorite books, where it held four sprigs of lavender, which gave the room a quite pleasant aroma. There was also a blue ball of yarn the color of my favorite silk cushions and a rose color that matched the linen curtains that were too long for the window but blew so beautifully in the summer wind. There could be more colors but they were buried in the basket. Thomas always hid a few tubes of acrylic in the bottom of my basket, and I was hoping today for some more pale yellow to finish painting my coffee table. I twisted the rose curtains around my wrists and held my arms out to let them slip back into their pools on the floor.

I heaved a heavy sigh and slipped further down the wall, still damp with brackish condensation, until my head rested on the floor. I hadn’t paid much attention to my ceiling in a few days, which I realized was a shame. It was a lovely ceiling, light blue to play off the goldenrod walls, and with a fascinating crown molding that I was fond of following around and around the room when I sat on my ruby red chair with the gold tassels. The afternoon sun, which looked so gray and dull outside, plopped in the middle of a cloudless pale sky, shone a rich yellow in my room and cast a silhouette of rectangular light across my painting on the opposite wall. I loved my new painting, Thomas got it a week or so ago and my favorite part was the texture. The artist had laid the paint on so thick that I could take the painting down and lay it across my lap and feel the ridges and depressions that created the summer landscape. I tended to pine for summer this time of year, when the sweet smell of roses and daisies drifted in on the warm winds, and bees came to visit me and pollinate the flowers I kept on every possible surface. My new painting reminded me of my summers. Not to mention it excellently complimented my cyan wardrobe that stood a foot or so to its right. I sighed and lifted myself to my feet.

I began to pace around my room. I did this often when I grew restless. I tended to become occupied by other activities, but it was always good exercise to get up and walk around a bit.

The sun had set and pulled its gilded rectangles of light along with it, across my wall, across my painting, and eventually across my floor until they vanished out my window. My room was dark by the time Thomas came in for dinner. He brought in a tray of something that smelled terrible, but I smiled anyway just by virtue of seeing him. On his way in, he swung the door open so that it hit my painting and knocked it onto the floor. He set the tray down on the coffee table and picked up the frame. It looked like the bottom part had come undone. Thomas said he would fix it after dinner, it would be no trouble, don’t worry. He picked up a box of matches from off the tray and gestured for me to get the candle out of my drawer. The drawer was in the end table next to my red chair, and there was a picturesque array of fascinating items inside it. Every time I opened the drawer I wanted nothing more than to take each of my little friends out and turn them over in my hands. I got the insatiable urge to make sure each item knew how valued it was and give them all a chance to roam free, outside the drawer. The only thing that can make me forget that urge is my dinners with Thomas. He must not know how I love my drawer, otherwise he wouldn’t insist I keep the candle in with all my things. It was a perfect dilemma every night when I had to leave them in there until after dinner, but for Thomas, it was a sacrifice I could make. I had to allow them just a peek of the cornflower blue ceiling for now, because I would always choose Thomas over my things. That he must know.

I took the candle out of the drawer and handed it to Thomas. He pulled out a match and lit it, and I stared at the flickering flame. Fire fascinated me, how it is a constant but forever changing, how it can appear from nowhere and disappear in the same fashion. Thomas set down his bowl and mine. They were both full to the brim with a helping of whatever tasteless brine we’d be drinking. In the candlelight it looked gray, but Thomas insisted it was tomato. He sipped and made talk about my new yarn, if I wanted a new painting. I loved the yarn and I liked my painting exactly as is, so long as he could fix the frame. Did I want a new sofa? This one is getting a little beat up. Or maybe a new rug? No, no, I like my furniture exactly as is. I replied vacantly, mesmerized by the tilting flame on its pillar of wax and thread. I watched as bead after bead led to drop after drop of lavender wax, collecting in the bronze cup at the base of the candle.

I began to allow my vision to blur, still keeping my eyes on the candle, but watching the lines become less and less crisp, until the flame looked like a tilting and twisting stain of neon watercolor. Thomas’ voice droned on, but I kept my focus on the fire. I rubbed my eyes, and when I opened them again, Thomas was gone and my candle was blown out. The room was significantly darker. I suppose I spaced out. The bowls were gone, and I was left looking at my coffee table, now almost entirely painted pale yellow. We must have finished dinner, but I still felt hungry. I took my candle out of its holder and marveled at how it never seemed to grow shorter. It was even cold to the touch, wax dried and all. I must have fallen asleep and Thomas had left a while ago. I picked up the candle and stood to notice my painting had not only been fixed, but hung again as well. Thomas must have done it before he left, like he said. Strange for me to not remember, but it isn’t unlike me to lose focus on things when the conversation begins to drag. I walked across the room and almost fell when I didn’t see my knitting basket had been moved next to my red chair. What was more, my green yarn that matched my vase was almost entirely gone. It was a ball the size of a grape now, and it would hardly be enough for even one row of anything. I couldn’t recall knitting, but perhaps I had begun while Thomas and I were finishing dinner. He must have taken whatever I knit with him.

I put the candle in its spot in the drawer, but I couldn’t resist my precious menagerie twice in one night. I pulled the drawer free from its track and darted to my windowsill. I lined up my items one by one, turning each to face away from the room and out over the stark nautic landscape. At the end of the windowsill lineup was the little pink flower, except it was a sour brown color. Its petals that had seemed so perky this morning had dropped and lay almost flat against the wooden sill. Who would have guessed it could wilt so fast.

The moon framed the scene like a painting, tipping its hat to me from the very top of the window. I stood when all my items were in place and unhooked the brass latch, letting the windows fly out into the black night air. My items looked out across the water. They like it just fine in here with me, but they do enjoy seeing out over the water every now and then. We sat there for a while, and I let the wind tousle my hair. I closed my eyes and just listened to the waves crash below me. The wind whipped my face, and I realized I had left my silk scarf on the chair. When had I taken it off? Perhaps after dinner. I stayed with my items, though. I wouldn’t leave them for even a second during our special time. I could tolerate my hair in my eyes to keep them this company. When the cold became too much for my bare skin to ignore, I picked the drawer up off the floor and began replacing my items in it. I became focused on my fingers, delicately dropping them back into their spots. My ring flashing in the moonlight, working quickly but diligently to replace each item carefully and properly. I became so mesmerized by my work of fitting each item exactly where it belonged, I neglected to look where I was reaching. My fingers grazed the tip of another item, and I felt it fall. My hand froze in the air. Suddenly the air seemed to leave my lungs, and I didn’t want to look up. It just fell over, it’s still on the ledge. I said it in my head until I was ready to look.

I turned my head to look at the sill, and when my friend wasn’t there I stood and examined the outside ledge. It was barren. Below, the icy black water crashed like shattering glass. It pounded into my ears, over and over. I held my eyes wide open looking for any sign of my little friend afloat. I saw nothing. My grip tightened on the wooden facade. I wasn’t breathing.

I flew across the room to the door. I had to find it. I had to find it. I could find it if I got outside. I just had to look around on the shore, wade a foot or two into the water. I still had time. My clammy hands wrenched the cold doorknob. It didn’t turn. If I could get outside, get out in the water. The door wouldn’t open. I still had a chance to find it. The door was firmly shut. I couldn’t go. I stepped away. My hands shook slightly by my sides, but I regained control of my breathing. The door wouldn’t open. I sat on the couch and laughed to myself. The door wouldn’t open. I didn’t need that one item so badly. At least he was outside now. I let my head fall back to stare up at the ceiling. I could put the rest of my items back tomorrow. I folded my hands in my lap and pictured my little friend on the ocean floor with the piece of string from the carpet. I giggled. I gazed at the ceiling as my eyelids drooped. I was quite tired. Such a busy day. I let my eyelids flutter and buried my feet below a cushion. Such a busy day.

Looking at the ceiling I noticed a large crack in the plaster I hadn’t seen before. How long had that been there?