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Contest | Fiction | Romance (February 2007)

 
 
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  #1  
Old 02-01-2007, 07:45 AM
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Default Contest | Fiction | Romance (February 2007)


Valentine's Day is just around the corner and we judges are craving chocolate and love, in the written form, that is. Whether it be the kind of love found in fairy tales or the more realistic romance of the real world (like my alliteration?), write us a story about love and romance for this month.

Please, keep it clean - entries that belong in the Adult Content forum will not be accepted.

Word limit is 1,500. You have until 11:59 PM EST on February 22nd to submit.

Good luck!

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  #2  
Old 02-09-2007, 05:59 PM
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Revised this piece: hopefully the judges will enjoy.


AM

What is love? Amar. Conjugated: amo, amas, ama, amamos—amamos? That can't be right—aman. If Ms. Teacher is to be believed, that's all that matters: take one root, attach ending as desired. “All verbs end the same: you only need to learn the suffix once. The root’s the part that changes.” In my experience, though, love is nothing without an ending, a suffix. I love—yo amo—but she loves somebody else. Ella ama.



Ms. Teacher’s right about one thing, though: every love needs a root. In this class, two simple letters start it all: a, m. AM. Amy sits up and yawns: her braces have come off, I note. Amy has no notes: she took French last year, and so kinda-sorta knows Spanish already. This doesn’t impress Ms. Teacher. “Miss Kimball!” she snaps, and Amy snaps to attention. “Perhaps you can tell your classmates the meaning of amar.” But Amy doesn't know the meaning of amar, not really. Spanish isn't the only place she barely manages passing grades.


“Friend?” she tries, and Ms. Teacher makes a sad sort of clucking sound. Amy blushes. “Well, that's what it would mean in French. Ami.” Her accent is stunning, even in defeat.


A mi,” Ms. Teacher pronounces, “means to me in Spanish. Close as they may seem, no two languages are exactly the same,” and she's right. They’re not even close, not in the end. I had hoped to end in amar, to love and cherish till death did us part, and so I wrote a letter and she wrote a letter back. But something got lost in translation, and when they got back to me those two simple letters had an entirely different meaning: Amy was ami a mi.

The root was never a problem. AM was in place, right from the beginning: I was amorous toward Amy, and she was amiable back. Something changed, though, while things were developing and five letters later we were in entirely different time zones. And that's using a mutual language: French and Spanish may look almost the same, but it's almost-the-same like ami is almost-the-same as amar so you'd better have taken notes.


“It's true, you know.” Amanda leans close to me. “Things get messed up even in English. I could tell you I love you, but you might think I'm talking about something else entirely.” Mandy's my friend, but she doesn't like Amy for some reason: she still takes the time to tease me about my love from time to time, which annoys me to no end. I glare at her, and she flushes a deep red.


“Find yourselves a partner!” cries Ms. Teacher. “Get in pairs, so you can practice love together until you both know love blindfolded!” I look at Amy, hoping she'll be my partner through love, but Ms. Teacher already has an eye on her—“You, Miss Ami, still have much to learn.” I end up with Mandy instead.


“You know, love begins in the morning.” Mandy. “I mean, love begins with 'A.M.' Right?”


“Too bad, then,” I reply; “It's 12:04.” Love missed this class by minutes, it would seem; Mandy's face falls. We work in silence until the bell rings. At lunch, we practice conjugation, going straight down the list. “Yo amo,” I start, between bites of sub. Heavy on the vinegar today. “Amas tú?


Yo amo,” she replies. “But he loves somebody else. Él ama.


“I'm sorry,” I say. I am. Believe me, I know what it's like to love somebody who doesn't love back. And though I may think it at times, Amy's not the only one struggling with the language of love. “I guess what you have to do, then, is just keep stating it. It might seem like you're speaking two totally different languages at times, but if you say it enough times, he's bound to figure it out.”


Mandy looks hesitant for a second; next, she's smiling and nodding. “Don't worry. I think he'll figure it out soon enough. I won't stop trying.” And I won't either, I suddenly think. I forgot before today just how wonderfully gray her eyes are. They're almost a pure silver, and it's lovely. Next on our list is amamos, “we love.” It's a powerful word: it doesn't need a sentence to go with it. “Amamos,” I say, and she's smiling, and that's enough.


We love: a happy ending; but we can't end there. This is Spanish class, after all, not the real world, and after we love I see Amy pressed against a locker, holding some guy with an earring close. “Ellos aman,” I say, “they love,” and my heart feels like it's breaking. Amanda's my partner in love today, and it's a pity we can't stop at amamos but here the happy ending isn't the one that matters: only the last ending counts. It's sad, but nothing can change that vinegary truth.


My notes tell me the root is all that matters—but love's taken root already. We each had the root, Mandy and I, but we've gone from happy ending to tragedy—me with Amy, her with somebody somewhere. She's close to me physically, but emotionally I feel as if she's a pen pal, some girl writing to me from a far-away country. And looking at those letters, over and over again, I can't help but feel that something must have been lost in translation.

Last edited by ronoxQ; 02-10-2007 at 07:54 AM.. Reason: Making it better.
  #3  
Old 02-09-2007, 10:01 PM
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(Approx. 700 words)



"And She Was His Beloved"


It was a cold winter and Laura Barton felt alone. She was twenty-nine, living with her mother - she told mom it was to help her but really, she was too nervous to live alone. Her friends had boyfriends now and didn’t see each other much. She hated to be envious, but was tired of seeing couples arm-in-arm. Friends tried to fix her up, but she turned them down.
.
"Please," Laura begged, "no more blind dates! I can’t sit through another night with some grabby man."

She decided that, rather than watch others be happy, she would stay in her room and read about romance. With a wistful sigh, Laura closed her romance novel, "And She Was His Beloved."

Her mom said she was too desperate. Relax, and someone great would come along. Mom was probably right. Laura tried to act sophisticated, but even a sophisticated clock keeps ticking. Sometimes it was so loud, she thought others could hear, too. She’d had one or two boyfriends, but that was in her early twenties - and it wasn’t the binding love the women in her novels always seemed to find. They were loved beyond compare by a man that would never leave.

"Well," she thought, "if I can’t meet anyone, I might as well write a novel about my dream man."

She wrote down her loves features. Blonde wavy hair, steel-blue eyes, a six-pack stomach and broad, strong shoulders. Next, she needed a romantic country. "I know," she said. "Bali." Since she knew nothing about it, she asked her mother.

"No, dear, I don’t know anything about it. Why don’t you do some research about it in the library."

"Great idea, Mom, thanks. I’ll go now." At least she’d get out of the house for awhile.

"Oh. I thought you’d have lunch now," said her mother warmly.

She grabbed her coat. Excitement rose in her at the idea of writing her first romance novel.

"No, thanks. I’ll eat when I come home."

The library was only a few blocks away, so she was able to walk it easily. She hadn’t realized how cold it was getting, and she felt the wind go through her.

Finally, she reached the library door and, inside, looked for the librarian Mrs. Jenkins. A handsome man sat behind the librarian’s desk. Her eyes widened. Getting up the nerve, she went to him and asked if he could help her find a book about Bali.

"Certainly," he said, a big smile passing his sensual lips. He was tall, ruggedly built, broad shoulders. He worked out - probably at home. If he was he was the new librarian, she was certainly elated. Of course, no one ever said librarians couldn’t be handsome. Looking through the shelves, he found the book. "Here it is," he said. "I think this will really help your research."

"Oh, thank you. Yes, this will be great," she managed to blurt out. She was picturing his strong arms around her and him bending down to kiss her eager lips. To her surprise, she heard herself asking if he’d like to go for a cup of coffee. The words were barely audible, but he had heard. And, to her shock, she heard him say yes.

"I get off at 4 p.m. Can you wait around ‘til then?"

She nodded, unable to speak. She waited quietly in the corner, perusing a magazine, when Mrs. Jenkins appeared. She waved for Laura to come over.

"Hi, honey," Mrs. Jenkins said sweetly. "I’d like you to meet my son, Craig."

She then began waving at the handsome man to come over. Laura’s face began to turn beet-red.

"Did I say something wrong," Mrs. Jenkins asked.

"No, mom," Craig smiled. "We’ve already met. We have a date for coffee."

"Oh, silly me," Mrs. Jenkins chuckled. "I should have known you two would hit it off."

As Craig and Laura walked out arm-in-arm, the cold day suddenly seemed warmed and bright. She wouldn’t have time to start a romance novel. And as they left the library, she heard Mrs. Jenkins saying on the telephone, "Yes, Mrs. Morgan, they’re walking out together as we speak... Isn’t that wonderful!"
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Last edited by susie; 02-09-2007 at 10:04 PM..
  #4  
Old 02-10-2007, 08:03 AM
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God Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.


She entered the Cathedral daily, always in her lunch break. Each time she lit candles and prayed with the little faith she had left. God’s house felt empty, void but for the visiting parties of school children, university students and the elderly. An odd accumulation of people; those with faith were soon to depart this life, and those with all the potential in the world to praise God for the life they had been given, hadn’t given it a second thought after R.E. lessons.

Each candle she lit as a symbol of her prayer and continued hope that God could save her. Each candle was lighted by the dying breath of one previously, in a vain attempt that maybe their prayer would continue to be with the Lord along side hers. As she sat and gazed intently as the flames, she began to wonder. What was more beautiful, when one lone candle remained in the stand, vigilant against the draughts, or when all the holders were full and prayers were supposedly abundant? If each person that entered this sanctuary for lost beings uttered one solitary prayer, was God not listening anymore? Where was he? When she needed him most was he playing chess with Satan, or simply just not interested? She needed him now more than ever, through grief she had fought to live again, through illness she had strived to be healthy. But now in this state of loneliness there seemed no relief and no answer from her saviour when for the first time in her life, she truly needed to be saved.

Was it that she took pride in her looks, was that why God had a “Do Not Disturb” sign? Maybe if she had let her dark roots penetrate the golden locks, he’d love her again. Maybe she wouldn’t feel like there was a disease growing inside her, maybe she should have prayed more, loved men less, and been a good little Christian girl. A twinge of distress shot through her stomach, and her hand, dispossessed of jewellery took up its place, rubbing around her navel till the feeling subsided.


The vicar saw her sitting in the very same seat the day before, and the day before that. She’d been coming here religiously, for what he assumed was the length of time she had known about the blessing she’d been given. That little collection of cells growing inside her womb that only recently began to show. He wondered if he would have noticed the slight stretching of her clothes if she did not practise her inherent maternal instinct over the unborn child. This man of utmost faith and devotion wondered whether her baby was a result of a carnal sin, or if back home there was a loving father and partner willing to wait on the young woman when the burden of pregnancy got too much.

He hoped Josie would find someone to love her, in the way he couldn’t. She was so beautiful, not in the way the young mother-to-be was, her beauty was astounding, even captivating. She must have had a string of men chasing her, before the child. But Josie, sweet, sweet Josie; she was stunning, destined to be the sort of woman who hid behind her glasses and fringe until a daring admirer took it upon himself to unleash an Aphrodite on the world. Exposing a creature like that could cost him his own love, but it’s a risk you sometimes had to take. The vicar had no risks to take; his life was planned. He would love his God and only his God. He would never again know the touch of the fairer sex. Josie didn’t come to services anymore, had she told her mother? Was there an invisible noose being tied slowly around his neck? He missed greeting the family after the prayers had been said; he missed how Josie looked in her Sunday best.


She had her eagle eyes upon the man in the dog collar, ignoring the patrons, not one of course would slip something into their pocket or change a price tag. They were still in a house of God; certain rules elevated it above other gift shops. Unfortunately thought the saleswoman, the men of God also thought themselves better than those they ought to serve. She had heard murmurs about that vicar, whispers about him paying too close attention to a girl. True she was nearly a young woman, but that didn’t negate his actions.

Her son was in the same class as the girl all the speculation was about. Apparently she’s been talking about the vicar frequently. Surely that’s grounds for some sort of investigation she thought, something has to be done to protect children or minors or whatever freshly turned sixteen year olds were called. She thought of her son, and what she would do if anyone; absolutely anyone hurt him like they’re saying the vicar hurt Josie. Poor sweet little Josie, she’s been distant in class, still talks of the vicar though. Sam, her son was a naturally quiet boy, but he picks up on the little things. He came home from school last week and regaled his mother with stories from the staff room, said he wanted to be a journalist when he’s older, spy being too radical a career option, of course. The head of maths is getting a divorce apparently. Everyone saw that coming; she’s a soulless creature, practically murders Hallelujahs when she sings, and she doesn’t like children. No one really understood why he married her in the first place. He’s probably moved onto pastures new, like that pretty little thing that sits by the candles. She’ll be off soon, getting close to when she goes back to work. As the sales assistant brought her mind back to work, she noticed the doors of the Cathedral bang shut, though it was impossible to tell who had caused the disturbance with a tour congregating at the entrance.


This man was frantic, but in a subdued manner. He apologised profusely when he made the doors slam. He did not mean to disturb this sanctuary from modern life. But his time was short, there would not be long to do what he needed, and he had wasted time already this past hour. As he entered the main section of the cathedral he took great care to walk quietly and swiftly, searching for someone or something but making an obvious effort to seem like he was admiring the gothic architecture and religious artefacts that adorned the sandstone walls. The dead weight in his pocket made him feel even more awkward, the situation he was in was worrying to say the least, this added to the fact he had faked his Amen’s in church since he was 11 years old. It was a chilling place to be even without the draught. But this would be were he found his saving grace, if he could find it at all. The man turned on his heel and into his thoughts. Was God looking down on him now, chastising him for all the wrongs he’d done? Could He not see how he was trying to make up for it? It was a small gesture he knew, but it was all he had, one token to offer but none to offer it to.

He walked solemnly to the candles. Prayers of all kinds and nature, he had nothing to ask for, nothing a deity that had forsaken him so long could give. So instead he gave, emptied his wallet of all the notes and coins, and deposited them in the small wooden box dappled with wax. He bowed his head as if in prayer, not wanting to look out of the ordinary. There was rustling behind him, someone gathering up their thoughts and possessions hurriedly. Had he made them feel so uncomfortable just by standing here? Maybe it was his affluence that distressed them so. He wanted to turn around but felt sure that would make the situation worse, he wanted to cause no one who needed this place harm. It’s the first time he’s ever needed to be here; in a place only whispers are uttered. He couldn’t turn around, didn’t have the heart to spread more embarrassment. So he slipped his hand into his pocket, and took out his token, held it above the box and dropped it in. He turned swiftly upon his heel once more and stumbled to retain balance.

“Gracie! I just.. I was..”

“You just proposed to my prayer.”

Another joined the hand bereft of jewellery upon the young woman’s stomach, and a fresh kiss was laid softly on her lips. All eyes that had been upon either that day, turned away, but the candles had never burned brighter, or with more reason; even if God didn’t live here anymore.
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His lips parted, cracked and dry as he struggled to whisper: "My muse, you're here."
She simply smiled, "Yes, Drake, I am here."
  #5  
Old 02-10-2007, 11:35 AM
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Icon10 A Snowy Romance 1441 words

The fairy Tangle Rainbowfrost, who is normally only seen during the first snow of winter, had missed her usual showing. Climate change had brought fair weather to the winter months so she had slept on in her warm clouded dreamworld. Toward February, when spring is usually heralded with the first blooms of the crocus, Tangle yawned and looked at her watch. “Goodness gracious!” she exclaimed. “It’s snowing at last.”

She fluttered in a fluster down to the tangled forest, pulling on her multicoloured petal dress and straightening her wings. If she didn’t find a pair of star-crossed lovers and enable them to meet, then she would have missed her minimum quota for the year. Tangle didn’t want to be in trouble with the fairy council, and she certainly didn’t want to be demoted to leaf duty.

Landing on a hawthorn bush, Tangle opened her fairy radar system and began to scan the forest.

Moon Wolfe Aidan stomped through the bracken. The treehouse needed fixing, the new toilet pit needed digging and there was a strange noise coming out of the bio-diesel generator. Would any of the others offer to do these chores? Not likely! Moon Wolfe was in a seriously bad mood. The sudden snow had caused mayhem at the camp. Everything was wet and cold, and everyone was miserable. Moon Wolfe had offered to go on a mission for dry firewood and mushrooms, just to get out of the bad atmosphere.

Meanwhile, in another part of Tangle Rainbowfrost’s forest, Angel Swift the Warrior Princess glamour model had lost her way. She was supposed to be shooting the sequel to Angel and the Demon of Arden, where she would again be seen hurling her beautiful body around in a forest setting. The series had been such a success that three sequels had already been penned, each script formatted to give just the right amount of fighting and clothes-shedding that the viewers enjoyed.

Unfortunately, the snow had caught everyone unawares. The crew hadn’t made it up the frozen forest track, the caterers were somewhere on the M4 and the makeup department were back in the hotel watching Celebrity Big Brother, having assumed that the day’s filming was called off. Angel had left early so that she could get the feel of the forest, and was wearing her costume as she habitually did so that she could get into character. When the snow had begun to fall, she only had a thin velvet cloak to warm her semi-naked lithe form.

“Yes!” said Tangle, snapping her fairy radar closed. “Perfect.”

Moon Wolfe Aidan hadn’t found any mushrooms. As it happened, the snow covered most of the mushroom-growing areas and Moon Wolfe didn’t really care about mushrooms anyway. With an armful of wood gathered from under a fallen tree and dry enough to crackle to life on the fire, Moon Wolfe turned back toward camp. A butterfly flitted in front of Moon Wolfe’s face and there was a brief tinkle of laughter. Moon Wolfe sneezed and blinked and the butterfly was gone. How strange, thought Moon Wolfe. You wouldn’t usually expect to see a butterfly at this time of year.

Angel Swift hunkered down under a tree for shelter. She really wished the crew would turn up soon because her extremities were beginning to grow blue. Whoever designed the Warrior Princess outfit hadn’t gone for realism at all. No itinerant mercenary Amazon would go about in a leather bikini with barely any armour or carrying pouches. Angel wished the velvet cloak was a bit thicker rather than the thin dressy stuff of which it was made. She wrapped it tighter around herself as the snow began to fall more heavily. A butterfly flew past her eyes and seemed to drag its wings briefly on the tip of her nose. Angel sneezed and brushed it away.

Tangle Rainbowfrost flew up to the tip of the tree and settled on a twig with a good view of the forest below. She smiled smugly to herself as she thought about the imminent match. Blowing warm air onto her hands, she snuggled into a leaf and waited.

Moon Wolfe Aidan approached the hill with caution. The snow was falling thickly and the ground was treacherous. She pushed ahead with her eyes on the ground and her thoughts on the warm fire she would soon light back at camp. She wondered if the others would still be there or if they’d have given up and gone back to their central-heating and their microwave ovens. A movement caught the corner of Moon Wolfe’s consciousness and she frowned through the snow at the base of a tree next to the path.

Angel Swift was beginning to drift. She tried to keep herself from falling asleep as she realised how dangerous this could be. But having woken early for the filming, and now having nothing to do but sit and wait, she was finding it difficult to stay awake. A noise startled her and she lifted the cloak to peek out.

Moon Wolfe stopped abruptly and stared. Angel let the cloak fall away from her face and stared back. Up in the tree, Tangle Rainbowfrost rubbed her hands together with glee. Words formed in Moon Wolfe’s throat, but she couldn’t speak. Angel shivered, not with cold but with a strange feeling of fate. They stared at each other for a long moment. At last, Tangle could bear it no longer and shook her rainbow wings on the snowy leaves, sending a shower of snow down between the two unlikely lovers.

Moon Wolfe was shaken out of her stupor and stepped closer to the huddled figure. “Are you lost?” she squeaked, mentally kicking herself for not using a more original chat-up line. Angel smiled beatifically and stood, unfolding her cloak and letting the snow fall from the dark velvet. Moon Wolfe gulped. She suddenly felt self-conscious in her lumberjack shirt and jeans. “Uh, I mean…” she began.

“Do you believe in love at first sight?” said Angel, who was much more experienced in these matters.

Moon Wolfe gulped again. “I think you need to find somewhere warm,” she said, goggling at Angel’s outfit. “You look like you’re on your way to a fancy dress party.”

Angel swept the cloak around her shoulders. “Did you have somewhere warm in mind?” she asked, flashing her eyes.

“I erm, well…” said Moon Wolfe. Tangle became impatient at the top of the tree and shook the branches more vigorously. Honestly, this woodcutter was not as forward as they usually were on meeting a damsel in distress in the forest. The snow fell from the top branches and covered Moon Wolfe’s head. “Hey!” she said, looking up. Tangle ducked behind the leaf again.

“Lead me to your place of safety,” said Angel, in her best Warrior Princess voice and trying to keep her teeth from chattering.

“It’s just this way,” said Moon Wolfe, pointing. Soon they were curled up in the tree house camp, sipping hot chocolate laced with brandy.

“So you really never heard of me, huh?” Angel asked.

“Nope,” said Moon Wolfe, “don’t watch much TV.” She could see that this disappointed Angel, so she added, “But if I did then I’m sure that yours would be my favourite show.”

Angel smiled at Moon Wolfe’s awkwardness. “I like your cosy tree house,” she said. “Have you lived here long?”

“I don’t really live here, you see,” Moon Wolfe explained. “It’s kind of a road protest.”

“How noble,” said Angel. “I like that.”

Outside, Tangle Rainbowfrost shivered on the roof of the tree house, tutting to herself because her lovers still hadn’t got it on! “What must I do?” she thought. More fairy dust might put them to sleep, and she’d already tipped some through the open window. If they didn’t get going soon, then she’d be up in front of the fairy council for sure.

Ignoring all the warnings about showing oneself to humans, Tangle slipped inside the tree house. “Hey, there’s that butterfly again,” said Angel.

“I saw it too, what sort do you think it is?” said Moon Wolfe.

As they spoke, Tangle flew towards them, fluttering from one to the other. They both watched, enraptured by her beauty, unconsciously moving closer together as she fluttered above their heads. Then she dived down between them and dropped the last of her fairy dust under their noses.

Angel leaned forward and touched her lips to Moon Wolfe’s surprised mouth.

As Tangle flew out of the window, she heard their sighs and knew that she’d succeeded in her business for another year.

The End
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  #6  
Old 02-15-2007, 05:32 PM
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Mother stops her gray sedan directly in front of the school’s main entrance. She nods to me before speeding down the road. We never say good-bye. I know that she’ll be waiting in front of the school at precisely three o’clock, as she knows I’ll be waiting there for her at precisely three o’clock. It’s the joy of love: consistency.

I stagger under the weight of my backpack, only offering the smallest nod to Old Janitor, who holds the door open for me every morning. I’ve never been fond of janitors. Still, I find myself wishing that the school would provide uniforms for all the students. Nothing too fancy, just something to concisely state our identities, maybe even with our GPA’s in parenthesis. This idea cements itself in my mind as I pass Drug Dealer, Drug User, C-Student, and Minimum Wage Worker. Avoiding these people as best I can, I walk into the school’s library, heading to my usual table in the corner.

With a sigh of relief, I throw my book bag on the floor, and open my worn copy of Cyrano de Bergerac. I’ve never really cared what I’m reading so long as others instantly recognize the title, and nod their heads in approval. It makes it easier for them to define me as a young intellectual. Oppositely, whether their eyes light with recognition as they notice the name Edmond Rostand boldly written on the cover, or whether their eyes furrow for a moment in confusion tells me a great deal about them. In a way, adults almost make teenagers appear easily defined.

As I raise my head to turn the page, I survey the room for a moment. Within these seconds, I can quickly name every student present: Goth sits in a corner listening to a Marilyn Manson CD; Drama Queen cries as she reads a text message from her boyfriend; and Nerd One and Nerd Two discuss some sort of Japanese game in hushed tones.

For some reason, people seem genuinely upset when I call them Sci-fi Geek instead of Ted, or Makeup Obsessive instead of Christine. I never understand why. I’ve always viewed names as superfluous. What’s the point of memorizing them when everyone can so easily be categorized?

I begin to pick up my book again when she enters the room. She looks for a moment, smiles, and begins to walk towards me. I grimace slightly, wondering if there is anyway to politely leave before she begins speaking.

“Hey, Tom.”

“Hello,” I murmur, somewhat awkwardly. Why does she always want to talk to me? She could be Beautiful Cheerleader or Gorgeous Senior.

“How was your weekend?”

“Fine.”

“You say that every Monday.”

“I know.” I cough, and begin to shift my book towards my chest. I should be reading a book, or typing numbers into my calculator.

“Well, I spent almost all of yesterday working on that stupid English paper. I don’t know how you manage to get a 100 on every paper. Maybe you could just write mine next time,” she says with a giggle.

“I think they would know it was mine.”

“Oh, I doubt it. How would they anyway? We’re writing on different novels.”

“But they’d recognize my style.”

“So change it.”

“No, I’d rather not.”

“Oh,” she says, looking slightly annoyed with me. Her eyes suddenly light up with passion. She’s often swept up by impetuous thoughts. “Do you remember when we first met, Tom? It feels like we’ve been having these little conversations for years.”

“We have. It’s been at least five years since we both helped set up for the District Band concert.”

“Oh, that’s right. I remember now, you were helping for community service hours for Junior National Honor Society, and I was just there because I was bored. Do you remember me there?”

“Only very vaguely.” She wore a black tank top with a pink skirt that day. She reminded me of Desdemona, seeming so innocent and pure.

“I guess we didn’t really start talking though until freshman year when we both signed up for marching band.” She suddenly begins to laugh. “Remember when you and I couldn’t remember any of the steps, so we wrote them in marker on the back of our cymbal straps.” She says this loudly. A few people look towards us.

“Not really,” I say uncomfortably. She looked charming in her band uniform those three years ago. She was my pragmatic Mrs. Pembroke, and I was her weak Rickie. Now she’s too perceptive and clever for me to think of her as Desdemona.

I look up to discover her frowning at me. “I don’t remember you ever being this serious when we first met, Tom.”

“I guess some things have to change. I didn’t care nearly enough about my grades back then.”

“But you were in the top fifteen!”

“And not the top five. I never would have gotten into Princeton with those grades.” I try and avoid discussing grades with her as much as possible. She frustrates me on this matter. She could easily be in the top five as well, but seems to enjoy dating one jock after another, or spending her time shopping with Pretty Brunette and Gorgeous Redhead. I look at her again, even more annoyed than I was before. She’s more beautiful than the rest of her friends, but I don’t feel right about calling her Gorgeous Woman or even Pretty Senior. Even her spurts of idealism and kindness prevent me from calling her Mrs. Pembroke. There’s too much else that lies beneath the surface with her…God, how I hate people who can’t be stereotyped.

“So are you going to prom?” The buses finally arrive as she asks this question. As though an invisible gate has just opened, the library fills with students, many of them deciding to sit right next to us. I hate speaking when surrounded by strangers.

“I-I haven’t decided quite yet.”

“Me neither. You know Jeff and I—wait, do you know Jeff?”

“Not really.” How could I not know Dumb Jock 3? I never understood why they were dating. He could never offer her the same type of future that I could.

“Well, we broke up a while ago. I think it was about two weeks ago.” It was actually seventeen days ago during her 7th period lunch.

“I’m sure you’ll find another date.”

“Well, I was actually considering going with a friend this year. Maybe you and I could go?”

Before I have a chance to reply, Loud Girl spins around in her chair to stare at us. “Wait, you two are going to prom together?”

“Well--”

“Oh my God, I would’ve never guessed it. Erin! Kristin! Can you believe that Tom is going to prom?”

“Really? I thought that he’d be too busy studying. I guess he’s too busy dating to study now.”

“Yeah, I always thought he was some kind of genius who read weird books all day.” The sudden buzz of gossip seems to enthrall the passing students. The room has become too crowded for me to identify them all. Let’s see, there’s Goth, Nerd 1, Nerd 2, and---wait, is that Nerd 4? Maybe it’s World of Warcraft Geek or even Thick Glasses. Jesus, why can’t things go back the way they were a moment ago?

“No, we are not going to prom,” I manage to say. “You’re right. I have too much work to do. You know that I am a potential candidate for a full scholarship at Princeton? I’m not going to sacrifice that for something as frivolous as prom. We’re just friends, ok? We’ll never be more than that.” What the hell am I saying? I turn my head, and see her staring back at me. Her lower lip trembles slightly, and her aqua eyes glisten with tears. With a gasp, she presses a sleeve against her mouth, and runs from the library.

I sit there stunned by what I’ve just done, what I’ve just ruined. The bell soon saves me from the crowd’s accusing eyes. I stare at the ground, too annoyed to mentally catalogue everyone I pass as I make my way for homeroom. I expect the feeling to dissipate as the day continues, but for some reason it won’t leave. Blocking the memory is simple, but the emotion persists. By the end of the day, I begin to realize that she might simply be Paige. Perhaps she needs no other name.

These thoughts continue to swirl through my mind as Mother stops her gray sedan directly in front of the school’s main entrance. With a sigh, I look down at my watch. It’s three o’clock. I’ve read Cyrano de Bergerac enough times to realize that some people offer something far deeper than simple consistency, and that nothing should prevent us from leaping across that vast abyss separating friendship from romance. Yet I’ve always feared the fall. I’m afraid I always will.

Last edited by Leon of Prussia; 02-22-2007 at 05:51 PM.. Reason: Improving
  #7  
Old 02-21-2007, 11:02 AM
gary_wagner
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Default Wilfred and Rosie - 1357 words

Wilfred and Rosie

“Wilfred Adams” he declared with outstretched hand, when I walked past and caught his eye. He partially rose to his feet as far as the booth table would allow and vigorously pump the hand of the stranger with a smile. He sat back down motioned across the table and said, “Scootch on down, Rosie May, let this young man sit down for a moment.”

My eyes tracked where his were looking as he continued to direct with his hand and a nod of his head. He saw my look of confusion when I looked into the empty booth seat opposite him.

“Rosie May, you being obstinate again? What you doin’ making yourself all invisible when I want to introduce this nice young man? Well, sorry about that Mr. … did I get your name?”

“It’s Williams, James Williams – just Jim will do.”

“Well, Just Jim, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”

The old man looked older than ancient. He had a thick fringe of white hair surrounding a shiny bald head, tufts of more white hair coming out his ears, and his nose hair blended in with his shaggy moustache. Behind a pair of thick lenses contained in cheap black plastic frames were the most penetrating rocket-blue eyes I have ever seen. His eyes and demeanor argued in favor of mental clarity but his reference to an invisible guest tipped the scale back into possible dementia.

I sat in the booth across from him because he appeared harmless enough and seeing an elderly person eat alone in a restaurant is something I have trouble watching without it bringing tears to my eyes. A psychiatrist would probably have a field day with that, but I wasn’t about to tell one because it is none of their business and because I am not ashamed of random acts of mysterious compassion. It has taken me years to accept some of what other people consider peculiarities, but I have decided are perfectly normal – for me.

He leaned across the table toward me, held his hand up to the side of his mouth to shield his words, and whispered, “Sorry about Rosie May. She ain’t been quite right in the head since she died. Gets all confused and forgetful and turns invisible when she gets around new people.”

Sitting back, he reached across the table, pushed an empty plate down to the end, and patted a hand that wasn’t there, “Its all right, sweetie pie, you just finish your breakfast like a good girl.”

A passing waitress asked if I wanted coffee and gave me a look that said, “Yes I know he’s crazy, he’s also harmless, and if you hurt this little old man I wait on every time he comes here, I will smack you in the side of the head with this steaming pot of coffee.” That’s a lot to say with a single glance but I think she has had a lot of practice. I got the message loud and clear.

I nodded to the waitress and said, “Yes, please”. I also had success in relaying my message of benevolent intent back to her because her look of concern dissipated into a smile as she dropped a cup in front of me and filled it with coffee.”

“Rosie May and I were married as soon as I got back from the war in ’45. She was a welder in the shipyard while I was overseas, can you believe that? Look at that tiny little thing and imagine her putting joint welds in a battleship.”

I watched him stare at the blank spot beside me as long as I could without feeling like I was intruding on a private moment. I put a spoon in my coffee and moved it back and forth - watching the black liquid vortices swirl.

I looked up slowly as he started talking again, quietly, “It’s all right, son. I know this probably makes you feel uncomfortable. I know my Rosie isn’t sitting there beside you. We started coming to this diner every Tuesday morning since I retired fourteen years ago. I ordered a pork chop, two eggs – over easy, home fries, wheat toast, and all the hot black coffee that cute little waitress would bring. Rosie always had half of a waffle with a little bit of hot maple syrup on it.”

I looked directly into his eyes and they seemed to do the impossible and sparkled even more than that had earlier. He chuckled, “Half a waffle! You should have seen her talk them into that way back when we first started coming here. My Rosie could sweet talk the pants off the devil himself. She got me to marry her without ever even saying anything about it. Got me to pack up and move here to Vermont, and you should have seen her running the food committee down at the church. She could get people to do things they absolutely hated doing and thank her for it. They couldn’t thank her enough.”

His eyes were still fixed on mine, still bright blue, still sparkling, and still dry, “I cried a lot when I lost Rosie ‘bout six months ago. I don’t think it’s possible to properly say goodbye to someone you have loved as much as I have loved her for over 60 years. So I decided that I wouldn’t say goodbye at all.”

He scooped the rest of his egg yolk off of his plate with the last piece of toast and popped it into his mouth. When he finished chewing, washed the bite down with a slug of coffee, he continued, “Now, a bunch of these folks here are as nice as can be but they think I lost my everloving mind from grief. I might be old, but I’m not blind and I’m not deaf. I see the looks and hear the whispers. But that don’t bother me none and that don’t keep me from talking to my Rosie just like she is still sitting there today.”

I took a swallow of coffee and he drained the rest of his cup in one motion. “So, thank you son for being kind to an old man and listening to me ramble on for a few minutes. I don’t want to keep you any longer. All I ask is that you remember that a lady named Rosie used to sit right there where you’re sitting every Tuesday morning eating a half a waffle, that she was a scrappy little welder during the war, and that she had a husband who will keep sharing a little bit of her with strangers until he goes off to join her again. You see, I figure if I give a bunch of people a small memory of her she’ll never really be gone. I reckon when I’m done doling out every little story I have about her, it’ll be about time for me to go. Until then, she’s still sitting right there beside you and if that makes me a crazy old man, then oh well, I’m a crazy old man but I’m a happy crazy old man.”

He leaned toward me and spoke in a conspiratorial voice that had lost its waver and sounded decades younger than the way he had been talking previously, “Just between you and me the crazy old man routine is just an act. I’m still as sharp as a tack. But it gets people to stop by and let me share my Rosie with them, and those cute little waitresses treat me like I’m their favorite great grampy, or something. I might be old, but I’m not dead and having cute little waitresses treat me nice and make sure my coffee cup is never empty ain’t too shabby.”

He gave me quick wink and with a single nod his face changed and he went back into character. He looked like he instantly aged twenty years. After I got up and was walking away I heard him say, “Now you finish up that waffle, Rosie. You know you’re the only one they ever make just half of one for.”

Last edited by gary_wagner; 02-21-2007 at 11:07 AM..
  #8  
Old 02-23-2007, 07:45 PM
NyteLyfe (Offline)
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The Savior

by NyteLyfe


Nathan Shaw was now in orbit around the sun. The heat shielding wasn’t going to hold much longer. The warhead containing the solution to the cooling sun was armed but refusing to leave the confines of its launch tube. It took two weeks to get here, so another round trip meant another month and the planet didn’t have that long. Over three hundred million had already died since the comet impacted the sun, sending the planet head long into a near ice age. The decision surprisingly came easy for Nathan. He would initiate one last burst from the hydra drive then transfer all power to the heat shielding. The ship would hopefully hold together long enough to breach the surface. Once through, he would detonate the warhead and, if the science jockeys were right, start a chain reaction that would get the sun back into the heating business. He knew the price of failure; he had his own personal stake in this game now. Nathan only had one request: Get Kim to Houston so he could say goodbye.
***
“Nate she is en route, ETA five minutes. Nathan, the President is patched in here at Mission Control and wants to say a few words.”

Nathan rolled his eyes.

“Mr. Shaw, this is President Lackey. On behalf of a grateful nation and planet, we shall mark this day, February 14, 2078 as. . .

The words faded away into the ether as Nathan focused on the image of his wife, Kimberley, that he had pulled up on the last remaining functional viewer. It was from two years before at a birthday party for his sister, Bailey.

***

It was a classic story: Bai and Kim met in college and had been bound at the hip ever since. The dynamic duo was broken when Kim moved to the east coast after graduation for a position in an up-and-coming ad agency. However, not even two thousand miles of separation could break their collegiate bond. They had the comm charges to prove it.

He noticed her the second she stepped through the front door. She was tall with brown shoulder-length hair, deep brown eyes, and a fit body. The attraction was intense.

He spent the next hour trying to gain the courage to initiate an introduction; his sister had dropped the ball. He tried, so many times, to catch her eye, but every time she would glance his way, he would cower and retreat his stare. This game went on for over an hour until fate decided enough time had passed.

Nathan was in the midst of discussing the new space flight cruiser he had test piloted the previous week with his sister’s husband, Kevin. He used his hands quite a lot when he was in a descriptive conversation, so they were still in the midst of their tale when. . .

“Excuse me. Are you Nathan?” Kimberley asked rather loudly over the music, tapping firmly on his shoulder.

He turned suddenly to address the interruption. So suddenly in fact, the back of his left hand firmly slapped Kim’s left breast.

If Nathan was ever at a loss for words, it was now. His face turned several shades of red almost instantly. He just stood there, mouth hanging open, unable to move a muscle.

“Well, that’s one way to say hello I guess.” She said laughing.

***

“Warning, Cabin Temperature now at forty one point three degrees Celsius, Warning.” blurted the ships AI system.

The announcement jerked Nathan back to the present.

“Control, do you have her yet?” Nathan asked.

“ETA is now two minutes. Nathan we see the temp up there is climbing mighty high. How are you holding up?”

“Well, it’s hot and I am about to hurl myself into the sun. So far so good I guess.”

“Sorry Nate. That was a damn stupid question.”

Stupid questions. Once again memory overtook him.

***

It was seven months after the party. Their relationship was moving at top speed. Nathan had fallen hard, and it was apparent to everyone else that Kim had fallen even harder. Hard enough to give up her job in New York and move back west.

Nathan had snuck Kim into the flight hangar. In two days he was going to test fly the, hopefully, final version of the new inter-planetary space cruiser. But Nathan had another reason for bringing her here.

“Oh my god, it’s huge!” Kim said in fascination without realizing the cliché.

“Why thank you.” Nathan said with a smirk.

“Oh shut up perv”

“Oh you mean the ship. Yeah it’s ok I guess.” still smirking.

“How far are you going?”

“Just around the moon. They estimate it will only take about three hours. I’m betting I can do it in two.”

“You do like to get things done fast.”

“Ohhhh” Nathan grabbed at his heart and feigned.

He took her inside the cruiser. The outside of the ship was substantial, but the inside comprised of a single walkway that led to the cockpit. Nathan led Kim down to the tiny path and sat her in the co-pilot’s chair.

“Is someone flying with you this time?” she questioned at the site of the additional seat.

“Nope, still solo.”

He settled into the pilots chair and began pointing out the different mechanisms in lengthy detail; this was planned. Within just a few minutes Kim let out an uncontrollable yawn.

“Am I boring you Miss Thang?”

“Oh no honey, it’s all interesting, really.” Kim replied attempting to diffuse the tale of her yawn.

“Sure, whatever. Ok let me just show you this last part. You will love this. This is the latest in onboard AI.” Nathan cleared his throat.

“Shaw, Nathan voice print delta-zeta-nine-nine-zebra-omega”

“Onboard voice authentication successful. System is ready for input.” replied the AI in a voice a tad to sexy for Kim’s taste.

“System hull integrity check” Nathan requested.

“Hull integrity at 100%” the AI responded.

“Current mission status”

“Mission status is incomplete at this time” the AI
proclaimed

“List outstanding mission objectives”

“There are currently two outstanding mission objectives. Objective one: Nathan Shaw has to propose marriage. Objective two: Kimberly Elise has to accept.

She turned to face Nathan as he was retrieving a small black velvet box from the other side of his seat.

“Well I guess I better get on with my objective.” He took Kim’s hand in his and looked her straight into her, now tearing, eyes.

“I may be flying around the moon, but my heading is, and always will be straight for your heart. Kimberley Elise, will you marry me?”
Kim got up and moved onto Nathan’s lap.

“Now that’s a stupid question.” She said as she leaned in, kissing him softly.

***

“Nathan we have her. We have Kim in Mission Control.

Kim, now six months pregnant with their first child, a girl, stood beside the mission commander. She was already in tears.

“Nathan Shaw you get you ass back here. Your smart, figure out what you need to and get home to me!” she shouted.

“Baby, don’t cry.” Nathan responded as tears flowed from his own eyes. “I don’t have a lot of time. I just wanted to hear that voice once more and to tell you that I have, and always will, love you. To tell you that you are going to go on, that you are going to be a great mother. Our little girl lucked out on you, just as much as I did. You have to be strong for her, but I don’t have to tell you that. You have always been tougher than me.”

“Nathan, please.” Kim pleaded

“Baby, just promise me one thing before I go.”
Kim tried to get a hold of her emotions. She straightened up and wiped her eyes.

In a strained and shaken voice she replied.

“Anything baby, anything.” She now knew she was saying goodbyAe.

“On every birthday, you point up to the sun and you tell my little girl. . .” Nathan paused as he stared out the cockpit window toward his destiny.

“You tell my little girl that daddy gave that to her.”

And with that Nathan cut off the communications.

“Sir, he has initiated the final hydra burst.”

Kim screamed in protest, in pain, and in heartbreak.

Nathan steadied his hand on the controls.

“You better hold you bitch!” He screamed into the console.

“Initiate power transfer of all systems to the outer heat shielding.”

Everything went black with the exception of the warhead trigger. The distance closed in mere seconds. Nathan braced himself for the impact. The ship broke through the thin layer of crust that had now formed on most of the suns surface, giving a mighty jolt upon entry. All at once the cabin was filled with a massive bright orange light that not even his specially tinted visor could keep at bay. He felt for the warhead trigger. Suddenly he was overcome with choking heat; the shield was failing. He had a second at best. His hand found its destination. Nathan made one last statement that he hoped somehow Kim would hear.

“I love you baby.”

In a quiet, but brilliant flash, the warhead detonated. A brilliant fiery plum shot out from the suns surface and into space. Within minutes, the reaction spread across the surface, restoring the sun to its former glory.
Nathan Shaw’s gift to his daughter was now wrapped in a bright yellow bow and ready for her first birthday.

Last edited by NyteLyfe; 02-23-2007 at 07:51 PM..
 

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