Flash Fiction: A Darkness in You.

“Leave boy, pack up like the rest of em and go. You’ve got a darkness in you, and we don’t want it here.” Her words were clipped. I glared across the dirt yard at Mrs. Kegley and her perfect little white house, what did she know about darkness? Or whatever else I had in me.

“I want to see her, talk. That’s all.”

Inside the house there was a crash and someone started yelling. I knew the voice, Mr. Kegley. Another crash and another holler carried out to us on the dry wind. The old woman winced even as I took a step forward.  “Family matters.” She said, focusing on me not the sounds coming from behind her. “It’s none of your concern. You aren’t good for her; this all is only going make you sorry.”

That cut it. I didn’t say anything back, just left. My boots kicked up angry little storm clouds along the dirt road. Mrs. Kegley, for all her high words and school, wasn’t smart enough to see what was brewing in her own home.  I could leave Flora alone, but she was never gonna leave me be. That girl had her hooks tight in my chest.

My tent and horse waited for me, lonesome now that my camp stood alone. The traders, my family of sorts, had left shaking their heads at the foolishness. I’d begged Flora to come along then, and she’d refused. Business she said, ends to tie and hatchets to bury.

I got that, because I got her. It was them who were wrong. I wouldn’t wait in this snobby little town for foolishness, but for Flora I would. I’d wait forever.

Being the considerate sort, Flora didn’t make me. She came that night under the bright June moon. She wore her brother’s clothes, hair sheered short but she was as lovely as ever. Flora didn’t waste time in any lover’s embrace; we needed to run she said.

I didn’t argue, just set about pulling up camp while she peered into the dark down the road. I helped her onto my horse, our modest possessions packed and waiting for our new life together. Flora whispered in my ear, thin arms wrapped around me. I spurred the horse away from the dirt path. She was right, no need to tempt ill fortune, just keep going.

I did look back though. On the horizon, set on the path we quickly left behind, a small house burned. Flames reached far above its roof, illuminating it against the night. I saw it crack, its white walls falling into fire.

Mrs. Kegley had been wrong, same as the rest of them; it wasn’t me who had a darkness in them.

Flora’s delicate hand turned my cheek, returning my eyes to the way ahead. I didn’t look back again.

Snippets and Siblings: 4

The champagne had been popped, the gifts and congratulations given.  Sorrel’s brother was now officially one of the most powerful people in the city.  Evan had always been one of them, now he just possessed the office and the mayoral payroll to go with.

Sorrel hung back finally able to loosen his tie and shrug off his suit jacket, they’d bothered him the entire exhausting night. The party was blessedly winding down, those brave enough to stay in his elder siblings’ company did so while the rest wandered out giving respectful thanks and farewells.

He left with the cowardly, confident Evan’s gift would find its way to him.

Hours later Sorrel lounged against a twisted tree trunk and watched the stars as they reflected in the oceans expanse. The windblown cliffside provided the perfect vantage point far from the blurring glow of the city.

Headlights interrupted the scene, fading the stars. Sorrel blinked at the brightness and stood.

Evan shut the driver’s door and picked his way towards the edge as the headlights went off and their night vision took over. Sorrel stepped forward reminding himself not to flinch under his brother’s expectant look. “Sorry for the obtuse instructions, it’s not really a gift I could wrap.”

“I got that impression.” Evan commented dryly and looked out over the view. “You have my attention.”

“Remember the western cliffs back home?” Sorrel asked, following his brother’s gaze back out over the waves. “I miss them and being able to stretch, to actually move right. Figured you might too, especially being around everyone all the time.”

Evan kept silent for a moment. “The cliffs back home lie in our territory.”

Sorrel grinned. “I know. As of tonight these lie in yours.” He reasoned and took one step towards the edge. “Come on.  I remember you used to be fast.”

Evan’s mouth twitched. That was all Sorrel needed.  He ran to the cliffs edge and with a leap threw himself into the air. A moment later giant wings blotted out the stars.

A great rush and crash of air sent dirt and leaves swirling over the cliffside as a much larger set of wings followed the first out over the water.

Siblings and Snippets: 3

Lenore yawned and walked into the front yard to check her brother’s window again. The glass glowed yellow through the wooden blinds. Still up then. She worried her lip, retreating back into the warm interior before the rain could really soak her t-shirt and pajama pants.

She wandered into the kitchen, finishing the half done dishes before something occurred to her. Creeping up the stairs was easy, her father and sister slept heavy and Fen could work himself so fully into a brood the outside world faded.

Lenore waited in the dark hallway before cracking open the door, peaking in at the lit bedroom. As suspected her brother was awake, writing and so thoroughly engrossed at his desk he didn’t turn from his work. Lenore sighed internally, she’d be keying cars and ruining reputations if she’d been cheated on and broken up with, not writing poetry.

But to each their own. Her eyes fell on the floor. His coat drained a puddle onto the floorboards, the boots were even worse, so covered in mud and crushed leaves she barely recognized them. So maybe not just poetry. His stuff would be a soggy moldy mess by tomorrow left like that, making any additional hiking therapy impossible.

Lenore opened the door a little more, not wanting to disturb whatever he was writing. Slowly she bent low and crept forward to pull the coat into the hallway, watching Fen the entire time. It left a trail of muddy water over the floor, couldn’t be helped. The left boot came next, the leather grimy under her fingers and then the right. She breathed out, extraction successful. She smiled at Fen, still none the wiser, and shut the door without a click.

Cleaning and drying the wilderness out of his clothes would take some time if they were to be ready by tomorrow morning. Lenore set a pot of coffee to brew and tucked headphones into her ears, picking something upbeat to listen to.

Siblings and Snippets: 2

“And you are a…”

“Student. I double in political science and business.” She said. “But I have an internship at Ravencorp in the summers.” Lane added very quickly. She hated this, having to prove herself to these severe people in suits.

The first looked curiously at her while his partner picked around the apartment. “Paid?”

“Generously.” She crossed her arms before reminding herself getting defensive was childish. His partner picked up one of her brother’s sketch books and Lane stiffened. “Please don’t do that.” The woman raised a brow at her in challenge and Lane fought the impulse to lash out. “They are Michael’s. His things.” She explained instead.

“A double major, and a paid internship. That’s very impressive for someone your age.” The man pulled her attention back. Even with the heels she’d worn for the occasion he and his partner towered over Lane’s petite frame.

“I’m nineteen.”

“And your brother is fifteen. You understand the purpose of this visit, I assume? It’s been explained to you?” The man looked around the immaculate apartment as his partner opened the door to the bedrooms.

Of course she understood, and she hadn’t needed it explained. The state was trying to take her younger brother away again, after all they’d been through, after all he’d been through. They were still trying to uproot him and stick him a stranger’s care. “It has.”

“Good.” The man answered again. “You realize it’s highly unlikely you’ll be granted guardianship even if you pass today’s inspection, Michael has voiced his wish to remain here but he is still a minor. Ultimately it is the courts responsibility to find Michael a home, his placement history makes things complicated.”

Lane didn’t like being told what she did or did not realize. “It was the court who saddled him with that history in the first place.” She glared up at him as his mouth tightened. Neither said much more before they left with their own curt nods. Once the door was closed Lane crossed her arms and breathed through her nose, fighting back tears.

It didn’t matter what the courts decided, she told herself. The two of them would run if they had to, the state had split them once and Lane hadn’t been there to protect Michael from what happened next. She wouldn’t let the law inflict that pain again.

She gathered herself and began picking up the mess the social workers had left. Her brother’s sketchbooks were open where that awful woman had thumbed through them. Even his practice sketches felt dynamic, the lines graceful and vibrant.  He wasn’t just talented, he had a gift. She smiled as she closed the notebooks and set them in their places.

The world was an ugly place, it did its best to corrupt and rip apart the good it found. Michael was proof it did not always succeed.

Snippets and Siblings: 1

To make up for previous weeks of silence I will be posting several snippets throughout the week. This is the first. 

There were too many damn colors of nail polish. Aiden finally settled on a few of the normal pink shades of which there were hundreds and then gaped when he went to pay for them. Of course his sister wouldn’t use the cheap stuff. It made him feel better about the green polish he’d swiped and pocketed. It would match the color of her eyes, the verdant shade they shared.

Three hours later he’d ruined two pots, the remains of charred macaroni forever affixed to their bottoms and managed to explode brownie mix over the entirety of the oven. Between multiple attempts he’d salvaged two bowls of the fake yellow pasta and a respectable tower of slightly undercooked brownies.

Not usually what you would set with a Parisian dry rosé, but then he and his sister had always been an odd pairing. He set it all on their cheap coffee table, an offering of nail polish and nostalgic food. Aiden set the television to a reality show, a pile of Disney movies waiting on the floor if she didn’t feel like watching the spectacle of silicon driven drama.

He didn’t hear the jingle of keys just the creak of the door, she knew he never locked anything.  “Hey Lore.” He said. Aiden threw a blanket over the couch before flopping down on his side. “How are you?” He leaned over the arm of the couch, looking up at her and taking in the blistering tension emanating from his statuesque and polished sibling.

She gave no answer except to shove his feet off her side of the couch, sit and reach for a brownie. He laughed and she gave him a look, which melted into a flicker of a smile.

“Housewives of something or other?” He asked and picked up his bowl.

“Sure.” She said, pulling golden hair into a messy bun. Lore settled next to him with her structurally unsound dessert.

 

Searching: Part 3

One should never wish for bandits, Ferra realized, just in case the universe chose to oblige at inconvenient times. She was only hours from Westport, the only place she knew to start her search, and now had to stop for a rather disappointing robbery attempt.

The men were skinny, not much older than she, and lacking the quintessential verdant wardrobe a childhood spent around the stage promised. “Git down girl.” The first barked. Between the three they had two knives and what could have been called a club. She thought it more likely one of the bandits hadn’t wanted to be left out and had picked up a hearty stick. Ferra made no move to obey. Not only did she need the horse, but she felt somewhat insulted by the effort.

She shook her head. “I’m in a hurry and you are very bad at this.” She nudged her horse forward but the animal shied to the side, less sure than her rider.  The first and bravest shook the knife at her. Ferra rolled her eyes. “You are scaring the horse.”

The bandits looked to each other, unsure how to deal with the girl who was not responding appropriately to her situation.

But as long as they were delaying her… “I’m looking for someone. He is sixteen, hair like mine and if you bothered him like this he would probably just talk a lot.” She thought for a moment. “And if he felt bad for you, which he probably would, he might give you something for your effort. Have you seen him?”

The bandits blinked between themselves. “Are you addled girl? We are robbing you.” One of the men took a step forward, and made a swipe at the reins. Ferra maneuvered her mount to the side and glared down at them. She was not crazy and they were not robbing her. So far they’d only gotten around to threatening. Ferra reached behind her to the rolled blankets behind the saddle. With a quick motion she drew her sword and leveled it at them. “Let me by, or tell me something use—“

It was at this point that Ferra’s horse reached the end of its patience. It was troupe animal, happy to spend its days pulling carts and letting the occasional scout ride ahead, but swordfights and armed ruffians were entirely out of the question.

The animal reared and Ferra, currently distracted and not an experienced rider, tumbled over the saddle and onto the ground. The horse took its chance and promptly sped away from those who would steal it or brandish swords on top of it.

Ferra, flat on her back, blinked up at the late afternoon sky. This was not how she’d pictured this adventure.  When she pushed herself up, wobbling a little from impact, the bandits had circled her.

“Give us the sword.” The leader licked his lips when he looked at the impeccably maintained steel in her hand. Ferra watched the tension in their shoulders, they were braver now.

“No.” Ferra moved her foot through the dust, shifting into a defensive stance. She looked him in the eyes. “Let me go or I will hurt you.”

That was enough for the men. The one behind her grabbed for a shoulder. Ferra spun, sword darting like a viper’s strike. His wrist bloomed with red and he screeched stumbling back.

The leader swore and made his fellow’s mistake, his hand brushed her arm, Ferra’s blade whipped around slashing across his chest. He screamed and Ferra stepped close to flick the knife from his fingers.

The third jumped forward, aiming to cut where the other’s had grabbed. It was a clumsy rush that Ferra sidestepped, pulling her sword across the back of his leg, cutting muscle. The man crashed into the dust. Aren had taught her to dance but Nico made sure she knew how to  end the steps.

Ferra straitened, sword in guard as she regarded the now bleeding thieves. Shallow cuts all, she’d not aimed to kill. Nico’d promised it was an experience no one should rush to. But the way the bandits looked at her, it was if she’d murdered someone.

“Please.” The leader said, his hands holding the rags of his shirt to his chest wound. “We didn’t–“

Ferra did not alter her flat expression nor lower her guard. They had meant to rob her at the very least, she wasn’t naive. But she didn’t care, they could lie, it wasn’t her problem. “You’ve lost me my horse. Give me your knives.” If she was walking to Westport she didn’t want them dogging her because of hurt pride or desperation.

“What?” The leader said. The third bandit had turned himself over and was attempting to stand.

“I’m robbing you. Leave your knives and walk away.” She didn’t move, didn’t start towards them, just waited staring. The two standing looked to each other. The man with the club made to toss it and Ferra shook her head. “You can keep it, its just a stick.”

He left her with an affronted look, helping his fellow from the ground before the three hobbled back into the treeline. Ferra watched them go before picking up the knives and resuming her journey to Westport.

 

Prior installments can be found here: Parts 1 and Part 2 . Part 4 will be up next week.