Flash Fiction: Coffee

“You should call me for coffee.”

He worked the phrase over in his head again, musing over the meanings undiscovered beneath the words. Leon turned down the music playing through his earphones, switching his attention to the warm rumble of the cafe around him. Study groups, aspiring writers, and the occasional couple all added to the background hum.

He’d come here for clues, something that would help him ferret out exactly what Alec was thinking. Leon shifted slightly to watch a nearby couple out of the corner of his eye. The young woman played with her hair, examining the ends of the dyed strands with deliberate focus. Across the table her date, sensing her growing disinterest, was getting nervous.

Which one had asked the other out to coffee, Leon wondered. He still didn’t know exactly what to make of the phrase itself. Taken literally, the words were nonsensical. Of the many things he wanted from Alec, coffee was not one of them.

More than anything, the invitation to an invitation had come as a genuine surprise. Alec, up until some evenings ago, had seemed to vaguely dislike him. Prior attempts to coax his quarry into a game had been met with only annoyance and halfhearted avoidance. The man hadn’t even given Leon the satisfaction of actual contempt, just mild distaste. But something had changed, as he was now supposed to call Alec for coffee, whatever that entailed.

Across the cafe, the girl was leaving, muttering an excuse before leaving her unlucky date to hide wounded pride. The young man shouldn’t have worried. Aside from Leon’s cursory observation no one was paying attention to the failed attempt at romance.  

Leon caught the stranger’s eye with a sympathetic smile. He received a dejected twitch of lip and a shrug in return. It could be enjoyable, Leon kept his interest hidden and considered. It could also be distracting. He still hadn’t determined exactly what was going through Alec’s head. The strangeness surrounding “you should call me for coffee” was going to bother him until he figured it out.

When the young man stood to leave Leon had already turned up his music and settled back into the chair. Nothing suited him as much as a mystery.

 

 

Legal Theft: Vigil

Lea’s little sister had spent nine tenths of her life with her head tilted back, sedately keeping a watch on the stars. Lea never thought much off it, until the stars started watching back.

“Who do you think the eyes belong to?” The question broke the conversation and silence stretched over the popping campfire.  All of Lea’s friends looked over at the younger girl, sixteen to their fresh adulthood.

“What?” One of them asked with an unsure laugh. The rest looked to Lea for explanation. Lea sighed and looked up at the sky. A spiked border of tree tops circled the dark in her vision. The stars were pinpricks, bright this far from the city. “I don’t see any eyes.”

Lea’s little sister paused her vigil long enough to fix Lea with a sad look. “You can’t see them?”

Lea shook her head, at a loss. She’d be angry tomorrow, when her friends giggled and whispered about Lea bringing a weird family member to their camping trip. But now everyone was quiet as the younger girl leaned her head back and resumed her watch, a small frown between her brows.

The oddity of it broke the night’s momentum. People stood, speaking of how long it would take to break camp and the morning not far off. They jostled into respective tents, quiet whispers eventually fading to stillness.

Her sister, now bundled within a magenta sleeping bag, gazed up through the mesh of the tent’s top. Her eyes looked liquid as they locked on the heavens.

The stars were really bright, Lea thought. Alone in the tent, humoring her little sister wasn’t going bring reprisals from her friends. Lea swallowed, now very awake. “Who do you think the eyes belong to?”

Lea heard the slither of her sister’s braid as the younger girl shook her head. “I don’t know. But they’re watching us.”

The statement was too ridiculous to refute with platitudes or mockery. Lea just nodded, ignoring the wriggle of unease the words caused. Beneath the impossibly wide sky Lea suddenly didn’t find it so absurd that something’s eyes had opened up above them.

“Goodnight.” Her sister said but didn’t turn over or make any move to sleep.

Lea slowed her breathing as if she could escape the sky’s notice in the quiet. She didn’t close her eyes, unwilling to turn her watch away from the stars. “Goodnight.” Lea whispered.

I am a thief! The first line was stolen from  Apprentice, Never Master. Check out her blog, and the rest of the merry band of thieves here.

Sigh, no post this week.

That’s right, I’m claiming another bout of graduate student as an excuse from my normal posting schedule. The malady is self inflicted and not contagious, fear not. Saturday will still bring another round of Legal Theft.

Until then, enjoy this brief window into the world of thesis.

My committee:

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Late night work: 

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Awaiting edits:

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Venturing out into the real world:

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But then my focus area comes up in conversation: 

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Contacting potential PhD programs: 

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When my friends help me find that perfect word: 

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Using my thesis as an excuse to get out of things:

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If people haven’t realized this by now, I may also be a little obsessed with Gravity Falls.

Legal Theft: Apocalypse

The four horsemen ride tonight. Gone are the days of dark bridled steeds. Tonight a sleek car drops them off on the curb. As the car pulls away War looks at her three compatriots and grins. Any night the four rode together was a night few forgot.

War rakes chipped nails through dark rooted hair, chin up and manic smile cocky.  Her strides are always too long for her thick heels and never graceful. They don’t need to be, the line falls before her and the four walk in.

Crimson dress tight against muscle and curves, War pushes her way to the crash of the dance floor. Here the base instincts come together with intoxicating violence. The deafening explosions of noise and the disorienting press of human flesh make the floor her arena. Its occupants surge around her, blood and lust pounding in time to the music. War grabs young men’s nervous hands and draws them into a dance none are ready for.

Famine smiles faintly at the crowd and decides to get a drink. Hungry eyes watch the spaces between her narrow shoulders. They follow the path from black stilettos up her thin dark legs to the hem of her skirt. Their gazes hover there until the prospect of her is enough to make them mad.

They think her prey, something to satisfy the ache growing deep inside them. Famine’s small smiles and empty words will sate no one. Already they feel it, a sinking low despair. Their offers of drinks, compliments, and invitations will lead them back where they’d began, alone and wanting.

Pestilence is the subtlest of them. No violent grinding or ravenous eyes draw her attention. Instead, she holds back, pointed green nails poised around a glass she never drinks from. She is small and frail but her eyes are luminous and promising. The sick find her. They sidle up to her corner of the club, gazes feverishly soaking in her words. They ask her to poison them.

She obliges, slipping pills and bags of powder with thin fingers into their shaking hands. Not so long ago people trembled at the thought of plague and malady. Now they seek their own, weakening minds and bodies with voracious speed. Pestilence sits back as they do her work, passing around the contagion of dependence.

Death, as always, follows in the wake of the others, eventually finding a table to sit at alone. In the dim her hair, the color of bone, frames stark cheekbones. Her dress is pale and bright in the dark. No one approaches her, no one drinks in her violence, emptiness, or sickness the way they do the others. Still poets talk of her embrace. They are fools, there is no embrace. An embrace is for a loved one. Death is cold and she does not love you.

Death hears the heartbeats and blood around her, knowing that such things still when she wanders too close. She waits and watches the others play.

This story’s first line was stolen by a nefarious ring of thieves. Check out the Legal Theft Project to see what they’ve done with it. 

Flash Fiction: Rumors and Regard

I wanted to get something up this week. This bit of flash fiction is in response to Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie‘s wordle prompt here. 

It came on like a madness, until I could think of nothing but the whisper of crinoline and the scent of lily bloom. My sight was stolen, always finding its way to across to floor to her hem but never daring to rise.

Her own gaze was petrous where it fell, nails like needles against my palm as we passed hands in the dance.Something had displeased her this night. I almost hoped I was the cause, poor regard is preferable to none.

The suitors treated her like the bright ornaments that hung from the yule trees set in the hall. Something fragile and displayed for their exaggerated appreciation. The young men scorned the gossip of women, too far from apron strings to listen to the rumors their own mothers and sisters murmured behind fans.

I was not such a fool. She was dangerous, more so with every pass the dance took us through.

 

Legal Theft: Summer Bloom

The darkness spread from the palace like a living thing, and even the most careless of the fae paused to take note and hide. As the shadows darkened around her the Arch Duchess of the Grey Grove, Grand Marquess of the Hinterlands, High Countess of the Dusk Forest, the Sister of the Dark King pursed her lips. Already nervous servants cringed, quickly hanging their heads and wringing twig-like fingers.

First her brother declined a gracious invitation to hunt. That was an annoyance in of itself. By her measure, it’d been decades since they’d saddled their narrow hoofed steeds to stalk the wilds and run down panicked mortals and monsters. And now, as the fury rolled from the blackhewn spires, he scared her quarry away.

Sharply cut skirts swirled around her bare feet as she left her expedition and wolfhounds. Rarely was the King’s ire felt so tangibly that it hung in the air. The last time she’d felt this rolling darkness they’d overtaken the Broken City before the next moonrise, conquering those who’d dared defy her brother.

The courtyard was empty, but glittering eyes in hidden corners noted her movements and averted themselves. Disgust turned her mouth, her brother employed more fear than fealty. Personally, she could never stomach such cowardice in subjects, but such contentions between the siblings were common.

The King was not in the training yards or his empty hall lit with shining balls of shadow. No one walked in the gardens or surveyed the forest from the walls. Only one place remained.

Unlike the mice who cowered in the cracks of the palace, she didn’t fear her brother’s storms. Neither of them cringed from strife. It was in their make.  Even so, she paused before the arch of the war room. Her brother’s temper may not worry her, but his weakness for impulse and obsession did.

The bent boughs shifted at her whim, allowing her entrance into the chamber. It too was empty, but freshly. Maps and documents were half unrolled across the massive table. A shattered wine goblet and its contents spread over the floor.  She stepped close to examine the maps. She frowned, recognizing the summer lands that held their bright inane cousins.

With deceptively delicate fingers she plucked a piece of parchment at random, glancing over the lineage of the seelie royalty. She froze. A hidden petal, now revealed beneath the page, showed up bright against aged maps and histories.

The velvet thing was unbruised and vibrant as the noonday sun. She dropped the page and picked up the petal. The rose it’d come from could never have grown in their lands, nor in the dull mortal worlds. Such things did not find their way into the dark lands unaided. The petal was a summer bloom.

The sight of it wormed its way through her calm. The color was truly beautiful, the specific crimson of first blood. She let it weigh heavily in her mind and eye for a moment before palming the soft thing away and leaving the chamber.

My roguish nature compelled me. I stole this first line from the reemerged The Gate in the Wood. See her blog and the rest of the thieves at the Legal Theft Project.

Chocolate Books Tag

In lieu of a fiction post this week I am responding to a tag by Apprentice, Never Master. Welcome to the Chocolate Book Tag, created by A Daydreamer’s Ramblings over at YouTube. 

1. Dark Chocolatea book that covers dark things. Atlanta Burns by Chunk Wendig. The YA book easily makes my top five favorite books of this year. Great vivacious writing and realistic, flawed, fleshed out characters. 61SXZFoJmTL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

The title protagonist is a teenage girl and this book is technically a young adult novel. Its premise is fairly basic, girl with a shotgun solves mysteries using a type of diplomacy(please see blog title) I find endearing. That said, this book deals with the overtly violent side of homophobia, poverty, racism, suicide, sexual abuse, and animal cruelty. The world Atlanta lives in is irredeemably ugly and it brings out the absolute worst in people.

Hate crimes, dog fighting rings, and neo-nazis make up Atlanta’s community and she finds herself fighting for their targets and victims. Most of the time, she loses. Atlanta is not a do-gooder or Pollyanna character by any stretch. She is a normal teenager dealing with her own scars and powerlessness.

There were times I put the book down as the ingrained and pervasive cruelty was too much to take. Keep reading though, its worth it.

The story deals with themes of trauma and loss, and the corrupting anger that comes after. The most important thing about Atlanta and her story is that she keeps fighting. She uses her anger, but doesn’t let it destroy her. Highly recommended.

2. White Chocolatea favorite light-hearted read. Nice Dragons Finish Last by Rachel Aaron. After the Eli Monpress series I knew I was going to like Rachel Aaron.

51mLgUUAokL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_ Her characters are flawed and tend to get themselves in more than enough trouble to keep plot going. Aaron’s comedic timing is pleasantly refreshing and she possesses a deft ability to escalate the stakes properly that I wish more writers would take note of.

Nice Dragons Finish Last is the first in her new series about, big surprise, dragons. Julius is a bad dragon, in that he is a good dragon and doesn’t fit in well with his more traditionally ‘evil’ family. The premise could make a charming children’s book or a very fun novel that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Aaron chose the second and I am very thankful.

The novel is a mix of family politics, charming yet acerbic supernatural entities, and a hapless protagonist who manages to save the day anyway. I love books that dare to have the main character be ordinary or underpowered compared to their fellows, it makes their success mean all the more.

The second book in the series is out now, and would have made the next category except that Rachel Aaron doesn’t get the hype she deserves.

3. Milk Chocolatea book with a lot of hype right that you’re dying to read. Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman. 22522808 Anything coming from the now internationally famous Neil Gaiman is going to have hype. I will be picking this collection up at some point once my to-read shelf is less ridiculous.

I’ve been burned on some of his novels before (I gave up on Anansi Boys and I think I am the only one largely unimpressed by American Gods) but his short story collections have never let me down. Fragile Things was a work of art and Smoke and Mirrors was whimsical and delightful. I care not at all for the Doctor Who story that is apparently within and amazon tells me it revisits American Gods.

That said, the cover’s description promises “Short Fictions and Disturbances.” That is exactly why Neil Gaiman stays on my shelf. He offers an eerie otherworldliness that sets my bones itching and the shadows in the corners breathing. If an author promises to disturb me, sign me up.

4. Chocolate with a Caramel Centera book that made you feel all warm and gooey on the inside. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. This was a hard category for me. I don’t usually go for a lot of feel good books but I have a soft spot for most of Jones’ works. howlsmovingcastle2

Her characters tend to be endowed with endearing yet real flaws and the wizard Howl is no exception. He is vain, arrogant, and cowardly yet one of my favorite characters of all time. I am guilty of seeing the movie first, and it is still my go to for warm gooey feels, but the book follows suit nicely.

The domestic interactions between Sophie and Howl’s household are conflictual yet warm. Howl’s Moving Castle raises the stakes, creates problems, throws multitudes of obstacles at its characters early on so the happy ending seems earned and all the more satisfying.

More than anything Jones likes to wrap up her endings. All her books include multitudes of plot strings, large boisterous casts, and dynamic huge worlds. She as an author is particularly adept and wrapping them all together in a neat bow.

5. A Wafer-free Kit-Kat a book that surprised you recently. Feed by Mira Grant. I hated this book at first. Then I loved this book. Then this book made me cry and wonder why my best friend hated me enough to tell me to read it. Feed_Mira_Grant_novel_cover

The world Grant creates is one of fear. It rankled to be inside any of the characters heads for too long because of the constant precautions and consequences required for daily living. The setting is a self-inflicted police state and the characters (at first) buy into it.

However, as the plot started the suspense ramped up and I found myself hooked, not necessary by moderate political intrigue, but by the intense personality of Georgia Mason and the suspense involved in her quest for the truth.

The relationships (in the first book) provide a levity that keeps the adrenaline ride fun. This is a zombie book about the living not the dead. For me the series faltered when it stopped being about the living, but the first book was surprisingly solid and very enjoyable.

6. Snickers – a book you’re going NUTS about currently. Uprooted by Naomi Novik. In fairness, I am only about a quarter through this title but it has pleasantly surprised me again and again. us-uprooted-e1433948641794

It follows a girl taken, as so many girls have been taken before, as an apprentice to a wizard. She refers to him as the Dragon and is not at all pleased by the arrangement.

The premise for the main characters struggle, and one that is explained in the first chapter, is that every couple of decades a young woman is taken from the villages to serve the lord of the region. The girls are then freed after ten years to do as they wish. Instead of returning to their families and loved ones, they depart into the world to do great things, have adventures, and distinguish themselves in the unknown.

In the eyes of the main character and her village, these girls might as well have been devoured.I am particularly curious if the main character will follow suit and if so, how she will get there.

7. Hot chocolate with cream and marshmallowsa favorite comfort read. Coraline by Neil Gaiman. I read this book for the first time when I was in middle school . Back then, my mother would hand me books she intended for my sisters and after a couple hours I was responsible for reporting back on whether they were appropriate for younger audiences. Coraline

As I walked back into the kitchen, palms sweaty and pulse racing, I had no idea what to tell my mother. Did I like the book? Yes, undoubtedly. Should my sisters read it? Probably not, they didn’t like scary things. But then Coraline hadn’t scared me. It engrossed me, it terrified me, it would keep me up all night thinking.

Until I picked up Neverwhere years later (without realizing it was written by the same author funnily enough) I hadn’t found the captivating otherworldliness of Coraline in another book. Half cautionary tale, the book speaks to a very real desire many readers and children have for the escapism of fantasy.  The title character, an odd and intelligent child, manages to escape an arguably boring life for one of fantasy and excitement. But of course, every dark bargain has a price.

The narrative is eerie and unsettling in a way most children’s books never touch. Hell, even the cover was frightening. I call this a comfort read because the book sparked my deep and abiding love for dark fairy tales, uncertain endings, and supernatural horror and adventure stories.

8. A box of chocolatea series that has a bit of everything and a lot of people would really really like it. The Cal Leandros series by Rob Thurman.

Do you like urban fantasy mixed with a healthy dose of Americana folklore? Do you like devoted brothers fighting monsters? Do you like angst, snark, and oh so much brooding? Okay, do you like Supernatural? thurman-robcal-and-niko-

I picked up this series before I fell in love with the show Supernatural and it remains on my shelf for a reason. The series follows the main character Caliban Leandros as he deals with his rather pesky heritage. Cal and his older half-brother Niko spend the books killing monsters, saving people, and refusing to give up on each other as the stakes get higher.

Cal is a half-human, half-evil demon/fey/elf, who spends most of his time getting the shit kicked out of him by his older loving brother and by things he made the mistake of talking back to. His constant griping remains endearing in contrast to his brother’s stalwart demeanor. Niko is human, fond of sharp things, and entirely devoted to keeping his snarky younger brother from death and worse.

The dialogue is flippant and clever. The fight scenes are well written and keep the books moving fast. Overall, its a fun series

Now who to tag? Other chocolate lovers of course. 

I second the Apprentice’s tag of More than Half Mad

The Gate in the Wood should also do this. 

And maybe Raw Rambles.