One Drink

“Just one drink.” Mae sat in the back, her head resting on the seat in front of her. In the front seat, Beth and Harvey argued about parking. Familiar neon light through the car windows turned everything cold. “It’s just one drink,” Mae whispered into the Pontiac’s upholstery.

“Mae?” Beth twisted and her russet curls bounced next to her cheeks. “You ready? Harvey is making us walk.”

“Valet’s a whole dollar, jeez Beth, what do you want from me?” Harvey asked as the girls unfolded themselves from the other side of the car. Down the way, the Saffron Lounge was alight in blue and gold light. People in their sveltest dresses and shirts milled about the entrance.

“A beau who isn’t a cheapskate.” Beth laughed and pulled Mae into a trot, their pumps clacking against the street. Mae let herself be cajoled into the run, into the smile spreading over her lips. It was just one drink, one drink at her favorite spot.

The Saffron was a magical place. Mae had been the one to discover its vodka collins and the music no other club dared to play. The small dancefloor forced couples close together.  Mae had brought the others. It’d been perfect, but now the low blue lighting made her sweat through her dress. Mae’s fingers tightened around the drink Harvey had bought for her.

“Mae?” Beth snaked her head into Mae’s vision. “What is up with you? Your beau’s back and you haven’t even noticed.”

What? Mae’s lips parted with the silent question. Her eyes darted around while Beth laughed at her. “Come on, maybe he’ll get us drinks again. That’ll show Harv,” Beth said.

Mae set her heels to the floor. “I just wanted one drink. Beth no, he’s a–”

“What? You cut out with him last time. Even blew us off to ball around.” Beth hung onto her smile, leaving it pasted on. Mae thought it looked a touch cruel in the cool light.

“I said one drink, then we go,” Mae said. Her voice reached over the music. So did the low laugh behind her.  He never smiled when he laughed.

Mae spun, her drink sloshing over her hands. Thick dark hair waved lightly around his tanned brow as he looked down at her, pressing another full drink into her hands. “Come on, have another drink, stay awhile.”

Beth rolled her eyes and turned away, as if she’d known all along.

Mae gritted her teeth and tried to shake her head, but she didn’t. She lifted the drink to her lips. “One more drink I guess.”

This weeks Music Challenge comes from Raw Rambles, she challenged me to write something to or inspired by Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds’ Holy Mountain. See what she did with the song here. 

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Straight Shot Lines

Straight shot lines in the sand, this was her highway.  Heat pressed against the closed car windows, it radiated against her arm propped up on the steering wheel. She twisted her elbow towards the air vent for respite.

This was a nice car. Air that worked, leather seats she’d have to peel herself painfully from when she stopped for gas. She’d tossed her sandals on the floor instead of the seat to preserve the upholstery. This ride was nicer than a lot of cars she’d driven down the cooked black pavement. She flicked a nail against the paneling above the console. The strike made a deep true sound and she smiled with teeth.

Only campers and semis in the rearview so she settled back against the seat. Another hour until state line.  Maybe three more and she’d say goodbye to this bit of luxury, trading it in for a sun-peeled sedan and a large stack of bills.

She checked her phone in the passenger’s seat and set the radio on scan. With the stations frantically searching for something between the static, she set eyes on her highway and pressed a barefoot to the gas pedal.

This week’s Music Challenge was brought to you by L.A. Witches’ Drive Your Car. I challenged Raw Rambles to write something to or inspired by this song, see what she did here. 

Little Sneers

Sour-scented sidewalks and shitty people smoking outside bars.

Fingers to dirty her skin, someone to pant into her neck.

Walking hangovers, trembling hands, the edge of ribs and cheekbones.

Shadows grown beneath her eyes, sallow and smudged.

Little sneers, heavy-lidded in his eyes, on her tongue.

In the narrow bar’s hall, next to the bathroom door.

Aches, needs, rough short fingernails digging into her hips.

No rings, no earnest whispers.

No lies, no like.

Only shared cigarette debts.

I’m trying to move apartments and pass my comps, so things may be sparse the next couple weeks on this blog. Its the reason you got whatever the above was for this weeks Music Challenge. Raw Rambles chose Miss You by Alabama Shakes, and we both wrote something. 

Hollimass

The first snow stuck with a vengeance. It pilled over the doors and covered the streets, turning to ice under angry boots. The bustle of the trade hold eased, then stilled entirely until the empty stalls groaned under the snow’s weight.

Surewood settled, taking a rare rest as its lucky inhabitants nestled down indoors and its unlucky ones left for greener climes across the mountains. The first snow became the second and then the third, and Surewood passed its time watching the grey days turn to calm lavender skied nights.  On the fourth snow, small bundles of pricked, waxy, leaves set with red berries appeared.

They did not grow. They were set on above window sills and over door frames, offerings in some ancient custom or to a forgotten god, tied in lines with coarse string. No one seemed to know where they’d come from, or who was responsible for green bundles.

The guards stationed before the hardholder’s door frowned at the jolly display above the threshold and wondered if they would be punished. The gate at Concord was looped with the stuff, and the sacred grove’s priestess set her hands on her hips in puzzlement. The mechanic’s workshop was untouched, save for the window which had been verdantly lined. The mechanic shrugged at the strangeness of the world and went back to his work.

In Eden, many pondered at the greenery lining the bar and still others asked the bartender about it. The bartender only smiled and went about his work, ignoring the proprietor’s grousing that plants belonged outside.

In the radio station, no one looked oddly at the holly twined around the rickety staircase and arranged with care over the soundboard. The radio host gave no clue about it, except for the peculiar batch of songs played on air once a year, exactly when snow fell over Surewood.

Tis the Season, so I challenged Raw Rambles with the below song as part of our Music Challenge series. She wrote something to or inspired by Calexico’s rendition of Green Grows the Holly, as did I

Pine Needles and Grocery Bags

“Dad?” Nora shoved the kitchen door with her hip, peering into the room in search of help. It was empty and clean. Nora sighed and shuffled in, her arms hugging brown grocery bags. She leaned them down on the counter island and lept after an escaped onion.

Produce secured, Nora looked around and frowned at the empty sink. So no one had made anything. She left the groceries sitting with quick steps and followed the sounds of deep vocals and piano. The music swelled from the living room. Nora stepped in without announcing herself. Their tree was set up in the corner, electrically aglow.  Pine needles sprinkled the carpet.

Her father was alone in the armchair, their tree skirt crumpled at his feet. The Christmas box was open and Nora could see old cards. scattered within. The woman singing over the stereo mourned in a deep trill. “Hey dad, you found the skirt. Good.” Nora turned the corners of her mouth up.

“In the box with the rest of this stuff.” Her father waived the photo in his hand at her. An old Christmas card, one he’d insisted on despite his wife and teenage son’s rolled eyes. Nora had been ten. Too young for the indignity to smart. “She hated letting anyone else take the picture. Hated posed pictures,” He said, voice rough.

“Yup.” Nora supplied before he could continue and bent to pick up the tree skirt. “Glad we insisted though, so we have it. You hungry?”

“What time is it?” He was looking at the picture again, holding the edges carefully so his fingers did not touch anyones’ face.

“Seven. Dinner time.” Nora turned and switched off the dirge. Only the low thrum of electric lights took its space and Nora winced at the silence.

“–She liked that song.” Her father barely flicked his eyes up, still locked to the photo.

“That doesn’t sound like her.” Nora swallowed around the stutter in her throat. She set a hand on her father’s shoulder and squeezed. “It sounds like you. It sounds like Liam. But mom didn’t like sentimentality. Come on, I’m cooking.”

He didn’t respond and she almost plucked the photo away. Nora would have liked to rip it up, she savored what it would feel like to have the glossy print tear between her fingers. Instead, she kept her itching fingers at her sides until he looked at her. She smiled, forcing every ounce of warmth she had left through her teeth. “Come on. Don’t make me cook alone.”

Her father didn’t move at first, and the pressure grew in the back of Nora’s throat. He straightened his arms and pulled himself up.  Once standing, he kissed her on top of the head. “Shouldn’t you be worrying about school? Instead of me.”

“Its winter break dad,” Nora said. She led the way back to the kitchen and did not see her father’s face fall.  The grocery bags still sagged from their own weight on the counter. Nora started to unpack.

He cleared his throat. “Any word from Liam?”

When she shook her head, he only nodded.

Raw Rambles apparently likes depressing Christmas music, and she challenged me to write to it. Above is my piece, here is hers. 

Summer Shade

The placid water of the bay looked like pitch beneath the railing of her ship.

Mar could not love her home as she’d been raised to. So, she’d left to seek dark sands. The trip took months between the burning of bridges and the intricate preparations for her arrival here. Now, as the rest of the crew shivered when the desert coast’s wind bloomed in their sails, Mar kept warm by the crude fury in her chest and the ring turned over and over between her fingers.

Mar remembered taking her hand and how the silver had looked curved against her dark summery skin. The ring had faded, but the skin had flushed. All Mar remembered then was the kiss, always a bit sharp, but she had truly never minded that.  They’d talked then, and before, of the places they’d come from. Of endless dunes and bright night-markets, of pink dawns and white clouds.

After they spoke of what they would do. How they’d survive and in turn, help others do the same. How eventually, they would thrive. Mar had been optimistic, her less so, but they’d always suited each other that way.

Mar swallowed and stared over the water. She did not banish the memories, though a part of her begged to. From the deck of the ship, she watched the dunes turn silver in the moonlight for the first time. It looked exactly as it’d been described all those idealistic years ago, so beautiful it made her heart ache.

This week’s piece was written to Frank Ocean’s Pink+White. I challenged Raw Rambles to do the same. Check out her fiction blog here. 

Family Reunion

“Sit. Wait here, yes?”

Her nephew obeyed, lowering himself to the waiting room’s bench. Ira looked back from where she stood at the door to the main office. The tall teenager attempted his usual dopey smile but quickly went back to staring at the floor, hollow-eyed.

When she entered the cluttered office, the man behind the desk stood up. The clean cut of his brown hair was in need of a wash and his tired smile was genuine.  “Ira. Good to see you. It’s been years.”

“It is hard to make family picnics when living a continent away. Good to see you, Conner.” She made sure to enunciate each word, knowing her accent was thick.

He did not comment that others who lived equally far away often made the trip, for which she was grateful. Instead, Conner addressed the business at hand, for which she was also grateful. He sat and gestured to the chair in front of the desk. “Zach?”

“In your waiting room. He has … a temper. I do not want to agitate him.” Ira sat, crossing one leg over the other. Now close enough to see the mess atop the desk, a small crease formed above Ira’s brow. She had not pictured his space being so unorganized. Conner was, like her, a professional. “But you have a similar experience.”

Conner frowned and Ira explained, “there have been lasting effects. It was a game to her, one he has not recovered from. Beheaded and burned, he still mutters about her in his sleep. We are all worried.” Ira paused. “Bran and I, Adam is angry.”

“Why would Adam be angry? Zach is young, it was a mistake,” Conner said.

“The beast convinced Zach her intentions were good and that his family could be reasoned with. Zach led them to us. ” Isra flicked her gaze to the door and then back at Conner. “But that is in the past. I killed her myself, but her touch remains. This is why we are here. A place far away from the memories of it.”

“And far away from Adam.” Conner added.

Ira nodded, it was not untrue. “And to be around people who have experienced similar things.”

The break in their conversation allowed them to hear the slam of a door, specifically the one that led into the stairwell from the waiting room. They had not spoken quietly enough. “Zach” Conner said to draw her attention to it, but Ira was already rising from her chair.

Raw Rambles chose the song for this week’s Music Challenge. Both of us were charged with writing something to, or inspired by, Genesis’ Invisible Touch.