A Real Drink

She walked out and didn’t look back. The glass door swung behind her with a gentle chime and time returned to the cafe. The Barista, a hoop through her nose, frowned through a customer’s order. Two grad students poured over undergraduate papers with red pens awhirl. Next to Simon’s table, old friends compared new lives, becoming louder with each recounted event.

Simon remained frozen, staring at the glass door as it glided into frame. The young resolute woman on the other side of it walked away. She didn’t glance to the side with lost eyes, or sigh, or tense her jaw against regretful tears. She took the stairs down to the parking lot, her iced coffee in hand and her car keys in the other. The sun glinted off them and the buckles on her purse before she disappeared from his view.

If she’d left the coffee on the table Simon could have grabbed it and ran to catch her. Maybe that small gesture would have reminded her of when they met, in a coffee shop like this one. Maybe she would smile and tuck her hair behind her ear. Maybe she would burst into tears and fall into his arms. Maybe when they ran into each other at a mutual friend’s party a month from now she’d remember the gesture and ask how he’d been, if he was seeing anyone. Simon would say no, and she’d try to hide how pleased that made her.

But she and her coffee were gone and time moved around Simon. The Barista frowned, the grad students sighed, and the old friends conversed. Simon stood and threw his own coffee away. He took out his phone and texted his friends, he needed a real drink.

This is most likely part of the Legal Theft Project, as I have taken More than 1/2 Mad‘s first line and written my own piece with it. 

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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. 

Too Poor, Too Proud

Ollie wandered past the windows of Arcagen square. As usual, the people behind the glass watched her pass before returning to their rotating mandalas and bundled herbs. Ollie kept walking, both too poor and too proud to do anything about the open unfriendly stares.

The evening air was dense with dust kicked up by horses and wagons. Merchants hollered at each other, all trying to get inside the trade hub before the gate closed for the night. Those condemned by the setting sun were shut out, denied the stiff drinks, hearty meals, and smiling company promised in the square’s taverns.

Unlike everyone trying to get in, Ollie watched the gate and the distant black hills hungrily. If her plans went belly, she didn’t want a contingent of holier-than-thous knowing who to chase. So, she waited, watching the flow of outsiders into her dusty haunt and occasionally flirting with a shiny something in a window.

Opportunity came quickly when a wagon wheel hit a bad spot and cracked, pitching its contents to the side. Knowing she couldn’t contrive anything better, Ollie stepped into the surge of the street as chaos ensued around the fallen wagon. Not ten minutes after, she was out on the wastes with the desert night burning her nose. The hills beckoned. Her fortune lay out there, just beyond the abandoned railroad in the pitch. Ollie promised herself that once she got back, they’d prudently keep their unfriendly stares to her back.

I am terribly late, but I wrote to Mindlovesmisery’s Menagerie’s Wordle Prompt. 

Rabbit Heart

With no enemy scouts detected in months, the Raintail base should have been sleepy hinterland outpost. They held the line only against the surrounding forest. Implacable black trunks and snow-heavy branches stared back at those set to watch from the thick gunmetal walls.

Bell volunteered for the graveyard watch. She still wasn’t sleeping and had grown tired of the pinched worried expression around the mess tables and the evening fires. The assignment would explain the dark circles and restless exhaustion better than she could. Curt saw right through it and still gave her the shadowed looks, but her brother’s concern was unavoidable. At least now she could spend her sleepless hours doing something, even if it was staring at the dark trees knowing too much of what was out there.

She shook her head for at least the fifth time as this night’s partner, Jaxson, offered her yet another cigarette. Bell liked the smell, it reminded her of field camps, cheap whiskey around fires, and leave. But tobacco slowed the lungs and twitched the fingers. Scouts like Bell traded in unrufflable speed.

Their watch stretched into early hours. The new moon offered no shadows, nothing to jump at when the wind rumple the treeline. They were surrounded by black. Jaxson snored, his back to the parapet, head draped over his chest.

Bell stretched, fiddled with the broken loop of her holster, tested if she could catch peanuts with her mouth (she could) and walked en pointe, filling time while keeping the inky wild in sight. While balancing one of Jaxson’s cigarettes on an index finger, movement in the black caught her eye.

At first, the trees were just trees, and the late winter ground the usual patchwork of snow and rock. But Bell recognized the impossible antlers separate from the trees and rise in silhouette. Muscle moved beneath the roan coat as it picked a way fluidly down the ridge towards her and the wall. The stag-thing approached the gate with an easy canter. Predatory grace rippled across its back and down a plumed tail. A rabbit’s heart drummed in Bell’s chest as she grabbed her rifle and moved to the parapet.

Now barely beneath Bell, as the chimera was massive beyond known species, the thing lifted its lupine nose into the air and sniffed. It pawed the ground like a warhorse, claws digging deep furrows into the mud. There was something less than comforting knowing the only thing between her and a thirteen thousand pound animal was a mechanical door. Bell stared at it, the night air hurting her too-open eyes.

How many people would die if it decided to test its weight against the walls? How many other people would get court-martialed for bringing it here? The moment stretched, just her, the chimera, and impending prison cells. Bell decided what to do when Jaxson shifted and stirred in his sleep.

She landed toes, then heels in the snowy mud next to the wall with a soft exhale. No one but the chimera noticed. It whirled and huffed deep in its throat, pointed ears forward and reflective eyes vibrating on Bell’s crouched form.

Bell didn’t run, she’d feel claws in her back, its fangs around her neck. She didn’t bring up her gun, even at this range, ammunition wouldn’t pierce the things coat. She met its eyes while her heart’s beat made it impossible to swallow, and she took a step. The thing lowered its head, eyes glittering and locked on her. Bell took another even silent step towards the ridge. Slowly it followed, shoulders pitching back and forth as it stalked her, intent.

Bell did not let her gaze slip. She did not let her footsteps stutter or scrape on the harsh rock and ice. She did not think about what she would do when she got to the dark treeline. Bell led it away from the wall, away from Raintail, back up the slope until they disappeared into the black trunks.

A thief, but a tired one. This week’s willing supplier of lines is CC. Check out her original HERE and what the rest of my band did with the line at the Legal Theft Project.

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. 

A Formal Dissapointment

Remy watched the University clocktower tick towards disaster. From the library windows, the obelisk marred the horizon, catching her eye as she moved through the stacks. Four hours until dinner. Four hours before disappointment sunk permanently into her father’s eyes.

Everyone said this third engagement would be the charm. The thing that would draw Remy, at least temporarily, from her research and the stacks of books she hid within. Everyone said it, few believed it, except for Remy’s father. He held onto hope that a husband would put an end to his daughter’s unaspiring hermitage at the University and that he’d get more grandchildren out of the bargain.

Remy shuddered at the thought of constant interruptions and sticky hands over her work.

Her father and her betrothed’s parents would have already settled on the specifics of the match, the rest fell to Remy. The proposal was set for tonight, where she was to take Lord something-or-other’s hand and request the honor of being his wife. No doubt the public formality of it all was designed to corner her into the absurd agreement.

The ploy would have worked in most cases. Remy was not adamant about many things, preferring a carefully and slowly constructed argument on silent pages to the flights of passion people passed off as conviction and conversation. But her research was sacred. A husband would only get in the way.

They forced Remy’s hand with this ploy. The only public and formal thing happening tonight was humiliation and disappointment.

The distant clocktower continued to tell time. Three hours and fifty-five minutes until disaster now, Remy thought. She sighed and went back to her books.

I’ve been robbed, but I couldn’t be happier about it. Both The Gate In The Wood and Creatures, Critters and Crawlers have stolen my first line and written their own posts as part of the Legal Theft Project. 

 

The Court of Thorns

He looked up at the sunless sky and the decision made itself. If he must join the court, Lara could not.

In the ashy gloom of morning, people shifted, slowly removing themselves from the arms of the night’s diversions. Most would retreat to private places amidst the dark boughs in search of true sleep. Head resting against a stocky shoulder, he did not rise, even when the borrowed man moved and deprived him a pillow. Instead, he remained staring into the perpetual gloam while his thoughts wore away at his satisfaction.

He found thorns beneath his plain solution, and he turned it about searching for more. If Lara was not to come to court with him, where should she go? Lara was his changeling, gifted to him as a child, raised as servant and sister. Reprisal came to those who threw away gifts. Still, the courts were treacherous by nature, as were his kind. The intrigues grew twisted like the spines of its namesake. He belonged there, perhaps the captive mortals less so?

It was an odd thought. It arrived as the silent companion from last night found his clothes and shuffled back to whomever the young man was sworn. He breathed out and resumed the glazed staring match with the sky. This was different.

Opinionated and aspiring, Lara might have made a good courtier if she’d been his true kin. Instead, he’d found himself with a terrible changeling. The courts would amuse themselves, Lara would fume and suffer until her disobedience ceased entertaining. Then—he frowned, yes there was that decision again.

He sighed and stretched to his feet, arching his back. The sky grew slowly into a twilight hue as he walked home.

A thief, a scoundrel, a rogue, and it is not just my character. This week’s first line was stolen from More than 1/2 Mad for the Legal Theft Project.