Scars

I watched as she scanned her legs with hunched brows, seeming to study every inch and pore, caressing one and then the other, ignoring me and the ocean before us.

“Are you looking for something there?” I stopped mid-chuckle when she met my eyes and I saw the seriousness in hers.

“I had stripes, diagonal lines, about a dozen of them, right…here, I think?” and with her left forefinger she drew on her right shin. “I can’t believe I’ve lost them. I’m not even a hundred percent sure now that it was on this leg.”

She continued to tell me how she got those now-begone scars: She was eight, she tripped while running and her shin rammed against the pavement, scraping the skin in such as manner that she ended up with a dozen stripes.

“The worst part was when I got home. Did I mention I was playing with my childhood crush? Oh my goodness. I was with this boy, this neighbor that I really liked, and he accompanied me home after that mishap. And, good heavens, he had to watch as my mom, who had no mercy on me, treated my leg with alcohol, and I bawled like a cow being electrocuted!”

“Oh, poor thing!” I exclaimed, though we were both laughing then. I was trying to form a picture of the weeping eight-year-old version of her in my head.

“I liked those scars, you know?” she said. “Looking at them always reminded me of that story, brought me back to happy days. I mean, that moment was actually terrible, but those days, that summer, I remember quite well how I was just…happy. I mean, to be a child, you know what I mean, right? Wouldn’t you give anything to go back in time?”

“Nah, I didn’t have you back then.”

“Aww.” She rolled her eyes and made a gagging sound, and I knew that was as far as I could go. That is, until the next opportunity comes.

 


A possible snippet for my WIP 🙂

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before you know it

Time speeds up, and suddenly you’re a dying man.

I gasped for air, knowing full well each heave could be the last.

“Dad, you’re overreacting. The doctor said it’s just heartburn.”

“Oh, don’t spoil my moment, dear. I’m enjoying keeping you here beside me.”

“Dad. Seriously. I’m here now.”

“Wasn’t it just the other day that I ran away from you, and yesterday that you wouldn’t take me back?”

“Well, it is today, and here we are. It’d be nice to know you.” Hannah gave me the sweetest smile that I had seen in all my seventy-six years.

I instinctively glanced at the clock on the wall, as if it counted down my remaining days.

“I guess we do have a bit of time left. Just a wee bit, but it should do.”

She just held my hand and smiled even wider, before kissing my forehead.

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Another snippet for my WIP. Writing prompt, “time speeds up,” courtesy of Inspiration Monday 🙂

reunion

I just stood there for about a minute, staring at her blue door and listening to her footsteps–she seemed to be pacing non-stop, to and fro, to an fro–until I could muster the courage to knock.

The pacing stopped. I could swear I heard a deep sigh on the other side. Then the door slowly creaked open.

“Hey.”

Hannah replied with a small nod, our eyes meeting for just a second before she quickly looked down. She ushered me into her room by swinging the door all the way in and gesturing, still with just a small nod of her head.

“Sit down, please.”

I finally heard her voice as she pointed to a chair beside her cluttered desk. I sat down obligingly while she sat on her bed, cleared her throat and then looked me straight in the eye. I couldn’t read her expression. Or maybe I just couldn’t acknowledge that it looked stone cold.

“Listen. I’m not into emotional confrontations and such, and I’m quite bad at small talk. So here’s the thing. You committed a grave sin against me and my mother when you abandoned her before I was even born. I understand you two have long buried the hatchet and have since been friends, and I’m earnestly happy for you.”

She paused for a second.She was so grown up! And so tough, even more than her mother.

I felt like a criminal in court, waiting to be read his sentence.

“I can’t say thank you, though, for whatever sprinklings of support you’ve handed mom over the years. Such tokens are inconsequential and don’t make you my father. This is probably…what? The first time I’ve seen you since high school? So anyway that role of dad has long been occupied by a man named Manny. I don’t have a place for you in my already-very-packed life. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate you. In fact I don’t feel a thing toward you.”

Had she rehearsed this? Goodness.

“Can I just say something?”

“Um sorry, yeah, sorry for blabbing.”

I stood up and took one short stride to get to her. I knelt down and reached for her hands, causing her eyes to grow wide. I thought she was going to jump out of the bed.

It was my turn to look at her straight.

“I…I came here because I know you deserve to hear directly from me, how much I regret having left your mother. Having abandoned you. You will probably never forgive me, but I had to come here and tell you, face to face, that I’m truly, very sorry for having caused you so much pain. Maybe someday, somehow I still don’t know, I’ll make it up to you.”

“No no, I–I’m okay. No pain. I’m fine.” Hey eyes started to well up, but a couple of blinks and the tears were gone. Did I just imagine them?

“Yes of course. Um, that’s really all that I came down here to say.”

I slowly stood up and let go of her hands, but my eyes stayed on her face. She didn’t look as collected as just a few moments ago.

“Thank you for seeing me.”

“Thank you, too, for coming.”

I started heading to the door.

“Wait.”

She was rushing to her desk, rummaging through the mountain of paper that was in disarray on top of it. She pulled out a small pink envelope and handed it to me.

“Here. I know mom told you. You can come. I, uh, decided to walk down the aisle alone.”

“Thank you, Hannah.”

“Sure.”

“I’ll go ahead now. And, um, if there’s anything I can do to help, let me know?”

“Uh, sure, sure, thanks. No problem. We’ve taken care of everything.”

“Ah. Okay. Bye for now.”

I stepped out of the room and she closed the door behind me.

Downstairs, I could hear Lisa setting the plates in the dining room. Manny heard me coming down and began folding his newspaper, standing up to meet me.

“Just in time! I think lunch is almost ready. Is Hannah on her way down now?”

“Um, Manny, I don’t think I can stay. I have to go now, but will get in touch with you guys soon, before the wedding.” I glanced at the door to the dining room. “Um, just tell Lisa I’m in a hurry. And that I said thanks.”

“Is everything all right, Ray?”

I was already on my way out.

“Yeah, sure. I just remembered something important. Gotta go, Manny, thanks again.”

I almost ran to the car. I had to leave that place as fast as I could.

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Yet another snippet for my WIP. 🙂

her hallowed ground

She finally picked up on my sixth attempt. Sixth. Damn.

Anyway.

“Hello.”

“You disappeared on us again.”

“At least say hello, Ed.”

“Seriously. Everyone was so worried. Your mom was calling all, and I mean, all of us.”

“Uh-huh.”

“Did you go there again?”

“Where?”

“You know very well where, Hannah.”

“Uh, not really.”

“That place you always disappear to, that beach.” It was like pulling teeth.

“Listen. I’m home now, right? And I already got a mouthful from my mother. I don’t feel like going through any more grilling right now. In fact I don’t want to talk anymore.”

“Come on, Hannah.”

It took a few moments before she spoke again, sounding far away.

“I rode a bus and went there, yes. I just had to go. I needed time and space to be alone. Okay? Happy?”

“When are you taking me there?”

“It’s not for sharing.”

“But you’ve already told me it’s a beach, I’m sure there are people there. It’s not like you own a private resort or island.”

Again, the silence.

“Okay. Just tell me what it’s like?”

I knew she was picturing it in her head–that she was sort of traveling back, relishing the memory of time spent in that place.

“It’s my hallowed ground. I find peace there, for a little while. It’s…Have you ever tried sitting in front of the sea, just to watch and hear it move and feel the breeze against your face? It’s wonderful.”

“You sounded just a wee bit creepy there. You’re not about to kill yourself, are you?”

“I’m not an idiot, idiot. And you broke my train of thought. I was virtually taking you there.”

“Sorry. Please continue.”

“Pfft. Now I have to get into the zone again.”

I chuckled, glad that the mood was getting a bit lighter. She chuckled a bit, too, before continuing.

“Hmm…where was I? Yes, I just love being alone somewhere desolate, where I can just sit at the beach and bury my feet in the sand, bask in the sun and let my mind soar. Just sit, think and be at peace, without having to talk or answer to anyone. Or to explain myself, as I’m being forced to do now.” I was sure she smiled as she said that.

“Yeah, but five days?”

“One day to travel, one day to shake off the garbage, one day to fill myself up with all that’s good and clean, one day to come to terms with the fact of having to come back home, and one day for that dreadful trip back.”

“O…kay. Well maybe someday you’ll learn to be happy and at peace where you are.”

“You. Telling me that. Seriously.” We both burst out laughing then.

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Another installment to my WIP. Writing prompt, “hallowed ground,” courtesy of the writing reader.

no tomorrow

It was as if every ounce of joy and hope had been drained out of me. I was a dead man at seventeen.

“I am not expecting anything from you. You are free to go.” We both knew I was not.

“Dammit Lisa, I’m gonna be a lawyer!” There was no point denying my disappointment and regret.

Her eyes, red and swollen ugly from crying, widened like saucers. “I…I already said you were free to go, Ray…I…” A huge sob fest followed. “I…hate you!”

Great. Like I didn’t already hate both her and me. Dammit.

I scanned the open field. A hundred meters away, half a dozen kids played kickball. Good thing we weren’t at the pizza place; this would’ve caused a racket. We were like a friggin’ soap opera scene.

“Listen. I gotta go for a while, okay? I need time to, uh, think this through.”

More sobbing.

“I gotta think…I gotta go, okay? I’ll call you.”

I couldn’t wait for her answer. I turned and I ran as fast as I could, neither knowing nor caring where I was headed.

Lisa was pregnant. Tomorrow was gone.

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A fresh snippet for my work-in-progress. Writing prompt, “no tomorrow,” courtesy of Inspiration Monday 🙂

newbie

“We really appreciate this, Mayor. Looking forward to Wednesday.”

It was all I could do not to clap and yell as Hannah shook the Mayor’s hand. A huge “Woohoo!!!” was in order! No, make that, a drum and bugle corps performance– yeah, most fitting right then and there, as she got another big guy to eat in her hands. My boss was a rock star.

“What did we learn from that one, Allen?”

Shit.

“Um, ma’am…” We were walking out of the Mayor’s office, and my notebook pages almost tore as I searched for what I took down over the last hour. She was striding briskly and I struggled to keep up with her.

“Obviously not how to think on our feet, I’m afraid?”

One sideways glance and those few words from her, and I felt the eyes of everyone in the hall on me as I shrunk into a pea.

“Uh, don’t back down. That’s one. You’re shouldn’t back down, like when he was skeptical of the project, and he was challenging you, but you showed him.”

“Showed him what?”

“Um, you know? That um, that you were…um, good and wouldn’t take no for an answer?”

I followed her into the elevator, conscious of other people who got to hear snippets of the lecture-slash-humiliation I was getting.

“What are you talking about? How many of these meetings have you been to, Allen? And how many orientation sessions have you attended? How can you still not get that this is not, never about me or any of us? We’re trying to communicate a message here, but it’s not our message. It’s all about the people who are not being heard. Our job is to make these powers-that-be listen, and see, and believe and buy into the fact that it’s everyone’s business, especially theirs, to facilitate development that benefits everyone and harnesses everyone’s potential to contribute to society and make a good life for himself and his family.”

She was delivering a speech. In an elevator full of people. I almost expected applause from the dozen strangers we were with, but it was dead silent in our little steel box.

I found myself nodding like an idiot. “Yup. Got it.”

As if on cue, the elevator door opened. Hannah threw me a look of…what, exasperation? Why? What did I say wrong again? Anyway she gave me a look, then she strode out into the City Hall lobby. I just followed her in silence, like some useless minion.

I stared at the back of her head as we walked. She beat me up like this all the time — mostly in public, like today — but I wouldn’t exchange this for some corporate job. I learned a lot from her everyday and her passion for this cause was just contagious. And wow, the places we went to, and the people we met! One day we’d be in some upland community, listening to the woes of an indigenous tribe; the next day we could be in a panel meeting with high-profile bureaucrats in some fancy hotel. What a life!

Nancy had started bugging me about this job, though, last week.

“We’ve been out of university three months and I hardly see you anymore, I can’t even keep track of where you are, you’re just away all the time!”

So whiny and needy. The way she’d been acting, I was happy to be away all the time.

“Hey Allen!”

Shit. I’d been letting my mind wander. You never let your mind wander when you’re with Hannah.

“Are you in this trip with me or what? Attention span of a shrimp. I said call Agnes. We have to regroup at one for updates. Make sure you have the latest briefs ready by then.”

“Yes ma’am!” I looked at my watch. It was 12:10. Yeah baby.

 

 

contempt

“Don’t you find it ironic, how she can claim to be a human rights defender, and then behave so condescendingly toward other people? One time I even overheard her saying, so pretentiously, that she always knew this was her calling, that she couldn’t be happy without responding to the call for her to serve. Bull crap.” I still couldn’t believe what happened at work earlier. I didn’t even get to defend myself.

“Hey, watch your language!”

“Sorry. Damn. Ah, sorry.”

“Come on, Jimmy, listen to yourself. Don’t you also find it ironic how much you’re supposed to hate her, and yet she’s all you talk about over dinner with your family?” Ruth forced a smile, but the corners of her mouth were tight as she raised her eyebrows slightly and tilted her head toward little Shelly, who was busy peeling her prawn.

“Ahh. Yes, you’re right. Really, I’m so sorry.  I’m allowing her to get to me too much. But I swear I thought of a dozen comebacks, and really sharp ones, too…”

“Only you thought of them all too late.” Ruth touched my arm gently. “Sweetie, just get over it already. Or just take it as a challenge. She’s challenging your competence at your job, so just show her how good you are. Your work should speak for itself.”

“Yeah, okay. Um, right. Enough of that. Let’s eat.” I could only nod and mumble lest she found out what I was just beginning to see for myself, the reason I couldn’t have peace with that woman around.

Hannah scared me. She had the ability to reduce me to pieces, to make me feel like a lizard.

Man, how I hated her.

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Writing prompt, “the call,” courtesy of Sunday Scribblings. This is another scene to go into my WIP 🙂 Know more about Jim here.