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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

I will be posting some things from time to time that I would like critique on, please. Postings will not or have not been in our weekly poetry or short story contests. Please be honest on how I can improve, but try not to be mean. Thanks so much!


The Carousel

Krissy ran through the crowds of people; faces becoming only a blur. This was the best day! She didn't mind the red glob of sticky candied apple mess embedded in her golden curls or the blue Koolaid Slush that now stained her pink jumper.

"Honey, slow down!" Daddy yelled from behind. He thought giving Mommy a day off had been silly. After all, how hard would it be to care for this four-year-old cherub for one afternoon?

He was overcome with pure exhaustion.

Krissy looked back to locate her father as she was pushed along by throngs of fun-seekers throughout the amusement park. Her eyes grew wide with fear. She was not nearly tall enough to see his handsome face -- only torsos made up of different shapes and sizes.

Large crocodile tears welled and slipped from forest green eyes almost instantly.

"Daddy?" she called. "I need my Daddy."

Suddenly, Krissy felt strong arms around her waist. Large hands were lifting her into the air. She could see the tops of bald heads and pretty hats. Panic rose in her throat. Stranger Danger! She began to kick the body attached to the muscular arms.

"Let me go. Let me go! I want my Daddy."

A cool breeze wafted through Krissy's hair, bringing with it the aroma of hot dogs and popcorn. Relaxation tingled her tense limbs.

She looked downward anticipating the sight of a hideous monster but could not see a face due to her heightened position.

Her next memory was of being seated on a beautiful horse bedecked with jewels. She was on the carousel. Her favorite ride! The sweet tunes emitting from the machine calmed her further.

She turned to look at the stranger but -- no one was there!

Up and down the ride slowly began. A-r-r-r-r-ound the circle her massive horse traveled.

"Krissy!" Daddy was standing with the onlookers.

"Daddy!" she beamed.

As the ride ended, Krissy skipped to her father, curls bobbing. The Stranger Story gushed from her lips.

"I think he was an angel, Daddy." Krissy's forehead wrinkled. "He put me on the carousel 'cause it's the best. He knew you'd find me there."

Daddy smiled and hugged his daughter tightly.

"Maybe so, baby. Maybe so."


message 2: by Ryan (new)

Ryan | 5330 comments Great start, Melissa! I'll be sure to check in here from time to time - I'm a big fan of your stories and poetry. Have a great weekend :)


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

PUZZLEMENTS


I have been told that life is like an enormous jigsaw puzzle.

As your days are spent and pieces fitted together it will form into an amazingly beautiful picture.

But when a family death occurs, the puzzle can never be fully complete because many pieces will be forever missing.

I have never been good at jigsaw puzzles. I don't know why exactly -- maybe I don't have enough patience -- maybe I don't like the picture I see developing before me.

My passion is the Seek and Find -- puzzles where you locate the word. For me, death doesn't seem to fit into life. So, as I seek to find The Word, He comforts me and keeps me from being puzzled.


message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

Thank you, Ryan! I appreciate that you commented first in my new folder! Your feedback always means so much to much! I hope you will enjoy further writings! :)


message 5: by C. J., Cool yet firm like ice (new)

C. J. Scurria (goodreadscomcj_scurria) | 4263 comments So wonderful. These threads are fun! Now you get to share more stories and even ones that have nothing to do for the WSS. That means you can do extra stories for fun and post them here! That is if you want of course.


message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

Thanks, CJ! I had always wondered how to post in your own folder but never asked until now. I have posted a lot of things under Creative Writing but don't get much traffic and/or comments there. Most of it I have posted after participating in our contests but I have other things as well. I will have several pieces to post for a while before I do something brand new here. I will, of course, continue to participate in the contests! :)


message 7: by C. J., Cool yet firm like ice (new)

C. J. Scurria (goodreadscomcj_scurria) | 4263 comments Same here with getting attention in Creative Writing. I was getting seemingly no one to look for a story for fun and had to beg someone through message to at least glance at it! Probably had no one look at it or think of doing so until then lol.

And yes, glad to hear you have been and will continue to participate. We all look forward to your next writings! :)


message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

Thanks, CJ! How nice! :)


message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

MY BROKEN HEART


To you I am just an Aunt,
Someone you may never know.

To me you are a special child.
How I wish I could see you grow!

You may be very far away,
Or maybe just down the street.

But, my heart will think of you,
With each and every beat.

That heart will be broken,
On the day you go away.

For I will never hold you;
We will never play.

But, please remember, baby girl,
Even though we are apart.

Your Mommy and Aunt love you,
Along with my broken heart.


message 10: by C. J., Cool yet firm like ice (new)

C. J. Scurria (goodreadscomcj_scurria) | 4263 comments That's a sweet, tender poem/ partial story. Sounds like it has heart. That makes me want to write a story from before about a young character that one would hope the best for or even take into their own house because the person so young experiences too much.

This is a good poem, Melissa.


message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

CJ -

I wrote this poem after a family member gave up a baby girl for adoption. It was a very rough time period in all our lives. The baby girl would be around, oh, 22-years-old now.


message 12: by C. J., Cool yet firm like ice (last edited Oct 27, 2014 09:07PM) (new)

C. J. Scurria (goodreadscomcj_scurria) | 4263 comments Aww... well I hope some loving people took her in.


message 13: by [deleted user] (new)

Yes, CJ, as far as I know, her adoptive parents are very nice, decent people. It was an open adoption so I have seen pictures of my niece from when she was very little and then my sister received a picture of her daughter when she was about 16 and a letter. She was very pretty. We don't know where she lives but we know what the adoptive parents named her and that she has an older brother who was adopted as well. She is very athletic and loves animals -- just like my sister.


message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

A CRAFT MALL CHRISTMAS

I awoke one morn to such an awful clatter,
I sprang from my bed to check on the matter.

I ran to my window and threw open the shutter.
What had awakened me and made me mutter?

And what to my wondering eyes did appear?
The completion of the craft mall was finally near!

The workers hammered, their faces were red,
While visions of trinkets danced in my head.

I remember the day they opened the doors,
Thousands of people crowded the floors!

The manager reminded me of old Santa Claus,
He assisted customers without any pause.

"Oh, look at this and look at that!
How do I look in this pretty hat?"

"What a cute bear, an adorable doll,
I do believe I've made a haul!"

Now it's time to pay for our treasures.
This trip has been such a pleasure.

On Mastercard! On Visa! On American Express!
"Can you add me to your mailing list?"

The tired manager waved as we drove out of sight,
"A Craftin' Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"


message 15: by [deleted user] (new)

Crafty Recipes

Glue on that shiny button,
Sew up that frilly dress.
Crafting all the day long,
Without ANY rest!

Some of us do it for fun
And some do it for the money.
We all lose track of the time,
Until we see our honey.

"What's for supper, dear?"
He yells coming in the door.
His stomach is a growlin'
As he drops work boots on the floor.

Scurry to the kitchen,
Gotta make something quick.
A can of this, a cup of that,
Maybe this'll do the trick?

Chow time's over and you've done good
By making a scrumptious meal.
Tomorrow night is hubby's turn,
And, HE thinks cooking's a big deal!!


message 16: by [deleted user] (new)

Heart's Embrace

She strokes dark, wet hair
With a shaky finger
Breathing a sigh of relief
That he did not linger.

The newborn baby boy
Had just made her a Mom
He was such a beautiful child
And made her feel so calm.

Mothers deserve so much more
Than just one day a year
Embrace your Mother with your heart
The bond will become clear.


message 17: by [deleted user] (new)

My Step-Son

I'd never been a "step" before,
Not in all my long life,
Until the day I married your Dad
And became his lovely wife.

Could I care for this rambunctious child
Who was not my very own?
After all, he had another family
And was practically half-grown.

Rough and tumble football games,
Pepperoni pizza and The WWF,
Totally blaring rap music,
Sometimes I think I'm going deaf!

But, he also has a soft side
And is really very smart,
With his giggles and big bear hugs
He surely "stepped" into my heart.


message 18: by [deleted user] (new)

Patchwork Bunnies

My Grandma worked miracles,
With her needle and a thread.

The treasures that she stitched,
Were created with heart and head.

She made herself a patchwork quilt,
For warmth one chilly night.

Then felt a tugging in her gut,
She really had a plight.

T'was silly to make this pretty,
To keep only for her own.

She had many grandchildren,
Why worry 'bout her bones?

She ripped the quilt in pieces,
And made a bunch of bunnies.

Handing them to us with love,
She called us all her "honeys".

Feelings overwhelmed her,
That would never, ever wilt.

The memories of our happy faces,
Kept her warmer than the quilt.


message 19: by C. J., Cool yet firm like ice (new)

C. J. Scurria (goodreadscomcj_scurria) | 4263 comments Melissa wrote: "CJ -

I wrote this poem after a family member gave up a baby girl for adoption. It was a very rough time period in all our lives. The baby girl would be around, oh, 22-years-old now."


You know, seeing real emotion and even heartbreak in that poem, Melissa, inspired me? I put on my own writing thread a spontaneous poem called "Bud." I hope you at least see it and be honest about it if you want.


message 20: by [deleted user] (new)

CHILDHOOD FRIEND

My childhood friend always listened
And he surely always heard.

He adored my grand tea parties
And watching pretty birds.

We sat upon the windowsill,
Counting sparrows and jays.

We kept such special company;
Embraced long rainy days.

He had the blackest eyes
And the softest of all hearts.

In my tiny, fragile mind,
I thought we'd never part.

But, I became busy with my life
And things began to change.

We were no longer oh so close,
How'd we become estranged?

My thoughts turn to that friend today,
Now that I have my very own child.

I found him in the dark, dusty attic,
Teddy Bear hugs still made me smile!


message 21: by [deleted user] (new)

Sure, CJ! I will check that out right now! :)


message 22: by [deleted user] (new)

A NEW PLACE

"Daddy's job is transferring him to Washington," Mommy explained to her seven-year-old daughter.

Jenny wrinkled her freckled brow. "Will he come to visit us sometime?"

Mommy laughed and tossled the child's auburn hair. "Silly girl, we're all moving with Daddy."

Jenny's tiny head filled instantly with fear. Moving? How could she do that? Leave her school and her friends? No way!

Bursting into tears she ran from her mother and into her bedroom. Flinging herself onto her bed, complete with "Barbie" comforters and pillows, she grabbed Maddie.

Maddie had been Jenny's "security blanket" for many years. She confided in the stuffed, flop-earred bunny whenever she was upset. And, even though she had been missing her right button-eye for the last several months, she was still Jenny's favorite toy.

The next few months seemed to pass like a whirlwind. The house was put up for sale and strangers trompled through rooms "ooohing" and "aaahing" at different, unique features.

Jenny hid in her closet with hands over her ears and Maddie in her lap. "I won't go Maddie; they can't make me."

But, the dreadful day did arrive. Boxes were packed; neighbors came to bid a fond farewell and the Anderson family loaded into the car.

Jenny looked out the back window of the old, green station wagon and wept for hours before falling into a deep sleep; using Maddie's soft, fuzzy, grey body as a pillow.

The new neighborhood seemed to be nice enough. Nice houses. A friendly looking couple walking their dog. Jenny started to smile as she rubbed sleep from her drowsy eyes but, suddenly remembered that she was still mad -- and scared. She pulled Maddie close.

Soon, they pulled up in front of a big, white house and Daddy announced, "We're here!"

Her parents emerged from the car and quickly headed towards the front door.

"Guess we'd better go too; but I know we won't like it," Jenny said. Maddie looked back with her one-button eye as if understanding.

Stretching her little legs and yawning immensely, Jenny plopped down on the front steps. "We just won't go in, is all," she set her jaw determinedly.

Looking up, she noticed another little girl, about her age, on the front steps of the house directly across the street. The girl waved and Jenny waved back, although a frown had formed on her pretty face.

The girl started across the street, her stride a happy, bouncy one. But, what was that she was carrying?

"Hi there! My name's Michele and this is Kenny," the neighbor said as she held up a stuffed, grey, flop-earred bunny with a missing left eye.

Maybe this new place wouldn't be so bad after all???


message 23: by [deleted user] (new)

BABY DOLL


She wrapped the tattered coat tighter around her small frame, shielding herself against the blustery, winter wind.

"I know Mama would like that necklace with the angel on it," Billi Mae said aloud as she peered in through the window. "It's so pretty." She pulled a handful of coins from the coat pocket and counted carefully -- 98 cents.

Slipping into the warm shop, she clapped her numb hands together and eyed the toys and trinkets with awe. As she walked towards the window to get a closer look at the necklace something interrupted her vision.

The most beautiful thing ever! She was the tiniest of creatures. A delicate nose; the pinkest lips and the biggest, bluest eyes with the longest, darkest lashes. She was wearing a white, silk dress and a pale, blue ribbon in her blonde hair.

"Oh, my!" she gasped.

"May I help you?" a sweeping shop owner, slightly grey at the temples offered.

"Ummm, yes, please," she hated to tear herself away from the baby doll. She showed the shop owner, Mr. Russell, her sparse coins and explained her dilemma. Mama would be in the hospital on Christmas Day having surgery and she needed a present. The necklace cost $10.00 more than she had.

Mr. Russell looked down at the broom in his chubby hand and smiled broadly. "I'll make an even exchange with you. If you come in and sweep up for me after school the next few days, I'll give you the necklace for your Mama."

Billi Mae beamed with excitement. She could actually earn the gift and feel proud about it.

Over the next few days Billi Mae helped with sweeping, straightening toy boxes and greeting customers. She enjoyed the work -- it was fun! And, besides, she got to see that wonderful baby doll too! That was the best part!

Mr. Russell took Billi Mae under his wing and enjoyed her bubbly, young spirit. She was like the daughter he had never had.

Christmas Eve soon came and as the last customer left the shop, Mr. Russell took the angel necklace from the window, wrapped it in tissue and handed it to Billi Mae with love.

"I do hope your mother likes it," he said with tears in his eyes. He would surely miss his little helper.

"Thanks, Mr. Russell. I won't forget this," she felt tears welling up inside her as well.

She went to retrieve her coat from the stock room and found a large package laying beside it. The box was wrapped in bright, green paper and adorned with a huge, red bow. A small card was scribbled with the words, "A gift for you, Billi Mae."

She looked around the room in confusion. Ripping off the wrappings she discovered the treasured baby doll. Tears fell from disbelieving eyes.

"Awww, you don't like her?" Mr. Russell said from behind.

Billi Mae jumped up and hugged the gentleman with all her might. "I love her!" she giggled.

Having no children of his own you may wonder why Michael Russell would want to own a toy store/gift shop???

For the fringe benefits, of course!


message 24: by [deleted user] (new)

CINNAMON SPUNK

"Sprinkle just a smidge," she instructed patiently. "There you go. Just like that. You got it."

The girl, steadying herself on the flowery kitchen stool, flashed an almost toothless grin at her Aunt Molly.

"Are these cookies named after me?" she asked innocently.

Molly laughed. "No, dear. But the name Cinnamon sure does fit you. You've got lots of spunk," she said as she tossled her honey-colored hair.

Dark freckles danced across the bridge of Cinnamon's nose. "That's what my Mama says too." She wiped her chubby cinnamon-dusted fingertips on her pint-sized calico apron.

"Cook 'em fast, Aunt Mol. Pleeeeeease, I gotta taste 'em," she pleaded with a scrunched up face.

Cinnamon waited for what seemed to be a million, jillion hundred minutes and finally popped a warm, delicious cookie into her watering mouth.

She thought it was absolutely the most wonderful thing she had ever tasted! Several others quickly followed the path of the first.

Each summer for years to come, Cinnamon would invade Aunt Molly's country-decorated kitchen with her spunk. The aroma of the spice wafted through the air. Aunt Molly was not one to share secrets; especially that of her secret cookie recipe -- except with Cinnamon.

Today, that grown-up, spunky, freckle-faced darling owns, "Cinnamon Spunk", a chain of bakeries specializing in the unforgettable, tantalizing treat, in loving memory of her Aunt Molly.


message 25: by [deleted user] (new)

LIFTED SPIRITS

They filled the school auditorium bundled in coats, jackets, scarves and muffs -- protection from the bitter cold outside.

"Where's Josie, Momma?" older sister Ellen searched the stage, bustling with children and adults, still in the process of arranging sets and props.

"She'll be out soon, honey," Momma assured her. "She still has to get into her costume."

Josie had innocently "volunteered" Momma as costume designer. The costumes had been such a delight to construct. The angel wings were so soft and delicate. She did wish she could have been paid for her efforts though. Money had been tight since she had lost her job two months before.

Josie and Ellen's father was always late with the children support payments and he was so difficult to talk to. Christmas presents would be very scarce this year.

Momma looked around the room, packed with happy, smiling faces and despair suddenly washed over her entire body. Tears filled her eyes and she swiped at them with the back of her mitten.

As the crowd began to clap, she jerked her head forward to see green curtains opening, revealing youngsters dressed as wise men, Joseph, Mary and a shepherd boy.

She listened halfheartedly to the lines of the play, her mind focused solely on her own problems.

Then, slowly descending from above the stage came Josie, her beautiful, eight-year-old blonde Christmas angel.

Suspended in mid-air by invisible wires, she spoke so softly the room quickly silenced to hear her.

Momma's eyes filled with tears again but, this time they were tears of joy.

Josie had worked hard to learn her lines and although she was nervous, remembered them perfectly.

As the play ended, the principal, Mr. Corbin, stood at the microphone to make a few announcements.

His voice, a long boring drawl, soon faded into the background and Momma was carried back to her own thoughts of misery.

"Please come forward, Mrs. Dawson if you would like to accept our offer," she heard the voice say.

"Huh?" she muttered, confused. A thunderous applause reverberated in her ears.

"They're givin' you a job, Momma!" Ellen squealed. "Sewing costumes. Please do it."

Momma made her way to the stage and shook Principal Corbin's extended hand.

"We thought that with the Holiday Season close at hand this would be a way to lift your spirits," he smiled.

Tears streamed down Momma's face. Josie and Ellen weren't the only angels she believed in -- miracle-working Christmas angels really existed too!


message 26: by [deleted user] (new)

PATCHES OF LOVE

The little girl, lips enveloping a tiny thumb, crawled into her grandmother's soft, over-sized lap.

"Whatcha doin', Gram?"

"I'm making a quilt," the woman set aside her stitching to hug her granddaughter.

"What're these?" she tugged pieces of cloth from a paper sack and held them up to the light.

Re-positioning her glasses, Grandma smiled. "This one here Betsy is a piece from your Daddy's first pair of overalls. He was so cute in them." A far away look glazed her watery blue eyes.

"What 'bout this one?" Betsy pushed a red piece into Grandma's shaky hand.

She let out a little chuckle. "This is from your first red dress. You were just a baby." She stretched her arms only a few feet apart.

"And this one?" Betsy chose a patch of blue flannel, rubbing it against her pink cheek. "It's soft."

Grandma took the cloth patch from Betsy and smoothed it with a crooked finger. "This came from your Pappa's pajamas. They were his favorites." She gingerly removed an antique frame from the side table and stared into the eyes of the black and white photo.

"He was such a handsome man, your Pappa. You would have adored him."

Betsy nodded in agreement. She thought the long, handlebar mustache was neat and surely must have tickled.

Grandma's hands, although snarled and rough, grasped the silver needle delicately. She swiftly guided it back and forth through the fabric, not only with thread, but with love.

Many years later, a little girl, lips enveloping a tiny thumb, crawls into her mother's lap, now heavy with an unborn child.

"Whatcha doin', Mommy?"

"I'm making a quilt," Betsy sets aside her stitching to hug her daughter. "Kind of like the one that rests on the foot of my bed now."

"That Great-Gram made?"

Betsy nods and smiles, a far away look glazing watery blue eyes ...


message 27: by [deleted user] (new)

SAME TIME NEXT YEAR

She wound the tattered scarf tighter around her grey head with one mittened hand and grasped the large blue container as firmly as possible with the other.

The bridge was quite a distance from her tiny frame home and she was becoming winded as each step progressed.

"It's worth the effort though," she said aloud, puffs of breath evident in the cold night air.

Finally reaching her destination, she looked around for signs of life. Discarded old tires, boxes and various other debris lined the broken pieces of pavement underneath the busy highway overpass.

Movement of one of the larger boxes caught her dull eyes, startling her quiet nature.

"Hello?" she called, afraid for her very life in this run-down neighborhood know for its unusually high crime rate.

A young woman and child emerged slowly from their make-shift cardboard home, eying her warily.

"I've brought some warm soup for you," she said as she opened the container. "I've seen you sometimes as I pass over on my way to the grocery," she tried to explain away her kindness.

The young woman and child gobbled the liquid hungrily as she stood and watched. A tear trickled down her wrinkled face as she viewed the sad sight. Suddenly, she remembered the gift.

"Oh, here, sweetie," she said as she gently handed a rag doll with button eyes to the smiling child. "I thought this might help keep you warm."

Beautiful fireworks erupted in the distance announcing the New Year and the child and both women gazed into the sky with amazement.

As she stood up to leave for home, the child tugged at her ragged coat sleeve.

"Same time next year?" the child inquired with a twinkle in her eye.

She bent down and kissed the child on the cheek. Changes for the coming year would be granted for this young mother and her child -- an invitation to a new life: to share a warm home, food and friendship with an elderly, lonely, caring lady. No matter how meager her own means were she was determined to make a better life for them. And she did.

These old acquaintances certainly would not be forgotten.


message 28: by [deleted user] (new)

TEA FOR THREE

She poured the dark, sweet liquid, careful not to spill a drop.

"You must always stick your pinky out like so, Madeleine," Katherine Anne demonstrated. "Makes the tea tastes better," she added, followed by a giggle.

Madeleine, dressed in a beautiful lavender lace dress, was proper in her response. Silence during tea-time lesson with a polite smile was encouraged.

The small table was beautifully adorned. An ivory linen cloth was laden with pale blue antique china dishes and matching tea cups. A tin of vanilla cookies served as the centerpiece.

"I'm so glad you could join me today, Madeleine, dear," Katherine Anne said. "Who needs anyone else to come to our party?"

Madeleine continued her sweet smile.

A knock on the door caused Katherine Anne to jump; startled. She spilled her tea, staining the ivory cloth.

Tears emerged in her soft brown eyes.

Madeleine fell from her chair to the floor.

"Hello, Miss Katherine Anne. I'm a bit late but am here to accept your invitation to tea."

"Mommy, it's ruined," Katherine Anne pouted.

"Nonsense, sweetie," Mommy smiled as she returned the displaced paper cup to its matching plate and wiped up the 'imaginary' tea. "Tea for two is never ruined when you enjoy the other person's company."

Katherine Anne smiled weakly. "I guess so." Suddenly she remembered Madeleine. "But, it's tea for three though," she said, pointing to the floor.

Mommy gently picked up the rag doll and placed her in Katherine Anne's lap. "Now I have even more company to enjoy," she said as she picked up a Saltine cracker from the center of the table with a smile.

What a wonderful way to spend a rainy afternoon -- at a grand tea party with a four-year-old hostess and her rag doll friend!


message 29: by [deleted user] (new)

TO BE YOUNG AGAIN

He spit into the palms of his calloused hands and gave the boat a shove. A painful jump landed Horace into the seat.

Arthritic fingers carefully wound an unsuspecting worm around a sharp hook and then plunked it into the lake.

Splash!

Horace had a bite. The boat rocked. Water splashed. The harder he pulled, the harder the struggle.

Eyes closed and breathing deeply, Horace jerked the pole determinedly.

He felt himself falling. Water rushed around him. Weeds bound his arms and legs. He coughed and choked as he attempted cries for help.

Something brushed against his hand. Horace looked into the face of a beautiful woman. Long auburn hair flowed in the murky water. Smiling at Horace, tiny bubbles emitted from her red lips.

Horace rubbed his eyes. Had he hit his head? Could this be real?

The auburn-haired woman took Horace's hand and led him to the surface.

"Horace," the woman's voice dripped with sweetness. "I have watched you for many years."

Horace shook. He was unsure if it was from fright or the coldness of the water.

"Stay here with me. Be young again. Live forever," she offered.

Horace was tempted. Oh, to be young again. Free from pain, arthritis, backaches. He laughed aloud at the joyous thought.

"No. But, thank you." He refused.

Shaky hands slowly turned the key in the lock.

The aroma of fresh baked bread wafted throughout the room tickling his nose.

"Catch anything?" his wife called from the kitchen.

"Only one. I let 'er go," he smiled.

He placed a record on the old phonograph player in the corner and took his wife's hand, now spotted with age.

"May I have this dance?"

"Certainly," she giggled.

Young again? With his wife, the one he called companion, friend, lover -- he was already young.


message 30: by [deleted user] (new)

A CROSS TO BEAR

"You ready for school?" She heard the words, but the heat made them barely audible.

"Not me. I'm ready for it to be over already."

It was another school year for students in this small Texas town. "Pure, simple country living" was Oak Hills' motto. Dirt paths were traveled daily to the grocery store, the barber shop and the combination post office/bank by its almost 500 residents. Elderly gentlemen gathered on each others' porches to play checkers, watch children play, and spit tobacco. The women enjoyed weekly quilting bees and loved to entice passers-by to come in and sit a spell with the aroma of a freshly baked apple pie cooling on the window sill.

Activities for children were slim; it was no surprise they happily anticipated cooler weather and the ringing of that first school bell.

Row after row of bicycles filled the vacant lot beside the school building. Squeaky new tennis shoes trampled green weeds, and chatter of summer memories drowned out the buzz of hungry, biting insects.

Chips of paint fell from the little red school house as teenagers rushed in and out of the frame structure, slamming the screen door behind them. It had been a long, hot summer with no hopes of rain for Oak Hills in sight.

Back-to-school orientation was exciting for some; boring for others.

"Got any gum?"

She turned to an unfamiliar face, heavily painted with eye make-up, lips an unnatural bright red.

Tessa Delaney had attended schools here since kindergarten and knew practically everyone. This girl was an oddity.

"I shouldn't think like that. It's not very Christian-like," Tessa said under her breath.

"Whatcha say?" the young girl pushed a strand of black hair from her eyes.

Tessa pulled a stick of gum from her purse and handed it to her.

"Randi," she said, smacking the gum.

Tessa offered a weak smile and turned back around.

How can a plain-Jane like me talk about Jesus to a girl like Randi? she thought.

She smoothed her pleated skirt with trembling hands. Why was she shaking? She wasn't scared, was she? She had had the opportunity to tell someone about Jesus and she had turned her back.

Still trembling hands moved up to adjust glasses and traveled down to the gold cross necklace. Her fingers felt its smoothness and Tessa imagined what that old, wooden one must have been like.

The cross was given to Tessa by her Sunday School teacher when she was five. She never removed it. She loved attending the small church on Sundays and planned to become a missionary.

"Hey, move."

Randi's voice jolted her.

As they filled the auditorium, Tessa saw familiar faces. Teachers and students alike greeted her with waves and chit-chat.

Standing in line for after-school clubs, Tessa noticed Randi in the corner puffing on a cigarette, a halo of smoke encircling her dark head.

After signing up for the Religion Club and receiving her schedule of classes, Tessa didn't have long to wait for her mother to arrive and pick her up.

During the short ride home, Tessa told her mother her disturbing feelings about Randi.

Mrs. Delaney smiled, "Sounds like you want to witness to her?"

Tessa nodded.

"But you don't know where to begin?"

Again the nod.

"Pray to the Lord," Mrs. Delaney suggested. "He will let you know when the time is right."

Her mother's opinion was highly regarded. Raising Tessa on her own after her husband, a respected deacon, was killed in an auto accident shortly after her daughter's birth was tough. Mrs. Delaney became the church secretary, taught Bible classes and inspired Tessa with her positive outlook and devotion to Christ.

Admiration for this woman gave Tessa a sense of peace. She was proud to call her mother as well as friend. She confided in her easily.

The first day of school couldn't arrive quickly enough. Tessa's blue eyes scanned the vacant lot. She didn't see Randi amongst the scurrying teenagers.

In the hallway her eyes flitted from face to face, ears listened for Randi's rough voice, her nose sniffed for her strong perfume.

Nothing.

In each class Tessa attended, she searched for Randi. She had read her Bible and written down scriptures that would enable Randi to understand her faith in the Lord.

At lunchtime the cafeteria was wall-to-wall people. No Randi.

Tessa sat at one of the long tables, opened the paper sack clutched in her long fingers and lay the peanut butter and jelly sandwich, chips and thermos of tea before her.

As she bowed her head in silence and folded her hands beneath her chin to say grace, she heard snickering.

"This ain't church, girl."

The voice belonged to Randi.

Hot tears welled up in Tessa's eyes. She was angry. How dare she? She could NOT get through to someone like that. But, she was also frightened. She closed her eyes tightly and lowered her head further. She was ashamed. Then suddenly, she remembered what her mother had said, "He will let you know when the time is right." Maybe it was now.

Tessa took a deep, cleansing breath, filling her lungs with air, her body with confidence.

"Randi?"

But Randi wasn't there.

Tessa's eyes roamed from table to table. She saw half-eaten hamburgers, crumpled napkins and spilled milk. She listened for a message from God but heard only the roar of what seemed to be millions of voices echoing in the cafeteria.

Concentration was impossible the remainder of the day. Tessa forced herself to enter classrooms, sit at desks in uncomfortable chairs, and turn still pages in thick books. Hoping Randi would bump into her in the hallway or be enrolled in her next class kept her going.

History was the final class of the day.

MR. SLADE was scrawled, almost illegibly across the top of the chalkboard at the front of the room. The large man behind the teacher's desk smiled at Tessa, a small gray mustache curling at the ends.

The bell rang, signaling the start of class. Idle talk ceased and seats quickly filled. All desks were occupied with the exception of the one directly behind Tessa.

"Hello, class, I'm Andrew Slade. We're here to study World History," the teacher said, adjusting his tie, excitement in his voice.

The door slammed and in stumbled Randi.

"Hey, teach!" She was laughing and trying to speak at the same time. She reeked of cigarettes.

She went to the empty desk, straddling the chair like a cowboy mounting a horse.

"Hey, Randi slapped Tessa hard on the shoulder.

"Glad you could join us ... uh?" Mr. Slade was struggling to be polite.

"Randi, man. Just Randi," she said between smacks and pops of chewing gum.

Textbooks were distributed, plans outlined for the year and a colorful slide show of Mr. Slade's summer vacation to Spain presented.

The bell rang ending class. Tessa quickly turned to speak with Randi.

She wasn't there.

Randi disappeared from the classroom just as she had from the cafeteria. But this time she left something behind. Her unopened textbook lay on the desk.

Tessa was distraught about Randi. She had no manners, no sense of time, no direction.

What could she do? What would JESUS do?

Randi came and went so hurriedly over the next few days that Tessa didn't have a chance for "Hello" much less witnessing.

Thursday Mr. Slade announced a test to be administered the following day.

Moans and groans erupted but soon subsided. Pens were put to paper, brains to work.

Halfway through reviewing the material, what sounded like a train ripping through the building emanated from Randi's seemingly lifeless body. She was slumped over her desk -- sleeping.

Would Randi ever pass the test?

Test day came. Mr. Slade passed out the papers, instructed they would have forty-five minutes to complete it, then signaled to begin.

Tessa scanned the questions, a smile spreading across her face.

I know this, she thought as she began filling in answers immediately.

She felt a tap on her shoulder.

"Move your hand, man. I can't see."

Tessa turned around. Randi was straining to see her answers.

"No," she whispered, "the Bible tells you you're not to cheat."

Randi laughed, "Yeah, right," and leaned over to the desk at her left as she wound a long string of gum around her index finger.

Tessa felt good. She had made the right choice, yet she still felt a pang of sorrow in her chest for Randi.

As her classmates departed the tiny room, Tessa looked around for reassurance.

Had she done the right thing? Maybe she should have offered Randi the help she seemed to so desperately need.

"Did you need something Miss Delaney?" Mr. Slade walked between the row of desks, now in disarray.

Looking up at the teacher Tessa began to cry. She poured out her heart to this man, not expecting him to understand or care.

"Randi is new in town, Tessa," the kind old gentleman explained as he wedged himself behind a desk. "She's from Washington and is rebelling because she's had to come to our little country town."

Tessa stared into this eyes, questions filling her mind.

"I've already had a conference with her parents. They feel she needs to go through an adjustment period. I tend to agree." He patted Tessa's hand trying to diminish her pain.

"And in the meantime?"

"In the meantime try to be a friend and above all pray for her," Mr. Slade smiled.

Tessa's attitude changed. She smiled and hugged her teacher. "Thank you. I will."

On the ride home Tessa discovered her cherished gold cross necklace was missing. She had unfortunate suspicions about who had taken it. She prayed for courage. She prayed for Randi.

Monday's History class brought Randi in, one side of her head shaved, Army-style. She was all smiles, the gold cross necklace dangling from her neck. It broke Tessa's heart to have her suspicions confirmed.

"Hey, how's it hangin', man?" she asked.

"I'm fine. And you?" Tessa replied weakly.

She held up the cross and shoved it in Tessa's direction. "You wouldn't help, so I took it," she snarled, hooking her thumbs into the pockets of her baggy camouflage pants.

Tessa stayed calm. "Jesus doesn't punish people who do wrong things. Neither shall I." She smiled and added, "Please enjoy it."

Tessa was comforted by the answer the Lord had provided.

After class, Tessa gathered her books and moved toward the door, her head lowered. She was still a little disappointed that she had not been able to help a "lost" classmate.

"Wait."

Randi grabbed Tessa's hand and gently opened the fingers. She placed the cross necklace inside the palm and closed the fingers back, insuring its safety.

Tessa looked into the dark tear-filled eyes and mascara-stained face.

"Tessa, what time's church start?"

Tessa smiled, her mother's advice echoing in her head. "He will let you know when the time is right."

Now it was time.


message 31: by [deleted user] (new)

THIS OLD LADY

This old lady stared at me
Her hair a greyish-blue,
Crow's feet danced around her eyes
Where once had been my youth.

She raised a hand to her throat
Deeply spotted now with age,
And emitted a low, hungry growl
I felt was filled with rage.

She fumbled with her pajama top
That held more wrinkles than her face.
It was extremely evident that this lady
Was not growing old with grace.

She pointed a crooked finger
Gnarled and bent with time.
Taunting and teasing me
With no reason or rhyme.

As I reached to smooth the hair
That had been tousled in my dreams
This old lady did just the same
Why'd she have to be so mean?

I began to scrutinize her every move
This old lady was just like me!
She had stolen my identity
Who else could she be?

This obviously broken mirror
mimicked her sadly shaking head
Reflecting on the past is Hell
Damn, I'm going back to bed!


message 32: by [deleted user] (new)

UNCERTAIN (My self-published novel)

PROLOGUE

She knew.

She didn't know precisely how she knew but by some means she knew today would be the day.

Sitting cross-legged on the dusty attic floor she wrote, as prettily and steadily as she could with a shaky hand:

To my daughter-in-law: Here's hoping your crosses are easy to bear and your losses are few.

Stitching the paper scrap onto the front of the quilt, she stood, admiring her handiwork. As a young girl, her mother had taught her the art of quilting, just as she, in turn, had taught her own daughter. The Crosses and Losses design, made of pieced blocks in reproduction civil war era fabrics and colors, was a family tradition.

Her son was not quite near marrying age. No daughter-in-law was in sight. She knew there would be one though, in the future. The woman also knew she would not be there to see a wedding ceremony or grandbabies. No future would be hers to grasp. All was slipping quickly through her fingers.

She wanted to write more, a note of warning perhaps. However, he would be home soon.

Gathering her stained, checkered apron into damp hands, she began to descend the attic steps.

"Where the Hell's my supper, woman?" he growled. The front door slammed shut and she cringed at the familiar Thud, Thud as work boots dropped onto the hardwood floor.

Closing her sapphire-colored eyes tightly, she said a quick, silent prayer. Today was the day. In an eerie way, she welcomed the release from her world of torment. She was ready to meet her Maker. She had questions for Him.

Mere hours later, Adelia Crosse's tiny body sank silently to the bottom of Caddo Lake. The quilt in the dusty attic waited impatiently for its new owner.


CHAPTER ONE

He jerked open the scratched navy blue suitcase and slammed it onto the bed. "I just can't take it anymore, Ramona!" he yelled.

"But, Curtis, please ..."

"No, he brushed past her, taking underwear and tee shirts from dresser drawers and haphazardly tossing them in the general direction of the toiletries he had already gathered.

Lynette and Nicki quietly entered the bedroom, standing uncharacteristically close together, soaking in the scene between their mother and her new husband.

Curtis quickly noticed his stepdaughters and glared directly at Nicki, pointing a calloused finger. "That one," he yelled, "is just downright evil!"

Ramona's left hand became airborne and she smacked her husband across the cheek, the large diamond in her wedding ring leaving a ragged gash.

Raising his fingers to the injured flesh and examining the blood that now stained its tips, Curtis gasped in disgust and shook his head. Shoving his clothing and other select belongings into the worn case, he quickly fastened it. He shoved Ramona to the side in order to get around the queen-sized bed where they had shared slumber, laughter and love. Heading toward the door, he ignored the teenage girls as he rushed past.

Nicki stuck out a sneakered foot and tripped the unawares Curtis, causing him to fall. The suitcase flew from his angry grasp. An antique lamp tumbled to the hardwood floor, breaking into several pieces.

Lynette began to giggle but stopped as Ramona gave her a stern warning glance. Curtis jumped to his feet, retrieved the fallen suitcase from among the shards of glass and never looked back.

Ramona plopped down on the bed, gathering the Crosses and Losses quilt that her former mother-in-law had created, into the palms of her hands and balled the material into her fists. Biting her bottom lip, she began to sob.

Why? Why was this happening?

Ramona had met Curtis a little over a year ago. He had brought his boxer, Tyson, into her veterinary clinic, Warm Fuzzies. The dog had been vomiting, could barely hold his head up and wheezed as if he were doing a bad imitation of Darth Vader. However, it was no laughing matter.

Ramona quickly and compassionately went into motion by examining the canine and determined the he was suffering from a severe reaction to a tiny spider bite. After an injection to counteract the spider's venom, instructing Curtis on the proper care of his friend over the next forty-eight hours and scheduling a follow-up appointment, Ramona put the pair out of her mind and prepared for her next patient.

The following morning, Ramona had been pleasantly surprised to receive a small bouquet of dogwood flora in her office. The card read:

It's not just puppy love --
Curtis Mason

Ramona managed a faint smile as the memory lingered so vividly along the edges of her heart. The foliage was beautiful. The creamy white and pink plant life was gracefully compact and perfect with its crepe paper like texture, surrounded by a tiny cluster of inconspicuous yellow vegetation. Curtis later told her that the bracts, or petals, which overlapped each other called, Cloud Nine was what he had been floating on since their initial meeting.

Curtis was tall, dark and handsome. Every woman's dream. He had been a middleweight boxer in the Air Force in his younger days; winning many prizes and titles. He still worked out daily and had a physically demanding job as a supervisor on a highway construction crew. She closed her eyes and saw the muscles in his chest ripple as he made love to her. She heard his steady breathing, as he lay next to her afterward, satisfied and content. She could taste his cologne on her lips at this very moment. He belonged to her and no one else.

Where had it all gone so wrong?

Looking at her daughters, still standing silently in the doorway, reality came flooding back.

Nicki.

Nicki had always been a difficult child. About the time Ramona and Curtis had begun to date on a serious basis, Nicki seemed to have taken a turn for the worse.

Nicki missed her real father; there was no doubt in Ramona's mind about that. However, the divorce had happened when the child was only three -- ten years ago. She was surprised that Nicki even remembered the man; at least this is what she had been telling herself. He never called or sent cards or gifts. Nothing. How could her younger daughter miss someone who showed absolutely no interest? Nevertheless, that had become Ramona's excuse for being so lenient. She coddled and consoled Nicki with zero discipline. Ramona allowed her to get away with so many things -- trying to be her friend. Friendship was not working. Nicki needed a parent.

Alcohol. Marijuana. Homemade tattoos. Had she tried other drugs? Probably. In recent months, truancy and shoplifting had become hobbies as well. Nicki had gotten so angry when Curtis yelled at her for breaking curfew one early morning that she decided to break additional things -- the driver's side window in his pickup truck as well as Ramona and Curtis' bedroom window. Always managing to talk police officers out of giving her daughter other than a warning, Ramona continued to walk on eggshells wondering what was going to happen next.

Nicki's latest change pertained to fashion. She now only wore black. Black clothing, black nail polish, black lipstick. Ramona was grateful that her daughter had not dyed her beautiful, long white-blond hair any shade of black -- not yet anyway.

Then there was Lynette. Almost perfect Lynette with the pure heart and soul. How could two sisters be so different? Lynette was now seventeen. She had the cutest figure and the most affectionate personality. She was a straight A student, was on the cheerleading squad and worked as Ramona's veterinary assistant three days a week after school. Lying on various occasions to protect Nicki seemed to be her only downfall. Ramona knew Lynette did not like to see Nicki in trouble -- after all, they were blood.

Ramona looked at her eldest daughter and saw her ex-husband's features. Lynette had long chestnut-dark hair, olive skin and the most incredible hazel-green eyes. No wonder boys were calling and asking her to movies and dances. She was not interested in dating though, she was working hard to get into a good college. Ramona was proud.

Holding out her arms, Lynette rushed to her mother's side. "I'm sorry, Mama," she said, a catch in her throat.

Nicki stood her ground. She was a pillar of stone. Lynette turned and looked at her little sister, an expression of beckoning upon her face.

"That Curt, he never liked me none anyway," Nicki said defiantly, chin jutted out. "Who cares? It ain't nothin' but a thang." She strolled from the room as if she didn't have a care in the world.

Ramona pulled her older daughter close to her side and stroked her dark hair.

Lynette held her mother and rocked the woman as she fell into a troubled and fitful slumber.

Eyes flitted back and forth underneath heavy, tear-swollen eyelids. "Don't go!" a weary Ramona exclaimed in her sleep. "Don't leave me now. Please!" As she tossed and turned in every direction, bed sheets tangled around her torso.

A tumultuous hour later, the telephone rang shrilly.

"Let me talk to your mother," the caller demanded.

Ramona was shaken awake, the phone shoved to her ear and she was left alone, her voice echoing off the four walls of the small bedroom; a masculine voice filling her brain.


message 33: by [deleted user] (new)

CHAPTER TWO

Curtis had always heard of "love at first sight" but had never encountered it. At the age of forty-three, many of his friends thought it was amazing that Curtis had never married and was not paying alimony, a mortgage on two homes or child support on several children. Many of them were. It was a common sign-of-the-time.

Curtis had just never found the right woman. He had questioned himself many times in his thirties, wondering if he was just being too particular. After all, wasn't companionship just as good as love? Prince Charming, princesses and Cupid; it was all silly nonsense, right?

Then there was Ramona. He could tell by the way she handled Tyson she was a caring and loving person. She enjoyed what she did. She took actual delight in it. Her smile was infectious. She was not bad to look at either. He couldn't tell a hell of a lot from the white smock that was wrapped loosely around her figure as she worked, but it was a curvy one. He loved the way she tucked her shoulder-length blonde hair behind her delicate ears. He longed to kiss her full lips, adorned with that cinnamon-colored lipstick. No wedding ring made the whole package even sweeter.

A whirlwind romance ensued. He just had to have her. He dreamed of what it would be like waking up with her by his side every morning for the rest of his life. They laughed, they talked, and they strolled in the park.

Then he met the girls.

Curtis knew that Ramona and her first husband had divorced several years before but he had never pressed her for details. She had shown him several photographs of the girls before the "official meeting" and they looked charming and simple -- like fun, typical teenagers.

Lynette was very polite. She shook Curtis' hand and told him it was a pleasure to meet him and that her mother had seemed very happy after returning from their dates.

Nicki was a different story. She rolled her sapphire-blue eyes. She mumbled under her breath. Instead of shaking Curtis' hand she slapped him on the back and announced, "Don't boink my Mom too hard, she's gotta go to work tomorrow."

She was going to be a handful.

As Curtis flipped through the channels on the small hotel television, these thoughts seemed to fast-forward, rewind and continuously play in his mind. Over and over. What could he have done to help Nicki? To make things better? Had he done the right thing in leaving? He still loved Ramona. He had to make things right.

"Baby, we need to talk," he explained into the mouthpiece.

"Hmmm?" a drowsy Ramona muttered.

"Honey, it's me, Curtis," he said loudly. "Please listen. I'm trying."

Ramona sat up in bed, straightening her clothing and smoothing her hair, as if her husband could see her through the telephone lines. "Yes, Curt, I'm here."

"We really need to talk," Curtis said pleadingly. "I still love you but I am at my wit's end on so many things. I am at the Holiday Inn on Avenue Q. Can you come over here?"

As she sat up straighter, Ramona shook her head, trying to clear it. "Honey, I am so tired right now," she said. "In a way, I hate to do it, but maybe it wouldn't be such a bad idea if we did spend at least one night apart." Ramona sighed, mentally exhausted.

"I just don't want to get into the same old arguments, us both blow up and then our marriage be ruined forever. If we have time to think, plan and compromise, we'll be more equipped to handle things."

Curtis did not really like the idea of spending the night away from his wife, but she did have a point. Things were still very heated at home and he did not want to jump right back into the same pattern of nothing being resolved. "Okay," he said, but not very confidently.

"How about we meet in your room tomorrow after I get off work, say around 6:30?"

Nodding his head in agreement, Curtis again said, "Okay." He gave his room number, said he would be waiting for her and hung up the phone with a click. Ramona clicked off. Another extension in the house clicked off as well.

Pulling her knees up to her chest, Ramona pushed her disheveled hair behind her ears and began to smile. She felt practically giddy inside. It's going to be okay, she told herself. It's going to be just fine.


message 34: by [deleted user] (new)

Chapter Three

When she had left the girls' father, Elgin Crosse, ten years ago, Ramona had been terrified but eventually told herself: It's going to be okay. It's going to be just fine.

Leaving in the middle of the night with a three-year-old and a seven-year-old was very nerve-wracking. So many questions; very few answers. Why wasn't Daddy coming with them? Was he going to come later? Where were they going to live?

Ramona drove her old, dented, avocado-green station wagon across the darkened state of Texas until she decided she just could not drive any farther. They landed in West Texas. Lubbock, Texas to be exact. Ramona gazed sleepily at areas of flat, dry land that was dotted with cotton fields and tumbleweeds. The town did not look very alluring; however, it was now where she and the girls would call home.

Lubbock was founded as a part of the movement westward by ranchers and farmers. In 1876, the city was named after two brothers, Thomas Lubbock, a former Texas Ranger and Francis Lubbock, governor of Texas throughout the Civil War.

By the early 1890's Lubbock had begun to establish itself as a marketing center. However, with its dusty, unpaved streets, its scattered rows of tiny wooden houses, each sporting its own windmill, and an explosion of periodic dust storms, the town had little to distinguish it from scores of other rural settlements.

In October of 1909, the Santa Fe sent its first train south to Lubbock from a nearby town. Lubbock grew. Before long, banks, wholesale outlets and manufacturing plants sprang up. A newspaper was established. Churches, colleges, museums, golf courses, hospitals and an airport all helped Lubbock become more than just a small pinpoint on the map. A cosmopolitan, ever-progressive city developed. Hard to believe the bustling city, once upon a time, was considered as a treeless, desolate waste of uninhabited solitude by folk that were more "sophisticated".

The trio found a charming little rent house on 37th Street with an inviting design. The frame home, built in 1951 had twin gabled dormers with classic country looks on the outside. Inside, a central great room with a lofty ceiling and a corner fireplace formed the focal point of the home's innovative layout. The kitchen and family eating areas opened immensely livable space. Situated at the front of the house was a cozy study and formal dining room. Three bedrooms and one bath were on one side, while a master suite with a luxurious bath and ample closet space were secluded behind the garage on the other. With a few throw rugs and some lacy curtains, Ramona was positive she could make this an appealing country home, just as she had always seen in magazines, in no time.

Starting their lives anew had promised to be a difficult task, but seemed to take little effort -- in the beginning. Ramona had her veterinary skills and enough money to begin her own practice. A neighbor, little grey-headed Mackenzie Erickson offered to care for sweet Nicki during the day and Lynette was enrolled in one of the numerous elementary schools that Lubbock provided.

Ramona's clientele of dogs, cats, prairie dogs, birds and hamsters picked up rather quickly and Lynette established a close circle of friends at her new school, making the necessary adjustments happily.

Nicki, on the other hand, rapidly decided that she was determined to battle her new surroundings. Mrs. Erickson was adamant that she could no longer sit with the child due to the blonde-haired, pigtailed, angel-in-disguise insisting on the use of her antique furniture as a trampoline. The toddler reveled in eating disgusting mud pies and torturing Siamese cat Kitty Blue Eyes.

Mrs. Erickson waved a knotted handkerchief in front of her flushed face. The old wives' tale dictated it was a way to ward off evil spirits.

"I know it ain't been very long, Ramona," the woman grimaced, "but I just cain't handle that baby no more. Something's wrong with her. She's got to be tetched in the head. Please forgive me." She turned and walked briskly back into her house, slamming the screen door shut and peered skittishly out the window. Ramona stood silently on her neighbor's front lawn, holding Nicki. The mischievous tot smiled at her Mama, clapped her hands together, threw her head back and giggled energetically.

Day care centers would enroll Nicki into their programs and mere days later refund Ramona's money. Center after center explained that they did not want to be responsible for Nicki. She was unmanageable.

Ramona sought medical advice. Psychologists performed a variety of intelligence, achievement and personality tests as well as behavior inventories in order to help determine the presence of learning disabilities and attentional disorders. However, the examinations were limited for her young age and the studies rendered inconclusive. Ramona adamantly refused suggested testing for herself. She was a fine mother; Nicki was the one in a quandary.

Doctor after doctor recommended tests for a plethora of ailments. Discussions on a battery of brain scans, invasive food allergy studies and exploratory surgeries arose but Ramona always refused. "She's only three-years-old," she would say. "She's having a difficult time with our having moved; she will grow out of it." She believed her statements wholeheartedly.

It's going to be fine, just fine, she told herself again.

Looking at the red numbers on the digital clock, Ramona decided that even though it was well past nine p.m. she needed to fix something to eat for herself and her children. Groggily she walked into the living room. As she started to ask Nicki if she wanted anything, she noticed that Lynette and her best friend, Kristy Serdan were sitting on the overstuffed cream-colored couch watching television. Lynette's cat, a little black ball of fur dubbed, Magic, rubbed at the girls' feet. Nicki was sprawled on the floor halfheartedly thumbing through a popular teen magazine.

"I can't believe your Dad left," Kristy was saying. "I think he is so absolutely hot."

Nicki looked up from her magazine and suddenly hurled herself across the room, livid. She grabbed Kristy around the throat and began choking with all her might.

"He is not my Dad!" Nicki cried. "He is not my Dad!" She was a child possessed.

Lynette sat dumbfounded. She was unable to move.

Ramona sprang into action. She ran toward the melee, pulling Nicki from the horrified girl who was already beginning to turn blue around the mouth.

"Nicki! Stop!" Ramona pleaded. "Lynette, help me!"

Lynette's trance dissipated as she started pulling her sister's strong fingers from Kristy's throat. "C'mon, Nick, let go! She didn't mean it."

Dropping her arms to her side, Nicki glared at the auburn-haired, freckle-faced girl. "Don't you ever say that Curt is our Dad again or I will kick your ever-lovin' ass." Nicki did not mean this as a threat, but as a promise. Nostrils flaring, eyes glazed, Nicki stormed from the room, proceeded down the hallway and slammed her bedroom door.

Kristy coughed, gagged, and writhed on the couch in pain. She massaged her throat and gasped for air. Hot tears flowed down her cheeks. "I-I-I'm sorry," she whispered in a raspy voice, almost inaudibly. "I guess I wasn't thinking."

Everything had happened in such a rush. A blur of emotions had touched down and swept across the room only to play out in a matter of moments.

Lynette put her hand on her friend's shaking shoulder. "Mama, is it okay if I drive Kristy home?"

Ramona had escaped to the kitchen to pour a glass of cool water for her daughter's friend, unable to think of anything else to do. She reappeared and asked if Kristy was okay.

Still massaging her already bruising throat, Kristy nodded. "I just wanna go home." She took the offered glass with trembling hands, took a sip and stood slowly and cautiously to her feet. "Please, I just wanna go home," she repeated. Her head was aching from the attack.

With an arm around Kristy's slim waist, Lynette led the girl out to the garage where her red Chevy Cavalier was parked next to her mother's Tahoe. She helped the shaking teenager into the passenger seat of the Cavalier, buckling the seat belt securely.

"Be back in a little bit, Mama," Lynette waved.

Ramona walked slowly back into the house. Her heart was heavy, fearful and angry all at the same time. She needed to have a serious conversation with Nicki. She needed to understand her daughter. She needed to know why she had done this -- among so many other things.

Illegal drugs were almost certainly the problem. Nicki had so many problems. Ramona knew about the world. She had heard about the effects of drugs; disorientation, terror, hallucinations, aggression and a sense of persecution were just a few things that drifted through her mind as she trudged down the hallway. Nicki had to be on meth or cocaine or something even worse to have snapped as she did. Ramona wanted to be a compassionate mother; to help, but her rage was boiling to the surface.

Heavy metal rock music thundered from behind Nicki's bedroom door. Ramona thought she recognized Motley Crue. Knocking loudly on the rusty No Trespassing sign riddled with bullet holes, Ramona yelled at the top of her lungs, "Turn the music down!"

Grasping the knob in her hand and fully expecting a locked door, Ramona was surprised when it swung open widely. The room was a disaster. Clothing littered the floor, clean and dirty. There were magazines and CDs on the carpet, empty fast food containers, and soft drink cans in every corner, nook and cranny.

Ramona turned the stereo completely off. She put her hands over her ears to curb the ringing sensation. She shoved clothing off the twin bed and looked under the flannel blankets. She looked underneath the bed. Squinching up her nose, she wished she hadn't. Lynette's tiny kitten had sought refuge amongst its solitude. Poor Magic's fear had caused him to release his bowels. Ramona forgot the wide-eyed, trembling creature for the moment and continued her search. She looked into the closet, jumping back just in time to avoid an avalanche of books, shoes and papers that tumbled onto the floor. Ramona turned and stared into the middle of the room. She gasped when she noticed the slightly raised window, curtains flapping in the slight breeze. Nicki was gone.


message 35: by [deleted user] (new)

Chapter Four

Curtis lay on the double bed inside his hotel room, lazily flipping through the channels. He stopped at an old episode of I Love Lucy for a few moments but he did not feel like smiling, much less laughing.

Rising from the bed, he went to the bathroom mirror and looked at his face. He barely recognized the man in the reflection. Dark circles had formed under his normally bright green eyes. He salt and pepper hair seemed now to contain more salt than pepper.

He let out a long, deep sigh.

A light knock sounded at the door, startling him out of his reverie. He had been so agitated lately. He opened the door an inch and then slightly wider. She was there.

He drank her in. He was so happy to see her. He didn't think that she would come but she had.

He gently took her hands in his and pulled her into the room, quickly closing the door.

They stood and looked at each other. They absorbed each others' bodies, scents and silent longings.

She pulled him down onto the floor. They could not even wait to get to the bed. Curtis Mason kissed the object of his affections tenderly, his tongue darting seductively; caressing her warm skin. She threw her head back, the beginning sounds of satisfaction emitting from her throat. Fingers searched, groped, hunted and yearned. Undone blouse buttons released full breasts screaming for a masculine touch. Pink nipples were hard, erect and craving. Curtis answered the scream with an eager mouth. His large hands trailed down the female belly, on fire with need, down to a dark triangle of hair. She arched her back, ever so slightly, yet enticingly inviting. Manhood swelled with desire and a strange sense of pride and ownership.

"Mine," he exclaimed as he looked up into her eyes.

"Yes," she smiled as the room swirled around her.

He entered her as he had many times before and let out an animalistic howl of pleasure. The female grinned at the coupling. He was everything she had ever wanted. Ever needed. Ever found pleasure in. She pulled her hips forward and ground them into his, willing the gratification to continue further and farther. She dug her fingernails into his flesh, wrapped her long, muscular legs around his buttocks and sighed. Small trails of wetness escaped from under wistful eyelids. She held on to him and to the dream of perfection for dear life.

Afterwards, he traced her full lips with his fingertips and smiled. "I was hoping you would stop by," his eyelids droopy, softness in his gaze.

"Shhhh," she interrupted with a low, hushed whisper. Coercing him off the deep, royal blue carpet, she guided him toward the bed and made love to him once again. Passionately. Unencumbered.

When she made a move to disentangle herself from their lovemaking, he grabbed her wrist and asked her not to go. She looked down at him and patted his chest, silky with wisps of moistened hair. Gathering her purse and clothing, she ducked into the bathroom. A moment later, she emerged, even more stunning in Curtis' obsessed eyes than when she had first arrived.

She lay beside him on the rumpled, pale yellow sheets and began lazily to smoke a cigarette. Salem Lights.

"You know I don't like when you do that," he scolded.

She shrugged, blew a smoke ring that formed a perfect halo in the air above her head and then placed the cigarette into the heavy gold ashtray on the nightstand, leaving a stain of cinnamon-colored lipstick where her delicate mouth had been.


message 36: by [deleted user] (new)

Chapter Five

Kristy awoke. She felt like someone had kicked her in the head and then tossed her aside like a child's broken and unwanted toy. She knew her eyes were open but all she could see was darkness. Black. Pitch black. She tried stretching her aching muscles but could not. Something was binding her; preventing her from motion. Her brain felt so foggy.

What had happened? She could not remember.

Kristy had to shake off her fear. She knew if she didn't that she would panic and that would not help the situation. She had to be strong.

Kristy had never really considered herself a very strong person. As a child, she was the wallflower type. She was always the last one chosen for kickball team at recess. In junior high, she wrote for the school newspaper and was in the science club. Other kids considered her the typical dork. Only this year had the ugly duckling persona begun to fade. Boys had started to notice her and she was making friends with those who previously not even known her name.

However, she did not know if she could be strong throughout this ordeal. Was she dreaming? Having a nightmare?

Turning her head slightly, she could feel a coarse material draped across her left shoulder. A rope. She wiggled her slender fingers and heard the sound of scraping metal.

Handcuffs. Some type of bindings held her knees to her slight chest. She felt the urge to scream but was too overwhelmed. She had to focus on the problem at hand. The wad of material in her mouth, the texture feeling like gauze on her tongue, made it impossible for Kristy to utter anything other than small whimpering sounds anyway.

The room smelled musty and damp. Kristy could hear the wind howling outside and what sounded like thousands of people scratching on the windows and walls, their thin, bony fingers probing, craving the soul of a young, terrified teenager. The nails-on-chalkboard sounds reminded her of the time she and her older brother, Evan, had rented Dawn of the Dead, that horrible zombie movie. Her brother loved that stuff. She hated scary.

It is only tree branches, she told herself. It is only tree branches.

The way her breathing echoed off the walls, Kristy deduced that she was in a small building. The room was probably no larger than her bedroom at home and the floor was simple, hard concrete. She could hear no other sounds within the room, save for her own breathing, so she assumed she was alone.

Alone.

How long had she been here? Did anyone know she was missing? Was anyone looking for her yet?

Kristy rocked back and forth until her body weight and gravity assisted in tipping her over to her side. She scooted and inched herself from one wall to the next, an excruciatingly long and painful task. She had no sense of time. The blindfold wrapped tightly around her head provided no sense of direction. She was so drained, mentally and physically exhausted and alone. Kristy laid her head on the floor and began to sob. What had she done that had been so terribly wrong?


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