She cuddled beside him as the farmlands and counties clicked by outside the train window, one after the other, hour after hour, with her right hand wound around the pillow of his arm and her left draped limply in her lap. He looked at it a long time, with its plastic fingers molded in relaxed position, an ever-present reminder of the mistakes of his past. He had regrets, of course, like a marriage promise made too young and a divorce decision come too late…and the screech of tires on black ice. But even the blood and tears and changes that had come on that dark winter night almost three years past didn’t make him regret her, ever: his baby, his little girl, his life.
Today, I glanced at my notes for my potential 2013 National Novel Writing Month story, and I found this bit of free writing for Rob’s characterization. I didn’t do NaNo this year, instead focusing on other projects, but I’m not sure I want to let go of this one entirely. I like Rob and Paige, and their dynamic through the years. Maybe next time?
I certainly didn’t start out the day planning for it to happen. I didn’t even know it was happening, until I looked at what I’d wrought, and realized she was dead.
Somewhere deep down, though, I knew: it had to happen. I’d been waiting for it to happen.
That knowledge didn’t make it any easier to do. It didn’t make the squeeze of the trigger any less jerky, or the thunder of the shot any less loud. Or the pain I felt watching the once-bright light in her eyes go out any less acute.
One moment, she was there: fighting, struggling, strong. And the next, she simply…wasn’t. She wasn’t there. She wasn’t anything. She was just gone, like she’d never existed in the first.
I cried when I killed her. I honestly and truly did.
Sitting back, I had to stop. Everything. And let her have that one moment of my reflection. Because I hadn’t given her the chance to have anything else. Not the happiness she’d sought, or the love she’d desired. Not even the fleeting freedom for which she’d run and fought so hard.
I’d never killed anyone before. Not anyone who’d mattered. Flitting bystanders with no histories, random casualties of war: they didn’t make a difference. They had no stories.
This one, though. She’d had a story. A story I’d cut short, for a split-second of excitement. For the sake of mere plot.
"Acceptable losses," I called her, the next day, after I’d had the time to reflect. A phrase to describe her and her ilk, the ones I’d left soulless and smoking along the way. Because in love and war, sacrifices must be made.
I knew it was for the best. I knew it had to be done.
I’ve always thought death in stories should be warranted. Many of them are. They’re often valuable for completion of a story. But, when it came time to do the deed, myself, with one of my own…it got to me.
Let your story go where it needs to go, even if it’s someplace terrible. You may end up stronger for it. Or, you may end up realizing you’re not as nice a person as you’d always thought you were.
The wafting aroma of cooking vegetables summoned her from the door to the back kitchen, where she stopped, abruptly.
The dark outline of his form-fitting wetsuit – he seemed to live in the thing – gave the impression of him in silhouette, except for the visible shift of muscle as he traded his balance from one bare foot to the other. It created all sort of fascinating dips and rises, stealing her attention from shoulders to bum to legs…then back to bum again.
“Yummy,” she said, mostly under her breath, but he turned, that familiar roguish smile curling up.
“Want to try some?” he asked, proffering her the steaming contents of the wooden spoon in his hand.
With a delighted cringe of her shoulders, she bounced over, already holding up her hands to catch any spill. “What is it?”
“Fresh vegetable barley soup,” he said with a touch of pride.
She hummed, equally pleased. Crunchy courgette; plump mushrooms; tender, springy barley. And was that bit of saltiness…Worcestershire? “That’s good! Who made it?”
His grin dissolved. “What you mean?” he said, as his deep-set eyes went dark. “I made it!”
“No,” she said, chuckling. “Really.”
“Yes, really. It’s my mum’s recipe.” He straightened up, to look down his nose at her. “What? You think I can’t cook, just because I’m a bloke?”
“No. I don’t think you can cook because you’re a brah,” she said, exaggerating the surfer term of camaraderie with a sneer.
She scoffed. “You’re the one wearing the apron that says, ‘Will Cook for Sex.’ And you’re accusing me?”
He turned round to the stove again, grumbling, “I’ve spent the last hour and a half slaving over a hot range for you, and this is the thanks I get.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” she cooed, winding her arms about his waist.
“No, no. I’ll go replace the transmission in the car, then grab a few pints with my mates before I kill something for supper on my way home. ‘Cause, apparently, that’s all men are good for, in your world.”
Nestling her nose into the space between his shoulders, she rolled her eyes. “There’s no need to be melodramatic. I said, I was sorry.” She gave him a little squeeze, pressing herself close to him. “Your soup’s quite good. I’d like some.”
He half-turned, looking over his shoulder at her; that smile was back again. “Yeah?”
She nodded, loosing her hold only just to let him shift fully around, so they were chest-to-chest. Then, needling one finger between the Os on the apron, she snickered and said, “So, you’re good at one. What about the other?”
-photo by bonusparts-
A bit of free writing, to help myself get back into the writing/blogging sphere. And, while this isn’t exactly the right weather for it, a version of the indeed-quite-yummy vegetable barley soup mentioned in the scene above, for those of you looking for something other than my tired old relationship stories:
Maggie Finch’s Vegetable and Barley Soup
Ingredients (use fresh whenever possible!):
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup chopped onion
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 portobello mushrooms, sliced
1 zucchini/courgette, sliced
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (I like A L’Olivier’s brand)
8 cups vegetable broth (divided into 7 cups and 1 cup)
1 cup lentils, rinsed
1/2 cup pearl barley
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley or cilantro/coriander
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce (also available vegetarian)
1/2 tsp salt (to taste)
1/2 tsp black pepper (to taste)
In large saucepan, heat olive oil and add onion and garlic; sautee until translucent (3-5 minutes), stirring occasionally. Add carrots and celery; sautee until soft (~4 minutes), stirring occasionally.
Mix in 7 cups vegetable broth, mushrooms, zucchini, lentils, barley, tomato paste, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer ~1 hour or until lentils and barley are tender, but not mushy.
Blend in remaining broth, Worcestershire sauce, and salt and pepper (if you like). Simmer for another 10 minutes, then remove bay leaf and serve, with parsley or cilantro garnish. (Goes great with warm rustic bread!)
* * *
What’s nice about a meal like this is you can be rather free with the ingredient quantities. For example, I like zucchini, so I’ll chop 2 instead of just 1. Same with the barley, which my family loves: I always put in at least an extra 1/4 cup. To stretch this out a bit, there’s also no harm in adding some extra water or broth…or even a bit of leftover brisket!
As for the story scene, I suppose there are some rather serious gender issues proposed therein. But the characters didn’t seem to want to dwell on them, so I didn’t, either.
In my #Borderlands2 story (“From Hell: A Love Story”), the main characters are two men, but the supporting cast is full of women I’ve absolutely *adored* writing:
Cin, the charming and sensuous madam who runs the brothel “Cin’s Deadly Seven,” and who was based on lovely Adrienne Barbeau’s Ruthie from “Carnivale,” complete with slithering snake tattoos;
Red Widow, the cunning, discerning, and dangerous grifter who gives Axton a full-on run for his money in the sexuality and profanity departments;
Marshal Kotonou, who wears a duster and wields a shotgun as well as any man, for protection of her borderworld town (heavily inspired by Gina Torres’s Zoe from “Firefly);
and - introduced in today’s update - Lucy, the practical and sassy prostitute who has better insight into the main character’s head than he does, himself (and based on the luscious Patricia Arquette’s portrayal of Sally Wheet in “Boardwalk Empire”).
Hopefully, readers are enjoying the women in this story, too. Because, really, what’s a man without a good woman, whether she’s there to screw, fight, or be his conscience?
After watching this week’s Boardwalk Empire, I want more than ever to model this character after Patricia Arquette’s Sally Wheet. How’s this sound? :)
The woman who met him beyond the tinkling passageway came to just under his nose, her bleached-blonde tumble of curls smelling of salty toffee. She smiled unevenly at him, though through no fault of facial structure: while maybe not as perfect a specimen as Widow, she had a look of good breeding about her.
Ax wished he had a hat, just so he could tip it at her as he drawled, “Miss Lucy, I presume?”
She snickered. “It’s been a long time since anyone’s called me miss.”
Ax did his best not to accost her too much with his frame. But, in a pale dress more dangling fringe than actual cloth, and with tits and hips ample enough to strain seams, she made for a difficult obstacle to pass.
…New-U respawning makes the Vault Hunters sterile?
He and Sarah had talked about kids, once, early in their relationship. About how they were a lot of responsibility, migraines’ worth of trouble and banks’ worth of money. And, yet, about how nice it might be to watch a kid grow up, shaped by their guidance, protected from the mistakes of their pasts. The dissolution of his marriage had preempted the possibility of children long before the sterilizing side-effects of New-U cloning, but, sometimes, Axton still wondered.
Last night, I dreamed a man. Athletic, Nordic: tall, blond, squared, chiseled features. Scruffy for his faint stubble. Not overly muscled, but built to last. Also, soused to the gills, blue eyes swimming behind alcohol contacts.
He pushes me.
I push back.
Grabbing the top of his popped beer, the frothy foam spilling between my fingers, I tell him, “You do that again, I will hit you. And it will hurt.”
The soporific cloud blurring his eyes turns clear.
He says nothing, just shifts away.
We meet again later, his gaze and expression fresh, now, no longer the sloppy drunk. I don’t remember what we say, only that he sort-of smiles. One sharp eyetooth stands crooked from the rest. Watching it poke a dent into his lower lip, I smile, too.
Night. Maybe that same day, maybe days later. I’m sorting socks, of all things: knee-highed stripes, brown footies, patterned thigh-highs. I’m thinking, Which ones would he like? when I’m called to hold the camera. Why no one else can figure out how to frame a shot for a stage performance, I don’t know.
I look into the monitor, set the shot, lock the camera. A man sits down, right in my line of view.
Blond. Scruffy. Built.
"Glad you could make it," I say.
He tilts his head back and laughs, showing off that adorable crooked tooth. As though he knows that’s what will make me melt. He looks at me, blue eyes bright. And magnified a little, behind narrow-framed, horn rimmed glasses.
“No.” An indifferent shrug. That question seemed to nag at everyone else; it wasn’t the first time it had come up in conversation. “But, he doesn’t have to.”
“It doesn’t bother you?”
Again: “No.” And, again, a shrug. “They’re just words.”
“But they’re words you’re supposed to say, when you feel that way.”
A chuckle, though without mirth. “The last time he said those words were to his wife.” A quick shake of the head loosed the congealing doubts, like marbles startled in a jar. “I don’t think he’ll ever say them to anyone again.”
“What about you? Have you ever told him?”
A pause, now, to consider that: the step not taken, for both their fears. Then, another, slower shake. “It wouldn’t change anything. He’d still be who he is. We’d still be where we are.”
It was a guess. A good one, more accurate than not, come through a witting, impish smile.
It would have been nice to smile back. But it wouldn’t have been true. So, with a stilted, breaking breath, the muttered honest answer:
"Stuck" by The Heavy keeps playing in my headphones. And so this little melancholy piece. The speakers are not named, but they’re all too familiar to me, now.
When everyone stands in front of the tall gray monument, looking up at a hero frozen in time, she drops her head. He puts his arm around her, and she sighs, and mumbles something into her chest. Something like, “Thanks.”
When everyone shouts from the back of the Technical as they take a rough turn, her balance slips and she staggers, tumbling to the floor. He sweeps her up, settling her firmly into the seat beside, and she blushes rosy red, laughing, “Thanks!”
When everyone tips their glasses at the end of a long mission, she loses her liquor – literally – on the grass outside the Holy Spirits. He leans over next to her, sweeping her hair from her cheeks. After she’s done, she wipes her hand across her mouth and frowns, murmuring, “Thanks.”
When everyone gathers to watch the decorated wedding procession for Aubrey and her pirate beau, she scoffs at all the flowers and white chiffon, but he can see her hand bounce when the music starts. He asks her to dance, his tangling steps as terrible at this wedding as the last one. But she doesn’t leave him for a new partner. At the end of the night, she hugs him tight, her voice muffled against his chest as she tells him, “Thanks.”
And, on the eve of a new hunt, when everyone wanders up to their beds in pairs, and he knows he’s burned too many bridges with his too-quick mouth and his too-quicker dick to find any sympathetic companionship for the night, she comes to him, lifting him from his barstool by the arm.
She walks him home, slowly, under the stars that are always so easy to see from Sanctuary’s streets, but to which he almost never looks, for the reminder of just how insignificant he really is. It’s quiet under them tonight, though; peaceful. So, when they come to his door, he almost finds it in himself to smile, as he whispers, “Thanks-”
She cuts him off with a kiss, one that makes him stagger. But, then, he sweeps her up and hugs her tight, kicking the door closed behind them.
She laughs for a moment, then muffles it behind a bashful blush. He kisses her again, then sighs against her cheek. And, foot over foot, their limbs tangling around discarded tops and dangling bottoms, they shuffle their way to his bed, not quite making it for the convenience of his floor.
He fills her, there, as she takes him. And, she fills him as he takes her, too, rising past the boundaries of these bodies, this building, this floating fantastic city to the stretching stars beyond, where he isn’t insignificant any longer, but part of something bright and marvelous and forever. Where he’s part of her: bold, brilliant. Whole.
They lie together in silence a long while. Then, with a slow, concerted breath, she gets up, stooping a few times to collect all her things.
He doesn’t think to ask her where she’s going or why she’s dressing. He simply watches her, each replaced article of clothing like a nail pounded through the soles of his boots, keeping him to ground. Until she’s back in all her clothes and he’s still lying there, naked, on his cold living room floor.
Now, reaching for her, he does try to speak. But, again, she silences him, again, with a kiss. And, rising away from his lips, she says just one word:
A free-write piece too fanfic-y for me to post on my writing blog, too free-write-y for me to post on Fanfiction.Net, and too fun for me to never post anywhere.
Borderlands and all associated names and likenesses are property of Gearbox Software, LLC. Used here without permission.
She tilted her mouth to his ear, her words clinging and winding around his brain like sticky spider’s silk: “Get rid of him.”
Axton turned and took a single step toward Hal, who slid back a step of equal measure, still warning, “She’s controlling you. But you can fight her-”
“Get out,” Axton told him through his teeth. Taking another step, he curled his fingers into a fist, forcing his arm to stay at his side. Don’t go for the gun, he thought. Don’t go for the gun-
“Axton,” Hal began.
Widow followed a beat after, the threatening prompt of her voice thumping with his blood: “Axton.”
“Get out!” Axton shouted, and he lunged at Hal, fist leading the way.
Hal sidestepped, hair flapping. Squaring his shoulders, he turned on his side, to make a smaller target. But Axton was faster, knew the tricks, and grabbed Hal by the front of his jacket, yanking him in for a sharp knee to the gut.
Hal doubled over but didn’t drop. Axton felt something hard – a fist – slam into his belly. Hearing himself grunt, he fought again against his survival instinct.
-not the gun not the gun not the gun-
An “action” scene from my latest venture. I’m trying hard to make these better with each permutation of my writing. There’s more, of course, but that would be spoiling things, wouldn’t it?
For those of you who write action, care to share your thoughts? Tips? Critique? I’m open to suggestions!
I’m taking part in The Dude Hates Cancer bowling tournament on Sept. 21. We’re raising funds for leukemia and lymphoma research, a fight close to me, personally, as my dad was just recently diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, and is currently undergoing treatment.
Her kiss tastes like bubblegum, a sharp sweetness on his tongue that reminds him, of all things, of days on Hieronymus, working under a beating sun, with the smell of swaying grain in his nostrils. A simpler time of chores and girls and daydreams. When the only pain he knew was the pure kind: sore muscles after a day in the fields, maybe a twist of an arm or leg after some rough play with the other work hands.
He likes the taste of her, laps it up with lazy delight, but feels a strange pang in his gut for it all the same. He doesn’t know why – at least, that’s what he tells himself – but it doesn’t really matter. She’s soft and eager, and she squirms in his lap just the right way to make him feel a man again, instead of the names he hears in his head when the ECHO goes off: child-killer, murderer, bandit, dick.
Because I don’t have enough to do, I’m thinking of joining NaNoWriMo again this year, after this bit of narration got stuck in my head:
When I was six years old, my dad was sent to Afghanistan. While he was there, he fell in love. You can imagine, this totally didn’t thrill my mom, who divorced him before he even came home. I think she could’ve dealt with it or forgiven him or whatever if he’d just been with a local girl, or had a soft spot for a grieving widow or something. But when she found out my dad had fallen in love with his mechanic, and his name was Harald…. Well. You know. That was that.
I’ve no idea where I’ll go with this, if I go with this, if I can even build a story around this. But, it feels good to write again, with the kind of freedom I’ve missed for a long time.
As a pleasure pair, they’re long past sheathes and platitudes. Instead, there’s only this, the glorious flow and feel of their bodies flushing hot with friction, effort, and passion. - from my short story, “The Fix”
It’s dangerous, but I can’t stop writing these two. There’s just…something about them I adore. They are ugly and beautiful at the same time, full of shame, power, freedom, and - I admit it - love. A kind of love never spoken but known nevertheless. We should all be so lucky.
Upon hearing she cannot get the duck she “loves” so dearly, daughter asks father why he is “so mean.” Now, husband’s reasoning was valid: daughter is four years old, and, in a week, she’ll be in love with something else, said precious duck long forgotten. Still, he did not need to reply to this impressionable child, “Because I’m your dad. And we’re all just bitter bastards like that.”
I believe everyone comes to the pivotal moments of their life, alone. Each of us is the only person who truly knows exactly who we are. We have no control over that moment of change. We can’t stop it, or go back in time and prevent it. Anything that happens after that, though? We *do* have some control over that. We can choose to share life, whether it’s destined to be full of happiness and health or sorrow and pain. But, we have to make that choice. Saints aside, love won’t come, unwelcomed. If the lonely, angry man doesn’t make room in his heart for forgiveness, he’ll die the same way he lived: angry, and alone. But, that choice is personal to every one. If he makes the decision to stay a dick, well, c’est la vie.