An Unexpected Visitor

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Source: Andrew Fleming Florist

Rachael stood behind the small sales cabinet; sweat beads trickled down from her brow. No customers again!

Her hands were hooked in her belt, as though she could prevent them wanting to roam.

Do something, silly!

Rachael grabbed a pair of pruning sheers. Rows of flowers needed daily care in the shop. For a week, though, business had been slow, and as Friday crept closer, she had neglected her little beauties more with each passing day.

The mundane task did little to settle her growing anxiety. Vic had insisted, “Friday, or else.”

* * * * *

Rachael turned the car down her street and saw a Buick parked in front of her house. A tightness covered her throat. Lilli should be home by now!

The lawn chair beside her screen door was occupied. Rachael let out a strangled yelp. Lilli was sitting on Vic’s leg. His smile was warm, but his eyes were focused. He didn’t need to say a thing; she knew the question, “Where’s my money?”

“Mommy!” Lilli said as Rachael stepped out of the car. “Lookie! Uncle Vic’s here! I told him all about my birthday last week.”

“Sounded expensive,” he said with a whistle.

Rachael gave a forced smile. “Hi, Vic.”

He put two hands on Lilli’s shoulders. “I saw Lilli here when she was gettin’ out of school and thought I’d give ‘er ride home instead of ‘er catchin’ tha smelly bus.”

He pinched his nose and made a duck face.

“Eww!” Lilli said. She gave an innocent giggle. “Mommy, can I watch a movie?”

“Yes, dear. I’ll get it for ya.”

Lilli jumped off his lap. Rachael passed Vic. His hand reached out and grabbed her arm. “I’ll join ya.”

His grip tightened; Rachael flinched and opened the front door.

“Here you go, baby,” Rachael said in a shrill voice once she had turned on the TV.

“Why do you sound so funny?”

“No reason, baby. Sit close to the TV, m’kay? Uncle Vic and Mommy hafta talk.”

“Okay, Mommy!”

* * * * *

Rachael walked back to the bench and unlocked the sales cabinet. Without looking, she reached into the top shelf, hand grazing filled plastic bags, and clutched an envelope labelled “TIPS.” Rachael counted, 100, 120…280. I just need $20.

Rachael placed it back inside just in time to hear the entrance bell ding.

A man in his twenties stood there, eyes wide with terror. With a sigh, Rachael dusted her apron. She knew that look. It was the same when a man walked into a lingerie store. Too many options, too many chances to mess up, it was all a little overwhelming for some. Rachael prepared herself. “Good afterno-on,” she said, voice cracking. Ugh. Great start, Rach.

“Hi,” he said, with a smile. “I hadda fight with my lady. What flower says I’m sorry but also says I want sex and cake.”

A pinkness rose in his cheeks, and Rachael smiled with triumph. Cake. Oh, thank goodness!

After some discussion, she put six long-stem roses into a box.

Rachael opened her cabinet and pulled out a bag filled with a green herb and placed it into the box under the wrapping. She smiled at the young man, and he winked back at her.

“That’s $150,” she announced.

He hesitated. “More than I expected.”

“I gave you the extra nice roses,” she admitted.

With a raised brow, the young man thought for a moment. “Better be good.”

“Guaranteed to knock her socks off,” she said.

He paid and left. With a wide smile, Rachael placed a fifty in the envelope and put the lot in her purse with a chuckle. Charged extra all week for the same product, and they all fell for it!

She grabbed one of the lilies off the shelf to take home and decided to close up shop for the day. Vic would receive this week’s and last weeks’ earnings within the hour.

We square? Good. I’m ready to stop dealing, Vic. How do I get out? Her internal monologue continued. She wouldn’t see the shadow outside at the edge of the storefront.

“Lying cunt!” she heard as a flowerpot collided with her temple.

Rachael crashed onto the pavement. Blood trickled into her eyes. Delirious, she stared at the lilies. Tiny bubbles of crimson freckled the pristine white flower until they were soaked up, turning into misshapen circles. She wanted to apologize but had no idea why, so instead, she closed her eyes and let the darkness take her.


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The Tree

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Source

Whispers and the occasional shh outside woke Charmaine from her slumber.

With a sigh, she stepped out of bed, slid on her slippers, and wrapped a robe around her tired shoulders. Wrinkled hands stared back from under the long sleeves, and Charmaine muttered under her breath.

It hadn’t always been like this. She was young once, and things had been so much better back then. There used to be a time when no one would dare trespass on her property. When did kids become so disrespectful?

The gate to her garden rattled just outside her bedroom, and she contemplated how best to punish the children. The two boys, she thought, from the squish of their shoes and the slight baritone of their voices, were becoming more brazen with every passing minute. They weren’t even trying to be quiet anymore.

The tiny thieves would learn their lesson.

Charmaine considered her options: skewered, baked, barbecued. But it all seemed like too much work now. She was no spring chicken after all, and her days of roasting children were long gone. No. She needed to teach them a lesson that all their friends would hear about. It was time they feared her again.

She threw open her balcony doors. On the garden path, just by her favorite tree, the boys stood, pockets bulging from their pilfer.

“Thieves!” Charmaine screamed.

Her voice was raspy – foil-crackled rough -, and she reminded herself to have some tea with honey later to soothe it.

The boys turned toward her, mirthful eyes changed to panic-stricken, and they began to run towards the gate.

She glared at the pair for all of a second before snapping her fingers. A puff of smoke consumed the space around them. As it faded, two toads stood where the boys had been. Clothes and gummy bears were scattered on the garden path around them.

Charmaine floated down to stand in front of them. They croaked and hopped around, unsure of how to do either. It continued until they knocked into each other and fell onto their backs. Their legs kicked and kicked, but they weren’t going anywhere.

She picked them up and walked them out onto the street.

Charmaine grumbled and thought out-loud, “I really ought to get rid of that gummy bear tree.”

“Ribbit!” they agreed.

She placed the pair on the ground and stepped away. “And stay out!” she cried.

As everyone on the street turned to look, Charmaine snapped her fingers again. The townspeople gasped as the toads transformed back into little boys, only this time minus their clothes. They both made tiny yelps, jumped, and covered their privates before running away screaming.

The crowd laughed and mocked the pair, ignoring her. She chuckled as she walked back to her manor. Maybe keeping the gummy bear tree would be a good idea, after all. That was the most fun she’d had in a while.

 

The Church – a flash

-Outside, the grey cobbles of the church belfry were lit by a faint morning sun.- (2)Moira crouched in the underbrush, sword in hand. Daylight and the horrors it brought wouldn’t stop her. If she could reach those church doors, she could end this whole thing.

Cries of the wild echoed around her, and she knew she had no time left. She sprinted  towards the church. The doors burst open as she reached them. A host of demons with a thirst for her blood rushed towards her.

Moira lifted the sword over her head and jumped to the side with a laugh, “The end.”

The last thing she saw was the rocket speeding down the path.


 

My very good writing buddy, Newshound to Novelist, has a weekly prompt pot that she hosts. It’s a lot of fun! All you have to do is write 100-words towards a prompt (usually a single word, but this week was the above quote), and link to the original post she wrote. 

Mercy Grove

I’m participating in the 13-Week Streak by Eilidh from Thain in Vain and Charlotte of Drafty Devil. I wrote this last week, but I’ve had some trouble with my dog in the past week and never got around to posting. Here’s my 2nd week entry for this awesome little event!


IMG_20170522_054502The fog was so dense this morning that Claire struggled to see. She looked back and considering the distance back to the campsite. It was an hour either way now. No point in going back.

A power transformer buzzed like an angry swarm of bugs. When did my music stop playing?

She pulled her phone out of her sleeve case and examined it. Smashed. From top to bottom. What the hell?

A light above her flickered, and for a moment she thought she could see a dark and wet streams across her arms and hands, but the moment passed.

Claire rounded the corner. The sound of a distant squeal of wheels sent a jar through her muscles.

 

“Why train so bloody early?” her sister had asked her yesterday – today?

“The marathon’s next month. I’m trying to get used to long distances,” Claire answered.

“But, really! Three in the morning? You’re insane.”

“All marathon runners are,” Claire laughed.

 

The echo of hard footsteps broke her revelry.

Claire turned around.

“Hello?” she called.

A scream from far away resounded back.

She shuddered. Just ignore it. It’s probably just a couple of pranksters.

Claire knew this path well. She had consulted many a map before she came here, making sure it would be well-lit and had little access to the main road. So when she found herself at fork and a sign with the words “Mercy Grove” painted on it, Claire was a bit surprised. She had never seen it on any map. The small cobbled footpath was surrounded on both sides by tall hedges. She glanced inside; the mist was all but gone here.

The smell of snicker-doodles and fresh-mowed grass permeated through the air. Claire was reminded of her grandmother’s house, before she passed.

She through the shrubs.

“He must have been drunk,” she heard someone whisper.

She scowled and turned.

A pair of headlights pushed through the bushes. Claire covered her eyes and braced herself.

The cacophony of squealing wheels, screams, the shattering of glass, and sirens rang across the garden. Claire’s muscles jerked; a single tear ran down her face.

“Let me at ‘im!” she thought she heard her sister scream.

She blinked. Nothing was there. The cobbled path was unblemished, but a shadow raced towards her.

With a shriek, Claire ran the opposite direction.

“Come into the light,” she heard a familiar voice whisper.

A brilliance beamed onto the path, and Claire saw a golden staircase. With a yell, she leapt at it. The shadow grabbed her foot and tried to drag her back, but she landed squarely on the stairs and held on, screaming.

The light glowed brighter until the pressure on her foot receded. With a guttural yell, the shadow faded away.

A soft, wrinkled hand touched her own and helped her up.

“Grandmother?” Claire said, blinking.

“You needn’t run ever again,” her grandmother whispered as they embraced.

Claire smiled. They walked up the golden staircase to the clouds, leaving the troubles of the earth (and the living) below.

 

The Dragon Room

I entered the Yeah Write Super Challenge #4 this year. There’s so far been 2 rounds to this event, and I’ve successfully moved forward on both rounds. I thought I might share the round 2 piece here, since I’ve been quiet the past few months. 

Group 1

Scene: An arched corridor

Event: learning a nonviolent skill

Summary: Custodial apprentice, Pip, sees his clumsiness landing him in so much trouble that he is led into the castle dungeons. Down there a room awaits him, a dragon room, filled with nothing but stone and obsidium to keep him company, and maybe a few dragon eggs.

_________________

The arched hallway of the castle dungeons was much darker than Pip had imagined. The stone path was cold and coarse beneath his bare feet.

“Wh-what are we doing down h–ow!” he asked as his toes caught on a gap, causing him to stumble forward.

His heart raced, and sweat beads formed on his pasty skin.

No one has ever entered the dungeon before and come out alive!

“This is your fault,” Gregory harrumphed. The castle caretaker and master custodian pushed his way past the young man.

Pip sighed. He knew the old man was right.

The castle halls had not been the same since Pip received the custodial assignment at this year’s Naming Day. He remembered the trials – success judged by a series of events. Turned out, his skinny frame and tiny hands were ill-suited for sword-wielding, his archery skills were non-existent, and his attempts at magicka had disastrous consequences.

He knew he was rather unremarkable in almost every way.

“Did you have to spill the king’s chamber pot on Queen Symphonia’s baby gryphon?” Gregory stopped in front of a large double door.

Pip straightened himself; tears filled his eyes, “Please, don’t lock me away.”

Gregory chuckled, “Oh, dear boy, what kind of kingdom would this be if we locked every clumsy apprentice into a cell?”

“Bu-.”

Gregory shook his head and reached for the metal rings of the door.

“We can’t have you getting clawed to death by an angry gryphon, now can we?” Gregory pulled the doors open and exposed a large chamber with oval stonework covering the floor.

Pip squinted and cocked his head to the side.

“When I was young and nervous like you, the king sent me down here to work. There is naught but stone and obsidian.”

“Nothing to break?” Pip asked nervously.

Gregory shook his head, “And no one to harm.”

He gestured Pip inside, but the frightened young man hesitated. What if it’s all a trick?

“There are no locks on the door, boy,” Gregory sighed.

Pip swallowed, nodded, and stepped forward. “What is this place?”

“The chambers of the great dragon the first king slew two hundred years ago.”

Pip followed Gregory inside and put his hand on top of one of the oval statues. “Ow- It’s hot!”

“Obsidian,” Gregory said. “It retains heat.”

“What are they supposed to be?”

“Dragon eggs,” Gregory shrugged his shoulders, “or so I’ve been told, but never mind that fairy tale.”

Gregory handed Pip a thin cloth.

“The king. He asked for you to polish these dragon eggs.”

Pip raised his eyebrows, “Really?”

The caretaker narrowed his gaze, “It took me years to master. It’s far more complicated than it sounds.”

Pip watched as Gregory showed his expert skill. The motion of his polishing was methodical and unlike polishing a table or benchtop. Pip tried to understand it, but as he followed along with the master custodian, he saw dust and dirt reform on his egg while Gregory’s remained spotless. He couldn’t ever imagine being able to match that skill.

*****

For months, Pip practiced and practiced. He languished over the eggs. With every passing day, he talked to them, sometimes without even speaking, and from time-to-time, he thought he heard them talk back. He dismissed it as nothing more than loneliness. There were often voices in the corridor outside the chamber, so it could have just as well been that which he was hearing.

One afternoon, nearly three months after his assignment began, Pip heard the familiar voices again. Two men must have been in the halls, and for the first time, he listened.

“Your brother, the king,” he heard, “he knows something.”

“Nothing that he’ll be able to stop now. The unicorn horn has already been added to his stew for tonight. He’ll be eating it within minutes,” another voice said. His hushed laugh made the hairs on Pip’s neck stand up.

Unicorn horn! But it’s poisonous. If he eats that-

Pip backed up and fell backwards with an oomph.

“What’s that?” he heard. The door slowly opened, and Pip scrambled to hide behind an egg. His hands touched the obsidian, and he cried.

Please don’t let me die!

A crack appeared across the egg. The sound of shattering glass echoed through the chamber.

The Earl stood in the doorway with a disbelieving look on his face as each of the eggs burst open. Whelplings. Hundreds of them burst forth and circled the diminutive Pip.

With a shriek, he sprinted down the halls of the dungeon, up the stairs of the castle, and into the king’s sitting room only just scrambling past the guards.

The king was lifting a spoon to his mouth. Pip screamed and dove at him.

“Unicorn horn!” he cried pushing the king’s hand.

Outside screams and a flurry of wings echoed through the castle halls. The man pushed through the dining hall door narrowly missing the fiery breath of the tiny dragons. Despite the chaos, the king remained resolute in his chair.

“This man tried to poison you,” the whelplings cried in unison. “Pip told us.”

Pip gasped at the words, at their meaning. They understood him. Every thought, every word, every emotion. The connection was real.

“Thank you, dear boy,” the king said. “You confirmed what I had already suspected and saved the kingdom.”

The little dragons swarmed into the room and surrounded Pip. The would-be assassin struggled against the strong embrace of the castle guards. The king stood up and patted Pip on the shoulder, “Oh, you unremarkable boy. You broke their sleep and have bonded with the dragons. Just as I knew you would.”

Pip squinted at the king, “Wha-?”

“You’re the third born in the third generation of dragon masters.”

The whelplings sang, “Master, protector, friend.”

Pip’s eyes grew wide, and a smile spread across his face. Their joy was his joy, and suddenly for the first time in his life, he understood his place in the world.