Rainy Day Recruit | A Short Story

A scrawny rat, eating Raisinets out of a crumbled yellow box in the dark alleyway, freezes when two thin blurry shapes blink into existence. The shapes flicker and wobble, slowly changing from straight fuzzy lines to the round full shapes of two women. With a squeak, the rat scurries along the brick wall and disappears behind an overflowing green dumpster.

Despite one being damp and the other smelling of rot, the two women remain untouched by the wall of icy cold rain falling heavily between the large brick buildings. In fact, the water seems to bend around them, creating an invisible umbrella-shaped shield. Neither of the women seems in a particular hurry to move.

“Kind of a shit-hole,” the tall one, named Tulsi, says as a damp unlit cigarette bobs between her bright purple lips.

Skeletal thin with slick white hair perpetually damp with sweat, Tulsi has sharp cheekbones and an even sharper chin. She wears dozens of clinking silver bracelets and bright purple track shoes. Her nose constantly sniffs the air and she has large front teeth, making her appear slightly like a rabbit.

“Didn’t choose it, did I?” the short one named Borage says in a slow, lazy voice before lobbing a glob of foamy spit into an oily puddle.

A woman of large fleshy proportions, Borage wears a billowy blue dress made of an aquatic-looking textile with moldy black stains along the uneven hem. She’s got long, tangly brown hair parted into dozens of tiny braids tied off with fraying pieces of multi-colored string. Thick droopy bags sit heavy beneath her milky grey eyes.

Neither of the women has been to this realm before, but it’s kind of the job. You go where you are told, traveling with the water, landing at a time and place perfect for collecting the next recruit. It’s a job neither of them loves or hates. It’s simply the job they have.

Tulsi reaches out her hand so the rain splatters on her long, curving purple fingernails. She’s thinking about the last few jobs and how much they fucked it up losing the recruits and almost getting seen. This time, she tells herself, she’s gonna pay attention and not let anything distract her. Lady Devlynd won’t give them any more chances. Borage stares at a fat silver watch on her left wrist and seems to be thinking the same thing.

“Our recruit will be here soon. Pull your hand back and be ready.”

With a hiss, Tulsi slams her arm to her side. She hates being told what to do, especially by her inept partner. They are equals after all, despite how bossy Borage has become lately. How long have they worked this job together? It’s been at least 52 cycles, perhaps more. Time doesn’t matter in this job. Collection is key. Completion is key. Colors are key.

Tulsi runs her hands down the length of her slender body, touching the living art hanging from her shoulders. Lilac, plum, violet, periwinkle, eggplant, grape, amethyst, iris, orchid, mulberry, wine. She collects shades of purple everywhere adding them as patches to her long, slick overcoat. Maybe she’ll find a new one tonight.

“Don’t even think about it.”

Reading her partners mind, Borage stamps her thick black boot hard onto the slick pavement and summons up the harshest scowl she can manage. She doesn’t like being stern, but one of them has to start leading. They can’t afford another fuck up.

Tulsi sticks out her tongue in response. They have the kind of deep understanding grown from time spent together, but it doesn’t mean they like each other. It’s all become so tiresome.

Borage touches the bulging leather sack tied around her wide waist with one finger before quickly pulling it away. She does understand. She’d much rather sweep through this uncharted world looking for wildlife to add to her etched bone collection instead of convincing yet another young recruit to come with them. They promised Lady Devlynd though—no gallivanting or wanton side missions tonight. This one is important.

Borage is about to ask Tulsi what the boy looks like again when a skinny teenager comes around the corner dressed in a dark black hoodie pulled up over his head. He’s got colors dripping from his hands and a backpack filled with spray cans. He’s already working.

“Hey kid,” Tulsi says. “Where ya going in such a hurry?”

His bright blue eyes snap toward them and widen. Instantly he can tell they aren’t cops, but a gut instinct says they might be something far more dangerous. He should never have come to Las Vegas, this wholesale freak show of a town.

“What do you want?”

He’s got a slight English accent and his voice sounds raspy, as if he’s fighting off a cold. The street lamp at the end of the alleyway lights up his face, revealing a thick silver septum ring and a tattoo of a green leaf on his left cheek. It’s definitely him.

The women exchange a confirming look and the boy steps backward until his backpack hits the brick wall behind him, making the metal cans inside clink loudly together. He’s got nothing left to steal, but he’s still scared. People find things to take even when you’ve got nothing left to give.

“We need you to come with us, kiddo. Don’t be scared.”

It’s the tall one speaking and she’s got the kind of fidgety energy the boy associates with drug users. Neither of the women moves toward him but he feels like they could be quick if they wanted to. He doesn’t intend to be a part of whatever they are selling.

“I’m not interested, ladies. My dad’s waiting for me and he’s not happy if I’m late.”

He presses harder into the wall behind him and realizes the rain isn’t falling on the women but instead arches over them like a watery rainbow. It must be some kind of trick to lure him in, but it doesn’t really make any sense. The larger of the women thrusts her hand into the rain and twists it in a circle. He finds himself unable to move.

“Ulrich, dear. We know you don’t have any family.”

Her voice is honey-thick and slow. He doesn’t like it.

“How…how do you know my name? Who are you?”

Smiling wide, she exposes a mouth full of brown teeth and bright red gums. In her thick hand is an orb of flickering water glowing as if lit from within. He stares into it and memories wriggle forth in waves. The ground tilts and rumbles beneath him as emotions take hold in terrifyingly rapid succession.

His mother is standing at the boarding gate with a small brown suitcase in her hand. He’s crying with his tiny fists clenched at his side. The adults are using words like radiology, chemotherapy, and metastasized, but he’s thinking only of burying his nose into his mother’s soft red curls and breathing in her rosemary and mint smell. Don’t go, mother. Please don’t leave me.

He’s drawing with crayons in a yellow kitchen crowded with hundreds of empty plates from his mother’s funeral. Her midwest family sent for him to come across the ocean, but they don’t want him. He hears them talking about foster care and youth shelters in the other room using words like burden, stupid, and troubled. He wishes the floor would swallow him.

A puffy-faced man hits him with a slender black leather belt in front of a room of other children all trying hard to not make eye contact with each other. He’s yelling words like idiot, moron, and useless as spit flies from his cracked lips. When it’s over, Ulrich packs up the few art supplies he’s managed to steal into his old backpack and runs away into the rainy night.

The orb of water falls to the ground with a tiny pop and flows instantly into a nearby puddle containing an old sneaker and a green tennis ball with a gaping hole in the side. Ulrich looks at the faces of the two women, screams, and runs from the alley. A streak of bright white flashes across the sky followed by the crashing sound of thunder.

“Shit,” Tulsi says.

Borage frowns.

“Go after him. I’ll be right behind you.”

The women are forbidden from entering buildings or interacting with creatures not being collected, so it makes it complicated when they run. Sometimes the memory bubbles are so intense the recruit falls to the ground sobbing and other times they choose this route. Borage hates the fleeing ones.

Lucky for them, this one isn’t hard to find. Tulsi follows his loud echoey sobs in the night, weaving through several blocks of dingy, greasy buildings until she locates the scared boy. His knees are pulled up to his chest and his back is pressed against an old rusted car at the end of a narrow lot. Weeds poke up through the cracks and it smells of gasoline and lighter fluid. The boy doesn’t notice when Tulsi arrives and stands quietly beside him.

It’s a long time before Borage finds them and she’s shocked to see both the boy and her partner crying wildly. She coughs and Tulsi lifts her eyes, pulls out a light purple handkerchief from her jacket pocket, and blows her nose loudly.

“What are you crying for? You’re not supposed to cry!”

“I hate when they are sad like this. This one’s had a hard time.”

They aren’t supposed to show emotion, but Borage puts a hand on her colleague’s boney shoulder and gives it a light squeeze. It’s hard to not feel for these recruits, these lost souls who Lady Devlynd will use to fuel her power. It’s a better life working for her, yes, but it’s not great. It’s not free.

“What do you want with me?”

The boy’s voice sounds deflated and his eyes are red and puffy. Rain pours in sheets upon him and Borage presses closer until her shield covers him as well. He wipes at his eyes with his wet sleeves.

“We’ve come to take you away from here. Where we come from we need people like you—artists. We need your vision, your artistic skills, and your colors.”

Tulsi sniffs loudly and hiccups. She hands the boy the slightly used handkerchief and he takes it. In a soft low voice, she adds, “We need your pain too.”

They aren’t supposed to say this part, but it doesn’t matter because the boy doesn’t seem to understand what’s going on. She can tell he’s going to come with them by the way he’s moved a bit closer. She wishes they had other options, but they do not.

If they don’t deliver the boy to Lady Devlynd they will be cast back out into the blackness. It’s their last chance to prove themselves useful and neither she nor Tulsi wants to return to living without colors or feelings. She pinches her arm as hard as she can to avoid drowning in the memory of the blackness. She can’t go back.

Lobbing a wad of spit onto the ground, she touches her leather pouch and attempts to push away the swelling of emotions infecting her from being this close to the boy. They aren’t supposed to let the recruits’ emotions penetrate and soak through them, but tendrils of his pain snake through her layers like tiny spikes. Shit.

Although it’s not allowed and it’s a very bad idea, she can’t help herself. He’s so sad. She has to help just a little. A tiny bit can’t hurt.

Opening the leather pouch she pulls out a bone of a small absorbent animal from her original home—a water creature like her. She spits on the t-shaped white porous surface and spins it through her fingers three times before touching it to the forehead of the crying boy. Tulsi gasps.

“No!”

Borage doesn’t respond. The bone burns red hot in her hand changing colors as it takes the sadness into itself—moving from light sky blue to the deep color of the bottom of the oceans of her home world. Tulsi grabs her shoulders and shakes her violently. Her head snaps back and forth.

“Stop! Please, Borage! Stop!”

She jerks the bone from the boy’s forehead and thrusts it back into her pouch, tying it closed instantly. The boy’s face has changed and she wonders if she took too much pain because he’s smiling. He’s got two perfect dimples in his soft cheeks. Shit, again.

Tulsi steps forward and grabs the boy’s hand, pulling him to his feet. He seems far sturdier than before. She plucks “Purple Rain” off his shirt and slides it into an empty spot on her jacket with a satisfying smile. Borage shouldn’t get all the fun.

“Time to go,” the big woman says.

The boy leaps at Borage and hugs her tightly around her middle. She feels his warm face press against her fleshy body and suddenly it’s all worth it. Even if she took too much and she’s cast out into the blackness—this moment is worth it. Feelings flood her and she does nothing to stop them.

With the boy holding hands between them, Tulsi casts the portal into the rain, and all three step through and disappear into the night. They leave behind a tiny puddle on the ground and a purple bud.

Author’s note: For my final story of the year I wanted to write a take on the classic henchmen story only turning them into women. It started out as a character piece and somehow drifted to being about a lot of things—52 stories, beginnings, endings, feelings, and connections. I love this little story and I’m so proud of how far I’ve come in this year of writing. I want to thank every single person who has given me a like or a comment. I’ll be writing a complete wrap-up sometime next week where I’ll tally up the number of words I wrote, how many comments/likes received, and the lessons I’ve learned. It’s been a wild ride and it makes me very excited for 2023. Happy New Year!


Short Story Challenge | Week 52

Each week the short stories are based on a prompt from the book “Write the Story” by Piccadilly, Inc. This week’s prompt was to write a story about being caught in the rain. We had to include the words Las Vegas, radiology, etch, funeral, textile, sweep, wholesale, wildlife and English.


My 52-Week Challenge Journey

Poetry: Bath

I’m an island jutting
out—warm fleshy curves
dotted by bright sparkling
water drops. Sinking beneath

calm seas, breath moves 
as rhythmic ocean waves
I control. My hand
twists through dark, tangled

seaweed while steady drums
beat, beat, beat—soundtrack
of me. Moonlit skies
fill with phoenix song

promising protection from sea
monsters pressing sharp claws
into soft skin. Foggy
dreams dance with wild

wind, whispering gentle truths
sometimes forgotten. I’m an
island jutting out—carving
a place my own.

Photography: Rainy Day

“Let the rain kiss you. Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops. Let the rain sing you a lullaby.”-Langston Hughes

It’s the last week of the year and I’m spending it reflecting, journaling, and making goals for the new year. It’s important to keep growing and striving to be the best version of ourselves. For me, it means writing more, having a better self-care routine, and spending time with my family.

In the spirit of beauty and growth, I’d like you to join me for a small photo journey into my backyard during a pause in the pouring rain this morning. I hope you enjoy these images and are staying warm. Happy New Year!


  • Photos were taken with an Olympus OM-D and edited with ON1 Photo RAW

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Christmas Eve in the Graveyard | A Short Story

Sebastian doesn’t mind the dead. He’s lived his entire life surrounded by towering stone tombs, crumbling brick walls, and iron fencing. It’s the living he has a harder time with.

He let Tim and Matthew leave early, to be with their families, and microwaved himself a slice of cold pizza. It’s best to do this ritual alone anyway. He’s not sure the others take the responsibility as seriously as he does and they talk too much. Sebastian prefers the silence of the night.

After pouring raspberry tea into a dark green thermos, he wraps his red woolen scarf around his neck, buttons his peacoat, and leaves his little stone cottage on the edge of the graveyard. He doesn’t bother locking the door. Nobody comes around after dark on Christmas Eve.

The tiny twinkling lights of his small decorated tree can be seen through the yellow frosted window, it makes him smile. Mother would be proud he’s carried on her traditions. He hoists the big burlap sack onto his shoulder and gives a nod to the glowing, full moon casting its light in rings through the thick grey fog.

Although it makes sense to start in the center of the graveyard and weave himself out like his mother taught him, he makes a quick detour to her grave. It sits in the furthest south corner under a sprawling oak tree draped in soft Spanish moss. The silvery strands of garland look like flowing water in the moonlight—ancient silken gowns.

Setting the bag on the damp grass, he unties the brown twine holding it closed. Gently, he pulls out a small pine tree clipping tied with a soft red satin ribbon—the prettiest piece for mother. Kissing it softly, he places it on the curling carved letters spelling out her name. Margery Higgins.

“Merry Christmas, mother.”

His voice sounds soft in the night and it brings with it a memory of her singing “Thankful Heart” while cooking split pea soup on the old gas stove. She’s got her bright red hair pulled back into a massive curly bun at the base of her neck, and she’s wearing an old tattered apron covered in stains. Her voice manages to be both soft and strong—exactly like her.

“With a thankful heart that is wide awake
I do make this promise every breath I take
Will be used now to sing your praise…”

Wiping at his eyes, he closes the bag and weaves his way to the large mausoleum in the exact center of the dense city of the dead. Passing hundreds of stone crosses, carved marble angels, and granite slabs, he at last arrives at a crumbling plaster tomb carved with over 50 names. Reading each one quietly to himself he holds within his heart a space of honor and love.

After he’s finished he opens the bag and places a large pine branch across the names. His fingers brush a soft patch of moss pushing through a splintering crack in the gravestone. He whispers into the night.

“Merry Christmas.”

Repeating this process he makes his way through his workplace and home, one of the oldest cemeteries in New Orleans. He takes his role as caretaker seriously. Around hour three his back feels tight and he stops to take a drink of his hot tea. Silence spreads around him in all directions, thick and cold.

A feeling wiggles its way through his layers and lands heavily in his chest. He’s running out of time to find her. He turned 40 a few months ago and although he’s told himself he’s fine on his own, visions of a woman walking beside him continue to haunt his dreams.

She’s got soft eyes and bright pink cheeks. They’d make the cottage a home again, filling it with music and laughter. He’d teach her how to honor those forgotten and she’d tell him nothing is impossible with love. The thought makes him smile, but it quickly becomes a frown. It’s too late. He’s out of time. He missed his chance.

A part of him wants to fall onto the ground and sob at the thought of spending another Christmas alone. His mother died 10 years ago and he’s tried so hard to remain hopeful, but loneliness presses in on him from all sides. Its crushing weight makes him stumble and almost fall.

He looks at the night sky, hoping for a sign, a bright star peeking through the foggy gloom or the call of a night heron signaling change, but the misty darkness remains still and silent. Sebastian wipes tears from his eyes and takes a big sip of tea, letting the warmth fight against the paralyzing fear which has settled firmly in his gut.

Flipping open his grandfather’s golden pocketwatch he confirms what he already knew, its almost midnight. He sighs. He better get to it if he hopes to finish before the first rays of morning light peak over the horizon and burn off the thick fog. Love must be given first in order to receive it. He tucks the thermos back into his pocket and continues.

Lost in his rhythm of reading names and leaving a pine offering on each grave, Sebastian doesn’t see the woman until he almost bumps into her. A thick scent of vinegar and roses fills the air and he clears his throat to announce his presence. She responds by turning slowly toward him with a graceful, smooth movement reminding him of a swan or crane.

Dressed in layers of smoky grey and black clothing, the plump woman has thick silver ringlets peeking out from beneath a dark, lacy bonnet. The word “matriarch” comes to mind. Her eyes are cloudy but contain a hint of blue—hydrangeas in autumn when the color has almost fully drained. 

She’s holding a white handkerchief covered in tiny pink embroidered butterflies. Sebastian finds his voice but it sounds shaky and small in the night. Almost a whisper.

“I’m sorry if I startled you. Not many people visit graves in the middle of the night.”

She doesn’t look startled and it’s a lame apology. He’s not sure he should be giving her one anyway. People aren’t allowed in the cemetery after sunset and he wonders if perhaps Tim forgot to lock the front gate. It wouldn’t be the first time.

The woman makes a small movement, a sort of slight wave, and the handkerchief blows from her hand and lands at his feet. Sebastian lifts it and gently shakes out a few dried leaves which instantly clung to the feathery soft piece of cloth. He hands it to her and she smiles.

“Thank you, dear.”

Her voice sounds rumbly—a snare drum in the night. He knows he should tell her to leave, but the softness of her eyes stops him. It’s Christmas, a time of magic and love. She must miss the person she’s visiting an awful lot to risk catching a cold or getting caught. 

He gives her his best reassuring smile. She’s standing at the foot of one of the oldest graves, a tiny brick house covered in cracks and adorned with a simple marble vase he sometimes fills with flowers. She speaks in a scratchy, dry voice—an old voice.

“I called him Benny and he called me Etta. In our 50 years together we never spent a Christmas apart. When love burrows its way deep into your heart nothing can stop you from finding each other again and again. My home is with him…always.”

The old woman smiles at Sebastian and reaches out her hand. It doesn’t quite reach him. Her voice rumbles louder now—cracking like weak thunder.

“You know what I mean, don’t you dear?”

Sebastian looks at his feet and nods. He doesn’t know the kind of love she’s talking about, but he wants to. The painful sensation of time slipping away vibrates through his body ringing like a brass bell. Where is she? Why can’t he find her? He presses the toe of his boot into the ground, making a round hole in the soft dirt.

The woman doesn’t move but, somehow, suddenly feels closer. Her eyes meet his and a rush of wind blows around them filling the air with swirling bits of dirt and dust. Sebastian closes his eyes and the woman speaks directly into his ear—a cold breath sending shivers through his body.

“It’s never too late for love. Don’t give up hope. She will find you. Keep your heart open. Magic happens for those who love and care for others like you do. Oh, dear, sweet, Sebastian. Don’t. Give. Up.”

In an instant, all is quiet and still again. Sebastian opens his eyes and isn’t entirely surprised to find he’s alone. Pulling out a small sprig of pine with tiny blueberries, he places it across the names Benedict Murray and Henrietta Murray—Benny and Etta. He smiles.

“Merry Christmas, Etta. I won’t give up.”

Throwing the burlap sack back onto his shoulder he moves to the next gravesite. This time he sings a little song.

“Stop and look around you
The glory that you see
Is born again each day
Don’t let it slip away
How precious life can be.”

Author’s note: With Christmas upon us, I wanted to write something sweet and hopefully touching for those reading during such a festive time. I hope you enjoyed my little ghost story and if you are feeling blue this time of year, please don’t give up. Keep being the loving beautiful soul you are and things will get better. Thank you for supporting me and lifting me up with all your wonderful comments on each of my stories. May your holidays be merry and bright!


Short Story Challenge | Week 51

Each week the short stories are based on a prompt from the book “Write the Story” by Piccadilly, Inc. This week’s prompt was to write a story where magic interferes in New Orleans. We had to include the words matriarch, throat, impossible, vinegar, apology, snare, choose, raspberry, microwave, and slice.


Write With Us

Prompt: Caught in the rain
Include: Las Vegas, radiology, etch, funeral, textile, sweep, wholesale, wildlife and English


My 52-Week Challenge Journey

Poetry: Grandma Kate

I was far too small 
to reach the dusty glass 
jars stacked on the wooden 
shelves of your garage. I’d
skate by wondering what orange

or yellow or green meant
and if you’d teach me
your secrets. I outgrew wanting
to know before your mind
forgot all the things—including 

me. It’s been 17 years 
since you left without meeting
your great-grandchildren and now
I wonder if my persimmon
jam would fit beside yours.


Photography: Sutter Street

“And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us!’’ -Charles Dickens

The pressure we mothers place on ourselves during the holidays is remarkable. In our desire to create magical memories, we take on so much responsibility. It’s often too much and we lose the magic ourselves. If you need a reminder today, here it is—you’ve done enough. It’s okay to stop now and enjoy yourself. You did your best and it’s wonderful.

This year got away from me and I did all my shopping yesterday. I set the intention of being peaceful and it made all the difference. Not only did I get plenty of things my teens are going to love, but I had some great conversations in line. My day ended with homemade chocolate chip cookies made by my daughter and her best friend (see the bonus photo at the end of the blog) and a trip to photograph Sutter Street in Folsom. What a beautiful day!

Please enjoy these holiday photos and consider them my Christmas card this year. May your days be merry and bright!


  • Photos were taken with an Olympus OM-D and edited with ON1 Photo RAW

Bonus cookie photo taken with my iPhone 13. Teenagers can be pretty amazing.


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Emerald Shoes | A Short Story

“supreme moon—
librate broken hearts
trapped in adolescence

fertile mourning fields
divine cooling light
deliver them to Freya”
-unknown poet

The rhythmic sound of my cell phone buzzing on my nightstand wakes me. I try to cling to the warmth of my dream, an image of a roaring fireplace in a cozy log cabin, but it fades away. The buzzing continues. I roll onto my side, unplug my phone and see Carly’s smiling face. It’s 3 a.m.

“Hello?”

For a few seconds, she doesn’t say anything and it’s enough to allow my brain to flash through an assortment of macabre images of blood and death. I haven’t heard from her in over 6 months and a lot could have happened.

Fully awake now, I sit up in the dark room listening hard. My body feels fidgety and strange.

Carly’s breathing heavy and I have a new terrible thought—maybe she didn’t mean to call me at all. Music plays in the background, a deep pulsing bass, and my heart matches it. When she finally speaks it’s in a small, distant voice I barely recognize.

“Do you remember how you always wanted emerald shoes?”

Of course I do. When I was small my mother read the story of the Wizard of Oz to me and I pictured Dorothy’s shoes as sparkling green and wanted an exact pair. I cried when I saw they were red in the movie. Carly’s the only person I told the story to—the only one I trust with embarrassing details of my childhood.

Why is Carly calling me? Our last conversation was strange and filled with too many pauses—too many things unsaid. Now, she’s calling in the middle of the night with a question I can’t help but read more into. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.

My body tenses as I lean over and switch on the lamp. I keep my voice as neutral as I can, but I know it sounds shaky. I grab a handful of blankets and twist them in my left hand.

“Are you okay?”

Carly laughs. It’s a lousy attempt at sounding casual. If Jonas hurt her, I’ll kill him. I shouldn’t have let her go.

“I’m fine.”

I don’t believe her. The last time I saw her was over a year ago, the day before she moved. Jonas had spent months chipping away at my best friend, carving out pieces of her he didn’t like and replacing them with religious doctrine. When she left I barely recognized her anymore, and I wonder how much of her is left.

“Where are you?”

“I’m in Vegas and I saw them—the emerald shoes. A dancer had a shiny pair and I thought…exactly like Harriet dreamed…exactly…”

Her voice fades out. None of this makes sense. Jonas controls everything she does and its way out of character for him to take her to Vegas. The alarm bells turn into sirens and I feel my body shiver at the thought of Carly alone in such a big city. I can’t come up with a single scenario in my head to make sense of any of this.

“Vegas! Why are you in Vegas? Where’s Jonas? Are you sure you’re okay?”

She ignores my questions and speaks in the same distant voice.

“The shoes are so pretty, Harriet. You’d love them.”

Jumping out of bed I pace across my faded yellow rug. Carly, my Carly, is calling me and talking about emerald shoes. The wall built around my heart to protect myself cracks slightly and I reinforce it immediately by reminding myself she’s gone. She chose Jonas. She left.

Vegas. The world of casinos, excessive drinking, Elvis impersonators, and drive-up wedding chapels. Wedding chapels. I fall onto the bed and close my eyes. Hardening my voice, I speak again.

“Why are you calling me Carly? It’s the middle of the night and you haven’t called me in a long, long time.  What are you doing in Vegas?”

She sniffles and I realize she’s crying. Why is my Carly crying? I want to run to her and save her…but no.

“The shoes, Harriet. I saw them and I…well…I thought of you. I always wanted to find a pair for you, but I never did.”

I’m crying now, scared for her. All the old feelings I thought I’d cleared away bubble inside me. The more I talk to her the greater the intensity. My voice floats to the ceiling and circles above me like a ghostly shadow. Carly speaks again and I picture her face. I don’t want to. It’s too painful.

“I…I just wanted you to know I was thinking of you.”

I think about you all the time, but you left me, Carly! You left me! The words dart and stab at me long after she hangs up. I try to call her back but it goes to voicemail. I roll into a ball and cry until my alarm goes off.

On the drive to work, everything is Carly and I slam my fists into the steering wheel in frustration. I’d finally stopped looking at her photos and had started healing. Now one phone call and our history waves at me from every car and window. Everything is Carly.

We met freshman year in English class and bonded over our love of Edgar Allen Poe. She drew a raven on my hand and I couldn’t stop staring at her green eyes. By the end of the first day, I knew how to make her laugh and did it as much as possible. My world became wrapped up in all things Carly.

It wasn’t until our junior year I realized my feelings were more than they should be for a friend, but it felt too late. I watched her date an assortment of guys, each eventually breaking her heart. I’d run my fingers through her coppery curls as she lay across my lap until the pain of the loss wasn’t so big.

At some point, it felt like a betrayal to tell her how I really felt. I wondered if she’d think I was only being nice to her because I wanted her for myself, like all the guys she dated. So, I stayed quiet. Even after we graduated and she met Jonas. Even when she told me she was moving away. I couldn’t tell her. I just couldn’t.

Pulling into the parking lot at work, I wipe my eyes and blow my nose. I tuck my thick brown hair back in a bun and apply some mascara and lip gloss. It’s the best I can do today.

I still can’t believe I get to work at the independent bookstore in town. It’s my dream job and I love everything about it. Walking in the door the smell of the books distracts me and by the time I reach the back counter my heart isn’t screaming Carly anymore. It’s more like a whisper.

“Hi, Harriet.”

Trudi’s standing beside the espresso machine, smiling at me. Her curly blonde hair is braided today so it looks like a crown on the top of her head. Her lips are glossy and pink.

My legs freeze up for a moment, and a traffic jam inside my brain slows everything until I’m stiff and awkward. I’m smiling too big. I’m blushing. Her eyes are green and gold—sunset filtered through sweeping willow tree branches. I get so weird around her. I don’t know what to do with my hands.

“Would you like a peppermint tea?”

I nod, insecurity reducing me to a caveman. Don’t grunt or scratch yourself, Harriet. Take a deep breath. She likes you.

For months we’ve been flirting with each other, but I don’t trust it. What if she isn’t really into me, but just friendly? I don’t want to chase another Carly for years only to end up heartbroken and alone. I wish I could be sure.

Trudi fills one of the white mugs with hot water and adds two tea bags and a bit of honey. She’s wearing a silver ring on her right index finger with an oval piece of labradorite. I pull my necklace out of my sweater and wonder if she’s noticed we wear the same stone.

“Hey, I want to ask you something.”

Her voice is light and airy—no hint of nerves. She places the steaming mug on the counter in front of me and leans on her elbows. I try to look casual, but I’m shaking. I grab the mug with both hands and stare intently at the light brown water.

“My brother and some friends are throwing a ‘Save the Environment’ party on the rooftop of their apartment tonight and I wondered if you wanted to come with me?”

Carly. It’s the first thing I think and I hate myself for it. If Trudi would have asked me out yesterday I’d have jumped for joy, but now I feel torn. What if Carly calls? I hate how much hold she still has on me. Trudi places her left hand over mine so we are cupping the mug together.

“I don’t want any confusion here. I like you, Harriet, and this would be a date. Not a friend thing.”

I let my hand fall from the mug and Trudi grabs it. We smile at each other for a long time until a customer walks up to the counter beside me. She gives my hand a gentle squeeze before letting go.

“No pressure. Let me know.”

She turns to the customer and politely takes their order. For a few minutes, I can’t walk. I’m upset I didn’t say yes right away. I’m confused about last night. If Carly had a family who cared I’d text them to check on her, but she doesn’t. All she has is me and Jonas. I don’t know what to do.

My boss comes over and I try to listen to what he says but my mind isn’t here anymore. It’s still on my ceiling at home. After a few hours of messing things up and fumbling around, he tells me to take the rest of the day off. I can’t find Trudi so I text her an apology. 

“I’m not feeling well. Let’s try again. I like you too.”

I don’t go home right away, but instead, drive to a spot along the river Carly and I used to go when we were upset. I park my car beside the boat ramp, take off my shoes, and sit so my feet dangle in the cold water. I say, fuck it, and call Carly. It goes right to voicemail again. I cry so loud I scare away the ducks who yell at me as they fly to the other side of the river.

“That’s right! I chase everyone away!”

Gathering up a pile of rocks, I throw them as hard as I can at the water. It doesn’t help, so I grab larger rocks and toss them. I scream and scream until a couple in a kayak pass and ask me if I’m okay. I tell them I will be. They offer to paddle over and sit with me but it makes me feel worse.

Driving home I consider changing and still meeting Trudi for the party, but the truth is I’m not over Carly. She’s my person. I know it deep in my bones and I can’t shake it. I can’t be wrong about this. I just can’t.

I stop at the liquor store and grab a bottle of wine, a huge bag of Hershey kisses, and a frozen pizza. Tonight I’ll feel sorry for myself and maybe tomorrow it will be easier. I need a good, long cry.

Holding the paper bag in my arms so the flimsy handles don’t break, I walk across the parking lot and down the sidewalk toward my apartment. As I get closer I see a woman sitting crosslegged on my welcome mat. Holding a box in her arms, she stands and takes a step forward. It’s Carly.

The world around me slows and sharpens. A blue jay on the fence ruffles its feathers and hops sideways. My neighbor shuffles his feet as he walks by carrying a stack of mail. A calico cat peeks out from behind the bushes and twitches it tail. I’m on high alert. Alarm bells ring in my ears and I almost drop my bag.

Carly’s cheeks are flushed bright red. She stares at a spot above my head. Neither of us seem capable of making eye contact.

Although I’ve dreamed of this moment, I remind myself it might not be what I think it is. The wall. She chose Jonas. She left. I take a step back and speak as loud as I can but it comes out in a shaky whisper.

“What are you doing here?”

She’s wearing a white sundress covered with tiny black ravens. Her curls are longer and they frame a slightly chubbier face. The redness of her cheeks spreads to her chest. She’s scared. I am too. She looks at the box in her arms and her voice is as shaky as mine.

“I left Jonas…”

The walls crack and the ground below me shifts. I reinforce it by taking another step back. I can’t have her in my life again. No. It’s not fair to assume I’d forget everything we went through and just let her back in. What does she want? A place to stay? A refuge from her life until she falls into the arms of the next man who tells her she’s pretty?

I take another step back. The bag in my hands feels suddenly too heavy and I set it on the ground. I wish the wine was twist-off so I could take a huge swig. I don’t know how to tell her to leave, but I’m not going to be used again. I deserve to be loved. She speaks louder and faster, the words tumbling into a pile on the sidewalk between us.

“I’m sorry, Harriet. I know I don’t have any right showing up here and I don’t expect anything. I promise. I…I just brought you something…”

Our eyes meet for the first time and I feel the walls crumble. I try and hold onto the pieces but they fall through my fingers onto the sidewalk as dust. She walks closer and closer. Run away! Yell at her! Do something! Her eyes are bright and clear—sparkling emeralds in a sea of golden stars. She’s close enough I smell her familiar scent—mint tea and lavender. 

“I really am sorry…”

Ocean waves. Rain falling on the roof. Christmas carols. She’s all the happy things and I’m falling.

She flips open the lid of the box and I see a shiny pair of emerald green shoes. My dream shoes. Nothing about this moment feels real and we both stand frozen in time—statues in a garden where life isn’t so complicated and weird. 

We are both crying but I don’t know if it’s for the same reason. I touch the shoes lightly and I’m surprised they don’t evaporate into smoke. They are real. She’s really here.

“Thank you…”

The words squeak out as a million questions race through my mind. I don’t want to leap, but my heart already has. As if waking from a dream, she quickly pulls me to her, squishing the shoes between us. Her mouth finds mine and all my questions are answered. Carly, my Carly, has found her way home to me.

Author’s note: I hope you enjoyed this sweet little story inspired by my true desire for everyone to find love. It’s a small nod to the Respect for Marriage Act signed this week and my commitment to supporting everyone in the LGBTQ community. Love is love. Let me know what you think in the comments below and have a wonderful week.


Short Story Challenge | Week 50

Each week the short stories are based on a prompt from the book “Write the Story” by Piccadilly, Inc. This week’s prompt was to write a story taking place when the phone rings at 3 a.m. We had to include the words supreme, emerald, careless, traffic, liberate, adolescence, lousy, wave, environment, and oval.


Write With Us

Prompt: Magic interferes in New Orleans
Include: matriarch, throat, impossible, vinegar, apology, snare, choose, raspberry, microwave, and slice


My 52-Week Challenge Journey

Poetry: Frosty

Crystalized tears form soft
uneven lines around youthful
forgiving skin. Bright veins 
turn brittle, trapped beneath 
unspoken truths—too many

days passed under harsh
sunlight. Hollow flowery voices
drowned out by chickadee
songs erupt into icy
frozen maps leading lost

souls nowhere. Glowing warmth
melts away glassy biting
shards—pieces of us
grown frigid. Numbed by
quiet moonless nights, we’ve

wilted.

Photography: Holidays at Home

“Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.”–Laura Ingalls Wilder

Although I had no time to explore the world with my camera this week, I still wanted to share some Monday photos with you. Today, please enjoy this little tour of some of my favorite holiday decorations. Each item below brings joy and warmth to our family and has its own unique history. I hope these photos bring a smile to your face.

Thank you for following my journey this year and supporting me as I grow as a writer, poet, and photographer. I’m grateful for this space to explore my creativity and share my life.

Happy holidays!



What to see more?

Full Moon Harvest | A Short Story

Laying on my side under a fluffy blanket, I stare at the tiny blue flowers embroidered on the white curtains trying to picture the face of the woman who stitched them. Father says she had straight honey-brown hair like mine with eyes as dark green as the spiky holly leaves growing behind our house. I don’t remember her at all.

What I do remember is the blood, red as the poisonous round berries, pooled around her body at the base of the towering willow tree. The bright, white moon reflected in the thick red liquid. The terrible swishing sound of the feathers.

It was an accident. Nobody knows why she left 3-year-old me sitting beside an empty wicker basket to climb the old twisty branches, but she did. She fell to the ground and it was hours before my father returned from working in the fields and found us. I was sitting silently beside the basket with the barn cat on my lap.

I lightly touch the three round scars on my left arm where the crow dug its talons into my soft skin. I wonder why I can’t remember her face but I can remember its oily black feathers were tinged with a hint of blue.

“Ayla, are you still awake?”

Father’s at my door so I close my eyes tight and don’t move. He wants to talk about me returning to school, but I can’t bear to face the guilt and shame in his deep, brown eyes. He thinks he failed me, but the truth is I’ve failed him.

He grabs my foot with his warm hand, giving it a gentle shake. Part of me wants to roll over and tell him everything, but it feels as if an enormous dam has been built around my heart and the truth would burst it open. My father doesn’t deserve the tidal wave of pain it would cause him, so I stay as still as I can.

Letting go of my foot, he moves around the room, trying to be quiet but the tiny glass perfume bottles on my dresser clink together as he opens and closes each wooden drawer. He slides a few books out of the bookshelf, ruffles the pages, and slides them back. He’s always searching my room for hints at what has changed between us, but it’s not an object to be discovered.

He moves to the window and I peek out from my blankets, taking in his broad shoulders and long greying hair pulled back with a light brown leather cord. He’s still in his faded blue bib overalls, the ones he wears every day for working on the farm. I wish I could reach around and grab the treasures out of the big front pocket like I did when I was little. 

I used to lay the items out across my bedspread and touch each one as if they belonged in a museum. The well-worn and super soft red paisley handkerchief—more pink than red these days. The round silver watch his father gave him when he inherited the family farm a few years before I was born. My mother’s golden wedding ring slipped off her finger before she was buried in the cemetery right outside of town.

He turns around and I catch a brief glimpse of his round belly and his bushy grey beard before shutting my eyes tight again. He kisses my forehead and I smell the lingering woodsy vanilla scent of the pipe he smokes every night on the porch before bed. My uncles join him, and on nights when the work hasn’t been too brutal, they all bring out their guitars and we sing together. It hasn’t happened in a while though. It’s been a rough harvest.

When father reaches the door I hear a gasping, choking sound I know means he’s about to cry. He shuts the door tightly before the sobs fully form and I wonder if he’s thinking about my mother or me. Either way, it breaks me and my eyes burn hot with tears. I hate the way things are.

Three months ago I turned 13 and the strangeness started. I’d shove it all back if I could, but once you learn a thing it’s impossible to not know it. Although the sneaking and lies are temporary, it makes me feel horrible. Tonight I hope it will be the last time I sneak out. One last full moon harvest alone at the willow tree. 

I’ve been laying fully dressed under the covers since nightfall, but everyone is up late because of the chaos caused today by my dad’s youngest brother. He likes to invent new ways to speed along the process of the harvest, and today he hooked up our old plow horse Checker to a new pulley system for shaking the almond trees. It didn’t work.

Checker got one of his legs tangled terribly in a rope and pulled it until the metal snapped. It spooked him so bad he ran far out into the wheat fields causing my father to lose several hours of work retrieving him. Although Checker only has a few cuts on his legs and chest, my father was terribly upset. I heard him punch the couch pillow when he came in for dinner, a rare outburst for him.

The farm isn’t doing well. I hear snippets of anxious conversations when my father and uncles don’t think I can hear them. They’ve discussed selling off parts of the land, but none of them want to lose any of the property their father and grandfather farmed. I wish I could help, but I’m afraid my problems only complicate matters. I’m a distraction.

Framed by wispy dark clouds, I stare at the large white moon outside and the calling inside me swells and grows until it’s almost a wail. I try to picture my mother’s face and how her lips would look making such a sound. No. All I see is bright red blood and blue-black feathers. Her face remains below the rippling waves, a blurry almost-image. I twist my blankets and wipe my tears onto my pillow.

The one face I can see clearly is Penelope, with her tiny upturned nose and bright pink cheeks. She’s the one who decided I was an outcast at school and spread the rumors about me kissing every boy in town. Penelope with the bright shiny golden hair. Penelope with the pretty homemade dresses and colorful satin ribbons. Penelope with a sharp tongue and mocking laugh.

I jump out of bed to stop myself from thinking of her hurtful words and walk quietly to the window. Pulling it open slowly, I lean out so I can peek at the porch to see if anyone is still sitting in the wooden rocking chairs. It’s empty. 

Throwing my legs over the window ledge, I drop to the ground and pull my grey work boots and a small wicker basket out from where I stashed them in the bushes. I slip on my boots, pull up the hood of my faded red jacket, grasp the basket handle tight, and take off at a run.

The farm looks different at night. All the noise, the sharp edges and straight lines, fade into a blanket of muted softness in the silvery light. I run past the large barn filled with sleeping animals, the row of hulking metal plows, and into the almond orchard. Twinkling stars dance amongst the rows of trees hidden occasionally by dark fast moving clouds.

Low grumbling voices call in the dark around me in a language I don’t understand and I spin in circles trying to see them. They are too quick. I feel their eyes watching me and it brings with it the familiar fluttering of fear in my chest. 

Can I trust them? Just because they call me to the place my mother died doesn’t mean they know anything about her. Hope feels dangerous, but I have it anyway. It’s sugary and heavy, thick like honey. I stop running and slowly walk.

At the end of the orchard, the shadow of the willow tree waits for me—a twisting dark shape reaching out with sharp leafy fingers. With even slower steps, I approach the massive gloomy tree and slip under its long hanging branches. The voices follow me, surrounding me on all sides.

Slanted beams of moonlight illuminate them as they come—tiny lunar spotlights. They climb out of the branches above me, tunnel in from the ground below, and walk out of the shadows. Little dark hairless men no bigger than my hand. Made of dirt and roots they have tiny, watery black eyes and huge flat feet. In an instant, their voices go silent.

Each carries an acorn out in front of them with both hands. Taking turns, one at a time, they run forward and throw it into the basket. The small, oblong nuts make a soft thunk as they hit each other. I watch the tiny men, searching their blank faces for answers, but they give me none. They seem content with completing this harvest ritual—giving me a gift I have no idea what to do with.

On the first full moon I heard the voices and followed them to the willow tree. I screamed when the little men appeared. They threw acorns at me as I ran away, pelting me softly on my back. The next day I searched the space under the tree and found no little footprints or acorns—nothing to prove it had happened at all. They didn’t call for me again for an entire month and I decided it had been a very vivid dream.

The second full moon when I heard the voices I grabbed a basket for the acorns. I sat perfectly still as they filled it, exactly like I’m doing right now. When it was complete, they stood around me waiting for me to do or say something. I froze. It felt too unreal, too terrifying, and so I did nothing at all.

Minutes stretched into hours and eventually I must have fallen asleep. I woke up the next morning in my bed with no memory of walking home. I ran straight to the willow tree and found the basket exactly where I left it. The acorns were gone, but I at least had some proof it had been real.

My mind cloudy and jumbled and my vision blurry, I try to count the little creatures as they slink forward, throwing their acorns into my basket. All I can focus on is the soft thud of the nuts hitting each other. After a few minutes, it occurs to me it’s rhythmic—almost a song. Am I missing a message? I listen harder.

The last little man throws his acorn into the basket and steps into the shadows, leaving the space below the tree silent again. They stand still, watching me. Blinking. I bring one of the nuts to my nose and sniff it. It smells of earth and sunshine. My moment has arrived so I clear my throat and speak.

“Thank you for these treasures, but I wonder if any of you can talk to me. I have questions…about my mom.”

My voice sounds shaky and small. The little creatures respond by stomping their tiny feet on the ground and making a low humming sound. It’s the sound of thunder far off in the distance. It grows and grows around me and a new sensation blooms inside my chest—a loosening. My shoulders fall slightly and my hands become limp at my sides.

“Ayla.”

A deep voice outside the tree speaks my name and it echoes around me. The little men repeat my name over and over—a  chant now matching the stomping.

“Ayla. Ayla. Ayla.”

The branches of the tree part and a face appears. It’s a beautiful man with high pointed cheekbones and brilliant sparkling green eyes. He reaches his large hand toward me and I let him pull me into the moonlight. My body vibrates with warmth and energy—I’m floating toward him.

Once my feet return to the ground I gasp. He isn’t a man, but rather the most majestic creature I’ve ever seen. Half-man, half-horse, he stands smiling at me with bright pink lips. I stare at his flowing golden hair, his thick palomino horse body, shiny black hooves, and swishing nearly white tail. Breathe, Ayla. Breathe.

“I’m Dawa and you’ve already met my helpers. I call them the Root Men, but they go by many names.”

He gestures to the little men who have followed me out. They stand silently in a circle around us and all at once bow so low to the ground their tiny noses touch the dirt. I’m not sure if they are bowing to me or him. I return the gesture regardless, bending at my waist and sweeping my arms out in front of me. A sound like giggling follows.

“I wish we could have met under different circumstances, Ayla, but I’m afraid you are in danger.”

He points at the darkening clouds and I see they are swirling. Deep black with a hint of blue. Feathers. Dawa’s voice is breathy and fast. He paws the ground with his front hooves.

“They are coming for you, as they did your mother.”

The words feel like a key turning inside me. Horribly, vividly, the memory comes. Its razor-sharp clarity knocks me to my knees and I cover my ears and rock back and forth. No. No. No.

Mother and I are on an apple hunt weaving through the rows of trees looking for signs the bright red fruit is ready to be harvested. I’m not paying attention though because our old barn cat Theo is chasing birds and I want to make sure he doesn’t catch one. A bright warm sun sits high in the sky and I’m wearing my favorite daisy sundress without shoes.

I chase Theo through the tall green grass of the orchard until he climbs into the branches of the old willow tree. The moment Theo reaches the top the sky around us turns dark. The sun has been replaced by inky black swirling clouds dancing, twirling, and falling. It can’t be right. The sky can’t fall. Can it?

Mother screams and runs to me. She sets the wicker basket below the tree, holds my face in her soft hands, and speaks slowly and firmly. Her dark green eyes are wide.

“Sit beside the basket and look toward the house. No matter what happens, do not look behind you. Do not move and stay quiet. Not a sound. It’s extremely important, Ayla. I need you to promise.”

I nod. We’ve played this game before. The “don’t move” game. Mother’s serious about it and I listen. She breaks off a low branch of the tree, holds it in her hand, and climbs. I think she’s going to rescue Theo, but he’s beside me now. He climbs into my lap and I close my eyes tight. 

I cover my ears, but the sounds wiggle through my fingers and I hear them anyway. Terrible low growls. Mother’s ragged uneven breathing. A ripping sound. Mother’s long scream.

A loud thump shakes the ground behind me. I don’t turn around, but I do open my eyes. A horrible creature crouches low in front of me with dozens of long spidery legs. It’s got bright yellow cat-like eyes and is covered with inky black feathers with a tinge of blue. Its tongue darts in and out of its tiny red mouth.

It grabs hold of my arm with one of its legs and three spiky nails pierce my skin. Mother would be proud. I don’t make a sound. I don’t move. I stay right beside the basket.

“Ayla!”

Dawa pulls my hands from my ears. Tears fall hot from my eyes. Mother was killed by these creatures and they are coming for me. The centaur grabs my shoulders and shakes them gently. His dark green eyes are wide and his voice is firm.

“You must come with me. Now!”

The little men have turned away from us and are facing the clouds. The sky is falling. It’s coming. Dawa grabs my hand and swings me onto his back. I hold onto his neck as he takes off at a run. When the creatures dive low behind us I don’t make a sound. Mother would be proud.

Author’s note: I ran out of time for this story and am disappointed it’s more of a first chapter again than a complete short story. Regardless, I hope you enjoyed meeting Ayla and stepping into her world for a bit. Let me know what you think in the comments below. Thank you!


Short Story Challenge | Week 49

Each week the short stories are based on a prompt from the book “Write the Story” by Piccadilly, Inc. This week’s prompt was to write a story about a family-run farm. We had to include the words temporary, invent, trust, horse, burst, pulley, dam, punch, and checker.


Write With Us

Prompt: The phone rings at 3 a.m.
Include: supreme, emerald, careless, traffic, liberate, adolescence, lousy, wave, environment, oval


My 52-Week Challenge Journey