March 30, 2017

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A Game of Trust

“Just sit around and cry, then. I don’t have that luxury,” she hissed at the man huddled in the back corner of the alley. Keeping her head low, she peered around the corner. No one. But she knew that any moment they could appear and take both of them hostage. “I don’t know about you, but I’d like to make it out of here alive and free, so if you want to join me, feel free, but I sure won’t make you.”

As she rounded the corner, she heard steps behind her. A glance back revealed the man following behind her. “Wise choice,” she mumbled, shaking her head slightly as they both scooted around the next corner, with still no one in sight. A tremor ran through her body, but she suppressed it. This wasn’t the time for fear to take control. She had to keep her body under her own command, otherwise she knew they would both be dead. Fear kept her alive, but letting fear take control would simply end poorly for everyone involved.

And she had someone else involved now. It wasn’t just her anymore, and that changed things. She couldn’t be as reckless. She couldn’t go off on her own. She had to stick near the man, make sure he was safe, keep them both alive. One look at the man and anyone could tell he wasn’t a fighter. His skinny frame shook with every step he took, his eyes overflowing with terror. His clothing hung from his body, dirty but not in tatters, as it would have had he been in the mix. His breathing came in rapid rags, one following closely on the heels of the other. She pitied the man. Had she not found him, there was no way he would have made it out alive.

Slowly, they edged around corner… after corner… after corner. She could feel his doubt radiating in his every step. He didn’t believe that she knew what she was doing, that she could keep them safe. A huff in her voice, she said, “Not much longer now.” She just hoped that he trusted her.

The next corner they arrived at brought them to their final destination, the rebel base of operations. Her own heart settling into normal pacing, a steady beat, she gestured to the man to follow her. When he refused to move, she groaningly grabbed him by the wrist and dragged him after her, eventually letting him go just around the corner to the base. Turning to him, she lowered her voice. “We’re almost there. Just a few more steps. When we get there, keep your head low and let me do the talking. I know these people. They’re my people. I’ll introduce them to you and they’ll keep you safe.”

He nodded, whimpering.

She scrambled forward a few steps, peering around her to ensure her safety and that of her companion, but she heard nothing following her. Glancing back, her eyes widened. The man stood before her, appearing taller and fuller than he had just moments before. A smirk decorated his face, his lips pulled up in cruel laughter. His eyes flashed darkly, the fear dissipated and replaced with an insane boldness. He clapped, slowly and painfully, the sound echoing around them as he moved in on her, closer and closer with each bounding step, pushing her back against the wall.

She closed her eyes tightly, willing herself to stay under control, but the fear fought ferociously. The tremors returned, her every limb shaking under the pressure. Even still, she fought back. She was a fighter, every inch of her. Her eyes popped open, flashing in their green warmth as they settled on the man before her. Fighting against the fear, she stepped towards him, willing herself to stay in control. This was not a fight she could afford to lose. “Who are you?” she asked, her voice dark.

The man simply chuckled, the sound echoing again around them. “Certainly not who you thought I was, foolish girl.” His voice, melodious and malicious, rang heavy in her ears. She flinched as he stepped closer, his movements crisp and brisk. “You should know by now not to trust every person you meet on the street, or did the war going on around you not teach you that lesson yet? Silly little war,” he clucked, as if scolding the war. “It’s quite the inconvenience, isn’t it? Or at least it is for some of you.”

Before she could react or cry for help, the man drew his gun and shot her three times, the bullets piercing her skin and digging deep into her flesh. His footsteps faded down the alleyway, mingling with the sounds around her. As she lay dying on the doorstep of the place she had come to call home, however, she could hear one sound above the rest: the voice of the leader ringing in her ears. “Marian, Marian, my child,” he would tell her every morning, “you cannot expect everyone to be as good as you, my dear. There are those out there who will deceive you, who will make you think they are something that they are not. That, I’m afraid, will be your downfall. You trust too easily and love too deeply.”

He must have been a prophet as well.

***

Prompt: See first sentence.

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March 29, 2017

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Just a Smile & a Hello

It didn’t take much for Jeremy Thomason to win her over.

Olivia Murray thought of herself so: quiet, unlikable, unwanted, unworthy, invisible. She was convinced that everyone else saw her the same exact way. Most people she met or came across met her with an almost cold civility, as if their meeting meant nothing to them, was nothing more than a necessary meeting in the course of their day filled with much more important things. Even worse were the people who walked right on by her, who didn’t acknowledge her presence, didn’t send up a greeting, didn’t ask after her well-being. They were the ones who made her think that she was invisible.

Jeremy Thomason was different. Every time he passed her, he greeted her warmly, caringly asking her how she was. Every time he greeted her, he offered her a bright smile in addition, a smile which pierced through the shell she had created to shield herself from the uncaring masses. He saw right through her and rather than seeing the persona she had created to fulfill what everyone saw, he seemed to see the real her. The her who loved to laugh. The her who thrived on people. The her who loved deeply and wanted to share in that love.

All it took for him to win her over, to gain her attentions and her affections, was a simple smile and a hello, because no one else ever paid her much attention.

When Olivia Murray fell for someone, she fell hard, and Jeremy Thomason was no different in that aspect. He was, however, different in many others. Olivia found herself feeling and thinking things about this particular young man that she couldn’t recall ever having felt or thought about anyone else. His presence made her smile. He always brightened her day, lifting her spirits to soar above the clouds. His smile warmed her very being and his laughter, an oddly lilting sound, made her want to share in his joy. His voice with its particular patterns and formations of words, phrases, sentences, drew her in. Something she couldn’t quite name attracted her to him, and yet that something was everything as well. He made her breath catch in her chest, her stomach do somersaults, her heart start a-dancing and her mind a-racing.

Had she been in a romance novel, she would have declared, “Jeremy Thomason is the love of my life! I will have no other! It must be him! It must be!”

Olivia Murray was, however, not in a romance novel. In fact, she was not even the kind of girl who normally got the guy. She was an ordinary girl, larger in appearance but not in personality than most. She cut her hair short and wore it that way for months, and most people agreed that it suited her. From time to time, she would dress up and wear makeup, but most of her days she spent fairly casual, no makeup and no fancy things, a simple hooded jacket slung around her waist or her arms or her shoulders. Often, she lost herself in fantasies and daydreams, in which she danced off to some foreign country or walked among the stars. She did not live her life grounded in reality, but sought the truth in whatever she did.

And that was what drew Jeremy Thomason to her. Her simplicity and her “selfness.” From her attitude, her posture, the way she held herself around others, he knew she didn’t always feel at ease being herself, but she still was anyway. She learned to live with it, because she could be no one else and no one else could be her. An admirable quality, really.

One day, while Jeremy Thomason walked through the university campus on his way to class, he passed by Olivia, her peppy personality shining through, an unusual sight to see. “Hey, Olivia,” he greeted her, each word filled with an earnest sweetness. “How are you today?”

“I’m doing pretty good,” she replied. A hint of hesitation shadowed her face. It was there for just a second before it disappeared. “No. That’s BS. I’m not pretty good. I’m great! How are you?” she finished off, hoping her cheeks weren’t as flaming as they felt to her.

“I’m good, thanks,” he said. His eyes never once left her face, noting every expression and micro-expression that crossed her features. For a moment, they stood in silence, each observing–or rather, experiencing–the other in his entirety. Olivia took in Jeremy, his scent, his sound, his very essence, and Jeremy took in Olivia, her stance, her status, her very being.

Olivia moved to leave, heading down the hallway to her next class, but Jeremy stopped her, his hand resting lightly on her shoulder. He felt her freeze under his touch, a comfortable rigidity, not fearful. “What’s your weekend like?” he asked. “We should go for coffee or something. I’d love to get to know you better.”

Olivia didn’t turn to face him, the smile on her face too large and too childish to share with him in their newfound connection. “Completely empty.”

“Do- do you even drink coffee?” Jeremy asked with a chuckle.

“Not at all,” she laughed. “But I’d drink it with you.”

“How does Saturday morning sound? Say, ten o’clock? I can meet you at your place and we’ll choose somewhere together.”

“Perfect.”

The two split, Jeremy heading to the left and Olivia to the right. Neither looked back, too enraptured with their last encounter. That was really all it took.

Just a smile and a hello.

***

Prompt: Write about a girl and her crush.

March 28, 2017

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Lost in London

“I think it’s this way.”

We turned the corner.

“No, I think it’s this way.”

We crossed a street.

“Actually, it might be that way.”

We turned back around and went back the way we came.

We were officially lost. Neither of us knew where we were going. The buildings, though they all looked distinctly different, all seemed to run together as if they were actually the same. Every other street corner, we found the same restaurant, a cute little organic food cafe. That offered us no help and certainly no direction. The only comfort we had was the knowledge that we all spoke the same language here. Thankfully, we hadn’t gotten lost in Italy or Germany, where we couldn’t understand more than a few words sprinkled throughout (if that).

I stopped, exasperated, exhausted, more than a little bit frustrated, and perhaps even angry. This wasn’t how I had imagined the trip. This wasn’t how I had planned to spend my time. Instead of visiting museums and looking around at all the beautiful, wonderful sights of the big city, we were lost. Of course, I could imagine how this had happened to me of all people. It was only my luck that it would be me. Things don’t often go my way. Or at least not the way that I would prefer them to go.

“Maybe we should just ask for directions,” I asked, though I don’t think I convinced anyone of the necessity or even the genius behind such a suggestion. We walked on, past restaurants and shops bustling with people. People we could have easily talked to, asked directions from, gotten help from. But our pride prohibited us, holding us back. So, as all prideful people do, we continued on despite our obvious need for assistance.

The sun started to set. Normally, I would stop to admire it, the beautiful mixture of reds and oranges and yellows with just a hint of green where they meet the blues and purples of the night sky. Tonight, however, I couldn’t focus. My mind wandered, hitting on the worst possibilities of what might happen as we wandered the streets of London at night. We could get even more lost or we could get mugged or we could freeze or–

My mind refused to stop, filling my head and my imagination.

I turned around, mid-sentence. “–might be that…” Gulp. “Way.”

No one was around. My heart racing, I looked around me, searching for my friends. Just a moment before, I had stood right here in this very spot with two of my closest friends. We may have been lost, but at least we had each other. And now, they seemed to have disappeared. “Guys?” I called, though no one further than three feet away could have heard the whisper of my words. A chill ran through my spine. I was lost.

And I was alone.

My worst nightmare. I picked up my pace, my feet hitting the pavement heavily as I walked, tucking my jacket closer around me and wrapping my arms around my stomach protectively. I could feel the fear setting in. I was going to die out here tonight! I became sure of it. I would never survive the cold night alone in the big city. I could hardly survive a day in the city back home by myself! I refused to let myself cry, pushing back the tears as they came. I had to be strong.

Strength isn’t exactly my best suit, however. I could feel the tears winning the battle as I continued to roam the streets, aimlessly now. I had lost hope. How could I navigate a city I didn’t understand? I had never felt so alone, watching as people sped by me. Everyone seemed somehow connected to the city, except for me. I was an outsider, in every possible way. I didn’t belong here. I stood out. I was lost. And alone. More alone than ever before. And I was terrified.

I turned down some random street–I don’t even remember its name–and before I could get very far, a young man jogged out of a shop door and chased after me. “Miss!” he called out after me. At first, I ignored him. No one with good intentions ever ran after someone in the dark. “Miss, please wait!” I slowed down, though I didn’t entirely trust him still. “Miss, I don’t mean you any harm. It’s cold out and you look lost. Let me help you.”

As he pulled up next to me, I looked over at him. His eyes shone with a warmth you don’t find in psychopaths or crazies. His smile warmed me in a way nothing physical could. Setting a hand on my arm, gentle and sweet, he nodded back towards the shop. “Come back with me. I will help you find your way. You can trust me.”

He led me back the way we had just come, took me inside the shop, and sat me down behind the counter. “Where are you staying?” I couldn’t help but laugh, a hearty laughter made heartier by my relief and my tiredness from the long day. “What’s so funny?”

“You knew I’m not from here just by looking at me. I didn’t even have to say anything. Was it really that obvious?”

Laughingly, he nodded. “You just looked so lost.” His voice lowered, sobered, as he added, “And so lonely.”

I felt my cheeks redden, warmth spreading across them and down my neck. “Well,” I began sheepishly, “I was, so you’re not wrong there. I was with friends and then they just suddenly kinda… disappeared. They were there one moment, and then I guess I must have turned my back on them and when I turned back towards them again, they weren’t there. They must have wandered off without me.” I started to laugh, a derisive laugh that I couldn’t stop from erupting out of my chest. “Bet they didn’t even notice. Bet they didn’t even care.”

The young man frowned, a sympathetic look in his eyes. “Is that what you call a friend? Someone you do things with but who doesn’t necessarily care about you?”

I shrugged. Even though I hated to admit it, that had become my definition of a friend over the years. I didn’t want that to be the case. I didn’t want my friends to be people I spent time with but knew didn’t really care about me or my well-being. Over the years, in my experience, people simply didn’t care about me. They didn’t see me. They looked over me, past me. I had become so used to it, that having someone wish to spend time with me satisfied me more than anything else.

Sympathy oozing from his every pore, he curled me into his arms and against his chest, his chin resting on my shoulder. “You poor thing,” he mumbled in my ear. “Let me take care of you. I won’t let you get lost again. I’ll help you find your hotel, but for now, it’s getting late. Why don’t you come home with me? I’ll take the couch and you can sleep in the bed.” I started to protest, but he cut me off with a little waggle of his finger. “It’s the least that I can do for a lost traveller who stumbled upon my doorstep.”

When we arrived at his apartment, he showed me directly to the bedroom, a bathroom attached to it. “I know it isn’t much, but I’m sure it’s more comfortable than your hotel room,” he said, pulling back the bedsheets and the comforter. “If you need me, I’ll be in the living room. Sleep tight.”

I cried myself to sleep that night, thinking of his kindness. No one had ever shown me such love and generosity. He didn’t know me. I don’t remember if he even asked for my name. But none of that mattered. He saw a lost and scared and lonely woman, and he decided to offer her a helping hand.

That night, I no longer felt so lost.

***

Prompt: See title. Also inspired by the memories of the trip to Europe I took last year.

March 27, 2017

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Grandma’s Obituary

In her hands, Mary held the last picture of her grandmother. She had thought her grandmother had been merely a kindly old woman, who loved to hand out sweets to her visitors and play merry old tunes to soothe her soul. She had thought her grandmother had been beloved by all for her happy warmth and her warm laughter. She had thought her grandmother had been a housewife by trade, with no skills other than those required by such a position. She had thought her grandmother had been a faithfully religious woman, always attending church on Sunday and reading her Bible, like a good Christian woman should.

But everything she had thought was wrong.

The woman in the picture, the woman she called grandmother, had a very long and storied past, peppered with adventure and seasoned with danger. Her long list of skills covered much more than simply cooking, sewing, and cleaning, though those and many variations of them made her more talented than most people imaginable. She had raised kids and kept house and worked many a dangerous job on top of it. She had made money–and lots of it–doing these dangerous jobs, and she did it solely for the sake of adventure, for her grandmother had more than a small streak of adventure in her. Her streak had become so large over the years that it had taken over her life.

She had died like any other old woman, though. Asleep in bed. Peaceful. Not like she would have wanted. She would have wanted to go while skydiving. Or maybe while on a hike in the middle of the jungle. Maybe she would have preferred to die while in a car chase with a drug cartel or while hiding prisoners of war. It didn’t matter what the particulars were, she would have wanted to go down the way she had lived most of her life: in adventure.

She had even been born in adventure. Her mother, Mary’s great grandmother, was the wife of a missionary on the African plains. Almost nine months pregnant when they had arrived on the continent, she gave birth in the middle of seemingly nowhere, before they had even arrived at their final destination. The child was born in the middle of a dangerous land, so it only seemed appropriate that she would have grown up wanting, craving, so much more than the simple life of a housewife.

Mary couldn’t believe the words she heard coming from her mother’s lips, her voice dancing with laughter as she retold the stories of her husband’s mother’s adventures. “She once was hired to do a hit,” she began, wiping away tears, half of sorrow, half of extreme laughter, “and, not being hard on money, she decided to take the job anyway because she wanted to know what it was like to be a hitman. But when she arrived at the spot of the job, she realized that her target was a young kid. No more than fifteen or sixteen. Dirty. Probably homeless. So rather than killing the kid like she had been hired to do, she practically kidnapped him, took him home, uprooted her entire family, and moved to a completely different country–a different continent even–just so that she could keep the kid safe. That kid is your Uncle Jeffrey.

“And then there was the time that she gave birth to your father.” Mary watched in awe as her mother broke down crying. She couldn’t tell if her mother were crying or laughing, but she knew she was dying of one or the other. “Her older children were playing at the park when she was approached by this real shady man. He asked her to sell him drugs, and so she pulled them out of her purse, demanding a high price, and when he wouldn’t give it to her, she thought she was done for, but just then she went into labor. Her water broke and the man gave her everything she had wanted and more.”

Mary’s mother’s laughter died off, leaving her in tears. “And when your father brought me home… Well, I was just the kind of kid she would have taken in and raised as her own if I hadn’t been in my mid-twenties at the time. Rough looking and dirty, practically living on the streets, with parents who didn’t care about me or my well-being in the least. She decided right then and there that no matter how the relationship between me and her son ended, she would adopt me into her family unofficially, so I always had a home to go back to.”

“I bet you really miss her,” Mary said, her voice quiet.

Her mother nodded. “Yeah, I do.” She took the photo from Mary’s hands, running her fingertips over the picture, her nails the same bright red her mother-in-law had always worn in abundance: her clothes, her hat, her nails, her lipstick. She tossed the picture in the fire and watched as it burned to ash with all the rest of the photos.

“I miss them both.”

***

Prompt: See picture.

March 26, 2017

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Bad Behavior

“Do you know how much I need you?” she shouted, tears prickling behind her eyes. She paced the length of her small bedroom, running her hands through her hair in distress. She turned on her heels. “I need you! I have a heavy, heavy semester in school coming up and I need you to support me through this. I can’t do it alone. Why are you failing me now?” Heavily, she sat down on her bedroom. She covered her face with her hands, letting the tears fall.

A moment passed before she looked up. Her face changed, a steely look now gracing her features rather than the weepy one she bore before. “How. Dare. You,” she began as she hopped off her bed, waving her finger in anger. “How dare you! You promised you would always be there for me. You promised you would support me. You promised you would never, ever leave me. Especially not when I needed you the most. And here I am and here you are doing exactly what you said you wouldn’t.”

She started pacing again, her feet going into autopilot, tracing and retracing the exact steps she had taken time and time again. Her voice started to rise, becoming louder and harsher. People skirted around her door, avoiding her as they clearly could hear her temper rising to a boiling point. “Why did I ever trust you?” she yelled, a break in her voice popping in the middle of her sentence. “I hate you! No. Hate isn’t a strong enough word. I- I despise you. I detest you. I abhor you. You’re a no good, worthless piece of sh–”

The door opened and her roommate, Carrie, entered, her hands full with her bags as she had just returned from break herself. Immediately, upon Carrie’s entrance, she calmed down, plastering the most artificial smile on her face, despite knowing that her roommate knew exactly what had gone down. Carrie set her backpack on her bed, turning. “Might wanna keep it down. The neighbors are gathering around outside, and I don’t think they’ll quite understand your shouting match with your laptop.”

Demurely, she nodded. “Yeah, sorry.”

***
Prompt: Write a story where one of the characters is revealed to be an inanimate object.

March 25, 2017

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The Door to Home

A smile sits upon her face as she prances down the street, phone in her pocket, headphones nowhere on her person. She left those at home, having no need for them, as the world is the soundtrack to her life and every person she meets is another player in this game. Her gaze doesn’t sit in one location for long, not even on the ground at her feet. Everything fills her with wonder and joy, even the things she passes on her daily walk to the school: the same old trees and the same old street signs with the same old buildings and roads. She has seen everything along this path a million times over, yet everything is always new and different each time she passes it.

The ten minute walk, what feels like an eternity to some people, ends before she realizes that it even began. It feels as if she had stepped out her door and immediately found herself at the foot of the school building, despite having taken in everything that she saw along the path. As she reaches the front door of the building, another student pulls up beside her. She quickly pulls out her student ID, doubling as a key card to enter the building, and scans it at the lock, holding the door open for her fellow student. His thanks sets her heart a-soaring, for nothing feels better than to help another out.

She fairly skips up the steps, her backpack bouncing lightly and joyfully on her back as she takes each step carefully on its own. Rounding the small curve at the top of the staircase, she enters the long hallway. As people approach her coming from the opposite direction, she flashes them her signature grin and greets them warmly. They gladly return the favor. A warm greeting, she likes to say, will always start the day off right, but a cold one will turn it to the darkside. It’s a saying she lives by.

When she reaches the door to her classroom, she hardly even notices the feeling of the door handle in her hand as she swings it open, stepping in simultaneously. She heads directly for the row she always sits in. No one else has arrived yet (she is a little early, after all), but she knows her friends will be there soon. Most of them are just as timely as herself, though she likes to chuckle about those of her friends who tend to be more on the opposite end of the spectrum. Everyone has their flaws, right? Not being timely is most certainly not the worst possible flaw to exist, so she easily accepts it in others. Who is she to judge?

Soon, the door swings open to reveal her friends, flooding into the room one after the other right behind each other. She grins widely and greets them all by name. Brogan. Gabriel. Jesse. Megan. Mary. Clarissa. She makes sure that she doesn’t forget a single one of them. And they all return the favor, a chorus of hellos and his filling the air around her in a warm embrace. She feels at home. She feels wanted and welcome.

These people? They are her home, and she, or so she believes, is theirs.

***

Prompt: Describe how you wish you entered through the door.

The Benefits of Roleplay

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For the past two and a half ueats, I have found myself regularly involved in at least one game of Dungeons and Dragons, as I believe I may have mentioned. Tonight, I found myself involved in another roleplay game, which was equally (if not slightly more) enjoyable. It always helps to surround yourself with good friends when role-playing, people you’re comfortable with, but over the years, I have realized how beneficial these types of games can be for actor’s and writers and storytellers of all varieties. 

First, the characters. In roleplay, you must learn to ad lib and adapt. To what your character is like. To what the other characters are like. To what is being said or done or kept secret. This is very important for storytellers to note: the different ways characters react to the situations in their lives, what makes them human, what makes them tick, how they I tract with the others around them. It’s very eye-opening. 

Secondly, the plot. With roleplay games, often times parts of the plot fall on the shoulders of the players to decide. You decide how you react and what your action is, which in turn affects the rest of the story as it unfolds. It’s important to keep an eye on these things, what builds the story, what pieces come together to create this world and this particular story within that world. Having an understanding of what plot points make sense and work best for the story will allow you to unfold the best possible version of your story. 

Thirdly, the experimentation. In roleplay, you get to experiment with different characters to figure out what makes them tick and what separates them from the crowd. Maybe they always wear a blue shirt because in third grade, they won a race while wearing a blue shirt so blue became their lucky color. Or maybe they treat men coldly because their father treated them horribly. Maybe they went off the rails because they witnessed a friend’s death. Or maybe they try to keep optimistic for the sake of others because they don’t believe themselves worthy of the good news. Roleplay opens up a whole new world in which you can let yourself go and experiment with whatever you want. 

As an actor, it’s also beneficial (particularly when done in person) because you assume a character. You aren’t playing yourself, you’re playing someone else like with any role. It also helps with ad lib skull, which can be hard to build. Depending on the character, you may assume an accent, which would help you to practice an accent you don’t naturally have. Honestly, when you think about it, roleplay is pretty much the perfect game for any actor. You’re putting yourself in someone else’s shoes in imaginary situations and you have to react truthfully the way this character would. It’s the perfect exercise. 

Overall, I obviously enjoy these roleplay games otherwise I would have stopped playing them a long time ago, but that doesn’t mean that I can glean something from them. Every day I play, I learn a little bit of something new. Isn’t that how life works best?