May 6, 2017

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An Overseas Adventure 

They had been planning this trip for years and now it was finally happening. Corina couldn’t stand still as they waited in the long line to board the plane. The information sign read: Munich International Airport. Once again, she ducked her head around the person in front of her to check the length of the line. A childish groan escaped her lips, and her boyfriend chuckled at her, grabbing her by the back if her sweater and pulling her back to her spot in line. 

She glared up at him. “Isaiah!” 

“Corina!” he responded, his tone matching hers as best as a young man can imitate a young woman. “You need to have patience. We’ve waited this long, you can wait a little bit longer. We’re pretty much there anyway. We just have to board and sit through the flight, but we’re pretty much there.” 

In her over dramatic way, Corina flung herself on Isaiah, her hands clutching his arms, nails digging in. “But I don’t wanna wait!”

“Sorry, baby, but I haven’t invented that telelporter you asked for yet. Too busy taking care of my girl,” he said and planted a quick kiss on the top of her head. “Now you’d better get moving, or you might have some angry folks on your hands.” Hands planted on her shoulders, he about faced her towards the front of the line. 

“Crap!” she said, grabbing her bag and racing down towards the gate. The line had diminished during their conversation. Amused, I Sarah followed her. 
A few days into their European adventure, while still in Germany, I Isaiah cooked up a plan. “Corina,” he said to her one day, “you’ve planned all our days, all our outings. Why don’t you let me take one? Let me plan it.”

Corina hesitated, causing Isaiah to laugh. She rushed towards him and took his hand in hers, pleading. “It’s not that I don’t think you can…”

“It’s that you don’t think I can,” he laughed. “Corina, I know you better than pretty much anyome. I know you want this trip to be perfect, and if you trust me on this, I promise I can make this day as just as good as the ones you plan. Dare I say better?” 

Corina shoved him, laughing herself. “No way. There’s no way on earth thatyou, Isaiah Michael Stratford, could outplan me, Corina Siobhan Behrends. I am the master of planning, and if you know me as well as you say youdo, you’d know that.” 

“Fine. I’ll admit that’s true. No one could outplan you, but please let me do just one day? I promise I won’t ask to plan another on our trip.”

“How about if I let you do your one day, you never ask to plan another day for anything?” she trased. 

Isaiah grabbed her hand and shook it. “Deal.” 
The next day, Isaiah refused to tell Corina where their day would take them, much to Corina’s dismay. “It’s a surprise.” But his protests and his refusals only served to heighten her stress levels. 

By the time they had reached their final destination for the day, her nerves were shot. One look at her and Isaiah almost turned them both right back around and took them back to their home away from home, but he held his ground, knowing that what he had in store for them would help to lighten her mood. 

They stood at the foot of a hill and Corina groaned. Her bag weighed her down and every inch of her being wanted nothing more than to sit down and never get back up. Isaiah took her by the hand and pulled her a few steps up the path. “Isaiah, please no. I’m exhausted.” 

Isaiah looked her once over. Indeed, she looked exhausted. Her hair had fallen from the pretty little ponytail she had pulled it into that morning. Her eyes drooped. Her limbs drooped. Even her clothing drooped, damp with sweat from their day’s workout. Without a word, he scooped her into his arms and carried her up the path. 

Corina didn’t have time to react to one thing before the next had unfolded. Up the hill, sat an abandoned castle, crumbling but not dangerous. It looked quaint against the almost setting sun, its color faded in the warm light bathing it. Many buildings back home stood tall and more imposing than this structure, giving off a homey vibe. 

“It’s habitable too,” he said, snapping Corina back to the reality from her traipsing among the fantastical. 

“It is?”

Isaiah set her down, stretching as soon as her feet hit the ground. “Yup. It’s ours for the night. I rented it for us.” 

Corina couldn’t move. Or speak. Or do anything at all, or so it felt to her. “Is this why you wanted to plan today? To make sure we got up here?” 

Isaiah shrugged. “Part of it.” Bending down, he rummaged in his bag for the keys to the place. He plopped them into the palm of her hand. “Would you like to do the honors, Miss Behrends?” He bowed, a funny looking thing, more awkward than the regal he had intended. 

Giggling, Corina took the keys and approached the door. 

The inside awed her more than the outside had. Hundreds of glowing candles lit each room as she entered, their warmth and their scent mingling with the cold and the stench of the castle. The furniture, though far from being period appropriate, still had a vintage air to it, looking far from at home in the twenty-first century. A thin layer of dust covered most of the walls and shelving, but she had expected much worse so it came as a pleasant surprise. 

“Isaiah, baby, it’s… stunning.”

He took her by the hand and led her into a small room with a small table, set for two, in the center. A lace tablecloth lay over it and fancy place settings sat upon it. A chandelier blazed above them, furthering Corina’s interior fairytale. Isaiah pried her bag from her hands, an easy task with her mind wandering elsewhere in the room. With a gentle, “Sit, I’ll be right back,” he took their bags up to the rooms. 

When he returned, Corina had lost herself in hysterics. “Isaiah, you paid for catering too?” The table now bore gifts of glorious foods and beverages. “The little man who brought it in is just the cutest. He doesn’t speak a word of English other than ‘beautiful’ so every time I said anything to him, he would just nod his head and repeat that over and over. ‘Beautiful. Beautiful. Beautiful.’ He made it sound much more expressive than any English speaker I’ve ever heard.” 

Isaiah chuckled. “Perhaps I’ll have to confront the guy. If all he can say to my girl is beautiful, we might have a problem on our hands.” The briefest of pauses before… “But you look beautiful, Corina.”
The young couple savored their meal, their friend the cook entering every so often to check on them. It was true, the only English he knew was ‘beautiful’ but never had such a simple word held as much meaning as when it rolled off his lips. A charming fellow indeed. 

By the time the two sat back in their chairs, idly sipping at their glasses of wine, neither wished to move. They could have fallen asleep in their chairs and woken up content the next morning, but Isaiah had different ideas. 

Taking Corina by the hand, he led her up a shirt flight of stairs onto a balcony overlooking the surrounding area in the twlight. The moon hung in the sky and the only word Corina could use to describe it was ‘beautiful.’ She heard it in the little chef’s voice, each syllable accented and unique and meaningful. The stars spattered across the sky paled in comparison to the beauty of the moon. 

Corina said nothing, her exhaustion and awe forcing all words to flee from her lips. 

Isaiah’s eyes lingered on Corina. It didn’t matter that her hair fell in her face and she smelled of sweat from a long day. It didn’t matter that her eyes lacked their usual luster due to exhaustion. She still shone bright against the world as the most beautiful woman Isaiah had ever known. 

“Corina, do you see how far reaching the stars are? How you can see so many of them but you don’t know how far they reach? How they seem endless?” She responded with a mindless mutter. “If you or anyone were to ask me how much I love you, I’d point at the sky and tell them I will love you for as long as the stars go on.” 

By now, Corina had forgotten the luminaries in the sky and focussed on the one before her. Her eyes searched his, feeling every wave of love and affection thrown her way. She took his hand in hers. Something hard and cold brushed against her skin and she looked down. 

Isaiah held a simple ring, a single stone, small but shining like it belonged in the night sky. He didn’t have to say anymore. Corina knew. She didn’t have to speak, her actions telling all. 

“I guess I’ll be helping to plan another day after all.”

***

Prompt: Uhhhhhh… I dunno. Guess marriage has been on my mind lately  (imagine that! thinking about marriage a lot while taking a class titled Marriage and Family, say what?) and I’m always looking at how beautiful Europe is. So I guess I just combined the two?

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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.