#52weeks52stories “Frozen in Time, Part III”

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#52weeks52stories: Week 47

Word prompt: smack

Word count – 724

Reading time – 2 mins, 14 secs

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Frozen in Time, Part III

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Luci Gwynn yammered on about sanity napkins and belts as Petra huddled in the sofa’s corner clutching a hot water bottle against her stomach.

Neither of them heard Vance enter.

“What’s wrong with her?”

Startled, Luci looked up at her husband then smiled toward her daughter.

“My little girl’s growing up and entering womanhood.”

“Damn. Now I’ve got to keep an eye on her little hot ass, so she doesn’t go whoring around like the rest of the women in your family.”

Luci’s mouth gaped open in surprise and outrage, but she never got to respond.

Propelled forward by hate, disgust, and a new influx of hormones, Petra pounced on her father, hitting, biting, and scratching in a frenzy of rage.

Caught off-guard and stunned at first, Vance swept his arms down his body, knocking Petra to the floor.

She rose to her knees, panting like an animal ready to attack again, but Vance backed away looking at his hands and arms and feeling his face.

Undeterred, Petra tried to advance on him, but Luci wrapped her arms around her from behind, holding her back.

Vance left the room without a word, the only sound being the opening and closing of the front door.

Loosening her grip, Luci spun her daughter around. “What is wrong with you?”

Still shaking while hostility and loathing coursed through her, Petra was defiant.

“I hate him.”

“But what if he doesn’t come back?”

“Good.”

Luci’s anger grew to match her daughter’s.

“Good? What’s good about it? What about me, Petra?”

The teen sneered. “No more beatings and bruises.”

She knew the slap was coming and didn’t flinch.

Horrified by her own actions, Luci yanked her arm back, clutching her hands to her chest.

“Petra, baby, I’m so sorry.”

Petra back away, her sneer replaced by a smile, then giggles.

Luci reached out for her daughter, but Petra stepped back farther. Her giggles grew to roaring laughter.

“Petra… -”

Wrapping her arms around her stomach, Petra doubled over and tried to speak through gasps for air.

“This… is great. Daddy gives you a black eye for… something as dumb as wearing the wrong dress… and you take it. But you have no problem slapping me for standing up to the big bully.”

“Petra, baby… you don’t understand -”

“Shut up! Don’t say that! Don’t tell me I don’t understand.”

Her laughter abated, Petra rose to her full height.

“Me, Arnold and Leonard have tried to understand our entire lives. We sneak into each other’s rooms and cry together. We’ve been to the library, digging through books on domestic violence because we can’t tell anybody. We can’t ask for help, because we’ll be separated, and Arnie and Len are all I have. So, we decided you put up with daddy to protect us.” She scoffed. “But now I know we were wrong, mama. We’ve always been wrong. It’s about you, only you.”

“No, you’re wrong, baby. I do it for you and your brothers.”

“None of us should have ever been born. This isn‘t a family, it‘s a prison camp.”

“Don’t say that! You kids are everything to me.”

She hung her head in shame.

“Yes, your father hits me, but he’s never hit you. He’s never hurt any of you.”

“Hurt me? Did you see him, mama? I’m his daughter… a thirteen-year-old girl. He didn’t hit me—he didn’t fight back, and not because he’s some noble father. That was fear in his eyes. He’s not used to being challenged. Not used to anyone fighting back. You should try it sometime.”

Luci’s face crumpled at the truth of her daughter’s words.

“But you know what, mama? You don‘t have to use fists to hurt someone.”

Her words were heavy and toneless, and her body sagged, the emotional burden taking its toll.

Repeating her father’s movements, Petra backed toward the doorway.

“But he can’t hurt me anymore, mama. And he’ll never hurt me again.”

Reaching the doorway, Petra glared at the woman who’d given her life.

“And neither will you.”

“Petra!”

Ignoring Luci, she turned and left the room, not stopping until she reached the sanctuary of her bedroom.

Petra Gwynn remembered that day, not for the onset of her periods and the first step toward adulthood, but as the day both her parents no longer mattered to her.

 

 

To be continued

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©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

#52weeks52stories “Frozen in Time, Part II”

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#52weeks52stories: Week 46

Word prompt: smack

Word count – 414

Reading time – 1 mins, 43 secs

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Frozen in Time, Part II

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Vance Gwynn was a mountain of a man who used his bulk to intimidate his wife, Luci.

When his size and words failed, he pummeled her plus-size body with his massive fists.

Luci not only took the beatings, but she’d also always apologize and promise to be a better wife.

She shielded and protected him from law enforcement and concerned neighbors and praised him to their three children.

To no avail.

By the time Petra was eight, she had a deep, soul-wrenching hatred for her father, as did her two older brothers, Arnold and Leonard.

Vance saved the physical abuse for Luci, visiting verbal and psychological tirades on his children instead.

Regardless of how much they grew, the Gwynn children only received new school clothes every other year. Their ill-fitting apparel made Petra and her brothers the targets of abuse and bullying at school. The thrift store items Luci bought to bolster their wardrobe only worsened their plight.

Birthdays and Christmas weren’t recognized, and Vance’s practice of destroying any gifts sent by extended family ceased the flow of gifts… and communication.

The siblings grew closer, bound by their misery, their confusion about their mother’s complacency, and their intense hatred for their father.

At the end of his last year in junior high, Leonard received an engraved plaque for maintaining a perfect 4.0-grade point average—the only one in the district at the junior high level. He was on-track to receive multiple scholarships for college.

He beamed with pride when he presented the award to his mother that evening. Leonard refused to allow her blatant indifference to steal his joy.

Vance took care of that.

Snatching the plaque from Luci’s hands, he banged it against the kitchen sink then dropped it in the trash.

“Stop acting like a girl. It’s just a hunk of wood and means nothing. You’ll still end up cleaning hubcaps down at Remington Car Wash… you and your brother. That’s all you’re good for.”

Standing at just under six-feet-tall, Leonard was bigger than most of the boys in his ninth-grade class, but he was almost a hundred pounds smaller than his father.

Still, his murderous glare that followed Vance as he sauntered from the kitchen both scared and excited Petra.

She didn’t want her brother to get hurt, but had he grabbed a knife from the butcher block and ran after their father, she wouldn’t have stopped him.

Just as she couldn’t stop herself two weeks later.

 

To be continued

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©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

#52weeks52stories “Frozen in Time”

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It’s week 52 and the last post of 2018!

It’s been quite a writing year for me. I didn’t publish the books I’d planned but I’m good with that because the year was a giant leap forward in finding my writing voice.

Challenges like #52weeks52stories coaxed forced me out of my comfort zone and I haven’t looked back.

My last post is a serial in six parts that I have to complete and post by 11:59 PM Monday.

This should be fun!

Have a great Sunday!

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#52weeks52stories: Week 52

Word prompt: smack

Word count – 429

Reading time – 1 mins, 42 secs

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Frozen in Time, Part 1

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“Please don’t come here again.”

The battered woman trailing police to the front door turned and whispered in a hard voice, “You don’t understand. This was my fault. I shouldn’t have pushed Elliott about coats for the kids.”

Petra Gwynn smirked. “You remind your husband your three children are wearing nylon jackets in freezing temps and he has the right to smack you around?”

Sonia Milan glanced over her shoulder at the cops standing next to their squad cars.

“Elliott’s been through a lot. He lost his mom at a young age… lost friends while serving in the middle-east and got an injury that ended his military career. He has to be handled a certain way.”

“Bullshit! He’s not the first person to lose someone or get injured in combat. Those are excuses, Sonia.” She turned her neighbor toward the hallway mirror. “Look at your face. That’s not how you treat someone you love.”

Sonia’s temper flared, and she whirled around to face her neighbor.

“Don’t you dare judge my husband. You have no idea what it’s like for him. Keep your opinions to yourself and mind your own damn business.”

Petra clenched her fists hanging at her sides.

The freakin’ nerve!

She approached Sonia until their noses were almost touching.

“That’s exactly what I was doing until you banged on my door. You cried out for my help. You begged me to call the police.”

She brushed past her clueless neighbor and stood by the open front door.

“And you are leaving my home… now.”

Kowtowed, Sonia turned for the front door.

Petra thrust her arm out blocking the woman’s path.

“He needs help, Sonia, before something even worse happens. But if you don’t care about yourself or somehow feel you deserve to be his punching bag, think of your children. They see everything and forget nothing. And it’s doing more damage than you can ever imagine.”

Sonia’s jaws tightened, and she pushed past Petra, storming down the walkway.

Closing the door, Petra sagged against it as the anger dissipated from her body.

I shouldn’t have lost my temper. Sonia needs understanding, not my contempt. Elliott has beaten her down so low, she believes she’s to blame for his shortcomings.

Petra slid to the floor, remembering the look of terror in her neighbor’s eyes when she’d first answered the door.

It was the same look she’d seen in her own mother’s eyes for most of her life.

To be continued

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©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

#52weeks52stories “The Christmas Gift”

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“I last posted during week 44 and it’s week 51, which means I have six entries to post.”

One down, five to go! 😉

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#52weeks52stories: Week 45

Word prompt: journal

Word count – 281

Reading time – 1 mins, 10 secs

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“Wake up, sleepyhead! It’s Christmas!”

Gordie Williams bolted upright.

Aw, man. I overslept.

He rolled out of bed, brushing past his older brother.

Not slowing down at the top of the stairs, Gordie took them two at a time.

He raced into the family room and dropped at the foot of the Christmas tree, his eyes searching the piles of boxes and gift bags.

Finding the box with the Tompkins Fine Writing Essentials label-tape, the twelve-year-old’s heart leapt into his throat.

Gordie lifted the box with reverence and leaned back against the sofa.

Removing the top, his fingers caressed the faux leather journals. His lips twitched at the corners as he picked up one of the balanced pens.

No more one-subject notebooks. No more of his father’s cast-off legal pads with the scant few pages left, or dried-up pens from the 99-Cent Store left too long on the shelf.

Gordie fanned the pages of the matching undated planner wondering which story he should write first—the epic pirate adventure or the one about the magician’s son with low self-esteem.

He jumped when his mom knelt next to him, sliding her arm around his shoulder.

“Merry Christmas, baby.”

“Thanks, mom. Merry Christmas.”

Celeste Williams kissed her youngest son’s forehead.

“Mr. Lawrence is a great English teacher, Gordie, but never let anyone tell you your imagination is too broad or unbelievable.”

She reached out, touching the gift box.

“Write your stories, baby. Your way.”

Gordie dropped the writing tools and pulled his mother into a tight hug. It muffled his reply as he buried his face into her neck to hide the tears forming.

“I will, momma. I will.”

And he did.

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©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

#52weeks52stories “Christmas is Love”

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This short story was so much better twenty-four hours ago before SCRIVENER ATE IT without having the decency to auto-save it the way it’s supposed to. I had to step away from NaNoWriMo and try to recreate it from notes and memory and well, you know who this brain works. I hope I recaptured the sentiment even if the words escaped me. (Thanks for nothing, Scrivener!)

#52weeks52stories: Week 44

Word prompt: family

Word count – 2662

Reading time – 8:37

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The holiday season held no joy for Mavis Landry.

The thirty-four-year-old stood in the supermarket check-out line cringing as Christmas carols blared from the store’s sound system.

The First Noel used to be her favorite carol, now she fought off tears and a panic attack as the second verse began.

She wasn’t always like this, in danger of becoming a soulless Scrooge.

Her earliest holiday memories were happy ones. George and Carol Landry believed in living life to its fullest, and the period from Halloween through New Year’s Day was one long holiday for Mavis and her older brother, Michael, with Christmas being the focal point. Carol Landry’s love of Christmas and its magic was unmatched and she surprised them all each year with a new tradition.

But life for the Landry family changed the year Mavis completed pharmacy school.

Living and working three hours from her parent’ home, Mavis coordinated her arrival with Michael, who lived two hours away on the other side of their parents, as a surprise for George and Carol.

When she arrived just before five on the evening of the twenty-second, Mavis wasn’t concerned Michael wasn’t there yet. Despite living closer, her brother was from a more metropolitan area and had more freeways and traffic to contend with.

But worry did creep into her thoughts as each hour passed and her calls to his cell went straight to voicemail.

George talked Mavis and her mother into sitting down to dinner at eight but they hadn’t finished their salads when a knock at the door lead them to find two highway patrol officers in the doorway.

Mavis would never forget her mother’s mournful wails.

Two SUVs engaged in racing and road rage caused a multiple vehicle accident which took five lives, including twenty-eight-year old Michael Landry.

Mavis spent Christmas Day waiting for the medical examiner to release her brother’s body.

The Landrys went on because that’s what families do. George and Carol still decorated and Mavis still made the trip home but the holiday was like re-opening an old wound that would never heal.

Four years after Michael’s death, Mavis cut her holiday trip short. Instead of staying through New Year’s Day, she was going home on the 27th to ring in the new year with a new man in her life.

George went out to clear the walkway of the overnight snowfall and never returned.

Carol’s mournful wails became the center of Mavis’ nightmares.

She didn’t return home for three weeks, seeing her mother through the autopsy and funeral.

Altering her work schedules, Mavis made monthly visits to see her mom, whose depression appeared worse with each visit.

Inspired by her boss, who’d lost his wife to breast cancer, Mavis took a six-month leave of absence from work, moved in with Carol Landry and got them both into family counseling.

The slow process was cathartic for the Landry women but bought them back to the land of the living. Two years after George’s death, Mavis took her mom to Paris for Christmas. There was still tears and grief but Mavis was grateful they were together sharing new experiences instead of locked inside the family home sharing space with ghosts.

With her sixtieth birthday approaching, Carol went back to volunteering in the community and surprising the neighborhood with baked treats.

Mavis returned to work with a new outlook on life. She still felt the loss but refused to allow it to drag her down. Her father and brother wouldn’t approve.

There was humor and fun in the Landry home again when Mavis took James home with her for Thanksgiving.

Mavis knew her mom was excited over her relationship and hopeful for the future.

But futures aren’t guaranteed.

After speaking with her mother last on the twentieth, Mavis and James loaded his Range Rover the next day and made the three-hour-trip to Carol’s.

Mavis’ pulse quickened when they pulled up in front of the Landry home.

Unlike every other home on the block, the recent snowfall still covered the driveway and sidewalks.

Even after George’s death, Carol was still fastidious about keeping access areas free of snow during the winter.

Mavis trudged to the front door, dreading each step.

Using her key, Mavis entered the house, not bothering to remove her boots. Carol’s anger over wet floors was the least of her concerns.

Mavis stood in the foyer as James came inside.

“Mavis, where’s your mom?”

She didn’t respond.

“Mavis?”

She walked into the living room and her heart sank.

The Christmas tree stood in the corner…dark. Neither Santa’s Village above the fireplace nor the nativity scene on the floor next to it was lit.

Mavis knew.

She turned and raced down the hallway to her mother’s bedroom, but she froze when she reached it, resting her forehead against the door.

James’ arms slipped around her waist from behind. “Do you want me to do it?”

Mavis clasped his hands and squeezed. “I have to.”

She opened the door, surprised to find both bedside lamps on, but not surprised by anything else.

Surrounded by books, magazines, and with a notepad on her lap, Carol Landry appeared to have fallen asleep while making holiday plans.

Mavis crawled onto the bed and pulled her mother’s stiff, cold body into her arms… and her mother’s mournful wails from the past became her own.

James sat on the bed behind Mavis and held her as she cried.

He knew he should call someone, but he also knew they would separate mother and daughter. Mavis needed this time with the last member of her family.

Losing Carol broke Mavis, but she didn’t sink back into depression. Mavis’s anger boiled over and she lashed out.

When the medical examiner told her that like her father, Carol, too, had died from a sudden, massive coronary, Mavis flew into a rage and railed about how two people living a healthy lifestyle didn’t just die because of bad hearts.

She screamed about the inability of two people to share a road made for everyone taking her brother from her.

Exhausted, she’d fallen into James’ arms and it was only because of him, Mavis got through it all.

But as the newness and rebirth of spring arrived, Mavis was still angry and pushing James away.

Having lost his own mother, and only family member, while in high school, James knew what Mavis was going through and stuck by her side, enduring her hurtful comments and apathy. He also hung onto the engagement ring he’d planned to give her right after dinner with her mother.

Guided by fear, Mavis refused James’ offer to spend Christmas together. Saying she needed the time alone, Mavis made the solemn journey to the family home she refused to part with.

“Merry Christmas! How are you this afternoon?”

Pulled from her thoughts, Mavis realized it was her turn in line and stepped forward.

“All set for Christmas?”

Mavis considered the woman, close to her own age, in her red sweater and matching Santa-hat. Her name badge read, “Patty”, and Mavis also didn’t miss the wedding rings on Patty’s left hand. Patty, no doubt had a perky husband and 2.3 perky children waiting for her at home.

“Yes, thank you.”

After swiping her debit card, Mavis took her bag from Patty, anxious to flee her cheery presence.

“Have a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year!”

Mavis didn’t turn around or respond, but guilt and shame hit her in the face along with the frigid temps as she left the store.

“Would you care to make a donation to We’re Rollin’?”

Glancing to her right, Mavis saw a young woman bundled against the cold seated at a table.  She was in a wheelchair, as was the older man next to her.

“Excuse me? We’re Rollin’? What’s that?”

“We’re a local nonprofit organization that provides free rides to medical appointments for seniors and the disabled.”

“Free?”

“Yes, ma’am. Not everyone can afford the fee-based transport services. They’re income-based and there are forms and a process applicants must go through. Many get denied because their monthly income is over the required limit, but full fares are still out of their reach.”

Mavis approached the table.

“Sounds like a good program but I’m sure you get taken advantage of.”

The old man laughed. “There’s always someone who going to game the system, young lady, but we know they’re outnumbered by good folks who need a service like this one. Even though they can’t afford fee-based rides, most folks always make a donation. They’re glad we’re here, so we never turn down anyone.”

The sincerity in his eyes brought a smile to Mavis’ face. “I’m sure your dedication is appreciated.” She pulled out her wallet.

“Thanks, young lady, but I owe this program to my wife, Marianne. She was a retired nurse and a doer—always lending a hand to someone somewhere—providing rides to doctor’s appointments and taking up collections to help someone meet their prescription copays.”

Mavis had lost count over the years of the prescriptions she put back on shelves because customers couldn’t afford them.

“Even after I lost my legs to diabetes, Marianne took care of me, our home, and half the neighborhood. She was something else. When I lost her five years ago, I didn’t think I could go on. I just sat in my house waiting to die. This story came on the news about the increase in local 911 calls because people didn’t have any other way to get medical help, and most of those folks were seniors and the disabled. I heard Marianne in my head saying, “So? What are you waiting for?” He laughed again. “In a month’s time, I had a van and a volunteer driver. After one year, we were a registered 501(c)(3) with three vans and more volunteers than we can use.”

Excited, the young woman finished the story. “Now we have eight vans and sponsorship from local businesses that take care of insurance and vehicle maintenance, but we still fund-raise to cover fuel expenses so rides are always available when needed.”

“And the name, We’re Rollin’, how did you come up with that?”

“It’s what Marianne said every time she got behind the wheel.”

The chains of grief eased their grip on Mavis’ heart. Ignoring the loose bills in her wallet, Mavis pulled out the two bills hidden behind her driver’s license. Unfolding them, she handed the bills to the young woman, whose eyes widened.

“Ma’am? All of this?”

Mavis winked at the old man. “Yes, for Marianne.”

She dropped the two one-hundred-dollar bills into a money pouch, then reached for candy canes to show their thanks. But the old man stilled her hand, and instead handed Mavis a red envelope.

“Merry Christmas to you, young lady, and thank you.”

She accepted the envelope. “You’re welcome and Merry Christmas to you both.”

Mavis headed to her car, her steps a little lighter, her mind not as weary.

She wasted no time starting the SUV and turning the heat up to high. As she waited for warmth, Mavis opened the red envelope and pulled out a Christmas card.

The photo on the front showed a group of smiling people posed around a Christmas tree. In the center of the group was the old man in the wheelchair.

“Merry Christmas from Mitchell Pierce and the dedicated volunteers of We’re Rollin’!”

She opened the card and one side read, “May the joy and warmth of this holiday season be with you now and always”, and the opposite side had three linked candy canes and above them were the words, “Peace, Love, Joy.”

Tears erupted from Mavis Landry… and she leaned her head back and let them flow.

Clutching the card to her chest, Mavis didn’t cry for her brother and parents, but she cried for what she’d allowed her loss to steal from her. She cried because she’d forgotten the joy and peace of mind that came from love of family. She cried because she’d allowed her grief to blind her to all the good around… and inside her.

Wiping her eyes, Mavis knew she had to do better… try harder, and she headed home, grateful for meeting an old man who’d found strength in his grief to help others.

James.

She glanced at her watch.

It was getting late and traffic would be heavy in all directions. She had no right to call James and ask him to make the trip down, but she could go to him. All he’d ever done was love her and stand by her side and she’d pushed him away. James had proven the kind of man he was and what Mavis meant to him, now she had to step up and do the same… and pray she hadn’t lost him.

Pulling into the Landry driveway, Mavis felt joy for the first time in months.

James stepped out of his Range Rover and walked to her car as she jumped out.

“I know you said you needed to be alone, but I needed to be with you more.”

He didn’t have time to say anymore. Mavis launched her body at him and they fell over into a snowbank.

She covered his face in kisses, all the while apologizing for blocking him out and not considering his feelings.

He kissed her then stroked her cheek. “Mavis, why are we laying in the snow?”

She giggled as he stood and pulled her up, but realization dawned on her when she glanced at her watch.

Grabbing James hand, she dragged him toward her SUV. “C’mon! We have forty-six minutes before stores close and there’s nothing in the house for Christmas dinner.”

James laughed, stopping Mavis in her tracks.

Leading her to the back of the Range Rover, he opened the hatch and she was floored by the bags of food. He even brought firewood.

“I kind of figured you’d try to get through the holidays on pizza rolls and coffee.”

Mavis bit her lip, remembering the two bags of pizza rolls she’d just bought.

He shook his head laughing. “Let’s get this stuff inside. We’ve got a tree to decorate.”

“Tree?”

James pointed toward the front door and she saw a large, bound Douglas Fir leaning against the door. When she glanced back, he was already filling his hands with bags and Mavis joined him.

After everything was inside—including the pizza rolls—James went to work building a fire.

In the kitchen, Mavis emptied shopping bags, in awe of James’ attention to detail. There were even bottles of champagne for New Year’s.

She hadn’t lost her chance and she wasn’t alone.

Mavis had a sudden need to be close to James. Abandoning the groceries, she headed for the living room.

Her steps slowed in the hallway. She’d almost trapped herself in a dark place, consumed with all she’d lost. She caused herself pain by hanging onto nonexistent ghosts instead of letting go and reaching for what was right in front of her.

Michael and their parents loved her and that’s what she needed to show. People needed to see them live on in her and through her.

James had a fire going and was opening boxes of decorations when Mavis entered the room.

Kneeling at his side, Mavis opened a tote. Her chest tightened but a smile graced her lips as she pulled out the mahogany box. It contained one of Carol Landry’s most treasured decorations, a gift from her mother-in-law, Granny Helen when Mavis was still in her teens.

Opening the box, Mavis ran her fingers over the inscription on the mirrored candle tray’s edges and knew she would be okay.

James looked over at what she was holding. “What’s that?”

“Wise words I’d forgotten.” She held it up for him to read the words that held so much meaning for her this year.

“Christmas is about family; family is about love. Rejoice in Love.”

~~~

 

©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

#52weeks52stories “Watching You Watching Me”

This may or may not be Halloween-inspired! 😀 #Suspense #Horror

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#52weeks52stories: Week 41

Word prompt: aroused

Word count – 2656

Reading time – 7 mins

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He blamed Monica Montgomery for his predilection.

Four years his senior, the nineteen-year-old had lured him to her bedroom and introduced him to sex… and erotic asphyxiation.

Terrified at first, he soon learned how the right amount of pressure on her carotid arteries enhanced her orgasms. Her heightened arousal and reaction was a turbo boost to his own and soon he couldn’t have sex without the strangulation hold.

When he arrived at Monica’s for one of their weekly visits, she stopped him at the doorway with a kiss on the forehead and informed him she was headed to Europe to continue her education.

His devastation only worsened when he learned days later, Monica Montgomery moved to Germany… with her fiancé.

Despite his good looks and wealth, high school girls weren’t throwing themselves at him and he was miserable until he got to college.

He found some college coeds were more adventurous and had no problem with his request, yet most girls found it a total turn-off and whispers of pervert and weirdo grew around him.

By his senior year, he was frustrated and humiliated. He stopped frequenting the local favored eateries and pubs of the college crowd and ventured into more adult hot spots, which is how he met the lusty Vanessa.

Encouraged by the older woman’s enthusiasm as she dragged him from the nightclub, he didn’t make his usual sexual request.

Which was a mistake.

Vanessa had screamed in pleasure twice as he still struggled for his release.

Leaning on his elbows, he’d slipped his hands around her throat. He increased the pressure with each thrust and a smile grew on his face as his climax neared.

But the moment was short-lived when Vanessa bucked him off her with such force he ended up on the floor on the other side of the bed. She ran from his apartment naked and screaming he was trying to murder her.

It cost his father millions in legal fees and to buy Vanessa’s silence.

And, he’d lost his spot in his family.

Directed by his father’s attorney, with lightened hair and a new beard, he’d been uprooted from his home in the toney Chicago suburb of Lake Forest and dumped in Denver, Colorado.

No one asked him if he wanted to leave Illinois or where he wanted to go.

The attorney purchased a three-suite office complex and small estate in his name and handed him the keys, an envelope containing several credit cards and banking information… and the business card of a psychiatrist. After admonishing him to keep his therapy appointments and to not cause his family any more embarrassment, the stone-faced counselor walked away, headed for a return flight home.

So began his exile.

But rage and resentment burned in his soul. He should have stood his ground and protested. They had no right to cast him out. He was one of them. He was just like them.

His father called it an enrichment program for girls, but he knew the only reason Peter Stanhope created the nonprofit, Girls Can was to give himself easy access to nubile young girls.

His mother knew all about his father’s habits and couldn’t care less. Rita Stanhope had a thing for blue-collar men and spent her time cruising the construction sites and pubs of downtown Chicago. Stanhope money had lured dozens of working-class men to hourly motels.

And his older brothers? Peter, Jr. and Jarrett worked for the same law firm and between the two of them, had screwed every man and woman in the building, sometimes at the same time.

Joseph had a violent temper and was an abuser. Peter Stanhope had spent millions to silence two ex-girlfriends and two ex-wives.

Even baby sister, Rhonda, at twenty-four, wasn’t an innocent. A hard-core drinker and self-professed pain slut, she’d been thrown out of and barred from most of the BDSM clubs in and around the Chicago area. They didn’t like the type of public attention Rhonda’s behavior attracted.

But he was the deviant. He was the one judged for showing aberrant behavior.

For two days, he sat in his sparsely furnished mini-estate replaying everything in his head. As he railed at the hypocrisy and double standards and fumed over the judgmental glares from his mother and siblings his mind fractured.

With an eerie calm only the psychotic could understand he decided if his family didn’t want him, he didn’t want them, and they didn’t deserve to know his whereabouts.

A quick Internet search brought Marley Hennicks to his front door.

The bottle blonde grinned too much, exposed too much of her breast implants, and reeked of Caron’s Poivre, just like his mother. But she was a competent realtor and in less than a week, she’d sold his home and office building and found him a place in California.

He packed up his Mercedes GLS 450 SUV the same day he signed his sale and purchase documents and left Denver. Eleven hours later, he stopped for the night in Las Vegas. When he checked out of the Double Tree Hotel the next morning, the disgusting hair dye rinse and offensive beard were gone… and so was his mind.

***

Six Months Later

Tonight was date night, she just didn’t know it yet.

But she would. Soon.

He’d planned the evening down to the last detail.

Taking one last glance in the mirror he was pleased with his appearance. New navy dockers he paired with a button-down shirt the same shade as his ice-blue eyes. A fresh haircut to tame his unruly dark curls complimented his look.

She would be impressed.

He went into his back bedroom and peered out the window.

She was home from work.

He could see into her kitchen and dining area and watched her prepare her evening meal.

Gone was the conservative dark business suit she wore every day to City Hall. He wondered what her staff would think of the city’s senior accountant dancing around her kitchen in boy shorts and a tank top.

He knew she was putting on a show for him, teasing him. Running his hand over his crotch he anticipated how sweet she would be, how he would get what he’d craved since the day they met.

She was struggling with boxes in her driveway and he’d rushed across the street to offer his assistance.

“Hey, new neighbor! Can I give you a hand?”

“Oh, thank you! I don’t know what I was thinking of packing so many books in one box.”

He grabbed the box and followed her through the garage to the mudroom, setting the box down against the wall.

“I appreciate the help. Thank you again…” Her words trailed off and he didn’t miss a beat, thrusting his right hand forward.

“Hart Stanhope.”

Accepting his hand, she looked into his eyes for the time.

His stomach flip-flopped and his pulse raced. She had gorgeous brown eyes and smooth clear mocha-kissed skin. A few wispy strands of gray graced her temples, making her older than what he’d assumed.

Hart liked that.

But it was her neck, her long, feminine neck where his eyes rested. He imagined his hands around her neck, squeezing, taking them both to heights of pleasure.

“Thank you, Hart Stanhope. I’m Penelope Driver. Friends call me Penny or PD.”

Startled from his fantasy, Hart stuttered and rebounded.

“It’s… nice to meet you, Penny, and welcome to the neighborhood.

Focusing on the mudroom to hide his embarrassment, Hart took note of all the boxes already stacked along the walls.

“Wow. Are all these filled with books? What do you do?”

“I’m a senior accountant in the city comptroller’s office, and yes, most of these boxes are filled with books.” She looked around as though checking for eavesdroppers. “I’ll let you in on a little secret. These books have nothing to do with my job. I just love to read.” She chuckled and headed for the door.

Hart followed her out to her SUV.

“Need help with any more boxes?”

“No. The movers have everything else and should be here soon.”

It was his cue to leave.

“I’m just across the street if you need anything. I’m sort of the neighborhood geek-to-the-rescue for computer problems. Most of our neighbors are older and every time there’s a Windows update it gets crazy around here. But I’m a consultant and work from home so don’t hesitate to knock on my door. For anything.”

“Thanks, Hart. I’ll do that.”

Only she hadn’t.

Hart waited weeks for her to come to him. But other than friendly waves and smiles as she came and went, she ignored him.

Was there another man?

He’d never seen anyone visit Penny other than friends on the weekends.

Hart took advantage of the high walls and shrubbery people used to isolate themselves, using them as cover and entered Penney’s house several times while she was at work.

She was neat and had good taste in furnishings.

Her bedding was exquisite and he couldn’t help but admire a woman who lived alone and slept on organic linen chambray.

One side of her walk-in closet held the severe suits she wore to work in the obligatory navys, grays, and tweeds, but the rest of the closet was all silks, cashmeres, and wools.

Penny’s wardrobe was worthy of any supermodel or CEO’s wife. But he found no evidence of another man or that anyone was taking care of her.

Hart liked that.

She took care of herself and had standards. Just like him.

She was meant for him and they would be together.

It was time.

The lights in her dining room dimmed and Hart knew she was cleaning the kitchen.

He headed for his garage, stopping to pick up the handcuffs, chloroform, and dagger from the kitchen counter.

He’d never hurt Penny. She was his. But he had to be safe to avoid another Vanessa-episode. His family would find out and he never wanted to see them again… or the disgust and contempt in their lying eyes.

He backed out his driveway, stopping to wave at the Sondheims who were just arriving home from dinner.

He turned right at the corner on to Corral Cove but instead of continuing on to the Huntington Drive main drag, he took another immediate right onto the access alley which ran behind the houses on Penny’s side of the street.

Hart stopped three houses away from Penny’s and killed his motor. He sat there listening to the ambient sounds of the night.

He knew these people and their routines. Those who weren’t already in bed were watching Dancing with the Stars or reruns of shows from days gone by. Some were online chatting with family or hunting down the latest remedy for rheumatoid arthritis.

Locked inside their expensive homes, they were not concerned with what happened on the other side of their doors.

Hart left his vehicle and walked the short distance to Penny’s back gate. He hadn’t been able to master the combination lock but scaled the fence with little effort. His jump to the ground on the other side startled two feral cats and they roared and hissed. Hiding behind a rose bush, Hart watched Penny pull the kitchen curtain back and look out only for a few seconds before returning to her cleaning.

He rushed to the other end of the house and the bedroom next to Penny’s bedroom. He took down the window frame he’d loosened yesterday and pulled the screen back, slipping inside with ease.

Hart stood in the darkened room and relaxed, taking in the scent of Chloe Narcisse. Not pricey like Caron’s Poivre, but distinctive, and its spicy, rich oriental floral blend was a perfect match for his Penny.

His steps were slow but deliberate as he entered the dark hallway. He’d planned to wait for Penny in her bedroom but his need for her propelled him toward the kitchen.

Hart stood just outside the kitchen doorway, still shrouded in darkness. She was still at the sink, singing along and wiggling her ass to some 80s nonsense as she washed dishes.

Just as he was about to step into the kitchen, the feral cats sounded again, this time at war with each other.

She looked out her window again.

“Damn cats! Who keeps feeding you? If they can feed you, they can catch you and take you to a rescue shelter. Damn!”

His heart sank. Her mood had changed and now she was annoyed. She didn’t go back to dancing and singing, but stood with her back stiff, arms perched on the edge of the sink.

He fingered the dagger in his pocket.

He didn’t want to hurt her. He couldn’t.

Hart slid the blade from his pocket. He would only use it to keep her calm… until she realized it was him and this was their night.

He gripped the blade tighter as sweat beaded on his forehead. He looked at the distance between them and counted seconds.

Her shoulders lowered as she relaxed and slid her hands back into the dishwater.

Hart raced toward her, the blade raised in his right hand, but just as he reached her, Penny whirled around to face him.

He froze. The calm in those beautiful brown eyes showed she wasn’t surprised. She knew he was there.

Hart tried to speak but no words came.

Penny’s eyes went to his chest and he looked down… to see the handle of a butcher’s knife—the rest of the knife buried deep in his chest.

His eyes went back to her face. The calm was gone, replaced by a dark, malevolent glare.

She smirked and twisted the knife as she pushed him away from her.

Hart’s brain exploded with pain as he fell to the floor. His mouth filled with his warm blood.

He watched her stoop down next to him, her eyes filled with the same disgust and contempt as his family. She spoke.

“Did you think I didn’t know, Hart? After all this time? I’ve been watching you watching me for weeks.”

He watched her stand, step over him and walk away. He couldn’t go after her. He couldn’t even turn his head.

As his lungs filled with blood, Hart tried to make sense of what happened, but his mind went sideways again and he smiled.

She knew. All the skimpy outfits and sexy dances had been for him.

Hart Stanhope took his last breath and died a happy man. He’d been right. She was his.

***

Penny Driver checked the window Hart came through… to make sure he hadn’t closed it. She went into her bedroom, grabbing her green silk robe and cell phone.

Back in the hallway, she ripped the sleeve away from the robe, dropping it to the floor. She overturned a slim bookcase and lamp table on the way back to the kitchen. She pushed the breakfast table aside and overturned two chairs. Then Penny left the kitchen, never even looking at Hart’s body.

She stared out her front window at the quiet of the night… as she pulled strands of hair from her ponytail and ripped the strap of her tank top.

She sighed, dreading the next few hours.

The cops would show up, spending more time during their thorough investigation staring at her ass and bare legs than doing any real investigating.

They’d decide on the spot she’d defended herself from an intruder and whisk her away to the ER to be checked out.

A victim’s advocate would stand at her bedside, patting her hand and telling her how lucky she was to be alive. They’d go on to explain how difficult it was for the average person to take a life, but they would be with her all the way to help her get through it.

Penny smirked while powering up her cell.

It was a long time ago, but she hadn’t found the first kill difficult at all.

~~~

 

©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

#52weeks52stories “Liana”

Liana banner

~~~

This young lady, Liana Daniels, is haunting my thoughts again. She’s talking about her sisters and her father, and about trying to please everyone and be the family cheerleader.

And how she almost lost herself in the process.

~~~

#52weeks52stories: Week 39

Word prompt: cutting

Word count – 535

Reading time – 2 mins, 4 secs

~~~

Knowing her father would be at a job site and her two sisters still in class, Liana Daniels skipped her sixth period chemistry class and rushed home and straight to her bedroom.

Taking the shoe box from the back of her closet, Liana sat on the floor and stared at it. She knew even wanting to do this meant she had emotional problems. There wasn’t much on the subject of self-harm at the library, but Liana vividly remembered two phrases — personality disorder… and schizophrenia.

Suddenly angry, Liana ripped the top off the shoe box. She wasn’t crazy… she wasn’t! She just didn’t understand why her family had to suffer so. Why did her mother go away? How could she leave her daughters? And her dad… even when they managed to all have fun and laugh together, she could still feel his sadness.

She thought the family might get some relief from Sophia, her rigid rules, and need to control when she went off to college. But Sophia came home most weekends… and sometimes popped in during the week. Reina was acting out and getting into trouble all over Granger, and Neema was painfully shy and withdrawn.

She couldn’t add to her father’s growing list of problems with his girls. He needed her to be strong.

Feeling tears burning in the corner of her eyes, Liana removed the single-edge razor blade from the shoe box. Without hesitation, she slipped off the cardboard sleeve, held out her left arm and in a slow, deliberate motion, made a two-inch cut.

Liana didn’t cut too deep, yet she was amazed at the amount of blood… and how she felt! Expecting the burn or sting of pain, she instead felt relief… and euphoria! Making another cut right next to the first, she leaned her head back and closed her eyes. Gone were the jumbled thoughts and the near panic. Gone were the feelings of guilt and doubt. It was as though a suffocating fog had cleared allowing her to breathe again.

Ten minutes later, feeling light and refreshed, Liana used the gauze and antiseptic she’d also placed in the shoe box to clean her cuts. When she finished, the cuts appeared to be two faint scratches on her arm. Satisfied, Liana wrapped the used razor blade and bloody gauze in a piece of clean gauze and put the tiny bundle in a small brown paper bag.

She returned the shoe box and its contents to the back of her closet and slipped the small bag into her coat pocket. She would have to throw it away on the way to school tomorrow.

Relaxed for the first time in days, Liana stretched out across her bed. The books she’d read were wrong. What she had done wasn’t wrong. She hadn’t used drugs or hurt anyone. She had not caused five minutes’ worth of trouble. And she was not crazy. Liana knew she just needed a little relief… a temporary crutch to get by. She didn’t plan to make cutting a regular thing or do it forever. Just until her family was happy again.

Just until she was happy again.

A few short minutes later, still thinking about her family, Liana fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.

 

 

 

 Image from Pixabay

©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

#52weeks52stories “Break Away”

Be image

~~~

#52weeks52stories: Week 38

Word prompt: hunger

Word count – 182

Reading time – 45 secs

~~~

Trapped among the chaotic masses

I’m jostled, kicked and pushed

My personal space invaded as others try to claim their own

My soul hungers for peace

And I rise into the arms of my family

Where I am sheltered and loved

But the shelter turns into suffocation

And the love turns into obligation

Old hurts are new again

And I am to blame

My soul hungers for peace

And I rise to the side of friends

Where I’m accepted and understood

By those who know me best

And have navigated the highs and lows

Of this life’s journey with me

But acceptance turns into jealousy

And understanding turns into the double-edged sword of betrayal

My soul hungers for peace

And I rise again, alone but not lonely

Enjoying the peace my soul craved

I look down

At the chaotic masses

At my family

At my friends

But they don’t see me

Because they’re not looking up

They’re looking down

Under the souls of their feet

Where they tried to stomp out my dreams

And crush my joy

 

I smile… and float away

 

 

 Image from Pixabay

©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

#52weeks52stories “the sapling”

sapling

~~~

#52weeks52stories: Week 37

Word prompt: foundation

Word count – 100 (A Drabble)

Reading time – 24 secs

~~~

a young sapling struggles to stand

as its roots stretch deep to grasp a firm hold

on a solid foundation from which to pull water and nutrients

that will help it grow tall and proud and withstand

the endless battering of the elements as they try

to make the sapling bend to their will

or fall from its foundation, broken,

but their grips are steadfast, sapling and foundation,

their bond unbreakable even as the sapling matures

stretching it leaves and limbs

out to receive the nurturing blessings of the sun

and become a force of nature in its own right.

 

 

 Image from Pixabay

©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

#52weeks52stories “A Mother’s Love”

A Mother's Love banner

~~~

#52weeks52stories: Week 36

Word prompt: softball

Word count – 1286

Reading time – 5 mins, 23 secs.

~~~

Kristen Wisdom cursed Greg Gaines for delaying her exit at the end of the workday.

Since her divorce, the accounts payable manager found more reasons to be alone with the senior accounts specialist.

But Kristen wasn’t in the mood for his reindeer games, especially not today. She’d pushed him aside and barreled out the door, blocking out the profanity-laced threats he yelled after her.

“Stuck-up bitch! Guess you don’t need this job.”

That remark made her whirl around to face him.

“I need my job about as much as you need yours, and the only bitch I see is standing in front of a company security system that records video… and audio.”

Horrified, Gaines flung himself backward through the door as though it would erase the security tape.

She fumed as she inched her Camry along in the stop-and-go rush hour traffic. She’d deal with him later.

Men.

Kristen’s day began with her ex-husband, Sean, backing out of today in favor of a Happy Hour birthday celebration for a coworker.

“This is important, Sean. You need to show up.”

“My job’s important too, Kris.”

“Does Happy Hour fall under other job duties as needed?”

“That’s not funny, Kris. You know how the game’s played. I’m up for a promotion and I need to be seen as a team player. Besides, the new position comes with a substantial raise which translates to more alimony and child support for you.”

“Well, that’s different, Sean. Just toss a fistful of dollars at me. That makes everything better in your eyes and erases your guilt. But you’re still an asshole.”

Gripping the steering wheel, Kristen took a deep, cleansing breath.

Norris and Liz Carmichael taught their only child the only obstacles in life were the ones allowed to exist. She’d put her heart and soul into removing barriers for this day to happen. She’d be damned if she allowed two selfish men to ruin it for her.

An idea flashed through Kristen’s mind as she approached the next off-ramp. She zipped off and let out a loud whoop seeing the green light ahead of her. After a left then right turn, she bounced in her seat and pounded the steering wheel, jazzed at the open thoroughfare in front of her.

Eight minutes later, she pulled into the parking lot of the Leon Buford Memorial Recreation Center. Kristen popped the trunk and traded her suit jacket and three-inch pumps for a windbreaker and New Balance runners. Grabbing her blue and gold mom-poms, she raced across the lot to the rear of the rec center.

Rounding the corner of the building, Kristen couldn’t help but smile at the new black-top area paid for by donor dollars.

The bleachers weren’t packed like they would be for a regular game but she was grateful for the crowd of supporters and pleased the local press was there.

She made her way to the front row of the parents’ section and was relieved to find the game had just begun.

The red-and-white-shirted Colts in the field meant the Iron Dragons won the coin toss. She searched for her son in the sea of blue shirts near the dugout. Kristen’s heart sank when she spotted her fourteen-year-old son.

With his elbows on his knees, Nicholas Wisdom rested his chin in his hands.

Her hand went to the center of her chest, rubbing at the tightness forming.

She knew that look.

Nicholas didn’t expect his dad to show, but after not seeing her in the bleachers, he no doubt felt abandoned… again.

The last five years devastated her family.

Kristen’s already rocky marriage was tested and failed when the winter car accident that took her father’s life also put her son in a wheelchair for the rest of his.

Pushing her own grief aside to be there for her son and grieving mother, Kristen had nothing left for her self-involved husband who showed no sympathy… or empathy toward his family.

Less than a year later, Liz Carmichael moved to California to be closer to her aging siblings allowing Kristen to pour all of her time into Nicholas.

The life adjustments were not easy. Besides learning to live life from a wheelchair, it took several months of family counseling to relieve the depressed teen of the guilt he felt for his parents’ divorce.

It was on the way home from one of their last counseling sessions Nicholas screamed out as they drove past a local park and begged his mother to turn around.

Pulling up on the side of the road, they both looked on in awe at the sight before them.

A group of adults was involved in a fast-paced game of softball… from their wheelchairs.

The Wisdoms wasted no time in joining the game’s spectators.

Kristen got a quick history lesson about wheelchair softball and was surprised to learn there was a national governing body with official rules and leagues.

Nicholas was excited to hear there were also junior leagues, but the closest one was five-hundred miles away in the northernmost portion of the state.

Kristen Wisdom had seen enough disappointment in her boy’s face and that day it became her mission to bring youth wheelchair softball to Madison, Ohio.

Several infections and three surgical procedures sidelined Nicholas as teams formed but Kristen kept up her campaign working with parents and doctors to gather corporate sponsorship.

Now, twenty-seven months after Nicholas saw his first wheelchair softball game, he would get a turn at bat and he’d know his mom was there to see it.

It was mom-time.

Removing her windbreaker, Kristen stood on the bench seat and threw her head back, yelling, “Let’s go, Dragons!”

Channeling her inner junior-high-school cheerleader, she danced, bounced, clapped and sashayed through several cheer chants, much to the delight of the other parents… and her boy.

Winded, Kristen dropped back onto her seat as Nicholas approached the on-deck circle.

Denny Miller hit a double sending his teammate to third base.

Nicholas approached the plate and Kristen’s heart was beating like the drum solo in Iron Butterfly’s In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.

The pitcher toyed with Nicholas to either walk him and load the bases or strike him out. But after two balls and one strike, he got too cocky and comfortable and Nicholas was ready, hitting an explosive grounder that sent the sixteen-inch ball speeding past several Colts team members.

Kristen was on her feet cheering as Nicholas rounded the bases so fast, the flame decals on his wheels appeared to flicker.

Two Colts members collided and tumbled from their chairs, giving Nicholas the opportunity to get to third base.

So overcome with excitement and emotions, a wave of dizziness hit Kristen as she watched her son grip his wheels and leaned toward home plate.

Virginia Blanchard was up to bat. Also fourteen, Virginia’s diminutive size made people believe she was younger… and underestimate her. Colts outfielders rolled their chairs in closer.

Virginia wasted no time and sent the first pitch to the fence. The fierce female headed for first base, but Kristen’s eyes were locked onto Nicholas as he sailed into home and the cheers and back-slaps of his teammates.

He gave a thumb’s up to Virginia, who’d made it to second base, and rolled toward the dugout.

Kristen Wisdom was still clapping and cheering when Nicholas stopped and glanced up at her. The smile on his face was brighter than a dozen suns and she erupted into tears.

People around her rubbed her back and passed her tissues but Kristen only cried harder.

She would endure it all—pervy bosses, selfish ex-husbands, rush hour traffic—all of it… every single day just to see her boy’s smile.

Nothing was more important to her.

~~~

 

©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved