Cookies and Stories

She lives on two things: cookies and stories.

The best afternoons are the ones where she comes home to a fresh batch, eats three, then dashes up to her room to read. She sneaks down again after a few chapters, while her mother is occupied elsewhere, and sneaks three more.

She reads entire books in one sitting, then flips to the front and starts over.

Stories fill her mind; stories she’s read, stories she’s watched, stories she’s written. She has dozens of beginnings written, and she keeps sketchbooks and journals everywhere. Her desk drawers are full to overflowing.

She goes to university and graduates with an English degree, the fancy way of saying she spent four years studying stories.

She goes a bit nuts with the cookies.

She gets married; works a bit; has some babies. She feeds her babies cookies, and stories. It’s hard, spending her days with pre-rational creatures who have no qualms about driving her to the brink and back day in and day out. They steal her stories, for a while.

The darkness is awfully dark. On their own, the cookies are powerless.

One day she looks back at the stories she wrote. The ones she put on a shelf in her mind while she dealt with school and marriage and babies and figuring herself out. She remembers the feeling of getting lost in the words, feeling them leak and bubble and gush and pour, keys and clues to the stories that unfolded in her mind while she walked to school, while she sat in the car on road trips, while she lay in her bed in the dark. She wants that feeling again.

The words are terrible. The story is not good.

She starts over. The words come. She eats cookies while she writes, and feels alive.

A Rescue

Alarm rings. Press snooze. Groan. Turn over.

Alarm rings. Turn it off. Groan. Get up. Sit on edge of bed and stare into the abyss for a minute.

Get showered, dressed, fed, caffeinated.

Rush to bus stop. Wait for bus in the inevitable drizzle. Curse the fact that this spring has been unseasonably cold and rainy. Even though spring is always cold and rainy.

Board bus. Find a spot away from other people. Stare out the window.

This is how every day had started so far this year.

At least at the beginning of the year she had classes to go to in the afternoons. Now Steph only had months of other people’s groceries to ring through.

This morning was no different. Until someone sat directly across from her, right in her window-staring line of vision. Someone was a girl about her size and age, but much cooler. Half her head was shaved, and the hair that remained fell to her shoulders and was dyed bright red. She looked back at Steph and smiled. Steph smiled quickly back but looked away. She made small talk all day; she really didn’t want to interact with another person. But when she looked back at the girl, Steph swore she winked at her. Now she started to squirm in her seat. Her stop was coming up, so she decided to just get up and stand near the door. When it was time to ring the bell for her stop, the bus driver yelled back. “Sorry if anyone needs the next stop, the intersection up ahead is closed, so I’ll have to do a bit of a detour here.”

Steph looked back at the girl but she had disappeared. Suddenly overwhelmed, she walked to the front of the bus so she could ask the driver to stop the bus. She should just go home. She could call in sick for one day. But the bus driver who had been there before was gone, and the red haired girl was now driving the bus. Steph realized she was the only one left aboard. The girl smiled a reassuring smile as she cranked the wheel hard and took a fast turn. Steph was not reassured as she hung on for dear life. She ran to the door and tried to pry it open with her fingers. When that didn’t work she started banging on the door and panicking. Just when she thought she was going to lose it, the bus stopped and the front doors opened. They were on a small dirt road, and there was a wooded area in the distance. Steph stepped outside. In the middle of the field in between the road and the wood stood the oldest oak tree Steph had ever seen. It towered above them, and the thick trunk was covered in knots bigger than both her hands together. Steph frowned and shook her head as she realized that in the oak tree’s general area it seemed to not be drizzly. And the tree was in full leaf, while all the other trees still had their spring buds.

Steph looked at the girl, dumbfounded. She was still sitting in the driver’s seat, leaning on her arms on the steering wheel, watching Steph with a grin on her face.

“I know”. The girl said. “It is super weird. But it helped me, and when I saw you this morning I knew you needed help too. So it is yours now. Just promise you’ll show someone else when you don’t need it anymore.” She smiled again, then closed the bus doors and drove off.

Steph walked towards the tree, and as she did she felt the air getting warmer. She looked up at a clear blue sky. When she reached the tree she found an alcove at the base of the huge truck with a sleeping mat, blanket and pillow rolled up inside. There was some food and a thermos of tea, which Steph started to drink while leaning against the trunk of the oak. It felt solid, supporting her, but it was somehow soft at the same time.

She spent the whole day at the foot of the tree. She ate, and alternated sitting in the sun and shade. She read some books that she found in the sleeping nook. After the sun set, she curled up under the tree and looked at the stars that she could see through the branches.

She woke up to sunshine and birdsong.

Deadlines

The deadline for her writing project grew nearer and nearer and she stared at the blank page with increasing frustration. How was she supposed to write in her voice, but about herself? It seems like such a fun assignment, but the distractions kept mounting. New books were published, podcasts filled her phone, twitter kept updating and that candy certainly wasn’t going to crush itself. And most of all, they just kept airing more and more superhero shows. It was a job in itself just to keep up – nevermind her actual job. Plus two kids. Speaking of which, the voice of a five year old little girl called from the bedroom.

“Moommmyyyeeee!!!”

Sighing, Jan walked down the hall and knelt by her daughter’s bed.

“Mommy, I can’t sleep. Tell me a story.”

“Alright. Once upon a time there was a tiger named…”

“TIGG!” The little girl held her stuffed tiger aloft.

“Tigg. Tigg lived deep in the dark jungle. One day Tigg wandered away from her mommy and daddy and found herself all alone in the jungle. No matter where she looked, she couldn’t find her way home. Suddenly she heard a noise ‘Ah-chooo!’. Tigg was scared, but so she hid in some nearby bushes. She watched as a big grey foot stomped by and heard another ‘Ah-choo!’. It was Sneezy the Elephant!”

“Yay!”

Sneezy was a character Jan had invented one night when her story had been interrupted by a sneeze attack. In the past, Sneezy had rescued a princess, saved an owl and helped a bunny find her carrots.

“Sneezy saw Tigg cowering in the bushes and said ‘What are you doing in there, little tiger?’ And Tigg said ‘I’m lost and I can’t find my home.’ So Sneezy scooped up Tigg with her trunk and sat her on top of her head. From there, Tigg could see all over the jungle, and she saw where her house was. So Sneezy took her back to her home where she was so tired from her adventure that she curled up in her cave, slowly relaxed her whole body and fell fast asleep.”

The kids had yet to notice that every single nighttime story ended with the main character falling asleep. She whispered goodnight, left the room and faced her computer again, this time with a story in her head.

Starting Fresh

Thank goodness I brought knitting, I think. I sit in my pew, keeping the yarn taut, feeling my gauge tighten. At least it’s just another horrible prayer shawl. It doesn’t matter. None of this matters.

It’s been two weeks. Two weeks that I’ve been back in this town, coming to this building on Sunday, feeling it stifle me and suck the life out of me. Four years away at university and one more to try and make it work with my boyfriend. Four years of heaven and one year of a new kind of hell. He dumped me; I moved home. Back to the old hell.

I sigh; my mom jabs an elbow into my ribs. Keep it together.

If only it had worked out with Jayden. I tried so hard. But he said the desperation was the worst part, in the end. He said he couldn’t solve my problems for me. It hurt so much; I wasn’t trying to let him solve my problems. I was trying to solve them myself. But in that last agonizing month before our lease was up, when I spent hours on the phone trying to find a place I could afford, after we had broken up but before I had fully given up, something clicked and I saw more clearly than anything that I was using him. He was right. I thought I would shrivel up from all the tears I cried.

I hate it here. I hate that my dad is the pastor and everything I do has to be so careful and perfect, because he is careful and perfect. He screwed up once; he thinks he’d never get a second chance. I think his god is an asshole if that’s true, but I already know that people are assholes and god is more or less a fabrication by people as far as I’m concerned, so he’s right too.

What’s with all these guys being right? I hate that they’re right.

Dad drones on and on about the blood of Jesus and the way it solves all the problems. I could probably preach his sermon for him, just as emphatically. I could pretend to be that holy.

I want to walk out, but I’ve got nowhere to go, and as much as I hate church and God and this town and having to live here again, I love my parents and it would hurt them too much, so I keep my mouth shut and my knees together and my eyes down, glaring at my boring knitting.

Finally church is over and we all file out. I shake hands with my dad in the foyer with overenthusiastic pomp, our pathetic running joke that I do because it makes him smile, and he always looks so tired on Sundays.

I do so much to keep everybody else happy. I should get over it; nobody does a damn for me.

I step out into the bright June sunshine and breathe a sigh of relief. I feel closer to some sort of higher power just two steps out of the church than I have ever felt inside.

I jump when I feel a hand on my shoulder, then feel a blush pour over me. It’s Anna, my childhood best friend. We stopped seeing each other when our friendship changed and we were both terrified of being found out. I didn’t know she was back. I didn’t know my feelings hadn’t changed.

“Welcome home,” she says, and her voice strikes a chord that vibrates in my soul. “What’s new with you?”

Everything, I think. Everything.

Home

The hunt for Polly began just after midnight. We knew she’d wandered off, but it wasn’t until the credits started rolling on our movie that we realized she wasn’t there at all. It wasn’t normal for her to be gone at this time of the night. Then again, we’d been distracted lately. Tonight was the first time Sera and I had been able to relax and watch TV in several weeks. We had curled up on the couch together, but Polly hadn’t been there, trying to sneak popcorn and waving her tail in front of the screen.

Sera and I searched the house, calling for her and peeking into her usual hiding spaces, but she wasn’t under our bed or in the basement. The house seemed huge, there were so many more tiny spaces than our old apartment. We couldn’t hear a single meow, so we ended up putting our shoes on and heading out into the yard. I pulled up my hood as Sera and I headed in opposite directions. It seemed unlikely she’d be out in this rain if she could help it, but there were many places to find shelter. The barn seemed the most likely, even if she wasn’t a fan of it. We had only moved to the farm a few months ago and Polly was much more content to stay inside the warm house rather than explore the drafty rotting wood of the barn. I didn’t blame her. I hoped we’d tear it down soon, but other projects kept getting in the way. I held my flashlight aloft and swept it back and forth,  checking the darkest corners, but I knew it was unlikely she’d be there.

Sure enough, empty.

Polly was used to the city. It was the only home she’d known. We both struggled to make the country our new home. We were here for Sera. She had a dream and so we packed our things and moved into this fixer-upper house with 10 acres of land to make fertile.

“Maia! Did you find her?” Sera called from the tree line at the front of our property.

“No luck!” I called back. We met back at the house, and she embraced me.

“We’ll find her. But maybe we should just search in the morning.” Sera knew how I felt about Polly. She had come with me into our relationship. In name, she had become ours, but she always remained mine. I felt terrible that I hadn’t given her much attention lately. Our renovations had me falling into bed without seeking her out for a snuggle. It felt like it had been months since her warm body had been curled  on my lap.

Inside, we stripped off wet coats and clothes and climbed into bed. Sleep overtook me and before I knew it, I was staring at a clock that read 5:22am. I shouldn’t be awake this early, but something had woken me. I sat up and paused, my brain slowly coming out of its fog. My ears began to realize what they were hearing. It sounded almost like a baby’s cry, but now it was a meow somewhere in the house. My feet fell into my slippers and I padded down the hall to the spare room. How had we forgotten the spare room closet? I pulled it open and there she was.

I knelt beside her and stroked her fur. Quietly, I padded back to Sera and shook her awake.

“Whatsit? What time..? OH!”

I placed impossibly tiny kitten on her pillow. One of five to be born in the wee hours, making this her home and Polly’s. And mine.

Fanfic Friday: Hermione, After – Part 2

Part 1

By the time the Knight Bus pulled into Hogsmeade, Hermione had somewhat pulled herself together, pushed aside the feelings of regret she had for being too hasty, and had the beginnings of a plan. She could use the Three Broomsticks as a base, and apparate to all places she wanted to go on her own gap year trip.

Madam Rosmerta saw her immediately as she walked in the door. “Hermione!” she called from across the pub, and started to bustle towards her. Hermione was surprised that Rosmerta even knew her name. “Hermione, I am so glad you are here! Did she call you? I was just trying to figure out if I should call her husband.”

Hermione had learned that if you kept quiet when you didn’t know what someone was talking about you could often figure it out eventually.

“Hermione?” A small voice from a table in the corner caught Hermione’s ear. She turned to see Fleur Weasley looking terrible. Well, terrible for Fleur, that is. Her skin was all blotchy and her eyes were so puffy it looked like she had been crying for days.

“Fleur? What are you doing here? Are you okay?”

“I…I needed to get away somewhere, I…” she stopped, obviously trying to hold back tears. “Hermione, I am pregnant” she blurted out.

“Oh! Well that’s…um, I was going to say that’s wonderful, but you obviously don’t think it is, and that’s okay. Do you want to talk about it?”

“It is just. It is wonderful, of course it is, and I am happy. I know I do not look it, but I am. But Hermione, I am also so scared. I do not think I will be a good mother.”

“Nonsense! You are good at everything” Hermione stopped short after Fleur shot her an angry look.

“That is not true. Just because I’m pretty doesn’t mean I am good at everything. My mother was not a wonderful mother. Veelas are not known for being warm and caring. That is why I feel such maternal feelings for my sister, since I was practically her mother.”

“Well, there you go then! You’ve had experience.”

“But I did not care for her when she was a newborn baby. I have no idea what I would do. And, well, that is not even the thing I am scared of most, actually.”

Hermione sat quietly and let her go on in her own time.

“Hermione, do not judge me, but I am afraid, because of what happened to Bill, you know, I am afraid this baby will be…will be…wolfish.” She looked ashamed as she said it.

“Oh Fleur, you’re pregnant, and you weren’t expecting it, of course you are worried about all kinds of things.” The two women sat quietly then, not saying anything for a minute. Hermione got an idea. It wasn’t her favourite idea ever.

“Fleur,” she said, not believing what she was doing even as the words were coming out of her mouth, “I was planning on going on a trip. I have some thinking to do myself and, well, would you want to come with me?

Fleur looked at Hermione and her face slowly brightened. “I think that is just what I need. I can leave immediately, I just have to go back to the cottage to collect my things and tell Bill. Can you apparate there too?” The two women went out behind the pub and Hermione braced herself before apparating.

They arrived at the cottage and Fleur opened the front door. “Bill? Bill, are you here?”

Hermione found a note on the kitchen table and showed it to Fleur.

Fleur,

I have to go. Emergency. I’ll be gone for a few days. Be well.

Love,

Bill

Fleur looked at Hermione in shock. “This is not Bill’s handwriting, and he would never be so short with me!” Her gaze hardened. “Hermione, we have to find him!”

 

Visitation

The air is thick with grief in this house. Every move I make seems intrusive. I’m sitting on a chair that could be hers, drinking tea from a cup that once touched her lips. Am I being properly respectful? What should I mention or not mention?

There’s just the two of them now, mother and daughter. I don’t know about the father, but the sister has been gone just two weeks.  I have not met them till this day and unlike so many others to cross their path, I have no sense of what fills the hole. I had never met the dead sister, only been told of her charm, her outgoing personality. All I see here is the gap, this space where she once was, now filled by pain.

I’ve accompanied my pastor on this visit, in the hopes I can talk to the younger sister, be an ally in the days to come. My mouth feels full of marbles and sand as I try to talk to her. The two of us awkwardly set up future meetings in more neutral places. Coffee next week, lunch in a month or so. She twists a colorful friendship bracelet around and around her wrist and I notice that its lettered beads spell out her sister’s name.

Uncomfortable in my intrusion, I excuse myself to use the washroom. There are framed pictures all down the hall. One is of the two sisters, brunettes with matching eyes, the older one with her hand on the younger’s shoulder, her smile broad and inviting. I enter the bathroom and it smells of vanilla and patchouli, hairspray and Nair. There are bottles all over the bathroom; body spray and shampoo and body wash and essential oils – all in colourful bottles, arranged like candles on an altar.

I glance at myself in the bathroom mirror, my eyes full of tears. Catching my breath, I wash my face and go take my place again at the kitchen table, carefully, slowly, not wanting to make even a ripple in the air.

 

The Thing About Fantasy Worlds Part 2

part one 

Hi! You came back! I wasn’t sure I would see you again. You looked pretty green after that idiot tried to get his sword back last time and I was forced to hack him to bits. Good thing this sword is so sharp or he wouldn’t have died so quickly. Anyway, I’m glad to see you. It’s nice to have someone normal to talk to, you know? I’m afraid I don’t have long today though. I’ve been invited to a banquet tonight at the castle of the evil wizard nearby. Oh, don’t worry. I know it’s a trap. But he’s been pissing me off lately. At first it was lots of little things, like changing the forest so I’d get lost, or casting spells to make ordinary mushrooms poisonous, stuff like that. I didn’t eat the mushrooms – even I know that mushrooms shouldn’t be giving off sparks. But then the asshole tried to cast a spell on me. I have no idea what it was meant to do. It didn’t take, thank goodness. It wasn’t strong enough. It only took my clothes. Which, let me tell you, was bad enough! It is no picnic to walk around a forest naked, you know. Although I have to say that the whole Renaissance Faire getup I ended up with is actually a lot more comfortable than my jeans. I guess they know something about functional fashion that I didn’t.

Oh hang on, mail’s here.

<loud flapping and a strong gust of wind as a maelstrom of wings swoops through, leaving one fluttering letter behind>

I want to go to this banquet tonight because I want to see what I’m up against. I’m not planning to take on the wizard or anything, just get a feel for him, see how arrogant he is, you know. I won’t eat anything, and in case I’m forced to, I got this antidote thing. It’s called a bezoar. I’m glad I read Harry Potter as a kid so I knew what to get. And you do not want to know how I got it – they don’t use money here so I had to resort to… well, never mind. It was awkward.

<ziiiiiing thwap>

Ugh, that was terrible. I’m useless at archery. It’s really hard to hit a stationary target, much less something moving erratically. But I’m sick of rabbits and shitty oatmeal. Whatever. Everything here is so stupid and hard.

<throws bow and arrow into a bush>

I guess I should read my letter. Oh, excellent! My application has finally been accepted to fight in the tournament. They think I’m a dude, of course. I think I mentioned that I have some serious issues with their attitude towards women here – I will get to that rant one of these days, I promise. Anyway, I did a bit of digging around when I was in town for the bezoar. Turns out that the misogyny goes deeper than I thought. They have a habit of sucking young women like me over here to basically be virgin sacrifices.

<snorts derisively>

They’re not too picky about actual virginity; it’s mostly the look of the thing – and they got more than they bargained for with me. The top brass is actually paying off this wizard to take me out, because they’re worried that since I slipped through their net I’m going to wreak havoc on their whole shady system. Well, they’re dead right. I plan to tear them to shreds. So if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to change into this dress I stole when I got the tunic getup and go do some recon.

<she strips, revealing a nasty scar across her chest>

Thanks for the chat! It’s nice to get a touch of normalcy. Stop by again sometime.

 

PPD

Two pink lines.

Nine months.

Fifteen hours.

Seven pounds nine ounces.

When Alana thought about the numbers, she was shocked by how small they seemed now. All of them. Nine months? That’s not very long. Seven pounds? A bag of flour is way bigger than that. But the implications of all of them were so heavy she could barely stand up.

She looked at Elliott, lying in his swing, like a tiny pendulum marking off the seconds of his life. He was two months old, and just barely over his birth weight. He looked so fragile. She felt so fragile.

She didn’t want to take her eyes off him for even a second. He was clipped in, blankets away from his face, the cat locked in the furnace room and meowing his head off at the indignity. But she couldn’t handle the thought that he might hurt her baby somehow. She knew someone, or her girlfriend knew someone, whose cat had scratched a baby and the baby had to go on antibiotics. She couldn’t handle the thought of giving her baby antibiotics. She couldn’t even handle giving him formula, even though she had to use it. Stupid useless sacs of fat on her chest.

She couldn’t stand seeing herself in the mirror. She’d taken them all down, and put paper over the one in the bathroom. She only opened the curtains a minute before James came home, and then closed them again as soon as the sun began to set.

She’d found a piece of paper lying on the kitchen counter by the coffee maker. James must have left it there. It was some sort of quiz for postpartum depression, and it had made her so angry, those accusatory words that James had to leave lying around passive-aggressively, that she had screamed out loud. It had woken Elliott, and he’d cried. She’d held him for the rest of the day, and James had given her such a look when he came home and realized that not only had she not dressed or showered or swept the floor, she hadn’t even eaten.

She was fine. Everyone had told her that the first few weeks were hard. She just had to hang in there and it would get better. She didn’t spend much time thinking about the future, though, because probably at some point someone would get her to leave the house, and James would probably want to have a more serious conversation, and maybe even have sex. Sex made her whole body want to shrivel up in revulsion. Sex made babies and babies made hell, and now her body wasn’t her own anymore, even though it didn’t even work properly.

Alana hadn’t even realized she was crying, and that Elliott was crying. She didn’t remember picking him up. She looked down at him in her arms, squirming and flailing and rooting around, still trying to latch even though it wouldn’t do any good, even without a shirt in the way. She could feel her panic mounting as she dashed into the kitchen to mix a bottle. It took so long, and he was already so upset, that it was going to be another disaster feeding, with him throwing up and wasting all that liquid money.

Someone knocked, and she startled so violently she nearly dropped Elliott. She curled up on the floor, shushing him and praying the person would go away. They knocked again, and she whimpered, rocking back and forth over Elliott’s body, both of them crying.

She had an awful moment of clarity, her first in two months. Who was she? What had happened to make her so afraid? Slowly she became aware that her brain was trying to steer her down a terrible, awful path. She shuddered. How could she have come to this place? How did she get so far from the person she imagined herself to be?

The person at the door was gone. Elliott was screaming, his little face red and furious, his little fists flailing. She lurched to her feet and stumbled into the kitchen. She remembered that James had brought home premixed formula, and she’d had yelled at him for spending the extra money. But right now, relief flooded her. She grabbed a tiny bottle out of the fridge and screwed a nipple onto it, then jammed it in Elliott’s mouth. They both went limp as the screaming stopped and was replaced with frantic sucking.

She carried him over to the couch and sat down. She pulled out her phone and dialled James. No answer. She hung up and took a deep breath, looking down at Elliott, gulping his bottle so hard that it would undoubtedly all come right back up again. Her eyes welled up again; he deserved so much better than a mother who was falling apart. She dialled another number. It rang four times, five times, six times. She was about to hang up in despair when the line connected and she heard her mother’s breathless “Hello?”

“Mom?” she whispered, feeling the tears charging back. “Mommy? I’m not okay. I – I need you.”

The Puddle

Beth remembered again as she walked out to the bus stop.  She kept trying to distract herself with busyness but it always came to mind in the lulls, the times when she wasn’t really doing anything: sitting on the bus, before falling asleep, while brushing teeth.

It was cold and wet.  The snow from earlier in the day had turned to rain, and she took care to stand far back from the curb, protecting herself from the careless drivers who would unknowingly splash her as they drove by.  As she stood in the dark she noticed the puddle in front of her.  At first she thought it was just a really deep puddle, because of the way the ripples from the falling raindrops behaved curiously, disappearing into the inky depths before their time.  But then she realized that the depth of the puddle shouldn’t change the way that the ripples behaved.  Glad of a puzzle to take her mind away from what she had been thinking about, she continued to stare at the way the drops were almost being sucked right into the puddle, like maybe it wasn’t even made of water.  She stepped closer to the puddle to allow a woman to pass her on the sidewalk, taking the opportunity to get a better look.  She was glad of a reason to avoid eye contact with the woman.  It was awkward to meet eyes with strangers as they passed.  Instead, she stared deeper into the puddle, and it seemed to grab a memory.

They were sitting at Starbucks.  She had just told him her news.  The magazine that she had been doing some freelance writing for recently wanted to hire her.  It wasn’t quite her dream job, but it was definitely getting close, a lot closer than the job she had here at Starbucks which she just did so she could have time to write.  She had been waiting all day to tell him, and when he had finally shown up it had all bubbled out of her, she couldn’t stop smiling as she told him, and her excitement made him smile too.  But he didn’t say anything right away, and when he did, he asked the question that she didn’t want to deal with, not just yet.

“But, does this mean that you’ll have to move there?”

“Yeah, but…”

“But what?”

“I didn’t really want to get into this right away, but, well, I thought that maybe you could come too.”

“…”

“Ben?”

“I..”

“I know it is a lot to think about right now, but it kind of makes sense for you too, I mean, teaching is something you can do anywhere, and you’ll be closer to your family.”

He laughed nervously “I’m not sure that’s actually something that I want.”

She could usually deal with silences without getting uncomfortable, but not this time.

“To be close to your family you mean?”

“What?”

“You don’t really want to be close to your parents, or you don’t really want to move with me?”

“I…Beth, I don’t really want to talk about this right now.  Sorry.”

She forgot to stand far enough back from the curb, and she got some drive-by spray.  Normally she would care more, but right now all she could pay attention to was the way the ripples from the car that drove by hardly upset the water in the puddle.  It was almost like it was made of molasses.  She wanted to touch it to find out, but as she bent down, another memory came to her mind, again as if drawn out by the stickiness of the puddle.

Beth and Susan were already mostly done the bottle of wine.  Beth was trying to convince Susan that she and Ben were ok, but she wasn’t really liking where Susan was taking the conversation.

“He said he would think about it, I think he might say yes”

“Beth, honey, I think that maybe he’s just stalling.”

“I don’t know, maybe he just needs time to warm up to the idea.”

“How long were you two talking about moving in together before this?”

“Um, maybe, about six months?”

“Don’t you think he’s had enough time to warm up to the idea?”

“Maybe.”

Beth was unconvinced.  She knew he would come around.  He had to, Susan was right, they had been talking about moving in together for months already, but he probably just hasn’t had quite enough time yet.  Some people have a really hard time with change, and they take longer to come to terms with it.  She let Susan out and finished up the bottle before going to bed.

The next morning, she got up, called the magazine and told them she needed a bit more time to get her things together here.  They gave her an extra month.

That was two weeks ago.  In that time, she has been calling some local magazines, and some newspapers, but none of them have any openings, except one.  Beth was now on her way to an interview for that job, but she was unaware that the bus was late.  She was just so fascinated by this puddle.

He had made her dinner.  That was a good sign, right?  A great sign, she thought.  She imagined all the dinners they would share in their new place once they moved.  Or even in his place if she moved in here…which she was becoming more and more willing to do.  They ate in silence for a while.  Finally, he took something out of his pocket and held it in his hand for a while.  Beth’s heart stopped.  He then placed a key on the table and slid it over to her.  She exhaled heavily.

“What’s this?”

“The key to my place.”

“You want me to move in with you?” She wasn’t actually as happy about this as she thought she would be.

“No, well, maybe someday, but for now, I thought you could just have the key, so you could come over whenever you wanted.”

“Oh, yeah, that’s great, thanks.”

She put the key in her purse and saw the note about her interview tomorrow.  Her heart sank thinking about it.  It was for a job copyediting at the local newspaper.  She had copyedited before getting the job at Starbucks.  She was good at it, but she didn’t love it.  And a full time job would mean that she wouldn’t have as much time to write anymore.  But he had just given her the key to his place.

“Will you stay here tonight?” he asked.

She hesitated.  “Actually, I really think I should go home tonight.  I have an interview tomorrow.”

“Really?  Where?”

“The Daily.”

“That’s great!  I’m sure you’ll get it.  Won’t it be great to not have to pour coffee for grumpy people every morning?”

“Yeah, except now I’m going to be the grumpy person getting coffee poured for her.”

He laughed a lot at that.  She hadn’t actually meant it as a joke, but she smiled anyways.  It was good to see him laughing for a change.  She changed the subject.

“Ben, this stir-fry is delicious, can I get the recipe?”

“Oh, we wouldn’t want you to be able to make it without me, now would we?”

She is jolted out of her memory by the felt presence of another person.  It is the same woman that passed her before, passing back on her way home from wherever she was.  “Still waiting honey?”  She asked.  Beth smiled and nodded as the woman passed.  Strangely, she walked right through the puddle, instead of walking behind Beth and keeping her feet dry.  As her feet moved through the puddle, Beth noticed the water moving more like normal water.  She looked at her watch and realized she had been waiting for over half an hour.  She decided the bus probably wasn’t coming and turned back to walk the two blocks back to her apartment.