Mad Mary [Flash Fiction]

“Either stay, and do as I say, or go.”

I went. Many would have stayed, and been called fools for it. In my small village, I’d seen the same thing happen many a time, and always the women would throw contemptuous glances at their peer who wore long sleeves in summer and tried to spread powder over her face and neck so the bruises wouldn’t show.

And yet, now that I’m alone, walking along the path that leads from the village to the bigger city that lies somewhere by the sea, I wonder who is the real fool. I went because I couldn’t stand him anymore – not his smell, or his heaving, sweaty weight groaning above me, or his fists in my stomach when I burned the crust of the bread. Mother surely didn’t help. She told me to take it and do as my husband said. She thought that I must have been doing something wrong for him to become so angry. I tried to tell her that the devil shown out of his eyes, but she told me I was mad.

So I went. I left everything. There was no one in the village who would help me, for it wasn’t only Mother who thought I was mad. I’d been called Mad Maiden Mary all the way up the aisle, and only when I was good and married in front of God, the Church and everybody did they stop. And then only because I wasn’t a maiden anymore.

It’s my eyes. They’re large, and one is blue while the other is green. The green one used to be blue until an accident that Mother never explains happened when I was just a babe. I gather that something stuck in my eye and changed all the colors around and made it that bright green that throws everyone off. I also talk to myself, but only because there never seems to be anyone else to talk to, and I guess that God made me chatty by nature.

I walk on, my dress growing ragged at the bottom because I keep stepping on it. I don’t know how far the seashore is, and I don’t know what waits for me there. But it has to be better than what I left behind.

Flash Fiction Thursday: Lyara

Disclaimer: I’m tired, I’m pressured, I did my best. Sometimes it feels as if whatever I write becomes trite, boring, repetitive and unoriginal, like this piece probably is. Which is why I’m disclaiming: Tired, Pressured, with capital T and P.

Lyara was in the rose garden when it finally hit her. I’m to be married tomorrow. It didn’t seem real. How could it? She sat down heavily, not caring, for once, about the state her dress would be in once she got up from the damp earth. She could always make the stains go away, if she worked hard enough. Trying to breath slowly, she managed to sit up straight and arrange herself so that any observer who happened to be looking through the The’elem Manor’s windows would see a beautiful woman, sitting in the rose garden and taking in the glorious sunshine. Appearances were important, Lyara knew. Especially for her.

A black rose was just beginning to open at eye-level. She stretched out a hand to touch a soft black petal, stroking it softly until it opened completely, and wondered whether marriage would hold any tenderness. It wasn’t obvious. Not everyone managed to marry good men. Why, just a year ago, Moralla married a Viscount, a notable man of wealth and learning. But in her letters home, Lyara knew, she’d confessed to her sisters that the man was cruel to her, beat her, even did unspeakable things to her that she hadn’t dared to write down. Lyara had joined her friends, Moralla’s twin sisters, in reading over the letters and acting suitably horrified. But it didn’t strike her until just now that Moralla was actually suffering, all alone, with her husband.

But that won’t happen to me. Mama and Papa promised. He’s good-looking, kind and intelligent. They told me so. Tears rolled down her face as she contemplated the future. She understood her parents. She knew that she needed to marry fast, marry the first man who offered, marry before he found out… Her parents were incredibly ashamed, and Lyara couldn’t help but feel that they were right. Nobody wanted a sorceress in their household. She knew her talents were a disgrace. But now, when she contemplated needing to hide all her little quirks from an entirely new household staff as well as her new husband – what was his name? She couldn’t remember – it seemed overwhelming. Her parents didn’t notice anymore if a candle flickered into a full blown flame when Lyara entered a room, or when the dinner plates that had arrived cold from the kitchen became suddenly warm again.

She wasn’t sure she could do it. She wished, for the first time in her pampered, idle life, that she was poor as muck and common as weeds, because then her talents would be sought after, wanted, needed. She’d be revered, loved, looked-up to. She wouldn’t ever starve, for a sorceress never did, nor would she lack for firewood.

An idea was forming in Lyara’s mind. She was frightened of pursuing it, but tucked it into the corner of her worries, just in case the marriage business went horribly wrong.

Dramatic Scene…?

“I know what you’re thinking,” shot Max at Deirdre. “You’re always thinking the same damn thing. You’re thinking that I shouldn’t go. You’re thinking that I’m being stupid. Just say it already!”

Deirdre looked coolly back at Max’s angry expression. She could have scratched her face off, for plainly showing her thoughts and emotions as it so clearly was. It was too late to fix the expression that had jumped unwillingly to it when Max had told her he was going out. She settled for pretending innocence instead.

“I’m not thinking a blessed thing, boy.”

“The hell you’re not,” Max spat back.

“Well, I’ve got nothing to say to you when you’re in such a foul mood,” Deirdre didn’t give up her act, but gave Max a bland look before turning her back to him. He knew everything she could say to deter him already. It was true that she thought him a fool for going, yet again, and there was no point in having another argument on the subject. Max would do what he wanted, and that was that.

A few minutes passed. Deirdre sat at her vanity, staring blindly at her own reflection. Finally, she heard the sound that she’d been expecting. The front door slammed with a force to shake the very panes of glass in it. She shut her eyes tightly for a moment, screwing her face up in pain.

 

Max waited outside the front door, wondering if this time Deirdre would come after him. But no, the minutes passed and still there was no sound of footsteps inside the large, boring suburban box of a house. He sighed and ran a hand over his face. Taking his car keys out of his pocket, he strode off down to the curb and unlocked, with an unobtrusive beep, the luxurious car parked in front of the closed garage door. He climbed into the front seat, put the key in the ignition, and turned it.

The effect was immediate. His seat bent down all the way back, several contraptions started moving around and making metallic noises, and the car began to pull out of the driveway and zoom down the street on its own.

When Max’s seat came back up, he was dressed in a black, skintight outfit, with a white mask covering his entire face except for a slit for his eyes.

Off to save… someone, Max thought, tiredly. Damn it.

He thought of Deirdre, her shimmering blonde hair running down her back in dripping strands as she took yet another hot shower. She always took showers when he went out on jobs. She seemed to like the sensation of heat when she was upset. Max took cold showers when he was upset. It was one of the many ways in which they differed. Another, rather crucial, point of difference, was that Deirdre wasn’t a superhero. Max was. He was really very tired of it.

A Daughter’s Fever

Miranda looked down at the small crib. It was without ornament – nothing like the wonderful crib she had at home, with the painted bars and the bright sheets and blankets. Hospital cribs don’t have to be pretty, merely functional, just like hospital beds. It was strange that she’d never thought of hospitals having cribs before. Of course, when she’d given birth there was a crib, but it was small, it was near her own bed, and her daughter hadn’t been in it much; Miranda had preferred to hold her in her arms as she slept.

Miranda stirred, tearing her eyes away from the sight of her little golden-haired girl red with fever. She’d been sick for five days already. When Miranda saw that the fever wasn’t going down, she’d taken her girl to the hospital. It was a throat infection of some sort, that’s what the doctors said, but the fever was still so high… Miranda couldn’t stop worrying. She hummed with nerves.

She looked at the lone chair that could fit beside the crib. There were others in the room, but they were occupied by other parents watching their sick infants. What a dismal place to bring a child, Miranda had thought when she’d first walked through the door to that room. Her opinion of the cheerless place hadn’t improved since. Her husband was in their chair, fast asleep; the poor man. He’d borne with Miranda’s worries and unfounded fears and had tried to calm her, but she wouldn’t calm. She couldn’t calm. She’d exhausted the poor man.

Miranda thought of her work. She was needed, she knew. Real people, everyday people, depended on her. She knew some of them would be in agonies without her support and encouragement. She felt bad for not being there for them, but that feeling was in a very small corner of her mind. She really mostly felt bad because she was worried sick and still her little girl’s fever raged on.

She looked back into the crib and wiped the sweat of her daughter’s forehead with a small white towel. The doctors said that she needed to wait and let the medicine do its work. She waited.

Victoria’s Secret [Part III]

“…And then,” Debbie concluded, “he said he knew I didn’t aprove of his art and that I was ashamed of him. Since then, it’s been hard convincing him to see me at all.”

“But it sounds to me like you’re proud of him!” Victoria exclaimed. She’d just listened to Debbie describing her son’s rollercoaster-style life for the last ten minutes, and Debbie’s eyes had shown in the faint glow of the cellphone screen with a deep love and admiration of her scattered boy.

“I am. I think his sculptures are beautiful. He thinks I’m full of it, though,” Debbie’s eyes filled again with tears. “I don’t know how to convince him differently. But,” she collected herself. “I do the best I can, as often as I can. I hope he’ll understand about today.”

Victoria nodded somberly. The man in the corner of the elevator gave a sudden phlegm-based cough and both Victoria and Debbie jumped. They’d almost forgotten he was there; he’d been utterly silent while Debbie spoke. Now, Debbie looked up at him with a half smile.

“Rob, sit down, Hun,” She said. “They’ll get us out of here eventually, but there’s no use standing like a lump in the corner. It isn’t going to make anything go any faster.” Victoria smiled inwardly at the motherly tone that Debbie used with this stout, stuffy little man. Rob wore an impeccable suit, obviously expensive, in charcoal grey, and his hair, so obviously oiled, had a little spike standing up out of it, as if he’d begun to run his hand through it before remembering that he mustn’t ruin his exquisite hairstyle.

“No, thank you, Debra, I’d rather stand,” he answered. Despite his look of calm snootiness, his voice sounded strained. His hands were stuffed in his pockets, and Victoria could tell that he was playing with something in his right hand, twisting something around and around in the pocket.

“What have you got there – Rob, is it?” she asked.

“It’s Robert. And it’s nothing.”

“Seems like something,” Victoria smiled at him. She had a way of smiling which she’d used on her younger brother when they were young – she still remembered how to do it. It had made her brother tremble with fear and then submission, and it did the same thing to Mr. It’s-Robert. He looked at her strangely, not sure of what her smile meant, and broke eye contact. He took his hand out of his pocket and showed Victoria a smooth, round stone, the kind that’s abundant on riverbanks. It was, Victoria noted, the perfect skipping stone, because it was smooth and rather flat. But then Rob held it out and the light caught it, and she saw that the stone wasn’t grey, as she’d thought at first, but rather a deep green. Then she saw that through the green were thick veins of a very dark red.

“What is it?” she asked wonderingly. It was beautiful.

“It’s a bloodstone,” Rob answered. “It’s the birthstone for March, and it’s very rare to find such fine specimans as this one. My wife and I went to India for our second honeymoon, and she bought me this as a surprise. It’s actually a funny story – we’d been in the market, and this old man without a word of English tried to sell it to us…” Rob’s voice trailed off. Victoria stared at him in wonder. Here was a man who she would never guess would have gone to India. For a second honeymoon, no less! People only have second honeymoons if they’re married for a while, right? Her thoughts were in a whirl at the image of this stuffy, haughty little man galavanting around Indian markets.

Vicky! she chided herself. You mean thing. As if you know anything about people by looking at them… If the world worked quite so simply you’d never have gotten to where you are. So say something nice now, and close your mouth.

“It’s a beautiful stone,” she murmered.

“Yes,” Rob seemed about to smile but then rearranged his facial expression into a frown. “When will they come to get us the hell out of here?”

“Soon, Hun,” Debbie answered wearily, pulling a bottle of water out of her purse. It was really getting hot in the small space. “I hope. Want some water, folks?”

The Teacher

The Teacher heaved a deep sigh as she clasped her worn brown bag. Her hands, no longer slender and delicate, were riddled with swollen veins. Her wedding ring couldn’t come off her finger even if she’d wanted it to. Thankfully, she didn’t. Her marriage was the one thing that still made sense in her life.

The Teacher’s hair had been dyed red so many times that it had taken on a slightly metallic orange tint. She knew she looked like a joke, and she definitely knew the various nicknames she was known by throughout the student body, but white hair meant being a grandmother to her. That word hurt her too much. Grandmother. She had almost been one, and if the loss hurt her, she could only imagine how much it had hurt her daughter. Hurt enough that she had cut herself off from her parents because, in her words, it had been too difficult to see their eyes wander to her barren stomach and then fill with tears.

The Teacher picked up her case and walked slowly down through the empty halls, littered with crumpled paper and the occasional forgotten textbook. She sighed again as she walked. teaching didn’t make sense anymore, and for the last few years, this simple fact threw her whole life out of skew.

Her students weren’t different. Perhaps there were more cellphones in class, more kids copying essays off the internet, but all in all, high-school hadn’t changed all that much since she herself had been a twelfth-grader. No, it was some general something that irked her. Maybe it was the fact that so many parents didn’t seem to care what or how the teachers taught anymore. Maybe it was the fact that Bobby Jones and Nora Lessinger kept showing up to school with no text books because the funding for students like them who came from very low-income families had run dry. Maybe it was the fact that her daughter wasn’t speaking to her, and every teenager she looked at in her class seemed to somehow remind her of her personal life.

The Teacher exited the school building, and the sun flooded down from between a few grey clouds. In the parking lot, as always, was her husband in their old dark green Fiat. She could faintly hear the first Led Zeppelin album playing inside. She smiled at him, gave a little wave, and walked over. At least something still made sense in the world.