Ego and Punishement: Friday Flash Fiction Post

Skeleton Keys by Livefast_x via DeviantArt.com

Skeleton Keys by Livefast_x via DeviantArt.com

This is based on a Chuck Wendig prompt. FLAMBOYANT ELF DRUID FROM THE FREELANDS WHO IS QUICK TO TAKE CREDIT AND ASSIGN BLAME. Let’s see what I can do in 1000 words or less.

Picture: Skeleton Keys by Livefast_x via www.deviantart.com http://www.deviantart.com/art/Skeleton-Keys-130788426

Elanda pulled her cornflower-blue robe around her against the cold winter night. It had been too hot and smoky in the pub for her, especially filled with the stench of dwarf and man. The robe sparkled in the quarter moon’s light, enough to mark her as elf to any passer-by. Not an easy target.

She headed to her room. It was obvious no messenger would reach her this night. She’d watched the guards lock the city gates hours ago after she’d sat there all day waiting, watching the endless line of humans, dwarves and the occasional elf, pay their duty and enter. A complete waste of her time. The pub’s wine and stew sat heavy on her stomach. Not the fine food and drink of her queen’s castle, certainly. Elanda wished briefly to be back with the Queen, her twice removed aunt, but shoved the thought away.

That double damned Marowal had goaded her until she’d lost her temper and the Queen sent her on this mission. She pulled a glamor over herself to further discourage any would be thieves. The tall elf with black hair braided down his back had deliberately angered her. There was nothing she could do about it now, but wait until she returned. Thoughts of revenge filled her mind as she entered the miserable inn. The owner never woke as she passed. In her room she barred the door and the window and set a fire in the tiny stove. It was enough to take the chill out of the air, at least. Not much else could be said for the room, barely wide enough to hold the cot she’d sleep in.

An elf sat on the bed. She started, why hadn’t she seen him? It was Marowal.

“Milady Elanda.”

“Marowal.” Her tone with the young prince was cold. “I waited all day.”

He stood and stepped to the stove, holding his hands above it for the little heat it generated. “I was delayed.”

“I waited at the gate all day.” She swished the skirt of her robe in frustration. “Drinking wine near to spoiling and eating the human’s dried out fruit. Where were you?”

He smiled. A grin that made her want to slap him. “As I said, delayed.”

“Did you find the key?” Would the prince never get to the point?

“I did. And information. I’ll need your help.”

“I was sent to get the key. Nothing else.” Elanda held out her hand.

Marowal shook his head. “It won’t be that easy. The key is worthless. Unless we also get the chest it unlocks.”

“The queen sent me for the key. Just that.” She tucked her hands into the sleeves of her robe. It was obvious the prince would not give her the key.

“We’ll ride to Timate and get the chest.”

“Timate! That’s five days west.”

“We’ll leave at first light.”

#

Elanda was on horseback, gloves doing little to keep her fingers warm, an hour before the winter sun rose over the city walls. Marowal had paid the night guard who’d let them out early and they were on their way. Elven horses went fast and silent and the pair covered many miles by the end of the day. They camped in the woods. Marowal brought back a rabbit as Elanda started a fire. She grumbled as she cleaned the rabbit and set it on the spit. “I had no plan to winter camp, Marowal.”

“I beg your pardon.” He bowed from his lounge on his sleeping bag. “You wouldn’t want to go back to the queen with just half the prize, would you?”

“I don’t have the key. You do. I can’t go back at all.” She detested the smirk on his face.

“We’ll go back together, then. Victorious.”

For a cousin he was less than helpful or friendly. “Why drag me along?”

“You’ll see.”

She fumed but there was little she could do about it.

#

They arrived at Timate mid-day and entered the city. He dragged her back and forth across the town, talking to men and dwarves in whispers. At nightfall, she’d had enough. “What are we doing?”

He pointed at the clock tower in the town square. “you’ll enter the tower, climb to the top, and at the stroke of nine, create a flash in the window. That’s a signal to the owner of the chest to go to a stable at the edge of town. I’ll pay him for the chest and we’ll be away through the gate before the soldiers close it for the night.”

“You trust this owner?”

Marowal shrugged. “We’ll see.”

She was in the window right on time. Fury flowed through her at the childish cloak and dagger antics of the prince. The bell, when it struck, was painful but she made the flash, child’s play, really, then hurried back down the tower to the stable where this mysterious chest would be delivered.

Once there, Marowal was nowhere to be found. She created a finding, but the magic didn’t find him.

She spent months combing the countryside in search until giving up, she went back to the queen.

The court was in full attendance when she was presented, no chance to rest or bathe. She stopped halfway across the hall and gasped. Marowal was sitting at his mother’s feet playing with a kitten. Rage propelled her across the floor. Her bow was perfunctory.

“Majesty. I beg forgiveness for my delay. I’ve been searching for the Prince.” She glared at him, getting a grin in return.

“I do understand, Elanda. But as you can see, he’s returned.”

Elanda could hear twitters of laughter behind her. She bowed her head. “Of course, Majesty. I hope you obtained the key.”

“Oh yes,” the Queen pulled it from her dress, as a necklace. “It makes a nice ornament, doesn’t it?”

She blushed as the court laughed. A punishment, she realized, at her expense. Let them laugh. She smiled at Marowal. He’d get his in time.

 

Thank You!

1000 Words

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Found: Key, Part X of X – Friday Flash Fiction Post

 

Skeleton Keys by Livefast_x via DeviantArt.com

Skeleton Keys by Livefast_x via DeviantArt.com

Part X of X http://www.deviantart.com/art/Skeleton-Keys-130788426 by LiveFast-x

NOTE: This final installment is a little longer than the usual flash piece. Enjoy.”

 

Ying opened the door to the antique shop. “You’ll love this place.”

“I already love it. It’s where I met you!” Jason kissed her cheek as he entered.

Inside, Eleanor was at the counter cashoug out a customer. She nodded at Ying, acknowledging her presence. In the background, Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata played. It was a little heavy for Ying’s taste but played as softly as it was, it made for a relaxing stroll around the store. Ying inhaled the scent of lemon polish and bees was, detectable but not overwhelming. It provided her a feeling of quiet and comfort.

Jason stopped inside the door and looked around. Ying couldn’t help noticing, even with her annoyance at being manipulated, how nice he looked in his Dockers and polo shirt.

“I can see why you like it here. Lovely things surround you.” He turned and smiled. “Have you bought anything yet?”

“Not yet.” She threaded her arm through his, the one with the watch, and led him to the Chinese screen she’d noticed on her first visit. “What do you think?”

“It’s gorgeous! What are you waiting for?”

Ying shrugged. “It’s kind of pricey.”

“Nonsense. You should get it. It’s perfect.” He dropped her arm and stepped to the screen to examine it.”

Eleanor joined Ying. “Hello.”

“Eleanor. You’ve met Jason.”

Jason stepped away from the screen and held out his right hand, the watch clearly visible on his bare wrist. “Nice to meet you under better circumstances.”

“Yes. It is.” She glanced at his watch. “What a lovely watch.”

He pulled his hand back, left hand covering the watch. “Thank you. A family heirloom.”

Eleanor exchanged glances with Ying. “Would you mind if I looked at it? Professional interest, you know.”

Ying thought he looked uncomfortable. He spun the watch around his wrist several times. She was waiting for the rush of warmth but it never came. Jason was looking at Eleanor, who suddenly looked confused.

“Eleanor?” Ying put her hand on her friend’s arm.

Eleanor gave herself a little shake and smiled at Jason. “I won’t damage it, I promise.”

It was Jason’s turn to look confused. He glanced at the watch.

“Go ahead, Jason. She’s an expert.”

His eyes met hers, then back to Eleanor’s. “Umm, I suppose.” His reluctance to unclasp the ltach and hand the watch to Eleanor was obvious in his slow movements. Jason lay the watch in Eleanor’s outstretched palm.

Eleanor hefted the watch. “Gold, I presume?”

Jason nodded. “It was my great-great-great-grandfather’s.”

“The style is certainly old. Let me get my lupe.” Eleanor turned and strode to the counter.

Ying watched Jason dart after Eleanor as though she were stealing the watch. That was inconclusive proof that the watch was magic. He would do the same if it were simply what he claimed. She followed them to the counter.

Eleanor had laid the watch out on a square of black velvet. Jason’s hands hovered at the edge of the cloth. Ying had to admit it was a handsome watch. The face, also gold, had gold hands elaborately pointed and engraved. The face had what looked like diamons at 12, 3, 6 and 9 with the following numbers in ruby and the last four numbers in emeralds. Mystic symbols were engraved on the face. The antique dealer fixed her lupe to her eye and without touching it, examined the watch closely. She already had her book of artifacts open on the counter beside the watch.

“It’s a beautiful piece, late 1800’s? It must have cost a great deal. Watches for men were only just coming into style.”

Jason nodded. “No one ever said how much it cost.” His voice was tight – as though having the watch on the counter was painful.

Ying put her arm around his waist. “A wondful keepsake, Jason.”

“Hmm,” was his response. He watched Eleanor flip through her book.

“I don’t see anything like it.” She took the lupe from her eye. “It must have been custom made.”

Ying watched Jason stiffen as Eleanor flipped the watch face down. She studied the back. “a lovely sentiment is engraved on the back. ‘To my darling Husband, Love and Long Life, Mary’” She looked up. The elaborate script is right for the time frame. “Your three greats grand-mother? What was her maiden name?”

He sighed. “Mary Whitten. It was her wedding gift to him.”

Eleanor pulled another book from the shelf and began flipping pages. “Ah, here she is. An accomplished woman, your grand-mother.”

Jason picked up the watch and put it back on. “Yes, she was, in her day.”

Eleanor looked him in the eye. “You know she was considered a great Spiritualist?”

“All table knocking non-sense, of couse.”

Her eyebrow rose. “You think so?”

Ying noticed Jason begin to fidget.

“Nice to have met you again, Eleanor. Ying, I have a meeting back at the office.” He twisted his watch.

As the warm glow came over her, Ying clasped the key. The nausea and the glow fought for a moment, then they both disappeared. “I know the watch is magical, Jason.

He stopped and turned back to her. “What do you mean?”

“I mean that I know the watch has magic. You twist it on your arm whenever we meet or when you want me to do something. A few minutes ago you tried to use it on Eleanor.” Ying raised an eyebrow at Eleanor. “I’m not sure why it didn’t work on you.”

“We’re trained to resist magic used on us.” She shrugged at Jason. “Your watch’s magic isn’t very powerful against trained people.”

Jason stared at both Eleanor and Ying. “You’re magicians?”

Ying shook her head. “No. but I carry a powerful artifact. I could feel it every time you used the watch.” She saw his face fall. “It wasn’t necessary, you know. You’re charming, funny, smart, I’d have gone out with you without the manipulations.”

Jason closed his eyes and sighed. “I thought so but you’re so high-powered, I didn’t think you’d take the time.” His eyes focused on the key around her neck. “You have an artifact? A magical piece?”

Her hand crept up to the key. “Yes. I found it. Or it found me. It’s good with business.”

“Wow.”

The two stood staring at each other. Ying was certain he would break up with her and she realized she wanted him to stay.

Eleanor cleared her throat. “I think, if I may be so bold, that the watch is making it possible for you two to be together.”

It was Ying’s turn to be puzzled. “How so?”

“Just a guess, really.” Eleanor glanced at Jason. “No other documented owner has had a family. So something has changed.” She made a pointed look at zjason’s watch. “The watch has to be the difference.”

Ying reached out and stroked Jason’s watch. It was warm to the touch, nothing at all like touching metal. She smiled at him as the familiar warm glow washed through her. “I think this could work.”

 

Thank You!

 

End Part X of X: 1186 Words

 

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Found: Key, Part IX – Flash Fiction Friday Post

Keys III by Catherine-Elizabeth via DeviantArt.com

Keys III by Catherine-Elizabeth via DeviantArt.com

 

Part IX  http://www.deviantart.com/art/Keys-III-63716735, by Catherine-Elizabeth

Tuesday dawned clear and warm. She arrived at work an hour early, just to be safe and was well into her work as the other partners came in. That should reassure them, she thought as Felicity nodded at her when she passed by the door. She’d already been there three hours when Jason called.

“Lunch? One o’clock at Revise. The chef has chicken, fresh from some farm upstate.”

“Sure.” She grinned as she held her cell phone to her ear. She felt good. His call last night had put her in a good mood and her nausea had disappeared. “I have something to talk over with you.”

“Uh oh.” He laughed. “Bad news or worse news?”

“It’s not bad. Just something we need to discuss.” She briefly wondered what he’d think about going to her parent’s for Thanksgiving then pushed the thought away. She’d find out at lunch. “See you at one.”

“See ya.” He blew a kiss into the phone and clicked off.

She sighed and dropped her phone in her pocket. Ying wasn’t sure if he was ready to meet the parents but November was still weeks away. It would be fine, she decided, and went back to work.

#

At lunch, she was shown to a table, the waiter whisking the RESERVED sign away with a flourish. Jason arrived as the water glasses were being filled. “Sorry about that. A call came in just as I was leaving.”

Ying noticed him spin the watch on his wrist. She smiled at him, her usual warm glow returning, just like every time she saw him. “No worries. I just sat down.” She looked around. “Pretty fancy for lunch.”

“The chef is a high school buddy of mine. He was just hired here, a real coup for him since he’s only twenty-seven.”

“Good for him.” Ying sipped her water as the waiter placed menus on the table. “What’s the specialty here?”

The waiter nodded. “The chicken, madam. Organic, local, fresh chicken, roasted or grilled.”

She grinned across the table. “Sounds wonderful. I’d like it grilled and placed atop a salad, no onions please.”

He nodded. “And the gentleman?”

Jason handed the waiter the menu. “Roasted, and I’m starving so I’ll take the scalloped potatoes and the side salad. No onions for me either, I’m meeting a client later.”

“Very good, sir, madam.” He tucked the menus under his arm and left.

“So,” Jason took her hand across the table. “What’s the discussion.”

“Mother was quite cross at me Sunday night, I mentioned that yesterday. She wants us to come for Thanksgiving.” Ying held her breath. This was where guys usually started backing away.

“Fantastic! I’d love to.”

Ying blinked at the speed of his happy response. “Don’t you have family to visit?”

“They’ll understand.” He twisted the watch around again. “I’m looking forward to meeting the people responsible for the lovely young woman sitting across from me.”

Another wave of well-being flowed through her. “You will get everywhere flattering my parents like that. I warn you. Mother can be…demanding. But if she likes you, you’re in and never escaping. Trust me.”

Jason laughed. “I’ll take my chances.”

#

After meeting her client Ying was at her desk, making notes and organizing her thoughts on the best products for her. She absent-mindedly stroked the key she now wore as a necklace. The move made her nauseous, as usual. For a moment she wished it would give her the warm glow she got whenever she saw Jason. It sucked feeling sick so often. She stopped tapping her keyboard. Warm glow. She looked up at the far wall of her office. Every time she saw Jason. Every time he played with his watch. His antique watch.

She called Eleanor, skipping the pleasantries. “Your group have a watch artifact?”

After a short pause, Eleanor said, “Let me look.”

Ying could hear Eleanor pull down the ancient book and flip through the pages. “No. At least not that I can find at the moment. Why?”

Feeling more and more angry, Ying blurted, “Because I think Jason is using an artifact on me.”

“Are you sure?”

“Not totally.” Ying took a breath. Maybe she was just reading too much into it. “He said it’s a watch that’s been in his family. Every time he plays with it, I get a warm, loving glow.”

“Every time? Or just every time you notice it?”

Damn her for being so logical. “I don’t know.” Ying drummed her fingertips on the desk, furious that it could be that she was being manipulated into liking him. “I know it’s every time I notice. How can I be sure?”

“You could have him bring the watch in. Tell him you’d like to get it appraised.”

“If he knows it’s magic, he’s not going to show it to you. And even if I can get him to your shop, how would you know if it’s an actual artifact?”

“We have tests. But it’s up to you.” Her voice was eager. “We haven’t identified a new artifact in decades. It would be a feather in my cap to bring a new one in.”

Ying understood Eleanor’s enthusiasm. “I suppose it would. Is there some way to counteract the magic?”

“You don’t like being manipulated.”

“No. I don’t.”

“Usually not. I’ll do some research. Love artifacts are fairly common. I’ll let you know.”

“Fair enough. I’ll see if I can get him into the shop. We’ll work it out from there.”

“Excellent. Take care, Ying.”

“I will.” Ying clicked off. She had to think about how to get Jason to the shop.

 

Thank You!

End Part IX: 938 Words

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here: http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html

 

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Found: Key, Part VIII – Flash Fiction Friday Post

The Jack's Keys by delusional

The Jack’s Keys by delusional

Part VIII The Jack’s Keys by Delusional, http://www.deviantart.com/art/The-Jack-s-Keys-149318217

Saturday night melted into Sunday morning. Jason was attentive, both in bed and out. She woke to the Sunday paper and a tray of croissants, butter, jam, fresh fruit and both coffee and tea. “You’ll spoil me.” She picked up the soft pastry, spread a bit of jam on the end and bit it.

“You deserve it.” Jason lolled across the end of the bed, a mug of coffee in hand. “What’s your pleasure, Miss?” he asked as they finished breakfast. He picked up her hand and kissed the back of a finger. Ying’s spine tingled. “Dress and go out? The day is beautiful. A walk in the park?” He kissed the next finger. “Go see a movie? The new Space Avengers is playing just down the block.” He arched an eyebrow and kissed the next finger. “Or perhaps, you’d rather stay here, indolent and pampered?”

Ying laughed and pulled her hand away to caress his cheek. He hadn’t shaved and the dark beard was beginning to show. She liked the scruffy look it gave him. “You are a tempter, Sir. You know I love the Space Avenger series.” Ying sighed and gazed into his eyes. “But I think I’d rather stay. We’ll read the paper, watch a movie, make dinner.”

Jason grinned. “Just as milady desires.” He reclaimed her hand and pulled her close, breath mingling. “That leaves time for this.” He kissed her.

#

It was after eight Sunday night before Ying returned home. She hummed as she entered her apartment. She felt the most relaxed she’d ever been. Kicking off her heels, she padded to the bedroom barefoot. The black evening dress was peeled off and dropped into the bag for the dry cleaners. When she finished her shower, she put on her pajamas and emptied her clutch. Her cell phone tumbled out with a tiny makeup bag, her credit card and driver’s license and two tens. She was putting them in her purse for the morning when she realized the phone was off. Puzzled, she turned it on. It took a moment. Then message after message alert came in, the phone dinging and buzzing nearly non-stop for over a minute. The office, her mother, her girlfriends, had sent message after message. The last ones were near frantic, especially from her mother. She hit her mother’s speed dial.

“Mom, it’s me.”

“Where have you been? I was going to call the police!” Her mother’s voice was a mix of panic, relief and anger.

“I’m sorry, Mom. My phone was off. I was on a date.”

“Date? What date lasts two days? Who is this date?”

Ying sat on her bed. Mom was ticked off. “Jason. I told you about him. We went to the opera last night, then I stayed over at his apartment.”

The other end of the call was silent for a moment. “You should call. Why your phone not on?”

Her mother drifting back into patois was an indicator of how upset she was. “I’m sorry, Mom, really. I don’t know how the phone was off. Maybe I never turned it back on after the opera. I should have called you today, I know. It’s my fault.”

Ying heard a snort from the other end.

A long breath could be heard then, “You must like this boy.”

“He’s not a boy, Mom. He’s a couple years older than me.”

“Hmmph. Still a boy. An inconsiderate boy who does not think about your family.”

“Stop, Mom. Jason treated me like a queen. I had a wonderful time.”

Her mother hummph’d again. “Maybe. Now we have to meet this Jason. You and him come for Thanksgiving.”

Ying rolled her eyes. That would be stressful at the very least. “Maybe. He runs a big company, Mom. He may not be able to get away.”

“You tell him. Thanksgiving. Our house. Now go to bed. You have to work in the morning.”

A grin spread across Ying’s face. She’d won her mother over. “Okay, Mom. I’ll call you tomorrow.”

“You’d better.” The line clicked off.

Ying stared at the phone in her hand. Now to see what work was calling about. She hoped it wasn’t something critical.

#

Ying massaged her temples. The shit had hit the fan Sunday with a client and the office had been calling her all Sunday to come in and help. When she arrived an hour early Monday, every partner was in the conference room and turned to stare at her entry. Felicity gave her head a slight shake as the lead partner sneered, “Glad you could join us.”

“I’m sorry. My cell phone died. I couldn’t get the store to recover my old one until this morning and then all the texts came in. I hurried right over.” She sank into the chair at the end of the table that was hers and quietly opened her portfolio.

After the meeting, Felicity gave her the dressing down of her life. All of the scut work, stuff that should have gone to the newest associate, had been handed to her to handle. Phone calls, deep data entry, excruciating research, it was all hers and she had partners coming in all day to check on her progress. Now it was eight. The partners and even the partner’s secretary had gone home. The crisis was averted and Felicity had stopped at her door on the way out.

“Good work today. We never would have thought to take the direction you uncovered.”

Ying nodded. “Thank you. It just came to me.”

“Well, a bad start but a good end.” She turned and left.

Ying opened a desk drawer and opened the bottle of aspirin. She took two with a swallow of cold coffee, making a face at the taste. She never would have found the solution without the key. She’d used it so much during the day that she was still nauseated. Wearily she stood, gathered her things and headed home. She hoped that never happened again.

 

Thank You!

 

End Part VIII: 1000 Words

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Found: Key, Part VII – Flash Fiction Friday Post

Key by pej0

Key by pej0

Part VII  Photo Key by pej0, http://www.deviantart.com/art/key-110125031

A month later Ying was having tea with Eleanor on Saturday afternoon.

“Why do you track these dusty old relics?” Ying put her empty tea cup and saucer on the tray in front of the sofa in the antique shop. “What do you get out of it?”

Eleanor smiled and dunked a cookie in her cup and delicately bit it. She chewed, lost in thought. “I was 22, just out of college when I was first approached. I had just graduated with a degree in French History and looking for a job.” She smiled and shrugged. “It was a passion. I loved everything about it. I just didn’t think about how that would pay for a roof over my head and food in my belly.” She sighed. “I was approached by a very distinguished gentleman. He took me out for lunch.” Again Eleanor shrugged. “It’s embarrassing, really, how I stuffed my face. I was so hungry.” She took a deep breath. “Anyway, I turned him down. I was young and full of myself. I was going to make my degree pay.” She chuckled. “Six months later, my girlfriend was giving me the eye about crashing in her apartment and the man approached me again. I wasn’t so dismissive that time. Again, I stuffed my stomach full but I actually listened. It was intriguing, being an agent in charge of historic artifacts.” She made a face. “That’s how he put it. But really, job prospects for a French History major are few and far between.” Eleanor sipped her tea. “I agreed.”

“And you ended up with an antique shop?” Ying was fascinated. This woman had taken a wholly different path but still seemed successful.

“Eventually. There was training. By the time I actually realized what they were about, I was fully invested. Talk about history!”

Ying organized her thoughts. “Jason and I have been dating. I’ve told you all of that.”

Eleanor nodded and refilled her cup.

“What I haven’t told you is that I don’t use the key with Jason.”

Eleanor’s cup hovered just off of the saucer. “Not at all?”

Ying shook her head and refilled her cup. She sipped. “Nope. What does that mean?”

The back of Eleanor’s fingers rubbed against the bottom of her chin as her eyes drifted to the elaborate antique tin ceiling, now painted white. “You’ve told me that you and Jason are happy. Good company, fine dining, happy outings.” She looked Ying in the eyes. “You’re in love?”

Ying was surprised to find her face flushing. She shrugged. “I don’t know. I’ve only known him a month.”

Eleanor smiled. “That’s enough, isn’t it?” She sipped her tea. “I like that you’re not using the key on him. You’re doing this for real, as the youngsters say. That’s good.”

Another flush rushed up Ying’s cheeks. It was suddenly clear to her why she’d not used the key. She didn’t want a man that had been coerced. Her hand shook and the cup rattled in the saucer. She put it down on the table. “So there’s nothing in your book about this?”

Eleanor shook her head. “Nothing. The previous owners were focused on becoming rich and powerful. You’re different. The key is behaving differently with you than our records indicate.” She grinned. A sheepish one that made her blush. “I have to admit. The other guardians are very interested in this case. It’s seldom that we get new data on an artifact’s behavior.”

Ying grinned. “Ah. You’re becoming a celebrity. Good for you.” She stood and smoothed her pantsuit. “I’ll keep you informed. I have a date with Jason tonight. I’ll let you know if anything unusual happens.”

#

They walked across the opera house lobby floor arm in arm. Ying could see the men’s eyes snap in her direction as they passed. She knew she looked good in her black ankle-length dress, décolletage cut to her navel. But more, she and Jason together were a power couple. She could see it when they passed in front of a plate glass window coming into the opera. Her entire body buzzed with it. The key, made into a necklace on a fine gold chain, hung between her breasts. The buzz must be the key, she thought, the subtle movement creating the magic, but this was different. The key usually made her dizzy or nauseated. This was like electricity flowing through her. She thought that if she held her hand out and pointed, lightening would come shooting out of her fingers. It was heady.

After the opera and stops to talk to people each of them knew, they were seated in a quiet bistro on a side street. The wait staff, even at nine-thirty at night were attentive and smiling. The chef came out to personally take their order.

“Impressive.”

Jason shrugged. “I come here a lot. I tip well.”

Ying grinned. “Maybe. But these people seem to really like you.” She watched a blush run up his cheeks.

“Yeah. Well. What can I say.”

While drinks and appetizers were served, they talked about the opera. Over dinner and wine, they exchanged their plans for the future.

“What about you, Jason?” Ying took a sip of the Beaujolais Jason had ordered.

She noticed him play with his watchband. It was something he did when he was thinking. “I want the company to grow, of course.” He spun the band around on his wrist. “Perhaps rival The River one day.”

Ying grinned. “Ambitious, going from a gaming company to a world-wide distribution corporation.”

“Why not?” He grinned. “The River was just a book seller when they started.”

She laughed. The tingling returned. The power she felt was intoxicating. “I’m sure you’ll get there one day.”

After dinner the night air was cool and refreshing after the heat of the day. “Come to my house for a nightcap,” Jason offered.

Ying hesitated.

“Come on. It’s been a month. More if you count the time I knocked you on your butt.”

She understood. Going to his house meant staying the night. On one hand tomorrow was Sunday so no having to get up to go to work. On the other hand, did she want to move to that step? She glanced at her phone, waiting for it to ring. Her mother always knew. “Yes.” She threaded her arm through his right arm. “It’s time.”

 

Thank You!

 

End Part VII: 1064 Words

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Found: Key, Part V – Flash Fiction Friday Post

Available Keys by Art by Star LaMoore

Available Keys by Art by Star LaMoore

Part V Available Keys by Art by StarLaMoore, http://orig05.deviantart.net/37af/f/2012/185/3/f/available_keys__by_starl33na-d56176f.jpg

Ying waited a week before going back to the antique shop to see Eleanor. Once she was there, she told the guardian what she’d done the previous Friday.

Eleanor’s eyebrow arched. Ying watched as the fingertips of Eleanor’s right hand tapped on the sofa arm and Eleanor stared off into space. “Interesting,” she finally said. “No, no women, that we know of, have ever held the key. Times were different, women didn’t go into business, in general, anyway.” She smoothed the gray skirt over her legs. “What has the key done?”

“Nothing different than last month. My projects are all going well. I’m getting valuable clients. Presentations are flawless.”

“You haven’t met your dream match?”

Ying shook her head. “Nope. Not yet. But it has just been a week. It looks like the key wants to stay with me, so that’s something.”

“Indeed.” Eleanor’s fingers tapped again. “Not to pry, but I’d really like to follow this, if you wouldn’t mind sharing.”

“Why not.” Ying shrugged, then stood up. “You don’t want the gory details, just the progress toward making a family. I can do that.” She picked up her purse and briefcase. “You don’t mind if I email you, do you, with updates?”

“Not at all. You have the shop card. Use that email. I’m the only one that checks it.”

“Appreciate it. I’ve left early two Friday’s in a row, now. People at work notice these things.”

Eleanor stood and walked with Ying to the door, holding it for her. “Not at all. But don’t be shy. When you can, come by and we’ll have tea. I like our chats.”

“I’ll do that. Thanks again.” Ying started out of the door and as she cleared the recessed entryway onto the sidewalk, a young man in a gray business suit collided with her. She spun and the heel of her shoe broke. Her briefcase went flying, tangling with the man’s and both of them skidded off of the curb into the street. “Oh!” She landed on her hip, stockings shredding on the sidewalk.

The man was down on one knee, having done his best to catch her when she fell. He was looking at her face, an arm around her shoulders.

Eleanor hurried to them. “Are you all right?”

Ying took a breath. His face pulled her in, high cheek bones, deep brown eyes and sandy brown hair framing it all. She blinked the second time Eleanor called her name. “Uh, yes. I think so.”

“I’m so sorry,” the man said as he helped her to her feet. “I didn’t see you there.” He hurried to the curb and picked up both briefcases. “A little scuffed, but I’m afraid I’ve ruined your shoes and your suit.” He handed Ying her briefcase.

Ying was brushing off. “I’m sorry. I didn’t look before I came out of the doorway.”

“My fault entirely, miss.”

He looked so upset she had to smile. “I’m Ying Lee.” She held out her hand.

“I’m Jason Fitch.” He shook her hand. “I am like a bull-dozer. I am so sorry.” He looked at Eleanor. “Thank you for rushing to her aid.”

Eleanor smiled. “No problem at all. I wasn’t much help, I’m afraid.” She turned to Ying. “I’ll leave you to it, then.” She quirked an eyebrow out of sight of Jason and went back inside.

“I should catch a cab, I think.” Ying took off both shoes. There was no way to walk in them with one broken.

“Let me pay,” Jason said. “It’s the least I can do.” He walked to the curb and went between two parked cars and began to wave down an approaching cab.

“That’s not necessary. Really.” Ying picked her way to the street beside him. Gravel dug into the bottoms of her feet.

“It is, Ms. Lee. I won’t take no for an answer.”

The cab pulled up and Jason opened the back door. “Please. My treat.”

Ying sighed. “Very well, then.” She got into the cab and pulled a business card out of the brief case. “Call me.”

His face brightened. “Certainly. I’d be happy to.” He closed the cab door and leaned in the front passenger window. “Please take the lady where ever she’d like to go.” He pulled his wallet out and handed the driver a hundred-dollar bill.

“Yes, sir.” The cabbie gave him a salute.

As the cab pulled away, Ying could see Eleanor in the shop window watching. She told the cabbie her address and settled back into the seat. She patted her suit jacket pocket. Thank you, key.

She thought about Jason Fitch’s eyes. How she’d just fallen into their depths. She tingled with excitement. He seemed nice. Polite. Considerate. Well dressed. And obviously successful the way he paid the cabbie. Her cell phone rang. She pulled it from her purse and looked at the screen. Perfect timing.

“Hello, mom.”

“Hello, Ying.”

“You have perfect timing. I just met someone.”

“Really!”

Ying had to chuckle at the excitement in her mother’s voice. “How do you know exactly when to call?”

“I’m your mother. Now. Tell me all about this young man.”

“Okay, mom. I’ll tell you everything.”

She was still talking to her mother when the cab pulled up in front of her building. “Hey. I’m home. Let me call you later.”

“You’d better.” She blew her daughter a kiss.

“I will, mom. I promise.” Ying clicked off and thanked the driver. In her apartment she tossed the shoes into the trash, the stockings too.

She’d just finished washing the blood from her scraped leg when her phone rang. Unknown number, she noted. “Hello?”

“Is it too soon to call?”

 

 

Thank You!

 

End Part V: 945 Words

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Found: Key, Part IV – Flash Fiction Friday Post

heart_keys_by_dementedviking

Heart Keys by DementedViking, http://www.deviantart.com/art/Heart-Keys-78977694

Part IV Heart Keys by DementedViking,  http://www.deviantart.com/art/Heart-Keys-78977694

Ying hurried out of the shop and onto the street where she had room and air to think. No family? She’d always assumed there would be a family. There had never been a rush before. She was only twenty-seven. As she walked to her apartment, the briefcase she carried seemed heavier than usual. Like a boulder, trapping her in a job she was no longer sure she wanted. Her steps were slow, not at all her usual brisk pace. Her eye caught every woman with a child that came along the sidewalk. It occurred to her there weren’t a lot of those. There were plenty of shops, even a toy store but not a lot of children. Why?

At home unusually early, only five p.m. she changed into casual clothes and took a walk to the park. Ying sat on a bench near the playground and watched. Moms with little kids in close view chatted on benches. Kids screamed with delight as they raced each other up slide ladders or dared each other to swing higher. Mothers called to children and they left in ones and twos, to go home and make supper, Ying guessed. What was that like? Get supper on the stove, get the kids washed, send a fast kiss hubby’s way when he came home? Maybe it was all rush, rush. Ying remembered soccer practices and games, or skating lessons, or piano lessons most every night of the week. Sure, there were sit down dinners but generally only on Sunday.

Is that what she wanted? Domestic bliss? She shook her head. It hadn’t seemed important before today. She pulled the key from her pocket and studied it as it lay in the palm of her hand. The scroll work on it was now free of dirt. The key was beautiful—more art than function. She mused on the original owner and the castle study. Was it a den, books lining the walls, or a lab, beakers and flames and mysterious bubbling colored potions? An alchemist, Eleanor had told her. Ying pictured an old man in robes and a pointed hat, more wizard than scientist. More Merlin than Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Slipping the key into her pocket she rose and wandered through the park, trying to sort her thoughts.

Her cell rang. A glance at the screen showed a picture of her mother. “Hey, Mom.” Appropriate her mother would call now.

“Ying. I was thinking of you and decided to call.”

The woman must be psychic. “Nice to hear from you, Mom. How are you and Dad?”

“We’re fine. Your father insisted on fixing the bathroom sink himself. Now the sink is completely broken. We have to use the guest bath.”

Ying chuckled. Her father was an excellent attorney, but a terrible handyman. “Ouch. Will it cost much?”

“More than it would have.” Her mother’s voice was dry. “Anyway, I thought you’d like to know your old best friend, Lena, is having a baby.”

Ying rolled her eyes. This was how her mother reminded her that they wanted grand-children. “How nice. She’s been married, what, three years? Her wedding was so beautiful.”

“Yes, it was.”

There’s another hint. “I took off of work early today. I’m in the park.”

“Good. You work too hard. No wonder you’re so skinny. Men don’t like boney girls.”

“Mom! I’m perfectly healthy. I work out and eat right, that’s all.”

“Hmmpf,” sounded clearly over the cell. “Maybe. Are you coming home for Thanksgiving?”

“Thanksgiving is four months away. I’ll see. I’m a new partner, I don’t want to seem too privileged.”

“You didn’t come last year.”

There was that tone. “True. I was trying to make partner, Mom.”

“Well, now you’re a partner. You come home.”

“I’ll do my best, Mom. Look. I have to go.” Ying blew a kiss into the phone. “Tell Dad I love him.”

“I will.” She blew a kiss back to her daughter. “Find a husband!” She clicked off.

There it was. Ying wondered when she’d toss that into the conversation. She slid the phone into her pocket. What if I do want children? What if that’s what makes me happy? Were any of the other owners women? Perhaps the key would work differently for a woman? Ying stopped in the shade of a huge maple and pulled the key out of her pocket. A short distance away, a young family was spreading out a blanket, the two toddlers hindering in their efforts to help. She smiled as they all laughed at the mess they were making. So, key. What do you think? If I want a successful family and success in business, can you give that to me? She stroked the key, wrapped her hand around it and closed her eyes. Ying formed a picture in her mind of a husband and a child, laughing at the beach, her taking a picture.

A wave of nausea roiled her stomach. She opened her hand and stared at the key. “What did you give me, key? What did you do?”

 

Thank You!

 

Part IV: 842 Words

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Found: Key, Part III – Flash Fiction Friday Post

Keys by KororowoxDD

Keys by KororowoxDD 

http://www.deviantart.com/art/keys-79877806

You can see Part 1 here.

Part III

The new account needed to be set up and work begun on sending the client the required products. Each time she sent the owner an email or talked to him on the phone, she fingered the key. It occurred to her about the third time she did it, that she knew the key was working because she’d feel dizzy or nauseous. She did her best not to be fingering the key all day long. It seemed greedy, somehow. But for important transactions, dealing with her clients, sitting at the partner meetings, she would stroke it once or twice and then take her hand out of her pocket.

At the end of the month she remembered the antique store owner, Eleanor. I need to talk to her. Get more information about this key. Ying left her private office early, telling the partner’s secretary, Sharon, “I have some personal business to take care of. See you on Monday.”

Outside of the antique store, Ying hesitated. The tray of keys was no longer in the window. What did that mean? She took a deep breath and straightened her shoulders. I’ll have to ask.

Inside Eleanor was ringing up a customer. She nodded at Ying and went back to her transaction. Ying wandered the store. She saw a carved, enameled screen, black with gold edging, an oriental scene done in the same pastel colors she had decorated her apartment in. It would look stunning in the living room corner.

Eleanor arrived as Ying was turning over the price tag. “It is a lovely piece, isn’t it?”

Ying’s eyebrows rose at the $3,000 price. Too much for her. She wasn’t used to her new pay scale yet. She dropped the tag. “Yes. Very pretty.” She turned to Eleanor. “I’ve been using the key.”

Eleanor’s cocked an eyebrow. “Interesting. Let’s sit down. Tea?” She led Ying to a small seating area near the counter.

“Yes. Thank you.”

Eleanor went into the back and came out a few minutes later with a china teapot on a tray, two cups on saucers and a plate of cookies. “I do believe the English tea time ranks right up on the civilized behavior scale with the European mid-afternoon nap time.” She poured for both of them and sat back, cookie on her saucer and cup in hand. “Tell me all about your month.”

Ying settled back and related the subway terrorist incident, her other uses of the key and that it made her dizzy or sick when used.

“The sickness is in the book. I can confirm that. I’m interested in the key saving you the first morning. You were taking care of the key. It seems to me it was reciprocating the favor.”

Ying sipped her tea, now cold. She leaned forward and poured more into the cup to warm it. “I hadn’t thought of it like that.” Cup returned to the saucer she sat back. “What happened to the tray of keys in the window?”

“Those?” Eleanor looked over the rim of her cup. “I change the display often. I moved them into the back.”

Ying had the feeling the tray was supposed to attract her inside the day she found the key. “Does the key show up on a schedule?”

“Perceptive. It does have a cycle. It was time for it to appear. We never know where, though.”

“We? Who are you? Your group?”

Selecting another cookie from the tray, Eleanor dunked it lightly into her cup. “I suppose you could call us guardians. We know the history of many powerful objects and do our best to keep track of them.”

“And the key is just one?” Ying’s mind began to race at the thought of many of these objects circulating through the world.

“One of many. When one does show up, we try to offer the finder help.”

“Why not just get the things and lock them away?”

Eleanor chuckled. “That was tried, centuries ago. The objects have a mind of their own. They select their users and will not be denied. The key is benevolent, for the most part.”

A shock ran through Ying. “What do you mean?”

“Magic has to be paid for. Nothing is free, in this world or the arcane world.” Eleanor shrugged. “How have you been?”

“Fine, except for when I use the key. But that’s just a little momentary discomfort. Why?” Ying put the cup and saucer back on the tray and waited for the answer.

“Have you been out at all? Socialize, date?”

“I’ve been too busy. I was just made partner. I’m working eleven or twelve hour days, six days a week.”

Eleanor nodded. “The key is giving you what you want. You’re a professional woman. You’re focused on your job. You’re young and already a partner. Did you have any plans for a family?”

Ying blinked. “Someday. Of course. When I find the right man.”

Eleanor sighed. “In the key’s history, there has been no mention of the users ever marrying or having a family. That’s the price your object charges.”

Up until now, a husband and family were just vague future plans. Her parents had been riding her since high school to find a husband and start a family. They were very Chinese that way. But she kept putting it off, first for college, then to work. They approved of her every advancement but grand-children were their primary goal. “I. Um, I’m not sure.”

“Sure of what?”

“Whether I want a family. What if I do? Will the key leave me? Has anyone tried to have a family while they had the key?”

“If they did, the other guardians never made a note of it.”

Ying stood up. She had to think. “Here’s my card.” She pulled a card out of the little pocket on her briefcase. “Has no one given up the key?”

Eleanor shook her head. “Not that we know of.”

 

Thank You!

 

Part III: 989 Words

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Found: Key – Part II Flash Fiction Friday Post

Tray of Keys by Randy Cockrell

Tray of Keys by Randy Cockrell

You can see Part 1 here.

Part II

Ying Lee finished her report and with it, submitted the contract to her boss.

Felicity Morgan smiled as she flipped through the documents “This is fantastic, Ying. We’ve been trying to land this client for years. Congratulations.”

“Thank you, Felicity. I’ve been following the advice you gave me in the mentoring sessions. It was extremely effective.”

Her boss nodded. “I think the partners will be favorably impressed. You’re still interested in the partnership?”

“I am.” Ying could hardly contain her excitement. Finally! “I think I’m ready to take on the additional responsibility.”

“I think so, too. Let me talk to the other partners at your next meeting. I think it’s time.”

Both women rose and shook hands. “I appreciate the support, Felicity. Thank you.”

#

At home that evening, Ying poured herself a celebratory glass of Merlot. Barefoot, with glass in hand, she retrieved the key from her purse and took it into the kitchen. Unwrapping the tissue, she put the key on her counter. All of the elaborate designs were filled with dirt. She thought about Eleanor’s idea that rubbing the key might activate its powers. She was reluctant to do that but it bothered her to see such a beautiful object, a work of art, really, so grimy. Pulling a glass mixing bowl from the cabinet she filled it with hot water and a squirt of dish soap then put the key into the bowl. “Where have you been the last hundred years, key?”

Ying sipped her wine as she stared into the bowl. She sighed and left the kitchen. There were still reports to read before bed. She’d think about the key in the morning.

#

She’d set her clock for half an hour earlier than usual. In the kitchen, over her coffee, soft boiled egg and mixed fresh fruit, Ying drained the water from the bowl. A good deal of sand washed into the sink. She hoped it wouldn’t clog the drain. The key, now on a kitchen towel, cleaner, still had a great deal of grime embedded in the scrollwork. Ying sighed. Should she take the chance to clean the grime out with a wooden toothpick? Leaving the dirt in there just highlighted the intricate design. She should just leave it.

Instead, she found herself bent over the counter, gently digging the dirt away from the key. When she finished it was half an hour past time she usually left the apartment. Her stomach churned as she dressed and dropped the key in her suit jacket pocket before running out of the door. Crap. I just talked to Felicity about being able to handle more responsibility and here I am, late for work.

She tried to hail a cab. No luck. Traffic was even worse than usual. Instead she hurried along the sidewalk. Dashing between people, she was focused on getting to work. It seemed as though everyone in the city was on the sidewalk. By the time she arrived in her office, her feet were killing her and she was sweaty from the struggle to arrive.

The staff was in the conference room. Oh my God. I’ve missed a meeting! She searched her mind in a panic. She didn’t remember any meeting. Briefcase still in hand she stopped in the conference room door. Everyone was focused on the television mounted at the rear of the room. Crowds of people filled the screen. Most of them covered in soot and blood. Crying, calling for help. “What’s happening?”

“Oh my God, Ying!” The associates secretary, Mandy, leapt from her seat at the table and ran to the door. “We were so worried.” She gave Ying a hug. “Are you okay?”

“Yes. What’s happening?”

“Don’t you know? A terrorist attack on the subway. It’s your line. We thought you were in there.”

The entire room was up and surrounding her. Everyone asking questions at once. “No. No. My alarm didn’t go off. I overslept. I walked to work.”

Felicity came into the room. “Ying. We were worried. Are you all right?”

Ying was blinking with confusion. “Yes. Yes, I’m fine. What’s this about terrorists?”

“Hell of a thing. Bombed the subway. So many people hurt and dead.”

“I’ll get you a cup of tea.” Mandy hurried off.

“Yes. Come to your office. Rest.” Felicity threaded her arm through Ying’s and led her to her cubicle. “We were worried. I’m so glad you’re safe.”

“Thank you.” At her desk she put her briefcase against the cubicle wall and sat down. Her hand crept to her jacket pocket. She could feel the key through the cloth. “I can’t believe it.”

“Yes. Well. I suppose this is the sign of our times. Isn’t it.” Felicity made herself at home in the guest chair beside the desk. “Are you sure you’re all right? You look a little stressed.”

Ying nodded. “I suppose I am. I usually ride that subway. I just. I just was walking. Today.”

“A good thing.” Felicity patted Ying’s hand. “We wouldn’t want to lose our newest partner so soon.”

It took Ying a moment to change her mind from worrying about being late, then terrorists to the implied information her boss just told her.

“Partner?”

“Yes, dear. Partner. We were going to announce it more formally but with the attack, it seems inappropriate. We’ll announce it later in the week.”

Ying nodded. “Of course. Totally inappropriate.” She managed a smile. “Still. Thank you and the partners. I’ll keep it to myself, of course.”

Felicity nodded. “Good girl. I knew you’d understand.” She rose just as Mandy came around the corner with a cup in hand. “We’ll expect your analysis of those reports by the end of the day.”

“Of course.” Ying nodded.

Mandy put the mug on Ying’s desk. “Gosh. They don’t let up do they. You let me know what you need. I’ll be right at my desk.”

“Sure. Thanks, Mandy.”

Ying fingered the key through her pocket. Was it the key or just stupid luck?

Thank You!

Part II: 1000 Words

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Kitten Magic: Flash Fiction Friday Post

http://www.deviantart.com/art/A-kitten-68838991 titled A Kitten by Ultrakitten via DeviantArt.com

http://www.deviantart.com/art/A-kitten-68838991 titled A Kitten by Ultrakitten via DeviantArt.com

http://www.deviantart.com/art/A-kitten-68838991 titled A Kitten by Ultrakitten

Kitten Magic

Eight-year-old Breanne huddled in the back corner of her closet, kitten, Smoke, cuddled in her arms. The sound of her father screaming at her mother drifted up the stairs from the kitchen. Breanne flinched at the crash of dishes.

“I wish daddy would stop yelling,” the girl whispered into the kitten’s neck. The kitten growled, then the last dish crashed and the back door slammed. Breanne wiped away tears. She crept from the closet and down the stairs. Peeking around the kitchen door jamb, she could see her mother, Mary, sweeping up the broken crockery.

“Mama?”

Mary set the broom against the counter and dashed her hands across her eyes. She turned. “Hey, baby.”

Breanne ran to her mother. “Where’s Daddy?”

They hugged. “He went out. Sweetheart. Did you hide in the closet like I told you?”

Breanne nodded, blue eyes solemn. “Smoke hid with me.” The kitten rubbed up against Mary’s ankle. Mary picked up the kitten and included her in the hug. “Good girls.”

Every night Daddy screamed at Mommy. Breanne trembled in the closet. Sometimes Daddy hit Mommy, and Breanne cried into Smoke’s soft gray fur. “Please, Daddy, stop,” Breanne whispered into the kitten’s back each time. Each time, Daddy would storm out of the door.

One night after she turned nine, she gathered up her courage and inched down the stairs to hide under the dining room table, Smoke clutched in her arms. She watched her father storm around the kitchen, Mary huddled in the corner of the counter and the sink, arms around herself, head bowed. He yelled things at Mary that Breanne had been told never to say. Breanne began to sob and just as he raised his hand to strike his wife, Breanne whispered, “Stop, Daddy. Go out the door.”

Smoke looked into the kitchen like she’d spotted a bird a few feet away. Halfway through her father’s strike, his arm dropped and he slammed out of the back door. Breanne ran out to the kitchen where her mother stood sobbing and shaking.

“Breanne, you shouldn’t be here, baby.” She pulled a paper towel from the roll and wiped her eyes and blew her nose.

Breanne hugged her mother around the hips. “Smoke sent Daddy away.”

Mary dropped to one knee and hugged her daughter. “I don’t think so, honey.”

Breanne looked her mother in the eyes. “Oh, yes, Mama. I saw.”

Mary half-laughed and hugged Breanne again. “If you say so, sweetie.”

After that Breanne tested Smoke. She held the kitten close and crept downstairs to watch through the kitchen door. At first she waited until her father started to strike, then she’d wish her daddy would stop. Each time he’d stop and leave.

She grew bolder, stopping him earlier and earlier. One day before her father came home from work she asked, “Mama, doesn’t Daddy love us?”

Mary, her back to Breanne, stopped stirring the spaghetti sauce. It took a moment for her to set the spoon in the rest and turn to Breanne. “He loves you very much.”

“He said you trapped him. That I was a bastard.”

Mary hurried to the table, pulled out a chair and sat down. She took Breanne’s hand. “He’s upset, that’s all.”

“Why doesn’t he just go away? When my friend Jimmy’s being mean, I just go away.”

Smoke jumped up into Breanne’s lap. Now a year old, the kitten looked at Mary with wide green eyes. Mary’s hands twisted on the table top. She couldn’t hold the kitten’s gaze and stared at the far wall. “It’s a kind of pride. He doesn’t want to look weak.”

“He hits you, Mama. Hard.”

Mary nodded, her hand creeping up to her cheek where her make-up was wearing thin. The nearly permanent bruise was beginning to show. “Not like that. Different.” She whispered, “I wish he would leave forever.”

Breanne’d never heard her mother say anything like that before. “Smoke can make that happen. She’s been stopping Daddy every night.”

Mary shook her head. “I don’t think so.”

“So why does he stop like that. Right in the middle.” Breanne glared with defiance.

“What?” Mary’s gaze lifted.

“Every night I wish Daddy would stop and Smoke makes it happen.” She stroked the kitten who began to purr, staring at Mary with half closed eyes. “I’ll just wish he goes away forever.”

Mary’s eyes went wide. “You’d make him disappear?”

Smoke head-butted Breanne’s hand when she stopped petting. The girl stroked her cat’s head. “Just send him away, forget us.”

Mary rose and went to the stove where she stirred the sauce. She stirred and stirred then turned back to the table. “Not dead?”

Breanne and the cat stared into each other’s eyes. Smoke purred.

“Not dead, Mama. Just not here.”

Mary turned back to the stove, shoulder’s slumped. “Only if he gets angry again.”

Breanna nodded.

After supper it began again. Breanne sat on the top stair and cried. If only Daddy wouldn’t be so mad!

Smoke drifted from Breanne’s bedroom and eased into the girl’s lap. She stroked the cat. “He’s doing it again, Smoke.”

Smoke flowed from her lap and down the stairs. She stopped in the kitchen door and sat, front feet together and stared into the kitchen. Breanne followed and stood beside the cat.

On a rampage around the kitchen her father jerked Mary from her chair by the hair. He caught sight of them. “Watta you starin’ at?” He slurred his words, empty beer bottles evident on the counter.

“I wish you would go away, Daddy. Go away forever.”

Mary’s hands flew to her mouth as her husband shouted curses at Breanne. He took a step.

Smoke hissed.

Breanne watched as her daddy began to fade.

Mary screamed.

By the time her daddy would have reached her, he was gone.

The police came when Mary reported her husband missing.

When Breanne was seventeen, she stood as maid of honor at her mother’s wedding. Smoke never did do any more magic.

 

Thank You!

999 Words

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