Category Archives: Writing

Voluntary Amnesia: Fiction for RB Wood’s Word Count Podcast

This story originally appeared as a contribution to R.B. Wood‘s Word Count Podcast, Episode 39. To hear me read it, along with six other authors and their contributions, click the podcast link above.

The prompt was: “I was walking on the white sands at Magen’s Bay in St Thomas when…”

***

Magen’s Bay made everything more beautiful.

Lottie wrapped her arm around my waist, her palm gritty with the fine sand from the beach. She fell into step with me, our feet sinking and rising in the damp beach, our steps vanishing together into the tide. Her pearl skin was smattered with fresh freckles, kisses of sweet Caribbean sunshine.

She pressed her lips to my shoulder before laying her cheek against it, leaning into me while the tide tugged and tempted.

My thoughts meandered with our path along the crescent curve of white. Inevitably, they soared in a northward arc over the Atlantic; without fail they skipped along the stony shores of Maine. Another crescent entirely. I pressed those dull, wintry remembrances deep into the pockets of Before–my other life, shed like a parka under this fair, Equatorial sun.

Paradise was hard won. Best to remain a voluntary amnesiac, to let the past ghost away like our trail into the sea.

“Bart, you’re looking a little pink.” Tilting her chin, Lottie shot me a wicked glance from under her lashes. “Time for some fresh sunscreen… in the bungalow.”

God help me if I ever forgot how her hot gaze brought my body to attention.

Miranda fell in with us, unbidden, on my right side. She held herself a hand’s-breadth from me, though her stride matched ours footfall for footfall. Peering sidelong at Lottie’s milky complexion and wind-tumbled mahogany mane, at her toned form in the pin-up swimsuit, Miranda snorted. “Nice tits. Well done, Bart.”

So much for voluntary amnesia.

I straightened my spine, sucking in what remained of my former paunch. Lottie liked to run; I was a runner now, with the slimmer limbs and flatter belly to show for it. Reinvention is the sincerest form of flattery, and I liked Lottie to know how much I loved her.

Miranda raised an eyebrow. “Don’t suck it in on my account, babe. I’m not in a position to appreciate your fleshly delights, am I?”

There was a new softness to her, a hazy quality she’d lacked Before. Her wild curls were tied back, her feet bare. Her swirling skirt and tank top revealed a body bronzed in the garden, muscles tightened by hard work. Had she always looked like that? Even her sardonic expression was appealing.

Magen’s Bay made everything more beautiful. Even, it seemed, Miranda.

Lottie shaded her eyes to examine the horizon, where a line of fluffy clouds was forming over the lush hillside on the west side of the bay. She pouted prettily. “Shade. Boo.”

Miranda chuckled.

I patted Lottie’s arm and pitched my voice low. “Maybe it is time for some sunscreen.”

I couldn’t help but look for Miranda’s reaction to the playful exchange. Just a hooded flick of the eyes in her direction. She sighed loudly, setting her lips in the grim line I recalled most clearly. More like the Miranda who fit the shape of my forgotten life.

Lottie caught my expression and the corner of her mouth turned down. “Barty?”

I squeezed her hand, delighting in Miranda’s radiating disapproval. “Just watching the waves, sweetheart’. Let’s grab some daiquiris on the way back. I want your hands on me. Now.”

Lottie released my arm and clapped like a child. She stretched her arms up, catching her hair in one hand untying the strings that kept her bikini top anchored with the other. She released her hair in a waterfall as the fabric slipped down, nearly baring the most gorgeous breasts I’d ever seen in person.

“I’ll take the rest off for you while you watch, lover. Come on.” With a provocative hip-twitch, she turned back up the beach in the direction of the little place we shared.

“Oh, for Chrissake, Bart. Really?” Miranda hissed her disapproval. “I hope they find my body soon, you miserable sonofabitch.”

I grinned as she faded into the salt spray and followed Lottie’s damp footprints across the dry sand towards the trees beyond, my thoughts already turning to the things she would do to me once we were alone. Voluntary amnesia was really the only way to live.

Magen’s Bay made everything more beautiful. Even murder.

Conversation in the Clearing

Cabin fever struck hard, pushing against Ewan’s chest, forcing him out into the single-digit temperatures despite his thin city blood. He bundled up in a small fortune’s worth of L.L. Bean gear and took the Scout west out County Road.

His heart squeezed a little when he passed the Damselfly Inn. It was impossible not to be wistful for those early weeks in Vermont the year before, when he and Kate were new to one another. Wistful was fine, he thought as the yellow Victorian faded into the rearview, but nothing to the woman herself, rolling out of their bed at the crack of dawn to meet a delivery at the bakery – after a memorable farewell.

He was a lucky man.

He cranked up the heat and the Pogues and let his foot fall heavy on the pedal while the road wound into the woods.

The Stone Garden wore the late-season snow like cookie icing, the sky deceptively azure and clear for mid-March. Especially a March so firmly entrenched in Winter’s frosty breath.

Ewan paused at the edge of the circle of standing stones. It was a place of extraordinary grace, that much he knew in his bones. He never liked to be an interloper. Today he needed not only its grace, but the place’s soaring openness. Too much time cooped behind a desk, locked inside four walls, had trapped his novel inside his head – never a healthy situation.

The evergreen and birches stood sentinel over the clearing, high-noon shadows barely intruding into the glittering white ring. Ewan breathed in, relishing the harshness, letting the cold pinch his cheeks and sting his eyes.

“Day like this unlocks something in the soul.”

The voice came out of nowhere, and when Ewan spun, a white-haired man in a field coat and deerstalker cap leaned against one of the half-fallen stones. His wry expression tipped into a knowing smile.

Ewan blew a companionable breath out through his nostrils. “God knows I need unlocking.”

“Writer, hmm?” The old man spoke softly, but there was a firm, unreadable tone there. He shifted his weight, boots crunching through the crusty snow pack.

“Novelist, yeah.” Ewan stuffed his chilled hands deep into the pockets of his parka and turned back to the clearing, speaking over his shoulder. “Though not for much longer if I don’t get a draft to my agent.”

The hike up to the Stone Garden had cleared his thoughts, and his busy brain was already picking apart the snarls in his plot. He hadn’t anticipated company on an afternoon like this, but the old man inspired his confidence.

“I suspect you’ll manage.” The old man’s dry humor was unmistakable.

Ewan shivered into his scarf and laughed. “At least I’m guaranteed my office at the college through the spring. Provided my fiancée doesn’t toss me out, I should get it done.”

When the old man didn’t reply, Ewan turned back, but there was no one there, not even broken snow to mark his presence.

Ewan and Kate have a far longer love-story to tell, but they appear together in a few small vignettes here on the blog: The Stone Garden and New Fiction Brewing. This one was written in response to Write on Edge’s weekly prompt.

And because it sort of inspired this piece as well, this gorgeous video of Middlebury College (the inspiration for Thornton College in my stories) in winter.

Middlebury Winter Snowfall from Middlebury College on Vimeo.

Haiku for Little Boy Toys

As much as I bitch,
I secretly love the cars
on the sofa arm.

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Ruins

Colin approached the ruins with a heart as dull as the sky above the empty rise. He hadn’t been back since the wedding. Like unshed tears, the remembered incandescence of fairy lights in the gnarled ash trees around the foundation burned against the backs of his eyelids.

She’d been incandescent. The bride of his dreams dancing among the ruins they’d studied together, dreamed in together. It had been impossible to tear his gaze from her light.

He was standing in the gap-toothed front entry before he saw her, folded in on herself among the ferns in the northwest corner. “Amy?”

She startled hard, knocking her head against what remained of the chimney.

He rushed over, crouching next to her. “Hey. I’m sorry.”

She blinked up at him for a breath before recognition cleared her expression. “Colin.”

Her smile spilled over him like sunshine. He wrapped a steadying arm around her shoulders. “What are you doing here?”

She rubbed her head, wincing where her hand found bruised flesh. “David and I had a row. I needed some peace, but I must have dozed.” She leaned into him. “I’ve missed you.”

He did his best to capture the feeling of her cheek pressed against his faded flannel shirt. “I’ve been around.”

“You always are.” She pressed her hands into the spongy earth; he steadied her as she rose and dusted off her jeans. “It’s one of the things I’ve always loved about you.”

He swallowed the declarations, the pleas that choked him. He forced his rebellious voice to stay even. “Everything’s okay?”

She shrugged, letting a touch of her familiar snark slip. “You know my temper.  David’s still adjusting to Life With Amy.” A quick glance at her phone for the time. “He’ll come ’round.”

“I’m sure.” Resentment kindled in his belly even as a breeze teased her hair and his heart flipped over.

She stretched up on her toes and hugged him hard. He could barely trust himself to return the embrace without bawling like a child.

Amy framed his face between her palms. “Promise me we’ll see one another soon?”

She searched his eyes. He feared what she would find there, but whatever she saw, it was not the love for her he bore like a shaggy-haired Atlas.

Colin sought the lightness that had once existed between them. The lightness that David stole from him by winning Amy’s heart. He gave her a crooked smile. “Whenever you like. I’m yours.”

“Good.” Satisfied, she rocked on her heels and pocketed her hands in her coat. “Take care, Colin.”

He watched her head down the dirt drive, unable to speak his thoughts aloud.

What you break is what you get. You own me.

A response to Write on Edge’s weekly prompt.

Image courtesy of Unsplash.

Image courtesy of Unsplash.

I’ve also gone and submitted this as a response to TipsyLit’s Prompted challenge… check it out. Very cool.
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