Carly started first grade. She says she loves it (I have my doubts, but she insists). She has homework too, that makes me want to poke people.
I started school on Monday also. So we're pretty much the most tired, cranky, unhappy lot on the block.
To make up for the Debbie Downerness of this post, I present the first bit of some scribbles I've been working on. I'd love some feedback, especially of the constructive honest yet kind type.
p.s. this is my original work and therefore protected accordingly by copyright and crap. So, please don't copy it without my permission, especially if you're pretending you wrote it.
It began on an ordinary evening.
Carly and Josh were walking with their mother in the fading twilight of a summer evening. The sun had set not long ago, a blazing burst of reds and orange and purple. Some of the color still painted the tips of the clouds, but mostly there were gray and white against a blackening sky. A few stars lay hidden behind the thick city air, but they couldn’t see them and didn’t notice the absence. It was just normal.
They were walking in front of a store that was still busy despite the falling night. Carly was bouncing ahead, as usual, her five year’s old legs had a permanent spring that never stopped jumping until she slept. Joshua, almost 13, lagged behind, walking next to his mother with a soft hand tucked into hers. Almost 13, yes, but still his mother’s boy. He chattered and watched as his bouncing sister mounted a painted red cement ball like a pommel horse, sliding down the other side. Her adventurousness made him nervous, his fingers involuntarily squeezing his mother’s in fear before relaxing as Carly’s feet met the steady ground again.
Mother squeezed back, reassuring.
The cool air felt nice on their skin, a soft puffing breeze tickled their bare arms, rustling the palm fronds above. It tasted like the ocean, the soft air, sort of briny and salty but not quite as potent as sea water. The cars whirled by, a dance of headlights and rubber tires, while the fluorescent lights of the store highlighted the painted symbol of a target on the concrete walk ahead, red against gray.
Mom took two quick steps with a silly smile and jumped into the center of the circles.
“Target!” she said, laughing and Josh grinned back. Carly bounced back to grab her mother’s loose hand. Ten more steps together and, as one, they leapt into the center of the next symbol.
“Target!” sounded three voices as one and they vanished.
Joshua couldn’t be sure but he thought he was having some sort of bad dream. First off, everything was black, pitch black, like spilled ink on paper. He opened his eyes very wide to be sure, but he couldn’t see anything at all – not even his own nose. There also didn’t seem to be any sounds, just thick silence, heavy almost.
He could hear breathing. His own, now that he thought about it, and someone else breathing more slowly. Perhaps someone else, still, breathing fast.
Something squeezed his hand.
No, someone. His mother, he realized, warmth washing over him and soothing the heart that raced in his chest. The slow breathing was hers, slow and steady. And that must be Carly breathing fast on mom’s other side.
So maybe he wasn’t dreaming.
His hand began to shake and his mother gave another reassuring squeeze. “It’s ok,” she whispered in the blackness, her words almost swallowed up in the cottony silence.
But Josh knew “It’s ok” was just what grown-ups liked to say, even when it wasn’t.
“Mommy?” Carly’s small, high-pitched voice was trembling.
There was a snuffling sound at Josh’s feet just then. And a cold nose on his toes, he had been wearing flip-flops when they –
What exactly did they do? Fall? Vanish?
Josh shook his head to try and clear away the dream.
The cold nose moved to his other foot, like a dog investigating. And then it was gone.
“Mom,” Josh said slowly, quietly. “I think I felt something.”
“What did you feel?” she asked.
“I’m not –“
His answer was cut off by muffled footsteps in the dark. And – yes, he could just make it out – a small, bobbing silvery light, growing slowly bigger.
Mom’s hand spasmed in his, her breath caught as she bent down to pick up Carly, Josh clinging to her hand. Carly was whimpering, her small arms and legs like a vice around mom’s middle.
Josh squared his shoulders, trying to be brave.
The light grew bigger, a round spot that bounced along like a ball caught in midflight, but didn’t break the blackness. Josh could hear the snuffling sound again and he jumped when that cold, wet nose was back on his toes.
“Turtle says we’ve got visitors, eh?” an old voice crackled, surprisingly close. The ball of light still seemed far away, bouncing, holding their eyes. “Tain’t had visitors in nigh a long time, no how.” The voice was coming closer still, coming quite fast compared to the light. “Strange doings. Dids you find them Turt?”
The voice drew up right in front of mom, the ball of light still lagging behind.
There came, then, a long low sniffing sound and then, “Come on, Blister, theys friends, they are. A boy, a girl, a – whats its they call them? Oh, you’re right Turt. A mother.” The last word was said with distaste, sort of low and drawn out, like chalk down a board. Josh bristled, but mom squeezed his hand. She felt steady.
“Who are you?” mom asked into the darkness. Her voice sounded strange, though – strained, afraid, alone.
Josh squeezed her hand, then.
“Hurrys up Blister so’s they can see,” said the old voice.
The light had bobbed close now, but it wasn’t a light at all. Josh felt his breath suck in, a strange gasping sound. Mother was very still. But Carly – Carly shouted with more than a little excitement –
The silvery blue light of the fairy, Blister, was now close enough to illuminate the source of the voice standing in front of them. She was a very short, very fat old woman with sallow skin that hung loosely from a very strong jaw. She was peering up at them through wiry spectacles, her eyes behind the lenses were unnaturally pale, like frosted glass. The skin around her eyes was crinkled, like she was permanently smiling, though her mouth was set in a firm, considering line. She wasn’t ugly, but rather interesting to look at in a fascinating sort of way. The little woman was examining them, too, in the fairy light. She looked puzzled.
Josh was a sort of typical looking 13 year old boy, except his eyes were very brown with an outline of thick, long black lashes. His skin was creamy pale, almost blue in the fairy light, and his cheeks rosy red. He had nicely formed lips and heavy brows. His hair was a golden nut brown, cut very short. Typical in an attractive sort of way that was nice to look at. His mother wasn’t very tall or very short, but she towered over the little old woman. Her hands were delicate where they met and held her children with red polished nails and only a wedding ring. Her hair fell in a thick brown curtain down her back, some of it was falling in her hazel eyes. She shared Josh’s face, except girlish, older and without the thick brows. Also Josh had a fine, aquiline nose while his mother’s was small and round.
The woman’s puzzled gaze was darting from Josh to Mother to Carly, where is settled for a moment and grew more puzzled before returning to Josh again. Carly was different in an obvious sort of way. Where Joshua’s skin was creamy pale, Carly’s was chocolate brown. She had tilted, almond shaped eyes that were almost black and fine arched brows. Her hair was thick with curls, very dark in the fairy light, and arranged in two puff ball pig tails. Carly was smiling, an impish grin on her pretty face, and she was squirming in her spot. Excited.
“She’s adopted,” Josh blurted, he wasn’t really sure why. The woman focused on his frightened face again, cocking her head before nodding once. The mass of gray-blue curls on her head bobbed.
“I sees that,” she said while a deep red blush crawled up Joshua’s neck into his cheeks.
The fairy, Blister, began to bob impatiently and chatter. Her diaphanous blue wings fluttered, throwing sparks and glitter as she moved. They couldn’t understand what she was saying, it sounded like someone speaking very, very fast. Her small, peaked pretty face was alarmed, though, and that was easy to understand.
“Blister thinks we shoulds be going now dearies. Goings quick.”
“You didn’t tell us your name,” Mother said, gripping their hands so they didn’t follow the woman as she turned and took a few shuffling steps away. “Or where we’re going.”
“Yous didn’t tell me yours neither, Mother,” replied the woman. “And we’s be going where it’s safe, unless you’d rathers stay here and wait for the itchers to find you.”
“Itchers?” asked Josh, his voice a ghost in the growing dark.
Carly was pulling her mother’s hand, trying to follow the receding light of the fairy.
Mother gripped their hands and began walking.