A short story

Once upon a time, there was a girl.

A girl who was not remarkable in most aspects, be it looks or intelligence or abilities, but those who knew her knew of her loving heart and desire to make those she loved happy.

Being very shy, the girl did not venture too far from her home most days, and though she longed to find her one true love, she knew that it would be a difficult task to do so given her aversion to meeting new people, especially boys.

The girl had a longstanding, unrequited love with a boy of her acquaintance.  They met when they were young, but the girl did not fall in love with him until much later, when a mutual friend confessed she had feelings for him.  Suddenly, the girl saw him in a new light and shortly thereafter, fell head over heels into her first love.

It was a giddy, innocent love that meant her greatest joys were walking to class together with him, sneaking glances at him in the hallway, and occasionally sitting next to each other in social situations.  Her friends teased her, but she did not care – all she cared about was him.  Once they sat side by side in the backseat of a car, their legs pressed close.  He had accidentally moved into her and examined her arm by way of apology – when his finger gently touched her skin, she thought she would never feel so much happiness or desire ever again in her life.

But this story is not about her first love, which ended as quietly as it started.  The girl knew it would never come to pass due to several external factors and in any case, never confessed her feelings to him.  They parted ways, occasionally speaking, but eventually her feelings came to an end and she moved on, though she regretted never telling him how she felt.

This story is about the girl and the boy she would eventually meet.

Over the next several years after the girl’s first love ended, she had a few glimpses of happiness but nothing substantial ever manifested itself and in her sorrow she thought perhaps she was incapable of truly loving another, or something was terribly wrong with her.

But one day, she attended the dinner of a friend and in walked a boy who she had never met before, though she knew of his existence.  Something in her heart stirred for the first time in a very long time.

The boy, as it turned out, was not living in the same city as her and had another girl waiting for him at home.  The girl was disappointed, but had so much fun talking with the boy that she hoped that perhaps they might remain friends.  When he had to leave however, all she could muster was a weak “Goodbye” and cursed herself for not saying more.  She assumed she would never see him again.

She had tried online dating for years (for she still rarely met new people in person), but no one had ever captured her attention and she scrolled day after day, hoping to see a face that might stand out to her.  She couldn’t stop thinking about the boy, but knew he was a lost cause.

Of course, love never happens when you expect it.  One day, as she scrolled, a familiar face popped up and in that moment, the girl knew – she would not make the same mistake again.  She reached out.  And the boy responded.

They fell in love and shared their lives together and the girl knew that there was no greater happiness on this earth than to know that she loved the boy and that he loved her in return.  True, they had different interests and sometimes they didn’t see eye to eye on their long term compatibility, but the girl thought that if one had love, what more could one want?  This love, she knew, was everything her first love was not.

Love was exciting and passionate — it was much more than coy looks and a few shared words.  The boy encouraged her, loved her, and most importantly, understood her better than anyone she had ever met in her life.  The girl was deliriously happy.

One day, the boy decided to start a new journey far away.  Though she was heartbroken, the girl was confident that they would be reunited soon and was thrilled that the boy was pursuing his goals.  Though the distance between them was large and the manner in which he left was rather quick, the girl didn’t think too much of it and busied herself to help her count down the days until she could see him again.

Until suddenly, the boy realized that perhaps he didn’t want to be with her forever, that perhaps it was unfair to her to string her along while he traveled from place to place, figuring out his goals and chasing his dreams relentlessly.  The boy was afraid his plans did not match up with hers and felt it best to end it.

The girl was devastated.  The girl spent days and nights crying, trying to figure out what had gone wrong.  Love was not, as she naively believed, the solution to everything.

She understood in her head, but her heart refused to accept.  She knew that love was a two way street, that she would never be happy if her beloved was never sure if he had made the right choice, if he himself was truly happy.  Yet she could not let him go.

They met up again to exchange items and to say goodbye, but the girl felt that there was still so much left unsaid and feelings left unresolved.  The boy did not disagree, though he could not bring himself to tell her that he needed her, that he could not imagine a life without her.  The girl, sensing his hesitation, proposed that they would meet back up in six months.  They would not speak to each other and that they could meet new people if they wished during that time.

The boy promised to tell her within six months if he had decided on what he wanted.  And the girl promised she would not sit around waiting.

On the 530th day of their love, the girl and boy went their separate ways.

The girl did not regret anything, but wondered if she had made the right choice or simply pushed him into a corner.  She wanted him to come to his own conclusions, for he knew hers well enough and there was nothing more to say.  The boy thought that she might meet someone better, more deserving of her love but that thought offended her.  The girl’s heart was hers alone to give away, and the boy still had it.

The girl knew she had to prepare her heart if he did in fact decide that he could see a life without her, that she was not essential to his happiness.  She knew full well that it was entirely possible the whole thing was just a sad case of two people in love whose timelines did not match.  And she had to prepare for heartbreak again.

Her friends worried for her, fearing she would sit around waiting and become collateral damage in his quest to figure out his life.  But the girl knew it was a risk she was willing to take.  She had regretted not sharing her feelings before, she would not do it again.

She did occasionally allow herself to imagine the unparalleled happiness there would be if he came back with his heart open and arms wide.  The girl prepared her heart for this ending too.  She knew that their love was something special and was determined not to give up so easily.

The girl knew there was no such thing as happily ever after.  But she still believed that she could add to her story, no matter what, with: “And so they lived happily.”

So dear reader, is this a story of hope or of foolishness?

Flash Fiction: Anemone

As promised, here is my next story.  I actually finished it only a day or so after posting my last one, but decided not to post too many stories too frequently, or else I’ll find myself scrambling to write one every other day.  This assignment’s word was: anemone (remember how I said last post that it was an unusual word?) and I was stumped for a long time as to how to incorporate it into my work.  Of course I could just throw it in randomly into a sentence, but I like to challenge myself and make my word relevant to the plot at least a little bit.  If I had known my friend would pick anemone, I might not have made my previous story revolve around plants- I don’t really have a particular fondness for writing about greenery, it just kind of happened for these stories.

This time I won’t tell you what song I was listening to until the end of the story, as the title of the song will kind of give away part of the plot (if you read it and then see what song I picked, you’ll see it’s a rather obvious choice.)  I’ll also have a few notes at the end as well.  Enjoy and as always, constructive criticism + comments are always welcome and encouraged!

Anemone

976

“I’m coming; I’m going to buy flowers for Mom.  Yeah, I know.  Bye.”

Cary hung up with a frown, scanning the signs up and down the street.  I should’ve bought them yesterday...  His eyes were drawn to a patch of vivid color and he breathed a sigh of relief, dashing across the street to the shop, its flowers spilling onto the sidewalk.

He was hunting for roses when he noticed the figure next to him.

It was an elegantly dressed woman, with curling black hair that framed her face.  Her features were handsome, with dark eyebrows arched like delicate brushstrokes.  Her cherry red lips were pursed together as she browsed the selection.  Entranced, Cary’s eyes followed her throughout the store.

Her eyes were focused intently on her search until she found what she wanted.  She picked out a single scarlet blossom with a smile.  Cary felt his heart beat a little faster but as he worked up the courage to speak to her, she turned around to pay and left.

After she was safely away Cary walked to where she had been browsing.  “Excuse me,” he asked the florist, “Which flower did that woman buy?  I don’t think I know its name.”

“That was an anemone; not many people can identify it.  She loves them, though.  Comes by every weekend or so.”  The florist winked.  “Don’t think she’s got a boyfriend.”

Cary thanked the old man and bought his bouquet of roses.

From then on, Cary made a concerted effort to visit the florist every weekend.  Each time he missed her, usually coming too late by minutes, if the old man was telling him the truth.

The next time I see her, I’m going to ask her out, Cary told himself as he walked over on his seventh visit.

As he approached, his heart sank to see that it was empty.  Dejected, he was about to return home when he saw her emerge from an alleyway.

He ran over.  “Excuse me.”  The woman turned.

“Yes?”

“Hi.  My name’s Cary…How are you?”  She greeted him cautiously.  “I saw you at the florist before, maybe you saw me too.  He says you love anemones…Anyways, I think you’re really beautiful and I’d love to get to know you.  Would you like to grab dinner or something sometimes?”  Cary shut his mouth before he could rattle on any further.

Her answer surprised him.  “You know, I have seen you a couple times around here.  My name’s Delilah.  I’d love to grab dinner with you.”  She blushed and they agreed on a date and time.

That weekend he brought her a huge bouquet of red anemones, and he loved the way her smile spread across her face.  They caught a movie, then ate Mexican food and dared each other to swallow spoonfuls of hot sauce.  When she invited him back to her apartment, Cary felt like a giddy adolescent.

When they stepped inside they were greeted by a blast of blistering hot air.

“I grew up in a hot environment,” she said apologetically.  “And I get cold really easily.”

“No problem,” he said, stripping off his sweater.  “I was missing summer anyways.  Where are you from originally?”

“Down under.”

“Australia, huh?  Where’s your accent?”  Delilah smiled.

“It’s been a while since I left.”

“I’d love to hear it sometime,” he said, leaning in to kiss her.  Her tongue tasted like chili peppers, though her teeth were a little sharp.  Deciding to prevent any tongue cuts, he moved on to kiss her hair until he stopped, confused.  Did I just feel…a bumpNo, not a bump…something sharper…  He used a hand to surreptitiously investigate.  What he found made him draw back in alarm.

“Um…not to kill the mood or freak you out, but I think you ought to have those things on your head checked out…they could be tumors or something.”

“Those?  I’ve had them since I was born.”  She drew him close but Cary resisted.

“No, those aren’t normal.  They’re like…horns.”

“You think I’m a goat or something?”  She tucked a strand of hair behind an ear.  An ear that’s pointed…and covered in fur?

“That’s messed up.  What’s going on?  What…what are you?”  Delilah shrugged.

“We were just about to have some fun.  No matter.  I’ll still enjoy myself, though you might not.”  Cary felt his blood go cold.

He ran to the door, but it was somehow locked from the inside.  Panicking, he turned around and felt his legs give way.

Were those fangs emerging from her lips?  And her eyes…they had begun to bulge, turning a bright anemone red…

Cary tried to yell but her mouth had already descended upon his.

*

“Good morning, Stan.”  The florist looked up at the anemone blossom.

“Morning,” he said, taking her money.   “How was your date with that fellow?  He seemed quite taken with you.”

Delilah giggled.  “It didn’t work out.”

“Too bad.”  He nodded at the store across the street.  “Well, that young lady that works there will probably be relieved.  She’s been eyeing you for a while.”  She arched an eyebrow.

“Really?  I must make an introduction.”  She handed him a note.  “My thanks,” she said with a wink.

The florist read it and his jaw dropped.  “So much?  You haven’t secured that one yet though…I can’t…”

“It’s payment for the pair of them, along with a tip.  You can redeem it tonight if you wish.  You know where to find me.”

The devils weren’t a bad lot to work with, Stan decided later that night as he slipped into his new, much younger skin.  You didn’t even have to sell your soul to get some extra years.       

He peeked into the bathroom where the anemones grew in the bathtub.  The petals glowed a brilliant red against the white porcelain and Stan nodded in satisfaction.  Not a bad lot at all…

 

When researching ideas for the story, I decided to use the floral variant of anemones and not squishy sea anemones, mostly because those seemed like a less obvious choice.  After looking at the different types, I fell in love with the Anemone coronaria species, especially the red ones, and those are the ones that I had in mind while writing the story.  I also read after finishing that Chinese consider anemones to be “death flowers”- I love it when preexisting legends and ideas you weren’t previously aware of fit so well into your own work, without you even trying!

Once I had started writing, I needed a song to fit with the creepy yet beautiful mood I was aiming to create for the story.  Florence + The Machine’s “Seven Devils” fit the bill perfectly, though now you know why I didn’t tell you the name beforehand- the title definitely would’ve spoiled the ending!  If you get the hankering to read my story a second time, hopefully you’ll enjoy listening to the song as much as I did.

Flash Fiction: Patience

I know this post comes a little late, but Happy Lunar New Year, and Happy Year of the Snake! For handy instructions on how to say it in Mandarin (新年快乐), visit my post from last year. According to the Handbook of Chinese Horoscopes, us Snakes are “elegant, and enjoy reading, listening to great music, tasting delicious food, and going to the theatre.” Yup, sounds just like me. Though who doesn’t like all those things?

I pledged that 2013 was the year for some changes, and since it’s also my zodiac animal year, I feel like I’ve got double the incentive to make it something special. It only comes around every 12 years, after all! Remember how one of my resolutions was to finish a piece of writing? Well, I’m happy to announce that I’ve already reached that goal!

I recently was introduced to the world of flash fiction by a friend and I was fascinated by the idea. With FF, you have to write a brief, fully realized piece of fiction under a certain number of words. Most contests usually have limits that range from 300-1000 words. I’m not really into entering contests (yet) but the idea stuck with me and I found myself trying to challenge myself with a 300 word story. Then I realized- I can make this a regular writing exercise! I can work on refining my skills and write tiny short stories!

I adapted some of the rules and created a writing challenge that I’m doing with a couple friends. I’m actually quite excited, because such a short word limit really forces you to consider everything you put into the story. There’s no room for unnecessary fluff, so you as the writer have to think- does this further the plot or make us empathize with the characters? Does it get to the point and then some?

My rules for the flash fiction writing challenge:

  1. Pick a word limit between 300-1000. Can be as oddly precise as 472.
  2. Pick a single word that must be used in the story at least once. The story doesn’t necessarily need to be themed around the word.
  3. Optional for people who really want a challenge: Pick a genre.

Exchange your word + word limit with your writing partner, and write! Getting a random and unique assignment is much more challenging (and hilarious) than just giving it to yourself, because with another person involved, you can’t just give up halfway and say “no, I don’t think I like the word ‘turnip’ or a 400 word limit.” They want a 400 word story with a turnip, and they’re going to get one. I personally don’t like to set deadlines because then that reminds me too much of school. But to each his or her own. I finished my first challenge in two evenings, because I was so excited to write- a feeling I haven’t felt in a long time. It really helped fire up those creative juices and I’ve already got two other challenges set up with other friends.

One of my resolutions was also to be more open with my work, so after much deliberation, I’ve decided to post my recent writing challenge (format is a little weird in WordPress, sorry!) Word: patience; limit: 563. Any constructive criticism is welcomed, as I by no means think I’m close to being a top-notch writer. After rereading it, I’ve already found things I’d like to change but I am pretty satisfied with it, considering the word limits. It also in retrospect, kind of fits in with Valentine’s Day, but I totally didn’t plan for that. I did however, have Coldplay’s “The Scientist” playing on repeat while I was writing it, so if you like music while you read, I humbly recommend this song.

Patience
563

You could never see the sky properly in the city, Nick thought regretfully. Too many skyscrapers and blinding lights. Not enough trees, either. The air tasted like grease and unhappiness.

He coped by transforming his sad excuse of a yard into a garden. He spent most of his free time there, relishing the smell of greenery and fresh dirt. This morning was dedicated to planting sprigs of rosemary in the corner.

“You spend a lot of time in your garden.” Nick looked up. A pair of mischievous brown eyes peeked over the fence.

“Morning, Carrie. What’s up?”

“Just thought I’d be neighborly and see how you were doing. Can I come over?”

“Sure.” She disappeared briefly and emerged through the gate that separated their yards.

“You look nice.”

“Thanks, I’ve got a date with Jason,” she said, giving her dress a self-conscious pat. “We’re celebrating my birthday.” Nick scratched his head.

“Wasn’t it on the first? That was like three weeks ago.”

Carrie smiled with delight. “You remember?”

“It’s a pretty easy date to remember.” Her smile widened briefly.

“Well, he had work that night. And then things kept popping up— I had that conference, then he was training for his marathon…anyways, we’re celebrating it now.” She eyed his vegetable patch.

“You sure love gardening, don’t you?” She pointed towards her yard. “I do too— I’m growing the city’s nicest weeds.” Nick laughed.

“I grew up with trees and plants everywhere, so gardening helps me forget I’m in the city. Plus, it’s kind of nice when you get to eat the fruits of your labor, no pun intended.”

“And you’re willing to wait for weeks and months for them? Aren’t you afraid of them dying?” She crouched down next to him to sniff the rosemary.

“It does take a while,” Nick admitted, “and sometimes I get impatient. Sometimes they die. But the good stuff is worth waiting for, I think. It’s a chance you have to take.”

She shook her head. “I guess I just don’t have the patience, then.” She stood up and brushed herself off.

“Well, I’m off. See you later!” She waved goodbye as she left through the gate.

Nick came across Carrie on her front stoop that night, sitting alone.

“Hey,” he said. “Where’s Jason?” She looked up and he was startled to see tears. “What happened?”

“It’s over.” She laughed bitterly. “I brought up moving in together and he freaked out. We were moving too fast, he couldn’t commit. He wanted a break. We’ve been together for ten years, and he wants a break? I told him I couldn’t wait around any longer.

“I waited for him when he went to do his Peace Corps mission. I waited for him to finish his master’s. Every year I waited for that ring. My friends told me to move on, but I always hoped…”

Nick sat down and allowed her to muffle her sobs in his chest. He waited a while before speaking.

“You going to be OK?” Carrie wiped her eyes.

“Yeah, I’ll be fine, thanks.”

“You know earlier today, you said you were growing weeds.” She shrugged.

“So?”

“I think you’d enjoy actual gardening.”

Carrie laughed. “Really?”

“I’m just saying, it’s really therapeutic for me. Though weeds are low maintenance, I guess.” She thought for a moment, then smiled.

“Ok. First thing tomorrow— let’s clear out those weeds.”