He Saw It In A Frosted Window Pane

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He stood on the street corner in the shadow of the amber street lamp. The night was bitter cold and the promised snow was gently falling on the shoulders of the people who passed him by. They appeared not to notice him as the peals of their holiday laughter echoed down the hushed city avenue.

He never felt so alone. Bereft. He knew that she and her husband were back in the city for the holidays visiting family. Their sons were grown now with little ones of their own and she never missed a chance to be near her precious grandchildren. She bought the brownstone so she would have a place to stay and play on her visits. Despite the distance, it was clear that she had kept a strong sense of community here; the amount of guests entering the doorway provided enough evidence. Never mind the vibe of good cheer and love that seemed to dance through the bricks of the building.

He moved closer. His sons were not interested in seeing him once again this year. He was dying to see what his four grandchildren looked like-he had never met them or seen them in a photograph. He knew that they were at the prime age to experience the magic and wonder of the season and he longed to share it with them.

At once, the four appeared in the large bay window. Two girls and two boys-maybe four to six years of age dressed in their Christmas finery. A picture postcard of innocence and joy.

His heart wrenched and he fell to his knees. On this night-this eve-it came rushing back to him. The weight and force and pain of what he had walked away from all those years ago.  He was crushed and defeated. Weak. He rose slowly, his feet wet and cold, his fingers stiffened by the frost.  He had not walked far-just enough to be out of sight when an overwhelming sense of fatigue came over him. He sought respite in the nearest snow bank.

                                                 *********

“Hey, mister are you all right?”  The group of  revelers came upon him a few hours later, his body nearly hidden in the snow except for the black of his boots. “Aw Jeez man. I think he’s dead. Call 911.” The wagon came quietly. They loaded him on the gurney and checked for identification. None. Just another John Doe lost to the streets they thought. They could hope that someone would notice he was missing and give him a proper burial. But no one ever did.

I took a bit of liberty with the FWF title “I Saw It Through a Frosted Window Pane.” It fit with the story. I am sure Kellie won’t mind!

Take a look at the other great writers over there by just clicking on the link below:

#FWF Free Write Friday: Pick a Title

Swimming With The Fishes

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At first it felt as if his lungs were going to burst. He had never held his breathe this long , the depth of this dive seemed endless, the water a black hole of nothingness. His eyes were hurting from the strain and he was beginning to doubt he would ever find it in the infinite murkiness.

Suddenly and without a hint of warning, he saw a light. He swiftly swam toward it, not noticing that his breathing was somehow eased as he approached the whiteness.  Oddly, he found himself ascending. He was no longer in control of his body as the water transformed from a deep indigo into a soothing hue of turquoise.

A great heave of water pushed him up, and there he was, on some sandy, sunny, heated island-alone.  He had not expected this- a wave of panic rushed at him. All he wanted to was to find the key and hand it over to Jacko. Then the hounds of debt would stop nipping at his heals.

Now what was he to do?  He got off his knees and slowly walked to a shady area. He lay down under the cool canopy and fell into a deep sleep.

Days later, he made front page news. A fishing vessel had recovered a body in one of their tuna nets. Naked, except for a chain wrapped around his left ankle. Tethered to the other end was a concrete block.

  free write friday kellie elmore

Wonderful Kellie Elmore supplied us with 2 prompts this week! The above image came from her.

Love Always

Jackson Wedding

He had fallen in love with those dark tresses first, he thought. Something about the way she moved her body as she walked by him set his soul on fire. Her hair moved in rhythm with the sway of her hips.  Her skin alabaster white and her eyes endless black pools-lit with a life affirming force. And then she spoke. “I’m new to town and I was wondering if there was a bookstore nearby. My brain is thirsty for words!”

“It’s two blocks down on the right. I can walk you there since it is getting a little dark,” he replied.

They shared the literary world and each other from that moment on. Although friends old and new dismissed their whirlwind romance at first, they soon realized that they were witnessing a lifetime love. So today, on this day, vows and promises were exchanged along with the anticipation of a new life they created from the love and pure passion of one another.

This Friday’s post is brought to you by Kellie Elmore. 

#FWF Free Write Friday: Image Prompt

Meeting the Master

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For those of you who are newer here, this story is another installment of my ‘Lola’ series which has its birth in a FWF from Kellie Elmore. The installments are below in reverse order if you care to read or reread them.

Reunion  

Subjugation and Subordination

Ephemeral Relinquishment

Inspection

Captive

The Scout

Lola nearly laughed at the absurdity of this next chapter in her captivity. Yet she knew all three of them would need to play along if they were to survive. Adrienne and her companions were leading them in rapid fashion through a white-washed maze of hallways. The only sounds were the rustle of the white habits against their legs. Lola, Tess and Grace were dressed in flowing but modest gowns and Lola bristled at the confines of it. She was used to more rugged and useful clothing that allowed for freedom of movement.

Abruptly, the maze ended. The long wall parted and the women entered a cavernous room that exuded masculinity. Fine wood grained walls and floors, heavy leather furniture. At its center was a long, dark table with seven armed and throne-like chairs around it. Art objects depicted hunting, war and other forms of conquest.  A concrete representation of power and control.

A wooshing sound startled Lola out of her observation. Six dark suited and well groomed men emerged from six side doors disguised in the walls. Slick and Smarmy thought Lola. They glided to the chairs at the side of the table. Then another WOOSH. At the center panel stood a man of great height and strength. Dashingly handsome and with eyes the color of turquoise. A face of forcefulness. He ignored the escorts (who by then were on their knees) and strode over to the trio. He had no compunction whatsoever as he removed their gowns one by one and closely examined their bodies using more than his eyes. The experience left Lola with a urgent need to violently lash out against the degradation. But she knew it meant punishment or death if  she moved an inch or  showed any emotion. Then the Master spoke. “Councilmen. You may examine them as well.” Then we will decide who is best suited to marry my eldest son and provide us with the progeny for our new nation.”

The procedure was wretched in its ritual. With each stroke, pat and rub, the women felt less and less human and more like goods to be sold to the highest bidder. When it was finally done, the men moved to the table to cast their votes.  “Well, gentlemen. We certainly have found ourselves a treasure trove of perfect helpmates. I see we all agree on the two that will go to my second and third sons.” The Master then rose from his seat and strode over to Lola. “But you, my lovely, are the perfect match for Gabriel.”

Phone Call at Midnight

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Tessa had her suspicions but could never put her finger on any exact proof. Her connections in the high rolling corporate world provided her with ample opportunities to work and play with powerful men. Normally, she kept them at arm’s length, both literally and figuratively. Staying objective while covering the news of the latest takeover or insider scandal was the code by which she lived and breathed. Because of this, she earned the trust of her readers as well as the editors at the paper. It was no accident that she was the recipient of many awards for journalistic excellence. Her non-confrontational style broke down barriers and got many of her sources to confess their dirty deeds.

Tessa worked hard to keep her private life out of plain sight. Covering investigative stories sapped her mental energy and often brought her instant recognition when out in public. Shopping for herself was challenging and dating nearly impossible as many dinners were often interrupted by the ringing of her phone or her “fans”. One gray Sunday afternoon, she saw an ad on the Internet for the sale of a little cottage in Bucks County. Just what I need she thought. A place that will allow for escape from the dregs of the city and the narcissistic qualities of the people I cover. She call the number and made an appointment for the following Saturday afternoon.

It was love at first sight.  The little yellow bungalow with white shutters and a fertile flower garden exuded cheer and warmth. It had just one bedroom and bath (with a claw footed tub), a working fireplace and an open living and kitchen area. The remote setting was serene with its small sloping lawn and tiny pond stocked with fish. She also took an instant like to the real estate agent showing her the property. Jared was polite and knowledgeable- having grown up in the area as a boy. He, too, had taken to the fast paced city life for a bit but then found himself burned out after years of chasing nothing (as he put it). Now, he dabbled in house selling and renovations throughout the western part of the state. This way he could keep his hair long and his skin brown as a berry.

After the purchase, Tessa took some much needed time off from work to move into the house and do some touch-ups on the inside. She often found herself in the company of Jared during her antiquing and hardware excursions. He was delightful and they usually ended their days with dinner in her kitchen or drinks by the pond.  As the weather turned colder, she made use of the fireplace. Tessa arrived late one Friday evening to a stack of firewood on her front porch. She knew immediately that Jared had split it for her. When she called to thank him, she found herself inviting him over.

So their year long affair began. Tessa found Jared so easy to talk to-unlike so many of the men she had dated and even interviewed. He was relaxed and generous with his time and encouraged her to open up. She even told him about her latest piece-investigating a drug lord’s ties to a well known investment firm. She felt like she was getting close but was challenged by some of her sources as well as her own desire to go all out in getting answers. For the first time in years, Tessa didn’t have the zealous urge to go after a story. All she wanted by Thursday night was to head down the 101 and fall into Jared’s embrace.

And it was after one lovely interlude that Tessa found herself awakened by the sound of Jared’s voice on the phone. His side of the bed was empty. The clock on her night stand just turned over to a brand new day. Wrapping herself in a sheet, Tessa crept out of bed towards the kitchen. Jared’s voice became clear. “Don’t worry, she’ll be dead by Sunday.”

Kellie’s at her best with this week’s prompt. We got to write a story based on a list of titles she gave us!  This was fun and very different!  Go to:

#FWF Free Write Friday: Pick a Title

Reunion

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“Arise chosen ones. Prepare for your future.” The booming voice came from a rather small old man dressed in a white suit. In fact, he was completely white with the exception of his piercing blue eyes.   “What is it with these blue eyes?” thought Lola. The old man led them from their room to another chamber.  Three women, cloaked in white habits awaited them.  “Dress them appropriately sisters.”

Lola attempted to make eye contact with them-to see their faces. But the trio’s eyes were riveted to the floor. They appeared to be a silent cloud of nothingness blending into the colorless surroundings of the chamber. At once, they lifted their arms to reveal three white gowns. They held them out to Lola, Tasha and Grace as if they were gifts. In unison, they moved behind them and began to remove their thin slips from their bodies. Then, just as swiftly, the elaborate dresses were erected onto their frames. At least that is what Lola was thinking. She was no more than a mannequin awaiting display in the window of  a department store.

But she had to think fast. Find a way to communicate SOMETHING to these mute maids.  “ACHOO!” Lola sneezed so loudly and with such drama that the three could not help but look up and reply with the standard “Bless you.”

And in that instant, Lola locked eyes with her missing mother, Adrienne. A woman of prominent stature, full of vigor and light in the days before, during and after the Revolution, Adrienne was not even a shadow of her former self.  Her spirit was erased by the abuse she suffered as a prisoner of the Restoration Party. But upon seeing her daughter, she began to feel a bit of hope. For what, she was not sure. Pulling the secret language from the recesses of her brain, she told her daughter snippets of information in the smallest of gestures. Her companions joined with Tasha and Grace.

It was all the six of them could do to control themselves. They had struck gold in terms of moving the plan forward. Lola and her friends discovered Adrienne and her two colleagues were to accompany them to meet the Master. They also discovered that these women had access to all parts of the center because of their status as maids. When they weren’t preparing females for their fate, they could be seen cleaning the Master’s quarters and cooking meals in the vast kitchen. The Master and his councilmen often held elaborate feasts to celebrate any new births that occurred in the Breeding Center or within their own families.  These three women were indispensable as chefs for such occasions. It was the only time in their captivity that they could actually speak or give orders.  Only females worked in the kitchen and the entire staff was under constant pressure to present a perfect menu. The kitchen was also a training school for women as they were not considered worthy unless they knew how to cook and serve their future husbands.

The kitchen-the place where women belonged of course! But also an epicenter of untapped power. If Lola remembered anything that her mother taught her it was this:  Never underestimate the inner strength and tenacity of women. Adrienne’s spiritual core may have been corrupted; but Lola’s arrival was the route to its resurrection.

 

Just a little reminder that this story is a continuation in my “Lola” series.

Last week’s story was entitled Subjugation and Subordination

Subjugation and Subordination

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This is a continuation of last week’s installment Ephemeral Relinquishment

She felt like she had been dropped into a time machine. Gender roles were clearly defined. Women and girls were only allowed to do domestic chores while men and boys performed all types of manual labor. In fact, they lived decidedly separate existences except for those who were “married”. Even then, husbands and wives only shared space in the bedroom.  Education for girls consisted of preparing them for cooking and cleaning of their future domiciles. They were allowed to grow vegetable and flower gardens and to occasionally roam the fields and woods (escorted) in search of wildflowers or truffles to be used for meals. Religious study was allowed if only to help them better understand that their submissive role was “divinely” ordained.

Lola was appalled at the conditions for females. Often, she would be witness to a young woman’s final preparation for “spiritual marriage.”  All females had to be pure in order to marry.  Those that were deemed not pure enough were often relegated to working in the Saddle Club as entertainers for the “47”-a term for the men who did the Restoration Party’s dirty work. These men were not allowed to marry or breed. They were “rewarded” for catching Restoration Party outlaws with meals and women and were free to do with them what they pleased.  There seemed to be no exact standard for purity and many women were often shocked when they received news of their status. Many attempted to kill themselves in order to avoid their fate and others tried to run away only to be shot by the very men for whom they were to be sexual slaves. Still others were deemed to be good breeders (Lola discovered that these women were already mothers but too “old” to marry). They were sent to housing where their cycles were closely monitored. When they were fertile, they were “visited” by high-ranking members of the Restoration Party. The Breeding House was used as a means to further populate the Restoration Party’s members with the goal of regaining power.

Lola already knew that her role was going to be different. Over these last few weeks, she had learned that the Master had chosen someone to marry his eldest son by his first wife.  In fact, he had chosen three. The one he picked as the most “qualified” was to marry the eldest while the  other two were slated to marry son #2 and son #3.  So here she was. Sharing space in The Prenuptial cottage with two of her peers. They were as petrified as she was confident. Better still, she knew these girls.  And they seemed to know her. Their families were key members of the Renewal Party and she had heard about their disappearance shortly before she was sent on her scouting mission. Wherever Lola had ended up that day in the field, she had now concluded that this was not a holding center but the heart and soul of the Restoration Party’s operations.

She just needed to find a way to communicate with Tasha and Grace. Because all of their movements were recorded, speaking openly was out of the question. During the upheaval, Jack had taught Lola and many other Renewal Party members a secret sign language. It proved to be useful now.

“Don’t worry my friends, ” Lola signaled.  “We are going to hatch a plan that will free all of us.”

Ephemeral Relinquishment

(photo credit: asi.fullerton.edu)

A note to my readers: This story is  another installment from my series that began with  Underground Hope ,The Scout ,  Captive & Inspection

Lola woke up with a start.  Looking around, she could see that she was in a small, stark room. An undersized window provided the only light.  And the door looked to be made of steel. She lay on a single bed under a single sheet. It was hot. Stifling. She was still naked. Was this the way they were keeping her here? Was she somehow supposed to feel embarrassed or ashamed of her body?  Her bareness would not interfere with any planned attempts at escape. Lola knew she may be stuck in this place indefinitely but she would never give up on thinking of ways to leave.

As she lay there, her thoughts drifted to her mother. She had been one of the women who had disappeared during the time of the Restoration Party’s rule. She was considered a threat because of her outspokenness as well as the fact that she was a spiritual leader. The Restoration Party believed that all women were to be demurring if not silent. Furthermore, they held the belief that only men qualified as religious leaders. Lola and her father, Jack were determined to find her.  Lola was hoping that this latest quest would lead her closer to Adrienne.

Her reverie was interrupted by the jangling of keys in the lock. Lola sat up. The door opened slowly. Then the sound of boots followed by four shadows.  A tall formidable looking male wearing jeans, black t-shirt and boots walked toward Lola. His face was youthful and his black hair was closely cropped. Everything about him was dark with the exception of his fiercely blue eyes. Lola looked behind him. The shadows were actually four women, dressed in plain white dresses.  Their hair was in a long braid that flowed towards the floor. They eyes were cast down so as to obscure their faces.

The man pulled the sheet from Lola’s body. She looked straight into his eyes, unflustered by his movement.  He grabbed her by her chin. “Lower your head, girl. A woman never looks a man in the eye. You better get used to it.”

“And what will you do if I don’t?” she replied defiantly. With that, he picked Lola up and pinned her to the wall. “Oh, we’ll just send you over to the Saddle Club’s cage. You’ll become the daily delight of the Rifleman and his kind.”

The thought of this turned Lola’s stomach. She was beginning to get the idea of the Restoration Party’s policy on women.  Spouses. Servants.  Sex Slaves. Servile. Silent. Submissive. Bound to Bondage by decree of the Master.

Lola decided not to tempt fate. If she was going to gather information, she would need to get as close to the position of power as possible.  She offered herself over.

Vita da Sogno*

photo credit: www.huffingtonpost.com

“Philomena! Philomena! Why are you wasting your time chasing a sogno irrealizzable?”  Her mama’s falsetto was grating on Philomena’s last nerve. Her passion-sketching, designing and stitching women’s fashion-went against her parent’s wishes to marry Arturo, the local cheese-maker. Her plans did not include an early marriage to a man who smelled of soured milk and curds day and night.

Paris-the city of high couture- was where here heart belonged. She ran to her room and grabbed her sketch pad, charcoals and blanket. She would hide away in the olive grove and create her newest ideas. Almost as an afterthought, she took some spare coins from her dresser. The cinema was debuting a new matinee today. She could not resist the films of Sophia Loren, Brigitte Bardott or Audrey Hepburn.; women of independence and classic, sensual styles.

Philomena raced down the stairs,  ignoring her mama’s obvious exasperation (her hands on her hips and her lips in a line). She was all of these women and more-her determination far outweighing the temptation to give in to cumbersome tradition.

*dream life

Once again it is Free Write Friday via Kellie Elmore!  I wrote this while at the doctor’s office today. Feeling under the weather-kidney infection! But no matter. Imagination won over discomfort!

Here’s the link:

#FWF Free Write Friday: Word Bank

by Kellie Elmore

This week’s FWF prompt is a word bank:

blanket – falsetto – cumbersome – cinema – coins

Inspection

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Photo credit: www.skin-retreat.com

Lola was drowning. Choking. Spitting. A bucket of frigid water had been dumped on her from an opening in the shed’s roof.  Her wounds stung and her body shivered with the shock. “Breathe Deep and Stay Strong,” she told herself. Abruptly, the door flew open and two men untied her and pulled her up. She was wrapped in a white sheet blindfolded and gagged. Then the cocking of a 12 gauge. She knew that sound. As a child, she had been trained in weaponry for use in protection and hunting. Now, 20 years old and a trained Scout, she carried a  9 mm in her backpack. Lot of good it did now. The pack was somewhere in that cornfield. Lola was angry with herself for falling asleep. She hoped the pack and all its supplies would remain hidden until she developed her escape plan.

“Too bad we can’t touch her.” It was the voice of the Rifleman talking. “Yep. I bet she’d be mighty fine.” Another voice with another gun. “But you know them rules. If we ever get caught, we’d be dead on the spot. Remember what happened to Wayne.”

Unable to walk because of the sheet, the men placed her on a gurney and carried her out of the shed. Lola felt the cool air on her face. Must be late afternoon by now, she thought.The men were gruff in their movements as the path became rougher. Lola listened hard to the sounds around her. Nothing but birds. She could feel their presence along the route. No crows or vultures. The sing-song of the cardinal and the mournful coos of a dove. Oddly soothing.

“HALT!” They stopped with a lurch that nearly toppled Lola off the stretcher.The voice was commanding. “Bring her to the Intake Suite.  She needs further preparation before a final decision is made.” The route took a turn downhill. Lola was replaying the route in her mind.  Previous information from other Scouts had never mentioned an Intake Suite.

Before long, Lola heard a sliding wooshing sound as if two doors were opening automatically. She felt as if they stepped into a sterile hospital setting; she could almost feel the smoothness of the linoleum floor even if her feet weren’t touching the ground. She could see the glare of the florescent lights through the cloth that covered her eyes. Then another Woosh. Another opening and finally a room.

She was placed on a table and  they removed the blindfold from her eyes but left her gagged and wrapped. Woosh. Woosh.  “Thank you, gentleman.” The voice was melodious for a man.  “You’ve earned some time off for this catch. Tell Merle to make sure you get two days at the Saddle Club.”

The Rifleman and his companion left without a word. “Now let’s take care of the rest of you, my dear. But you cannot speak. Otherwise, I will see fit to punish you.” The sheet and cloth were taken from her body in one fell swoop. “Aah. So beautiful. Stand up and turn around.” Lola obeyed. As she turned herself, she took in the room. Sparse. One large comfortable chair at the end of the room and the table. She wouldn’t be here long. She knew that much.

“The Team will have to take special care of you. Your beauty is one of a kind. Worthy of special status. We will need to save you for just one man alone. But the Master will have the final word.”

The Master. Supreme Leader of the Restoration Party. Father of twelve sons from two wives. Believer in the fruitful multiplication of the party. Lola had a feeling she would be ripe for the picking.