A New Day

Back and forth. In and out. Sun to down. Winter to winter, for thirty years.

The children changed. The house aged. The horses and cows and chickens and that mean old goat -all ended up at slaughter; to be replaced by horses, cows, chickens -but no more goats. For thirty years.

She stood while the priest spoke about the dark shadow she’d known for so very long. This and that. Bless his soul. Rest in peace.

Veiled and black. Grey and old. No more back or forth, in or out, sun to down. Clouds clearing, she smelled the spring.

Photo by Ellie Burgin on Pexels.com

©2020 Chel Owens

Awakened in response to Carrot Ranch‘s prompt this week:

October 15, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about chores. It doesn’t have to be a western ranch chore; it can be any routine task. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by October 20, 2020. Use the comment section [on the site], read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

Wilhelmina Winters, Ninety-Six

Wil left the table after a requisite number of tuna casserole bites, hungry and self-pitying. The dark, narrow hallway seemed even more constricting; the dim bathroom bulb even dimmer; the tasteless toothpaste more tasteful for the lingering tuna remains. “Ugh!” she spat, swirled, spat again. She scowled a deeper expression at the girl in the glass, but her reflection matched and even exceeded her gloom.

A distinct *Ku-huh* *Kuh-huh* from the kitchen paused the glaring session. Wil and her shadow listened, a bridge of concern across their united brow, as Cynthia had her coughing session. “They’re happening much more,” Wil and Mirror-Wil whispered. They frowned and their deep, dark eyes spoke helplessness.

Wil exited the bathroom. Parent shadows crossed the hall on their way to the couch and sounds of scrambling soon led to the ever-present breathing machine. Wil stood, caught by fear, till her mother’s deep-throat coughs were tamed by the nebulizer’s magic.

She heard another sound: a chair scraped from the table and careless steps to the sink. Knowing that meant the immediate appearance of Jakob, she squeaked and scampered to the safety of her room and shut the door. After locking the knob, she threw herself atop the messy bed. Clothes, blankets, homework, and an open book or two caught her flying form and held her in their comforting familiarity. “There, there,” her favorite pullover soothed. “We understand,” the nearest novel assured her.

Wil hiccuped a few times but managed not to soil her bedthings with tears. She kicked a shoe free and pulled the second from a bent-leg position. Taking careful aim, tongue in teeth, eyes squinted tight; she threw the sneaker at her push-button wall switch. With a *clunk* the light went off. The shoe dropped.

Woolykind Wil, most respected member of the flying squirrel chapter of The Treetop Dwellers, sniffed and snuffled round her nest. She felt each treasured material with pride, moving things this way and that to arrange them just-so.

It had been a busy day in the forest and Wooly felt tired. She’d gathered food for her group. They’d been a tad ungrateful, to be sure, but she’d done her best. After all, flying was more her forte than food collection ever was.

Burrowing into the most comfortable heap of warm leaves, twigs, and discarded scraps around her; she sighed. Tomorrow would be better. Maybe there’d even be acorns. She fell asleep dreaming of better things.

 

Continued from Ninety-Five.
Keep reading to Ninety-Seven.

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens

Wilhelmina Winters, Sixty-Four

Here we are again, Wil mouthed to her friend. The pale, dark-haired girl in the waiting room window spoke the same words, without sound. Wil shifted on the floor. Crinkling paper noises from her left fist warned her to be careful in her movements; she glanced at them and remembered.

Returning to her friend, she whispered, “I’m adopted.” Her friend frowned and furrowed her brow in confusion.

How is that possible? she replied.

They shrugged.

Wil extracted the birth certificate and read through its official type once more. A few, lingering last-hopes evaporated from her imagination as she found each line filled out with correct name, date, father, location, and features. “I was a small baby,” she said.

They nodded, seriously.

“Of course you were, Minnie Mouse,” Jakob called, from his slouched recline a few feet away. He moved deeper into his chair and adjusted his feet on the table.

Wil and her friend shared a look. What did he know?

“You were a preemie.”

They blinked. Wil turned away from the window wall. “A what?

“Preemie, dummy.” He rubbed his back inside his slouch. “Means you were early. Rob told me.” Closing his eyes, he tilted his head against the chair back. “Said you were lucky to be born and that he didn’t even know.”

She shared a stupefied look with her friend. Thinking over this new information, she asked, “How did he know?”

“‘Bout you?”

Wil nodded. “Yeah.”

Jakob groaned and tried to crouch into a side-lay within the small seat. From a yawn, he answered, “Not sure.”

A few more seconds told Wil her brother -her stepbrother- was unlikely to tell her more. The conversation had already run longer than any of his had in the last five years. She was about to resume the more satisfying exchange at the dark glass before her when Jakob stirred enough to add, “Ask Rob.”

Her friend tilted her head, considering. Not a bad idea, she told Wil.

They were all interrupted by a click, a creak, and a cheery, “Well, here we are!” Nurse Bea entered the waiting room, and then turned to hold the door for Rob. Just behind him came Cynthia.

Jakob stopped pretending to sleep and Wil waved goodbye to the window. Both rose and walked to their favorite mother.

“They’re releasing you?!” Wil asked. Jakob snickered and put his hands in his coat pockets.

Nurse Bea laughed outright. As expected, hers was the sort that came from deep in her stomach and affected her entire body upon its release. A moment of breathlessness later and she wiped her eyes. “That’s right, darlin’.” She smiled, though she already had been, and wagged a stern finger to Wil. “Now, you jus’ make sure you take care o’ your mom. She’s an angel.”

Wil’s pleasant return smile slipped off her face.

“Thanks, Nurse Bea,” Cynthia enthused; her smile radiating as usual. Supported by Rob and trailed by her anxious children, she walked out the waiting room doors.

If Wil had not been so preoccupied, she’d have caught the sparkling tear on the cheek of Nurse Bea.

 

Continued from Sixty-Three.
Keep reading to Sixty-Five.

Reflecting on the Future

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My grandparents had a mirror in their bathroom, opposite another mirror on parallel walls. I could see myself in a hundred rooms in a hundred rooms.

Sometimes I walk where memory shadows still linger: a former neighborhood sidewalk, a street route I drove when I first earned my driver’s license, that base of a tree where I sat with my love in that park.

I see me in the past and even remember the thoughts and feelings of those moments. I think how I will walk there again in the future, and wonder what I will feel then.

 

unsplash-logoAlessio Lin

Wilhelmina Winters: Twenty

She stood, solemnly and silently. Shadows of sun clouds shrouded her views from the wall-length windows as her concerns shrouded her mind. Wilhelmina Winters, of City Hospital, sighed deeply.

She lifted the small note in her hand and glanced at its surface without seeing the writing upon it. She sighed again, the movement causing a rustling of ruffles in the satin of her dress. She adjusted her black lace scarf and subconsciously admired the affect in her muted reflection.

“Whatever shall I do?” She whispered in her slight drawl. She touched fingers with the dark glass girl.

Although distracted most terribly, Ms. Winters was pleased with the way her reflection was part her and partly the elements beyond her: gray clouds, interrupted light, and troubled winds.

A slight sound behind caused her to turn toward it. A loose curl graced her high-boned cheek at the turn, though the remaining strands stayed restrained and refined atop her head. A man in black too large for his frame had shifted upon the chaise, and his whispering cloak had alerted her.

Neither he nor his silent companion opened his darkling eyes, so Ms. Winters turned back to herself. This was not the change she anxiously anticipated. She felt the disappointment acutely as the girl opposite gave her an empathetic look of impatient sadness.

Without seeming to change composure nor expression, the older of her companions addressed her, “Come away from the window and sit down, Mina. It won’t make waiting any faster.”

Ms. Winters touched her friend a final goodbye, then slowly stepped in slithering satin to her father. Heaving an adolescent expression of restlessness, she acquiesced to his request and sat.

She tried, most dutifully, to divert herself with the room, the note, and her relative’s resting faces. Having an instinctively restless nature, however, she failed. This was her usual want, despite many tutors’ efforts to patiently instruct her away from it.

She looked round the room, furnishings, and windows for some sign of release and found none. She looked to her hand and what it held.

Drawing on some remaining curiosity, Ms. Winters again applied herself to the paper. She forced her natural mind away from waiting, and worked her hands to apply print to parchment. She would soon know precisely what her secret paramour meant to express.

She wrote dutifully as she toyed with her hair curl, as unruly as her natural spirit. She finished copying all of the letters, and prepared to separate them into meaning.

Her quick ears pricked in recognition of footfalls the instant before the door near them was opened. She and the men accompanying her sat up quickly to look toward the sound.

A nurse stood there, smiling at their expressions and the good news she would deliver.

 

Continued from Nineteen.
Keep reading to Twenty-One.

 

Want to start at the very beginning? It’s a very good place to start.