Happy Second Blogiversary!

I’d like to interrupt everyone’s regularly-scheduled program to acknowledge my blog’s second birthday. It’s growing up so fast!

2 Years Blogging

Two years ago; I timidly typed, edited, edited, edited, edited, and edited my first blog post. The idea behind it came from a dream. I stressed so much about what people would think and how many awards I would garner from its publication…

I also set a goal to publish a blog post every day. To get myself going, I re-posted thoughts and stories I’d originally written for Facebook.

After a few months, I broke out and started swimming on my own. Everything I type is original and formed solely for the blog these days. If not, I note otherwise.

I’d like to thank Charli of Carrot Ranch, Geoff of TanGental, James of The Bipolar Writer Collaborative Mental Health Blog, Stephen and Fionnuala of Fractured Faith Blog, Nitin of Fighting the Dying Light, P’Arc of Peregrine Arc, and Frank of Frank Prem Poetry for giving me opportunities to share my writings to their sites. You helped me feel my creations might be valuable.

I would also be remiss in not acknowledging all of the friends and fellow writers I have made since beginning. You know who you are, especially since I know I’d miss specifically naming a few due to Pregnancy Brain. Thank you for e-mails, complimentary messages, sarcastic comments, and camaraderie.

And (unless I forgot anyone else), thank you to my real-life friends who actually read what I write and don’t shun me publicly. You’re the best.

Wilhelmina Winters, Ninety

At first quite nervous, Wil found a surprising level of obscurity behind the words of her story. Her audience helped as well; gasping at Carl’s stupidity, glaring at the incompetent office secretary, leaning forward when she told of reading the internet story, then bursting out in laughter at poor Carl’s panic and intentional pants-dropping.

Even Hope giggled, a sweet chirping noise that Wil suspected Hope rarely voiced.

Not everyone laughed; to her side, Stephen appeared shocked. He almost looked as though he had been the one who spilled chemicals on half his group and then exposed himself in mistake.

Reagan noticed his discomfort. “Relax, Stevie,” she drawled. She wiped at her eyes.

“Stephen,” Stephen mumbled in correction as he glanced down at his chocolate cupcake wrapper.

She laughed a snort. “No shit, Sherlock.”

“Reagan,” Hope said.

The outspoken girl turned to the much smaller, meeker one. Their eyes met before Reagan lowered hers. “Sorry, Stephen.”

Wil nearly choked. Again.

“Thanks, Reagan,” Derek said. “Hope.” He smiled. Wil realized Derek smiled to help others calm down; she wished it had that effect on her.

“So…” Art began. Most shifted to face his direction. “Why’re we meeting today?”

All eyes flitted to Derek. “Welll,” their leader answered, “Stephen and I have been talking more about our group-‘

And the name, I hope,” Reagan interjected.

“Sure,” Derek acknowledged, blinking. His confusion cleared, and he continued, “Um, so we’ve talked about why we got together as a group anyway….” His voice cracked a bit and he swallowed. His gaze shifted around the group. Reagan made a rude gesture, which startled him into a shocked expression, then a genuine smile. “Ha! Thanks, Reagan. Thing is, I think we ought to actually do something with this group.”

Stephen nodded but the others’ expressions ranged from wary to (in Wil’s case) blank.

“You mean….” his main heckler said, “…like the Girl Scouts?”

This time, even Stephen laughed.

“Actually, Reagan,” Derek said, “That’s not so far off…”

 

Continued from Eighty-Nine.
Keep reading to Ninety-One.

 

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

Wilhelmina Winters, Eighty-Nine

“Well,” Reagan greeted Wil, “It’s about time!”

Wil glanced around the blue table’s occupants in confusion but realized none of them seemed upset. In fact, several were smiling. Art laughed outright. Compared to Reagan’s laugh of earlier, his sounded from a well of authentic joy. “Relax, Wil,” he said. “No one’s mad.”

Wil tried to relax, but Reagan looked the way she’d sounded: mad at her. To Reagan’s right, Hope still smiled kindly. To Hope‘s right, Derek also smiled. Wil felt something flutter inside her and glanced in the safer direction of her clutched tray of food.

“Sorry,” she mumbled. She couldn’t help it.

Art rose and headed to another table. “You’re fine.” He grabbed a yellow chair. Carrying it and setting it between his chair and Stephen’s, he turned to Reagan and mouthed, Knock it off! Reagan rolled her eyes in response and continued the serious study of consuming her sack lunch. To Wil, Art turned halfway and gestured for her to sit. She did, sliding her food carefully onto the crowded surface.

“Maybe we’ll send Hope next time,” Derek teased.

Reagan snorted.

“You already had Hope deliver the note,” Stephen stated. His lunch was finished and he was in process of eating his dessert. Bits of chocolate cake clung to his fingertips and lip. “Did that fail?”

Reagan snorted again. “Didn’t you hear?”

“No. Hear what?”

The dramatic girl fixed him with a look. “About this morning?”

Stephen glanced around the table. The rest of his friends appeared bemused, though Wil appeared very interested in her chicken-like gravy. He shook his head in the negative, the gesture making him look like a nervous owl.

“Well!” Reagan began, in a tone of conspiracy, “This morning, right after Wil discovered her note, Ol’ Dr. L. decided to change things up in class.” She took a drink from her water bottle. Swallowed. She leaned forward a bit, then sat back up. “Actually, I think Wil should tell it.”

Wil gagged on her soggy green beans. Startled, Stephen observed Wil’s coughing and then smacked her on the back. Wil managed to wave him off and regain composure. “I…” she began, “I know Hope was there.”

The shy girl gave Wil a half-smile. “I was.” Wil sighed in relief. “But,” Hope added, “Dr. L. was in front of my view when I heard the yell.” Wil’s former optimism died.

“Yell?” Stephen asked. “Who yelled? Wil yelled?”

“No,” Wil said. “Well -maybe yes.” Everyone stared at her. She blushed. She didn’t know how she’d been talked into this but saw she couldn’t back out now. “Carl Hurn yelled. His frien- Harry yelled. That girl probably did, too.” She stirred at her stale rice with a bandaged hand. “You see: she’d just gotten our supplies from the closet and set them on her desk. Carl said something like, ‘I know what to do,’ before heading over and tripping or something and crashing right into her…”

 

Continued from Eighty-Eight.
Keep reading to Ninety.

Lost Receipt

Oh no, he thought.

Those jalapeños. Why had he eaten those jalapeños? Why had he eaten all those jalapeños in the jar?

Oooh, no, he thought.

That girl. Why had he talked to that girl? Why had he talked to that hot girl in front of Gary, who then convinced him that consuming a jar of peppers would impress her?

Oh! no! he thought. Oh, no no no!

This lane. Why had he moved into this lane of traffic? Why had he moved into this far lane of traffic when he clearly needed access to the nearest public toilet?

Oh no no no no no no no! was all he could think-

-as he forced his way through blowing horns and into the nearest Tesco lot. He vacated his car, located the public facilities, and placated his internal turmoil.

Oh no, he realized, upon exiting the toilet.

Breakfast. Why hadn’t he eaten breakfast? Why hadn’t he eaten a healthy breakfast when he’d clearly dined poorly the night before?

A few minutes later, an innocent shopper found his discarded receipt. “Müller rice and a loose banana, eh? Hmmm….”

Click here to play along with Fractured Faith Blog‘s first-ever flash fiction challenge thingie!

There ya go, Stephen. Can’t say I never did nothin’ for nobody…

Wilhelmina Winters, Forty-Six

“I hate math!” Reagan exclaimed. Wil’s hand was delivering pork substitute to her mouth, but stopped in surprise at this announcement. The rest of the lunch table’s occupants laughed or smiled, commiserating with Reagan.

“Yeah,” Art said. “I feel you. I’d much prefer English any day.”

Reagan was stirring her instant potatoes. She looked at Art in surprise. “English?” She questioned. Her eyebrows raised and her mouth twisted distastefully. “I didn’t say that was much better.”

“I like English,” Stephen supplied quietly.

“Well, of course you do,” Reagan responded, a bit sarcastically. Wil noticed that Reagan’s tone was almost always sarcastic.

“Guys, guys,” Derek said, his hands in a calming gesture. “We can all agree that math sucks.” The others laughed, except Wil. She blinked.

“What, Wil?” Reagan asked her. They all turned to look at Wil, and she blushed.

“I… um, I like math,” Wil said quickly. She looked down, wishing her reheated frozen vegetables were interesting enough to keep her attention the way she was pretending.

“Really?” Reagan asked, in an unusually sincere tone. Wil glanced up. Reagan’s face also seemed sincere, even curious.

Wil noticed the others bore looks of interest, while Hope wore her kind and humorous smile. “Yeah,” Wil said; then, a bit more loudly, “I don’t have a problem with math.” She cleared her throat a bit. “Maybe it’s the teacher?”

“I know you have a different teacher,” Reagan stated, as if Wil’s class schedule were common knowledge. “Hope told us.” (That explained things, Wil thought.) “But, I don’t think that’s why math sucks.” They laughed again, at Reagan’s bluntness.

“Oh, duh,” Art said, acting like he was smacking his forehead. “You’re in the higher math class.” He smiled, then chuckled a bit. “We need to add that to your talents, Wil. Cool.” He turned his smile to her.

Wil was surprised, then pleased. If they all really didn’t like math, and were not in the higher math class, then here was a talent she really did have. The Talented Teens were nodding and making sounds of agreement. She watched Stephen pull their secret paper from a folder, then carefully pencil “Mathematics” on the line with her name.

“Um,” Wil began. Everyone except Stephen looked at her. “Um, speaking of… um, why did you?.. I mean, how did you?” She felt flustered, and their staring did little to help calm her thoughts. She couldn’t even bring herself to say the word imaginative.

Reagan understood. “I’m in your English class, remember?” Wil looked at her, then did remember. How could she have forgotten? Reagan had composed and read a truly terrible poem about a woman waiting for a phone call that had turned out to be a salesperson.

“I told them all about that story you wrote, that Mr. P. liked so well.” Reagan stuffed a wilted bean into her mouth, chewed, swallowed, and added, “He kept saying ‘imaginative’ so many times, that’s what we wrote for your talent.”

Wil was surprised. She had forgotten about that story.

“In fact,” Reagan added, “It was kind of an inside joke for a bit with us.” She looked at Wil and gave a sarcastic half-smile. “Sorry.”

Wil wasn’t hurt. She felt relieved.

“Well, that’s settled then,” Derek said. He smiled at them all, then pulled out his sandwich and began unwrapping it. Reagan turned to Art and began discussing a book they had to read for class. Stephen showed Derek his latest sketches. Hope watched silently.

Joining in the group’s happy feeling of resolve, Wil ate the remainder of her food with a contented feeling. She listened with half an ear to the snippets of her friends’ conversations.

Glancing up, she caught a meaningful look from Hope. Remembering the events of the morning, Wil ate more quickly. She had work to do.

 

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

Wilhelmina Winters: Forty

Wil read carefully, constantly admiring the neat printing. The paper read:

Talented Teenagers (“We need to work on the name, still,” Reagan interjected.)

Derek: Leader, Everyone’s Friend, Song Lyrics, Double-Jointed

Stephen: Penmanship, Cryptography, Cartography, Comic Artist, Observant,

Reagan: Actress, Sarcastic, Quick-Thinking, Fantastically Well-Dressed

Hope: Kind, Artistic, Quiet, Quick

Art: Intelligent, Funny, Easy-Going, Cooking

Wil: Good Writer, Imaginative

Art laughed his infectious chuckle again. “We suggested talents, and voted on them -except Reagan insisted on her last one. I still say we need to put ‘Domineering’ as one of hers.”

Wil wondered if he would poke so much fun at Reagan if he were sitting closer to her at the table. Even though she only had access to the lunchroom cutlery, Reagan looked a good aim.

“Why- ?” Wil began. She looked up from the list in embarrassment, not knowing how to finish her question.

“We all agreed to the talents Stephen wrote for you,” Reagan explained, understanding. “You get to suggest others, and then demonstrate them.” She stuffed some lunch into her mouth and gave Wil an encouraging look as she chewed.

“Actually,” Stephen spoke up in a nasally tone, “This is a work in progress. What we really want,” his eyes became dreamy and distant, “are talents that I am going to draw into a comic.” Suddenly realizing all attention was on him, he looked down again. “We’ll be like superheroes,” he told his food tray, less audibly.

Reagan rolled her eyes again. She was also talented at that, though Wil doubted it would get added to the list.

“Just think about it,” Derek told Wil. Wil gulped, which helped move what she had consumed to her stomach.

The rest of the group, satisfied with their explanations, continued to eat and talk among themselves. Wil read over the official roster and thought about what had been said.

She stared at her name, wondering how imagination counted as a talent, and whether any others would follow in Stephen’s neat print.

 

Continued from Thirty-Nine.
Keep reading to Forty-One.

 

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

Wilhelmina Winters: Thirty-Nine

Given the limited number of blue tables, Wil was surprised at how long she took to locate one containing the two people she knew would be sitting at it. She was about to give up, in fact, when she remembered the dimmer, less-populated overflow room of the cafeteria.

Sure enough, five expectant faces met her shy gaze when she poked around the doorway. It was enough of a shock to send her scurrying back out of the school, entirely. She was able to convince herself to stay, however; to walk fully into the room, and to sit in the last empty chair.

“So,” Derek said, “You guys all know Wil.” He smiled his kind, shy, hopeful smile around the table. Wil’s heart jumped a bit at the added attention, and especially at the smile.

She tried to look like she deserved to suddenly have people notice and befriend her, though acting was not her forte. As such, she ended up looking confused and nervous.

She knew the others seated by her -or, at least, knew their names. She had been surprised by that. Everyone at the blue table was in at least one of Wil’s classes. Derek was in two. But, so is Reagan, she thought defensively.

“We’ve been watching you, Wil,” Derek explained. This did not reassure Wil.

Art, a large teenage boy who shared her time in Mr. G.’s class, set down a roll and laughed. He had a nice laugh, the kind that came from deep inside and wasn’t too loud. “He means that in a good way,” Art said. Unlike Derek, Art’s voice sounded like it had already transitioned to a deeper tone.

“Oh.” Wil said.

Reagan rolled her eyes. “Derek,” she chastened. “You’re making us sound like stalkers.” She gave him a look, a laden fork dangerously dangling from her fingers.

“The thing is,” Reagan continued to Wil, “We are an elite group of talented teenagers. By ‘watching you,'” she imitated Derek’s voice sarcastically, “we mean that we think you should be part of the group.”

Wil’s face cleared, then clouded again. She wasn’t elite, or talented. She looked quickly at each person in assessment. Derek was kind and not bad-looking. Reagan was clearly very smart and good at acting. She knew Art was observant and intelligent. The other two members, Hope and Stephen, she didn’t know very well. She was naturally inclined to assume they had more to offer than she did.

Derek cleared his throat, attempting to keep its tone level. He leaned forward across his sack lunch, and held his hands out to gesture as he spoke. “Many of us felt left out, and like we didn’t have friends.” The others nodded as they watched him. Hope smiled slightly.

“I sat by Stephen one day, and saw that he drew really cool comics.” Derek looked at Stephen, who grinned and studied the pencil he was twirling in his right hand. “Then, I thought, ‘This is dumb. Stephen is so good at drawing. I get told I’m a good leader. I’m going to start a group of friends who are talented.'” He smiled again. He was good at smiling, too.

“We have a roster,” Hope finally spoke up. Her voice was very soft, in contrast to Reagan’s bold tones. She pulled a list from her binder and set it in front of Wil, between her plate of breaded meat and soggy vegetables. Many of the group looked around to ensure others weren’t watching. Their room was almost entirely empty.

The writing, Wil noticed first, was beautiful. She looked at Hope. “Stephen wrote it,” Hope said. “He’s good at writing and codes.” She pointed to Stephen’s name, down the list. Wil saw that it listed, “Stephen: Penmanship, Cryptography, Cartography.”

She quickly perused the rest of the page.

 

Continued from Thirty-Eight.
Keep reading to Forty.