New Beginnings: Part IV

Part IV of New Beginnings, as requested by one of my readers. You can find Part I here, Part II here, and Part III here.


He offered me a sheepish smile. “Sorry about earlier. You know, the pissy attitude and all.” He ran his hand through his hair. “Guess this whole trip is eating away at me more than I expected. First-time traveler and all.”

“Oh yeah?” I grinned back. “Not a veteran of long bus trips up North?”

He chuckled, shaking his head. “Not a veteran of any trips. Haven’t left town since we moved here back when I was three.” A distant look crossed his face, then he stuck out his hand. “Anyway, I’m Eric.”

I glanced down at his hand and shook it. “Nixie,” I introduced myself.

“Nixie?” he echoed, raising an eyebrow. “As in, Nikki? Nicole?”

I corrected him. “Nixie. It’s a name most people get wrong. Nixie, as in, Phoenix.”

“Rad,” he replied, “you reinventing yourself?”

I wrinkled my nose at him. “Rad?”

“I’m bringing it back.”

I shrugged, then slouched back on the bench. Somehow, his being eager to talk exhausted me. It was like being around a wound-up puppy when you were used to old dogs. He sat down beside me. I rummaged through my beat-up bag and yanked out my tarot cards. I did a three-card spread for myself.

He sunk into himself, humming a melody under his breath. “You hungry?” he asked, gesturing toward a food cart. “Thinking about getting a sandwich.”

I gnawed on my lower lip. Out of nowhere, my stomach gurgled. Must be hungry. “Sure, I guess.”

Eric strolled over to the food cart with a sloping sort of confidence, the nonchalance of a kid who didn’t care much about anything. It was in his walk that I realized this guy could actually be a powerful weapon to have in my arsenal.

I didn’t have a lot of friends, and I definitely wouldn’t have any friends in Montreal.

He came back, small triangular cardboard boxes in each hand. He tossed one my way. “Didn’t know what you liked, so I got you a vegetarian one. Cucumbers, mayo, sprouts, I don’t know, maybe shredded carrots or something. That cool?”

I nodded. Anything sounded good in that exact moment. My phone rumbled in my bag, vibrating against some of its contents. I ignored it, some of my old nerves reawakening as I ripped open the cardboard.

Eric shoved a mouthful of egg salad into his mouth and began asking about the cards I had pulled.

I told him what each one meant, but I didn’t tell him that I saw trouble in my future.

Correction: I saw trouble in our future.

Person Holding White and Black Book

He said, “I play an instrument, and I was in a band. The band kicked me out when they realized they’d rather shoot up than play gigs. I heard you can make a killing busking out in Canada.”

“An instrument, huh?” I replied between bites. “What do you play? The mandolin? A didgeridoo?”

Eric sighed, exasperated. “I used to play drums, but I’m not bringing those on the road, so I stuck with guitar.”

Through the glass dome ceiling, a streak of lightning split the sky and thunder shook the building. The hairs on my arm rose.

It was starting.

Here.

Now.

Already.

Person in White Long Sleeve Shirt
It was starting. Here. Now. Already.

I don’t know why I thought it would wait.

To be Continued…?

Lost in your Eyes: a Short Story

In the twelfth grade, my heart was sore like a bruise you put pressure on to remind yourself why it hurts. I hung out with a girl who wore oversized hoodies to hide her abortion and outlined her eyes in black for the drama. One afternoon, we were cutting class, but instead of hiding under a bridge and writing poetry like usual, she took me to a stranger’s house.

We sat around, the air thickly perfumed with pot. I watched a boy several years older. His eyes were the color of sea glass and distant as well. He didn’t say much, but then, neither did I. A big Siberian Husky lay on the floor. A person everyone seemed to know came in and let in a draft of blustery winter air. We all yelled for someone to shut the damn door. The dog’s name was Neko like the singer.

No one bothered to close the door, so we, strangers and friends alike, huddled close for warmth. Neko jumped up and ran out the door. The boy with light eyes and I leapt to our feet, without saying a word, and in our heavy winter boots, chased down the dog. The yards were covered in snow, and we ran without losing our breath, the winter air crisp in our lungs. We ran down those empty streets, chasing a dog neither of us knew.

What if you were that boy eyes the color of sea glass?

An Untitled Short Story

I was walking one way, and I walked past you. You were hand-in-hand with another girl, and I don’t even know if you noticed me. I had never seen you with that girl before, but she looked so happy. Who could blame her? You were holding hands with her. It probably felt as though time had stopped.

I always liked love stories.

I know whenever we held hands, whether it was in the courtyard or in the car, I felt like I was your girl. It felt as though time had stopped. I felt like the only girl in the world. I remember the way you talked about my eyes like they were the most magical thing you had ever seen. You talked about them like they were beautiful.

But we both know you hate eyes like mine.

I still remember the last time I saw you before I saw you with that girl, her nervous smile giving way to the fact that she liked you. The last time I saw you before that, you had told me you loved me. You had driven away in the rain. It was late at night, and we were happy.

All we have are our memories, and like most things, the memories are fading.

Some day, all I’ll have to remember you by is the faint smell of your soap and the scar on my finger.

Killing your Darlings

In the world of writing, Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch advised students to “murder their darlings” in a lecture, and as I revise, I find I am reluctant to murder my darlings, but I’m doing my best to be brutal.

Some lines, no matter how beautifully they’re phrased, must simply be abandoned.

I keep a small notebook with phrases I adore from my murdering stage of my writing. I call it my Homeless File. It’s where lines that are homeless lay their heads to rest, a small trashcan fire burning to keep them warm.

Today, as I revised my novel, I came across one:

Ghosts of an unremarkable past haunted her.

Those words are beautiful to me and conjure up images of a mundane life now gone, but alas, the sentence was unnecessary, so it goes into the Homeless File.

The beauty of the Homeless File is that I can discover other beautiful fragmentary thoughts that add to my appreciation of language and maybe some day, can incorporate into a story or poem.

Ribbon my soul/and graft/the missing pieces onto your heart.

These words, alone, might not sound like much, but they all hold a place in my heart because though I might have given up their ghosts in their earlier works, this does not mean they will not find a home elsewhere.

I have lived so many lives/you might as well call me/a matryoshka doll/(Stacked inside of each other/to keep warm & cozy/we can be our own best friends./Whoever needed anybody else?)

I feel every author should have a Homeless File.

What do you think? Do any of my fellow authors keep the darlings that they kill?

I’m starting to wonder if it’s more of a morgue than a Homeless File.