Dinner Plans: Short Story by Candice Coates

Dinner Plans

She sat perched on the edge of the table, the tight fold of her interwoven fingers expressed the nervousness that had been concealed in the even tone of her voice and the placid look on her face. Turning fully towards her, he paid closer attention to what she was saying. 

For a brief second he hoped he’d heard her incorrectly, but gazing into her eyes he knew he hadn’t been mistaken. “Hannah, you didn’t.” He, unlike Hannah, didn’t try to hide his nerves, they flashed in the pale grey of his eyes and radiated clear to the tip of the butcher knife in his hand.

“Dad, the knife. The knife!” Hannah hoped off the table and pried it from his hands placing the parsley coated blade on the chopping block. Tanner wondered by her sudden stillness if she felt as if she were on the chopping block. He was certain she did. He had asked her to be at her best tonight, nagged really, and had been doing so for weeks.

It had been eight years since Claire, Hannah’s adoptive mother, died. He and  Claire had only been married for a little over three years. They’d dated for two. When he’d first met Claire he hadn’t thought he was ready to be a father, but Hannah warmed to him so quickly and got into his pores like the best of anointing oils. He loved the girl on sight as if she were his own flesh and blood.

Now she was barely twenty and he felt as if she were his whole life, his precious little girl…his precious little girl who’d gone against his wishes and had been secretly meeting with her birth mother.

He rubbed his suddenly damp forehead with the back of his hand. His gut felt as if it were filled with gravel. He was already extremely nervous about introducing Hannah to the new woman in his life. He needed Hannah to like her. He’d already purchased an engagement ring even in the face of awkwardness.

Hannah had made it clear she had no desire for a new mother and had not been a fan of his dating someone. He suddenly wondered if her going against his wishes and finding her birth mother was a simple act of rebellion. He also wondered if his hopefully soon-to-be financee was having similar problems of her own.

She had mentioned that she had been estranged from her daughter for years but they were making headway into a healthy relationship. She too had wondered how her daughter would react to him.

“I can’t believe you did this, Hannah.” Tanner whispered.

“Dad, why is it such a horrible thing that I want to know my own mother?”

“Your birth mother.” He corrected, suddenly feeling as if he needed to defend Claire’s right-hood to the title ‘Mom’. Hannah rolled her eyes. He touched her shoulder. “Honey, I am not trying to make this a difficult thing for you, I am just worried is all. She may not be good for you.”

“Us, you mean. You’re afraid that she will wreck your plans for a new family, aren’t you?”

He couldn’t resist frowning. “And I suppose that is why you not only contacted her, but then invited her to dinner tonight when you know how important today is for me, for us.” He wiped his brow again. He was already nervous, now he was just petrified.

What if the strange woman showed up at the door, right when his new love did? “Lord help me. Hannah, I love her. And I want you to at least give her a chance. I just want things to go smoothly tonight and if she shows up-”

Hannah took a bite of parsley. “It doesn’t matter anyway Dad. I invited her and she said she couldn’t make it, said she had a date or something.”

“Well, that is a relief that that person won’t be coming,” Why had he suddenly turned so territorial, defensive? He’d seen this behavior in characters in movies, but never thought it would happen to him; jealous of his daughter’s birth mother.

Hannah scowled. “Her name is–”

Ding dong! The front door rang, bringing the conversation to a halt. Again, Hannah rolled her eyes. It was going to be a long night.

“Going to get it, Dad? Wouldn’t want to keep your beloved waiting.” Hannah’s tone was laced with sarcasm and void of the former nervousness that had ruled her demeanor just moments ago.

He gave her a warning gaze before pulling the door open. Right then Hannah continued her previous statement, her tone shifting to shock that laced over Tanner’s joy right as his beloved passed the threshold and entered the apartment. “Her name is…Beatrix?”

Hannah’s face bloomed with a smile as she rushed forward and took hold of her birth-mother’s hands, jerking Beatrix’s delighted gaze away from Michael’s. “I thought you said you couldn’t make it tonight! I thought…you said you had,” Hannah’s gaze shifted between the ashen expression on Beatrix’s face to the even more stricken look on her Dad’s. “…a date…”

THE END…AT LEAST FOR US

I hope you enjoyed what came of this story and the twist at the end. I wish I could have sharpened it up a bit more, but alas we do have a time restraint. I do however wish Dad, Hannah and Beatrix the best of joy and a happy future 🙂 These are my results from MONDAY’S MUSE WRITING PROMPT APRIL 30, 2018.

*Revised post from October 22, 2015.

~Dream. Image. Believe. Do. CONQUER!

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The Right Time: Writing Prompt 1 Results

Writing Prompt: “3rds” Song: The Right Time, by Warren Barfield (Click the song title to read lyrics and hear the song.) Album:“Red Bird” 3rd line in 3rd verse of 3rd song: “We were barely getting by” Note: From my view, I have chosen to count the chorus as a verse. To view the original Prompt & Rules, click HERE.

The Right Time

“We were barely getting by. Carlos liked to believe that everything was just fine, but me, I knew better. Seven days straight drinking cold water and wearing underclothes that were so filthy they could stand up straight on their own was not fine.

“Life’s too short to be gripping all the time.” Carlos managed to throw that line at me every time I looked like I was going to wage a complaint. In all honesty, there wasn’t anything that Carlos could do that he wasn’t already doing to make things any better. We had a roof over our heads, really it was a tent he had managed to pinch from some local store a few months back. He hated stealing, but he hated being cold more than that.

More than just being dirty, finding our stomachs growling louder than any conversation we could seem to have, what seemed to bother me the most was his optimism. I suppose one of us had to be the optimist. One of us had a whole long life to live and the other…well the other of us was on precious borrowed time, time that should never be spent with complaints, no matter how much clay gets caught underneath your fingernails.

Apart from the stealing, we did other things that weren’t always on the shining side of the law. All of it was harmless. Just two kids out pocking a joke or two with no cares in the world besides seeking a good laugh and make believing we were a pair of lost boys on Neverland.

That was mostly true.

There wasn’t much to care about besides living in that moment. At least I let Carlos believe that I believed that. That is what friends are for, to laugh with, cry with, and run away with when it seems there is no hope.

Homes for the un-adoptables. What is it that makes a kid unwanted, unable to be placed? What does being unadoptable even mean? Did it mean that Carlos and I, and a slew of others, were broken, mistakes, unfit for love?

Carlos somehow managed to not think so. He said it meant we were born free. It meant we were created without confines and made to live in the dreams that others would never get to live.

I had always been the realist, not so much a pessimist, but a guy willing to look at the facts and call a spade a spade. We weren’t wanted because we were too old. Thirteen isn’t cute and cuddly. Carlos said if age had anything to do with it then what made us not cute when we were babies in the system?

I kept the hard truth to myself. One of us wasn’t wanted because of sickness and a quick expiration date on life. Parents didn’t want that. They wanted to be grandparents. That meant their kid had to grow up. If they wanted to watch the beginning and end of a life in less than twenty years they would get a puppy, not a thirteen-year-old old boy.

That is why we ran away. That is why I ran away and I am so glad that I did because if I hadn’t done so, ten years ago, I would have never gotten to see Carlos reach the height of his life. I would have never come out of my shell and anger. I would have never been able to tell his grandmother, seven months after he passed, what a great kid he was. I would have never been adopted by her and become the man I am today if it wasn’t for Carlos.

THE END.

I really enjoyed writing this and seeing how the story unfolded around that first line, “We were barely getting by.” I felt like I was taking a risk, hitting on a subject that is so sensitive to many, being an “unwanted” child, lost in the system. I hope I was able to bring the short tale full circle and create a tale that is uniquely its own apart from the song that lent its inspiration.  Thanks for reading, and I will be posting my BONUS round next week!

~Dream. Imagine. Believe. Do. CONQUER!

From Whence They Come: Part 6 of Man of Grace Flash Fiction #Blogbattle

Happy #Blogbattle Tuesday! Our journey continues with Mog and Grace, our GENRE: SCIENCE FICTION and our KEYWORD: MARS. To read stories from other blogbattlers do so by clicking HERE. To read the first 5 chapters of Man Of Grace, do so by following this LINK, it will take you to chapter 5 which has a link to the previous chapters.

From Whence They Come:

Present Day

Women are from Venus, Men are from Mars. Mog was from…

Pressing the heel of his hand into his eye, rubbing away the evidence of the short stent of sleep he had tasted, Mog stared up at the blanket of stars. Somewhere beyond what he had known, was a place that was the home of his people.

Mog had always been curious, though the leery nature that ran in his blood had kept him on edge, but he had never really been fearful.

The last few days with Grace, his mother, Mog had tasted his own fear, and still he had not fully choked it down. He had yet to tell her that the war was over. Very few knew that truth. Not even Walter knew-Mog bit down a hissing growl as he thought the roaches name. He would deal with Walter soon enough.

The terms for ending the nearly three decades of tyranny and war had been spoken in Mog’s native tongue. Their words were felt more than spoken. To humans it was animalistic. The truth was the language was deeply intimate and left no room for misinterpretation.

What had been decided? The last of the Alphas, an ugly, aged beast had spoken the terms. Rather than watch his sons be torn limb from limb by Mog or his war machines, he would die…at the hands of his children. He would not fight, he would not war. He would end it all, leave the title of Alpha to Mog alone.

But there was a price to be paid in exchange for such an awesome surrender. Mog would have to-

Grace’s shadow fell over Mog’s forehead long after her familiar scent had reached him. That smell had brought him such comfort for 27 years. Now it made him choke on his words, words he had wanted to stab her with when first he believed she was a liar. Three days and he still had not said them…time was running out.  He had given his word. There was no going back. His nature would not allow it.

“How long are you going to avoid me, Mog?” Exhaustion weighted her words.

Mog pressed his eyes closed and rolled up from his back to his knees. He took his time meeting her gaze. Even with the light burning behind her and the darkness of the evening casting her in a cloak of black, he could still see her as if it were mid-day. It was in moments like these that he wished most he was truly just a man, a man born of Grace.

The terms, the agreement he had so eagerly struck, the wound he had meant to deal her had weighed as a milestone around his thick neck ever since she had told him the truth about his past, her sacrifice and why she had so wished she had indeed killed Walter.

Mog had been wishing the same thing, nevertheless he would have still made the deal; the death of the last Alpha, to preserve the lives of 47 giant sons, all who would destroy every human they encountered before Mog took their lives. Mog didn’t waste time doing the numbers. Life was life was life and he’d saved so many with his simple yes.

It was only now he realized it was not so simple.

“I love you.” He said, his voice like distant thunder. Grace was stone still for several moments before she rushed towards him and wept against his neck, kissing him as if he were just a boy, her son whom she had lost and suddenly found.

“I love you, too! And don’t you ever doubt it again.”

“I won’t.” He covered her hands with his and tried to mask his sorrow but even in the dark of night, Grace sensed it.

“What is it?” She asked. More fear wafted from her skin and rightfully so.

What he had to say was going to wound her deeper than his doubt, but there was nothing to be done. Even if he hadn’t doubted her love he would have made the same choice because of her love.

He squeezed her to him as tightly as his strength would allow without hurting her and held her to him as not to see her face, More so he needed her to hold him. Slowly he whispered to her about the end of the war. He felt her heart leap with joy only to suddenly break with the last of the terms.

“Nooo!” She croaked angrily and shrugged free, the look in her eyes dared him to challenge her. “I said NO, MOG!” She shouted when he attempted to speak.

“There was nothing else to be done,” He ducked his head and waited for her to strike him. She was so livid, he expected nothing else certainly not for her to collapse at his feet in a tear soaked heap.

Moaning with his own agony, he pulled her to his lap. “Please, hold me, Mom.” He begged. “There was nothing else to be done. So many lives,” He growled as if in pained defeat, only pacified by the warmth of her face against his. He thought he would drown in her tears.

“Why this? Why would you say yes to this?” She stroked his face and held him with all her strength.

“It was the only way to end the war without more human lives lost. The Giants can only leave by being led and they need an Alpha to lead them. I am the only Alpha. The giants will only leave if I lead them back home. I have to go.”

TO BE CONTINUED…

One more installment, maybe two, and this quick telling of Mog and Grace will come to an end. I am really grateful for all the feedback and support of this story. I hope you will approve of how it will be ended in the Blog Battles. Rest assured, sometime in the future, a full length telling of their story will be made available. Thanks again!

Cheers!

 

Man of Grace Part 2 “The Roots of Orchids”: A Short Story # Blogbattle Week 28 Orchid

Blog Battle Tuesday! And the Story of Mog and Grace continues. If you did not catch part 1 please take a read by clicking HERE. I continue with my beloved SCIENCE FICTION as the genre, though this tale is definitely dramatic. This week's keyword is ORCHID. To read more tales by other blog battlers, please visit the hosting blog of Rachael Ritchey.

the roots of orchids

“Dig.” She ordered him. She had to tilt her head back in order to look down her nose at him. Even in the thick darkness he could see her. Her mouth was tight but her chin trembled as it battled between anger and tears.

Mog had hurt her, wounded her in a way he never thought possible, but he was so certain about what she had done, so certain of Walter’s convincing words. Now crouching at her feet, thick fingers brushing the grass of their back lawn, just beneath the Orchids of her garden, he wasn’t so sure. Shoulder’s slouching he said, “Can’t we go inside? We can-”

“I said, dig, Mog! You have accused me. Now I shall be vindicated. You listened to him now you will hear me. Now dig.” Her eyes shone like obsidian in the dim moonlight, shined and polished with her tears. Letting out a breath he pushed his massive fingers into the earth and pulled out a plug of the lawn.

Grace moaned with the first scoop of soil that came forth, uprooting the beloved Orchids she had all but worshiped ever since he could remember. She moaned as if he had ripped them out of her, and hadn’t he? And it was all because he’d heeded Walter.

But what Walter’d said made such undeniable sense, even now it did, but the way Mog’s mother shuttered as he plowed his giant hands deeper into the earth he couldn’t help but regret his own words, he wanted to leave the elephant sit in the room and feed it rather than make her cry so.

He’d been uncertain about what he’d do once he was sure she had used him, now with each thrust of his scooping hand and each tear that dropped from her chin, each shiver that shook her tiny shoulders, he knew he’d rather have left things lie.

Despite the motives that had been told him, he could not deny how she had loved him. Sure she had been rough at times, but she had to be. His blood, his natural inclinations for violence and rage was something that could not be tempered with soft words. Often it took a strong hand, the attitude of an alpha to force peace, and Grace had been a veritable alpha driven by nothing but the strength and determination of a mother.

Why hadn’t that truth shown itself before resentment had grown like a wall of weeds? Despite what Grace’s initial motives had been for keeping him, she’d done nothing short of love him as if she had bore him herself.

Mog’s breath caught in his chest, his fingers stabbing bluntly against the stiff fabric of a canvas sack. Hesitating to draw it up from its earthen grave, Grace shoved him.

“Pull it free. Carefully!” She stepped forward biting her lip. Mog considered her and the scent of fear that seeped from her pours. He had never smelled it on her before, not like this.

“Are you certain you want me to pull it up?” He didn’t meet her gaze this time. Her trembling made him want to run from her. He also didn’t need to unearth the sad package. He could smell the bones of man the moment he uprooted the Orchids.

Grace was silent, still apart from the folds of her dress that tugged at her with the night wind. Mog looked at her legs through his periphery but he didn’t speak. The erratic beat of Grace’s heart sounded loudly in his ears. It frightened him. He wanted to not hear the pained drumming just as fiercely as he wanted to un-hear what Walter had said.

Finally she spoke, “Yes, Mog. I am certain. Pull them up.”

“Them?” His finger’s stilled again, his nostrils flared. He could only smell the man’s bones but no one else’s. His brow knotted and his gaze skirted across the lawn, the thought of his mother’s backyard being a graveyard jumped in his mind. He didn’t want to know if it were true.

Grace gave a quick nod before wrapping her arms around herself and turning abruptly away from him. Obediently Mog pulled the canvas bag upward and gently laid it aside before he began to dig again.

“Why are you still digging?”

“You said pull them up.”

Grace frowned and hesitantly approached the dirty sack. “They are both inside here.” Her words were strangled. She quickly attacked the laces that held the bag closed but her fingers could catch no purchase on the knots.

Sensing more than ever the pain she was rushing through, Mog stilled her hands and tore the bag open as if through paper. The exposed rib cage of a headless man peaked beyond the torn fabric of the bag as tiny bones fell within it with the sound of a hollow wind chime.

“An infant,” Mog whispered.

Grace choked down another whimper before painting on a stern face of feigned strength. How often had Mog seen that face? So often as a child that now as a man he could look back on their past with a different understanding. Grace had pushed through fear most of his life, standing as a fearless lioness in his childhood mind. She wore that face whenever anyone sought to harm him. It was with that face she fiercely defended and protected him.

“MacRae. We were naming him MacRae; Son of Grace.”

“We?”

Grace still hadn’t looked back at the bag. “My husband and I. Your kind pulled his head from his shoulders. I screamed until I gave birth prematurely. I lost them both. I wasn’t supposed to ever be able to bare a child. MacRae was my son conceived of God’s grace.”

She turned and met his gaze. “And when I had lost all, my mind included, then came you.”

“You stole me out of revenge?” His question was timid, not so accusing as he looked at his mother’s loss.

Grace frowned, touching Mog’s face. “About that…”

TO BE CONTINUED

Looks like Mog and Grace will be getting another week! I still haven’t explained nor have I revealed Grace’s motives or Walter’s. I hope you stick around for next week. I finished with 998 words, right in the 1000 word limit. Nevertheless, I hope you were entertained!

Cheers!

Longing For Home: A Free Flow Write

I stare forward, my back to the din of the room. The warmth in the air from laughter and the fragrant touch of spice enveloped me like the heat around the bread in the oven.

I was home.

1420046240fdu46I had been for some days now, but the feeling, the reality of what home meant had not really begun to sink in until now. My mothers, I have seven of them, all of them dancing somewhere between seventy and eighty and none of them willing to tell the truth of the number, huddle in like hens every Sunday to cook a feast…for me.

Mama Gene slides her floured hands over my shoulder’s and plants a wet kiss on my face. The smile lines around her eyes disappear within the folds of her weathered face and although I know she is delighted, delighted for me, I am suddenly less excited about the uncertainty of the tomorrows to come.

I turn around and face my other mothers as Mama Gene resumes her baking, and I wonder how long before my seven Hens huddle together in God’s kitchen baking bread for the angels.

They deserve their days on streets of gold. Six of them had buried husbands, all of them much too soon in life, and not a child to count as the proof of their unions. But mother Gene, the eldest of the hens had never had a husband and not a child either. None of then had until me.

Mama Genen always told me I was the first man she had ever loved besides her father and I was their adopted son, left wondering in front of the sister’s home almost thirty years ago, lost on my own no more than three, longing for a home that I found in the arms of each one of these sisters.

And now I wonder, as I prepare to take a wife of my own, what will become of my hens, these seven sisters, warn with time, and tragedies all their own, delighted to be together until the end of their days. What will I do when the kitchen is empty and no floured hands leave traces across my shoulders. What did Snow White do when she said her last good-bye to each of her beloved dwarfs as time stole them away to eternity?

A damp tall swats my arm. Mama Kay, the youngest of the sisters leans her hip against the counter and looks down at me from the bridge of her long ebony nose. “What’s on your mind son? You are usually all chatter. You sitting her mooning over that girl of yours?”

Kathy Heller, soon to be Mrs. Kathy Hen, is my beloved fiancee. It amazes me how much she reminds me of Mama Kay. Maybe it is because they share the same name or maybe it is the richness of their skin.

I don’t know, but the realization as I take one last look around the den of my mother Hens hits me like the damp dish towel and I pull Mama Kay into my arms and kiss her cheek until she squirms into a fuss, swatting me away and laughter erupts in the already noisy kitchen.

My Kathy, my soon to be Mrs. Hen is just like each and every one of my mothers, some spark of them wrapped up in her and the realization makes me long for home.

THE END

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