How Barbie and Ken Helped Shape My Writing Skills

Odd, huh?

Plastic people helped me write? Those perfectly painted faces, long hair, and Ken’s fake pecs actually could have shaped my writing life today?barbie-collector

I think so!

Today I was thinking, how does me playing with Barbie dolls back in the day help to shape my writing? How is that possible? I kid you not, the answer hit me like a pile of broken Barbie legs and cars.

Barbies have taught me how to use my imagination at the drop of a hat, how to create flash stories and how to connect with friends.

I am now in my 30s(gulp!) and these principles remain with me as I write.

Barbie Doll Playing Incites the Imagination

I had all kinds of Barbies, the pink haired one, Totally Hair Barbie with the awesome colorful skirt you can paint all over, Ken dolls, African American dolls, you name it.

With all these plastic people, I had to come up with something!

Along with books, my parents bought me and my sisters Barbie dolls, and so we would set up the doll house, clear our small room and the entire place was hooked up, lit up with the Barbie swimming pool with real water.

Then one Christmas, we received that beautiful, hot as heck pink Barbie Corvette and then…

jaguar-box
Image found on joeslist.com

We played.

“What’s the story for today?” Um, Totally Hair meets Black Ken, or, Fashion Barbie will finally let her hair down and ride in the Corvette…without a chauffer….

I tell ya, the memories I am having right now, of the thousands of stories each Barbie doll brought out of my imagination- makes me nostalgic to a high degree.

You see, I didn’t need pen and paper. I had the fake people to use.

Playing Barbies Was My First Flash Story Lesson

I love writing at the drop of a hat.

When my parents had company over(adults fun time, I guess), it was time to go upstairs.

What to do now?

I had the Nintendo and Sega Genesis, but after a while I got tired of using controls to control something on a screen.

I wanted to brush hair, and create little Barbie sitcoms.

Looking around my room, I’d switch on more light and grab the Barbies, the large house and this time, even the My Little Pony land with the ponies!

Quick, as lightning I created a plot in my mind and would have the Barbies interact with one another. Sometimes, I even ran a series, like a soap opera.

barbie-and-ken-doll
Image from thanksmailcarrier.com

 

 

Sadly, after a while, a couple of friends and girl cousins thought I was losing it. We were young too, like maybe ten or eleven- I could have been eleven going on twelve though; and I guess playing with Barbies was suddenly too childish for them to do anymore.

That was my first taste of what loving what I do could possibly make someone ostracize themselves from me.

You learn as a writer, to have tough skin.

Doesn’t lessen the pain though…

Through Barbie I Learned How to Network

On a really bright side, I met others like me!

Besides my sister, I’ve met friends who had more of a love of Barbie playing than even me!

We formed instant friendships and one of my old friends had a Barbie land. A freakin’ Barbie land set up in her home!

She had what seemed like dozens of Barbie dolls. I was in heaven! Plastic heaven!

We would collaborate, bring our stories together and made sure to let our parents know that we must meet again soon to continue this.

Imagination. Flash Story Creation. Networking.

Sound familiar?

It should, this is what we do here as bloggers who tell stories. At first, I thought it would be a bit of a stretch to mention how Barbie helped me to be a blogger/ writer but playing with toys and using your imagination are tools- FREE tools, which helps build the creative muscle.

In fact, using your imagination is what aids in creating worlds and characters in the first place.

Like, comment, and subscribe if you feel what I am saying.

What experiences in your past may have shaped you as writer?

I’d love to hear 🙂

Ericajean

*Disclaimer: There are affiliate links sprinkled throughout this post! 😉

Note to Readers of ‘Kiss of Stone’

Note to Readers!

Due to moving around a lot and losing material and technology(I know, really bad), there has been a severe delay in creating a second book to the Mark of Fortune series.

However, I am no longer in denial.

The genie romance was designed to present, simply, an idea. That’s it.

This is not to say that Sam and Stone’s story is completely over. I wrote it during a time that the world was built completely by my imagination and the direction I wish it to go continues to get stifled by the Muse.

Muse wins.

I am deeply sorry to my readers who enjoyed the work. Deeply. My heart breaks when I think of what the series can become.

However, all hope is not lost. I will be publishing great content and working on future genie books following a trajectory I think we all will be satisfied with. For now, join me in my adventure creating content in other genres I enjoy!

XOXO,

Erica

P.S. I am working on a serious memoir and some poems at this time. Visit me at Smashwords to find more of my writings and don’t forget to check out Write Resumes Right 2017, where I hope to collaborate with you on the structure, challenge and rewarding phase of job app writing.

Woot!

 

Black Wings, The Conclusion

*Black Wings continues with a slightly longer conclusion. Thanks for reading!

quote from black wings
Image designed by Ericajean using Canva

Everything about her is so tiny, so fragile. Her lips are the perfect bow shape-tiny. Her fingers, long and slender-tiny nails. Her face, a small heart shape- tiny eyes the shape of almonds, with milk chocolate irises. Her hair floats behind her like a big cloud, her skin is the color of night without stars, but her small teeth are perfectly white, glitters in her face. And she does not know she has my heart in a vise…

Ricky was about to follow Cara out into the storm when several hands grabbed at him. “You’re going to be crowned the king! Come on!” Several girls pulled on his arm. They were cute girls. Trim girls. Wore the same makeup girls. Plastic girls. Not really mean, just cookie cutter in order to make it.

“I have to find Cara.”

“Who?” asked one them in a huff. “Stop playing around. If Trish sees you out here trying to find another girl, she will dethrone you so quick.” The girl with dark hair snapped her fingers for emphasis.

Ricky pulled away from her. “She and I aren’t dating. We just…I don’t know.” He shook himself. “I gotta go.”

“During prom?” The girls screeched. “This is important, Ricky! Stop playing around!” The blonde one wearing  a beautiful sequined dress.

Something tugged at his heart. It was beginning to ache. Cara was out there, probably trying to do something stupid. Here he was arguing about being “king”.

In a split second decision, he decided to go look for Cara. She couldn’t have gone far.

Sprinting across to the EXIT, with several swear words following behind him, he burst through the double doors, still smelling the Sweet Pea lotion Cara wears but the wind and the rain were brutal. The scent was quickly sliced.

Rain came down like small swords. Sluicing and wetting up everything. It sounded like rocks being thrown outside.

He did not care.

Where did she go in this night?

A bright yellow dress shouldn’t be hard to miss.

He crossed the intersection where cars were backed up, horns honked in frustration and the freaking streetlight that never gets fixed, remained on red for a while.

Then he saw the hair, like wings flapping behind her. The yellow dress clinging to her tiny body as her small feet kicked up mud and puddle water.

Without thinking, Ricky chased her. He’ll be damned if…if he see this. Witness this.

Within a few steps he caught up to her. Instead of touching her he raced ahead of her and stopped, turned to face her,causing her to bump into his chest.

“What are you doing?”

“You tell me. What are you thinking running out into the dark like this?”

“I can if I want.” Her lips were wet with kisses from the rain and her small eyes, cat-like eyes he now realized, looked at him with iron anger. “What? Afraid I’ll catch a cold?”

“That and the fact that this part of town is dangerous.”

“So?”

“So?” Ricky wanted to hug her so bad. Let her know it was alright to be different and that some people were just anus holes. She was the darkest girl in the school but the prettiest. The girls and guys knew that too and would admit it if they weren’t chicken.

“I can’t just let this happen.”

Cara crossed her arms over her, defiant. “I don’t get it. You are the most popular boy in the school about to be crowned. For your beauty. Your talent. They are probably waiting for you right now. You are out here, chasing me. You sure you aren’t on any drugs?”

Ricky laughed. “I am not on drugs and to hell with prom crowning. They can have it.”

“I gotta go,” Cara said resolved, turning from him.

But Ricky couldn’t let her leave. Not like this. Not right now.

“Cara listen to me! I think you are very beautiful! I- I think you are the sweetest girl I’ve ever known and smart too.”

Cara kept walking away but this time he caught up to her, gently pulled her elbow to turn her around and face him. “You don’t have to do what you are trying to do.”

“What is it I am trying to do?”

They both stood there, rain beating their faces and bodies. The wind whipped harder but Ricky put less distance between them, placed his hands on her shoulders. Her scent sweet and bright, like her dress, like her eyes.

“I watched my mom do it. Said she was going to the bathroom and will be right out. Dad and I waited half an hour. Silence, Cara. Silence! Mom never came out. All I remember…” Ricky was glad for the rain to mask his tears. “All I remember was her dark hair disappearing in the bathroom door, a piece of it caught in the doorjamb, but she didn’t know or care. Then the sound of something falling. Life was too much for her. So instead of thinking of me and dad, she thought about herself. Focused inward so much, we became, maybe caricatures to her. Expendables. Our hearts still beating, bleeding for her and we know she’ll never come back.”

Cara was silent. Listening to Ricky was a mistake.

“My essay, Black Wings? From earlier this week was about her, Cara. When I was ten that was all I

bird flying in the sky
Image of bird flying found on Unsplash.com

remember. Her dark hair, flapping behind her like black wings and disappearing behind a freaking bathroom door. Only to lose her moments later. She flew away from me and dad. I wish I could tell her she was good enough. Better than enough. I wish I could bring her back.” He swiped at his eyes. “She basically killed our soul, Cara. That is what suicide does to those who love you.”

The cars zoomed past them. All it would take is one toe out in the street. A quick dart out and then finally she can be away from this dark world. Maybe in her next life she’ll be light and pretty.

His eyes got to her though. Those kind green eyes held a special sadness. A permanent sadness his mother put there.

“Sorry about that, Ricky.”

Suddenly the rain slowed and Ricky put even less distance between them, his hands slid slowly down Cara’s arm, his forehead touched hers. “I will not let the next person I care about, do the same thing. I don’t like people leaving me, Cara.”

Cara looked up into Ricky’s face. This was wrong. Very wrong.

“You have another life Ricky. Go back to that school!”

“No!” He hissed to her lips. “I am not leaving you out here. We go together to the school or we stay together here. I will not lose anyone else!”

“Please. Let me do this. I know I will be free if I can do this. The one thing I can do right.”

“No.” He tipped her chin up so her eyes could meet his. “I want to tell you something, I’ve been trying to say all year. I couldn’t write it in the card but-”

“Card?”

“Yes,” he smiled and finally ran his hand through her thick, kinky hair. “The cards you’ve been given.”

You put them cards in my locker?” Her eyes narrowed at him.

“I slip them in there from time to time.”

“You write nothing on them though,” she chuckled. A small smile, a small feat achieved. Her smile literally broke through the storm. He could watch her smile and hear her laugh all day long.

“I am about to, just listen. Please.”

Cara rolled her eyes, but she couldn’t step away from Ricky’s strong touch. Their bodies were now pressed together as if they were two halves of a heart. As if they were lovers.

“Cara, you sit near me every day in English class and never look my way. I don’t think you notice me. You carry yourself around as if your skin is a heavy burden or bricks to be laid down and you sag in your seat, absorbing class material like a computer. Your eyes are never trained on me, the teacher or class and I find myself wondering: Who is this girl that no one matters to her? She walks alone to class and from class. Her head is down sometimes and most days it is up, not in snotty manner but as if she is a Queen and aspires to be so. I could only hope to be the lucky guy on her arm.

I know you feel like an ugly duckling and that the world does not look at you or admire you. But I will let you in on a small secret. When you are not looking, it is your scent that makes a few of us guys sniff the room. It is your smile that causes a small gossip to erupt amongst the jocks, the secret longings of their hearts exposed in closed locker rooms. The girls sometimes look your way and the next day they upgrade their hair and makeup. One girl in particular tried to befriend you the other day in the cafeteria, she heard that you like Star Wars. Instead you nodded politely and went back to eating, regal as can be because who would really want to talk to you?

Everyone, Cara. Everyone wants to talk to you including me. But I want more. I want more than your talk, I want your lips on mine. I want more than for you just to see me, I want you to gaze at me. I want more than just a handshake from you,” he trailed his hand down her arm to her hand. “I want a hug.”

Cara was speechless.

Before she could say anything, Ricky put his lips on hers, startling her. He kissed her with the feather light touch of a painter’s brush, or the kiss of sun after a stormy, rainy day. A hint of heat and softness.

Ricky knew this wasn’t enough to stop someone from disappearing. What if one day Cara was no longer enough for him? Will she pick up where they left off? Somehow, he knew she’d be in his life forever. She was a treasure to him. Confessing his heart was all he could do. To save her.

For now.

**Author note: I truly hope you enjoyed this story. It dropped in my mind one day as I was waking up. I thought, “Hmmm, what if a girl who felt un-pretty met a very beautiful boy who sent her blank greeting cards?”

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Black Wings, A Really Short Story

quote text about a story
Image designed by Ericajean using Canva

***This story involves a sensitive issue that some people may face and does not in any way make light of the situation. The goal is to enjoy the story and think on it. Ultimately I hope you enjoy it, Reader!

_

Once again her tears were real. She dropped her black purse her mom gave her and slammed herself against the locker before sliding down to the cool floor. Not caring if her legs were splayed open beneath her sun yellow dress and not caring that her new upswept hairdo was now smashed against the locker. Who cares.

The music pumped from the gym out to the hallway. The person handling the tickets behind the foldable table was now folding it up and collecting her things. She did not see Cara.

Who ever sees Cara?

With her nails she drew long marks along obsidian skin. There. White streaks. Now if only she could see the white meat. If only she had something to flay that dark meat open.

Shaking her head and covering her face, she bawled. Right there on the floor.

Music drifted to her. Something by…? Who knows. It sounded like racket now.

But she knew everyone wore a smile and had a date. She could only dream of a date. That was why she read sappy teen novels. The closest she’s ever been to a guy was between the pages and not the sheets.

“To hell with everyone!” She yelled, then picked up her purse. She will leave.

That’s it.

She will leave. Why stay somewhere she can’t even leave a mark?

“Wait,” she heard someone say as she walked along the wall, hung on the wall for support as she slowly, cryptically made her way to the EXIT. Why was she moving so slothful? Didn’t freedom await her?

“Wait, Cara.”

She kept moving. Whoever it was should leave her alone. She was finally leaving this forsaken place.

School was not for dark girls.

Why’d her mother move anyway? Because of a divorce? Who cares?

The stranger touched her elbow. “You left this.”

Cara slowly let her eyes take in her long, teal jacket. Made for Spring weather or impending rain.

She heard the quick pellets of rain hitting the rooftop.

“Don’t need it,” her eyes followed the tanned arm and she looked into kind green eyes. “I’m leaving.”

His lips smiled. “Of course but you need this. Don’t you?”

For what she was about to do, it did not matter. “No.” She bit her lower lip hard until she tasted blood. She sucked on it and kept moving.

Her hands touched the rusted handle of the door. The handle the janitor kept polishing anyway, so now some parts not flecked off shone brilliantly under the fluorescent lights while the reddish brown part created an ugly contrast.

“I just thought you might not want to catch a cold.”

Cara thought about her purse. No need for this either. Her ID, keys all of that. She whirled around and fled to her locker, quickly twisted the dial and popped it open. A few blank greeting cards flew out and landed by the guy’s feet.

“You have plenty of greeting cards. Planning on writing them all out later?” She stashed her purse into the locker and looked at the stranger closer. He was in her English class. He opened a card and smiled again. A small dimple formed in his right cheek. A deep, dimple.

“No. I found those. You can have ‘em.”

The boy blinked as she took her jacket from him. “Thanks.”

“I just have to know, Cara. Why aren’t you dancing?”

Was he for real?

 “The glitter, the lights and the girls…not for me.”

“Yeah,” he stepped closer to her but she took two steps back. “I saw them. So what?”

“That’s my point. This is my senior year!” Her eyes watered. “I can’t even get a partner to dance with me because my skin swallows light. It isn’t fair!”

Understanding seemed to dawn on him. “Patty and Rochelle have no dance partner. They look nice. But not as nice as-”

Cara held up her hand. Ricky smelled the Sweet Pea lotion on her and it was the same scent that wafted into the gym doors earlier. The same bright fragrance from English class in the morning. It reminded him of sweet flowers facing the sun and days of learning to ride his bike. His mother…

 “I hate this school anyway. It’s prejudice leaks through the walls. Smell it?”

She huffed and marched away from Ricky and flew open the doors letting in a powerful gust of wind and rain.

Her hair, no longer pinned, cascaded down and flapped about her like black wings.

There is no way this guy was going to be bring her back.

Back from the will to die.

Note from author: I hope you enjoyed this short piece. Stay tuned for the next part sometime this week! If you like the stuff, please share and subscribe to my blog! (You may have to scroll down to subscribe)

Copyright 2017 Erica Jean Smith

Betrayal Has a Name-Conclusion

A Woman's Face
Photography of woman’s face by John Rocha

Betrayal Has a Name: Conclusion

My problem is that I always feel something is there, even when I’ve lost it. My leg. My beautiful leg Jonathan always groped and tickled, just right under the knee- is now gone. I am told to be grateful I still have my piano fingers. But I have no leg and I am in awful pain.

Alista pushed herself up in the bed, just as Patsy, Jonathan and Coby walked into her room. In that order. Her mom, Patricia Michaels stood up, erect, dignified. Nodded at each friend briefly. “Please. Make it short. She needs her rest.” Adjusting her heavy pewter coat with white fur lining the hood, Alista’s mom walked out the room. Her heels clicking hard. The sound of importance and success. Alista only hoped to be like her someday. Unaffected by life, taking charge as problems come.

“Hey baby,” Jonathan leaned down. Kissed her lips gently. She couldn’t feel it. Her lips were too dry and cracked. Noticing her discomfort, he poured her some water from the pitcher on the side table and added the short, tiny white straw. “Drink.”

She sipped a little as he stroked her hair, telling her he missed her and asking about her health and did she dream of pianos.

Meanwhile she caught the faint surprise on Patsy’s childlike face. That brown, beautiful face of a cherub. But her eyes held a shine. Tears. “Oh, Alista!” She came over and leaned down on Alista. Patsy’s soft body smelled just like Jonathan’s arm. Baby powder and Dove soap. “Hi! Are you okay? I am so, so sorry!”

“I miss my leg.” Alista said. “I would borrow yours, but you have incredibly short, turtle ones. I’ll manage.”

“Still find time to crack jokes, huh?” Jonathan stepped back from Alista as Coby narrowed his eyes at everyone. Alista waved her hand. She knew Jonathan hated how she picked on Patsy. Ever since high school Patsy was just easy to like and tease at the same time. She couldn’t help it.

“I have to. I’ve been in an accident on my way to perform.” She took Coby’s offered hand. He kissed the back of hers.

“You are a perfectionist, Sweetheart.” Coby’s handsome pierced face and blue eyes shone with affection for her. Alista loved her childhood friend. Suddenly she wish they could start that band he’s been meaning to put together.

But Alista wanted to make sure she wasn’t dreaming. Jonathan’s eyes usually soft for her, were now hard. With concern or…something else?

Patsy appeared skittish as usual. Such a shy kitten. But Alista could see clearly that Jonathan was protective of their little friend.

“When I said break a leg,” Coby began. “I was only joking.”

“You know I always took your advice.”

“How does your body feel? I mean. Are you going to be alright?” Patsy asked her.

“What’s crazy is I think I feel my leg.”

“What?” Patsy asked touching the railing. “What do you mean?”

“Phantom limb effect I believe. Remember in psychology class? When the teacher talked about losing a limb but still having the feeling that it’s there?”

“Oh, yeah.” Patsy and Jonathan said at the same time.

“Anyway,” Alista ran her hand down the severed limb part. Grateful the blanket was covering her. “It may be gone, but I still feel it.” She paused and sat her cup down. “We lose something and still feel it is there. Now it hurts more now that it is gone, than if I had it. Doctors said it had to be done.”

“Wow,” Patsy bit her bottom lip. “It had to be done to rescue you from worse hurt you know.”

“Yeah. You wouldn’t be with us, otherwise.” Jonathan shifted, placed his hands in his pockets. “It must be done.”

“I keep thinking,” Alista sat up even more. Slightly grimacing as everyone leaned in closer to hear what she had to say. “I keep thinking, maybe if they could have left it on. I can walk on crutches you know?”

“You would still suffer,” Jonathan offered. “Why have something that is crippling you. Why would anyone want that? Plus, you are here. You needed to be cut out from that car.”

“You sound insensitive. Why would anyone want their leg cut?” Coby interjected.

“No one wants it,” Patsy glanced at Jonathan’s face. “But if something is not working or if it can rescue you from a world of debilitation and pain. Why keep it?”

Alista shook her head. Coby suddenly took her hand again while Jonathan’s remained in his front pockets, but his eyes still loved her. In whatever form it was conveying. It had to be love.

Yes, it was still there.

*************

Copyright 2017 Erica Jean Smith

*If you have not already, please read the interesting first part of this story. Then check out more amazing quick tales via this blog! Your likes, comments and shares are all appreciated!

Writers Aren’t Lazy, We’re Just…

brown haired woman taking picture
Image of photographer found on Unplash.com

Gods and goddesses who use words to create…

I wouldn’t dare call Stephen King, Danielle Steel, J.K. Rowling, Dean Koontz, and other brand named writers lazy.

Yet, if you are a “struggle writer” that prefers sitting at the computer and cranking out tales, you best believe you will be considered lazy or uninspired at best.

*Encouraging tip: Just because you are not published, does not mean you are not a writer. A writer is a writer. Period.

Someone’s hole in the face will open and say, “You need a real job, a part time at least! Real money!”

Your rational side says, “Yes I agree. I do need to eat, I need a roof over my head. Yes this is true.”

But the side of you that is a lyrical beast, a writerly demon rears its head and flays open your flesh in the face to utter, “But I want to get paid for my passion.”

Here’s the deal.

Everyone wants to get paid for their passions: this is why those who love sex do porn, or those who like throwing pigskin play football, and those who talk too much have talk shows.

Even passions need to be honed and studied and practiced- daily. Think about it. There is sex and then there is sex– the kind that gets promoted and sold. There is taking a picture, then there is photography where you know how to make a photo come alive. Even passions take skill and unlazy bones.

My goals for next year and every year is:

  • Write daily.
  • Post weekly.
  • Read every grammar book I find.
  • Read books.
  • Relax with some classics.

These are GOALS and trust me, it takes a truly committed person to do this. Will I slip up, will we as writers slip up at times? Yes. But like anything you care about the most it will take time and energy.

And there is the kicker. Writing involves tons creativity and research. Who wants to do that all day? Writers.

Before anyone even gets the chance to argue that writers or would be writers are lazy. Think about it. Would you want to do it? Do you like staring at computer screens all day, sitting on your buns, researching and possibly being told your magic words suck?

No? Okay, then I am not lazy. Far from it.

I am strong.

Like. Share. Comment. Subscribe. More writer support on the way! 🙂

-Ericajean

‘Seaweed Eyes’ Conclusion (Short Fiction)

**Below, the story from earlier this week continues. Elesa realizes she and Casey have a lot in common.** PLEASE SHARE AND SUBSCRIBE 🙂

seaweed

Seaweed Eyes

Part 2

The feet are still large, those eyes are large too but no longer hiding behind glasses. His lips are full and not because there’s food behind it.

“Uh, hi,” I flip over my words. “I didn’t recognize you.” Now it is my turn to feel self conscious. Funny how that works.

This can’t be Casey! No Way!

Casey moves closer to me, slower. Oh God he is like one of the movie stars, or dancers I see on television.

“Hi Elesa, how’s it goin’?”

“Um, good I guess.”

“Elesa, help me with the table,” Grandma winks at Casey. I look down at my paisley top with the large, swirling design and my tights which make it appear as if I have some kind of shape.

Why am I worried over these things?

I take the red basket full of golden rolls and set it neatly in the center of the long table. Casey and his dad are in the living room watching whatever sport is on television.

I push back my hair.

He is not fat.

He is not gross looking. This is Casey Pullim. Never have I felt drawn to him before.

I am such a loser. Such an idiot. So shallow.

I go back into the kitchen and help Grandma set the napkins and utensils on the table. The chill from the screen door, sweeps the house along with the scent of cinnamon from Grandma’s scented pine cones.

I think of mom and dad.

We were just here last year watching a family movie. A Christmas Story to be exact. Just last year.

Before they got taken away from me.

Grandma said God took them. They were great parents, good angels, and the Lord needed them.

I need them.

I hug myself and close my eyes just as I feel warm air by my ear. “Need help?”

“N-no,” I slowly face Casey and his startling eyes. His chest fills out his shirt, I can see the indentation of muscle in his shoulders.

“I’m fine.”

“You sure? You were standing here for a minute and- well, it looked like you were lost or something.”

How sweet. He didn’t mention how my eyes are probably shining from unshed tears.

If he would have said I looked about to cry, I would have bawled right then and there all over his shirt.

“How are you and your dad?”

He stuffs his hands in his front pockets. “Good actually.” His Southern accent is beautiful. Why haven’t I noticed before?

I am such a darned loser.

“He found a job at a plant nearby, said it has benefits, good pay and we can finally give mom the beautiful headstone she deserves.”

I forgot. He lost someone too.

“Ready everyone?” Grandma announces.

Casey watches me. I can feel his gaze as I lower myself in my chair. I am next to grandma, he is next to his father, but we are across from one another.

After grandma’s really long grace over the food, we all dig in. I am ravenous for the rolls, but suddenly I am not so hungry for grandma’s lovely cooking…

I watch Casey and of course, he is not affected by anything. He digs in with gusto, chomps down on the brisket, slops the rolls in the sauce made for the brisket and shoves it on down.

Soft music plays from grandma’s radio. They are starting Christmas songs in late October already. But the mood is perfect. The sky is the color of jean blue with a stitch of pink and I can hear the crickets.

“God has blessed you, Anthony.” Grandma begins, passing the ice tea in a large glass pitcher to everyone. I pour a small amount in my glass.

“He certainly has. I got this job because of hard work, but also a little divine intervention. You’ve been prayin’ on my behalf little lady?”

Grandma laughs and waves her hand, banishing the thought. “Why? I have to. You’re our friend now. Even if you weren’t I’d still give God a request.” Grandma Olsa then turns to Casey, a twinkle in her eye.

“This handsome devil could stop traffic though. What happened to ya?”

Casey shrugged, his eyes slammed into mine again before back to grandma. “I met some dudes at the camp who loved martial arts. I always liked seeing it on television but could never really do it. I began going to the dojo with them.”

“That’s cool,” I say and sip my tea to prevent further talk.

“Well I see Princess Elesa is still radiant as ever. How are you doin?” His father asks me.

I tell him I am doing well. I left out the part about me mostly staying home, crying myself to sleep thinking of mom and dad, throwing up food after I eat so I can stay small and pretty and petite…

Casey eyes me curiously. I can’t believe I hated them. I saw them as slum rats who ate our food every Sunday. Lazy, slovenly folks who couldn’t get jobs.

Now, I am sitting before a hard working man and his handsome son.

“Hey, Elesa wanna come outside with me?” Casey stand with his plate in his hand. “Is it alright, Mrs. Night?”

“Please, you call me Grandma honey,” Grandma remains seated, her hands in a steeple position. “Go on you two.”

I breathe in a shaky breath. Casey takes my plate for me and instead of just sitting them on the side of the sink, he washes each one and dries each one. I stand next to him and place them in the cabinet where they belong before we begin our silent march outside.

I feel the moment of truth coming on.

leaves-autumn

His hand reaches for mine. I gasp as we walk out into the early evening together. Some kids are riding their bikes while others are simply outside with friends laughing and talking about whatever.

Casey’s hand is warm.

We sit in the long swing, the one swing in the front yard. He still clasps my hand.

“Look, Elesa-”

“Why’d you change?” I interrupt him. I didn’t mean to sound hard and scathing, but I don’t know whether to hate him or…

Or…

He pulls his hand from mine. I really do feel the coldness seep into my bone then. I need his hand.

“I was just kind of hoping that you’d y’know…fall in love with me.”*

My face is heated and now I see why he pulled away from me. He is twisting his hands nervously, they are white as milk.

“Casey, you know I have a boy-”

“I know. He is everything I am not. He is a few years older, more handsome, has more money. But,” he turns to me and takes my hand gently, I feel butterflies. He takes my whole hand, wrist and all.

“Casey I am so very sorry for ignoring you all this time,” I slap a palm to my forehead. “Geez! Listen to me. I am only apologizing because now you’re hot.”

I popped the same hand over my mouth. My stupid mouth!

A smile curls at the edge of Casey’s lips. “You think I’m hot?”

“You mean, you don’t know?” I say astonished he doesn’t recognize he is cuter than my pothead boyfriend Sam.

“Well, towards the end of summer, my buddies kept inviting me to places and a few girls even asked me out. I thought it was just so they could hang with the other guys.”

“No way. They wanted you, Casey. But for real you look good. I am happy for you.”

“Are you happy though?”

“Yes.” I bite my bottom lip. I also realize his eyes have always been deep and mossy, seaweedy, intelligent. His hair has always been thick and raven black. He was still the same, shy, caring Casey.

“I know you miss them. I miss mom a lot too. Drunk drivers are stupid. Deserve to be tortured in hell, really.”

“Yeah. I lived and the drunk driver gets to live in some fancy prison.” I said angrily.

“My mom died of cancer but it hurts a lot to know she kept it from us for so long. I thought we had years to go with her. I wanted her to take pictures of my prom, for her and dad to finally go to Hawaii…then she just…died.”

“Do you think she is in heaven, with God?”

Casey shrugs. “She ain’t here with me and that’s all I know.”

“Ditto. I’d rather them be here. I don’t know why good people always die.”

Casey takes my hand and boldly places it on his lap. “In that case, there better be a heaven.”

“I agree.”

“Come closer, Elesa. I don’t bite,” he chuckles. I smile and scoot next to him, lie my head back on the white swing. He begins to gently rock us back and forth.

I see grandma and his dad in the window. Grandma has taken out her large sized bible and they were looking into it, smiling and talking. She was probably teaching him more of the bible. My grandma, the teacher. Just like her daughter, my mom.

“So did ya?” Casey whispers, flicking back a strand of my blond tresses.

“Did I what?”

“Did you…fall for me?”

I give him the only answer I could. The one could seal the hole in my chest, the one that opens new possibilities.

I turn his face to mine and for the first time, with a boy, I am nervous.

He lets me run my hands up and down his face.

I am about to bring him closer when he pulls me to him roughly and before I can even blink, he is kissing me.

I kiss back wholeheartedly, falling into his lips, his scent of cinnamon and soap, of twin sorrows…

Copyright 2016 by Erica Jean Smith

*Inspired by Dialogue Prompt