SparklySadSong
Average teenage girl with too many secrets to keep and too many stories to tell.
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CotW #66: Write about the biggest lesson life has taught you.
Written by SparklySadSong

Hold The Nuts

Is it weird to say that I grew up, gained a heart, and found the secret to friendship when I was seven years old?

Growing up, I was opinionated. (I still am, honestly.) I loved American History, hot pink everything, Disney music, and Jeopardy. I detested math, the dark, orange, the Muppets, and anything nut related. I went so far as to insist my mom wash the knife after making my younger sister PB&J sandwiches. I’d crack walnuts (a Christmas tradition on my dad’s side) but never eat them. I hated the smell of hazelnut coffee.

I’d just turned seven the week before a Christmas caroling party at the Hunt Home, a senior center that my family and church frequently volunteered at. The singing done and the socializing nearly finished, I asked for a second cookie from the volunteer refreshment table. My dad agreed, and I grabbed a sugar cookie. Correction, I grabbed what I thought was a sugar cookie.

Cut to three hours later - my whole family is home, and I’m finally starting to feel better after vomiting no less than three times. I’d only taken one bite of the peanut butter cookie before spitting it out, disgusted. One bite was enough.

The next three months were a flurry of doctor’s appointments; there was blood testing at my pediatrician's, then 48 needles containing different common allergen proteins stuck into my back. I was, indeed, allergic to peanuts. All nuts, actually. Soy, corn, sesame, peas, and chickpeas were added to the list, along with a handful of animal and environmental allergies. My mom was constantly on her computer, researching how to keep her oldest child alive in a world that was just discovering that allergies were affecting more and more kids.

Suddenly I wasn’t normal - my food was homemade, hand-delivered, and hard to explain. I wasn’t ostracized, exactly, but the hassle of explaining why I couldn’t eat the cake at Timmy’s birthday or Nana’s house was not my idea of easy.

The thing about being different in ways that aren’t as obvious, though, is that you’re able to better understand and empathize with people who are similar. I feel as if I’m better able to handle the un-average than most people, because I’m not average. The amount of facets about my life that I have to consistently explain (from allergies to my African-American hair) have made me more understanding than I think I would be without them.

The amount of maturity necessary to carry around two four-inch needles of a live-saving drug doesn’t just happen overnight but overtime my Epi-Pens taught me responsibility, self-discipline, and concern for friends who’ve developed diabetes. The attention to detail that it takes to read the ever-tinier lists of ingredients has helped my audio-wired brain in visual analysis better than any class ever could. When I outgrew most of my allergies in 8th grade, it was freeing. I could celebrate better when my sister overcame a learning disability. When I was hospitalized for a cross-contamination accident in July, it was terrifying and humbling, and so I didn’t complain or blame the victim when a diabetic friend’s hemoglobin count fell below the safe driving limit. I didn’t mind driving his car home because I knew I would’ve wanted the same after my allergy attack.

My friendships are deeper and my want to serve others is more desperate because I’ve spent more than half of my life needing support from people who understand and want to help. At my homeschool group, the unconventional friends I’ve made feature a diabetic, nineteen food allergies, three learning disabilities, one ADD, one ADHD, two chronically pained, one infection, an unhealthy marriage that led to divorce, depression, anxiety, divorced parents, and so much more in only a five-year span. I was indoctrinated into the group on a day I was deeply moody (a precursor to depression though I didn’t know that at the time.) The two girls who are now my best friends saw that I needed partnership for a science lab and offered me that partnership, and with that their friendship. When Camdyn, the first girl I’d talked to in that class, graduated last year, she wrote me a note in our yearbook. “When I saw you at co-op for the first time, I thought: "I want to be friends with that girl.” I'm so proud to be one of your friends. You have been such a blessing in my life. A shoulder to cry on, a sarcastic joke to laugh at, a simple hug…”

I told her what I’m telling you when I read that: I’m so grateful I learned to have deep friendships, real conversations, and genuinely want to give back. I don’t often think about what-might-have-beens in my life, but my allergy diagnosis is one of the questions I think about between homework, rehearsals, hangouts, and creating Star Wars memes.

Henry Miller wrote: “Every man has his own destiny: the only imperative is to follow it, to accept it, no matter where it leads him.” I don’t know why my body decides to attack the proteins that make up certain foods, animals, and the entire outdoors during the Spring. But I do know that I would not be as empathetic, understanding, or caring as I am today if not for that. I believe my friendships would be weaker, giving less, and my ego far too inflated. I would’ve grown up later, acted with reduced responsibility, and have mediocre maturity. It’s not the hand of cards I would’ve picked at seven years old, but it’s the one that’s made me a better person. It’s made me who I am. And for that I’m grateful.

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CotW #66: Write about the biggest lesson life has taught you.
Written by SparklySadSong
Hold The Nuts
Is it weird to say that I grew up, gained a heart, and found the secret to friendship when I was seven years old?
Growing up, I was opinionated. (I still am, honestly.) I loved American History, hot pink everything, Disney music, and Jeopardy. I detested math, the dark, orange, the Muppets, and anything nut related. I went so far as to insist my mom wash the knife after making my younger sister PB&J sandwiches. I’d crack walnuts (a Christmas tradition on my dad’s side) but never eat them. I hated the smell of hazelnut coffee.
I’d just turned seven the week before a Christmas caroling party at the Hunt Home, a senior center that my family and church frequently volunteered at. The singing done and the socializing nearly finished, I asked for a second cookie from the volunteer refreshment table. My dad agreed, and I grabbed a sugar cookie. Correction, I grabbed what I thought was a sugar cookie.
Cut to three hours later - my whole family is home, and I’m finally starting to feel better after vomiting no less than three times. I’d only taken one bite of the peanut butter cookie before spitting it out, disgusted. One bite was enough.
The next three months were a flurry of doctor’s appointments; there was blood testing at my pediatrician's, then 48 needles containing different common allergen proteins stuck into my back. I was, indeed, allergic to peanuts. All nuts, actually. Soy, corn, sesame, peas, and chickpeas were added to the list, along with a handful of animal and environmental allergies. My mom was constantly on her computer, researching how to keep her oldest child alive in a world that was just discovering that allergies were affecting more and more kids.
Suddenly I wasn’t normal - my food was homemade, hand-delivered, and hard to explain. I wasn’t ostracized, exactly, but the hassle of explaining why I couldn’t eat the cake at Timmy’s birthday or Nana’s house was not my idea of easy.
The thing about being different in ways that aren’t as obvious, though, is that you’re able to better understand and empathize with people who are similar. I feel as if I’m better able to handle the un-average than most people, because I’m not average. The amount of facets about my life that I have to consistently explain (from allergies to my African-American hair) have made me more understanding than I think I would be without them.
The amount of maturity necessary to carry around two four-inch needles of a live-saving drug doesn’t just happen overnight but overtime my Epi-Pens taught me responsibility, self-discipline, and concern for friends who’ve developed diabetes. The attention to detail that it takes to read the ever-tinier lists of ingredients has helped my audio-wired brain in visual analysis better than any class ever could. When I outgrew most of my allergies in 8th grade, it was freeing. I could celebrate better when my sister overcame a learning disability. When I was hospitalized for a cross-contamination accident in July, it was terrifying and humbling, and so I didn’t complain or blame the victim when a diabetic friend’s hemoglobin count fell below the safe driving limit. I didn’t mind driving his car home because I knew I would’ve wanted the same after my allergy attack.
My friendships are deeper and my want to serve others is more desperate because I’ve spent more than half of my life needing support from people who understand and want to help. At my homeschool group, the unconventional friends I’ve made feature a diabetic, nineteen food allergies, three learning disabilities, one ADD, one ADHD, two chronically pained, one infection, an unhealthy marriage that led to divorce, depression, anxiety, divorced parents, and so much more in only a five-year span. I was indoctrinated into the group on a day I was deeply moody (a precursor to depression though I didn’t know that at the time.) The two girls who are now my best friends saw that I needed partnership for a science lab and offered me that partnership, and with that their friendship. When Camdyn, the first girl I’d talked to in that class, graduated last year, she wrote me a note in our yearbook. “When I saw you at co-op for the first time, I thought: "I want to be friends with that girl.” I'm so proud to be one of your friends. You have been such a blessing in my life. A shoulder to cry on, a sarcastic joke to laugh at, a simple hug…”
I told her what I’m telling you when I read that: I’m so grateful I learned to have deep friendships, real conversations, and genuinely want to give back. I don’t often think about what-might-have-beens in my life, but my allergy diagnosis is one of the questions I think about between homework, rehearsals, hangouts, and creating Star Wars memes.
Henry Miller wrote: “Every man has his own destiny: the only imperative is to follow it, to accept it, no matter where it leads him.” I don’t know why my body decides to attack the proteins that make up certain foods, animals, and the entire outdoors during the Spring. But I do know that I would not be as empathetic, understanding, or caring as I am today if not for that. I believe my friendships would be weaker, giving less, and my ego far too inflated. I would’ve grown up later, acted with reduced responsibility, and have mediocre maturity. It’s not the hand of cards I would’ve picked at seven years old, but it’s the one that’s made me a better person. It’s made me who I am. And for that I’m grateful.

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In 15 words tell me why you write
Written by SparklySadSong

why/why not?

Even as I don't always know why I write, I cannot fathom why others don't. 

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In 15 words tell me why you write
Written by SparklySadSong
why/why not?
Even as I don't always know why I write, I cannot fathom why others don't. 
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Written by SparklySadSong

untitled excerpt

I hear him before I see him and I feel my anger rise to seemingly impossible levels. He’s alive but he lied. He’s safe but he didn’t trust me. He’s OK but he put himself and half the team in danger just to protect me.

I jog down the stairs and duck into one of the storage chambers, knowing that he’ll pass this way on his way up. He is laughing but his voice is huskier than normal, and the way he sharply inhales makes me think that he’s in some kind of pain. He’s one floor below me. Two of the people he’s with peel off, then three. Hunter is the last one to leave. “She’s gonna be pissed, man, you know that.” “I know.”

Kian is many things, but he’s never oblivious. I can hear his footsteps better now, and can smell smoke and dirt on him. His hair is wet but there’s a strong chemical scent that I don’t recognize. Where has he been? What has he been doing? Why would he keep me in the dark nearly a month with no word?

He’s on the hallway now, wearing the boots we pulled off of a body in the last skirmish. He walks slower. Good. 30 feet. 20. 10.

Kian

Out of nowhere the door to my right flies open and I am knocked off balance; pulled into the darkness. I scramble for my knife, the lights, anything I can use to defend myself. But I recognize the hands over my mouth just as I flip open my knife. “Ash, listen, I-”

“No.”

My wife stands in front of me, illuminated only by the dim, red, overhead emergency lights. Her body shakes but her voice is firm. Her eyes sparkle and I don’t know why, but I get the sense of fear from her, something I’ve never noticed before.

“You…” she pauses, her eyes searching mine frantically, her fingers crushing each other into fists. Her clothes are wrinkled like she’s slept in them and her feet are bare, her hair pulled back tightly from her face. There are bags under her eyes and she’s unsteady on her feet. She’s exhausted.

“I was wrong to leave.” I blurt this out and grimace. Hunter and I had talked about how this conversation should go and this wasn’t it. Ascha stands in front of me, her eyes still sparkling and her body still shaking. I move towards her and she moves back. “Ash I’m sorry,” I say again, stepping towards her. She is up to the wall now and shaking her head over and over, muttering something. “What?” I say gently. “You didn’t tell me!”

Ascha screams those four words at me and I take small steps towards her, my hands up until I am close enough to reach for her. “Ash please.” She shakes her head faster, and she is trembling. I reach for her waist and she slaps my hand away. My skin stings. Her eyes widen. She knows she’s hurt me. I reach for her again. This time both hands come at me and she slaps at me as I wrap my arms around her.

“Ash stop! I left - I’m sorry! I didn’t tell you - I’m sorry! I didn’t want you to know so you wouldn’t get hurt - it was wrong and I’M SORRY.” My voice is raised but I don’t yell. She’s scratched me but I don’t care. She is sobbing and shaking and sorry and angry and kissing me over and over again.

Ascha

Kian holds me tight to him and I can’t breathe. He doesn’t let go until the attack has stopped and then he kisses me so gently it’s like I can’t breathe all over again. He’s lost some weight and his hair is tangled but he’s unhurt, save a few bruises. His skin still tastes like water and smoke and his eyes still only light up for me.

He hasn’t changed.

My veins flood with adrenaline as he presses me up against the wall - his hands are in my hair and suddenly his shirt is gone and I am naked and he is locking the door. I cry as he just holds me and kisses me and touches me and he does too. He is gentle but firm and I can’t begin to describe how much I love him. We stop to kiss and move and kiss again and I keep my eyes open so I can watch him. I’m still angry. I still think what he did was stupid. But I know he did it because he loves me. And the voices in my head can’t convince me otherwise - not tonight.

But the way he holds me… firm on my hips, light on my waist, tight all over my body like he’s never going to let me go, no matter how many times I try to push him away. I love the way his face shines with sweat as he kisses me and the way he gauges me before moving or pressing against me harder. His hair dips just below his eyes and melds with my eyelashes when he leans over me and I breathe in each second of him like I’ll never get another, ever.

Kian

She is still smooth. And effortless. Her body is all curves even after everything it’s been through. She messes with my hair and wraps her arms around my back, pulling me closer before arching her back and making a noise that both destroys and builds me. She is so powerful. My skin still stings from her scratch just as my mind still does from everything about her. I’ve said before that Ascha is a drug. I’m addicted and I don’t care who knows.

The way she holds on to me - gripping and grasping and always changing, like she can’t figure out how best to tell my body to get closer to hers but maybe if she tries it this way I’ll never leave. I am out of breath and out of ideas and out of strength and I let myself fall onto her. She cradles my head and combs through my hair with her fingers and red-hot blood races through me at her touch. She kisses my face, my cheeks, my hair, my ears, my neck, my collarbone, my chest, my scar, my jaw, my chin. And I feel sorry for those who’ll never get to have someone like this. I feel sorry for myself before I realized how much she is. I feel sorry for her - how long she’s waited to find someone to love her, and how long it took for her to love herself.

After, she lies on top of me as I try to breathe. She kisses my body slowly, breathing heavily; I am spent - I have only the energy enough to grip her body as close to mine as possible. She looks into my eyes, trailing her fingers over my chest before resting her head on it. She breathes deeply; once, twice, three dozen times, eventually falling asleep in my arms. It’s the last thing I remember before I wake up two hours later, realize we’re still in the closet, and half drag, half carry her to my bed.

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Written by SparklySadSong
untitled excerpt
I hear him before I see him and I feel my anger rise to seemingly impossible levels. He’s alive but he lied. He’s safe but he didn’t trust me. He’s OK but he put himself and half the team in danger just to protect me.
I jog down the stairs and duck into one of the storage chambers, knowing that he’ll pass this way on his way up. He is laughing but his voice is huskier than normal, and the way he sharply inhales makes me think that he’s in some kind of pain. He’s one floor below me. Two of the people he’s with peel off, then three. Hunter is the last one to leave. “She’s gonna be pissed, man, you know that.” “I know.”
Kian is many things, but he’s never oblivious. I can hear his footsteps better now, and can smell smoke and dirt on him. His hair is wet but there’s a strong chemical scent that I don’t recognize. Where has he been? What has he been doing? Why would he keep me in the dark nearly a month with no word?
He’s on the hallway now, wearing the boots we pulled off of a body in the last skirmish. He walks slower. Good. 30 feet. 20. 10.

Kian
Out of nowhere the door to my right flies open and I am knocked off balance; pulled into the darkness. I scramble for my knife, the lights, anything I can use to defend myself. But I recognize the hands over my mouth just as I flip open my knife. “Ash, listen, I-”
“No.”
My wife stands in front of me, illuminated only by the dim, red, overhead emergency lights. Her body shakes but her voice is firm. Her eyes sparkle and I don’t know why, but I get the sense of fear from her, something I’ve never noticed before.
“You…” she pauses, her eyes searching mine frantically, her fingers crushing each other into fists. Her clothes are wrinkled like she’s slept in them and her feet are bare, her hair pulled back tightly from her face. There are bags under her eyes and she’s unsteady on her feet. She’s exhausted.
“I was wrong to leave.” I blurt this out and grimace. Hunter and I had talked about how this conversation should go and this wasn’t it. Ascha stands in front of me, her eyes still sparkling and her body still shaking. I move towards her and she moves back. “Ash I’m sorry,” I say again, stepping towards her. She is up to the wall now and shaking her head over and over, muttering something. “What?” I say gently. “You didn’t tell me!”
Ascha screams those four words at me and I take small steps towards her, my hands up until I am close enough to reach for her. “Ash please.” She shakes her head faster, and she is trembling. I reach for her waist and she slaps my hand away. My skin stings. Her eyes widen. She knows she’s hurt me. I reach for her again. This time both hands come at me and she slaps at me as I wrap my arms around her.
“Ash stop! I left - I’m sorry! I didn’t tell you - I’m sorry! I didn’t want you to know so you wouldn’t get hurt - it was wrong and I’M SORRY.” My voice is raised but I don’t yell. She’s scratched me but I don’t care. She is sobbing and shaking and sorry and angry and kissing me over and over again.


Ascha
Kian holds me tight to him and I can’t breathe. He doesn’t let go until the attack has stopped and then he kisses me so gently it’s like I can’t breathe all over again. He’s lost some weight and his hair is tangled but he’s unhurt, save a few bruises. His skin still tastes like water and smoke and his eyes still only light up for me.
He hasn’t changed.
My veins flood with adrenaline as he presses me up against the wall - his hands are in my hair and suddenly his shirt is gone and I am naked and he is locking the door. I cry as he just holds me and kisses me and touches me and he does too. He is gentle but firm and I can’t begin to describe how much I love him. We stop to kiss and move and kiss again and I keep my eyes open so I can watch him. I’m still angry. I still think what he did was stupid. But I know he did it because he loves me. And the voices in my head can’t convince me otherwise - not tonight.
But the way he holds me… firm on my hips, light on my waist, tight all over my body like he’s never going to let me go, no matter how many times I try to push him away. I love the way his face shines with sweat as he kisses me and the way he gauges me before moving or pressing against me harder. His hair dips just below his eyes and melds with my eyelashes when he leans over me and I breathe in each second of him like I’ll never get another, ever.
Kian
She is still smooth. And effortless. Her body is all curves even after everything it’s been through. She messes with my hair and wraps her arms around my back, pulling me closer before arching her back and making a noise that both destroys and builds me. She is so powerful. My skin still stings from her scratch just as my mind still does from everything about her. I’ve said before that Ascha is a drug. I’m addicted and I don’t care who knows.
The way she holds on to me - gripping and grasping and always changing, like she can’t figure out how best to tell my body to get closer to hers but maybe if she tries it this way I’ll never leave. I am out of breath and out of ideas and out of strength and I let myself fall onto her. She cradles my head and combs through my hair with her fingers and red-hot blood races through me at her touch. She kisses my face, my cheeks, my hair, my ears, my neck, my collarbone, my chest, my scar, my jaw, my chin. And I feel sorry for those who’ll never get to have someone like this. I feel sorry for myself before I realized how much she is. I feel sorry for her - how long she’s waited to find someone to love her, and how long it took for her to love herself.
After, she lies on top of me as I try to breathe. She kisses my body slowly, breathing heavily; I am spent - I have only the energy enough to grip her body as close to mine as possible. She looks into my eyes, trailing her fingers over my chest before resting her head on it. She breathes deeply; once, twice, three dozen times, eventually falling asleep in my arms. It’s the last thing I remember before I wake up two hours later, realize we’re still in the closet, and half drag, half carry her to my bed.

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Written by SparklySadSong

demagogue

It was a dark and stormy night.

The centuries-old phrase ran through my head as I stared out through the darkness. I jumped to the closest tree and waited, counting the hours. One, two, three. I watched through infrared binoculars as my target approached the area. It was 3 in the morning. The wind whistled through the trees. The moon, hidden by the rush of Now the wait.

He set up his tent despite the rainy blast. This rain was cold, sharp, and fierce. It threatened to pierce my very bones but I smiled to myself even as my teeth rattled. He was at fault, they told me. He needed to be punished. I lay across the branches, thinking back on my training. How many countless hours I’d spent pinning dummies to the ground, in hand-to-hand-combat, or at target practice; they all led me to this moment.

He was still unaware of my presence, of course. I'd had this moment before and botched it before, once. There would be only this one chance to get it right. I’d had to end his life or risk her own ending. The scar from the knife he'd been carrying (Stupid, you should have seen that, I thought) still stood out against the dark hue of her skin.

She had one shot. One.

The Headmaster didn't need to tell me again what would happen if I failed - I'd seen it already and that was enough. My only hope if she failed would be that death would come quickly.

I raised the crossbow to my right shoulder and took a breath; shifted her weight and took him in once more. Tall, sandy hair, a disposition of calm surrounded him. He was breathtaking. And he was also the first boy she’d ever kill.

I nearly laughed out loud. He was so unseeing. He should be able to see my shadow from here, if he knew how to look. If I was in his shoes, I thought, I would have known that the area was too quiet. I would have seen the branch of the tree move, I would have heard the arrow click into place.

The Agency didn't train you to think. No, it certainly did not.

The arrow shaft twisted between my long, slender fingers. I'd been trained as a musician at first. That's what had made me so appealing to them. Attention to detail was a must.

I'd made shots tougher than this before - once while hanging upside down on a moving horse. This? This was child's play.

This was all child's play. I removed all of my own logical thinking a long time ago. My will is tied to that of The Agency and that would never change. I closed my eyes, and looked down the arrow, and wondered if this is what the woman who had killed her brothers had felt like. I decided not to care.

I let the arrow fly, and jumped the 12 feet to the ground silently. I removed the arrow and listened as he inhaled for the last time; saw his eyes staring across the grass, turning a shade of blue-green as the sun began to rise. I had made it through the storm - a light rain and scattered leaves were all that remained of the early morning.

His facial expression was unwavering - the only difference was that his eyes were now wide open. Blood formed a blossom on his collared blue shirt, turning it a shade of maroon.I threw the arrow into a nearby trash can and a lighter in after it. No evidence, I thought, not even a shadow.

They would never know who did it. Ever. I, a tall, dark-skinned girl would disappear into the shadows as easily as I'd slipped out of them. This would become an unsolved case. The unsolved case of my first kill, just the way is was supposed to be.

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Written by SparklySadSong
demagogue
It was a dark and stormy night.
The centuries-old phrase ran through my head as I stared out through the darkness. I jumped to the closest tree and waited, counting the hours. One, two, three. I watched through infrared binoculars as my target approached the area. It was 3 in the morning. The wind whistled through the trees. The moon, hidden by the rush of Now the wait.
He set up his tent despite the rainy blast. This rain was cold, sharp, and fierce. It threatened to pierce my very bones but I smiled to myself even as my teeth rattled. He was at fault, they told me. He needed to be punished. I lay across the branches, thinking back on my training. How many countless hours I’d spent pinning dummies to the ground, in hand-to-hand-combat, or at target practice; they all led me to this moment.
He was still unaware of my presence, of course. I'd had this moment before and botched it before, once. There would be only this one chance to get it right. I’d had to end his life or risk her own ending. The scar from the knife he'd been carrying (Stupid, you should have seen that, I thought) still stood out against the dark hue of her skin.
She had one shot. One.
The Headmaster didn't need to tell me again what would happen if I failed - I'd seen it already and that was enough. My only hope if she failed would be that death would come quickly.
I raised the crossbow to my right shoulder and took a breath; shifted her weight and took him in once more. Tall, sandy hair, a disposition of calm surrounded him. He was breathtaking. And he was also the first boy she’d ever kill.
I nearly laughed out loud. He was so unseeing. He should be able to see my shadow from here, if he knew how to look. If I was in his shoes, I thought, I would have known that the area was too quiet. I would have seen the branch of the tree move, I would have heard the arrow click into place.
The Agency didn't train you to think. No, it certainly did not.
The arrow shaft twisted between my long, slender fingers. I'd been trained as a musician at first. That's what had made me so appealing to them. Attention to detail was a must.
I'd made shots tougher than this before - once while hanging upside down on a moving horse. This? This was child's play.
This was all child's play. I removed all of my own logical thinking a long time ago. My will is tied to that of The Agency and that would never change. I closed my eyes, and looked down the arrow, and wondered if this is what the woman who had killed her brothers had felt like. I decided not to care.
I let the arrow fly, and jumped the 12 feet to the ground silently. I removed the arrow and listened as he inhaled for the last time; saw his eyes staring across the grass, turning a shade of blue-green as the sun began to rise. I had made it through the storm - a light rain and scattered leaves were all that remained of the early morning.
His facial expression was unwavering - the only difference was that his eyes were now wide open. Blood formed a blossom on his collared blue shirt, turning it a shade of maroon.I threw the arrow into a nearby trash can and a lighter in after it. No evidence, I thought, not even a shadow.
They would never know who did it. Ever. I, a tall, dark-skinned girl would disappear into the shadows as easily as I'd slipped out of them. This would become an unsolved case. The unsolved case of my first kill, just the way is was supposed to be.

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We are a literary agency seeking fresh talent. In 200 words or more, demonstrate your writing talent. We will be in touch with any and all promising participants throughout the rest of this quarter.
Written by SparklySadSong

quatre.

The time was 9:45.

Adrienne met nothing but empty space when she rolled over that morning.

She could smell coffee and could hear the faint murmur of commercials on a TV. Where was she? This wasn’t her house. The sheets weren’t as soft and the room wasn’t as large and the blankets weren’t as warm. But the memories of the night before trumped everything she knew to be good before. And she couldn’t remember at the moment but something felt just a tiny bit wrong with that.

Jordan woke up to nothing that morning, too.

He fixed his own coffee and listened to the news on the radio on the way into work. His wife was spending the holiday at her mother’s in Pennsylvania, leaving himself, the cat, and the entire state of Maryland to themselves for the weekend. He parked in his normal spot at the office and changed into his scrubs in the nearest bathroom. He hadn’t thought to shave the morning. But she’d said she liked guys with stubble, hadn’t she?

Eva reapplied her lipstick.

For the third time. Her hands shook behind the receptionist's counter even as she recorded appointments and checked insurance cards. There was nothing about her job that was stressful. The clients were kind, the atmosphere was pleasant enough. Tropical fish flitted by in the large glass tanks; kids received stickers for cavity-free checkups. It must be her coworkers, then, that made her uneasy. Just one, actually.

Levi turned off the TV and turned off the Keurig.

The shower was running, so he left the conquest of the night before to her business. He flopped onto the bed and ran his fingers through his shaggy, dark hair absentmindedly. His mind wandered, and he found himself turning his lover’s wedding ring (which had been banished to the floor among last night’s revels) over and over in his palm. She was a consenting adult and no one would ever know besides them. What was the big deal over, anyways?

Adrienne took her time getting dressed; the least amount of talking she had to do, the better. Shame and guilt mixed with passionate memories in the mind and filled her with a nervous energy she hadn’t felt in years.

Jordan finished the cleaning 4 and a half minutes earlier than normal. He wanted to talk to her, the new girl. She was pretty and petite and so not his wife. There was nothing wrong with speaking to someone, he reasoned. There was nothing wrong with being friendly. He’d never cheat.

Eva looked up from her phone exactly twice between appointments. Her fingers hovered over the screen of her phone as she chose directions to swipe on Tinder. She’d just moved to the area four months before but heaven help her if she didn’t bring someone home by Thanksgiving. She could feel a male gaze on her and she was nearly afraid to look. Every man in the office either had a ring or swung the opposite direction sexually. Yet the gaze persisted. Heavy. Constant.

Levi decided he wanted what he wanted; that little things like previous commitments shouldn’t get in the way of what he, what they had. There was no way they would’ve met like that if there wasn’t a reason, a purpose. Some people were star-crossed, and others weren’t, and that was that. Her husband was a fool for not appreciating her the way he should. And that was that.

Adrienne wracked her mind for the last time she’d felt wanted like that. Her husband seemed so, so, so… disconnected. He was always running the other direction. She was no longer the object of his affection. She knew he wasn’t cheating because he never would. But there was something. She couldn’t remember the last time a kiss wasn’t out of habit. She couldn’t recall the feelings that’d so clearly been present in Facebook memories and Timehops of them together. There’d never been a fight or a disagreement that had caused it, per say, just a series of compromises and contentions that had never been truly sourced or satisfied. And, for some reason, she was OK with that. She’d grown tired of fighting for something she didn’t really want anymore. So she’d stopped. And, as cruel as it sounded, she realized that that was how it was. And that was that.

So what to do when an attractive stranger offers to jumpstart your car? You give him your number because what could it hurt?

Jordan thought about texting his wife, he really did. He remembered when they used to text all the time. They’d used to everything all the time. She’d been one of the most fascinating aspects of his life at one point - surprising him by walking across campus just to eat lunch with him every so often, inviting him home for the holidays, playing April Fool’s Day pranks on him and his roommates. She’d been unpredictable and open minded and blissfully young and he loved her for it. But the working world is not college. Debt, both monetary and emotional, can take a toll on a person. He owed her the kind of emotionally support she seemingly effortlessly gave to everyone she knew and he didn’t know how to make good on that promise. Tuition costs and car loans meant changes to the way they lived their married lives, and that meant taking on two full-time jobs. Somewhere in there they’d lost the freedom they’d had as college kids to explore and, without meaning to, that loss had settled deeply within their relationship. And Jordan knew that. He just didn’t know how he knew or what exactly to do about it. So he let things go. And even as he felt the balloons lift away he loosened his grip. Not because he didn’t care, but because he was too scared to ask for balloon-holding instructions.

Eva was nervous. Her social anxiety meant that she was constantly concerned about the way others not only interacted with her, but also how she believed they perceived her. She was constantly caught between over and under estimating other’s actions and words. She was right, she did indeed feel eyes on her. But her initial estimate had been wrong. Instead of the hungry, nearly animalistic gaze she was accustomed to as a young, attractive woman from a big city, this gaze was different. It was kind and deep-searching. The difference between the focus level of a classroom laserpointer (piercing, but taunting in the sense that it’s only on you until something else comes along) and the focus of a rose-colored night light (peaceful, overarching, but also, in a way, subdued) - she could feel it. She looked up, timidly, and saw a pair of friendly brown eyes looking in her general direction. She felt the corners of her mouth pull up in a slight smile and relaxed. Her body knew before her thoughts did he’s OK. She nodded at him slightly and smiled as he sat down across from her. Here we go.

Levi was a hookup kind of person. He believed in love but he also believed in getting what he could while he was still young enough to get it. He was nearly 6 years younger than the woman he’d slept with last night and he could feel something in the back of his mind telling him to tie her down while he could. It was time to start thinking about settling. Levi was attractive. He’d had scores of girlfriends in high school and college before he’d dropped out during junior year for a job. Levi wasn’t dumb - he knew that marriages existed for a reason. But he also believed more strongly in fate than he’d care to admit. He also thought more with certain parts of his body than others sometimes. The woman in his bathroom at the moment had been a combination of those two factors working together. But looking at the picture on her lockscreen (he’d moved from the ring to her phone in his absent minded quest to cover her things with his DNA) he saw two people who’d been bonded by a thing that was maybe slightly stronger than a good 4 hours of sex. He was frustrated in more ways than one and decided that a talk had to happen. He got up and tapped on the bathroom door.

Adrienne dashed away a hot tear in the bathroom. She cried when she felt any deep emotions - happiness, sadness, anger, surprise, fear - and now was no different. The guilt she felt nearly overrode her symptoms. Why did she feel it now? Why not last night before she’d gone through with it? Hell, they’d gone out for a proper date first. This hadn’t been a simple hookup. Not for her, anways. She was a planner, even though her day-to-day schedule wouldn’t have let anyone see that. Adrienne was fiercely independent and knew what she wanted. She seized opportunities whenever possible. When the man who wasn’t her husband had asked her out for drinks, she’d said yes. When he asked to go bowling, she’d said yes. Then she’d ask him out for drinks. Then he’d invited her to dinner. She’d said yes. She’d also shaved and bought a new bra (something she hadn’t done in the past 3 years of her marriage.) She’d known what she wanted then. So why didn't she now? A tap on the door snapped her out of her thoughts. She opened it slowly, wiping away a final tear as she did so.

Jordan got up quickly from the pleasant conversation he’d just had. Something itched at the back of his mind. He’d had a thought. Something his wife had said forever ago. The new girl had been even more beautiful in person than she had looked from behind the frosted glass of the practice. Was it something she’d said? They’d had nearly nothing in common - he’d grown up in the country; she was from the city. He had three brothers and she was an only child. She was a glass-half-full, he was a glass-half-empty. But there was something - a word, a mannerism, something that reminded him of his first love. He didn’t know what, but whatever it was had jolted him out of focus. It wasn’t her looks, he decided. She was petite and fair, almost the polar opposite of his wife’s tall, more curvaceous build. His wife’s hair was usually pulled up, while the woman who’d just nodded at Jordan while excusing herself from the front desk, had a blonde pixie cut that perfectly framed her soft features. He decided the similarity might be more subconscious, but that the reminder of the woman he’d promised himself to was enough to force him to do the right thing. He stepped outside, flipped through his most recent calls, and found “Adrienne.” He sighed, and hit “Talk.”

Eva watched from the receptionist desk as Doctor Milton headed outside. Her heart skipped beats. He was charming, all right. He was incredibly charming. Was it really so wrong to like the taste of his attention? He was a successful dentist, handsome, and he’d managed to make her genuinely laugh in the short amount of time they’d spoken before he’d abruptly gotten up. Normally, her mind would be searching for something she’d done wrong, but instead her brain ran wild with thoughts of the future. Eva’s mind had picked up on the fact that his gloves could be hiding a ring. That maybe this was too good to be true. But another part, surprisingly, didn’t mind. She liked being in the glow of a night light. She liked how he’d opened doors for her over the past few weeks. How he’d handed her her coat when it came time to close the office. How he’d subtly made his presence known for weeks before approaching her. His attention was not an amount she felt she couldn’t handle. She hurriedly wrote down her phone number on the back of an appointment card and slipped it into his coat pocket. If it was meant to be, he’d find it.

Levi’s hand hovered over the door as Adrienne’s phone rang. His “Hey, I was thinking we could talk…” was cut off by Adrienne running past him into the bedroom as she pushed every button on her phone except the green “accept” one. She dashed back to him and pulled him onto the bed. He was surprised, but not unpleasantly, and caressed her as she wanted. She pulled him close, but not before he saw her phone screen go dark. “Hubby” had called. Levi’s mind threw the words “danger” and “caution” before him but his second brain and his devil-may-care personality took over. This was meant to be, wasn’t it?

Adrienne’s ring fell back to the floor, this time rolling under Levi’s bed. Jordan made his way back inside and smiled sadly at Eva, who smiled back broadly.

The time was 11:30.

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We are a literary agency seeking fresh talent. In 200 words or more, demonstrate your writing talent. We will be in touch with any and all promising participants throughout the rest of this quarter.
Written by SparklySadSong
quatre.
The time was 9:45.
Adrienne met nothing but empty space when she rolled over that morning.
She could smell coffee and could hear the faint murmur of commercials on a TV. Where was she? This wasn’t her house. The sheets weren’t as soft and the room wasn’t as large and the blankets weren’t as warm. But the memories of the night before trumped everything she knew to be good before. And she couldn’t remember at the moment but something felt just a tiny bit wrong with that.

Jordan woke up to nothing that morning, too.
He fixed his own coffee and listened to the news on the radio on the way into work. His wife was spending the holiday at her mother’s in Pennsylvania, leaving himself, the cat, and the entire state of Maryland to themselves for the weekend. He parked in his normal spot at the office and changed into his scrubs in the nearest bathroom. He hadn’t thought to shave the morning. But she’d said she liked guys with stubble, hadn’t she?

Eva reapplied her lipstick.
For the third time. Her hands shook behind the receptionist's counter even as she recorded appointments and checked insurance cards. There was nothing about her job that was stressful. The clients were kind, the atmosphere was pleasant enough. Tropical fish flitted by in the large glass tanks; kids received stickers for cavity-free checkups. It must be her coworkers, then, that made her uneasy. Just one, actually.

Levi turned off the TV and turned off the Keurig.
The shower was running, so he left the conquest of the night before to her business. He flopped onto the bed and ran his fingers through his shaggy, dark hair absentmindedly. His mind wandered, and he found himself turning his lover’s wedding ring (which had been banished to the floor among last night’s revels) over and over in his palm. She was a consenting adult and no one would ever know besides them. What was the big deal over, anyways?

Adrienne took her time getting dressed; the least amount of talking she had to do, the better. Shame and guilt mixed with passionate memories in the mind and filled her with a nervous energy she hadn’t felt in years.
Jordan finished the cleaning 4 and a half minutes earlier than normal. He wanted to talk to her, the new girl. She was pretty and petite and so not his wife. There was nothing wrong with speaking to someone, he reasoned. There was nothing wrong with being friendly. He’d never cheat.
Eva looked up from her phone exactly twice between appointments. Her fingers hovered over the screen of her phone as she chose directions to swipe on Tinder. She’d just moved to the area four months before but heaven help her if she didn’t bring someone home by Thanksgiving. She could feel a male gaze on her and she was nearly afraid to look. Every man in the office either had a ring or swung the opposite direction sexually. Yet the gaze persisted. Heavy. Constant.
Levi decided he wanted what he wanted; that little things like previous commitments shouldn’t get in the way of what he, what they had. There was no way they would’ve met like that if there wasn’t a reason, a purpose. Some people were star-crossed, and others weren’t, and that was that. Her husband was a fool for not appreciating her the way he should. And that was that.

Adrienne wracked her mind for the last time she’d felt wanted like that. Her husband seemed so, so, so… disconnected. He was always running the other direction. She was no longer the object of his affection. She knew he wasn’t cheating because he never would. But there was something. She couldn’t remember the last time a kiss wasn’t out of habit. She couldn’t recall the feelings that’d so clearly been present in Facebook memories and Timehops of them together. There’d never been a fight or a disagreement that had caused it, per say, just a series of compromises and contentions that had never been truly sourced or satisfied. And, for some reason, she was OK with that. She’d grown tired of fighting for something she didn’t really want anymore. So she’d stopped. And, as cruel as it sounded, she realized that that was how it was. And that was that.
So what to do when an attractive stranger offers to jumpstart your car? You give him your number because what could it hurt?

Jordan thought about texting his wife, he really did. He remembered when they used to text all the time. They’d used to everything all the time. She’d been one of the most fascinating aspects of his life at one point - surprising him by walking across campus just to eat lunch with him every so often, inviting him home for the holidays, playing April Fool’s Day pranks on him and his roommates. She’d been unpredictable and open minded and blissfully young and he loved her for it. But the working world is not college. Debt, both monetary and emotional, can take a toll on a person. He owed her the kind of emotionally support she seemingly effortlessly gave to everyone she knew and he didn’t know how to make good on that promise. Tuition costs and car loans meant changes to the way they lived their married lives, and that meant taking on two full-time jobs. Somewhere in there they’d lost the freedom they’d had as college kids to explore and, without meaning to, that loss had settled deeply within their relationship. And Jordan knew that. He just didn’t know how he knew or what exactly to do about it. So he let things go. And even as he felt the balloons lift away he loosened his grip. Not because he didn’t care, but because he was too scared to ask for balloon-holding instructions.

Eva was nervous. Her social anxiety meant that she was constantly concerned about the way others not only interacted with her, but also how she believed they perceived her. She was constantly caught between over and under estimating other’s actions and words. She was right, she did indeed feel eyes on her. But her initial estimate had been wrong. Instead of the hungry, nearly animalistic gaze she was accustomed to as a young, attractive woman from a big city, this gaze was different. It was kind and deep-searching. The difference between the focus level of a classroom laserpointer (piercing, but taunting in the sense that it’s only on you until something else comes along) and the focus of a rose-colored night light (peaceful, overarching, but also, in a way, subdued) - she could feel it. She looked up, timidly, and saw a pair of friendly brown eyes looking in her general direction. She felt the corners of her mouth pull up in a slight smile and relaxed. Her body knew before her thoughts did he’s OK. She nodded at him slightly and smiled as he sat down across from her. Here we go.
Levi was a hookup kind of person. He believed in love but he also believed in getting what he could while he was still young enough to get it. He was nearly 6 years younger than the woman he’d slept with last night and he could feel something in the back of his mind telling him to tie her down while he could. It was time to start thinking about settling. Levi was attractive. He’d had scores of girlfriends in high school and college before he’d dropped out during junior year for a job. Levi wasn’t dumb - he knew that marriages existed for a reason. But he also believed more strongly in fate than he’d care to admit. He also thought more with certain parts of his body than others sometimes. The woman in his bathroom at the moment had been a combination of those two factors working together. But looking at the picture on her lockscreen (he’d moved from the ring to her phone in his absent minded quest to cover her things with his DNA) he saw two people who’d been bonded by a thing that was maybe slightly stronger than a good 4 hours of sex. He was frustrated in more ways than one and decided that a talk had to happen. He got up and tapped on the bathroom door.

Adrienne dashed away a hot tear in the bathroom. She cried when she felt any deep emotions - happiness, sadness, anger, surprise, fear - and now was no different. The guilt she felt nearly overrode her symptoms. Why did she feel it now? Why not last night before she’d gone through with it? Hell, they’d gone out for a proper date first. This hadn’t been a simple hookup. Not for her, anways. She was a planner, even though her day-to-day schedule wouldn’t have let anyone see that. Adrienne was fiercely independent and knew what she wanted. She seized opportunities whenever possible. When the man who wasn’t her husband had asked her out for drinks, she’d said yes. When he asked to go bowling, she’d said yes. Then she’d ask him out for drinks. Then he’d invited her to dinner. She’d said yes. She’d also shaved and bought a new bra (something she hadn’t done in the past 3 years of her marriage.) She’d known what she wanted then. So why didn't she now? A tap on the door snapped her out of her thoughts. She opened it slowly, wiping away a final tear as she did so.

Jordan got up quickly from the pleasant conversation he’d just had. Something itched at the back of his mind. He’d had a thought. Something his wife had said forever ago. The new girl had been even more beautiful in person than she had looked from behind the frosted glass of the practice. Was it something she’d said? They’d had nearly nothing in common - he’d grown up in the country; she was from the city. He had three brothers and she was an only child. She was a glass-half-full, he was a glass-half-empty. But there was something - a word, a mannerism, something that reminded him of his first love. He didn’t know what, but whatever it was had jolted him out of focus. It wasn’t her looks, he decided. She was petite and fair, almost the polar opposite of his wife’s tall, more curvaceous build. His wife’s hair was usually pulled up, while the woman who’d just nodded at Jordan while excusing herself from the front desk, had a blonde pixie cut that perfectly framed her soft features. He decided the similarity might be more subconscious, but that the reminder of the woman he’d promised himself to was enough to force him to do the right thing. He stepped outside, flipped through his most recent calls, and found “Adrienne.” He sighed, and hit “Talk.”

Eva watched from the receptionist desk as Doctor Milton headed outside. Her heart skipped beats. He was charming, all right. He was incredibly charming. Was it really so wrong to like the taste of his attention? He was a successful dentist, handsome, and he’d managed to make her genuinely laugh in the short amount of time they’d spoken before he’d abruptly gotten up. Normally, her mind would be searching for something she’d done wrong, but instead her brain ran wild with thoughts of the future. Eva’s mind had picked up on the fact that his gloves could be hiding a ring. That maybe this was too good to be true. But another part, surprisingly, didn’t mind. She liked being in the glow of a night light. She liked how he’d opened doors for her over the past few weeks. How he’d handed her her coat when it came time to close the office. How he’d subtly made his presence known for weeks before approaching her. His attention was not an amount she felt she couldn’t handle. She hurriedly wrote down her phone number on the back of an appointment card and slipped it into his coat pocket. If it was meant to be, he’d find it.

Levi’s hand hovered over the door as Adrienne’s phone rang. His “Hey, I was thinking we could talk…” was cut off by Adrienne running past him into the bedroom as she pushed every button on her phone except the green “accept” one. She dashed back to him and pulled him onto the bed. He was surprised, but not unpleasantly, and caressed her as she wanted. She pulled him close, but not before he saw her phone screen go dark. “Hubby” had called. Levi’s mind threw the words “danger” and “caution” before him but his second brain and his devil-may-care personality took over. This was meant to be, wasn’t it?

Adrienne’s ring fell back to the floor, this time rolling under Levi’s bed. Jordan made his way back inside and smiled sadly at Eva, who smiled back broadly.
The time was 11:30.

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