Catching Up

Please excuse my absence! I have been quite neglectful, but I have somewhat OK reasons. I swear. Ish. All of my edits on Book One came back — line edits, substantive edits, copy edits — and they were a beast to get through! But like awesome and fun and challenging and they made my book so much stronger than it was oh so many months ago. I think I’ll do a more extensive post about the process, but for now, that’s why I’ve been a little MIA. Plus I’m still trying to power through Book Three. Gah. It’s a paradise. It’s a war zone. Yo.

Anyway, wanted to post June and July’s prompts. Yes, we did them both and I just completely spaced on posting June’s. I would say it’s not memorable, but I really just wanted to write a fake-date-at-a-wedding story and it turned into #familydramz.

For July, the prompt was “Getting old was the most difficult thing Milo Curtis had ever done …” And neither of my writing group babes understood the ending so apparently I was way too subtle with this (in an attempt to not be heavy-handed). I laughed for days at one of their theories! I’ll just leave it here though and make of it what you will. All my love. xox

***

Getting old was the most difficult thing Milo Curtis had ever done. Not that 18 was old. Not really, in the scheme of infinity. Or even in the scheme of 80 or so good years. It felt old to Milo, though, with responsibility and adulthood and all that entailed waiting in the wings. If he wanted to go to community college at night–which he goddamn was going to do–he needed a job that paid more than shit wages and gave him real hours. He needed a place. Mom was mom and she was great, but continuing to live in her cramped apartment now that Greg had moved in was a nonstarter. And of course none of it would matter if he didn’t graduate.

But that wasn’t why it was hard. The problem was that turning 18 meant leaving Emmie behind.

The molten brown liquor was fire against his esophagus, but that didn’t stop him from tipping the bottle back again. The slide was becoming smoother, he just had to push through until his brain got to that nice fuzzy place. Where the world was a little sideways, but softer at the edges. He eyed the handle and guessed it would be about five more solid swigs.

It only took Emmie half a glass of pink wine to feel the buzz. The first time he’d seen her like that had been when they were 15 at her parents’ Christmas party. Emmie had been too scared to sneak any of the free-flowing alcohol, so he’d sent her out into the backyard. He’d  then snagged his mom’s half-drunk but forgotten glass and shoved a can of beer into the gap between the base of his spine and his jeans for himself.

Emmie’s brother was only 7 at the time so her parents had left his playground set up. It came with all the bells and whistles but the best part was the tree-house like structure at the top of the slide. It had quickly become his and Emmie’s go-to when they wanted to escape anyone’s prying eyes.

He handed over the wine before maneuvering himself into the tight quarters. They ended up facing each other, legs entangled, shoulders pressed up against unrelenting wood. It hadn’t been long, though, before damp, hot lips found his throat as she settled herself into his lap.

“Babe,” he murmured into the quiet night, fingers burying themselves in her unruly red curls.

“Do you think it will always be like this?”

“What will always be like what,” he asked, unable to keep the smile from his voice.

“Us,” she murmured, her hands clutching at the loose fabric of his T-shirt. “The way we’re on fire.”

His smile slipped and he smoothed a palm over the curvature of her spine. A shiver ran through her even though it wasn’t cold and he wrapped his arms around her, cradling her body against his. “No.”

She let out a little mewl of distress at that and he tipped her head back. “Because it’s not the fire we’ll be left with, babe. It will just be us. And that’s so much fucking better.”

She grinned, and shifted so she was straddling him, her face tipped up to the full moon. She was gorgeous to him at any time of day, but here, on a crisp December evening, bathed in starlight. Well.

“We’ll never burn out, baby,” she said, and though she was talking to the sky, she took his hand and held it against the gentle swell of her chest, right above where her heart thrummed a racing beat.

He met her eyes and they were wild and he felt something in him give. For the first time in his sometimes shitty albeit mostly average life he’d believed in something.

It hadn’t been cold that night like it was tonight. Just a hint in the air, enough to threaten goosebumps but pleasant with even just a little bit of alcohol. Tonight, though, was freezing and he hadn’t been prepared. Milo went for another round with the handle of whiskey.

We’ll never burn out, baby. She’d promised him. She’d promised him that night and he’d fucking believed her. He’d let himself believe her even though he’d known.

Maybe she thought she’d kept her end of the bargain.

It certainly felt like fire whenever he was with her. Or it did and it didn’t. Sometimes his love for her was wild and raging and wanting and needing and fingers and mouths and promises of forever. And sometimes it was a quiet certainty tucked into the space beneath his clavicle. A rainy Sunday morning instead of a cliff dive. He kind of liked those times better.

But she didn’t. It wasn’t like that for her. On her dark days she pretended he wasn’t there. He’d crawl into bed with her under a soft, white comforter, against pale yellow sheets. He’d tried curling himself around her, to help shut out the world, but she wanted none of it. So he’d just lie there, muscles bunched as if in flight or flight, for hours. It wasn’t for her. It was something he’d had to do. For himself. Their love didn’t exist for her on those days.

She lived for the moments, though, that their love was a livewire. When she was climbing into his window at 2 a.m., shaking him awake and daring him to drive four hours to get to the diner that had the best pancakes in the state. It was then pulling to the side of the road to dance in a meadow full of flowers for him while Tom Petty blasted from the speakers of the car. It was hitching her legs around his waist in the middle of the school hallway as he stumbled into lockers with her tongue down his throat.

We’ll never burn out, baby. It was almost liked she’d taken it as a dare. A challenge.

He’d passed the fuzzy stage two gulps ago, and entered into the spinning stage. He set the bottle aside, and let his shoulders fall back onto the ground. It was an ice block and he didn’t feel it. God bless whiskey.

The constellations mocked him as they blurred and danced in the dark blanket of the sky.

“Do you think when someone dies they become a star?” Emmie had asked him one summer night, their limbs all entwined on a blanket, their toes digging into the soft, cool mud of the river bank.

“I think you’re a star,” he murmured, not caring. Not caring that he was sappy or embarrassing or easy for her. For this girl who said stuff like that.

She laughed. “I think maybe when we die, we return back, you know. So that people down here know we’re up there. How do you go on otherwise? Not being able to see the person you loved every night? It’s a comfort you know.” She nodded her head against his chest, one quick movement. “Yup. That’s what happens.”

His breath stuttered. “But then you only get to see them at night, babe.”

“But they’re always there, you know,” she said, pushing up to look at his face, her forearm against this chest, her eyes urgent and searching. “You can’t see them, but they’re there. And that–that knowing–well it will get you through the days. Until you can look up to the sky and see them again.”

He didn’t want to agree. He couldn’t. So he’d kissed her instead.

He blinked hard now, and the tears that had been at the corners of his eyes spilled onto his cheeks. He checked his watch. Two minutes and twenty seconds.

Two minutes and twenty seconds until midnight. Two minutes and twenty seconds until he was 18. Two minutes and twenty seconds until he’d leave Emmie behind. Forever. He watched the hand tick closer to the inevitability and didn’t even bother to swipe at the moisture that was, left unchecked, seeping into the collar of his shirt.

One minute 33 seconds.

Fifty-seven seconds.

16 seconds.

4 seconds.

When the hand slipped past the 12 he gasped, his lungs burning, clawing for air he hadn’t realized he’d been denying himself.

Once his body stopped shuddering in relief, he pushed to his feet. He looked to the sky instead of at the gravestone when he murmured, “Still burning bright for me, babe.”

____

And here’s June’s prompt — sorry about the bad UX. The prompt was “We’re not fine.” // “No, but if anyone asks, lie and tell them we are.”

Della and Christopher

“We’re not fine.” It was stating the obvious but Della didn’t care.

“No,” Christopher said, not taking his eyes off the road. “But if anyone asks, lie and tell them we are.”

As if that would be a problem. One, she doubted anyone would notice. After six years of marriage, her family had yet to witness them out of sorts. Not because they were never out of sorts. It was just that they were such good fucking actors no one ever noticed. Two, her sisters were so oblivious to problems beyond their own they wouldn’t ask her questions about her life if she showed up with a giant fucking tattoo on her forehead.

She loved them, but they were who they were.

The warmth from the sweet potatoes she’d bought from the store then dumped into one of her own serving dishes was seeping into her black leggings, and the heat was pleasant against her thigh. She concentrated on that feeling instead of the one that made her want to curl up in ball in her seat and stop breathing until the world went away.

Tara and Josh

“Have I said thank you enough?” Tara flipped down the passenger side visor of Josh’s sporty little coupe to check her make-up. She’d watched a Kim Kardashian contouring video last night and, considering it was her first attempt at it, it wasn’t too shabby. Or at least she didn’t look like a clown or a hooker like she’d feared could be the outcome.

“I told you I don’t want words,” Josh slid her a teasing grin. “Drinks are on you for the month, right?”

She had $17 in her bank account and she still couldn’t regret the promise. “Anything.”

He laughed but didn’t take the bait to flirt. They weren’t like that. “Is your family really that awful you need a fake date as a buffer?”

Yes. But that wasn’t true, really. They weren’t awful per se. Just nosy. Judgmental. Condescending. Lovingly, of course. They looked at her life, though, and saw $17 in her bank account, instead of the fan base she was slowly building at the gallery. They saw loneliness instead of independence. They saw a teenager who’d never grown out of her rebellious phase instead of a grown ass woman.

Well, Della did at least. Della and her perfect life and her perfect job and her perfect marriage.

She shrugged at Josh, a careless tip of the shoulder. “Don’t worry. It’s easier when you’re not related to them.”

Mallory

Mallory had long ago stopped bringing food to these things. The first time Della had wrinkled her pretty little patrician nose at Malloy’s attempt at roasted asparagus and almonds it had stung. The next year, when she’d conveniently forgotten to put out the pumpkin bread Mal had slaved over it felt like a little pinch at the fleshy part of her underarm. Not brutally painful, but annoying. Then in a truly amazing feat Del had slipped and dropped Mal’s mashed potatoes into the sink so that the garbage dispenser was the only one to get to try them. At that point she had no choice but to be amused by the lengths her sister would go to.

That’s when she started bringing wine.

The bottles clinked happily against each other in the green Trader Joe’s bag on the floor of her Honda when she took a left turn a little too hard.

At least this year Della wasn’t hosting. It was the only thing about their parents selling the house that she was grateful for.

Her phone buzzed in the cup holder and she chanced a glance. A text on their group thread. She fumbled for the cell without looking down from the road, and the buzzing continued even when she had it firmly in hand. Whatever they were saying wasn’t worth risking death over, though, so she waited until she pulled to a stop at a red.

Della:

Ladies — don’t forget Christopher and I are picking up the ham on the way to mom and dad’s … Mal did you remember the wine? Should we get some? 

We can get some.

Tara did you get the gift wrapped? Should we stop for wrapping paper. Let me know.

See you soon xx

Tara:

Relax Del. Present is wrapped and ready to go and they’re going to love it!!!

Can’t wait for you guys to meet Josh!!!

Mal typed in a quick “We’re set on wine,” before the light flipped back to green.

She gunned the engine and was eternally grateful she’d decided to get those two extra bottles.

***

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