Category Archives: Romance

Chromatic Labyrinth

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Piano-Wallpaper-music-24173621-1280-800Carlo, Prince and Count, imagined his wife in bed with another man. Not just any man, but his friend, the Duke of Andria.  Carlo noticed the Duke’s eyes always found the figure of Donna Maria more than pleasing. He noticed this look too often from the Duke, and he felt that the looks were too often returned . While Donna Maria protested her innocence, Carlo knew, in his heart, that she had already betrayed him…and would continue, this most vile of betrayals.

Unless…

These thoughts assailed Carlo as he pushed himself to compose. Music was his life-he knew that-but it, too, betrayed him.  His madrigals were politely received in court but ultimately…they were misunderstood by most and dismissed, mostly behind his back, but oh, how gossip reaches even the most closed off of ears!

He locked himself in his music room, the only living space he would occupy until he had finished this composition. Receiving food intermittently from his servant,  barely touching any of it, Carlo would not lie down to sleep, only dozing at his piano.  Nothing came out of his demand on the keys, tinkering, chords splitting into discordance instead of magnificence. Four days, and his mind wandered away from the task he set for himself.

Exhausted and light headed, it was on the latter part of the fourth day (although that was later told to him, as time had lost all meaning to him inside his cell) that the visions came. Donna Maria, nude, appeared to him. He stared across the room where she stood, and all his feelings for her rose to a grand level: lust, hatred, love, agony, pain, ecstasy…and rage. Word-paintings came to him. She sprawled, ever  so close, just beyond his reach. He used the keys of his instrument as knives, slashing down, sliding, pounding down until his fingers nails cracked and broke, leaving droplets of red on the ivory.

During all this, Donna Maria cavorted around the piano. She laughed in his face, touching herself, gliding across the room, behind him, leaping over or crawling under his piano. She would reach out to him, then pull away, her long black hair fanning out over the keyboard where he would try to grab a hold, only to have it whisked away. She twirled, and he played, and lost himself in his fury.

Every path he took drew him in deeper. He would sidle into a melody that would change, taking him in a new direction: most of them ending in a frustrating blockage, where he would only be able to retrace what he did, and go another way. And another. And another. Lost, in a place where meter and structure had no more sense, no meaning, and left him more desperate with each stroke of the keys.

Carlo was later told he unbarred the lock on his room and flung himself into the main foyer. Glassy eyed, he stalked past his ever waiting servant. Down the hall he  went, banging open the door to the armory, coming out with a saber in one hand and a gun in the other. The servant tried to talk to his master but was gutted, as witnessed by one of the maids who had come out to the main hall at the noise being made.

Cowering behind one of the marble columns, the maid heard her master rush up the stairs, a door bang open, and then another series of bangs as the gun went off, and screams from her mistress. She recounted that she heard sharp swishing noises, too many to count, her mistress’s cries loud and piercing, then fading, and then nothing.

Someone had summoned the constables, and the Sargent Major, known to all as a stable and strong man, could not report what he witnessed without feeling ill for quite awhile. Yes, he had seen battlefields, but the frenzy of the Count was like unto a butcher’s den. The Countess Donna Maria, and the Duke of Andria…

Carlo, Prince and Count, would stand trial for what he had done, but, in the end, he was freed. Money and ranking took care of that. He exiled himself from the city, trying to leave blood feuds and vendettas behind him. He withdrew more into his music, more into himself, and while he was lost in a complex labyrinth of creative madness, he composed.

And Donna Maria…she twirled around him for a very, very long time.

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The Flavor of your Reply

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Her kiss left traces of apples, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and sugars, both dark brown and white. That is what Avrum remembered most of their first kiss. He relished that nights’ memories, but it was the flavor that was transferred to his lips, his breath, that still penetrated deepest, remained clearest, that still brought a smile to him, both inside and out.

It was a short walk outside of her parent’s house, where they could still be viewed for propriety but still…private enough. He had been working up the courage all day to ask her to marry him, and it almost faltered when her father went off on one of his tirades, but looking in Sarah’s eyes reestablished his resolve.

The ground was crunchy with fallen golden and brown leaves. Sarah grasped the top of her coat, tugging on the scarf wound around her neck, when a northern wind whipped across the yard. He took her hand and rubbed it back and forth. She smiled and thanked him, glancing back quickly at the house to see if either of her parents were watching them. No one at the window, Sarah clasped his hands in hers tightly.

Avrum was on his knee proposing before he knew it. Tears welled up in Sarah’s eyes, a large smile and a nod, and she said “yes” without having to think. They kissed, then, in the yard, with the window drapes pulled back and eyes watching. All the mixtures of pleasure and happiness, of the meal they had just finished still on their lips, the future they would share…it was all there in that moment. Her reply was all he had hoped for, and he would relish it for as long as he lived.

Hand in hand, they walked back to her parents house, the front door already opening to welcome them in.

 

Imprint of a Bad Dream

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Three a.m., and Rachel woke suddenly, feeling as if an arm had withdrawn, a body, light,  pressed against her. Her heart pounding, Rachel turned away from the wall and searched the darkness. She should be alone, had been alone, for a long time now. No arms draped around her, no heat generating body snuggled in such a familiar way, no touch, no caress, nothing. Laying on her back, the clock light the only illumination in the room, the only sounds the passing of a car, then others…Rachel was aware of being the sole occupant in her bed.

Why, then, did she still feel like she’s still being held?

Tossing and turning, the night crawls by. Her pulse rate takes its time in returning to a relative state of normal, chest finally relaxing where she no longer feels like her rib cage would expand to bursting. Sleep comes, but is interrupted often by a quick wake up, startled, flipping over, wrapping her sheet around her, kicking off the blanket, putting the blanket back on. Three and a half hours pass this way.

Rachel slams the alarm button, and the clattering noise stops and leaves her hearing her own ragged, panting breath. The left eye hurts, the right one not much better. She rubs them with the palms of her hands, and they tear when she blinks them open again. Massaging her temples, Rachel puts her feet in her slippers and gets up off the bed. It takes a second to balance herself.

Her morning rituals go without a hitch. Rachel is on auto-pilot, showering, dressing and completing all her needs in the correct order, as she’s done for so many years, and while this stabilizes her, at the back of her mind she can not get over the feeling of the arm, the hand, the fingers splayed upon her back. “A dream” she says to herself. “A nightmare.” Shrugging it off, Rachel leaves to, as she sees it, truly begin her day.

It is one disaster after another. Stress piled on top of anxiety on top of belittlement, with a dash of confusion, worry and angst blended in to the mix. The car that cuts her off; the boss reaming her out; the phone call not returned; the splatter of grease from her lunch on her suit; the call that interrupts; her mother; the co-worker; the bill that she thought she paid; the smile not returned; the feeling that she still has not shaken off the nightmare grope, what it meant, why it still is touching her.

She feels as if she carries around an imprint of the appendage from the night, that it is affecting her day by rippling out to those around her. Rachel sees a grasping, a clutching that cuts off anything from running smoothly, the same old same old to the unexpected. It tightens and pulls, runs strangle holds over thought processes, thumps speeds bumps into her path. She was physically exhausted from lack of sleep already; Rachel felt, by end of her work day, completely beaten up, drained of energy, worn out, worthless.

Her briefcase, shoes, stained suit, shirt, stockings, bra and panties are scattered from the front door of her apartment to the bathroom. That was not like the normal Rachel, the put together Rachel, the almost OCD Rachel, the orderly, neat and clean obsessed Rachel. That Rachel had a phantom arm around her throat, constricting her every movement.

The shower head pumps out steaming hot water, the mirror fogs up in seconds. Soon her white skin is pink, turning to red, and it gets to the point where she almost screams that she feels the limb dissolve, melting away in the heat, running down the drain with the too hot water. Rachel presses herself against the tiles, cold on her back, fiery blast assaulting her front. Closing her eyes, she stands there until the pain finally reaches her, and she stumbles to turn off the left faucet, letting icy water race down her torso, genitalia  and legs.

Eleven p.m., and Rachel has finally made her way to her bed. Before this it was  mindless TV watching on the couch, huddled in her pj’s and terry cloth robe, nursing a beer along the way while she downed a few shots of Tequila. Her normal to bed time went by an hour ago, and she knew she could not put it off any longer. Two days of little to no sleep would do her no good, nor would two days in a row of being batted around by others, and herself.

Lying on her back, eyes wide open, Rachel checked the darkness, looking for any sign of movement. Nothing. She closed her eyes, re-shifted, opened her eyes, tried to focus, closed them, shifted again, and again, pulled the top sheet and cover up to her neck, swaddled her feet, curved into a semi fetal position, and finally…finally….finally…

Three a.m., and it was more careful this time, not wanting to wake her, to distress her, to cause her any pain. It floated its caress around her,  a diaphanous embrace of the night.

Leda and the Swan: National Flash Fiction Day

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Man Ray: Leda and the Swan

A swan walks into a bar…

No, not really.

A God walks into a bar…actually, the once King of the Gods…well, Greek Gods…and not King for a pretty long time…

…and it’s not really a bar, per se, but the bar in a disco, The Metamorphoses.

He’s not really Zeus anymore, either,  having given up that name for quite a while.  Too many just don’t believe in him and his anymore.

Zeus took flight and has  lived a long time as Mr. Swan.

So…A Swan does walks into a bar…

Mr. Swan saunters to the Metamorphoses bar and his burps dissolve into the loud music; his gastrointestinal expulsion is showing  his appreciation of a fine meal. He had just come  from the Olympus Diner, where he had:  an appetizer of Spanokopita; a generous helping of Lamb Souvlaki with rice; and he followed all that by two large slices of Baklava, dripping with extra honey (the waitress was enthralled, naturally, without knowing why). His stomach was happy, well sated. But…the diner had no liquor license (he’ll fix that in the morning). Swan wanted to get drunk…and he was looking for a little bit more pleasure.

The dancers were staying alive on the multicolored lit floor, the pulsating music swarming around the enclosed room. He scooped up a double Ouzo the bartender (a lithe blonde he intended to revisit) had set down, snorted a line of coke that was offered to him, and settled in. Swan scoped the place out, dazzled by the gyrating young flesh moving to a beat that stirred him in a number of ways. Sipping his drink, a smile playing around the rim of the glass, Swan found what he was looking for.

His eyes locked on a tableau: she was tall, curvy, long legged and teased out brunette hair. She had stylish (“for this age”, he thought) earrings, was not chewing gum, and best of all…she was alone. Downing his Ouzo and taking the replacement glass that was immediately in front of him, Swan boogied on down the steps of the bar/lounge area, across the dance floor, and up to his prey’s high top.

Chatting her up wasn’t all that hard, music blaring or not. Her name was Leda, she was a Broadway wannabe, and just had a fight with her boyfriend, Ty. She came with her girlfriends to let off some steam, and why was she telling him this and more, but Leda could not stop, nor could she refuse the copious amounts of Ouzo that Swan ordered for her. They talked, she laughed, he flirted, and they took it all to the dance floor.

If you ask anyone who was there at the Metamorphoses that night, no two stories would be the same, except for one thing: that night was magic. Everyone spilled out onto the dance floor, hours upon hours of drinking and drugging and sweating and laughing, taking things to an extreme that had never been experienced before.

And sex. There was a lot of sex that night.

Leda found herself with Swan in a ladies room stall. She wasn’t the only one that evening, but she was his main event.

Mr. Swan walked out in the early hours of the next morning bedraggled but beaming. He kept the music alive in his head and an arm around the blonde bartender, heading back to the Olympus Diner for some eggs, disco fries, ambrosia,  and the still enthralled waitress (her shift was over when she paid for his bill). The three of them had a fun morning.

Leda found Ty sitting in front of her apartment door. He as ten times ten apologetic, taking all the blame and asking her not only to take him back, but to marry him. He was an idiot, he admitted, and…and…and…

Leda said yes later that afternoon, after the two of them got out of bed and got dressed. They went for lunch at the diner (missing Zeus..um…Swan drop off the waitress by minutes) then got in his car and eloped,  driving to New England.

Nine months later, they had twin girls: Poly and Helen. Leda never questioned, Ty never knew, and the both of them loved to love their babies.

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From the UK comes the first ever Flash Fiction Day (National should become International, but that’s for another time).

What is Flash Fiction? Well, you can read about it HERE or HERE or even HERE.

My working definition: It’s a very short piece of work, not normally considered a short story (which usually has word counts under 7,500 words). Flash is basically considered anything from a few words to one thousand (give or take). It cuts out meandering sentences, extra words, and run on sentences, as you, as the writer, are forced to focus on being as concise as you possibly can. Unlike this explanation. 🙂

Most of what I write here on Tale Spinning has been Flash Fiction (without my announcing or championing it). I really discovered what FF is thanks to Lisa Vooght, author of the aptly named blog, Flash Fiction. She’s also the one who let me on that there was a National Flash Fiction Day. There are many others out there, and it’s been a pleasure finding them, bit by bit. Might be a blog post just on other FF blogs to find, but again…that is for another time.

You have 16 more days to read my Swan Rise series before it comes down on June 1st. Click HERE for all the links to the 26 stories. (and no…this story is not part of Swan Rise).

A to Z: The Complete Swan Rise Series

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Open House: Trespassers Welcome

Swan Rise Apartments went out like an exploding lamb; it came in like a sleeping lion… but the building, and its inhabitants, did not always remain so. They lived lives that were hungry, playful, sleepy, lusty, fearful, agitated and on the prowl; they reared their young, and did what they needed to survive in this vertical village.

Welcome to… Swan Rise Apartments

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…and so, the story unfolds. 26 interlocking stories set in the world of Swan Rise Apartments, all written for the A to Z Challenge that ran throughout April 2012.

You’ll find links to all the stories below; each one stands alone, but many have roots and connections in other chapters.  As a whole, it tells a story of the lives that swirl around apartment building life.

Each Sunday, I’ll re-post these links in case you missed any and for your ease in finding them.

The stories will remain up only for the month of May. As of June 1st, I will be taking all of the stories down from Tale Spinning so I can work on a larger second draft of the work. Some of the earlier pieces need fleshing out, and discoveries I made along the way need their roots dug deeply in the beginnings.

May 30th will be your last chance to read, and comment, on these stories. Hopefully, you’ll eventually hold an expanded version in your hands.

Comments are always welcome no matter when you read the story.

Week #1: A to G

All, Tumbling Down

Basement Boogie

Children in the Hall

Doggie Doings

Equivocation Elite

Fire(escape)

Ground, Breaking

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Week #2: H to M

Holidays, Haunts and Hearts

Imaginings of Love

Jung, @Heart

Kindred Spheres

Laundry Room Mafia

Mrs. Beatty

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Week #3: N to S

Not What They Seem

One Man’s Ceiling…

Pollination in the Parking Lot

Quack, Quack

Retraction of Gravity

Super, My Super

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Week #4: T to Z

Thieving Ways

Underneath It All

Vertically Challenged

Weather Man, Oh

Xanthippe

Yeah…Life Goes On…

Zenith: Arising

Impressions of Perfect Fifths

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Marc Chagall

His hands played along the surface of the violin, tracing the patterns worn into the wood. Slight depressions,  imprintings of someone’s fingering, their palm, chin, sweat. Empty of catgut, Avram, the luthier, caressed and stroked the violin that was given unto his care for restoration. He closed his eyes, held the violin to his nose, and breathed in its history.

The drawing of the horsehair bow that had slid along the strings left intermittent grooves in the wood. They showed where a well loved piece was played,  how the violinist drew against the grain of the violin itself. Clumsy or a style, it was all the same to Avram: this was a well loved instrument, that was apparent, and it would become one again.

He noticed the nicks, the dimples in the varnish, the grain of the wood, the stains not readily perceived, but there. There was a very slight crack near the base of the right F-hole, the chinrest needing to be replaced, a refastening of the tailpiece and scroll. Sitting on his wooden stool, Avram kept the violin out of direct sunlight, a strain for his eyes but a blessing for the instrument.

The tuning pegs were worn down, without sheen. Avram could tell that the strings had been replaced, often, their lifespan given to the music: either no longer playing true, losing the desired tone, or snapping in the frenzy of the player.  That did not matter to Avram. He would eventually make a new marriage, adding the G first, then the D, followed by the A and E. He would attach them at the base, up the bridge, along the neck and finally connect them all to the pegbox. All would then be tuned, in harmony, restored.

This though, was still a ways to come. All in due time…

Eventually, time for music to be lifted out and carried, vibrating its musical message to others. Time for this violin to find new hands, a new lover, to be held towards and against the player, to communicate and be in tune once again.

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Author’s Note:

I was given a newspaper article by my SO about Violins of Hope, a project of restored violins that had a history of pain: they came from musicians who “experienced” the horrors of the Holocaust. There was a concert in Charlotte, NC in April 2012. The violins are now back in Israel.

This immediately got my writing gears in motion: I have plotted out titles of chapters, an outline, for what I will be working on next. I plan to get a first draft done of all this while it is still “hot” for me; then, in June, I’ll put this aside and start working on the second draft of the Swan Rise stories.

This was just to whet your whistle. I will NOT be posting any of my Violin stories on Tale Spinning after this: I want it to be marketable for an agent/publisher, if worthy. I WILL be looking for readers along the way, to form a small core group, maybe our own writers group, so if you’re interested, please EMAIL me (please don’t post it here: my email can be located on the right sidebar).

As to Tale Spinning: I’ll be dropping some pieces here and there throughout May, as the story comes to me or I find a fun prompt that inspires. Please check out my backlog of past pieces; there is a lot here, and if you’re new, well…then they’ll be new to you as well.

Remember: comments are always welcome.

Zenith: Arising (#AtoZChallenge)

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The A to Z Challenge : 26 Stories during the month of April

Welcome to… The Apartment Building: Swan Rise

(For Links to ALL the previous stories, CLICK HERE

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Goodbye…

The wrecking ball wrecked, the explosives exploded, and all the debris was carted away. Stone, bricks, glass, wood, metal piping, aluminum, copper, brass, steel, plastics, rubber hoses, cables and…among the detritus there were also bits and pieces of lives mixed in: slivers of dolls and toys; charred papers that once were whole books,  someone’s thesis or love letters, wills, documents, pictures; cloth that, in some pieces, you could see patterns that illuminated a sun dress or once expensive curtains; some bones, those of the pets that were never found. So much life mired in destruction.

Swan Rise Apartments was no more; really, it hadn’t been for months. The property was condemned: the damage from the explosion and fires were too great. Part of the foundation was in shambles. Inferior piping was found to run through the remaining section of the building, and some of the landings were precarious in any hope of their holding up. The majority of the building inhabitants were not allowed to retrieve their belongings. They all settled, out of court.

Swan Rise fell in November of 2005.

That winter was fierce, and building anything was held off for months as ice storms and heavy snows blanketed the area. There was also litigation for wrongful deaths, finger pointing, bribes not paid, fines not paid, union disputes, haggling over bids, and planning…lots of planning. The real estate was too valuable to leave an empty lot.

Construction began in the early fall of 2006.

The wild life that floated up and down Swan River ignored all the doings. They lived too far away to be inconvenienced beyond the initial blasts. They’d fly over for the morsels that were tossed from workers meals, carelessly done so in the already made squalor. The birds let their presence be known in a number of different ways, many times being cursed out by a construction worker who was “hit.”

For close to two years the area morphed from gravel, dirt, weeds, and the past into a new edifice of metal, concrete and glass. Swan River Road was bustling with traffic, the sprouting of other buildings and businesses growing substantially from 1960. New construction always brought gawkers around, rubberneckers ogled the cranes bringing girders to be placed, and the welding and gluing and mortaring and tarring  brought things to a standstill all too often, much to the chagrin of the other inhabited area.

2008, and a new renamed building was erected, zoned for two extra floors, standing seven stories tall. Taking far longer than anticipated, the building management was chomping at the bit for all the lost revenue. They made it a condo, and had nice down-payments in the bank for all of the apartments by the time the construction was complete. There was a waiting list, and would continue to be one in the years ahead.

The tenants of Mallards Crossing Condominium moved into their new residences.

Hello…

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Author’s Note:

April 2012 comes to a close and this year’s AtoZ Challenge with it. 26 posts about Swan Rise Apartments and its residents. 24 stories; two poems (one free form; one sonnet).

If you were wondering, I wrote 18,032 words during the month; if you add in The Whistler is Dead, it is 18,493 words in length. Not too shabby.

Please note that these stories will be left up only through May 2012.

I will then take them offline as of June 1st, as I plan to put this whole thing through an editors pen and a second “draft.”Quite a lot of the early ones need some fleshing out, especially the two poem posts, so I hope  to bring it over 25,000 words; more, if I get really ambitious.

From there, it will be query letter time.  If an agent or publisher only sees this as tainted goods (already published) then I WILL go the self publishing route, but there will be a lot that was never intended for the AtoZ that I had in mind and little to no time to write. The reaction on the comments and in emails has been so positive that I’d be silly to let this just lie here solely on a blog.

Thank you to all of my readers. You’ve been my “beta” testers, my writing cohort, as I’ve explored this story as you have: day by day. I made many discoveries along the way, and very few of the original titles I “planned” out remained. I never knew there was a murder in the building until I wrote it into one of the stories, a throw-away line that had a life unto itself. Mrs. Beatty was only a small dot to me when I wrote the first story: she became a loved character to many of you (and me as well). So many others in the building took on more weight (Amy came out of nowhere, and I’m glad she did), and a few will get some expansions when I work on this over the summer months.

A big Thank You goes to Lisa Vooght for being my sounding board, playing editor and  finding some of my outright mistakes, and for all of her support. She is an amazing writer in her own right and you should check out her creative fiction blog, Flash Fiction.

I also want to thank Arlee Bird (founder of the blog fest: click on the logo heading this blog post to go to their site) and his co-hosts for running this and giving over 1500 bloggers a chance to spread their wings (and go a little crazy in the process).

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series of interwoven tales. This was both tiring and exciting for me as a writer.

Comments are always welcome, no matter when you read the stories.

Did you have a favorite of the 26? I’d like to know which one(s) were for you and why.

That’s always a big help and a blessing for a writer: feedback.

Thanks all!!!

Stuart

Yeah…Life Goes On… (#AtoZChallenge)

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Welcome to the A to Z Challenge : 26 Stories during the month of April

Welcome to… The Apartment Building: Swan Rise

(For Links to the previous stories, CLICK HERE

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So…

Taking its last breath, Swan Rise Apartments released its denizens. A forty-five year microcosm of life, crawling through the hallways into apartments and behind closed doors. Unfettered, except by memories and, for some, scars mental or physical, the inhabitants moved on.

Life happens after death.

Dragana’s claws were sharpened after she dealt with what she had done. She rode Andres unmercifully, constantly deriding, belittling, and scorning him. He payed, with interest that would never stop accruing, for his infidelity (she could never prove there were more, but she knew…she knew). He had to beg for any intimacy, and it was given only when Dragana wanted it more than he did.

Andres was investigated for negligence. Cynthia, Mrs. Beatty’s daughter, told anyone who would listen that her mother had called about the gas smell. She was there when the call was made, so “…yes, it was heard first hand!” Nothing ever came of it for him: the building management insurance paid for damages and a suit went on for years for negligent homicide. That is still in the court system. Andres was fired, in more ways than one. He and Dragana went upstate where he worked in maintenance, sans cigar chomping, sans kingdom.

Katie, Amy’s mother had fallen in love and remarried by the time Amy graduated from college. She missed her daughter fiercely, as Amy remained in Boston. Amy would contact her on Skype and text often, and while Katie felt they saw each other in person too infrequently, she realized they found a strong bond. They stayed in the area due to the jobs she and her husband had, but she planned to bring up moving to New England once they finally retired.

The Weather Man got older, as did his wife, and they both moved into the basement apartment of a two family home in the same neighborhood. He continued to wander the streets, often stopping near where Swan Rise was, and stare at the car accidents or up at the stars on clear nights. One early winter night he did not come home. He was found on a bench in the playground down the road, reclining, eyes open and staring to the heavens.

Frank had been starting to go out on dates in the last year of the building, joining numerous online dating sites. Most of them were no more than first dates, but he was starting to get the hang of it when the building went to pieces. He moved closer to work, still a studio apartment, but this time the woman he saw that attracted him…he talked to her, in that building’s laundry room. Telling the story of the demise of Swan Rise, folding clothes and embellishing some facts, Judy laughed at appropriate moments, listened attentively, commiserated, and smiled with Frank. They went out for coffee and began seriously dating less than a month later. They now have a very active two year old (William) and are expecting in the Fall.

The Laundry Room Mafia was dispersed. Their power base destroyed with the rest, they went fleeing to different parts of the country. Oldest children found themselves sharing their lives again with a parent. Ida and Bella stayed with theirs, while Helen and Evelyn soon went into elder living communities. Dotty, their Capo, was never the same after the destruction. The devastation was more thorough for her: all of her belongings, all of her cherished keepsakes, her photo albums, all of her hoarded life’s items were gone, and Dorothy did not handle it well at all. She went from assisted living to a nursing home in a very short time. Her daughter was on her way to visit her, the first time in two months, when Dotty passed away.

Marc and Sean remained married. They were horrified and tragically upset at the news of Mrs. Beatty’s death, and they attended the wake and ceremony service. “The Boys” became rocks of support for Cynthia during the ordeal. They soon became friends, and grew to treat each other like family Every Christmas was spent together, Marc and Sean welcoming Cynthia as they did her mother.

Bob and Beth Fields, after his heart attack recovery, continued to celebrate the holidays. They moved near their son and his family, and every occasion was a special treat. Susie and Vicky, their grandchildren, learned how to have fun from Bob. Grandma Beth had the “Stern Eye!” but she was a lot of fun too, just more when it was just the three of them. Bob slept best when he and Beth held hands.

The “prostitute in the parking lot” saw the whole thing from her apartment window in the building across the way. She had been sitting having a cup of coffee and just looking out. Her husband was out of town, again, and missed the whole thing. Running into the bedroom to throw on some clothes, she pushed her upstairs neighbor to get dressed and out. She found his underwear under her top sheet later and laughed uncontrollably.

James Davis had lost a lot in the building: his parents and his dog had died in years past, and his marriage ended here. He was glad to pack up what he could (his apartment was on the other side and only got some smoke damage) and he moved to be closer to his sister and his niece, Sara. He was a good uncle, and he too found a life mate after leaving. Sara’s teacher fell in love with him the times they intermingled when he would drop her off or pick her up at school. Sara was embarrassed, but the next year it didn’t matter to call her Aunt Annie.

Seth told his father about what happened to Swan Rise. Lev listened, but didn’t know what Swan Rise was or why the young man in front of him was bothering him. Lev was looking for his wife, although he could not for the life of him remember her name, and this was upsetting him. The young man was patting his hand, telling him to calm down. Lev started to yell, then cry. He found himself being held by his son, and he didn’t know why.

Merry got married and moved out just before the explosion. She moved into his apartment in the city, where they lived together for four years before getting a divorce. Some time passed, Meridith began dating again and two years later got engaged again. She eventually got another dog, who she loved very much and the dog loved her back.

Patty was Patty, and she wound up ruling the next building she moved into. She had a couple of affairs over the years, and got older, and had plastic surgery, and had more plastic surgery, and dyed her hair, and had tummy tucks, and she lived a long plastic life in a plastic world of her own making.

Amy stayed in Boston. Her music was really her life, in school and with the band she founded, The Swans. She sang, played the drums, composed most of the songs they ripped through, and eventually got a small label to work with them. Amy found time to graduate and to fall in love. She married a year after her mom did and got accepted into a music Graduate/Doctorial program soon after that.  Amy took her time: in her second year of grad work she became preggers (as she like to say), and months into the process, when she was really showing, her daughter (they knew it was a girl!) was swirling around, arms and feet and elbows and knees making a syncopated beat on her mom’s swollen belly. Like mother, like daughter, like mother…Amy was happy.

…and in the evening she’s a singer with the band.

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Vertically Challenged (AtoZ Challenge)

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Welcome to the A to Z Challenge : 26 Stories during the month of April

Welcome to… The Apartment Building: Swan Rise

(For Links to the previous stories, CLICK HERE

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Amy slipped the lock then snuck out onto the roof. One A.M., and she was still flying. Three acceptance letters in one day, with her prime choice school the last one she opened but the one she wanted most. She wedged a book she hated (“War and Peace”) between the door and jamb so she wouldn’t get locked on the roof. Then she wrestled the door stop cinder block onto the mostly closed door to prevent anyone opening it easily. She wanted some alone time, just her and the night sky, with whatever stars and moonlight that would shine through on this cloudy but warm evening.

Amy unfurled the quilt she brought with her, took off her sandals and knapsack, and stood in the middle of the blanket her grandmother made for her, a long time ago.

“Boston..Here I Come!” she shouted, in a very thrilled hushed voice. It was 1:00 a.m., after all, and she wanted no intrusions as she celebrated. Getting into the school she dreamed about was a chance for freedom, both musically and personally. While things had definitely gotten better with her mother, Amy still wanted to just be away. Needed to just be away.

Laying down on the comforter, she folded her hands behind her head and stared at the night sky. She quieted herself down, listening to the thumps of her excited heartbeat, and tried to match the rhythms with her breaths. Clouds passed her by, and the Earth turned, shifting the placements of the stars above. Sighing, Amy lifted herself up on her elbows, pulled over her knapsack, and took out the bottle of wine she “liberated” from her mom’s stash.

Uncorking was a struggle that caused her to giggle, and grunt a bit in the effort as well. The cork popped out and Amy told it to “shhhhhhh,” giggling as she took a swig from the opened red. It felt good going down, and while this was only the third wine she’d ever had, she deemed it “The Best Ever!”

It was half empty when she decided to take off her clothes and Moon Bathe. She’d never done anything like this before, and…well, “Why not?” she thought.  She was laughing, shushing herself as she removed her shorts and tee shirt, and then  got really quiet when, resolve at hand (well, the bottle had been in hand up to this point; she gently put it down), she undid her bra and then took off her panties. She covered her breasts with her right arm and covered “down there” with her left hand and then looked around to see if anyone could see her. This caused her to get a fit of the giggles that she had a hard time stopping.

Plopping down on the quilt, hurting her tush in the process, Amy buried her head in her raised knees until she both stopped the giggling and calmed down from the slight anxiety she felt. Resting her turned head in such a way, she got a glimpse of night, and it relaxed her, and her breathing returned to normal, and the beating of her heart was an accompaniment she was used to.

Amy stretched out, wading the knapsack up and using it as a pillow, and felt at peace…and a little bit naughty. She finished the wine in spurts, and as the hour drifted along, and then passed on towards three, Amy redressed slowly, her striptease now in reverse. Clothed, Amy again laid down, fluffed out the makeshift pillow, and closed her eyes.

Sleep came to her as her eyelashes met,  a kiss good night, pleasant dreams, pleasant future to come.

Unbeknownst to Amy, at 1:00 A.M. at Swan Rise Apartments…

Lev was on his terrace, eye glued to this telescope, searching the heavens, but not remembering who he was searching for…

Frank was looking out his window, apartment lights off, watching Meredith being kissed and held tightly by a man…

Doris, woozy, was trying to ward off her attacker, and fell when she was struck in the head by her own Buddha…

Marc was in bed, staring out the bedroom windows at the moon, a hand on Sean’s stomach as he snored….

Mrs. Beatty was dreaming of David, her beloved, and called out his name three times…

…and, if she had really looked, Amy would have seen The Weather Man sitting on the roof by the fire escape, his back to the wall, facing away from her, with his head tilted up to the same night views. If he had turned around, he would have seen Amy, but he did not when she arrived; he did not when she undressed, nor when she dressed, nor while she slept. The Weather Man just sat, head raised to the skies…

He was looking for a sign.

Retraction of Gravity (#AtoZChallenge)

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Welcome to the A to Z Challenge : 26 Stories during the month of April

Welcome to… The Apartment Building: Swan Rise

(For Links to the previous stories, CLICK HERE)

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The inhabitants of Swan Rise Apartments carried the weight of their lives with them. Some  soared in moments of true elation, ecstasy, flights of fancy, but otherwise they were grounded through the daily realities. Others rarely ever rose above a situation. They’d trod through the days, milling around and about and passing by all the other tenants. The building was a center of gravity, keeping them in place from 1960 to 2005.

No…not all of them.

As the children grew, their universe expanded. As it expanded, they moved faster and faster away, seeking to fly off on their own and leave the parental orbit they’ve circled around. Eventually they acquired their own gravity force and rarely returned; too many seemed to have anti-gravity packs on them, with a time limit attached that says “Stay and hold back on  your life,  or move on.”

Then there are the divorces, those that stay after the dissolution of vows, those that leave. How many hearts can be broken in forty-five years? Until an explosion sent all the residents adrift in space, many homes lost their centers, the things that brought them together, holding them in place. Their collective dissolved, and the energy used to keep them in place was exhausted.

A growing number seemed to just be passing by. They settled for a short stay and left little to no trace of their moving on. This happened more and more as the years passed; the attraction and hold of the building fading, flinging out the new, holding onto the old.

Many did grow old in Swan Rise. Many left in the way most don’t like to talk about.

The dead…

So many, as the years passed by; tiny notices by the mail boxes, relating in only a few words the release of another from the grounds. With the eventual removal of that paper on the wall, the last tie was severed for many. When the Whistler died, and then soon after his wife, there was a hollow wind passing through the ground floor that many felt. Others were more fleeting. The one murder in the building held for a long time through the whispers, fears, and for one, relief.

Gone, the husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, grandparent, a number who lived a life alone, pets…so many pets. All those no longer earth bound.

Miraculously, no child died in the living history of Swan Rise. That grief was spared, until the explosion.

The foundation kept the building secure in place; the bricks, wood, plaster, glass, metals, ceramics gave it heft to hug the world it became for the many. Carpets and flooring were laid, furnishings and decor placed, and residents made their apartment a home. It had a mass that attracted them, mutually intense.

The building kept its own gravity, until parts of it were hurled away in a horrible blast and brought down to Earth by a greater force.