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Third Date

Third Date


It feels like Paris. It’s dark out, but there’s too many lights from the city to actually comprehend that there could ever be night. The candle is burning low in some scent of linen that makes me think of clouds. 

He has some cute little music playing. It’s French, of course. He told me that he’d learned some famous cuisines from his trip in France, and he wanted to try them out on me. I’ve never had a man cook for me. 

He dances around to the cute little “Suis-moi,” and I tap my feet. Is he singing? I start to laugh, and he glances back at me and grins.  

When I first met Adam, I never imagined that such a goofy character could be as brilliant as the nation’s top neurosurgeon. He’d run into me while walking sideways to keep one eye on one of the city’s monuments. It wouldn’t have been so bad, except I had been honored with the task of gathering coffee for my coworkers that morning.  

My first thoughts of this person clumsily slamming into me were not very kind. He had apologized at least twelve times and attempted to help me pick of the remains of four americanos and two frappes. He probably would have gone further had I not stomped away. 

Well, this wasn’t the last I’d see of old Adam. He showed back up at my work on my floor carrying all of the coffee I had dropped. Of course, it wasn’t the way they were supposed to be ordered, but how was he supposed to know? 

He later told me that he’d found me by asking the man at the front desk which floor the angry looking woman had headed to. All of my girlfriends were quite impressed, not only with his smart, photographer looking smile, but also his initiative to follow me. He obviously wasn’t a city dweller, and I had always told myself that I would never marry a city man. 

“Do you like brussels sprouts?” 

“Yeah,” I laugh nervously. 

“Magnifique,” he says with a grin. I smell the green little “healthy foods” start to steam, and it’s mixed with olive oil and pepper. The other spices waft in circles over our heads, drowning out the candles, and I close my eyes and tug my librarian sweater tighter around my shoulders. Though steam is supposed to be warm, I feel these cold chills traveling down my arms. 

After Adam delivered the coffee, he told me that he absolutely was not going to leave until I agreed to let him make it up to me by taking me out. The guys at the office sneered at his corny behavior, while the girls all swooned, but I honestly wasn’t used to being asked out.  

I had recently lost ten pounds but was still seen as the “fat girl” of the workplace, so I was so much at a loss that I just grinned and handed him my number. He said something in French, bowed and winked at me as he left. They entire workplace erupted in laughter and chatter. This was the most exciting thing that had happened in a while, and I was filled with both butterflies and dread. 

“Le petit…” I heard Adam murmur, and the smoke from the chicken moved over to the table. I could practically taste it. It reminded me of where I had agreed to meet him for our first date. Downtown Diner. I had never been to a diner, and much to my horror, it wasn’t exactly a diet friendly place. When Adam showed up, with his huge smile, librarian glasses, and thick peppered hair combed across his forehead in loose waves, I couldn’t help but think of how he was very attractive. 

“Hey Anna, do you know where this song is from?” He calls out.  

“Um, no. Where?” 

He flashes me his signature grin. “Have you ever read ‘The Little Prince?'” 

“No?” 

He walks over, half skipping to the bouncy music. He sits across from me and blows out the candle. 

“Ugh, I didn’t have anything but a scented candle, and I figured it would be fine with my cooking. But it smells a lot better than I thought it would. It actually smells good. Like an actual meal. Don’t ya think?” 

“Yeah,” I laugh. I want to ask him why he has a scented candle. 

“Well, after we eat, we’re going to watch that movie. Don’t worry,” he smirks. “I won’t trouble you by showing the French version.” 

“I appreciate that.” 

He laughs, like even being a little flirty was too much for his personality. He’s always just so happy, and I have no idea how. I always want to ask him. 

He went through the trouble of asking me everything that I liked to eat when he saw that I was having trouble with the menu at the diner. I tried to act annoyed, but Adam never catches these things. Either that, or he doesn’t care. Just like when I spilled the coffee everywhere. I kept growling that it was fine, but Adam kept persisting that it wasn’t.  

On our date at the diner, I finally decided that I wasn’t going to be one of those girls and just let him order whatever for me. It ended up being really good, but the conversation was even better. 

“Oh my gosh, Anna! This chicken looks so good!” 

“Better than the first time you cooked it?” 

“I’ve never cooked it before!” He laughs. 

Adam is an expert in just about everything that he does. By the end of our first date, he figured out that I wasn’t exactly a very outgoing person, but he got me talking enough to know that I’d had past relationship problems… as in, I’ve never actually dated. I blame my confidence problems. The closest that I ever came to a date was with Brad – the popular linebacker from high school – who tried to woo me on a dare because he just assumed that I was a virgin, as one of my dear friends took the trouble of finding out for me. 

Shudders go up my arm, and I smell the rolls in the oven, mixed with the spices and the chicken. The combination sounds disgusting, but it’s actually so delicious smelling that I can almost block out all of my horrible memories. Adam takes the rolls out and sets them on the table. 

Ah, bread. My old friend. Immediately upon discovering the “Brad Plan” – as we later came to call it – I want to the bathroom and threw up everything I’d had for breakfast. My eating disorder did not result in my starving myself. It was one of the other kinds. The “Brad Plan” also resulted in a horrifying introverted, goth phase.  

And I explained all of this to Adam.  

On our first date.  

As my excuse for not being able to talk very well. 

After realizing everything that had spilled out of my mouth, I was mortified. And he looked mortified, too. As my insides wrung themselves dry, and I could feel the chocolate waffles traveling back up my stomach, Adam started to laugh. He told me that he thought Brad was a total jerk and hoped that he had a horrible life now. Then, to beat it all, Adam told me that Brad was a bland, uninteresting name. 

“Hey Adam, do you have this song on repeat, or something?” 

“I sure do! It’s really great. The only other song in the playlist that has words is really sad, and you can tell it’s depressing even without knowing what it’s saying.” 

“I hope this movie isn’t sad.” 

“Oh, you will probably cry.” 

“Cry?” 

“Yeah, probably.” He smiles sheepishly and shrugs. “But it is one of those things that make you the better for it at the end. I mean, I cried.” 

Precious Adam. I was honestly shocked when he asked me for a second date. I had thought that the first one was a disaster. I agreed, though I tried not to sound too enthusiastic. And I later regretted not showing more emotion because, what if I had acted too uninterested? Adam is very handsome, a dorky sort of handsome, but better looking than me Thankfully, he didn’t seem to notice how much I paled in comparison. 

He had decided to play it a little safer. By taking me to a drive in movie. I’ll be honest, I was not thrilled at watching some old movie outside amidst the bugs and damp air, but I’m a boring person. I didn’t want him to know that, so I agreed, just praying that I would have a better time than what I was expecting. 

A whiff of salad dressing joins the combination. 

“Adam, are you making a salad?” 

“Yeah.” 

“With the chicken and the bread and the brussel sprouts?” 

“This is a four course meal!” Adam laughs. “That’s how they do it over there. Dinner is a huge deal. It’s more of a feast,” he adds, raising an eyebrow at me. 

Our second date turned out to be one of the most fun times I’ve ever had. It was a silent film, and it was interesting seeing how humor back then is so different from comedy now.  

Once again, Adam had somehow gotten me talking. I explained to him that I worked out regularly. It was a decision that I’d made in my third year of college because I wanted to clean myself up and show all my high school peers just how beautiful I could be, though I knew in the back of my mind that they would never notice. They’d probably already forgotten who I even was. Fortunately, I refrained from sharing this tidbit of information.  

He told me that he wasn’t much of a gym guy, and he preferred hiking, boating, and basically anything that could easily become an adventure. I was honestly terrified because we’re so different. I didn’t want to lose him. 

It was also on this date, only a week ago, that he told me he had pushed me into going on a date with him because he could tell that I needed a friend. I remember my heart dropping through my chest, but he continued to tell me that he really liked me, and he asked me – as in actually asked me – if he could hold my hand. 

My face burned to a point that I knew it was glowing red, but Adam wasn’t looking, or he pretended not to notice. He was watching the movie. 

He asked me where I wanted to go for the third date, since he had decided the first two, and he actually pressured me into saying something. Being the boring person that I am, I said that a meal would be fine. So, here we are, with Adam cooking for me. 

He puts the plates down on the table, and I stand up wondering what I should do to help. He grins and throws the napkins at me.  

“Try to fold those into a ‘Three Cornered Hat.'” 

“Is that a thing?” 

“Yep.” 

He brings over the rest of the stuff and dips us both out some salad.  

“I made way too many rolls,” he mutters then smiles when I look at him. “There was a pack, so I figured I would just make them all.” 

“So this movie… Did you discover it while in France?” 

“No! This movie was actually the reason that I went to France. I read ‘The Little Prince’ forever ago, but then I discovered this movie. And I read it again. They have an English version, too, but the original is in French.” 

I laugh. “So that made you want to go to France?” 

“Yeah! I know, right? I mean, I already knew some French from high school, but I wanted to pick it back up and get fluent. What better place to learn French than in France! Plus…” He shrugs and smiles sheepishly. “We’re still young, right? Remember what it was like to be a kid with all of these huge dreams and stuff? Well, it’s not too late, and when that hit me, I decided, well, why not? So, I went to France! And then to London, and then to Tokyo. That’s one reason I took up photography along with my writing. I need the extra money, and there’s too many amazing things out there to not take pictures of.” 

“Wow. How could you afford to do all that?” 

“I didn’t go to college.” He laughed nervously. “I didn’t want to really. I’ve never really liked school, so all that money from high school jobs went towards a camera and a plane ticket.” 

“I didn’t like school either, but college just – I don’t know. It was where everyone was going.” 

“Well, it’s okay if it helps you get a degree to get a job you like. You like your job don’t you.” 

“Yeah,” I mumble. Adam glances at me, but remains quiet. “I wish I could just drop everything and go somewhere, but I have a good job now. Those can be hard to come by.”  

“I’m not quite that adventurous anymore. It takes a little time to save up the money to travel, you know.” 

“Yeah,” I mumble. 

“Hey! Maybe that’s why we’ve met, Anna. I’m going to help you escape the same rut that I escaped. It may not be photography or France, but it will be something.” 

I laugh but notice that he’s not laughing. He’s just smiling at me. We start to eat, and I occasionally glance at him and can’t help but notice that he’s glancing at me.  

“Do you like it?” 

“Yes! It’s – I think it’s amazing.” 

“Great! Maybe I can add connoisseur to my resume.”  

I start to feel awkward, trying to think of something to say, but Adam takes out a piece of paper and starts to write down the translation to the lyrics to the song. Somehow, that, and the smell of these spiced Brussel sprouts, take away all of my feelings of nauseousness. 

He hands me the translated lyrics and grins. Even if it is only our third date, I feel myself falling in love with him. Maybe it’s because I trust him. We could work, balance each other out, I hope. Even if we don’t, it’s going to be fine.  

 Live a little, Anna. Let yourself fall in love. 

 
Photo by Chris Karidis  

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The Chosen

The Chosen


His name is Eli Hoffman, and I have chosen him to be the hero. 

It was something I considered when he picked his sister daffodils after her bunny died. I wrote his name on my list and circled it when he chased off a fox who attacked the family’s chickens. However, it was when his father’s horse was bucking and kicked him down, and he got up anyway despite the broken ribs, that I opened my magic book and etched his prophecy in my blood. 

He will be the one to kill me. 

Of course, he is too young now. Only a child. Hair that shines like raven feathers in the sun and eyes that are as black and deep as ink pools. Eight-years-old. He won’t grow to be tall or exceptionally handsome. He’ll have to study hard with books, but he’ll learn the most by scratching down others’ stories and struggling to train himself. There’s not an ounce of magic in his bones, but he has grit and fire in his blood. 

He’s hardly the description of a knight who will one day slay the dragon, but maybe that is why I like him. 

Even now, he follows me towards the river. 

Eli wraps his hand around my wrinkled fingers. 

“Almost there, Auntie.” 

We walk past the city gates and down the forest trail. It is dusk, and wolf howls echo into the sky. Eli’s grip on my hand tightens.  

“Perhaps we should go back.” 

“No, child. We are almost to the river.” 

Before we can reach the banks, a wolf with luminous yellow eyes leaps in front of us. Eli screams. 

“Run child!” I cry, releasing his hand as the wolf sinks its teeth into my arm. Crimson blood falls to the forest floor. Eli is motionless, dumbfounded for a few seconds. The wolf growls and claws at my neck as Eli picks up a stick and tosses it at the beast, tears streaming down his face. 

The wolf rushes towards him, a black shadow of mangled fur, baring sharp teeth as yellow as the harvest moon. 

“Run!” I call out again, more weakly this time. Eli finally turns and flees. 

We watch him disappear down the forest path. The setting sun casts a red glow on the leaves. 

I peel back the skin on my arms, revealing my scales. The ancient wolf sits down beside me. His once arrogant head is bent low, and his eyes are dull with weariness. He does not even glance at the human flesh and blood I’ve shed beside him. 

“You know, he will kill you too,” I say. “You will die before me.”  

Eli would return as a young man to take vengeance for the death of Auntie Luka. Even now, he mourns his cowardice, though none blame him. He is only a child.  

The wolf blinks as if to disclose his indifference.  

I laugh. 

“I am tired too, old friend.” 

In ten years, Eli will return for the wolf, where he will almost lose an eye and receive a signature scar from his ear to chest. In another eight years, he will face the ancient bear of the north and the lion of the west. It will take another twenty years before he is ready to face me. 

I close my eyes and see myself dying. My scales fade and fall away, and my vision grows dim. Eli stands over me with a sword, once held defiantly against my chest, now fallen slack in his hand. A sad expression lines his face as he watches me bleed out. 

I will take many forms in Eli’s future: his departed mother, a beggar, a lost woman in the woods, an apothecary, and his lover. It is likely that I will lose my shapeshifting powers at my death, but I cannot be sure.  

His expression haunts me. What will he see me as when I die? 

I rise up to leave, and the wolf lays his head down on his paws and closes his eyes. He too longs for rest, to sleep beneath the soft brown earth, to forget time and forgive life. To finally be at peace. 

The wolf yawns and lets out a whining sound. He will try to rest, but he cannot sleep. None of us can sleep. 

The monsters of old, as they call us, once tried to rid the world of humans. We thought they were dangerous. But now, we want nothing more than to return to the earth who once summoned us to slay them.  

Mankind as a whole may be cancerous, but each individual is… peculiar. And their numbers grow so quickly. There will be no ridding the world of humans, so we will leave them to their devices and hope that they will not destroy what we have long watched over. 

My old friend opens a lazy eye towards me. He knows as well as I that we cannot simply lay down and die. If we are to leave the world to the humans, some of them must rise up to prove themselves. We will only depart at the hands of one bold enough to face us, and capable enough to defeat us in at least some of our might.  

It seems the humans are content to leave us weary and purposeless. They do not see the necessity to have a leader, to be brave, or to rid the earth of us, even as they take our land and suffer our wrath. So, I have chosen one from among them. Perhaps it is us ancient creatures who need a hero. Someone to finally give us peace. And we will have it, soon enough. 

He just needs a little more work. 

 
Photo by Ricardo Cruz  

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Memories

Memories


(Prologue from a story I hope to soon publish.)

It was the same memory that popped up in his head over and over again, sometimes without warning. It was a memory he could not allow himself to forget. His father, eyes pale like melted silver and stature as tall and big as a tree, knelt way down to his height and put his hands on his shoulders. 

“Son, I’m going to go.” His voice was low and gruff, always sounding like storms in the distance. “You don’t need a coward for a father.” 

He hadn’t known what that meant. His father stood upright, now as tall as the sky, and stepped away, his white-hot eyes still staring, burning their place into his memory. 

Those had been the last words his father had ever said to him. 

This memory was all he had left. 

It was a memory she thought would long fade away through the years, but it was still here, fresh and tender as the moment it happened, even though the rest of her mind and body were beginning to fail. 

The mother had been beautiful, a gleaming light in a part of the world that was quickly growing darker. She had warned the mother to be careful, that two were enough, that these two had nearly killed her, but here they were for the third time. 

The mother, still beautiful even as her soul was in departing, reached up to touch the small, shrieking pink thing the maid now clasped in her arms. A smile emerged on the mother’s pretty lips. Tears emerged in her emerald eyes when she touched her baby’s head. 

She did not have to live. This daughter would take all of her vitality, beauty and kindness. The child would grow up to live a full life in her place, and so, the life left the mother’s body though her face remained content. 

The father, eyes wide in horror and pain, turned his gaze to the baby. He did not feel the same. 


Photo by Josipa Juras  

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The Good Sister

The Good Sister


The first time Seth Johnson invited himself over to my house, I could feel the butterflies racing between my chest and stomach, but I told him I would be out of town.  

He’d been wearing that look. A partial smile. Soft eyes moving from my gaze to my lips. Head slightly tilted.  

The second time he asked, I told him I would leave the door unlocked.  

Only my sister would be home.  

When he texted me that he was here, I went downstairs to where he had already slipped in through the glass sliding door, and I led him up to my room. Along the way, we passed the living room where my sister was sitting on the couch. She gave us a passing glace, her gaze lingering a moment on Seth.  

“Hey Cassie, this is Seth. He’s my project partner.”  

He gave her an awkward wave.  

“Hey,” was all she said in reply, then she turned back to the TV.  

We went to my room, and Seth shut the door behind us. I sat on my bed and opened the book. Seth sat close to me, way closer than necessary. When I began reading the prompt, his fingertips brushed over my leg and my hand as he pointed at the words to follow along, even though his gaze predominantly remained on me. The touch sent chills up my arms.  

There was a slight knock, and Seth moved away, half panicked.  

“Hey is my charger in here?” Cassie stepped in and moved around the room, looking behind bags and under papers.  

“Yeah. Sorry, I borrowed it.” I unplugged it from behind my dresser and tossed it to her.  

When she left, the door didn’t quite close.  

Seth stared at me, that soft look in his brown eyes gone, but I stayed looking at the pages.  

“Where was I?” I mumbled before reading again.  

Seth moved closer, but not as close as before.  

The second time Cassie came in, it was for her migraine glasses.  

“Getting a headache?” I asked.  

“Yeah, I’ve been staring at the TV too long.  

This time, she left the door halfway opened.  

A frown was firmly planted on Seth’s face. His features were so sharp, each one like they’d been carved in stone.   

The doorbell rang, and Cassie announced that her boyfriend Tyler was here.  

Seth seemed to breathe a sigh of relief. He glanced at me with a sideways smile as he got up to close the door. He’d no sooner shut it when Ty gently knocked and opened it to invite us to watch a movie with them.  

Seth almost spoke up, but not before I slammed the book shut and said, “Sure!”  

Seth looked at me.  

“I thought we were going to study?”  

“We can study during our free period tomorrow.”  

In the living room, I sat in the armchair on the left side, leaving Seth to sit on the couch next to Cassie and Ty. He seemed to pout at first when Ty tried to make conversation, but he eventually warmed up and even smiled a bit.  

When the movie ended, I walked him back downstairs to the sliding door he’d come in. We made small talk, and he gave the suggestion that next time he come over when no one else was home.  

I smiled, keeping my lips closed.  

“I’m not allowed to have boys over when I’m alone.”  

He shrugged, still smiling, and said, “That’s too bad.”  

Later that night, as I washed my face, Cassie came in to return the charger that she agreed to continue loaning me.  

“That Seth boy seems nice.”  

“Mmm.” I shrugged.  

“He likes you.” She leaned against the wall of the bathroom and crossed her arms. Her eyes were slightly narrowed. “You know how dangerous that is.”  

“Cassie, nothing is going to happen.” I laughed, and seeing a spot on my teeth, I wet my toothbrush and began to scrub it.  

“Not if I’m here,” she mumbled, leaving. “I just know what happened last time. You lose control sometimes”  

“I won’t kill him, I promise. But, did you see how cute he was?” I grinned.   

Cassie laughed, revealing her own teeth.  

“He’s not as cute as Ty.”  

I’ll never understand how she manages to have a human boyfriend. Then again, she was always the better sister. 


Photo by Marlon Alves 

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