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Five Words [12 Genre Months]

I’ll be back, I promise—five words scribbled in black ink on a note. They were the first words I read that morning as I headed to pour myself a glass of milk. Stuck to the door of the fridge with a magnet, I thought nothing of it—he had left many notes as such. But that evening and the evenings after, I started to doubt he would ever keep his promise. Until one day, twenty years after he’d left, another note appeared.

Would you like to reconnect?—five words in a sans serif font blinked periodically on a card. They were the first words I read on a chilly December morning as I went to collect the mail. The card made no mention of whom it was from but I had an inkling. Still, I hesitated. My thumb hovered over the green ‘yes’ button on the device. Was this how I wanted to see him again? I decided to accept the request. And, there it was, the chronicles of his life.

I scrolled through the magazine of what he had been up to—the places he’d visited, the parties he’d attended, the food he’d loved, and the people he’d met and then left as digital memories. He was using a different name, or at least, not the name I used to call him. And, after I had flipped through the past ten years of his seemingly exciting and adventurous life, five more words called for action—would you like to chat? I clicked the green button once more.

“Hey Will, how’s it going?”

Will is typing a reply—the device read.

“Hey! Long time no see!”

Could I define this encounter as ‘seeing’?

“Long time indeed. What’s up?”

I wondered if I should bring up the promise he’d made twenty years ago. It didn’t really matter that he left—I moved on. I had my own collection of countries, events, food, and people, in my own magazine of life. But I wanted to know why he left, with no explanation, only to reconnect now.

“I thought about you recently.”

“That explains why you reconnected.”

“Haha! Still sarcastic I see.”

“Why all of a sudden?”

“I made a promise, remember?”

So he didn’t forget after all—those five words that left nothing but expectation. Five words that gave me no reason for his disappearance. Was he finally going to own up to his broken promise?

“Right. What’s up with that?”

“Well, I’m keeping my promise.”

“Are you serious right now?”

“I am back, aren’t I?”

Was he joking? Did he think this was acceptable—that a simple ‘hello, I’m back’ on a device was enough? Did he not think to be a little more courteous—to actually show up in person after all these years? Who gave him the right to hide behind a screen?

“It was nice ‘seeing’ you.”

I wanted to end the conversation there. And I could. All it took was a click of a red button and I would archive the entire exchange. I even had the option to ‘delete’. Then, I could toss the card out and carry on with my day.

“Wait, don’t go just yet!”

“What do you want, Will?”

“Look, I’m sorry all right.”

“Of course you are, Will.”

“Five words are too little.”

“You realised that only now?”

“I mean, on this chat.”

Five words was how the device worked. ‘Five Words’ was what it was called. It was ‘a small step for man, one giant leap for mankind’—their tagline on every highway billboard and at the top of every salesman’s pitch. It was designed to reconnect people in a disconnected world. And the rule was simple: only five words—no more, no less.

“I know that too, Will.”

“I have much to say.”

“Then say it in person.”

“I want to, trust me.”

“Right. I’m signing out now.”

“Wait wait wait wait wait.”

“Our friendship was long over.”

“Can you come to me?”

Was this another joke? Did he expect me to take the first step? I was not a pushover—I never was. If he wanted a convenient friendship, he came to the wrong person.

“No. You come to me.”

“I can’t. I’m… I’m sick.”

“Sick? What kind of sickness?”

“Life threatening, the doctors say.”

“Oh. Wow. I’m sorry, Will.”

“I’m not a good friend.”

“You left without an explanation.”

“Let me apologise to you.”

Perhaps I could make an exception this time. Perhaps, for a dying friend, I could put my pride aside. After all, he wanted to make things right… and in person.

“Where are you right now?”

“I left you a box.”

“You left me a box?”

“The Yung Brothers & Co.”

“Yung brothers? Who are they?”

“My lawyers. I’m really sorry.”

I was expecting the name of a hospital. I was actually willing to make the drive. Why did Will want me to meet with his lawyers instead?

“Your lawyers? Why your lawyers?”

“I can’t apologise in person.”

“What do you mean, Will?”

“I’m sorry. I should have…”

“You should have what, Will?”

“I should have said more.”

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12 Genre Months © 2018 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

(Click HERE for the list of stories in this writing challenge.)

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Posted by on December 6, 2018 in Original Works

 

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Wishing Well [12 Genre Months]

“Drop the coin and make a wish,” he told me. “But remember, it will only last a day.”

The moss-covered stone well, in the clearing of the town woods, was said to be magical. Every year, on the eve of a New Year, children would venture down a muddy path to where the stone well had been built. It was rumoured that the stone well, of which its depth no one could ever surmise, was the work of the early settlers who had sailed from Gaul. Though not in any historical records, many believed that the early settlers were Druids. After all, the strange occurrences in the small township of a thousand were often left unexplained. From the blooming of lavender in winter, to the display of red and green light streaming across one autumn night, one cannot insist that the place I called home was—for the lack of scientific explanations—magical.

“How do you know if it worked?” I asked.

“Make it an obvious wish,” my best friend, who had tossed a coin the year before, replied.

I was seven that New Year’s Eve. And so I made an obvious wish—a prayer, almost—that my parents wouldn’t go through with their divorce. That perhaps, for just one more day, we could be a happy family. And, though arguable that it might just be an educated decision on my parents’ end, they didn’t file the papers until I turned twelve.

Every year after my first coin toss, I returned to the stone well with my best friend. I made wishes, which were so realistically possible, that they never failed to come true. I was a child. I had yet chosen the path of a skeptic. It was only on my twenty-first year, when I returned home for the year end holidays, did I truly put the stone well and its supposed magic to the test.

“Are you sure you want to do this,” my best friend asked.

“Only for a day, right?”

“Correct. But remember how your parents stayed together for five years?” he recalled, almost as if he believed the fairytale to be true.

“Don’t tell me you still believe in this… wishing well.”

“Don’t tell me you have a reason for the frost flowers last summer,” he challenged—yet another bizarre phenomenon where the town lake blossomed ice crystals in the 40 °C heat.

“Yes, strange things happen here. But stranger things have happened elsewhere. Just Google it,” I stated.

“Suit yourself.” He shrugged. “I’m just saying, what you’re wishing for, if not for a day, can ruin you.”

I chuckled. What was the worst that could happen, I thought. If magic was indeed real, then I wouldn’t have to hurt anymore. If magic could save me from the agonizing pain—a pain I’ve failed to rid myself of for the past year—why not give it a try? And… if this magic decided to prolong its stay, it would be a blessing in disguise.

So on the night of December 31st, I met my best friend at the trail-head of the timberland with a coin and a torchlight in hand. We chatted about our school year for the entire twenty-minute stroll until, there it was, the stone well basking beneath the pastel moonlight. There was no one else around—the children had visited in the morning, the high-schoolers in the afternoon, and some of the adults had dropped by before their New Year celebration. At that hour, everyone was in town waiting upon the fireworks.

“You sure you want to do this,” he asked once more. “All you need is time. Wishing it away…”

Time—everybody told me I would heal with time. But how much time, nobody had an answer. They weren’t seeing her in class, watching her laugh with her friends, and witnessing the glimmer in her eyes when she held his hand. Oh, how I wish I could move on. But I was stuck—my soul crushed by a lost love over and over again.

“It’s been a year. I can’t—I’ve tried. Trust me, I have. I just… I can’t get over her,” I admitted.

“But wishing your feelings away isn’t going to make it better. You’re going to feel again after tomorrow. If… only if, the wish lasts a day.”

“I’m just going to wish to stop feeling for her. I’m not wishing all my feelings away.”

“Then make it clear when you toss the coin.”

“Don’t worry. I know what to wish for.”

And so I made my wish. I didn’t hear the coin hit bottom—no one has ever heard the echo of their wish. But from that New Year onward, I believed what some still thought to be a myth. The stone well was indeed magical. It had granted me yet another wish, but in the oddest way I thought possible. Because from that day, I never saw her again.

It wasn’t that she didn’t exist. She was alive. She was still in my class. I would sometimes catch her friends speaking about her. But, I never saw her. In fact, I couldn’t recall her face. She had become a ghost of a memory—a lost love that could never be found. And… it was all thanks to the wishing well in the little town of Bluestone.

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12 Genre Months © 2018 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

(Click HERE for the list of stories in this writing challenge.)

 
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Posted by on November 8, 2018 in Original Works

 

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Voices From The Attic [12 Genre Months]

Whispers, they often called it—unintelligible whispers between people. But unlike the visitors, I didn’t hear an utterance of a word coming from the dead space. In fact, I couldn’t hear at all.

I was raised in an old Victorian house. Every year, my father would order tins of white paint to keep the pillars, balustrades, and walls in pristine appearance. He would often check the floorboards—quick to fix even the softest creak. And every single time I asked him why he was in a rush to mend the walls and polish the doorknobs, he would declare his love for the place we called home.

My father claimed that our home held more history than the local museum. He would rattle about the heritage to anyone who would listen. But strangely enough, my father never once shared a story about its past—who built it, what happened to the early settlers, and why was it worthy of his love? Those common questions were left unanswered—the moment someone brought them up, my father would default to babbling about the weather. Strange, yes. But though his response always made me curious, I chose to remain ignorant.

For the most part, nothing bizarre occurred within the ever-white walls. The house wasn’t haunted—or at least, it never felt that way. Nothing moved or went missing, and there weren’t any cold spots as how TV ghost hunters would determine the presence of otherworldly beings. However, when I was finally old enough to host sleepovers, I began to wonder if my father had a reason for withholding his stories—if they were more sinister than I expected.

They said they heard voices, I told my father. Voices coming from the attic.

“Voices?” he asked. “What time did you girls go to bed?”

Ten. It wasn’t that late.

“You know what happens when you’re tired, right?”

I shook my head, clueless as to what my father was implying.

“You imagine things,” he merely stated.

My friends could very well be imagining the voices they heard. After all, children had a knack for exaggeration. But because of the whispers—claimed to have come from right above my bedroom ceiling—none of my friends would sleep in my house again. From that day onward, I had to go to theirs. And, for the rest of the summer, everyone thought my house was haunted.

Was I ever curious about the voices? Yes. But just like my friends, it was a fleeting curiosity. I was quick to forget the conversation I had with my father. And since no one else mentioned about hearing them, I forgot about it altogether. It was only after fifteen years—when my husband and I visited my parents—did that particular memory resurface.

“Are there people in the attic?” my husband asked.

No. Why?

“I… never mind,” he said.

What is it?

“I thought I heard something, that’s all.” When he caught apprehension sweeping across my face, he added, “I must’ve been imagining it—it was a long drive.”

Let me ask my dad.

“He’ll think I’m crazy.” My husband chuckled. “It’s probably just the fatigue. Let’s call it a night.”

I agreed—perhaps it was indeed the exhaustion. But as someone who couldn’t hear a single sound since birth, I found myself awoken in the middle of the night by an intrusion I least expected.

“I want them to leave,” a female voice whispered—words seemingly carried by the wind.

The hair on my nape stood as I pushed myself seated on the bed. While I contemplated waking my husband, I heard another voice—belonging to a man—reply, “They won’t be staying long.”

The voices were coming from above my bedroom—the same bedroom I slept in for eighteen years of my life. But as I gazed up at the ceiling, I saw nothing but well-patched plaster. Was I imagining too? Was it a dream?

“I’m leaving tomorrow. I cannot live here anymore,” the female voice insisted.

“They won’t harm us,” the other replied.

“Then why are we hiding?”

“I’ll… I’ll call him tomorrow.”

“Tell him we’re selling—I’m not raising our child in a haunted house.”

Silence followed after the woman’s declaration. There were no more whispers—no more voices from the attic. I strained my ears for a decibel of a sound, but I heard nothing. Assuming it was all in my head, I returned to sleep. But when the rooster crowed, I found it hard to ignore what I had heard. So I pulled my father aside after breakfast, hopeful for a reasonable explanation.

I heard voices last night, coming from the attic.

“Voices? What kind of voices?” my father asked.

Human voices. They were talking about us.

“What time did you go to bed?”

Dad, I’m not a child.

“Then you should know better than to ask.”

What do you mean?

“I mean, go to bed early. You shouldn’t be hearing anything.”

I don’t understand. Why-

“If they can’t hear you, you can’t hear them.”

Dad, you’re not-

“Forget it,” he sternly replied.

Dad, what’s-

“The weather looks good today, doesn’t it? We should have a picnic—I’ll inform your mother.”

From that day onward, I didn’t hear the voices again. There were no more ghostly whispers. The attic was silent. And not because I went to bed early. It wasn’t even because I was deaf. There were no more voices because there was a fire—a fire I would soon have to forget for this story to repeat itself, over and over again.

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12 Genre Months © 2018 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

(Click HERE for the list of stories in this writing challenge.)

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2018 in Original Works

 

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The Murder Of Lady Patricia [12 Genre Months]

The body of Lady Patricia was found sprawled at the foot of the hallway stairs. She had arrived at the party a mere ten minutes prior to her death—the night still young when she met her demise. It was a seemingly straightforward case with an evident cause of death. But if it was indeed as simple as I hoped it to be, I wouldn’t have been called to head the investigation. Oddities were my specialty. And the oddity that came with Lady Patricia’s passing were the five suspects—the people present during her murder—who were all below the age of twelve.

The first suspect was the young, blue-eyed Master Lucas, who proudly declared he had just turned five upon our introduction. He claimed to be in the kitchen when the incident occurred, snacking on a couple of forbidden cookies before dinnertime. The boy apologised for what he deemed as a serious crime—projecting a remorseful mien—but made no mention of the death that occurred in his home. It was almost, as if, he didn’t even know.

The second suspect was nine-year-old, soft-spoken Miss Matilda. During the entirety of our conversation, Miss Matilda kept her gaze on the polished oak-wood floor and fiddled with the frills of her pastel pink dress. She claimed to have been with young Lord Harry, clinking glasses of grape juice in the living room. According to her testimony, it was only after their conversation about her talking parakeet that she heard a series of thudding coming from the hallway—both Miss Matilda and Lord Harry found Lady Patricia in her lifeless state.

The third suspect was none other than Lord Harry. Lord Harry was the oldest amongst the five—barely a few months short of the age of twelve. He was the most respectable guest with a spotless family background. When I spoke to the young man, he confidently gave a detailed account of the night, proving he was indeed with Miss Matilda. But despite having an alibi, I wasn’t convinced—both Lord Harry and Miss Matilda claimed to be unaware of Lady Patricia’s arrival.

The fourth suspect was in her bedroom when the incident occurred. Miss Rebecca had to change out of her white dress when she accidentally spilled grape juice on herself. She claimed to have heard footsteps outside her bedroom door shortly before Lady Patricia’s murder. Miss Rebecca only left her bedroom when she heard Miss Matilda’s scream. The seven-year-old saw no one on her floor prior to and after the incident.

The last suspect was the only suspect who spoke with Lady Patricia. Master William had greeted her at the door, ushered her into the reading room, and offered her a drink. He informed her that dinner would soon be ready, before returning to the kitchen to check on the turkey in the oven. The ten-year-old claimed he had been preparing dinner with Miss Rebecca when the doorbell rang. But upon his return, Miss Rebecca was nowhere to be found.

After speaking with the young suspects, there were a few statements that didn’t match up. Miss Rebecca and Master William were shuffling from the kitchen to the dining room—in preparation for the party—but did not once see Master Lucas in his cookie thievery. The living room was located adjacent to the front door—sharing a hallway leading to the kitchen—which meant that both Lord Harry and Miss Matilda had to be speaking in high decibels to have not notice the doorbell. There was also not a single drop of grape juice, nor an extra drinking glass, to be found in the kitchen despite the stained white dress in Miss Rebecca’s room. And upon the arrival of the police, the roasted turkey was no longer in the oven but nestled in the center of the dining table complete with the feast for the night. Which begs the question: who was telling the truth?

Did Master Lucas have the strength to push a fully grown woman down the stairs? Were Miss Matilda and Lord Harry co-culprits of Lady Patricia’s death? Was there a more sinister cause of the stain on Miss Rebecca’s dress? Why did Master William set the table after a death in the house, or had the table been set prior to Lady Patricia’s arrival? And, the most baffling question of them all: why was Lady Patricia invited to a party, hosted by people outside of her social circle? Did the five children plot her death or was I over-complicating the case—was it the doing of an outsider who saw no threat in a house full of children? Or was it… simply… an accident?

I concluded that the most likely culprit was Lord Harry. He requested the assistance of Miss Matilda—a child infatuated with her best friend’s brother—to act as his alibi and rehearse the story he concocted. And though the young Lord had a spotless history, the evidence I’ve stacked against him could not be ignored. All I did was say he was guilty and the boy took the fall—it was that easy. But wait, who was the real murderer? Oh, how naive of Lady Patricia to even think she could get away. Out of the mouth of babes she often spoke, and out of the mouth of babes I shall rest my case.

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12 Genre Months © 2018 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

(Click HERE for the list of stories in this writing challenge.)

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2018 in Original Works

 

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Missing Buttons [12 Genre Months]

There were always two buttons missing—two buttons from my white, collared shirt, two buttons from the back pockets of my navy blue jeans, and two buttons from my black, iron-pressed blazer. I grew up with two buttons less than everyone else. And, it was never a problem despite the curiosity my strange circumstances stirred.

Growing up, everyone seemed to notice my missing buttons—my friends, their parents, the teachers, and the bullies. Nobody dared to ask where my buttons had gone to—some teased and made wild assumptions—but they were all very curious. From the way they parted their lips in hesitation of a question to the way their eyes darted to and from the loose threads, I knew they wanted to know. Alas, I myself had no idea where my buttons were. I didn’t remove them on purpose. There was no reason for me to un-thread them. They just always went missing in my possession. And the older I got, the more baffled I was by their mysterious disappearances. Yet, oddly enough, I didn’t see the need to find out why, how, and what. That is, until the day they reappeared—all of them… in my bedroom cupboard.

I had lived thirty-five years with two missing buttons from everything I owned. I had learned to adapt, using zips and velcros to hold things in place. People were still curious. I still shrugged in oblivion of the answer they sought. However, it wasn’t a predicament. I could live with missing buttons. I didn’t need them. But on the night of my thirty-fifth birthday, I found them.

I had just returned from a dinner with friends when I yanked my cupboard open for a clean pair of clothes. As the door clicked free from the magnetic lock, a heap of buttons streamed onto my wooden floor. At first, I thought it was a joke. Everyone I knew, knew about my missing buttons. There was a possibility that someone thought it would be funny to gift me hundreds of buttons to make up for all the missing ones. But while I cupped the buttons into an empty pail, I noticed something about them—most of them weren’t new. The white, plastic buttons had turned off-white, the metal ones had browned from oxidation, and the cloth-covered buttons were peeling from their seams. They were my buttons. And at the realisation of my past returning to haunt me, I hastily reached for the phone to give my mother a call.

“The missing buttons, mum. The ones from my shirts and pants—they’re all here,” I said, withholding not the apprehension in my voice.

“What about those buttons?” my mother asked.

“They’re here, mum. Right here, in my house—in my cupboard.”

“Just toss them out if you don’t need them,” my mother replied, too calmly.

“I know. I will. But why are they here? All of them—suddenly?”

“I don’t know,” my mother said.

“Wait…” My mother wasn’t reacting the way I thought she would—she was taking the event too lightly. Was she the culprit? Could I now heave a sigh of relief? “Was it you? Did you put them here?” I asked.

“Why would I put buttons in your cupboard?”

“This isn’t funny, mum. Are you and dad hiding in the kitchen or something?” I stalked toward the bedroom door, ready to call my mum out on her joke—ready for the birthday surprise. Unfortunately, such wasn’t the case.

“Ben, I wouldn’t take a five-hour flight just to put buttons in your cupboard,” my mother insisted—her tone now serious.

“Then how did they get here?” I demanded. “Who put them here?”

At that question, I froze. There was more to my fear—now rooting me to the ground. Who… put them here? Who was the person who had stolen my buttons for thirty-five years and had just decided to return them without reason. Was this person still in the house? Was this person watching me?

“Mum, I need you to ask dad to call the police,” I said.

“Ben, you need to calm down.”

“I can’t calm down, mum. Those missing buttons…” I paused, hesitating to leave the bedroom. “Someone was here. Someone put-”

“Ben, I need you to calm down.”

“How do you expect me to calm down? Someone-”

You… put them there, Ben,” my mother interrupted.

“What? What are you talking about?”

“Ben, I need you to listen.”

“Mum-”

“I need you to collect those buttons and throw them out. Can you do that?” my mother asked.

“I… don’t understand.”

“Just do as I tell you.”

“Why?”

“Ben, listen to me. You have-”

“I’ve got to go, mum.” I didn’t know what she was talking about. She sounded insane. “I’ll call you later.”

“Don’t hang up on me. I need you to throw the buttons away and tell me once you’ve done so.”

Why did she insist I do that? I turned to look behind me where the buttons had spread across the bedroom floor. But in the expectation of their disconcerting nature, I found them gone.

“Ben,” my mother called. “Ben, are you there?”

“Yes,” I replied. Where did the buttons go? How did they just… disappear. “They’re gone… the buttons.”

“You threw them out?”

Should I tell her that they simply vanished? I didn’t know what was going on. I wasn’t sure if I should continue to panic. Did I imagine it all? Despite the many troubling questions, I heard myself say, “Yes, I threw them out.”

“Are you sure?” my mother asked.

“They’re gone now.”

“Good,” my mother said. “Now, go to bed—it’s late.”

I hesitated to douse the mystery—to demand for an explanation. But instead, I did as I was told. After all, they were gone now—the buttons were missing once again. And honestly, that was all that mattered.

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12 Genre Months © 2018 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

(Click HERE for the list of stories in this writing challenge.)

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2018 in Original Works

 

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How About John? [12 Genre Months]

“How about John? He’s the closest to your type,” she said.

I shrugged in reply. It was almost always like this–conversations that moved from work to the possible candidates around me. And, because my type was often considered a niche, I was given the same names–encouraged to approach the same few men on a helplessly short name list.

“If you want, I know of a way I can get you and John acquainted,” she added, with a beaming smile.

Yes, I didn’t know John. But funnily enough, I knew a lot about him. Friends in common have showed me his social media profiles. They have spoken highly of him. They have shared their encounters and praised John’s admirable qualities. I wasn’t even sure if I could call John an acquaintance. I knew too much–it was as if we were actually friends.

“Nah,” I replied. My answer was always the same.

“A few of us are getting together this weekend. You should join–John will be there.”

“Nah,” I repeated. Why should I try? Based on past experiences, trying didn’t do me any good. Whenever I took steps to get to know someone new, I would quickly learn I didn’t fit their bill. It was always a waste of precious time–time I could’ve spent reading that book I bought three years ago or simply staring at a wall.

“You have to make an investment if you want something to happen, you know,” she said.

Did I actually want something to happen? Everyone made John out to be this sought after man, that I should make a move if I wanted to be noticed. But honestly, I didn’t care if he noticed me. So why did I need to get his attention? Why couldn’t he be the one seeking my attention instead?

Perhaps it wasn’t like this for John. Perhaps the gentlemen didn’t suggest names, show pictures, and offer help during their get-togethers. Perhaps it was only us ladies who tried endlessly to match-make our friends. Why did we do that? Why were we all equally guilty of making romance a key player in our happiness?

“It sounds like too much work,” I replied.

She sighed an expected sigh. It wasn’t the first time–I’ve made a lot of people sigh. They would either sigh at my lack of attempt or when I turned down a potentially good candidate.

“That’s not a priority right now,” I added.

She frowned an expected frown. It was a common response to my hypocritical statement. Despite the quest for love not being a priority in my life, it sometimes felt important–important enough to entertain suggestions and make plans. So yes, I was a hypocrite. But, not because I chose to be one. I had no reason for oscillating between genuine interest and resignation. I didn’t understand my actions and decisions in this subject matter. Was it just me? Or were we all on the same swaying boat, tossed in a storm of expectations and acceptance.

“How about Matthew?” she asked.

She wasn’t listening to me. No one listened to the boy who cried wolf. And, to prove my role in the acclaimed fable, I asked, “Who?”

“Hold on, let me show you.” She swiftly retrieved her phone from her handbag, excited to show me a new candidate. Alas, when I gazed upon his picture, I could only offer a disappointing response.

“Oh, this guy,” I replied with little enthusiasm.

“He’s almost your type.”

“Yea, but…”

“No?”

“No.”

“Seriously, it’s impossible to find someone you like.”

“I know.”

It was a blessing in disguise. If no one could fit my ideals, I could think about something else. I could spend my energy and resources on the other things that made me happy.

“How about you?” I asked. It was time to shift the conversation around–to stop dwelling on the fact that I might be single for life. Was that a happy or a sad fact? It didn’t matter. It was her turn to contemplate about her happiness. “Aaron is a nice guy,” I stated.

“He is,” she replied. “But our desires don’t align.”

“What desires? He seems like a good fit for you.”

“He wants a stay-at-home wife. I can’t be that.”

“Oh. That’s disappointing. I guess we can scrape him off your list then.”

“Yea.”

“How about John? He’s almost your type,” I said.

“I… don’t know.”

Was she now pondering if a relationship could truly make her happy? Did she care if John noticed her? Was she willing to take the first step?

She wasn’t like me. She never once said that a relationship wasn’t a priority. But, maybe she kept that thought to herself. Perhaps I wasn’t the only hypocrite. Or, maybe I was–she could be more hopeful than I would ever be. She could have more suitors and prospects. In comparison, my lack of effort could be a reflection of my unpopularity.

Stuck in the unknown of my own wants and desires, it was my turn to heave a sigh. I didn’t sigh at her response but at the undetermined, incomprehensible, and often bothersome state I was in. How long would I have to float in this unsettlement? Alike its very nature, I will never know.

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12 Genre Months © 2018 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

(Click HERE for the list of stories in this writing challenge.)

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2018 in Original Works

 

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Moonlight Pavilion [12 Genre Months]

As the sky faded from bright blue to pale grey, I hurried to the well in the servant quarters. It had been filled most of the way with cement, topped with a wooden lid. Despite the narrow enclosure, there was enough room. So, I closed myself in and waited–I waited until my watch ticked twelve. And when the two beeps broke silence, I hastily climbed out into the peaceful night.

The ancient palace grounds were different under the starry sky. A mist had settled, the crickets and owls were now awake, and the trees rustled in the cool midnight breeze. There was also something magical in the air, stirring an emotion that sent my heart racing with excitement. Sneaking into a wide pathway, I hesitated not to set my imagination free. For where I stood had taken on a new life–one so real that I found myself startled when a maidservant ran right past me.

She wore a plain white dress, embracing a china vase in her arms. Night shadowed her face, but I knew she was in trouble. Unfortunately, right when I planned to follow her, I spotted two palace guards. They were armed with sharpened blades and stern, unfriendly faces. In fear of being caught, I slipped behind a bush. But when the guards finally strolled out of sight, so was the maidservant. Sighing at the missed opportunity, I headed to the royal garden instead.

The royal garden was a masterpiece at nightfall. Lanterns hung from towering trees, lighting the crystal clear ponds. Lotus flowers floated on the surface of the glistening waters as the fishes beneath rippled the reflection of the moon. I planted myself by the water, listening to a frog croaking in sync with a hooting owl. But halfway through their duet, another joined in. It was a humming of some sort. And oddly, I became determined to find it.

Far from the realm of humans, nature breathed with a passion. The humming grew louder as I followed a narrow path, winding through the timberland. There was an absence of lanterns along the descending route, but the buzzing lights from a million fireflies brought heaven to earth. They guided me until I reached the end of my journey, where a large lake said ‘hello’.

The lake was like any other lake, except for the lonely structure in its center. With red pillars, adorned with paper lanterns at the four corners of the concave roof, the pavilion nestled within the full moon’s reflection. It wasn’t barren, but bore a low table homing parchment paper, paintbrushes, and a tea set. There was also a man, who stood when he saw me nearing his safe haven.

“Who are you?” he asked, as he strolled to the entrance of the pavilion. He donned a silky blue robe with a golden, dragon-embroidered crest on his chest.

“I’m… not supposed to be here,” I replied.

“Clearly.” The stranger eyed me from head-to-toe. Then, with a strange question, he asked, “Are you real?”

Frowning, I asked in return, “Are you real?”

He chuckled and waved me over. After a second of hesitation, I crossed a series of large rocks that made the pathway. And when I finally came face-to-face with the young man, he prompted, “What’s your name?”

“Rose. What’s yours?”

“Sun,” he answered, as he returned to the low table.

“Sun?”

Sun gestured for me to take a seat across from him. “Tell me about yourself, Rose,” he said.

“Myself?” Shouldn’t I be asking the questions? Nevertheless, I replied, “Well, I’ve been travelling a lot recently–exploring one country after another in search of a story. My publisher has been pushing me for a new book, and… I think I might’ve just found a tale worth telling.”

You’re a writer?” he asked.

“I write stories–fictional ones.”

“I’m a poet,” he said. “So, how long have you been travelling? Where have you been?”

“I’ve only been to a few countries in the past month.”

“In the past month? But how?” Sun seemed eager to know.

“By flying, I-”

“You can fly?” Sun asked in childlike amazement.

“No. I take an airplane–a vehicle with wings.”

“A dragon?”

“I guess… you can call it that.” I chuckled. “How about you, Sun? Tell me about you,” I said.

“Ah, well, I’m not really a poet by profession,” he confessed. “I’m, well, a prince–recently made crown prince, and conveniently betrothed to a princess.”

“Congratulations.”

Sun laughed. “Thank you. I’m not exactly excited, but thanks.”

“Being a king isn’t what you want?”

“I want to be a poet. I don’t want to rule or marry a princess I barely know.”

“Sorry. I wish I could help,” I said.

Sun heaved a sigh. There was a brief moment of silence, before he changed the topic. “Do you know what this pavilion is called?”

I shrugged, turning my attention to the unique structure–spreading across the ceiling was a swirling painting of the starry night sky, and sweeping across the floor were pastel koi fishes and blooming lotuses.

“I call it, Moonlight Pavilion. I had it built a year ago as a place to escape reality.”

“Moonlight Pavilion,” I echoed.

“Do you like the name?”

“It’s a nice name.”

We admired the pavilion for a few good minutes. A gentle breeze now settled in the air, and despite having more questions, neither of us said a word–Sun returned to his writing while I sat watching. Strangely, as the minutes ticked by, I slowly drifted to sleep. And, the last thing I heard–in the midst of nature’s symphony–was a question.

When my eyes reopened, day had arrived. I found myself on the floor of an old, abandoned pavilion–parts of the roof had caved in, allowing streaks of sunlight to bask upon my face. Reality has always been vastly different–the lake had dried up, the rocky pathway were missing a few steps, and what was a comforting escape in my head had become a dead and hazardous place. There was no wonder why the area was restricted.

Not wanting to linger on the forsaken ground any longer, I trekked my way back to the main path. Once on permitted soil, I spotted the earliest tour group ahead of me. Quickly joining them, I was certain I could get out uncaught.

As the group shuffled along, the tour guide announced, “Right behind us is a trail to the Moonlight Pavilion. It was built by the twenty-fifth crown prince, who later renamed the structure to Rose Pavilion.”

“Rose?” I muttered under my breath. Wait, was my sanity in question? I couldn’t recall that fact from the time I read the visitor’s brochure. In that instant, I knew my answer to his lingering question. Whether it proved me sane or mad, I knew what I had to do.

“Will you come back, Rose?” he asked.

“It seems… I have to.”

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12 Genre Months © 2018 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

(Click HERE for the list of stories in this writing challenge.)

 
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Posted by on June 14, 2018 in Original Works

 

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