Outside

Bright green leaves nodded, agreeing with the wind whispering in their ears. Like a million marbles rolling under the sun, in yellow and pink and white and blue, flowers shone in her face, showing off their sheen, manicured petals pollinated just in time, having lent shoulders to younglings experimenting wings.

They rest a while, but in the end they always take off. For blue skies beckoned them, casting their puffs of cloudy distractions aside, bringing sunlight to the spotlight, inviting explorers, the adventurous blood-eyed magpies and chirping berry eaters.

What a shame to be indoors, Hope wondered rolling her wheelchair out.

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Meant to be

There it was—like a non-judgemental mother musing at her teenage daughter growing up too fast to comprehend, a ring sat in his empty tea cup. Unassuming, almost hidden in the shadow of the dark tea, it had nestled, snuggling in the assurance of warmth.

Daniel felt lost.

It was a nice—a simple frill-free band of silver with no ugly engraving or dents. It was the perfect multi-purpose ring, with just enough ambiguity to serve both as an accessory and a testament to a sacred commitment.

Who put it there though?

It seemed silly. To place a ring in a cup of tea. It was the kind of thing non-drinking, overly health conscious, hopeful hippies would do. He smiled. Whoever did this knew him well. Enough to know how much he dreaded jewellery and the spotlight that came with it. 

His curiosity was piqued. He hadn’t told many people about his parents pressuring him to find a partner. So whoever did this was close to him. 

Except he couldn’t quite tell who.

He looked around for a clue. 

Time stood still. Behind the till, Augusta, her face screwed in concentration, held a twenty dollar bill in her right hand and a pile of miscellaneous notes in the other. She was an economics student at the university working casual hours, trying to make some extra cash on the side. She hated math, Daniel recalled her bold declaration in one of their small talks. It couldn’t have been Augusta. She was too involved with her life, and he in math.

Barista Jason’s hand was frozen in midair too, hovering over the milk nozzle, ready to caress its smooth curves. Not him for sure. He was way out of league for Daniel—in every aspect, except perhaps money. 

Cafe chatter he’d gotten used to over the last five years had ceased in mid-conversations, vowels hanging, modifiers dangling, and fragments awaiting completion. Beyond the tainted glass, cars were a blur, as if caught red-handed by amateur photographers, whizzing passed red lights.

He looked back at the ring. And almost instantly, the world went back into motion. Annoying giggles started up from the table nearby and impatient honking from the street waltzed in through the door as someone walked in.

Sigh.

It felt wrong to take the ring without knowing who it came from.

What the hell. 

Pocketing the shiny silver, Daniel walked out the cafe, waving at Augusta and Jason on his way out. It was a good day.

The door clinked behind him.

Not two seconds after, a purple-haired man in the cafe wailed, “Oh, my goodness! They gave you the wrong cup!”

Bullied

“Run!”

He had. From India to Singapore to Australia, cowering, wading through muddy slush and sea sickness.

Darkness returned when eyebrows knotted, students passed by swearing.

Mother echoed: “Run!”


This is my entry for the 29-word short story challenge run by the Australian Writers’ Centre. If you’re into creative writing and interested in pushing your writing boundaries, check it out and subscribe to their newsletter. It’s quite fun.

I remember…

“My goodness, it hasn’t changed at all!” Lisa’s eyes bulge in surprise as she looks around the neighbourhood. An old Victorian mansion peers at us from the top of the small hill. Paved and untrodden paths lead down into town where we’d stopped for panini and coffee not long ago.

Mourning the lack of life around them, trees stood bare, rarely moving in the cold winter morning. The house itself vibrates of ancient history, stories forgotten, failed to be passed on. As an over-ripe banana, patches of spots, black, white, and forty shades of brown cling throughout the peeling walls of the house, its russet picket fence the only reminder of good old times.

Lisa brought me to our childhood home. She said it’d help me recover. But as I watch her reliving her teenage—I imagine golden days of scratched knees with tears streaming down mud-covered cheeks and screams encoring through the hill, I suspect her intentions. Beaming with joy, brimming with nostalgia she turns to me, eyes expectant as a child tugging at her mother’s apron while the ice-cream truck passes by. And I look back at her. Nothing.

They said she’s my sister. She said this was our home. I remember nothing.

Passing thoughts

city traffic in the sunlight

Bumper sticker: “You can make it if you try.”

What a load of boohockey. It’s never only about trying. Luck—that’s what I need, that’s what everyone else has that I don’t. I’m not untalented, I know that for sure. And it’s not as if I don’t try either. In fact, I try hard. Every day. 

In the morning when pink horizon melds with orange, hope swells within me like a hot air balloon. I gawk at the path ahead of me as a child watching the colourful orb reaching for the skies, and I imagine life becoming easier to tread. Potholes vanish, sticks and stones crumble under callous feet, and entry barriers fall apart. 

When summer scorns through my neon blazer, I cringe my eyes against the rays, sweat dribbling down my temple to drip from my nose, but I hope. Passersby don’t realise how difficult it is. To be a traffic conductor, underpaid, unseen, waved at by dogs and children immature to hold a phone—no one knows what that’s like. To spend almost every waking moment standing. Like a parking ticket, a special-edition vintage, I’m limited-time only. Valid until I have control over my bowels; diabetes will wreck me before it wrecks my life.

So don’t tell me I’m inadequate. You entitled little son of a my-father-paid-for-my-Volkswagen.

Don’t you dare suggest I try harder for a better job, family, friends, or meals.

It’s all I do to stay sane.


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