HL Pic Series: 12 – Hannah

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Hannah strolled amongst the flowers, brushing her hand across soft petals as she walked on route to the market. She knew she was late for her shift, but she also knew Rolf would not fire her. She had been late almost every day since she began working there the previous summer.

Rolf loved her. She could tell. She smiled at customers all day as she handed out samples of new products. Every time Rolf came by, he smiled at her. His eyes would not leave her face until he had to turn the corner. He made her giggle.

His attention made her feel pretty, so sometimes she dressed up. On those days she wore heels, even though her feet needed ice packs when she arrived home after work. One day, maybe I’ll ask Rolf to give me a ride home on his Vespa. Then I will have a reason to put my arms around him.

She held her arms out in front of her in a circle, pretending they were sneaking their way around Rolf’s belly. It wasn’t small, he had a paunch. She swayed from side to side. She didn’t mind.

She didn’t mind that his brown hair with silver slices was thinning on top, either. Or that sometimes she would spot a bit of mayonnaise or gravy on his tie. Those things didn’t bother her. She worked hard to take care of her invalid mother and bedridden aunt, and she knew those things happened with age. She wouldn’t mind when he began to complain of creaking bones or aching joints either. I could take care of him.

She spun in a circle, dreamy thoughts taking over. We could go for a walk holding hands. Maybe he will take me to the beach. Or to an Italian restaurant where we feed each other spaghetti. Or he may take me for ice cream. I will wipe away the little bit that drops onto his chin.

I just have to finish this last year of high school.

Realizing she was almost to the market door, she shook herself. She knew she shouldn’t think about him like that. He was married after all.

But his wife was mean. Maybe he will leave her.

She plastered a smile on her face and entered the market.

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HL Pic Series: 11 – Laney

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Laney backed slowly away from the birch patch, keeping her eyes upon the wolf. She knew the pack was probably close and did not want this mama to feel threatened and begin howling and growling. If she alerted the pack, Laney would surely be their lunch.

She had glimpsed four pups suckling mama before the wolf had spotted her and stood. I am very lucky the wind wasn’t coming from the other direction or the whole pack would be here by now.

Laney wanted to be a park ranger. This camping trip had been an experiment for herself and a test for the ranger service. She needed to know how to leave the park in the same condition it was in when she had arrived by helicopter drop, find her way out and most especially, survive. She had received a diploma from an online ranger school before the acceptance letter into a national park training course arrived in the mail. The course taught her a few emergency service procedures, how to interact with local wildlife species, low-level plant biology and survival techniques. All this, so that she could host tours through the mountains.

After four nights in, she had about reached her limit. Her hair was limp and tangled, she was getting low on water, and she stunk. I didn’t sign on so that I could be alone. I want to be with people. In nature. Yeah, sure, I learned about bears, raccoons, wolves, mountain lions and such, but I did not expect to see them all during this week! I guess they are just as curious about me as I am about them.

She looked at the wolf again. The wolf stared back at her. Laney felt an unusual sensation. Laney’s steps slowed and then stopped. As their eyes stayed glued upon one another, Laney felt the wolf acknowledge her. The wolf recognized that she was another living creature to be respected. A woman. A breeder. A mother. A sacred creator of life.

Laney’s eyes welled with tears and she sniffed. She nodded at the wolf and sensed the wolf’s relief when it began to lay again for her pups. Laney finally turned her back to the wolf. She ventured in a wide arc around the little family, checking her compass as she went. Her steps were lighter.

 

 

HL Pic Series: 10 – Kami

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Kami stared out the window overlooking the park and sighed.

Another hazy day in the city. I just want to get outside and go for a walk. When will this rain ever quit? Twenty-three straight days of rain. I want to go meet up with the crew at Timber’s and I would rather ride my bike than take the subway. Jackie will probably be there. I should text her and tell her to bring my jacket, that would at least help protect my clothes from the drizzle. If I don’t get some exercise soon, I’m going to explode. If I were still back home in Pensacola, it wouldn’t be so rainy, but then I’d have to deal with humidity six months out of the year anyway. Well, maybe it would rain, but it wouldn’t be so dreary.

She sighed again and put on a sweatshirt, then she texted her friend as she left and locked her apartment. She walked down the hallway and pushed the elevator button. As she stood there waiting, the red-lit exit sign at the end of the hallway caught her eye. I could take the stairs. It’s only 15 floors and it would be good exercise.

Making the decision, she started down. By the second set of steps she began to feel woozy and sick. What did my ballet teacher say? Pick a point on the wall and stare at that to help against the nausea. 

When she had descended eight flights, waves of nausea overcame her. She had to stop. She sat on the bottom step, leaned against the wall and closed her eyes. She heard one of the doors open and slam. Her eyes shot open. Her heart skipped a beat and her stomach jumped. She slowly stood up and looked up but saw nothing. She looked down and saw a man wearing a knit cap and hoodie jogging up the steps.

Kami panicked. She first looked one way, and then another. Her mind froze, and so did her body. The steps grew louder. Her stomach heaved.

Kami bent and emptied the contents of her stomach onto the platform. The steps stopped. She heard a muttered, “Oh, gross,” and retreating steps. She swiped at her mouth and breathed a sigh of relief as she sat back down on the stairs, pulling out her phone. She texted her friend. I’m not coming.

Kami caught a whiff of the vomit and her stomach heaved again. She picked herself up off the step, opened the door and cautiously peered around it before entering the carpeted hallway.

She walked toward the elevator and pushed the button, scanning from side to side as slowly as possible because her head was pounding. She wanted to make sure no one had seen her enter. Nobody needs to know that I vomitted in the stairway.

Ding! The elevator doors opened. There stood the man in the hoodie and knit cap. Kami’s vision darkened.

When she awoke, she was staring at a dirty hall wall and her head was groggy. She shook it, then clutched at her stomach again.

“You’d better sit still for a bit. You took a nasty fall,” said a velvety voice.

Kami turned to look into the darkest brown eyes she had ever seen. She could not find her voice so she nodded as she continued to stare.

The man squatted on his heels and shifted his weight from one to the other, fidgeting his hands. He looked around. “Well, I, uh…”

Kami put up a hand and waved him away. “It’s ok… I’ll be fine.”

“You sure?”

She nodded. He stood up, looked at her doubtfully and pressed the elevator button. She tried to get up. He grabbed her elbow to steady her, looking skeptical as she stood.

Ding. They both entered the elevator.

“What floor?” the man asked.

Oh, crap! Should I tell him? Is he a murderer? Kami’s stomach lurched again and she grabbed at it. “Fifteen.”

He looked at her funny. “That’s my floor too.”

Her eyebrows shot up. “Really? I’ve never seen you up there.”

“I work nights over at the Marriott. I’m night manager there, so I sleep mostly during the day.”

“I stay up late to paint.”

“Walls?” he asked.

She laughed. “No, I paint landscapes.” Ding. The elevator doors popped open and they both stepped out. “I’m Kami.” She held out her hand.

He just looked at it. “Um, I think I’ll pass on shaking. I saw you in the stairwell; I don’t want to catch anything.”

Kami’s face burned.

“I’m Ben. I’ll see you around.” He turned and walked to the opposite end of the hallway, opened a door and entered.

Watching him the whole time, she suddenly realized she was no longer nauseous. Dang anxiety got me again! She shuffled slowly back to her apartment and laid down to take a nap.

HL Pic Series: 9-Sheila

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Sheila grasped her sweater around her shoulders and her stomach grumbled as she stared out past the dock. Randy was not home on time again. The crab legs she made for dinner were already cold. Good thing I snuck a couple while I was cooking.

The wind was picking up and the light was disappearing on this cloudy day. Not too long before, the weatherman had said a storm was only about thirty miles off shore. I wish he’d get home. Probably down at Sami’s having a drink. I hope he calls me for a ride and leaves the boat.

Sheila went in the house to call the pub.

“Sami’s!”

Sheila recognized Jessica, a young lady working over her summer college break.

“Hi, Jessica. Is Randy there, at the bar?”

“Sorry, what? I can’t hear you. The wind is knocking our shutters closed. Hold on just a sec.” Sheila heard the bumping of the phone and then several bangs.

“Ok,” said Jessica, returning. “What can I do for ya?”

“Jessica, this is Sheila Parks. Is Randy at the bar there?”

“Oh, hi, Mrs. Parks. No, he was here earlier, but he left awhile ago.”

“Do you know how long? He was going to be home by six, but hasn’t made it yet.” She stretched her neck to see out the front window, but snapped her fingers as she realized she had already closed the shutters.

“Oh, hmm… Maybe forty-five minutes or an hour ago? I’m not really sure, sorry.” Sheila could almost see the brunette’s head shaking from side to side. She was a nice kid, but not real good with detail.

“Oh, alright. Thanks anyways.” As Sheila hung up the phone, she heard the front storm door slam closed. She walked around the partial wall and saw a disheveled Randy pushing hard against the wooden front door. Glimpsing the bending palms through a crack before the door closed, she ran and threw herself on her husband, just as the door clicked.

“I’m so glad you’re back. I was worried.”

Randy chuckled and leaned back. “You’re not the only one. It was starting to get a little hairy out there, but, hey, I like this reception.” He winked at her and they both laughed. He glanced at the table then and saw crab legs falling from a bowl. He bowed his head sheepishly. “I’m sorry I’m late. I see the crabs didn’t want to stick around.”

Sheila turned to the table and laughed in surprise as she saw the crab legs. They looked like they were crawling out of the bowl.

“I guess the wind knocked over the bowl!” She squeezed him again. “I’m really glad you’re home. Let’s eat.”

HL Pic Series: 8 – Josie

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Josie twirled a red umbrella as she walked down the cobble-stoned street toward the Centrum, the center of town from where all streets began. There she knew she would find a restaurant to get a slice of pizza. Pizza was, after all, in every country across Europe.

Earlier that morning, like every morning for the past three and a half months, she had been painting down by the canal. The air had turned from fog to mist and then into a light shower. Luckily, she packed up when she felt the first bit of mist, and had gotten her paints back to her flat before any damage occurred, unlike her first rainy morning in Maastricht. Not quite quick enough that day, some of the watercolors had run down her shirt.

She loved her bustling city life in the Netherlands, and was sad to have to leave the following week. Her study time was coming to an end, but she was going to miss her new friends and their eclectic ways.

Josie’s American friends and parents thought her crazy when she told them she wanted to take an art semester in the Dutch country, rather than going to Paris or Italy like most students. Josie did her homework though, and decided her education would be better improved by going to a country with a more open attitude about people, freedom and life. Walking through the street, she knew she had made the right decision, even if sometimes she became uncomfortable by the Dutch’s open views of the body.

In the country that produced Vincent van Gogh, Pieter van der Werff and Johannes Vermeer, Josie had found her deep creative and artistic Self. She allowed her ingrained restraints to fall away, and she occasionally worried that she would lose that new-found Self when she went back home to the states.

Josie spotted a friend trotting toward her.

“Hallo, Yosie!” the woman called, waving.

“Hi, Renate!” Josie was grateful that most Dutch were fluent in English because even after several months there, her Dutch was still terrible. “I’m going to get a slice of pizza. Are you hungry?”

“Oh, Yosie, don’t you get tired of pizza? The market is on today and we can get kibbeling and frites! They serve it with tartar sauce.” She said the last part slowly, trying to entice Josie. Josie laughed.

“You know I don’t like fried fish! I maybe could do the fries, but your ketchup is so sweet here. Hmm… Maybe this time I’ll eat them like you do, with only mayonnaise.”

“Oh, Josie! You’re so funny. I’m going to miss you when you go next week. Maybe I can come for a visit, yah?”

“I would love that, Renate! We will definitely keep in touch.” Josie hugged her friend. She noticed the rain had stopped so she pulled down her umbrella as they entered the Centrum. 

Jan and Christof hailed them from a table set outside at a nearby cafe. A server wiped off chairs for them. Josie sighed. It wouldn’t be Europe if we didn’t eat outside.

 I am really going to miss this.

 

 

HL Pic Series: 7-Lucy

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Lucy dreamed. She was in Venice this time. Venice? Lucy woke.

It must have been spurred by my date tonight. Out with Golly, they had picked up McDonald’s and gone to the park downtown – the one with the pond and the pretty lampposts. That what must be what triggered it.

Lucy shook her head to clear the dream, then got up to make a cup of tea. She would not be getting back to sleep too soon, she thought. She took her tea to the sofa, grabbed a pen and paper and began writing as she recalled the dream.

The lamppost sat on a dock where several gondolas bounced lightly nearby in the water. I’ve never seen a gondola in my life. How do I even know they’re called gondolas? She watched the gondolas’ bouncing grow more erratic, so she looked to the right and watched a giant yacht float into the city. It was not slowing as it neared.

In her dream, she yelled to the captain, “Slow down!”

The captain looked at her through hollow eyes. The great ship would never make it through the canal – it would smash into both buildings that lined in on either side. Then it did.

But it didn’t. It glided through the buildings, rather than into them.

Lucy stood on the dock. Her hands shook. She looked around but nobody else on the dock or over by the buildings had noticed the ship. She waved at a lady near the closer of the two buildings, but the lady had looked right through her, too. Lucy looked at her hands, and went to hold the lamppost. They went right through it.

So… I’m a ghost.

Remembering caused the pen to shake in her hand, but she wrote it all down. She wrote it shakily. She wrote it in her journal of dreams, adding it to her collection of other strange dreams.

The captain looked through me. What does this mean? Is it another premonition? Or is there another more symbolic meaning to this dream? His eyes… What do all these dreams mean? Am I going to die? Or am I going to live?

 

 

HL Series: 6-Darlene

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Darlene stood on her balcony, gazing out over the Tuscan village and countryside. She never thought she would get out of her small town to venture across an ocean; but here she was, living a life she had never wanted to hope for.

She had met Derrick later in life – just after she turned fifty. Sure, she had dated lots of men, even married a couple, but they didn’t work out. Since there weren’t any children, she’d had no reason to stay after the passion wore off; but Derrick was different.

She had been waiting tables in a truck stop restaurant when state troopers made him exit the closed highway. He had wanted to wait out the storm, rather than get a hotel room, and this was how he ended up in Darlene’s booth.

At three in the morning, she had already been working for four hours. Her feet ached. A new girl had bumped her earlier and spilled a full plate of food on her, so her uniform was filthy and greasy. Mind-wrestling the drunks had been extra difficult that evening. She could not understand why anyone was even out in that kind of weather. If they needed booze that bad, they should have picked it up before the storm hit and taken it home to drink.

Angry and exhausted, Darlene had tromped toward Derrick with a coffee pot in one hand and her order pad in the other. She hadn’t anything about him until she stood before him at the table. When she looked up, the greyest eyes she’d ever seen stared back at her with a slight twinkle. Startled, she immediately stood taller and tried to smooth her apron, though when looking down, she realized it was futile. She gave him a half-smile.

“What can I get for ya?”

“Well, I guess I’ll have whatever is on the front of your apron.” He laughed, releasing her from her stressed and straight-backed position.

Darlene relaxed and pulled at her apron. “So that’s two eggs over easy, bacon, a side of pancakes and coffee?”

“Sounds delicious.” He handed her the menu and she smiled back at him. “Can you join me?”

Darlene instantly rubbed her hand over her hair. “Me?”

“Yes. It’s a cold night and you look like you could use a cup of coffee.” She nodded, and went to put his order in. Then she grabbed an extra cup for herself and went to sit down with him.

She ran away with him two weeks later and had not been back to her hometown since. That was four years ago.

Looking once again over the Tuscan valley, she had no regrets.

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