a short story.

Friday, December 28, 2012

been sick the past 9-10 days. not even sure how long it's been now, honestly. but I've had an idea in my head that I might do something with (or maybe not), so that's exciting. rough and unedited like always, but that's okay. :)

"Did you ever love him?" I scoot closer to her and put my chin in my knees. She sighs and runs a hand through her hair. I wince noticing the grey strands and the subtle threading in her face.

"I don't know." She smiles sadly, generously at me. "But I was so young and he was safe. I wanted out, you know. All around me, death. So many people died." Her voice trails off and she shakes he her head. I see the death in the way her hands shake and her voice breaks. "But your papa was safe. He was so safe to me. And he was a way out."

I catch my laugh before it comes and it turns into a cough. "Papa? Safe?" A snort I can't suppress. I shouldn't be this cruel.

Mama smiles again. She grips my face in her hands, strokes my cheek with her thumb. "I know. It seems so ironic, especially now," another trail and break and I watch as she protects us, "but he was so safe. And there was a time I thought he loved me. Just a little. It was in the snatches of summer and we picked peaches in an abandoned grove."

All at once, I see her as the mama in the photograph, slim with eyes bright and curly hair gathered into a messy braid, her feet bare and dress flowing and bracelets jangling. I hear the laughter in the dusty corners of the room and I see the smiles folded onto her face. I can't see his face, but I feel the corners of his grin and I know he must have loved mama.

"It was barely a grove," she confesses. Mama laughs again and leans back, remembering. "Just a few dilapidated trees. Most of them had been ravaged by the militia. They were mostly wormy -- peaches melting into mush under your fingers. But there was this one tree," her hands move rapidly as she paints a picture with her movements. I sit back and watch as she describes the afternoon.

"The leaves were thick and green like leaves are supposed to be. And the tree was heavy with fruit. I don't know how it escaped notice, and likely, it was tended, which is why we took so few. But your papa and I ate that fruit and I felt like life would be good." She laughs again, this time disparagingly. "Isn't it silly and sad all at once when we put such hope in the little things?" It wasn't a question. But I answered it.

"I think it's foolish."

"Put your stock in the small moments, Alya." She thumbs my cheek again, scoots closer and plants a small kiss in my hair. "Those are the minutes we can count as truly counting. And sometimes," she waves a hand at the grey outside. "the taste of peaches in the summer can give you hope, even long after they're gone."

She puts her hands on her knees and stands up, staring out the window.

I peek up and see that it's snowing. I don't need to see the flakes to know -- I can feel it in my bones. There's a wet chill that won't go away. But all I can think of is peaches and my momma and how things could have been. It's sad and hateful at once, but I'm jealous that I've never had peaches and angry that I never knew the laughing man she talks about as my father.

"Mama?" I venture one more question. She turns to look at me and waits. She waits and waits for what seems like an hour but is truly only a few minutes. She knows I need the moments to taste the question, to chew it. In that sense, she and I are alike.
"Yes?" Her question breaks the silence.

I look down at my hands. I'm afraid to ask but cannot not. "Did papa ever love you?" The words spill out in a tumble, a rush I can't stop. Now that I've said them, I can't look away from her face.

She is careful. She looks away from me, her expression guarded. Her words are steady, but she blinks more than usual and I'm afraid I've hurt her. And again, they are the words I've come to hate more than anything uttered. "I don't know."

It's apologetic, but not for me. She's sorry for the man who is a stranger still.
"Okay. I'm sorry." I stand and rub the dust from the back of my dress. She reaches a hand over to squeeze my own.

"There is nothing to be sorry about." Her voice is soft and I wish desperately that what she says is true.


  1. you, my dear, are one of the best writers I've had the privilege to read the work of. just beautiful.

  2. beautiful, beautiful. reminds me a lot of the hunger games, and i love that. <3 you, sweet friend, are a crazy good writer. :)

  3. see? i told you. brilliant. fantastic. and yes i'm using the p-word again: poignant. and it makes me long for more.
    i am so proud to be your friend and your reader of raw-and-unedited works. keep sending them my way, darling.
    seriously. you beauty, you.
    also your labels are quirky and inviting.
    i'm going to write you a story soon, okay? okay. okay. (because maybe 'okay' will be our always - oh gus, you slay me.)

  4. ahhhhh. this is nostaglic, poingant, bittersweet, honest, perfect, raw and beeeautifull.

  5. You've painted a beautiful picture. You are a writer, and a very beautiful one. This reminded me of The Secret Life of Bees (if you haven't read it you should), you've written something that I use to try to write, but couldn't. The mother and daughter. Keep writing Hannah. love.

    1. thanks lillian. :) I haven't read it but I've heard about it...perhaps I'll have to purchase it (seen as my library card is perpetually overdue.)