The hummus is almost gone; there might possibly be an entire bite left, if some desperate soul wanted to gather stale edging from the container onto a last, lonely piece of cracker. Grant, piece of cracker in hand, contemplated it seriously. He carefully kept his back to the raucous laughter coming from the card table. He had honed his conversation-avoiding skills for years, and he knew that he could milk this unappetizing moment for at least another two minutes.
Becoming a wizard’s apprentice was easy, Viola mused, mincing her way through the pumpkin patch, machete at the ready. You just needed to be a bit on the bright side, or perhaps reasonably ambitious, or failing that, to have helpful parents with a bit of coin for a bribe.
But to be a successful apprentice – one with prospects of becoming a journeyman wizard, traveling amongst the villages handing out cures and protections, helping the occasional princeling or peasant girl with a destiny – well, you needed something more. Something she appeared to be lacking. Frankly, she’d expected a lot more poetry memorization and stew-making.
She had definitely not been expecting the garden. Tending to magical herbs, sure, but this was too much. She heard a rustling sound behind her and spun around. Dammit, the leggy radishes had snuck up on her again. And then, as she was backing up, she tripped over the invisible beans.
As she scrambled to her feet, she could hear the faint shur-shur-shur of laughter. One day she would figure out which plant was always laughing at her, and she was going to turn it into soup. And not even magic soup.
It’s late and Jack is tired. But he has a paper due in the morning, so there will be no sleep for him. He tries not to rub his eyes too much as he stares into the glowing white abyss that his computer screen. The smell of coffee is starting to seem nauseating instead of enticing. He dumps a ton of milk into it and drinks it anyway.
The distinctive cr-cr-crunch of a piece of kibble being eaten. The fast-forward shriek of the bathroom door being closed. The rush of water from the sink, swishing and oscillating as hands move through it. The click of cat nails on tile, nails that need clipping. The whisper-scratch of a toothbrush. The soothing hum of the computer fan. A sudden growl of nearby traffic. The creak of the settling house.
Lindsey has to take a break after a while to breathe some air that isn’t choked with dust. She had the foresight to clean off one of the garden benches first; it takes her weight with only minimal groaning as she collapses against it. Her skin feels grimy. She peels off her work gloves, grimacing as the cool air hits her hands. They feel both clammy and parched, which shouldn’t be possible, if there was any justice.
Art supplies spill out from shelves in the room. Carefully labelled boxes are forced to make room for bundles of brushes and pens, notepads are stuffed so tightly together that pulling one out means pulling all out. Drawers full of bottles and tubes no longer shut. Canvases and frames are piled against the walls. A lap desk leans on a standing easel. Pastel dust coats the nooks and shadows of the room.
Her mind is a box, each side firm and precisely constricting. She is calm, in that eggshell way where she knows not to glance to either side. She sips her tea. She stares out the window. She holds her mind close, reins taut, and waits for something to shift. She does not contemplate the inevitable. She does not look down.
The pillow slumps despondently against the couch. The wrinkles in the fabric suggest that someone leaned their elbow against it, probably while reading an article on their phone, or absentmindedly catching themselves while eating a snack. The pillow remains unfluffed.
The sunlight is harsh in the air, as she throws the curtains open; every speck of dust screaming here, here, over here! They fill the room. Lindsey tries to open the window, coughing, but it won’t budge. It’s not locked. It must be stuck.
When she turns around, she sees the furniture more clearly as well. What was romantically shabby in the candlelight is now tattered and unpleasant; any lingering feelings have fled to the shadows, leaving behind only a couch that no one would walk to sit on anymore. The cream is revealed to be a dirty white; the cloth is ripped, the stuffing is flattened.
A ghostly hand brushes her ankle; she chokes back a scream. But when the cat jumps up on the decrepit couch, she has to laugh. It eyes her suspiciously, and begins industriously clawing up the nearest arm. Alright, so one creature still wants to sit on that thing. As far as she’s concerned, the cat can have it.
They studiously ignore each other as she moves to the next window; the sounds of tongue scraping over fur accompany her as she tries each window in turn. Only one opens, and begrudgingly. But it’s a start.
I’m going to try picking this up again. But I don’t want to burn out like last time; so I’m going to try writing smaller, less ambitious posts. Not all of them; I’ll probably aim for one full scene a week, but other days will be very little words, just two or three sentences. Just enough to cup inside your hand. Little warm ups.
Part of the inspiration for this was talking with a friend about what would be the equivalent of a sketch – at their most basic, a sketch takes less than five minutes, just a few key lines slapped together. That’s what I’m aiming at for now, while I get back into the habit. In the long run, we’ll see how this goes!