Posts Tagged Fiction
Read Chapter 23 before you continue…
Elaina’s mind tumbled through the tide of enlightenment that washed over her. She had never tried to work through the range of emotions surrounding the event before, though five years was plenty time for private musings. Her thoughts had been consumed by two phases of that watershed moment in her life. There was the horrific replay of Brooke’s confession and the harrowing sense of betrayal that took over later, accompanied by a myriad of emotions. Feelings of pain, confusion, mortification, anger and, worst of all, being second-rate had drowned out any reason for recovery. They had kept her from considering there might be a third component, gluing Brooke’s action to her reactions. Withheld contemplations of the loss she had also experienced though she was aware the loss was lurking in there too. Now, while standing before Brooke, the missing piece clicked into place. Talking to Brooke was what it took.
“What do you mean?” Brooke asked again, even as some new realization shone through her eyes. Read the rest of this entry »
Read Chapter 20 before you continue…
Matthew stared at the massive blank wall. He had it, along with all the other walls prepped for the exhibition, painted jet black with a finely grooved texture to make them appear as though it was suctioning the light out of the surrounding space. What little light he had left on, that is. Straying from the usual still exhibition format that displayed colorful arts on white surfaces in a brightly lit atmosphere, he had decided to showcase his series in a dimmed hall with strategically located accent lights. Soon photos developed in sepia hues would hang on black walls as though blossoming out of a void. Because that’s how the subject affected him these days.
Elaina had not relented to his plea. As promised, he had called her as soon as he returned to New York and numerous times in the week that followed, always with the same desperate reasoning to make her have faith in their relationship. While she received his calls, she had pointblank let him know that his return to Lainie’s Creek will not be welcome. She did not own a cell phone and it had costed him a bruised ego to so often call the ranch and ask for her only to have her tell him it was over between them – but he had done it nevertheless. He would have gone back to see her anyway if it were not for Hayden finally informing him during his call the night before his scheduled return flight that Elaina no longer wished to speak to him before hanging up sharply. After which, he had torn his air ticket and threw himself into his work.
Yet, try as he may to keep his mind and time occupied with teaching photography to college students or supervising the existing exhibition at the gallery or even shooting hoops with his friends, memories of Elaina was never far from his mind. He particularly missed her when developing the images for the Fall exhibition when even the photos without her in them brought on a wave of nostalgia of their shared experiences those summer days. Moreover, as he had sifted further and further through the photos, he soon realized that she occupied over sixty percent of the shots he had taken in Lainie’s Creek and most of the rest forty percent shots were also in some way linked to the story of this striking woman he had now pieced together. He had eventually embraced the inevitable and built the story of his series around her. Now with only two more weeks before “The Cowgirl” showcased, his mind was swimming with thoughts of the protagonist of his pictorial narrative more than ever, as though he had not last seen her two months, ten days and twenty-two hours ago.
“You should really turn on some more lights in here.” Read the rest of this entry »
Read Chapter 19 before you continue…
Elaina lay awake in bed. Her head felt battered. There was a dull ache just behind her eyes that felt as though her brain had swollen to twice its size and refused to fit in its enclosure anymore. Side effects of too much thinking.
Hayden had cornered her again that morning and hadn’t that been a barrel of laugh. It was to impart yet another sermon about the potential danger of mixing with Matthew. When she refused to listen to his lectures, he told her about a discussion he had had with Brooke at the fair the previous day where Brooke had let drop that Matthew had come to Lainie’s Creek as her date but was now dating Elaina instead. The news had stumped Elaina for a few minutes and Hayden had taken her silence as sanction to carry on with his raving against dating outsiders, which he did verily.
But the rest of it had fallen on deaf ears. Elaina was preoccupied with putting together all that she had learnt about Matthew through their interactions. Sure he would not be in Lainie’s Creek if not for Brooke, but Matthew had already explained to her his role in visiting with Brooke. And all that he told her about himself only reflected on his candid nature. Matthew was not a liar and Brooke had a history of it. So she had thanked Hayden once again for looking out for her and sharing the information. She told him she would discuss this with Matthew and sent a grumbling older brother on his way.
Then she waited for Matthew to drop by. He had told her the previous night that he might be on an outing with Brooke and would come over once he became free, which he expected could be around late afternoon. Yet afternoon had rolled into evening and that into night, until the family had supper and turned in for the night – without him ever in sight. She cajoled herself that he was after all Brooke’s guest and it was not fair that she had monopolized most of his time since they met. She told herself this but it did not stop her from wondering if Brooke was taking advantage of their time together to put up a bit of competition. That was a thought which kept popping into her head and she had to keep stamping down.
Elaina growled into the shadows of her room. She was being unfair to Matthew again. Over the past few days, he certainly had proven himself as anything but fickle and deserved better than her suspicious musings. Those were the results of cultivating a five-year old stock of insecurities. Entirely her own problem. But he had not visited her today and tomorrow was originally the date of his departure so she wondered. He could have changed his mind about staying without Brooke’s help. Photography, three to four exhibitions per year, a teaching position at a renowned university, owning a gallery – the man liked to keep busy and he kept busy in New York. She wouldn’t be able to blame him if he had to bail on their fledgling relationship. Even if staying was his own idea in the first place.
She needed to turn off her brain and go to sleep. It had been a scalding summer day and the night had only melted the heat so it stuck damply to the skin. An air conditioner had been installed in her room some years ago. She had soon discovered that working in the sun all day after sleeping in the frigid air at night played havoc with her sinuses so she refrained from using the contraption. She usually kept the window wide open with the curtains drawn aside to allow whatever air that stirred outside to flow in. Sleeping in semi-darkness never bothered her. Tonight, however, the light wasn’t helping. If her nerves had not been frayed from overthinking she would have been asleep by now. She tossed to her side, facing away from the moonlight filtering in through the window.
There was a muffled thud behind her, as though something large had dropped to the carpet. Elaina sat up to discover the crouching shadow of a man beneath the window and it was all she could do to stop herself from screaming in alarm. Then the shadow rose to stand in the moonlight and Matthew loomed closer. She felt a thrill shoot up her spine as he swiftly sat on her bed and clamped a hand over her mouth.
“Don’t shout,” he instructed belatedly. “It’s me.” Read the rest of this entry »
Read Chapter 18 before you continue…
Matthew spent most of next day with Brooke as he had promised. And though he missed Elaina terribly, it turned out that he also had a stimulating time sightseeing with Brooke. She had driven them to a bike trail through a forest in a nearby county that ended up in a cave hidden behind a short waterfall. She had known both the trail and cave familiarly, being able to point out the entrance to the fissure in the cliff that was otherwise hidden by dark foliage and rushing white water. It had made for a very picturesque outing and since Brooke had already warned him to come prepared so as to take his equipment into the water, his growing portfolio of imagery had thoroughly benefited from the trip.
It was curious because, in the years that he had known her, Brooke had never given him the impression that she was outdoorsy. Even when they had been romantically involved, they had rarely held their dates alfresco. A walk in Central Park now and then was the extent of their nature excursions, preferring night clubs and chic restaurants for their rendezvous instead. In fact, this was the first time he had actually seen Brooke perform any vigorous exercise, though he heard her complaining often enough about the regime modelling kept her in. Matthew suspected that this particular display of nemophilism was really in response to the fact that Matthew had spent so much time with Elaina in the outdoors. Feeling threatened, Brooke may have just hoped he would see that she was just as country. Since he did not want to fuel another argument, he had wisely refrained from commenting on this new adventurous side of Brooke.
And it had worked. While Brooke had met him that morning with considerable reticence, by the time they had reached the cave, her silence had given way to exaltation for the beauty of their natural surroundings. It was clear that she missed the country, which only made him wonder more why she stayed away from home for so long. He had gathered a while ago that it had something to do with the falling out between Elaina and her – one couldn’t have not deduced as much after watching how each woman reacted to any mention of the other – but that only made him more curious about what the discord had been about. He was not stupid enough to ask, mind. He liked his head where it was, thank you, and did not fancy it being chewed off. So as the day wore on, he had kept mum on any topic that could lead to offsetting the dearly retrieved good mood of his companion.
Which made the predicament of informing Brooke about his decision to stay in Lainie’s Creek all the more difficult. Yet as they drew closer to the end of their daytrip, he knew he must gather his resolve and notify Brooke of his plans. The sooner he got it out in the open, the better. He decided to spill the news the moment they got back to McKenna ranch. It will just be like pulling off a Band-Aid. Read the rest of this entry »
Read Chapter 17 before you continue…
“This is getting ridiculous,” Elaina repeated for what now seemed like the umpteenth time.
Matthew had got four out of seven shots into the cups with his previous bag of softballs and was now purchasing a second bag to continue his mission to win her a prize. “That was my practice set,” Matthew repeated, as he had claimed previously every time he missed a shot.
He was tenacious, she had to give him that. Every time he missed, he would shrug it off and try again. When he got in a ball in the cup, his elated whoops drew attentions of nearby fair visitors. His spirited attempt to win his date a prize had acquired him a set of groupie too – the teens who had earlier praised his pony had stuck by his side through thick and thin. Nothing achieved the adulation of adolescent girls than a man wanting to be a knight in shining armor, however misplaced that ambition may be. Elaina sighed.
Matthew heard her and raised an eyebrow. “You don’t think I can do this?”
Elaina had her fists on her hips much like her mother usually had when one of her brothers demonstrated their overtly macho and competitive traits. “Whether you can do this or not is not the point. The fact you don’t have to do this, however, is.”
“I can do this.”
“I’m sure you can but, again, not the point,” she ground out.
She was talking to a wall. Grinning, Matthew turned away from her, stepping once again up to the counter, determined to defeat the wobbling cups.
Elaina noticed the change in him immediately from how the sinews of his raised forearms peeked out from under his rolled up sleeves, more defined than before, the fine white cotton of his shirt stretching over his biceps and broad back, as though he was holding something much heavier than a softball. He crouched slightly, balancing himself on his calves and she appreciated as even the denim over his buttocks flexed. Whether he won her a toy today or not, she was going to reward him tonight for trying because his attempt was a fine thing to look at. Read the rest of this entry »
Read Chapter 16 before you continue…
Brooke watched as Mathew finally detached himself from Elaina’s form after a long lingering kiss before laughingly leading her back into the fairgrounds, hand-in-hand. She had had her fingers crossed when Elaina had come out in a huff, but trouble in paradise did not even last five minutes before Matthew had cajoled cowgirl back into his arms and then back to the fair. If she did not know she was so awesome, Brooke would have thought the burning sensation in the pit of her stomach was something akin to self-loathing. But as she was fully confident in her awesomeness, it must be an acid imbalance from all the fried food her mother has been exposing her to since she came home. She could not wait to get back to her life in the city and away from this town once again because her return has been anything but the triumph she had anticipated it to be. In fact, it had been quite humiliating.
How was this even possible? Read the rest of this entry »
Read Chapter 15 before you continue…
Madam Esmeralda truly appeared bewildered as she met Matthew’s gaze. “Hayden?”
Elaina was not fooled. She had visited Madam’s tent every year since she was a little girl with her friends to hear the old woman’s wild predictions. Esmeralda was not even her real name. When she was not moonlighting as a fortune-teller, the population of the county knew this old woman as the eccentric Widow Warren of Triple Axel, the adjacent town to Lainie’s Creek. It was true Widow Warren, née Mary Esme Smith, born and brought up in Lainie’s Creek, now lived in her deceased husband’s family home all by herself in the neighboring town, but she returned numerous times each year to take on her position as the county fair fortune-teller. Without any children of her own, the job afforded her an outlet to be around children and youths in the form of entertainment. She had seen all of Elaina’s friends and siblings grow up over the years and if she remembered Lainie Corey’s romantic misfortunes so clearly, she certainly was not going to forget the current Corey siblings in a hurry.
“Please don’t insult my intelligence by pretending not to know who Hayden is, Mrs. Warren,” retorted Elaina, dropping all pretense to the illusion of the role played by the older lady. “You know very well he is my brother just as I know you are no fortune-teller. Now fess up if he put you up to this.” Read the rest of this entry »