Categories
Creative Writing

Amaris

I am finally back from my small hiatus from my blog. All will be explained in another post, however I thought I would share this old piece with you all. Amaris, though I haven’t written her in some time, is one of my favorite characters I have ever created. I think this piece, the first introduction to her character, shows something important about her: where her priorities lie. Enjoy!

In the late hours of the night, the first riot began. 

At first, it was quiet. The wind blew sand through the dark alleyways and shook the shutters outside of the homes of the people. The Julenne castle stood ominously over the entire city, the bright lights inside casting faint ones onto the grounds all around the village, which had ignited the passion of the rioters.

When the first light when on in the tallest building, everyone else woke up with it. People were exiting their homes during the dark hours, unallowed by King Alexander, and began to shout. 

Amaris woke up a few minutes into the beginning of the riot. Her vision was hazy as she stood from her bed to the cold floor. Her head throbbed from the shouting – which she hadn’t realized was shouting yet, for waking from a deep sleep left her in a blinded state.

Her hands reached for the shutters, which kept the bitter air outside, but she felt she needed to have the air hit her face to wake her.

When the shutters opened, she was hit with the air, but also, the swarm of hundreds below her home, all gathered in the city center with torchlights, their cries echoing through the foreboding night.

The man at the center, standing on the statue platform, was screaming out curses to the King.

“Are we going to let this man control when we can and cannot be outside of our homes? Are we going to let him walk all over us as if we’re nothing? He continues to raise taxes, taking our hard-earned money from us and our children, so his child can be a spoiled brat! Are we going to let this keep happening?”

He was screaming, the sweat beading from his forehead was trickling down his face. His words were fueled by rage, the steam from his screams exiting his lungs at an alarming rate. His voice was fading fast, but he kept going. 

“He makes us work harder, while he’s sitting on his ass with no intention of doing any work himself! Our fishermen are dying from exhaustion! If we keep working, emptying our waters, we won’t have any fish left to sell! He keeps us indoors during the ‘dark hours’! What the hell is he keeping from us?”

Amaris quickly pulled the shutters closed, but it didn’t drown out the man’s yells, and the cheering that came from the crowd.

In bare feet, she pulled her cloak over her thin, freezing body, and ran out the door. The crowd stood right outside, pressed up against the wooden frame. She shoved her way through the men and women, all cheering for the man at the center.

The walls of the mob were closing in around her as she pushed between the people blocking her. She dug her nails into their sides to press past them, ever so slowly sliding closer to the center. Amaris could still hear the man shouting, getting louder with every word he spoke. 

His voice was heavy, scratching in his passionate words to the people around him. The spit produced from him was beginning to freeze to his white beard, but he didn’t notice. He kept screaming, kept the rage burning in the people’s hearts, and made sure that they would be heard by the monarchy that never heard a voice but their own. 

Amaris approached him cautiously, knowing that in his passion he wouldn’t cool well.

She reached up to him and took hold of the end of his cloak, looking up towards him with golden eyes. Her voice was calm, but loud amongst the protesters screaming around them.

“You need to come back inside, Father.”

He looked down towards her, his words faded to silence when he saw her. The protesters were loud, but none noticed when he stopped. They continued their cries, hoping that they’d be heard.

“Amaris, what are you doing out here,” His voice had calmed. She ignited a sense of duty to him, to make sure that she was safe. He reached down towards her, taking hold of her wrists, “It’s late, you need to go back to the house, a girl like you shouldn’t be out here – you’ll get hurt.”

“You don’t want me to get hurt, I don’t want you to get hurt. Please, Father, come back to the house…” She pleaded to him. 

The way she spoke made him believe they were the only two in the crowd. 

“I won’t get hurt, Amaris. Now go back inside.”

“Father. I can’t do that. Please, come inside…”

He looked down towards his daughter for a moment and almost broke for her. 

Almost.

“Amaris, you need to go back into the house. Now. Your mother would not be happy to know that you’re out here-” He interrupted himself, looking into her silver eyes and taking tight hold of her hand, “Please, Amaris.”

Amaris reluctantly agreed, looking around the chaos surrounding them, “Please promise me that you won’t get hurt..” 

“I cannot promise anything, but I will try my best, darling..” He placed a kiss atop her raven head, then relinquished the hold on her wrist and hand.

Amaris obeyed her Father, sinking back into the crowd. It did not take long for her to hear his roars above the crowd and the praise that followed behind. 

She had always questioned him on why he insisted on leading the riots. Amaris knew that he would get hurt one day. She always feared the day that he wouldn’t come home. She wanted to stay with him, to make sure that no harm would come to him. But Amaris returned to her home despite her wish to stay with her father. 

Categories
Creative Writing

The Great Mind Meeting

This is another piece of my novel! Check out the rest of my posts further down in my blog!

When Jaelyn came home, the meeting was in 5 hours. She rushed to her room and locked the door behind her. She leaned back on the door and looked at her reflection in her window. She smiled and turned around to face the poster hung up. Mars Addington. 

She was going to see Mars Addington in person. Her hero. The legend. The Mars Addington.

Opening the closet, she pulled the dress off of the hanger and shoved it into her backpack. She put on her best shoes, and ran her fingers through her hair to pull apart the small knots.

It was easy to sneak out of the house. Mae was asleep on the couch, as usual for this hour, and Cade still hadn’t come home from Picking yet. All Jaelyn had to make sure she didn’t do was slam the front door shut. 

Once outside, she ran down the dirt paths and past the lit up houses. There were lots of people around, but none paid attention to her unless she was about to run into them. She weaved through Pickers and to the monorail station.

She checked the letter again. It was folded up from being hidden in her pocket. At the end of the letter the students were told to bring them to get admittance to the International Space and Air Museum grand ballroom. She hugged the letter to her chest and smiled at her reflection in the window across from her seat. She had never been so excited for an event.

She got off at the Museums stop on the monorail. It was just a 5 minute walk from the stop that she was able to see the large white block building. The museum looked to be 4 large white blocks connected. They were several different sizes, and one stacked on top of the other three. It was blinding under the moonlight. Jaelyn watched as limos pulled up to the front of the building. Several boys and girls would get out of each, wearing lavish gowns and pressed suits. 

When Jaelyn realized that she was yet to put her dress on, she was set into a panic. Where was she going to change? There was no way she would be able to enter that building without it on. She was out in the streets in the middle of the city. There were no trees to hide behind, no bathrooms nearby. Glancing around, she noticed an alleyway off to her right. She decided that was the best place to change.

In the alley there was a dumpster and several trash cans. The rats scattered as she walked further into the darkness.

She hid behind the dumpster, took a deep breath, and pulled the dress out of her bag. She kept it in a ball in her hand so the flowing bright orange ends didn’t get stained by the murky puddles. Looking around to make sure that the only thing that could see her were the stars and the rats hidden away, she hesitantly took her shirt off and pulled the dress over her, leaving her pants on.

Another car rumbled by and Jaelyn pressed herself against the brick wall, staying hidden from the line of sight of the street. She took her pants off and left on her black school shoes. She knew that all the girls around her would be in heels, but she didn’t own any, and she wouldn’t borrow any from her mother. 

She shoved her shirt and pants into her backpack, and held the invitation tight in her hand. Jaelyn glanced around the street before coming out of the alley and continuing towards the building.

There were two men posted outside the entrance doors. Behind them were a group of men and women in slimming black suits. Jaelyn watched as when a group of kids approached them. They handed their invitations to one of the men, and then followed two of the members of the group. They must’ve been guides to the ballroom.

Jaelyn walked up the large marble stairs and approached the man on the left.

“How can I help you?” He asked her. His voice was dark and deep.

Jaelyn handed her invitation to him, saying quietly “I’m here for the Great Mind Meeting.”

The man inspected the letter and said, glancing at her “You didn’t come in a car?”

Jaelyn bit the inside of her cheek and quickly replied “It broke down. Down the road. I didn’t want to be late.”

He nodded after a minute and turned around to a slim red haired woman and said to her “Take Ms. Beyer to the ballroom.”

The woman gestured Jaelyn to follow her. As she walked down the hallway she said over her shoulder “Congratulations on your score, Ms. Beyer. Are you excited?”

“Absolutely,” Jaelyn replied as she followed her and then added “And thank you, miss.”

The woman smiled at her and led her down the hallway. There was the sound of voices and music becoming louder, and soon Jaelyn three sets of doors open.

Inside was a wide open room, decorated with hanging crystal chandeliers and large round white tables. There were floating white and cream colored lanterns dotted around the ceiling, some floating on their own. There were models of planets hanging as well, in perfect scaled detail. The tables were decorated with gold and silver plates with cream napkins and matching silverware. On top of the plates were small white boxes with silver ribbon tied around it. The center pieces were lilacs and baby’s breath, as well as what appeared to be tiny models of Ivosa in the middle of the flower arrangements. At the back of the room there was a large stage with a podium and a large projecting screen. 

The windows on the sides of the room were adorned with white curtains, tied back with gold rope and pulled away to reveal the view of the Brighton View City Gardens on the left side of the room. On the right, Holloway Pond could be seen glittering in the moonlight. Also on the right side was a group of musicians. Jaelyn couldn’t even begin to identify all of the instruments that they had with them. She had never seen a professional music group perform.

The red haired woman led Jaelyn through the doors. Some students were standing, while others were sat around tables. At a closer look, Jaelyn could see that there were name tags in front of the plates. She followed the woman over to a table in front of the stage and saw her name placed between two others: Ember Daniels and Julis Dedam. 

She thanked the woman and put her bag underneath her chair. She looked around to see if she recognized anyone from her school. She slowly made her way around her table and didn’t recognize any of the names at her table. 

“They let you in?” Tanner said across the table.

Jaelyn met his eyes and furrowed her eyebrows and replied in a mocking tone “They let you in?”

He rolled his eyes and shoved his hands into his dress pants pockets. “I can’t believe you actually showed. Considering I’m sure that they’d kick you out once they find out that you’re a picker.”

“I have the right to be here, Tanner, as much as you hate the idea.”

“Sure, picker, whatever you want to think.”

Jaelyn clenched her fists at her side, biting the inside of her cheek and saying “I don’t understand why you treat me the way you do, Tanner. I deserve to be here. They wouldn’t of sent me an invitation if they didn’t want me to come.”

“You don’t belong here, picker,” Tanner snarled, “You don’t belong in high class society. You should give up trying to impress with your little knowledge of astronomy and technology.”

Jaelyn’s mouth was dry. She opened her mouth to spit a response, but the only sound she heard was another girl’s voice saying behind Tanner, “Dude, anytime you open your mouth you make people want to punch you in the face.”

Tanner turned around and gave Jaelyn view of the girl. She was his height, with tan skin and a mop of curly dark brown hair tied up in a bun on the top of her head. She wore a long black dress with a slit up the side of the leg that reached her thigh. Her eyes were dark and narrowed as she looked at Tanner.

“What do you want?” Tanner rolled his eyes and scoffed at her.

“Oh, I don’t think your mother will want to hear about you talking to me like that, now will she?” the girl then smiled and threw her arm around his shoulder and said “Now, cousin dearest, why don’t you be nicer to this lovely girl?”

Tanner tried to shove her away and replied in disgust, “Don’t touch me.”

She rolled her eyes and let go of him. She placed her purse on the chair next to Jaelyn’s and said “Don’t be such a party pooper, Tanner.”

“Ember, she’s a p-” Tanner began to protest, but Ember quickly cut her off.

“I don’t care what she is.” Ember looked at Jaelyn and flashed a pearly white smile at her, saying “Hi, I’m Ember Daniels.”

Jaelyn quietly replied “I’m Jaelyn Beyer.”

“Oh, so we’re sitting next to each other!” Ember walked over to her and smiled and said “I love your dress. It’s gorgeous.”

“Thank you.” Jaelyn wasn’t used to compliments from people her age. Mrs. Montrone complimented her a lot, and Mrs. Alia complimented her hair cut. But the only person her age that usually complemented her was Marea. Sometimes Jaelyn thought she did it just to be nice.

“Ember. I don’t think your parents would like to know that you’re talking to a Picker.” Tanner crossed his arms and glared in Jaelyn’s direction. 

Ember raised an eyebrow and said “Tanner, what did you get on the assignment?”

“Why does that matter-”

“What did you get?” Ember asked again, narrowing her eyes.

He lowered his and mumbled “99.”

“Well, I got a 100. So maybe, since I’m smarter than you, you should listen to me. And stop bullying this girl.”

Jaelyn stared at Ember. She got a 100 too?

Tanner’s face flushed and he bit the inside of his cheek and grumbled “You aren’t smarter than me.” He turned on his heel and walked away from the table.

“Sorry about him.” Ember turned to Jaelyn and smiled warmly at her. “I hope he didn’t bother you too much.”

Jaelyn mumbled in response “He’s been bothering me since our first year of secondary school.”

“Seriously?” Ember sat down in her chair and continued, “He’s such a jerk. I’m sorry about him.”

Jaelyn shrugged and said “I’m used to it. I’m sure other people think the same things that he just happens to say out loud.”

“I’m sure that’s not true. Just because you aren’t from here doesn’t mean you don’t belong here.”

From here? Jaelyn bit her cheek harder. She was from here. The trash heaps were still part of Brighton View. She decided not to mention anything. She wanted Ember to like her. Jaelyn knew that you don’t correct your friends.

“I know it’s only been ten minutes since I got here, but this sure is boring.” Ember looked around the room and added, “this is a bunch of high school students and they hired a classical orchestra. This is stuff that those adults would like.”

“Do you know who is presenting?” Jaelyn asked.

Ember shrugged. She picked up her crystal water glass and took a drink.

Jaelyn watched the doors as more students began to flood in. She took her seat next to Ember and soon their table was full. Once everyone had checked in and had sat down, there were waiters that came into the room. They each carried golden platters. The waiters, mostly men with a few women as well, came over to their assigned tables and put the small porcelain plates in front of the students. Their first course made Jaelyn’s mouth water. It was a small piece of brown meat – either beef or veal, she wasn’t sure. It was decorated with orange and red sauces and what looked like thinly sliced potatoes on top of it. She wondered if it came from the Montrone farm.

She was ready to dig into her plate, but she watched Ember pick up the third fork in the line and start eating with that. She took note of that, picked up the same fork and her knife. She took a bite and it melted in her mouth. Jaelyn had never tasted anything like it before. It was sweet, spicy, and warm. 

“So, you’re from Hoffman Academy?” Ember asked after she swallowed her first bite of food.

Jaelyn nodded and she quickly shoved another piece of pork into her mouth.

“And you got a 100? That’s pretty impressive, it seems like you’re the only one to have gotten that from there.” Ember glanced around the table and whispered to her “None of the others at this table are from there, are they?”

“No.” Jaelyn swallowed her bite. “I’m the only one who got a 100 from Hoffman.”

Julius, the read haired boy sat on Jaelyn’s other side, chimed in “I figured no one from there would even get invited.”

Before Jaelyn could process his thought, Ember jumped in “Well, Jaelyn did it.”

Julius shoved another piece of pork into his mouth.

Jaelyn couldn’t believe how quickly Ember jumped to defend her. The only other person who would do that was Marea. But she was all talk, she never did anything she said she wanted to do.

Almost as quickly as Jaelyn finished, their plates were whisked away and a new one was placed in front of them. This one had a silver cover on top of it. When lifted, a white smoke flowed over the edges of the plate and across the table. There were laughs across the room and then the clatter of silverware digging into the noodle dish.

By the time dessert came, Jaelyn was laughing with the others at her table as if she had known them forever. The blonde girl across from Jaelyn talked about her parents arguing over where to send her older sibling. The boy with long black hair told them all about his favorite band and their concert coming up.

In the middle of Ember telling the table the story about her father’s auto business, the lights began to dim. The lights on the stage got brighter, and a younger woman walked over to the podium. Her light hair was on her head in a tight bun and she wore a long form fitting black dress. Nothing about her struck Jaelyn anyway; she didn’t know who she was.

“Hello and welcome to The Great Mind Meeting.” She smiled and held her hand up. She flicked her wrist and a large graphic appeared on the holographic screen behind her. “For those of you who do not know me, my name is Andromeda Calquin. I am the Director of Affairs for the International Space Association. I was assigned by my higher-ups to create and distribute this research assignment, as we are always looking for bright young minds to intern with us.

“As you all are aware, the only students that received invitations to attend tonight’s meeting were students that were graded at a 95% or above. Out of the hundreds of students assignments that were graded, the 80 of you here tonight were able to obtain such an incredible feat.” She clapped, and a roar of applause between the students themselves and the staff standing near the doors of the room.

When it died, she continued on “You all showed through your work that you have incredible potential.” She flicked her wrist again, and the slide behind her changed. “It is my pleasure to announce the reasons behind this project.”

Behind her the large screen showed the cover page of the International Space Association’s yearly published magazine. On the cover page was a girl with orange hair, tied back in a tight ponytail. She wore large black framed glasses and her face was pointed and her features were slim. In bold lettering above her head read “Best Rising Scientist of 2150” in white letters.

Ember leaned over to Jaely and whispers “I know that girl. She’s such a snob it’s ridiculous.”

“Every year, the ISA selects a student to receive the Best Rising Scientist Award. Usually, we look at course work as well as their internships involving the ISA. However, this year we decided to do it differently,” Andromeda continued. “This student, Delta Gardence, is a senior attending Swanson Academy. She has been working under Dr. Orion Hoffman for 2 years. As a part of her internship with the ISA, she had to create a scale model of a CO2 remover that she and Dr. Hoffman created together. Not only has she excelled at that, but she then proceeded to create a working model at the scaled size. She is sitting amongst you all tonight.”

As Andromeda continued to drone on about all of her accomplishments, Jaelyn took the chance to scan the room to find the girl. It wasn’t that difficult to find her. She sat at the table next to Jaelyn’s, and she herself had noticed that there weren’t many red haired people in attendance. Delta, Julius, and one or two others. She was looking up at Andromeda, sitting straight up with her hands folded together on the table.

Ember whispered again “She’s the ISA’s little angel. They never shut up about her. She’s so full of herself.” Ember leaned her elbow on the table and watched Delta and continued “Look at her, sitting there all pompous while Calquin praises her in front of all of us.”

Jaelyn took a closer look at Delta. She seemed to have her nose turned up. She was smirking to herself and she pushed her glasses up and closer to her face.

“Now that you mention it…” Jaelyn murmured, but before she could finish her thought, she heard the words she had been wanting to hear all night.

“I’m sure you’re all tired of listening to me drone on, so I will introduce our next speaker. Please give a warm welcome to Mars Addington, spokesman for the International Space Association.” Andromeda stepped away from the microphone and clapped.

Everything seemed to be moving in slow motion then. Jaelyn stared in amazement as Mars walked across the stage. He was taller than she thought he would be. On the stage he looked perfect. He had no wrinkles, no freckles, no flaws in sight. He had bright eyes, dark hair, and one of the whitest smiles Jaelyn had ever seen. Even though she had seen his face in pictures, on tv, and in documentaries; he was still stunning.

She wasn’t clapping, just frozen in place as he made his way to the podium. 

When he reached the podium, he gave Andromeda a hug and a kiss on the cheek. She stepped back and took a seat in one of the empty chairs.

“Hello everyone!” Mars announced, “Give yourselves a round of applause, please!”

There was another echoing of clapping. Jaelyn joined in this time.

“You all should be incredibly proud of yourselves. Seriously, you all should be proud of yourselves for getting to this point. You all have amazing opportunities ahead of you. I can’t believe I get to work with some of the brightest minds in Brighton View. You guys are the men and women who will grow up and continue to make Brighton View the leader in space exploration and colonization.

“I think one of the most important things a young mind needs is a role model to look up too. Mine at your age was my father. Growing up, I always wanted to do everything that he did. I watched him. He taught me how to shave, how to tie a tie, how to tie my shoes, and so many other things. My father also taught me about the planets and the stars.

“Each one of you has someone who inspires you. This person, even if they have no idea that you exist, they inspire you to do more than you ever thought that you were able to do. This concept is so important to me. If my father hadn’t been such an inspiration to me, I probable wouldn’t be in the field that I’m in today.” Mars looked out over the crowd with a smile, and he continued “I hope to be an inspiration to my son as my father was to me.”

Mars took a water bottle out from underneath the podium, took a sip, and then chuckled “I’m sure you’re all wondering what comes after this meeting.”

He put the water bottle down and flicked his wrist, a new screen appeared behind him. The lettering was geometric and in bright blue letters: WHAT COMES NEXT.

“As Ms. Calquin explained in her speech, Ms. Delta Gardence has been interning at the ISA for the past two years. Last year, she was named the International Space Association’s: Best Rising Young Scientist Award. With that award, she received a prize of $10,000 and a feature in the ISA’s magazine.” Mars took another sip of water. “This year we decided to open it up to all students.”

A feature in the ISA’s magazine guaranteed you a job offer once you graduated from high school. Jaelyn’s heart began to race. That could be her. She could be the next featured young scientist and she could finally be out of the trash heaps. Her mind wandered to all the possible outcomes her life could have if she was chosen to be the next feature. She could work for the ISA, or even begin her own smaller company that provided niche research for flight companies or even food researchers. In that moment, she did not care where she ended up after being featured. All she could think about was finally being away from her home.

Living in the city would smell so nice. Instead of rotting food, she would smell the clean air. She could take long, hot showers in her own bathroom that she didn’t share with anyone else. She could look out clean windows that were taller than her. Jaelyn could buy food from grocery stores. She wouldn’t have to deliver trash to the Montrone’s to make money anymore. She would make a living doing what she loved. She would live where she was safe and alone.

“What we’re asking from all of you in to create a scale model based on the invention in your research papers. You all cited from scientists, past and present, and created inventions of your own. While they were just descriptions of what you created, one of the many reasons that you all are here is that the inventions you ‘hypothetically’ made have a possibility of being successful.” Mars flashed his perfectly white teeth as he smiled and finished by saying “There will be more instructions given to you all before you leave. I want to, again, congratulate all of you on your incredible work. Enjoy the rest of your night here with us.”

He stepped away from the podium while everyone clapped. Jaelyn glanced around at the students sitting at tables surrounding her. She could see the same looks of awe on other faces that she could feel on her own. They all were having similar daydreams, Jaelyn was sure of it. 

The lights rose back to their regular lighting, and everyone continued to eat and chat. Jaelyn fell silent at her own table, listening to the conversation surrounding her. She was too busy thinking about her possible future. 

When the plates were cleared, Ember turned to Jaelyn and asked, “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” Jaelyn replied. “Just thinking a lot. Can you believe it? That any of us could be featured in the magazine?”

“It’s pretty cool, yeah. But the fact that they want us to make scale models of our designs is annoying.” Ember leaned back in her chair and fixed her dress at the waist. “I don’t know about you, but I don’t have that much money to take out of my savings to spend on parts.”

“What did you research?” Jaelyn didn’t want to talk about money. 

“I looked into work done by Weston Brooks and Elijah Queens. They did a lot of work a couple years ago on the creation of an airlock. I always found it super interesting that the lock must be super powerful so that nothing breaks it, otherwise everyone dies. What about you?”

Jaelyn clasped her hands in her lap. “I did research on an oxygen machine created by Orion Hoffman. I also looked into how colonizers create power on plants other than our own. Some of Evelyn Snow’s early research was about that. I also looked into Raymond Addington’s work talking about that.”

“So, what are you going to create a scale model of?” Ember raised an eyebrow.

Jaelyn bit her cheek and said “Probably the oxygen machine. I haven’t really thought of a way to combine the two ideas yet.”

Ember smiled. “That sounds pretty cool.” She sat up and looked around the room. “You know, I’m pretty surprised that Dr. Snow isn’t here. She’s usually at all of the ISA’s events.”

“Mars is here though, which is pretty cool.”

“I know, right?” Ember smiled and said “He was my hero when I was in elementary school. He work on the planets and the stars started up my interest in space.”

“Me too.” Jaelyn was thrilled she had so much in common with Ember. “He’s still my hero.”

Ember stood up out of her seat and looked around the hall. She glanced at Jaelyn and asked “Wanna walk around with me? I want to see if I can find where everyone is getting those little chocolate medallions.”

Jaelyn nodded and stood up, walking away from the table with her. She looked around at all of the decorations hanging from the wall. She liked the sound that Ember’s shoes made when they hit the tile floor. Click, Click, Click. She wished she had shoes like that.

“Are you coming to the after party?” Ember asked.

After party? “I didn’t know that there was one, I didn’t get an invitation to that.”

Ember laughed. Jaelyn felt her heart sink. Had she done something wrong? She didn’t know why she was laughing. “It’s a party at Caine Warshborn’s house. He invited a ton of people. You should come with me, it’ll be fun.”

“Oh, well, I don’t know if I should. I have to go p-,” Jaelyn began to say, and then cut herself off. She didn’t want to tell her she had to go picking. “I have to go practice.”

“Practice what?” Ember asked, weaving between two waiters.

Jaelyn bit her cheek. She hadn’t thought this through. “I have to practice my speech. I’m giving one in class on Monday.”

“Oh, cool.” Ember walked over to the long banquet table and scanned options available. “If you decide to have some fun tonight, let me know. I’ll get you into the party.” She picked up a small chocolate wrapped up in purple paper and bit into it “This is awesome. You should try one.”

Jaelyn reached down and picked up the chocolate. She took the wrapper off of it and turned around to throw it into the recycling bin. She didn’t look where she was going as she took a step, and her body crashed into another.

She was flustered and looked at the brown stain on the mint green dress in front of her. Jaelyn looked up as she apologized “I am so sorry I didn’t see you.”

Delta looked down at the stain, and then looked at Jaelyn and spit, “You should watch where you’re going!” She grabbed a napkin off of the table and wiped off as much of the stain as she could. “This dress is brand new!”

Jaelyn was frozen staring at her. She couldn’t get anything to come out of her mouth.

“Delta, relax,” Ember cut in. She stepped up next to Jaelyn and said, “It was an accident. Chill out.”

“She should’ve been looking where she was going. Now I have to get this dry cleaned.” Delta huffed. She looked at Jaelyn and said, “Who do you think you are?”

Ember took a step-in front of Jaelyn. “She said she was sorry, Delta. Just walk away. I’m sure you have more important things to do than attack Jaelyn because she accidentally ran into you.”

Delta clenched her fists at her sides, and then shoved her way between Jaelyn and Ember, walking out into the hallway.

“Isn’t she just lovely?” Ember wipes her hands on a napkin.

Jaelyn was still frozen. She felt like she couldn’t breathe.

“Jae?”

She turned and walked away from Ember, headed towards the small balcony doors at the side of the hall. She needed air. She couldn’t be in that room. She thought about her mother and her brother. She thought about the night that they cut her hair. It felt like Cade’s hand was back on her windpipe. She didn’t mean to run into Delta. 

It was an accident. 

It was an accident.

Shoving the doors open, she felt the cool breeze hit her face and she stumbled over to the railing of the balcony. She gripped the edge tightly, breathing heavily. She was trying to get air into her lungs. There was an elephant sitting on her chest. Jaelyn shut her eyes and tried to steady her breathing. She squeezed the metal bar hard in her hands. She thought for a moment that the railing was cutting her hands. It was an accident. 

She heard the door open up behind her. She could hear the music echo out of it.

“Are you okay?” She recognized the voice.

Turning around, Jaelyn’s heart raced faster. She was face to face with Mars Addington.

Categories
Bookish Things

Titcomb’s Bookshop and Haul

I have been trying to find local bookstores in my area to support, which has ultimately become quite a challenge. Besides the one bookshop downtown, I hadn’t found another place that I had enjoyed. That was until I stumbled upon Titcomb’s Bookshop in East Sandwich, MA.

Photo taken from google images.

I am in love with this place. I mean, who wouldn’t be? Books AND Cape Cod? Count me in! 

I wanted to write a little bit about my experience here today, because let me tell you: it was incredible. I will definitely be going back. The two women working there today were some of the kindest people I have ever met. I was staring at everything and they offered help, and I told them it was my first time at the shop. They welcomed me with open arms – step one in making my day.

They are in contact with a lot of bookstores in the Massachusetts area, and I actually found out that they are connected via meetings with Trident Booksellers and Cafe – another one of my favorite places!

And the interior was to die for! There are three floors in the shop: the lower level is all toys, the main floor is new fiction, non-fiction, children’s books, as well as historical books. The second floor follows a similar theme, but also includes notebooks, pens/pencils, blankets, pillows, and a slew of other trinkets. 

Photos taken from google images.

These pictures don’t do the store justice. I wish I wasn’t in a rush so I could have taken pictures myself. But for now, this will give you a taste of what it was like!

Now, onto the haul!

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

On the morning of April 29, 1986, a fire alarm sounded in the Los Angeles Public Library. As the moments passed, the patrons and staff who had been cleared out of the building realized this was not the usual fire alarm. As one fireman recounted, “Once that first stack got going, it was ‘Goodbye, Charlie.’” The fire was disastrous: it reached 2000 degrees and burned for more than seven hours. By the time it was extinguished, it had consumed four hundred thousand books and damaged seven hundred thousand more. Investigators descended on the scene, but more than thirty years later, the mystery remains: Did someone purposefully set fire to the library—and if so, who?

Weaving her lifelong love of books and reading into an investigation of the fire, award-winning New Yorker reporter and New York Times bestselling author Susan Orlean delivers a mesmerizing and uniquely compelling book that manages to tell the broader story of libraries and librarians in a way that has never been done before.”

White Fragility: Why It’s so Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin Diangelo

In this “vital, necessary, and beautiful book” (Michael Eric Dyson), antiracist educator Robin DiAngelo deftly illuminates the phenomenon of white fragility and “allows us to understand racism as a practice not restricted to ‘bad people’ (Claudia Rankine). Referring to the defensive moves that white people make when challenged racially, white fragility is characterized by emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and by behaviors including argumentation and silence. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium and prevent any meaningful cross-racial dialogue. In this in-depth exploration, DiAngelo examines how white fragility develops, how it protects racial inequality, and what we can do to engage more constructively.”

The World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman

“In Berlin, at the time when the world changed, Hanni Kohn knows she must send her twelve-year-old daughter away to save her from the Nazi regime. She finds her way to a renowned rabbi, but it’s his daughter, Ettie, who offers hope of salvation when she creates a mystical Jewish creature, a rare and unusual golem, who is sworn to protect Lea. Once Ava is brought to life, she and Lea and Ettie become eternally entwined, their paths fated to cross, their fortunes linked.

Lea and Ava travel from Paris, where Lea meets her soulmate, to a convent in western France known for its silver roses; from a school in a mountaintop village where three thousand Jews were saved. Meanwhile, Ettie is in hiding, waiting to become the fighter she’s destined to be.

What does it mean to lose your mother? How much can one person sacrifice for love? In a world where evil can be found at every turn, we meet remarkable characters that take us on a stunning journey of loss and resistance, the fantastical and the mortal, in a place where all roads lead past the Angel of Death and love is never ending.”

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

“Lydia Quixano Pérez lives in the Mexican city of Acapulco. She runs a bookstore. She has a son, Luca, the love of her life, and a wonderful husband who is a journalist. And while there are cracks beginning to show in Acapulco because of the drug cartels, her life is, by and large, fairly comfortable.

Even though she knows they’ll never sell, Lydia stocks some of her all-time favorite books in her store. And then one day a man enters the shop to browse and comes up to the register with a few books he would like to buy―two of them her favorites. Javier is erudite. He is charming. And, unbeknownst to Lydia, he is the jefe of the newest drug cartel that has gruesomely taken over the city. When Lydia’s husband’s tell-all profile of Javier is published, none of their lives will ever be the same.

Forced to flee, Lydia and eight-year-old Luca soon find themselves miles and worlds away from their comfortable middle-class existence. Instantly transformed into migrants, Lydia and Luca ride la bestia―trains that make their way north toward the United States, which is the only place Javier’s reach doesn’t extend. As they join the countless people trying to reach el norte, Lydia soon sees that everyone is running from something. But what exactly are they running to?”

Hummingbird Bookmark and Bibliophile Keychain

If you have the chance too, please check out Titcomb’s Bookshop! It is an incredible experience and I highly recommend buying some books there. Be sure to support your local independent bookstores!

Categories
Creative Writing

Writer’s Block

The typing creates fuel.

It’s the anthem of clicking that begins as the gears start turning, breaking the cycle.

The words come, escaping the machine.

Breathe.

It creates a new life

and fashions a new meaning.

The meaning loses its appeal in a review, moments after escaping the machine.

The overseer decides its fate and cuts it off.

Assassinating the newborn meaning,

They murder the young life.

Suffocation.

The words try to catch up, unable to defend against the destruction.

The anthem of clicking fades as the gears screech to a stop in their final resting place.

The typing only decays.

Categories
Creative Writing

The Rooftop

This is another excerpt from my unnamed novel! If you’re interested, you can read The Redemption and The Genius from the Gutter at the attached links!           

Tears stung Jaelyn’s eyes as she stared out over the skyline of the city. Her insides felt like rocks, clogging up her organs so she couldn’t move. So she couldn’t breathe.

            Everything she worked for months was starting to vanish before her eyes. All because she couldn’t lie to her mother.

            She hid her face in her hands, letting out a sob. When she needed to be strong, she wasn’t. She couldn’t tell her mother that she wasn’t hiding something from her. Jaelyn was disappointed in herself for the fact that she invited her mother to come with her to the Donor’s Gala, and that there wasn’t a chance in the world that anyone would talk to Jaelyn with an ounce of respect again.

            Jaelyn looked up  from her hands and saw the lights ahead of her wash out in a sea of her tears. All before her were blobs of buildings and lights. She didn’t want to go back downstairs, and she didn’t want to go back home.

            “Jaelyn, hey,” she heard Mars say from behind her. “Do you need to talk?”

            She spun around on her heels and wiped her face with the sleeve of her dress, stammering “Don’t come closer I’m fine, please I’m fine.” The last thing she wanted was her hero to see her crumbling in on herself.

            “You aren’t fine.” His voice didn’t change. It stayed the calm and loving tone it had always been when he talked to her.
            Another sob let out and she found herself running to him, hugging him tightly and burying her face against his expensive blue suit. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry…” she begged.

            Mars hugged her tightly, saying “You have nothing to apologize for.”

            “Are you kidding?” Jaelyn looked up and said, wiping her eyes “I just wasted all of your time. I am not going to win. My mom is down there drinking every ounce of champagne there is and telling everyone how horrible of a person I am. I’m a failure, I can’t even make her happy by getting close to winning.”

            “What do you mean?”

            “I won’t matter to her if I win. I won’t matter to her if I lose. I’ve wanted her to love me for so long and I was so stupid to think that if I won this she would love me! Nothing I will ever do will make her love me… I am a failure.”

            Mars looked down at her for a few moments, brushing her black fringe out of her amber eyes, and he said after a few moments “You are not a failure.”

            “But I am, I always have been. She’s telling everyone how much of a disappointment I’ve always been, how the hell can you stand there and tell me that I’m not a failure?” Jaelyn stepped away from him, wiped her eyes and said, “If someone should know a failure when they see one, it would be you.”

            “You aren’t a failure, Jaelyn,” Mars reached his hand out to her. “Let’s sit down and talk, okay? Just me and you. No Mrs. Beyer. Just me and you.”

            Jaelyn hesitated, but slowly nodded and put her hand in his. Mars led her over to a set of benches overlooking the skyline. They sat down next to each other in silence. Mars leaned his elbows on his knees. After a moment, he asked her a question.

            “Why did you enter this competition?”

            “It was for a school assignment.”

            “I mean why did you continue? You could’ve pulled out at any moment. You could’ve stopped and said ‘I’m done’ whenever you wanted. But you kept going. Why?”

            Jaelyn didn’t have to think about her answer. “Because I want to be better.”

            “Better than who?” Mars didn’t look at her.

            “Better than-“ She paused. She didn’t know. “Myself?”

            “You shouldn’t be answering my question with another question, you know.” Mars leaned back on the bench and continued “Better than who?”

            “Better than what I was.”

            “And what was that?”

            “A picker. A good for nothing picker on a scholarship to go to school. I wanted to be better than the picker everyone saw me as.” Jaelyn rubbed her arms as a breeze blew past them. She never realized it was colder on the top of a building.

            Mars slid his suit jacket off of his shoulder and put it around Jaelyn. He asked her after a moment “Is that how you saw yourself too?”

            She wrapped the jacket closer around her, looking down at how it overflowed over her frail body. She couldn’t lie to her mother, but she couldn’t lie to Mars either. “Yeah.”

            “Why?”

            “It’s where I’m from. It’s who I am… everyone from the slums is a Picker. No one ever gets out of there. If I don’t win this… If I didn’t push myself, to try and win this… I would be there forever. I don’t want to be there anymore. I hate it there.”

            “Because of your mom?”

            “Yeah… and my brother.” Jaelyn blinked a few times when she realized what she had said. Not once had she ever uttered the words ‘I hate my mom and brother’.

            “Can I tell you a story?” Mars looked over at her, and when he received a nod, he leaned back on his knees and said “When I was your age, actually, probably older, is when I got my first taste of what true city life is. Sure, I lived here my entire life – my father had a great penthouse, my mom and I were happy. I was always curious about what else was out there. When I was home from university for a break, I decided to take that chance.

            “I snuck out, which wasn’t very hard to do. A smile will get you further than you think it will. But, anyways, that’s not the point. I decided that I wanted to go to one of the clubs on the other side of town. Rumtown was the last stop on the monorail before it crossed over the bridge to the Island. Honestly, I don’t know why I wanted to go there, but I did.

            “I couldn’t tell you a thing about what the club was like – what it looked like, where anything was, how many people were there… but there was one person there that I can’t ever forget. It was as if we spoke the same language, she knew exactly what I meant by everything I said. She was one of the prettiest women I have ever met in my life.

            “We walked up to the roof top together, and laid out under the stars and talked. We talked about everything: from the sky to our home lives to even the foods we refused to eat. When I tell you I fell in love with that woman that day, I’m telling you the truth.”

            Mars rubbed his head, looking up and over at the horizon before them. He didn’t speak for a few moments, and then said “Everything isn’t perfect here. No matter what the billboards or those shows say – this city can eat you alive.

            “I was dating Terra at the time… and I love her. When I tell you I love Terra, it’s true. But, I had a lapse of judgement that night…” he looked at Jaelyn and says “I’m not perfect. I know you think I am, but I’m not.”
            Jaelyn looked at him for a few moments, asking quietly “Did you cheat…?”

            Mars nodded a bit, rubbing his forehead and looking away from her. “I regret it. I love Terra with my whole heart. I don’t know what happened to me that night – but something about that woman just drew me in, and I lost control of myself. I think I blacked out, honestly, because I can’t remember a single thing that happened that night after knowing what I wanted to do with her…”

            “Did you tell her you had a girlfriend..?” Jaelyn asked.

            “The morning after, like an asshole,” Mars chuckled sadly. “I told her I didn’t want anything serious, that it was a one-time thing, and that nothing would come of this. But she didn’t like that. I don’t blame her, I mean, I was a huge asshole.

            “And I left. I went home, showered, and called Terra and told her how much I loved her. I proposed to her a month later. I had this city to hide in. I ran away from my mistake and got away. I don’t know what happened to her. I know she was from the Islands. What did she have to fall back on? Working? Selling garbage to pay the bills?” Mars looked at Jaelyn and said after a moment “Everyone’s got that moment in life where they screw up. Where they think that it’s all their fault and that nothing they can do can change their actions… I know I messed up, and that it was my fault, and now I do everything in my power to help people like her… I donate to women’s shelters constantly, provide whatever extra resources I can to the Islands. Once… I even threw away one of Terra’s diamond earrings in hopes that someone would find it while working and be able to feed their family.”

            Jaelyn looked out over the horizon and said quietly “But you’ve changed. You’re the ideal, perfect person.”

            “No one is perfect. I’m still learning,” Mars said. “I want to make up for the wrongs that I’ve done in my past.” He placed a hand on her shoulder, lightly, and asked her “I still don’t understand why you think all of those wonderful things about me.”

            “Because…” she thought back to when she sat alone in her room, at the beginning of all of this. Where she stared at the minimalist portrait poster on the back of the broken wood door. “Because you’re my hero.”

            Mars didn’t speak. He kept his hand on her shoulder, and asked after a moment “Do you want a hug?”

            Jaelyn hugged him as tight as she could. She was shaking, her eyes hot and welling up with tears. Her mind flashed to when she ruined Delta’s dress with cake. How she ran outside because she couldn’t breathe. Mars was the only one that came out after her. The only one that saw as she was moments away from breaking down. He didn’t even know her then. He barely knew her now – yet he was doing the same thing. He wasn’t going to let her suffer alone.

            She wasn’t going to suffer alone anymore.

            “I don’t know why you’re my hero… but…” Jaelyn sat up and wiped her eyes. She could feel the mascara washing away on her red face. “I don’t have a dad. I don’t know who he is, anyways… and mom doesn’t know either. She just said that he was probably a fling she had whilst in a fight with Rex…”

            “Rex?” Mars asked.

            “That’s Cade’s dad. My brother, Cade.”

            “That’s… an interesting name, for sure.” Mars chuckled. Jaelyn thought she heard his breath hitch, but when she looked back at him he did nothing but smile at her.

            “I guess I just look up to you so much because I don’t… you know, have a dad. You are so dedicated to the ISA and everything that you do, I want to be just like you.” Jaelyn rubbed her hands over her wine colored dress “I remember you saying that Dr. Snow was one of the smartest people you’d ever met. I guess I hoped you’d say that one day about me.”

            “It’s interesting, you know,” Mars began quietly, “That you’re so sure of yourself as a student and academic, but you aren’t sure of what you think personally.”

            “I hadn’t thought about it that way.” Jaelyn replied.

            They sat in silence for a while. Jaelyn gnawed at the inside of her cheek. She knew that the winner would be announced soon. But she didn’t want to get up. She didn’t want to see her mother or brother down there. She didn’t want to see Delta’s perfect family. She didn’t want to know if she won. Jaelyn, for once, wanted to run away from everything she had ever worked towards. She wanted to run away from her dreams. In a perfect world, Jaelyn would never leave that spot on the rooftop with Mars.

            “Jaelyn,” Mars said, “We should head back downstairs.”

            She stood up slowly, following him back to the elevator. As she stepped inside, she said “Thank you, for everything you’ve done for me.”

            Mars smiled in the reflection of the metal elevator doors. Jaelyn didn’t notice the tears in his eyes.

Categories
Creative Writing

The Genius from the Gutter

This piece was written years ago, but it has been repurposed to be a part of my novel. This is from the same story as “The Redemption”.

“Now remember, everyone, what you got on this assignment does not reflect how you perform in this class, or any class in Hoffman Academy. This assignment was graded by The International Space Association, based off of their rubrics. The ISA is looking for students who will be able to create machines and life support systems that can be tested, and eventually used, on Ivosa,” Mrs. Alia explained to the class, her arms full of rubrics and research papers, “Though this project will influence if you will be attending The Great Mind Meeting with the ISA, it will not impact your grade in this class.”

Mrs. Alia began to walk around the room to hand back the assignments. Her perfect manicured hands passing back the piles of paper to the anxious students provided no clues to the grades they would receive.

There was a mix of emotions about the room. Most students let out a groan of disappointment.

“What did you get?” asked Ryder Quinn.

“35%” Erik Roe whined, “What about you?”

“33%” Ryder groaned.

Tanner Oxford looked at his grade and smirked. He looked around the room for everyone’s response once the papers had all been handed back. He was one of the smartest kids in the class, and his personality showed it.

“Those of you that scored 95 or above on this project will be attending The Great Mind Meeting,” Mrs. Alia explained as she returned back to her spot at the front of the room. She glanced towards the clock, time ticking down to the end of the day, “Remember that your papers on Ether Willis and Wona Lark are due next time I see you.”

The bell chimed. Students automatically packed their bags and flooded into the hallways. All the students could talk about were their grades on the project.

In Mrs. Alia’s classroom, one student remained. She stayed in her seat, staring at the stack of papers on her glass desk.

“Ms. Beyer,” Mrs. Alia said as she walked over to her and stood next to her desk, looking down at the girls raven hair, “What’s wrong?”

“This isn’t right,” Jaelyn replied. Her eyes were fixed on the red numbers on the rubric, “Something must be wrong. This can’t be right.”

Mrs. Alia smiled. She took the paper and looked at the grade, “Jaelyn Beyer, 100%. You should be used to this grade by now. This isn’t the first one hundred you’ve received.”

“Mrs. Alia, the ISA gave me an one hundred on this project? How many people got an one hundred? Was it easy?”

“Jaelyn, you were the only person in our school to receive an one hundred. You deserved it. You worked night and day on that assignment.”

“But… But this isn’t… I really did it? I did the best in the class?” Jaelyn asked, looking up towards Mrs. Alia. A smile was plastered across her face.

Her teacher smiled, “You did the best in the school, Ms. Beyer.” Mrs. Alia turned away and walked to her desk, “Now go home, the rain is going to start soon. You don’t want to be caught out in the wet.”

Jaelyn stood up and put her dark blue backpack on, holding the papers in her arms. She walked out of the classroom, and out the front doors of Hoffman Academy.

Her dark skirt brushed against her legs as she walked towards the monorail station. She walked up the glass stairs and waited underneath the overhang for the outbound train.

The rain began to fall. It was light at first.

“Hey, Picker,” Jaelyn heard over her shoulder.

She sighed and glanced towards Tanner, “What do you want, Tanner?”

He smirked and came up the stairs, stepping under the overhang with her and peering at the papers she was holding, “What did you get?”

“Doesn’t matter to you. Tanner, please leave me alone.”

He laughed. Behind him appeared Axle Wring and Moore Traillon.
“Just tell me what you got, Picker,” Tanner stepped closer to her, “I just want to know, that’s all.”

Jaelyn stepped away from him. She hugged the papers closer to her white button down, “Go away, Tanner. Please.”

“You embarrassed? Did you fail?” Tanner asked, laughing to himself, he reached for the papers and grabbed the top of the stack, “Let me see!”

“Stop it!” Jaelyn yelled, pulling the papers away from his hands. She stepped out into the rain and held them as close as she could, “Go away! Leave me alone!” Jaelyn searched for the train, but it was nowhere in sight on the tracks. She looked back at Tanner’s dark eyes, “Why are you even waiting for the train? Daddy not picking you up in the limo today?”

“I told him not to,” Tanner spat back, “I told him I was busy after school. Had to deal with a Picker.” He looked at Axle and Moore, “Grab her arms.”

Jaelyn turned on her heel and ran down the platform.

She could hear him yelling behind her, and soon she could hear their stomping feet as they started running.

Jaelyn’s eyes were focused on the space in front of her. She blocked out the taunts.

Even though she lived outside of the city, she knew the monorail stations better than any of them.

She took a sharp turn down the stairs. She slid down the railing to the street. Jaelyn ran through the pathway under the tracks and up the second set of stairs.

The train pulled up and came to a stop. The doors slowly opened. Jaelyn ran through the open doors and turned to look through them.

Tanner was coming up the stairs as the doors shut. He began cursing and pounding his fists on the glass. His eyes met Jaelyn’s and she smirked.

She held up the rubric to the glass, showing him the bright red one hundred circled on the top of the paper.

As the train pulled away, Jaelyn felt a wave of relief wash over her. She sat down on the black padded seat and shoved her papers into her bag. She had learned after so many years of torment by Tanner Oxford how to avoid him and how to get away from him.

Jaelyn was lucky enough to be able to attend classes. In Brighton View, only the wealthy could attend school. Everyone went to school until age 12. Then, secondary education was only available for those who could afford the cost. The tuition at Hoffman Academy was a whopping $65,000 a year. Jaelyn could never afford to go to school, but when she was young she took the Scholarship Test for the Homeless or Needy. That was the first one hundred she ever received. Hoffman Academy paid for her tuition in full. Her uniform – including the skirt was now ripped due to sliding down the railing, her books, her pencils, her pens, anything that was required for school, they provided for her.

Jaelyn had studied for hours every night before that exam. She wanted nothing more than to be able to learn and develop a mind fit to one day work for the International Space Association. She wanted to study the stars and the movement of the planets. She wanted to be able to learn everything there was to know about Ivosa, their sister planet, and just about anything else that space had to offer her.

As the monorail came to a stop, she stood up and walked out the doors and onto the platform. The stench of rotten meat and spoiled milk filled her nose.

She looked over her shoulder at the glittering city that was now in the distance behind her. Jaelyn sighed, then turned back to the stairway in front of her. She walked up the stairs and into the sunlight, where the stench was stronger.

On the outskirts of the city, piles of garbage weighing metric tons separated the marvelous, shimmering city from the rotting and decrepit slums. The slums that Jaelyn called home.

Her clean black shoes were covered with dust as she walked along the dirt roads. She had gotten used to the smell at this point, 17 years surrounded by the garbage of the wealthy would do that to someone.
She passed many homes on her way to her own. They were dark, with broken windows and patches in the roof. When storms came through, the wind would pick up large debris and where it was thrown would never be known until it happened. Crime was also heavy in her area, which explained why everyone was usually awake during the night time.

At this time, everyone was just starting to wake up for their shift Picking.

The Pickers went through the garbage, day after day, to find valuables worth selling. That was the life of a picker. Wasting their life away picking through the trash of those who didn’t even think about where their garbage went.

Jaelyn passed by groups of pickers that were going through their finds for the day. In the morning, many of them would make the long trip out to the farms where they would trade their valuables for money and food. Jaelyn’s long time friend Marea Montrone was one of the farmers daughters – she always offered to make the trek so she could see her friend.

Jaelyn could see her house in the distance. It was just like the other houses – dark, run down, and cold – but it’s where the rich weren’t.
Cade would be out picking at this hour, she thought, at least he won’t be home. Jaelyn walked up to the front door and tried to turn the handle. It was stiff, but she was able to push the door open if she used a bit more force. Cade had punched the door frame the night before in a fit of rage when he found out that Jaelyn wouldn’t be able to go get food the next morning because she was attending classes. He was angry a lot of the time.

She shut the door behind her, and looked around at the relatively empty room. On the far side of the room, by the windows that were covered with dark curtains, her mother laid out on the floral stained couch. Her arm was outstretched over the edge of the couch, fingers barely touching the dried cheap wine that stained that area of the brown carpet. Her mouth was agape and her eyes were shut. In her hand that was resting on her stomach, there was an empty bottle and a used cigarette.
Her mother’s chest slowly rose and fell as she slept. She was a heavy sleeper, she never heard Jaelyn leave or enter the house. She never heard Cade scream – or she didn’t care to listen.

Jaelyn walked down the hallway and into the last room. In the back of the house was her room. It was the smallest, but she picked that room because it had the best view of Ivosa at night. Cade was happy to trade rooms with her when Jaelyn was able to understand that she could see Ivosa in the sky.

Jaelyn carefully stripped from her uniform and put it on the red hangers in her closet. She sat in her bed and looked at the rip in her dark skirt. She opened a drawer next to her bed and pulled out a small sewing kit that she had found in the garbage one day. Carefully, she began to sew the rip. The school will supply a new one anyways once they see the rip, she thought, but what’s the point walking around like the Picker they say that I am?

Once her skirt looked good enough, it joined her blouse in the closet.
Jaelyn dressed herself in her dark green oversized t-shirt and black pants. She lied back in her bed and stared at the ceiling above her, looking at the star chart that she had created with paint that her mother gave her on her 15th birthday.

She rolled onto her side and looked at her door. Hanging against it was a poster from the ISA with Mars Addington promoting the programs. She smiled as she looked at her hero.

Mars Addington personally funded many of the ISA’s projects. He was intelligent, generous, and made Jaelyn believe that she could do anything. She could recall in the documentary The Beginning of the Future that they had watched in class many times why she loved him so much.

“The International Space Association, my colleagues, and just about everyone that has been apart of this project have done a better job than I could have ever hoped they would. When Dr. Evelyn Snow came to me with the idea to make this colony, I was more than happy to personally fund this project. I can say, repeatedly, how proud I am with what we have accomplished. Dr. Snow is one of the brightest women I have ever met. I am happy to have worked with her, and hope to work with her for years to come.

“I hope that our accomplishments of the past, present, and future will inspire generations of engineers, scientists, and astronauts. As a boy, my father was involved with the International Space Association and taught me everything that he knew. Interests start at a young age – and for many, your interests can turn into an occupation. I was lucky enough to know what I wanted to do the minute I could understand exactly what my father had done for work.”

Jaelyn smiled as she lied in bed. Hopefully, she thought to herself as she felt her eyes become heavy, He’ll say that I’m one of the most intelligent women he’s met.

She shut her eyes, allowing the troubles of her day to melt away as she drifted off into her dreams.

Categories
Creative Writing

When You Are An Anxious Daughter

When you are an anxious daughter

There is a thin line between

Excusable and overreacting.

The first can be met with advice and love

While the other is met with disapproval and anger.

How dare you feel so deeply.

How dare I feel so deeply.

When you are an anxious student

You avoid doing any work until the last moment

Because if you don’t turn it in, you can’t sleep.

You can’t think.

You can’t eat. 

You drown in the sea of expectations.

A pleasure to have in class.

The cycle continues.

When you are an anxious friend

There is no such thing as an anxiety free zone.

You beg your friend to be your bus buddy

Because you can’t sit alone.

Everytime they say yes.

Everytime you feel just as guilty.

When you are an anxious creative

Everything isn’t good enough.

The doubt engulfs you like fog.

You rip a piece of yourself out and 

Splatter it before you, only to hate it.

To hate yourself.

When you are an anxious lover

You want to be strong.

To be brave.

To love.

To be fearless.

To be there for them as they are for you.

Why is it so hard to be there for yourself?

When you are an anxious human being

Even the smallest thing can trigger

A flood of confided emotions that haven’t been

Felt since the first day.

But the trauma leaves you numb.

Someone has it worse trickles from your lips.

The validation that you pour into another’s cup 

Barely drips into your own.

Jumping back and forth between

I’m fine

And 

I AM FINE

Is endless.

When you are anxious

You are at war with yourself.

Categories
Creative Writing

The Astrologist

After waking up in cold sweat yet again, I knew I wouldn’t be able to avoid the inevitable anymore. I climbed out of my sweat soaked sheets and stumbled into the small bathroom. I started the shower, blinded by the darkness, and peeled off my pajamas before engulfing myself into the frigid water.

I decided that I couldn’t handle having these awful dreams any longer. I’ve had nightmares all my life, but this was different. These felt real. The darkness and demons were nipping at my fingers in the real world. I just wanted to know what the fuck was going on.

A gray sweatshirt and faded blue jeans awaited me from the pile of folded laundry in the corner of my room. The thought passed through my head that I should probably put those clothes away, but almost just as quickly I turned away from it and dressed myself. There were no clean socks though – I went through those too quick to keep clean constantly. I grimaced and pulled on my sneakers without socks, and grabbed my cell phone and keys, shoving them into my pockets.

I tiptoed down the stairs so I wouldn’t wake up Miss Hall. I laughed a bit to myself at how secretive I was being – she slept like a log. Not even an earthquake could wake her up.

One thing I hated about living on Myrtle street was that the closest T stop was on Tremont. The winter was the worst – I had slipped and fallen on my ass several times. It never worked out in my favor.

When I got on the train, I headed towards Newbury Street. I hated that place – everything was way too expensive. The best place on that road was Ben & Jerry’s. I would pay for their over priced ice cream every single day.

I hopped off of the train and left the station, hands shoved in my pockets and my head up high. It was just instinct at this point.

Rounding the corner, I saw it. Trident. He would be in there. He always worked the Sunday morning shift at the counter. I only knew because he would come into school on Monday’s complaining about how tired he was.

That was a year ago, though. He could not work here anymore. Fuck.

I walked up to the door and opened it, greeted by a wall of staff recommended books. But my eye wasn’t drawn to any of them – it was drawn to the boy working at the cafe counter.

Evon DuPont. His hair was natural, a bright pink and white tie-dye bandanna wrapped around it. It was strange to see him without his denim jacket on – I hadn’t seen him in his work uniform before. Simple black print shirt and pants. He wore much more color usually.

There were only a handful of people at the counter. They must’ve just opened, because this place was always swapped. It was the off season though, most college students home for the summer.

Slowly, I sat down at the counter at the farthest end away from everyone else. I didn’t need them hearing my questions.

I distracted myself by scrolling through old text messages until I heard a mug clink down on the counter in front of me. When I looked up, there he was.

“Hey, my name is Evon. Anything I can get started for you?” He asked, much too chipper for 7 in the morning.

It then hit me that we hadn’t spoken since senior year Earth Science. He didn’t recognize me.

“Hey. I don’t know if you remember me, but we went to high school together.” It felt awkward reintroducing myself. “Hayden. Hayden Shelley.”

“Oh, no way!” His teeth shined in the yellow lighting when he smiled.

“Hey! I didn’t even recognize you. How are you doing?”

“I’m good, I’m good.” I couldn’t help but smile back. With his energy, there was no way you could be solemn.

“You got bangs, I like it.” Evon leaned his elbows on the counter. “How’s college been?”

“It’s been… great, Evon.” Lying to him about little things felt okay. “I was actually hoping you’d be here today. I wanted to ask you something.”

“What’s up? Oh, also, decaf or regular?”

“Regular.” I poured a small cup of cream into the mug when he was done. When I looked up again, he was talking with two of the other customers. I suppose I couldn’t be mad at him. This is his job, after all.
I stirred my coffee as if to pass the time. I glanced back up and he was replacing the coffee filter. He came back over after that.

“Do you want anything to eat? We have killer muffins, and we have avocado toast. I eat it way too often.” He chuckled and pulled out a note pad, taking his purple pen out from behind his ear and clicking it.

“A muffin sounds good. Surprise me. I just don’t like cranberries.” I leaned back again the back of the stool, gripping the counter as I watched him scribble it down.

“What did you want to ask me?”

I sighed, and after a moment asked him “Are you still into all that… stuff?”

Evon put his pen back behind his ear, asking “Stuff? You gotta be more specific.”

“You know… all that stuff… astrology, psychics, those things?”

Evon chuckled, walking over to the pastry cabinet and plopping a muffin down on top of a white dole. “I didn’t call myself the resident astrologist for nothing in high school.” He put the plate down in front of me and asked “You got a question about your compatibility with someone?”

“No, that’s not the part I’m interested in.” I took a bite of the muffin top.

“That’s such a Taurus thing to say, you know-”

“-What is this, poppyseed?” I wiped my mouth with the back of my hand and coughed.

“You said to surprise you,” Evon said with a wink and a smirk. Then, he asked “What are you interested in knowing, then?”

I drank a shot of coffee, and then asked “What about dream interpretations?”

“Dreams? Oh, I love that shit.” He smiled and said “I got a handful of books and journals about it. I know a thing or two, if I say so myself.”

“I could… I could use your help.” I sighed and said “I really don’t want to talk about this here, though. I’d rather talk about it privately.”

Evon nodded and looked up at the clock hanging over the coffee station. “I get out of work at 2. Wanna maybe swing by my place and I can show you some of the stuff I got on the subject?”

I bit my cheek. Going to his house was not apart of the plan. I just wanted to talk quick – maybe next to the T station or in the comics section of the Newbury Comics. Not at his house.

“Yeah, that works.” I opened my phone and asked “What’s your number?”

He plucked it out of my hands and began typing. “I’ll text you my address. Wanna come by at like 3? I smell like coffee and stale doughnuts when I get out of work. I need to shower.”

I nodded a bit and took my phone back out of his hands. I looked at the screen and saw he had created his own contact and texted himself. At least it would be easier to talk to him then.

When he turned his back to attend to another customer, I pulled a 10 out of my pocket and put it next to the plate. I chugged down the rest of my coffee, burning my throat, and walked out of the store.

I hope he knows more than he seems to be letting on.

Categories
Reflections

Editing and Burnout

Let’s talk about editing for a minute.

When I was in high school, I hated the editing process. I wrote everything in one draft and submitted it. And guess what? I faced no consequences. I always got A’s on my papers and projects. Even in one of my hardest classes (which I never scored higher than 65 on a test) I would get 100’s on my papers. 

College was different though. When I got to my first day of WRI101, taught by one of my favorite professors to date, we spent days talking about the revision process. We had three drafts of every paper, which in different stages were edited by different people, and ultimately got our letter grade after the third draft. 

At first, I hated this process. I didn’t like rereading my work, let alone did I like classmates reading my work and seeing all of my mistakes and imperfections. It would keep me up at night. 

Until, we read “Shitty First Drafts” by Anne Lamont. This passage from her book Bird by Bird changed my editing life. If you’re interested, you can read it here. I hope it changes your life too.

I am a perfectionist when it comes to my writing, and to top it all off I constantly radiate anxiety – so editing was a no go for a long time. I would write something once and that would be it. I didn’t want to be wrong.

The way that Lamont frames this idea of editing is just enough assertion for me to finally get it. The first draft is shit. The first draft is always shit. Lamont writes that “Very few writers really know what they are doing until they’ve done it. Nor do they go about their business feeling dewy and thrilled.” I knew this, for writing is taking pieces of yourself away. Writing is constant suffering. But, to hear it from someone else? From an accomplished author? And to read this in my FIRST college writing class? That’s what I needed. I finally believed in the power of editing. 

Sophomore year comes around, specifically we’ll call it November 2020. I’ve talked about this before, but in that month I wrote more than I’ve probably ever done before in my life. A whole 64,000 words (not including planning, editing, or anything like that). 14,000 to my play Blue Ends and 50,000 towards finishing my untitled novel. 

Blue Ends has become my challenge. After I wrote the first draft, I proceeded to edit it twice. Before the end of the year, I had a third draft. I had never been so proud of myself in my life.

I didn’t look at the play for a month. I didn’t look at it until I had a meeting with my mentor Brett. I worked in a directed study with him, and we are continuing to do so for the next two years that I am at school. It was intense, working with him on this project. He pushed me to write and edit more than I’ve ever done before. He got me in contact with some incredible individuals in the Boston theatre scene, and he even had me hold a table read of my play. Before that, however, I took the liberty of not taking his advice and practically rewrote my play. I hadn’t looked at it in months at this point, and it was March when I had the table read. 

I hated my play. I wanted nothing to do with the original contents. I rewrote the whole play in a week, and edited it once as well. After the table read, I edited, and even after Brett and his girlfriend read it, I edited it again.

So why am I still so unhappy with how it turned out? How am I so unhappy even though when I first wrote Blue Ends I was so proud?

No one ever really talks about editing burnout. At least, the people I follow on social media and talk too in person – no one talks about how much this sucks.

I haven’t opened Blue Ends since the end of April. I cannot bring myself to open it because I think I’ll tear the whole thing apart again and start over. I was so happy with it months ago, and now I want almost nothing to do with it. I edited my heart out for months and months, built up these characters in my mind, and now I can’t bring myself to look at it.

Burnout sucks. It’s something I’m trying to pull myself out of now. I was told I need to read a play a day for six weeks before I could open the document again. Before I could write another play. And I feel bad, but I’ve been pushing off starting to read those plays as well.

The best advice I’ve been able to gather in this situation is being able to give yourself a break. Brett told me this, and for some reason I can’t listen to myself so I took his words to heart. I hope you can take my words to heart – you are allowed to give yourself a break. If you go hard for too long, you will hate what you’re working on, no matter what. In my personal experience, I love all of the characters I work with, but now I want to rip them to shreds.

Self-care is allowed. Breaks are allowed. If you can’t bring yourself to write, try and hone that creativity elsewhere in your life. Getting through the rough patch is hard, but necessary.

If anything, I believe in you. You got this.

Categories
Creative Writing

The Corruptibles

The cool morning breeze caused the lilac curtains of the Labelle’s home to sway, blowing back into the bedroom where Monsieur Julien Labelle lied asleep. He had been away, meeting at the Salle du Manège with the Legislative Assembly until the early hours of the morning.

His wife, Alouette Labelle, waited patiently downstairs to hear the verdict of the meeting. Unfortunately, she had fallen asleep while waiting for her husband to come home. She had awoken just an hour ago, tucked into bed with Julien’s arm wrapped around her waist.

    Though patient, she couldn’t sit still. Her hands shook, she paced back and forth in the kitchen, and she continuously glanced towards the staircase. She wasn’t going to wake Julien up, but she craved the answer to her burning question. What was the verdict?

    She couldn’t stop thinking. All of the possible outcomes turning and twisting her mind over. What if he’s guilty? What if he’s innocent? What if he’s put to death?

    Alouette knew better than to hope. The past 10 years she had been hoping, all to be let down in the end. 

    She was happy with her new life. She was happy that the republic had been achieved after years of struggling with the monarchy. She was happy to have her loving husband. But, she wasn’t happy with herself. 

    Oncle Max for a long time had been the most important person in her life, even after she married Julien. She considered Oncle like a second father. Her father and Oncle Max were close, and both cared deeply for Alouette’s success. However, the two treated her differently alone.

    Her father, Gabriel Robespierre, allowed Alouette to have a tutor. Gabriel had the motivation to educate his daughters to the same level as his son. If they couldn’t have the same rights as him according to the government, they could at least learn the same things. 

    Oncle Max offered to be Alouette’s tutor. To young Alouette’s delight, Gabriel agreed. 

    The two studied the moon and the stars, how plants grow, and how the Americans had just recently won their revolution and were becoming their own nation. Oncle had always gotten excited when they learned about revolutions. 

    Alouette snapped out of her day dream as she heard the stairs creek. She looked over as Julien came down the stairs. His hair was disheveled, though he was dressed for the day. The dark bags under his eyes had become more prominent since the day before. 

    “Good morning,” She said, turning her attention back to the mixing bowl she had taken out when she first came downstairs. She had forgotten in all of her worrying that she was going to bake fresh bread. 

    Julien slowly walked over to his wife. He wrapped his arms around her waist from behind, his chin resting on her shoulder. He lied his cheek against her dark golden curls.

    Alouette smiled, wrapping her arms around herself and placing her hands on his biceps, “How did you sleep?”

    “You wake up so early, my libellule,” he said, placing a gentle kiss on her collarbone, “I wish you stayed with me longer.”

    “Well someone had to wake up and make breakfast,” she teased, leaning her back against his chest.

    Julien smirked gently, glancing around them, “I don’t see any breakfast, libellule.”

    “Well, I was trying to make my wonderful husband a delicious meal…” Alouette trailed off,  leaning against her husband as he held her close. 

    After a few moments of silence, Julien could feel Alouette’s tense shoulders leaning against his chest.

“What’s wrong, Alouette?” he asked.

She hesitated, tightening her grip on his arms, “I… What was the verdict, Julien? What is going to happen to Oncle Max?”

Julien’s body became rigid for a moment, but he relaxed and continued to hold his wife. They had debated the answer for hours, but it became clear what they had to do. 

“Julien?”

“He’s going to be executed in 3 days, Alouette.” His voice was cold. 

Alouette stepped out of his arms, turning towards Julien and reaching her arms to his shoulders, “Executed? Couldn’t he just be imprisoned?”

“Alouette, it had to be done. He’s a menace. Thousands of people have died at his hand-”

“I need to see him.” She interjected. She stepped away from Julien and walked towards the front door. 

Julien followed her, reaching for her arm, “I don’t think that’s a good idea, Alouette. I think that you should stay here.”

She continued towards the door, grabbing her black flats off the floor and sliding them onto her feet, “He’s probably wondering where I’ve been, Julien. You don’t understand, I need to-”

“Alouette,” Julien reached for her and grabbed her arm, “I don’t want you to see him.”

She turned towards him, taken aback by his strong grip on her arm, “What? Julien… He’s my-”

“I know he’s your ‘Oncle Max’, Alouette. But I told the Assembly that you cut ties with him.” 

“You what?” Alouette pulled her arm out of his hand and looked into his eyes, “Why the hell would you tell them that?!”

“Because ever since we got married they’ve been suspicious of us! Of you and your family! For god’s sake, Alouette, your uncle is a psychopath! He’s had 25,000 people killed because they were his enemies! I’m trying to help you! It’s not a good idea for you to go and see him,” Julien pleaded, “Please, for the love of god just listen to me for once. He is not a good man, Alouette. He’s never been a good man.”

Alouette stared at him for a moment, then turned away and pulled the handle on the door, “Don’t you dare talk about Oncle Max like that, Julien. He was a good man.”

“Alouette, get back in this house, I am your husband-”

“I don’t care, Julien!”

“Alouette! Listen to me, I am your husband!”

“I. Don’t. Care!” She shrieked. She left her husband standing in the doorway as she marched down the steps. She ignored him calling her name as she walked towards Place de la Revolution. It was the quickest path to Oncle Max’s house. 

Oncle Max had worked day and night for years to make the revolution as widespread and powerful as he could. Julien had seen how hard he was working. How could he change his mind so quickly? Her mind moved faster than her feet did. How could Julien be so wrong? Alouette would never marry someone who thought so poorly of her dear Oncle. Why did she even marry him in the first place?

As Alouette walked, she thought about Julien and the words he had said. Had Oncle Max been a good man at one point? Or was Julien right, that all of this time, he was putting on a show for her?

As she neared the Place de la Revolution, she passed the Salle du Manège. She stopped and looked up towards the building, and she was reminded of how she met Julien there. 

Her thoughts faded back to January of 1793, when the trial of King Louis XVI had come to an end. The King was to be executed by guillotine.

Alouette waited outside of the Salle du Manège for father and Oncle Max. Snow was falling slowly over the darkening city, the cold nipping at her fingers through her wool lilac gloves. She stood underneath a street lamp, the oil burning brightly. She hugged her books to her chest. Her hands beginning to warm underneath her arms. Snow stuck to her golden hair.

She watched as the front doors opened, and slowly men began to walk out of their meeting. Some were putting on their coats as they were exiting, eager to finally be leaving. Some worried glances were shared between men, but Alouette’s eyes only noticed as she scanned for her family.

She saw Oncle Max’s powdered wig before she saw anyone else. He stood out among the crowd, the only man in the meeting to still wear that type of wig. He was talking to a man that Alouette didn’t recognize –  a man with bold words and a smile plastered across his face.

Alouette smiled as she saw her Oncle, and she walked towards him as he stood with the man, the two still under the cover of the overhang. 

“Oncle,” Alouette said cheerfully as she approached him, “How was the meeting?”

He turned to her and smiled, “Hello, my dear. My, how long have you been waiting out here? Your face is all red.”

“Only a few minutes. How was the meeting?”

“The traitor will be executed in 2 days time.” Oncle Max was smiling wide “Finally, we’ll get the republic that the people of France deserve! No more monarch to push us around!” He turned back towards the man he was speaking to before, “Daniel, I’d like you to meet my niece. Alouette, this is Monsieur Daniel Labelle. We’ve been working together now for some time now.”

Alouette curtsied and smiled politely at him, “Bonjour Monsieur Labelle.”

Daniel nodded to her, taking her hand and kissing it gently, “Bonjour, Mademoiselle Robespierre. You’re just as lovely as your uncle said you were.”

“Thank you very much,” she smiled.

“There you are Maximillien. It’s not like you to rush out so quickly.” Alouette heard her father say. When he noticed her, he smiled and approached her. “Alouette, you’re never late, are you?”

“Bonjour Papa. I heard the good news!” Alouette smiled at her father and kissed his cheek, “The traitor will really be executed? The Jacobians succeeded?”

“In 2 days,” her father said, his teeth resembling the snow as he smiled, “Daniel, where is your son?”

“He’s coming, don’t worry. He forgot his gloves underneath his seat.” Daniel responded, his voice low and strong. He chuckled, “I told him not to make me wait too long.” 

The doors opened as if a strong gust of wind had pushed them. The last person to leave the hall was a flustered boy, his hair disheveled and his dark eyes wide.

“There you are,” Daniel teased, “Took you long enough.”

“I’m sorry, Papa… I went as fast as I could, our seats were rather far away,” The boy said, out of breath and pulling his gloves over his hands.

“It’s alright, my boy,” Daniel smiled, throwing his arm around his son and turning towards Alouette, “This is my son, Julien. Julien, this is Gabriel’s daughter, Mademoiselle Alouette Robespierre.”

Oncle Max smiled, “My lovely niece. She’s the girl I was telling you about, Julien.” He took Alouette’s hand in his own and brought her towards Julien. He was proud of Alouette and showing her off to a potential suitor was his way of showing it.  

Alouette could remember the other times that Oncle Max had tried to pair her with other gentlemen. He had always tried to play matchmaker for her, but he never quite succeeded in choosing the perfect match. Nevertheless, he continued to try and find the one for her. Alouette felt this was because he never found his match, and he didn’t want her to suffer the same fate. 

Oncle Max had always said he couldn’t find the one because no one could understand him when he spoke – that he was much more intelligent and women couldn’t understand what he would try and explain to them. 

Julien looked into Alouette’s bright blue eyes, and suddenly the flustered boy had become much more confident. He stood up with his shoulders pushed back, and smiled, “No, I haven’t had the pleasure,” He replied coolly. He took Alouette’s hand and kissed it, smirking gently up where she could only see, “and my, what a pleasure it is…”

Alouette’s blushed, smiling politely at Julien and quickly glanced over him.

He was taller than his father, but shorter than Oncle Max. He was pale but his cheeks were rosy from the cold. His dark hair was falling around his face, concealing his dark brown eyes that had many bags under them, much like he had been awake for days. But there was something about him that Alouette felt drawn too. Was it the dimples that appeared on the corners of his mouth when he smiled? Was it the spark of motivation she saw in his eyes as they were introduced? Whatever it was, Alouette enjoyed it.

“The pleasure is all mine, Julien.” She said, smiling up at him. She liked the confidence that filled him when he looked at her.

“Julien is one of the newest members to the legislative assembly,” Oncle Max began to explain, “He quite a bright young fellow. His father tells me that he is constantly studying his books when he isn’t out trying to make a change in our society.”

“I wouldn’t say that I’m that bright, sir,” Julien said with a chuckle. He hadn’t let go of Alouette’s hand.

“Oh hush,” Daniel replied, smiling at his son, “You’re a wonderful boy, Julien. I raised you to be so.”

“Especially becoming a Jacobian, my boy, it’s one of the brightest things you’ve done.” Oncle Max smiled between Julien and Daniel, “One day, you could be a leader in the new republic we’ll create. I’m sure of it.”

Alouette glanced up towards the large gold clock that sat at the top of the building. “It’s getting rather late, and the snow is becoming heavier..”

“Let’s get you home, Alouette,” her father said, looking to his brother, “Would you like to join us, Maximillien?”

“Please?” Alouette pleaded, looking up at him.

Oncle Max smiled, looking at Gabriel, “How could I refuse?”

Now, over a year later, she stared up at the same golden clock. She stood where Julien had kissed her hand. Alouette looked at her palms, smiling gently at the thought of when Julien first held them. 

Alouette loved her husband dearly. But sometimes he could be so stubborn. 

She pulled herself away from the building and began to walk down the sidewalks of the cobblestone streets. She took the same path that she walked when she and Julien were walking to the execution of Louis together just two days after they had met. 

His hand kept hers warm as they walked. The two had been inseparable since they had met. They joked together that Daniel and Oncle Max had planned all of this beforehand, but they didn’t mind. Alouette liked the bubbly feeling in her stomach whenever she was near Julien. She couldn’t keep herself away. 

The two entered the Place de la Revolution, where the massive crowds had already gathered. Though they were behind many people, they could see the guillotine from where they stood. 

Julien had Alouette stand in front of him so she could see better. He had an easier time seeing over the heads of the people in front of them. 

“Louis Capet, you have been found guilty of treason. Your sentence: execution by guillotine.” This echoed through the now silent square.

The two had watched Louis walk up to the guillotine. They listened to the blade fall on the monarchs neck. They watched Louis die – the monarch had been executed. They cheered when the world around them cheered.

The Jacobians, and the republic, had finally won.

Julien walked Alouette home from the execution, he was giddy with excitement. 

At the house, they met with Gabriel and Oncle Max. Both were excited, but Oncle Max was much more so.

    “This is a wonderful day,” He said, drinking the glass of wine Gabriel had given him, “The monarch is dead. The crown is dead. The republic is alive!” He laughed to himself and looked at Julien and Alouette, smiling, “Your love can flourish under a government that the people want!”

    Alouette smiled, blushing as well, “It is wonderful, Oncle..”

    Julien nodded in agreement, sipping his wine as well, “When shall the assembly create the new government?”

    “Oh, very soon, my boy,” Oncle Max was smiling wide and laughing. Alouette had never seen him like this before.

But now, Alouette stood staring. There were no people surrounding the guillotine.

For the first time in over a year, no one was there. The guillotine was empty. 

She took a deep breath, and she stepped into the square. She walked towards the guillotine. 

The Committee of Public Safety had been created after the death of Louis. Now that the republic had been achieved, someone had to take charge in the beginning. Oncle Max had become the leader of the Committee of Public Safety. Daniel had also become a member. 

This group had control over all of revolutionary France. Alouette listened silently as the revolutionaries cheered. They didn’t care anymore – France had a republic, and it didn’t matter who was in charge of it. 

Alouette was reminded of this as she walked deeper into the square. She could see Oncle Max’s house in the distance; all she had to do was get through the square. 

Her father didn’t like the Committee. 

“I love Maximillien, don’t get me wrong…” he had said, “But there’s something about power… it always goes to people’s heads.”

She looked at her father in disbelief, “I don’t think that’s true, father. I think Oncle Max will make the committee what it needs to be. He’ll be a wonderful leader.”

“I’m not saying that he won’t, Alouette, I’m just worried about him.” Gabriel looked towards Alouette, who was sitting at the dinner table reading one of the textbooks that Oncle Max had brought her, “I’ve already seen him begin to change.”

“What do you mean?” Alouette asked.

Gabriel sat down across from his daughter, looking at the textbook, “When I asked Max to become your tutor, he was more than willing. I wanted you to have a tutor so that you could expand that wonderfully bright mind that you have.” He smiled nostalgically at his daughter, “You’ve always been so smart, you know…”

“I don’t see what that has to do with Oncle Max and power going to his head, father,” She looked up from her book and into her fathers nostalgic gaze, “How does him being my tutor have to do with anything you’re saying? With power?”

“I’m giving you an example, darling. As your tutor, you two spent much of your childhood and your teenage years together. He always talked with me about your discussions that you had. All of those wonderful ideas you would share with him. He loved every session you would have together,” Gabriel’s smile faded to a frown, “But he took this as a chance to control you.”

“Papa, that isn’t true at all-” 

Gabriel interrupted her, looking into his daughters eyes, “You consider him more of a father figure that you do me.”

Alouette was taken aback by this statement, “Father, that is not true.”

“Max’s first power trip was taking the reins on your life, Alouette. He’s the one that taught you just about everything you know,” He gestured towards the book, “He took control of trying to find you a husband, to marry you off.”

Alouette down at her wrist, where the bracelet Julien had bought her rested. 

Gabriel stood up and walked to the other side of the table, sitting down next to Alouette. He took her hands in his and looked into her eyes, “I know, I should’ve stepped in sooner. I should’ve gained control of your life back sooner, and let you make the decisions you wanted too on your own. But don’t you see? You were his first power trip, Alouette, you were his first project.. and France, I’m afraid, is going to be his next.” He squeezed her hands in his, “I don’t want to lose my brother to the republic.”

She was silent, looking into her father’s eyes. 

She was silent to Julien during this time as well. He was enthusiastic about the Committee and what they could bring to France. Daniel was part of it, and one day he hoped to be too.

As Alouette walked towards her Oncle’s home, she looked to her right. Passing her was a group of soldiers. They marched in unison, with the same haunting beat. 

Alouette’s beloved Julien was drafted nine months prior to this day.

The Committee of Public Safety in August of 1793 made it mandatory for able-bodied, unmarried men between 18 and 25 to serve in the largest citizen army in Europe. The levée en masse, it was called.

Alouette could feel her eyes sting with tears, much like the day Julien broke the news to her. 

“They want to send me to the borders…” Julien had said, holding Alouette’s small hands in his, “I don’t want to leave you, Alouette, I love you…”

“Please… let me talk to Oncle, I’m sure I could do something for you…” She had been whispering. If she spoke any louder she would’ve erupted with tears. 

“There isn’t anything you can do… I’ve tried everything. I’ve begged Papa, I pleaded with your uncle… But, your father said there is one thing that you could do, my love…” Julien was looking into Alouette’s eyes, his hand gently caressing her cheek.

Alouette met her eyes with his. “What is it..?” She asked.

Julien kept hold of her hands, getting down onto his knee, “Marry me.”

As the soldiers marched past, Alouette gazed down at the small diamond ring on her finger, and the wedding band next to it. Her hands were shaking and her head was spinning as she stood in the square. 

Alouette watched the soldiers march past her. A few looked to her, to what she felt like were threatening glances. She was scared of them.

She was scared of them calling her out in the streets, scared of them arresting her just for being related to Oncle Max, and she was scared of what would happen to her after the execution of her Oncle.

Julien was right – the assembly had been suspicious of Alouette’s relationship with her Oncle. She could recall times where Julien’s friends gave her odd looks. Once Julien had told her to stop coming to the assemblies and waiting outside for them to finish.

“It’s because of Max, my love,” Julien had told her, “They believe that you may tell him who is untrustworthy, and perhaps that’s how he decides who goes on his ‘list’”. He held her hands in his when she looked away from him, “It wasn’t my idea. I told them that you had nothing to do with his decisions. But they would feel safer if you stopped coming..”

Alouette agreed to stay home and wait for Julien to return. It was the least that she could do for him – he never asked much of her. She could follow this one request that he had. 

She pressed on, however, staring straight ahead towards her Oncle’s home on the hill. She had to see him. She had to say her goodbye to him. No matter what he had done, she needed to see him. 

The shadow of the guillotine covered her face. She looked up towards the guillotine, and her heart stopped. 

The blade shimmered in the sunlight, the blood stains prominent  against the cold steel. 

And Alouette remembered why her Oncle deserved death.

“There are only two parties in France: the people and its enemies. We must exterminate those miserable villains who are eternally conspiring against the rights of man…We must exterminate all our enemies.”

Oncle Max caused thousands of people to die. Thousands of innocent lives were ruined. Thousands of innocent lives were gone because of the man Alouette loved so much.  

Because they were his ‘enemies’.

“Virtue, without which terror is destructive; terror, without which virtue is impotent.”

The Reign of Terror lasted for eleven months. It began a month after the draft.

Everyone was scared. Maximillien Robespierre, during the assemblies of the Committee of Public Safety and the National Assembly, would call out the names those who were his enemies. He demanded to have them put on trial, “There are only two parties in France: the people and its enemies. We must exterminate those miserable villains who are eternally conspiring against the rights of man. We must exterminate all our enemies!” He would call out. 

Alouette feared for what had happened to her Oncle, and why he was so afraid of the republic falling apart. 

At first, the members of the Assembly were excited to execute the enemies of the revolution. They changed their opinions of their fellow members, they changed their minds on their votes. 

The Reign of Terror started with a few dozen executions. 

As Alouette stared up at the guillotine, frozen in thought, she thought of the only execution that mattered to her. The last man to be executed by her Oncle’s hand.

Gabriel Robespierre. Her father.

The argument that night was one that Alouette would never forget. 

She had come to visit her father just about a month before. Oncle Max came to visit as well. It was the first time Alouette had seen him in months. 

His eyes were wide. His hands shook. He ate slowly. He was cautious.

He wasn’t Oncle Max.

Her father was silent as well. The three ate their meal as such. Alouette was the first to speak.

“Can you pass the pepper, Papa?”

Her father passed it slowly to her. He glanced towards Oncle Max.

“Why are you looking at me, Gabriel?”

“Because you’re my brother, Maximillien. I can look at you.”

“I don’t want you to.”

“Then why did you come to my house?”

“To see my niece, Gabriel.”

They sat in silence again. Alouette could feel the tension between them. 

As her father took a breath, Oncle Max looked towards him, “What? What is it now?”

“I think you need to take a break, brother.” Her father said. His voice was calm. He spoke slowly. 

“A break? Why would I need a break?” Maximillien barked. He spoke quickly. 

Alouette watched the two. She watched their body language, not listening to the words they were saying. Please, don’t escalate.

Her father didn’t move his hands. His body stayed in the same position, his eyes were fixed on his brothers face. He wanted to help his brother.

Maximillien stood up from his chair, the force knocking it down behind him, “You’re a traitor!”

Alouette snapped out of her trance and stared at her Oncle, shocked at his outburst.

“Excuse me?” her father stood up from his chair slowly, “Max – I want to help you. I just think that you’re getting a little excessive with the executions-”

“Of all people I thought I could trust… And now you’re turning on me! You’re turning on the revolution!”
    “No, Max, I’m not! I want to help you!”

Oncle Max turned towards the front door and began walking towards it, screaming obscenities. His whole body was shaking. His face was red. His eyes were angry. 

Alouette was scared of her Oncle. 

He opened the front door and turned back towards the two in the dining room. 

“You’re next, Gabriel! You’re next!” he yelled. He stepped out and slammed the door shut. The lilac flower wreath on the back of the door fell to the floor.

Alouette looked towards her father, who was still staring at the doorway. “Papa…?”

His hands were shaking, “Dear god…”

Alouette could hear the last words her father said to her echoing in her mind.

Dear God.

Dear God.

The guillotine never looked so threatening. 

The tears escaped Alouette’s eyes and fell down her face. 

Alouette fell to her knees, staring up at the guillotine and cursing at it. 

“Why did you change? Why?!”

She sobbed into her hands. Her body shook.

Dear God.

“Why did you have to kill him…” Her voice shook, and citizens walking by stared at her. 

Though some were concerned, they did not stop for her.

Alouette couldn’t recall how long she sat there. Her fingers began to prune from the tears. Her face was red. 

Alouette took a deep breath, her voice was quivering and she felt herself gasping for breath between the tears. Slowly, she forced herself to her feet. She felt paralyzed. 

She turned around and looked towards the homes outside of Paris. She wanted to go home. She wanted to go home to her husband and cry to him. He was right. He was right about her Oncle. He was right. 

Her feet were heavy, but slowly began to turn back on  her path and walk towards her home. Oncle Max didn’t deserve to see her. He didn’t deserve to see the girl who had loved him unconditionally until that day where he murdered her father with his words.

The further she walked from the guillotine, the heavier she felt herself become. 

She could hear her father in her ears. His voice was echoing.

Dear God.
    Dear God. 

Dear God.

Alouette stopped in her tracks and stared at the shops in front of her. It was her duty to her father to see Oncle Max. No matter how close Oncle Max had been with Alouette, she owed it to her father to tell her oncle how she felt.

 It was her duty to tell him that she was saying goodbye for the final time. 

It was her job to officially cut ties with one of the worst men in Paris. 

Alouette, now filled with this new found motivation to avenge her father, turned back towards the guillotine and ran past it. She ran as far as she could from the guillotine. 

She passed dozens of shops in the Place de la Revolution. She passed more the further she ran into Paris. 

The only shop she took into account was Mademoiselle Ethel’s Jewelry Emporium.

Oncle Max had bought Alouette a gift there when Alouette had married Julien. He had presented  his niece with a gorgeous amethyst and diamond necklace. Her favorite gems, and her favorite colors: Lilac and crystal. 

It was the last good deed he had done for her. 

Even now, as she ran through the streets of Paris towards Oncle’s, the necklace bounced against her collarbone, hidden underneath her dress. 

She saw his building approach in the distance. The gray bricks were cracked and falling apart. The windows were covered with white curtains. The black bars on the windows kept that seemed to shut the world out. His house was bleak. 

She slowed down as she approached. She took her time walking towards the large grim white door. The glass had been broken in that door for years. As she stood on the steps, she stared at the lion paw door knocker. The gold paint was chipping.

Alouette took a deep breath, and with her eyes closed, she picked up the knocker and slammed it against the white door three times. 

She waited, with her eyes shut. 

She felt as if an hour passed, with no response coming to the door. 

Alouette knocked on the door again and waited, this time with her eyes open. 

“Oncle?” She whispered to herself.

After waiting another few minutes, she knocked louder, and leaned into the door as she did.

“It’s me. It’s Alouette. Please, let me in. I need to see you.”

After a few moments, she heard the door click on the other side. Alouette looked down to the handle of the door and placed her hand on the fading gold paint. Slowly, she pushed the door open. 

The lights were off inside the house. When Alouette shut the heavy front door behind her, she had difficulty seeing. There was a faint candle glow in the room at the back of the house.

“Oncle?” Alouette called, glancing around the rooms around her. There were papers scattered across the floor. The large bookcase that stood in the front foyer of the home was empty now. All the novels, encyclopedias, and journals that filled it were scattered across the floor. Some were ripped, while others were tossed carelessly to the next room.

Alouette slowly walked towards the faint candle light. She was taken by surprise when her Oncle began to speak. 

“Alouette? You came to visit?”

“Yes, Oncle,” Alouette said, “I came to visit you. I need to talk to you.”

She watched as her Oncle stepped out from the candle lit room. His hair was dark and disheveled, as he was not wearing his beloved powdered wig. He was still in his night robe. His hands were still shaking and his eyes were still wide.

“Alouette, it’s been so long…” He approached her slowly as he spoke. He took her hands in his and looked down at her, smiling, “How are you? How is Julien?”

“He’s good, Oncle, I’m fine as well…” She allowed him to hold her hands, but she didn’t squeeze back when he did. 

“What brings you to come visit me?” He asked her, “Why now?”

“Because you’re going to be executed, Oncle. I needed to see you before…” Alouette looked up to him, her voice broke, “I needed to say goodbye.”

“Goodbye? Alouette, I still have a few days until they-”
    “I need to say goodbye now. Julien… I… I told the assembly I cut ties with you.”

Oncle Max’s eyes softened, the anger fleeting for a moment, “You what? Alouette…”

Alouette squeezed his hands for a moment, then let them go and took a step away from him, “I can’t be associated with you anymore. The assembly has been suspicious since Julien and I got married that I would influence him with your ideals…”

“But Alouette-”

“Please, Oncle,” Alouette pleaded. “I love you. I have always loved you. Since the day I was born you were my favorite. You were so good to me; I was your little prodigy. But… the revolution… The revolution changed you, Oncle.”

“It has not changed me, Alouette. I am still the same person I’ve always been. I don’t know why you’re-”

“The old Oncle Max would never have his brother executed!”

He looked at his niece, he tried to defend himself, “He was an enemy! He was going to-”

“He was not an enemy! He wanted to help you! He wanted you to do better!” Alouette could feel the tears pooling in her eyes. “You had him killed because he loved you. He only wanted to help you… That’s what he always taught me. To help those you care about. To help those who love you.”

“Alouette. You’re too young. You don’t understand.” He said, reaching for her hand, “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

She pulled her hand away, “I do know what I’m talking about. I know what my father taught me.” She took a deep breath and turned away, “I didn’t want this to go like this, Oncle. I love you. But I need to take care of myself now. I stayed up all night worrying about you. I haven’t slept for days. I defended your every movement and idea… And you… You just… Changed. You changed. You’re not the Oncle I loved.”

“Alouette, please don’t do this…” He started to beg, walking after her as she walked towards the door, “Please, stay. Talk to me. Talk to me, please, Alouette, you’re all I have left!”

Alouette opened the front door, looking into the bright sunny world outside of the dark house, “I’m sorry, Oncle. I can’t stay.”

She stepped into the light and turned to face him, and said her final words to him. “Goodbye, Oncle. I loved you.”

***

While this story is based on real historical events, all characters are to remain fictional for the integrity and preservation on the real world events.