Ghost

Photo by Rishiraj Singh Parmar on Pexels.com

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Rain flicked against the window creating a continuous thrum, as the bus rolled through the city. Here he sat, the fogged glass cold against his forehead as he lay staring into the gray world outside. He hated the damp but, it proved to be relaxing in the sweltering heat of the bus’ interior. The soft squeal of the breaks hissed as the next stop approached. From the front of the bus, a quiet squelch of wet rubber announced the addition of some new passengers. Few seats remained within the densely packed bus. He was surprised, as a beautiful young woman slid into his neighboring seat. He glanced at the woman and she was astounding. Her eyes shone like two pools of amber in the dimly lit bus, their glow like witch-light drawing in his gaze. His eyes traced the soft roundness of her porcelain face. Her two lips like red half moons in a perpetual frown drooped like petals heavy with morning dew. Her beauty was exquisite but paled in comparison to the intoxication that was her voice.
“Sorry to bump you, all the others were taken”. As she spoke a current of heat ran through his body setting him on edge. He met her eyes and spoke, his voice catching in his throat.
“Not a problem, nice to see you.”
“It’s quite a dreary day isn’t it.”
“ it is, but I’ve always loved the mist, Reminds me of good books and warm evenings.”
She eyed him looking him up and down, a small smile creeping over her, its splendor like honeysuckle and sunshine.
“Your ring, are you married?” Her eyes darting to the aged wedding band he still wore.
“Yes, I still wear it, though she’s been gone for awhile.” His lips pursed, his eyes glazed as memories drifted through his mind.
“Are you married?” He asked looking at her hands.
“No, haven’t found the one.”
“Theres nothing like it. Once you find the person who fills every moment with wonder, anything else just seems… less. She was everything I ever wanted.” He stared down at the ring, his eyes stinging.
“ You deserve happiness though, everyone does. Have you tried dating since?”
“ When I said my heart was hers forever, I meant it. I loved her soul, she was the like the first bloom of spring and the boom of thunder as it rolls in the dark. She captured my hearts wonder and tore down every wall I ever built.”

She stared at him, a tinge of sorrow slipping into those honey pools. 

“You never tried? Not once?” 

“oh I did. I-I tried a lot, but in the end I couldn’t take it anymore.” His voice a whisper

“Why’s that.” She asked, a sudden sharpness to her tone. 

“There is nothing worse than spending the night with them, and realizing that they could never be more than a pale imitation of what you truly want.”
“I’m-I’m sorry to hear that” her eyes fell to the seat in front of her. She studied the lines cut by riders over the years, tracing them with her finger. The bus once again came to a jerking stop, sending her crashing into his side. His breath caught in his throat. Her soft body pressed against him brought forth a flood of memories. Soft breathing in the early morning, smiles that shone like starlight, holding his wife till the morning light.
She paused for a moment pressed against him, his arm wrapped around her side keeping her from crashing into the aisle. She pushed further against him softly sinking further into his side. Her eyes slowly lifted meeting his, and the small embers within his heart roared to life. She turned, her shoulder pushing hard into his sternum with sudden, familiar coldness. He slid gently back away from her into the seat as he pulled back his arm. 

“I’m sorry, I didn’t want you to fall…”

“No, no it’s fine, I just… “ she gazed away, her face expressionless.
“She was-she was everything I ever hoped for, my everything. People talk about how love is fiery, passionate, complicated, but our love was simple. Loving her was nothing, like dandelion wishes, magic but simple. All the misery of the world, gone like smoke in the wind. I knew that no matter what happened, no matter how terrible things got, our love was there like a safe harbor in a maelstrom.”
“Sometimes things fall apart, some storms are too great to endure.”
“I understood why it ended. Always said I didn’t but I did. We lost ourselves. I blamed her because she wouldn’t let me help, so she ran and there he was waiting.”
“Maybe she couldn’t with you there. Maybe she needed to do it for herself.”
“ I will never understand how you can tell someone you love them, while in another’s bed.”
She paused looking out the rain streaked window, her breath slowing. She exhaled a deep heavy sigh and looked him in the eyes, their glow like god’s own mercy. He melted in their sight. His wounded, broken heart for a moment beating with ease once again. At this he felt every sinew of his form tighten, for years he had thought that this feeling had left his life forever. He looked at her, a smile creeping into his eyes, and for a moment so too did hers. Her hand rested on his, but then in an instant it pulled away. Those amber pools filled with ice that would rival that of the coldest winter’s howl. Where moments ago hints of that precious smile hung like lofty clouds, now only cold indifference remained.
“Sometimes one must find peace where they may. Experiences are the sweets of life and a life lived without ecstasy is one missed.”
The bus pulled to a stop this time a gentle roll and squeak of the break the only indication it had stopped. The rain came down heavier. It bounced upon the roof creating a thunderous roar. She sat beside him, tense, her muscles drawn up like wires of a piano.
“She was everything I ever wanted but in the end, there was nothing left of that sweet girl I had known. She was a frigid selfish thing, too wounded to love another. I was in love with the ghost of a woman and when I saw that, my heart broke forever.” He paused, staring into those caramel eyes, in them he saw nought but the glaze of one who has lost all but the basest of interest. All she had once been was gone, she was but the shadow of the woman moments before. As he rose she stood allowing him to exit the bus. Turning he spoke.
“For all the hurt she gave me, I wish I could take back all the hate I gave back. She was hurt, and scared, and I made it worse. I can’t say you didn’t deserve it, but I wish I had been better, because every night when I dream; I can’t see anything but the hurt that was in those deep brown eyes…” He paused, letting out a ragged breath. 

“Goodbye Lizzie.” 

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Balloon Messages – A Favorite Memory

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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When I was little I believed that when balloons flew into the sky they went to heaven and the people up there would catch them. This meant that if I sent a balloon with a message written on it my parents would receive it. This was something my family did in memory of my parents. My favorite time was my junior year of high school, when my aunt surprised my sister and me with 3 purple balloons. We were able to write messages to my Dad, which we had not been able to do in awhile . It felt good to send
something physical and meaningful up into the sky. I know that they get them because I can feel it in my heart.
Memories do not necessarily need to be happy to be favorites. Sometimes the best memories are in honor of the ones we love.

-B.M.

Thank you for sharing your memory with us.

I hope that someone might read it, and find that they are not alone in their troubles or find solace in such a beautiful moment.

Favorite Moments.

Recently, it seems as though everywhere I look, on the news, or social media I find nothing but negatives. While it’s important to face problems, if we focus on nothing but darkness, we forget the dawn.

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What is your favorite moment in your life?

I hope that this, might be a place that people can come together and share the things they love. This series, will begin with me and I hope that you, the readers, will send in some moments of your own. With every shared experience, we might build a place of warmth for everyone.

Please submit your memory @ samesnsts@gmail.com

My favorite memory comes from my junior year of college. I recently began to date someone really special, and I set out to do anything in my power to impress her. She often spoke of how much she loved her two younger brothers and I decided that I would buy tickets for all four of us to a theme park for Halloween. As an only child, I never experienced family outings with siblings but soon discovered that it is one hell of an experience. The boys were wild, and very excited to be going with us. I got to know them better, joking about one’s inability to smile, and the other’s impressive ability to name every element on the periodic table as we waited in line. We went through a few rides, and then decided to test our bravery in the haunted houses. She, and her brothers were terrified, jumping and screaming as each scare popped out from some hidden corner. The moment, that I will never forget, was as we exited the last haunted house. She and her brothers all were hanging off of me, wrapped around my arms and throat as they laughed and smiled. They let go and started teasing one another for being so afraid, poking and pushing one another, their eyes filled with joy. The pure happiness of spending a night, with what would eventually feel like family, was something that I will never forget. We walked out of the park, holding hands as the boys ran around us in the crisp fall air, and all the bad in the world just didn’t exist for an evening. I know that, it’s not some incredible or life-changing thing but to me, it was a perfect day.

sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.

Winnie the Pooh

“When the Water Rises” by Candice Winters

Background

Candice Winters is an up and coming writer who produces short stories while working on her undergraduate degree. If you enjoy this excerpt, you can find this and other of her works at https://www.wattpad.com/user/Water_Lily_Princess

Chapter 1

The sky was dark with rain clouds and although the worst of the storm had passed, there was still a heavy drizzle that caused the drain pipes to overflow on the roof. The water poured from the drain pipes like a broken curtain over the sidewalk that crossed in front of the school. Students gathered under the long roof that extended from the door to the road and waited for their friends before braving the muggy weather. Their uniforms were as damp as their moods, their clothes drooping as lifelessly from their bodies as their smiles did from their faces. Walking out into the misty rain, they all looked as though they were heaving the wet rags on their arms and legs. The umbrellas resting on their shoulders looked heavy with water as they dripped onto the ground where their shoes sloshed through the puddles. The students stuck without umbrellas used newspapers or backpacks to cover their heads when they ran across the road. Students like Hana, who could barely carry their backpack as is, which was weighed down by extra books, and didn’t take a newspaper from the art room or had friends to lend their umbrella, stood alone under the roof, waiting out the rain.

       Hana was one of the only boys left. He took a seat on the bench near the wall which was sheltered partly by the roof and partly by the row of trees beside it. The trees weren’t so tall. The other students made a game of it to touch the lowest branch and it was almost a right-of-passage if you could climb to it without getting caught by headmaster, whose office was in the nearest window and almost always open. Hana thought it was a bit childish but even he, as he sat there with plenty of time to himself to think, wondered if he could touch the lowest branch yet. It was his first year in middle school and it would be ‘cool’ if he could come back the next day, this early in the year, and boast about touching that branch first. He would surely be noticed, maybe even by that girl he met in Class 2B.

       He blushed, the youthful adrenaline kicking to life in his heart as he battled with his options. It was like having those little voices on his shoulder, whispering hot lies into his ears.

       They’ll all think you’re cool. She’ll think you’re cool.

       He gulped, tempted to try it.

       He stood up, fingers twitching on the straps of his backpack.

       When he last checked, the office light was off, all he had to do was touch it.   

 Or climb it.

       “If you’re going for the tree I would wait on that. Don’t worry, no one else is will get the glory first. I’ve been listening to the other kids and I haven’t heard anything about it since the year started. It was a big deal last year you know, I’m sure the message was passed to you seventh years. I’m in my ninth year. My name’s Mackenzie Watanabe by the way, what’s yours?”

       Mackenzie had long, light coloured hair tied back and his eyes were blue. He looked like the typical ‘American’ Hana heard about, breaking school regulation with his hair length and his unbuttoned uniform. Any taller and he might have thought he actually was one, even with the proper accent. He looked strange but not any stranger than his name sounded.

       “Mackenzie?” Hana tried to mimic how he said it but it came out like it had been grated.

       “That’s right!” Mackenzie gave a hearty laugh, his shoulders bouncing. His wet uniform seemed weightless the way he effortlessly moved under them. He dug one hand in his pocket and held an umbrella out with the other. “It’s foreign. My dad is the headmaster and he lived overseas for a while. He liked the name but I don’t think he realised how much of a pain it would be for all my friends. He told me to go on ahead home, want me to walk you first? You don’t look like you have an umbrella and it’s typhoon season. It wouldn’t surprise me if the weather turned nasty here in about an hour or so. Here, let me walk you.”

       Pushy like an American too, Hana thought as the umbrella handle was thrust into his face.

       “What’s that look for?” Mackenzie asked, inspecting that twisted look of fear on Hana’s face as he pushed the umbrella handle down from his chin. “Is it the name still? What’s yours?”

       “Hana Saito,”  Hana said softly. Mackenzie had to lean in to hear him and Hana stepped aside.

       “Hana, you said?” Mackenzie asked. “We both have odd names don’t we?”

       “My parents wanted another girl,” Hana clarified. “It’s not like it’s uncommon.”

       “Still…,” Mackenzie hummed and rolled the handle in his palm. “At least we have something we share right? That’s the first step to becoming friends.”

       Hana could have thought of ninety-nine different ways of how to be cool to make friends. Meeting the son of the headmaster, an upperclassmen with a weird name, was not one of those ways. Touching the tree branch or even climbing the tree sounded cooler by far and it would have been much easier just to do that but since they started talking, the rain had pooled at the base of the tree. Hana stepped away from the deep puddle and crashed into Mackenzie, who caught him by the shoulders.

       “You okay there?” Mackenzie asked casually as he stood Hana upright across from him and checked for any signs of injury. If Hana pretended he stepped on his ankle wrong and sprained it, it would have saved him a load of embarrassment, but he couldn’t think of the lie fast enough. Mackenzie was already looking passed him at the tree.

       “If you want to climb it that badly, I could stand guard–”

       “N-no! No, I don’t want to,” Hana sputtered.

       “But you were looking at it again–”

       “If you want to walk me home we should go now,” Hana said quickly, pointing at the mist cloud that sunk low on the road. “The rain looks like it’s letting up. I don’t want you to catch a cold for staying out in it when it gets worse.”

       “I’m made of pure steele like the superhero!” Mackenzie laughed. “I’ll never get sick!”

       That made Hana smile and he forgot about the flooded garden next to the school. Mackenzie held the umbrella between them and walked Hana out to the road, to the next sidewalk and toward the docks.

       “This way you said?” he asked. Hana nodded quietly while they joined side-by-side on the sidewalk. Mackenzie was near the road and Hana walked along the edge of the path, beside the docks. He stared at the water as it knocked against the boats. Their ropes creaked when they yanked on the hooks. The rain picked up in the wind and slapped the boats until they banged against the docks. The umbrella in Mackenzie’s hand whipped inside out and flapped behind them.

       “Hold on!” Mackenzie called, grabbing Hana by the arm to pull him from the edge while he fought with the umbrella. The wind settled and the umbrella fell and scraped the ground. Mackenzie turned it out.

       “Sorry about that,” he chuckled. “Looks like the storm’s going to come rolling in soon. Are you alright? You look sick, you’re pale.”

       Mackenzie moved in front of Hana and put their foreheads together to check his temperature, which to him, seemed on the higher side. Hana registered it only after he pulled away and smiled at him.

       “We’ll get you home and I’ll make you something to eat. You look like you just sucked down all that sea water out there and the salt in the air isn’t helping, is it?”

       Mackenzie grabbed him by the wrist and pulled him along, his other hand held the umbrella out in front of them to block them from the biting rain. His long hair had fallen out of it’s tie and stuck to the back of his neck where his wet collar sagged and sloped toward his shoulders. Hana stared at him and thought he heard him talking but couldn’t make out what he said with the wind howling around that wobbly umbrella. Some of the rain that caught on it’s folds splashed him and he ducked to save his eyes. The mist rose from the streets and raced beside them like large, white waves, curling in and pushing against them over and over again. Hana felt his feet dragging on the sidewalk as though he were wading knee-deep through a river. If Mackenzie hadn’t been holding onto him, pulling him forward, he would have been stranded by the storm.

       “Almost there right?” Mackenzie asked, louder than before, snapping Hana from his daze.

       “Almost,” Hana coughed as the rain pelted his tongue with it’s rusty flavour.

       They reached the hill that lead to his house and Hana nodded his new friend in the right direction. He knew the streets by heart because he walked to and from school every day. As they weaved through the streets, the rain began to die out though Hana believe it was the houses that took the brunt of the torrent and it was them that waded through the aftermath. For a moment, when Hana looked away from the docks below and saw the back of Mackenzie’s head, he could have sworn that had been running from something. From the storm maybe? Had they run at all? They were already at his house, standing in front of the door while Hana fumbled for his keys but he didn’t remember how they got there. His ice cold fingers barely knew what they were doing as he twisted the key in the door.

       They removed their shoes when they stepped inside. Mackenzie was the one who shut the door because Hana stood in the breezeway like a statue, trying to familiarise himself with the dark halls ahead of him.

       “This has to be the right place,” Mackenzie muttered to himself. “The key worked….”

       “Y-yeah, this is it,” Hana replied absent-mindedly, his fingers moving onto the buttons of his uniform jacket as though they had a mind of their own.

       “Are you sure you’re okay?” Mackenzie asked as he set his own jacket on the rack and offered to put Hana’s there too. Once they dried as best they could with the towels available, they hurried to the bedroom to change into some lounge clothes.

       “You’ll have to b-borrow my sister’s things,” Hana said, holding out a pair of pink sweatpants to Mackenzie, who accepted them with a mischievous grin.

       “They’ll fit you better than any of mine– hey!”

       Mackenzie danced out of his uniform and hopped into the sweatpants with a shirt half over his head while he wriggled himself into the main hall.

       “I’m getting you something to eat! You have a fever! Lie down already!” he called back to Hana, who stood with his dry clothes still in his hands, staring dumbly at the hall.

       Hana, half dressed and about to put his shirt on, jumped and blushed to his ears when Mackenzie’s head popped in the doorway.

       “What kind of ramen do you want? I can make eggs too. And do you like tea?”

       Hana thought that if he stood there, glaring at Mackenzie, that the guy would take a hint and leave him to finish in peace. But that stupid boy couldn’t read the room and was more anxious for his answer than to pay attention to Hana’s disapproving brown eyes.

       “Anything is fine,” Hana told him with a sigh as he pulled his shirt on. “I’m not picky.”         

       “Okay!” Mackenzie grinned at him, waved and went back to the kitchen. The clanking and the crashing made Hana flinch but if there’s anyone stupid enough to cheat fate and truly never get hurt, or sick, Hana placed a hefty bet on Mackenzie Watanabe.