My friend Pilar and I gave eachother a writing prompt challenge. In 24 hours, we had to write a two page story, incorporating clementines, and involving more than two characters.
We discussed what the theme should be. I immediately thought “BETRAYAL.” Pilar was not a fan and suggested I do betrayal, and she would do fidelity.
With these parameters in mind, these were the results.
The sky was streaked with orange when she pulled her wet knuckle from her child’s mouth. Her daughter had finally fallen asleep after hours of tears and tantrum and looking terrified and swinging her eyes left to right, exhausting herself. And now she was asleep. A loose sling of spit came out along with her finger and she wiped it quietly against the onesie her daughter was wearing. It was the end of the day.
Or is it the beginning? She raised her eyes to the sky. It looked like sunset, as though night was coming. But the birds were chirping. She stirred and looked at her baby, mouth silently agape as the dark crept up – or away – on the window. She stroked the barely visible blonde hairs of the baby’s head and felt, despite the delirious haze that felt like an extra weight on every part of her body and mind, love for her only child.
The fact was that it was in fact the morning. It was 7 am and not the evening, and she was confused about all of it. Just then her husband emerged with a yawn from the bedroom, recently showered. He entered with a still slightly dampened head carrying the scent of the shower, and as he walked in he filled the living room of the small two bedroom apartment with the wet warmth of his Old Spice scented body wash.
“Good morning, babe,” he said, planting a warm, clean-shaven kiss on her head. The baby’s little arms twitched in her arms, asleep, her small mouth puckered and dreaming of milk.
Finally she looked up at him. Her glassy blue eyes were rimmed with a yellowing pink. She was 34.
“Hi,” she said quietly. “I didn’t even know what time it was.”
Bruce smiled at her, watching his wife, who appeared slightly inebriated, holding their only child Rebecca in her thin arms. She did not look good. He pitied her.
“Babe, it’s Friday. It’s morning. You get the whole weekend off baby duty.” He smiled. The morning.
Today Bruce would bike in his full suit from their apartment in Peacon, Illinois to the downtown strip of the city of Peoria, rush a cappuccino at the coffee shop he went to every day and then arrive at wor, Manon Industrial Development, Inc. where he would stare at numbers on a spreadsheet for 8 hours and move those numbers around to their designated boxes and then come back. He was 32.
Hannah pushed a red strand out of her eye. She had not slept yet. The child was asleep. She thought it was still night. She kissed her husband on the lips. “Have a good day” and walked to the bedroom, placing her sleeping baby in the basinet. She fell into the unmade bed and pictured her body slowly being usurped into a massive white cloud beneath her.
When she awoke, the first thing she saw was a neatly stacked pile of clementines next to her bed in a bowl. Vitamins. She knew he had put them there and that she had fallen asleep instantly even before he left the apartment. Her husband. He knew what could make her smile.
She looked at the clock, Noon. The full sun flooded their apartment. Her baby was awake. Dust was floating silently through the air. Silence.
The baby was quietly squirming on her back and aiming her hands and feet up at the mobile universe of fuzzy stars and moons above her.
Hannah went to the bathroom and opened the mirrored cabinet. There she took two Advil and opened the other bottle labeled PAROXETINE. Generic Paxil. She had been taking it or 3 months. Their baby was 5 months old. After two panic attacks that had come on, by all her understanding, out of no where, and usually left her weak and nearly paralyzed with fear that she was an inadequate and weak mother.
After the second one, she and Bruce decided she should seek extra help.
Bruce finished his soda at lunch and called Hannah. It was 12:46pm and cold autumn wind was blowing off the Illinois River.
“Hey, I’ll be home around 6,” he said.
“Ok, what do you want to eat?”
“I don’t know, do we still have leftovers?”
“Yes, Hamburger Helper and noodles.”
“That’s fine. How are you feeling today?”
Hannah looked down at her wedding ring. It sparkled with the afternoon light gleaming in through their bathroom window. 8 years. They had been together 8 years and tried for 3 to have this child. Every day for 3 years and nothing. Until a year ago.
“I’m fine,” she said. “Ready for the weekend.”
Hannah sat on the couch and was breastfeeding. She was sitting straight up and helping her daughter latch onto her nipple. She sometimes worried about the medication and the breastfeeding, but her doctor said, It’s such a low dose, you don’t have to worry, and she was too tired to worry anyway.
She winced at a sore bite, and looked out of the window as the baby drank from her resources. The calm she felt during breastfeeding was, sometimes, worth these many months of sleeplessness and boredom. In those moments she could close her eyes and feel the oxytocin holiday of love. And even there in their dirty apartment that smelled now always of baby and time and food, she could smile and be ok for a moment.
The baby’s hand grasped the pink flesh of her mother’s breast and gushed milk from her small lips, looking up at her mother. Hannah did not know why she felt surprised to look down and see her husband’s eyes, looking right back at her. —Pilar Timpane
The clementine tricked her.
“They twicked me,” she said bitterly, her tone reflective in her little scrunched up face. I wanted to laugh but knew better. She would’ve thought I was an accomplice.
She blew a raspberry and rubbed at her tongue, as though that would remove the taste.
She handed the clementine back to me. “It twicked me,” she said.
“You have to open it first,” I told her. I pushed my thumb through the skin. The orange liquid ran along my fingers. I instinctively licked at it which made her grimace.
“Eew,” she said and she was off. Her 3’5 frame waddled away to something more favorable—leaf piles and autumn tainted trees. As she rummaged through leaf piles in the park, I knew her relationship with clementines would be completely tarnished.
And it upset me. As her skin glowed in delight, and her gloved hands slapped at old leaves, I got angrier. As her big brother, of course I wanted her to make her own decisions about things. But I really love clementines…and she failed to realize she had to peel it first. So now, she’d never know the true taste underneath the skin, all because she ate it wrong.
“Natalie, just try it without the skin! It’s really good, I promise!”
She ignored me—or she didn’t hear with all the stomping she was doing.
I approached her and she took off again. For a waddler, she was really fast. I’m pretty athletic and it took a while to catch up with her. I jumped in front of her to block her path. She laughed wildly. Great, now she thought it was a game. She turned around and flailed away.
“Go away, Billy Monster!”
“I’m not Billy Monster, I’m just Billy! Just try it!”
I was running out of breath now, with clementine juice running through my jacket sleeve.
“Natalie! Come on!”
“It’s gwoss! No!”
“I’ll let you play in my room if you try just a little!”
She stopped. There was a pause before she made a slow turn to face me. Even though she was only six, she developed a strong suspicion toward me. She doesn’t trust me at all. I guess it’s understandable. I did tell her she’s never allowed in my room under any circumstances, no matter what. And I once told her Mars was located under her bed, and if she wasn’t careful, an alien might wander out in the middle of the night. I was just trying to expand her imagination. But when mom told her it was a lie, she stopped believing anything I’d say.
“I mean it.”
She made a cautious waddle toward me. For a moment, I almost imagined the type of girl she’d grow up to be. Sassy with a lot of attitude. I bet she’ll be an actress…or a judge.
She raised her chubby hand toward me. “Just one wittle…piece.”
I took a slice off and handed it to her.
She placed the slice in her mouth and winced. She then ran off again. “I hate it!”
I was in shock. IMPOSSIBLE! I was sure she was playing around, just to spite me. So I took a bite into the remaining fruit in my hand.
It wasn’t ripe.
The clementine tricked me.
Overall, the process was a fun time. It was also ironic to see the different ways in which we used the rules. It was also interesting that our stories were about families, how my betrayal story was pretty light, while Pilar’s fidelity story was packed with unsettling undertones. Hopefully we get to do something like this again. Yay for spur of the moment creative prompts!