Monday, June 28, 2010

Stolen Moments

It is atrociously late (my Muse is far more nocturnal than I), so I apologize for any stupid typos or grammatical mistakes, and the general weirdness of the idea. It wouldn't let me alone til I'd finished it.


She sat on the park bench, the edges of her sneakers touching the grass. Each blade stooped, washed of its vibrancy by the rolling clouds, nursing imminent rain. The wind bit through her coat. She drew it close around her, the silk inside brushing her neck. She should have worn something thicker than an old mouse-colored trench. November chased out the remnants of Indian summer weeks ago. November, the greyest month, the death of warmth without the vitality of holidays, which laughed at the with cider and fruitcake. November, somber, solemn, too cold to be somnolent, cheerless enough to be sordid.

A young couple walked past, too absorbed in each other’s eyes to notice her. She sat like a statue, like the cathedral’s angels, forever weeping into their crumbling hands. The girl loosened her white wool scarf and pressed into the boy’s side. He smiled and stretched an arm over her shoulder, drawing her in. They fit like puzzle pieces.

She didn’t have to close her eyes anymore; she’d learned how to do it without. All it took was a sketch of the event in her mind, the pencil outlines, and her subconscious would fill in with color and shadow. The boy, the girl, their posture and warmth, a dash of a ponytail for her, a fine fuzz of a close-cut for him, parkas, scarves, gloves. Before five seconds past, the deed was done. The boy and girl halted, simultaneously, looking at each other with confusion . She could see the instant they shrugged that they didn’t know, decided to write it off as mutual déjà vu of some sort. It was the opposite, really, but they’d never realize it.

She scarcely heard the footfalls on the pale grass before the voice accompanying them. “Cute couple, really.” He said it jovially, with a European flair, reh-a-lly, a twist of English? Scottish? “Too bad they’re missing those few seconds you took just then. Very neatly done, too, scarcely a, oh, what-do-you-callit, a hiccup of time there.”

Her spine chilled from the bottom up, and she turned on the bench, driving her knees into the iron armrest. “I’m sorry?”

He grinned down at her, benevolently. He was wearing a tan overcoat, of quality fabric but well-scuffed, navy trousers, and a pair of off-white trainers. His hair was the color of dark chocolate, and spiked a thousand directions, as if he’d remembered to gel it but not comb it up straight. “Y’mind if I sit? Fantastic, thanks.” He strode around and sat on the other side of the bench, tails of his shamrock green scarf flipping up with the impact.

She twisted back around a moment later, knees pointed straight toward the lake again. She didn’t like talking, and even if she did, what could she possibly say?

“Sorry, that was a bit of an abrupt introduction there, but I’m a shameless ham.” He rubbed his chin, pensively. “Have been since birth, now that I think about it.” He turned toward her, his breath forming a cloud of vapor, floating towards its massive cousins in the sky. “Now, ordinarily, I wouldn’t bother trying to find someone who’s been stealing time, but there were a few things that interested me. First, you’re bloody good at it, I haven’t found a soul who was aware they were missing a single tick of the watch. Second, you’re very young to be taking so much time, and third – well, you’re just so bloody good at it.”

She stared at the lake. Edges of ice circled the rim, growing into a fragile crust. “I didn’t know there was anyone else like me.”

He leaned into the bench, crossing one leg, dropping an arm over the back of the frame. “Oh, well, I’m not exactly like you, but close enough. Y’see, when anyone takes times, there are these…imprints, for lack of a better word, like wax paper rubbings of the taken moments. For example, right there-” he pointed towards the path ringing the lake, “there are these ghosts of that boy and girl all cozied up. I can see right through them, they aren’t real by any means. A dozen people will walk right through them before the day’s over without so much as getting a chill or smelling a thing.

“That’s how I find them, you see, if I don’t see them first. They all have a sort of smell. Moments like that one you just snitched are a lot like a cinnamon sticky, all warm and saccharine and heartwarming. If it’s a family around a dinner table, it usually smells like roast turkey. Or meatloaf, on occasion. Not sure why meatloaf, I really can’t stand the stuff. Public display of affection, or PDA as I suppose it’s called nowadays, now that depends, holding hands is like cotton candy, cuddling like pastries, first kisses –” he broke off, gaze in the past. “Different for every person.”

The roar started in her head, the migraine coming in like the tide. She pressed the bridge of her nose in hopes of lifting the pressure, even for an instant. “What was yours like?”

“Don’t know,” he said. “Someone took that moment from me.” He looked sideways at her. “After all that rambling, and you only have a single question. You really are a quiet one, aren’t you? I suppose it could be worse, there could be two of us wittering about. What I’m mostly curious about is why. You’re not nearly old enough that you need these moments to keep you young. My best guess, and I’m a fantastic guesser, is that you’re one of those who can relive the moments, like memories, and they never fade. It’s addictive, feeling the thrill of jumping out a plane or getting a promotion or proposed to, without it ever affecting your real life.”

She shook her head, slowly. “I can relive them, but that isn’t why.” Though she had her moments, her dark days when she needed someone holding her. Since she had no one, she borrowed another’s for a heartbeat, a blink in time. Her nose ached, and she felt moisture rolling from it. She touched her hand to her face and withdrew it, a single splash of blood filling the lines of her fingertip.

“Oh, that looks nasty.” He withdrew a spotless handkerchief from his coat and handed it to her. “Go ahead, I’ve got loads of these. Allergies?”

She pressed it to her nose. “Reaction to the chemotherapy.”

He stilled, face settling into blankness.

“I’m dying,” she said. The breeze blew in her ear and fingered her collar before skating on, leaving her chilled. “That’s why I’ve taken so much. I hate being a thief, but it’s kept me alive six months past the first prognosis. It counteracts the cancer in some way, but it’s adapting. It’s taken so much time to give me even another day. I took a whole night’s sleep from my dog just to give me the hour to come out here.”

He didn’t speak for a long time. “I’m so sorry.”

“I don’t have family. Friends…they stopped coming by not long after I should have been dead. This is all I have. Even at that, I don’t have much longer. I’ll start declining within a few weeks. If I stop taking these moments entirely, I’ll be gone in a few days.” She shed her last tear over it months ago. But now as she sat here, even in the cruelest month, with iron skies and cold water and fading earth, she was still alive, and the world held the smallest beauties to take her breath.

“But?” he said gently.

“I’m not ready.” She drew her knees up against her. “I’m not ready,” she whispered. She hadn’t admitted it until now. The ache in her chest rose, and tears spilled over her eyes, hot on her frozen skin.

“Ah, come here, love.” He shifted closer and let her fall into his shoulder.

She was finest glass, poised on the edge of the mantle, trying not to fall and shatter. His coat smelled like soap. Clean, lemony soap, citronella with no bitter aftertaste. A wholesome smell that worked into her and halted the tears. She stayed there for a moment, cheek pressed into his chest. It was so warm. With a shiver, she felt the ache in her head dissolve. Her nose stopped bleeding, and she felt a lazy glimmer of energy in her chest, as if life was seeping through him into her. She wanted the moment to last.

She drew a sharp breath, and the air stung her throat. Why the thought hadn’t occurred years before puzzled her. Perhaps she’d merely had no moments rich enough or worth remembering in color. Carefully, she sketched the moment, this moment, drew it with color pencils she didn’t know she had. The clouds, the bench, the grass, a lanky figure with a long coat and fabulous hair, supporting a wisp of a person with a streak of a black braid, all bones and pale skin and mouse-colored coat. What she wanted to draw was the warmth, the safety, but all she could do was pencil in her closed eyes and relaxed mouth.

“That’s a girl,” he said. “Although, is my hair really that out of control again?”

She jerked back against her edge of the bench, eyes wide.

“Oh, didn’t I mention that? Must have forgot, I can get a general sense of moments being drawn up. You did have the colored pencils after all. Not many people do.” He gave that silly grin again. “Zounds, I can’t wait ‘til you get to the watercolors.”

“It took me twenty-five years to get to the colored pencils. I don’t have the time left for paint.” She felt that cold ache in her chest again.

“Now, see, I don’t think that’s exactly the case.” He held up a hand, chin tilted imperiously. “Ah, don’t interrupt, let me finish. Pushy Americans, the lot of you. Where was I? Oh, right, time. Your own memories and moments are the strongest to you. The trouble is, they’re deucedly tricky to capture. That one you just took, give reliving it a go.”

She closed her eyes, and felt time tick back, and she was leaning against him again with the subtle soap in her nostrils and warmth in her heart. The memory finished, and she opened her eyes. The little flicker of life in her chest stretched a half-inch and maintained itself.

“That gave you another week,” he said. “Relive it two or three more times, you might get a couple days more. That’s the thing about memories, especially your own. They fade.”

A week. Seven full days of life. She knew it wouldn’t last forever. If she so much as caught a cold from this insane jaunt outside, those seven days would evaporate to one as the stolen time fought off the added sickness. “Thank you,” she whispered.

He looked at her for a long moment. “You have so much left to live. Ah, to hell with it, you’re going to live.”

She blinked. “For how long?”

He stood, throwing his arms out. “Years and years. I don’t know why, but there’s so much more you need to be alive for, so I can’t just very well let you catch cold and die in a hospital a few weeks from now.”

“But what can you do about it?” She did not let herself hope.

He began pacing. “You know that bit in Scripture about God giving man dominion over the earth after He talked the whole darn thing into existence? Well, that dominion bit included a few things we lost when Eve trusted a snake of all things. Like dominion over words. Language, to be precise. You always hear about how there’s so much power in a name and how important names used to be, not just some label you got courtesy of your parents.”

“Yeah?” she said.

“Well, there are a few of us out there who have a bit more power over words than the rest. Shakespeare for one. Man was a genius. Knew just what to say and when, and we all know he did pretty well for himself. Me, I’m no literary genius, I just use words with a bit more zip than the average person.”

“What does that mean?”

He stopped pacing and looked up. “Let’s just say time isn’t the only thing that heals.”

She felt a flush of anger in her cheeks. “Look, I hate to be rude, but would you quit blathering-”

“What’s your name?” he said. “Your full name.”

“Rose Elizabeth Scott,” she said, through clenched teeth.

“Rose,” he said, as if testing the feel of it in his mouth, tasting it. “Perfect. Rose Elizabeth Scott, you aren’t getting out of here for a long, long time, so you might consider being a bit nicer.”

Her head roared, but it was not a headache. It was joy. White exploded in her vision, and when she could see again, she felt vigor rush through her veins. She drew a careful breath. “What…was that?”

He was grinning like a loon, hands tucked in his pockets. “Much better, isn’t it? Names have so much more power than you’d think. Especially when said with intention.”

She could feel the cancer cells shrinking, shriveling, curling into nothing. “Am I-”

“In full remission. It might come back in a few years, but ‘til then, you’ve got plenty to do.”

“Like what?” she said.

“Well, for starters, there are a few time-thieves out there who are taking crucial
moments, like a politician whispering secrets, or a mother telling the babysitter where she set the house key. I could use some help flushing them out. You’ve got all the makings of finding imprints, I’d just have to teach you how. It’d beat a secretarial position. Be more dangerous, sure, and the company’d be a little odd and charming, but indubitably handsome with a porcupine haircut, and I do eat the strangest mix of food, I love curry, and pizza, and fish and chips, and chocolate, and biscuits, and-”

“Yes,” she said. It was insane, walking away from everything she knew, but she had life restored and positively rolling through her. Even if it were only for a few years – yes.

He clapped his hands together. “Brilliant! Only thing you’d have to do is keep an eye on that cancer, and even if it came back, you’d have the chance to catch it early, and maybe by then I’d have something cooked up to get rid of it for decades.”

She stood, and they started walking along the path. “I don’t even know your name.”

“William,” he said. “William Keats. A distinguished literary name, if I say so myself.”

“Bright star, were I stedfast as thou,” breathed Rose.

“No, no, that was that my great-great-great-great-great-however-many-great-grandfather’s poetry. I don’t write much, I just read it.”

She turned to him, as a drop of moisture stung her cheek. She looked up, and falling from the sky were not raindrops, but white flakes the size of her thumbnail, feathery and evanescent. “Snow.”

He glanced up as well, nose crinkled. “Now that’s what the end of a good day should look like.”

“You said you didn’t remember your first kiss,” she said. “What about the second?”

“Ah, Rose Scott, you are such a girl, asking about kissing. But in answer, I’ll let you know when it happens. I keep hoping I’ll get a bit of a redo, since everyone else’s first is the most delightful memory-”

Rose stood on her toes, placed a hand on his neck, and kissed him. She’d only planned to give him a peck on the lips, but it turned into a long moment, with the snow falling around them.

Some time later, they both stepped back. She felt her face glowing, and touched it. Her fingertips nearly sizzled. “I…”

Will blinked before throwing his head back and roaring. “Who knew you had that in you? You look so polite and unassuming, and that…straight-up and all around, I did get a bloody second first kiss.”

“You were right,” she said. “First kisses do taste.” She traced her teeth with her tongue, as if she could bring back the taste. “Dark chocolate with cocoa nibs.”

He tilted his head, wonderingly. “You don’t mean to tell me-”

She flushed again. “Sweet twenty-five and never been kissed, yes.”

The corners of his mouth worked slowly upward. “Well, Rose Scott, you surprise me again. I have to tell you, though, I’m deadly curious to see what a second kiss tastes like. But,” he said, checking his watch, “we have all the time in the world for that. Let’s be off, shall we?”

“Give me a minute first,” said Rose. She closed her eyes, smiling.

“Ah, yes, this is a moment to save, isn’t it?” he said, sounding pensive. “Although, do go for more of an umber pencil this time for my hair, would you?”

Her smile broadened, and she opened her eyes. “Not a chance. I’m using watercolors
now, you see.”

He grinned back without a word. She finished the painting and saved it in a special place, and they walked off together into the snow.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Charlie Brown's favorite exclamation

Good grief.

I'm in Colorado with the family for the next six days. It was a long drive up. Seventeen hours, I think. It's beautiful, though. I'll try to get some pictures posts, but no promises, as I do not have my own camera with me (this negligence caused by yours truly not packing until the night before). It's close to 10,000 feet altitude here, and I feel it, like a wimpy girl who lives at sea level most of the year. Quite honestly, I could sit in the living room of this little house re-reading the Mitford books for hours and be content with just resting. Part of me is sad there's internet, but another part of me rejoices I don't want to be on much. There's a little mountain with patches of snow out the big windows, and it's so foreign from Houston suburbia's culdesacs and suburbans it makes me happy.

I had the oddest sensation driving up yesterday, through a valley with gently rolling grass surrounded by pine-crested hills. I had a vision for a moment I was twenty, and I was rambling through the hills in a pair of old jeans rolled at the cuffs and old tennis shoes, next to a man I loved, with a black Lab dashing out and back and around us. The sky was cloudy, and one of us had a red Chevy Avalanche pickup, or had borrowed it, and we were just being together, and it was so simple and so lovely I'm hoping it wasn't idle imagination and will come to pass someday.

And then I think, Oh my, I'm going to Oxford in nine days. England. Out of the country without my family, which is a glorious thought with a sense of freedom like I'm a bird free from the nest. And then I realize again (the thought repeats) I am going with a group of people, none of whom I know from Adam. They're all from Baylor and should be excellent travel companions. The bold side of me, roaring with adventure and confidence plans to play along like I've been at Baylor my entire collegiate career. But the timid side of me, the one I've tried so hard and succeeded decently in muffling over the past year is frightened to death.

Oddly, with all this trouncing about in my mind, I'm not anxious. Perhaps that elusive process of growing-up truly has visited me in some small way.

EDIT: prayers for a quick resolution much appreciated - Baylor has apparently cancelled my housing request, something I did NOT want them to do, and now they're saying they're out of rooms on-campus...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Actor and the Housewife, thoughts.

I've fallen in love with The Actor and the Housewife again. (This is by Shannon Hale, and if you have not read it, for the love of every good book, go find a copy and read it. Now.) Few books have ever brought me to tears (Harry Potter the sixth did, twice), and this is one. It resonates with me, because a huge theme is love between a man and woman as best friends, without romance. I wish there was more love like that in the world. It seems we must either be very casual friends or in love, and that's stupid. Your thoughts?

Friday, June 18, 2010

I live!

Sort of. I've been out in Nascar country for a few days, helping renovate my uncle's house. Well, paint, mostly. Lots of ceiling paint. I am still high on the fumes. I am also sleep-deprived, because...well, most of you know of my small addiction to that sport called Ultimate Frisbee. There's a tournament tomorrow on the beach (well, if you can call it a beach. It's the substitute beach for Texans who don't have real beaches.), and I really wanted to play, but wasn't supposed to get back until tomorrow. So...the only flight option was a 5:20 red-eye out of Chattanooga. I woke up at 3:30 this morning. I have never woken up that early. Stayed up that late? Yes, to my great shame. So I am rather sleep-deprived and yawning now, but tomorrow should be a fantastic day.

I can't get My First Kiss by 3OH!3 or that other Keith Urban song (I Want To Kiss A Girl?) out of my head. I don't know what my subconscious is trying to tell me, but I am bothered by and am fiercely scolding it. Catchy pop songs. We love and hate them.

I think I have stopped making sense, so I am going to go watch Dr. Who or something that doesn't involve higher brain function. Peace, y'all.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

I have awesome friends

Okay. So a friend of mine was recently sort-of stalked/repeatedly asked out by this girl he'd only met once. This is an excerpt of the IM conversation. It is hysterical. And hopefully will give you hope there are still guys out there with standards. And spelling. ('Theji' is the girl, just fyi, and 'Me' is my guy friend).

u need 2 kno 1 thng is tht if a gurl wants 2 b wid u than u should b wid her
u understand tht
hey wat happend
sorry just distracted by my game.
so wat video game
thats BS. i mean yeah if a girl wants to be with you thats cool, but that doesn't mean you should just be like OH MY GOD shes into me lets give up all forms of standards and be with her.
if she hot a guy would rite?
plz jst try it and see wat happens plz
i thnk tht ur nice and gud looking and kind 2 a gurl and i never had tht in my life
r u angry wid me
okay honestly, I'm not mad at you, slightly flattered at best.
But it would never work because you can't spell to save your life.

That last line. Best reason to not date someone EVER. *wipes tear of happiness from eye*

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Pray with me?

Friend of mine is so close to knowing Jesus but doesn't yet, and it pretty much breaks my heart every time I see him. So I'm asking anyone who's willing to send up a prayer or two for him, that God would just break through to him in a miraculous way. Thanks, y'all! :)

Friday, June 4, 2010

oh hai thar

I got my wisdom teeth out this morning. The whole experience thus far has been decent but strange. But, on the other hand, I see how some artists and authors came up with what they did while consuming large doses of drugs. Vicodin is some strong stuff, as was whatever they put in the IV drip to knock me out before surgery.

So now I am sporting this awesome non-sexy chipmunk-face librarian look with my glasses (which I never wear), hair in a mess, wads of gauze in my mouth, and ice wrap around my head (it looks something like the bandage about Jacob Marley's head, for those of you who have watched A Christmas Carol). The drool has not been to big an issue, as I regained feeling in my lips a few hours ago. I think. Time has been a blur of floatiness, sleepiness, quite a bit of pain, pills eating away at the pain, some lovely piano music (google Ludovico Einaudi and listen. Yes, it's a command), and very little food.

I am, unfortunately, craving pizza. Rawr. That is going to be what I eat in a few days. After I play frisbee. I am supposed to wait five to seven days before any strenuous activity. Frisbee is on Tuesday night. That's four and a half days. Close enough in my book ;)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

First sentences

Her grandfather was a preacher, and he named her Grace.

I almost won't read a book if I don't like the first sentence. I know, perhaps a silly reason to set a book back on the shelf, but there's such an art to the first sentence. There are a few of my own I rather like (Biased much? :P). That first bit in italics is one I wrote last night (I know, I actually started something. It's a shock to me as well).

Edward Taravella loathed hostages.

That's an older of mine.

Anyways. As you might tell, I'm feeling a bit random. I've been reading so much C.S. Lewis for summer school I'm thinking half in British English. Not sure if that's good or bad.

What are some of your favourite first sentences? Please share.