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tomorrow may not come


Mira
 Mira
(@mira)
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The stranger arrived at half past midnight. He strolled alone through the empty neighborhood and spilled a long shadow behind him. Sometimes the silhouette seemed to caper, Pan-like, but it was only the momentary distortion that came naturally each time he passed below a street light.

The man was tall. He carried a satchel, slung over one shoulder, and moved with a self-assured, leonine grace. Wherever he was going, he was in no hurry to arrive.

He stopped short in front of one of the odd-numbered houses on the east side of the street to study a scrap piece of paper. It was difficult to read in the spare light, and he lamented that he should have had the address memorized now. There had been so many appointments this past week: with his real estate agent, his counselor, his doctor…

When his own handwriting still wouldn’t give up its secrets, the man sighed, and leaned against the picket fence like a scarecrow on break from the fields. Eventually he raised his gaze to the house. A lone light glowed in the east bedroom; though the curtains were drawn, the pane was cracked. He knew this because he could hear someone crying within. The sound was stifled, unending, and indisputably feminine. It was the song of a rare night bird calling out and going unanswered.

After the eternity of a heartbreak, the light switched off, the crying ceased, and the man’s eyes lowered. Turns out the key he held in the crease of his palm fit the front lock to the door next-door.

The dead-end house was appropriate, he thought.

The neighborhood Nicholas Cherrywood had moved to, sight unseen, seemed a fine place. Every cookie-cutter home housed a cookie-cutter family, with a cookie-cutter doghouse and a cookie-cutter dog (always an avowed rescue). It was the sort of place a guy like Nick thought he could learn to love. And in the following days, he found that he had fallen in love: with the perfect fences hemming in their worthy botanical gardens, with the gorgeous couples that drove gorgeous cars and reared gorgeous children. He sat out on his bedroom's balcony every evening to take in suburbia; he smoked imported Woodbines and watched, eyes alight, as the neighborhood youth frolicked through lawn sprinklers at dusk, shrieking with laughter while their liberated purebreds bounded at their heels.

He noticed that there was another, identical balcony across from his own; he noticed, too, that it remained empty no matter the time of day. Whoever owned it made no frequent use of it, and the curtains were always drawn. Though summer evenings might call for it, the window never so much as cracked again after that first night.

He hadn't introduced himself yet to any of them. He had been out of the house the past few days running errands in the city, and hadn’t left enough clues lying around to hint at his existence among them. He had purchased the house on a whim; the 'for sale' sign was still staked in the lawn.

But now that he had most of his affairs in order, Nick looked forward to a day of leisure. The man rose early, and took his breakfast—toast with jam and a pot of hot coffee—out onto the balcony, where he settled into his new favorite chair to watch the neighborhood resurrect around him. Today was the day, he decided, that he would dress and introduce himself to his new neighbors.

"Nicholas Cherrywood," he rehearsed in front of the mirror. He then spent ten minutes adjusting the length of his hoodie's drawstrings to make them even, as other men adjusted their ties. "Cherrywood," he pronounced again.

He had said his own surname so many times that morning it was starting to ring false.

Nick left the house. He wandered next door. He admitted himself through the front gate and strolled right up to the porch, his unlikely name already on the tip of his tongue. Just as he was about to raise his fist to knock, the door was whisked aside, and he was left staring stupidly at one of the occupants of the household: a young woman, eyes red-rimmed, scowl formidable. All pre-prepared words flew from his mind.

Then, as his own gazed lowered a little, his brilliant greeting came to him:

"Ah. You have something on your face. Right here." He indicated his own cheek, unblemished save for a gold dusting of stubble. His eyes, Robin's egg blue, expressed his deepest sympathy. He'd hate for their situations to be reversed—it was really pretty embarrassing for her.

 


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tragedySCENE
(@tragedyscene)
Joined: 3 years ago
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Grief comes in many forms - from car accidents to coffins or somewhere in-between but damned if it always hits light a freight train.

Teagan sat on the edge of her bed, long coils of red spilling over her back and shoulders as she wept into her hands; hands that cupped her face, pretending to stifle the sounds which emitted from her. It was almost the same time every night that she started crying; the times right before bed when she didn’t have the distractions of work, failed relationships or her busied life to fill the void inside of her heart.

She had cried so many nights already that she wished and even prayed that the tears would dry up but her therapist reminded her that she was in a grieving cycle and that she would go in and out of the stages until finally, she came to acceptance.

At this point there was only one thing to accept - the fact that there seemed to be tears for everything; she was grieving her past life and all of those precious, fragile memories, her present life which seemed so drastically different than the one she had always known, and also her future, which now as she looked around at the room around her felt foreign, strange and uncertain.

It had been almost six months since she had gotten the call and her life had been changed forever.

“Hello? This is Teagan,”

“U-uhm, Ms. Connelly, this is Erica at the Maven Memorial Hospital. There’s been an accident.”

Her father and mother had been in a car accident involving a drunk driver but only her father had made it out alive. Teagan was the oldest of four and that night had to call her best friend, Ruby, to come over to the house to watch her siblings while she rushed to the hospital.

It was decided that it would be best for them not to move out of the neighborhood so that the twins could have some consistency amidst the chaos - the baby wouldn’t really understand - dad would stay at the bakery - they would stay in their perfect little neighborhood and pretend that nothing was different albeit everything had changed so much.

The tears started flowing again and the sobs came quicker as her shoulders shook from the bitter memories.

She heard a knock at the other side of the bedroom door and quickly, almost in a rehearsed fashion, flipped the lights off and threw herself into the safety of her blankets before, as usual, finally falling asleep without really even realizing it.

The morning came and with it, the sound of the phone alarm’s chimes ringing into the air. Teagan lifted her phone and rushed to her baby monitoring app to check on Rhyley, seeing that she was still sleeping in her crib before checking the time. A sigh of relief would come from her lips. She rose from the bed and pulled her mane into a messy bun, throwing on a pullover dress and looking at herself in the mirror, noting the puffiness of her eyes.

Once again she’d slept like crap and her body felt like a ton of bricks. She would need to get the kids ready for Ruby before heading to the bakery. She walked to Kayan and Rowen’s bedroom, pushing the door open to see the two young boys, no older than seven, arguing over a video game.

“Hey,” She said drawing in a breath, “I need you guys to get ready. It’s eight o’clock when you step out of the bedroom.”

“We know, we know - clothes zone.” They almost mocked. Teagan stuck out her tongue and winked at them before leaving the door open and walking down the stairs, past the living room, into the kitchen, she put together two bowls of cereal and set milk on the table, eyes scanning the fridge for the note that was left by her dad.

Hey honey, I’ll need you to open the bakery today at 9. Love you.

Like tornadoes, the boys came trumpeting down the stairs, running, hollering, and laughing all the way to the kitchen. They sat down at the table and started bickering over the milk and while they did they, Teagan looked down at the baby monitor to see that Rhyley was up.

Quickly, she rushed up the stairs and pulled the baby out of her crib. Baby was an understatement, she was one and a half and already toddling around, trying to get out of her crib if you weren’t watching, and full of energy.

“Morning baby,” Teagan mused softly, giving the child a hug, grabbed a stuffed animal and her bottle, and handed it to her before putting her on the changing table. Once all that was done, she brought the toddler downstairs and before setting the child down, Rhyley dropped her cup on the ground.

“Look sis,” Rowan stated, “We poured Rhyley some cereal too.”

“Cuppie,” The young child whined.

“Thanks but…hold on, Rhyley,” She walked over to the pantry, child in arms, to grab some breakfast for the child, which consisted of a drained fruit cup. She balanced as much as possible, toddler in one arm, fruit cup in the other. Her baby sister began crying and Teagan stopped draining the fruit to pick up cuppie, handed the fruit to her sister, and then the boys started tossing cereal at each other.

“Kayan…Rowan, come on, please...” She begged as she looked at the clock on the wall in the kitchen and saw a silhouette in the door. Thank god, Ruby was here. Rhyley chirped happily and as customary for a child to do, she pressed her sticky mandarin orange fingers onto Teagan’s cheeks, attempting to share the sweetness with her older sister. “Ugh, uhhhh,” She sat Rhyley down in her highchair and playfully hit Kayan on the back of the head. “Watch your sister for a second, I am going to let Ruby in.” Teagan walked over to the front door, unlocked it, and swung it open, only to be taken aback by an unfamiliar facade in her doorway - her face instantaneously developed into a scowl.

You have something on your face. Right here.

Teagan emulated the person in front of her and picked off a piece of mandarin orange, looking at it before tossing it away. “I’m sorry,” She looked around before her amber hued eyes fell upon the male once more trying not to seem too embarrassed. “Can I help you?”


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Mira
 Mira
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The domestic scene he had just been admitted to was more of a wilderness, a tableau any nature documentarian would have loved to get their lens on. Three young simians sat at a table, the juvenile members of the troop; there was food everywhere but in the tableware it was intended for, including filling the air between siblings, who appeared to be joyfully performing some sort of cascading juggling pattern that in no way required a partner's participation in catching any of the received items.

His attention returned to the girl in front of him. She had the drained look of a revenant, a sort of tragic, unacknowledged beauty about her, and an unfocused gaze that could not quite seem to comprehend his presence on her doormat.

"Can I help you?" Nick wondered. No sooner had he asked the question than he stepped into the front room, bumping shoulders with her, and snatched a projectile out of the air that had been sailing toward the back of her head. He drew it in for further study. "Nice arm," he approved to twin who had lobbed it, even though Rowan had been aiming for his brother. Nick sauntered past Teagan into the kitchen, and looked about to return the apple to the fruit bowl; instead, he raised it to his lips and took a resounding bite.

"You're not Ruby." The pitcher's voice was accusatory. The food fight had paused long enough for three pairs of young eyes to fix on him. Somewhere beneath, Cuppie rolled on the floor and dribbled conversationally.

"Nope," he replied. "I'm Nick. Your new neighbor."

The twins exchanged looks. "You moved into the Millers' old house?"

"Probably," he agreed. He had no enduring memory of the family he had bought the house from; his real estate agent, however, had been named Lisa.

Now that this strange new entity had entered their home—a specimen who was not a teenager, but still not as old as any of the adults they endowed with authority—the children didn't seem to know whether they should grant him free admission their three-ring circus or try to find out more. Was this someone to idolize and impress, like an older kid who had been stretched into an adult? They would have to reserve judgement until they saw his basketball shot, or if he could do any impressive tricks on a skateboard. The asphalt outside their home was the proving ground.

Before the thoughtful scene could be treated with the alarm it probably deserved, Ruby came rushing up the front step. "Sorry I'm late!" she apologized breathlessly to Teagan, and was about to launch into an equally breathless excuse until she noticed Nick—then she really lost her wind. The man held his apple clenched between his teeth as he followed Kayan's instructions on helping Rhyley down out of her highchair; the other brother was on an expedition beneath the table to retrieve Cuppie. "Teagan? Who's that?"

"You must be the babysitter." Nick came over and extended his hand, attached to the long arm that didn't currently balance the toddler against his hip; the twins were at his heels adjusting their backpack straps. "Nick Cherrywood. Neighbor. You have a beautiful home, Mrs. Connelly," this he directed to Teagan, "and beautiful children, but they've just informed me that you are now running late for work."


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tragedySCENE
(@tragedyscene)
Joined: 3 years ago
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“Teagan, how do you spell boundaries?”

“Well, that’s easy b-o-u-n-d…”

“No, no,” corrected the therapist, who sat up straight at her desk and tapped a pencil against her paperwork in an amused fashion before leaning back in a lax fashion once again. “I mean, what does the concept of boundaries mean to you?” There was a hard silence as many different words came to mind but the hard concept of boundaries was something that Teagan could not necessarily articulate. After an unpleasant few moments of silence and a time that the therapist seemed to understand that the gears in Teagan’s brain seemed to be grinding slowly, she broke the silence with a gentle smile.

“I want you to think about what boundaries mean to you over the next few weeks. Not for your father, not for your siblings, but for you. Since your mother passed you’ve had to move a lot of boundaries and that’s caused more than a little friction at home.” Teagan shifted uncomfortably in her chair. “I want you to feel comfortable saying no. Let’s start small…I’ll give you some examples…”

Everything happened so fast - so fast in fact it was like a blur. A moment ago, Teagan had thought she was casually asking the stranger if she could help him, and the next thing she knew he was basically saving her life from an apple concussion fate. She stared in disbelief as he took a stance inside of her home and took a bite of the apple.

I’m Nick, your new neighbor. New neighbor? His words fumbled through her head like toys falling down a staircase. She hadn’t known that anyone had been moving out. The Miller’s old house? The twins, always inquisitive and always filling in the dots, and always wanting to be subject matter experts. Teagan listened to be back and forth feeling a little out of place as the older sister should have been probably conducting the due diligence for herself on the stranger that stood in the foyer of their home and not allowing the conversation to be relegated to her younger siblings.

For a moment in time, outside of the initial eye contact and mention that she had something on her face, Teagan seemed invisible as if he were a ghost; a specter observing in this wild exchange that was happening in front of her - something that only seemed to happen in storybooks or in movies as a matter of fact. She was brought out of her thought by Ruby breathlessly coming through the door and apologizing for her tardiness.

“It’s fine,” She said quietly, not daring to look over at the lock.

“Teagan, who’s that?” Teagan turned toward the man who was now holding his baby sister and she felt a faint heat perk up on her cheeks. He introduced himself to Ruby, there was chatter about the kids needing to go to school. There was a lot going on and all Teagan wanted to do was get the keys and go to work.

You have a beautiful home, Mrs. Connelly. Teagan felt the warmth that was present on her cheeks burst into flames and she thought about the talk with her therapist, about boundaries, about everything that had just happened, and then it happened.

“No,” it came out of her mouth quietly at first, and then she said it again, “no, no no,” she shook her head, a muss of curly red shaking back and forth. “I am not Mrs. Connelly, the kids are not running late for school; Ruby will be watching them here, I am running for work; I did not invite you in, and I’m not sure why you’re holding my baby sister! Ruby, do something!”

Now that she had executed the whole "boundary" thing, if you ever wanted to call it that, she was feeling limp and helpless. Ruby blinked and awkwardly walked over to Nick and gingerly took the babbling child out of Nick’s hands with a polite, excuse me. Her eyes immediately cast down and she walked over to the catch-all and grabbed key keys. “Kayan, Rhyley, mind Ruby. I love you. Ruby, thank you. Nick…” She said all of this while having her back turned away from the group and walked into the garage.

What had just happened?

The kids dashed around the house and ran back upstairs to go play video games and Ruby patted the baby on the head. “So, new to the neighborhood? Welcome!”

----

The day was relatively slow relating to baking cakes and serving customers. When Teagan pulled up in the driveway she fiddled around with the keys awkwardly and looked over at the Miller's place or I guess now it was the Cherrywood residence. She must have seemed neurotic earlier. Maybe she should go apologize? Should you ever apologize for boundaries? Instead of having an anxiety spiral, Teagan got out of the car and walked across the lawn to Nick's residence and knocked on the door, shuffling uncomfortably and picking crusted flour off of her blue apron as she waited to see if he would answer the door or leave her there.


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