Do you think flowers hurt as much as humans when they’re growing? Good grief.
I got another slew of rejections. Okay, not a slew. Two. That might not sound like much, but it feels like an avalanche right now. One of those was for a story I think is the best story I’ve ever written. That doesn’t mean the editors of the goal publication felt the same, clearly. I can’t control that. I can only control my own response and my own output. That means, tomorrow morning I’ll start looking for a new home for the story. And, I’ll keep writing and growing – no matter how much it hurts. Please enjoy, what right now, feels like a fruitless exercise of writing a first draft in public. It’s kinda lousy because it’s a first draft, but I love it and you reading it. Thanks for showing up.
Feor nudged Jackie into the end of the line two women behind Sharna. “Keep going.”
Jackie wanted to catch Sharna’s eye, but she also didn’t want anyone else to notice. The best way to do that was to be a spectacle in a grand way, so she did what came easiest. She picked a fight.
The next doorway was wide, and she stepped out of line and took off running. Feor spit a curse and tackled her before she’d gone more than ten steps.
“Don’t make me be cruel. Don’t make me be like them!” he cried.
Jackie’s stomach sank. “It’s a choice,” she whispered.
He crawled off of her and hauled her to her feet. She’d accomplished her goal, though. The women and soldiers had all stopped to watch, every face was turned their way. Jackie couldn’t resist. She bowed.
“You idiot.” Sharna, as mad as Melody, but not using her magic, stepped out of line to give Jackie a shove.
Feor hesitated in surprise before stepping between them. “Hey, now. What’s this about, then?”
Sharna pointed at Jackie, “This is about her. You can’t take two women from the same family! I came so she wouldn’t have to!”
Feor was absolutely at a loss as evidenced by his hanging jaw and sagging shoulders. “But…” He looked from Jackie’s pale face to Sharna’s. “I don’t think…just get back in line, okay?”
“Oh, no. I’m not going if she’s going. And she’s not going if I’m going. I mean, look at us! It’s obvious.”
The other women caught the humor of the resistance and began to play along.
“Well, if she’s not going, I’m not going. Look at us! Clearly, we’re related.”
“I can’t go if she’s going. My eyes are the same blue.”
The soldiers weren’t sure what to do. The women were already inside the Fathers’ keep. No one attempted to leave; they just stopped walking forward. The men attempted to corral the women back into place, tried to cajole them into walking forward, but no one tried violence. Not a single soldier lifted his truncheon.
Jackie smiled at Sharna. “Mothers’ magic?”
“Something like that,” she shrugged.
As Sharna watched the women resist, Jackie fiddled her fingers until she was able to retrieve her pick from within her hollow ring and free her wrists. Her stomach hurt. Something bad was coming. “You feel that?” Jackie asked.
Sharna nodded. “Mmh-hmm. Best to get yourself and the others out of here. I think the Fathers are coming.”
Jackie took Sharna’s hand. “I’m not leaving this time. I’m sorry about before. It was selfish.”
“Yes, it was, but now it would be selfish if you stayed. I need to do this, and I can’t do it if I’m worried about you.” She pushed something into Jackie’s hand. It was the remaining Stalk seed. “Take this. I don’t want them to know I have it.”
“I can’t just leave, Sharna!”
“You can, and you will. Now go!” Melody gave her a push, and then turned to the rest of the room. “All of you, get out now!”
A mist had begun to form above their heads, a graying of the light, a coolness in the air, and a thickening of the breath. Jackie was compelled by Melody’s words, but she fought hard against the magic. It slowed her down enough that she could watch as a cloud grew in size and shape above Sharna’s head. Soldiers and women streamed around her and she felt like a fish swimming against the current.
The Fathers had arrived. Jackie turned and ran.
(See you next Saturday!)