U is for Unforgiven #AtoZchallenge #amwriting



“Having children changes you.” These were the truest words Mother ever said.

The moment I held Maria, her big eyes surveying her world, I was smitten.

The second truest thing Mother said was “no matter how well you think you know someone, you don’t.”

Maria’s relationship with her father and me was different. She kept curfew, didn’t lie, and told me everything.

Mother said, “The greatest disappointment is finding out what you thought was true, wasn’t.”

Sitting on Maria’s twin bed, reading her journal, I amassed a list of those who would be unforgiven.

I was at the top.


end 4/25/2017

S. Darlington


Hindsight 20/20

Thanks to Rochelle at Friday Fictioneers for hosting. If you’d like to participate, visit here.

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PHOTO PROMPT © Magaly Guerrero

Hindsight 20/20

A lie frolics here around shoes with ribbons for laces. The art book chuckles at my naiveté.

“Strawberry-flavored wine?” Duane asks.

I stare at the shoes wishing I’d accepted Will’s invitation for poetry and ice cream rather than Duane’s “romantic evening.”

“They’re my wife’s.”

“You said . . .”

“Ex-wife. She lives here,” he says. “It’s not ideal.”

I say, “No wine, thanks.”

“Perfect, on to bumping uglies.”

My jaw drops. “No.”


“Don’t think so.”

“Dinner was expensive.”

Complete nightmare, I think.

Hindsight admonishes: Poetry and gelato with a funny caring man weren’t romantic enough for you?


end 4/23/2017

S. Darlington

S is for Sorrow #AtoZChallenge #amwriting




“Nathan Bickham lived by the ubiquitous quote: between the choice of being right or being kind, be kind. And Nathan Bickham was the most intelligent man I have ever known so, while he was most often right, he always chose to be kind,” Reverend Keeler said from the pulpit.

There are people you think will live forever because they carry with them a vitality, kindness, and sense of purpose that distinguishes them so completely from the rest of the population. Lena had always placed her grandfather in that extreme minority. She wanted to emulate him, but always felt she failed because her temper came from her grandmother’s side and frequently she felt kindness eluded her, harmony a futile quest.

The cancer riddling his body had not been kind. In true Nathan Bickham fashion though he had fought and continued to live the life he wanted. At ninety he had still been a force to be reckoned with.

“You don’t need a bucket list, Lena,” he told her. “Bucket lists devalue living in the moment.”

With those words she’d put away the paper and pen and stopped constructing lists to compete with the lists of her peers. He taught her to see the natural world, to be open to the experience of watching the woods and observing all of the creatures observing her.

He taught her that relationships were built on openness and trust; that not being forthright for fear of being hurt would hurt in the long-term but the hurt from being forthright would always diminish with time, and the truth gained would supersede pain. He taught her generosity and patience and kindness, but kindness was still an attribute she worked hard to attain.

The one thing he never taught her, although he tried during his last days, was how she could navigate life without his presence.

“I have taught you everything I know,” he said.

Tears pricked her eyes. “But I’m not like you,” she told him.

“You’re more like me than you know, but you are the best you. I’m proud of you. You approach life with grace,” he said.

Yet, that didn’t feel enough.

Later after the mourners left her grandparents’ house, Lena stood at the pond, listened to the throaty bullfrog chorus, watched the water snake’s red bands undulate through the murky water, and relinquished the ache in her chest. She could feel the essence of his words around her, the philosophy with which he lived his life, a shawl of protection and of comfort. Sorrow rose up and away from her, towards the mantle of clouds billowing toward the sea. She understood that while she lost him, his life continued through everyone who knew him, all of those with whom he had selflessly shared himself, and, perhaps the quintessence of Nathan Bickham would always exist in lives well lived with thoughtfulness and kindness. This knowledge that he would never truly be gone consoled.


end 4/22/2017

S. Darlington

R is for Rejected #AtoZchallenge #amwriting

“It’s been so busy I almost forgot about the challenge!” she screeched.




“Just do it. What do you have to lose?” Barbara asked Petra. “Either he says yes or he doesn’t. At least you’ll know and can move on.”

Petra nodded. Excellent advice for most people, but most people were not Petra. They didn’t worry over every little word or every little look or what would happen if he said no and then all of the dreamy possibilities that she’d molded in her fantasies would go splat. Was holding on to a dream better than facing reality?

When Geoff entered the teacher’s lounge, Petra felt herself flush. Barbara nodded fiercely at her then picked up her things and left.

“It’s been a long week,” Geoff said. “Glad today’s a short day.”

Petra nodded and smiled. Words. One was supposed to respond with words. Why couldn’t she think of any?

He sat opposite her, unwrapped his usual peanut butter, no jelly, sandwich, and bit into it. He washed down bites with black coffee, no sugar.

“Geoff, I’ve been thinking . . .” she began.

After a moment he raised his eyebrow. “Yes?”

“Well, it’s like this . . .” She felt her face flame and looked down at the table.

“Is everything okay, Petra. You look like you might have a fever.”

“I do?” she asked vaguely, wondering about that. She felt fine though. She shook away those thoughts.

“I wondered if you might like to get a cup of coffee sometime?” Her voice rushed through the words, even tripping over some.

He held up his mug. “I am having a cup of coffee.”

She nodded. “Er. Maybe you’d like to go out for Chinese?”

He leaned back in his chair and wiped his lips with the back of his hand. “Are you asking me out?”

She squeezed her eyes shut tightly and then bounced her head up and down. “Yes.”

“That’s really nice,” he said and then paused.

She felt hope swell in her chest.

“No offense but I don’t date girls like you,” he said.

Splat. She felt it, heard it, and almost couldn’t believe it. “Oh?”

“And the fact that we work together. Yeah, just not a good idea.”

She nodded as if she agreed while all she could think about was escaping. Not his type.

“Right well, no harm, no foul. Right? I have my first parent meeting in ten. I should go. Have a good weekend, Geoff,” she said.

He nodded as he took another bite. “You too,” he said around the crust of bread, crumbs escaping from his mouth.

Strangely she felt like she was really seeing him for the first time.


end 4/21/2017

S. Darlington

Carry On


You would never have guessed that I would be the one carrying your banner long after you’d gone. But I’ve always been the one to feel too much and wish too much and dream too much and miss people long after, when others have moved on their faces directed forward. I never knew your dreams, but maybe they’ll interweave with mine and carry on just the same. There will be peace when we’re done.

end 4/21/2017

S. Darlington

Q is for Quarrelsome #AtoZchallenge #amwriting




“Here we go,” he said.

“Oh, don’t start,” she said.

“It happens every bloody time we go someplace nice. You have to start sniping.”

“Not sniping. They’re observations.”

“Based on your insecurity.”

“It’s not my insecurity if you’re checking out the waitresses and smiling at them.”

“That’s not true.”

“Which part?”

“Any of it. What I want to know is why it happens when we’re out at a fancy restaurant.”

“Because while I’m at home, blondes in miniskirts aren’t parading around for you to stare at their asses. Who knows what happens when I’m not there.”

“You’re unbelievable.”

“The check, sir?” the waiter asked.

“Why the hell not? I’m sure there’s not going to be dessert here or at home,” he said.


end 4/20/2017

S. Darlington

Safe and Sound…Or Am I?


From the number of pink post-its decorating the doors to this house you would think that Linc doesn’t trust me to stay put. Smart man. However, as I peel each away I do feel guilty. Yes, I realize that law enforcement is his job. He’s supposed to find the bad guys and put them away. But considering that my husband and my step-mother were murdered shouldn’t I help?

I have sat here for three hours, making friends with his lovely dog, Buffy, and snooping, which I know I shouldn’t do, but let’s face it. It’s me we’re talking about. The whole thing about poison being in my sugar canister too…what does that mean? Who would put poison in my sugar canister? Who would have access? Well, right after Ry died it was more like who didn’t have access?

But why target my step mother and me? Does this mean she wasn’t having an affair with Ry? That should make me feel good, right? You know, as long as I forget that someone killed her and wanted me gone too.

Is the fact that my stepmother and me were supposed to be killed in the same manner pertinent? I think back to the last time I saw her. We were having lunch at the diner. She hated it, but then she hated most things around town. They made her cranky. She was from Pittsburgh and thought our small town ways were a little too quaint, except for my dad, of course. She ordered a Caesar salad with the dressing on the side. I remember that because Dee the waitress asked about croutons. I ordered a blue cheese burger with sautéed onions and mushrooms with all of the fixings minus the burger and Dee just rolled her eyes as she did every time while Rosie chuckled.

“You know I’ve got to charge you for the burger.”

“I know.”

And Rosie and me both looked out the window and there was Ry right there in front of us…with Clarice. I didn’t think anything of it then. They both looked pissed off. Ry’s face was as red as I’ve ever seen it get. Clarice looked put out. But then Clarice never really liked Ry.

“What’s going on with them?” Rosie asked and then she bit her lip. Her eyes darted to me.

Again, I didn’t think anything of it because I didn’t know that Ry was plumbing new depths with his penis. I shrugged as both Ry and Clarice looked in the diner window at me and Rosie. Me and Rosie eating lunch and watching Ry and Clarice, my sister, Clarice who I would trust with everything in this world.

Linc’s dog whined at me and I realized I was just staring blankly into space. I pressed my fingertips to my cheeks. My sister would never try to kill me, would she?

Linc’s landline rang and I stared at it. I wondered if whoever killed Rosie would figure out that Linc might have helped me escape. My sister might. Maybe. Suddenly I wondered if staying here was all that safe.


end 4/19/2017

S. Darlington


P is for Perky #AtoZchallenge #amwriting



“There you are!” the petite blonde with huge blue eyes says as she approaches with an equally huge smile on her lips. “Welcome to Burbank and Hughes! I’m Ellie with HR and I’m going to give you a tour of the offices and show you where everything is. Do you have any questions?”

She waits the briefest of moments, her lips pressed in a tight line as though it’s an extreme effort not to speak. “Great. Well, let’s go to the lunchroom first. It’s my favorite room in the building. You know why? Because it has windows to the courtyard! At my last job, the lunchroom had no natural light at all. It was so depressing. But, see. The windows are huge. The snack machines have a great selection and the coffee machine does caramel lattes. Isn’t that the best? It saves money from running out to Starbucks. Which is a great help when you’re saving for vacation or a nursery, not that I would know about that. Not since Jeff left,” she says, her voice suddenly strained. Quickly she replaces her 100 watt smile. “But, you know, some people are. Every little bit helps.”

“Now through here, we have a little waiting room. It’s for clients and staff. Look at the view from here. You can even see the river. Spectacular, isn’t it?” Her eyes grow momentarily vague as if reliving a memory.

I nod when she glances at me.

“Down this hallway, which you probably shouldn’t go along unless you’ve been called for, are the partners’ offices. Burbank and Hughes.” She pauses. There’s laughter at the end of the hallway and a very tall brunette in a very small skirt laughs broadly at something a man, I recognize as Jeff Hughes, says. I glance at my blonde tour guide who suddenly scampers down a different hallway, amazing me by her agility in those three inch heels.

“Down here we have the community room, nice name, right, where you’ll be working. Have you seen your cubicle? What I really like,” she says as she opens the door and lowers her voice as not to disturb the people working. “Is the natural light. Again! And your cubicle is over here. You have a skylight right above your cubicle. Fantastic! I’m so psyched for you.”

“Ellie, a moment,” the tall brunette who had been with Jeff Hughes calls away my tour guide.

Ellie smiles an apology to me and then stands in front of the brunette, looking up despite her very high heels. Every emotion plays across Ellie’s face as she listens, mottled red, creamy pallor, narrowed eyes, and finally pressed white lips. She nods without ever saying a word. When she returns, she looks suddenly as if she had run a marathon.

I’m about to speak, when her smile, maybe only at 60 watt this time, returns. “Back here is the supply room. We work on the honesty practice. Basically just sign out whatever supplies you take. If it’s the last, you just take . . .dammit. Honesty, what a laugh! You know I caught him back here with her? They thought everyone had left for the disaster planning seminar. Me included. And he was there just jackhammering into her. Where does she get off telling me not to waste time when she was doing my husband on the clock?”

Ellie has been speaking these words to the grey speckled carpet. A blush settles over her features.

“I’m so sorry,” she says. No tears. She shakes her head. “I thought he was the love of my life. Stupid, right? Well, I guess I was just as stupid as he thought I was. Right. Well, my extension is x642. I’m sure I forgot something. I’m just going to the waiting room and pour caramel latte in the potted plant.”


end 4/19/2017

S. Darlington

O is for Outrage #AtoZchallenge #amwriting



Tempers flared. Indignation rumbled.

Kerry listened to her fellow citizens rail against the Mayor and longed for her iPod. Perhaps she’d be more sensitive if these weren’t the same people who’d voted for the “change” he claimed to represent.

To his credit, he’d achieved the one change these partisan, one issue voters wanted. As if life were that simple.

But now the outrage as he pushed through other campaign promises that hadn’t concerned them until they understood the ramifications.

She needed her iPod. One woman’s music was another’s drug, just a little Hozier to take away the pain.


end 4/18/2017

S. Darlington

N is for Nervous #AtoZchallenge #amwriting



With each job interview, Janie’s sense of panic grew. A year ago, she had counted herself extraordinarily lucky when she’d obtained a job within weeks of earning her Master’s degree, but then the company suffered layoffs and she was the first to go.

She had just enough in her savings for another month’s rent and another case of ramen noodles. She glanced again at the name on the door plate wondering why it seemed so familiar, ominously familiar.

“Miss Dexter, Mr. Montgomery will see you now,” the administrative assistant said.

Janie straightened her black pencil skirt. Her smile trembled slightly.

Mr. Tate Montgomery stood looking out the window as she entered. He didn’t immediately turn around so she cleared her throat.

“Mr. Montgomery?” she said.

As he turned, her stomach sank. Nerves collided with resignation when she saw the familiar green eyes and the jagged scar on his cheek.

“I wondered if it was you,” he said.

And there stood the boy, the one who owned the only heart she’d ever broken.


end 4/17/2017

S. Darlington