Tag Archive | inspiration

NaNoWriMo – TGIO

Thank Goodness/Goddess/God It’s Over for another year. I started two novels and wrote a short story to complete my 50K and now I’ve got material to play with.

It’s a funny process. Writing that many words. Since my day job requires writing, it’s not really a stretch to write that many words in a month. Except that they are not all in one main document and they are not (usually) fiction. So fifty thousand words of fiction, many of them related to other words, written in my spare time, is a pretty good start on something.

The first attempt at a novel went well for a week and a half and then I lost interest in them and left them in the woods. Then I had a short story idea that came in and I sat with it for a week and it moved nicely and resolved. And I still had quite a bit of wordage left to go before the month ended. As I typed continuously waiting for the muse to come back, a second novel started working its way through to my fingers. It expanded to fill my remaining time (and word count). Now, I just need to keep it moving even though there is no longer the pressure of a deadline.

For purists, such attempts would not count, since they are not all part of the same novel. However, writing that many words in a month is not an easy task and the muse is often fickle. The whole point is to write without editing and to let it flow. So if they don’t end up in the same place in the end, who cares? I am happy to have them.

Short Story – The Nursery

Story prompt:   The story’s protagonist is female and not human. An hourglass plays a significant part in the story. The story is set in a nursery in ancient times. The story is about loneliness.

*******

The wailing could be heard from the street. Distressed cries from a dozen infants and small children filled the air. Serena drifted among them, immune to the din. The nursemaids scurried and shushed as best they could only to have another child set the whole crew off .

The hourglass on the shelf marked off the time for the nurses. They shared turning it when the last grains of sand slid through. Reminding each other when feeding time was due.

Serena looked into the eyes of the child in the crib closest to her. As the child gazed into Serena’s eyes, he started whimpering.

The nursemaids scrambled to quiet him before he triggered the whole nursery. Again.

Serena moved on. The next child reacted exactly as the last eight had and burst into tears quickly. The nurses hurried over to him.

Serena reached the tenth child, a little girl, and looked into her eyes.

She expected the child to close her eyes to cry as the others had.

The usual time on the hourglass elapsed yet the child remained transfixed. They continued to gaze into each other’s eyes.

The sand ran through the hourglass at its usual rate. Serena waited. Staring into the child’s eyes.

The child stared back.

Finally, Serena stopped staring and looked. Really looked. Into the child’s eyes.

She saw it. A sadness to match her own. Profound melancholy. So deep the child did not scream or fuss.

Serena was entranced by a set of eyes that looked into hers reflecting what she felt.

“What is your name?” Serena broke the spell.

“They call me Mariana.”

“But what is your name?”

“The name they gave me is Mariana.”

“And who are you?”

“I am Iris.”

“Hello, Iris. I am Serena.”

One of the nursemaids paused at the crib. Seeing the child staring, the nurse looked briefly for the object of the child’s stare. Seeing nothing, she moved quickly to another whimpering tot.

The sand flowed through the hourglass. One of the nurses turned it over.  It began again.

Serena and Iris continued their silent conversation.

“Would you like to come with me, Iris?”

“Could we leave this place?”

“Yes.”

“Will we be together?”

“Yes.”

“I will never be lonely again?”

“We will always have each other.”

The sand ran out of the hourglass, Too late.  A nurse noticed the crumpled body in Mariana’s crib and came over to check on her.

*******

With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.

Short Story – The World of Plants

Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is male and an interpreter. A story plays a significant part in the story. The story is set on a farm in the future. The story is about pride.

*******

I talk to plants. It’s true. Actually, they talk to me. I am an interpreter for the plants. I tell their stories. I am the only one I know who does this work. I ply my trade among the planets of the fourth star in the Pleiades. My small interplanetary craft is fast and efficient, so I can cover a lot of territory. The plants pay me in their way, so I am never hungry. I barter some of the produce for my other needs. And the plants are always grateful.

All right, maybe not always. There was a time…

I had traveled farther than usual that day at the request of a local agriculturalist. It seems that a large plant type life form was rebelling and causing some disharmony in the local economy.

My landing was carefully calculated to be within walking distance of the biodome, but still far enough to keep from disturbing the immediate area. Since the vibrations from my ship could add to the chaotic emotions already in play.

The agriculturalist was waiting just outside the biodome. Zefra was obviously agitated when I reached her, so I paused to help soothe her ruffled feelings. She could not introduce me to the belligerent life form if she was not in a good state. She explained that the plant in question had just insulted her intelligence and thrown rotten foliage at her. She had been tempted to kick the plant in its genitalia. Unfortunately, the plant in question was too valuable to sustain that kind of damage so she had managed to restrain herself long enough to leave the biodome before venting her anger. Still pacing, Zefra continued to rant about “Ranc,” which turned out to be short for Ranunculus Vitae, a variation of a plant once found several parsecs from here on a small blue planet circling the star Helios.

“He’s such a self-sanctimonious, self-important, self-aggrandizing, egotistical… did I say self-important?! Well he is! He thinks he’s the most significant lifeform here!”

I allowed Zefra to continue on for several minutes in this vein so that she could gain control of her feelings again. Then I began to massage her aura and bathe it in cooling light. Finally she could speak without spitting. So I asked her what had brought on this latest outburst.

“I offered him some fertilizer,” she replied simply.

“That’s all?”

“Yes.”

“Surely there was more to it than that? It’s not as if he can make his own.”

“Then you will have to ask him. It’s not as if we speak the same language,” she snapped a bit too sharply.

“I plan to do so as soon as you are serene enough to perform an introduction,” I replied gently trying to smooth the latest flare in her temper.

After a few moments working on her, she visibly relaxed. “Very well, I think I can do it now.”

Her aura had traces of pink but no more red. I continued to surround her with serene vibrations until I was sure she was settled enough to enter.

“Then let us proceed,” I said quietly.

Zefra walked beside me to the portal and then opened an airlock to allow me to enter first. As I stepped in, the aromas of damp soil, grass, and a faint smell of rotting vegetation assailed my senses. It was warm and moist and I was still in the airlock. It must be a jungle inside. I pulled a biosuit off one of the hooks and put it on, while she did the same.

The biosuits on this planet completely covered the wearer from head to toe so that there was no chance a stray cell or organism could shed from the wearer and contaminate the ecosystem. A single cell with its strands of DNA could cause incredible changes in the lifeforms in here. And humans are notorious for shedding skin cells and hair constantly. And to think some humans once worried about GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in their food. They would shudder at the rapacity of the lifeforms here, eager to glom onto even the smallest fragments of DNA and RNA and incorporate them into their own.

The newest versions of biosuits were seamless and form-fitting. They were a shimmering silvery pearl color, which stood out against green, red, blue, yellow and most other hues, to make the wearer easier to locate once inside. Although the suits also had a chameleon option that could be activated if necessary to protect the wearer. The air system and filters no longer distort the voice, and the suit can read vibrations from the vocal chords. So everyone sounds “normal” even when they are completely encased in biofiber.

Zefra initiated the decontamination cycle. Luckily, the suits also help maintain body temperature. When we went through the second airlock the temperature was just over 317°Kelvin, which is easily 20 degrees warmer than most humanoids find comfortable. My personal comfort zone is right around 297°K, so I was doubly grateful for the biosuit.

This biodome was small enough that we could walk from one end to the other in 30 minutes. Zefra pointed out the interactive map on the right arm of my biosuit, which handily showed where each biosuit was located, in addition to the other more stationary lifeforms. My biosuit appeared to be indicated in the map by a tiny replica of me. I could watch myself moving about the biodome in a small four-dimensional version that floated just above my forearm. From the noise and Doppler vibrations in the interactive map, I could find my way to Ranc without Zefra’s guidance, but protocol still dictated that she lead the way and introduce me properly.

Much of the vegetation was blue although the flowers they produced were every color of the rainbow and often more than three colors at any given moment. I heard a little heckling from some of the smaller lifeforms, plenty of chatter, and one particularly pretty pink, aqua, and silver plant form wished me well. Zefra did not react to any of their talk so I assumed that she, like most humanoids, could not discern it from rustling foliage. I used to be that way, too. But once I learned the basic plantoid language, I heard gabbing everywhere. The soft rustling of poets became incessant chatter. Eventually, I learned how to turn the babble into a conversation and my opportunities expanded to support my current interstellar reputation. And at that moment, I was sure I was the best and the only way to resolve the conflict here.

We moved slowly as I did not want to add ripples to the pool of vibrations swirling around us. It seemed to take forever until we reached Ranc’s location. Although we could easily follow his distorted wavelengths, I had no desire to increase his agitation.

When we were finally facing each other, the waves of red and black streaming from him were almost violent enough to knock us down. Without meaning to do so, I started trying to still the pulsations flying in our direction. When Ranc felt the pushback he became angrier. I realized what had happened and ceased my efforts immediately, hoping he would back down.

Ranc was not going to be pacified that easily. He turned his focus on me throwing all the vibrations in my direction. Zefra had already put up a shield. She wasn’t taking any more plekth from a non-humanoid.

It was so loud and so bright, I was going to have to put up a shield, or risk losing my senses all together. I dropped to my knees and finally laid down flat on my belly with my arms covering my head and ears. I didn’t know how much more I could take before I would be forced to raise a shield. I tried to send the signal of introduction and then I blacked out.

When I came to awareness again, I was still lying face down on the ground, but the vibrations were calmer and no longer buffeted my senses. I risked uncovering my ears and lifting my head to look in Ranc’s direction. He had assumed a military bearing, unbending and unemotional. So I started to get to my feet. A loud crack dropped me back to my hands and knees and made it clear Ranc did not want me standing upright. This was not going to be as easy as I thought it would be when I first got the call.

I attempted to signal my introduction again, and was rebuffed. Still on my hands and knees, I waited. What did he want me to do? How was I going to get his attention? Wait! I already had his attention, how could I get him to listen to me? As I was considering my options and trying to figure out how to reach him, I missed the change in his aura. Ranc was laughing at me!

Keeping my head down, I signaled, “Service.” Ranc roared with laughter.

Head still bowed, I tried again, and signaled, “Beneficence.” Ranc doubled over with hilarity. Not an easy feat for a plant form twice my height and four times my girth.

When Ranc finally calmed down, I tried a third time and signed, “Honor” and set Ranc to laughing again.

Zefra messaged me through the map to start backing away while Ranc was distracted. Unsure how to proceed and still shaking from the sound and light waves that had originally knocked me off my feet, I went to chameleon mode and did as she suggested. Moving slowly, I crawled backward, still on my hands and knees, I did not look up until I was out of reach of his force field. Then, still camouflaged, I raised myself to a crouch and slowly moved to the airlock and out into the chamber. When Zefra had closed the inner seal and decontaminated the chamber again. I sagged onto the nearest bench with my head in my hands.

“I have failed you,” I told her dejectedly.

“Not at all,” she replied.

I looked up, puzzled at her response.

She explained, “Ranc is now in a fabulous mood.”

“Yes, but, I never found out what he wanted,” I protested.

“Oh yes, you did,” She smiled.

I gave her another quizzical look.

“You are the court jester.”

*******

With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.

Short Story – Concertgoer

Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is female and a midwife. A pair of trousers plays a significant part in the story. The story is set at a concert in the present. The story is about balance.

*******

Riiiiip! Damn! Why now? What was she supposed to do now? Sophia’s trousers had ripped from stem to stern as she took her seat. She had paid a lot for her ticket. By golly! She was going to enjoy this concert. She would worry about her trousers when it was over. The competing scents of expensive perfumes and men’s cologne filled the air.

The orchestra was tuning up. From her front row perch she could see into the pit. A handsome flautist was trilling and running scales. The first chair violoncello was rosining her bow. A bassist with long dark hair was practicing an intricate section. Sophia examined each member in turn trying to glean a portion of each personality from small gestures and how they prepared themselves. A violinist in the middle of the section was so methodical in his preparations she wondered how he was able to cope. Just then a clarinetist sat down next to him and interrupted his ritual by jostling his music stand and scattering the sheets to the floor. Oh my! The violinist looked like he might burst. He said nothing as he put his violin back in the case, carefully placed the bow next to it, closed and locked the case, and then proceeded to gather the music. Then she caught the eye of the clarinetist and saw the mirth. He obviously enjoyed the distress he caused to the violinist. The violinist began his ritual anew. The clarinetist could hardly contain himself, and his shoulders shook with unexpressed laughter as he put together his clarinet and placed a new reed in the mouthpiece.

Suddenly a ripple went through the orchestra and everyone hurriedly moved to be ready. The conductor walked in to the applause of the audience and bowed. Then she turned to the orchestra raised her baton to cue the first violinist. She stood and played a pure “A” which the rest of the players then used to match the tone of their instruments to hers. When the entire group was playing the same note, the conductor cut them off. The violinist took her seat.

The conductor turned to the stage and began to clap. The audience joined her as the world famous mezzo-soprano, Celeste, took the stage.  Dressed in diaphanous robes and a flowing green velvet cape with her long brown hair flowing down her back. She flowed to center stage. The set was minimally dressed with a green velvet chaise longue  and a single green velvet drape tied with a golden tassel that matched her cape. When she reached her mark, she paused and curtsied low. The audience responded enthusiastically and she smiled broadly as she stood and then centered herself.

The conductor raised her baton and cued the introduction. The orchestra began at full volume then withdrew to allow Celeste her due. She began the aria softly, tenderly, then slowly blossomed into the crescendo and softened again. When it was over, tears were streaming down Sophia’s face. It was so beautiful. The audience was on its feet, clapping and shouting “Brava!” Sophia stood with the rest, oblivious to the tear in her trousers.

Celeste curtsied again. Just as she began to rise, she suddenly crumpled to the floor with a scream. The audience slowly changed from exuberant to confused. Everyone was still on their feet and wondering what to do. The conductor ran out of the pit and around to the stairs that took her to the stage. Others converged from the wings of the stage.  Everyone running to Celeste. And suddenly, Sophia realized what had happened. She had noted Celeste’s pregnancy when she had first taken the stage. Something has happened with the baby. She could feel it. She knew it. Her years of experience as a midwife pulled her from her seat and drove her to the stage. She ran toward the fallen diva, pushing her way through the group of people who now surrounded Celeste. “I’m a midwife, let me through.” And they parted to let her approach. She knelt beside Celeste and took her left hand in hers and placed her right hand under her shoulder. In tears, Celeste turned toward the confident calming presence at her side. “My baby!” she sobbed. Sophia murmured, “Ssh, ssh, it’s okay,” as she looked into the beautiful green eyes. Celeste whispered “Help me,” and Sophia assured her that she would. “May I examine you?” Celeste nodded.

Sophia asked several nearby men to grab the drape and hold it up to create a barrier. She called to a woman to find pillows and blankets. Once the famous singer was cushioned and concealed from the crowd, Sophia pushed the cape out of the way and reaching under the multi-layered skirt, moving aside her undergarments (thank goodness the singer was too uncomfortable to wear pantyhose) and felt her way to the cervix while keeping her eyes focused on Celeste. She questioned her in a low voice, pausing to hear the answers. “Are you having pain?” “Has your water broken?” “How far apart are the contractions?” With her experienced hands and nose she knew the answers before Celeste replied. Beneath the singer’s signature perfume, Sophia could smell blood and the unique scent of amniotic fluid. She was hoping the cervix was not fully dilated until her fingers told her the truth.  Oh dear! The baby was crowning! She would have to move quickly.

Looking up into the eyes of the man across from her, Sophia ordered “Get towels, twine or rope, a sharp knife, and a cigarette lighter. This baby is coming now!”

Startled, the small huddle jumped to obey, and the requested items were quickly gathered.

“Sterilize the knife blade in the flame of the lighter and cut two lengths of twine a few inches long. Bring the towels here, we will need them to catch the baby. Is there something soft we can use as a receiving blanket?”

When everything was done to her specifications, she turned her attention back to Celeste and asked, “Are you ready?”

Celeste simply nodded. “Good,” Sophia replied,”Then get ready to push. I think you’re going to have the easiest delivery in the history of opera.”

With practiced hands, Sophia brought the baby into the world, wiped her off as best she could, checked to see that she was healthy and whole, and handed her to her mother. Someone beside Sophia assisted, handing her what she needed. Then Sophia tied off and severed the umbilical cord, and delivered the afterbirth. Someone placed a warm damp rag in her hand and held a small basin of clean warm water at her side.  She sponged everything clean.

With her tasks finished, Sophia looked at Celeste gazing into the eyes of her daughter. “I’m afraid your gown and cape are ruined.” Celeste smiled beatifically, “I’m sure my cleaners can take care of them. You have taken care of the most important part. Please tell me your name.”

“Sophia.”

“That’s perfect. Thank you, Sophia.”

Sophia moved to the side as Celeste’s retinue produced a wheelchair and packed up mother and child. With the stage clearing and the audience gone, Sophia paused to consider her situation.  Gently, a strong pair of arms placed a coat around her shoulders. Sophia turned to see a handsome gentleman with twinkling eyes and realized he was the one who had assisted with the birth.

“Would you please join me for a cup of tea?”

Sophia smiled and nodded. A cup of tea would be perfect right now.

*******

With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.

Short Story – Movement

Prompt is:  The story’s protagonist is female and a ruler. A book plays a significant part in the story. The story is set in a blizzard in the future. The story is about movement.

*******

She sighed. Snowing again. How was she supposed to feel motivated when she couldn’t even go outside much less stroll through the village. Her advisers didn’t want her to go out into the snow since they had more trouble protecting her when they couldn’t see.

She picked up the book again then threw it down in frustration. Books were no substitute for being able to meet her subjects and talk to them. She had yet to learn what people really felt from books. She needed her interactions with shopkeepers and mothers and schoolchildren. She yearned for a chance to stop at the candy store and load her pockets with sweets before heading to the park. Sometimes she walked the path. Often she sat down next to someone on a bench and simply engaged them in conversation. They all knew who she was, so no one was truly surprised to meet her. Some people actually went to the park looking for her to tell her what they thought or felt on a particular issue. Since her visits were sporadic and based on having a two hour slot in her calendar, there were usually enough different people around that she got a fairly broad perspective – at least of the kinds of people who went to the park. She sometimes went in the evening and one time convinced her guards that a midnight stroll was perfect on a warm summer night. They were not happy but they managed to keep her safe. And she was grateful.

It amazed her that in a time with everyone nanochipped and cataloged there were still those who managed to slip through the cracks undocumented. The tracking center, Enterprise Validation Indemnification Level,  knew where every citizen was at every moment. They had pictures and current video from the ubiquitous cameras in every surface and it was all linked to the nanochips which were linked to the data on each person. Every relative, every friend, every encounter carefully and eternally documented. There were no secrets. Not really. Except for unmanifested desires. If someone looked up a topic or searched for a word, the data centers tracked their biological response to the request and to the answer – heart rate, pupil dilation, breath – there were no tendencies that were not tracked, coded, and outcomes were predicted.

Freedom was an illusion. It seemed that everyone was free to go wherever they wanted and do whatever they wanted. But everything was already known. The questions a child asks his mother or her teachers. All tracked. The curious were encouraged. The more questions, the better EVIL personnel could categorize the child, predict the best career paths and steer – No! They would say “guide” the child to an appropriate outlet for her or his energies and predilections.  Not every child is a superstar, but those that were had every advantage science could provide. Education was a duty of the state, just as food and shelter and healthcare.

The late bloomers sometimes lost opportunities, but that was the price exacted for the good of the state. Every child was well cared for. Every child was loved equally. While almost anyone could have a child and every child was carried to full term, the actual caregivers were men and women genetically and mentally suited to the task at each age, not the biological father and mother who had other duties. Every child was a sibling to every other child.  Certain people were of course sterilized soon after birth based on genetic abnormalities that would not fare well during procreation. Others were altered at a later age if unwanted tendencies such as addiction or aggression manifested. There were still babies with chromosomal abnormalities – XXY, XYY, Down Syndrome, etc. These aberrations in the genetic code did not make a person useless to society and were considered to contribute to the overall good of diversity. Only the characteristics that would prevent the person from reaching full potential based on wilfulness or perversion were considered for elimination.

She picked up the book again, sighing heavily as she gazed out the window at the snow. She couldn’t leave and she didn’t want to stay. And yet… maybe she should… She considered for a moment longer and then tossed the book on the table and reached for her cloak.  As she hurried toward the door she recalled a quote from an ancient source named Farragut:

Damn the torpedoes! …Full speed!

*******

With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.

Short Story: Dark

Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is female and an artist. Darkness plays a significant part in the story. The story is set in a nursery in the present. The story is about discovery.

*******

As the setting sun glowed red, she finished adding touches to the fabric and started cleaning up. She preferred to work while it was daylight, so the sun’s demise was her prompt to put things away. In the northern states, the sun stays up very late in the summertime. It was almost nine o’clock as the radiant orb sank through the haze on the horizon. It was still a good half an hour until dark, but the mosquitoes tend to like dusk and dawn for their foraging, so unless you like the sticky feel and chemical scent of insect repellent (and she didn’t), it is best to let them find another food source.

She had learned that many places don’t have screens on the windows – her first apartment in Chicago was a revelation. It was a third floor walkup in an older building with a grand marble staircase leading up from the ground floor. There were no screens and no air-conditioning, so she kept the windows open and propped a fan in one to try to move the sweat-soaked air into an illusion of coolness. The only bugs she had to worry about were the cockroaches that marched incessantly from the neighboring kitchen through the cracks in the boards into her space. She killed as many as she could personally. She put down a border of boric acid around the entire perimeter. She bought ant and roach spray and used it generously. (Many years later a new fragrance would be released that reminded her of the roach spray – and the scent would take her back to that summer in Chicago. She surmised that the women who wore the fragrance had never had to fight cockroaches personally.)

Back inside her screened porch, she sat in the swing and contemplated the growing darkness. Listening to the crickets and frogs waking. Watching the stars in ones and twos become uncountable in short order. The nursery spread out from her back porch in all directions. Trees to the north so they wouldn’t shade the smaller plants. Pots of fragrant flowers, herbs and tomatoes on tables closer to her house.

The fireflies were rising like little stars themselves. She had always been fascinated by them. Their mysterious light glowing and throbbing in the dark. She remembered a trick she had heard an old farmer tell about many years ago and grabbed a sweater and her keys. She pulled her pickup close to the backyard and turned the headlights on bright. After a few minutes she turned the lights off again and watched from the cab.

It only took a moment of darkness as she held her breath… and then she discovered the old farmer was right. Every firefly in the yard simultaneously lit and went dark in unison. Hundreds of little glowing bugs synchronized all across the landscape. She sighed with pleasure.

*******

With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.

Short Story – Cover Story

Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is female and a jeweler. A story plays a significant part in the story. The story is set on a journey in the present. The story is about deception.

*******

She left the shop in the hands of her assistant and promised to be in touch as soon as she landed. She’d been dreaming this trip since she was a teenager and planning it for the last two years. She had told no one except her staff and her landlady fearing if she admitted any thoughts about this trip to family or friends someone would try to talk her  out of it or otherwise prevent it from happening. And she couldn’t risk it. Not after this long. They would worry about the jewelry store. They would worry about her safety. They would deplore the expense.  No, she told herself, this was the best way. She planned to tell them after she returned safely. Then no matter what anyone said the experience was already hers and could not be taken away. She had managed to evade all the social requests  from her friends for events during the time she was gone. She even had a convenient cover story worked out to tell them.

She hurried to the bus stop and caught it just in time. As she slid into her seat she mentally reviewed the items on her to do list. Passport – check. Tickets – check. She was already packed. Had laid out her traveling outfit. Yes! All in order. As she left the bus stop and walked the few blocks to her apartment, she dared to picture herself arriving. Lost in thought she grabbed the mail, unlocked her door, stepped inside and turned on the lights.

“Surprise!” They yelled.

Oh no! This gathering was not part of her plan. Her sister stepped forward and grabbed her arm, turning her back on the crowd in her living room and pressing a glass of champagne into her free hand.

“You could at least look pleased to see us, Sis. We’ve gone to a lot of trouble to arrange this party for you.”

She quickly gathered her composure. “I know, it’s just that I’m beat and was planning a soak in the tub with a glass of wine and a good book. Not exactly social.” She smiled hoping to disarm her sister and it worked.

“Just let me go freshen up and I’ll be out in a flash to enjoy your efforts.”

“Okay, but if you take more than five minutes, I’ll come in and drag you out, naked or not.”

“Promise! I’ll be back before you know it.”

She smiled at the gathered crowd and begged to be excused long enough to change into her jeans. As she walked by the catered spread she swiped a couple hors d’oeuvres and popped them in her mouth. Mmm! That was tasty! They had indeed gone to a fair amount of trouble. Now how was she going to get rid of them before midnight?! She preferred to travel when she was well rested. Of course, she could use the excuse of having to work in the morning… which is where she would normally be going in the morning… That should work to divert them and cover her tracks.

She changed into her jeans and shoved the packed suitcases into her closet, hoping no one had come into her bedroom tonight. Thank goodness the weather was mild so they didn’t need a place for coats, although they could use the guest room or the office.

She gathered her thoughts and put on her party face and went back out to mingle with her guests.

“Here’s the guest of honor, finally!” her brother said to the crowd. “Now for a toast.”

She had no idea what to expect so she smiled and held her champagne glass ready.

“Here’s to my sister. A woman who always gets what she wants.”

A chorus of Here! Here! reverberated around the room as everyone raised their glasses and drank.

Her sister pointed to a table in the corner. “Hey Sis! Why don’t you open your presents?”

She looked quickly at the pile and then at her sister, and then it was her turn to drag her sister away from the party guests.

“What’s all this about?” she hissed. “Christmas was months ago and it’s not my birthday. Why am I getting gifts?”

“I think you better open them,” her sister replied.

With a another suspicious glare at her sister she turned back to the party and smiled.

“How kind of all of you. I am sure I haven’t done anything to deserve all this attention.”

As she made her way across the room to the table smiling and greeting each person as she passed, she wondered what had inspired this party.

She paused in front of the table. The mound of gifts was impressive. Better than any birthday she remembered. Larger than any Christmas since her childhood. She surveyed the pile and turned back to the room. Her sister gestured for her to start opening packages.

“We know you need to get up early tomorrow,” she said simply.

“You are all so thoughtful and I am overwhelmed,” she paused and then picked up a small box from the front of the table. The paper was familiar. And then she realized there were pictures of luggage and travel related items. She hesitated again. They couldn’t know. How could they know? She had been very careful to cover her tracks and her staff were under strict instructions not to divulge her destination.

Then she opened the box. An adorable set of purple luggage tags with a pawprint theme was nestled in the tissue paper. They were perfect! She smiled widely. Then she looked around the room.

“Thank you very much. How did you know?”

Her sister smiled a secret smile. “We have our sources.”

*******

With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.  Mary is on vacation this week, however, she is with us in spirit and provided a laugh for David without knowing it.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.