| A Writer’s Cramp (24 hours/1,000 words or less)
PROMPT: It's a beautiful day at the lake/beach/river. Everything is perfect, until....
As I walked through the woods, my stomach filled with little wiggle worms. That’s what Grandma Frannie called them when you could hardly wait for something you knew would be just fierce with pleasure. They butterflied about my tummy. A strange kind of thickness crept up in my throat, like I was afraid to swallow, like if I did I’d find myself back in bed, having a dream, not really walking along the path.
Just to spite the worry, I swallowed hard, held my breath, waited to see if it was all my imagination. Sure enough, just like Daddy’d say, “Nothing wrong with your throat that a little water won’t fix,” the feeling went away.
I wore my good town shoes that morning with my finest dress. Auntie Simone had embroidered an Eastern bluebird -- white chest, throat of orange, sapphire blue feathers so bright you could almost see the bird flap his wings. Auntie spelled the colors to make him magical. Grandma Frannie said when I got older I could make him fetch things for me, but I was only fourteen. Witches can’t do much until they’re fifteen.
I hoped Mother, Auntie, and Grandma would make me a new dress for my next birthday. I’d probably get a raven then because Mother says they’re good familiars.
But how silly. There won’t be another birthday dress. I’ll be gone. But Ricardo’s much better than an old embroidered bird -- much, much better.
Each step I traveled down the path took me closer to him, closer to the place where he waited. I hoped he brought another lunch for us to share, but maybe he’d want to take me straight away to his house so we could get married before night fell, before my family learned I’d left.
I hoped he’d want to do that, for at midnight all the witches would rally round and hunt the forest for me. I’d have to warn Ricardo about it, except I wasn’t sure he’d understand. He might not want to marry a witch.
My mind drifted back to yesterday. I smiled, remembering the way the sunshine lit up his midnight hair. Gleam streaks, that’s what I called them. He’d laughed, told me how enchanting I was.
I couldn’t wait to see his face when he saw me all dressed up, ready for the ceremony. I wondered if he’d planned a party for afterwards, invited his friends and relatives. I suppose I should be wearing a white dress, but I didn’t have one. Witches wore black dresses, even when they got married.
I’d be giving that up for Ricardo. I’d live like mortals -- like regular people.
A blue jay scolded me for wandering into his territory. He sounded exactly like my mother when she was unhappy about something I’d done.
I laughed. “Scold away, blue jay,” I said. “Nothing can bother me today.”
Around the corner was the river. I heard its bubbling froth, a sound exactly like Grandma Frannie’s big black cauldron when the brew inside was smoking, the spell almost set.
Ricardo told me they called it the River James. How funny to name an open stretch of water with a human-sounding name. But there would be lots of things like that I’d learn -- with eagerness as long as his hand held mine.
I stepped out from beneath the tallest trees. Only scrub remained. I spotted the bend in the river, the place where I’d first met Ricardo. He’d been sitting on a boulder then, but today he hadn’t yet arrived. Perhaps it was too early. I sat and waited.
The sun bloomed in colors. First came blueberry, then apricot and cherry. As the orb rose fully, it painted the sky with streaks that coated even the clouds with the cheerful hues.
Where was Ricardo de la Noche? Did he not anticipate this morning as greatly as I did?
“Do not worry. He will come,” I said to myself. I drew breath, then chanted a greeting spell of welcome.
Blessed be the rise of Earth Goddess.
Grant me a sip of your peaceful calm.
The goddess tiptoed toward me, touched my cheek with her dew drops, then fluttered away. My eyelids, heavy from lack of sleep, rested a moment in the calm she bestowed.
My prince had arrived. I rose to greet him. Such was our eagerness we fell to the ground inside our kiss. Tall grasses crushed beneath us.
Ricardo didn’t seem eager to journey forth. I started to urge him, but his lips convinced me otherwise, along with soft spoken words whispered in my ear. His hands began to acquaint me with secret joys I never knew existed.
His arms surrounded me. Our breath became one. He moved his body closer, then over mine. Our heartbeats crescendoed and fell. More words to treasure, more kisses . . . more pleasure.
Everything was perfect, except we still lay among the river’s grasses, and the sun began to sink.
“Please, can we go to your family now?” I asked.
Ricardo’s hand dallied at my breast. He kissed my lips once more, then glanced up at the sky.
“Not today,” he said. “My mother has gone to visit a sickly relative. My father had business in town. Tomorrow you can meet them.”
“But I’ve already left my family. I thought . . .”
“Tomorrow, my love. Tomorrow.”
I wanted to tell him about the coven, how night would bring them to my side, but I couldn’t risk it. What if Ricardo wasn’t willing to marry a witch?
He slipped his clothes back on, kissed my hand, bid me adieu until the next day.
Everything was perfect, until I saw him walk across the rope bridge on his way back to the other side of the river. A sunbeam caressed the darkness of his hair. I gulped back a sob, blinked.
And then he was gone, and I remained alone in the grass, tears streaming down my face.