Miss, Miss! Come with me, quick!
I saw the other maid break the broomstick
Startling me as she wielt it like a pick.
Take my word, we’re best off running!
Alice isn’t known much for her cunning
Keep your head down, you look stunning!
Exactly, it would be a shame if she found you out of any person.
The sentence came to her eventually – her grandfather wrote about how he fed the birds every morning. He left the food out on the windowsill in the kitchen. They hopped inside, every morning. Things she had never considered… such as her grandfather’s interest in birds.
Salma hadn’t paid too much attention to everything on the shelves of the few bookshelves in the house. There were only three of them, two in the main room that reached from the floor near the top and a shorter one in a different room that only reached her hip, with figurines of dancers, a grass green twisted vase and an oil lantern on the top of it. Salma had removed the oil lantern very quickly when she saw it there – the danger to her apparent. She found the lantern returned to where it had been set after waking up the next day. It had taken her removing it to the shed to make sure that nothing would happen.
Her grandfather had a lot of books about aviation. She had never heard anything about him being an aviator, or of him having any interest in such things. She looked up at the tracks on the ceiling, trying to remember what had once been there.
As if to mock them, Mi’s uniform displayed without a single crease upon the dress form in their hospital room. The grain of the wood in the floor and walls was dark, but browns. All browns. The dark red in the brown made them think everything else around was dried blood. The crisp sheets scratched their skin as they didn’t move an inch. A book lay on the table next to their bed, but closed. Mi didn’t bother reaching for it. They stared out the window.
Their room stood at ground level, like all of the hospital. Like all of the buildings in town. Trees towered above all of them. Mi considered their lives pitiful, as forever attached to the earth.
“Do we have to set a guard on you too?”
Mi ignored Fo. Their brother had said the same words when Mi first got medical attention. When Mi’s words landed on deaf ears, it felt natural to return the treatment.
The light from the window moved to stream into her eyes and Salma shifted to lower her face from the sight. She opened the book, still not certain if standing up might bring the cottage to attention once more.
It was a journal, she realized. Written by her grandfather. She recognized the handwriting, though she couldn’t remember why she knew it was his handwriting. Was there a card he had sent her that she had kept? There were not a lot of other options for her to have been exposed to it. It had been a long time since she had read cursive though and the lack of dots above the lowercase Is and Js was distinctive enough as it made the already hard to read small writing even more difficult to interpret.
Deciphering became easier when she reached the pages with the sketches on them. The pictures were of birds and what was written by them were explanations about the different species. Occasionally he had added in a background, where they stood perched. Never on a branch it seemed. The more and more Salma looked at it, the more familiar it became.
It came to her. It was the kitchen.
And one last thing I’d like to say
Preceding the moment of your departure
Perhaps before you go your way
Risking yourself before the archer
Everyone has said it, when it’s not enough
Counting what you have done
I aim to explain, though it is tough,
Aim to express it like none
Treat yourself well, you have my thanks
Expect to see you rise among the ranks
There was nothing she could do but cry, but if there was anything Salma couldn’t let herself do it was cry. Even now that she didn’t care if the cottage had her where she wouldn’t be able to hide her tears. Her vision remained blurry, the waterworks were there. She left the suitcase at the front door, wandering back over to the armchair. She nearly tripped over the book that had hit her earlier. Absently, she picked it up, setting it in her lap as she sat down.
Salma sat there for some time until the tears finally spilled down her cheeks. Her shoulders didn’t move, sinking into the back of the armchair, more comfortable than it had any right to be. She was tired, that was it. She had slept poorly, after all. And there was the hunger gnawing at her again – those granola bars hadn’t lasted long. Pulling her feet up into the chair with her, Salma nearly drifted off.
The cottage couldn’t hold her here forever. Her plan was simple. The cottage would eventually drop its guard and all she had to do was run for the door. The moment she could get the front door open, she would slide her luggage into the doorway to keep it from shutting. Then she could get out. She’d pull her things out after her. She was willing to leave the rest of her things behind forever as collateral. It didn’t matter.
Jahan made a strangled noise in his throat. “Standing. You shouldn’t be here.”
Looking up, eyes sharp, Mi did their best not to sound as harsh as their expression. “Everyone returned. Didn’t need a scout after all?”
“We were lucky,” Jahan said. “And I scouted.”
They doubted it. Jahan couldn’t scout to save his life. But if everyone returned, he obviously scouted well enough to save the life of everyone else in the unit. Mi looked past him. Their unit moved passed and the crowd either followed or returned to their lives.
“You shouldn’t be up.”
Mi looked at Jahan’s hands, ignoring his words. He bound his hands, as they needed on the field, in fresh linen. Not drenched in red and dried in brown, like the others. Their uniform, red without the brown. Their uniform, the occasional leaf stuck within its folds. “You really scouted.” They mouthed the words, rather than speak them aloud.
Jahan didn’t answer. He took them by the arm and forced them back to the hospital. Jahan was fast, but kept himself at a slower pace for Mi’s sake. Mi didn’t need him to, didn’t know why he did this. As they didn’t want to return however, they didn’t speed up. They reached out with their left hand to try to pull him off. For some reason they couldn’t, wrist resting on his arm.
As soon as she had herself as collected as she could possibly be, Salma stomped off to the bedroom, pulling out her suitcase. All of the things she had brought, well, even if it didn’t all fit into this, she would take what she most wanted and figure out when to pick up the rest later. She wiped her nose off on the back of her sleeve, not even bothering to fold her clothes, throwing a lot of them into a trash bag as they were still wet, jamming her other belongings around that.
Throwing her weight down on the top of it, she managed to shut the bag. Salma dragged it to the front of the house, reaching out to open the door and escape her prison.
The door would not open. Staring in disbelief, Salma jiggled the handle, trying to force it. This could not be happening. The cottage had done all of this to her, it had to want her to leave. This door should open and let her out.
It did not.
On top of figuring out and not letting yourself procrastinate when it comes to publishing, there is always the other things in life that come to get in the way of Writing. For me, October is that month out of the entire year that I need to balance myself more than ever.
NaNoWriMo is next month. I need to prepare for that. I have a few other events going on this month, which I also still need to prepare for. The biggest problem comes down to not wanting to do what I say I should do, what I need to be doing, and deciding to do the other thing.
Today’s topic (good for all sorts): PRIORITIES
Continue reading “October is way too busy”