Tag Archives: fiction

2015 Marguerite McGlinn Prize for Fiction

Marguerite McGlinn

Marguerite McGlinn

Hello, beautiful writer friends!

As some of you may know, I am Contest Coordinator and Assistant Poetry Editor for a wonderful non-profit publication, Philadelphia Stories Magazine. Each year we are host to a short fiction contest in honor of the late Marguerite McGlinn, a former board member – and dear friend – of those who work for the magazine.

We are now accepting submissions for our 2015 contest, and I encourage all of you to submit! (I am virtually surrounded by some amazingly talented people here, and I’d love if you’d take a chance and enter!) The reading fee is just $12 and includes a one year subscription to Philadelphia Stories. We are accepting short fiction pieces up to 8,000 words.

Click here for more information or if you’re ready to go, click HERE to submit your piece!

And don’t forget to tell all of your writer friends. I’d really appreciate it. 🙂

xo,

Nicole Marie

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Writing

Unremembered (Part 9)

 

I was drunk, one of the times – maybe all of the times – Lily arrived home. Mostly she’d mumble a hello, flash me a smile, and head right for the bathroom as I stay sprawled out on the living room couch, staring at the muted television. At some point we’d fall into bed together, and the next morning she’d clean up the empty bottles on the coffee table without a word.

It was over a quiet breakfast one morning that I finally asked her. I was stirring sugar into my coffee and she was reading a magazine, her long hair tied back so I could see one delicate side of her face. She looked as she always did: relaxed, thinking only of a Sunday morning in our kitchen and nothing else. I cleared my throat first but she didn’t look up.

“You know, I’ve always respected your need for privacy,” I started. She looked up now, her face unmoving. She took a sip of her coffee and closed the magazine. “Mmm,” she said. She placed her chin on her fists, ready to listen.

“Well,” I took a napkin from the table and crumpled it in my fist. “I don’t ask. I’ve never asked where you go when you leave. But I really think it’s time you told me.” I tried for soft, yet forceful. I needed to know this time.

She sighed, leaned back in her chair and stretched, preparing for something. She gave me a half smile and folded her hands on the table. “You know I love you, Matt.”

I nodded. I knew this, but did it matter now?

“It depends, really. On how I’m feeling, what’s happening here. I just sort of get in the car and drive.”

I felt a pang of jealousy, maybe anger, pass behind my ribcage. While I was left with nothing but my own guessed scenarios, Lily was flipping a coin to see where she’d most like to gain some new perspective. Suddenly it dawned on me, how damaging her disappearances had become. At first I thought allowing her some distance would bring us closer together, but now, when she came back home she never really came back – some part of her was left out there, wherever she went to reflect, without me.

“Why?” That single, heavy word was all I could muster now. Even at my worst I never imagined a day without Lily in it. So why then was it so easy for her to leave me?

She stared at her hands for a while, then stood up and moved behind me, draping her thin arms around my shoulders, laying her hands on my chest. I felt her lips on my cheek and closed my eyes.

“There’s nothing to worry about,” she whispered. “Can’t that be enough?”

I went limp at the warm touch of her breath, and once again fell into the pit of her vagueness. With her, at best I have always been a pathetic, gullible child.

**

I ticked off five more days of no Lily that week, and every afternoon I found myself at the bar where I kissed Jamie waiting for her to turn up. I wanted to ask her what she knew, why Lily hadn’t come back this time, if Jamie had told her about our kiss; I wanted to shake her, too, for telling the police that Lily had chosen to disappear before. How would anyone believe that this time was different? This time, the darkness in my chest knew she didn’t choose it.

 

******

If you’re just now joining in on this series, start here and click through to get caught up!

I hope you enjoy this (slow moving) series. 🙂

– Nicole Marie

2 Comments

Filed under Writing

Yeah Write #184

Hey guys! I was lucky enough to win Crowd Favorite this week over at Yeah Write for my poem, “I held on for dear life“! Please click here to read what the editors had to say about my piece, and to read some other fantastic pieces of fiction! The challenges are always fun and a great way to get your creative juices flowing – I suggest everyone consider entering! A new challenge runs each week!

1 Comment

Filed under Writing

Unremembered (Part 8)

 

Just now joining the Unremembered party (or need a refresher)? Click here to start from the beginning, then follow the link at the bottom to part 2, etc. And don’t forget to watch out for more installments!

***

 

I didn’t hear the ringing at first, my head was buried so far beneath a tower of pillows in an attempt to stop the spinning in my brain. My skull ached with regret as I replayed the kiss I’d planted on Jamie the night before.

The caller didn’t let up. I fought my way out of the tangled sheets and somehow made it onto my feet and to the phone on the dresser. He was clearing his throat as I picked up.

“Hey, Detective Mills,” I started.

“Mr. Hamilton. How are you?”

His usual, pointless greeting. I stood up a little straighter, waiting to hear what “incriminating” evidence he’d found while tearing apart our home. A lock of hair? A mysterious foot print? A kitchen knife that looked a little too dull?

Then my mind flickered to the person who claimed to know what happened to my wife, and suddenly my knees were made of jelly because I couldn’t believe that in all my scrambled thinking and the hurricane that had recently become my life that I had somehow tucked away the single most important piece of I don’t know what, and right then I was angry, so very angry that Detective Mills had failed to mention more past a single obscure phone call just before he accused me of murdering Lily. And now that it had all flooded back in my heart was sinking and so was I, right back to the floor like the first time.

I think he sensed it, knew all the questions that had just now started seething from my chest. We were both silent, for minutes, I think.

“That other person,” I started, choking on the rest of the words.

“I was beginning to wonder why you weren’t more curious about that,” he said. The calm in his voice sent a warning jolt through my stomach.

“I guess it fell to the bottom of my priority list once you asked me if I killed my wife.” My mouth was a desert.

“She claimed to be a friend of Lily’s, went to college with her. Really pretty girl, a blonde. She said this isn’t the first time Lily’s gone missing, and probably won’t be the last. I thought it was a little strange but her story didn’t really lead anywhere, so we tossed it.”

Jamie. I muttered a thanks, a goodbye, placed the phone on the receiver and threw up in our clothes hamper.

***

Continue reading here with Part 9.

7 Comments

Filed under Writing

Unremembered (Part 7)

 

(If you haven’t started reading this series yet, please click here for Part One.)

 

“So what makes you think that?” He picked up a clean towel and dried his hands.

“She leaves,” I said. “Days at a time. Never any explanation, only some mumbled words about finding herself, taking a breather. I’m not sure why, but I’ve never asked where she goes.”

Just then I realized how pathetic I must sound, the confused boyfriend alone in a bar while his girlfriend wanders constantly into some adventure unknown to him. No questions, no accusations, he allows her to bounce from their bedroom to her own secret destinations; she could be writing a novel by the ocean, or she could be telling her worries to someone else’s bare chest. I watched as he took the towel to a spot on the bar and moved it for a while in the same circular motion, searching for a bit of bartender wisdom.

“An ultimatum,” he said. “Either she fesses up, tells you what she’s been doing all this time, or you leave.”

She leaves,” I laughed, taking another sip of my drink. “It’s my house, after all.”

“Right,” he said, walking away to help a customer waving an empty shot glass at the other end of the bar. I watched her, a woman with long blond hair pulled back in a tight ponytail. She leaned across the bar and put her lips to his ear. She spoke for a while; I was finished my beer by the time she flopped back down onto her barstool and they were both staring in my direction, avoiding any attempt to not look obvious.

I dug in my pockets for a ten dollar bill and threw it in a water ring, careful to avoid the gazes that were now digging into the left side of my face. I’d made it halfway outside when the shouting started.

“Wait!” Her face was as tight as the ponytail, so close to me now. “Matt,” she smiled. Her lips were cracked and smothered in layers of sparkling gloss. My chest tightened at the sound of my name.

I stepped back inside. “How do you know who I am?”

Two hours later and Jamie and I were downing shots and bumping shoulders.

“Yeah, Lily was a riot in college,” she laughed.

Slowly we eased off our barstools and headed for the door. Outside it was dark now and the edges in my mind had begun to blur, but it felt good. My worries were hazily bouncing off one another and I let my hands move freely to Jamie’s waist. She stopped laughing and caught her breath in her throat.

“I don’t want to talk about Lily anymore,” I said.

She started to speak but I caught her words with my mouth.

I spent the rest of the night in bed, swaying from sleep to guilt to anger at Lily’s absentness. My lips were still tacky with Jamie’s gloss and her words before we parted were still turning over in my head.

“She’ll turn up,” she’d said as she got into her car, too drunk to drive. “She always does.”

Stay tuned for more installments!

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

Continue to Part Eight here.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized, Writing

Unremembered (Part 6)

 

(If you haven’t started reading this series yet, please click here for Part One.)

 

I sat on the front porch while five officers in blue latex gloves picked apart our home like they were combing over a murder scene; slow, meticulously, opening every cabinet and lifting every bed sheet like delicate tissue paper. I avoided conversation and every room someone was occupying. I’d seen enough crime shows to know the hovering spouse was more suspicious than helpful, although I knew my distance was likely being just as carefully documented.

When they were done they filed out silently, no goodbyes. The last one nodded in my direction and closed the door behind him. Once the cars were gone and the gawking neighbors had gone back inside, I got up and stepped into the living room.

Things looked the same, but my world felt tilted; pictures, chairs, books, all off-kilter. Our memories had been groped by foreign hands. Suddenly I felt emptier than I ever had. I navigated the stairs on heavy legs, went to the bathroom, turned the shower on hot, stood under the water until my skin turned pink and I was forced out. I didn’t bother with a towel. I curled up in the middle of the cold tile floor and slept.

When I woke it was dark, and as I peeled myself from the floor I opened my mouth to form Lily’s name, to call to her, to whatever nook of our home she was in, likely reading a book, drinking a glass of wine. Only my eyes quickly adjusted to form the shapes in the room, and I remembered. Every waking was destined to be like that one; raw, aching hurt, sudden and new.

***

I went to a local bar on my lunch break, one of the countless afternoons Lily was gone. I’d spotted her bag by the door before she told me she was leaving; I’d only just gotten out of bed, my eyes still heavy and blurred.

“Be back in a day or so,” she said, and kissed my forehead. She was out the door before I had a chance to part my lips.

Within months, day drinking had become a routine while Lily disappeared, as normal as the spouse that orders takeout while the wife is away on business. The bartender came to recognize me – whether it was the suit or the lost expression that helped him remember, I’m not sure – but even if a month had gone by (a rare occurrence) he’d have the same beer at the same barstool, waiting patiently on a cardboard coaster. He never asked any questions but his smile was always an open invitation to spew my problems out into the darkness of the pub.

I never talked, only drank, but this time she’d been gone for four days, the longest yet, and I was worried something had happened.

It never occurred to me that she had simply decided not to come back.

“My girlfriend,” I said, taking in a sip of my beer. He looked up from the glasses he’d been washing, surprised. He was young, maybe twenty-eight, small and soft in his features.

I stared at a nearby salt shaker, contemplating my next sentence like a game of chess. I took a few deep breaths.

“I think she’s seeing someone else.”

The words slopped off of my tongue like soot. They hadn’t sounded as permanent in the confines of my head. Yet out here, where even a whisper can hold the ugliest weight, they made my chest hollow.

 

Stay tuned for more installments!

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Continue to Part Seven here.

8 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized, Writing

Unremembered (Part 5)

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Like the day Lily disappeared, I lost all the in between moments of my consciousness – putting on my shoes, getting in the car, driving to the police station. In my mind I’d gone from phone call to bland interrogation room, the fluorescent lighting overhead making my eyes squint. The only two chairs reminded me of the scratchy waiting room kind one would find in a doctor’s office; I sat in one, Detective Mills sat in the other. He folded his hands on the table and stared at a spot on the wall behind my shoulder for a while.

I shifted uncomfortably, like a criminal. Was I about to be accused of something, or told my wife was dead? I bit my lip to avoid asking where other person was, the one who said they knew what happened to her. Finally, Mills opened his mouth and darkness came out.

“Mr. Hamilton, did you kill your wife?”

I blinked several times, trying to remove the spots that had formed in front of my eyes. The small interrogation room had suddenly become a runaway carousel and I gripped the arms of my chair to keep from falling off. I said nothing although my jaw hung loose with shock. If I cried, banged my fists on the table, fell to my knees in despair, would it matter? Like an innocent man accused of rape or abuse, once the accusations take flight he is doomed, forever – guilty or not. The scowls and whispers become infinite. Unless Lily walked into the room right then, Detective Mills had already dubbed me guilty of murder; but I had to defend myself, with whatever piece of soul I had left.

I cleared my throat, raised my eyes to his. “No,” I said, calm, direct. No fireworks, just truth.

“Would you mind if we took a look around your home?”

The invasion had begun.

***

Click here for Part 6.

18 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized, Writing

I was her for days

my mother left on a Tuesday

morning

tea pot screaming on the stove

the wallpaper

fifty year old paisley

peeled like potatoes in her honor

 

I touched my fingers to hers

so cold, so cold

a fixture of

sky blue highways

roadmaps at her temples

Egypt behind her knees

 

in her apartment

shelves sat thick with memory

I was elbows bent

on her favorite chair

in the parlor

everything was her, spiced

everything was floral

 

I was her for days

fleece robe, Billie on vinyl

I tore circles in the green shag rug

called the neighbor darling

drank manhattans before noon

rearranged the roses

held a 38 special to my curls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

17 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized, Writing

Unremembered (Part 2)

 

The sun was just beginning to dust the sky in pinks and greys and we were still on her doorstep, a modest collection of empty beer bottles at our ankles. It was early October, the air clean and brittle, and our voices floated unnoticed into the still sleeping morning. She tucked her chin into my shoulder and I inhaled her – sweet, floral, like home.

“My parents will be up soon,” she said. I knew it was time to tear myself away from her, at least for now.

“Will I see you again?”

She smiled, effortlessly mysterious. I hung on her gestures, the constant, brilliant glow of her.

A month passed before I saw her again. I’d deflated weeks before; intoxicated after one long, hazy night, I’d drifted through the week with nothing more than silence on her end. One phone call attempt went ignored, and so I quickly gave up. Obsessiveness never looked good on me.

I was trekking back home with a sandwich and a carton of milk when I saw her, smoking a cigarette and chatting with a friend outside of a brick-walled corner bar one block from my place. She wore a wool scarf that swallowed her neck and chin, black leather boots that hugged her legs just below the knee. I didn’t remember her smoking when we met.

After a second of debate I tucked the milk and sandwich under one arm and approached her.

“Lily?” I forced a smile. There was something different about her now – instead of comfort I felt purely uncomfortable. She turned to me and for a moment there was a look of concern on her face as she scanned over me, as if she was trying to remember how we knew each other. Internally, I was collapsing. Quickly I began to feel small, pathetic, and childlike. How could she forget?

Then something changed, like the imaginary light bulb had clicked on and her lips parted in a sunburst of a smile.

“Matt!” She yelled, and threw her arms around me like an old friend. My own arms hung limply at my sides for a moment, then slowly I wrapped them around her waist. I couldn’t stop myself, even in all the confusion. Her friend, a pale girl with long brown hair, looked bored as she pulled out another cigarette.

“How have you been?” she said, stomping out her own cigarette with one leather boot.

“Um,” I opened and closed my mouth awkwardly, ransacking my brain for words, for anything. “I was surprised I never heard from you.” I couldn’t help but get to the point.

“Sorry,” she said, tucking a piece of hair behind her ear. “I’ve just been busy, I guess.”

She didn’t look busy now, standing on the corner, beer on her breath. Still, that warm, familiar rush began to return until I’d forgotten the strangeness of it all and we were melting into each other on two bar stools in the middle of the day, my milk souring on the floor beneath us.

***

Click here to start from the beginning; follow along for more installments!

Click here for Part 3.

 

 

10 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized, Writing

The Visitor

 

The girl walked into death like walking into a coffee shop; right into that thick inviting aroma that rocks one to sleep whether you choose to drink it in or not. There was only one door, easier than she’d expected, no riddles, no guards. She still had on the same clothes she’d left in. It wasn’t dark, but it wasn’t light either, like sun sneaking in through cuts in cool stone. She spread her arms and closed her eyes and ran fingertips along the walls’ unevenness like Braille, trying hard to decipher a dream. Her life had been a single oval room, no corners to hide from the burning pass of time. She’d prayed for this all along, this lengthening hallway of the afterlife, this final sigh of relief.

Minutes passed – Heaven’s hour – and the hallway seemed to sway and stretch, reaching away from her as she navigated its barrenness. The walls weren’t changing; she felt no inviting breeze from a nearby ending. Death did nothing to stop her panic, the quickening of her unbeating heart. She thought she’d be just a cavity now. Nothingness. The undulating residue of stardust. Something inside her was stirring. “Not now,” it whispered from her throat.

She woke in the same old chair at their same old dining room table. The pieces of paper she’d scribbled on and balled up and thrown onto the floor, were now smoothed and neatly stacked in front of her, every single one blank, unused. Her cheeks were dry and when the movement came back to her fingers she found they were no longer wrapped around her husband’s pistol. Just then a breeze walked in from an open window. When she looked up her son sat just across from her, cross-legged and elbows on his tiny knees. Outside a car pulled into the driveway.

11 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized, Writing