“I got it!” Y/N yelled as she ran
down the stairs to the front door with a lipstick in her hand.
She swung the door open with a huge smile on
her face the second her eyes landed on her blue-eyed boyfriend, Isaac Lahey;
dressed in black slacks, a white dress shirt under his black coat, which only brought
out his blue eyes even more, and a tie. His brown curls were styled back with
some gel. As good as he looked, Isaac was totally out of his comfort zone.
“Babe, I look like I just stepped out of
the - the last period of a Catholic prep school.” He groaned as he
struggled to fix his tie. “I’m sweating all the way through my jacket. I didn’t
even know that I could sweat this much.”
Usually, we dance to forget, but tonight feels different. Tonight, we
move our bodies through the full moon’s light to remember. Maybe it’s because
our father finally drew blood, the evidence a crimson smear across Naomi’s
cheek. Maybe it’s because when Mama turned her face away while he raged, I saw
the ghost of the girl she used to be and more and more lately, my body has
started to feel transparent. Too light, too easily tossed aside.
The same desperate fire lifts Elisa’s arms over her head, her face
still tear-damp and her feet bare. Naomi’s fingers fly over the church’s old
piano, delicate and elegant but fierce, like she’s pulling her own marrow from
the keys and placing it back in her bones.
Naomi’s the youngest, but of the three of us, she’s the one who
stands the tallest, her shoulders always rolled back and ready for a fight. Elisa,
the eldest, is quiet and thoughtful, her mind always full of strategy, a way
out that never comes.
I’m the girl in the middle, the one who spends months squirreling
away granola bars and little cups of applesauce and bottles of water under our
bed for when our father locks us inside, spewing hate and corrections on the
other side of the door.
Good girls don’t talk back to their fathers, Naomi, you little slut.
Good girls don’t smile at boys, Astrid, you little slut.
Good girls don’t cry when they’re being reprimanded, Elisa, you
Good girls don’t. Good girls don’t. Good girls don’t.
Those words are a constant presence in our house, a member of the
family that slips into each of our beds in turn, trying to fuse with our skin.
They even creep between Mama’s sheets, clinging to her nightdress and wrapping
around her shoulders. She never does anything to slough them off. They drag her
farther and farther down, a chain on her ankles and wrists until she barely has
any words of her own anymore.
The first night she turned away while our father pointed his thick
finger in my face and ripped the hem of the dress I’d spent months babysitting
the Briley twins to afford, telling me Good girls don’t wear dresses that
short, you little slut,that was the night I knew.
She’d given up.
But I hadn’t.
Later that night, I gripped my sisters’ hands as we climbed out the
window of our tiny locked bedroom, our feet bare in the moon-silvered grass,
our breaths terrified but alive in our throats.
“Where are we going?” Naomi asked.
“Another world,” I said.
This was a silly thing to say, but it made sense to us. Naomi ran
faster and Elisa squeezed my fingers, the possibly of something else a
solid heartbeat in our chests. We ran through the woods, the river was a
rolling force next to us that seemed to spur us on.
Go. Flee. Run. Fly.
We ran and ran and I didn’t know where we were going until I saw it.
The abandoned church was about a mile from our house, tucked in
between the pines and beeches like a forgotten secret. It was once a vibrant
Baptist water cooler, its Sundays and Wednesdays filled with organ music and
clapping and the quiet hush of prayer. At least that’s what Mama says. The pews
in that church haven’t been filled in years, abandoned for flashier services,
lights and drums and stages.
I pulled my sisters up the rickety front steps and by some midnight
miracle, the padlock was rusty enough that it broke right off in my hands.
Inside, the once-red-now-pink carpet was covered with twigs and dead leaves and
But we didn’t mind. The room was alight. The full moon streamed in
through the stained glass windows, spilling red and blue and green and gold
over the pulpit and pews and floor. Naomi headed straight for the piano,
flipping its creaky lid and laying her long, skilled fingers on the yellowing
As she started to play, Elisa and I crept up to the front of the
sanctuary, where the pews ended and there was a wide open space in front of the
Then we danced.
It started small, just a gentle sway of our hips to the beat of
Naomi’s song. Naomi had a way of playing the piano that made you move. It was
impossible to stay still when her music filled the air, because it filled you
too. Your heart and blood and bones. Elisa grinned at me and soon I was
grinning back. The smile felt so foreign on my lips, but I liked it. I lifted
my arms in the air and soon it was more than a gentle protest.
It was an anthem. Naomi pounded out the song of our rebellion, our
bodies acted it out, cemented it, made it real. I felt my nightdress slide over
my thighs, my arms, my breasts. My bare feet pressed into the carpet, reminding
the earth I was here. I was alive. I was a girl and I was real.
We danced until the sky pinked up and grew hazy. I held my sister’s
hand and we laughed and felt and moved. Naomi moved in her own way, her eyes
shining, her fingers quick and determined. We made our own world, dancing
underneath the colors of the moon.
Since then, we’ve sought out that little sanctuary more times than I
can count. Our father locks us inside our room and then forgets us, forgets we
are girls with hearts and minds and wills. We climb outside and into our secret
haven and we forget all that ugliness. We remember we are beautiful.
But tonight is different. Tonight, Naomi’s fingers fall heavy on the
keys. Tonight, Elisa doesn’t smile while she dances. She cries. She rages. She
throws her body about the room, every action a demand for more, for freedom,
for respite. Tonight, I my legs move underneath me, but my mind is with Mama,
with the note I left in her vanity, the one our father never ever touches
because it’s full of those womanly graces he despises so much.
Him or us.
That’s what I wrote to her. And I meant it. I glance over at Naomi’s
face, so wise for her thirteen years. I look at Elisa with her effortless
beauty, the smiles she can’t help pull out of everyone who meets her. I think
about Helena, the girl who lives down the road and who doesn’t think I notice
how she watches my sister, the longing in her eyes so clear, it makes my heart
Elisa doesn’t think I notice how she watches Helena back, a shy smile
curving her pretty mouth.
I look down at my own arms, my own feet, my skin and my desires
trapped beneath an ugly man’s hate, a sad man’s inability to understand.
Well, I’m done with imprisonment. I’m done with weakness. I’m done
with blood trickling out of my little sister’s nose. I’m done with that quick
flash of shame I feel whenever I hide wrapped in the quilt on my bed and slip
my hands under the sheets to figure out my own needs and meet them.
They are mine. I am mine. Elisa is hers and Naomi is her own and
tonight feels different.
Tonight is different.
We dance. We dance and Naomi plays and the room grows hotter and
hotter. The colors steaming in through the windows seem to move with us, undulating
in my vision. They twist and curl as our bodies twist and curl and I know
they’re on our side. They’re with us, the colors. They’ve watched us all this
time and now they know it’s time.
They know it’s time to break free, to be reborn.
The sound starts low, a tickle in my ear. I keep dancing, my heart
thrumming in my chest so loudly that at first, I think that’s it. My blood is
coursing through me so fast, so violently, it’s audible, a tangible force in
this tiny room.
But then it gets louder and a little pucker forms between Elisa’s
eyes. Naomi turns her head toward us, a question on her brow. Still, we keep
dancing. It’s almost otherworldly, this understanding between us, how we just
know that we need to keep moving, keep shouting to the universe.
The sound grows, a crackling, like ice thawing on the pond in March.
My fingers splay above my head, a dark silhouette against the colored glass and
looking up, just to see my hands in motion and life, that’s when I see it.
A crack splintering across the center stained glass window. The
fissure grows and widens, zig-zagging across the glass like a living thing.
Soon, there are more of them, more jagged lines over the glass, kaleidoscoping
the color through the room.
I grab Elisa’s hand and we run over to the piano so that we’re next
to the piano. I press my fingers into Naomi’s shoulder, but she doesn’t stop
playing. Her music goes on and on and I can’t stand still. Even though a fear
bites at my heart, I have to move.
I catch Elisa’s eye and she smiles. The breaking has softened now,
like it’s in tune with our bodies. I arch my arms in the air and lift up on my
toes. Immediately, the noises increase, the glass splits and groans and the
more we move, the more it breaks, our little world coming apart all around us.
Pieces of glass fall from the windows, sloughing off all the old,
letting in the cool night air and the pure, unadulterated moon. It envelops us,
the colors bursting into silver over our skin.
We laugh, the windows shattering around us, our feet brushing with
the glass but untouched. It’s wild and impossible, beauty unleashed.
It is us.
We dance until the air shifts, the breeze through the empty windows
stilling, the quiet clear and stark even against Naomi’s music.
All at once, we stop. All at once, my hand finds Elisa’s and Naomi’s
hand finds mine. All at once, we see her.
She stands in the doorway, jeans on under her own nightdress, her
hair braided messily and her wool peacoat buttoned up to her chin. A duffel bag
hangs from her already stooped shoulders, the straps of two more gripped in her
She’s breathing heavy, like she’s been running.
Or maybe, like she’s been dancing.
My sisters and I stare at her. Behind her, I see our father’s old
pickup truck. Well, actually, it’s Mama’s old pickup truck, passed down to her
from her older brother, Vance, when he moved to the city. Its engine is running
and I peel my eyes for my father’s head, for his piercing, impatient eyes
locked on me, yelling at me silently to hurry up, you little slut.
But he’s not there. The truck is empty, the driver’s side door
yawning wide open, waiting for us.
“It’s time to go,” Mama says.
I suck in a breath, my fingers tightening on my sisters’. I look
around at the bare windows, the colors strewn around our feet, the echo of
Naomi’s song still whispering through the sanctuary. The whole room breathes,
urging us on.
These windows can’t shield us anymore. They’ve broken and now they’re
something new. A window that reveals what’s outside rather than shelters.
My mother meets my wary gaze. She doesn’t turn away. Her eyes are
soft on me, but a hardness runs just underneath. A readiness, a determination
to be remade.
As one, my sisters and I move toward her. We fall into arms, we fall
into her tears, we fall into a new life, right there in that moment.
one, we leave the broken little church behind and everything we’ll never
Ashley Herring Blake is a reader,
writer, and mom to two boisterous boys. She holds a Master’s degree in teaching
and loves coffee, arranging her books by color, and watching Buffy over and
over again on Netflix with her friends. Her young adult contemporary debut, Suffer
Love, is out now from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Her second book, How
to Make a Wish, will release in 2017.
Summary: A hand tangles in your hair and pries you away. Droplets of blood slide down your chin and your tongue darts out to catch every little bit of this doomed salvation. “Don’t make a mess, darling,“ she warns you, before she lets you feed again, fingers scraping over your skull.
- Scenes from different periods of Carmilla’s undeath, her relationship with Mattie, Saigon and of course Hollstein up to current episodes + idea of what could happen in the future.
I was tagged by @titaniasfics and @dandelion-sunset, which pretty much made me cry because I almost never get tagged in these author things. (And then my computer crashed while I was looking for the very last sentence and I had to redo the entire post, so now I’m really crying! :/)
Rules: list the first lines of your last 20 stories. See if there are any patterns. Then tag your favorite authors.
My third-person fics almost always have a longer opening sentence and a slightly elevated style throughout (this is deliberate, as these tend to be retellings of myths/fairy tales/Tolkien and call for such language, and not terribly surprising).
I was worried more of these would be really short and sort of baiting, since that’s the sort of thing that was encouraged in my formative years as a budding writer (i.e., writing an opening sentence that really “grabs” the reader), but I think only a few of my earlier ones really fit that description, and chicken (and Katniss’s relationship thereto) was usually involved. ;)
My opening sentences are universally sort of quiet, as though telling the prospective reader: “You can step inside if you wish; it’s lovely here, but if you’d rather not, that’s okay too.” They don’t startle or grab, and even my more “provocative” openers (ex. Child of Earth, Child of Light)
are still so gentle.
I never open with dialogue, which I hadn’t really noticed/realized before but makes perfect sense in light of the aforementioned.
(In no particular order)
1. When the Moon Fell in Love with the Sun
The snow has been falling, thick and heavy, since before the Harvest Festival.
2. Something Good
For the third time in my life – at least, the third that I remember – I linger on the roof of the Tribute Training Center.
3. The Threshing Floor
In the sunbaked sea of whitened wheat and working men and women, dressed neck to ankles in their lightest, palest cottons, one figure stands out. The girl in the red dress.
4. The Steward and The Bow-Maiden
Day had broken in the White City, a thin and hopeful dawn, and Lord Peeta walked alone through the gardens of the Houses of Healing.
5. The Journey Home
Katniss never meant to drop the chicken.
6. Head Over Feet
I’ve had my eyes on the rotisserie chickens all night.
7. Child of Earth, Child of Light
It began, simply enough, in a cave, with the coupling of a Titan maid and the earth itself.
8. The Huntress and the Honey-God
Raisa was a harvest goddess, one of several deities who carried the power of the season.
9. Sea Child
The mermaid is lovely, even among her kind, with skin as white as surf-bleached bone and a cloud of dark red hair, like the billows of wave-borne blood at a shark attack.
10. Miles Cross
If you truly mean to save him from the darkness, their bleary-eyed mentor had said, sounding like nothing so much as a granny-woman as he scattered the corn to his geese, you must cling to him.
When Jack Everdeen returned from town with the baker’s wife and youngest son in his wagon, at first Katniss could not comprehend it.
12. Prince Peeta and the Mockingjay-Maid, or The Prince Who Loved Birds
There was once, at the heart of a vast and glorious wildwood, a kingdom. And that kingdom had, as so often kingdoms do, be they in a wildwood, upon a mountain, or hemmed about by the sea, a good and just King with three fine sons, each of them strong, handsome, and golden as the dawn.
13. A Many-Petaled Rose
I crouch beside the patch of wild strawberries and pick a handful of tiny bright fruits, but my sister, who loves them best of all of us, gives my braid a playful tug as she passes me by.
He had stayed too long at the abbey.
15. Bearskin and Gold
I came to the cottage unwitting and seeking no more than shelter.
16. The Baker’s Boy and the Swan-Bride
Many years ago, on the eve before the eve of Christmas, a
baker and his sons were hard at work on their most festive breads and cakes
when the baker’s wife, who was minding the fires that fueled their ovens,
tugged the youngest out of place by his sleeve and pressed an axe into his
I press up onto my tiptoes and stretch my right arm as high as it will go – and still I barely brush it with my fingertips.
18. Six Months to Strawberry-Time
I borrowed a much-patched brown overcoat from Briony, the youngest of our Seam maids, along with a worn gray stocking cap that once belonged to her father.
19. Wedded Bliss
It was a small wedding, just as we’d wanted: full of ribbons and braids and songs, and room to spare at the back of the tiny country church.
20. Six Sisters of Panem (working title for my Marion Chesney drabblet)
The Reverend Haymitch Abernathy had accumulated
a dubious number of nieces over the past three years.
I’m pretty sure everyone who wanted to do this has already been tagged, but just in case, let’s add @ghtlovesthg, @sothereff, @jackpotgirl, @trippy41, and little @daizydoe.❤ (I know you don’t all have 20+ fics posted but you shouldn’t not get to participate just because you’re a slower writer or extra-busy in RL. :D)