short story writers

Putting Lipstick On A Pig

Except for the whole murder thing, Courtney James seemed like a lovely young woman. She was bright, articulate, a dedicated college student and well liked waitress at a popular restaurant.

I met her when she was sitting in an interrogation room at the precinct. She was a bit on the larger side, dressed conservatively in pastel colors and minimal makeup, and when I came in, she introduced herself with a polite smile, as if we were meeting for a job interview as opposed to a police investigation. She had declined to have an attorney present, so I got right to business.

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Starving to live

Freedom is so near
I can virtually taste it.
Now, without necessity,
it’s practically wasted.

I paradoxically face it.

Maybe I have to break the mirror,
reflection looking back at me,
blackening.
It’s not getting any clearer.

Identified my nemesis once,
I’ll have to find it again.
As I warp back to square one,
where should I begin?
I’ve gotten so used to the floating,
but now it’s sink or swim.
Is this the end of the beginning?
The beginning of the end?

This was starting to make sense.

The pieces were coming together.
It was part of a bigger picture.
Perhaps I’m not so clever.

From here on, my endeavor,
whatever stands in my way,
I’ll pretend to be weak,
watch the words that I say.

Once they identified my inclination,
they went straight for my inspiration.
I’m hungry.
My stomach’s growling.
Their fear smells like food for contemplation.

“I read all your poems. Your soul is sad.”

I can’t help but laugh.

“My soul isn’t sad anymore. Writing it down and sharing my words, my story with you, with everyone has given me complete freedom.”

I pause. I’m contemplating how to say this without scaring her. “I’ve felt my world collapse many times and writing brings me back to life.”

She looks relieved. Then a thought appears on her face. She’s worried again.

“There are writers who write their entire lives and still feel rotten inside.”

“Not me.” I promise her.
“Not me, writing is getting rid of the poison, I’m cleansing, coming home. Reviving myself the only way I know how.”

Hayley Knits

A short story by Holly Way

On a regular afternoon I would not have noticed her. Then again, perhaps I would not even have been there to see, for I distinctly remember being moved by the irregular serenity of the square, as seen from the single mouldy window in my damp, cramped apartment.

You see, the clouds – heaving, pregnant with rain as they were that afternoon – had always been my ally, simultaneously pulling me outwards and sending the masses back inside, turning beaches, parks and La Grand Place into my own private slice of reality.

Emboldened by the dreary scene outside, I hoisted my easel underarm and raced out onto the square. In all my months in Brussels, I had not yet found an opportunity to paint the magnificent Maison des Brasseurs, finding the crowds always much too dizzying. I was used to the calm bustle of my single bed, where internal solitude collided with the external noise of the city, leaving me safe in the false impression of company. But face to face with the human maze I would panic, could not concentrate, could certainly not paint.

And so I had waited for the threat of rain.

Outside the Maison du Rois I set up my canvas, my stool, my umbrella – which hung not over me but my easel – and began to paint.

Of course, a city never truly takes a rain-check. It is only the eternal deafening buzz that allows the illusion of delicate silence in its mere lessening. A few persistent tourists continued to mill about the place, so I was not affronted to spot the young woman on the steps of the Maison des Brasseurs. It was only when I realised that she was knitting that I became curious.

The woman began as no more than a speck of a figure on my canvas; a flea at the foot of a great, golden-glinted structure. But soon she grew, the yarn pooling at her feet, drowning the entire bottom half of my canvas in ribbed tones of sunset. My eyes flicked less and less, disregarding actuality, creating her for myself. My brush flew without bidding, trailing the golden yarn into the golden accents of the Maison.

As my brush wandered, so too did my thoughts, asking questions of her origins and answering them for myself:

“What kind of woman sits knitting before the flood?” I asked.

“A strange one, of course,” I answered, but I had always been prone to bouts of unwarranted romanticism, assigning tragedies overcome to whomever crossed my path. I’m sure I must have been right, at times, over the years. But today I was wrong.

For in her approach she proved to me that she was exceedingly normal, snapping me out of my reverie with an honest smile and a bright “hello.”

At first I thought stupidly that she might be angry, that she was going to ask me to stop painting her or maybe even vandalise my work. I had a vision of her snapping my canvas across her knobby knee and throwing the remains in my direction – but no, she was only being friendly.

A foreign concept.

“Sorry if I’m interrupting,” she said, her accent an Irish one, not sing-song soft but rough, yet silky in a way of its own. “I’ve been curious about what you’re painting since you started. Do you mind if I look?”

“Of course not,” I said, smiling, thinking of course I do. I had moved halfway across the world to paint in private. But I couldn’t hide forever. I held my tongue, and held my breath.

The woman came to stand next to me as I lowered the umbrella. The skies hadn’t opened yet, it was safe to take it down for a second. “Oh my god,” she gasped. “This is beautiful.” A pause. “Is that me?” she demanded, turning to face me, the tight curls of her hair bobbing to a standstill, her eyes almost teary.

“Sorry,” I said. “I got carried away.” My heart hammered against my ribcage

“What? What are you apologising for?” A laugh escaped from her throat, she placed a gloved hand on my shoulder. The gloves were knitted, I noticed. Pretty. “I didn’t mean to scare you! I’m not mad, I’m… astounded.”

“Thanks,” I managed. I caught her eye, and then I laughed too. I was always too anxious; I wasn’t the first person to paint a stranger in a town square. “Thanks a lot.”

She smiled again and then turned back to the canvas, shaking her head as she took it in. A long silence, and then, “Is it for sale?”

“Hmm?”

“Can I buy it? When it’s done, I mean. No one’s ever painted me before!”

Delight erupted from my heart. Every atom of my being demanded that I give it to her for free. But I wanted to be a professional artist one day; I would never get there if I didn’t take myself seriously.

“Sure,” I said, beaming. “It won’t be done for a few days though.”

“That’s okay. Here,” she said, digging through her oversized handbag and fishing out a pen. She took my arm in her rainbow fingers and wrote her number and her name: Hayley.

“I’m Hannah, by the way,” I told her. “So why are you out in this menacing weather?” I was shocked by my own question. It was in no way invasive, but it was a segue into continued conversation, and not a move I tended to make.

“I was supposed to meet some friends for coffee – well, technically tea, but no one says ‘meeting up for tea’, do they? Anyway, I think they bailed on me but I left my phone at home.”

“Well, you could come have a cup of tea at my place if you wanna wait out the rain,” I said, and it was all I could do not to clap my own hand over my mouth in disbelief of what was coming out of it.

“I’d love to,” said Hayley. She helped me carry my things back home. I made us milky teas with sugar and soy milk and we sipped and talked and watched the rain fall on the square from that damp little apartment. She continued to praise the painting she was poised to buy, but she was also the first to see the rest of them. They were scattered across the apartment, taking up any space that could have been considered free. They watched us as we watched each other become real, no longer strangers sunk into the cobblestone. She had a family back in Ireland, and a roaring social life. She was studying to be an interpreter for the hearing impaired. I could see how that would suit her, for she was calm and kind and inherently understanding. So many things I was not.

When the rain finally ceased the sky was black and my cheeks were sore with laughter. I walked her halfway home and bid her goodbye.

Strolling through the soaked square, lit with lamps instead of stars, I gazed upon the spot in which she had first approached me, yarn in hand. Already it felt like some strange dream, but the proof was in the marker on my forearm: Hayley.

Strange, it felt. I had never had a friend before.

***

For Senova to cross paths with the same young woman was even more unlikely than it had been for me. Senova was more like me than she was like Hayley; quiet, nervous, bursting with creativity. But while I had always had my paint, Senova had never had an outlet for the worlds behind her eyes.

Senova grew up in a near-broke orphanage where everything was shared and no one was safe. She worked as a waitress in Copenhagen for her first two years of freedom, but through a series of devastating mistakes, she found herself starving on the unforgiving streets of Cologne, not a lick of German in her vocabulary.

She did not have euros. She did not have shoes. But Senova did have one thing: her camera. Or – to take the poetry out of it – she had her brain.

Senova had a very peculiar gift. She could take photographs simply by blinking in some particular fashion. She could snap a picture, edit it, frame it and keep it forever, never to slip down into the couch-cushion cracks in her memory. The catch was, of course, only she could see them.

In fact, Senova had never even thought to take a physical photograph until that fateful day in the courtyard of the Museum Ludwig. She sat there all day, waiting for somebody to claim that Canon 750d, wrapped up like a present in its pristine carry case.

When the museum closed and the camera was still there, tucked away behind a skinny tree, she went to retrieve it, telling herself she would return it to its owner if at all possible.

It was a lie, but we don’t stand a chance against the ones we tell ourselves.

With nowhere to charge and only one spare battery, Senova didn’t have much time. It was the first opportunity she’d ever had to take pictures that others could lay eyes on. She had never considered it before, but now she thought that maybe it would be nice, if she could bring her pictures to life, if she could sew them into the fabric of reality.

She rose next day with the dawn, stumbling half-blind out of the alley where she had been sleeping, and began to shoot. Dreamy half-light spilled through the cracks in the cityscape and onto the streets of Cologne. As the city woke, Senova kept snapping, for once not noticing the hubbub around her, absorbed in her vision, desperate to beat the battery to the perfect photograph.

“Oh, pardon me,” said a man in an expensive suit. Senova watched him through the lens as he smiled shyly, seemed to think for a second and then turned to approach her. “You a photographer?” he asked. She lowered the camera and looked at the man with her own eyes. Without the filter of the glass it was much more obvious how hard he was trying to ignore the smell. It wasn’t easy at this distance, Senova knew, even though she herself could not escape it and was therefore used to it.

“I suppose,” replied Senova.

“I know a bit about photography. Can I see?” The man had an English accent and a perfect smile. Senova had heard American tourists laughing about British teeth, but this man seemed determined to singlehandedly disprove the stereotype.

She almost said, I don’t think so, but then she remembered that this was the whole point: she wanted to share. “Okay,” she said.

After a few stifling minutes of silent scrolling, the man said, “I lied, actually. Turns out I don’t know a ‘bit’ about photography. Really I’m director of photography at Vogue Germany. How would you like your own exhibition?”

And it was at this exhibition that Senova stepped out for some fresh air and a break from the flattery, and spotted a woman, sitting at a bus stop, knitting herself a scarf beneath the timid snowfall.

“Do you like photography?” called Senova. It was the first conversation she had ever started.

This encounter took place approximately one day before I painted Hayley in La Grand Place, and how or why she came to be in Brussels so quickly is something I don’t care to question. Because I have long since understood:

Hayley knits.

Hayley thinks that Hayley knits socks, and scarves, and snuggly warm hats, but Hayley is wrong.

Hayley knits the ties that bind us.

Hayley knitted a bond that spanned countries and oceans and deserts, that followed me back home to Australia, and she back to Ireland, and Senova to America.

Hayley knitted the three of us together in a way that allowed us to be apart, that allowed us to be as one.

And in the same way that I paint or Senova clicks a shutter or a goddess hangs the stars, Hayley knits.

I said as much to her on my seventieth birthday, when I was feeling particularly nostalgic, preying fanciful upon my memories of Brussels in the spring, how beautiful it was to be young and among the glow of friendship.

To my blunt words of thanks my friend did not reply, for truly she was stunned. And I was too, but for reasons quite different than hers, I’m sure.

We sat a great many minutes in silence. What was going through her mind I cannot say. As for myself, I could not help but shake my head and marvel at the blindness of human beings.

Indeed we must be blind, not to see the magic that simmers inside our bodies, that spills out of us in waves.

I saw you
smiling at her
as if she gave you
a world you’ve
been hoping to have,
and for the first time
I know how it feels
to drown even if
I’m out of the ocean.
—  ma.c.a // I Find It Hard To Breathe
“What is it with you and your fascination with the stars?” he asked, slightly mocking the way she kept gazing up at the clear night sky.
“I don’t know,” she sighed, even though she did, “I guess I just think they’re beautiful.” What she did not say was that the word beautiful didn’t even begin to cover it and that the sight of the stars made her breathless and sent her head spinning. With a slight smile she thought of the boy who had once told her that not even the brightest star in the sky didn’t shine as bright as her eyes did. It had been tacky, it hadn’t even been a genuine compliment, but it had been enough to make her blush. He’d laughed and she’d punched his arm because it was his way to take weight off the moment, to defuse the tension that was between them whenever they’d looked at each other. But this time was over, the heat in her cheeks long gone and replaced with the cold winter air.
“You know how you look at them?”
She tore her eyes away and focused on the boy who now stood in front of her. It was his time now, she reminded herself sternly, not the time to be nostalgic and drown in memories. It was not fair. He slipped his hand in hers. It was warm and welcoming.
“How do I look at them?”
“Like they’re whispering secrets to you. Like they’d vanish if you stopped staring. Like somebody you loved put them in the sky just for you.” She squeezed his hand firmly and closed her eyes to stop the tears from escaping. And she felt so very at home: standing beneath the stars with someone who meant the world to her. And one day she would share the story of the boy who was watching her from above, long gone but not really - the boy who had compared a girl to the stars once, who had put them in the sky for her. The boy who was now one of them, the ghost of his smile still visible in the crescent of the moon.
—  Love made of stardust
n.j.
Drabble Challenge: 1-150

Rules: Followers send a number to your ask and you write a drabble using that sentence/prompt in your piece. Try to keep up! Expect a TON of requests!


  1. “The skirt is supposed to be this short.”
  2. “How long have you been standing there?”
  3. “I may be an idiot, but I’m not stupid.”
  4. “Who gave you that black eye?”
  5. “You haven’t even touched your food. What’s going on?”
  6. “I just like proving you wrong.”
  7. “Everyone keeps telling me you’re the bad guy.”
  8. “Forget it. You fucking suck.”
  9. “Quit it or I’ll bite.”
  10. “If you use up all the hot water again, I swear to god! You’re on the couch for a month!!”
  11. “If I die, I’m going to haunt your ass.”
  12. “I’m pregnant.”
  13. “Looks like we’re gonna be stuck here for a while.”
  14. “Take. It. Off.”
  15. “Well, you’re coming home with me whether you like it or not.”
  16. “I’ll kick his ass if you want me to.”
  17. “Stop it! It tickles!”
  18. “It’s okay to cry…”
  19. “And that’s how you ruin a life. Congratulations.”
  20. “D..did you just make that noise?”
  21. “He’s a bad kisser.”
  22. “You can scream if you want.”
  23. “I didn’t know we were keeping track.”
  24. “We’re playing checkers. If you don’t like it, leave.”
  25. “One of them’s missing.”
  26. “Save some for me.”
  27. “Oh, fuck off.”
  28. “You’re still mad?”
  29. “Come over here and make me.”
  30. “You better watch yourself.”
  31. “Eat your lunch and you wouldn’t be hungry.”
  32. “Why did we have to have kids?”
  33. “Call on Line 1”
  34. “He creeped me out. I’m not gonna lie.”
  35. “I’m done! You can fix it!”
  36. “Can we just watch a movie and fall asleep on the couch?”
  37. “Where did he go?”
  38. “You leave whenever you feel like it.”
  39. “I forgot I was a single parent.”
  40. “Don’t apologize if you don’t mean it.”
  41. “You’re going out dressed like that?”
  42. “For the hundredth time, I’m not your babysitter.”  
  43. “Frost the damn cupcakes.”
  44. “Well that’s the second biggest news I’ve heard all day.”
  45. “You look pretty hot in plaid.”  
  46. “I thought you were dead!”
  47. “I thought it was a one-night-stand…and now we’re married…”
  48. “We’ve become the clingy couple that you used to complain about.”
  49. “Quit touching me. Your feet are cold.”
  50. “You know you want it, sweetheart.”
  51. “I’m your husband. It’s my job.”  
  52. “You just wanted them because the light up.”
  53. “That wasn’t very subtle.”
  54. “He thinks he’s a mind reader.”  
  55. “It’s just you and me tonight. I was thinking we could have a little fun.”
  56. “I don’t do hugs.”
  57. “Don’t talk anymore.”
  58. “I’m just a guy with a wife, two kids, and a Harley.”
  59. “How do I even put up with you?”
  60. “I said get rid of it.”
  61. “They didn’t just find out. They already knew!”
  62. “You’re not as quiet as you think you are.”
  63. “Can you just man up and change his diaper?”
  64. “Just don’t buy a goat. I don’t care what you do, just no goats.”
  65. “I have a secret.”
  66. “I won’t let you get hurt.”
  67. “You’re strong, baby. You have to be.”
  68. “He’s four years old!!”
  69. “I’ve had enough! I want to be alone!”
  70. “I can’t stand seeing you like this.”
  71. “Me and the boys will handle it.”
  72. “You’re competitive and so am I, and it’s going to lead to a fight.”
  73. “Is there a reason you’re naked in my bed?”
  74. “You’re a dork, just like your father.”
  75. “Mind if I join you?”
  76. “Daddy!”
  77. “I lost our child.”
  78. “That’s my shirt. So is that..wait?”
  79. “My name isn’t Leslie…who’s Leslie?”
  80. “There’s a surprise upstairs for you.”
  81. “I’ll take care of it.”
  82. “I’m not your boss? Well then who is?”
  83. “You can’t eat solids, only liquids until Thursday.”
  84. “Come on, baby, up to bed.”
  85. “They got you a present. Isn’t it sweet?”
  86. “Am I scaring you?”
  87. “Run! You said you’d work out with me!”
  88. “After everything…I’d still choose you.”
  89. “And when did you plan on telling me about this?”
  90. “Trust me.”
  91. “Scoot over a little bit, please.”
  92. “You’re so clingy, I love it.”
  93. “You didn’t just wake me up at 2am because you were ‘in the mood’.”
  94. “Did they hurt you?”
  95. “You’re cute when you’re all worried.”
  96. “Stop being grumpy. It’s lame.”
  97. “I don’t need a hero, I need a husband.”
  98. “Don’t shut me out.”
  99. “You got a cute butt.”
  100. “I just got out of the shower, I can’t dance. What if my towel falls off?”
  101. “Don’t be an asshole. Asshole.”
  102. “Do you really think I could ever replace you?”
  103. “Sharing is caring. Now give me your fries.”
  104. “…or we can chill in our underwear.”
  105. “You can’t make up for it by giving me a tic-tac.”
  106. “Keep pedaling and don’t stop, okay?”
  107. “You, me, popcorn, two liter Dr. Pepper, and a movie. You in?”
  108. “Have you seen my contacts?”
  109. “Life is a highway, and I’m always drunk. So I’m not driving.”
  110. “Quit stalling. Where’s your father?”
  111. “You can’t just hug me and think everything’s okay.”
  112. “Is he coming home?”
  113. “I prefer blondes.”
  114. “No more dogs. How hard it it to understand?”
  115. “I let you win.”
  116. “I broke your nose, and I’m sorry for that. But what you’re doing isn’t fair.”
  117. “Can I do your hair?”
  118. “Your favorite superhero can’t be a villain.”
  119. “I told you not to jump on the bed!”
  120. “He’s pampering me, let him be.”
  121. “Ready or not, here I come.”
  122. “I’m worried about losing my job!”
  123. “Oh, did I scare you, big boy?”
  124. “Happy new year!”
  125. “Quit moving, I’m trying to sleep. Wait…are you…what?!”
  126. “You nap, I’ll stay awake.”
  127. “It’s turbulence. It’s normal.”
  128. “Don’t touch me. We’re fighting.”
  129. “I’ll give you a massage.”
  130. “You fell asleep in the tub?!”
  131. “Are you doodling?”
  132. “We’re not playing strip poker. I don’t care what I said when I was drunk.”
  133. “Slushies aren’t just for kids, fuck society.”
  134. “Are you scared…Then why won’t you look at the screen?”
  135. “Enough with the pillow talk, I’m tired.”
  136. “You had a nightmare, tell me what it was about so I can fix it.”
  137. “We need groceries, not just junk food. You’re worse than the kids.”
  138. “Is this our closet? Or your closet?”
  139. “If I win, you do dishes for a week.”
  140. “Fist bumps are cooler than high-fives…”
  141. “Use your words.”
  142. “Hold my hand so he gets jealous.”
  143. “Ew, your hand is sweaty.”
  144. “Get out of my face before I hit you.”
  145. “I don’t care if your 4 or 40, you don’t hit people.”
  146. “You only care about football, beer, and raking leaves.”
  147. “Look! Fireflies!”
  148. “Why do you only kiss me when I’m sleeping?”
  149. “I just need ten minutes.”
  150. *Make Your Own*

Happy Writing! Visit @prompt-bank for more prompts!

We keep on
exchanging
“I miss you"s,
and it’s funny
and it’s sad
how it seems
that none of us
did anything
just to see
each other again.
—  ma.c.a // Hurtful Lies
He asked me if I’d go back if I could, if I’d do it all again, with his forehead pressed to mine, with his tears sliding down my cheeks. “Yes,” I said and his body shook with every unsteady rise and fall of his chest. Sympathy and pity alike tore at my heart. He still saw the good in me. He always would, no matter how many times my words hit him like a punch to the jaw, like a knife to the throat. No matter how many times I’d change my mind. He’d never understood that I didn’t want to stay. That I wasn’t one to stay.
“The only reason why I’d do it again is because it made me who I am today. The nights I spent lying awake, tossing and turning. The times I debated whether or not to call you. That hollow feeling in my chest when it was over all of a sudden. Leaving you on your doorstep with tears in your eyes hurt me as much as it hurt you.” But I don’t know how to be different, I added in my head, I don’t know how to stop running. I took a step away from him and wiped his tears from my cheeks. Then I did what I did best. I ran.
—  excerpt
n.j.
I’m not them,” you say. “I’m not who hurt you.”
I touch your face tenderly, cupping your cheek.
“Okay. Then who are you?”
“Someone who is deeply, irrevocably in love with you. And you know what? I don’t give a shit. If you hurt me. If I hurt you. And that’s the difference, you know? Between me and them. I love you more than the fear. I’m willing to risk it. I’m willing to fucking pour my heart out to you- right here, right now, when there’s a very real chance you’ll get up and leave and never talk to me again. And maybe I’m stupid for doing this, but I can’t… I cant hold it in anymore. Every time I look at you, you grow more and more beautiful until I can hardly stand it, so fuck it. If you ruin me, if I ruin you, who the fuck cares about the consequences, about the future? Does it really matter if we both feel the same way? Fuck the idea that wreckage can’t be gorgeous. I think the treetops are grateful for the hurricane that rips off their leaves. Goodness, I think they dream about it. I think thy fucking crave it, because for a single, wind struck moment, they get one inch closer to really living. And fuck, I’ll be the leaves this time around. Do you think I care? I’d set myself on fire to see the flames that dance in your eyes. So if you love me, fuck the fear. Fuck the fear. I may not be worth everything, but damn it, I’m worth more than the pain those assholes left you with.
—  ap (12.28.16) im not who hurt you
Loving the wrong person is what I am scared of. I was never scared of loving another human being, I never was.
—  If that doesn’t scare you, I don’t know what will.
People were
falling in love
with each other,
and it can either be
the most wonderful
or saddest thing
that can ever
happened
to them.
—  ma.c.a // Falling

“It’s pointless to count stars.”

“It’s also pointless to count freckles, but I know you have 36 on the edge of your left hand.”

submitted by anonymous someone who could probs woo me in a day