Short Story: Power

In their tumultuous third year, 17-year-old Passive Peter handed her a bag. It was brown and square, made of paper, non-descript. “I made this for you.” Adalyn unearthed a corsage. “I want you to wear it to my formal.”  

In their tumultuous third year, 17-year-old Passive Peter handed her a bag. It was brown and square, made of paper, non-descript. “I made this for you.”

Adalyn unearthed a corsage.

“I want you to wear it to my formal.”

 

I'll be the first to admit - I'm not sure anyone reads short stories online anymore. Maybe I'm swimming in the wrong pool *cough*my own pool*cough*.

As I am kind of needy for love and affirmation, and am not an auto-bot (as much as I've tried to re-programme my brain with NLP) - would you care to click the Like-love-heart button if you enjoy the story? This way, I will know whether I should keep creating worlds for my characters!

Alas, I think you'll like Adalyn. She's tough, assertive and a little bit bad-ass, but completely powerless before certain people...

Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi  

Length: 10 minute read. 

Adalyn struggles with aggression. She struggles with it so much she evaporates at the peak of her rage.


When Adalyn felt anger, it rose in her chest, and slithered like a decisive serpent to her throat. It was then that she would heave frustrated sobs like she was throwing up bile, violent. She could never control her emotions.

 

At 13 she coined the term parental envy in her private journals – her made-up constitution for losing out on getting emotionally normal caregivers. As if God’s familial lottery was a prime time TV entertainment segment in Heaven’s lounge room, while He rested with a pina colada and reclined His feet on an ottoman.

 

Yes, she had listened to J.K. Rowling’s Harvard Commencement Speech. Now 21 years of age, Rowling’s words cut her: “there is an expiry date on which you can blame your parents for steering you in the wrong direction,” and it sent Adalyn into paralysis. It was like she had published orange flow charts in her mind that were laminated and blu-tacked and thus, un-editable. Her inability to self-regulate came from watching her Father hit her Mother in the face when she was in primary school. “When you are old enough to take the wheel, the responsibility lies with you,” more wisdom from J.K. Rowling. But how?

 

Adalyn’s Father had passed away when she was 15. Her mother, in deciding to stay with him leading up to his death, evoked film-reels of constant undercuts and insults. She had ubiquitous memories of seeing her mother nursing her black eye when she returned from school at 3pm in the afternoon.

“Ada, men like your Father never say sorry. Why don’t you go change out of your uniform?”

She grew up thinking that watching a husband strip the dignity of his wife through physical beatings, insults and public humiliation was normal. If a quarrelsome wife was the situation of a man, his frustration sufficed for the aforementioned. Adalyn would move into her adolescence ensuring this would never happen to her.

 

So when Adalyn started dating at 14, she did so out of the need to control. Somebody was fated to be under her teen dominion, so she chose a waif-like boy, sweet natured and unskilled in defending himself. His name was Peter, his demeanour passive. Passive Peter frequented “sorry”, regardless of whether or not it was warranted. He took one look at her and began worshipping the asphalt she walked on.

 

“Stay with me on the phone until I fall asleep.”

Peter was using the landline to call her mobile. The calls were 70c a minute, but he was so enamoured by her that consequence did not register.

“Ok,” he complied.

They did things and talked about things neither would repeat later down the track. Long after Peter’s father grounded him for the $2,149 phone bill.

 

 

In their tumultuous third year, 17-year-old Passive Peter handed her a bag. It was brown and square, made of paper, non-descript. “I made this for you.”

Adalyn unearthed a corsage.

“I want you to wear it to my formal.”

 

And then it happened.

 

The night of Peter’s senior formal: their on-again, off-again relationship was at Adalyn’s whim. Peter frothed at the thought of kissing Adalyn’s bare chest, and she promised this would happen only if she considered it a successful evening.

 

They found themselves in the outside courtyard of the function room, water reflecting fairy-light dots.

Peter sucked semi-loudly on her bottom lip. His skinny hand sidled around the lower back of her dress. Adalyn trusted Peter, but she did not want to go through with this.

“I change my mind.”

“What?”

“I’m sorry. I don’t want to do this anymore. I thought I did.”

Peter read on a site on the Internet that touching a girl on the side of the neck was an ‘erogenous zone’. He followed this advice. Adalyn repelled him.

“Peter, stop.”

Peter read on a site on the Internet that touching a girl on the side of the neck was an ‘erogenous zone’. He followed this advice. Adalyn repelled him.

“Peter, stop.”

His finger snaked around her décolletage.

“Peter, I mean it. Stop.” She pushed both his shoulders off her body, the corsage he made for her ricocheting left toward his eyes.

 

She grabbed two fistfuls of gown and freed her legs, running from him. She pelted towards the back of the building, fearful of seeing any of his friends. Four breaths, ragged. Half survival mode and half annoyed. She cared about Peter, and knew Peter loved her, but she also understood that he was a male. His expectation was to make love to her for the first time tonight. He was so excited about it, referencing the formal in their conversations. She allowed it. She wondered if she should feel guilty for building up that expectation.

 

Adalyn licked a bit of blood from her wrist. There were thorns from the rose Peter missed, I pruned them myself, he told her before, proudly. A simple wear of the corsage would not have met with the thorns, but when she attacked boyfriend with it, it pricked her skin. Adalyn loosened the corsage. Shit.

Her entire left wrist was blue. She touched it. More than just a prick. It was completely sensitive, raw, bruised.

 

Stumbling home, she hailed a taxi cab, paid for by her mother. For you and that boy. Adalyn thanked her Mum, pocketing the $50 inside her bra, but she didn’t think she needed it.

“You look too young to be drinking alcohol.” The taxi driver reprimanded her.

“I haven’t had any.”

“Formal dress. Friday night. My two kids are your age. Believe us, we know.”

Adalyn rolled her eyes. But when she got inside her house, and the taxi driver finished his Dad-like lecture-style well-wishes, Adalyn tore inside the bathroom as quietly as possible, conscious of everyone sleeping.

Woah. I do look wasted.

She upheld her left wrist to the lamp light beside the mirror. Rainbow veins. The blue seeped deep inside the sinews of her skin, and the superficial layers provided landscape to multi-coloured inner-vein traffic.

She prodded it. It didn’t feel raw anymore. As if the default status of her strength had been restored. But it was now spreading – all over her arms, the palms of her hands, little ant-lights in technicolour. Sydney traffic from highest view, late at night, lodged deep inside her veins, setting up colonies all over her tired body.

 

Dazed and confused, she resigned to her bedroom that night. Maybe I’m hallucinating, she thought.


 

“Your shirt isn’t ironed.” Her mother fault-founded, pointing at Adalyn’s chest.

“You know when you tell me that, you don’t have to point at my bosom.”

“I’m your Mother. I’ll point at you where I want.”

Adalyn and her serpentine throat-burn again. She felt her wrist was starting to burn up from last night. She awoke from last night’s extraordinary events in a tunnel of remembrance – she had her first day of work, starting that afternoon.

In her mother’s presence Adalyn felt unskilled at verbally justifying any rights that made so much sense in her mind.


When her mother said things like that, the suggestion was a refusal of agency. As if her mother owned her body, her being. It grossed her out. In her mother’s presence Adalyn felt unskilled at verbally justifying any rights that made so much sense in her mind.

 

“So what happened last night? You better have not given your body to Peter. I keep telling you, that boy isn’t good enough for you. Don’t know why you’ve stayed with him these last 3 years. Your Father thought he was weak.”

 

Adalyn and her turpentine, clandestine coping mechanisms.

 

She felt her hands lose mobility; her throat tighten. She despised it when her mother poked accusations at her, and criticised Peter. She felt as if her character was being attacked.

 

Adalyn looked down at her left wrist. It was bright blue.

 

“That’s not nice, Ma.” Her voice wavered.

Adalyn felt her lack in defending herself materialise.

“It’s so hurtful when you say those things. As if you think I’m some loose girl that sleeps around with everybody. Peter and I have been dating for three years, and whether or not we sleep together is up to me!”

 

As her words got louder, Adalyn felt her wrist burn to the nth degree, the emotion blinding. Her vanishing was instantaneous, not even in increments manageable. Her mother choked, clutching her throat, eyebrows raised in shock.

 

“It disgusts me when you mention those things Ma. You can’t control me, and you don’t own me.”

“Adalyn?” her Mother was gasping, now producing more choking sounds, “Adalyn, where did you----“

 

Verbal tumble, words she knew not. Adalyn felt like she had exploded. She heard her words, but not anything else. Adalyn felt her head dizzy, a severe loss of ground, loss of gravity.

 

But like the vaporous night sky she levitated, her aggression dissipating into tiny, infinitesimal pieces. The scent was as potent as a straight martini, sharp shooting both nostrils. Her mother inhaled her fury. Adalyn was absorbed into the air.

Short Story: Fifth Date

"Their sushi and sashimi platter arrived. Both his hands were required for handling chopsticks, dipping raw fish into soy wasabi trays, and sipping a small cup of green tea. Aspects of his seduction were taking a break."  

"Their sushi and sashimi platter arrived. Both his hands were required for handling chopsticks, dipping raw fish into soy wasabi trays, and sipping a small cup of green tea. Aspects of his seduction were taking a break."

 

GENRE: Chick lit, literary fiction

LENGTH: 10 minute read

Grace likes Francois, but she doesn't want to go as far as he would like to take her. 


Thursday evening, 7pm: Grace’s date narrated the ills of working as an Engineer. He was clearly unhappy in his job. They had started their dinner poring over the results of his Boss-mandated personality test, examining in sophisticated terms what his strengths and weaknesses were.

 

A pop psychology nerd and pro-personality profile taker, Grace was absolutely loving this. Her small fingers flipped through the thick ream of paper, analyzing him in tiny little details.

 

“My boss doesn’t know how to manage human persons,” Francois complained in his gorgeous French accent, “so he called in a psychologist to cove-err his ass.”

 

She felt the eyes of a neighboring dinner guest look over. Maybe it was her insecurity about being watched, but Grace snuffed her assumptions with personality insights.

 

“Highly vulnerable to criticism and conflict - questioning their motives is the quickest way to an INFJ’s bad side,” read Grace out loud. She felt Francois brace his fingers around her ankle, comfortable. Their side-by-side sitting positions in this Japanese cushions-on-floor restaurant gave him prime, ample access to her feet and shins. His subtle touching wasn’t uncomfortable for Grace, but it did accelerate her thought process.

 

Noticing their obvious chemistry, the waiter placed two wine goblets on the table,  “Are you two ready to order?”

“Hai,” Grace nodded.

“You are reading out my soul,” Francois flirted with her, ignoring the waiter. His thumb danced across the top of her socked foot. He wished she hadn’t worn pants, but a flowing cotton skirt, maybe with sheer underwear…

Grace put the personality results on the table and acknowledged the waiter. She smiled at him - “Are you Japanese or Korean?”

 

Francois looked up from his touching-reverie, startled.

“I am Japanese,” the Waiter replied, not expecting to be asked a personal question. “And you two?”

She turned to Francois. “Well my parents are mainland Chinese.”

“And I am Japanese,” awoke Francois, impressed at his own sudden joke.

The waiter smiled and poured their wine. Grace continued engaging with the waiter. Part for enjoyment and part surprising herself, her high school Japanese asked him how long he had lived in Sydney, and that in 2007 she visited Tokyo and Hiroshima. The waiter was visibly impressed.

 

In her peripheral vision she could feel the physical, silent presence of Francois. She knew he could not participate in their banter. He began poking her foot, touching her again to remind her whom her attention should be directed towards. “I never ignore wait staff,” Grace turned to him finally, when they had wrapped up their conversation and the waiter reached the other side of the restaurant. “I used to work in hospitality and people were animals towards me.”

“I never ignore wait staff,” Grace turned to him finally, when they had wrapped up their conversation and the waiter reached the other side of the restaurant. “I used to work in hospitality and people were animals towards me.”

 

Francois nodded, deciding whether he should be sympathetic or academic in his response. He was also unbearably attracted to her. His house a literal ten-minute walk away, he was trying to figure out how to end this date with Grace in his bedroom.

 

Despite it being their fifth time seeing each other, Grace enjoyed their ease of conversation, and wanted to test how long they could both hold out before becoming physical. She had let her guard down too quickly with the last guy she dated, and regretted it deeply.

 

“We will take turns when I start speaking in French and you can’t participate,” he purred. She laughed.

“No seriously, when I was 16 I worked at KFC. A guy walked in, looking like that Comic Book Store Owner from The Simpsons. He ordered a 2-piece feed and asked for his potato–and-gravy to be swapped for a chocolate mousse. My boss took over as it was my second day, and said ‘no sorry, you’ll have to pay 2 dollars extra.’ The guy got so mad that he picked up our cash register and threw it over the counter.”

 

Francois gripped her foot tighter. “What happened to him?”

“Well, we called the police but he walked out of the shop and pushed the button to cross the road… he just stood at the traffic light and waited. Totally different energy to suddenly throwing a machine.”

“Ha… some people are fuckers.” Francois swore. But in his accent even expletives sounded beautiful. His hand lounging on her right foot, Grace battled with her thoughts of letting herself follow his advances or giving him the talk. Insofar, he was a gentleman to her. Maybe she would not need to halt him.

 

With the last guy Grace dated, the chemistry had been so unbearable she allowed herself to go into forbidden subject matter. They had kissed passionately and talked, thankfully not going further than that, but their talking filled her mind with thoughts of lust that followed her into her dreams.

 

How does a grown woman wait until marriage for sex? Francois told her that he followed chemistry like a tour guide; sometimes it was first meetings, and other times it was long after a friendship “matured”. For Grace, chemistry was to be interpreted to be as fleeting as her emotions: turbulent and exciting, yet temporary and unreliable. She could not bear to think that she could give her body to someone, only to have him change his mind one day and drop her, taking her dignity and virginity with him.

For Grace, chemistry was to be interpreted to be as fleeting as her emotions: turbulent and exciting, yet temporary and unreliable. She could not bear to think that she could give her body to someone, only to have him change his mind one day and drop her, taking her dignity and virginity with him.

 

“Wait staff in France,” continued Francois, “are usually very unhappy people. It is like they feel stuck in an unhappy career; whereas here in Sydney, you have university students who are still young and nice to you.”

 

Their sushi and sashimi platter arrived. Both his hands were required for handling chopsticks, dipping raw fish into soy wasabi trays, and sipping a small cup of green tea. Aspects of his seduction were taking a break.

“I think if you are unhappy in your day job you shouldn’t be there. Plain and simple.”

Francois released a hand off his rice bowl and rested it around the curve of her ankle. He knew if he just agreed with her (which he did) they would land into friends-discussing-things territory, and they’d spent their last four dates doing that.

“Really?” he challenged, “what about if you have three kids you are trying to send to private school, a pregnant wife and a mortgage?”

“Well, you’re stuffed then. Doomed. Stay in a job you hate. It pays the bills doesn’t it?”

“Don’t put me in a box. That might be me in a few years time…”

“That would be terrible. I don’t wish that over your life, Francois.”

 

He leaned over to kiss her forehead. “Thank you. For letting me buy you dinner at cheap places. I knew you didn’t give me your number just because you saw my Honda CRV.”

Truthfully, she let him call her because he made her laugh and he had a career job. Grace was a dedicated Health Worker, but she wasn’t impractical about men.

“Just keep driving me home, I like it when a man can drive a woman home. Oh,” she pulled out a twenty-dollar note, “here.”

“No,” Francois backhanded her money away. “I invited you to dinner tonight, it’s my shout.”

Grace smiled. Admittedly she was expecting this, because she had read somewhere that proper gentlemen enjoy rejecting a woman’s offer to pay. Still, she was willing to pay her share.

 

He paid the bill to their Japanese waiter and Grace grabbed his satchel.

 

“The night is still young, Belle.” He took his satchel from her. “My house is close. I can show you some of my drawings.”

She slid into him. She felt so comfortable with his arm around her shoulder. It was as if he could glide his fingers across her lower back and she wouldn’t notice the transition.

“I’d love that, but…” she was about to launch into autopilot with her speech.

“I get it, you are a Church girl. You don’t go home with strange boys to see their drawings. You are 28 years old and still a virgin because you are waiting until you are married for sex.”

Wow, thought Grace.

 

Unsure of how great her poker face was, Grace was definitely shell shocked. Could he see this? “You knew? This whole time?”

Francois released his hand from around her waist.

“It’s complicated. I’m not going to pretend that I will accept this. But girls like you don’t come by very often, so I’m just going to keep trying to seduce you until you succumb to me… and that’s it.”