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Dec 11, 2020

Sad Speculative Friendship

A woman dressed in a black rain jacket wanted to scream at the clouds and the torrents of rain sending her curly hair into a wild frizz. But sending a tangled wail of thoughts into the angry sky would attract attention, so for this reason, she preferred to remain silent.ย 

As the downpour continued, the woman pulled a hoodie over her head, trying to keep herself; and the package, safe. Two more blocks until she would reach the metro station and take off to the house before the rain soaked through her clothes completely.

The woman was young but too old to be a young woman. Instead, she was โ€˜in the middleโ€™, as the few people who cared to notice her pointed out. Blending into the lines was easier; it was easier to slip unnoticed under the covers of each house that way, being in the middle.ย 

As the toiling night went on, the woman checked her watch and sighed, cutting behind dark alleyways to cover lost distance. The moon was high in the sky tonight, illuminating a small pond near the cityโ€™s park. A crackling noise vibrated through the swampy air from the bushes, fears gripping the womanโ€™s lungs as she swept around. Slowly, she rustled the bush and pushed back green foliage, still not breathing. No, this woman was not afraid. Fear is quite different than being afraid. Fear coils around your lungs and makes you feel like the air is turning to ice. Being afraid is giving in to that fear.ย 

Once she pushed back the last twigs of the bush, the woman saw a tiny bud wrestling with the grass. It was red-brimmed, like a rose, but the petals unfolded upwards to the moon. The woman did not address the young moonrise, nor did she admire its beauty-but for a second too long she lingered-until she dropped back to join the shadows in haste.ย 

On the metro car, the woman didnโ€™t speak. The people around her gave her space, and that was enough. Even though the curls in her hair were still in a frizz and her clothes were soaked through, the woman allowed the tiny traces of a facial expression to creep onto her lips. She watched the car speed into a tunnel, thinking many thoughts to herself.

Renee and Amaya Hutchinson lived in Apartment 3b in the Central Office Apartment Housing near downtown North Hampton. The package was for them, and the reason the woman whoโ€™d just exited the metro looked like a ghoul was because of them. She stepped off of the little train car elegantly and took out a slip of paper from the folds of her pocket. Thankfully, it hadnโ€™t gotten wet and the woman could read the address easily. Stingy as she was, this time, she hailed a taxi from the curbside and hopped in, informing the man of the address, hoping to arrive at the Central Office Apartment Housing on time.ย 

By the time she had arrived, true night was breaking out over the city, birds flying out of the gutters which they had sheltered in during the rainfall. The woman, now sporting a neon blue t-shirt with a green scarf, rang the doorbell three times.ย 

โ€œAmaya Hutchinson, how may I help you?โ€ A young girl cracked open the door, dark circles under her eyes, wearing a bathrobe and fuzzy bunny slippers. She looked about the age of 9 or 10, and, upon seeing the woman, left her position at the door to scramble up the stairs to tell her sister, Renee. The woman patiently waited, the package at her side.

Renee Hutchinson, a good 4 years older than her younger sister, smiled at the woman curtly and motioned to the package.ย 

โ€œMomโ€™s out, so we can take it ourselves.โ€ The package was exchanged, and the woman turned to leave before Amaya spoke from behind her sister.

โ€œWeโ€™re making her special cookies, but we need your help to turn the oven on.โ€ย 

Renee glared at her sister as Amaya rambled on.ย  โ€œWe would love to have anyone around to help!โ€ย 

The woman, though smothered with surprise nodded and smiled weakly, letting themselves in.ย 

โ€œMomโ€™s always out, and we wanted to try to make grammaโ€™s special! You did bring the photobook, right? Renee said that you had all the records!โ€ย 

At the doorway, the woman struggled to pull off her stocky boots, trying to compose herself before the girls. It was strange to be inside an apartment again.

The photobook was still in great condition despite all that it had been through, and both girls flipped through it excitedly, pointing to pictures of an elderly woman with a cheerful face and only slightly graying hair. Renee let her expression soften a bit around the book, suddenly aware of the womanโ€™s still position.ย 

โ€œMy gran; thatโ€™s who is in the pictures. Thanks for bringing this to me, and-โ€ Amaya cut her off, interrupting.

โ€œStop it, Renee! We need to bake the snowdrop cookies!โ€ The womanโ€™s face paled, remembering the cookies and the recipe. Sheโ€™d never stayed this long before on her deliveries. Sometimes a pot of tea was brewed or a silent thank you was mouthed, but the woman couldnโ€™t linger at the apartment any longer.ย 

โ€œHere-come with me. The stoveโ€™s this way.โ€ Amaya tugged at the womanโ€™s shirtsleeve to a small kitchen with a miniature oven to the side. The woman did not smile. She flicked on the oven and motioned to the various supplies lying on the counter.ย 

โ€œYou probably donโ€™t want some stranger touching this.โ€ย 

Renee shook her head. โ€œNo, we donโ€™t want you touching this. We want you to make it with us. You helped.โ€ย 

The woman tentatively touched the dough and felt it in her calloused palm. โ€œSo, whatโ€™s the recipe?โ€ย 

Renee laid the photobook on the counter.

โ€œHm, let's see. Maybe 3 teaspoons of sugar and cinnamon glaze firstโ€ฆโ€ While they tossed ingredients around, the woman still felt the sound of her voice ringing in her mouth. Her voice sounded different than how sheโ€™d imagined it, in this apartment with two girls she hardly knew.ย 

โ€œYes! After we let them bake, can we put them under our tree for Santa in a week?โ€ The woman wasnโ€™t fond of holidays, but she nodded at Amaya, wondering what day it was, and when the cookies would be finished.ย 

The dough was splattered all over the granite and messy spills littered the floor, dangerously close to a pink phone. Renee seemed to be the only one noticing the mess but didnโ€™t mention it, keeping her eyes on the woman.ย 

โ€œYou hold all the records on everyone in Wythe Hill, right?โ€ The woman nodded, dialing up the oven.

โ€œSo, did you know my grandmother?โ€ Though she knew the record files of Reneeโ€™s grandmother, but not the person herself, the woman was tempted to lie, but she shook her head no. Reneeโ€™s gaze faltered in disappointment and Amaya ran upstairs to find her chefโ€™s hat.ย 

โ€œShe was always around for us.โ€ย 

The emotion wasnโ€™t the womanโ€™s thing. She hardly felt it but understood its presence, the scent of emotion, clear trail, and the deep eyes full of the ever-changing truth.ย 

โ€œNothing is right with the world, now is it.โ€ Renee nodded to the womanโ€™s words, opening the oven lid to slide out the cookies and cover them with tinfoil. The woman, suddenly struck with an idea, quickly pulled on her coat and pointed to the cookies.

โ€œThose will have to wait.โ€

Without objection, Renee called Amaya and they followed the woman outside into the cool grass, running to keep up with the womanโ€™s careful and long strides.ย 

โ€œAre we going to deliver something?โ€ Amaya asked, then switching to a new question. โ€œAnd whatโ€™s your name?โ€ The woman only responded with a rough grunt as they made it back to the pond where she had been a little more than 4 hours ago. The night was fading to dusk quickly, but the moon was just visible below the horizon. The woman neared the bush and pushed back the leaves to see the moon rose, delicately unfurling its petals to the moon. This time, the woman wore a pursed smile.ย 

โ€œLife does make some beautiful things.โ€ย 

Amaya stared at the moon and unknowingly clasped the womanโ€™s hand. Renee tenderly lifted the rose out of the bush, roots and all, and with everyone elseโ€™s help, planted it firmly in the dirt outside of the bush. All three of them stared into the twilight for a long time until the woman spoke.ย 

โ€œAnd my name is Helen.โ€

โ€œThank you, Helen.โ€ Renee whispered, partly to the sky, and partly to the woman whose smile had blossomed over her lips.ย 

โ€œIt was all the moon rose child. All the moon rose. Now let's get going...before the cookies get cold.โ€

20 years later

โ€œRequest from Renee and Amaya Hutchinson!โ€ The voicemail stated. โ€œIf, of course, youโ€™re still around.โ€ Amayaโ€™s childish voice had never quite left. It was another clear nighttime sky, and the stars were laid out like a canvas painting. โ€œAnd bring the book, so we can bake the cookies if you find the recipe!โ€ย 

The woman, Helen, listened to the playback a total of 3 times before scooching her chair back to search the records. She walked with a slight limp and her shoulders sagged, but soon enough, she found what she was looking for.ย 

Slowly, she gathered the book in her hand, slipped on her black coat, and walked into the night sky, planning to take a direct cab drive to their new house. She hoped to take a walk through city park if time allowed it, but she had no doubt that the moon rose would still be there, even though it had been quite a long time. The older she got, the more memories she treasured.ย 

The woman stared up at the sky, then howled loudly, to the moon, to the sky, to the hearts of those she never got to say goodbye. And the little moon rose, that was waiting for her like it did every year when she visited.ย 

The book was still in her hand, title staring up at her longingly.ย 

A book of recipes. Cookies and more.

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23 comments

Maya Emerson
04:01 Dec 12, 2020

Hi Amber, Really great job on this story! I was excited to see you posted a new story and it did not disappoint. The setting of the story and the imagery you used really kept the story intriguing the entire time. Your character's personalities were well established which made the relationships you formed even more life-like. The epilogue really tied things together, by showing how people who met making cookies together stayed friends 20 years later. The way they became friends is so original, which makes it even more interesting. Nice job,...

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Hello Amber! Great story, loved it. Also, congrats on your 30th story! WOW that's alot!

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Frances โ˜พ
14:30 Dec 30, 2020

This is so sweet! The imagery is perfect!

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Rhondalise Mitza
14:20 Dec 16, 2020

Hi! Saw you liked my most recent story so I thought I'd come check out what you had going on. :) The first thing I want to say about your story is that I loved the overall concept and descriptions. It was well-thought out and flowed nicely. The second thing I've got to say, though, is that while I liked the concept and ideas, I was lost through parts of it. Which is why when I say I think you thought the story out well, it means that the execution was a little off. If you clarify the plot a bit and add more about the characters, maybe, I thi...

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Thank you so much for your advice!!!! I'll try to fix these things in my next story :) Thanks again and have an awesome day!!!

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Hema Saju
13:33 Dec 16, 2020

This is really a compelling read.

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Black Raven
00:32 Dec 16, 2020

Nice story. I got confused for a little while during it. -maybe the wording or it could be me๐Ÿ˜…. Apart from that, it's really good. Loved the characters.

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Thank you so much! Sorry if it was confusing...my writing can be confusing at times :P

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Radhika Diksha
17:12 Dec 14, 2020

The story was a lot entertaining as well I loved the character development of the people in the story. The epilogue was fantastic. Keep writing. I would love your feedback on some of my stories too.

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Ray Dyer
16:07 Dec 14, 2020

Hi, Amber! This story really caught me off guard, the mixture of sweet and sad and anxiety; there's a lot of tension throughout, and I ended up so conflicted over the main character's state. I like the ending, and the descriptions of the moon rose, too. Your discussion of fear vs. being afraid really drew me in at the beginning, and the section where they have her in the kitchen and talk about having her help to make the cookies cemented that this was a story with solid characters, solid setting, and also something to say. Thank you fo...

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Chet Mchenry
15:20 Dec 14, 2020

Interesting twist on the age old adage of recipes...

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Writers Block
00:00 Dec 14, 2020

I liked the age progression as it didn't fly by

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This is very good, Amber! Thanks for liking my new story Storm!

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