Rec Time

Submitted into Contest #219 in response to: Set your story in a type of prison cell.... view prompt

21 comments

Lesbian Fiction Drama

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

I was never a morning person. I’d cling to my fur blankets and Egyptian cotton, pulling them up over my head at the first hint of daylight. I’d inhale the newfound darkness of my fuzzy veil and the plush promise of more precious slumber and moan myself back to sleep. If I’d had it my way, I’d wrap my consciousness up like a present and gift myself to the moon to be unwrapped every evening under its worthy gleam.


I sigh at the luxurious memory. It is an ache in my body like a phantom limb, though its weight holds nothing against the absence of freedom. The absence of my Matilda. How quickly grief can scar when at the very bottom of Maslow’s pyramid. Her absence once a bleeding artery, life itself being drained from my body, is now skin healed over in comparison to the fresh wounds of waking to another day.


Here, there is no such promise, no such comfort, no such cause for a moan of any sort of pleasure. There is no Matilda, and to hell with Maslow’s hierarchy. No, I was never a morning person, but here, I have no choice.


I celebrate my freed hands, this moment of brief liberation, this hour we are given each day, lifting a cigarette to my lips and inhaling. Some might enjoy the early morning hours with an inhalation of fresh air, but I choose to greet the moment with a toke towards death. I used to find solace in many things – her lips, her hair, her hips – and now I find solace in a habit I never had. But when you are caged like an animal, you find yourself searching for gratitude in the minute, though I knew in what was left of my heart, this was a habit she would wholeheartedly despise.


It's a slow death you’re after… I could hear her scoffing.


I exhale, and the thought that I can never let die arises, a plead primal and yearning throughout my fibrous being: What did I do so wrong to deserve such imprisonment? Loving a woman? A perfect, soft-skinned and beautiful woman, so soft-skinned and tender like my own body? The likeness of our shapes so well matched that it frightened those who couldn’t stand the sight of such perfection.


Oh, Tildy, my heart croons. How it used to croon so painfully, and now simmers lifelessly at my remaining fire, trying so desperately to keep the aroma of our love alive. I cannot forget you. I will not let our love boil out.


Matilda would have loved it here. Would have found a way to adore a condemned life and make it wholesome and meaningful. Would have loved to wake up early and breathe in the air with me, holding hands, not giving a damn what the world thought of us.


She used to say things all the time like, How could this be wrong when our hands fit so perfectly together? I, the paranoid of the two, admired her confidence in us, her stubborn defiance against the law. I never knew what she was going to say or do, but I always held my breath before she did.


Above me is an unending blue, the only cloud is the one bellowing from my lips. The moon still graces the sky, hovering over my head like a crown, as if the people who push the moon around up there have fallen asleep and forgotten to put an end to yesterday. Must be October. Almost her birthday. The days do run together here, though the sun threatens to force a new one, illuminating the bark of the redwoods that encircle us. For a prison, it’s a beautiful place, despite the intimidation our location is intended for. They figured no one would be dumb enough to try to escape into a remote and endless forest.


It takes me back to the one time I let Matilda convince me to wake up before the PM hours. She wanted to show me what I was missing, hoping I would see the inspiration she saw when she took her morning cup of coffee and a notebook out to the porch to greet the peeking horizon. That woman could be inspired by anything. She could be inspired by the sun simply rising across the vines, casting its light on each individual leaf or grass needle in its path. A bird flying from ground to treetop, acorn treasured in its beak, would be a poem unto itself to my Tildy. These early hours, when dawn had gone to rest but the late morn had barely opened its eyes, she would let the clock go and live by the unravelling moment around her. Inspiration came to her like she wasn’t the sin the world made her out to be. Her determination to love the world and to simply be happy was like none I’d seen beyond the naivete of childhood. It gave me hope, for me and for us.


A hope that was crushed, stifled, and shoved into a black sac in the dead of night. A home invasion that was legal, to punish a love that was illegal. I can still feel her grip tighten around my waist as they dragged her off of me. They were so swift, tearing our dreams away from us so fast that we had no time to scream, only a single second for the realization to solidify the horror of our situation. There were no questions fluttering through our heads, no reasonable need to call for help. The ones who could help us were the ones ripping us from our home. The ones who could help us wouldn’t help people like us.


Our friends, our true friends who knew the truth, tried to protect us. They warned us: The birds are watching. It’d sounded preposterous, even in a world where something as natural and humane as loving another person was deemed a legal matter. Would the government go to such great lengths, literally creating flocks of security to maintain the society they believed so perfect?


In the faint light of a street lamp casting stripes across our bedroom floor, I got my answer. How else would they have found us? I saw my Matilda, faceless beneath a blank bag, reaching out for me, for one last touch of the life we had together. No, there was no confusion, not even the question: Why? We’d stopped asking that decades ago. We knew what was happening, and we knew why, even if it made no sense to us. All we could do was reach out one last time in an effort to convince ourselves that this was, in fact, worth it.


At one point, I would have said: Of course. Of course, our love was worth it. She was worth it. My Matilda was worth everything.


But, now, with only a cigarette to fill the absence in my hands, and the resonating echo of a bullet gone off replaying in my head like a marble going round on a metal track, I do not know if any of it was worth it.


When they find people like us, especially when they find people like us together - and happy - they do not leave us with hope. They do not leave us with the distant belief that perhaps one day we could be reunited. They do not want us hanging by a thread, cradling the will to survive like a childhood blanket. Instead, they cut the cord and watch as we squirm, writhe, and wish for death, savoring our screams and watching us endure the never-ending plunge towards our own demise.


After they shot my love, the room became impossibly silent, even though I was so sure that I was shrieking. There was only darkness and forceful hands beneath the bag, but even then, it was like the entire world was moving in slow motion as they pushed and shoved me out into the bitter cold. The silent vibration in my ears, my mouth stretched open, my hands shackled behind me. All of the sound gone, like someone had accidentally clicked the mute button.


They knew what they were doing. They had done it so many times. They stole my will to live and tossed a lifeless heartbeat into a sleek, metallic van.


“Oh, Tildy,” I unleash a cry at the sound of my voice baring her name. It’s been an uncountable number of days since I’ve said it.


I hear a guard off in the distant, grunting in disgust at my sorrow, as if I should have no right to that, either. Perhaps, he is right – what right do I have to be here without Matilda?


My cigarette is mostly ash now, and I flick off the waste before taking another inhale. I hear the bell dinging, an indication to expect rough hands shackling me up and dragging me inside for the remainder of the day. I discard the remaining filter and stomp it out on the concrete. I brace myself for the abruptness of touch, pulling my shoulders to my ears, squeezing my eyes shut. Each time I am brought from place A to place B, I am reliving my own death.


I hear the footsteps. I hear the heavy breathing – at least here I have the auditory warning. I hear the clinking of chains. I hear a bird chirping…so very close…


A bird!


My eyes spring open. Did my ears deceive me? I cast a wide net, scanning the yard before me. It chirps again, and I find it, so close, right at my feet, its head tilting from side to side, assessing me.


The birds are watching.


My enemy before me does not present like an enemy. But could it be? There is something captivating about it, nonetheless, as if I finally understand Matilda’s fascination with mundane creatures, as if the poem is unraveling before me, a message from my past.


But how did it get in here?


The bird chirps, and hands are tight on my shoulders, clenching around my wrists. Chains rattling, clicking open, and clicking closed. An acorn drops from the bird’s beak, but it does not frighten into flight. It stares, its beady eyes on my shackled body.


As if the most magical object on the planet, I whisper, wide-eyed and manic: “An acorn!”


The solitude, the imprisonment, the grief, it is finally warping my mind, twisting it like silly putty, and there is no will in my body to stop it from doing so. Before me is no bird, no treacherous enemy of the skies, but it is my Matilda, come back for me!


The guard is pulling me, dragging me away. The space between me and my love is growing. I am being torn away from her once more. “Matilda! My love!” I screech, desperate and hungry. I have no arms to reach out to her, but I try, thrusting my body towards the ground.


Concrete pierces into my face, rips at the fabric of my knees. The pain in my body is a welcome relief from that my heart has been enduring, and I cannot let her go again. I cannot fail her once more. I am crawling, inching a painful plunge forward, rugged pebbles grating my cheeks. My teeth threaten to tear into the solid ground to compensate for my useless bound arms writhing behind me. Then, there is a pressure straddling my back, a hefty weight pressing my wrists into my bottom, an ache in my shoulders.


“Rec time is over!” the guard asserts his limitless wrath, spitting at the back of my head.


My nose is one with the blacktop, squished like the last of my physical strength. There is the resonating sound, that marble going around the track, the echo of silence when the world should be loud.


How could this be wrong? Matilda wraps her hand in mine, squeezing it, and we are swinging on the porch bench, watching the darkness finally turn to light. 

October 08, 2023 17:48

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21 comments

Danie Holland
15:50 Oct 09, 2023

I loved this. It gave off kind of hand maid vibes. The descriptions really make this story stand out. I really enjoy your wordsmithing skills. “I hear a guard off in the distant, grunting in disgust at my sorrow, as if I should have no right to that, either. Perhaps, he is right – what right do I have to be here without Matilda?” Not only is she trapped by physical bars, by the bars of society, she is also trapped by a new set of bars inside her mind she can’t escape reminding her of her loss. Great execution of the prompt this week, well...

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AnneMarie Miles
15:55 Oct 09, 2023

Thanks Danie! I definitely had hand maids tale in mind as well as the holocaust. I do not do my research so I wasn't sure if it stood up to historical fiction, but it was on my mind. So, definitely some dark influences here! I'm glad it came out ok. I whipped this together in pieces and really quickly. Good to know it worked out! Thanks!! I appreciate you!

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Amanda Lieser
17:48 Oct 28, 2023

Hi AnneMarie! You’ve produced a stunning and beautiful love story for this prompt. I loved the way that we were able to chase the memory of this individuals true love, and I adored all of the details that you added in to help us understand their love story. I appreciated that we slowly learned about the setting of this piece because it was such a I appreciated that we slowly learned about the setting of this piece because it was such an important aspect of your main character story. I also liked the addition of nicknames for this piece becau...

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Marty B
03:39 Oct 18, 2023

The violence of state sanctioned prisons, and horror of loss are given graphic vivid descriptions in this story. The reader doesn't know what happened, but it doesn't matter, the impact on the MC is all too clear. I thought the ending was great. Thanks!

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AnneMarie Miles
04:33 Oct 18, 2023

Thank you, Marty! I'm glad the ambiguity still held some meaning. Glad you liked the ending. It surprised me but I'm happy with it.

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19:38 Oct 14, 2023

The ones who could help us wouldn’t help people like us. The great sentence, even this single sentence is enough to explain the whole story.

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AnneMarie Miles
20:42 Oct 14, 2023

Thank you for reading and for your comment 🙏

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17:26 Oct 14, 2023

Oh my goodness, this is fire. I love your story. It got me in my feels, keep it up. I really do hope that in your mind you gave her a happy ending, I mean come on it was tough to read. I don't mean to be rash, but I think you won the contest.❤️

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AnneMarie Miles
18:10 Oct 14, 2023

Thanks for your kind words! I think the MC got her version of a happy ending. That is very sweet of you to say. The judge did not put this one up but I would have been shocked if they had. This isn't my best but it was fun to write. :)

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19:03 Oct 14, 2023

Awesome my bad I'm still new to the website. What do you mean by the judges didn't put your story up? If this wasn't your best then I should read more of your stories cause I thought it was excellent.

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AnneMarie Miles
19:20 Oct 14, 2023

You're too kind. I'm not a judge so I don't know all of the details. But if you look at featured stories by genre, there's a section called Recommended Stories ⭐ beneath the former winners. Those are the stories that have been put up by judges, which means they have a chance of winning or being shortlisted. If there's already a "shortlist" tag on it, then that was from a previous contest.

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AnneMarie Miles
19:23 Oct 14, 2023

Welcome to Reedsy, by the way!

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Michał Przywara
20:33 Oct 12, 2023

Lovely! Horrifying. As Danie Nikole said, it's reminiscent of Handmaid's Tale. The specific oppression is different, but no less horrible because of how real it is. "Instead, they cut the cord and watch as we squirm" I like this whole paragraph. It's brutal. There's a vile elegance to evil, a certain going above and beyond what's required, in the worst possible way. The end is ambiguous. On the one hand, we can say she's become unhinged, and they've broken her. The system won. But, I don't think that's the case. Earlier she's stoicly b...

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AnneMarie Miles
17:38 Oct 14, 2023

Thanks for the feedback, Michal! There is freedom in memories! I like that. It's something they can never take from my MC. Like you said, I don't think the system can ever fully oppress her if she's willing to keep her memory of Tildy alive. And I think that's why it ended it how it did - a reunion between the lovers. Whether a dream or the afterlife, the system cannot keep the souls apart. I'm not really sure where this story came from; it just kind of wrote itself. But I'm thinking I want to get off this somber train and write somethi...

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Tom Skye
21:07 Oct 11, 2023

Beautiful writing AnneMarie. The MC's desperation to the point of delirium at the end is heartbreaking. Some really cool expressions in here. 'only cloud was the one bellowing from my mouth' was a badass line. 'Took my will to live and threw a lifeless heartbeat in the van' also great. Enjoyed this very much.

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AnneMarie Miles
21:16 Oct 11, 2023

Hey Tom! Thanks so much for reading! I spent one morning drinking coffee under a morning moon and just tried to capture little descriptive lines as they came, and I developed the story from there. It was a fun writing process and a different character for me to explore. Thanks for your kind words, glad you enjoyed.

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07:11 Oct 10, 2023

What a beautiful, though heart-breaking story! Really loved all your beautiful descriptions, this one in particular: "If I’d had it my way, I’d wrap my consciousness up like a present and gift myself to the moon to be unwrapped every evening under its worthy gleam."

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AnneMarie Miles
12:33 Oct 10, 2023

Thank you Melissa! The inspiration for this one came while writing little descriptive lines while drinking coffee under the moon. The poet in me was pleased to work it into a full on story. Thanks for reading!

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Jonathan Page
01:17 Oct 09, 2023

Great piece AnneMarie! Cruel how they took your protagonist away from Tildy. Great ending. A supernatural reunion of sorts.

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AnneMarie Miles
16:34 Oct 09, 2023

Thank you, Jonathan! I was going for a little delusional ending leading up to her death. The ending kind of just wrote itself but I'm happy with it! Glad you liked it.

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Martin Ross
15:38 Oct 17, 2023

What a powerful, vivid, intelligent story about pain, loss, and powerlessness. “I sigh at the luxurious memory. It is an ache in my body like a phantom limb, though its weight holds nothing against the absence of freedom. The absence of my Matilda. How quickly grief can scar when at the very bottom of Maslow’s pyramid. Her absence once a bleeding artery, life itself being drained from my body, is now skin healed over in comparison to the fresh wounds of waking to another day. Here, there is no such promise, no such comfort, no such cause f...

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