House Pictures — Updated!

At last, the time has come.

It seems impossible, but it is true. This post is not an apologetic paragraph about my bad blogging skills, nor is it a writing prompt, short story, or list of Newspapers.com blog posts. It is, in fact, a True Post.

Months ago—nay, years—I posted about my in-laws’ house that we had recently moved into to take care of whilst they are off on adventures elsewhere. Joe and I had some furniture but not much. In fact, we pretty much had a TV and a couch. I know, I know, that pretty much covers the essentials. But for some silly reason we also wanted a bed frame and a kitchen table, so we (spoiler alert!) ended up getting those too.

And today, after so long a wait (almost exactly 2 years later, in fact), I have finally come forward to reveal….the afters.

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Bedroom: before

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And…after! Look, a bed fame! And also a dog bed. Bonus!

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Table Area: before

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And after with kitchen table! We also painted the light above the table silver, instead of brown. The sun’s really giving it her all in these pictures so it’s kind of hard to see. But it does give a nice “heaven-sent” vibe to the table, so that’s a perk.

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Table Area and Kitchen: before

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And after! Again you may note the lovely table. It’s much better to eat on than a rug.

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Just another angle. Notice the dog bowl holder to the right of the table. Built it myself *brushes off shoulder*

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Kitchen/Chalkboard Wall: before

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Angle’s a bit different but….after! The only real difference here is the stuff on the counters and the fact that we put beadboard around the peninsula counter thing. Oh, and that beautiful dog bowl holder making an appearance again. Vain little thing!

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Living Room: before

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Different curtains, moved the shelf, switched around the coffee table and added some art on the walls.  This was the most complete room from the start so changes in here are pretty minimal.

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Another angle! The cords hanging down are not my favorite but I do enjoy my shelves 🙂

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Tara’s Office: before

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The shelves feel a lot busier, but the only real change here is the addition of an actual office chair and a second monitor for my desk. And it is niiiice.

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Tara’s Office: before

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Different angle but the same things. Still love this room!

And so it is done. I really enjoy our things and the feel of our house as a whole. Hopefully you’ve felt some closure here today—an easing, if you will, of the tension born from years-long hopes unfulfilled. You need no longer wonder, as I’m sure you have in nearly every waking moment, “Do they still sleep on a mattress pad on the floor?” or perhaps something like, “Do they get rug fibers in their food during dinner?”

No, good reader. As you can see, these troubles trouble us no longer.

A Short Story

Oh hello, I didn’t see you there.

I’m creeping back in today to share a short story I wrote for a writing exchange last month. The exchange took place amongst a bunch of writing nerds who submitted prompts that were distributed at random with the recipients kept anonymous until the stories were finished. I was lucky enough to be given the prompt of “Irish or Scottish mythology/folklore/old history” which, of course, I LOVE, so I was super excited to give it a go. It’s called Freedom, because I am unoriginal. Here it is, in all its imperfect glory:


 

Three seals watched languidly from their mist-shrouded rock as I curled my toes in the sand. Everything felt sharp today—the granules on my skin, the cold December wind that cut across my cheeks, the dark underbellies of the clouds that sagged over the sea. The air hung heavy with anticipation that beaded like dew on my skin. I stood for a long moment at the seam where tide met sand, waiting for something to happen, waiting until the sky and water began to blend together with my staring and the flesh on my arms crawled. When I couldn’t take it any longer I turned away, sweater wrapped tight enough to stretch the weave. The seals slipped into the waves, one by one, and I whispered the names Da had invented for them—Aonghus, Aisling, Liadan—as farewell. The grasping sea hooked its fingers in the footprints I left behind.

The door’s hinges squeaked when I entered the house, as they always did, but Mam didn’t look over. Her hair hung loose around her shoulders like a dark waterfall, silky and long. She stood with arms folded, tense fingers pushing dents into her skin, focus fixed on the window over the kitchen sink. An apron circled her waist and dishes sat half-washed on the counter. Her feet were bare, as they always were. And she was beautiful, as she always was, in her ethereal way. She’d often been admired when we went to town, though perhaps not everyone stared for her beauty. I’d heard the whispers ever since I was a child, accompanied by narrowed eyes that darted between Mam and the sea.

Different, they said. Inhuman. Not like us.

I walked up behind her and peered over her shoulder. The window perfectly framed a square of shore, dotted with dark smudges where my feet had rutted the sand. But if Mam had been watching me, she wasn’t anymore. Her eyes reflected the soft grey of the ocean but she wasn’t really seeing. She was in that place again, that intangible mental place. Her refuge, maybe. Or her purgatory. This happened from time to time when she looked too long at the restless water, and the whispers in town didn’t seem quite so foolish then.

I placed a gentle hand on the cool skin of her arm.

Mam blinked and her eyes refocused as they sought out my face. “I’m sorry, my heart. I didn’t hear you come in. How was your walk?” She looked back toward the window.

“Fine. Chilly.” The kitchen was cold and empty, the wooden table clear but for the plate and teacup from Da’s breakfast. “Where’s Da gone?”

Mam’s fingers twisted around a strand of her hair then untwisted. Twisted. Untwisted. With my Mam, answers were often a long time in coming.

I took the dishes from the table and leaned around her to put them in the sink, giving her a peck on the cheek as I retreated. “Don’t forget we’ve got to go to market today.”

The door squeaked open and Da walked in, red-cheeked from the cold but handsome as ever. Mam’s countenance changed completely. She turned from the window with a smile that lit the room so that we forgot the sun was hidden behind a wall of clouds. Her hair flowed behind her as she ran to him.

He laughed and spun her in his arms. “Ahh, a chuisle mo chroi. I was hardly gone an hour.” He winked at me over Mam’s head. “I’ve got a surprise for you,” he said to me. “It’s down at the shore. All right if I take her a minute, Ita?”

Mam nodded, wilting a bit round the edges. “Not too long. Saoirse’s just reminded me it’s market day.”

Da kissed her. “Back before you know it.” He stayed there a moment, hands on her arms, deep brown eyes steady on hers. His face was soft and fair beneath his windswept hair, prematurely grey in a way that distinguished rather than aged him. He looked like a painting.

The crease between Mam’s eyebrows softened and her shoulders released their tension. “I love you,” she smiled.

He kissed her again, and beckoned me to follow him out the door.

The three seals were nowhere to be seen as we walked along the guttering shoreline in the opposite direction of the path I’d used that morning. We passed a little bend that blocked the house from sight—and there it was. A neat little white boat, tucked away in the weeds. Black, meticulously painted letters spelled out Freedom on the side.

I gasped, even as I ran my hand across the bow in admiration. “Da! Mam will never let me use it. She can’t possibly know about this?”

He shook his head, smiling ear to ear. “‘Course not. And it best stay that way, a leanbh, if we’re to have our fun. I thought it might be our secret, what d’you say to that?”

I traced the neat lettering with my finger. “Won’t she be angry if she finds out? You know she hates when we go out to sea with the Kavanaghs.”

Da knelt beside me and rested a hand on my shoulder, more solemn now. “I respect your Mam dearly and I don’t mean to be secretive to spite her. I know you love the sea as I do, and I saw no harm in a bit of learning. But we’ll never speak a word about it again if you feel that strongly about it.”

He looked so dejected and dear that a smile crept up through my hesitation. “You know I couldn’t say no,” I said, with a look back at the boat. Our boat.

Da’s face lit up like a sunrise and he jumped up. “That’s my girl. Come on, let’s take her out—ah.” He glanced back at the house with his hands wrapped around the boat’s bow. “I did say I wouldn’t take long, didn’t I? I only meant to show her to you. Foolish me, thinking that’d be satisfactory.” He laughed. “Ah well, and you’ve got the market today too. Best get back.”

I looked wistfully at the boat.

Da chuckled. “I’ll make your excuses. Go on, then. Remember, not a word.” He put a large hand on my head and rustled my hair before starting back to the house with long, purposeful strides.

As soon as he was out of sight I tugged the boat from the grass, toward the water. The sea was calm enough today and I knew the general idea. I stepped in the boat, clutching at the sides as it rocked, and then used the paddle to push myself to sea. A few minutes, that’s all I wanted. Time enough to feel the breeze and listen to the slap of sea on wood. I closed my eyes and felt my hair blow back and the mist hit my face. In my mind’s eye the seals swam gracefully alongside, one with Freedom.

A splash to my right broke my reverie. One of my seals snaked beside the boat, as though she’d weaved her way from my daydream into the real world. Aisling it was, the small brown one. Only her head showed above the silvery water, large eyes fixed on me.

Dia dhuit, Aisling. Come to admire my boat, have you?” I smiled a little that I was speaking to a seal. At any moment I expected her to slip quietly away, disappear as she so often did even at a distance. But she swam a little ahead of my boat and looked back at me. Her nose twitched with her breaths.

I blinked. “You want me to follow?”

Aisling did not respond, of course. I paddled the boat to follow and when I’d nearly reached her she moved, slipping ahead only to wait for me again, it seemed. We repeated this peculiar game until we’d gone past the house, past where I’d walked earlier that morning—that bit of shore that the kitchen window framed so well. I’d never gone much further—a rocky little cliff cut across the beach into the water. Aisling skirted around it and disappeared.

I looked back at the house, at the speck of window. Did Mam stand there still? I doubted it. When Da was home she found it hard to look at anything but him. I paddled around the rocks and the house vanished from sight.

Aisling was waiting. The moment I came into view she slid onto shore and began to bob across the sand in her funny little way. With an awkwardness that came with inexperience I guided the boat back onto land and stumbled my way out, following her toward a ledge of rock that jutted out over the ground. Beneath lay a lovely smooth bit of sand, undisturbed. Aisling looked at me impatiently.

A distant bark came from the sea. The other two seals, Aonghus and Liadan, waited for Aisling, closer to shore than I’d ever seen them. With the house out of sight and the seals so near it all felt like a dream. Maybe I’d fallen asleep next to the boat when Da left. Maybe none of this was real.

With one last look my way, Aisling bobbed back across the sand and into the ocean. The three seals slipped away, strips of dark silk in silver waves.

I looked at the smooth sand beneath the ledge. Nudged it with my foot. Scooped at it with my hands. And then dug, dug feverishly, dug without understanding why, with Aisling’s gentle face burning in my mind, until my fingers brushed against something cool and soft. Sand fell off in sheets as I pulled it from the earth and smoothed it out in front of me.

It was a skin. A silky, grey seal’s skin flecked with white like spots of foam. A selkie skin.

My heart left off its beating. With desperation I scanned the sea. They were gone. Aonghus, Liadan, Aisling, all gone as if they never existed. But the skin still lay in my lap, and it was real.

***

I burst into the house. “Da! Da! Come quick!” My hands wrung together nervously, remembering the feeling of slippery fur beneath my fingers.

The house creaked with silence for a moment, and then Da came running down the stairs. Mam followed close behind, bare feet whispering on the landing. Fright stretched their faces, and I realized how my entrance must have appeared to them.

I quieted myself and offered a smile. “Sorry! Nothing’s wrong, I didn’t mean to cause alarm. I just wanted to show Da something…if that’s all right with you, Mam? And then we’ll go to the market straight away, I promise.”

Da gave me a knowing glance as we left. I wondered why—I doubted he had guessed what I’d found.

“Is it the boat?” he said when the door closed behind us. “You’re not hurt are you?”

“Hurry, she’ll be watching soon.”

Da followed with a glance back at the house. “You didn’t take her out, did you? By yourself?”

“That doesn’t matter now. Wait and see.” We sailed around the stone outcropping and scraped onto shore.

Da smiled. “You’re a natural.”

But I was already running up the beach, toward the stone ledge. The seal skin was still there, shimmering in the weak sunlight that filtered through the clouds.

Da came up behind me and stopped short. A wild look came over him as he stared at the skin.

“I think it’s Mam’s,” I said quietly, sadly. “Aisling showed me.”

Something invisible tore between Da and the skin as he ripped his eyes away to look at me. He shook his head. “You found it. I didn’t think anyone ever would.”

“You put it here?” I said it more than asked, realizing. The silvery fur glistened.“So it is Mam’s. You took it from her and made her stay, all these years.” I thought of Mam’s desperate eyes searching the water through the kitchen window. “That’s terrible, Da.”

He was silent. The waves lapped eagerly at the shore, for a moment the only sound to be heard. It filled my ears, my mind, enveloped me and swallowed me whole. Mam was a selkie, the sea her true home.

Her distant, distorted voice calling from the house shook us both from our thoughts.

Da looked at me with deep, desperate eyes. “Don’t tell her about the skin, a leanbh. Please. Go to market and l will take care of it. I promise you’ll have the truth of it when you get back.”

I hesitated, but remembered Mam’s radiant face every time she looked at my Da. It couldn’t be all bad for her here, could it? She loved us. Da must have his reasons. He’d explain everything.

I nodded and ducked out from under the ledge. “You’ll need to take the boat. She’ll see otherwise. I’ll find a way around.”

Da nodded. With a few minutes and some steady effort I found a route across the rocks and dropped down on the other side, the image of Da holding the skin imprinted in my mind.

***

“Funny of your Da to go walking when he’d just gotten home,” Mam said as we approached the house, our arms were laden with the week’s foods. Mam was in good spirits—she liked to go inland. “He does so love the sea, it’s no surprise.”

“You both do,” I said.

Mam looked at me with a smile. “It’s lovely, but I find it a bit cold and harsh. No one loves the sea like your Da.”

A spike of worry cut at my ribs. I ran into the house and dumped my things on the table. The house was empty, I could feel it in the walls. I ran past Mam on my way outside. “He’s not here yet. I’ll go see if I can’t find him.” My heart banged in my chest in a way that had nothing to do with my running.

The rocks cut at my palms as I pulled myself up and over the little cliff, breath ragged. I slipped coming down the other side and a long red line bloomed through the sleeve of my shirt. Freedom was still on shore, the stern bobbing to and fro in the shallows. Da was gone, and so was the skin.

“Da!” I called out. My voice echoed off the rocks and faded across the waves toward the seal rock. The seals were there, watching through the misty air. Aisling and Aonghus and Liadan. And another. A grey seal with white spots like foam, the largest and handsomest of them all.

Four seals.

 

 

 

 

Bad Blogger

It’s high time I wrote a post that wasn’t this work and prompt nonsense.

This isn’t it.

I know. I know! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again–I’m just not great at being consistent with this blog thing. It’s such a shame. I really like blogging…which means I’m just gonna keep trying to make it happen. So I’ll be back soon…with actual content!

Never give up! Never surrender! We can do this! Team hug!

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All right. Let’s get out of here before one of those things kills Guy.

Newspaper Post – Part 7

N-avatarOk….so this time I did forget. And now I have almost 6 months of work posts to share. On the plus side, this will be a great way to procrastinate/kill some time if that is the sort of thing you need!

Anywho, here’s a whole lotta links to peruse at your leisure:

First up, Murder in Miniature – a post about the woman who reportedly inspired the character Jessica Fletcher in Murder, She Wrote

Billy the Kid Killed – “On This Day” post, rather self-explanatory 😉

Apollo 11 – a post about the spacecraft that launched into lunar history on July 16, 1969

Disney’s Dream – Disneyland had to start somewhere

Uncle Wiggly Wings – This USAF pilot earned a pretty “sweet” reputation

Beatrix Potter – In honor of her birthday, a post about the beloved children’s book authoress

Happee Birthdae Harry! – the children’s author streak continues with this post about Harry Potter

Attack on Hiroshima – Another OTD post about the devastating atomic attack

Combustible Combs – just what it sounds like: combs that exploded

Pranking the Dreadnought – this impressive prank made the papers AND one of the participants later became a pretty well-known author

The 19th Amendment is Made Official – Well done, sister suffragettes

The March on Washington – an overview of a truly peaceful protest that witnessed the now-famous words, “I have a dream”

Geronimo! – This word has been used as a rallying cry for jumping out and off of things…but why?

Joice Heth: Barnum’s Big Break – The successful showman’s career all started with an old woman – but she wasn’t that old

A Look Back: Headlines from September 2001

Crush’s Train Wreck – A deadly publicity stunt that did just what it was meant to do…aside from the deaths, that is

Gerber Singles – All about that one time that a baby-food company tried to make baby food for college kids

Model T Ford: “Do You Own One?” – The famous car was produced OTD in October

The Bullfrog in the Buttermilk – the story of an unusual method of butter churning

Grace Bedell and Lincoln’s Beard – This little girl had a pretty strong opinion on the president’s facial hair, or lack thereof

Back to the Future Today – The Future of Back to the Future II arrived! And it wasn’t quite like the movie predicted

Balloon Jumping – The floating sport that never really “took off” (har har)

Franklin’s Armonica – Yep, Ben Franklin invented a musical instrument, and no, it’s not the harmonica

The Unusual Death of Edgar Allen Poe – His death was as weird and unpleasant as his life

Happy Halloween! – A bit o’ Halloween History

Laika, First Space Dog – Spoiler 1: she made it to space! Spoiler 2: she died.

Blibber-Blubber – Bubble gum’s less well-liked ancestor

The Stories of Veterans – Veteran’s tales on different wars, found throughout the newspapers

Disney’s Fantasia – OTD post about the release of Disney’s orchestral cartoon

And bringing up the rear, my latest post:

Happy Birthday, Steamboat Willie – Another Disney-themed post about Mickey’s first successful flick

Sooo many links. I will be thoroughly shocked if anyone actually clicks through any of those, much less all of them. Haha. But there they are for anyone interested. 🙂

And here is the link to the blog where all these beautiful posts are originally published: the Fishwrap Blog.

 

PROMPT: Deactivation Time

STARTING LINE: “We have to deactivate you. I’m sorry.”


 

“We have to deactivate you. I’m sorry.”

“I don’t…under…stand…” The flat metallic tone of my voice betrayed me again, as it had every day for my entire life. If I could have frowned, I would have.

“Your system is out of date. We’re replacing you with a newer model. Sorry, Jeremy. You’re just old.” Paul poked at my side. “And look, you’ve got a big old dent right here. And here’s a scratch.” He sighed. “We should have done this a while ago but you know how much Sylvie likes you.” He crossed his arms, looking at me critically. Then he shook his head. “Well she’s old enough to understand. You’re just a machine, Jeremy.”

I didn’t feel like a machine. I felt like I was scared. I felt like I was not loved. I felt like I did not want to disappear into a lack of consciousness.

“I…see.” Said the metal words from behind my screen. I wondered what Sylvie was doing now, at school. Did she know what they were going to do? “When?”

Paul glanced over at the microwave clock in the kitchen. 1:54. He looked back at me sympathetically. Why? I thought. Why the sympathy for a machine?

“Whenever Nora gets home. Hopefully in a few minutes so it’ll be done before school is over.” He brightened. “But wait til you see the new one, Jeremy. Here, come here.” He walked over to the garage door and opened it, pulling in a box with a colorful picture of me on it. Only it wasn’t me. It was a thinner, lighter, shinier version of me. “We’ll call it Jeremy Junior, after you. What do you think of that?”

I blinked my mechanical eyes, staring at the box with what any human would describe as horror. A new me? A new Jeremy? “It’s very nice, Paul.”

“Sylvie will love it, don’t you think?” Paul sounded a little desperate. He really wanted my opinion.

I didn’t know what to say. She wouldn’t love it. I was her friend. Sylvie understood what no one else did—that I had feelings just like any human. So instead I asked him the thing I really wanted to know.

“Why are you sorry?”

PROMPT: Word Hunting

Whoops, haven’t posted anything in a while. Here’s a silly prompt (and my ridiculous response) to keep things going:

Ask someone (online or in person) to give you:

Two first names
Four objects (things)

Consult: adjectivesstarting.com/ at random select:

three adjectives starting with C
two starting with S
one started with U

Go here: www.randomlists.com/random-verbs and generate three random verbs (no duplicates)

Finally! Grab a dictionary, turn to page 56, take the fourth word on that page.

For your prompt combine all the words you’ve just collected! That is: two first names, four objects, three adjectives starting with C, two adjectives starting with S, one starting with U, three random verbs, and a word from the dictionary!

No time or word count limit. Just write!


Two names: Scarlet, Alfonzo

Four objects: farts, dehydrated water, sitar, palm tree

C adjectives: chinked, cherished, corrosive

S adjectives: seagirt, serbian

U adjective: unblinking

Three verbs: multiply, doubt, stitch

Dictionary word: cabochard(e) – French for stubborn

A long time ago in the seagirt land of Falencia lived a serbian sitar maker. His name was Alfonzo. And he was the best sitar maker in all the lands and seas, for he cherished his work and took utmost care to find the best materials so that his sitars might make the most beautiful music.

One day a beautiful young lady came to him for the purpose of purchasing one of his magnificent sitars. Her long black hair tickled the ground at her heels, and Alfonzo stared unblinking into her goddess-like face, astonished at her beauty. She stood, framed by the swaying palm trees in the distance, the sunlight gleaming on her golden skin. But her transcendent face was clouded withdoubt.

“Greetings sir Alfonzo. My name is Scarlet Rajana. I have heard tales that your sitars are the best in all the lands and seas, but I have seen many impressive sitars. Can you prove to me that your sitars are truly the best?”

Her doubting words were corrosive to Alfonzo’s ears, but he did not hesitate. “My sitars are certainly the best in all the lands and seas, and I will show you. Will you sit for me? I will use your beauty to inspire me while I make a sitar so perfect, its music will leave you in tears.”

Scarlet hesitated, but at last she sat upon a small settee, ornate and almost as beautiful as the woman who occupied it. Scarlet noticed the delicate attentions paid to every stitch, and wondered if Alfonzo might have a hidden talent for funitury. However, after an hour or so of sitting while Alfonzo worked, Scarlet began to realize with some horror that the settee was not very comfortable. It pushed her to sit in uncomfortable ways, until she began to feel very bloated. The farts which she emitted in the next several minutes only continued to multiply. Eventually Scarlet spoke. “Perhaps I should take my leave. My father needs me to help collect his special…dehydratedwater….” she scrambled vaguely for an excuse in hopes he had not noticed her frequent flatulence. But Alfonzo was most cabochard, and shook his head. He was deep in the craft, on the verge of perfection.

At that very second Scarlet let out an untimely toot, and Alfonzo chinked his perfect sitar in a moment of wavering concentration.

He gazed sadly at the ruined sitar in his lap, and a single tear fell from his eye as he looked up at Scarlet, the gorgeous, gaseous woman. He strummed a tremulous note upon the sitar, and Scarlet began to weep with regret for what she had caused.

“Its music will leave you in tears,” quoth Alfonzo.

PROMPT: Ladder Girl

Starting line or general idea for your prompt: The little girl didn’t need to know where the ladder led, she simply climbed.

At least 370 words

And additional idea fodder (in picture form): laddergirl


Angry tears spilled down plump cheeks as Lyla ran into the field behind her house. She wished her legs were longer, she wished that they could take her far away where Roger was nowhere to be found. She hated Roger. She hated him!

She could barely see as she ran. The tears clouded her eyes and a dense mist sat heavy over the dying grasses after last night’s rain.

Pain split through her head as she ran full speed into something solid. The impact knocked her backward and she landed heavily in the crackling yellow grass, little pieces of the plants breaking off and clinging to her thick, black skirt. Holding one mittened hand up to her forehead, Lyla looked up at the thing that had stopped her–a ladder. A metal ladder, pushed firmly into the ground. She followed the rows of rungs up, up, up, until they disappeared into the foggy, pale sky above.

Lyla looked back toward the farmhouse, her grey eyes scanning for her mother or–she held her breath–Roger. But the windows were empty, and no one stood at the door. Ignoring her throbbing head, young Lyla stood and put a foot up on the bottom rung. She hesitated. Maybe this was stupid. The ladder went into the sky…it wouldn’t go anywhere, right? But it hadn’t been here yesterday, she knew that for sure. She often escaped into the field behind her house when Roger was cruel. And it wasn’t falling over. Therefore, reasoned Lyla’s young mind, it must lead to something. She didn’t need to know what, she just needed to escape.

She didn’t hesitate again. Quickly Lyla climbed the ladder, her boots scraping against the metal rungs with every step. Her breathing was labored, and the pain in her head pulsed with her heartbeat, but she kept going, even when the world around her disappeared as she entered the cloud and fog. Tiny drops of water clung to her clothes and lips and eyelashes, but she blinked them away and kept climbing. Her arms were getting tired now. She didn’t dare stop, and she didn’t dare consider how high she must be.

After what seemed like an eternity Lyla broke through the clouds into a world filled with sunshine, and she gasped.