What The Looking Glass Reflects: A Flash Fiction Story

I’d like to thank Leah Holbrook Sackett for her flash fiction submission “What The Looking Glass Reflects”, a melodramatic tale with an intriguing atmosphere. Reflective and relatable, yet fantastical and surreptitious.

Leah is an adjunct lecturer in the English department at the University of Missouri – St. Louis.  This is also where she earned her M.F.A. Her short stories explore journeys toward autonomy and the boundaries placed on the individual by society, family, and self. Leah’s debut book of short stories “Swimming Middle River” was recently released by REaDLips Press.

Learn about Leah’s published fiction at LeahHolbrookSackett.website

Follow her on Twitter: @LeahSackett

Facebook: @alicewonderland.leah  

Instagram: @alicewonderland.leah

LinkedIn: @LeahSackett


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Going Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction by Nancy Stohlman

Photo by Taylor Smith on Unsplash

What The Looking Glass Reflects

Carol liked to stand in corners when she was anxious. It calmed her down to tighten her focus on a dried drip of paint, the seam in wallpaper, or a crack in the wall of the visiting Professor’s house. Her husband was a professor of History at Sweetgum University. The booming emptiness of the house, like a quarry, played on Carol’s nerves. It reminded her of the children she could not have to fill the large house. Her body was not agreeable to the arrangement of keeping a tenant for more than 3 months. This, too, made her anxious. If she were to dwell on the idea of a baby too long, it required a Xanax and a corner to calm her down.

Staring into the back of William’s head while watching a loud Sunday football game was also a trigger. Around 4:30 in the afternoon, each day, that was a trigger. The upside was she had tried many corners in the house and had a rating system based on her sense of urgency. The corner in the small dark dining room with light filtering through the blinds was one of her favorites. She liked this one because she could look askance out the window as if cheating at some game. She also liked the lovely wisteria color paint that deepened and lightened based on the time of day. The corners became her friends, and she talked to them. Softly, of course, lest Will catches her again.

The first time Will caught Carol standing in a corner was in the bedroom with the blue scrollwork wallpaper. It was just outdated long enough to be trendy with that shabby chic look. She liked to trace the scrollwork with her fingertips. Caught-up in a particular favorite curly-que, she did not hear Will coming. Carol stopped her whispering and froze. She could feel Will staring at her back. With a great effort that made her eyes sting, she turned to him and said, “It is just the most lovely design.” Will agreed and ushered her from the room. The next morning the corner was filled with a large, gilded full-length mirror made from Sweetgum. She must have spent one too many times in the corner. She wondered how Will got it into the room while she slept, her head hammered from that one glass of wine. The mirror was enormous with a giltwood frame from floor to ceiling. It was carved with five-point star leaves. Her anger with Will for filling her corner was ebbing.

Perhaps a mirror makes a better coping mechanism. This mirror may be just the therapy Carol needed. Sure, it was just another crutch, but you need a crutch sometimes. She climbed out of bed and followed the details of the carvings. She smiled, a little smile though it was, at herself with the glow of her face in the flattering daylight. With the heat of the day on her face, Carol climbed back into bed and was soon napping. She woke from lilting, little giggles. Of course, no one was there, but a single gold stud earring and her wooden knitting needles were resting on the bedclothes. It was as if someone had gone about snatching her things just to return them as gifts.

As late afternoon set in, Carol sat in bed with a book and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey ice cream. She must have dozed off because she woke with her hand in a puddle of melted ice cream and the pint on the floor. It was growing dark. Moonlight was on the heels of the fading day. It filtered through the window, creating little dancing lights upon the looking glass. It was almost as if there was movement inside. Quietly, she tiptoed to the mirror. It was swimming like water, and a small chubby face and arm reached out of the glass beckoning Carol to enter. Carol froze in awe at the visage of a cherub, a baby in the looking-glass. Inviting her into an orchard of Sweetgums. Abruptly, she heard Will enter with the dull thud of the front door. When Carol turned back to the mirror, it was solid. “NO,” she cried and slammed the palm of her hand against the mirror. There was a heart-breaking crack that ran through the mirror and disappeared in ripples of reflection. With bloody palm and bare feet, Carol entered the looking glass. Will ran up the stairs to his wife’s cry of “NO.” The room was empty. No one was home.

    


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My Place: Chapter 3

Well it’s been a while since I posted any story of my own let alone a chapter of my book. I must confess I’ve missed writing my own adventures and dramas and am eager to get back to it. I wrote this third chapter a little while back (ok it was almost a year ago) and it’s as far as I’ve gotten with the novel. I’m hoping that sharing this latest chapter with you will produce the inspiration and motivation I need to keep going with it. Feel free to comment below and let me know what you think.

If you haven’t read the previous chapters, you can do so by clicking on a chapter below.

CHAPTER 1

CHAPTER 2


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Going Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction by Nancy Stohlman

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

CHAPTER 3

Krysta opened her heavy eyes and glanced at the clock to her right. The bright red numbers did little to warm her heart as they read 5.45am, which meant she’d had just 5 hours of sleep, AGAIN. She could have closed her eyes and slept all day if it hadn’t been for the little size fives in ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ socks, just 3 inches from her face, and the chubby little index finger poking her in the ribs.

   Drowsily, she propped herself up on both elbows. She spotted Davey to the left, asleep face down with his head hanging off the edge of the bed like a sloth on a tree branch. Dylan was perched atop both her legs, grinning from ear to ear at his accomplishment of waking up Mummy. Becky grinned back, acknowledging his achievement but not condoning his inconsiderate act. She didn’t want it to become a habit after all.

   “It’s not time for wakies yet Dylan, the sun’s still sleeping!” she said in a tone much sweeter than her mood.

   “Up” he chirped. His youthful exuberance made Krysta feel just a little sick in the stomach. Memories of her own energy where vague at best, perhaps it wasn’t even a reality but a long-ago dream. Exhaustion had become her everyday constitution. “Up, up, up” Dylan chanted, bouncing up and down on her legs as though they were nothing but lifeless twigs he was trying to snap with his bony little bottom.

   He was completely oblivious to Krysta’s zombie-like state or more than likely didn’t care, and why should he? He was 2 years old and the world was his to command how he pleased. Krysta felt envious of the care-free life her children lived. Their quest was all about exploring, playing, learning, adventuring and mischief making, while their every need was catered for by the great co-ordinator known as Mummy. Mummy however, had gone from being able to organise grandiose weddings with ease, to barely managing to co-ordinate breakfast for her 4 fussy offspring. Hence she often wondered if she was truly qualified for this job.

   Every part of her wanted to lay back down and drift blissfully back into unconsciousness but it took only seconds before that old familiar sense of responsibility kicked in once more and she conceded. “Ok, let’s go have some brekkie.”

   Dylan squealed and chuckled with delight, falling sideways as Krysta tickled him under the arms. His laughter was quickly followed by a screech of displeasure at an equally high pitch as he realised mummy could now escape his clutches and leave the bed without him, not to mention the bitter-sweet tickling would come to an abrupt end.

   Krysta swung her legs over the edge of the bed and sat for a moment contemplating the task ahead. It was Wednesday, and that meant Ladies Bible stud. It also meant a 4-hour tactical mission to get herself and her 4 kids cleaned, dressed, fed, 1 child dropped off to school, a quick run to the grocery store to grab something to share for morning tea and a 20-minute drive to the church. It might sound simple and straight forward but with 4 kids nothing was ever simple or straight forward.

   Peter had left for the airport late the night before. The magazine he worked for had sent him to a writer’s conference, so Krysta was on her own for the next three days. A daunting prospect but probably a blessing in disguise in some ways. They’d spent a day in silence after her rant about the joys of domestic servanthood and motherly dilemmas but made up moments before he headed out the door to the awaiting taxi.

   Once upon a time they would have spent hours in respectful conversation and marital negotiations before coming to a mutually satisfying conclusion with both parties making apologies for their role in the argument before “making up” for hours (sometimes all night) in the seclusion of the bedroom. These days they were lucky if the argument was even addressed let-alone reconciled and “making up” often consisted of an agreed upon cease-fire and an all-too-often rain-checked quickie in the bathroom, as it was the only room in the house with a lock on the door.

   Krysta hoped that the old saying was true, that absence really did make the heart grow fonder and that the time apart would reinforce their affections for one another. She tried to ignore the emotional boxing match raging inside her, heading into its 100th round with romantic longing on one side and resentment on the other. She wanted to miss him, to forge bravely into the next few days as a warrior mum, diligently doing her duty without a single complaint, but jealousy hung over her head like a dark storm cloud ready to pour out it’s deluge at the first thunderclap.

    She hadn’t slept through a single night or had one solitary day to herself in 4 years. In fact, the only so-called “me time” she received was the 20 minutes a day she spent in the shower, and she had to get up half an hour before everyone else to get that. It looked like today would be a ‘dry-shampoo, and ten tonnes of deodorant’ kind of day.

   Peter spent all day most days sitting at a desk, doing what he loved and every Saturday he spent 5 hours playing basketball and hanging out with the guys at the bar afterward, and now, he would be getting 3 whole days away from the chaos that was their family, doing what he loved, and three whole nights alone to be his own person. Krysta felt like everything always went his way, like he managed to find that perfect balance of work, play and family life and it was beyond unfair. Why was it that having kids changed her life so much more dramatically than it changed his?


The Almost Mothers by Laura Besley

***

    Aiming to be at the church 20 minutes early, Krysta congratulated herself as she pulled into the car park just 5 minutes late. It was her personal best, so far. Granted, she’d only been attending for a few months, but it irked her that she always lost a good ten minutes or more of sanity time every week because she couldn’t quite manage to get there on time, no matter how hard she endeavoured.

   Krysta glanced at the packet of Tim Tams resting on the passenger seat beside her. She wondered if they’d be an acceptable contribution. She always intended to try and find time the day before to create some decadent, delicious and elaborately decorated sugar-filled treat that would impress even the fussiest of stay-at-home chefs, but so far she’d never managed to fit it into her hectic schedule.

   Five minutes later, Krysta had managed to masterfully assemble the double seated pram and secure two squirming toddlers into its confines. She grabbed the nappy bag and Tim Tams from the front of the car, placing them both in the basket beneath the pram seats and reached out for Chloe’s hand.

   “Chloe” she called out in concern as her hand met only the air. She looked toward the building to see Chloe running toward it across the full carpark, her straight dark locks bouncing in time with her hurried steps. “Chloe, stop” she shouted. Chloe halted right in the middle of the carpark, spinning around to look at Krysta innocently, her hand to her mouth as she realised her error. She knew she wasn’t to run off on her own, Krysta always insisted that she hold her hand or hold onto the pram when they were out and about, for safety. 

   Krysta turned her head as she heard the sound of tyres over gravel and observed a 4WD heading their way. With fear giving rise to her Mumma bear instincts she took off with stealth like speed, pushing the pram over to where Chloe stood motionless. She grabbed her tiny hand and pulled her toward the main entrance of the building where she parked the pram, flicking on the break.

   Bending down so her face was level with her daughters she very sternly reprimanded her. “Don’t you ever run off like that again, do you hear me?”

   “Yes mummy” Chloe responded quietly, a quiver on her bottom lip and tears forming in her teddy bear brown eyes.

   “How many times have I told you not to run across a road or carpark?” Krysta’s voice grew louder as she thought about what could have happened and frustration mounted as she recalled how many time’s they’d been through this.

   “I…I’m sorryyyyyy” Chloe stuttered and began to wail, tears cascading down her chubby little cheeks as she squeezed her eyes shut.

   Krysta’s tone softened as her anger defused like cold water thrown on a flame “you could have been hit by that car and then we’d have lost you. I don’t want to lose you Chloe.” Her heart overflowed with empathy and remorse as her daughter threw her tiny arms around her waist and sobbed into her torso, her warm tears soaking through her pale pink cotton shirt onto the wrinkly tiger-striped skin of her overstretched stomach.

   Krysta squeezed Chloe tight in empathy and gently unwrapped her arms from around her middle. She took a tissue from the nappy bag and wiped the wetness from her tear-stained face. “Just remember next time ok?” Krysta smiled forgivingly as Chloe’s sobs subsided and she swiped at her eyes with the back of her hand. Why was it that she always ended up feeling like a villain when she had to scold her child? Wasn’t it what mothers were supposed to do? How could her child learn what was acceptable behaviour if all she ever did was speak softly but assertively like all those ‘positive parenting’ courses dictated? Krysta knew she needed to teach her child to be obedient, but the pain she sensed in her child’s reaction always forced her to hate the person she’d just been, the person who caused that pain in her child.

   Krysta took a deep breath and mentally prepared herself to move forward. “Come on, let’s get you to the playroom so you can have fun with the other kids.” Krysta unlocked the pram and skilfully held open the tinted glass door as she pushed the pram through with her free hand, Chloe following close at her heels. They were met by a sea of faces that had turned in their seats to look at them as they noisily entered. Krysta felt her face flush with embarrassment as she realized she’d forgotten that the front entrance led directly into the main auditorium where the welcome portion of the bible study had just come to a close. 

   She swallowed in regret at the revelation they had more than likely heard the whole incident, given there was a mere glass panel between the room and the outside of the building. Davey gave a loud moan in protest of being indoors again, which echoed around the high-ceilinged room and forced everyone to turn and glare once more. Krysta could feel a hundred eyes piercing her back as she awkwardly tried to manoeuvre the pram through the narrow door into the foyer that separated the kitchen and café area from the playroom. The back wheel caught on the door frame and Krysta had to back it up and push forward twice before it finally went through.

   She heard the worship music start up as the door swung shut behind her with a thud, rattling the windowed wall encasing it. She didn’t even dare look back to see the reaction her clumsy exit had incited. Ignorance would work better to rescue her quickly fading resolve to enjoy what was left of her child-free time. She signed them in at the little table outside the playroom and waved goodbye to two excited children as each bolted toward their toy of choice. Dylan had to be pried off her neck by the volunteers who assured Krysta that he would be fine and would for-sure stop howling the minute she left the room. Krysta had little faith in that, but ordered herself to drop the guilt as she rushed out the door with a dozen “sorry Dylan”s.

   She took a deep breath, relaxing on the exhale and closed her eyes for a moment, contemplating how heavenly it would be to find a quiet corner to curl up and take a nap in. The thought was soon dashed however as her practical mindset took charge of her wandering ideas and chastised her for even thinking about skipping the study and taking advantage of the church’s hospitality. 

   “This is not a day care centre Krysta” she berated herself “these people volunteer their time so you can enhance your spiritual life not so you can shirk your responsibilities.” She rolled her eyes at her own harshness and walked casually and quietly back through the glass doors to the main auditorium, slipping casually into a seat in the back row as the last song came to an end.


Thanks

Thank you for reading this blog. You can read more stories HERE and if you’d like to submit a story for consideration to be published, please visit our submissions page.

If you’d like to keep up to date with all the latest stories, news, promos (including writing competitions and giveaways) plus receive a FREE Ebook, sign up to our mailing list here or fill in the form below.


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Accomplish more IN a fraction of the time

The pace and intensity of our lives, both at work and at home, leave many of us feeling like a person riding a frantically galloping horse. Our day-to-day incessant busyness — too much to do and not enough time.

With this ebook you will learn to approach your days in another way, reducing stress and getting results through prioritizing, leveraging and focus!

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