The other day while our weather was horrible, I decided I'd join some writer's groups on facebook. In part because eventually, I'll actually need to find an editor (and maybe even a publisher) for my dream journals and other bits and snippets. But mostly, to lurk and learn.
Yesterday, I was browsing through the latest posts to one of them and came across this one by Victoria Ngozika Onyeabor:
"Just now, as I've been editing at a coffee shop, a strange child placed a brand new chocolate muffin into the trash, slowly, while holding eye contact with me, like it was a death threat.
Any author who writes a story around what just happened to me will automatically get 5% off editing lol"
Now, I'm not sure about the 5% off editing (though I certainly wouldn't be adverse!) but as soon as I read the invitation to write around it, I had a story in my head. And I thought I'd share it here:
Elaine was a silent child, always watching, always waiting. Her mother called her an 'old soul'. Her father called her odd. She cared not a wit either way, as she loved them both fiercely.
Today, her mother's amblings brought them to the coffee shop. It was a place hitherto of mysteries and odors only glimpsed (and smelt) briefly in passing, dragged behind, her small hand clasped tightly, her mother always late, and always rushing.
As her mother talked with the other adults in the line, Elaine's attentions were drawn elsewhere.
With rapt concentration, she focused on the sole chocolate chip muffin.
She barely breathed.
She could not blink, or lose focus, even for a moment...
Or the muffin would notice.
They inched closer and closer to the muffin, the only things protecting all of humanity from it being a thin pane of glass, and Elaine's notice.
She took shallow breaths, partly from fear, but mostly not to jar her vision.
Pimpled goose flesh and a quick flash of cold passed through her slight frame as her mother dragged her to mere inches from the 'muffin'.
The woman at the counter tried to catch her eye, but Elaine's gaze was unwavering. Her lips a thin, pale, pinched line as she held back a scream.
But with no emotion.
She could not let her face show anything.
Or the muffin would know.
Her mother misread her intent concentration, and Elaine watched in silent horror as the cashier headed right for the chocolate chip muffin. She was wise to approach it with protective gloves. And to pick the dangerous thing up with long tongs to keep it away from her.
She arranged it on a cute little plate with a decorative doily and a fork-- why would she be arming the thing?!
With a quick swipe of her card, her mother brought the dread muffin into alignment with Elaine and fate.
As her mother handed her the plate, she tried to bring the muffin to a swift death, there on the floor. But her mother's reflexes had improved and she righted it, commanding Elaine use both hands to carry the plate.
With burning eyes from an eon locked in battle with the dire muffin, and trembling hands to be in such close proximity, Elaine hunched her shoulders and followed docily in her mother's wake.
She set the plate at the table her mother indicated, then waited for her back to be turned.
As soon as her mother rose to get napkins, Elaine took three quick, shallow breaths, and one long one.
She steeled herself, recognizing that her parents depended on her to be brave in this moment, and deliberately reached out for the muffin. She kept her eyes on it until she approached the trash can.
And as she lowered the dread muffin into its final resting place, her eyes locked with a woman across the way, a kindred spirit and fellow world builder. She took strength in the unflinching gaze of the other, and finished the job.