I finally found a home for this story. It’s been re-worked, tweaked, revised and submitted to over a dozen lit mags and it was FINALLY picked up by the wonderful Glittery Literary for their second anthology! (Read more about their mission below the story!) This is the fifth piece I’ve officially published, the second one that’s in a book, and my copy arrives today. I’m so delighted Acquiescence has finally found a home! It’s a sad premise but it’s full of wonderful images of nostalgia, one of my favourite topics. None of my published short stories are anywhere close to the kinds of things I write in my novels, but I really enjoy these emotional pieces that are sometimes sad, sometimes heartwarming. So, without further ado, here it is. I hope you enjoy it!
Ella is cold. Her shoulders are shaking, body trembling. A porcelain-hard surface replaces her normally supple skin; she’s afraid to touch it. She sits up, unseeing, feeling around with untrusting, outstretched arms—nothing. Where am I? An ominous, burning ache grows inside her belly, but light spatters of rain hit in vicious repetition, offering a soothing sizzle. An earthy aroma creeps into her nostrils. It smells like worms here.
The last thing she remembers is her mother’s face staring down at her, oscillating somewhere between desperation and a strange release. Mom’s perfectly shaped, furrowed brows in despair, her turquoise eyes flecked with a silver sadness. Ella’s father stands back in denial, his black- rimmed rectangle glasses amplifying the sorrow in his brown eyes. He pushes them back up on the bridge of his crooked nose and comes to take her hand.
The mattress is firm under her frail body, offering as little comfort as the medicine dripping down her IV line. Medicine that tastes like the smell of hospitals. The smell of bleach and bitter antiseptic.
There’s no mattress here, no IV line. The unwelcome taste of alcohol isn’t settled on the back of her tongue anymore. In fact, she tastes nothing at all. Her parents are gone. Ella is alone in a silent, empty, dark space.
A familiar noise tickles her eardrums. Ella’s peripheral offers the image of Beijos running toward her in the darkness, sloppy tongue hanging out of his mouth. His paws bounce along the dewy grass that appears out of nowhere. But… Beijos has been gone for three years.
The happy beast tackles Ella back onto the ground and covers her in wet kisses. She giggles, elated. For a moment, everything is forgotten. But confusion lies within arm’s reach. Where have you come from, Beijos?
Ella. She hears someone calling. Ella, my darling.
The child is perplexed at the vision of her grandmother. Your wrinkles are gone. You are young and beautiful. Ella stands and takes her hand, noticing Gram’s grey hair has turned auburn, and her face is aglow with a smooth, rosy compassion. Only then does Ella notice her own hair, the colour of leaves ablaze in the fall, is flowing around her shoulders. She missed her hair and runs her fingers through its softness.
Ella asks the question her mind wants the answer to, but her heart doesn’t want to acknowledge. Where are we? The girl needs only to think the words, and her grandmother answers.
Don’t worry, my child. Gram’s arms wrap around Ella’s body, replacing the veiled darkness with a celestial brilliance, and the coldness with radiating warmth. Trust begins to blossom in Ella’s heart.
I don’t remember what happened. The rain stops, and the sun’s heated rays caress Ella’s face. Birds sing songs from trees that have grown around her within seconds. The path ahead is kissed in a golden glow. Grass has grown greener, every blade a vibrant shimmer of emerald. The dank earth and wormy smell is replaced with scents of spring, of freshness, of newness. Butterflies flutter by, and Ella is sure their wings are making music. Flutes, perhaps?
Their footsteps glide along the trail paved through the meadow. Flowers flow as far as their eyes can see. Ella sniffs the air, filling her nose with the essence of lilacs, honeysuckle, and roses. The scent travels down into her lungs, spreading through her body a sense of belonging. Although she’s never been here before, she is enveloped by the comforting sense of being home. Freshly baked ginger snaps, Gram’s rocking chair, twirling with her sister in the back yard. A flood of happiness.
Ella looks up at her grandmother, so pure and loving. I’ve missed you so much, Gram.
And I, you, she says, and Ella realizes none of Gram’s words are escaping her lips, either. They are speaking through their minds.
My sweet girl. You’re going to love it here. I promise, Gram says. They walk on, Beijos lapping at Ella’s hand in delight.
Ella’s heart flutters with uneasiness. There is so much beauty here, but she longs to be with her parents. What about Mom and Dad? They’ll miss me. I want to go home. I want to hug them and tell them I’m ok.
Her grandmother’s face is filled with peace and wisdom, her smile stretching out and embracing Ella in love. The warmth spreading through Ella’s body irresistibly draws out her unease.
Flowers she’s never seen before pop up, the petals opening right before their eyes. Ella is entranced, intoxicated by their pleasant perfume. The air is teeming with the scents and sounds of all her best memories, teasing her senses. Eyes closed, her recollections come to life. Her mother’s spiced pumpkin pie. Strawberry jam and the sound of metal lids popping into place as the heat sucks them down. The crackly noise the spine makes when she opens a new book. Beijos’ fur caressing her nose. The teddy bear with a cotton-candy smell she got for her fifth birthday. Warm vanilla cake with a cool custard filling. Her mother’s fruity eau de toilette. The itchy sawdust in her father’s workshop that stung her eyes but smelled of cedar. Gram’s coral tea roses in the garden. Catching fireflies in jars. The deafening, everlasting song of frogs in the pond at twilight. And somewhere, her favourite sound is playing—inharmonic wind chimes that whisper over her ears while drifting lazily on the porch swing on a summer afternoon.
All these nostalgic-scented memories fill her heart with joy. Apprehension is replaced by an urgent happiness. She opens her eyes to find a hummingbird tirelessly beating its wings in a blur, blowing
pine-filled air kisses against her cheeks. The last of the mistrust trickles away, and she forgets it was ever there.
There is much to love here Ella. Your parents will be ok, and you’ll see them again, as you’re seeing me now.
Ella exhales the darkness that shrouded her only moments before. Her soul acquiesces. This is where I’m supposed to be. She fills her lungs with this strange and wonderful hiraeth once more and smiles. So, this is what Heaven is like.
Glittery Literary is based in the UK and runs contests for shimmering shorts, lustrous longs, and children’s stories. Top two winners are selected, the first place winning a prize, and winners along with selected highly commended pieces are published in their anthologies. Proceeds from the sale of books and anything left over after prize money is awarded go toward helping children who are less fortunate and living in poverty, so it’s a wonderful cause! If you’d like to purchase the Anthology Two, where this story is published, please click here and ensure you select the appropriate country for Amazon. You can also purchase Anthology One, where my second place winning short story, Lost and Found is published! Look for that here. And you can get their first published book of beautiful children’s stories here!
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