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Get a Life, Chloe Brown

- Talia Hibbert

“Excuse me, universe,” she whispered to the kitchen floor. “When you almost murdered me today—which was rather brutal, by the way, but I can respect that—were you trying to tell me something?”

The universe, very enigmatically, did not respond.
Her lungs were working overtime and every breath felt like the edge of a saw. She had a metallic taste at the back of her mouth that reminded her, unpleasantly, of blood, and also of the days when she’d had to run laps in PE. Apparently, this climb was wearing her out—but she’d been taking irregular walks for years, damn it. Surely she should be a semipro athlete by now? Apparently not. The human body was an inconvenient and unreasonable thing.
“It’s very awkward, dating while disabled. People can be quite awful. And you know I don’t have much energy to spare for social nonsense.”

Social nonsense,” Eve snorted. “I swear, Chloe, you are so full of it.”

Eve clearly didn’t realize that “social nonsense” was Chloe’s succinct way of phrasing “the constant disappointment that is human nature.” She’d learned the hard way that people were always looking for a reason to leave, that affection or adoration or promises of devotion turned to dust when things got tough.
So she shooed her sisters out of the flat, kissing cheeks and arranging a film night, vowing to visit Gigi soon—Eve would pass on the message—and showering them in sarcastic remarks because she’d rather die than actually say Thank you. She hadn’t always been like this, a tongue with the tip bitten off, her feelings squashed into a box. But help and concern, even from the people she loved—even when she needed it—had a way of grating. Of building up, or rather, grinding down. Truthfully, guiltily, sometimes simple gratitude tasted like barely sweetened resentment in her mouth. So she didn’t express it at all.
She split time into something endless and wonderful, like crystal splitting light into rainbows. Or maybe he was so fucking hungry for her he was slowly losing his grip on reality. One of those.

The Girl the Sea Gave Back

- Adrienne Young

Vigdis stood broad-shouldered beside him and I knew what he was thinking. That he should have killed me when Vera died. That he should have let me burn when Bekan fell in the glade. Every drop of blood spilled from here to Liera was the sea I was cursed to drown in. Somehow, Vigdis had known it. He knew that I’d bring death since the moment he first laid eyes on me.

And he was right.
The Spinners were wise, but they weren’t always kind. Sometimes fate was a tangled knot. Sometimes it was a noose. Or a net.

But sometimes, it was the rope that pulled you from the sinking deep.

Gods & Monsters

- Shelby Mahurin

“We might as well do it our own way. Being a prude or being a whore are both better than being what they want us to be.”

Célie blinked between us, eyes huge, and whispered, “What do they want us to be?”

Coco and I exchanged a long-suffering look before she said simply, “Theirs.”

“Be prudish and proud, Célie.” I shrugged, my hand curling instinctively around Reid’s ankle. “We’ll be whorish and happy.”
“You should both show your scars,” she murmured.

Célie dragged her braid across her shoulder to stare at it, fingering the tails of the ribbon in quiet wonder. Coco plopped her cheek atop my head, and her familiar scent – earthy yet sweet, like a freshly brewed cup of tea – engulfed me. “They mean you survived.”
Her hair rippled like water down her shoulders as she floated into the room, casting her ethereal silver gaze in our direction. When her eyes met mine, I saw not iris and sclera but tranquil moonlight on the sea, silken foam along the shore. I saw cresting waves and flashing scales – primordial creatures of teeth and shadow who awoke with the darkness. I saw tempests to tear apart kingdoms, secrets bared and secrets kept. Secrets kept in boundless depths.

Then she smiled at me, and a shiver skittered down my spine. In that smile, I saw chaos.

Pure, unadulterated chaos.
Claud had once described himself as the Wild, and in his true form, I’d believed it. The Oracle didn’t need to assume her true form for me to understand. From the misty, nameless color of her hair and skin to the liquid movement of her body, she was the sea. And the sea drowned those who couldn’t swim.
“I do find you extraordinary. Perhaps not extraordinarily brave or just or true, but extraordinary nonetheless.” When I rolled my eyes, politely skeptical, he stepped in front of me, forcing us both to a halt. “Who else would have accepted the spoiled son of a king? The misused aristocrat? The sacrilegious huntsman? In the eyes of the kingdom, we are nothing.” His voice dropped lower still. “You’ve given us all a place, a purpose, when before we didn’t have one. You are the reason we’re here, Lou. And I don’t care about the water’s truth – you are my sister. Never forget it.”
The three of them died together.

It wasn’t poetic. It wasn’t grand or heroic or momentous, like one might’ve expected. The heavens didn’t part, and the earth didn’t swallow them whole. These three women – the oldest and most powerful in the world – died just like anyone would: with their eyes open and their limbs cold.

Good Wives

- Louisa May Alcott

To outsiders, the five energetic women seemed to rule the house, and so they did in many things; but the quiet scholar, sitting among his books, was still the head of the family, the household conscience, anchor, and comforter; for to him the busy, anxious women always turned in troublous times, finding him, in the truest sense of those sacred words, husband and father.
“I’m not a show, aunty, and no one is coming to stare at me, to criticise my dress, or count the cost of my luncheon. I’m too happy to care what any one says or thinks, and I’m going to have my little wedding just as I like it. John, dear, here’s your hammer;” and away went Meg to help “that man” in his highly improper employment.

Mr. Brooke didn’t even say “Thank you,” but as he stooped for the unromantic tool, he kissed his little bride behind the folding-door, with a look that made Aunt March whisk out her pocket-handkerchief, with a sudden dew in her sharp old eyes.
Wealth is certainly a most desirable thing, but poverty has its sunny side, and one of the sweet uses of adversity is the genuine satisfaction which comes from hearty work of head or hand; and to the inspiration of necessity, we owe half the wise, beautiful, and useful blessings of the world.
Jo went prepared to bow down and adore the mighty ones whom she had worshipped with youthful enthusiasm afar off. But her reverence for genius received a severe shock that night, and it took her some time to recover from the discovery that the great creatures were only men and women after all.
She began to see that character is a better possession than money, rank, intellect, or beauty; and to feel that if greatness is what a wise man has defined it to be, “truth, reverence, and good-will,” then her friend Friedrich Bhaer was not only good, but great.
Not until months afterward did Jo understand how she had the strength of mind to hold fast to the resolution she had made when she decided that she did not love her boy, and never could. It was very hard to do, but she did it, knowing that delay was both useless and cruel.
“I’ve done my best, but you won’t be reasonable, and it’s selfish of you to keep teasing for what I can’t give. I shall always be fond of you, very fond indeed, as a friend, but I’ll never marry you; and the sooner you believe it, the better for both of us,—so now!”

That speech was like fire to gunpowder. Laurie looked at her a minute as if he did not quite know what to do with himself, then turned sharply away, saying, in a desperate sort of tone,—

“You’ll be sorry some day, Jo.”
Jo followed a minute after to wave her hand to him if he looked round. He did look round, came back, put his arms about her, as she stood on the step above him, and looked up at her with a face that made his short appeal both eloquent and pathetic.

“O Jo, can’t you?”

That was all, except a little pause; then Laurie straightened himself up, said “It’s all right, never mind,” and went away without another word. Ah, but it wasn’t all right, and Jo did mind; for while the curly head lay on her arm a minute after her hard answer, she felt as if she had stabbed her dearest friend; and when he left her without a look behind him, she knew that the boy Laurie never would come again.
Meg has John and the babies to comfort her, but you must stand by father and mother, won’t you, Jo?”

“If I can; but, Beth, I don’t give up yet; I’m going to believe that it is a sick fancy, and not let you think it’s true,” said Jo, trying to speak cheerfully.

Beth lay a minute thinking, and then said in her quiet way,—

“I don’t know how to express myself, and shouldn’t try, to any one but you, because I can’t speak out, except to my Jo. I only mean to say that I have a feeling that it never was intended I should live long. I’m not like the rest of you; I never made any plans about what I’d do when I grew up; I never thought of being married, as you all did. I couldn’t seem to imagine myself anything but stupid little Beth, trotting about at home, of no use anywhere but there. I never wanted to go away, and the hard part now is the leaving you all. I’m not afraid, but it seems as if I should be homesick for you even in heaven.”
He felt that his blighted affections were quite dead now; and, though he should never cease to be a faithful mourner, there was no occasion to wear his weeds ostentatiously. Jo wouldn’t love him, but he might make her respect and admire him by doing something which should prove that a girl’s “No” had not spoilt his life.
By the second week, every one knew perfectly well what was going on, yet every one tried to look as if they were stone-blind to the changes in Jo’s face. They never asked why she sang about her work, did up her hair three times a day, and got so blooming with her evening exercise; and no one seemed to have the slightest suspicion that Professor Bhaer, while talking philosophy with the father, was giving the daughter lessons in love.
Passers-by probably thought them a pair of harmless lunatics, for they entirely forgot to hail a ‘bus, and strolled leisurely along, oblivious of deepening dusk and fog. Little they cared what anybody thought, for they were enjoying the happy hour that seldom comes but once in any life, the magical moment which bestows youth on the old, beauty on the plain, wealth on the poor, and gives human hearts a foretaste of heaven. The Professor looked as if he had conquered a kingdom, and the world had nothing more to offer him in the way of bliss; while Jo trudged beside him, feeling as if her place had always been there, and wondering how she ever could have chosen any other lot.

Grief is the Thing with Feathers

- Max Porter

The doorbell rang and I braced myself for more kindness. Another lasagne, some books, a cuddle, some little potted ready-meals for the boys. Of course, I was becoming expert in the behaviour of orbiting grievers. Being at the epicentre grants a curiously anthropological awareness of everybody else; the overwhelmeds, the affectedly lackadaisicals, the nothing so fars, the overstayers, the new best friends of hers, of mine, of the boys. The people I still have no fucking idea who they were. I felt like Earth in that extraordinary picture of the planet surrounded by a thick belt of space junk.
She was beaten to death, I once told some boys at a party.

Oh shit mate, they said.

I lie about how you died, I whispered to Mum.

I would do the same, she whispered back.
Some days I realise I’ve been forgetting basic things, so I run upstairs, or downstairs, or wherever they are and I say, ‘You must know that your Mum was the funniest, most excellent person. She was my best friend. She was so sarcastic and affectionate …’ and then I run out of steam because it feels so crass and lazy, and they nod and say, ‘We know, Dad, we remember.’

‘She would call me sentimental.’

‘You are sentimental.’

They offer me a space on the sofa next to them and the pain of them being so naturally kind is like appendicitis. I need to double over and hold myself because they are so kind and keep regenerating and recharging their kindness without any input from me.
I missed her so much that I wanted to build a hundred-foot memorial to her with my bare hands. I wanted to see her sitting in a vast stone chair in Hyde Park, enjoying her view. Everybody passing could comprehend how much I miss her. How physical my missing is. I miss her so much it is a vast golden prince, a concert hall, a thousand trees, a lake, nine thousand buses, a million cars, twenty million birds and more. The whole city is my missing her.

Eugh, said Crow, you sound like a fridge magnet.
Once upon a time there were two boys who purposefully misremembered things about their father. It made them feel better if ever they forgot things about their mother.
She had flu. It was unusual for her to be ill. The boys were tiny and it had snowed and she couldn’t bear us rampaging about the house so we got dressed and went sledging in the park. We were pathetic without her. The boys didn’t know where their hats were. Couldn’t get their joined mittens through their puffer jackets; didn’t want to see other boys, bigger boys sledging on the hill. I was hopeless. I took them out without wellies so before we’d even got down the road their little toes were aching. They both whinged and we all felt, the three of us, that without her things didn’t work as they should. They pitied me. I felt acutely embarrassed that my brilliance as a father had been exposed as wholly reliant upon her. Perhaps if I’d known it was a dress rehearsal for the rest of our lives I would have said BUCK UP YOU LITTLE TURDS, or HELP ME. Or take me, take me instead please.
We used to think she would turn up one day and say it had all been a test.

We used to think we would both die at the same age she had.

We used to think she could see us through mirrors.

We used to think she was an undercover agent, sending Dad money, asking for updates.

We were careful to age her, never trap her. Careful to name her Granny, when Dad became Grandpa.

We hope she likes us.
Moving on, as a concept, was mooted, a year or two after, by friendly men on behalf of their well-intentioned wives. Women who loved us. Women who knew me as a child.

Oh, I said, we move. WE FUCKING HURTLE THROUGH SPACE LIKE THREE MAGNIFICENT BRAKE-FAILED BANGERS, thank you, Geoffrey, and send my love to Jean.

Moving on, as a concept, is for stupid people, because any sensible person knows grief is a long-term project. I refuse to rush. The pain that is thrust upon us let no man slow or speed or fix.

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See All Reviews   |   Quotes   |   Sort Reviews By:    # of Pages   |   Author [ Name | Gender | Nationality ]   |   DNF   |   Genre   |   Rating   |   Series   |   Title   |   Year Published