Meeting McKenzie

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Photo credit: JS Brand

I’m a happily married man with two adorable kids.  I’m standing here, in front of the magnificent Kelpies.  I remember the first time I brought my kids here.  Little Brody clung to my legs, terrified.  Cora’s eyes were huge in her little face as she gazed up at the massive sculptures.  I came here alone today.  The kids are in London with their Mom.

The day’s overcast.  I’m meeting McKenzie, the woman I’d gotten off on a murder charge due to lack of evidence.  She’s a stunning woman who married a man twenty years her senior.  His family had always believed that she’d married him for his money and that she was responsible for his death.  From all appearances, he’d died of a heart attack. There appeared to be no foul play.  When she received the not guilty verdict, his family was visibly upset and fought bitterly to contest his will which left everything to her.

“Hello, Counselor,” her voice interrupts my thoughts.  I turn to face her, my heart pounding.  “I was worried you wouldn’t show.”

I swallow hard.  “I almost didn’t.”

“I’m glad you did,” she says as she walks away.  I follow.

We head for the hotel.

 

200 Words

This was written for Sunday Photo Fiction hosted by Susan Spaulding. For more details visit Here.  To read more of the stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

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Mark’s Letter

“You need to sign for this, Seth,” Lucy said as she handed the registered letter to her boss.

He took it and swallowed hard when he saw who the sender was.  It was sent a week after Mark’s death.  His funeral was two days ago.  He still couldn’t believe it.  Mark was only twenty-five.  He had finally lost his battle with Muscular Dystrophy which he had since he was born.  It was when he was six that he began to slow down.  It was hard watching his younger brother confined to a wheelchair in his latter years, unable to shoot hoops like he used to.

He picked up the pen and signed for the letter.  After she left, he opened it. He leaned back in this chair and slowly read the words on the single sheet.

Dear Seth, I had my nurse write this letter as it would take too long for me to do it myself.  Besides, her writing is far better than mine.  I know that I don’t have much time so I wanted to tell you what has been on my mind for a very long time.  It has to do with Gabrielle.  You know that I am in love with her and wanted to marry her but she turned me down.  She cares for me but she isn’t in love with me and she didn’t think it would be right for her to accept my proposal.  And she was aware that our parents didn’t approve of her for obvious reasons and she believed that you had your own objections but for different reasons.  I know what those reasons are, Brother.  You are in love with her.  I may be slow now but, I’m not blind.  I saw the way you tried not to look at her every time the three of us were together. 

“I still remember the first time I brought her to meet you.  You had just returned from a spin on your new boat.  In your get up you looked like a sea captain minus the cap.  I could tell that Gabrielle was impressed though she tried not to show it, for my sake, I guess.  We were on our way to the hospital and I suggested that we stop by the marina and see you.  I wanted her to meet my incredible brother whom I have looked up to my entire life.  It didn’t take long for me to realize that the two of you were attracted to each other.  At first I was miffed but then when I thought about it, I figured that if she were to have feelings for someone else, I would rather it be you.   When I’m gone, I want you to go to her and tell her how you feel.  Don’t pass up a chance for happiness out of a sense of loyalty to me.  Nothing would please me more than to knowing that the two people I love most in the world have found happiness with each other.  What I’m saying, Seth, is that you have my blessing. 

Please take care of yourself.  And tell Gabrielle, that best thing that ever happened to me was knowing her.

Your loving brother and best friend,

Mark

Seth carefully folded the letter and slipped it back into the envelope before breaking down.

Gabrielle looked at the beautiful pendant Mark had given her as a birthday present a couple of years ago.  Tears ran down her cheeks.  She couldn’t believe that he was gone.

She missed him so much.  He was such a beautiful person, so full of love and goodness.  She felt blessed for knowing him and knew she would always cherish their friendship.  There were times when she wished that she loved him the way he loved her but she couldn’t force something that wasn’t there.  And when he proposed she had to turn him down.  She couldn’t marry a man she didn’t love.  It wouldn’t have been fair to him at all.  His family was probably relieved when he told them that she had rejected his offer of marriage.  Even Seth was probably relieved too.  Seth…Not a day went by when she didn’t think about him.  She hadn’t expected to fall in love with him but when they met she knew she was in trouble.

At the funeral, she had sneaked glances at him as he stood there, tall, well-built in his expensive black suit with his head bowed and his hands clasped tightly in front of him.  His parents stood beside him.  His father had his arm around his weeping mother’s shoulders.  She wanted to go over and offer her condolences but wasn’t sure of the reception she would receive.  After they laid Mark to rest, she was about to leave when Seth approached her.

“Thanks for coming,” he said quietly, his expression drawn.

“I had to come,” she replied.  “He was my friend.”

“He cared very deeply for you.”

“And I cared deeply for him too.  I will miss him.”

“Yes, we will all miss him.”

A pause and then, “Please offer my condolences to your parents.”

“I will.”

Their eyes lingered on each other’s face before she said, “Goodbye, Seth.”

“Goodbye.”

She turned and walked slowly away, tears welling up in her eyes.  She was crying not only because of losing Mark but at the prospect of never seeing Seth again.

The ringing of the doorbell jolted her from her reverie and she put the pendant back in its box and in the top drawer of the bureau before leaving her bedroom.  On her way to answer the door, she glanced at the clock on the wall.  It was eight-fifteen.  It was dark outside. The sun had set over an hour ago.

She peered through the keyhole, her heart lurching when she saw who it was.  Taking a deep breath, she opened the door.  Seth towered over her, looking extremely handsome in a black silk shirt and black pants.  His hair was slicked back.  “I hope I’m not calling you at a bad time,” he said, his eyes restless on her face.

She shook her head.  “No, you’re not,” she assured him as she stepped aside so that he could step into the foyer.  “I didn’t think I would see you again.”

After he removed his shoes, he followed her into the living-room.  Instead of sitting down on the sofa, he went over to the window where he could see the CN Tower. She joined him and stood watching him, thrilled to see him but couldn’t help wondering why he was there. After a few minutes of silence, he turned to face her.  “I received a letter from Mark this morning,” he told her.  “It was mailed a week after he died.”

Her eyes widened.  “A letter?” she repeated.  “He didn’t write it himself, did he?”

“No, he had his nurse write it. Would you like to read it?” he asked.

“If you don’t mind.”

“I don’t mind.”  He reached into his shirt pocket and took out the envelope.  He pulled the letter out and handed it to her.

She took it, unfolded it and began to read.  Seth watched her, his expression tense.   When she was finished, she looked up at him, her eyes wet.   “He knew,” she said.

“Yes, he knew how we felt about each other even if we didn’t.”

“And he wants us to be together.  That’s why he wrote this letter.”

“He has given us his blessing.”

“Yes.” She folded the letter, slipped it back in the envelope and held it out to him.

He took it, his eyes never leaving her face and put it inside his shirt pocket.  “What about you, Gabrielle?” he asked tightly.  “Do you want us to be together?”

“Yes.  Is it what you want?”

“Yes!” he muttered thickly and reached for her.  “It’s what I’ve wanted ever since we met.”

“Me too,” she managed to say before they kissed.

Mark got his wish.  Two years later, they got married and named their first child, Mark.

Source:  ABC News

The Queen of Soul

“When God loves you, what can be better than that?” ~ Aretha Franklin

There is so much I could write about Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul but I decided to concentrate on the highlights of her music career and her “social and civic contributions”.

Aretha Louise Franklin was  born on March 25, 1942 in Memphis, Tennessee.  Her father, Clarence LaVaughn “C. L.” Franklin was a Baptist minister and a circuit preacher while her mother, Barbara was an accomplished piano player and vocalist.  Theirs was a troubled marriage because of her father’s philandering.  The couple separated in 1948.  Before her tenth birthday, Aretha’s mother died from a heart attack.  Several women, including her grandmother and Mahalia Jackson alternated helping the children at the Franklin home and it was during this time that Aretha learned to play the piano by ear.

Following her mother’s death, Aretha began singing solos at New Bethel, debuting with the hymn, “Jesus, Be a Fence Around Me.”  When she was twelve, her father became her manager, bringing her on the road with him during his “gospel caravan” tours for her to perform in various churches.

Her music career found Aretha signing on with big recording giants such as Columbia, Atlantic, Arista and RCA.  She belted out many hits such as You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman, I Say A Little Prayer, Hold On, I’m Comin’.  And she thrilled the younger generation with Who’s Zoomin’ Who and Freeway of Love.  Hearing Freeway of Love transported me back to the ’80s which were a great time for me when I was living in New York.  And who could forget I Knew You Were Waiting For Me, her number one duet with George Michael?

In 1980, she gave a command performance before the Queen at Prince Albert’s Hall, in 2009 she sang at the 2009 inauguration of President Barak Obama.  In the following year, she received an honorary degree from Yale University.  In 2014, she received honorary degrees from Harvard University and New York University as well as honorary doctorates in music from Princeton, Yale, Brown, Pennsylvania, Berkeley, New England Conservatory of Music and University of Michigan.  She was the recipient of other honors such as Doctor of Humane Letters and Doctor of Law degree.

Aretha was dubbed “one of the giants of soul music, and indeed of American pop as a whole.  More than any other performer, she epitomized soul at its most gospel-charged.”  Her voice was described as being a “powerful mezzo-soprano voice” and she was praised for her arrangements and interpretations of other artists’ hit songs.  At the age of 14 when she recorded her first album, Songs of Faith, Jerry Wexler declared that her voice “was not that of a child but rather of an ecstatic hierophant.”  A hierophant is a person who brings religious congregants into the presence of that which is deemed holy.  Aretha’s explanation for that would have likely been, “Being a singer is a natural gift. It means I’m using to the highest degree possible the gift that God gave me to use. I’m happy with that.”

Singing and music weren’t her only passions.  Aretha was a civil rights activist.  Throughout her life, she was involved in the struggle for civil rights and women’s rights.  When Angela Davis was jailed in 1970, Aretha told Jet Magazine that, “Angela Davis must go free… Black people will be free. I’ve been locked up (for disturbing the peace in Detroit) and I know you got to disturb the peace when you can’t get no peace. Jail is hell to be in. I’m going to see her free if there is any justice in our courts, not because I believe in communism, but because she’s a Black woman and she wants freedom for Black people.”  Not surprisingly, her songs “Respect” and “Natural Woman” became anthems of these movements for social change.  She was also a staunch supporter of Native American rights, supporting their struggles worldwide and movements which fostered their cultural rights.

“We all require and want respect, man or woman, black or white. It’s our basic human right” ~ Aretha Franklin

It was a sad day when it was announced that the great Aretha Franklin passed away after losing her battle with pancreatic cancer.  She leaves behind a world touched by her music, her incomparable voice and her effortless work in championing human, civil and women’s rights.  She was the first woman to be inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.  In 2013, she was again ranked first in Rolling Stone magazine’s “100 Greatest Singers” list.

“American history wells up when Aretha sings.  Nobody embodies more fully the connection between the African-American spiritual, the blues, R&B, rock and roll—the way that hardship and sorrow were transformed into something full of beauty and vitality and hope” – President Obama in response to her performance of “A Natural Woman” at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors.

Notes to Women salutes the woman with “the voice of the civil rights movement, the voice of black America” and a “symbol of black equality”  She was an inspiration not only for those in the music world but for all of us.  Although she is no longer with us, her music, her legacy will live on.

“It really is an honor if I can be inspirational to a younger singer or person. It means I’ve done my job” ~ Aretha Franklin

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Sources:  Wikipedia; Brainy Quote

Freedom

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She stood on top of the mountain, her eyes riveted to the American flag as it flapped gently in the breeze.  It was more spectacular than the surrounding landscape.  It was a symbol of freedom from a life of religious persecution in a country where being a Christian led to her husband’s arrest and imprisonment.  After learning of his death resulting from vicious beatings and torture, she fled their home.  She was two months pregnant.

For days she traveled on foot with nowhere to sleep and nothing to eat except sunflower seeds but still, she continued to cling to her faith.  She found a safe house in Bangkok but shortly after, Thai police showed up, seized her possessions and sent her to detention.  The judge ordered her deportation.  Back in the jail cell, she prayed, “God, please help me.”

And He did, through the U.S. Embassy officials who helped her to escape from the Chinese and to America.  Now she and their daughter were free. One day she would tell her about her brave father.

175 words.

It was inspired by a true event and was written for the Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers challenge.  For more information, please visit Here.

To read other stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

Source:  Christian Post; The Voice of the Martyrs CanadaCBN News

Jenny

 

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Photo courtesy of Susan Spaulding

To the casual observer he was a regular bloke sitting on a picnic table in the park having coffee, a cheese burger and fries but he was a retired cop waiting for his ex-partner’s widow.  She called him that morning and asked him to meet her here.  He knew it was dumb of him to come but he couldn’t help it.  He was still in love with her.  He didn’t plan for that to happen but it did.  Their relationship began shortly after Mike’s funeral and lasted for several months before he decided to end it because of the guilt.

“Steve.”

He slid off the table and turned around.  “Hello, Jenny.”  He took off his cap.

“Thanks for coming. I have something to tell you.”

“What is it?”

“I’m pregnant.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.  I’m three weeks.”

He ran his fingers through his salt and pepper hair.  “So, what do we do now?”

“Get married.”

“So soon after Mike’s death?”

“Why not?”

“I need time to think—“

“Okay.  I’ll call you later.”  She turned and walked away.

Steve collapsed on the bench.

Jenny made the call.  “I did what you told me.”

“Good,” a man’s voice replied.

 

198 words

This was written for Sunday Photo Fiction based on the photo prompt above. For more details, you can visit here.

To read more of the stories based on this week’s prompt, visit here.

Maggie

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Photo: Courtesy of Roger Bultot

The woman in the painting with the thick, red curls, heart shaped face and whimsical smile bore a striking resemblance to his beloved Maggie.  Maggie…memories of her death was still very painful for  him.  Ten years ago on the day before her 20th birthday, she drowned.  They never found her body.

He would never forget the moment he first saw her.  She stood on the Great Hall balcony, a vision of beauty.

“David.” A voice broke into his reverie and he turned around.

His face turned ashen.  “Maggie?”  It couldn’t be.

She shook her head.  “No.  Rachel.  Maggie’s twin.”

99 words

This was written as part of the Friday Fictioneers challenge hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.  For more details, click Here.

To read stories of 100 words based on this week’s photo, visit Here.

The Flat Tire

Broken dreams.  Broken promises.

Disappointments.  Heartache.

Death.  Violence.  Lost friends.

Struggles.  Racism.  Broken

families.  Dead-end relationships.

Two different worlds.  Two different

people.  One day their worlds collided.

 

A flat tire in the middle of nowhere.

Frantic, she tried to figure out what

to do.  Had never changed a tire in

her life.  She called for her brother

but there was no answer.  Her father

was out of town.  Her uncle’s phone

was busy.  What was she going to do now?

 

Then, a sleek silver grey Cherokee jeep

slowed down and then stopped.  A

very attractive man dressed in a grey

pinstriped suit stepped out.  He walked

over to her and asked what the problem

was.  After she told him, He removed his

jacket, and placed it on the hood of her

car.

 

Grateful, she watched as he got

down beside the car and fixed the tire.

When he stood, up she thanked him

profusely.  He smiled an incredible

smile and assured her that it was no

problem.

 

“What’s your name?” she asked.

 

“Trevor.”

 

“I’m Kelly.  Thanks again Trevor.”

 

“You’re welcome, Kelly.  Have a good

evening.”

 

“Thanks, you too.”  She watched him

as he took up his jacket and stepped

back so that she could get into her

car.  He waited until she drove off

before he walked back to his jeep.

As she sped away, she hoped that she

would see him again.

 

An she did and it was quite unexpected.

She decided that it was time to join a

gym and signed up to go three times a

week.  After work, she drove there and

after she changed, she went to the area

where the exercise equipment.  And that’s

where she saw him.  At first, she just stood

there staring at him as he sat on the bench

lifting a weight.  He was wearing a black

vest and navy blue shorts.  It was him.

 

Heart racing, she went over to him.  It

had been three weeks since they last

saw each other.  She wasn’t sure that he

would remember her.  Well, there was

only one way to find out.  As she

approached him, he glanced up and

a smile tugged at his lips.  “Hello, Kelly,”

he said, getting up from the bench.

 

“Hello, Trevor,” she said, looking up at

him.  He had to be over six feet tall.

“I wasn’t sure that you would remember

me.”

 

“I never forget a beautiful woman,” he

remarked, making her blush.  “I’ve

never seen you here before.”

 

“I just joined.  Have you been a member

here long?”

 

“For about five years.”

 

“What a stroke of luck that I should find

you here.”

 

“Perhaps luck had nothing to do with

it.  I believe in Providence.  So, what

kind of workout are you going to do?

 

“I think I’ll start off with the leg press

over there, then the lat pull down and

finish with the chest press.”

 

“Well, I’ll be over here if you need any

help.”

 

She smiled, said, “Thanks” and walked

away.  As she worked out, she watched

him doing the weights, thinking how

nice and fit he looked.  A couple of times

he looked over at her and smiled.  After

he was done lifting weights, he got up

and went on the machine curl.

 

After they were finished working out, he

invited her to grab a bite to eat with him.

She readily accepted and hurried off to

shower and get changed.  He was waiting

in the reception area for her.  They walked

to a nearby bistro.  It was a pleasant evening.

Over delicious vegetarian dishes, they chatted.

 

Then, he raised his glass and said, “Here’s to

life sometimes taking us where we never

expected to be.”  She raised her glass, realizing

that he was speaking retrospectively and not

just about the present.

 

As she touched her glass to his, she silently thanked

God for the flat tire.  If it weren’t for that little in-

convenience, she wouldn’t have met Trevor.

 

That evening was the beginning of a relationship

which ended in marriage.  Two lives collided one

evening on the side of a rural road.  They were

two people destined to meet and the seemingly

chance meeting happened precisely at the right moment.

 

 

Sources: Greatest; Elite Men’s Guide; Quote Fancy