I did not write a novel during NaNoWriNo. I never do. I always say that I am going to try it, but then I never do. I think it’s something about the fact that everyone else is trying to write a novel then; my soul is that much of a contrarian. I wish I had been able to take advantage of the month. It would have been a good way to kick-start the writing for the third book of the Shifters Novels series.
I did do other writing. I finished a draft of an article that I was working on, and I wrote a short story for a contest that Lulu was running. I thought I would post it here. It is pretty different from what I have been writing (i.e. not YA), and I did not do too much revising. The Lulu contest had a 600 word maximum. Anyway, I hope that you enjoy…
“I am going to comb your hair now. Okay Mama?”
She held up the small, thin-toothed black comb, both showing it to the woman and asking for permission at the same time. She rose from the chair that she had been sitting in for the past hour and walked over to stand behind her mother. Moving slowly, she paused with each step and waited for the woman to tell her no. To make her stop. She didn’t.
Standing behind her mother, she slowly began to run the comb through the woman’s short, salt and pepper locks. Slightly waved and soft as a newborn’s, the strands slipped easily through the narrowly spaced tines of the comb.
The softness of it surprised her, as it did every time. She had somehow never imagined that her mother might have such hair. Always immaculately coiffed, it had seemed so thick and full. But it wasn’t. It was thin and fragile; more like her own than she had ever guessed. It was a wonder.
“I am thinking about going to Florida. You know, just to get away. Wouldn’t the beach be nice this time of year, away from the snow and the cold?” The girl chattered brightly as the comb slipped through the strands again and again. “Maybe you can come with me. What would you think about that?” She could feel the fatigue entering her limbs. It began in her feet, fusing them to the floor with its weight before creeping slowly upward to make her hands feel like anvils.
Methodically she combed, attempting to ignore the dandruff disturbed by the motion. Her mother moved restlessly under the ministrations. Then, unable to resist any longer, the girl turned the comb on its edge and began to scratch gently at a patch of dead skin that crusted where her mother’s hairline met her forehead. Diligently she worked. It popped off in specks, floating briefly in the air before settling back into her mother’s dark locks like flakes of snow.
As the dead skin sloughed away, revealing the smooth skin beneath, the girl felt some of the weight begin to evaporate. Soon it was done. She brushed away the last of flakes, using her fingertips to dab away the most stubborn of them and then settled back with a sigh.
‘There Mama,” she whispered, her voice faint with exhaustion. “You look all better now.” Carefully, she cleaned the comb and placed it back on the table. Then, she glanced at the clock. Two more hours had passed.
She walked over to the closet near the door and fished out her coat. As she wrapped the scarf around her neck she turned back to her mother.
“I have to go now, Mama.”
Her mother lay motionless on the bed, her emaciated form shrouded in the sedate blue hospital blanket. Gauze pads covered her eyes, to keep them moist the nurse had said.
Taking her hat from her pocket, she pulled it down over her head and gave the cheery rainbow pom-pom on top a little pat before lowering her hands to her sides.
“I will be back tomorrow, okay?” After another beat, “Okay, Mama?”
She stood, now in the doorway, and the bright lights from the hall cast deeper shadows in the room, making its darkness that much more impenetrable.
“Think about Florida, Mama.” Her voice was a little louder this time. “I promise to take you with me…if you would just wake up.”
In the shadows, she thought she saw her mother move. She thought she saw her mouth work. She held her breath.