31 DaysDay 27: HOME {the prompt follows at the end of this post}

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No Fear in Love

Ruby stood at the stove putting together some sort of makeshift dinner that she hoped her young daughters would eat. But she’d learned early on that her girls, now three and five, were hit or miss, hot and cold about the food she made. What they raved about one night, they would turn up their noses to on a subsequent night. How she wished that Ethan were home and how she missed him. As she turned the chicken on the spit in the fireplace, she wondered what Ethan would have for dinner or if he would have dinner at all. She forced the thought from her mind.

Three-year-old Clara came running in her running-stumbling way into the kitchen and wrapped her arms around Ruby’s legs.

“Hey, Baby,” Ruby cooed to her, which caused Clara to squeeze even tighter, a wide grin on her face as she stared up at Ruby. “Where’s your sister, baby girl?”

At that moment, five-year-old Phoebe came barreling through the archway that separated the living space from the kitchen and family dining space. Phoebe had a wide, toothless grin and she lit up the dim candle-lit room with the energy only a five-year-old could bring to a room. Ruby laughed and ruffled Phoebe’s crazy curls.

“Hello, my love,” she said to her sweet oldest girl. “I hope you’re ready for some dinner.”

Phoebe grimaced and Ruby ignored her expression, carrying forth with her enthusiasm for the food she was preparing. “You are going to be so excited tonight; so many of your favorites.” Ruby smiled broadly at her girls. “Do you smell that bacon? And there’s toast warming in the oven and we have plenty of butter and some apple slices as well.”

Her girls’ groans mixed with the air raid sirens and all three of them stopped and stared, as if the siren was a noise they’d not heard a hundred times before. Ruby took a deep breath, and ignored the fear that was already making itself known in her stomach, her nerves, along her spine. She removed the bacon from the skillet in front of her and moved to douse the flame in the fireplace where the chicken roasted on its spit. She hoped that the chicken would continue to roast while they huddled in the basement and she quickly grabbed the warmed slices of bread from the oven, quickly spreading them with thick layers of butter before herding the girls into the basement shelter.

How Ruby hated the basement. If not for her two little girls, she would take her chances in the kitchen with its memories and its warm glow of the stove and fireplace and the delightful smells of dinner on the skillets and on the spits. Potatoes and chicken turning in perfect rotations and the bacon sizzling and sputtering with that tempting aroma. And, oh, that fireplace. How she loved to sit beside it after her girls had eaten their fill, even if their fill was but a few bites. The fire radiated the moments of she and Ethan cozied up together after baby Phoebe was swaddled and sleeping peacefully in her cradle by their bed and their love burning as brightly as the fire’s embers.

Alas, tonight, Ethan was somewhere in the air or the French countryside and she was heading to the dirt basement with the stored vegetables and dampness and darkness and who knows what else. But, for the sake of Phoebe and Clara, Ruby stood tall, shoulders back, head high and, with as much confidence as a mother needed, she gathered her ducklings beneath her wings and led them to safety. To darkness. To unknown fears that Ruby discarded with each step on the stairs leading them into what sheltered them from the bombs.

Several months ago, before Ethan shipped out, Ruby and Ethan had set up as safe a haven as they could, creating a corner in the fear-invested basement with its darkness and unknowns, as small a corner of safety and love and at-home-ness as they could. Once downstairs and the door secured behind them, Ruby guided her girls to the safe space she and Ethan had worked diligently to create. It had an old, worn settee with several homemade quilts made by Ruby and her mother and Ethan’s mother. There were several books that the girls favored and a box of candles and plenty of matches.

With great care, Ruby arranged the layers of quilts around her girls, painting this time in the basement as as much of an adventure as she could because even in the darkness she could still see their tiny scared faces. They clung to each other and to her. She settled between them, covering them all with quilts and humming softly some of their favorite hymns, beginning with Jesus Loves You. Ever since Phoebe was a wee babe, Ruby had sung the familiar children’s song, Jesus Loves Me as Jesus Loves You. And nothing settled her girls into peace and stillness like the words of that beautiful and familiar hymn.

She handed each girl a warm piece of toast and bent low to light two of the candles in their holders. Their flickering flames created a somewhat eerie shadowy glow, but Ruby knew that both girls were as thankful as she for the bit of light they afforded. She knew that there were others who were huddled in their basements right now without candles, without toast and without knowing Jesus Loves You. She prayed for Ethan and for she and the girls as she heard the rumblings of the bombs overhead.

As the girls chewed on their toast, she pulled out one of their favorite stories, smiled warmly at each of them and pulled them closer to her, layering yet another quilt over all of them. She opened the cover of the book and began to read. As she read, each girl leaned her weight into Ruby and Ruby couldn’t help but blink back the tears and the fear that welled on the brink of her being there in the basement.

{stop}

{Just a reminder, we try to keep these writing exercises to 30 minutes maximum, but that’s not a hard and fast rule, especially with these exercises and this challenge. And I will say that in order to keep my writing within the 30 minute time, I create playlists on Spotify that allow me to put together songs that come close to 30 minutes. I also select music that fits with the story idea and help inspire the words I write. When the final note plays on the last song…I stop writing. Usually. But not lately.}

Writing Prompt: HOME – Use a house in a story fragment. Think about the power of rooms (kitchens, basements, unfinished attics, walk-in closets) on psychology and conversation. In this fragment, make the house a unique, though passive, participant in the unfolding events. The room need not be in a typical house. Think about all the other rooms we become familiar with – classrooms, office cubicles, public toilets. What are their personalities? How do the more public spaces we inhabit affect our behaviors? You might consider keeping several characters permanently stuck in different rooms in a house, communicating by shouts, cell phones, intercoms, Dixie cups and strings, or telepathy. Ghosts haunt houses, and writers are often ghosts to their own cherished or bedeviling childhood homes. {Exercise 111 from The 3 A.M. Epiphany: Uncommon Writing Exercises that Transform Your Fiction by Brian Kiteley. Note, this is an affiliate link}

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