Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Smell Of Hope - Short Story

Hello, friends!

It's been a while since I've participated in a Flash Fiction Challenge. I honestly didn't expect to participate this time, either. Although I certainly planned on stalking - errr, reading - the comment section so I could enjoy the pieces other writers wrote. However, recently something sad happened in our real life and I found myself turning it into complete fiction after being triggered by Chuck's Flash Fiction prompt: Hope in the face of Hopelessness. Kind of deep, right? Well, turns out it was also kind of therapeutic for me. So, once again, thank you Chuck Wendig! 

To be honest this piece is more for me than for you. I do hope you'll read it and get something beautiful (and hopeful!) out of it, but I admit I can't be entirely sure. What I do know is that it has given me something important. I love that about the freedom in fiction! You get to take advantage, create what you need, without guilt. 

I invite you to read my short story. When you're finished feel free to join me in the comment section over on Chucks blog where I'll be sipping coffee and reading several other flash fiction stories! Hugs, smiles, and love!! ~Tsara


The Smell Of Hope

The pain is physical, deep, dark colors, existing everywhere, specifically nowhere, all-encompassing, too much; too much.

She can’t - it can’t -  please!

Her new husband must have taken the phone out of her hands because she’s using both of them to scratch deep marks into her skin. Nails digging deep into her upper arms with the intention of releasing blood like she used to. Arms wrapped around herself and holding her tight, holding her together, as her mom used to.

But never again.

How? Why? A car crash? After everything, and, well, everything, it was a car crash?

Deja pulls herself into the fetal position with great effort and feels, from far away, her husband lay a blanket on her as she holds herself, and their baby – fetal, inside her – together.


Dreams will be Deja’s comfort. Always able to use dreams selfishly, mixing memory with need for her purposes, a place where being blind isn’t disabling and her style of sight is perfectly suited. Dreams have always been Deja’s strongest sense. She calls to them now.


Her mom is standing strong as a brick wall blocking the doorway. Deja wants to smell the food cooking in the kitchen but it’s her own sour sweat and vomit that invade her nostrils. “Got drunk during the day,” mom said, matter of fact. Disappointed. “The world is dark to me no matter what time it is,” Deja retorted. Foolishly.

Usually black as night Deja’s mom turns pale when angry, people have said. Deja imagines she’s pale now.

Deja just wants her to give a little, to understand. It’s not as if she’s doing drugs and living on the street. She’s drinking, partying, just like other girls her age. It’s not so easy to pull off being like other girls her age. Why can’t her mom give a little?

Now she’s holding her, mom is. Deja is crying on the ground, cuts all over her legs, they’re in the yard. Even after she’d stolen from her mom, disrespected her with venomous sarcasm and lies – cleverly mixing in truth in dangerous and cruel ways – her mom is holding her, loving her, keeping her together.

The cuts, Deja gave those to herself. Cutting to avoid a pain she couldn’t identify or ignore. Nobody had hurt her really, she’d never been raped or abused or molested, there was no reason for her emotional anguish. Her disability wasn’t overly disabling. No, she didn’t have a reason. Deja felt a pain that came from herself but she wasn’t doing it to herself. It was just there.

So, she cut. She drank. She stole. She fought. She found ways to push the uncontrolled pain down by living on the edge or inflicting pain she could identify and explain.

Her mom wouldn’t allow it and stood strong and fierce. Yet this day, that day, certain days, she understood Deja’s readiness to feel love, to feel support, and she would give it.

Now they are in Deja’s rented room. Deja and her mom healing. Together. With the pleasure and power of dreaming, a year’s worth of connecting and revealing and explaining and admitting sit with them in that room. Deja knows now about her mom’s rape and the abuse she suffered before Deja was ever born. They have explored how, maybe, possibly, Deja’s mom had passed the pain onto her. Unwillingly and unknowingly. Insidious and subliminal. Deja admits that the unexplained pain has receded. Replaced with purpose. With love. With hope. With perspective.

She is getting married.

She is going to be a mom.

Dreaming still, Deja is holding her husband’s hand. His hand is holding hers. Her black skin and his dark brown skin complimenting and outlining each other; and though she can’t see it she has imagined it as he’s described it. The way they fit together is clear to her but more entertaining the way he tells it. She lifts their hands to her face and smells them; together.

Deja’s mom is standing in a doorway smiling; beaming. She’s a big woman but her expectations for the future are bigger. Filling more than the doorway.

This is Deja’s dream but she doesn’t recognize the doorway. It feels different, smells unusual. But her mom, her mom she recognizes.


Deja’s dreams are memories, filled in with a selfish need to stay with mom. Deja knows she can sleep forever. She’s considered it before; long before. Is now the time to consider it again? For her mom and her baby and herself? There’s no hope now for the future with mom. No hope here. It was snatched; stolen; killed; crashed.


Arden watches his new wife sleep for a few more moments. He feels lost and scared. His wife and baby are the future he is prepared and excited for. Only recently has he been man enough to love them for the sake of them, not only for how they make him feel about himself. Not only for how they fit into his plan of things. Creative job, check. Reliable car, check. Home, rented - but check. Wife, check. Kids, on the way - and check.

But this; can he do this? How? He is already feeling a need to talk about how this will affect him. He thought he was man enough, but now he wonders. He’s being tested too soon; too soon.

Arden steps into the kitchen and pulls his phone from the charger. He stares at it and considers the people he can call. Mom, dad, brothers, sister, friends – what can they say? What can they do?

Arden thinks about his mother-in-law who he barely knew. Would she even know what to do? What to say?

Well, he can’t call her now, can he?

Arden is not the type to get angry but he’s angry at himself now, for not feeling a deeper sadness. He’s mostly fuzzy and stressed. He’s nervous. He wants to do this right but, more than that, he doesn’t want to do this wrong. It’s tempting to focus on himself.

What do you do for your pregnant wife when her mom suddenly dies? How do you be a good husband, a good father, a good man, then?

Arden gets himself a glass of water and fills Deja’s favorite water bottle with sweat tea.
Gathering his art supplies from the tiny living room he heads quietly confused back to their bedroom.


The pain is too real and keeps waking Deja. Her dreams are beginning to feel like home and she wants to live in them. Mom is there. Her baby is born. Arden is showing his cartoons to the kids, describing them to her, reading the stories and jokes to everyone. There are several kids now and she dreams her family is growing. But then pain comes and informs the dream; influences it. Someone goes missing. One of the kids, her husband, a friend; interestingly, never her mom.

Her mom is gone in this world, not that one.

Deja’s eyes flit open and Arden feeds her water, tea, fruit, corn bread. Deja can’t see it and doesn’t taste it but she is nourished by it.

Sometimes Arden isn’t there. She guesses he’s at work. That’s when she knows she could do it. Sleep with her baby forever. When Arden isn’t there she imagines him crying over them and telling a sad story, a story of his blind wife and their baby-to-be, and getting comfort from his family and co-workers. She imagines him writing an award winning film, getting over them, remembering fondly while getting on with his life. She imagines it’s easier for him.

But then he’s there again.

She smells him before she hears him. He’s being careful and quiet but his smell is loud. He smells like outside. Like coffee and popcorn. Like soap and detergent. He smells like hope.

It bothers her. It comforts her. She’s sobbing again.


Arden has fallen asleep behind her, holding her and the baby; all three of them in the fetal position.

Deja is between sleep and awake, in that other dimension, not sure which direction she wants to travel.

The baby flutters in her belly.

Her mom laughs in her dream.

Deja hears breathing and smells hope.

Arden kisses the back of her head and sleepily rubs her belly. His beard scratches her neck and she smells his morning breath.

Her mom is over there; waiting in the dreams; in the other dimension.

Her mom is staying there.

And Deja will visit.

But Deja is staying here.

Where her vision is created out of sounds, tastes, energy, smells, touch, and imagination.

Deja will stay here with her new husband and their baby. They’ll build a distinctly different future than originally planned out of the pain and rubble of the car crash; they’ll be honest about what pieces to throw away and which ones to keep. They’ll try to be, anyway.

Deja is staying here.

Where it smells like hope.

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