include_once("common_lab_header.php");
Excerpt for Stories South of the Sun by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Stories South of the Sun

A Collection of Short Stories and Flash Fiction

by Stella Samuel






Copyright Stella Samuel 2019

All rights reserved

Cover Design and Photography by Stella Samuel


First Smashwords Edition



Smashwords Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favorite ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.


Table of Contents


Title Page

Copyright Page

Table of Contents


Introduction

I Lost You

Father, Mine and Someone’s

After the Eclipse

Desert Loss

Zane and the Desert

El Dorado Man


About the Author

Connect with Stella

Stella’s Novels

Introduction


It's always nice to have a venue in which to share smaller pieces of fiction while we await larger stories coming to fruition and follow authors through the process of writing and editing before the published piece ends up in readers' hands. This collection dabbles in ideas of a new realm, children's adventure, and the idea of love lost, which we all probably know more about than realms of adventure. The final piece, “El Dorado Man,” was a challenge to write forty-eight paragraphs while telling a cohesive story without dialogue. It was a fun piece to write and reminded me that my heart belongs in the desert, and until I get that out and onto paper in a larger piece, many of my short stories will live there too. The others, well, they are fun, sometimes truthful and sometimes not as much. Either way, I hope you enjoy the characters inside my head.

~Stella




I Lost You


Sleep came, but only restless sleep. Nightmares without monsters plagued my mind. We had a son. I tried to remember his name.

I didn’t know him. Somewhere in my mind, I knew he was merely a dream.

But I do know he’s my son. Your son. He’s our son.

Our small row house, stark on the inside and colorful on the out, set the stage for events to come.

Our son, excited for another birthday celebration, carried sadness in his eyes. I didn’t know which birthday we were to celebrate, but I was eager. That is, until I walked into the emptiness of our home. It wasn’t completely empty. You had guests. Visitors, I thought. Birthday partygoers, maybe.

“Hello,” I said as I walked in.

In my right hand, I carried a gift bag. I had no idea what was inside, but I carried it in as if I were a guest attending your party, not hosting a party for the child we shared. Reality, a surreal one, but reality, all the same, washed over me with waves of tears burning my eyes.

I wasn’t welcome at your party.

We were breaking up. My mind erased the bad and only held onto the good. My new surreal reality washed over me like a wave holding me under with memories flooding in as I realized you no longer wanted me. Our son didn’t know. I walked into our home like a visitor. You spoke with people I didn’t know. Maybe they were your friends. Perhaps they were parents of our son’s friends.

You came around the corner, shoulders hunched, talking about closets and bathrooms. I watched as you paused and shared the troubles the kitchen sink had given us with your guests. Your eyes wouldn’t meet mine. Are you still angry?

“A new faucet might fix it,” you said. “But we haven’t had time to try.” A tear escaped the corner of your eye.

We’d argued about this leak for months. It was only one example of a life we tried but quickly gave up on. A metaphor hovering over the kitchen sink. Water dripping like the bad energy between us growing faster. Dripping longer each time we opened the water line. I didn’t know anything about plumbing. You did. You do. I nagged you about it for months while you told me to let it go. Was this it? Free flowing water, the demise of our relationship. I tried to make eye contact, but you weren’t having it. Your eyes ignored mine. The same way you ignored the leaky faucet.

“Mom? I’m home.”

“Oh, please give me a minute. That’s my son.” Your hand brushed the arm of the woman with you before you left the room to greet our son.

From my spot standing in the simple hallway, changes in our home were obvious. Stark and white must have been the birthday theme. Harsh lighting washed out your face. When did our home become sterile? Our son smiled at the sparse décor on his birthday. No other guests had arrived. Didn’t we know anyone anymore? You wouldn’t acknowledge me. But I knew you were angry. We were breaking up after all.

Our son peered at a photo on the table opposite me and said, “Hi, Momma.” He stubbed his foot on his way out. “I know you’re here,” he said. “Come back.” His eyes avoided mine.

I smiled at him. He was getting so big. His dark curly hair matched yours perfectly. But, no, it didn’t. You don’t have dark or curly hair. Yours is long, straight light brown hair, and I adore how it frames your beautiful face. I don’t know his name, our son, so I said nothing. He was too old for the Thomas the Tank Engine gift bag I brought. I hoped the gift I put inside would be appropriate for his new year on Earth. Maybe it was twelve. That number was familiar. And before the party started, I was sure I’d remember our son’s name. But for the moment, one of those moments when the bad gets pulled under the tow of the current and the good gets washed to sea, I recognized why you are Mom and I am Momma. You gave birth. I stood beside you. You said we were pioneers. Two women having a child together. You’d left your job to be home with him. That’s how you learned every nuance of the house, including just how to fix the leaky faucet in the kitchen. We both wanted children, but the expense of bringing one into the world was too much for our pockets to handle. He’d probably never know just how loved he was and how much we wanted him. And I couldn’t remember his name.

“Sorry about that,” you said to your guests. “Today is his birthday.” Your chin trembled as your eyes tracked the floor.

“Oh, happy birthday to him. He’s a nice looking boy. Your husband must have been proud to look into his eyes each day. He looks just like you.”

“I don’t have a husband.”

“Oh, that’s right,” the gentleman said. “We heard...uh, about the accident. And we’re very sorry.”

The woman placed her hand inside her husband’s and squeezed. He replaced his words with a sad grin.

“Is there anything else I can tell you about the home?” You spoke out loud, but my words memorialized on your tattooed arms came alive floating above us as your arm stretched out to open the door. They weren’t your guests. They weren’t partygoers. They were looking at our home. I tried to remember if we’d decided to sell it before I left. Maybe you are preparing because you don’t want me back. You don’t want to hear about the leaky faucet anymore. Or the cracked tile near the bathtub. Maybe I was too hard on you because after you stayed home all day, I still had to cook dinner most nights. And when I cleaned the dishes all alone, the faucet leaked all over the counter behind the sink. The hard water stains building up in the tiny space behind the faucet didn’t bother you as much as it bothered me. I took a razor blade to it one day to scrape the calcium buildup off the counters. You were upset because I scraped off the caulk too. I could have fixed that. But I don’t know where our caulk gun is. Or how to use it. Over time, water spilled down between the counter and the wall into the cabinet below. This was only a problem months later when you placed an industrial size box of trash bags into a sagging and rotting cabinet. It was my fault. I’m sorry. I blamed you. I'm sorry. If you had fixed the faucet, it wouldn’t have leaked. If it weren’t leaking, it wouldn’t have puddled water in that spot, and I wouldn’t have had to scrape hard buildup off the countertops. If I didn’t do that, I wouldn’t have taken off the caulk giving the water a place to drain into the cabinet, ruining it forever. I imagine it’s a small problem we’ll have to fix. I’ll add it to the list of things to work on.

“Thank you for your time. It’s a lovely home. Really, it is. We’ll be in touch,” said the woman who visited you on our son’s birthday.

I heard them talking together as I stood in the hallway inside our home void of anything personal except one photo. “It is a shame. I feel like we should help her.” Your guest’s voice didn’t carry far. The last I heard was the door at street level closing behind them.

I didn’t remember what that hallway looked like. I didn’t walk through it myself on my way into our home with my gift bag for our son. I wasn’t even sure I’d come in through that same door when I arrived at our son’s birthday celebration which we weren’t celebrating. As I stood looking at your face in the stark hallway with only a table and one photo, I remembered a carpeted flight of stairs leading to our door from a lobby area with a panel of mailboxes near the outside world. I found no familiarity in anything except your face. You still didn’t look at me. I took the opportunity to soak you in.

You are beautiful. Did I tell you that enough? When I had the chance? Did I tell you how much I loved running my fingers through your hair? Did I ever recognize how much you hated it? Did I tell you I knew? Thank you for tolerating me. Each and every time I did it, I was selfish. Because I needed to touch you. Your hair. Your face. Your crooked smile. Do you remember what I told you I wanted during our first kiss at our wedding? I wanted to place my right thumb on that spot. The one on your crooked smile, the edge of your lips. The smirk you saved just for me. That smirk, like a new habit, not one built into each conversation we had but rather one that turned me on in our early days, died away as we built our lives together. I knew it was still there. The corner of your mouth that turned on its own when you looked only at me. I wanted to place my thumb on it before my lips touched yours announcing us as wives to one another. We didn’t get that chance. The corner of your mouth isn’t turned up anymore. Not just the one. Neither of them turns up. Maybe you smiled when our son yelled out, ‘Mom?’ but, if so, it didn’t stay for long. Do you smile anymore?

I know it’s hard. I know you don’t want to speak to me. But we should. Maybe we should apologize and embrace. Maybe we should plan that wedding instead of planning to sell the house.

This isn’t about the faucet,” you’d said. It was the last argument we had, wasn’t it? The way your eyes furrow and your chin quivers, I can tell it’s what you are thinking with your head against the wall and your eyes closed. “It’s about her. You won’t let her go.”

She’s not an ex. She’s a friend. An old friend,” I’d said.

And I like her. She’s my friend too. But you lusted after her. For years, you wanted her. You wanted her to be an ex, didn’t you?” This wasn’t a new argument for us. It was your sticking point.

Well, maybe I didn’t want her to be an ex. But yes, I wanted her. But that was so long ago. I don’t look at her today like I did then.”

But you talk about it. You two together. When I’m around, you talk about those days you wanted her. You tell her all the time how much she was a mission in your life. To sleep with her. You do this in front of me.” Your eyes watered. I noticed. I noticed your pain and still didn’t stop the argument.

I do not. You’re reading too far into conversations,” I’d said.

You flirt with her,” you said as you wiped a tear from your cheek.

I slammed my hand down gritting my teeth. “I treat her the same way I always have. Whether you are around or not, I have a friendship with her, and I will maintain it the way we always have.”

Then I’m inviting Janessa over for lunch. So, you can meet her.” Your ex had always been your sticking point. I’d never minded your friendship. I also didn’t want any part of it.

No. It’s not the same. You lived with her. You shared a house. Bills. A dog. A bed,” I’d said.

But I don’t see her that way now. She’s a good friend of mine, and I want her in our lives,” you’d said.

I can’t do it. I can’t handle it.”

Becca’s my friend too, you know. Even though you lusted after her for years before, she’s become my friend. And we’re moving forward with the business together.”


Purchase this book or download sample versions for your ebook reader.
(Pages 1-7 show above.)