This month, we at Professional Editing & Literary Services are pleased to announce that Arienne Renee is our Spotlight Author. Arienne loves the art of the twist; that moment in a story where all perceptions are skewed, the moment when your jaw drops in disbelief.
Enjoy reading three of Arienne's short stories and, for some extra fun, try and guess the twist after reading the first few lines of each story.
Write Well. Write Often.
1,000 Feet Up
“Hi Steve, it’s Becky. Look, I know I shouldn’t be calling, that I should just leave you alone, but I had to let you know how sorry I am...for everything. I had no right to act that way the last time we saw each other. It was just, seeing you and her together like that, laughing and having such a great time, made me feel so...alone. I had way too much to drink that night and lost control. I’m not making excuses or anything, I know what I did was wrong and drunk or not, it never should have happened, but it was the first time I’d seen her since...you know. I never should have called her a fat cow or flesh balloon or any of those other stupid, childish things. Will you tell Sandy I’m sorry and that I wish her and the baby much health and happiness?
I’m probably running out of time, I think you only get a minute or two for voicemails, but I wanted to let you know I’m doing so much better now. That disastrous night in the restaurant turned things around for me. Made me see what a shrew I’d become. I haven’t had a drink in months and I’ve been seeing a therapist. He says I’ve made a lot of progress. I know they probably all say that to justify the exorbitant prices they charge, but I really do feel better. A new lease on life and other such cliches.
I’m in New York, visiting Samantha. I’m in her office, looking out the window at all the little ant people walking around on the streets. My little sister, working in an office a thousand feet off the ground, can you believe it? She’s really made it. And you know what? She got me an interview with her boss, I’m meeting with him in about an hour or so. Keep your fingers crossed.
I got a cat. His name is Clifford. It feels good to take care of someone else, makes me feel important. Like I matter. It’s a new feeling for me. Being important, being missed by someone, being greeted when I come home. It’s...wonderful.
Okay, I’m going to quit while I’m ahead, before I get cut off. But, Steve, I really am sorry for the hurtful things I said. But you should know, that night? That night turned out to be the best of my life. It was the night my real life began. Okay, I’m really going to hang up now. Wait, what the hell is that? A bird? No, it’s too big to be a bird. That’s not an...wait, yeah, I think it is. It’s flying really low. Too low. Oh my God. I think it’s going to hit the—”
“What did you do to make her so angry?”
“Well, I think it started when my face got in the way of her sword,” Phillipa said as she grasped Andromeda’s hand and allowed herself to be hoisted to her feet. “After that, it’s all a blur.”
“Hmm, Clete usually goes easy on her apprentices. She must have it out for you.” Andromeda smiled before adopting a suspicious expression. “Or maybe she sees something in you the rest of us don’t.” An eyebrow arched. “Something devious? Diabolical? Demented? Da—”
“You’ve made your point, Andromeda, no need to beat it to death. Unless, of course, you’re like Clete and are into that kind of thing.” Challenging Clete had been a stupid thing to do. Why did I do it?
“The morning meal is ready,” Andromeda said, sniffing the air. “I don’t know about you, but I’m starved.”
“You go ahead. I’m going to practice a bit longer.”
Andromeda shrugged and trotted off in the direction of the kitchen tents, leaving Phillipa alone in the dusty training oval. I’ll tell you why you challenged her. Because you have a heightened sense of self, Phillipa. Her inner voice was always that of her mother, especially when a berating was in order. Clete is one of the most respected and decorated warriors our people have ever known. You are, were, her apprentice. What you did was so insulting and disrespectful, I doubt she’ll take you back.
A horn blew in the distance. Phillipa’s head snapped up. Shouts and screams echoed through the air. Phillipa ran toward the noise, dropping the wooden practice sword and unsheathing her blade. Ahead in the distance, she could see Clete sprinting for the eastern shore. Putting on a burst of speed, Phillipa gained on Clete until they were running side-by-side. When they saw the source of the commotion, both women slid to a halt, their sandaled feet fighting for purchase on the rocky ground.
A dozen ships had landed ashore, with hundreds more bobbing in the harbor, waiting to offload their cargo of fighting men.
Clete unsheathed her blade and eyed Phillipa questioningly.
Remembering her earlier act of folly, Phillipa took a step back, head bowed, and placed herself behind her teacher; girding herself to support and defend Clete.
“We will stand.” Clete paused. “Apprentice.”
Phillipa suppressed a pleased grin.
As the invaders came at them, Phillipa felt the ground tremble beneath her feet. Is there really so many men that the ground shakes beneath their numbers?
The quaking grew worse and Phillipa realized the harbor was giving way, dropping into the turbulent waters of the sea.
Will anyone even know I was here? Phillipa thought as the fracturing earth slowly advanced toward where she stood with Clete. The last thing Phillipa saw was Clete, sneering and hoisting her blade, as if challenging the encroaching sea to combat. Doesn’t matter. Atlantis will live on. Even if I don’t.
“Be patient. Be kind. Be loving. Be patient. Be kind. Be lov—”
“Shut your mouth, 458790. It’s time for lights out.” Boot heels clicked against the concrete floor, growing quieter as his jailer continued his evening rounds.
Aaron’s mouth snapped shut. He had never gotten used to being addressed so, but then, his time would be up soon. Freedom would be his, no matter what he was called.
As he lay on the hard bunk, staring at the underside of the bed above his, Aaron finished his litany silently. Each night since he had been arrested and thrown in this place, he repeated his ‘three personal rules for life’ fifty times. It served as a reminder of why he was here in the first place; his inability to follow those three simple rules.
Five months ago, Aaron had been a simple farmer, with sheep and cows and a beautiful family. He had lived in a quaint stone and timber house that he had built himself, and had a large bountiful garden lovingly-tended by his wife. Thinking of berry patches made Aaron’s mouth water, effectively clearing his mind of the memory and bringing him back to the present. A present currently being serenaded by the growling voice of his empty belly.
It’s winter now. Aaron thought. Nothing is growing in the garden. It’s a time for rest, not growth. Shifting on his bony hips, Aaron scoffed silently. When is the last time I awoke feeling rested and not more tired than I was when I laid down?
“Stop moving so much. You’re shaking everything.”
Aaron whispered an apology and stilled his restless, hungry body. I wonder if Adena and the children are waiting for me. He sighed at the thought of his wife, her dark hair drawn back into a plait, a flower tucked behind one ear.
“Stop breathing so loud!”
Biting back a retort, Aaron repeated his three rules once more, for good measure. Until he was free, he would keep to his moral code of patience, kindness, and love. Against his will, he thought back to the day that he hadn’t, the reason he was imprisoned.
His neighbors had come to him claiming powerful men were after them. That they needed to seek refuge in his house, in his barn, anywhere, as long as they could be kept hidden. Aaron had questioned them, asking what they had done wrong, why men were after them. Disbelieving their answer, when the men came, he had handed his neighbors over, hoping to garner favor. All Aaron had garnered was a train ride to prison.
“458790!” Aaron startled awake. Was it morning already? He stood and followed the guard out of his cell.
When they exited the main prison building and walked toward the west, Aaron swelled with anticipation. It was time, he was going to be released. He paused before crossing the threshold and glanced behind him.
“I’m coming Adena,” he whispered before entering the gas chamber.