For Valentine’s Day; a love story from Poland

February 13, 2013 at 1:51 pm | Posted in inspiration, Kindle, Romance, Short Stories, Teen, Writing, Reading, YA, Young Adult | 2 Comments

Blue Blonde Sea

By Kai Raine

A Story from Poland

In the years that followed, whenever anyone asked him about his first love, he would say, “It was the sea.” He never said anymore, and on one occasion when a particularly shrewd friend asked whether it was a girl like the sea, he simply smiled and took a sip of his drink. His statement was nearly always met by laughter, and sometimes disgruntlement, but eventually his answer was invariably accepted and the conversation moved on.

Miah met her the summer he turned twelve, on the beach near his stepmother’s parents’ house on the outskirts of Cape Town. She looked to be maybe eighteen or so, and her hair was exactly the same color as the sun‑kissed sea; her eyes were bluer than the water that washed onto the shore.

“What are you doing here?” he asked, because he had never seen anyone here at 5 o’clock in the morning before.

“I could ask you the same question,” said the girl.

“My grandparents’ house is down the road that way,” he said.

She raised her eyebrows. “And they let you walk around on your own?”

“Well,” he said, biting his lip, abruptly reminded that in fact he was only allowed these early morning walks because no one knew he took them.

She laughed out loud, her voice deep and carrying a hoarse, breathy overtone. Miah thought that laugh sounded like the waves themselves.

“You should go home,” she said. “It’s not safe to walk around on your own where no one’s around.”

“You are, too,” Miah pointed out.

“I’m an adult,” she said pointedly.

“I’m not a child,” said Miah, rather more forcefully than he had intended. “I can handle myself!”

She smiled wryly. “You certainly talk like a child.”

“What about you, then?” Miah retorted. “You think it’s safer for you than me, just because you’re a bit older? You’re a girl. Girls get raped and murdered in this country all the time!”

Miah wished he could take it back the moment he said it. The sun that had shown from the girl’s eyes set in an instant; now her face was tight and drawn, like he remembered his mother’s being just before the divorce.

“Yes,” said the girl, looking back out at the sea. “We do, don’t we?”

Miah wished and wished she would forget his words, or at least take them lightly. He cursed himself silently and dug for some form of apology—but what kind of apology would make her smile again? When Miah had apologized to his mother after his father had won custody, his mother’s tight, drawn expression had cracked and withered with unshed tears. He didn’t want to see that happen to this girl ‑ he wanted her to smile.

“I think your hair’s beautiful,” said Miah, feeling his face heat up at the adjective that he had never used aloud before outside of English class. “It’s the color of the sea on a sunny day.”

“Do you think so?” asked the girl. A smile spread across her face—and a tear rolled down her cheek. Miah froze and wondered what he ought to do. “I’m happy to hear that. It was exactly what I . . .what I . . .” Her voice was growing weaker, her shoulders trembling. Her lips were quivering in the smile.

All of a sudden Miah knew that expression, because he was positive that it had been his own when his mother lost the custody battle.

“It’s okay to cry,” said Miah. He reached out to pat her on the arm, and she jerked away. He quickly pulled his hand back and squatted in the sand near her. “I promise I won’t tell anyone. I promise I won’t look at you while you’re crying, either. But you should cry. It ‑ well, I think it helps.”

Miah turned his eyes to the ocean and watched the waves. Next to him, he heard her footsteps in the sand and the rustle of her clothing as she sat. True to his word, he kept his eyes on the water and did not look. He heard one sniffle, then another. Then the sniffles began tying together into uneven, heavy breathing that then dissolved into low, moaning sobs.

As he listened to her cry harder and more earnestly than he ever had, he found himself recalling that moment from two months ago more vividly than he would have liked. He remembered being so certain that he would get to stay with Mom—wanting to stay with her—only to learn that Dad had been awarded full custody for some reason that no one wanted to explain. He had some idea from small pieces of overheard conversations and his own growing understanding that most mothers didn’t have needles hidden in their underwear drawers. He said as much to Dad once, when a request to go see his mother had been met with a cold order to, “Stay out of what you don’t understand.” Dad seemed to think that if he understood that much, he should know that it was “for the best” that Miah not see Mom for “a little while.”

It had been three months, and he hadn’t so much as had a phone conversation with her. Instead, he was calling Michelle “Mom” and her parents “Grandma” and “Grandpa,” smiling as if this were only natural. Dad was on bad terms with his parents, and Mom’s parents had died before Miah was born, so he’d never had grandparents before. He supposed he ought to be grateful.

He wasn’t.

But now, listening to the sobs of the girl like the sea, he felt the past three months come crashing down over him. The wave came over him slowly, the memories coming, coming, coming ‑ and then they burst, flooding him with all the things he had felt, known he shouldn’t have and shoved away.

Tears began rolling down his cheeks, and he couldn’t stop them. He didn’t want to stop them anymore. He let himself go: let his eyes begin to stream followed by his nose; let the pain out of the locked cavity in his chest, emerging through his throat in chokes, coughs and sobs. The cries of the girl only drove him further over the edge, and together they engaged in a duet for their own ears alone.

He didn’t know how long it had been before they calmed down. A few attempts to stop had been thwarted by shared glances or a stray sniffle; the emotion they saw or heard in each other seemed their own, reflected through a living mirror, and the reminder would set both of them off crying again with renewed vigor. But eventually they calmed ‑ whether because they had run out of tears or energy, Miah didn’t know. For a time they sat in silence, and Miah contemplated the slap of the waves against the sand.

“I should go,” said Miah at last. “My‑ the people I’m staying with will wake up.”

He looked sideways at the girl and their eyes locked. Her eyes were red, her hair mussed and her cheeks stained, but the smile that was spreading across her face was vibrant.

“I should too,” she said. “But you look like you’ve been sobbing your eyes out.”

Miah furrowed his brows at her. “So do you.”

“I have a solution for that,” she said even as she scrambled to her feet. With a shriek like a child’s, she ran into the waves and threw herself at the water. She didn’t go very deep, but when she looked up and grinned at him, he thought that she looked even more like the sea now than when he had first seen her.

Miah laughed and kicked off his shoes. With a shriek to match the girl’s, he ran into the water after her. They rolled in the waves, splashed each other and laughed. Mere minutes later, they walked back out of the water, soaked and smiling.

“Thank you,” said the girl. “But you really should be more careful from now on.”

“I will,” said Miah. He didn’t think about how much Dad would worry if he learned about these morning walks—he would save the guilt for later. “You be careful, too.”

“I will,” said the girl, and waved at him with a wide smile as she headed back along the beach. She was still barefooted, and Miah looked around for her shoes, but didn’t see any. He watched her go until she disappeared around a corner of the coast; then he put his shoes back on and returned to Michelle’s parents’ home. He thought of the girl’s bare feet, and figured that if she lived nearby, he would be sure to see her again before they left.

He never saw her again.

Once they were back home in Boston, he went to the sea from time to time and imagined that if he waited by the water, he would see her again. He imagined that she was a mermaid, or the sea incarnate. He found himself scanning for blue, blond‑streaked hair on beaches for years afterwards. He held the memory close to his heart, a precious secret that he never voiced.

But whenever anyone asked about his first love, he would indulge himself with a moment to revel in that memory with the admission, “It was the sea.”

♥ ♥ ♥

Kai Raine

Author Kai Raine is a graduate student of biology with a fondness for music, books, animals and science. Kai was born near Boston and has spent one birthday in Cape Town climbing Table Mountain and falling in love with the city.

Blue Blonde Sea is one of eight short stories in Suddenly Lost In Words, Volume 2.

Because we ♥ you, Volume 2 is FREE all day February 14 . . .

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Because we really ♥ you, Volume 1 is FREE, too . . .

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2012, FAQ, an answer for everything, and 2013

January 6, 2013 at 11:16 am | Posted in Gratitude, inspiration, Kindle, Reading, Short Stories, Teen, Writing, Reading, Young Adult | Leave a comment

I am about to attempt to pack a lot into this post, yet I hardly know where to begin. The start would be a good place. Last April, Suddenly became a reality. There were five of us then. Now we are three. Sometimes that happens. Since setting out to bring great short stories to young adults in small packages, we have learned more than our teacher brains could ever have imagined possible. Listing all that we have learned would bore you to tears, and thanking everyone who has supported us would take too long. So, suffice it to say that we have survived all that learning and we thank EVERYONE who helped us and EVERYONE who has shared their knowledge, expertise, support, time and talent. You know who you are. I love saying that! We would love to take you all out to dinner.

Q and A

At our website, there is a link to contact us and, boy, have we been contacted with every kind of question imaginable. Many inquiries have made us change or add information on our web site, but a few I’d like to address here …

Q. Can adults write for young adults?

A. YES!! Most young adult writing is written by adults since most adults have already been young adults themselves!

Q. Could you please define profanity as it applies to Suddenly Lost In Words submission guidelines?

A.  Profanity, for us, is the inappropriate and/or excessive use of strong language that serves no purpose other than to shock or fill space. It can be acceptable when carefully and skillfully used. Current YA literature does “allow” for its use and realistically young adults use and experiment with profane language. However, it should never drive or dominate a story.

Q. Does Suddenly Lost In Words accept poetry?

A. We do! In fact, we have just chosen a great one for a future issue.

Q. How long are “longer works” that you serialize?

A. They can be any length, however each chapter should be 3000 words or less. Send us an excerpt and a synopsis for the whole story. Part two of our current serial, City Speaker: Watcher by Tyler Hansen, is coming up shortly in Volume 2.

Q. I live in Malaysia. Can I submit a story?

A. We hope so!! Submit away regardless of where you live. We do like submissions in English, though.

While we may not have an answer for everything, we’ll do our best to find one. Keep those questions coming!

Hop into 2013

Finally, with 2013 underway, we are on the verge of pushing that Kindle button and producing Volume 2 of Suddenly. It contains another great set of stories and, after a lengthy search and various hoop jumping, a cover you will love. Guaranteed. In fact, a sneak peek of it should be in this very spot soon.

So, goodbye and thank you 2012, and here’s to great things in 2013!

Hope you’ll join us. We’ve loved your company so far.

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