For this week's story, I'm using the same first line I did last week, but this time I'm working on weaving backstory into the action. If you have time to read it, let me know if it works for you -- or not. I've also decided that a thousand words posted on a blog is a lot of words, so my stories are generally going to be shorter than I originally planned -- probably 500-750 words. This one is a little under 750.
Falling, But Not For You
She sucked the air in through her nostrils, lifted her sternum the way she'd learned to in ballet, decided to clear her mind of the particular things she was thinking about, and stepped out.
“You all right, Mags?” Carl called up.
Maggie extended her arms like wings and, wobbling a bit, felt the dig of the safety harness into her waist. Exhaling, she placed one foot directly in front of the other on the narrow beam. She tried to block him out, the fact that he was down there, fifteen feet below, staring up at her – probably up her shorts. She couldn’t let him break her concentration.
“Yep,” was all she said, willing him to be silent.
Her telepathy didn’t work.
“Okay,” Carl said. “Keep going. You’re doing just fine. You look like you’re keeping your balance real well.”
I know I’m doing fine. Just shut up.
Carl had been okay in elementary school when all he cared about was playing soccer. One day in second grade, he’d come in all sweaty from recess and Maggie remembered thinking he was kind of cute with his hair slicked back and that smudge of dirt on his nose.
But that was a long time ago.
Once they’d entered middle school, he stopped being so interested in soccer at recess. Instead, he realized girls smelled kind of good. He liked the way their eyelashes curled, the fullness of their lips, and those curves they were getting – he paid attention to those. And ever since he’d opened his eyes to the magnificence of the opposite sex, he’d taken a full-frontal, downhill plunge into unbearableness. At least, that was Maggie’s opinion, and she didn’t even mind having to make up a word to describe him. Unbearableness suited him perfectly.
Carl had shown up at their door that morning five minutes early, smelling fiercely of cologne and with enough gel in his hair, if held close to an open flame, to launch a Saturn V.
He sucked in his cheeks to accentuate his cheekbones when Maggie opened the door. “Hey, Mags,” he said, leaning against the door frame. She noticed his jeans were too tight. Why was he trying to dress like one of the Jonas brothers when they were heading to a mountain camp for two days? Weirdo. “Ready to hit the road?”
“Yeah, I guess,” she said, pulling on her purple sneakers. From the way Carl was acting, anyone would have thought this was a date, not a two-minute drive to school where they’d meet the other members of the leadership team and board a minibus.
Maggie attempted to focus on the beam, but sweat trickled down her back.
Carl, below, persisted in his encouragement. “Don’t look down. Just keep moving forward.”
“Okay!” she said. “You are not my coach.”
Toward the middle of the beam, she stopped. The treetops at eyelevel seemed to sway in her peripheral vision. She stared at the beam, but maybe that was wrong. Maybe she should keep her eyes focused on her destination – the platform at the other end. Why was this so hard? She could walk on something half this width when she was closer to the ground.
“Don’t lose your momentum,” Carl said. “Focus on where you need to go. Keep moving your feet.”
She knew there was a harness around her waist, but there might as well not have been for all the confidence it gave her. She wavered.
“Keep going!” Carl yelled. “Why are you stopping?”
“Would you just shut up?” She swung her head around to glare at him. And fell. The harness bit into her sides as she flipped over with a shriek, and dangled there like a spider on a thread, arms and legs flailing.
“You’re okay, Maggie!” he cried. “Don’t worry! The rope’s got you!”
She had her eyes squeezed shut, but as she opened them, there was the world in greens and blues, upside down and spinning. And there was Carl’s voice, ever constant, barking out orders to the other students scurrying like ants below her.
As the rope continued to hold and she realized she was not going to die, Maggie found herself laughing. Really, falling was fun. It pinched around the middle, but that was the only bad part. Best of all, Carl wouldn’t understand why it was fun, even if she tried to tell him.
And she was glad.