Among the techniques we focus on in our creative writing exercises are character and setting. The piece below, excerpted from a longer story, makes strong use of both.
Bitter Taste of Home
By Casandra Elder
The engine choked as Gabby sat in the warm, black sedan parked out in front of 123 Applepie Street. She sat there looking at the red brick that formed her childhood home. She hadn’t seen it in nearly four years and wasn’t shocked to see that the only difference was that the evergreen tree, on the corner of the lot, had grown ever so slightly. There was that and there seemed to be more moss roses growing along the side of the house creating a ground of bright flowers and dark green webs.
The rain had just begun to settle in. The front porch was still a light gray made of concrete compared to the sidewalk that led up to the house. Gabby knew that it would only take a strong wind from the north and her mother’s porch would become that ash gray color imitating the sidewalk and street below. It was still early morning. She knew that inside only one person would be awake. She glanced down the street and over to her left to see if her other siblings had made it home yet.
Gabby looked at the green clock that was shining brightly and knew that she had better make it inside before the rain continued to get worse and before anyone else from this shitty little town got a glance at her. She really couldn’t say it was that shitty, but it was nothing in comparison to New York. She had been gone for only two days and was missing the sound of a siren going off and her neighbor’s television blaring too loudly every night as the four small children gathered around it to watch a movie.
She reached behind her and grabbed her small carry-on bag, opened the door and felt the cold air push up against her exposed skin. Little goose bumps had begun to form and she couldn’t help the slight shake that ran down the spine of her back.
“It’s a little cold out this morning isn’t it?”
Dang! I have been caught. Wait, by who? It can’t be… Oh GOD it is. It’s really him. Why? Maybe he won’t recognize me. “It is a little.”
Roy had closed the gap between their two childhood homes in about six strides. He never missed a beat as he opened up the back door to her sedan and pulled out the remaining luggage. Standing and gaping with her mouth open, Gabby felt in her heart that she never should have come back. She should have just sent Ben a large enough check to get him through his first year of rent and hoped that he would have understood.
Roy was standing at the front door now and Gabby had just taken the first of five steps that lead onto the porch. Her black silk shirt was slightly damp and the bottom of her jeans were completely soaked.
“It’s not supposed to rain all weekend, is it?” She was really hoping this rain wouldn’t last her entire trip. She wanted to spend a day out in the pasture doing nothing but staring up at the sky and watching the clouds form into funny shapes, drift apart and form into a new shape.
She moved to New York four days before the wedding because she didn’t want to feel trapped in this town. She no longer yearned for the dream to become another rancher’s wife. She wanted the freedom to do what she liked when she liked. She couldn’t do that in Springs. No one did that in Springs.
Gabby glanced around and began to wonder if everyone in Springs would be able to forgive her and her past actions. She glanced around and figured she would start with the one person that would take the longest to forgive her. She entered the house and went into the kitchen and found two black coffee cups. She poured the hot liquid, added vanilla flavoring into one and stirred it so the color of the coffee was no longer a welcoming black but a soft brown color. She grabbed both cups and walked into the master bathroom. She heard the water click off and saw a delicate hand with a few wrinkles in it grab the towel that hung just outside of the shower. A few moments passed by.
The next words that came out of Gabby’s mouth began to choke her and tears started to pour over her eyelids. She felt that she was the one just getting out of the shower and wished that someone would open up another door or window so the steam wouldn’t feel like it was suffocating her.
“Hi, Mom.” She finally got the words to come out barely above a whisper and felt the cold air rush over her. Both doors were still closed and the master bathroom didn’t have a window in it. Wherever the cold air came from, Gabby was thankful for it.
Her mother took the cup that Gabby was extending out to her and drank a sip before walking into the master bedroom, shutting the door between them. It was a start of forgiveness. A very small start. Gabby took a sip of the dark liquid that filled her cup. It tasted like she remembered. Bitter. Bitter was what this vocation was going to be like.