A Fresh Season


Photo ©  Margaret Sproule via Google Photosphere

They think you’ll return, but I read your eyes. You have exiled yourself before they could do it.

Your snow tracks tell me where you’re headed. Our place. I flash my fingers, icy sparks flowing, to hide them behind me. Nobody will follow us.

My pack is weighted with supplies. Everything we’ll need for weeks tramping through the forest. But my feet feel light, giddy with escape.

You left so quickly. I think you meant to spare me. How could you ever imagine I would abandon you, let you suffer alone?

You, who can always pull the laughter from my aching heart.

Who never judges my fears.

Who sets me straight when I’ve bent too far.

You say you are complicated, wrong, outcast. But I am not full without you.

Wait. Let me find you. Let us be complicated together. Let us cast a new space, where we can bloom.

Word count: 150. Written for this week’s What Pegman Saw challenge. Big thanks go out to Karen and Josh for hosting this weekly photo prompt! This week Pegman takes us to Saskatchewan, in western Canada. What a gorgeous place! Click the link to see what images other authors found, and to read their stories. And as always, feel free to join in with a story of your own: everyone is welcome!

Most of the photos I found while touring around Google maps were of summer camping, but when I saw this snowy forest, I knew I had to use this image. Most of the continent I’ve been writing on never sees snow, so this story has to take place in the southern region of Layor. Earlier versions of the story included more magical and fantasy elements, but I was having a hard time explaining exactly how finding spells worked in such a short word count, so I concentrated on the emotional aspect instead.

My apologies for skipping the story posting last weekend. I have been ridiculously sick off and on for weeks now, and especially since Thanksgiving (I lost my voice that night and still don’t have it back!). I am starting to feel well enough to be productive again, although it might take a while to recover from the shock of confronting how many tasks have piled up during my illness. Whew! I hope the rest of you who celebrate Christmas are farther along with your holiday preparations than I am!


32 thoughts on “A Fresh Season

  1. The story is really about you finding your health. Without health, we are not full… 😉 Okay, that was a stretch, but I couldn’t help it. Glad you are feeling better.
    I love the emotional setup of your story. This couple, a doubt on one side (the person leaving quietly) not realizing that their partner feels their bond just as strongly.
    I like how you didn’t give any clues in describing the couple. Genders, who left, who is following? At this point, it allows me to view it my way. Of course a fuller story would have to fill that all in. But as a super-short setup, I like how you did this. In fewer words, you have a story that speaks to a broader audience.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the great comment, Louis! And you know me, of course I have a 500 word backstory for this one-off microfiction piece. 😉 When I was writing it, I imagined two girls growing up in the same village as best friends, and then it becoming more as they reached adulthood. I even had a whole thing worked out where they learned to merge their magic powers so that they were stronger together than either was alone. They’re in a conservative society, with their parents pushing them to marry men. The other woman is more outspoken, and people are suspicious of her politics already. So she leaves, thinking she’s sparing the narrator from the shame, that the narrator can go on to live a “normal” life, not realizing the narrator feels the same as her.

      But then it occurred to me that the same issues and emotions would arise with couples kept apart by their elders for many other reasons — e.g., by class, age, religion, race, or other cultural divides. So I deliberately left those aspects unspoken so that they would speak to a wider range of options.

      Liked by 1 person

      • > And you know me, of course I have a 500 word backstory…
        I almost made a comment in my original post about “knowing” you probably had a lot more details in a file somewhere.
        I’m finding the other reader’s comments so interesting. I love by the open nature of what you created, all the interesting interpretations that others bring to it. Says a lot about all of us and this specific moment in time, how we may be feeling, or just our world views.
        Thanks for giving me more details. Two points. Love the magical idea that magic powers could be stronger together!? Hmm, in thinking that sometimes cultural rules had an underlying purpose (no same sex since children are needed) or dietary restrictions due to potential illness… You drop the idea of combining powers to create something stronger? Is there a limit to that? Maybe there is an underlying rule against same sex or group marriages to prevent a group becoming too powerful? Just blue skying it here…
        Lastly the moment I read your line “their parents pushing them to marry men.” my mind flashed to the current trailer for the movie “Little Women.” It seems (I never read the original book) to be focused on a women’s expected role in society. The expectation that they marry men…
        Not a new idea for sure. But this is a time in our cultural when a women’s role and honestly the nonsense they’ve had to go through due to men is in the foreground of more stories. Would be interesting to know that if in your story this was just a passing reference “go marry men” or a tip of a story that shows some “big” changes going on in your fictional world? Women wanting more say to the control of their lives?
        Of course, stories can hit many issues in their layers. Anyways, great job as always.

        Liked by 1 person

      • So many ideas, whew! I love that you are so inspired by my story, thank you! None of that backstory was actually written down though, not until you asked for it. Now it is! Okay, I’ll try to address a few of the issues, based on stuff that *is* written down. Somewhere. I’m pretty sure. 🙂

        In Layor at this time, the predominant religion (Sambarism) is patriarchal and pronatal. It prescribes very different roles for women and men, values parenting as a sacred rite, and considers homosexual relationships sinful. In other words, not so different from several real-life religions you might be thinking of. So yes, these young women’s parents would assume they would want to marry men and start having babies as soon as possible — and most of their female friends would be chomping at the bit to do so, eager to gain the higher social status of wife and especially mother. At various points in Layoran history there is pushback against this, leading to a new schism religion that recognized a larger role for Sambar’s wife, Elsamit, in the creation mythos (and thus a more equal role for mortal wives). Despite continuing to worship Sambar as the primary father god, these “heretics” are repeatedly purged and disappear over the years.

        Although Layorans generally prefer witchers (who practice the old ways) over wizards (those snotty foreigners with their fancy-dancy ways), many sects of Sambarism allow only Sambaran clerical magic, and hold any other religion’s clerical magic along with all arcane magic to be contrary to Sambar’s will. (Some look the other way if the witchers can help them out quietly, though.) These two women are most likely witchers, following the old ways, which have always included methods for multiple witchers to coordinate on the same spell, unlike wizards, whose spellcraft is designed quite differently. It’s not really that they can channel more power; that’s not how this works. It’s more like if two people play the piano at the same time, they can create a more complicated sound than either could alone, especially if both have limited skills. For instance, if one is good at creating sounds and the other has good visual artistic skills, together they could create a better illusion than either could alone. The fact that these two girls could already coordinate well enough to cast together at such a young age (particularly given that they probably didn’t have much training), suggests that they are very simpatico.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I like this Joy. But what I like is what lies hidden between the lines, and I’m not sure that’s the story you intended. For I see someone wanting to escape that clinging one who hastens after. I’ve seen the same in many a relationship. But maybe that’s not what you intended.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’m with Louis on the interpretation of this story. It is open enough for us to fill in the blanks as we wish. I read your comment to Louis, by the way.
    All that to say, I enjoyed this, Joy!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks for the comment, Iain! I intentionally left it broad so that people could fill in whatever star-crossed lovers they wanted, but I honestly didn’t anticipate the interpretation that this wasn’t true love after all. Sounds like you had a similar take as Crispina did. I wonder if this is some sort of Rorschach test for how people feel about romance on the day that they read it?

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I found it a good, emotional piece, too. Of course, I also imagined it differently, with a woman following a man, a man idiotically heading off in order to “save” the woman being one of our culture’s fictional tropes.

    And then you mentioned Saskatchewan! Bring an entirely different set of connotations to mind. You see, my paternal grandmother’s sister married a Saskatchewan wheat farmer. Years later (circa 1929), my father went out to Saskatchewan for a summer, living with that branch of the family, to see if he could make a career of being a wheat farmer himself. It did not work out. He came back to Massachusetts, picking up diphtheria along the way. His mother hid his illness, for fear the family would be quarantined!

    It’s a completely different kind of flight and shame, but it resonated.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the interesting comment, Brian! It’s fun to hear how different people interpret who is in the story when I don’t specify their genders. Thanks for sharing your family story — how cool that you have a connection to Saskatchewan. I don’t think I have any. You should write a story for this Pegman prompt!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Karen! Yes, they’re both giving up the safety of home for the freedom to be who they are. The narrator’s willing to give everything up to be with the person they love, and the other person (in MY interpretation at least) was willing to give up the person they love so that that person might have an easier life. I’m such a sucker for that kind of story! And of course I’m imagining this one with a happy ending. ❤


  5. Well, I read the comments as well as the story – and how fascinating they are! Thank you for all that lovely backstory! You’ve captured the feelings of the pursuer admirably, putting together the conclusion “I love you,” from multiple perspectives on their relationship. I empathise with the way they’re marching into the forest, in winter, but are undaunted and ready to brave all to express their love for each other with authenticity. I feel a distinctly personal affinity with that!
    Lovely story, Joy!

    Liked by 1 person

    • How patient you are, to read all those comments, and I’m so glad you enjoyed them! I suppose I had more backstory than I realized… And I’m especially glad that you think the story worked itself, conveying the emotions between the two without having to “tell” them. So glad you found it relatable. Thank you for the kind comment!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank goodness my cold has calmed down to a slight sniffle, and I’m able to fully enjoy traveling and being with my family. Good luck fending off the evil virus — all the food and fellowship and cookies and wassail etc. isn’t nearly as fun when you’re sick. Happy Christmas to you and the whole family!

      Liked by 1 person

      • YES! I want to be able to snuggle my kiddos without a mask on, and make goodies and share treats and just enjoy the magic without fearing illness. I hope you have your own moments of adventure–healthy adventure, that is! xxxxxx


      • I’m with my family now and feeling very lucky that none of us are sick at this time, since several of us were sick recently. Hope we all stay that way. Merry Christmas and happy New Year!


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