Friday, August 20, 2010

Blue Jello And Ice Cream (Friday Fiction)

This week's Friday Fiction is hosted by the talented Yvonne "Vonnie" Blake over @ her adorable kids blog, Polliwog Pages. Click here to read and share more great fiction!

Author's Ramblings: Well, this is one side to a particular pair of characters I've had in my head for awhile. The prompt for "Blue Jello and Vanilla Ice cream" has been haunting me from last weekend, so this is what came out of that particular brain smush. I did not edit this piece, as a VERY late dinner is sitting beside my keyboard and I'm too hungry to sit through a read-through, so please enjoy and excuse my typos. Shora and Eli are the kind of friends that nag each other to stay alive and sane. I added the "Avian" twist at the end, just because. (No, my brain isn't completely fried, just stressed at the moment) I didn't quite do all I wanted, but for fear of this tale expanding into an uncontrollable monster of sorts, I tried to end on a happy note and cut it off before spontaneous multiplication could start. I simply couldn't let the day pass without writing something new for it. Have a good weekend and happy reading! 



“Eli?” Shora tugged on the jacket sleeve of the young man trying to wrestle his bike into the metal rack on the sidewalk. “Eli Richert?”

He turned at the tug on his arm and after squinting for a moment, his face brightened. “Hey!” One hand went up to his ears, tugging out the white ipod earbuds. “Shora! Didn’t realize that was you. Wow! You look, um, wow. So, uh what’s up?”

“What are you doing here?”

“Errands for my mom.” He offered a sheepish grin. “I just pop on home from Uni and become the local errand boy again. You look well. Have you been-”

“Sounds like fun. Are you all done?” She gestured towards the bike.

He shrugged, spinning the combination lock. “Sort of. I was about to head home but-”

“Want some ice cream?”

“Er, now? Isn’t it a bit cold for-”

“I’m buying.”

He dropped the chain and lock, a happy smile plastered on his face. “Then I feel like eating ice cream.”

“I figured.” She headed for the ice cream parlor further down the street. “How’ve you been?”

“Good. Pretty good. Things are busy—the usual. How about you?”

“Fine, I guess.”

“Family okay?”

“The same. You?”

“Same here.”

“That’s good.”

He held the door open for her and they stood in line, hands tucked into their pockets to warm them from the chilly autumn weather. “Ice cream in-”

“Two dishes please.” Shora moved up to the counter. “Custom sundaes. Scoop of vanilla ice cream over blue raspberry jello.”

“Two?” The cashier clarified. “Any toppings on that? Sauce, nuts or sprinkles?”

“No toppings. Just make sure you have the jello right.”

“Blue raspberry, yes?”

“Yeah.”

“Blue?” Eli sputtered. “Hey, wait a sec-!”

The cash was handed over in exact change before the young cashier had even finished announcing the total. A slight blush tinged her cheeks. “T-thank you. It’ll be right out.” She pointed to the far end of the counter and Shora shifted automatically to stand to the other side.

“Find a seat you like.” Shora murmured. “I’ll bring them.”

Eli heaved a sigh. “Free ice cream.” He muttered, turning away. “I am an idiot.”

When she arrived, the faded plastic tray was set between them. Two tall, old-fashioned sundae glasses held a startlingly vivid creation. Bright blue jello cubes filled the entire glass, topped off with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream and no sprinkles.

“Sprinkles are good you know.”

“You don’t eat this with sprinkles.”

“Isn’t it kind of plain?”

“If you don’t want to eat it-”

“I didn’t say I didn’t want to eat it. I’ve just never eaten blue jello before, all I meant was that-”

“When do you graduate?”

“What?”

“It’s a simple question.” She handed him a tall metal spoon. “Eat up. When do you graduate?”

“I’m halfway through, at least another two years…” He took the spoon. “What about you, kid?”

“I’m a dual-enrollment student.” She wrinkled her nose. “Not a kid. I haven’t decided yet.”

Her lips pursed as her brow furrowed in thought, lost in her own little world. He watched as she divided the handful of napkins between them and bowed her head over the sweet snack. He spoke the prayer before she could. “Lord, we thank you for these sweets which are to make us sweeter.” His mouth twitched. “And for the kindness in which gifts are given, we ask your blessing on what we are about to eat. Amen.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” She stabbed her spoon in the sundae, but made no attempt to bring the treat to her mouth. “If you were any sweeter I’d be sick.”

“Really? I think that’s a compliment and yet I-”

“Would you just eat already?”

“I’m eating, I’m eating.” Eli frowned. “Not that I hate running into you, but what exactly is-?”

“Take the spoon and put it in your mouth!” She waved her ice-cream dipped spoon in the air. “If you’re done with all your errands, can you do me a favor?”

“What?”

“Spoon. Mouth.” Her own spoon hovered inches away from shiny strawberry lips. “Now.”

Eli made a face, but obediently spooned a generous mouthful of vanilla ice cream into his mouth. The creamy vanilla goodness slid down his throat. A happy shiver made him smile and after a moment, he took another spoonful. “There, I’m eating, happy?” His gaze flickered across the table to where Shora was studying him intently. “Creep factor is now-”

“Eat the jello.” He stared at her for a moment, until she dug through her own scoop of vanilla and retrieved a quivering blue cube. “Jello.” She repeated. “Eat it.”

The seriousness in which she spoke tugged enough on his conscience that he began to fish in the sundae glass for a jello cube. He snuck another glance at the achingly vulnerable face fixed on his every movement. After a long pause, he rolled his eyes skyward and shoved the spoon in his mouth.

It wasn’t as bad as he’d expected. The ice cream melted around the slippery cube and the flavors were somewhat raspberry n’ cream-like. He chewed thoughtfully and then took another cube.

“Well?” She demanded. “How is it?”

“Not bad.” He allowed. “Not bad at all. Eat yours.”

She stuck her tongue out in reply, but after another moment of careful observation, began to eat her own creation. The spoon slowed as she neared the halfway mark on the glass and a comfortable silence settled between them when she tapped the glass. “Isn’t it fascinating? The ice cream sits on top and melts over everything, filling every nook and cranny.”

“It’s the movable while the jello isn’t.” Eli flashed a grin. “Nice.”

“And that’s your psych major talking.” Shora snorted. “Say it simpler. It’s change. Some things change and you can’t help it, but the changes always fit into the space where they belong. Some things are permanent and they don’t change at all.” The look on her face softened to an almost wistful expression.

“Permanent?” Eli twisted his napkin into a bow. “Hey kid, is something wrong?”
The shadow of weariness returned to her face. “I’m not a kid. Quit calling me that.” She slid out from the booth, taking her half-full glass in one hand. “I’m eighteen you know.”

“Really? When’s the birthday? Did I miss it?”

“You’re free for the rest of the afternoon, right?” She reached for his empty sundae glass. “C’mon. You gotta take me somewhere.”

“Pushy as ever, aren’t you?” But he slid out from the booth and trotted after her. “Thanks for the ice cream—and the jello.”

“Get your bike.” She reached back for his arm and pulled him along the street with her until they reached the bike rack.

He fumbled with it for a few minutes until she leaned over his shoulder and spun the correct combination for him. “Hey!”

“You haven’t changed at all.” She sighed. “You’re jello.”

“I’d almost think that was a compliment, but coming from you-” He lifted the bike clear of the rack and set it neatly on the sidewalk. “Okay, now where are we going?”

“Fifty-ninth street and Covington, edge of town.”

“Are you riding on the handlebars or something-”

“Just start pedaling!”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

They arrived at the florist’s shop where Shora immediately demanded five dollars from her self-appointed chauffer.

“For what?”

“Never mind for what, just cough it up!” She held out her hand, soft brown eyes narrowing into her trademark ‘look’. “Eli!”

“I’m doing this because…?” He handed over the requested bill and was instructed to wait outside while the ponytailed girl darted into the flower shop. He stuffed the earbuds back in his ears, content to listen to music while watching the traffic flow.

They’d made it to the quiet side of town and now his mind was settling down just enough to enjoy the colorful swirling leaves and the fading warmth of the sun.

Strange to see her again. And she's already got me following orders. Jordan always humored her. He gripped the mp3 player a little tighter. She’s caged again. Something's clipped her wings. A pang struck his chest and he buried his face in the turned up collar of his jacket. She was almost a mirror image of the smiling face he remembered too well.

A face belonging to a person that no longer existed.

His mind went to work, sifting through the dates and trying to piece together what could be an excuse for Shora’s behavior. Granted, she had always been bossy, fretful and annoying, but he’d seen a few kinder sides and it had always been enough.

Shora...what is bothering you so much this time that you can't tell anyone? It's cracking you down the seams. Don't you trust me anymore? Jordan trusted me.

The door to the florist’s burst open and she came to his side, quivering from head to toe with suppressed emotion. Her face was hidden beneath her shaggy mop of hair, now freed from the confines of the earlier ponytail.

“Shora? What happened?”

“Can you take me to Torchwood Hill?” Her voice cracked. “Please?”

“Is everything all right?”

“Fine. Just fine.” She scrubbed at her face with one coat sleeve. “Can we go now, please?”

He caught her by the shoulders, straining to see her face. She twisted her head away, a single tear dribbling down her cheek and onto her coat collar.

“Aw, man! Shora, c’mon!” He gave her a little shake. “Don’t start this on me! Whatever it is, whatever’s the problem, it’s all gonna be okay, all right?”

“I-I know.” She leaned away from the hands holding her. “Can we just go? If it’s too much trouble to-”

“It isn’t. Are you sure you can-”

“I’m fine.” She held up one hand.

He stared into two perfect white roses. “Uh.” He stared from the flowers to her. “Let’s go.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Torchwood Hill was further than he remembered.

It was an old scenic overlook, overgrown with kudzu shadowing the metal railing that lined the cliff side. A sparkling carpet of city lights were visible below and the last light of day faded away to a dusky blue-black.
It was with some actual effort that Eli had managed to pedal the bike all the way to the final destination. The feat was overshadowed by the silent passenger who stepped off the back forks of the bicycle when he came to a halt.

“Thank you.” She whispered. “You can go now. I’m fine. Thank you.”

“Go?” Eli resisted the urge to shake her again, settling instead for choosing a suitable parking spot for his bike. “As if. You’re anything but fine! What’s going on with you? I haven’t seen you for-”

“Nothing’s going on. I’m fine. Please, you can leave. I am okay.”

“You know, Jordan always said the same thing when he was anything but fine!” The words were flung out in anger, as Eli closed the gap between them with a few steps.

Her head jerked up to stare at him, tears streaming down her face and dripping onto the solemn roses. “Jordan.” She whispered her twin’s name. “Oh Jordan!”

“And now you’re falling apart on me.” Eli muttered. “Shora, please! Shora! Come on, look, if Jordan was here, he’d be all over me for making you cry and-”

“It’s all his fault!” She sobbed. “It’s his own fault!”

So she cried.

He let her.

Eventually the tears gave way to a short round of hiccups and finally, Shora straightened, casting a glance around, to take in her surroundings in the near darkness. “I’m sorry.” She breathed. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to—I don’t know what came over me—it was just, too much.”

“It’s been three years.”

“Happy birthday, Jordan.” Shora turned away from Eli to walk to the edge, she leaned over the railing and stared up into the night sky. “Happy birthday. I hope it was good. Mine was okay. I tried to do exactly like you told me. I couldn’t help crying though. I had to. I really missed you.”

“Wait, today is the birthday?” Eli stared at her in amazement. “Seriously?”

“You didn’t know?” She turned to him, unwrapping the two roses from their plastic floral wrap.

“Jordan never said. You always celebrated on a different day and-”

“Our family doesn’t do birthdays.” Shora sighed. “We just pick the weekend closest to the actual date and celebrate. If that weekend doesn’t work, then we pick the next one.”

“Wow.”

“Here.” She handed over one rose. “It’s for remembrance.”

“A white rose?” Eli snorted. “Isn’t that like, for purity or innocence or something?”

“It also has to do with remembrance.” Shora forced a smile. “Now be nice and throw it.” She breathed in the rose’s scent and whispered a few words into the soft petals. “Happy birthday, Jordan, happy birthday self.”

“Self?” Eli tossed his rose over the railing watching it flash with hers before the white was undistinguishable in the darkened depths. “Happy birthday, Shora.”

“You’re the only one who’s wished me that.” Her head turned to him and a few quiet sniffles were heard.

Eli sighed. “Again? Really?” He fumbled in his pockets for napkins and finally settled for his scarf. “You’re going to freeze your face that way. Here.”

“Your scarf?” Shora held it at arm’s length. “Seriously?”

“What?” He growled.

She burst into laughter.

The sound echoed in the night and the laughter turned into a fit of giggles, before she gasped for breath. “I understand now.” She managed. “Now I know why you were his best friend.”

“I don’t have any paper napkins.”

Another giggle escaped. “You’re too nice, Eli. I’ve dragged you across town, made you eat blue jello, made you pay for flowers and then to bring me all the way up here, yet you still have the-”

“If you don’t want to use it then-”

There was the sound of a loud ‘snap’ before a warm presence filled the air. “I didn’t say I didn’t want to use it. It’ll be a good windbreaker. Thanks.”

“Hey, wait a sec!” Eli fumbled with his jacket, wincing the cold air rushed through the moment he tugged the zipper down.

“We always came here.” Shora chuckled. “He would do all kinds of things just to make me laugh. Then he’d carry me all the way back home because my wings were too weak to handle it.” She laughed, bittersweet. “Now they’re strong enough to carry him and he isn’t there.”

“Sometimes you need to let go.”

“Sometimes letting go means giving in.” She rolled her shoulders forward, her black wings shifting behind her. “Can you see them?”

“They’re black. No.” Eli scowled as his own wings unfurled with a flair. It felt good to have them out in the air, instead of pinned behind his jacket. “So you’d do this every birthday?”

“Yeah. Just the two of us.” Her voice wobbled. “Hey Jordan? I did it. I did what you wanted. I went out for my birthday, just like I promised. I didn’t spend it alone. I made Eli come with me. He even ate blue jello and ice cream, just like you used to. It doesn’t taste too bad. I wish I’d tried it when you were here. The look on your face would’ve been priceless. I brought roses too.”

“Uh, Shora?”

“This is the last year I’m coming here.” She drew a shaky breath. “Three’s a charm. I won’t be back.”

“Three’s a charm?” Eli repeated.

“I threw them over the railing, just like we used to do. I didn’t make a stupid wish this time though. I’ll miss you. I still miss you.” There was a quiet sigh. “But I know if you were here, you’d smack me over the head and tell me to get on with life. So I’m going. I’ll do my best. I’ll try at least.” Her wings shuddered as she stretched them out, testing the air. “Catch me one last time, okay?”

“One last time?” Eli headed for the rail and the sound of her voice. “Shora, I can’t even see you and-”

“Do you want your scarf back?”

“What?”

“The scarf, Eli, the scarf.” Her laugh was above him. “I’m already in the air, I know your eyes will adjust as soon as you spread your wings, so stop taking your time already!”

“We are not playing tag.”

“Why not? Tag is fun.”

“Shora!”

She waved the scarf. “Over here, big guy.”

“My bike!”

“Fly back for it tomorrow.”

“In broad daylight?”

“No. In morning light. Before the sun comes up. You know, that kind of light.”

“Shora!”

Her laughter echoed through the night.

© Sara Harricharan

2 comments:

Yvonne Blake said...

Great characterization! *made me cry*

Stina Rose said...

Very interesting. I'm now curious about jello and ice cream. :)