Falling Without Gravity
by Clara Howard ’20
“Hellooo, earth to Marina?”
Marina blinked, the fog of memories and laughter lifting at the voice of the attending on-call and the surrounding sounds of the hospital. “What?”
Dr. Li frowned at her. “Are you okay? That’s the third time you’ve spaced out on me this shift.”
Marina shook her head and shoulders, the way a bird might settle its wings after a long flight. “Sorry, I’m fine. Just have a lot on my mind today.”
“Did you want to talk about it?”
“Not really,” she replied, smiling a little tightly. “Well, not right now, at any rate.”
Dr. Li nodded and leaned forward, resting his forearms on the counter of the nurses’ station. The new position brought his face closer to where Marina’s head was bent over a pile of charts she was supposed to be reviewing. “So, what do you want to talk about, then?” He asked, his voice quieter.
Marina rolled her eyes, a small smile playing with the edges of her mouth. “I don’t really have anything that I want to talk about right now,” she responded, her voice just as low.
“Really, absolutely nothing?”
“Not that I can think of.”
“No special plans for the weekend?”
She shrugged, the smile growing wider with the exchange. “Not really.” She glanced up at him then, struggling not to laugh at the way his eyes sparked with mock outrage.
His eyes widened as he gaped at her. “You wound me, Marina Blair,” he whispered, the mirth in his eyes belying his words.
Marina did a subtle sweep of the space around them before leaning in closer to Dr. Li, making as if she were about to divulge a secret. “Good thing you’re a doctor, then, and can patch yourself up,” she whispered back.
He burst out laughing, clapping a hand over his mouth as his shoulders shook. Marina sat back, her grin turning smug as she watched him. He shook his head and matched her gaze. “So little sympathy for the injured, Nurse Blair?”
“Only when the injured is you, Dr. Li,” she quipped, even daring to shoot him a wink.
“Sounds like someone needs to help you work on those bedside manners.”
“Oh really?” Her dimples came out in full force and she leaned forward again. “And I suppose you’re offering to be that someone?”
His deep brown eyes seemed to smolder with heated promises as he looked at her. “I suppose that I am.”
Her smile turned slow, curling at the corners like a cat in front of a fire. “Then I suppose—”
“Marina, have you seen the chart for the patient in room 207?” Nurse Jenkins interrupted, her nose buried in a bunch of files as she turned the corner and walked up to the nurses’ station. She looked up to see Dr. Li straightening the pile of charts in front of him and Marina searching for a pen. She decided not to comment on the blushes staining their cheeks.
Fast Fiction: Dream First Date
In six words or less write a story about your dream first date… Go!
Only us drowned in candlelight.
by Grace O’Connor ’22
A good laugh…all I need.
by Erin Venuti ’20
Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney+, and…
by Connor Zimmerman ’20
They laugh together, and she’s happy.
Clara Howard ’20
Stole my heart, then my wallet.
by Kate Ward ’23
Ends with plans for a second.
by Sarah McLaughlin ’23
Say It Ain’t So
by Clara Howard ’20
His Royal Highness Aidan William Rothschild, Crown Prince of Collarch, was royally pissed. And anyone who could hear or see him walking down the hall knew to remove themselves immediately from his path. His sister, her Royal Highness Princess Brianne Aislinn, winced as she listened to the heavy fall of his booted footsteps against the ancient stone floors. She hiked her skirts up a bit higher as she hurried to keep up with his longer strides. But with Brianne’s eyes fixed on the ground to avoid tripping on the uneven stones, she missed Aidan’s abrupt stop in front of the doors to their parents’ suite of rooms. “Oof,” she exclaimed, her voice muffled by the scratchy wool of her brother’s greatcoat.
“Sorry, Bri,” he said, glancing at her over his shoulder, his face softening a bit.
“No worries,” she replied, scratching at her nose. “But, Liam, it can’t really be that bad, can it?”
Aidan’s brows knotted back together. “You don’t understand what he’s asking me to do.”
“Oh please, it’s the same thing he’ll be asking me to do in a few years, and likely Keira and Torin, too.” Brianne couldn’t quite keep the impatience from her voice.
Her brother shook his head and nodded to the royal guards standing near the doors. One of them bowed his head and pushed open the heavy oak door. A footman on the other side held it open as the royal siblings crossed the threshold.
Their parents’ private sitting room was a large, open space, with floor-to-ceiling windows and a grand fireplace, its hearth sculpted by the one of the early kings of Collarch as a gift for his new bride. As a child, Brianne had loved tracing the dips and ridges of the fearsome creatures and the beautiful faeries carved into the stone while her mother wove stories of magic, warriors, and dragons. Though she and her siblings had grown too old for faerie stories, Brianne could still swear that sometimes she thought she saw the creatures move in the flickering firelight.
In front of the hearth, the fire banked slightly in the afternoon heat, sat Her Royal Majesty Queen Fiona Mairéad, her wild red-orange curls unbound and left to cascade over her shoulders and back. Her eyebrows, a shade slightly darker than her hair, shifted up in question at her two eldest children. “Hello, my loves. What—”
“Mother, he can’t make me do this. You have to get him to change the order,” Aidan interrupted, his voice rippling with barely-restrained fury.
“Ah,” the queen replied, her eyes softening a bit. “Liam,” she began, calling him by the name only his immediate family used, “surely your father explained the situation to you.”
“Of course he did,” Aidan bit back, throwing himself onto the couch beside their grandmother’s empty rocking chair. His gaze lingered on the thin layer of dust that had started to gather on the armrests before he turned back to their mother. When he spoke again, his tone was slightly more measured. “But that doesn’t mean I agree with his reasoning—or even understand it.”
“It’s just a suggestion, Liam. It’s not as though Father has already promised you to her,” Brianne broke in, still surprised that her brother was so angry about the whole thing.
“Yeah, it’s slightly more complicated than that, Brianne, so if you could just keep out of it—”
“I was in that room too, William, and it didn’t sound remotely complicated to me—”
“Probably because you were too busy staring at Father’s new Hand the whole time to pay any attention,” Aidan retorted.
Brianne gasped, her brown eyes widening with outrage. “Get off it! I was not staring!” she tossed back, her ears burning a bright red as her cheeks flushed a rosy pink beneath her freckles.
Aidan smirked, his object won, and leaned into her face. “You were too. In fact, is that
a spot of drool on your bodice, Bri? Think it’ll come out in the wash?”
The princess snarled at her older brother and reached for something to hit him with or throw at him. As her fingers closed around the seam of a pillow, their mother spoke and the siblings froze. “Brianne Aislinn, if you in any way attempt to inflict bodily damage on your brother, I will instruct Lady Quinn to resume your embroidery lessons post haste.” Brianne growled and opened her hand, dropping the pillow and leaning back against the cushions of her chair. Aidan smirked again, but quickly swallowed it as their mother addressed him next, Fiona’s honey-golden eyes blazing with authority. “Aidan William, your King has given you an order which he and I expect you to follow—as is your duty as Crown Prince.” Aidan caught her stare and held it, and Brianne saw that he was struggling to control an impulsive answer. Slowly, he tilted his chin and bowed his head, submitting to the royal command in their mother’s voice. Fiona sighed, and Brianne watched as their mother shifted closer to Aidan. The queen reached out and grasped Aidan’s hands in her own. “Liam, your father likes this plan as little as you do. But he’s got no choice. A bargain was made, and the King of Nesrea did not follow through with his end. Your father has already been generous enough in granting the Nesreans more time than had been originally agreed.”
“But why must the price of their treachery be my freedom?” Aidan’s voice held a tinge of pleading that Brianne had never heard before. “And what about the Nesrean princess? Are neither of us to have a say in our own futures?”
“You’re forgetting that your sister has a point, too,” the queen replied. “Nothing has been fully promised. And besides, perhaps you’ll suit,” she offered, shrugging a thin shoulder, her fiery curls shifting with the movement. “‘Tis not so dire as you believe, m’love.”
After a long moment, Aidan nodded once, but Brianne caught the flash of resignation in his eyes before he retreated into himself. He squeezed their mother’s hands and stood, dropping a kiss on her cheek. “Perhaps you’re right, Mums.” He turned to Brianne, one hand still gently clasping the queen’s fingers. “I’m sorry, Bri. I won’t tease you about the new Hand…”
“…anymore today,” he finished, grinning at the growl that escaped Brianne as he chucked her under the chin. With a final smile to his mother and sister—one that Brianne thought didn’t quite reach his eyes—Aidan left the room, his hands settling deep in his pockets.
“Mother,” Brianne whispered, turning to see the queen’s gaze on the doors through which Aidan had just strode. “Mother, is this all more complicated than a simple marriage contract?”
Fiona looked at her daughter and smiled tightly. “Of course not, love. Aidan merely wishes for more independence. Now, come,” the queen coaxed with a softer smile. “Tell me why you were staring at the King’s Hand this morning.”
Brianne groaned and fell back against the pillows, cursing her brother’s big mouth.
Snow twirls and dances
Lights twinkle in the night sky
Santa’s beard glows white
by Gabriela Baron ’20
Christmas: the smells of
pine trees, nativities, old
issue paper. Home.
by Clara Howard ’20
A cosmic feeling
Not gifted, but loved by all
The sense of wonder
by Connor Zimmerman ’20
The footsteps are low
I hear him gulp down the milk
His crunching is loud!
by Sam Pellman ’20
Cozy, cuddle, warm,
Lovers snug with fire, with more
Snow and laugh harder.
by Jay Willett ’20
The elves hard at work.
Stay jolly, merry, and bright.
The toys must get done.
by Sarah Kirchner ’21
On the Eve of Samhain
by Clara Howard ’20
As the sun set on the eve of the harvest season, the countryside of Valenlea was awash in yellows, oranges, and reds. Nature brushed fingers of brilliant light against the tops of trees and blew winking kisses of gold to the terracotta tiles of roofs. The royal castle, settled high in the hills above the capital and built of glass and sandstone, burned resplendently in the golden sun. Standing tall, the ancient home of the monarchs cast a proud gaze over the spread of life beneath it. And as the sun smoldered red against the horizon line, the indigo of dusk crept ever closer. Behind it all, gathering in the east and sliding smoothly together, clouds covered the moon. The forces at work had no wishes for any witnesses tonight, after all.
Hidden far beneath the earth, in a dirty, moldy prison cell, a bearded man sat. His head rested against a wall of dirt and stone and his eyes were closed. Only the slight rise and fall of his chest gave any indication that he still lived. His hands were curled into fists, cut off by the heavy, black iron manacles locked around his wrists. A second pair wrapped around his ankles, connected to a short chain embedded in the wall. One of the newer guards ventured the observation that it almost seemed as if the man were waiting for something. Distracted by the subsequent teasing, none of the guards saw the prisoner’s answering smile.
Above the prison, mere moments after the last dregs of the sun disappeared beneath the horizon, an unholy storm broke over the kingdom of Valenlea. Rain lashed at windows and sides of buildings, shattering glass and tearing at brick walls. Water roared down the streets as small streams transformed into furious, churning rivers. Screaming gales of wind brought trees and precious crops crashing to the ground. People panicked as they sought higher ground, only to be swept away by the merciless water. Nature swallowed the cries of Valenlea’s dying as she threw electrifying bolts of lightning to illuminate the sky and rolled great crashes of thunder to shake the ground. Tomorrow, her calm blue skies would shock the humans who feared her, but tonight, she would let her anger rage at them.
Beneath the ground, the prisoner listened as chaos erupted. Water gushed forth from the sewer tunnels, flooding the dungeon cells at a deadly pace. The guards withdrew, clambering up to the surface and abandoning their charges to their certain, watery ends. The man opened bloodshot eyes to watch as black water flooded into his cell. A figure rose from the shallows, cloaked in oily black and wielding a steaming, curved blade. The prisoner scrambled up to stand before the figure. And as the scythe tipped slowly forward, the edges sharp enough to split souls, the man’s bloody, cracked lips twisted into a smile, revealing rotten, chipped teeth and a black tongue. He spread his fingers wide and held his arms out to the reaper, palms facing up. Death had fulfilled his end of the bargain and had come to claim his reward.
High in the hills of Valenlea, the queen watched the devastation that tore through her lands with blurred vision. Tears streamed down her face as her heart found a new home in the back of her throat and sobs caught behind her ribs with each flash of lightning that revealed new destruction. The heavy steps of the king echoed into their bedchamber, and she turned her face into his broad chest, the familiar scent of her husband wrapping gently around her breaking heart. He rubbed a spot between her shoulder blades with
jerky movements and pressed his lips to the top of her head. She sniffled, wanting to inhale his comforting scent again, but froze. A small kernel of her magic pulsed in the abyss of her stomach, and she sniffed again. Something was wrong. Something was very wrong.
“Alec?” she whispered, her voice muffled against the king’s chest. The queen tried to ease herself out of his embrace, pushing gently against his torso to widen the distance between them. Instead of letting her go, his arms tightened against her back. He crushed her to him, squeezing her until black spots started poking holes in her vision, and it became hard to breathe. Above them, thunder boomed as lightning lit the room. In its echo, she could hear her son screaming, and her head suddenly cleared.
Her magic bloomed, winding its way through her veins and nerves, lending her strength as she struggled against her husband’s embrace. Another cry from her son distracted her, and in that moment, the king reached up and laced his fingers through her hair, wrapping the tendrils around his palm and pulling her head back. As their eyes met, the terror that had been slowly building in her throat erupted from her mouth in a scream. The queen looked at her husband but did not recognize the man who stared back at her with eyes of a monster from the ancient myths. Cloudy grey surrounded onyx irises circling white pupils. His face had gone as pale as the snow covering the peaks of the northern mountains, and his golden hair had turned as black as tar. A cruel smile twisted his mouth as he reached his other hand up to cover her face. With her last breath, the queen released her magic, the ensuing whoosh of air masking the sound of her neck snapping. As the monster and the queen fell, the storm ceased.
The king awoke to golden sunlight flooding his bedchamber. A headache hammered at his skull. He opened his eyes slowly, blinking in confusion. Why was he on the floor? He sat up, a nauseous churning in his stomach as he took in the details of the devastated land outside his windows. A glint of gold in the corner of his eye caught his attention. He turned, and the headache exploded behind his eyes as he beheld his wife, wide-eyed and still, lying on the ground beside him.
His heart pounding and hand shaking, he reached for her. A sob wrenched from his throat when he felt the ice of her skin, the sound aggravating the hammering behind his brow. “No…Mae…” Tears streamed down his face as the sun beat on his back. He closed his eyes, resting his face against her frozen collarbone.
The king struggled to breathe.
The queen was dead.
And he remembered all of it.
Castles of Wood and Stone
by Clara Howard ’20
There’s a half-remembered ranch house with a stream in front. A perfect place for playing princesses and pirates. On the outside, white siding gave way to honeycolored stones. On the inside, rooms opened their arms wide, ready to embrace wild imaginations, cooking mishaps, and childhood innocence. Wallpapered bedrooms smiled at stuffed animal fights and nightmare soothings. At Brookmede, we had free reign of our fairy-and-pirate kingdom.
There’s a small, two-bedroom apartment on the fourth floor of an old building with no elevator. Tile steps and wroughtiron railings wound their way up to a haven that felt close to heaven. The kitchen, no bigger than a closet, witnessed midnight meriendas, daybreak desayunos, and celebratory cenas. The windows, unhampered by screens, opened wide to see Popocatépetl keeping his smoky watch over the valley. En México, éramos príncipe y princesa de una cultura materna.
There’s a one story clapboard house sitting prim, proud, and proper on the almost-corner of a treelined street. Hard-won, held onto for 68 years, it had “Howard” engraved on its bones. Never much room for stretching out, summer days passed with Betty Boop, Lucy and Ricky, Bing and Fred. In the evenings, the dining room table cleared, beware the card shark-infested waters, and whatever you do, don’t hold on to your aces! Winners got flying saucers from the Carvel down the street. At 42 Jersey St., we were the youngest in line to a crocheted throne.
There’s a ranch house made of brick. It stands between trees and expanses of a green yard. In the summertime, riotous color blooms: delighted magenta bounces happily, regal violet sways with sophistication, and sunset orange stretches its arms out along a soil horizon. In the back, herbs have the lay of the land (as much as mint tries to mutiny), and perfume the air to make one hungry. Inside, wooden floors creak under older sets of footsteps, walls dress up in food-named colors, and we have our own rooms. Laughter still cracks the still air. At Old Fence, we choose to rule on our own on separate sides.
There are various rooms in various buildings on a relatively small campus. In room 411, the sunrise wakes me up those first few weeks because my independence manifests itself in leaving the windows and shades open. My view encompasses the skyline of a fateful city. In 2AL, I have a corner of a building, which means I have my own corner of the world, and the crosswinds through my windows make me wish for wind chimes. My view is of green, green grass and a world of endless possibilities. In 203, my nights are like an endless slumber party: laughing, crying, and sharing secrets with friends who become the only bright stars in a depressed nighttime. My view changes from other brick buildings to a weeping willow across the street. In 410, the apartment is infused with colorful mugs, animal-themed decorations, and comfortable blankets. My view is of a courtyard and a curious maple, of vibrant, beautiful hearts, of an idyllic time slipping away. In Providence, I learn to be queen of a kingdom that lost some of its magic, but never any of its allies.
Other things that are only mine: a corner of the bunk bed where I can whisper and pretend that my unicorns and puppies have lives of their own; a window in the blue room where I can peek through and see the Aztec warrior weeping over his lost love; an indent in the kitchen floor, right by the doorway, that fits the shape of my heel perfectly, as if I had made it myself; a single shelf where my most favorite titles nestle nice and snug together; a set of linens, including a comforter with the Eiffel Tower to prove my elegance and maturity, that covers a bed that will never be comfortable, but will sit and stand beneath laughing faces, chocolate quotes, and faithful protections.
In my castle, my home is built of memories.
by Clara Howard ’20
Freshman year English class,
my teacher asked us to open Macbeth
and ever since then,
his lady has meant
“ambition” to me.
And ever since then I’ve been told I should act
like my life has one track
that’ll bring me straight to the throne
as a job I’d want to write home about.
But I gotta say…
I really wanna take a different route.
Because who wants to kill their mind
or break their heart
just to claim they’ve “mastered the art”
of climbing a ladder that’s missing rungs
and doesn’t even start
at the same level for everyone?
And, y’know, I can wash my hands as much as I want,
but my faults don’t hide in the stars,
they stay in the front of my mind
because they like to haunt me.
Like, hey, remember that time
you were almost at the top,
but then your eyes looked down
as your hand reached up
and you dropped to the ground
with no one to stop your fall?
They like to taunt me,
reminding me constantly
of what I could’ve had by now
if I’d only paid attention to how
Lady Macbeth unsexed herself.
But the thing is,
I’ve never wanted to sell myself
to prove I am capable of more.
The thing is,
I’m content with Cawdor.
And even if success is a distant shore,
I’d rather lag behind
than get stuck in the grind
of people with tunnel vision,
brought on by ambition,
who make it their life’s mission
to fulfill a self-made prophecy
that says they have to leave
some sort of grand legacy.
Don’t they know it’s okay to just be?
Fall semester Shakespeare class,
my professor asked us to open Macbeth,
and when I read it again,
his lady still meant
“ambition” to me.
more’s the pity.