Educating the Angelic Flower

Her skin glowed as the sun dipped low in the sky. Clad in the white dress I’d carefully picked, she glided across the barren field, as if an angel sent from the heavens to bless the land. Her silken blond tresses danced in the breeze, set free from their braided confines.

I frowned and added “brush her hair” to the list.

“Where’s my blanket, boy?” my grandmother asked, her voice behind me barely a croak.

I sighed, always her boy, even at thirty. I turned from her window. “It’s right here, Grandmother.” I lifted it from the foot of her bed, deftly flicked it over her and smoothed the quilted blanket straight, eliminating the tiny wrinkles mimicking her sagging skin. “Is there anything else I can get for you?”

Her daggered eyes pierced me, her mind razor sharp even as her body failed. “An heir. Where’s my heir?”

I nodded toward the window. “I predict one about nine months from now.”

“Don’t get smart with me, boy. I know how long it takes. I expected her to be pregnant already.”

“I know Grandmother. I thought it best to wait until after the wedding.” The lie rolled off my tongue easily.

“Don’t lie to me, boy. I won’t tolerate it. My switch.”

I breathed deeply, trapping my anger, as I walked the path tread so many times before. I located her weapon of choice by the faded, doily covered chair she knitted in every morning and diligently handed it to her. Without a word, I turned from her, unbuckled my belt, and let my pants drop to the floor.

The first lash kissed my flesh, the sting barely registering thanks to her weakened state.

Two.

Three.

Four.

Five.

I stood motionless, clenching my teeth, as I waited for her signal.

Six.

Her breath was ragged, as though oxygen had been sucked from the room.

I knew not to move, not to look.

“Don’t. Disrespect. Me. Again, boy.”

I bent forward, dressing myself before kneeling at her side. “I’m sorry, Grandmother. I won’t.”

Her bony hand pressed the top of my head, her nails cutting into my skull. Minutes passed before she spoke again. “Go with God. Do not fail me.”

“Yes Grandmother.” Dismissed, I fled from the room, hurrying down the tiny hallway and out the back door. The hot sun slapped me as I searched for my perfect flower.

I stopped abruptly, as horror trapped me in its web.

Lily knelt on the dead ground; the dried mud from my mother’s former garden dusted her white gown, destroying its pristine beauty. Her hands vanished in the soil, tainted like her dress.

“Lily!”

She looked at me, a brilliant smile upon her face.

“Come here.” My easy manner hid the anger seething beneath the surface.

She was ruined.

She jumped to her feet, toes blackened from the ground, her sandals in hand. “You have the most amazing land! I found the perfect place for a rose garden.”

I faked a smile. “We’ll talk about that shortly. Lily, you know I hate it when you’re dirty. You need to brush your hair and shower. Grandmother will be displeased if you show up filthy to dinner.”

“So? This is my home too.”

I breathed in patience. “Lily, it was hers first.”

She shrugged and disappeared inside.

I followed briefly, before detouring the way I’d arrived. I listened outside the door.

Snoring.

I entered quietly, grabbing Grandmother’s switch.

Steam greeted me as I opened the bathroom door, nearly tripping on the stained dress carelessly tossed on the floor.

Rage, scalding hot, erupted from its cage.

Time to educate her.

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

A Red Dress Club writing prompt

The Red Dress Club: Is there someone who drives you crazy?

Someone who really gets under your skin.

It doesn’t have to be someone you know (although it certainly can be). It could be someone famous. Or even a character in a book.

Now, write a first-person piece – as if YOU are this individual. Write from his or her perspective and include the things that really bother you. For instance, maybe there’s a good reason why they eat with their mouths open, or why they use sarcasm as a weapon.

This can be completely fictional or you can base it on a real-life person.

This story is told from the point of view of the male character in The Garden – about three to four years beforehand. If you missed it, feel free to check it out for Lily’s side.

Constructive criticism welcomed and very wanted.

What worked? What didn’t? Did I show and not tell? Did I use unnecessary words? Did anything knock you out of the story? What sucked you in?

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About Kelly K @ Dances with Chaos

Kelly K has learned the five steps to surviving of motherhood: 1) Don't get mad. Grab your camera. 2) Take a photograph. 3) Blog about it. 4) Laugh. 5) Repeat. She shares these tales at Dances with Chaos in order to preserve what tiny amount of sanity remains. You can also find her on her sister blog, Writing with Chaos (www.writingwithchaos.com) sharing memoir and engaging in her true love: fiction writing. It's cheaper than therapy.
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39 Responses to Educating the Angelic Flower

  1. Carrie says:

    This is a dark story. I wasn’t really sure about the believability that a grown man would let an old woman whip him.

    If you wanted to create some unlikeable characters you definitely hit the mark!

    • In my mind, he’s been living with his grandmother since the age of four. That’s twenty-six years of emotional and physical abuse in their relationship.

      He lied to her on purpose, expecting the outcome, testing himself.

      He first showed up in The Garden story, and a few people wanted to see the characters again, so I rolled with it this prompt.

      The grandmother was a surprise until I started writing… who knew?

  2. Frelle says:

    oh God.

    it is really dark and sick and twisted.

    *shudder*

    and you write the hell out of it, too. wow.

  3. You’re right, it is dark. I liked the grandmother (please take the word ‘like’ relative to the addition of the character and not who she is!) as she was key to showing where his twisted journey began. I also read The Garden after this piece and my the twisted lives that have been lived on that ‘amazing land’!

  4. Jessica says:

    What a dark piece, true fiction. The grandmother whipping a grown man was somewhat hard to believe but then again it contributed to her control over him.
    I had a little bit of a hard time keeping up with all that was going on but it felt like this was a chapter out of a good fiction novel and I needed to read the pages before, so I think that is a good thing.

  5. Amy says:

    Wow, this is so twisted. The characters are written so well in so few sentences. I feel sorry for Lily and what shes in for. Lily is the perfect nae for her too….

    Great writing!

  6. Kim says:

    A good read, it immediately drew me in! I’m a bit confused about the person who was outside and also the shower scene. Great job on the promt!

  7. You have the ability to write as though it’s a page out of a book and still pull me in.
    I feel bad for lily.
    Great post

    • I really must think more about using the prompts as others do to “write a book” – as I am typing pages of them already.

      Good to know it pulled you in. Writing from his mind was far more challenging than writing from Lily’s.

  8. Dark. Twisted. Evil. And a little horrifying, too. But really well done!!

    I like the comparison of the wrinkles in the blanket to the old woman’s skin.. and the way you describe the heat from the sun slapping him. So many good lines and descriptions in here! Great work!

    (and, this only because I’m a typo freak, you need closing quotes on Grandmother’s line at the beginning) 😉

    • DOH! (fixed the quotes)

      I think they accidentally were erased when I tweaked it for word count. Thank you for pointing it out to me

      Good. Dark. Twisted. Evil. Exactly what I was going for. Hopefully a little understanding into his character too.

  9. Kristy says:

    Oh my! A sinking in my stomach when I realize what he must do. I was hanging on every word.

  10. Sara says:

    You created the scene of long term abuse very well and how it recreates itself. Once I got to end of the story, I understood about how a man of this age would let his grandmother whip him, but it stop me for a minute.

    I imagine if I read the early parts of your story as you indicated, this wouldn’t have been a stumble for me. I think it’s very true that people who are abused from a young age often do not distinguish the difference about abuse as they grow older; after all, it’s about power and having power over someone.

    You definitely made me curious about how Lily will handle this…and you were right on about the prompt!!!

  11. Kir says:

    well, as the child of abuse and my daddy haven’t been abused , I think this is a pretty realistic telling.
    However, I told you yesterday, that your stories are just SO GOOD, I don’t like him anymore than I did, but I do understand him now. I see what’s he’s lived with, the place he came from. It’s too bad Lily had to meet him.

    as always, EXCELLENT. This should be a movie. A very scary psychological thriller.

  12. I agree with some of the other fabulous ladies here that I understand why he would let his grandmother whip him, (habit and perhaps now something darkly sexual for him) the problem that I had was that the Grandmother was infirm and him going out to get her weapon of choice, as well as the logistics of how she would whip him from her bed was where I got hitched up.

    I thought you did a great job of showing how abuse gets passed down and I felt so very bad for the trap that Lily now finds herself in.

    • I was unable to go into complete detail of Grandmother, because of word count. She is ill and weakened, but not completely infirm. She still knits in her chair in the mornings, and dresses for dinner. Having him retrieve the switch (and wait on her with the blanket), was a power thing. Since he was very young, it has been their ritual – because what is more punishing than making you bring the instrument of your torture to your torturer? I didn’t describe her actions because his back was turned, so you didn’t see her adjust herself accordingly. I initially had the sound of bedding being moved, but cut it for word count.

      Oh and yes, I do believe there is something he enjoys in the beatings now. Glad you picked up on that.

      Thanks so much for the comment.

  13. Galit Breen says:

    Ugh. Scary, disturbing, frightening, uncomfortable.

    So in other words: Well done!

    This read just like the middle of a novel and had me ready to turn the page- perfect!

    There was a lot of great wording and vivid imagery in here. This line really struck me: “the tiny wrinkles mimicking her sagging skin.”

    Great job Kelly!!

  14. MamaTrack says:

    Ooh, they’re back. How did you make me feel sorry for this jerk? I mean, he’s an ass, and I pity him now.

    I think I want more backstory. Why is a grown man being beaten by his grandmother? It feels very V.C. Andrews to me. Dark, intriguing, creepy. That’s a compliment.

    • Wow, you felt sorry for him? Awesome.

      Everyone hated him in The Garden, I wanted to give a taste of his history and eliminate the one dimensional aspect of him.

      I really need to read VC Andrews one of these days.

      I appreciate the compliment. 🙂

  15. Ilana says:

    It’s amazing what a different side of you your fiction brings out. TWISTED! I could totally picture it though. That grandmother. And so interesting to hear the backstory of an abuser. They say they almost always come from abusive backgrounds. This one takes the cake.

    • Not ALL of my fiction is twisted…. just this particularly story, which I happened to visit twice.

      I admit to a fascination with darkness and studying it. Villains (the multi-dimensional ones) fascinate me more than the heroes, and always have. I wanted to be Darth Vader at age 7, not Princess Leia. I find Heath Ledger’s Joker one of the best characters ever created (and performed). I think of the little stories he tells about his scars, and wonder what his true history is.

      Mostly, I think my brain is ready to write about things as far from potty training and raising a WWF brother/sister fighting team, which my other blog covers extensively.

  16. Angie aka The Little Mumma says:

    I thought you drew each character so well. I got a clear sense of them in very few words. The man’s disapproval and rigidity, the sinister quiet of the grandmother’s control. And Lily. Joyful, free-spirited Lily – what the hell is she doing there??

    Reading it again was helpful. With the benefit of back story, it is more powerful again.

  17. Sara says:

    me again… dark and twisty you are… love it!
    this piece reminded me of Flowers in the Attic for some reason which I loved and hopefully you think that is a compliment.
    my concrit is as follows: in the first paragraph I was confused if the grandmother was blonde? I knew the story from before so I knew it wasn’t her. But I thought you were describing the grandmother.
    What if, in the first sentence you said Lily instead of opening with Her?

    • Yeah, I’m not sure where the dark twisty part comes from. Probably the stories I enjoyed growing up.

      Flowers in the Attic was one of those books I always meant to read, but never did. Was that VC Andrews?

      I might have to check it out from the library.

      I thought about using “Lily” at first, but I liked having her unnamed. I thought writing “her voice behind me” let the reader know I wasn’t speaking about the grandmother… I admit to needing readers to point out the leaps my brain performed that the reader’s did not.

      Word count got in the way of a lot I wished to add… I really wish we had 700 for Friday prompts too.

  18. Rebel chick says:

    Whoa…I so wasn’t expecting that! Now I’ll have to read the Garden.

  19. Oh. My.
    Excellent. The whole piece is brilliant. The tyrant grandmother. The thirty year old little boy. Still cowering before her.
    And Lily. About to be educated in terror.

  20. Nancy C says:

    Good, good stuff. Yes, the relationship is twisted indeed. I, too, thought there was a sexual element in there.

    Oh, poor Lily. The entire section with her was so chilling and raw.

  21. Mandyland says:

    Wow. Well, this was disturbing. And dark. And somewhat twisted.

    Just like the man and his grandmother.

    I actually didn’t have a hard time believing that he’d still allow her to whip him. The emotional and psychological control she has is pretty obvious.

    And now I wonder how Lily is going to take care of the grandmother…

  22. Girl, you’ve got a gift.
    I loved this. The imagery, the characterization, the flow. It all made perfect sense to me.
    I understand your frustration with the word limit but as a reader I didn’t feel the piece lacking in any way. It was a complete chapter for me.

    And how can I not beg for more? Please!

    Yeah, I like the dark and twisted. Shhhhh.

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