Sunday, March 30, 2014

Blogging from A to Z April Challenge

Interested? Check out the AtoZ Challenge official site

I've deicided to participate in the A to Z April Challenge. Writing a blog post a day, except for Sundays, for the month of April. Each day with a topic starting with the letter that corresponds to that day. 26 letters, 26 posts, one month.

I've been on and off with this blog before due to various issues, but this time I am reallly motivated to do this. This is a great opportunity not only to get into the habit of writing again but to read other bloggers and be read by them as well. It's not just about writing but also about networking, so it will be an interesting experience for an introvert like myself.

Many bloggers will be working with a theme. Myself? Random will have to do since I only recently found out about the challenge. I've been working on some ideas and it looks like some posts will be short stories, others silly but fun posts, and some on the more serious side. Touches of fandom will be included throughout as well I'm sure. Oh and book reviews! Drawings?

Become a Participant!

So, I've signed up! I've got my badge and my theme (sort of) all that's left is for April to make its debut. In the meantime, I'll start exploring other blogs and writing posts. Wish me luck!




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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Labels On An Identity that Have Been Chosen for You, No Matter What You Think You Are

A Poem by LittleCely

The Duck Barked
When it should have Quacked
What a dumb Cat

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A poem I wrote over a year ago. It didn't have a title then but I finally came up with one I was happy with (for now). So is it a silly random poem? Or a deeper comment on labels forced upon us in society? Why not both?


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Monday, March 24, 2014

Insanity Day 36 - 3rd Fit Test DONE!

1. 49 - 67 - 83 (I count individual kicks)
2. 18 - 34 - 43
3. 40 - 48 - 60
4. 16 - 17 - 17
5.  6  -  6 -  7
6. 10 - 12- 11
7. 28 (knee push-ups) - 15 (push-ups) - 6 REAL PUSH-UP JACKS!!
8. 20 - 20 - 23

Day 36 Fit test was an overall success! I did notice however, that I tend to burn myself out a bit in the beginning. I go all out in the first exercises and then the latter half is less of an improvement than the beginning. But that being said, they were all an improvement except for maybe suicide jumps and power jumps. But the push-up jacks make up for it in my mind. *(n_n)*

So, with the Fit test today also comes my first ever Max Interval Circuit but truth be told I need a break. So I'm going to take a breather for about half an hour before starting that monster of a workout.

Every day is an improvement with Insanity even when I have my off days. I am already looking forward to starting a second round once my sister is back home! Although I might be eating my words once I really start month two.


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Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Meadow in the Park pt. 2

A Short Story by LittleCely

Because this short story was rather on the long side I split it into two parts. Part one can be read here.

Enjoy and don't forget to tell me what you think!

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In a familiar seat from a thousand years ago Bracken let out a heart wrenching sigh as he buried his face in his hands. “What do I think I’m doing?” he whispered to himself before laying those same hands on his lap. The ring on his left took advantage of its new position by using the sun streaming in through the bus window to glare at Bracken for agreeing to this foolish meeting in the first place. It was the middle of the day, a cold and windy day. For the first time in his life he would arrive before Olive. He would be there several hours before she would even think to come. He wished he could have gone home to change out of his work clothes but Fil would have been there by then, taking care of the baby. And he was afraid he wouldn’t have been able to lie to him if he had asked why Bracken needed to head out again. Having ended work early he drove his car to a bus stop five minutes from the office and parked it around the corner. He wasn’t sure himself why he felt the need to travel there by bus. Maybe it was the time it would take the bus to arrive versus that of his car. He still hated the speed the bus drivers on this route felt obliged to keep, but at the same time decided that he deserved the punishment.
He wasn’t used to the bus being as crowded and noisy as it was. A group of teenagers near the back laughed and joked with each other and people jostled others as they got on and off. The bus driver, a plump, kind faced woman with sad eyes, had no opportunity to skip any stop.  He was surprised his seat had been free at all. He’d never taken the bus at this time and that, combined with the cold, probably encouraged more people to seek refuge from the harsh wind that came with it.
Four stops to go and the kids at the back finally got up to leave. Bracken let out a sigh of relief. He had nothing against the kids but they were not doing his nerves any favors so he welcomed the silence that took their place. At the next stop (with three more to go), only two new passengers boarded the bus: a middle-aged woman who looked a decade older than himself and a man closer to his own age. The latter almost fell on his face as he tripped over his feet on the steps at the front of the bus and dropped his bus pass. His face went red almost instantly and he quickly picked up his pass, gripped it tightly in his hand and apologized quietly to the driver as he swiped the card over the appropriate machine. The driver turned to him and gave him a motherly smile of reassurance and a small shake of her head. He had nothing to be sorry about. The man passed by Bracken, a blush still visible on his cheeks as he looked for the first hole he could fall into and disappear. The driver’s gaze followed the man through her rearview mirror with her sad eyes that also held what Bracken recognized as a touch of, … longing? A kindred spirit then? Bracken wondered to himself.
If the blushing man from before hadn’t pressed the button signaling the bus driver, Bracken wouldn’t have noticed that it was the same stop he needed as well. He got up as quickly as he could and barely made it through the doors before they closed behind him. As the wind made its presence known, he lifted the collar of his coat to protect from its advances and watched as the man headed in the opposite direction Bracken had to take. He then turned and walked slowly to what was now just an empty parking lot with no ruins or announcements in sight. Time had caught up to the old outlet mall. If he had been in a hurry he might have walked right past it. Or he would have if the park weren’t as clearly visible in the distance as it was now. He silently berated himself once again as he continued his walk. You don’t have to go, he argued. You can still turn back. There’s still time. In fact he had over four hours before the appointed time they had agreed to meet. The next bus heading back should arrive in about forty-five minutes. He decided that he would just walk in the park so as to keep warm, he couldn’t go too far after all, and it was freezing.
Finding himself by the old swing set, now with no swings, he looked at the containers a few steps away. “It can’t hurt to just look,” he said to the playground. So he walked into the clearing and saw a woman sitting with her back to him facing the city view. The tall grass and wild flowers around her bowed low this way and that as her hair, the color of honey danced in a tangle of wind and curls around her head. He couldn’t leave now, no matter how much he willed himself to do so. He couldn’t see her face but he could sense her distress. Olly was sitting much to straight and staring far too hard, wearing only a light jacket against the unforgiving wind. He watched her hair danced, that beautiful messy nest that refused to be tamed and self-consciously ran his fingers through his own black hair streaked with a few premature strands of grey.
He took a few tentative steps forward. Bracken had always had heavy footsteps that he had never learned how to mute so he was sure that Olly had heard his approach, but she made no move to show that she did. Taking a few steps with a pause in between Bracken gave her plenty of time to make a move, but still reached her fairly quickly and soon found himself standing right behind her, close enough to nudge her with his brown dress shoe. He wasn’t prepared for this. He had meant to take a quick peek at this old haven and head home. Now he had no idea what was the proper thing to say to break the most awkward silence they had ever had. There was a chance she didn’t even know it was Bracken standing behind her right now.
Just as he was about to give up and turn around to leave her there after all, a particularly strong wind rushed through the meadow. Bracken saw how Olly gave a visible shudder and took her arms from around her knees and hugged herself tightly. He tore off his coat and crouched down behind her using it to protect her from the cold. Bracken rested his hands on her shoulders in an attempt to keep his balance but also to simply have a reason to touch her, even if it was through his thick winter coat. He was surprised how natural it still felt to hold her and wondered how he had ever thought he could simply leave without saying anything at all. But it was Olly who spoke first.
“You’re early.”
She raised her head to be able to look into Bracken’s eyes and as soon as she did he couldn’t help but let out a sharp gasp escape his mouth. The sound made her turn back towards the city and she hugged herself around the knees again. A fresh bruise was the only imperfection in the beautiful, now slightly lined face he hadn’t seen in so long. It broke his heart that that was what she needed him for. They stayed like that for a while in silence, Bracken with his hands on her shoulders, Olly staring ahead.
Olly felt how Bracken shifted behind her. He was starting to feel the cold. Or he was simply tired of crouching in what must be an uncomfortable position, even if he was using her shoulders for support. Is that how it is Bracken? Olly thought to herself, you help yourself while at the same time convinced it’s really me you’re helping?
“Stand up Bracken,” she said softly. Bracken hesitated only for a moment before using her shoulders to push himself up. As he stood up Olly turned herself to face him, still sitting down. Her bruise was now clearly visible and it seemed to distract and upset Bracken to the point that he started to fidget, swaying slightly from side to side and opening and closing a fist. Olly watched the band on his finger with her head tilted slightly to one side as Bracken argued silently with himself, trying to decide what to do.
In an instant he was kneeling in front of her and leaned in, lips barely brushing her skin, he kissed the ugly blemish by her eye. Olly let out a small sigh; brought his face towards hers again and kissed him in the same place he had kissed her. She then got up, leaving him on the ground. Looking toward him she gave him a sad smile as she pulled his coat on properly and said, “I’m keeping this.” She turned to leave. Positive he wouldn’t try to chase after her, she allowed the tears to flow. He had given her the strength she needed, but she still hurt. Good-bye Bracken.

 “Dad,” the thirteen-year-old boy glanced from one father to the next, concern written all over his face. “We’re falling behind the other cars.”
“Bryon, it’s fine. Your father is just a little distracted. We should be there soon.” Fil knew this must be hard on his husband. It had been just as much of a shock to him when he had heard what had happened. Olive had been a school friend of theirs that had lived in Bracken’s old neighborhood. They’d recently gotten back in touch and she had looked great. She had been engaged to a wonderful woman who had a son Bryon’s age from a previous marriage. None of them could understand what had gone wrong. Holly seemed to really cherish her. Their son however, did have a point. Bracken was not only driving at a pace that normally made him want to scream, he kept glancing every now and then out the passenger’s side window, muttering what sounded like numbers under his breath. Fil wasn’t too concerned about being left behind by the rest of the funeral procession, but he was starting to worry about his husband who he couldn’t remember ever acting like this before.
“We lost them!” Bryon let out before he could stop himself. He managed to stay quiet for a full thirty seconds before adding, “do we even know where we have to go?” He seemed to be worried that without the line of cars leading the way we wouldn’t make it to the site.
“I know exactly where I’m going,” Bracken said firmly but quietly. Bryon never having seen his Dad this intense, kept his mouth shut for the rest of the drive.
True to his word, Bracken did know where he was going as he parked the car next to the others they had finally caught up with. They were in the parking lot of a large outdoor and garden wholesale store. The others in their party had already left their cars and were grouped together around Holly who was carrying a small box made of white marble, sealed on all sides. Fil never knew that there was a park in this area and just behind the wholesale store no less. Olive had asked for her remains to be left here?
The mourners headed into the park at a somber pace. Bryon had run off to stand with Will, Holly’s son. They had become fast friends in school and Fil thought that there might be something more than friendship brimming under the surface, but it seemed that they hadn’t caught on to that fact themselves just yet. He looked to find where his husband had wandered off to and spotted him walking with Holly, a protective hand barely touching her shoulder. He was staring straight ahead as if avoiding having to look down at the precious box Holly held in her hands. It was his kindness and willingness to help that Fil loved most about Bracken. Holly could never have done this by herself. It was a shame that Olive’s family, as religious as they were, refused to take part in all of this due to the form of her death. Bracken had been furious when he found out and Fil couldn’t blame him. It was shortsighted and a horrible way to let their daughter go. As he silently cursed the horrible old men that had raised their old friend, an unpleasant smell demanded his attention. They were heading towards two large dumpsters by an old playground. He wondered if they had suddenly taken a wrong turn.

They hadn’t of course; they had arrived at the highest point in the park. It was such a small space that they had to form a tight half circle directing themselves towards a small previously dug hole in the center. Laying above the tiny grave was a small plaque made of polished stone that had been fixed into the ground, marking the place as Olive’s and Olive’s alone. Yet Fil still couldn’t understand the choice of venue. The only pleasant thing about the place was the view. You could see the whole city down in the valley from so far up. However, everything else was nothing but a clump of weeds with overgrown grass and dandelions having their seeds scattered by an unpleasant breeze; a breeze contaminated by the foul odors exuding from the large dumpsters at their backs.

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There you have it: The Meadow in the Park. If you have any constructive criticism on my writing I would greatly appreciate it. In fact critique it even if it's your first time reading any kind of short story at all! Please!




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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Drawing - Jack Nicholson's Eye



So as I've stated before, I am no self-taught artist. I have a teacher and while I haven't worked up to full portrait works just yet, I recently "passed" the final eye test. A rather intricate eye originating from the picture above.

My reference picture
This other picture is the reference my teacher provided me with. I added some guidelines to prepare for the actual drawing. When I was just practicing eyebrows this one was a tough one to do and I never got it down just right. This time I was much happier with the results.

My tools
So before I continue with the actual drawing, a little info on the tools I used. From left to right you will see a kneaded eraser, a cutter, a mechanical eraser, a blending stump, a couple 6B pencils, a pencil sharpener, tissue(for shading), and cotton.


Firstly, I add guidelines to help me find the main form. Some lines are so light that they should be added later when shading. But the most prominent lines and the outline of the eyebrow I sketch out lightly in pencil. I check, double check, and triple check with my reference picture to make sure the form is as close to perfect as I can get it.

This step can take longer than people would think. Unless you are very practiced at copying down a form perfectly, this step takes just as much time, work and patience as any other. If you fail here, it makes the rest of the process that much more difficult than it has to be.


One of my weaknesses when it comes to drawing is not making something dark enough. So when I start to shade I start at the darkest points and work my way out.


Some people start at one point and don't continue until they are satisfied that that section is finished. I work in layers.


More shading, added some eyelashes, and some wrinkles. On a technical note, you don't have to erase any of your guidelines. If they are drawn lightly they fade on their own as you continue to shade.


I procrastinated on the eyebrow on this one because I was really intimidated by it. I ended up focusing more on other details so in the end I think it was a good thing. Most of the softer lines were done with the blending stump and not the pencil.


The infamous eyebrow. The only thing missing is the single white hair you can see in the reference picture. I skipped over it but I think it is an important detail that I would try not to leave out of a completed portrait.

So this was the work I presented to my teacher and he just had a few tips for me to really complete it.

Reference picture with finished product
I darkened around the eye a bit more and elongated the eyelashes that were a little too short before. I smoothed out some lines and added slightly more detail. When we were both satisfied I added my signature!

And there you have it. My latest eye! I am quite proud of this one. Now I am on to noses which are a challenge all their own.

If you are interested in seeing progress pictures of my work as they happen you can follow me on Instagram, Tumblr and/or Twitter.

And as always, if you have any questions, comments, critiques or suggestions please leave them in the comment section below. I will answer them!


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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

My Mad Fat Diary - A Review


 My current favorite slice-of-life television series at the moment is My Mad Fat Diary. A British comedy-drama series that airs every Monday on Channel 4 (in the UK).


The story revolves around Rae Earl, an overweight sixteen year old teenage girl who spent four months in a psychiatric hospital and is now trying to transition into "normal" teenage life. School, friends, boys and all the awkwardness that comes with being sixteen years old, with some mental issues thrown into the mix.

British TV really knows how to handle shows like this. They cast young people that seem real, believable and relatable. They don't have to be perfect, pristine china dolls. The writing is witty and draws you in. You're laughing one moment, crying the next.

I love Rae, the main character of the show, so much. You root for her and want to tell her that things can get better. Especially if you simply don't care what everybody thinks. But when you're sixteen that is ALL you care about. Being 26 now, it is so easy for me to think of things the characters should be doing instead of suffering the trials and tribulations that they are going through now. But when I remember what it was like to be 16, I get it. It's a confusing time, it's awkward and uncomfortable and you're not quite an adult yet but you want to be so badly.

I binge watched the whole first season back in January and was so excited that they had a second season coming up only a month later. I didn't have to wait as long as other fans since I discovered this wonderful show at a good time. And the second season is just as good, if not better than the first. I'm looking forward to see where this show leads and how Rae manages to get through it all.

 I've also recently learned that the show is based on a book by the real Rae Earl called, My Mad Fat Teenage Diary. I'm intrigued to find it to read and compare. But I'll wait until season 2 is done and over with before delving into the world of the book.

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Monday, March 17, 2014

A Dose of Insanity to Get Me Back on Track



About two months ago I decided that I needed to lose weight. I was slightly over 61 kilos (about 134lbs) and did absolutely no exercise. That may not seem like much to many but when you are 155cm (5'1"), well I looked a lot heavier than what 61 kilos actually are.

But when I started on my weight loss journey, I did all the wrong things for my body. I was eating less than 800 calories and burning 300 calories with exercise. My net calorie consumption was around 500 calories or less a day. I didn't understand why I was getting weaker and more tired instead of stronger and more energetic.

It seems so obvious now but I know I'm not the only woman or young girl who has these false assumptions about weight loss. To lose weight fast all you have to do is eat fewer calories right? Yeah, if you want to break yourself!

I lost weight sure, but I didn't like the side effects. I decided I wanted to be healthy and strong, not skinny and starving. I did some research and decided to join MyFitnessPal a little over a month ago to help me log calories. I started eating more, 1250-1350 calories net, and continued my exercises (stationary bike and circuit body weight training) eating back any calories that I burned.

I gained weight in the beginning but that was to be expected. I had been starving myself and probably lost what little muscle mass I had. But then I started losing again, slower but I was feeling much better.

And then one month ago I joined a group on MyFitnessPal that was taking on the Insanity Challenge. A 60-day body conditioning workout program by fitness instructor Shaun T.

I had heard about the program before and heard it was tough but I was intrigued. I new I would be more dedicated to exercise if I followed a program and even more so if I was doing it alongside other people.

And now with one month down I feel great! I've gotten stronger. I've improved my cardio and endurance and now have what I call my mini muscles (n_n). I still have a ways to go (I'm now 57.6 kl 126.7lbs) but today I start recovery week and then it's on to the infamous month two (said to make month one look like a walk in the park)!

I feel very grateful to the members of the Insanity group I joined. We help keep each other motivated and accountable. I probably would have quit by now if it weren't for them. Sadly my self discipline isn't all that strong when I do things completely on my own (another reason why I have a blog). They have been and continue to be a great source of motivation and inspiration. Thank you guys!
Exercises in the fit test. How many can you do of each in a minute?
So far we have done the fit test twice and I have seen some improvement.

Switch Kicks:  49 ------------ 67 (I counted each kick)
Power Jacks:    18 ------------ 34
Power Knees:   40 ------------ 48
Power Jumps:   16 ------------ 17
Globe Jumps:     6 ------------- 6 (second time with better form)
Suicide Jumps: 10 ------------ 12
Push-up Jacks:  28 (knee push-ups) --- 15 (regular push-ups) working up to the jack part
Plank Oblique: 20 -------------20

The third fit test is next week and I will share the results on here as well.

So far I've learned that losing weight the right way takes more time and work but it's the best option in the long run. I can eat more this way and it's not just about losing weight anymore, it's about being healthy.

I've taken some progress pics but I want to save those for when I finish the 60 days. In the meantime I leave you with one of my favorite fitness quotes:


Here's to looking good naked! If you're on MyFitnessPal and looking for new friends, you can add me here.



Friday, March 14, 2014

One Piece: Why Usopp is My Favorite Straw Hat


One of my favorite mangas at the moment is One Piece. A Japanese comic written and drawn by Eichiro Oda. That man is a freakin' genius!

Anyway, when I was in Japan last year many people found it interesting that I was a One Piece fan. And the standard question I was asked was, "Who is your favorite Straw Hat?" and the standard reaction I got for my answer was surprise and confusion. While Usopp seems to have many fans on the Internet from a variety of different countries, in Japan he is not the first choice of most.

"But why?" I would get asked. "But he is so uncool," others would say, etc. But I stand by my choice, even after his recent actions in the latest chapters of the series (chpts. 740 and 741 especially).


While I am quite fond of the rest of the Straw Hats, they have an extra bit of awesomeness that naturally leads them to be popular. Luffy is the fearless quirky leader without a full set of tools in his tool box; Zoro is already a bad ass with a bad sense of direction; Sanji has a killer fighting style even if he is a creepy pervert; Chopper is adorable; Robin has a cool exterior and dark humor; Franky built himself a new body; Brook is some weird incarnation of the undead; and Nami (the closest to being like Usopp) while being greedy and bossy is still super smart and essential to getting the crew anywhere.

What is Usopp but a coward who grows into his talent? Every member of the Straw Hats knows what they are good at from the very beginning and they are confident in what they know how to do. Usopp barely has an inkling of his potential and is very intimidated by the dangerous world around him. When in reality he has many talents, he's an artist, an inventor and a very skilled sniper.


What really draws me to Usopp is that he is the most "real" out of all of them. When Luffy, Zoro, Sanji, Robin, or Franky are scared, that's because sh*ts about to go down. But Usopp is scared when any normal human being (ie. you and me) would be scared.

He has to come to terms with the fact that being part of the crew does not mean he has to be as good or better than anyone else. He simply has to compliment them. As Sanji wisely advised him back in Enies Lobby, he'll do what Usopp can't do and Usopp should do what only he can do. It is after that turning point that he really starts to grow. Granted he needs his alter ego Sogeking to get into the swing of things at times but baby steps.

After the time skip, he looks stronger, more confident and with a few more tricks up his sleeve. His motivation to get stronger was to continue to compliment the group that at the same time also needed to get stronger. He is still a coward but that is now ingrained in his personality. When it's counted he has always stepped up, albeit hesitantly, to do what has to be done.

Now, why in these last couple of chapters Oda is making him look extra cowardly is debatable. Maybe it's the fact that he is terrified of Doflamingo and his gang. It could also be in preparation for a big fight scene. Or maybe he just wants to remind us that The Straw Hats are pirates. They are all good people yes, but none of them aspire to be heroes. If they did they would have gone the marine route.

 I think there is more to Usopp in this arc than what we have been led to believe. Luffy has more confidence in his crew and believes they can take care of themselves. The whole crew has always believed in Usopp more than he has ever believed in himself. I think this is no different. His mind just has to catch up to his abilities and inner bad ass.

And if we're being honest his doubts and faults mirror many of out own.

Who is your favorite Straw Hat and why? I'd love to hear your opinions!

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Meadow in the Park pt. 1

A Short Story by LittleCely

Background: I asked my sister one day, "If I wrote you a story, what would you want it to be and what would you want it to have?" 

She answered that she wanted a love story where the boy had dark hair and blue eyes and the girl had green eyes and brown hair (she was describing herself). Oh and there had to be a meadow. She didn't say why but insisted. So I decided to go with it. But I didn't want just another cliché so I gave her love story a twist and came up with The Meadow in the Park.

Enjoy

part 2 can be found here.
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Bracken was sitting at the very front of the bus, first window seat to the right, staring out at deserted block after deserted block incapable of keeping still. His constant fidgeting was so distracting that the heavy-set bus driver spared him a glance from his rearview mirror every now and then. It seemed to be more out of curiosity than concern however, since this particular route heading just outside the city limits was never particularly crowded, especially at this time of day when people tended to be at home, preparing dinner or doing any number of other things that people do at home as sunset starts to take the stage. Few people around these parts were romantic enough to play audience to the sun’s final act so if anybody did decide to head out they would be going towards the city, not the other way around, at least not in this direction.
            As Bracken bounced to the double rhythm of his feet and that of the bus on the unkempt pavement, he was keeping an eye out for every coming stop through his graffiti scratched window, doing a quiet count down as they approached his desired destination at the maddeningly slow pace of his large red bearded chauffeur. Finally the next stop was approaching, four more to go after this one and what was more it was empty and nobody had taken the time to press one of the red buzzers evenly spaced throughout the bus signaling their desire to get off. They had no reason to stop. And yet Bracken’s fidgeting came to a sudden halt as he felt the bus decelerate and then stop at the exact point of the empty bus stop. The driver then pulled the lever to his right, opening the bus doors to ghosts. They were given plenty of time to get on his bus and find an empty seat, of which there were plenty. Bracken had an alarmingly silent but brief fit making faces and messing up his dark hair in frustration. The bus had arrived late at the stop were he had first got on and now he had a good idea why. Pulling himself together but no less enraged, he shot a glare at the bus driver with a look of such intensity that clearly said, “ARE YOU FUKIN’ INSANE?!”
            The glare and the message were not lost on the driver. He had felt both and while they did take him slightly aback he stared right back through his rearview mirror, at the intense blue eyes of the lanky schoolboy whose wild hair gave him a slightly deranged look. While it did nothing to strike fear into the heart of the driver, it did make him laugh which enraged Bracken all the more. As if in apology, the driver lowered his gaze with a smile and got the bus moving. While he never kept a pace Bracken would have agreed with, he mercifully kept from stopping for ghosts again.
            Two to three stops later, Bracken had already returned to his impatient dance in his seat and vigil out the window, sitting on his hands. With one stop to go the buzzer sounded and the bus slowed to allow two middle-aged women and their son to get off. The little boy laughed hysterically as his mothers swung him by his hands out in front of them through the doors at the back of the bus making him float towards the ground and land safely. As soon as the doors closed behind them and the bus started to move again, Bracken reached out to the pole in front of him, lifting himself slightly as he reached for the buzzer and pressed. Had it been any other passenger, the driver would have stopped immediately thinking that someone had forgotten or hadn’t had the time to get off at the stop they were just starting to leave behind. Knowing better and not fancying a physical attack from a teenage boy a fraction his width, he kept driving.
            Having his stop finally in view Bracken got up and stood in front of the door next to the driver bouncing on the balls of his feet. As soon as the doors were open wide enough to let him through he launched himself off the bus never even sparing a glance for the red bearded bus driver who due to Bracken, enjoyed his job a little more than that day. Now free from the danger of ensuing that same boy’s wrath, the driver allowed himself a good-hearted chuckle as he got ready to get the bus moving again while at the same time watching the retreating back of the boy running up the way towards an abandoned construction site which, if he remembered correctly, was just in front of a park that would surely be empty around this time. Were boys always this romantic? he wondered to himself, a smile on his lips and fond memories in his heart.
            Bracken had reached the ruins of what now looked like half an old outlet mall that he was sure they had passed the last time they’d come by before finding their meadow in the park. The problem was that last time he had been with Olive, who had led the way. The momentary disorientation made him pause for the first time and he allowed himself a look at his watch. Knowing he was late, he still wasn’t sure by how much. On the bus he had refused to check the time. He’d been stressed out enough already with the late arrival of the bus that he didn’t want to push himself over the edge by slowly watching how quickly his own lateness grew. Now with nervousness overtaking him his watch showed him a minute hand six numbers ahead of where he would have wanted it to be.
Behind the mall! He reminded himself. Yes, behind the mall and then…  
Ignoring the announcements inviting him to the grand re-opening of the Buy Stuff outlet mall taking place three months ago, he ran round the place making it to the back and caught a view of the park not fifty steps away. Giving the park entrance a quick scan he remembered that he had to enter from the right. Bracken picked up the pace once again and jogged into the park and then headed towards a playground to his left. There next to the swing set were the two large containers that would lead him where he needed to be. However, he stopped at the swing set to catch his breath and reached up to flatten his hair. He had to be cool and composed. She couldn’t see him blundering in like an idiot in the secret spot they had stumbled upon. The magical spot where they could be alone. Where they could be together.
Finally satisfied with himself and unwilling to wait any longer, he took another deep breath and walked quickly past the containers, preparing to apologize profusely for his lateness. Except that he walked into emptiness. He was in the right place. He had reached the very top of the hill, in the middle of their beautiful meadow of tall grass and wild flowers looking out towards the city in the valley below. Some lights were already visibly twinkling in the coming twilight. But the picture wasn’t complete and would never be complete without her. He must’ve missed her on his way in. He began to call out her name turning to look around and as soon as his left foot had taken all his weight in mid-turn, was when she decided to strike. Bracken was tackled to the ground by a wild mass of curly honey colored hair and caught off balance, they fell together. Olly laughed as Bracken only managed to let out the “Oll” of her name.
“Ow”
“You’re late!” Olly declared playfully smiling down at her captured prey.
“Yeah, well… So much for being cool, huh?” Winded and just slightly sore, Bracken accepted the defeat willingly as his smile played witness to his being the happiest man in the world at this very moment looking into the dark green eyes of his most favorite person in the world. Reaching for her he pulled her face towards his and kissed her, then held her, and she returned every kiss and every embrace.
Olly sitting up was looking out towards the city as Bracken with his head on her lap looked from her face to the sky blanketed in stars and back again. He had her hand grasped in both of his and turned to examine it instead and soon began planting soft kisses here and there.  She smiled as she turned to look at him and took her other hand spread it wide and plopped it on top of his face as if it were demanding its own kisses as well. He let out a laugh and obliged the jealous hand as Olly returned her gaze to the blinking lights of the city and they began to talk about nothing for a few more hours.
The meadow was playing host to a soft breeze that danced with the flowers, tall grass and the stray strands of hair of the two young people sitting back-to-back in contemplative silence. They formed a parallel line to the city as they leaned into each other. Olly, whose hair was more prone to dance than Bracken’s, enjoyed their occasional silences very much. They were comfortable. Safe. Feeling the solidity of his lean back against her own she was very aware of his presence and reveled in the fact that she could simply be with him and forget everything else.
“I saw your Dad today,” Bracken said. He would remember more often than she would have liked. “Marty. I saw him.”
Olly took her time before answering, contemplating the flowers growing around her feet. She chose one, plucked it and crushed it in her closed fist.
“Bracken, you see him everyday.”
“Yeah. I know.” He allowed the silence to envelop them again but it wasn’t the comfortable one of before. Olly felt the solidness of his back waver just for a second and she immediately turned to him. Visible even in the little light left to them she could still make out the silent tears running down his face. He turned his head trying to hide them from Olly and her fist slackened. She leaned in closer and kissed the tears off his face as the crushed flower scattered into the wind.

Bracken sat in his usual seat by the window at the front of the bus with his heavy backpack in the empty seat to his left. They were meeting a few hours earlier that usual today but all the same he was later than what was common for him. He had barely caught up to Aster, the TA, asking him how much the penalty would be for turning his gender relations essay in late: one letter grade per day. Well, thought Bracken to himself, I can live with a B. Right leg bouncing to a rhythm all its own, he took a look at his window examining the information scratched into it, hoping it would somehow make the trip shorter. While rude words and pictures tended to be the norm with scratched messages, Bracken found himself tracing the form of a heart enclosing the initials C & M with 4 Eva etched below.
“I hope you’re not planning on scratching any public service announcements while you’re visiting my workplace son,” the bus driver, large in height and dark in skin, gave him a warning look through his rearview mirror not at all unkind.
“No sir,” Bracken answered calmly and with complete honesty. The driver nodded his head in approval and continued the slow pace that Bracken will never approve of. He turned his attention to how the driver had decided to personalize his “workplace.” He had known other bus drivers to do the same but this one, he decided, was now one of his favorites. He was a family man. Little figurines obviously made by children littered his dash and a handmade necklace dangled from the rearview mirror. Bracken could just barely see, on the driver’s left hand side, a picture of his family. It held two small children, one dark, another light, flanked by their parents who stood like guards protecting precious treasures. They looked happy. Bracken let out a sigh and looked out his window staring at nothing.
One stop to go. He waited until they were half a block away before reaching for the buzzer. Bag hanging from his already complaining shoulder Bracken headed for the exit but before taking his leave he turned to the bus driver and gave him a small, “Thank you.” Warm smile on his lips, the family man gave a nod of farewell before closing the doors to his office behind the young man.
Walking briskly past the outlet mall frozen in time, Bracken took the familiar path through the park towards the playground into the most perfect place he had ever known. He had barely stepped past the containers when Olly snapped her head around receiving him with a beautiful smile on her face. Sitting in the middle of the meadow she looked like the wildest of the wild flowers surrounding her. Her hair was making a halo around her head that only added to her beauty. She hadn’t changed a bit and she fit in perfectly. The perfect person in their most perfect place above the world. It was enough to make him lose all composure. He let his bag drop to the ground with a thump and he softly tackled her, taking her down with him. She started laughing before he even reached her. She had had plenty of time to evade his pathetically cute attack but she decided to let him believe that this was his win to take.
They kissed and held each other like starving men eat when presented with a feast. And if it weren’t for the need to breath they might have stayed like that for hours on end. Bracken had Olly pinned under him when he finally pulled his face away from hers. Flushed, they adored each other with their eyes as they stopped to catch their breath. “Goddamn you’re a good kisser,” Bracken said playfully as she laughed and rolled her eyes at his line. Not missing a beat he lowered himself and softly kissed her forehead before adding in a whisper, “and goddamn good to kiss.” He then allowed himself to slump by her side and took her hand in his.
“I heard you were invited to a group date this Friday,” Olly said in an offhand voice regretting the words as soon as they left her mouth. She felt him tense up as she lay with her head on his lap while the hand that had been playing with her tangled mane hesitated for just a moment.
Trying to make up for his body’s betrayal Bracken answered her a little too quickly. “You know about that?” he asked trying to sound unconcerned, “news sure travels fast,” he added with a nervous laugh. He was right of course. Having their daughter home for brief visits throughout the year, Olly’s parents loved to keep her updated on all the gossip going on around the neighborhood. She knew about Bracken’s date, Mrs. Kennedia’s five new cats, and how the Johnsons were filing for divorce.
“It’s okay Bracken,” she said apologetically and brought her hand up to the side of his leg trying to reassure him. “ I understand.” His body had relaxed in defeat more than reassurance but he nodded his head all the same at the blinking lights in front of him.
After a moment of silence he managed to say, “Fil is going too.”
“Good old Filbert,” she addressed her speech to the sky, “he’s always been a friend.”
“Yeah.”
Olly closed her eyes and allowed her bubbling rage to take over. She got up and yelled at Bracken, at each of their parents, she yelled at freakin’ Filbert, but most of all she yelled out at the blinking lights mocking her from the city. How dare they keep her away from him! How dare they force on them their “rules” and “morals” whose foundations crumbled into dust with careful logical consideration! She hated them! And she hated herself for even mentioning the stupid date at all. As she finished, she took a breath and allowed herself to open her eyes. Bracken had been looking down at her with concern and caring etched on his face, with eyes the same shade of blue as a cloudless summer day. She reached for those eyes and kissed him defying society and all it stood for.
--->
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 This short story is on the longer side so I decided to split it in two. The second part is here.
Also for avid readers out there, this story is one I included in my Stegner application. If you have any constructive criticism on my writing I would greatly appreciate it. In fact critique it even if it's your first time reading any kind of short story at all! Please!
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