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Jan. 1st, 2020

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Working Title: Night

I wrote this little short story at work today. I'm proud of it. It's the first prose I've written in a long while that hasn't included preconceived characters, so that's a plus. Any feedback would be lovely.

I only ever saw him at night. I’d see him walking down the hall of the apartment building, his shoes barely making noise on the pale marble floors, fiddling with his keys or checking his watch. As if time mattered in the hours that I saw him. When he would look at me, with wide blue eyes that seemed to know all, I felt as if he was looking right through me. I paid little attention to him the first time I saw him, hurrying back to spend a few precious hours in bed before I had to return to work. He nodded as I walked by and I regarded him sleepily, and by the time I settled myself into bed, I had no recollection of him at all.

He was young; I imagined him to be around my age, but with an old-fashioned air, prim and proper. He was always dressed well: slacks, shiny black shoes, and button-down shirts. But to be honest, I never noticed much about what he wore. I was always too focused on his face. His intelligent eyes, long nose, thin lips, which always seemed slightly pouted, and the freckles which covered a strip from one cheek, across his nose, to the other. I suspected that he spent his time in the sun when he wasn’t haunting the halls of the apartment building. Perhaps he worked outside, I mused. After seeing him every night for a week straight, I found myself wondering if there were freckles on the rest of his body as well.

One Friday I returned from work late as usual, laden with books, heavy books at that. The research I was doing for my newest article was spilling into my weekend, but perhaps I’d be able to get it in on time, for once. He and I were both distracted, I assumed, because we walked straight into the other, sending books flying everyone and me to the floor. He looked terribly startled and offered me his hand.

“I didn’t notice you. Are you hurt?”

I shook my head, feeling foolish. “No. I guess I was just distracted.” I looked around the flurry of books littering the hallway. “Are you alright?” I asked, taking his hand.

“Indeed.” He helped me up and smiled, which brightened his face. “I’m Edgar James,” He said, bowing his head slightly.

“Elanor Davis,” I said, smiling, looking into his brilliant blue eyes.

We stood in silence for several moments, his hand wrapped around mine, before he cleared his throat. “May I help you take these books back to your apartment?” I felt a blush redden my cheeks and his lips twisted into a smirk. “I believe it my duty to help a lady in need, so even if you refuse, I shall accompany you.”

There was nothing I wanted more than for him to help me carry my books.

He set the books on my kitchen table and looked awkwardly around the room, taking in the photos on the walls, and the appliances. I opened my cupboard and nervously bit my lip.

“Would you like anything to drink?”

“Brandy if you have it, scotch if you don’t.”

I had neither. “All I’ve got is a bottle of god-awful vodka,” I said, brandishing the half-empty bottle.

“God-awful vodka it is then,” He said, with a laugh, one as pure as newly-fallen snow, and as musical and church bells. “It will have to do.”

I don’t remember how many drinks either of us had but before I knew it the bottle was empty and I was in his arms, rolling up his sleeves and counting the freckles on his arms. I kissed the inside of his wrists and he cupped my face. I looked into his eyes and the question spilled from me: “Are there freckles on your chest as well?”

He laughed and teased, “I suppose you’ll have to find out yourself, now won’t you?”

And we were kissing and kissing and I unbuttoned his shirt and kissed the freckles I found there. He pulled my blouse over my head between kisses and after he fiddled with my bra for longer than I would have liked, I undid that myself. He took his keys out of his pocket and set them between the empty glasses on the coffee table. I lead him to the bedroom where we finished undressing one another.

He eased me back onto the bed, brushing my face with his soft hands. He kissed my earlobe and whispered in a pained voice, “It has been far too long since I’ve done this, Elanor. Forgive me if I’m terrible.”

I laughed and kissed him and gasped as he slid into me. All else vanished from me as he touched me tenderly, desperately, as if I was the last thing keeping him on Earth. He finally collapsed on me, his breathing fast and swallow and the last thing I remember was him kissing the top of my head as I lay contently in his arms.

I awoke in the morning to a bed I might have slept in alone. The covers were done up on the side he slept on. The pillow was free of any indentations, any tell-tale signs of use. This frightened me. I got out of bed, expecting to see his clothes but found only mine, making a trail back into the living room.

“Edgar?” I called, fighting back tears. “Where are y-“

My eyes fell on his keys, between our empty glasses from the night before. He wouldn’t have left without them, I reasoned. He’ll have to come back for them. I sat for the rest of the day, staring at them, refusing to touch them, lest they turn out to be imaginary. I gazed at the door occasionally, willing a knock to fall upon it. But all for naught.

Finally, as the sun began to set, I picked up the keys, curiously examining them. It was like going back in time. They were funny-shaped and none of them matched the ones our apartment used. What kind of joke was this? Determined to give him a piece of my mind I waited by the elevators. But he never showed up. I spent all weekend waiting for him, my work ignored, hoping he show up.

I keep the keys on my coffee table, proof that I did not imagine him. And whenever I hear soft footsteps on the marble floors, I like to imagine it’s him, the man I saw only at night.

Writer's Block: LiveJournal Book Club

Out of all of your favorite books, pick just one you'd recommend everyone read. As a bonus: why did you pick that one?
It's really hard to choose between the multiple books that I can read again and again and enjoy every single time but I suppose I've forced myself to. I am going to say Lolita, however. I adore Nabokov's writing style. It is to the point and frank. He never tries to sugarcoat anything and is very sincere. The way Humbert is written is fantastic, and I love him as a narrator, in spite of how deplorable as a person he is. I enjoy it no matter how many times I read it and finally decided to just buy a copy, which I am sure is to be well-loved.

April 15, 1912

It is a little after midnight in the mid-Atlantic right now. About now, 97 years ago the RMS Titanic hit an iceberg, under the command of a man whom I admire and may or may not be related to. Upon sinking, the ship will leave approximately 1,500 people dead in the icy Atlantic water and send shock waves into the media. The sinking of this majestic ship will become the talk of the time, fueling books, movies, and art exhibits. This event has been a source of interest for me for a long time. The movie obviously lead to this interest, but I fell in love not with Jack or Rose but the actual people. I began looking into the life of William McMaster Murdoch, who was first officer, the officer on duty when the ship hit the iceberg at approximately 11:44 PM, and found that he and the other officers fascinated me. And, after looking into the officers, I became more and more interested in the chance happening of the sinking. So many startling things contributed to the event. Sure, the man on the bridge, the man at the helm, they both has a degree of responsibility, but so many other things helped the ship sink. The possible weakness of the iron, the height, or lack thereof, of the "water-tight" bulkheads, the lack of binoculars in the crow's nest, the unnatural calm and clearness of the night, the lack of life boats, the disbelief that the ship could sink, the lack of communication between the wireless operators and the officers, it all helped. But, history is defined by that single moment. Everything that leads up to it helps, but that single, fateful moment dictated the rest of the lives of everyone on that ship. Whether they were lost or saved, 2,200 people were changed that night.

The ship was seen as a source of hope in the fierce competition between the Cunard and White Star lines. Cunard had the fastest ships, the Lusitania and Mauritania and rather than compete in that area, White Star went for luxury and grandeur. When the keels were laid for Olympic, Titanic's sister, it was the largest thing created by humans at the time. And the Titanic was only bigger. It's maiden voyage was the most talked about topic in England, and it's arrival in New York was to mark White Star's dominance over shipping in England and be the final voyage of the ship's captain. But it wasn't meant to be. So much was lost that night. White Star's name was ruined, the loss of life was something unheard before this point in a time of peace, and money, art, and material wealth was lost in the sea. But good things came from it as well: shipping regulations to prevent a loss of life like this again came into practice, saving lives. I think every Titanic historian is struck by the fancy of those 'what ifs' at some point in their time. What if the ice warnings had been intercepted? What if there had been enough life boats? What if, what if? I know I've been struck by the fancy more than once, but it is the sinking that changed history. If the ship hadn't sunk, how many more ships would have to sink before safety regulations were improved? How many more people would have had to die before changes came into practice. And if the ship hadn't sunk, where would I be today?

I always pay homage to the event because my interest in Titanic lead to two of the most important parts of my life: my love for history and the subject of Titanic was involved in my first exercise into writing. My interest in Titanic have opened so many avenues of more and more information. I know so much about pre-World War I Europe and America thanks to investigation into Titanic, I know almost all of my nautical jargon because of Titanic, and I became interested in Napoleonic Europe thanks to an interest in Titanic as well. I found my skill in investigation and analysis thanks to Titanic. I think it would be a bit cliche to say that Titanic changed my life...but really. It did. The Titanic tragedy is fascinating. There are so many amazing characters involved: the Who's Who of the time, John Jacob Astor, Molly Brown, Benjamin Guggenheim and his mistress, Countess of Roths and more than I could possibly name; a highly distinguished Captain, Edward Smith and a top-notch officer staff, headed by senior officers Henry Wilde, William Murdoch and Charles Lightoller; the poorest of the poor, and the everyman. The human drama is like that of the perfectly planned novel. Studying these people and learning as much as I could about them, I feel a fondness for them. I feel like I knew them personally, and that's why this date moves me so much. I have so much to thank them for. They will never, ever know the effect they had on me, but it's there. It's inspired me and motivated me. And for that I will be ever thankful.

Writer's Block: First Things First

Who (or what) do you consider to be your first love?
My first love will always be history. Nothing has the power to make me as happy as history does. It moves me, makes me feel whole, and is always able to teach me something. History inspired me to write, inspired me to do something amazing with my life, and has lead me to meet some amazing people, who have been huge inspirations and amazing people to work with. History really gave me a purpose in life, and finding your purpose is a fantastically thrilling feeling. History is that one thing that I will never tire of, want to be with forever, and will always be with. It is my true love, my first love, and probably will always be. There may be people or places whose love outshines it briefly, but always, history will have a huge, important place in my heart.

Writer's Block: Priorities

What quality do you think is most important in a significant other?
I think it's really quite difficult to narrow something like this down to the most important thing. A lot of very attractive, very needed traits build upon each others and would be useless without the others as well. I can, however, say that trust is probably the basis for all of the other really fantastic traits. Without trust, where can you really go emotionally, physically, spiritually, and intellectually with someone? You can't bare yourself to someone if you don't trust them. And that baring of yourself, that giving in and letting go of your walls and being really, truly genuine is scary and beautiful and needed for a relationship to be at its best. ...So I suppose trust is the most important thing, because, really, without trust, you're not really in much of a relationship at all. That's also why I think breakups are so rough; your trust has been broken, all of yourself has been bared and you're very vulnerable in that moment. And that is possibly one of the most terrifying things ever.

I do think that I need someone who is compassionate, loyal, intelligent, passionate, driven and laid-back to really be happy though. Hahah, that's a tall order right there.

Writer's Block: Daily Grind

Describe your morning routine.
I get up 6:20 on Monday, Wednesday, Friday. I grab my keys, head to the shower and relax in the hot water. I get dressed, walk through the deserted lobby of my dorm building and walk onto an equally deserted campus. Seattle is gorgeous in the morning, no matter what the weather is like. I check into work, talk to the officers and head up to the secluded booth at the western side of campus. I spend two hours waving at cars, reading, doing homework and trying to wake up. Then I head to breakfast, where I normally get an omelet and a big mug of coffee. Then I head to class.

On Tuesdays and Thursday, I wake up at 8:20, take a shower, get dressed and grab coffee before heading to class. I eat before I head to work at 11. Thanks to getting up early three days out of the week, I find myself sleeping better and being a lot more productive during the morning. It is a good thing.

Writer's Block: Ghost Stories

Everyone enjoys a ghost story. Or at least knows one. What is the scariest ghost story you've ever heard?

I really love ghost stories. I tend to ask most people I know if they've ever seen a ghost or if they know good ghost stories. The one I'm sharing gave me chills when I first heard it and still does. Typing it now is giving me chills.

I went and saw Neil Gaiman reading from his new book The Graveyard Book and during his Q&A segment, someone asked him what his favorite ghost story was. And he told it, and it was fantastic. He is friends with someone who owns a hotel in New Orleans, and the owner would constantly get complaints from people who had spent the night that they would hear sounds of what sounded like children running up and down the halls outside of their rooms at night. It got to the point that people at the front desk who would get these calls were instructed to just explain that it was the acoustics of the city and that the footsteps were coming from another building. One day the owner got a call from a couple who had spent a few nights in a room in the hotel. He started with the whole spiel about the acoustics, and they said that that wasn't what they were calling about. They told the owner that they had taken pictures in a film camera and they had all turned out perfectly except one, one that they hadn't taken. The picture was of their hotel bed, at a height of what they estimated to be two to three feet, like the height a child would stand. The picture, however, wasn't just of their bed, it was of the two of them sleeping in bed.

I am still getting chills from it. It freaked me out so much. The whole church just went silent when he finished. It was fantastic.