Previously on Emma Undone – Climbing Out

The library was dark and drab. Light never found it’s way into the room infused with the smell of old paper candlewax and Pledge. It was the one untouched room in Aunt Polly’s mansion. Her long deceased grandfather, Emma’s great-grandfather, read and built haunted memories there. The candlesticks bore remnants of the bygone years where the age of electricity was staunchly denied. Trailing down the side of each sconce was forgotten waxen lava flows.

The memories that haunted the room were warm and familiar to Polly where she would retreat into the silence and commiserate with her ghosts. The familiar feel of her hand running along the rows of leather bound volumes brought comfort. She loved to curl into the worn brocade wing chair colored in deep hues of scarlet and gold and remember.

Polly cherished her grandfather’s library where he found solace. Emma found the room depressing and claustrophobic. It made her shudder and wonder what prowled in the gloomy nooks and corners colored in shades of black and gray. She longed to snatch down the heavy waves of scarlet and introduce the room to the bright yellow sun and the brilliant blue New Orleans sky. A big bucket of white enamel applied to shelves would kindle hope and chase away the past.

She wondered why she disliked the room since she was so dreary and forlorn herself. It personified the way she dressed and behaved. She always felt hypocritical hating the space Polly deeply loved and revered.


Emma Undone has been neglected for a long time and this prompt from Write On Edge gave me the perfect chance to come back to the story. Their prompt was given to us like this:

Your flash fiction or creative non-fiction piece this week should include the words “candlestick”, “scarlet”, and “library”. The words can be in any context you wish, and you have 250 words (247 of which you can choose yourself).

Climbing Out

Emma’s bootsteps echoed hollow, sharp off marble mausoleum walls. Reverb steps determine a path away from that past. Sun beams rushed her, attempted to banish saturated cold stone and death.

As she walked, doll size figures grew to life size. Aunt Polly, Cora, Father Peter. A small table bore the urn; her “father” entrapped.

“Let’s get this over with.”

“…that he may not receive in punishment the requital of his deeds …” Eyes roll, she snickered.


Escape steps shattered quiet; a thought punished,

“I will climb this high wall in remembrance of him to regain or re-earn my life”


I’m in! Jumping in the sandbox and playing 100 Word Song with LeRoy on Lance’s blog My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog. My entry has Emma dealing in her way with the death of her father. Conveying her contempt and mixed emotions about the passing of the man who raised her stretches my writing “muscles” with the 100 word limit and using music as inspiration; this week it’s a dark goth piece Lillies And Remains by Bauhaus.

My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog

Peeking Over the Dash

Trailing a finger along walls and windows, Emma traced a beginning. Getting here was like running a marathon in bare feet over hot coals. Her life leading up to this was littered with land mines and hidden traps, and getting out was clandestine and secret like a James Bond movie.

~ ~ ~

Winter was uncertain and unpredictable. Dad worked for Mardi Gras Games and Amusements. From April to September he was gone running carny games. When the season finished, he spent time unemployed and continued his quest to become the baddest, meanest drunk. Like a feather drifting on a breeze, Emma made herself silent so she wouldn’t be seen. If she failed to avoid detection, his drunken grasps and flailing blows were usually harmless, and sent her floating farther out of reach as she silently slipped away.

The winter before Emma’s 17th birthday was the worst. He caught her a twice. The second time she spent three days in the hospital when the beating left her unconscious. She looked like a pansy patch of purple, green and yellow bruises. She knew DCF would never intervene so she went home.

A week later when she made her monthly visit to Aunt Polly’s, she still bore the shadows and smudges that hinted at the violence she survived. Polly, a happy and content soul, snapped and her outrage thundered. Time was both for and against Emma. In exactly 49 days the new Midwestern carnival circuit started. After Polly quenched the wildfire of anger, she came up with a plan. They carefully devised every moment of those 49 days to keep Emma safe until she could move into the gardeners cottage on the grounds of Polly’s estate.

Emma woke up on a sunny Spring morning to an empty apartment. Her dad left, as expected, without a good-bye, a note or any indication when he would be back. Dressing quickly she retrieved the boxes she had hidden under the porch where he wouldn’t find them, and began to pack the shelves of books, nick nacks and bits and pieces that constituted her life. Clothes were packed into five reusable McIntosh Grocery bags. Each green bag with the toothy red apple, had a purpose. One each for shirts, pants, socks and delicates, pajamas and bathroom stuff.

She felt an odd fluttering sensation in her middle. It was intoxicating and the high was the smile she wore. It was foreign, unexpected, out of place for her. The lightness was the knowledge she was moving step by step toward liberation from the bonds of living with addicted parents. Aunt Polly’s offer to live in the gardeners cottage was a gift. Emma could move forward, assemble a calm life free of reckless emotions. It would be built on a reliable foundation with the bricks and planks she chose.

Parked on the street in front of the derelict row house her father rented was Polly’s 1978 Cadillac with the cavernous trunk waited for Emma’s treasures. Polly and Cora flitted up to the front door and chattered with excitement. Green paint peeled and flaked as the battered screen door opened. The torn screen fluttered as it swung away from the frame and the ladies trooped inside.

Yoo hoo! Emma? We’re here!” Polly called out.

Cora watched, astonished as Emma bounced out of her room and looked the part of a normal 17 year old girl. A different person emerged as she swept them in an big embrace while she tittered out of breath.

It’s done. It’s all done!”

Aunt Polly and Cora were grabbed by the wrist and she skipped back to the room and dragging the awestruck women along. These emotions worn on Emma were alien. The stoic, suspicious girl had been unexpectedly but pleasantly transformed.

A small assortment of boxes and shopping bags layed on the floor and bed. Polly shifted her weight and cocked her elbow as she put a hand on her hip and pondered six boxes and five bags. How does seventeen years of a girls life amount to so little? A deep breath cleared the cobwebs in her throat she said,

Well! I think we can get it in a couple of trips. Is this really all there is Emma?”

With a wide grin stuck to her face she, her shoulders squeezed to her ears, as she nodded her head.

One by one boxes and bags were gathered, and one by one carefully placed into the abundant space of the Caddy’s trunk. After all of the boxes and bags had been stowed, they stood back and cackled at the leftover space after Emma’s life had been loaded up. Polly and Cora packed themselves into the front seat while Emma finished.

She swung the battered screen door open for the last time. With new found assurance and confidence in her future, she fearlessly walked to the room that had sheltered her for 17 years. Dust floated in motes and shone in gray and white rays across the floor. A wry smile turn up her mouth as she contemplated the empty shelves between the windows, and the rumpled bed in the corner. The ease at which it emptied illustrated how little she was worth in this place. She locked the front door, secured the hook on the screen door, turned and walked away.

With hands tucked in her back pockets she skip stepped her way down the walk. She reached the car, opened the door and slid into the back seat. Emma sank into the soft deep leather and cool air inside the car whisked goosebumps over her bare arms. She closed her eyes and let out a deep breath as some of the tension of her precarious life was allowed to slacken.

Aunt Polly carefully eased into the street and Emma was carried slowly forward. The fog was lifting and clarity peeked over the dash and illuminated the promise of tomorrow.


Linking up with Studio Thirty Plus for their Writing Prompt #43 “Changes”

Punk Charming

Sleep and dreaming slid into her fast and easy. The dazzling dress swept behind her and blinding spots of sunshine glimmered at her throat. The awed crowd murmured like chattering starlings as he arrived. The glance over the beautiful, graceful strangers, pulled Emma to The Prince together as glue is to paper.

She gave him her hand as he signaled the band. A sharp drum rap erupts chaos. Emma, wide-eyed with shock, hearing stunned as “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” began and guests unleash into a mass that surged and pulsed.

Cinderella clashed with punk and Emma awoke smirking.


This week the challenge over at Lance’s blog “My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog” was to write a piece with the song “White Nights” by Oh Land. I had 100 words to work with and this upbeat dream themed song led me to another tale for Emma.

100 Word Song Challenge

The First Feast

Emma walked into the kitchen. Fresh and pure like the new life she built from the stones cast at her. The stones meant to harm, instead lessons learned to create her new home.

She opened the clean, organized and nearly empty fridge, and grabbed the package of bacon ends, bruised tomatoes, the head of lettuce and mayo jar. She knew what she wanted for her first meal in her little cottage when the produce manager at the McIntosh Grocery, where she worked, let her pick from the discarded fruits and vegetables.

Her only skillet was pulled from the oven, and a burner lit to heat the pan. She tore the bacon open and plopped a handful into the skillet. The hiss, harsh like opening bus doors, protested at the inclusion. Popping grease scattered it’s slick deposit onto the stove and the front of Emma’s shirt. The smoky salt cured smell rose and filled the kitchen with the comforting fragrance. She moved the bacon, crisp and hot, to the 10 cent plate she bought at Goodwill. The skillet was wiped and a slick of flavorful grease left behind, two slices of white bread were toasted in the skillet because she had no toaster.

The dollar store knife pulled from a drawer was used to slice the tomato and she managed to mangle three slices. Two leaves of lettuces torn from the head like pages ripped from a book. The lid spun off the mayo, knife dipped in, a glob drawn from the jar and generously spread over the toasted bread. Next she arranged the bacon on one toast slice to cover edge to edge, then she cloaked the bacon with a lettuce blanket. Finally the mangled tomato slices with their sweet yet savory tang were added and the creation crowned with the final slice of bacon toasted bread.

The bacon plate reused held Emma’s newly created, first meal in Garden Cottage. She moved the plate to the kitchen table and sat down. The cheap knife drawn across the sandwich created two delicious triangles. Lips pursed together and her tongue run across her bottom lip, she anticipated the crisp crunch of the toast as teeth bit into the BLT.

Eyes closed as she slowly chewed the bite. The first of many snacks and feasts brought bittersweet happiness to her. Emma felt the tightness in her limbs dissolve as the awareness of her freedom settled in and she chewed and smiled.


If you like Emma’s story, you can find more of her story on the page “The Emma Files“. She is a continuing fiction character. Not sure where she is going. She just keeps going.


Red Writing Hood at Write on edge gave us a great new prompt and it goes like this:

“Plump tomatoes, salty bacon, crisp lettuce, soft bread, this week we want you to be inspired by the BLT. Write a piece of either fiction or creative non-fiction based on this photo.

The word limit is 400.

Use your imagination and appetite and come link up here Friday!

I decided to add a new chapter in Emma’s life and what better way for a fresh start than with a first meal.

Racing Aggravation

Exasperated and wide awake, Emma hurled the book. Now past midnight, she was amped, couldn’t quiet her thinking.  She swung her feet down, sat on edge of her chair, and briskly rubbed her hands together.  Her brain had a pins and needles sensation and was making her body edgy like she could run a marathon. Jumping up she bounced around in a strange dance; half shadow boxing and half mosh pit.

“Go outside. Night air.” she thought. Struggling into her shoes she slipped out the front door and continued her erratic dance under the moonlight. She found herself on the sidewalk that disappeared into the velvety blackness of the night  and her feet began to move, taking over the shadow boxing.

Her feet broke the silent sleeping neighborhood as they pat patted in an easy stride. She could hear the air whispering, and felt her hair fluttering away as her legs and feet carried her away faster and faster. Her breathing came sharper and a dampness grew and bloomed from her brow. A stream of sweat, stringy coolness, slid down her chest into her bra. Slick dampened hands clenched as she concentrated on her impulsive decision, bent on making it back without surrendering to the sprouting pain. Emma ran. And ran. And finally the frenzy coursing through her, unchained and released her.

Stumbling into the yard,  bent over as her lungs gasped and burned. She coughed, then sneezed and laughed. She fled the electric tension and discovered  liberation. Limping through the door, collapsing into her chair she pulled her shoes off  discovering puffy blisters on toes and heels. Shuffling to her bedroom, she fell into bed unconcerned with salt crusted skin and sweat damp hair. Emma floated on the edge of sleep and thought, “Shoes. I need a new pair of shoes.”


If you like Emma’s story, you can find more of  her story on the page “The Emma Files“. She is a continuing fiction character. Not sure where she is going. She just keeps going.

Kir gave us a prompt for Red Writing Hood at Write on Edge. Here’s what she came up with:

“The cure for anything is salt water….sweat, tears or the sea.”~Isak Dinesen, pseudonym of Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke

For your Creative Non-Fiction tell us about the last time that one of these three things “cured” you. If you are going with Fiction, have your character resolve a problem using one of the three (or all three!!!). There are so many ways you can use this prompt so be creative with it, don’t take us where we think you’ll go.

Word Limit is 300.

Personally, I never thought of bookish, introverted Emma as a runner and neither did she. Until now.
Write On Edge: Red-Writing-Hood

Holding the Key

The newspaper blows down the street, elusive and forgotten. Skittering along crinkly and scraping the sidewalk when a fresh puff lifts it toward the pedestrians where it jolts a few  and lands open at the feet of one girl. She bends over to pick it up and sees a name in the Obituary Section she has known since she was a child.

Ania Boudreaux.

Mrs. B, the librarian was the holder of mystical and fabulous information about every book in the Youth section. She had the right questions and always knew exactly the right book. The obituary was a sucker punch, shocking the breath away, eyes widened and mouth open as her life with Mrs. Boudreaux flashed before her in vivid detail.

Story time when she was young with tales painted in words, vivid and  exciting.

Hunched in a long row of books whispering and giggling while sharing  thoughts about this or that book.

Hanging on Mrs. B’s elbow peeking on tip toes she flips through the cards in the card catalog explaining the Dewey Decimal System. Then triumphantly whisper cheering and high fiving when she’s found the perfect book for the school project.

The tears bite the corners of her eyes and her face crushes into grief and pain knowing her BBFF (best book friend forever) was gone. Her time with Mrs. B had grown, changing since she moved out of Youth and into the Adult section of the library. She made detours into the children’s section seeking out Mrs. Boudreaux’s input and valued suggestions, but the trips became fewer and fewer. It had been months, perhaps a year since the last visit.

Fifty six is too young. Reading the obituary she found breast cancer was the hoodlum that stole her. The obituary included brief details of Ania (Zielinski) Boudreaux life and her journey to death. It differed because it included a poem penned by Ania, Mrs. B herself as her epitaph.

We’ve traveled the road
     you and me.
We’ve seen the plain
     and we’ve seen the strange.
Now I hold a shiny key.
A key for me and only me.
The lock it turns
     opens a door
     where a different new
     adventure awaits.
The road is for another life
     that has no beginning
     and no end.
You’ll have to wait,
     another time, another day,
     for the road you’re on
     continues still.
The time will come
     when you have a key
     and I’ll be there
     to wave and greet.
Then we’ll begin a journey,
     bright and fresh and new
          on the road that has
               no beginning
                    and no end.

Dropping the paper back on the ground it renews it’s skitter and floating  journey. Emma pulls the hood over her head as the granite in her throat breaks free and the whitewater crash of emotions flow and she stumbles along, resuming her journey to the library knowing there is a hole in her world that won’t be filled until she finds her key.


This post was written from a prompt from Write on Edge’s Red Writing Hood. It went like this:

“For this week, write a fiction or creative non-fiction piece in which an epitaph features prominently. 

This can be a short as the epitaph itself, or the epitaph can be part of a longer story. As our New Year’s gift to you, this will have a hefty word limit: 500 words or less.

And one more thing? Since this is a new year, we want you to attempt brand new characters. We love your ongoing stories, but we are curious about what else is in those fabulous imaginations of yours.”

I give you a new character, Ania Boudreaux.

Deconstructing Boxes

Walking out of the building rage roared, like flames devastating what had been her carefully constructed life. The walls fell down in ashen piles, the view clearing. The wall behind her, constructed as protection from all of the garbage dumped on her and into her world, vanished. The wall in front fell away and the sun shone in a blaze of clarity. Emma had both hands on her future. Nothing would ever control her again.

She became divided into “before” and “after” by a visit to Spencer, Guilford and Lee, Attorneys.  Before, she walked into the office with a life dreary and sad but carefully forged as her own. After, she left blasted into something staggering and uncertain yet emboldening. Deciding to donate blood, then learning she didn’t match her parents, hurled her into the discovery and a future she wasn’t sure she wanted. They don’t understand, Emma’s scars are concealed by her skin because they are gouged from the inside. There isn’t a person, family or friend, who understands and she isn’t compelled to explain, so these new people aren’t necessary.

Bursting through the doors, stumbling and stunned by the revelation, Emma’s boxes quickly opened and her stride became sure and confident. These people may not be welcome but they presented clarity and sureness for her future. Before, finishing her degree online seemed endless.  After, Loyola tuition paid, and a journalism degree on the horizon meant the self constructed cubbyhole was in her rear view.

Emma stopped, closed her eyes, raised her face and the breeze blew through her sweeping the weight of the rubble away. Opening her eyes, the sun burned walls away, lighting the trail beyond. Ahead there would be gates, locked and unlocked but  the  trailing dust obscured and faded what lay behind, she knew the ugly past would never prevail.


I’m linking up the newest Emma post with Write on Edge’s Red Writing Hood prompt. I stumbled over this Switchfoot song while looking for another. I love this band and the song fit the direction I want to take Emma and serves as a pivotal moment beautifully! Read the lyrics which are conveniently included underneath the video.

“This week, we asked you to envision “making it big.” So big, in fact, that your great novel is being made into a movie – so, envision the song that would be playing during the pivotal scene of a movie based on your novel . . . once you have the song set, write that scene.

In 300 words.”

Also linking up with Studio 30+ for their prompt “in the clear”. Emma’s new revelation seems to fit this as well since she is now “in the clear” of the baggage of her past.


The fog licked at the sides of the buildings and draped over the benches like a watery veil. As Emma walked to her aunts house she cringed and felt queasy. She couldn’t help notice, the way the heavy oppressed day looked, was pretty much how she felt about this mandatory visit.

Emma’s life and circumstances had dealt her a lousy hand, so she waged a war and constructed the cubbyhole life that she existed in. It was small and there wasn’t room for anyone else. All the people in her life who were suppose to care for her had misused and discarded her, so her walls shrank and there wasn’t room to share.

Aunt Polly required more of Emma than she felt willing to give and  swept into her life unannounced and unwelcomed. Years after her mom died and she had run away from her dad, SHE showed up. Of course she had a fortune in excuses and money.

Often Aunt Polly would remind, “Maggie threw her life into the gutter Emma! She chose a needle and that low down drunken pig over you and the good life she could have had.”

Maggie, Emma’s mom, rejected  the wealth and status of her well bred upbringing as completely as a publisher spurns the work of a hack. She was firmly committed to heroin,and everything that wasn’t dignified or refined, like her family. She vanished into the places in New Orleans where it’s dark, dirty and desperate and people live their lives unclaimed, nameless and unknown.

Polly rummaged the city for Maggie. She looked behind every broken door, and searched the ravaged faces of every wrecked woman on every street corner. Maggie, living and breathing, was never found. The quest ended when she found out Maggie was dead.

Finding her sister had a child, Emma, was like the sun began to shine again for Polly. She gently scratched and tapped at Emma’s doors and walls knowing over time a seemingly impenetrable obstacle can be breached. The years she spent chasing her shadowy elusive sister created a woman with persistence like a rose growing through a rock; strong, determined, beautiful and deeply rooted.

Emma knew her Aunt had an unchanging, devoted love for her but her cubbyhole was built for protection. It kept her from the weapons unleashed on her by those who said they’d shield her from abuse. She would not sabotage her fortress by letting her guard down because one more defeat would surely turn it into a pile of rubble she could never rebuild.

Emma continued to slog through the sloppy soup of fog until she reached Aunt Polly’s manor. It should be foreboding due to it’s sheer size but at the hand of Polly, it was full of the life and color of a child’s painting. As she walked up the wandering path to the door, she smiled at the splashes of random color and texture that included a long, wide rope swing on a grand old oak tree. The perfect place to release yourself as you reached for the cotton candy clouds or the tip of the crescent moon.

Cora, Polly’s “accomplice” (not maid) let her in. Emma made her way to the foot of the glorious staircase whose unique charm implied whispered stories and secrets like a book waiting to be opened. She liked the mystical wonder she sensed as she looking up the winding climb to the Aunt she wanted to love.

A tiny smiled creeped  into the corner of her mouth as she began the climb.

Maybe she could.


Another speck in the portrait of Emma….  (More of Emma at – “Emma”  , “Better than Bad”  , and “Love and Velcro

“This week’s assignment was to write a piece inspired by pictures. You could chose either one or even do both.

What did the images mean to you?”

Love and Velcro

Sitting quietly in her reading corner surrounded by books and embraced comfortably in her soft familiar chair, a pensive Emma closed her eyes and remembered sixteen.

For the last two years, mornings before school was the time of day when it was quiet. In the cramped kitchen she carefully slid past the tattered kitchen chair, with the torn vinyl that scratched and dug the back of your leg. She hated that chair. Etched in her brain, is the memory, like a photo that never fades, of her dead mother sitting in it, head slumped, and a needle wobbling in the crook of her elbow like one of those creepy bobble head toys. “Don’t touch it….” she told herself.

Dad was sleeping off the vodka from the night before. Waking him was like unleashing a nuclear weapon; it opened a floodgate of fury and violence she wanted to avoid so she crept out through the kitchen whose door didn’t screech. She carefully chose the spot for each step on each stair to preserve the hushed silence necessary for a quiet escape. She released the breath held to stifle fear and noise as the sidewalk is reached which leads square by square to Brewster’s Coffeehouse.

The new barrista was short on service and long on gab and the line was fittingly strung out, long and lackadaisical. Emma approached it dismayed at the necessity of waiting with others. The lean, respectable looking boy in front of her wore a navy blazer and pants, crisply pressed white shirt and red/yellow plaid tie; the uniform of Aquinas Academy.

Edgily he muttered “If I would have known this was going to take so long I would have brought a book.”

Perturbed because she was careful to keep her head down and stand sideways in line to avoid this sort of exchange, yet intrigued and skeptical by his statement. The suit boys are mostly empty, spider webby shells.

Smirking she asked “What are you reading?”

“Hemingway. For Who the Bell Tolls”

“For school?”

Pulling the book out of the stack he carried under his arm, he held it up and said, “Naw; If I didn’t read I’d lose my mind.”

“Wow. Pretty intense for casual reading.”

Lowering his head he chuckled “I’m reading my way through the school library. Lots of free time. Mom and dad work so I’m home alone a lot.” His brow furrowed when he said “Friends come and go, but my books, well they are always there when I need them.”

She was looking in his eyes. Dammit! People are suppose to think she’s a walking porcupine. Looking away

“Me too.

“Books that is.

“Best friend.

“My parents…

“Never mind.

“Hemingway is good. Finished him last summer. I’ve been working on Tolstoy. “

She glanced at him and the up turn on the corner of his mouth meant he knew her because she was like him. She felt the quills falling away as she felt a deep connection with this strange, stranger boy. She could feel her rough hooks zipping up in the soft loop side of his velcro. Different but they went together.

“Oh hey AA! Are you old enough to drink coffee? What do you think Sue? Is he old enough? What can I getcha kid?”

“Um, dry cappucino. No sugar.” Turning to ask Emma “What do you….?” but she was gone.

With the barista’s interruption, came a realization: Love and Emma are like sweet cream and spoiled milk; opposites. Ripping the velcro loose she quietly left.

Heart broken, it was time to find a new coffee shop.

Another “chapter” in the life of Emma, this post was written from a prompt from RedWriting Hood:

“We all remember our first love – and our first heartbreak.

Your assignment this week was to write a piece where you explore the first broken heart for your character – or for you.”

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