Submission

“Are you done yet? I’m so excited to see it.”

“Yeah, it’s over in my room but I can go grab it if you want.”

“Please do, I want to know what you came up with in the end. I love reading your work, it’s inspiring.”

“Aw, thanks.”

No, Caitlin thought, Sara was never likely to be that direct or anything. That’s even a bit sentimental. People don’t say things like “inspiring” over stuff like articles for something as trivial as the school paper. Especially the editor, even if they were sort of friends.

“I’ve got a story to turn in, where should I leave it?”

“Oh, give it to me. I want to read it.”

“Okay, I guess I’ll go?”

“No, no, you should stay. I read fast, I’ll be done in a second.”

“Okay.”

Sara would sit there for a minute, flip a page, and then look up. “Wow.”

“Um, in a good way?”

“Really good. This is really good. Great. Is it okay if we publish it in next week’s edition?”

“Okay? That’d be wonderful. Thank you so much!”

“No, thank you. I love having something this powerful on the front page.”

No, definitely not like that. That was silly. She knew Sara wouldn’t be that effusive. Even if it were wonderful, Sara would probably say so in a more reserved manner.

Maybe she would say, “This is decent work. We’ll get back to you about when we’re publishing it, okay?”

Caitlin would blush at that, probably. “Sure. Thank you.”

It would be a short conversation, to the point. Or maybe they’d talk more about the practicalities of it.

“Hey, so here’s my piece, I’m supposed to submit it here, right?”

“Oh hi Caitlin, yes. Let me check over it, while you’re here.”

“Alright.”

“Go on, sit, I’m almost done and then we can talk about it. I only really need to skim, you know, practice and all that.”

“Right.”

“Okay, so this is good – I mean, you know, typos, things like that. But on the whole I think it’s a strong piece, and we can put it in next week’s with a bit of tweaking. In the third paragraph here, when you talk about the public’s reaction, I think maybe you need to make it more specific. Listen – ”

Sara might not want to talk about it though. She might just say something like, “Okay, I can see a couple things we should fiddle with. Do you want to meet up, have a coffee or something, on Friday to talk about it?”

That would make more sense. That way Sara could glance it over without having to spend too much time on it. Then they would meet to figure out the little things, maybe have a conversation about some other stuff after they’d ironed out the kinks.

Caitlin hugged the slim packet of paper to her chest, and took a breath. There was a jumbled hum of voices creeping from under the door, and when she pushed it open the buzz of talk grew and surrounded her. Sara was in the corner, reading something and biting her lip. There was a maze between desks and chairs to get to her, and Caitlin maneuvered it with her eyes fixed on the carpet. Her heart thudded with every step – stop it, she told herself. It’s just one article, just one school paper.

“Hey, um, Sara?”

Sara glanced over, her eyebrows pulled down and her mouth pressed flat. “Oh. Uh, Katie, right?”

“Caitlin.”

“Right, right, sorry. What’s up?” She was looking over Caitlin’s shoulder, eyes unfocused.

“I have an article. To submit. I’m supposed to give it to you, right?”

“Sure, can you just leave there?” Sara waved a hand at the pile on the corner of her desk, papers splaying out of a basket. Caitlin placed the packet there and nudged some of the corners straight.

Sara seemed to look up and remember she was there. “Yes, what is it?”

Caitlin flushed. “About submitting, though, I mean articles. What – ”

“Yeah, sorry. Lots of work, you know how it is. Okay, so you should get an email in – ” she turned and squinted at the calendar taped to the wall. It was crowded with hasty scribbles. “In less than two weeks, probably. If it’s in you’ll get an edited version to look over, and if not, well, I guess not.”

“Oh,” said Caitlin. “Is that it?”

“Well, yeah,” said Sara. Her voice had a note of annoyance in it now. “We’ll let you know. I mean, I guess we have a ton of submissions right now, like fifty for about twelve spaces, so don’t expect too much, okay? Even some of the good stuff we get doesn’t get printed.”

Caitlin stood for a moment. Then she nodded and turned to navigate again through the labyrinth of the newspaper office. Sara called after her and she spun, a smile breaking across her face without her willing it there. Sara was holding up the papers, and said, “What’s your last name? You don’t have your name on this. Katie what?”

“Caitlin Holmes, H O L M E S.”

Sara nodded and wrote, and then looked up to wave before settling back in her chair and turning to her computer again. The office was murmuring with conversation just as it had been as Caitlin ducked out the door and started the long walk home.

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Garden

The garden was overgrown now. It had used to be so neat, all the flowers lined up and the herbs huddling in little circles in the middle. Once, Liz remembered, she had accidentally ripped up a flower – something like a rose – when she was helping her mother weed. She’d stared, horrified, and her mother had looked over to see why she was so still. As she held up the plant mutely, her mother sighed. It was a long, gusty breath that said more than her mother ever would. Her mother’s sighs were very expressive. They said things like, “I just don’t know what to do with you” or “I’m so disappointed. I expected more of you.” Sometimes they said, “I can’t believe you just did that,” or, more likely, “I can’t believe I have to deal with you.” Her mother had exhaled disappointment and plucked the dangling plant from her hand. Liz sat with tears blurring her eyes and thorn-marks blushing red on her hand as her mother turned to walk back inside.

Nobody had been weeding here for a while, it seemed. Liz was standing looking at it, remembering how hard her mother had worked grooming that garden into perfect rows. It must have been twenty years ago, that memory of pulling up a flower. Looking at the garden made her almost feel again the burn in her throat and the sting in her hand.

It looked like there were still a few flowers in there. She couldn’t tell. There were patches of color but they were hard to see through the forest of weeds that shot up around them. It looked like a garden of bushy green fronds, except that they were scattered carelessly and weeds weren’t nearly as pleasing to look at as the pansies and marigolds she remembered. Her mother would probably be disappointed in the scrambled decline of her garden. For a moment, Liz reached for her phone, spitefully wishing to take a picture. She let go, feeling ashamed. Her mother probably didn’t remember that she’d once helped to weed in the garden. Tried to help, anyway. Her mother wasn’t so old – turning, what, 60 this year? But she often didn’t remember the things that had clung to Liz. She remembered the things she griped about, accurately enough, but Liz didn’t try anymore to explain her own complaints. Sometimes, when she tried, her mother had sighed. Her sighs were still expressive. They said the same things, but now they also said, “Why must you accuse me of being a bad mother?” and “You’re just never happy with anything I do, are you.” Liz thought it was almost funny sometimes, how her mother took what she was trying to say and echoed it back at her. The sighs that said, “Well, I’m just sorry I’m not good enough for you” were usually the only response she got when she tried to say that it seemed her mother thought she was inadequate somehow.

The garden was overgrown now. Liz realized she’d been staring at it for minutes, frozen on the sidewalk. Her purse was heavy and her car was still two blocks away. With one last glance at the tangle of weeds, Liz sighed and began to walk away.