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Walking, Talking


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Glassy blue eyes look past you to nowhere. Her cute button nose twitches, then her face scrunches up as she snaps away into her elbow. There is barely a sound. She turns back as if nothing had happened. Now you knew why you had never heard her sneeze.


Today was a picturesque spring day. Every flower had been granted a dutiful bee, every tree was visited by a flock of vocal birds. Grass swayed in a cool, gentle breeze. People cautiously left there homes, relishing the sunlight after a cold, wet winter. Claire messaged early asking if you wanted to meet for a walk. She had been frustrated at her job this week and wanted to talk it over with someone. She was the kind of person who always needed a reason for getting together.

You meet just after midday at the carpark by the pond. There's a walking trail here that cuts a circle through sparse patches of gum trees, but you don't walk far before the warmth of the sun hits and you set yourselves down in a shady spot overlooking the ducks on the pond. Claire sits at attention, her curvy figure looking effortlessly fantastic in jeans and a tight fitting button up shirt. She was an animated speaker, so while she told you stories from her week the broad brim of her sun hat bobbed up and down around her short straw-blonde hair. As her speech became more and more passionate her blue eyes beamed out from her round face. You watched her face closely while listening to stories of Cam the manager and Kim the loud eater, and you couldn't help but be distracted by a sudden twitch of her nostrils. You knew Claire as having a nose of steel, it seemed like nothing could irritate it. But then, over the course of a few minutes you see it again. Twitch, twitch, twitch. And then a sniffle. And then a sneeze.

A perfectly silent stifled sneeze, or you're pretty certain it was. And then she was back to powering through her story so fast you didn't even get to bless her.

"So what do you think I should do about this mess?" She rests her cheek on her hand listlessly while you contemplate your advice.

"Look, it doesn't sound like any one thing is too ba-" You didn't make it far before her nose interrupted.


"-d, but the small things add up. I don't think any-" You tried to ignore it and power through.


"-one is being malicious, but they don't seem to have much empathy."

*sniff* *sniff*

"Maybe you need to quietly start looking for other jobs?"

"Hmmm" she made a thoughtful noise while she stared down the small hill. Three ducks fought over the scraps of food from someone's picnic. In perfect profile her nostrils twitched again and again, and the tip of her nose crinkled through an aggressive sniffle. Something was certainly bothering her nose.

"Do you need a tissue?" You always have a stash of tissues ready for an olfactory emergency.

"No!" She said defiantly, before sniffling again. "Okay, maybe."

You hand her an entire pack from your bag. She wrestled with the piece of tape holding the pack closed, before triumphantly retrieving a pearly white eucalyptus scented tissue, which she gently pressed to her nose in a ceremonial gesture that couldn't have achieved anything.

"Hey how about we actually do some walking?" Claire asked, smiling through the tissue.

She walks ahead of you in long dappled shadows of gum leaves. It was easier to walk in this part of the trail where the trees were dense and the sun less fierce. The wind that carried the smell of bark and grass belonged to a much cooler day. You absentmindedly talk about movies, then games. She tells you about her new candle that smelled like peppercorns and clove. You tell her about the new bookcase you wanted, and how it might actually fit all of your books this time. And through all of this, she carried the clean white tissue and continued to sniffle.

You're quiet for a while, the conversation is replaced with the regular crunching of dirt underfoot. Claire falls behind you, getting distracted by some angry looking ants. You move downhill and round a corner, to a small valley where the ground is softer from the recent rains. Your footsteps turn from crunches to squelches. You notice you can only hear your own squelching, and turning back you see Claire standing. Frowning.

"Oh no. I think I need to sneeze"

The afternoon sun painted irregular splashes of light on her face through the trees as her head tilted back in anticipation. Her flared nostrils had tinted pink over the course of the afternoon. The still pristine tissue was clutched roughly in a fist in front of her. This was not the stance of someone ready to stifle a sneeze. Her eyes squinted. Then opened. She breathed in, chest expanding. Then out. She scrunched up her nose, dragging her entire face along with it.

"Ugh, I hate when you lose one like that" She bemoaned her nose.

"Yeah, it's the worst"

The all sounded like hayfever, but you were pretty sure she didn't get hayfever. It had never come up in the 2 years you'd known eachother. Maybe she was getting sick?

"Did you know I get hayfever? You probably thought I was getting sick" She asked, reading your mind.

"I had no idea, and I did think you were getting sick!"

"It's really annoying, but it only comes for a few days at the start of spring."


"It isn't too bad really, mostly just sniffling and sneezing. I've sneezed so much this week already. Ugh, that was another thing, Kim would bless me every time I sneezed, even from 3 seats away. It didn't matter how quietly I sneezed, she would know and she would bless me. Who does that? And I'm really good at quiet sneezes, have you noticed?"

"I think they're so quiet I hadn't even noticed they were sneezes."

"Thank you," she put on a smug facade. "I worked hard to be that good at stifling."

You were quiet again, squelching footsteps turned back into crunching footsteps, and Claire continued where she left off.

"It really does take lots of practice to sneeze that quietly, you know. And if I don't fight them they'll come in groups of 4 or 5. And they're so high pitched, I hate that I sneeze like such a girl"

"Yeah, I guess that wouldn't suit you"

"It almost seems like a waste though. You know when a sneeze feels really good? When it just builds and builds then finally tears through you? I never hold them back when I'm alone"

You nodded and made a noise of vague agreement.

"But it's different when I'm sick, those don't feel the same. They're kind of like heavier sneezes, they only come 1-2 at a time, but every few minutes for hours. Allergy sneezes are definitely better. I kind of hope this one comes back."

"I can hardly wait." You lean into some sarcasm.

"Sorry, I'm rambling."

"It's fine. It's cute that you pay so much much attention to something so normal."

"Oh, stop"

As you came to the home stretch of the circuit your conversation drifted back to movies. Birdsong echoed over the treetops. Claire was close by your side. She gently places her hand on your forearm as she stops for the second time, sniffling louder and much more desperately than before.

"I'm... I'm gon-"

Her face scrunches up again. Her fist is still clutching the same tissue, which she holds in front of her face as she pitches to the side. Her hand is still on your arm, and you fell her whole body tense through it.

N'gxxt... hhN'gxxt

Two delicate but forceful stifles escape her nose. As she straightens up you notice her glassy eyes have a suggestion of a tear in each corner.

"Oh..." She shakes her head as if she wants to say "There is more to come".

heh.. hetch'Nxt ha... hatchh-CHIEW ...... AHTCH-Iieww

"Woah". She was now using your arm to steady herself. 

"Those were in-" Her speech is suddenly cut off and she urgently breathes sharply, another sneeze dangling on the tip of her nose.

"Those were intense. I ca- heh.. I thi-"

Her voice rose to a higher pitch with each attempt to speak. She blinks heavily, fighting off allergic tears while struggling with the tissue packet again. Tearing a clean tissue free, she lets go of your arm and doubles over into the tissue


Blowing her nose into the same tissue, Claire looks sheepishly towards the ground.

"Bless you, holy shit. Are you okay?"

"Yeah... yeah" She sighs deeply while catching her breath. "You're the first person who has heard me sneeze like that in a long time"

It wasn't long before you were back in the carpark. You hug and say your goodbyes.

"Thanks for listening, and thanks for putting up with me sniffling all afternoon."

"Oh, it was a struggle." You smile teasingly. "Good luck, I really think it's time to move on from that place"

"Hey we should do something again while the weather is so nice. Are you doing anything tomorrow?"

You made sure you were free.


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Oh, this is great! I love the vivid descriptions, really makes you feel like you're right there seeing it all unfold. ^_^ 


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5 hours ago, drsn23 said:

Loved it! Great job. 

Thank you!


44 minutes ago, Chanel_no5 said:

Oh, this is great! I love the vivid descriptions, really makes you feel like you're right there seeing it all unfold. ^_^ 


Thank you so much. Your recent stories have been a great inspiration ❤️

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Goodness, I'm not surprised those silent stifled sneezes took some practise to hold in something so forceful with just a delicate crinkle of the nose! I know I couldn't do that!

It was a lovely touch that she was able to release them (I think) not because she couldn't help it, but because she felt comfortable...

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On 12/9/2022 at 1:33 AM, pepperbreeze said:

This was not the stance of someone ready to stifle a sneeze. Her eyes squinted. Then opened. She breathed in, chest expanding. Then out. She scrunched up her nose, dragging her entire face along with it.


On 12/9/2022 at 1:33 AM, pepperbreeze said:

Her speech is suddenly cut off and she urgently breathes sharply, another sneeze dangling on the tip of her nose.

^You have some absolutely great vivid descriptions of someone caught in the midst of the need to sneeze in this story - I really enjoyed reading it :D  

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