Friday, February 26, 2010


Here we are at the end of another week. Congratulations to all of us. I've got a couple of awards I need to put up and/or pass on, but I think I'll do that next week. And I've decided no more big, thinky-type questions about the art and craft of writing for right now. For now I'll just leave you with a tad over 1500 words of flash fiction. Mind the warning, it's a bit more...romantic...than my last few offerings.

Springs groan in protest as he pushes through the screen door, runs his eyes around faded pea soup walls that once upon a time might have been a brighter shade of green. A tinny sound echoes in the thick air hanging heavy in the small, empty lobby as he steps over the basset sleeping just inside the door.

It takes him a couple of rings to recognize the sound of a phone.

Three long steps bring him to the counter. He dings the cheap little silver bell twice; wipes sweaty palms down his jeans, shoves his hands in his pockets.

The tick of the clock hand counting off the minute splits the stillness as he bounces on the balls of his feet under the muted whoosh of a slow spinning ceiling fan.

A dog barks in the distance. He slides his eyes to the door. The basset doesn’t move.

He snorts a harsh exhale; rolls his shoulders, cracks his neck. His shirt clings to his chest and back like a sweaty second skin. It’s already past hot and he wants her inside, out of the heat, somewhere safe where they can wait.

Impatient fingers tap a staccato beat on the counter. He bounces one more time and then gives up the fight, dings the bell again.

The gnarled little man in the stained wife-beater that comes out of the back room doesn’t bother to look at him, just plunks a dog-eared book on the ledge and holds out a pen.

He shrugs his flight bag up higher on his shoulder; snags the pen and scribbles something that might be someone’s name, makes up a license number.

The old man doesn’t bother to cover his yawn, just scratches several days of grey growth along his jaw line as flicks his gaze over the book, up and down him. “How long you gonna be stayin’?”

“Just tonight.”

“Eighty bucks.”

He nods once and slides his hand into his pocket, beyond grateful for the sealed envelope full of cash his dad had stuck into his bag.

The smile dies. His dad had known he’d need it.

He pulls out a small roll; peels off four twenties, hands them to the old man.

“Number nine.” The old man doesn’t bother to smile as he reaches down and pulls up a key; slides it across the counter. “Checkout’s at eleven.”

He nods again and spins on his heel. The basset’s eyes follow him out the door.

She’s waiting for him; leaning up against the wall, shoulders curled forward, arms crossed over her belly. She pushes off before the echo of the door swinging shut fades, falls into step beside him.

He reaches down, slides his hand into hers as his eyes scan the numbers of passing doors. It’s hot and she’s tired, even if she won’t admit it, and he wants to get her into a cool, dark room and off her feet.

He almost passes number nine; the number’s upside down. She angles her head and squints at it as he slides the key into the lock, jiggles the knob, pushes the door in.

Stepping aside, his hand skims the small of her back as she crosses the threshold ahead of him into the darkness. He follows her in, slaps at the light switch as she drops with a soft exhale onto the bed.

The smell of disinfectant hits him like a wave; he sends up a silent prayer of thanks. At least the place is clean.

The room’s everything he expected in the dim glow of a forty watt bulb. One double bed; one bedside table; one round table with two mismatched chairs.

He tosses their bag onto one of the chairs. A dozen long strides take him past the dresser, across the room to the air conditioner. A long forefinger stabs the on button and the unit kickstarts with a jolt.

It’s not quite cold air, but it’s better than outside.

He turns and makes his way back to her, drops to his knees in front of her, gentle hands cradling the swell of their unborn child.

Her eyes drift closed as he rubs her belly reverently; she hums slightly, runs her fingers through his short hair.

A small, satisfied smile pulls at his lips as he looks up at her through the tops of his eyes. “Won’t be long now.”

She shakes back her hair, exhales softly. “Another week at most, I think.”

“How you doin’?”

Shifting slightly, she rolls her shoulders, cracks her neck. “I’m fine.”

“You look beat, babe.” His hands leave her belly reluctantly; pull off one of her boots and her sock. “You’d probably feel better after a shower.”

She hums a non-committal answer.

“There’s a mini-mall next to this place.” He tosses the boot into the near corner, pulls off the other one. “I can get us something to eat and be back by the time you get out.”

He pulls off the other sock and they join their mates in the corner.

Her eyes drift open as a quiet smile curves the corners of her lips. “Or you could join me and go to the store later.”

He plants his hands on the mattress, pushes up; leans in and kisses her slow and sweet and lazy. A small shiver runs through him as she wraps long, lean arms around his neck, smooth satin fingertips tracing delicate patterns behind his ear.

His heart’s beating faster when he breaks the kiss; rests his forehead against hers as they breathe the same air. He slides his hands into hers; pulls back and leverages her off the bed.

She’s not close enough and he moves, one arm wrapping her waist, pulling her tight. His free hand palms her skull; he buries his fingers in the soft silk of her hair as he kisses her, open-mouthed, wet and deep.

Strong, slender fingers find their way under his shirt and trace the trail of his spine. Suddenly he’s on fire, heat and want igniting deep inside and he needs her like his heart needs to beat; needs to feel her skin to skin against him.

She breaks the kiss and pulls back. When he tries to follow, her hands hard on his shoulders stop him. Smokey eyes, dark and wide with desire lock on his as she rucks his shirt up and over his head.

He shivers and leans in, buries his face in her hair, breathing hard against the soft curve of her neck as her fingers feather over his shoulders, along his collar bones, down his bare chest to work his belt and zipper.

Her breath is a whisper against his skin as her fingers trace the hollows of his hips, slide jeans and boxers over slim hips to pool at his feet. He steps out of them and a quick flick of his foot sends them flying as he buries his hands in her hair and kisses her deeply.

He moans into her mouth as his hands glide down her back, work her shirt up and off. Her lips are swollen and glistening in the low light as she stands before him, pale and perfect, still the most beautiful thing he has ever seen.

His hands slide around her waist; fingers skimming up the soft, satin curve of her spine to unhook her bra, slide it off, drop it to the floor.

Her lips find his and her hands glide up his chest, over his shoulders, into his hair as he retraces his way back down her spine, fingers trailing along her waist to make quick work of fasteners.

She breaks the kiss, pulls back, breathing harshly. “Shower?”

He growls deep in his throat, low and fierce and thick with need. “Bed.”

A quick tug sends her pants over the flare of her hips. Heavy lidded eyes lock on hers as he leans in; cradles her head and kisses her hard, driving his tongue deep.

She steps out of them as his arms wrap her, hold her tight. He follows her down as she sinks onto the mattress.

A shudder runs through him and he growls again, low and fierce as she breaks the kiss. His entire body thrums with need beneath her palms as she runs them up and over his chest, fingertips feathering their way back down.

His hands on her shoulders take her down to the mattress, glide down her body to bring her legs up and over as she rolls to her side.

He crawls in behind her, fingers curling in the cascade of black silk spilling over his hand as he fuses them belly to back, shoulder to hip.

“John.” Her voice is low and smooth and slides right through him.

“It’s ok, baby.”

His free hand presses the soft satin skin over her heart; he feels the strong, steady beat against his palm as his tongue traces a trail along her elegant neck. He breathes her in; tastes sea and salt on her skin as her head rolls and she presses closer to him.

His hand glides along the lush curve of her body, hooks her leg up and over his. “We’ll make it work.”

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Coming to voice

Continuing my catch up with links I made note of before being swallowed by the Nine Muses Challenge, Roz Morris over at Nail Your Novel had a lovely discussion about Developing a Strong Writing Voice, what it is, how it developed for her, and how it is the make or break of telling a story. Rachelle Gardner also had a discussion about Craft, Story, and Voice that raises some really interesting questions about which of those is most difficult, and how they all come together to create a story.

My journey to voice did not come easily or quickly. I was well into graduate school before I really got even a glimmer of what voice was. And that wasn’t even in reference to writing or anything creative, it was in reference to change agents and being a transformative societal force. Of course I was in graduate school working on my MA in Education but still, I was so woefully unaware of not only my own voice but anyone else’s as well. And it wasn’t until I actually left academic writing to return after twenty years to creative writing that I began to worry about voice.

It’s elusive, difficult to quantify and qualify, and absolutely essential to good story telling. And even after all this time, I’m still not sure I have a handle on what it is or how to find it.

So here are my questions to you. What do you think makes good voice? What was your journey to it? Have you found it or are you still searching? And between craft, story and voice, which of those has given you the most difficulty?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Let me entertain you.

Continuing my look at links I found while buried in writing challenge fic, Cindy R. Wilson had an interesting discussion here about books that move us versus books that entertain us and the value/credit we assign to those books. I found it interesting not only on its own, but in its relationship to my own writing.

As I’ve said before, I write dark. And I always look for a theme and some kind of layers and threads in my storytelling that can be interwoven into a greater whole. For me, Cormac McCarthy's The Road is a perfect example of this.

For me, the two concepts of value and entertainment are so intertwined as to be inextricable. But even if my own work is somewhat less or fails on either front, I'm not sure this is an either/or proposition. I still believe books that move people can be books that entertain. And vice versa.

Or maybe that’s just me. How do you write? To move or entertain? Is one more valuable or deserving of credit? What do you think? Is it either/or?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Because it feels so good when I stop.

Suzannah over at Write It Sideways posted yesterday about 37 questions new writers should ask themselves. It’s a fascinating list, and I’m working my way down it. I’ve thought a lot about a lot of these questions, others not so much, but I really think any/every new writer should think about these at a bare minimum as they begin to negotiate the very long journey to publication.

I’d add another question to that list. Why do I write, and would I continue to write if not for publication? That question looms large in my mind as I continue to look at the genre and type of writing that I seem to gravitate to. I think that became most glaringly obvious, yet again to me, during the Nine Muses Challenge I just finished.

I promised a break down for that experience, and here it is in short-form. Nine themes revealed over nine days. Once you began, the stories you wrote had to be linked by these themes, and the world you created in the first story is the one you stayed with through out the challenge. I wrote in first person, which dragged me very deeply into my character’s head. I was buried so deep I couldn’t wait to crawl out. And for the first time in my writing life, I cried. While I was writing. I had to get up and leave the computer. My chest hurt and the tears flowed.

Now mind you, I write dark. I’ve killed babies and entire worlds in my fiction without batting an eye. This left me feeling physically ill and in pain. My body hurt like I’d been slapped around and maybe pummeled. I couldn’t breathe. And I couldn’t stop writing. I could have stopped at any point, and didn’t.

And yet, I think what came out of that challenge was some of my better writing. And I would do it again. Insane? Maybe. I don’t know. I don’t think my writing, which is literary in genre, is something that there will be a big mass market for. So as much as I’d love to be published, I’m not sure what I’m writing will do that for me. Which is another question I suppose I have to ask myself.

So how about you? As you peruse those 37 questions, why do you write? And would you continue to write if not for publication?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Happy Whoops! Blogfest Monday

This is my entry for the Whoops! Blogfest Laurel is hosting today. Make sure you go over and check it out.

I’m pretty sure I was born batshit crazy. Not that I haven’t worked at getting better at it over the years, but…

“Where have you been?”

The dulcet tones of my beloved carried across the kitchen as my darling wife glared daggers at me.

Danny squealed happily as he bounced in his chair and announced he was finished with lunch by tossing the last of his of pasta as far as his short, chubby arms could.

“Uhm…hey hon.” Yep. Batshit insane and apparently a bit suicidal. “You got spaghetti in your hair.”

Exhaling harshly, her shoulders slumped as she pushed back in her chair and leveraged herself heavily to her feet. The twins were making life miserable for her.

“Thank you for sharing that bit of information, John. I never would have known that otherwise.”

Swollen ankles, swollen feet, swollen belly, she looked like the lumpy mattress she swore we were sleeping on at night. Her swollen fingers grabbed the bowl, and picking strands of spaghetti from her hair, she waddled her way toward the sink.

She was beautiful pregnant.

Batshit crazy I might be, but apparently my suicidal tendencies had their boundaries. My brain scrambled for some safer ground. Before I could think of anything, my darling wife was growling at me again.

“Where were you? You were due back hours ago.”

Right. I’d told her it was a simple trip to the hardware store for some things I needed for the bathroom. I hadn’t told her the real reason I’d gone.


It had taken me longer than I’d expected to find what I was looking for.

She put her hands on her hips and arched her back. “Don’t think I don’t know what you’re up to.”

I was gonna have to remember to give her a massage later. “But, honey…”

“There better not be any hearts or flowers or anything else anywhere in this house.”

Well, technically all that stuff wasn’t in the house; it was still in the trunk of my car. And my mom had already taken the puppy my wife was gonna love.

“Honey, I am shocked.” I put my hand, palm down over my heart and flashed my baby blues and best you-love-me grin at her. “You told me you weren’t in the mood for any Valentine’s Day celebration.”

I was just gonna have to remember to remove the rest of the evidence when she was otherwise occupied. She might not be in the mood for romance now, but later, after the kids started sleeping and she did too, that would be a different story.

And that puppy was cute as all get out.

Batshit crazy, remember?

She looked at me with those rabid raccoon eyes, then turned and pulled something out of the refrigerator and shoved it violently into the microwave.

I backpedaled nicely, my anti-suicidal tendencies kicking in strongly as the timer went off. “What’s that?”

“Hot dogs.” She pulled the plate out of the microwave, slid it onto the counter and grabbed a knife.

I watched Danny trail a pudgy finger through the red sauce on his tray. “Are you sure he’s still hungry? You gave him spaghetti.”

“Yes, he’s still hungry.” She waved the knife vaguely in the direction of her hair. “He didn’t eat the spaghetti, John.”

She had a point. My son was wearing as much spaghetti as my wife. Only he seemed a helluva lot happier about it.

“Mamamamamamamamama…” Danny screamed as he pounded on his tray.

We should probably start feeding him in the bathtub and just hose him down afterward.

“Hot dogs?” I’d skipped lunch in my rush to go shopping and obviously hunger was making me stupid. That was my story and I was sticking to it. “Got one for me?”

The raccoon eyes locked on me as she sliced with surgical precision. “Of course I‘ve got one for you.”

Come to think of it, I wasn’t so hungry I couldn’t wait. “I can finish feeding him if you wanna go take a nap.”

She shoved the plate at me, spun inelegantly on her heel, and ruffled her son’s sauce-slicked hair as she waddled past. Her voice floated soft and dangerous behind her on her way out of the center chamber.

“I’m going to take a shower. And I’d better not see any hearts or flowers or anything.”

I smiled hugely at my son as I settled in to share lunch with him. Dried sauce trails crinkled on chubby cheeks as an answering gap-tooth grin split his face.

A tiny hand darted out, snagged a slice of hot dog, and shoved it fist deep into the gaping maw of his mouth. He giggled maniacally as I speared a piece of my own and leaned forward to whisper conspiratorially.

“Mommy loves Valentine’s Day.”

Thursday, February 18, 2010


TGIF! It seems like forever since I’ve put up a post that wasn’t a response to a challenge. I’ll probably talk about the intensity of the Nine Muses Challenge at some point in the near future, and I have some other things I made sticky notes in my head to talk about, but for now it’s award time.

This award was given to me by the lovely and much more interesting than me Nicole over at One Significant Moment at a Time. And that means that I have to tell you seven interesting things about myself.

1. I was going to be an archaeologist. Really. I have a BA and an MA in Anthropology and Geography. After getting married and starting to have kids, I realized I wouldn’t be digging for months on end far from home. So I went back to school for my M.Ed so that I could teach. In the years that it took to get my degree and for the kids to get old enough for school, I used to tell people I was the most educated unemployed person they knew.

2. I have been married for twenty-six years and have four children, one of whom was born at home on the family room couch after the hospital sent me home. The paramedics who helped deliver her didn’t have a thermal blanket with them, so they wrapped the baby up in tin foil for the ride back to the hospital to protect her from the January cold. Needless to say, my doctor was not amused.

3. When I was seventeen, I had enough credits to graduate from high school, so I basically skipped my senior year and spent my time learning to fly a single-engine, fixed-wing, four-seat Cessna.

4. I’m a great cook. I love Food Network and Iron Chef and Good Eats and Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. I’ve tried a lot of their recipes and I secretly want to take Guy’s book and my car and road-trip across America visiting each one Guy’s places.

5. I have a friend that is really the other half of my brain. We might live 2000 miles and three time zones apart, but we can still finish each other’s sentences.

6. I love Edgar Allen Poe but I think Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird might be my favorite novel of all time. Followed by Fahrenheit 451, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Blind Assassin, The Road, and Call of the Wild.

7. I think chocolate is a food group.

Now I get to pass this award on to some other deserving souls. So I’m giving it to:

Amy over at She Writes
Anne over at Piedmont Writer
Wendy aka quillfeather

Hit the Road, Jack

I keep meaning to spare you my spamming of yet more of my snippets, but apparently I have one more left in me this week. It’s something I wrote a while ago that seemed to fit, so this is for the So-Long Blogfest Karen over at Novels During Naptime is hosting.

She stepped through the door and closed it silently behind her. Standing still, she let her eyes adjust to the deeper darkness of the hallway.

Moonlight streamed in through the window in the breakfast nook, bathing the white ceramic tiled table top in a silver glow. She toed off her shoes and made her way on soundless feet down the hallway toward the pool of light.

She stepped into the kitchen, headed toward the sink. Running her fingers along the wall, she flipped the switch.

A soft, yellow glow bathed the area.

Grabbing the tea kettle on the stove, she pushed open the spout, slid it under the faucet and opened the tap. When it was full, she put it on the front burner and turned it on.

“Did you have fun tonight?” His drawl, soft and low, hung in the stillness.

“I’m sorry.” She turned to see him leaned up against the door frame, long and lanky, legs crossed at the ankles, arms crossed against his chest. “Did I wake you?”

“Nah. I couldn’t sleep.” He cocked his head, dragged his thumb across his lip. “So did you?”

“Did I what?” She opened a cabinet and snagged a cup. “I’m making tea. Would you like some?”

“Sure.” He slid off the door frame and crossed to the counter in three easy steps. “Did you? Have fun?”

She pulled another cup from the cabinet, closed the door, set them on the counter.

Resting her hands on the smooth surface, she leaned forward and locked wide, clear as glass eyes on his. “Yes, I did.”

He leaned back and she reached up to open the overhead cabinet.

“What would you like?” She poked the boxes, read off names. “Chamomile, Earl Grey, Lemon Mist…”

“Chamomile,” he suggested softly. “It makes you sleepy.”

She pulled the box down and set it on the counter next to the cups. “Did you have fun tonight?”

He shrugged, reached for the box and took out two bags. “Ate dinner with dad. Talked to Livvy for a few minutes.”

She tilted her head, arched a doubtful eyebrow. “You talked to Livvy?”

“She was watching Pretty Woman.” He shrugged again. “She likes Julia Roberts. Hates the movie.”

“She prefers The Pelican Brief.”

She snorted softly as her lips curved gently up at the corners. “And Denzel Washington.”

She turned and headed across the kitchen.

His eyes tracked her as she walked and realization hit him again. She was still far too thin. Low rise jeans rode loose on the curve of her hips, and a pale silken expanse of narrow waist was visible beneath the hem of her tee shirt when she opened a cabinet and reached for the cereal.

“You want something to eat?” He pulled two bags from the box, closed it.

“No thanks.”

She pulled the cereal down, opened a drawer and pulled a Ziploc bag out. Shutting the drawer with her hip, she opened the bag and the box.

He pulled the bags apart, put one in each cup. “You should eat.” He closed the box and put it back in the cabinet.

She shrugged a slim shoulder, and poured cereal. “Not hungry.”

Closing the box, she replaced the cereal and closed the cabinet. Grabbing the bag, she ran her fingers over the blue and pink lines to make purple. With a satisfied smile, she came back to the counter and dropped it on the counter.

“I thought you weren’t hungry.”

“It’s for Danny.” She pulled a sippee cup and cover from the dishwasher, poured apple juice. “He likes to feed himself when he wakes up. And I can stay in bed for a little while longer while he plays.”

“You’ve really got the mom thing down.”

“It’s practical.” Her shoulder moved again. “It works.”

“I could always get up with him, if you wanted.”

She stiffened suddenly, shoulders back, spine rigid, head tilted up slightly. “This works.”

The whistle of the kettle split the tension suddenly shimmering in the air.

In carefully choreographed silence, she moved to the stove, shut off the burner, picked up the kettle and came back to the counter, poured steaming water. She didn’t look at him as he picked up the cups, carried them to the table.

She put the kettle back on the stove, picked up the cereal bag and the juice, and joined him at the table.

Still not looking at him, she settled herself in her seat, raised the cup to her lips and blew gently.

“So.” He tried to catch her eyes from the corner of his. “What did you do tonight?”

She blew softly on her tea. “Went for a ride.”

“Damn it, Maddy, I’m trying here…”

She was on her feet and moving toward the hallway before he could stop her.

He was out of his own chair and starting after her. “Madelyn…”

She stopped at the sound, spine suddenly rigid, shoulders drawn back in a hard, tight line. “Like I tried?”

“Talk to me.”

He felt her tension hit him like a shock wave, a kick to the head that stopped him in his tracks a step behind her as she turned to face him.

“Why? Because you’re ready?” She slipped forward slowly, backing him up a step, surreal, sleek, and serene, as quiet as death. “Because you want to?”

Coiled tight, she was wrapped in a raw, bitter chill; a living, physical thing that stretched out between them with a killing cold. “Because you’re wondering if I’ve been busy…figuring things out?”

Heavy-lidded eyes locked on his and a cut glass smile sliced her lips as she stood face to face with him.

“Was it good for you?”

He reeled from the kick to his gut.

Her voice, whiskey smooth, flowed through him.

Stopped his breathing.

Caught in the crosshairs of her cold, contained rage and his own shame flashing hot and bright in his gut, he shut his eyes as the world turned over.

“Were her lips soft and warm?” She traced his with a soft fingertip, slid the finger gently between his lips. “When you mapped the terrain?”

His head jerked and a spasm rippled against a clenched jaw as she trailed her finger over and down the corded tendons of his neck, along his collar bone, over his shoulder, across his neck. Slash and burn, he felt the trail of heat from her fingers ignite the shame into a firestorm as she slowly circled him.

“Did you tell her how to touch you? Where?” She pushed tight up against him; leaned in close, let her lips and warm breath brush the join of his neck and jaw. “Did you call her baby and breathe hot in her ear when she was under you? Over you?”

She trailed her finger over his shoulder as she came full circle, pressed her palms against his chest and let her hands drift downward. “Did she run her hands all over you?”

Taut as a tripwire, he breathed hard, a harsh, jagged gasp for air. The first spike of real fear shot up his spine, blazed into his brain, blood pounding in his head making his face burn. He shivered as her fingers found his waist, slipped lower to rest on his hips.

“Did she make you moan and arch against her when she took you in? Was it more? Was it better?” She pulled him in hard against her. “Did you find what you were looking for? What you wanted? What you needed?”

He exploded, his hands moving to grab hers. Hard fingers snapped shut, wrapped her small wrists like a steel band as he pulled her even closer to him, spinning them around and driving her back, pinning her against the wall with his greater mass.

“It wasn’t like that,” he rasped, forehead to forehead breathing her in. “It was…figuring things out.”

Her words were as warm and soft as her breath, surgically precise as they sliced through him like a razor. “And was that the only time you needed to…figure things out?”

There was a crack of thunder as light and heat exploded in a conflagration behind his eyes. A shudder worked its way through him as he struggled to suck enough air into his lungs to breathe. “No.”

She moved slightly beneath him and he felt soft breasts and sharp hipbones, radiant heat fusing them along their shared border.

“How many?”

He slid his cheek against hers, whispered hotly in her ear. “One.”

He pushed harder against her, growled harsh and low into her face. “It was a fuck.”

She laughed suddenly, brittle and high pitched, shattering the thin veneer of civility stretched beyond its limits between them. “You still think this is about fucking?”

Despite everything she was still quick. She pushed him off and around, backed him up against the wall. “I’ve told you before, Logan.”

He exhaled harshly on a groan as a long, slender finger traced his lips and her husky, smoke-filled voice floated over him.

“It’s not about the fucking.”

He growled low and fierce deep in his throat. “Madelyn…”

“I’m not stupid.” She was strong and had survived. She had learned a lot. “I understand love.”

He dragged in a jagged breath, his heart pounded deep in his chest. “Don’t do this.”

“Honesty. Trust. Your words.” She pulled back; turned, started moving away from the torched free-fire zone between them.

He exploded, hands moving to grab hers as he stepped to her, invaded her space. His hands wrapped her wrists as he pinned her arms and used his hips and shoulders to chivvy her back up against the wall.

He leaned in, eyes dark with rage, voice low and dangerous. “Trust?”

White-hot rage boiled up and out, spread like wild fire in his veins.

He buried his face in her hair, his lips close to the delicate shell of her ear as he breathed harsh and hot and heavy. “You couldn’t trust me enough to tell me where you’d been.”

Roiling torrents of grief, guilt, shame, and joined the rage and suddenly became a riptide that threatened to drag him under as she stilled completely under him.

He couldn’t even feel her breathing.

He pulled back, blinked hot tears from his eyes as he felt her shift beneath him. “Hell, you couldn’t even tell me about the kid.”

He didn’t feel her move, didn’t see the slap coming. His head snapped and she shoved hard, sent him staggering.

Words sharp as razor-wire carved him to the bone. “I’m not doing this anymore.”

She quietly lobbed the flash-bang grenade into the still smoldering carnage. “It’s too late.”

The shock wave rocked him back as she disappeared in the incandescent glare behind his eyes.

“No, no, no, no, no, no.” He couldn’t tell if the chant was only in his head, but he knew he had to make her hear.

“Because you were right.” Her voice floated down from far away, words char and ash that covered him. “What do we have now?”

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Infinite Possibility

This is the ninth and final part of what is now a nine-part entry in the River of Mnemosyne challenge that’s going on over at The Tenth Daughter of Memory.

Out over the lake clouds mass and roll in a purple-pink sky; carry the promise of a late afternoon storm.

I slide the van along a slow winding curve, guide it to a stop.

Air thick and heavy with humidity presses close; settles like a shroud over me as I leverage myself out of the car. I can feel the heat rising from the thin ribbon of concrete that curls through the lush green landscape.

I roll tight shoulders, crack my neck. It explodes in my ear, sharp and loud in the stillness.

My eyes drift over long, neat rows of stone standing silent under a burning sky; watch the sun reflect off the mirror-flat surface of the pond as it arcs across the horizon.

I lean in, reach over and snag the flowers sitting on the passenger’s seat. The careful, almost silent snick of the door closing doesn’t disturb the silence.

Short, slow steps walk me around the front of the van.

Suddenly too tired to move, I lean back against the hood. I wrap myself in my arms and try to drag a lungful of air deep into my chest as memory suffocates me.

Wrapped up in silence and sunset, I don’t know how long I sit and stare. I’m not ready to leave, have no place to be. Not yet.

I catch movement out of the corner of my eye. Canada geese glide along the calm, smooth surface of the pond. I tilt my head and track the baby as it tips its body, dips under water.

One of the adults runs along the surface, gain lift for takeoff. Slow, deep wingbeats carry it aloft as the rest of the family takes flight.

The breeze shifts; picks up. I push off the hood and begin to move.

Careful, silent footsteps sink into the soft ground as I step off the concrete and slip down two rows and over one, into the shade of the Eastern Cottonwood’s canopy.

I drop to my knees, feel the warm solid earth beneath them, hallowed ground, and push words, brittle and low through a dry, tight throat. “Hi. Heather.”

I run a gentle hand along the smooth stone; reverent fingers trace the carved letters of my sister’s name. “It’s been a while.”

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

This Business of Jupiter

This is the eighth part of what will hopefully be a nine-part entry in the River of Mnemosyne challenge that’s going on over at The Tenth Daughter of Memory.

I love the rain, soft and cool in the quiet and the pale moonlight.

Sitting on the front porch, wrapped up in two sweaters and a wool hat, I listen to the stillness that comes after a short, furious shower and stare at the silver reflection coming off the mirrored surface of rain drops on pavement.

Out over the lake lightning flashes and I wait for the roll of thunder.

The storm won’t be here for a while yet.

Eyes closed, I settle more comfortably in my seat, legs stretched out, ankles crossed, and lift my face to the cool mist that’s carried on the breeze.

“Hey, Lib.”

My eyes drift open. I pull back my legs, sit up.

She’s standing right in front of me looking so much like I remembered it makes my heart hurt.

Her words are as soft and as gentle as the rain running down her face. “How are you doing?”

Brittle words pushed through a dry, tight throat break in my ear. “Why are you here?”

I breathe through the pressure in my chest. “It’s been a long time.”

“I’ve been here.” A sad smile bleeds across her lips. “You didn’t want to see me.”

I reach a hand toward her; stop, let it drop. “Didn’t seem much point.”

She tilts her head and the shadows on her face shift. “Don’t be like that, Libby.”

I blink against the mist in my eyes. “Why not?”

Her eyes soften with sorrow. “Don’t do this to yourself.”

I breathe deep and exhale; a harsh, jagged sound that slashes the stillness. “Why not?”

“Because I love you and I want you to be happy.”

A last lesson to me; I should be taking notes.

“I love you, too.” My throat tightens on words that turn to ash on my tongue. “You have to go now.”

Monday, February 15, 2010

Shattered Mirrors

This is the seventh part of what will hopefully be a nine-part entry in the River of Mnemosyne challenge that’s going on over at The Tenth Daughter of Memory.

The warm glow of the lobby welcomes us as we step through the glass double doors and stop.

I slide my eyes around the still life; over the delicate pattern of the plush, dark carpet, the well-padded and upholstered sofas, loveseats, and chairs grouped for conversation and consolation, the demure oils on the cream colored walls.

The soft murmur of voices from another room plays like a dirge.

A tall, well-dressed man steps into the portrait. White shirt, dark tie, a shimmer of soft grey dancing along his well-tailored suit, he’s walking toward us, perfect smile painted on his perfect face, hand outstretched.

I recognize the look of a professional comfort giver. I wonder what secret thoughts he harbors behind his very caring facade.

You really are paranoid. Not everyone spends as much time and effort talking to themselves as you do.

"Welcome." His voice is as warm as his hand as it wraps mine. "You must be Libby.”

I stare at that perfect smile.

“Allow me to say how very sorry I am for your loss. Is there anything you need or that I can get for you? Anything I can do for you?"

Can you raise the dead?

I pull my hand out of his; drop a white-knuckled fist to my side.

Didn't think so.

"Please let me know if I or any of my staff can be any assistance to you in your time here."

I feel Mike's hand slide around my waist as I shake my head.

"You must be anxious to see your family. Your brother-in-law and nieces are talking with my brother in the main chapel, going over flower arrangements and details for tomorrow.”

The air is suddenly thick and heavy and those lovely cream walls are pressing in on me, making it hard to breathe.

“Your sister is in the main viewing room downstairs." A sedate arm gestures toward the far wall of the room. "Through those doors, down the steps, down the hallway, first door on your left."

It’s so low key, understated, as if he’s giving me directions to the ladies room.

"Would you like me to escort you?"

Elegant in his delivery, he’s the perfect host and guide through the whole ugly death thing.

“No thanks.” Mike tightens his grip on my waist, fingers digging hard. “We'll be alright. We'll let you know if we need anything."

The man smiled his perfect smile again, touches his hand to my arm, and bows himself away.

I twist slightly in Mike's grip and turn my head to look at his face. He’s looking down at me, waiting for me to tell him that I’m ready.

With one last look around the lobby, my feet start moving toward the door and the stairs. It’s like walking underwater, everything hazy and limbs heavy like lead.

Through the door. Down the steps. Into the hallway.

A sign on the wall identifies our destination.

Viewing Room.

I pull up short at the door; feel Mike's hand around my waist, his other hand holding my mine. I know he’s talking to me, I can hear his voice, low in my ear. I can't understand a word he’s saying, but I think the sound is comforting.

I let him to guide me through the door.

She's there.

Tentative feet walk me those final few steps to my sister.

Looking down, reality hits like a physical blow.

My chest tightens with the pain I normally associate with a panic attack.

You know, that pain that radiates front to back through your chest and down your left arm, making you think you might be lucky enough to be having a heart attack so that at least the damned doctors could quantify the thing and do something useful for you.

You know the pain. The one you’re so scared of that might be a heart attack and you wouldn’t know the difference?

Don't think like that. Remember Jordan. Triple by-pass. You're the same age and she's six years now into the ten they gave her on her veins.

I look back at Heather. She looks so calm and peaceful. Isn't that what they always say? Like she's sleeping.

No. I've seen Heather sleeping and she never looked like this.

Yes, the funeral home had done a good job with her. The hair, make-up, and clothes, they were all Heather, but I would never mistake her for being asleep.

She’s dead.

I reach out a hand, touch her face.

So cold, so plastic, so lifeless.

My world tilts, spins; I can feel my precious control slipping, feel the walls closing in on me.

Remember, Heather? When we were growing up? What they would tell us. Mother, grandmothers, aunts. Play the game by the rules. Always be in control.

Standing silent in a silent room, in a silent basement, I can pretend I’m just an ordinary person with an ordinary life.

Be a good girl. Don't be a slut, don't do drugs or alcohol, go to school, be educated, but not too educated because that scares people, make the right decisions and you will get it all. Nice husband, nice kids, nice house.

I move my hand over Heather's face, along her eyebrow, down her cheek, across her lips.

The picture of perfection. The illusion of perfection. You will be happy.

Guilt and fear and rage coil in my gut, crush my chest.

What happened when you weren't?

I know I have a hole in my perfect life.

We both got it all. It filled you, made you happy. I envied you for that.

I love my husband and kids.

Why wasn't that enough?

I wish that they had not come at such a high price. I wish that I could let go.

I never let anything go.

Underneath the surface, in secret, in the dark, deep in the cage I so carefully constructed for it, I wished for something different.

Never often enough or strong enough to form a fully conscious, articulate thought, but that didn’t keep the wish from festering and surfacing.

I wouldn't trade anything I had or was for anything different.

I’m nauseous with the sense of emptiness, loss, and grief for something unknown. And I don’t think it seems so much to ask.

The illusion of happiness. Normalcy.

Just keep making those right decisions, keep going through the motions, keep meeting your responsibilities and maybe, finally, in the end everything will be all right.

You will be happy.

Are you high?

I can hear Jordan's voice.

Nothing's ever gonna be all right, ever again.

Heather never said that, never thought that.

What the fuck does happy have to do with anything?

I never expressed that thought to my sister. She never would have understood.

Heather and Jordan. Flip sides of the same coin that was me.

Maybe it was because I was older, the first, and Mom visited her anger and demons on me.

I hated her.

Maybe because she had nothing left for you except benign neglect.

I loved you.

I took my place as surrogate mom, met my responsibility and did a damn fine job raising you.

A fucking great job.

I was so damn proud of how you turned out.

And forget the fucking price tag.

I don't know why or what's missing.

I'm nothing but a fucking walking, talking, gaping black hole of need.

Now that you’re gone, what am I supposed to do?

See that Heather? I’m still tap dancing on landmines.

And then suddenly, without warning, Heather's voice cuts through all the static and screaming in my head. "Slow down. Don't dance so fast."

Good advice from a dead woman.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day!

Well, I’m going to take a break here from the Nine Muses Challenge and go for something completely different. I’m late signing up, but in honor of the day, here is my contribution to the Love at First Sight Blogfest.

We met in school, as undergraduates. I thought he was strange.

I mean he hung out with friends of mine, I'd see him in class and in the lounge, and I'd talk to him, but he seemed kind of intense, and that scared me. When he looked at me, I felt a vague sort of uncomfortable, as if he knew something about me that I didn't know about myself.

We danced around each other, him pushing me and me backing away. He'd asked me out, often, every time I saw him, for months, and I told him no. I was kinda, sorta, sometimes going out with another guy.

Mike asked a friend of mine to go on a double date with us.

Him and his friend, me and this guy. We sat at dinner, the four of us.

Except it wasn't really the four of us. Mike isolated the two of us even though we sat on opposite sides of the table with the others between us. He focused everything on us, talking to me, hitting on me all evening.

Every once in a while, when I could tear myself away from Mike, I'd stolen a glance at our two companions. Mike's date was apparently in on whatever he was doing since she was watching us with a wicked grin on her face. Kyle, the other guy, just kept looking at him like he had an extra head or something.

I'd never sat through anything so bizarre or surreal before. It was like I was outside myself watching this strange evening unfold.

Before we left the restaurant Mike, asked me out again. I said yes. Like I said, bizarre and surreal.

Our first real date was really low key. After my last class of the day I took the train uptown, got out and met Mike down at the bottom of the station. He had his dad's car and we drove east while we made small talk and tried to decide where to eat dinner and what we'd do for the rest of our date.

Both of us were in college so the choices weren't very hard to make. We'd get Burger King from the drive through and then go to the piers to watch the submarine races.

It only took about twenty minutes or so to get from the station to the piers. Once there we settled down into a comfortable silence, eating our Whoppers and looking out over the water at the setting sun.

We just sat. Together.

Mike broke the silence. "We should probably think about getting married."

I looked at him like he had grown another head. I wondered if he was used to getting that look. It didn't seem to bother him at all.

"Why would we think about that?"

Strangely enough, the implication of the statement itself didn't faze me. I just wondered why the hell he thought that might be a good idea.

He looked sideways at me and gave me his best half-assed grin. "You know why. I'm not an idiot or a hopeless romantic, never even believed in love at first sight.”

His left eye twitched in a wink. “I had a plan.”

He shrugged a careless shoulder. “I'd just gotten out of the Navy and back into school and I figured at this point in my life I'd be going out with all kinds of girls, having lots of terrific, meaningless sex with lots of willing partners.”

He popped a fry in his mouth. “You kinda messed that up for me. The first time I met you I realized I was meeting the woman I was going to marry. Plan A went right out the door and it was on to Plan B."

"Plan B?" I don’t recognize my voice in the stillness.

"Plan B. Getting you to realize I was right all along."

I couldn't believe the affection I heard coming from this man. The affection in his voice and in his eyes.

"You really are a stubborn wench. Never had to work so hard for something in all my life."

I couldn't believe the way his eyes were looking at me in the twilight.

Yeah, definitely bizarre and surreal.

Even more unbelievable than what I was hearing and seeing was what I was feeling. The rightness of what he was suggesting was blowing me away.

It didn't even seem so incredibly ludicrous, the more I listened to and watched him. He seemed so certain, so calmly convinced of his decisions and feelings.

I tried to assemble rational thought as I sat looking at this man, because I am nothing if not practical. I am organized and disciplined and make lists of things to do. I am orderly and like things in their place and in their time. I am anal-retentive. A control freak. I am all about planning and follow through.

According to Myers-Briggs, I am an introvert, a sensing, thinking, judging type.

Despite this predisposition in my personality I have also known myself, at certain points in time, to just chuck everything in my life in a moment of life altering spontaneity to do something so completely out of character that it defies all attempts at rational explanation.

This apparently was one of those moments.

And he seemed to know this.

Turning in his seat to look at me full on, he smiled. "So, whadaya think?"

"About what?"

He was right. I could be a stubborn wench and now I felt the need to be deliberately obtuse. I needed to be sure I was hearing what I thought I was.

"What do you think about marrying me?"

"I think you've never even kissed me."

"I can fix that. If I do, whadaya say?"

"Yeah, sure."

Why not?

He leaned over to me as I slowly closed my eyes.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Earnest Mockery

This is the sixth part of what will hopefully be a nine-part entry in the River of Mnemosyne challenge that’s going on over at The Tenth Daughter of Memory.

Walking through the now empty halls on my way to the faculty parking lot, I glance at the broken window and the dried blood trail on the carpet.

All things considered, someone’s actually done a pretty good job of clean-up.

I push my way through the door and realize that leaving early means that the sun is still high on the horizon, that the day is still warm and bright in that end of summer way, and that I’m going to have some down time, something almost non-existent during my week.

I pop the lock and hit the remote start as I walk, hear the engine purr to life.

Opening the door, I drop into the driver’s seat, shove open the sun roof, reach over and slide in a CD and surf tracks until I found something I can live with.

I look down at my crimson splattered self and mentally run down the options for my unexpected windfall.

I can't go anywhere public without attracting at great deal of attention. I’m not ready to go home just yet, but I can get some coffee and have some select company if I want to.

Reaching over, I rummage in my bag and snag my cell. I dial my best friend Jordan's number while navigating the van out of the parking lot.

By the time I reach the gate, she's picked up and a very bored voice answers. “Good afternoon, St. Ursula's Academy. This is Mrs. Miles. Can I help you?”

“Probably not, but thanks for asking.” I hear Jordan’s soft snort and smile. “How’s life in your special little corner of the universe?”

“Life sucks.” Her voice floats in my ear. “Mine in particular, but yours can too if you want. I'm in an extra special mood today, and I can share.”

“That's what I've always loved about you, J. No matter polluted your aura, you're never too depressed to reach out and touch someone.”

My head does a quick flip back and forth before I spin the wheel left and pull out of the gate. “Gives me the warm fuzzies just thinkin' about it. I mean, it's just so nice to have company in my special little corner of hell.”

“Yeah, well, that's just me, ya know. My attitude sucks and so does yours, but that's just because we both live in the same zip code.”

I hear the bell explode in the background and the sound of passing students in the hall.

Jordan waits for it to finish. “Seriously. Some days, like today, I'm just soooo out there over the edge that I have warm fuzzy thoughts of just dropping dead. Can't stand the factory anymore. Just wanna walk.”

“Wanna play hooky?” I tap the brakes coming up on the empty intersection and do a quick double take left and right, before rolling through the stop.

I know the cops won’t be here for another hour until the high school lets out and they have a better shot at stopping students. “I just got sprung early and I could use a cup of coffee and a little time to decompress.”

“God, that sounds good. I think it could work. Boss is outta the building today at some lame ass conference or something equally unimportant, so if I just slide on outta here no one in the office is gonna notice.”

She snorts in my ear again. “And fuck them if they do. Contrary to popular opinion, I’m not their whore. And it's not like I got lunch or a break today.”

I hang a quick right at the corner, more careful now that traffic is starting to pick up. “How long will you need to get out?”

“Give me ten minutes to clean the place up and I'll meet you at the side door by my office.”

“Ten minutes. Ok. I'll see you there.” I flip my cell onto the passenger’s seat and drive.


“Well, don't you just look like shit.” Jordan’s conversational tone floats in the interior as she settles herself in the passenger seat and gives me a casual once over.

She’s nothing if not observant. A nurse who works with kids and a mother herself, the sight of blood, especially dried and not in danger of spilling all over, doesn't faze her.

Even when it’s all over her best friend who’s picking her up for a quick cup of coffee.

“Yeah, well at least it's dried and it’s not smearing all over the place.” I hit the gas as she clicks her seat belt closed. “And yeah, I know I need to change, but I didn't feel like going home just yet. I need some coffee and some down time.”

“I'll bet.” Jordan settles deeper in her seat and begins digging in her bag. “What the hell happened?”

I give her the short and sweet version of my day, and thank God that Jordan knows how to listen.

She comes up with her cigarettes and lighter, rolls her eyes and nods at the right times in my narrative, and saves her verbal assessment of the situation until I finish talking.

“God, they're fucked up.” She lights up, takes a deep drag, blows out as she slides her eyes in my direction. “So how's the boy?”

“Last I heard he was in surgery with some vascular guy who's supposed to be pretty good.”

I flick my eyes to the rearview mirror. “I guess they've got a pretty good chance at repairing all the damage since they got to it pretty quickly.”

I flick them back and hit the brake as red lights flare in front of me. “Hey, asshole, you wanna drive that piece of shit?”

I ease back onto the accelerator. “I checked with the office before I left and they said the hospital figured he would be another three hours or so in surgery.”

Jordan cracks her window, a silent apology for the second hand smoke, and watches it slip out on the breeze. “What about the girl?”

Right hand on the wheel, I rest my left elbow on the top of the door; feel the cool of the window against it.

“Oh, she's there too, waiting for him to get into Recovery.” I lean my head into my hand and rub the dull ache at my temple. “Probably can't wait to pledge her undying love for him now that he's been all romantic and everything.”

I lean my head against the cool of the glass, try to stop the slow build-up of pain marching through my head. “Her parents are there too, believe it or not. From what I hear they're good with that relationship and really don’t see any reason for it to end.”

“You're kidding, right?”


Jordan barks a laugh. “Well…that's just…twisted.”


“Didn’t you have another kid like that not too long ago?”

My fingers find the balled up knot at the join of my neck and shoulder and rub hard. “You mean the little punk ass who sold the wrong kid some bad shit and the kid took exception to being ripped off?

“No.” Jordan flicks her butt out the window. “You didn’t tell me about that one.”

“Punk ass tried to catch him out back to beat his ass, but the kid ran. Tried to cut through the commons to the parking lot and wasn’t paying attention to where he was.”

I shrug a tight shoulder. “Musta been scared shitless cuz he never saw the double door. Never even slowed down. Just went smack through the glass.”

“No. That’s not the one.” Jordan shakes back her hair, lights up another cigarette. “I’da remembered that. It was another one.”

I crack my own window for some air and try to remember.

My head’s pounding; it takes a minute to click in place. “You mean the kid who ran his head through the glass in the double doors by the main office?” I breathe deep. “Jesus. That was a mess.”

“I’ll bet.”

“Well, that wasn’t for love or drugs; that was for money.” I wave a dismissive hand. “His friends bet him he wouldn’t do it.”

Jordan slides her eyes to me. “It really is a good thing you guys have so few windows in your place.”

“No, it’s not. I miss windows.”

“If you had any more, god knows your kids would probably be jumping out of them.”

I feel my lips twitch to the left. “No, they do that from the second floor landing in the Media Center.”


“No shit. They’re idiots.” I tap my brakes; roll up on the red light. “You know we had to put sheet rock up on the walls in the hallways so that the kids couldn’t punch holes in them anymore.”

“Didn’t one of your kids go through a wall?”

“Yeah. Outside Bobby’s room. Girl fight.” My fingers drum a mindless rhythm on the steering wheel. “The little girl punched the big girl and the big girl’s ass went into the wall. Left an ass sized crater in it.”

Jordan snorts a harsh exhale. “So at least now they don’t punch the walls in the halls.”

“It only took them about a day of hurting their hands before they figured out that if they actually went into the classrooms they could punch walls and make holes that way.” The light turns and I hit the gas. “It’s perfect really. Go in. Cause some damage. Leave.”

I lean forward and squint into the early afternoon sun. “Who says we don’t teach problem solving skills in schools?”

My stomach rolls from the smoke and hunger; reminds me I missed lunch today. “Anyway how was your day?”

“Not nearly as interesting, romantic, or messy as yours, but it did have its special moments.”

Jordan pops the CD out and begins surfing channels. “Today was Lunch on the Lawn and it was nice to get outside for awhile and do the whole picnic, we like everybody here thing.”

“Yeah, I always did kinda like that about working at the factory.”

I spot what I’m looking for and flick on my turn signal. “They might not pay you anything for working there, but they do stuff like every once in awhile to make it seem like they're glad you're working there.”

I pull into the drive way and roll up to the drive through. “Hey, whaddya want?”

Friday, February 12, 2010

Of Feral Mind and Carnal Heart

This is the fifth part of what will hopefully be a nine-part entry in the River of Mnemosyne challenge that’s going on over at The Tenth Daughter of Memory.

I hear the voices yelling at each other above the surrounding din as I bob and weave through the passing time throng that’s slowed up to check out the burgeoning knot of bodies pressing in around something in the middle of the hallway.

I can't hear the words yet, but I can isolate the two voices at the center of the scene.

One male. One female.

Both of them loud above the almost controlled chaos of passing time in the hallway.

Even over the cacophony, I can identify the sound of imminent confrontation, feel it, alive and humming, shimmering in the air as I walk and wonder what’s going on and how bad it’s going to be.

It’s the lunch block.

Twenty-two hundred students fed and watered during a two hour chunk of time. Five hundred plus hungry students at a time shoved and herded through lines in the commons like cattle on a tight twenty-five minute lunch schedule in an overcrowded open area that was hard to police.

It’s never good. The hallways leading there are never better.

I try never to be in this part of the building during this time of the day, but in spite of my best efforts my timing, like almost everything else in my life lately, is just a little bit off today.

The hallways are always crowded with students trying to beat the clock, but there’s something else going on here. I've gotten close enough to identify the center of attention, Owen Johnson and his girlfriend Chloe Maxwell, our very own poster children for dysfunctional teenage relationships everywhere.

All about the drama, they were always either fighting in public, having sex in public places and on couches at parties, doing it for posterity on videotape, cheating on one another, abusing a variety of substances together, or simply being co-dependent.

Beyond unhealthy, they are now putting on quite a show for the lunchtime crowd, complete with him red-faced and raging and her with tears running down her cheeks.

I can see they’ve already reached the pushing and shoving part of the program.

“Fucking bitch!”

Owen’s push off Chloe’s shoulders forces her back up to the bank of windows running long lower D wing, framing her against the bright blue sky and well manicured green grass of the outside common area.

After the sterile, brown brick walls and dark, dirty-blue carpet that makes up my interior life in the institution, the bright almost burns.

The study in contrast seems lost on Owen. “You're such a whore!”

“Fuck you! I hate you!” Chloe shoves him back, hard in the chest. “You are such a fucking asshole!”

There’s never been any doubt in my mind that Chloe can wax poetic when the mood hits her.

I watch with some kind of morbid fascination as I pick up my pace.

The audience is appreciative enough to take up sides and whisper amongst themselves. They stand a respectful distance off, giving the two combatants a clearing in the middle to work with.

Just as I reach the back of the group, Owen's right hand balls up into a fist and cocks back.

Shit, shit, shit.

I have a new mantra running unbidden through my mind.

He's gonna hit her.

I run my eyes along the hallway searching for either a uniform or another staff member, but it’s lunchtime and everybody’s in the commons.

That's just fucking fine.

I start pushing bodies out of my way, using my elbows and shoulders and hands to clear a path and kept moving through the crowd.

“Don't leave me.” Owen's scream of pain, frustration, and anger bounces off the walls, loud and clear over the din coming from the commons. “I love you!”

He pivots on his heel.

What the fuck?

Time slows to a crawl. I watch his hand trace an arc in the air in what seems like slow motion, and then it’s through the floor to ceiling windowpane.

The sound of impact explodes as shards of glass fall everywhere. Cracks run through the glass and sun glints on the spider web pattern.

A river of blood gushes down the broken window and down Owen's right arm and hand as reflexes kick in and he pulls it back through the broken pane.

The sight and smell of the blood dripping down onto the carpet causes everyone closest to the pair to step back. The sight and smell and sound seem to start the normal flow of time for me once again.

In a confluence of the surreal and the ludicrous, I hear the sound of the bell ringing.

B lunch.

I shake myself and try to focus on what’s rapidly becoming a horrendous mess right in front of me.

In the crowd I find a familiar face, reach out and grab the attached body by the shirt.

Looking straight into the face I force the words out calm and clear. “Josh, tell Mr. Anderson to call security and the paramedics.”

The face looks scared shitless, but the body moves in the right direction once I shove it down the hallway toward Jay Anderson's classroom.

I turn my head back to the window.

Chloe’s backed off, a shade of shock and horror beyond Goth on her red, wet face as Owen slumps to the ground. The rest of the students are frozen where they stand, some wrapped around each other, and the sudden silence screams in my head as I elbow my way through the crowd.

It’s gotten an eerie kind of quiet very quickly in our little corner of the universe. Out of the corner of my eye I see Jay come out of his room down the hall.

He looks at the window and yells at me as he begins making his way down the hall. “They're on their way.”

Shit, shit, shit.

“Back off, back off. Let me through.” My voice grates loud and harsh in my ears as I push forward, shoving students out of my way. “Move, move, move.”

Shit, shit, shit.

Owen doesn't look good. Pasty pale and white faced, he's just sitting there, blood flowing off his hand and arm, dripping into the carpet, creating a spreading pool of dark red all around him. He seems to be staring in awe at the carnage he’s created.

In a twisted sort of way, he looks almost pleased.

I, however, am feeling anything but pleased. I feel like screaming, raging, and ranting. I feel like smacking him and her for creating this mess.

But that’s not going to happen because that’s not productive, appropriate, or professional.

I finally get through the crowd to kneel at Owen's side. “Owen, Owen, look at me.”

I grab for the bookbag that he’s dropped on the floor. “Can you look at me?”

The adrenaline rush kicks in and my heart starts to pound.

Shit, shit, shit.

There’s so much blood.

I rip open the bookbag, hoping to hell that he's either had gym today or had some extra practice clothes inside his bag.

God knows he wouldn't have books.

I wonder when cynical had become my default.

Owen's head swings around to meet mine as my hands close on an extra shirt in his bookbag.

Pulling it out, I look right into his face. His eyes widen as he recognizes me next to him.

“Hey, Logan.” He says it affectionately, just like he does every time he sees me.

As if he’s just entering my classroom to spend some time.

“Hey, Owen.”

He just looks at me and smiles.

He’s in shock and I have no gloves, because why would I need gloves for a simple trip to the office?

I take the shirt and start to wrap it around his right arm, direct pressure, trying to remember the training, trying to stop the bleeding.

Trying to keep the blood off me.

Because I have no gloves.

“Owen, I'm just gonna wrap this around your arm until the paramedics get here to take care of you.”

He just looks at me with his soft, goofy smile, trusting me to make this all better.

My kids all think that I can always make everything all better.

Little do they know.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Omitting Your Mistakes

This is the fourth part of what will hopefully be a nine-part entry in the River of Mnemosyne challenge that’s going on over at The Tenth Daughter of Memory.

I've never really liked the dark. If the truth be known, I've always been a little afraid of it. Maybe even a lot afraid.

I've slept with the TV on in my bedroom every night for as long as I can remember. The quiet sound of the volume on low lulls me to sleep, and the soft light allows me to orient myself and focus when I wake shaking and sweating during the night.

On good nights, the light and sound calm me enough to end the possibility of a panic attack and let me go back to sleep. On bad nights, the light lets me dress quickly enough and quietly enough not to disturb Mike too much before I make my desperate escape to the outside world.

Now, sitting in the car, in the dark, in the parking lot of the funeral home with Mike, I find the darkness welcome.

Comforting. Appropriate.

Looking up at the clear black that forms the backdrop for the shining sprinkle of stars in the night sky, I feel strangely safe. I've forgotten how beautiful and awe inspiring the night sky can be.

Here, away from the city lights that obscure its nighttime beauty, I can lose myself in a multitude of emotions and feelings that really are better left in the dark, covered by a comforting blanket of pure ebony.

We pulled in here a few minutes ago, pulled into an almost empty parking lot and now we just sit.

Silent. Waiting.

The funeral home is really quite beautiful, lit with soft white light against the clear blackness of the night sky. A tall, white, Southern colonial style building that shines in an almost ethereal way in the darkness, exuding a calm stillness that seems to offer the promise of comfort to those most sorely in need of it.

It scares the hell out of me.

She's in there. Waiting for you.

I can feel my heart already pounding in my chest, the hammering rush of my pulse reverberating in my temples.

And I’m even out of the car yet.

I don't know exactly how long we sit there, but when Mike finally speaks, his voice is calm, quiet, and soothing.

He cocks his head to slide a sidelong glance at me, almost as if measuring my stability. "You ready, babe?"

He slides his hand to my cheek and strokes it gently.

I’ve always wondered where his endless supply of affection for me comes from. It seems inexhaustible.

I think about Mark. I know he and the girls are here, I can see his car in the lot. And I wonder who’ll be doing that for him now that Heather was gone?

"I guess so." I try to will the pounding in my head into submission.

I notice the fine trembling in my hands and knot them together in my lap.

Not yet.

"You know, I've probably passed this place hundreds of times before and never thought anything of it. Never thought anything about what actually went on inside of it."

Mea culpa. My bad.

One more item I can add to my list of sins and mistakes.

Sims of omission. Sins of commission.

Omit your mistakes.

I wonder if I’ll ever reach that state of grace.

Mike turns his head and looks at me full on. His eyes reflect the moonlight coming into the car as he slides a gentle hand over my own.

Good God, when had I become so needy? So fucking weak?

A tidal wave of anger floods me and I welcome it. It’s better than the lethargy, the wasted feeling that I’ve been wrapped up in for way too long. I might not be able to feel or express grief, but I can do anger.

I can do it very well.

Do I really need so much fucking care?

"All the times the parking lot was full, someone was going through this and it never even occurred to me.” My voice is so low and harsh I don’t recognize it. “I mean, it's not like this is a grocery store or something."

"It's not like this is something people like to think about, babe."

"I know.” My fingers rub hard at my temples. “We should go. Mark and the girls will be waiting for us."

And so will Heather. She'll be waiting for you.

I reach for the handle, open the door, and step out into the night.

My body’s frozen, cold to the core, and it seems my feet are planted where I stand.

Mike comes around the front of the car and waits for me, his hand extended palm up.

A silent invitation. A silent promise.

It forces my feet to move and I take his hand.

I look up at the perfect stars shining in the perfect velvet blackness of the perfect sky.

It steals my breath.

I may not have flown in a while, but I have always loved flying at night. I want to be flying right now.

Panic pools at the base of my spine, spills out of my gut, squeezes my heart.

I want to be anywhere but here, doing anything but this, but Mike’s guiding me across the parking lot toward the well-lit entrance.

I try to let my mind fade to blank as I walk toward where I know my sister is waiting for me.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

An Ambiance of Technology

This is the third part of what will hopefully be a nine-part entry in the River of Mnemosyne challenge that’s going on over at The Tenth Daughter of Memory.

I can’t breathe.

I’m lying in a dark, dank hole in the ground and there’s something huge and heavy on my chest, crushing me and I can’t breathe.

Above me, in the dark and the shadows, someone is shoveling dirt on me. I can feel it land on my face and my body, filling in the hole around me.

I can’t breathe.

Heart pounding in my chest and gasping for breath, I try to find enough air to drag into my lungs. I’m pinned and suffocating and I can’t get my body to move.

There’s a burning in my chest, like someone’s shoved a spear on fire clean through, front to back.

It burns and I can’t breathe as I sit bolt upright in my bed, scared out of my mind, sweating, shaking, just trying to find enough air to breathe.

With years of practice my husband rolls over and reaches for me, out of habit, still half-asleep. “Are you ok?”

For all that this is our script he never fails to say the words with love and concern.

“No.” I push the strangled word through a dry, tight throat.

I was too damn hot. It was too damn hot in the room and I couldn’t breathe.

I need to move. Throwing the covers back, I roll off the bed, stand locked and rigid. Rapid-fire bursts of light from the changing images on the tv flicker in the dark, dance along the walls.

The only sound in the stillness is the roar of my pulse in my ears.

I grab the tiny bottles on the nightstand and stagger out of the bedroom.


Soft, silver light from the full-moon hanging bright-white in a black sky streams in through the foyer window, meets me at the foot of the stairs.

I throw open the door and step out onto the porch, stand barefoot on the threshold, pulling huge shuddering breaths of cold, clear, night air deep into my lungs.

It’s like a slap in the face, forcing my head to snap back in physical response. The effect on my panic is almost like magic.

Breathe in, breathe out.

The shock is just enough to knock down the terror, the panic, and along with the deep breathing I could feel the anxiety begin to back off just enough, just under the border of panic.

My fingers curl white-knuckled around the bottles in my hand. I don’t need to see the labels to know what they are.

Ambien. Lorazepam. Effexor. Wellbutrin. Clonazepam. Celexa. Buspar.

Mix and match. I think I should be able to sleep for weeks.


I think that would be really nice; a really welcome change.

So sad, too bad.

The wind shifts, a cold arctic breeze that sweeps down from the north and slides through trees and power lines already coated with a fine crystalline sheen.

A hard shiver rips through me and I wrap my arms around myself as I back into the house and close the door.


I’m wrapped up in my blanket and the spill of light from the street lamp that pools on my desk top.

Tension coils in my gut, claws its way up and out into my chest, creeps up my spine toward my shoulders. I can feel it trying to wrap its fingers around the base of my neck.

I pop the top on the Lorazapam, shake two pills into the palm of my hand.

Breathe in, breathe out.

I pop the pills and sip on my coffee as I sit and stare at the warm, backlit glow of my monitor and click in the stillness and the dark.

Upstairs my husband and children are sleeping. I imagine I can hear soft breathing and wish I could sleep like they do.

Breathe in, breathe out.

Alone is good. Quiet is good.

Better living through chemistry.

Hunched into myself, I sit and stare and click in the dark as I wait for the pills to kick in.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Fear of Writing

This is the second part of what will hopefully be a nine-part entry in the River of Mnemosyne challenge that’s going on over at The Tenth Daughter of Memory.

I’ve lived my life in limbo, ping-ponging between my myriad fears, paralyzed. At this point in time, I cling to the hope that I am more than the sum of my all of my fears, that in my roles of wife, mother, teacher, friend, I have faced, challenged, surmounted them all and reached some sort of state of grace on the other side.

I know this not to be true, yet I cling to that belief with more tenacity that I cling to all others.

If I persevere all will be well, and I will be happy. Such are dreams and illusions, hopes and hallucinations.

Between the twin torrents of my fears of failure and success lies the desert of my fear that no matter what, I am just not good enough, and that sooner or later I will be exposed as the fraud and charlatan that I am.

And between the lines of fear and blame, I wonder just how much or how long I’m doomed to repeat my mistakes.

I self-identify in the following ways: wife, mother, teacher, friend, writer. It’s telling, I think, that it is only as the last one that I see the real me. No hats, no masks, no personas or preconceptions.

I am terrified of writing. It guts me, hollows me out, when the words cut loose and pour out, cascading like they’ll never stop. Because it’s me, distilled and unedited, my self created and expressed in ways and words no one else has.

When they slide under my skin and burrow into my brain, and slash and claw but won’t come out. When they don’t come out, I am terrified of not writing. Of not being able to write.

Because if the words don’t come out, if I can’t call them, birth them, if they don’t exist, who am I?

I use words for a living. They are my tools, my weapons, and my stock in trade. I stand in front of a high school classroom of children, an average of thirty a class, a hundred a day, and spray them, sometimes scattershot, to educate, to entertain, to enlighten. After more than a decade I am comfortable in front of a classroom. I slide into teacher; put on my persona, and like an actor, the show goes on.

For over a quarter of a century I have been a wife and mother. My words have whispered my love and comfort; have created laughter and dried tears. My words have met needs; been consumed and subsumed and I see my words in my children, in my life.

But spoken words are fleeting. Written words bleed; into your soul, out through your fingers, onto a piece of paper or a blank screen and they are forever. They burn and writhe, but you can hold them, shape them, and they are you.

Sharp edged like a razor or serrated, jagged and slashing, they ghost along neural pathways, ghost in the walls, whisper in the silence and the shadows. Swirling in the obscure mist of memory, just out of reach, they murmur in the dark about love, and hope and dreams. When I fear I’ve forgotten how to dream, when I fear I can’t find the words when I really need them, they break in a wave, tidal, dragging me in and pulling me under.

And sometimes, when they run endlessly, bitter and acid, dripping with venom or dancing with joy, my head hurts from all the words; from the lack of sleep, the lack of sanity they bring me.

I’ve stood in the doorways of my children’s bedrooms and watched them sleep, listened to the soft whisper of their breathing. I counted my blessings, counted myself lucky. And later, wrapped up in the heft and the weight of the moment as the silence and the dark congeal around me, my eyes adjust to the backlit glow of a blank screen and I wait, listen for the rhythm of the words.

Sometimes I can’t quite remember, can’t quite put the pieces of the puzzle together. Everything is locked up in memory.

But I face my fear and dream, and something deep inside shifts, raw and sharp and clear as crystal, unlocks the memory, and the words flow, collide, ignite.

And I write.

Monday, February 8, 2010

A Random Memory

This is the first part of what will hopefully be a nine-part entry in the River of Mnemosyne challenge that’s going on over at The Tenth Daughter of Memory.

Sunlight glints under a clear blue sky, glistens in long chestnut hair that frames a pale, perfect face.

She stands in front of me, smiling, eyes bright and shining. Long, elegant fingers hold her mortarboard in small, fine-boned hands as she leans in to kiss me. “Hi, Mommy.”

So tiny, so happy, so proud.

The scent of vanilla, coconut, and lily of the valley tickles my nose, tightens my chest with memory. “I’m sorry I’m late.”

“That’s ok.” Her lips slide into a quiet smile, and I see the echoes of the child in the exquisite young woman she has become. “We just have to go.”

She turns and I fall into step. The staccato click of her stiletto heels pounds a backbeat on the pavement as we make our way over to State Street.

It’s more crowded here now, as we thread our way through the ebb and flow of the masses, the sea of black robes bobbing and weaving among the bodies wrapped in brightly colored fabric and finery.

The warm, mid-afternoon breeze stirs memories of late spring and the sun on my skin brings a full-body feeling of joy that anchors itself deep in my cells. An undercurrent of anticipation hums in the sun-warmed air like electricity.

I resist the urge to slide my hand around hers as we thread our way through the crushing throng. Once I had slowed, waited, her tiny hand in my mine as little legs struggled to keep up. Now I push hard not to slow her down as the rush hour traffic crawls by.

We catch a light and cross the street. The sounds of the city slip away as we climb the stairs to East Hall, push through the shiny glass and steel doors for our first stop on the evening’s program.

She herds me gently through the hallway into line.

I hate myself in pictures. They shame me. My hair is still pulled back in my teacher bun. It’s shot through with grey. There’s no makeup on my face to cover the unevenness of my skin, and I’m still in my teacher clothes.

But when she presses close I smile dutifully as our moment is captured for posterity. And then we’re off, down another hallway filled with bodies milling and gathering.

Her hand on my arm stops me and a long, elegant forefinger finds her name on the list on the wall, her achievements there for all to see.

I take the picture this time, so very careful to capture the cap and gown and the gentle curve of her smile as she stands there and I see her at five, so tiny, so happy, so proud, handing me her handprint for the refrigerator.

The memory shoots straight to my heart, my chest tightens and I can’t breathe. I lower the camera, hold it out to her.

She drops it into her bag without looking. “Want to get something to eat?”

I blink once and swallow, paint on my own smile. “Sure.”

We move down the hall shoulder to shoulder, make our way into the Psychology Atrium.

Crystal and silver gleam in the soft light spilling on white-robed tables, the dull murmur of muted conversation hums in the background as we follow the line snaking toward the Third Floor Terrace buffet.


The wind’s picked up. There’s a chill in the air and the clear blue sky has given way to a purple-pink as the sun slides lower on the horizon.

We flow with the river of people, down the sidewalk, up the white stone steps warmed by the last of the dying sun, into the Mendelssohn Theatre.

Soft, yellow light spills over the solid oak paneling, pools on the marble floor, the weight of a century of history and tradition pressing down on us as we negotiate our way down the hall for the evening’s La Celebración Latina.

There’s another line and more pictures. She slides her arm around my waist as mine goes around hers and we smile. The photographer shows us what we will look like and then we’re off, moving into a private dining room just off the hallway.

Another line, another buffet, set up along the far wall. There’s a trio playing softly in the corner of the room as we thread our way between the small groups of people seated around small-circle tables and those standing in groups.

I can tell that we’re late by what’s left on the table. I skip the salads and find the deserts, pull something that’s chocolate onto my plate, and turn, run my eyes over the room searching for a seat.

It’s been a long day. I’m tired and my feet hurt.

I find her. She’s found her friends.

Plate in hand, I watch her, the child who used to sit in my lap, and it’s a strange kind of time travel. She moves with such self-assured grace, quick kisses and hugs for everyone.

And when I look at her I see my life, my love, my dreams, my hope, the very best of me.

Her eyes come up and find me, and a delicate hand waves.

She introduces me to her friends, Roxanna and Paula, Claudia and Monica and their mothers from Ecuador and Venezuela and Mexico who don’t speak English.

I smile and nod and extend my hand and wonder what they’ve given up, what they’ve gone without to get their daughters here.

They’re calling us to line up again, parents and family in one line, graduates in another room. I check her cap and gown again before she leaves me and find my dutiful place in line.

We move in lockstep down the hall and into the darkened theatre. Running lights on the floor and the glow of the sconces on the walls guide us. I duck out of line and into a seat at the back of the theatre as the river of people flows past me.

The music starts and we stand, eyes glued to the doorways. My eyes run over the processional and finally she’s there, so tiny, so happy, so proud.

I blink against the crystalline sheen in my eyes as I take my seat and the speakers begin.

Welcome. Opening remarks. The student and keynote speakers. The awards.

I float on a river of memory. The images play in vivid technicolor and soundless, seamless progression in my mind, punctuated only by the sounds of laughter and applause.

And then it’s time. The Class stands and their names are called, loud and clear.

Tomorrow her father and brothers will sit beside me in the Big House for all the pomp and circumstance befitting a graduation. Tonight I sit wrapped up in my memories in the stillness and dark of an auditorium.

I hear her name and watch my little girl walk across the stage.

Sunday, February 7, 2010


PW over at Piedmont Writer gave me this award so a big thank you to her. Now I have to try and come up with one word answers. Here goes:

Your cell phone: rarely
Your hair: dyed
Your mother: dead
Your father: dead
Your favorite food: comfort
Your dream last night: none
Your favorite drink: tea
Your dream goal: writer
What room you are in: computer
Your hobby: writing
Your fear: success/failure
Where you see yourself in six years: older
Where you were last night: home
Something you aren't: vivacious
Muffins: yes
Wish list item: home office
Where did you grow up: Chicago
Last thing you did: make dinner
What are you wearing: sweats
Your tv: which one?
Your pets: none
Friends: real 12, online lots
Your life: exhausting
Your mood: down
Missing someone: not really
Vehicle: Pontiac
Something you aren't wearing: hat
Your favorite store: Pottery Barn
Your favorite color: black
When was the last time you laughed: hysterically?
Last time you cried: can’t remember
Your best friend: Jaime
One place you go over and over: my head
Facebooking: sometimes
Favorite place to eat: diners

And there you have it. My list. I have to pass this on so it goes to:

Eva at Writing Between the Lines because she likes shiny things. :)

Friday, February 5, 2010


It’s Friday of another long, brutal week. And once again my brain is fried. But I’ve been thinking about voice and POV, and so I leave you with 915 words of an experiment in second person.
You know it’s your fault. You know it when you look at her. When you watch her, knowing that she doesn’t know you’re there.

You remember kissing her, promising her things that you couldn’t possibly ever give her.

Life. Love. Hope. Happiness.

A promise that everything would be all right.

You lied.

You remember kissing her, the familiar tingle of electricity shooting from the tips of your hair straight down your spine to curl your toes.


You remember holding her on your lap, pressed tightly to you, arms and legs and lips tangled. Feeling her under your hand as her body collapsed against yours.

It’s been five years.

Life goes on.

You remember promising her love, kissing her with all the passion, hope, truth you still had left to offer her to seal your covenant, putting your mother’s ring on her finger.

Love endured.

She is yours and you are hers. Finally. Always. It’s as simple and as honest as that. You’ll follow her anywhere, beside her all the way. You won’t be left behind.

But there are ghosts here. Her. You. Your unborn child who lingers in the walls, whispers in the silence and the shadows, echoes in your heartbeat.

You step into your room. Not quietly like you used to, when she used to hear you. You don’t have to be quiet anymore.

She doesn’t hear you.

You wonder what she thinks. What she sees when she searches that blank void with dead eyes.

Can she see him? There in the cobweb of memory? Your eyes, her hair, your wits, her skills?

Everything that isn’t. Wasn’t. Wouldn’t ever be.

You see untold stories, a fairy tale with a happily ever after, untossed balls, and laughter. You remember laughter. With her.

You don’t think she does.

You come to stand behind her, rest your hands on her shoulders and she shifts away, tries to hide something.

You know what it is. A possibility. Taken a life time ago. The image black and white and grainy. A small thing, really. No bigger than your thumbprint.

Something beautiful you both still remember.

It was more.

You take the picture from her gently; lay it reverently on the table next to her brush. You turn her in your arms, skim your fingertips lightly down her arms, and entwine your hands.

She’d loved you, given you your future, and a happiness you’d only dreamed of.

You let your fingers move to circle her waist, brushing lightly against satin skin as you lift the hem of her shirt. She puts her arms up obediently and you slide it off, toss it into the corner.

You’ll get it tomorrow.

You broke her. You’d tried to fix her, but she was never the same. She’s your dead girl walking.

But you’d grinned your half-assed grin at her, pressed your lips to her scars, and watched her paint on her porcelain smile, shroud her bruised eyes.

And then you broke her some more.

It’s what you did.

What you couldn’t fix, you broke. And every day with you, you watched her die a little more, killing yourself.

Tears like rain, flowing like wine, like the sky bleeding.

Your fingertips slide down the silky trail of her spine, under the waistband of her pants and around. You undo the fastener and zipper as you gently kiss her mouth, rest your forehead against hers, and breathe the same air.

You slide the leathers over her hips to pool on the floor at her feet.

You take her hands again and she steps out of them. Long, pale legs and still graceful, she stands before you. You still think she is the most beautiful thing you have ever seen.

The more you wanted to fix her, the more you broke her.

It’s what you were good at.

She’s the only thing you’ve ever been afraid of losing. You’re here. She’s here. You won’t waste another second of time apart from her.

You’ll go down with your ship.

You sit her down in the chair and begin your nightly ritual.

You breathe deep as you run the brush through the waterfall of ebony that cascades down her back. You’ve always loved running your fingers through that river of silk, the scent and feel of it.

She hasn’t brushed her own hair in five years.

It’s all kinds of wrong, on all kinds of levels. Different shades of grey.

But it’s everything you always wanted. Everything you’d ever dreamed.

Your perfect circle.

You want to live with her. Want to give her what she needs. You want her to know that.

Touch. Warmth. Strength. Connection.

You’ll never let anything ever come between you again.

You put the brush down, pull her up close and wrap her in your arms. She nuzzles at your chest. It’s almost like she’s searching for your heart, where it should be but isn’t.

She’d taken it the first time you’d laid eyes on her.

Beautiful. It’s what she is. What she’s always been. What she always will be to you.

You lead her to bed, lay yourself down beside her. She nestles in your arms, scoots herself back. You spoon yourself around her, hand tangled in her hair, her back to your chest, your legs tangled in hers.

“We’re gonna be okay.”


It’s not a lie, just a necessary untruth. She believes it because she trusts you fully.


You whisper a kiss into her hair and close your eyes.