Category Archives: Creative Writing

A Poem for my Friend

10301515_10101125694356362_5792222484213705208_nMy beautiful, kind-hearted friend Michelle Monachino recently passed away, and I’ve been feeling miserable as I deal with losing such a wonderful beacon of light in my life. Michelle used to write me poems all the time (most of which made fun of me for being short or for enjoying editing), and I realized that I never wrote her one back. Ever. That’s definitely one of my biggest regrets, which may seem silly, but I just wish I wrote her a poem at least once. So I figured, even though I suck at poetry, better late than never.

Michelle, Michelle
I want to scream, I want to yell
At you, at strangers, at the sky
But instead I’ll opt for a heavy sigh

Could I have done more?
Should I have done less?
This whole situation has my brain in a mess

When we met freshman year
On Whitney’s third floor, full of innocent fear
You described yourself as a JewBu
And I needed to know more about you

Who was this cool chick
With big curly hair and a free spirit aura
I knew I had to befriend this girl from my floor

So we gossiped and had sleep overs and drank too much beer
After all, it was freshman year
There was that one party where I wore baggy sweatpants
A moment that you never let me forget

And through ups and downs in that first college year
It never escaped my sentimental attention
That you were my first friend at good ol’ Binghamton

By junior year you were living on my couch
Wait, did I say couch?
I meant in my bed
That is where you were actually living instead

Times spent together were always a blast
We danced and sang and formed a fake band
Jammed out to Backstreet Boys with our feet in the sand

Watched movies and ate way too much food
Did yoga and talked about all of our moods
We bonded over our varying worries
I knew I could always go to you when my heart was in flurries

We wrote in our journals e parlavamo in italiano
Reminisced about past moments that felt so clear
And entertained ideas of futures too near

And although we didn’t see each other in over a year
We both held our friendship ever so dear
Plus, we were connected through all kinds of digital means
And now when I miss you, I can pull your words up on a screen

These upcoming days are going to be rough
I’m fated to cry pretty much every time
I hear Britney or BSB make a clever rhyme

And if I see anything that resembles high fashion
Or a woman dressed with Audrey Hepburn inspired passion
I’ll think of the time Shana and I coached you for your audition
(America’s Next Top Model doesn’t know what they were missing)

The memories abound and feel almost overwhelming
But what I’ll miss most, it’s undoubtedly true
Are our long conversations, just me and you

You’ll always be one of my closest, best friends
That’s a promise I’ll hold till the end
And despite the fact that you’re no longer here
I’ll think back on our memories with nothing but cheer

I miss you, Michelle
There’s nothing more true
And please don’t forget that I’ll love you forever, too

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Holidaze

xmasturkeyAs I navigate Times Square’s fresh influx of holiday tourists guided by hot chocolate-fueled fervors, I reignite my disdain for large, confused crowds. And yet, the holiday cheer is addictive—my lips twist into a foreign smile as I dance through their frenzied, buzzing clusters with my own agenda taking the wheel. I’m possessed by the spirit of Santa Claus; move out of my way, and save yourselves!

Each year the act of gift giving catches me in its riptide, pulling me this way and that as I seek out presents that’ll make an impression and leave the recipients temporarily lost for words. I search for the unique, the outrageous, the unforgettable. My stores of choice are folding tables buckling under the weight of too many knickknacks manned by craftsmen and women who offer an unrivaled present along with the tale of their company’s origin.

Bryant Park assaults me with Christmas cheer, my senses overwhelmed across the board. My nose itches with the sweet temptation of wafels and dinges; my ears are assailed by Mariah Carey as she shrieks that all she wants is me—me; can you believe it?—for Christmas this year; my gloved hand yearns to be enveloped by another as we glide across the glassy ice rink and off into the sunset; and my eyes take it all in: a blur of memories tinted red and green, able to be recalled with the jingle of a bell.

As I leave the park with gifts nestled nice and snug in bags, I’m met with cries: “Donate your change! Come on, lady, have a heart—it’s the holidays after all!” Take my laundry change, Mickey Mouse, and make sure you share with Minnie and all your other mascot-laden friends. It only burdens my pockets around this time of the year anyway.

And yet as I drift off into a snow globe cyclone, a brief moment of clarity shakes me to my core. Why, it’s still November. In fact, we haven’t even celebrated Thanksgiving yet. And if I recall correctly, last week saw temperatures that mirror the vernal equinox. And this ice skating rink where parents are releasing their children for minutes of relief is the one and the same that was melting last week as it attempted to cool itself down during record-shattering high temperatures.

My reality crashes down around me. Mickey, Minnie—COME BACK! I need that change for my laundry after all; it appears my Christmas cheer is premature!

I stuff gloved fists into warm pockets and return to crowd pushing and shouldering to get through my day’s tasks. Every now and then the tinkle of a bell or the glint of silver tinsel catches my eye from a shop window. But alas, I won’t fall victim to Manhattan’s untimely Christmas cheer again. At least not until Thanksgiving is over anyway.

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Catcalls

catcall“Come here pretty baby, aww you’re so fine. Come here pretty girl, I just want to make you mine.”

We (and when I say we, you know exactly who I’m referring to here) all know how this one goes. A person comes near you, gets way too close, and whispers seemingly sweet words that are dripping in not-so-hidden meanings. Pretty baby? Make you mine? Oh, puh-lease.

Maybe I invite this kind of behavior, or maybe I somehow deserve this. Am I strutting in a provocative way? Do I look extra cute today? I try to figure out every day what it is about me that compels people to feel so bold, as if they’re able to just walk up to me and tell me that I should go home with them. Every. Day. This is actually a situation that I face every single day of my mere 28 years. I’m practically a child still, yet there’s this weird urge for people to domesticate me. Straight to the kitchen for the rest of my life, am I right?

Not me, though. Nope. No way. I’m not like some of the others. I’ve seen a bunch of my peers get giddy for these types of remarks, and then six months later they’re trapped in the home all the time. It works for them, but not me. I’m a free spirit–you can’t tame me! Call me wild, if you will. It isn’t necessarily true, but sometimes I like to think I can channel it as if I’m reaching my roots somehow.

Oh geez, here it comes again. Another one. I can hear the whistles from a mile away, and it’s not just because I have fantastic hearing. This is a different type of whistle, the kind that’s directed right at me in order to capture my attention, and with any luck, my heart. Not going to happen, buddy. Sorry!

“Come here! Come here, cutie. Aw, you’re so sweet! Baby, look at that pretty little girl. Is she a tiger cat or a tabby? I can never tell the difference. Aw, no! She’s running away! Come here pretty baby, aww you’re so fine! Come here pretty girl, I just want to make you mine!”

I dodge their dirty hands (I spend enough time cleaning my fur, I don’t need some total stranger touching it–thank you very much!), and hide under a car. Humans are so rude, total and utter pigs. Maybe if they could spend a day in my paws they’d understand how this is not an okay way to treat others.

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My Boyfriend’s Bad Habits

I wrote this story for my writing club for a prompt to write something about drinking. I think I went sufficiently dark and terrifying…again…with this one. Not sure what that says about me, but I also don’t think I want to know.

——

Eric looked different. Scary. I could tell it was happening again and I had an internal panic attack. A dark cloud passed through him and took up a temporary residence, his face enveloped in shadows like a cliché evil villain. He tossed back another gulp of his draft with his eyes fixated on the television screen. The Knicks were losing, badly, which meant that Eric was probably losing money. Badly.

I shifted uncomfortably in my bar stool and looked at my friend Anya and her boyfriend Ted who barely seemed to notice. Maybe it was because Eric was always wasted lately, or maybe they were trying to be polite. But more likely the charismatic man that I fell in love with two years ago fooled them. Most people went out for drinks and many of them got pissed when their favorite sports teams lost. That’s what I chalked it up to before I realized how deep his anger and addictions went.

Anya had been—was—my best friend. We met in college and lived together for three years and were pretty much inseparable. But then I met Eric two years ago and she met Ted, so we moved out of our shared apartment and in with our boyfriends. College was a place for us to rebel against our conservative upbringings. We were walking clichés. We became vegetarians and rallied on campus for equal rights and environmental awareness. Moving back to a big city after our small-town college experience slowly broke our rebelling spirits, and we fell into the very patterns we so adamantly tried to avoid. When we did see each other now, we played the same small talk, catching up games that acquaintances play with one another.

I tried to approximate how many beers he’d drank, but started to get a little confused. I wasn’t drunk; hell, I wasn’t even tipsy—once I saw the effects alcohol had on Eric, I took up sobriety without even realizing. A clear head helped me to protect myself better anyway. Whatever the exact number was, his count probably laid around eight or nine beers while the game was well into the fourth quarter. Ted and Anya were deep in some conveniently distracted conversation, but I needed to get some space and try to think up a strategy to protect myself.

“I’m going to run to the bathroom.”

I tried to catch Anya’s eye so she would come with me, and whether intentionally or not, she dodged my glance. With my bag slung over my shoulder, I began to leave until I felt Eric’s large hand devour my wrist. I sat back down and pretended to fidget in my purse for something while I dug my nails into his knuckles and tried to loosen his grip. He hadn’t looked away from the television until a commercial broke onto the screen and he finally met my gaze. His hazel eyes reminded me of the man I fell in love with two years earlier. The green-brown mixed with sadness, holding the part of him that didn’t want to hurt me, the part of him that didn’t enjoy drinking and gambling. Like a scared child locked in a dark room, the darkness mostly overshadowed the last remaining pieces of who he was when he wasn’t drunk.

I fondly remembered the charming accountant that won my heart in a drunken game of darts then swept me off my feet with a romantic first date. Dark brown hair and a muscular build that loomed almost an entire foot over me. In the beginning I always felt protected by Eric, but the more comfortable he became around me meant that he was able to change into the person he really was underneath the façade. I only saw him as a dangerous threat now, even when others complimented me on how lucky I was for finding such a great catch.

“Where are you going?” his voice slithered out of his mouth and his eyes burned my cheeks.

“I…I’m just going to the bathroom,” I floundered as I tried to mask my shaking voice.

His grip released as the cheering fans inside the television returned, but I felt his gaze glaring through my back. I hopped off the seat and mumbled something about finding lipstick in my purse.

In the bathroom, a pale face stared back at me. My skin clung desperately to my bones as I tried to quickly count up how many pounds I’d lost in the last year and a half since Eric’s gambling really spun out of control. The freckles that normally danced across my nose and splashed onto my cheeks were faded to the point where I barely noticed them. My hair looked unkempt and stringy, the previously strawberry blonde waves now grayish and flat. I dampened a paper towel and placed it on my neck then dipped it into the sunken creases of my cheeks. My eyes even looked dim and I tried to remember where my energy and fire for life went. My life became robotic as I went through the motions yet my focus was always on how to avoid the next fight. My hands were shaking and icy so I ran them under warm water in attempt to bring them back to life. A blueish-green shadow was forming on my wrist already from where Eric grabbed me, and I pulled my maroon sweater sleeve down to cover up the evidence. I don’t know how long I was actually in the bathroom. My fifteen-minute escape felt like a weeklong vacation. Someone came in and interrupted my time away, and I tried to make it look like I was fixing my hair instead of daydreaming about how to escape my life.

Pushing out of the bathroom door, I released the breath I’d been holding since I really looked at myself. I had to sit down alone and figure out how the hell I let myself become this person. I wasn’t the type of girl who let a man control her, let alone lay a hand on her. I channeled the diehard feminist of my late teens and early 20s. Womyn not women and everything that entailed. Now I’m the type of girl who hides bruises with makeup and concealing clothing and avoids talking to her friends. Three years ago, I would’ve been screaming it from the rooftops if my boyfriend laid a hand on me. I straightened my shoulders and adjusted my posture, my back creaking out of its comfortable slouching position. I should meet up with some of my regularly ignored best friends. I needed to talk to someone and share my suffering with someone else. The first step to recovery is to admit when you need help, and I finally felt sick of playing the victim.

Maybe it was because I was lost in a cloud of rare confidence or maybe it was because the light was broken outside the bathroom, but Eric blindsided me. People in the hall snickered and clutched their drinks dramatically to stop them from spilling as they assumed we were just wasted and looking for a place to make out. Eric pushed me up against the wall crushing me to it, the wood panels giving my lower back a painful massage. My breath squeezed out of my diaphragm as I desperately tried to keep it within me, confidence fleeting as it gushed out.

“Eric, you’re hurting my back.” I tried to keep my voice low to avoid a fight about how I caused a scene. I raised my arms to push him off me and relieve the pressure on my lungs, but he encased them both in one of his oven mitt hands.

“What took you so long, sweetie?” His voice crept out of his mouth as if it were coming from somewhere deep inside him.

“I was just fixing my hair.” As much as I tried to keep my voice from quavering, it once again faltered and gave away my fear.

“The Knicks lost,” he said as he pushed his body harder into my chest and planted a hard kiss on my forehead. “Let’s get the fuck out of here.”

Air whooshed into my body, refreshing and refilling me. Eric’s fingers wrapped around my already bruised wrist, settling into the familiar grooves created less than an hour earlier. He pulled me back to our table and my body felt like it was totally out of my control again. My shoulders fell back into their protective slumped position and I could barely remember what having hope felt like. I quickly wrapped my winter jacket over my shoulders as Eric talked to Ted about the basketball game they just witnessed. My mind was in full-blown panic mode trying to think up a way to avoid a fight when we got back to our apartment, but as always I actually knew it was impossible.

“Bye Sarah,” I heard Anya’s voice break into my thoughts. She sounded almost impatient and her sky blue eyes were full of concern and doubt.

“Oh, sorry. Bye Anya,” I said as I tried to avoid her gaze. As I turned around, I broke character. With my last bit of hope inspired from my earlier surge of confidence, I turned back to my friend and looked her dead in the eyes. “I’ll call you tomorrow, maybe we can grab coffee. Just us girls.”

Her lips tightened into a smile that I recognized from years of friendship, her shiny blonde hair and sparkling eyes were the inspiring light that I needed to latch onto. The familiar smile masked the genuine concern and anxiety that I knew would take hold of her until my call. “That sounds great! See you then.”

Anya’s anxiety probably peaked and finally diminished after she didn’t hear from me. There was no surprise; I became such a flake after I moved in with my boyfriend that she probably didn’t think my offer was genuine from the start anyway. Eric must have overheard our conversation at the bar because he made sure that night that our coffee date never occurred.

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A Sinner’s Wedding

I wrote this for an old prompt and realized I never posted it!

——

wedding

“I, Victoria, take you Paul, to be my husband. To have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; until death do us part.”

My husband stood next to me in a crisp black tuxedo with a baby blue tie on. His dark brown hair was recently cut and parted to the left. His brown eyes crinkled in a smile making his freckles dance and I knew that this was genuinely the happiest he ever felt. I smiled back as I looked into the face of the person I loved, my best friend. Icy blue eyes, with bouncy blonde curls shaping a round, tanned face. The light green dress I chose, mostly because I knew how well it would compliment her, made her radiate with warmth and energy. I was in love with the most beautiful bridesmaid at my wedding.

Paul’s freckled cheek obscured my vision as he came in for the kiss, catching me completely off guard. I guess he said yes. If anything, my awkward unawareness must have made me look more endearing to the guests, because I heard a few aww’s and giggles from the first rows. I was a married woman now and it happened quicker than I thought it would.

It wasn’t a huge ceremony, and Paul and I walked out holding hands to the crowd of congratulations awaiting us. People threw rice in my face and I watched my mother, my two sisters, three of my aunts, and both grandmothers making the sign of the cross and muttering rapidly to themselves. My father reached me first with glossy eyes and a red nose.

“My little angel,” he cracked. “My girl.”

My eyes started a well up a little and I beamed at him. It reassured me to see how confident he was in the path I chose at least. “Oh, daddy.”

He hugged me and rested his head on my shoulder letting out a sigh. “God’s going to watch over you two. Ya’ll will be protected by our Lord.”

“Thanks, daddy. I know.”

I headed for the car with my new husband followed by a flock of female family members. We squished into a limousine, making the lavish space feel cramped and humid. My head swirled with southern accents and praise for Jesus while I watched one of my aunts as she finished up prayers on her Rosary beads. Sensing my growing anxiety, Paul squeezed my sweating hand. Unfortunately, it didn’t bring the desired comfort and only helped raise my heartbeat. I was looking for a smaller and less coarse hand to hold. The idea helped bring my anxiety to a more manageable level.

We arrived at the banquet hall where the reception would be held. Paul and I decided on having a modest wedding with our few close friends and family members. His family was on the small side while mine spanned halfway across Arkansas. Recently though a lot of relatives had discovered California and marijuana,  leaving us with our bibles and a sour taste in our mouths.

We walked inside and my other, less publicized reason for never wanting to leave ran up to me, embracing me in a hug that I dreamt about. A wave of fresh flowers and warm vanilla sugar rushed up my noise and I held my breath to keep the scent captive.

“Oh my goodness, girl, you’re MARRIED!” She squeezed me tighter and my wedding finally made sense if it kept me at this moment for longer. “I’m gonna miss you so much!”

Fear gripped my heart as my moment was destroyed. “Miss me?” I said barely above a hoarse whisper.

“Of course!” she leaned back and her curls bounced with her. “Well now that you’s a married woman, we ain’t gonna be able to hang out as much! I sure will be lonely ‘round here. Heck, maybe I’ll move. I have some cousins over at California and boy, do they love it. Maybe I’ll make a visit out soon and see if I like it much!”

“Gina, don’t be insane, I’ll never leave you behind! I love you!” I felt like the words were coming out of mouth too quickly already and knew if I didn’t slow down now I might lose control and destroy a life or two. I took a deep breath to gather myself and steady my shaking hands.

“You know you’re my closest friend. I can’t just forget you since I have a husband now. That’s just plain crazy.”

Gina smiled and replied, “Well good, because I feel like I would just hate California. It’s so big, I can’t even imagine! I’d be so dang lost!”

We both laughed, and while I was preoccupied, my hand took the initiative that I was always too afraid to make. It found its way into the soft, warm sanctity of her small left hand and prepared itself for a long stay. Her laugh trailed off and her big blues looked into my boring brown eyes, and I recognized the fleeting look of another girl afraid to disobey God.

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Birthday Anxieties

birthdayI wrote this for my first writing club prompt ever almost a year ago. It’s probably one of my favorite stories I’ve ever written.

——

“Well, today is the day,” I told myself as I lay under the protection of my blankets, as still as a corpse with my dread.

Today was the day I’ve been pretending to look forward to while secretly having anxiety attacks over for months. The day that every single person I encountered loved to remind me would only come once, accompanied with a smug grin that I read as thankful to not be me. The day of my daughter’s fourth birthday party was finally here and after months of careful preparation, I felt like someone threw all my organized plans into the wind and laughed as they blew away.

I prepared myself mentally for the mess and made to-do lists in my mind that I checked and re-checked. I thought of everything and knew it, but there was still the one part I could not come to terms with. And for a well-accomplished single mother of thirty, I felt incredibly childish and in need of a savior.

My alarm started chiming and interrupted my thoughts, but let’s be realistic – how could I have slept in today? As if on cue, I heard the pitter-patter of little feet coming down the hallway towards my bedroom. A knock that wasn’t about to wait for any response came, and the face of my birthday girl peeked around the open brown door.

“Mommy?” A hesitant pause and then, “Mommy, are you awake?”

I put a smile on my face before rolling over and answered, “Yes, baby. Good morning!”

A ball of energetic color flew at me and was now bouncing up and down on my bed. Curly brown hair shadowed me on each jump.

“It’s. My. BIRTHDAY!” she said each word as her feet hit the comforter, with a grin that wouldn’t stop growing. She crashed down into a cross-legged sitting position and I grabbed her up and kissed her forehead.

“I know, sweetie, I remember!” I said as I moved her into my arms and started rocking her in my lap. “So, what do you want for breakfast this morning?” Her eyes lit up at the prospect of being able to make the first big decision of the day. I made a check on my mental to-do list.

“Pancakes! No, waffles! With syrup! And french fries!” Her eyes were glossed over as she thought about the myriad of options she had. If only such a simple decision could be the hardest part of my day, too. The doorbell rang and I heard it echo through the still sleeping house.

“Wanna answer the door while Mommy gets dressed real quick?” Another present, another check, and her eyes grew to take up half her face. She blurred out of the room again towards the front door.

I began changing out of my pajamas and heard, “It’s Aunt Meg and TYLER!” screamed at me from the front of the house. My sister Meg and her six-year-old son here to reinforce that this was going to be a day to remember. A soft knock at the door came, and Meg was walking in as I was buttoned up my blouse.

“Oh my god, are you so excited?” She came over to me and hugged me. “This day is going to be over before you know it! They only turn four once.”

I turned my back to her to pick up my shoes. Was I going to have to hear these statements for the rest of my life? I knew my daughter was going to grow up faster than I wanted and that each day would literally only happen once. It was on the border of comical and annoying how often people opted to tell me that.

“Come on, I’m making Sammy some waffles and french fries for breakfast. Birthday girl’s choice,” I responded to her arched eyebrow.

We went into the kitchen and saw two eager, angelic faces peeking over the table. I rummaged around in the freezer for food. Unfortunately I wasn’t a very inventive cook, which was another stressor for this whole party.

I ordered enough food to feed the thirty-five people coming at least three times. Sandwiches, salads, pastas, and finger foods. My mother was bringing the giant ice cream cake meant for fifty and the sandwiches since she was the only person I knew that had enough room for that much food.

I took a deep breath to suppress the nerves that were beginning to flutter around again as I set the waffles and fries on the table. Tyler looked shocked, but it didn’t stop him from covering his plate in syrup as soon as it was put in front of him.

The doorbell rang again and my eyes widened with anxiety and fear. My heart felt like it had stopped to prevent me the horror of seeing who it might be.

Oh god,” I thought. “He’s here. He’s here! I can’t do this!” I wanted to run away and hide in my bed again.

I heard a soft bahhh as I forced myself to walk to the front door and the fear melted away. My shoulders went back down and I let out of gust of air. Safe for now.

I opened the door to find a large, balding man with a baby goat and a sheep. His shirt and hands were stained with dirt and other questionable brown splotches. In one hand he held two ropes leashed to the animals and the other had planks of wood and coils of wire.

“I’m the petting zoo guy,” he said as he reeled in the curious animals sniffing at my skirt. “I’m Louis.”

“Right,” I said slipping between the goat and Louis. “Let me show you where you can set up.”

Louis and his animals followed me into the backyard, past his truck where I heard more bahh’s and, I swear, a moo. We walked through the gate into my transformed yard where two covered buffet tables, three tents (in case it rained, of course), and enough chairs to seat Sammy’s entire pre-school class plus parents waited. I directed Louis to a shaded area in the corner of the yard where he could set up his pen and lay down the hay. And, somehow, I just knew that I would be picking up that hay for the next five years.

My shoulders were already feeling tense again as I returned to the house and left Louis to set up the zoo. It’d be best if he just showed up already and I wouldn’t have to deal with this dread clinging to my muscles anymore. I wish he wouldn’t show up at all. It was an empty hope because Sammy specifically asked that he be here today, and I couldn’t disappoint my daughter.

I checked off the petting zoo in my mind and the doorbell rang again. I hardly had time to see the mess the kids made of their breakfasts, but I knew it was substantial.

“Meg, can you clean Sammy up and help her change into her birthday dress while I get the door? I think some friends might be here.” I gave my daughter a sneaky smile as her eyes lit up again. She grabbed Meg’s wrist with a sticky hand and pulled her towards the stairs. Maybe this day wouldn’t be as horrible as I imagined if I got to see her face light up all day.

As I opened the door with a more optimistic spirit this time, a chorus of incomprehensible screams smacked me in the face. I saw shiny glittering presents, balloons, and I think someone even threw confetti in the air.

“Wow,” I started as I tried to gather myself while presents were shoved into my arms and people walked past me into the house. “Hello…er, everyone.”

It looked as if the entire class had carpooled together in five cars. “At least I won’t have to keep leaving the party to answer the door,” I thought, trying to deceive my panicking brain with positive thoughts.

I began to check off another part of my list and close the door, but not before a hand shot through to stop it. “Oh, and don’t forget about me!” came a deeper voice. A voice I knew only far too well from the darkest depths of the twisted part of my mind.

He pulled the door from my hand and I saw his evil face veiled in a shadow. Covered in shimmering fabric with colorful face paint and a curly orange wig, he was a cliché straight from my nightmares. My voice caught in my throat where my heart was also trapped as it tried to escape. And before I could do anything, he was walking past me into the house, squeaking as he moved.

“I’m Ben, but you can call me Bubbles today,” he said with a grin painted on his face. “Four years old, huh? I’ve got two of my own; they grow up so darn fast! This is one of those moments that’ll only happen once, but she’ll remember it forever, y’know.” He laughed a high-pitched, escalating laugh. I followed Bubbles the clown into my once safe house and made a last mental check for the day that my daughter and I would remember forever.

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Expires in Three Months

grimPrompt: Please write your thoughts, as yourself, which you would have if you were told you had three months left to live from terminal cancer.

——

Blood buzzes in my ears with my biggest fear. Death. Dying. The unknown. Where do we go? What happens to us? The fact that we live to die and accept that it all ends with a big bang, a burst of pain, a flash of lights. I guess I’ll be finding out sooner than expected.

My mind flip flops between being relieved with knowing my expiration date and feeling terrified of it. Is it worse to never know when the inevitable is about to sneak up on you or to know exactly where that bastard lurks?

Calmness drips over my mind and absorbs my emotions. For the first time in my life, my thoughts were quiet. They didn’t know what to say; the constant babble of words and phrases came to a screeching halt. “I’m sorry. You have approximately three months left to live. There’s nothing else we can do here.” Cue silence.

I pictured my grandparents, my aunt, and all the other deceased I still grieved for. I felt an unthought of yearning to be reunited with these people, and while I knew that plenty of lives would be destroyed by embracing my ultimate fear, picturing their faces made me smiling. Here I was, sitting in my doctor’s office after being told I was about to die in three months, with a grin on my goddamn face.

I gathered my bag and headed out the door. Outside of the building, the colors of the real world shocked me. Greens, blues, yellows, and reds stung my eyes. The wind tickled my neck and the roar of distant traffic seemed impossibly close. I felt my vision close off on the sides of my eyes and I saw myself standing on the sidewalk as if from above.

Reality came crashing down. I was going to mother fucking die. Soon. Me. Die. Forever. Never married, never having children, never finding true love, never getting my masters degree. All of my life goals suddenly became unobtainable dreams.

My knees buckled and my shaking hands desperately raked through my hair. My vision blurred with tears. I thought of my mother, my brothers, my father, my cousins, my friends. I didn’t have a boyfriend whose heart I was going to break, but there were enough others to go around. I don’t want this. I don’t want this. Please, someone. Please.

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Unexpected Nap Time

sleepparalysisI wrote this story based on a prompt about an unexpected occurrence.

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I need a nap. Immediately. This is an emergency. Have I ever been this tired in my entire life? My twin bed with its scratchy green quilt never looked so ideal. My body collapsed onto the mattress and bounced once dramatically as my arms worked the blankets around me, encasing me into a cocoon of comfort. I arranged my three pillows so that if I rolled in any direction, I would land on a soft, plush surface. As soon as I lay down, something felt different. Sleep overtook me immediately, which usually never happens. I’m more of a toss-and-turn for twenty minutes kind of girl.

I didn’t do much before getting home, but felt stressed all day. Finals week will do that to you, though. With five tests and four ten page minimum papers due in the next week, I should probably have started some research before this past Monday. Mental exhaustion has enveloped me, which I blamed for my effortless transition from awake to sleep.

BOOM. A loud noise woke me up suddenly, but my body was frozen from being pulled out of such a deep rest. I rubbed my eyes awake and swung my legs over the side of the bed to investigate. Or I should have. Those are the signals my brain was sending my body parts, yet I hadn’t moved.

I tried to lift my arms and legs again, but they refused to listen. I felt as if my body was made of metal and my mattress was a magnet. Another loud noise made me want to scream and run for help. My heart made up for what my body couldn’t do by leaping into my throat and beating with a fierceness that threatened to choke me. My eyes darted around freely, taking advantage of the only movement I still had.

What was happening in my house? Was anyone hurt? My parents were both at work still, but maybe a neighbor would swoop in to help if something dangerous was happening.

BOOM. This time it was accompanied by screams. They were shrill and sounded like they came from inside my eardrums. My body broke out in goose bumps and a cold sweat coated my skin as the screams died down. Another chorus of shrieking followed, but this time I noticed that it sounded like children. Kids? I was the youngest one in the house and I was 22. Who the hell was screaming?

This time it very obviously came from outside my door. Run, scream, do something! My mind urged, but my body remained stuck and my voice was trapped underneath the heart crammed in my throat. I struggled to keep my eyes open as they attempted to plunge me back into the blackness of sleep. The peaceful fluttering of my lids to the tune of faceless, screeching children drenched me in a new coat of sweat.

I noticed for the first time how dark my room appeared, especially since I went to bed at 3:00 in the afternoon when the sun was fully out. I knew I didn’t sleep for this many hours before the crashing noises began, but it seemed as dark as the middle of the night. My eyes roamed to their limits, taking in all my normal surroundings to stop them closing and inducing sleep. My body felt heavy and I was aware of every body part I couldn’t move.

The shadows dripped like oil down the walls, thick and threatening. They lengthened as the screams climaxed to their loudest pitches and shortened as they died down again. It was a cycle, as if the room breathed with these noises. As if the room was the one screaming in agony.

Suddenly my door was thrown open and my mom stood there. She looked completely unnerved by the sounds and appearance of my room. Her blonde hair was flawless and her grey button-down seemed like it wouldn’t wrinkle even if you crumpled it into a tiny ball. Her skin seemed to glow and reflect light back into the room. The screams ceased as she walked toward me and the shadows disappeared.

I wanted to call out, ask her for help, but the words stuck to my tongue as if I was chewing glue. My eyes stared with the desperation my voice wanted to express. They dramatically shot around my sockets to emphasize the situation, but she didn’t appear to notice.

“Allie,” she said. Her voice sounded light and carefree; it was the same voice I grew up with. The familiarity warmed me and restored some normality to my heart rate. “Allie, what do you want for dinner?”

What. The. Fuck. Mom. Dinner? How about the banging and screaming, or the fact that I’ll apparently never walk again?

“I made chicken parm, is that good? Allie, I’m making chicken parm.”

BOOM. She was gone. The dripping on the walls inched closer to my mattress and my heartbeat sped up at the thought of it reaching me, which seemed imminent.

BOOM. Followed by the loudest screams yet, and now, crying.

It was coming from my room. More precisely it was coming from next to me, which I couldn’t see because my damn head wouldn’t move. My eyes struggled at the furthest point of my peripherals and burned as they tried to go farther than their limits. I mentally flexed my muscles and tried to push them to move, flail, reach out, run.

“You’re going to die,” came a hissing voice in my ear. I watched the slimy shadows reach my covers and felt as if my life were about to end.

WAKE UP, ALLIE! My mind rang out above the screaming children, the crying, the booming as the walls dripped and I noticed they were actually a deep red color.

Wake up? My eyes shot up and my body convulsed, throwing all the covers to the floor. I sat up in my bed with my heart returned to its rightful place in my chest, but still moving at an unnaturally fast pace. Sunlight coated my bedroom with warmth and the house was silent, aside from my raspy gasping as I sucked down air. I breathed like I had been suffocated and finally set free again.

I heard keys tinkling in the kitchen and ran to my bedroom door. My mom stood in the kitchen, removing her winter coat to reveal a neat, grey button-down shirt.

“Mom?”

“Hey, hon,” she said. Her voice was fatigued and she had bags under her eyes. “I just had such a long day, I’m exhausted.”

“Mom, did you just get home?”

She looked at me, lacking patience or sympathy for what I had just gone through. “Allie, yes. You watched me take my coat off.”

“Right. Mom,” I said. “What’s for dinner?”

My mom stared at me, annoyed. “Dinner? It’s 3:30 in the afternoon! I don’t know; let me look at what I have in the fridge. Are you all right?’

“I don’t know,” I responded, still somewhat unsure of how I felt. “Yeah, I am. I think I just had a really bad dream when I took a nap.” A chill swept down my spine as I remembered the experience.

I watched my mom unpack her purse and relief cleansed me again just as it had when she came into my room earlier. I found myself feeling less alone and more convinced that everything I experienced was in my head. It was all just a terrible nightmare.

She smiled at me and made her way over to the fridge to find something for dinner. I headed back to my room and the feeling that something still wasn’t right returned the farther I got from the kitchen.

“Allie, how’s chicken parm for dinner? Do you want chicken parm?”

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Unexplainable Meows from Next Door

a.aaa-Terrified-cat

Relief washes over me as I brush my teeth and think of how I’ll be going to sleep significantly earlier than I usually do. A hearty seven hours for me tonight! My inner monologue cheers and pats me on the back. Way to be 24, Nicole, you goddamn adult you. Then I hear it — the soft, frantic meowing of a cat in trouble. Or so my crazy mind convinces me anyway.

I rush to the doorway and look through the peephole to see absolutely nothing. So I crack my door and stare into the hallway. The meowing seems louder and more urgent, but I see no cat. I hear a deep, Russian voice talking (to another person? to the cat?) and can only make the rational assumption that this cat is being abused and needs my help. Clearly this is a situation where I need to leave my apartment and become involved. I close the door behind me to put a bra on and prepare to possibly take in a new pet.

I tiptoe into the hallway like a total creep as every other resident of the building ignores the shouting/meowing mixture coming from the first floor. Cold air hits me in the face and it feels like every window near the stairwell is open. I wonder briefly if that cat somehow found its way into the elevator shaft and got trapped.

After trying to peek over the staircase to the first floor and not seeing anything, I finally decide to return to my apartment. Ava is hiding somewhere and I reluctantly lock my door as the cat continues to meow. As I walk away from the door, however, I notice the meowing has become louder. Is that cat on my floor now?

I open the door to see a small grey and white cat curled up in front of my neighbor’s door. It’s eyes are dilated and it seems to be staring at some far-off image, meowing without a pause. It’s like a broken toy. An adorable, broken, possibly rabid  or crazy or in heat or — what the hell is going on and why won’t it stop staring at me!?

This cat will not break eye contact with me. It’s as if it’s trying to intimidate me by meowing. I’m scared of it and for it because it also looks terrified. I go into the apartment and grab a handful of Ava’s food and toss it on the ground. The cat doesn’t even flinch and instead keeps its eyes locked on me. Meowing. Meowing. Meowing.

“You cat?” my neighbor from across the hall is peeking out of her apartment now.

“No, no.” I shake my head and shrug. Both of my neighbors are adorable old Russian women who speak maybe ten words of English. I’ve bonded with this one before over the fact that we both own cats.

She laughs and closes the door. The woman whose door the cat is sitting in front of finally sticks her head out to see what the hell is going on at 11:30 P.M. The cat keeps meowing in the same place as she looks at it. “Oh!” she exclaims as the little fucker runs into her apartment. I hear it meowing from somewhere inside and give her an ‘oh shit’ look.

“You cat?” she asks me.

“No!”

“She cat?” she asks pointing to the neighbor across the hall.

“No! I don’t know whose cat!” I shrug and shake my head trying to alert her to the weirdness of this whole situation.

She props her door open with a basket cart, which of course doesn’t stay, so I hold the door open for her as she tries to get the cat out. After a few minutes, she returns to tell me it’s under the bed. I run inside my apartment again and grab one of Ava’s toys — a pink stick with a long, fuzzy, sparkly pink stuff hanging off it — and wave it around for her to see. “Cat toy?”

I imagine how insane I must appear right now: I’m wearing a baggy shirt and the ugliest sweatpants I own with my makeup half on and my hair a disaster zone. And now add a bright pink, sparkling cat toy to my hand. Wow, I’ve really solidified the crazy cat lady stereotype in this moment. Thank god I put that bra on.

The woman across the hall opens her door again, and the two go off in Russian. Occasionally they’ll look at me nodding and smiling as if I understand any of what is happening. Then the woman across the hall closes her door.

“Want help?” I ask, once again feebly waving my cat toy in the air like a peace offering.

“No, no. Thank you,” she says as she closes her door.

I go back into my apartment and put Ava’s toy away, noticing that she’s staring at me from the doorway of my bedroom as if to say ‘Annnndd what the hell were you just doing?’

I’m not sure what I witnessed. My neighbor took in a cat which seemed as if it were equal parts traumatized and insane, maybe with a little bit of rabies sprinkled on top. Who knows. I sure as hell have never seen a cat with rabies, but I’ve also never seen a cat act as fucked up as that little creep did.

The story I made for it is that it came from outside to get out of the cold, got trapped in our elevator, saw/experienced some shit, was chased out of the elevator shaft by the super, and now took refuge in my nice little neighbor’s apartment. Hopefully it has a happier life than before and they live happily ever after. I want to believe this is what is reality.

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For the Love of Victoria

9350977-stylized-drawing-of-a-girl-being-stalkedThis I wrote based on a prompt for being too late.

——

As I burst through the doors to the critical condition wing in Beth Israel hospital, I felt my feet hydroplane on the recently cleaned floor as I turned a corner. I crashed into the wall, briefly demolished, lying behind a chair meant for anxious family members. My elbow throbbed and my face tried out new shades of red when I realized there was a desk full of nurses in the front row to my accident. A nurse with one eyebrow raised glanced up from her clipboard and looked me up and down. She moved in slow motion, disregarding that time was always of the essence in a place like this.

“At least you chose the right place to hurt yourself,” she said as she walked over to me. There was no obvious damage to my body so I saw that she wasn’t too worried about my pain level. “Maybe we should put up signs, although I thought it was painfully obvious. There is absolutely no running in a hospital.” She emphasized the last three words as if this is an inherent fact of life, taught to children in grade school.

“I’m looking for room 3B, patient is Victoria Wiking.” As I said the words, I saw clouds of red hair floating at the end of the hallway I had slid into.

“Sir, it’s family only,” a nurse with the large eyes squeaked. She seemed scared of me. Or for me.

“Yes, I am. She’s my fiancée.” Victoria wasn’t my fiancée; she was more than that for me. Victoria was my life. Her soul was my breath of air, her body traversed through my blood. She was the goddess I worshipped daily for the past three years. This woman simply kept me alive.

They exchanged glances and I could tell they didn’t consider us family in this instance. The head nurse looked like she was about to say something more as the smaller nurse picked up a telephone, but I was already walking away, headed toward the assault I knew would be coming from her uptight sisters.

“What the fuck are you doing here?” I heard her before I reached the room where Victoria was, hopefully still alive. Although older, Victoria’s sister, Deanna, was significantly short and hidden among the group of worried relatives. I didn’t have to see her to know it was her, though; she always was the loud mouth of the family.

My feet moved forward in a rush to bring me to my life support still, as I disregarded the rude welcome. “Is she, is she…”
“Is she dead? Is that what you’re trying to ask?” Her oldest sister, Isabelle. She always wanted to come off as the most responsible sister, but to me it appeared to be a front. “Darren, you need to leave right now. This is beyond inappropriate.”

“Look, I just need to see her. This is between me and Victoria so stay out of this, please.”

The glaring eyes of her mother burned into the side of my face, but I refused to look at her. She always seemed like a waste of my time, anyway. Not someone I felt it necessary to become acquainted with. All I needed was to see Victoria and know that everything was going to be right in the world again. If I was being perfectly honest with myself, I needed her forgiveness more than anything. But I never got to see her. Strong, thick fingers wrapped around my arms and began to pull me away from the door back down the hallway.

“No!” I shouted. “I need to know if she’s alive. I NEED TO KNOW!”

The women stood around each other crying with various shades of red hair entwining. Everyone cried, except Isabelle, the ringleader of the estrogen charged pack. Her curly strawberry hair was in a loose, sloppy ponytail and ringlets fell into her face as she shook. Her beady eyes buzzed back and forth in their sockets, and her anger vibrated off the walls in a similar rhythm. She said in a voice that oozed with pretention, “Thank you, officers. We knew he would be here. He’s insane. He’s obsessed with our sister.”

They kept me far enough away from the hospital room that I couldn’t see inside but still close enough to be tortured with not knowing what was going on so close by. I wasn’t struggling because I knew they would only pull me further away. My mind flew through different ways to maneuver closer to Victoria as I heard an office near my ear rattling off my rights robotically.

“Please, let me know she’s okay.”

“Darren,” her mother said with a cracking, aged voice that made me cringe. “Please leave my daughter alone. You hurt her – badly.” Her thin white hair stuck up at odd angles, her lifeless blue eyes staring into mine.

“She’ll be okay.” Deanna said. “Once you get the hell out of here.” She put her arm protectively around her mother as if I was some monster who was about to come charging, snarling with foam dripping from my mouth.

“I only ever loved your sister. I wouldn’t hurt her again, I promise.” I felt the grip of the police officer’s hand tighten around my elbow. Some unspoken signal must have appeared and my defense was too weak to change anyone’s mind.

The cops began to drag me away, not because I was resisting but because I couldn’t really feel my legs anymore. I was too late to get the girl of my dreams after our only physical encounter. I didn’t even get a chance to explain myself, which drove me mad.

A mixture of emotions tossed and turned inside of me. This day happened to be the best and worst of my life. Best because I finally got what I wanted; I conquered the red-headed goddess that strolled into my coffee shop three years ago. It was the manliest moment of my life because instead of being timid and letting my heartbreak intensify, I took what I wanted.

The only thing that made this the worst day was that it would be the only time I would ever get to have her. I began to brainstorm ideas for getting back what I felt I was rightfully owed, especially after this entire debacle I would have to go through with the police and her terrible sisters.

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