Tag Archives: fiction

The Clasp

theclasp.jpegI recently read The Clasp by Sloan Crosley, and it honestly kind of bummed me out. The characters were morbidly cynical, and the pacing of the novel overall felt a bit off to me. The climax of the story didn’t even start taking place until almost 200 pages into the book due to a lot of character buildup that ultimately felt like too much content with little substance.

The story was about a group of friends from college who secretly hated, or at least strongly disliked, one another. It was so depressing to read the inner monologues of all these people getting together at a mutual friend’s wedding and shitting all over everyone in attendance. I can’t imagine going to any of my college friend’s weddings and feeling anything other than extreme happiness for them—except maybe my douchebag ex-boyfriend, but that’s because he’s actually just a mean person—but I guess to each their own.

It wasn’t like it was just Victor—who is pretty much the main protagonist even though the story followed two other characters, Kezia and Nathaniel, as well—that was super cynical. Even though we were supposed to believe that Victor was the most depressed and negative person in that group, I really didn’t think Nathaniel or Kezia were any better. Kezia complained about everything in her life, constantly rolling her eyes and scoffing, while Nathaniel compulsively lied about every occurrence in his life. And for some reason, they were all friends even though they complained about each other all the time. It never seemed like they actually enjoyed each other’s company aside from a few moments where they weren’t insulting or making fun of one another.

The story follows Victor, a depressed coder who was recently fired from his job, after a mutual friend’s wedding. He drunkenly falls asleep on the groom’s mother’s bed, and she’s mostly fine with it the next morning. She even shows him where she keeps her jewelry, despite discovering that he had tried to steal it the night before. She shows him a photo of an expensive necklace that was stolen from her aunt, which Victor then steals from her. He then turns it into his mission to go to France to search for this necklace, aka he breaks into a chateau and is promptly arrested. Fortunately, Kezia is also in France on an urgent business trip, and Nathaniel happened to be there too just because he needed a vacation. What luck! From there, although Victor never actually told Kezia much, she somehow pieces together his entire plan and is able to locate him in the prison right after he’s arrested.

And what would any group of close-knit “friends” be without a little bit of romance drama? So, get this. Victor loves Kezia, but she just sees him as a best friend. Bummer! When she shut him down in college, he went into a spiraling depression where he cut everyone out of his life for months and no one really tried that hard to help him. Meanwhile, she’s apparently loved Nathaniel the entire time, who was Victor’s old roommate and pretty much his closest friend in college. When Kezia and Nathaniel finally do sleep together, though, she pumps the brakes because it turns out that she’s just not that into it anymore even though he appears to be super into her finally.

I think?

It ended very strangely with the three “friends” returning from Paris on a plane together. Kezia and Victor are chatting, laughing, and generally having a good time while Nathaniel is ignoring them and pretending to sleep. Victor is in a grand mood because he got beaten up in a small village outside of Paris, had all his stuff stolen, got arrested for breaking into a chateau, and then was randomly offered a job. Victor goes to the bathroom, Kezia pokes fun at Nathaniel, he gets moody and keeps ignoring her, and THE END!

And that’s pretty much all she wrote. It starts abruptly, not a whole lot happens in the middle, suddenly there’s action for maybe 40 pages, and then it ends similar to how it started. I wouldn’t have minded as much if it had been a more interesting story, but it fell flat. I read actually on another review that the author said she cut over 200 pages out of the original piece, which actually makes a lot of sense. It felt like there was a lot missing from this story, and it’s unfortunate that it wasn’t strung together is a more concrete way after the other content was removed. Ah well.

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Maybe in Another Life

23492661.jpgTaylor Jenkins Reid’s Maybe in Another Life was…fine. Well, mostly fine. It was relatively dull at times, and I thought the dialogue tended to drag. Also the protagonist, Hannah, mentioned cinnamon rolls way too much. Like, we get it, girl. We get it.

I think my biggest problem with the story was that it was way too predictable at all times. When Hannah chose to stay with Ethan, it obviously came as no surprise that they would get married two years later. And as soon they even mentioned her nurse, Henry, in the hospital during her other timeline, I rolled my eyes because of course that Hannah is going to get with him. The Henry timeline seemed a bit ridiculous to me, too. She was insanely excited to see Ethan again after years of not living in the same state as him and realizing that he absolutely was the love of her life. But upon learning that he possibly went home with another woman, Hannah cuts him out entirely. She doesn’t try to have a dialogue with him about it, but instead takes a secondhand text as the truth and lets that decide her future. He was the supposed love of her life that she was never able to get over despite being in countless relationships afterward, yet she’s able to turn off her feelings for him as soon as she hears that he might have hooked up with someone else. Also, fuck you Ethan because like what even is that? The girl of your dreams who you’ve been in love with since high school declines hanging out with you for an extra two hours so you sleep with someone else? Maybe these two ARE perfect for one another actually…

I think what would have improved this story would have been a bit of conflict or uncertainty—I knew from chapter three that, even with all the negative things happening to the characters, everything was going to work out in both scenarios. I was more interested in Gabby and her story rather than Hannah’s. Because, despite claiming to be a whirlwind mess, Hannah seemed relatively put-together and would probably register as just a normal mess on the messiness scale.

And on a final note, I kinda thought the whole baby situation was a bit forced as well. The Hannah that mourned the loss of her child made sense to me—she was upset, thought about the possibilities, and rationalized that it must have occurred at the wrong time. Yet the other Hannah jumped right on board with the idea of motherhood without even working her first day on a job, having a place of her own to live, and after just adopting a new puppy. It just seemed like overkill and almost unrealistic. Like why was everyone so happy that she was having this married man’s baby? Why wasn’t Gabby or her parents like, “Okay cool, but let’s just make sure we think this out because you actually have no money and no home so let’s like just take a pause here”?

I think I just tend to enjoy books that have a bit more of an emotional twist to them rather than wrapping everything up in a nice, pretty ribbon of happiness. It wasn’t a bad read necessarily, it just wasn’t my ideal type of book.

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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.

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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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Coffee Will Make You Black

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Recently I was having a not-so-happy day and decided to walk from work to Atlantic Avenue, about thirty minutes. Clear my head, purge my thoughts, avoid being myself. It just needed to happen and luckily it helped. At first, anyway.

As I’m walking I see something atop a mailbox. ‘What’s this?’ I think to myself, far too excitedly. I have a nasty habit of collecting things I find, convincing myself it’s okay because it’s fate as my conscience is beaten to silence. ‘Why, it looks as if someone left this book here.’ Immediately my mind races with the possibility of being involved in a book crossing scenario and how it might be some sort of sign. I shove the book in my bag and continue on my walk, not looking around to see if anyone noticed what I did.

Let me just note, at no point was it at all made obvious that I was involved in book crossing.

Here I am walking down 4th Avenue, happy as can be now with my new book that I couldn’t wait to read and put somewhere random so a stranger could take it. Should I leave it on a mailbox again? Maybe next to someone’s stoop? The more I walked the more I thought of how weird and really intense I was being about this whole thing.

In reality, I probably stole a book from a high school student that had to read this for class. I pictured her rushing into a store really quick to buy something, maybe a refreshing Coke, book in hand, placing it upon the mailbox. Cue me, walking down the street, grumpy as hell. I take some little girl’s book, shove it in my bag, and continue down the street without even giving it a second thought. She walks out of the store, looks for her book. Commence crying and any people around seeing me strolling away with confidence.

Then to top it all off I was going to just throw it next to someone’s steps like I’m trying to rid myself of the cursed Jumanji board.

Anyway so I read THAT book. It was good, I actually really enjoyed it. The plot wasn’t anything too special; literally just a story about a preteen girl growing up; the coolest part is that she was black and growing up through the 60’s and 70’s which is  a time period I so desperately wish I could have lived through. Coffee Will Make You Black by April Sinclair. Very simple book, probably because it’s meant for a high school reading list to teach you some sort of key lesson or  to help you through puberty and the struggles of the New York public school system.

Dammit, Nicole.

By the way, it’s on my bookshelf. I haven’t passed it along (yet).

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