Fireworks

I realized I didn’t like fireworks when you took me out on our first date. On the way, we stopped at Subway to buy sandwiches. I wasn’t confident enough in myself at the time to tell you I didn’t like Subway, or the weird smell and flavor of their food. If you wanted sandwiches, I could have named at least three other places in town where I’d much rather get a sandwich. Instead, I stood next to you and ordered something from the menu.

We arrived at the park early, laid out or blanket and sat there, chatting, while we ate. I don’t remember if I ate the whole thing, just to be polite, but I do remember the bread being incredibly soggy and tasteless. As soon as the fireworks began, I realized I hate them. I realized I didn’t want to be there. The company was good, and I was enjoying spending time with you, but I was afraid to say I didn’t want to be there anymore.

I was shocked, not only by the noise and the flashing lights, but by my own reaction. I used to LOVE fireworks when I was a kid. I longed to be “old enough” to light the fuse on a Catherine Wheel at my uncle’s annual Independence Day celebration. I used to spell out my name with sparklers, and laugh as the tiny snakes appeared out of small, black pellets. I had already told you how much I loved fireworks shows, so it wouldn’t have made any sense for me to suddenly change my mind. I didn’t want you to reject me, so I swallowed my fear and tried to remember what I enjoyed about them.

You clearly enjoyed the show, making all the “oooohs” and “ahhhhs” as the giant balls of light exploded overhead. As it happened, the bangs and flashes of light were a trigger for me, an unknown trigger, and one I didn’t expect in the least. I was suddenly trapped in the past, reliving the night my spouse of fifteen years physically assaulted me for the first time. There had been fireworks that night, we had watched them from the backyard. We had that terrible fight later that night, but I hadn’t made the connection between the two events until right now.

Because I’d spent more than a third of my life in an emotionally abusive situation, I was pretty practiced at swallowing my anxiety and hiding my negative feelings. My abuser would not put up with that, so I had become a master of wearing a mask of my “happy” face. It’s possible I convinced you to leave early, but I don’t remember. That was more than two years ago now, and with the pandemic being one of those two years, it seems an age since I thought about that day.

But here you are, I knew I’d run into you someday (it’s a small town) and here we are at the same Independence day celebration. Lucky for me, there are no fireworks this time. The fire danger is real, and there is not even a sparkler in sight. Looking back, I realized I let us “grow apart” because I didn’t want to deal with the consequence of admitting my lie of omission to you. But here you are, and here we are, chatting again like we never had any time apart.

We met again for lunch, to “catch up.” This time, I picked the restaurant. We had a drink and a meal and spent a good two hours talking. It was nice to see you again. To hug you, to look into your eager eyes, to see your desire simmering there, just below the surface. I could feel you holding back because you know enough about me to know I’m cautious now with my heart as I’m not sure I have all the pieces back together yet. You said you liked me, but you almost said “love,” unless you’ve developed a stutter that specifically affects the letter L in the word “like.”

Many of my prior relationships have been like fireworks: exploding with passion and then fizzling out as the brightness fades away. I’ve thought about you, from time to time over the past two years. I had to delete your phone number to avoid me contacting you out of sheer loneliness. But now, you’re back in my life.

I’m still not ready to rush this. I’ve grown a lot in the past two years (ages). I now understand I don’t have to jump into bed with everyone who likes me. It’s up to me to decide, and it takes some time to get to know someone. I have the advantage of being moderately interested in you: we’re less likely to spark bright and fade away. I won’t leap to conclusions, I won’t make such an effort to please your sensibilities. I’m looking after me now. I’m content if I end up with another friend, there is no need to leap into a relationship status. I’ve made my intention clear, now I can wait and see what develops over time. I don’t need to take part in a fantasy of a relationship, I’m ready to allow for whatever this is going to turn out to be.

I suppose I’ll have to admit my fireworks aversion to you at some point, maybe you’ll find it funny as I do (now). I’m sure Subway will come up at one point or another… But this time, I’m not afraid of how you’ll react, if something I do or say “causes” you to reject me. I no longer fear being alone as I no longer feel lonely. A year in lock down did wonders for my self-esteem; I was finally able to slow down long enough to listen to my own voice, my own desires, and my own needs. I’m confident enough to state my opinion, even if it’s not popular in present company. If you reject me, that is your choice and it has more to do with you than me.

#fireworks #happinessinavacuum #wordpress #wordpressblog #shortstories #shortstory #storytime #writing #story #writer #art #storytelling #author #shortstorywriter #reading #stories #write #creativewriting #storyteller #words #wordporn #read

Space

I never thought I had a boring life until I decided to go to space. Now, I can’t imagine ever wanting to return to it.

My grandmother used to read me stories about space. Stories from when she was a kid, when NASA was still “exploring” space and only billionaires could afford a quick one-hour trip barely to the edge of the Earth atmosphere. She’d always dreamed of being an astronaut when it was an unattainable goal for most people. Something always drew her to the stars, she used to say. She read me fiction stories and non-fiction accounts of real people from the news, or from actual books that smelled like dust. I remember the soft sound of her fingers gliding down each page as she tidily picked them up at the corners and turned them.

When I slept, I dreamed of space. I lived on the moon with that weird little french boy, I flew a rocket through the rings of Saturn, I made friends with beings from other worlds. My bedroom ceiling was painted with glow-in-the-dark constellations that we painstakingly copied from her old reference books.

She died when I was twelve. For a long time, I held on to all those books. Reading and re-reading them. On clear nights, I would lean out my window and talk to her as if she were up there with the stars. I held on to her as long as I could, but life is for the living and eventually, I stopped dreaming of space altogether.

I think about her once in a while, remembering her with fondness. I’ve more or less just got on with my life. High school, college, first job, second job, finally a career path, my own little apartment in the city… But then, about a year ago, I woke up with a start from a vivid dream. Grandma and I were floating free in space. She had a firm grip on my hand and I could feel her cool, papery skin. I was telling her about a recent success I had at work, just like I used to tell the stars about my successes when I was a little girl. Only in the dream we were together, floating among the stars. She told me she was proud of me, and I should take the opportunity when it presents itself. I couldn’t imagine what she was referring to.

The next day, I saw an advertisement. I’m used to targeted ads, but this one really surprised me. This wasn’t something I had searched, bought, or talked about. I stared at the picture with my mouth agape as I read the caption: “Space Explorers Needed.” The picture was a person floating serenely above a planet with the stars sparkling all around. The facial features appeared joyful and curious. I immediately tapped the screen to get more information. There wasn’t any. Just an application. It didn’t take long to fill in, and I honestly didn’t expect anything to come of it.

I received a response almost immediately. I was invited to a meeting in a tall building downtown I had never been in before. One of the three largest space-tourism companies were interested in starting a colony on Europa. They already had a functional base there and they were looking for regular people to be “pioneers.” At first, I didn’t think I had any skills that would be beneficial. They seemed to be more interested in my hobbies than my actual career. As an accountant, I don’t have much to offer a burgeoning colony, but I’m quite adept at gardening and sewing, which are dying arts, apparently. Take that, all the people that made fun of me in college!

I attended all the meetings and watched as the group gradually became smaller. We all seemed to get along well together, and learned to trust each other. Soon we had a launch date and a contract. I sold or got rid of anything I couldn’t take with me and sublet my apartment. Some friends were taking over my lease, so I could at least have a couch to crash on if I decided to come back. The commitment was going to be for ten years. After that, I could decide whether to remain or head back to Earth. I was going to be there for a decade, minimum, even if I hated every minute of it, as there would be no other way home. The prospect was as daunting as it was exciting.

The facility looked incredible. We’d already had video chats with all the scientists already in the colony, and the place looked fantastic. They had shown us our accommodations and discussed the different jobs we would all be sharing. I had a pretty good view out of the airplane-sized window next to my seat. When we were clear of the atmosphere, we were given an hour to enjoy the feeling of weightlessness. We’d done extensive testing prior to launch, but the actual experience was much different. We really made the most of the excitement, pushing off the walls to perform airborne acrobatic feats. We were told we had fifteen minutes before preparing for stasis- the journey would be long, but we would be asleep for it. I am told we won’t technically age in the suspension chambers; Grandma would have had a giggle about that one.

I found my way back to the window and peered out. I could just see the Earth in the distance, looking like a little blue marble floating in a sea of black velvet peppered with sparkling jewels of many colors. I had a fleeting sadness as I realized I wasn’t leaving anything behind. Even if it was terrible, I would probably stay. I didn’t have anything left to draw me back to Earth. I reached up and touched the window. I saw my Grandmother floating out there, with her hand on the other side of the glass, opposite of mine. She was grinning at me. I don’t think I’d ever seen her look so happy. I was fulfilling her lifelong dream, and I suddenly realized it was all I’d ever wanted. I’d forgotten my childhood dreams in the process of “growing up,” but they had waited patiently until I found them again. I blinked back tears and saw only my own face and my own hand in the window.

“We did it, Grandma, we made it to space. Thank you for sharing your dreams with me.” I don’t know if I heard or imagined her say, “I love you, Meesh.” The porter found me and showed me to my stasis chamber. When I awoke, I would be on Europa. I didn’t know if this venture would succeed, but I was sure of one thing. I was ready for my new life – the new life I never knew I wanted – to begin.

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Secret

When is it OK to tell a secret?

Maddie blew her hair out of her eyes and tried to concentrate on her Algebra test. She usually did well in Algebra, but today, she had lost the ability to concentrate on anything for more than five seconds.

She crossed and uncrossed her eyes, watching the text become blurry and clear again. She re-copied the problem. She just couldn’t think what to do first.

Mr. B sounded bored and didn’t even look up from his laptop as he said, “Five more minutes.”

Maddie closed her eyes and took one more deep breath. She looked at the clock, just in case he was making one of his weird jokes. No luck: the lunch bell was going to ring in three minutes. There was no way she was going to finish the test. She pressed her palms to her eyes and breathed deeply. When the bell rang, the class was suddenly full of the sounds of chairs scraping across the linoleum floor and multiple conversations starting up all at once.

She spotted her sister on the quad as soon as she exited her classroom. They didn’t usually talk at school, they had very different circles of friends, but El was sitting all by herself today. She looked so small, like she was curled in on herself. She didn’t react when Maddie stood in front of her.

“El.”

No reaction.

“Ellie?”

“Elanor?”

She didn’t look up or even move as she said, “Madison.”

Maddie sat down on the ledge next to her. There were people all around them, talking, laughing, eating. None were really close enough to hear their conversation.

“El… You OK?”

“Shhhhhhhhhhhh!” Elanor looked around and then directly at Maddie. Her eyes looked shiny, but there were no tears.

“We can’t talk here, Maddie,” she said as she stood up. Maddie wondered (for about the millionth time) why social standing was so important to her sister all of a sudden. They managed to make it through middle school without caring what a single other person thought of them… what happened?

“I’ve got to go, Mads, I have to go find Eli. You know how he is…” She checked her eye makeup in a small mirror she kept in her pocket and gave Maddie a peace sign as she walked away.

Maddie sat for a while, contemplating the situation. Eli was Elanor’s boyfriend. He was really nice, always complementing her and buying her gifts for no reason. They were the current “power couple” at school, complete with their own celebrity couple name: “El squared”. All the adults loved him, even the teachers. He called their parents by their first names, at their request. He was the Valley High School “golden boy.” He was fantastic on paper. But there was something about him that Maddie didn’t like. She wasn’t all the way sure what it was, but she knew there was something. El was keeping something from her. As twins, Maddie and Elanor had always shared a special bond. They knew things about each other. They didn’t feel each other’s pain or anything like that (although they had experimented with the theory in middle school), but Maddie knew there was something Ellie was keeping from her.

Eli was new at school this year. They lived in a relatively small town, which meant most of the kids at the high school had known each other since kindergarten. Sure, some kids had moved away, every year brought one or two new students, but for the most part, she knew pretty much everyone at the school. She knew her friend group would be gathered at their usual place. Jackson would be throwing tater tots if M’shel was practicing for the play. Janet and Mackenzie would be sneaking kisses and holding hands under the table. Most of her life was predictable, and Maddie found that comfortable.

Maddie had lived in the same house for her whole life. Her parents were still together, and there wasn’t much drama at home. She was close with her sister, and until recently, had shared everything from their bedroom to the clothes they wore. El had made a bunch of changes since she met Eli. While Maddie was still content to roll out of bed just in time to put on some clothes and brush her teeth before running to the bus, Elanor was up before the sun to perfect her look: blow-drying and curling her long hair, applying layers of makeup, and ensuring her daily outfits were perfect. She even had matching “looks” to coordinate with boyfriend.

Maddie usually took the bus home, but as she waited at the stop, Eli pulled up. El rolled down the tinted window on the passenger side and asked Maddie if she wanted a ride. She took one look at the crowd waiting next to her and jumped in the back seat.

“How is my favourite sister?” Eli crooned in his smooth baritone voice.

“Hi Eli. Thanks for the lift.” El had the visor down and Maddie could see her checking her eye makeup in the mirror. She caught her eyes and grinned at her. Elanor flipped the visor up.

When they arrived home, Maddie jumped out of the car, not wanting to eavesdrop (or bear witness) to the sappy goodbyes of the groty couple. She yelled, “Race you!” over her shoulder as she ran to the front door, knowing full well Elanor had zero intention of jumping out to compete, like they used to when they were younger. She unlocked the door and went upstairs to their shared bedroom. Their parents would be home in a few hours.

El came into the room and fell face down on her bed. It wasn’t like her, smudging up her makeup like that.

“What is it, El?” Elanor didn’t say anything when she sat up. She didn’t look directly at Maddie, pointing her gaze toward the floor. She sighed and stood up. She went into the bathroom, leaving the door open. From her spot at the desk, Maddie could see El’s face in the mirror. El started straight ahead while she grabbed her makeup remover and rubbed the left side of her face. The skin around El’s eye seemed to get darker, instead of lighter, as she worked. Maddie stood up and walked toward her, not fully understanding what she was seeing.

When she stood behind Elanor, Maddie could clearly see a blue and purple bruise blooming around her sister’s dark brown eye. Maddie was at a loss for words. Her mouth dropped open.

“It was an… ak… accident,” Ellie stuttered, “Eli d-didn’t mean it. He’s so… so sorry…” Maddie reached out to touch her twin sister’s shoulder and slowly turned her so they were facing each other. She looked into her sister’s eyes, just like her own eyes, and Elanor looked away. “He’s so sorry,” she continued. “He promised it won’t ever happen again.” This was the first time Maddie had heard that Eli was anything other than perfect. His temper was always so… even. Maddie remembered one time when Eli was over for dinner and she, Maddie, had missed his plate with a large scoop of mashed potatoes that ended up in his lap. He froze for a hot second, and then laughed out loud, breaking the tension. That was one of the first times the family had met Eli. But he was always so… calm, like nothing rattled him. Maddie wondered what the hell happened, but she couldn’t speak.

“You can’t tell anyone,” Ellie said, “It was just an accident. I can’t keep anything from you, I know that. But you can’t tell mom and dad, you can’t tell anyone. He would be too embarrassed. He wouldn’t want anyone to think…” She held up her pinky, in a little curve like a sign-language x.

“Please… Please, sis. P-promise you’ll keep my secret.”

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Thunder

I woke up with a start.

It was another thunderstorm. I rolled over and tried to go back to sleep. It was hot and sticky. Southern Arizona is not usually hot and sticky. I disagree with the opinion that we don’t have four seasons here; they just aren’t the ones you may be used to. We have: hot, cold, windy, and thunderstorm.

Thunderstorm season (otherwise known as Monsoon, even though it doesn’t compare to the ones in Asia), is by far my favourite. Windy season is absolutely the worst. Hot and Cold both have their advantages and disadvantages.

I wanted to throw the covers off and get some relief from the stifling hot, but I must have done that in my sleep already.

I reached out in the dark for my water bottle at the same time lightning flashed across the sky, briefly illuminating the small room. For about three minutes, it was completely silent. Then the rain started, all at once. It was as if someone turned on the faucet, no, more like the giant sprayers for “movie rain.” One second, it’s hot and sticky, the next second, the rain is sheeting down and pelting the tin roof outside.

There will be no more sleeping until this storm passes. I may as well enjoy it.

I opened up the windows and the front door to let in the cool breeze and inhaled deeply of the fresh, electric scent while I waited for the kettle to boil. As I poured the boiling water over the tea leaves, I shivered slightly as the temperature dropped. The storm was definitely heading this way. It sounded like it was going to be a good show. I was counting the seconds between each thunderclap and the resulting lightning flash, and noted it was moving this way for sure. I never could sleep through a thunderstorm, there is far too much energy in the air. It sparkles my senses and tickles my imagination. I grabbed a blanket and my hot cuppa and went out on the front porch.

The rain was heavy enough to sound more like a waterfall. I could hear each place where the water dripped from the edge of the roof into the now gathering pools at each corner. Before long, my whole driveway would be flooded. That doesn’t matter, it never stays long. The parched earth soaks it up shortly after the rain starts falling. I wonder why more people don’t collect rainwater out here, like they do in other countries. Maybe it has something to do with privilege? The rain water will fill the underground water table, from which we all draw using our wells, but nobody really knows how much water is down there… or when it will run out.

I sip my tea and watch the lighting dance across the sky. The storm isn’t too far away now, and the booms and flashes are coming hard and fast. This storm is moving quickly, it’s likely going to run out of steam soon. I wonder where the birds go when it rains like this? I guess they just sit in their nests and get soaked. Unless they live in a tree or Saguaro. This place is usually bursting with wildlife: mule deer, loppy-eared jackrabbits, roadrunners, kangaroo rats, rattlers… When the storm passes, it’s absolutely silent for a short time. Then, the first cricket starts to chirp, and before long there is a chorus surrounding me. I wonder if they have a way to stay dry, or at least stay of the ground so they don’t get washed away.

I finish my tea and sit for a moment in the darkness. The clouds have cleared some, and I can see some stars peeking through. The storm came and went so quickly that it’s hard to believe it happened at all. I can’t see any farther than my hand, it’s so dark. The air is still, but cool. At least I can sleep now.

Before going in, I dip a toe delicately off the side of the porch, to see how high the water is now. I can hear the bullfrogs chorus in the distance. It’s hard to believe they hibernate, buried deep in the mud during the dry season, only to be awakened at the next monsoon. Last year, we had a dry summer and I didn’t see a single one. Sounds like they are having a good season this year.

I take one more deep breath outside, step inside and close the door behind me. I’m grateful for the fresh, ionic air that has filled my home. I throw my curtains open to the darkness of the moonless night. I’ll let the sunrise greet me on the morrow. I do so love it when I’m able to steal a small moment to myself. I never miss a thunderstorm. One of the benefits of being an insomniac and a “light sleeper.” I rearrange the pillows around me just how I like them. I lay back, close my eyes, and begin to count backwards from one thousand.

Nine hundred ninety-nine, nine hundred ninety-eight, nine hundred ninety-seven, nine hundred ninety-six

#happinessinavacuum #wordpress #wordpressblog #fiction #shortstories #shortstory #storytime #writing #story #writer #fiction #art #storytelling #author #shortstorywriter #reading #stories #write #creativewriting #storyteller #words #wordporn #read #thunder

Anthology

IF you have been following this blog for a while, you are very familiar with my abuse story and subsequent (and continued) healing process. About three years ago, I received an email from an acquaintance of a friend who let me know about this project and gave me the emails of the women who were planning this anthology. I wrote a story, I was accepted, we went through the editing process, and three years later, my name and bio appears in a real book that is for sale, right now, on AMAZON! <– click for more information

I am not the only woman that contributed to this amazing book. There are many fascinating stories in here, and I am so excited to share them. I’ve received my copy and have dived in! Not only is it exciting to see my name and my words published in an actual book, I also have the opportunity to share this space with many other brave and resilient women who share their stories of grit and determination; Nevertheless, she persisted.

press release

five

Orange, bus, elephant, paper, guitar.

I pulled the collar of my puff jacket up over my ears again as a cold wind picked up my hair. I wiggled my fingers inside the gloves, inside my pockets, that were still numb. I watched my breath make a cloud in front of me as I walked. Some clouds were lit up by the streetlamps. Some were nearly invisible as I walked through the dark. At least, I could still feel my toes. It was going to be a while.

Orange, bus, elephant, paper, guitar.

I didn’t particularly like being cold. I mean, I don’t mind cold places, any excuse to dress like the Michelin man and hide behind glasses, hats, and scarves. It felt somehow less scary to walk (purposefully) in the dark, insulated from the prying eyes of predators. Such a stark contrast to the sunny shores of Southern California, where every day is a beach day and everyone dresses as such. I spent my teenage years there…

Orange, bus, elephant, paper, guitar.

The one surprise was how much I actually hate the snow. I thought I would love it, based on how it looked to me on film. Magical, fluffy and white… falling down just as the music rises… but, the reality is much more, well, wet and muddy. I now fully understand how the “mudroom” got its name. Snow just sucks. In every way possible. Except… the morning after it snows, when the dawn just falls, everything is white and it sparkles.

I rounded the last corner and I could see my destination in the distance. I pause for a moment before continuing. Everything is very much still. No noise, no light, no warmth. Inside, I’m churning. But this is it, I finally have nothing left to lose. It’s finally time to face… My greatest fear? That’s far too dramatic. My greatest fear is snakes. I have nightmares about snakes. Snakes in an elevator is a personal favourite. Snakes are properly scary. Indiana Jones is afraid of snakes. This is… irrational.

Orange, bus, elephant, paper, guitar.

“One foot in front of the other, let’s go.”

My voice sounds muffled through the scarf and a little scratched. I try to clear my throat, but it doesn’t help. I’ll be able to get a drink once I’m inside. I take the first step, followed by another.

“One Step at a TIME!”

I say, in my deepest, brave voice. One by one, my feet follow one another, and I’m off again. On my way. I’m finally ready. I’m going to do it this time.

Orange, bus, elephant, paper, guitar.

I can see the light spilling out of the front windows, I can see the bodies milling around behind the net curtains. But, what if those aren’t people at all, what if someone set up mannequins on a model train, Kevin McCallister style?

Orange, bus, elephant, paper, guitar.

That’s not… what is it called? that’s… magical thinking, is it? Or is that something else? Catastrophizing? Ah, I was never so good at the terms. I wasn’t really ever good with names, or nouns in general, actually. People, places, and things. I get words mixed up that are similar. Stephanie and Samantha. Montana and Michigan. April and August. I constantly mix up people’s names. I’m actually trying to get better at it. I recently realized I didn’t know people’s names because I didn’t try to, so now I watch TV with the subtitles on so I can pay better attention to who is who. I read books that feature an ensemble of main characters, so I’m forced to pay attention to names.

Orange, bus, elephant, paper, guitar.

Here I am, standing on the front porch. (Not really, I’m hiding behind a tree, looking at the porch). Now that I’ve stopped moving, it is really, very cold out here. The snow has started to fall again. It’s eerily quiet out here, even though I just hear the music coming from the house.

Orange, bus, elephant, paper, guitar.

I take a deep breath and picture myself ringing the doorbell. I open my eyes, just as the door opens and the light, warmth, and music spill out on the cold, white porch. The smile splits her face apart when she sees me. She wraps her arms around me and surrounds me in the warmest, sweetest hug. Her earrings flick to the side as she quickly turns her head to shout,

“Hey, look who is finally here!”

The front door closes behind me as I’m enveloped in the arms of my people. I take a moment to shake off the last of the snowflakes and remove my outer layers before hugging each and every one of them. I’m offered a hot drink, and it soothes my parched throat. I warm my fingers on the sturdy, clay mug in my hands. We’re all happy to see each other. We talk about work, school, the weather; we’re so happy to see each other. It feels like we’ll never run out of things to share. It feels so good to see everyone again! To finally be back together after so long.

Orange, bus, elephant, paper, guitar.

I put my hand to my cheek, to wipe away the tear that had frozen there. With the shock of realization, my body involuntarily shivers. The new fallen snow drifts slowly from my shoulders. I look up to see more snow falling. Tonight was not the night. I breathe a sigh of might be relief, and turn back towards the street. It’s going to be a long walk home. I take one more glance back, as I’m walking away. In the dark, I can see what I want to see. There is somebody at the window, looking out. I wonder what they see. I know they can’t see me. I’m invisible.

Orange, bus, elephant, paper, guitar.

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Inch

It happened right at the end of class. In that moment when everyone has their attention somewhere else and nobody notices a single thing. I was standing at my spot by the exit door, waiting for all the nine-year-olds in my classroom to finish putting their belongings in their backpacks. We had just wrapped up the last day of school, and the kids were taking home everything that had managed to migrate from home to school (and not back again) over the course of ten months.

I suppose, from their perspective, I was there one minute and gone the next. I hadn’t technically “gone” anywhere, but I’m certain I was in no shape to be seen. From my perspective, I suddenly felt very hot. Hot and dizzy. I felt another migraine coming on. I closed my eyes for a moment to rub my temples and pray to whomever was listening that it could hold off until I got home and got some ice on my neck.

When I opened my eyes again, I didn’t believe what I was seeing. Ruby Rose, the smallest of all the second-graders in the whole school, was towering over me like some kind of giant. She had her arms akimbo, and she was surveying the classroom. I called her name, louder and louder, until I realized she couldn’t hear me above the overall din in the room. I stuck my fingers in my mouth and let out my famous ear-piercing whistle, which I won’t normally do indoors, but this time I got no reaction. Not from Ruby Rose, standing no more than a foot from me, and not even from Dustin, who is quite sensitive to sharp noises.

Ruby, being the student-of-the-week during the very last week of second grade, took her job very seriously. She knew it was her responsibility to make sure there was a line of students, all facing the same way, with all of their belongings, along the line of blue tape on the floor.

Blue. Tape.

I looked down. Here I am, standing on my usual spot at the head of the line, right by the door, waiting for a gaggle of children to organize themselves and stampede right down this line of blue tape and out the back door. On any given day, there would be no stampede. I work too hard at the beginning of the year, practicing and perfecting our lines. This earns us compliments from other teachers, which in turn earns them prizes. It works right up until the last day, when the excitement overtakes their desire to please the adult in the room, and they run, screaming (literally screaming, they are nine years old) out into the parking lot and into their parents’ loving arms.

But. The. Blue. Tape.

It’s got to be as wide as I am tall. There is a little edge peeling up at the corner, and it reaches right up to my waist. I reach out and flick it, but it doesn’t move. Suddenly, I realize how very large Ruby’s red, sparkly Converse are in relation to me, and simultaneously, notice that they are headed in my direction. Ruby is making a beeline to where I am standing. She appears to be moving in slow motion, but she’s already halfway here and I’m frozen to the spot. I am not even sure where to go. She’s about to open the door, and dismiss students who are seated quietly at their desks.

I am told that the mark of good classroom management is that the students can follow the routines even in the absence of the teacher. They certainly won’t notice me down here! As Ruby reaches her spot she reaches up and flicks the light switch off and on again. Instant quiet. I don’t even have a second to revel in my own brilliance because I know I have to get off this spot and out of harm’s way before she calls the first group to line up. Ruby’s giant foot is only feet from where I stand (inches? my perspective was all off).

I took a deep breath and looked around for shelter of some kind. To my left was a file cabinet, to my right was the sink. The cabinet door under the sink had a space beneath it. The filing cabinet was closer, but offered me no hiding place. I didn’t have long to act, the bell would ring shortly and not even Ruby Rose could hold back the flow of small bodies heaving toward the door. In true Ruby Rose fashion, she was taking her sweet time to choose the quietest group.

With the room on “silent” I tried to call Ruby’s name again. I called her first name, her first and middle together, and then all four of her names (that usually gets her attention) to no avail. She picked table three. My time was up. I ran as fast as I could toward that cabinet door and the blissful space beneath.

It seemed to take forever to get there. By the time I was halfway there, the bell had rung and all hell broke loose. I hit the ground and assumed the earthquake drill position I’d learned all the way back when I was in elementary school. I knew it couldn’t save me from a giant shoe but I also didn’t want to witness that happen, at any rate. Then, I had to cover my ears because of the ungodly noise made by twenty-four children screaming at the top of their lungs. Lucky for me, Ruby did not let anyone run astray of the blue line and somehow, I didn’t get squished.

When the noise had moved from indoors to outdoors, I took a peek from between my fingers (I always wondered why people do that in films. I now know). The room was blissfully empty of pint-size giants. The door was open, the lights were on, and I was left with not one clue of what to do next.

Ruby’s giant head popped back in the doorway and she bellowed, “See you later, Ms. D!” before pirouetting out the door and into the summer sunshine.

#happinessinavacuum #wordpress #wordpressblog #fiction #shortstories #shortstory #storytime #originalworkbyme #writing #story #writer #writingcommunity #writers #writerscommunity #fiction #art #storytelling #author #shortstorywriter #reading #stories #write #amwriting #creativewriting #storyteller #words #wordporn #read #life #literature #microfiction #shortfiction

Fiction

I started writing this blog because I needed to heal. “Writing it down” is my way of organizing something I don’t completely understand and haven’t always had a somewhat difficult relationship with: my feelings. I’ve spent so much of my life disconnected from my feelings, trying to numb them with drugs, diving headfirst into someone else’s so I don’t have to experience my own… Now that I’m finally healed enough to feel, I still have trouble identifying basic human emotions in myself.

I’ve spent five years now exploring my feelings. Splaying open my skin and allowing strangers to peek inside. I’ve rehashed the past over and under until I have something of a handle on it…

My Feelings.

I took a break from submissions after two years of (mostly) weekly posts. I wasn’t intending to, I didn’t plan it, but it happened.

Now, I am turning a corner.

I’ve cleared my head of so many cobwebs. I’ve revisited my past until it doesn’t hurt anymore. I’m not angry anymore. I’m past blaming others for what happened to me. I now have the tools to ensure nobody ever has that much control over me ever again. There is no more resentment, only peace.

(Here I must make it absolutely clear that I didn’t do this all by myself. Writing was a part of my healing, but only a SMALL part of it. I have a robust support system. I have good medical and I can afford to talk to my therapist weekly. I had the means and the ability to get my own home so I don’t have to depend on anyone). I am aware of my privilege and how this has helped me through this process.

I am turning the corner to fiction. I’ve laid myself bare with non-fiction. I’m ready to finally open the folder full of half-baked story ideas (yes, that is the real name of my fiction folder) and put them out in front of eyeballs. I don’t know what has held me back in the past. What was I afraid of? It’s not “good” enough? I won’t “finish?” Doesn’t matter.

Thank you for being with me throughout this journey. I’d love it if you stayed for the fiction, but I’ll be honest and say I very likely won’t notice if you don’t. I’m doing this for me.

#happinessinavacuum #wordpress #wordpressblog #ptsd #abusiverelationship #emotionalviolence #recovery #anxiety #depression #mentalhealth #healing #validation #balance #self-care #

Published!

I am excited to announce the publication of a collection I had the honor of participating in. By, Harridan and Strumpet Books. The book was edited by two Harvard Educated women writers, Kerry Garvin and Elisabeth Sharp McKenna

#whatdoesntkillher #harridanandstrumpet #grit #perserverance #neverthelessshepersisted #mynameisonabook #tellmystory

Hate

The opposite of Love isn’t Hate. Both are feelings of passion. Both states can cause regrettable actions. People who have been repeatedly abused or neglected have difficulty telling the difference. A child, for instance, who is ignored all the time may learn to “act up” to get attention. Someone who has never known affection may not be able to distinguish positive from negative attention.

The opposite of hate is indifference. I have jettisoned more than one malignant narcissist from my life. Each one has continued to reach out to me in underhanded and sneaky ways. Sending me coded “gifts” in the mail, cryptic messages, reaching out to my friends… If I react at all, I’m giving attention to the person, which must mean I’m still in love and I can’t get them out of my head (so they think). No reaction, no input, means I don’t care anymore. It turns out I have to care about someone in order to hate them.

I hated my dad for a long time. Then one day, I didn’t hate him anymore. I knew it when he phoned one Sunday morning and instead of letting it go to voicemail, I picked it up. I know better than to try and tell him about my life, he’s never interested and only changes the subject to how miserable he is. I didn’t react. I didn’t try to talk him out of his misery, I just honored it, “Is that right? Fancy that.” The call lasted about as long as they usually do. Afterward, I noticed how free I felt.

I do love my dad, I don’t think I’ll ever stop. I just don’t have anything more of me to give to him. He was the “fun” dad when I was growing up. I have a lot of good memories, and I get to keep those moments. I used to worry that I’d have some kind of regret that I didn’t spend so much time with him at the end of his life, yet I also must remember all of his life choices led him to where he is. I am not responsible for his life choices. I am worthy of being treated with respect. If he can’t offer me that, I don’t have to inconvenience myself to assay any future guilt I may suffer.