Spoilt 9th (#9)

It was never supposed to be this way. It never HAD been this way so what possessed me to try this year I’ll never guess. Maybe it was a last HURRAH before shit hit the fan. Maybe I wanted to try to inject some sunshine into everybody else’s shit storm and let them forget for a while.

I should have known better. But I wanted to try.

It started with a request. A simple request, as had been done every year before.

“Mom, I want a water balloon fight for my birthday.”

One year it was a cake. Just a simple chocolate cake with Neapolitan frosting colors. One year, she wanted a garden. I was so proud of my daughter for choosing unique gifts instead of bombarding me with requests for Tablets or Xbox One’s or Razor Scooters. Maybe not having cable in the house really did help.

It was still a huge deal to get ANYTHING for her birthday though since we used to be Jehovah’s Witness and thus eschewed any holiday traditions. What the kids didn’t know, they couldn’t miss and that’s the way it was. I did let them celebrate holidays at school since that was not at home. I refused to take them out of the classroom and let them believe they were being punished by not getting cupcakes. Ridiculous. Since we’ve cut ties with the good ol’ JW’s however, security had been lightened and I had no problem going back to my roots and getting my kid a small gift for the anniversary of her birth.

Water balloon fight. Cool. I can do that. It wouldn’t break the budget to get her a couple packs and maybe a little cake. She was all into Five Nights at Freddie’s so I knew the cake would have to be red and bloody and gory. It was a simple enough request so I got red and black frosting misters and a glittery red gel writer for the top.

That was it. That’s all that was supposed to happen. Then the texts started coming.

“What size clothes does she wear?” From my sister.

“What’s she into now?” From my cousin.

“Where are we having the party?” From my mom.

Wha…? Did I miss a memo somewhere? Since when was this a big ol’ thing? Okay, whatevs. I answered the first two no problem but as to the last… my house wasn’t big enough for lots of guests. I assumed from the texts that they weren’t just gonna drop off presents and bone out. So…a park.

Great.

This was right around the time that my brain shut off and my Debit card became an extension of my hand. People. Food. Decorations. Presents. PRESENTS! I couldn’t be the only adult to NOT get my kid something to unwrap! Toys ‘R’ Us. Hot Topic. Barnes and Nobles. Michael’s. WalMart for decorations. Target for wrapping paper and tape. Winco for food.

My god holidays are a media trap.

$400 later I was sequestered inside my laundry room for privacy, wrapping my first present in ten years thinking about whether I would be able to get a job fast enough to replace what I spent so we could make next month’s rent. Getting laid off was a bitch to deal with and humble pie tasted a lot like apple cider vinegar straight from the bottle.

But it would be fun, right? Worth it. Parties always were when I was growing up.

Well.

Mix one homeless and car-less sister who had suddenly become a single parent because of the death of her baby daddy with a depressed starving artist step dad, an over worked and under-appreciated mother and a hypochondriac cousin and see what you get.

Yeah. The tension was palatable. Yum.

On top of that, I was a terrible organizer. Or at least, this time I was. My plans had been blasted out of the water and I had to scramble to throw shit together. I over bought on just about everything. Way too much food for only 8 people. I didn’t even use the decorations because I didn’t get to the park in time to set up before people arrived and ran out of time to make the cake so I bought one instead, which was way bigger than it needed to be.  Great start!

The park site we got was bug infested. Black biting gnats were everywhere and no one had thought to bring citronella candles or bug spray. The kids didn’t care though. They were outside with the promise of getting wet, which was the whole point. I silently listened to the group of conversations going on around the table while I mixed dip and laid out sandwich stuff.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do about the funeral. I can’t even give him a good casket…”

“I’m on Somas and Tramadol for my pain and my doctor said I should have any ibuprofen in the mean time because of what happened during my surgery…”

“At work they just fuck around and take extra long breaks. I have to lecture them every damn time and I’m getting ready to write them up and give them an ultimatum…”

I mixed a drink for myself. Fireball whiskey and RC cola. I hadn’t had soda in months due to the new healthy diet I was on. I was slowly trying to  get myself off of sugar but I wasn’t sure I could deal with the negativity sober. Or at least without liquid happiness.

This was a bad idea.

I took the kids down to the creek and I plopped my jacket over my head to keep me from developing skin cancer. While they waded in and squealed over the moss collecting around their ankles I dipped my feet in the dirty silty creek shore and filled up the water guns one by one. I double-handed them and made the kids squeal louder with my squirting antics. So fun!

It’s all about the memories right? They’ll remember this for the rest of their life. The first time in a creek with the tadpoles and dirt and fish. I felt ashamed that this was the first time they’d been in a creek before. I practically learned how to swim in one as a kid, we were always camping and hiking. I was fearless.

We had a slew of visitors come and offer me drinks and conversation and snacks. I sat and tried not to think. This was supposed to be a bright spot in the middle of the craptacular month. I couldn’t add my woes to it so I smiled and drank and squirted until it was time to get things moving again. The bugs were getting too bad to tolerate for much longer and the sun was glaring relentlessly.

Time to get the ball rolling. Get on with getting on with this sham of a party.

Cake time! I announced. We wrapped the kids in over-sized towels and sand “Happy Birthday” for the first time in my daughter’s life. Then we ate cake and I smushed cake in her face. Bad mama. Ohhh she loved it though. It was gluey and half melted with way too much frosting but we ate.

Then it was Time. PRESENTS!

I don’t know who was more excited, me or the kids. Brightly wrapped gifts (or in this case, black and red to match the FNAF theme). Boxes and bundles of surprises, of unknown pleasures waiting to be discovered. And for me, I get to experience the opposite side of the equation now. Instead of the anticipation of getting the presents, I get to experience the joy of giving them.

With the family primed for pictures, we started. I gave her something boring first, trying to confuse her and lead her up the “Big Present.”

“Paint mom? Really?”

“Yeahh!” I said, upbeat with a big smile. “It’ll make sense in a minute.”

Chartreuse eyes looked at me skeptically but eagerly surveyed the big box on the table in speculation. The next one was a little purse with matching sunglasses that I thought she would love. She had complained that she needed new sunglasses and they were brightly colored in pink and green, her favorite colors, so I thought she would at least be thrilled with this gift. I bit my cheek when I saw her lips turn down and say not a word. She moved on to the next. Clothes. An emoji shirt (which she’d been all into with her class that year) and some pink capri pants.

“These are boring,” she said. “Not what I wanted at all. They’re kind of stupid.”

There was an audible snap in my brain and my rage came pouring out like liquid hot magma.

“Don’t be a spoiled brat Kate. You should be grateful you’re getting anything at all,” I whispered fiercely, bending down to her level so she could see the fury in my face. “I can take every single present back to the store and you’ll have NOTHING. Is that what you want?”

But I wanted Five Nights and Freddie’s–”

“BE GRATEFUL FOR WHAT YOU GOT, BRAT!”

Yes, I realized later that my mother came out of my mouth just then. Her eye brows were in her hair, arched in surprise, looking at the intense scene. It’s not like she wouldn’t have done any less. Hell, she would have smacked mine and my sister’s mouths if we were ever ungrateful shits like that!

There was a hushed silence and Kate looked gobsmacked. I slammed her next present on the table in front of her, emphasizing my immense displeasure. It was a new drawing book with a beautiful pastel cover that I now figured she would probably never use and moved away from her before my fingers wrapped around her little white neck.

Somebody else took pictures. I stood back in my hateful little bubble and watched as she blew through the rest of her gifts. Clothes, drawing books, scented crayons for God’s sake! And the piece de resistance: an awesome “Spin Art” activity that my sister and I begged for as kids but we never got. It was seriously, the creme de la creme of presents in my mind. How happy I was to give her something I never got to have! And it was pushed aside without a second glance.

I was done.

I started picking up trash and packing things away, silently seething. How did I raise such an ungrateful little wretch like that? I’ve always taught her manners, to say please and thank you, to share and be generous. She painted her teacher a coffee mug when I took her to a ceramics place. She ALWAYS shares her after school snack with her sister. She loves baking cookies for her class mates and giving them out just to be a nice kid. So what happened?  THIS level of nonchalance I didn’t understand. It was so out of character for her. I wanted to take everything back and teach her a lesson. Lucky for her most of the receipts were thrown away already.

My black mood seemed to be the straw the broke the camel’s back. While the kids entertained themselves with the promised water balloon fight, everyone else gathered their stuff and boned out. I got a quick kiss and some murmured advice.

“It’s just overwhelming for her. Don’t be too harsh.”

“Her first party. It was bound to happen. She’ll come around.”

Never again. This was the first and last party I would ever throw. I plunked everything in the car and drove home, trying to find room in my fridge for all the extra food no one ate and setting the half eaten cake on the counter. Fuck it. Fuck it all.

I stayed in my room like a grumpy adult child the rest of the day, barking out orders and losing myself to my own distractions. What they said was right. Kate had been overwhelmed with everything and I was willing to forgive her for that. She was still little and it was her first party ever. But this reminded me of the reason I never wanted to start celebrating in the first place, even after we left religion behind.

People make such a huge deal out of holidays, frantically running around trying to find the perfect gifts and decorations and food. They get anxious and spend way too much money and go into debt for one perfect day. Why? For what? It was too much to take in all in one day. Too much excitement, like having nothing but sugary treats all day long and then feeling hung over by the end of the night with an achy stomach and the world spinning.

I got it. I really did. But I was never ungrateful for the stuff I got.

The next day I sat Kate down and made her draw out and write Thank you cards to everyone with her new scented crayons. I still refused to look her in the eye but I did calmly explain why her reaction made me upset and that I would like a little more appreciation from her for the things she was given.

Because I was the adult. One of us had to be.

Adulting sucks. Don’t adult.

 

Advertisements

Little Dove (#8)

(A sample of writing taken from a fantasy story I’ve had to re-write because the original draft was eaten by my old computer >.<)

“Jo.”
A cool hand caressed the cheek of a sleeping girl, who moved slowly and opened brown eyes full of dreams.
“Addie?”
“Mhm.”
Jo twisted around in her already twisted blankets and opened her eyes more fully to see the woman leaning above her. It was still dark outside. The clock said 3am. Her voice was breathy from sleep.
“Did you just get in then?”
“Just now.”
“It was so long this time.”
“I know, little dove. I’m sorry. Did you do okay on your own?”
The other girl snorted and stretched, throwing an arm back over her face, settling back into her pillows.
“I don’t need a baby sitter anymore Ads. I did fine on my own. I car pooled to school and didn’t burn down the house cooking my meals.”
“Obviously.”
“Are the others here too?”
“Soon. I was the first back.”
Jo smiled, revealing an adorably crooked set of eye teeth that poked passed her top lip. She hated them and yet had refused to get braces to fix them. Contrary Jocasta, Little Dove of the Kinley household. Blonde, white, gentle and full of cooing warmth for all living things. And yet there were times, like being woken at 3 am, that she showed her more sarcastic side. Addison Kinely smiled down at her little sister and kissed her cheek.
“We’ll talk more in the morning. I only wanted you to know we were back so you didn’t freak out hearing us in the morning.”
“I wouldn’t freak out.”
“Still.”
“Mhm. Ni ni Addie.”
“Good night Dove.”
Addison walked on soft feet away from the bed and closed the door so she wouldn’t disturb Jo any further with the noises now coming from down stairs. She hurried down stairs to help load in equipment, taking what was offered to her and placing it in it’s proper place. Gun and bullet cases–tucked in the safe behind the false wall in the coat closet. Prosthetics, contacts, pass ports, finger printing kit– attached to the backside of the sink, behind the cleaning chemicals and trash bags. Delicate technology like bugs, taps, and wires were hid in a drawer in Mother’s room, third down from the top of the armoire and placed in a jewelry case then locked in place.
The other girls stealthily hid their own equipment; some in plain sight like Kat’s computer full of data cracking programs, blue prints, time tables and viruses even the Government would cringe to know existed. Mina couldn’t hide much in the house. Her Suzuki was parked in the garage next to the family Jeep and her darts, throwing daggers, and tasers were hidden in tool boxes covered purposely with old spattered paint cans, chemicals for car maintenance and dirty rags. All Mina’s domain. Last came beautiful but deadly Leilani, She needed nothing but her brain and a good cup of coffee. On a good day she would kill you 10 different ways before you even blinked while reciting your entire life to you. Female Sherlock Holmes. Scary.
“She’s okay?” Leilani asked, blue eyes sharp on Addison’s face in the dim living room light.
“She’s fine Lana. Everything went smoothly.”
“I’ll check when she wakes.”
Addie rolled her eyes. Always the same with Lana. She asked a question but no matter what answer you gave, she always had to find out the answer for herself. Mina came in, all leather and wind blown black hair, sucking on a lollipop.
“Lay off Lana. Jo’s been able to look after herself since she was like, seven.”
“We’ve never left her for so long before,” Mother said in a hushed voice, wiping a gloved hand across her forehead and displacing the brown waves fallen over her eyes from out of her pony tail.
“She’s going to have to get used to it,” Katherine pointed out, settling in her bar stool at the end of the table and opening her laptop. “It’s not getting any easier to do this now that we’re on the radar.”
“Yeah, thanks for that LANA.”
Icy eyes pierced the short Asian girl, daring her to continue. Mina rolled her lollipop between shapely lips and stared back nonchalantly.
“Min,” Mother warned.
“It’s true.”
“Whatever,” Addie interjected, ever the buffer between the two sisters. “Kat’s right though. Jo needs better protection if she’s going to be left on her own more often.”
“Or we can just bring her WITH us,” Mina said, crossing her arms.
She was met with three pair of frightful eyes, as she always did when she suggested it. She sighed and cocked a rebellious hip to the side where her gun was still sheathed in it’s holster.
“She’s not DUMB guys. She knows we’re not some hired rent-a-cop help for the rich and famous or whatever lame cover-up you gave her this time. She might even help if you gave her the skills. PLUS–” she said, raising her voice over the protestations rising like a wave around her. “She’s a fresh face.”
“Enough,” Mother said, putting a stop to the old argument before they woke Jo with their bickering. “She’s too delicate for this work. It’s why WE do it. So she doesn’t have to”
Mina rolled her black eyes and went back to sucking on her candy.
“Leave her out of it,” Lana warned. “Tomorrow, for her, we’re home and nothing else matters.”
The silence in the room was only a strained agreement between the sisters. They dispersed, hiding the remains of their gear, showering in turn and eating a quick snack before returning to their own beds for the first time in weeks.

_____________________________________________________

Jo woke fully to the smell of apple cinnamon pancakes, coffee and Mina’s delicate perfume wafting from their shared bathroom. She looked through heavy lids at her clock. 6:30 am. Did they even sleep? She stumbled out of bed, her sheets tangling around her legs and dragged herself to the bathroom. Mina was still in there, applying a layer of glossy pink color to her lips and touching up her mascara.
“Welcome back,” Jo croaked and reached for her tooth brush.
“We’re back,” she said airily and fluffed her little sister’s blonde rats nest. “You really should use leave-in conditioner Jo. Your hair gets tangled because it’s too fine.”
“Murph,” Jo replied, mouth full of foam.

She watched the curvy Asian woman apply a stripe of glittery liquid silver to each lash line and then top it with a layer of black in the crease. She was going “pretty goth” that day with her pink plaid mini skirt and cutesy white screen tee that had some adorable pink haired anime character on it eating a lollipop. She had on white thigh highs held up with a garter belt and some ridiculous platform boots Jo wasn’t sure she could even walk in.
“So anything exciting happen? Have a party? Kiss a boy? Go crazy and buy some land in the Galapagos?” Mina asked.
Jo snorted and spat.
“I was promoted at work to pill pusher. Yaayyyy. And I finished planting my grafted seedlings. I’ll see in a few weeks how they came out.”
“Ohh honey we need so much more than leave-in conditioner to haul you over,” Mina sighed and gave Jo’s head a one armed hug.
“Mhm.”
“Anyway, hurry down when you’re dressed. I’ll give you a ride to school so you can avoid the Lana-nater. We’ll pick up chocolate Croissants and chai tea on the way to the Studio.”
“Sounds good,” Jo said, smiling at Mina in the mirror at their own private joke. She went back into her neat as a pin room (Lana wouldn’t have it any other way) and rummaged through her drab but comfortable wardrobe. She chose something at random while Mina clattered downstairs, making as much noise as possible and yelling “Good Morning!” at the top of her lungs. It was sure to piss off Lana and Jo gave her bed a smirk.
Lana was the oldest sister and the meanest. Mina and Jo would call her Lana-nater, after the Terminater when they got in trouble with her, which seemed like every second of every day. The older, severe looking girl with the piercing eyes ran the house like a drill Sargent and Jo was interrogated every time Lana came home from a work trip. It had been the same since she was first brought to the house. There was never any praise from Leilana, not for any of the sisters. Only criticisms and the drive for everyone to do better. Addison was and always will be the middle-woman between Lana and everyone else, smoothing everything over as best she could to keep the peace. She was the only one able to deal with Lana’s harshness.
Kat brushed it off with a cool disregard, her eyes and ears filled with nothing but numbers and static. So it had been Mina who became Jo’s self-appointed buffer from Lana’s wolfishness when, at age six, she found a tiny red-faced Jo cowering in the tool shed after a particularly harsh lecture. After that Mina insisted Jo room with her and under the pulsing tones of techno played on full blast, Jo could cry in peace on Mina’s lap and heal the wounds of disappointment in herself that Lana had instilled.
As a teenager though, Mina’s role had shifted from protector to teacher for Jo. Out of all her beloved sisters, Mina was the only one who pushed Jo to broaden her horizons, to try new things. Often it didn’t work because Jo had a quiet nature and was content with simplicity. But at least she tried and some things DID stick. Which was why every day Jo left the house an hour earlier than most for school and rode her bike to a little Kendo studio for lessons.
“You’re a wimp,” Mina said, standing with Jo in front of the studio four years ago, arms crossed and popping bubbles with her bright green bubble gum. “Kendo is a non violent form of martial arts that can build muscle and reflexes. My ex owns the studio and agreed to teach you for a couple weeks to see if you like it.”
Jocasta was scrawny and weak when she first gripped the long bamboo stick and ached all over after the first day. She’d never done anything more strenuous than pick up potting soil bags. But she came back the next day and the next, enjoying the power she gained over the Kendo sticks and the release of tension from her hectic family life. No one else knew about her lessons except Mina. Sadly, Jo knew her sisters would object to them. Why? She couldn’t even imagine. She often thought they wanted to keep her deaf and dumb the rest of her life, puttering with her herbs and flowers like a little doll. Only Mina saw more; PUSHED her to do more.
The blond girl hurried into her clothes and ran a brush through her long honey blonde hair. She took a quick glance in the mirror, saw chocolate brown eyes, a sharp chin, a dusting of freckles and two tiny indentations in her bottom lip where her crooked teeth pushed past her lips. She sighed. Plain Jane Jocasta. She started downstairs and took a fortifying breath.
“Jo darling! My little Dove!” Mother greeted, her brown hair smoothed back into a bun and sea green eyes alight with joy. “We didn’t want to wake you last night when we came in but we’re home!”
She came around from behind the stove and gave her youngest daughter a hard long hug.
“Welcome back Mom,” Jo said, feeling joy trickle through her at the warm embrace.
“I’m sorry we were gone so long,” she murmured into Jo’s ear, “I know you don’t like being alone so long.”
“It’s fine Mom,” she said. “I’m not a kid anymore.”
“Still….”
“Did you need any help with your homework or projects?” Kat asked, never turning from her computer. “It says here that you have a History project due next week. And a test in your Geometry class tomorrow and your grade is a low B. Did you need help prepping? We can go through sample problems after dinner.”
It was an order, not a request. It was how Kat showed she cared. Jo sighed and released her mother to go peer at Kat’s screen. It had been a request of the family that Jocasta’s teachers keep a calendar of events as well as her grades online for her family’s benefit since they traveled so much.
“That’s fine Kitty. I’d appreciate the help.”
She kissed her rumpled and distracted sister on the cheek and grabbed an apple from the bowl of fruit on the table. The whole time Jo had been in the kitchen she felt Lana’s eyes digging into her. She was leaning against the sink, arms crossed, mouth a thin line of judgment. Addison was no where to be seen. Jo’s heart start to quicken when she raised her eyes to meet Lana’s and opened her mouth to greet her when Mina came barreling through the kitchen and grabbed her roughly by the arm.
“Late. Gotta go. C’mon.”
“Jocasta!”
Jo stumbled out the door into the garage, clutching her apple as she was dragged toward Mina’s sleek motorcycle.
“My bag–”
Mina shoved a heavy back pack at her and a coat after it.
“Thanks.”
“She’s been in a mood since she got home, biting everybody’s head off.”
“Awesome.”
“Let’s go, before she has Kat hack the garage door opener.”
Mina swung a long leg over the seat of her bike and plunked the keys into the ignition. She kicked the stand up and steadied the bike as Jo shrugged on her jacket, put the apple in a pocket and mounted behind her. Jo settled the heavy bag on her shoulders and took the helmet Mina offered.
“Welcome home, by the way,” Jo said, a long-time weariness in her voice.
“Yep. Same old, same old huh?”
The blond girl set her feet on the pegs behind Mina’s and gripped her waist lightly. She lowered the visor and Jo’s world went into shadow. Mina opened the garage door and cool morning wind brought goose flesh to the girls’ skin. The Asian girl never seem to mind though. She rarely got cold. Jo, on the other hand, was already freezing.
“Giddy On up! WOO HOO!!!”
Mina roared out of the garage, upsetting the two cars parked at the front of the house owned by the family and several others parked on the street nearby. Jo smiled. Mother would be getting calls again no doubt. But no one could tame Mina. Jo preferred it that way.

Should I stay or should I go now?

Hey y’all! How’s it going? Hot as the devil’s armpit here which means I stay inside to avoid getting skin cancer.

So here I am, back to writing. Finally. Maybe. Lots of shiet been happening in my life lately. Just about everything is topsy-turvy. CATS AND DOGS LIVING TOGETHER! MASS HYSTERIA! There are a lot of ruts I’m digging myself out of and when I got a moment to breathe I realized that writing has become one of them.

I predicted it though, didn’t I?

Apparently all my blog is good for is entertainment and not actual advice. At least not for myself. Haaaaaaa. Story of my life.

Well, as stories are won’t to do, a couple of them have been prodding me to get busy again. And not gentle Fluttershy pokes either. More like, the toddler-esque “Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mama, mama, mama, mama–” kind of deal. Annoying to the point of table flipping in irritation. I did try to protest and tell them I was going through a few crisis’ in my life and couldn’t be bothered. Do they care? Not a wit. Laundry and divorces and deaths can wait.

So like the slave that I am, I turn back to toeing my creativity back into these half-baked stories I left browning in the oven of my brain. Specifically Hourglass. But all I see are gaping holes, gooey insides, nuggets of greatness and crispy edges. Oi vey. How do I pick back up a story like that?

“How do you pick up the threads of an old life?” ~Frodo Baggins

I feel ya Frodo.

I guess this is why the Pros say not to stop until you’re finished. It’s difficult to edit a story that’s half written but that’s exactly what I discovered I would be doing with all ones I left behind. Editing, filling in and changing something that’s only a pile of ideas in a flimsy structure.

So what do I do? Do I finish the story I started and go back to edit it afterward? Do I keep digging the trench and hope that the blue prints I left for myself would suffice? Or do I throw caution (and advice) into the fire and re-make the recipe with better ingredients and fresh ideas?

I suppose every writer comes to this decision. Should I stay or do I go?

Given the propensity lately of me digging myself out of ruts, my first inclination is to go with the later. I have a good character base. It was always the setting I had issues with. Trying to come up with a cohesive world for my characters to romp around in. (Plus I have an obnoxious husband that questions every single detail and decision and has to have everything make perfect, logical, scientific sense.)

However.

I feel like I have a good story premise. I have dynamic characters that aren’t too clichéd and a couple of sneaky villains. The setting is even pretty great with lots of potential. But we know that some of the best story IDEAS sometimes fall flat on execution.

So I think I’m going to stick with my current blue print and try to tighten it up and flesh it out more. I can always edit within an inch of my life after the full rough is done. (Cuz that’s the important part right? Finishing. Ha.)

I understand this might not be the case with every story. There will be times where I have to stuff it into a desk drawer, never to see the light of day again. I may even have to do it with this story. But I will try. I think that’s kind of the theme of my life right now. I will try. 

Jessie, the little red-head that could! Toot toot!

Slowly I am digging myself out of the trenches and getting back on solid ground, one crisis at a time. But there is some semblance of normal that I can cling to, such as procrastinating on my writing 😀 But at least I got something out today. That’s improvement.

Every decision is an important one because at least it’s a step in a direction. ANY direction. Backwards isn’t always preferable however breaking down and rebuilding is sometimes necessary. YOU have to make that decision. If it’s wrong, then make a different one. If you have to part ways with your story (or people or things or places) then do it.

Just make the decision and take the step.

More Than Words– part 5 (#7)

(Part 1 Here) (Part 2 here) (Part 3 here) (Part 4 here)

Shoes. Jacket. Keys. Wallet and Phone. Sunglasses. Work Badge to bypass the witches at the receptionist desk. Lock the Door. Get in the Car. Drive the car. Go FAST.

Steph. It was Steph. Almost as bad as Jer. But thank gawd it wasn’t.

The closest hospital to the stadium was about 15 minutes away from my apartment. I careened through back roads, my emergency flashers going and I shamelessly ran red lights if I saw it was safe enough.

The first text in a week and it was an SOS. It was so petty of me to run away. I saw that now. What if it HAD been Jer? How much more of an ass would I feel right now for not being there, for not seeing something might be wrong? Gawd I was so incredibly selfish.

I screeched around a corner, setting a couple of dogs off. Their ski jacket humans put their arms up in a “WHAT THE FUCK?” gesture.

“Sorry!” I yelled uselessly.

I felt my phone buzzing in my pocket. I ignored it. I was half focusing on the road and half trying to crank my brain into giving me answers to a problem. Did Steph have any pre-existing conditions that I didn’t know about? Was he hung over today? Did he have a blood clot? Did he have an arrhythmia? I couldn’t remember. I didn’t know because I wasn’t there. I hadn’t BEEN there. I couldn’t ask the question I needed to.

Left. Right. Light. Wait; now go. Almost there. I saw the flashing lights of an ambulance. It pulled in just before me.

I squealed into the emergency parking lot of the hospital and slammed the car into park. I shoved all my junk into my over-sized jacket and kicked open the door, scanning the lot for familiar cars. Jer wasn’t there? Or did he ride with the van? I disentangled my phone from my pocket and checked messages.

Alma. Alma. Gale. Jer!

-Going to the hospital with Steph-

So he WAS here. I pressed the call button and hurried out of the biting cold into the warmth of the lobby, snowflakes instantly turning to liquid on my hot skin. I waited breathlessly by the door. Jer wasn’t picking up. Dammit! My heart beat was choking me, anxious about damn near everything. My eyes swept over all the faces waiting in the lobby. Not there.When they started to blur I pressed the heels of my hands hard against my sockets and took a deep breath. It’ll be okay. Jer’s here. It’ll be fine. Steph’s in good hands.

I waited in line at the receptions area, shifting from foot to foot. I rapidly responded to the texts blowing up my phone.

Alma: “WTF Jac?! CALL ME YOU ASSHOLE!”

Alma: “OMG!!! STEPH! UPDATE ME!”

Gale: “Just saw the TV honey. Give Steph and Jerry our prayers and love.”

“Can I help you ma’am?”

I swallowed a few times, swiping at the tears in my eyes and leaned down to the clear plastic window at the bored nurse.

“Yes, a man was just admitted into the ER. His name is Stephen and I need to see him right away—”

“Jac.”

My head whipped around at the sound of my name. And then there he was. The face I’d loved for years tense with worry and no trace of his easy smile. But it was a face more familiar than my own. The beauty mark next to his left eye. The creases around his eyes from laughing. Cinnamon brown irises that revealed everything he was feeling, but only to me. Just now they were a storm of emotions and I couldn’t keep up.

A balloon rapidly blew up inside my stomach and floated up through my chest and stopped at my throat, trying to inch its way up and out. It was the same reaction I had when he told me he loved me. Was this PTSD? Panic attack?

No. This didn’t feel bad. It felt wonderful. Jer was here and he was okay.

I didn’t feel my feet hit the floor as I rushed to him. I teleported into his arms and tried to fuse him into my anatomy, burying my face into his chest. His arms went mechanically behind me in a return gesture. I clung like an adult monkey to his torso and squeezed until he grunted. My brain fought over what to say first but I still couldn’t speak. Not about what happened anyway. I was here for a reason.

“They’re doing a CT scan now,” Jer murmured in my ear. “I didn’t see what happened. I was in the locker room when he went down.”

I latched my arms behind him and was silent for a moment. I knew he was beating himself up for not being there.

“Did he tell you anything on the ride?” I managed to squeak out.

“He couldn’t really speak around the oxygen mask. I don’t know anything except he was stabilizing on the ride here.”

We stood there in the lobby wrapped around one another for a long time. Tears leaked out of my eyes and slipped down my cheeks. Tears for what Jer must be feeling and for my own sorry self. I wanted to say I was sorry for putting him through hell. I wanted to explain why I did it more than anything but I didn’t even KNOW that. I wanted to open my mouth and tell him it had been the most horrible week of my life, including pledge week for my sorority and that bad case of food poisoning I got when he tried to cook me rancid scallops.

I could only cling with all my strength. Slowly, he returned the pressure with his arms and laid his chin on my head.

“Goddammit Jer. You asshole,” I cursed softly.

“I know.”

When Jer knocked on the door to alert the nurse on the other side to open it, I was firmly gripping his other hand. He took me to a curtained stall where I saw a pile of Steph’s clothes were on the corner of the bed, neatly folded, his prized sunglasses setting on top and his yellow sneakers waiting down below.

“Do you have any suspicions?” I asked.

I looked up at the tall man and my eyes instantly went to his beauty mark. It always seemed like a bull’s eye for my lips. I would drag his face down to mine and kiss it before he left me for the day. He told me jokingly once he was going to get lip prints tattooed there since I was leaving my lip stick marks there all the time anyway. It was “Jac’s Mark”.

He looked down at me and my pulse leapt, throwing off my breathing rhythm. He probably heard the catch in my voice. Warm Tiger’s eye brown. Red brown honesty tinged with distrust and hurt.

“When we were going to the locker room after warm ups he was going on and on about a weird thing that happened at the bar. I was only half-listening but I did catch that he felt like he’d been running a marathon as soon as he stepped inside.”

“Had he been?” I wondered. This was Steph at after all. If someone dared him he would jog to the next city and back for a beer.

“I don’t know. I was distracted. I didn’t ask.”

I bit my lip and looked away. Passive-aggressive anger. I deserved it. I knew I did but it still hurt. I didn’t say anything else for a while. I stood there like a human statue, gripping Jer’s hand and refusing to let go even when he twitched to signal me to.

“You’re impossible,” Jer said.

Yes, I know, I thought.

He took his phone out and started to speak into it. Probably a mass text to let everyone one we were still waiting. I should have done the same but I didn’t reach for my phone. There was pressuring building inside me and I was focused on it. I felt it bubbling up like a geyser about to blow. What was going to come out? I didn’t even have a clue. There was a week’s worth of big things and little things I wanted to tell Jer about and I wanted to scream at him for being an idiot and ruining things. I wanted to hug him again and tell him it would be alright, that I was there even if it wasn’t.

I wanted–

“You’re in love with me?”

I felt Jer’s gaze shift to my face. It was flaming hot like a sunburn. Why the fuck did I have to start this NOW? Jesus Jac, you ridiculous moron–

“Yes, I am.”

I inhaled slowly and I felt hot warmth behind my eyes again. He squeezed my hand to try to turn my head around to look at him directly but I couldn’t. Not yet.

“Why now?”

“It was time.”

He had all the answers ready. That wasn’t fair. I still had none. There was more tense silence. I could hear my heart beat in my ears and I tried more deep breaths to calm it. What next? What could I say next that was true and honest?

“I–”

“Jac, nothing has changed for me.”

My word vomit hit the brakes. Goose flesh rose off my skin with the effort to hold it back.

“What?”

“Nothing has changed for me by admitting this to you. I’ve felt the same way for years and I’ll continue to do so for a long time. If we remain friends, I’ll still love you. If you decide you’re okay with this, I’ll love you harder and better than anyone ever has or could again. But I’m here with you, no matter what. You are my life, Jac and I will give you all the time you need to figure it out.”

“You would stay,” I asked, “Even if we can’t be more? Isn’t that kind of masochistic?”

“I’m a glutton for punishment. You’re worth it. I’m not going anywhere until you’re done with me.”

God fucking dammit. Everything rested on me now. The ball was in my court entirely and he waited patiently for an answer. He stared down at me, not asking for anything more than I was willing to give. Who DOES that? Who WAITS for someone for years, sitting on a massive secret like this and pretending everything is normal for MY sake because he knew I would flip out? He said it knowing he might lose me.

I slowly loosened my death grip on him and ran two shaky hands through my disheveled hair. Dammit, I thought. DAMMIT! I reached out, finally turning my face fully toward his and I dragged his head down to mine. My lips did not touch the beauty mark this time. They landed with irritation and desperation right on top of his and I heard his sharp intake of breath.

“I have had the most horrible week of my life,” I murmured to him, my lips brushing his while I spoke. “I hate you for putting me through it and I demand compensation.”

“And what is the price for one week of horribleness?”

His hands slid around my back and I saw his mustache elongate, parallel to his lips. He was laughing at me.

“Don’t leave.”

His eyes jumped to mine. Naturally, they were already tearing up. Why break the trend?

“I don’t have answers for you Jerry. Not good ones anyway. But I know that being away from you felt like I was going through the nine circles of Hell and I absolutely hated it.”

I paused, hearing my words and deciding I agreed with them. It wasn’t just emotion talking. It was me. I continued.

“You said you’re willing to give me time to figure it out. I’m going to hold you to that. It might be a long time though.”

“I know. You’re pretty thick in the head when it comes to this kind of thing.”

I pursed my lips at him and he finally gave me his crooked lazy grin. A tiny bit of pressure eased in my chest. There he is. At last.

“Shaddup! That’s the compensation I demand. Give me time.”

“So it’s not a no?”

The hope in his voice sent a fresh wave of goose-flesh down my body.

“It’s not a no.”

“Then I demand compensation as well.”

I raised my eyebrows at him, daring him to be ridiculous. He didn’t say another word. He rushed in and covered my mouth with his in a passionate, rough kiss. He punished me with tenderness and pressure, sliding his hands up to my face to keep me immobile while he nibbled my bottom lip and rolled the tip of his tongue across it to ease the dull ache. He demanded entrance into my mouth and I gave it, too surprised and lost to think about what this meant.

He gave me a week’s worth of frustration and sorrow when he crushed my mouth to his. There was an apology within his kiss when he brushed me so softly it felt like butterfly wings. And there was promise when he drew me close and lined his body up with mine, warming me down to my toes with pleasure.

Goddammit.

My lips felt tingly and bruised when he finally pulled away. I tried to focus disoriented eyes on him and frowned when I saw his smirk.

“You asshole!”

“That was my compensation. And maybe a little persuasion. A taste of what you could have.”

I turned away from him, face burning again, eyes bulging. My hand came up to cup my mouth holding the feeling of his promise against them. My other hand reached back toward him and he took it. We stayed like that until the curtain was drawn open and a harried looking doctor walked in holding a clip board. He looked at us and blinked. I wasn’t sure what he saw but he managed to keep his composure.

“Jeremiah?”

“Yes, that’s me.”

“The patient said I should relay everything to you so you can alert his family.”

I took a step back so I was shoulder to shoulder with Jer, giving him strength as his best friend to hear whatever news came. We held tight.

“It turns out that the patient has been diagnosed with WPW, or Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome.”

I looked up at Jer, who nodded. He knew what it was. He also looked relieved which allowed me to finally take a deep breath.

“He doesn’t require surgery then?”

“No, not yet. We’ll try medication and Vagal Maneuvers first and work up from there.”

“I can work on it with him. Thank you Doctor. Is he free to be discharged?”

“It’ll take a bit of paper work on my end but he can go home today, yes. Make sure he rests.”

The doctor exited the curtained stall and I immediately shifted around to hug Jer.

“Relief!” I said, sighing.

“In more than one way.”

I blushed and smiled into his chest.

“There’s one more thing though,” Jer said and I felt my shoulders sag. I waited for the other shoe to drop.

“Steph said when I talked to you again you owe him a box of coconut macaroons.”

I burst out laughing.

“He can have all the macaroons he wants! Idiot man. He might get a poisoned one though for what he put us through.”

“Maybe lace it with a laxative. It’s what he deserves after all.”

I laughed until my abs ached. This was Us. This was how life was supposed to be. Side by side with our lives stretched out before us. Who knew that it took something more than words to make me figure out it was what I wanted all along?

 

How to deal with “Parting is such sweet sorrow”

Tragedy has struck in my life. True and horrible tragedy.

It hasn’t directly affected me but family whom I care deeply about. I couldn’t do anything for a while. Not write. Not clean. Not cook.

It wasn’t really from sorrow or shock as one might expect. Yes, I did feel sorry for the family affected of course. But I was more put into a stasis by the simple fact of I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT.

I’ve never dealt with Death before. I was too young to have developed a relationship with any of my grandparents when they were alive and I haven’t made any elderly friends (or stupid drug addict friends or stunt devil friends) that would afford me the experience of feeling such a keen loss.

What do I do for them? Saying “I’m sorry” never seemed like a comfort to anybody. It made them cry harder in my limited scope of things. “How are you doing?” Is just a moot question and damnably tactless. I watched everyone else around me cry or get angry or be “efficient”; cooking, buying groceries, keeping an upbeat attitude, trying to distract with toys and games and movies.

What do I do? How should I feel? Feeling nothing makes me look like a soulless witch-monster. I can nod and smile with the best of them. I can offer shoulders to cry on and babysit to give relief. Those are actionable things that seem like “the right thing to do”. But it still doesn’t answer the question. How should I react to Death?

How should anybody?

Thinking about this I, naturally, applied it to my writing. (Come onnnnn you saw that coming! It’s always about writing up in the bakalove hizzzouuuuuuse!)

I’ve read about tragedy. I’ve cried over powerfully emotional scenes and the deaths of characters I grew fond of. Dumbledore’s death warranted a book thrown across the room at my door and denting the cover. The death of Prim in “Mockingjay” left me sobbing inconsolably until the end of the book. And eventually that was thrown as well. I still can’t read the end of “Where the Red Fern grows” without a box of tissues and a heaping bowl of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream.

Is this how people are supposed to react to death? Ice cream binges, throwing things, and boxes of tissues? Is this how I was supposed to WRITE tragedy because it’s how I experienced it?

Somehow I think putting these reactions on paper would seem hollow and weak. (Unless we were talking about like, a teenage break up tragedy. Then it might seem apropos.) The simple truth is that I’ve never experienced true, heart-rending, soul sucking tragedy and I can only mimic the emotions until I do.

Not that I want to. I’m fortunate in some ways to have been able to mature as an adult before having to deal with Death’s cruel miasma. I’m sure I would be able to function as I should and keep it separate from my professional life. But not having this terrible experience denies me an important part of life. I can’t write the truth about something I’ve never felt. I can only echo it.

This is why going out and expanding your world is important, as a writer and as a human being. We need adventure and challenges and tragedy to fill us out and make us wiser beings. We need to soak it all in, to ruminate on it, to accept it within ourselves and then, for those of us that ARE writers, we need to pass it on. Tell the truth about it. Remember every cut of searing pain ripping through your rib cage and every gasping, panic-stricken sob. Remember the numbness and the vehement anger.

Write it down. Tell the truth, even if it hurts. The world and your readers need it.

The Devil is in the Details: more is better

People start new stories a myriad of different ways. Sometimes it’s a flash of a scene they see in their mind’s eye or the lyrics to a song that sparks some dialogue. A specific smell might trigger it or the way someone is dressed.

I don’t know if it’s true of everyone but I like to believe that writers have a stronger connection to certain parts of a story than others so when inspiration strikes, that strength comes to the foreground.

For instance, you could be thumbing through a magazine and see a beautiful cursive type font and suddenly you see a young woman from Jane Austen’s world penning a letter over a scarred and ink-stained desk, a tendril of copper hair escaping her severe bun. Or you can hear the distant refrain from some classical Russian Ballet soundtrack and then you’re meandering down cobblestone streets, carrying a basket of fruit and bread down an alleyway to take home for dinner and you look up to admire the cloudless day in between the white washed buildings.

One is character driven inspiration and one is world driven.

When I write, I tend to be more character driven. I love the process of picking out names and giving the blank slate mannequins different personalities. I used to be really bad at creating believable characters. I would pour into them sugar, spice and everything nice on top of all my personal hopes and dreams. Guitar playing? Yep, since childhood. Knows several languages? Bein sûr! Can run 5k marathons and hike Mount Everest–without oxygen? Cake walk! And that’s just the main character.

Yeah I know >< We all start somewhere. (Keep that in mind when you’re writing!)

I’ve since learned to spread those qualities out among the entire cast. I’ve also learned that they really do need annoying habits and quirks to make them believable. I created a character that pretty much hates everything except music and death. He’s my first anti-hero and probably the most extreme character I’ve ever created. I’ve also made a character that sacrifices so much of herself for other people that she never figured out what she wanted out of life and has to journey to figure it out. Another extreme.

It was some big personal growth for me realizing how one-note my cast was and fixing it, adding to it and balancing them appropriately. I was pretty proud! I could re-read my drafts now and nod approvingly. Yes, these could be real people walking down the street. Yay me! Gold star on my forehead!

I still have more growth that needs to happen though, naturally. I realized this as I was trying to go back to writing one of my NaNoWriMo stories, “Hourglass”. In a nut shell, I abhor details.

Lemme explain.

I had my three main characters set up in this story. They had names and personalities that played off each other. They had importance in the story and provided plenty of conflict. All seemed well until I came to a flash back. Ahh crap. This means I need to provide BACKGROUND. And here, my friends, is where my downfall is while creating my characters.

Background. History. Family. Childhood.

Now these things don’t seem like they’re important in most stories. Unless you’re writing a biography or writing a lot about the character’s history, you’ll only ever really write about key events from their past to explain their current behaviors. Minimal effort put into the background may seem sufficient. Plus, this is a lot of extra work, writing down background stuff that may never end up in the story at all.

BUT MAYBE IT WILL.

I had an instance where my character basically had to go back and visit her husband in the past. She had to get answers from him that would determine her future actions. It is a rather pivotal scene that I’ve been stuck on for a long while because I never gave her enough history to augment this dialogue.

Creating history for your cast or characters can only benefit you in the long run. And the beauty of it is that you can make it as detailed or as simple as you like. If you don’t know how to start, there are tons of questionnaires out there on the internet. You can google it and come up with hundreds of results. There’s no shame in using them! There’s also no shame in changing details when you need to. Great aunt Mildred can become Great Aunt Tessie. Daddy could have died of leukemia instead of sickle-cell anemia. Favorite childhood snack could be popcorn instead of brownies.

The point of it is, to have the information on hand when it’s needed. Or even when it’s not needed. Often writers will have secrets about their characters that no one else is supposed to know, not even the readers, but sometimes they slip in anyway. Go for it! Details like that make them seem more alive and personable.

Plus, creating a character background allows you to be on-on-one with your cast. You can really get to know them, ask them questions and get answers. You’ll be able to know exactly how he/she will react in any given situation because you know them so well. They won’t act out of character when a bomb blows up their car or they’re passionately kissed by a stranger because you, as a writer, took the time to familiarize yourself with their personalities.

Yes. This is more work on top of everything else a writer is “supposed” to do but think of it as building a foundation. These details will build your stories brick by brick until you’ve created a mansion for readers to frolick through and enjoy.

Put in the work, reap the rewards!

Real or Not Real? Location, location, location!

Hello my friends. Welcome back!

Lately I’ve been thinking about locations. Why? Well, I live in southern California and recently I’ve decided that the weather is bi-polar. Yep. I’ve taken to wearing tank tops with a coat just so I’m prepared for any eventuality. Being on the coast, we have such a thing called “May Gray” and “June Gloom.” It’s a time of year where we get a cloudy maritime layer of yuck over the city for the better part of the day and the sweet Cali sun will bust through. This year the weather seems to be flip-flopping a bit more than usual and I find I have to change my clothing at least once a day to follow suit.

Annoying sometimes as a resident. Intriguing as a Writer.

This got me thinking about all the books I’ve read that were based on real cities and places. I really love it when authors do this. The fact that I could board a plane to Forks, Washington or Manhattan, New York and follow the steps of the character; see the sights they saw and ate where they ate is very appealing. There’s a kind of grounding in reality with this kind of setting. Blue sky. Green grass. Neon lights. Yapping dogs. It’s comforting and familiar and it makes me that much more connected to the book.

I’ve set my “Silver Sun” story partly in my own city. I love being able to share a walk down Main Street with my readers and describe the smell of Thai food mixing with the pizza place across the street. I can include real live people (with permission of course) that I’ve talked to, like my favorite postal worker and my cat’s veterinarian. Not to mention its kind of cheating. There’s no need to make up a city and people to interact with. They’re already pre-set for the writing!

It definitely has appeal for a writer (and a resident in my case. I’m lucky to live in my little paradise.) Even less than desirable cities and neighborhoods can make intriguing stories. “Cry, the Beloved Country” by Alan Paton comes to mind and “A Child called It” by Dave Pelzer We just wouldn’t necessarily want to GO to those places. They’re tangible locations you could put  a pin in on a map though.

Then again you can also change reality and still base it on earthly locations. A melding of the two. There’s a whole genre that has explored this phenomenon and it’s called “Fiction” with sub-genres such as Paranormal, Science Fiction, and Magical Realism. A certain percentage of the story is based on earth with cities and people who resemble reality but might have portals to other worlds or have mythical creatures walking among the humans.

I think that would be a really awesome reality to live in. This kind of setting is where I base a lot of my stories in. There’s so much freedom! To be able to blow up the Golden Gate Bridge and then rebuild it with super advanced alien technology or step through a mirror and end up in another realm is appealing to imagine, not to mention write. You can choose how much science and how much fantasy are included in your story although you run the risk of getting those ultra fussy critics that demand facts to support your werewolf metamorphosis theory.  (My husband is one of these *ROLLS EYES*)

And then there is, in my opinion, the hardest kind of setting to write. Let’s sing about it Jasmine!

~”A whollee neewww worrlllddddd! A dazzling place I never knew!”~

Sorry. There’s your ear worm for the week. But it’s true. Writing an entirely new world is a daunting task. I’ve read quite a few Epic fantasy sagas that are so rich in politics and language and lore I wonder how they ever found the time to FINISH it. “The Lord of the Rings” by J. R. R. Tolkien, “Symphony of Ages” by Elizabeth Haydon and “The Belgariad/Mallorean” series by David Eddings. So much work and thought and love went into each one of these stories. But even these are still roughly based on reality.

Creme de la Creme? Science Fiction writing. How about we take all this up to the stars? I don’t read much Science Fiction because it’s not my cup of tea but I greatly admire authors who write this genre. This is completely new territory that they literally build from scratch. So little is known about space and what IS known barely makes sense to the professionals who study it much less curious writers. However, this, in its own way, gives complete freedom to the author to write whatever they want; even more so than fantasy writers.

Advanced technology. Brand new races of people. New threats and planets and galaxies born from their imagination. New problems and conflicts and malfunctions. New issues with politics and marriage and bearing children. All off the surface of the earth into the last frontier. How amazing is that?!

I certainly don’t have the fortitude or the will to create something out of nothing. Yet. Baby steps. But deciding where you’re going to base your story changes the whole tone of it. The setting really IS its own character. Probably the most important side character ever. World building gives the reader a frame of reference to where everything is happening to the main characters and paints the canvas of your mind with color and feeling. Don’t treat it like the background that it is. Make sure you can engage all five senses when you’re writing and have your characters interact with their surroundings frequently.

Keep it real. Or fantastical ;D Your choice!

Enjoy and keep plodding.