Rainey Daze and Crazy Nights

Poetry, Paintings, and Ponderings: Through My Eyes

The Crooked Tree May 25, 2013

Once, deep in a beautiful green forest, a teeny tiny tree seed fell onto the rich soil of the forest floor. Now, in this forest, many seeds fell onto the forest floor, but most were quickly eaten by the hungry birds that lived among the trees. This particular seed, however, was so tiny, so incredibly small, that it was overlooked by the birds. After a few days the seed began to sprout.

Now, you must know that all the seeds that were not eaten by the hungry birds began to sprout. Soon, the rabbits of the forest smelled the new sprouts. The rabbits came out of their little rabbit homes and gathered around to eat the fresh tender sprouts. The teeny tiny seed had sprouted into a teeny tiny sprout and was overlooked by the hungry rabbits.

The teeny tiny sprout felt very fortunate. As he looked around,  he saw only a few other sprouts still standing. He was so happy, he did a little wiggle in the wind. The other sprouts laughed at him and called him a baby. The teeny tiny sprout was so embarrassed he turned red all the way to the top of his teeny tiny leaf.

All of the sprouts growing on the forest floor were watched over by the ancients. The ancients were the top trees of the forest. They had the tallest, straightest trunks you could imagine! Their beautiful branches stretched far and wide, casting deep shadows across the forest floor. Only a little sunlight filtered down through their thick branches. The ancients knew the sprouts needed sunlight to grow, and that only the strongest and smartest sprouts would survive. It was the way of the forest.

Time passed and the sprouts continued to grow. Most sprouts grew tall and straight, with their heads lifting higher and higher towards the few rays of sunlight that filtered down through the ancients. They had beautiful straight bodies filled with perfect little leaves. Their bark was strong and turning a rich brown. A few sprouts began to wither and die because they could not reach the much-needed rays of sun. The teeny tiny sprout grew, but he was a lot smaller than the other sprouts. He was not near a sun ray, and it was hard for him to  make new leaves. His trunk was thin. It made him sad to see some of the other sprouts begin to die, and he worried that he, too would die.

The taller sprouts called him names and told him it was just a matter of time until he died like the other weaklings. Teeny tiny sprout tried to ignore their taunts, but it was hard. He was determined to grow and survive! He spent hours and hours thinking about his problem and how he could solve it. He gazed up at the ancients and wondered how they survived. How he longed to become an ancient so he could watch over the little seedlings of the forest! As he was peering up, he noticed something unusual about several of the  ancients. The bottom of their long, towering trunks were thick and straight. But as he looked up toward the very top of their bodies, he noticed that most, if not all, were bent and crooked. It was hard to see because the ancients were so crowded together and their long branches were interwoven. He wondered why they grew this way. Suddenly, he understood!

From that day forward, teeny tiny sprout stopped worrying about being tall and straight. He leaned his teeny tiny body towards any bit of sunlight he could reach. He began to grow, but he was bent in odd places. The other sprouts told him he looked ridiculous. Teeny tiny sprout tried to explain to them what he discovered about the ancients, but they just covered their ears with bark and refused to listen.

All the sprouts who survived became small tree-lets. Some of the tree-lets were tall and straight because they were lucky enough to stand in a beam of sunlight. Teeny tiny tree-let continued to grow, but he was bent in so many places he was still very low to the ground. But he had beautiful leaves, and his truck was a rich brown. The other tree-lets continued to make fun of him, but he no longer cared. He knew he was different, but he was happy and that was all that mattered.

Late one afternoon, all sunlight disappeared as dark clouds gathered high above the heads of the ancients. The ancients locked limbs to protect the young tree-lets, because they knew the dangers of the storm. Before long, thunder rumbled and rain pelted the forest floor. The tree-lets loved the rain and began drinking it in as fast as it fell. After several minutes, the tree-lets were full of rain and could hold no more. But the rain came down even harder and the roots of the tree-lets could fill the soil washing away. This worried teeny tiny tree, so he tried to squeeze his roots more tightly into the ground.

As the rain continued to pound the forest floor, the ancients started to wave around wildly. The wind was a fierce beast who beat them upon their heads and tossed them around. One ancient, born many, many years before, was snapped in half. Wind didn’t even care and kept pounding at the forest. On the forest floor, the tall, straight tree-lets were tossed around as well. It was hard to hang onto the wet slippery soil when the wind pulled them back and forth. Several tree-lets were ripped from the soil and tossed to the wind, never to be seen again. Teeny tiny tree-let hugged his bent trunk close to the forest floor. He did not stand as tall as the other tree-lets, so he was able to hug closer to the ground. He hung on with all his might.

An hour later the storm passed. The forest dripped with rain and the sun shone again. It was sad to see the ancient who fell, but that was the way of the forest. As teeny tiny tree-let looked around, he realized many other tree-lets were gone. Only three remained, including himself. He was very sad the others were gone, even if they had treated him badly. He knew it was the way of the forest, but it still saddened his heart.

Years passed and teeny tiny tree-let grew into a tree. He had a strong, straight trunk, but the top of his body was bent because he continued to grow in the direction of the sun. He became known as crooked tree instead of teeny tiny tree. The other two tree-lets also became trees, but they were not as strong as crooked tree. They were tall and they were straight, but their trunks were thin and weak.

Another fierce storm came, and this time both of the other trees were snapped. Their thin straight trunks could not survive the howling wind. Crooked tree wrapped his crooked treetop around the legs of an ancient and managed to survive. He was sad to see the others go and mourned their loss.

Suddenly, crooked tree heard the booming voice of an ancient. The ancient explained that only the strongest and smartest survived because it was the way of the forest. He told crooked tree he was the only one who was smart enough to follow the sun, even if it meant being crooked. Crooked tree tremble with pride at these words. He knew he would one day join the ancients at the top of the forest.

Morning Moon Shine

 

Betty Sue and the Explosion of Colors: A Bipolar Fairy Tale January 13, 2013

Once upon a time there lived a little girl named Betty Sue. Betty Sue lived in a small village in the Kingdom of Nomia with her mother and father. Her parents ran a small shop on the corner of King Street and Prince Way. There they made an honest and decent living selling milk, hand-woven cloth, peacock feathers, and other necessities of life.

Betty Sue was a lucky girl. Her parents loved her and gave her all the things a young girl desired. She had her own bedroom decorated in black and white zebra stripes with accents of pink and green. She wore the latest fashionable clothing. Betty Sue even had her very own unicorn with a sparkly pink horn! Betty Sue’s parents doted on her and made sure she had all she would ever need.

Betty Sue was incredibly happy and energetic.  She excelled in her studies (she did very well in Dragons 101), she dominated in jousting, sang like an angel, delighted in eating a hearty meal, and glided through life with seemingly little effort. Most importantly, when Betty Sue looked at the world with her big green eyes, she saw the world in an exciting and vivid explosion of color that no one else seemed to see. It was amazing, exciting and beautiful!

Those times were the happiest of her life, but for some unknown reason, she suddenly changed. Betty Sue felt dull inside. The beautiful, colorful world around her suddenly turned to gray. The delight she usually felt in her accomplishments sputtered until -POOF- it was gone. She lost her appetite. All she wanted to do was sleep and let the dull, gray world go by without her.

Her parents were naturally concerned. They took Betty Sue to the family doctor. He checked her temperature and looked at her tonsils. After much muttering about, he declared she was fine. The doctor was a good man, but thought Betty Sue was just being a dramatic little girl to get attention. He informed her parents that she needed more of their time and she would be back to normal.

Betty Sue went home with her parents that day and nothing changed. Her parents gave her even more attention than before, but Betty Sue did not care. Her dad bought her a rainbow, but all Betty Sue could see were dull shades of gray. Her mom created a fairy garden for her, where they could work side by side and grow toadstool houses for all kinds of fairies and pixies, but Betty Sue would not even come out to see it.

After a few more days, Betty Sue started feeling better. The colors came back into the world, just as bright and vivid as before. She came out of her dungeon for the first time in days. Betty Sue joined her parents at the dining hall table and enjoyed eating mush again. Back to school she went, showing delight in all that she did, just as before. Her parents were happy to see the doctor was correct and all she needed was a little more attention.

However, it wasn’t long before it happened again. Everyone who knew Betty Sue became puzzled by her bizarre behavior. This girl had it all; why did she seem so sad all of a sudden? Her parents were even more concerned than before. This time, they took her to the Wise Woman.

The Wise Woman lived on the outskirts of the Kingdom. She was considered a witch of sorts, but not a bad one. Still, she was a little scary to the people in the village, so they left her alone unless they needed her. She lived in a little cottage surrounded by a strange garden. Most people in the Kingdom had gardens, but none like the Wise Woman’s. Her garden consisted of unknown trees, bushes, and herbs. Some glowed with an eerie blue or yellow glow; others looked as if they watched and followed your movements as you passed by. It was said that she used these strange plants in her magical potions. These potions could cure the ills that all others could not. For that reason, Betty Sue’s parents took her there one afternoon.

The Wise Woman took one look into Betty Sue’s dull, flat eyes and knew she could help, but also knew it came with a price. She explained to Betty Sue’s parents that she could help, but what it would cost. They did not care as long as Betty Sue could be normal again. Muttering and shuffling her feet, she motioned for Betty Sue to follow her into the cottage. Inside, she pulled various jars from a shelf and dumped the contents into a large boiling cauldron. She stirred it exactly three times, then scooped a spoonful out and poured it into a wooden bowl.

“Drink!” she whispered. Betty Sue gazed with uncaring eyes and did as she was told. The liquid seemed to disappear on her tongue and tasted faintly of silver. Betty Sue looked down at the floor. As usual, everything around her was gray. Suddenly, she felt a tingling in her toes. She lifted up her skirt to see what was happening and she watched, with amazement, as her toes filled with color. She could see the sparkle of her toe polish. Betty Sue watched as the color began to slowly fill in all around her. It was like watching a child color the world. She danced and clapped her hands together with delight as her world became colorful once again.

Her parents cried with relief. They paid the Wise Woman and went merrily on their way. All the way home, Betty Sue marveled at the beauty of the Kingdom.

Betty Sue never saw gray again. But, just as the Wise Woman had explained, she never saw the explosion of colors she once saw. She saw the ordinary colors that everyone else saw. Betty Sue never again sang like an angel; she just sang like any ordinary girl. She enjoyed eating, but did not find the pleasure she once knew. Betty Sue lost the gray, but she lost the brightest colors, too.

One afternoon after her studies, Betty Sue ventured to the edge of the Kingdom. She saw the cottage in the distance and hastened her footsteps. As she approached the gate leading into the curious garden, Betty Sue saw the Wise Woman standing on the porch watching her. The Wise Woman whispered, “I knew you’d be back.” Then she turned and shuffled inside. Betty Sue quickly raced up the path and followed her. Without saying a word, the Wise Woman held out a cup filled with an oily liquid. Betty Sue gulped it down. This time it tasted sweet and sticky like a summer day. Her eyes thanked the Wise Woman and she left without a word.

Betty Sue was delighted to see explosions of colors in the Kingdom again. But she also knew that with the colors came the gray. Betty Sue decided, on that very day, that she would rather be herself, both colorful and gray. She knew the gray days would make the colorful days even better. She walked back toward the village and lived (mostly) happily ever after.

Color your World

Color your World (Photo credit: Michelle Brea)

 

My Erotic Mistress December 11, 2012

tw-sign6TRIGGER WARNING:  SUICIDE

 

She is a beautiful, erotic mistress

who beckons me with slender fingers.

Her beauty radiates from her eyes

two deep, dark liquid pools

that threaten to swallow me

if I stare too closely, too deeply.

Her voice whispers seductively in my ear

filling my body with a red-hot desire.

“Just take the leap” she moans

“Close your eyes and give in to me.”

I lean over the edge of the cold railing

Gazing at the water that seems miles away.

“Come fly with me,” my mistress whispers

“Take my hand and you will be free

No more pain; no more heartache”.

I long to please her, so I step on the rail

Feeling her moist, warm breathe

on the bare skin of my neck

sending icy chills up and down my spine.

I shiver and almost lose my balance

In that moment, as I teeter on the edge between

life and death…

I choose life.

My mistress sighs, then leaves me

as I step away from the edge.

Life wins, once again,

but my heart knows that my mistress, Suicide,

will soon return for another try.

 

**NOTE: This is just a poem; I am not currently suicidal. When ideas for poems or fiction come to me, I have to get the thoughts out. I have felt this way, more times than I care to admit. But, just like in the poem, so far life wins.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Most Important Event December 9, 2012

She parked her car in the gravel parking lot and looked around. It was a beautiful mild December day. Sunlight flickered through the branches of the bare trees and warmed the air. There were three other cars already there, indicating that others had also decided to walk on this glorious day. Megan decided to leave her phone in the car because she needed to think about a few things without being interrupted. She did grab her whistle and water bottle before getting out. Leaning against her car, Megan tied her shoelaces, pulled on her gloves, and did a few stretches. After a few moments, she strolled toward the path to begin her walk.

Megan looked around and admired the beauty of the winter forest. Most of the trees were bare, with only a handful of stubborn leaves yet to fall. The evergreens wore their winter greenery with pride against the nakedness of the other trees. The path, littered with discarded pine needles and  brown leaves, crunched under her feet. Here and there, squirrels chattered and scurried about among the dry brown grass, gathering supplies for the colder season. Birds darted among the branches, calling out to her as she passed. Megan loved walking in the forest because it always soothed her soul.

Today, however, just a few minutes into the walk her mind drifted away from the beauty in front of her. Megan must make a hard decision and her mind soon engaged in a battle. She thought back to this morning, when she sat on the edge of the bathtub and stared, unbelievingly, at the stick she held in her trembling hand. The pregnancy stick that had a distinct “+” on the end. The pregnancy stick that told her a child had formed inside of her.

She hadn’t told anyone. She put on her game face and went about her day as normal. Some instinct told her not to even tell Derek even though she usually told him everything. She and Derek dated all through high school and then college. She graduated and started her career, but Derek was still in grad school. They moved in together last year, and their plans were to get married a year after he graduated. She loved him with all of her heart and he was so good to her. They got along very well and agreed on all the big things in life. Well, almost all.  One thing they did disagree on was having children. Derek’s mother and sister had bipolar disorder, and he grew up watching the terrible struggles they both dealt with on a daily basis. His father walked out when Derek was only 7, and Derek spent his young years trying to keep the family together and make everyone happy. At that time, neither his sister nor his mother had a diagnosis, so neither took medication. That didn’t happen until years later.

Derek did not want to have children. Ever. He spent his youth ‘raising’ his sister and mother, and the chance that his own child would have the disorder was high. In fact, he scheduled a vasectomy 3 months ago, but became sick with the flu and had to postpone the surgery. He got so busy trying to catch up his school work that he hadn’t had time to reschedule it yet.

Megan strolled deeper into the forest, so lost in thought she didn’t even see her surroundings. She wanted this miracle that grew inside her. Even if she or he suffered with a mental disorder, or a physical handicap, or any other problem, Megan wanted this child more than anything she had ever wanted in her life. After all, every person on Earth struggled with something; she would help her child conquer any problem and be successful. But the thought of leaving Derek broke her heart.

About 4 months ago, Megan had broached the topic of having children. Derek held her hands in his and looked deeply into her eyes. He told her that, as much as he loved her, he would not bring a child into this world and if she felt strongly about having a child, he would have to let her go. His eyes filled with tears and he told her to really think about it, because he wanted her to be happy. Megan couldn’t bear to see him so upset, so she told him she could give up the idea of having a child because having him meant more. And she meant it. Until now.

Thoughts continued to roll and tumble through her head as Megan walked along the forest path. Suddenly, she shivered, which brought her back to an awareness of her surroundings. It was suddenly much, much colder. Megan looked around. It seemed so dark and eerie here. I don’t remember this part of the path, she thought to herself. The trees which had appeared so beautiful, now crowded in and loomed over her with threatening darkness. Spanish moss dripped from low branches that were like long fingertips reaching for her. An eerie silence enveloped her. There were no chattering squirrels or calling birds in this part of the forest. Megan shivered again and quickened her steps. She knew her imagination was getting the best of her. Perhaps it was from the hormonal changes already occurring in her body. She heard that those changes could make a woman feel crazy sometimes. Nevertheless, her fingers clutched the whistle she kept for emergencies.

She realized she was her heart was pounding and she was panting and tried to calm down. This cannot be good for the baby, she thought. Megan walked around a small bend in the path and suddenly saw a brightness ahead. Finally! she thought. I will be out of this creepy section and back into the sunlight. She quickened her steps even more. After a few more minutes the chill left her and sunlight filtered through and warmed her. The chattering of forest animals once again filled the air. Megan slowed down and chuckled at herself for being so silly.

After a few more minutes, Megan thought something wasn’t right. When she realized what it was, she stopped dead in her tracks. Turning slowly in a circle, she gazed all around her. Whereas before the forest was weird because it was so dead and threatening, now it was weird because it was so…ALIVE! All around her, the forest glowed with the beautiful greenery of summer. Rich ,green leaves that rustled softly in a gentle breeze covered the branches of every tree. The ground underneath the trees glowed with tall grass that waved with the breeze. The air was so warm she began to sweat in her jacket and winter gloves.

Megan stood and stared. Maybe I am losing my mind, she thought. Do you hallucinate when pregnant? Her first instinct was to use her phone to google it, but she remembered leaving her phone in the car. She no longer felt threatened, just confused.

“Where am I?”, she muttered out loud. A tiny giggle echoed in the trees. Megan gasped, realizing she was not alone.

“Who is there?”, she croaked. Another giggle answered her. It sounded like a small child.  Megan stepped from the path and walked slowly into the dense grass growing beneath the trees. To her left, she saw a small rustle of leaves beneath a beautiful flowering bush. She turned in that direction and knelt on her knees.

“Hello! I won’t hurt you! Come on out. Are you lost?” she said softly. A small face appeared between the branches. Her breath caught in her throat as she stared at the most beautiful face she had ever seen. Golden brown hair, highlighted by the sun, framed a pixie face. A mischievous smile played on the perfect bow lips, and the hint of dimples danced along high cheekbones. What really caught her attention were the eyes; large blue eyes, surrounded by long thick lashes, that twinkled and sparkled as if the sun itself glowed within. She felt that she knew this face; like she had seen it before.

The child beckoned for her to come forward. Without hesitation, Megan crawled on her hands and knees until she was under the branches of the bush. The sight before her was amazing.

The limbs of the bush arched high into the air and formed a cave of sorts. It was big enough that Megan could stand if she wanted, but instead she fell back in amazement. The sunlight that filtered through the dense greenery caused the white flowers on the branches to glow like a million tiny lights. The ground was soft; covered in the most amazingly thick and dark green moss she ever felt. The child sat in a wee little chair created from tree branches and covered in a growing vine. The leaves of the vine formed a soft cushion in the chair and looked delightful. The child, a girl, wore a tiny green dress made from leaves, vines, and tree bark.

“You found me!” she said, clapping her small hands together with delight. She appeared no older than two years old, but spoke with the voice and words of an older child. “I knew you would!” Her giggle echoed around the room.

“Wh-what? Who-who are you?” Megan stuttered.

Another giggle surrounded her. It was like listening to a musical wind chime.

“Don’t you recognize me? Look closely!” she said. The dimples winked and disappeared.

Megan’s breath caught in her throat. She knew those dimples. Those beautiful dimples that could appear and disappear with the twitch of a small smile. She saw them once, long ago, on an old home video Derek showed her. This child, this wee little elfin child, was the female image of Derek when he was little. Age and time had robbed him of his dimples, but Megan remembered them from the home movie. She suddenly felt very confused and sick to her stomach.

“You look like…I mean… it can’t be…are you Derek’s child? Did he already have a child with someone else?” Tears welled up in her eyes at the thought.

“No, silly. You are my mommy and Derek is my daddy!” The child smiled. Megan blinked, then gasped. She saw the resemblance to Derek, and now, suddenly, she saw herself. The little girl had the same face shape and high cheekbones that she had herself. Her golden brown hair was the same hair that Megan had when she was younger. Her thoughts tumbled in her head.

“But-but-but…it can’t…how can…I don’t understand!”

Gently, the little girl reached out with the tips of her tiny fingers and softly touched Megan’s stomach. “That is me.”

Megan somehow knew this to be true; impossible, but as true as anything she had ever known. This knowing filled her body with a bright lightness and pure joy. This time, it was Megan who giggled.

“It is you, isn’t it?” she smiled at her beautiful child. Just as suddenly as the joy filled her heart, though, a shadow dimmed her happiness and tears threatened to spill from her eyes. “I don’t know what to do. Derek doesn’t want children and he will leave me. I don’t think I…”

“Shhh….hush that doubt.” The child’s tiny finger brushed Megan’s lips. “Go to him. All will be well. I promise.” A golden smile filled her face and radiated with beauty.

Megan’s doubts lifted and pure joy returned. Her cheeks felt wet and she realized she was crying with happiness. She knew it was time to talk to Derek, so she gently hugged the small girl and backed away from the lovely room. Happiness quickened her steps along the path. Incredibly, around two more bends in the path, she found herself back in the forests of bare branches and crunchy leaves. She soon saw the parking lot in the near distance.

As Megan sat in her car, she knew everything would be fine. Derek would join her in welcoming this new baby, this miracle, into their lives. She found her hand rubbing the spot on her belly where the child had touched her. “I can’t wait to see you again,” she whispered. She drove off to talk to Derek about the most important event in their lives.

Mystical Forest

 

 

The Perfect Christmas Tree December 6, 2012

He stood outside the window and admired the twinkling lights and shiny decorations that adorned the tree. The brightly colored lights flashed on and off and cast reflections of green, red, blue, and yellow against the dark green evergreen branches. The boy loved that the tree was real, not one of the fake ones he saw in all the stores. The branches displayed a variety of ornaments, all unique and unmatched. That’s the way it should be, he thought. A Christmas tree holds memories of all Christmas’ past, with new memories added each year. This tree was the definitely the best

English: A Christmas Tree at Home

English: A Christmas Tree at Home (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

tree ever.

His eyes drifted from the tree to the presents beneath. His breath caught in his throat as he imagined ripping into the packages in the early hours of Christmas morning, with his mom and dad looking on with sleepy eyes and faint smiles. I wonder what is in the big one in the back, he thought. Perhaps it’s a football. Maybe it is a pair of cool tennis shoes. His mind began to reel with the idea of the many things it might be, and how it would feel to rip open the box.

“What the hell are you doing, boy?” Startled from his thoughts, he looked up to see an angry middle-aged man bearing down on him. The boy felt rooted to the ground where he stood outside.

“Planning on stealing from me? Hell no, you will not! I will teach you a lesson you will never forget!” The man stepped from the door and marched toward him. In his hand he held a wooden baseball bat. That sight motivated the boy to move. He took off running in the opposite direction of the threatening man. Never daring to look back, he ran down the middle of the road without stopping until his sides ached and felt ready to split open. Only then did he look back and finally stop. Tears were streaming down his face as he gulped in the cold air. The boy leaned against the lamppost until his breathing returned to normal. He continued walking slowly down the street until he could see the neon lights of the burger restaurant glowing in the distance. Right before the parking lot of the restaurant he looked around to make sure no one saw him before he ducked underneath the rusting chain length fence that surrounded a dilapidated building. The building used to be a factory. Now it was his home.

When he stepped inside the dank building he heard his mom right before her hand came down across his face.

“Where you been?” she hissed through clenched lips. “I been worried sick about you!” The boy hung his head and didn’t even try to explain. How do you say that you were standing in someone’s front yard, wishing and dreaming that you could be someone, anyone, other than who you are?

Just as quickly as she slapped him, his mother grabbed him and held him tightly in a hug. “I jus’ worry ’bout you, you know? Anyway, I found some pretty good leftovers next door. Let’s go have some supper.” The boy untangled from her hug and walked deeper into the building. It was time for supper.

 

A goodbye Sail July 18, 2012

Trigger warning: this poem deals with death and saying good-bye to someone  you love.

I awoke with a longing to sail the fair sea

The water sparkles as the sun rises before me

The day is so lovely, the skies so blue

All I really want is to spend it with you.

~

We pull up anchor and set sail together

I wish for this moment just to last forever

The sun rises higher, caresses my bare skin

I close my eyes as you kiss me there and then.

~

We feed one another and share the red wine

Your soft touch gives me chills down my spine

You look into my eyes and I feel it in my soul

I beg you to hold me and never let me go.

~

All too soon the glorious sun slowly begins to sink

the skies turn marvelous shades of purple and pink

We turn the bow back toward the far land

You smile, reach out, and clasp my hand.

~

“This moment”, you say, with your eyes on mine

“will forever be ours for all of time.”

We speak our good byes as we sail to the dock

both wish we could stop and turn back the clock.

~

We’ll meet again soon, your eyes say to mine

There’s lots of life left, we have plenty of time.

My eyes fill with tears because I know this is not true

but I smile and hide them so as not to upset you.

~

We soon part and go our own separate ways

vowing to do it again in the upcoming days

I let the tears fall when I am all alone

unknown to you I will soon be gone.

~

This was my gift, my one last goodbye

I have less than a month before I will die

As pain ravages my body and drugs help not at all

memories of you help me hold myself up tall.

~

Our memories flash before me as if on a movie screen

The time with you were the best moments I’ve ever seen

Death hovers now and soon my life will soon be over

But please know I will carry you in my heart into forever.

 

 

Dear Rainey: A Letter to My Former Self June 24, 2012

Dear Rainey,

This is your future self, older Rainey, writing. You are now 20 years old, and on the verge of making big life decisions. I don’t want to mess things up by telling you how we turned out, but I will say we did not become a rock star goddess or a millionaire. There are a few things I would like to tell you, though, that might make life better. I know we get advice from people all the time (and we never listen), but I thought maybe if it came from, well, YOU, that we might actually heed the advice. Here are four things I wish we would consider:

1. Save money. It seems that most problems we have today involve issues with money. Our job is a decent one with a good income, but the more money we have the more we seem to spend. Add to that all the unforeseen medical bills, college tuition, and other costs, and we constantly worry about money. If 20 year-old us would start being thrifty, maybe it wouldn’t be so hard.

2. Travel and see the world every chance we get. This seems to go against #1, but really it doesn’t have to. If we learn to be thrifty, we can afford to travel as long as we are smart about it. If we died tonight, our biggest regret would be that we never got to see so many of the great wonders in this world. The reckless (manic??) side of us wants to walk away from the life we have and travel the world. It is an urge we fight every single day.

3. Live alone for a while. When we were younger, we were in such a hurry to get out on our own that we always had to live with others to afford it. While we had great times, we missed the chance to live alone and just be. Living alone teaches you valuable things about yourself, and allows you to become yourself without so many outside influences.

4. Create something every day. We have a creative side that needs to be explored. We can draw, paint, make crafts, and write. To become better, we need to create something every day. It is also a great outlet for our emotions. Creating needs to be a big part of our life.

Ok, Rainey; those are the top four things we need to work on to make our future better. We can start working on these things now, at our current age, but just think how much better life would be if we start at YOUR age?

With much self-love,

Rainey

 

The Luckiest Girl In the World: A Fictional Story April 30, 2012

This is a fictional story about child abuse. Please do not read if it may trigger negative thoughts or memories.

Jen quietly shuffled through each day at school. She was a third grader at Parkway Elementary in a small southern town north of Atlanta. Jen was the kind of student every teacher dreamed about: she completed her homework every night, never missed a day of school, and was always on time. While she was not a top student, she usually made solid B’s or C’s. She didn’t talk much in class, but would answer quietly if called upon. Jen’s teachers wrote nice, generic comments on her report card: “A joy to teach” and “Turns in all assignments” or “A pleasure to have in class”. In a few short years, they would forget all about the quiet little girl who once sat in their class.

Jen loved school. She loved learning about far away places where boys and girls dressed differently and spoke with different accents. Reading was her favorite subject, and she could get lost for hours in a good novel. Jen had a harder time with math because sometimes the numbers just didn’t make sense the way they jumped about being equal or added or divided by 4. But words strung together, one behind another, led her to places she could see in her mind.

That is why she walked to the public library after school one cold, autumn afternoon. It was a Friday and Jen was out of school for the weekend. Everyday, she was to walk straight home after school, but she couldn’t stand the thought of spending all weekend without a few books to read. Jen rushed in the door and dropped the books she needed to return in the book drop. She hurried to the children’s section and quickly selected three books that looked interesting. Jen glanced at the large clock above the librarian’s desk and saw that ten minutes had already passed. Three people were in line ahead of her, but there was nothing she could do about that. She silently prayed the librarian wouldn’t get chatty with the customers, but of course she did. Mrs. Aimes was chatty with everyone in town. Another seven minutes passed before Jen finally secured her books and bolted out the door.

She ran the entire four blocks home. When she made it to her street, Jen stopped running and instead began walking fast to get her breathing under control. She quickly hid the library books in her backpack and took several deep breaths. She said another silent prayer, begging God to please let her mom be asleep as she made her way up the front steps, slipped the key in the lock, and opened the door.

It was dark inside. The lights were out and the blinds were all drawn shut. That, she thought, could be good or bad. Maybe she’s asleep. Jen quietly closed the door, being careful to turn the knob as she shut it to prevent it from making a sound. She then slipped off her tennis shoes and slid them into her backpack. She tip-toed through the small living room and down the hallway to her room, being careful to avoid the squeaky places in the floor. She knew every squeaky spot in the house from years of experience. Just as she was about to open the door to her room, she heard her mother’s voice.

“Jen, is that you?”

“Y-y-yes, mom, it’s me,” Jen stuttered with her hand frozen on the doorknob to her room. Her heart was pounding.

“Would you come in here please?” her mother asked in a soft voice.

Jen hesitated. It might be better if she put down her backpack in her room. Just as she was about to open her bedroom door and sling her backpack inside, her mother said, “Now.” Jen gulped and stepped into her mother’s room.

Her mother’s room was dark, as usual. Jen could see her lying in the middle of the king-sized bed, propped up on three pillows with her eyes closed. She still wore the pajamas she was wearing when Jen left for school that morning. Her long brown hair was a tangled mess that looked as though it hadn’t seen a hairbrush in days. The room smelled of stale cigarettes, beer, and dirty clothes. Jen walked with small, hesitating steps to her mother’s bedside.

“Yes, ma’am?” Jen asked.

Her mother did not reply. She continued to lie back on her pillows with eyes closed.

“Can I get something for you, mom? Do you have a headache? I can get you some…” Her mother’s hand came out of nowhere and slapped Jen on the side of her head. Still she did not sit up or open her eyes.

“Did I ask you to get me anything, Little Miss Know-It-All?” she growled at Jen.

“No, ma’am, I’m sorry,” Jen said quietly.

“What I want,” she said, as her eyes finally popped open, “Is for you to explain to me why you are late.”

Jen thought, for a split second, about lying, but she knew if she got caught it would be bad. Very bad.

“I, uh, stopped at the library. I’m sorry,” Jen said in a small voice.

Her mother sat up on the edge of the bed and leaned over to stare directly into Jen’s eyes.  Jen could smell alcohol on her breath but she didn’t dare turn away. “I see,” her mother replied. “That means you directly disobeyed me. Is that correct?”

“Yes ma’am.” Jen’s voice was barely a whisper.

“Then you know what this means, Jennifer. You now must face the punishment for your actions. You must learn your lesson. You are to never lie.” Her voice rose as she stood towering over Jen. ” You are to never cheat. You are to never steal. YOU MUST OBEY YOUR MOTHER!” With this, Jen’s mother punched her in the stomach so hard it lifted Jen up off the floor before she collapsed in a heap. Her mother then kicked her repeatedly as Jen lay on the floor, quietly sobbing. She knew better than to cry loudly or protest her punishment. It only made it worse.

“You are a terrible, sneaky child who doesn’t deserve love. Do you hear me? You don’t deserve love! You are just like your father: a stupid, spineless creature! Now, go to the Punishment Room. I’m sickened by the sight of your lying face.”

Terror filled Jen’s head. She wanted to scream, to beg, but she knew it was no use. When her mother drank and had her mind made up, there was no way to change it. Jen forced herself up from the floor. She slowly walked out of the bedroom and then turned the corner toward the kitchen. On the other side of the kitchen was a door that led to the basement. It was a dark and scary place, crawling with rats and roaches, but her real fear was in being alone for days.  She was, however, more terrified of defying her mother, so she opened the door and stepped through. As she did, her mother kicked her, causing Jen to fall down the stairs into the darkness below. She rolled and bounced down the creaky wooden steps until she came to a rest at the bottom.  The last sound she heard was her mother slamming the door and locking the deadbolt.

Jen lay there for a minute, assessing the damage. Her right knee and left elbow ached from the fall down the steps. Her head throbbed from where her mom had smacked her, but it wasn’t too bad. The worse pain came from her ribs. Jen moved cautiously, afraid her ribs were broken. It hurt to breath. She tried to take one deep breathe to get beyond the pain, but it was too intense, so she took little shallow breathes instead. After a few more minutes, the pain receded enough that she felt able to get up. That is when Jen realized her mom’s mistake. Her mom usually made sure that Jen left everything in her room before being placed in the Punishment Room. This time, she forgot that Jen still had her backpack containing the library books. She could read! She felt such joy that she almost wept. Her joy, however, was short-lived.

Looking around in the gloom, she realized she could not read, after all, because it was too dim. There was an overhead light, but her mother had removed the light bulb years ago when she first came up with the idea of the Punishment Room. Her heart sank. Having her books with her, but no way to read them was worse than not having them at all. She remembered something her teacher, Mrs. Butler, liked to say. “If you face a problem than seems too difficult to solve, try thinking of a different way.” So Jen looked around the dusty basement and tried to think of another source of light. She immediately thought of a fire, but dismissed that as too dangerous. Then she thought of a great idea: candles! Surely, somewhere in this room she could find some old candles. Jen began wandering around the perimeter of the basement, poking stacks of old magazines, piles of broken pipes, and boxes filled with rusty tools. A movement to the left caught her eye, and she fell back as a large rat glared at her before scurrying off. Not wanting to see him again, Jen turned toward the far wall of the basement to continue her search. There was an ancient brown trunk underneath a pile of suitcases with broken latches. She thought there might be candles in the trunk, so she began to move the suitcases out of her way. She had to move slowly because every move sent a burning pain through her side. When she moved the first one, Jen noticed something she had never, ever seen in the Punishment Room: a dusty ray of sunlight. Her eyes traced the light back to its source. It came from a rectangular frame high up on the wall. Peering closer, Jen realized she was looking at an old window. Covered with black paint, over the years the paint had peeled away in a few places allowing the sunlight to beam into the dark. She hadn’t seen it before because the stack of suitcases had blocked her view. Jen was so happy to see the sunlight that she cried for joy.

A few minutes later Jen discovered a rickety wooden ladder, leaned it against the wall behind the trunk, and carefully climbed up. She found a flat piece of metal in the pile of rusty tools and used it to scrape away a little more of the paint covering the window. Jen was afraid to remove too much of the paint because her mom might notice it. She shivered at the thought of what her punishment might be for that. Using her shirt, Jen wiped the spot clean. She placed her face against the glass and much to her delight, could see outside. Sunlight always made her happy, but this was like a special beam of hope created just for her.

Even though Jen knew her mother would not let her out until late on Sunday afternoon, she was afraid that her secret ray of hope would be discovered. She rearranged the trunk and suitcases by sliding them out and re-stacking everything. This gave her enough room to slip behind the pile and climb the ladder, but blocked the view from the stairs. Satisfied, she chose a book from her backpack and climbed the ladder to read.

After reading for a little while she began to get stiff. It was hard to balance on the ladder and hold the book up at the right angle to catch the light. Jen placed the book on the rung of the ladder and stretched, being careful of her side. She gazed out of the peephole she created and looked at the outside world. She could see the side yard and the wooden fence that encircled her house. Beyond the fence she saw her neighbor’s house. There was a boy who lived there named Hunter who was in the fifth grade. He lived with his mom and dad, and they had a cat named Lucky. Her mother never interacted with the neighbors, so she didn’t really know him or his family. All she knew about him came from watching him from her window. As she stood on the ladder looking out, she saw Hunter in his yard tossing a basketball at the hoop in his driveway. She stared wistfully out the window, wondering what it would be like to have a normal family. I’ll never know, she thought to herself, and she went back to reading her book. At least she could get lost in another land by reading.

Deeply engrossed in her book, Jen hardly heard the noise near her head. When she turned to look, an eye appeared on the other side of the glass only inches from her face. Jen was so startled her voice froze and she couldn’t even scream. She heard a muffled, “Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you!” as the eye receded and she saw that it belonged to Hunter, the boy next door. He smiled at her and gave a little wave. She was still too startled to speak so she just stood there, staring at him.

“So…what are you doing? Isn’t that the basement?” Hunter looked at her as if they were standing outside having a normal conversation.

Jen finally found her voice. “Um…yeah, I’m just….looking around down here.”

“It looks like you are standing on a ladder reading. Is your power cut off or something?”

Not knowing what to say, Jen just stared at him. Finally, Hunter cleared his throat. “So, you wanna come outside and hang out, maybe shoot some hoops?”

“Um, well….I can’t,” Jen thought quickly. ” I’m on restriction.”

Hunter frowned. “How come you never come out and play?” he blurted. “I mean, you seem nice and all but you always go straight in your house and you never play with any of us. It’s like, weird, you know?”

Jen’s eyes flashed angrily as she spoke. “I’m not weird. I just don’t like playing outside. I like to read instead.”

‘No offense!” Hunter exclaimed. “I, just, well, um….I wanna ask you something and I don’t want you to get mad. Why do you always have so many bruises? The other kids say your mom is a drunk and she smacks you around. Is that true?” All of his words came tumbling out without a pause for a breathe. “Cuz my mom used to do the same thing to me and that’s why I live with my dad and step mom now. The judge said no one had the right to hit me hard enough to break bones or leave marks and that was not what love was about.” Hunter looked away as he spoke these last words.

Jen stood looking at this boy. All of this time, she thought he was this happy kid in this wonderfully normal family. Now he was telling her that his mom used to beat him? Jen could not believe her ears. “She broke your bones?” she asked through the glass. To Jen, that seemed like the worst thing possible. He just nodded.

“My mom never broke my bones. She just gets mad sometimes, but it’s because I do bad things and I deserve punishment.”

Hunter stared at her for a moment, and then said, “That’s what I used to think. The judge said that’s not appropriate punishment and the things my mom did were because of the drugs she took. They made her not think straight. They call that having ‘impaired judgment’. She did bad things to me because she felt bad about herself.” Hunter shrugged his shoulders like it was no big deal, but they both knew it was a big deal. “Are you locked in the basement?” he asked quietly. Jen nodded.

“My dad can get you out.”

“NO!” Jen spoke in a sharp whisper. “Do you know what she will do to me? NO!” She glanced around nervously. “Just go away and leave me alone!”

“I have to help you. Now that I know, I have to do something. I’ll be right back.” Before Jen could speak, Hunter trotted across the yard and jumped the fence to his own yard. A moment later, he disappeared inside.

Jen was more terrified than she was when her mother kicked her down the stairs. What was that stupid boy going to do? If he told anyone, her mother would be furious. The thought made her so scared she wet herself. She used to wet the bed when she was a little kid, and sometimes it still happened when her mom really frightened her.

Jen jumped down from the ladder and hid her books in her backpack. She paced back and forth, wringing her hands. Please, she prayed quietly, please don’t let him tell anyone. I was stupid to trust him. Jen was so worried she didn’t even notice it was getting dark outside. She continued pacing back and forth, not knowing what might happen. Suddenly, she heard a noise at the window. It sounded so loud she almost screamed out loud. She scrambled back behind the trunk and looked up. A bright light lit up the clean spot on the window. Jen threw her hand up to shade her eyes and the light went away.

“Jennifer Workman, this is Officer Emily. Are you hurt?” The light shone on a small blonde woman wearing a police uniform. “I’m going to shine that light on you again so I can see if you are alright.” The light pivoted around and shone through the window. Jen shaded her eyes, and then responded.

“I’m fine. You shouldn’t be here! My mom will be so mad! Please be quiet and go away!”

“I’m sorry, Jen, I cannot do that. I need to make sure you are okay and that someone is not hurting you. Is there someone in the house who hurts you? If so, I can help you. You just need to tell me the truth.”

“No! I told you I am fine. Please go away!” Jen spoke in a loud whisper as she glanced behind her for any sign of her mother.

“Jen, my partner, Officer Paul, is going around to the front door to talk with your mother. I need you to tell me what happened today. Was your mother drunk when you got home? Did she hit you?”

Jen was so scared she practically screamed. “NO! Leave us alone! Nothing is wrong! Hunter is just lying because he hates me. Now go before my mom gets mad!” She was crying so hard she could barely speak. “I don’t want you here! I love my mother and she loves me and she would never hurt me!”

“Jen, I know you feel scared. I understand. I will stay with you until Officer Paul comes in to let you out. We are only here to help you.”

At that moment, Jen heard sounds at the basement door. The deadbolt clicked and the door opened. A strong flashlight lit up the stairs. “Jen, this is Officer Paul. No one is going to hurt you. Can you walk?” The stairs creaked as he slowly descended the steps. The flashlight swept the room until it landed on Jen. She stood frozen to the spot.  All Jen could think about was her mother, but there was no sign of her.

‘Where is my mom?” she whispered.

Officer Paul said gently, “She is drunk and passed out. I couldn’t wake her, so I have called an ambulance to come check on her. I also want them to check on you. Are you okay, Jen?”

Jen nodded. She was glad her mom wouldn’t wake up. That at least gave her time to figure out what to do. She heard the siren of the ambulance as it arrived, and Officer Emily came down the stairs toward her. Jen was so frightened her legs began to wobble, and Officer Emily reached out to catch her before she fell. Jen cried out in pain when the officer touched her side.

“I tripped and fell. I’m so clumsy and it is dark down here and I just tripped. And fell.” Jen’s voice faltered because she knew no one in the room believed her. Officer Emily yelled for the medics to come downstairs. They insisted that she lay down on the stretcher and then placed her in the ambulance. Not once did she see her mother.

A few hours later, Jen lay in a hospital room with three broken ribs. She lay in the middle of the bed, trying to stop the terrible thoughts that bounced in her head. There was a knock at the door, and Officer Emily walked in and sat in the chair by the bed.

“How are you, kid?”

“I have broken bones.”

“I heard. You ready to talk about it?”

“Where is my mom? When can I see her?” Jen shook with fear as she spoke.

‘Your mom can’t see you now. She has to get help for her problem. Don’t you want your mom to get help so she can stop drinking? Only you can help her.”

Jen thought for a minute. “How?”

“By telling the truth. If you keep protecting her, she will keep drinking. She will keep hurting herself and you. Jen, you are smart enough to know that the drinking is very bad for her health. She needs to stop. We can get her some help if you will tell us what happened.”

Jen thought about it. She did want her mom to get help. She wanted that more than anything. She read about terrible diseases that drinking could cause, and she wanted her mom to stop.

“She never broke my bones before…” she began. And once she began, the words poured out. She told them about the Punishment Room, and how she stayed there two or three days at a time. How she learned, years ago, to stash food and water in plastic containers inside an old cooler to keep the bugs out. She told how her mom would sometimes disappear for days or weeks, and leave Jen with no food in the house. Once she started talking, she told Officer Emily everything. That day, as she talked about it for the very first time, Jen began the long process of healing.

TWO YEARS LATER

Jen got off the school bus in front of her house. She raced up the front steps two at a time and flew through the front door. “Mama Ann! I got my report card! I made the Honor Roll!” Jen skidded to a stop in front of the kitchen counter where her foster-mother, whom she called Mama Ann, sat mixing the batter for brownies. Mama Ann threw down the spoon and picked Jen up, swinging her in the air as she yelled, “Woo-Hoo! I knew you could do it! Way to go!” Jen giggled and hugged Mama Ann. Together, they chatted about school as they finished the brownies and placed them in the oven.

Jen never saw her real mother anymore. When she was first rescued, the courts let them visit as long as a social worker was in the room. They tried to get her mom to stop drinking, but as Mama Ann later explained, alcohol just has too strong of a hold on some people and they just can’t give it up. Her mom tried to come see her a lot for the first month. After that, she only saw her mom once every two or three months. A year ago, her mom signed away her rights as her mother. It made Jen feel very sad, but her therapist explained that her mom had an addiction. Addictions control your life, even how you feel and think about people. She also said that her mom knew that Jen deserved a better life, so she gave her up. That made Jen feel a little better. What helped the most, though, was Mama Ann. She loved Jen and wanted to adopt her. This made Jen feel special and worthy of love. Even when Jen was being a brat, Mama Ann loved her. Jen knew, as she stood in that warm kitchen smelling brownies bake and chatting with Mama Ann, that she was the luckiest girl in the world.

Jen never saw her real mother anymore. When she was first rescued, the courts let them visit as long as a social worker was in the room. They tried to get her mom to stop drinking, but as Mama Ann later explained, alcohol just has too strong of a hold on some people and they just can’t give it up. Her mom tried to come see her a lot for the first month. After that, she only saw her mom once every two or three months. A year ago, her mom signed away her rights as her mother. It made Jen feel very sad, but her therapist explained that her mom had an addiction. Addictions control your life, even how you feel and think about people. She also said that her mom knew that Jen deserved a better life, so she gave her up. That made Jen feel a little better. What helped the most, though, was Mama Ann. She loved Jen and wanted to adopt her. This made Jen feel special and worthy of love. Even when Jen was being a brat, Mama Ann loved her. Jen knew, as she stood in that warm kitchen smelling brownies bake and chatting with Mama Ann, that she was the luckiest girl in the world.

 

The Destruction of Flowering Bushes April 22, 2012

This fiction writing deals with death and suicide. If this upsets or offends you, please do not read. I do not want this to upset anyone, or trigger bad thoughts or memories.

Craig pushed his body down into the mattress trying to make his body as small as possible. He wanted to simply disappear. He pulled the plaid bedspread over his head while pressing his hands tightly against his ears but nothing could block out the image burned into his brain or the sound that he still heard ringing in his head. He finally leaned over, stretched his arm down and felt under his mattress. His fingers grasped the Ipod and headphones that had become his refuge as of late. He shoved the ear buds into each ear with one hand then turned on the music with practiced ease. The sound of Nirvana filled his head, replacing the screaming voices from before. He settled back on his bed and prayed for blissful sleep. Sleep would not cooperate, however. Not even Nirvana could keep his thoughts from traveling back to the horrible incidents of the day.

His day had started just fine. It was Saturday, so he slept in until 10:00, then got up and readied himself for the day. It was the beginning of spring, so Craig knew he had outside chores to do.  He went out without being told to pull weeds in all the flowerbeds in the front yard. He could hear his mom vacuuming the house, first downstairs in the living room and then upstairs in the bedrooms. His dad was at work, as usual. It seemed that his dad was either at work or off with his buddies more than he was at home these days. His sister, Leia, was still in bed. She had been in bed for the past three days, coming out only to go to the bathroom.

Craig surveyed the yard. The flowers were just beginning to bloom on the multitude of bushes in the flowerbeds. He could see little buds of pale pink, white, and deep purple erupting on spindly limbs. He and Leia helped plant most of the bushes just a few years ago when they first moved to this house on Maxwell Street. They were just little kids then. Leia was 7 and Craig was 6 when their parents bought the “fixer-upper” 3 bedroom house. To the two kids, the house seemed like a mansion because it had such tall windows and high, 12 foot ceilings. Over the years their parents had pounded and painted and decorated until the “fixer-upper” became a showcase. Craig and Leia had helped, as much as small children can help, and they were all proud of the house and yard.

Walking to the backyard, Craig noticed a lone flowering bush along the back edge of their property. As always, it brought a sad smile to his face. This bush marked the grave of a beloved family cat, Theo. Well, he was supposed to be a family pet, Craig thought to himself, but we all knew Theo belonged to Leia. As some animals do, Theo picked one family member to belong to, and it was Leia. Leia was the only one who could ever get Theo to come when called. They used to play a game called “Run, Theo, Run” where each member of the family would stand at the door at night and call for Theo to come. First his dad would try, then his mom. They would both call in sweet voices, but no Theo. Next, Craig would try. Nothing. Leia would stand back, giggling, knowing Theo would not respond to any of them. Dad would then give a fake exasperated sigh and say, “Oh, Leia, go ahead and try. But you know he will not come!” Smiling and giggling, Leia would step forward and yell, “Here, Theo!” Within a matter of seconds, Theo was a black streak running toward the door. We all hammed it up, exclaiming, “No way!” and “How do you do that?” while Leia scooped him up and grinned broadly. Then one day when Leia was 13, Theo did not come when she called. They later found him under the rosebush. He passed away peacefully; it seemed, of old age. Leia was inconsolable. She was always a little high-strung and dramatic, but this put Leia in a state of deep depression that took a visit to the doctor and a bottle of pills to overcome. That was the first of many bouts of depression that stole his sister.

That’s how it seemed to Craig. The depression slowly stole his sister’s very soul. Leia was happy, upbeat and fun; she was the life of any party and could always make him laugh. Then, without any warning, the dark blanket would descend and Leia was lost. A vacant-eyed shell of Leia replaced his fun-loving sister and nothing could bring her back. It would last for hours, days, or weeks, and then very slowly, Leia would come back to them. To Craig, however, she never appeared the same. Each time the depression took over and she finally emerged, she seemed a slightly paler version of herself. It was as if her once-vibrant colors became watered down, less intense, each time. Craig felt helpless as he watched his sister slowly fade.

Standing and looking at the budding bush, Craig had an idea. He ran to the garden shed and picked up the clippers and a basket. He roamed the yard, carefully selecting several stems of flowers and buds. He clipped them and placed each one in the basket. With the basket filled with the vibrate colors, he took it to the kitchen and rummaged under the sink for a large vase. Craig filled the vase with water then haphazardly stuck the blooms into the water. Arranging flowers was not really his thing, but he did the best he could. Maybe, he thought, allowing himself to feel some excitement, this will cheer her up. Maybe she will want to go with me to clean the flower beds in the backyard and we can throw acorns and wish on dandelions like we used to. Craig didn’t even clean up the mess in the kitchen; he grabbed the vase and held it out carefully as he ran up the stairs. At the top of the stairs he turned left to Leia’s door. He knocked quietly on her door because when depressed she didn’t like sudden, loud noises. Craig listened closely, but didn’t hear a sound. He knocked a little louder and softly called her name. Still he heard no response. This time, he spoke a bit louder. “Hey, sis, it’s me and I’m coming in!”  Craig placed his hand on the doorknob and turned, but the door was locked. That was not unusual. They had both locked their doors to keep each other out and gain some privacy for the past several years. Craig simply did what he always did when locked out; he stepped into his own room across the hall, grabbed his middle school I.D. card, and used it to pop the lock. When he heard the resounding click of the lock, he knocked one more time to give her time to get decent before he entered. This time he whispered, “I’ve got something for you, Leia. Wait until you see this!”

The door swung open to expose the dump his sister called her room. When she was younger, Leia kept her room spotless. As depression robbed more and more of her soul she cared less and less about her surroundings, and her room was evidence of this lack of caring. Piles of dirty clothes mingled with books and papers that covered the floor. Her bed was just a tangled lump of pillows, covers, and stuffed animals. The closed blinds and drapes kept out most of the morning sun, so it was hard to make out her shape in the bed. Craig stepped in the room, trying to avoid the towering mounds on the floor. He made his way to the bed, holding out his offering and calling her name. When he reached the bed, he saw it was empty. A sudden chill ran up his spine. Something told him things were not right. Something was wrong, really wrong. Craig turned slowly, glancing around the room. A noise, or maybe a movement, caught his eye and made him look toward Leia’s closet. The door was standing open. There, placed perfectly in the center of the closet rod, was Leia, hanging from a noose. Craig stood without moving, without breathing for what seemed a lifetime. His feet rooted to the floor, he still held his arm out stupidly holding the vase of flowers. Then he heard an inhuman sound somewhere nearby. He thought it might be his sister, struggling to breathe. Somehow he began moving, thinking he had to save her. It wasn’t too late. He could still hear the sound…it must be her, I can help her. Suddenly he stopped. He forced himself to look at her. Leia was swinging very slightly as if a breeze was blowing, but she was not moving. She was not struggling to breath. She was dead. He realized at that moment the sound he heard, that inhuman wail, was coming from his own lips. A few seconds later another sound joined his own. His mom entered the room with wild frantic eyes. She saw Leia and a high-pitched shriek emitted from her mouth. Still screaming and wailing they joined forces and managed to get Leia down from the closet and place her on her bed.

Everything else that happened that day became a blur that Craig could not remember. As he lay in bed all he could see was his sister’s body with her empty eyes. He heard the screams of his own voice and then his mom’s voice. He thought about how stupid he was, to think that some dumb flowers would be enough to make her feel better. Craig was suddenly filled with a burning, white-hot anger that propelled him from his bed. He ran, stumbling, down the stairs into the kitchen. The garden clippers were there, on the end of the bar, beside the stacks of dishes and food that well-meaning neighbors brought over when they heard the news. He grabbed the clippers without breaking stride and bolted out the back door. He didn’t even stop long enough to open the gate, but instead vaulted over it. When he saw the first bush, he stopped. A roar escaped his throat as he attacked the bush like a madman. Using the clippers and even his bare hands, Craig destroyed it. Anger still boiled in his blood, so he moved on to the next bush, and then the next and the next. He was roaring and screaming, ripping the once beautiful bushes into shreds. Suddenly knocked off his feet, he felt strong arms wrap around his body. He tried to fight but the anger that had quickly enveloped him left just as quickly. Craig realized it was his dad who held him as they both collapsed to the ground. They held each other, both crying helplessly, for several minutes. After a while the crying subsided, and they just sat there arms wrapped tightly around one another. Craig felt drained and leaned heavily on his dad as they struggled to their feet and into the house. His mom stood at the door with red-rimmed eyes. She stood on one side of him and his dad stood on the other as they made their way up the stairs. Without a word spoken, the three of them stepped into his parent’s bedroom. His parents placed Craig gently on their bed. His mom slipped in on one side while his dad walked around the other side and slipped into bed. Both his mom and dad wrapped themselves around him and held him tightly. Together, the three of them finally drifted off to sleep.

 

The Clash of the Shovel and the Sign April 20, 2012

Before the alarm had time to blare, Sarah sat up and switched it off. A heavy sigh escaped her lips as she contemplated the upcoming day. I wish I could just stay in bed and skip this day, she thought.

She pushed her body up and out of bed with the grace of a hundred year old woman instead of the 39-year-old that she really was. She padded down the hallway with bloodshot eyes and somehow found the energy to fix a cup of coffee. Stepping out on the back porch with a steaming mug, she sucked in a breath of the warm, humid air. “Welcome to Florida”, she muttered. “Home of the hot and humid at 5:30 am.” She sank into her favorite Adirondack chair and sipped from her mug. She was not looking forward to this day.

As she drained the last of her coffee, Sarah debated getting another cup. Realizing she was just delaying the inevitable, she sighed again and decided to just be done with it. Today was the day, like it or not. “Just get over it”, she stated out loud. She jumped out of the chair and flung herself into preparing for the day.

After showering, styling her hair, and applying a bare minimum of makeup, she stood looking at her reflection. Not too bad, she thought. A little pudgy around the middle, a few fine wrinkles around her eyes, but overall, not too bad. She stuck out her hand, as if shaking hands with someone. “Hi, my name is Sarah, and I am divorced.” The words sounded foreign on her lips. She tried again, this time with a forced happiness. “Hello, my name is Sarah, and my husband walked out on me. Today we make it final: our lives together are now over.” She dropped her hand as tears threatened to spill from her eyes. No, she thought, not today. No more tears.

Sarah grabbed her purse and keys from the nightstand table. On the table by the front door sat a packet of papers. Divorce papers. Sam’s lawyer had sent them over for her to preview but she had not been able to open the packet. Instead, she had placed the packet in the exact spot that Sam used to place his briefcase. But that was BEFORE. When she thought of her life now, she thought about it in two parts: BEFORE, and AFTER. Her mind drifted as she remembered how life was…BEFORE.

BEFORE, her life had settled into just what she had always wanted: she and her husband, Sam, had dated for 2 years before getting married. Sam worked as an insurance agent and she worked as a receptionist at a day care. They bought a newly built three bedroom house with a two-car garage. Life was grand. Sam golfed on Saturdays and Sundays, and she would go shopping or meet friends for lunch. At night, they would go out with other couples. Most of the couples were Sam’s business associates, but Sarah got along well with most of their wives.

They were in their second year of marriage when Sarah began to notice a change in Sam. He seemed a little less attentive, somewhat preoccupied. She thought that maybe they needed to get away alone together and rekindle some romance in their marriage. Sex was good, but a little predictable. So she arranged a surprise romantic getaway for a weekend trip to Miami. She booked the Honeymoon Suite for two nights and bought sexy new lingerie to wear. She sprung the surprise on Sam that Wednesday night.

“Honey, I have a surprise for you!” she told him as they sat together in the living room. Sarah sat curled up on the loveseat, while Sam lounged in the recliner with the day’s newspaper. Sam continued to read the newspaper as he absently muttered, “Huh?”

“Put the paper down and talk to me. I have a surprise for you that you will love!”

Sam peered at her over the top of the paper. “What?”

“Well, I decided that we needed some time alone together, so I booked the Honeymoon Suite at the Heavenly Inn in Miami. We leave on Friday night and return Sunday.” As Sam frowned and started shaking his head, her voice began to falter. “It’s just….you know…we haven’t spent much time alone lately….I thought…” her voice trailed off as he sighed heavily.

“You decided? Sarah, you know that I golf every weekend. I can’t just go running off because you have some stupid romantic idea. Besides, we spend every Friday and Saturday night together. I take you out to dinner; what more do you want?”

Her eyes filled with tears. “But we are not alone! We are always with other couples. And it’s not a stupid romantic idea! I just thought it would do us some good!”

“What would do us some good,” Sam replied in his I’m-being-patient-and-you’re-being-ridiculous voice, “is if you just cancel those reservations and let me go golfing, because THAT is how I make business contacts, and THAT is how we pay the bills, remember? You’re little “meet and greet” receptionist job certainly doesn’t pay for this nice house you live in, now does it?”

Sarah knew better than to argue. Anytime she pushed things with Sam, he gave her the silent treatment for days. She wanted to tell him that she was not the one who wanted this large brand-new house. She wanted something small and cozy that she could furnish with yard-sale finds. Sam was the one who insisted on this house because “it makes us look successful.”

As Sam went back to reading his paper, Sarah grabbed her cell phone and went out on the porch to cancel the trip. After the call, she sank into her chair. She really thought Sam would like the idea, and it stung to know that he had no interest in spending time alone with her. She knew how important his business golf outings were to him, but she didn’t realize it had become the most important part of his life.

It was a few weeks later when she began to get suspicious. It was a glorious Saturday morning and Sam was golfing at the country club, as usual. Sarah had just completed the last load of laundry when the phone rang. It was Sam’s sister, Claire. She called to tell Sam that her husband, Manny, had fallen from a ladder while cleaning out the gutters on their house. Manny was being stubborn, as usual, and Claire needed Sam to convince him to go to the hospital to get checked out. Claire was Sam’s younger sister and she always called Sam when she needed something. It was annoying as hell, but Sarah dealt with it.

“Call his cell, Claire. He’s at the country club.” Sarah told her patiently.

“I tried, but he didn’t answer. Can you please, please just drive up there and get him? I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important.”

Sarah thought for a second. “Okay, I can do that. I’m about to go shopping, so I will just swing by there on my way. I will tell him to call you.” Claire thanked her and Sarah hung up the phone, grabbed her purse and jumped in her car.

Within fifteen minutes she was at the clubhouse. The first thing she noticed was that Sam’s car was not there. That’s funny, she thought to herself. He usually tells me when he is golfing at a different golf course. She decided to try calling him. After three rings, he answered.

“Hello, Sarah; there must a problem because otherwise you wouldn’t call me while I’m golfing.”

His brisk manner stunned her. She knew he could be short with her sometimes, but he sounded so angry it shocked her for a moment. Finally she found her voice and said, “Hello, honey. It’s just….ummm…Claire…where are you?”

“What do you mean, where am I? Have you been hitting the bottle early today?” Sam chuckled harshly into the phone. “It is Saturday, I am at the club, I am golfing, just like I do every Saturday, remember? Now, what is this about Claire?””

Sarah sat in her car staring stupidly at the parking lot of the country club. Sam was not there. He had just lied to her. Something kept her from telling him that she knew he was lying.

“Claire tried to call you. Manny fell and she needs you to call her.” Sarah heard her own normal sounding voice and wondered where it came from.

“Oh, okay then.” His voice softened. “Sorry, I just thought you were calling to bother me about taking you somewhere. I will call her right back. We are in the clubhouse now taking a break. I didn’t hear the phone ring.”

“No problem, darling. Is Carl working the counter today? I need to ask him if I left my earrings in there Wednesday when I had lunch with Eve.”  It was shocking to hear the lie slip so effortlessly from her mouth.

“No, Carl is off today. You can ask him later. I have to go so I can call Claire. See you tonight.”  Sarah heard the click as Sam hung up. She sat there for several more minutes, trying to figure out a way to make the pieces of the puzzle fit. Without thinking, she opened her car door and got out. Sarah walked quickly up the path leading to the clubhouse restaurant. Ducking inside, she slid her sunglasses off to allow her eyes to adjust to the interior. After a moment, she stepped up to the front counter. There in front of her, stood Carl.

“Hello, Mrs. Tanner. Will you be alone, or will others be joining you today?” Carl inquired.

“Hello, Carl.” She managed to say. “My husband asked me to stop by and see if he left his sunglasses last time he golfed here.”

“Well, I can check, but as you know, he hasn’t been here in months. In fact, we were going to call to see if there was a problem with the clubhouse. He was such a regular, and now we never see him!”

“Oh, there’s no problem at all, Carl. He has been so busy at work lately. I’m sure he will be back before you know it. Don’t bother calling him. I will pass on the message.” Sarah smiled sweetly as Carl dug through the lost and found basket. He of course came up empty-handed.

Sarah somehow made more small talk and managed to make it back to her car without her knees buckling. She didn’t allow herself to think as she drove to every other golf course in the area. Sam’s car wasn’t at any of them.

That was the end of the BEFORE and the beginning of the AFTER, Sarah thought, as she snatched the packet of divorce papers from the table. She flung open the door and stepped into the scorching Florida sun. Slipping on her sunglasses, her eyes fell on the signpost that still had “The Tanners” spelled out in gold letters. Somehow, just seeing that sign, the sign that they had picked out together, made her furious. The day Sam had poured the concrete and buried the post in the ground had been a fun, silly day for them. They drank a little wine, got giggly, and made love right on the living room rug. Just remembering those details made Sarah so angry she punched the code to open the garage door and tossed her purse, keys, and the divorce packet into her car. She found the shovel she and Sam purchased together at the hardware store, and stomped out to the sign. Without hesitation, Sarah began beating the post. The metal clashing with metal sent vibrations all the way up her body, but that only made her more determined. She continued to pound until the post began to lean heavily to one side. The post finally fell to the ground and the offending sign lay against the manicured lawn. Satisfied, Sarah left the sign lying against the grass, turned around with the shovel thrown over her shoulder and marched back to the garage. She carefully placed the shovel against the wall, then opened her car door and sank on the leather seat. She saw her reflection as she closed the car door: her hair, which she had pulled back into a prim bun (that Sam once liked), had worked loose and now most of it stuck to her sweaty face. What remained of the bun was sagging low enough to touch the back of her neck. Her carefully applied makeup now had smears of dirt from the handle of the shovel and her eyes looked like those of a lunatic. She pulled the rest of her hair loose from the bun and wiped the smudge from her face. That is when it hit her: Sarah knew, in that moment, that she would be just fine.