lie to me

“I’m positive. There is love for it. It is a game, but it’s always more.”

“A destiny?”

“I can do this,” I whisper this to myself again and again and again.

There isn’t a choice in her path.The ghost of my ache sits on my shoulders.

The lights are on. I can see.

“Please stop.”

“See the truth in me.”

“I don’t see a thing.”

The rain whips in the truth we are seeking.

“The road bends, but if we keep walking onward, we will find it.”

“How can you be sure?”

“There is a feeling in my gut.”

“It’s enough to go on?”

“It is for me.”

“My logic warns against this.”

Our hands join nevertheless.

Ruby-5 Years Prior

The sun has almost completely disappeared from the sky. The darker shades of night stir the panic that ran wild in me. I had no idea what I was doing. I had no idea where to go.
It took three months for my mom to take off. I came home from school. It was my thirteenth birthday. I wasn’t expecting her to do much, she never did. That was always dad. But, I wasn’t expecting her to be gone. I wasn’t expecting a note held in place by a cupcake. A note that read, I did what was right. Good luck, Mom.
Thoughts of child services coming in and finding out my secret kept me up most nights. The lack of sleep gradually picked away at my sanity. Paranoia began built armies in my head. Until finally it became too much. It was time for me to leave. I held onto the house and school a few months longer than I should have. It was hard to resist since I had pretty much already been on my own since my was shot. Part of it I think was I knew being homeless would hit eventually. In those first few weeks when I still l thought it was possible she would come back, the idea of living on the streets terrified me. But, the nightmares of life on the street were never as horrifying as the ones where I was be poked and prodded. My dad had told me to hide what I could do. Hide it all costs. What you have people will want to steal and do ugly things with it. You must hide it, and never tell anyone; he would recite to me as one of his regular parental lectures.
Only with my mom was gone I was peaceful—at least during the day when the fear that lingered in the shadows came out to play.
I took a hard swallow at the thought. The night was upon me now, and I no idea where I was going to sleep. The black and gray flannel stuck to my skin, dampened by the rain.
My stomach decides to add to my stress by choosing then to grumble.
A few crumpled fives formed a small bulge in my back pocket. I eyed a sandwich stop breezily before deciding to go in.
The moment I stepped foot into the shop, I felt the sense I was a deer in the woods. I was near the water and near the shelters.
I was out of my element.
I was prey.
As my quiet voice order, a turkey and cheese sub two pairs of eyes landed on me. The stench of their intentions wafting over me. Cautiously I sat near the door with my back against the far wall. I took tiny nibbles, chewing each piece carefully before swallowing.
The two watching we sat four tables back, making we the centerpiece of their view. Suddenly I fell like just small girl.
“Closing in ten minutes,” the man who had made my sandwich said to me, my huntsman, a few others.
Everyone slowly made their way out through the glass doors. I was the last customer to crumble on their paper wrapped and cups, and leave.
It took my only one block from the shop to realize i was being followed. I knew it was the guys in the shop.
I will not run, I tell myself. I repeat over and over in a song as I cast my eyes wild around for some place to hide, some glimmer of hope.
Warmth breath reaches out groups the back of my neck.
I run.
I don’t look back.
Thick hands grabbed onto my waist, pulling me into the nearest alley. His hungry mouth grumbles something I don’t understand. My body is laced with panic and at first, I can’t move. My mind focuses me to picture my dad’s dead body even though I don’t really know what it looked like. I didn’t see him once when he was dead. Somehow I thought if I did somehow get a glimpse of his still face I could wrap my head around my reality better. I felt lost, and almost fooled, but thinking this made me crazier.
My mind lifted up, out of me. My thoughts were able to see me pressed up against the wall with a birds-eye-view. Before I could plan it out, my unpracticed mind reached down and grabbed the man off of me. His greasy body hit the wall opposite of us. His beady eyes confused by just what happened.
I didn’t hesitate. I ran again, this time, faster, and I didn’t stop until I found a latter.
I slept for the first time on a roof, under the stars that are out there somewhere behind the pollution and city lights.
That’s when I decided to break my dad’s first rule: never use your power.
I was going to practice it. I was going to learn how to use it to survive.

A Possible Beginning To The End

My tight fist knocks twice on the familiar weathered red door. I could just go in through the back, but it didn’t feel right—not tonight—not anytime I come here looking for Tristan.

I’m hoping I’m wrong, and he’s just with Brody like he used to always to be.
The latch clicks, and the door opens. Brody is standing there shirtless, his purple hair in messy disarray. He looks at me with sad eyes. “He’s not here Ruby.” Brody folds his arms, “I’m sorry.”
“This isn’t on you Brody,” I say, then push some anxious air from my lungs before it could cause my chest to explode.
“I’m just drinking and watching a Kung Foo marathon. Wanna come in?” His eyes transform into a warmer, more attractive version of themselves.
“Okay.”

It’s better than sitting in the boat and waiting for Tristan to show up. The moment Tolkin showed up by Madison’s side, I feel like I’ve been living in a nightmare. Tolkin carries so much darkness with him it’s impossible for it not to bleed into others things, to other people.
Drugs, I’m finding brings the worst out in people. Just like anything that preys on our greed and on our selfishness
Tristan sacrifices a piece himself each time he gets high, somehow to him it’s worth the cost. But, I was feeling more alone that I did when I was sleeping on roofs and stealing cash from people’s back pockets.
I felt a part of something, as the real me, for the first time in my life.
Not having it is so much worse, now that I know what it’s like to have a place I belong.
“What I can’t figure out, is why he was able to leave me behind so quickly,” I said to Brody.
His eyes flickered to me then back on the beer bottle that stood on the coffee table. He scooped it up and chugged the remaining few swigs. “I’m gonna grab another, want one?”
“Do you have whiskey left?” I asked sitting down in his smoke-filled living room on his stained-green couch. I was relieved not to be by myself.
“I might,” Brody mumbled to himself as he stalked down the narrow hallway into the back of the house.
Brody came back with two beers, two mugs, and a half a bottle of whiskey.
“Where’s Julian?” I asked just realizing his oversized greasy self, wasn’t here poking fun and getting on my nerves.
“With Tristan, Tolkin, and Madison,” Brody said inside a layer of disgust.
“I don’t get it,” I said mostly to myself.
“What don’t you get?” Brody pours whiskey into each mug.
“What makes them feel so different from us?”
“We have more good in us than they do,” Brody said plainly.
“What changed in Tristan?” I chase his name back with the contents of the green mug. “More please.”
“The escape he finally found happens to consume him.”
“Why did he need to escape so badly?”
“For the same reason you started to drinking whiskey likes it’s your job.”
“Why is that?” I ask knowing the answer.
“We all need a way to deal with what we are doing, how we live.” Brody took a quick swig of his whiskey. “Back when we first met, you thought I was picking on you when I told you not to do the job. I saw in you what I saw in myself. I had reservations, and I ignored them. It’s something I regret. Maybe I wouldn’t be here talking to you if I hadn’t pushed the warnings aside. Who knows? But, being the bad guy certainly takes a piece you away just like shooting crap in your veins does. Our world isn’t kind. Everything we do has a high cost.” Brody poured more whiskey in each of our mugs. His lips form a tight line of frustration. “I think people age quicker when they live the way we do. I feel beat down, and I’m not even seventeen.”
“It’s the card we’ve been dealt,” I said curtly, feeling angry all of the sudden.
“Is it, though?” Brody looks at me in the eyes.
“I suppose that’s up to me,” I say in response, I say to myself.
“It’s not easy, though, is it?” One of his brown eyebrows raises higher his navy-blue glasses reach.
“I wish I knew how to stop losing Tristan,” I said, this time, my voice was a little quieter. I was almost ashamed to speak the words out loud. I felt vulnerable and pathetic and small.
“So do I,” Brody’s tone of voice matched mine exactly. He was losing his friend, and I was losing my boyfriend to this drug that Madison’s toy, Tolkin, brought with him.—but, actually we were losing our family. Because when the traditional sense of the word isn’t available, eventually we have to build our own, hoping it’s permeant.
Brody reached and grabbed my hand. The warmth of skin made me feel put together for the first time in months.
Hungry for more comfort, any shred of comfort that distracted me from the cold world I was living in, I rested my head on his shoulder.
The weight of his head pressed gently on the side of mine, muffling my ear. For a moment, right then, I felt totally okay and completely safe.

18 Months Prior

Even though I had a long gotten used to the late nights working alongside Tristan, the weight of stealing was draining me. I was feeling further and further from the person I was when my dad was alive. Now I seem to be going against everything he taught me. It had seemed so long since anyone had cared about me that Tristan’s endearing eyes could convince me anything was possible.
I stood beside Brody and the invisible form of Tristan outside a newly remodeled craftsman in North Seattle. A list warm spring rain soaked slowly into my flannel. I could feel Tristan’s warmth intertwined with my delicate feeling fingers,
“This is our third house tonight. I’m tired and ready to drink,” Brody grumbles.
We have been waiting for our Que. for what was feeling like a lifetime.
Julian’s large body stepped outside the door that leads to a well maintain a garden. I wish I could worry about the condition my garden.
“Let’s go,” Brody whispers.
That’s how it was since Tristan introduced me to everyone. Him, Brody, and I teamed up everything including our r&r.
How random life is, circled through my head at the moments when I’d lay awake in bed before drifting off. One day I just stumbled on Tristan being somewhere I always am, and so shortly after I got my second family. I wasn’t alone anymore,
Tristan’s skin sparkled in thousand different little points, before slowly fading away until there was nothing left but his warmth.
Brody chose not to phase, but instead he walked beside me. I walked behind him into the house. Madison has been dragging us through such wealthy homes at such a steady clip I was beginning to become unfazed by the jetted tubs and the trim on the ceiling. I was starting to learn about how far you could stretch the adaptability of humans.
The first few times I robbed houses I felt awful during and after. Eventually, the guilt waited until after I’ve done the job. Then one day I stopped feeling guilty altogether—something that began to eat away at me, knowing I was doing something wrong but justifying it to myself.
“You come upstairs with me,” Madison hissed in my ear as she bumped her shoulder into mine.
Not one of us argues even though we want to. Fighting with Madison doesn’t do anything but get burn marks on your skin and less of the cut.
I didn’t like leaving Tristan and Brody downstairs, but I did nevertheless. My feet padded up the carpeted stairs directly behind Madison. Her shiny, unmoving black hair clung to her back. The smell of vodka and chocolate clung to her skin.
The upstairs is even fancier; art hangs on the hallway walls. Every piece the same about space apart. If we knew anything about art we;d probably take it, we took everything that we knew we could sell, and occasionally something just for us, a spoil, a token, a gut check.
The two of turn into the room on our left, an office of some kind. We open every drawer and check every corner. There was aa rhythm between us that worked. I was tossing a tablet and some other electronics that I wasn’t entirely sure what they were but looked pawnable, when Madison tapped on my shoulder with a solitary finger.
She found a safe.
“Think you can crack it?” Her voice slithers out causing chills to run up and down my spine.
The safe was a small back box with a trundle in the center of it that reminded me of a boat’s steering wheel.
I say nothing. My mind gears up my thoughts. Then slid out from my fingertips, traveling to the tiny crack when the door closes. The coolness of metal encloses my bones as I mental inspect the lock.
Gears and locks.
A rotating puzzle piece.
My thoughts gently move the dial, until every part folds back, being swallowed by the door.
“Stay back!” Madison yells.
A cry from a woman sent a thousand warnings through my body.
“I’m calling the police!” The woman cries.
My mind reaches out behind me, trying to split for the first time without me telling my brain to act in such a way. It was an instant reaction, just like pulling your hand away when something is hot. My heart was rattling around in my chest. As quickly as my tried to split in two different directions it was gone.
Madison says, “Well, that solves that.”
The lock clicks and the door pop open. Small black boxes and several stacks of cash sit and stare back us.
An emptiness sunk in through my feet.
“Nice work,” Madison says as she scarps the loot into a duffle bag. I look at the doorway. A lifeless body of a middle-aged woman blocks out an exit.
I did that.
“T was right you are pretty damn useful.”

Forgetting We’re Human

“It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”
― Lewis CarrollAlice in Wonderland

As a parent, I’ve more than once marveled how one day one of my kids (or both) could be just all out of sorts one minute and completely fine the next. Sometimes this transformation could take minutes to complete and other times much, much longer. Some phases are undoubtedly harder than others, but they are all just that.

Phases.

After some tears and adjustments, whatever really, sometimes it’s nothing in particular things eventually take a turn in a more positive direction. Then, as quickly as the phase uncontentment arrived—whether it be general grumpiness, or not listening, instigating (the list of possibilities is endless)— it fades behind new developmental steps forward.

Being a parent is going through life again with a different perspective simultaneously with the your own life.

I grow up alongside my kids, scrutinizing myself along the way from fear of turning into my parents. Lately, I’ve been moodier lately, than usual—and I’m usually fairly moody. I had been for a while.

It came to a point very recently that I’ve decided to inspect what was going on with me.

To put it quite simply, this past fall kicked my ass.

I lost my best friend to terminal cancer in the end of October. It was a long, emotional road leading up to it. Every day I held out some level of hope that someday she’d just get better. I focused on helping her in any way that I could, and spent as much time with her as I could manage—which now doesn’t feel like nearly enough. I’m not sure that it’s something one can take well, but I got swallowed up by it, there is no doubt about that.

It can be difficult to find a way out of darkness. My very full life around me continued to move around me, and I busied myself with it as a way to push past the sadness.

My youngest started kindergarten in the fall, which put our family in a different phase completely. No longer having a preschooler in the house feels epically different, much more than I would have expected it to. This was a time I’d try and image when I was in the throws of diapers, playdough, and tantrums. Honestly, I miss having the little guys running around keeping me honest and full of adventures.

The fall was also when I transitioned from being a part-time freelance writer and midnight wordsmith to creative writing full time—something we had been planning for. The switch has been much more of an exercise of set discipline than I anticipated. I’m grateful to get the chance to put forty plus hours toward my career as an author. This has been my dream since childhood. I’ve been learning so much, keeping an accelerated pace, and working on multiple projects. I launched a new series, in November with the release of The Highly Capable. I’ve been posting here almost every day. I jump work blocks between getting the word of my new release out, my blog, writing two different novels, and submitting short pieces to literary magazines regularly. The truth it I love it so, so much. But it has recently dawned on me that juggling projects became my coping mechanism without me realizing until very recently.

Working helped me not feel sad.

Over time my mood started getting really shitty, my patience not good. I just wanted to do what I had to so I could get back to work. Then, I hit a wall last week. I couldn’t see what my one book was missing. My blog posts weren’t coming easy, honestly, I was just all over the place.

Little things started to build up. I was way too frustrated about the glob of toothpaste left on the counter, and so on.

It hit me.

I was so focused on not letting the sadness from my grief take me over, that I stopped enjoying everything as much I used to.

Honestly, just realizing this fact was enough to feel better.

A wall I didn’t know I put up seemed less impenetrable.

I saw what was missing in the book.

Everything just got a little brighter.

I feel a little bit more capable than I have been feeling. I thought of the developmental stages I watch the kids go through, and decided that’s what I describe it as. Which brought me to the point of thinking how hard on we are on ourselves, others, and kids to do better, to smile, to work harder, to make that turn on red because there is no sign forbidding it.

The other day I was walking my one dog, Jake. A car came flying down the road, which is a twenty-five mile per hour zone.  I shouted at them to slow down. My dog started barking because I’ve scared him. As the driver who was on the cellphone came into sight, she flipped me off.

We all have imperfections, make mistakes, come up short—we all bleed and have insecurities. Everyone knows what it feels like to be sad, so maybe we should remember this fact, because I’m finding it helps.

Everything is a process. Patience and kindness make such a difference, and I’ve found the importance recently how those qualities need to be first pointed at ourselves to truly effective our environment.

We are only human.

 

Sovereign

The fire moves through the leafless trees without guilt or hesitation. The sense of her is everywhere. Smoke captures my thoughts in a sort of way that one would with the scent of vanilla.

It puts me right there. There in the middle of it with no recourse.

Whispers tear at my heart. Fire is the one force that overthrows us all, and she knows it.

The ocean can save us. For if it makes a move at all everyone is gone.

Will we come in second?

A piece of the fire is in all of us.

Under her control

“Try as hard as you can,” she howls in the spaces between the trees.

I will stay and fight.