A busy day.

Let me just start off by saying I’m deliriously tired so please keep that in mind, but alas I made a commitment to myself that I would really try to blog each night before bed.

Continuing to be determined to enjoy my summer and to log full-time hours, I started out taking turns going on adventures with kids taking a different dog each time. It was a lot of fun and also a really good form of exercise for all involved.

The second stop was the kids and I went to a pretty chill, wooden playground where the kids climbed around on the equipment while I sat on a bench as Jake (my rottweiler) laid at my feet playing with his rubber squeaky ball. This woman walking by me huffed and said, “I can’t believe you’d bring an attack dog to the park.”

I looked down at Jake who at this point was half asleep with the ball in his mouth before looking back at the frustrated woman, then asked, “What attack dog?”

“That’s a rottweiler.” Like, she was seriously mad and fuming about this. Her shoulders were tight.

I was kinda pissed and said, “You are breed profiling him and that’s not cool.” Something I do is smile when I’m mad which makes everything I say give off the air that I’m being sarcastic. It usually doesn’t help much in conflicts.

The woman tossed her hand back, said, “Ridiculous,” and walked away.

Ummm…okay.

Then it was swimming, the store for dinner items then heads down work time. I’m kinda feeling optimistic today, which is nice.

I gotta say productivty wise I killed it. I edited an article and got that where it needed to go. Pitched  column. (Wish me luck!)  Outlined two short stories. Did needed research. I also finished the second draft of the wizard story for the Meanwhile in Washinton anthology that I am co-writing with H.M. Jones. Which, I gotta say I’m having so much fun with this project and working with H.M. Just thinking about it gets me excited.

I didn’t do everything I set out to, but I did most of it. I like to think that I can pack everything I want to do in a day out of sheer will. It’s not always the case. Today I’m happy with what I did and what I enjoyed. Oddly enough it makes me nervous about tomorrow, but that’s just me being me, I suppose.

 

Well, I’m gonna read a bit before sleep.

-J

 

A rose is a rose.

I’m trying a new routine this week, and I’m calling it blogging before bed. Between my busy summer schedule and my multitude of awesome projects, I haven’t been blogging nearly as much as I would like to. I don’t mean sharing some of my fiction with you, even though that’s great. I mean actually sharing my thoughts with you.

Once or twice a week hasn’t felt good enough. I wanted to try to figure out a way to work into my schedule like I did with reading. I do most of my reading in the morning during three cups of black coffee wrapped in a throw blanket with my head against a yellow couch pillow. It’s glorious. I don’t dread the morning because I love my routine. I wanted to find a spot like that for blogging. Every day right now is a little different; I wanted something that was consistent.

My mind is often racing as I attempt to go to sleep (that is if I haven’t passed out on the sofa watching television). Blogging before bed might actually accomplish two things at once.

You know how much I love multitasking.

I’ve been trying to honestly look at my workload and how I’m going about each thing under the idea of “work smarter not harder”. Change makes me nervous and the idea of purposefully doing anything causes concerns to rise, but I realize that moving things around is just life. Nothing stays still.

Leaning into change isn’t the same thing as giving up.

I’ve been continuing to make an attempt in being present. My mind is often in the future or on a project and not where I am in the present. This is something I want to work on, so that’s what I’m doing. Leaving my phone in my office helps this of course. Just like turning off my phone when I’m writing. There is a time and place for everything.

Only recently as I work on different projects and articles am I realizing how much I let fear steer my decisions…and my panic.

I was on StumbleUpon the other day and came across the article ‘Stephen King’s Top 20 Rules For Writers’. He was offering some real jewels of wisdom about writing. There was one that stood out taller than all the rest, which was, “Have fun writing.”

It hit me right away because I’ve been guilty for being too focused on my goals. I love that I am so goal driven, but I’m not a kid on the night before Christmas. This isn’t a race it’s a marathon. There is no instant gratification. It’s a long journey. Why not have fun?

I write because I love it, and I’m making a career out of it. I should be sure to enjoy the ride along the way. I think this something all of you can take from this. Life is life. And it’s hard, and messy, and doesn’t come with instructions but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be enjoyed.

It should be as enjoyable as possible.

My eyelids are getting heavy, and if I continue on much longer I’ll run the risk of no longer making sense.

Until tomorrow night.

Sleep well.

-J

P.S. If you haven’t had enough of my rambling you should check out today’s episode. I talk to the awesome and inspiring Julie Anderson of Feminine Collective about life, motherhood, people, and her journey to starting The Collective. It was an honor speaking with her.

//html5-player.libsyn.com/embed/episode/id/4505815/height/90/width/640/theme/custom/autonext/no/thumbnail/yes/autoplay/no/preload/no/no_addthis/no/direction/backward/no-cache/true/render-playlist/no/custom-color/87A93A/

Mark Twain.jpg

 

 

Chapter 15: Brewing Regret

You Can listen to the chapter on iTunes, Stitcher, or Google Play

    I strolled aimlessly up and down the narrow aisles of the deluxe convenience store off the Parkway. I barely had any money on me, and I wasn’t hungry. I couldn’t tell if Pete being there was adding to my panic or not. On one side he was a piece of home, a piece of who I used to be, but on there another hand, having Pete on my side as I made one of the biggest mistakes of my life thus far only added to the miscalculation of all of it.

    What was I doing? Besides pacing back and forth, I wasn’t sure. I considered speaking up, saying “Hey guy’s lets go back.” But instead, I walked in rhythm with my accelerated heartbeat as I waited for others to finish whatever it was they were doing. The heaviness of the missteps we were so obviously taking filled the air, suffocating me more by the second. I was confident that others were feeling it too. No one spoke as Molly drove way too fast down the parkway in the abyss of the unknown. All the windows were rolled down allowing all the harsh wind to whip into the car.  In the summer going to the shore meant sitting in unmoving traffic for hours getting a sunburn before even getting to the beach. But, driving to the beach in the winter, was an effortless journey. Winter on the beach cast a whole different impression to the water touching the sand. The business of the summer was a drastic contrast to the deadness of winter. It was the difference between hope and the hopeless. Night and day needed each other to maintain balance.

    I turned the corner into the candy isle. Lincoln’s army green hoodie and mess of dark brown curls were the first things I noticed—key elements that signaled to my brain that this was Lincoln. Just as I was about to say something to him, probably along the lines of wanting to go, he grabbed a handful of Snickers and shoved them in his pocket. Then he grabbed a handful of Swedish Fish and slid them under his shirt.

    One thing my mother really hated was stealing, or really any version of dishonesty, but especially stealing. Once when we were grocery shopping, I was around seven or so, and I wanted a bag of cookies, but I didn’t want to ask her for them because I knew she’d yes, but I was also already well aware of the fact that we didn’t have much money. I put them under my shirt a lot like what Lincoln just did with the fish. I still remember the disappointment on her face when the bag of cookies fell from my shirt as I climbed into the car. She made me go to the store and explain to the cashier what I had done. I was mortified. On the way home from the store my mom went on and on about trust. Her words, “People who steal aren’t trustworthy, plain and simple,” circled through my head as I approached Lincoln.

    “Where is everyone else?” I asked tugging on a loose part of his sweatshirt.

    His shoulders arched up in surprise, but when he turned around, his face was nothing but dangerously smooth. “Who cares, I know where you are.”

    I shook my head, flustered by his flirting. He was so much more experienced than me it was hard to ignore. In fact, at the moment it was yelling in my face.

    “What are you shaking your head at?”

    “You.” A nervous smile pulled at my mouth.

    “Why is that?” His smiled faded, his shoulders taught.

    “I don’t know.” My heart was still rapping around in my chest. I was uncomfortable, but I didn’t know what to do about it. “Just nervous about all of this,” I muttered trying to keep my voice from doing that embarrassing cracking thing when I’m upset—which I was. The problem was that I wasn’t able to figure out what to do about it.

    Pete and Malachi strolled up the aisle. Pete wore his usual lazy grin. Malachi was anything but lighthearted; his eyes showed signs of being some place only Malachi knew about.

    We were all reeling. When we first started gathering our things to put in Molly’s car, I was excited but the further we got from Paramus the worse I felt. Without planning to, my hand slid into my hoodie pocket and grabbed the camera, but instead of being creepy and weird about it I said, “All get together, I want to take a picture.” I waved my hand back and forth signaling them to get closer.

    “Good step calling it out El,” Pete’s lazy smile widened. It is hard not to feel like the most important person in the world when Pete focused his blue eyes on me.

    Lincoln grimaced, eyeing Pete with dark eyes.

    “Are you documenting our downward spiral?” Malachi crossed his arms as he scooted closer to Pete.

    “I’m fine where I am,” Lincoln grumbled.

    I wished I could look into Lincoln’s mind and begin to learn how his mind worked.

    “I think that’s exactly what I’m doing.”  I snapped two shots, both without Lincoln smiling, as I churned the idea of doing something purposeful with pictures.

Pete nodded his head in approval.

    I was doing something crazy, and I was going to document every moment. “I need one with Molly in it,” I said glancing around for her.

    “There she is….and she’s stress eating…fabulous.” Malachi sighed this, hanging his shoulders in permitted defeat. He turned to me with wide, knowing eyes, “This is gonna be a shit show,” he warned before stalking over to the counter, where Molly unloaded an armful of candy, chips, and other sweets—at least she was paying for them, I thought.

    “Whatcha doing?” Malachi forced an upbeat voice, but the attempt was a fail and only caused him to come across as even more stressed out.

    Molly rolled her eyes and tossed her head back, “I don’t even want to hear it, Malachi.”

    “Okay.” He put up his hands as if he was a soldier surrendering in a war.

    “Picture!” I cut in, trying to keep my own mind off the reality of what we were doing. Never in a million years did I think I would be a runway—at least not before my mom died.

    “I can do pictures!” Molly winked. She brought her right shoulder up, threw her hair to the side and gave me a full, professional model smile. Something so flawless one could only assume she spent hours practicing it. My thumb pressed the circle button two times. I glanced at the screen of her beautiful face smiling back at me.

    For some reason taking those couple of pictures helped me relax, even if it was just for few minutes. There was something about taking photographs of something that made it feel substantial.

    

***

    A screaming voice penetrated the speakers of Molly’s SUV as she raced down the last stretch of parkway before the exit. I sat in the back between Lincoln and Pete, which was really not that bad, but probably only because Lincoln was bruiting and quiet and Pete had his head in a notebook, and he was obsessively writing songs. Though he was playing off like going solo was something he wanted for awhile—even though that may be true—Pete was clearly spinning.

    I often wondered what it felt to be driven. I wasn’t. I was completely lost and wasn’t at all sure what would make me happy, especially not forever. When my mom died, the person I was before also did, leaving behind this stranger who I was still trying to figure out.

My mom would have hated Lincoln.

    “Hand me my Sour Patch Kids,” Molly barked as she snapped her fingers together.

    For all the times I saw Molly pick at her food like a bird watching her binge eat everything in the overflowing paper bag one after the other was disturbing all itself. I had never seen her so high strung before. Her eyes were quick and darting revealing that there is a whole lot she wasn’t telling me. I guess Molly and Lincoln have more than a few things in common. There was something about their obviously off-the-track nature that made me feel like I belonged. Belonging anywhere felt good.

    “Last call girl,” Malachi moaned, his loose wrist offered an open bag of Sour Patch Kids. Molly shoved her hand into the bag, pulled it out almost as quick then emptied the handful into her mouth.

    Lincoln laid his hand on my thigh with his eyes focused on the blur of sparse trees and lines of identical houses in the distance rushing past. I reached into my pocket for my camera knocking my elbow into Pete’s writing hand.

    “Sorry,” I turned surprised to find his face so close to mine. His eyes could tell a million tales of the impossible, but he only said,” No worries,” before turning back to his writing. As much as I did wonder what it was like to be so driven, it also appeared to be painful.

    Once the camera was in my hands, I brought the lens to my eye. I often felt safe when there a barrier between me and everything else. My thumb clicked over and over as the night began to fall, the sky a dark gray with a blue hue. Lincoln’s curls accounted for one-third of the shot adding dimension. My thumb moved across the top of the camera as I focused in on small details of my life and not someone else’s for the first time, really ever.

    “It’s our exit!” Molly cooed as she peeled off to the right, veering into the off-ramp at least thirty miles over the speed limit. She slammed down on the breaks at the stop light and shoved her hand into the bag of Sour Patch Kids simultaneously.

    “Watch it, would you? Do you need me to take over?” Malachi asked.

    “Lincoln, how far are we?” Molly glanced into the leopard print covered rear view mirror.

    “About five minutes. We are really close to the beach.” Lincoln mumbled this out of the window. He gave my thigh a squeeze before bringing his hand back to himself. At the moment I didn’t look at Pete, but I knew somehow that his were on us.

    I couldn’t shake that something was wrong, but it was manageable if I kept taking pictures. I was anxious to get out of the car, nervous about where we would be staying. There was a lot Lincoln hadn’t told us. I was just really hoping the set up wasn’t as shady as it sounded.

    After driving through a quiet and dead center of town, larger and more extravagant houses began to file in around us. The smell of the ocean filled the car lifting away so much anxiety and replaced with an emotion I wasn’t sure what to call. For everything there was to complain about New Jersey, the shore was something otherworldly, something that felt worlds away from mall country.

    After several quick turns, left, then right, then left again Lincoln said the house is 6775. Rex said it was yellow one with a deck.

    “No,” Molly said her mouth open.

    “This can’t be right,” Malachi shook his head.

    “Well, ass you did it,” Pete jutted his chin forward, “you’ve impressed me. This might actually be fun.” Pete’s eye matched a child’s in a toy store. Classic Pete. Exuberant and misdirected optimism.

    Molly pulled into a cobblestone driveway of a large yellow house with bay windows and a wrap around deck. The yard was immaculate.  My stomach was a raw knot.

    “This house is worth at least a million.” Molly shut off and climbed out of the car.

    Everyone followed her lead and piled out of the truck. The elaborateness of the house only highlighted our mistake further. Whoever owned this house sold a lot more than just speakers. My mind went back through the files of conversations with Lincoln. His parents. His bouncing around. The money he owed. The fact that we could stay at the house on the condition that we sold speakers. Some very critical information, the pieces that tied it all together, were missing. As my heart rate picked up, I pulled out my camera again and started snapping shots of our new temporary home.

Thanks so much for reading! Please visit the show on either iTunes, Stitcher, or Google Play  and leave a review. Also a reminder there will be three more episodes till the end of the first volume. A new batch of episodes will air again starting September 10th. 

Upcoming stories

Process. Brillant ideas. Self -deprecating analysis. Fraudulent feelings. Obsession. Delusions of grandeur. All elements of my creative process. Any of these familiar to you?

I feel fairly accurate when I say that I experience each of those things at least once a day. As a full-time writer (yes, I’m including podcasting in this) I’m always trying to refine my process, learn new tools, and try different techniques.

As far as my fiction goes, I’ve been writing mostly in the first person, but after six years of mostly focusing on the first person narrative,  I had begun to feel limited.  I’ve been more than ready to explore larger worlds and varriety with my storytelling.

I’m sure you’ve seen me mention or heard me talk about it on Too Many Words, but I have recently broken ground on a new fantasy novel which will be told in third person. As I build the world and the story arc, I’ve been trying out different skills with a multitude of short stories and continue to, especially now that I have begun co-writing an anthology with H.M. Jones titled ‘Meanwhile in Washington’

I recently finished a short story about two human slaves trying to break free from an alien compound. The peice is titled ‘Dislodged’ and I’m pretty excited about how it turned out. Over the course of the next four days I will be posting here in 4 parts. The first one will be up later today.

I hope you enjoy the upcoming story and I’d love to hear your feedback.

Thanks,

Jayme

An Awesome Talk With Bonnie Burton

bonnie burton promo imageHappy 4th of July!

What do you have going on today? Hanging low? driving far? I’ll be sticking around the house recovering from the flu and eating all the awesome food my husband will be grilling up, then off to the city’s fireworks.

I have a really special episode of Too Many Words for you today. After I ramble about new projects, the books I’m currently reading, and different ways to think about writing, I have an awesomely fun chat with Bonnie Burton.

Bonnie Burton is the author of many books including Girls Against Girls and The Star Wars Craft Book. She is also a full-time journalist who writes for CNET and has written for many  other publications throughout the years.

Bonnie and I talk about empowering other women, her books, the cathartic nature of kneading bread, wrangling the writing process, working from home, the hustle, not caring what others think, muting trolls, self-care,  and late night Amazon Prime shopping. Bonnie and I also discuss our shared love of notebooks and The Gilmore Girls. Bonnie discusses her upcoming release ‘Crafting with Feminism’ and her plans to come back on Too Many Words in the fall after her new book releases.

I hope you enjoy! I had an awesome time talking to her.

Enjoy your 4th and be safe and kind.

A reminder that more pets get lost on the 4th of July than any other day, so make sure you check on your furry pals and also be aware of your neighboring pets.

Thanks!

-Until Next Time

Listen to Episode 21- As a Creator & As a Fan with Bonnie Burton on iTunes, Stitcher, and Google Play 

 

Chapter Fourteen: Fleeing with Hesitation

*Listen to this chapter on iTunes, Stitcher, or Google Play

    Flashes of my mom’s smile spread throughout my dream. I was stumbling around the forest with a bag of snakes in my hand. The echo of my heartbeat rumbled in my throat. I couldn’t find my camera which what brought me to the woods in the first place. Faded image flickered between the trees. The confusion in the dream resonated in the stomach of my present body. A warm hand grabbed my shoulder, gently pulling me out of the dream.

    I opened my eyes to find Lincoln’s face inches from mine. His eyes were a tense knotted line. “Can we talk outside?” Lincoln’s raspy voice was nothing but a rough whisper that causes uneasiness to course beside the blood in my veins.

    Nerves danced on my skin. I was fully awake. “Is everything okay?” I sat up in the dark living room. I glanced at Molly, who was soundly sleeping with her arms around Matilda. Lincoln’s hand gently grazed my chin.

    “Real quick,” he said now, his voice a little louder.

    I narrowed my eyes as if that would somehow help me understand the situation better, but without much surprise, it didn’t. I nodded and stood up. My oversized gray t-shirt hung off my one shoulder. Lincoln’s eyeing my bare skin turned my knees to jelly. The soft glow from the streetlights seeped in through the bent blinds casting a dreamlike glow on everything.

    Lincoln placed his hand on my back, slowly guiding me through the dark rooms. The door squeaking open disturbed the peaceful silence. Matilda popped her head up, eyes locked on our figures.

    I held out a flat hand, singling her to stay. She laid her head back down but with open eyes. Lincoln’s leg rubbed against mine as we passed through the doorway. He closed the door and grabbed my head carefully as if he’d rehearsed it many times in his mind.

    “What was this about?” My pulse quickened suddenly with the uncertainty of what we were doing. It wasn’t that I was frightened of Lincoln, I wasn’t, but I was becoming aware of how unpredictable he was—something that drew me in and warned me to be careful in equal measure.

    “I just wanna explain a few things,” his dark eyes held so much at the surface. Lincoln gave off the impression that he was always thinking, one can’t have eyes so complex and be thoughtless. There walking beside him in the middle of the night I wished for nothing more than to be someone he felt like he could trust me enough to share them with.

    We stepped through the aging doorway. Black paint peeled across the surface. My toes scraped the back of Lincoln’s slip-ons.

    “Sorry,” I mumbled.

    He grabbed my waist and pulled me into him. The cold air made his touch warming.

    “I don’t want to play games. I want us to be real with each other.” He bit his lower lip, seeming to question his choice of words.

    “What’s the backstory to that comment?” My head was still foggy from the dream. The dark sky blended with the artificial light from the street posts. Shapes from other buildings cast shadows on Lincoln’s bruised face.

    “Pete.” He looked away and cleared his throat. “I don’t want to get in the middle of something messy, but I really like you.” His dark eyes were on me then, holding me fiercely in their grasp. Lincoln ran his hand through his messy curls. I’m not sure if it was the shadows, or the fact that we were standing outside in the middle of the night, or even if it was the way his hair framed his large eyes, but I couldn’t help but see how sad he was. Not because I went for a walk with Pete but because of years of events I wasn’t yet privy to.

    “He’s my family. He’s my best friend and the closest thing I have to everything.” I stopped, unsure of where I was taking that. My mind flashed back to our walk, how even though things were weird and different, we were still Pete and El.

    Before I could continue with rambling, Lincoln said, “Do you have feelings for him?”

    Without much thought beforehand, or any real knowledgement of the ripple effect my words would have, I mumbled, “I don’t know, but I do know I have feelings for you.”

    Lincoln’s mouth was on mine, his hands in my hair. I guessed that my answer was enough of what he needed. Somewhere inside of me a twinge of guilt developed, threatening to take over.

    Lincoln pulled away, his mouth barely touching mine. “About what you saw,” he started, pulled in a deep breath then continued. “I stole a lot of money from some bad guys, they chose to get me to work it off, but then family shit happened, and I took off. Now they want the money in full. I’ve got a buddy down the shore, and he’s got some ways to help me get the money, but it’s gonna take longer than Monday. I’m hoping to get us all in on it, and then take off. I can come back once I have the money.”

    Thousands of questions circled my mind. I wanted to ask why he took the money but then decided it didn’t matter. He placed his hand on the side of my face. His touch was so warm, and exactly what I needed to feel. Lincoln gently pressed his lips on mine. “Knowing if I have you with me, will make everything okay.” His perfect and dangerous words vibrated on my mouth.

    I leaned the weight of my entire body into him and said, “You have me with you,” into his chest. His grasp around me tightened cementing the delirious fact that I was all in. Few moments can be pointed to and named the event that changed everything, but there kissing Lincoln outside in the middle of the night was definitely something that altered the rest of my life, rendering me forever changed.

***

    Sunday, thanks to the Blue Laws, was my first day off. I laid next to Matilda on the sofa staring at some spectacle of reality show Molly had put on. She was sitting crossed legged in her favorite chair rolling a blunt using honey and the outer layer of a cigar. 

    “Why the honey?” I turned my head taking in the full Molly package. Her hair now streaked with pink, something she did on a whim. She wasn’t wearing any pants, just a long blue t-shirt and white socks all the way to her knees.

    Molly tapped her throat with two fingers, “It makes this all smooth and sweet.” She confidently nodded.

    “I call jelly beans,” Malachi stumbled into the room. “It makes the whole thing burn like crap and gives off an unfortunate stench.” His mouth twisted up in a smirk. His braids now threaded with green and brown ribbon. 

    “Nonsense,” Molly rolled her eyes. Her extended fingertips broke up the weed into pieces.

    “Where’s lover boy?” Malachi asked me. His smirk settled into a grin.

    “Talking to a buddy about a place for us to stay.” I scratched Matilda’s head, then added, “and jobs for us.”

    “Sounds ominous.” Malachi grabbed my feet, lifted them up, and slid onto the sofa underneath them. He left his hands on my ankles after he rested them on his legs. He had this parental warmth about him. I’ve always been under the belief that certain people naturally gravitated to different roles, every one of them needed. Malachi was a guardian. He was especially for Molly, which was good because she was in definite need of one. Even though I was enjoying the step-parent free, untouched by mom environment, I couldn’t help but hear the whispering in the corner. It was hard to feel like I somewhere I belonged. I wanted to give in, but I couldn’t completely. There was a sense that I was forgetting something, or missing something hanging out on the shelves in the room.

    Perhaps that ignoring that very feeling led me to places I should have never gone in the first place, but I was determined to live, but I just wasn’t sure what that meant. My phone vibrated in my pocket, the reminder of the impending Christmas and no longer having a working phone close around me. Even though I knew I was searching for something, that fact that I didn’t know what it was that I was looking forward made feel lost and blinded.

    It was from Pete: Thinking about you.

    I sucked in a breath of too much meaning then typed: What about?

    The screen lit up: Your butt

    I typed back: Liar

    Then he responded with a, Maybe, maybe not but I’m glad we are cool again.

    My fingers typed in, Me too but more, then my thumb hit send.

    He sent a GIF of a dancing turtle, and I laughed.

    “So, missy, I woke up last night because your adorable dog snores like a bear, to find you and Lincoln nowhere in sight.” Molly studied the paper as she rolled it tight getting honey all over her fingers.

    “We were talking outside.”

    Molly turned to look at me her eyebrow arched like a hook, “Talking. Sure, and I’m Beyonce.”

    I snorted, “Intense talking,” I added.

    My phone vibrated it was Pete again. Can I come by and hang out tonight?

    My mind went to standing in the streetlight illuminated dark telling him I was in. Lincoln has to be okay with Pete. They have to figure it out. I remembered Pete asking me to tell him if I was leaving town.

    It was looking like we were going to, but a heavy part of me didn’t want Pete to come. Not because of the weirdness, or maybe feelings, but because part of me knew it was a bad idea. Just because I was stumbling through my life didn’t mean he had to…but then again, maybe it did. Maybe Pete wasn’t as put together as I had thought. His words, “I need you more than you realize,” created queasy and restless bubbles to form in my stomach.

    But, regardless of my messy brain I typed back, of course, and hit send.

    “Why Beyonce?” I asked Molly in hopes of pulling my thoughts away from Pete and running away.

    “Because she’s awesome.” Molly licked the seal of the blunt, smiled at it, and muttered, “You’re perfect,” to it.

    “Falling for that boy probably isn’t the best decision.” Malachi sweetly squeezed my ankles with his large hands.

    “Yeah, I know.” I slunk into the sofa cushions a little more.

    Smoke filled the room as Molly got the honey blunt started. She leaned over and passed it to me.  Just as my fingertips grabbed the joint, there was a knock on the door.

    Could that be Pete already? I wondered as Malachi grumbled sliding out from my legs and sauntered to the door.

    A deep, throaty voice drenched in a New York accent said, “Got a deal on a dishwasher, gonna do it myself.”

The landlord.

I quickly stubbed the blunt out as Molly darted to open the windows. Malachi’s foot lined against the inside of the door preventing it from bursting open.

    “You said Wednesday, I’ve got family here.” It turns out Malachi is a terrible liar.

    “Family? What’s that smell?”

    A large, round man pushed past Malachi. A thin patch of greasy hair cover the sides of his head. A large bushy mustache cover his upper lip, matching in thickness with hair on his partially exposed stomach.

    “Is that marijuana I smell? A dog! These are friends not family! You’re done.” His eyes now fixed on the bags of clothes next to the sofa. He turned like a raptor toward Malachi, “Meet me at the office in ten,” he yelled, then was gone.

    Malachi closed the door, his face drawn in defeat. “Gonna light that back up?” He asked.

    “I’m so sorry.” I got up from sofa and handed him the blunt.

    Malachi shrugged as he pulled silver zippo from his pants pocket. “He said Wednesday.”

    

    I hung upside down on the sofa like I used to when I was younger when I was attempting to make important decisions like vanilla or chocolate. It was hard to ignore this nagging feeling telling me something wasn’t right. I hadn’t heard mom’s clear voice in an over a week but was starting to wonder if this was a quieter version of her.

    “He’s been down there for over an hour,” Molly’s concerned voice interrupted the spiraling of my thoughts.

    The door knob jiggled, followed by a swinging door. Lincoln’s slender frame stalked in with his shoulder raised. A self-pleased grin floated across his face. “I got us a pretty sweet place ladies.”

    I twisted my body around and sat up.

    Lincoln closed the door with his hip, “Yep! Four bedroom house a block from the boardwalk. The guy’s who house it is lives overseas right now and will be for awhile. My Buddy, Rex sells speakers and knows the guy. We can stay there rent free as long as we help him with the speakers.”

    “Like the pyramid-scam speaker sales people?” Molly raised her eyebrows. “The one’s who case houses?”

    “Sorta, but this more is legit and won’t get us jail time.” Lincoln’s didn’t even seem to believe himself.

    “Well, it’s something. We can make it work,” I slid off the sofa and wrapped my arms around his waist. The small whisper that something was off was now screaming, but I chose to ignore it and focus on how good he smelled.

    “I agree,” he leaned his mouth onto my head.

    “You guys are in for it,” Molly said hanging off the chair holding her hand to her forehead.

    I laughed but knew she was right.

    Malachi pushed through the door; his eyes were wild. “Asshole.”

    “What happened?” Molly asked her whole posture suddenly in an alert, upright position; all goofy was off her face.

    Malachi turned to Lincoln, “Got room for one more?”

    “Sure man,” Lincoln nodded without asking any questions. I’m sure a symptom of having so many of his own. “The least I can do. I say we hit the road tonight. Rex needs us to start working tomorrow afternoon.”

    “New jobs?” Malachi pressed his lips together.

    “Shady speaker peddlers,” Molly rolled her eyes. “Adventure time!” Everyone one of us shared a hint of uncertainty but didn’t say a thing about it. Trouble hung in the air as thick as fog.

    “How about two more?” I pushed the words out quickly before I could break the promise I made to Pete.

    Lincoln eyed me carefully, saying no was right on the tip of his tongue, but he then said, “Yeah, Pete can come.”

    The moment the words were out of his mouth, I started tapping the buttons on my phone screen. We leave tonight. My stomach twisted into a nest of barbwire.

    Pete immediately responded. I’ll be there in the hour.

        

Like the story? Please let me know what you think r on iTunes, Stitcher, or Google Play

    

Avoiding the Wall

There is a good chance this will come off as complaining, but I suppose there is no way around it, because, I suppose that is exactly what I am doing. But certain words are forming the same sentences in my head and it’s distracting me from finishing this one project, or two actually.

I’m currently working a numerous amount of really cool projects and needing to adhere to certain dates. I love every second of it, but I’m running myself a little ragged. Part of that is just where am I, and part of it is adjusting to my summer schedule (Yes, the thing I’ve been fretting about is finally here!)

But, let’s be honest. Is that really what I’ve been fretting about?

No, I don’t think so either.

I’m afraid of falling on my face.

My natural default is a rollercoaster of self-deprecating and delusions of grandeur. The nature of writing. I sincerely believe that. Maybe it’s a cop-out, maybe I am a little irrational with my goals.

But, I don’t think so.

I’ve been recording a lot of talks for Too Many Words. I’m getting the chance to talk to really talented and kindhearted people and I have the pleasure of all the listeners that continue to grow and tune in.

The whole podcasting process is teaching me so much, and I love it, but the entire deal makes me incredibly nervous and ansty—not in the crowded grocery store way—but, in the living life kinda away.

I’m under the assumption that a particular fly-by-the seat-on-your-pants-and-grab-the-things-you-want attitude is an okay way to roll.

That being said, days like today I feel overwhelmed by all that I’m doing and worried. Worried about failing, about succeeding, about endless possibilities that match the epic length of a detailed novel. I’m tired and exercising way more than I’m used to. A symptom of tiring out kids is also tiring you out.

So if it did sound like I was complaining, I wasn’t, more ranting, thinking out loud, hoping that if I empty my worries I can go back to finishing this short story and this week’s Elliot. Thanks for listening.

Games, Tattoos, and Respect

Jessica Fisher is on the show! She is a co-founder of Gameosity, a writer, and an awesome artist. Jessica talks about writing for Geek and Sundry and how Gameosity came to be.  Jessica and I talk about the importance of following your passion and having respect. We also get into social anxiety, horror movies, and tattoo plans. Before Jessica comes on, I talk about my new piece on Feminine Collective, a summer of fantasy, and having your own back.

Subscribe on iTunes

Add on Stitcher 

Listen on Google Play 

Scary dolls, backstories, and what’s next

K.M. Randall is on the show! K.M. is an editor and fantasy author. Her titles are Reaper’s Daughter and Fractured Dream. She talks about all that she has in the works. K.M. and I talk about how our imagination sometimes gets the better of us, how dolls can be terrifying, shedding dogs, playing the waiting game, and managing our inner critics. Before K.M. comes on, I go on a rant about my social skills, dealing with other parents, and quite a bit more.

Subscribe on iTunes

Add of Stitcher 

Listen on Google Play 

 

 

Why I’ve Fallen in Love with 3 a.m.

My guest post was featured on the fabulous H.M. Jones’s site.

Monochrome

IMG_4101It’s my extreme honor to have Jayme Beddingfield as a guest blogger today. Jayme is an author, podcaster and extraordinary geek. Please enjoy this wonderful guest blog from her. 

Sleep has never been something that came easily to me. The reasons why are countless and varied, but regardless, being the only one stirring in my neighborhood in the middle of the night is not only familiar to me, but it’s become part of who I am.

I’ve recently come to terms with the fact that I am obsessed with my work. The desire to succeed overpowers most other needs and desires I have–but, I’m also terrified of it. Between all that I am trying to achieve within my career and remaining an intricate and active member of my family, I often feel like nothing I do is enough. Good enough, fast enough, unique enough, it doesn’t matter, the feeling of…

View original post 785 more words

You can now listen to ‘A Week Is An Eternity’

 

Elliot is feeling strange being somewhere completely different, somewhere she knows deep down she shouldn’t be. As Elliot navigates her next move with the help from Molly, Lincoln, and Malachi, her guilt for what happened with Pete grows. Elliot finds out something unsettling about Lincoln.

Download on iTunes

Follow of Stitcher

Listen on Google Play

Chapter Thirteen: A Week Is An Eternity

My head was resting on the card table that served as Malachi’s kitchen table, and dining room table for that matter. The kitchen was a small square without much space to move around with just one person. The whole apartment consisted of small boxy rooms. The fact there was five people and a dog trying to exist inside there didn’t leave space. I had been sleeping next to Molly and Matilda on the floor for a week. All of my surroundings seemed surreal, the life I was leading was so unfamiliar it didn’t resemble something that belonged to me. My world had never felt more temporary than it did there living with people I barely knew.
I wrapped my hand around my bright yellow mug. Lincoln’s leg rubbed against mine under the table.
I sat up, looking at him as I brought my coffee to my mouth.
“You seem like you are worlds away,” he said to me taking a sip from his own mug which consisted of more milk and sugar than coffee. His dark hair clung to his face in pillow-flatted curls. His lips were beautiful.
“My head belongs to another planet.” I leaned my head onto his shoulder for a brief moment.
“Take me with you,” his words were dangerously smooth. The fact that I was so obviously in over my head was hard to ignore.
Molly staggered into the kitchen with Matilda by her side. Molly’s red hair was pulled back on top of her head. An oversized t-shirt hung right above her knees. “Your dog loves me.”
“You feed her from the table,” I mumbled as I shifted in my seat positioning myself closer to both Lincoln and my coffee.
Molly tossed her hand back, “She’s too hard to say no to.” Molly pulled the pot of coffee from the machine as she reached over the sink stacked with dirty dishes and grabbed a chipped mug from the rickety wooden shelf. Everything in the apartment was falling apart, but anything remotely affordable and willing to rent to college-aged guys usually was neglected and in disrepair.
“You got work this morning?” Molly asked, looking at me.
“We both do,” Lincoln answered for both of us.
“I’m gonna head to the mall later and look for something.” Molly poured coffee into her mug, then returned the pot to its rightful place.
“Aw, babe you’ve said that every day this week,” Malachi grumbled as we walked into the kitchen without a shirt.
“Well, I mean it today.” Molly snapped lovingly at him. Their bond was deep enough that it made me wonder what it was that brought them so close. Pete, of course, took that moment to show up in the forefront of my mind, letting me know that our years of friendships were wrapped up in an impossible situation. We had never really had a fight before that night in the mall parking garage. Going a week without talking to Pete was brand new for me. I hated it.
“Well, you all need to figure something out fast. My landlord is coming on Wednesday with some guys who are installing the new dishwasher. There needs to be no evidence you guys and a dog were here at all. He’s been looking for a reason to evict us. Mr. Deson aspires to get rid off all the rent control tenets. The job and this place, I’m making it work. I’m sorry, please know I don’t want you guys to leave. It’s actually been a blast. ” Malachi slumped down into the metal folding chair across from me.
Molly leaned against the counter, “We got your back M.” Molly smiled at him. “We’ll figure something out.”
“I hate this.” Malachi shook his head. “Four days before Christmas, I’m like the worse Disney villain ever.”
I reached out and gave his arm a quick squeeze. “Stop. You’ve already done so much.”
Lincoln slid his arm around my shoulders, but looked at Malachi, “You’re not a man. The three for us will stick together wherever we head. I’ll keep the girls safe.”
His words and touch came together, overwhelming any sense that should be applied. I wasn’t able to really understand what the aching feeling in my stomach meant, but whatever it was, it was intense. Malachi smiled, his eyes drifting toward Molly.
Molly nodded. “That’s right.”
“Can you go back to your aunt and uncles?”
“Definitely, not an option, but I’m looking for one. I’m close to a lead.”
Malachi widened his eyes in warning.
“A buddy of a buddy,” Lincoln replied. One thing I was learning about Lincoln, was that there was a lot of subtexts, thousands of unspoken stories. It was unclear if his mystery added to my anxiety or to why I was so crazy about him.
There was a good chance it was both.
“Crazy night last night,” Malachi said changing the subject, his intense brown eyes focused only on me.
My stomach sunk. Last night was Pete’s show in the Village. I wasn’t there. It was the first show I ever missed. One show I couldn’t physically be there because I was sick with the flu, so Pete called me right before the show started, then set the phone on stage and I listened to the entire thing.
“Yeah?” My voice was barely audible in response.
I waited a moment, expecting to hear my mom’s voice break in, it’s normally a time I’d hear her distant voice weighing in with her opinion. There was nothing but silence. I’d been hearing her less and less since I winded up on Malachi’s floor. I wasn’t sure if it was because everywhere I was had no ties to her, or if I was getting better or worse.
“Pete was pretty drunk when he was performing. There was a big blowout at Wilson’s after…They kicked him out…of his band.” Malachi’s voice was low and careful.
My stomach twisted into a series of harsh knots. I felt sick. “What?” My voice cracked into pieces on their way out.
“That’s messed up,” Molly added.
Lincoln remained silent, but his eyes held me in his gaze.
“Is he okay?” I couldn’t help but ask.
“What do you think?” Malachi’s eyes held more back. Of course, he wasn’t okay.
Lincoln stood up, kissed me on the forehead, and mumbled, “I’m gonna grab a shower before we leave for work.”
“Okay,” I smiled at him, but my smile felt broken and misplaced on my face.
Pete.
The moment Lincoln was fully out of the room, Malachi sung, “You two are sweeeet.”
“I keep telling Elliot I can take the sofa from Lincoln, but she’s all into taking it slow.” Molly rolled her eyes.
I slid my phone from my pocket, pushed the button with my thumb to check my notifications. Three from Brian, four from Glen. None from Pete. I clicked on Glen’s recent text. All it said was, Your phone gets turned off on December 31st.
“Anything from Pete?” Molly’s voice was a whisper.
I shook my head and shoved my phone back in my pocket.
“Are you gonna reach out to him?” She slid into the seat Lincoln had been using.
“I would if I knew what to say,” I spoke into my mug before chugging the rest of it down. I had no idea what to do next.

***

Lincoln and I sat on the counter, my back faced the register, and my legs intertwined with his. The store had been almost completely dead all morning, so we resorted to Lincoln’s comic book education. We were both bent over The Amazing Spiderman volume one. We both were reading it silently. Occasionally Lincoln would point to a panel and say something like, “Crazy cool right?” or “Did ya see that coming?”
Pouring over comics with Lincoln had become one of my favorite things in the world to do. The stories of underdogs rising, the inner struggles, and the proximity to Lincoln all came together to be some of the best moments.
I turned the page to reveal the cover of the next issue.
“Well, what did you think of that one?” Lincoln’s mouth was so close to mine.
“I wouldn’t want to be up against Vulture.” I leaned in and kissed him, which I was finally confident enough in our weird little thing to do that.
“I think you could handle him,” Pete mumbled onto my lips.
Three girls dressed all in black with hair all dyed that same navy blue sauntered into The Angry Crow. I recognized them as the same girls Molly pointed out to me the first day she took me to the mall as the girls that could steal anything.
The shortest of the three with purple painted lips winked at Lincoln, then stuffed a handful of bracelets into her purse.
“Let them do their thing,” Lincoln whispered in my ear. The warmth of his breath caused chills to run down my spine. “It comes in handy to have them on your side.”
I nodded as I watched the three girls spread systematically throughout the store, filling their bags with various items. Before they left, the same girl with purple lips that winked at Lincoln gave him a nod, then eyed me briefly. I smiled awkwardly then turned back to the open book on the counter. I stared at the title ‘The Terrible Threat of “The Living Brain”’ as the sounds of girl’s boots dissipated down the hallway.
“You okay?” Lincoln’s hands were on my hips.
My breath caught in my throat. His lips grazed my neck. My heart starting pounding in my chest. An image of Pete drunk on stage forced itself into my thoughts causing me only to feel guilt as Lincoln turned me to face him.
His eyes were so dark and marked with scars from a past I knew nothing about.
Pete needed me, and I was nowhere.
Maybe he doesn’t want to talk to me, I thought as Lincoln leaned in to kiss me. For the first few moments, I blocked out all guilt and just kissed him back. But Pete, then Brian continued to force me to think about them.
I took a step back from Lincoln. His eyes pierced through me a hundred times. I touched the side of his face gently with the tips of my fingers. “I’ll be right back.” I slid away from his arms and out from behind the counter.
“Where ya going?” The left corner of his mouth twisted up in a dangerous smirk.
“The bathroom,” I mumbled blushing as I made my out of the store.
When I got into the restrooms on the other side of the food court, the three girls who cleaned out the Angry Crow’s POP inventory were in there reapplying lipstick and eyeliner. The second I stepped fully through the doorway all their eyes were on me.
They watched me as I headed toward the stall. Just as I pushed open one of the doors, a small voice asked, “Are you dating Lincoln Bachman?”
I turned to find out the owner of the voice was the same girl with the purple lips.
“Something like that I guess,” I mumbled uncomfortably.
“We dated last year. Broke my heart.”
I wasn’t sure what to say to that, so I said nothing. The other two girls watched me a little too carefully.
“He’s trouble. Be careful.” Her words didn’t come across as jealous or an attempt to stir the nest only as a sincere warning.
Before I could say anything the three of them left the bathroom and me alone with even more doubt than I had when I went in there.
When I got back to The Angry Crow. The store was empty and Lincoln was nowhere in site. That’s weird, I thought. I checked my phone to see if he texted, but there were no messages.
I walked through the ghost-townn of the store to the stockroom, so certain to find him there, that when he wasn’t, concern started to take over. The purple lipped girl’s words, Pete’s hurt face, Brian tightly hugging my legs began to swirl around in my head. Where was I going to go? I wouldn’t go back to Glen’s, but I couldn’t imagine where to go. I rubbed my shoulders in a weak attempt to comfort myself.
Was Pete’s still an option?
Angry muffled voices came from the other side of the door that leads to the service hallways. Without any thought, I pushed the door open.
Three large guys wearing trucker hats surrounded Lincoln. These guys were at least ten years older.
“I’m putting something together,” Lincoln’s voice said confidently from the other side of the bodies standing around him. I couldn’t see his face, but the tone of his voice gave me the impression he was okay. Nobody noticed I was standing there. My hand found the hard case of my phone.
“You said that last month.” One of the oversized guys barked, I couldn’t tell which one. I wasn’t able to see anyone’s face.
“Rogerson doesn’t have more patience.” A different, deeper voice growled.
“I need two more days. Tell Rogerson I’ll have in on Monday.” This time Lincoln sounded less calm.
The guy in the middle pulls back his arm and thrusted his fist into Lincoln, knocking him to the ground.
All three guys started kicking Lincoln. Legs pulled back, getting ready and then full force into him. A loud panicked buzz sounded in the center of my head, making it impossible to move from my spot.
A large booted foot got Lincoln right in the face. I yelled, “Stop!”, as I grabbed my phone with trembling hands.
After getting a few more kicks in they took a step back. The guy in the middle turned and took the full account of what I looked like. His beady eyes glowered in my direction. He placed a single finger over his lips, telling me to say nothing.
One of the others, who’s was skin so pale it was almost translucent slicked back his greasy hair. “That’s gonna be a lot worse on Monday if you don’t follow through.”
Then they were gone.
Lincoln was lying on the ground. The left side of his face was already swelling, blood trailed from his nose down to his mouth. I rushed over to him, my heart moving faster than a rabbit’s. My head was a cloudy mess. I wasn’t able to fully understand what I just saw or what it meant. Maybe if I had taken a few longer moments, I would have understood how grave the situation really was, but I was too concerned about Lincoln to consider what any of it meant. I reached out and offered my hand, just as he did the night Pete and I fought. Lincoln grabbed my hand and slowly stumbled up to standing.
He held his side and groaned.
“Do you need to go to the hospital?” I pulled my sleeve over my hand and whipped the blood from his mouth.
His eyes darkened. “Definitely not,” he snapped.
I felt my eyes widen, and he certainly took note.
“Sorry. I’m fine.” He rubbed my shoulder with the hand that was just holding his ribs.
“What was that?” I whispered.
He shrugged. “I pissed off the wrong people.” His voice trailed off as he finished his sentence leaving me to believe there were many things he chose not to say.

***
Lincoln and I made it down the hallway toward Malachi’s apartment hand in hand. After we had gone back to the store, not another word between us was about what happened or what Lincoln did. A deep purple bruise stretched across half of his face. He walked slowly. I knew he was in more pain than he was trying to lead on. A million questions circled through my head, but I left them in there.
Lincoln pulled a key from his back pocket and unlocked Malachi’s apartment door, with his free hand. He pushed the door open with a grimace.
“You okay?”
“Just a little sore.” He shrugged my words off with a quick sentence. Ever since I pulled him from the floor, there has been a distance there. I was hoping it would go away. I was telling myself he was processing.
We stepped in the apartment. Pete was sitting on the sofa Lincoln had been using as a bed, next to Malachi and across from Molly, who sat cross-legged in a tattered armchair. Pete’s sullen blue eyes found me, his mouth twisted into a broken frown.
Startled to see Pete I dropped Lincoln’s hand without very much thought beforehand. Lincoln turned his head to look at me. His dark eyes held me in question. I felt like I was stuck between two walls without a solid move to make.
“I went to the house.” Pete stood up. His skinny jeans hugged his slender body. His black hair fell into his face as he stood a few steps closer to me. “Brian answered the door.” Pete cleared his throat as he ran his hand through his hair, looking away for a minute to collect himself before bringing his eye back to me. “He said you left a week ago. Why didn’t you call?”
“Same reason you haven’t.” My voice cracked.
“How are you holding up?” Pete’s eyes held no anger or resentment like they did the other night, they only carried concern.
He was Pete.
“She’s fine,” Lincoln said curtly.
Pete didn’t acknowledge him. “Wanna walk Matilda with me?” Pete playfully nudged my shoulder with a loose fist. “We’ve got some stuff to catch up on.” Pete forced a smile, but I knew him too well to take it as sincere. He was hurting.
I nodded then looked at Lincoln but being certain that Molly and Malachi were also in my view. “I’ll be back in a few.” I patted my leg, and Matilda perked up from next to Moly and trotted over.
Lincoln grabbed my hand, “You cool?” He asked, his voice sweet, but it was hard to shake that feeling it was more for Pete’s benefit than mine.
“Yep. I’ll be back.”
“Ya know, I was going to let you know Rogerson’s boys were looking for ya, but your face tells me they already found you.” Pete followed his words with an eat-shit chuckle.
I grabbed Matilda’s leash as we walked through the door that I had just walked through with Lincoln. The moment we were out in the hall and the apartment door closed, Pete pulled me into him with a big bear hug. His body was heavy on mine. I wrapped my arms around him. Everything came rushing back. My mom’s smile. Being happy. All the nights Pete stayed with my next to my mother when she was sleeping near the end. Brian and the fight with Glen covered me like I was suddenly me again back in my actual life. I took a step back.
Tears held still in his eyes. “I’m sorry,” he said in a way that made me feel like I had only done wrongs things.
“I am too.” I really was.
“I know.”
As we made our way out of the apartment building and into the not-great neighbor nothing else was said. We just walked next to each other, both enjoying the fact the other was there at all. When we turned the corner in the direction of the twenty-four-hour deli Pete said, “So you’re sleeping on Malachi’s floor next to a whole bunch of trouble?”
“For now,” I shrugged. “Malachi needs all of us out by Wednesday, so I need a plan.” My words drifted into the cold air carried by the wind that thrashed around us.
“You can come stay with mom and me,” Pete offered for the hundredth time knowing full-well my answer would be no.
“I really can’t.” I chose to watch the cars drive past, everyone heading somewhere all with a story only belonging to them.
“I know. I get it.” Pete slid his hands into his pocket. Matilda walked between us, heeling perfectly. “What are thinking you’re gonna do?”
“Molly, Lincoln, and I are trying to find a place down the shore.”
“What? Why all the way out of there? All three of you?”
“I’m trying to find myself, Pete.”
“I don’t really think this is how you do it.”
“You’re probably right.” I kicked a loose rock a few feet ahead of us. Silence fell between us again. I hated how things were weird and different, but I was happy he was there.
I finally broke the silence by saying, “I heard about last night.”
“Whatever.” Pete threw his hand to the side as if to say it didn’t matter. “I was thinking I’d have a better shot at making it if I went solo anyway. I’ll lean into the girl audience and sing meaningful lyrics about love while strumming the guitar.”
When he mentioned other girls, my stomach clenched with jealousy which it had no right to do. Pete would always have a parade of girls following him around.
“I can picture it.”
“El?” Pete’s voice was soft.
I looked right at him. His face was a map of everything I knew. How could I care so much about someone but feel so trapped went I was near him. What was I really running from? “Yeah?” My voice matched the softness of his.
“Tell me if you decide to leave town. I want to come with.”
“What about your mom?”
“You know she’d understand. It’s not like I need to worry about missing school.” Pete mumbled.
“Why is that?”
“I got expelled.” Pete ran his hand through his hair, a known nervous habit he had.
“What happened?”
I don’t know when, but we had stopped walking and were facing each other.
“I put you-know-who in the hospital.”
I just stared at him trying to figure out how he’s managed to screw up his life so badly in just one week.
“He was saying shit about you again. I was upset about us. I screwed up. His parents didn’t press charges but the school couldn’t tolerant that kind of behavior.” Pete rolled his eyes.
“Was Evie pissed?”
“Strangely, not as much I thought she would be. She said you, and I should study together and get our GEDs.”
The idea of this caused my heart to race. I knew full well I needed to put my life together somehow. It could have been that I was afraid or that I wasn’t sure what I wanted. But the truth was I was terrified of imaging a future that didn’t involve my mom.
“I need to figure out some stuff first.”
“I get you might not feel the same way as I do, but don’t leave me behind, okay? I need you more than I think you realize.” Pete started walking.
Matilda and I followed. “Okay,” I whispered so softly I wasn’t sure if he heard me at all.

*Remember you can listen to the audio version of this series on iTunes and Stitcher 

3 Things I Wish I Knew As a Girl

I am thrilled to have the fabulously talented and inspiring author, H.M. Jones as a guest blogger today. I relate so much to her words. I hope you enjoy! 

In a few weeks I’ll be thirty-two years old. What’d you say? You wouldn’t have aged me over 25? Well, you’re a bad liar, but I am VERY good looking, so I’ll take the fake compliment I just make up, anyway. *Ahem* Back to the topic at hand. Yes, I’m getting older. It happens to us all, even though we were once pre-teens who thought time couldn’t move fast enough.

And that brings me to my main point: when I was a kid, teen and even young adult, I had no idea where I’d be, what I’d be doing and how I’d do it. As an adult, I wish I could tell younger me a thing or two. I didn’t mind younger me: she was a geek, she loved books, she liked long walks, she was generally annoyed by stupidity. But she was also misled in some ways. I have a daughter, now, though and even though she probably won’t take my advice (I didn’t always take good advice when young), I’ve been thinking about the things I want to tell her as she goes through life. Here is a list of things I wish someone had told me as a young girl (or wish I had listened to):

1. Worrying about your looks is a stupid societal game that women have been encouraged to play, and have been encouraged to play against each other, as a distraction. For hundreds of years, women have been told what to where, how to appear modest, what to cover and how to cover it. I don’t think we’re a whole lot more evolved than when we were being squeezed into rib-bending corsets. We are still told that women who are dressed “immodestly” (another societal term you should forget) are “asking for it” when another person chooses to do them harm. We are still told we look better with the right shade of eyeshadow, that we shouldn’t leave the house without makeup. We are still encouraged to dress up and compete with other women. Powerful women are constantly judged on what they are wearing and how they look in a way men cannot even comprehend. We are constantly shown how to lose weight and keep it off, how to firm up our abs, butt, etc. etc. We are told to be hairless and trimmed.

Look, I’m not interested in shaming women who like to dress up. I like to dress up. I’m not interested in upsetting women who like makeup. That’s cool. You put makeup on, lady. I’m just suggesting that you, young girls, wear whatever the hell you want to wear, look however you want to look and tell those who have an opinion of whether it’s “right” or “wrong” to shut up. And if you don’t want to shave your legs or pits or even wax your lips, don’t. We are all gonna get older. Work on the interior because the exterior falls apart fast.

2. Assholes are not worth your time. Your time is better spent liking the person you are. Be okay being alone with your awesome self, and don’t waste your time on partners who are beneath you. When I was a girl, it was cool to like the “bad boys.” It was important to date, even when there weren’t any good options to choose from.  I bought into that shit, too. I swooned over assholes, thought they were probably just misunderstood. Here’s the thing, some people are antisocial and misunderstood. Some people are assholes who aren’t worth your time, and you devalue yourself if you accept them as your partner. Love yourself enough to find someone who respects your body, your time and your mind. I wasted a lot of my life dating assholes, chasing assholes. I don’t regret much in life, but I often get angry when I think about the fact that I could have been learning a new skill or reading a good book instead of being subtly berated or ignored by short-lived partners. Take yourself out to dinner or a movie. Ignore people who think you have to be with a partner to do something awesome.

3. Don’t tell yourself you can’t just because most people don’t or because other people tell you you can’t. I spent so much time thinking I couldn’t be on that team, wasn’t worthy of the lead role in a play, probably couldn’t become a pilot or doctor, etc. etc. It didn’t help that people tried to talk me out of things that other women haven’t done before, or that I was chubby and often bullied as a kid. It made me feel like what people were saying about me: that I was a chubby geeky tomboy was bad. I was chubby. I was geeky and I wasn’t much of a girly girl. But people made that sound like a failing on my part. Really, it was just part of what made me me. I shouldn’t have let people use my traits negatively—as proof that I couldn’t achieve the things I wanted or didn’t deserve the goals I set. But I often did. Unlearn this, girls. It’s bullshit. Don’t let other people plan your life for you.

There’s many other things I hope my girl grows up knowing: that learning to kickass with her words and body might be essential, that her gender doesn’t predetermine her fate, that her sexuality is her own and should not be managed by others, that she does not have to apologize for her opinion or presence, that her mother will love her without end even when she makes mistakes. And the only way I can guarantee that she knows this is to live by these guidelines myself, to reinforce them unabashedly and to stick up for her when others are enforcing unfair prerogatives.

metoo
H.M. Jones authors fantastical books and short stories, many of which are led by heroines who don’t let people define them. A mother of two kids, three chickens and one dog, she keeps herself busy gardening, bookstore hopping and writing books a few people will read.You can find her atwww.hmjones.net, on twitter @HMJonesWrites, and on facebook http://www.facebook.com/hmjoneswrites

New episode is up!

Hey, guys!

Heather Mason is on the show! Heather talks about writing for Geek and Sundry, Blastr’s Fangrrls, Smart Girls, and The TV Sisters. She and I talk about the importance of a positive media presence, X-Files, and how binge-watching certain shows on Netflix alters our perspective of reality. Zombies. Spies. And, Gilmore Girl wit. Before Heather comes on, I rant about disrespectful drivers, choosing soundtracks and answer some questions about Elliot.

Add on Stitcher

Download on iTunes

Listen on Google Play 

 

I’ll Never Lose Him

I sat there in the window with my knees tucked into my chest. Strands of my black hair hung over my face. Through the broken view I stared at the city laid out before me. The street’s below have crumbled away from neglect. Dirt in place of concrete—the earth was finally beginning to take back what belongs to it. Broken bridges and long-forgotten signs from survivors to their loved ones connect the buildings by what once were just windows.

The ground is too dangerous.

A loud engine roared in the empty, quiet streets from overhead. I bent my neck to follow the Zephyr with my eyes. My hopes of getting out of the walls were starting to wain. Birds cluttered the narrow spaces between the buildings. Not beautiful birds that caused the ache for freedom, but the scavengers, hardened and weathered by surviving, like me. The desire was barely there. We all used to wish for the rains to come and fill the streets, washing away all the death and evidence of broken dreams.

I was the only one left.

I traced his face on the dirty window pane.

“He has to be out there somewhere, I feel like I would know somehow if he was dead,” my voice came out hoarse from thirst and being rarely used.

Tola, a large black cat, sat directly in front of me. Her wide yellow eyes stared back at me.

Well, not just me, I still had Tola.

She found our first camp and has stuck by my side ever since. I slept better knowing a rat wouldn’t get into my portions.

“He’s still out there,” I whispered into my knees.

***

It was that night I was woken up by a warmth passing over my body. Tola? I thought then allowed my eyes to close. The sensation of someone laying next to me startled them back open.

My surroundings were pitch dark, something I had grown accustomed to, but then it was only a reminder how slime my chances were. Silence filled my quarters.  I sat up, my heart beating hard in my chest.

Did the hunters find me?  I thought. No, they wouldn’t be quiet or discreet. There was no have the hunters found me? Once they spotted you, that was it. Game over. There is no seeing them coming. Still, the world only has those willing to do what it takes to live. I readied my hand; my palm glowed purple. My touch on command can paralyze a person for a few hours, not kill. I hadn’t allowed myself to go that far. The catch was the danger needed to be right on top of me in order for me to stop it. Those trained are harder for me. I wouldn’t train to kill. Now, I’m prey.

The warmth suddenly wrapped all around me. A familiar sensation traveled up my spine and into my heart. Flashes of Caleb’s hands on me rushed past in my mind, then the nights in his arms took over entirely.

I laid back down. When I looked through I could see the rain beating down on us. Our hands each clutched an umbrella. We passed at first not recognizing each other. The corner of our eyes lingered longer. A warmth we knew, the element that had been missing reached out connected to the source.

We stopped.

The puddles around our feet turned to a deep indigo. Stars I had only heard rumors of spread across the water. We linked hands not knowing the future would be different.

I think I’m doing it.

It’s Monday, and I’m half way through one of the five days this week that I have been slightly intimated by. Mostly because they are completely different than my typical schedule and partly because it is the start of a long stretch of weeks like this.

Before any change I get anxious, it’s the way I’m built. The unknown is both completely fascinating and overwhelming to me. As I build my writing career, I often find myself focusing on the next thing. For a long stretch there, I had zero clue as to what I was doing. I’m still learning, but I know way more than I did this time last year—and the me now compared to the me five years ago are two completely different people. Recently I was gathering different pieces of my work for an upcoming meeting, and I actually gave a good look at everything that I’ve accomplished and learned in the last year, and I’m kinda shocked.

Do I still have a long way to some of my ultimate goals? Sure. But, I’m a whole hell of a lot closer to them. Yes, I happen to find myself on a day where I don’t feel hopeless and underqualified at everything that I’m trying. But, these days are important to take note of as well.

This is one of the busiest weeks both work-wise and parenting-wise that I’ve had, possibly ever. I have a cold, at least I think it’s a cold. My glands are swollen,my throat is sore, I’m super lethargic and have a stuffy nose. Saturday I barely got myself off the sofa, making me fall behind on some of the tasks I was hellbent on finishing before this crazy week hit. Yes, it was driving me crazy, but I eventually I gave in and watched a whole bunch of Gilmore Girls and had a big bowl of Pho. Yesterday I was strangely fine, I woke up with energy and did everything I wanted to do the day before and also achieved a pretty awesome father’s day for my husband—with the help of my kiddos of course. But, today after field day with my kids, recording an interview and planning this week’s Elliot I’m whipped and feel rather terrible.

Still, I feel on top of it and strangely calm. Maybe it’s because I’m quite proud of my word output today, or perhaps it’s because I’m growing up, I’m not entirely sure, but I’ll take it gladly. I’m less at my desk today and more sprawled out on the sofa, but it works.

I actually think I’m pulling this off.

And, by “this” I mean life.

It’s all in the details.

Hey, Folks! It appears to be Monday. I’m kinda nervous about this upcoming week. I’m attempting to bite off way more to chew than I do usually, which is really saying something.

A.C. Fuller is on the show! A.C. is the author of The Anonymous Source and the creator and voice of podcast, Writer 2.0. While on the road, A.C.  talks about seeking details personal to the character, that act of balancing many hats, and how no place is quite like New York City.

Before A.C. comes on, I talk about giving into the fantasy project that has been nagging me, books I’m reading, and my intimidating but exciting summer calendar.

Listen on Stitcher

Download on iTunes

My Obsession

I have always been incredibly stubborn. At times, it works against me, and it takes turns maddening those who love me. But as I build my writing career I’ve decided it one my qualities I love most about myself.

When I’m told, I can’t do something it only makes me convinced that I will, in fact, do just that. I get surprises and setbacks and opportunities. All that is part of what I do, but I know as long I don’t stop writing and continue to improve and grow I’ll be fine.

This is a new feeling for me.

I have a strange relationship with ideas. I get flustered when I get one while I’m focusing on something else. But, in those moments when I just don’t have one, I panic, I feel miserable and obsessed with getting a spark of any kind.

Perhaps this is just my process.

I worry about all the different outcomes of any possible situation constantly.

Wishful thinking and hard work.

Denial and delusions of grandeur.

Either way, I suppose I’m on the trail.

You can now listen to Chapter 12!

Chapter Twelve: Off The Rails Blindfolded

Elliot’s habits on the roof catch up to her and cause a radical change to her everyday life. Molly and Elliot make decisions that bring them closer. Pete and Elliot are afraid that things between them will never be the same. Future has never been more uncertain.

Listen on Google Play

Download on iTunes

Listen on Stitcher

Chapter 12: Off The Rails Blindfolded

Images of my mom pushing a young me on a swing was the last thing I saw before I opened my eyes. My heart was pounding in my chest so hard I felt the vibration on my lips. Sweat collected on my forehead. The realization that I was in Joan’s house and not with my mom sunk deep into my gut.
Another dream.
The happy dreams were almost worse.
I sat up in my bed in hopes of stabilizing my breathing. My hair stuck to my face. Every thought I didn’t want to have rushed in my vulnerable half-awake mind.
I closed my eyes for a moment, pieces of Pete fall out of me. Images of his face when I pulled away played over in my mind. I should have never held his hand for so long. He told me he wanted more that what we had. I said and did nothing until he tried to kiss after I leashed up Matilda. “It’s late. Things are messy right now,” I had said as Pete’s face dropped more with each word.
I hurt him. The last thing I ever wanted do.
The panic of knowing I’ll be awake for awhile began to race in my chest as an overwhelming loneliness filled my room. I jumped out of bed, grabbed my tin of joints and headed for the window.
The bitter yet peaceful air poured in around me, instantly giving relief to the screaming inside my head. The rare quietness of the streets folded me in a safer pocket. I scurried to the point next to the window where the two parts of the roof meet creating the perfect seat, the only thing I liked about that house. I tucked my legs into my chest, put the joint to my lips, and lit it.
Harsh smoke filled my mouth, burning my throat. My heart began to slow, though my mind hadn’t.
After Matilda and I had headed on our way, I looked back to find Pete with his head hung. I didn’t know the right thing to do, so I kept walking—now that the deadness of night surrounded me I was regretting it.
He was Pete.
I pictured the scene again. Pete’s soft words, “I like you more than a friend. It doesn’t feel weird.” His lips move closer to mine. But instead of panicking and pulling back, and hurting him I imagined me leaning back in. Right before I pictured our lips touching, I shook my head and the thought temporarily out of it. The vacant spot was instantly filled in by my mom scooping cookie dough out of the plastic tub before sliding the container to me. I took another pull from the joint; a deep cloud filled my lungs. After a while of sitting there fighting my thoughts, my mind finally slowed.

***

I stared in the mirror deciding if it was time to change my hair color. I held strands of turquoise hair between my fingers. My eyelids were heavy. I was stressed. I only managed to get a couple of hours before Matilda woke me up to take her out. I wasn’t sure how I was going to get through the day. It made me nervous to think about working with Lincoln that night. My head was torn in two, and I wasn’t close enough to myself to know what I wanted.
The moment Glen’s voice screamed my name a light went off in my head, a small warning, a feeling—a hope even, that everything was going to change…again.
Glen swung the bedroom door open, causing the door knob to puncture the sheetrock. I stared at the cracked paint.
I stepped back; my whole body was on the defensive. A signal went off in my head, sensing the danger Glen was carrying on his shoulders. He raised his hand; his lips were in a tight line.
Matilda jumped off the bed and started barking.
Glen froze, his eyes holding me in their angry focus.
He dropped his hand.
My hands curled into fists. If he raised his hand at me, I’d be ready.
“The Kalowski’s called. Fred says you were on Joan’s roof smoking pot.”
Shit.
What an ass. He didn’t need to tell on me.
My mom’s voice whispered in my head to pack a bag.
“Nothing to say? You are going to rehab. I found a sixty-day program.” His voice recited the words as emotionless as judge reading a sentence.
My heart was pounding in my chest. “Like hell, you are sending me to rehab. This work and therapy thing are gonna work for me.”
“Is that why you were getting high?”
I grab my thick black hoodie off the desk chair. “You were looking for an excuse to get rid of me.”
“I’m trying to help you.” His voice trembled with anger.
“I call bullshit.” I scooped up my phone, camera, and dropped them in me pocket. “You have been figuring out to get me handled while you count the days until I’m eighteen.” I walked over to my closet and swung the door open.
“What the hell do you think you are doing?” Glen took a few angry steps toward me.
I turned to look at him before yanking my backpack off the back of the door. “Getting the hell out of here.” I began pulling clothes down without taking account for what item it was and shoving it into my backpack.
Glen grabbed my arm tight, enough to hurt. Our eyes locked. “You don’t get just to do whatever you want.”
I dropped my bag and pushed him back. My whole body was trembling. “None of this is what I want!” I screamed my words without intending to. Matilda stood next to me barking.
“What’s going on?” Brain’s little voice broke through.
Glen stepped back.
Tears filled Brian’s eyes.
I grabbed my bag off the floor and Matilda’s leash from the closet doorknob. I pushed past Glen, knelt down in front of Brian. I cupped his small perfect face in my hands. “I’ll come back for you.”
His lip quivered. “Don’t leave Elliot, please.”
I pulled in a broken breath. Mom’s cries poured down around me. The night’s of devastation in her lack of future is part of what keeps me from sleeping.
I let my hands drop from his face and stood up. I glanced at Glen; his round face was washed red. I brought my eyes on my littler brother, “I can’t be here anymore, not if I want to get better.”
“Are you going to go to Pete’s?” Brian was crying now.
I grabbed my laptop and pushed in-between my clothes. “Probably at first.” Pete’s rejected expression flashed in my head, making my stomach even sourer.
“I will come back for you.”
Brian threw his arms around me, hugging me tight. I wrapped my arms around him, relaxing it would be a while before I saw him again.
“Hang in there bud.” I rubbed his head, said nothing to Glen as I walked down the stairs, out of the door without any idea where I was going. All I knew was that I couldn’t be there anymore. I looked down at Matilda to my left. I didn’t know where to go with Matilda other than Pete’s.
The cold burned as it whirled around me. My feet and Matilda’s paws walked in sink over the cracked and uneven sidewalk. The closer we got to Pete’s the more I didn’t think it was the right thing. I would be safe there, but emotionally it seemed like more than I could take. Pete and I got complicated. Or, at least we were at that moment.
I stopped walking. Matilda sat in response. I grabbed my phone. I glanced at Lincoln’s number for a second.
No, bad idea.
Without any more deliberation, I called Molly.
After a handful of rings, a cracked and whiny version of her voice said, “Hey.”
She had been crying.
Temporarily forgetting my turmoil, I asked, “What’s wrong?”
“My piece of shit aunt has notified me there are sending me to a two-year boarding school for troubled girls. They can’t just treat me like a sofa that has gone out of style. I just left. All my belongings are in my truck.” She sniffed at the end of it. “It’s cliche to run away but what are you going to do?”
“Feel like a partner?”
“What’s going on?” Molly’s voice picked up in tempo a few notches.
“Neighbors told my step dad I was smoking pot on the roof. He said rehab. Things got scary. I left with Matilda. Inevitable I suppose.”
“Where are you right now?” There was no evidence that she had been crying; she only sounded like a concerned friend.
“On my way to Pete’s, but I don’t think it’s a good idea. He has feelings for me. Things are messy.”
“I told you, and by the way, you have feelings for Pete. Poor Lincoln has no idea what he’s getting into.” The sound of Molly lighting a cigarette paused our conversation for a minute.
“Molly.” I groaned.
“Okay, okay! I’m on my way. Go to the bus stop I picked you up at the other day.”

***

I pulled a cheesy, gravy soaked fry from the paper tray of disco fries we grabbed from the diner. Molly slugged back her second Red Bull. We had been sitting in her car in the mall parking lot for over an hour, as we plotted our great escape.
“I’m gonna come in with you, so I can ask Malachi if we can crash for a bit.”
“Then, where to?” I asked knowing full well she didn’t know the answer.
“The shore?”
“How could we swing that?”
“There is always a way.” She grimaced at the fries and clutched her stomach. “You can kill them. I can’t eat anymore.”
“You barely had any.”
“Trust me that was a lot for me. Habits are hard to break.” She shrugged, her eyes went somewhere far from where we were for a moment, but I didn’t ask her where.
“Ready?” I asked instead.
“Yep, will Matilda be okay in the car?”
“I’d rather not leave her in the car. What if we went around the back? Through the smoking spot.”
“That could work.” She turned off the engine and climbed out of the car. Her red hair was knotted and twisted in a haphazard bun on the side of her head. She wasn’t wearing any makeup, but her patterned, high-fashion clothes hung as usual over her bony figure.
Matilda and I followed up through the parking lot, past the east wing parking garage. Molly said something about making a go at it down the shore would be easier in the summer, and how we needed a place to chill in the mean time. We rounded the dumpsters, slipped in through the propped open door, and through the dank hallway.
When we pushed open the door to Angry Crow’s stock room, Malachi was hunched over a thick stack of papers.
“This is shipment is all wrong.” Malachi saw us and tossed the list into the unorganized heap on the desk. His eyes settled on Matilda, “Why do you two have a dog?”
“This is Matilda,” I mumbled.
“I love dogs, but she can’t be in the store.” A thick, leather choker hugged his neck.
“Well, that’s why I’m here. I wanted to ask you a giant favor.” Molly forced a strained smile.
“The last time you started with that, we both got arrested.” Malachi crossed his arms.
“Oh that so doesn’t count.” Molly smacked his arm playfully. I was beginning to realize I adored everything about her.
“My aunt told me this morning she was sending me to a boarding school.”
“So you left,” he stated it as a fact like he saw this coming. Malachi looked at me. “That doesn’t explain you and your dog.”
“My sentence was rehab.” I nibbled nervously on my lip.
Malachi ran his hand over his dreads. “Too many shitty people out there,” he said first, mostly to himself. “I’ve got Lincoln on my couch.”
“We’ll take the floor.”
“I’m not supposed to have dogs at my place, so it can’t be long.” Malachi’s heart was big; his eyes were warm as he spoke the words making it clear he meant it all.
“I’ll figure something else out.” Even though I had no idea how.
“We will.” Molly corrected.
Lincoln walked into the store room from inside the store. His eyes widen when he saw me. “Hey.”
Everything is complicated.
“Hi,” I said back. He clutched a small stack of comic books in his right hand.
Matilda wagged her tail.
“You have a dog.”
Malachi cleared his throat, “We all have a dog.”
“Huh?” A confused expression took Lincoln’s face.
“Molly and Elliot are gonna crash on the floor for a while.” Malachi turned to the small electronic box and clocked out. “Meet you at my place?” Malachi looked at Molly.
“Yep.” Molly slid the leash from my head, and an unwanted glimmer of panic shot through me. Somehow sensing this she said, “I’ll take care of her.”
“Thank you,” was all I said.
“Of course, I’ll be back at 9:30 to pick you up.”
Matilda looked happily at all of us, excited about the adventures.
“I can drive her,” Lincoln said, then looked at me, a small perfect smile played with the corners of his mouth. He shrugged. “We are going to the same place.”
“Yeah, okay.” My voice was barely audible.
“Okay kids, see ya at home,” Molly sang as she flipped her hair back. It was amazing to me that Molly was capable of suddenly being so upbeat. She could turn it on and off as if it were a switch.
Malachi and Molly disappeared through the door with Matilda. The space between Lincoln and I was suddenly way too close. My heart felt like it was full of air.
“Is it weird, that I’m gonna stay where you are staying?”
“I think it’s cool.”
My stomach flipped.
He lifted his comics up, “What do you say, we read these while we babysit the front of the store?”
“I say that sounds good.” It struck me as strange how suddenly I found myself excited and felt like anything was possible, which was something I hadn’t felt for a very long time.

***
As the lights from the hallway dimmed, the inside of the Angry Crow was even darker. I straighten a table of band shirts, but my mind was a million miles away in several different directions. Lincoln walked up and started folding t-shirt’s next to me. It became impossible not focus on the proximity between us was barely existent.
“A comic book fact for your thoughts?” His raspy voice rattled in my ear.
“What’s the fact?”
“Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch are Magneto’s twin children that he had with his gypsy wife.”
“My life is a mess, and I’m not sure what my next move is,” I said turning toward him.
His eyes were two perfect dark orbs, holding me somewhere I wanted to be. “Then we have something in common,” he whispered before kissing me.
I leaned my body into his, losing my hands in his hair. His lips pressed hard against my mouth. His arms folded tightly around me, pulling me in closer.
“That’s why?” Pete’s crumbling words ribbed me away from the moment with Lincoln.
Pete stood there in the entryway of the store with an expression that was so much worse than one I caused last night.
My stomach dropped to my feet. What had I done?
For a moment that felt like an eternity, we all stood still, stupid and saying nothing.
“Pete.” My voice broke around each letter.
“Him? Really?” Pete’s voice was broken. He threw his hand out, “Screw this.” He turned around and walked away.
Without hesitation or any explanation to Lincoln, I followed Pete out of the store and finally caught up to be right outside of the mall entrance three stores over. He stood near where the parking lot met the sidewalk. He lit a cigarette and as if he knew I was right behind him, he turned around.
His eyes hardened, but I knew him too well not know he was devastated.
“I’m sorry,” I said even though it was nowhere near enough.
“You’re Elliot, and I’m Pete. You aren’t supposed to be with Lincoln Bachman.” He took a drag from his cigarette.
“I don’t have a clue what I’m supposed to do Pete. I need you as a best friend right now.”
“I can’t just be your friend El, especially not while you date that.” He pointed toward the mall as if Lincoln was standing right there. “You have feelings for him? He’s bad news Elliot. What do you think is going to happen? He doesn’t know you like I do.”
“I don’t know.” I felt like I was losing everything.
“You are running from your grief, and you are trying to leave me behind with it.” Tears clouded his crystal blue eyes but refused to run down his cheeks. “I want to be with you El.”
“Today. What happens when you play the next show, and a dozen girls are trying to get in your pants?” I regretted the words as soon as I spoke them.
He took a stepped back and grabbed his stomach as if I had just punched him. “I don’t believe you. You have to know it would be different with you.”
I reached for his arm even though part of me knew it was too late, “Pete.”
Pete shook his head, “I gotta get out of here.”
“You are my best friend!”
“I don’t know what I am.”
Pete walked away. I didn’t follow, this time, instead I collapsed into a puddle on the edge of the curb and cried. He disappeared into the parking garage without looking back.
I’m not sure how long I was sitting there before Lincoln showed up next to me. He extended his hand, offering to help me up. “You ready?”

Work, Family, and Chaos

Melissa Flickinger is on the show. Melissa was my book manager during our time with Booktrope and has now started her own business, Melissa Flicks Author Services. Melissa and I reminisce about New Jersey beaches and food, talk our shared dislike of grocery stores, the challenges of working from home during summer time, and the fact no one warned us that becoming parents meant the end of regular sleeping habits. Before Melissa comes on, I talk about the issues plaguing our society, share my concerns, and how love, respect, and kindness really matter.

Listen on Stitcher

Download on iTunes

Download from Libsyn 

Love Is Love

Just as the wind, her hair moves in waves. A field of sun-kissed strawberries—sweet and perfect and there for everyone.

Smooth skin, a home familiar to us all. The trees all rely on the ground beneath us to stand tall. We breathe because they allow it.

Hands together. Stars blanket the skies where all our dreams live.  Caves that burrow deep within our souls share common stone.

Lips against lips. The love we want to feel, the hope we all reach for.

Water reaches up the sand shores. New life. Old Life. Shared life. Lost Life.

Loss, an endless chasm. A forest washed with grief. The sun in which we all need to thrive bleeds in through the thousands of emerald pieces.

A mixture of excitement and self-doubt

I realized as I wrote my tasks out for the week, that I’m a little burnt out. Sleep is still not coming easy, and it’s probably because I’m obsessed with work. I know that downtime is necessary, but it really doesn’t come naturally to me. I backed off writing Elliot this morning because my mind wanted to work on the podcast and fighting my mind about what it wants to focus on only works against my goals in the long run. But, for some reason, it’s hard not to work on something I plan to. I know writing doesn’t work like that all the time; sometimes I can summon certain thoughts on demand, and others I can’t—regardless staying organized is a must.
There would be no way that I could manage all my projects I have on my plate without calendars and lists, but in the same breath, I need to bend where it’s needed.
I keeping looking at my calendar and getting overwhelmed. Everything takes longer than I expect. Honestly, the next few weeks look impossibly full as various things come to a head: work, deadlines, goals, meetings, school ending, summer beginning, new routine, and attempting to be present at all the kid’s school events next week. Part of me wants to scream, but the other part realizes I can handle all of it. Honestly, I think it’s more the change in routine than anything else.

A big part of me is excited and ready for the change in routine. I think I could use it and I’m looking forward to spending time with the kids outdoors. I’m hoping all the extra adventuring brings more inspiration my way.

I’m also nervous. Waiting to hear back and working toward finishing projects of all sizes causes a mixture of excitement and self-doubt to swirl around in my stomach—the essence of life in a way.

It reminds of the anticipation of a particular Christmas present and the arrival of data, except it’s my future and my dreams. I guess that’s part of being an adult, and I know that I am one even though it’s hard for me to realize that sometimes. I spent so much of my late childhood waiting for me to be old enough to be in charge of my own well-being, and now I am an adult I often feel like a child.

A New ‘Too Many Words’ For Your Ears

It’s Monday, which means a new episode is up. I have a really great one for you guys today. I hope you enjoy!

H.M. Jones and I talk about our impending summers, naughty dogs, being the weird parent, not sleeping, and a medieval rendezvous. We also talk about how gender equality has a long way to go and the importance of connecting with others. H.M. Jones also announces the new home for her novel, Monochrome!

I had quite a bit of fun talking with H.M. Jones, it is always a great time having her on the show.

Do it up!

Download on iTunes

Listen on Stitcher

Download from Libsyn

Chapter 11: Complicated Friendship

I exhaled a cloud of harsh smoke as I stubbed out the joint on the rooftop, before climbing back through my bedroom window—though I hated referring to the room I was currently using as “my room”. My real room was back where my mom and I lived, this is just my holding cell. My mind was inside a clouded bubble; the edge was taken off. I walked over to my desk and stared at the photography program information that was once again on my computer screen. I was like a cat, just staring not acting. I felt so stuck within myself. Instead of hitting submit, I closed the window.

I scooped up my collection of maps and tucked them under my mattress. My wanderlust and map obsession was all my own; I didn’t want to share it with anyone. I slid my arms into my green hoodie and zipped it halfway home. I slid my camera and phone into my pocket. Joan and Glen’s arguing poured into my room from down the hall. They started auguring over the phone as Glen drove us back to the house. I actually preferred it over the tense and barely existent conversation between Glen and me. Being close to him made me want to scream, “I wish it were you,” on top of my lungs. Another benefit, was that I got to turn my thoughts around in my head. Dr. Rainn’s explanation of how the mind processes grief. The technical steps didn’t stick, they never quite made it to my ears once they fell from his mouth. But, I got that I wasn’t losing my mind, I was just learning to deal with it. One sentence he said kept bouncing around in my head, “Grief isn’t something to get over, it is something to learn to live with.”
Something felt different. Kissing Lincoln that afternoon seemed like it happened a year ago. I was boxed in by memories and desperation to overcome what I was feeling. This was the exact opposite of being distracted. I quietly passed Glen and Joan’s room. Her hysterical words, “I hate you,” reached out through their door but barely touched me. Listening to them argue had no emotional effect on me once so ever. When he and my mom would fight, I would boil with hatred for him and sadness for her. But without my mom involved I felt nothing. This was one of the many things that nagged at my brain asking me if this was healthy. It would take me awhile before I could talk to Dr. Rainn about my concerns. I don’t know if I could ever quite trust him enough. I was relieved that living through Glen’s therapy demand wasn’t going to be as painful as I thought.
The walls and floors glistened with a clean shine. It annoyed me how spotless Joan’s house was when everything inside of it was so broken. The immaculate lawn and perfectly maintain flower beds were a lie.
Brian sat on the sofa reading a book. His feet were resting on Matilda, who was curled on one of the sofa cushions much like a cat. She lifted her head when I walked into the living room. Amelia sat in front of a high-pitched cartoon as she mashed play dough into her skin.
“Going to Pete’s?” Brian asked me looking up from his book. His inquisitive expression was a perfect copy of mom’s that unfortunately caused me some level of pain every time I saw it.
“Yep, I’m gonna take Matilda with me, okay?”
Matilda was fully locked onto me, staring and wondering what I was gonna do next.
“Of course, I’m going to bed soon anyway.” He shrugged. “Good night.” His eyes were back on his book. It hurt how grown up he seemed now that mom was gone. It wasn’t right.
I pushed out a thorny sigh. “Night.” Then patted my leg. “Matilda, walk?”
Her ears perked up, and she hopped off the sofa.

The night was in full effect; the sky carried an ominous emptiness along with a blanket of thick clouds. Day old snow collected in clumps there were stained black around the edges from cars passing by. The street glowed with Christmas lights that hung from almost every house. My nose burned from the nagging cold. My breath revealed itself to me in light gray puffs that could be mistaken for smoke. Matilda’s stocky body rubbed up against my leg as we made our way to Pete’s. I was carrying a sour sensation coated in guilt within me, and I didn’t like it. The last thing I wanted to was to do something that would damage our relationship. Which is why I should never kiss him. The sweetness of from the cold air mixed with the burning of multiple fireplaces. It sure looked and smelled like it was almost Christmas, but didn’t feel anything like it.
A man in a suit climbed out of a nice silver sedan. I watched as he grabbed his suitcase and rustled his hair, taking no account of me. Before the man got to the front door, it swung open. Two small kids came barreling out and hug-tackled him. A hearty and warm laugh traveled from their front porch over to me, boring another small empty hole in my chest.
My hand held the camera as tears filled my eyes. I forced myself to look away. I scratched Matilda’s head and cooed she was a good girl. We walked away from the happy family as my phone buzzed in my hoodie pocket.
I pulled my phone out. A number I didn’t recognize sent me a text message. I stopped walking and clicked on my phone and pulled up the message. It’s Lincoln. I got your number from Malachi. I told him I had a work question.
My stomach did summersaults.
I wrote: What is it?
He immediately wrote back: Don’t have one. I’m bringing some comics to work tomorrow for you to get you started.
I quickly typed, thank you, then deleted it just as quick. “Be cool,” I told myself. Matilda sat next to me as I gawked at my phone. I typed: Get started with what?
Lincoln: The Marvel Universe
I typed back, Cool, before I could have any inner debate about it.
Lincoln: Cya tomorrow
Me: Yep. Have a goodnight.
Air bubbles filled up my stomach before overflowing into other areas of my body—which had the ripple effect causing my mind to tell me to be ashamed. Then a very small voice, which belonged to only me said, “He likes me.”
When Matilda and I got to Pete’s house, I was surprised to find him standing in the driveway smoking a cigarette. His shoulders were a tense, high line.
When he saw me, he stopped pacing. He dropped his cigarette on the ground and stepped on it. “Hey,” he said to me, his voice cracked much like it does before he does a show.
Matilda and I made our way up the walk to him. Once I got closer, it was clear that he was upset about something. To the world Pete was cool and collected, to me, he was an open book and often conflicted. Even though I feared that this time it involved me, I asked, “You okay?”
“Yeah, just been a long couple of days.”
“It has been.” The weirdness between us was uncomfortable and only highlighted the guilt growing in my gut.
“Feel like rewatching Sword and Myth from the beginning?” Pete offered with the wide blue eyes I’m used to seeing.
I smiled. “That sounds great.” There was more I wanted to say; more that I should say, setting up camp on my tongue.
“You bring bud?” Pete raised his pierced eyebrow. “I picked up popcorn and gummy bears.” Binge watching tv shows and eating junk food was one of our favorite ways to hang since we were kids.
I playfully pushed his arm. “Do you know me at all?”
Our eyes caught, and I felt something I didn’t want to feel. Suddenly the moment was serious.
“I know you better than myself.” Pete’s words stuck to the roof of my mouth. Our hands were almost touching as we walked up the driveway and around the back to his basement entrance. Matilda stayed close, grazing my side opposite of the one Pete was near. Did I imagine this, because I felt bad about making out with Lincoln, or was this actually happening?
“So how was your first day on the job?” Pete asked as he pulled two root beers out of the mini fridge. The moment Pete moved from the small room next to his mom’s to the basement, he bought a mini fridge. Since then, it has been quite the teenage version of a bachelor pad. The fact that his band often practiced there only intensified the effect.
“It was okay,” I mumbled into my arm as I took one of the sodas from him. “Better than the group.”
Pete was looking away, his eyes clearly indicated he was thinking, weighing a choice of some kind. He pushed out a strained sigh, ran his hand through his product-free hair ( a rarity), then asked, “How was working with Lincoln?”
I wanted to puke, to tell him everything like the best friend he is. But the words wouldn’t come out. “Fine.” I shrugged.
“Okay.” Pete’s distracted voice circled me, trying to show me something. He plopped down on the stained and ripped sofa that I helped him pull off a curb last summer.
I sat down next to him as I chugged back the root beer. His eyes were such a clear blue they looked unnatural. People would ask him sometimes if he wore colored contacts which only aided him in his bit of talking about good-looking he was. A lot of girls usually ate it up.
Not much was said before Pete turned on the show. He kept fidgeting around in his seat; something was clearly wrong. Knowing Pete, he was still working up the nerve to talk about it. This only proved my feeling it involved me. I guess the fact that Lincoln and I were making out in the store room could have gotten back to him already. There isn’t a much faster way to pass stories around then through a string teenagers and their cell phones.
“How was your day?” I asked, feeling bit desperate to break the tension. I had enough of that in other places in my life; I didn’t need it with Pete.
Pete paused the show, turned to me, and said: “Why have you been avoiding me?” His eyes wide, but his mouth was in a tight line.
“I don’t know.” The honesty sat between us much like fog does between cars.
Pete rubbed his hands on his legs. “Something weird happened at the party I think.”
“I dunno.” I shifted in my seat beside him, uncomfortable and certain this conversation couldn’t go anywhere good. His face dropped. I instantly felt bad about being disingenuine. I tugged on a clump of my hair considering the best thing to say, blurting out that I kissed Lincoln wasn’t a good plan. “Okay, no I think you are right.”
Pete leaned back and folded his arms behind his head. His shirt folded up, revealing a tiny bit of his stomach. Something horribly human in me made me want to reach out and touch him. Why was I suddenly so attracted to him?
He saw me checking out his midsection and gently touched my arm, sending all kinds of signals to places I didn’t give them access to. I let me eyes close for just a second. “I think I know why you have been avoiding me the last couple days.”
“Oh yeah?” My voice cracked.
“The way I acted with Lincoln thing.”
I didn’t know what to say. Images of my lips on Lincoln’s and my hands in his hair flashed through my mind. An awkward noise escaped from between my lips instead of any clear words.
Pete cleared his throat before continuing. “I was kinda acting like a jealous boyfriend. Honestly, the idea of you with another guy kinda drives me nuts.”
His words punched me in the stomach. I stared at my feet. “I don’t know what to say to that.”
“That you felt the same way when Molly was flirting with me? Because I saw that.”
I crossed my arms. I didn’t feel like I should be having this conversation. I didn’t want to.
“There has been moments Elliot. Haven’t you felt them too?”
My heart fell into pieces as my head spun giving me the feeling I was on a carnival ride that only goes around in circles. Beautiful and ambitious Pete. My best friend Pete. Is he telling me he has feelings for me?
My heart started smacking around in my chest. This was too complicated. “I don’t want to break our friendship. I can’t.”
Pete nodded, but his smile indicated that he pulled something I didn’t intend from what I said.
Uncomfortable and desperate to defuse the moment, I said, “Hey, why don’t you unpause it.” I motioned the side of my head toward the television that sat on a stack of plastic milk crates topped-off with a piece of wood.
“Okay.” His voice was quiet but not defeated. Suddenly his poster lined concrete walls took the form of something unfamiliar. He extended his arm, hit play, then dropped the remote in his lap.
The characters blurred into panicked waves, but I tried to focus on their script rather than the thoughts peeling back corners I wanted untouched.
I was stumbling around in the dark.
Pete reached out, and gently grabbed my hand; he entwined his fingers with mine. Warmth and longing coursed through me, giving me ideas I didn’t want. Instead of taking my hand back, I leaned my head on his shoulder. Part of me felt like I was leading him on, but another part of me wanted to be even closer to him. I didn’t know what I wanted to except that I didn’t want to get hurt, but the was the one thing I was fairly sure was going to happen. As knowledge and desires pulled me in different directions, we sat there holding hands and watching a show we’ve seen a dozen times before.

*Remember you can listen to the audio version of this series on iTunes and Stitcher 

Elliot Podcast cover

 

A Persistent Character

My focus this week was supposed just to be on my article sprint, a planned segway between handing off all 75,616 words of my contemporary novel off to other hands and starting a new fiction project.

As you may have heard me talking about on my show or in previous posts, a fantasy story has been nagging at me. Sometimes it’s louder than others. I have never written a high fantasy before, which it seem that these particular ideas fall into that genre, so I really want to take my time with it.

It seems every time I set down to write something else, my mind drifts off into this half-created world that keeps talking to me. The song Evangeline- My Kingdom has been crossing my path in several different playlists I subscribe to on Spotify. Every time I hear this song, I picture a female warrior with waist long chestnut colored braids and an axe. Somehow I get the impression her heart is broken.

I decided, to put my articles down for a minute and listen to this song on repeat for fifteen minutes to see what I could get down and if it would help me focus on my goals.

 

A land destroyed by war.

Tribes forced into hiding.

Imogen has the will to get it all back.

Honestly, I don’t know if I am more or less focused now, but I’m certainly excited.

Juggling The Real World and The Fictional One

Happy Thursday, all!

I have Bob Mueller on the show. He is the author of The Sad Girl, a story about Danny, an ex-con who discovers he has a daughter who has been taken by human traffickers. Bob and I discuss his process, how we both need to write on paper first, and parenthood. Bob talks about what it feels like to write about human trafficking and how he manages multiple ideas. Before Bob comes on, I talk about my love for anticipation and how I have a complicated relationship with my phone.

Listen on iTunes

Listen on Stitcher

Kids Are People Too

As a mother my main concern is keeping my children safe and healthy—I know I’m not alone with those goals. But like everything, a balance needs to be maintained. Keeping our children safe is no exception. At some point what we protect them from can do more harm than good. A few weeks ago my daughter, out of nowhere started asking for the truth about Santa. My first several reactions were to dodge them like it was my job. I wasn’t ready for that conversation.

After a few failed attempts to learn the facts, my daughter had me to herself. She looked at me with her large blue eyes and said, “Mom, tell me the truth. Do you put all the presents under the tree?”

I had a choice and in those few seconds., I considered them. I could outright lie, or I could give her the answer she was looking for.

Did a large part of me wish that she would think a jolly elf came down the chimney forever?

Of course.

Is that realistic?

Unfortunately, no.

I decided, even though I might not be ready, she was. So I said, “Yeah, I do.”

First, she took a deep breath; then she proceeded to ask a series of questions: Who ate the cookies? Does that mean all the gifts were from us? Then, finally, she asked, “So Santa isn’t real?”

I said, “It’s not quite like that. It’s a tradition that exists because we all want to believe it, and one could argue that as long as it is a tradition that continues, so does Santa. The magic, the love, the warmth, that’s all real.”

For a while she said nothing, she ate the plate of cookies I handed her as I tried my best to navigate this. Finally, she asked, “Where are all my letters to Santa?”

Once I told her I keep all of them in a memory box, she started to cry. So much of me wanted to take it back, and fix it somehow, but when she stopped crying she hugged me, and said, “Thanks for telling me mom. I’d like to help stock the stuffings for my brother this Christmas, if that’s okay.”

Relieved, I told her of course.

Then we continued to sit there and talk, at first about Christmas and then eventually about other things on her mind, like why isn’t everyone kind, or how she wishes that one day she can replace some buildings with trees.

This was a huge learning experience for me as a parent. As our children grow, we have to alter what we do. There is so much pressure on children today, and I think too often kids aren’t dealt with straight. They are trying to figure out the world, and if they don’t have us to come to, what do they have?

I have honestly been dreading this conversation, but now I’m so happy we had it. Ever since that conversation she has been telling me and asking me all sorts of things. Sure, at moments I fight the urge, to tell her not to worry about that or she’s too young, but then I catch myself. Feelings and questions are part of being human. As much as we as parents want to protect our children, we also have to let them grow, and mess up, and get sad.

No one is perfect, and we all have our journey to go on.

The Woman Me VS. The Mom Me

Am I a fool?

This is something I ask myself often. Because I gotta say, I often feel foolish. Perhaps that’s what it takes to work toward a dream.

Sometimes I check in with myself.

Why am I doing this?

What are my goals?

Now I take an alligator-like escape route there, but I come to where I’d expect at the end of the spiraling path of thoughts. I am building something all my own to hang my hat on.

I tend to do things out of order, or at least in a different way that most. By age six I had an overwhelming sense of wanderlust, and by age nine I knew without a doubt I was a writer. I went to junior college at age sixteen and two kids by the time I was twenty-three. Now, I am career hungry and success thirsty pushing thirty.

I have come to the conclusion that I need to allow myself a day at least where I can work whatever my mind does naturally. I have things to take care of, sure, that’s also important. Writing needs to be crafted, but my ideas need a way to develop before they are directed into a certain form. You’ll often hear me saying, “You can’t edit what isn’t written.”

Balance is where I constantly need to watch. I’m not a balanced person. Maybe it’s because there was only chaos in the house I grew up in, or maybe it was the build-your-own-curriculum Montessori school I spent my elementary school years going. Guess what I did? I only focused my lessons on reading and writing, not very much on math or science. When I got to middle school, I was kicked in the teeth, but all other subjects. For the most part, I stick to that now with my job and hobbies. I do adore history and science, though. I rediscovered them through researching for different books and pieces.

Who knows, whatever the reason, achieving balance isn’t that easy for me. I often get reminded that I’m working way too much without truly recognizing what I’m missing while I do that.

Last night I mentioned to my kids in passing that I was going to come to Tae Kwon Do class the next day (usually just their dad takes them) and the kids were so excited. They both said they were surprised I wasn’t going to work.

Well, at that moment I felt like a giant asshole. The mother and wife part of my brain hates that I am someone who works too much. The just me part loves it. Working hard and earning my own living is something I need for me. Sometimes when I don’t succeed, or it takes longer that I expected the mom and wife version of myself kicks the just me in the face. The two don’t always get along.

It’s so hard to know the right thing. I am committed to doing both. I can’t be domestic all the time. Sometimes, I really envy those that do.

Balance with my work itself is even a struggle. I am not just interested in earning a living; I want to really succeed at everything I do. There are times when a whisper of doubt breaks through. They ask me, “Really? Is that realistic goal?”

I can’t play that game. I don’t have the room to doubt what I do. I’m willing to hack away at it because that’s what it all takes.

Free time to just write whatever is just as important as sticking to the schedules. Adventuring as a family is just as important as relaxing as one. The way I am, of course, I need to schedule the free time. Now that I have, and it’s making a difference.

My hope is that as long as I continue to be aware of it and adjust it when necessary, I’ll continue to make it work.

Writing to Heal

Hey, guys! Happy Monday! The very first Monday Episode is up.

Christy Abram is on the show today. She is the author of Little Miss Somebody, an inspiring and authentic story about growing up in a dysfunctional home. Christy talks about her journey while writing the book, why she writes, and how she helps others to do the same.

Before Christy comes on, I go on a rant about how I can’t do it all. I go into how I feel about the big projects no longer in my hands.

Listen on iTunes

Listen on Stitcher

Chapter Ten: The Invisible Path Through

*Remember you can listen to the audio version of this series on iTunes and Stitcher 

The smell of the Chinese food we had a little bit ago clung to our clothes. Molly had done most of the talking since she picked me up. She was furious at her mom, who instead of taking her to lunch tried to take her to an audition. The little bit of time she was allowed to have with her mom was now revoked. Listening to the details of the dysfunctional relationship she had with her mother was somehow comforting.
Molly’s arm moved with the wind as she raced around slower cars. It turns out every time I would drive with Molly I was risking my life. This was something I considered a benefit. Any proof that I was alive still was precious to me.
Trent Rocks bellowed his plea to be forgiven in the speakers by my feet. I could still taste Lincoln on my lips. My head was still spinning from the encounter in the storeroom. Nothing quite like that has ever happened to me before. I was well aware of moments like those were possible from what shows and others more daring (mainly Pete) had told me.
“You’re quiet, what’s up?” Molly hollered over the manic guitar.
“I’m always quiet.”
“Sad quiet yes, but this,” Molly waved her right hand at me, leaving the steering wheel handsfree for a second too long, “is a different kind of quiet.”
“Your theory behind this?”
“You smell like a boy.” A wide, mischievous grin took hold of Sunshine’s entire face.
Between the infectious nature of a smile like that and the truth she spoke, a smile of my own formed. “I do not,” I mumbled into my shoulder enjoying that particular moment quite a bit.
“Kissing Lincoln on the first day. I can’t wait to tell Malachi.” She flipped on her left blinker, but instead of slowing down she sped up causing oncoming traffic to break.
“Don’t tell him!” Embarrassment flushed my cheeks.
“How else am I gonna get my ten bucks?”
“You bet Malachi that I would kiss Lincoln on the first day?”
“Yep, he thought it would take three days.” Molly kept looking at me and not the road causing my heart to flail around the floor like an angry toddler.
“Why was it so obvious that Lincoln and I were gonna kiss?”
“Oh, come on! The spark between you two in the kitchen the other night made me hot.”
My cheeks were on fire. “I wonder if Pete saw that,” I said without thinking.
“I knew you two have something going on. That’s whole a mess.”
“We don’t, and it isn’t.” I didn’t really believe my words, but it made me feel better to say them.
“Either way, I don’t see how he could have missed it.”
“Is that why Lincoln and I are on the schedule together every day this week?”
Molly just laughed. Her foot slammed on the break, and without flipping a single turned into a generic office building off the highway. The realization that I was going to have to sit in a stuffy doctors office and talk to a pompous and removed therapist who didn’t honestly care about me surviving this temporally overshadowed the lasting effects of making out with Lincoln and how I’m probably doomed.
Molly sped up to the double-doored entrance, then slammed onto the breaks causing my head to bounce against the back of the seat.
“You are the worst driver,” I said with growing adoration.
“Well, I do the catwalk like a champ.” Molly flipped her hair back, turning on her practiced stare.
“Thanks for the ride.” I climbed out of the car, clutching my purse near my stomach.
“Anytime. How are you getting home?” Her eyes revealed just for a minute how badly she was also looking for a distraction.
At the end of the day, none of us are all that different.
“Unfortunately my step dad.” I stood on the cracked sidewalk only wanting to get back in the car. My head was spinning with anxious uncertainty which wasn’t in the least the enjoyable kind or in the camp as to what I felt before starting work that morning. I didn’t want to think about how nervous I might be before seeing Lincoln the next day.
“Lame.”
I nodded. “Definitely.”
I slammed the door closed. The cold out air wrapped in its clutches whispering to me, telling me to run.
Molly cocked her head to the side. “Tomorrow before you work?”
A warm and flattering feeling filled my gut. “For sure.”
“Good stuff. Cya!” Molly peeled away, leaving me to face yet another adult that didn’t quite know what to do with me.
As I stepped into the lemon scented building my phone vibrated in my back pocket.
It was Pete. Hey, how was your first day? We still on to hang tonight?
I sighed as an aggressive wave of guilt washed over me.
Why was I guilty? I had no reason to be.
Or, I had every reason to be.
I quickly typed back, Good and yep. Prob around 8, then switched the phone to silent before dropping it into my purse.
***
I had been to three therapists in the past two months. The idea of being labeled with a disorder was honestly more than I could bare so after a visit or two I’d refuse to show up. Glen only tried so much. That being said I reserved my resistance for things I really cared about.
The second I stepped into the office expecting another generic and sterile environment with white walls and a couple of inspirational sentences purposefully hung around. Instead, the walls were painted a dark blue; all the furniture was expensive and modern looking. Brightly colored art covered the walls.
A girl with a short black bob sat at old wooden roll top desk. “Can I help you?”
“Hopefully, that’s the idea, right?” I instantly regretted the joke once it was completely free from my lips.
The woman just stared blankly at me.
“Elliot for Dr. Rainn, I think.”
Suddenly she was cheery again, “He’s wonderful.”
“Should you say that about a therapist to a patient?”
“Why wouldn’t I?”
We passed confused expressions back and forth to each other for a couple of breaths too long.
I gave in and said, “Nevermind.”
“He’ll be with you in a minute.”
“He?” I was expecting that Dr. Rainn was a woman like all the other therapists. Even my group leader was a woman.
“Yes, Dr. Rainn is awesome and a man.” She smiled in a way that gave me the expression she thought she was better than me before motioning her elf-like chin in the direction of the pleaded sofa. “Take a seat, please. He’s just finishing up with a patient.
I nodded and said nothing else; I just slinked my way to the sectional like I was told. Lincoln and his good kissing wiggled its way back into my thoughts. What was I thinking? Were we going to kiss again? I hoped we’d kiss again.
Just as quickly as Lincoln and normal teenage girl thoughts danced around in my head, a small and slender man with no hair and large circular glasses called my name, reminding me I was broken and trying to figure out how to live without my mother and not tear all my hair out.
“Yep,” I mumbled and stood up.
He said nothing else as I followed him down a twisty hallway. It wasn’t until we got in his office that resembled something more likely to be found in bachelor’s garage than in a doctor’s office did he speak. “In your words why are you here?”
“Just like that? We are gonna jump right into it? I’m not even sitting down.”
“Would you like to sit down?” He extended his hand in the direction of the purple armchair.
“I don’t know.” I crossed my arms attempting to close myself into a protective box.
“Well, that chair is pretty comfortable if you decide you do.” He walked over to his desk and pushed a green button on the clock facing the room.
“Where is your pad?” I crossed my arms, thrown off by this unfamiliar display. “What is that smell?”
“Lavender spray.”
“What is that?”
Dr. Rainn picked up a small dark-blue glass spray bottle off the desk that has bicycle wheels instead of legs and handed it to me.
“Take it with you.”
“What kind of doctor are you?”
“I don’t know.” He smiled showing me he was genuinely kind as he settled into a large brown chair. Not one thing in his office matched giving me the visualization of several people bumping around the room with blindfolds.
“Thanks, I guess.”
“It helps nerves. That’s some of what you are dealing with, am I right? Anxiety?”
“Is that what it says on my chart?”
“Yeah.”
“That it must be true.” Continuing to stand gave me the false sense of control.
“Anxiety even though in can be a condition is often a symptom of something else.”
“What’s it a symptom of.”
“Losing your mother, taking care of her as she died. It’s a traumatic experience. Grief is very complicated.”
I sat down in the chair offered to me a few minutes earlier. The overstuffed cushions folded me its clutches.
A glimmer of satisfaction passed over his face, but it didn’t really bother me.
A silence eased the transition without spooking me. For once, at least at that moment, it appeared to me that Dr. Rainn wasn’t an incentive moran.
“You don’t think I’m crazy?” I crossed my legs, unable to commit to stillness.
“We are all little crazy.” He laughed as he rubbed his hairless head.
“I don’t want to go on pills.”
“I don’t do that. I just listen and offer my opinions.”
My thumb grazed my camera nervously. “I don’t like to talk about this stuff, so I don’t how much listening you’ll do.”
“Keeping things in is how people implode.”
“Well, I don’t know what to say about it.”
“What do you feel?”
“Like running away. Like doing a thousand reckless things because I’m able.”
“Well then maybe you should listen to that.”
“Are you telling me to run away?”
“No, I’m saying it’s important to acknowledge your own thoughts. Think of this, not allowing yourself to commutable feel what you do, is like always wearing a gown in your home.”
“I don’t really feel like I have a home.” Vulnerability closed around me.
“What are you living right now?” His face tightened with purpose.
“Man, you’re sneaky.”
“What do you mean I’m sneaky?”
“You are getting me to talk.”
Dr. Rainn grinned. “Well, that is what I do.”
“I guess you’re good at it.”
“We are all good at something.”
“I don’t know if I am.” I looked down at my canvas sneakers.
“What are some things you like to do?”
“You’re trying to weasel in again.” On the inside, I was actually considering the possibility of opening up to him.
“Sorry.” He cleared his thought. “Would you like to ask me something?”
For a minute I said nothing. I never expected to be comfortable here enough to contemplate getting some help. Then I asked, “Will it ever get better?”

Tune in next weekend for Chapter Eleven. It’s going to be a big one. A twist is on the way! Thanks for reading and don’t forget you can listen to Elliot in iTunes and Stitcher!

podcast promo

Episode 12 With Neil Clarke is up

Neil Clarke is the Hugo Award-winning editor of Clarkesworld Magazine, as well the editor of Forever Magazine and several anthologies including his first Best Science Fiction of the Year anthology, which releases on June 7th. He shares what started him on the journey to building Wyrm Publishing and the awesome community and magazine that is Clarkesworld, his book collecting, and why 2016 is an exciting year.  Before Neil comes on, I babble how about my faults, imagining Raiders, and what is in the works.

Listen on iTunes and Stitcher