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Tessa's Loft [novel excerpt]

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A six petal rose

I can’t believe I’m doing this, he thought wryly. If someone was filming , they could make a straight-to-tv, midday movie from this tripe. With a smile, he shook his head slightly and pulled the first petal from the long-stemmed rose in his hand. It was a yellow rose, chosen not because of preference for colour, but because it was wilting and had been marked down for quick sale at the florist. Frugality was not a part of it either, he had simply chosen not to waste a healthy rose on what he was about to do.

He was looking out over the ocean from a cliff edge high above the frothy white  mess of wave meeting rock. It was a long drive to get here, but the location had come instantly to mind the moment he decided what he was going to do. Isolated, unblemished by human touch, and windy enough to let nature bite him while he admired her beauty.

He placed the rose petal on his upturned fingertips and stretched his arm out over the edge. An up-draft from the sea below quickly grabbed the petal from his hand and carried it out toward the horizon.

“She loves me.”

First contact, shy smiles. Eyes meeting in glances of ever-increasing length. Cheeky grins, playful jests, fingertips stretched to touch for the want of touching. …


The second petal came away from the flower, he thought it offered more resistance than the first, but it was captured by the ocean breeze just as readily.

“She loves me not.”

First cracks, fears spoken. Worries planted, differences sprouting. Words recited, well meaning, true meaning, hands still held for want of gripping. …

The first petal was lost to his eye now and the second yellow fragment had fallen straight to slide and tumble its way down the cliff face toward the water. A third petal sat on his outstretched hand, moving in circles, caught in an eddy above his palm. He blew toward it until it began to fall.

“She loves me.”

Flowers blooming, smiles warming. Fingers clasped when not running through hair. Laughter resounding, hot breath on bare necks. Heart stopping words whispered in ears tensed and waiting …

He had closed his eyes and was smiling, arm straight out in front of him as the wind grabbed his hair and flapped the folds of his long sleeved t-shirt.  Without opening his eyes, he plucked another petal from the remnants of the yellow rose. He felt the the wind lift it from his fingertips.

“She loves me not.”

Panic growing, worries taking root in fertile soil. Soft skin flinches from attempts to touch. Words spoken, by rote, meaning lost to repetition. Labels used for sake of labels. …

His eyes were closed and arm still outstretched, but the corners of his mouth had fallen with the last petal, leaving his lips compressed in a thin line. His arm fell slowly to his side and he looked down in time to see the yellow petal’s flight brought down violently in the a puff of sea spray. Only two wind-crumpled petals remained on the rose, and that soon became one when his fingers deftly plucked another.

“She loves me.”

Perfection. Uttered in disbelieving gasps of simultaneous ecstasy. Lucky, blessed, gifted, and loved. A warming connection even when hearts met distance. Perfection, lived and believed. …

He was smiling again, but his eyes were open now and the lack of light in them gave away his smile’s lie. Gaze fixed on the final petal struggling to remain attached to the decrepit rose, he tossed the entire thing over the edge, watching it plummet toward the rocks below.

“She loves me not.”

Distance manufactured, voices muted, whispers silenced. Cracks sprouting forests, words spoken known for lies, worries carpeting fields of green, brown now from lack of light. Drop outs, drop off, drop. …

“She loved me not.”

His face had split into a delirious rictus as he looked at his empty palms. He shifted his gaze to the female body at his feet.

“The flower says you loved me not.”

He kicked the corpse from the ledge and dived off the cliff before the body was halfway to the rocks below.

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Letter No. 1

 

Nothing will ever prepare you for the moment you dread. The calm before the storm is so aptly named because everyone’s quiet sobbing can hardly be heard above the screaming fear. You know me well enough to know that this is hard for me. Saying goodbye. To look, at that final moment, at the faces of the people who you may never see again, who you spent a year laughing with, crying over, worrying about, hating, loving, ridiculing. To know that, even though your sorrow is greater than anyone could possibly know, you’re almost required to enjoy it. To know that the faces I see as I turn and look, one last time, are not faces of sadness, no, but faces of barely concealed joy. To know that life will go on, that in two years it’ll be a struggle to remember I was there, in four to remember me, in eight to remember it. I understand, also, how pessimistic I’ve become. In writing these I was, as I’d like to be, happy and melancholy. I felt as if yours was the one in which I might express my sorrow. Friends aren’t replaceable. They aren’t things you forget about and take out every few years to play with just ‘cause. Friends impart a portion of their soul upon you, and you them. I’d like to say, at the end of the day, I have a friend. It’s innate human nature to want a friend, to want someone to share stories with you. Well, I wouldn’t really know.

I’ve always wondered if other people cry. I cry. I cry all the time. Maybe that’s just my medicine though.

Sorry about the stream-of-consciousness thing, I hope you’ll understand. Anything I want to say to you I already have. This is a formality, a finale, an end to a chapter. Now I begin anew, hopefully with one or two of the same characters.

Do you know what it means when I say ‘to teach?’ Probably not, because it’s a very specific, connotative definition. When I say that the best teachers are students, I mean it. All the education in the world couldn’t have taught me what teaching 45 minutes of freshmen did. When they looked up at me, their eyes were cold with hate. They knew I saw. They didn’t know it hurt. That day I learned the most important lesson I think I’ll ever learn, they’re wrong. It doesn’t matter how much you know or who you know or where you learned or where you’ve been. What matters is that single moment when I crack a smile instead of a whip and I turn from authority to equal. To accomplish both must be one of the hardest things, because I’ve yet to do it. Anyway, a student will tell you everything they know, even if you don’t care. A teacher will tell you half of what they know and they don’t care you don’t care. This year has been a journey of education wrapped up in the one class I feel I can talk about. I learned about basketball and vodka with Red Bull and One Direction and soccer and technology and cars and foursquare and Gamecube. I didn’t learn much Latin, but I did learn so much more.

In Central and South America, there are fish called geophagi. They don’t often eat other fish or plants or really anything. They sift through the gravel under them, eating the scraps from other creatures’ meals. No there’s a point I swear. When aquarists keep a geophagus, they get to see this feeding behavior. They also get to learn that these beautiful fish aren’t scavengers. They’re incredibly intelligent; they respond to different people in different ways; they can tell time; they understand. In life, I feel that each person should strive to be, as a geophagus, brilliant and beautiful without having to declare it to everyone, choosing only to display it to those whom you truly know.

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Charmed I'm Sure [novel excerpt]

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The Path to Purpose

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The Light and the Sound

The first thing that hit her was the smell. The scent of warm tar and burning rubber and spilled gasoline set fire to her nostrils. The fumes overwhelmed her, causing her to sneeze and involuntarily throw her head back into the headrest. Her red-rimmed eyes glistened as she tried to wipe at her nose, but found that her hand had not responded to her request. She tilted her head to look down at her extremity but found that she was looking up instead.

Her eyes were wild then, trying to comprehend the scene around her. She drew her bottom lip into her mouth to bite it. It was a nervous habit that she had developed in middle school, when faking stomach aches and menstrual cramps had stopped being viable options to keep her from the anxiety that plagued her between the hours of eight in the morning and three in the afternoon five days a week. Her mother had always scolded her for her anxious gnawing, but there was something soothing in the act of it that dissuaded her from heeding her mother’s complaints. She was used to the faint metallic twang of blood on her tongue after chewing on her lip too frequently or fervently; however, she wasn’t used to the amount that she found pooling in her cheeks in that moment.

She spit her lip out of her mouth with a spray of blood, covering a mosaic of broken glass around her head. Tears fells up her face, making a rolling ascent from her forehead to the strands of her hair. The glass had come from the fractured windshield before her, translucent red and glimmering from the light of the fire.

I am going to die, she thought. I am going to die today.

There was a flash. Even behind her thick curtain of eyelashes, she saw a bright light shine out from the darkness, if only for a moment. Her eyes fluttered open, turning their gaze toward the source of the brightness as the nylon fiber of the seatbelt cut into her collar bone. A woman was upside down in front of her. No, she remembered. I’m upside down.  The woman was kneeling on the pavement, leaning towards her. She tried to speak but her voice had failed her.

“Please,” She finally sputtered, her voice a whisper on the breeze. “Please help me.”

The woman outside reached toward her with a clutched hand. Her brow furrowed as she tried to make sense of it. Before she could muster the strength to utter another word, she heard the familiar click of the shutter on a camera phone. The woman stood and pivoted, walking out of her peripheral vision. Her mouth agape, she felt her sobs begin to stampede through the tightness in her throat. She turned her head to better see the flames licking at the street beside her, but her eyelids pulled themselves shut almost immediately.

 “Miss?” A voice called out. “Miss, can you hear me?”

She drew in a ragged breath before opening her eyes. She saw a fit of unruly hair before anything else. Her eyes focused and saw the man, lying on his belly on the pavement outside of her broken window. He tilted his head, his eyes desperately trying to make contact with hers.

“Can you open your eyes for me, miss? Can you hear me?”

Her mouth tightened as her eyelids slowly trembled open. She searched his face frantically.

“Yes.”

“Atta girl,” His smile took hold on his lips and in the corners of his eyes, wrinkling at the sound of her voice. “Someone already called 911, the paramedics should be here soon.”

“Who?”

“The paramedics. They’re going to g-”

“No,” she cleared her throat, wincing. “Who called 911?”

“The cashier at the deli right behind you,” he said. “As soon as that guy side-swiped your car, she was on the line with 911.”

“Where is he?”

“The man who hit you?” He asked, his tone somber. “He took off.”

 “I don’t know what’s worse,” She laughed. “That the man who did this drove off, or that some bitch just took a picture of me for her Instagram feed.”

 “Well, at least you’ll be internet famous by morning.” His face softened, offering a smile. “Some people kill for that kind of publicity.”

“Lucky me, all I have to do is die for it.”

“Hey,” he reached inside the driver’s side window and grabbed her limp hand from its place between the seat and the center console. “Don’t say that. We’re going to get you out of here and you’re going to be fine.”

“I bet you say that to all the girls.” She said, tears welling in the corners of her eyes.  He couldn’t help but laugh. His hand continued to rub circles gently into hers. “You know how I know you’re wrong?”

“Sweetheart, I’m never wrong.” He smirked at her.

“I’m willing to wager that there’s a woman around here somewhere who is absolutely tired of you saying that.”

“You’d win that wager.”

“I’d also wager that you’re wrong this time.”

“How do you figure?” He said, his voice playful.

“Because I can’t feel that,” she said, her eyes on his hand. “Or anything below my neck.”

His face fell. He brought his free hand up to her cheek, stroking her skin with his thumb. Her eyes pressed tight and her lip quivered, her head shaking from side to side.

“You’re not going to die in here,” he said authoritatively. “You’re not going to die in a piece of shit Honda.”

“It’s not that bad.” She said defensively. “Besides, it could be worse. It could have been a Toyota.”

She smiled but found herself unable to stop crying. His face was pained, looking over his shoulder as if he could simply will the ambulance to arrive. “Tell me something,” he pleaded as he continued tracing patterns into her lacerated knuckles. “Come on, tell me about yourself. What’s your name?”

“Kate.” She managed between dry heaves.

“Well it’s a pleasure to meet you, Kate.”  He said. “I imagine I would have enjoyed it more had it been under different circumstances, but you’ve got to work with what you’ve got.”

She could feel her head growing lighter and her vision began to flutter around the edges. He noticed a dark drop of blood gather on the corner of her cracked lips before it dragged itself up and off of her cheekbone onto the car’s fabric roof below her. He reached with fumbling hands and tried to wipe the blood off her face, but accidentally smeared it instead. She pressed her face into his hand, her eyes closed tight. He used his elbows to pull himself further through the fractured window, glass crunching beneath his bones. A faint sound whirred outside.

“Kate, do you hear that?” He asked.

She opened her eyes one last time and studied his face. He was older than her, but not by much. Maybe he had a high-end job, maybe he had unruly dark-haired children, maybe he had a mother-in-law that put too much pressure on his marriage – whatever it was, it had left him with two distinct gray streaks in his otherwise coal black mop of hair. She could tell that he had shaved his face this morning, the lingering scent of aftershave filling her nostrils.

“What’s your-” she started.

“Ian.” He cupped her face in his hands. “My name is Ian.”

 “Give me your business card or something,” She pressed her dry lips together slowly and formed a weak smile. “If you’re right and I somehow don’t die, I would very much like to kiss you on the mouth.”

 “You can kiss me now if you’d like.” He beamed.

Howling sirens blared from around the corner as a parade of emergency vehicles began to line the street around them. The back doors of the ambulance slammed open against the rig and a man and a woman in dark blue uniforms jumped out of the back and began to run towards the flipped car.

“What’s that sound?” She asked, her eyes closing involuntarily.

“Sir, we’re going to need you to get out of the vehicle!” A voice behind them shouted. The sound of glass being crushed under heavy footsteps surrounded them.

He held her face between his hands and pressed his lips to hers, tasting her smile-stained lips.

“That,” he said, grinning from ear to ear. “Is the sound of you living.”

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beginning again

improvement within our lives
is something that we strive
to accomplish daily.

at least,
that should be our goal
when we awaken from
our daily slumber
and work through another day.

so that is why i am here...
staining my fingertips
with ink that will not wash off easily;
seeking advice,
wisdom and knowledge
from those who are already
accomplishing more in their writing.

give me your honesty
your criticism
and your truths
for without those vital factors
i will never grow.

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Notice

As I sit here, in the comfy chair by the corner window, I begin to notice. The man flirting with the woman at the bar, but surreptitiously glancing at the male bartender who keeps giving them drinks on the house. The hostess making her rounds, with an empty glass of wine in her hand. The couple, who just entered the room, standing a little farther apart than would be expected. I notice the man in another chair, scribbling furiously on a piece of paper like a someone running out of time. The teenage girl, who's sitting on the couch and pretending to text her friends, but really watching the boy across the room who's standing in the corner, examining the book spines. I notice the frost beginning to form on the window, and the elderly woman drawing designs on it. The man sitting at the island, watching his coffee go cold. I notice all of these, and realize that while we're all in the same room, we're all alone.

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Perilous Presence

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