Anice Awakens, Part 3

Read Part 1 Here

Part 2 Anice Awakens, Part 2

Anice looked at Austin, who was waiting with anticipation to hear what he probably expcected to be a confession of a shared crush.  It was crushing alright.   She wondered how to go about saying what she needed to say.

“I know there is this thing between us…”

“I’m so glad you feel it too!  I…”

“Austin I really need to say this or I’m going to lose it!” Anice snapped, surprising both of them.  A long silence fell between them.  He was staring intently at her as she looked for the words on the floor.

“Austin, I’m…I’m married.”  She felt a tear forming in her eye as she forced herself to look at him.  His brow was furrowed and he looked simultaneously shocked and puzzled.

“Why did you come here tonight?  I don’t understand this!  What are you trying to do to me Anice?” He asked in frustration, with tears pooling in his eyes.

“I could tell you were falling for me and I had to tell you.  You understand why I couldn’t just blurt it out at work.  I mean, I love my husband, but I seriously considered you for a bit.  I know its hard for you but trust me, it is torture for me.”

“Torture?  You have someone to go home to at night while I be awake all night thinking about you laying there with someone else!  I really don’t understand how this is happening.  I can’t be here with you right now.  I need some space.”  He walked out and Anice let him go before exiting herself.  Tears ran down her face as she found the most inconspicuous place to slip through the crowd and find her car.  Once inside her hot car, she let out all the pent up emotion she’d been carrying since she’d met him.  Thoughts streamed through her head almost quicker than she could analyze them. Why didn’t I say something sooner?   Well, I wasn’t sure if he really liked me or if he was just being friendly until he asked me out.  That’s fair, right?  Oh Anice!  You’ve really messed things up this time!  All this drama for a little bit of attention.  She looked in the mirror, thankful that makeup wasn’t in her nature, the tears would be easier to hide from her family when she got home, but she’d have to find a way to disguise her horrible mood. The last thing she needed was questions.  All her family knew was she was out at a work function.

She drove by rote, worn out by all the emotions and thinking, and when she arrived home she let out a giant sigh and tried to act normal.  Inside was business as usual, the kitchen was dark for the night, her sons were in their room quietly attending to their devices, her husband in the bedroom reading.

“Hi!” she said to her husband as she passed through to the closet.

“Hi, how was it?” he asked.

“Meh!  Boring work stuff, you know how it goes!”  She thought she sounded convincing.  “How was your night?” She was master at changing the subject.

“Just getting some reading done, nothing too exciting.”  She bent down to kiss him.  He greeted her with warm lips and she felt good for the first time that night.

She took out her lounge clothes and headed to the bathroom.  I have a pretty good life, she thought, why would I want to jeopardize that with some guy I don’t even know?  As she finished the thought her phone vibrated.  She knew it was Austin before she looked.  It was an email because in her desire to be cautious she had not given him her phone number.  She was relieved now that she was smart enough to think of that.  She opened the email and felt the emotions twisting inside before she even read it.

Anice, Dear, Sweet, Beautiful Anice.  I don’t care if you are married.  My heart knows that you are meant for me.  I don’t know your husband, I don’t know what kind of man he is or how I measure up, all I know is that I will not give up until you are mine.  My heart is opened up and that hurt but now I know why that happened, it’s opened up so that you can walk in when you are ready.  Right here waiting, Austin.

 

 

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Grace

Marina started down the garden path that led to her grandmother’s door.  Overgrown Hosta plants were overtaking the door.  A week earlier, her mother had sent her a message asking her to come stay with Grandma Grace for a bit while her parents went on a much-needed vacation.  Ever since she was a child Marina loved her Grandma Grace.  She used to be so full of life, her curly hair would bounce when she talked, and she always had a twinkle in her eye.  It made Marina wonder what kind of magical life she was living behind the scenes.

In her mid-twenties now, the past few years Gran had been distant; she would stare off as if she were watching a movie that no one else could see, silent for hours at a time, then she would erupt in  sudden bursts of random strings of words that didn’t make sense.  Gran was lost and no one knew how to bring her back.  Still, it seemed like she wanted to tell us something about what she was seeing.  If only we could understand.

She turned the brass key in the door, pluggin her nose for what she expected to be a horrible smell of humanness and must.

“Grandma Grace!  It’s your favorite granddaughter Marina!” She shouted, pretending that Gran was her normal self.  She passed through the kitchen that hadn’t been updated since the 1950’s, the stove telling stories of decades of delicious recipes cooked for a family that was now too busy to visit.  The quiet that enveloped the house was a little uncomfortable.

“Sunstar dresser cave swimming!” Gran yelled out as she stared out the picture window from her blue velvet rocking chair in the living room.  She was dressed in a nightgown and flannel robe despite the hot humid day.

“Gran,” Marina knelt down to meet her eyes, “Hi Gran!  I’ve missed you!”  She kissed her on the cheek and felt her granmother’s hand brush against her hair, wondering if this was intentional movement or an involuntary one.  For a moment, Gran looked into her eyes, but then her eyes quickly returned to the picture window.  Marina felt her heart begin to sink as the reality of her grandmother’s condition hit home.  Excusing herself, she went to find the thermostat to see if she could make the stuffy house a little more tolerable.  She walked all around the house and could not find it so she frustratedly sent a message to her mother.

Where is the damn thermostat in this place, Gran is going to get heat stroke!

In the attic, isn’t that strange?  I swear that house was built by a circus troupe!  Make sure she eats, she is terrible about it.

Marina walked up the narrow hallway to the bedroom.  The bed was perfectly made as if Gran hadn’t slept there in years.  A patchwork quilt was folded neatly at the foot of the bed.  Gran used to love to make the most beautiful quilts.  She would sit quietly for hours, sometimes just humming, and stitch peacefully until a funny story entered her mind, then she would share it and we’d laugh.  I miss Gran she thought.

The attic pull was dingy from years of use and Marina was a little disgutsted, not just by how dirty the rope was, but at the thought of what lay on the other side of the door.  She pulled the string and the door swung open with a creek.  Dust bunnies fell and she had to back up and close her eyes and mouth.  The stairs revealed themselves and she tested the strength of the bottom one before deciding it was safe to proceed.

The attic was blanketed in dust, the items covered in sheets, the sheets in turn covered with dust.  She saw antique furniture and an old trunk.  Along the back wall, next to a bookshelf, she finally saw the thermostat.  As she passed the bookshelf, one book caught her eye.  It was a large brown book with shiny green print on it.  The words were in a different language and there was a strange symbol on the front cover.  She gently pulled the book from the shelf and began to leaf through it.  More language she couldn’t read, more pictures, some of people gathered around a campfire with strange makeup on, some were recipes and still more where she couldn’t tell what was depicted.

From the living room Gran shouted out, “Manhole! Paperman! Boot! Boat! Rabbit!”  Marina adjusted the thermostat and decided to bring the book downstairs to see if Gran could talk about the book.  It was a longshot, but she was going to be here for a whole 2 weeks and if nothing else, maybe she could figure out the mystery of what this book was in that time.

She came down from the attic, throwing the book on Gran’s bed while she closed the attic door.  Before leaving the room she looked at the framed photos on the dresser.  They were of Gran and Pop when they were young and beautiful.  They were at the fair or some sort of carnival and they were laughing while holding hands.  Pop was in the Navy and served for 12 years until one day he was listed as MIA.  Gran never recovered from that loss and she never remarried.  Her heart was permanently broken.

“Maggie!” Gran shouted, that was her mom’s name, who cared for her almost nonstop for the past three years.  Marina ran to the living room to see if Gran was asking for help.  She had the book in her hand as she knelt down by Gran.  Suddenly Gran looked Marina in the eyes and then fixated on the book as her eyes got wide.  She looked back at Marina and said, ” Winlock!”  Marina didn’t understand.  “Winlock! Winlock!”  She repeated over and over.  “Ahhhh” Gran shouted, then closed her eyes and seemingly fell asleep.  Marina messaged her mom

Does Gran ever shout out Winlock to you?  What is she wanting?

Winlock?  Did she say that?  Are you sure that’s what she really said?  I haven’t heard her talk about that in 15 years.  Are you sure?

Before she could answer, the doorbell rang.

 

Anice Awakens, Part 2

This is a continuation of the story you can find Here

The office was so still in the dark.  Large cabinets with square openings were labled with account numbers, bags and boxes at the ready.  As she looked through the account numbers he noticed her eyes landed on her account and without saying a word she raised her eyebrows and smiled at him.

“My favorite stop on my route!”  He said with a slight nervous quiver in his voice.  They exchanged smiles but Anice had to interrupt.

“Look, I have to tell you…”

“Shhh!  Me first!” he said, placing his finger on her lips.

“My dad died last month.  We were really close and I didn’t know if I could get over the pain of losing him.  There was just nothing in life that made me feel good, everything was lacking color.  We used to play music together, sing and play the guitar and we’d stay up til the morning just jamming together and that was everything to me.  When I saw you painting that guitar on your window I knew that my dad was trying to tell me something.  Then every time I came into your store and saw that amazing smile of yours, it was like someone just pulled back the curtains and let the sunshine in; like somehow my dad was trying to tell me that everything was going to be OK and that you were a part of how that could happen.  Maybe I’m saying too much too soon, I just can’t ignore what I feel and I really hope I’m not misreading this.”

His eyes were starting to pool tears as he spoke, but he still managed to smile and take Anice’s hand in his.  She closed her eyes and felt his warm, gentle hand gently carressing hers.

“I’m sorry…for your loss.  I can’t begin to imagine all the emotions you must be swimming in.”

“Anice, you are so warm and beautiful.  Since that moment I have just wanted to be near you, listen to you talk, watch the way your mouth forms words.  I have been aching to kiss you.” His voice cracked as he said it, and then there it was hanging heavy between them as they both looked at the floor.  He slowly moved toward her and gently pulled her head into his chest.  She inhaled his intoxicating cologne and felt everything inside her moving at once.  Every last part of her wanted to melt into him, feel his arms wrap around her, give her whole self to the idea of his lips on hers.  Before she could speak, he began running his fingers through her hair and across the nape of her neck.  With eyes closed, she shuddered at the gentleness of his touch, all senses alive.

“Austin…”

“Shhh!  I love to hear you speak but right now I want to feel you.”  He pulled her even closer into him as they began to sway to nonexistent music.  His hand moved from her neck to her cheek as he tipped her chin up to him to look deep into each other’s eyes.”  He kissed her forehead, then her nose and before she could stop him or protest, she felt his warm soft lips pressing against hers and she couldn’t stop herself from submitting to what seemed inevitible.  Her heart was pounding so hard she feared he might hear it, and her knees were starting to feel weak as the desire was too powerful to control.

Behind them, the door swung open and they suddenly pulled apart as two of Austin’s coworkers entered, talking loudly and laughing as they guzzled beer from plastic cups.

“What are you doing in here Chief? No one’s supposed to be in here tonight.”

“Ah, just showing Anice around.”  He said nervously.  One of them came closer to look over Anice and playfully messed up Austin’s hair.

“Oh Austin!  You’r such a stud!  No having sex in the office!” He said, as they went into the machine room leaving trails of laughter behind.

Austin looked into Anice’s eyes, frowning.  “Sorry for that.  They really are children.”

“It’s OK.  I really do need you to listen to me for a minute though.” Her voice followed her to the spot on the floor where her eyes were fixed.  Scarred hardwood told the story of the grinding and sharp tools dropped by busy hands.

“I’m listening Angel.”

 

Champagne Moon

Shanna tucked a lock of dishwater blonde hair behind her ear as she wiped the diner counter. The door opened, and bells hung from the frame chimed to announce a customer.

“Hey Al, fancy seeing you here!” She said as he sat at a spinning stool at the counter. He opened the pie dome to eyeball one piece of cherry and one apple left. He always came in about 40 minutes before close and Shanna wondered why he liked to come so late.

“Well, my night surely isn’t complete until I have one of your brisket sandwiches. Makes me have good dreams when I go to sleep.”

“Huh! Well, I’ll put your order in.” She began scribbling on her order pad. Al always got the brisket sandwich and a Coke and she wondered how he slept at all after that!

“Didja bowl tonight?”

“Nope! The team split up; some dispute about a girl. That’s why I don’t go chasing girls around, waste of time I tell you. Breaks up some good friendships too. ”

“Oh come on, we’re not all bad are we?” Before he could answer, a group of teenagers came in.

“Hi guys! We close in about a half hour, but if you want to put an order in right away we can still serve you.” They nodded in agreement and quickly looked at the menus. They were loud, laughing every time someone spoke. Shanna remembered being that age, when everything was fun and everyone was funny, no cares in the world other than what new clothes she was wishing for to impress some boy who seemed to never seemed to know she exsisted. How she ever found a man to love and marry felt like dumb luck.

“No,” Al finished, “You’re not all bad at all, but if you ask me, if something is right, it doesn’t need to be chased.” She pondered that as she filled his Coke. The teenagers were laughing again, it was clear two of them were on their first date or were about fall for each other, the way they made eye contact then quickly looked away, smiling as if they’d gotten away with something. Ah, those are the moments! If only they knew how short this little carefree span of their lives will be! Shanna thought about being young and it made her 49-year old self feel ancient. It had been nearly four years since her husband died, and she couldn’t remember the last time anything made her laugh out loud; made her feel free and a little wild. She looked at Al eating his sandwich, tan skin with a few tatoos on his forearms, warm intelligent eyes and maybe just a few years younger than her. She had never noticed how hansome he was, a slight greying mixing with dark brown hair and well groomed face. He had good manners, a good job and something in the summer air was making her feel a longing for her young and wild youth.

“Al, why don’t you give me a ride on your bike tonight?”

He moved back to take a look at her in disbelief. “Really?” A genuine smile spread across his face.

“Yeah. Let’s go take a ride and feel young for a while.”

“We are young. Riding will make us feel free.” They exchanged smiles and she raised her eyebrows because the whole thing made her feel like she was getting away with something.

She cleared the plates from the teens table and brought them back to the dishwasher, Jose who had headphones on and was singing in Spanish. She lifted up one receiver and said, ” That’s the last of it. Can you lock up tonight?”

He gave her the thumbs up and went back to singing. In the office where she kept her coat she paused before leaving. Reaching into the bottom drawer she pulled out a bottle of Merlot. She stared at it remembering when she bought it. It was cold that day, and a snow storm was on the way just in time for her wedding anniversary. Her husband was relieved when they agreed to stop exchanging gifts and instead have a nice bottle of wine by the fire and celebrate the happy years together and all the memories that made them laugh. This particular bottle was supposed to be for their 22nd anniversary but Joe never made it. She recalled the day she put that bottle in the drawer, intending to bring it home just two days later, and then the call that there had been a drunk driver, and Joe was rushed to hospital. He didn’t make it. A tear rolled down her cheek as she recalled those moments that still felt raw four years later. Just then Jose came in the room to get his coat.

“Al’s still here.” He said, questioning why she didn’t let him out.

“Yeah, it’s ok, he’s going to give me a ride.” As the words came out she smiled.

“Ahhhhh Shanna! Finally! He said grinning, and kissed her on the cheek. “Don’t behave. Behaving doesn’t make good memories or good stories for your grandchildren.”

“Oh Jose, I’m already a grandma!” She said as she walked back out to guide Al out the back door. She felt a shiver of excitement run up her spine as he followed close behind her, making their way through the narrow alley. When they got out front to Al’s motorcycle he unhooked his helmet and handed it to her.

“I only have one along, I’m a safe driver and all but I insist you wear this if you are riding with me.” He slid it on over her hair before she had time to protest, and brushed the unruly locks back with a gentle stroke. She closed her eyes for a moment, letting the summer humidity and his closeness wash over her. She felt something opening in her; lifting some of the seriousness she was drowning in. She felt like those teenagers were a sign of what she was willingly giving up, and she was tired of being that person. Suddenly she was moved to say exactly what was on her mind.

“You are so sweet. How have I not noticed you until tonight?”

He shrugged his shoulders. “Maybe the stars weren’t ready to sparkle for you before tonight.”

He helped her get on the bike and then for himself on. She wrapped her arms around him and basked in the sensation of being close to a man again. His faded cologne filled her nose and she began to feel a warm euphoric sense that everything was right. She answered him in her head, I haven’t been alive for years and just tonight I finally woke up.

They drove through the city, colors whirling past like moving paintings, and drove up on schoepp’s Hill where both stars and city lights lay before them twinkling. They stopped there and Shanna opened the bottle of wine for them to share. She took a swig straight from the bottle and felt it settle in her stomach, increasing the warmth of the night.

“So how is it a handsome guy like you is not married?” She pried, offering him the bottle.

Motioning against the offered wine he answered, “No thanks, I’m recovering. Which is part of the reason I’m single. I needed to hit bottom before I got help. My wife got the worst of me when I was drinking. Some nights I didn’t even make it to bed, I’d pass out on the couch, unaware she would cry herself to sleep most nights. She was good for me, I was bad for her. We got divorced 4 years ago, I’ve been sober 3 and a half.”

He was visibly upset and she was sympathetic. She took his hand in hers.

“Al, you should be really proud of being sober. My dad was an alcoholic who never recovered. My mom silently cursed him even after his death. It’s an ugly thing and it tears relationships apart. This bottle of wine is four years old, I don’t really drink either but this was meant for a special occasion that never came and tonight felt special for me.”

“Tonight is special. I haven’t been close to anyone in years. When you asked me for a ride tonight it made me feel young again. I confess that the brisket’s not the only reason I come to your dinner every night. That little chit chat between you and me ends my night on a high note. After Nancy left me I hardly felt like I had a reason to get out of bed in the morning, then as I met you and started doing to the diner, I realized that, even early in the morning and all through the day I would be thinking about going to the diner. And those thoughts made me happy enough to float me through my day.”

“I’m sorry I wasn’t awake to feel that. It’s as if, when my husband died, I went to sleep emotionally to avoid feeling anymore. I fill me time with practical tasks so I don’t have to think about it or feel it. But tonight when I saw those kids it made me realize my life isn’t getting any longer, there’s life out there to be living and I’ve been opting out for too long. I mean, I’m not going to be asking for motorcycle rides when I’m sixty am I?”

They smiled as they looked deep into each other’s eyes and he pulled her into him and he held her gently as they swayed back and forth to music they could only hear between them. The moon draped them in champagne colored glow as they held each other, dancing, and creating memories to tell the grandchildren.

Saturday Last

I haven’t spent time being creative lately but I don’t want to neglect this blog, so today I figured the very least I can do is post a poem I wrote in 2001 at a writer’s workshop at a museum. Using newspaper articles from the 1800’s we chopped out words and phrases and strung them together to make a poem. It was fun to see how differently things were worded then.

Saturday Last

The warm weather has brought out the street corner loafers;

Overshoes

June bugs

Fishermen

Post office cigars

Legislative Ball

A fair and a festival.

Animal spirits

Fell from the top of a lumber pile;

Harmless amusement

Sudden death;

This ought to teach those boys!

Anice Awakens

Anice was carefully drawing the last guitar string on her store front window when the delivery guy came past. “Nice!” He exclaimed, as he smiled wide and blushed a little. He’d never spoken to her before. She gathered her supplies and went inside to see how much work he was delivering. As she made her way back through the optical shop he brushed past her and quietly said, “Have a good day!”

“You too!” Hmm, that’s odd! In the three months they’d been using that lab, this delivery guy had been silent. Anice never gave him a second thought. She brushed it aside and got to work.

The next day when he came, his dark eyes looked at her then quickly found the floor as his smile highlighted his dimples. He tried to make conversation, he was blushing. Awkwardness washed the moment clean until silence was palpable. Anice wondered, What’s up with this guy, he’s blushing like a school boy. Before leaving he shifted his eyes back to the ground and shyly asked if she had any plans for the weekend. Anice thought to herself, yeah, hanging out with my husband and kids, housework, lounging in my beautiful lounge clothes, but as she glanced at the stack of books from her over-zealous decision to go back to college at 35, her short reply was “Homework.”

He cocked his head to the side, still smiling and blushing and ” Well, have a great weekend!”  It was painful for him to make eye contact.

“You too!” She couldn’t help but smile back at him.  What am I doing?  I’m a married woman she thought.  He sure was cute though, probably at least ten years her junior, still green.  It was fun to get a little positive attention, it made her feel young and attractive again.

After closing up the shop and going home, she was still thinking about what transpired.  Was he laughing at her?  Did she miss the joke?  Maybe he’s just really shy and that’s how he acts around all his clients.  Maybe…she didn’t want to entertain the thought that was already there since the minute he smiled at her.  She blasted a little Green Day in her ears as she headed out the door to get a walk in before cooking dinner.  Her bright mood fueled her walk and she tried to push thoughts of him out of her mind with little success.  This was not good, but it felt good.

Each time he came to the office, she tried to play it cool, but his blushing, dimpled smile caught her up until she was tangled in thoughts of him, waiting for him to come through the doors, the brief encounter of smiles and idle chatter, the deeper eye contact and logic fluttering away as she swooned a little inside.  It had been so long since she felt her pulse quicken this way.  She discovered his name was Austin but knew very little else.  He was getting more talkative, but was careful not to say too much.  Maybe he knew she was married?  Bellevue was a small enough town that someone may have told him by now.  She was waiting for the time he got his nerve up to say something or do something, even though she would have to resist.  Her marriage was everything to her, but Austin’s attention and reaction to her were intoxicating.

After a few months of pleasant hellos he finally made his move.  Enclosed with her eyeglass orders was an envelope with her name on it.  Her heart beat faster as she gently tore the envelope open.  Inside was a flier for a party his company was throwing.  Many people from the optical industry would be there, it was a who’s who of the local industry gods and goddesses.  A note was enclosed.

Dear Anice,

          Forgive me if this is forward or inappropriate, but I am wondering if you will be  attending.  If so, maybe we can keep each other company for the evening. 

A phone number was included.

Her heart was beating so fast and she felt a bittersweet rush of emotions flood her.  She couldn’t go.  Unless… she went and could have a heart-to-heart with him and let him know she is married.  Yes, that’s actually a good plan.  It will be away from work, we can find a private spot to talk so I don’t embarras him, and I’ll just let him know that we can’t be together.

She began to plan her wardrobe two weeks early, the nervous anticipation just about drove her nuts.  It was going to be hot that week, so she chose a strappy sundress and comfy sandals, and her favorite pair of cateye sunglasses to compliment her pixie haircut.  Her boss and some of her coworkers were there, and many people from competing optical shops that she knew were there.  She saw Austin immediately.  He was talking to some people from his work and drinking bottled water.  Ah, he’s not a drinker she thought, how refreshing!  He smiled wide at started toward her.  Her heart and stomach were flip-flopping already, but she reminded herself she had a job to do.

When he got near, he took her hand in his and cocked his head to the side with a giant smile and said, “It’s so good to see you!” as he looked her over and blushed a deeper shade than she’d ever seen.

“Hi Austin,” she said cheerfully, “What a great turn out!”  He still had her hand in his, as if he missed her.  That was palpable without words.  She was starting to feel sad that she couldn’t follow this through, and she was feeling conflicted for leading him on.

“Can we go somewhere to talk?” She asked.  His smile grew bigger and he nodded and began leading her toward the building where he spent his days before and after deliveries.

For part 2 click Anice Awakens, Part 2

 

 

Westward Bound

Rae squinted through overtired eyes as the last bit of sunlight slipped beneath the horizon. She’d been driving since daybreak, fueled by determination and seven years of emotions that she swore the miles would put behind her once and for all. She let out a deep sigh as she thought about her friends and imagined them getting on with their lives without her now. John and Heather would be sitting around the fire pit drinking a few beers and wondering how Rae could just take off and leave everything she’s known to start fresh someplace new. Julie, the worrywart, would be staring at her phone, waiting for the horrific news of the car crash she was so certain would happen. Ashley would be waiting to hear all the sordid details about the cute strangers she met up with along the way, as if driving cross country would suddenly change Rae into some confident flirt. And then there’s Jason. Rae wasn’t ready to think about that just yet. Her eyes fixed on the road as the scenery shifted from flat and boring to foothills. There wasn’t enough light to make out any detail just lumps of earth that, in the dark, seemed eerie and somehow misplaced.

She turned on the radio and fumbled the dial until she found a station playing Mariachi music. It sounded different from the rock music she overplayed on a daily basis and that was soothing to her in the dark lonely foothills. She had filled up with gas hours ago and wasn’t sure when another station would crop up on this seemingly endless, deserted highway. Thoughts of running out of gas played through her mind and she felt surprisingly at ease with the idea. For once, she had all the space she needed to be herself, no one to have to accommodate, no one else’s thoughts to consider, no compromise and no regrets. She yawned as her lights shined against an exit sign showing food, gas and lodging and eased onto the exit. She was looking forward to some hot food, a warm shower and a good night’s rest.

The sleepy town was nearly dark, dotted by flashing stop lights down what she guessed was the Main Street. She drove past a Wicked Chickn, a burger joint and a cigar shop before seeing a motel sign a few blocks ahead. As she approached she wasn’t sure she wanted to stay. The Get-Away motel looked like it’s been built in the sixties and had not been remodeled since. There was an outdoor pool that was clean and lit, and as she looked as far as she could see there was darkness. She thought about getting back on the highway or sleeping in her car somewhere but finally decided if she was packing up and leaving her life behind, she’s probably tougher than that person she mistook herself to be all those years, catering to everyone’s needs but her own. Not anymore! This Rae Davies was a different woman who wasn’t afraid to sleep in shady looking motels in the middle of nowhere. This Rae Davies wasn’t afraid to be alone, away from all her friends and family. This Rae Davies isn’t going to let any obstacles keep her from her dream of moving west and starting new. With images of the west coast dancing in her head she grabbed her duffel bag from the passenger seat and headed toward the motel. The sign buzzed deafeningly loud as she passed under in and entered the lobby. A middle-aged man rose from reading a newspaper and smiled genuinely. “Welcome weary traveler! Are you needing a room?”

His pleasant nature put her at ease and she quickened her pass to the desk.

“Yes please.”

“Fantastic! We have a newly renovated room that would be perfect for you.” As he filled out her paperwork she looked around. The walls were filled with nostalgia, The Who’s who of former guests was impressive. There were articles about the hotel, a fire in the eighties, some golden anniversary celebrations. Before she could finish looking at everything he handed her the keys and told her about the Green Kettle Cafe down the street in case she wanted a hot breakfast in the morning. She thanked him and made her way to the room down a dimly lit hallway with worn out carpet. This place is not without its charm she thought, imagining how her parents were so fond of everything old, outdated and kitsch.

Room 111 was nestled into a back corner of the hotel, when she opened the door she was greeted with the smell of fresh-cut flowers. What? Mine was the only car in the lot. How can they afford to put fresh flowers in the room? It’s almost like they knew I was coming. For a moment, her mind drifted to a silly thought of her friends planning an elaborate prank that ended with her in this room with fresh flowers. She shook the thought away and set her bag down on the immaculately dressed bed. For more than the hundredth time that day, she let out a giant sigh and flopped down on bed, letting the soft clean blankets envelope her. Sleep overtook her with no fight.

Through the Veil

Erin’s green eyes shifted from the freckles that dot her nose out across the waves licking the smooth sand. The sunlight crouched behind a heavy storm cloud and she found herself focusing on a mental vision, a girl in a dark lit room reaching for a glass figurine from a shelf. A muffled sound of disappointment from a grown up in the background made the girl whine in protest. Erin got the sense this figurine meant something deeper to the girl and the denial of such would change the girl’s course. As the girl made another attempt to reach for the figurine, a shadow rushed across the floor and soon her mother was there to physically assure her she would not be touching it today. Erin felt the girl’s disappointment and saw her begin to cry alone on her bed. As Erin continued wondering what was so special about that figurine, the sound of a seagull’s cry made her refocus, bringing her back to the present time. The switch between the visions and reality always made her a little uneasy because it was like jumping back and forth through time; often the mental visions were so powerful that once in reality, it takes her a few minutes to figure out where she is.

Erin has always had the gift of clairvoyance though she often wrote it off as daydreaming. Her teachers and parents punished her for being distracted and even forced her to take medicine to help with focus and depression. Erin wasn’t depressed, but she realized that she was able to recall and feel other people’s experiences from another time, much like deja vu. Sometimes she gets a warm feeling of nostalgia in a place she’s never been and she wonders if she’s remembering something from a deeply hidden past, another lifetime or perhaps someone else’s memory. Other times she hears words, voices and still others she sees with her mind’s eye, vivid images as if someone is playing a movie in bits and pieces with some of the edges of the film damaged. It’s all a sign for her to try and make sense of. Sometimes the message is for her, sometimes it’s for others. Close friends have encouraged her to share her gift but she knows she will have to face the doubters and she doesn’t feel strong enough to do that yet. So she keeps the information to herself knowing that the universe will let her know when the time is perfect.

Candy Coated Happy

Polly climbed the stairs of the city bus with snow-slushed boots and sat down gently in the first seat. As the driver closed the door and continued the route, she looked around to see if she knew anyone riding. It helped to ease her anxiety about where she was going.

“Hey George! How ya’ doin,?”

“Oh Polly I tell ya, I’m just gooder ‘n gum! You going to visit Sissy’s?”

“Not today I’m afraid.” She said, staring out the window in hopes she wouldn’t have to say more.

“Well next time you see that beautiful sister of yours tell her I said ‘hello gorgeous! Will yo do that ‘Skits’?”

Polly let a smile tug at the corners of her mouth at the mention of her nickname. George had known her since she was young, healthy and loved to go out dancing. He always fancied her sister but never had the courage to tell her himself. It was as if just admiring her from afar was enough for him; it seemed as if that private little thought inside brought him joy somehow. Polly didn’t understand it but she admired it.

“Suzy works too many hours at that hospital, George, she wouldn’t have much time for keeping a home. She’s married to her job.”

“That might just be so, huh? Suppose that’s a lonely life. Just like mine since I lost my Dorothy.” He let his words fall off after that as he now joined her in looking out the window silently. Together they sat watching the city breeze past them. Mother’s walking to work, bike messengers whizzing by with important deliveries, kids playing in the snow and construction on new buildings downtown.

Polly felt her heart jump as they neared her stop. She pulled the cord and readied herself to exit the bus.

“Nice to see you George. Take care!”

Seeing where she was getting off George got a lump in his throat. “Skittles?”

She had already begun exiting the bus and tears were starting to roll down her cheeks, she did not answer or look back. As the bus moved back into traffic Polly wiped her tears and straightened up. Nothing is stronger than I allow it to be. I can fight this. And I have the perfect tool for starters! She reached deep into her pocket and pulled out a bag of Skittles candy. The colors were so cheerful they made her happier. She popped a red and yellow one into her mouth together and looked up at the sky. Sun reflected off a cloud making a brilliant piece of art of the sky. With a cleansing sigh she pulled the door opened and stepped into her fate.

Writer’s Block

Anne walked past the kitchen table where Will sat silently with notebook and pen, staring out across the snowy woods that sprawled before the cabin. It had been six whole days since he’d spoken to her and the quiet of the secluded cabin was maddening to Anne. The clock ticking felt like a wrecking ball tearing down walls of patience and calm inside her until she could take it no more.

“For God’s sake Will just fucking write something! Don’t you know it’s not about what comes out in the ink but those you keep trapped inside because you’re afraid of what will happen if people know the truth?” Warm tears flowed down her cheek as she tore her jacket from the hook and headed toward the door. She looked at him briefly as she put her boots on across the room, his hollow eyes were pooling tears but his fists were clenched in a physical display of the inner torture he was trying to escape.

“Just write it!” She forced her voice through tears as she stepped out into the blustery woods.

Will wept, face deranged and drool spilling onto the blank pages. “Oh God no! Oh my Annabelle! Daddy’s sorry!” As he wept he looked outside and became momentarily distracted by a cardinal chirping on a branch just outside the window. The bird turned its head to listen to him and he suddenly stopped weeping. “Annabelle?” The Bird continues to chirp and listen and Will brightened. He quickly grabbed his pen and began to write.

What happened to Annabelle should never happen to anyone.