CNF: I’m Toxic…No, I Won’t Change.

Prompt:

Write what you really needed to hear a specific person say to you… but they never did. Contribute it as a note to you, from them.

Dear Nearly Estranged Daughter,

I’m sorry that you feel that I’ve offended you somehow. You can tell, through my language, that I will never take responsibility for my own actions.

I’m sorry that I can’t be what you need me to be. I said you expect too much out of me as a mother but, really, I meant I will never take the steps needed to strengthen our relationship.

I’m sorry that I’ve left you waiting, and waiting, and waiting for my call. I know that I don’t care enough about you to value your time or your want for a mother.

I’m sorry that for years I’ve let you believe we could work this out. What I really should’ve done is shown you my truth: you are not what I wanted in an adopted daughter. You are not my blood. This will never get better unless I give up my stubborn ways.

Now that you know all this, please do the right thing. Stop waiting on me to stop being me.

I won’t. So, I set you free.

Sincerely,
Always Me

CNF: Cleanliness…

In fact, I think, from the twisted look on her face that she tries so desperately to hide that she is disgusted by me, in this moment, and by this.

 

Cleanliness is next to godliness. Or so they say. I loved taking showers, and I’m sure, had I been given the opportunity, I would’ve loved taking baths. My brother, however, did not.

It was as if dirt was his best friend, letting it stick to him like glue, hanging out on his clothes, clinging with every step. You might even say I grew more and more diligent about being clean solely because he wasn’t. 

Standing in the shower, letting the water run over my skin, cleaning me of doubt, fear, and shame. Cleaning me of the stink of expectations, of pressure, of stress. Cleaning me of abandonment, neglect, and what that child therapist said: anger. 

At first, there was nothing to stop me from staying in and taking all the time in the world. However, as you’ve seen, that’s now how my life works. Due to situations I’ll tell you about later, I still rush through showers, even now, as an adult.

***

I stood there, knees shaking no matter how tight I tried to hold them together. I didn’t want her to smell me. I did my job. I went under the water. I took my allotted time and made sure the liquid was so hot that it melted any bacteria away. It was like lava, burning my skin until I was sure I’d only be boiled bones.

She stood before me, waiting for me to drop my towel. I fidget, clutching the towel around my bony body. “I promise, I took a shower. I did,” I reassure her but she doesn’t believe me.

My adoptive mom has told her all these stories. Stories about dirty bodies, “fonk” so strong it stinks up the car, underarms caked in sweat. I want to say ‘it’s not me, it’s him,’ but I know I can’t tattle on my brother. Despite his continuous attempts to break my will, to remind me that I wasn’t ‘really’ his biological sister – that I was a dumpster baby no one wanted and no one could love – I stuck by him always. That’s what you do, when blood is thicker than adoption papers.

 I try to appear innocent although the mischievous look (that, now, I often see in my own baby daughter) is a permanent fixture on my face. I hope to buy a few more moments. I squeeze my eyes shut and pray someone will need her somewhere else in the house and she’ll have to go deal with it right away. It had never happened before but a young girl could dream.

“Let me smell,” with one long fingered hand she pulls up my right arm and inhales deeply. I imagine Yzma, with her bug eyes and stick-like lashes, scouring down at me. Repeating the same on the other side, she seems satisfied. This, I’m used to. This, I don’t mind. But then out comes two fingers that she uses to swipe between my little girl legs. 

Not in a sexual way, there’s nothing gratifying about this. With my lack of pubic hair, my ugly face – too out of proportion to be found beautiful, with my scarred knee and ankle from a rebellious bike ride, with my scarred head from cigarette burns; no, there’s nothing appealing about me. In fact, I think, from the twisted look on her face, that she tries so desperately to hide that she is disgusted by me, in this moment, and by this. Maybe even a little disgusted by herself. She brings her hand up to her nose and sniffs. “Good,” she says, dismissing me with a single wave.

All of this was pointless. Every single time she smelled me, swiping with stiff fingers, I’ve come up clean. No back alley, dirty water, soiled diaper smell coming from me. But I’m shaken, every time. I wonder ‘is this foreshadowing?’ Although, with my young-girl mind, I don’t know what foreshadowing is yet, or how important it is to the rest of my story; I mean, my life.

*** 

I teeter back to my room on nervous legs. My brother had been standing outside the room and we avoid each other’s eyes because I know what comes next. It’s his turn and I know he’ll fail. He’s the one who started this.

First, what with terrifying me so badly that I couldn’t wash my hair in the shower, and second my adverse reaction to unlocked doors. Back home, there were two doors going into the upstairs bathroom. Both doors locked but one always opened regardless. My brother thought it was the funniest thing ever, sneaking into the restroom, throwing back the curtain and screaming at the top of his lungs, poking and prodding at my body. He couldn’t hold back his laughter, giggling at my gangly legs. Legs that would never be long enough to make me a model.

I’d scream until I cried, then cry until I was numb. He didn’t understand but here I am, yet again, making excuses for him. I’m sure he wasn’t aware of all that had happened to me. All that had been done. I would never tell him. He already blamed me for all that had gone wrong, for us being in foster care in the first place – although I’d only been two or three when we were taken – and I’d never give him another reason to think me less than. So, what started as a playful game, became a terrifying world.

There I was teetering into my tiny room while he was behind closed doors, being checked for smells. I didn’t think there was more being done, if there was, he never acted as such and wouldn’t tell me even if I asked. But I feared for him and his fragile mind. (I was sure he was stronger than I thought but I couldn’t run the risk of telling him everything).

When I reached my weekend bed, I slid under the covers and I thought of flowers, big black flowers that could be painted on a yellow wall in rebellion. I thought of tiny boxes filled with secrets and heartfelt memories. I thought of times when my body was my own. When was that? I try hard to remember.

And not just in this, I lie in bed and wish my body was my own-  away from the Hims with friends that want to take me for ice cream (if that ever actually happened, or if it was a culmination of abuse that my young mind strung together like a movie), from foster sisters with things they want to stick in soft places, from eyes that wonder because I’m too young to really understand but old enough to know they’re looking, and from fingers looking for nonexistent smells.

So I’m sullied and clean. Washed and seared. My skin is pristine but crawls. I knew she meant well, at least that’s what I told myself, but I couldn’t help but wonder if she would do what she did if she knows what’d been done: to me.     

 

CNF: Dancing For the Lord

Tears streamed down my cheeks as I danced naked around the dining room table. I wanted to stop. I wanted to grab my clothes and run up the stairs. I wanted to be a ghost, floating up the wood case without making a sound, to be invisible. Invincible. 

 

My apparently lewd dancing during Youth Church that morning had gotten back to my foster mother. I knew I would be in trouble the moment I saw her. That hard look in her eyes, lips set in a thin line. She had shaken her head so hard I thought her wig would fall off. Hair piece, that’s what she told me to call it. A wig was a full thing with slick hair that had a net and an elastic band. A hair piece, hers at least, had two combs: one in the front and one in the back. Still, it shook so violently I could see the nest of natural curls at the nape of her neck.

In the parking lot catercorner to church grounds, I had come to a full stop and looked around. I didn’t want to be embarrassed here, in front of my church friends. I didn’t want them to see her snatch me up, nails digging in to the point where my skin breaks and slides up in small paper thin flaps exposing a fresh layer beneath. I didn’t want them to see how I’d fold in on myself, becoming as small as a mouse, still like an opossum.

I also didn’t want them to see me after. How I would keep my head staring straight, zoning out so I wouldn’t meet anyone’s gaze. I didn’t want to hear their snickers, as I’m sure they would laugh and pretend I was the only one bumping and grinding to the secular music. I didn’t want that one boy, that I let touch my vagina in the sanctuary, to see. He had crawled under the pews, reached under my skirt and touched my hairless flesh with curiosity and I didn’t stop him. I liked him, or I thought I did, but I didn’t want him to know the real me. The me that no one could love.

But all of that happened anyway. She marched me back to the car so fast I couldn’t keep up in my thin flats. They had no traction and whenever she dragged me about I slipped like a gazelle on a frozen lake. I tried to keep my gaze averted but I didn’t have to worry. The churchgoers were already moving away, not wanting, or caring, to see how The Foster Kids are treated. At least that’s what I presume. 

 

 

***

 

Once in the car no one spoke to me. Not mom – whose face was still angry. Not dad – who was clueless to what happened, per usual. And definitely not my other siblings – who hadn’t stopped me from making the mistake in the first place and had down right egged me on. They joked with each other and talked about which donut they wanted from Krispy Creme – our after Sunday service tradition.

I knew I wouldn’t be getting a donut or at least she’d get my favorite kind, glazed with sprinkles, and then let someone else eat it. We also stopped by Church’s Chicken, another Sunday tradition, and I impatiently sat cramped in my corner of the SUV, my stomach growled but I wondered if I would get to eat the juicy fried chicken with everyone else. If not, I’d be relegated to the kitchen table with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a longer sentence of the silent treatment.

When we arrived home she still said nothing. Everyone went their separate ways: the foster kids to do their many chores, my dad to his favorite leather chair that he slept in with feet raised, mom to her couch in the sunroom that she stretched out on from sun up to sun down, and then me – to the kitchen to clean up before dinner. 

 After dinner had been eaten, the dishes cleared, the table reset, the chairs moved back in place (as there were too many of us and extra chairs were always needed), and the food was put away, I was in agony. She was still yet to tell me what my punishment would be but I knew something was coming.

Would it be 12 licks with daddy’s thick leather belt? Mom saying “this hurts me more than it hurt you” followed by “as soon as you stay still I can finish”?

Would it be hours sitting in front of the fireplace? A punishment tailor made for me because I had books in my room and “Go to your room” wasn’t a punishment but a vacation and one I relished.

Would it be one thousand sentences where I’d write out my crime and promise to do better? Hands cramping with every “I’ll never gyrate to secular music in church again. I apologize. I apologize. I apologize.”

Would I be banned from the library for 2 months? The worst one of all, because the house of books was my only safe space, the only place I truly felt happy. 

 More punishments went through my mind as I made myself scarce. I even thought “maybe I should run upstairs and read as many pages as I can in case I have to empty my bookshelves into bags and leave my books before her door to be taken for an undisclosed amount of time.”

 On my way to do just that I heard her call me. She didn’t seem angry and hope bloomed in my chest. When I arrived at the dining room the other foster kids were there, but only the girls. It didn’t seem important at the time.

“Strip,” she said with a little smirk on her face. The others started chanting “strip, strip, strip, strip”. I fought it and the smirk slipped from her face.

“Take. All. Your. Clothes. Off.” She barely got the words out through lights pulled tight across her teeth. “You want to be exposed and be fast?” Being ‘fast’ was something all girls (regardless of race) were who had ‘sexual tendencies’ at a young age, switching, making sex eyes, showing too much skin, going through puberty early to where their bodies developed faster than their age and more. 

 “Go ahead and be like David. You remember him? He danced so hard his clothes fell off. Dance for the Lord,” she said. I stared at her and, in that moment, I wanted to hit her. I wanted to hit her so hard she’d never smirk again. I wanted to drive my fist into her face and pound until all my frustration peeled off like wet clothes. But I knew I couldn’t. 

 So, I stripped. I stood there with my hands blocking the soft folds between my legs. Despite my early puberty I hadn’t grown hair there yet, even though I knew I one day would, and felt they could see into me. See inside me. 

 “Move your hands and dance. Just like you were doing at church this morning. I want to see.” I dropped my hands to my sides and moved my hips like I had seen girls do in music videos. My knees knocked together as I bent and straightened and swayed from side to side. I tried to blink quick enough to keep the tears in but I could feel a wetness in my eyes welling up. Could hear the cries welling up inside me though my mouth felt glued shut. 

 “No, around the table. And move your arms more. Just like you were this morning. Don’t play games with me” she said. 

 I stepped around the table bouncing and popping my butt back and forth, shaking my chest that was just budding with breasts. Through the third, and fourth, and fifth lap around the table I danced harder. I closed my eyes and put my hands above my head, giving myself over as I’d seen the girls in the movies do.

“She has good rhythm” I heard someone say merrily, as if it were all a joke, and I kept dancing.

***

My cheeks are wet now. I stopped trying to fight the tears a few laps back and continue to let them flow freely. I’m sorry god. I’m not a good girl. If i was, I wouldn’t have danced like that in your house today. I don’t deserve your love. I never did. I promise not to do it again. I think as I continue to dance. I can’t lift my hands because my arms are so tired. My feet drug across the smooth wood floors, catching on the area rug everytime I passed by the frayed corners, and I could barely lift them.

There was no more laughter, no whispering heard from the table. The foster girls watched in morbid silence. My punishment didn’t seem funny to them anymore. I could see their faces, trying to avert their eyes. Shame was shown to me and I wondered if it was mine or theirs.

“Enough,” someone said. It wasn’t mom, though, and so I kept dancing.

When I was finally released from my punishment I grabbed up my clothes and darted up the stairs, struggling to take them two at a time. My room door was open and once in I closed it as silently as I could in fear of further punishment. I didn’t stop to pull my clothes on but climbed the ladder to my top bunk.

Beneath the thin cover I was safe, hidden, but all modesty left me that day. My body wasn’t just mine anymore. It didn’t only belong to me. Everyone had feasted on it with their eyes and their hysterical laughter. They’d stripped it of it’s purity via their sanctity. They looked into my void and I couldn’t stop them. I can never stop them because I bared my soul and, like my body, I’ll never be able to hide it again.   

Goodbye April! 6 Books Read!

46/120 Books Read!

 

Heya!

I spent the beginning of April in Louisiana. I was unable to listen to audio-books, due to the internet situation, and I rarely read physical books. I still think I did a fantastic job with the stories I read as I enjoyed most of them.

On the long trek back, 20 hours with a night spent in Gulf Shores for a break, I was able to listen to several books. It made the those long hours doable, helped me stay sane.

I loved Behind Closed Doors by P.A. Paris. I really enjoyed the main character, as well as the narrator’s voice. One of the beautiful things about audio books is the true skill of the narrators. I love how they can take on different accents, speed up or slow down their cadence for mystery or intrigue, how they make you feel the action of the story. I almost cried, a few times while listening to books, when a narrator choked up while giving a heartfelt piece of dialogue. It really shows you how important reading, books in general, are important to our lives.

Another book that I really liked was Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty. I actually started this book months and months ago. I began listening at the same time as a few others, it was overshadowed by others and so I stopped. So I picked it up on the second leg of my trip. I really enjoyed the way things turned out with it. I liked the many different characters and all of their intricacies. It really made me remember Clue and how much I loved that movie. So much so that I re-watched it!

 

 

Don’t forget! If you have any suggestions let me know! I’d love to look into anything that you might be enjoying at the moment.

My favorite genres: thriller, mystery, romance, adventure/puzzles, fantasy/science fiction, nonfiction

Good Readdance,
Jade

5 of My Favorite Paranormal Romance Novel Series

Heya,

Lately, I’ve been thinking about my favorites. If you follow my blog you’ll find that I read an array of genres. From Mystery to Thriller, from Romance to Yes…Erotica (and there is, indeed, a difference), from Science Fiction to Fantasy to Paranormal to NonFiction to Literary Fiction to sub genres and on and on. And so I thought about writing a collection of blogs chronicling my favorites from each genre.

Now, these aren’t my favorites FROM ALL TIME – as I’ve read too many books and enjoyed far too many of said books and I couldn’t rank these as the best honestly. These will be the ones most present in my mind. And currently sit on my shelves.

I hope you enjoy these lists! Don’t forget. Let me know if you’ve read any of these or have any others that you want to suggest!

Note: I’ve decided to keep this list at 5 for now as there are tons of books in each series. I also realize that I could talk all day and all night about which paranormal/fantasy romance books get me excited the most. I’ll just say…stay tuned for more lists of favorites from this genre!

There’s a link to each series!

1. Lynsay Sands : Argeneau Series 

Short Premise: This series is based on a gigantic family of Vampires. Yes, they can be born and don’t always have to be bitten to be a vampire. The series encompasses not only the immediate Argeneau family but extended family – and even goes into friends or coworkers. There is one common factor: Marguerite Argeneau. She seems to be a secret matchmaker and may be the cause of most, if not all, of the life mates discovered in the books. You’ll have to read to find out if she’s always correct. She does eventually have a book of her own, though it’s very  far into the series.

I began reading this series when I was in high school. With the first novel in the series, A Quick Bite, I was able to make my first friend. While sitting in class, I noticed she was reading the same book as me and, as young nerdy shy teens might do, I wrote her a letter. I remember mentioning how I thought we had the same tastes in books, due to the rest of the novels I’d seen her read those first months, and how I would like for us to be friends. Over the years, I’ve read the rest of the books in the series. Once I was able to make (and save) money on my own, I began to buy them and have continued to do so as an adult.

If you are looking for a series that is all about vampires, violence (in the form of killing bad guys and rogue vampires), life mates, sex-sex-sex and more sex, and a continuous collection of characters that can elongate the series on and on and on — this is the one for you. Admittedly, there are a few books that are lacking in plot, character, and identity, in comparison to the other novels in this series, but I love them anyway.

I must add, the author did begin a spin off series called “Rogue Hunters” but she seems to be taking a break from this vampire universe to write more historical romance (some of which I am also very fond of, but that’s for another list).

I will also say, I strongly, STRONGLY, suggest reading these books in order. Of course, they attempt to standalone but you will ruin a lot of the books for yourself if you do not. They are VERY intertwined, with characters meeting others, marrying others, potentially dying with others, going rogue, not going rogue, and even going on vacation with each other. So…Start with A Quick Bite.

I own 17 of the books in this series. Here are a few titles:

 

2. Gena Showalter : The Lords of the Underworld

Short Premise: Imagine warriors open Pandora’s box and from it come dangerous demons that inhabit their bodies. Each demon is a different deadly sin (or pulls from the bad in all of us): Promiscuity, Greed, Dishonesty, Death, Pain, Doubt, Secrets, and the list goes on. Each warrior must find his mate or risk losing himself to his demon forever.

I came up with that on my own and it sounds incredibly cheesy but it’s more intriguing than I play at here. I’ve been thinking of re-reading this series because the author has come out with new installments that I haven’t read and I’d like to start over. I really love how each demon the author writes is very well thought out. For example, the keeper of lies must only tell the truth. It is physically painful for him to lie. He can also sense the truth in others. And on and on with the rest. I also enjoy the fact that the heroines in these novels aren’t all damsels waiting to be saved. They aren’t all weak and innocent and sad and looking for their hero.

I picked up the first of these books on a whim and suddenly fell in love. This was years ago (many, many years ago)  and the further I venture into the genre the deeper my memory of all the different plots hide. It’s funny because I forget tons of things (like my own birthday and if I did laundry) but rarely do I forget what a book was about – if I really liked it. I would suggest this series because it actually has an interesting concept and the writing felt fresh.

I own at least 6 of the books in this series! Here are some covers:

lords of underworld

3. Cheryl Brooks : The Cat Star Chronicles

Short Premise: The men from the Zetithian species are handsome with especially keen cat-like features (and reflexes), protective instincts, and incredibly intense sex drives (and orgasmic abilities) that are spread across the universe. Their home planet was destroyed by vengeful men who were intimidated by their sexual prowess and they, sadly, have either become enslaved or were left to believe their species was eradicated. On their quest to find other Zetithians, and new homes, they find women whose smell makes them (and their sexual nature) come alive again.

I actually began re-reading the novels in this series earlier in the year. They are hot. AND I MEAN HOOOOT. The sex is steamy and erotic and turns you on. This is a warning because the sex is very graphic, I don’t want to hide that from you at all. If you are looking for something to make your ears red – and to hide from the girls at Bookclub – this is it.

The good thing about these books, though, is that they actually have plot, setting, and some sort of meaning to them. Although it may seem like it, they are not all about sex. I also love the fact that these books don’t take place on Earth. I’m so sick of the idea that every other species is ‘lesser’ than humans and they ‘need’ Earth. There are so many different planets – and life forms – that the author introduces you to that are way more interesting. The heroines in these novels are not always full human. –I think that a rare Zetithian female is the heroine for one of the newer novels but I haven’t read it yet.

If you are also looking for a series that takes you into the sky, has elements of science fiction, these are for you.

I own 5 books in this series. Here are some covers:

catstarbundle

4. Vicki Lewis Thompson :Wild About You

Short Premise: There seems to be a consistent theme across these books. The person you fall in love with may be the person you least expect. Most of the stories follow characters of different species, races, backgrounds, or simply different campgrounds (as in the last one) that fall in love. It’s light, honest, sweet but sensual, and has a fresh air quality to it.

Alright, so…YES, this series is more TAME than any of the others on this list. It’s not because I want to give you a reprieve. I don’t. It’s because I was shopping for a new story, something to end my Reader’s Block (ugh) and I was reading the synopsis for the first book (A Werewolf in Manhattan) and I just had to get it. Luckily, I was at a sale and they had the first four books.

I really enjoyed the premise for these books, the catchy-ness of their titles, and how they are mostly lighthearted. There is still sex, kissing, a burning need for someone who understands YOU and loves YOU despite the species you are but there is less of that and more of ‘falling in love’. Also, it still follows the guidelines of a paranormal romance novel but it isn’t as murderous as the rest of the books on this list are.

NOTE: If you are looking up the novels on the author’s website I’m going to apologize right now. In my research for this blog post, I’ve realized the covers have changed. They are no longer the adorable, colorful, cute covers you see below – the ones I have in my own library. They have moved into Paranormal Romancelandia – a place I’ve started to hate – where all the covers look the same and all the men on said covers look the same and everything is dark, sexy, and broody without any distinction between them. The VERY reason why I picked up the first book in this series is because it DIDN’T fit into that category. And yes, I judged a book by it’s cover. That is the first line of defense, after all. So, I’m sorry. Hopefully you will be as lucky as me with the colorful covers – should you decide to buy the physical books. I still recommend you read them. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised, as I was.

—In doing more research, I’ve discovered that the newer books on Amazon are ONLY available with the new covers. Although, I will read them, I doubt I’ll be buying the inconsistent covers for my collection.

wildaboutyou

5. Jacquelyn Frank : The Night Walkers, The Shadowdwellers and The World of the Night Walkers

Short Premise: Outside of the ‘normal’ world there is the shadow world where demons, and other creatures, live. In the shadows is the demons are also known as protectors. They cannot partake in the sins of humans (sex, gambling, desire, etc). There are dire consequences to being with a human and most of these dwellers have sworn against it. lest they give into the Madness humanity brings. Though they all break this oath eventually.

I started this series when I was a young preteen. I was 14 when this book came out and I got it from the library, snuck it in the bushes by my house (so that my religious mother couldn’t see), and brought it in later when everyone was preoccupied. It was one of many romance books that I’d read by moonlight, devouring it in hopes I’d one day be a paranormal romance writer myself.

I just learned that there is a spin-off series from the Nightwalkers called The World of the Nightwalkers, in writing this blog, and it has 5 more books (t). I’m pretty sure I’ve read a book or two from these but I can’t remember right now so I can’t speak to the quality of them but I’m tempted, like with the others, to re-read this series so I can read those!

About The Subseries:
Each of the Night Walker books are titled with a name: Noah, Jacob, Gideon, etc.

Each of the Shadow Dweller books are titled with a word: Rapture, Ecstacy, Pleasure, etc.

Each of The World of the Nightwalkers books have titles with F words: Forbidden, Forever, Forged

NOTE: You WILL need to read NW first, then SD, THEN TWNW as characters, names, deaths are mentioned as the books go on. 

I own 7 books in these series’: Here are covers from each sub-series:

 

 

Good Readdance,
Jade

P.S. I have so many more that I love and want to share with you. I have a few that I read on a whim, forgot to write down (I JUST started using Goodreads to track my Read list) and when I rediscover them I will make a new list! I’m excited about that as well. I hope you enjoyed!

My Angel of Death


A soft ssssnick woke me from my slumber and my eyes opened. There was silence and then the scraping of metal against metal. Gears moved, shifting, and turning like pieces of a puzzle coming to rest in place.

Slowly, I moved from the comfort of my covering and watched the door with apprehension. With a whoosh of air, it opened and swung back against the cream wall. With a kick of her foot, my angel pushed the wood back and appeared in the doorway.

She was back-lit by the lamp post outside, my angel was. Her head glowed like an effervescent halo, or maybe it was the way the light shot through the fluffy curls that hung around her head in strings. As she moved they were twisting in on themselves like medusa’s pets, coils pulled up in a high bun, some dripping down onto her shoulders. 

My angel was wider than I remembered. I’d only watched her since I moved to this new apartment and I’ve never seen her quite so…lumpy? No matter, I’ll take her however she comes. I watch, awestruck, as she struggles across the threshold. I want to help her, to reach out and take her in all of my arms and tell her how much I missed her. I want to remind her of all the times I kept her company, watching as she moved about. Day to night, back and forth, going along her daily routine.

I wanted to kiss her on her forehead, and wipe away any trace of the fear she might have upon seeing me in her apartment uninvited. For I am uninvited. But, I think, after all I’ve done for her, for them (my mind sours at the thought of the other two, as it’s only my angel I care about but I digress) I have just as much right to darken this door as they do. 

No, not lumpy. She’s just as plump as before. However, once she cleared the door she shed her skin like a snake. One after the other, skin became bags that became visible in the dim light and dropped to her feet. Reaching up, stretching her soft body until it could go no further, she tugged on the tiny metal string hanging from the fan. It clicks and light floods the room. I don’t need to block my eyes, as I’m watching through filtered lenses, but I close them anyway. 

When I open them again she’s gone. He’s there. He sheds his skin bags as well, though they are more hefty and heavier than hers, and then puts the tiny one down. The tiny replica of them sleeps in her plastic cage that keeps her safe and I feel jealousy stir in me. My angel dotes on her, always carrying and rocking and singing her sweet songs. I’d think there’s no way my angel could love me the way she loves her replica.

As I watch them come back and forth dropping their many skins before me, I keep an eye on the tiny one. It is my duty to keep her safe, though my angel would never know my esteemed position. The replica mews and reminds me of my angel again. Her tiny eyes flutter beneath their lids and my green eye fades away. She, like my angel, is beautiful. I see remnants in her. The purse of her lips, the slant to her sleeping eyes, the puffiness of her cheeks. I will not harm this one, I think. Had I been closer I could touch that tiny replica, hug her close with downy arms. But I am not, and she is sleeping and so I wait, patiently, until my angel returns. 

And there she is again, sweat moistening her brow as she lifts more skin through the door. Again, I want to help in any way I can, but I know I must stay out of sight. I’ve no fear of him, papa bear – the clear glass named him, for I heard he’d never harm me. What, with his soft heart and inability to kill. It’’s my angel I truly fear because this connection between us is not yet strong enough. 

She’s talked to me on several occasions unbeknownst to my presence, muttering softly beneath her breath, staring off into space, daydreaming about a blessed life. I would give it to her, if I could, but I cannot. I am the thing of nightmares, the cause of fear and pain and destruction. I wear this like a badge of honor, only except when it comes to my angel. 

I listen and wait, watching through several lenses as the door is shut, with a finality, and all three seem to sigh with relief. The comfort of home, security of being in control, untouchable by the dangers of the world on the other side of the doors. 

She laughs, a melodic sound. As she walks about the apartment tears sprinkle like liquid diamonds falling from her eyes. She motions here and there and there and says something unintelligible to him, and he nods, smiling in return. Then she’s waving her hands through the air again, pointedly, like dance moves to inaudible music.

As she gets closer to my hiding spot I shrink in on myself, afraid her radiance might blind me, or that I might be seen. She’s waving her hands again and I realize it’s not a dance. She’s determined, her mouth set, her eyes darting back and forth,  and back and forth, looking and searching, perhaps for me. 

“You know what they say,” she says, her voice clear as she gets closer. “Wherever there are cobwebs, there is a…SPIDER!” she yells out the last word as my hiding place is discovered. I am betrayed by my angel. I burst free from my confines. Desperation fills me as she slaps, slaps, slaps, left and right and then left again with her dainty hands. Angel’s hands. 

I race away, my surplus of legs no match for her size and agility. She smacks down right on my head and I’m immobile. I feel a shuttering in me, a fluttering like the replica’s eyes. One of my legs has detached and lies twitching an inch away. The other seven remain but are of no use to me. As the hand comes down again I hear him say “did you get it?” and I can do nothing but surrender. 

I have lived a good life. Found solace in the blessed angel no one believed existed. I have watched her day in and day out. I’ve stood sentry from my corner. I have been privy to her thoughts and I am grateful. Ever am I grateful to give my life so that she may live fearless and in peace.

Short Fiction: Ferrywoman of Souls

The Ferrywoman of Souls

 

Mid-afternoon, with a soft breeze and a light blue sky, is the perfect time to die. The soul seeps from the pores in a melodic lilt and rises toward the heavens and hovers just above its host. The body, having lost its connection with the physical world, loses its luster. Skin darkening, temperature falling, limbs grow hard over the passage of time. And the world goes on. The trees continue to breathe, branches swaying and leaves rustling. It’s a glorious moment, one you’d love to stay in forever, if you could.

Then I come and fuck things up. Fifteen feet away I stand on the edge of the curb, the balls of my feet balancing on the cement, my heels in the air. I look down and hesitate. The grass is bright green, well taken care of. I know what I’ll see the second I move and I close my eyes. I take a deep breath in and blow it out slowly. I step forward and an audible crunch comes from beneath my feet. I look down at the grass. It’s black, shriveled and hardened into the shape of my foot.

Almost all plants die when I touch them. It’s my thing. It’s the courtesy of being death’s best friend, employee, in my case, bringing the stink of the underworld with you. It trailing behind you like a poor sick puppy. It sounds so dramatic and, I guess, in a way it is. Bringer of death. Ferrywoman of souls. The strength of thousands of flesh eating demons. Alright, that last part is too much. For the most part, it’s probably just me. I’m a Reaper; a Grimm Reaper. And that is why I fill my apartment with succulents. Those fuckers are hard to kill. Cactus, Fantactus.

I step again and death to the ground spreads beneath me. Taking another deep breath, I lift my head and continue forward. The house is bright and happy. Eggshell white, pastel pink on the shutters, a pastel yellow front door with a large ruby red knocker, window flower beds with a dozen flowers and small perfectly trimmed hedges that surround the property. I almost feel bad for what I need to do but I don’t. It’s decreed. It’s for the best. It’s destiny and you just can’t change destiny. You can’t change your appointment.

When it’s your appointment time I feel a burn in my skin. It hums and vibrates until I pay heed. To make matters worse, I’ll be in the middle of showering, to get the stink of decay from beneath the epidermis, and then a gold glow will rise from my flesh. I’ll roll my eyes, because death never comes at the right time, then I swipe a hand down my forearm, where a built in map lays. It’s not like your normal map. It doesn’t show streets or lines or hills or lakes. It looks like a tree and shows energy, spirits, souls due to fade. It shows that nearby someone’s appointment is any day now. Another life passing by, going from here to the next place, never to be lived again. Then here I come, from Wherever, ready to take your hand in mine. Ready to reap.

I follow the hedges around to the back of the house, leaving a trail of dead grass behind me. Luckily, if I leave the area quick enough the grass will return to its former glory in no time. The body of an older woman, late fifties and grey hair, lay in the midst of a beautiful garden. I stood there for a moment to breathe in the beauty before I destroyed it. Tall, manicured, rose bushes lined the walk, don’t get too close to either side or you’ll get pricked. Grey stones lined the path with stubborn grass snaking between like puzzle lines.

A stone white love seat is mirrored on the first path. A vine overtakes one, not in the unkempt way, but intentionally. Curling up, up, up and over the seat and onto the arms and disappearing over the back to the hedges behind. The green looks soft, like spongy moss and I ache to sit on it. I don’t because I know it’ll crunch beneath my weight and I’d leave my deathly shadow behind. On the second path, a crowd of sunflowers gather beside stalks of tulips, making a painting of vertical and horizontal colors with green stretching between. Above the trees wave and I can’t tell if they are planted or natural, the garden was planted around them. It’s loud with nature and I take a deep breath in to immerse myself in the scent of life and listen. Bees buzzed and everything did what everything does.

I stepped gracefully onto the gravel path, narrowly missing a small collection of poinsettias, and tiptoed to the body. She looked almost peaceful. Her eyes gazing up at the clouds, mouth smiling on the left and slightly drooping on the right. One hand was twisted in a knarl of swollen knuckles. Beneath a frilly gardener’s smock she wore a pair of dark wash jeans, to guard from grassy stains, and a billowy yellow top. It flutters in the wind, movement against still.

Flipping my wrist to remove the long heavy cloak, I reached out with virgin hands. My fingers tingle from the tips to my inner wrist. The golden tree map begins to fade into my skin with my proximity to the awaiting soul. I lightly touched a palm to her ankle and close my eyes. Drinking in the left over power from her life source, I drew her soul to me before her last breaths left her lips. A glow follows the trail of my hand, taking the rest of the warmth with it. Her skin pales against the vibrant grass. For it’s the soul that holds all life and not the body.

Sometimes my job is easy, the souls rise to the surface on their own. Other times they linger, or get stuck, and I have to do the dirty work. She resisted, a positive, hopeful energy flowed through her bones, clinging onto the last shred of life. I gathered more power into my body and making a lasso in my mind, I gently tugged on the soul. The last hooks release and it withdrew from the body. There she was, standing before me, facing the garden she’s spent so long cultivating. It’s a beautiful backdrop for her ghostly figure.

“So that’s how I go?” she asked. Her body shimmered as the wind picked up. “A heart attack?” I rise and cover myself, virgin skin still pure. She was already dead, I could do no more damage, but I was so used to protecting others from my curse that it was second nature.

“I’m afraid so,” I say. I step toward her and look around. “Your garden is beautiful.”

“Yes,” she replies confidently. “You’re killing it.” She motioned down to my feet where not only was I trampling flowers but they were turning black and shriveling in rapid succession. It was an ode to the life I once led, to the life she once led, and I took the message as it came and stepped back quickly. My heels hover in the air as I tiptoe on to the small stone triangles of the walk.

“I’m sorry, it’s the…”

“The Reaper thing?” she finished for me. “Everything becomes so clear when you’re dead. I knew you would be there, you know. I could feel you calling me. I actually think I saw you last week when I was at the market. I was buying tomatoes and in my peripheral I could see this darkness. It hung around until I closed my eyes but when I opened them again it was still there.” She paused and looked at me. “At first, I thought it was just my eyesight going bad. That happens when you’re old. Things begin to fade away, things you once took for granted. Then I knew it was you. I knew you would come for me.”

I nod and she sighs. She did see me last week. I’m often drawn to those who are so close to death. My tree hummed but it didn’t glow, when I was near her, and it didn’t pulse with her location and date. Not her appointment yet. Sometimes they don’t always die, near death experiences do actually happen. That’s destiny as well. They still feel me though, see me. In her case, no such luck.

“I told my daughter about you, you know. She said you were just a figment of my imagination.” I don’t speak, this is common. They want to chat before they go. They want to know why; how, where, and what can they tell their family they’ve left behind. I placate them, there’s nothing I can say or do to make any of this better and I don’t try. I just listen.

We stand in silence and take in the garden. I wait for her to speak but she is waiting for me and so still we stand. A bird swoops down to the feeder and peck, peck, pecks until it’s found the prize and then off it goes, back into the sky and freedom.

“What did you say back?” I finally speak and reach out to her from beneath my cloak, with my gloved hand. She knows what to do. She puts her hand in mine, lets a finger brush over the thick leather, and lets me pull her toward the gravel path. I can feel her soul brushing against mine, know that this is how it goes. I take a piece of them and every time they take a piece of me.

“I told her I loved her. That I would always be with her. She cried. She asked me for his name. Her name. Whoever the doctor is that gave me the bad news. But there was no doctor, no paper to say this was coming, no tests with positive results. Just my intuition and a dark shadow on the corner of my mind at the market. The market. I loved that place, the comings and goings. The different cultures with their different spices. I only got into trying new things a year ago. Isn’t that funny?” she pauses and sighs and I think she’s going to make us still again so I don’t reply.

“Wait, you were at the market! Can other people see you?” She stops and I know what she’s doing. She’s stalling, I don’t mind. I’m also already dead, I have all the time in the world.

“Yes, but not when I’m doing this. When I’m doing this I’m virtually invisible to the living world. Can’t have others seeing the souls being ferried. They’d freak. Humans are not so…”

“Humans? Are you not human? You look human to me. Do you do this often?” her voice rose as she continued. I squeezed her hand, comforting.

“Listen, Anne. Can I call you Anne? I know you want to stay. You have your daughter and your garden and your market and so much to live for but I’m sorry. It’s come to an end. Your husband is waiting for you, should you want to go to him, some people don’t and hey, that’s neither here nor there, you know what I mean.” I rambled as I tugged on her hand again and led her to the curb where I’d appeared when I was pulled to the place.

“I know. I’m sorry. You’re right. My Gus is waiting for me, should he want to see me, of course.” I nod and chuckle along with her and with my mind’s eye – open the portal.

There’s no floating up to heaven when they actually go. No movie moment where the soul is a Casper-ish ghost that floats up, up, and up and touches the clouds and there’s a bright light that abducts them like aliens. And beautiful music fills the air and a choir of cherubs sings home going hymns. We open a portal to the afterlife and in they go. To the Inbetween, the place where they wait until their afterlife fate is decided. I think. I was there once but that is a story for another time.

The place they go on the other side of the portal is different than the Darkness. It feels lighter, more like a relaxing waiting room, and not a scary place where all things are dead and unferried souls walk around with their heads drooped. We’d reap those souls, if we could figure out how to keep our bodies alive in there. Nothing breathes, in the Darkness. Nothing grows. Nothing, and I mean nothing, emits light. The souls brush past you like cobwebs, and should you have enough energy to snag a soul and pull them through to the real world, you’re more likely to come out in a place you don’t want to. Like a jail cell, the middle of the ocean, or on the wrong end of a knife.

Only the Yanaris are bold enough to Reap souls from the Darkness. The Yanaris are reapers like me and unlike me. They have been doing this so long they’ve lost all sense of their souls. Their humanity. They reap without question and live without life. For them, there is no down time between appointments. They don’t need it, they reap unconsciously and are empty. So many reaped souls chipping away that there was nothing left of themselves to give. I hope I never become one of the Yanaris although I knew each of them had, one time or another, said the same thing. It is our destiny. Though that is also another story for another time.

“I’ll see you, Anne. May your soul rest in peace.” She smirks at my quip and I smirk back.

She turns to me and sighs again. I love her sighs. They are deep and final. They punctuate her life and I can tell she had been a thinking woman. She steps backward through the portal. I don’t try to look into it, seeing what I could see. In the beginning, when I was new to this, I’d crowd in behind them, trying to get a glimpse of hope and peace. Now I know it doesn’t belong to me and I stay in my place. She fades.

As it closes, I watch her eyes tear and brighten. That could be an indicator that maybe Gus is there with open arms. Anne will walk into them and they will stand there, souls reunited, hearts touching. She will lay her head on his shoulder as she always did way back when and he will close his arms around the soft curves of her back. They will sway back and forth, back and forth, like the eddies of time and nothing else will come between them. Not that I know. Once they go to the other side, they don’t come back and I don’t join them there. I never will. I’ve done my job and now I must move on.

Goodbye March 2020! 13 Books Read!

 

2020 Books Read So Far: 40/120

Heya,

Although, I was determined to keep writing as a priority, despite what’s going on with the world, I also wanted to make sure reading was as well. In March, I read 13 books. It helped me stay sane, reading did. I switched back and forth between physical, e-book, and audiobooks (thank gosh for Overdrive).

I was also able to mix genres. I loved romance and thriller and adventure and even the Spanish! I was really excited about The Wife Between Us. It really knocked me off my feet. I was looking forward to this one because it had been recommended to me by several people. I’m also a part of a few book groups on Facebook and it seemed quite popular.

Another book that I really enjoyed was Final Girls by Riley Sager. I actually listened to this one while driving to Louisiana (it took me almost 24 hours straight – just me and baby Naomi. Trying to find places to pump, stopping to take her out so she can stretch, trying to find food despite almost everything being closed, etc). It was unexpected for me because I had been listening to something lighter and then BAM, murder.

I also read Educated by Tara Westover. I really enjoyed this one. I found myself constantly rolling my eyes because of the bullshit other people tried to get the author to believe or say (feminist, “the lord says…”, and even the use of the n-word). Educated was a one of my nonfiction textbooks for Spring semester. I enjoyed this class, as well as the professor, and should’ve known it would be one of my favorites. I am also a nonfiction writer myself so I took notes of tone, pacing, and humor for my own stories.

Honestly, I believe that I also read a few more books than those listed here. Sometimes, I’m more excited to just open a new book than I am to write a blog post, post on social media, or mark it as ‘read’ on Goodreads. Luckily, e-books through Overdrive (and Kindle) can be automatically marked as ‘read’ on GR. Other forms are not so lucky and then there’s a ton of running around to figure out which books I completed, am still reading, or DNF (did/do not finish).

Don’t forget! If you have any suggestions let me know! I’d love to look into anything that you might be enjoying at the moment.

My favorite genres: thriller, mystery, romance, adventure/puzzles, fantasy/science fiction, nonfiction

Good Readdance,
Jade

 

CNF: Blades

With a small pink razor, stolen from another foster kid, I shave at the sporadic hair on my legs. I hear her voice, my adoptive mother’s, in my head with each down sweep of the blades, “if you shave your legs the hair will grow back thicker. Then you’ll have to keep shaving and shaving. Forever.”
I don’t care. Even at eight years old I want to be like everyone else, baby smooth skin that’s soft to touch. The way it used to be. I want to wear dresses and shorts without feeling the prickly spikes of embarrassment move against flowy material. I curve my hand slightly but it’s just enough for the blade to nick my skin.
Sucking in a quick breath at the sharp sting, I watch as a bead of blood wells to the surface. It slips down and taints my skin. I watch it still and I get an idea. It blooms in me like a rose. Its petals vibrant. I push on the nick and pause to watch more blood follow the path of the razor, down toward my ankle where it pools in the divot near my heel. I know what to do. I’ve heard about it from one of the girls that slept in the basement rooms of our foster home. She talked about a friend who found a way out. Of pain. Of fear. Of abandonment. Because, even this age, I know exactly what that word means.
I know what the word feels like. The way it wraps around your throat, each letter like fingers tightening as they mold to the contours of your flesh. I know what it sounds like. Rain pattering against window panes as you’re left behind. Watching the cars drive by, wondering if you’ll be remembered or if they will go on with ‘family’ day without you. I know what it looks like. The way it swirls in the air, red in the color of betrayal. It’s a word you’ll feel long after you’ve healed from it. If you ever truly heal.
***
I’m back in the bathroom a few days later and I’m ready. I’ve set myself up by announcing that I haven’t yet showered. My adoptive mother tells me she knows, without looking up from whatever is more important. She says that she can smell the ‘fonk’ on me. “You’re the first one to notice your own stink,” she’s told me so many times. This time, I wonder if it’s just another lie she tells.
I look in the mirror, a reflection that I can see only by standing on the toilet, and I nod. Then I’m smiling like a loon. Here we go. Climbing down, I grab the razor from the lip of the sink and dig my tiny fingers between the plastic sides. With much force, it cracks, but the part with the blades held fixed.
“I can’t even get this right,” I say in a low whisper. The hot tears come fast, welling and falling before I can blink them away. I’m grabbing and pulling and the sharp edge is slicing at the pads of my fingers. I feel the pain but am determined. I might even like the pain. The way with each slice brings up a paper thin flap of flesh.
Sitting on the toilet lid, I pull up my knees and yank until finally the blades are free. They are wet with sticky blood and I almost yell triumphantly. Dropping the rest of the razor to the floor, I bite the fleshy inside of my cheek, sit two blades on the windowsill and take the third in between my fingers. It’s a precious jewel that I cradle fondly, for a few seconds.
Then I’m cutting. Down and down, until I break through the skin and the lean meat of my small wrist. It’s hot, the area of incision, and I wait for the blood. It slips over my skin and drips onto my knee. It’s fascinating and I sit transfixed under the spell.
Next to the first line I make another, pushing until the skin is broken and then I’m frowning. It doesn’t hurt as bad. The initial shock – gone. Switching to my non-dominant hand, I slice into my right wrist and there the adrenaline is again. It fills me and I close my eyes. I roll back my shoulders and stand a little straighter. I’m in control. This is my body. No one can tell me what to do with my own flesh. They can’t take my limbs from me and I will do whatever I want with them. I am defiant, as everyone always tells me, and I’ve taken it in stride.
With the second cut I go deeper, longer than the other three, and I feel a jolt in my hand. A tingle that spears through each finger, then circles up to my elbow and round my shoulder. The shock of it sparks fear and I drop the blade to my feet, where it narrowly misses the bathroom carpet. I sigh in relief as it settles against the tile with barely a sound. A whimper escapes as the pain grows and I’m watching the blood fall quicker from this fourth cut. I scramble to gather toilet paper to the wrist, and it spins off the roll, spilling in white sheets onto the floor. My left wrist has caught up. It’s dripping profusely and I jump up to stand over the sink.
I didn’t want to end it today, I think. I just wanted to practice. I just wanted to see if I could. If it was easy. My chest is tightening, breaths a quick staccato against the silence of the bathroom. ‘She had a panic attack and…’ I remember one of my teachers saying, after I nearly passed out a few months ago, and I stand up straight. I hold my breath, hoping to stop the rising sense of relinquishment. Then I’m counting; One, Two, Three, Four. The blood has slowed, I see. I flick on the faucet and run both stained wrists under the cool water. It stings and I’m sucking in another breath.
I hear someone calling my name. Dinner! I’d completely forgotten. I’m turning the water on full blast now, hoping to wash away my sins. The water irritates the cuts and blood flows again. A vicious cycle. I feel stupid. Useless. Like the waste of space that I am. We have dinner every night. How could I forget that?
Finally, I cut the water to the faucet and then gingerly sidestep to the shower and cut the water there, too, and then I’m wrapping my wrists in wads of toilet paper. I quickly grab the blades from the sill and the one from the floor and wrap them too. I stick them in the small pocket of my jeans and the towel that is in the color assigned to me. Wrapping my wrists, doubly now, I make a quick exit into the adjacent bedroom. My name is called again and I yell that I’m putting my clothes on.
In my room, I change and put on a cropped jean jacket. It’s long sleeved and the material snags on the wadded toilet paper on my wrists. I slide the buttons closed and look at myself in the mirror. My eyes are wide and I know I look feral. There’s a thin line of wayward blood across my check and I’m wiping. Wiping, and wiping and scrubbing it away. I’m scrubbing and then I’m hitting. I’m smacking a small hand against my check for being so stupid. Then I know I must end it. Just not today.

***
At the dinner table, I sit with my hands in my lap, mock respect. My adoptive mother is going on about how it’s ‘just so rude’ for me to make everyone else wait while I lollygag. I know she’s thinking about why does she always have to punish me. And how I can’t be ‘more important than everyone else’.
“That’s not how the world works,” she says and continues on her diatribe of things Jade doesn’t know about the world. I do this so often, always so late, all the time. I know that when she winds down another punishment is in order. I fidget in my seat while thinking of what it might be.
Would it be 12 licks with daddy’s thick leather belt? Mom saying “this hurts me more than it hurts you” followed by “as soon as you stop jumping around and stay still I can finish”? Would it be hours sitting in front of the fire place? A punishment tailor made for me because I had books in my room. And “Go to your room right now and think about what you’ve done” wasn’t a punishment but a reading vacation and one I savored every moment I could. Would it be one thousand admonishments where I’d admit how stubborn I am, write out my crimes and promise to do better? Hands cramping with every “I’ll never waste everyone’s time by thinking I am more important than them again. I apologize. I apologize. I apologize.” Would I be banned from the library for 2 months? The worst punishment of all because the house of books was my only safe space, the only place I truly felt happy, the only place where I can cleanse myself of all the anger and the fear and immerse myself into another life.
More punishments went through my mind as I made myself smaller and smaller in my chair. I get it, at least, I think I do. I’m not important and shouldn’t make myself out to be. “You can’t be something you’re not’ was another of her admonishments. I nod and she corrects me ‘use your words’. I look up and she’s staring right at me. Everyone is.
My brother’s sitting right next to me and yet we feel so far apart. He is the only biological sibling that I have that still seems to love me and I can feel him slipping away. Everyday he tells me how I was ‘found in a trashcan’ and if I slip up one more time he’ll take me back. Next to him is the new girl who’s name I often forget. She smirks at me because she’s a hell raiser, at least that’s what my adoptive mom calls her when she’s on the phone with her prayer group. On the other side of the table, next to Mother, is my adoptive father. He’s my favorite person in the world but I can tell by the look in his eyes that he won’t save me and he won’t stop her rant. He never does. He’ll let her go on and on until my nods are not enough to placate her. I lower my eyes to my lap, submissive, and see a bit of toilet paper peeking from my jacket sleeve.
Can they see what I’ve done? I shove my hands further into my lap and depress the urge to wince as the cuts in my wrists grind against the now sticky toilet paper.
“Hello?” she says to me, sarcastically drawing out the O, and I’m looking around. My brother is smirking at me from across the table and I jump. He’s holding a plate of warm garlic rolls in my direction. I can see butter melting in the slits topping each one. Gingerly, I lift my arm to take the plate, and a roll, before passing it on. She has a screwed look, the one where her lips go to one side and her eyes narrow. I can see it from the corner of my eye and I think any minute. Any minute now and she’ll ask what’s wrong and that’ll be the worst.
I’m a horrible liar, I know. I fidget in my seat and then dig into my food that she’s already plated due to my tardiness. It satisfies her and she instead of dishing out one of her infamous punishments she begins her rounds of the table, everyone having their turn in the spotlight. “How was your day? What did you do? Did you learn anything?”
I take a deep breath around a bite of thick mashed potatoes and relax. ‘One day but not today,’ I think. I sit and listen as everyone tries to find something interesting to say and pretend they did. When it comes around to me I think of my wrists. I think of something I might say.
“I slit my wrists today. I didn’t want to kill myself, only see if it would be easy – should I want to. It hurt. It hurt so bad that it felt good. I still want to kill myself, one day. But for now I just want to revel in the pain that sears through my body. It makes me think of everything that has ever been done to me, will ever be done to me, and how this is different. It’s me, saying what goes. Saying WHEN,” Instead, I shrug and continue eating, slowly chewing so I don’t look like a chow. I remember to use my words and my fork hovers.
“I finished reading my new book,” I say.
“I thought you just got that book yesterday,” she says between bites of fried chicken.
“I did. And I finished it. It was fantastic. It was about…”
“So that’s what you were doing in your room. Didn’t I tell you not to spend all day up there reading? Those people aren’t real. How will you ever learn anything about making a human connection, about god’s creatures, about the true meaning of life, if you just have your nose stuck in a book? All…” I stopped listening. This is what she did.
I was selfish, embarrassed, angry, reserved, I liked books over people. Hell, I liked bacon over people. But it wasn’t until that day, sitting there listening to her explain how books will never make me happy, that I realize books can make me happy. Books can make me positive, optimistic, and light. They can teach me about human connection, about god’s creatures, about the true meaning of life. They can show me a full way to live.
As she goes on, I day dream of meeting a man who will love me for me and about creating a family that I can take care of and show what it means to truly be supportive – like in the romance novels. I think of the thrillers that keep me on the edge of my seat, what’s going to happen next? Who killed who? Why did they kill? Why do humans kill? I think of the adventurous books. How archeology opens you up to the world of old and teaches you that life’s a puzzle to discover. I think of the horror novels when bad things happen to good people and even though they die in the end a lesson has been learned.
I nod and look attentive and she gains her second wind. As she starts up again, telling me how I’m not the daughter she hoped for, I think of stories filled with dragons and vampires that are living and find love despite their soulless nature. I day dream and I wish and I hope and pray and think and decipher and enthusiastically appeal to the witches of fate and then, instead of the blades I used just twenty minutes ago to mar my body, I think of a different outlet. A different way to escape.
I’ll become…a scholar.

10 Years Late to University: I don’t Belong Here But I Belong Here

 
My first semester at UCF I cried on my way to campus.

It was 7:30am, the road was clear – as it always is at dawn – and so the drive from West Orlando was quick. I was so excited, the night before, that I couldn’t sleep. I barely ate, barely hydrated, and spent most of the day with the jitters. I’d always loved school, loved learning, loved brainstorming with my fellow students, and this was my time.

But I was also terrified. It had been 10 years, then a brief stint at Valencia College – via the Direct Connect program – since I had been at University. Before, I didn’t think I’d ever be able to go back to school, to do what I loved. It was finally here. There was so much fear surrounding the ideal of being an older college student. At nearly 28, it might not seem like I am so removed from the fresh-out-of-high school teens that are enrolling now but I am. We are in two completely different generations.

I’m a Millennial. For some reason, older people forget just how old Millennials actually are. They forget that we played outside as children, most of us didn’t have the internet when we were kids, and we got dirty. They forget that we, too, had catalogues where we picked out our favorite toys hoping our parents would order them for us. They forget that we had CD players and Walkman. They forget that most of us didn’t have these fancy smartphones or our necks breaking to watch TV on iPads all day. We didn’t get those cheapie pay-as-you-go Nokia’s until we were sophomores in high school (barely). Even then you had to get a job because your mom wasn’t going to pay for the by-text fees and waiting until after 9pm, when everything was free, was too long to make plans with your friends. We weren’t using Instagram, or Facebook or spending all day on Twitter. I had Myspace and only when I snuck to get on when my mother wasn’t looking.

So, it’s different. I’m late. I’m behind the curve. I have aspirations but am quickly realizing that there are 20-year olds going for these internships I would be applying for at 30. I’m a part of a writing group with a recent UCF MFA alum, who is in her early 20s, who currently living my life – had I gone straight through like I was “supposed” to.

I want to be strong. I want to feel like I’m not too late but I’m a Millennial. I’m a part of the “graduate high school, straight to college, graduate in 4 years and into a good job by 21 then a family, and a house,” group. We are pressured to do everything so quickly. No traveling, no taking years off, no breathers, no doing “what you love”. If our lives don’t fit into that timeline we’re stuck.

That’s how I ended up here. I was pressured, by my family, into going for a degree I didn’t want because “writers don’t make any money” and “don’t you want to get a real job” or even “is that even a career”? That didn’t work out – does it ever? So here I am. 10 years later. On the cusp of 30 and crying in my car in my first week at UCF. Wiping my tears with Chik-Fil-A napkins from yesterday’s excited-to-be-on-track run. Picking myself back up. Building my confidence as a writer. Gleaning as much as I can before this opportunity is over, in case it doesn’t work out. Again.

I’m also crying because I’m a full-time student and at the same time I’m a new mother.

These first days at UCF will be the first time I am away from my four-month-old daughter, Naomi, for more than four hours. I’m terrified to be so far from her. If anything happens, I’m on the East side of town and must rush through highways, construction, and rush hour to get to her. Can I get there in time? Am I a good mother?

I’ve been told that I’m supposed to forget about myself. Lose myself. I am a Mother now. That’s how they say it. A Mother with a capital M and in bold. Mother. Does me being on campus – finally shedding the pressures of a toxic adoptive family, putting aside stereotypes about strong black women who endure it all and multitasking relationship, baby, writing, and keeping my house in order – mean that I’m not giving my daughter the attention that she deserves? Should I even be doing this? I grip the steering wheel tight and hesitate before I turn off the car. Maybe I should just go home right now. She probably needs me. Even though her father is absolutely amazing, supportive, loving, kind, and spent the last four months learning about parenting just as I have – I’m sure he’ll need help.

I turn off the car. No. I’m here for a reason. I have to do this. I made a commitment to myself and to my guy. He supports me while I am in school. Supports my dreams and my end goal. I made a commitment to the Universe. It deserves my writing. It deserves my voice. I made a commitment to the young, black foster kids who are abused and unloved. They deserve to know it’s possible to survive through it all and come out loving your life. I also made a commitment to my daughter. I want to show her that it’s never too late to do what you love. Because it’s not. Right?

No seriously, I’m asking.

I check my face in my rear-view mirror and dissolve into more tears. I look a mess. My makeup is all over the place. I never wear makeup but today I must. I’m a college student. University student with pious eyes. Everyone is young, pretty, with tight bodies – that didn’t just have babies – and long luscious hair – that isn’t falling out because of postpartum shedding. They move across campus on trim legs in droves, scattering like roaches the moment the clock marks the hour. I watch them from my swinging hammock strung up on Memory Mall, because I get to campus early, and stay very late, to avoid rush hour. Their laughter is a joyous noise unbroken by the ups and downs of life and the monotony of an unsatisfying day job. They cut through the foot traffic on their tiny skateboards (one of which I have but haven’t used because my unfit body can’t figure out how to turn corners). I sit and watch them as they shove their mouths with campus food because they’re not watching their weight as tight as they are watching their budget.

So I don’t belong here but I do. I pay my fees in late nights of homework. I hand make journals for handwritten notes in classes where I sit in the front row. After the baby is down for the night, I stay up late to write, like I am now at 2:30am, to make sure my priorities are in check. To make sure that I said I wanted to be a writer and therefore I am.

While pumping breast milk, I scratch out feedback for in-class workshops and shake my wrists to deal with the lasting effects of carpal tunnel from my pregnancy. While the food is cooking on the stove, I get in a few pages of the many required reading texts and yell “Hey! Don’t eat that” to Naomi who’s found a way to knock a rented textbook off the table and is using the spine to soothe her teething. I pick it up and put it on the counter and then later have to pay the difference because I accidentally burn a page or two.

I hold my daughter across my lap, the bottle of milk I just pumped clutched in her tiny hands, while I type out the answers to busy-work weekly discussion posts. I definitely paid after I was double-fisting open bottles of breast milk, had a squirming baby on my lap, and she kicked them and the spilled milk destroyed my MAC. I paid in the way my shins hurt going from bedrest while pregnant to walking miles everyday either on campus or on the treadmill to get my stamina back. I pay in the way I clean up my apartment every night, picking up toys and textbooks, sticky yogurt melts stuck to the carpet and highlighters, baby socks and post-it notes.

While on campus I utilize the “Nursing Room” in the Student Union in between classes so I can make sure my milk supply doesn’t dwindle. I spend the first month of school pouring the milk down the drain before the fog of mommy-brain lifts and I remember that I can bring a cooler bag with ice packs to keep the milk fresh.

I do a lap of the fitness center with my backpack, my pump bag, and my cooler before realizing that I don’t belong in this place of young energy and sickening innocence. I get a gym membership at a 24 Hour Fitness near my home because – while I belong on campus – I don’t belong in the campus gym. I feel that my insecurities won’t die there, in the presence of adults my age, only thrive.

So; I love that word – So. It leads from one thing to another. I say it so often. And, hilariously, there it is again.

So, I don’t belong here but I do. And I’m here to stay. Well, at least, until graduation. Then I’m done. My dreams are being achieved; I’m hitting my goals with every turned-in homework assignment that’s accompanied by baby puff snack stains. I’m not letting anyone tell me no, or make me go home. Even myself. I have made a commitment and although there have been many days weeping, arguing, and baby bouncing, I am happy to call myself a Knight.