A Hint of Spring

scenic view of landscape against sky

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There was something on the air that early February day.  It was a whisper of Spring despite the day being buried in an enduring and harsh winter.  There was a gentle hint of a new beginning, of fresh life, of a healing heart choosing to look up to the sun and no longer remaining frozen like the snow that buried the world that cold, dead season.

For the first time in months she wore a smile that she discovered was genuine, having unknowingly set aside the painted mask of happiness needed for daily survival over the past months.  For the first time in years she laid down the smothering baggage of a broken friendship, a relationship that she had felt defined her for so long.  That broken friendship had become an identity she wore as a shield against life, as mourning clothes, as an epitaph on her heart.  Yet for a brief moment on that chilly, sunny day she saw a life beyond the past, she saw the possibility of tomorrow, she saw hope.  For a brief moment she thought of friendship and did not mourn.

The bright sun shone on a new day, a turned page in the book of life.  She knew, in the few simple moments that he was before her, that a new chapter had begun to be written in her life.  Like the sunflowers she planted each May, she saw the possibility of a friendship growing strong and blossoming quickly.  She saw all of this as he walked across the rocky parking lot, get into his truck, and drive away.  She took a deep breath, the first breath of newborn life, for that day felt like she was born again, born out of years of blind sadness and into possibility.

He was not the one who had broken her heart in the cobweb-covered past.  He was not the one who had stolen her voice, and cast a deep shadow over her spirit.  He was not the man who had shredded the very heart that she had given him.  This man was the one that unexpectedly reopened her eyes to the future.  He was the one who had reawakened her voice.

Over the following days and weeks, she reveled in her freshly reborn smile.  She sought out again the connection of friendship that she had, for so long, fearfully shied away from.  She opened her heart again after thinking for years that an open heart would never be possible again.  She opened he heart to him.  She fearlessly made herself vulnerable to this man who had brought the Spring back to her years of Winter.  Like a child jumping into a fresh rain puddle, she jumped into his life blindly with both feet.  In return, she was rewarded by the sight of him dancing with her in that puddle.

Their connection was immediate and strong.  They were both surprised at how comfortable their friendship felt, as safe and welcoming as a soft and well-worn blanket comforting a child in a storm.  Dark clouds would try to roll into her heart and convince her that he would break her heart just as it had happened in the long-gone dusty past.  She would mutter to herself that they could not remain friends.  But the fright she experienced in dark solitude was burned away by the sunshine he flooded her life with each day.

And it all began on the February day that whispered a secret on the breeze, a secret they would both quickly learn.  It all began the day that he fell into her life, and she leaped into his.  It all began the day that Spring was a hint in the chilly winter air.

pexels-photo-196666.jpeg

Photo by picjumbo.com on Pexels.com

Heather L. Flood
07.05.2018

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Broken

She saw him standing in the parking lot, his shoulders slumped in defeat.  But what was that rigidity in his frame?
Pride?
Fear?
One moment he was beloved by all those around him.  In the very next moment he was reviled.  How quickly and carelessly, she realized, that some turned their back.
While others around her claimed that they knew all along about his illicit activities, she never suspected a thing.  She loved him, respected him, admired him, and constantly sought his approval.  He had always been good to her.  He took care of her, supported, and encouraged her.
And then her protective, rose-colored bubble exploded and destroyed everything she thought she knew.
As a spotlight was shined on all of his dark, hidden truths he was turned into a monster by everyone around her.  Her secure routine imploded as their family fell apart at the seams and reformed into something that no longer fit her.  She listened with sadness as more details of his precarious life shattered like ice.
Would he survive?
Would his bottom ever come?
Why did she feel guilty for feeling sympathy for a man being destroyed?
So as she watched him in the parking lot, leaving the only home they’d ever shared, she longed to reach out to him, to be the one gentle hand in a moment filled with hate.  She wanted to cry for the hurt she was sure was tearing him apart.
But she couldn’t.
All she could do was glue a smile on her face, bury her true feelings in her heart, and lie about her hate.
She didn’t hate him.  She pitied him.
She didn’t want to cut herself off from him.  She wanted to help him.
She didn’t want to tear him down.  She wanted to show him the way back up.
But she couldn’t.
So she turned her back on him . . . and herself . . . and never saw him again.

09.23.15

One way street: Choosing the past or the future

I’m standing in the dealership.  I’m surrounded by all the latest models filled with all the latest extras to make traveling easier and more comfortable . . . lots of cup holders, g-p-s, bluetooth, wifi . . . all the comforts of home in one little machine.  They come in all the colors of the rainbow, and if I can’t find one I like then the dealership will special order one for me.  So many to choose from.

They are separated into two groups.  Not “new” and “pre-owned” like cars, but instead “past” and “future.”  Therein lies the ultimate choice in which time machine I will pick out.  I have brochures that lay out all the specs for each and every model, each touting the benefits of looking back or looking ahead.

“Relive all the moments that were special to you.”

“Who is going to win the 2027 World Series?  Knowledge is just a push of the button away.”

But what about the moments that weren’t special to me?  What about the moments that hurt, that broke my heart, that tried to break my spirit?  Do I want to relive those moments?

What about the element of surprise?  By looking ahead would my future be affected by the fact that I already know about it?  Will I change anything in present to change something I may not like about my future?

“Prom.  Your wedding.  The day you were born.  Better than pictures.  We can take you there now!  Put the past in your hand in the blink of an eye.”

“The future doesn’t have to sneak up on you.  Take control of your destiny!”

It all sounds too good to be true!  I could relive favorite family vacations, the night my husband proposed, my first day at my first radio station.  Or I could see my son when he’s all grown up.  I could be in the know of what my step-daughters wedding dress will look like, or find out what years the Cardinals win the World Series.  Oh, the possibilities.

Time to flag down a Time Travel Specialist.  Before I can even move I am approached by a woman.  She looks tired and haggard.  She is my height and shares a vague resemblance to my father.  I stand frozen on the showroom floor.  She has a crazy look in her eyes.  I want to run, but I can’t move.  Does nobody else see her?  She is coming toward me briskly.  She is slightly hunched over but that doesn’t slow her determined gait.  My heart starts to pound as she stops inches from me.  She is staring right at me as if she is searching from something hidden in my eyes.

“It’s you,” she growls.

“What?”

“It’s you.  I’ve been waiting for you.”

“For who?  Me?  I think you are mistaken.”

“I know who you are.  I’ve been waiting for you so I can warn you.”

“Who are you?”

“I am you.”

My heart seems to stop as I notice a Time Travel Specialist moving so quickly toward me that he is almost running.  I glance back at the woman.  Her eyes have suddenly gone terrified.

“Don’t do it.  Leave here now.  Please!”

“Who are you?”

“I am you,” she whispers to me quickly.  Her eyes dart back and forth between me and the Time Travel Specialist.  “I am you.  I was here 37 years ago picking out my machine.  I went all the way back, back to the day I was born.  Don’t do it.  Leave here right now.”

“You are crazy.”

“You can’t come back.  I’ve been stuck since that day.”

“Get out of here,” a deep, forceful, male voice demands from behind me.  A hand gently, comfortingly presses into my back.  I turn around and see the man who has come to my rescue.  “Pay no attention to her, ma’am.  We get crazy people in here like her all the time making up all kinds of wild stories about getting stuck in time.”

“I’m not making it up,” the old woman spit at the man.

The man gently wrapped his arm around my shoulders.  He is nudging me away from that woman.  Why does he look a little spooked though.  I glance back at the woman.  Her head is hanging down.  She looks defeated.  She looks lost.  The man directs me into his office where the walls are all covered in pictures of the latest and sportiest models of time travel machine.

He pulls piles of paperwork from drawers and folders and we rush through it.  He is eager to make my sale and rack up his commission.  He’s spouting off the wonders of time travel as I sign my name to endless forms, waivers, and contracts.

Finally he is showing me to the model I have chosen.  The Time Travel Specialist assists me into the machine and we quickly go over the basics of operation.  Though daunting I feel comfortable behind the controls of my new toy.  I can’t wait to travel.

I look at the Time Travel Specialist and, giggling, say to him, “when this baby hits 88 miles per hour you are going to see some serious shit.”  He is looking at me with confusion.

“Ma’am, you don’t drive this machine like a car.  You just input the date you want to go to and you are there.”

I shake my head and wonder what Doc Brown and Marty would have thought about the state of time travel today.

Finally the Time Travel Specialist bids me a farewell and walks away.  It is time to travel.  I can see the old woman though.  She is standing outside the plate-glass windows of the dealership and she is staring at me.  Is that a tear I see rolling down her cheek?  I wave goodbye to her and input the date I want to go to.  I can’t wait to see that day up close and personal and not just through the stories I’ve heard of that day.  I look forward to coming back and telling my children about the day I was born.

Just as I hit the “go” button to initiate time travel I notice a small sticker on the control panel.

“All time travel is one way only.  The make of this device can not and will not be held responsible for those who get stuck or lost in a time that was undesired or was an unintended destination for long-term relocation.  This device should not be used by those who do no wish to permanently displace themselves from their current time.”

I want out.

I can’t come back.

I can’t open the door.

I am already gone.

The old woman was me . . . and now I will become her.

 

WordPress Daily Prompt:  One-Way Street

Music in the shadows (short story)

The sidewalk was cold and unyielding.  She was supposed to be at the grocery store, not sitting on the sidewalk outside of a downtown bar.  The sound of music filled the air and her head.  She could hear it from where she had parked her car two blocks away.  It drew her forward to the outdoor bar like a pied piper.

She had no urge to see him, or for him to see her.  She just wanted to hear the music.  She missed sitting in the audience and listening to him play.  That was the only thing she still missed about him.  She had spent months getting him out of her system, untangling him from her heart, but that one thing still remained . . . her love of watching him get lost in his music.  So she sat on the sidewalk just listening.

The street was dimly lit and shadows filled all the corners.  She had found a shadow to hide in so that he wouldn’t see her.  The street still teamed with late-night, weekend revelers enjoying the fading moments of their Saturday night.  Usually anxiety made her unable to be around crowds of people, but on that night she was thankful for them.  The constant flow of sharply dressed men and women acted as a curtain obscuring any view he might of had of her.

She lit a cigarette, inhaled, and let it out slowly as the notes floated through the air to her ears.  They surrounded her like a comforting blanket.  Her eyes closed as she let the music hypnotize her.  The air was cool and damp and the first hints of fog were starting to roll in off the river, but in that moment for her there was nothing else but the music.  The keyboard was light and joyous as the guitar played improvised riffs that drove people from their chairs to dance.  The bass was deep and subtle, like a whisper in her ear.  Driving it all forward was the him, the drummer.  His sticks flew over the cymbals and drum heads with lightning speed in a pattern that was simple but elegant.

Behind her closed eyes she replayed all the times she followed him from show to show.  Bars, restaurants, parks . . . anywhere he could set up and play.  For months she was faithfully in the audience until the night that she realized that he had become more important to her than anything else.  She had spent months spinning endless lies to her family, friends, and coworkers just so she could sneak away to watch him play.  He welcomed her in the audience and over time came to expect her to be in a chair clapping and cheering for him.  She let herself believe that he needed her there more than he wanted her there, but deep down she always knew that she was only lying to herself.  One night after a show she knew she had to unravel the web of lies she had woven around herself and she had to leave that life behind for good.  The music was the last vestige of that former life.  It was the one string she hadn’t gotten strong enough to cut.

So she sat on the sidewalk, her cigarette burning down to the filter, as the music wove around her like a spell.  Minutes passed unnoticed as the song continued on.  The voices of people in the street went unheard.  All she could hear was the music as it carried on and on through the night air carrying her with it.  The speeding notes became a frenzy tightening around her body like a vise that she welcomed.  Her heart and her memories raced with the speed of the song.  She didn’t need to see him to know that he was as carried away with the music as she was.  She knew that his body was no longer moving under it own accord, that it was the music that was moving him, just as it moved her.  That is what she missed.  She welcomed it the way a drug addict welcomes that first taste after a glimpse of withdraw.  She could feel the music taking her higher and higher.  She needed it.  Her body longed for it, and she let it carry her away oblivious to everything else around her.

Then it was done.

A blur of sticks flying over drum heads and a final crash of cymbals brought it to an end.

She sat for a few more moments on the sidewalk, reluctant to open her eyes and break the spell.  She didn’t want to give up the shadows and the anonymity that they provided as she allowed herself to get as lost in his music as he did.  But the music was over.  The spell was broken.  The chill in the air replaced the warmth of the music.  The voices of weekend revelers filled in the emptiness left behind by the music.  The forbidden high had already begun to wear off, lasting only as long the music carried through the air.  It was over.

She flicked her burned-down cigarette into the street, slowly stood up from the sidewalk, and walked away.  She had briefly glimpsed him, but he never saw her.  He never knew she was there that night.  It would be a secret that would remain forever between her and the shadows of that cool, hypnotic, downtown Saturday night.

Love (Weekly Writing Challenge: Fifty)

She spotted him from across the room.  Her heart raced.  Her mind emptied of every thought.  She was captivated.

Dare she speak to him?

He saw her across the room.  His heart stopped.  His mind raced with nervousness and excitement.

Dare he speak to her?

Drawn to each other.

Love.

Their End (short story)

They sat in his car, drowning in the silence.  He was waiting for her to pour out the words she needed to tell him.  It was cold in the car, the heater having not yet overcome the frigid January air.  Her body trembled with nervous fear that numbed her to the frosty bite of winter.
 
“We could go back into the store,” he suggested between chattering teeth.  “It’s a lot warmer in there.”  He stared at her, hope barely masking the confusion on his face.
 
Despite the cold her palms were sweaty.  Her heart raced and screamed at her to not say the words that her mind was hell-bent on getting out.  She took a deep breath, the exhale making a cloud in the cold air between them.  She looked into his beautiful hazel eyes, trying to get one last memory of him before his eyes turned hard and hateful against her.  She hesitated.  She knew what her words would do to him, but she was ready to live with the consequences.
 
“I consider the day I met you to be one of the greatest days of my life,” she started weakly.  “There was just something about you that pulled me to you.  I could feel fate pushing me to you in a way that I had never felt before.”
 
“Watching me play my drums got you all hot and excited,” he joked, trying to lighten her mood.  She gave him a half-hearted smile.
 
“We became friends and I thought that was all I would ever be to you.  I also thought I was alright with just being friends.  You make me smile and laugh.  You let me watch you play and be your groupie fangirl.  I love being with you when we go out for lunch.”
 
She suddenly went silent.  She knew she could still put the brakes on the rollercoaster in her head.  She knew she could give him a smile and a hug and everything would be alright.  But she also knew that everything wouldn’t be alright.  He would go back inside to work and she would go home with a heart that still ached for him.  She knew that she had to stop the ache and the only way to do that was to break her own heart, and his.  She knew she had to let him go.
 
“I’m glad we’re friends, also,” he assured her as he searched her eyes for what she was hiding from him.
 
“The thing is,” she whispered, her head hanging low and her hair hiding her face, “I want more than just friends.  I want more than just lunch and a hug.  I want more than to be your groupie fangirl.  I want to be with you, Bobby.”
 
He sighed and leaned back against his door.  She stared at him, searching his face for what she hoped he would say.  Instead she saw the wall come down between them.  His truth hung in the air between them like a oppresive weight.  It stabbed at her heart.  Her tears froze in her eyes in the cold car and all she wanted to do was run away from him.  She wanted to take her words back and bury them in her frozen heart and run away from him until she no longer loved him.
 
“Heather, I will always consider you a friend.  I appreciate all of your support when you come out to watch me play.  I can’t give you what you want though.  I just don’t see you that way.  I’m sorry.  But we’ll always be friends.”
 
He opened his arms to her for a hug.  Her body longed to fall into his warm and comfortable embrace.  She wanted to lay her head on his chest, close her eyes, and listen to the steady, strong beat of his heart.  She silently wondered if it would calm the frantic speed of her own heart.
 
She didn’t move.  She couldn’t move.  There was no turning back from what her heart had started.  She got into his car with a goal of easing her aching heart.  She had only broken it more, but she knew that the only way out was to keep moving forward.
 
Pain and rejection crossed his face as his arms fell to his lap.  She could see that he knew she wasn’t done, and it killed her to know that he knew what was coming.
 
“You’ve never rejected a hug from me before.”
 
“I can’t do this anymore, Bobby,” she said weakly as she cast her eyes to the floor.  Her fingers tangled nervously in her hair.  Her heart pounded in her chest as frightened adrenaline surged through her chest.  She wondered how much a heart could take before it finally just exploded.
 
“You can’t do what anymore?  Please tell me that you can’t stay in this car anymore,” he joked, trying to distract her from herself.  “I’m freezing.  Can we please go inside.  If we are friends at all you will let us go in the store where it is warm.”
 
“I can’t do this anymore, Bobby.”
 
He searched her face, but she kept it hidden behind her hair.  “What are you talking about, Heather?”
 
A tear slid down her cheek as the words slid from her mouth.  “I don’t think I can be your friend anymore.”  She felt her heart shatter in her chest.  She wanted to scream at herself to shut up, to beg him to ignore the words she had just said, to fall into his hug and pretend that nothing was wrong with her.  All of that would have been easier than leaving the truth her mouth had just spoken between them.
 
“Are you having some weird girly moment,” he laughed nervously.  “Do I need to give you chocolate and back away slowly?  You are crazy, but that’s why we’re friends.”  The smile fell from his lips when he saw her tears.  “You aren’t kidding, are you?”
 
She just shook her head slowly.
 
“You’re serious, aren’t you?”
 
She nodded her head.  There was no turning back.
 
“What do you mean you can’t do this anymore, Heather?  This is exactly why I never trust people,” he growled.
 
She watch anger tighten his body as he closed himself off to her.  His arms folded across his chest as a shield against her.  She had expected his reaction, but it was still painful to witness.
 
“I didn’t mean to hurt you, Bobby.  That was the last thing I ever wanted to do to you.  I know that you don’t trust people as a rule and that you believe that everyone is going to hurt you.  I never wanted to hurt you.  But what about all the times you have hurt me?”
 
“I have never intentionally hurt you,” he spat at her, his voice filled with ice and venom.
 
“Maybe not intentionally, but I have cried over you more times than you will ever know.”
 
“It’s not my fault you are so sensitive.”
 
“You’re right.  It’s not your fault.  But what is your fault is your callous, selfish, insensitive heart.  You claim to be so lonely, but you push away everyone who tries to climb over your wall.  You do it because you think you are protecting yourself from getting hurt.”
 
“I should have protected myself from you.  Then we wouldn’t be sitting here right now.”
 
“Yeah, because a life spent alone is so much better than a life spent with someone who cares about you,” she threw at him, sarcasm dripping from every word.
 
“You’re right.  It is.  I wish I’d never met you,” he spit at her hatefully, his eyes holding hers in a vice grip.
 
All of the air was forced from her body as his words hit her like bricks.  She felt like she had been slapped across the face.  All she could do was stare at him with anger and disbelief.
 
“In all the moments that you made me angry or cry I never,” she raged at him, “never wished I hadn’t met you.”
 
“Then why don’t you want to be friends anymore,” he begged her, momentarily allowing his broken heart to show.
 
“Because I love you, Bobby.  I fell in love with you so fast and so hard.”  She tried reaching out a hand to touch him.  She wanted to ease his heart, and her own also.
 
“Don’t fucking touch me,” he yelled at her as he jerked his body away from her touch.
 
“Bobby, please believe that I never wanted to hurt you,” she pleaded.
“Yeah, well, you did hurt me.  I hope you are happy with yourself.  You made me trust you.  You made me believe that you were different from everybody else in my life.  I should have known better.  You can bet that is a mistake I will never make again.”
 
She took a deep breath and fought to keep control over everything that was rushing through her.  She bit back her words of anger.  She swallowed the sad pleas for forgiveness.
 
“I love you, Bobby.  I want nothing more than to see you happy . . . “
 
“What would make me happy is if you got out of my car.”
 
” . . . but trying to make you happy is eating me alive.  I’ve lost myself in your world.  You hold my heart, Bobby, but it means nothing to you.  You said so yourself that you don’t love me.”
 
“Did you want me to lie to you?”
 
“Your truth would have come out eventually, just as mine did.  Actually, I think I’ve always known that you never loved me, that you never could.  I don’t know if you can love anyone, because love involved trust . . . “
 
“. . . and nobody can be trusted,” he finished for her, “including you.”
 
“I’m sorry that you feel that way about me.  I tried to be the person that helped rebuild your trust in people.  Would you rather I had lied to you today?”
 
“I’d rather you get out of my car.  I don’t need you.  I never needed you.  Get out!”  His rage boiled just below the surface of his control.
 
“Bobby, please listen to me,” she begged.
 
“Get out of my fucking car!”
 
“I’ll remind you that you had a choice whether or not to befriend me.”
 
“I never had a choice.  You forced your way into my life.”
 
“The night we met you could have let my leave and never said a word to me, but you did say something.  Do you remember what you said to me?”  Bobby stared at her with fire in his eyes and ice in his heart.  “Do you remember what you said,” she prodded.
 
“I said ‘I thought we were friends,'” he mumbled, casting his gaze out the window, “but that is not the foundation for a friendship.”
 
“No, but it was all the encouragement that I needed.  A while later I sent you that message on Facebook.  You could have ignored me, but you didn’t.  You wanted us to be friends as much as I did.”
 
“Yeah, and look at where it got me.  We were friends and now you don’t want to be anymore.  I should have ignored you.”
 
“Bobby, I know that somewhere inside of you there is a heart, and I know it is hurting right now.  For that I am very sorry.  I have to do this for me though.  I hurt every single day because I love you and I can’t stop it.  I am tired of wishing and hoping for something that will never happen.  You are not the only one who is hurting me, Bobby.  I am hurting myself and I’ve got to stop it.”
 
“And you called me selfish,” he mumbled, his face still turned toward the window and away from her.
 
“I’m sorry that you feel that way,” she said softly, sadly.  “If I don’t do it this way then I would have eventually started to hate you.  I never want to look back and hate you.  You mean too much to me.”
 
“That’s too bad because all I will see when I look back is the cold, heartless, bitch that you turned out to be”
 
“It didn’t have to be like this, Bobby.”
 
“Yes, it did, Heather.  We were always destined to end up here.”
 
She opened her arms to him, hoping for one last hug.  He stared at her coldly.
 
“Get out of my car.  You are no longer welcome in my life.”  The finality in his voice cemented closed the fate that she had set in motion.
 
“Bobby . . . “
 
“Get out,” he demanded.
 
“I’m sorry,” she whispered as she fought back fresh tears.  She looked at him for a minute longer, hoping he would turn his eyes her way one last time, but he didn’t.  He kept his face turned away from her and that would be her last memory of him.
 
She reached for the handle and opened the door.  The cold January night air bit at her tears.  She stepped out of the car and closed the door gently.  He never turned to look at her.
 
“I’m sorry, Bobby,” she whispered into the frozen night wind.  She hoped that one day her words would find their way to his heart.
 
She got into her own car and drove away for the final time from the music store that he worked at.  She hoped that store would bring him as much solace as it had brought him joy since she’d met him.  She turned out of the parking lot into the road.  She glanced into her rearview mirror hoping for one last glimpse of him.  She never noticed the oncoming traffic until it was too late.
 
The truck his her in the driver’s side door.  She was killed on impact.
Bobby went back into the store.  He never turned around at the sound of the car accident, and he never thought of Heather ever again.
 
By:  Carrie Leigh
01.29.14
 

This short story actually ended up being a bit prophetic.  This is essentially how the conversation went with the drummer a week ago minus the car accident and death.  I wrote this back in January and lost it.  I forgot about it until I found it in one of my MANY notebooks a few days ago.  It freaked me out just a bit at how similar this story was to how the actual conversation ended up going a month and a half after I wrote this.

If you can guess what I have in my pocket, you can have it.

I was scrolling through my Facebook feed this morning, putting off the inevitable need to actually do some work.  I follow the Facebook page for Writer’s Digest and they had a post for a writing competition.  There were two requirements for submitting a short story

1.  The short story had to be 750 or less.  ( I am not known for brevity with words.)

2.  The short story had to start with the following sentence . . .  “If you can guess what I have in my pocket, you can have it.”

I stared at the post for a minute or two wondering if I could write anything, if I should write anything.  I wondered what kind of others short stories I would be up against if I were to submit anything.  Then I thought that the worst that can happen is that they read my story and set it aside, but even that will never happen if I don’t submit anything.  I can’t get read if I don’t put my writing out there to be read.  I opened up Word on my computer and started to type.  CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!!!!

This was my submission . . .

If you can guess what I have in my pocket, you can have it.  It may be small to you, but it is huge to me.  It encompasses everything that I am and everything I hope to be.  It has no dollar value, but it is priceless in my eyes.  What I have in my pocket I have carried since I was a child and I will carry with me until the day I die.  Do you have any guesses yet?  Do you know what is in my pocket?
 
I found it one day while skipping through life.  It appeared in front of me and said, “Carry me with you always.  Keep me close to your heart.  I will show you where you need to go.”  So it lives in my pocket so that when I get lost I can be reminded of where I need to be.
 
I once tried to describe it to a friend but it seemed that my friend already had one of his own.  His was not exactly like mine.  His was a different shape and color, but his was there to lead him to where he needed to be also.  He doesn’t keep his in his pocket.  He keeps his on a chain close to his heart.  How are those guesses coming along?  Do you have anything yet?
 
Let me tell you a little bit about myself, and then maybe that will give you a hint as to what is in my pocket.  I am a woman.  I am a mom.  I am an appreciator of music, pretty pictures, and a warm hug.  I am an optimist.  I look at the world and see joy in even the littlest things.  I love to laugh and try to help others find happiness as well.  I am a firm believer in following your dreams and I will do anything I can to help you achieve them.  I had people help me along the way to my achievements and see myself as paying the good deed forward.  I see great things for you.  I see possibility and promise.  Do you know what is in my pocket?
 
I have misplace the item in my pocket a few times in my life.  When I lost my grandmother to Cancer I sat on the floor at work and cried.  I reached into my pocket to make sure that what had been there for so long was still there, but it was gone.  I didn’t know where I had lost it and didn’t know where to begin to look for it.  I mourned my grandmother for a long time.  As the sunshine started to slowly return to my days I would occasionally reach into my pocket out of habit.  One day I discovered that the secret thing in my pocket had come back.  It was small and it was weak but it was there.  Over time it regained its previous size and strength.
 
Another time I got into a really bad fight with my best friend.  I was the world to me, and a simple miscommunication brought that world crashing down around my feet.  He and I didn’t speak for almost five months.  My heart was broken.  I didn’t know how to get through the days without him.  I reached for the secret in my pocket the way a child would reach for the comfort of a soft blanket, but just like when my grandmother passed away, my hidden item was gone.  It had disappeared without a sound.  There was nothing left of it.  The loss of my best friend and the lost of my most treasured item left my heart empty and broken.  I didn’t know how to go on without the two things I needed most to survive.
 
My best friend and I eventually made up.  There were tearful apologies and healing hearts.  My world came back together.  But did the item in my pocket come back?  Just like after the healing started after I lost my grandmother I reached into my pocket one day and there was the item again.  It was bigger and stronger than it had ever been.  It shined and sparkled.  It lights my way when the road seems dark.  It keeps me going when I have nothing else.
 
So what is the item in my pocket?  Do you know?
 
In my pocket I have everything I need to keep my heart going and my dreams alive.
 
In my pocket I have hope.
 

For something that I wrote in about twenty minutes on a whim just to see if I had the courage to submit to a writing competition I am happy with the finished product.  It felt good to plant the seed given with the lead sentence and to see what my mind could make grow from that.  It was fun to write it and I will do it again.  I seriously doubt that anything will come from my little submission but . . .

In my pocket I have hope.

Cut (a short story)

This is a short story from within my book, “written” by the main female character.  I had forgotten that I put this story in my book and rediscovered it last night as I was editing.  It scared me a bit when I wrote this since I am normally a pretty happy-go-lucky writer.  I guess we all sometimes climb into the darker side of our brain.

 
Cut
By:  Carrie Leigh

She stood in front of the mirror, hairbrush in hand, one errant tear slowly finding a path down her cheek.  She woke up to bright sunshine but could not feel its warmth.  The clouds in her heart left a chill in her soul as hard and heavy as steel.  The words were replaying in her head, over and over again, like one his damned records that he was always listening too.  She had tried dragging him into the 21st century, but he remained staunch in his dedication to what he called “the beautiful music of white noise.”  She would have given anything to hear that white noise again instead of the cold voice that ripped her from sleep and shattered her world that morning.

“He’s gone,” she heard with heartless finality.

He was gone.  He’d left her when he promised that he never would.  He’d left her alone in a world filled with reminders of him, but she didn’t want reminders.  She wanted him.  She wanted him alive and well.  She wanted him beautiful and laughing.  She wanted his arms around her and her head on his strong chest.  She wanted to be with him.

Anger surged through her like a tidal wave as she hurled her hairbrush at the mirror, shattering the glass all around her.  Razor sharp shards rained down as her anger grew.  She screamed at the top of her lungs, painful broken shrieks, not caring who heard her.  She wanted everyone to hear her screaming, to feel her broken heart, to hear her pain.

She knew how he did it.  She didn’t even have to ask the voice on the other end of the phone.  He’d told her his plan on dark nights when the shadows crept into his eyes and his world dragged him under trying to drown him.  She thought she’d brought him out of the dark and never thought he’d actually go through with it.  She failed.  She knew it.  She failed him when he really needed her, and she knew there was only one way to get back to him, to pay for her ultimate failure.

Her voice was going hoarse as her anger and heartache continued to pour out in her anguished screams.  Her fingers tangled into her hair as she ripped and tore at it as hard as she could.  To feel that pain was better than feeling the pain in her shattered heart.  Shards of glass pierced her feet as she crossed the floor, throwing herself into one wall and then another.  Glass dug under her fingernails as she ripped at her hair.  Blood trickled from her hands and down her face and across the floor.  Blood poured from the cuts on her feet leaving a horrific trail that followed every move she made.  She caught a glimpse of herself in a small surviving piece of the mirror on the wall.

“Is this what he looked like last night?  Is this what became of his beautiful face after the bullet ripped through it?”

She knew that his injuries were far worse than anything some small shard of glass could do to her.  Her voice calmed.  Her bloody fingers slid from her hair.  She surveyed the damage to the mirror that lay in pieces all over the floor.  She knew what she was looking for.  She just had to find the perfect one.  Her racing heartbeat relaxed.  Her rage calmed.  Her heavy breathing slowed as she eyed the floor.  Then she spotted it shining back at her with answer to her broken heart.  It would silence the persistent voice that kept repeating those two hateful words.

“He’s gone.”

            “HE’S gone.”

                        “HE’S GONE!”

She stared at it as it reflected possibility and new hope.  She could see him again, beautiful and alive.  She could see the twinkle in his eye and hear his laughter.  She could feel the warmth and comfort of his arms.  She could see him waiting for her.   She could see him beckoning her to join him in that perfect piece of glass on the floor.  Its edges were as sharp as the edges of her shattered heart, but she knew that piece of glass could take away the agony that her heart-felt.

Slowly she bent down to pick it up.  It felt cold and heavy in her hand.  It felt as lifeless as he was.  She knew it would do the job perfectly.  Her mind cleared as blood still trickled from her fingers and dripped onto the stark white tile floor like warm spring rain.  She knew she would soon see him again and she smiled.

She lifted the perfect piece of glass in front of her face and she could see him again.  She could see him smiling at her with his arms open in an invitation to join him.  He was waiting for her to come to him.  She knew she had to go to him immediately.

The glass slid across her neck like a hot knife through butter.  Her precious, life-giving blood poured from her forming a red lake around her feet.  She quickly grew weak.  She fell to the floor as blood continued to flow from her neck.  She could see him in front of her as the perfect piece of glass fell from her hand.

She could see the look of horror on his face as he rushed to her, screaming her name.  Quickly he pressed a towel to her neck trying to stop the blood, trying to save her.

“I thought you were gone,” she whispered weakly.  “I was coming to meet you.”

“Meet me?  What are you talking about?  I never went anywhere.”

“I got a call this morning.  She told me that you were gone,” her whisper growing fainter.

Before he could say anything else he lost her.  He sat on the floor cradling her body in a lake of her life.  He stared at her, his heart shattered, disbelief on his face, and her head in his hands as an errant tear made a path down his cheek.

Across the room (short story)

She saw him from across the room.  Her eyes, which had been merely scanning everyone, caught on him and couldn’t move.  She was captivated by him.  His warm and uninhibited smile.  His gentle eyes.  The comfort and ease with which he seemed to own the room.  She watched him throw his head back in laughter, so carefree.  His laughter rang like music in her ears, erasing the loneliness in her heart.  For so long she had lived her life alone.  She kept herself wrapped in a safe bubble that she didn’t allow anyone to breach.  But then she saw him.

She wanted to talk to him.  She wondered if his voice would make her heart race the same way his eyes did.  Then his eyes slowly slid to meet hers.  Every thought escaped her as she stood frozen by the intensity of his stare.  A smile curled his full lips.  She wondered if they were as soft as they looked and briefly imagined feeling them against hers.  She felt the blush rise in her cheeks.  Embarrassed, she cast her eyes tot the floor and turned to walk away.  She knew that he could see what she was thinking.

Throughout the rest of the night she found herself sneaking glimpses at him.  Every time her eyes moved toward him she was caught by his warm eyes and gentle smile.  She wondered what it would feel like to be wrapped in his arms, to lay her head against his chest.  She felt the heat rise in her cheeks again.  She wondered if he could see her desire for him, the beautiful and confident stranger, on her face.

She turned her back to him, hiding her face from him.  As she mentally scolded herself for allowing her attraction to be so apparent on her face she didn’t hear him come up behind her.  She nearly jumped out of her skin when she felt a hand on her arm.  She turned to look and it was him.  His beautiful brown eyes were holding hers and she wanted to fall into them.  He smiled at her and felt her bubble disappear.  She smiled back at him.  His hand slid down her arm to her hand and his fingers threaded through hers.  His hands were warm and strong and held hers confidently.  She felt safe.

She let him lead her to a table in the room.  He pulled out her chair for her so that she could sit.  He sat close to her, so close that their bodies were almost touching.  He introduced himself and his voice was just the way she imagined it.  They talked like nobody else was in the room, like they were the only people left in the world.  His eyes never left her and hers never left him.

When the evening was over and it came time to part ways he walked her to her car.  They made plans for dinner the next night and he opened his arms.  With no hesitation she allowed herself to be enveloped by his strong embrace.  Her head against his chest, his arms wrapped tightly around her.

Her heart felt at home.

Breaking hearts (short story)

She looked into his blue eyes, eyes that were always haunted and guarded, eyes that were always filled with pain.  The eyes that glared back at her, once warm and inviting, were cold and hard.  The kind smile that he used to have for her was gone.  His entire face was set like stone.  No trace of their friendship remained to warm his face.

“Leave me alone.  I don’t need or want you in my life anymore.”

The ice in his deep voice cut her straight to her heart making her stagger back from him in pain.  Tears threatened to fall from her eyes but she fought them back.  She didn’t want him to see her cry.  She had been hurt by much worse people in her life, but she had never been hurt by a person she cared for as much as she cared for him.  She could feel her heart shatter as the finality of his words sunk in.  She reached out a hand to his chest.  She wanted to feel his heartbeat to make sure that he still had a heart.  He stepped back from her as if her touch burned him.

“Where did my best friend go,” she asked him, barely above a whisper.

“He’s gone.  I’ve spent too long screwing up my life and taking advice from you about how to fix it without listening to any of it.  My life is all fucked up now and I need to fix it, but I need to do this alone.  This is not about you.  Just leave me alone.”

She cringed, his words like a slap across her face.  “This isn’t about me,” she asked him, her voice suddenly cold as her anger flared.  “You stand there in front of me and tell me to leave you alone, that you don’t want or need me anymore, and then you dare say that this isn’t about me?  It wasn’t about me until you said that.  You are my best friend,” she yelled at him, her tears flowing freely.  “You are like a brother to me.  I have been there for you every fucking time that you have called, because that is what a friend does.  A person does not pick and choose when it’s convenient for them to be a friend.  A friend does not throw someone away the way you are doing to me right now.”  Turning her back to him she buried her face in her hands and fought back a rage-filled scream.

“I appreciate everything you have done for me over the last few years.”

Spinning back around to face him she level her eyes at him.  Anger and betrayal filled her voice as she spit her words at him.  “Fuck you.  You don’t appreciate anything I’ve done for you.  You took and took and took until you didn’t need me anymore.  Now that I have nothing left to offer you I’m out.  That’s how it works with you, isn’t it?”

“You’re making too much out of this,” his voice calm and detached as he stood in front of her, his arms folded across his chest in a show of detached defiance.

“Do not ever tell me how to feel.  My best friend just told me that he doesn’t need me anymore, and then he says that I am overreacting by getting upset.  I think I am allowed to overreact just a little bit.  I gave you my heart the day we became friends and you just killed it.  I don’t know who you are anymore.”

“Neither do I,” he mumbled to himself.

“I want my friend back.  You can take the selfish asshole that you’ve become and go to hell.”  Her eyes glared with fire as she stared at him daring him to say anything back to her.  “I don’t need or want you in my life anymore,” she growled and watched him recoil from her.

“You are a heartless bitch,” he whispered, his gaze cast to the floor between them.

Stepping so close to him that her body was almost touching his she forced him to meet her fierce stare.  “You made me this way,” she spat.

“I just need to do this alone.”

“Well, you certainly guaranteed that, didn’t you?  Go off and find yourself.  I hope your solitude is what makes you happy.  Finding happiness is all I ever wanted for you.”

“I never wanted to hurt you,” he said to her gently, his eyes pleading with her for understanding.

“Well then I guess you failed, because you did hurt me.”

He tried to pull her into a hug.  She fought against herself to fall into his open arms, to lay her head against his chest, to close her eyes and breathe in his familiar and comforting scent.  His arms wrapped around her rigid body while her arms remained at her sides.

“You were a great friend to me,” he whispered as his cheek rested on top of her head.  “You have always meant so much to me.”

“Then why don’t you want me in your life anymore,” she pleaded, anger falling away from her as the comfort of their friendship rush back into her heart.

“It’s just time for me to be alone now.”

She reached her arms up, slowly placed her hands on his chest, took a deep breath and pushed herself out of his final embrace.

“Being alone doesn’t fix your problems.  Being alone just helps you hide from them.”

They stood apart, the distance between them was a chasm that neither could find a reason to close.  Their silence was filled with the memories of laughter and tears, the ghost of their friendship.  He cast his eyes to the floor as if looking into the past then slowly slid his gaze up to meet hers.

“Goodbye.”

He turned and walked away.