Mary Pickford

Chuck’s flash fiction challenge on Friday was a cocktail as your title.  This was a rough one for me.  I didn’t re-roll as I might have a few weeks ago, but I definitely had to look it up because I had never heard of it before.  I came up with the following, 1500 words exactly:

Mary Pickford

Hollywood actress extraordinaire, Gillian Darling, twirled in front of the full length mirror, her white floor-length dress billowing out and around her, wispy soft and ephemeral. If only it made her smile the way such actions used to. Her critical eye took in the ever growing folds and wrinkles – flesh that resisted fitting into long tight dresses.

The ice in her glass clinked as she picked it up and took a long swallow. She couldn’t remember which number she was on, three… four maybe. It would take even more to get through the night, she realized.

Gillian Darling wasn’t her real name. It was one of those made up names that supposedly sounded sophisticated but really came off as ludicrously childish. She didn’t miss her old name, far from it. She had abandoned it long ago, choosing instead to play the part, even behind closed doors.

She fell in love with silent movies as a child and swore she would be just like Mary Pickford when she grew up. Her chestnut curls and sweetheart face were her ticket and it wasn’t long before she found comparisons in newspaper reviews. She didn’t realize she would also adopt the deep sadness and paranoia that shrouded the silent film star, all in a quest for perfection that a woman in Hollywood rarely achieved. Tonight was slightly different. She had been nominated for an Academy Award for her newest movie and she was joining the glitz and glamour that came from walking the red carpet, on display once again.

“Your stylist has arrived, my dear.” Gene was at the door. At least he respected the fact that it was closed. Normally he didn’t.

“Send her away. I’m already dressed.”

“Are you certain that’s wise?” His words were clipped, disapproval hanging in the air like vaporous clouds after a storm.

“I do believe I’m capable of dressing myself.” The words came out sharper than she intended, but it was too late to take them back. Ah well, time for another drink. She needed it in order to brave that step out of the safety of her room and into the empty expanse of waiting limousines and adoring crowds.

She went to the side table that contained her bar – rum and freshly squeezed pineapple juice. She had no idea who did it, but it was one of her few requests; it had to be authentic. She would have thanked whoever it was – most likely someone working in the kitchen – but Gene didn’t allow her to associate with them. She poured another drink into her empty martini glass, mostly rum with a splash of juice. Most people added cherry, but she preferred it like the original. If she was going to emulate her idol, might as well do it properly. She probably should have shaken it over ice too, but what was the point?

She took a sip as she walked back to look in the mirror hanging on the wall behind the vanity. She leaned in and stared at her reflection. Her glorious honey hair was caught back in a loose chignon, curls falling around her face adding to her delicate beauty. At least, that’s what she imagined they would say. More often than not, she only saw an ugly old horse staring back at her, expertly applied makeup notwithstanding.

Noticing most of her lipstick had made its way onto her martini glass, she reached for the tube to re-apply it. Brave Red, her favorite color. She had to admit, it contrasted nicely with her intensely blue eyes. As if she had to be brave in order to wear the color, she thought about it and wondered if she was. Most likely, she was just as much a coward as anyone. After deftly applying more, she drew her lips into a pucker and air-kissed her reflection.

Downing the rest of her drink, she set the glass on the vanity table with a clink. She grabbed her clutch, made sure everything she needed was inside, and took a deep breath. “Well, kid, here goes nothing.”

She opened up the bedroom door and stepped out.

“What the hell are you wearing?” Predictably, Gene was waiting for her and he grabbed her arm in a painful grip.

“Darling, I’m not wearing a shawl tonight. If you leave bruises, I’ll have no way of hiding them.” She didn’t bother to turn her head in his direction, just continued staring straight ahead. She had known wearing this dress would be unacceptable. Good. She wanted him to squirm, even if it was only for a few hours. Surprisingly, he let go of her arm and she continued walking down the hall, not bothering to make sure he was following.

The limousine ride was silence thick with unspoken venom. She stared out the window with her hands folded peacefully in her lap, belying the tremor that had started in her belly. The tremor only grew when she stepped out of the limousine onto a sea of red. Inhaling deeply, she allowed years of training to take over as she gracefully donned her persona like a favorite brassiere. Turning and smiling for the waiting cameras, she made her way down the carpet surrounded by bright flashing lights and the sound of fans’ screams echoing in her alcohol soaked brain.

Sooner than she realized possible, she was escorted inside to her seat, Gene pulling out her chair in a show of loving chivalry he only turned on when cameras were present. She ordered a drink as soon as she was seated. Gene leaned close, smiling for those sitting at the table with them. “You’ve had enough.” His mouth was so close to her ear she could feel the heat of his breath.

She burst out in a full-throated laugh, turning heads and raising eyebrows. She patted his hand and continued smiling as she picked up the drink the waiter had just placed in front of her and took a deep long drink. On a normal night, she would not have dared. Tonight was different. If her name was called, which was almost guaranteed, she had already made her plans and they did not include going home with Gene.

The night seemed endless, each moment blurring into the next. If she cared, she would have noticed the grim lines on Gene’s face growing deeper and more rigid as drink after drink was ordered and placed in front of her. She enjoyed each and every one like it was her first drink of water after a long walk across the desert. Worries of how she planned on actually making it to the stage if her name was called were replaced by bright colors swimming across her vision. They became butterflies she gleefully chased through a meadow on a hot summer day; fireworks on a warm summer night and she was a child, joyful and innocent, watching the lights explode in a star-filled sky.

“The nominees for an actress in a leading role…” Her head snapped up. She wasn’t ready. She couldn’t go through with it. Who was she to think she was brave enough. Before she knew what was happening, her name was called and she didn’t have a chance to gear up for what came next. Her decision had already been made.

Everything slowed down so that each movement was an eternity and the clapping hands that gave sound to each motion clamored and warped into her final, fatal symphony. Instead of delicately rising and hugging those around her, she reached into her clutch and grabbed the contents she had placed so reverently in its depths before leaving her bedroom. Slowly, she lifted her drink and downed the white mound in her palm. Gene had risen and was pulling her arm in an attempt to get her to stand. Shrugging him off, she placed both her hands on the table and slowly rose of her own accord, preferring to play the role in her final show on her own terms.

She didn’t bother putting on the heels she had kicked off at some point during the night. She made the short walk to the stage barefoot, her long dress brushing the carpet, sweeping away each footfall in a whisper of erasure. Would she have time to make a coherent speech before it worked its magic? She could hear her own breathing in time to her beating heart, all other sound dimming in comparison. She focused on putting one foot in front of the other and somehow made it to the podium.

Feeling strangely invigorated and clear, she looked out over the crowd and realized she had picked the perfect moment. Most of her life had been on display, why not this one. The sides of her mouth rose in an angelic smile that softened her face and lit her eyes from within. She was still smiling as her body tilted and then crashed heavily onto the stage amidst shocked screams and erupting pandemonium.

Advertisements

My Story #yesallwomen

I was sitting on the train this morning when I came across this post my daughter shared on Facebook.  I first came across #yesallwomen when Chuck Wendig wrote about issues surrounding it on his blog.  His post started my thought process, then reading the one today pretty much threw me over the edge.  I can’t say I was sobbing on the train, but to say tears welled up in my eyes and I had such an influx of emotion that I felt ready to burst would be just about right.

I don’t own a twitter account, but I feel strongly compelled to share some of my experiences.  So many women have already done it and I applaud each and every one because it isn’t easy.  It especially isn’t easy when you receive the kind of comments and feedback that are happening on the Twitter feed.   Don’t think this is easy for me either, because it isn’t.  Even as I sit here, I’m wondering if this will stay a draft or if I should really do that thing where I hit “Publish” and send it out into the big bad world of people scrutinizing it and judging it either good or bad, right or wrong.  At this point, I’m not sure what the answer is, but if I knew for certain my story could help just one person, I wouldn’t hesitate.  In her article linked to above, Janne Robinson wrote, “I do identify as being an activist, and an advocate for human rights.”  I believe I fall into this category as well and if I can do one small thing, then I will, even if it matters not at all in the sum total of everything.

The sad thing is, when I started thinking about #yesallwomen,  I wasn’t really sure if I was “one of those” women or not.  But even from just the few posts I’ve read from the Twitter feed, I realize I have more experiences, more stories than I’m going to mention here – when I titled the piece “My Story” it is really only small snippets, moments among many that have happened in my life.  In fact, the more I thought of it, the more I remembered; the more I realized I have behaviors that are directly related to these experiences.  Some of the experiences happened in public places, but far too many of them were men I loved and trusted.

I walk about two blocks from the train to get to work every morning and yesterday morning I accidentally made eye contact with a guy walking in the opposite direction.  I gave him a small smile of acknowledgement then quickly put my head down.  He proceeded to make a point of  looking directly at me and said “Good Morning”.  I looked up and mumbled good morning than walked a little faster the rest of the way to work.  It is heartbreaking to me that I have been taught to be cautious on the street; that god forbid I make eye contact with a man lest he take it as some sort of invitation; how when he said something, my stomach jumped into my throat and it actually scared me; how I questioned his motives in simply saying good morning to me.  But honestly, we (all women) have been trained to be this way.  We have learned to be cautious and to not give too much lest it be taken in ways we don’t mean.

I have had men lean out of cars and cat-call nasty shit to me, whistle at me, you name it, just for walking down the street.  I’ve been that woman who said NO but it happened anyway. You really do think all the things you hear: he’s my boyfriend/husband and we do this all the time; what’s the point in fighting; let’s just get it over with so I can get the hell out of here or go to sleep; maybe I pushed him too far and he really can’t stop… I pushed him too far, like I have more power than he does over his sexual drive simply by my femininity.  It has happened several times and one of those times I was drunk and barely coherent enough to put up a fight, but I did say NO and I damn well know I didn’t participate in any way, shape or form.  He was drunk too… I told myself all the excuses, but should there be even one excuse for it?  I’ve also read that this shouldn’t be considered rape.  And the sad thing is, I’m on the borderline of thinking it isn’t either.  Because it wasn’t violent… Because it was someone I trusted and loved…

But looking back, I still felt violated.  I still felt like something happened that shouldn’t have.

I was working a few years ago as an administrative manager in a sales office.  We used to call it working in hell because there were pretty much zero redeeming qualities about it, except they paid relatively well and I kept telling myself there was no way I would find another job paying what I was making there without a degree and the type of work I do.  There were two salesmen who started within a few months of each other (they were brothers) and right away, all the women realized these two had no sense of personal space.  I cannot tell you how many times I told both of them to back up, to not touch me, to not say those things to me.  I never went to HR, because, I don’t know… I handled it.  I have a voice.  I can tell them to fuck off, and I did.  So. Many. Times.  One day, I was helping one of them and he was grateful for the help and I guess he thought he would thank me by rubbing my shoulders. Now, you might think this is pretty innocuous behavior, but it made me feel uncomfortable so I asked him to please stop.  He put up his hands and spluttered some halfwit apology and then he proceeded to say “I didn’t know…”  Which pissed me off.  I ended up raising my voice – I had told him multiple times and of course he knew and blah blah blah.  Once he left my office, I let the matter go because, status quo, and again, I had dealt with it.  The guy ended up telling his boss, no idea why, and I ended up in HR.  But not for the reasons you would think.  They did the obligatory are you okays and what happened routine, then proceeded to ask me if I had yelled at him.  Later the same day, he had come back to my office to ask about his SPIF money, which I happened to be in charge of,  and I snapped at him.  I did.  I’m not going to lie.  I was tired, he was still on my shit list for sexually harassing me, I was overworked and buried up to my eyeballs… I could count the reasons.  Anyway, I ended up getting in trouble.  I was told he had been talked to as well, but it struck me as utter bullshit because it screamed to me of retaliation and they bought into it.  Poor guy… he was short on funds and wasn’t making money and somehow I’m supposed to be sensitive and nice even though he can walk around invading my personal space, touching me and saying vile shit to me, but that’s okay because… I don’t know…  It isn’t okay, but the message I got from that employer was, you can’t be angry.  You can’t snap at them, even when they cross the line, especially when you cross the line too, even though you had ample reason to be angry.  So I continue to ask myself, did I really cross the line? Really?

I was told by my first boyfriend that it was my fault we had gone too far because I decided to wear leggings (we were Christian and not supposed to have sex until marriage).  I think I remember this one so vividly (it was 21 years ago) because it is difficult for me to wear “revealing” clothes.  I could say I was shamed by my father as a little girl when he would yell at me for wearing something he didn’t like and tell me to change – because religion and a male not taking responsibility for his thoughts but instead blaming it on his female daughter? I don’t know.  But, to this day it is hard for me to wear certain types of clothing.  And that day, I had stepped out of my comfort zone to wear something that empowered me as a woman and made me feel good about myself, only to be told “that turns me on, so it’s your fault I can’t keep my hands off you”.

I could honestly go on and on, but at the end of the day it just makes me sad.  It is sad that we live in this type of culture.  That men believe some of the shit they say and mock us for telling our stories.  That the victim is blamed more often than not.  That high schools actually have unfair policies about what young women wear as compared to what they allow young men to wear to school.  That it feels unsafe to walk down the street and do what comes naturally to me as a human – to smile and say hi to a man – simply because I’m a female.

I agree with Janne Robinson, it will take both genders to fix this problem.  It will take us all looking at that thing we do when we say things like “that’s a girl thing” or “that’s for boys” because when we say things like that we continue to buy into the separatism and inequality that persists in our culture.

There are great men out there.  I know this.  I believe I’ve finally found one, but we struggle every day because I’ve had some pretty awful men do bad shit to me in my life and it makes it hard to trust.  It makes it hard to have a meaningful relationship because the men I trusted most in my life were usually the ones who hurt me the worst and sometimes I see them in my boyfriend.  But we continue to live and survive and love because I love that wonderful thing called love.  I do.  And that, along with strength in unity, is what can help solve this problem.

All women have stories like mine.  Yes, it is all women.

Random Funny Moment (in which I admit my own stupidity)

After picking up my son from his Nana’s tonight, I was driving out of her subdivision listening to tales from elementary school.  His Nana lives in an area with incredibly steep hills  and tiny roads where you think two cars just can’t fit.  I was waiting to turn left onto one such road when I saw a car driving up the hill.  He flashed his brights and then, when I turned, he did it again.  It’s not like it was a steady flashing or anything, but it definitely made me wonder what he was doing… for about a second.

I got so caught up in the funny tale my son was telling me that it went straight out of my head.  I also didn’t realize how fast I was going, not that it’s hard to go fast down that hill.  When I looked down I was at 40 and the sign posted is 25.  I hit my brake and just as I did I looked up and saw a motorcycle cop just hanging out on his bike clocking me.  It all happened in creepy slow motion, you know, when you scream nooooo really slow and put your hands up as if to stop it.  Our eyes met, he lifted his hand and nodded his head in a weird sort of wave and I drove on.  I have no idea why he didn’t pull my ass over.

I reached the bottom of the hill and had to stop at a four-way. When I looked in my rear view, the cop was pulling over the car that was behind me.  That guy had to be rocketing down that hill.

I continued listening to my son until we reached the house.  I swear he was still talking when I got out of the car and went up to the door.  The kid seems to have no sense of ending a conversation, so I tend to try and help him with that by getting out of the car.  It usually doesn’t stop him, though, as he was still talking away as we went inside the house.

Once inside, I got ready for my run and took off.  It wasn’t until I was about a half a mile into it that it dawned on me.  (I know, I know… how stupid can I be?)  The guy that was flashing his lights?  Yeah, he was warning us of the cop.  I guess there are still good people out there, and I just want to say thank you to the person who was thoughtful enough to do that, even though I was just dumb or whatever and didn’t get it until it was too late.  Luckily the cop was nice (if there is such a thing) and let me pass.

I’ve had some bad moments with the good ole police in my life, so it was nice to have one actually turn out okay.  I guess I will give a half-hearted thanks to him too, for letting me go, even though I’m almost positive he clocked me going 40 in a 25.

Plant Life

This little piece of flash fiction comes to you from Woegman’s World of Witty Wonder and his Turn-a-trope Tuesday.  For this one, we had to take the trope “unwanted revival” and turn it on it’s head, or something.  Basically, the trope is when a character is dead or comatose and not happy about being revived.  I wasn’t planning on doing it, but I wanted a challenge and I had a rather slow day.  Once I started thinking, it didn’t take long for this to reveal itself.

One thing I am learning, though, is that I seriously dislike coming up with titles.  I’ve titled a few other flash fiction pieces on my blog that I wish were different now.  I’m sure I will dislike this title in a few days as well, but I’ve got nothing, so it is what it is. 1013 words (I went a little over) that I hope fits the theme.

Plant Life

“Did you know it talks to me?”

Anna was sitting next to Jack on the couch and looked up at his words. She followed his gaze to the spindly, green-brown plant sitting on the table looking half dead. It was tilted at an awkward angle and looked like it might collapse at any moment. Why she hadn’t disposed of it to this point was beyond her. When she moved in a few months ago, she had asked if she could throw it out, but the only answer she received was a cold stare. So, it remained and continued to barely survive on not so regular glasses of water and small amounts of sunshine from the window next to the table.

She laughed. “That’s surprising, considering how much the thing gets watered.” She felt heat rising off him and wondered if she had pissed him off. “Are you sure we can’t just get rid of it? I don’t know if you’re going to be able to revive it at this point.”

“No. We can’t.” He stood up and went to the sink to fill a glass of water.

“You know, honey, I think I’ll go to the store and get a new pot and some fresh soil. Maybe it just needs a new home.” She must have surprised him. His head jerked up and he stared at her with a growing smile.

“You would do that for her?”

“Oh, it’s a ‘her’ now? Should I be jealous that not only is it still here, but it’s apparently talking to you too?”

“Come off it. A plant can’t be a ‘he’.”

“Sure it can. You’re just more comfortable with a ‘she’.” She winked at him and jumped up with the half-hearted idea of making her way to the store to buy new digs for his stupid plant. If she didn’t know better, she would think she was a tinge jealous of it. And, just for the record, she was not going to start calling it a she; not in this lifetime!

**

Anna grudgingly brought home a new pot and some potting soil that contained “everything necessary for a plant to thrive” and promised to “feed for up to six months”. Continuing her efforts to make Jack happy, she got to work and before too long, the plant was safely ensconced in its new home.

Standing back, she analyzed her handiwork and was surprised to see the thing was already tilting crazily to the right. She turned her head this way and that, studying it. It was almost worse than when it was in the old pot. She set it right and added a bit more soil, but as soon as she dropped her hand, the thing drooped to the right. Shrugging, she walked away to wash her hands. Maybe it just took time to assimilate.

She passed Jack as she was leaving the room. “Hey Babe, the plant is repotted and I gave it some water. The rest is up to you, big boy, cause I suck at keeping plants alive.”

He looked like he was deep in thought, and he kept walking as if he hadn’t heard. Rolling her eyes, she went into the bathroom and shut the door.

**

The new pot wasn’t working. It had been a month and the thing was even more brown and crackly than before the re-potting. Leaves were falling off at an alarming rate, and the crazy tilt had become a drape over the side of the pot. She had made a concerted effort to water it regularly but it didn’t seem to matter. The soil was always bone dry and it was starting to smell. Worse, gnats had taken up residence.

As if that wasn’t weird enough, Jack had completely withdrawn from her and was acting strange. Several times she had come across him staring at the plant, mumbling. When she asked what he was doing, all she got was a blank stare before he returned to his mumbling. He was currently at the table, softly caressing a leaf that looked like it was hanging on for dear life, gnats swarming around his hand.

He must have felt her gaze because he looked up at her. “She wants it back.”

“Who wants what back? What are you talking about?”

“What did you do with the old pot?”

“I threw it away. Why?” He went back to staring at the plant, his hand still rubbing the leaf. She took a deep breath when what she really wanted to do was throw something at his head. “Jack, are you okay? Please, talk to me.”

Without turning around he mumbled, “She doesn’t like it. She wants the old one back.”

“Are you kidding me? You are not seriously talking about the plant! What is wrong with you?” She stormed up to the table, pushed past him and grabbed for the plant. “I’m going to throw it away. This is beyond stupid…”

His hand grabbed her arm hard, cutting her off. “Don’t.”

She looked down at his hand restraining her arm and back up at him. “Do you even realize how crazy this is? How crazy you’re acting?” She yanked her arm out of his grip, grabbed her purse and keys and stormed out of the house, slamming the door behind her.

**

In bed the next morning, Anna was lying on her side facing Jack. She knew he was awake, but his eyes were still closed. Not wanting to force the issue, she continued staring at him, hoping to find an answer to this terribly odd situation in the contours of his face. After a few moments, her gaze traveled down his neck, following the line of his bare arm as it rested above the blanket. Noticing something that hadn’t been there before, she sat up and leaned down to get a closer look. Inches from his arm, she went completely still. Was that a leaf?

Her eyes darted up and met his eyes now staring at her; they were eyes she no longer recognized.

Cold… Lifeless…. Green…

Rising Free

Another Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction challenge.  When I read it on Friday morning, I laughed out loud because it was too perfect.  My sister and I had an appointment to get tattoos on Friday at noon and she was planning on getting a Phoenix.  It’s pretty literal, I suppose, but her tattoo was forefront in my head and the words just sort-of happened.  For those that read my blog and don’t like the “bad” words, this one has some, so read at your own risk.

I give you 990 words on the Phoenix – dedicated to my sister and her rather fabulous tattoo.

Rising Free

The buzzing vibration settles onto my leg and I feel the first bite of the needle as it pierces my skin. Inwardly shaking, my body tenses, waiting for the scratching pain that doesn’t disappoint. Taking deep breaths, I close my eyes and settle into the pulsating, jagged rhythm. Strange to think I worked for this small torturous moment, that I deserve it somehow.

I have played so many roles; some of them lovingly, some of them in resentment, pain and fear. They are all different parts of me, and they have defined me and brought me to this moment whether I wanted them to or not.

Dutiful child, so right, so good; never disappointing Daddy. That was, of course, until I finally did. I sit here happily, knowing this moment will piss him off and not giving a fuck.

Religious zealot found roots in dutiful child and blossomed into, what is the term? Goody Two-shoes? Yeah, that was me. Literally killing myself doing the right thing and in turn sharing my beliefs with others. I’m not sure when my spiritual beliefs changed, but they did.  Thank you God, or Gods, or Goddess… who even knows?

I was the unharmed one, the one he didn’t touch; watching as everyone else received help and support while I was left to my own devices. That is, until he changed the story and I became just as fucked as the rest. That dizzying moment when you realize… are there even any words to describe that kind of betrayal and loss of innocence? I haven’t found any.

I am a mother, of course, to two kick-ass children. I gave everything in my role as stay-at-home Mom and army wife, playing both Mom and Dad when he was gone. My life revolved around them, day in, day out. Until, one day it dawned on me that they had grown and I didn’t know my role anymore.

I am and have always been a loving wife. To this day, I do not know how we survived. There were the long absences, my doubts and my struggle to find self-worth. I look down at our hands molded together and I squeeze as the needle etches lines into my skin.

I have been through hell and back and the story is taking shape on my thigh, transforming into the beautiful creature that has appeared to me in visions multiple times, almost screaming for her place in my world; a chance to become real. The flow of ink across my skin becomes the line of each individual feather and I trace each one with my eyes, anxiously anticipating the finished masterpiece. I take my time, watching the needle scratch and claw its way across my delicate skin.

The creature flowed into my dreams a few years ago and slowly made her way into my waking moments. She needs life; needs to take shape. As I continue to watch, the vision slowly takes hold again and I see the creature coming to life before me, slowly rising off my leg. I don’t know how it happens, but I begin to know her thoughts as she knows mine and I see what she sees, looking through glistening, cerulean eyes. She wants freedom to glide across the heavens in wild abandon.

Converged, we seek the sky, tracing the path of our inevitable flight into beyond. I lift my arms only to find they are no longer arms. Wings unfurl, feathers shivering with sizzling energy. I glance down for a moment and I gasp in awe, blinded by my vivid, red-gold coloring. I watch my tail feathers sweep the ashes beneath, raising a silvery cloud that billows and swirls around me as I lift off.

I take flight, soaring into the brilliant blue, fluffy white vapor softly caressing my upward journey. I rise up and up and find bliss in weightless recognition. I still play every single role, only now, it’s changed. I’m changed. I may not have chosen all of them, but I now choose how they’re played – in loving acceptance.

I am Daddy’s Daughter.  He can choose to embrace me anytime, as long as he chooses me, not the daughter he thinks I should be.

I am Spiritual. Life is a constant journey and I find security in uncertainty, my place firmly cemented in the energetic vibrant universe as it slowly turns, changing and morphing, yet staying altogether the same.

I am Harmed. I realize this will never really go away, but I choose to embrace the parts that were abused and broken knowing there is no safer place in the world than the love surrounding me, healing me daily.

I am Mother. I love and support their growth and change, and they are now supporting and loving mine. I am no longer everything to them and I am learning to accept that they are no longer the driving force in my day to day. They taught me to look for me because they couldn’t be everything to me, not forever.

I am Wife. I know that I don’t need to sacrifice myself to be what he needs. I love him and I find comfort in knowing he loves me still, he loves me anyway, despite and because. He’s my rock, my biggest supporter and best friend.

Blinking my eyes, the vision fades dramatically. There is no soft glazing over and gentle landing. No, I flounder and fall, crashing unceremoniously back into the moment. Feeling my body jerk, I glance down anxiously, expecting wings and feathers and orange brilliance. Instead, I find myself back on the table, my husband’s hand still holding mine.  He looks questioningly into my eyes and I smile through the searing heat of the needle still working lines into my skin.

My life’s journey, forever engraved on my thigh. It’s a story and a wish; my promise to myself to always love me because I’m fucking worth it.

Not My Milestones, Not My Words

That thing called life went and punched me in the face again… or maybe it was the gut… heart?  It was definitely all three or maybe just one…

I’m not sure why it is that my children’s milestones in life affect me more than my own.  Everyone said I would have a mini breakdown when I turned 30 and then again at 35 (I would say I’m aging myself, but having a kid graduate high school actually does it for me); but that didn’t happen on either birthday.  Turning 40 in a few years might be a different matter, but I seriously doubt it.  Those days everyone eschewed as overwhelming or depressing were nothing more than standard steps in my somewhat ordinary life.  No, it was when my daughter turned 16 that threw me the first time.  When she turned 18, I’m surprised I didn’t hide in a dark room for days.  My son turned 14 last month, is now taller than me and I don’t recognize his voice.  My youngest turned 10 last year and he knows so much more about things than his older siblings did at the same age that I find myself shaking my head and laughing because there is really no help for it – this could be an entire post all on its own.  I am loving the hell out of watching my children grow and become functioning humans in society, but as much as I am full of joy and wonder at their growth, I find myself asking did I do enough, are they going to be okay without me, am I going to be okay without them… Needless to say, it makes for some somber moments all wrapped up in the joy experienced when they turn another page or accomplish something great.

I attended my daughter’s high school graduation Tuesday night and my world has been spinning out of control ever since.  (Not really, but sometimes that’s what it feels like when your heart bursts it’s imaginary seems and spews lifeblood from nooks and crannies you seriously didn’t know you had)  My daughter, whom I like to refer to as my beautiful baby girl, is intelligent, talented and already has a solid plan for the next four years.  She knows exactly what she wants and I have no doubts she will be wildly successful in her chosen path and the countless other paths she will choose on each phase of her journey through life.

Before the graduation ceremony, I sat down to write her a poem or even just some wacky words from Mom and I came up with absolutely nothing.  I stared at a blank screen for at least an hour and started to do that thing where you beat the shit out of yourself because you can write all day long but when it comes to writing for someone you love, someone who means the world to you, and you come up blank? What the hell is wrong with you?  That went on for a while before I decided to change direction.  It’s not that I didn’t have anything to say, it was all just too much.  I decided, instead, to use other people’s words to say it for me.  Words that she would recognize and love because they were part of her childhood and in some small way they helped define her.  I am sharing them with you because who knew there were such wise words to be found in children’s movies?  Well, actually, a lot of people did. Maybe I’m the only one who didn’t realize you could write a whole narrative of your child’s life from birth to going away to college from one movie’s quotes.

And so I give you my perspective on Adelle’s life thus far told by Toy Story:

There seems to be no sign of intelligent life anywhere
You’re my favorite deputy
Eh… I don’t think those were Lincoln Logs
I’m going for fearsome here, but I just don’t feel it. I think I’m just coming off as annoying
I think you’ve had enough tea for today
What, did you take stupid pills this morning?
Excuse me. I think the word you’re searching for is “Space Ranger”
The word I’m searching for I can’t say because there’s preschool toys present
Who are you calling busted, buster?
There’s a snake in my boot
This is the perfect time to panic!
Reach for the sky
I just don’t think I can take that kind of rejection
Impressive wingspan
That wasn’t flying! That was falling with style!
To Infinity and Beyond
Oh, I hate all this uncertainty
I’m packing you an extra pair of shoes and your angry eyes, just in case.
Good riddance you loony

**

I also found some great words of wisdom from the Lion King, one of her favorites:

You know, kid, in times like this my buddy Timon here says you got to put your behind in your past.
Oh yes, the past can hurt. But, you can either run from it or learn from it.
Hakuna Matata
Remember who you are
Well, somebody once told me that the great kings of the past are up there, watching over us
I laugh in the face of danger
It means you’re a baboon and I am not
You follow old Rafiki – he knows the way!
You must take your place in the Circle of Life
Everything you see exists together in a delicate balance
Change is good. Yeah, but it’s not easy.

**

And last, but certainly not least, I quoted her favorite childhood story.  When I read it to her as a child, she would stare at me in (dare I say) horror because I would cry my eyes out every single time.  I still can’t make it through the book without shedding some tears.  The book is Love you Forever by Robert Munsch.

I’ll love you forever
I’ll like you for always
As long as I’m living
My baby you’ll be

**

I’m a proud Mama, and I’m enjoying this phase of parenting.  It’s just not always easy to stand back and let them fly.

Mirror’s Curse

Another Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction challenge.  For this one we had to randomly pick two words out of two different columns that would serve as the title and write 1,000 words to fit it.  I have to admit that I did a random number generator on-line on Friday and came up with something horrific.  I was still mulling it over when I was hanging out with my sister at her house on Saturday and she got excited and pulled out a d20 and told me to roll.  There’s just something about rolling a dice that isn’t quite the same as clicking a button on the computer to generate a number, so that’s the one I’m going to go with.  I got Mirror and Curse when I rolled, which I was actually able to work with.

I’m honestly surprised the story went in the direction it did.  It’s funny what happens when you mull two words over in your head.  Below is approximately 900 words.

I probably need to do some sort of trigger, but I’m not sure how to do that without giving it away, although I don’t think it’s very subtle.   Perhaps it will help to say I want to dedicate the story to my nephew Mikey who would have been 12 this year.

Mirror’s Curse

The sound of shattered glass crashing onto the tile floor echoed through the room. Reggie wrapped her arms around her, trying to stop the shaking. She hated mirrors. She couldn’t look into one without seeing a future event in her life. Sometimes it happened in days, sometimes weeks, sometimes months; but each time she saw something, it eventually manifested in her life.

Most of her visions were benign; simple things; things that normally happened in a person’s life. She was walking on the stage in a cap and gown. She was smiling at the beautiful, dark haired man on the park bench who was now her husband. She didn’t like knowing things before they happened. It was a strange reality in her life, but she had learned to cope. At one point, she had removed every mirror in her home and studiously ignored them in public. It was harder than she realized. She could go weeks, sometimes months without looking, but she eventually found herself in front of a mirror. The hardest part was it didn’t always reveal something. Sometimes it was just her reflection staring back at her.

It had been several weeks since she had looked into a mirror. She didn’t even mean to do it this time, but she had. She wanted to believe the shattered pieces of the mirror would in turn shatter the vision she had just seen. Maybe it was wrong. Maybe, just this once, it wouldn’t actually happen.

It’s not like she could have children. They had tried. After two years, they had resigned themselves to not having a child of their own and maybe even adopting. They hadn’t decided yet. The reality of never feeling a child growing inside her was still an ache she hadn’t come to terms with. She wasn’t sure if she ever would. The doctor’s said there were ways, but with the vision she had just seen, she wasn’t sure she wanted to test fate, or whatever it was that let her see things in mirrors.

**

“Are you sure?”

“Positive. You are going to be parents in a little over seven months.”

“Oh my God, baby!” Reggie threw her arms around Damon, crying and laughing with him. It had been years of tests and trials and more money than they had, but it was happening. They had created a life and it was growing inside her.

She had tried to come to terms with never having a child of her own. They had even filled out multiple adoption applications only to be told no each time. In the end, she realized she wanted a child; wanted to feel what it was like. Damon wanted it too. He had supported her decision to stop trying, but she had seen it in his eyes – the longing she could feel as well. He didn’t make her or tell her she had to. He didn’t have to. She wanted it just as much, maybe even more than he did.

Even after the decision was made, there was still a part of her that didn’t really believe she would end up pregnant. It hadn’t been easy. And as each year passed, the vision she had glimpsed in the mirror faded. With the fading memory came the rationalization, and finally she convinced herself it had been a mistake. It’s not like she didn’t have visions anymore. It happened with the same regularity it always had, but none had taken so long to manifest. All the others had happened in a relatively short amount of time. But it no longer mattered. Nothing was going to take away from their happiness. They were finally going to be parents.

**

Their perfect miracle was born in the fall. He came into the world like most babies do, wailing and thrashing arms, searching for the safety and warmth of only moments before. The first thing everyone in the operating room noticed was the orange red hair plastered to his head. It was the same orange red hair that they couldn’t bring themselves to cut until he was over a year old and it was flying around his head like one of those troll dolls that were popular with kids.

People smiled when they saw him. How could they not? He had sparkling blue eyes and an ethereal smile that lit up a room when he was in it. He was an angel.

Reggie and Damon were happier than they could have ever imagined. Their beautiful baby boy filled their home with laughter and wonder. He drove them crazy, too. He fought naps and cried when he was tired or hungry. He did normal baby things, but somehow, to them, he wasn’t like other babies.

One day, Reggie was slowly pacing up and down the hallway rocking him to sleep when she happened to glance in the hallway mirror. It was just her reflection this time, but she was reminded of the vision she had tried to shatter so long ago. Faded and distant, she stayed firm in the belief that by shattering the mirror she had broken the vision’s hold on her reality.

**

Exactly one year, six months and 14 days from the day he came into their life, Reggie watched in horror as the mirror’s vision played out.

They weren’t given an entire lifetime with him, but there was a lifetime in each smile; each touch; each baby giggle that made them laugh; and every single small word he had learned. They would cherish every moment they were able to have and he would always be a part of their life. Their perfect miracle.

Their angel.