Writing challenge day 5

I forced myself again to write. I didn’t want to write. All I wanted to do was to watch Stranger Things and finish my book. But I wanted to get this challenge done with.

So far, it has been an uphill battle for me to even put pen to paper. I sit at my computer trying to think of things to write. In the end, I just get a few short paragraphs done and then write on this blog. I think my problem is that I write right before I go to sleep, since I forget to do it during the day. What I should push myself to do is to write in the morning and see if I want to write later.

I wrote a little more backstory on my story. I realize, as I am writing this, that I’m painting a picture of my parent’s life. It’s not the complete story, no. But it’s the essence of what my mom has been telling me for years. They say that you put a little of yourself in your work.

I wrote this on Reddit yesterday. Thought I’d post it here.

So a few months ago I met this guy on Tinder. He seemed nice. Went on a few dates and talked a lot on the phone. Let me set this up with the fact that there were huge red flags before this event occurred. He used to be married (he’s 24) and he’s a Republican (I’m a pretty liberal Democrat). I should note that I’m not discriminating against Republicans. I’m sure there are some that are lovely. I’ve met a few. But he does fit into the intolerant Republican stereotype. Of course I was desperate and chose to ignore the signs. After the fourth or so date, we had finally slept together. I didn’t want it to be just a hook up or one time thing, and he didn’t either, so we talked about being together. A few days after this, that’s when shit really hit the fan. He came over and cuddled. No sex, just cuddling. We were both pretty sick that day. I had given a few kisses while we slept. I wouldn’t push it, because I wasn’t in the mood, but hey… what’s wrong with a little kissing? I didn’t force myself on him. He didn’t call me out then. No, that was later. I saw him a few days after that and he acted normal. Held hands, talked about random stuff, and kissed in public. A few days later, after that, he started to become distant. I was really stressed out because I had to turn in my dissertation that week. I had failed my dissertation the first time, so I had to redo it so I can receive my Masters in Creative Writing (I passed by the way). So while I was working on my last edits, I decided to confront him about why he was so distant. That’s when he told me that I had raped him. He said that I had kissed him while he was sleeping and that since he was unconscious, that was considered rape. I apologized and asked why he didn’t mention it earlier, since he kissed me the other day, a few days after I supposedly raped him. He didn’t give me an answer on that one. I felt hurt that he would accuse me of such a thing. I’m glad that I wasn’t so angry that I turned in the wrong file or even deleted something crucial. I told him that he hurt my feelings and that it wasn’t rape, but he only said that it doesn’t matter. That I should get over it. After trying to get him to see where I was coming from, he finally yelled at me that he was almost raped in high school. He got mad at me because I was saying how I felt. I felt bad that he was almost raped, but that doesn’t excuse what he said. I continued being his friend a few months after this. I even considered sleeping with him again, out of desperation. There were a few things after this incident that made me realize that he was very racist and very misogynistic. I’m glad that I’m no longer friends with this guy. I think it’s hilarious that someone who moved to the Bay Area, who is so in love with how open minded the city is, could ever be so ignorantly racist. I always read stories about women accusing men of rape, but rarely hear about it on the other side. I did not rape this guy, but his accusation has made me feel like I am a terrible person. I thought posting this online would be immature, but honestly I think it helps alleviate the pain. Now I will always worry that any guy I’m with in the future will accuse me of something.

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Writing challenge… 4 (skipped a day): in which I overanalyze my love life

So I missed a day on my writing challenge. I’m a little disappointed in myself. But to be honest, I wasn’t feeling so great.

Today I wrote a little about myself. I just wanted to get some of this pent up feelings and put it down on paper. I psycho analyzed myself. It’s definitely something I should do more often.

Something I realized during today’s writing was that I worry too much on whether or not I’m going to meet a guy. I haven’t met a guy I truly liked and was willing to go after. I want a guy to fall for me…without the awkward flirting and talking involved. It doesn’t make me less developed. My mom made a comment about how if we raise my niece right, she could be married by 20. Like there was anything wrong with the way we were raised. Yes, I know there’s huge gaps in my upbringing, but whose fault is that? Just because I haven’t found a man to settle down with at my age, doesn’t mean that I am developmentally challenged. I’m perfectly fine just the way I am. I don’t think you have to change you are to attract a guy. If a guy is going to be with you, they’re going to be with you for YOU. We all have qualities that are less than perfect. But I definitely think that if you like the person enough, you can get past it.

Anyways, I did the challenge. Now to go read “Frozen Tides” by Morgan Rhodes.

Writing challenge day 3

I definitely did not want to write today. I just finished reading “One Dark Throne” by Kendare Blake. My thoughts are jumbling. It’s almost midnight and so I thought I’d update on my progress. Again, I wrote into my “Summer with Nana”story. One thing that I’ve noticed is that the language I use for this one has been progressing. Definitely something I want to keep going with on my challenge. I realize that I’ve been editing as I write. I write a few sentences and then go back and make sure they have a coherent voice. I think I’d get a lot more done if I didn’t think of the sentence beforehand. Seriously, I spend a copious amount of time rereading what I just wrote.

I didn’t write much so I will not be posting what I wrote.

My stomach feels crappy because all I really ate was sugar. I did have a healthy sandwich, but that doesn’t cancel out everything else I ate. I have got to cut soda and any sugar drink out of my diet. From now on, I will stick with water.

Writing challenge day 2

It’s day two of my writing challenge. I didn’t want to do it in the end, but I forced myself. I wrote a new scene for my “Summer with Nana” story. The scene I started writing was definitely more of a character development piece. I want the grandma to be unique. She doesn’t allow her house to be filled with china cups and antique clocks. I want my character to help solve the mystery of her grandma’s life by sorting through some old documents. And while this is happening, I want the character’s favorite book to go missing, only to have it reappear with a note in it. My character will definitely have a bit of a romance, but the main focus is her relationship with her grandma.

This challenge will be harder than I thought. I have so many excuses of why I don’t write or read as often. But if I cut out some of the mindless time spent watching cartoons or checking Facebook, I could be writing a lot more. For now, the twenty minutes is a good push for me to keep writing. I’m never going to finish my novel otherwise.

Here is what I wrote, since I actually think I’m beginning to get my voice down.

**

Nana’s house was my home away from home. She was not like any other grandma I had ever met. Trips to the mall were fun scavenger hunts in which she and I would compete to find the most unique thing that day. I always won, on account of Nana throwing the game and buying me a churro instead. Her house looked lived in. She never had any old relic in her house because she always switched her house around every six months. I’m sure the old memories, like china cups or antique clocks, were tucked away somewhere she could only find. She truly was a one of a kind grandma.

When I came home that day, the day after, it felt like I was walking into a stranger’s house. The pictures on our wall were foreign to me. Memories from another time. I looked around at the small TV in the living room, the reclining chair nearest the door where dad would sometimes sleep at night, and the dining room table. These objects didn’t mean anything at that moment.

Instead of making sure the house was taken care of, I walked out the door.

Of course Nana was happy to have me. She had just come from the hospital, where she said her goodbye over her daughter’s dead body.

 

***

Because I want to stick with the twenty minutes challenge, I will not be editing some of what I post. These are raw snippets of my writing. If I sat down to edit them, I’d forget to even do the challenge.

In which we try and making writing a habit

To non-readers, my list of books that I’ve read this year may seem high. But what you don’t realize is that I am such an avid reader, that the number is very low to my standards. If you can imagine that I have bought at least six books a month, and I read at least two or three of them that month, my number may seem average. Currently, I have read 26 books. This year has seen me through some big reading slumps. A slump is when you can’t get up the courage or motivation to read. Sometimes you can get in a reading slump when a book you’ve been most anticipating turns out to be a dud. You get the book and you just cannot get the will power to read it. And thus creating a reading slump.

I’ve been trying to at least read for twenty minutes each day. It’s a goal that has kept me actively reading. So I thought I’d try that for my writing. I will be writing for at least twenty minutes each day. Sometimes I will post what I have written, but others I might just talk about what the process was like. That way other writers and even readers can join in on the fun. They say that if you do something for at least two weeks, it’ll be a habit. So for the next two weeks, we will see if I prosper, or if I fail. What I write might be little antidotes on writing, or even some small reviews. Or they might be personal.

I’ve been writing for at least ten minutes. I honestly want to talk about friendships.

I have a hard time keeping friends. Making friends is the easy part. Keeping a friend is something else entirely. I can be a bit annoying and sometimes don’t know boundaries. There is still a little amount of clingy that I haven’t been able to suss out. I’ve recently had to block a friend that I was once close to.

Without going into details, I will say that she was extremely clingy, and a lot of my other friends wondered why I was friends with her in the first place. There were several bad instances where I should have just ended the friendship before it had really started.

I will point out one thing that really set me over the edge. She is the first person (besides my sisters) who has ever told me that no one cares about me. I’m sure none of the other people who I have unfriended (there’s not that many people) would ever say that to me. Sad part is that I didn’t automatically unfriend her right then. I knew she had mental problems, so I wanted to brush it off. But when she wrote two weeks later that my happy posts were annoying her, that was when I drew the line. They do say the best revenge is them seeing you be happy.

No one should ever tell someone that no one cares about them. You don’t know how they will take it. I’ve dealt with depression, and if I was maybe five years younger, I might have done something harmful to myself because of that statement. Words hold meaning.

Don’t ever let the idea of being friendless stop you from unfriending a toxic person. You deserve to be happy.

Infinite: a short story of sorts

I am on a ledge. I don’t know how I came to be here, but there are people on the ground, looking up at me. My mind starts to wander to images of this morning. That positive sign, and the yelling that ensued. I had been contemplating this for years, but had never had any sign, up until now, to do it. My breathe shakes and twirls in the afternoon mist. I want to get off, but there’s John in the back of my mind; telling me that I can’t possibly be pregnant. With his kid.

The trees surrounding me are all glazed with fog, even though the sun is shining brightly overhead. The rocks beneath my feet start to dig into my old black Vans. The sound of the distant creek and the many wildlife around the area, is all that surrounds me in this moment of clarity. My therapist seems to think I live my life on a limb. She’s not wrong, though every fiber of my being wants to contradict her. Which is probably why I spend so much going twice a week. I can’t ever come down from this high that I seem to have gotten myself in.

They say jumping from this height is probably a sign I’m going crazy, especially considering my age. But to be honest, I really don’t care. I just wanted that momentary thrill of rushing off a cliff. Now, however, I seem to be stuck. I could just walk away and be done with it.

Yet, haven’t I been doing that for years?

I’d see a stray dog, and on a whim, I’d adopt him. Not even taking into account the fact that my apartment has a no dog clause and we’d be forced to move out. Who knew pit bulls could be so darn cute? It was hard giving Prince Charles up so I would have a place to stay that wasn’t completely bankrupting me.

That’s nothing compared to the thousand dollar ticket I bought to travel through the US on a train. I chickened out last minute and couldn’t get my refund. I did that all because I watched an episode of Big Bang Theory and thought trains were cool. But then I worried that something bad would happen to me. So I let the time pass and revoked my two week’s notice at work.

These many life choices I’ve made have led me to this ledge, half hoping I would actually splat on the forrest floor. The people on the floor are yelling at me. Small encouragements from people I’ve only known for an hour. I stare at the rock I’m standing on. It juts out, and then at the last possible moment takes a dive to the floor. It wants me to give up. To let some real or imaginary obstacle prevent me from finishing something.

As my lips get chapped and my hair tossed, I look down at my flat stomach. I realize that I have time, and that this baby will be my chance at a new life. I will be the woman I have always dreamed of being.

But for now, I have to complete this journey and jump off the cliff. Because when I left home in a rage, after being yelled at by my partner, I knew the one thing I had to do to get my head clear. Cliff jumping.

As I jump the cliff, tethered to the bungee chord, I feel infinite.

To the boy who hurt me

I will always think of you as a montage of small vignettes. The kind that start timid, then happy, and end up being painful to watch. Some may say that I should stop fixating on you, but it’s been a month and I can’t stop. Every good thing you did and every nice thing you said is repeated in my head over and over. Your face is constantly sketched into my memory, like a grease stain that will never come off. That one profile I haven’t blocked you from is constantly being viewed, in case you write that you miss me. To which I would say, “If you miss me, why did you hurt me?” Which I would feel required to say, but deep down I would think it’s sweet that you even care.

You were the person I turned to when I had something funny or witty to say. Or if my day was going horribly and I needed someone to vent to. We were almost polar opposites, but I tried hard to make it work. Even when I passionately disagreed or got so mad I almost unfriended you from the start, I wanted to make it work. Like all love sick puppies, I didn’t see what your true colors were, until things went sour.

I’d go by the places we visited, hear some of our favorite songs, and I would think of you. I’d think of your smile whenever I told a silly joke. Or that small frown you’d have whenever you talked about your past. Small things would remind me of the time you took my hand at the beach and told me that you liked me. Like that time we listened to Green Day on the way home and we disagreed on whether the new stuff was worth listening to. (It is by the way.)

These images are the things I think about when I think of you.

I guess things were too good to be true. When I see your picture pop up on social media, I have a mixture of happy and sad memories. What you did will never be forgotten. I will always carry this with me. I will always wonder if the next guy is going to screw me over one day.

We had some happy memories, but what happened between us was too much for me to handle. I will always miss the boy who made me smile. But that part of my life is done and I have to move on.

***

I’m thinking of publishing some stand alone scenes from some of the different characters I’m working on. This one is a little personal, but I thought I’d start off with myself as one of my characters. I can easily work on scene writing, which is one of my favorite things to write. I will be posting more of my writing later on.

Pardon the lack of posts

If you truly knew me, you would know that I have been suffering from depression. Typically, I would want to hide it and tell the world that I am perfectly normal. Unfortunately for me, that is not the case. Within the last few years, I have struggled with trying to allow these feelings to be noticeable to my close friends. Plus, if you know me, I only have a very select group of “close friends.” For me, it all started with the “Always Keep Fighting” campaign that has been supported by Jared Padaleki and the Supernatural family. With each passing campaign, I got more inspired to speak out about my mental illness.

There is no rhyme or reason to depression. It comes and goes. It’s like the waves of the ocean, if I can use the most cliched imagery in the book. You could’ve had the best childhood known to man. And you still could be plagued with thoughts of depression. I’m going to quote myself in this example.

The best way to describe depression is the feeling of nothingness. Or maybe free falling is best suited. Imagine you’re falling through a black pit, where the sun and everything happy is right above you. You try and try, but you can’t seem to get to the sunshine. And don’t forget the invisible hands pulling you down further into the pit of darkness.

Probably not the most poetic example, but you get the gist.

I’ve wanted to keep my blogs up this year. I wanted the world to see how I could write and get people engaged. However, because of my resubmission, and some hickups in my own life, I have made a snail’s progress in this regard.

On a kind of side note, I do have to make note about how sometimes the form you write on can be a huge motivator. I recently got a new MacBook and all I want to do is write on it.

There was a good month or so last year where I was giving motivational speeches to my best friend because she was dealing with a lot of depression. I have found that I am the biggest hypocrite ever. I’ve let the attention of guys and others to control how I feel about my self worth. I constantly apologize for things I feel that I have done wrong. When in reality, it wasn’t my issue to apologize for.

What I want people to get out of this post is that depression sucks, but there are people out there who can help you. I’ve become such an expert on motivational speeches, I feel like I should get a job as a therapist. Or a motivational speaker who basically talks out of their ass.

I will continue to post more, because that is what I like doing. I want to discuss more literary devices and different forms of characters in my next post, so get ready for that. Thanks for reading and I hope that if you’re going through depression, please reach out to someone. I’m sure someone can either relate, or is willing to listen. Also remember that it is a two way street.

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Resubmitting my dissertation

As most of my friends know, I spent 2015-2016 studying in Wales. What you might not know is that I did not pass the dissertation the first time. I have spent the past six months working on fixing that. All that hard work paid off. I passed!! Let me tell you, it was extremely hard not posting about it on Facebook or any other form of social media. I have never truly failed at anything, so this was something I was not prepared for. I think what got me through the past six months was the knowledge that no one is perfect. And that this did not mean that I was any less of a person. Sure, it took me a little longer than expected, but so what? Even if I hadn’t gotten that passing grade, I’d still be the same, lovable Jillian we all know.

There are a few things I want to get off my chest. I am very grateful for the help and support of my mom. Without her, I would not have been able to do any of this. I will pay her back one day, when my career takes off. I spent a good portion of these past six months beating myself up over how I failed and how I didn’t think I could pick myself back up. Of course, looking back, I did it. But the doubt and anxiety I went through was hard to get through.

The reason I did not post about having to resubmit was because I didn’t want that kind of pressure from some of my friends and family. While well meaning, it can get a little tedious to listen to someone ask how my dissertation was going.

Overall,  I worked through this time with more maturity than I thought I was capable of. Has this journey left me with something more to learn? Yes. I have so many different obstacles to get through, and earning my Masters is only the beginning. Now comes the hard part. Finding a job . in my field.

Here is the fiction piece of my dissertation. It’s the beginning, so it shouldn’t be too hard to follow along. Some of the scenes might be rearranged in a later draft.

Summer with Nana

I can’t explain the feeling so I won’t even try. Instead I’ll tell you what I saw that day. The day that everything changed. There in front of me was the hospital bed filled with a bag of carbon atoms that made up my mother. The nurse beside me was rubbing circles into my already tired shoulder. My air was constricted to that of thin breathes. The monitor beside the bed was humming, as if the act of monitoring my mother was a heavy burden. I smelled the staleness of the mud on my shoes contrasting with the disinfectant that all hospitals seem to employ. My little brother’s worn out red ball bounced off my knee from when he tossed it a moment before. The acrid taste of alcohol warm on my tongue and the small bruise on my elbow caused me a slight discomfort. I heard the noise, off in the distance, of running feet and heavy machinery being lugged around. Someone else was having a crisis, even though my world ended with the picture of a flat line. The white of the walls was blinding to look at as the nurse beside me brought me in for a hug. ‘It’s going to be alright,’ she was saying. I was assaulted with the colour blue; the nurse’s scrubs enveloping most of my senses. My tears and mud covered clothing got on to the nurse’s scrubs. She didn’t seem to mind. She’d probably had much worse get onto her clothing. My brother was clinging to my left leg, his face getting smeered in mud and leaves.

In the distance, I heard Aunt Karly arguing with the front desk. ‘That’s my sister!’ I heard her three-inch heels before I saw her. I thought of the many excuses I could have made in that moment. Each one more damning than the last. But at that moment it didn’t matter about the promise I had made to Aunt Karly about watching over my mom. No amount of punishment would bring back my mom from the dead.

I was wearing the jean jacket mom had gotten me from Betsy Johnson, which was now littered with mud and branches. Standing there with my brother and the nurse, I looked a right mess. When Aunt Karly came in, it kind of looked like the before and after pictures you see in commercials. Aunt Karly was still in her blue ball gown, the one I helped her pick out when we went to San Francisco that one time. Everyone said that we could have been sisters, if I wasn’t so obnoxious about always dyeing my hair fifty different shades of purple.

Aunt Karly gazed at me, my brother, and then at the broken body on the bed. The doctor had left for a minute to ‘use the bathroom’ and I wasn’t sure whether or not he was ever coming back. She slowly made her way to the bed, her fists clenching and unclenching in a rhythmic pattern. She was taking yoga classes as her new year’s resolution at the YMCA down the block from our house. The only thing she had learned was that Chris Stone from the bakery on the corner really likes a woman with the ability to bend.

I saw the moment she realized that her sister was properly dead. The hope that she had walking in; that it was a mix up and Marie was just playing a joke on her, was gone. Her lips trembled as she took my mom’s hand. This was the hand that played the piano for hours till her younger sister told her to stop or else she’d chop her fingers off. It was also the hand that held my aunt close when Jake ran off with some other woman on Aunt Karly’s wedding night. These images of mom and Aunt Karly rushed through me, the outside observer, intruding on their shared moment and history.

***

My mom’s head was tipped back. Her curly brown hair was falling out of its ponytail as the day grew later. The pub around us was a noisy bustle of cheers from the rugby game on the television. ‘Fuck!’ she exclaimed, as she tossed the shot glass on to the table, nearly shattering the glass. She looked expectantly at the lawyer across from us, hoping to have scared him off. He stood there like a robot in his pinstripe suit and perfectly coifed hair. My school uniform was rolled and scuffed. The beer was nearly full in the glass in front of me.

‘Did you hear me Marie?’ the lawyer said to mom. ‘Your house is being seized by Larry. You’re going to have to vacate in a week.’ I had rushed from football practice with my friends to hear Steve, the lawyer, tell mom the news. Steve was a no-nonsense kind of guy. He had handled my friend Cassie’s parents’ divorce and the one thing Cassie said about him, was that he was some kind of robot in disguise.

‘He didn’t even blink when my dad was threatening my mum over who got the prized glass pig,’ Cassie had told me a few days prior. ‘My dad had nearly taken the pig and split mom’s face in two.’

There was a moment of uncomfortable silence, as the signal on the television went out and my mom stared off into space.

Four words from my dad had caused all this.

‘I want a divorce.’

My mom rarely visited pubs before this fiasco. Mom was just starting to think that with my dad’s new promotion at the oil factory, she could finally stop working and pursue her dream in designing dresses. Her mom had instilled in her the importance of making something by hand. Making bags was something that gave mom purpose and a short release from the woes of her marriage. In the days before my grandmother’s stroke, she and my mom had been going at it. Nan thought mom was wasting away in the bridal shop. ‘You should be making the dresses. Not hemming someone else’s design.’ Mom had sighed, letting Nan win this fight. But in truth, mom knew Nan was right.

The television’s signal went back up and the noise began again, as if the mute button was turned off. ‘I heard you,’ my mom muttered. I picked at the frayed table cloth while Steve turned his head away from mom, his face a deep red.

‘Well, good. I was told by Larry that you might need some convincing to leave. I hope…’  he began.

‘You know, you can leave. We got that we have to pack up our things. Despite what my dad has probably said on the matter, my mom isn’t stupid,’ I said, while clutching the tablecloth in my hand.

The texture was soft and wet. It vaguely reminded me of the cloths Nan had in her food closet. The ones Nan had made in the hospital while my mom was giving birth to me.

The lawyer downed his drink, hastily put his papers back in his suitcase, and fled the pub as if he was running from the Joker. Owain, the bus boy, started to clear the shot glasses in front of mom, while not so subtly checking me out. There was a loud Plunk! and my mom’s head had settled itself on to the table. I patted her back with my right hand and held my pint of beer with my other.

‘Is she okay?’ Owain asked.

I turned my attention to him. His red hair was what made me notice him the first few times I came to this pub. The first time I had seen him was during one of the pub crawls my society had thrown together. It was a Highlander theme and we were all supposed to dress like we were going off to Culloden. Kind of dreary, but our president, Amanda Shiever, has a weird sense of humor. I remember him standing by the bar, talking to his friend, Matthew, who was in my course.

What made him stand out wasn’t just his fiery red hair. His choice of outfit was what caught my eye. Instead of just wearing the kilt and holding a crossbow, Owain had drawn cuts all over himself. They were very graphic. I could almost believe his arm had been cut in two. As I stared at him, I could imagine him on that grassy plain, so long ago, in the Highlands. It was hard not to imagine his rough, chiseled face, fighting the English head on. And although my history book says the Scots lost, in my warped mind, Owain led the Scots to victory.

After which he took me in his arms and we had mind blowing sex.

As I stared into those vibrant green eyes, while I rubbed my mother’s back at the same time, my phone went off, breaking me away from my thoughts of Highlanders and sex.

The caller ID said ‘Dad.’

 

****

 

I entered the house. It was a sunny afternoon and I had come home early from football practice to drop off some of the presents my friends gave me for my birthday. My room was at the end of the hall on the first floor, so I had to pass my parents’ room on my way there. If only I hadn’t come home early. The walk from the stairwell to my room felt somehow different this day. Maybe it was due to my legs feeling sore from those one hundred lunges coach made us do before practice. Or maybe the difference was the frilly panties lying in front of my parents’ half open door. The purple lace clashed with the gray wall of our home. I had gone through my mom’s underwear drawer just yesterday to find the money she keeps hidden so I could pay the uniform deposit for the team.  Mom preferred white boxers when it came to panties, on account of it being the ‘practical’ thing to do. Whoever’s panties were on the floor were clearly not mom’s. As the thoughts began to race in my head, I heard it. The soft squeak of the bed and a moan that ended with, ‘Oh yeah Charlie!’ I didn’t think as I pushed open the door.

The door gave a small squeal as I pushed it open.

I wish I had never opened that door.

The surprise must have caused Sheila to jump. When I pushed the door open, I saw Sheila on the ground, naked, save for a kerchief tied around her wrists. My dad was turned towards the opposite wall, clutching his privates.

The room was gray, with no decorations, as if a monk lived there, instead of my parents. So what struck me, as I stood in silence, was the dresses on the other side of the bed. They stuck out like a sore thumb, with their pastel colors and their frilly lace skirts.

Dad had been gone for a few months on a mandatory business trip, the first in over ten years. So, Mom had brought out her sewing kit from storage and made a bunch of mock ups for her friends to see. I had stayed with her for the last two weekends, as her model, while she stuck pins and needles into me. Each time I went to the store for supplies, one of our neighbors would make a remark about how great it was to hear that mom was sewing again. Mom grew up in our neighborhood, and her dresses were what everyone was talking about. She used to make dresses for me when I was a kid, but as dad started moving up within his company, she stopped making them. Dad said it wasn’t ‘proper’ for a women to own her own business.

As I stood there, with my left hand still on the doorknob, and my right hand curled into a fist on my side, I realized that I didn’t care that my dad was a lying cheat. My mom would finally have the excuse she needed to leave my dad and start working on her dream.

‘Gwen…’ my father said, as he threw the comforter over his naked torso. The comforter that mom had worked on for months before their wedding.

Sheila sat there, comfortable in her own nakedness. After all, it was dad who was the one cheating, not her. I let the silence speak for itself.

 

***

The walls of his house were falling around me. I’m not sure why I even came, although now that I’m here I can’t bring myself to leave. After the doctor talked to my aunt about some of the arrangements, the focus now on someone other than me, I fled. I walked the three miles to Nick’s house in a daze. After everything that has happened, he was still the one I impulsively went to when things went wrong. Of course, he was ecstatic that I was there at all, not knowing about what happened. The musty smell of his small flat assaulted my senses as I waited for Nick to come back with the tea. On any normal day I would have refused tea. But it wasn’t a normal day, and tea was going to do nothing but save Nick from seeing the tears that streaked down my face. To his credit, Nick didn’t push me for a reason why I was at his place. He just let me sit on his couch, while we listened to the Beatles.

‘What now?’ my body seemed to ask me, as ‘Blackbird’ began to play on the stereo.

I looked around the room. Save for the Metallica poster above the TV, the room was bare; Nick having only moved in a week prior. The black leather couch I was sitting on smelled of cleaner, the kind my mom used to mask the smell of Chewy, our twelve year old pug’s, pee. Thinking of mom made fresh tears start to fall down my cheek. As my eyes blurred from the tears, I noticed a red patch of clothing.

I rubbed my face with my sleeve and walked over to the corner of the room.

It was the red dress from the party. Though this one was sewn up where it had been ripped. Presumably by Nick. He was taking a sewing class with one of his friends at the community college down the street.

‘If I’m going to waste my time on something, it should be something useful,’ he had said as he was purchasing the supplies two weeks prior. Two weeks before he showed his true colours.

There was a heart at the front hip. Mom’s signature. This was definitely my dress.

‘I know you don’t really like chamomile, but this was the only kind of tea I have.’

Nick walked into the room holding the mug I gave him for his birthday, the one with the flowers, and a stack of papers. He was biting his lip, which made him look even younger than he was. His brown hair was pulled back into a small ponytail. I had tried to convince him for months to cut his hair, but he refused, saying that it ‘got him so much tail.’ I had laughed at the time. Something I could not imagine myself doing at that moment.

‘What’s this?’ I asked, knowing fully well what it was. I wanted to hear him say it.

I had thrown the dress out the day after that night.

‘It’s um –your dress,’ he said.

The dress was light in my hand. The silky part of the skirt caressed the palm of my hand. A brief reminder of my mom’s love and devotion. The chaos of the evening seemed a distant past as I sat on the leather couch of Nick’s new flat. The only sounds were my laboured breathes, and the washing machine in the kitchen. I had wanted to throw this silly pile of fabric, afraid that it would remind me of that night, but now all I could do is hug the material close to me. If, like Dorothy’s ruby slippers, I could whisper ‘there’s no place like home’ and mom would be alive and able to tell me what to do.

 

****

The tattered dress lay on the floor, glaring at me with its fancy sparkles. My makeup drips from my face, clouding my vision.

Nick.

Three years of friendship.

The walls of my room look the same, but the feeling is different.

It had started out like any other drunken night.

‘I kind of want to tear this bookshelf down,’ I had said, with as much conviction as I could muster. The drinks were weighing down my brain. I had invited my football team to a party at my place and I had already drunk four pints of beer. Nick and I had gone up to my room so I could show him the stack of books dad’s girlfriend had sent me. They were still there, even though I had wanted to burn them. Or at least aim it at her perfectly manicured face.

‘I kind of want to tear you down,’ Nick had said from behind me.

Hoping that I was just hearing things, I turned my attention to the books. To this day, I’m not sure how Sheila had found out that my favourite book was ‘Dracula.’ I’ve never talked to my dad about my love for the book, and she would never have spoken with mom. The copy was a first edition, with the pages frayed from use. My ideal book was always those in which I could see its history.

I felt Nick take a step forward.

‘Did you hear what I said?’ He asked as his hands gripped my waist.

I swayed to the beat of the song on the radio. His hands seemed to bore holes in my sides. I had thought those hands were my protective guard from the outside world till just that moment. Now they are just a ball of lies my ex best friend made up to sleep with me.

I could feel his boner on the back of my dress and the moist feel of his lips on my neck. The dark angel poster above my desk was smirking at me. ‘Look at you,’ it seemed to have said. ‘You’re nothing but a piece of flesh to everyone. You don’t matter.’ The angel’s blue eyes scoured my face for any hint of defiance. In my head, he tilted his head and laughed in triumph.

‘Nick, stop!’ I exclaimed, as I became acutely aware of the menacing look on his face.

This wasn’t an act.

I had started to get chest pains and my breathing felt labored.

‘I know you’ve thought about this too. Let’s have some fun.’

His breathe was brushing against the nape of my neck. The smell of beer and weed heavy in the air around us.

‘You’ll enjoy it.’

His hand pressed my back forward, pinning me to the table. I could smell his cologne. The one I picked out for him. For his first date with Clara. The scent made me gag. He tore my dress apart from the back.

He was massaging my back when I heard a voice from the door.

‘Stop!’

Nick paused.

‘Come on man! What are you doing? You wanted this just as much as anyone!’ Nick said, his voice sounding between a whine and a gloat.

Erick came into the room. His footsteps seeming to ricochet off the walls.

‘I didn’t think you were actually serious. Look, I know you wanted Gwen as much as anyone, but do you really think this is how it should be?’

I saw Erick’s hand in the periphery of my vision. Nick was still holding on to me, blocking my view of Erick.

‘Well, she’s never going to put out for me, so why not now? She keeps talking about this mysterious Owain guy. He probably won’t want her after I’m through with her.’

The dark angel seemed to laugh even harder in my head.

His hands were groping my butt when I felt a force tug Nick away.

Happiness is….

You don’t know what happy is like until you’ve gone from one extreme to the other. As many of my readers know, I came back from a year abroad in Wales. Being back means living with my mom, working at the same company I did before I left, and no friends who can just head to the pub at the flip of a coin. The difference in the night life in America and in the U.K. are staggering. There is genuinely more happy and friendly people in the United Kingdom than in the United States.

Which brings me back to the point I wanted to somehow make in the beginning of this post. “You look so happy,” and “I’ve never seen you as happy as you are right now” were regular statements heard from family and friends while I was away. I kept thinking, “was I that unhappy before? I mean, I smiled and laughed, just as I was here.”

But then it hit me. I wasn’t happy. And here is why.

Giving an explanation to any action is terrifying. If I want to go out, just to go out, I couldn’t here at home. Most of my older relatives or friends would say it’s because I didn’t have any responsibility. To me, it was because I didn’t have to conform to someone else’s idea of clean, or what’s proper. I could just be me.

That’s the glorious part about going abroad and being alone. You really get to know who you are. These things you learn abroad might not stick with you when you’re back, but you will always have that memory of being away and free.

The worst part about being home after a year abroad are the pictures. The pictures your friends post at the clubs or on campus. You imagine yourself there, as if it won’t cost you about four months of work to even get back to the place you love. You can imagine that club scene like you were there with them. Pre drinks at your place, Gassy Jacks right before the main event, and then all hell breaks loose. You might find yourself at Live Lounge at the end of the night, where you will most definitely NOT be carded because the bouncer recognizes you. Or maybe just perusing down the City Center, where you will inevitably stop off at McDonalds for some overpriced McNuggets.

So maybe I will have to push myself to be happy, but at least now I have a goal of where I want my life to be like.

With that being said, I would love to go back to the UK. At the time it felt like it was such a long time, but in reality, it flew by like a gust of wind.

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