WHERE TO FIND ME

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Death Becomes Her

     Death can be beautiful. Ariana thought.

            An old crumpled woman feebly bound to a chair after a long life seems to have come to terms with the end of her life just as an observer of a wilting flower knows it will never bloom again. Will my death be as beautiful?

            Ariana thought about death a lot, because she’s cursed. The priests of their land, Narkaia, bound her to her twin brother, Rowen, when the royal twins were teenagers. Rowen had a brutal side. She knew the rigidness of the mountain floors and what it felt like to bleed just as she knew the softness of her bed and what it’s like to feel small, relaxing breaths. The priests bound her to protect her. For what happens to her, happens to Rowen and what happens to Rowen happens to her.

            “You are needed in the Circle Room. Come away from the window and join me.”

            Ariana turned to see Kenni, a warlock and a friend. He reached out his clawed hand to her. Ariana took it. She found comfort in his scales, yellow eyes, and long muscular tale. Although it was unwise to admire his handsome face, which was more human than lizard, she often did.

           Kenni has lived many hundreds of years. Ariana was only twenty-four.

            He led her to the Circle Room. The walls were stone as were the floors. No light penetrated it, and many warlocks were around a large cauldron that took up most of the space.

            Kenni brought her right to the rim. “Once more,” was all he said.

            She held out her hand that they may cut her. The blood fell into the whirling air of the cauldron. For a moment her brother appeared. He looked a lot like her. They both have the same long blonde hair that was nearly white. They have the same red eyes, the same startling white skin with deep markings going vertically from their foreheads down to the inside of both eye brows to their chins, and one horizontal marking that went across their faces just underneath their eyes. This time Rowen was smiling and wasn’t covered in blood.

            Ariana turned away. Her brother was fornicating. It made her nauseous as she remembered the reason for his exile…

            Ariana was in a stately room. She was lying on the couch reading the grimoire Kenni had given her to sate her thirst for knowledge of his warlock ancestry. She hadn’t noticed when Rowen entered the room.

            “Sister,” he said with devilish eyes—eyes she has abhorred since they were toddlers in separate cribs. She never had fear of nightmares, shadows, or monsters. Her brother was her nightmare, was her shadow, was her monster. There was no room left for anything that wasn’t real.

            “Brother,” she casually said as she continued to twirl her hair as she went back to the grimoire, though, now she only pretended to read it.

            He sat beside her feet. “I want to tell you a story. Put the book down.”

            She did so cautiously, but she was always cautious in his presence. She sat up, so her feet wouldn’t be touching him.

            Rowen had a sword at his hip, but his hands were in his lap. “I had a dream more vivid and real than anything you will read.”

            “What was the dream?” She said breathlessly as air seemed to evade her lungs.

            “In the dream I was in my room, stuck there by the poisonous rain thundering down against these mountain walls. It was late. With nothing else to do, I lied in bed sharpening my blades. To my surprise there was a knock on the door. I didn’t have time to respond before it opened, and Florence came in.”

            Florence is a playmate. Playmates aren’t illegal in Narkaia so long as they work for themselves. Florence is Rowen’s favorite girl.  “She was naked before she even got to the bed.”

            Ariana swung her feet to the floor. “I don’t want to hear this. Surely this is the kind of talk for bath houses and not for sisters.”

            “Oh, but it concerns you. Wait for the best part.”

            She looked at him sharply.

            He only smiled. “The dream was entertaining—it certainly was how I would spend a night of poisonous rain. Imagine my surprise when Florence’s naked body turned into yours. Your face, even.” She ran for the doorway, but he was ahead of her. “It got me thinking about how I cannot hurt you because of the priests. Would raping you hurt you? It would certainly answer a cosmic question about sex and violence wouldn’t you think?”

            Ariana backed up until she hit a wall. “You’re not that kind of monster. You’ve always seen me as you do everyone else—a vessel that bleeds!” She ducked as he swung at her. She ran behind the couch, but he grabbed her by the hair.

            Rowen felt the same stinging sensation, but it was nothing.

            There was a letter opener on the credenza behind the couch. She grabbed it and stabbed her own leg. Rowen wailed, and she took off running. She had to circle to the only exit in the room. Again he was there first.

            “Ariana…so fair they say. So kind-hearted. So beautiful. But your meekness makes me wonder if my dear sister is a virgin. Or have you cavorted with warlocks or Narkaians?”

            “Does it matter?”

            “If you’re a virgin I would feel your pain as you do. What man can say that?”

            “I’m not one.”

            He drew his sword. “If it’s true, name him.”

            “Raziel, Steward, and Kenni.”

            Rowen actually seemed shocked. “You could have at least picked a more attractive warlock. Tokein at least doesn’t look like an animal.”

            “Tokein has sharp skin.”

            “What if I were to summon them and ask if they’ve been to my sister’s bed?”

            “Do it.” She was confident they would lie for her.

            “And what will you do? Tell them I tried to attack you? Will you post guards outside your room like when we were kids?”

            “Yes.”

            “I can’t kill you, so what am I supposed to do?”

            She pointed the letter opener at her stomach. “Leave and never come back, or I will kill myself.”

            “You would give up your life to take mine?”

            She pushed the blade half an inch in.

            Blood spilled through Rowen’s clothes. “I don’t understand the ‘normal’ mind.” He was still looking down at his stomach.

            “We don’t understand you either.”

            “Perhaps I’m like the poisonous rain. While it could make us sick, it’s needed for this land. Maybe I’m poisonous, but maybe there’s good reason for it.”

            “Tell me the reason. I’ve so longed to know.” Her hands were shaking over her stomach.

            “Fear only attaches itself to those who have something to fear. If more people were like me, they would know no fear. They would be the fear. Isn’t that freeing?”

            “There would be no fear if there were no monsters.”

            “Are you calling me a monster, dear sister?”

            “Yes.” It felt good finally admitting it, so she said it again. “Yes.” She had nothing to fear any longer. Either he would leave their home, or it would end with them bleeding to death on the floor.

            He glared at her. “I’m your brother. We’re blood. We’re family. We’re connected forever.” He left as swiftly as he entered.

            She was shaking. Her blood looked almost purple against her dark blue gown. Kenni later found her on the floor. Once she told him what happened, a search party gathered…

            “He’s killed her.” Kenni said in the Circle Room.

            “Was the same message left?”

            “Yes. ‘Dear sister’ was carved into her stomach.”

            “I thought playmates were warned not to accept him as a client.”

            “Word may not have made it to far lands. And he is charming. Most playmates envy him.”

            “Any clues?”

            “None I’m afraid. It’s just a room with pretty things.”

            “There must be some way.” She said angrily.

            “This is the way.” A claw cascaded comfortingly over her shoulder.

            “Five girls. Lohan, Ecca, Ashian, Lora, and whoever this girl is. By the time we find the woman’s body, he’s in another land.” Ariana turned to Kenni. “Isn’t there a better spell?”

            “What are you suggesting?”

            “Pull him, through space, here.”

            “That is dangerous.”

            “But he knows what spells we are willing to use. Each time I cut myself to see him, he is cut and knows. He knows we haven’t changed our methods, so why would he?”

            “I would have to have counsel with your father.”

            “Then do it. He’s already reconciled his son’s fate.”

            Ariana stood on the balcony carved into the mountain. The red sky was ablaze, signaling night. She looked out thinking about blood. How many times had he cut her before the priests protected her? How many times did she feel close to death? She knew he cut some of his playmates and that they let him because he was charming.

            For a long time she thought he would outgrow it, but maybe that was more of a prayer.

            “Ariana.” It was Kenni again. “Your father has agreed to do the spell.”

            “When?”

            “Whenever you decide.”

            “Now. Let’s do it now.”

            “Are you rested enough?”

            “He is searching for another woman to kill to punish me for banishing him, so yes.”

            “As long as you are strong enough. The spell is a harsh one and not to be taken lightly.”

            “Am I not serious enough?”

            “Then let us begin.” He beckoned her forward as he turned toward the mountain. His tail moved behind him gracefully.

            They went to the dungeons. A cell had been prepared for Rowen. The ritual would take place inside it. When he came through, he wouldn’t be able escape. The floors were dirt. The bars were made of the bones of priests. Evil cannot cross them. No one was there beside her and Kenni. He alone could do the spell, and only he was needed to protect them from Rowen when he came through.

            A circle was dug into the dirt. She knew the spell and stood inside the circle. Rowen left none of his possessions behind, which would be needed to track him. A blood relative was their best hope.

            “Don’t leave the circle until I tell you.”

            Ariana nodded.

            He raised his clawed hand at her. His yellow eyes glowed. Wind picked up in the circle. It was gentle at first but quickly became fierce. Her yellow dress whipped out behind her. The wind started slashing at it. She could feel the cuts on her skin, and hoped it wasn’t warning her brother.

            She felt a pulling sensation across her entire body. It felt euphoric at first as she gave into the spell, then it felt brutal. This wasn’t part of the spell.

            She screamed.

            Ariana could feel a force pushing her as it pulled her. It was like she was being crushed. Bones broke in her body—her cheek, her arm, both hands, a rib, and finally a leg which sent her falling to the dirt.

            Immediately the wind disappeared. She looked up at Kenni. “Why did you stop?”

            “The spell would have killed you.”

            “But why? Did Rowen do something to counter the spell?”

            “No, the priests did.”

            She almost laughed in irony. “Being bound was supposed to be an honor. To shadow my brother and prevent him from doing harm was said to be a great service to Narkaia. All it did was curse me.” She stood unsteadily to her feet and left the circle.

            Kenni, with a healing touch, reached for her.

            “Why didn’t it work?”

            “You are linked by more than blood. The spell didn’t know which being to call, so it tried to call you both, but it isn’t meant to call more than one soul.”

            She looked hopeless.

            He tried to reassure her. “We’ll catch him. He will remain in this cell for the rest of his life. You will die an old lady.”

            “What a curious thought.”

            Days had passed. Ariana was fully healed, which meant so was Rowen. He must be on the hunt for another woman. The idea made Ariana restless, so she ventured deep into the mountain on her way to the labor district.

            “Ms. Ariana.”

            “Diven.” She nodded at the creature who was native to this land. He, like all his kind, are tan or brown with large heads. They have rolls that stack to form a body and no legs. Before the warlocks and Narkaians invaded this land, the creatures’ overlord ordered her servants to be mutilated at birth so they could never rise against her.

            Once the warlocks defeated the overlord, the mutilations stopped. Still, in the labor district, most creatures roll around on boards with wheels and use their knuckles or sticks to push themselves along.

            “We heard you weren’t well.”

            “I’m better. I should be back to help with the work as soon as Rowen is found.”

            “Very good, Ms. We have lots of land to make.”

            Ariana made it through the labor district and into the market place. Stones made up patchy floors among the dirt. Shops were scattered along the winding corridor.

            She went in to see the post master. He was behind the counter. “Leweed, I’ve come for something special.”

            “Then you shall have it.” Leweed is another warlock. He’s very tall but hunches greatly. He has one eye and extremely long fingers. His skin is gray. He’s one of her favorite warlocks. Leweed works here because his powers as a warlock aren’t as great as others, and his interests lie elsewhere.

            “Kenni has thought of a way to further spread warnings about Rowen with haste. We need paper made from the trees soaked in the poisonous rain.”

            “Yes, yes very magical indeed.” He folded his long fingers together. “But…I am sorry to inform you…but I must inform you that we have it not.”

            “How can you not have it? Poisonous rain is frequent this time of year. Surely the trees have shed.”

            “They did. But…well…before your brother was wanted, he came and bought every sheet. I had no reason to suspect anything you see.”

            “When can you get more?”

            “Next season.”

            “Next season?” She was shocked. Seasons in Narkaia are long.

            “The trees will shed as long as there’s rain. But now pieces are all you will get until the new season.”

            She was sick to her stomach. Hundreds of women could be butchered by then. She, not really understanding where she was going, turned to go.

            “Ariana!” Leweed called after her. “You do have a letter.”

            She walked back and took it. On the front it said: Ariana

            It was from Rowen.

            She tore through it at once and read:

            Dear sister, have you given up yet? I promise you will know peace if you stop searching. You have my word I will never see our mountain again. Live your precious life, and I will live mine.

            I suspect your stubbornness won’t allow this, so I will give you another option. Come to me. I will be at the only inn seven lands east of our mountain. I will be here for one night. Come alone, or I’m gone.

            You have no reason to want to come to me except for this: A priesthood can unbind us. Think of what that means. I’m waiting, but I won’t wait for long.

            Ariana dressed in a light blue hooded gown. She had just been to see Kenni who was working on another way to find her brother. This was the only time she had ever lied to him.

            She walked out of the mountain, across the bridge over the lava river, and into the forest. The trees moved without wind as did all the plants in some way or another. She knew this had to be done. Being unbound from her brother could mean he could be killed without her having to die. It meant he wouldn’t be able to know what moves they were making against him. It meant she was free from nights when she woke up to her arm or breasts bleeding because he had cut himself while with a playmate.

            She felt this was the only way to save women and the only way to save herself. She had every intention of trying to arrest him after the priests unbound them. If not, she would kill him. Her dress hid many blades.

            It was a long walk into the forest before she met Anton—a warlock whose company wasn’t well respected. He had sharp teeth, glowing eyes despite the solid black coloring, and was otherwise human looking.

            She threw a drawstring pouch at him. He caught it and smiled. “Take my hand, and you will appear in the land where your brother is.”

            Ariana stepped forward. His grip was unnecessarily tight, but instantly she was no longer in the forest. She was still outside, but the land was foreign to her. It was shabby. The lane was muddy. The shops were wooden and dilapidated. She turned around and around, trying to get her bearings.

            “Are you lost?” An elderly woman came up to her.

            “An inn, do you have an inn here?”

            “We have but one.” She looked at Ariana’s gown. “I’m afraid it’s nothing fancy.”

            “I don’t need fancy. I just need to know where it is.”

            The woman pointed over Ariana’s shoulder. “Down the lane there, to the corner on the right.”

            “Thank you.”

            “My pleasure, Ms.”

            Ariana was down the lane in a hurry. Her brother was due to leave in an hour’s time. At the end of the lane she saw the inn. It wasn’t as shabby as those around it, but it also didn’t stand out. She walked through the simple door. The man behind the counter asked, “A room?”

            “My brother is expecting me. His name is Rowen.”

            “Number 4. Just down the hall on the right, there.”

            She found herself in front of the door seconds later. She hesitated to knock, but the door opened anyway. “Brother,” the word escaped her.

            “Dear sister.” He smiled.

            “Surely you know that endearment is sickening now.”

            “Why? Because it was written on flesh? Can it have no other meaning now?”

            “You must know my answer.”

            He opened the door wide to let her in.

            She hesitated.

            “How can the priests unbind us if you don’t come in?”

            She stepped through the threshold. He closed the door quickly behind her. “Are they here?”

            “Any moment now.”

            “Then I’ll wait outside.” She moved to go, but he blocked her.

            “Are you afraid of me?”

            “Yes.” She didn’t quite meet his eyes.

            “There’s no need sister. The dream has passed. I only want to be rid of you as you want to be rid of me.”

            She moved to the other side of the room and suddenly had a terrible feeling in the pit of her stomach. I’ve been a complete fool. “You’ve tricked me, haven’t you?”

            His smile was charming but cruel.

            “You value your life too much to kill me, so why am I here?”

            “To break the binding.”

            “But if no priests are coming…”

            “There is another way to break it.”

            “How?”

            He stood up and went to a closet. The door had notches of wood taken out of it. He reached in to grab something. What emerged was a woman, bound and gagged. She was crying. Many of her restraints were soaked in blood.

            Ariana was relieved. “You haven’t killed her?”

            “No.” He took a knife from a sheath. “You will kill her.”

            She stepped back. “You know I won’t do that.”

            “You will if you want to be rid of me. They bound us together because we are so unalike. If you kill, you will be no better than me, and the binding of the priests will break.”

            “Why would you think I’d do this?”

            “To protect Narkaia. One life. One life is a small exchange for your freedom, isn’t it?”

            “Come with me. Come back to our mountain. We will ask the priests to undo what they’ve done. I will see that you are banished instead of imprisoned. You have my word.”

            “Your word is meaningless. It’s because of you I kill. I never took a life before the day you threw me out of my home. I know you only came because you thought you’d finally get a chance to kill me without killing yourself. I’m not stupid, dear sister.”

            But I have been. She thought to herself. She wanted so badly to believe priests could fix what they did so long ago.

            “I have a surprise for you.” He pushed the woman to the floor. He opened a door that led into an adjacent room. “Come see.”

            She moved slowly. She had her arms tucked in each sleeve to better retrieve a knife if she needed to. When she walked into the room, she nearly screamed. There were four bodies there. All were women of varying look. All were naked or partially naked. There was so much blood it was hard to see them or the room.

            “Take one life, and you will have a greater chance at stopping me.”

           She lunged at him with her knife. It landed in his shoulder.

           The shock surprised him but not for long. He backhanded her, and she fell onto the floor next to the bound girl. Blood from Ariana’s shoulder gushed out. A welt appeared on her brother’s cheek.

           A loud crack in the sky took their attention. Sheets of poisonous rain were coming down. He laughed. “Now what are you going to do? Kill her, and I will leave you in peace until the rain stops. Don’t and tonight will be a nightmare you never knew could exist.”

           She got to her feet and ran. She jumped across the bed and out into the hall. The man behind the counter was gone. She ran for the front door, but was restrained around her waist by Rowen. He pulled her back so hard she went flying down the hall, landing ungraciously.

           “It’s a small inn sister. Where are you going to go? Did you bring help?”

           “I don’t need it.” She ran up a staircase. At the end of the hall was a window. She crashed her way through it and landed on a lower part of the roof. The poisonous rain was coming down on her. The muddy streets were empty.

           “Come back inside!” He screamed.

            She looked at the trickles of water on her skin. The rain felt tingly. She looked up at the dark sky with her piercing red eyes, and let the poison wash over her.

            “Sister, please!” She was startled by where the voice was coming from. Rowen was now in the street, carefully hidden under protective robes.

            She smiled down at him. Maybe he’s the poison, and I’m the counterweight—the lesson to be learned. He is the sickness and I the antidote.

            She jumped from the roof.

            Her eyes met her brother’s in her last moment. This time, she was the one to smile. Blood ran from and along her body for the last time. It pooled in the streets of this dreary land. The rain pushed it along as it absorbed into the mud.

        They were found in the morning when the poison rain washed away. They remained preserved in a funeral chamber for weeks before Kenni found them. Ariana was brought home. Her brother’s body was burned in disgrace in a field lands away. He is forever lost, but their mountain misses her as an echo misses a whisper. The mountain knows all about the lady in blue. Her fellow people and friends mourn her loss. The priests celebrate her sacrifice. They say death becomes her.

How Things Change

I go to Compton Gardens a lot. It’s like hopping down the rabbit hole to Wonderland. Special creatures line the path. I pass a statue of a bunny, a turtle, a bear, and a ferocious looking pig almost every time I go. Who can’t get swept away by these wonderful imitations while walking down winding, tree-lined paths? The setting definitely bombards you with inspiration whether you want it or not. I had passed the bunny and the turtle and was on a declining path when I heard music. I didn’t think much of it until I realized it had to be right next to me. I looked up to a slightly higher trail where there was a structure called Skyspace.  It’s a dome without a roof for stargazing. the cement construct apparently gives off good acoustics. I stood there for several minutes wondering who was inside. Was she young or old? Was she just killing time or practicing for something?

She sounded amazing. It reminded me of Ariel from The Little Mermaid. But then again I already had fantasies of Wonderland, so finding another comparison to my childhood isn’t that far off. She was singing sounds more than a song. The harmony was really something. The mystery was really inspiring. Of course, I left her to herself. I didn’t want to ruin the mystique, and who am I to intrude? I was there to reflect, and whatever reasons she had for singing, it sounded like she was calming herself too.

Compton Gardens has a special connection for me since two of the three homes I’ve lived in were on this property—not even a half mile from each other. The first was where the parking lot is now. The duplex is still there, visible from a paved path. The picture captioning this post is the duplex. The crude lane to it goes to the yards of the duplexes and houses in this area. The other paths aren’t so worn looking. If you look me up on Facebook @smstiththewritergirl I will post more pictures of the things I saw today. There are links to my other social media accounts at the bottom of this site to make it easier for you, since I have quite the Facebook handle. But smstith was taken, so what can a girl do?

Now getting back to the topic…

I went there today to reflect. I played in these thick dense woods when I was a kid. Me and my siblings and friends carved out paths through it. Now there are cement paths. We played in the creek and caught crawdads there. Now metal fences break it up a bit for safety. I used to take the woods as a short cut to my friend’s house, coming into their backyard instead of their front. Now it’s all hollowed out for the most part. This isn’t a complaint, just an observation.

Paths to Crystal Bridges are where a shack used to sit. One of the older boys in the duplex attached to ours made up a story that the man who lived there was a killer. I don’t remember all the gory details, but he dared us to go down the hill, cross the creek, and go up the other side and peek into the house. He said we were sure to see dead animals and things hanging in there. Kid after kid either braved the dare or backed off. I rolled my eyes and told them they were gullible. I knew the woods well. And I knew the boy too. He was the brother of two of my best friends at the time and, of course, the smile on his face gave his lie away. Today I looked out at the general area the killer’s house must have been in and smiled. Now the “scary” part of the woods isn’t thick or dense and dozens of people were roaming its paths today.

The change doesn’t make me sad. Now I can go “home” any time. Now there are more things to see and people to share it with. This evolution is a good one. And it’s always good to go back and reflect on how things have changed—good or bad. It’s been a bad year, so I needed to reflect. I used to write a blog once a week. When my dad died, I wrote about that for a bit and then took some time for me. I still haven’t gotten my swing back when it comes to blogging, but I am trying to figure out the next step for me. I’ll continue sending my manuscript to agents when they open again in January. I may find another blog platform, so I can be more creative with it. Writing will always be a part of me. My blog isn’t about fiction, and it’s the real world I’m trying to come to terms with in the wake of two really terrible years. So, if you’re reading this, I thank you. I’m happy to have written it and to have taken a stroll down memory lane and cement paths.

 

What Dreams Are Made Of

I’m not sure where one’s own ambition comes from. Maybe it’s something that lives inside us all the time only to come to the surface when it’s been activated by something in our environment—like when we see someone else accomplish it. After all, how many of us have looked at someone and gone, “I want to do that” ?

I didn’t know I wanted to be a writer until I read The Farthest Away Mountain by Lynn Reid Banks in fourth grade. Mrs. Brock assigned it as a class read. We all took turns reading it out-loud. I wasn’t for reading. When she first mentioned it, I took the lead of my fellow classmates and groaned with the rest of them. Once I delved into the pages I realized that was exactly what I wanted to do—be a writer. It was exciting to think that imagination could take you anywhere and “anywhere” could consist of anything if you only dared to dream it up.

Being that young, thinking of yourself as a teenager felt old enough. I thought I would enter contests, pursue an academic career that was focused on writing and on business, because I’ve always been a realist as well as a dreamer and knew I needed a backup plan. At that age I thought it would be easy and that I would find success quickly even if it wasn’t with writing.

Then I got sick. I didn’t finish my first book until 2015. At that point I was 25. I’ve learned how to submit to agents. I’ve found publishers that do accept unrepresented authors when before I thought there were none. I’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way, which was frustrating because I’m not stupid, careless, or disorganized. For a long time I blamed being sick. “If I could have gone to college, I would have known these things,” I told myself. “If I wasn’t so tired, I wouldn’t make silly mistakes.” And on and on and on. I don’t mind making mistakes or not knowing something. After all, there is always something to learn. But I despise making a mistake when I know better. It just so happened my mind wasn’t working as clearly that day, or I should have waited until after I rested to send the email or waited one extra day until I was feeling better to submit. Live and learn, I guess. My point is that I have to let the past go. I have to let obstacles go. Sure, I do things differently because of my health problems, but I can do better than I’m doing now. I knew to wait to submit when I was feeling better or to trust my instincts more when it came to things, but I didn’t because I still kept that idea in my head that I had to have success and I had to have it now.

It isn’t that I have the greed monster growing inside of me. Before I got sick, I knew there was a substantial chance that I would never make it as an author, and I was okay with that. Like I said, I had a backup plan. But when you’re sick, things change. I had more of a drive to prove to others and to myself that I am more than someone with an illness. After awhile writing seemed like the thing to save me from living a life I didn’t want. It wasn’t just a dream, it was all I had. But that pressure made me make bad choices and put unnecessary stress on myself.

And that’s why I started writing this piece. Not so many days ago, I was making a pro/con list of pursing my dream versus that of disability (which I vehemently don’t want to do but have to), thinking that I might have to give up one for the other. There were very real, very scary things on the con side if I kept going with writing instead of following my doctor’s advice to go on disability. I even shot an Instagram shot of the board and posted it only to take it down a few hours later. I am real. I want to be real and honest, but I also have this fear that if I’m too honest it will hurt my chances of getting published even more. I also don’t want to seem over dramatic, and I am an optimist at heart. Yes, there are bad things in the world. Yes, there are bad things in my life, but that’s not all there is. And I’m more about fixing problems or maneuvering around them than I am to dwell on them.

So once again, I came on here to write a real hard–hitting piece about what it’s like to strive for a dream you may never catch and the fallout to that only to find myself pushing all that crap aside for optimism. This is why I write fiction.

Maybe one day it will be me who says, “I never thought I’d get here!” or “I thank God and my health.” and all the other lines I used to hate to hear from people who did make their dreams come true, because I didn’t understand at such a young age what they were talking about. After all, if you’re working towards something you do think you can achieve it, so why are you so surprised when you do? And well, duh, your health is important. And back then I didn’t believe in God. What a difference adulthood makes. Now I realize they had low moments and high moments and maybe there weren’t enough high ones to make up for the low ones, and maybe the low ones were so bad they thought about giving up more than they thought they would. Maybe that’s why they were so surprised. Maybe that’s why they were so thankful—because even they weren’t quite sure how they made it with all the obstacles in their way.

Then over the weekend I saw many faces in a crowd. I saw kids, teens, and adults. There was innocence, promise, and devastation etched into these faces. Some teens still were in the reverie of youth. Adults too. Yet, some kids looked as worn-out as adults, which isn’t at all fair. So what happened? What will happen?

To those questions I don’t have the answers. All I know is that dreams live within us, and when we let them die, part of us dies too. Dreams are made of hope, wonder, hard work, desperation, exhaustion, fear, and then strength to feel all of that and to keep going anyway.

This may not have turned out to be the insightful piece I was going for, but at least I finished a post that wasn’t a poem. Since my dad died in May, I keep sitting down with an idea never to finish it. Luckily my novels don’t let me down. Novels are easier because they’re a place to escape. Blogs are the real world. I guess, maybe, I’m trying to get back to the real world.

 

The Coins (2)

I shared a previous blog post about The Coins where I hid two coins along with a note in a burlap drawstring pouch at two of my favorite places around town. Today I hid the third and final one. Again, I felt a bit of mischief while doing so. I kept looking around to see if anyone was watching me. I looked up and around for security cameras as if what I was doing was delinquent. Ha ha. Surely, it isn’t. The second after I wedged the sack into its hiding place someone came up and asked if I needed help. Excellent timing. I nearly jumped. I was so startled I said, “No, I’m just looking,” when really the answer was yes!

I really don’t have much to say on the subject. It was fun to get out. It was fun to end this idea that I’ve had for months now. It’s even fun writing this even without anything eloquent to say.

It’s been hard getting back into my old routine since my dad died. I posted a poem since he died but nothing else. I’m still trying to find my way. Topics weren’t coming to me as they did before. Before I was excited to think of new places to discover and write about or to just go along with an idea in my head. Now I’m dealing with changes: figuring out what’s important to me, figuring out what my life is going to look like, seeing which relationships strengthen and which ones weaken—and trust me, both have happened. But one can’t guess at the future. I make choices every day. Every day I try. For now, that’s enough.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. Thanks for going on this little coin adventure with me. And pray that those that find the coins at least get a laugh out of it.

POEM: The Path 6/15/17

THERE ARE PATHS LAIN BEFORE US AND ROADS WE TAKE ALL THE TIME

I SETTLE DOWN EACH ONE SIMPLY BECAUSE THEY ARE MINE

PEACE BECOMES AND PEACE FALLS

SHALLOW TALKS AND HOLLOW WALLS; NEW BEGINNINGS; AND ALL THINGS WELL—OR WELL ENOUGH IT SHOULD SEEM

AFTER ALL THIS ISN’T A FAIRYTALE OR A DREAM

HOW FICKLE THE HEART SEEMS—TO DREAM AND DWELL AND WANT, OH SO MANY, THINGS

BUT THERE ARE PATHS LAIN BEFORE US AND ROADS WE TAKE ALL THE TIME

AND I SETTLE ON EACH ONE SIMPLY BECAUSE THEY ARE MINE

WHEN THE BOUGH BREAKS OR THE LAST PETAL FALLS OR THE MIND WISHES TO ERASE A DREAM, A MOMENT, OR JUST ANYTHING AT ALL—PEACE BECAME AND THEN IT FELL AWAY

AFTER ALL, THIS ISN’T A FAIRYTALE OR A DREAM

THE PAST CANNOT BE UNDONE; THE FUTURE CANNOT BE KNOWN

SO THE HEART DREAMS ONCE AGAIN AND HOPES THAT THE PRESENT LINES UP WITH…WELL EVERYTHING

WE ALL HAVE PATHS BEFORE US

THE SAME ROADS WE TAKE ALL THE TIME

I SETTLE FOR EACH ONE SIMPLY BECAUSE THEY ARE MINE

BUT MY HEART DREAMS OH SO MANY THINGS—FOR THIS PATH, THAT PATH, OR ANY ROAD AT ALL TO LEAD ME TO THE FAIRYTALE MY HEART STILL DARES TO DREAM

Unlucky/Unwilling In Love

I’ve never had a SERIOUS boyfriend. I was too shy when I was young.  In elementary and middle school boyfriends were just words. You said he was your boyfriend. He said you were his girlfriend. You went down the slides together at recess or got married under the jungle gym with your best-friends as witnesses but that was it, as we were too young to really know what it meant. We were just emulating what was around us. By middle school the understanding was closer to the truth. Maybe you had your first kiss. Maybe you had boyfriends but they never lasted that long. Then as I got older I got sicker and having a boyfriend went further and further down the priority list. I was still too shy even in junior high. By high-school age, doctor appointments became my life.

I never really could meet a lot of new people. If I did find someone I was interested in, it never really developed into anything. Either I pulled away or the guy did. I joked, mostly in my head, that I was cursed. I’m unlucky in love as it is. Then I stopped caring about it altogether. I’m not sure why exactly. I like my independence, sure. I’ve never really needed someone in my life that way, so I kind of resided in myself that I would probably be single forever. But truly if my own Pacey Witter came along (or just someone that didn’t have commitment issues that I fell for) I would probably give it a chance despite my constant protests that I neither want nor need a man in my life to be happy.

You may be wondering why I’m picking this topic now. Is there a love interest for this writer girl? Nope. (Ha ha) I guess it’s natural to ponder certain life choices as you get older. I also recently lost my dad as you may know if you keep up with my blog. And there have been times when I wished I had someone in my life unconditionally. Nights are hard for me, and it would be nice to have someone there. I have fantastic friends and family members, don’t get me wrong. But they have obligations and spouses of their own. No one is guaranteed to call me or message me back just because I need them to and that’s ok. I’m glad they have what they have in their lives, just as I’m glad I have what I’m able to have in mine.

I guess it’s just a little weird for me to want someone day to day. Normally I’m ok with either or. Either I have someone and that’s ok. Or I don’t, and that’s ok. Lately, it feels less ok. 

This post includes the words “unlucky” and “unwilling.” The unlucky parts are mentioned already. The unwilling part, I think, comes from my hesitance to add anything new to my life when so many things in it aren’t set in stone. I also truly believe it is hard finding the right guy. He has to feel the way you feel about him. Anyone out there knows how hard that can be. Then they have to be able to accept me with health issues and all, and I don’t believe someone can be that patient or understanding. In that regard, in most instances, I’m unwilling to put myself in the position for more heartbreak. One could argue heartbreak comes with the territory, but I would counter you by saying it’s different if a relationship doesn’t work out because of personality or other factors versus it didn’t work out because one person is sick. I’ve lost enough to health issues. I won’t set myself up to lose more.

Then again I would drop my pessimism for a guy with a good heart, open mind, and good communication skills. Until then, I’m unlucky/unwilling in love. And I know that as I grieve more, maybe I will go back to accepting how things are now with no need to know the future. 

Walking In His Footsteps

This is going to have a bit of profanity in it.  I’m not one to curse for the sake of it.  When I choose such words it’s because none other apply.  But I thought I’d give my readers a heads-up.

Due to some research about how my dad was treated medically and some other personal topics, today was an emotionally tiring and draining day, so I went to bed early.  True to my insomnia I woke up a little before midnight.  I ate a brownie and went out on the porch.  It was amazingly warm with that perfect wee-hour breeze.  I looked up at the sky to talk to my dad.  Out loud I said “You used to do this too, didn’t you?  You couldn’t sleep so you would find an unhealthy snack and go outside.”  That’s when I started crying.  I asked him, “Were you thinking about the same things I’m thinking about—about how fucked up everything can get?”  I told him that I know he’s at peace and that I’m sorry he couldn’t find peace here.  I asked him to help the rest of us find it.  I told him that I was sorry that there was nothing else left for him to try, but that I’m still trying as best as I can even though everything just seems so much worse since he passed.

I looked out onto the yard at the bushes he planted when we moved into this house when I was in second grade.  I remembered years of being chased around the yard by my friends and giggling around corners as I got caught or caught someone else.  I remembered looking down the street to see which one of my friends would be coming to see me next.  But that was so long ago.

I’m not sure where this rambling is going.  Normally when I can’t sleep I write my stories, but I was feeling like I was spiraling too much today to do so, so unfortunately those that read this are subjected to the unorganized ramblings of an insomniac.  But since my dad died just a few weeks ago, I hope you’ll give me a break and know that my blog is my outlet.  It isn’t meant to further my writing career or to be anything quite so prosaic. They’re all just thoughts going through my head.  When I write books, there is a point to them, a sort of happiness and design, and I put a lot of work into them.  My blogs are more for me.

I’m sure most of my topics go out into the void of never-ending posts by anyone with a ramble or idea or ambition and as such will get lost out there somehow, and that’s okay. Writing is a way of connecting.  Whether 2 people read this or 200 and whether 2 out of 200 like what I have to say or most of them do, it doesn’t matter—not here.  Here this is just a blog post, and I’m just a girl trying to connect and sort through it all…

I’m tempted to end it there, but the writer in me wants a conclusion.  (Such a pesky little habit.) So what is tonight’s point? And I guess I do know the answer to that.  It’s about the unknown.  With dad’s passing lots of things are coming up—things to face, things to figure out, things to enjoy, things to suffer through, things to clarify, things to be confused by.  Mostly, though, I’m just confused and maybe a little worried about what my future holds.  Thus the post-midnight blog.  If I admit to the worry, it isn’t so scary.  That’s the conclusion ladies and gentlemen.  I just wanted to feel less scared.

Endings

As a writer I think of endings a lot. They’re just as important as the beginning and the middle. The only real difference is that they’re scarier. It can be subtle like being on the edge of your seat as you anticipate the last episode of your favorite show. Will it disappoint? Will you get everything you ever hoped for? Will you be sad? Do you think you could have written it better? And are you so invested in fiction that you really really really want to have written it better? I know I’m guilty of that many times over.

Then there are scarier endings. Endings that are life changing in particular. As a kid growing up feels like a rush—a rite of passage one must get to because it will be so exciting and amazing and adventurous right? But then childhood ends and responsibility sets in and that can be scary. Friendships end. Relationships end. Jobs end. Life ends. But I suppose the way you have to look at an ending is by going back to the beginning. Where something ends, something new begins. New friends, new relationships can teach you something you need to know for the next phase of your life. The new job that can better yourself in some way. A life ending, I don’t believe for the most part, can ever have a good impact but that doesn’t mean you won’t learn something important or see something in the world you didn’t see before.

My dad passing was about 16 days ago, and I’m still working out what that means. Perhaps he is why I’m thinking of writing about endings instead of just thinking about them all the time. His pain has ended. This is good. Never being able to hear his voice or see him again isn’t. His “sick” room has been painted a lovely sage color, and I’m going to turn it into a library and office. I’m going to fill it with artwork he made himself that he gave me as he was a brilliant artist before his body fell apart. I’m going to fill it with books, plants, and crystals which are all things I had in common with him. I think he would like that. Using it to write, too, is something we have in common as he wrote a lot of poetry in his life. It can be a happy place again. It can be our place in a way. I hope this transition helps my family members too. My nephew recently went in there once it had been freshly painted and cleared out. I was afraid it would make him sad, but it didn’t. He said it would be sad if it was the way it was before. If everyone else will feel how he felt, I don’t know. But grief hits everyone differently, and different things make us all sad.

Though his life ended (and that is still incredibly hard to say without falling apart), now is a transition for us all. Some relationships are getting stronger. I’ve been really touched by those who have come out, lent a hand, or got in touch again. I was surprised by how many people are helping me transform his room into a happier space. I couldn’t do it without them, and it is really touching to have so many hands and ideas involved. That makes me want to cry happy tears. I have friends who I have called or texted balling in the wee hours of the morning, and they were nothing but supportive.

But I’ve seen the opposite with others. Friendships may be ending. Grudges may end too though, or rev up again. It just depends on if we follow love in grief or give in to anger. Mostly I see grudges falling away but who knows? This transitional time will reveal different dynamics. That alone is a beginning too.

I wish I could say that my dad’s death has made me feel bolder or more willing to dash heart first into everything and get knee deep in old issues to hopefully wade passed them for good. Except this isn’t a movie, and most things don’t work like that.  A friend of mine I normally would have called in a situation like this is someone I can’t reach out to because of a series of complicated events. This person has expressed that I should reach out and shouldn’t hesitate, but interactions are still strange, the past too long, the present set too deeply in stone, so I never make that call; I never open that door. Unfortunately complications don’t end simply because something life changing happened. However it has made me more vigil of how I proceed with all my relationships presently though. I guess there is good in that.

And I can’t help but think: what if we changed our feelings about the word ending? What if end and begin could mean the same thing? They’re both transitions aren’t they? They both can be scary. They both have consequences. They’re both intricate parts of a story. What if this ending, like all others, is only the beginning? The beginning of what, I couldn’t say. It could be good or bad or a bit of both. It could be life-altering or mostly mundane. But it has happened, and there’s nothing I can do about it except transition too. If anything, it makes me want to try even harder and longer to prove that not all sick people get lost in the system. We’re dreamers too. We have hopes and ambitions too. I hope my dad sees that and can be proud that I’m still trying, and hopefully he feels contentment that I have more opportunities than he had. This gives me no comfort, but it does give me more drive on the days when I’m not so very sad.

So I pose this question that we may all find our own answers: What is so scary about an ending?

And if I could offer unsolicited advice, I’d say always find a new beginning. Never wait for it to be forced on you or for something terrible to teach you to find it.

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