Story A Day 21:Fine

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Lisa knew the perfect ritual of cold cloths and matte powder that would disguise the fact that she had been crying.

She got lots of practice.

She would sit in the car and have a little cry before she went into the office every morning. She repeated the performance before going into her house at night.

But she always made a point of telling people she was fine.

It was better to keep that shield up.

Fine kept people from asking more questions, kept her from asking herself more questions.

She didn’t want to figure out why he had left. She didn’t want to ask herself what she was going to do next.

She just wanted everything to be fine.

Story A Day 20: Fine

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‘Come in and close the door.’

Her voice was soft, she was clearly trying to keep me calm.

‘Would you like to sit down?’

She was still using that tone. I suspect they taught that in some psych class along the way. It probably had a euphemistic name like ‘Patient-Counsellor Connections’ or something like that.

There was no tone, no psychologist magic that was going to calm me down today. I had something to say and I needed every ounce of anger to stay brave enough to say it.

I perched on the edge of the leather chair across from hers. I leaned forward, my elbows on my knees, my hands clasped to keep them from shaking.

‘Why don’t you tell me what’s troubling you?’ The worst was that she sounded sincere, I almost believed she cared.

What was troubling me? Where did I start? Did I complain about how she reported our sessions back to my mother? How she and Mom had portioned out their advice so it would seem like I was hearing the same thing from two independent sources? Did I tell her about the frustration? The feeling of betrayal?

The words bubbles into my throat and clamoured to get out of my mouth. I swallowed them down and let a single phrase escape.

‘You’re fired.’

Story A Day 19 – Quiet

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She loved her house but she had always hated her neighbourhood.

Her neighbours were obsessed with keeping tidy lawns, but hers was a dandelioned haven for the bees.

Every family on the street had at least two cars, but her driveway was full of planters. Her bike was just chained to the fence.

Every single one of them owned a fire pit. Instead of getting together at one house on summer evenings, every single family had their own fire with their own music blaring.

Those nights were the worst but, really, they were all making noise all the time. Car doors slamming – did no one just close a door any more? Kids squealing – had they never heard of quiet games? Lawn mowers growling – does the grass really need to be cut that often?

It was exasperating.

She had often thought of moving but she didn’t figure she could afford a new house in this market.

When the whistling noise started this morning, she thought that her neighbours had expanded the hours of their tyranny.  But this was something else entirely.

She sat on her step with her morning smoothie and surveyed the damage.

She wouldn’t go so far as to say that her undamaged home was a sign of her virtues, but the fact that every other house had been essentially vapourized was definitely a sign of their sins.

 

Story A Day 18 – Done

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These shoes pinched her toes but they looked great, and that was key.

She could feel everyone’s eyes on her so she glanced at them, remembering to keep her smile small so she would look a little nervous.

He reached for her hand so she let him take it. No point in ruining all her hard work over a little physical contact.

After 10 minutes of droning, the minister was getting to the important part.

“If anyone here knows of any reason why these two should not be joined in holy matrimony, let them speak now or forever hold their peace.”

One one thousand, two one thousand…she counted out thirty seconds in her head. That seemed long enough.

No one had said a word so the minister started droning on again.

She was in the clear.

She has gotten away with it.

Story A Day May #17 – Answers

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Geri was the only one who was scared but she was determined to stick it out.

The rest of us thought the Ouija board was a lark, no different than making those paper fortune-tellers, or twisting the stem of an apple to find out your true love’s initial.

Missy had brought it to the cabin, figuring that after a few glasses of wine we’d be back to our junior high selves and giggle our way through a few minutes with the board.

Dina is always ready to go along with anyone’s suggestion, as long as it seems like it might be fun.

I’m usually a bit slower to join in but I was so tired after my week that my first glass of wine hit me hard. I was giddy right away and Ouija suddenly seemed like the best thing I could ever do.

We lit candles and pulled up a classical playlist, then in the faux-seriousness of very drunk people, we spoke with great respect for the power of the Ouija. I don’t remember what Missy said exactly but I know it had something to do with a connection to the unknowable and with the mystic powers of the forces we were channeling.

We started with easy questions, things we already knew the answers to. Then we got a bit trickier, I think we were testing each other with questions about girlfriends and about husbands. It was still funny though, three of us were definitely having a great time.

Geri, though, she was shifting in her seat, the candlelight making her look even paler. Her breathing kept speeding up, and I swear I could hear her blinking.

The rest of us ran out of questions, distracted by how oddly she was behaving, and finally she spoke, not to us, but to the board.

“Has someone found him yet?”

The planchette dragged our hands to ‘No.’

She spoke again, “Am I safe, then?”

This time it dragged us to ‘Yes.’

In one fluid motion, Missy stood up and threw the board into the fire.

Dina poured us all another glass of wine.

I opened another bag of chips.

Geri melted back into her chair.

She said nothing else about it, and the rest of us didn’t ask.

Story A Day May #16 – A sort of charm

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I couldn’t figure out how things went awry.

I had done everything right – the full moon, the fresh blood, the black candles. The incantation was simple so I didn’t mess that up.

I was patient.  I sat on that mound of dirt for hours, feeling the chill seep into me but staying perfectly still.

Eventually, I gave up and came back home to re-read the spells and find my error.

Even in the warmth of the house, I was shivering, so I put on the kettle and went upstairs to put on my pajamas.

I washed off my make-up.

I took off my jewelry, hanging my necklace with the silver cross on the bathroom doorknob so I wouldn’t lose it.

As my tea was steeping, I heard the first shuffling step on my porch.

Story A Day 15: Oranges

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At first I loved the way he peeled oranges. So careful, so deliberate.

He would cut the peel with a knife, scoring the lines of each quarter. Next, he would pull back each section, one at a time and pile the pieces of orange peel on top of one another.

Then he would draw the orange closer to his nose and inhale the scent.

I admired him for it. The mindfulness, the sinking into the moment, the full awareness that he brought to eating that orange.

Every orange. Every day.

I admired him for his dedication to the process, at first.

But then, I began to notice that he took that same approach with everything.

He took his time getting into the car, he savoured the moment, the experience of driving.

He eased his way into reading, he luxuriated in the feel of the paper, the smell of the book.

He focused on every kiss, gently touching his lips off mine, my chin in his hand.

Not just sometimes, not occasionally.

Every single time. Every single act.

We fought about it (slowly and deliberately, honouring our anger).

I talked to my therapist (quickly and heatedly, no honouring, no savouring).

He told me that I needed become more enlightened, more patient.

At first, I believed him. I felt badly about it, about being so caught up in the world’s impatience that I made him suffer my anger.

Gradually though, I realized that I did not care to have every experience drawn out. I did not care to become enlightened.

I didn’t savour our break-up. I probably didn’t honour his feelings. He can take his time with everything, but I no longer have to.

That next morning, I pushed my thumbs into an orange and pulled it apart with ease. I ate each half and then tossed the peel into the sink from where I sat at the table.  Then I had another.

It tasted just as good as the ones he had served me.

Story A Day #13: Power

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Renate lay in bed and watched the raindrops crawl down the window, willing herself to fall asleep for just a moment. Without rest, there was no way she could keep going.

There might be a secret to mothering, but she sure as hell didn’t know it.

She had been expecting a kind of superpower to kick in once Sammy was born. She thought it would be like a switch coming on – the baby would arrive and then she would *know* what to do.

Every mother she knew had it down to a science. Their competence shone while she fumbled.

She could tell by looking at them that they would be able to lift a car to save their babies but she couldn’t even remember whether she had put the blankets in the dryer.  She had given up trying to line-dry them like a good mother would.

She had no superpowers. There had been no switch.

Sammy whimpered in the other room, and Renate found herself reaching into the bassinet without any memory of having left her own bed.

“It’s okay, little one,” she whispered, her hand on his back, “I’m here.”

Story A Day #12: Alone

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I know that I am supposed to move toward the light but my boy was always the light of my life and I guess that, even now, he’s the only light I can move toward.

 

He’s been sad since it happened. That’s only natural, I suppose.

 

He and his father were never good at conversation, I was always in the middle, like a translator or something. They have their pain in common, but, now that I’m not there,there’s no one to help them speak the same language.

 

My boy has taken to going out after his father falls asleep. He’s not getting up to any trouble, he’s just walking. He still wears those earphones all the time, the white strings hanging down the front of his sweatshirt into the phone in his pocket. His hair flops down in his eyes, and my fingers ache to smooth it back out of his way.

 

He trudges along sidewalks and paths in our little town, I guess he’s wearing himself out so he, too, can sleep.

 

His loneliness pulls me along with his every step.

 

I wish I could tell him that he doesn’t walk alone.