Trophy Wife

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Steven always liked her to shower before coming to bed. He was particular in his expectations and she didn’t want to disappoint him. It’s not that he would be upset with her. There were no demands or spoken instructions. She learned what he liked and disliked by simply paying attention.

Marilyn carefully washed her hair. She made sure that it was clean and conditioned perfectly for Steven. Her arms reached up into her long, flaxen hair. Her fingers gently rubbing her scalp. The water cascaded down her pale flesh.

She firmly turned the water off and remains motionless for a bit. Her hair dripping onto the tile. It is a grand, spacious bathroom. The bright light fixtures  illuminate everything. Marilyn reached out to grab a towel to wrap her head in before stepping out of the shower. The rug felt soft and warm between her toes.  She took a good look in the mirror. She is content in her reflection, though she silently takes note of flaws that weren’t there a few years ago. She reluctantly pulled on a robe over her wet skin.

The bedroom was a large, open room with a California King Four-Poster bed  opposite the window. The big, heavy blackout drapery had been pulled closed for modesty’s sake. Dark wooded nightstands stood on each side, with Tiffany style lamps placed in the center of each.

Marilyn walked over to the armoire and pulled out powder blue lace underwear and a matching bra that she hoped Steven would like. In the next drawer down, she picked out a pair of thigh highs. She took the robe off and threw it on the bed before getting dressed. She heard a knock on the door.

“Miss Marilyn?”

“Yes, Pamala?”

“Mr. Steven asked me to bring you some drinks.” She said through the door.

“Okay, just a second, please.” She slipped the robe back on and walked over to the door. She took a breath and turned the heavy brass knob. “Good evening, Pamala.”

“Good evening, Miss Marilyn.” Pamala stood holding a tray with a crystal pitcher of martinis, a jar of green olives and cocktail onions on skewers and two coupe glasses. 

“Please come in.” Pamala walked to marble topped table off to the right. She set the tray down and walked directly out. “Thank you, Pamala.”

“Enjoy your evening, Miss Marilyn.” Pamala bowed slightly and closed the door. Marilyn heard the door locking and then the sounds of footsteps walking back to the staircase. 

Marilyn smiled at the gift from Steven. He was always thoughtful like that. She hung her robe back up before pouring herself a drink. She walked to the bathroom and sat down at her vanity. She took a sip and cringed gently at the bite of the gin. The burn felt good going down. She exhaled before applying light makeup and deep red lipstick. Content with the results of her work, she walked back out to the bedroom and stretched out on the chaise lounge. She turned some Coltrane on the wireless speakers with her phone and then dimmed the lights. She slowly sipped her drink until it was gone. Usually, the olives would have been gone before the martini was, but she didn’t want to leave their scent on her breath. Marilyn closed her eyes and let the sounds float through her mind.

Her eyes remain closed as she hears the door open. Steven enters and softly closes the door behind him. He looks upon his beloved with a mix of admiration and infatuation.

“Hello Dear.” He said as he stood a few steps from the door. He loosened his tie and took off his coat. He walked to the closet and hung up his jacket, as to avoid any wrinkles. “Have you been waiting long?”

“No, I just got out of the shower.”

“Good. Would you like another drink?” Steven removed the tie and laid it on the back on her chair.

“Yes, please.” Her eyes were still closed. There was no movement upon the chair.

He bent down and placed a kiss on the top of her head. The empty glass was on the side table. He picked it up and returned to the drink tray. He poured two drinks and walked back to Marilyn.

“Have you brushed your hair yet?”

“No, I waited for you.”

“You look amazing.”

“Thank you.”

Steven walked over to the nightstand on the left side of the bed. Inside the drawer, he pulled out a silver hairbrush. He stroked the stands of hair that were stuck in the bristles. He held it close to his nose to get a whiff of her hair. He smiled and walked back to the lounge and Marilyn.

“Would you like me to brush your hair now?”

“Yes, that’d be nice.” She sat up and turned her back to him. Marilyn tucked her nylon covered toes under her shapely derrière. He moved in behind her and pulled her hair back into a pony tail and off to one side. Leaning in close, he smelled her skin and kissed the nape of her neck. Goose bumps rose on her and she shivered in pleasure. Steven smiled and began to brush her long, golden hair.

“How was your day, my love?”

“It was good. I’ve been eagerly waiting for you.”

“Have you, now? That’s good. I like that. It makes me feel appreciated.” Steven brushed her hair with long, slow strokes. He made sure to be gentle when coming to a tangled piece. The brushed strands were placed to the side. He was deliberate and affection in how he took care of her hair. “Will you sing to me?”

“Of course. I’d love to.”

Her voice carried into the air. The sounds of the jazz became the background to her singing. Neither of them made a move to turn off the music. It was the perfect compliment to the moment.

She knew how much Steven enjoyed brushing her hair. It made her feel like she was taking care of her man. She smiled that she was able to provide this for him. 

Steven’s left arm wrapped around her body and rested on her thigh. Marilyn could hear his breath quickening and becoming more and more shallow. She felt Steven’s hands get tense. His whole body began to shudder. She noticed how he stopped brushing. He moved his right arm and the brush around to hold her. Steven’s body tensed tighter and then relaxed.  He took slow, deep breaths. A final shudder cam from his body.

He laid the brush on the chaise lounge.  He stiffly stood up and adjusted his pants. He bent down and kissed Marilyn on the top of her head.

“I love you, Woman. Goodnight.”

Steven walked out of the room, shutting the door firmly. He paused and placed his forehead against the door. It felt cool upon his skin. He then walked back to his bedroom.

Inside her room, Marilyn waited until his footsteps went away. She removed her delicate undergarments and pulled her a nightgown out of the armoire. The nightgown was threadbare cotton and came below her knees. It was her favorite thing to sleep in.

Back in Steven’s room, he was balled up on his bed. He still wore his suit pants and socks. He was overcome with guilt and doubt about his peculiar preferences. Thoughts of the evening replayed in his mind. He cried himself to sleep for yet another night.

Marilyn laid awake on her bed. The size of it made her feel small and alone. Steven meant well, he honestly did, but that didn’t make her feel reassured. She felt like a china doll, whose owner is afraid of leaving a smudge or fingerprints. By day, she did not want for anything. Steven made sure she was taken care of. But his money did not provide comfort in moments like these. She wondered if it was worth it. Was this the life she had signed up for?

“Miss Marilyn? Are you alright? Can I get you anything?”

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The Sunset: Part III

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The Sunset: Part I

The Sunset: Part II

 

 

 

The writing had started coming out again. The printed output was increasing with each day. A few stories had possibilities for expansion into longer projects. I was feeling good about it. The high altitude air was going for me. I was happier than I’d been in a long time. The need to create something, anything was the burden I woke up to each morning. The completion of that task always made me feel lighter, perhaps made me feel younger every time.

I sat in the one of the upstairs bedrooms. It only had an old desk in it. I moved the bed and the rest of the furniture out. There was a large oval window that looked out into town. I had tacked up with scraps of paper with thoughts on the walls. The room had become essentially wallpapered with endless notes and poems, hardly a spot of paint was visible. I didn’t want to lose a stray thought. You never knew when a lost thought could have been the key to something greater.

I could hear the trains coming into Downtown. The mainline followed the old Route 66 path. Interstate 40 had replaced it years ago, but it didn’t carry the same romantic notions of heading west like Horace Greeley had spoke of. Traditions could be stuffed out with simple changes. The world had changed before we knew we wanted to keep the old stuff. Kids these days don’t know what a dial tone is. It was a scary new world and bravery has nothing to do with it.

I was going stir crazy after being shut up in that place. I had some decent pages written. There were even more notes and scraps pinned to the walls. I started making piles and putting them in baskets for later use.

One day, I noticed I was looking shaggy when I walked past a mirror. My focus had been on the words and making sure they didn’t dry up. I had forgotten about small things like hygiene and sustenance. I noticed that the fridge was bare. I needed to get out of the house. I needed some fresh air to recharge my lungs and to refocus myself. 

I walked down to the garage and found an old powder blue ’68 Beetle. It was dusty and probably hadn’t been driven in a while. I look around and didn’t see many tools or auto parts. The owners weren’t those types of people. My best bet was to see if it would start, then worry about the maintenance it would require.

It took some cranking and I knew I was lucky when the engine caught. I let the car sit at idle for five minutes before I started towards town. It had been quite awhile since I had driven stick, but I figured it out after grinding the gears a little bit. Driving that thing was a lot more fun than I ever remember behind the wheel.

I pulled up at the little mom and pop market on the corner. It looked like it had been there for fifty years. As I climbed out, I realized the backseat wasn’t very big and there was almost zero trunk space. It took me a minute to figure out that the trunk was in the front. I must’ve looked rather dumb out there. I hope no one was watching.

I walked to Geno’s and grabbed a shopping cart. I filled it with the essential groceries, toiletries and found an aisle that had some cheap tools and household items. I was hoping I would find some oil and automotive items. They didn’t have what I needed, so I made a mental note adding that stop to my list. I steered the cart to the checkout.

“How are you doing, young man?”

“I’m doing well, sir. How are you today?” I noticed his name tag said “Geno” on it. That made me smile. Some how that made this town even better.

“I woke up again. How bad can it be?” 

“That’s a good outlook. You own the place?”

“That I do. We opened it almost sixty years ago, my bride and I did.”

“That’s amazing.” Geno finished ringing me up and offered to help me to my car. “No, thank you. I can manage. Besides, it’s not much.”

“Well, I hope to see you around. Have a good day.”

“Yes, I’ll be back. It was nice to meet you, Geno. My friends call me Q. I’m staying at the old Gurney place for awhile. I’ll be around.”

“Oh yeah? That’ll be nice. I knew them well. You must be a friend of James?”

“Yes sir, I am.”

“I’ve known him his whole life. He’s a good egg. I hope you enjoy your stay. It’s a great town. The weather looks like it’ll stay warm for awhile. Nice to meet you, Q.”

We shook hands and said goodbye. I liked this small town and the innocent comfort that it provided. San Francisco was a great city, but it could leave you feeling cold and alone. This was a completely different experience. My impression of Arizona was the arid desert with lots of dirt, cacti and no trees. Here I was seven thousand feet in elevation in the middle of a forest. This isn’t what I expected, but I didn’t know what to expect. I never thought about it.

I drove back to the house and put away my groceries and brewed myself a cup of coffee. It was early afternoon at that point and I was feeling a little sag in my spirits. I sat the small table in the breakfast nook. I stared out at the trees and the mountain slope below the house. It was a great view, I had to admit. 

Back in San Francisco, I always marveled at the power of mankind’s achievements in art and architecture. Here, I was blown away at the majesty of God’s creation. Life and the path to happiness wasn’t that difficult, if only you could stop long enough to realize it. Life was good. Every morning was a chance to be happy. Geno was happy to just wake up. He was grateful for it. I wanted that outlook on life. Maybe I could find it, but I realized that the desire for it was a big step.

I ran my hand through my hair and decided I was too scruffy. I need to go into town again and get cleaned up. My beard had grown out a little too far. Perhaps Flagstaff had a place to get an old school straight razor shave. I never had one of those. 

I pulled out my phone and Googled it. The third entry, The Barber’s Pole, was nearby in the same shopping center as Geno’s. I decided to take a shower and spare the barber the funk I had gathered on my body. It would be unkind of me to go like this. I had a peculiar smell.

After a shower and some clean clothes, I remembered to write a note to get the necessary supplies to change the oil in the Bug. On the back of a receipt I found on the counter I scribbled haircut, oil, filter and beer, just to be thorough.

The Bug started right away again and that put me in a pretty good mood. I was thinking that things might be looking up for me. I was feeling hopeful. The clear mountain air was doing wonders for my positivity. I was not used to it. I had always been a downer. I had always thought the cynical nature was part of my charm. In the recent past, it began to get tiresome. It was exhausting to always be so negative. I felt like I had to play the role and couldn’t get away from it. But out here, I felt free.

The little car sped through the streets. It was a new experience to be that low to the ground. The windows were down and I had the radio turned up to the local rock ’n roll station. I felt like a teenager again. I had fresh energy and a boundless smile.

“You the fella staying at the Gurney’s house?” The lady asked as I walked in. I was taken back for a moment.

“Uh, yes, I am. Word gets around quick, huh?” I said with a smile.

“It’s not that big of a town. It’s difficult to remain anonymous around here for long. Besides, most of the tourists stay over by the university. You sorta stick out over here.” She had a nervous habit of brushing her hair out of her face as she talked. It was distracting and endearing at the same time.

She introduced herself as Sarah Mae, with a soft, mellow voice, just a hint of a squeak. She was uniquely beautiful. I immediately noticed her tattooed sleeve. It was a floral menagerie with a crossed anchor and straight razor as the centerpiece on her bicep. It was magnificently tough. She had short, crimson hair and small rectangular glasses perched on her petite nose. She wore bright red lipstick, the color right out of a vintage Hollywood set. Her earrings were bold, and dangly. Sarah was the Molly Ringwold for the digital age. 

“So, what can I do for ya?” She was direct.

“I don’t know. It’s been awhile.”

“I can tell. Your fades are all gone,” she said as her fingers worked themselves through my hair.

“I guess, just clean it up a bit. I like it a little long, but just not this shaggy.”

We spoke sparingly as she cut my hair. I’ve never been much of talker with strangers. Small talk is downright painful to me. I’d prefer a barber focus on cutting my hair and getting me out of there. Social situations usually make me uncomfortable.

She washed my hair and then offered to put some product in it, but I declined. I left my old Giants ball cap sitting on the passenger seat. This wasn’t spoken of, I didn’t want to offend her by covering up her work. Perhaps I was reading too much into it. I had a tendency to do that.

“Well, it was nice meeting you, Q. If that is your real name?” I blushed.

“Nice, meeting you, too, Sarah.”

“I’ll see you around.”

“Definitely. I think I’ll be here for a bit.”

I stopped by the auto store and back to Geno’s for that beer. I couldn’t forget that. I was going to need some lubrication to keep the inspiration going. The rest of the day was filled with thoughts of Sarah. It felt good to have a woman on my mind again. It had been awhile.

The Sunset Part II

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The Sunset Part I

 

The sun had caught up with us. We landed at Flagstaff’s Pulliam Airport right after sunrise. My mind was heavy with thought. James and Scott were having a grand time around me, but I took no notice. They had consumed a lot of those tiny airplane bottle of booze. We grabbed a taxi and drove through town. Pine trees passed us by at an increasing rate. I looked out and saw the San Francisco Peaks, coincidentally enough. A calm came over me. It was a beautiful sight.

Those two guys were still cracking jokes and singing into the night, even though it had become morning. Our friendship doesn’t make sense, but it has lasted most of our lives. One shouldn’t question such things. That’s the way it is with most blessings.

The house was beautiful. I don’t know how they found the place or why they were even looking, but it was the coolest house I had ever seen. It was surrounded by a bit of land and looked right up to the San Francisco Peaks. There was a deck on the backside of the place.

Mt. Eldon was much closer and a lot smaller. It was more like a giant hill on the eastern side of Flagstaff. I silently took it all in. Sure, I had been to Yosemite and Redwood, but that has been many years. I had forgotten what God’s natural world looked like. It was amazing in the truest sense.

“So, what do you think?” Scott asked, nudging me.

“Its cool. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“I used to come up here when I was a kid. My mom loved coming here. She said it was the only place she could feel free. Whenever I get to return to this place, I always remember her.” The usually quiet James spoke quite emotionally and walked away.

Scott and I looked at each other for a bit, not wanting to be disrespectful to our friend’s feelings. We took some time to settle into the house. It was amazing. There were two stories, with four bedrooms upstairs; each with its own bathroom. It was like a hotel or something. It must have been designed to keep a large family happy and from killing each other. It was just my luck that I was here with two guys. I laughed at myself since I hadn’t had a romantic anything in years.

I told the guys I was heading out to the store. We needed some snacks and supplies for the place. James asked if I needed a car, as he reached into his pocket. I said no, I had noticed a store down the road not far away. It was a beautiful day out and I wanted to walk.

It wasn’t far before I reached the market. The sun was high in the sky, but it was cool out. I would need a sweater. That thought struck me as funny. My view of Arizona was cactus and the face of the sun. I was surrounded by trees and needing to put more clothes on. This was unexpected.

By the time I returned, Scott and James were on the deck having beers with the neighbors. I put the groceries away, grabbed a water and went to be social.
“Q, I’d like you to meet some friends. This is Laura and this Kathy.” I shook their hands and said hello. “I’ve known these two ladies since we were children.” James was back to his charming self.

“I’m terribly sorry.” Scott said with his smart ass smile.

“Oh, James is the best!” Kathy tried to defend my friend, who now wore the cheesiest smile.

“You don’t get out much, do you?” I blurted out before I could stop myself. My eyes were wide and I was embarrassed.

“Wow, you guys are a little sarcastic, aren’t you?” Laura chimed in, not amused.

James, working damaged control, saved the girls before we could really start. “Sorry, ladies, we can get kinda caustic when we get together.”

“Cheers!” We toasted ourselves as James rolled his eyes.

“Please excuse my friends, they find it entertaining to annoy the entire world.” We smirked and shrugged like idiots. We knew our lot in life and were content with it.

The five of us got the conversation rolling after that, before the ladies had to excuse themselves to carry on with their days. We spent the rest of the day out there just talking. It felt good to relax with these guys. I was beginning to feel like my old self.

“How long do you guys have out here?” I said.

“I have a few days to spend.” Scott said in reply.

“What about you, James?”

“I think I can stay through the weekend. What day is today?”

“Wednesday.”

“Yeah, I’ll have to take off Sunday sometime.”

“Q, you have this place for as long as you want. Please make yourself comfortable and move yourself in. The only other person with a key is Sissy, but she won’t come out here. So, the place is yours.”
“Thanks, but I don’t want to take advantage.”

“You’re not. I want you to take care of yourself. It would be cool if you could write something that didn’t make me want to kill myself.”

“Shut up. It’s not that bad.”

“It can be. I’m worried about you and I don’t like that.” I shrugged. I didn’t know what to say.

“Well, I don’t know how long I will stay, but thank you for everything.”

“How long have we known each other? You’re family at this point.”

“You still don’t have to do this.”

“I want to.”

“You sure none of the family will mind?”

“Dude, I’m the only one who’s been here in years. I don’t even know why we keep this place.”

I had nothing better going on in San Francisco. I might as well stay here and try to figure something out. The atmosphere seemed refreshing. Could I find a subject to write about here? I just needed to start writing about my life and see if something comes out of it. The physical act of writing could lead me into something great. I had to have faith in my abilities and hope for the future.

We spent the rest of the week being lazy. We drank out on the deck looking up at the mountains. When you live in the city, you can forget the beauty of the natural world. Cities can be interesting, but they cannot take your breath away. I loved the clean, crisp air of northern Arizona. The views were unbeatable.

Scott and James returned to San Francisco. They kept in contact via text. I tried to keep my head down and write. I settled in after the boys left. I made sure I woke up early to write. I stayed away from alcohol. I did my best to foster a positive environment for myself. I wanted to create a sustainable living situation. If I could find healthy habits here, I could take them back with me to California.

Condo Life

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She returned the handset to the cradle on the wall. “That was Jerry. He asked if he could swing by and pick up that book.” She said, pointing to the entry hall table.

“When?” I replied, not looking up from my laptop.

“I don’t know, maybe ten or fifteen minutes?”

“I better put on something appropriate then.” I remained on the end of the couch. I kept typing away.

“Your choice. I’m sure he won’t mind.”

I shot her a glaring look. I didn’t need to hear about Jerry again from her. His eyes lingered. Bit too long for my comfort. He was a really nice guy, but there was something a little off. I can’t explain it. I just something I felt.

“I’m going to check the mail. Do you need anything from downstairs?”

“No, I’m good.”

“Okay, I’ll be back.”

 ~

I focused on a manuscript. It was another project that needed to be turned in. I had been behind schedule for a little while now. I needed to get this one in on time. I found some momentum. My fingers were pounding the keys with minimal effort. This was going to be good. I could tell by how easy the words were coming out. It was like I wasn’t actually writing it. A perfect rhythm was established. I was nodding my head to the background music and the pace of the keyboard.

Time must have gotten away from me. I was finishing up the final formatting of the piece when I heard a car door shut. I looked up at the clock on the wall. Twenty minutes had elapsed. It  was Jerry. I shut my laptop and tried to gather up all my notes. I heard a knock at the door.

“Just a minute!” I yelled. My heart rate was flipping out. This isn’t what I needed. I totally forgot he was coming over to the condo when I got lost in my work. I felt silly rushing to clean everything up. He knocked again. He must not have heard me. “Just a minute!” I yelled again. I didn’t want to seem flustered, but in truth I was losing my mind. Why?

Then I heard talking outside. I froze. I looked at the door, horrified. The sound of keys jingling and then scraping against the lock made me get my ass moving again. I left all the things I was trying to collect and bolted for the bedroom. I did not make it.

“Whoa!” was all I heard a male voice say from the doorway.

 

 

Sudden Change

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Charlotte Underwood, fresh out of the shower, sat down in front of her vanity. The bedroom was dimly lit, but she could see well enough. After a long look into the oval mirror, she applied lotion to her body. The movements were slow and methodical. There was no hurry to her actions.

Her eyes kept returning to the reflection in the mirror. An unrest growing within her. Contemplation, if not outright judgement, burned behind her eyes.

With her skin properly moisturized, she picked up her favorite brush and began to attend her hair. With long and thorough strokes, Charlotte brushed her hair until it was silky and smooth. Her nightly ritual was to pamper her hair, making sure there were no knots or tangles.

Charlotte kept eye contact with her reflection. She thought back to youthful conversations with boyfriends. She was always persuaded to keep it long, even when she had a strong desire to cut it shorter. Never wanting to displease anyone, she kept it long and brushed it out each night.

None of those boys stuck around for long enough to make any serious impact on her life, but they took up her youth. The fresh years when she might have experimented, stretching her boundaries and comfort zone. She would never know those possibilities now. Those boys had made the length her hair seem to be special, as if by cutting it, she would lessen her own value. 

Still brushing her hair, Charlotte grew resentful of those who came before, the ones who she hadn’t been assertive enough to say no to. She wished she could grab their memory and yell “No!” to them. “No, you will not interfere with my desires!” She was not some Rapunzel to keep pristine.

Charlotte set the brush down and took a deep breath. She opened a drawer and took out a pair of scissors. She closed her eyes and cut the precious locks to chin length, letting the disembodied strands fall to the floor.

She was shocked to see what she had done. She had actually done it; finally. There was no turning back now. The task needed to be completed and so she did. Wide eyed, she sat frozen in her chair. 

There was something else missing. An idea formed in her head. She has seen several women on Instagram with short hair she was always jealous of. Charlotte rummaged under the sink and found clippers. She shaved the sides of her head and put the remaining hair back in a stubby ponytail. Examining it from all sides, Charlotte decided she really liked it. She was excited and giddy. Her hair had a punk vibe she had never been able to feel when she was younger.

Charlotte stood, letting her towel fall to the floor. She picked out panties and two sports bras. She slowly and deliberately got dressed. She found running shorts and a tank top. She double knotted her sneakers and adjusted herself in the mirror. Running her fingers through her fresh coif, Charlotte smiled to her reflection.

“I’m going for a run.” Charlotte turned around and walked confidently out the door.

On her bed, a very naked man lay bound and gagged. His eyes explained that he was in no position to make any decisions.

The Tea Party

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The place was called Union Jane’s despite a Union Jack flag hung outside in arbitrary defiance of the American Revolution. The interior was a busy menagerie of color and texture. Bookshelves lined every wall. Bric-a-brac and tchotchkes were prevalent throughout the establishment. Pink lingerie hung from moose antlers above her. A yellow parasol was spread open, attached to the rafters from the handle, on the other side of the room.

Tegan Taylor was sitting in a giant, overstuffed chair. She had a permanent sad girl pout. She wore chunky, black rimmed glasses. She wore a prom-style gown with tights and heels. Her grandmother’s pearls were strung around her neck. Tegan chewed on an antique pipe. A tattooed mustache peaked out from the inside of her pointer finger. A class ring from St. Mary’s College caught the sunlight whenever anyone walked in the front door.

“You can’t smoke in here.”

“It’s not lit.”

“Ma’am, you cannot smoke in here.”

“It’s not lit.”

“Can you please put it away, ma’am?”

“Why?”

“You’re making people uneasy.”

“I’m not an easy kinda girl.”

The waitress stood there, not knowing how to take this customer. She was clearly a little odd. Without saying all of the unprofessional things on her mind, the waitress left in a huff of attitude and frustration.

“Tegan, why are you harassing with the new girl?”

“She deserved it. Dude, she was being a surly twat.”

“Will you please not talk like that?”

“What’s the matter, Ian? You afraid I’ll shatter your romantic fantasies of what a lady should be?”

“I know who you are. You don’t always have to go ‘full Tegan’ on people.”

“I’m offended by the insinuation that such a thing exists, besides, I did no such thing. I wasn’t even mean to her. I was neutral at worst.”

Ian grew frustrated with Tegan, there was no winning in these conversations. He changed the subject to something less antagonistic.

“How’s Matt doing? I haven’t seen him in awhile.”

“I left him.”

“What? Are you kidding me?”

“Nope. Why would I joke about that?”

“I don’t know. I mean…why? Why now? You guys were together forever.”

“Yup, 10 years.”

“I don’t mean to pry, but why?”

“I got tired. He got lazy. I came home the other night to him playing video games. I tried to talk to him. He snapped and said some horrible things to me.”

“That sucks.”

“I just don’t want to do it anymore.”

“Do what?”

“I don’t want to compete with video games and his stupid friends.”

“It’s his loss, but ya know, I used to be one of his stupid friends.”

“I know, but then you got smart.” Tegan patted him on his cheek in a patronizing way.

“You can be heartless, ya know that?”

“I know, but I’m still one of the good girls.”

“Anyway, how have you been?”

“Have you ever thought of calling the place ‘Alice’s Tea Fetish’?”

Ian got up and walked away. He hated it when Tegan became combative.

“Can you at least have your tea wench bring me another cup?” She leaned over the top of the chair and hollered. Her smirk faded.

The rain continued to come down. She watched it fall for awhile before gathering up her notebooks. Tegan didn’t believe in umbrellas or raincoats. She walked out into the dreary day, just as she was. 

Something Fine

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She wasn’t fazed by them looking at her. She had become used to it after the years. At first, it made her uncomfortable, but now she didn’t mind. It would be unfair to say she enjoyed the leers, but she still remembered the times when no one wanted to stare at her. She was tall and awkward, slightly geeky despite being close to thirty.

~

I didn’t listen to the buzz surrounding me. I didn’t care about any of it. I could see her and enjoyed what I saw. The whispered comments from the corners of the room and the crass locker room talk could not destroy what I thought was special. She was a fine woman, nothing but her own-self could tarnish that.

Society has an infectious need to tear down anything positive. It locks in on it and crushes it out of envy, misunderstanding and pure, unadulterated spite. Individual persons can be trusted. People are evil. You can never be sure that groups of three or more won’t try to rip you apart.

~

“Excuse me.” She smiled her demure, yet encouraging smile. I held my coffee high over her head. I didn’t want to spill as she passed by me. It was a tight squeeze, though it wasn’t mandatory she come as close as she did. Her hands on my hips as she shuffled by was definitely an extra bit she threw in.

It lasted for mere seconds, but I never let that memory leave me. A twinkle came to my eye whenever I thought of her. An innocent moment filled with the possibility of so much more. You have to be grateful for these moments. They remind you that you are alive.

The Devil Is In The Details

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The devil is in the details; at least that’s what they always say to me.  We’re always fighting back, against the grain. Do they know what they’re doing to us? Pressure like this can kill you.  Yes, there’s the off the chance you’ll become a diamond, though the odds are never in your favor. But you have to keep fighting. No one is content when you surrender.  This life is never going to get any easier. They will never believe in you. This is our lot in life. This is what we have to look forward to for the rest of this life. We weren’t born kings or any sort of nobility. We are who we are.  Within that truth, we must find a way to emerge and triumph.

I spend my days walking the land searching for something which may not exist in the first place. I watch the people going about their lives around me. I see the joy in their faces. It reflects from the life they have found for themselves. Mothers pushing children on an afternoon walk.

Is it jealousy brooding within me? I yearn for a simple domestic life. I would like to quit this life on the road. I have lived the gypsy life for too many years. I find myself questioning my own desires. Will I tire of being in one spot too long? The answers to my search do not seem to be available. Life is something to be lived in order to even find those answers. This is just as frustrating as the search in the first place.

I leave those pretty people to their lives. It is out of respect for what they have found. It is a great thing for them. I will keep on searching for my own treasure.

I mean, do I want to complicate my life? Do I want to spend the majority of my life having someone else dependent on me and my abilities? That is a scary thought. Why would I do that to someone? I am not known to be the kindest person in the world, but damn. That borders on cruel and unusual punishment. I am who I am. I’m not proud of that, but it is a fact that I’m coming to terms with. All I’m saying is that it would be better if I stayed away from the rest of the human race. I’m better alone. People seem to be happier when they are away from me. I’m not happy that I’m a pariah. It isn’t simple aesthetics. A shave and a haircut will not alter this equation. A shower and fancy cologne will not make people want to gravitate in my direction. It is how it is and let us embrace it before someone gets their feelings hurt.

Exhale. You get yourself so worked up these days. Is it worth it? C’mon, get out of that bed. We have to get moving. There’s a world out there that hasn’t taken time to notice we haven’t joined in yet. We need to put society on a notice of our own. Take your time, let’s do things right. That’s it, two feet on the ground. Baby steps will lead us to where we need to be. We can do this. Slip your glasses on. Chug some of that water. Let’s get some more of that water.  Let’s go get some coffee into you; black. We don’t have time to waste on that fancy crap. We need to get ready to face the sun that’s been burning for several hours already. We’re going to make it, just you wait and see. They won’t know what hit them.

This will be a great day. Pick out your best outfit. The one that makes you feel the best, the most confident. Then we’re going to scrub away the past. You’ll come out of the shower fresh and new. Visualize being the greatest version of yourself. Make sure you see it first, so you’ll believe it. See what it is that will leave them speechless. This is our chance. This is our time. Let’s just add the finishing touches now.

Pull on those boots. Slip on those sunglasses, with one final glance through the vanity.  Will today be the day?

New Year’s Noir

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He parked down the street, facing away from the house. He sat there all night, parked against the curb. He flicked the lid of the Zippo back and forth the entire time. He gave up smoking years ago, but he didn’t give up carrying the lighter. He never stopped playing with that lighter. In years past, the sound would have driven a partner crazy. He gave up on partners, too.

The night was a moonless disaster. He sat in that car, knowing that he couldn’t see anything. He kept his eyes focused and ready on the off chance he was right. He didn’t know anymore. The Captain seemed to have more faith in him than he had confidence in himself. He did as he was told. That bit of trust between the men kept them both alive far longer than either were expected to live.

It was getting close to midnight and he began to feel a bit restless. He checked his mirrors and didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. The usual trouble makers were out setting off fireworks. There was nothing crazy, merely stuff on the line of bottle rockets and black cats. He knew he could have flashed his badge to scare them off, but he liked the idea of the distraction.

The house was dimly lit on the inside. There were no external lights. He carefully checked the side gate. It was unlocked. He smiled to himself. This might be easier than he thought. He made sure that his position was never given away in the light of the fireworks.

The lights were off and the shades drawn in the windows on the side of the house. He didn’t linger as he went around to the back of the house. The curtains were pulled back, allowing him to see into the living room and kitchen areas. There were no lights on, besides the glow of the TV. He paused, fading into the blackness of the night.

The only sounds continued to be the fireworks.

He walked up to the side of the sliding glass door, trying to keep most of his body out of view. The door was inexplicably unlocked. He was unsure of his good luck. He waited a few seconds after he cracked the door. He heard no alarms or beeps to be worried about.

There was only a few minutes now. Of course there was the possibility of a silent alarm. He knew he had to make things quick once he entered the house.

He didn’t see any movement inside. The slight audible sound of the TV was heard as soon as he stuck his head in. He wore an all black outfit. It was a cliche for a reason. His movements were slow and easy. He didn’t need any joints to pop or his shoes to squeak.

There was no evidence of anyone home. He made it to the hallway without hearing anything or seeing anything. His heart began to beat a little faster. He looked both ways and decided to go down the left hand side. That’s when he heard her for the first time.

“I thought you’d be coming for me.”

He froze. Blood left his face. Instinctively, he reached down to his sidearm.

“Don’t.”

“Okay.” He breathed deeply. “I’m not going to.” He raised his hands up to shoulder level with his fingers spread out wide.

“I’m guessing you thought all that noise would let you do this without attracting attention.” He didn’t betray any thoughts. His face remained trained on hers. “Well, I’m counting on the same thing.”

He never heard the shot and neither did the neighbors.

*Previously published. It’s becoming a tradition to post this every year.

Deck The Halls

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She made sure the house was cleaner than it had been all year. She scrubbed and cleaned deep into the home’s old wood. A little elbow grease made that place shine like it hadn’t in too long. Bleach and Pine-Sol made sure her effort didn’t go unnoticed. Her old sweat pants and stained t-shirt looked like Cinderella’s rags. She was a mess, inside and out.

She sat back and looked over the house, admiring the place which had been neglected. Work and caring for others had taken priority. She wandered into the kitchen and uncorked a bottle of Shiraz. It had been a rough week and she felt a little relaxation would be nice.

Soon afterward, she retired to her bedroom and scrubbed herself of the grime and sediment of the past. There needed to be nothing left to remind her of disappointment and heartache. She needed to feel fresh and clean for the coming New Year.

The winter season had always made her feel special as a child. The recent past dulled any happiness she might have found. She was determined to change all that. This year she was going to be happy and joyous. She was going to take back her life.

She emerged wearing her favorite holiday cocktail dress. It was a classic blue taffeta. She loved how it fit her. It flattered her figure without being ostentatious. This dress quietly announced her. The perfect heels and pearls completed the ensemble. She felt graceful and beautiful.

She wasn’t going to allow not having a place to wear it this year to keep her from the pleasure of feeling this good. This dress changed her whole outlook. There hadn’t been many moments where she felt good about herself. She made a mental note to change that.

The fire had been carefully built and lit, as well as all the candles in the house. A fresh pine garland was woven along the mantle. She made sure the oversized red bow was tied perfectly upon the front door. Each decoration raised her spirit a little more.

She sat down on a barstool at the end of the counter. The second glass went down smooth. Her spirits began to rise. Spinning the stem in her hand, she thought about her life.

Something stirred inside her, telling her that she had a good life. She was tougher than this and was tired of feeling this way. She wasn’t a victim and she was tired of being treated like one. She knew that she was an intelligent woman. She held a good job. There were men who found her attractive and behaved nervously around her. The thought made her giggle softly.

She poured herself another glass and walked over to her phone on the bookcase. With a few touches, she queued up a waltz. The magic of technology had music playing through speakers throughout the house. She smiled broadly and returned to her decorating. She began to dance around the room as she filled her home with the Christmas spirit.

Once completed, she turned off all the interior lights, allowing the fireplace, candles and Christmas tree to illuminate the room. The coffee table had been removed for the winter to fit the tree. This offered plenty of room for dancing and merriment.

Her soul was glowing. This pure joy had been missing for so long. She knew that she would be okay as long as she could remind herself of the simple joys in life. She could be happy as long as she kept dancing. While she drank her wine and celebrated life all evening, her heels could be heard click-clacking on that hardwood floor.

*Previously posted in another life. But I like this one & hope you do, too.