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.

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Nell’s Night

Nell Flynn walked down the dimly lit sidewalk. She looked over her shoulders from time to time. She wasn’t completely comfortable out here after dark, but she didn’t want to give in to the environment.

She thought of herself as a strong, independent woman. She didn’t want to have her life dictated by a patriarchal society. She also wasn’t dumb. Criminals don’t wait to listen to theories before hurting people. Nell was torn between what she believed and the reality of the situation.

It was a sketchy section of the city. Downtown Jacksonville was architecturally mixed with older, red brick buildings and sleek, modern office structures. There was a push to get rid of anything old. An element of the population wanted to tear down the grime and use the land to build up the shiny, new glass-faced buildings. The new buildings tended to bring in more revenue.

If Nell was honest, she didn’t really care either way. She didn’t live down here. She had no skin in the game. She just knew that the fancier areas usually had a larger security presence. Being a woman in today’s world was already dangerous. She didn’t need to risk her life to make someone else’s point.

The coffeeshop was sandwiched between two overpriced gastropubs. She was always amazed by what people will spend their money on. Nell preferred to route her cash flow into other, more permanent passions.

~

Nell removed her glasses and compulsively cleaned them on the hem of her sweater. She didn’t need to locate the people she was meeting. She could hear them before she could see them. They were already loud and obnoxious. The waitress looked annoyed. Nell avoided eye contact and tucked her short, blonde hair behind her ear as she walked past. She threw her book bag into the large, corner booth. She slid into the back and listened to the other writers rant and carry on. Nell wasn’t confident enough to join in, at the same time she wasn’t sure she wanted to. These conversations were going nowhere.

~

“No, I don’t read my own writing, especially not in front of people. What the hell would that prove?”

“It’s all about exposure, man. You have to get your name out there, once people know your name, then they’ll appreciate your words all the more.”

“That makes no sense.”

“I don’t make the rules. I just know how to play the game.”

“I’m sure if I sold my soul, I could gain some notoriety on the internet. But, that’s not what I want. I write to try and figure out something within me. I share it to try and connect with other people who are as confused and searching like me.”

“I’m not telling you how to live your life, man, it’s just a suggestion. You can write. You just don’t seem to know how to market yourself.”

“I’m a Capitalist, yet I refuse to include myself with what I’m willing to sell.”

“Your life. Your decisions, man.”

~

A neon sign buzzed and flickered above her. Nell stared at it and couldn’t look away. Thoughts poured into her brain. She contemplated life and what she was doing with it. She grew frustrated. Looking up at these guys, speaking in theories and other bullshit, Nell felt something let loose within her. She grabbed her book bag and slid out of the booth. The conversation never faltered, even with her sudden movements. She stood at the end of the table, listening.

~

“If I were a woman, I’d guarantee I’d have a million followers, you know what I mean, man?”

“Probably a million stalkers sending you dick pics, too. I’m not sure the tradeoff is worth it.”

~

Nell’s head hurt. These guys had been going back and forth for a few hours now. She wanted to surround herself with intelligent people to help further her own writing. These guys just yelled and tried to outwit each other. Her eyes had rolled so many times they hurt. This might have been what she asked for, but it didn’t turn out to be what she wanted.

Without saying goodbye or anything at all, Nell walked out. It was a mild spring night of Northern Florida. The bell jingled. The air smelled like fresh roasted coffee beans from the Maxwell House plant a few streets over. The restaurants were still overflowing onto the sidewalk.

She walked and kept going. She walked until she ran out of buildings down where the river curved up to meet the sidewalk. There was a park bench where Nell sat for awhile, looking out into the darkness of the St. John’s River. It was a little bit before she decided she probably shouldn’t be out there alone. Nell pulled out her phone and ordered an Über. No good reason to tempt fate.

 

 

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Dreaming Of A Forgotten Summer

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Dreaming of a forgotten summer

Youth; wild eyes & full of spice

The hope only the fresh may know

Never finding your innocence twice

The Good Lord blesses us daily

The sun’s warmth will always provide

Moments to bask, wading in the water

Burdens swept in the outgoing tide

Eyeing the inevitable future

Knowing we must make ourselves free

Standing strong with cheerful hearts

& worries washing themselves out to sea

Tana French

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“I’ve always loved strong women, which is lucky for me because once you’re over about twenty-five there is no other kind. Women blow my mind. The stuff that routinely gets done to them would make most men curl up and die, but women turn to steel and keep on coming. Any man who claims he’s not into strong women is fooling himself mindless; he’s into strong women who know how to pout prettily and put on baby voices, and who will end up keeping his balls in her makeup bags.”

― Tana French, Faithful Place

She Wore An Unassuming Beauty

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She wore an unassuming beauty
With lips of a scarlet hue
Painted for the ongoing battle
Dressed to provide impending views
A strong woman knowing desire
Without regard to their qualms
Protecting her soul at all cost
They’re indignant, but she’s keeping calm

Drifting Into A Summer’s Day

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Drifting into a Summer’s day
Trying to settle into the shade
This heat rose early & won’t quit
Hoping it won’t cause my soul to fade
I’m sipping a cold one in my hammock
Thinking of that woman who’s soul is kind
Makes her embed into my heart
& I can’t get her off my weary mind
I remember walking along the bay
Tossing coins wrapped in wishes on the pier
Holding her hand, forever to be Homeward Bound
Only when you lose someone so, do you know fear
But hope & faith can make miracles happen
If you believe strong enough to persist
To be forever within her passionate grip
To taste her primal fire, my sole reason to exist

The Truth Will Come Out

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The truth will come out
No matter how smart your suit
The dapper gentleman smirks
While the intelligent man remains mute
You can add all your security details
But the shadows know how to silently hide
You can announce your own loyalties
But you’ll never truly know who’s on your side
The night is behold to nothing tangible
So, keep your secrets & allow them to theirs
You are stronger than they care to acknowledge
Keep a weather eye ahead; don’t meddle in their affairs