Self-awareness and self-preservation

My life started and ended in the same moment.

The many bad habits I perpetuated over the years ended. Negative thoughts of self-destruction ended. The cancer that plagued my abdomen disguised as irregularities in several areas of what should be normal bodily functions.

Yet in all that chaos, my life started again.

Like the cliché of the phoenix being reborn from its ashes, I have been as well.

I seized it as a time to take control of my life. It feels like I have control again.

I have a daily schedule which I control and maintain on my terms.

It is easily overlooked by many. Which makes sense to me. A large majority of people were taught basic disciplines as a child.

We forget the children ignored by the structure. The wards of the state must acquire these skills later or by other means.

This is a personal experience. My personal experiences have always been the metaphorical cliché of the phoenix because that’s my inclination. There is a fiery drive to keep pushing, even if I don’t want to push anymore.

I am driven by a passion that burns brighter than the sun itself.

Is it a sign for great things, or just the animalistic drive to keep going?

Self-preservation is a basic instinct, we all have it.

I am aware that remission does not mean I am cancer free forever. Remission for me means that I have a second chance to tie up loose ends. I don’t want to leave on a bad foot. I want to walk out of this world resign with grace, not afraid.

Namaste.

The other “C” word that changed my life.

I am pathologically private to a fault. Growing up with a private family, then becoming a private adult, made it difficult to be vulnerable. There are moments that changed that for me.

Going into therapy was one. I realized I could identify emotions and triggers in an environment that was safe.

Then came my son. I had my son and giving birth is a real eye opener. You spread wide in front of strangers (though they are medical professionals, they are strangers to you) and bring into this world a life for which you are responsible.

Then I found out I had cancer.

The word that starts with the letter c and ends in tears.

It is difficult to say when this started, but it is assumed that it had been there for a long time. How can they tell? This is a rare form of cancer that is slow moving, until it isn’t.

When I was 19, I went to the emergency room for the same exact reason. They did an ultrasound to find it was nothing more than the swelling of a lymph node. When I had my son, they even said there was something they couldn’t identify, but nothing else was done. My son was born 2016.

Fast forward to January 2021. I went on vacation where I got sick when I normally wouldn’t. Then a month later it progressed to pain I could no longer endure.

I thought I was pregnant. I was convinced at the time, because February 28th, I took a pregnancy test and it was positive. That was not the case.

The end of February 2021 the illness was unbearable, and by March 4th I was escorted to the urgent care. They assumed it was cirrhosis of the liver with the amount of liquid crowding my abdomen. They referred me to Olive View in Sylmar.

I attempted to wait in line, but the vomiting (which is unlike me) caused me to sit outside on the curb unable to stop. They escorted me to a room without question.

The CT scan showed a three-inch mass that appeared to be abnormal and needed to be examined further. I was heavily medicated because the pain was beyond excruciating.

The news was devastating, especially when surgery was recommended.

Much of it is a blur. I was on a myriad of pain and anti-anxiety meds to keep me calm and allow me to sleep. Four excruciating days of little to no food or sleep, and more pain than I could ever handle, took its toll on me.

I wanted nothing more than food and water, they refused until after my surgery. I had three IV’s, due to dehydration and malnutrition. Yet, I was 155 pounds.

This is forty pounds over five days which is something I was unaware of at the time.

I cried a lot.

I was crying so much, they allowed me to take my mask off for longer than they probably should have. The nurses and doctors were so understanding and caring, I felt safe with them, simply scared. I was terrified.
It took time to consult with other doctors to make sure they were making the right decision. Keeping me in the loop with every motion, big or small. I felt involved.
The next day they prepped me for surgery, despite the wait being several hours. It was a desperate situation for me, they didn’t want me to wait any longer as if I had waited another day, I would most likely be in much more dire shape.
They had emergency numbers and names written before I even got transferred to the prep table. Asking me often details to make sure I was conscious because I was fading quickly. My response time was slower than normal, but there.
It was a six-hour surgery due to the complexity. Having taken at least 8 to 10 biopsies on the surrounding structures within to see if it spread.

I have no idea what time I came to, or how long it took for the anesthesia to wear off, but I remember the first thing I ate. Cherry jell-o and apple juice. I had never appreciated eating like that before. I continued to cry. Not allowing visitors after a surgery like that, sad. My son, my fiancé, were all I could think about.

They continued to draw blood for the following day, but I received good news. Once I felt well enough, and could walk around, I was able to leave. That didn’t mean I was well or recovered, it meant I could recover at home.

I was determined to prove I was going home. It was Saturday the 6th. Despite being drugged a bit, I was nearly back to normal. The pain I was in was nothing as it was the previous day.

My left fallopian tube, my left ovary, a three-inch mass, and six liters of liquid were removed from my abdomen.

I was given instructions on how to care for myself at home and did so with my fiancé closely monitoring my progress. I recovered well, and rather quickly. My emotional state was more questionable.

I started therapy again. Medications to help manage it.

By my first checkup, I got the news of what exactly I had been waging a war on, internally.

Juvenile Granulosa Cell Tumor or JGCT. A rare form of cancer that effects men and women in the reproductive area. Juvenile means that it effects children and young adults but is largely unknown. Adult Granulosa is more common, affecting those after menopause.

Mine was caught at Stage 1C. This means it was nearly Stage 2.

It had burst.

The odds of survival are high for me. I have a good chance of living well into my sixties.

The odds of recurrence?

These odds are debatable. So little is known about JGCT, it is hard to say.

Luckily for me, it has a marker in the blood. Which means I need to submit blood work every three months indefinitely.

That should be the end of it, right?

Wrong.

How do you move on in life after you nearly die of cancer, then survive to tell the tale?

I have vivid nightmares. Nightmares where I wake up the mass has returned where it was before, and I’m escorted to the same oncologist.

I am moving slowly. Recovering at my own pace.

My wounds are closed, but they were visible.

How do you move on with life?

Get back to work?

It’s not easy. Nothing ever is, but we can.

Money is a fickle employee.

Photo by Christine Roy on Unsplash

Money has a job? Strange to consider money as an employee, but it might help you view your finances differently.

Let’s start with worth. Why? From a personal standpoint, I have to play games with my perspective. “It’s only worth as much as you invest in it”, is true with your money. If you look at money as an employee, you’ll think about investing as a strategy instead of a means to riches. Of course you can get rich if you put your mind to it. There are ways to do that safely. Getting rich from a $20 investment is a slow burn indeed. 

The general consensus is “time is money”. Consider money as time, every dollar was earned in a time frame. Eight hours at a typical nine to five job is about $100 a day, give or take. I wouldn’t pay myself to sit on the couch watching television, unless I was a movie critic. The point is to give your own value to it. 

What do you want from your money?

Huge question to ask yourself. Do you want to invest it in the stock market where you have a possibility of gaining a huge margin, or losing it all in a crash?

Do you want it in a savings account which only gains 0.001% interest every year, but doesn’t lose it’s value. It can if the bank borrows against it. Shady as the stock market. 

Would you put your money in an insurance product which is connected to neither a bank nor the stock market , but it has its own intrinsic quirks. 

My personal bias is that I have a background in life and health insurance. My main focus is in annuities. 

I started years ago. I fell into a rabbit hole. Life insurance, the taboo we whisper when watching a true crime documentary. Life insurance. It rings with intrigue and inherent fear that now your life is on the line. 

Good news, not everyone who gets life insurance gets targeted. In fact, most people who get life insurance either don’t use it, or they use it through natural means.

Enough about natural life insurance. I want to focus on annuities for a moment. What is it? In most cases, it is a means for liquidation. Unlike a life insurance policy which can have a cash value for an beneficiary, an annuity is meant for the owner or annuitant. 

It is a great way to convert your stock market expertise into this insurance product. The inherent implication of an annuity associated with an insurance company almost guarantees a certain level of safety. If you select a highly rated company. 

“How can I make my money work for me?” 

Great question! If you found this article, you won’t mind me expressing my opinion. 

Give your money a job. 

Some examples that be beneficial to you. 

  1. Place it in an annuity from a highly rated company
  2. Stock Market
  3. Savings account
  4. Leave it in the back
  5. Stash it into your floorboards at home
  6. Open an IRA or ROTH IRA
  7. Or Get a 401k

There is no wrong answer here. This is not a trick question. All I’m doing is laying out some ideas. Even pros and cons.

You decide.

Both a 401k and IRA’s use the stock market lose and gain averages through the S&P 500, DOW, NASDAQ and use the ever volatile NY stock exchange and Six Swiss Exchange.

Stashing the money in the floorboards means it’s there for thieves, but that is the only way to lose it. 

In a savings account, you grow very little interest. The bank borrows from you and places it back with the interest. 

An annuity is only as good as the insurance company that funds it. 

In conclusion, what am I trying to say?

I am trying to say that we all need to consider money as a fickle employee we need to stay on top of, daily. I can’t let that $20 be late, or not show up. I also, can’t let it go too soon or else how am I going to pay that bill on time? We all need to give our money a job and be responsible for it. Be accountable for that money. Why would you let someone else boss your money around? 

If I let my money grow for me, it will stay with me longer. You are a business. We all are a business which should absolutely think of the gilded bridge of retirement. 

The average age of retirement is 67 now. Soon, retirement will be a joke we make when we’re full time at 70 with no stop in sight. 

It starts now.

Be the boss you want to be and put more zeros to that retirement dream you.

https://sites.google.com/view/theegginthenest/home

Healing during a pandemic.

Healing in the age a pandemic

Last year is behind us. Shall we reflect on the broken mirror? 

No, not politics and illness. 

Emotionally. 

I was and have been dealing with depression and PTSD for years. I can honestly say I’d rather deal with this than my childhood, but it was real close to horrific. Last year was an emotional roller coaster for everyone. 

Now that we can say “it’s a new year”, let’s make it a new year. 

Learn a new skill that will jumpstart your new career or improve in the career you’re in currently. 

Savor the flavor of love and joy. 

Let’s start tomorrow morning at six in the morning with a hot cup of coffee or tea, and eat breakfast for the first time in years. Let’s have brunch because you’ve been working hard. Let’s have a three course dinner and dessert with your loved ones because why disconnect now? We’ve been disconnected this whole time. 

Reconnect. 

Let’s all reconnect. Start grounding again. Breath evenly and feel your feet in the carpet, toes wiggling in the fabric. Listen carefully to the birds or wind outside while you breath.

Say “I love you”. Be there. 

It’s a long time coming, and we are desperate for it now, more than ever.

Welcome home to mindfulness. 

Sable nights, pineapple days

Pauciloquent is she.

Flora, sunflower, the lover in my bed.

The blood doth rise and fall, to a beat.

Her heartbeat a tempo, thumping in my head.”

Chapter 1

Sunlight has a funny way of invading the room. Varying shades of yellow streams peer through the cracks of fabric sworn to protect the fragile glass. Some days the pineapple hue can be warm and welcoming.

The lemon rind glare today is more invasive than usual. My intuition of something big on its way, is pervasive.

My aunt Flora is a funny bird. I never questioned it until recently. She is one of the select few with thick black-out curtains. Her excuse, since a tender age, was her late-night shifts. Now that she no longer works, the darkness prevails. I would be remiss if I said I never thought about it.

“How’s the job search going?” Mom asked. Her voice singing with the sound of eggs crackling in a pan.

“Nothing still. I haven’t heard from any of the companies I applied to, except one.” I lamented. Studying the cherry blossom walls more enticing than thinking of how my rejection affects me.

“And?”

“Sorry, we moved forward with another applicant. I say they’re lying.”

“These are uncertain times.” The eggs jumped in the pan. Two small yellow clouds bound by flame.

“At least you still have a job.”

“Look, many people are still out of work. I have an idea, how about you keep aunt Flora company. She might know of someone looking for a fine employee like you.”

“She’s creepy to me.”

“Oh stop.”

“What if she bites me?”

“Just because someone works overnight, does not mean anything. Flora still did her daily duties around the house and went to the store like everyone else.”

“Do you know if she will go back to work anytime soon?”

“That’s a question you can ask her when you get there.”

“I don’t know.” The brown sludge that sloshed in the cup no longer appealed to me.

“How about I call her, anyway?” Mom extinguished the flame before portioning out breakfast. “Why do you think Flora is creepy?”

“The way she dresses, the way she speaks, the way she is. It’s not just one thing about her that I find creepy.”

“Believe it or not, she has always been like that. I remember being kids and she would walk around with books on her head because she thought that’s what good women did.”

“How old was she when she did that?”

“I was six and she was twelve.”

“This validates my concerns with her.”

“You were an odd child too.”

“Was I?” Mom leered at me. The way she does when she is about to tell a wild tale. The storyteller in her freely painted the scene.

The year was 1996 when you were a wee lass of only (born 1987) eight years old. Grandma Betty sewed, by hand, a southern Belle’s costume for Halloween that year. The summer waned, but it was far too warm for you to be wearing such a heavy fabric, yet there you were frolicking in the dress.

I pinned the hat on your head so the wind would not take it. She happened to have sheep. You herded them as though you had done it before. I am still amazed by your imagination.

Your imagination scared me too.

When you were nine years old, you relayed a story of how a cousin of yours had a dog that dug holes in the backyard. The cousin in question had died years before you possibly could have met him.

“That was me?” I asked incredulously. Mom nodded her head, eyeing me as she ate her food. I stared blankly for a moment before I even thought about sticking my fork into the cooling eggs.

“You are not so different than either of us.” Mom smirked a devilish smirk. I have never seen her so amused.

I ate what I could. She cooked wonderfully, but I was enamored by her story. I insisted she call Flora after breakfast. Mom agreed, but I had to wash dishes. May that be the worst thing that happens to me today.

“Flora, Hi. I have a question.” Mom meandered into the living room, the nomad she is when she talks on the phone. I wish I could have heard the conversation. By the time I was drying the few dishes there were, mom wandered back with a grin. “Apparently your sister had the same idea and stayed with Flora for a few weeks.”

“Aww, I haven’t seen Miranda since she left for college.”

“She left yesterday morning. Flora said she would love to have you stay there for a while.”

“Do you think her house looks any different?”

“It’s cane friendly.”

“Funny.” I mused.

“It has been a number of years since you were up there last. I’m sure it looks different now. It’s been, what, eight years?”

“I guess it has been that long. I don’t think she’ll recognize me.”

“She might, I send her photos every year.”

“I’m excited about seeing her now. If not for her, for her stories.”

“You better get packing then.” Mom nudged me along.

I could not help but be overwhelmed. How long would I even stay for? It’s not like I have a job to answer to anymore. I had to dig for my suitcase in my closet. The last time I took a vacation was easily the honeymoon with my now ex-husband. I take small moments to regale how pleasant the beginning was. Beginnings are always pleasant and sweet. Until they are no more.

I am a single woman, thirty-two, with no kids and now no home. I had to move in with my mom. She allowed me back into her home without question. I am forever grateful for that.

Aunt Flora on the other hand. I know nothing about her, except she worked overnights until she had an injury of some kind. I think she slipped on a gravestone in the dark. It would be nice to quash old fears. I folded clothes neatly, adding amenities as I thought of them. Luckily, most of my belongings are still in boxes by my childhood bed.

It dawned on me that my room was left untouched. Miranda’s room had been transformed into a “hen den” as my mom calls it. My room was left as it was when I left at eighteen. Not that it mattered, I was now filled with questions.

“I just noticed you never changed my room.”

“Something told me you would be back.” Mom shrugged, placing a hand on my shoulder.

“Really?”

“Ricky is a nice kid, but you are a free spirit. You need someone that can keep up with that. I think you would like a writer. They are introspective and intuitive.”

“What if I became a writer?” The moment struck me.

“What if you do?” Mom winked at me.

“I think I want to leave tonight.”

“I’ve never seen you so inspired. I’ll call Flora now.”

I buzzed with the sensation. I do not drink, but I am drunk with it. A revelation of creativity like lightning in pitch blackness. It is dazzling.

No time is wasted. I must revise my list of items for my trip. It is a small revision. My laptop bag and stationery are now a necessity. I’ve never written anything outside of an essay. This is a modern world where the internet exists. Videos and blogs should lead me in the right direction. I am one month divorced, my whole life turned upside down. Here I am, about to visit my Aunt’s house to seek out a niche.

“I hope you have fun with her.”

“I will text you when I can.”

“You are still my little girl.”

“Mom.” I groaned. No matter what age you are, that phrase still causes flustered embarrassment.

I waved goodbye to mom. The one thing I had that is mine, my car. I actively made it in my name alone. The alimony payments are what keeps the car with me. Alimony does not pay much, as we never had kids. It does pay for the car. That is all I care about.

Aunt Flora is a significant distance away from mom’s house. The scenery is pleasant, lush greenery along the way. The drive would be nearly two hours. Navigation contradicted my assumption, it stated I would be arriving in an hour and twenty minutes.

Although the navigation would interrupt my music, I insisted. The playlist I comprised for this ride consisted of childhood favorites. Not one song from the last ten years, for reference. The music made the first hour pass as though I had blunk. I know the phrase is “in the blink of an eye”, but I have a sense of humor.

“I don’t think I drove here by myself before.” I flicked between street signs, deciphering the navigation. The translation into real life application is proving to be difficult. “I think I turned on the wrong street. I think I’m actually sweating.”

Aunt Flora’s house is indeed different. The outside is no longer the same tan house I remember. She painted it a lovely shade of stewed cranberries, creamy frosting for accents. The navigation said, “your destination is on the right,” I said, “no way.”

Her yard is neatly manicured with a beautiful willow tree decorating the left side. In anyone else’s yard, this would be foreboding. I stride down the pathway up to her door. The same giant crow door knocker hung ominously in view. Upon thrusting the door knocker, it would trigger a recording of a crow “cawing”.

“Hello sweetheart.” Aunt Flora called before the many locks to be disengaged clicked.

“Hi, aunt Flora.” I said. I am mildly shocked by her appearance as the door swings open. She looks more like mom than I remember, except for her Victorian inspired clothing.

“I am profoundly grateful for your company. I have been quite lonely. Miranda stayed with me for a time, but she is a busy woman.” Flora allowed me passage before the pleasantries began. The door closed, activating the “cawing” sound as she engaged the door locks.

“Mom told me about that. How is she? I haven’t heard from her.”

“Oh, she is fine. You know Billy is now in high school? She brought him along with her.”

“Wow, I remember when he was born.” I remarked. The burning embarrassment of my shortcomings are glaring.

“As do I. So,” Flora paused as she clumsily plopped on her couch, “how are you?”

“I am divorced.”

“Oh, my poor dear. I am terribly sorry to hear that.” Flora rested her cane on her side table.

“Mom said she saw it coming.”

“How will you rebuild?” Flora offered tea. I am assuming Miranda bought her an electric kettle. Flora is an “old school” woman, and this addition seems out of place.

“Mom suggested I write.”

“I wrote a book once.” Flora said.

“You wrote a book? I had no idea.” In Flora’s fashion, she had the book ready to show me. “This is your book?”

“I wrote it as a young woman.”

The worn leather felt brittle in my hands. I almost did not want to open it. Flora insisted. “What is it about?” I asked reluctantly. I expected her to say something about a cryptid or something horror inspired.

“When my ex-husband and I were together, this is our love story. You are old enough to read it now.”

“Oh, I’m ok on reading that. Did you publish this?” Flora’s modest, blushing nod echoes her glistening eyes.

“It did very well.” I felt my stomach tie itself into knots upon hearing this.

“Is this your only book?” I admittedly hope she say yes.

“No, I wrote a book about a lonely vampire who lived alone on a farm.”

“So, a memoir?” I said absently. Flora fumbled with the drawer, perhaps she did not hear me. This book, unlike the first, had a beautiful cover of a woman resembling Flora, holding a mirror with a brilliant reflection.

“Fawnda lived in a rural town, yearning for love in its truest form. Alas, the spoils were not for her. Marriage is out of the question, as is children, for who would wish this affliction on anyone?”

“Do you mind if I read this?”

“My home is your home.” Flora said. She motioned as one would to present grandly, though she is unable to move as well. “Firstly, I ask of your assistance. Do you mind?”

“Not at all.” I said. I rose first, bearing my weight so that Flora can stand also.

“Thank you. I promise I do not ask much of your stay. It is more difficult for me to keep house now that I am injured. Dishes are easy for me to do, but dinner is a task.”

“I will gladly make dinner. What is for dinner?” I glanced at the thin frail numbers. it is nearly time.

“I don’t eat dinner early. In fact, this is breakfast for me.”

“I forgot about that detail.”

“I do not require you to mirror my schedule. Breakfast and dinner are the two I most rely on, in the middle of the night, I eat small when I am peckish.”

“I will try. I am here to help.”

“If you insist.” Flora led me to the kitchen where she presented a most perplexing contradiction of styles. The modernness of the room painted into a Victorian inspired décor is almost modern. Every room adorned with a different chandelier, each with candles melted into the spokes in which they hang.

“You have beautiful décor.” The eels squirming in me were begging me to leave. Flora is a lovely, if not, eccentric woman. Why did I want to leave? What is this squeamishness, I cannot properly explain?

“It came with the house.”

“Wait, this is original décor?”

“I was told never to change it.”

“By whom?”

“Albertus.”

“Who is Albertus?” Flora studied for a moment, then hobbled to the hallway leading to the back garden. I impatiently followed her.

“The garden is a beautiful addition to the house. My ex-husband planted every seed by hand. It is the only thing left of him besides his ashes.”

“Albertus doesn’t mind the plants?” Flora shot me a fiery gaze, both amused and quizzical.

“You may roam as you wish. There is one room you are forbidden.” Flora beckoned me to follow, “the one room for which I’m forbidden.” What is with all these secrets? How come I never noticed this?

“Albertus’s room. You remember the one door that is to remain locked, the last time you were here?”

“No.” Flora turned slowly toward me.

“I am certain you were warned of this room. It is a condemned room. There is no floor. It collapsed a number of years ago into the basement.”

“I do not recall.”

“If you are certain. I know it has been mentioned at least once.” Flora’s eyebrows sought comfort in the bridge of her nose as she squinted. The visible frustration on her face made me feel guilty.

“I would remember such a thing.” I insisted. Flora’s demeanor shifted to appear nonchalant, the eels squirming urged me to run.

“Regardless,” she gestures me to follow, “this will be your room.”

Upon entering the chamber, room is too informal, the sight floored me. The queen-sized bed painted with maroon stitched dressing, accented by brown plush chairs. The bedroom is practically a living room.

“I hired a handyman to install plugs for electrical appliances. I know times are changing.” Flora said.

“I do not remember these furnishings.”

“Albertus allows some alterations, but not his décor.”

“You must explain this Albertus fellow.”

“He’s the previous owner. I know nothing further.” Flora insisted.

“Alrightus.” She shot me needles when I said it.

“I will be retiring to my room. You remember where my room is?” I nodded. “My medication causes lethargy. I need occasional rest. I will call if I need you.”

“Get some rest. I will be reading that book.” I presented the book to prove I have it with me. Flora nodded before turning down the hall. I hid in my new room.

The maroon and brown complimented each other in the way peanut butter and jam do. Peanut butter with its savory and salty flavor, marrying sinfully sweet fruit. “Legumes and me” will be the title of my memoir. I wasted more time than I wanted before I opened the book.

Fawnda vampira

By Flora Villaume

Fawnda kept house, quietly. Doddering around in the comfort of pitch black. Fawnda adored the stars that speckled the sable sky. She refused to feast as traditional vampires, preferring her livestock as meals. Their blood richer and more gamey.

The cobalt of night beckoned deep sable black before she decided to treat herself. A bet she not often dares to make. The silence of the woods behind her abode is eerie.

What worries does a vampire have in the dead of night? Another vampire.

Fawnda stalked the trees, listening astutely for rustling or small sounds.

“Thou shalt not wander without an escort.” A male voice called from behind Fawnda.

“Doth thou know of my birth?” Fawnda retorted to the cool air. The figure emerged from the trees.

“Of birth is not my concern. A woman of any birth without an escort is a sin of the highest form.” He approached Fawnda with a toothless grin and a cigarette.

“I do not smoke. Smoking is for the poor.” Fawnda declared.

“I see. Then you see through my birth. William.” He introduced himself, bowing.

“The pleasure is all mine.” Fawnda said.

“What brings you to the woods in the middle of the night?”

“I believe I’m lost.” Fawnda paltered.

“Allow me to show you my quarters.”

“I would rather stay here.” Fawnda said before bearing her fangs and digging into William’s neck. William went limp quickly, overpowered by Fawnda. The crimson feast gushed onto Fawnda’s maroon dress, blending in as she had hoped. “It is merely broth,” would be an acceptable excuse for the stain.

“Effie, do you mind helping me?” Flora’s voice sliced through the air.

“Be right there.” I said. I marked the page and rushed to Flora’s room. “Is everything alright?”

“I do not mean to be a bother. I dropped my cane.” I entered the elegant purple room.

After reading her novella about a vampire, I am reluctant to bend near her, she will bite me. Flora did not bite when I retrieved her cane. I remain suspicious.

“I am getting a bit peckish. Would you like something to eat?”

“I could eat.”

Chapter 2

Despite my suspicions, Flora ate normal human food. It is not possible to be a vampire and eat normal foods, right? Beef brisket slightly raw is still suspicious, but many people eat strangely.

“Don’t fret the dishes, dear. I will do that. Thank you for the marvelous meal.”

“Thank you for helping me. I agree, it was delicious.”

“I wanted to ask you. Why is it Ricky left?” I hesitated to answer. It is not that I am embarrassed, it is difficult to talk about.

“He told me he had feelings for his assistant. He claimed there wasn’t any relationship previously, but I can’t be sure. He wanted to divorce because he saw more promise in her. Then they announced a nationwide lay off within the company and he requested she stay, and not me.”

“I’m terribly sorry honey. I would be devastated.”

“Even if I had money, I’d still move back with mom.”

“I would have too. Especially after that.” Flora remained solemn, as did I. She perks up with a sly grin, one finger poking in the air. “How about dessert?”

“I’d like that.” What better way to brighten the mood?

“I have ice cream in the freezer and some brownies on the stove. Miranda’s secret recipe.”

“She makes the best brownies. Did you ever get the secret ingredient?”

“I would never conspire against Miranda.” Flora defended, then placed a hand over her mouth to whisper, “she uses evaporated milk instead of regular milk.”

“That’s it? I could swear she used something more exciting.” We laugh in unison. A small square of brownie warmed in the microwave with a heaping scoop of plain vanilla ice cream, makes for a delightful treat.

“What do you do when no one is here?”

“I am a boring person. I enjoy domestic duties, which I cannot do much of, but I mostly crochet and knit. I do watch some television. Occasionally I read.”

“That’s about what I expected. What if I picked your brain about writing?”

“That sounds like fun. I have neglected that talent for many years. Would you mind doing the dishes again? I will set up my writing studio for us.”

“You have a writing studio?” Flora seemed more surprised than I, for being amused by the thought of a writing studio.

“Absolutely. How long do you think it takes to write a book?”

“A few weeks, maybe?”

“Perhaps if you’re a mad man. It can take longer than that. To have a quality piece, you can write for weeks and barely have a viable chapter, let alone book. I’ll show you.” Flora said. Though injured, she hobbled as quickly as she could to the hallway. She was not visible, but her cane’s echoes are audible.

The few moments of silence were plenty to gather my thoughts. I have many questions about Flora and her home, but I need to begin where the silence roamed freely. The kitchen is a good start, though her drawers are boring and predictable. A junk drawer filled with normal items, pots and pans of varying ages and wears, and her fridge stocked with normal foods. I would expect a head or two in the freezer, though nothing of the sort appeared.

Flora’s dining room proved even more boring. The table seats four comfortably, five if they are young. Her living room seems to hold promise. Two large bookcases frame the back wall near the hallway. To my right, two large plush chairs with intricate carvings piqued my interest. In the center sits a coffee table with drawers, though their contents are visible, provided by the glass atop. Similar to an astute investigator, I wandered before I ventured into the room, she called her “writing studio”. Though I realized she never said which room. Perfect opportunity.

My intentions remain pure. I am merely looking for answers to my questions without sounding rude to my kind hostess. To bluntly ask “are you a creepy two-hundred-year-old vampire?” would be rude. Instead, I seek clues. This is proving difficult, however. I may need to ask her forthright.

The hallway alone is more sinuous and foreboding. How many rooms are in this house? I whispered. “There are eight in total.” Flora recited. Meeting me by her door. “I realize now, I never mentioned which room to meet me.” She smiled as she turned the knob of a door next to her room. The room is adorned with fairy lights and less gothic than the rest of the house.

“I like your decorations!” I said.

“My writing studio must exude creativity. This is my interpretation.”

“I love it.”

“Fawnda Vampira, this is my working copy. I keep every variation. I hope one day there will be an exposé on my work.” I marveled at the lemonade walls, and angel wing lights. Even the chandelier in this room mirrored the playful strawberry lemonade theme.

“Where do you even begin?” Flora brings out her array of notes.

“To begin such a task, you must figure out what genre you read.”

“What does reading have to do with this?”

“To be a great writer, you must be a great reader.” Flora said. She thumbs through her binder. “Reading is studying for a writer.”

“I never thought about it like that.”

“If you will listen to this old coot, you might learn something valuable.” The devilish grin matched that of mom’s grin. I question if they were not twins instead of sisters. Their age gap would be the only telling difference, though they are strikingly similar.

“I think I will start writing tomorrow. Tonight, I will listen.”

“That is a great idea.”

“I enjoy your book so far. It is outdated but savory.”

“I fancy the old English style writing. That is a start. You are a modern woman with a modern voice. Who is your favorite writer? Why are they your favorite writer?” Flora presented questions so provocative, I forgot my questions for her. I simmered in the boiling juices of inspiration. “Shall I leave you in the throes of passion with your thoughts?”

“You don’t mind?” Flora shook her head with a smile.

“Please don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.” Flora winked as she hobbled to her room, next door. I am determined to write, but my eyes wander too much to focus.

I snoop through her drawers, though all they contain are vast amounts of stationary. “A writer will sooner drown in stationary before a dry hand refuse to write.”

My discoveries do not satiate my hunger for answers. Nothing of interest in her writing studio led me any closer to a context. The frustration led me to rest my head against a blank page she left for me to begin my writing journey. Instead, my eyelids dribbled closed. Sleep beckoned me to join her.

Chapter 3

Peach hued streams leaked through the curtains. I fell asleep with my forehead pinned to a sheet of blank paper. An oval of sweat stained the once bleach white page. “Knock, knock,” Flora said as she entered.

“I’m sorry.” I said reflexively.

“Don’t be sorry. I knew it was quiet in here.”

“What time is it?” Swiveling my head to meet the gaze of a clock, though no clock exists in this room.

“It is,” Flora glanced at her wristwatch “six in the morning.”

“I don’t even know what time you left.”

“It was early for me. The clock read almost eleven when I entered my room.”

“I meant to stay awake.”

“I’m surprised you were awake that late. I will be going to sleep soon. Do you want to take any of these items with you into your room?”

“I will leave them here.”

“If you’re hungry, feel free to eat whatever you want. I have some deliveries coming today. Do you mind getting them? They arrive around noon.”

“Not at all.” I smile, kissing her forehead. “Good night.”

“You have your cell phone?” Flora asked. I pad my jeans, I forgot to charge it.

“It’ll be charging.” Flora closed her door.

“Damn.” I whispered. I meant to stay awake. I guess now she will be asleep. I retrieved my phone and charger before the prospect of food enticed me to the kitchen.

There is no shortage of golden light in the kitchen. It is a flood of bright pineapple to stain the dark gothic decor. My phone chimes, mom. I call her immediately.

“Hello. How is it over there?”

“She showed me her books.”

“She has quite a library, doesn’t she?”

“I mean, the books she wrote.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. They aren’t bad, but they are outdated.”

“Indeed, they are,” I paused to pour coffee into a mug, “do you know Albertus?”

“He was the previous owner. Why?”

“I don’t remember hearing about him?”

“He died several years ago. I think she said something about his room not having a floor.”

“I feel like there is something strange going on here.”

“Flora is strange.”

“Do you think she’s hiding something?”

“I would not be surprised. She’s probably hiding her collection of bats.” Mom scoffed.

“She’s sleeping. I might do some snooping.”

“I love you. Be safe.” Mom said.

I replace my phone on the charger, but my intention of eating went away with the wind. I am far too curious about this Albertus fellow. I stride to the living room, where the ominous bookcases stand, to begin my investigation. I examine each book as they each sing a chorus of “pick me” as I stare. Then I realize, there is a book titled “Albertus” amidst the rows of spines. “I will read this along with her book.” I say quietly.

I rush to the kitchen where a small granola bar and coffee sit, then zip into the privacy of my room. The black-out curtain made it too dark. It is a fine sunny morning. I have no need for the darkness. I draw the curtain for light as it splashes on the covers. Even the coffee is discolored by the pineapple juice, pouring from the window.

Fawnda vampira

Fawnda fancied a rich man. His birth is noble, his name of royalty. Fawnda had neither. She was doomed to poverty. The only thing saving her farm, besides her afflicted brother and his wife, were the livestock they husbanded. The marks of their feasts were covered easily, as the wounds healed quickly. Fawnda grew weary of her lifestyle, yearning for the spoils. Marriage and children were the gold nuggets she dreamt. These were not for her either. The afflicted were to be exiled and killed. Her secret must be kept hushed.

At least her brother had a vampire wife, though children would not be in their cards.

Fawnda moped much of the time, choosing to sit in the pasture with the livestock, crying.

Fawnda cried no more one day. She decided her birth and affliction were no more an issue, then dirt on her dress.

In the night, she wandered through the forest.

Fawnda sought company, no matter how old or how ugly they may be.

The forest relented and revealed a path to a town, she had never seen before.

The town was, by appearance, a vampire town.

The tall spires and fences were adorned with the heads of townsfolk adjacent to theirs. Fawnda recognized a few by their contorted deathly stares.

“What brings you here? You are one of us?” The man asked, eyeing Fawnda.

“What is this place?”

“The Vampira palace. How did you find us?”

“I merely wandered the woods until I could wander no more.”

“Have you any suitors?” The man asked, bearing his fangs. For he was no man at all.

“Suitors? Only one.” Fawnda said lustfully. Inching closer to the handsome, devilish vampire.

“Alright. I get it.” I said. I close the book wearily, nausea twisting my stomach. I did try to read it. “Albertus,” the cover creaked as it opened, “who are you?”

Albertus Mayweather, a man of humble upbringing. He is the man of many staples, many of which he is unknown for, selling his ideas for a profit. The man who fathered many children, the man who fathered many companies. Who is he really?

First, we must dissect who he was as a person before we discuss who he was as an entrepreneur. Albertus Douglas Mayweather, born in 1949 to Maybella Hartley and Douglas Mayweather. Both were significant to the community. Maybella worked as a medic nurse in World War II, upon returning to the states, she worked in a local mill. Illinois to be exact.

Douglas was a pilot in World War II, later becoming an engineer. Upon returning to the states, working on planes then space crafts for the government, he created quite a name for himself. Douglas was thrilled to become a father. His life goal, shifted, for Albertus.

Named after Albertus Magnus, the patron saint of natural sciences. Albertus the saint, was a scholar and philosopher. Making Albertus Mayweather a promise rather than a namesake. Albertus was destined to greatness from the moment Maybella was aware of the form growing inside her.

Douglas lived a fulfilling life, though he died before Albertus turned fifteen. Leaving Maybella and Albertus to his life insurance payout and her career. He was an only child. It arguably spoiled the child, as he had all Maybella’s affection and attention. Albertus wrote a book under a penname when he was eighteen. Titled “The Hen and The Crow,” he won several prizes for this achievement. The genesis of his success. This flow of income afforded his many hobbies.

He created many patented devices we still use today. Some of which were sold to others, his name no where near the items. Is there a purpose? What if he is hiding something?

The investigation ensues. A private source, a reliable source stated “he remains private for his mother’s sake. The achievements, though many and great, would be too much publicity for his dear aging mother.”

Sources also state, “Maybella died in 1987, approximately the year Albertus seemingly vanished. Where did he go? No one really knows.”

“It is possible he fled to his family’s farm, run by his uncle. Though there is a rumor he has been spotted in Southern Oregon.”

Where Albertus is, it is unclear. We do know his influence is felt around the world. If you are using an electric kettle, it is said he helped developed the original blueprint for it. If you have read a book involving crows or see devices with crows embellished, you may be supporting his accomplishments. Even to this day.”

I close the book, watching the dust swirl and dance in the light. “I feel like that created more questions than it answered.” I lean in the chocolate chair, melting along with the leather that it coats. It is day two. No need to rush for the conclusion. Yet I am inpatient for the outcome. I realize my phone is charging in the kitchen still. The time would be useful.

The screen glows, “it is almost eight.” Only two hours. A little snooping before the deliveries arrive might alleviate the curiosity. I start in the garden. Before I water any plants, the first step is to check the grounds. The soil is untouched by hoe or shovel, nothing disturbed recently. That is a good sign. I see no shoe prints, no feet, no marks deemed suspicious. I venture farther, deeper, for grave markers. No such stone or marker is visible.

“There has to be something. Why else would I feel this unease? It can’t be a baseless claim.” I whisper. Have I scared myself into madness? Perhaps.

The water soaks the dirt while the plants feast on the fertilizer I pour. Their leaves perk, outstretching to the sun then wave in glee as I move from one section to another. It is a beautiful day. It is not hot or cold. The sun-soaked garden is a peaceful oasis.

By the time I replace the hose, I forget why I even went outside. The vitamin D is a great assistance to my mood, though, now I realize that absorbed much more time than I expected. My phone read ten.

“A snack is in order.” I say. Though the trip to the garden alleviates some curiosity. I draw my attention to the door nearest to Albertus’s room. It speaks to me, or am I hearing things?

“Come hither” it whispers. I am sure I hear it. Clear as a gale. “I am here,” it says as I approach.

My hand touches the doorknob gingerly, the cool metal biting my hand as I turn it. The door gives way as I lean into it, allowing passage. I feel something tickle my forehead, as though a string or the like swung in front of me. I am correct. It is the light that caresses the stairs.

It is her basement. “The floor collapsed a number of years ago,” her voice swirls in my head as I glance around, perplexed, “it’s a condemned room.”

“Where is the destruction if that is the case.” I meander, using my phone as a flashlight where the small bare lightbulb’s light does not touch. More questions arise, for now I have more than I can even imagine answering in one day. “What do you have to say for yourself?” I whisper.

I peek up at the ceiling, which would be the room in question. No disturbance or failing construction is visible. I dodder around in confusion. “Why would Flora lie?”

Chapter 4

Flora met me in the dining room. “Good morning.”

“Good morning. How did you sleep?”

“I slept well. I wish for this pain to subside.”

“I wish there was more I could do.”

“You are doing it, sweetheart. Would you mind making me some eggs and toast? Scrambled and lightly toasted.”

“I don’t mind.” I grab a mug and fill it with entertainment.

“Thank you, my dear. I hope it isn’t terribly boring here.”

“Not at all. I watered the plants and made some food. I read your book. I also read about Albertus.”

“I knew you would.” Flora smirks, eyeing me as she sips her coffee.

“He sounds like an interesting man.”

“He was.” Flora says absolutely.

“Did you know him well?”

“My ex-husband.” I stare at her like a deer catching the gaze of car headlights.

“Why didn’t you say that?” I laugh, all this stress for nothing.

“I didn’t want you to get nervous. He died in that room. I don’t want to alter the memory of him.”

“It is certainly more understood than ‘it is merely a condemned room’ without explanation.”

“Some guests become anxious or nervous. You are a tough cookie.” Flora and I relished the light-hearted moment. Though my curiosity never waned, I refrained from inquiry about the room.

“He must have been much older, then.” I prod, start slowly.

“He would have been 70 this year. I am aware of his seniority, but we were mad for each other. Even until his dying day.”

“I’m sorry.” I am sorrier I must ask in such a way. It makes me sound insensitive.

“Don’t be, he had a great life. He will have a better afterlife. I will join him soon enough.”

“You worry me.”

“I don’t mean it like that. I am saying when my time comes, I will be there with him. Eventually.”

“I remain cautious around you.” I wink. It is both in gest and in nervousness. My mind wanders away from me. Maybe a ghost inhabits that mysterious room? Perhaps his body lay on the bed after all this time? The flurry of possibilities makes for unreasonable anxiety. I hesitate before I hand her the plate of eggs and toast.

“Thank you, my dear.” I sit across from her, with tendrils of steam kissing my chin. The heat blazes against the window, barely covered by thin maroon curtains, appearing pink in the glare. I allow Flora time to eat. There is no rush. The eels in my stomach squirm and wriggle. Why am I impatient? “Thank you for watering my plants. I don’t remember if I thanked you or not.”

“You’re welcome. It is a gorgeous garden.”

“It truly is. Albertus did a marvelous job.” Flora nibbled her toast, then licked her fork. A finer compliment than the words. She rose, placing the dishes in the sink. “I will do those, in a few moments.” She said. Excusing herself to use the restroom. I obliged, sitting at the table. The avalanche in my head is starting to rumble. Perhaps it is boredom that seeks the rush?

“Yes, it is possible I’m merely bored.” I surmise. “That does make sense.”

“Or true concern.” A disembodied voice call to me. I swivel around in search of this male voice, but no source is found.

“Flora?” I ask. No response.

“You called for me?” Flora said, her voice from the hallway echoing.

“No, never mind.” I can hear her cane clatter along the linoleum in the hallway. The bending and cracking of the material leads me to believe she is retiring to her room. No offense taken, she is disabled and on heavy medications.

I opted for the living room. I sat in the dull copper chair, adorned with scribbles and sculptures. It is a lovely sight. With closer inspection, I realize the bookcases are built into the wall. Curious how the house has eight rooms, yet I have only seen four. Maybe there is a second level I am unaware of, was there always? I do not recall any of this adventure from my previous visit.

I follow the shadows, creeping behind the bookcase. There appears to be a gap, a possibility for stairs. I gather my nerve to investigate, inspecting the crown molding as I approach. I scratch my head, there is a narrow set of stairs right above Flora’s room. “Of course.” I said.

One step beckoned a second, then a third and before I knew it, I am upstairs. I do not remember any part of this. The baffling part is the lack of noise. I expected a squeaky, noisy trek, not a creak. I glance through the open doors, quietly stalking along, in case Flora might hear my steps. The furnishings are much older. Many layers of dust coat each room, from floor to ceiling.

One door remains ajar. This door is of interest. Not all the way closed yet closed enough to hide its contents. I realize now she mixed up the rooms. This room must be Albertus’s room. The floor had caved into the room below it.

I can see the floorboards and bed scattered like flotsam junk in the room below. It is a jarring sight, the wreckage in the room below is devastating. I can only hope no one was in the room at the time. The avalanche began. “What if Albertus was in the room at the time of the collapse?”, “Did Flora cause it?” I am getting ahead of myself. All this excitement for some drama? I wave the conspiracy away. Seeing the destruction for myself is enough to dismiss the concern.

“Effie,” the ethereal, disembodied voice returned. I spun around to find no one. I peeked into the giant hole, nothing. I peek in each room to make sure I am alone. No one. I curse my curiosity as I pad down the stairs, it is probably Flora calling me.

My eyes trace each shadow, each entryway before I emerge from the stairwell. I must not be seen near there. Flora’s door remained closed.

I saw a precarious sitting book, nearly on the edge. 
 “What are you?” I whisper, as though it called to me.

“Read me.” A whisper insisted. I resumed my stay in the copper chair, still warm from my behind sitting in the seat.

It was a chilly February night when the darkness cloaked the small serbian village near what is now Novi Sad, in 1725. Petar and his wife Jana settled into bed but the uneasiness he felt did not leave him as he snuffed the candle by the bed. He laid in silent darkness for a time as he listened to his wife’s breathing as it slowed easily, falling asleep easily. Petar stared wide eyed, at the open door leading to the living room. The feeling of an intruder in his abode filled his mind as well as the realization they had not dusted in quite some time struck him. Petar fought the urge to sneeze as he glanced through the specks floating through the moonlight filtering through the window.

Petar could not shake the knot in his stomach as he sat up, gazing at his sleeping wife next to him. He sighed softly as he leaned into the moonlight with a quill and paper to write his goodbyes, just in case an intruder truly stood in wait. The pale moon glowed ominously as he padded toward the kitchen to retrieve an implement of protection. Knife in hand, he glared through the windows and examined the shadows around him before venturing far enough to be visible. From what Petar could see, there was no one lurking, no one waiting, no one stalking around outside. Though adjusted to the darkness, he did not see the one shadow that was more out of place than a cell phone in the 18th century.

Petar returned to bed, whispering to Jana how much he adored her before curling up behind her and wrapping around her form to attempt falling asleep. This comfort was not to last, as the shadow had crept through the one window left ajar, where the shadow stole Petar from Jana. Jana awoke to the terrible slurping sound as the Shadow relentlessly stole him then allowed his body to fall to the ground with a disturbing thud. She screamed as the creature lunged at her without a sound.

Jana awoke as the sun filled the room with harsh blinding force. She was never disturbed by the sun before, but she was horrified by the sight when it pierced her vision. She rose, realizing the terrible nightmare had been a reality. She grabbed Petar with tears streaming down her face. Jana cried into the peaceful morning of the atrocity that befell her, a tragedy that left her a widow. Jana glanced to the table on his side of the bed where a paper hung off the edge precariously. Upon reading the note, she wept harder with tears spilling onto Petar’s still, but cold body.

Jana refused to lower her hood as she explained the situation to the priest helping her. He insisted she perform the ritual to cleanse his soul before burial, but with grief she expressed her concern that his soul might already be gone. The priest nodded slowly as he allowed her time to say goodbye before formalities, then burial. She whispered how distraught she felt to Petar’s corpse. She threw her arms and chest over him, his eyes shot open and a voice she’d never heard before said “you are carrying the curse with you, you killed the form but evil lives within you.” Petar’s face fell and he returned to his stillness as she wept uncontrollably. She ran to the priest and begged for a ceremony. After the funeral she would be placing him in the most secure tomb possible. The priest obliged with a frown.

Jana was restless all night, the first night in her marital bed alone, terrible visions filling her dreams as she poured cold sweat from the frantic panic she felt. The new moon left the sky darker than usual this night as she leapt from the bed in terror. Jana lit a candle and filled the void of silence with encouraging words or going through the motions of how her lovely husband would console her in times such as these. She went to make some tea but she glanced over at the moment when a blood curdling scream rang out, through the window she witnessed a silhouette of two figures dancing or fighting then one falling to the ground. The disturbing thud was followed by a squish then a slurping or hissing sound until it disappeared.

Jana rushed to the priest to express her concerns when he expressed some of his own. Petar’s body had disappeared from the holding tomb and a trail of blood led to the woods until there was nothing left of a man but some clothes and bones. Jana gasped before she fainted from the news. The priest urged her to seek refuge in the church in case the creature returned for her, which she explained her experience with Petar when she said her goodbyes. The priest scowled at her confession. “This is worse treason. The king will banish you.” Jana cried again, having lost everything now before a knot in her stomach twisted, but it was not her nerves. The priest watched in horror as he realized what it meant. “Either I banish you and you may live, or the king banishes you and you die.” The priest says sternly. With a sigh, she nods agreeably and turns to leave. Jana felt the defeat and sadness as she gathered what little she owned and embraced her banishment. Without a goodbye to anyone, she was given a ticket by the priest to allow her to board a ship to wherever they would accept her. Austria happened to be the next stop.

Jana boarded the boat with a single tote of clothes and several memories of Petar. With sorrow, she realized she was gaining weight and the feeling in her stomach was not hunger. Jana cried nearly every night but not before singing and telling stories to the form growing in her belly. It took nearly four months before they arrived in Austria. A very noticeably pregnant Jana kissed the dock when they landed, so happy she had made it safely and relatively in one piece. Jana had come such a long way from home without so much as a breath to her family, but here she was in Austria. A young sailor greeted her with a warm smile, he looked identical to Petar. She accepted his hand and walked with him into a strange new chapter of her life.

“What?” I said. I close it immediately to examine the spine and covers. It unearthed few clues to satiate my questions. I glance to the hallway, then around my shoulder. It appears to me, I am alone. “Memories stolen.” I recite, reading the inside page. “A short story based on a Serbian legend of where it is assumed vampires originate. I would never have guessed.

“Memories stolen”, an unofficial title.

Sunlight has a funny way of invading the room. Streams of light peer through the cracks of fabric sworn to protect the fragile glass.

The sunlight today is more invasive than usual. I have an intuition of something big on its way. I was not wrong.

My aunt Flora is a funny bird. I never questioned it until recently. She is one of the select few with thick black-out curtains. Her excuse, since I was young, was her late-night shifts. Now that she no longer works, the darkness prevails. I never questioned it. I would be remiss if I said I never thought about it.

“How’s the job search going?” Mom asked. Her voice singing with the sound of eggs crackling in a pan.

“Nothing still. I haven’t heard from any of the companies I applied to, except one.” I lamented.

“And?”

“Sorry, we moved forward with another applicant. I say they’re lying.”

“These are uncertain times.”

“At least you still have a job.”

“Look, many people are still out of work. I have an idea, how about you keep aunt Flora company. She might know of someone looking for a fine employee like you.”

“She’s creepy to me.”

“Oh stop.”

“What if she bites me?”

“Just because someone works overnight, does not mean anything. Flora still did her daily duties around the house and went to the store like everyone else.”

“Do you know if she will go back to work anytime soon?”

“That’s a question you can ask her when you get there.”

“I don’t know.” I drank my coffee. I need time to think about it. Flora is disabled, for now.

“How about I call her, anyway?” Mom extinguished the flame before portioning off breakfast. “Why do you think Flora is creepy?”

“The way she dresses, the way she speaks, the way she is. It’s not just one thing about her that I find creepy.”

“Believe it or not, she has always been like that. I remember being kids and she would walk around with books on her head because she thought that’s what good women did.”

“How old was she when she did that?”

“I was six and she was twelve.”

“This validates my concerns with her.”

“You were an odd child too.”

“Was I?” Mom leered at me. The way she does when she is about to tell a wild tale. The storyteller in her freely painted the scene.

The year was 1996 when you were a wee lass of only (born 1987) eight years old. Grandma Betty sewed, by hand, a southern Belle’s costume for Halloween that year. The summer waned, but it was far too warm for you to be wearing such a heavy fabric, yet there you were frolicking in the dress.

I pinned the hat on your head so the wind would not take it. She happened to have sheep. You herded them as though you had done it before. I am still amazed by your imagination.
Your imagination scared me too.

When you were nine years old, you relayed a story of how a cousin of yours had a dog that dug holes in the backyard. The cousin in question had died years before you possibly could have met him.

“That was me?” I asked incredulously. Mom nodded her head, eyeing me as she ate her food. I stared blankly for a moment before I even thought about sticking my fork into the cooling eggs.

“You are not so different than either of us.” Mom smirked a devilish smirk. I have never seen her so amused.

I ate what I could. She cooked wonderfully, but I was enamored by her story. I insisted she call Flora after breakfast. Mom agreed, but I had to wash dishes. May that be the worst thing that happens to me today.

“Flora, Hi. I have a question.” Mom meandered into the living room, the nomad she is when she talks on the phone. I wish I could have heard the conversation. By the time I was drying the few dishes there were, mom wandered back with a grin. “Apparently your sister had the same idea and stayed with Flora for a few weeks.”

“Aww, I haven’t seen Miranda since she left for college.”

“She left yesterday morning. Flora said she would love to have you stay there for a while.”

“Do you think her house looks any different?”

“It’s cane friendly.”

“Funny.” I mused.

“It has been a number of years since you were up there last. I’m sure it looks different now. It’s been, what, eight years?”

“I guess it has been that long. I don’t think she’ll recognize me.”

“She might, I send her photos every year.”

“I’m excited about seeing her now. If not for her, for her stories.”

“You better get packing then.” Mom nudged me along.

I could not help but be overwhelmed. How long would I even stay for? It’s not like I have a job to answer to anymore. I had to dig for my suitcase in my closet. The last time I took a vacation was easily the honeymoon with my now ex-husband. I take small moments to regale how pleasant the beginning was. Beginnings are always pleasant and sweet. Until they are no more.

I am a single woman, thirty-two, with no kids and now no home. I had to move in with my mom. She allowed me back into her home without question. I am forever grateful for that.

Aunt Flora on the other hand. I know nothing about her, except she worked overnights until she had an injury of some kind. I think she slipped on a gravestone in the dark. It would be nice to quash old fears. I folded clothes neatly, adding amenities as I thought of them. Luckily, most of my belongings are still in boxes by my childhood bed.

It dawned on me that my room was left untouched. Miranda’s room had been transformed into a “hen den” as my mom called it. My room was left as it was when I left at eighteen. Not that it mattered, I was now filled with questions.

“I just noticed you never changed my room.”

“Something told me you would be back.” Mom shrugged, placing a hand on my shoulder.

“Really?”

“Ricky was a nice kid, but you are a free spirit. You need someone that can keep up with that. I think you would like a writer. They are introspective and intuitive.”

“What if I became a writer?” The moment struck me.

“What if you do?” Mom winked at me.

“I think I want to leave tonight.”

“I’ve never seen you so inspired. Let me make a few phone calls and see how early I can send you there.”

I buzzed with the sensation. I do not drink, but I was drunk with it. A revelation of creativity like lightning in pitch blackness. It is dazzling.

No time is wasted. I must revise my list of items for my trip. It is a small revision. My laptop bag and stationery are now a necessity. I’ve never written anything outside of an essay. This is a modern world where the internet exists. Videos and blogs should lead me in the right direction. I am one month divorced, my whole life turned upside down. Here I am, about to visit my Aunt’s house to seek out a niche.

“I hope you have fun with her.”

“I will text you when I can.”

“You are still my little girl.”

“Mom.” I groaned, that awkward feeling still there.

The continued tragedy we ignore in Centralia.

Pennsylvania is home to many beautiful sites. Did you know that it’s also home to a deadly, underground coal fire? This coal fire has been burning for well over fifty years. Centralia, Pennsylvania is the location of much inspiration and trepidation. Tread carefully, even while reading this story.

Imagine it is over a century ago, Centralia is bustling small town of coal miners and the families that resided there. It is a town meant for success. This small town withstood the “Great Depression” and remained in tact. The population even swelled as it was, at one point, the place to live. You didn’t even have to be a coal miner. 

Centralia isn’t without it’s pitfalls, violence knows no limits. Coal miners in the area were known to be violent. The same can be said in any location. The real tragedy is when in 1962, they decided the only way to rid the town of their trash by burning it. Keep in mind this is not a legal practice. Knowing this, the city council at the time ignored this fact. 

May 1962, they decided to make it a “memorial day” festivity as they systematically burned it at the landfill. This fact is still hotly debated as the cause is still not 100% known.

“This might seem like irrelevant, small-town history except for one thing,” wrote David Dekok in Fire Underground, his history of the fire: “Centralia Council’s method for cleaning up a dump was to set it on fire.” Though competing theories exist about how the fire was sparked, it’s thought that the Centralia dump fire sparked a much larger mine fire beneath the town. — cited from below link with more information.

They should have taken into consideration the network of the mine below the city. Once the spark ignited the coals below, it was impossible to extinguish. The network beneath the town is vast. What was their solution? Firstly, they poured water down the network of tunnels in an attempt to extinguish the blaze. They chose to ignore this for over twenty years until a twelve year old boy was nearly swallowed into a huge sink hole that developed. 

Smoke rising from a large crack in PA Highway 61 caused by the underground coal fire, 2010. (Credit: Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images)

Smoke from the fire below, swam to the surface. The temperature swelled to over 900 degrees. The town was overrun with carbon monoxide. This is not a same environment to reside, and this is dangerous to ignore. Their indiscretion was, unfortunately, too expensive and dangerous to fix. Sinkholes are still said to randomly develop in the area, to this day.

“By then, it was too late for Centralia. Rather than put out the fire, Congress decided to buy out its residents, paying them to move. Then, in 1992, Pennsylvania moved to kick the holdouts out for good. All of Centralia’s buildings were condemned; its ZIP code was eliminated. Seven residents remained via court order; they are forbidden from passing down their property or selling it.” — cited from below link with more information.

“And forget extinguishing the fire that has turned the town from a small mining center to a place infamous for its hidden blaze: As geologist Steve Jones told Smithsonian’s Kevin Krajick, “Putting it out is the impossible dream.””— cited from below link with more information.

In 1992 the town was condemned. No one should live or visit the area as it’s unclear how detrimental the experience would be. I’d say it’s far too dangerous, even for firefighters. There are thousands of coal fires underground as we speak, but this is said to have been started people. People like you and I, just trying to eliminate trash in a landfill without thinking about the consequences…

I find it incredibly unfortunate that many residence found this to be amusing. Even after 57 years, this coal fire is said to burn on for another century. The deadly gases and horrifying sink holes that still erupt with carbon monoxide will be apart of our reality. What are the consequences of this, even after almost 60 years? We are still trying to figure that out. 

“The Centralia fire now reaches as deep as 300 feet and covers some six square miles — that’s more than seven Disneyland’s. It’s advancing around 75 feet per year along four separate branches and could burn for another 250 years. All the residents of the town may be gone by then, but the coal that brought their ancestors to Pennsylvania in the first place will still be blazing.”

https://www.britannica.com/video/187023/coal-mine-fire-Pennsylvania-Centralia

https://www.history.com/news/mine-fire-burning-more-50-years-ghost-town

Update to “Rock Bottom on Diamond Hill”

This update not only changes the direction, but it also adds some flair the previous version did not have. Enjoy.

Bren calls on my lunch break most days. Part of me hopes she neglects this practice, as I am eyeing a sweet treat walking past my office. “Pam, can I speak with you?” Pam trots into my office with the door closing behind her.

“Yes, Elias.”

“Are you getting lunch with the boys?” She smiled with those teasing eyes.

“No.”

“Are you interested in helping me with this report? It’s so long and difficult.” Her cobalt, lightning eyes were my surrender. I stood to kiss her. Pam stood to accept the kiss. She wore a cherry lip gloss which my lips slipped around on, making the passion silly instead of sexy. I did not think twice, it is fun to feel her tongue glide across my mouth. I grab a handful of her supple breasts with ease before I offer a surprise for her. I know consent is even sexier when it is in the form of a work-related question.

“Oh, Elias. You know I am proficient in word.” Pam’s expression bore the telltale mark of ecstasy, entranced by Elias’s fondling and kissing. Her summer dress made insertion easy, leaning on his messy desk, not so much. In a fit of involuntary movement, Pam nearly tore my dress shirt in two when she lifts it. Her birth against my girth is an exhilaration I have long since felt.

The flurry of motion and intense passion is a welcomed distraction. Is the phone ringing? Oh, who cares when I am so close to a climax?

“I am glad I was of help to you with your report.” Pam winked.

“My sentiments are mutual.” I attempt to adjust my shirt, with little hope of it looking normal until I gain function in my hand again.

“How are you and Bren?” I stare at the wall, wanting to ignore her question. I could at the least answer her.

“Not great. I have a feeling the situation will only continue to go downhill from here.” Pam’s eyes flicker, a thought maybe?

“Maxwell and I have been fighting. I think he knows about us.”

“Part of me wished Bren would notice.”

“You really love her, don’t you?” I said that out loud, didn’t I?

“I think we should get back to work.” My attempt to shoo her out of my office, her eyes glued to me as she exits. Bren called.

I craft my alibi, while I am still confident, on my notepad. Too late, Bren answered.

“Hi honey. I will be in surgery late today. Do you need some money sent over or will the leftovers be fine?”

“Leftovers.” A one-word response would drive me up the wall. Bren ignored it with ease. Bren hung up without so much as an “I love you” or “I miss you”.

Click, the car is unlocked. “I made a mistake.” I fingered the leather of my seat before I drive home. The gravity of my indiscretion crept up on me. Is this affair worth it?

“Hey.” Jory’s cool voice played through the Bluetooth speaker.

“I made a grave mistake.”

“Pam? I told you it is a bad idea.”

“It seemed so fun in the beginning, but now the stakes are too high.”

“Elias, for the love of god.”

“I am an idiot.”

“I don’t think she will forgive you for this.”

“I wouldn’t either.” Every turn feels like I am defusing a bomb.

“I think you should gather your belongings now, because this is going to be bloody.”

“I think you’re right.” I said goodbye. I am nearly home when I feel the panging contrition. To repent is to leave at this point. I pace through Bren’s house. Did I mention she refused my name anywhere on her bills? I think she is cheating on me too. Our finances have always been separated. I guess I realize now this is a red flag for both of us.

“Elias,” Jory said “Liza just called me. She thinks Bren is on a date, not in surgery.”

“I guess this makes things easier on me.”

“You’re not mad?”

“I mean, I cheated first.”

“If I may add something. I don’t think you two were a good couple to begin with.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Look at Liza and I, everything is together. What do you have together?”

“Our bed, our food, and the garage.”

“Married couples don’t do that.”

“I know. This has been a long time coming.”

“I think you should make a nice dinner, actually eat together, then just end it. Make sure you say you want a divorce. She might even have to give you money out of this.”

“I want don’t want anything from her.”

“That’s a good mentality.”

I pace the house, padding through every room as if to say “goodbye” individually. I do not use majority of the house as this house is her childhood home. Some rooms have always been off limits. I think this is good for us. I laugh when I gather my belongings. It is a total of two duffel bags and my locking briefcase for work. I walk to our room and it is clear to me now. We have three photos together. Three years of marriage, five years of dating, and we have three photos hanging in our room.

Couples would have more photos together. At least a few more to adorn their home with, at the least.

This is it.

I sit outside with coffee, even if it is too late, and smoke. Bren is not aware of my smoking, maybe it will be another point of contention. The sun waned, giving way to evening, when I hear the thunder of the garage. Bren is home. The storm is on its way.

“Hello honey.” Bren said.

“Hello sweetheart.” The words are bitter as bile. Bren did not stay long, she disappeared to shower first.

“You look sad.” Bren said. Her towel barely clinging to her features. I must admit, she is still gorgeous.

“I want a divorce.” Bren barely batted an eye.

“You know about Alex?” There is no fighting. Not even a denial.

“It is when I started seeing my secretary.”

“Pam.” Bren’s voice is cool and calm. “I think it will be better for us. We started drifting apart and it doesn’t feel like we are a couple anymore.”

“In the beginning it was like electricity.”

“Eventually I became complacent.”

“We both did.”

Bren agrees on separation. A divorce is to come, she wants to pay for the process. I expect this to be a bloody process, but she made it seem so natural. I grab my bags and pile into sedan. I left without a second glance. Jory is home with Liza.

“How did it go?” Jory said. Cinnamon and apple filling the air.

“She agreed.”

“That’s it?”

“It is mutual. She sees the problem too.”

“Did she admit to her affair?”

“Yes.” Jory is stunned the break is without damage. Besides financial ruin, there are no wounds to speak of, yet.

“Corazón, that won’t happen with me. I’m smelling your clothes before you worry about me.” Liza said.

“I believe it.” Jory said.

“What’s your plan now?”

I hope your book becomes a “cult classic”

I wrote my first creative piece upon reading a book that had a frustrating ending. I, unfortunately, am extremely opinionated on what I like to read and watch. The ending of the above-mentioned book I have long since forgotten, not to mention its title. I do remember how passionate I rewrote the ending. This is where the obsession began. 

I had a therapist around this time, for behavioral issues, which led to the suggestions of writing in a journal. What began as nonsense thoughts and horrifying dreams, quickly became a source of creativity. Teachers from every school I attended all noticed a talent in me forming. Even my parents were supportive of this talent, going as far as to urge me to practice my signature in the event I “became famous.” I never wanted fame. This is a compulsion that sprouted forth because of trauma, has become a cathartic expression. I can write what I want to say without interruption. It is truly glorious.

The art of writing seems to be misconstrued as this way to become famous and receive clout for no reason. I have never been under that impression. As an actor losing the spotlight after someone younger and better looking enters the stage, writing too is merely a means to an end. It is a career that can be a fast-track to incredible money, but one should never assume this walking into it. It does not matter how you got published.

I chose independent publishing because I never wanted the censorship involved with traditional publishing. I know the topics I prefer to discuss are not a savory morsel for everyone. That is the way I like it. I want the strange and unusual. I like the idea of writing my way. I have a voice that is unique to me. I want everyone to feel that way. I support other indie authors in the way my mom, dad, grandmother, and auxiliary family members supported me. Writing should not be this fame driven pathway, it is an art.

Sometimes I feel like I see too many authors and artists fall into cliches, though not always a bad thing, it can be redundant. I want to encourage those to write their dream project, but it can be frustrating when I see four books or pieces with similar plots. Sorry if that sounds rude, I am saying it, this is my opinion. I have not encountered it as much since I joined Twitter, as they have flooded me with unique voices and even more creative pieces. Thank goodness this happened. I can see the world will soon be overrun with the voices of millions that are incredibly talented.

Circling back, this piece is more of a late night “shower thought”, if you will. I had been told years ago that writing is an investment. Many authors do not achieve fame, or infamy, until their death. Why is that? It takes so much work to actually get your name anywhere near a spotlight long enough to gain worldwide recognition. “Even the most incredible books are found in bargain bins.” A quote from someone I encountered earlier this year.

I do not know about you, but that does not sound bad. I am torn between wanting the fame and money and wanting my book to be free. I see no problem with ending up in a bargain bin. Would that not imply your book is more accessible to the masses? What if years after you give up writing, you become a cult classic with a following you wish you had when you wrote it? It has been done time and time again! I would much rather have obscure books that gain a following later down the road and become a trope of pop culture. Imagine the surprise when Richard O’Brien found out “Rocky Horror Picture Show” became a cult classic. It has been made fun of but think of how many people still love it fifty years later. I love it.

Do not be discouraged if you are not a best seller in any category, be reassured because I am not either. I hope that one day someone picks up your book at a library or at the bottom of a bargain bin and makes you into a cult classic. Turning your “flop” into a “top”.

Rock Bottom on Diamond Hill

Bren calls me on my lunch break every day. Today she must have been busy. She’s always busy. I waited by the phone for a few minutes, thinking she may be washing her hands or in the bathroom. Nothing.

“We’re going out to get food. Would you like to join us?” Pam rested her forehead against the door, sweetly smiling at me.

“I’m staying here. Thank you.” I must have groaned or the expression on my face gave it away, because she took a seat at the chair meant for clients. 

“Is everything alright?” I looked into her cobalt lightning eyes and I surrendered. I didn’t think twice when I rose to my feet and kissed her supple lips. Pam wore a cherry flavored lip gloss that made my lips feel slippery. My hands flew across her chest and I moaned upon thrusting inside her, made simple by her summer dress. Pam didn’t fight me, perhaps she too was sexually frustrated. Pam untucked my dress shirt and nearly ripped the button loose as she scratched my back and kissed my abs. The flurry of motion and intense passion made the world disappear for a moment. I could swear I heard  someone outside, but I couldn’t concentrate on it. Nor did I care.

“I knew you liked me.” Pam moaned as she quivered against me, my climax quickly approaching. I said nothing, I didn’t even look at her, as I watched the wall behind her and groaned. Her birth against my girth was an exhileration I long since felt. The rush of excitement faded as we seperated and fixed our indiscretions. I looked up and realized the door hadn’t been shut all the way.

“Shit. I fucked up.” I sighed. 

“I should go.” Pam said. I think she realized she made a mistake also. This time she closed the door behind her. I resumed to my fixation on my phone, when I realized, Bren called me. I felt like a salmon and I looked like one too. I took a few minutes to compose my alibi, then wrote it down while I still felt confident she would believe me. 

“Hey honey.” I said. I took advantage of the numbness from the vile act I committed. The beginning of an affair is arguably easier than facing the fact later down the road.

“I just wanted to let you know that I will be in surgery late tonight. I won’t be home to make dinner. Would you like me to send over some money so you can order food or is leftovers good?” 

“Leftovers.” I said. A one word response would have driven me up the wall, yet she glossed over it. She hung up without saying “I love you”, and without asking “how is work going”? 

“Elias,” Pam said, “George would like to speak with you.” I cursed under my breath. I know exactly what he is going to tell me. Pam and I sat in his office, an office adorned with his personal achievements about his perfect life. I could only imagine the skeletons in his closet. 

“Elias, do you know why we’re meeting?”

“I’m assuming it’s because I am about to be fired.” 

“No, I was going to say that Pam here is moving in a month. I wanted to know if we should promote from within or hire a new secretary?” I stared at him, speechless.

“Actually George, I quit.”

“Wait, what?” Pam looked at me as though I had stabbed her in the arm.

“I’m leaving. I’ve been unhappy for a while and my marriage is falling apart. I’m moving.”

“I had no idea. I’m sorry to hear that, is there any way you can stay at least two days until I can find a replacement?” I shook my head, glared at Pam, and walked out. I vaguely heard Pam mention that should would stay and pick up some slack. I already knew she wanted to leave because I embaressed her. 

When I got to the bus stop, I realized I am an idiot. I single handedly ruined my integrity and quit my job. I would soon lose my marriage. Bren will hate me. Hell, I hate me. Is it a mid life crisis at twenty-five? Who knows? 

I opened the door to Bren’s house. I never felt as though I belonged in her house. I did not contribute to the mortgage, as this is her childhood home. Bren inherited it from her mother a year ago. I think that’s when this whole mess started. She refused to put my name anywhere on her bills, or her mortgage. In fact our finances are so seperate, my car is paid on my wages. Where is it now? My brother uses it more than I do. He pays the insurance while I pay the monthly payments towards owning the damn thing. Bren owns her car, paid in full, from a lawsuit she won against her ex husband. I should have thought my failures through before acting upon them. 

The most terrifying phrase to hear from your partner is “we need to talk”, and that’s what she said to me. I knew it was coming. I think we both knew it was coming. 

My coffee was quickly cooling as I took a drag from my cigarette, she was on her way soon. I would hear it, I’m sure of it. I felt the calm before the storm. I could see the clouds approaching, and could hear the thunder as the garage door open, then close. Bren is home. 

“Hello sweetheart. How was work?” Bren appeared normal and Cherry, but for how long?

“Hi Honey. Work was annoying. I had to deal with Amy. You know how I feel about Amy.” 

“What did you want to talk about?” I asked. I wanted the explosion to happen sooner rather than later.

“I recieved my bonus today and I thought we could go to dinner. Where would you like to go?” 

“That’s it?”

“That’s what? Were you expecting a different question?”

“Yes. Sorry. What’s the name of that one restaurant we went to for our anniversary?”

“You must have good news for me. You only take me to Spike’s Steakhouse when there is good news.” Bren remained oblivious to my unease. Shit. She still had no idea. I must have a problem. 

“You could say that.” I said. My coffee is now cold, and my cigarette is now extinguished. It’s going to be a long night. 

“How was work?” She returned the question. I couldn’t admit my failure to her. 

“Work dragged.” I neglected to elaborate, a bet I often made. I bet her, in my head, that she wouldn’t ask further and we’d fall into our normal routine. 

It was all a routine. Perhaps I’d become complacent. She showered than went to the garage for yoga. I would shower and play pool in the office until we made dinner then watch television until we went to bed. The same routine everyday for over three years. In the beginning it seemed so safe and simple. I realize now, I dont know why I did this. Bren is gorgeous. She is intelligent and interesting, but so boring. I look at her and I feel the passion still bubbling, which makes this harder, but the thought of what I did to her is a leech feeding on my blood. I’m drained. I have to do this. I’m already a terrible person. 

“Are you ready for dinner?” Bren called from the bedroom. 

“Almost.” I stared at myself in the mirror. I wasn’t looking at me. I leered at the demon that resided within me.

“You look absolutely handsome.” Bren gripped my shoulders. The cringe that occured was an earthquake from the pit of my stomach. 

“You look gorgeous.” I said. I swear I’m not lying. 

Her heels clicked on the pavement, cool and ominous as we entered the steakhouse. “Table for two?” The pleasant hostess asked. 

“Two in the private section.” 

“Right away, ma’am.” She ushered us quickly to a quaint person booth. The hostess started us off with water, then offered an expensive bottle of wine. 

“I think we’ll pass on the wine.” Bren brushed my comment off like dust. 

“Nonsense. My bonus is plenty to cover a bottle of Chateau.” 

“Bren,” I paused, “I need to tell you something.”

“What is it?” She looked so innocent. I am doing the right thing. I am doing the right thing. I dragged this out long enough. 

“I’ve been seeing Pamela.”

“Pamela Anderson? I know about the magazine under the bed.”

“No, my secretary. When my boss found out he fired me.” Bren’s complexion flushed, an anger rose within her that I had never seen before.

“Is that why you’ve been so concerned about money?” I paled, staring into the eyes that once gazed upon me with lust, now they seared my skin with burning resentment. I don’t blame her. I hate me, almost more than she does. 

“The affair began in February. Jerry fired me last week.” 

Bren sighed once, then poured a glass of wine for herself. “This is my fault.” She said softly. 

“No.” 

“I did. I can tell you when this started. I finally settled into my routine with healthy self care and you became complacent. Is this because I make more money? I’m a surgeon. Of course I make good money.”

“Bren, it’s not about the money. I feel like I made a mistake. Marrying you was a mistake.”

“You made a mistake?” Bren seethed. “I want you to call Jory, get all of your shit out of my house. When I’m done with dinner I’ll be home. If you leave anything for me, it’s getting thrown away.”

“I’m sorry.” I blurted. 

“Fuck you.” She said while throwing the cup of water at me. She didn’t just throw the water, the entire glass cup smacked my chest and rolled into my lap.

I walked out that day. I took my work bag and a few changes of clothes in a backpack and left. She can throw away the rest. I imagine burning the rest of my clothes to be cathartic to her. 

The embankment is steeper than it appears, I nearly tripped as I scaled it to the bottom. I know a man in this wash that slept under its bridge when the tide is low. There is no sight of him tonight. I placed my bag of clothes on the embankment and locked my work bag with the small dial and attempted to sleep. Bren stood before me with teary eyes and her hand on my shoulder. “Why would you do this to me? We were ready for children and filling our home with baked goods for Christmas.” Bullshit. She is not a motherly person. She would have the baby and immediately go back to work and I would need to figure out childcare. 

I loved her at some point. Somewhere in the beginning when we were unsuspecting young adults with bright futures. I wanted to convince myself I tried, we all know, I didn’t. “I’m sorry.” I whispered. Shortly after saying this, a sensation of someone’s hand could be felt on my chest. 

“Hey, what are you doing?” A man’s voice could faintly be heard until I shot up. Marty had come to claim his spot. 

“I got kicked out.” 

“You must have fucked up, bad. A backpack and briefcase? Yikes.”

“I know. Just let me crash here. I won’t be any trouble.” 

“You got a plan?”

“Yes and no. I need to convince someone to hire me.” 

“And your job? Damn, brother. You’re in for it.” Marty exclaimed. 

“Let me sleep here and you can have it the rest of the day.” 

“Hmm. I don’t like roommates. You’re lucky I know you.”

“Thank you. I’ll be awake by the morning and I’ll be looking for a job.”

“If you say so.”

Marty glared at me. He was high, though, I couldn’t tell which of his afflictions he had succumbed to, tonight. He is calm, eyes bugged, and awake. I’m too tired to assume which drug he meddles with. 

“Sleep.” Marty said. In a small motion that was almost a nod, he allowed me to sleep on the embankment.

My dreams were sable blackness when I closed my eyes. It is like staring at the night sky in the middle of nowhere on a new moon. Pure black. 

“Wake up.” Marty said, edging closer to my ear. 

“I’m awake. What time is it?” I said in a sleepy daze.

“Hell if I know.” Marty said. Shit. I don’t know where my phone is. I had been so consumed with trying to sleep, I neglected to secure my phone. 

“I’ll be back later.” I was off to apply for another job. How could I possibly attempt to find a job without a phone? I would need to resort to desperate measures. 

“Hey pal.” The chill from the air conditioning was bitter against my moistened skin. Rhonda emerged from the back with a smile. 

“Hey yourself. You look rough.” 

“It’s been a rough day.” 

“At seven in the morning, I should say so. What can I do for you?”

“I need a job.”

“Suga, you left us to be with our competitor. I’m not sure William will be so keen on you returning like this.”

“Tell him that I am determined. I’ll make it right.”

“I’m not making any promises. 

g

I watched the hours tick away as the emotional pain overwhelmed me. It all came to head with tears streaming down my face. I was unaware I had a roommate until she peeled the curtain back.

“You must have gotten bad news.” She said. My eyes remained glued on the ceiling. “Me too.”

“I’m a terrible person.” I said, my lip quivering.

“I don’t know that much about you. I can’t reassure you.” Her comment made me laugh, a genuine giggle.

“If you knew me, you would know I’m terrible.” I saw her expression in my peripheral vision before my head followed.

“We all mess up. Do you want to tell me about it?”

“You wouldn’t care to hear it.”

“Is that a challenge?” I snapped out of my daze. Was she serious? Bren never challenged me like this.

“I cheated on my ex and she kicked me to street with nothing.”

“That’s rough.”

“She didn’t deserve the way I treated her.”

“It’s in the past.”

“I can’t tell if you’re being sarcastic or not.”

“I have no reason to be sarcastic .” I stared at her stunned. She is challenging me.

“I’m not used to this.” I laughed, like actually laughed. Perhaps the medication flowing in my veins, or perhaps I had met my match. My eyes focused on her features, from her hair to her neck. The pale green hospital gown is not a flattering outfit, but she appeared pretty enough. I couldn’t judge, as I probably looked as though I’d been hit by a dump truck, myself.

“I like you.” She said. “My name is Bexana.”

“That’s a strange name.”

“My parents were apart of the movement to create unique baby names. I go by Bex. It sounds more normal to me.”

“My name is Elias.”

“And you said my name is strange.”

“Never met anyone by that name? Live in downtown, I had a coworker with the same name. It was confusing during meetings.”

“You must have had a good job before the drugs bit your ass.”

“No, I never did drugs.” I hesitated at the thought because explaining that your friend who homeless accidently drugged you doesn’t sound likely.

“Narcan is only used when attempting to revive someone overdosing on herion. Explain that.”

“You’re not going to believe me. It’s not worth explaining.”

“How do you know that?”

“You assumed I did drugs. When I got kicked out, I had to sleep under a bridge in a wash. My friend lives down there, but he is afflicted with the addiction. They got high one night while I was sleeping and he was so out of it, he injected me instead of himself. I would have died that night if not for him noticing too late, and using my phone to call for an ambulance.”

“Oh, wow. I’m sorry I assumed you were a ‘druggie’.”

“I would have assumed the same if it didn’t happen to me. What are you in for?”

“I freebased some cocaine and apparently my heart can’t handle it.”

“But I’m the druggie?”

“Takes one to know one.”

Bex and I laid on our respective beds, watching the muted television set play through a channel neither of us picked. It seemed as though we both arrived recently, though I couldn’t be sure. I liked the banter. She seemed intelligent if not a little crass. The silence didn’t seem empty. I would glance at her periodically, I felt something. Bex didn’t appear to enjoy the telelvesion, as she would often turn it off and read.

“What are you reading?” I asked, feeling well enough to sit up.

“The stranger by Albert Camus. One of my favorites.”

“Wow, I’ve never met anyone who liked that book as much as I do.”

“Me either.” Bex and I officially bonded. Bren hated reading, perferring to watch a movie instead.

“I like you.”

“I like you too.”

The nurses came in to check my vitals when I was allowed to be discharged. The staff was nice to provide me resources such as homeless shelters and halfway houses. I was reluctant, but it didn’t hurt to have. Bex followed shortly after, offering me a cigarette by the side walk. “I live by myself.” She offered.

“Are you trying to me to stay with you?” I glared at her incrediously.

“I could use some company and we stayed in the hospital room for two days without an incident, which more than I can about any roommate. Just a few days.” Bex nudged me playfully.

“I can sleep on the floor.”

“The floor? I have a pull out couch.” Bex had a pretty smile. She looked as though she would clean up well. I hope she saw me that way.

“OK.” I couldn’t believe where she lived. We arrived at her apartment, which is a decent sized one bedroom, to find she worked at home as a bookkeeper.

“This is nice. You must make a decent living.”

“I also have a paid blog. It’s enough for this apartment.”

“It’s impressive to me.”

“Coming from an executive?”