Parting Ways (Writing Prompt #28)

The prompt was:
You or your best friend will survive, but not both.


The sun’s first rays of the day creep through the window. I tilt my head and offer a thin smile to my best friend standing beside me. “I’m sorry, Susan. But we both knew this day would come.”
“But you’re my best friend,” she says. “We’ve always been together. I can’t go on without you.”
Her pleading breaks my heart, but this has to be done. All I can do is repeat myself for the umpteenth time this week. “I’m sorry.”
Susan hugs her favorite stuffed teddy bear and wipes her tears away with his ears. “There really isn’t any other way?”
Shaking my head, I reach out a hand and place it on her shoulder. Her silky hair spills over my fingers; I’ll miss brushing it out for her. Playing with her hair was always one of my favorite evening activities.
Footsteps in the hall grab my attention and my heartbeat quickens. It’s almost time. Tears run down my own face now, too, and I pull Susan into a tight embrace. “I’m going to miss you so much. I promise I’ll never forget you!”
“I’ll miss you, too! I’ll always be here if you ever need me.” When I pull back, she shoves her teddy bear into my arms. “Take Mr. Cuddles with you. He can watch over you and remind you of me.”
I grab the bear and tug on his ear, feeling her tears in the faded blue fuzz. “I’ll keep him for always.”
My bedroom door opens and my mother walks in with a smile. “Good morning, sweetie.
Ready for your first day of kindergarten?”
Nodding, I glance at Susan one last time. “I love you,” I whisper. Her lips move as she mouths the words back.
I turn my back and follow my mom out of the room, listening to her talk about all the new friends I’ll make in school. I’m certain none of them will be as wonderful as my Susan, but imaginary friends are for children, and I have to be a big girl now.


Author’s note: I have to admit, when I wrote this, I had my own childhood imaginary friend in mind. Her name was Amy. After writing this, I expanded it and altered it to fit my own childhood. The finished product is being submitted to a short story anthology. 🙂
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All You Need (To See) Is Love

Imagine a world where you only saw in black and white unless you were in love.


A young woman is told by her boyfriend that she has the most beautiful blue eyes. Her heart warms at this poetic admission of love, and she gives herself to him, only to fall in love with him and see for herself that her eyes are actually green. By then, it’s too late, and he’s left her. She spends the next month resenting the vibrant colors around her until they finally fade back into the safety of gray.

* * *

A man has been married to his wife for ten years. Over the last six months, he realizes the colors aren’t as bright as they used to be. The reds are faded, the blues are stony, the greens have lost their appeal. But he’s not sure if the colors are actually fading or if he’s seen the colors for so long that they’re no longer exciting. It breaks his heart to hear his wife talking about the bright yellow of her sun dress while, to him, it’s merely a muted cream color. The hues are still there, but he can’t figure out if he let it get stale or if is this normal for longer relationships. What’s worse, there’s a girl at the office who makes him smile, and now, whenever she walks into a room, it literally lights up. Colors brighten around him, and for a moment, he feels alive again. Does he work hard to revitalize the color with his wife or does he run off with the wild shades of this new girl?

* * *

A boy knows he’s completely in love with the girl next door, but she only sees him as a friend. What he doesn’t know is that each day that passes, the colors creep into her vision. It happens so slowly that she doesn’t even realize it. Blacks become blues, whites become yellows, shades of gray ease into browns and greens and reds. It’s not until the day he finally confesses his love to her that it hits her: she’s been seeing in full color for months now. It’s always been him. And she proves it by telling him just how much she loves the red roses he gave her for her birthday.

* * *

A man bumps into a woman on the train. When he turns to apologize, his life springs into color. Love at first sight really does exist, but does she see it too?

* * *

What would you see if you lived in this world? Have you ever known color? For you, what color is love?

Fall Forward

If at first you don’t succeed
Call it practice
Learn
Grow
Try again
You’re only human
It’s not an insult
If all you can do is try
It’s enough
If you take that leap of faith
You are worthy
If you can’t see the other side
Don’t look
Look at your hands instead
See all they’re capable of right where you are
If you fall
Fall flat on your face
Fall with the full momentum of every cell in your body
If you give it your all
You’ll still fall forward
It will hurt
But this is not the end
When all you see is a wall before you
And you don’t think you can go any further
Consider your perspective
Use your hands
Push yourself up, take a step back
and see that the “wall” is just the ground
The path before you
You know now how hard it is
How sturdy it is
You know it can hold you
So try
Leap
Fall
Keep moving forward
You are worthy

Golden Heart

A chill in the wind carries summer from sight

The storm overtakes my mind

A chill in the wind brings a shiver of fright

Love of a harrowing kind

The horizon is stubborn and lonely

Condolences too hard to find

The pouring rain whispers “if only”

A gentle face, weathered and lined

But my fate is not easily altered

Shelter not easy to build

Past discretions have faltered

All of my fears are fulfilled

A chill in the wind carries peace from my soul

The storm tears morality apart

As the lamb to the god for the harvest toll

Time weighs heavy on my golden heart

Is This Not Me? (Writing Prompt #27)

The prompt was:

The mirror’s surface remained devoid of any reflection.


 

The soft glow of the overhead light casts my shadow across the looking glass, but the glass isn’t looking as it should be. For only my shadow’s twin dances beyond the portal, but my own reflection remains yet to be seen. Where has it gone? Am I so invisible to the world that not even the mirror recognizes me before it? Is this not me, standing here for all to see?

My honeyed hair, which once flowed wildly down my back, now circles my brow as a braided crown fit for an enchanting princess. Is this not me, a resplendent portrait of royalty?

A layer of powders and creams conceal my facial flaws, blending colors and neutrals to highlight and accentuate what fair features lie beneath. Is this not me, a living doll painted in perfect beauty?

Moderation has been cast aside for fashion through the leather-and-cork needles I now walk upon, labeled by some as strikingly sensual but by others as sadomasochism. Is this not me, sacrificing comfort for misery?

I consider my heart-shaped neckline, the underlying padding and wire bringing a revealing glow to capture the appeal of the coveted womanly figure. Is this not me, a bare goddess of femininity?

My smile, friendly and inviting, never reaches my eyes. I feel its falsehood as strongly now as I have every day I’ve worn it. Of all the insecurities I’ve buried beneath this facade, my words are the only ones that lie of their own accord. My hopes and dreams, my loves and obsessions, my fears and pains, all masked behind the nectar that draws the flies.

Is this not me, a jester among self-proclaimed kings, truly?

Must the outward rhyme with the inward to be heard by those who listen?

Locks of my hair trickle down my back with the removal of each stiff pin until free it flows once more. Splashing water and bubbling soap send the colors running down the drain. A kick of each foot propels my shoes into dusty abandon. A shirt covers my chest and modesty gives thanks.

Ah, there you are, my reflection at last. And look! The joy in my eyes. So bright, so true. A smile that shines from my soul. My words are my strengths, the truths of my being, the proper cage of insecurity and self-doubt. Never again shall I wear the face of a crowd. The girl in the mirror nods her acceptance. This is me.

 

 

 

Paper Heart

You’ve taken a page from my book. I’d read it all too often, and the dog-eared corner gave it away. You ripped it from the seam with flawless execution, bringing it to your chest and securing it with salt and gravity.

I slice my hands on your paper heart with every fold as I try to return you to who you once were. This lesson is one I should know cannot be mended with creases. Like the cuts on my fingertips masked with a bandage, a hidden tear still leaves a scar.

The black scrawl has faded into shades of gray, but the intent is as dark as the day the ink flowed from my veins. The words cut deeper than the paper itself; words once meant for you and now for me.

I fold the page into an olive branch, but the thin edges offer no more peace than a razor. And what peace can I offer that in truth would not be written as a lie?

A silver tongue, an unreliable narrator; if only my regret could dissolve the fibers of betrayal woven among the words. My sorrow serves only to soften the page—enough to make folding easier but not enough to undo the harsh lines and heavy joints that have taken permanent residence.

I overlay the corners of your paper heart as my effort bleeds through the margins. Red on shades of gray, it beats to the sound of your shattered trust. You pump the cold words through my hollow shell, shadows of a memoir devoid of love. How often will you reread your heartache, reflecting my own?

You’ve taken a page from my book, but your name now adorns the cover. Our hands are torn and bloody, the page tattered and worn. Who suffered greater in this tale, I dare not question, for history shall read both of our troubles on the faded, crumpled page of this paper heart.

Saving Time

Life revolves around what we have to offer one another.

A smile is free, for what does that take from us? A greeting is cheap; just a breath otherwise wasted on silence. A handshake means more, as physical exertion is required to raise a palm and grasp another. Whether to another person or to an animal, every interaction is an exchange of sorts. What do you need or want, and what do I have to give?

We’ve based our existence on money and services. We’ve measured our worth against our bank accounts and material gains. But it’s simply legal tender; a note in place of the true valuable currency.

Time.

Time is our most precious resource and the most valuable thing we can ever hope to have. It’s also the most squandered.

When we feel as if we’re running out, we try to buy time. When we have a bit extra to spare, we spend it. When we want to show someone how much they mean to us, we spend it on them; when we can, we spend it together.

The best gift you can offer someone is your time. The worst thing you can do to someone is waste theirs.

Time stops for no one, and even when it feels as if it has sped up or slowed down, the pace remains steady and unchanged. It is similar to how a child who loves chocolate and one who doesn’t care for it both must pay the same dollar to receive it. The worth does not fluctuate; it is a fixed price.

Perhaps the true tragedy is in its ephemeral expiration date. We only have the current time. We can lend stories of our past but we cannot go back for a refund. We dream of the future, but we won’t know what is worth our time until we get there. Our best-laid plans are just a compromise; how much time are we willing to while away in exchange for coveted opportunities? What will it cost to get what you want?

Most importantly, we all share the same equal time frame—each moment is one. No one has any more than another at any given time. There is no “saving time” on a rainy day to use when the sun is shining. No stock to earn interest, no investing for after retirement.

You can not insure time; you can only hope for more. Some have been lucky enough to witness an entire life of time; others had mere years before their bill came due.

Use your time wisely. Live for love and joy. Smile freely, spend time with those who mean the most in your heart, and hold onto your cherished memories. You can’t save time, but you can spend it. And spending it to the best of your ability is worth more than a mountain of gold.

A New Approach

I’ve fought myself against this for a while now. A long while. And it’s crazy that I should be posting this today of all days, since I’m involved in two book launches today as well as falling behind on editing and, as always, not having time to write. But amid the chaos and the fifty Facebook notifications every half-hour, my mind froze. Time stood still and a thought came to the forefront of my mind.

I need to open up my blog.

I hadn’t wanted to do this. My blog is my personal space on my website, meant to share my writing, short stories, poems, and a few articles. I wanted to keep the content strictly my own and use it more as a portfolio than anything.

But that seems so selfish. When you have something, don’t you feel better when you share it with others? My books will be my own and I can be as selfish with them as I like. But my blog should showcase others as well as myself. I should interview other authors to bring you new exciting stories to read. I should review books that I myself read so you know what you need to read next. I should let guests come and post to my blog to share with you their own stuff. I need to share.

So with a brighter outlook and love in my heart, I’m ready. I’m going to open up my blog to bring a wider world to your digital doorstep. I think it’s long past overdue, don’t you?

Not today, of course. Gotta get back to the chaos. 😉 But this is good. Good things are coming.

Thank you all for your support and love so far. You deserve so much more than I’ve given you. ♥

That Which Nourishes Me

It’s a common phrase, and you may have heard it.

That which nourishes me, destroys me.

And oh, how accurate it is. There are many ways to interpret the phrase, and I don’t think any single way is right or wrong. Part of the joy of language is that you can garner an array of meaning from the most random of words based entirely on your life experience and thought process. This single phrase has haunted me since I was sixteen years old, when I read that Angelina Jolie had it tattooed on her lower abdomen in Latin (quod me nutrit me destruit). I was too young to really understand what it meant back then, but now I know. For me, for the way every potential meaning applies to my life, I know. I won’t bore you with every single connection, but these top three I think sum it up pretty accurately.


I’m an author.

Or, well, sort of. I’ve written and published a children’s book, which makes me an author. But ask me how I’m doing on my novel, and my connection to the word vanishes. As far as my epic fantasy series is concerned, I’m a struggling woman who dreams of writing one day.

And here’s where the phrase comes in: writing nourishes me. I live to write and write to live. I love my stories, the characters in my head, the wondrous worlds begging to be set free on the page. Before I began writing, I had an emptiness inside me that no amount of hobbies could fill. But I get so paranoid that I’m going to do it wrong. I’ve got such high hopes for my work that just trying to write a single scene tears me apart. What’s worse, I’m an editor. I tell people every day that no matter how you wrote it the first time, you can always go back and change it up. You can add, subtract, move around, revise, reword, redo. The first draft is not the be-all and end-all of the story. But try telling that to my inner critic. It’s the reason I haven’t got a single word down toward this series. The reason I haven’t even sat down to plot it out. I’m worried I’ll do it wrong. And that fear is tearing me apart.

I’m bipolar.

And there’s no “sort of” to it. I have to take Wellbutrin every morning to make sure my brain chemistry keeps steady. Those meds are the reason I don’t break down laughing and crying simultaneously (which is hands-down the most confusing feeling in the entire world) and the reason I am able to accurately determine exactly what emotion I am feeling at any given time and know exactly why I am feeling it. I see a huge difference in who I was before and after therapy and medication, and I never want to go back.

And here’s where the phrase comes in: Wellbutrin, for all intents and purposes, nourishes me. It is what keeps me feeling sane and keeps the edge off. My emotions stay within normal ranges and my reactions stay within reason. I never thought it would also destroy me. But since November, I’ve been falling apart. I haven’t talked about it much and am only just recently beginning to mention it. I have developed a facial twitch. It started below my eye and was visible to others. Then it gradually spread down my face, until it became a muscle contraction that pulls at my mouth and makes me look like I’m smirking. Thankfully it doesn’t do it’s quick-and-constant twitch anymore (at least not visibly; I can’t quite explain the way it feels) but this unintentional smirk is driving me insane. When I spoke to the neurologist, she said she’s pretty sure it’s Hemifacial Spasm, and although no one seems entirely sure why it develops, Wellbutrin tends to lower the seizure threshold.

I know, I said the same thing. “Wait, what?” Yeah, apparently, the very medication that nourishes my mental health is destroying my physical health. My seizure threshold is lowered and surprise, facial tremors. I can’t—and won’t—stop taking the Wellbutrin. What’s done is done; it’s not reversible. There are treatment options, which I will follow up with as soon as I can, but seriously. Eight in a hundred thousand people get this condition. Do any of you have it, too? Anyone? Bueller?

I am an introvert.

It still sounds strange when I say it. I used to be so outgoing and friendly. I’m still friendly, I promise, but I’ve become so secluded that my personality has adjusted to accommodate it. But just because I prefer the comfort of my own home and the safety of my laptop doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy company. I actually crave social interaction and feel more fulfilled after spending a day with other humans.

And here’s where the phrase comes in: I need social interaction just as much as any Sim. (You know, the video game where you play a simulated human and get to play out the life you wish you had. Or maybe you just enjoy playing God to digital humans and get a kick of watching them burn down their kitchen. Not that I’m speaking from experience…but I digress.) Engaging in just about any conversation or activity with another person (preferably an adult) just makes me happy. It fills my social meter and I can function properly. It’s a good idea for a writer to be around people anyway to help with writing believable dialogue, realistic personality traits, and accurate reactions and emotional behavior. But my goodness! The mere thought of coming face to face with someone gets my heart racing and my hands shaking, and my facial twitch goes insane. It’s stressful. A thousand questions and worries run through my mind simultaneously:

What do I say, what do I do?
How do I respond when I didn’t hear something they said?
Do I laugh at their jokes even when they weren’t funny?
I think I need to sit down. It’s all so overwhelming.
Too many people too close together—are they all staring at me?
They don’t want  me around, do they?
I don’t think they like me. I think I’m too weird for them.
I’m not changing for anyone. I’d rather just go sit alone.
Crap. Now that I’m alone they think I’m antisocial! Now I really am being too weird!

So there’s that. It’s all one big ball of anxiety, a lasting panic attack that doesn’t stop until the door closes and I can breathe again. Mental destruction at its finest.


This phrase has become as much a part of me as the very things it encompasses. And, of course, I prefer it in Italian because it’s my ancestral language. No wonder I’m so skeptical of any good things that come my way—I can’t help but wonder how they too will destroy me.

What phrases or quotes do you connect with? Do they have deep meaning to you?

Be Still, My Heart (Writing Prompt #26)

The prompt was:

Everyone has a predetermined amount of heart beats from birth. Each person’s is different, and no one knows how many they have. How does your character live their life, when exciting themselves uses their beats faster?


The first time I saw her, my heart stopped. The summer breeze continued blowing the salty spray onto the pier, the waves continued rolling endlessly out to sea, and her eyes continued lighting up the world like two golden-brown suns that no clouds could shade. But my heart stopped beating right then and there in the presence of her pure, unrestrained beauty.

It wasn’t just the long blonde curls and curvaceous hips that brought my world to a halt. It wasn’t just the sun-kissed skin and warm, honest smile. Sure, in part, it was all of those things, but it was also the way she got down on her bare knees beside an overflowing trash can to help a struggling kitten out of a styrofoam cup, laughing as it climbed her cut-off jeans and put tiny brown paw prints on the bottom of her soft pink tank top. It was the love and care she devoted to an abandoned stray when the rest of the world deemed it unwanted. It was the passion that emanated from her very being as naturally as breathing.

The silence in my chest overshadowed the wonder of her existence as I came to take notice of its length. When my focus drew away from her and into myself, a lone thump sounded within me like the hollow echo that resonates through an empty cavern. Seconds later, another beat followed. Slowly, a steady rhythm picked up until it matched that of the waves crashing on the shore. Beat…breathe…exhale. Beat…breathe…exhale. I had never been more relaxed in all of my twenty-nine years.

It’s a funny thing, love. I’ve heard people say that when you fall in love, your heart beats faster. Adrenaline pumps through your veins and excitement clouds your mind, making it next to impossible to say the right thing, but everything you do becomes fueled by the raw desire to keep that feeling going. When you understand the concept of mortality, however, the mere idea of love—as exhilarating as I’m sure it is—seems utterly frightening.

You see, just as a story can only have so many words before the tale is well and truly told, a heart can only beat so many times before its song must come to an end. I had often worried that I wasted much of my youth stressing over circumstances out of my control. That I shortened my lifespan by worrying about shortening my lifespan. An ironic twist that I’m sure would be laughable if the punch line were something other than my own life.

That’s why, in ninth grade English class, I swore off love altogether. While watching Chelsea, a classic beauty from three seats down, recite an excerpt from an equally-classic Dumas novel, I had felt my pulse quicken and for almost a full minute, I had forgotten to breathe. I became a loner and a hermit, sticking to myself, avoiding women completely, choosing instead to focus on my studies and find a good, safe, mindless career path that would ensure a long and healthy—if somewhat boring—life.

But this…this was nothing like I’d imagined.

I must have been standing there staring for quite a while, because her bright golden eyes, twinkling with curiosity and amusement, left the kitten and met my own dull browns. Her lips spread wide in a smile that was only for me, and I knew I had been missing out during all those years I had spent alone.

The day passed us by. We walked, talked, played with the kitten I had quickly decided to adopt, and shared overpriced ice cream from a local shop. All the while, the tempo in my chest never rose above a waltz. She was my tranquility, and making her happy became my only goal. Everything I did for her felt “right.” There was no other way to explain it. She returned my love tenfold; we complemented each other perfectly. Within the year, she took my name, and life was good.

Only once did my heartbeat rise dangerously high during our years together—the day she gave birth to our daughter. A mirror image of her mother, she was born with a full head of bright blonde and a beauty that rivaled Aphrodite herself. As the joy overwhelmed me and I thought my heart would burst, my wife took my hand to her mouth and kissed my palm, then rested her cheek against my fingers and placed her other hand over my chest.

“Be still, my heart,” she whispered. And it did. For her, it did.

But happily-ever-after is never the end. Only five short years later, my wife’s heart stopped beating. An aggressive cancer, caught too late, had spread death throughout her body and a year’s worth of treatments had been ineffective. I will never understand why someone that spiritually beautiful inside and out would be given so few heartbeats when she had so much left to give.

My world spun out of control. I wanted to die right there with her, and as her skin grew cold, my own grew hot. My heart raced, and I spent the next six months doing whatever I could to keep my heartbeat above a samba. The faster my pulse, the closer I felt to my late wife. My daughter moved in with my mother to have a more stable home life, and I took full advantage of my lonely, unwanted freedom. I went skydiving and bungee jumping, I drove fast and recklessly, and I spent my nights between the sheets with attractive women doing exotic acts. The peak of these impulses rewarded me with just a few seconds of intense pleasure, when my heart’s cadence grew so fast that the individual beats slurred together into one deep, deafening vibration. In those moments, that singular sound blocked out the world around me and made me feel as if I were holding my wife again. Like I was looking into her eyes, lost in her smile. I couldn’t get enough.

I don’t know how many heartbeats I wasted chasing her ghost.

One night, I came home from work with the full intent of getting changed and going to the bar. To my surprise and dismay, my mother sat in my living room, with my almost-six-year-old daughter sitting beside her reading a book. My mother didn’t even say a word. She got up, put a hand on my shoulder, looked back to my daughter, then walked out the door.

Small hands folded the book gently and set it beside her on the couch. Long blonde curls bounced softly as she tilted her head up to look at me.

I didn’t know what to say. She had grown so much. It was like looking at an old childhood photo of my wife, down to the slope of her nose and the way her eyebrows curved when she was scared or unsure. I had no clue how to fill the silence, so instead I knelt in front of her and pulled her into my arms.

I’m not sure who started crying first; I only knew that tears soaked through both of our shirts and our sobbing filled the silence. As I took a deep breath, I felt it. The fast, steady rhythm of my broken heart pounding away in my chest. I had missed so many precious moments like this one that I could have spent with my daughter, instead choosing to throw those moments away along with uncountable beats of my already-tiring heart.

I closed my eyes and listened for my daughter’s heartbeat. It was slow and calm, the way mine used to be with her mother. Smiling, I took her hand to my mouth and kissed her palm, then rested my cheek against her small fingers and placed her other hand over my chest.

“Be still, my heart,” I whispered. And it did. For her, it did.