On Repeat

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Every time I start to chance –

to let you back in and trust –

what you said before still echoes in my ear.

Taunting me, warning me,

not to believe it again.

Why fall for the nonsense

of trying to love you?

You say what you think I want to hear,

then rescind your promise,

and the cycle replays once more.

s30p

*This week’s prompt was echoes from Joanne at Opal Reflections.

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Lost in the Dust Jacket

Arthur Rackham from "The Old Woman in the Wood," fairy tale number 123 by the Brothers Grimm

Arthur Rackham from “The Old Woman in the Wood,” fairy tale number 123 by the Brothers Grimm

“I’ve come to love the silence.” She whispered the statement to no one in particular, as seeking solace had recently become her favorite past time. Her words trickled out into the ether and greeted nothingness.

Longing for a new beginning, she searched for solitude between the covers. Only through the pages of never-ending words did she find peace and tranquility. She heard the sounds in her mind, in her soul, preempting the noise of the world. Stories from the outside space were too personal, too intrusive, too raw, too true.

Narrative absorption softened the blow of her own situation. Fantasy swelled within her mind and closed out the awfulness of reality.

A story enveloped her. She felt each character’s embrace, its fingertips gently lingering a moment longer than what felt comfortable but encasing her in safety. She let the moment swallow her. No chance of being forgotten when you’re rooted to the ground.

Other voices called her to rejoin them, asked that she come back to the here and now. Her family wanted her home and needed her to be a part of them. They wouldn’t let her slip away into oblivion.

The girl forced herself into a thinly-veiled metamorphosis, one where she could easily slide back and forth between the states. She acquiesced to stay in the present but only if she could rejoin her characters from time to time. They pulled her back to Maycomb, Narnia, Limerick, Little Rock, Sussex, and West Table — where she only had to worry about their fates and not her own.

***

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2014 Women Challenge self-reminder

Women ChallengeValentina issued the 2014 Women Challenge and I am bumped it up to Wonder Woman this year in planning to read 20 or more titles written by female authors. My count stands at only ten, so I need to get my Wonder Woman cape out and read!  

 

Titles read so far:

Vampires in the Lemon Grove: Stories by Karen Russell

Black and Blue by Anna Quindlen

MaddAddam (MaddAddam Trilogy #3) by Margaret Atwood

Their Eyes were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Pigs in Heaven (Greer Family #2) by Barbara Kingsolver

Molly by Sandra White

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? And Other Concerns by Mindy Kaling

The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh (reviewed here)

Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler

Hippie Boy: A Girl’s Story by Ingrid Ricks

 

And I’m currently reading:

TMI Mom: Oversharing My Life by Heather Davis

 

The pick for my book club next month is The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty. It sounds a little like chick lit, but I’ve been assured it is much more than that. My “to be read” list also includes a new title being released by Margaret Atwood, Stone Mattress, some Virginia Woolf, and other great female writers, so I’m confident in my ability to meet Valentina’s challenge. I’m not scared!

It’s not too late – you can join, too! Link up and share your titles to support female authors.

 

 

 

 

 

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Head Rush

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Guilt is a tricky little motivator. Annie never considered it before, but hearing all the rage made her think about the growth of her girth and all the fat shaming that goes along with it. So early Saturday morning she took up running.

Her friends talked about how much they’d grown to love it over time, and her sister claimed endorphins kicked in and took over her sense of routine. Annie professed being hooked on the high now and couldn’t do without it. So when was all this magic supposed to take place?

Only light-headed nausea and an overwhelming urge to vomit rushed over her so far. She often stopped along her route, lucky to find a fence to support her, and huffed and puffed until the latter urge subsided.

Never been an athlete, more of an athletic supporter, it suited her fine being called a jock strap all through high school in that capacity. Having a tall, slender frame led her to a false conclusion she’d never need to take up jogging. Long ago memories of a continuous buffet line faded into a present-day realization that middle age meant exercise was a necessity and not an option. She previously ate anything she wanted. No more.

Gravity not only sucked her bust southward, but mysterious fat layers made Annie feel like she dove head-first into the pool and shoved an inflated ring to where it stuck around her midsection. She was the butt of the laugh track on the funny video show. She didn’t find it the least bit humorous.

Insidious changes metamorphosed her physique into a fairly unrecognizable woman in the bedroom’s full-length mirror. The same blue eyes stared back at her, and the profile stayed more or less identical, save for a gentle slope in her neck where jaw definition used to live. Mid-range changes perplexed her, though. This person must’ve snuck up on her over the last few years.

She bumped up to the next shorts’ size after the baby and never went back again. She missed that woman.

Hoping she’d find her somewhere on the hiking trail surrounding their neighborhood, Annie laced up her trainers and set off for another morning jaunt. “The only way to work off the weight is through cardio,” she admonished herself. “Come on, Self, get going again.” With that thought, she departed for her run.

When Annie next opened her eyes, an out-of-focus round face stared down at her. A strange man’s voice echoed in her ears, almost as if in a tunnel, “Hey, lady … you okay?” Taking a deep breath, she tried to sit up but decided against it when her head began to swim.

Gingerly placing the throbbing orb back down on the sidewalk, she asked the man, “What the hell happened?” His three heads shook side to side, not quite coming into a single point of convergence. He shrugged his shoulders and replied, “You tell me. I was driving down the block and saw you laying here on the path.”

“No worries,” she told him. “I’m a runner.”

***

Studio30
The prompt, Taking a deep breath, came from my post via Studio 30 Plus.

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Time Moves On

via Flickr

via Flickr

She couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen the stars. All the streetlights here dimmed them and limited her view of the beautiful night sky. This is what Dana wanted when she moved to the city, to get away from any semblance of that old small-town existence.

Now she only wished to be back home again.

The move came from a hard decision to buckle down and take a lower-paying job in the city. A means to an end — poverty would be temporary. She knew the only way to break through the glass ceiling came by finishing her degree. No supervisor could overlook her for a promotion again.

Dana swallowed her fear and told herself it wouldn’t matter that she knew no one there. A fresh start will do you good, she thought.

Being invisible among thousands of people did a number on her confidence, and life became too impersonal. She faded into the background. People are too busy to meet a stranger, too suspicious to take a chance on someone they don’t already know.

She quickly realized it was every woman for herself at school. A large university is no place for an intimidated non-traditional student to make new friends. She took it for granted she’d meet like-minded individuals but quickly realized she’d have to make her own way. No one else offered to show her the world, so she started her own search.

She tried online dating, followed all the cautionary measures to meet in a public place and tell someone where you’d go. Safety first and all that. Most importantly to not set her expectations too high. She encountered socially anxious but nice nerds and perverts who breathed heavily on her voicemail or expected sex as payment for company.

Fate cast the next blow when she met a friend of an acquaintance at a club. First vouched for as a “good guy,” the classmate knew nothing of his criminal record since they’d last seen each other. Dana fell for him too quickly, as she was wont to do, and ignored the red flags that otherwise warned her. A nasty amphetamine habit spurred his compulsive lying. The last of his looks and charm the meth hadn’t destroyed, unfortunately, salvaged his believability. He not only took her credit card and apartment key but some of her dignity as well.

Being young, naïve and too trusting, it came as a revelation to learn she could no longer take people at face value. Disillusioned and emotionally bruised, she sat on her balcony awaiting the onset of the new millennium. Gunshots sounded in the distance — the urban version of celebratory fireworks — while feelings imploded within her.

The rest of the world feared the end was near if computers couldn’t transition to 2000, that time would stop if the digits didn’t reset. They were wrong.

She made a mistake moving here.

Hope brought her, but loneliness found her instead. Gazing out at the sky, Dana searched for those imperceptible stars. She looked down at the concrete below and imagined falling off her balcony, landing in a fatal splat on the sideway, and no one claiming her body. Her family might never know if something like that happened. Maybe no one would care.

She imagined someone at the city morgue finally discovering her identity and sending her back home.

***

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*Oh, Baby

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The sonogram technician cautioned me to calm down or she wouldn’t get an accurate fetal heart monitor reading. She said taking that spill on the freshly-waxed hallway probably hadn’t done a thing to the baby, but he needed to be checked. Taking a deep breath didn’t help settle my nerves. No one had successfully told me to stop crying since I was a child, and then only under threat of spanking.

What if the fall hurt him? I may have done irreparable damage to my unborn son before he ever had a chance to make his way in the world. The last trimester means a baby is almost fully developed, I think, but God only knew where he was positioned within my body. My lack of anatomy savvy kept me wondering, worrying … and crying.

I took deep gulping breaths, tried to control my jagged sobs and follow directions. “Take a deep breath,” I think, “a deep breath.” Eventually it begins to work.

The baby has to be all right. He just has to be, because I can’t accept anything else. At my age, and after losing a previous pregnancy, there is no other outcome my mind can withstand.

I close my eyes, and I listen. He’s okay.

He was fine. Now, seven years later, I still close my eyes and listen to the sound of him breathing while he sleeps. My hand rests on his back as it rises and falls in a rhythmic pattern that brings me great peace. I can’t imagine my life without him.

*based on a true story Studio30

Linda originally wrote the Studio 30+ prompt “I close my eyes, and I listen.”

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L’chaim

The usual fodder here is fiction, my random musings generally prompted by online writing communities. Today I’m unnaturally reflective, as it’s my 48th birthday. Big deal, right? Aging may suck, but it’s better than the alternative.

Having recently been diagnosed with beginning stage osteoarthritis, I feel like whining. My fingers and palms ache every morning when I wake up.  BUT … I wake up. I can move. I can go to work. Life is good.

Even though I’m not an outwardly demonstrative person, emotion got the best of me over the weekend. My seven-year old insisted on knowing whether or not Santa Claus is real and gave me several possibilities of who first presented the possibility to him. After pressing me several times, I fessed up, and he got pretty upset at the reality. I couldn’t uphold the façade when he asked me not to lie to him. So we both cried, inching so much further to the total erasure of innocence. He told me that his “imagination was closed,” and the statement almost broke my heart. I want him to stay as young and unaffected for as long as he can.

We are so fortunate to have such a great kid, no matter how old we are. My biggest fear in life is to miss seeing him grow up and pass all the milestones people take for granted are guaranteed to us.

My friend, Mary, recently received a lung cancer diagnosis. She is also 48 years old and full of life. Although we only converse via social media any more, I doubt she will dare utter any negativity about her precarious situation. That’s not her style. The woman is fierce, and I admire her bravery.

I raise my proverbial glass to another year of possibilities – cheers!

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Desperate Measures

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Uncle Frank died just after Christmas time, which left Aunt Dot all alone in the world. Her kids, all grown, moved away long before. They had their own lives to lead several states away from their home place. Things began to look grim for Dot.

She spent more time in her recliner, its arms threadbare and frayed, and watched the world go by her window. The chair’s green fabric stuck up in spikes from her nervously picking at it and almost looked like it might prick her skin. One day moved into the next without her noticing a change.

Dot’s health quickly deteriorated. Her diabetes went unchecked and blood sugar level skyrocketed. She figured without much left in life to live for, why not enjoy all the candy and sweets she could get her hands on — one small pleasure she had left.

Before long, Dot could only leave the house on a Hoveround. Medicare paid for the luxury item, since feet are usually the first to go from diabetes complications. So the lonely woman putted down the street to the Quickimart in her motorized wheelchair for a quick fix of Lemonheads and chocolate turtles. Doc Morton warned against it, but Dot went with her impulses.

No one was busting her door down to visit, and her loneliness became unbearable. To avoid growing bitter and resentful, she self-medicated with sugar. The EBT card masqueraded the shame of using food stamps since she no longer benefited from Frank’s Social Security income. Times got tight, and she had trouble making ends meet. The little things kept her going. Afternoons with Dr. Phil seemed to go by quicker when fueled with Coke Zero and M&Ms.

The neighbors got suspicious of her circumstances when they saw a hand-painted sign in front of Dot’s house. The woman began to sell off her possessions one-by-one.

Her kids never came to visit, so they didn’t suspect the precariousness of poor Dot’s situation. First it was the appliances. Cooking for one cut down on usual necessities, so she just used an old beer cooler, a toaster oven, and an electric skillet. She could reach everything from her scooter seat anyway.

Even Frank’s treasures had a price. Dot sobbed when the man backed his trailer into the driveway to retrieve the 16′ Tracker from which they’d caught many a striped bass on memorable fishing jaunts before he passed.

Her beloved transportation went last. With the loss it, Aunt Dot paid the boy next door to make the trip to the store for her candy. She bartered with fresh baked cookies when he mowed her lawn. At least until she sold the oven.

Then he accepted licorice as payment instead. Too bad he didn’t stay a spell afterward to talk.

***

 Tara’s photo (above) prompted the writing this week at Studio 30+ Studio30

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Stuff to do

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Cal knew the hazards of working outdoors. He stayed aware of power lines, kept a hat on his head to avoid sunstroke, and wore steel-toed boots in case he dropped something heavy on his feet. “A man can’t work if his toes is broke,” he always told his wife.

He refused to wear bug spray, though. Couldn’t stand the smell. So all kinds of parasites had their way with him. A severe allergic reaction drew the unwanted attention of his foreman.  

He realized he must truly be a sight when the boss gasped in reaction to Cal’s swollen face. “Damn, man! Your cheeks done puffed up like an ol’ Bing cherry. Biggest one I ever seen, in fact,” Hawkins claimed. “I don’t think I can keep you on my crew lookin’ like that.”

Cal brushed off the comment and swore to his perfect faculties. No little bug bites would keep him from a day’s wage. He had bills to pay.

Hawkins disagreed. As Cal’s face continued to swell, his eyes came ominously near closing. He could barely see through the protuberant lids. “Really, boss, I’m fine,” he insisted. “Let … ge … baaa to wook,” Cal struggled to utter from behind distended lips.

You don’t get to decide that,” Hawkins told him. “I let you swing a hammer in that condition, and it’s my ass. I doubt you can pick one up with those sausage fingers.” Cal lifted his hands to peer painfully at his ballooning phalanges.

The emergency room nurse advised Cal how dangerously close he’d come to anaphylactic shock. He lay in the bed tethered to an IV pole, a powerful antihistamine pumping into his veins. She checked the flow of medication from the bag and asked, “Those little buggers are nasty, huh?”

Cal didn’t answer, his throat almost completely closed. “Oh, I’m sorry,” the woman said. “I forgot you can’t talk right now.” He noticed the thumb on his right hand bent just a little and thought, “I wonder if Hawkins will let me clock back in this afternoon.”  

*Studio 30+ writing prompt – “You don’t get to decide that.”

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Entwined

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Ellie groaned upon waking up and practically pried open her swollen left eye. Parting her eyelids to the morning light was difficult considering how crying so hard the night before made her face feel as puffy as a marshmallow. Her boyfriend was apologetic the first time he hit her and said he’d never do it again. He had.

Yet he swore he loved her and would never hurt her again. She had no reason to think otherwise, but her bruises hadn’t yet disappeared before another incident gave her new ones to take their place.

The problem was that their lives were so entwined by then that Ellie couldn’t remember where she began and her partner ended. Some would call them enmeshed, her friends in particular. They noticed she wasn’t quite herself anymore. The Ellie they knew would never fall for his empty promises or stand for such abuse a second time, contusions that cut to her core and damaged her previous sense of self and personal boundaries.

Her sister and mother were horrified to see he latest argument’s after effects and tried in vain to help Ellie leave. No amount of persuasion satisfied the young woman that he wouldn’t change. She just knew it would be different this time.

Days followed within a cycle of bargaining. Ellie’s boyfriend swore his undying love and remorse at losing his temper. He said she just shouldn’t make him so angry in order to avoid those outbursts – that she pushed his buttons.

Logic finally prevailed when a co-worker shared her personal story of previously being in an abusive relationship and offered her a place to stay. Her colleague’s experience finally convinced Ellie to leave him, but her estranged boyfriend’s desperation to reunite gained strength. He told her, “I’m not that guy anymore. You have to take me back!” His remorseful expression tugged at her emotions so longingly she almost believed he was sincere.

Several months of professional counseling kept Ellie successfully single and back on a path to strong self-esteem and renewed confidence. Any time she had mixed feelings about not getting back together with her ex, she looked down at her bare ring finger where she used to wear the diamond solitaire he’d given her upon proposing. A bulge in her wrist just above that appendage remained where the fracture he inflicted hadn’t quite healed correctly. She’d been embarrassed to answer the ER nurses’ probing questions yet another time.

The update on her ex from a mutual acquaintance came as no surprise. His assault arrest came after he brutally beat his new fiancé. She lay in critical condition at the local hospital with a questionable outcome. Doctors doubted if the woman would revive from her coma.

Guilt rushed over Ellie as she realized how lucky she was, although she felt relieved her own prognosis was so much more optimistic. She remembered an old advice column from Ann Landers she’d once read that cautioned, “If you’re not happy with what you have, be happy with what you have escaped.”

The Studio 30+ prompts “entwined” and “I’m not that guy anymore” within Summer’s End.

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photo source: L on Flickr

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