Fear. I don’t know fear. I never have. I am not able to feel fear. Well, maybe I am, but I am not allowed to feel it. Fear lets one make mistakes and mistakes are deadly. Fear. I am afraid to feel it. To be paralyzed by it. To let it rule me. But here I am and I feel it creeping up my spine and spreading on my neck. Sweat is forming on my forehead, my view becomes blurry. I cannot afford to lose my senses, but here I am; blind, deaf, mute. I cannot see because sweat is continually dripping into my eyes and I can’t wipe it away or make it stop. I cannot hear because the pounding of my own pulse is the only noise in my head. My blood and my thoughts. White noise. The rest of the world is silent. I am silent too. I am silent. Deaf. Mute. Wordless. Barely existing. Nobody knows that I am alive. If I die, nobody knows that I ever existed. Fear. I was never able to feel fear. Now I do. I made mistakes. They paralyzed me. Fear. I don’t know fear. I am fear. I am ruled by it. Fuck fear. Fuck anxiety. I just want to hear, to breathe, to speak. I want to be me. Fuck fear…
I was a fellow traveller lost on this long winding road. Ready to give up; I sat and waited, but not one soul showed. The dirt and the dust were whirling through the air. Suddenly, you were there. You were pulling at my will to sit still. I got up and pasted my sweaty body against yours, and together we sailed to new shores. This fellow traveller had been found, minutes before she would have drowned. I became your queen, and you are my king, flying to the other side on a raven’s wing.
At night our bodies are wrapped in a dark veil. Our hands feel. Our lips taste. Our tongues leave traces.
At night our senses are heightened. Our fingertips feel the goosebumps on our skin. Our lips suck on erect flesh. Our tongues glide over pulsating veins.
At night everything is different. Everything stays the same. Doubts fade, only passion remains.
Milly woke up and didn’t know where she was. The first thing she noticed was that she wasn’t in pain. The second thing she noticed was that she wasn’t in a car, but she lay on a bed. Fresh white linen in a room that was decorated in a modern way. She glanced at the window and saw trees. Lots of trees. And she gathered that she was on the second floor somewhere. Maybe a hotel? She saw two doors. One was closed, and one was ajar. Milly moved her arms and her legs and then, she let her hand wander to her injury, assessing her state of being. A large bandage covered her lower right side. He wound had been dressed. Another look around the room. She was sure that she wasn’t at a hospital. Somewhere close she heard a man humming, and the smell of food and coffee reminded her of how hungry she was. For a moment she forgot to worry about her situation. She sat up and winced. There was still some pain in her body after all. Milly heard footsteps, and she didn’t know what to do. Too many questions were unanswered. Her gun was not close by, she didn’t see it, and she was too weak to fight anyone in a fist fight. In a panic, she did the only thing she could think of and pretended to be asleep.
Josh opened the door of the master bedroom with his foot, balancing a tray with food for Milly in his hands. She had lost conscience in the car, and he had done the only thing he could think of, he drove them to his parents’ lake house. He knew that no one would be there at this time of the year. Josh, he carried Milly into the house and laid her on a bed. There, he saw her gunshot wound for the first time. He had tried to wake her up but concerned that she would come up with a fever and an infection, he had dressed the wound as best as he could. He saw two holes, which was good. It indicated that the bullet wasn’t inside her body anymore. He cleaned both wounds meticulously and put a bandage on them. He hoped that his basic aid was enough for now, if not they would have to find a hospital soon. Milly had been out cold, and Josh began busying himself by cleaning and making dinner. Time had flown by, and he decided that it was time to check in on his kidnapper/patient. He put the tray on the table in the corner of the room and noticed that her breathing had changed. She was awake, even if her eyes were closed.
“I brought you some food and painkillers,” Josh announced stepping closer to the bed. “You should be okay. There is no bullet in your body. The only concern is internal damage and the fear of an infection due to fibres of your shirt in the wound. I did the best I could, but if the pain persists or if something is off or if you have a fever, we should go to a hospital. There is not much I can do from here.” Josh bit into a cookie and sat on the bed. Milly opened her eyes, unimpressed by Josh’s proximity.
“Thank you,” she said meekly, looking anywhere but at Josh. “Where are we? How long have I been out? Where’s my gun? Why? Why didn’t you just drop me off somewhere?” Milly bombarded Josh with questions, he merely smiled and got up again. Bringing the tray closer, Milly sat up still, wincing and clutching her side. She moaned, trying to find a sitting position.
“We are someplace safe. Your gun is over there,” Josh pointed at Milly’s backpack and her jacket, “You were asleep for six hours, and you needed help.” He offered her the painkillers and a glass of water.
“Just something for the pain. I promise.” Milly looked Josh straight in the eyes, as if she was defying him, and swallowed the pills. “Do you think you can stomach dinner? I am starving.” Milly nodded and was ready to get out of bed, but Josh forbade it, bringing her a plate of food.
“You need to rest,” Josh announced.
“I need to get the money to Giuseppe. The money I don’t even have because I am not in charge here anymore, am I?” Josh grinned.
“How much money do you need?” he asked. Even though he wasn’t in his father’s good graces, he had some money in his accounts.”
“Why are you doing this?”
“How much?” Josh insisted.
“Two hundred thousand.” Josh gulped. If he gave Milly the money, his savings would be used up. He whistled through his teeth and Milly looked away in shame. No one would be able to save her.
Milly scratched her chin with the gun in her hand. She had to come up with a way to get in touch with Giuseppe. And she had to get a nice little ransom for Josh. But how? Milly wasn’t a seasoned kidnapper. She didn’t have a criminal mind, no criminal energy. She had slid in with the wrong crowd, and now she was in a right mess. And her side hurt. She didn’t want to let on that a bullet had hit her, but she felt the blood flowing out of the wound. It was soaking her shirt.
“We need to stop for supplies,” Milly announced. She put her gun in her bag and winced again.
“You okay?” Josh asked. His kidnapper grew paler by the minute. It would have been easy to stop and get rid of her. But he was concerned about Milly. And intrigued as well. He wanted to hear her story. She seemed kind enough, even while she was pointing a gun at him. And so he decided to stay and help her as best as he could.
“Pull over there,” Milly ordered Josh to pull up to a parking lot of a grocery store. “We need some food and other things.”
Josh parked and got around to open Milly’s door. She blinked, ready for an attack, but it didn’t come. Josh held out his hand, and Milly blinked again.
“We should split? I am sure Henry called the cops. Or a neighbor did. After all, there was a shot.” Josh took Milly’s bag. She didn’t say anything, just held her side with one hand. She didn’t dare to look down. She didn’t want to see how bad it was. “Or we go together, and you tell me what to get?” That option was more to Milly’s liking, and she nodded.
“Let’s do that,” she croaked. “And after that, we will find us a motel or something.” She wanted to sound in charge, but her injury made it hard to think about anything else than the hole in her.
“You could also wait here? I promise to be back,” Josh offered, but Milly shook her head. “I am okay, let’s go.” At the store, they stocked up on convenience food and snacks. Josh sneaked medical supplies into the cart, and he insisted they buy a set of clothes to change into for them both. Milly agreed, and she didn’t bicker when Josh stood in the beauty aisle and chose deo and shampoo. Their shopping trip only took them twenty minutes, powering from isle to isle, always checking if no one was looking at them funnily. People were watching them, of course. They were an odd couple, and even a blind person could have seen that Milly was not well.
At the checkout, Josh put an arm around her. She tried to shake him off, but he didn’t let go. “Are you okay, Miss?” the cashier asked. Milly merely nodded. “Cramps,” she replied with a tortured smile. “Nothing a hot bath and lots of chocolate can’t cure.” The cashier smiled emphatically while Josh paid her. Milly had not reacted to the things he had added to their shopping. He took the bags and guided Milly back to the car.
“You’ve been shot,” he finally said.
“I am okay,” she replied through clenched teeth, getting into the car.
“Let me take a look!” Josh didn’t wait for her affirmation, and already he was pulling at her shirt. Milly didn’t like it at all, and with a mighty punch, she let Josh know it too. “Let’s get this straight, don’t you ever touch me again,” she threatened.
“I don’t need to be here. I could have run a while ago and left you.” Josh shot back.
“Why didn’t you?” Milly groaned and hid her face behind her hands. “I am the world’s worst kidnapper.”
“I don’t know. Maybe I want to get back at my father too.” Josh finally admitted. He pulled out of the parking lot, and both stayed silent for a long time. The silence was comforting, as was the sound of the car. Before long, pain and exhaustion got the best of Milly, and she fell asleep.
So… The question arose about how I write. Routines, outlining, creating a character, inspiration… All that.
And here comes my answer:
I write the way every sane person would tell you not to write. I don’t have routines. I don’t set goals. I don’t plan my characters or plots ahead. I am doing it the worst way you can: I sit down and write, making up the story as I go and shaping my characters while I am writing. I rarely review or edit before I post. It is all considered a first draft.
I was told that if I had more ambition and more direction I could write amazing things. But therein lies the issue. I don’t have enough ambition. I write for fun, not for financial profit. I love my day job.
All that said, I admit, I am not selfless. I am somewhat egocentric, bordering on narcissistic at times. I thrive on comments. They make me happy. They make me feel validated. It is a fake emotion, but it is the truth.
I believe that I am a good writer. Not the best, but there are much worse than me.
As for the inspiration, that’s not different from other writers. The idea for “Find a Little Love in me” was sudden. I felt like writing fiction again, but since I hadn’t done it in so long, I didn’t really know how to do it. I needed a challenge, and the 100 chapters/100 words seemed intriguing enough. Shelly is a lot like me. I created a character drawing ideas, quirks and flaws from my own self. Maybe that is the only reason why I ended up completing the challenge. I do love to write about myself.
The idea for “Upside Down” came from an image I had in my head. It was of Milly running down that alley with the goons following her, weapons drawn. And the idea took form to write a story with a different approach. I wanted to have Milly as the strong character who ultimately will save Josh from his own one-way life.
With each passing chapters, new ideas on how to proceed pop up in my head. It is nice. And thank heavens I am not working right now. It will give me a couple more days to write.
“Find a Little Love in me” was finished when I uploaded it. “Upside Down” is written on the go. It is rough around the edges and raw.
My poetry is written in a similar yet different manner. A song, a word, a line I hear. A memory or an emotion I feel. That’s what makes me write poetry. Maybe that is why my poems are always that short? I like it short and concise.
I hope that was a satisfying answer. How do all of you write? Could you do it the way I do?
Josh drank a sip of his coffee, but it didn’t taste right. He took a bite out of his toast, but that too felt like ashes in his mouth. How was he supposed to tell this woman that he left his father and that he didn’t have any money? She would kill him on the spot, of that he had no doubt.
“Tell me about yourself. We should get a little acquainted,” Milly offered. Josh shrugged. He wasn’t a man of words and didn’t know what to say. The woman and the gun made him nervous.
“I’m a doctor. Well, I will be. Specialising in traumatology.” Milly had suspected as much from the books on Josh’s shelves.
“Impressive,” Milly acknowledged. It was the first time she saw a ghost of a smile on Josh’s face. But as soon as it appeared, it vanished again.
The front door rattled and was opened with a bursting laugh. It was slammed shut and into the living room came a man who was all over a girl. They were barely able to contain themselves. Milly pointed the gun at them. She didn’t have time for this.
“Roommate,” Josh yelled and held his hands up in a surrendering manner. Josh’s roommate, Henry, looked up from the woman he was devouring.
“Whoa… Easy with that thing, baby.” Milly groaned and rolled her eyes.
“Shut it and sit on the couch. Hands to yourselves,” Milly ordered and waited for Henry and his conquest to sit. “Stutter, fetch our shoes and coats. We are leaving.” Josh was paralysed, he didn’t move. “Now, dammit!” Josh was tempted to throw a knife at her or lounge himself at her, but he didn’t dare. She was dangerous and unpredictable. Not a good combination. He rushed to obey, hearing Milly talk to Henry.
Henry snickered. “Stutter,” he said under his breath shaking his head with a grin.
“Henry. And she is…,” he shrugged. He had already forgotten the girl’s name.
“Listen carefully, Henry. I am going to take Joshy with me. Got it? You can call the police, but then I will be back to kill you, you understand, right? His daddy is loaded, and I will ask for a nice piece of the cake.” Milly was satisfied with herself and her plan. Self-sufficient she sat down.
“Ma’am, with all due respect, You must be wrong. If he had money, he wouldn’t live here,” Henry waved his hands around for emphasis. He was intimidated but not afraid. Henry was a brave man; and he was sure he could overpower this woman, get hold of the gun and turn the situation around. He could be a hero for the girl who was ugly crying next to him.
Josh returned, shaking his head in Henry’s direction as if he had been reading his thoughts. Both men watched Milly tie the laces of her boots. The gun lay on the coffee table. Henry took it in a swift motion, stood his ground and pointed it at Milly.
“You better leave,” Henry threatened her.
Milly got up slowly. “Not without him!” She grabbed Josh’s wrist with a bruising grip.
“Let him go, and I will not hurt you,” Henry felt brave. Milly snorted. She knew if she had wanted it, she would have gotten her gun back by now and she would have shot the two witnesses. But she wasn’t out for blood. She just needed money to get away from her current life.
“Josh, do something! Don’t stand there like a wimp,” Henry shouted. He didn’t understand why Josh didn’t move. Was a tall and fit man, there was no reason why he didn’t overwhelm the woman, or why he didn’t fight her. Josh didn’t know either, but his guts told him to do as Milly said.
Milly turned to leave, pulling Josh behind him. “Keys, Stutter. Do you have a car?”
Josh nodded. In the parking garage.
“Stop!” Henry yelled. Milly turned to look at him and flipped him the bird. A deafening noise went off. Henry looked in shock at the barrel of the gun in his hand and threw the weapon away. Josh looked in shock because Milly had reacted fast enough to push him behind her. Milly grinned. Henry’s conquest screamed. Too many emotions in a small living room.
Milly went to retrieve the gun and put it in her jacket. “Let’s go,” she said to Josh, and they ran for the stairs. For a moment she wondered if Josh had ulterior motives to come with her. He could have easily outrun her. But he didn’t. In fact, he held doors for her and led the way to his car. Milly held her side and winced when she got into the vehicle. Henry had hit her.
“Where to?” Josh enquired.
“Just drive,” Milly ordered through clenched teeth. She had to gather her wits for what was to come.
Josh sat against the far wall, hugging his knees and keeping an eye on the woman in his bed. It wasn’t her beauty that held him captive; it was the gun in her hand. He hadn’t been able to find any sleep, and in the end, he just gave up. Josh was counting the hours until it was time to get up and get ready for work. But then a thought occurred to him. Even if he had to get up, that didn’t mean she would leave. He groaned and stared at the stranger on his bed. The entire situation was unpredictable. He didn’t like that. He loved his routines and his structured life. A stranger entering his life in the middle of the night was not his idea of structure. It was a sure way to chaos. Josh rolled his eyes and got up. His glasses lay on his nightstand, and he fumbled for them in the near dark.
The rustling close to her head woke Milly up. Disoriented in the dark, she sat up and pointed the gun at the stranger ogling her. She saw his face pale, and his Adam’s apple move when gulped.
“What were you doing?” She asked making sure that her voice held enough venom to keep the man away.
“Glasses. I need them,” Josh stuttered.
“Lights!” She ordered, and he just nodded, doing as she said.
“Time?” Milly demanded.
“6:30. Please lady, I don’t want any trouble. Just, please leave so that I can go to work. Please?” The man was brave yet agitated. Milly smiled.
“Sorry, no work for you today, Stutter” Milly laughed. No way she could let him go now.
Josh sighed. “May I get dressed, please?”
“Very polite. Get dressed, and we will plan our next steps over breakfast. I hope you have coffee.” Milly got out of the bed. She wasn’t concerned about the man trying anything on her. She had good people skills and trusted her feeling that she was safe for now. As if she was in her own home, she searched through the man’s drawers to find a fresh t-shirt to wear. Josh felt his ears swallowed with heat as this strange woman rummaged through his personal belongings.
Waiting for his uninvited guest to follow him, Josh stood in the door. Milly switched shirts, retook hold of her gun and trotted behind the man who kept checking is she was still behind him. He got busy with breakfast, and Milly took a look around. There was a large shelf filled with books. She had read some of them too. His music collection was small, but here too, she saw similarities between the albums he owned and the music she had on her phone. The phone she had dropped when she ran from Giuseppe’s minions. Exploring the pictures of the young man, she stopped in her motions. Milly looked from the picture in front of her to the man handling a skillet in the kitchen. It couldn’t be. She had hit the jackpot. With a devious smile and a plan forming in her mind, she joined the man who was preparing her breakfast.
“I am Milly. Sorry for the inconvenience.” She put her gun next to an empty plate and grabbed the mug in front of her. “Milk?” she asked, and Josh pushed a small jug in her direction.
“Josh,” he offered.
“Don’t you mean Richard Joshua Weller Jr?” Milly smiled knowingly. “You are the only son of one of the most wealthy men in this city. Quite a dump you are living in.” She took a sip of her coffee and waited for a reaction. Josh was busted. He had hoped she wouldn’t know who he was. “You are my ticket out of my predicament,” Milly added, one hand on her gun again.
Josh admitted defeat. His heart went like mad. He had been waiting for a situation like this. That he would invite it in through his bedroom window came as a surprise. That it was a woman with legs for days and a smile to kill for was part of the irony that accompanied most of his existence.
“What do you want?” Josh stuttered.
“Money, Stutter. Easy as cake. And your daddy will give me what I need, or his sole heir will not survive this chance encounter,” Milly informed Josh and took a slice of buttered toast from a plate in front of her.
A bullet whistled past her ear as she ran for shelter. Milly dug her head in, exhaling a deep breath. This one had been too close for comfort. And she kept running. She heard bullets missing their target, missing her. In the distance she heard heavy footsteps following her, but she stood her ground. More and more distance was appearing between her and the men who hunted her. Her lungs were burning and her legs were heavy but she had to keep going. There was no other option. Milly had to ditch the two gorillas soon. She ran left, she ran right. She turned right into a small alley and knew she had to act quickly. Assessing her possibilities, she jumped on the trash container, climbed up the ladder, and she had a half second to spare to hide on the fire escape of an apartment. A large flower pot hid her from view. She saw the men stopping almost directly under her. She willed her breath to even out, all she could hear was the rush of blood in her ears. She prayed that these dumbasses didn’t hear it too. They looked around and cursed. They were both panting and holding their guns tightly but they didn’t shoot. There was nothing to shoot at, because she was hiding above them, and no one looked up. A moment later they admitted defeat and left with their heads hanging in shame and bickering about whose fault it was that the girl got away. She didn’t want to trade places with them. Giuseppe was not a nice guy and he didn’t tolerate failure. Failure. She hadn’t failed. She just hadn’t succeeded. She knocked on the window behind her twice and a young man opened. Bleary eyed he look at the sweaty woman. Without a word, she climbed inside the apartment, closed the window behind her and plopped down on the bed that stood in the middle of the room. The man observed her every move, his arms were crossed over his naked chest as if he was waiting for an explanation. But it never came. She undid the laces of her boots, shrugged out of her jacket and found a comfortable position on the preheated bed. The adrenalin was leaving her body, and she felt exhausted. If anyone had watched the scene, the pair would have looked like a couple. They weren’t. In fact, the man found a way out of his stupor asking: “I’m sorry, but who are you?” The woman was already almost asleep and slurred: “just for one night, please. I’ll be gone tomorrow.” Josh looked at the sleeping beauty. He was perplexed. He should have done something, but he didn’t know what. And he was tired too. He pulled a spare set of blankets from the cupboard in the hall but immediately returned to his bedroom. He had no intention of letting a stranger, albeit beautiful, alone in his home. That night Josh slept on the floor. That night Milly fell asleep in a soft bed engulfed by a very comforting manly scent, never releasing the tight grip on her gun.
You’re on your knees
Tasting the ashes
Nightmares under full moons
You’re lying on your back
Swallowing the dirt
Nothing makes sense
Not even this
I was pure
Dancing in the rain
Hiding in my lover
No need for music
Riding the waves of ecstasy
Forgetting the world
Just pictures of us
I was lust.
Our silence lies heavy on my chest
To feel you one more time
Your lips tasting my breasts
Your silence is slipping into mine
This message reached me this afternoon. I have known this woman since she was a teenager and we have been friends ever since. She grew into a beautiful and talented human being. But, I had no idea she was silently reading my story. Until she sent me this:
Shared with her permission. My work often flies under the radar. For various reasons, and maybe I am just a very average writer. Comments like these, messages like this, they mean a lot to me. Because that very last line is essentially what I was aiming for. And it got to at least one person.
My phone beeped, and with wet fingers, I reached for it. I still believed that Cora would call me and tell me she needed me at work. But it was only a text. And it wasn’t from my boss.
“I am sorry Sweetie. I made a mistake. You know we fit. What we have is unique.”
“Leave me alone, Sam. Don’t get in touch. Delete my number.” I wasn’t ready for his games. He called, but I pushed him away.
“Please? I really need to hear a friendly voice. I am not well.” I was tempted to give in. I wanted him to be okay. But I stayed strong. I muted my phone, put it away, and let my body sink into the tub until my head was under water.
Things got clearer that way. What I had with Sam had been toxic all along. I knew now that I was healthier without him. All he had wanted was the pull of power. I wasn’t even sure if he had ever loved me. And I wondered if the feelings I had had were love or dependency. After all, Sam had made sure that I didn’t have a social life. He had wanted me all to himself. That way, it had been easier to manipulate me into doing what he wanted. I swore to myself that this would never happen again. Never again.
Days went by, and I felt better with each passing one. I made lists of things I liked about myself, about positive thoughts and wishes I had. I started to find a little love for myself inside myself. For the first time in years, I saw who I was. And I knew who I wanted to be. I only wanted to be me.
Finally, one late Thursday afternoon, I decided that it was time to face Matt. I had survived Sam, had licked my wounds, and kicked him out of my system. Now it was time to find out about Matt. I hadn’t listened to his voice messages, and that was exactly what I texted him.
“I haven’t listened to your voice messages, but if you are available, we could meet and talk. Or just talk. (Or write)” I hit send and made myself a cup of tea.”
“I don’t know. You stormed off, and I didn’t hear anything from you in ten days. I was worried.” Matt seemed angry. I hated that I couldn’t see him or hear his voice. It was hard to tell how he was feeling only by reading his words.
“I am sorry. I needed time. I ran into Sam,” I admitted, worrying my lower lip.
“So you are back with him. Is that what you wanted to tell me???”
“No. He is out of the picture. For good.” My phone stayed silent. Matt didn’t text back. I had lost him for good too.
I was thirty-five years old, lived my own life on my own, I had a good job and a nice home. I didn’t need a man to complicate my life. (I was able to do that on my own.) Maybe I was not meant to have a family. Maybe I was not meant to have a large group of friends. It would have been nice though. As I did so often, I settled down on the couch and started watching TV. I looked around my living room and felt proud of myself. I liked my home. Content, I took a sip of my tea. I kept an eye on my phone in case Matt would send a text, but I had no expectations anymore.
I couldn’t find a reason not to be content. Or was this happiness. I had done all I could. I had struggled to be who other’s wanted me to be all my life. These last years, I had been who Sam had told me to be. I had been without him for months and still, I let him rule my life. I stretched out on my couch with a sigh. And I smiled. Because with or without a man at my side, I was worthy of love. I was lovable. And I loved myself.
The TV became boring, and I found a playlist on my phone that invited me to dance. I didn’t get myself a drink of alcohol, and I didn’t smoke. That evening, music became my drug. Until there was a sharp knock on my door. I had a déjà-vu of Matt standing there. Our date on the bus. The rain. The lovemaking at his place. And Sam. I was a little disappointed to see that it was just my neighbour standing in the hallway. Not that I was expecting a grand romantic gesture. This was life. Not a movie. I made a mental note to watch less TV and smiled.
“I had some of your mail in my box. I’m Maddie from across the hall.” The young woman extended my letters to me, and I thanked her politely. “You’re new here? If you want, the girls from around here are going out once a month. Join us. It will be fun.” Maddie touched my shoulder and smiled. She was beautiful. A potential friend. And turned to leave.
“I’ll think about it. Thanks. I’m… I’m Shelly, by the way.” I sounded lame. As if I was trying to flirt. I smiled again.
“I know.” She smiled and left with a wave of her slender fingers.
I was pouring steaming water in a fresh mug of tea when there was another knock at the door. I expected Maddie to have forgotten to give me a letter. This time, it was a dripping wet Matt standing there with a raised hand and a bowed head.
“Matt?” At this point, I was ready to believe in hallucinations. “What are you doing here?” I was guarding the door like a doorman. Doorwoman. Whatever.
“I am dripping down on the carpet. You?” I laughed out loud and waved him in.
I had Matt standing in my living room. Dripping wet. With a sly smile on his face. I helped him out of his jacket on put it on a hanger. Then, button by button, I opened his dress shirt. It was soaking wet too. The only part of it that wasn’t wet was where it was stuck in his pants. He wanted to say something, but I put my finger on his lips and shook my head. Matt kissed my finger but took my hands off him, holding my wrists.
“We need to talk.” That never sounded good. Internally I groaned.
“Let’s… let’s sit down,” Matt pulled me to the couch and sat me down. “You listen, and I speak.” I didn’t like the sound of that at all. It felt too much like Sam. I moved away from Matt and unconsciously, my entire posture changed to one of defence.
“Let me explain about what happened. Eva and me we are divorced, right? It was finalised four weeks ago. She has Eddie with her most of the time. She left a voicemail that she had an emergency at work. But I forgot to check my phone. Because I was with you.” His voice was soft and what he was saying made sense.
“Now you. What happened with Dan?”
“Sam. I ran out of yours and bumped into him. We checked in at a hotel, had a fight and I never talked to him again.” It was the shortest and least humiliating version of the story. “Listen, I am sorry that I was such a mess.”
“Shelly, we all come with baggage. And that’s okay. We aren’t twenty anymore,”
I snorted and reassured Matt that I didn’t miss my twenties.
“The thing is, Shelly, we both have a past. You with Dan. Sam, sorry. And me with Eva and Eddie. But having a past doesn’t mean that we have to live in it. There is a present, and there is a future.”
I laughed out loud. If he was about to say that he wanted a future with me, I had to stop him. It was too sappy.
“I’m sorry,” I said still laughing. It was hard to breathe. After a while, he laughed too.
“Sorry, I am a dork.” I nodded. “Yours, if you want me.” He spread his arms as if he had to sell himself.
“Look at us. We are the cliché of a romantic comedy, aren’t we? If this is the happy end, the end credits will start rolling any minute now.” I hated to be a cynic, but I didn’t find a reason to apply a filter to my thoughts.
Next thing I knew, we were a tangled mess of arms and legs. We were kissing as if our lives depended on it. There was that spark I had felt the first time too. The freedom of not feeling self-conscious and just going with the flow. Our bodies told us what to do next. I had never experienced such a wave of emotions before. Again I was aware of the cliché of everything I was feeling. It was as if I had seen too many movies lately. I didn’t have time to become distracted by my thoughts though, because Matt knew precisely how to get my attention.
“Holy hell… do that again,” I begged, and he laughed out loud.
I had my head on his chest and listened to his heartbeat. A smile was on my face and try as I might, I couldn’t not smile. I lazily drew patterns on Matt’s chest, enjoying the simplicity of the moment. Outside it was still raining. It was a pity, if the sky had been clear, we could have seen the stars and the full moon. And although this was the second time we lived this moment, I was not afraid that it would end in a disaster like it had done the first time. I sighed. This was good.
We must have fallen asleep entangled in each other’s arms because I woke up and felt too hot. I couldn’t remember having slept this peacefully in a while. I felt it before I heard it; Matt’s chuckle.
“I wondered how I could get you off me without being rude or waking you up.” He kissed my forehead. I just groaned. I wasn’t a morning person and couldn’t understand how anyone could be. Ungracefully I tried to get my hair out of my face and failed which made Matt chuckle again. “You are too cute, let me help you.”
Before I could decline his help, he pulled me on my back and pushed himself between my legs. I shrieked in surprise. Making love in the morning had never been on my priority list, but this right there was a sure way to boost my mood. Afterwards, we took a shower together. Like two teenagers, we couldn’t keep our hands to ourselves, and I absolutely hated the way I giggled like a schoolgirl around Matt.
“When do you need to be at work?” I asked while I got dressed. He came up behind me.
“That’s the best part of being a writer: I can work from everywhere.” I turned in his arms and agreed.
We spent the day on my couch. We listened to music, watched movies, and once in a while, we had sex. It felt perfect. Too good to be true. I was used to being miserable and to overthinking my emotions and my actions, but there was something about Matt that made me forget my insecurities. It had never been like this with Sam. Not even in the beginning.
“Hey, I am going to head out, buy us something to eat and get a change of clothes. Is it okay if I come back here later?”
“Yes. Sounds like a good plan.” Matt took his boots and his jacket, kissed me goodbye and closed the door behind him.
I sank against the door with a smile on my face. I couldn’t explain what was happening, but maybe not everything had a reason to happen. Not even two minutes had passed, and there was a knock on the door. My eyes scanned the living room and the open kitchen area. I couldn’t find anything Matt had forgotten. Maybe I just didn’t know where to look? I straightened my shirt and my hair with my hands. Again, I smiled.
“Did you forget something?” I said opening the door, beaming at Matt.
“I forgot you.” Matt pulled me into a passionate kiss.
Months went by, and we fell into a routine of sleepovers and work. We rarely fought and most things Matt said were uplifting. Sam had tried to get in touch, manipulating me into seeing him with a guilt trip. But he hadn’t understood that I had changed. I was not dependent on anyone anymore. I loved Matt. But I loved myself more. I had found the light in me. I had found a little love in me, and I chose to share it with a man I loved. I had found home.
The End… Thank you for you attention and hopefully this little romantic tale appealed to you.
I splayed out on my couch in my most sensual pose and waited for my knight in shining armour.
“Hello?” he knocked on the door, and I heard his footsteps on the hardwood floor. I closed my eyes and puckered my lips. He chuckled.
“Shelly?” And I realised this wasn’t Sam. Sam never called me Shelly. He called me Sweetie. Always. He had done that from the beginning. Trying to unfold my inebriated body from my couch, I landed flat on the floor. Ouch. Strong hands grabbed me under my armpits and tried pulling me up. But getting my feet under my body was a challenge. We wrestled to gain control, and both slipped. A male body was on top of me.
Through blurry eyes, I recognised a familiar face that I couldn’t quite place. He scrambled off me, and I blew my hair out of my face.
“You alright?” He reached out his hand, and I grabbed it. With a groan, we both landed on the couch.
“Have we met?” I slurred.
“Not face to face, no.”
“Fuck. No way. You are Matt. How did you get here?” I pushed his shoulder and giggled.
“I thought we should meet and I came over. Hi, I am Matt.”
“You should’ve called.”
“And ruin the surprise? No way. You would have told me not to come.”
“I am dreadful.” I tried to hide my head in shame. I didn’t even want to imagine how I looked.
I must have passed out because I woke up in my bed with a very fuzzy mouth.
“Sleeping beauty,” I frowned and wiped the drool out of the corner of my mouth, trying to find out where that voice was coming from. My hair was clogging my sight, and I was noisily swallowing past the cotton in my mouth. And then it hit me.
“Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck” I sat up too quickly and felt dizzy at once.
“Good morning to you too,” Matt chuckled with his gravelly morning voice.
“I’m Shelly. Nice to meet you,” I stuck out one hand and covered my face with the other.
“You said that. Last night. A couple of times. I’m Matt. Still Matt.” He took my hand and laughed out loud.
“I need to go to work,” I realised and panicked. I jumped out of bed, horrified to feel that I was only wearing a shirt.
“Relax, it’s Sunday.” Matt was still grinning. His chest was bare.
“Right. Right.” I groaned and flopped back on the mattress. “Usually I am not such a mess. I simply overdid it last night. I am really sorry.”
“No worries, Shelly. Tell you what, I’ll raid your fridge for some breakfast and you go and take a shower.”
“I am disgusting, I’m sorry.”
“Stop apologising. You are amazing. And stunning.” I snorted, but Matt kissed my temple and left the bedroom. I stared at his naked back.
I looked at myself in the mirror and blushed with embarrassment. My eyes were puffy, my hair was sticking in every direction, and I was practically naked. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and released it again. At least I hadn’t slept with Matt. I took a quick shower; I didn’t want to let him alone in my home for too long. Dressed in a tank top and loose pants, I joined Matt in the kitchen.
“Nice hat,” he pointed at the turban on my head with a smirk. I scrambled to get it off and took the mug Matt was holding out to me.
“I didn’t know how you’d take your coffee…”
“Black is okay.” Matt fit right into my kitchen. In my life too?
Matt still wasn’t wearing a shirt, and his jeans hugged his ass. He was soft around the middle, but an attractive man nonetheless. I kept staring and storing every inch of him away until he cleared his throat.
“I swear I am not a psycho!” I took a sip of my coffee. It was delicious. “And saying that doesn’t make me any less creepy. Urgh…!” Matt chuckled again.
“I like you a lot, Shelly. So… any plans for the day?” I hadn’t thought that far ahead. And why was he so relaxed while I was freaking out?
“Let’s take the bus.”
“The bus?” I wondered out loud. “To where?”
“To wherever it leads.” Matt shrugged, and I was sold.
I gave Matt one of Sam’s old shirts. Yes, I had moved three of Sam’s shirt with me. But now I was glad I had done that because Matt’s shirt wasn’t ready to be worn. After having cleaned my kitchen together, we left my apartment. I turned to look at Matt while we were walking down the street. He didn’t notice.
“So… what happened last night?” He didn’t look at me when he asked his question. I shrugged
“I wish I had something great to say, but honestly, I just got carried away and forgot to stop drinking on time.”
“Good, I like your honesty. I would hate to know that this was a regular situation?”
“No. It’s not. I am not an alcoholic.” I felt offended, at the same time, I felt also cared for.
Matt’s hand slipped into mine naturally.
“Is this a date?” I asked, knowing full well how lame it sounded and how unimportant it was. Matt shrugged and pulled me into one of those tourist’s buses. We climbed the stairs and found a spot. The sun was shining down on us, there were some clouds, but they weren’t looking threatening. Talking with Matt was easy. We had many things in common. There weren’t any awkward silences, but lots of laughter and banter.
“What happened with your wife?” I breached more delicate territory.
“The usual. We fell out of love. She found someone else, made me feel like shit and as if it was my fault. Took Eddie, my house, my money, everything, and left.” I was sorry I had asked, and I apologised.
“Tell me about that other guy. Dan?”
“Sam. He broke up with me and gets in touch once in a while. Like, he expects me to drop everything to have phone sex with him? Stuff like that.” I admitted and began fidgeting with the straps of my bag.
“Do you do it? The phone thing?” I blushed, I guess that was answer enough. Matt chuckled.
“Really? How does that even work? I am a writer, inspire me,” he taunted me.
“I can’t. I mean, what do you want to know?” I would not talk dirty with Matt face to face. Not while we were on the bus.
A light drizzle made Matt and me move closer together.
“It’s just a shower, it will be over soon,” I claimed, and at that moment the drizzle turned into a downpour that soaked us to the bone. We hurried down the stairs to find shelter inside the bus, but it was too late, we were dripping.
“Let’s go have a coffee.” On the next stop, we got off the bus. I wanted to run, but Matt caught my hand and slowed me down until we came to a halt. The scene was absurd, yet utterly romantic. Like out of a movie. Matt’s hands were in my hair, my hands played with the hair at the nape of his neck. His lips came closer and closer until they touched mine.
An electrical surge went through me, and I moaned into Matt’s mouth. I felt his lips turn up into a smile. Instead of going for coffee, we headed back to Matt’s place. To change into dry clothes. That was the lie we both told ourselves. We knew what would happen once we were alone inside the confines of his home. And we didn’t waste time and wrestled each other out of the sticky wet fabrics that clung to our skin.
“You are stunning,” Matt told me in between kisses and while he was pulling my shirt over my head. My entire body reacted to him. His touch made me feel things Sam never made me feel. And he weaved a blanket of kisses across my naked body. When we were united at the core of our beings, I couldn’t believe the wave of emotions I was feeling. He was shaped perfectly for me. I came many times that night.
Lying in Matt’s arms, playing with his chest hair, I felt like home. I felt safe and understood. His fingers were running up and down my arm, and we didn’t talk. I was listening to his heartbeat instead. We had a moment in a perfect bubble. Until the door to Matt’s apartment flew open and a female voice called out his name. Our bubble burst.
“Shit,” he cursed disentangling himself from me in a hurry.
“Daddy!” The bedroom door flew open, and an excited kid came running in. I had barely enough time to cover myself. Behind the kid, a tall woman was shooting daggers at me. If looks could kill, I would have dropped dead.
“Wait outside, Tiger. I’ll be there in a minute.” Matt forced a smile into his voice.
“I’m sorry Shelly.”
“Yeah… no… it’s okay.” I didn’t bother to try and find my underwear. I just ran.
I felt humiliated. And I didn’t care if he had lied and the woman was his wife, or if she was his ex. The situation was embarrassing. And his poor son. Such a bubbly child. And he had found his dad naked in bed with another woman. Tears of anger streamed down my face as I made my way back home. I could have called a taxi, or taken the bus. But the crisp air after the rain felt good. People were looking at me sideways. I was a mess. Since I was not paying attention where I was going, I wasn’t all too surprised when I collided with someone else.
“Sweetie? Are you okay? What happened?” Sam. I sank into his arms and was reduced to a bawling mess.
“Breathe Sweetie,” Sam ordered. I looked up at him. My eyes were pleading for him to love me; to protect me. “I’ll take you home.”
“I moved,” I informed him between sobs. Sam pushed me in his car, and we drove off. To my surprise, he didn’t drive me home (I hadn’t provided him with my new address), and we didn’t drive to his place. He stopped at a hotel.
“Neutral ground.” And it made sense.
While he checked us in, I waited in the lobby, watching him. I felt cold inside. My heart was racing, but there was no passionate fire inside of me. Not for him.
Sam ushered me to the elevators, and within minutes he opened the door to a luxurious suite.
I turned to him, speechless and out of breath. He had never done anything like this before.
“Sam,” I swooned.
“Let me take care of you, Sweetie. I will run you a bath.” It sounded amazing. I really needed a bath. I felt sticky, and Matt was still clinging to my skin.
“Thank you,” was all I could say to Sam. My Sam. He was back for me. I shrugged out of my jacket and put it over the back of a chair. I hugged myself tightly to keep the pieces of myself together. Then, I followed Sam to the bathroom.
Sam stepped closer to me. I inhaled deeply. I had missed him so much. I ran my hands through his hair and down his face. He was real. My saviour. Wordlessly, he began undressing me. There weren’t many clothes. Just a shirt and jeans.
“No underwear? Kinky.” He smiled his devious smile. Sam didn’t waste time. Already he was kissing my breasts and fondling my pussy. The cold and hollow feeling didn’t leave. I wanted to feel different. I tried to enjoy Sam’s hands touching me, but I didn’t. It was pretense. I had to feel ecstatic after having missed him for so long. Right? Why didn’t I?
I let Sam go through the motions.
“You were with another man,” he stopping kissing my body and pushed me away.
“We are not a couple,” I tried to say, but Sam looked at me with disgust.
“After everything, I did for you. You slut!” Sam yelled at me, and my tears just rolled down my cheeks silently. I didn’t want to cry.
“You broke me into pieces. You push and pull at me. You broke up with me. Not the other way around.” While yelling back at Sam, I got dressed for the third time that day.
“You love me. And you know it. You can’t leave,” Sam crossed his arms over his chest and smirked. “You are nothing without me.”
“Well, then I think I prefer to be nothing. Goodbye Sam. And thank you. Thank you for putting my feet back down on the ground.” I said it calmly, collected my bag and was on my way out.
“God knows, your feet must have been stuck in the air a lot these days.” He couldn’t let me go without a final shove. I didn’t slam the door. I didn’t yell or scream. I just walked out. In the lobby of the hotel, I realized what just happened. I called a taxi and drove home. To my sanctuary. Once inside I ran straight to the bathroom. All my emotions were vomited into the toilet bowl.
On Monday I went to work as a shadow of myself. Sam hadn’t gotten in touch, and I was grateful for that. Matt, on the other hand, had tried to call and left several voice messages. I didn’t feel brave enough to listen to them. At noon, my boss asked to talk to me.
“You didn’t have any days off this year so far. It’s time, Shelly. Take two weeks, sort whatever it is that is bugging you and come back with your usual smile. Please? You are scaring the parents.” Weakly, I tried to protest and said that I didn’t need a vacation, but I knew that Cora was right. I signed the papers for my leave and went to say goodbye to my colleagues. I was hugged that day. And they didn’t spare their pitiful looks when I left the building.
Left on my own devices for two weeks, I didn’t know what to do with myself and with my time. I fell into a lazy routine of sleeping, Netflix, and ordering takeout. Outside it was raining again. And I hadn’t changed my sheets. Even after a week, they still smelled like Matt. Determined, I got out of bed and began cleaning my mess. I even changed the bedsheets. After a day of physical activity, I already felt better. I went to the bathroom and ran myself a bath. A vision of Sam doing the same pulled at the edges of my thoughts. But I didn’t let it in. Sam was the past. Once and for all.
To be continued…
I tried to write a list of things that had gone well these last weeks, but apart from my job, the list stayed empty. There was the concert that hadn’t happened. The date that hadn’t happened. Sam who had tried to manipulate me once again. I looked at the list, ripped the paper from my journal and balled it up. What a shit list. Again, I was blaming other people for my state of mind. I didn’t take responsibility, and I knew it.
“Hey, Sweetie.” Sam. The only man whose Sweetie I was. I should have told him to get away from me. But I didn’t. I was too broken. Too weak.
“Do you sometimes think of all the things we could have done?” His usual narcissistic way of starting a conversation made me shake my head. There used to be a time, even after our break-up, when we had talked. Small-talk. But now, all he wanted was to get off on a fantasy I seemed to embody.
“How are you?” Just like he repeated himself, again and again, I did too. I tried to have a different kind of conversation.
“Fine. I met a girl. She is perfect.” I didn’t want to know anything about it.
“That’s great, Sam. I am happy for you.” And it was the truth. But I was jealous too.
If Sam’s girl was so perfect, why was he texting me? Why did he try and have sex with me, if his new girl was perfect?
“She doesn’t want to sleep with me. And you were the only one who could ever satisfy my needs.” For a moment, I felt proud. Sam needed me. And even though he pretended not to love me anymore, he came back again and again.
“Are you there? I am in need of a friendly person. Xx,” Matt.
Weeks went by without any news from both men, and now they were both demanding time simultaneously. I smiled. I felt loved, even if it was a fake emotion.
That night, I tried juggling both men at once. I wrote sensual words to Sam, pushing the buttons I knew he needed to be pushed, and I was a bantering friendly with Matt. I felt loved. I felt appreciated. Both of them sent the sweetest messages. My spirits were lifted. And while I embraced it, I also knew that it was wrong. I was once again falling for Sam’s trap. His pattern had been the same for months now.
“Sam, why can’t you let go of me?” I asked out of the blue. Usually, intimate questions like this made him flee.
“Because you are the only one for me.” My heart pounded in my chest when I read his words.
“What about your girlfriend.” I sounded bitter and jealous, maybe I was.
“She’s not you. Shelly, we can stop this here right now if you don’t stop the interview.” Sam’s usual threat.
I got too close, and Sam ran. I wanted to keep him back but thought better of it. The more often he acted like this, the more often I was devasted. Some days, I pretended to be okay, but I really wasn’t. And when Sam left that evening, I ignored Matt too.
I was a terrible person. And I knew that as long as I had a negative outlook on myself, I would mess up everything else I had. Sam had to go. Once and for all. I needed to find a way to push him out of my life and keep him away from my soul. The only tools I had was blocking his phone number and his email address. It was a start. A start I hated. Blocking someone was the purest form of rejection. Rejection meant hurting feelings. I didn’t want to hurt anyone.
My weeks became a blur of work and sleep. I didn’t eat well anymore, but I slept like a baby. Waking up every two hours. I made a point of not logging on to any social media sites. I needed to find my own inner balance. I needed to find out who I was when I was on my own. In my limited spare time, I began to write more again. For myself. I wrote pages upon pages in my journal, describing my inner landscapes. I wrote about missing parts of me that were never really parts of me. I wrote about myself to get to know myself.
My words were for my eyes only, and I began to see where I was always going wrong. I knew all the right things, yet I didn’t act on them. My choices had been made consciously. And they had brought me to this moment in time. If a choice appeared right when I made it, was there any point in feeling regret or guilt over it? I looked at my reflection in the mirror. I was a stranger to myself. I had always defined me by the way others saw me. I was bummed.
“Shelly,” I said to myself. “Time to become who you are supposed to be.”
I was free. And as long as I kept Sam out of my life, I felt free too. I couldn’t explain why he had so much control over me. I couldn’t tell why I jumped on the phone when I saw it was him. I just knew that it was not love anymore. We had been a couple for almost three years until he had decided that he wanted to move on and explore life with other people. I was too shocked to fight for his love or to beg him to stay. I just let him go.
Sam had been gone for three months before he started texting me. Shallow things at first. But it drifted off into sexting quite fast. And although he wasn’t there physically anymore, he was mentally with me. He was continually manipulating me, getting me to make emotional decisions based on memories we had. His texts were never about me or my well-being. They were always about his instant gratification and the power he felt over me. And I knew it. But I let him walk over me. In my mind, having Sam like that was better than not having him at all. He made sure that I became damaged goods.
It would have been easy to blame it all on Sam, but I played my part in it as well. Every time he called, I felt like a million bucks. Some days he even asked how I felt. I was not his victim. It was almost as if I had Stockholm’s syndrome.
He hadn’t been in touch in a while, and my determination was strong to keep ignoring him. Although, I unblocked his phone number again. The thought of rejecting someone by blocking him seemed wrong to me. My mind worked in mysterious ways.
I deserved a new start, however. And I had found it. I packed my few belongings in boxes and moved to a new place. It was closer to work and a bit bigger than the apartment I had shared with Sam. Most importantly, there were no old memories in these new walls. I treated myself to new furniture too. Everything new. Blank canvas.
“Hey… it’s been a while. My fault, I apologise. I had to deal with my life. Got a divorce. Moved. New contract for a novel. All that shit. Here’s a song for you:”
Matt’s message took me by surprise. I was not the only one who was rearranging their life.
“Is it time to meet in person? This is me. No filters.” I looked at the screen and saw a handsome man in comfortable clothes. He seemed soft around the middle, but that didn’t bother me. His eyes were dark, and the lines around them made me believe that he had laughed a lot in his life. His beard was showing some grey streaks. I liked what I saw. His hair was shaggy, and maybe it was time for a haircut. He was normal. Not overly styled. Not neglected. Normal. Approachable. Someone I would like and could feel comfortable with.
“Handsome. How old are you anyway?” I had no idea. We had never really talked about private things.
“I am just myself. Born that way. 😉 34 years ago.” I smiled. Matt made me smile a lot. And he was younger than me. I didn’t give in to the anxiety that was threatening to roll over me. I didn’t listen to the self-doubt.
“I want to see your face too.” He was impatient. I snapped a quick selfie, made sure that I didn’t have food on my face or shirt and hit send. I worried my lower lip while I was waiting for his reaction.
“Holy hell. You are beautiful. Wow. I did not expect that to be honest. Wow.” I laughed out loud and shook my head. It took a lot of willpower to stop myself from sending a contradictory message. I was fat. I was old. My shirt had holes, and my hair was a mess because of the humidity outside. Not to mention that I wasn’t wearing any makeup.
“I am 35.”
“I’ll be too, next year.”
“By then I will be 36.”
“Thanks for the lessons in mathematics but I will not take it back. You are stunning.”
I didn’t feel stunning. I felt like my ordinary self.
“Text me your address again. We are going out. I won’t take no for an answer. I know Matthew Ryan didn’t happen, but this time I will show up. Please?”
“Matt, you are cute and all, but I am not sure if this is a good idea.”
“Let me decide what a good idea is and what is not.”
“Ok,” I exhaled. “When?”
“But, that’s too soon,” I tried to deflect. I wouldn’t have time to overthink and… no, I couldn’t. And so, standing in my own way again, I declined.
“I am sorry, I really can’t meet tonight.”
“No worries. Another song?” Matt sent a song, and then an awkward silence spread on my screen.
I was in need of a week away from work. I was in need of sleep. Lots of it. And I needed to apologise to Matt.
“How is your son? Your wife? You?”
“Eddie is great. My ex-wife is okay too. And I am exhausted from this damn writer’s block. Tell me something worth writing about!”
“Well, everything is inspiring,” I replied and felt condescending at once.
“What’s your deal?” Matt pushed. I wasn’t sure if it was a friendly push or an annoyed shove.
“I don’t have a deal. I am average. Just like most people are.”
“Shelly, you are way above average. Send me another selfie.”
I put my head against the glass window to cool myself. A smile on my face. Matt wanted a picture, and he would get it. I pulled my top down a bit to show some cleavage, licked my lips, and faced my phone most seductively. I hit send and waited for Matt’s reaction.
“Shelly, I love every inch of you.” Yeah right, I thought to myself.
“You haven’t seen every inch of me,” I replied, and he was quick to write his next message.
“Every inch, babe.” A warm and fuzzy feeling spread inside of me. This was nice.
“Gotta go,” was the next text from Matt. It was okay for me too. I put a pizza in the oven while the TV was softly glowing on the wall. I put my hair in a bun, changed from the tight clothes I had worn at work into something comfortable and set my camp up on the couch for the rest of the night. Honestly, I was overeating, drinking too much, and I had a smoke or two. Whenever life went well, I got a hollow feeling in my chest. As if I was missing out, although I wasn’t. And I turned to self-destructive behaviour.
My stomach hurt, my head hurt, and my home stunk of stale cigarette smoke. I looked around myself and felt ashamed. It was dark outside, and once again, I was slipping into a dark mood. For no reason at all. If Sam had called at that moment, I would have given in to him. I would have done everything he would demand, and I would obey like a dumb sub. Just so that he would love me again. Tears stung my eyes. I was pathetic. It would never change because no matter how hard I tried, I didn’t change.
I took the bottle of vodka out of the freezer and didn’t bother to get a glass. Out of the bottle or out of the glass, it didn’t matter. The liquid tasted awful and burned my throat. I groaned. I had a vision of me as a drunker and fatter Bridget Jones. All by myself. Until the doorbell rang. I tried to ignore it, taking another sip and having troubles staying upright. My thoughts went in circles. Everything was turning. My thoughts, my world. My stomach. And the doorbell kept ringing.
“Sam?” I slurred into the intercom and buzzed the door open. Finally, he was back. And if he were back, I would be complete again.
To be continued…
(Final wordcount, after shallow editing: 11344 words… I am proud that I was able to do this in such a short time… Leave me your thoughts, please)
But was that love? In hindsight, it felt more like hate. How was I supposed to like myself when everyone I ever loved hated me? I was lost. My life was empty. My heart was too. The only thing I loved was my job. It wasn’t enough. I sighed. Taking my phone, I opened my social media apps. They all felt superficial. I didn’t belong anywhere. How had I let it get this far? Sam had ruled me and my life. Everything I had done in the last three years was for him. Nothing for me. And now I was lost.
There had to be something for me to do. There had to be a way for me to find myself. There had to be a way to understand who I was without Sam.
“Family emergency. My son had to have surgery. His appendix was removed.” Matt’s message took me by surprise. I hadn’t known that he had a family.
“Sorry to hear it. Who is with him now?” I dreaded the answer. And it came faster than liked.
“His mother is with him.” I didn’t want to feel betrayed, but I did. He had asked me on a date. Twice. But he had never mentioned a family.
My friendship with Matt was shallow. I wanted to ask if he was still married, but I didn’t dare. What was allowed and what wasn’t? I didn’t know. I was an intelligent woman, working in a social job, without any notable social skills. What I had for myself was contempt, and I didn’t want to go on like that anymore. I didn’t need a man in my life. I needed to understand who I was. I needed to find ways to love myself, to accept myself. And only if I were able to succeed in this, I would be ready to love again.
I started by treating myself to a couple of new clothes. Out with the old, in with the new. I disregarded every notification my phone sent although it was hard to ignore it and I made a conscious effort to think positive thoughts. Some days I hated my new self. Some days I remembered Sam and the way he had said my name. I remembered the pictures he had sent me too, and I couldn’t help but wonder if he wasn’t thinking about me once in a while too. After all, three years were not easily forgotten. I had a long way to go to find a way to live without him.
“Do you think about us sometimes?”
“I miss us.”
Three messages from Sam and my heart went like mad. I knew that I lost control every time he came back into my life. And I knew that he liked to play with me and my mind.
“Sweetie, this is ridiculous. Say something.”
I didn’t know what to say. I wanted to keep my distance, but I also wanted him. I would always want him.
“How are you?” I messaged back.
“I miss us. I miss the pictures you sent. And I miss your dirty mind. I miss how you did everything for me.” I swooned. Until I realised that the things he missed most were the ones I didn’t want for myself anymore.
He was playing with me again. Sam knew exactly what to say and which words to use to win me over. He knew what I needed. But as I progressed with my self-love, I realised that I needed new things.
“Tell me you miss me, Sweetie!” It made me wonder. Did I really miss Sam as much as I told myself that I did? Did I really need him in my life? Or was it just that he saw me and that I thrived with his affection.
“I am busy now.” I tried to deflect.
“Let’s stop it here then. I don’t want you in my life anyway. Don’t ever get in touch again.” I looked at my phone and was in shock.
It hurt, and it took all my willpower not to beg him to stay. But this was exactly how our relationship had been. I had not given him what he wanted, and he blew up in my face. While I would have crawled on my knees and asked for his forgiveness in the past, I merely shrugged it off now. I was angry. But I knew that he would be back. It was what Sam needed. I had what he wanted. Not giving it away freely anymore made him want it even more. I knew how to push his buttons. Two can play that game.
For once, I didn’t let Sam’s behaviour negatively affect me. It felt like a small victory for me. Only, I didn’t have anyone to share it with. Apart from one person.
“Matt, are you there?”
“Sure. What happened? 🙂 ”
“Nothing, I just wanted to have a friendly conversation,” I tried to play it cool, but I wanted more than just a short back and forth tonight. I wanted his attention.
“And you thought of me? You are the cutest.” I smiled with pride.
“I have my moments.”
“You are amazing, Shelly. And you know it. Men must be running down your door all day long.” I did not expect that.
“No. Not really. You are overestimating me.”
“I don’t think I am. I really like you.” And I liked Matt too. But I remembered his family. I didn’t want to break up a family.
“How is your son?”
“He’s good. With his mom this weekend.”
“Are you married? Separated? Divorced?”
“We are separated, I guess. We haven’t lived together in months.”
“Okay,” I didn’t know what else to say. Matt came with a past, so did I.
“Share some music with me… I need some distraction.” I smiled to myself, he had guided us back onto safe territory.
For the better part of the next hours, we sent links of songs back and forth, discussing them at length. I liked it a lot and time seemed to fade with Matt on the other side of the screen. His words made me laugh. He made me feel good. But I wasn’t satisfied with that. I was the maker of my own bliss. I should have been the one who made myself happy. And I understood that as long as I needed someone else to be happy, I would never really feel true happiness. Was I turning into one of those New Age people?
I decided it would be easiest to go with the flow and get rid of the pressure I was putting on myself. After all, I had a good life. I had a home, I had a job, I had a car. Materialistically speaking, I was well off. I severely lacked in the emotions department though. I shed my clothes and slipped into a hot bath. I exhaled and closed my eyes. I was my own worst enemy. Maybe I had the power to be my own best friend too? The scent of the foam that had formed in my bathwater was clouding my senses, and soon, I was out of thoughts. My mind became a blank canvas.
But as always, my serene state was disrupted by my anger. Anger that was fueled by new messages Sam sent my way. He had left me, why didn’t he stay away. Why did he enjoy torturing me this much? The truth was, he didn’t know how I felt.
“It hurts when you get in touch just to have sex. I am not your toy anymore. I am not yours.” I hit sent and got out of the tub. Dripping, I padded to the bedroom.
“Who cares? I don’t. Tell me what I need to hear!”
“I don’t have anything to say,” I replied and muted his number.
Muting Sam’s number didn’t bode well with me. For the life of me, I couldn’t ignore him that way. I unmuted his number and went on with my day. Work was the usual. The kids were great, the colleagues were bitching about each other, and I tried to do my job.
“Hey, you. Listen to this song:”
“Later. At work now,” I replied in between changing messy diapers. It was nice that Matt thought about me at random. And he rarely demanded anything from me.
“Tell me about your day when you’re home.” I smiled, Sam had never asked me to share my daily life with him.
Once at home, I changed into comfortable clothes. Comfortable clothes meant getting rid of the socks and bra and getting into yoga pants and a flowy top. I put my hair in a messy bun and made dinner for one. With my eggs and rice and spinach, I trotted to the living room. My phone was waiting for me. The TV was flickering on the wall, my attention was divided between my food and my phone. I listened to the song Matt had shared and smiled. It was an artist he loved to share with me.
“What are you doing?”
“What are you doing?” Matt asked again.
“Sitting on the couch. Having dinner. You?”
“Sitting on the couch. Having dinner.” I smiled.
“Copy paste, stealing my words.” He replied with a photo. He had never sent a picture of himself before. I had never seen his face. But now I knew that he was wearing a black T-shirt and shorts. His hairy legs were crossed at the ankles, and his feet rested on a coffee table. He had nice feet. The TV was on at his place too, and in the corner of the picture, I saw a plate with food. For a moment I wondered if I should reply with a selfie too.
And I did. I sat up straight and pushed my breasts out, sucking my tummy in. My legs were resting on the couch, the plate was on the floor next to me. I just checked that I didn’t have my face on the picture and hit send right away. No time for self-consciousness.
“Nice” came the prompt reply.
“Thank you. What are you watching?”
“Big Bang Theory,” I starred at the phone, then at my TV. The same show was playing in my living room.
“Awesome.” I wanted to reply with ‘Bazinga’, but that would have meant that I was joking, and I wasn’t.
“Must be fate,” Matt added. I nodded.
I didn’t want to believe in fate, but this was weird. I decided to change the subject.
“How is the writing going?”
“Oh you know, not well. Writer’s block.” I felt for him.
“Is there anything I can do to help?”
“You are at once distraction and inspiration, lol.” I knew he didn’t mean anything by it, but it made me uncomfortable. I didn’t want to keep him from work. I poured myself a glass of wine, deciding what to do.
“Don’t overthink it. Everything is alright.” Matt wrote before I even had a chance to reply to his message.
“What gave me away?” I wondered.
“You did.” And again, I smiled.
That night I went to sleep with a smile on my lips. Matt was a nice man. If I weren’t careful, he would be my last thought at night and the first in the morning. I didn’t want it to happen, but I couldn’t prevent it. It was like an infection. And I had just fended off my last almost deadly love bug. I wished I didn’t feel this deeply. I wished I was less sensitive to feelings. But I was not. It made me good at my job. It made it hard to lead a normal life.
Human interaction almost always led to tears. At least when I was concerned. I wanted Sam. I needed him. It felt as if I had Matt, but I wanted Sam. My tears were soaking my pillow. My heart was racing a mile a minute. And my thoughts refused to make sense. One step forward and two steps back. Maybe I was more comfortable being miserable than stepping out of my comfort zone. I ignored Matt. I didn’t reach out to Sam. And life went on. I was the maker of my own destiny. And right now I didn’t give a damn about change or anything else.
I showed up at work, went through the motions and got home. There, I stuffed my face with whatever I found in the fridge and binged on unfunny sitcoms on TV. I read that it took twenty-one days to form a new routine. If I kept this up, I could as well lay down and die. I was in my mid-thirties, mentally unstable, and I was isolating myself from the outside world. Every invitation from family or work colleagues was declined. I hated myself. I hated who I was turning in to. And the feeling of being obsolete grew from day to day. No positivity left.
To be continued…
(Thirty minutes ago, I finished this story… all 100 chapters are done. I exceeded the planned wordcount of 10k by 300 words… oops)
I tried to forget him. I tried to find a way to live without the man of my dreams. But I couldn’t. Sam was in every memory; in every breath I took; in every word I wrote. My life went on. It had to. Although he had left me over a petty argument. My bed was empty without him. My life was empty without him. I needed something to fill that all-consuming void. Something. Anything. But I had no idea what that was supposed to be. He had left and he had taken me with him. Who was I without him?
Every morning, I got up, showered, had a cup of coffee and headed to my car. I got in, took a chewing gum out of the glove box, fastened my seatbelt and pulled out onto the street. My morning were dull. Ever since he had left me, there was no spontaneous lovemaking in the shower, no American pancakes filling my home with their sweet scent, no kiss that made me get out of the house too late. Every morning became efficient in their routine. No move was unnecessary. This boring way of life kept me from dealing with the pain of having lost him.
At work, I wore my brave face. I joked with the colleagues, and smiled with the parents who left their toddlers at our facility. My private life wasn’t allowed at my work place. Here too, I followed the routines that had set in. I peeled fruit and arranged it in bite-sized portions on plastic plates. I smeared bread with cheese and filled glasses with water. After breakfast, I cleaned sticky mouths and hands, and I changed diapers. All the while, I smiled and pretended to be happy. Singing, dancing, entertaining, and repeating everything again and again. It was the glue that kept me together.
My only weakness was naptime. Sitting in the bedroom, waiting for the children to find some rest, I too had time to think. I had time to miss him. I had time to count the days since he was gone. The even breath of the toddlers indicated that they were asleep. I exhaled, took my phone, and began to a scroll on my screen. On a site, I had recently met an interesting man. He liked to talk about movies and music. He liked books and apparently, he was working as a writer. I found him oddly fascinating, but Matt was no real distraction from Sam and my broken heart.
I had a private message and it made me smile. Matt asked about meeting me for coffee or a drink some day. He said he had tickets for a concert and if I wanted to join him, he would be happy. I didn’t reply to the message. I was not looking for someone else. I was happily licking my wounds. On the other hand, he had tickets to see Matthew Ryan and I had wanted to see him live for a long while. I didn’t know what to do and how to react. And I didn’t have time to deal with it right away. Saved by a crying baby.
But every workday has to end and mine did too. Walking to the parking lot, I thought back to that message and the invitation to the gig. Maybe I should step out of my comfort zone and do it. Just going with the flow and enjoy myself. I was not expecting to fall in love, but at least there was a possibility to have a nice evening with a man I enjoyed talking with. I didn’t have anything to lose. Apart from my broken heart.
“Pick me up at 7? I’ll text you the address” Before I could reconsider, I hit sent and drove home.
I was hungry. The fridge was full, but I couldn’t find anything I wanted to eat. And so I kept opening and closing the fridge for a while, realizing every time that there was nothing new inside. I plopped down on the couch with a load of laundry to fold and watched reruns of “Murder, she wrote”. The show reminded me of my grandfather. He used to watch things like that all the time. With the TV on and mindlessly folding pants and shirts, I felt thoughtless. My mind was blank. It was new, but not unwanted. It made room for something else.
It made room for hope. For the first time in a while, Sam didn’t dominate my thoughts. I didn’t relive this or that situation while folding this or that shirt. Was I freeing myself from the shadow of my ex lover? We had spent three years together. Was I ready to let him go? Maybe my heart had moved on, and my head hadn’t? If I had friends I cared about enough, I would have reached out and asked for advice. But I kept every one away from me. I didn’t allow anyone to get too close to me. And that was why he had left me.
The sun was setting and it became dark in my home and in my heart. I turned on the lights, but there was some darkness that kept looming above me. I had these moments of abject loneliness, of hopelessness. Often, they came without a warning, and before I could even react, I was reduced to a bawling mess. There was this dark cloud that kept me company. A dark veil wrapped itself around my thoughts, choking every attempt of happiness. I turned off the lights, made sure that my door and windows were locked, and headed to the bedroom. On top of my already miserable state, Matt didn’t get in touch. He hadn’t picked me up to see Matthew Ryan.
I shed my clothes, they felt restrictive and suffocating, and got into bed. I grabbed my pillow – the one I had since early childhood and that comforted me with its smell, and inhaled. Why did everyone abandon me? Why didn’t I deserve some love? It took all the strength I thought I didn’t have to keep from sending a needy message to Sam. I didn’t want to be that girl. I was better than that. But I was lonely. Naked. Raw.
“Hey are you okay? You didn’t share any music with me today ”
He was right. After having been stood up, I hadn’t gotten in touch. Was I supposed to act as if I didn’t care?
“Sorry Matt. I had a bad day” I texted him. It was the first time I even considered lowering my guards with him. Everything had been shallow until now.
“Wanna talk about it?”
Did I? Was I the kind of girl who poured her entire emotional baggage onto someone else? But I was in distress and I had nothing to lose.
“I’ve been left not that long ago. Some days it is really hard. I don’t know who I am without him. And I don’t remember who I was before him. It’s messed up.” I hit send and groaned. I didn’t expect and answer. But it came.
“You will be okay. The woman I know doesn’t need a man to tell her how to feel and who to be. Wanna meet for a drink tomorrow?” His text made me cry, and I was glad he couldn’t see me.
“I am sorry that I am such a mess,” I apologised.
“You are human and we are made of emotions.” I smiled. I didn’t deserve anyone this kind.
“I will try and catch some sleep now. Thank you for being there.” I ignored his invitation for a drink. I was in no shape to make such a decision.
“Sleep Shelly. I will be here tomorrow.”
I woke up and assessed my state of being. The heaviness from the day before was gone, only residual melancholia scraped at the edge of my thoughts. I took my phone and sent out a message before I began with my usual routine.
“Thank you for having been there. For now, I am better.” I didn’t wait for a reply. I got in the shower, shaved my legs and pubic area – just for me, and washed my body. Already I felt more desirable. I took time to straighten my hair and find something nice to wear. I always did that when I didn’t feel all too well.
Work was over too soon. I had fun that day. The colleagues had complimented my hair, which lightened my mood. The kids weren’t any trouble that day, and even my boss had nothing but nice things to say. I didn’t think about Sam. But Matt was a constant in my thoughts now. His kindness, and his willingness to be there at my worst – it meant something to me. I had a fuzzy feeling inside. And whenever he was on my mind, I smiled.
“Still up for that drink? I will be at the Club tonight.” Confident and satisfied with myself, I got home to make the best of me.
As I sat there nursing my beer, I didn’t wonder why he hadn’t replied to my message. My mood was too good. I smiled and I flirted, but the longer I sat in that bar alone, the more I wished I wasn’t there. I started to feel uncomfortable. All eyes were on me. Or at least it felt that way. Matt had stood me up. All talk, no action. I grabbed my tote bag and threw some money on the counter. It was a heavy tip, but I didn’t care, I felt tired. I just wanted to go home, and forget about this evening. Matt was just like him. I was too stupid.
I wrote several messages but I sent none. They all sounded petty and childish. I wanted to act like an adult. We weren’t a couple. There had been no promises. Matt had asked me out twice. I should have waited for his affirmation. I groaned and threw my heels in the closet. In the bathroom, I rubbed my face with a washcloth until the mask came off. My face was red and swollen. I felt raw and swollen on the inside too. Just to punish myself, I opened old chat logs of Sam and me. He had been charming in the beginning. Until everything had become about sex.
For Sam, I had become a slut. I had sent nude pictures in various positions. He had asked to show myself like this and like that. Once in a while, he sent something back. It had felt good to take these naked pictures. To see myself as a sensual being. It had changed me. But the knowledgeable that he still had those pictures made me uncomfortable. I wanted to text him and ask him to delete my pictures. But who was I to believe that he had kept them? I was sure he had moved on, and that he had found a new woman to manipulate. Anger rose in me. Why didn’t he say something?
“stupid,” I pushed out through clenched teeth. I didn’t believe in regrets. Was Sam making me regret our time together? I chose to believe that I had changed in our three years together. I wanted to believe that I was more of a woman now than I had been before. I was stronger. And I was weaker. Most of all, I was alone. Before him, I had had friends. Now that he was gone, I only had myself. And I didn’t like my own company a whole lot. I raided the fridge to stuff my face. No need to look pretty for anyone anymore.
Matt didn’t get in touch. He didn’t apologise for standing me up. There was silence on all channels. I messaged him a couple of times, but even after telling him that I was worried, he stayed silent. It worried me even more. In the meantime, I tried to distract myself with cleaning my home. While doing so, I realised that I didn’t have any hobbies. I didn’t have any friends. I didn’t know what to do with myself when I was on my own. I didn’t want to go out and meet new people. I wanted to be on my own. But I didn’t want to feel this lonely and alone
I realised that Sam had put me here. I tried not to think about him and mentioning his name, but it was the truth. Sam had wanted me all for himself. I dressed the way he wanted. I ate what he ordered me to eat. I felt what he made me feel. He had been my guide. My light. He had made me who I was. But he was not here anymore. He had moved on as soon as he had made sure that I was broken beyond repair. “No one will ever love you like I do.” Sam had repeated those words again and again.
To be continued
I told you about my 100/100 project, well, it is looking good so far. I have written 65 chapters. All of them longer than 100 words. Some longer than 110 words. One is 130 words. Bending my own rules. I am afraid that I will jinx it because I often become bored of my own projects. On the other hand, I made it this far, there is no reason why I can’t finish it. (Only if I am running out of story) The story is not autobiographical, but there is a lot of me in it. There is a reason for that too… I haven’t written fiction in a long time. I couldn’t come up with characters and Backstories. And that gave me the idea to use some of what I know. To use my own quirks and behaviours. I am not quite sure how to share it here. I don’t want to bore you and I don’t want to overload my blog… Still trying to figure that one out. I did post 17 chapters (as of today) on Wattpad. Just to get a feel for it. I must admit… The same 4 readers are on board again. I am lucky to have them, it would also be nice for the story to find a bigger audience.
http://www.wattpad.com/CatherineMicqu that’s where you can find me. Though I have to let go of a little Wattpad related rant. There are ads between chapters. I hate it. And I wasn’t asked if it was okay for them to distract my readers from my stories with silly apps. It is annoying and, seriously, as a reader, it puts me off reading anything on that side right now.
Sooner rather than later, Find a Little Love in me, will find it’s way over here. Perhaps very soon, lol. Right like in the next hours. (I decided that while I was writing)
Have a great time,
Read you very soon (and ad-free)
Once in a while, there are poetry competitions on Wattpad. I admit, I am not very competitive, that doesn’t stop me from taking part. Mind you, I never won, but the challenge of using words or prompts is one I like. Here are 5 poems I entered in a competition this year.
We received a list of words. The ones in bold were the ones I used.
The same list of words was used
Again, I never won. I am not bitter, but I know that I am not a bad writer. If I thought lesser of my writing skills, I would have stopped writing by now. Which in turn sounds conceited.
Why is life this complicated? And why do I twist my own words?
Any thoughts on those poems? Any inspiration maybe?
I am not entirely sure when this was written, but it must have been 2014 or 2015.
I would have offered my broken bed
Give you shelter
But you are a man of lies.
You need me to fail
But I changed
There are reasons for me to be.
Sometimes I am fading
I always will
My weakness is my strength.
When I see you there is music
I don’t believe you
You are deceiving.
These emotions rolling off my tongue
Everything for you
Nothing for me.
And I am drowning
And I am fading
You will not save me. You’re a man of lies.
I built a fort with blankets and invite you in
Inside, there is no time
No past, no present, and no future.
We can hide from the shadows of our lives
Pretend that there is no worry
No schedule, no responsibility, and no hurry.
Meet me in my fort and forget the world with me
Imagine that time stands still
Until we decide that it is time to move on
I built a fort with blankets, please, come in.
(Somewhere lies a short story in this, but I couldn’t grasp it.)
Tossing and turning
The past and the future
No lessons I am learning.
Hands on my skin
I cannot push them away
Taken against my will
“Stop” I whisper and pray.
But you didn’t stop
And you never will
I move on
I am standing still.
Twenty years later
You are still in me
You made me who I am
I will never be free.
Forced inside my body
Tattooed where you have been
I was fifteen when you had
your hands on my skin.
Vulnerable and emotional
Most days I grace you with silence
I don’t want to remember
You and your violence.
But today a friend told his story
And I feel brave this very instant too
It is not easy to speak;
To validate you.
I never forgot you and your smell,
I never will
Haunted in my dreams
Feeling the old chill.
You will never leave my soul
And no matter how far I run
You are already there
Declaring “this was fun”.
I was a victim of your lust
Not strong enough to kick you off
But a lot of time has passed
Is my forgiveness me being soft?
I don’t think it is
But I deserve more than the past
I own my present and the future too;
A future that will last.
When I want to give up
Your voice is part of the reason
It is hard not to give in
It is a battle to live to see another season.
Tossing and turning
These are old memories
Yet they are still burning.
Too many men and women survived the same ordeal
Superheroes in their own right
Broken but strong enough to see
Life is not made of darkness, it is made of light.
L is for love
L is for life
L is for lust
L is for learning
L is for laughter
L is for light
L is for longing
L is for the little things
L is for …