only love

“Come to me…” She heard the whispered words again and again. She saw the hand reach out for her, and she tried to grab it. But it was in vain. Her fingers never touched the ones that were outreached to her. She saw the despair in his face and tried harder to get to him, but the last inch to be there, grab him and cling to him was always missing.

Startled, she woke up. Drenched in sweat and tears. She had had this dream so many times before, and each time it became more real and more intense. She wanted to be with him, that was all she knew and cared about. The yellow streetlights illuminated her dark room, casting gloomy shadows on the ceilings. It didn’t appease her. A storm was raging outside, and branches of the large tree in front of her window whipped against the glass. It made for a frightening soundtrack of the night. She laid down again and punched her pillow a couple of times until it had the desired shape and turned to the side. She never closed her eyes. They stayed glued to the window. She was waiting for him. She waited for the familiar shadow to appear.

~~°~~

“Come to me…” He whispered the words in her ear, trying to soak in her familiar scent. She was asleep and didn’t hear him. He reached his hand out to touch her, and she tried to touch him too, but it was to no avail. As much as he wanted to feel her skin against his own for one last time, it was impossible. He couldn’t hide the pain he felt, and he knew that she saw it. He tried harder to reach her, but the last inch to grab her and take her with him was always missing.

Her time hadn’t come yet. And until then, he had to wait and be patient. He visited her every night, but on one particular night every year, she could see him. He sat on the windowsill and listened to the storm while he watched her sleep with her eyes wide open.

~~°~~

She saw him. He sat on the windowsill with a smile on his face. Occasionally, he looked outside as if in deep thought and when his head turned back to face her, she thought she had seen a frown. This night, this particular night was always the same for her, and she loved and dreaded it alike. It was the night he was back, and her dreams seemed so much more real than every other day. Days prior to this particular date, she didn’t sleep, because she waited for him to appear. She wished he would stay longer than only that night, and she wished he would talk to her. Instead, he sat there and watched her. It was all a dream. A hallucination. That’s what they said. But she knew better. She knew better because she didn’t only see him; she felt his presence.

~~°~~

He smiled at her and watched over her. Occasionally, he looked outside, and it reminded him of that fateful day years ago.

He had been drunk after the party. He shouldn’t have walked home in his state, but he had also known that he was in no shape to drive. She had called him on his phone, and he had slurred that he loved her. He had wanted to see her and took a shortcut through the woods. It had been raining that night and dark. Really dark. He had started to run with an unknown urge to be with her and then, it had happened. He had fallen down a slope, and he had hit his head on a rock. When he had woken up, he had laughed because he had known that the fall could have killed him.

And it had killed him. I took him a while to realise that the lifeless body he had been looking at was his own. It had happened so fast. A bright spark had appeared, and light-tunnel had captured him. He had fought to stay and go see her one last time, but the force that had taken him from this earth was stronger than anything else he had ever experienced. He had made a deal with the invisible force then and there. He had stopped struggling and floated willingly up into his afterlife after negotiating one last wish; he demanded to be able to see and watch over her. And he did. He came back. Every year. Until the time had come to finally take her hand and take her with him.

~~°~~

The night was fading, and the storm was calming down. The shadows on her ceiling slowly vanished, but he was still there staring at her, and she kept watching him intently, trying to remember as much of him as possible. In her mind, she told him that she loved him and that she missed him. In her mind, she told him everything she couldn’t say out loud anymore. She didn’t react when there was a knock on the door. She knew what would be happening next. A chubby woman in a lab coat bent over her and pushed her hair out of her face. He smiled at her and waved, then he blew her a kiss, and she saw him say “I love you”, but she didn’t hear the words. She fought to push the nurse away, but she obstructed her view. When she finally moved, he was gone. The woman who had entered obscured the view to the window again and helped her sit up. She stopped struggling and fighting. It was all in vain anyway. They didn’t understand. They didn’t see what she saw.

“It’s time for your pills honey.” Two cups were put in front of her, and she obediently emptied them both before she opened her mouth to show that she had swallowed everything, just like she was supposed to do.

~~°~~

The nurse patted the patient’s shoulder and retreated. She key locked the door again once she was outside and sighed. Halloween was always the worst day for this patient. It had been five years now since she was with them and although she was better on most days, on October 31st, she was suicidal and had to stay in lockup for her own safety. She had never talked, but everyone knew about the events that had ended her in the mental institution. The nurse didn’t need to hear the details of the tragedy; she knew that only love could make someone lose their mind the way this woman had.

(written in October 2014. I would change many things about this story – more details, and the writing style is weird too, but there is potential in this couple of paragraphs)

Letter to a stranger – happy new year

Dear stranger,

First of all, happy new year. I didn’t send an email or message for Christmas this year. I preferred not to get in touch. We both know how bad it is for our sanity when we are a part of the other.

Today I made a list of all the reasons why I never loved you. I wished everything I came up with were true, but you know well that it isn’t. I miss you so much. I miss the way we were and the way we never were. Maybe it is all just a huge pile of turds.

I loved your eyes

I loved your hands

I loved your voice

I loved your words

I loved your smile

I loved your c*ck (a lot)

I loved your humour

I loved the way you touched me

I loved your vulnerability

I loved your creativity

I loved your thoughts

I loved that you saw me in the dark

I loved me when you loved me.

I loved everything about you. Every moment we shared; every tear we cried; every heart-felt laughter. I even loved the sounds you made – all of them.

If I were a drama queen, I would tell you that I don’t want to live without you. I knew love; I tasted it in your arms and on your skin. I would beg you to come back to me.

But here is the truth: I know that you are happier without me. And I know that you love her. You deserve to be happy. I am glad that you are. And I don’t want you to be back. I couldn’t handle it. It would probably kill me.

If I were able to let you go, I would find my own happiness too.

You are probably wondering why I am still attached to you after all these months. I can only guess; I guess it is because you were the first person to love everything about me. You didn’t try to change me or my moods. The nagging voice inside my brain says it is because you didn’t care at all. Maybe it is true.

I still like the memories we made. I still like you even if you hurt me like no one before.

I miss your hugs. I miss the way you took care of me. I miss who I was with you. Wish you were here. I am a little obsessed with our past right now. I am looking back at the time when I was less alone and lonely. Must be the time of the year, I don’t know. Everyone is looking forward to the change of the new year. Everyone is making plans for the future. But the year cannot change us if we are not ready to change. I don’t make sense at all. I feel silly admitting all these things. Every healthy woman would drop you and move on. But you were my breath, and some days I think back to that time when you told me how to breathe… You left a void nobody can ever fill, no matter how hard they try. Could it be that I am addicted to the way I felt with you? Could it be that I miss how I felt, not who made me feel that way? Am I giving you too much credit? Will I ever be able to take back my life?

I hope you think of me with a fond smile once in a while. I wish I left a small trace inside of you. Something good.

Forever not yours,

Sweetie

Upside Down – who is Giuseppe

At the other end of town, a middle-aged man was pacing the length of his office. Every once in a while, he looked across the room at two burly men who didn’t dare to look at him. They tried to be as small as they could, given their sizes and the confining space of the leather chairs they sat in. Giuseppe’s rage made a large vein on his forehead appear. It looked intimidating and as if it would pop every moment now.
“One thing. Just one thing,” Giuseppe seethed, pointing a meaty finger at his minions. “That stupid little…, how could you lose her?” The boss was not amused, and the look of his lackeys did nothing to soothe him. “I want my money, and I want the girl. Bring me both. If not, your future is sealed. Now get out of my sight. And don’t come back without Mildred.” Giuseppe rubbed the bridge of his nose to fend off an impending headache he felt.
“Yes Sir,” Tonio and Richard answered in unison and left Giuseppe’s office.
Exhausted, Giuseppe dropped down into his chair, massaging his temples. He looked left and right, making sure that no prying eyes were watching him, and then, out of a folder, he pulled a picture. On it, a younger version of Giuseppe was leaning against a tree. Next to him, another man stood with a little girl on his shoulder. Looking closely, one could see the men holding hands. Lovingly, he traced the other man’s face with one finger, wishing he would be able to touch more than just a fading picture. He remembered the day the photo was taken vividly.
Giuseppe and Connor had taken their daughter on a picnic in the park. They had played ball and fed the ducks; they had played catch and eaten fresh sandwiches Connor had prepared for them. And later in the afternoon, when the girl had been tired, the little family had found this large tree that offered shade for them all. A timer had helped to take this family picture, and minutes later, little Milly had fallen asleep in Giuseppe’s arms.
That time was long gone. Twenty years later, all Giuseppe wanted was revenge. Milly had stolen from him. Not only had she stolen Connor’s heart, but she had taken money that wasn’t hers.
Giuseppe slipped the picture in the folder, hiding it again. He had sought revenge for such a long time; he didn’t know how to stop anymore. If he let Milly go, he would appear soft to the other mobsters around, and his reputation would be damaged beyond repair. Silently and secretly, Giuseppe only wanted peace of mind. He wanted his family back, and he wanted to spend the remaining years of his life in the presence of his little girl and the love of his life. Neither was at his side for now, and as long as he was chasing Milly, she would not be back without a fight. Giuseppe sighed and cursed. Life was complicated. He just hoped Tonio and Richard would not kill Milly when they found her. “Where are you, you silly girl?” Giuseppe asked into the empty room. The question echoed off the walls without a reply.

Find a Little Love in me 81-100

81
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.


82
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.


83
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.


84
“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.”
*Ding*
“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.


85
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.


86
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.


87
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.


88
“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.


89
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.


90
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.


91
“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.


92
“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.”


93
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.


94
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.


95
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.


96
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.”


97
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.


98
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.


99
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.


100
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.

Find a Little Love in me 61-80

61

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.


62

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.


63

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.


64

“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.


65

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?


66

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.


67

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.


68

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.


69

“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.


70

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.


71

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.


72

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.


73

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.


74

“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.
“Why here?”
“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.


75

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.


76

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?


77

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.


78

“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.


79

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.


80

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…

Find a Little Love in me 41-60

41

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.


42

“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.


43

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.


44

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.


45

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.


46

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.


47

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.”


48

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.


49

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.


50

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.


51

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.


52

“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.


53

“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.


54
“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.


55

“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?”
“Tonight”
“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.


56

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.”


57
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.


58
“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.


59

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.


60

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)

Find a Little Love in me 21-40

21

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.


22

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.


23

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.


24

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.


25

“Hey, Sweetie.
“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.


26

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.


27

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.


28

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.


29

“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.


30

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?


31

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.


32

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.


33

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.


34

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.
*Ping*
“What are you doing?”


35

“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.


36

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.
“Me too.”
“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.


37

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.


38

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.


39

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.


40

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)

Find a Little Love in me 1-20

1

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?


2

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.


3

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.


4

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.


5

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.


6

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.


7

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.


8

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.


9

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.


10

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.
*ding*
“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?


11

“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.


12

“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.”


13

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.


14

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.


15

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.


16

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.


17

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?


18

“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.


19

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


20

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

It runs in the family

​My grandfather lied to my grandmother, I guess it runs in the family. Didn’t Shirley Bassey sing about history repeating itself? I looked at the letters on the table in front of me. My grandfather had written them to his mistress, and now, after his passing, I had found the mysterious box in the back of his closet. It had taken some effort to open it. Keylocked without a key. The tingling in the pit of my stomach had been right. Secrets. Hidden for decades. I chuckled. But, there was no humour in the sound. I had been lying to my wife too. I had written letters to my mistress too. Well, emails, but it was the same, basically. I scrambled the sheets of paper together, folded some of them neatly and put them in their hiding space again. I shook my head. The revelation, the impact of it all, and the way it would change my whole family if I chose to not keep this hidden, had come in an innocuous coffee shop. Of all places. Family secrets were strewn on a worn Formica table in a public place. I felt embarrassed. I looked at the other tables around me. No one seemed to mind me. The table next to mine was vacated, all that was left were dirty dishes and five bucks on the table. I waved the waitress over and asked for another double espresso and a blueberry muffin. She smiled at me, taking the purple lollipop out of her mouth. For a moment I thought I had seen a piercing on her tongue, but maybe I was wrong. The air smelled of the artificial sweetness as she held the lollipop between her fingers while she jotted my order down. The woman was nice enough to look at, but I wondered why she couldn’t remember two simple items. She winked at me, put the lollipop back in her mouth – and, this time I definitely saw the shining piece of metal on her fleshy tongue before she turned and moved to the counter. I looked after her. Definitely someone I would take to the hotel, I thought to myself. I released another mirthless chuckle and looked at another letter. I almost blushed from the words I read. The handwriting was pleasant and easily readable, but the words… It was more descriptive, more detailed than I ever wanted to know. My grandfather seemed to have been quite the stallion in bed. I thought back to my business trip to Berlin last summer. I changed positions to accommodate my emerging boner. Yeah, my grandfather and me, we shared the same genes. On a whim, I decided to keep the letters to myself and ask the young waitress out. If she was only half as good as the German girl from last summer, she knew exactly how to use to piercing in a way that would bring me lots of pleasure. I grinned when she approached. I didn’t have a guilty conscience because of my wife. As I said, I guess it runs in the family.

Curiosity killed the cat

Sunday night. The weekend was uneventful, and I am watching reruns of the Gilmore Girls. Half a bag of chips is gone. Half a bottle of wine makes me feel comfortable and warm. There’s a knock at the door. It’s late. Dark. No moon. I wonder if I forgot a date or something, but there is nothing and no one that I remember.
Should I open the door? I’m scared, and my eyes lose focus. Something isn’t right. I was watching TV and mute the volume now. Is it too late to pretend not being in? Did I make a lot of noise? I pull my legs closer to my chest and forget to breathe. My ears are on high alert and in my nervousness, I bite at the skin surrounding my thumbnail. Nervous habit. Another knock and a sound piercing the silence. Like a wail. Was that a human sound? I don’t know. Fuck! I run my hand across my face and try to think of what to do. My mind is blank. I am scared. That much I know. I am curious, too. Who is at my door at this time of the night, and what is happening? I put my feet on the plush carpet and move in slow motion. The sound of my beating heart is annoying. I can’t hear much else. Can I move the curtain without anyone outside noticing? Maybe if I don’t breathe. My heart races, it almost hurts. My clammy, shaking hands touch the cloth, but they don’t move it. Too risky.
I look at the door. Maybe they are gone by now?
And now curiosity wins. This is the exact moment in a horror movie where the brainless woman is killed in a surprise attack. Still, I open the door, just a crack. There isn’t anything. Just dark. Relief floods me. I feel the searing heat that kept me on my toes vanish and make room for a reassuring cold. I smile and shake my head looking at the floor.
There’s a liquid on my doorstep. A puddle of it. But it’s dark, and I can’t see its nature. Did someone release themselves against my door? I scoff. Drunks are everywhere. The entire time I had been hunched over and tense. Now I straighten my back, and relaxed, I turn to close the door. I will make sure to lock myself in. I don’t need this excessive agitation. I push the door, but it doesn’t close. Something is preventing it. And I see what it is. A foot. A heavy boot. I panic and push harder at the wood, but the foot doesn’t budge, and the door doesn’t close. A hard shove and I fall flat on my ass. A man enters. He’s huge. And while I try to get my feet under my body, he laughs. An evil laugh. Deep. My gaze falls to his hand. Right one. It is covered in a crimson liquid that drips on my floor. Will I be able to get those stains cleaned up again? He is wearing a black coat. Heavy. Appropriate for the fall weather. My eyes continue their journey, and they stop on his face. A scar from left to right. From the left eyebrow to the right corner of his mouth. His lips are twisted into a sneer. I have never been this scared in my life. Specks of red – maybe blood, cover his face. No visible hair, apart from the eyebrows. His eyes are dark pits staring at me. Wide open. Horrifying. I want to say something. Beg for something, but there is no sound. I am just as mute as the TV. It is still playing. I see the colors and the play of light and dark. The stranger closes the door with the heel of his right foot. The banging noise resonates in the silence. Why do I notice these things? The blood keeps dripping onto my floor. Is it his blood? Whose blood? More importantly, is it really blood? Blood. The word keeps spinning in my head and the many reasons why one loses blood keep my mind occupied. There’s no rational thought in me. But I still try to move away from the intruder. My arms and legs are no use. The more I try to move, the more my limbs refuse to cooperate. And when the man bends down over me, I freeze. I shake my head. I want to say something. Anything. Beg for my life. But someone must have stolen the words right out of my mouth. His sneer is burning itself into my brain. No one will ever find it there. His bloody hand guides my chin to look upwards. His breath doesn’t stink, and his touch isn’t cold. It’s almost gentle. I didn’t see the blade before. But I can feel its metal now. Cold a first, it warms quickly against the skin of my throat. His eyes keep mine hostage. How can someone have empty eyes like this? Ouch. It hurts. I try to take a breath, but no air fills my lungs. There’s a strange smell, and I feel so light. As if I am losing twenty-one grams. He moves closer and kisses my forehead. He whispers something. I can’t understand him. I panic and try to get away from him, but the way he is sitting over me keeps me from moving. I realize that I am being killed. No. No. I don’t want to… Curiosity killed the…

THE END