Pen names are a beautiful thing. They are cocoons, allowing for the metamorphosis of a writer or poet. A writer either reveals their identity or they find solace in their cocoon. I know many talented poets whose identities are still a secret to me. Anonymity has its perks, and many writers become published this way. Not all paths lead to the same place. For those that want to be known, I have chosen to use my website to promote their work by sharing them as a poetry or short story feature along with my own.
Short Story Feature
Eve Poetry Magazine is an organic evolution of my great love to support and help others. I use my social media pages, both @eve_poetry and @evepoetrygroup to create inspiration and mentor others. Becoming a published author depends largely upon marketing. I use my skills in marketing to help bring light to beautiful poetry and writing.
I went into the kitchen escaping from the deadly silence that follows a catastrophe. With my mom weeping in a shady corner of a locked room and my father sternly reflecting over his life on the balcony, no food was cooked that night. I began to search amid the scattered paraphernalia of the kitchen when luckily I found a stale chapati in the casserole. Succumbing to the material exigency of my body, I went ahead to extract a course out of a crumb.
The torn pieces of the ‘whole’ chapati, bit by bit, settled the wavering acceptance of my family’s rupture that had been simmering in me. Liberating my saturated tear ducts while chopping onions, I deceived myself and the desolate kitchen walls into believing the falsity of my tears.
Flowing into the task of dicing tomatoes, my tears coalesced with their pulp and freshness, bled into the pleasant memories of my once happy family. I kindled the flame to the frying pan, waited for the oil to heat, and finally released the shredded onions in it. Their frenzied splash was no less than a rebellion, silenced with time that shrouded their pain in a golden robe.
Sorted vegetables, basic spices, and a stale chapati were the ingredients of my art, a recipe borne out of grief and hunger.
Adapting to the engulfing isolation of my room, I strived to eat. Every bite initiated fresh tears, loaded with anguish and amazement to trickle down my drooping cheeks. The unreasonable guilt of being hungry on a day, symbolic of my family’s failure ached my heart. My parent’s infidelity was a sword stained with the murder of my jovial childhood, abandoning a dispirited teenager, uncertain of her actions in this wildly unsettled world.
The simple yet so appealing flavours of the dish evoked an impulsive response of awe in my heart, which made me wonder if it is loss that makes us cherish the simple pleasures of life.
With no reaching hands, no affectionate cajolings, without a smile, slowly and with difficulty, I struggled to finish the food that night.
Food, though a requirement, appeals to the senses and invokes the warm memories of love, happiness, care, intimacy, and sometimes, grief. To me, the memories of food were the unconditional love of my grandmother poured every summer in a mango milkshake jar, the school friendship kindled by the sharing of my special pasta, the blueberry pancakes that sweetened the air on my first date. Those cute fights with my mother when she promised but did not make my favourite dish and my father’s affection boxed in an ice cream tub until the day my parents sanctioned their divorce and all those beautiful memories faded into the painful one of a stale chapati.
I am Muskan, from India an undergrad student majoring in literature. I am an avid reader and a writer.
I feel strongly for the things around and do not shy away from voicing my opinions. Apart from literature my interests lie in music, drawing and calligraphy.
Warm breaths fogged the glass. As she looked out from the frosty Wednesday morning window. Gosh, she thought, this coffee had better taste good.
Her hands were a little cold from a, forgetting her gloves on this first icy morning of late October’s autumn; and b, from bicycling all the way from her inner-city apartment to the coffee shop. She had gone the scenic route, through all the auburn and gold leafed parks she could, and also by the high walled waterways. The morning air was hard on her.
She cradled the cup of cappuccino in her hands, drawing the warmth into her fingers and savouring the slight burn on her frosted skin that it brought. This had been a hard morning.
The telephone had rung at 3am. It was her Mam calling. She had pictured her father, sprawled out dead somewhere, his troubled heart health to finally have taken him over. No, it was worse. Her own beautiful, beautiful brother. Malcom. He had fallen into tragic circumstances, in a motor bicycle incident. In the early hours.
It was such a shock. She wasn’t sure if she screamed or was silent, but the whole floor, room, earth had fallen out from beneath her. She was left in some sort of darkness, breathing heavily, the earth silent and holding breaths. “Mummy?” she remembered groaning.
A sip of coffee, a twirl with the spoon. Scooping up the white flesh of the coffee attendant’s efforts, milk froth. With every spoon, she tried to calm herself. He had been hers. Not hers… but hers. A brother was special. At least her brother was. “Oh, Malcom!” she mouthed to the window frame. She buried her head in her hands. “What have you done!” She mouthed again, but she was sure nobody had heard her, not even the pigeon’s gathering outside. She drained the cup.
What does one do on the day that your brother is dead, she thought, as she reclaimed her bike, and started a slow cycle? And where should she go? Home? To a park, library, or friend’s couch?
She booked her plane ticket. It was easy to want that, when you were living seven hundred stories from hope. She imagined the dirtiness of the city, with scenic decay where she was from. It was such a contrast to the clean streets of the inner city in London where she currently found herself. But both cities had those contrasts, if only you stood in the right spot. She could smell the rosewater, turmeric and dust, and see the colours. Sometimes she missed those colours. There were things she didn’t miss.
And then there was chai. Family time. But she wondered now how Mummy would take it, now that she drank coffee.
Laura was her best friend. Delightfully Spanish and speaking both Spanish and Portuguese with a deft tongue. Suneela found herself firmly planted around her kitchen table.
“And! Darling, Suneela!” she announced loudly in English, “What is it?”
Suneela took a deep and shaky breath in, telling her all the troubles.
Laura pulled her by the hand to the couch and grabbed an old doona. Snuggled tight, they sat there in each other’s arms. Then, she told her everything she thought she knew about her brother, everything that was great. All the stupid stories. And sometimes they cried, even when laughter crept into them. When the words ran out, they just sat there, silently. Laura mopping up the river of tears. Somehow the world seemed darker then, as the lights crept out.
Hours later, Laura was making an extraordinary coffee for Suneela. Again, her fingers gripped the warmth of the cup, and the tastes rolled off the tongue. “Malcom”, she sighed. But the earth kept turning. In a way, it did. And the words were lost in the sound of her breaths.
The journey seemed short. The plane touched down. She climbed in and out of rickshaws. Then a short train, and into a family car. The town was a city, and the city had a life of its own. The day sparkled fresh and warm, and felt almost like a paradise. Compared to that frosty cold of London the day she had left. What was it they called it in literature, she mused? Old London town?
When she saw her Mum and Dad, the tears cascaded down. Mummy broke first. The flood gates were open, and for two or three days they did little else. Talking about mundane things, or memories of Malcom. Silent walks together. Chai. Coffee. Oh! He had been so great.
An old boyfriend popped by the house. He had popped back from mid-semester university studies in America some place. All for Malcom. Perhaps for her, too.
They sat, the light trailing on her balcony, alone, each with coffee and their own thoughts. The chocolatey and bitter arabica taste soothed her nerves, and gave her a bit more life. This was going to be a hard year, she mused, as Arjun’s eyes met hers, unguarded, and they both smiled. She for the first time in days.
It was nice they found each other before the funeral. Really, she thought, hurriedly. He was holding her up.
Decisions she made were falling leaves on falling graves, and as the light faded, the coffin closed, and all the love was poured on top in the form of flowers. A floral tribute of goodbyes, flooding, a soul already gone.
The days afterwards faded into monotony. Arjun met her in anxious moments. It added life and colour to otherwise hard and dark times. She wondered if there would ever come a time again for joy and amusement. It seemed like the sadness was a wave that had washed into and on her, and she rode it. Coffee with Arjun were the exceptions to those times. But still.
Then, on the morning she was due to leave back for London, there he was, on her doorstep, holding her favourite bag of coffee beans. The ones they had drunk together all those times, grieving for her lost brother. A little light, a little dark roasted. He was there, in offering, so sweet, and a single rose.
In sadness, she recognized a happiness. And she cupped his face with her palm and kissed his cheek. “Arjun”, she said. And for the first time in days, she smiled.
Clare Marie Salokoski
Clare Marie Salokoski is an Australian born writer from the lush and subtropical coastal town of Coffs Harbour on the NSW North coast. Here she spent her free days rainforest trekking, snorkeling and fishing. As an adult, she traveled across many continents before settling in the cold North of Finland.
She is currently securing publication for her first poetry collection and editing her children’s fantasy novel. She loves nothing more than to write, but also works with children, and now in Cosmetology as well. You can find her poetry account on the Instagram handle @claremariewithpoetry as well as on Facebook as: Clare Marie Salokoski.
Ransom E. Olds created the assembly line in 1901 to keep up with the demand for horseless carriages. His invention enabled his factory to go from producing 425 cars in 1901 to 2500 cars in 1902. Henry Ford is presumed to be the inventor of the assembly line. Ford improved upon Olds’ process by installing conveyor belts. This shortened the time to manufacture a Model T from a day and a half to ninety minutes.
Baylee Elliott looked up at the clock, whistled for a moment, sighed and chewed fast on her gum and chewed some more. Her gum was flavorless, the sugar and sweet grape flavoring absorbed by her jawing and saliva. She’d popped it in right after the last break. There were two fifteen minute breaks a day, a half hour for lunch. Most of her coworkers used their breaks for smoking or the bathroom. She didn’t smoke, had tried it once, stopped when her grandmother shriveled up from one too many sun baths and skin cancer. She had worked on the assembly line, too. Baylee had taken her place as Inspector No. 13, right in the middle.
Inspector No. 13 was responsible for inspecting unfinished metal articles of furniture for defects in metal or poor work. Anything unacceptable was marked with a crayon or chalk and returned for repairs or scraped. She also had to feel the welds and look for burrs and if she found any, remove them with a file or emery paper. Baylee inspected hospital beds. They were only halfway assembled when they reached her. Sometimes she got overtime at the end of the line, inspecting assembled beds in their entirety.
She had never been called to the front of the line or to the Supervisor’s office except when they handed out paychecks, or there was a problem with the time clock or some general thing, but she was walking there now her feet moving slowly in front of her, she stepped slow and evenly almost tip toeing. A couple of her friends from the front end of the line looked up and smiled, it was a grim smile they gave her. She figured they were thinking she was in trouble or getting the axe or some other such bad luck. She smiled back, her smile had been plastered on her face since she’d received the note marked #13.
“Baylee. Thanks for coming down. Have a seat.”
She continued giving out the same smile, sat and smiled some more. “Thank you, Mr. Barry.” Mr. Barry was tall, thin, had a greasy swatch of black hair along the backside of his head, the rest of it bald. He was pale, as pale as she was, both of them pale from working days inside the windowless factories, in the shadows, human ghosts.
“It’s close to break time so I’ll get right to it Baylee. Your work here is good; I want you to know that. We don’t have a problem with it. We just need to reschedule you for a few days. Have you work nights.”
“Nights? Mr. Barry, I don’t know if I can do that, see I take care of my Momma at night, during the day we have a nurse with her, but–.” “It’s just for a few days, Baylee. It’s about your adjacent.” “15?” “No.” “14?” “Yes.” “Oh.” “We’ll move 14 to nights, too. For a few days. And then you should be able to get back to your regular slot.” “I guess so.” “There’s been some discrepancies in his work. You just have to tell us what you see. Simple, right?”
Baylee nodded. Pulled back on her ponytail, brushed the hair from her eyes.
Going to nights wasn’t as hard as she’d thought it’d be. There were some perks, too. Mr. Barry said she could keep anything she found that didn’t involve Inspector 14, and as long as it wasn’t cash or jewelry. She didn’t know what she was going to do with golf clubs, or contraband software because she didn’t play golf and she didn’t own a computer but she’d found them strapped up inside the bed frames, some strapped up to the underside of the mattresses or inside the mattresses. There was clothing, too. Silk scarves, t-shirts, socks, any number of cheaply made overseas goods.
She hadn’t known 14 long. He was short, shorter than she was, was tan or spent the better part of his weekends in the sun or a tanning booth, his hair was blonde, almost white, his face a ruddy red from sunburns or tanning booth burns. He was young, too, younger than she was by almost a decade. She guessed he was in his early twenties. Not married. At least there was no ring, no white line where a ring should be. He was always smacking on some gum and drinking soda. She didn’t know how he dodged the bathroom with only two fifteen minute breaks a shift. He was local, and he spoke with a southern accent. He’d moved back here from somewhere else, was living with his Mother. His Mother had worked here but was retired, that’s why he’d hired him, Mr. Barry had told her.
“Baylee. Come on in. Shut the door.” Baylee wiped her hands on her smock. Pulled tight on her ponytail. “Have a seat.” “Uh, I don’t–.” “I know you’ve been out on the floor. It’s okay. Don’t worry about getting the seat dirty.” Baylee nodded and sat. The chair was dark wood with a light veneer finish. A polished plastic cushion was attached to the seat and the back. “Have you made any progress?” Mr. Barry poured himself a cup of water. Offered her a cup, too.
She smiled, took the cup with both hands, taking a long draw of the cold water.
“With 14? No. I mean I ain’t. Scuse me. I haven’t seen him doing anything but his job. He isn’t that fast, but he don’t get behind. I know you’ve heard that story bout him. Bout the time he was working the night shift on the front desk at the Blue Ridge Motor Court and got caught smoking weed on the job. Cursed that woman out, the manager. Told her she deserved all the names everybody called her behind her back. That was years ago. I think he’s been straight since he moved back.” She took another sip of water. “Is that what you wanted to know?”
Mr. Barry shook his head. “Just keep looking, Baylee. I know you found some stuff. Golf clubs. Software. Keep looking. It can’t be drugs. You’d smell that on him, but it’s something.” She tried bringing coffee to 14, he would just take it, nod, gulp it down, grin as if she was trying to get a date out of him and she wasn’t. Even if it wasn’t on her watch, her assigned watch from Mr. Barry, he was way too young for her and she hated his sideburns, too long almost to his chin’s edge and the soul patch. It was all too much. The nights were getting to her; she wasn’t sleeping, and she wanted to tell Mr. Barry to shove his third shift and go somewhere else but jobs were scarce so she stayed and spied and looked for nothing and took home bootleg that Mr. Barry didn’t want or didn’t tell her to give to him for the higher ups who’d paid to have them snuck in in the first place.
It was five weeks in and she had upped her coffee ante to five cups a day instead of two when she found something. It didn’t seem like much to her, but maybe it would be enough to get whatever Mr. Barry wanted to get on Inspector 14 so she could get back to the days move around in the daylight again.
The idea was clever and simple. The best ones always were. She knew someone had said that, or she had read it somewhere. Inside the sides of the frame, the long sides that connected to the bedposts or the square headboards, that’s where it was from a staffing shortage at the plant up the street and they’d moved some inspecting to her plant, to Baylee’s line.
At first, she didn’t know what it was. It didn’t look like anything to her, maybe a child’s drawing or a secret map, or some kind of foreign language smut, but that wasn’t it at all. It was pictures. Expensive photos. Stolen art.
She didn’t know what they were worth or where they were coming from or how 14 was involved and she debated warning him or at least his Mother but she didn’t know her either and sometimes trying to do a good deed would backfire at the very least costing her her job if Mr. Barry found out and he always seemed to find out, had his finger on the pulse of everything in the factory and that was even before there were cameras, computers and security punch codes.
She ratted out 14 on a Monday night, early about 6 am an hour before her shift ended without a break. She was looking forward to sleep. Maybe eating something, a biscuit or an egg sandwich, she hadn’t decided.
“You did good work, Baylee. You’re a loyal employee. You’ve worked hard.” “Thanks, Mr. Barry. Does this mean I can go back to days now? I’m tired of this night shift.”
Mr. Barry stared straight ahead and sighed. He scratched his chin. Baylee looked out through the Plexiglas to the floor below. A couple of policemen were escorting Inspector 14 out of the building. He never looked up, never looked at her once and while she was watching him hunching over and ducking and trying to hide his face from the others and being dragged out of the building, she realized that she didn’t even know his name, didn’t even know his last name, didn’t know a thing about him except what Mr. Barry had told her and what little she knew of 14’s Mom.
“Yes, Baylee about that. You won’t have to be on the night shift anymore.” “Oh, that’s great, Mr. Barry. I’m so glad, I–.” “Wait a minute. Wait a minute. This is the part I hate.” Baylee sat up straight, tensed her shoulders, bit her lips. “Mr. Barry?”
“Baylee, I’m sorry. I don’t have a choice in this. They handed it down from the top. It was inevitable anyway. I mean, you did the company a favor finding out about the art theft ring 14 was running, but it’s just that–.”
“Just what?” Baylee’s face was flushed, sweat pouring from her forehead, her hands balled into fists. She had never interrupted Mr. Barry at any other time. “Your work fell behind on the night shift. Up until then–.” “But I was doing what you asked, and I–.”
“I’m sorry, Baylee. That’s just how it is. I’m sorry. You’ll get severance pay. And three more months on your health insurance. I’ll be glad to write you a letter of recommendation anywhere you want to go. This didn’t come from me. I did what I could. You know how it is with manufacturing jobs. Not one of us is safe anymore.”
Baylee nodded and smiled thinly, but it was still a genuine smile. “You’ve always been good to me, Mr. Barry, so I believe you. I’ll walk out of here without any trouble, and I’ll be calling you sometime about that recommendation. You’ll take my call?” “Of course.”
Baylee stood, held out her hand, shook Mr. Barry’s hand, light at first and then harder with a couple of squeezes as if she was throttling his neck. She made it to the parking lot before the first tears fell, and she sat in the front seat of her Pontiac in the parking lot an extra fifteen minutes after her shift would’ve normally ended. She wiped her eyes, started up the car and drove home.
It wasn’t until she was sitting under the carport with the car turned off, sunrise almost in full swing, that she opened her smock and pulled it out. She didn’t know who had made it, where it came from or what she could sell it for. She just knew it was worth a lot.
L.B. Sedlacek has had poetry and fiction appear in different journals and zines. Her first short story collection came out on Leap Day 2020 entitled “Four Thieves of Vinegar” published by Alien Buddha Press.
Her latest poetry books are “Simultaneous Submissions” (Cyberwit), “The Adventures of Stick People on Cars” (Alien Buddha Press), “The Architect of French Fries” (Presa Press) and “Words and Bones” (Finishing Line Press.) She is a former Poetry Editor for “ESC! Magazine” and co-hosted the podcast “Coffee House to Go.”
LB also enjoys swimming, reading, and playing ukulele.
Tired of sleepless nights, I went in search for a blanket which would bring sweet sleep to my swollen eyes. The market was painted with the beautiful colours of the fluffy fabrics. Folded in rings, some hanging from projecting beams, some laid in dusty piles, others were unravelled for the customers, while my eyes glided to the brightest shop of the market.
It relieved me to see the radiance of the rugs because it is the infinite darkness of my shabby blanket that haunts my nights. The shopkeeper displayed exactly the blanket I wanted, the brightest, thinnest and yet the warmest.
Nothing but the cage of my own fears tricked me into buying that rug without even giving me a chance to demonstrate if it could shove away the evils I was afraid of. Inevitably the night came, and it left me to conquer the darkness.
As a routine, I switched on all the lights and used my brand new blanket to insulate my body from the cold. My brain exploded with fear and disappointment to encounter darkness again. Helpless and anxious, I began walking to and fro on my bedroom floor, pondering and in the quest for the reason of this engraved fear. The banal cycle of day and night, my daily routine, the people I meet, my workplace and every trifling transaction I make were all vividly displayed in front of my eyes.
We pretend to be tigers, free and wild in the jungle of life but are beaten and filthy, trapped in human viles. Polished faces and branded clothes are lavish veils to obscure guilt and remorse.
The next day, when I met people, I knew their fears. I could penetrate through the sparkle in their eyes and could see the filth beneath it. If this is how we live, then my fear was nothing but just another expense of life.
Now, I sleep in peace with my lights off, cuddling in my blanket, knowing that at least the darkness underneath it is much more honest than the darkness outside.
I am Muskan, from India, an undergrad student majoring in literature. I am an avid reader and a writer. I write poems, short stories, articles and also wish to be a novelist in the future.
I feel strongly for the things around and do not shy away from voicing my opinions. Apart from literature, my interests lie in music, drawing and calligraphy.
The quiet city boomed with life with the start of another school day. The entire neighbourhood was like a beehive during the honey-making season. Relishing the sound of the rolling tires of school bags scraping the pavement, the bus engines roaring up and down the neighbourhood streets, and preschoolers running around playing hide and seek, I got out of the bed and went to the kitchen for my morning dose of caffeine.
Glancing at the couch, I could see Aurora asleep with the book she was reading lying on the carpeted floor. The sight of her sleeping brought a smile to my face. Her image soon disappeared once reality sunk in. She’s gone now.
The atmosphere was faintly thicker than that of a normal day, as her mother’s departure marked the date on the calendar. That dreaded date.
Aurora was only eight years old when her mother passed away, but she was mature enough to know death. It meant the end, darkness, and an eternity of nothingness. This idea of nothingness, to a child who couldn’t imagine a void, was dreadful.
Stillness. I lay in bed and gazed at night’s silent companion. I admired its shocking purity. It is both empty and full. I can see nothing, and I can see everything. Its magical powers did not sit well with young Aurora, for she could not harness her wild imagination then. It is amazing the number of creatures one can see in the night, but it is also amazing how it could all go with the wind in the blink of an eye.
Fear did not leave me, for it never leaves. It is always replaced with another. It is understanding, though. It sometimes induces me to believe it is gone. Oh, those brief moments of relief. They are pretty but short, usually the case with beauty—brief, deceptive, and powerful. The sun soon shall rise, snatching my comfort along. You would think I can keep my comfort by shutting my eyelids, but no—light manages to seep through and crawl underneath the covers.
The sound of tires making contact with the paved street was white noise and a persistent reminder of the ongoing day. I sat up, inhaled deeply, paused, exhaled. I stood up with eyes closed, feeling the blood rush through my body. It didn’t feel as if it were going through my veins. It just felt like a waterfall going down my body. Again, I took a deep breath, held it, then released.
The bathroom glass mirror is a window into the soul. Every day, I attempted to hold a gaze with my reflection. I blinked and looked away. Horrified. I was awake, but my heart was asleep. Short slow beats. Scarce oxygen. Heavy limbs. Robotic movements. My body opened the freezer and got some ice. I put it in a mug and followed it with cold milk. Then, boiled water to soak two bags of mint green tea. I stared at the tea while it cooled down, then poured it over the iced milk. My morning drink. My humble dose of caffeine.
I returned to bed. The fan was dusty. There was no Aurora to turn it on. She couldn’t live without it. We would argue all the time. She, being warm-blooded, could not function a second without a fan or air conditioner. I, although warm-blooded too, could not stomach the continuous air hitting me. My head would throb, and I would feel my insides whirling in my abdomen. It often felt like a slow dryer or an eye of a hurricane.
It is safe to say that I only use the air conditioner now. If Aurora were ever to see the electricity bill, she would for sure be disappointed. It is expensive, but I cut back on other stuff. For one, I am almost always sitting in the dark. The light emitting from my laptop screen is enough for my nocturnal being. They say using your electronics in the dark is much better for your eyes anyway. I don’t know anyone who said that, but I am almost completely sure someone somewhere has said it once.
The clock struck eight. My morning drink finished, I headed back to the kitchen. I placed my mug on top of the island, opened the fridge, grabbed three eggs, cooking cream, some cheese, and kicked the fridge door shut with my foot. Then I put it all down on the counter and fetched the pan. I oiled it and cracked the eggs in it. I started stirring slowly, added the cream, stirred, added a slice of cheese, and stirred till it cooked through.
I grabbed my wooden chopsticks and started eating right out of the pan. Salt. I forgot to add salt and pepper. I continued eating while standing. When done, I washed up the dishes and headed to my room. The mug was still unwashed on the island. I’ll wash it later. Putting on some beige slacks and a button-up white shirt, I slipped on my only pair of brown leather shoes. I picked up my car keys and unlocked the front door. The mug. Her voice was clouded, but it was there.
I went back inside to wash the freaking mug, and then I was straight out of the stuffy apartment’s door. Climbing in my sedan, I turned on the radio to full volume.
One of the perks of having your job overlook the beach is that you’re driving with the greenish-blue water onto your left for half of your ride. Crystals scattered across the surface of the water and the sand. One can see the sunlight bouncing from one crystal to another.
Aurora and I spent a lot of our time on the beach. She would insist on having her birthday there every single year. It was neither easy nor comfortable since she was born on the tenth of August. It was a death wish to go out in the sun during August, but she never cared.
I would schedule it for four o’clock so that the sun wasn’t screeching hot anymore but would still melt a human being. I would bring multiple coolers filled with ice and cold drinks, and I kept them in the shade so that the ice lasted till the end of the party.
Aurora was very active and forced everyone to play with her. Her favourite game was volleyball. By the time the whole thing was over, she would have sand in all the crooks of her body and all the pockets of her clothes. Her curly hair was another story. Sand would keep falling from it for a full eight days.
Catching a glimpse of the playground, I awoke from my trance and took a right turn to the preschool. I parked close to the entrance and took a deep breath, paused, and let it go. Entering the preschool, the sight of children plastered a smile on my face for what would seem like an eternity. Aurora used to teach math to those kids alongside me. On her first day, my pride flooded the school.
When she left, I had to cover her hours until they found a replacement. It took them a few months to find a replacement for her, but they eventually did. They had asked me to train the new teacher for a week since I knew Aurora’s teaching plan by heart.
The bell rang, signaling the end of the school day, and chaos filled the hallway leading up to the busses’ assembly point. Other teachers yelled at the kids to be quiet and walk slowly, but I didn’t bother to. There was nothing that could tone down the kids’ glee on this fine summer day.
My smile turned down a notch as I stared at them diving into different buses that would soon drive them to their homes where summer break awaits them. I exited the preschool and entered my car. There was no trace of a smile left on my face. Turning on the ignition, the radio blared with the sound of Rolling in The Deep by Adele. Pulling out of the parking lot, I continued down the road towards the Hypermarket, still driving by the beach.
One birthday, Aurora showed up late with a cast around her right ankle and crutches supporting her tall but petite body. She had a smile that reached her eyes while her crutches were digging their own grave in the hot sand. For a millisecond, my heart dropped in the pit of my stomach. It happened occasionally. She would either twist her ankles every two weeks or so, or tear a ligament once every few months. That day she still managed to find a way to participate in all games. She even threw a tantrum when told to be the referee in the football match. I sighed audibly at the memory. Then rolled the window down to both soak the memory in and let go.
The ocean breeze whispered her name, and for a second, I let the crashing waves lull me to momentary relief. Adele’s full-throated voice got swallowed by nature, and I surprisingly found it relaxing. The breeze whispered, the waves roared, the birds chirped, and the sunbeams screamed, while the sand grains maintained a quiet conversation amongst themselves.
Amidst all this noise, I heard her joyous, smooth laugh. Taking a right, a left, and another right, I reached the market’s parking lot. I parked and walked myself to the entrance. I went up the side trolley entrance. Walking uphill, I looked at the rails she would use to help pull herself up to reach the door before me. My steps automatically slowed, and I waited to see her jumping up and down, flailing her arms everywhere with her red curls bouncing in all directions. Her happy dance. She started fading, and I walked through her dancing image with a clogged larynx. I breathed in, paused, let go. Inhaled, held it in and released. Breathed in and out. I repeated this a few more times, focusing on my heartbeat slowing down.
I walked down the painfully familiar aisles aimlessly, looking for something that I remember thinking I needed to get. I didn’t want any sweets. I didn’t want any crisps. I didn’t want any biscuits. I didn’t want any milk or cereal. I didn’t want any condiments. I didn’t want any salt or spices, but I did need eggs. I grabbed a dozen eggs and walked back to fetch some orange juice and a mint chocolate chip Baskin Robbin’s tub from the cold aisles, as she used to call them. To her, they were rural villages located in Britain.
I went to the “10 or less items” counter to avoid a queue. As Philip scanned my items, I caught a glimpse of the gum shelves next to him. She would beg me for a watermelon flavoured Extra by now. Philip handed me the white plastic bag with a smile that I tried to return.
The ride home did not include an ocean view. Buildings on each side kept on doubling in height. I couldn’t help but feel them closing in on me, and the two-lane street became one lane in an instance. A turn right to my apartment building was an escape I needed.
Going up the elevator and walking to my doorway, I unlocked the door, turned the knob, shut the door behind me, and threw away the key. I placed the bag in the fridge as it was, but then remembered I needed to put the ice cream in the freezer. I pulled myself to my room and shut the blinds.
Lying in bed for the third time today, I pondered my life choices. I didn’t seem to have any anymore. If I did, I knew I wouldn’t want to live for long because I knew if I were to, I wouldn’t do so without the pain.
I repeated her name in a loop in my head in a pitiful attempt to bring her back home. Why wouldn’t time stop? My time. Why wouldn’t it just stop? Why am I still holding on to it? Why am I still breathing? Why couldn’t it have been me instead? A river streamed from the corner of my eyes and poured into the delta of hair. My lips dry and trembling opened to let out a silent scream.
It was thirty minutes to six—time for dinner. I am not hungry, but I needed to eat because… I honestly didn’t know why. I took out the leftover pizza from two nights before. I put four slices into the microwave and waited for the beep. Then I turned off the kitchen lights and took my plate to the living room, and turned on the TV. I ate the semi-warm pizza and watched some show I didn’t know. I watched lips moving, but heard nothing. Thought nothing. Barely not forgetting to breathe.
We had driven to her graduation. She had glowed, and I was grinning proudly. I had forced her to get up early, so we can get to the venue early. She rolled her eyes at me, but deep down she was glad, and it showed. She was ready when she woke me up before the already early alarm I set.
Little did I know that a few more hours of sleep were what she needed to avoid that day’s events. We got there with time to spare, and she ran to her friends on stage. I watched as they discussed their standing arrangement.
“Tall students, please stand on the short bench at the back line please,” a teacher said over the microphone.
Aurora’s four friends immediately pushed her towards the bench and stood in front of her. I smiled proudly, seeing as she took her height from both her mother and I. Her mother would’ve been so proud of how long our daughter had gone from learning her first word to graduating highschool.
Soon, the ceremony started, and she was going up the stage stairs to her assigned spot on the back line bench. Rays of light beamed from her smile. At the end of the graduation, she and her friends talked about their plans. Then Aurora came up to me asking for permission to go along, and I couldn’t give in easily, but eventually, I did. After all, she had her mother’s charm. One couldn’t just deny her wishes without guilt eating them up.
I let Aurora enjoy the pool with her friends, with a promise to pick her up at around seven in the evening. I went back to work at the preschool, then home. My phone rang at about thirty to four. Aurora’s name flashed on my screen, so I answered it immediately, expecting to hear her plea to extend the curfew.
“Hey, umm… she’s okay, but we’re at the hospital,” her friend said. My brain froze. The night ended with her friend sleeping over and me texting her to drink water every thirty minutes or so. She often scared me like that, making it easy for her to prank me come April Fools.
I’m soon out for a walk. I walked and walked, nothing but Aurora occupied my thoughts. The sky morphed into a lion’s mane, and I stepped closer towards the sea. The thick sodden humidity could be inhaled, as my large coarse hands enveloped the bright urn. I traced the intricate designs with my fingertips. Traced the flowers, amber-like her curls, peaking through June’s green canvas. All blurry. All her. My lower lip trembled, and I caught it in between my teeth. A cry failed.
I looked ahead to witness the sun skinny-dipping into the sea. The sand itched its way between my sinking toes. My right hand reached to lift the lid, and my eyes shut. Waves of sorrow engulfed my being. Opening my eyelids, the only light came from the full moon and the few street lamps on the beach’s sidewalk.
She was everywhere he looked, but mostly the sea. Once the water leveled his heart, he stopped and closed his eyes, listening to the wind’s caress his cheek almost as if to wipe the falling tears. Taking a deep breath, he pulled the urn up higher and softly tilted it, watching her travel with the winds, and he let go.
Noor is a 20-year-old Palestinian writer, whose main focus is poetry, but is exploring fiction writing. She’s a senior English language and literature student at An-Najah National University in Nablus, Palestine looking to pursue higher education in creative writing and literature. She runs a local creative writing and drama group called Englitopia, and she fully intends to expand it in the foreseeable future to include youth all over the world.
Noor is yet to be a published author but has been working on a few projects for a while now. However, she is aiming to build an audience on Instagram before publishing anything. She believes that creative writing is not only a passion but also a powerful tool for self-discovery, self-awareness, self-development and self-expression.
Once upon a nightmare, under a dark sky and behind gloomy trees, there was a manor in Scotland. The fog hid the murky frontage wall. You couldn’t miss it when you were entering Edinburgh. Nobody had the courage anymore to cross the threshold of this huge house different from the others and there was a reason.
The Hamilton family had adopted a girl everyone feared, her name was Olga. She was as white as the falling snow of December, her hair was bright like the lightning that illuminates the sky on a stormy day and her eyes were so clear that they pierced you. No one could look at them. She had a very low voice and a tone so cold that you could just freeze, hearing her.
Since they adopted her, she just sat there every day, at the same window staring at the falling rain that slowly turned into snow. This was the first time she would celebrate Christmas with her new family.
Even though everyone feared her, and that she didn’t smile anymore, Olga liked her new family, but she knew they had a secret. A deep and sad secret, but she could never ask them about it.
The couple that had adopted her already had two children, a young girl, older than her named Fiona, and a boy younger than her named Logan.
The days had passed. The evening of the 24th of December finally arrived. Outside the snow was falling in large flakes and the blizzard was so strong that we could hear the wind tapping on the windows and the sky was dark, nothing could be seen through the windows of the manor except the shadow of the huge trees that were hiding the mansion.
Olga and Logan were locked in a room playing with some toys and chatting about this special evening. Logan loved to imagine what kind of present he could get on Christmas evening.
“I hope to get this year the soldiers that match my castle! I’ve waited so long to get them!” cheered Logan.”
“I never liked these kinds of events,” said Olga, with her natural frosty tone.
“Why not? Christmas is great! You will love it here with us. Every year our godfather Drosselmeyer comes and bring us awesome toys he made!” said Logan.
“Don’t be too happy, Logan. The blizzard outside is so strong that uncle Drosselmeyer can’t come until morning. We will spend the night here,” said Fiona, walking in the room.
“Oh no! Wait, Fiona, why did you come in here? Does it mean that?” asked Logan.
Suddenly the lights went out. Everything became silent, except for the blizzard outside. The door opened, a big black silhouette followed, scaring the children.
“Surprise!” screamed Mrs. Hamilton, holding a candle.
Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton stood in front of the door. They were smiling to the top of their laps. Logan was very happy and ran to his parents’ arms. Olga didn’t show any emotions. Fiona noticed it and felt sorry for her. She came closer to her.
“Are you okay?” she asked nicely.
“Yes,” answered Olga.
Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton took the three children down to the living room. They gave Fiona and Logan their presents. Olga silently watched her adoptive brother and sister open their presents with her blue piercing eyes. Mrs. Hamilton watched her.
“Olga? Come here honey, we also have something for you. Godfather Drosselmeyer made it for you,” she said.
Mrs. Hamilton gave Olga a small packed box. Olga unpacked it slowly and discovered a small Nutcracker with a big mouth. The worn paint made it seem old. He was scary with his big black eyes and his big opened mouth. He had a big head and wore a red officer costume. The young girl held it in her hands, intrigued by his gloomy face, when it suddenly surprised her. She thought that the Nutcracker smiled at her. Olga got scared and put him on the table. Mrs. and now Mr. Hamilton looked carefully at her. They tried to make her smile.
“So Olga, do you like it?” asked Mrs. Hamilton, smiling hopefully.
“Yes. Thank you,” said Olga, lying.
“You know what is it?” asked Mr. Hamilton, also hopeful.
Olga shook her head no.
“It’s a Nutcracker. As the name says, it cracks nuts. When you find a nut too hard for your little teeth, like this one, you put it in his mouth, here. Then you close it, and the nut breaks,” said Mr. Hamilton, showing her.
Olga took the Nutcracker in her hands with amusement. She smiled a little, saying nothing. The Hamilton parents were glad to have made Olga smile finally. But they looked at the big clock in the living room. It was getting late. They looked at their two children, Fiona and Logan, who were playing happily with their new toys.
“Children! It is time for bed now!” shouted Mrs. Hamilton.
Fiona and Logan sighed. They left their toys in the living room and went to their rooms. Olga didn’t move and continued playing with her new toy.
“Olga it is time for bed” said Mr. Hamilton, smiling.
Olga didn’t listen to her adoptive father. The Nutcracker captivated her. The candlelight near her toy made a big and frightening shadow on the wall. Seeing that Olga wouldn’t move, Mr. Hamilton took the candle and smiled at her. It was the only candle left in the living room.
“The Nutcracker can come in bed with you,” he said.
Olga got up with the Nutcracker in her hands and went to the room she shared with Logan. Even though Olga liked her Nutcracker, she felt glad to get in her warm bed. Outside, the blizzard was so strong that the walls couldn’t insulate the house well. A chilly atmosphere reigned in the dusky room. It was silent. Logan slept already. Olga felt a cold blast. She got scared and climbed in her bed, leaving the Nutcracker on her bedside table. The house plunged into a deafening silence. The coldness soon left leaving behind a frightening atmosphere.
Olga woke in the middle of the night from a horrible nightmare. She could have sworn she heard not only footsteps but people talking in the living room.
“Logan? Logan.” she whispered, but no one answered. She looked in the bed next to hers. Even though it was dark, her blue piercing eyes noticed that her adoptive brother’s bed was empty. Then Olga saw a faint light appear in the hallway. She stood up from her bed and walked to the living room. There were voices coming from the living room.
Olga approached the voices until they became clear. Then she recognized the Hamilton’s little boy, Logan. He was speaking to someone. It wasn’t Fiona’s voice, or Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton. Olga walked further into the living room.
Logan held the only candlelight, and to her shock, he was talking to mice. “Logan?” she said.
Surprised by his adopted sister, Logan put out his candle, plunging the room in a total black. A silence settled in the room, with the subtle sound of blizzard wind outside.
The room grew colder. Olga shivered.
“Soldiers, charge! Attack her!” someone yelled.
Sharp pokes at her feet scared Olga, who couldn’t see anything. She didn’t understand what was happening and ran. But blinded by the absence of light, Olga run into furniture, the walls, and Fiona and Logan’s toys.
Despite her many attempts, she couldn’t escape the pointy things that pained her feet. Then she felt a hand on her nose and mouth. Someone behind Olga wanted to silence her. But Olga put up a fight, kicking the person behind her until he or she let her go.
“She’s too strong! We have to do something!” someone screamed.
Before Olga could react, she felt a cold energy around her. Then she felt someone in front of her. She tried to run away but, still blinded by the dark, hit against something hard and cold. She moved her hand to check for a wall. But she felt a lip. A hard lip.
“Could this be?” she said.
“Yes, I am the Nutcracker!” said a voice above her.
Then everything became clear to Olga. The cold energy that surrounded her was magic. Dark magic. Someone had cast a spell on Olga to make her small. The size of her Nutcracker. Olga felt an icy hand take her arm and pull her behind, then it let her go. It confused her. Then noises, like a knife cutting. Having read enough fairy tales, she understood right away it was a battle, and it terrified her. She walked along the wall trying to find a suitable place to hide, but the swords drew closer to her.
“Olga, go! You must leave this room, leave this place, you are in danger here. They will find you everywhere!” said a voice, but something or someone interrupted it.
Olga heard a hard thing fall next to her. She walked toward the noise but hurt her foot bumping into a piece of wood. It was her Nutcracker. It lost the battle. Who had her Nutcracker battled?
Olga heard an evil laugh. The laugh sounded obscure and cruel, and it got louder. She felt the gloomy laugh approaching her when she heard someone whispering her name. “Olga, Olga” said the voice.
Olga turned slowly, afraid to face it. A chilly breath passed through her body. She saw small red eyes, red like blood, and it petrified her. The eyes came closer to her. Olga started running as fast as she could and tried to find the door from which she came. She stopped to catch her breath and looked back. The red eyes disappeared. Relieved, she turned back when abruptly she heard again the evil laugh over her. Olga looked up, terrified. The small red eyes stared at her. She stepped back, screaming. Was this what the Hamilton family called “Christmas evening”? Was this why they liked this event so much? The eyes jumped on her. Olga screamed at the top of her lungs.
Then another scream, a louder one, sounded in the room. It wasn’t Olga’s voice. Terrified, Olga cried and begged the eyes to let her go. She couldn’t stand looking at them anymore and squeezed her eyes shut till she passed out.
Olga awoke in her bed. She looked around her. Everything was light and clear. It was morning. Next to her, Logan slept peacefully. She looked at her bedside table. The Nutcracker stood where she left it. She closed her eyes and put her hands on her head. She remembered that her brother wasn’t in his bed. She saw a light coming from the living room, that her brother was there talking to someone. She remembered everything.
Olga took her Nutcracker in her hands, but it looked normal. Nothing had changed about her toy.
“I’m sure it was just a nightmare,” she told herself.
Probably the worst nightmare she’s ever had. She got up from bed and went to the living room. As she thought, everything was normal.
The big clock on the wall showed it was 9 o’clock in the morning. Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton sat calmly in the living room drinking tea.
Fiona came in a few minutes later. “Good morning, everyone! Rough night, huh?” she said.
“Yes,” answered Olga, in her distant tone.
“Where is Logan? Shouldn’t he be awake already?” asked Fiona.
“Now that you mention it, I haven’t seen him all morning. Maybe he just wanted to sleep,” said Mrs. Hamilton.
“I’m not sure I’ll go check on his room,” said Fiona.
Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton let her go. Unfortunately, Olga couldn’t explain why, but she had a terrible feeling. Like something happened or would happen. She reasoned it was because of her nightmare. No. Something terrible would happen.
A sharp scream resonated from the walls of the manor. They all ran toward the scream coming from Logan and Olga’s bedroom. Mr. Hamilton was the first one to reach the room.
“What’s wrong Fiona?” he asked, out of breath.
“Oh my god dad, it’s terrible, look!” she cried, turning around.
Mrs. Hamilton and Olga stood at the door, horrified. Fiona, Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton cried over Logan, dead in his bed.
It appeared to Olga someone stabbed him in the back. She walked closer to him. His eyes open and emotionless. She tried to move his arms, but they were lifeless. The Hamilton cried all the tears from their body. They couldn’t believe something like this would happen, and on Christmas day.
Olga felt touched. She couldn’t move anymore. She felt horrible, sad and most of all, guilty. She didn’t even know why, but she felt that Logan’s death was her fault. The tears came slowly to her blue eyes, illuminating them.
Mr. Hamilton took Olga in his arms and hugged her. Unable to control it, Olga cried too, and Mr. Hamilton took her out of the room. While they were leaving, Olga noticed that the Nutcracker disappeared.
Her adoptive father took her to the living room where Mrs. Hamilton and Fiona sat crying. Olga cried with them, crying all the tears she had. No one could believe what happened, no one at all. Not even godfather Drosselmeyer, who came a few hours later. The blizzard had stopped, and the roads cleared. Christmas Day turned to the darkest, most horrible day.
The family never recovered from Logan’s death. Not even his adoptive sister, Olga.
The Hamiltons waited for Christmas to pass to have Logan’s funeral.
Olga was the most touched by Logan’s death. She still felt guilt about it. Like she had a connection to his death, or was the reason he died. She sat by the window watching the snow fall from the sky. The big green trees turned white. She felt empty, something in her was missing.
She turned back. She was sure she heard someone whispering her name. Olga searched the room, but no one was there. The voice she heard was familiar.
Olga felt a cold wooden hand touch her legs. She knew the touch. Reluctantly, she peered down. It was Nutcracker was calling her. She gave a little stifled cry.
“Shush, I will not hurt you!” said the Nutcracker.
“Then what do you want from me?” she asked.
“Nothing, it’s what you want from me!”
“I want nothing from you!” said Olga.
“You want to understand what happened to Logan, don’t you?”
“Yes, more than everything. But you’re a Nutcracker, how can you know anything?“ cried Olga.
The Nutcracker explained to Olga everything that happened on Christmas evening to Logan’s death, and suddenly everything became clearer to the young girl. She was right about everything. During the night, someone had put a spell on her to make her tiny. Her adoptive brother spoke to someone. It was a mouse.
The Nutcracker explained that her brother, or the person she thought was her brother, was actually a rat. An evil rat at the service of the Rat King. A long time ago, the Rat King had cursed the Nutcracker. Olga was the only one who could break it. When she came to the living room on Christmas night, they had thought she knew about everything so they tried to kill her. That’s when the Nutcracker came to rescue.
Logan tried to murder her. When the rat jumped on her, the Nutcracker stabbed him in the back and killed him. The rat uttered a horrible cry and then died. Afterwards, the Nutcracker took the sleeping Olga to her bed and Logan, then dead, to his bed. Then he placed himself back on the bedside table.
Christmas evening wasn’t a dream but reality. After telling Olga his story, the Nutcracker left the room. Minutes later, a young, handsome gentleman entered the room and presented himself to Olga.
“Good afternoon, my sweet young lady. I am Nathaniel Drosselmeyer, Mr. Drosselmeyer’s nephew. It’s very enchanting to meet you.” He kissed Olga’s hand and stayed to talk to her.
He flattered and intrigued her. But Nathaniel’s voice was strangely familiar.
My name is Lina, I was born the 30th of June 1997 in Cairo, Egypt to a French-Egyptian father and an Algerian-Syrian mother. My curiosity has always led me to the most random places on earth and it has now led me to small magical Luxembourg where I have been living for 2 years.
I am always described by my loved ones as a very creative and imaginative girl. Friendly with a bubbly personality and who is always traveling and always positive. I grew to be this person as I have always loved to read stories, especially fairy tales.
I have a great passion for writing and that I absolutely love to share my stories. Whatever I go through in life, I always make sure to end up with a good story to tell, hoping it will inspire and maybe help others. Because if you are not taking risks and being a little crazy, you are not living life to the fullest. As I always say, “Look beyond what you can see”.
I shouldn’t have stopped there. I had too much to do rather than sit at the lake for an hour or so, pondering at the possible twists and turns life would throw at me that week. But the sashaying waves and its positivity reached its arms out to embrace my negative thoughts, begging to comfort them.
I pulled my bright red 2004 Nissan Sentra onto the blue gravel that served as a makeshift parking lot. Then shifted the gear to the soft orange glowing P, wriggled my gray beanie over my head, and forced the zipper of my black long-bodied coat all the way up to my chin to protect from the cold. I wrenched my keys from the ignition and jostled them around in my dry palms to hear their song before stepping out of the car’s bubble of warmth.
My worn sneakers hit the gravel, crunching the small rocks underfoot. I thought I was completely sealed in my jacket’s warmth, save for my hands and ankles, but the wind managed to infiltrate the boundaries that were set. Its cool whistle set my body to vibrate, and my teeth became well acquainted in their incessant dancing.
The sun started its descent and sent its streaks of pink, yellow, and blood orange stretching across the sky’s blue canvas. These same drops of color spilled onto the lake’s body. I stiffly began my short march to the water’s edge where a lone metal bleacher stood unevenly on the terrain, unoccupied.
I lowered myself onto the bottom row of the stand, wincing at the sharp chill that shot through my exposed fingers gripping its edge to gain my balance. Once settled, I tucked my hands under my armpits as an attempt to reduce the numbing that began to crawl up my poor extremities.
I looked out at the landscape. There were patches of green grass attempting to thrive amongst the wilted browns that took over most of the ground.
The infrequent days of warmth really confused them into thinking spring was coming sooner. March’s indecision to be either warm or frigid was at fault. In the same confusion, the trees were half dead, lurching over the opaque water as if its gray limbs scattered with leaves of green suffered from kyphosis.
On the farther side of the lake, the murmuring of couples, so captivated by themselves rather than the view, drifted into my area. I’ve sat in that exact spot of the bleacher many times before, hoping one day to be lost in eyes of honey or emerald. But then, on days like this, I see the golden streams of light waving their last goodbyes.
The water rolls and waves back softly in return until the moon’s slow arrival excites it into a flash mob of reflecting white light. And I realize I don’t want to trade this show for another’s performance. At least not for a while.
Indigo splashed over the horizon and soon it was hard to see anything but the dark shadows of the dead trying to emulate the living.
The cold had nearly left me embalmed, so I rose with difficulty. My blood ran its race through my limbs as I took each step stiffly back to my small car.
The handle of the driver’s door and my hand were the same temperatures, so I pulled it upward with ease and slid into the seat, quickly pulling my coat tail in after so the wind could do the work of shutting my door with such chivalry.
I couldn’t tell you what else I thought of while witnessing the day’s finale. But when I sat in the car, twisted the key in the ignition, and listened to my car wheeze a few times before rumbling to life, I had come to accept nature as being a comfort from my solitary.
Maybe that’s what the wind was trying to convince me of the entire time it whispered its piercing trill in my ear.
Edwina Joe-Kamara is a first-generation Sierra-Leonean American. She is currently earning her B.A. for English at The College of New Jersey.
Her poetry and artwork were recently published in her university’s literary magazine, Lion’s Eye. She finds inspiration for her poetry and short stories from her faith, nature, music, and battles with mental health.
She aspires to be a full-time writer/illustrator and hopes to travel the world. She is currently working on a manuscript for an unnamed chapbook. She resides in South Brunswick, NJ with her mother, Justina.
Follow her poetry account on Instagram for regular content: @e.j.kamara
I remember staring at him from across the room wondering how I could love him more than he loved me. How could any God in this universe allow that? I remember how I unzipped my chest and took out my bloody, naïve heart and handed it to him… while he lounged on the sofa and counted ceiling tiles.
My 20-year-old self needed a prince, a knight, or at least a man who just would tell me how enchanting I was. I wanted him to burn down buildings and then walk through the fire to rescue me. I wanted him to see me in slow motion… to be his muse and his motivation for breathing. He should shed his masculinity but still, be a man. I thought I needed him to take me to rooftops and compare my eyes to stare. Or tell me that all the magic in the world is contained in the small space found between his palms and mine.
Love was matching tattoos and anniversaries of trivial firsts. Love was catching me off guard, taking my picture, and remembering me this young forever. Love was walking away just to feel the crushing devastation of missing each other.
I didn’t get that love. I didn’t get that man.
I discovered that love isn’t made of expectations or time lines. Love isn’t a cheap postcard. Love isn’t a heart….. love is a backbone.
Instead, I got a man who sat near my hospital bed counting the seconds until I woke. A man who could list all my medications like ingredients in a recipe. A man who knows I am broken but never tries to fix me; only discovers a more delicate way to hold me. A man who isn’t afraid of words like cancer or recurrence because we take each day as its own. One day at a time… sometimes one minute at a time.
What I got was a man who lets me unfold myself into his arms when I’m having a bad day and celebrates the major achievement of having a good day. And I realized that rooftops and sad songs and romantic ideals Do Not Matter.
All the magic in the world is really contained in his hands as they hold my face and he looks into my tired eyes to whisper, “It’s you and me.”
The Beginning of Ugly
Written by Kristi Jeansonne
Here I am. I sit here in the dark curtains drawn together tightly with the edges tacked with clear plastic pins shoved almost horizontally into the drywall. I run to lock my door and in a panic; I tuck a blanket into the tiny gap under the door. No light is to breakthrough.
The pain is coming. Sitting on the floor isn’t enough. I must be more hidden, more isolated. I need to crawl into the closet and shut the door behind me. My back is against the wall and my head in my hands. This is where the pain comes. This is where the pain lives…. here in my hands.
I remember the first time I thought about taking my own life. I was 8 years old and under my bed, at the bottom of the heavy bedpost, I carved ‘I want to die.’
The words were simplistic; the writing was primitive, and mostly, the statement was powerful. I had no concept of death and dying, of beating hearts or failing organs. I had no conceptual ideas of heaven and hell. I didn’t realize the extreme permanence of making my words into actions. What I did know is that dying meant disappearing. And above all, I wanted to vanish.
I can’t remember the first time I was insulted or the first time I was hit. But I do know where ugly begins. I know where ugly lives, right here in the palms of my hands.
I used to feel heartbroken until I realized that my heart was fine. It’s my mind that’s broken. In this closet, in this darkness, I begin to release the victim inside of me. victim. victim. victim. victim. ugly. ugly. ugly. The words must be said to begin letting go. Say the words with me—victim. ugly. Repeat the word, write the word, stare at the word. The more you say it, the more you see it, the more foreign it feels.
Cradling back and forth, I can think. I’m unable to hear or see. All is numb except for the intense pain in the pit of my gut. The pain crawls from the center of me, up through my aching heart and erupts out through my eyes. The pain carries my memories through this well-worn path.
The wave of emotion knocks me down and washes over me. This closet is like the ocean. I’m drowning in this salty, polluted water while the broken, sandy ground below me does little to help. My body is aching, and my soul is crying out to return to dry land. I can do this: I can save myself. I can stand up and save myself from drowning. Then, I manage to pull myself up and gasp for air.
Breathe. Focus. Walk three steps. Collapse.
Falling onto the wooden floor grasping at splinters and following the worn-in, destructive path of hard times. This is who I am. A broken person, sick with some sort of mental pain. Violently drunk with desperation, my eyelids crush together to force out tears and mildly ease my blurred vision.
I see a glass atop my desk. In a reversed-crippled fashion, I stumble upwards to tower over my cluttered belongings. In one massive sweep, I clear all from my sight, revealing an ivory desktop smeared with ink and makeup stains.
I needed to hear the crash. I took a breath of relief as I felt some anxiety waning. With the tears still streaming, I flash over to the mess below, neighboring my bare feet.
With zero hesitation, I fall to my knees and dig my palms into the millions of shards of glass. My hands and mind all ache with relief.
The sight of blood soothes my mental state as if I tricked myself into believing this was why I was flooding myself in tears in the first place. With trembling fingers, I scoop the salty puddles from between my lips. I prop my limp bag of blood and bones against the wall and begin to feel peace.
It’s as if I was at war with my imaginary self and reluctantly I won. I curl my blood-soaked fingers together and tighten my fist. It’ll soon be time for my hands to open wide and expose this pain once again.
Kristi is a mother of two, a two time cancer survivor, and no-nonsense kind of gal from Lafayette, Louisiana. She is an avid coffee drinker, counts frequent eye rolling as cardio, and loves a comfy cardigan.
She also loves to write about deeply personal experiences and uses writing as therapy. If you’d like to read more writing, you can check out her Instagram page @yellow.house.artandpoetry
He came home feeling exhausted, as if someone extracted vim and vigour out of his youthful enthusiasm.
“How long would I be able to hide her?” his mind whispered.
His profound thought bubble ruptured as soon as he heard her voice! He moved silently towards the bathroom and began to peep through the door gap.
There she was, lying on the floor. Struggling all by herself to save her weary half body.
She saw him having a peek at her, and just then she shouted, “How could you do this to someone? You have no rights to treat me like this!”
Her voice expressed lividness just like her bruised half body.
“I bought you. I can use you, cut you,” he replied.
She looked at him with wrath as he blabbered.
“I can smell you, touch you.” He continued to speak as he moved towards her.
She looked away from his disgust.
“Save me, I’ll melt in you, or crush me and kill me,” she begged.
He twisted the tap knob and left the premises.
The water came gushing out, touching her body. She started to dissolve into the speeding water and she moved out swiftly through the floor drain.
Her smell was hard to diminish, just like she said.
Rosie Soap, with extra rose petal fragrance.
I am commonly known as the woman with a quill. Who lives in the paradise of tales. Inhaling imaginations. Creativity is what I exhale.
I am a writer by passion and a brand strategist by choice. Successfully striking a balance between sipping wine and deadlines! I’m based out of Mumbai, commonly known as the “city of dreams.” Thereby, living the dream of bringing all my ideas into words and finally converting them into realities.
Writing has always been my serious passion. Be it for brands or just a casual fictional write up for open mics across Mumbai’s storytelling and poetry communities.
Want to know more about my life? Here’s me Instagram handle – @the_sinskaari Happy sneak peak!
Her life began in a beige and green grass field. A headfirst tumble into existence. A soft thud as the earth accepted the weight of her. A soft sound from my mouth as the wait for her ended. Then silence.
Nine months of carrying life in my swollen stomach lead to this moment: her, a tangle of dark limbs in the grass; me, a tangle of every emotion beneath the summer sky. What more was there to do? What was there to say? Me, just standing. Me, a deer in headlights. Warm sun above. Big dark eyes below. A baby. Sunshine.
I wanted to apologize. Wanted to kneel down and tell her how sorry I was. I’m sorry that you exist. I had no choice. But she didn’t speak the language that lied like thick milk on my tongue. She spoke only the language that exists between mother and child. The language of milk and mouth. A hungry cry. A clumsy attempt to nurse. Me still sorry, but trying to give her what I could.
I was one of the lucky ones, they said. Some aren’t so lucky. Some don’t even get to see the baby.They put her head in a cage, I heard. Kept her eyes straight ahead. I heard the baby was born male. Poor mother, poor baby. Up the road, they tie their necks to posts. That’s a little better, I guess. Do you think you’ll get to see your baby?
I spent days watching the sun rise and fall. Waiting. Waiting for them to take her. But soon she was walking. Soon the leaves were changing and crunching beneath her clumsy steps. We walked together along the fence, stopping here and there to watch the horses through the slats. She tried to talk to them sometimes like I did when I was young.
In the Spring of one exceptionally wet year in my youth, I watched a boy race around on a great white horse. It had been raining that morning, and I could feel the slickness of the earth beneath my own body. So it was no surprise when the horse crashed onto its side, taking the boy with it. Both let out primal screams. A gray-haired man scooped the child up in his arms. The horse, however, stayed there on its side for two days, grunting. Then, on that second day, the man came out into the field again. I watched him watch the creature. Run his long fingers over its snout. Pull something shiny from his waist. Watched the way it fit against his skin like an extension of the human hand. Boom. A sound like a quick bolt of lightning striking a tree. A soft echo. Silence.
I told her this, my baby, so she would know of both acts of kindness and of cruelty and how sometimes they had to overlap. I loved her, despite not wanting to. I loved her, and that’s why I did what I did. The night they pierced her ear, I knew that time was running out. I knew her future was approaching, the one I had lived, the one my mother had lived, one of chronic pregnancy and pain and babies being taken from you just to live in the same purgatory. Until death. And so I fell asleep on top of her.
Her life ended in a beige and green grass field, and I was alone again. Soon, I was growing another inside of me. I felt so empty for such a swollen creature. The spring was cold and wet, and I missed the feeling of sunshine upon my skin, of the warmth of a baby next to me. But I didn’t wish to feel it again.
I wished that a wolf had found us that day in the field. Wished that he would have torn her throat out. Because a wolf knows no cruelty, just survival. Humans are worse. I hope that they tie my neck to a post when I give birth to the life growing inside of me now. It would be an act of kindness. I can’t raise another and feel what I feel now. And they can’t even see my sorrow, hear my cries. All because I have four legs and hooves. Because I was born a cow. Because my baby was, too.
I Bare My Teeth
by Liza Rose
I am fighting to feel, fighting to not feel as much.
I long to be a house cat content in watching birds through a dusty window; content in finding a patch of sunlight whose heat I can curl up in; content in sinking my claws into carpeting, yawning, flicking my tail, stretching my back to the crescent moon.
I long to be a house cat. I long to be content.
But I am not.
I amfighting to feel, fighting to not feel as much.
I am an animal blessed with intelligence, cursed with intelligence. blessed with emotion. cursed with awareness.
My self defense lies not in claws or jaws but in pretending.
And so I bare my teeth in the form of a smile and pretend to be content.
Liza Rose is a student at The Pennsylvania State University studying English. We can find her work in the poetry anthologies “War Crimes Against the Uterus” by Wide Eyes Publishing, and “Foraging” by Globalage Poetry.
She enjoys tennis, coffee, horror films, poetry, and everything else that makes her feel utterly alive. Connect with her on Instagram @Lizarosepoetry & @Liza.lies.alot!