Black and White

I have a new short story for everyone today. Check it out. Let me know what you think.

 

Black and White

The dress. It was the first thing I saw when I opened my eyes. The dress that my sister and mom had picked out for me. The one they’d spent hours squabbling over. I didn’t care. I would have shown up to the church in rags if they’d let me, but they wouldn’t have that. So that overpriced dress had been hanging in my bedroom for the last two days waiting for its turn.

There was nothing wrong with the dress in theory. It was beautiful. Maybe even elegant. But I had a feeling that once I put it on, I would never truly take it off. It would graft itself to my skin. My life. It would become part of who I was, and who I always would be. And I wasn’t sure I was ready for that.

When the shriek of the alarm filled my quiet bedroom, I rolled over and willed it into silence with the press of a button. I hadn’t been sleeping. Wasn’t sure I’d slept at all. How could I? My stomach was a writhing mass of nerves. A live electric wire.

I crawled out of bed and headed into the kitchen. My mom and sister were already there. The smell of coffee permeated the house. But it wasn’t Brian’s. Mom had brought her own. She smiled at me, her eyes shining. She tried to convince me to eat, but I just shook my head. Not now. Maybe later. She furrowed her brow, but didn’t argue.

My mom and sister insisted on doing my hair and makeup. They wanted to pamper me. I wanted to escape. But I let them. While they tried to tease my matted rats nest into something beautiful, I closed my eyes and started checking items off the list. Flowers: check. Music: check. Priest: check.

I tried to picture Brian in the suit I’d picked out for him. I’d chosen black. He looked amazing in black. With a royal blue tie that he loved because it brought out his eyes. I wondered if he was already wearing it.

Then it was time. I headed back to my bedroom where my mom and sister helped me pull down the dress and climb into it. Their incessant chatter was giving me a headache. I could have done this alone, but they’d flown a thousand miles to be there with me. So I kept my mouth shut and let myself disappear into the deep folds of fabric.

We headed out front to wait for the car to pick us up. It pulled up to the driveway, and my dad opened the door. I couldn’t do this. I wasn’t ready. I knew everyone expected me to be there, but it was too much. That damn dress was making it hard to breathe. I bent over, trying to catch my breath, the electric wire in my stomach shocking everything it touched.

My parents crouched beside me whispering encouragement, but I couldn’t move. What if I just didn’t go? What if I tore the dress off and ran away? Never looked back? People would understand, wouldn’t they? 

But Brian deserved better than that.

“We’re going to be late,” Mom whispered, her voice urgent. She didn’t want to push. Didn’t want to scare me away. But we couldn’t be late.

I finally stood up, carefully wiping tears from my eyes, and Dad helped me climb into the back of the long, black car.

The church was already full when we arrived. Brian was at the front. Waiting. But the tie was wrong. Where was the one I had picked? Where was the royal blue tie? I took a deep shuddering breath. It didn’t matter what tie he had on. The blue one wasn’t going to make this any easier.

Dad took one of my arms; his touch soft and comforting. He offered a small smile, that flitted across his lips so quickly I wondered if I’d imagined it. Unrecognized tears sparkled in his eyes. I’d never seen my father cry.

He opened his mouth to say something, and my breath caught. It hung open for a moment, the words hiding inside a cavernous abyss. Then he snapped it shut and patted my hand. Sometimes silence was better than words.

He walked me through the door into the church. Everyone fell silent, twisting in their pews to get a glimpse of me. Women were already dabbing their eyes with handkerchiefs. The familiar strains of a string quartet followed my halting steps to the spot where Brian was waiting.

The priest smiled gently at me, but Brian’s face was fixed. As still as stone. I placed the single rose I’d brought beside him in the casket. “Til death do us part,” I whispered, a tear tracing its way down my cheek.

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First Time

After talking with an online writing group, I was inspired to try my hand at a short story, something I haven’t done since I was in college. And those were terrible. So here is the result of my first short story attempt in a decade.

*Trigger Warning*

Potentially abusive, explicit sexual content.

The First Time

Janie lowered herself onto the thin, lumpy pieces of fabric that served as a mattress and wondered how the hell anyone ever slept on these things. Her back was straight, and her hands were folded tightly in her lap. Fear nibbled at the back of her brain. She shouldn’t have sneaked out of the house. If her parents found out, she’d be grounded until she died. But it was worth it to see him.

Gage sat down next to her, smiling. “I missed you.”

Her heart ached. “I missed you too.” It had been almost a week since his dad had grounded him for being five minutes late for curfew. It was so unfair. She leaned into him, kissing him. The pressure of his lips on hers made her heart race. She never wanted it to end, but she couldn’t ignore the way her hands were shaking.

“You okay?” Gage asked. He threaded his fingers through her hair, then ran his thumbs lightly along her cheeks.

Janie nodded. She couldn’t tell him she was nervous. She knew what he wanted. Why she was there. But she wasn’t sure she was ready.

Gage’s mouth found hers again, and suddenly he was pushing her down onto the mattress. Caught up in the moment, Janie let his hands explore her skin, touching places that had never felt a stranger’s touch. His mouth broke away as he moved lower, trailing kisses down her neck and along her collarbone.

He pulled her shirt down, moving lower until his tongue was touching her nipple. She sat up, nearly knocking him backward.

“Jesus Janie. What the hell?”

“I’m sorry. I just . . .” What was she supposed to say? She’d told him dozens of times that she wasn’t ready. She loved him. She wanted him. But she wanted to wait. She was too young.

“Did I do something wrong?”

A nervous feeling rumbled in her stomach. “No. Of course not. I’m just scared.”

He leaned in close so that his lips were right beside her ear. “You don’t have to be scared. I would never hurt you.”

But she was. She was scared that if he kept pushing, she’d give in.

She pushed herself off the mattress and paced the floor of the small cabin that stood at the edge of the property Gage’s family owned. The floorboards squeaked under her feet, and moonlight shone through the dirty windows. It was the only light they had, making everything blend into hues of blue. And purple. And black.

She bent down and looked out the window. There were no lights on in any of the houses.

“I should go home.”

“C’mon Janie. Don’t be like that.”

She turned to look at him. There was just enough light to make out the way his lips turned down. The creases in his forehead. She’d upset him.

“I’m sorry.”

He stood up and wrapped his arms around her, kissing her in that one spot on her neck that always drove her crazy.

“If you don’t want to, we won’t. Okay? I’m sorry. I just got caught up.”

She nodded, chewing on her lip. He’d gotten caught up a lot recently. It was her fault though. “It’s okay.”

He tugged her hand so she was sitting beside him on the mattress again. His kisses deepened, increasing in speed and intensity. “Let’s take our pants off.”

“I don’t think . . .”

“I won’t let anything happen. I just want to feel your skin against mine.”

A lump formed in her throat making it impossible to say anything, but she nodded. It didn’t matter. He was already tugging at the button of her jeans, sliding them down her legs. Then he was straddling her again, kissing her.

A shock ran through her as his thickening bulge pushed against her, only separated by a few thin layers of cotton. Despite her nerves, a part of her was almost proud that her body, with her thick thighs, her unnaturally pale skin, and her face covered in acne, was able to make him respond like that.

“I want you Janie. I want to be your first.” His voice was a low, guttural growl

Her lip trembled. “I want that too, but I don’t think . . .”

“It’ll be okay. I promise.” Janie didn’t respond. “Please baby. I want you so bad.” He hesitated. “I love you.”

Her breath caught in her throat. She loved him too. She loved him in a way she had never known existed until that moment, but . . .

“Let’s just try. If you change your mind, we can stop. For me?”

She nodded her head, just enough for him to see. Then they were lying next to each other naked. Janie shivered and tried to cover her chest with her arms.

“You’re so beautiful,” he told her, and some of the fear ebbed away.

“Be gentle.”

“I will.” He moved over her, forcing his way between her legs that she couldn’t seem to move. She closed her eyes and tried to relax, but she inhaled sharply when she felt him press against her.

“Stop.” Her voice was barely a whisper. Maybe he didn’t hear her because he kept pushing, and pain radiated through her body. “It hurts. Please stop.”

“It only hurts at first. Once it’s in, it won’t be as bad.” She didn’t want it to stop hurting because it was in. She wanted it to stop.

Before she could say anything, he pushed forward one more time. And that was it. There was nothing left to fight for. She took a shuddering breath and bit her lip, waiting for it to be over.

When Gage was done, he rolled over and kissed her tenderly. “That wasn’t so bad, was it?”

“It hurt.” The area between Janie’s legs was throbbing. Why did anyone ever do that? It had been miserable.

“It won’t hurt as much next time. I promise.”

Next time? She hadn’t even had a chance to process this one. How was she supposed to think about next time?

Gage yawned, stretching his arms up high. Then he gathered up his clothes. “I’ve gotta get to work early. I should probably head in.”

Janie wanted to say no. To tell him they needed to talk. To say she didn’t want to be alone. “Okay.”

He kissed her goodbye and headed into the house where his parents were sleeping. Janie walked alone across the open field, her head hanging, her hands shoved deep in her pockets. There were no streetlights. Just the moon and the stars shining down to light her way.

It’ll be okay, Janie told herself, trying to ignore the pain. He loves me. We’ll always be together. The night air was filled with the sound of a thousand crickets laughing.

Top Ten Ways Writing a Novel is Like a Relationship

Writing this blog has helped me realize several things. One is the fact that I probably need serious therapy. I mean, really, who confesses to being a failure of a coffee drinker, gushes about being rejected and then posts about having intimate relationships with the main characters from their novels? Well, probably most aspiring authors, but that’s not the point. I’m starting to suspect I have daddy issues. (Just kidding Dad. Love ya!) But I’ve also realized that writing a novel is like a relationship. So here are the top ten ways the two activities are similar.

Top Ten Ways Writing a Novel is Like a Relationship

  1. You learn all of your main characters dirty little secrets, and you finish his/her sentences. You laugh when they laugh (because it means you’re funny!) You cry when they fail or are hurt. You want them to succeed, but sometimes you’ll hurt them to help them get there. And you’re constantly trying to change them to be what you want. (Not necessarily a hallmark of great relationships, but still pretty common.)
  2. First impressions are important. Even though you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, most people do. And even if they’re willing to look a little deeper, they usually know by the end of the first conversation if they’re willing to give it a try.
  3. Sometimes things will be great. Especially in the beginning. You’ll get along great, and even when you don’t you’ll brush it off. Everything will be sunshine, rainbows and unicorns that poop marshmallows (which I hear taste awesome if you add sprinkles. I can’t claim ownership of that beautiful imagery, but I still love it.)
  4. Sometimes things will be tough. Your main character may not see eye-to-eye with your vision of where you want things to go. You might fight because you put the roll of toilet paper on backwards (something I didn’t realize was a sin until I started dating my husband.) There will be times where you’ll feel like you’re wading knee-deep through mashed potatoes (without gravy) just to make progress.
  5. In the beginning of a really good one, things are all fireworks and sparks and excitement. You’re incapable of thinking of anything else. Not your kids (if you have them), your real job (if you have one), or cleaning the house. The only thing you can think about is spending some more time together. When you finally manage to fall asleep at night, you’re thinking about where things will go next and where they’ve already been.
  6. Everyone has their own taste. They may like skinny or thick, funny or serious, young, blonde and charming, or old and crotchety. You have to pick what works best for you and stick with it regardless of what everyone else likes. Because if you try and make it work with someone who really doesn’t fit your style, it’s going to be painful for both of you.
  7. Sometimes you have to share with others! Okay, so maybe that’s not typical in most relationships, but it works for some people. Those swing parties that people have are disturbingly similar to a critique group. Everyone brings theirs and lets other people take it home.
  8. Juggling more than one is not easy. I made the mistake of starting a new relationship with Joann after promising Phoebe that I’d spend more time with her. But Phoebe and I were struggling to get by, and what Joann and I have is new and exciting.
  9. Sometimes it ends. You may reach a point where it just isn’t working, and you have to move on to something new. Or, after a dozen revisions, it may be time to start seeing other people (hopefully agents or editors for your manuscript, and new characters for you.) One way or another, you have to move on and let go.
  10. If you’re in another relationship (ie married, like I am) your significant other is constantly jealous and suspicious. You find yourself lying to cover things up. (Him: Why are you so quiet? Me: I’m thinking about . . . umm . . . the stars. Yeah, the stars. I’m certainly not thinking about the next conversation between my main character and her love interest and how they’re going to resolve their fight.)

What do you think? Are there ways that I’m missing? Let me know.

On the Rebound

Rebounding is never easy. After being in a long-term, committed relationship, trying to slip into a new one can be like trying to slide into a pair of skinny jeans (well, at least for me.) I am currently in a rebound relationship, and while I really want to make it work, I’m just not as “in love” as I was the last time around.

The biggest problem with the rebound is that you’re constantly comparing everything to the last relationship. Your ex wouldn’t have worn that shirt, or picked that movie. Good or bad, it keeps your old relationship alive. You may even catch yourself referring to the rebound by your ex’s name. It’s not fair that people take that personally. When you’ve spent so much time and energy devoted to one person, it’s hard to reprogram your brain for somebody else. 

I’ve been on the rebound several times, and it’s never easy to move on. Samantha and I were in a committed relationship for years. I didn’t write about anyone else when I was working on her. Eventually, I moved onto Abby. Then I left Abby for Sadie. Sadie and I . . . There’s so much to say. I’m still stuck on her. Every time I sit down to write, I write her name. But our relationship has moved onto a new level. It’s kind of like the interoffice romance. We had our fling, but now our one-on-one time is over, and we’ll see each other on occasion when work demands. (Hopefully because an agent is interested in representing the story.) So now I’m trying desperately to make something work with Phoebe. I like Phoebe. I really do, but my mind keeps drifting back to Sadie.

When you write a novel, you fall in love with your characters, and it’s hard when it’s time to move on. But, unless you only have one novel you ever plan to write, inevitably you have to. I’ve heard of people experiencing book hangovers after reading a series, or even a particularly captivating single book. A book hangover is that feeling where you just can’t think of anything else. It sends your world spinning out of control, and you just have to give yourself some time to recover. Think of that times infinity. Well, maybe not, but I’ve always liked to say times infinity, so we’re going to go with it.

Finishing a novel is, in some ways, the ultimate book hangover. After spending so much emotionally charged time with Sadie, it’s time to let her go. She will forever be in my heart, my mind, and my manuscript, but I have to move on. I need a palate cleanser. I should probably read something to help get Sadie off my mind. A quick one night stand that I can just forget about later. But Phoebe and I have already started something. Will it be as magical as what Sadie and I had? I hope so. Hopefully it won’t be just a rebound, but something more.