Archive for May, 2012

Dewy flush adorned our cheeks as we shuffled and bumped in the tiny powder room, vying for equal mirror time. I didn’t stand a chance of course, being at least a foot shorter than her, but that didn’t stop me from trying.

Dead or Alive shrieked from the boom box sitting on the rug just outside the open door while combs, sprays, powders, shadows and glosses riddled the small bathroom countertop, trembling to the beat.

Frankly, I didn’t need the mirror. I’d long since learned to mirrorlessly cake color and coif hair on buses, in backseats and down early morning deserted school hallways. Although it stemmed from faithlessness in my natural façade, it was a skill I was quite proud of and one that had come in handy many a time.

Eventually relenting, I sat on the toilet lid, hot vapors from the curling iron tickling my ear. I paused, cementing the curl with a spritz of Final Net as the spool of chocolate strands melted with heat. Shaking the iron gently, I loosened it from the hair, leaving behind a perfect sausage roll. Prepping the next coil, I tilted my chin to watch Jess, a master at her own ritual.

She used a fascinating, self-taught technique to apply liner, slicking it on as thick as she could get it, creating inch wide circles around her top and bottom lids. Taking a damp Q-tip, she’d swipe away the excess, leaving perfectly precise strokes behind to cocoon her diminutive eyes.

You spin me right round, baby, right round…” Jess’ tall, thin frame bobbed to the music; her off-key crooning making me laugh.

All I know is that to me, you look like you’re lots of fun. Open up your lovin’ arms. Watch out, here I come!” Although I couldn’t resist joining in, I barely finished the last line, giggles overtaking me.

“Quit showing off!” She complained, half serious. “You’re always stealing my songs.”

They’re hardly your songs”, I chided. “Unless you’re holding out on me and jammin’ with Pete Burns behind my back.”

“Do you think he’ll be there?” She asked, squinting at the mirror., fluffing her naturally curly, blonde hair.

Pete Burns? I highly doubt it.” I teased. “Slightly rich taste for a good old North Side dance.”

“You know who I mean!” Her eyes widened, peeps of white speckling the muddy liner.  Do you think he’ll show?”

“Dunno…don’t care.” I sighed, hoping I sounded undoubtable.

The gymnasium was magically murky apart from the twinkle lights. They nodded and dipped as we walked under the archway and into the dance. The ceiling was flocked with pearly white balloons, their inflated heads and dangling strings reminding me of spermatozoa, compliments of elementary Sex-Ed.

Jess!” I turned to smirk about the balloons, but she was gone, running after Sharon who looked ready to burst with the latest breaking news on the dance shenanigans.

I started to follow her, but froze. I could see him, his head swinging back and forth in front of the stage. That was it…I was stuck, breathless.

I watched him through the packs of gyrating teens, spinning girl after girl.

Jess kept coming back, begging me to dance to all our favorites. My legs twitched, knowing I should be out there having fun, but my eyes were cemented, unable to break away from his chestnut hair and tanned skin.

Come on,” Jess whined. “The next song is the last and it’ll be a slow one. At least dance this one with me!”

I looked at her sparkly, ever-happy face and felt terrible. I’d been a total let down; the opposite of a best friend.

“Okay, I’m sorry,” I surrendered. “I don’t know why I’m wasting our night anyway.” Irritated with myself, I chiseled my stare, breaking it free.

Managing to conceal my dismay, I smiled and laughed as we bounced to Quiet Riot, my mind fleeting to the sperm-like balloons once again, as Jess hollered out; “Cum on feel the noise…”

As the song ended, Bradley Buchner hurried over to scoop her for the last number of the night.

“I’ll wait for you outside, Jess. It’s too hot in here,” I turned, but her nose was nuzzled in the crook of Bradley’s neck and Mrs. H was already hurrying over to separate them as I slunk away.

I punched the metal bar on the orange wooden door and my heart plunged into the pit of my stomach when I saw him sitting there on the steps. I wanted to slither back into the school, but he’d already heard me coming.

“Hey,” he said. “Where did you come from?”

“The gym. It was, uh, too hot in there. I needed some air.”

“You were in the gym?” he looked surprised.

“Um, yeah.” I said, looking down at my satin dress and patent pumps. Where did he think I’d been?

“Oh, yeah, I guess,” he looked away quickly. “It’s just that I was kind of keeping an eye out for you. I didn’t see you once.”

I had been hiding in the shadows, watching him all night, sabotaging my own chances of dancing with the boy I’d had a crush on for two years.

We sat silent on the cool concrete steps. Bonnie Tyler‘s echoey billows escaping the gym, drifting through the empty halls and out the door I’d left unguarded. Stars faintly twinkling behind the drooping, greyish white haze in the sky; the scene a ghost of the party inside.

I’d hidden; afraid he’d hurt me, but in the end, I’d taken care of that myself.

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Twenty…and a pregnant pause leading up to it. This may have seemed strategic on my part, but I really didn’t mean for there to be almost a week in between this and my last post. In fact, the delay pained me.

I could blame a cocktail fusion of bountiful duties, stresses and strains but those alone wouldn’t stand in my way. No…there was something else. Poison. Seeping in through breaks and pores and I, too hectic to see it.

Thoughts of redundancy crept in and took hold; feelings that what I had to say was useless, unnecessary, and, worst of all, uninteresting. After all, we can scoop out as much of the ‘useless unnecessary’ we want, but hand out uninteresting and the world stops. It stops, and so do the readers. Poison reigns.

As a result, this past week has been me, talking myself out of writing, telling myself no one will notice, no one will care…convincing myself it won’t matter. So, why slog on? Oh, woa-ez me.

My bouts with potentially potent poison have had me down in the fathomless folds of forlorn. Past visits to this dank, dark space have had me believing only I can get myself up and out and let’s face it, sometimes, the easy button just isn’t around; buried deep in the couch pillows or…under a slab of super thick cement.

This time has been different. It took me a while to clue in – I’m not alone. I have my interests, my thoughts, my words and a spot to call my own. I have expectant readers checking in, searching for fresh utterances. I have followers taking the time to comment, like and message and I have fellow bloggers gracing me with reblogs and mentions; all bestowing me with virtual high fives.

I love to write, but it can be an isolated endeavor. You are the antidote to the toxins that can sometimes course through my veins. I am truly grateful for your stake in my blog. I’m humbled by your interest in what I have to say. I am blessed that you inspire me to do what I hold dear.

You are why. I can’t thank you enough.

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I like punctuation…I love words. And, I take great pleasure pushing the limits in the ways that I use them. And although I have an aversion to puzzles, I enjoy writing immensely, undeterred by the fact that puzzling is exactly what I’m doing while assembling sentences.

Now, I’ve heard that to twist the literary rules, you should first be proficient in applying them. While I’m sure there’s truth to that, I bend that rule, because I don’t claim to be, in any way, an authority on the ins and outs of all things scribal. I go by instinct. If I think it sounds engaging, it goes to print, be it technically tight or not. After all, that’s the beauty of a blog, right? I’m in control of my publish button; unauthorized, reckless reading material unleashed…moonstruck, mad as a hatter muddles.

My endeavor begins with throwing the pieces on the floor. Some are bright, some muted, some are hefty, others are stunted, but one thing is consistent; there are always too many and I’m never sure they all belong in the same box. So, on the floor they go. I stare at them for a while, upset with the mess I’ve made. Disappointed with all the extra work I’ve given myself. All the sorting I will have to do.

You’d laugh if you could skim my first draft. Thank goodness you can’t. It reads like a child’s misguided decoupage.

But, I’m determined. I throw back the curtains, crack the window, and hunker down. The carpet is soft and it’s beginning to warm in patches where the sun is stretching out. I get comfy, don the glasses and get out the “goo-be-gone.”

I’ve been told it’s best to start with the corners of a puzzle as the frame is what pulls and holds everything together. So bit-by-bit, I fuse the bones and eventually master a skeleton, casting fragments and clinkers to the side, discarding unnecessary ulnas and tibias.

I try to extricate the pieces that have zing and zeal and descriptions that are born behind the barn. I mean really, how does born behind the barn work here? I don’t know, but it has arrived from that mystical place that sometimes blesses me and I’m using it.

I’ve always been a crafty girl. Back in the day, we’d eat off our laps as clearing the dining table of paper snippets, glue, scissors and stencils proved too exhaustive. As I mention in my bio, I’ve since traded the crayons and scrapbooks for a laptop and a disparate strain of creativity. It’s much less messy and our obliging dining room table was begging to see the light of day.

Everything about writing is enchanting and mysterious for me. It’s a license to whip up worlds and doctor domains. I don’t need schwag to partake, I use limited tools and I can jot with unbridled abandon. I don’t have to wear uncomfortable shoes or drive a fancy car. I don’t need to be an Olympic athlete or live on the coastline in the South of Wales. (although that would be nice)  I can live all that through my fingertips and I’m oh so thankful. It’s a spellbinding thing.

Now…how my focus ricocheted from a puzzle, to decoupage, to a skeleton and eventually resulted in a fleshy body remains unexplained to me and, I honestly hope no one ever divulges the trick. It would spoil the show.

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We walked along the foamy shore, stopping every few steps to skip a smooth, flat rock across the sea glass surface of the water.

The air was crisp and the breeze pushed through my hair as I pulled the light fabric of my jacket closer to my body and squinted, staring out over the soft-rippling sheath. The sun glinted off the mast of a sailboat in the distance, its white sail taut and strong in the wind.

He stopped again, slightly ahead of me, stooping to search for another flat rock. Finding one, he straightened, the flush slowly disappearing from his cheeks as the rush of blood retreated.

“I don’t think there’s much left to say.” he sighed.

My grip tightened and my jacket imprisoned my thudding heart. I kept my head down, eyes on the lick of foam coating the toes of his shoes.

“So, you’re just giving up?” I’d intended to sound indignant, but I’d come off sounding damaged instead.

The rock rolled over and under, back and forth between his long, slender fingers and I watched it for a while, wishing it was the only thing in danger of losing its position.

“I can’t be what you need.” his head sagged, a long breath escaping him as he continued to manipulate the rock.

I scraped my gaze off his shoes and looked up at a griping Gull. My eyes stung; salty sea spray mingling with briny tears.

A small part of me wanted to argue, to convince him to try. But a bigger part of me wanted him to fight. After all, if I had to persuade him, what was the point?

With a flick of his wrist the rock lost its footing, leaping headlong into the deep.

As it disappeared through the tear it made in the water’s surface a strong wind nabbed the sailboat, assaulting its sail, leaving torn flaps of cloth floating in its wake.

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I soared through my grade two piano exam with flying colors and dropped it the day the certificate arrived in the mail, never plunking another key.

I stem from a long line of Irish singers and entertainers and there are times I can belt one out like an angel, although, the next note from my mouth could send you running for the hills. Clearly, I didn’t join the clan, despite the fortitude of flatteries flowing from my mum.

I grew up listening to my parents’ Beatles, The Police, Clapton, Joplin, Dylan, Richards, Hook and Van Morrison; the tunes blaring from the four foot tall floor speakers as I toiled through chores; the melodies making the tasks somewhat less agonizing.

Overjoyed to induct their longstanding turntable atop my dainty dresser at twelve, my age and stage soon drew me away from their vinyls and bewitched me with pop radio, spurring endless calls to the local station to request Bryan AdamsHeaven.

Sleepy Saturday mornings saw my Dad and I devouring syrup soaked pancakes, butter-smothered toast and bacon, savory omelets with sizzling sausage all the while gorging on Celine Dion, The Rankins, Air Supply, Rita McNeil and Enya. Okay, it was a transitional time.

I cruised the strip with cavorting companions, consuming Sheena Easton, Pat Benatar, Whitney Houston, Van Halen, The Bangles and later, Queen, Yaz, The Cult, The Cure, Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, HoJo and Erasure.

I saw Purple Rain eight times and wished I could rock a Raspberry Beret

I ate pizza, painted my nails and tied lace ribbon in my hair while memorizing the lyrics to Crazy For You

My heart shattered, along with millions of other teens, as I croaked out Total Eclipse of the Heart alongside Bonnie Tyler, tears watering down my Coca-Cola float

As a young adult I guzzled U2, The Eagles, Billy Joel, Sinead O’Connor, Jewel and the Eurythmics while harboring some kind of twisted half crush on Michael Jackson.

Despite my ambiguous relationship with instrumentals, I’m an absolute sucker for a rock ‘em, sock ‘em voice. I don’t always have to fall in love with the song, the genre doesn’t always have to be up my alley and I don’t even have to like the singer.

Something about the voice can convert me. If it prickles my skin, stirs superfluous surges, ravages my mood or awakens my senses, I’m in, and I’ve never seemed to give a busted string what song everyone else is singing.

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“Hey”, he sneered my way. “Hey!” a little louder, a little breathier.

I blushed. I always blushed; perpetually, painfully shy, continuously craving invisibility. I stared straight ahead, eyes on the board, palms and pits producing an instant hot sweat.

“You know…you gotta have the ugliest nose I’ve ever seen.” he hissed.

I leaned forward, hands flat on my desk; perspiration mixing with the Comet residue the janitor had left behind, forming a balmy paste over my flattened grip.

It was Valentine’s Day and the Carnations would be delivered soon. You could feel the buzz in the room. I tried to focus on that. Once my flower came, I’d be vindicated. He’d feel so stupid for taunting me. He’d realize I might be popular and that someone out there might think I was pretty.

The Carnations were a big deal at our school; a yearly tradition. They cost three dollars of hard-earned pocket-money so selecting the recipient was taken very seriously. Boys sent them to girls, girls sent them to boys, girls even sent them to each other. Most were fired off anonymously; the only ones signed stemming from legitimate daters and official best friends. No one else dared to be so outwardly presumptuous.

“I bet you think you’re gonna get a flower, don’t you?” he jeered.

I tried to lift my hand discreetly, bringing it up to camouflage my apparently hideous nose and my now stinging eyes. I would not cry in front of him, but the smell of the Comet coming from my grit-covered hand was burning my nostrils and losing me my battle.

“You think you can hide that big banana?” he laughed. “Good luck with that. Good luck with that and that grease-slicked skin of yours.”

I liked to think it was the fumes, but my eyes were brimming regardless of cause and I knew he would be sure he’d gotten under my skin, fumes or not.

“Are you crying?” he mocked. “God, you’re such a baby.” Out of the corner of my eye I could see his knee bouncing up and down. His leg jostled a mile a minute causing the frayed hem of his jeans to swing back and forth.

Although tears were the last thing I wanted him to see, they did make him back off.  No one wanted to be responsible for making someone cry in class. It meant a trip to the office and a call home, neither a favorable outcome.

I tilted my head and stared through the window. Outside was bleak. It had been a particularly cold February and the wind was whipping through the trees. I swallowed the lump in my throat and longed to be out there. Being outside in blustering gales coatless would be better than having to sit here, enduring him.

I tried to pay attention to the lesson being taught. I tried not to think of my rumbling belly, my chemically transformed skin, my imminent flower or the jerk next door. I had almost accomplished all of it when there was a knock on the door causing an eruption of excitement amongst the other students.

I simply froze. What if it hadn’t worked? Or worse, what if I had somehow messed it up and it wasn’t anonymous after all? The sweat magnified and became a fast-trickling stream flowing straight down my spine.

“You’re getting greasier by the second, loser.” he said in a snide tone.

My eyes were glued on the flower bearers. They were shouting out name after name and at long last, mine was called.

As hard as it was to have all eyes on me, I lifted my cement-stiff body out of the desk and forced my heavy legs to move towards the front of the room.

As I got closer, confusion set in. Two flowers were being held out.

“Do you want me to pass one to someone?” I whispered, my face flaming with prickly heat.

“Nope, both for you. Lucky,” the girl said enviously. “I didn’t get any.” It shouldn’t have, but it made me tingly inside.

The tingling shrouded the walk back to my desk and shielded me from the stares and snickers. I sat down in a trance-like state, eyes glued to the blossoms laid out in front of me. Their sweet aroma replaced the smelly Comet, their pastel shades swapped for the unicolor scheme outside.

A legit Valentine’s Day Carnation. I did a quick mental check; nope, I’d only sent myself one. I was sure.

Two?” I heard him exclaim. “I don’t believe it,” he almost sounded wounded. “You sent those to yourself,” he guessed. “You had to!”

My face seared and my throat tightened. He’d managed to break through my bubble and yank me back to miserable reality. Only reality didn’t seem all that miserable anymore. Someone had thought of me, someone liked me.

The bell to end the school day rang and he got up quickly. “See ya later, freak show.”

I waited for everyone to leave, their chatter slowly quieting as they filed out one by one.

I wanted to pack my flowers in my bag without the other kids knocking around. I wanted to make sure they went unharmed.

As I swung my legs, now light, around the side of my seat, something caught my eye; a pink ticket that hadn’t been there before. I recognized it instantly and my heart skipped a beat as I quickly looked around. If anyone had seen it, I’d be the laughing-stock of the school, the butt of every joke, as opposed to now, being the butt of only most.

I reached down to grab the Carnation receipt, my fingers fumbling over the waxy paper. But, as I brought it closer to my face, I realized it didn’t belong to me. My name was boldly printed in the recipient’s box sure enough, but the printing wasn’t mine.  It was his…the jerk next door’s.

Okay, we all knew that was coming.  Except for…maybe the boys…                                                           

This short story is published on Ezine: http://ezinearticles.com/?Two-Is-Better-Than-One&id=7041636 

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