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Archive for the ‘Chick Lit’ Category

His hand, light as a feather and thin as paper slides off his chest onto the sheets beside him.  Blue veins press at waxy skin, somehow still managing to pulse pointless life-giving blood through his withering form.

So yellow, yet so pale.

Stiffness in every joint, I shift my chair to face the side table.  The bottom drawer becomes a resting place for my feet and I allow my head to idle, just for a moment, on the back of the vinyl chair.  The once unwelcome din of the lights overhead has become a comfort in these last silent days.  I touch his arm, ever so slightly.  He is still.

The hand so effusive, the body so hollow.

The walls are littered with drawings, cards…photographs.

“Get well soon, Grandpa.  We love you!” and  “If anyone can beat this, it’s you, Paul.  Stay strong!” 

A picture Kaylee insisted I take when his visits were finally limited to only me.  Standing in front of the hospital entrance, she was sporting a gap-toothed smile and waving; “Tell him I can still love him all better from here,” she’d said.

Composed in the midst of hope, reading them now is painful.  They had been beacons of light, splashes of color in the face of a dreary disease, now, months later, they’ve waned alongside him.

Sixty-seven years of life, laughs, labors and love all coming to an end.  Our lifetime within a lifetime.  Over.  Just like that. 

I turn on the soft lamp I’d brought from home and get up to quiet the bright overheads.  He stirs, ever so slightly as I walk to the switch near the door.

“Abi?”

His voice shocks me.  It’s been so long, days and days since I’ve heard it.  It’s dry and haggard, breathy.

“I’m here, honey.  Right here.”

“Abi.”  His eyes are the only sign of life on his dormant body, fluttering and frantically searching for my face.

“It’s okay,” I tell him.  “Rest now, love.”

“I haven’t…” he stops, unable to catch his breath.

I cup his hand in both of mine and squeeze each finger soothingly.

“No, not now, Paul.  Please, you need sleep.”

“Abigail.”

“Shh, quiet now.  There’s plenty of time for talking,” I fable, turning him into a child being told the tooth fairy is real.

“There was a time,” he chokes, “a time when…I failed you.  I failed myself.  Not a day passes…if I could change it, Abi.” 

I stroke his face, remembering the many moments he’d done the same for me, his skin cool, clammy…expiring.  Tears course over his temples and darken parts of the blue fabric covering his pillow.

“Paul, you’re upsetting yourself.  There’s no need, sweetheart.  Close your eyes.”  With the tip of my finger, his lids are gently drawn shut one at a time.

I climb up onto the bed, pull him in and lay whispering sweet nothings and savory somethings, his sharp hip poking my belly.  While recounting the first years of our courtship I laugh and cry, the silly card we’d had a fight over, the night Paula was born, the day we’d gone on a shop and ended up stuck in the snow for hours.   We ate through the groceries we’d thankfully had in the trunk while waiting for the tow truck.  Breaking off cheese and ripping chunks of bread, we sang all the songs we knew the words to and some that we didn’t.

I talk about how he patiently taught me to swim when I was terrified of the water and convinced me I was good enough to go to art school.  I tell him that he’s been an incredible father and that I’ve been so very thankful to have him in my life.  I tell him all these things, but I save one.

I make sure the intermittent beeps have become one long and uninterrupted strike piercing the room with finality before I say; “I know about her, Paul.  I’ve always known.  She just didn’t matter to me as much as you did.”

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There are things no one knows and never need know.  They’re merely splintered shards that have been scattered like chicken feed under the sofa, behind the door…deep in the woods at the back of the house.

And there, they should stay.

Plucking them out of obscurity, chancing their sharpness will cut my thickened skin is needless.  No one knows they’re there.  Leave them.

Stare at the stars.  Stay perfectly still.

I tell myself that I believe the things I don’t know won’t hurt me.  That I believe what I didn’t see can’t cry out.  I leave the unknown to weaken and wither, trusting the sharp edges will dull and diminish in hiding.

I once thought my shards were secrets, but I’ve learned that secrets are soft lips pressed against matted hair and light, breathy whispers in curious ears.  They are flighty things meant to be shared by children on gravel fields and women huddled in coffeehouses.

There are no screams, only choked murmurs I can barely make-out, suspended in the air and like dead falling leaves they cover the ground in cracked fragments all around me.

No, I don’t have secrets.  My shards slither in from the trees and my heart-racing, sweat-waking terror will be whispered to no one.

Silence.

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My bag drops in a frayed heap by the front door and I walk the squeaky floorboards leading to the kitchen, my boots leaving sloppy prints on the dusty wood.  A pot caked in hardened cheese and bits of pasta, a crumb-covered counter and two crimson stained bottles in the sink show me that today, like most days, time has stood still inside my house.

“Sheila?” I call just loud enough to be able to say I did.

Pulling back a clump of dark wet hair from between my lips, I throw bread down on top of the stale crumbs and snag the peanut butter out of the cupboard.  Searching the fridge for jam, I realize there’s no point, nothing will have changed since this morning.  I smear extra peanut butter on one of the slices before whacking the two together.  We don’t cut crusts in this house.  I try to live by “waste not, want not” but seem to come up short most of the time.

I sit at the cluttered table as Eden leaps up ready to share, sending several unopened bills to the floor.  “No, no, babe.  I can’t.”  The cat rubs her shoddy fur against my sharp wrist bone and meows a feeble yowl.  “Sorry, Shitty Kitty,” I lean in to kiss her forehead, “I’m just too hungry to share today.”

“Shitty Kitty” had become my name for Eden when, years ago, Sheila had stumbled over her.  Angry, she’d booted the cat half way across the room and shrilled; “Get out ya goddamn piece of shit!”  Slurring; “Go da hell,” She’d slumped onto the couch and rubbed at her barely bashed shin.  When Sheila had finally crashed, the cat limped out from under a chair.  I’d picked her up and stroking her chin I’d whispered; “Yeah, but you’re my goddamn shitty kitty.”

I leave the plate for Eden to lick, grab my satchel and head upstairs.  As always, I try not to look as I pass her door but I catch a glimpse of Sheila’s bare leg wilting off the side of the bed.  Her narrow calve is as anemic as the paint on her walls.  It’s stark and still against her dark sheets, a hostage.

I open the door to my own murky room.  It groans at being forced to appear welcoming.  The light from the floor lamp muted with a grey silk scarf, casts moon glow off its dark surroundings.

Smearing the sooty liquid over my walls and ceiling way back when had been calming and the smell of fresh paint had blessed me with a welcome high.  Wiping out the lavender of younger years had felt like I was burying something I never wanted to see again and now the fragrant incense that I smoldered nightly to battle the wafts of Sheila’s stale alcohol smothered even that indulgence.

She never comes in here.  Not any more.  My room affords me numbness but for her, it is the opposite.  For Sheila, it threatens to wrench out the ugly from her booze-blunted brain.  The hurt and the pain toy with the corners of her waxy, Crayola-red lips.  Nightmares of the past curl their wicked fingers at her brow and flicker in her vacant eyes.  No, Sheila never comes close to my door unless she is fraught for something only I can give or get.

I drop onto the bed, bootlaces dangling, tongues drooping; my satchel landing beside me.  Smatterings of Eden’s hair cover my black leggings.  My long, white shirt is damp and my ribs push at the thin cotton.

Sheila is moving now, her bare feet making slow slapping sounds on the worn wood.  She stops at her end of the hall and I wait, ribs rising and falling.

“Liv? You home?”  Her voice is grave and marred by the icepick of a headache that comes with a hangover.  “Olivia! Are, you, home?”

“I called, Ma.  You didn’t answer.  What more d’ya want?”

Sheila is exquisite.  Her auburn hair drips over her pale shoulders and down her back in thick, wispy tendrils; her skin, porcelain without a lick of paint despite her self-sabotage attempts over the past five years.

“Throw the frozen Lasagna in, would’ya?”

We have frozen lasagna three nights a week.  That’s how long one tray of it lasts the two of us.  Sheila eats like a bird.

“Yeah, Ma.  I’ll get to it in a minute.”  I pause, knowing what’s coming next.

“And Liv?  Grab me the Advil and a glass of water.”

“Sure, Ma.  Whatever you want.”

Through the crack in the doorway I see her frail wrist and delicate fingers drifting back into lock-up.

I heave myself up from the bed, grab a dry shirt and throw my hair up in a bun as I saunter back downstairs.

Oven at 450, I open the freezer and take the Lasagna out, leaving it empty.  There will be a shiny new foil tray when Sheila gives me enough money to buy another one next week.

I fill a glass from the tap and bring the ever-present Advil back up the stairs.

Men loved Sheila.  Boyfriends used to come and go.  She was the kind of woman they could look after, protect.  She made them feel strong, in control.  She made them…powerful.

As I reach her door, the pills rattle in my hand and just like that, I’m ten again, carrying medicine to her, back when she only needed it once in a blue moon.  Her sheets were light then and matched my dress.  Lavender was her favorite color and I’d chosen it that morning to please her.  He was lying beside her, both of them face down and much like today, her leg had hung over the side.  I remember admiring her flawless skin and dainty, painted toenails.  White particles hovered all around them making my kid mind dream of snow.  Sun lit them both like gossamer angels.  Even at ten, I’d understood the irony.

Leaving the bottle and the water on her nightstand, I’d quietly backed out of the room not wanting to wake them.

I hadn’t realized my Mother had woken that morning, just as I was disappearing.  She’d lifted her head, about to call out to me, maybe even to ask for a cuddle, but instead, her bleary eyes had met with the three dark red splotches I hadn’t known I’d dripped onto her floor.  It wasn’t until I’d gone to the bathroom later that day that I’d discovered the blood and frantically scrubbed at the stains, ashamed she might see.

There were no more men after that and no more Mommy; just Sheila, me and the bottles; bottles of booze, bottles of pills, bottles of feelings we’d never discussed.  She blames herself.  I know that.  I blame him.  He knows that.

I’d tried my best to smother the lavender for her.  Turns out it’s a hardy vine.  I’d killed the color, but destruction had flourished and I will always blame myself.  No one knows that.

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