For Mom

The caves seem changed now,

harder to traverse.

With the guide near, we felt a sense of confidence.

Assuredly.

Stepping onward; trekking with fervor and excitement.

Now we call out for the guide,

but we know she has gone before us and stands above us

in the light.

slipping on wet rock

one less spark to show our way

and one less voice to echo off of the cave walls

“Don’t turn left. It’s all dead ends that way.”

She knows, because she has explored that path,

and come to the end of it.

Herself.

I recite to those behind me where the steep drops hide

and pray her echoes don’t escape my memory

before I find my way to level ground

and can feel the sun for myself.

1437 Oak Grove Court

He prodded her in every sense. “It’s okay. Cum for me, gorgeous. I know this is what you really wanted.”

She let out a moan. She was going for guttural, but it sounded more like a presidential candidate speech: completely false. Much like the masses, he fell for it. He landed on her too hard, panting his grand finale. Finally, the deed was concluded.

Mary Beth waited for his heavy body to push off of her like the side of a swimming pool. “Thanks for your time,” she said. “You’re exactly what I’ve been looking for. They’ll be the perfect shade of always-tan. It’s like winning the genetic lottery, really.” She let her dress fall back down over her buttocks and wiped herself with her panties, disposing of them in his adjoining master bathroom.

He looked confused. The situation was unusual, but she had explained everything before they started. He didn’t speak a word.

“Anyway, like I said, thanks for your time. Really, thanks.” She started out the door, looking back to see if he was following. She saw him fall into a bedroom armchair, puzzled at the encounter. Perhaps he could sort it all out better than she.

Mary Beth turned the knob and exited the house at 1437 Oak Grove Court.

Electric Honey

I was waiting for him to show. He was late. He seemed the type to be late. Was I worried?

No.

Yes.

Why do we meet people online? I hadn’t been trying, though. Maybe that’s why it was so strange. Dating sites have some code of conduct. He just sent me a social networking message. Does that really happen? Does that work for people?

He entered, and I recognized him from the photos. He smiled, baring a nearly-black tooth he had hidden well. His smile did not ring true. He was disappointed. He sat, quietly. The band was loud, and he clutched his beer without ever uttering a single word. I screamed “It’s very loud in here.”

“I think I’m gonna go. Do you need a ride home?” He clearly hoped I would decline.

“No, I’ll call a friend.” How perfunctory.

“Are you sure?” He turned and left before I could respond. There’s the punch line, I suppose.

I sent a quick message to my ride. It would be at least 20 minutes before she arrived, and she wouldn’t be happy. I sat alone on the worn leather couch, trying to focus on the music instead of the awkward, stinging situation.

Another man sat away from me, but felt somehow very near. I sensed he had seen the awkward exchange. He had strong features, soft eyes, and his hair had grown longer than trends allowed. He was sitting, but his vast stature was still visible. He looked at me with concern. A moment passed, and somewhere between songs he decided to approach.

“Hey. Who’s your honey?” His voice was deliciously deep, and barely close enough to hear his warm breath over the music.

“Some guy. I think I just got stood up.” The expression on his face was pure compassion. Have you ever seen one part of a person’s soul, and so deeply loved just one facet that you would forgive the rest of it? I did know that with certainty. From the first moment his striking eyes met mine and his strong jaw line shifted to address me, I understood that I would one day forgive him. For what, I did not yet know.

Then, he smiled. Just like that feeling that only exists on schoolyard playgrounds; the type that still have the tall slide.

“Well, that’s a pity. What’s your name, baby?” His expression would normally signal some kind of femininity to me, but on him, is just sounded classically elegant. Everything about him hummed with a vintage brand of comfort; Sinatra on holiday.

I suppose I answered, but my ride rang my cell. “It’s nice to meet you.” He handed over his card. “My networking site is on here. You should add me on your page.” So, I suppose that’s the real punch line.

I looked down at his card. It was clean and simple. “A musician? Yes, you’re definitely trouble.”

He grinned as I got up to leave. I was grateful for the ride, but I also ached to be stranded in his presence.

“See you around, beautiful.”

The House Girl

“Margaret was always treated well. Very well, as I recall. She always sat at the table, just like the rest of us.” My jolly great-uncle relaxed around mother’s little kitchen table.

“Oh, yeah.” My grandmother smiled, remembering her early childhood friend. “She was a real nice lady. I just don’t see what the fuss is over. Black is black and white is white, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Slavery was wrong; I’m not sayin’ that it wasn’t. I just mean, there’s no use in mixing people when they don’t want to be mixed.”

I kneaded the bread as I listened in on my family’s childhood memories, somewhat intrigued by the idea of another world existing in the very same spot as mine. My heart swelled with compassion, not for Margaret, but for my family. They would very likely come to the end of their lives without ever truly knowing themselves or the world they lived in. I wondered what unknowingly dark things I missed in myself; what misconceptions I must overlook.

I searched for a way to shift the uncomfortable conversation, but my sister broke in first.

“Has anyone heard anything about the floods they’ve been having in Colorado?”

Serial 1 A : You know what I mean.

If you’ve ever given birth, then you know what I mean. I was exhausted like never before, and the meds didn’t help. My doctor had prescribed something for the C-section. My fondness of the drug was a bit unnerving, and I used as little as possible. My husband Shane hadn’t bothered putting the bed frame up, so I was stuck sleeping on the couch until my muscles would cooperate enough to let me climb up from the floored mattress.

The dust pan was still lying on the kitchen counter whenever I lost the battle with my lethargy. Grace was breastfeeding, but half of her stirrings were for diapers and cuddling. I rested on the couch and asked Shane to take care of her until he went to bed. I qualified that if a clean diaper wasn’t enough to calm her, he could wake me for a feeding. I hadn’t completed a REM cycle in a month. He mumbled some agreement, and I slipped into shallow rest with the glow and rumble of Shane’s video game humming just 5 feet behind me.

A thump roused me. 2 am.

I looked around, and Grace was gone. There was the sound of inconsistent crying in some distant world. Another thump startled me. I fought my healing tissue to rise and join them in the nursery. I already felt what had happened. I didn’t have any evidence, but I simply new it in my mother’s gut.

I rounded the corner and began to pick up on his frustrated mumbles and sighs. Grace’s crying continued raggedly. I saw him toss her carelessly on the changing table and rip her diaper off, wrestling to put on a new one. Her tiny body squirmed with discomfort and fear.

“What do you think you’re doing?” I shouted.

Shane walked away from the table, leaving Grace alone and half-naked. “What, Abigail? I am changing our daughter’s diaper! You asked me to do this!” Shane was nearly screaming.

I walked over to the table and began checking on Grace. She looked startled, but not necessarily harmed. Shane sat back down at the desktop computer and immersed himself in his usual fantasy world of alien wars and secret pornography, apparently satisfied that I had taken over Grace’s care. I dressed Grace and held her, feeding her for a few minutes before she began to slumber. I rubbed her cheeks and put her down. Irritated, she began to squirm and cry to be held. I comforted her as best I could without allowing her to sleep. We sat like that, the two of us, for another two hours. I had to make sure she didn’t have a concussion. I fed her once more, then held her long enough for her to return to sleep. Was this as bad as it seemed? The grogginess made everything so hazy, so foggy. I placed my hand on Grace’s leg to ensure her presence, and I fell back asleep with her in the nearby bassinet.

I awoke again at 9 am. I heard the sound of Shane’s computer beginning updates before shutting down. He made his way to the bedroom and climbed into the queen sized bed, just 1 hour before his shift started at his parent’s store.

I turned on the cold water in the shower, but only to mask the sound of canceling Shane’s computer updates and entering his desktop. I sensed his jealousy, but that’s not all I sensed in him. I opened his history, and relief swept over me.

RELIEF. I was relieved. Is that what you’re supposed to feel whenever you find daddy/daughter porn on your husband’s desktop computer? I suppose I was just glad that it was all over with; the lies, the addictions, the endless cycle of jobs, and the empty refrigerator. I could finally come up for air.

I turned off the computer and walked into the bedroom where he was quickly falling asleep. “You’re not going to work?” I asked. I was glad for another reason to make him leave, to not tip my hand.

“Abigail, I’ve been up all night.” he said

“So you’re not going?” I asked

“No.”

My steady voice replied, “Okay. Are you leaving, or are we?”

“Abigail Marie, what are you talking about?” he demanded. He knew I hated it when he spoke to me like a scolded child, and my apathy was further assured. He arose from the bed and balled his hand into a fist, but I did not cower.

“A black eye? You think that’s a threat? You could cut out both of my eyes and I could still see straight through you.” My bold carelessness threw him off, and he climbed back into bed.

“I don’t see how you expect me to possibly go to work after you act like this.” His whining had begun, and it was never short-winded. I was blessed by his fatigue.

“You may leave, or you may sleep. If you sleep, I will assume that you’ve chosen to stay and we will be gone before you wake up.” The formal words spilling from my mouth were contractual and cold.

Shane turned to me and started to say something in that detestable voice, but I picked up a bag. He got out of bed and snatched the bag from my hands, whimpering something about being given no choice. He continued along with noises somehow akin to both a growl and a shrieking child, but I heard no words. Somewhere amidst the clatter, he left.

The Note

Kristen shook with anxiety. She was trying her hardest to focus on the chalk board, but Jason sat to her immediate left. They had started speaking a bit more over the past few weeks. She felt the butterflies in her stomach nearly turn her over in her chair. Her eyes shifted to Jason, then nervously back to the board where Mr. Donahue spoke in a monotone voice. She hadn’t passed a note in years, but she knew that a text could get forwarded to anyone. The dramatic scene that may cause should be avoided at all costs.

She tried to draw a few stars on the outside of the carelessly-folded note, but her hands were shaking with anticipation. She thought back to her mother making her breakfast that morning, and how reassuring her voice had been. She never expected to long for her mother at a moment like this, but her heart longed for guidance. Bravery seemed so far from her now. Kristin made one final fold in the paper, then silently slipped it to the strange girl sitting in front of her.

The stranger looked at her questioningly, then privately opened the message.

“Please slip this note to Mr. Donahue. Jason has a gun.”