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#2 30th Mar 2020 at 9:39 PM
Life Of A: Writer --- Pilot
Cold. Unsettling. There's not much else I can say when the name Midnight Hollow comes to mind. Just speaking of it seems as repulsive as the place itself. Like somebody saying their first four-letter swear or the name Voldemort. The structures are easily sixteenth century—gothic. Beautiful, surely. But it’s like an illusion. The houses may look like they are hundreds of years old when in reality they can’t be more than a decade, their exteriors reproduced to look older than they really are. I should know. My name is Chasity Lennox and I've travelled around the world modeling in front of dozens of structures almost as old as time and these homes have nothing on them. Still, it keeps my mind busy as the town passes me by.
Cars. Houses. Pedestrians dressed in the strangest of clothing. It may be a couple of days until Spooky Day, but to begin dressing up so early…
Before I can ponder too much, the car comes to a halt and I am standing in front of my house. To call it home is far too early in whatever is between us... House and owner, shelter from horrible weather, money pit that is constantly draining my wallet? I have countless more and home isn't among them. My home is very much still where my heart lies back miles away in Twinbrook, where I grew up, where my family is and where everything I have ever known has been left behind. Well, I can’t say that’s completely true. My children are here with me as is my husband.
"I just love the architecture."
Speaking of which…
My eyes run down from the turrets high on the roof—reminiscent of Scooby-Doo, mind you—across the stone balconies, to the front door.
His name is Kameron. Dark hair, blue eyes and a stocky build. It's never been anything to do with vanity. Some women like that kind of thing. The strapping young man with muscles that concave into his body, making him look like a piece of art held tight inside the Louvre. For Kameron it's always been something of a necessity, however. Strength, power and the athletic skill to get the job done. He was a working firefighter when I first met him many years ago which until recently had him on a tight schedule. He was one of the best and I'm not just saying that because I am his wife and I have to. Awards and whathaveyous fill most of the moving truck and that's without the boxes I asked my parents to keep hold of. Now, however, he's changed professions and became a teacher. It sounds strange, I'm sure, what with the good he was doing and how in demand he was back home. But when a worrying wife is at his side, scared ****less every night, he did the worry wart inside of me a favour. Unfortunately for me, moving to Midnight Hollow was in his best interest for a great paying position at the University with benefits and whatnot.
Kameron turns and returns to my side, both hands dropping a suitcase on the ground and replacing them with each of my own.
"Look, I know you were—are—a little sceptical about the place, but trust me when I tell you it's all gonna' work out."
"I know," I say a little too enthusiastically. "Just, you know—change! You know how much I hate it." I try to joke it off even if the knot in my stomach says otherwise while I look the house up and down again. It's not like the place was cheap. Spent most of our savings on it. Spend money to make money, I guess.
"Chas, I mean it. It's just different and different can be really good."
I nod my head as he steals a peck on my cheek.
"And you're gonna' write that book, expose the modeling world for the hell it is and we're gonna' be happy. It's our fresh start where we don't have to keep looking over our shoulder all the time, you know?"
And I do know. Getting out of the modeling world wasn't hard, but it did leave me with a few scars emotionally.
I was shunned from the modeling world a few years ago after I took a stand against somebody much higher than me. Because of this, I was branded imbalanced and every media outlet out there was on me like a pack of wolves. Picking at my every flaw, twisting stories to make other stories, scandals upon scandals. The man I went up against told me he'd smear my image like paint on a canvas and he did just that. The whole story is a chaotic mess and one I've done my very best to keep hidden, buried deep down so as not to have to relive it again.
After some much-needed support from family, friends and my psychologist, I was urged to fight back. I had strengthened enough emotionally, and while I would never step foot in front of a camera again, I decided one way to get the modeling world back: a book about the dark side of modeling, a piece every young woman should read before even thinking about stepping foot in the realm that I regard as a living nightmare.
Watching Kameron grab the suitcases and head into the house, our two boys screaming and laughing at the top of their lungs, I hope he's right. He glances over his shoulder as he walks up the porch stairs.
"And what better place is there to write than this?"
A few hours later, Kameron mentions the local Midnight Haunt festival. A flyer had been stuck in with our mail along with coupons for a nearby coffee shop and another flyer for the grand opening of a new toy shop on the other side of town. Of course Kameron had to bring up the festival in front of the kids and when they learned about costumes being more than welcome they wouldn't let it go. Kameron tries to soften the blow by telling me how it's an annual town outing to bring everybody closer.
"See? Says so on the flyer."
Of course it does. Before I can say yes or no, the boys are already in their costumes and ready to go at the door. Peter, the older of the two is dressed as a hotdog. Why a bloody hotdog? And Renaldo... well... he's the other one. I wish I could say his mismatched attire is part of his dressup, but sadly I can't. His mask is the only part of his gear today. The model inside me seeing this train wreck of an outfit hurts me in more ways than one.
We make it to the grounds in ten minutes. It's raining although it doesn't seem to bother anybody there. Makeup and face paints are running, costumes darken from getting wet yet that doesn't stop anybody from laughing and having a great time. It's a modest turnout. Haunted houses flash with strobe lights, troughs are filled with water and apples, pumpkins huddle on soft soil while men, women and children search for the most perfect ones to take home. I catch sight of a man in a hotdog outfit almost identical to Peter's. Obviously, Mommy's opinion when it comes to trendy costume wear should be kept silent. Peter seems to be much more in the loop than I.
I immediately feel a little self-conscious. Maybe I should have put on a costume. It seems rather silly, a grown woman nervous about her inability to fit in at a bloody town outing, but I can't deny how much happier I would be if I chose to put one on instead. That is, of course, if I had been able to find one that fits. I am pregnant you know, and quite ready to pop.
"You all right, honey?" Kameron's next to me, his arm around my shoulder like a protective swan over her babies.
"Yeah, just a little chilly. A little nervous too. Maybe I should go back home."
"No, you just need to loosen off a little. When's the last time we've been out?"
I know how it sounds—do I live under a rock? And I guess I should say I kinda have. Since the modeling incident, I've felt like a prisoner in my own home.
"Here," Kameron hands me a cup of cyder. "This place isn't Starlight Shores or Bridgeport. Look around you, Chas. These are Average Joes just wanting to spend time with family and friends. They don't care about us—probably dunno who we even are. They're your typical Bobs and Bettys."
I take a sip of the cyder.
"You're right." I take another sip. "You're right."
For a bit, I think Kameron's actually telling the truth, that we've actually distanced ourselves so far from the past that we can actually be normal. It takes some time, but between being with the kids, going into haunted houses and watching pie-eating contests—I can't believe it!—I actually feel like I can let my guard down. The kids are having a great time, so is Kameron. He's more interested in the log sawing contest where one team of two races another team at sawing a tree trunk.
After we finish another glass of cider, and we head over for a fun game of bobbing for apples, a photographer gets me in their sights.
"Chasity freakin' Lennox!"
A continuous string of clicks and flashes erupts next to us and I am blinded for a few moments, like a spark plug has gone off on the insides of my eyes. I fling my hands up to the sides of my face, pulling back as Kameron stands in front of me, cursing the paparazzi, threatening to punch his face in. The back of my throat swells up and as much as I try to soothe it, it aches and I struggle not to cry. This can't be happening. This has got to be some bad dream. Wake up, Chasity, WAKE UP!
For a moment, I think Kameron has actually done it: plowed the man between the eyes and throttled his a few more times for good measure. But as I look up, hands still shielding me from the men and women who have now surrounded us, I see Kameron, hands up defensively, yet it's his face that catches my attention. He isn't angry. He's shocked. And I follow his gaze to the downed man on the ground. Next to him a guitar lay in shambles.
"Get up, you lazy biggot!"
Standing over the man is a young woman—fire engine red hair and dressed in what looks like some military costume. She kicks him in the leg in an attempt to urge the man to start moving. Grumbling, he stumbles to his feet.
"And get the heck outta here, you 'ere me?" she continues. The man mutters something under his breath and she adds, "'ey, I can get'nother guitar if you wanna' keep mumblin'." The man runs off and the woman turns to Kameron and me. "You 'kay, hun?"
She introduces herself as Nadia Cho. Supposedly, she's been dealing with the paparazzi for years and has decided to take a stan against them. Nice girl and while I am clearly shaken, I can't say how thankful I am to have her here. We exchange formalities and she introduces me to her bandmates and a few of her friends. I don't know of them, but they seem to know me because of the scandals. Thankfully, they don't hold it against me.
As we get ready to go, Nadia tells me if either of us has any trouble with the paparazzi to let her know and she'll get rid of them for me. As she says, "We don't need their BS ruining what we got here."
Driving home with my boys and staring out the window, I realize maybe it won't be so bad here. I may actually be able to repair everything that's been damaged all those years ago. Still, as I rest my head against the headrest, I can't help but feel there is still something very off about the town, like something is lingering in the darkness, following me, just waiting to attack.
#3 30th Mar 2020 at 9:47 PM
Life Of A: Writer --- Thwack
Bubbles form around me in thick globs, the scent of pomegranate encasing the bathroom like a lover’s embrace, warm, romantic even with the few candles I’ve lit on the surface of the tub. I can’t tell if it is because for once maybe my anxiety medication may be kicking in (doubtful seeing as I’ve been on it for years and it’s always seemed like it hasn’t done a **ed thing so why start now?) or if maybe, just maybe, I’ve been able to lower some walls in the past few weeks since we’ve moved to Midnight Hollow. My fears regarding the media have controlled me for so long, yet after making contact with the people here (one of them shoving the paparazzi where it hurts!) for once I actually feel like somebody other than close friends and family may have my back.
I allow my body to slip deeper into the cloud of bubbles even as my gaze drifts up to the vanity. Kameron’s there, getting ready for work. Well, maybe not exactly. He’s gotten ready for work, been ready for the last ten minutes and has spent the time since then more occupied on his actual looks. As I’ve said before, he’s not the vain type, neither of us are, but there’s no dismissing the fact that we’re both aging. It may be a girl thing, but I’ve always tried to check myself out in private when I know Kameron’s at work or with the kids. I’d hate for him to see me worrying about my looks, it could give him reason to do the same. But Kameron has been on a roll lately, checking his wrinkles, searching his hair for greys. I guess having my primary fear take a backseat for a bit has irritated some of my smaller ones, and it’s not like Kameron is some saint life just plopped in front of me for the taking. He was still very much in a relationship with his wife when I butted in and made him fall for me.
As if we are both thinking of the same time in our lives, our eyes connect in the mirror for a split moment and then there are constant knocks at the door. Children, excited children scream at the top of their lungs, wanting Kameron to hurry up because Uncle Kyle has finally arrived and they are that next step closer to World of Wonder. It’s Renando’s birthday today and Kameron’s bother flew in from Riverview to take them out for a very special day. Kyle and I have never been super close—probably because of the affair thing—but taking the kids out for a party day is a nice gesture for sure. While I was invited to go, he knows I’m not really ready for that and understands. The only catch is that I have to babysit his newborn son. It’s not my first time taking care of a baby and I can always use some extra practice before I pop myself.
Once they are all gone, it’s just Connor and me. I give him a bath, play with his toes, sing to him when he begins to cry. It’s strange how everything comes back so naturally even if I haven’t done it in a few years. And the smell—NOT THAT SMELL!!! No, the new baby smell. I hadn’t realized how much I missed being a mom, a baby’s mom until right now. With the older of my two heading into his teenage years in a few weeks and Renaldo’s birthday being today... There’s the anxiety again. Truly, they were irritated by my primary fear stepping down.
I set Connor down for a nap and head to my computer. Being one of the few times having the kids out of the house, I can finally get some writing done. I’ve made a hot tea, put on some background music (actually it’s classified as white noise—I like falling rain the most), turn on the baby monitor and take a seat. This is what I’ve been planning for since we moved all the way out here. Every night since move-in day I’ve been jotting down notes, ideas for chapters and every piece of horrible memory I allow myself to come face-to-face with. It’s a whole notebook. Speaking of which, I get up and grab that too! And I sit down, do some arm stretches and one for my back, a few breathing exercises—in and out, in and out—and close my eyes, ready to open my mind and spill everything I’ve got onto this blank, white canvas. And it doesn’t come. I can’t for the life of me figure out what to write. For an hour and thirty-three minutes I stare at the screen in hopes that something will form. But it doesn’t. And it’s infuriating. I never would have thought this would be the part of writing that would be the most frustrating. I thought it would be the continuous rejection from print houses or editors hitting the tender parts of my heart, my pride. Hell, that would be welcomed here when I’ve finished before I’ve even begun. Then Connor starts crying and it all goes south from there.
I decide I must need some fresh air so I put Connor in the stroller and head out the door. It’s not the nicest day outside, but at least it’s not raining. Thanksgiving is slowly approaching and the town begins to reflect it. The park where the boys and I attended now offers casual hay rides and the Halloween decorations have been taken down for the most part. Scarecrows and pumpkins still huddle close in empty spaces while jack-o-lanterns, cut-outs of ghosts and goblins, and the haunted house have been replaced with pens filled with turkeys and corn mazes manually designed for children and adults alike.
I don’t know if it is because being out in public is still fresh to me or if it is something else, but I can’t shake this feeling something is off. I can’t exactly explain it. I felt it the night we all left these same grounds during the festival and headed home. Like something is lurking so close yet for the life of me I can’t put my finger on it, nor can I actually see it—
My phone rings, cutting my thoughts off and I reach into my pocket and bring it to my ear.
“Hey, Hun, it’s me,” Kameron says through some very harsh static.
“Where are you? I can barely hear you.” When I can hear, I catch a lot of chatter, people in the background.
“—stuck on the subway. Problems.”
I press my lips together. They should have made it to the park an hour ago.
“How long until it’s back up and running?”
“Lookin’ like an hour, maybe two, which is why I’m calling: I won’t be able to pick up Ren’s gift and the cake. I’m close enough to the bakery that I can pick it up on our way home, but could you drop by the gift shop in town?”
It’s as if a chunk of ice hits the bottom of my stomach. I don’t let it to affect the tone of my voice, though.
“Of course. I’ll head there straight away.”
“Great, thanks. This way Kyle can stay to watch Ren open his presents and not have to hit the road immediately.”
We say goodbye and I turn the stroller.
“It looks like we’re going on a different adventure today,” I say to Connor and head in the opposite direction.
The Golden Ticket Toy Shop must be a local store only because in somewhere like Twinbrook it would stick out like a sore thumb. It does help tremendously being wedged between stores selling furniture and doodads, their exteriors like something straight out of a children’s book. Still, the place, like the park, leaves me a little unsettled. Even if the toys inside are full of bright fun colours, and children are screaming and laughing at the top of their lungs, zooming in and out from behind counters, grabbing whatever their little hands can carry, I swear the creepy dolls are following me with their eyes and why are they so pale and haunted? I head inside, speak to the man behind the counter, grab what I need, pay and get out of there as fast as I can.
Getting home isn’t too difficult. It’s started to darken on me, possible storm clouds closing it, and I make sure to keep glancing over my shoulder to make sure nobody’s following me. I keep hearing footsteps and every time I look, it’s just me on the sidewalk and nobody else. By the time I get home, prepare and cook dinner and set the table, the boys have returned with arms full of toys they won at the park, beach towels they no doubt paid way too much for and hats that still have the tags sticking out the sides. Dinner is an ongoing dialogue about what they encountered at World of Wonder. There’s a lot of laughing and interrupting, “I’ve gotta’ tell you this story so that I can tell you that one.” Ren opens his presents: a video game console from his father and me, my parents mailed him mistletoe (I swear they can be so disconnected sometimes. It’s like they open up the buy catalogue and choose the first thing they see) and Kyle has gifted Ren an air hockey table.
For us it is a great night, the hardest part saying goodbye to Kyle and Connor and watching them pull out of the driveway and disappear into the distance. What I didn’t know and wouldn’t learn until much later was how a man was found dead at City Hall. Actually, it would end up being a mysterious man who went by the name John Doe who was found motionless on his front side late that night.
((Sorry for the very late reply. I hadn't realized the story had been approved.))
#4 8th Apr 2020 at 3:31 PM
Life Of A: Writer --- Pop
It's been a quiet week since the investigation opened up about the murder. John Doe. His name was John Doe. That's it. No witnesses, no evidence. Nothing. Everything was cleaned up without a single speck to be admired. It seems surreal. Death in the little quiet town I have moved into. I should be scared. I mean, I man died blocks from where my family and I live. Yet, there is this part of me that leaves me feeling like I can handle it. Crazy, I know, and that is what scares me more: that the fact that it does little to bother me is what scares me most.
I am pondering the events like I have for the last how many days, considering the hot liquid in my coffee cup when the doorbell rings. I get up and greet the person on the other side of the door.
I haven't gotten the door open much more than a hand when the voice arrives.
"Chasity, I didn't expect you to be home." Opening the door all the way reveals a woman with sharp features, shaggy hair and eyes that could drive knives into my heart thousands of times if she struggled to keep her hatred for me hidden behind a facade.
"Gretchen," I say, keeping the door handle in my hand. She's Kameron's first wife and the one I could be seen as taking Kameron away from. It's not completely untrue. In a time when I felt lonely and he was the only person who made me feel like something of worth...
I shake my head from the thought. "What are you doing here?"
"Ah, right to the point I see," she says. As she brings up the portfolio in her hand, she adds, "Glad things haven't changed."
It's a dig at me, obviously, but what is also obvious is her desperate want for me to react. It takes a lot, but I don't.
"I was just bringing over Kameron's papers for the divorce to be final. Is he around?"
"You know he's at work, Gretchen," I say. "Besides, doesn't that usually go through the lawyers?"
She smiles, albeit a little too dramatically and then notices my belly. "Of course, I forgot you were pregnant. You look like you're about ready to pop."
Gretchen takes a deep breath and says, "Look, I know there was a lot of tension between you and me, I mean, you did steal my husband, but I have done a lot of soul searching over the past year and I've finally come to the realization that you are hardly to blame. Kameron and I were rocky far before you showing up and I guess when he went looking for something I couldn't give him, I blamed you for giving it to him." Tears begin to pool in her eyes and as much as I want to push her out the door, close it on her face and tell her I can see through the game she's playing, I can't help myself.
"Would you like to come in for a cup of coffee?"
She agrees and I lead her inside and close the door behind her. Even as I grab a tray with coffee cups, I wonder what I am doing. It could be my guilt coming through. Heck, it could be a whole number of things, my emotions have been rather high as my pregnancy moves forward day after day.
I return to the dining room where Gretchen is sitting, waiting for me.
"I'm sorry for springing this on you. I really was expecting Kameron to be home."
I nod again and then take a sip of my coffee.
We sit in silence, drinking our coffees, listening only to the ever-present sounds traffic and the low buzz of the refrigerator.
"I used to be just like you, you know. A baby inside me kicking, me waiting for Kameron to get home to ask him how his day was while I had dinner ready."
I squint my eyes, but I don't dare make contact with hers. "We're nothing alike."
"He used to be on time every night, like clockwork. You've got to admit, being a firefighter and being home like that"--she snaps her fingers--"was pretty impressive. And now that he's a teacher..."
"He's still on time," I tell her and take another sip from my cup.
"But I knew when he started seeing you. Every night, every night, call, call, call. He's got to work overtime, he's going to be late again, something came up, went for drinks with the boys. But I stuck by him." She makes a humoured expression and then shakes her head. "And when I met you, introduced that you were some secretary, I knew it was all downhill from there."
I stay quiet, looking at the liquid again in my cup.
"I feel like a complete idiot, to keep being at his side, pretending that everything is going to be all right when I know it never is going to be. I'm just waiting for the pin to finally drop and I have the excuse to leave. Maybe I took death do us part a little too firmly."
"Maybe," I mutter more under my breath than anything.
"But you shattered that the night I come home from a work trip two days early, didn't you? I'll never forgive that jerk for allowing your disgusting body into our bed--"
I finally look Gretchen in the face. "You're a b****."
"And you're a w****," she says as she gets up from her seat. She drains what's left of her cup and taps the surface of the folder still on the table. "Make sure he signs it and mails it back in the next week. I'd hate to come by again."
"Would you?" I say out of spite as she slips her purse over her shoulder and starts for the door.
She turns and looks back at me. "You know, Chasity, it doesn't matter how many babies you pop out, that's not going to concrete anything between you and him. Trust me, I know. One piece of advice, though: careful who you screw around with--karma has a funny way of getting back to you."
She leaves, closing the door behind her and it's almost as if on cue, the sharp pain erupts and it's as if a large blowfish has puffed out, piercing the inside lining of my stomach. I cry out and through the window I see Gretchen glance back. I know she's heard me and even debates coming back in. Probably thinks I am angry about what she's said and I am lashing out. After a few moments, she doesn't hesitate any more and walks down the steps of the porch, her cell phone to her ear.
#5 15th Apr 2020 at 3:06 PM
Life Of A: Writer --- Jingle
Snowflake day is upon us many weeks later. The day where families come together, friends drink and be merry and children scream with excitement because the big man somehow managed to break into our house without anybody noticing. I'll admit, even when I was young, it baffled me that nobody, not even my parents, was able to catch Santa redhanded. Yet here I am so many years later with children of my own and they don't suspect a thing. They just barged into Kam's and my room at seven o'clock in the morning telling us that he was here and he left presents. Oh, what it was like to be young and none the wiser.
The doorbell ringing snaps me out of my thoughts. I am standing at the counter, half my arm shoved inside a turkey while the other one is holding the other end. I call for somebody to answer the door but between the boys playing their new video game system and Kam upstairs hooking up the karaoke machine his parents sent from Sunset Valley, nobody seems to hear me and I end up having the pull away from tonight's meal, rinse my hands clean and answer the door myself.
Olive Spenser is on the other side, a plate of egg rolls in her hand and a big smile on her face.
In the few months since my family moved here, I haven't gotten to know many people. Mainly I've spent my time unpacking and trying to be a good mother by juggling three children, four if I count Kam. I met Olive one day when I drove Renaldo to school after he'd missed the bus. She says she recognized me from the Halloween festival back a while ago, though for the life of me I couldn't and still can't remember if I met her or not. It didn't matter all that much. She asked me if I wanted to get a cup of coffee that day and since then we've become good friends.
"Happy Snowflake day!" she says and pulls me into a hug.
"Same to you!" I say, and I'm looking around. She's the only one at my doorstep. She has a young boy, the same age as Renaldo, whom I told her to bring along. Actually, I told her to bring her whole family foolishly before I learned that it was only her and her son N.S. Her husband Ichabod passed not yet a year ago in an electrical accident.
"Where's your son?" I finally ask.
"Oh, he's just in the car. He's going to help our nanny bring some of the presents. You don't mind that I invited her, do you?"
"No, of course not. The more the merrier. Renaldo is so excited that N.S. is coming. It's nice that they've gotten so close at school. I--"
"Happy Snowflake day," says a sultry voice and I actually am paralysed at what I see...
When Olive brought up her nanny, I was expecting an older lady with nobody other than herself to be around on this very day. Empty and lonely on the inside and a strong urge to full it by being around other families. Call me old fashioned, but this woman, this doll...! Long hair pours over this child's shoulders the colour of rubies, big doe eyes and a body that would make any woman jealous. In what world is she not busy on Snowflake day?
"Chasity," says Olive and I actually have to shake myself to snap out of it, "this is Rose Thorne."
"Rose Thorne?" I repeat. Her parents must have had a sense of humour.
"What a pleasure it is to finally meet you," she says to me, grabbing my hand and shaking it. "Olive has told me so much about you."
"All good I hope."
Rose giggles girlishly and passes me a bottle of red wine. "Thank you so much for having me."
I don't know what it is about her that I don't like. It could be that every sentence ends with what sounds like a question. It could be that weird way she keeps giggling like a schoolgirl. But I think it is more of the fact that she reminds me of those girls back home that all joined me on the road to fame through modelling and that leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. I almost immediately open the bottle of wine once we all gather inside and try to wash it away.
Both families join in the afternoon while the turkey is cooking for some fun activities. We have a snowball fight, make snowmen and angels and take pictures that we all know we will never print.
We also skate on the rink Kam has been working on for weeks. I am surprised how solid the ice is for how mild the weather has been leading up to today. It's only been the last few weeks that things have gotten deeply cold. I'm not the greatest in a pair of skates. Thankfully, neither is Olive or Kam. The three of us get laughed at by the children as they literally skate circles around us. Kam is probably the worst of the three of us and while I have tried to help him to his feet countless times, he drags me to the ground not once, not twice, but several times. I end up abandoning him and working with Olive to keep upright on the opposite side of the rink.
"Looks like he just needed a little help," Olive says as we spin together. I follow her gaze and notice Rose and Kam mirroring us, though neither of them are looking our way.
"I've got to continue dinner," I say with haste, letting go of Olive's hands and hoping not to fall down again. "The turkey must be almost ready and the vegetables still need doing."
After undoing my skates, getting my shoes back on and trudging back inside, it's not long before I am back in front of the oven. Olive has followed me inside and she's helping me with what's left to do.
"I'm sorry," she finally says after a few minutes of silence between us. "That was a really stupid thing for me to say."
"No, it's fine," I assure her. I scoop chopped carrots into a pot and place it on the stove.
"I shouldn't have brought her, I know." She turns and looks out the window and the others playing around. "I'm sorry, it wasn't appropriate. I should have known after what you said a few weeks ago."
I press my lips together. She's talking about my encounter with Gretchen. I spoke to her about it a few days after left this very house and told Olive how much it affected me.
"When I mentioned Rose helping Kam on the rink, I didn't mean how it sounded."
I also mentioned to her how Gretchen said how Kam looking for somebody else was a pattern of his and that karma will come around to me too. I told her all of it and obviously Olive sees the parallels.
Olive's prattling now.
"Olive, I get it. It's fine! Okay? It's fine."
Olive nods and continues mashing potatoes. "Has she come by since?"
"No, thankfully. Kam signed the papers and mailed them out the next day and not even a call from her. I really hate how easily she can get into my head, though."
"Don't let her get into your head. There are people out there with the ability to destroy us and letting them get into our heads is like opening the door for them."
"I let that door open a lot over the years. I don't expect you to understand."
Olive snorts. "You know people think I killed my first fiance after he left me at the altar, right?" She doesn't let me answer. "Is Kam coming home on time?"
"Is he making excuses, making late calls, staying overtime as Gretchen suggested?"
"Then maybe Gretchen was wrong."
"Maybe," I say, draining what's left of my wine glass and filling it up again for the fourth time. "Maybe."
I call everybody in for dinner after the table is set and we eat. I notice N.S. walk into the kitchen in the middle of dessert.
"N, where are you going?" Olive asks, leaning back in her chair in an attempt to get a better look at where he's going. He mumbles something back at her, something nobody, myself included can understand. He's completely out of my line of sight, but from where Olive sits, she can see him. "N!" Olive doesn't get a response. Her frustration burns through her cheeks, though I watch as she forces a smile on her face, slapping her napkin on the table and getting to her feet. "Be right back," she says in a reassuring tone.
"Hey, Hun, do we have whip cream for the pie?" Kam asks me from across the table.
"Oh, yeah, of course," I say, though a bit slurrish, and I am back on my feet. I forgot to bring it out. As I make my way back into the kitchen I spot Olive and N at the garbage by the window.
"You're not going to find something like that here, Subject!" Olive says sharply even if very quietly. "They are not like us. They're outsiders."
"But I need something!" N whines. "I'm getting shaky."
"Not now! Go back and eat your pie and we will talk when we get home."
I have just made it to the fridge and pull the door open. "If you guys are looking for the whip cream, I'm getting it right now."
Olive spins around to face me, the colour draining from her face. "Uh, no," she recovers as fast as she can. "N was just looking for more meat. He's a typical child carnivore."
"There's more turkey if you want more," I tell them. I motion to the platter on the counter.
"Not that," N mutters as he storms back into the dining room.
Olive laughs it off or at least tries to. "Children."
After opening presents, Olive and the others go home. I have to tell the boys to go to bed even though they are transfixed on their video games and after feeding the newborn, go to bed myself. Kam is already in bed, reading on his tablet.
"Fun day," I say as I take off my clothes and put on my sleepwear.
"Yeah, it was nice. Nice to meet some of the people you've spoken about. Olive and her son seem nice. Rose too."
As I take a seat on the edge of the bed, I pump a glob of hand moisturizer in my palm and begin working it in. "Well, I never met Rose before today. I didn't even know she was coming to be completely honest."
"It turned out to be a pleasant surprise nonetheless."
I chuckle under my breath. "I'm sure she did." As I lean back, I notice Kam cock his head toward me.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
I open my mouth to speak. Heck, there are so many things I want to say to him, accuse him of. But I shut my mouth almost immediately.
"What is it, Chas?"
"Chas, you've been acting weird all night."
I try and think about what all I want to say to him. It's all rather hurtful and even though it is hard to detect, I know it would be the alcohol talking and not my clear mind. I decide on something else.
"I'm having second thoughts about this place--"
"Again with this," he says albeit a little exaggeratedly. "We go through this almost every night. I know you have a high anxiety with everything especially after all that happened back home, I get it, but are we really going to have a problem with every place we go?"
"But you haven't heard what I've got."
If Kam could roll his eyes any harder than a schoolgirl... But he motions for me to go on and I tell him. I tell him what I overheard in the kitchen.
"Really?" I wish Kam spoke with excitement, but it is obvious he thinks my findings are lacklustre at best.
"She called us outsiders!" I counter.
"She was speaking to a child--her child, who was having a tantrum. She probably wanted to get to the cause before making a scene."
"I can't believe you right now," I say, pulling at the sheets and kicking them apart with my feet so that I can slip in between them.
"And I can't believe all you did was drink all night."
"I had a few drinks," I snap at him. "Pardon me for letting a little loose after having to carry our daughter around for nine months. Life knows I needed it."
"You were an embarrassment during dinner--"
"What? Because I forgot the whip cream?"
"You could barely hold your head from hitting the plate. Slurring your words and talking over others."
"Well, is it possible that maybe you googling the nanny may have had something to do with it?"
"What are you going on about now?"
"Rose! Rose!" Ugh, just the sound of her name makes me want to throttle everybody within a ten-mile radius. "All day, next to her you were!"
"She was a guest who was with people she'd never met before."
"Ha! Isn't that how it always goes? I had to make her feel special, make her comfortable? Blah, blah, blah!"
Kam shakes his head and puts his tablet on the table next to him and gets up.
"Where are you going?" I demand.
"I'm going to give you a moment or maybe a few since it is so clear you need one."
And then he leaves the room. I listen to him walk down the stairs and slam the front door.
#6 22nd Apr 2020 at 3:50 PM
Life Of A: Writer --- Shriek
Twelve hours later I stand on the sidewalk looking up at Olive Specter's home. I won't say I'm shocked. There was a little piece of doubt inside of me that told me coming here wouldn't be some big hole in the middle of the town that everybody skimmed over each time they passed by. But hearing Olive's son talk about my family being some outsider as they put it forced me to come and see what's up. And no, nothing out of the ordinary, at least from street view anyway. No portals leading to the underworld. No flashing beams looking to take me into outer space. Nope, just a lovely house covered in icicles and beautiful wooden carvings.
It doesn't stop me, though. I open the gates at the front and walk through them.
I make my way up the steps of the wrap-around deck. Snow is still falling, has been falling since late last night, though light, from the looks of it, nobody has come or left this property since maybe before the gathering last night for Snowflake Day. I allow my thoughts to swarm as I peek inside the nearest window. Lights are out and everything is closed up. I shrug the possibility off somewhat, doing my very best to be somewhat pessimistic that my brain isn't trying to play tricks on me. I know something was off last night, but there are plenty of possibilities as to why Olive may not have come home last night. They did have the nanny, that overly sweet Rose Thorne... Olive probably drove her home... Maybe Rose lived out of town--
I stop dead in my tracks as my eyes turn to pinpricks, zoning in on the stone feet from me. A gravestone in the backyard? I take cautionary steps down the stairs of the deck and make my way over.
"Here lies Ichabod Specter," I mutter, kneeling down and putting my hand on the cold surface of the stone to support me. I knew Olive's husband had passed recently, but she never mentioned anything about having his stone in the backyard. Last time he was brought up in conversation, she said how she and NS would be taking a drive out of town to go see his grave. I actually have to pat the ground beneath me to see if the soil is soft. It's hard. Of course it's hard. It's winter and the last few weeks have been absolutely freezing.
My mind is spinning with countless ideas of where this gravestone came from and why Olive would lie to me about it. I stand quickly, stepping away from the stone as one though keeps prodding my brain like a jackhammer: Did Olive dig up her husband's grave that day and have it transferred here? It may be unimaginable to me, but maybe...
Kam would say I am completely overreacting, and sure he'd be right. In what world would somebody as kind of Olive steal her husband's grave or gravestone and bring it all the way home.
Okay, I tell myself, clapping my hands together and turning around in a pace-like manner, now you're overreacting, that's completely out of this world.
I've decided I need to leave. When Kam is in my head without being around me, my conscience is telling me something and this time it's telling me my imagination is getting the better of me. He was right last night to not believe me. Last night being blitzed out of my mind, anything and everything sounded plausible. Now, pushing aside my determination, I can see how insane I actually sound.
I'm about to head back up to the deck and back to the roadside when I spot a garbage can. "Last thing," I tell myself and head for it.
I expect it to stink when I lift the lid so I don't know why I am surprised when the odour hits me like a brick wall. There's the smell of old greens, like celery or lettuce that's spent much too long in the pantry. Old chicken makes an appearance as I dig around. But there is something else. It's potent, much more so than anything else in the garbage to the point where it almost makes me gag. It reminds me of my childhood for some reason. Metallic almost. The image of my early years in public school come to mind, of me and my friends on the playground, hanging upside down on the monkey bars, my hands getting sweaty as I would spin around and flip off, the scent on my hands... For the life of me I can't place it exactly and why would I be smelling it now?
Before I can figure it out, I hear a car pull up in the driveway. A quick look around the corner, I realize it's Olive.
Heart hammering like an 808 drum, I plant the lid of the garbage back on as fast as I can and use the snow to clean off my gloves. Too little time! I pull them off, bundle them inside out and stuff them in the bottom of my pocket.
I've made it all the way back to the front door as Olive is making it through the gates. "Hi, Olive!" I say with a wave.
"What are you doing here?" She may be asking me, but her eyes are following my trail in the snow to the backyard.
"I just wanted to come over to apologize for last night." Before Olive can say anything, I add, "for my drinking. I'm sorry if I made you or your son or Rose feel uncomfortable. Control got a little away from me." I, too, glance down at the path in the snow. "So I just wanted to come and say that to you. I knocked on the front door and nobody answered and I didn't know if you used the front door or the side door. From where I come from people are more inclined to use a side door, so I tried that too, and now I'm babbling. Sorry, I just wanted to say that I'm sorry and that I understand if I made you so uncomfortable last night that you don't want to have me around anymore or--"
"You are babbling," Olive says as she walks past me and unlocks her door. "Are you coming in for a coffee?"
As she is setting up, she shows me to the living room and tells me to make myself comfortable. There is a photo album on the coffee table. I pick it up and flip through it. There are countless pictures, most of them of NS as a baby and Olive being the glowing mother in every opportunity to be by his side.
"How time flies by," Olive says as she makes it next to me with a steaming cup of coffee.
"I was just noticing how many photos you are in with NS. You guys are very close."
"Always have been. He is very special."
Olive smiles and nods, taking a sip of her coffee, though it would seem her mind is somewhere else. "Ichabod wasn't around very much and when he passed NS wasn't old enough to understand what was going on. I mean, it may only have been a year, but Ichabod lack of being there as NS grew kind of made little difference."
I don't know what to say, so I just sit there, listening.
"I'm sure you saw his gravestone out back."
It feels as if a crater has dropped to the pit of my stomach.
"I lied to you. I know I told you I travelled out of town to see him, but not many people take me having my husband buried in my backyard well. Thankfully, those kinds of people aren't around here long, but you... you're different."
"I'm different?" I say, draining what's left of my coffee.
"I knew it when I first met you. There's an aura about you that fits in so perfect here in Midnight. You're not squeaky clean and from the moment I laid eyes on you, I knew you weren't one to hide it. Most people have the immediate intuition to defend themselves and pretend to be something they very much can't. They hide their true selves for fear of being judged, for fear of an inability to embrace what we really are and what we are meant to become."
I don't completely understand what she is talking about. There are parts that describe me trying to deal with the anxiety that has come from the hell I went through in regards to my modelling life. But the part where she brings up what I am meant to become...? I pretend to know what she is talking about. I don't know what else to do. So when I catch a glance at the time, I realize how late it is and how I need to get home.
By the time I get home, my brain has spent how many minutes going over and over the conversation with Olive. Finally, as I park the car, seeing Kam walking up the steps pushes the thoughts away. I'm surprised to see him. We haven't spoken a word since last night when he barged out of the house and slept in an igloo the kids build during Snowflake Day.
"Kam," I say, pushing my door closed. He turns around with a look on his face that doesn't look hateful.
"Where did you go?" he asks me, but I don't answer him.
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry for last night for making a fool of myself and you and everybody. My brain has been fried for a while now and I guess letting loose last night was the only thing I felt I could do."
"No, I get it. I shouldn't have said I felt uncomfortable in this town. It's crazy, I know, but while I can't say I understand everything about the place, nobody seems to be on top of me or questioning me about every little thing I do. It's not bad..."
"Really?" This time when he says it, he doesn't seem to be unimpressed, not like last night. No, he seems somewhat surprised. "That's fantastic. I couldn't be happier." He doesn't seem ecstatic, but that's probably just me overplaying it.
I'm about to walk with him into the house when a thought hits me.
"Hey, you know Peter can babysit the other two tonight. Did you want to grab a bite to eat in the village tonight? It'll just be the two of us. We haven't done anything for us in a long time."
He's thinking about it for a moment--probably to figure out his schedule for the rest of the day--and finally says, "Uh, yeah, okay, yeah."
"Yeah, that would be lovely. I just have to run a few errands and drop off a paper at work and be back in an hour?"
"Okay, great!" I start walking to the front door. "I'm just going to get out of these clothes, have a shower and I'll be eagerly waiting, okay?"
"Okay," he says, walking to the car and getting into it.
"Okay!" I clap my hands and hurry into the house.
I let Peter know that he's on for babysitting tonight. He complains, which I expected, and I boogie up the stairs to the bedroom, pulling the clip from my hair as letting the golden locks fall to my shoulders. There is an excitement inside of me that I haven't felt in a long time. A longing, a love for Kameron and a want to spend time with him. I felt this first when we started dating, again when he proposed and again when we got married. Modelling got in the way a bit and everything cooled off especially when kids were added into the equation. But this! This alone time is what we need. What we have always needed and finally my anxiety is be shaped so that I no longer have to fear what people are going to think of me or how I need to pretend. Maybe this is exactly what Olive was talking about. Maybe this town really is absolutely perfect for my mind and soul because I can finally be who I am meant to become!
Pulling off my coat, I open the door to my bedroom and all excitement has vanished from my body and dread, horror and all anxiety I thought I could fend off comes crashing in.
I scream at the top of my lungs as I look at the dead body in the middle of my bedroom.
#7 6th May 2020 at 4:23 PM
Life of A: Writer --- Gasp
It's as if their voices are mumbles, droning in a consecutive line of white noise. When I was still living with my parents, before I had moved to Milan to hit some modelling gigs, I struggled with sleeping many hours at a time. Whether it was something like my father's motorcycle-like snoring or just the gurgle from the water cooler, any little noise woke me up--a light sleeper at its finest. After many sleepless nights, I finally invested in a white noise machine and instantly drew comfort from its consistent noise.
Now, sitting in my living room, the coffee table beneath me, I have been taken back to that time, except it's not my white noise machine mumbling, it's the police officers and one detective trying to get as many answers from me as possible.
"I've told you how many times, I DON"T KNOW HOW IT GOT THERE!" My voice has hit higher peaks of hysteria than I ever thought possible.
"Mrs. Lennox, I understand how scared you must feel right now..."
My fingers through my hair, I look up at the woman in front of me. She holds a notepad in one hand and a pen in the other and while her eyes hold me in their determined gaze, I can't help but feel like she's my only source of sanity right now.
"Now, do you have any idea who would have done this?" she asks me. "Anybody you think would want to harm you or send a message?"
I actually snort under my breath. The list of people. I could go down a list of the people from my past, though very few of them would go to this extreme. Putting a dead body in my bedroom? No, the people who hated me in my past are cowards, always hiding behind a camera or a keyboard. They'd never actually get their hands dirty.
Another officer comes up behind the woman and pulls her aside.
"Is that a yes?" the female officer asks him. They don't speak in hushed tones, but they aren't blurting out information either. The other officer's face holds a grave expression and between the two of them they share a look of understanding.
"Yes," he says quietly. "That's our John Doe."
My guts plummet to the bottom of my stomach and it feels like they could sink even lower. John Doe was the man who had been found weeks before Snowflake Day in the front of City Hall. I drop my face into my hands and bring my head between my knees in an attempt to control my breathing. What the hell was he doing in my bedroom? Who could have done this and why? Why? Why? Why?
"Mrs. Lennox," the female officer returns, this time with the detective next to her. She introduces us and then all the questions start like where I was yesterday, do I have an alibi, why do I think John Doe ended up on my property when he was last seen being transferred to the morgue? While, yes, I do have an alibi and Olive can back me up, I don't much have answers to many of the other questions.
By the time everybody decides to leave, I head up to bed. I am completely exhausted and don't have a clue what else I should do. But when I climb the stairs and see that chair, though empty this time of John Doe's body, I immediately decide to sleep on the couch.
Kam doesn't come home. He's not there when I get up. He doesn't answer his phone when I call him. Even after I get the kids ready for school and send them off, he's still a no-show. I call his work and see if he's shown up. He hasn't. I call the police and tell them I think I may need to report a missing person. They tell me to sit on my hands. Nothing should be reported until after the twenty-four-hour mark. Even after I tell them what happened last night, how he was just dashing to work and then coming home to go to dinner with me, how I found John Doe in my house, how Kam could be in trouble, I am suggested to wait for a full day to pass before I go any further.
"Are you freaking kidding me?" I scream into the phone. I could swear I am talking to a robot on the other end of the line even if I know sure well that they are completely human.
I hang up, after using some of my choicest swear words of course.
After trying to clean up the house and getting impatient, I decide to call a babysitter and drive over to the school. Kam's not there. I can tell when his car's not in the parking lot and when I head into the school and check his classroom, his desk has an older woman I have never seen before sitting behind it. Must be his substitute. The principal catches me spying around and assures me once they've heard something they will let me know and then urges me to get off the property.
I end up driving around town aimlessly, checking local shop parking lots for his car and even drive by all restaurants on the off chance that maybe he thought we were going to meet up last night (even though he specifically said he was going to pick me up!) and has strangely decided to wait for me all night until I arrived. No way in hell would he do that, but even so, I check anyway.
I end up going to the park just for something to do. The winter festival is meeting its last days, though people are still coming to support. Every time a car stops and people arrive, my head jets from side to side to see if any of them are Kam. None are.
I call him again. No answer. This time it goes straight to voicemail which means his phone is off. Or dead! I think with a sense of panic. If the battery of his phone has met its end, what does that mean for Kam? That he couldn't get to a power source fast enough or that something's happened to him and a dead phone is the least of his worries? If he's hurt, or worse, he can't get a hold of anybody now.
I am on the brink of crying when I see Olive come into view.
"Olive!" I say almost sobbing as I hop to my feet and go to hug her.
"Chasity," she says at first joyfully, but then my fear and panic must burn through me and become contagious. "Is everything all right? What's wrong?"
I tell her everything. From Kam and I working things out, to him offering to take me to dinner, how excited I was and then the whole John Doe thing and then now not being able to get a hold of him. She listens to me go on and past me of the shoulder, holding me tight and telling me that everything is going to be all right. I am so invested in our conversation when I spot a photographer taking my photo, it doesn't bother me. The most I can do now is roll my eyes and ignore them. What the media has to say about me is the least of my worries right now.
"And the police won't do anything to help," I say through tears, "not until it's been after twenty-four hours. How is that any good? I mean, he's not answering his phone now! What if we could do something now and not when I am allowed to report it?"
Olive presses her lips together. "There is a way to find him, you know."
"There is?" I speak tentatively for fear that Olive isn't about to give me a concrete answer.
"Let me see your phone," she says and I pass her it. "Does he have the same make?"
I nod. "Yeah, we've got a family plan and a discount on the two of them and I--" Olive cuts me off with a wave of the hand. I'm prattling.
"There's an app for finding another phone." She clicks around, downloading the app and asking for my password and such.
While she is putting it all together, I say, "But his phone's dead... or turned off."
"It will at least tell us where the phone was before it powered down. It's a start, right?"
"Okay, I have to go," she says and then passes me the phone. "It's searching for Kam's last location now. It could take a few minutes, but when the bar is finished filling, you'll have it. Sorry I can't stay longer. Call me if you need anything, okay, Chasity?" She hugs me again tight and then waves goodbye.
And so I sit. Waiting. These two minutes waiting for the bar to fill on my phone is the longest wait I have ever encountered, seems to last for hours. But when it says search complete it's like silence after an hour of constant noise. I am given a set of coordinates and a message that asks me if I would like to link to the phone's GPS app. I click yes as I am running to my car.
As I start my car and clip my phone to the dash attachment so that I can see the GPS map, I notice the estimated time it will take to get to my destination. Two hours! I was expecting something more along the lines of two minutes. Maybe twenty. Actually, I was more expecting it to lead me to the police station where Kam would be giving his statement of where he was last night and how he wasn't attached to this John Doe thing.
But I am wrong.
Two hours later I am a lot farther than I expect to be from my house. On my way, I call the babysitter and ask if she would mind staying a little longer than expected. She doesn't sound too happy but she says yes nonetheless. I thank her up and down and tell her I should be back not too late.
The sun is setting as I reach my destination. I check three times to make sure I am in the right place. I am--Gleewood Apartments. I get out of my car and make my way inside. There's a woman behind the desk at the front. I pull out my phone and choose the first clear photo of Kam I can get. It's one of the family at the Autumn festival. I show it to her and ask if she's seen him come in here. She glances at the photo for a moment and from the look on her face I doubt she is going to give me the answer I want. Then, as if a bolt of electricity shoots through her, she's perky and almost excited.
"Yes! Yes, I have!" she then tells me the room and how to get there. There's a sense of a reprieve, nursing my fear as I follow her instructions on how to get to him. From her excitement alone, I feel that Kam is and always has been in danger. For this woman to be so anxious to help, there is obviously some great need for me to get to his side.
I am on the third floor in no time and head to the second door on my right. I don't knock. If Kam's in trouble I'd hate to let his attackers know I'm there. Thankfully the door is unlocked. I turn the knob and make my way inside.
I can't tell exactly what I am looking at at first. When I first walked in and heard gasping, I imagined in my mind Kam hogtied, gasping for air as his body struggles to keep his back arched. The noose around his neck tightening and cutting off all his air supply until he strangles himself. A goon keeping a watch on him while the real bad guy is out looking for his next victim. Maybe the next woman's bedroom to toss Kam's dead body inside.
But that's not what I am looking at. I am looking at Kam's naked back, his strong shoulders pinched together and shining with sweat while a woman's nails, painted ruby red, dig into them.
I don't say anything yet. I haven't a clue what to say. I don't know what to do as my brain tries to understand the two people in front of me and what I am doing here. My gaze darts to the woman's face. Her eyes are closed, her cheeks red from perspiration and powdered blush. She's the one gasping, not Kam and she seems to be in bliss.
Finally, with an energy I can't explain, I clear my throat. As all motion stops in my sight, I say, "What the f***?"
In front of me chaos explodes with legs flying around, trying to find ground and hands letting go of one thing and grabbing another. Kam is the first one in my sights, tripping over his own feet in many attempts to get to a standing position. He falls to the ground not once but twice, grabbing his underwear and pulling them on as if that will erase what I've just seen from my memory. Rose has pulled the sheets out from under her and wrapped herself in it.
"Chas, what are you doing here?"
I look at Kam unable to stop myself from smiling. "What am I doing here?" I say. It seems a little contradictory for him to ask me such a thing. I look from him to Rose and back again. "So this is it? This is where you've been all yesterday and today?"
"Chas, I can explain?"
"Explain?" I chuckle. "No, I think this can explain itself. How long has this been going on?"
"I SAID, HOW LONG?!!"
Kam drops his gaze to the floor unable to look me in the eye any longer.
Rose, arms wrapped around herself in a tight embrace, whimpers and shakes. "Kameron, I'm scared--"
"SHUT UP, RUBY!" I bellow at her with a dismissive wave of my hand.
"My name's Rose!" she counters bravely.
"Do you think I give a s*** right now? Go sit in the corner--the adults are talking!"
"Chas, don't yell at her--" Kam says and tries to put a hand on my shoulder. I whip it away with all my strength.
"No, you don't get to say anything you slimy piece of trash. I have been doing everything for you for the last how long--years! I came to this godforsaken place, I've ignored my true feeling in an attempt to pretend that everything is okay, I have done whatever the hell you've wanted to do so that I don't become what Gretchen is, and look where it got me!"
"Stop saying my name!" I scream at him, wanting more than anything to grab the nearest object in the room and throttle him with it. "I have been worried sick all today and what I've had to deal with last night! You were supposed to come back and you didn't!"
"What happened last night?"
I ignore him. "I have been running around like an idiot because I have been scared for your safety, but you're fine... just fine. You've been hanging with the town's bike. High five, Kam. High five." Kam tries to say something, but I push him out of my way and head for the door just to shut him up. He's running after me though. "I don't want to see you ever again."
"Don't care. If I see you again, I'm going to punch your living lights out. If I see you on the street, I'm going to run you over with my car and when you think it's over, I am going to put the car in reverse and run over you again. The world's gonna' be a lot better without you in it. I know I certainly am." I glance back at Rose who is still cowering behind Kam. "Enjoy him, he's all yours!" And I walk out of the apartment slamming the door and hoping I've put in enough strength to shatter the windows.
#8 27th May 2020 at 6:47 PM
Life of A: Writer --- Grumble
I see wrinkles I never imagined I would experience in my teen years. I see bags that I never thought wouldn't be in my hands. Yet, I don't see something that I always imagined I would have and that is Kam at my side. His infidelity flashes each time I blink or close my eyes to sleep. His arms wrapping around her like some long lost lover. I know what it felt like, his hands around her. The way he'd run his fingers up and down my own spine as our fronts were pressed together, a thin sheet protecting us from the cool breeze that would sweep through the window and across the floor. And the way his slow breathing would lift me ever so slightly up and down rhythmically. I know it all. And while those memories should bring me some comfort during these horrible weeks without him, they bring me nothing of the sort. They bring me nothing but a surging hatred for the man I once believed would be at my sides at all times.
Peter and Ren arguing downstairs snaps me out of it and I turn back to my daughter who sits on the floor next to me, playing with her toys. A big smile on her face. Giggling like the home around her hasn't started to crack. I envy her in more ways than one. She has no idea what's gone on. She doesn't care what's to come from all this. She doesn't understand and because of that, she struggles to feel betrayal or hatred or anything that burns me on the inside. What a life that would be.
When I was young, I don't remember my parents ever fighting. To me, they were the perfect couple. They were far from, I'm not blind, but they never struggled with drinking or addictions, or cheating or the law. They were pretty simple during my early years. Yet now, watching my daughter play, more preoccupied with how her stuffed animal can't bend its legs to side on the floor without tipping over, I start to wonder if I was just like her and how maybe there was a lot going on that I couldn't understand and shrugged off.
I pick her up and pull her in close, kissing her dearly on the side of the head.
It's an hour later that I get her in the stroller and holler to the boys to hurry up. I'm already down the steps of the porch and making my way to the sidewalk that I finally hear one of them slam the front door closed. They are still going at one another. Something about one breaking the other's controller for the video game system my parents bought them for Snowflake Day. Who's mad at whom--couldn't say. But they fight all the way from inside down the whole streetside.
The house turned to hell the moment I kicked Kam to the curb. I'd really hate to sound like the poor defenseless victim of this whole debacle, but Kam really got the easy side of things. He didn't have to explain to the children what happened and why daddy wouldn't be living with us anymore. He didn't have to console them or say things kindly regardless of how he treated me for the sake of his offspring. All he had to do is arrive and pick his things up at the side of the street where I had left it. Do this while I'm not at home and he's off the hook. I reminded him about my promise the last time we spoke: running him over with my car if he decided to come in my proximity. He seemed to have got the message. I left with the kids one day for groceries and when I got back his stuff was gone.
I see my parents once we make it to the train station a few minutes later. They give me a wave and I smile and wave back even if seconds later I whip around to the boys and tell them, quite aggressively too, to get over themselves and to deal with it.
"But Ren--" Peter tries to say and my glare seems to quiet him instantly.
"I don't care what Ren did. Accidents happen so move on."
"No buts!" I may be speaking quietly so as not to create a scene, but I am as straight forward as I would be at full volume. "Now, put a smile on, say hi to Grandma and Grandpa and be good for them for the weekend, please. Do you understand me?"
Both boys, while reluctant, bow their heads and nod. As I gesture for them to go to the grandparents, who stand a few yards away, I can see Ren is happy he is off the hook, though Peter doesn't share it. He's been the most hurt by all of this. Probably because he's been exposed to the most and understands. Our eyes lock. Ren has already dashed for my parents and Peter stands there disapprovingly staring me down. Finally, he walks past me and I hear him say, "Dad's thing was an accident and I don't see you moving on."
I get the kids into my parents' hands, bid them good luck and thank them. My mother, who's always been a little distant with me, asks how I am doing and I just shrug it off. I know what she wants: to know what's all gone on. I just called her and asked if she would mind babysitting the kids so that I can have a breather. I haven't told her anything about Kam, but she knows. I know she knows. She's always been able to read my facial expressions and body language. And the only reason I know is because I have that same trait. I got it from her, however.
Once it is me and only me, I travel to the park. Yesterday was Love Day and now the spring festival is cleaning up the place. Seeing the remaining lovebirds venture around the park, hands in each other's pockets and lips touching one another's cheeks, I am brought back to the fall festival on Halloween and how much simpler everything was then. I had started to break away from my anxiety revolving my media presence and the people around town had shown they'd had my back.
"Why do I feel like I am such a failure now?" I mumble to myself.
My phone rings almost immediately afterwards and I answer it.
"Hey, it's Olive."
"Hi, Olive, how are you?"
"You sound terrible," she says.
"Well, I lost my husband--"
"You have got to stop this self-pitying, Chasity."
"I just lost my husband, I think I have reason to pity myself," I counter.
"Hey, I get it. Of all people, I get it, but Chasity, you need to step out of it. You two separated months ago and it's time for you to move on."
I have a sudden urge to tell her being with somebody for a few weeks like she and her late husband is very different than Kam and me. I don't say anything, though. That would hurt her and she's only trying to help out.
"I really hurt," I say instead. "I don't know what to do with myself. I'm lost. Every time I try to do something like write, all I can see is the two of them."
Olive sighs on the other end. "I guess it doesn't help to hear that they've moved in together, huh?"
I grunt, though I shouldn't be surprised. Kam moved into Rose's apartment when I kicked him out.
"I think you need to get out. A few friends of mine are having a small get together tonight. I think you should come."
"I don't know."
"You're coming. I'll text you the address."
I arrive a few hours later. As I pull up, I see Olive's car and the long winding stairs that lead up to the house. I make my way up and as I make it tot he landing, I realize that this small get together is far bigger than I imagined. I expected a couple of people, four or five max, but as I count the bodies that I have to wiggle through to make it to the front door, there are at least ten outside. How many are inside?
"Excuse me," somebody says behind me as I reach for the door handle. I turn back to see a young man with pale skin. He looks like a cross between Freddie Highmore and Anthony Perkins, and he puts a hand between me and the door to stop me from entering.
"Mother's asked that we not enter until she is ready."
"I'm sorry," I say as I pull back. "I was told the party started at 5pm." I check my watch. It's ten after.
"The party doesn't begin until Mother says." He looks me up and down slowly. It's as if I can actually feel him scrutinizing my every flaw. He tilts his head to the side to motion me towards the horde of other guests. "Soon... We'll be ready soon."
I spin around and see a woman with fire-engine red hair. "Nadia?" I say. I haven't seen her since the first time we met back at the park when she attacked the paparazzi that was harassing me with her guitar. "What are you doing here?"
"I was summoned, like you were," she says matter-of-factly.
"I was invited," I correct her. "Olive told me to come."
A look of epiphany blooms on her face. "Oh, you're the one!"
"Oh you are! I can't wait for you to meet her!"
My mind is swimming and for the life of me, it can't reach the shore. "Meet who?"
"Chasity!" It's Olive this time. She's just made it to my side. "I'm so glad you made it. I didn't know if you'd show."
"No, I said I'd come." I glance around. "A few friends, huh?"
"I know, I wasn't expecting so many people either. Ah wells, the more the merrier I suppose."
The doors to the house open feet from us and the young man from earlier has returned.
"Ladies and gentlemen, the doors have opened and Mother has joined us. Shall we?" He then motions to the door for everybody to enter.
Olive starts toward the door and I follow suit, close to her side.
"So, how do you know these people?" I ask. We've made it into the house to the foyer. It's dark for the most part with soft purple lighting, candles, thick rugs and decor made of taxidermy.
"Friends of friends. Small town." Olive speaks softly, almost dreamlike. "Eventually, you learn everybody's name."
"How's the young man?"
"Morgan Yates. He's her son."
"Whose son?" Before Olive can answer, she's turned into a side room, a living room of sorts. Men and women make out on old, expensive loungers, others' exploring hands touching exposed legs, arms and necklines.
In the back, I notice a woman. I don't understand how somebody can look both kind and wicked at the same time. Skin the colour of snow, lips the colour of blood and eyes that looked almost as if they could be glowing. In one hand she holds a glass of red wine.
"Mother," Olive says as she puts an arm across her chest and bows her head.
Mother? I swallow hard. Something is up. I know for a fact this is not Olive's mother.
"This is the one I told you about," Olive continues.
The woman looks me up and down, much as Morgan did earlier. "I guess we shall see. Come, shall we?" She gets up to her feet and makes her way past me into the hall. In that moment, I catch a whiff of her. I've smelled it before. Back when I searched Olive's property. Its potent metallic scent holds onto me until it's followed the woman into the room across the hall.
"Come, everybody," Morgan says a few feet from where I stand. "Mother is ready."
Olive and I are one of the last to step inside. We've ended up in the dining room. Countless chairs sit around a dining table that runs the length of the room. The table seats twenty, each spot set for the designated guest via a name card over a perfectly white cloth. Olive spots mine right away. I'm at the head of the table. I don't believe it until I actually pick up the card and read it under my breath, "Chasity Lennox." Olive pulls the seat out for me and I sit down.
Everybody has taken their seats and are quiet for a long time. Men and women in decked out clothing pop in early and drop both a wine glass for each guest and another comes and fills it with red wine. Stinky red wine. I mean, I've always found red wine to hold a peculiar scent, but this isn't that. And soon the whole room smells like Olive's trash can at home. The woman, Mother as everybody calls her, is at the other end of the table now and looks down the line at me.
"You've all been asked to come this evening for a special purpose. Very rarely do we find the individuals who are mentally fit and free enough to accept what we have to offer. Today is different. Today we welcome a new member to our family."
I press my lips together and they form a straight line.
"Olive Spencer has brought it to my attention many months ago that we could use somebody like her friend."
I glance over at Olive, but she's staring straight at Mother. Something doesn't feel right.
"She told me," Mother goes on, "how similar she feels outside our community. She told me how easily she is prey for outsiders. How she doesn't fit inside a certain mould. That we could trust her." She raises her glass. "So, this is to you, Chasity Lennox. This ceremony is to you."
The men and women around the table all say "agree" together is one voice as they raise their own glass and then drink from it. Mother has gestured to my glass and I pick it up uncertainly.
"You have been chosen for this community's voice. For the rebirth of us all!" With one swoop of her hands, she pulls the cloth and in the table's inlay, I am looking at a man's body. He's naked except for a loincloth and his body is covered in fruits and vegetables. My heart lurches for a moment until something inside my brain tries to stabilize my fear. I've seen this before. It's nantaimori. It's a Japanese practice from the samurai period in Japan when warriors would celebrate a victorious battle. This isn't out of this world...
But it is not until I look into the face of the man who is being used as a serving platter that my fear heightens.
John Doe. The man that was put into my room those many months ago. While I thought it was because of the purple lighting, I can now see the blue of his lips and the frost on his eyelashes and hair.
The waiters from earlier have returned with plates, setting each spot with knives and forks. Some carry in dishes of sauces and other condiments, and one has a tray of jars with what looks like white gumballs inside. Looking closer I realize they aren't gumballs at all. They're human eyes.
Bile splashes the back of my throat and it takes all I have to swallow it back down. And in that instant, it hits me hard. That stench I smelled back at Olive's house, the one that reminded me of all those times playing with friends at school on the monkey bars... That metallic smell... What I caught a whiff of when Mother walked by me and now what the whole room smells like... It's not red wine in their glasses. It's blood.
#9 3rd Jun 2020 at 4:31 PM
Life of A: Writer --- Sob
My body refuses to react while my mind has already taken fifteen laps around the property. Blood in wineglasses are raised for the one they call Mother. A dead body inches from my face. A sheet that has been covering my very eyes from the moment my family and I stepped foot into this town being pulled away and I am slipped into the place of nightmares. I have to admit, I never saw this coming. Thinking now, I would have imagined a whole bunch of other things. Gang violence, men and women in the drug trade, serial killings the police were keeping covered for their own benefit. Hell, even aliens would make more sense right about now and I could at least digest that. But never that I would be sitting around a table with people readying themselves to stick a fork into the man that was found at City Hall months ago.
Finally, my body reacts and I am up on my feet, knocking my chair backward and Mother--glass still raised--stops midsentence, shocked and appalled. I don't wait for her response. I can already tell from the men and women on both sides of the table that my interruption should never be considered again and that Mother is about to give me a good lashing about respect and that this cult does not allow for outsiders to step in like they own the joint. Yes, I said it! A cult--that's exactly what this is!
I am running out the door in seconds, the dining room turning to chaos as Mother hollers for the others to catch me quickly. As I am down the stairs of the front porch, I can hear the thunder of footsteps pummelling the floor behind me. Somebody shrieks--an attempt at a war cry--and he lands on the ground feet to my right. I twirl of him immediately, grabbing a branch from the ground. It's Morgan, hands at the ready, waiting for me to lower my guard so that he can grab me.
"There's no point in running."
I glance back up at the porch. Mother is standing with her arms over her front side, leaning up against the nearest banister, her cronies gathering left and right. I don't reply. I take a step back, checking where Morgan is in relation to me and seeing that he hasn't moved. No, he's readying himself to pounce the moment I let my guard down.
"You can't run away from who you are truly meant to become."
I notice Morgan try to step toward me and with all my might, I slug him in the side of the head with the branch. Then I flee.
I don't know how far I've traveled or how long I've been running. Moisture from the damp ground wets my toes of my sandals and the temperature has dropped considerably. Even breathing has become too much of an effort and it's like needles are in every breath I take. I don't stop, though. Where am I going? Where am I going? I can't go home. I left my car back at the party and there is no way I am going back to get it. Not now, especially when finally, after what's felt like hours, the men and women once calling my name has since disappeared. I decide to rest for a moment, finding the biggest tree and dropping to the ground behind it. I am drenched in sweat, shivering, on my hands and knees. What little moonlight comes through the intertwining branches above aids the sight of my surroundings and any pursuers, yet it does very little to aid my rising hysteria. I want to scream at the top of my lungs, though I know it will reveal my location in case anybody is hot on my tail. Instead, I curl up into a ball on the ground, cover my face and sob. I want to do this for as long as I need to, hours if I can, but I know I don't have that kind of time. I can only imagine what Mother's people are cooking up, where they are.
And suddenly, I wonder if this is what happened to John Doe that horrible night before he was found at City Hall. Was he too invited to a gathering where instead of agreeing to Mother's way, tried to get as far away as possible and got caught before he ended up getting help?
Just the thought alone has me back on my feet and I am moving again.
I make it out of the other side of the woods to the street and hail a cab. I just tell the driver to drive with no decision where to go. I could speak with the cops, but after my last talk with them and calling them repeatedly about my belief that Kam was missing, I doubt they are going to be too willing to help me so soon. I know that's their job, but when one cries wolf...
Then a thought hits me. Kam! I give the driver directions to the area of Rose's apartment. I can't remember where it is exactly, but if I can just get to the general area... It's not a far drive there, though a few minutes out, the driver gets a mysterious phone call and I don't get a good feeling. Just the way he glances in the rearview mirror at me gets my heart pounding. Mother and her people wouldn't have power over him, would they? I'm in no position to ask. I tell the driver that this is close enough, open the door, throw what little money I have at him and beeline down the sidewalk and through alleys to distance myself from him.
I make it to Rose's apartment not long after. I have a stitch in my side, and getting up the stairs is more of a hobble. Being so close to safety has brought my hysteria down a bit. Not a lot but a bit. I check over my shoulder as I close in on her door. Nobody nearby. The area is silent and in the distance I struggle to see life. It must be late.
At Rose's door, I knock. And knock. And knock. And knock and knock and knock!
"You've got to be kidding me!" I say and thunder erupts above me and it starts to rain harder. I try the handle like the last time I came here. I'm not so lucky. Locked. I bang on the door more and with no answer, I decide to make my way down the walkway. Rose's apartment is the last in the line and a railing stops me from going any farther. There is a small path on the other side though, probably for maintenance workers. I climb over the railing and follow it. I manage to get to a window. I look in. It's dark, but with the moonlight helping me I can almost make out a figure or two. I scream at the top of my lungs and bang hard on the glass.
"Hey!" I scream again, and finally, the lights turn on.
Kam is propped up on one elbow, his other arm having just turned on the lamp next to him. He squints at me, his eyes adjusting and like a whack a mole, Rose pops up from behind him. I can't hear him, but I know Kam's just said something along the lines of "What the hell?" and surely Rose is prattling beside him with something like, "Are you serious?"
I bang on the window again. "Help me, please!"
Kam motions to the front door and I run as fast as I can to it.
"What the hell are you doing?" he asks me. The doors open, but he's got his arm against the frame, keeping me from coming inside. "Do you have any idea what time it is?"
"Kam, Kam, listen to me! You need to listen to me! They wanted me to come to their party and then there was John Doe and they're after me, they're chasing me and you need to let me inside--"
"What are you going on about? Have you been drinking? It's two in the morning."
How could he think I was drinking? And of all things, why does that matter? Can't he see how much I need him right now? How I need help? In my head it sounds so clear, but when I speak, I can't get it out.
I can sense he is about to tell me to go home and close the door, so I grab his arm. "I need you, Kam--"
He turns away. "You sound like Gretchen," he mumbles. "I'm calling you a taxi."
"No, no, please, Kam, no, please!" I'm balling now. It won't come out!
Behind him I can see that while Rose is not thrilled of being woken up at two in the morning, she has a shade of uncertainty on her face.
"Kam," she says softly. She's grabbed the phone before his hands can reach it. "Get her settled. I'll deal with this." Between them they share a look of understanding and then Kam's back at my side. He leads me to the back of the room and says that he is going to make me some tea. I got to the washroom and splash water on my face. Kam gives me a towel to put over me when I exit--he's gotten into a pair of pants and thrown a shirt on--and then hands me a cup of tea and I am so exhausted I slide to the floor and lean against the side of the bed.
"What happened?" he asks me after a few minutes and sits next to me. And I tell him. I tell him everything. From being invited to the party and seeing John Doe and how I think it may have all been connected. Rose is in the other part of the room where the sofa and television is.
I put my free hand over Kam's. "I miss you."
"I miss you too," he says and for a few moments we look into each other's eyes and then there's a knock at the door.
My anxiety spikes and I drop the empty cup on the floor. Kam assures me everything is fine and, with Rose at his side, answers the door.
"Kameron Lennox?" The voice is of a man and not one I recognize. I peek around the corner of the wall and see a man in uniform at the door. He shows them his badge. "You called about an incident?"
Rose takes a step forward. "I did. She's just in the other room."
My eyes narrow as everything becomes a blur. Like how the officer steps inside and Kam leads him to me.
"This isn't the first incident with her tonight. The department's gotten two other complaints regarding her reckless behaviour," the officer says. Even if he's stopped feet from me, he speaks as if I'm not even there. "First was a party on the other side of town where she trespassed and vandalized their property. Even left her car there."
"Chasity told me they were the wrongdoers," says Kam. "Something about the John Doe case..."
"I have a dozen witnesses that say otherwise," the officer tells him. "And the John Doe case was closed a while ago. His body is safe."
"There's somebody working behind the scenes!" I state. "Somebody is working double time for Mother and the police!"
The officer presses his lips into a straight line. "The second instance tonight was when she refused to pay the fare for her cab. Have you noticed any difference in her behaviour over the past few months?"
Though reluctant, Kam looks at the floor and nods his head.
"I'm going to take her down to the station and we'll progress from there," the officer says and I am brought to my feet, with men holding me on both sides, and I am marched out of the room like I am some criminal. As I look back, I catch a glimpse of Kam. I expect that he is going to help me, be at my side or even have some form of empathy on his face. Instead, his hand is linked with Rose's and they kiss.
#10 10th Jun 2020 at 6:46 PM
Life of A: Writer --- Tik
March 13 - Daylight
I've just arrived at the institution. Two men with the strongest of arms hold me as if I am some criminal and then pass me over to a pair of doctors in purple shrubs. I have just come from the police station where I've been in holding for I couldn't say how long. I lost track after passing out from exhaustion. When I awoke, I was told by the authorities that I was being moved to a psychiatric facility. Since then I have been trying to convince them that they are wrong, that they needed to keep a lookout for that horrid group of monsters Mother led, but everybody shrugs it off as hogwash and I look like I deserve where I am headed. Before I was shipped off, I was finally, after having asked countless times, told who committed me. It was Kam. He said I have been losing grip with reality for many years now. Kam...
March 25 - Sunset
I've decided to take a step out of my room for the first time since I arrived. The floor is open for all patients to move around as we please. Dinner is at six in the cafeteria, though most of us grab our food and find a quiet corner because the cafeteria smells like rotting eggs and sour milk. Usually, I just wait in my room for one of the doctors to bring me a tray, knock on my door and leave my food on the floor. But the man who usually does it, told me earlier that he wouldn't anymore because he refuses to encourage my distance from people. Hmph! I shouldn't be surprised. It sounds like another Kam tagline if I've ever known of any. He didn't drop off my breakfast, refused lunch, and now I am starving. I guess I should at least try.
April 9 - Early Afternoon
Tik, tik, tik, tik.
This facility is my prison. The shelves are bare, the air is cold. The sound of an old grandfather clock at the end of the hall echoes through the building as if the walls are made of steel. At one in the afternoon, management plays dated folk music from what I can only assume is Russia from a record player with the large horn-like speaker on it. This lasts for maybe thirty minutes if we are lucky and we are expected to get up and moving whether it be dancing or exercise. A young man--he can't be older than twenty-five--asks me to dance. His unique footwear captures my attention more than anything and before I can answer, he's pulled me to my feet and we dance. He tries to start small talk while we dance either nod or shake my head here and there. He also asks me if I have anybody at home waiting for me. I tear up thinking of my children. How I wasn't able to say goodbye to my sons or my daughter. My parents. And as much as I hate to say it, to Kam. He asks me again and I tell him about Kam and as I do, I watch his face become grotesque.
"I thought you liked me!" he screams at me.
Confusion takes me aback. "What?"
"You said you'd dance with me! You like me!" My arms closed inside his palms, I can feel his anger erupting. Then he pushes me to the floor. "Me!"
My eyes wide, I watch as the young man is grabbed by a couple of doctors. He's still screaming at me at the top of his lungs, spit arching out of his mouth with such ferocity that I have to lean back more in case I may get hit. The doctors drag him into his room and lock him inside and the music is turned off and all I can hear now is the ticking of the grandfather clock and the thumping of the young man's head against the wall.
April 15 - Late Morning
Tik, tik, tik.
We have a new patient. She says her name is Taylor. Actually, to be more precise, she goes by Taylor Swift. She's not Taylor Swift and anybody with a pair of eyes can see it, but she believes she is and probably the reason why she's been dropped off like some litter of pups. I push myself to say hello to her. Being so into myself since I arrived has put distance between me and the others here and the little outbreak between me and the young man--I still don't know his name--has left me feeling rather lonely. Unfortunately, either Taylor here has already heard the news about me or is as distant herself. She tells me she knew I was trouble when she walked in and she actually tried to sing it.
"Excuse me?" I say.
"You need to calm down, you're being too loud."
What? I didn't yell or anything. What is she talking about? "I haven't--"
"Now we've got bad blood!"
I get so flustered, I throw my hands in the air and go to my room for the rest of the day.
After dinner, it's our responsibility to clean our own dishes. The process should take each of us five minutes max. However, like every other night, there is a long line from the sink because one of the patients--I think his name is Rafael Striker--can't stop oogling at himself in the mirror. Everybody waits patiently behind him, tapping their toes until he finally brings his show to an end. A few weeks ago one of the new patients told him to hurry up. The patient was then taken to medical after one of Rafael's violent personalities came to the forefront. I had hoped that I could have gotten to the front of the line right as dinner was over like I usually do, but I didn't want to be caught in another sing-off with Miss Swift.
Once we have finally finished the dishes, everybody is brought to a straight line where management counts all the utensils to make sure nobody has run off with a knife or fork. Hell, even a spoon can be used to scoop out one's eyeballs.
"Twenty, twenty-one," the one doctor at the front of the room says and then looks up at the line. "We're missing one knife." We all know what that means: whoever has it should step forward because nobody's going anywhere until that one knife is found. "Look, we can do this the easy way and move on. Or we can do this the hard way."
There's a groan that starts from the one end of the line and manages to make way all the way down to the other. We all know what the hard way entails: a complete and meticulous search of our pockets and clothes and anywhere on our bodies where we can hide a thing or two.
"The hard way," the doctor continues, "is unpleasant for everyone." There's a giggle from the other end of the line. "Well, mostly everyone. So whoever has it, hand it over."
Nobody moves and the doctor then warns us again before counting down from three. Right as he hits zero somebody steps forward from the line with their hand outstretched revealing the knife. As I focus on them, I realize that it's Taylor.
The doctor grabs the knife from her hand and says, "Your reason for taking it?"
"Got a long list of ex-lovers, they'll tell you I'm insane."
The doctor rolls his eyes. "Of course they will." Even he looks like he's had enough of her. Before he can dismiss us, Taylor glances down the line at me, cocks an eyebrow and says, "It'll leave you breathless
or with a nasty scar."
April 16 - Morning
There's a knock at my door and I am expecting it to be my "wake up" and that breakfast is in half an hour, but usually there is one knock along with one of the doctors yelling in the hall. But this time there are multiple knocks and I have to get out of bed and open the door for it to stop. When I do, I see Taylor on the other side of it, a horrible grimace on her face and what looks like a monster behind those bright blue eyes of hers.
"Get lost, Taylor," I tell her and try to push the door closed on her. She catches it, though, and jams the bottom with her foot in case she loses grip.
"This ain't for the best, my reputation's never been worse, so you must like me for me."
"Just think of the fun things we could do, 'cause I like you."
"All right, you've made your point," a woman says as she steps into view. She's an older woman, could pass as one of the orderlies. However, her lack of scrubs makes me think differently and the two men behind her--two other patients mind you--confirm my hunch. She taps Taylor on the shoulder and directs her to leave the room. Taylor obeys her like a dog and then it's just us inside my room.
The woman introduces herself as Jackie Collins. No, she is not an orderly. Yes, she is a patient, and she has been inside for many years. She also tells me she's can be quite the asset. It's a lot to process, especially first thing in the morning and when I question her, she's already heading back through the door.
"We'll talk soon," she says from the hallway and then all I hear are her footsteps going down the hall.
April 20 - Lunchtime
I hunch over my plate of beans and toast by myself at a table at the back of the cafeteria. After Taylor's little stunt with the knife, nobody's allowed to eat anywhere else. I poke the beans with my fork. I'm not hungry, though I think it has to do with the fact it's almost been a week since I met Jackie more so than the quality of the meal, which is a bit too grey for my liking. To this day I haven't even seen Jackie let alone spoken with her.
Taking a deep breath, I push my plate away and lean back in my chair. Taylor's at the front of the room, a guitar in her arms, playing some song I've never heard before and attempting to sing it. I'm assuming it's another Taylor song and from the reaction of the men and women around her, she's butchering it.
Maybe this Jackie woman really was an orderly. It would explain why I haven't seen her in days and why Taylor did as she asked with a snap of the fingers. Maybe this Jackie is the head of the facility. Just the thought makes my insides burn and I fist my hands. Comes into my room and gives me some false sense that she can be an asset? What even did that mean? An asset? What--to get my dishes cleaned first so I don't have to wait for whatshisface to stop playing around with the sink? Just thinking about it annoys me so I get up and head back to my room.
As I am leaving I hear a loud crash. Behind me, Taylor is looking horror-struck at her guitar in shambles on the floor. Another patient--it's the man I danced with weeks ago--holds what's left of the handle.
"Look what you made me do!" he says to her mockingly.
April 21 - Afternoon
Opening one eye while I attempt to meditate, I spot Taylor rummaging through the garbage, a glue stick in one hand and whatever pieces of her guitar she can find with another. Each time she finds a piece, she tries gluing it back together again. The glue won't hold, though, which leaves Taylor going from a breakout of sobs to a determined will to make it work within seconds.
"It's sad, isn't it?" I jump as the voice comes out of nowhere. Behind me, Jackie hovers, her hands against the back of the bench where I sit, looking at Taylor. "That glue can barely hold two pieces of paper together and she's putting all her faith in it to bring a couple dozen pieces of wood back to its former glory. Just goes to show what this place is capable of."
I turn my attention back to Taylor who's gotten so frustrated she's glued everything she's found into one ball of trash. Jackie takes a seat next to me.
"Who are you?" I ask.
"I told you the other day, I'm Jackie Collins."
"No, who are you exactly? Are you an orderly, are you the head honcho of this place? You come to my room out of nowhere and hussle Miss singer-songwriter over there out of my face--"
"I'm just a patient like you," she tells me.
"Then why haven't I seen you before? Why haven't I seen you since last week? You're not at meals or anything!"
"Because I was out."
I squint at her. "Out where?"
"Just out," she says simply. "It happens occasionally. I can slip past the doctors and enjoy my time in town."
Her confident smile makes me wary. "What?"
"Oh, don't get me wrong, I'm usually found by the time the sun rises and I am hauled back inside, slapped on the wrist and told not to do it again. Then I play their games for a week or two and then when everybody thinks I'm in a good place, I find a way to the outside again." She looks me up and down. "Told you I could be an asset."
May 5 - Dinner
It's been a couple of weeks since I first spoke with Jackie. I've learned a bit about her, but not much. She's pretty locked up, although what I have learned is that she's a very capable woman. She's been locked up here for a very long time and looks to someday be free completely. It sounds like a complete cliche story if you ask me and one that is hiding the real one, but that's the story she is trying to sell so I don't question her on it. To be honest, we've spoken more about me in our time together. Where I've come from, how much I've learned. I talk a lot about my family and how much I miss my children and want to have them back in my arms. I also miss Kam. Each time I bring Kam up, she tells me that I am a fool for wasting my time with such a man.
"He's the one who locked you up in this place!"
But I don't believe it. I try to convince her that he's under that Rose girl's spell, that he's never been good at looking to the future and foreseeing the consequences of his actions. At this point, Jackie shakes her head in agitation and silences me by changing the subject. This time I stop her.
"If he knew this is where I'd end up, he wouldn't have committed me. If you could have seen him the night the police came... He was put on the spot and panicked. He's not a bad man--"
"Do you hear yourself? Your husband put you in here so you weren't a problem to him anymore--"
"No, no, I don't believe that!"
"--he was your rock, he fixed many of your problems and then he got tired of it and when the new model came into play, he went for it."
"That's not how it happened!"
"You think so?" Jackie smirked so harshly she looked more like an enemy than a friend. "If I got you out tonight, could you prove it?"
A long conversation follows and we end up deciding that I am leaving tonight. Jackie tells me how she wants to do it and then we wait for our opportunity.
Once dinner comes to a close, everybody gets up and heads to the sink where Rafael has made it there first. He's being extra exuberant tonight and Jackie, who's in front of me in the line, whispers something in the man's ear in front of her. With a closer look, it's the man I danced with. The man's face lights up with excitement and he pushes past everybody in line to the front where he begins talking to Rafael. Rafael gets upset and a fight breaks out between the two men and patients gather around the brawl. Men and women holler at the top of their lungs, some scared, others enthralled with the excitement. After a few minutes, two orderlies barge through the door and push through the crowd and try to break the two up. I'll hand it to Rafael, while he seems like a friendly guy at first glance, he's a beast with his fists. It takes both orderlies to pull him off the other man. But the other man isn't finished. Like the time we danced, something sparks inside him and he's off the rails, spewing profanity at the top of his lungs and he lunges back at Rafael and all four of them are on the floor, the orderlies calling for help.
Amidst the chaos, Jackie's managed to snag one of their keycards from their belt and in a swift motion has it in my hands where I know I need to move fast. I'm at the door to the room in three long strides and right as I go for the handle, two more orderlies have barged inside. They don't spare me even a look as they rush by and I slip into the hall.
I am able to bypass all locked doors in my path and before I know it, I am out the front door.
And I am running, running as fast as I can in the only direction I can see lights coming from. I don't know where I am going, but I do have the strange sense that I did the night I ran from Mother's followers and just like then I refuse to stop. I have to keep moving because if I don't, it won't be long before I am caught. I can't be caught. I won't let taht happen. Not until I prove to Jackie that she is wrong about Kam.
And somehow I make it. I am back at my house.