On a rainy day, the drivers hooked their horns while waiting for the traffic to flow again. Nearly 45 minutes to 60 mins of cars backed up from the highways, and the drivers began to be impatient with each other until the patrol police officers controlled the traffic, allowing people that get to their destination. Over by the pizzeria, Nicholas' Seeker, I begin my work shift by checking to see if screens need to sort out, restacking the boxes, grabbing sauces from the coolers, and refilling the parmesan and powder sugar shakers. As hours pass through the evening, orders flood the screens within minutes; Simon, the general manager, told us to kick into high gear. When I saw the food items flowing out from the oven, I suffered from a panic freeze and silently imagined daydreaming. Rosa and Lisa saw me freeze in my imagination and woke me up with a musical shake on my body. Immediately I woke up and witnessed food items dropping on the ground like a gumball machine. While they work on new and remake orders, Lisa, Rosa, and I speed us boxing orders as road runners dodge the coyote's traps. After four to five hours of rush orders, the screens started to clear, and everyone took a short break while eating, snacking, or drinking. While some days can run smoothly, there are days where it's out of control and let course take its wheel. That's why I kept pushing and let my mind run free. Next time we have rush orders, I'll bring my lucky pants and hat.
A peaceful and rapid rain poured over the State of Texas. People hook their horns to the nearest front cars while waiting for the green light to turn on. The ground begins to create puddles that spread wildly like a portal. Over by the pizzeria place, Nicholas' Seeker, Kyla clocked in to prepare for her shift. She placed her purse inside the office while grabbing her drinks from the oven. Kyla checks to see if anything needs to complete before starting her day. She became one of the recognized employees the customers enjoyed seeing daily. Everyone loves the smile on her face, which helps them keep faith that their day runs smoothly. One of the managers, Rosa, waits for her to take over the oven and layer a chicken box and bread box. "Hola!" Kyla shouted. "Hey, mama. I'll be back. I need a smoke break," Rosa said before walking away. "Gotta it. Leave it to me," Kyla said. The general manager Simon returned from the restroom and washed his hands before jumping onto the makeline and telling the workers to load the three ovens. The orders flood the screen, triggering the workers to kick into high gear and make these orders quickly. "Kyla, we're loading all three ovens. Let us know if you need help," Bella said. As the food items pile close together, she breaks a sweat and immediately needs assistance at the oven. Brie and Lisa ran to Kyla's aid to help her. "Brie, read the tickets, and I'll help Kyla," Lisa said. Brie nods and begins reading the tickets. Even with three workers, the oven pushes the food out like a vending machine dropping candy or snacks. Kyla's speed could be better, which makes her feel low self-esteem and silent from speaking. "Come on, Kyla. Let's push forward and worry less about everything else," Brie said. "How nice of you, Brie? I want to go fast like Sonic or Road Runner, yet I can't kick into high gear. I'm like a sloth, who sleep all day and night, and come to work feeling like a zombie," Kyla said while laughing softly. "Oh, yea? I didn't sleep last night because my neighbor committing a mistake in front of my house was okay. I came in two hours late from my shift time after finding out what they did," Lisa said as she laughed. Kyla and Brie couldn't contain their inner laughter and release it. As the last food items were boxed and sent to the customers, Rosa returned from her break and saw them sweating off their bodies. "Rosa? I thought you left," Brie said shockingly. "You said you promised to come back and left me to dust with these orders," Kyla said. "Well, excuse me, miss! I came in early this morning and carried these heavy boxes myself without help. Afterward, my back hurt, and I dislocated my ankle went I slipped onto the floor," Rosa said. The ladies looked awkward and walked away for a short break before another round of rush orders. Kyla sighed as she barely survived the short period of food items coming out quickly; however, with the help of her coworkers and managers, she managed to do little work while they picked up the slick.
I'm a female manipulator Something I've come to terms with It's easier than you think Call a boy pretty once He's yours forever I feel justified in my behavior Man after man lying to me when I didn't know better I lash out and retaliate after pain I take it out on others But I'm not hurting the ones that hurt me After years of constant disappointment I'm wounded I feel justified in my behavior Because my type is not-great people Almost a vigilante Except I forget I'm perpetuating a cycle People hurt people because they were hurt themselves By someone else in this pattern of abuse I feel justified in my behavior I'm open about this fact Right away I warn that I'm a bad person Run, if you don't want to be led on because of my confusion I don't feel justified in my behavior Some of them are innocent Great people But they give me the attention I so desperately crave So I hold the carrot and push them away with the stick I don't feel justified in my behavior Because I don't feel anymore Any remaining shred of vulnerability, trust, and whatever the hell else Has been stripped away from me I wish I could fall in love Instead of constantly doubting if I even like this person Allowing for vulnerability, even to myself It is even worse to not know how you feel Than to feel it I would sacrifice myself to constant disappointment For even half a chance of some kind of emotional stability I'm consciously aware of what I need to change Except I can't It feels better to inflict some of my misery on others I don't want to process it Relive and put myself through more trauma A knife in a wound can't be pulled out Otherwise you're gone Be patient, wait for a doctor I've been stabbed Some of the wounds so old they've begun to heal around the blade I haven't arrived at the hospital yet Only loaded onto the EMS gurney I'm a female manipulator And I'm sorry for those I've hurt
If you're lying, You are incredulous You allow penny truths to spit off your tongue Into my slot machine heart The rush of a gamble on love, The rush of winning or losing Why aren't you perfect? You showed me you were perfect. What did I do to change things? The wrath of my embarrassment is closing in I thought I'd want you to own my flesh and bone Soul, body, and mind I don't know if I believe you I do know I love you Without you I am not me
Dear Reader of the Future: I haven't the slightest idea about what world you live in as you read these words. I don't know if you know the name of the device I typed this letter on (it's a computer). I don't even know if you'd know what to do with a keyboard. What I do know, though, is that if your world is any different than mine, the 2020 coronavirus pandemic most likely had a lot to do with it. It's a strange feeling to live in a time in which the failings of the global commercial society are so glaringly obvious. In my short seventeen years on this planet, I've learned that the American love language is crisp and green (and I'm not talking about summer leaves). Everything, even our very reality, is augmented to ensure the maximum - maximum emotion, maximum entertainment, maximum workload - all so a glorious few can reap the maximum profit. But the virus has brought this exploitative orgy to a grinding halt, or at least exposed how under-stimulated it leaves the vast majority. Of course, people are still trying to keep the gears turning. Despite the fact that there are almost 3.53 million confirmed cases in the US as of today (compared to almost 14 million worldwide), many are holding tight to the dirt-faced American pastime of hard work. This is understandable. In this country, those who don't work don't eat (unless someone in their family worked a long time ago and made enough for their descendants to eat forever). We've been inundated in this ideology since birth. But the fact remains that, more often than not, it doesn't pay off. Many people work all their lives and still never make enough to enjoy life. Now that those same people are either unemployed or essential workers who risk their lives (but aren't important enough to receive livable wages), I feel that this country - this world - is on the precipice of an awakening, the likes of which I'm not sure will end much better than that of the heroine in Kate Chopin's famed novella. The fact of the matter is this: our economic system has not been constructed to ensure the wellness of the whole population. The implications of coronavirus have made this more evident. Hundreds of homeless sleep on the streets instead of in empty houses, which increases the risk of transmission. Health care is so expensive that many people are unable to even get tested, let alone receive treatment. And the presidential election primaries chug along even in areas without a vote-by-mail option, exacerbating the already egregious issue of voter suppression. In the sullen city of Augusta and the even quieter suburb of Evans, students like myself are tasked with completing coursework online, which carries difficulties for working parents of young children. Of course I am not expecting a ruddy-faced Lenin to swoop in and rally the proletariat at the doors of the White House, but this has to be a wake-up call that our way of life is unsustainable for the masses. I hope that this will prompt a flurry of revolutionary fervor in people from all walks of life to seriously examine their circumstances and try to take action. I know that I am in a relatively privileged situation right now. I wake anytime before noon and pad around the house all day in a cotton-candy pink robe and fuzzy socks, completing online assignments in between episodes of whatever's good on Netflix (Mad Men now, Kim's Convenience a few days ago, Community before that). My most dire ailment is loneliness. Of course I fear for my mother, who is a doctor and on the wrong side of sixty. She comes home every day, peels her mask off, and speaks to me from across the room for the silent fear that she might have brought the virus home with her. But others are not so fortunate. Many have lost friends, family, income, and homes. There are scientific rumors now that this is only the first round in half a decade's worth of “quarantine” periods until doctors find a cure. This is only slightly less alarming than the prediction that COVID-19 marks a coming trend of pandemics that, due to environmental change and population growth, will alarm more people than only those in the global south (Ebola, which has taken thousands of lives in Africa, was a joke to pink-skinned kids in my fifth grade class, although I suppose everything was). Reader, I'm sure you know by now if these predictions came true. I pray that they don't. I hope that this account has been enlightening. I hope that you aren't reading this and shaking your head at my naivety. I hope that some semblance of the world I live in still exists, if only the language I wrote this letter in. What a trivial death my generation would have if no one could read the words on our gravestone. Sincerely, Elizabeth Fulton
The weather was cold and snow was almost certainly looming. The heavy clouds hung permanently above Nora as she drove her two door Ford Explorer into a half ice and half snow-covered lot. Both options were less than ideal but she knew her tank of a car could handle snow better than her bare tires could handle ice. She pulled her car into one of the first two spots in the row right in front of the brick building, coated thickly with yesterdays snow. Nora checked the time and put her car in park, 1:47 pm. Her interview was scheduled for 2:00 pm. She liked to be on time but her fingers were still tingling from the bitter cold. She decided to use the spare minutes to heat up her bare hands in front of the luke-warm heater, the vents forcefully pushing resembling a dragon breathing fire but unlucky for Nora, had a drastically less warming effect. She popped out of her car once the dexterity returned to her hands and checked herself in the reflection of the car mirror. Her brown, wavy hair tangled in the icy wind. She noticed the dark bags under her eyes and made a mental note to grab some concealer on the way home since the medication from the doctor either makes her sleep for 18 hours at a time or makes her vomit. Both side effects she'd prefer to avoid. Nora knew she needed this collection agent position. She was 9 months out of college, business degree in hand, and no one wanted to hire her. Nora expected college to be a fun place, where she got to try new things and experience life for herself but that was far from the truth. Most of her time in college was spent alone. Some days, she'd stay locked in her dorm room and would sleep all day. Other days she would work herself into a fit of anxiety and wouldn't sleep for days on end; reading books, painting her walls, obsessively walking or running to try and tire herself out. Nora didn't love college but she quickly found out that real life was harder. Nora had already been on 6 different job interviews and hadn't gotten a single call back. Her luck needed to change today. She walked through the front office doors and the young guy behind the desk pointed her toward the office she should wait in. A man wearing an outfit of entirely khaki walked in. His name was Rich and he looked like a walking contradiction with stains on his jacket and scuffs littering his dull brown shoes. Despite that, Rich clearly thought very highly of himself. He showed Nora all his accolades hanging on the wall behind him and told her that she could maybe one day earn the same. Nora wants to make a good impression, show Rich that she had done her homework for the interview. Not only that, Nora knows people- especially men- and she knows how to stroke and ego. She made her eyes wide with wonder and let Rich talk about himself. She smiled and laughed at his corny jokes and by the end of the interview was pretty sure that she would get the job. She had to get the job. It was the last chance for her to get paid before the 1st of the month, when her rent was due and an eviction notice was likely looming. She stepped out of the cramped office feeling a little a little lighter now that the interview was over. She glanced at her watch, 3:08 pm, definitely had time to grab something from the corner store before heading home all while avoiding the rush of afternoon traffic when she looked up and her heart dropped. Her car was gone. It definitely was not in the spot where she parked it. Was she going crazy? She ran to the spot where her car should be, and in the thick snow she could see tire tracks. Did someone steal her car, right from in front of this office? Her mind couldn't fit the pieces together. She hustled back inside, out of breath now, and asked the front desk worker, Jay, if he saw what happened to her car. He looked at her with a pout on his face, his frosted tips made Nora pretty sure he was about to answer her with a Backstreet Boys lyric but he said, "Oh, honey. I'm so sorry but that car was towed because it's in a handicapped spot…" Nora expected him to say more but he just sat there pouting at her. She wanted to scream. She felt the anger bubbling up in her throat like lava that was about to pour out. She took a moment, with both hands bracing her body weight on the front desk and with a squeak in her voice Nora replied, "But there are no signs..." desperate now, "you can't even see the handicapped paint because of the snow!" She felt herself basically begging, choking back the tears burning her eyes, "I just had an interview, I didn't even know…" her voice trailed off and the hot tears came. Defeated. "Oh sweetheart!" Jay had true pity in his eyes that made Nora sick, and his hands moved to frame his slender face, "I'm so sorry but there is nothing that I can do. Better luck next time hun," he said and gave her hand tightly gripping the counter a little pat before disappearing into the back. Leaving Nora to figure it out alone, just as she always did.
A rainy night in an isolated place… only one tree and the rest was simply smooth. You were laying down and drawing, admiring the view as if you were in heaven, while I was escaping from an woe I was hoping to be soon forgotten. You did not let me suffer alone, you did not leave and neither did you push me away. Instead of doing so… you made me relax. So I just sat down under the tree, on the soft grass… and that was it. I was wondering if youn realised how many relationships begin like this... How many couples end up living happily together ever after? How many relationships have every children's storyies' ending and to which every girl dreams of? So many questions to be asked and yet one single answer: Nobody knows. Nobody will ever know, but deep down we all know that… no too many. Perfection is not real… it will never be, but human beings can not survive without aspirations, dreams and hopes… but eventually... everyone will come to their senses and see how real the world tastes like. I was aware that I had to study for the exam that was coming up,but I decided to spend hours in the rain, under a tree, talking with a boy I had never met before.. It felt like I had known him ever since the beginning of our existence, like we had been friends forever and like we knew everything about each other. I consider love to be an unknown feeling, impossible to be understood. The feeling that can bring happiness and sadness, pleasure and pain, clarity and confusion. The feeling you long for at all times, and yet never. But have you ever stopped to think about what you believe love truly means? To think about your own opinion? To think about it deeply, profoundly? Not many people do that because they have the vague idea that they do know even though they had never met that special person they would truly love… that person they would appreciate like a true friend.. and love like a family member? I was one of those people.. I have dreams with a person I admire,but haven't even had my first kiss… I write about love, but I do not have any experience… But curiosity took over and brought me to this point… we live with a burning wish to find that ‘perfect' person, our ‘soulmate', with whom to spend the time we have left until death would separate and reunite us in an unknown realm, a parallel universe without any agony and woe. I like reading, I've seen movies, I have imagination and I like thinking.. meaning I just ended up with the question: What is love?
Today, I read a small introduction to a webinar I am taking through Friesen Press and it told me that I am an Authorpreneur. The term is very unique to me and it made me feel like my life long writing career has become just that, a legitimized career. I have been an Entrepreneur since the age of four with my first lemonade stand out side my parents house. I've always known I was a business minded person and today my writing career has really solidified it's position in my life. I am so overjoyed because the job part finally feels real and to be so open to the world is such an amazing and overwhelming feeling. I am humbled by this new experience. This is truly an amazing moment. In the next post, I'll have some examples of my work for You. My exciting novel "Viktor, Into the Light" will be coming out in the summer of 2020 and my Thanks goes to Friesen Press for making this lifelong dream come true. Viktor, called an "epic" good versus evil story by Friesen Press excites me to tell you about it. He's sexy and moral. He discovers a few things about his family and longs for one of his own. Look for it in the Friesen Press bookstore or eBooks and give a copy to your staff, friends, mother, sister, or your aunties. Viktor is a satisfying read for anyone 14+. Well, I'll post some examples of my work for you now. See you in the next post. Julie Ann
I nibble on a cookie, my eyes transfixed on the puffs of smoke emerging from the peak of the volcano. My lips catch my breath before it can escape into the cool air. An ominous rumble echoes from within the shadows, and we watch in awestruck wonder as glowing orange chunks spew into the sky, racing past one another and grasping at the stars. Just out of reach, the embers relinquish their dream and streak back to earth, tumbling down the steep embankment until the shadows devour their brilliance. I wish I could watch this forever. It's early, but I say goodnight and duck into the tent, pulling another sweater over my head before burrowing into my sleeping bag. The rumbling lulls my eyelids to a close and I drift into sleep. I first notice the cold tickling my nose, and then the ache that clamps down on my shoulder as I roll over and dig for the watch inside my backpack pocket. 3:00 a.m. My fingers fumble for the zipper and I wiggle out of my sleeping bag, stuffing it into its sack and then sitting on it until the last hiss has escaped. I cram my feet into my hiking boots as I stumble to the door, shuffling along the edge of the path as the sand threatens to pull me down the precarious slope. Grabbing an outstretched hand, I pull myself safely into the light of the crackling fire. My backpack sends up a cloud of dust as it hits the ground and I puff hot air into my hands before bending down to tie my laces. I grab a bowl of oatmeal and a spoon, squishing between two others on a rickety bench. As the bowl begins to thaw my stiff fingers, the oatmeal glides down my throat with ease and smolders in my stomach like the embers in the fire. I've only just scraped the last remnants of breakfast onto my spoon when the guide calls for our attention. “Time to get moving if we want to make that sunrise!” He gestures up the volcano, our path cloaked by a blanket of shadows. With my backpack snugly fitted against my shoulders, I slip into the line and I run my fingers over my headlamp, fumbling for the button. For a brief moment the light shines and I can see how caked with dust my boots are, but then it fades and dies. Quickening my pace, I follow closely at the heels of the person in front of me, scrounging for what leftover light I can put my feet in. As we walk, my boots slowly begin to materialize out of the darkness, and I turn and pause for a moment. A warm orange glow is beginning to stretch across the purple clouds that cascade like ocean waves, and the glistening lights strewn across the hillsides are growing dim. Running out of time. My breath and feet fall into a rhythm for the next hour or so as we trudge up the winding path. As I emerge from a cluster of trees, the wind strikes my cheeks with sharp lashes. The burning only intensifies as we continue to scramble up higher, finally catching a glimpse of the other side of the volcano. I try to scrunch my face, but my numb cheeks hang lifelessly. Clenching my hands around my poles sends pain shooting through my fingers, but I grimace and wiggle them more. “Let's wait here for the others to catch up,” the guide announces as we duck behind a large boulder. I struggle to unclip the strap from my waist and tug open the zipper with my mittens on, but taking them off isn't an option since they're the only thing keeping my fingers from falling off. I yank another sweater from my pack and pull it over my head. I suck in a breath but the icy texture makes me shudder and regret it. By the time the last person has snuck behind the rock, I am eager to get going again. “This is the last stretch,” the guide comments, motioning up the formidable, steep hill. The sand collapses beneath my feet and I plunge my poles in ahead of me, pulling myself on top of them. I pause for a moment until I feel steady again. Two steps forward, one step back. Repeat. My eyes track the person stumbling upwards in front of me. Just make it to where they are. Good, that's good. Now up a little farther. I coax my shaking body from one checkpoint to the next, and my feet cry out in relief when they hit solid dirt rather than sand. I did it...I can't believe I did it! As I try to take in the view, I meet my friend's eyes and my lips explode into a grin as we throw ourselves into each other's arms. I shuffle closer to the edge of the volcano and sit down on a boulder to watch the sky. At last, the sun finally peeks over the horizon and warmth begins to stretch across the sea of clouds, casting sparkles across the hills. I can't help but wonder if the sun waited for me to get to the top before unveiling itself. The bottom of the clouds are bathed in warm yellow, while the tops are drenched in a deep violet that bleeds into the sky like a waterlogged painting. This is more beautiful than I ever could have imagined. The frigid air now feels exhilarating in my lungs. As I sit and gaze at the glowing horizon, I realize—I didn't conquer the volcano, I conquered myself.
OF DESPAIR, OF HOPE You accused me of being fragile. You said I'd lost my mojo as once; I wouldn't let tears get wasted even through the hell that's the lachrymator. I smiled in mockery of that. You know nothing about me, I'd said. But hey, (with a whisper) I've had sleepless nights dwelling on those. Though I'd want to argue, you're right. And who wouldn't be after the sort of harsh reality I'd faced lately? I know you want to hear me please you with the fact of the matter. Worry no more I'm good to that: It was dark, cold and without form. Ugly. Eerie. I love solitude but with gestures so unkind; I doubt I'd root for it this time. I really feared for myself. It was good voices were aplenty outside as it meant I could easily be gotten across to if I'd chosen to end it! From hurting, my eyes were crimson red and waning. For a moment, I wanted the earth to open up and swallow me. It didn't feel like there was a way back in for me. I sensed my life departing with the pace of an absconding criminal. In the dark of the room, I reached for my phone not without a fumble. I gazed at her…the beauty that was my cousin. It was like a lover consciously admiring their mate. The tears were well pronounced. The ground would testify. I shook my head, partially muttering the words, “Rest in Peace”. I had known her formally one and a half years before this. That Christmas, she returned and demanded some family bonding moments. Being resident in a city hundred miles away from mine, it meant we were truly catching up on lost times. She was the prettiest thing and her smile held the key to unlocking treasures. Oh, you didn't have to go! I wished. I cursed. Then the door jarred with a bang on the wall. It was violent! Like lightening. I paused and then tried to recreate an atmosphere. “Ogbeni wetin dey do you? I bin hear you dey sob from outside”. He asked with a show of emotion. It was vernacular; the sort prevalent in this part of the world. It translated thus: Brother, what's the matter with you? I heard you sobbing from outside. I pretended. Man up I tried. He wouldn't be fooled. I slowly but steadily wiped tears off my face and blew mucus into the handkerchief. I wore a feigned smile, even rubbing my right eye as though it itched. I wanted to escape. He was smart and persistent. “Forget that thing joor! I know say something dey make you cry”. He pressed on as would a detective. That was my roommate, Harry. And though his command of the English Language was of appreciable heights, he had chosen to stay faithful to Pidgin. It enthused me. I too was a student in its school. “Guy, that my cousin don kpai o”. I responded with a cold harmless hiss. We'd talked about her once. They both were die-hard Arsenal fans! “Jeez! What the f**k!” I nodded cupping my head in my hands. “But what happened?” Harry was a brother. I'd looked at him and seen kindness. Empathy. Everything including little details mattered but this made him teary in an instant. I could tell his ears were pricked to get told things. He got to hear how my beautiful cousin, a proud mother of one and an astute fan of Arsenal lost her life to childbirth. Again, those tears were rolling and freely too. Words were gone and my voice had taken a hit. But despite the wrench in the works, he heard me mutter something like, “why does it happen only to the good ones?” It was a question but rhetorical. In between sobriety and the last drop of tears I'd wiped, he answered. In true fashion, I nodded. The good die young and in this world of mindless ills, the good always gets dealt with the wrongs of others. Under the circumstance, I affirmed. I would argue about that any other time. Now, with his slightly soft palm on my left shoulder, he'd thought. “God shall give you and the family the fortitude to bear this and her soul, eternal rest I pray.” Literature wasn't his strongest point but this sure sounded sweet and assured. I thanked him. I told him I knew already. I didn't mean to undermine his effort. “Whatever happens, you go lemme know na abi” That was pidgin. “Sure! Why not” It was like me promising with an oath. For a moment after the transformation, I sat trying to create a picture of life. I understood one thing: Regardless of how long a man lives here, only two moments mattered: The birth and the death. For life itself was fleet-footed. Here today and six feet under the ground tomorrow. It wasn't worth the hassle or so I'd thought. It wants us to live upright and stay fair so long as breathe remained. That way, when death which is life's cousin comes knocking, we'd gladly open without having to use the peephole. And oh, Harry had gone to see a soccer game between Arsenal and Bayern Munich- that too was death! Meanwhile, I'd stripped bare to shower. A new lease of life. END
When I was young ‘creative writing' was a term of mysticism. “Writer's do that! Special people, with qualifications.” This seed was sewn by a teacher at school... “Creative Writers are born,” she'd say, names like Dickens, Wilde and Orwell, were woven into her words, yet her meaning was plain: ‘You lowly children won't aspire to such heights'. Well on that count she was probably right, but this begs the question of why us lesser mortals still settle to write creatively? Clearly if the aim is fame or fortune, then few will achieve their desired rewards. Yet if writing becomes the medium for the release of one's imagination, then the purpose can be cathartic, not to mention opening hidden doors to readers, inviting them to follow on your magical journey of fantasy. To me the act of writing is better than watching a movie, as I don't often have the faintest inkling of where the tale will lead. For some reason my mind refuses to stay confined to a pre-defined plan. My fingers play the keys unrestrained to a tune only heard by my imagination, whilst often my conscious self merely sits here like a lemon and watches. “What Tosh!” I hear you say, but it's true, with 5 published books to prove it.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. It has shaped me like these hands have sculpted countless bars of soap into monstrous faces. I'm a soul condemned to suffering, and these hands are the instruments of my torture. I'm a mountain that has finally become a pebble in this old river of life. For every ritual there's a habit, and for every habit there's a ritual. The most sacred ritual involves my hands, a tap and a bar of soap. I've sacrificed true love, watching it flow over my hands, drip down my fingers and disappear down the drain. I've watched my smile become a symbol of deceit. I've seen myself dying a thousand deaths in the soap-speckled mirror above the basin. This bathroom is my shelter, my sanctuary, my temple of self-worship and self-destruction in which I'm a selfish god. It's both my blessing and my curse. OCD is all I've ever known, and it's all I've ever wanted to forget. I double-check doors to see if they're locked and I'm still not sure why. Perhaps it's a futile attempt to keep my inner obsessions and compulsions out. I turn the key in the keyhole and I somehow feel reassured that everything is as it should be. I want to live forever. I want to end it all. I want to be present and absent and nothing at all. Everything goes away but these obsessions and compulsions remain, attached to me like a second shadow. I've blamed my father. I've blamed my psychiatrist. I've blamed everyone except myself for this invisible cancer eating away at my soul. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. I love it. I hate it. I guess it's as much a part of me as this old river of life is a part of the dead sea. Sometimes I feel like drowning, and sometimes I feel the urge to come up for one last breath. Either way there's hope in hopelessness. There's always hope, or so I'd like to believe.
We perched precariously on the edge of his seats. Dust and the stuffy atmosphere of the room weighed in on us. Drenched in the truth of it all, I fixed my gaze on the great bookshelf across the other side of the room; a second skin to the wall. The tall sash windows streaming sunlight through that half of the library, splintering the shelf with solid shards of light: the collections of various works obscured. Their spines were dark emeralds, royal blues, and rich red wines. Gold embossed titles glittered sharply through the blocks of amber where disturbed motes spiralled: ghostly unsettled pools of spinning, lost particles. The solicitor cleared his throat. My attention snapped back to the cold reality of the room; and my dead uncle's affairs. In this moment, I saw the look of bewilderment on my cousins' faces, all directed at me. The leather upholstery of Uncle Barty's chair grew warm beneath me. “Did you hear me, Miss Devonshire? The entire estate?” I swallowed, my throat catching on the dust. The vastness of the room and circle of seething relatives suffocated me, as if someone was replacing the air with steam. Outside, I touched the lion's head. He lay on his belly in the entranceway, sightlessly surveying the gardens. A patch of moss had grown over his eyes. Lightly clutching his cheeks, I stared into his old grey face as if my uncle was in there somewhere; turned to stone by the coldness of our own family. Uncle Barty had always loved my thick, curly blonde hair. When I was little, Barty would to lift me up on to the lion's back and laugh at how I'd stolen his mane. I stood there, welling up, my forehead gently pressed against the lion's. The closest thing to our last hug. He was cold, and cooled my burning head, slowing its panicky buzzing. I let out a long-suppressed sigh and pulled myself up straight. As I walked back through the hall, turning left at the long corridor of rich silk wallpaper, I heard raised voices. I thought of the lion and walk faster, stalking, gathering pace, taking deeper strides; until I pushed past the big oak doors into the library. It fell into a stony silence. “Ah, Miss Devonshire, you're back. Would you like some water? I've poured you a glass. It must be quite a shock, understandably, but Bartholomew always did say that you were-” “She coerced him. You made him write that, Cassie. You used your smile and tossed your hair about like you always do, and guilt tripped him into leaving you all this. Why would he choose you over his own children, fucking hell?” my cousin burst out, the one who flew in yesterday from halfway across the world. Not a moment too late to hear the will. “Michael,” I began, not knowing if I could finish without cracking. “Michael, when was the last time you saw him? Any of you?” Another silence. “Checked up on him?” Nothing. “You're his own children and you couldn't even pick up the phone, could you? He loved you and you just did nothing!” I choked, frustrated by how emotional I sounded when I wanted to roar in their faces. Michael and his sisters twitched in their seats, dry-eyed. Taking a sip of water, I seethed at how they had left their last living parent to die, alone. Michael sunning himself into a thick leathery tan out on a veranda; Judith and Suzanne blissfully spending their trust funds. I would have done anything to see mine again, to embrace them and feel their warmth on my skin, just one last time. The years I had taken to contemplate how precious each particle of my parents had been; from a hazy, half-forgotten vision of an idyllic childhood together. Soon, the Pride dispersed. I climbed on the lion's back and watched them leave our kingdom. They stepped into lined up cabs and trailed away, ant-like. Going on to God knows where; the solicitor too.