I’m going to tell you a story.
“Aaggle fraggle bloog,” Lilliya said.
No, not that one. I’ll tell you that some other time. Tonight, I’m going to tell you the story of how you were born.
“Dadoh ooh,” Lilliya cooed.
My baby girl was turning 1 soon and I had promised I would write down what happened that night so I would never forget. The internet had told me that my hormones, the culprit “Oxytocin,” would trick me into forgetting the pain of childbirth. Before I had gone into labor, I made a promise with myself that no matter what happened, I’d never forget. That I would document and catalog every moment into the files of my brain because, let’s face it, this was going to be a once in a lifetime experience. And I didn’t want my hormones to sweep it away on a blissful cloud of happiness, like it never happened, like it was saying it wasn’t so bad, or you totally want another one, don’t you? And then before you know it, I could be back in the water with Jaws 2!
Jaws, you ask? It’s a Carcharodon Carcharias. A great white shark. You’ll understand in the future. But for now, let me tell you why it’s a part of this story.
It was July 31st, 2019. A dark and stormy night—
Okay, so it wasn’t stormy, but it was dark. And definitely nighttime. Earlier that day, I had my routine check-up with my midwife. Everything was looking normal. I was 2 centimeters dilated, 100% effaced and you were at -1 station, your head prepped and ready to go. Let’s be real though. You had your head down the whole time. Literally, like, every time I’d get an ultrasound, the tech could never get a good scan of your head. That’s how buried and ready to go you were.
I digress. Anyhow, I’d been having my usual Braxton Hicks, which I’d been having for months. Your due date was August 2nd, but I really wanted you out now. Specifically, on August 1st. I thought, that’ll be easy for me to remember since I’m May 1st. So, I asked my midwife to strip my membranes. My mom (a Labor and Delivery nurse) told me that could help jumpstart labor. The internet confirmed that as well. Mom, I mean your grandma, warned me that it could actually kickstart my labor soon. So, we did a lot of walking around. Got a pedicure. Had lunch at a restaurant. All the while, I could feel your grandma’s eyes on me, watching me like a hawk.
Nothing happened though. So, we went home, and I told your grandma to go to the hot tub whilst I harvested your father’s prostaglandins.
“Aaggle fraggle blurg?”
I’ll tell you when you’re older. Anyhow, last time I got his prostaglandins, it put me into false labor. I thought, for sure this will get it going. Alas, nothing. So, I joined your grandma in the hot tub, feeling bummed that my plan wasn’t going to…plan. I was desperate to see you, to meet you. And as much as I knew I shouldn’t mess around with the timing of life—I’ve never really been one to be patient—I couldn’t help but think the science of it all wasn’t working.
Night fall came, 10:30 to be exact, and I was curled up with your daddy. He was reading me a pregnancy book when all of a sudden, I felt a sharp cramp in my lower gut. As quickly as it came, it was gone. Your daddy asked what it was. I said, just a cramp, and he continued to read. And then out of nowhere, I felt a squirt, like an uncontrollable spray between my legs. I jumped out of bed to clasp my legs together. “Holy crap!” I exclaimed. “What?!” your daddy said. And I said, “I’m all wet. Maybe I just peed myself. That was weird.” Your daddy cocked his eyebrows in suspicion. “Are you sure?” he asked. There wasn’t any more liquid coming out, so I thought, yeah just weird pee. Your daddy got up to go to the bathroom himself and that’s when my body decided to release MORE liquid. It was coming in random spurts. I was so confused. I said, “Get out of the way,” and sat on the toilet myself. Another cramp hit and I had a Number 2. The cramp went away after I finished. So, I thought, I just had to go Number 2.
Your daddy wasn’t convinced at all this time. He stood there staring and then carefully said, “I think your water broke. We should probably go to the hospital.”
“Nah,” I said. “I’m fine. I just had to go to the—” And then a cramp-wave came, like someone had inserted a bowling ball in my body and was using some serious bowling ball magnet to gravity-pull it out. It wasn’t painful really, but surprisingly intense. And it was followed by more water. So, I agreed with your daddy that my water broke.
“I’m gonna take a shower,” I told him. I had the sudden urge to get clean.
“Uh…I’m gonna tell your mom that we need to go,” he said, eyeing me carefully as I stepped into the shower.
The shower felt good, even as waves of cramps hit me every 3ish minutes. I was familiar with this feeling. They felt like powerful period cramps. Just like my friends who had babies before me told me they would feel like. I’ve had worse pain, recalling the time when my right ovary had a baseball-sized cyst attached to it. Side note: you’re a left ovary baby ’cause Mommy doesn’t have her right one anymore.
Your daddy is so patient. He stood there as I showered up, then blow-dried my hair, collected a few more items to pack up for the hospital, and then, BAM! The cramps I’d been feeling escalated to level 2. They were so strong I couldn’t help but fall over onto all fours. And the urge to push was stronger than ever. I looked up at your dad. He looked at me, eyes wider than before.
“Okay, time to go,” I managed to say after the contraction eased up.
I don’t remember what your dad said, but he and your grandma packed up into the car. I followed close behind—I had to take another moment on my hands and knees in the garage. Couldn’t help but think of the scene in An American Werewolf in London when he was turning into a werewolf. This must be what it’s like, I thought, waiting for the fangs and claws and thick wiry hair to grow out of my body. I’m pretty sure I was howling too.
As soon as it eased up, I rushed into the car. And then another one hit! But I couldn’t get on all fours! I was stuck in a seated position! This was bad. Very bad.
“Sitting is not good!” I cried out. “Worst position ever!” I started clawing at my seatbelt and door handle. My feet pushed against the top of the glove compartment.
“Don’t kick that!” your dad exclaimed.
“I’m trying not to,” I cried.
“Just hum, baby,” your grandma said in an aggravatingly calm voice.
I tried humming.
Nope. “Not working,” I said through clenched teeth. I think we were on the freeway at this point. Your dad was on the phone calling the hospital to let them know we were coming in.
“We’re overbooked. It would be better if you went to Panorama City. They don’t have any patients right now—”
“Are you f@#*& kidding me?!” I exclaimed.
“Okay, thank you,” your dad said as he hung up. “It’s not that far. It’ll be okay.”
“But I don’t know the layout. I don’t know where to go,” I said during the break between contractions. “Argh!” Another wave.
“Baby, hum,” your grandma said again.
“No! Put music on! I need! Action!” I grunted.
The Fallout 4 video game soundtrack played as we raced down the freeway at about 100mph. I didn’t know that at the time, of course. It was no wonder we got to the hospital so quickly from Simi Valley to Panorama City.
As soon as we got there, I burst out of the car and collapsed to my hands and knees. This was seriously the best position. Two men walked by, eyeing me strangely. I didn’t care. I loved being a werewolf now. Your grandma stood by me as your dad left to park the car.
Finally! The contraction eased up again. Your grandma and I rushed into the hospital and found the nearest elevator. The same two men were there too.
“Floor 3,” one of them said reassuringly.
“Thank you,” I said through clenched teeth. Another wave hit as I entered the elevator. Your grandma was humming for me now.
Floor 3. The elevator opened. I burst out and looked up. Labor and Delivery pointing left. I saw doors. I burst through. An alarm went off and a handful of nurses jumped up from their stations. I bent over their desk. I said something, I don’t remember what. Maybe something like, it’s coming.
“This is her first baby,” your grandma said.
“Oh…” And the nurses calmly went back to their stations.
I remember getting checked in with your daddy. Grandma had to wait down the hall. I remember rolling around the small room, desperately trying to find a forgiving position. This is it, I thought. I’m officially turning into a werewolf. Here come the fangs! I wondered whose throat I was going to rip out first.
Finally, a midwife showed up to check my cervix. I had a very bad feeling about this moment. My contractions were coming every 2 minutes and I could barely stay still, much less stay put for a cervix check.
Blinding white hot pain hit me. I screamed. A bloodcurdling scream that your grandma could hear all the way down the hall. I felt more liquid explode out of my body. My torso was hit by something raggedly sharp, like serrated teeth sawing back and forth, slowly, so that I could feel every pull. I looked down and I saw Jaws. His wide mouth engulfed my lower half, his triangular teeth sinking into my guts.
I was no longer a werewolf. I was Quint from Steven Spielberg’s Jaws. The scene played out in real life for me. Minus the blood spurting out of my mouth. But there might as well have been! The scene was on replay every 2 minutes. The famous great white biting down into my torso and slowly shaking me from side to side. Even the breaks between contractions were torturous because I knew Jaws was only going to come back! And I’d relive being eaten alive again and again and AGAIN!
“Two centimeters,” I remember hearing the midwife say when she checked my cervix.
“OH GREAT!” I screamed. I knew what that meant. It meant they wouldn’t give me an epidural. It meant I wasn’t anywhere near giving birth. It meant I was stuck, to be tortured over and over for who knows how long as a giant great white shark was EATING ME ALIVE!
“Help me,” I cried to your daddy. “I’m not gonna make it. I can’t do it.”
“Do you want something for the pain?” the midwife asked.
“YES!” Your daddy and I said.
“This will help take the edge off,” she said. They injected me with Fentanyl. I had no idea what it was. Later I found out it was a step below Morphine. But let me tell you, it DID NOT take the pain away. Jaws was still there chomping down on my guts. The only difference was I could pay attention to it more. Instead of shooting white pain blinding me every time, I could watch and be aware. It was like an out-of-body experience. I was fully cognizant of the agony, only this time I could take notes!
During this very intimate time with Jaws, I somehow was able to move my body onto a different bed to be taken into the delivery room. They were prepping me for my epidural. I had forgotten that even though I was only 2 centimeters dilated, my water had broken. That changed the rules and I was allowed to get the “big needle in the back.” You might think that sounds scary. Let me tell you, at that point the pain was an 11. You could literally do anything to me, and it wouldn’t matter. My brain was so fogged up with agony, you could’ve been cutting off pieces of my body, and I wouldn’t notice.
What about the Fentanyl, you ask? It only helped me tell my body to stay still as they inserted the giant needle into my spine. I didn’t feel a thing. The anesthesiologist said, you don’t need this…look at you…you’re doing great…
I think I laughed and made a joke. Not sure. There were two mes at this point. One standing back and pointing, laughing at the other me who couldn’t be tough enough to give birth. The other me didn’t care. This sucked. Jaws sucks. Me could judge me all she wanted. I wasn’t going to die by shark.
“You’ll start to feel a cool sensation in your back…” I heard the anesthesiologist say.
I felt it.
And suddenly a golden light came into the room. Jaws immediately released his grasp on me, dove back into the ocean and disappeared. I was a little disappointed I couldn’t shoot the damn thing and make him explode.
My body ached and I felt another swell come. I grimaced, thinking he would fly out of the ocean and get me one more time. But he didn’t come. Nothing happened. Just the tightening, pushing sensation. Jaws was gone. Now all I had to do was wait for you.
I didn’t sleep that night. Neither did your grandma. Both she and your daddy stayed in the room with me, Daddy taking a well-deserved nap. I could feel the contractions, but they were no longer painful. The epidural was pure magic. It was the exploding tank to great whites. It was the silver bullet to werewolves.
I turned and watched the darkness of night slowly turn a golden orange. The sun was rising. And I knew I’d see you soon.
The midwife decided I was ready to go a little after six in the morning. Your grandma and your daddy helped prop up my legs as I pushed. I even got to see your hairy little head pushing through when they brought a mirror out for me to watch. Aaaaaand then I decided I didn’t want to watch that anymore.
Within twenty minutes, you were pulled out of my body and placed gently onto my chest. You looked a wreck! Grey-white skin and a smooshed nose!
“Fraggle eh bloog…”
Well you were. But you had the cutest little cry. And your eyes were a deep blue. As deep as the ocean. They were staring at me as you gripped my skin with your tiny hands. You were alive. I was alive. We both survived. And Jaws, well…I never need to relive that ever again.
I do feel the need to remind you that every woman is different. At least, that’s what the internet says. None of my friends experienced this kind of pain. Jaws just happened to be mine. I did ask my midwife why this was the case. She theorized that it was possible my cervix was just opening up so fast and that your head pressing down on it didn’t help. But it was just a theory.
“Eh nananana rwarr,” Lilliya said.
I thought you’d find it interesting. I will say this. Jaws was worth it. You are the best thing that has ever happened to me.
I love you too.
Please click on link above to listen to music that goes with the story for your own enjoyment.
It was warm…
The girl had never been outside before. The sun had never touched her. And, for the first time, she could feel it, and the sun was warm. Her skin glowed white under its fiery red glow and her hair, long and golden, cascaded around her shoulders. His fingers were there, gently feeling through the girl’s hair. The Magic Man…
His hands were strong and filled with power and purpose. Always purpose. They moved through her hair, brushing past her shoulders and up her neck, to rest his fingers on her jaw.
He was warm.
The girl tilted her head slightly, letting the sun heat her face and feel the Magic Man’s fingers touch her. And before she could stop, she reached for his face. She had never touched him back before. She was never allowed. But, this time, she didn’t care. She pulled him to her mouth and kissed the Magic Man. He resisted at first, but then released his strength onto her lips. The girl’s mouth was cool, but his was hot. She pulled him deeper, feeling the heat spread through her and opened her mouth ever so slightly to inhale his power. He breathed slowly into the girl and her mouth burned like a fire leaping into her.
And then he froze.
The girl could feel his lips tighten and pull away from her. His hands went for her hands. She grasped tighter to his face, not wanting to be let go, but he stood straighter and unlocked his lips from hers. The Magic Man hovered for what seemed like an eternity, but then stepped away. He grasped her hands, gently taking them from his face, and held them to his mouth. His green eyes glistened sadly, lightly kissed her fingers, then backed away.
The sun was turning a deep red as it made its descent into the night and the Magic Man seemed to go with it. Her grey eyes watched his hands slip from hers and saw his dark silhouette disappear as the light engulfed him. She reached out with her tiny white hands, but couldn’t move. The warmth was gone from her skin, but she could still feel it inside her, burning her chest. But he was gone. The girl stared into the red sun where he’d just stood and then slowly shut her eyes from the fire.
Darkness followed, plunging her back into the cold. And then a different light came. She slowly opened her eyes and saw a white light peering down at her. There was no warmth from this light. She knew this one very well. It was the cold, lifeless light bringing her back to the black stage. Dancers circled her in their synced, acrobatic fashion, holding turquoise silks and invisible fans. At the same time, two larger silks, red and white, floated around her. Her gold hair wisped around her shoulders and face, her grey eyes tightening in search for the Magic Man. He was there. She could feel it.
As the girl stepped out of the circle of fans and dancing silks, she found him. The Magic Man stood opposite the white light, far above and out of reach, in his own warm golden glow, watching her. She could feel him. She could feel everything, all of the hot burning fire growing inside her chest, spreading through her veins, into her fingers and toes, her ears and the tips of her hair. She knew then why she couldn’t touch him, knew why she could never feel the sun.
The Magic Man watched her eyes grow from longing to knowing. They grew dark and piercing, like sharpened-grey stones. The girl turned away from him and circled around to the back of the black stage, never taking her gaze from the dancing silks.
She slowly crouched down, placing her hand on the cool ground, feeling the pressure of the woodwork, the intricacies of each fiber that created the panels of the stage. Two male dancers came to either side of her, took her delicate ivory arms in their hands, and lifted her into the circle of fans with the dancing silks. As they let go of her, she didn’t drop to the floor like she was supposed to. Instead, the girl lifted up, her long gold hair floating above her shoulders for only a few seconds, and then slammed down to one knee. Everything stopped. The floor shook beneath the dancers’ feet. The fans sparked and shut down. And the silks dropped dead.
Then, the girl lifted her right fist and smashed the floor, cracking the panels of black wood, and the silks lifted back to life into the air, the red one in controlled by her left arm and the white one controlled by her right. She shot them forward into the dark abyss that was the audience. They gasped, but she heard none of it. All she heard was the fire and heat of the power she knew she had taken from the Magic Man. The freedom she had found within.
The red and white silks flew back and swirled around her arms and waist, brushing her lightly with soft licks. Her gold hair was now as red as the sun, whipping against her back and face. She flicked one arm out, and the white silk rushed by and ripped through the air like an arrow. She flicked the other arm out and the red silk circled her until she lifted from the ground. The white silk returned to her and joined the red silk. The air was thick with heat and electricity. And then, without warning, everything slowed down. Her petal-like ivory feet returned to the floor, but the silks stilled, becoming a motionless flowerlike shape in midair. Throughout the stage and the audience, there were flecks of gold light twinkling and hovering all around. One could touch them and move them with their fingers, if they tried.
She looked up at the Magic Man, then, meeting his unwavering green eyes. They seemed bright with love. It was what she wanted more than the sun, or the power, or her freedom. The girl lifted her right arm sending out the white silk to him. It floated towards him and gently brushed his cheek, then slowly pulled away. The Magic Man reached out with his hand as the silk went by and he let his fingers graze against the soft fibers. She could feel that. The heat of his hand against the silk went through her arm and deep into her heart. The fire she felt in her chest grew hotter. She smiled, basking in the heat of her body and her prickling skin. Her breathing became heavier, shallower. The air seemed thicker than it once was. It was no longer cool and thin, but strong and hot. She inhaled slowly and felt the heat inside her start to burn. The Magic Man was gone from above and she realized she could not breathe and the fire burned into a searing pain.
Suddenly, she let out a cry of despair that shook the stillness of the air. The twinkling specks of light sparkled into nonexistence and the silks collapsed in an ugly heap, as the girl fell to her hands and knees.
It was gone. The power had left her and so had the fire. It burned itself out and left only a cold emptiness inside her. Tears flooded her pale grey eyes. She glanced up, seeing the audience for the first time. They were staring at her, murmuring and pointing, as if she were a deranged and dangerous animal. The other dancers, who once controlled the illusions of the dancing silks, stood offstage, staring at her as well, wary and fearful.
The girl’s golden hair looked dull now and the cold emptiness in her chest weighed her down until she could no longer support herself. She curled up onto the cracked stage, hoping to contain the last amount of heat she once felt. And then she saw black booted feet step towards her. It was the Magic Man.
He knelt down to her, brushing her hair lightly with his fingertips. His green eyes sparkled bright, yet were filled with a deep sadness. She knew what was to come.
“Don’t,” the girl pleaded, using the last of the warm air she had left.
The Magic Man hesitated, his green eyes unsure, but only for a split second, before they clouded over. He took a glittering tear from her pale cheek with his finger, then reached for the red silk laying on the floor. He slowly pulled it over her body, but before he covered her, the Magic Man leaned towards the girl and gently breathed warmth onto her face. The only warmth she’ll ever feel again. The girl kept her grey eyes locked on his green ones until the red silk enveloped her.
As soon as the Magic Man covered her completely, no sooner did he rip it away. The red silk fluttered offstage and the audience gasped. There were a few seconds of silence, but then a huge uproar of applause flooded the air.
The Magic Man reached forward, brushing the soft gold hair…
…of tiny rabbit. As he touched the cheek of the small animal, the head lolled to the side.
The rabbit was dead.
The Magic Man froze, the air inside him turning to ice. His rabbit…was gone.
He gingerly cradled the tiny dead animal into his palms, stood tall in the center of the stage, and displayed the rabbit. The audience would never know that the animal was dead, and they wouldn’t care. They stood, filling the air thick with heated applause, as the dancers quietly faded into the darkness of the wings of the stage. But the thrill of the audience continued…
…For the Magic Man and his…
It was warm out, so I’d decided to eat my lunch out on the patio of our workplace. I ate ravenously, barely chewing before swallowing, inhaling more and more until my plate was nearly clean. One would think I had malnutrition. I probably was…being a “starving actor” ‘n all. I ate alone, a warm breeze flushing my cheeks. I enjoyed eating alone. It was peaceful and I didn’t have to talk to anyone. I could focus purely on my food. I could focus and think…
Think…think and thinking and thinking too much…
I wondered about my friend Pablo and why he liked Bobby, or Robert—or whatever—so much. Pablo was my best friend, but I couldn’t understand what he saw in him. Why he thought he was a really nice guy when he was a total ass. I thought about the time I asked Bobby to stay at work for me so I could go home early and he said “no, that he had to get home to his daughter.” Then when he was done with his shift, he ended up hanging out with Pablo at the bar with a couple of drunken girls. I was really mad about that. Angrier than usual. I shouldn’t have been. He wasn’t my husband. But there just HAD to be a reason why he was acting this way. It didn’t make any sense. Because he WAS a really nice guy. He wasn’t a jerk. But his actions just didn’t match up. And Pablo liked him, and so did a lot of people, so why was it I was seeing him as the bad guy? There just had to be a reason why he acted the way he did and it was going to drive me insane until I found out why!
“Hey, whatcha thinkin’?”
Speak of the devil…
“What’s up, Bobby,” I said, snapping into focus, and wiping any residual food-crumbs off the corners of my mouth. He was standing across from me, smiling his usual-annoying smile.
“Oh, I just saw you out here and wanted to say hi, but you looked deep in thought…” he said, smiling.
“Oh yeah, I do that,” I said, wiping my face again with my napkin. I could’ve sworn I felt leftover crumbs on my face still.
“Whatcha eating?” he asked, his fingers laced in front of him as he casually leaned against a chair.
“Um…” I glanced down at my plate…what did I eat? I was so hungry, I didn’t even pay attention. “I dunno, sliders?” I shrugged.
Bobby nodded. “They must’ve been good.”
“Yep.” My eyes flicked from my plate to Bobby and back again. “So, what’s up?”
He shrugged…and smiled again. “Just wanted to say hi.”
“Why don’t you act like a married man?” I blurted, as if the situation couldn’t be anymore uncomfortable for me and my “private” lunch.
He blinked and the smile went slightly crooked, but seemed to still hold on. And then his face relaxed, as if a sense of relief went through him. “Do you really wanna know?” he said.
“Um, yeah. I wouldn’t ask you if I didn’t.” Boy, I could such a bitch to him.
Bobby sighed and the smile was gone. Then he went into a story I would never forget. Out of respect for the sake of their own relationship’s privacy, I won’t divulge. But all you need to know is that the man went from beginning to end with a story about what happened between him and his wife. And because I could sense he was telling the truth (lies are easy to spot, trust me), the hate and anger I felt for him melted away. Those feelings were replaced with a sadness and a touch of guilt for hating him so much. I asked him why, if the two of them were so miserable, he or her didn’t ask for a divorce. He told me that he wouldn’t do it because he wanted the best for his daughter, but that the idea of divorce crossed his mind many times. He figured, being an incredibly patient man, he would try to wait it out until his daughter grew to be 18.
After a moment, he said, “Do you think I’m a bad person?” And he was serious, the look in his eyes glossing over.
“No,” I said. “I think you’re human.”
My insides warmed but in a very sad and guilty way. It felt like everything I thought I knew or assumed about Bobby was right and wrong at the same time. Bobby was trapped in a marriage where both people wanted to escape and neither knew how to do it right. From then on, I decided to make him a friend. Not a close friend, but in my circle of people who I knew needed somebody. I called it The Losers Club (because, frankly, I was one of the biggest losers).
“Thank you for telling me,” I said. “If you ever need a friend…” This time I smiled.
A month or so had passed since we had that talk on the patio. We were good friends at work, but nothing more. My sarcasm remained when talking with him, but we were more playful than we had been before.
One day, while the two of us worked at our computer stations, he looked at me with a particularly bright smile and said, “I’ve got some interesting news to tell you.”
“Oh yeah? What?” I said, smirking at him with my usual cockiness.
“I’m getting a divorce.”
My jaw dropped…
THE COLDSHOULDER MOVE
As the months passed, I endured working with Robert, by being a bitch. I can’t explain why he brought this bitchy side out of me, but I wanted to make it clear that absolutely NO sign of attraction would sneak out onto my expression. He would walk pass me at work and say, “Hey, pretty lady.” I would sneer back. Every computer station I worked at, he would be there too, and if he said anything to me, I would ignore him. If he tried to jump into a conversation with me and another coworker, I would cut him off by saying, “Married men aren’t allowed to talk about this. Go away.” His response was always a smile and a little laugh, and he would CONTINUE talking with us anyway!
I hated him.
When we were on separate sides of the room, I would glance over in his direction and watch him work. He always had this intense look in his eyes whenever he worked on the computer and his lips pursed in concentration. He had full lips and long black eyelashes, black curly hair cut short, high cheekbones, skin the color of creamy coffee, and these subtle dimples that creased his cheeks anytime he smiled. I wanted to kiss those dimples.
Boy, I hated him!
One night, a bunch of us from work got together at a bar to celebrate an old manager’s visit home. It was hours upon hours of fun and drinks. LOTS of drinks. I had a total of about six vodka Red Bulls, which landed me in the arms of an innocent coworker. I suppose we made out for a couple of minutes, but I wouldn’t find out until the next morning at work.
“Everyone’s telling me that we made out,” I would say.
His young face would turn bright red. It always turned bright red when I talked to him.
“Is that true?” I would ask.
“Yes,” he would say.
“Oh…well, was it any good?” I would say.
“Yes, it was very sweet, actually,” he would say.
“Oh….well, I’m sorry, I was totally drunk. I didn’t mean to take advantage of you like that,” I would say.
“No, don’t be sorry. It was great,” he would say.
“I’m sorry anyway. It won’t ever happen again,” I would say. And it didn’t.
Back to the party at the bar, my massive drunk buzz was finally wearing off and I had returned to a more suitable buzz. Good timing too, because the next thing I heard was…
I turned around and saw Robert walk into the bar, a bright white smile spread across his face as he greeted everyone from work.
As he made his way closer to where I was, I called out, “Well look who’s here!”
He just smiled back and came towards me. But I moved away and took a seat at the bar top, realizing as I was sitting down, my drunkenness was still affecting my thought process so I deemed it wiser to stay away from Robert. Somehow he ended up hovering beside my chair anyway, almost like a protective shroud. The coworker I made out with was close by too. But I distracted myself with my girlfriends, all the while irritated AND smugly pleased that Robert was standing guard.
Soon enough, it was closing time and we were all making our way out of the bar. People were offering me rides home, but I wanted to go to Denny’s to sober up some more. Robert offered to take me and I took it.
As soon as we walked into the old-fashioned diner, my gut twisted in a warning. But I ignored it. We sat down at a table and I ordered coffee and chicken strips. Or rather he ordered them for me, which I thought was quite bizarre. Pssh, I guy ordering FOR me, the nerve…
It was just the two of us. We talked about musicals, history, my life as an actress, his life as a history major, details I would never remember because my head wouldn’t stop buzzing, and because I was too caught up with the fact that I was sitting alone with him thinking how wonderful it was and that I wanted so badly to reach out and touch his cheek, and that this was how it could be…if…
If what? You’re not married, my head would say. Then, but HE is, my other head would say.
We were leaned in very close at this point. I could feel his warm breath on my mouth, and then, before I knew what was happening…
“Well, are you done? Cause I need to get going,” he said.
I blinked and glanced down at my plate of food. Empty.
“Yeah, I’m done,” I said, and that warm feeling I felt inside my gut turned to an icy, numbing pain.
He drove me back to my car in silence, dropped me off and drove away without waiting for me to get inside my car. I remember it was freezing that night too and I only had on a thin jacket. I don’t know why that’s important, but I remember thinking to myself, as I watched his truck speed off, shivering, what an ass…a married ass.
Later, at work, I would ask him, “Why don’t you act like a married man?” But that’s for another story…
It’s only been a week into the new year and I’m already running. I ended the old year with a great blog about my newest friends and Number 1 being the closest thing to BEING the one. And now I’m running again. Now I’m panicking. And crying. And being so girlishly possessive it makes me sick. If there’s one thing I hate most, it’s crying…and being sick.
And it occurs to me that I’ve never written a blog about Number 1 and how we became…something—sorry, the term “relationship” just makes me queasy, but that’s what we became.
I was much safer in my little dream world with Luke Skywalker, fighting off bad guys, and making love with the Force. You know you’ve always wanted to!
In the Beginning (one-ish year ago)
So here I was, minding my own business, eating a Turkey Cobb sandwich on my dinner break, when someone decided to interrupt.
“Hey, so I hear you’re an actress,” he says. I look up and see Robert, or Bob, or whatever he went by. He was very tall, had black hair, and amber-colored eyes. Of course I wouldn’t notice his eyes until much later. Needless to say, I was instantly attracted to him. Like BAM-in-your-FACE into him.
He was the new guy. I had already introduced myself to him earlier as I normally do to newbies…
“Hey, who are you?” I said, as he busied himself at the beverage station.
“I’m (Robert or Bob or something),” he said. At the time I couldn’t remember his name exactly. I was too busy trying to look and act cool as my insides were bursting with fiery hormones that wanted to jump all over this poor innocent human male.
“Well, I’m Xanna,” I said. “Welcome to hell.” “Hell” being The Restaurant in this instance. And that was it. I sauntered away as usual, trying to recall his name, but all I could remember was his brilliant smile and surprisingly comforting eyes. Mine, was the only thing that went through my mind. I felt a little smile grow inside of me.
Creepy, isn’t it? When people fall for other people. If you think about it…it really is creepy. But sometimes cute and it just makes you wanna go awwwwwwww……
Anyhow, later that evening, he decided to sit next to me on my dinner break and ask me a whole lot of questions about being an actress, to which I responded with “I’m the starving kind” and surprised me with how much he knew about musicals and such.
I figured he must be gay in some way—which was just my luck because I was always either attracted to gay men or married men—but it turned out he wasn’t and that he was just a history major in college and had an obsession about knowing everything about everything. Don’t ask me why that made me think he wasn’t gay anymore—just did.
And then it happened. Mine flashed through my thoughts again. It had been a while since anyone had sparked that inside of me…come to think of it, never had. And now all I could think of was tall, dark haired man named Robert. Going to work was suddenly fun for the first time. I couldn’t wait to see him.
Sometimes while I worked at one of the computer stations, he would come over and work next to me and ask me more questions. I don’t remember what, but it sounded nice, and all I could think of was mine—mine and yum.
Then one day I invited him out with a group of friends from work. A group of us usual go out to Crown and Anchor, a local English pub, after work and try to forget how awful our jobs are.
“Thanks, but I’ve got my daughter tonight,” he said.
Sting in the chest! (Not a stab, those are much worse). I “inner-winced” and remembered when I dated a guy with a daughter. Yeah, Mr. Georgia. And…it didn’t work out too well. Which was a “heavy” bummer at the time. But hey! Why judge this guy the same way? And the way he said “I’ve got my daughter tonight” made me think, soooooo this guy’s gotta be divorced, right? Who says it that way when they’re married?
“Ah, so you’re married?” I asked, assuming he’d probably say something along the lines of “no, I’m divorced,” or “no, I’m widowed,” or “no, I adopted,” or “no, I had a child out of wedlock and I got to keep her, ha!” which would all be perfect answers to my hopeful little heart…or hormones…or whatever!
“Yes I am,” he said.
“Oh,” I smiled…I think… “Well, why would you say it like that? Why would you say, I’ve got my daughter tonight, as if you’re divorced or something.” Then I threw in a little sarcastic laugh like I was being cool or something. “So where’s your wife, then?”
“She’s got class tonight,” he said, still smiling that annoying patient, yet sweet and gentle and so very attractive, but untouchable smile.
“Ah, yes. Ah, well, that makes sense—yes. Well……………maybe next time.” And I turned my focus to the computer…very intently to the computer, all the while feeling my insides—AND hormones—freeze up and go cold. Of course he’s married. Of course…
And that was it.
But it wasn’t…
The air was cold and cutting up here, ripping past my face and through my hair, tangling knots that I would never forget. Stirring up, lifting up, until I thought I couldn’t go any farther. But I didn’t stop. It was exhilarating and addicting. Every moment was filled with fear, but I never fell. The air was pure up here, tasting like ice crystals from a fresh fall of snow, and I inhaled it slowly so as not to freeze up my lungs. My skin prickled everywhere in the thrill of the speed. I pushed ever so slightly, pushing forward, going faster. I hovered horizontal, then shot vertical, and horizontal again, pulling farther and farther from the ground. You can’t have me, I said. I’m too far from you now.
“You’ll fly someday,” she said, “but not today.”
I vaguely remember her. She had long black silk hair, sharp features, wide black eyes, and was very tall. At least it seemed that way from a child of six years. She would wake me at six in the morning sometimes. This was not easy for a six year old girl who was born a night person.
“We’ll get donuts,” she said to me as I grumbled in bed. “And then we’ll walk to school.”
That did it. That always does it for a child. Sugar. Well, why the hell not! I’ll get up. I didn’t even hear the school part. She’d brush my long golden hair with slow and gentle strokes. She was always careful with me, as if she was afraid she’d snag a knot somewhere and force a cry of pain from me. Then we’d walk to the donut shop a few blocks away from home. The donut shop was through the tall green trees and across the busy street. I was never allowed to cross the street by myself. But Gretchen was with me. It was okay this time.
She held my hand tight as we crossed, her long fingers wrapped around my tiny hand. Her fingers, long and thin. I would look up at her, her hair flowing long and black and straight. She was always so pretty, I thought.
We walked into the donut shop and ordered a box of donuts, some cake, frosted, crème-filled, bearclaws, and my favorite, glazed rope twist. We sat down on a bench near a park by my school and she handed me my glazed rope twist. I finished it in seconds. I was about to reach in for another donut—I had my eye on the chocolate frosted one—but she held me back.
“These are for everyone else,” she said. “You have to share.”
I pulled my hand back silently. I was tempted to say that nobody else eats donuts, but I couldn’t help but feel a sense of guilt. I could have eaten the entire box, and the idea of sharing was so frustrating.
I looked up at my aunt. She didn’t have a donut. She never ate, not that I saw. She sat quietly, with one arm around my shoulders, staring across the park. The park was empty, which was something I rarely saw. Normally it was filled with kids running, playing tag, with bouncing backpacks on their backs. There was nobody out this early. This’ll be my first day not late for class, I thought vaguely. My father usually took me to school. I always got up too late and we always arrived too late…or barely on time. I’d always be the last to walk in.
Not this time! I thought happily. But it would be my last time.
“You know something?” Gretchen said, breaking the silence. I almost forgot she was next to me.
“What?” I responded.
“We are very special,” she said, but she didn’t look at me. “You know why?”
I shook my head no.
“We are flyers,” she said. “You fly sometimes.”
I opened my mouth to say something, to say how did you know?, but shut my mouth. I always felt like I could fly, and that I did sometimes, but never told anyone. How did my aunt know that I could? But she said she could too.
“I’ll be flying again soon,” she continued, still staring across the empty park. “But I won’t be coming back.”
“Where are you going?” I asked curiously, looking up at her. Her face was pale, always pale and colorless.
She didn’t answer. Her black eyes glazed over and I didn’t understand.
I followed her gaze, across the thick green grass, the soft brown dirt outlining a child’s baseball field, the silver metal swings, but saw nothing out of the ordinary. My aunt continued to stare, however.
“I want to fly there too,” I said absently, if for no other reason but that I didn’t know what to say.
“No,” she said, turning to look at me finally. But her body remained still and cold. Her arm around my shoulders never felt soft, but boney and hard. “You can’t go there. Not yet.”
“How come you’re going then?” I said.
“Because it’s my turn,” she said. “I don’t belong here. Neither do you, but that’s okay. I just can’t stay anymore. You’ll understand, someday.”
“But where are you going?” I pushed. I hated never having all the answers.
“Far away,” she said. “Just for a little while.” But that last comment seemed like an after thought, as if she was saying it just for me.
A blew out a puff of air in frustration. Bad enough I couldn’t eat another donut, but now my aunt wasn’t giving me straight answers. Adults always did that. And I hated it. I crossed my arms in defiance.
She laughed and pulled me close then. “It’s okay, hunny,” she said. “You’ll fly someday. But not today.”
Later, not long after, she died. Shot herself. At least that was what I had heard. A part of me imagined she wasn’t really dead, that she had flown off like she said she would, and that the body in the coffin was just her doppelganger or something.
She flew away to the other side, wherever that may be.
At six, I decided I’d try to follow. It was windy out, so that would help lift me, I thought. The trees’ branches swayed and brushed against the roof of the house. I stood on my bed, leaning out the open window. The wind, warmed by the summer sun, gently played with my long golden curls. My blue-green eyes widened in anticipation. I stepped out the window, my bare feet gripping the rubbery black-blue shingles, and jumped.
I didn’t need a running start, like I thought I would. I hovered a few inches above the roof of my house. I felt heavy, like the ground was trying to pull me back down, but I pushed away with my hands and lifted higher. I pushed again and again until I was a good distance above my house and the trees. I averted my gaze from the ground to the sky, overcast in grey-white clouds, as was typical of Chicago. The sun glowed brightly behind them.
That’s where I was heading. The sun. I pushed hard this time with my arms and flew straight up. The air instantly cooled around me, tugging at my hair, clothes, stinging my eyes as I flew faster. I was aware that I had stopped breathing and couldn’t catch my breath as I continued farther up. I didn’t care. I didn’t need to breathe. I had the air lifting me instead. I pushed through the clouds. Cold moisture immediately layered my body, prickling my skin. The clouds slowed my progress, so I pushed even harder until I broke through the grey and into the bright gold light of the sun’s rays.
Warmth engulfed my body, drying my wet skin and hair. The air was barely a whisper up here just a few feet above the roiling clouds. I stared at the sun.
“You can’t come here,” she said. “Go back.”
“But I can fly there and fly back,” I said.
“No,” her voice echoed from somewhere all around. “It’s not your turn.”
“But I don’t belong here either!” I shouted to the sky. “I want to leave and go where you are!”
“It’s not your turn. Not today.”
“I can’t stay here! I can’t stand it! I’ll fly far, I will!” My feet brushed the tops of the clouds as I said this, briefly catching moisture on my toes. That’s when I realized I was sinking. The pull was strong on my ankles, and then it reached my knees and soon I was waist deep in the grey clouds.
“No! Don’t take it from me,” I cried helplessly, trying to push away from the deep of the clouds, flailing as I was falling through. “I want to go too, I want to go too!”
“You’ll fly someday…but not today…”
And I dropped. I fell backwards, watching the sun vanish behind the roiling grey-white clouds, watching as the puffy moisture swirled as I cut a path through its travels, watching as I broke through only to see a darkening layer of rain cloud forming above me. I reached out as if to grab a hand, but there was nothing there to grab. I continued my fall, my hair clinging and whipping my face as if it were desperately trying to reach out to the sky as well. The air was colder now, cutting through me like icicles. And then I finally landed, flat on my back, in the cushion of green grass. I laid motionless for what felt like forever.
Then a little droplet of water fell into my eye, strangely warm and soothing. I blinked it away and propped myself on my elbows. I was in the park near my school. And it was starting to rain.
But I didn’t care. My wings were gone.
The rain came hard then, soaking my gold hair to dark, sticking my clothes to my skin. And I sat there in the green-brown grass, letting the rain flood my eyes, staring up into the sky, waiting for the day when I could fly again. Someday.
So as of late I haven’t been able to really remember my dreams too well because I haven’t been sleeping so well in the past couple of days, considering I’ve been moving between states.
But when I woke up this morning—more like afternoon—I forced myself to remember this one.
It was about Bram Stokers’ Dracula, the movie that was made in 1992, I think. I was the Mina character running from Dracula. In the movie, Mina is kind of stupid and falls for Dracula even though she’s engaged to Jonathan. Poor Jonathan is locked up in Dracula’s castle being sucked on by some pretty slutty but sexy female vampires. By sucking, I mean blood. 😉
In any case, as I played the Mina character in my dream, I was much smarter and knew exactly what Dracula was…a demon of the night, ooohhh… I remember that I was trying to rescue Jonathan from the castle, all the while pretending to be on Dracula’s good side. (This Dracula, by the way, is not attractive whatsoever, and he’s pretty nasty) So, as I was doing my rescue mission, which kind of ended up failing, I believe, though I don’t really know what happened to that part of the dream, it got to the point where I had to rescue myself. So here I was running around, trying to escape out of windows and all that stuff because Dracula was pissed that I had betrayed him…or wasn’t falling for his love spell, or whatever. I do think that he bit me at one point, but I’m not sure. I was covered in blood while trying to escape to the nearby village. For some reason, the village seemed to be a safe point.
So I got did escape out of the castle through some crazy torrential moat where I nearly drowned. I could hear him flying like a bat in the air trying to scope me out, so I had to hide in the shadows the whole time. I finally got out of the crazy river and ended up in some Roman-like stone courtyard with lots of statues. Anyway, this is where I saw who Dracula was before he turned into a vampire. I felt pity for him for like a second, until I heard him closing in on me, hunting me. And then, somehow I blacked out and ended up back in the village with my family members (from the movie, not my real ones) and everyone was eating different cakes. I bit into one and scarfed it down. The whole time, I was paranoid that Dracula would find me here.
And that was it. I can’t remember if anything else happened. My dream then switched over to some random thing about me being at an actors’ workshop with all my old high school and college drama buddies, it was pretty lame. I really didn’t want to be there. Oh yeah! People from my old work were there too including Richard! He kissed me in my dream…huh. Random as always.
The sun was glaring into her bedroom window, heating the room too hot for her liking, but that didn’t seem to wake her. It was the phone that wouldn’t stop ringing that finally jostled her out of the deep sleep. Groggily, she removed the thick pillow off her head and reached for the nearby phone, if only to shut it up.
“Hello,” she grumbled, her throat dry and mouth sticky. She was also vaguely aware that her body was covered in sweat, probably because of how hot the room was at the moment.
“Mandy! Are you alright?” came a man’s voice over the speaker. For a second, Mandy couldn’t place who it was, but then it all came flooding back to her.
“Sam?!” Mandy nearly screamed. “You’re alive!”
There was a pause and then, “I’m coming over right now.”
Mandy’s heart seemed to swell in her chest. It was all a dream and Sam wasn’t dead! She couldn’t wait to see him and throw her arms around his neck and never let him go. She quickly got up and hurried to the bathroom. It took her ten minutes before exited the bathroom, face clean, teeth brushed, hair brushed, and was about to turn the corner into the kitchen to make coffee when she almost jumped out of her skin in surprise.
Sam was already there—she remembered that she gave him a key for emergencies—and standing in the kitchen over the sink, the same sink where she left the butcher knife…The stinging pain in her leg came back as she began to realize exactly what was going on.
“Did you?” Sam asked bluntly, his voice even, though the muscles in his face were twitching against a deep frown.
Mandy barely nodded, looking up at him from across the counter with wide eyes.
“I had a bad dream last night,” she murmured.
Sam exhaled loudly, his head bowing as he leaned up against the sink.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do with you…” It was barely audible.
“What?” Mandy leaned closer.
“You’re late for work,” Sam’s gaze snapped up at her, almost so forcefully that she felt herself back up a couple paces. “Again.” Then he shook his head from side to side, as though he had been fighting a battle for too long.
“I don’t know how to help you,” he looked up, his hazel eyes full of sorrow. “It’s been a year now. You have to let him go. You have to let Ben go…”
For some reason, the way Sam had said “let Ben go…” struck a cord inside Mandy’s gut, or rather she had been slammed into with something round and heavy; all the air left her lungs and she couldn’t think of the words she needed to say. She couldn’t feel. The black hole was back again, but bigger, scarier; it seemed to be sucking in all her capacity to live. Let Ben go… That’s what Ben said about Sam. But that was a dream…or is this a dream? Which was it?!
It seemed as though Sam had been talking the whole time, but Mandy had completely blocked it out at this point.
“Mandy!” he said, finally breaking her reverie. “I’m going to go back to work now—I don’t know what to tell them, or if they’ll write you up or fire you—I don’t mean to be harsh, but…I just can’t do this right now. You need more help, better help.”
Mandy leaned against the wall, staring blankly ahead without looking at him. Then a look of genuine sadness fell upon Sam’s face and he rushed to her to gather her in his arms. But it was brief, no matter how strong it was, and he let her go, grabbed the knife from the kitchen, though he wasn’t sure if that was going to do any good, and left the apartment.
Mandy stood speechless, her mind in circles. Which was which? As far as she was concerned, they were both nightmares. One where she loses Ben, the person she can’t seem live without. One where she loses Sam, the person she also can’t seem to live without. One leaves her and the other leaves—no!—dies, but from what? She couldn’t remember. Maybe if she could backtrack…
Mandy stood in the middle of her kitchen, focusing on the sink where her knife had been before Sam took it. What did she do with the knife? Cut her leg. What did she do before that? Eat Chinese leftovers. And after… Fortune cookie!
To her left, she saw the small, rectangular, white paper leaning up against the toaster. Exactly where she had tossed it the night before…or the nights before, Mandy wasn’t sure. She snatched up the fortune and read out loud: “Use your instincts now.”
Parking lot! It came to her like a flash and she remembered everything. Mandy dashed into her bedroom, threw on a pair of jeans, a t-shirt, and some sneakers. She called a cab and as soon as it arrived, she bolted out the door and jumped in. The cab got to iAndroid later than Mandy would have expected for a cab driver, but nonetheless paid the cabbie, and got out. Mandy took a moment to calm herself, then scanned the parking lot. There were people already getting into their vehicles and leaving, but there was no sign of Sam.
You need to let him go, Mandy, she heard Ben say…or was it Sam. She couldn’t make sense of the voice. It sounded like both of them. Let him go…
“No,” she muttered through gritted teeth as she made her way to the office building.
Let go, Mandy…
“No, I must use my instincts—“ Mandy stopped midstride as she faced the building, people she worked with acknowledging her, but she didn’t see them as they walked by. “Now—“ The word was caught in her throat as she turned around to face the parking lot.
There, she saw Sam, making his way to his car. And there, she saw the other car pealing around the corner, in much too big a hurry to beat the rush.
“Sam!” she cried after him, running as fast as her frail body could take her. As she got closer, she began to recognize the shaggy brown hair and the lean, muscular frame that wasn’t Sam’s at all. Rather it was Ben’s.
What was he doing here? she thought. Her heart leapt up into her throat and she froze. Confusion and curiosity swept her mind and her pace slowed. Ben was walking towards Sam’s car. What was he doing here? Or maybe it wasn’t Sam’s car and maybe she was hallucinating. Or maybe the man who looked like Ben was just that, a look-alike, and that he had the same car as Sam.
Mandy was in the middle of the lot when she shouted, “Hey, you!” It was all she could seem to think of saying.
But it was too late. The man turned around and so did the car. The two collided, the man’s body flying only a meter, but was enough to bash his head against a cement block. Mandy felt the rush of bodies run past her to the accident, but she stayed. She thought she heard someone say It’s Michael, but she wasn’t sure.
With sudden courage, she jammed her elbow into the side of the intruder as hard as she could. The man rolled away from her, yowling in pain, while Mandy rolled the opposite direction onto the floor—not the most graceful way either.
“Baby!” the man cried, and Mandy couldn’t understand for the life of her why this stranger would dare call her that. “Baby, what are you doing?!”
And then it clicked. As she peered over the bed’s edge, she saw a familiar face. He was curled up in a ball; his shaggy brown hair, his skin unevenly tanned from working out in the sun, his medium frame bunching with lean muscles, his lips in a tight grimace—so familiar were those lips—a straight and pointed nose, and dark blue eyes peering back at her through thick lashes. She loved those eyes. They were her favorite.
“Ben!” Mandy cried. Her body felt as though it might explode and the sheer joy of it flung her body on top of the curled up man. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” she repeated over and over, kissing his stomach where she nailed him with her elbow—she forgot how hard of a stomach he had. But how could she forget her fiancé. How could she forget the love of her life! So she kept on kissing him, smothering him with her body until she reached his mouth, and then held on for dear-life as if she was breathing through him, the hole inside her vanishing.
Ben struggled underneath and was finally able to resurface after some gentle prying of fingers, arms and lips.
“Hold on there,” he gasped beneath her, “get a grip.” He pushed her face up to look at him, her long hair tangled and hanging above his face like a curtain.
“I’m so sorry!” she cried again, tears beginning to well-up, turning her eyes a bright green. “I didn’t mean to hurt you. I’m sorry—“
“Yeah, I got that,” Ben interrupted, “but that’s not what’s freaking me out. You’re acting like you didn’t even know I was there until you fell out of bed.”
“You weren’t. You were gone—I mean…” Mandy’s voice faded as she looked down at Ben, his dark blue eyes filled with concern, and he was really there, looking back up at her, the love in his eyes so obvious, so tangible through his fingertips brushing through her hair and up, gathering behind her head, as though he’d never left at all. Mandy just looked at him, soaking it up as much as she could, hoping this wasn’t a dream, knowing it couldn’t be because he felt so real. “I had a bad dream,” she finally said, “a very, very bad dream.”
“A dream that made me the bad guy,” Ben said, his famous crooked smile bending his mouth. She loved that smile! It made everything inside her melt and tingle. “You’re getting dangerous to sleep with.”
“No, no,” she said, shaking her head, her hair tickling Ben’s face playfully. “You weren’t a bad guy, you were…gone.” Saying the word made her sick, as though the black hole inside of her was waiting silently beneath all the sudden happiness. “You left me. Said you didn’t love me anymore. And we were fighting…” Now she began to remember. Her horrible dream. It all flooded back to her, almost too painfully, so she had to hold some of it back. Mandy told him of their fights, how they became more cruel and hurtful. There seemed to be nothing she could do to keep them from fighting. And her dream would loop with different scenarios, but she always seemed to choose the wrong one, the one where Ben left her, told her he’d changed his mind about marrying her, that he wanted to be apart from her, that she wanted too much to be apart of his life and he was annoyed with it.
So he left her alone and she couldn’t take it. She fell into a deep depression and couldn’t concentrate, started cutting herself, started taking therapy and medicine, that she totaled her car because she couldn’t think. She couldn’t feel either.
The look in Ben’s eyes frightened her as she told him this. There was deep concern and love, but something else underneath it, a strange wariness and possibly irritableness coming from him. But then Mandy might have imagined it, her own paranoia being enough for the two of them.
And then there was Sam. She’d made a friend and it seemed like they’d been friends for years. He was good to her and tried to help her through the loss—
“Sam?” Ben interrupted.
Mandy blinked, a taken aback by Ben’s recognition of the name. She didn’t think they knew a Sam. At least, she didn’t remember.
“You had a dream about Sam?” Ben began to sound more worried.
Mandy nodded curiously. “Yes?”
“Mandy, you need to stop indulging in this,” Ben said, the worry look drastically turning into annoyance.
It left Mandy indefinitely confused. “Indulging in what? Us breaking up?”
“No!” Ben almost shouted. He pushed Mandy up off of him and slid out of bed, stomping off towards the bathroom.
Mandy was dumbfounded sitting cross-legged in the pile of sheets. Finally, she was able to find her voice, frightened off by Ben’s sudden anger.
“I’m confused,” she said, her voice almost too quiet. “Why are you angry with me right now?”
She heard the toilet flush and Ben came back out standing at the foot of the bed, arms crossed, his face contorting between anger and distress. She hated this look. It made her feel so weak inside, as though all of her mental strength had been sucked out of her.
“Sam died, remember?” Ben spat. “He got hit by a car and died a year ago. How can you honestly act like you don’t remember? You were right there!”
She was right there, hovering over Sam’s body, crushed by the car that had ran into him, the driver crying that he didn’t see him, that he came out of nowhere. Sam, her best friend, second only to Ben, and maybe if she hadn’t been engaged to Ben, then maybe to Sam. In many ways, he knew her better than Ben did. Oh, yes, now she remembered.
She and Sam were leaving work and the two had said their goodbyes before splitting off to their cars. It was then that she heard the squealing. Spinning around to see where the sound had come from, she barely noticed Sam’s body flying two feet and smashing against another parked car…in the parking lot. Just like in her dream where she thought Sam would be hit and she’d have to use her instincts to save him. But nothing happened in her dream. The dream was about Ben…
“You need to go see Dr. White again,” Ben said, breaking her reverie. He was referring to her therapist, the one she had been seeing since Sam’s death. Glancing over to the bed table, she saw her bottle of “crazy” pills, as she called them. So that part wasn’t a dream.
Later that evening, Ben decided to take Mandy out to their favorite Chinese restaurant, a sort of apology for his outburst that morning, something that had successfully ruined the rest of Mandy’s day. Mandy, too, felt bad because she didn’t want to put Ben through this, her denial, her mental instability as she saw it.
So she decided to put on her best smile and most positive attitude. The two ate brown rice and fried garlic chicken, drank down a couple of mai tais, though Mandy wasn’t aloud to consume more than one alcoholic beverage on her “crazy” pills, and the couple was laughing and entwining fingers as if there was no earlier argument. The server came by with the check and laid two fortune cookies on top for their enjoyment.
Ben and Mandy fumbled with the plastic wrapping, laughing and teasing each other about how drunk “the other” was and “what nasty things” they’re going to do to each other when they get home. Ben cracked his cookie open and pulled out the small slip of white paper.
“You will win success in whatever calling you adopt,” Ben read the fortune out loud. And then he added, “…in bed. You hear that, baby? I’m gonna be verrrrry successful in bed…tonight.” He rolled his Rs and peered beneath his thick lashes at Mandy, his blue eyes sparkling. Whenever he gave her that look, Mandy blushed heavily and couldn’t look back. She loved that look.
Smiling shyly, she focused her attention on the cookie in her hand and cracked it open, pulling out the paper.
“Use your instincts now,” she recited.
“In bed!” Ben finished for her, laughing hysterically. “Oh, baby…” he growled.
Mandy felt herself smile and maybe even possibly laugh, but her insides immediately froze. The words seemed to glow at her, grab at her, and she couldn’t tear her eyes away. Why did she know that? And it struck her, like something solid punching her gut, knocking the air out of her lungs… How could she know that?! She dreamed of the same fortune, or what if it wasn’t a dream? What if she was dreaming now?
It wasn’t long before Ben realized the shock Mandy was in and, at once, he grew anxious. He hoped she wasn’t having a “moment,” as he likes to call them.
“Mandy, baby,” he said quietly, “what’s wrong?”
“I dreamed this,” she said flatly, her eyes never looking away from the fortune.
“What do you mean?”
“I dreamed this exact phrase, this exact fortune cookie,” she murmured, handing Ben the fortune. He seemed confused as to why this was a surprise to her. “It’s uncanny,” she continued, “but I know it’s the same phrase. I remember it too well.”
“Okay,” Ben interjected, his voice trembling with irritation, “so what’s the big deal? It’s just a fortune.”
“It’s a big deal because when I dreamed about opening this fortune cookie, and it said these exact words, the next day—in my dream—was the day Sam died, only he didn’t, I saved him…or at least…” Mandy’s voice trailed off. That wasn’t exactly it. Nothing happened in her dream, but she thought something would happen, so she used her…instincts?
“Mandy, I don’t wanna talk about his anymore,” Ben said, his voice suddenly very quiet and very stern. “I’m sorry about his morning. I know I was being inconsiderate, but you need to let it go. You need to let Sam go.”
Mandy looked up into Ben’s dark blue eyes, heavily shaded by his thick, brown lashes—she loved his eyes. They made her insides melt. And then she felt them come…the tears…filling her eyes, blinding her vision. She tried to concentrate, to keep everything happy inside her mind, to remind herself that she had Ben and they were together, and in love, and were getting married, that it wasn’t her fault that Sam died.
But they came anyway. She cried all the way home and all throughout the night. Ben wrapped his arms around her as they lay in bed, but she couldn’t stop and didn’t stop until she was completely asleep.
The next morning, Mandy awoke alone. She expected it, mostly because Ben had already left for the office. As she shuffled into the bathroom, she noticed how swollen and red her eyes were from crying so much. Ben was right and that she needed to get a hold of herself. It had been a year and that should have been a long enough to grieve.
She decided to surprise him during his lunch break and bring him his favorite: chicken fried rice.
It was a surprise, but Ben didn’t seem too happy to see her. She assumed it was because he was so tired from holding her all night long. Mandy flashed her brightest smile, after all, she was feeling much better today, and kissed him long and warmly…or at least she tried.
Ben kissed back, but pulled away quicker than she wanted. She hoped he wasn’t too angry with her for last night.
“I brought you Chinese,” Mandy said, smiling, setting the food down on his black metal desk, sleek and stylish just like he was.
“Thanks,” Ben said, smiling weakly.
“I’m sorry about last night,” Mandy blurted. Might as well get it over with, she thought.
“Me too,” Ben replied.
“That fortune-thing really got me,” Mandy continued, noticing Ben wanted to interject but raised a hand to stop him, “but I’m sorry. I know I’ve been so much—too much to handle. I’ve been so upset for too long and I promise…from now on, I am going to completely turn around and make sure—“
“I can’t,” Ben whispered.
“—that I will get all the help I need, that I will fix myself for good. I love you so much, and I can see now that I’m hurting you—us—“
“Mandy, I can’t.”
Mandy stopped short for a second, thinking she didn’t quite hear what Ben had muttered.
“Can’t?” she repeated. “Can’t what?”
“I can’t do this anymore—us, anymore,” he said, head down, slumping against the side of his desk. “I don’t know how to help you. I almost feel like you love Sam more than you love me—“
“What?! That is not—“
“Okay, so maybe that’s not it, but it doesn’t matter anymore,” Ben’s voice became stronger, more assertive. “I just can’t take it anymore! I can’t live like this…”
Suddenly, Mandy couldn’t find her voice anymore, neither her breath. She couldn’t move, staring blankly at Ben’s slumped form, his eyes refusing to look up. What was happening? She couldn’t believe it. She was losing Ben, the love of her life, the one thing holding onto her, keeping her from falling down the cliff of despair…and now he was letting go.
She wished to see his eyes, those sapphire gems one more time. But they didn’t look up. And all she could hear was her scream, as she fell down, yet her mouth never opened…