Jen’s Secret #ShortStory #Series

I hope y’all are ready for another installment of our short story series. I need to think of a title for it, but for now let just call it “Jen’s Secret”. If you missed Part 1, you can check it out here

♥♥♥

My legs feel like lead. I struggle to pull myself from the deep sleep I so desperately needed. Surviving on four hours a night is catching up to me big time. A spring from the thin sleeper sofa mattress juts into my hip, but still, I don’t want to get up. What I wouldn’t give for five more minutes of peace.

I gingerly disentangle myself from Sienna, her moist skin sticking to mine as I slide my arm out from under her. Why do children sweat so much when they sleep? She sighs, and rolls over towards her sister, automatically seeking the comfort of another warm body. My youngest has always been needy. I’m pretty sure it’s my fault. Ever since she was born, things have been tough. Working odd jobs and keeping crazy hours doesn’t allow me to spend much time with her. I may not have a college degree, but I work with kids every day and I know how important it is for them to have a secure attachment and a routine.

I also know how important it is for them to have a roof over their heads and food in their stomachs.

Which is why I’m tiptoeing around my converted garage apartment, trying to get ready for my overnight shift at Wal-Mart, without waking up my kids. I stub my toe on the metal bar at the bottom of the bed and puff out a breath of air from the pain, stifling a groan. I’m inspecting my foot for damage when I hear a soft whisper, “Ma? You OK?”

Theresa’s face is illuminated by a halo of warmth from Mrs. Posada’s back porch light. She’s half sitting up, resting on her elbows, a look of concern etched across her pretty face. I reassure her, “I’m fine, baby. Go back to sleep.”

“I told you to get a night-light.”

She had, because she’s the kind of little girl who thinks far too much about practical things. “I know. I’ll pick one up from work tonight.”

“And some wood glue for my project?”

Shoot! I’d forgotten she was supposed to build one of the California missions. “Yeah, that too.”

“Thanks.”

“Sleep, missy.”

She settles back onto the bed, but a few seconds later, she announces, “Mrs. Stevenson said that a chronic lack of sleep increases a person’s risk for heart attack, stroke and a lot of other illnesses.”

I finish pulling a navy blue polo shirt over my head, my shoulders slumping. My daughter shouldn’t be concerning herself with things like that, and obviously her teacher, Mrs. Stevenson, doesn’t have kids of her own. Otherwise, she would know that a lack of sleep is part of the parental job description. “I’m healthy as a horse. Now, Go. To. Sleep.”

She’s silent, so that’s a start. I finish getting ready, then kiss each child on her forehead. Theresa’s only pretending to be asleep, so I pat her cheek, and she looks up at me solemnly. She’s so serious, this kid. I tap her nose, “Tomorrow’s Saturday. I promise I’ll sleep in. OK?”

“OK.”

I grab the monitor and set the alarm on my way out. Like clockwork, Mrs. Posada opens her back door, and takes the monitor. She hands me a travel mug of coffee, “You’re sure you don’t want to borrow my car?” she asks, her lilting accent rolling the R’s.

“No, thanks.” Just the thought of getting behind the wheel of a car makes my throat dry.

“You know I would at least give you a ride to the bus…but the girls.”

“I know, Mrs. Posada. You watching them is more than enough. Listen, I’ll see you in the morning.”

“Be careful!”

I smile and head down the long drive way towards the street. If I time it just right, I’ll get to the bus stop moments before the bus arrives, decreasing the time I have to sit and wait. Hopefully, no one will harass me tonight, and I can get to work without incident.

♥♥♥

Even as I stock the shelves, I can’t stop thinking about Mrs. Posada’s offer to drive her car occasionally. It’s not the first time Mrs. Posada has made such an offer. She even said I could buy her deceased husband’s car, on time, when we first moved in. It would be so much safer than walking the streets at all hours of the night and early morning.  I don’t mind catching the bus in the daytime with the girls. By myself at night is another question. But, I can’t drive again. The thought of it is terrifying.

My pulse increases and my hands shake as I line up packages of Oreos. I can’t believe I even allowed myself to go there while I’m at work. I concentrate on filling the shelves in front of me, hoping to calm myself.

“Hey, you all right?”

I look over my shoulder at Jared, one of my co-workers. “I’m fine,” the lie slips out haltingly.

He glances at my trembling hands, then looks aways when he sees me noticing. “You need a minute?”

“Yeah.”

I expect him to walk away and leave me alone. Instead, he gestures for me to follow him. I glance at my cart full of go-backs, then at the aisle void of people. I guess I’ve got a minute to see what he’s up to.

I follow him to the warehouse area at the back of the store, past towers of metal shelves, boxes and pallets wrapped in shrink-wrap. He turns down a narrow passage way, which leads to a door. When he opens it, I see an office of sorts. There’s a beat up old desk, along with a smattering of chairs.

“You can chill here for a while. If anybody asks, I’ll tell them you’re picking up some stuff from the warehouse.”

I sink onto one of the chairs. “Thanks.”

“You cool?”

I nod, and put my hands under my thighs.

He exits without another word, and for the first time in months, I’m alone. Tears well up in my chest and leak from my eyes. I’m so tired. My chest and face heat from the effort of holding it all in. Finally, I give up and let it all out, my body hiccupping from the force of my sobs.

I don’t know if I can do this anymore. Should I turn myself in? What will happen to my kids if I do? I have to pull it together. That little boy is dead, and there’s nothing I can do to bring him back. There’s a mother out there. Someone like me, who loved that child with all her heart. And she’ll never hold him again. Never see him grow up. Never know what animal ran him over and kept driving…Never see justice served.

What kind of person does that? What kind of person am I?

♥♥♥

Whoa. Look, I’ma be honest and say even I didn’t see that coming! I know this installment may not seem all that inspirational, but stick with me and it will be. What do you think about Jen’s secret so far? Did you see that coming? Does it fit with what you thought of Jen and her story after the first installment of this short story series?

 

© Faith Simone 2018

 

 

 

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OK, So I’m a Little Embarrassed…

I have a confession to make: I’m embarrassed that my second book hasn’t come out yet. I published my first book at the start of 2015 and here it is, 2018, and I haven’t published my second book. It doesn’t matter that I was cut open twice, in and out of the hospital, etc.  No matter how valid my excuses, embarrassment still lingers. According to my plans, I should have published two additional books and be writing the fourth.

Then I saw this quote and it put things in perspective. “It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop.”

One thing I can say about me is that I’m not a quitter. Nothing, and I do mean nothing, has come to me easily. I’ve failed more times than I can count, but I never give up. And I think that’s the only thing that separates those who eventually succeed from those who never do.

So if you’re like me, and you feel embarrassed by your lack of progress towards your goals, creative or otherwise, just remember to keep plugging away at them. Rome wasn’t built in a day, my friends. As long as you’re still breathing, there’s hope!

When Love Goes Wrong…HALT!

What’s up lovely people? I was feeling a little nostalgic the other day and looking through some of my old posts. I stumbled across this one and decided to re-post it. It’s one of the short stories/essays I contributed to my writer’s group anthology. I hope it speaks to you!


He was the kind of lover that made you want to thank him at the close of every rendezvous; to absolutely and definitively express gratitude towards him for his ability to give pleasure; to humbly praise his skill and his tangible way of physically bringing you to a place of bliss and then allowing you to dwell there. Yes, he was that good. All he did was give.

Until he didn’t anymore, and then all he did was take. I should have seen it coming. The whole yin and yang of life is not new to me. If our lovemaking was unbalanced, it only made sense that the pleasure he should have rightfully received, after giving me so much, should be taken from some other aspect of our relationship. An unbalanced debt is an unbalanced debt, no matter what the currency. Bills always come due.

It wasn’t until much later that I came to understand that perhaps it was all a set up. That maybe he used his rare talent as a way of achieving personal gain. In other words, he was a gigolo and I was his mark.  Maybe it wasn’t so much that I was selfish and did not try to give back, it was that he was determined to take his pleasure elsewhere and feel justified in doing so.  Or maybe it was just karma. Either way, I’ll never know.

I do know that I’ve been taught better, both figuratively and literally. On my first day of college a professor of a kindly paternal disposition set out to give sage advice to a classroom full of hopeful and naïve freshmen. He scribbled an acronym across the dry erase board and stated that we should make all of our decisions over the next few years with it in mind.

H.A.L.T.

 This meant stop and consider your personal state before making any type of choice. The professor succinctly said, “Never make a decision when you are hungry, angry, lonely or tired. Always remember to halt.” He went on to actually teach the subject we were all there to study, but my mind stayed stuck on his introductory speech.

It was a moment that changed my life, but not in the way that I think the well-meaning instructor intended. I spent the rest of the class contemplating the simple acronym and the meaning behind it. Eventually, I concluded that if I waited until I was in such an ideal frame of being to make choices, I would live out the entirety of my life without making a single decision. Because my reality was that I had never lived a single moment of my life without feeling hungry, angry, lonely or tired.

This revelation could have easily caused me to make a life change by working to create an existence where I was not feeling at least one of those sensations at all times. Instead I used it as an excuse to recklessly make decisions with dire consequences.

HUNGRY
HUNGRY

You see I was always hungry for an ever-elusive craving. An indefinable something that, if received, would satisfy me in a way that nothing else ever had. It was this insatiable hunger that caused me to latch on to him and take, take, take without any consideration of the phrase, “payback is a mother-“.

ANGRY
ANGRY

As a result, I was so familiar with anger as a constant companion that I was incapable of distinguishing between my everyday jacket of anger and a justifiable mink coat of rage. He did things that deserved violent fury and I let it slide, convincing myself it was the former and that I was overreacting.

LONELY
LONELY

Don’t get me started on the loneliness. It is the worst kind of isolation to feel lonely when you are in a relationship with someone. Again, I blamed myself. I berated myself for being such an ice queen that I could not let someone else in. It did not occur to me that a sincere relationship should gently chip away at the frostiness of loneliness with constant warmth in the form of passion, kindness and caring.

TIRED
TIRED

I thought I was world weary before, but I hadn’t seen anything until my debt came due. He sucked me dry. I was the kind of tired that made me lay awake at night staring at the ceiling. I was the kind of tired that caused friends to do a double take and express concern over my well-being. I was the kind of tired that caused my supervisor to suggest a leave of absence. I was the kind of tired that caused me to take that leave of absence thereby enabling me to expand my nocturnal ceiling watching to daylight hours as well.

Then I got tired of him. Ending it was by no means easy. He had so methodically captured me that it took a major crisis of conscience to free my mind from the luxurious prison he had created. And yes you’re right, supposedly there is no such thing as a luxurious prison. The two don’t mix. That’s about the same as a cold love affair. Both metaphors are a complete contradiction in terms and hell to live through.

So now here I am, thinking over that wise instructor’s advice. Meditating on his attempt to give me and my classmates a local’s perspective in our newly foreign world. Finally I have made a decision worth the effort. I decided when I was hungry, angry, lonely and tired to not stay that way. I’ve come to a halt…and I’m changing the game.


 

I hope you enjoyed a little snippet into the wonderful collection of poetry, short stories and essays that is Voices from the Block: A Legacy of African-American Literature. Click here to check it out! 

Have you ever been involved in a love affair gone bad? What did you do about your dissatisfaction? Dish in the comments below!

 

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Writer Blues

I consider this blog to be one of my safe places so I feel no qualms about sharing with y’all that I’m currently in scary space. You see, it’s past time for me to begin my next novel and while my muse has been gently and consistently prompting me to tell her story, I have yet to write a single line. Wait, I take that back. A few months ago I wrote a scene from the many glimpses I’ve had into my protagonist’s life. It’s a highly emotional scene and I’m pretty sure it’s just one of many more. That’s precisely the problem.

Let me explain myself a little better. I’m an immersion writer. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, an immersion writer is one who gives their entire life over to their current project. They don’t just want to research being a minor league football player, they find a way to become a minor league football player. Then they write from that experience. A notable immersion writer is John Howard Griffin of Black Like Me. Immersion writing typically applies to journalists or non-fiction writers, but I’m choosing to use the term in relation to myself because I emotionally immerse myself into the lives of the fictional characters I’m creating.

tears

This is where my resistance to starting my next book comes in. I’m at a point in my life where I’m genuinely happy and content. It’s been a long time coming and I had to fight my fair share of battles to get here. I don’t want to immerse myself in the emotional landmine that I’m sure this book is meant to be. I don’t want my muse to tell me of her secrets. I don’t want to unveil the experience of her neglect and misuse. I don’t want to know what she’s been through. I don’t want to feel the sorrow of it all. I’ve admitted before that I was once afraid to sit in the stillness of my own sorrow, so I for sure don’t want to sit in fullness of her’s.

Yet, because I finally worked up the courage to sit in my own sorrow, I know that doing so is the only way to help her make it through to the joy that I fully believe is waiting for her on the other side. The same way it waited for me. The same way it will be waiting for the readers of this next book who need to know that it’s possible to come out of a place of hard-earned despondency into unmerited grace. So I’ll sit with her in sorrow, but only because I plan to journey with her to victory.

Does the project you’re working on affect your mood? Have any advice about how to emotionally distance myself from the occurrences of my work-in-progress, without losing the sensitivity that my writing style requires? Anyone ever wanted to write one thing, but feel pressed to write something entirely different? I’d love to hear your thoughts and advice!

 

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Descriptive Writing Tip

So the other day I walked into my living room and the T.V. was on with the sound off. There was a movie on. I think it might have been a new version of The Hulk or something. My sister has a fetish for what I call man movies. Give me a chick flick any day. But I digress. Just as I was about to turn the volume up and change the channel, I began to notice that observing the actors without sound was pretty interesting. I’ve mentioned before how important it is as a writer to be aware of the world around you. After a couple of seconds of watching, I was fascinated by how much the actors conveyed with their body language, facial expressions and the use of props.

Then it hit me: watching the movie without sound was a great way to help improve my descriptive writing skills! I love words. Duh, that’s a given for any writer. However, my love for words causes me to pay more attention to dialogue than action while watching T.V. This also manifests in my fictional writing. I can be really heavy with the dialogue and character introspection. This leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to describing setting and character action.

Watchng

As I sat there watching my own version of a silent film, I noticed the way the actors broke eye contact when under pressure. That they shifted their bodies away from whomever was speaking when they were angry. Their skin flushed, lips trembled, fists clenched. They would dishevel their hair, flail their arms, sit on the edge of their seat. They reclined in satisfaction or pushed their shoulders back in determination.

And omg, the settings! From over cluttered messy shoebox apartments to the closed interior of a truck cab, the places where the actors had the conversations said as much about what was happening as what the actors actually said. The  setting did much to ‘set’ the mood for the scene.

Now, I know for some of you this may be Writing 101 material. But for me, I was ecstatic to find an exercise for helping to make my descriptive writing better. Sometimes a wordsmith just needs to ignore words for a while in order to become a better wordsmith!

What are some of your favorite tips or exercises to help improve your writing?

Want to check out more of my writing tips? Click here!

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