Closure

Pushing myself off his chest I rolled onto the bed next to him, panting to catch my breath and sighing with satisfaction. Feeling completely exhausted but sated after our lovemaking, I knew it was probably a bad idea to be here with him. How many times in the past had he broken my heart? But he was like a drug to me. No, screw drugs. He was like a pair of Christian Louboutins. Expensive. Forbidden. Extravagant. Definitely out of my price range. But a soon as you slipped your foot inside and felt the soft leather mold to your skin you were hooked.

“That was amazing. You know we’re so good together. Why did we ever break up?” I didn’t answer his question, didn’t even look at him. I just picked a spot on the ceiling to focus on while his hands roamed over my breasts, my stomach, his lips dipped to kiss the soft spot on my neck, the place he knew gave me shivers. I took in a deep breath and wondered if I could forgive his transgressions. I wasn’t getting any younger. God knew, my mother reminded me on every phone call she made. I let out an involuntary shudder as he hit the sweet spot. “Baby, you know you want me as much as I want you. Why are you fighting it?” I bit my lip and closed my eyes, enjoying his teasing tongue exploring the most tender parts of my body.

With my eyes closed I should have just enjoyed the amazing feelings I was experiencing, but my mind took over and played a tug-of-war with my body. The incredible physical sensations were countered with the cognitive memories of how this had played out in the past. As his mouth nibbled at my ear I recalled the night he told me he was staying home sick, only to find him out at the same bar my friends took me to, hitting on a much younger woman who looked uncannily like me, a woman he left with and never mentioned to me. Squirming uncomfortably, he moved his focus to my breast and I shivered in delight as he sucked my nipple into his mouth, rolling it around playfully. I knew he cheated more than once. Did it matter to me now? He seemed contrite.

“Baby, you know it’s just you. It’s always been just you.” There. It was something in his tone. Insincerity. He was trying to sell it to me. I reached up and turned off the lamp, leaving the the room dimly lit, scarcely  able to see his face. Maybe he was good for one more thing. “I think I can go again.”

 

Nativities and Pancakes

A Gods of P B & J Story

It was 6 o’clock on Christmas Eve and I was sitting in the church pew with my children, Hannah and Noah on either side of me. Next to Noah sat his kindergarten classmate Katie’s father Adam, my savior. Oh shit, I shouldn’t use that name to describe him in church. I looked at the crucifix high above the altar and mouthed the words “I’m so sorry, Jesus.” Adam chose that moment to look over at me and his eyebrows furrowed in confusion. He whispered over Noah’s head, “Who are you talking to?” Damn. I wasn’t good at making things up, especially with Adam. He was particularly hard to lie to. Not that I lied to him often. Only when it kept me from embarrassment. Like now. I quickly pushed my hands together in the international symbol of prayer. Adam knowingly nodded. He then looked to the back of the church where his daughter Katie was gathered with the other children participating in the Nativity. She was dressed like an angel. Literally.

I’m not certain how I got talked into going to the children’s mass at St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church on Christmas Eve. Adam had taken me under his wing after my husband moved across the country with his new girlfriend and left me to raise our two children alone. As a widower with a five-year-old daughter, he had more experience than I did doing the single parent thing. I hadn’t given a thought about how we would approach the Christmas holidays when Adam volunteered to climb into my attic and pull down all the boxes of decorations. He even took us to the tree lot to buy a real tree when he learned, to his shock and dismay, that we had an artificial tree. Having him and Katie around had made decorating the house a little easier and a lot less emotional. So, when he called and asked if we would be going to the Christmas Nativity at the church I of course said the first thing that came to mind, which happened to be the furthest thing from what I actually wanted to do. “Of course, we’re going, the kids are so excited, can’t stop talking about it. We wouldn’t miss it.” Really, I wanted to put on pajamas, lay in bed and watch Christmas movies on Lifetime while the kids played video games. Yet, here we were, all dressed up in church on Christmas Eve. Talk about alternate universes.

“Mommy, why are your knees jumping?” Noah’s whisper came out a little loudly and Adam tried to stifle his laugh as I pushed down on my knees and took in a deep breath. The truth was I hadn’t been in a Catholic Church since Noah was baptized. I didn’t have a problem with religion, I was a spiritual person and I believed in the power of prayer, especially in certain situations when certain men and my pride were involved at the same time. It was more a matter of the business of religion. When all was said and done, I liked it to be just me and God in the conversation, no need for an intermediary thank you very much. Nonetheless, the nuns at the Sacred Heart Academy had managed to instill a respectful attitude toward the Church that had lasted my entire life.

As the strains of the pipe organ began I felt the rush of air as everyone around me stood and my instincts kicked right in, quickly pulling myself upright with one hand on each of my children, tugging them upward. I could almost hear Sister Agnes in my ear telling me to pull my shoulders back and stand straight. As the processional passed on the way towards the altar I smelled the aromatic scent of the incense, heard the familiar clang of the chains of the thurible as the priest marched forward. Suddenly my heart began to race. Familiar words echoed in my head. “It has been six years since my last confession.” “In the name of the father, and of the son . . .” “Bless us oh Lord, and these thy gifts.” “Hail Mary, full of Grace.” A cacophony of words struck from out of the blue and threatened to overwhelm my thoughts. Was this my penance? Worse, was this my purgatory? My knees threatened to buckle and I grasped the pew in front of me until my knuckles were white. Adam noticed and put his warm hand over mine. Looking into his chocolate brown eyes I noticed the crinkles around his eyes when he smiled. I smiled back and my heartrate slowed.

I managed to get through the mass by rote. Who knew religion had muscle memory? With a little prodding, Hannah and Noah were getting the hang of the ups and downs, literally, of a Catholic mass. At one point Hannah leaned into my ear and said “I think all this sitting and standing and kneeling is ridiculous.” And although she was only seven, I swear she sounded just like my seventeen-year-old self. When the time came for the Nativity, Adam put Noah on his lap for a better look and we all clapped when we saw Katie looking sweetly angelic. I saw a few tears slip down Adam’s cheek and I reached up to wipe them away but he was too quick and beat me to it.

Finally, the hour was over. Ever respectful, we stood as the recessional hymn played and the aromatic incense flooded the room once again. We walked to the back of the church where Katie was waiting for us. She ran to Adam, “Daddy, did you see me?”

“I did see you Katie-Q, you were the most beautiful angel I’ve ever seen.” He pulled her up into his arms and swung her around. While Adam exchanged greetings with several families, I stood with my kids somewhat awkwardly since we didn’t belong to the church and didn’t know many people there. Adam suddenly turned with a red face. “Kim, I’m so sorry. You don’t know anyone here do you? I shouldn’t have left you alone.”

“Bad manners Daddy.” Katie chided her father with her fingers shaking at him.

“Well, I guess we’ll have to make it up to them. How about a pancake dinner at our house?” Adam looked at Hannah, Noah and me for approval. You didn’t have to ask twice. Hannah and Noah loved pancakes and I loved not cooking. It was a win/win. Once again I thanked the gods of peanut butter and jelly for giving me such a great friend.

I Am Not A Writer

We all have our struggles from time to time.

Whether we call it our muse or our voice or our talent, makes no difference.

The truth lies in the knowledge that the words we write are fleeting.

Some days they flow easily, like a mighty river, with limitless possibility.

Other days they stutter, we pull them one by one painstakingly, our hearts unable to speak coherently.

The words are like raindrops on the scorched earth.

For a while now I haven’t felt.

When I write, the words ring hollow.

I don’t feel the emotions flow from my fingertips as I did before.

The words I write don’t seem to have any deeper meaning than the ink on the page.

Is it true then, am I merely forestalling the inevitable truth?

I am not a writer.

Cliffhanger

The room was decorated in shades of pale ivory, cream and beige with strategic splashes of gold. As Lara walked in she felt her heart begin to beat faster, her instincts telling her to turn around but her pride telling her to keep walking. She took a flute of champagne off the silver platter carried by a passing waiter and lifted it to her crimson tinged lips, sipping slowly, appreciating the dry, crisp liquid on her tongue. Knowing her hosts, it had to be the finest vintage, likely imported. The haute cuisine on the menu she recognized from the top caterer in the city. It all seemed a bit ostentatious for her taste. Then again, she had not only divorced her cheating husband, but divorced herself from the high society of the city.

Lara had only returned at the request of her one remaining friend at the top, Candace Livingston. They had been college roommates and Candace had begged her to attend this gala fundraiser. She’d reluctantly agreed; she had to buy a new dress for the occasion because she no longer owned anything acceptable for something of this scale. When she left Peter, she vowed to change her life and she had followed through, completely overhauling, simplifying, throwing out the old and ushering in a new, improved Lara.

Her golden blonde hair was pulled back into a simple chignon, accentuating her thin neck. The scoop neckline of her black satin dress left her flawless skin on display and, with no jewelry to distract, any eyes would be drawn to the creamy soft expanse of her collarbone. The sweeping floor-length gown hid the plain black satin heels bought at the discount shoe store, which would surely stand out in a room full of Jimmy Choo’s and Louboutin’s. Not that she cared, but she didn’t want the attention. The more she could blend in the easier this night would be.

With her heart rate returning to a normal pace, she scanned the room for Candace. She’d only gotten the one phone call with a hand-delivered invitation so it felt like she was in a spy novel. Happy for the low light in the room, she had yet to be recognized by any of her old acquaintances; although it had been five years since she had left the circuit. Finally, she spotted the signature reddish-brown hair of her friend, fashioned into an elegant crown braid for the night. When Candace caught sight of Lara she discreetly motioned for her to join their table.

As she approached Candace pulled her into a tight hug and whispered, “I promise you don’t have to stay long.” They moved away from one another and Candace began introductions all around, as Lara had never met anyone sitting at the table. After fifteen minutes of polite conversation, Candace and Lara casually walked away. Keeping her voice low, Candace finally confessed why she had asked Lara to attend. “Peter is here.” Lara looked up in surprise, eyes wide open, then made a move as if to leave. Candace put her arm out in a blocking motion. “Before you decide to leave, there’s something you should know about him.”

untitled

She said the words that, maybe thoughtless and unintentional, felt cruel and vicious and ripped my heart to shreds. I was back in high school again, feeling betrayed and ostracized and alone. All my yesterdays came crashing into my tomorrows. And I’m left to pick up the pieces and slowly put my life back together, minus one good friend.

Women

(A little late for this word prompt)

As I stood in front of the bathroom mirror, I stared at my reflection it wasn’t like me to primp for a date. I was normally the type of girl who didn’t play up her looks for attention, relying instead on my natural wit, intelligence and charm. If a man didn’t like me for what was on the inside then he didn’t deserve to be seen with the outside, which I must admit could be quite impressive with the right amount of effort.

So it was more than a little troubling that I would go to such lengths, so early on, to impress a man I barely knew based solely on my looks. I stopped applying my eyeshadow and ran through my memories. What had he said when we met? He loved the Cubs. Well, I would have pulled my hair in a ponytail and pulled on a comfy pair of sweats so that wasn’t it. Continuing with the mascara, I carefully laid down the first layer. Then, holding the wand just above my eye it hit me. He told me, “I remember when my mother used to sit at her dressing table getting ready for dates with dad. She told me that women could achieve anything, but the sign of a true woman was not one who would do anything to prove that she could, but one who would prove that she would do anything for her true love.” He went on to tell me that his mother raised four successful, well-adjusted children and died four days after his father, her true love.

This man had learned about true love from a mother who knew the value of women and still primped for her lover. That kind of love isn’t the shiny outside wrapper our eyes are immediately drawn to, but the prize inside the wrapper, the one you savor. She had achieved something that is rarely valued these days, not getting an advanced education or having a stellar career. She raised decent children, she helped create the future. If putting on makeup for date night made her any less of a woman in someone’s eyes, they’re the fool for not seeing the truth. Women are strong, not because they want to be and not because they have to be. They just are.

Friends?

She had a decision to make. It wasn’t going to be easy. Things like this never were. It would break every single fiber in her heart if she turned away and said good-bye. But what choice did she have? She could pretend it had never happened, that she hadn’t heard the malicious words said by her so-called friends, take the high road once again and pretend that being left out of their activities, something they thought was a secret, didn’t cut her to the core.

Or she could face the truth head on and admit to herself that although they told her she was a cherished friend and a vital part of their inner circle, their lies were only meant to assuage their own guilt. The irony was that she had no trouble being alone; they had insisted on including her in their group, one in which she never felt comfortable, never quite belonged.

It’s only when you open your heart that you allow it to be broken.

Heartbroken

Sometimes you get your heart broken by a lover. These are the times we struggle within; was it something I said – didn’t say, was it the way I looked or the way I smelled? Sometimes we come up with the most outrageous notions just to ease our minds and blame ourselves when really – maybe it wasn’t our fault at all.

Then there are the times we get our heart broken by a friend. I learned very early on not to put my trust in friends just for this reason. If I held them at a distance they couldn’t hurt me as much. But I recently let one too close. Why? Isn’t that the 64 million dollar question. She seemed trustworthy, she seemed interested, she seemed different than everyone else, like she didn’t have an agenda, like she truly cared about me. To my credit I didn’t let her all the way in – I never do. But just enough to break a piece of heart big enough to matter.

She won’t read this, she doesn’t read my work. If she did I wonder if it would even affect her. Our last conversation I told her I needed some time alone and she didn’t even ask what was wrong. If she did maybe she would know how to fix it. And maybe that’s my fault after all.

Second Thoughts

She was starting to have second thoughts about leaving. Could she really do this alone? She put her hand to her tender belly, just beginning to swell. It was better this way. She had to believe they would be better on their own, without him. As much as she wanted her baby to grow up with a father, she refused to risk subjecting a child to the potential emotional abuse that he had inflicted on her. So, she had lied and she ran as far as she could. It was better this way.

Fate

Those long hot summer days that stretched into warm starry nights we spent together planning, loving, dreaming. Youthful innocence gave way to the throes of first love. Lying on a blanket in a tangle of arms and legs, words seemed trivial. We were on another dimension altogether.

I relish the memories of you and me together, our whole lives stretched out before us. Before the cruel hand of fate stepped in to make a different decision.

sincerity

“I love you.” He whispered into my ear as his fingers trailed softly down my arm and his lips tenderly dipped into the space where my neck and shoulder met. I tensed slightly at his touch, hoping he didn’t pick up on it. He didn’t know that I knew about her. Perhaps his words were sincere, but I couldn’t be certain they were meant only for me.

Sisters

“I know you are but what am I?” My voice echoed my older sisters’ in a copycat singsong as I stuck my tongue out at her and disappeared around the corner to hide from her. We were staying at my parent’s house for Thanksgiving weekend and our inner children had come out to play. I heard my mom call out from the kitchen where she was pulling plastic dishes of leftovers out of the refrigerator for dinner.

“Girls, behave. I can’t believe you’re acting this way. You’re grown women.” The rest of her words were garbled as she stuck her head inside the fridge, most likely looking for the sweet potato casserole my father had finished at breakfast. He could never resist it, even in the morning.

I ducked into my bedroom and flopped onto my bed, looking around with a bit of nostalgia. My mother had left everything the same as the day I left for college six years earlier. The posters on the walls had faded, the boys in them were now forgotten, replaced by newer, younger models and revered by girls who didn’t know better and had no worries, at least as far as I was concerned. Sometimes I wished I could go back in time.

Jillian finally found me, peeking her head around the corner. “What’s the matter, you’re not gonna get all grown up on me now are you?” She nudged me over and laid on the twin-sized bed next to me, both of us squished together hanging on for dear life.

We both stared at the poster on the ceiling above the bed, very strategically placed, and I asked her, “Do you remember the time when all the tires on Danny Smith’s car went flat during the homecoming football game?” I bent my head towards hers so they were touching.

“Yeah, who could forget. The quarterback’s car got punked in the middle of a crowded parking lot during the biggest game of the year. It was legendary. I wish I knew who did it. Danny dumped me right before homecoming. Whoever let the air out of his tires was a hero to me.”

I turned to look at her and smiled. She sat straight upright. “YOU? You did that? Cara, why didn’t you tell me?” Her eyes started to get teary.

“I was afraid you would start bragging to everyone and I’d get in trouble. But nobody messes with my big sister. Not even the star quarterback. Especially the star quarterback.” I grinned at Jillian just as she pulled me up into her arms and squeezed me tight.

“Care-Bear, I love you.”

“Right back at you Jilly Bean.”