Just a glimpse

I stood on the deserted beach watching jagged, angry shards of ice, deposited by the waves, stack up on each other.

Like brittle, living panes of glass just waiting for a pair of feet to shred.

It was brutally cold and every breath hurt to take in. The thick velour scarf my mother had given me before she died sat frozen at my lips. My fingers inside my wool mittens had gotten too stiff to feel.

I worried for a moment that I might not make it back inside.

But I had to see.

His ship broke open the cove just as the sun made a sliver of fire on the horizon. The ice cover on the bay wasn’t thick, so I knew they would only make one pass.

He stood, behind the rail, alone. A lantern hung by his side. His breath sent plumes of vapor up into the first light of morning. And the breaking sun made the sliver of skin visible around his eyes glow.

My heart pummeled against the inside of my breast.

He lifted a gloved hand to his mouth, pulling the fabric loose so that I might see his smile. It was too far to see properly, really. But my memory colored his lips and made the silver in his whiskers glimmer.

I waved and giggled. I wonder if the sound made it to his ear. I imagined it could, somehow, and whispered my love into the wind.

I watched until I thought I might break.

But I knew I would do it again tomorrow, if it wasn’t too cold. A glimpse was better than nothing. It was enough to stoke the fire in my belly.

Enough to warm me through another day.

Was it was the same for him?

I wonder.

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Christina

https://www.deviantart.com/art/the-box-326060573

1.

On a morning in January that was cold enough to hurt your lungs with each breath, I left my mother’s house and planned to never return. Despite the fact the I was only fifteen, I managed to cut her out of my life like a surgeon removing a cancerous growth.

As I sat in the judge’s chambers six months later and watched him sign my freedom onto a seemingly ordinary piece of paper, I was surprised. It had been a little too easy.

Unless you took into account the medical records and hundreds of abuses missing from them.

All she had done was glare at me that day. She hated me, which used to terrify me. But that day, I was glad of it. No one could mistake that rage, and no way would a judge let her argue her way back into my world.

The lawyer watched my mother leave, then stood and wrapped me in a hug that forced the judge’s gaze away.

“I don’t know how you brought yourself up out of that, child.”

Her voice was damp and heavy with emotion, which is what had drawn me to her in the beginning of it all. An advocate for women and children, I’d seen her speak at a school assembly when I was 11. And that day, Nancy lit a spark inside me. Every trip to the emergency room and night without dinner just fanned that flame.

I knew I would eventually be rid of that life. And this angel would be my salvation.

She pulled back but laid her palm against my cheek. “Now, are you sure you’re all set, baby? You don’t need any help with the apartment or getting to school and work?”

I smiled at her. If she knew how many times I’d wished she was my mother, she would’ve probably invited me right into her home, forcing her five boys share two rooms instead of three and telling her husband to get ready for a daughter.

But the goal had always been emancipation. Independence. Freedom. So I closed that book before it was opened.

I shook my head, pulling myself away and picking up the paper the judge had just stamped and signed.

“I’ve been doing it for months now, Nancy. I’ve got this, I promise.” I couldn’t help the teenage petulance in my voice, but it was gone before the promise, and so was the pity behind her eyes.

“Ok then. You’ll come have lunch with us again next Sunday, won’t you?”

I didn’t.

We lost track of each other as the years folded over me, giving me a diploma, a different name, a bachelors degree, an amazing job in informational engineering that let me work from home and maintain a safe, steady new life.

It had made me sad, but she was part of the old life. A life I had to leave behind.

2.

Her name flashed across my phone screen one Monday afternoon as I was prepping a code report for a client. It took me almost two minutes to stop shaking.

I hadn’t looked over my shoulder in years, but the association Nancy held within the cold, damp basement of my memory dragged everything right back up those steps.

CALL ME, TONIGHT, JENNA. I’VE GOT SOME NEWS.

I didn’t want any news but knowing there was news twisted in my stomach until I thought I was going to be sick.

I’d chosen to be Jenna Jacobs. I thought it was fun, the perfect, anonymous name for a freshman at the University of Illinois. I hadn’t really thought about how it would work for the rest of my life. But, just like your given name, you don’t think about it. It is simply an extension of you.

But imagining what news Nancy might have to share, I felt my given name burrowing up through my skin. Like something alive that had simply been sleeping for the past 13 years.

I could hear her growling it as she trailed the buckle of my dead father’s belt against the tiled floor. I could taste the blood where I would bite my tongue to keep from screaming. If I shouted or moaned from the pain, it was like pouring lighter fluid on dying embers. I could feel the change when the rage would break open and she would throw down the belt to beat with her fists. I could smell the sickness that would ooze from her when her body could not handle the adrenaline any longer.

Or maybe, that was my own.

Brian found me when he came home at 5:15. I’d cleaned up, but blacked out in the shower. The memories hadn’t come up in a long time, not like that. But the fear creasing his beautiful face helped me put them back away.

“I’m not her.”

He wrapped me in my pink terry cloth robe, a laundry accident when I was 16 that had become the only possession I could never let go of. And it was just the thing I needed. The perfect symbol of how far I had come.

“No, you’re you, Jenna. But who are we talking about here?”

I explained what had happened after I received the text. He knew more than anyone about my past, but no one would ever know just how much the woman who gave me life had also taken from me.

He pulled me into his lap as he sat on the commode, his lips pressed to my forehead and his arms offering me a kind of safety I didn’t allow myself to imagine was even possible for a very long time.

“I could call her, Jenna. You don’t have to talk to her.”

But I did. Or my old name was just going to creep out and swallow me up all over again.

He cooked macaroni with hot dogs while I stared at the screen in my hands. I loved him for knowing, without even asking, just what I needed in every moment. And after he served me a golden heap of comfort and sat next to me with a bowl of his own, I used it as fuel. Every bite and smile and touch making me a little bit stronger.

Until I dialed.

3.

She was dead.

Maybe some part of me knew, but I think I’d always expected her to haunt me. I’d imagined it so many times as a girl that I’d actually prayed she would live forever.

She didn’t.

Nancy sounded exactly the same. Her voice had lowered a tiny bit and she didn’t hover within the niceties as long as I’d expected. She just sighed and said it.

“She’s gone, now, Jenna.”

I didn’t feel anything except the odd awareness of her using my new name. I had her on speakerphone and stared at Brian as she repeated herself.

“She’s dead, your… mother. She died last week in hospice and the police contacted me because… Oh, child. She left you that God forsaken house.”

I laughed, and the sound startled all of us. But I couldn’t stop. I giggled again, a feeling I couldn’t describe with a poets tongue bubbled up from within me. “You’re joking.”

I shook my head trying to free myself of the hysteria, but it ballooned and my laughs turned into sobs and back into laughs. Brian tried to shush me, stroking my hair and eventually pulling me into his arms. His murmurs in my ear settled my voice, but not my heart.

Was it celebrating? I thought it might be leaping out of my chest. But at the same time, my throat was closing and my eyes were leaking.

My mother who never loved me was gone.

And now, she never could.

Nancy had given Brian the details. Who to call and what to do next. I could handle the sale completely from here without ever having to step foot in that house again. There was no funeral to arrange, no family or friends to contact. That had all already happened. And the judge only opened my records to my lawyer, so no one from Evanston would ever know.

But the house was worth a decent amount of money.

A lot more if it was empty.

I took the phone from him and listened as Nancy sighed again. “Baby, I would handle it all for you, you know I would. But I’ve got grandbabies now. I’m retired and I just don’t think I-”

“No, Nancy. I would never ask that of you. I just-” my voice left. My head throbbed with the weight of the day.

“You think on it, darlin’. Darnell could help you if you decide to clean it out. He runs a moving company, so he knows a couple auction houses. We could just have them come in and take it all.”

Brian’s arms came around me from behind, holding me together when I felt like I might literally fall apart. I didn’t answer for long enough that he took the phone from my fingers and ended the conversation for the night.

I heard her tell him to give me a squeeze from her, and watched him lay the phone on the island in front of me.

“There’s something there, isn’t there?” His voice was soft, full of longing to erase this for me. To solve it.

I turned to look up at him. My arms were too heavy to lift, but I wanted so desperately to be normal. For him.

Sane.

But as I nodded, she leaked out again.

And as much as I didn’t want to set foot on that house ever again, Christina wanted to go home.

4.

Brian brushed my forehead against his lips, his fingers wrapping sweetly around the back of my neck as he held me tightly to his chest.

“You don’t need to go in. Just tell me what it is that you want out of there.”

If I’d only known.

But I pulled my hands up between us, slipping my fingertips into the curly bristles of his beard and looking up to meet his misty gaze. I shook my head.

“I have to do this. I have to put it away for good.”

He didn’t know what I meant, he couldn’t have because I didn’t. Not really.

But the house seemed to know.

It wasn’t the place I’d left. She had changed almost everything and it was something of a relief. Until I saw the first photo. And, then, all of them.

School pictures, candid shots of us on Dad’s boat, sweet poses of him twirling me or tossing me into the air, angelic smiles and tiny, toddler kisses on his cheeks.

Every single one with a thick black mark over my eyes.

I don’t remember him like I should. I’m not even sure what happened, but I know he died.

And that she hated me the very next day.

I touched each photo and felt the anger build. Brian’s, not mine. But when he pulled one off the wall, I grabbed it from him before he could smash it.

“Don’t look at what she’s done. That’s not why we are here.” I hung it back on its nail and ran my finger over the glass, pointing to my father’s gorgeous smile. “Don’t you see it?”

Brian’s fury crumpled into confusion.

“No, Jenna. All I see is cruelty and devastation.”

I walked through the hatred and felt it fall away like cobwebs. I touched another photo of him and her, no daughters eyes to blacken. Just his broad, brilliant confidence, and my mother’s sweet, doting grin as she stared up at him.

He’d been fiddling with the boiler in the basement that day. The cold bit into my fingers and toes the night before. I remember how proud he’d been to have fixed it.

But he kept going back down there.

I turned to Brian and he raised his brows at my expression.

“The basement.”

5.

It was covered with a tarp. She’d written on it, “Do not touch! Never open!” And as we unwound the plastic cloth from around it, Brian thought out loud that perhaps we should heed the warning.

But she wouldn’t have let me walk away.

The box was far too old. Like it had been there for centuries. It was a wooden crate, nailed shut and left to disintegrate, but somehow remaining, year after year.

My father had obsessed over this. It was what had killed him, I was sure.

It was warm to the touch, and got hot when I laid both hands on it. It was magnetic and electric, and I sat down, pulling it into my lap.

“Jenna, I don’t think you should open-”

But it opened.

And he was gone.

6.

She stood in front of me. A six year old with patents that loved each other and her. A child with a beautiful bright future, unmarked by the scars of death and abuse.

I saw what she could’ve been, should’ve been. I saw her grow into a stunning woman. The picture of feminine wealth. She was so beautiful, and I saw her celebrate and explore her beauty. I watched her become a lover then a mother. I saw her learning from her mother’s lessons, and it became too difficult to watch.

It could drive someone crazy. It probably had.

She made me watch, made me see wicked things and wonderful things. Some where so exciting I almost lost myself to them. The pleasure was sickening, and amazing, and excruciating, and delicious.

But it wasn’t mine.

I pushed the box away, and stood up fast as I stared at it.

It was still closed. “Didn’t I open it?”

Brian moved toward it, but I stopped him, putting my foot on top of it.

She appeared again.

“Don’t you want to know? There’s so much more. You could’ve been so much more!”

I shook my head. Slowly at first, then with something akin to confidence.

“No, Christina. You could’ve been so much more.”

I stepped back and took Brian’s hand.

“I’m exactly who I should be.”

7.

There was a long wait before the auction. I went back a few weeks later to destroy the crate, but it wouldn’t break or burn. I couldn’t bury it or sink it.

I couldn’t let anyone else touch it, I was sure it would turn them as it did my parents.

I don’t know what my mother saw that made her hate me so much. I’m not sure I want to. But I know I don’t want another soul crushed by it’s prophacy.

So I moved it. I had to.

And there’s only one other person in the world who knows where it is.

Fortunately, she’s trapped under my skin.

And inside that awfully wonderful little box.

Fault

Devon Smoking by hatemypoisonedkiss his DeviantArt.com

I watched her face glow behind the red embers of her cigarette as she pulled the smoke deep into her lungs. Exhaling a smooth stream into the darkness, her skin returned to a shade of porcelain reflecting the moonlight.

She licked her lips as she stared at the smoke floating away from us. Her mouth twisted as she caught me staring.

“No lectures today about my health?”

Kelly’s eyes were soft, a shade of maple syrup with flecks that sparkled like the stars. But the night made them gray.

I let my gaze fall to the beer in my hands, picking and peeling the golden paper, revealing a slippery, green glass bottle beneath. I held it up between us.

“Who am I to lecture anyone about their vice?”

I tipped it back to my lips and let the bitter, crisp tang wash over my tongue before swallowing several times until my head swam and the bottle was empty.

I cracked another open before looking at her again. Her hair was parted with a zigzag and twisted into two haphazard knots. She’d tucked the wispy strands of pale blue that had escaped behind her ears. It made her look younger. Vulnerable. Sexy.

She lit another cigarette.

“We don’t have to do this right now.”

Her voice was tight and crinkly, like a Mylar balloon being filled too full. I winced and tried to turn away, but her fingers slipped around my jaw as she scooted closer to me.

The concrete felt like an ice cold promise beneath me.

“You don’t have to decide anything, Will.” She swallowed, tracing her thumb over my lip, then lowered herself to her knees on the sidewalk beneath my feet. Shifting between my legs and tossing her cigarette in the grass, she took my face in her hands. Her voice went up like it always did before she cried. “I don’t need anything from you. Just let me love you.”

A tear slipped down her cheek.

I closed my eyes from the weight of everything. I could pull her against me and lose myself in the dog-eared comfort of us, our story written on pages too fragile to be erased and rewritten. I could…

I opened my eyes as she dropped her fingers to my chest. “I can’t, baby. It would be like-”

She pushed me, rising to her feet. Glaring down at me, her nostrils flared. “It would be like it should be. It would give us more time. It would-” her voice broke and with it, something in my chest burst.

I sagged forward, staring down at hands that had crushed her heart without even holding it. Fingers that had skimmed over another woman’s body, held another woman’s face, made another woman shudder with ecstasy.

“I’ll forgive you!” The volume of her voice made my head snap up and my eyes dart around the empty street. “I will change. I’ll do whatever you need me to do.”

Her sobs cut her pleas into confetti. She fell again to her knees, wincing this time, but grabbing my shirt and pulling herself against me. “Please, William, please. You can’t do this! You just can’t do this to me!”

I’m not a cruel man. I never was. I could have stayed that night, chosen to do the “right” thing. And maybe we could’ve made it work.

But as I pulled her up and held her tightly, I saw my life, my future pass before me. Months or maybe years of mistrust. And the quicksand my infidelity had trapped me in would eventually suffocate me.

She sobbed into my chest as i tried to find purchase on solid ground. It was the first night of many that I would hold her and will her to be ok. Without me.

But the one thing I didn’t think about that night was loving her.

And that was all I should’ve thought about.

Her hair is dark violet now. Straight and sleek, framing her beautiful face like a piece of art. She stopped smoking and started running.

With him.

For him.

I watch her now, every evening, pass by the park where I proposed.

Sometimes, I can’t breath, her happiness hurts so bad. But that’s my fault.

It’s still my fault today.

It will be. Forever.

Come home soon

'Sunrise at the lake', via SkitterPhoto.com

a fiery sky greets me
warm and soft
against my eyelids
beckoning me to wake
hot breath on my neck
long fingers kneading flesh
squeezing, pulling, demanding
the flame of need
urging a dance from
within
a choreography
my hips know
by heart

but
my fingers twist in
cold, empty sheets
the silence of this
empty room
burns away the beauty
of my dream
eyes open to a
dim, damp dawn
skin still hungry
for you
heart aching
for yours
bereft of all that I
take for granted

I can not wait
to tell you

so, come home
soon

Let my kiss speak for me

Our night

Night by psiheya via DeviantArt.com

fingers tangled
like our hopes
my dreams float
on an autumn breeze
glimmering
beneath the moonlight
my nails in your
beard
my heart in your
palm
we are wild reason
tamed by constant
pressure
I climb inside
head first
to feel the kiss
of loves sweet
insanity
perfect pleasure
in every step
until the exquisite
torture
brings my hands
to rest
on warm damp cheeks
the essence of us
mingling with
the crisp night
air
the salty breath
of my release
see me
as I ache
to be seen
never let go
hold my hand
forever
as we walk on
into
the night

Crossing

https://www.deviantart.com/art/Crossing-659868720

Beyond the dark

The edge of the forgotten

I continue on… over… past…

Crossing the withering stream

Of my ambition

I find the other side looks

No different

My precious words

Sunk like pebbles in the

Black abyss below

Shall I dive in?

Collect them and save them

From what?

There will be more, they say

You will find them again, they say

Your time will come

They say

But the dark water below

Holds onto all my secrets

All my plans and dreams and hopes

All my lies and defeat and guilt

All my inspiration

All my intangible love

Maybe I’m too scared

To do anything

But cross

Maybe this bridge is only that

Part of my path

And stepping off is simply

Walking into the future

But oh, how the sun rises

At my back

The side I came from

Lit by the magic and beauty

Of everything I used to be

Don’t look back

Just cross

Trust

That everything

Has it’s time

And the sun that rises

Also

Sets