Friday, December 25, 2020

Let it Snow, Chapter I


        “But I called last week!” 

Carl is having none of it. I’m tempted to pull a Karen here — make my best impression of aunt Tilly, raise hell on the large man behind the counter for daring disrupting my nonexistent plans, but when I fill my lungs, ready to unleash my inner beast, I can’t bring myself to do it.

But I could bribe him.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Let it Snow, Chapter II



And here we go. I killed her dog. That’s why she hates me, even though it’s been decades and we’re both fully grown adults now. She just can’t let it go, in true Willow Decker style.

Of course I didn’t kill her fucking dog, I’m not a monster. But try to reason with Willow—it's impossible. I should know.

Here’s what happened.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Let it Snow, Chapter III


Fortunately, we're able to find a charming little inn where we can stay until the road is cleared, hopefully, in the morning.


Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Let it Snow, Chapter IV



Willow is sound asleep by the time I wake up. By sound I mean soundly, snoring lightly and rhythmically. Part of me wants to record it so I can taunt her later, but I ultimately decide against it. Not because I don’t want to—it’s just self preservation at this point. I’ve been doing this for years enough to know better than to poke the bear. 

She’s bad enough as it is. 

Monday, December 21, 2020

Let it Snow, Chapter V


I don’t fall asleep, but I’m pretty sure I’m having a waking nightmare.

Nick seems to become desperate for my attention, popping jokes at every curve, like things are just working out for him. I’ve said this before, but here it goes again: my misery amuses him—no wonder he’s in such a great mood. 

With his shit eating grin, a winner in every sense, with a whole damn cabin all for himself. Imagine that. Even when Isaac and I were together, and I was still entitled to my own bedroom, we were still under the same roof as all (and I mean all) my relatives during the holidays. Which meant exceedingly early mornings, bathroom lines and very little privacy, after all, Cat wants to use the mirror! And whose child is that, playing hide and seek in my closet?!

I’m having war flashbacks here.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Let it Snow, Chapter VI


As I push up the ramp to the Cabin, I make the mental note to slip some money to one of the kids in the neighborhood so they keep the driveway snow free while I’m here. The thought makes me feel old — not so long ago, I was the one shoveling our elderly neighbors’ driveway for a few extra dollars. Now I’m pretty sure Mr. Maguire, the literal Vietnam war veteran from down the street, could do a better job than me.

“It is what it is,” I mutter to myself, giving one final boost into the even wooden porch. My shoulder snaps with the added effort and I dutifully ignore it.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Will You?

 Alice wakes up to breakfast. 

The sounds and smells of sizzling bangers and percolating coffee fill the small flat. She lies there for a moment, assessing whether or not the smells wafting in from the kitchen are going to make her puke before opening her eyes.

The morning light is soft. The sky is still pale blues and inky purples. It must be early. Figures. She always wakes up at an ungodly hour when she drinks too much. She tries sitting up, and is pleasantly surprised her head isn’t spinning. Gingerly, she swings her legs over the side of the bed and stands. Things are good until she bends down to retrieve her dress from last night. 

“Nope,” she jerks upright as bile immediately starts to fill her mouth. “Bad idea. That was a bad idea.”

Her own clothes are scattered about on the floor, and since picking them up is a no-go at the moment, she ducks into the bathroom instead. It’s clean, but cluttered. Definitely a man’s bathroom without a hint of a female touch. A razor sits haphazardly on the edge of the sink. One end of a discarded medical package sticks out of the trash bin, the clear plastic tubing inside clearly visible. There’s a bottle of extra strength ibuprofen next to his single, solitary toothbrush. 

She grabs the robe that’s hanging from the waist-high level hook near the walk-in shower and slips into, tying it loosely. After a moment of deliberation, she chances a glance at her reflection in the mirror. Not much she can do here, but better to assess the damage than willfully ignore it. Smudged mascara seems to be the worst of it. With a sigh, she takes some toilet paper, wets it, and rubs at her skin. 

“Would be nice to not have to do it like this,” she grumbles.  

While she works on making her smudged eyes look less smudgy, she can hear him in the kitchen. A scraping noise, followed by a springy thud sound. That’s the oven door closing. A moment later metal on metal and water running. They haven’t even had breakfast yet and Theo’s already cleaning up. 

She tosses her makeshift makeup wipe into the toilet and then heads into the kitchen. Sure enough, there he is, sitting in front of the sink, washing dishes. From the looks of it, he’s used every cooking utensil in his kitchen. The sink is full and the countertop is covered, but the small table is set for a feast for two. Bangers, eggs, toast, some fruit. The whole kit and caboodle. 

The breakfast spread looks amazing and smells even better, but what catches and keeps her attention are his bare shoulders. The sight makes her stomach flip in the best way–last night is still very fresh in her mind–and her aggravation from earlier is momentarily forgotten. With a mischievous grin, she discards the robe that she went to the trouble of finding, and tosses it onto the back of the couch. Then she pads quietly across the room and slips her arms around him. 

“Mmm, the rest of you is bare, too, I see,” she murmurs into his ear. 

There’s the briefest of pauses, then he drops the bowl he’d been scrubbing into the sink and spins around to face her. His eyes widen disbelievingly–Alice isn’t usually this cheeky, hungover or sober–especially these days. His hands are still soapy and dripping with water, but he doesn’t take the time to dry them. Instead he grabs her by the hips and tugs her down into his lap. 

Now he’s the one wrapping his arms around her, pulling her close for a kiss. She wraps one leg around the back of his wheelchair and tucks the other one, nestling her foot halfway underneath his thigh. The movement and her weight on his lap cause his legs to spasm, but neither of them pay much attention to that. 

“I could get used to mornings like this,” he says, a bit breathless, as she finally pulls away. He’s grinning like the Cheshire Cat. She’s grinning, too, actually, quite pleased with herself. So pleased that she almost stays naked for breakfast. But propriety–and a little bit of pettiness–gets the better of her and, so, she dons the robe again before settling into her seat at the table. 

“Me too.” She watches as he uses his hands to lift his legs, adjusting them from where they slipped off the flootplate during their makeout session. “Minus the hangover. I’m too old for this.” 

He chuckles–just a small exhalation of hot air–as he hands her a cup of coffee. 

“Mmm,” she closes her eyes, holds the cup close to her face, and lets the steam warm it before taking a big sip. “That’s the stuff.” 

She expects him to make some sort of quip, and when he doesn’t she opens her eyes. He looks on edge, then clears his throat. The telltale sign of nervousness. She arches an eyebrow at him in question. 

“You could have ‘the stuff’ every morning, you know.”

Ah. There’s the quip. She smiles, but it’s droll. “Hard to have it every morning when most mornings we wake up in different flats, Theo.”

It’s an old argument. The only argument. The one that permeates and infects everything between them lately. Heat rises to his face and he sighs, heavily, before pivoting his chair and wheeling back in the direction of the bedroom. 

She looks down at her coffee. And there goes what could have been a really nice morning. 

Maybe she should ease up a little. After all, nothing seems to be changing. What good has her animus done? It has been years and she’s still using toilet paper with spit as makeup wipes instead of keeping a pack here. Still shoving a travel sized toothbrush into her purse every time they go out. Still wearing his ugly terry cloth robe instead of her blue silk one because the terry cloth one is His and it’s Here and her blue one is Hers and it’s Not. 

The squeak of the rubber tires of his chair on the hardwoods pull her out of her reverie. Theo is back, looking decidedly unsure. Very unlike him. He uses his arms to brace himself, then lifts his butt, shifting position. His version of nervously shuffling from foot to foot.  

“I was going to do this at breakfast,” he tells her, shifting again. This time, the sunlight, brighter now and not so soft anymore, catches, making something glint, and draws her eye to his hand. There’s something clutched tightly in his left hand, but she can’t tell what it is. Nonetheless, her heart is now pounding at a rate that matches her throbbing head. 

He opens his hand. “Will you?” 

“Will I?” she echoes, not quite believing her ears or her eyes. 

“Will you?” he repeats as he slides a silver key across the table. 

And tied to it is a simple diamond wedding band. 

Thursday, July 30, 2020

A Set of Robes

 Theo wakes up to Alice. 

She’s facing him, one arm tucked underneath her pillow and the other hand under her cheek. Her eyes are closed and she’s still breathing rhythmically, deep in the throes of sleep. There are some flecks of dried black mascara dotting her cheeks and the pillow. Theo grins wryly. She’ll hate that when she wakes up.

He shifts, trying to move lightly and without waking her up. Easier said than done, that. He uses his arms to push himself up into a sitting position and then leans back against the headboard. He didn’t go as hard as Alice did last night, but his head is still spinning a little this morning. He sighs. Getting up is the last thing he wants to do right now, but he’s got a schedule to keep. 

God. How he misses the days of getting pissed and just having a good lie-in the next day. He’s at the age where most of his mates complain about kids waking them on the weekends–which honestly sounds worse than having to wake up for his morning routine. At least he doesn’t also have to share the flat with anyone while nursing a hangover. 


He shoves his side of the duvet back and tucks the excess snuggly around Alice. Then he uses his hands to move his legs out from underneath the covers and his arms to shift over to the waiting wheelchair. A jolt of pain shoots through his shoulder and he lands in the seat with a plop. 

He looks at Alice again, still soundly sleeping, despite the fact he’s dragging himself rather ungracefully out of bed this morning. A smile creeps over his face. The days of nursing hangovers alone are coming to an end.

It doesn’t take him long in the bathroom. Cath, shave, splash some water on his face, brush his teeth, done. He starts to grab the robe but as he reaches for it he envisions another one, blue and silky and elegant hanging right beside his own threadbare terry cloth one, and it gives him pause. They’ve taken this whole thing at a snail’s pace. It’s been years–a whole lifetime, really, since he got hurt only months after they started dating–but he’s finally ready to see a set of robes hanging in his bathroom, instead of just one.

He leaves the robe behind. 

“Let’s see,” he mutters, wheeling across the flat with smooth, practiced strokes.  He peers into the fridge. Some bananas with spots and a package of bangers nearing expiration. Sheer dumb luck he’s got more than protein powder, a carton of eggs, and coffee, but he’ll take it. Maybe making a good fry-up will make him feel better about how mucked up last night got. 

It was going to be a Big Thing. Perfect. Memorable–and in the best way possible. Dinner at Dishoom, then off to drinks at the pub where they’d first met. But what he’d forgotten is that the pub had closed last year. Some pizza chain had taken over the building. It was garish, red, very bright. Not at all the sentimental vibe he was going for. And with that, the entire night took a different turn. 

He should have done it anyway. But he didn’t. Instead, he suggested they duck into a different place. There they met up with friends. Drank far too much. Stumbled home. And the key and the ring stayed secure in the pocket of his coat. 

He sighs. If he could, he’d give something a swift kick right about now. Probably the fridge or cabinet. Get all of his frustration at his inaction out that way. Instead he just cracks half a dozen eggs into a bowl and whisks them furiously.  

From the bedroom, he hears Alice beginning to stir. Time to get the coffee going. He sets the well-whisked eggs aside and reaches for the pot. It’s gotten pushed too far back on the counter and now he has to contort his arm at an awkward angle to reach it.

“Ach,” he hisses as a pang shoots through his shoulder again, this time worse. It isn’t unusual for his body to hurt–aches and pains come with the territory–but this kind of pain is something different. And in his fucking shoulder, too.  

It all comes back to him as he searches the bathroom for extra-strength ibuprofen. Alice, looking down at him with a sly grin, then falling into his lap. She’d wrapped her arms around his shoulders, demanded to be carried the three blocks back to his flat, and promised quite the reward if he acquiesced. 

And she did deliver. 

“Here’s to more nights like those,” He throws his head back and swallows the pain pills. So last night wasn’t right. Perhaps this morning would be. The key and ring are still in his coat pocket. But not for long. He pauses in the doorway of the bathroom, smiling as he watches Alice sleep. “And more mornings like these.” 

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

The Boy in the Garden — I



I was seven when I was taken to Misselthwaite. As the car neared the castle through the gravel path between the tall, dry from winter trees, I’d been impressed, overwhelmed by the sight that looked so much like the beautifully illustrated books mother would read me not so long before she died, in worlds of princesses and dragons, and I thought it was the most beautiful place I’d ever seen. A first impression, because then, after being dropped off with a single bag and a doll tightly pressed against my side, I thought it looked somehow cold, bare, with vines growing on the stone walls outside, uncared and untamed, just like I would be in the years I spent there.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Through the Door


    My hands are sweaty. I rub them on my navy dress pants and glance at the clock. 


    My heart starts beating faster, and it's so loud, I'm sure he'll hear it the moment he arrives. I bounce my knees up and down, trying to get the nerves and the jitters out of my system before he gets here. Three minutes later I hear the door alarm sound. Any second now he'll be walking through that door. 

    Well, not... walking, per se.