Another Day

Chest tight, fingers shaky.
Stomach twisted, aching.
Breath uncertain.

My pain is like withdrawal,
the absence of your love,
your touch, your voice,
affecting me like nothing else.

Anxiety and uncertainty
are what my days are filled with.
I don’t know what comes next.

I’m trying to learn who I am,
what I am,
Now that I’m on my own.
Am I still me?
How can I be when I feel like half of a whole?

I can’t cope with knowing
that today
is another day I don’t have you.

Walk Hard

“The best solution to a public health problem is prevention — and hunger should not be an exception to that rule.” — Ellen Parker, executive director of Project Bread

On Sunday, May 4, I will once again be participating in Project Bread’s 20 mile Walk for Hunger. I know May is a ways away, but it’s never too early to get the word out!

Project Bread, a Massachusetts-based anti-hunger organization, is committed to providing people of all ages, cultures, and walks of life with sustainable, reliable access to nutritious food. Many people are “a paycheck away” from a food crisis, and the problem of hunger touches a wide range of Massachusetts residents. I know that by participating in this year’s Walk for Hunger, I will be bringing hope to our hungry neighbors.

I would like to ask for your help today in sponsoring me for the walk, any donation will be highly appreciated! $25 provides a bowl of hot soup and a sandwich for 50 people at an emergency food program, so even just 5 dollars will help make a difference! To sponsor me for the 2014 Walk for Hunger, please visit my personal Walk Webpage (click here!) to learn more. From there, you can donate or even sign up to walk with me! Please use the link below to visit my personal Walk Webpage and help me reach my goal. Thank you so much for your consideration. Every dollar counts — and remember, no donation is too small!

Together, we can end hunger in Massachusetts, and by supporting The Walk for Hunger, your faith in my effort to eradicate hunger will get us even closer to making this a reality.

Work On A Saturday

Who works on Saturdays?  Me apparently.  I unlock the door to the store and am immediately assaulted by the smell of new books and cinnamon rolls baking in the oven.

Reads & Eats is a book store and café.  Or a café that also sells books.  Depends on how you look at it.  My father opened the shop when he was in his late twenties.  He had never planned on being a shop owner but when he was laid off his construction job he decided to go down another path.  He took out a loan, bought an empty building downtown and spent the next year using his construction skills fixing it up, outside and in. When asked why he decided to turn it into a bookstore, he always said he hadn’t even realized that was what he planned to do until one day he started building shelves.  And so Reads & Eats was born.  Then one day a few months after he opened the shop, my mom wandered in looking for something new to read.  She left with two new books, a free cup of coffee, and a date for that coming Friday.

It’s a tale my dad loves to tell to any customer who will listen.  There are pictures of them up around the store – having coffee at a table in the café a few months after they got together, loading new books on to the shelves, standing outside the store on their wedding day, and a picture of the two of them holding me as a wee little baby, happy as could be.

My parents are my favorite love story.  As a kid, instead asking to hear stories of princes falling in love with fair maidens and defeating evil queens, I asked for stories about my parents.

Why can’t I find a love like that?

The jingling of the bell above the door announces my presence and Sarah, our café manager, sticks her head out of the kitchen.

“Isabelle!  What are you doing here on a Saturday?  It’s your day off.”

“I know, I know,” I say as I put my purse and jacket down behind the check-out counter. “I have nothing to do today so I figured I’d go through the new shipment in back for a while.  It’s a little unorganized.”

Sarah shook her head and made a clucking sound with her tongue.  “It’s a weekend!  You should be out having fun.”

“I had plenty of fun last weekend.”

“You take life much too seriously,” she makes another disapproving sound before disappearing back into the kitchen.

I sigh. “I know.”

I keep busy behind the registers until Joy, one of the assistant managers, arrives twenty minutes later to open the store.  After some polite chitchat, I retreat to the backroom.  I would much rather stay out on the sales floor, sit back in one of the arm chairs by the front window and enjoy one of Sarah’s cinnamon rolls, but the boxes really do have to be emptied and organized.

By the time I am done opening boxes and organizing the back stock it is well past noon.  My stomach growls in agreement with the time and I realize I had skipped both breakfast and lunch.

I dust myself off and steer the book cart I’d filled with new books out to the sales floor.  There are a few people milling around the stacks, and a table in the corner of the café is occupied.  The sight of people in the store always makes me smile.

“Done organizing?” Sarah asks when she sees me.

“Yes and now I’m starving.”

Sarah waves a hand at a table.  “Sit and I’ll bring you something for lunch.”

I do as she says and five minutes later I’m happily munching on a BLT and a bag of potato chips, and sipping a soda.

Thank god for Sarah, I think as I take another bite.  It’s not hard to make a sandwich but somehow she always makes simple things taste gourmet.

“You make that sandwich look really good,” says a voice beside me.

I look over and there is a guy standing beside my table.  A really hot guy.  He looks to be about my age or maybe a little older, green-eyed, scruffy, and tall.  And he’s carrying a bag of books from the store.  There’s nothing sexier than a reader… Except a reader who buys his books from Reads & Eats.

“It is really good,” I say. “It’s the best thing I’ve eaten all day.”  The only thing I’ve eat all day, but he doesn’t need to know that.

“Maybe I’ll have to get one,” he says. “I’m Dan, by the way.”  He holds out a hand.

I return the gesture. “Isabelle.”

Dan pulls out the chair across from me and sits down, dropping his bag on the table.  “What brings you to the bookstore today Isabelle?”

“I work here.”

“Here in the cafe?”

“Not exactly,” I casually take a sip of my soda. “I own this store.”

“You own Reads & Eats?” He’s visibly surprised.

I nod.

“For how long?” he asks.  “The last time I was here it was run by an older guy.  He told me he built the place himself.” Dan says. “He was nice.  Used to talk about how he met his wife here.”

Typical Dad.  I laugh. “That’s my father.  And I don’t think there are any customers who have ever managed to get in and out of this place without hearing a story.”

“Your dad?  So that’s you?  The baby in the pictures around the store?”

I feel my cheeks redden and I nod. “Me in all my glory.  When I was younger he used to use me as a prop for his stories.” I push my plate to the side.  “He still tells the tale even now that he no longer runs this place.”

Dan chuckles. “Well I didn’t mind.  I was just killing time when I stopped in here for the first time.  After that I stopped by every time I was in town.  This place just feels so,” he searches for a word, “cozy.  Comforting.”

The store is cozy, and has always had the feel of someone’s home and not a business.  The walls, though they can barely be seen behind all the book shelves, are light green and the floor grey carpet.  There are floor-to-ceiling shelves on every wall, and more standing here and there in the middle of the shop, comfy arm chairs and low benches hidden among them for flipping through a book or magazine.  The left side of the shop opens up into the café, with its brown walls, tiled floors and bistro styled tables.  The whole shop is decoratively cluttered, framed pictures and paintings hang on every available space, and the wall behind the café cash register is a painted mural of the Reads & Eats storefront.

I beam at his words. “Thank you.” I want to leap over the table and kiss him.  I’m proud of Reads the way a mother is proud of her child.  Technically the store isn’t my child so much as an older sibling, but still.  “So when was the last time you were here?”

“Oh, it’s been years,” Dan says. “I was 18 then and my girlfriend, now my ex, lives around here.  I was waiting for her to get out of work and thought I would browse around.  It kind of became a regular thing that year.  I’d stop in and get a coffee, maybe buy a book or two.  But I haven’t been back here since.”

“Why did you stop coming?” I ask.  “Bad break up?”

My teasing tone brings a smirk to Dan’s face. “Not exactly.  I went away to college.  After my freshman year I leased an apartment and moved up there permanently.  Ultimately, that’s what killed our relationship, though I don’t think we ever had a real chance.”

“So are you moving back here now that you’re done with school?”  The more I talk with him the more I’m sure he’s a few years older.  None of the guys I know are this mature.

“I am done, but I’m not here to stay.  I’m,” he pauses, “I’m just here for a little while.”

“Doing some visiting?”

“Sort of.” He looks down at the table. “My mother died last month.  So I’m here to keep my old man company.”

“Oh! I’m so sorry,” Impulsively I place my hand on top of his and then remember that we are still practically strangers and wrap it back around my cup. “I can’t imagine what you’re going through.”

He smiles sadly at me, “Thank you.”

Our table is silent and I feel guilty about the frown on Dan’s face. “You know what you need?” I stand up. “You need one of Sarah’s cinnamon rolls. Wait right there.”

After a moment I come back out of the kitchen balancing a plate and two steaming cups of coffee.

When I set the plate down on the table in front of Dan he inhales blissfully.  “Those,” he says, “smell awesome.”

“And they taste even better,” I say with a smile. I hand him a fork and dig into my roll. “When I was a kid there was nothing that made me happier than one of these cinnamon rolls.” I lick a glob of frosting off my thumb.  “Nothing ever seems quite as bad once you’ve had one.”

Dan’s smile is back and we eat our rolls in a happy silence.  I’m glad I haven’t ruined his mood.  When I’m done I lean back and sip my coffee, watching Dan savor the last few bites of his cinnamon roll.

“That,” Dan says with a sigh, “was delicious.” He smiles brightly at me.

I smile back and try to ignore what the sight of his perfectly straight white teeth is doing to my tummy. “I’m glad you enjoyed it.”

“I did.  And I’m happy I stopped in here today.”

“Good.  Good.” I get up from the table. “I’ll leave you to the rest of your coffee.”

I get a few steps away when he calls out my name.  I turn around.

“It was really nice to meet you,” Dan says.  “Maybe I’ll see you around.”

I smile wide and turn to leave.  Coming to work on a Saturday was the best idea I’ve had in a while.

Burgundy Carpet

I couldn’t shake the feeling that someone was following me.

I was wishing I’d brought a thicker jacket with me as I hurried back to my dorm from the library, hugging my books to my chest.  I could hear the faint bass of dance music and drunken laughter coming from the other buildings on campus.  It was a Friday night and I spent all of it studying.  But if I didn’t ace my calculus exam the following Monday I would probably end up having to re-take the class next semester.  And the last thing I wanted was another semester of math.

A leaf crunched somewhere behind me and I had to suppress the urge to run.  A quick perusal of the walkway behind me confirmed that my jitters were unnecessary – the path was empty.  I scolded myself for being so jumpy.  The wind could have easily scraped the leaf across the walkway.  I chalked it up to my nerves over my test and the late hour.  I needed to sleep.  I had literally spent the entire day holed up in the library.  I picked up my pace and before I knew it my dorm building loomed up ahead of me.

I pushed open the door to the lobby and sighed a breath of relief.  I had made it back to my dorm in one piece; my paranoia had been for nothing.  But as I moved to take a step towards the stairs an arm wrapped around my waist and suddenly there was a white cloth pressed to my face.

Chloroform.  I struggled to keep my eyes open and then my world went black.

_

My shoulders ached.  That was the first thing that registered when I woke up.  The events of the night came back to me and I shivered with fear.  My heart pounded mercilessly against my ribs and my cheeks were wet with tears.  My mind was still fuzzy, and my body and head felt heavy.  I couldn’t even tell if I was laying down or sitting.

I took a few shaky breaths to gain composure.  I needed to calm down.  I opened my eyes, squinting against the bright light of the lamp above me.  I was laying on a carpeted floor in a room somewhere, hands bound behind my back.  My cheek itched from where it’d been rubbed against the rug.  I pushed myself up on to my knees with difficulty before looking around.  The room had two windows, both with shades closed tight, a couch and a TV, and a kitchen area, lights dimmed.  There were three shut doors, two behind me and one directly across from me that I was sure led to a bedroom.  Have I been here before?  I tried to shake my still foggy brain into focus.  I looked down.  There was something about the carpet.  It was burgundy.  And scratchy.  Old and burgundy and scratchy and ugly, just like the one I used to sit on at … at Johns.  Oh God.  My head shot back up, my gaze finding the fridge in the kitchen and the pictures scotch taped to its front.  A picture of a girl sitting Indian style on a rug, this rug.  A picture of me.  No.  My chest was tight, I couldn’t breathe.  Please no.  I squeezed my eyes shut tight.  I couldn’t look at that familiar burgundy anymore.

The door to the bedroom creaked open and heavy footfalls came toward me.  I kept my eyes shut.  I didn’t need to see who it is, didn’t want to see.  Strong hands gripped my arms and pulled me up on to my feet.

“You’ll never leave me again, Baby Girl.”

Back On The Horse

I know it’s been radio silent here on my blog lately, but I’m here to say I’ve started writing again! (Woo hoo!)  Okay, okay, hold your applause guys, it’s not that exciting.  And it doesn’t actually mean that my blog will be that much less empty.

Over a year ago I got a novel-writing kit (No Plot? No Problem!) as a gift but I never opened it.  I found it yesterday while reorganizing my bookshelf and cracked it open on a whim.  And so I’ve decided to follow its novel-writing advice and am embarking on a 30 day writing challenge.  Typically, these challenges are a month-long adventure, starting on the first day of the month, and ending when that month comes to a close.  And I wanted to do that, but there was a problem.  February only has 28 days!  How can you do a 30 day challenge in 28 days?!  (Though, I can’t be too mad at February.  It is my birthday month after all.)  I knew that I could always just wait until March and start then, but that option didn’t seem so appealing.  Plus knowing myself as well as I do, I know that I will lose all ambition to try the challenge if I wait.  So I’m being unorthodox and doing my challenge from January 31st through to March 1st.

I’ve completed one day of writing (2,000 words so far out of 50,000!) and I feel pretty accomplished.  I suppose I’ll be documenting my progress, or lack of, here so you can cry, rejoice, and bleed along with me.

Seaside Goodbye (Part 3)

*Continuation of Seaside Goodbye (Part 1)  and Seaside Goodbye (Part 2)

The narrow staircase near the master bedroom led up, up, up to an old wooden door.  It opened onto the roof to reveal a small railed off deck that overlooked the ocean.

Up until a few years ago the widows walk was in disrepair, but Carlos had it fixed up as a surprise.  Whether the surprise was for Grammy or for me, he never said, but I’m fairly certain no one uses the walk except me.

I stepped up onto the wooden surface and shut the door behind me.  I couldn’t count how many times I had disappeared up here.  It was my escape.  My hideout.  I sighed and walked up to the rail.  The view up there really was spectacular.  They say sailor’s wives would stand on these decks and scan the horizons, hoping to see their love sailing home.

I worked on calming myself down.  I closed my eyes and concentrated on the feel of the sun on my skin, the breeze in my hair, the smell of the sea.

“Never would have pegged you for the type who ran away from her problems.  But I guess I don’t really know much about you, do I sis?”

I turned to see Althea leaning against the closed door.  Her arms were crossed, her body tense.

“Everyone’s worried about you down there you know.  Freaking out,” Althea continued, “because Grammy’s precious bambino is upset.”

Subconsciously I mimicked her body language, my arms crossing over my chest on their own accord.  “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you sounded just a tad bit bitter, little sister.”

“You shut up,” she hissed.

“Go back downstairs with our mother.”  I turned my back to her.

“Don’t just dismiss me,” she said behind me.  “You think you’re so special, don’t you?”  I felt her step closer to me.  “Everyone’s favorite little girl.  It’s no wonder though, with that perfect little attitude of yours.  So cheery and smart and just so damned cute.”  She yanked on one of my curls.

“Hey!”  I slapped her hand away.  “What’s wrong with you?”

“I’m so sick of your fucking superior attitude.  You’re not better than me.  I’m my own person!  And I will not,” her fists clenched, “just be a mini version of you.  I am so sick of constantly being compared to your flawless self.  I don’t need to be anything like you.”

I looked at my sister.  Once again I marveled at all her anger.  Where was all this coming from?  I had a flash of a giggly little girl, full of life.  That was a long time ago, but still.  My little sister was a stranger to me now.  An angry stranger who seemed to blame me for whatever problems she thought her life had.

“Is that what you think?”  I asked.  “That I’m prefect and everyone’s favorite and you have to be just like me?  Who ever said anything about you having to be like me?”

“It’s what they think.  Mom, Grammy,” she paused, “even Dad thought that way.  He loved you best.  Everyone loves you best.”  Angry tears were squeezing from her eyes, her voice steely.  “You’re their perfect Iuliana.”

“Bullshit.  Don’t blame me for the way people treat you.  Maybe if you smiled once in a while and stopped scowling, people would actually enjoy your company.”  Now I was angry.  “And don’t you dare say Dad didn’t love you.  Or that he preferred me over you.  That’s bullshit Althea.”  I jabbed my finger at her.  “You were the one who never wanted to come to lunch with us.  You never wanted to stay over or answer his calls.  You never wanted anything to do with him!”  Tears were welling up in my eyes.  “You broke his heart every day.”

She looked away, arms still crossed.

I wiped my tears away and turned toward the ocean, trying to compose myself.  Althea could never justify the way she treated our father, but I never knew she felt second best.  That was an awful thing to feel.  And I felt sorry for her.

I turned back around.  “Althea -”

But the deck was empty.  Below me I heard the deck door slam shut and I watched as Althea made her way through the grass down to the beach.  I watched until her retreating figure disappeared and then went back downstairs to join the family, and say goodbye to my father.