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THE BLOOD BARRIER

So, here’s the first working chapter of a book I wrote a long time ago, that I’m now revising, because I cannot get it out of my head. I’d love to know what you think. Should I continue? Does it grab you? Do you want more? Or should I put it back in that drawer of later. 🙂

CHAPTER 1

JUST BREATHE—

I can’t remember a time when I ever was truly alone in my head. To get even one day without her voice taking over, and telling me what to do? That would be pure bliss.

Maybe.

Maybe

That one. To the left. Break his windpipe and let’s get out of here.

“Yes, Mama.” I answer her out loud. I can’t help but speak when she talks. It’s the only way I pretend I’m still in control of my own body; even if I can’t resist her orders, at least I can respond.

The city’s nighttime shadows welcome me with open arms. I fall into them with ease as I wait for the unsuspecting citizen to arrive. It doesn’t take much effort to pull from the power that grows deep in the pit of my stomach, and concentrate on the beat of his heart. It pumps with a rhythm determined by a group of pacemaking cells in the sinoatrial node. I dance, and its melody fills me, the pressure of it crushes my insides as I invade his.

I lose myself more and more.

Somewhere, my body stands still, but the other part of me, the killer part of me, is moving at the speed of light, cells morphing into the creature I was destined to be from the moment I was born.

As soon as I enter his bloodstream we become one. A rush of adrenaline takes over, and then I attack his blood supply.

He grunts, as if in pain, and doubles over. Everything around my physical body becomes hazy. But my light, it travels his veins with determination. When I get to his neck, I focus on his trachea and coax it to crush until breathing is an impossibility.

The thud of his body as it falls to the ground is silent. Just like the release of the last breath of air he’ll ever take. Before he’s completely dead I remove myself. Being inside a non-living body can have debilitating effects on my energy supply, and I need all the energy I can maintain. It’s still early. He won’t be the last person I lay to rest tonight.

That’s my babygirl. Let’s get going.

“Yes, Mama.”

The asphalt sticks to my feet as I make my getaway. A full day of baking in the sun has loosened it up enough that when I inhale the faint hint of tar hits sharply in my nostrils. Behind me heavy footfalls speed up. I’m not alone. As my body tenses for an attack I draw on my power once more.

“Hey, wait up. You know you’re not supposed to be hunting without a partner.”

The voice gives me pause. My best friend Ben comes into view and my muscles unclench.

The shadows of downtown mix with my mood. As tempting as it is to blend in with them and fade away, I wait until he catches up. He’s the only one who doesn’t judge me when we’re out on assignment. He takes my talking to myself in stride.

It’s odd he’s alone. Usually our whole squadron goes on missions together. We’re still not full-fledged Elite yet so they don’t let us into the city by ourselves.

Because of this, I know somewhere in the shadows, probably closer than I assume, a Sender is watching my every move. Whenever we leave the compound Commander Crystal sends her cream-of-the-crop to observe us and report back. Every wrong step, every hesitation, is noted. If one of us fails to take out our mark with efficiency, we all pay the price when we get home.

I cringe at the thought of being collared again. No, tonight I will strike fast and do exactly what they expect of me. I learned long ago to keep my remorse bottled deep inside.

“Where’s the rest of Leet Squad?” I ask, if only to break up the silence.

“Oh, they’re over on Pine street. Shadow’s got them running recon on a reported Given hive. I figured you’d need me more than they do.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence. I think I can handle myself out here just fine. You really think any Given would be so bold as to make a home this close to us?”

“According to Crystal. I don’t understand them. Probably never will.”

I allow myself a moment’s respite and inhale deeply before we walk on to our next victim. I can’t imagine life as a Given. To spend every day free of the binding chaos a Taken wears from birth is something I’d trade in a heartbeat.

There are those of us marked for taking life, and those that give it back. But with every life I take, I fall deeper away from who I wish I could be.

My thoughts are treacherous, so I try to clear my mind. The Sender lurking in the shadows right now might be an emotion blender, and if Crystal knew, even for a second, how I truly feel I’d be toast.

Sweat drips off my chin as I drop a hint to Ben. “What the hell is up with the weather? I can’t concentrate.”

A gentle mist hits my face and instantly cools me off. Ben’s grin grows wide as I smile my thanks. An elemental as a partner has its advantages.

“What would I do without you?” I gently tease him. We both know I’d be lost.

“I’ve been asking myself that for years actually. Funny, you’re just wondering now.”

“Ha. Come on, let’s catch up to the others. It’ll be dawn soon.”

Crystal encourages us learn while most of the city still sleeps. Less viewed mistakes, less unhappy citizens.

We fall into step easily, each footfall in sync. Every once in awhile we catch each other’s eye, and I can’t help but laugh at the absurdity of it all. To maintain any semblance of sanity we grasp at what little they allow us to keep of our childhood.

And if that means exchanging silly smiles on a hot night with a guy I’ve known since birth while we head to add one more victim to our ever growing list than I’ll take it. Each and every time.

 

 

Which is probably why I fail to register another’s presence until her hot fetid breath falls on my neck. Before I can turn around her saliva drips on my uncovered skin. It boils and my flesh bursts into open sores immediately.

Sparrow.

Her hand grabs my wrist, squeezing it tight as the click of a collar shuts against my throat.

“Not so fast, cadet. You were breaking protocol, again. When are you going to learn? Until you reach Elite, you have to stick with your squad. No exceptions.”

Her laugh is guttural.

“Eat me, lizard. I was under orders.” I try to calm my speeding heart and hope she isn’t paying attention. It’s hard to make out any emotions on her scaly face.

“Yeah, well, taking hits for mommy dearest doesn’t count. Solitaire time for you, Taken.”

Ben speaks up, trying to deflect her anger. “Lay off, Sparrow. You know we were on our way back to squad.”

Sparrow turns, and the look she gives Ben triggers something in me I’d rather not let surface. “As for you, water boy, you better get back to Leet. Unless, of course, you’d like to run patrol with me?” She licks her lips for emphasis.

I swallow an immediate urge to vomit everywhere.

Ben gulps and stops walking. He gives me an apologetic shrug. We both know it’s no use arguing any further. We’ve done this dance a million times before.

“Go on, I’m fine with Lizard lips. See you tomorrow?”

Sparrow bends my wrist back even farther. I bite back a whimper, refusing to let her see any pain in my face. Ben seems undecided so I mouth, go on, before I follow Sparrow back home.

One day she’ll be mine. Till then she can pretend all she wants that she’s in charge. But there’s gonna be a day when the collar fails her. And then, she’s mine.

As we head back to the compound, I imagine all the different ways I could decimate her. My laugh echoes, bouncing off the compound’s walls until my head is full of its sound.

The guards ignore me. With a collar on, I’m nothing. Useless.

When Sparrow drops me off at my room I try to muster a sneer, but I’m exhausted. So, I settle for some more of her smug words of condescension, and bite back my retort in the hopes she’ll release me tonight.

No such luck. She shoves me into my room, collar and all.

Night fades into the pale pinks of dawn, and my eyes close as the day starts anew. All of my sense are dulled. But in my dreams, they drive me to panic. The sights, and sound, are too much. I’m haunted by a bright burning boy. He fills me with a fear greater than any I’ve ever experienced.

His words are mumbled, elusive. Somewhere around us drums beat a rhythm in time to his voice. My soul aches with longing for people I do not know. The heat is unbearable. As each flame steadily eats up the floor around me I reach out to him, but we melt away before we make contact.

I awaken drenched in sweat.

The fact that Sparrow’s still staring at me through the window of my door immediately makes me want to punch things. And by things, I pretty much mean any part of her body. I’m not picky—as long as she feels the hatred behind my blows, then I’d win.

Sparrow taps on the glass before she disappears.

After a few minutes I can’t sit still any longer. I need to get out of here. Anywhere is better than here. When I open the bedroom door, Sparrow’s stupid lizard-face glares back at me. Ugh, stalker.

“Where do you think you’re going?” A sneer grows on her scaly lips as she flicks her tongue in my direction. “Taken.” The word comes out of her mouth like she’s tasted something disgusting.

She’s such a condescending hypocrite; we’re all Taken here. Sparrow thinks she’s all that. But her ego’s gonna be her downfall. I can’t wait till she’s mine. Visions of her death ease me. Blood-soaked and battered, her face dissolves in all the different scenarios I create until my mind’s satisfied. With a smirk, I stare her down. Soon.

You’ll be mine soon.

“Bite me, lizard-breath.”

Sparrow’s face turns green. I back away with a laugh as I try to shut the door in her face. But my attempt to slam it is a joke. It creaks as it slowly closes, lessening the effect tenfold. Sparrow’s chuckle echoes through the empty bedroom. “That’s what I thought, Cadet.” Her words cut off as the door locks in place.

I pace the room until my mind is numb. With nothing better to do, I sit on my bed and wait. It’s almost my favorite time of day: combat class. I concentrate on breathing, turning my focus inward.

“Haley . . . hey, Haley—where are you right now?”

Ben.

I breathe slowly as my eyes regain focus. I didn’t even hear him come in. My nails dig raw trenches into the palms of my clenched fists. Ben ignores all of this and sits beside me.

“Calm down, little bird. You’re spacing out again.”

The gentle pressure of his hand on my shoulder makes me jump.

Ben takes his hand off my shoulder. “Never took you for someone who likes necklaces.” Neither of us laugh at his failed joke.

His fingers trace the collar around my neck for a split-second before he lets them fall to their lap. “I’m sorry. She’ll pay one day, promise.”

I shrug in agreement.

Stale air makes me crave the taste of a fresh breeze tickling my tongue. “I can’t take these walls anymore. They’re closing me in.”

My eyes travel the curve of his cheek, up and over his never-ending eyelashes, to the deep wells of brown that know me so well. Perhaps too well. Against all hope, I cross my fingers. “I’ve got an idea. What would you say to a little redecorating?”

Ben’s eyes bug out. “Ohh no. Last time you tried to get us out of here, not only did you melt the floor, you ruined my best sneakers.”

The new floorboards shine in stark contrast to how they looked a few weeks ago—burned to blackened crisps. I can’t believe I didn’t set the whole room aflame. It sucks they noticed too soon. Controlling fire’s something I’m going to need a lot more practice with.

“I promise I won’t melt anything.”

Ben shakes his head. I don’t miss his eye roll, but then the voice clouds everything else.

Run. Escape. Now. Take them all out until you’re free.

“Uh, Haley?” Ben startles me out of my reverie and I blink. I’m losing my mind. Every day, every minute, Mama’s voice calls out for me. She won’t win today. Shut up, Mama. I’m with Ben; he’s safe. He’s mine. I concentrate on his features until the voice fades.

Ben sets his shoulders like he’s steeling himself for destruction. A picture-perfect soldier-in-training.

“Why do I always feel like something bad is about to happen?”

“Silly bird,” Ben says, giving my ponytail a tug. “We’re going to be fine.”

My shoulders relax against his. “Says you. I just came up with a plan. You interested?” Under the black cotton t-shirt, his muscles contract with excitement.

I whisper into his neck, “I know you are. I can feel it.” and glance up to see his reaction.

“Is there a fire extinguisher close by?” His eyes sparkle with humor when he jokes about my past, but there’s a tension in his jaw I can’t miss.

I cringe.

Ben mistakes my reaction. “So, what horrible torture are you planning for me now?”

“Why ever would you think that? Don’t you know I’m a lady?” My nose scrunches up in disdain as I drum my fingers against my leg—waiting for his reply.

“Sureee. I can only imagine the pain you were dreaming of inflicting on me.”

I cradle my pounding head in my hands. Deflated at his words. “I could never hurt you, Ben. The Senders on the other hand . . . ” With one last shake of my head, I dispel thoughts of what I’ll do to our jail keepers if given the chance. “So, are you going to class or what?”

“Aren’t I always a model student?”

“Well, mister model. Over the wall the sun’s shining, people laughing. What would you say to a little rainstorm? It’d be awful for all those fun-loving citizens to get wet.” I bat my eyelashes at him, trying to entice his inner demon, but he doesn’t buy it.

“That’s a terrible idea.”

Wait, what? No way. There is no way he can’t see the genius in this.

But then he speaks again. “Count me in. Who needs teaching anyway when you’ve already got class like me?” He winks, and I can’t help it—I sock him in the arm.

Feigning pain, he looks up. “Ow, that hurt.”

“Pfft. Whatever.” As I go to grab him in a headlock, his leg slips, and we both fall to the ground laughing. After I catch my breath, I try again. “Wouldn’t it be nice to get away from the eyes of Crystal? Even for a day? Think of the freedom.” The temptation’s so strong. It’s gotta be that way for Ben, too.

Every day we’re pushed to our limits. Used for our bodies, and trained to be the ultimate killing machines. In the Compound, our choices in what we eat, what we read, who we talk to, or even what we wear are made by General Roxanne Crystal: Commander of the Elite army and Leet squad. I tune back into Ben and shut the General’s image out. My stomach rumbles. A bloom of heat creeps up my face and betrays me. Ben spies my blush and laughs.

“Surprise, surprise. Look who’s hungry. Think you’ll be able to concentrate if you’re already starving?”

I’m always starving. It’s a curse. Ben constantly teases me that I have no meat on my bones because I expend so much energy.

The idea of drinking blood for food is gross. I’d much rather grub on something solid and leave the blood for my own special pleasures. Not everyone is born like me. To be able to blood-blend is rare. And I’m glad. Cause there’s a good chance the human race would already be extinct if we were the norm.

“I’ll manage. Besides, I bet we can find better food over the wall.” My hair hides my face until the heat from my blush disappears.

Without warning, memories of Mama’s screams when they took me away fill my head. My first relationship torn to shreds before it could even begin. I hang onto that memory like someone drowning would to a life vest. I just wish I could control it.

“Remember the day we were born? Would you have thought we’d end up like this?” I ask.

“No, little bird, not quite.” Ben shrugs and sighs. I totally get it. The ability to remember our birth is a blessing and a curse, but it keeps my purpose clear.

The Front’s first mistake was keeping me alive. Unfortunately for them, it wasn’t their last. “One day they’ll pay for what they took from me. Count on it.” I twitch. Mama’s voice fills my mind again, and the echoes close in on me once more. “I think if we lef—”

The bell ringing for class to begin interrupts me. Crap. One look at Ben’s face and I know I’ve lost my chance. That’s okay. Time’s on my side.

 

 

Signal Loss (or, my apocalypse now! flash fiction entry for terribleminds.com)

My finger ached from pressing the refresh button so often.

It was a sickness, I was sure of it, but I couldn’t keep away from watching the President’s newest word vomit as it projectiled across my screen. For the last 3 days I’d been glued to my computer. Every single post killing me a little more inside.

Who would have thought 140 characters would have such devastating impact on humanity? I held my breath with the rest of the world as we waited. It’d been half an hour since his last post. We all knew a new one was coming any second.

5. 4. 3. 2. 1.

Refresh!

:The dishonest media claims I’m poisoning the ocean with nuclear waste from my latest attack on the bigly continent of my Yuge Kingdom. LIES!

Bile burned my throat. I choked on it’s bitterness as I wiped away tears free-falling from my eyes. I couldn’t stop my hands from shaking when I stood. A silent scream filled the air with its empty voice when I crossed the living room to pull back the curtains.

For the first time in my life I wished I didn’t live on the coast. Having the ocean as your backyard had always felt like a gift. I was special. Any day I could look outside and bam. Paradise, there for my taking.

But today it would be different. And I didn’t know if I possessed the power to face what was out there now.

The scream that managed to evade my voicebox for so long finally made its way out in full force as I took in the catastrophe before me now.

The ocean, once so eloquent in its opulent hues of blue, was now  a sickly, toxic neon green.

I fell to my knees. Not to pray, I’d given up on that concept from day one. No, I fell because I didn’t have the strength to stand anymore.

Somehow, the President had been granted the power to voice his wishes and turn them into reality. Any time he posted, within moments, his words changed the world.

So far, the world had lost half its population. Of course, that was just hearsay due to the fact that with his very first decree, a 700,000 foot wall magically appeared around our country, so it was hard to know for sure. But after what else had come to pass, I believed it heart and soul.

I was one of the lucky ones, as least I liked to tell myself that. At least there was still half a mile’s worth of the sea before the monolith came into view. Not that that mattered anymore.

Wonder what kinda dress matched radiation green? Mom always told me to dress for the occasion. To be honest, I think I’m screwed.

The ringing of the phone pulled me out of my breakdown. With trepidation I answered.

“Yeah?”

“Dude, what in the fuck of fucks?” Sammy never bothered with small talk. I loved her for it.

“I know, I’m staring at it right now. I can’t believe this is happening.”

“Oh, come the fuck on, Leena, seriously? I mean seriously. You can’t believe this after what happened 2 hours ago?” She paused, letting me remember. As if anyone could ever forget.

At 8:56 am on Jan 23rd (only two hours ago, even though it felt like a lifetime) Mr. Prez made the impossible, possible.

:The dishonest media are ZOMBIES. Brain-sucking, Life-taking ZOMBIES. LIARS. The lot of them.

At 8:57 a new breed of monster was set upon the world. Hordes of brain-sucking zombie journalists roamed the streets. Thank fuck I’d gone grocery shopping yesterday when our Ruler Supreme only wished the world into a tropical heatwave with his proclamation that global warming was a hoax.

Note to self, never use the words, if global warming is real than show me. Prove me wrong. Thanks, universe, we really appreciate it. I mean, 123 degrees in winter, in the Pacific Northwest, in winter, is like totally normal. Right?

Sammy’s voice as she cleared her throat in satisfaction grated on my very last nerve.

I answered, wondering when she’d make it home from work. Hopefully she watched the How To Kill A Zombie In 5 Easy Steps tutorial I’d sent her earlier. Who could work in this mess of a life? “Okay. I get your point. But still, this. I can’t . . . I can’t even right now.”

I’d never ever been one of those people unable to finish a sentence before, but I finally understood the meaning behind the phrase, and for the life of me, I don’t think there’s anything more succinct.

“Oh, hun. I know. At least we have each other right. I mean nothing will be able to tear that apart. Our love can overc–”

A sharp beeping noise replaced Sammy’s voice and my body stiffened. No. No!

The phone fell from my hand as I raced to my laptop  and hit refresh again.

My stomach made a home somewhere around my ankles as I scrolled, hoping and praying I was wrong.

:As of now, only the sanctity of marriage as between a man and woman will be acknowledged. Those of same-sex will be as if they never were.

Never were.

Sammy.

No . . .

This was the last straw. I clicked on a link, knowing once I hit enter there was no turning back. The time had come. I’d never been a revolutionary before. But my life, my love, my reason for being were all now a thing of the past.

A large ad glared at me, bright, screaming. I inhaled. The air hit my taste buds with a staleness I would never be able to swallow. So this is what freedom smelled like?

Do You Want To Join The Resistance?

With lightning-fast fingers I typed three simple words that would forever change my life.

Oh, Fuck Yes!

The End

 

 

 

 

 

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6570 days was my magical number

At the tender age of 22 I thought the answer to my most fervent wish was 6570 days. It would be 6570 days until I could take a shower whenever I wanted. 6570 days to be able to use the bathroom uninterrupted. 6570 days until I could be day drunk and sleep in as long as I wanted afterwards. (lofty goals, right?)

18 years.

I counted my life not in minutes, not as they flew by, and believe me, my how fast they have flown. But in this dream, that 18 years beyond being 22 I would be free to be myself again, and oh, what a wonderful life it would be.

I was so naive.

Now, I have a new number. 381. I cry every time I recall it. And every day it goes down. It does, no matter how hard I try to hold on. If I could, I would create my own time-turner and wind that thing so damn hard to get back even half a day for every day that passes. because in 381 days my eldest child will be 18.

And what was once such a high aspiration date for me, the one where I was certain I would “find myself again” and get to “re-live my 20s the right way” is now a day I dread. I was so very, very stupid. I never lost myself because of my children. I lost myself because I never gave myself a chance to live beside them. I took up the job of being a stay-at-home mom like I was a flippin martyr, and validated my feelings for the longest time, telling myself I was special because I was so selfless.

I’m so pissed at myself now that I did that to them, and to me. All this time I could have enjoyed being me and a mom. Completely guilt free.

Because in the end, I was always someone.

They never took that away. I wasted so many years thinking I was owed something more in life. And I wasted soo many years waiting. The funny thing is, even when that hypothetical clock stops I will not have achieved that goal. Because I went on to have more kids. So that clock still has a really long time before it runs out. And I refuse to even look up how many days because that’s not how I want to spend my life anymore.

I wonder how many days were spent daydreaming, or being sad that could have possibly been spent in laughter and acceptance? Now, don’t get me wrong. My life with my children has been full of wonderful amazing years. Too many epically perfect moments spent with them that I cannot even begin to count. I close my eyes and can feel their little hands tapping my breast as I fed them. How their heads fit so perfectly into the crook of my arm as they fell asleep against me after a hard day in the real world. How my heart broke alongside them as they experienced their first heartbreak, skinned knee, or social rejection. How I sailed on their pure joy as they discovered a rainbow for the first time, or showed me their latest art creation, or how my heart filled to bursting as I passed the bathroom and paused to listen to whatever song they were singing in the shower so freely. Every secret they’ve trusted me with. Every tear I’ve wiped away. Every hug I memorize so when I’m feeling low I can close my eyes again and feel their warmth and strength lift me up and surround me once more.

That’s why I sometimes mourn, but mainly celebrate the next step in my eldest’s journey. I am so excited for her, and what her path in life will be.

It’s funny the things that seemed so important in my 20s to what made me, me are so trivial now. I am a product of the life I produced and surrounded myself with. I don’t remember ever saying, “when I grow up I want to be a wife and mother.” those were not goals I set for myself. But somehow, that’s what I became, despite my lack of looking for either. But it’s seriously taken me 39 years to realize I am still myself. That I can be a wife, and a mother, and still be me.

I suppose I’m a slow learner. I wish I would have just known this shit instinctually so I would have never given myself such a stupid time frame to look forward to.

So if you happen to be a young mom with no idea of how the world is going to turn out and all you can think of is the what after, I beg you to read this and stop. Relax. Enjoy your life for what it’s become. Rejoice. It will be hard. Those moments when all of your other kid-less friends are out having fun and you’re stuck at home with a miniature human spewing from both ends will be rough, sure. But don’t envy your friends. Smile that they are out having a good time doing their own thing. Cause while they are doing them, you are doing you, and trust me, you are still you. It might be different than you imagined, but you can still love life and enjoy yourself. Just, in another way. Blink and it will be over. And then you’ll be like me, sitting, writing a blog on why you wish you knew then what you know now. ❤

7x7x7 challenge

Ms. @mmhoffman14 tagged me for the 7x7x7 challenge which is to go to your wip and go to page 7, go down to line 7 and paste the next 7 lines. Here is my sample from one of my wips- BAD BEAT

(It’s a YA Contemporary Thriller about a Las Vegas native teen, Sonja, who grows up hustling the casino poker rooms with the help of her fake ID, and her best friend, Kai. Until she wins a little too much, and happens to fall for the mob boss’s son– the same one who happens to be the one assigned to take her out… except this date doesn’t involve dinner.)

 

 

“Fine, fine, there’s a pinot noir in your parents liquor cabinet with my name written all over it anyway.” Silence follows, and I’m not sure if he’s joking or not. Please don’t let it be one of mom and dad’s special reserve.

The door opens a crack to reveal Kai’s brilliant blue hair and sugar-coated smile. A bottle appears. Good, not one they’ll miss.

“Honey, don’t you think I know by now what they’ll notice and what they won’t?” Kai unscrews the top and takes a swig. “Sip?”

“Nope. Gotta keep my mind in the game.” The idea of getting wasted before I’ve even played my first hand makes me wrinkle my nose. “Day drinking’s lame. Who wants to sport a hangover by two in the afternoon?”

“See, there is where you’re going wrong. The trick to avoiding that is to just keep drinking. Daddy always said he wasn’t raising a quitter. If he only knew how well I listened. Maybe he would’ve stuck around longer.” As he holds up the bottle, Kai swallows with vigor. “Probably should have followed his own advice.”

To see his shoulders droop in resignation breaks my heart. “You know he loves you. It’s not your fault. Sometimes people can’t make relationships work. Ya know?”

“But, if I’d been more manly . . . maybe.”

I reach out, grab him, and turn him until we’re eye to eye.

“You’ve got to be kidding me. You’re quarterback of our fucking football team. You’ve known how to change a tire on a car since you were thirteen, and you could probably handyman my entire house if it started falling apart. You’ve got to be one of the manliest boys I know. And if you think for one second the reason your dad left is because you happen to like guys, well . . . I don’t know what to say. Except you’re wrong.”

“Guess we’ll never know, will we?”

 

(I went over the 7 lines, whoops!)

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What it’s like having a texture-sensitive kiddo

My big dude is a pretty rad miniature human. At 7yrs old he has managed to grasp a level of humor and sarcastic-ness that far outdoes most adults I know. It doesn’t surprise me.

From the moment he came squalling into the world, bright red, and wrinkled, I knew he was destined for glory the minute the nurse proclaimed “He looks like Benjamin button, just look. It’s like he’s an 80 year old man in a newborn’s body!”

Thankfully, due to the fentanyl drip I’d been given previously, I managed to suppress my backhand urge. But she wasn’t exactly lying either. My 3rd child, I’d indeed birthed an old soul. In the womb he was a duo. I lost his twin before they were fully baked and so he came out solo. But I won’t go into that story because, well, I can’t.

Suffice it to say, we were super excited to welcome this strong-willed survivor and thus named him Alexander. Because after so much, he deserved a strong name. And boy is he strong. Strong-willed, strong in determination, his physicality is impressive, and oh yeah, his aversion to anything “uncomfortable” is the strongest of all.

You see, Big dude is texture-sensitive. Now, I don’t know the medical term.So we’ve developed our own name for it. He says he’s being sensed when it happens. And I think that’s pretty fucking spot on. You might too after you read the description.

If a flavor, texture, smell, or sight triggers something in him he vomits. Like demon-possessed, I’m gonna ruin your best shoes, vomit. It comes without warning, without a moment to grab the nearest container and duck for cover, and it can happen any time.

We’ve grown used to it. Over the years we’ve practiced different ways of trying to tame the pukebeast. From talking himself down, and avoiding different triggers, to making sure that old, dead leaf his sibling just carried in with his shoe is picked up before Alex’s mind tricks him into thinking it’s dog poo and another rug is ruined.

Yeah, we’re like the champions of upchuck.

But every once in awhile I feel really bad for him. Like today.

He was at school, eating lunch, surrounded by his friends and classmates when all of a sudden worst case scenario happens. His friend decides to pour his applesauce all over his cheeseburger and then *gasp* dip it in ketchup.

Typical 7 yr old food experiment- but it waved a red flag of doom in front of Big Dude’s gag reflex and whammo. The cafeteria table became the next scene out of a miniature Carrie- the elementary school years- sequel.

So the nurse called.

I’ve put this on his med records and all the paperwork due every year, but still I understand why a call is warranted. We spoke, and she wasn’t sure if sickness or a sensed moment had happened as of yet. (he failed to tell her all the details at that time)

So I talked to him, he sorta avoided my questioning, which was the first clue to it being a sensed moment. Anyway, I went in and picked him up, just to be on the safe side. When it comes to elementary kids and cooties, you can never be too sure when the next stomach bug might be in full swing.

Once, we got to the car he let the story spill, full of all the embarrassment an event such as this could bring. And so I hugged him,  asked if he was still hungry, (he was) and took him to the nearest pizza joint for a nice hot slice and some good conversation.

So yeah, life with Big Dude is an adventure. Sensory overload at its finest. And maybe he’ll eventually get it under control, or perhaps he won’t. But no matter what, we’ll get through it. All we need is humor, Clorox wipes, and quite possibly, an extra set of shoes.

If any of you reading this are also parents of sensed kids, lemme know! I’d love to connect with others who know exactly what this is like and see if you have any tricks up your sleeve for avoiding the unavoidable. 🙂

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Saying goodbye sucks

Losing someone is probably one of the most heart wrenching experiences out there. It doesn’t matter if everyone knew their passing was something coming, or an unexpected accident no one would have ever imagined.

And it never gets okay. Honestly, why should it? But the one thing that’s super scary to me is that you do grow numb to it.

I mean, how weird, and awful, is it that I’ve experienced so much death in my life that I’m actually numb when i hear someone else has passed?

My first friend I lost was shot in the face by a kid with a shotgun because the kids mom didn’t approve of her daughter dating a black boy. So she gave her child a gun to scare him off the front step.

Now, my friend was an amazing person. And the fact that his skin color made someone take his life haunts me to this day. I’d been to funerals before his. Family members and such, but this was the first one that I felt deeply. I’d never been to his church before, even though I basically spent tons of my time in his neighborhood with my girl Trish. But that day of his funeral was something magical.

So many people came that we literally couldn’t fit inside the building. And those voices when they sang his soul to rest, well, they truly were the songs of angels. It didn’t matter that day what your skin color was because we were all celebrating the life of someone, basically still a child, who’d been taken from us too young. And he was loved. And he’s still missed.

From then on it seemed like someone else was falling down that hole of forever gone quicker than I could blink. I grew up in the 90’s, in south Florida, during the rave era. Not the big overblown commercial stuff it is now, but the underground south Florida breaks, electro, drum and bass dirty south scene. And man was it dirty. And dangerous.

Before I was 18 I could count at least 10 kids I’d known who had passed away from drugs. Some od’d. Others were killed in accidents involving dui’s and the like. One of the first people I ever loved met this fate.

My parents moved me to Las Vegas right out of high school. I rebelled and moved back home a few months later. Heck, I was 18 now and I could make it on my own. Or so I thought. So I went home and fell hard. I fell into partying, and dancing, and I fell for a boy so damn hard the world crumbled around me every time I looked at his face.

But he was a bit of a bad boy and had a past. Eventually, I couldn’t take living back home for many reasons and decided to move back to Vegas. This boy wanted to move with me, but he decided he wanted to do it right. He’d had a warrant out for his arrest and told me he was going to turn himself in, do the time and come meet me in Vegas when he got out.

So I left, and went home. We wrote each other pretty much every few days. Running to the mailbox was such an event. And we both loved art so we’d draw and fill pages full of inconsequential things to get us both through the long weeks. Eventually, his time was served and he was set free. We were both so excited!

His mom bought him a plane ticket to fly out to me. I woke up every day counting down the minutes until I’d be seeing him again. The weekend before he was to fly out he decided to go down to Miami to say goodbye to some of his friends. He called me from a party the night before his flight and told me he’d be seeing me in a few hrs. I said have fun, but not too much, don’t want to miss your flight!

We laughed. I sighed and went to bed.

The next morning I got a call from one of my girlfriends back home. Except I couldn’t understand a word she was saying. She was crying so hard I got scared for her. Finally she said two words that pretty much killed me. “Scott’s dead.”

It echoed around my head over and over and over. I didn’t understand. And told her it was an awful joke to be playing on me the day of his flight. Except it wasn’t a joke. He died of a heart attack from a drug overdose. There’s a good chance he could have been saved, except the monsters, for they dare not be named people, he was with left him, without his clothes, wallet or jewlery, out in front of the hospital after it was too late. So yeah. They robbed him and left him to die. And he did just that.

His mom bought me a plane ticket to go back home and attend the funeral. I remember bringing him a lucky poker chip my dad had given me with one of the casino’s names written on it. At his viewing I placed it in his coffin and told him if he couldn’t come to Vegas than I was making sure I brought it to him to keep forever. I said my goodbyes and flew back home and died a million deaths myself.

After that hearing about people’s deaths got easier. How fucked is that for me to say? I don’t know if it’s more fucked that I actually view hearing about someone’s death as easy, or that there’s still so much death surrounding me.

There’s one thing that didn’t get easier though. My fear of everyone I love dying. I might just be the most morbid motherfucker out there. I secretly fear people dying all the time. ALL. The. Time. Do you know how exhausting that is? When my kids go out to sleep at their friends- I fear their lives. When my sis goes out to a party, I’m afraid of a car accident. Hubs flying to New York for work? Plane crash. Parents having Sunday dinner? Choking. It never ends. All these scenarios run through my mind until I have to physically talk myself down.

But I keep it to myself. And then i learn someone else has died and I don’t cry. I don’t mourn. I don’t let go either. I can’t. If I did I might end up breaking for good.

In just the last few weeks, a man who basically was like a second father to me and a boy who was one of my childhood best friends/mortal rivals passed away. These two guys at different times in my life meant the absolute world to me.

And I can’t find it in myself to mourn their passing. I don’t know how any more. After Scott, I’m so empty when it comes to that part of life. Call it self preservation if you will. I cannot ever allow myself to break down the way I did after he passed. I might not be able to put the pieces back together again.

But I know it isn’t healthy either. To keep so much grief bottled up inside. To never let go and say goodbye. I just wish that my friends and family would stop dying for a little while. Give us a break.

I wish Florida wasn’t such a cesspit for kids and such an import state that dangles horrible temptations in front of bored children for them to lose their life on.

I wish more parents of my friends had given a bit more of a fuck about their children and not let them go down that road unhelped.

I’m so thankful I only played around the edges. That I never dove in head first and got caught up in a life of no escape except for the one 6ft below.

As to all the ones I’ve lost from disease, or accidents, old age or overdose. I’m so so sorry I cannot properly say goodbye. I know you deserve it. I’m sorry to all my friends to go to the funerals and are lacking my shoulder to cry on because I’m too much of a pussy to attend. I hope you don’t hate me because I didn’t show up. I wanted to. I swear. I just… I can’t

Life is such a precious thing. If you can remember that at least once a day, everything else will become so trivial. I think that’s what gets me through it. I only wonder, will it always be enough?

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What being an intern has taught me so far

So, back in October I stumbled upon an open call for interns/readers for an agency I adore. I think their whole group of agents are pretty spectacular. Now, I haven’t personally gotten to have conversations with all of them. But over the last year or so of seeing exchanges on Twitter, plus all the fantastic words of fellow writers as they mention the agents or the agency, well, it’s really made me think well of them as a whole.

And then this opportunity comes up, and I’m thinking no fucking way would they ever consider me. I’m a stay-at-home mom and have been for over 16 yrs. My work experience is as dusty as a New Mexican arroyo, (an arroyo is a dry creek not slang for something weird) and what do I know about this industry I’m just starting to cut my teeth on anyway?

Nope, no way do I have a chance.

But, because I’m me, and my aspirations run the gamut from trying to become an alpaca farm owner to, oh I dunno, turning a few acres into a community where all my wayward friends can come and lay their head… well, applying to be an intern didn’t seem as unreachable as it could have. If you’ve ever seen the movie Wanderlust, I’m pretty much a real-life, occasional cafe kinda girl.

No has never really been part of my vocab.

So, I applied. Annnd I was denied. But the whole process was so exhilarating.  Reading the sample manuscripts made me feel alive. I was doing something for me, to better myself.

It felt fucking fantastic!

So, I wrote a thank you letter to let the agent know how much the opportunity meant to me. I don’t know if she’ll ever really know how much, but I can only hope. Books have been my escape since I could read. As a child, and then a teen, there were times when life waved at me from the windows, and I would be so caught up in whatever story I was reading at the time that I just waved right back and continued on reading. As a new mom, books got me through a lot of lonely and tired days.

As a stay-at-home mom you tend to lose yourself sometimes. There’s a million and 3 things about it that I’m thankful for every day. But in learning to be selfless it’s easy to lose oneself. And it takes a moment like this to wake up, and say oh yeah, I’m more than a mom.

That was my moment.

Sooo, another intern/reading position came up for the same agent, at the same agency, and I grabbed the bull by the horns, threw caution to the wind, (and a few other cliches) and tried out again.

I made it! I squealed. I shrieked. I did a little victory dance. I probably cried a bit.

Since then, I wake up with a purpose. When I see that email with said agent(angel)’s name, my heart speeds up– cause I know I’m about to take another amazing journey and it fills me with joy.

 

Fellow writers, I admire you so much… Your words inspire me to become that much more in my writing. Every time I finish reading one of your manuscripts it motivates me to push myself that much further. I know your pain and your fear in letting your babies out into the world and having someone judge them. That’s the hardest part. Measuring my truth, my personal taste, and how I feel it will do in a market is so difficult. Every word I write in my report I want to erase. What if that one sentence dooms someone? Alternatively, what if another is the exact sentence needed to realize this ms could be the one?

Thank you, Agent, for trusting me with all the words. Thank you, writers, for making my life that much more. Between you both I have a reason, a reason for myself. Every day that I’m learning something new, honing my craft, and walking this path I send out a silent thanks that she decided to take a chance on me.

I don’t know how much time I have left. I’m not exactly sure of the lifespan of an intern. But I will make the most of every moment I’m given.

Holy shit, I’m one step closer to my dream y’all. One day I’m gonna get somewhere, and be someone, and now I know what I really want to be. I love writing sooo damn much. I’m in love with reading. Author, or agent, or intern for life– I’ve found my home and I don’t ever wanna go back. ❤

Thank you, secret angel agent. 🙂 (I wish I could give her a true shoutout but I’m sworn to secrecy 🙂

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Cass

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So, A long time ago

I used to have a camera attached to me. Everywhere I went, no matter what I was doing, there it was. It’s been a really really long time since I’ve held it with purpose. My Flickr account renewed today and I hadn’t looked at it in so long.

Man, was that a mistake! Going through the last 10 years made me a little emotional. And I still have another 4 years of photos to look through on there. I can’t wait. I think I might dust off my camera and start taking pics again. I don’t know if I’ll ever have that obsessive must take photos of everything drive again, but it would be nice to capture life now every once in awhile through something other than my phone camera.

Anyway, here’s a few I especially enjoyed. Have a nice day everyone! And don’t forget yourself, or if you do, try and find what’s missing. You might be in for a pleasant surprise 🙂

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Ode to the querying writer

As a child, a teen, adult, or crone

you’ve decided to give your daydreams a home

Each day you struggled, laughed, and cried

as your lyrical journey took you for a ride

Through heartache and joy, interweaving a story for your eyes alone

and then to share with friends, and family,

the ones who always throw you a bone

holding your breath, hands balled up tight, hoping and wishing with all of your might that they LOVE IT

and they do. So you think I’ve a bestseller… or two.

Then you spread your wings and find others like you.

Writing, revising, downing a cup or four. Trying to turn your draft into something much more.

You let go your chains, fears, and shakes

and share the words you held deep in your core

and finally

FINALLY you hear the words needed. The ones your family forgot to tell you.

Edits begin with a ravenous rush

for now is not the time to be a lush

a tweak here

delete there.

Sprucing and pruning without care

it’s true.

Wait? My 200,000 word draft is too long? chop, snip 70,000 gone over night

another 20,000?

yes, that will make it tight.

Kill who?  Seriously you want him to go? But,

but I thought he was the star of the show.

and then it all makes sense.

This dream, this story came together again. Thanks you your new circle of writerly friends.

 

Until

 

the moment came to set it free

And you write your first fucking query

That awful, soul-sucking, mind number page.

the one, you know, that fills you with rage

because no one said when you started your dream

that you’d be judge by 3 little paragraphs.

and perhaps

they forgot to mention you’ll end up growing scales of titanium before your done

 

did not connect

your voice? well it sucks

subjectively, of course

keep looking, bubye, sayonara my friend.

Adios, till next time, please, let’s not meet again.

and then

you revise, resub, brush it off. Chug a bottle or two

secretly tell everyone off.

your crit friends hold your hand while you blubber and cry

One day, they’ll see, you say with a sigh

and they do

because you do not give up

you power through, dust yourself off and move the fuck on

you write a new manuscript, or two, or four

you go through the struggle again and again, knocking on their door

because you’re a writer.

you’re a fucking amazing, daydreaming, word-slinging, make-believing, world-building, murdering, fucking freak.

and those words you’ve written are fucking unique.

and you deserve to be heard.

so don’t give up.

because one day I’ll need you. One day i’ll pick you up. I’ll open your pages and you’ll take me away and you’ll break my heart over the course of the day.

I’ll cheer for your protagonist while creating ways to kill your antagonist. I’ll boo, hiss and cheer in all the right places

I’ll cringe in fear at your scary blood-mangled faces

I’ll try to pronounce each word of your world (and then secretly make up nicknames when I can’t)

But never once will I rant, because you’re story is still fucking awesome

without you, dear writer, our world can be gray. Full of dreaded real life. monotonous day by slogging damn day.

You are my rock, my soultrip, my escape.

carry on my friends, you unbelievable strong people. Please do not crack.

Forget the rejections, your words are not wack.

You’ve already won the moment you began

you created something from nothing and that deserves the ultimate hand.

and when your dear words finally come home

remember to cheer on another who’s still in the zone.

pick them up, raise their head and remind them it’s time

for their words to fly free, for they are sublime.

Dear perfect writer

It’s some hard fucking shit, yes it’s true.

never give up

if not for me, than… for you. ❤