Back in college, I wrote a bit for the catharsis, an online literary magazine run by Emerson students. The short fiction stories I wrote can be found on their website.
Here is my favorite one from the November 2013 edition, titled "Margie and Lee-Lee."

Margie and Lee Lee

    Receiving the letter from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt had been Christmas morning for Margot. Upon picking up the paper from the front step of her tiny Cambridge apartment, she spotted the pile of yesterday’s mail on the table in the lobby. She had grimaced with the likely possibility of opening up more bills as the end of the month drew near; the rent notice was due, and she was dangerously close to having her power turned off. The smile spread across her face when she picked up the large ivory envelope, stamped with the publishing house logo, was as bright as the sun dawning in mid-August.
    Margot did not expect her book would be picked up. The envelope, containing the contract for her tiny novella, had come as a surprise. She had been rejected multiple times; her agent had promised that her work was publishable, since her story felt so real, as if it had been lived instead of told. She had given up all hope by the time that envelope showed up, and she couldn’t believe it was real.
    There was a spring in her step as she caught the train into the city. Margot, a stranger to color on good days, wore a surprisingly floral dress as she headed to work. Nothing could bring her down as she skipped into the office to start her day.
    “Lauren!” Margot called to her friend who sat across from her. “I’m getting published!”
    “Shut up! That’s amazing!” Lauren said, jumping up from her seat to give Margot a hug. “Congrats!”
    “Thanks,” Margot said, smiling.
    “What’s your book about again?” Lauren asked.
    Actually, Margot had never really told her friends what her book was about, mainly because it was based on her life, and Aeighley.
    “Um, well,” she began, but she was interrupted when her cellphone rang. “Excuse me, I gotta take this.”
    She walked into one of the empty conference rooms as she answered.
    “Hello?”
    “Margot? It’s your neighbor, Patty,” said a wavering voice on the other end of the line.
    “Hi, Patty,” Margot said, confused. “How did you get my number?”
    “Your sister,” Patty said. “She’s here right now with me.”
    “Is everything alright?” Margot asked, in her mind jumping to conclusions just thinking about what her sister might have done. She started pacing the room.
    “No, dear, it’s not,” Patty said, swallowing hard. “Your parents are dead.”
    Margot almost tripped over one of the chairs, her face going completely white.
    “What?”

    There had been a great accident on the I-93 heading north out of Boston. A car had served to avoid hitting a deer, and had been tailgated by a large 18-wheeler carrying large pipes, causing both car and truck to crash into each other, and the truck had flipped over to spill its contents across all five lanes. Margot’s parents were in one of the many cars that got crushed under the rolling pipes. They had been on their way to visit friends in New Hampshire when it had happened, and had died instantly when the pipe hit their car.
    Over the next couple of days following the phone call from her neighbor, Margot received calls from the police, giving their explanation of the accident and sincere condolences, and family and friends. Not once did she shed a tear, for the shock of getting the news had numbed her, and kept her from realizing her parents were really dead. The last call she received was from her parents’ good friend and lawyer, James Burns, asking for her and her sister to come to his firm in downtown Boston to here their will read. Margot had Patty the neighbor put her sister on the next train into Boston, and gathered her things to take home
    Getting to the law firm in downtown was a nightmare due to bus delays, and picking up her sister from the train station didn’t help. Margot had found her younger sister dressed in very tight skinny jeans, a leather jacket and combat boots with numerous rings lining her nose and ears, and her pet hedgehog in his cage. The sisters didn’t even exchange greetings; Aeighley just got on the train with her sister at the nearest subway station heading downtown. They never said much to each other since Margot left for college, back when everything between them finally had piled up and neither of them could hold it in anymore.
    Margot sat uncomfortably in the lawyer’s office with her younger sister as Mr. Burns read their will. Aeighley had come home from staying the weekend with family friends down the street to find a police man knocking at the door. Since receiving the horrible news herself, Aeighley hadn’t been able to return home with her hedgehog Cornelius after several days of being passed between relatives and friends. As far as Margot knew, her sister had not said a word since joining their mother’s sister, the closest living relative, to identify the bodies at the morgue.
    This silence continued as Mr. Burns and Margot discussed the will. Margot would get the house, along with half their assets and money. The other half was placed in a trust for Aeighley to inherit when she turned twenty-five. When he finished, Mr. Burns turned to the younger sister.
    “Aeighley, would you excuse us for a moment?” he asked.
    Aeighley shook the long blonde hairs out of her eyes. She rolled her eyes, exhaled sharply, and grabbed her purse while leaving the office. Her combat boots shuffled along, clumping along the floor like a limping elephant, as she left the room, leaving a dark cloud in her place.
    After shutting the door after her, Mr. Burns came to fill her chair. Margot was taken aback by the sudden closeness. It was a ripple in the water, disturbing the calm surface that Margot had fought to keep while listening to the lawyer read her parents’ will. It was getting hard for her to keep it together in public, since now the shock had worn off. This gesture threatened to tear everything apart.
    “Margot,” he said. He had yet to address her by her first name. “I don’t know how to tell you this.”
    “You already told me my parents are dead,” she said, fighting with the lump in her throat and shifting uncomfortably in her chair. “It can’t get much worse.”
    Mr. Burns had avoided eye contact with her until that moment, and even then it was just a peak to see how she would react. “Aeighley has to be put on a train to Framingham as soon as possible with all her things.”
    “I don’t understand.”
    “You can’t keep her,” he said. “Aeighley is going to have to move into foster care.”
    Margot blinked dully, then shook her head, her brow crinkling.
    “When your sister was put into the mental ward, and wasn’t responding to treatment, your parents had papers drawn up, along with their will, to make sure Aeighley would be taken care of in case something happened to them. Since both your mother’s and father’s parents are dead, part of those documents stated if they were to die before she turned twenty-five, she would have to have a government-appointed guardian to manage her and her affairs, until the state was able to declare her a competent adult.”
    “I can be that guardian,” Margot said. “I’m over twenty-five, responsible, have a stable job. A publisher wants to publish my book.”
    “I’m sorry, but there isn’t much that I can do,” Mr. Burns said. “You have to be interviewed by social workers to see if you meet government standards for proper guardianship. And she’s a special case, with her mental history and all. Your parents thought it would be best for you not to have to worry about her, said that you believed it would be a burden for you.”
    Margot sat straight in her chair, gripping the arms so tightly that her knuckles turned white. The memory of a conversation she had long ago with her parents came back to her. It was shortly after Aeighley was put into the mental ward, when Margot was still mad at her. Her parents asked her, if they died, would she take care of her sister. Her answer had been quick and curt: “Hell no.”
    But something changed in Margot as she sat here in the law firm, discussing their parents’ will. Even though she was still angry at her sister for what she had done years ago when she had a psychotic break and was moved into the mental ward, they were still sisters. They had grown up together, playing with Barbies and taking ballet together. She could still remember how they laughed together, had fun, and loved each other. All these memories had been forgotten when Aeighley went insane, but now flooded back as Margot panicked.
    “But I’m her sister!” she said. “I’m family, doesn’t that count for anything? I know how to handle her mood swings and personality changes better than some stranger.”
    Mr. Burns shook his head, his eyes cast down. “I’m sorry, Margot. You’re still too young and don’t qualify for half the requirements for guardianship of a mentally disturbed minor. There is nothing we can do. Aeighley has to be moved into a foster home in a couple of days, once her things are packed up.”
    Margot said nothing more as Mr. Burns rose, patted her on the shoulder, and packed up the documents and papers to take home with her.

    When they returned to their childhood home, both sisters paused on the threshold of the front door for a good minute before entering. For Margot, she had not been home since after beginning her junior year of college in Boston. For Aeighley, the last time she stood inside their house was while taking with the police and getting the news of their parents’ deaths. She was the first to enter, leaving her older sister at the door as she took Cornelius the hedgehog and his cage inside to feed him.
    They tried to act normally as Aeighley made dinner for them both as Margot made up the bed for herself and the aunt that was coming to stay with them. The sisters camped out in the living room like they did when they were younger, eating mac ‘n cheese on the floor and watching TV. They had not done something so simply innocent since when they were two kids running around in the back yard. It was refreshing and comforting after the past couple of days dealing with what their parents left behind. But there was still something dividing Margot and Aeighley, like a large black curtain had been hung between them.
    Margot had left for good shortly after Aeighley was committed to the local hospital. Aeighley had always been a bit off since she was young, when she had several imaginary friends who lasted much longer than they should. In middle school, she tried to hide the fact that there were voices in her head that talked to her, telling her Margot was the reason for why anything bad happened to her, and to kill her. It was the summer before Margot went back to college for her second year and before Aeighley entered high school when Aeighley came to dinner one night with a knife and stabbed her sister without saying a word. Margot was rushed to the hospital, while Aeighley spent the night at the police station, questioned by officers and child psychiatrists. When she tried to stab them, she was moved to the mental hospital and strapped to her bed.
    It had been five years since that night, and Aeighley had been released from the ward to live with her parents. She was on medication, and still had meetings with her therapist several nights a week, but she was pretty much back to normal. She was getting her G.E.D., and applying to art schools near home, where she would stay and commute from. She had always been extremely intelligent, and could paint like Monet. Margot had refused to come welcome her sister home for Christmas that year. The two had been close, but it still surprised Margot to find her sister was considered mentally incompetent. They hadn’t been in the same room or talked since Aeighley came home.
    Cornelius sat in Aeighley’s lap as she ate. He would look up at her, then sniff his surroundings before settling in a ball, cuddled between her two crossed legs. Margot watched him, saying nothing to her sister.
    Aeighley saw her sister staring at the hedgehog.
    “Can I hold him?” Margot asked; she had never held a hedgehog before.
    Aeighley shrugged then nodded. She put down her dishes, scooped up Cornelius, and plopped him in Margot’s lap. At first, Margot was scared of frightening the little creature, for he defensively curled up when she touched him. The tiny little animal who was probably more scared of her, and shivered in her lap, puffing up his quills to make him appear bigger.
    “He won’t bite,” Aeighley said, her face softening as she watched her older sister struggle with the hedgehog.
    Margot froze. It was the first time she had heard her sister speak.
    “You’ve got to cradle him through the blanket,” Aeighley said, taking her sisters hands and wrapping them in the blanket around the hedgehog. As Margot steadied her hands, Cornelius fell asleep in her lap.
    “You know,” she said. “He’s actually kind of cute.”
    For the first time since Margot could remember, Aeighley smiled.
    They continued watching TV in silence as the night went on, watching horrible soap operas and game shows. It was after the third game of Jeopardy that Aeighley got bored and spoke again.
    “What did Mr. Burns say to you?” she asked her older sister, picking up their mac ‘n cheese bowls.
    “Oh, nothing important,” Margot said, avoiding her sister’s gaze by focusing on Cornelius asleep in her lap.
    Aeighley scoffed, rolling her eyes. “Don’t lie to me, Margie,” she said, calling her sister by her hated childhood nickname. Their father, when they were younger, liked to call them Margie and Lee Lee for short, which bugged Margot a lot as she started going through puberty. Aeighley still liked being called Lee Lee, but there wasn’t much occasion to do so after she was put in the ward. “I’m not a kid anymore, and I’m not in that fucking hospital either, so don’t treat me like that.”
    “You won’t like what he had to say,” Margot said.
    “You don’t know that,” Aeighley said, walking into the kitchen and putting the empty bowls in the sink. When she returned to the living room, she sat back down on the floor facing Margot and pulled her legs into her chest. Margot saw that her sister was starting to go over the edge again; she always closed up like that when she didn’t feel stable. Instead of trying to change the subject, which might make it worse, Margot decided to just tell her.
    “Mr. Burns said that, because you spend the past couple years in the hospital, you have to go into foster care until you’re twenty-five.”
    “What?” Aeighley said. “But, aren’t you family? You’re old enough, too, to take care of me.”
    “It’s not that,” Margot said. “There are documents--”
    Aeighley interrupted her by picking up her cup and hurled it across the room. It shattered to pieces against the wall, scaring Cornelius awake and making him puff up into a ball. Margot nearly flung him from her lap, jumping at the sudden noise.
    “Aeighley! What the hell?” she shouted. Her voice shook, scared of repeating that night from five years ago.
    “I can’t fucking believe it!” Aeighley shouted. “How can they do this? Who gave them the right to tell us how to live?”
    “Mom and Dad did,” Margot said. “They decided it would be best for you to be taken care of by professionals in case they died. I’m not qualified like that to take care of you.”
    “They told you this when I was in the hospital?” Aeighley asked.
    “Yeah.”
    “Did they even ask you or Aunt Meredith if you guys were willing to take care of me?”
    “I don’t know what Aunt Meredith said.” Margot avoided her sisters eyes as she said this.
    Aeighley studied her sister. “You didn’t want to do it, did you?” she asked.
    Margot didn’t answer at first, and when she spoke it was to only say: “I’m so sorry, Aeighley.”
    She sat there, staring at her sister in disbelief. Aeighley then curled up in a ball and starting to rock back and forth, screaming and crying. Margot watched her for a moment, unsure of how to approach her. Before she was sent to the ward, Margot had always join her mother as she cradled her sister when she cried, helping her calm down and feel better. She kept her distance, not knowing how Aeighley would reacted. But her sobs deepened, and her shoulders shook, pain weighing out anger. She became the little crying girl that skinned her knee, rather than the young woman who would stab her sister as soon as look at her.
    Margot scooped up Cornelius, put him back in his cage, and came back to her sister. There was no point in talking to Aeighley when she got like this; Mom was better at being comforting. But Margot had to try; she sat down next to her sister, and wrapped an arm around her to rub her back.
    “I’m sorry, Aeighley,” Margot said. “I was scared and angry when they asked me. I still had stitches where you stabbed me.”
    Aeighley didn’t say anything, but she stopped crying, choking back sobs.
    “But I’m here now, though,” Margot said. “You can stay with me on weekends, if your foster parents let you. And you probably won’t be there long, since you’re going to college soon.”
    Aeighley looked up at her sister. “I didn’t want to stab you. The voices made me do it.”
    “I know,” Margot said, wrapping her sister up in her arms. “Are you still hearing them?”
    Aeighley put her head in her sister’s chest and hugged her back. “No,” she said. “The meds keep them out, and even when I forget to take the pills sometimes, they don’t say much anyways.”
    They stayed cuddled on the living room floor until Aeighley decided she wanted to go to bed, exhausted after crying so hard. After she cleaned up the broken cup, she was headed upstairs to bed when she ran back down the stairs to give Margot a hug. Surprised, Margot hesitated on hugging her back.
    “It’s good to have you back, Margie,” Aeighley said.
    Margot smiled and wiped away the tears that were forming in her eyes. “It’s good to be back, Lee Lee.”

This short fiction piece was my final piece for my first writing workshop in college. It was my first serious piece, and what encouraged me that getting a writing degree was really what I wanted to do. I like to use this piece when applying for writing positions to showcase my fiction writing style.

Motel Houses


The only sound in the forest was the repetitive slap of powerful paws hitting the ground, matching with perfect rhythm the heavy pumping of their mutated hearts. In the cold morning air, the running pack’s collective breath formed a cloud around them, following them like an ominous fog rolling across open water. Spittle sloshed from their fanged mouths, their tongues falling from their open maws and flopping in the wind as they ran through the forest. There was a silence in the forest which penetrated every living soul with fear as the pack’s sight narrowed on a lone deer, wounded and left behind by its herd. Cornering it in a clearing, they lunged, becoming airborne for only moments, then the quiet calm of the morning was broken as they took down the deer and feasted viciously on its flesh.


Most people would hardly notice how the pack brothers were slightly bigger than the other wolves in the area. They certainly wouldn’t notice the way the pack acted, like a military corps company out on their daily run. Their eyes were big and round, colored blue, grey and brown instead of the usual wolf yellow. A human soul looked out back of their eyes, trapped and filled with woe.


Transformation was painful. At first, the pain was so great that Daniel would black out and remember nothing of changing his form. After a while, when he gained strength and became accustomed to the frequent call of the wild, he was aware of every sensation as his body ripped itself apart to take another form. It was like being awake during your own autopsy; he could feel everything his body was going through, but was unable to do anything but watch it happen.


It would start with a cold, unsettling tingling that ran up and down his spine. When Daniel felt the tingle, he would kiss Lily goodbye and run off into the nearby woods. There, hidden from the world, he became the animal. Alone, the beast inside of him ripped its way free of Daniel’s skin as a young child would rip through wrapping paper on Christmas morning. The sound of the crunching of his bones as they morphed into animal shapes reverberated through his body as the blood pounded in Daniel’s head, fueled with adrenaline. There was a fiery burn which flowed through his veins, causing Daniel to claw his skin off. Every cell in his body screamed out in horror as dark, coarse hair spilled out of every follicle, and claws shot out from his fingernails. Then, silence as the beast rose from sleep and took hold of his new, animal skin.


It was only when Daniel found his pack brothers did things get better. There were more men out there who suffered from the beast within like he did. Because of the danger that the beast could take over them completely, theymade a pact to travel together as nomads, to not risk forming an attachment to anyone to prevent hurting them. They could only risk affection for each other, since their beastly tendencies did grant them the beauty of being fast healers. The pack looked out for each other, cleaning the blood off from taking down their kill and licking their wounds. When they came together as animals, the pack became the family Daniel never had.


 But, unlike his pack brothers, he had Lily. There was a deeper and unspoken understanding he had with them, which he could never have with her. But she was home. She was a bit of a strange girl, with her wild red hair flying about and bright blue eyes always curious, but her smile was magical. He believed the risk of loving her was worth it because every time he looked into Lily’s eyes, he knew no one could make him feel more accepted for his condition. For her, he would change his life to be with her because there was hope of leading a normal life.


Except, Lily didn’t know anything about his condition.

*************************


The door closed slowly behind Lily as she entered the musky motel room, all quiet except soft click of the lock sliding in to place. She picked her way through the piles of dirty clothes on the floor to the bathroom on the far side of the room. In one hand, she held the small plastic bag which she brought back to the motel with her.


A half an hour later, the door opened and she came out pacing. Back and forth, Lily tread hard enough to rub out the perpetual dirt in the wall-to-wall carpeting. She clenched a crumpled up cardboard box from a local drug store in one hand, and in the other, a white plastic stick. It had the shape and size of a tongue depressor, but slightly thicker and uneven in places. Especially where the surface dipped to form an simple screen with a colored symbol in the middle of it. When Lily discovered they were still in her hands, she tossed them hastily in the trash, along with several take-out cartons and old newspapers to bury them.


Walking back into the bathroom, she tripped over the threshold and landed heavily upon the floor. As angry tears welled in her eyes, she removed her shoes and socks with enraged rough jerks. She looked down to see her bare toes on the chipped off-white linoleum of the bathroom floor. They looked so small as she stared at them, tiny and soft like an infant’s. Her eyes started to swim, and she held up her hands in front of her face. Lily knew that this was coming when she had felt suspiciously strange for the past week. Her hands shook, and looked so thin and delicate. She felt like if she moved even one finger, she would crumble like an bird’s abandoned eggshell when held in rough human hands, leaving her a sad and pathetic mess on the floor of the motel bathroom.


She climbed into the tub. First one foot, slowly placed firmly on the tub bottom, followed by her hands grasping the edge of the tub for support. She maintained a distance between her surroundings and her body, watching every element of the tiny bathroom for a harmful detail she could have missed in her hysteria. As her second foot was placed in the tub, she lowered herself into a crouch in the curve of the tub. It wrapped itself around her like two strong arms in an embrace, where she felt safe from her delicate nature.


Lily couldn’t tell Daniel about this. She didn’t mean for this to happen, neither of them did. It would change everything, and Daniel wasn’t really big on change. For almost eight years now he had worn the same brand of jeans, ate oatmeal everyday for breakfast, and always brushed his hair to the side. She had tried to get him a different pair of jeans, some cereal, or suggested he brush his hair back, but everything was met with a halting “no” and a sullen silence as Daniel closed himself off from her. She hated it when he became a turtle like that, and stubbornly pulled himself into his shell. There was no way to tell how he would handle the news she had for him; it was too big a change for even Lily to handle.


Reaching up, she turned on the shower. Water gushed down in multiple waterfall streams, and felt like the rain that swept the plains of South Dakota in the spring, a place and time she remembered fondly visiting. The water was piercingly cold, instantly numbing her body to her bones. Under its tumble from the shower head, Lily sat down and wrapped her arms around her legs to keep warm, and buried her head in the hollow her body made. There was no sound except the fall of the water into the tub and onto her head.


As she began to cry, she clutched her stomach in agony as each sob tore her apart. She cried for hours, alone in the tub. There were moments when the tears would subside a bit and she could see clearly. In these lucid moments, Lily would look down at her stomach in wonderment. She didn’t necessarily show yet, but she could see how in the past month or so her stomach had rounded out evenly and just began to protrude over her waistline. Laying a hand on her stomach, she could feel the beat of a heart pumping blood through her abdomen. But this only made the tears return, and seconds later she would be sobbing again.


Lily could not imagine herself in one place for the rest of her life, but lately that is all she wanted. She couldn’t tell Daniel that because he always insisted it was best for them to be on the road, and he wasn’t fond of change. All she wanted now was a house, simple in appearance and comfortable in feeling, perhaps on the beach. One floor, with a kitchen, living room, library, bathroom, and three bedrooms. She would paint the walls herself, regardless of her condition, in the soft colors that shone in her memory. She would paint the waves and sand of California, the rain from the plains of South Dakota, the forests of New York and Maine, and even the signs from her favorite motels. She would live happily, sleep peacefully, and love with all her heart.


 But her life was living day-to-day on the road on whatever food was cheap and having the greatest pleasure be not having to sleep in the car at night. It was not the place where a child belonged.

******************************


There was nothing special about this room; it was uncanny how many motel rooms across the country could look the same despite their location. Lily had seen many motel rooms, so she knew for a fact they all looked so similar. The only things distinguishing one room from the other were the pattern of scratches on the windows and furniture, and the stains on the sheets.


The double bed with sand brown blankets and multiple lumpy pillows stood unmade, the tan colored sheets thrown in all directions in twists and bunches. It looked like a large sand dune in the wide desert that was the motel room. Everything in the small room was a neutral color, a different shade of brown, tan or white. Its emptiness made Lily believe she was actually in a dessert, and feel abandoned and alone in the middle of nowhere. There was something not quite right about the room which Lily could not quite put her finger on. It persisted like the nagging suspicion of being followed when walking alone late at night.


Here the Blue Moon Motel in Hillside, Nebraska, she couldn’t sleep, like most nights when Daniel was gone. After crying for hours in the tub, Lily crawled out and into the bed, where she traced the patterns on the blankets, memorized the scratches on the side of the bedside table, and inhaled the sharp scent of the uneven pillows. She remained awake all night, thinking about being pregnant, never resting her eyes until she heard the howling roar of the old car’s muffler-less engine.


Once Daniel returned to the motel room, exhausted, everything would be alright, and she could sleep again. He returned when it was too late to be called night and too early to be morning. He unceremoniously dumped his bag on the floor next to the door and threw his coat and keys on the table. Crossing the room, he dropped down on to the bed, struggling to remain upright. From under the covers, she pretended to be asleep while watching him secretly as he removed his large brown boots and his clothes.


He did this systematically and with great care, despite how his shoulders drooped and his hands shook from having been overused and worn down. It was the only thing that was constant and controllable in his life, one thing that never changed. His back straightened as he crossed his arms to grab the hem of his shirt and lift it over his head. In the moonlight that shone through the cracks in the curtains, she could see the sweat rolling down his back, flowing like a rivers delta over the scars which covered his shoulders.


Lily usually didn’t mind that Daniel was a man of few words, but it was when the gruesome scars started appearing that she hated how Daniel was so tight-lipped and only responded with one-syllable words. Lily buried her head deep in the pillows, inhaling the smell of starched cotton to clear her head of the worrisome images of his back. Her fingers subconsciously traced the patterns on the blankets as she lifted her head from the pillows to see if he noticed her move. The scuffs and gouges in the bedside table caught her eye instead, mirroring his scars. Both looked like someone had taken their long, claw-like fingernails, and dug them with such violent ferocity into the surface. When she could not stand the similarity any longer, Lily buried her head again in the pillows and blanket patterns.


After slipping out of his jeans and throwing his clothes into a heap on the floor, Daniel slipped in next to her between the sheets of the motel bed. He lay down on his back, taking several deep breaths in a calm manner. The slow inhales and exhales he made sounded like the ocean waves of the Californian coast, which soothed Lily. They had spent at least a month next to the sea because the waves soothed her. Daniel had found her fast asleep on the beach one night on a thin blanket, between the tiny sand mounds created from the imprints of footfalls. Carefully, he had scooped her up into his arms and carried her back to their hotel. The next morning, Lily had asked if they could stay by the sea for a while longer, but Daniel, in a clipped tone, said no and forced her into the car. Pouting and frowning, she defiantly let him and they moved on to the next city.
When he felt her un-clench her body and begin to relax, Daniel flipped onto his side, facing her curled back. He slipped his arm around her midsection, pulling her close to the matching shape of his own body. They fit together like two puzzle pieces, despite the great height difference between them. He nuzzled her, pitting his nose deep into her mess of red hair. After kissing her lightly on the shoulder, he would tuck her head under his chin. He fell asleep like that, his deep breaths grew longer as he slipped into a deep slumber, as she tried to comfort herself by thinking of the ocean waves.


Lily had to tell him. And all the waves in the world couldn’t make her sleep right until she did.

****************************************



They did everything possible to find money. Daniel took the crappiest jobs in the towns they stopped in, working tirelessly as a bus boy in dinners, or as a temporary janitor at an office building or school until he would disappear for days on end. Lily worked vigorously at menial and hard labor jobs as a laundress or maid, taking long hours and multiple jobs at one time. They would not stay more than a week or two in any one town. Many people thought this odd, but neither Daniel or Lily noticed the weird stares or under-the-breath comments they got because they were too tired from working.


When they first became nomads, Lily was drawn to Daniel’s desire for the open road and to feel the wind on his face, and she went with him with the promise that he’d take her to places she had never been to before. But, most of the time, they would end up in some backwater town, and the only new place she would ever see was a different half-decent hotel.


When he disappeared, she quit most if not all her jobs, and holed up inside a motel room. Lily did not know where he disappeared to; Daniel had told her that he was out hunting in the forest. He had a shotgun that he kept in the trunk of the car, but it seemed to remained jammed up against the back of the trunk and untouched, and there were never any buck shot rounds. He would sometimes return home with his clothes in shreds, like he had gotten run over by a lawn mower. His new boots he got a month ago, had been dyed a darker brown than the original color with something different then regular wear and tear. And, most of all, the scars on his back were always claw-shaped, multiplying and fresh, making her squirm in empathetic pain.


Daniel knew she suspected something. Most women would jump to thinking he was part of a gang, or got into bar fights often due to heavy alcoholism or drug abuse. But Lily wouldn’t draw those conclusions; he knew her vivid imagination and curiosity would come up with something more creative, and worse. She probably thought he was a serial murderer. However, she could have never guessed in a million years what he really did out in the forests.


The truth was he did hunt. He hunted deer, wild boar, turkey, quail… whatever was out there to hunt, just not with a gun. He hunted with his brothers for days on end, tracking prey over many miles of land. He wrestled and played with them in their spare time, collecting many scratches from that and hunting. After making the final kill and eating his portion of it, he left and ran until he reached Lily, safe in bed.


Daniel had started hunting only eight years ago. He and Lily had grown up together in upstate New York, and after high school ended were determined to start a life together. They had wanted to travel the country on a never ending road trip to escape responsibility while they were still young, but reality prevented any such dream. He got a job with the local lumber company, and made a fair amount of money chopping down forests. One day on the job, a large rabid dog had stumbled onto their work site, and bit Daniel when he reached for his shotgun.


After being bit, he blacked out and awoke naked in the middle of the forest, covered in blood. He straggled back into town to find it had been days since he had been bit, and an official search party had been put together to find him. He didn’t know how to explain what happened exactly to the police, his friends and family, or Lily, so he just let the rabid dog for itself. He thought he would just get a rabies shot and it would be all a thing of the past. But when he started blacking out and waking up in the forest over and over again, he realized that it wasn’t rabies causing it.
Soon, the black outs became regular enough that Daniel could recognize when they were coming and plan ahead. That’s when he began to remember what happened during the black outs: the running, the hunting, his brothers… his prey. He worried for the safety of the townsfolk, that the beast would take over his life and he would hurt them. That’s when he made the pact with his brothers, and abandoned all possibilities of a normal life, and resolved to live on the road, like they wanted. Lily had gotten used to a settled life, but agreed to recapture their youth; she believed that as long as they had each other, they were happy.


They had been together for almost eight years as a result of Daniel’s dislike of change and Lily’s desire to see the world, and were still in love. He never worried that it could change, but at times he and Lily did have their rough patches where she’d ask him about hunting and he wouldn’t tell her a thing. Ultimately, life was too short, and he wanted to make the most of it with the woman he loved by marrying her. He would have to tell her first. If she truly loved him, it wouldn’t matter; things wouldn’t change. It would probably make her stop poking her nose into everything.
Daniel decided to tell her in morning at breakfast. He would tell her about the hunting, then ask her to marry him. It would be simple. Very simple.

********************************


The diner breakfast was a luxury that Lily did not have often. Out of the blue, Daniel had treated them to a nice breakfast. The fluffy stack of blueberry pancakes she ordered had arrived at the table topped with whipped cream and a single perfect strawberry. She would have marveled at how gracefully the whipped cream had curled around the vibrant berry like a miniature cloud, but Lily couldn’t bring herself to do it that morning. She kept getting stares from their waitress, and the people sitting at the counter, but she didn’t care. People always thought she and Daniel were a little off, for their inability to stay put for very long didn’t win them many friends.


This was the first time they had seen each other in at least a week. They were both used to not seeing each other for several days, but it had been a hard and long week. With reports and sightings of a pack of large, savage and starving wolves hunting deer the forest surrounding the little town of Hillside, many of the locals took it upon themselves to hunt them, for sport or out of fear. Lily always worried for Daniel’s safety while he was gone, but the worry this time had turned into stomach-dropping fear and choking apprehension. He never wore a hunter’s bright orange vest, though she had begged him many times to wear one. She did sleep when he returned, after many nights spent awake with fear, but her dreams were fitful and disturbing.


Lily took up her fork and cut into the stack of pancakes, trying to fit it all on the fork at once as she brought the food to her mouth. The syrup flowed like liquid gold over her tongue, but she was too worried about telling him about the baby to enjoy it.


“Good, hon?” he asked, pushing his own breakfast passively around on his plate.


She nodded. “The best ever,” she replied, trying to keep her voice level.


He raised an eyebrow. “Really? You said the same things about the pancakes in Springdale, Georgia.”


She took another bite. “Those were good, too” she murmured distractedly. “But that was a year ago; it’s awfully hard to judge which is the best when I’ve tasted them a year apart.”


He chuckled, raising his hand to wipe some whipped cream from her cheek. “Alright, just checking,” he said.


As she chewed slowly to try to convince him everything was fine, she watched Daniel carefully from across the table. Keeping her eyes lowered, she snuck peaks at him through her lashes, and watched him look up from his breakfast to gaze in admiration at her. They were still together after all this time in their shitty life on the road. Sometimes she thought that they were still together because Daniel couldn’t stand changing a habit once started, but the way his hand lingered when it brushed against hers accidentally on purpose showed that his love was still as pure as the day they met. It was there as the spark which ignited every time he looked at her as she entered the room, whether covered in grime and exhausted after work, or raw and pink from talking a shower. Lily was the only one with whom he had ever been close. Though nervous and twitchy this morning, Daniel still glowed as he sat across the table from her, and it made her blush, like it did all those years ago.


But, the blush faded when she remembered the white plastic tube, sitting hidden at the bottom of the wastebasket. The little pink plus sign that had materialized on its surface was emblazoned in her mind, and haunted her more than worrying about his safety. It screamed at her all night in her dreams and, while awake, crept on the edges of her thoughts.


“Baby,” Daniel said, breaking their silence. She jumped slightly, cringing at the word. “I was wondering if I could tell you something. And before I say anything, I want you to know that I love you very much, and I’m only telling you this because I love you and--”


Lily didn’t hear a thing he said after the word “baby.” She had to tell him. He would find out eventually, whether when they returned to the room to clean and pack up, or in another small motel room in several weeks. It wouldn’t be right for him to find out on his own.


“Daniel?”


He stopped talking and looked up at her. He made eye contact with her, and became sullen at her haunted and fearful expression.


Lily struggled with forming the right words and their order. She started to say something several times, then would stop, squeezing her eyes shut and twisting her mouth in pain. Dropping her fork, she finally gave up and covered her face with her hands. He reached across the table, taking one of her small hands in his giant one.


“What is it, Lily?” he asked, his voice growing deep and fearful. The hair on the back of his neck stood on end, his senses heightened as he took in every possible threat around them.


She looked up into his eyes, tears welling up in her own.


“I’m pregnant, Daniel.”


The shock of Lily’s sudden confession made Daniel’s heart stop. He stopped breathing and froze in his seat, his spoon of oatmeal stuck halfway to his mouth. All of his motor functions shut down instantaneously, leaving him blind, deaf and dumb. There was a slight cold tingling running up his spine, but he barely felt it as everything went numb. And, in his most un-masculine display of emotion, he fainted in the booth.


Daniel vaguely heard screams of the waitress, who had come to check on him and Lily, and the breaking of dishes as she dropped them on the floor at the sight of him. There was some shouting and heavy footsteps making a quick escape out the front door, the little bell above the door ringing like church bells on Sunday as the door banged into it a million times. As soon as there was a long enough period of silence, he tried to sit up to look if Lily was still there.


She was, and with the weirdest look on her face. Daniel puzzled over it; the expression was halfway between a confused and disbelieving stare, and a surprised yet horrified frozen look.


“What?” he tried to say.


All that came out of him and made sense to anyone was “Woof?”


His eyes went wide and he looked down to see his body was covered in fur. Quickly, he squeezed his eyes shut and tried to become a human again. When the fur, claws, muzzle and fangs receded, he opened his eyes and stared in horror at Lily. They stared at each other with complete terror in their eyes for several minutes in complete silence.


“Lily, honey?”


She fainted.

********************************



It was a miracle that they were able to get out of the diner unnoticed. Everyone that still remained when the police came were unconscious when he slipped out the door with Lily in his arms. At the motel, Daniel laid her down on the bed and waited for her to wake up. When she sat up, rubbing her eyes, and started mumbling about a crazy dream she had, he told her everything. Everything about the black outs, the beast, the hunting and his pack brothers. Lily listened patiently, but he could tell she didn’t believe him; she kept staring at him intensely, and shaking her head as everything bubbled up inside her. Finally, she couldn’t take it anymore and exploded.


“What the hell are you saying?” Lily said, giving him a strange look. “Are you a werewolf or something?” Her brows furrowed as she became frustrated trying to sort out everything Daniel told her. “That’s a load of crap. People can’t turn into animals!” She shook her head and wiped the tears that were forming in her eyes. “I don’t believe this, Daniel. I just told you that I’m pregnant with your kid, and you go and make up some bullshit story about how you turn into a wolf and run around with a bunch of other guys just like you because you are afraid of having your life change while it’s out of your hands. I’m trying to be serious here.”


“I am serious!” Daniel shouted. “Everything is changing, and for once I want to give you a reason for why things can’t be different. Even though you never say anything, I know you have never been quite alright with being nomads for so long. And I don’t even know where to begin to explain to you about this if I didn’t tell you now, and then you’d go and give birth to a bunch of puppies or something.”


At the mention of giving birth to a litter, Lily’s eyes grew wide with horror, and she clutched her stomach. He paced about the room, running his hands through his hair and pulling at his face. His eyes were filled with fitful anxiousness and frustration, while hers were glassy with tears. Lily just sat there, not saying a word and staring up at him with a expression of disgrace on her face. She searched his eyes, trying to figure out if what Daniel was saying was true. She didn’t want it to be; it sounded utterly ridiculous to her. But, in all the years they had been together, he had never lied to Lily about anything, even though he remained tight-lipped on certain tender subjects. The pain she saw in Daniel’s eyes were real, that much she could tell.


“I just want to be honest with you, so we can figure this out,” Daniel said when the silence became deafening.“Please say something.”


Lily looked away, shrugging her shoulders and wrapping her arms around her. He was telling the truth, as crazy as it sounded. She closed her eyes and shook her head. “I don’t know what to say.”


He knelt down in front of her, taking her hands in his. “Tell me you believe me. Tell me it doesn’t change a thing. Say you love me despite it all.”


Lily removed her hands from his slowly and gently wrapped them around his face. “I want to believe you because I do love you.” She sighed, swallowing her tears. “But, despite whatever you are, our lives are going to change anyways, because of the baby.”


Daniel sighed, looking down at the floor. “The baby.” He bit his lip, and looked back up at her.


Lily gave a weak smile and brushed the hair out of his face. The warm glow of love still shone in his eyes, but fear clouded them like the dense fog of Maine’s coast. She felt like they were lost inside the fog, unable to see anything, even each other when they held hands. Lily leaned her forehead against his, and Daniel placed his hands on her shoulders in comfort.


“What are we going to do?”

Here is an excerpt from the script I wrote for my screenwriting class during senior year of college.
"In the wake of their parents’ death, two estranged sisters are forced back together. The older one has written a book about the younger one’s psychosis, which can only be published with the younger one’s permission. The younger one struggles to make up with her sister as her psychosis gets worse."
Context for excerpt: Margot Carson gets a call from Drew, her childhood friend, about how her parents and her younger sister, Aeighley, got into a car crash. Her parents were killed, but her sister survived, patched up in the ICU of their small hometown’s hospital. Margot returns home for the first time in years to take care of her sister and their parents’ affairs, but is hesitant about seeing her sister again. When Drew brings her to see Aeighley at the hospital, Margot catches her younger sister’s eye through the window, and runs away, scared and upset. Drew runs off to comfort her, leaving Aeighley alone. Due to her history of violent psychotic episodes, Aeighley is used to waking up in a hospital, and the judgmental looks the nurses give her, which only increase with the duration of her stay.
This is a short short piece that I wrote as an introductory piece for my nonfiction and personal essays course. It's also a piece from the memoir collection of my personal essays about love and love lost called Phoenix Fire.

Cat Got Your Tongue

That one moment when you want to say something, but have no idea how to phrase it. Or when you feel slightly disconnected from a conversation, and just when you go to speak up, the subject changes. How about when you meet someone for the first time, and for some reason they have struck you dumb because they are way too pretty for you, or too nice, or too awesome to be seen with you, much less say two words to you. When you raise your hand in class, then totally forget what you wanted to say. Or when the teacher calls on you when your hand is not raised, and you don’t have the brain power to pull something out of your ass quick enough.


“Cat got your tongue?” they ask you. In your head, you are just shouting at them to fuck off.


Being a shy person can be hard, but it can be lonely, too. There are a billion of things going on in your head at one moment in time, and when someone asks you to share, you don’t know where to begin, or are scared of what they might think about you. These are your private thoughts, too, and sometimes you get so wrapped up in your head that you don’t know what’s real or what you made up. Then, you get self conscious because you think people will think you’re weird for not sharing or talking, or they think you’re dumb or something like that, and will refuse to talk with you.


But, I have to say, the worse case of that pesky feline taking a chunk out of my tongue was this past summer. Since I’m shy, I prefer texting to talking in person, so I asked one of my coworkers out to coffee. And got a lot more than I bargained for when the cat got my tongue.
He agreed, and I showed up at work on my day off to pick him up and head out for a cafe nearby. Being shy, I had not been on many dates before this one, so I got really nervous and didn’t talk much. And when I did speak, it came out in a soft voice with all the words running together and the sentences as run-ons. And my emotions get all choked up in my throat, and my face gets red, and then the stuttering starts, and then and then and then….


And then he sweeps me up and kisses me hard on the mouth. Not knowing how to react, I stood there shocked.


When he pulled away, he looked at me funny and asked, “Cat got your tongue?”


“No,” I said. “You did.”