Short Story: The House on Sutherland Lane (Part 1)

I stand at the kitchen sink, elbow deep in soapy water. I mindlessly caress the water for any signs of leftover dishes from dinner. It’s still early, though. In the west, the sun shines just above purple mountain peaks. Usually, I like to have dinner made and finished before the sun sets, so I can sit on the porch and enjoy tea and cookies.

I won’t be sitting on the porch tonight, though. Across the street, my neighbor, Emily Hale, hunches over rose shrubs and marigolds in her yard. Her head bobs among the different plants, inspecting and analyzing each before she hacks away at weeds and unruly vines. Occasionally, she gets up and stands behind the shrubs, which still have some blossoms despite the coming winter, to admire or criticize her work; then, it’s back to hacking. I creep down a little at the sink when she stands up, so she won’t see me watching her.

I can’t take my eyes off her. I have never seen a face as strange as hers. She has a long, pointed nose and black eyes surrounded by the wrinkles of crow’s feet. Emily’s jet-black hair once fell to the middle of her back, which made her pale face appear striking. A few weeks ago, though, she hacked her hair to pieces and left only an inch or two that now look like mangy feathers. There’s a furrow so deep in her brow line that even across the street, I can visibly see it. She’s ten years younger than I am. She looks so much older than thirty-three.

There aren’t any laugh lines around her mouth. It’s been almost a year since I’ve seen her smile.

My fingers brush past the edge of one of my favorite porcelain plates. “Gotcha,” I say to myself. I clean the last dish and drain the sink water.

I reach the living room and lean on the door frame. My husband watches the local evening news on his 52 inch flat screen television. He sits on my favorite plush blue sofa. Under each elbow is a pink and white embroidered pillow. I narrow my eyes at him.

“Eric, elbows off my pillows,” I say.

His forehead wrinkles and his lip puckers. “Jesus, Maggie. What’s the point of having these things if I can’t ever use ‘em?” My nose crinkles at him, and I waddle over to the couch and pluck one of the pillows from under his arms.

He glares at me and puts all of his body weight on the remaining pillow. “Please,” I beg. “You know how important they are to me.”

Everything is important to you.” His lip snarls, and he refocuses his attention on the news.

“And what is that supposed to mean?”

He doesn’t look at me. His reply comes from the side of his mouth as if answering my question isn’t worth all of his effort. “I’m tired of not being able to touch anything in my house.”

I roll my eyes and sit on the couch. I think of Emily across the street. “She’s lucky her husband isn’t around to ruin all her prized possessions,” I mumble.

He turns the TV off and looks at me. “What was that, darling?” He says with a sarcastic scowl.

“Nothing. I was just thinking about Emily. You can keep watching television if you want.”

“Thank you for the permission, but if you’re sitting here, I know you’re gonna interrupt it anyway. What were you sayin’?”

“I was just thinking about our neighbor. It’s been a while since I’ve seen her smile. I just wonder about her, especially after she hacked off all her beautiful hair.”

“It looks sexy.”

My eyes widen. “Well, I think it looks atrocious.” I say it like a challenge, daring him to argue with me.

“She’s in shock.”

“She’s losing it,” I say.

“Give her a break. She’s had a hard year, Margaret.”

“I know. The ladies in town are concerned.”

“I’m sure you’re all very concerned.” His eyes roll.

I ignore his comment. “It’s been a year since Tristan left her. She’s had plenty of time to move on and get on with her life. Now is not the time to hack your hair to bits and be rolling in dirt all evening. She should be meeting other men, falling in love again.”

Eric laughs, and it takes me off guard. “What?” I ask.

“If I dragged ya away from your home and all the people you love and then left ya for a younger woman, it would take ya years to recover.”

“So you do listen to the neighborhood gossip,” I say and smile. He shakes his head.

“I talked to her.”

“When?” My eyes go wide again.

“Last month.”

I don’t say anything.

“She didn’t even get to go to her daddy’s funeral a couple years ago because Tristen said they couldn’t afford it.”

“I heard she didn’t get along with her father.”

“If ya asked, you’d know she loved her father. His death crushed her.”

“She didn’t act crushed. She just pouted all around the neighborhood.”

“Probably ‘cause she couldn’t go to California. She doesn’t have anyone left.”

“No one?” I ask.

He nods. “Ya may want her to leave, but she’s got nowhere to go.”

Again, I don’t respond. I call my mother every week, even to this day. I still see my big sister a few times a year. I can’t imagine not having anyone.

I straighten myself. “I know it’s been hard for her, but that’s still no excuse for her behavior lately. Just last week, someone saw her in the grocery store and tried to say hi, and she didn’t respond. Who does that? And someone else saw her yelling on the phone, swearing up a storm. She’s very rude.”

Eric shakes his head and turns the television back on.

I stand up, and as I stomp back to the window to resume watching Emily, the wood flooring whimpers under my weight. The skyline lingers in orange, pink, and the lightest of blues. I try to take it all in, but Emily is hard to ignore. Her angry scowl distracts me from the beautiful Midwest sunset. I’ve lived in this neighborhood for thirty-eight years, and I won’t let some bitter woman ruin this place for me. If I can talk some sense into her, maybe she can learn to act normal. I march towards the front door.

“Maggie, where are you going?” My husband calls. The television volume turns down. “I’m just going to talk to Emily. I’m worried,” I yell to the living room.

“You aren’t worried.”

“No, I really am!” I am worried, I tell myself. The better she’s doing, the better the neighborhood does. I’m sure I can help out. She just needs someone to listen.

Poem: Raw

Like wanting to carve my own body,
up through intestines and
stomach and liver
to the residence of the heart.
To squeeze and bleed her dry,
take every beat of hers away.
Then climb up past the lungs
Up through the esophagus
To spill into the mouth and
Rip through the sinus cavity
To the find the hiding, quiet, deep
Of the limbic system.
Like the surgeon, I wield a blade
Sure and true, meticulously
I slice the synapses, these
Engraved tombs of ghosts long gone,
But never leaving, always flickering
In the darkness.
I will stop the electrical jumping
From one neuron to the next,
So their shadows might finally
disappear.

Novel Excerpt: Beyond the Fragile Glass (Unknown Future Chapter)

For a little background about the characters, go to the previous excerpts: Part One, Part Two, or Part Three

There’s a loose spring poking me in the ass of the vomit green couch I’m currently plastered to, but I can’t move. I miss the smell of pine that brought me so much comfort this time of year. God, I miss it. I miss that sense of same. My lungs are on fire, and my eyes are stinging, and I keep rubbing and rubbing and choking and sucking air into my lungs but nothing is working.

Mom wouldn’t buy a tree this year. She doesn’t even want to celebrate Christmas, like the rest of us don’t exist. I strung the lights myself and pulled all the goddamn decorations out of the garage myself and will celebrate Christmas myself. He’d want it this way. If he knew Mom wasn’t partaking in the holidays, he’d never forgive her. She’s sad. We’re all sad, but she doesn’t have to be a selfish bitch about it.

So I sit here in front of this plastic piece of shit. It doesn’t look real at all. It was twenty bucks at target, and I stole the money from her wallet to pay for it. If she were in her right mind, she’d understand and forgive me. She hasn’t even noticed.

I tried to make the wire branches look real, but nothing worked. I shoved that fucking tree in the corner where it belonged and threw some lights on it. I’m terrible at stringing lights. Like my six-year-old cousin could make this shit look better. I moved the baby grand piano, green and faded like a penny oxidized over the years and the ivory keys yellow like the dead elephants they came from, to the cherry wood table that was supposed to be the center of the family. It’s covered in dust and shoved in the corner of our dingy linoleum kitchen. The walls have outlines of sun stains save little brown squares, iridescent reminders of the life we should have fucking had. None of it matters anymore. Christmas is dead, but I’m going to fucking celebrate it. It’ll be the same. I’ll make it the same. It has to be the same. I choke some more and hack up some mucus and suck in more air. Nothing works.

I stand and hustle my legs into my room. If I have to stare at that tree any longer, I’ll go fucking crazy. I shouldn’t have bought it. I shouldn’t have tried to celebrate Christmas. I run past my parents’ room, plugging my ears. If I have to hear that woman cry one more time, I swear to God I will snap. The barren white hallway feels like a hospital. I hate hospitals.

I slam the door of my room, and the mirror behind it click-clacks against the door. I turn to look at it. I tacked one of my old princess sheets, folded in half and then half again, over the mirror. There’s a pin in each corner. I glare at the stupid sheet. Hana isn’t Santa. I don’t want her popping up on Christmas, sucking me into her god-forsaken world pretending everything is fine. It’s fucking not.

Short Story: Eight (Part Two)

If you missed part one, go here.

She smiles again. Jaime’s phone starts ringing in his pocket.
“It looks like I need to get going.” He thrusts Arra through the door. She hits Binglie with a thud, but the small woman doesn’t move an inch. Arra turns back toward Jaime, but Binglie wraps an arm around Arra’s waist while the other hand grasps the file. Jaime gestures toward Binglie’s arms. “Do whatever you want with that.” It isn’t clear if he means the file or Arra. He throws Arra’s trash bag past Binglie and into the house.
“See you soon, Jaime.” Arra looks up.
Jaime laughs. “If you’re so certain, I suppose I will.” He starts to descend the stairs.
A small black blur crosses his neck and hides behind his collar.
“Jaime!” Arra’s voice is high-pitched but hoarse, like she hasn’t spoken in months.
He turns on his heel and glares at her.
“Eight,” Arra says.
He takes the stairs two at a time and wraps a massive hand around Arra’s throat. “What did you say to me?”
Her face begins to swell slightly, but her only response is a small smile. Jaime lets her go. Jaime and Binglie’s eyes meet. “I hope to see you soon… With this one obedient.”
Binglie nods.
“Drive safe,” Arra says.
He makes a deep guttural growl. He turns away, as Binglie yanks Arra inside and slams the door.
“I wanted to watch him leave,” she says.
“How does it feel to want, my dear?” Binglie pushes Arra through the living room. There’s a thin layer of dust on the top levels of cabinets and bookshelves and the prints of paintings lining the walls, otherwise, the house is spotless. Fresh lines of a vacuum mark the floors and arch around the furniture. The colors on the couch shine bright and crisp and unused. Arra scans the room harder. Spider webs hide in the cracks between some of the furniture. There’s a fire place in the center of the farthest wall, but ash doesn’t line the bottom like Arra’s previous parents’ home.
I come from my hiding spot and latch a thin, almost transparent rope to Arra’s back. She notices my appearance behind her and smiles.
“This place is so neat, Binglie” she says.
“When I speak to you, call me Mrs. Choice. Otherwise, don’t speak.”
“I don’t like it here. I’m glad my friends came.”
Binglie chuckles. “You have no friends here.”
Binglie leads Arra through the living room to the study in the back of the house. Bookshelves line the wall, but cob webs and dust cover nearly every shelf. A gold lamp illuminates the room in a dull yellow. A middle-aged man sits behind the desk, studying paperwork. He looks up when Binglie raps at the door. “Bron,” she says.
“Who’s this?”
“New girl.”
Bron rolls his eyes. “Thank you, dear. I can see that. What is her name?”
“Arra,” says Arra.
Bron stands and walks over to Arra. His eyes scan the little girl up and down. The left corner of his mouth pulls up. “She’s a confident little thing, isn’t she?”
Arra nods. Bron kneels down, so his eyes are level with hers. His fingers wrap around her mouth and dig into her cheeks.
“Don’t be.” He looks at Binglie. “How long until she’s eighteen?
“Nine years,” she says.
He sighs. “That won’t do.”
“I won’t be here that long,” Arra says.
Bron moans. “Make her stop.”
Binglie nods. She grabs the back of Arra’s shirt and pulls up, catching under her armpits. Suddenly, she’s two feet off the ground. She tries kicking Mrs. Choice, but her new mother just moves her out of kicking reach. Arra gives up and just hangs there, staring at Binglie.
“She’s our last,” he says.
“I know. We’ll take care of it before then.”
“Then why take her in?”
“Her story’s incredibly interesting.”
Bron raises an eyebrow. “What is her story, then?”
“All of her last foster families have died of things like heart attacks, organ failure, blood clots–seemingly normal, but when you add the multitude of dead.”
His voice rises like a child asking for candy. “That’s a lot of death surrounding one little girl. All of them, you say?” He’s smile widens.
“Yes,” Arra pipes up.

To be continued…

 

Poem: Drag Night

The mahogany double doors open

and the woman submerges into a cloud of smoke.

The fog machine ushers her into the room

and into a crowd of cheering people.

A large woman, dressed in purple sequence,

clad in fish net tights and eyeshadow

sprawling from ridge to lid, descends the stairs.

The woman at the door ignores the parade.

High on tip-toes, brown sandals pushing up, 

she scans the bar, examines the booths, and

searches the crowd for the face she seeks.  

With a disgruntled breath, into the crowd

she plunges, deeper and deeper through the

veins of bodies standing shoulder to shoulder.

Screams of laughter erupt and the dancer

mimes the words of “Like a Virgin.”   

But the woman in jeans and the yellow blouse

pays no mind and hinders no search.

She escapes the sweating merriment

and to her relief, a familiar face sits.

At the bar, eyes glued to the performer

as she parades around the bar

and serenades her loyal onlookers

sits a man, beer in hand.  

The woman steps toward him,

placing her arm on his shoulder.

He looks up at her and she smiles. 

“Funny bumping into you.”

He pulls out a seat for her.

“You’re late.” His arms rests on her knee. 

“Looks to me like the show just began.”

“So it has.”

Poem: Auld Lang Syne by Robert Frost

In honor of the best worst year ending and the beginning of a better one, I’m posting my favorite poem. I’ve lost a lot this year, but I’ve gained a lot too. And I’m proud of the resilience I found and thankful for the friends that helped me find it.

Peace and happiness, my loves. Thank you for sticking with me for the last six months. It has been a privilege.

Cheers to many more Sunday’s with you all.

Sincerely,

Kariana

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And never brought to mind?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And auld lang syne!

For auld lang syne, my dear,

For auld lang syne.

We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,

For auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint stowp!

And surely I’ll be mine!

And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,

For auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,

For auld lang syne.

We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,

For auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes,

And pou’d the gowans fine;

But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,

Sin’ auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,

For auld lang syne.

We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,

For auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidl’d in the burn,

Frae morning sun till dine;

But seas between us braid hae roar’d

Sin’ auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,

For auld lang syne.

We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,

For auld lang syne.

And there’s a hand, my trusty fere!

And gie’s a hand o’ thine!

And we’ll tak a right gude-willie waught,

For auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,

For auld lang syne.

We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,

For auld lang syne.

Poem: How is it already the 24th

It is the smell of pine that reminds me to hope.

It is the taste of chocolate fudge that reminds me that life can be good.

It is the sight of wrapped secrets that bring back memories of being little.

It is the sound of Christmas music that makes me yearn for what was.

Merry Christmas, my loves. Believe in magic, today and always. Joy and peace to you all.

Excerpt: Here She Lies (Part 2)

This is the second installment of my YA Fiction novel. If you missed the first excerpt, you can find it here. Enjoy!

Charlie turns the radio down, and Van Halen fades away. Charlie looks over at Milly but can’t catch her eye.
“If he was that bad, you could have just come over earlier,” he asks.
Milly shakes her head, but she won’t look at him still. “It’s not a big deal. I’ve avoided him most of the morning.”
After a while Charlie asks, “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine.”
Milly plays with the bracelet on her wrist, rolling a circular bead over and over again, counting under her breath. One tire, two tires, three, four, five. “I already know what you’re thinking. It’s not that big of a deal.”
“You always say that.”
“Because it’s always true, Charlie. I’ve lasted this long. I just have to finish school, and I’m gone. Another year isn’t going to kill me.”
Charlie takes a deep breath. “You sure?”
“Yes.” Her eyes fixate on the road, away from Charlie’s gaze.
Charlie’s mouth opens to say something else, but he quickly shuts it again. Milly straightens her back and puts on a smile. “Would you just calm down? Stop worrying about me.”
“I won’t let this go.”
“Oh what do you know, Junior?”
“Hey! You say it like it’s a bad thing. ”
“It is,” she teases. “Just give it a rest. I can’t handle another lecture this summer.” Her smile remains plastered to her face, but her eyes aren’t wrinkled up like they are when she’s actually happy, and her knuckles turn white as she holds onto the bracelet.
Charlie focuses back on the road, taking a deep breath. It doesn’t matter how much this bothers her. Eventually, she’ll listen, he thinks.
“Maybe if you moved with your aunt, you’ll have to go to another school. But at least that way you won’t have to face everyone after last year…”
“Drop it, Charlie.” The smile leaves Milly’s face. “I’m not moving, and I’m not running away from anything or anyone. Last year is no one’s business: including yours. You promised.”
“I’m sorry,” he says.
“No one’ll remember what happened last year anyway,” she says. The pitch of her voice rises. “I’m sure a lot of things happened over the summer for everyone; they won’t even care about me anymore.”
The car is silent. They pull off the freeway. Palm trees spring up every few blocks, and front yard after front yard sports brown lawns. Charlie turns the air on. It feels like a boulder sits in his stomach—he shouldn’t have pushed it. Everything changed last year, even Milly and Charlie’s friendship. She won’t admit it, but Charlie knows she thinks about last year a lot. She shifts in her chair and plays with that stupid bracelet, rubbing it like a genie that can fix all her problems. He slows at a red light. The only noise comes from the traffic of the overpass and the incessant click-click-click of his blinker. He can’t stand it anymore.
“Nova?” She looks over at him, holding his gaze before the car has to move again. He pulls off the freeway. “Please let me do something. You’ve taken enough hits for me to last a lifetime.”
Milly lets out a deep breath and turns to face the window again.
When they were younger and Charlie’s parents were out of town—which was very frequent—they left him at her house. It was Nova and Charlie against the world ever since the time Milly was five and Charlie was four. The broken vase was one of their many adventures gone awry.
“You know, I wouldn’t have to protect you if you lived somewhere safer.”
“Charlie…” she says as a warning.
“I know, I know, but there’s got to be somewhere—someone—better.”
“We’ve been over this a thousand times; there is no one besides you.”
“And why can’t you ask your aunt?”
“Maybe I don’t want to live with her? I know it doesn’t make sense to you, but that’s home to me—”
“God knows why,” he says while rolling his eyes. She glares at him. “Sorry,” he says quickly as he pulls off the freeway.
“I know it’s really hard for you to understand, but I’m going to ask you one last time: don’t bring it up again. This is my senior year, and I’m not moving before it even starts. I feel really good about this year, and nothing that happened last year is going to stop me from having a good year. Just drop it, okay?”
“All right, all right. I just really hope you’re right,” he says.

Excerpt: Beyond the Fragile Glass (Part 3)

If you missed the previous excerpts of this story, you can find Part 1 HERE and Part 2 HERE. Without further ado, here’s the next batch:

I pass her extended arms and stand in front of the mirror, desperate for something else to think about. My shit-colored eyes stare into the mirror. I lick my hand and run it over the tar-colored frizzy lion’s mane that pretends to be my hair, but to no resolve. My brow furrows, so I shift my focus to the mirror itself, rather than my reflection in it.

It’s funny how I’ve never thought of the mirror before. The outer edges are carved cherry wood, an antique passed down from a dead Grandma. The etching gives way to flowers of different sizes and in each corner, a small cherub blesses the mirror with delicate smiles. This mirror always gave me the creeps, but Mom insisted it go in my room. The plus side is that I think the mirror is sort of bent, like in a circus fun house, so I always look taller and skinnier in it. In some corners of the mirror, patches of the silver have faded over time, giving way to indents of black and dark purple marks that crawl towards the cherubs, who seem blissfully unaware.

“How does it work?” I thrust my hand at the mirror, but my fingers crush into the firm glass. “Ow, ow, ow.” I cradle them. “What the hell?”

“You can’t get through without me, only me and people like me can get through.”

“People like you?” My fingers throb, so I squeeze them tighter, trying to focus on the breaths coming in and out of my lungs instead of the pain.

“Guides. We open portals in the mirrors and transport humans in and out.”

“Humans?”

“I’m not necessarily a human, more or less like a fairy from Neverland. Magic, you could say.”

I drop my fingers and stand tall. “You’re telling me we’re going to fucking Neverland?”

She shakes her head. “Glass is nothing like Never, Neverland.”

“Fine, let’s explore, shall we?” I grab her hand and turn back to the mirror. I gently poke at it this time, and the glass ripples from where my finger touched it. I jump back, still clinging to her hand. “Woah.”

“Are you ready to go to Glass, Haize?”

“I hope so.”

She turns her back on me, standing between me and Dead Grandma’s mirror. Ah, I realize, not a ponytail, but a fishtail braid all the way to her ass. I stand corrected. Hana stands in front of the mirror, and sticks her leg right through it, and over her shoulder, she says, “you’ll have to hold your breath, but it’s not a very long walk, so you should be fine.”

The rippling glass quickly envelops her entire body, leaving only the hand that tugs at mine. I close my eyes and lean into the mirror-or where I expect the mirror to be. Rather, my skin pushes through the bouncing glass. When it hits my skin, goose bumps burst all over my body. I was unprepared for the cold and hard substance, like jelly, as it wraps around my arms and legs.

“Open your eyes,” Hana says. It doesn’t sound like I expect her voice to, like if we actually were underwater, but I obey.

The area around me looks just like water. My feet slosh through the glass, one pulling along the ground right after the other. My hand holds tight to Hana. She looks so natural in the glass. Beyond her, it looks like I’m underwater staring up. There’s a light ahead that’s interrupted by green and white waves. On my right and left, there’s an endless ocean of water, permeated by light. Unlike the ocean, I can see right through the lit water into the infinite possibilities of more portals and more people and more guides and more watchers and more unknowns. Once again, I try to ignore the panic swelling inside my stomach, creeping up my esophagus. Anchor, anchor, I need an anchor. But nothing is familiar, and nothing feels safe. I trudge harder through the watery world I find myself. Hana looks back at me and must register my panic. She also picks up the pace.

I need to breathe. I need to breathe, right now

The glass ahead still moves like an ocean current. We’re only feet from it, but my face feels like someone’s trying to blow a balloon inside of it.

Hana pulls harder at my hand. There’s a dark outer ring in my vision. Fan-fucking-tastic. If I pass out, I swear to God…

Hana’s leg pushes through the edge of water into what I assume is the other side of the portal. She quickly falls out of the glass, giving me a final tug. We both go flying through the last of the glass. I hit the dirt, face first. I roll onto my back with heaving breaths.