Copyright © Rose Rosario, 2017
All Rights Reserved
First Shakespir Edition
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
I remember the day we were no longer a family. I remember the pain. I remember the guilt. The guilt was for allowing them to argue as if I wasn’t even there. As if those elevated voices didn’t sting my heart. I decided early on to swallow the pain. Push it down to the very bottom of my soul like I was packing a bag for an extended trip. Why did I need to show how fragile I was? So everyone could feel sorry for me? Fuck being fragile.
I took a drag off of my first cigarette. I thought inhaling the poison would dull my pain. I coughed. It made me hurt more than what I was already feeling. My head felt light. Again, I pushed away the pain and took another drag.
“Look at her,” Phil said. “She’s got an edge to her now.”
“Go to hell,” I said to Phil as I flicked the half smoked cigarette out of my grasp. The kids in my new neighborhood think I came from money. They think I’ve been sheltered. It pisses me off because they are right. How fast did it all change, though? It was like a magic spell had teleported me to another life. I was starting all over. The dreams I had envisioned for myself felt wrong. I could feel my stomach rise into my throat every time I had these thoughts. I wanted to cry until I remembered I wasn’t fragile anymore. I took out a cigarette and stared at it. Have you ever watched someone smoke and you think-they are really enjoying that. I wanted to enjoy it. I wanted it to mask my pain. I stumbled through my backpack for a lighter. I lit the cigarette and inhaled, being more careful this time. I felt the poison hit the back of my throat like a boxer to a punching bag. I coughed again. I was sure I would never be one of those people that looked like they enjoyed their cigarette.
“There’s the neighborhood princess,” Phil said. The rest of the group bowed as I made my way down to the bus stop.
“Here I am,” I said. I normally don’t mind being teased. When it’s in good fun, it’s almost flattering. The thing is, their assumptions weren’t far off. I mean, I never thought of myself as a princess, ever. It was a good life. I didn’t get everything I wanted, but it was carefree. Although, since the separation, my mom’s crying has lessened.
I stayed after school to watch the kids that I’m now grouped with. The ones from “broken homes.” They laugh. They smile. They all look happy but when you sit down and watch them, they are different. I’m not sure if you’d call it more mature. That description doesn’t seem like a good fit. It’s something in their eyes. It’s something in the way they carry themselves. It comes to me like a painful memory-they’ve lived through heartbreak.
I take the late bus home and make the walk up the hill past the golf course to my mom’s. As I turn onto my street, I see Phil. Ugh. I’m not in the mood but it’s too late. He’s seen me. As I approach he meets me halfway.
“You weren’t on the bus,” Phil said.
“No, I stayed after school today.” He offers me a cigarette. I take it from him.
“Do you want to go for a walk?” Phil asked.
“Sure.” I don’t want to, but it’s better than being home alone.
“Do you even like smoking?” Phil asked.
“I don’t know yet,” I said as I close my eyes and take a long drag of the poison.
Phil may be growing on me, just a little. He asked a lot of questions on our walk, too many so I became uncomfortable. He could tell and backed off. I’m not ready to talk about how my life was before. I don’t know how to move on or grow from it. I’m sure someone would tell me I need to talk about it, that talking would help. I’ll talk about it when I’m not so fragile. I’ll talk about it when I can smoke a cigarette and enjoy the poison as it hits my lungs.
My reflection stares back at me as I brush my teeth. Since all of these changes, I’ve felt lost. I’m not sure where I fit in. The conversation I had with Phil the other day got me thinking. He asked me if I liked to step out of my comfort zone. Hell no. The thing I’m starting to realize is, sometimes you’re the only one comfortable, though. I always have this flashback of my mom crying late at night when my dad was away. I didn’t think about it then, but now I am beginning to realize my mom wasn’t happy. My dad wasn’t happy. And as much as it has pained me, this might have been for the best.
My backpack sits by the front door. My reflection catches my eye again as I grab my bag. I take a deep breath. Today is a new day. My hand touches the doorknob and the doorbell ring. I open the door to see Phil’s smiling face.
“Hi. Do you want to walk down to the bus stop with me?”
“Sure,” I said smiling back.
I fumble for my keys so that I can lock the front door. I feel jittery and I’m not sure why.
“I’ve been thinking,” Phil said. “How do you feel about helping each other to get out of our comfort zones? I think I can help you and better yet, I think you can help me.”
For some reason this makes me want to cry. Good tears. Happy tears. I smile and say, “I think that sounds good.”
“I don’t really have a plan,” Phil said. “I think we should do things that we haven’t done before. Like for me, I want to try lobster. Figured we should start small.” Phil laughs. I laugh. This feels good.
“Lobster. I think we can make that happen,” I said. What should my first out of comfort zone task be? I can think of certain foods I’ve wanted to try. Pho. No. That’s not where I want to start. For me, it’s more personal.
“I know what my first thing will be,” I said.
“Oh, yeah. What’s it gonna be, Princess?” Phil said.
“I want to share. I want to share some of my feelings.” My mouth goes dry. Maybe that was too aggressive to start. Maybe I should have said Pho. Phil is quiet and it makes me want to run. Finally, he speaks.
“I think there is no better thing you could have said.”
“You don’t think it’s too aggressive?” I said.
“You’ve lived here for 3 months, I know your name and that you smoke a cigarette as you walk to the bus stop every morning.” He pays more attention than thought.
“I think I’m ready to share something now,” I said.
“I’m all ears,” Phil said.
“Today was the first day I didn’t smoke while walking to the bus stop in 3 months.”
I grab the pack from my pocket and toss it in the neighbor’s trash as we reach our destination. Here’s to the first step of letting the poison seep out of my heart.
Tomorrow I’ve decided to do better. Tomorrow I will get up and start my day. Tomorrow I won’t hit snooze. I always have a plan and a list. Oh, the lists! So many lists, I find them overwhelming. They sometimes haunt my dreams. I wake up from a deep sleep and stare at the ceiling fan. The delicate hum from the fan calms me as I gaze up at the wooden paddles swiveling above. I find myself too tired to get up but not tired enough to fall back asleep right away. This is where my love affair with the snooze button was born. Once you snooze a few times, you know you’re going to be late. At some point you begin to accept the fact you’ll always be late. Until one day you have this little person relying on you. There is no such thing as snooze when you have a child. There is no more going back to bed because you can’t deal with today. The realization that you’re kind of an asshole and a bit of a loser is a hard pill to swallow. The spiral of depression starts all over again, until you realize you’re not accomplishing a thing. So tomorrow it is.
When I first realized I was going to lose the house, I wasn’t surprised. I think everything is too good to be true, which is an awful way to live. I walked through the rooms all alone and remembered what they looked like as the house was being built. It was cold and the house always smelled like fresh pine. Now it’s warm and filled with toys and furniture and décor I agonized about for weeks at a time. I have a hard time committing to anything, which includes hanging pictures. Telling Lula we’d have to move was like disappointing your parents, but somehow worse. Telling your child you were uprooting their life and changing everything they’ve ever known was much, much worse. It was worse because it was all on me. I had no one else to blame. I had no finger to point. To say it out loud was admitting I was the one with the problem.
I’ve never had someone rely on me until Lula was born. Something changed in me as I began watching her grow. I guess it may be cliché. You have a child; said child makes you want to be a better person. Whatever it is, it happened to me. I stopped living for tomorrow and started living for today. I got up on time, I even worked out. I worked hard. I saved money. I paid off debt. I went back to school. It all sounds like I did good, right? I did for a while. I really did. I thought I was past the dips of darkness, past the sudden feeling that I didn’t deserve what was around me. I fought hard to push those negative thoughts out of my mind. I gave it a damn good fight.
I promise myself every night as I stare up at that swiveling ceiling fan that I will get out of this darkness once again.
Tomorrow I will do better.
Tomorrow I will start over.
I walked through the empty rooms. My steps were soft against the saw-dusted plywood. Something didn’t feel right and at the time, I couldn’t place it.
“What do you think, Jules?” Drew said.
“I think it’s…it’s big,” Jules said.
Be honest, Jules. I’ve always had a hard time being honest with Drew. I was always afraid to hurt his feelings. Or better yet, disappoint him. And to be honest, the house was bigger than what I wanted. How would I fill it so it didn’t feel so cold?
More often than not, I wake up first every day. I look at Drew for a few seconds while he’s still asleep. He always looks so peaceful, even angelic. His skin is the creamiest shade of coffee. I almost always reach out to touch his face. I trace my pointer along his jawline. Over the last few months, I’ve realized I’ve stopped doing all of these rituals. I no longer gaze over at him before I start my day. I no longer brush my hand up against his silky cheek. I woke up one morning last week out of pure fear. I knew the feeling all too well. It gripped at my heart and I thought for sure I’d have a panic attack. I got out of bed with frantic speed and made my way into the bathroom. The cold of the tile on my feet calmed me and I stared back at my reflection in the mirror. This feeling had nothing to do with the new house. I wasn’t in love with him anymore. I covered my mouth with my hand. The realization was enough to make me want to be sick. The reality of it made me slide down the wall so I could sit on the frigid bathroom floor.
I thought about Drew while I reorganized my closet when he was at work. I often think back to when we first met. You know that feeling? Like butterflies in the pit of your stomach. Is it the excitement of the unknown? I’m not sure, but it’s comparable to a high. He’d take my small hand in his large one. I felt so warm around him. He was like a protective blanket. Drew knew from the beginning I was a work in progress. He met me right after I had graduated from fashion school. I had big plans to own my own boutique. I think for him, he thought he could save me. I had a history of walking away from my relationships. I’d walk out and never look back. Drew thought he was different, he thought he could keep me on track. There was a time I thought he could too.
I never started my boutique. Drew’s family owned a successful business building custom homes. Drew needed me to help with certain parts of the business and before I knew it, three years had gone by and I knew more about cathedral ceilings than I did about fashion textiles. I’m not sure how I let it get to this point, but I am responsible for letting it go on for this long. It’s easy to get preoccupied. When you’re preoccupied with something else, you don’t have to focus on yourself. Throughout the 3 years of my relationship, I’ve had that feeling a few times. It was that same fleeting feeling I’d been familiar with in past relationships. I wanted to run and never look back. I stuffed that feeling far away. I kept busy with Drew’s business. I kept busy with Drew’s projects. Drew. Drew. Drew. Where was I in all of this? You know those thoughts that pop into your mind sometimes but you push them away? Maybe they’re too much to deal with at the time. Or maybe they don’t make sense, but one day you realize they make perfect sense. The brain is fascinating but it’s so very complicated. I was so focused on the new house being too big. I failed to see what the real issue was. I pulled myself together. Drew would be home soon and I needed to be honest with him. I heard his keys in the door and my mouth went dry. Keep it together, Jules. I practiced Lamaze like breathing.
“Jules? I’m home,” Drew said.
Well, here goes nothing. “I’m in my closet.” My closet was my safe place. It was once a small office that Drew made into a closet for me when I moved in. Ugh. The memories that flooded into my brain made me sad. I heard Drew lunging up the steps.
“Hey, how was your day?” Drew said.
“It was ok. How was your day?”
“My day was crazy. The house going up on Windermere is behind schedule and the customer is up my ass about it. Let’s go get drinks, I need to unwind,” Drew said.
“Drew, I can’t do this anymore.” There I said it. I could feel my lips quivering.
“Can’t do what, Jules? I’ve had a long day. Can we talk about this over a drink? Please,” Drew said.
“I can’t do this. I can’t do the new house. I can’t work for you. I can’t do us, Drew.” I stared at him with a sudden fire burning inside of me. I went from quivering to boiling in just a few seconds. I was determined to stick with my intentions.
“Have you lost your fucking mind? I’m going to pretend you didn’t just say any of that. You can’t take that shit back, Jules. What is going on with you?” Drew said.
“I haven’t lost my mind. It’s the clearest it’s been in months. Drew, this is your life. These are your dreams. I love you for being so good to me these last three years, but it’s time for me to work on myself now. I’m sorry. This isn’t up for debate.” I got up, kissed Drew on the check and never looked back.
To this day I sometimes drive by that big house Drew and I were supposed to start the next chapter of our lives in.
Rose Rosario is a blogger, social media manager, and a creative writer for an ecommerce company called, Ghostshield. Rose is currently working on a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. In her spare time she enjoys reading and writing short stories. Her short-term goal is to get one of her drama stories published. Rose lives in New England with her husband, daughter, and Boxer-dog named, Beez. You can visit her profile at:
Discover three separate characters as they journey through love, loss, and growth. Youâ€™ll meet a teenager trying to find where she fits in after her parentâ€™s divorce, a mom who is trying to overcome depression all while raising a little girl, and last but not least, youâ€™ll meet a young woman named Jules who has lost herself in the midst of a relationship. Each woman is at a different stage in her life but all with valuable lessons to conquer.