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Untitled: A Work In Progress

This is a short story I have been working on. Please feel free to leave your comments. Thanks.

Updated: 2018-03-06T00:25:20.902-08:00


Untitled--Part Ten


"Last session was rough for you.""It's just that I know we're nearing the end of Mom's life and it's hard to deal with, especially now.""Why is it hard to deal with now?""Because I am a mom without my mom to seek advice from.My sisters are great, but...well, they're not Mom. And I miss her.""That's natural. Are you willing to start from where we left off?""I think I can.""Good, let's begin there.""The alarms went off all at once, and there was such a commotion..."Nurses crowded the small room, waking Amie from her nap. She scrambled into the hall, where we stood in the shadow of Dad's arms, huddled together like newborn kittens. As quickly as the cacophany of shouts and orders began, it ended, and the nurses and doctors filed out of the room.The doctor came up to where we were standing, her eyes grim."She's stable for now, but her heart is getting weaker by the hour. We're moving her to ICU as soon as we can get a bed." She patted me on the arm and looked over our heads to Dad. "Do you want to call anyone, make arrangements?""She's already done that," he said, his voice barely above a whisper. We could feel his arms trmble as he struggled to maintrain composure. I disentangled myself from his embrace and stood up as straight as I could manage. "I'll call Gramma and see if I can reach Alyssa on her cell." I looked at the doctor, who nodded, her eyes lined with concern. "How much longer do we have, do you think?""Not more than a few days, at most," she said. A small sob escaped from Amie, and I turned to see Dad bury his head in her hair. "Thank you, Doctor."After calling a cab for Dad and Amie, I waddled back up to my room and grabbed my cell. I called my sisters and my grandparents, and checked the time. It would be about seven-thirty am in Chicago, so I dialed my editor's number. She picked up on the third ring."Andrea, how are things?""Not so good. My mom doesn't have much time left.""Oh, I'm so sorry to hear that. What can we do?""I'm glad you asked that, Janice. I think we may need to revisit my contract, maybe make some changes until the first of the year.""How do we need to change it? Do you need more time off?""Actually, I was thinking..." I laid out the idea that had been forming in my head since the plane touched down at Portland International Airport. I was nervous and fearful I'd lose my job, but to my delight, Janice was more than pleased with the idea."I know it's not political analysis, but-""Pregnancy, childbirth, single parenting--they're all hot topics for print lately. I think this would be a fabulous idea. Plus, you can work from Portland and be near to your family. I'll talk to the Living editor and see what we can do.""Thank you Janice. This is only temporary, and with the elections this year, I bet I could work it into both sections.""I don't doubt it. Get some rest, and I'll call you this evening." With that, the line went dead, and I sagged back into the hospital bed with relief. I closed my eyes and drifted off into an uneasy sleep until the nurses came in to discharge me three hours later.Amie met me at the elevator doors in the lobby. "Mom's been moved to ICU this morning, so she can't have visitors for the next twenty-four hours. I decided to see if you were hungry?" Her eyes were still puffy and raw, her voice scratchy. I grasped her hand in mine and tried to smile."Famished." I made small talk the whole way to Elmer's for breakfast, telling her about the conversation with Janice as we slid into our seats at the restaurant."So, you're staying in Portland?" she asked. "For how long?""At least until the end of the year.""And the babies?""Are due in February, so I'm just going to stay here until December. My contract is up in December with the Tribune, so at that point, they'll either renew it or they'll release me from it, which means I can stay permanently.""So, where will you stay? Your room is, well, destroyed." A flicker of guilt crossed her face, and I patted her hand."I'm going to stay with Alyssa at the farm. They have that guest room adjacent to the office. It's quiet with the kids in [...]

Untitled, Part Nine


"This is a very nice office you have here.""Thank you.""I definitely prefer it to the hospital. It's more relaxing.""That is always a bonus. What would you like to talk about today?""I don't really know. It's been nice not to have to focus so much on me lately, you know?""How about we discuss the night you spent in the hospital--the phone call you got?""Oh, that.""You're clenching your fists. Is that out of fear or anger?""Oh, anger, definitely. I couldn't believe he did that to Amie.""Amie is...your youngest sister?""Yes, she's seventeen. We always called her 'mom's little surprise' since she was born on Mom's fortieth birthday.""I think we should discuss the phone call, since it has direct ties to the current goings-on in your life.""Oh, all right. I guess it's no good trying to pretend it never happened, is it?""It's also not healthy for you, Andrea.""I know. Well, it was two a.m., and I had fallen asleep for the first time soundly in over a month..."The phone was buzzing, jarring me out of a deep sleep. I reached over and picked it up, trying to figure out where I was, as the surroundings took on an ethereal glow in the light of the hall trickling from under the door. The unfamilar shape of the phone, coupled with the recliner-like bed, reminded me. The hospital. I brought the phone gingerly to my ear, being careful not to disturb the bandages holding my broken nose in place."Andy?" It was Amie, her voice soft and breathy. "Amie, what's wrong? Where are you?""I'm downstairs with Mom." I sat straight up in bed, the bandages on my nose forgotten. "She's fine, but can you come down here?"I realized that she was not breathless from fear; she was trying not to cry. I struggled out of bed on to the linoleum floor, fumbling with my pajamas and robe. "I'll be down in a minute, Amie. Relax, okay?""Umm-hmm." A small hiccup escaped her as she hung up, and I knew it was bad, whatever it was. Bonne Amie, we always called her, because she was everyone's sweetheart; talented, sweet, incredibly smart, and beautiful. It was impossible to hate her, even harder to make her upset because she saw the good in everything. She was the eternal optimist to my pessimist, and for her to be on the verge of tears was worrying.I reached Mom's room and saw that all my family was there, speaking with a police officer. Amie was sitting on the chair in the corner, her heart-shaped face streaked with tears. Mom was reclining in bed, eyes half-mast, as the officer talked to Dad. She was holding his left hand in hers, her right twitching nervously on the coverlet. Alyssa and April were leaving, and each one hugged me tightly as they left the room, April's eyes growing round at the sight of my face and my belly. Amie saw me enter the room and rushed over to me, heedless of my size, throwing her arms around my neck."He-he was so angry with me, Andy. I-I didn't know what to do, so I called Dad and he told me to come here." Her tears fell hot on my shoulder, wetting the thin cotton nightgown. I wrapped my arms around her small frame, rocking back and forth. I didn't have to ask who "he" was."When did he show up, Amie?""About eleven-thirty. I had just gotten home from seeing a movie with Jessica, and he was waiting at the front door. He looked tired, so I asked if he wanted to come in for some cocoa." She paused and straightened up to look at me, the room silent. Amie gasped when she saw my face, tears leaking out of the corners of her eyes. "Oh, no, Andy, I'm so sorry!""Shh, don't cry. I'm fine. Take a deep breath. What happened?" I saw the officer taking copious notes out of the corner of my eye, and suspected he had been waiting for me to arrive."He came inside and I made some water for cocoa. I told him you were staying at Alyssa's and he said he knew, he had seen you. He made small talk while I made the cocoa, then he asked me if he could see your old room.""Did you take him?""Well, not at first. I asked him why, and he said you had left something for him in there from before that he was supposed to get. I hadn't checked my ce[...]

Untitled, Part Eight


"Today is the last daily session for you.""Yeah, and no offense, but I'm really relieved about it.""Is it hard for you to think about going home?""No, not at all. I'm looking forward to it, to be able to see my kids again. It's been a long week.""Let's use this session to clean up some questions about the previous sessions. Is that okay?""I guess. Is it going to help me somehow?""I believe a change of pace would be good. I think it will allow me to direct our future sessions more clearly.""Well, if it's going to help. What do we need to do?""Would it be more relaxing if I did it more as a question and answer session today? That way, we can focus or redirect if something gets too intense or painful for you.""I think that would be okay. What would you like to clear up first?""Our first sessions were so disconnected emotionally that I have some questions about the nature of your relationship with Devon. How you met, how the relationship progressed, things like that.""Um, well, we've known each other since he was five and I was four..."The moving truck had come and gone by the time we got back from our vacation to Seattle to see my grandparents. The former owner had moved to a nursing home the previous spring after a bad fall, and his son remodeled the old Craftsman house and put it up for sale. We all missed him a lot; he was the funny old grandpa on the block. He had been a retired teacher and used to babysit for me and Alyssa when our parents went out for the rare date night. I was curious to see who would move in next.Dad took Alyssa in and put her to bed; she had gotten motion sickness in the car and was tired. Mom and I went outside to check the mail. Outside, on the front lawn, a dark-haired boy was driving his Matchbox cars on the long, flat drive in front of the house. My mom looked over at the fair-haired woman on the front porch and waved. The fair-haired woman waved us over, and we crossed the street.I lingered on the sidewalk while my mom made the introductions. While the women chatted and made small talk, the dark-haired boy came running over to me. He had ruddy cheeks and a sweet smile. I hung back, shy and unsure, but that didn't deter him, as it had so many other kids my age."Hi, I'm Devon. This is my new house!" He stuck his sunbrowned hand out to me, offering me a white Corvette. "Wanna play cars with me?""Um, okay," I said, shy smile spreading across my face. I followed him over to the walkway where he had drawn a very elaborate race track in chalk. We spent that afternoon and the next, vrooming and honking our way around the course, pausing only to draw new streets or add buildings. We were pretty much inseperable after that, running back and forth between our houses all summer. "Did you favor one house over the other as you grew up--did you spend more time at your house or over at his?""Devon was always the leader. Kids were drawn to him like flies, and so we spent a lot of time doing things his way--which meant at his house.""How about the family dynamic, anything jump out at you?""No, they seemed normal to me. His mom was more lenient than mine, which I suppose was as a result of her illness. It made her house the 'fun house' on the block, since there was less strict rules, and she tended to have junk food available to us at all times.""How about the way you two interacted with one another? Was it more of a brother-sister thing?""For most of our childhood, it was. I developed a crush on him in sixth grade...but then again, so did the other girls.""Did he ever encourage you to be more than a sister-like friend?""Encourage? No, I had confessed in junior high school that I had a crush on him, but he always said he wanted to preserve our friendship as it was.""And how was it?""It was...well, it was complex. He started to get more aggressive in junior high school. It was around that time that he started playing more sports and I just thought it was normal. I have three sisters, so he was the only 'brother' I knew.""Was there an incident that stands out[...]

Untitled, Part Seven


"You look calmer today.""I fel calmer today. Less like a caged animal, more like me for a change.""Do you think it has anything to do with our sessions?""A bit. I also think it has more to do with knowing I'm out of here in a few days.""We should discuss your mom's death.""Why? Do you think I'm using it as a crutch? Or is there a psychobable term for it?""No, I think it will help you deal with real life when you go home.""My mom's death--or what happened to speed it up? You really want to talk about that, don't you?""If you think you need to.""I don't need to, but I want to. It's time I grew up all the way.""That's an interesting way to view it."I gasped involuntarily when I saw her. My mom always had the prettiest hair, auburn and silky, straight like mine. Now it was fluffy and insubstantial, like a halo of red-gold clouds. I had seen her through two chemo tratments, a round of radiation, and she never looked this frail. I knew it was the last battle, and she had made her peace with death. She heard me and cracked her eyes, smiling faintly. Her lips were chapped and shiny; someone had been in recently to put lip balm on them and to change her catheter bag. My heart ached for her, and for her grandchildren, both born and unborn. This was so unfair."You made it, baby." She patted the bed next to her left arm, tubes and lines snaking out of her arm like translucent worms, providing her the small comfort she needed to deal with the pain of dying. I smiled, blinking rapidly, and sat in the chair next to her bed, not wanting my bulk to weigh her bed down uncomfortably. Her hand sought the swell of my belly, where its tiny occupants were sleeping. I put my warm hand over her bony, cold one, being careful not to bump the lines and needles."I came as soon as I could, Mom.""I know you did. How are you feeling? What happened to your nose.""An accident, nothing more. Don't worry about it; we're fine."We chatted inconsequentially for a few minutes, the steady hum of the hospital enveloping us like a coccoon. I told her about my new job, and the possibility of moving to Indiana to be the lead reporter at a newspaper there; she told me about the twins' swimming lessons, and the half-finished deck Dad was building on the back of the house. The babies, lulled into wakefullness by my voice, were cresting under Mom's hand, which was still cold, despite my hand covering it. Like vultures, we were circling the conversation Mom really wanted to have, and I let her. I knew, sooner or later, she would ask. I would have to decide whether to tell her the truth or not."Is your apartment big enough for the three of you?""Yes, so far. It's got two bedrooms that are pretty big, and a nice sized kitchen.""Close to work?""I take the El, like I took the MAX to work at home.""Is your doctor a good one?""She's great, Mom. Really nice, and a mother to twins herself. I got really lucky.""And the father? Where does he fit in with all of this?" she finally asked, coming to the heart of the matter. Do I tell her the truth, or do I lie and paint myself the Jezebel who can't keep her legs together in the big city?"He knows, but he's not in a position to really have much of a say in their lives." "Don't you think his parents have a right to know? After all, you're carrying their grandchildren.""I do. I'm just not sure how to tell them what happened.""Honey, they're parents. We know how it happened." She smiled, a familiar sarcastic expression creasing her half-closed eyes. "I think Terry and Emily have a right to know, don't you?"Shocked, I sat there, mouth agape. Who told her? How did she know? The question never left my lips; as I sat there, I heard the answer coming from behind me."Hello, Andrea." I swiveled around to find Heidi standing in the doorway, her left arm in a cast. "I see you've seen Devon."I stood up, placing Mom's hand back on the bed. I leaned over, kissing her paper-thin cheek. "I'll be back later, Mom," I said. "Get some rest."Heidi and I walked down the hall t[...]

Untitled, Part Six


(Ed. Note: There is a bit more cursing and rapid mood swings that may be a bit confusing. I'll try to keep it in context, though. Enjoy!)"How are you feeling today, Andrea?""Like you don't know the answer to that. I feel like shit.""How are your hands?""They hurt, and I wish I could have hit the bitch one more time.""Why did you attack your new roommate?""She saw the pictures of my children and called me a cheap whore. She deserved it.""So, now you're back to a private room?""Yes, but they're not letting me call home. I hate this fucking place.""Well, let's get to why you hate this place. Is it the food?""Stop it with that patronizing bullshit. I hate this place because I don't need to be here. I'm not crazy.""Nobody said you were. You're suffering from post-partum depression-""Doc, you and I know that's not why I'm here. I'm here because of him.""Who?""Devon. He used me again, and they think I'm crazy now. I should have known he'd never change.""How did he use you? And why do you say again?""He always makes me out to be the bad guy, to take the fall. This time, it worked.""Let's explore that."Alyssa picked me up from the airport. I saw her eyes widen as she took in my belly, and the pallor of my skin as I left the security checkpoint. She hugged me tightly, her reed-thin arms barely encompassing me. In a few weeks, she wouldn't be able to hug me, and I needed all the help I could get. We walked down to the luggage carousel, making small talk, avoiding the elephant in the room: me."How was the flight?""Long. The guy in front of me decided to put his seat all the way back, then never fell asleep. And the movie was terrible.""Hungry?""A bit. 'Course, I'm always hungry these days." I gave her a small smile, and her eyebrow did a crazy little jig up into her hairline. She smiled back.We got my small suicase and walked out to Alyssa's minivan. We had dubbed it the Purple People Eater when she bought it--an apt label, since the grey plush interior practically swallowed you when you sat down. Normally, it bothered me, but today the too-soft seats provided a soothing coccoon around my pendulous body. The landscape had hardly changed--while Chicago was a cold, desolate wind tunnel, Portland was experiencing a bit of Indian summer in late November. We rolled down the windows, chatting about my niece and nephews as we left the airport and headed west towards I-205, bound for Alyssa's Gresham home. As we hit the highway, I closed my eyes, listening to the other traffic rushing by and the warm air washing over me like a prayer. I could tell that Alyssa was dying to tell me something, but I decided to pretend I was dozing. I couldn't deal with her admonitions--plus, I knew she was ganging up on me over lunch. My ruse failed."Andy?""Yes?""I talked to Mom and Dad and told them. Dad's a bit shocked, but Mom is over the moon." This shocked me--I figured my mom would be having kittens, while Dad would be taking it in stride."Thanks. Do they know who the father is?""No. That's your decision to tell them, but...""But what?""Devon knows you're home. He came to see Mom last night when I went home and she told him everything.""Everything?" Suddenly, the warmth of the day left, surrounding me with the arctic chill of midwinter. Alyssa, taking advantage of my silence, blundered forward."He's going to be at the house this evening. He wants to talk to you. Alone," she added, answering my unspoken question.As if feeling my agitation, someone kicked me in the ribs, causing my skin to ripple slightly beneath my form-fitting dress. I put my hand over the foot? hand? and massaged gently. The babies had been active the whole trip, constricted as they were by the seat in front of me. I wanted them to sleep; it felt like a rave had gone on in my stomach, and every internal organ was tender.The thirty-minute trip felt like a funeral procession--traffic was whizzing along, and yet my heart stood still. I didn't want him to be there; I didn't want him[...]

Untitled, Part 5


"My meds are changing. I only got two pills today. Yesterday, I got three.""Yes, they are. It's time to explore the inner feelings surrounding your break.""Don't I get a say in this?""No, I'm sorry. You're not here voluntarily, you have little say in what the doctors do.""Sounds peachy. What can I expect?""You'll be able to emote. You're going to have to start feeling again, Andrea.""I don't want to do that.""Why not?""Because that's what got me here, isn't it? Can I go back to my room now? I'm tired.""No, Andrea. We need to talk. What do you want to talk about today?""I don't know.""How about your mom's reaction?""No, definitely not.""Well, then let's talk about who knew first in your family.""Fine. It was my big sister. I knew she'd be there to pick me up from the airport and that she'd understand. At least I hoped so."I called my sister to give her my flight information. She was the only one who could pick me up the next afternoon, and I decided she needed to know what to expect when she arrived at the airport."Alyssa, I think I need to tell you something." "What's up, Andy? Still nervous about flying?""Not so much, Lyss. It's--well, it's complicated." Alyssa could sense the change in my voice, the utter seriousness of my tone. I really missed my big sister. I hoped she wouldn't hate me for not telling her sooner."Andrea, what's wrong? Are you sick?""No, Alyssa. I'm pregnant." There was that word again, filling the void like a helium balloon. I had only been able to say that to my boss and my doctor, and I felt a huge knot unfurl at the base of my neck. I didn't realize how afraid I was of saying it out loud, as though it would make it somehow more real."Oh, honey, why didn't you call me?" The love and concern in her voice chipped a small sunny spot in my heavy heart, and I felt like I could breathe for the first time in six months. "Do mom and dad know?""Nobody at home knows, not even...Devon." I had difficulty saying his name, the consonants foreign and weighty on my tongue. It sounded halting and disjointed to my ears, and I wondered if Alyssa would make the connection."Devon? Why would you not tell...oh, honey. It's Devon's, isn't it?""Yes, they are.""They? You mean, there's more than one?""A boy and a girl, due February. I'm six months along, Lyss." I was crying again, which seemed to be one of my two habitual states: crying and almost crying. My breath hitched as I swallowed, and Alyssa's soothing soprano came through the phone, making the tears flow faster."It'll be okay, little sis. Mom will be thrilled, and so will Dad, I know it. What do you need from me?""Make sure Devon and Heidi don't know I'm home, Lyss. I don't intend on telling him.""Are you crazy? Why not? Don't you think he should know?""Do you think I haven't thought about that? No, he doesn't need to know. I am staying in Chicago, and I'm going to raise them on my own."Alyssa sighed. I could almost see her shaking her head, hand on her hip, ear pressed to the phone resting on her shoulder. I heard the same sigh of irritation when she thought I was being a complete ass."Andy, you don't have to spare his feelings any longer. You don't have to go along with his schemes and bear the brunt of the responsibility any more--you're not his keeper. I thought you would outgrow that.""And break up his marriage? I couldn't live with that on my conscience, and you know that! Besides, I am not blameless in this either.""Making yourself a martyr to protect his marriage isn't fair to you or to your babies! God, you're still so naive. Listen, I'll pick you up tomorrow, and we'll get some lunch, talk this over, okay?""You mean you'll try to bully me into changing my mind?""If I have to.""Fine, then you're paying. I'll see you tomorrow." "I love you, no matter what. I'll see you tomorrow." The line went dead. I swiped half-heartedly at my wet cheeks and hung up the phone.I waddled into the adjoining bedroom. I had begun preparing for[...]

Untitled, Part Four


"Do you feel up to talking about your decision-making process with regards to the pregnancy?""No, I really don't have the ability to face that yet.""Well, let's leave it for now.""Thank you.""Did you decide to tell anyone once you made the decision?""I told my manager at work, mostly for the time I'd need for doctor's visits.""Why not someone close to you?""I didn't know how they'd react, and I wasn't sure I was keeping them to raise.""Let's begin there for today."It had begun to get cold in Chicago as I neared my first ultrasound date. My mind was swirling at the thought of seeing two little faces and two sets of hands, eyes, feet waving at me from the warm confines of my expanding waistline. It was surreal, and I still didn't really believe that I was pregnant at that point, even after the Dopplers and the measuring and the movement. I was living in two bodies--the pregnant one I was in, and the old me, where it was all just a strange dream.Physically, I skated through the first trimester, but the second trimester had me tired, listless, and anxious all the time. Because I was high-risk, I was having a three-dimensional ultrasound today, and the odds were really good that I would know the sex of the babies. What wasn't good were the odds on whether I would tell anyone. I had stopped myself twice from calling my mom and telling her, especially since she had gone back into the hospital for pneumonia-related complications just last week, and was frail and sick still. I couldn't tell Devon; my stepsister had send me an email about Heidi and him fighting all the time. I didn't need to add more stress to their fledgling marriage.With a jolt, I realized I had been standing outside a baby boutique near the El station for the past ten minutes, hot cocoa in hand, gazing into the window. I could see my reflection in the lengthening shadows of early evening, my grey wool coat unable to button over the burgeoning mass of my stomach, my suede ballet flats mere smudges on the glass. The diplay was a complete bedroom set up, with chic beding diplayed alongside little genderless outfits folded into cunning shapes, and a plush area rug under a richly stained crib set. I carressed the bulge under my coat unconsciosuly and shook my head, walking the stairs up to the platform and onto the train.The office was in a new building, warm and comforting in its anonymity. I checked in early with a pleasant, bland receptionist in a pink cardigan sweater, and handed her my co-pay check. Shrugging off my coat, I sank into the plush armchair nearest me and took out the book I had been reading. Other patients' chatter was muted and out of focus in the quiet waiting room, with the occasional beep of the receptionist's phone lines the only distinct sound. I turned off my cell, not wanting to break the comfortable quiet, and opened my book. I was called back ten minutes later, and led to a dim room in the back of the office. The technician handed me a warm blanket so I could take off my skirt, exposing the growing swell of my stomach, and left the room. I got ready and laid down, looking around the room. A flat-panel television was connected to an expensive-looking machine in the far left hand corner, and the room smelled faintly of buttercream frosting from the outlet on the wall. An upholstered wheeled office chair was next to it, and small, discreet folders held medical pamphlets--all very warm and non-threatening. I began to relax a bit.The door opened, and the technician returned with a clipboard. We went through the preliminaries, then she dimmed the lights all the way and turned on the machine and the television. Applying a generous dollop of warm sonogram gel to my belly, she began the scan, pressing the wand firmly mere centimeters above my pubic mound. The first images showed up on the screen, rendering me speechless.I was breathless, my heart in my throat at the detail of the scan. [...]

Untitled, Part Three


"Let's discuss the pregnancy. Normal?""As normal as could be, given the circumstances.""When did you discover you were pregnant?""About three months into my internship in Chicago.""Had you any indicators you might be before then?""No. I have always been irratic, and thought stress was causing it.""What made you question it?""Nothing, really. I discovered it when I accepted a full-time position with the company I interned at.""How so?""They make you take a drug test.""You're all clear!" The doctor walked in, holding the results of my drug screen. I was sitting in a chair in her office. "There aren't even traces of prescription drugs in your system, but I'm sure you knew that, given your condition.""Well, yes...wait, what condition?" I asked, puzzled. I knew the drug screen would come back clear--I didn't even like taking Tylenol for headaches. A small crease appeared between the doctor's eyebrows, and one of them shot upward towards her hairline. Her smile dropped off as quickly as it had appeared, and my hands clenched the well-thumbed magazine in my hands. It was a Friday night, and I was the last patient for the evening."You mean you don't know?" An eerie stillness settled over the quiet office, her eyes fixed on mine. "Oh, dear. Well, umm, your bloodwork showed high levels of hcg, the human growth hormone." Her eyes held my own, seeing the confusion there."HCG is secreted during pregnancy. You're pregnant, Andrea."Pregnant? The room began to spin. I desperately tried to focus on Dr. Kell's face, to concentrate on the words she was saying, suddenly deaf in the wake of that bombshell. Pregnant."..and your levels indicate a pregnancy consistent with someone in their second trimester, but you're not even showing." Seeing my white face, Dr. Kell leaned over and touched my shoulder. "Is there someone you can call? I am so sorry, I honestly thought you knew."I stood up, shaky knees locked to keep me upright, shrugging off her warm hand. I had been feeling tired and bloated, but I attributed that to the late nights working and not eating well. I never even entertained the thought...I shook my head in an effort to clear it, and smiled wanly at the doctor. "No, all of my family is still on the West Coast.""What about the father?" A sudden wave of panic swept over me as I realized that Devon was on his honeymoon with his wife. Tears threatened and I shook my head again forcefully. "Not an option. Thank you, Dr. Kell, you've been most helpful." Ignoring her protestations and offers of help, I clutched my purse to my chest and walked out of her office and into the parking lot. It was dusk, and the El rumbled by, taking people home to the suburbs. I walked to the staion, waiting for the next train, stomach churning."What am I going to do?" I thought, as the tears broke, coursing down my face. Somehow, I made it back to my newly-leased apartment, excited at the prospect of living in Chicago and working at a major newspaper. Now I wasn't sure what to do. Suddenly tired, I collapsed onto the couch and fell into an unsteady sleep, where confused dreams and the disappointed faces of my family chased me all night. I woke around seven-thirty in the morning, more tired than I had been the day before. I stood in the shower, making a plan. I decided to make an appointment at Planned Parenthood, where I could talk to someone. I knew that I couldn't raise a child, but I didn't know whether I could actually go through with the pregnancy or not. Telling Devon was clearly out--he was married, and I didn't want to force him into a decision or cause problems between him and Heidi. I had to find out what my options were, and fast.The Planned Parenthood I called was open on Saturdays. I got a three o'clock appointment. Several times, I sat with the phone in my lap, dialing my parent's house but being too afraid to push send. I went through the pictures I had rec[...]

Part Two: Untitled


"Something you said last week has been puzzling me.""What would that be?""You said you were saving yourself. You mentioned sin, but you've told me you're agnostic. Why is that?""What was I saving myself for or why did I think self-pleasure was a sin?""Both.""My grandmother. She was very devout Catholic, and she instilled a bit of fear in all she did.""Was she abusive?""No, just...devout. I always wanted to please her, and my cousins have all had premarital relations. I assumed masturbation fell under that sin banner. I wanted to make her happy, so I chose to wait.""Until you were married?""That was the plan. At least I thought it was.""And Devon?""He was the real reason I was waiting. I was saving myself for him." Three days went by, and I didn't hear from Devon. I didn't have the nerve to call him, or email him, but I couldn't resist driving my his apartment late one night. Heidi's car wasn't there, and the light in his kitchen was on. Before I could stop myself, I made the turn into the drive. I pulled into the quiet little complex and parked in the dark under a tree. My black Saturn disappeared like a ghost. Taking a deep breath, I smoothed down my dress, ran my fingers through my hair, and padded silently across the small parking lot to his door in my ballet flats. I had a fleeting thought that I had dressed for the occasion--nice and non-threatening if Heidi was there; easy to circumvent if she was not. I pushed that thought away and knocked lightly on his front door.Devon opened the door on the first knock, like he was waiting for someone. My heart clenched tightly in my throat, I gazed into his dark brown eyes, smiling tentatively. "Hi, stranger," I said, forcing a note of humor in my shaky voice."Hi yourself," he said, "what's up?""Just passing through, going to the grocery store. Thought I'd stop by, see how you were doing." To make my lie complete, I had brought my grocery tote to the door with me.He smiled. "You are a terrible liar, Andrea." The shadows under his eyes had grown longer since my mom's birthday party, and he hadn't shaved in about the same time frame. "Heidi's in Denver, visiting her sister. Want to come in?"I stepped over the threshold to find a perfectly spotless apartment. Devon is not the neatest guy, so I turned to him, confused. "Who cleaned this place?""I did. Tonight's the first night I've felt calm since, It's good to see you." "Why--why did Heidi go to Denver?""Her sister graduates from college on Saturday, so they're having a big shindig at her aunt's ranch. She's gone for about two weeks.""Did you two resolve anything?" I had to know the answer. Not just for his sake, but my own. If they were reconciling, I should leave before I screwed it up more."Well, yes and no," he said, "Let's go sit down. We have to talk." I followed him into the living room on shaky knees and collapsed onto the end of the couch, furthest away from him. In the light of the TV, his eyes looked haunted. He snapped the TV off, and turned on the table lamp, facing me. "So, what's up?" I said, trying for cheerful and falling flat. My hands were trembling, and I clenched them tightly in my lap. fingers laced together. The desire to touch him was overwhelming."Heidi and I have reached an understanding of sorts," Devon said, staring at the dark television set. "She has given me the next two weeks to decide whether I still want to get married to her, whether my love for her is stronger than my love for you.""That's not exactly easy or fair on her part, is it?""She's going to call me before she leaves Denver to tell me what her flight number is. If I show up at the airport, we're getting married as planned. If I don't, she's calling off the wedding, and it's over. She'll move back to Denver.""And you're okay with this?""I have to be. I have no other options." He looked at me and sighed, smiling [...]

Untitled, Part One


Part one of my short story. I will label it--the only labeled post--as Untitled for easy perusal if you miss it before the new installment falls off the page. Comments always welcome. Enjoy."How are you doing today?""Fine, I guess. It's just hard.""Harder than last week?""Yes.""How so?""He would have been twenty-five today.""Do you want to talk about him today? You've been avoiding him since our fist meeting.""Yes. I think I'm ready. Where should I start?""How about from when it began.""What, our full relationship? That's quite a lot of reminiscing. I don't know that I can face those memories yet.""How about when the romantic part started?""Oh. That's easier, I guess.""Surprise!" the crowd cheered as Mom and I came through the door. The banquet room was filled with family, friends, and co-workers to celebrate my mom's life. Not only did she turn fifty-eight, she was sporting a shiny new head and a handcarved cane to support her frail frame, tired from chemo. Dad came over and escorted Mom slowly to her place at the head of the table. Like a ghost, Devon glided up next to me on the heavily carpeted floor, his shoes making no noise. I jumped when he whispered in my ear."Did you get it?" he asked. I reached into my bag and tapped a small plastic box. Since Mom and Dad had missed a milestone anniversary last month due to chemo, the group had collected enough money for the two of them to go to the coast for a weekend, all-expenses paid. I was holding the reservation for the hotel, the rental car, the spending money, and the name of a nurse living in the area who knew my Mom and her condition well. "They're going to be so surprised," I said. "Where are we sitting?"He gestured to a table nearby that was empty, save for my sister and her boyfriend. "Where's Heidi?" I asked, confused. Devon and Heidi were getting married in a few months, and she said she'd be here tonight. She was practically family.Devon's eyes clouded over and a tight smile replaced the broad grin he was wearing. "We'll talk about it later," he said, clearly upset.As the night wore on, the crowd thinned out. We presented the gift to my parents, whi cried and smiled and thanked everyone copiously. After dessert was served, the dj began to play some music--the birthday party was quickly turning into a wedding reception. I was on my fourth glass of champagne when Devon gestured for me to follow him out into the lobby. We found a bench in a quiet corner, shielded by a row of ornamental plants and tucked into a small alcove away from prying eyes and the party going on inside."She left me," Devon said. "She told me that she didn't think I was in love with her anymore." He took a swig of his beer, his eyes bleary. If he wasn't drunk now, he was getting there quickly. "But-but that's crazy, Dev!" I grabbed his hand in sympathy."No, it's not." He looked at me. "She even told me who I was in love with.""Did you tell her she was wrong?""No.""No? Why not? She is, isn't she?""I don't think she is."I leaned back against the wall heavily, my swimming head trying to digest this. Devon was staring out over the half-deserted lobby, my hand still in his. His calloused thumb made small swirls along the ridge of my knuckles absently."She said she's known for years, that she thought I would get it out of my system. She thought I had when I proposed." "I would think she would have realized you do love her completely.""Actually, quite the opposite. I kept calling her by the wrong name when we'd get into arguments over little shit planning this wedding--name tags, place cards. That's when I realized she was right.""So, Devon, who is it?""Andy, you don't know? It's you." Devon finally made eye contact with me as he leaned over and kissed me softly. All the years of me fighting to not see him as a potential love were lost in that second. I kissed[...]

Little People Theatre Presents: Attack of the Choco-Nots


Once upon a time, there was a deranged ruler by the name of holly, who persuaded a group of people that to give up chocolate during the month of January was a good thing. She and her band of Choco-Nots began patrolling the blogs and web sites of would-be Choco-Nots, aiming to swell their ranks and convince more people that chocolate-free was the way to be. Out of this lunacy, a band of free-thinkers and chocolate aficionados raised up in protest against the Choco-Nots. The Choco-Nots deemed them the Frenemies of Choco-Nots, or Frenemies for short, and placed a price on their heads. They began publishing "Wanted" posters for known Frenemies' leaders on their blogs, and called on their minions to seek them out and ridicule them publicly for their chocolate "addiction." (Side note: we're not addicts, we can stop whenever we want to. We just think it's silly to stop such delicious behavior. So there.)(We're not even worth a reward? How rude! It's go-time now, ladies and gentleman.)The Choco-Nots, having been thwarted on two previous attempts at revelry chocolate-free--one at a Choco-Nots Meeting and one at an outing to the Amusement Park--began mass distribution of these posters. So, the Resistance de Chocolat met to change their appearances and discuss strategy for the next attack.The Resistance de Chocolat has some new members. Avery and I had to enter the witness relocation program, so we look totally different, as does missburrows and leendaluu. Sybil just got tired with her look. We also recruited new members--our three children, who know that chocolate can be part of a balanced diet, Mike, Sheila, and Meleah Rebeccah.We met at a quaint little house I owned, coincidentally just across a ravine from the Fortress of Choco-Nots. Here's our cute little cottage:Small, but comfortable. The pygmy warriors were awaiting the return of a scout we had sent into enemy territory to do some reconnaissance. The Choco-Not Fortress, ruled by the Kaos Couple, Camikaos and Mr. Kaos:Please note the brick walls, the turrets, the stables, and the guard dragons. We have pygmy warriors and THEY have dragons. Methinks they are a wee bit overdoing it.(Paranoid much, oh Choco-shunners?)Not too far into our meeting, our recon man returned, with specs from the fortress and pictures of the layout:The Kaos rulers are feeding them healthy, non-chocolate food?Clandestine meetings in the fortress--are they plotting to overthrow Kaos rule?Joeprah is in armour, patrolling the perimeter with dragons? Wow, overkill much? They've got a pond, too?Ohhh, I see. They've gone communal self-sufficient farming on us. Looks like they've left Jo Beaufoix in charge of livestock and horses. And a helicopter? Who's piloting that it Kymburlee?We were soon to find out. Suddenly, a loud whirring of blades caused us to look skyward, to see Kymburlee 'coptering overhead!CHERRY BOMBS! HIT THE DEC...AARGGH!!A direct hit sent our little band of resistance fighters nose-deep in red cherries, freshly picked from the (hippie-run) Kaos (Commune) Fortress. (You saw the barn and the pond...c'mon.)Luckily, our magical chocolate-raised unicorns and our faithful chocolate labs dug us out.While we were being rescued by our faithful animal friends, Sheila took matters into her own hands, and climbed the cliff behind our small dwelling. Using the finest grenades Dove made, she took aim at the evil Choco-Not Chopper:And scored a direct hit!She wrapped Kymburlee up in impermeable, unbreakable chocolate wrappers, and held her as a prisoner of war.We regrouped, and sent this photo to the Kaos Fortress, with our declaration of war:(Now, we didn't actually MAKE her eat the chocolate. It was simply available if she so desired. Interestingly enough, the Dove grenade disappeared shortly after this photo was taken and[...]