21 December 2015


A poorly constructed and poorly written poem. 

You can break my heart, if you want.
I hand it over freely
   over and over again.
You can remind me that the only promise made
   was no promise at all.
And that even though it looked and felt special
   images lie
   and feelings are fleeting.
And things aren't always as they seem,
   no matter how much they seem that way.

So you can break my heart, if you want.
You can strip away my veneer
Expose my everything
Devour who I am
And leave.
Why should it matter? 
   when you were always on your way out.

6 October 2015

Waiting for Superman.

I get up at 5 in the morning every Saturday.  It's January so the sky is pitch black and the air is freezing, but I scrub my face with harsh soap and cold water, brush my teeth and shave.  Strong coffee scents flood my apartment and I swallow some of the disgusting stuff before pouring it into a canteen for the weekly, hour-long drive.  Wrapping a thick scarf around my neck, I inhale and then shove my way through dirty snow to the car.  I started it about 10 minutes ago so inside isn't as bone-chillingly cold as the morning air.  Rubbing my tired eyes, I drink more coffee, pat my gloved hands together and wonder why I had to be an author.

Stories never leave me alone.  Or at least, I've never been able to control tugging on the possibilities of people who I cross paths with everyday.  Seeing kids at the park, their mothers and sometimes fathers, makes me wonder what's going on behind the smiles and laughter.  Seeing teenagers holding hands makes me wonder whether they'll cling to first loves and get married and be happy.  Seeing old people just sets me off on all sorts of tangents - their families, their pets, their everyday lives, the skeletons in their closets.  

What must it be like, to be omniscient?  I want to know.  So I create stories for them all.

I back slowly out of my short driveway and head away from the city, towards the airport expressway.

The airport is always full of potential characters for the book I'm working on.  It's about time travel and romance and war.  Can't go wrong with that stuff.  Men and women of all ages have been waiting on it since my last book was published.  It was about romance and war.  I've stepped my game up, obviously, but my characters haven't been working with me.  They're lacking.  They're not real people.  So I've been driving to the airport every weekend for the last 2 months, observing, sometimes chatting, and creating the imperfect personalities that I need to make my book breathe.  It's hard work, going around and asking random strangers in a cold, busy airport for their stories, but someone has to do it.

The sunrise is pretty.  I always think that I've seen all the shades of greys and yellows and blues that it can possibly offer, but there are new ones every morning and I don't have the words to do them justice.  How ironic is that?

I park and walk into the departures lounge.  It's a few minutes after 6 and humans buzz around.  I nod at the familiar staff and they nod back.  Some of them don't trust me and I can't blame them.  I'm six and a half feet tall with too much dark, floppy hair, dressed in a black trench coat, drinking coffee and without luggage.  And I'm there every weekend.  The ones who do trust me are always willing to share, though.  They either know my work or read me as weird and harmless.  They tell me about their children, their family members, their neighbours.  The stories are interesting but there's nothing like watching emotions flash in the eyes of someone telling their own tale.

I stroll around the cold, buzzing terminal.  It's loud and busy.  People are hugging and laughing and talking and crying and it makes me feel alive.

There's a family saying a tearful goodbye and they make me stop in my tracks.  The two sisters are embracing and then one of them, beautiful, I notice, with caramel skin, sad eyes and thick curly hair, hugs her parents.  She squeezes them hard and her mother breaks down.  I can hear the sobbing from where I stand and I look away, feeling like an intruder.  A spy on a moment that should be in private.  But I have to look back, because I know that she'll be my character.  The father tells her something and she nods.  Her fists close and she's shivering.  I think it's from her effort to avoid bawling and not from the winter chill in the terminal.

Finally, the family turns to walk away.  The young woman follows them as far as she can, waving until they disappear fully into security.  She stands there looking lost.  Her shoulders shake and I know I have to do something, but I don't know what.

You don't even know her, I chide the Superman inside, but it's no use.  I buy a cup of black coffee and grab some cream and sugar packets and walk over to the lost-looking woman.  I stand about a foot behind her and watch trembles run through her frame.  Her fists open and close and even though she wipes her face and glances from side to side, she doesn't move.  Sadness radiates off her in waves.

"Here you go."

She jumps and looks around, eyes wet.  Her pupils are big and dark.  "I'm sorry?"  She sniffles.

I hold the coffee out to her.  She glances down at it, then up at me and I wonder if I should have sought out my usual security guard with tales of her cousin.  But I'm sure my story needs this girl more.  "You look like you could use this."

She sniffles again.  "Do I know you?"  She looks so... so vulnerable.  She wants to take the coffee but good sense stops her.  I'm glad.  I could be anybody.

"No... I just... I just thought you'd like some coffee."

She swallows and whispers thanks, her voice shaking the way it probably was when her parents and sister were standing in front of her.  

The terminal is huge and we end up sitting together in a waiting area.  The table is round with two chairs.  She looks unsure of the world around her and I'm just one more unfamiliar object.  "Thank you," she murmurs again and she even cracks a small smile.  My heart skips its next couple beats in the cheesiest way ever.  My Superman complex will be the death of me.  A crying girl is all it takes.

"My family was visiting for winter vacation."  The words tap on the silence between us.  "They've been... They were here for two weeks."

Her self-correction alerts me to the fact that she's smart.  "You look really close."

She nods.  "We are."  Another sniffle and she rubs her palms over her puffy, tear-streaked face.  "God.  Who are you?"

I can't help but laugh and thankfully she joins in rather than escaping.  "My name's William.  I'm an author.  The airport inspires me."

She raises an eyebrow.  "Am I gonna end up in your next book?"

"You just might," I smile back.  She giggles and I record it mentally - high pitched, a little immature for her age, but endearing.  "I promise to send you a free copy if you tell me your story."

"How do I even know you're any good?" she accuses playfully.

"Google me.  William Taylor."

She does and her eyes pop open.  She looks between me and her smart phone for a few seconds.  "Wow.  I actually didn't like your book."

I laugh out loud and watch as the rest of her he-could-be-a-crazy-white-guy worries fall from her shoulders.  Her body relaxes totally and I get her a second coffee and we talk for another hour.  Her name is Sarah James.  She's a grad student, working part time, single, heart-broken and sworn off men until "the one" comes along.

"How will you know him?"

She tips her head to the left - she's done it a number of times and it always makes her curls drop over her shoulder in a distracting way.  "I'll know.  I think he'll know, too."  She drinks coffee.  "I think our eyes will meet randomly, and he'll come over and say 'where have you been?' or something."

We laugh but for some reason, her answer makes me warm.  I get her a third and a fourth coffee and then I offer to drive her home.  In my car, we're quiet and I figure Sarah is seriously questioning her judgement.  I don't blame her.

"So do you always do this?  Buy coffee for crying girls and then take them home?"

I chuckle and turn where she indicates.  "I'd be lying if I said it didn't happen once or twice, but generally no."  I pause.  "When I saw you and your family, I didn't see anyone else."

She's quiet and after that she only gives me directions.  We get to her apartment.  The building is ten storeys high with snow-covered balconies jutting out everywhere.  The parking lot is mostly empty, which makes sense since we're in the middle of the city.  She lives in a decent area, fairly close to her university and the snowy streets are busy with young adults.  I wonder what they're doing - are they drunk, hungover, depressed?  Are they wondering what to do after graduation?  Are they broke or spoiled or... just lost?

Aren't we all a little lost?

"Do you want to come up?"  Sarah's quiet question cushions my return to the present.  Her eyes are glued to the dashboard.


So I do.  In her apartment - small and clean, the sofa bed that she and her sister were sharing still folded out - we stand awkwardly in the doorway.

"I don't usually invite up random men who buy me airport coffee," she says, quiet and doubting herself.  "But I'm so lonely.  Listen to this place.  It's so quiet."  Her shoulders tremble.  "I'm the only one here."

"Not today."  I bend down and we kiss and somehow it's perfect.  I pick her up off the floor but her coat makes her slip back down and we burst out laughing.  "Not my best moment," I admit.

She's still giggling like crazy and I'm not sure, but I may be falling for Sarah James.  We make love and take a shower and watch terrible sitcoms while the snow whitewashes the world outside.

"There's no way these are better than my book," I fish, nudging her in the side.  Sarah laughs and I don't want to go another day without hearing it.

"Not all of them, I'll give you that.  But it was pretty cheesy.  I think you know it too!"

"Why do you think that?"

"You're smart."  She smiles up at me, frizzy ringlets bouncing around her face.  "I think you know what lonely little women want to read about, and you write that."

"You don't think I write what I really want to write about?"

"I..."  She trails off and thinks about it.  "I think you do.  But I dunno.  You don't seem terribly romantic."

"My book was that romantic?"

"Terribly, and you know that!"  We laugh but go quiet and thoughtful.  "So what's your new book about?"  I groan.  "Now I have to know!"

I tell her that it's the first one, but with time travel and Sarah laughs so hard that she slides off the couch and onto my feet.  I laugh too and roll her onto the carpet.  She lies there, tears streaking her cheeks, hair fanned around her and I slide down and kiss her for a long time.

It's late when she walks me to my car.  With just a coat on over her pajamas, she's shivering and flushed from the drop in temperature and our... well, from our day together.  "I'll bring lunch tomorrow?"  I feel like a teenage boy, and then realize that we don't even know each others' ages.  I take some comfort in the fact that she's a grad student.  It can't be that bad.  Definitely same decade.  Right?

Sarah smiles.  We didn't actually mention tomorrow until now, and I can see her thinking about it.  "Sure.  Let me know what's on the menu."

"If you give me your number, I will."  We exchange numbers and then stand in the cold, snowy parking lot.  "Go on inside.  Do your homework or something."  We laugh and I lean down and we kiss again.  I watch her disappear back into her building and I wonder, when she gets back upstairs, whether she'll replay the whole day and hate herself.  Will she hold her shoulders and cry over how alone she feels, now that her family has left and the random author she just slept with has gone home?  Is she sliding down to the floor right now, waiting for Superman?  For me?

She looks down from her balcony and waves.  I wave back and drive away and I wonder where the heck she's been.


5 September 2015

9:00 A.M.

My eyes jumped between my computer screen and desk phone for the hundredth time.  It was 8:58 in the morning.  I'd been at work for half an hour but hadn't done a thing, with my hands shaking, palms sweating and feet tapping uncontrollably.  The phone was going to ring.  I could all but feel the electricity shooting through the lines on its way to connect me with the mysterious caller.

"Good morning, Lainey."

I jumped a little and my eyes darted up to Shane.  He smiled but it fell away quickly and he took two steps across the floor to my desk.  He wasn't particularly nearby but his stride was strong and swallowed the ground in much the same way his strong personality swallowed me whole every single day.  "M-morning," I stuttered and dragged my hands over my pants.

"Is it still happening?" he asked.  Raw concern focused his hazel eyes on my face and his deep voice dropped to a near-whisper.

I started to nod but my line rang.  I didn't have to glance down to know that there was no caller information.  The calls were never routed through the receptionist.  The caller never left a message.  Even basic tracing devices that Shane had tried out couldn't place it.

The phone rang again and I wanted to cry.  I was such an idiot.  How could I ever have thought that this would remain a secret?

Shane grabbed up the receiver.  "Good morning."  His eyes narrowed and he turned away but I still heard his next mutter.  "Who the hell is this?"  He paused.  I smiled and tapped away at my keyboard when another co-worker walked pass.  I served as secretary and receptionist to Shane and two other important men, so my work space was in the open.

Not that there was anything "out in the open" about my and Shane's relationship.

"Stop calling this office or I will have you found and exposed."

It struck me that Shane was the one who should worry about being exposed, but I didn't mention it.  He turned around to place the receiver on its holder with practiced control, though the tight grip on the phone betrayed his anger.  Even so, with his brow furrowed, eyes dark and lips pulled tight, he made my heart speed up pleasantly.  "Maybe you should take the rest of the week off."

I shook my head with a calm that I certainly didn't feel.  "That won't help anything."

"It would make me feel better to -"

"To not see your shame taking notes in your meetings?"  The quiet words fell on thin ice between us.  His gaze searched mine and Shane turned away.  He headed towards his office, wedding band winking at me in the fluorescent lights.  The door clicked into place and I sighed and glanced at my clock.  Five minutes after nine.  Maybe I could get some work done.


12 August 2015


Pretty little doll
Dangling from one too many strings
Has been tugged up and down
And dragged across one too many stages
One too many times.

A few chips and scratches, she owns
Hastily covered by expensive paints
But that's all paint does.. covers.

Charming little doll
Not too delicate looking
Made from strong materials
But even those wear down with time
And with the wrong attention.

Her glass eyes are just a little cloudy
Her joints are so loose now
Not even the puppeteer has much control anymore.

She's cherished, but utterly useless
Only a sense of duty saves her from the trash
Perhaps this is not such a happy thing..?

Dear, dear doll...
How sad she would be
If she but had feelings to feel.

28 July 2015

A quick note on characters.

So I tend to have a few of the same people appearing in my stories, particularly Sadie Prince, Chris Mendel and Mason Michaelson.  But why?

I wish I could tell you.  I created them for Drive (http://goo.gl/lQMWXC), then used older versions of them in a longer (hopefully) novel-to-be piece and they have stuck.  I guess each of them represents pieces of me and of my very close friends.  Of all the characters I create, I know them.  I know how to write on their behalf.  Is this something that all artists face? - painters with subjects, people developing for story-heavy games and other writers? 

This can't just be me -___- lol.

I know that as a writer, aiming to publish one day, I need to explore other characters.  I'm definitely working on that (as seen in Mistake (http://goo.gl/9pVY6l)).  Bear with me and thank you for reading!


The bonfire stood tall, its yellow-orange flames stretching towards a seemingly extra black sky. Its crackling was drowned out by the foosh of salty waves sweeping across the shore just a few meters away, by the ridiculous pop music in the background, by chatter and laughter. Its crackling was nonexistent to everyone else, but I heard it and in my state of near-drunkenness, I thought it meant something.

When I was drinking, everything meant something. Especially when he did them.

Hot air brushed my face and I exhaled, pushed some curly hair behind my ear and then drained the strong vodka mix. Shorts had probably not been the smartest decision for a New Year's Eve beach bonfire, but nothing could be done about that now. There were less mosquitoes around the fire.

“You're a little too close to that thing.” A firm grip on my arm tugged me away from the flames. I squeaked, losing my footing and tumbling backwards onto Mason. I spun around a little too quickly, but he hadn't released my arm and I was able to stand up straight.

“I'm fine!”

“Right. You're drunk. Need some water?”

I pouted and shook my head. “Are we going to count down soon?”

He bent his head to look at his phone and I released the breath I'd been holding since my back had connected with his chest. He was wearing a white V-neck tshirt, pale jeans and a black and white hoodie. I tugged my own closer, wanting to get nearer to the fire again.  We were all barefoot on the sand.

“I guess we can set up to count down in another half hour. Come inside with me, let's get some glasses and stuff.”

I narrowed my eyes at him. “You never want my help.”

Mason chuckled and grabbed my wrist. “I also don't want you tripping over your feet and into that inferno. Plus, Chris is off with Amanda, so you'll have to do. Come on, you drunk.”

I yelped when he pulled me towards the house. Alcohol raced through my system, tangling my feet and making me cling to Mason's arm. His hard bicep flexed under my grip and I gulped as he straightened me again. Dark eyes narrowed on mine, serious for a few seconds before he chuckled and shook his head. His face was close enough that his breath shifted my hair. He pushed it back behind my ear.

“You need a hairpin for that.”

I pouted. Again. “I do not. It's cute.”

Mason laughed again, linked our arms and half-dragged me off. He didn't say it wasn't cute, I thought, ridiculously pleased.

We toweled sand off our feet before stepping into his house. Mason lived on the beach with his parents. He was their only child and privileged and it showed – from the sprawling balcony that overlooked the sea, to the sleek, silver-blue Audi that was parked with his parents' cars off to the side. I'd seen Mason's room a few times when I'd visited with Chris. It was larger than even mine with a Queen sized bed, an impossibly thin TV with various game consoles on the floor, a private shower and closet space to die for.

“He's not your typical rich boy, though,” Chris had told me the first time I'd tagged along. “Haven't known him too long but I know he's honest. And that's enough.” Chris and I had been best friends since birth but finally split up when we went to different universities. Mason was one of his first new friends. Sometimes I felt like I'd joined their group and not the other way around, but it worked. It had been almost a year and we had kind of a unit going on.

“I put some drinks in the fridge. Could you grab them?”

I nodded and did as he'd asked. The kitchen was immaculate and it made me wonder if it was ever used. Mason moved around, organizing the food, champagnes and wines that his guests had brought while I leaned against the mahogany and jade counter, sipping cold water. “Lots of people here tonight.”

He scoffed. “Yeah. Lots of people I don't know.”

“You know everybody,” I corrected.

“I know you and Chris. I'm acquainted with the balance.”

I giggled, ignoring my now burning ears and trying not to feel important. He glanced over and rolled his eyes. “Why the party then?”

“Something to do.” A paused and then “I've had birthday parties like every other kid but they never meant much. Figured maybe a New Year's thing would be different.”


“It's the same. I'd be happier if it was just us watching movies til midnight.” He shrugged. “It was worth a try though.”

I shrugged my hoodie off my shoulders and went even warmer than I already was when Mason let himself look at me for a few seconds longer than he usually did before he went back to handling the food. I wasn't especially dressed up, in shorts and a Superman tshirt. My curls were back in a messy ponytail and my turquoise manicure just a little chipped. Even so, Mason had a way of making me feel like I was the only girl there.

When I was drinking and needed to be monitored, anyway. Some days it surprised me how quickly he'd started copying Chris' overprotective attitude towards me. Chris, who'd had more girlfriends all year than I'd had boyfriends in my entire life, treated me like a piece of crystal.

“Let's get this stuff outside. It's almost count down time.”

I nodded and followed behind Mason's tall, lithe form, clutching a large platter of quartered chicken sandwiches, veggies and dressing.

“Try not to drop it, drunk,” he teased.

“Whatever,” I answered, glaring holes through his back. He pushed the balcony door open and stood against it for me to walk through. I tried to ignore the electricity in my tummy as I brushed past his body. “I want another drink for all this hard labour.”

“I can give you better than that,” he answered, setting the trays down on one of the long tables and glancing at his watch. “Fifteen minutes to count down.”

“We should get Chris.”

“He's occupied. You've been entrusted to me for the night.”

I rolled my eyes. “I don't need you to babysit me. Plus, you have guests.”

“They probably don't even remember whose house they're at right now. Get another drink if you want. I'm gonna do a round and then we can go get a great view of the fireworks.” I ignored the flip flop of my tummy as I mixed vodka and juice in a plastic cup and watched Mason move through the crowd of people. Girls were tripping over themselves to talk to him, but he hardly noticed, preferring to chat briefly to smaller groups before moving on.

There was just something about the way he moved – almost swaying, but still purposeful, knowing exactly where he wanted to go. The huge flames continued to lick the darkness, simultaneously causing an orange glow and dancing shadows to shift across the beach. Even so, I could only see the effect on Mason – the glow that radiated from him, the reflection of the fire in his dark, dark eyes when he glanced over, the way his face became shadowed as he moved back over to me.

“Let's go. God, Sadie, I can smell that drink.”

I could only swallow another sip as we walked away from the crowds.

Mason's house was miles east of the downtown docks. Every year, way too many people gathered to watch the lengthy, extravagant fireworks display that started at midnight and lasted for the better part of two hours. Police and ambulances would surround the general area waiting for someone to faint at least, or be trampled at the worst, but there had never been such an event. Not that I'd heard of, anyway. I had never been. I watched the show every year, but from far away at my or Chris' place. This would be my first time seeing it fairly close up and from the beach. My first time seeing it with...

“Watch your step. We're going up some stairs soon.”

We were on the eastern side of the house. I dragged my fingers along the cold, gently curving concrete walls. The corners were dark, mostly hidden from the bonfire. The path we were walking along was slim and cut through bunches of flowers that Mason's mother tended to lovingly. I stuck as close as I could to his back, trying not to trip over my feet or bump into him. It was a wasted effort. Somewhere between me draining my plastic cup and shaking my head to recover from the rush of potent vodka, Mason stopped and I slammed into him, causing him to grunt and tip forward. He managed to catch both of us against the wall.

“Sadie!” I blinked, still shaking my head from the rush. Everything about my body raced. Maybe gulping the last of it had been a bad idea. “Sadie?” Mason's hands were wrapped around my shoulders. He was annoyed. I could tell. In the pale, barely-there lighting that was coming from God-only-knew-where, I saw that the corners of his lips were turned down, that his brows were tucked tightly together, that his eyes were slightly narrowed as he gazed at me. “Sadie? God, are you ok? You need to quit the drinking.”

“It's finished.” I giggled. Something about his anger tickled me. Maybe it was just nerves. Maybe it was his closeness. Maybe. I could have stopped myself from wrapping my arms around his chest and pushing my face into his hoodie, but I didn't. He exhaled and ran a hand over my hair. I couldn't keep track of his heart rate over mine.

“Let's go. Come on, up the steps. One at a time.” They felt a lot steeper than they actually were. There was a wall to the right. The railing on the left was high, intricately woven steel and cold to the touch as I grabbed at random curls even though Mason's arm around my shoulders was firm. “We're stopping again.”

I nodded and paused on the landing. A lock clicked open. The room we walked into was wrapped in one-way glass – we could see out, but out couldn't see in, and we were high up anyway. “Wow,” I breathed. The tiled floor was chilly but clean. There was a messy bunk bed off to one side, scattered scuba diving gear, a small fridge, a desk and chair and a small bathroom. The desk was covered with drawings. A large sketchpad lay open in one corner.  “This room must be amazing during sunset.”

“It is. Here's some water.” Mason walked over to where I was standing – by the glass wall, facing the sea and bonfire.

“Sorryyy for being a drunkie,” I apologized, sipping. He chuckled and nodded. Mason leaned against the glass, crossed his arms over his chest and looked down on the beach. The silvery moon and the orange fire struck his profile simultaneously and set my heart on its toes. He was gorgeous. I couldn't help the sigh.

“You okay?” He looked over, raised eye brow. “More water? Something to eat?”

I giggled. “I'm okay.” I looked away when his eyes settled into mine. Heat crept up my face and my ears tingled. We lapsed into silence but I was sure he could hear my heartbeat.

“Sadie, I don't trust people.” I knew that. Anyone who cared to know anything about Mason could deduce that pretty quickly. “When Chris and I met this spring and he kept talking about you, I thought he was an idiot.”

My eyes shot up but he was looking beyond me. He was probably staring his memories in the face. Probably seeing Chris for the first time – the way Chris had described it to me on our first weekend after university.

“I made a new friend,” he said as we sat down to ice cream. The mall buzzed around us.

I giggled. “You sound like you're in prep school.”

Chris laughed. “Shut up.” A silent beat while we took the first tastes of our desserts and then “He needs a friend, Sadie. He seems cool, just closed off.”

“How did you start talking to him?”

“He was drawing in this huge sketchbook and I told him his stuff looked good. Showed him mine and just kept bothering him after that.”

“Bothering him?”

“He doesn't like talking.”

I rolled my eyes. “You always start talking to random people.”

He chuckled. “I make good decisions where friends are concerned though.”

I grinned. “Can't say no about that.”

“He always showed me sketches he had done of you. I could have sworn you were just stringing him along.”

“That's why you never wanted to meet me?”

“That's what he told you?”

I scoffed. “He didn't have to. And when we met, it wasn't hard to pick up. You give off a vibe... like a forcefield.”

When Mason laughed I wanted to melt into the floor. His eyes were closed, head tossed back and strong arms still crossed but not as tightly. I smiled and looked down. The height made me feel a little unsteady.

“Before we met,” he continued, and I leaned on my right shoulder to face him. His face was relaxed and he smiled at me almost fondly. “Before you and I met, Chris said that he had to look out for you all the time. I told him he was being conned.”


His shoulders shook with a silent laugh. “But when we hung out some more, I saw why.”

“Because I'm a drunkie?”

“Because you're naïve.” Ouch. “You think everything is going to be okay. That you'll get the fairytale ending. That nobody is going to break your heart. That nobody is going to take advantage of you when you drink.” At that he narrowed his eyes at me. My ears burned and I looked down. His cold palm flattened against my cheek and he turned my face up. “And...”

Screams and explosions shocked us out of the moment. I spun away from him. Fireworks shot up into the black sky and popped loudly. Noise from the party downstairs swelled with laughter and squeals and “happy new year!!”. I was so mesmerized by the pinks and greens and yellows from down by the docks that I didn't realize Mason had moved until he was standing beside me, our shoulders barely touching. We didn't say anything for long minutes, simply staring as the huge colours swallowed the room.

“Happy new year, Mase.”

“Happy new year, Sadie.” He faced me and I turned with him. I didn't expect his hand to take up its earlier post on my cheek. I closed my eyes, letting my head droop into his fingers, memorizing his skin and his scent and his nearness. The kiss on my forehead surprised me even more. I wrapped my arms around his waist and his lips stilled, but he didn't move. We watched the fireworks like that for a while, his thumb brushing across my face every so often, his other arm loosely draped around my waist, his mouth pressing a fresh kiss to the same spot every minute or so.

“You're falling asleep,” he chuckled in a low voice, catching me as I started out of a doze. I felt my feet moving before I tumbled into a tangled mess of sheets on the firm bottom bunk.

“Who sleeps here with you?” I felt him laugh more than I heard him. Fireworks continued to pop down the beach. I couldn't see them as well from the bed, but I couldn't comprehend standing at the moment. “Well?”

“Demanding, aren't you,” he teased. “I stay here alone. I liked the bunk bed when I was younger so my parents bought it.”

“But you're an only child.” He was quiet for a few seconds and I opened my eyes. “I'm sorry, Mase... I wasn't thinking.”

“Nah. I am an only child. I just always hoped there'd be someone here with me.”

“I'm here with you.” I sat up too quickly and shook my head to halt the spinning. It didn't totally work. He laughed and nodded. “I am.”

“I know you are, naïve little drunk.” He leaned beyond me to adjust the pillows and lowered me to them by my shoulders before sitting at the other end of the bed to watch the rest of the fireworks. They flashed across the room like magic and I sank into the pillows.

The sparks played across Mason's relaxed face, animating his handsome features in a way I never wanted to forget. His brows were at ease, mouth turned up in a small smile, arms folded lightly across his body. No forcefield tonight... Just fireworks.


27 July 2015


"Shit."  I flung the plastic, pink and white stick into the bin.  It was the fifth one.  They all had two little lines on them.  Some were blue, some red.  One of them even had the gall to dot the response with a smiley face.  A fucking smiley face.  Who gave them the right?

"Shit," I muttered again, flushing the toilet and scrubbing my hands with more effort than was necessary.  Anger and nerves and depression and disbelief at how stupid I'd been made my stomach spin and I rushed back to the toilet to vomit up my lunch.

Minutes later I was pacing my apartment.  My thumb hovered over his name and squeezed the side button on my flat, black phone whenever the screen dimmed.  The picture of him that showed up was perfect.  Taken a month ago in Paris, his thick black hair was messy from autumn winds, green eyes sparkling, skin browned to perfection from walking everywhere.  I hadn't even known him a month ago.  We'd met exactly fourteen days before I'd woken up and realized that my period, always perfectly on time, was suddenly four days late.  Four.  Days.  Late.


What would I say?  We were barely even friends.  Would he believe me?  We'd used a condom, it broke and we'd rushed to a pharmacy at seven in the morning to get a pill.  It should have been fine.  But here I was, two weeks after the chaos of music and alcohol and raging hormones, and I was staring at his green eyes and his grin and trying to figure out how to tell him that I was pregnant.

Should I invite him to dinner?  Send a text?  Send a picture of the pregnancy tests?


What sort of mother was I going to be if all I could do right now was swear?

The thought chased me to the toilet again.  I dropped to my knees and gripped the cold seat and hurled while his face went dim.  I brushed my teeth and washed my face with cold water but my emotions were everywhere.  My heartbeat was hard and fast and I wanted to cry and curse and hit him.

But it was my fault, too.

My phone buzzed from its spot on the floor and I crouched down.  His grinning face tormented me for the seconds it took to swipe the screen and say "Hi, Michael."

"Hi, Alli.  How are you doing?"

"I'm good."  How bizarre was this?

"Awesome.  What are you doing -?"

"Actually, I'm not good."

"Oh.  Are you sick or something?"

"I'm pregnant."

Silence pressed hard on the line.  "Oh.  Fuck."


"Are you sure?"

"Yes I'm sure!"

He swore again and I barely, barely, swallowed a laugh.  This kid was going to have a dirty mouth.

Or was it?

"What do you... what do you want to do?"

I knew what he meant and it made me sick.  I slumped into a corner of my bathroom and fingered my towel, remembering how we'd wrapped it around ourselves after showering together.  And we'd had sex again.

"I... I don't know."  My heart broke because I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

I wanted to keep my nightly job at the bar where I'd met him.  I wanted to finish my master's degree and get a real job and pay off my student loan.  I wanted to be 25 years old without a baby.  Especially one whose father I would never see again because he was busy travelling the world with his other single, childless friends.

So I knew.  But this wasn't the decent thing to do.  It wasn't the right thing.  Was it?

"Shit.  All I've been able to do is swear."  The first sob sputtered clumsily through my lips.  "I'm freaking out!"

"Let me come by.  I'm bringing chocolate."

And he was good to his word.  Thirty minutes later he was in my doorway with a huge chocolate, a DVD, a tight hug and a kiss on my forehead.  We sat on my second hand couch and I turned on the small TV, wondering how I would ever manage to squeeze a crib in here.  It was so tiny - just a bathroom, my bedroom, a sitting space by the TV and a wall for my fridge and oven and some counter space for a sink and a microwave.

A baby literally couldn't fit here.

We watched the movie as though his child weren't growing inside of me.  We laughed at dumb jokes and he covered my eyes for kissing scenes.  He was trying to be funny but the irony made me want to scream and cry and disappear.  When the credits rolled, reality settled in the room and he turned the volume down so that the background music hovered around us like a shield.

Michael turned towards me and my heart gave a kick.  Of course I'd slept with him.  He was gorgeous and funny and didn't want to commit.  Perfect.  He was supposed to disappear and take that night with him and I was supposed to go back to my life of work and school.  How had this happened?

"Allison, we can do anything you want," he said in a quiet voice.  "If you want to keep it I'll send money and I'll visit and everything."  It sounded earnest, but I didn't know how honest he was.  I didn't know anything about him.

I exhaled hard and stared at his jeans, but he cupped my face and tipped my gaze up and I wanted to just be transparent.  "What if I do know?"  The whisper floated between us and he nodded, understanding softening his eyes.  "Am I evil?"

He shook his head and I fell, limp, into his arms and cried hard.  Michael's hands, rough from travelling all over the world, smoothed over my head and down my back.  His deep voice comforted me.  He swore that it would be okay, that we'd find somewhere safe and legitimate, that he would postpone his next flight until I was back on my feet.

My "Are you serious?" came out between a cough and sniffles and I looked up.  He nodded.  "Michael, you don't have to."

"I know."  He stroked my wavy, brown bangs behind my ears.  "I know.  But I would never leave you to do this alone."

Was this the kind of guy he was in everything?  Did he always own up to his responsibilities?  Was I being unfair, not getting to know him at all?  Not giving him a chance?

I wanted to ask him everything about himself, but we sat there in silence.  My head rested on his shoulder and his head was slightly leaned against mine.  The big chocolate was half eaten and tall glasses of water sat before us.  Condensation trickled down to temporarily stain the coffee table and all I could think was that the life inside me wouldn't last much longer than those stains.

Michael shuffled through the TV stations and I stared ahead.  Was there really a something in my body?  It didn't feel that way.  What did it matter anyway, if it would be gone soon?  Much like any other mistake, over before it really started.



I stood out on the balcony, breathing in the night air, trying not to cry while talking to Chris. His voice soothed me but he was being so serious. It didn't help that he was thousands of miles away in another country. “He won't take me home,” I whispered with a strained voice, tears threatening. My free hand wrapped around the cold steel of the railing, grounding myself in the moment.

“Just stay calm, Sadie. Stay calm.” He was trying, bless him, but even after uncountable years of best-friendship, not even Chris could help.

“I don't know where I am.” I choked on a sob. I doubted Daniel would come outside, but it didn't matter anyway. The three huge pit bulls downstairs would probably tear me apart before I could even think of a way to get beyond the high walls around the property. A shiver coursed through my bones.

“Sadie, you okay? You should come inside.” Daniel stuck his head out of the door and leered, eyes crawling from my toes up to my head of messy sea-water curls. “It's freezing out here, God.” The beach and dinner outing had turned into a nightmare. Having spent all day with a group of friends, Daniel had offered to take me home. Sun-drunk, I had agreed and dozed off in the front seat.

Bad decision.

I'd known him for years. He was a friend of a friend and one of those random people I hadn't considered much of anything – least of all dangerous.

Being driven through a series of off-roads until I had no idea where I was had been the furthest thing from my mind. The motel looked like any other really nice house from the outside. It was white washed and two storeys up with a winding staircase at the front, French doors, a wrap-around balcony and a line of trees off to one side. But I hardly took those details in, too busy noticing what was missing.

There were no roadsigns, few street lights and no name to show that we were at a place of... business. The handsome building stood on a quiet street in an otherwise run down residential area. When we had parked, the owner had grabbed his angry dogs long enough for us to run up those beautiful, winding steps.

My stomach sank as that fact set in. We hadn't checked in. Daniel hadn't paid. There was no record of where I was at all.

“I want to go home,” was the only response I could come up with. He rolled his eyes and disappeared again. Inside was the last place I wanted to go, but I knew that staying out here wouldn't help anything.

“Fucking-” Chris started, having heard the exchange.

“I'll call you back, Chris.”

“Call Mason.”

“What? No. I don't know where I am, that doesn't make any sense.”

Chris sighed, going silent for a beat before telling me to call him back soon.

I straightened up and walked into the room. Despite the sketchy area we were in, it was clean and tastefully decorated. The carpet was plush, the bathroom sparkling and the bar fully stocked. Daniel was stretched out on the bed, watching TV. I perched on the couch and he sat up with a smile. He was handsome, I'd give him that, with perfect teeth and tightly curling hair that framed his dark eyes. But my stomach turned uncomfortably when he wrapped his fingers around my arms and dragged me onto the bed beside him. My heart was thundering in my chest.

“You're beautiful, you know that girl?” He ran his fingers along my face. As gentle as his touch was, it made me want to vomit. “Let me love you, Sadie.”

“No.” I turned my face away a little when his finger tips brushed over my lips. “Please I just need to go. I don't want to be here and-”

“Nah.” He shook his head. “We've been playing this game for months. It's time. You'll love it.” His mouth covered mine and I froze. His tongue worked its way between my lips and then between my teeth. My body was shoved against the carved bed-head and I grunted, roughly shaking my head and breaking the one-sided kiss.


He slapped me and I blanked for a few seconds. Blood flushed my stinging face and my ears burned.

“Stop!” It was the only word I could form and I yelled it over and over as he slammed my body flat into the bed and grabbed at my dress. Rough palms attacked my breasts as his invasive tongue swept over mine. I tasted blood and salty tears when he bit my bottom lip.

Insistent knocking at the door made him swear and stand up. I adjusted my dress, recognizing the owner of the place. The muscular man glanced at me and then glared at Daniel. “Get the fuck out, man. Leave.” He dropped some cash on the floor. I thought Daniel was going to lose it, but he just growled and walked out, leaving the money and not even looking back on me. The dogs went crazy, rattling their chains, their barking only drowned out by Daniel's car as it peeled off.

The guy frowned in my direction. “You have a friend you can call?”

I nodded.

Mason showed up about half an hour after getting directions from the owner, who had left me to wait in the room upstairs. Hearing the engine, I barely registered my sprint from the couch and into my friend's strong arms. The hug was tight and secure. I pressed my face into his chest, both of us ignoring the noisy dogs.

When we broke apart, he stared down at me. Mason's tall, slim figure loomed almost menacingly, but when I realized that my heart was racing and my ears were burning, I knew it wasn't because I felt threatened.

I got into the car in silence. Mase was tense. I could always tell. His angry dark eyes kept flitting back and forth between me and the road. Piano fingers gripped the steering wheel so tightly that his knuckles went pale and his mouth was set in a hard line, only breaking to ask if I was okay.

“I'm okay. Thanks for coming, Mase.”

“Better me than any of your other shady friends,” he bit out. I tried not to feel insulted. He maintained a super small circle of friends and had never been in love with my wider and far more sociable crowd. “Did you even know that guy?”

“I thought I did.”

He sighed and glanced over. “Did he touch you? Do we need to hunt him down?”

I chuckled but he remained serious. “He... like he kissed me and started to... but nothing happened.”


“I swear.” My stomach complained suddenly. What a time to be hungry, though considering the nausea I'd given into earlier, I shouldn't have been surprised.

“Let's get something to eat.” Another twenty minutes later and we were pulled up in the parking lot of a 24 hours Wendy's and digging in. The radio coloured the background to our sparse chatter, but that's how it always was with Mason. He didn't waste words.

After gulping down the last of his drink, he turned in his seat to face me, folding a long, lean leg under his body. “What happened, Sadie? We've been dancing around it for too long.”

Clouds were parted overhead, framing a glorious half moon and glittering stars. Slouched in the passenger seat with my legs stretched out, swallowed in one of his sweatshirts, I felt comfortable and unwilling to go back through the day. Forgetting about it totally would have been the most ideal thing but... He deserves more than that.

“We went to the beach,” I started, staring outside, avoiding his eyes at any cost. “It was a group of us. He was supposed to take me home but-”

“Take you home? You let random people like that know where you live?”

“We can't all be paranoid!” I spun to face him.

“Maybe if you were you would have been safe.” As cold as his words were, concern tinted his tone. I sniffled, holding back tears and his dark eyes softened. “Keep going.”

I pouted but his gaze chipped away at my faux-stubbornness and I huffed and kept going. “It was four of us. We went to the beach this morning, had lunch and dinner. He dropped everyone home and I live the farthest so I was like sure, take me last.” I sighed. “I fell asleep.”

“God, Sadie.”

“When I woke up I didn't know where we were and he wouldn't say. He just kept turning until we got to that place. And the dogs and the noise and I just...I didn't have a choice, Mase.”

He was livid, fists clenched and eyes narrowed. Part of me was thrilled that he was being so protective. Part of me was sickened by everything.

“So,” I finished up, “I called Chris.” He nodded knowingly. I wasn't surprised. “Then went inside to try to get him to take me home and... he didn't want to.”

“Okay,” he exhaled. I think we were both surprised when he slumped back into the seat, releasing himself from the stiff position he had been holding while I spoke. “God, Sadie. You know what could have happened to you tonight?”

“If I know?” In spite of everything, an uncontrollable giggle escaped. Mason scowled and I glanced away before meeting his eyes again, winding some damp, curly hair around my finger. “I'm really really glad you came-” When my voice broke he wrapped an arm around my shoulders and pulled me over, angling my face into his neck.

“You're okay, Sadie. You're safe.” Our eyes met and his widened uncharacteristically. “Your mouth.” His thumb and fore finger angled my head this way and that a few times, checking for other bruises before scanning my chest and darting decently across my legs. I blushed, barely able to murmur that I was fine before leaning back into the passenger seat again.

“I'm okay, really. That's the worst of it.”

His expression announced the doubt that he refused to vocalize. “Do you want to head home?”

I nodded, flashing a smile and buckling my seatbelt.