When People Volunteer You For Things

Jasper was sleeping on his stomach while I bobbed my head in and out of the en suite bathroom. I was brushing my teeth in my purple bra, underwear and a purple silk kimono super early in the morning and getting ready to go to the town meeting. Apparently, there was a crisis about the next town event—the main event planner succumbed to an inevitable cold—and they were rallying in search for the new delegator first thing in the morning before everyone went to work.

Jasper shifted in his sleep and I ran back to the bathroom mirror, pretending to brush vigorously until he came. But he never did. I spat out the foam and rinsed my mouth with lukewarm water before closing the light and leaning against the door frame. That’s when Jasper turned his head and opened his eyes.

“Hey beautiful,” he said, grinning.

I smiled. “Good morning.”

“Morning. Why are you up so early?” He scratched the morning sleep crust out of the corners of his eyes and sat up, his groin covered by only a sliver of my blanket.

“Got to get ready for the day.”

“Oh, come on,” he said, holding out his hand. Instinctively, I took it and he pulled me into his lap. “Stay in with me.” He pecked a small kiss on my lips. “We can watch all the Korean shows you love, promise.” He teased.

I rolled my eyes while growing red-faced. “That was just the one time.” I wouldn’t even dare tell him how many foreign shows and movies I’ve watched since.

“Do you have such a busy a day that you can’t spend it with me?” he asked, sliding his hand down my stomach and then onto my bra, picking at the violet lace. He bit his bottom lip. “What do you say?”

“You’re such a tease.”

“I’m making an effort to be involved in your interests,” he shrugged. “Is that so bad?”

It sort of is when you have a girlfriend. A pregnant girlfriend. A girlfriend you despise, but a girlfriend no less. Julie probably spent the whole night wondering where Jasper was and if he’d ever come home. I wonder if she called his cell or made inquiries around the town. I’d be surprised if she hadn’t already declared him a missing person and plastered his face over every milk carton.

I honestly didn’t care about Julie, but something else had been eating away at me. Not so harshly that it left a mark on my skin but little nibbles, and I think it has to do with the fact that Jasper was so far out of reach, that despite him being literally inside of me, he was still out of reach. It’s like, sure, we have fun, we spend time together, but at the end of the day, he’ll always go back to square one. And I’ll be home alone writing about it for the online magazine like some poor man’s Carrie Bradshaw. By the way, sidenote: who else hates all the women from Sex and the City but Samantha? Raise your hand.

“We have a town meeting, remember?” I whisked myself off his lap. “There’s a crisis upon us.”

“Something tells me the town will live through it,” Jasper said, hopping out of bed. “But for you, I’ll go.”

I wanted to say that it shouldn’t be for me, but I bit my tongue. Why add that? It’s so unnecessary.

Jasper showered and in the meantime I did my makeup and wrote some notes on my laptop. At most, I had about three Word documents open at all times. One for the online magazine, one for my story (the one Daniel tells me to continue writing), and another for a freelance fashion writing gig I’ve taken upon myself to do on the side. Most times it would be one for the online magazine and two for the story. I still have so much left to write.

“Your water pressure sucks,” Jasper said as he skipped down the stairs with a towel in tow.

I tapped on a few keys to end a sentence on my story and then closed the monitor. “Yeah, I’ve been meaning to get it fixed. It’s been like that only a couple days now.”

“I can fix it for you.”

I nodded. “Yeah, okay. I mean, I can just call someone, I wouldn’t want to bother you.”

“It’s no bother. Besides, it’ll save you a lot of money.”

I nodded again. “Well, we can’t now because the meeting is about to start, so, let’s go.”

The closer we got to the town hall the more people began to filter in with coffee cups in hand. Murmurs swam around the building and the sunlight barely peeked through the hazy, fogged windows. Jasper and I sat next to each other—I on the aisle, and he to the left of me—and we waited as more people poured in and the mayor was rustling papers on the podium, his eyes sharp and intent and his brows pulled in between creating a worrisome crinkle above his nose.

“I can’t believe this is an emergency,” Jasper whispered. “So stupid.”

“But you love it, I bet.”

He turned to me and smiled. Then, he took my hand and motioned circles with his index fingertip on my palm. “Yeah, I do.”

I slowly peeled my hand away and shifted my legs, one over the other. Has he no shame? We’re literally in front of the whole town, if one person sees, it’s every man for himself.

The mayor was in the middle of speaking about needing a new event planner and what the tasks were for anyone who could volunteer when Julie burst in through the doors, letting in a cold draft of snowy air.

“Sorry, I’m late, you know how things are,” she said, patting her stomach. Is she going to be blaming everything on her pregnancy?

The mayor continued as if he wasn’t interrupted. Julie spotted Jasper and I and forced herself through, asking everyone in the row to move down one.

“Where were you?” Julie asked Jasper. “I tried calling you all night.”

“Sorry.”

That’s it? That’s all you could say?

“So, where were you?” Julie pressed.

“Out with the guys.”

“Hmm,” Julie mused. “Funny, they didn’t mention anything about you.”

“It wasn’t for long. Barely worth mentioning.”

“Ahem!” The mayor coughed, eyeing Julie and Jasper.

“Sorry,” Julie said. “Please, continue.”

“As I was saying,” the mayor said, “we need a volunteer to head this thing and we need it now. This needs to be completed within two days and there’s still so much work to be done. So, any takers?”

The room filled with a deafening silence unlike before.

“Oh!” Julie raised her hand.

The mayor furrowed his brows. “Julie? Are you…?” He seemed genuinely dumbfounded. As if a pregnant woman couldn’t possibly handle a job of this magnitude. Not to mention, Julie was barely showing, but even if she was—if anyone woman was—they still have the capacity to work. It’s not like we need to suddenly be thrown into an incubator for nine months until things are sorted.

“No, no, oh god no. I know someone who might be able to coordinate this event.”

“Really? Who?”

Julie gestured my way, a smirk on her face. “Anna, of course.”

My eyes widened. “What?”

“What?” Jasper asked.

“Yeah, she works from home,” Julie said.

“And?” I asked.

Julie rolled her eyes as if the answer was the most obvious. “I mean, you work from home.”

“So, I still have work,” I said. I looked at the mayor. “I still—I’m way too busy to—”

“You’re the only one we can get on such short notice,” Julie said.

I shook my head. “I don’t even know the first thing about how to plan an event.”

“Listen, my dear,” the mayor began. “I can help you. I’ll provide you with the necessary tools for you to complete this project. But we have no one right now and you’re the only person in town who seems to have a malleable schedule.

“Besides bed ridden octogenarians,” Julie snickered. Jasper shot her dirty look and Julie closed her eyes and shook her head, as if to say that his father was excluded from the list.

“Please, I’m begging you,” the mayor said.

“Yeah, be a team player,” Julie added. “Help us all out.”

“Shut up,” Jasper hissed. It did nothing, Julie kept on cackling.

“Alright, fine,” I mumbled.

“Yes!” The mayor shrieked at a decibel I didn’t know was possible for him to reach, ending the meeting there and then, probably so there wasn’t an opportunity for me to go back on my word.

“You don’t have to—” Jasper started, as people stood up and skedaddled.

“So, when can you come fix my shower?” I smiled.

“What?” Jasper asked.

“Excuse me?” Julie said.

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Close My Eyes

Late that night, upon arriving home after a disastrous outing that ended in a fight between Jasper and Nate, I found a package at the foot of my front door. Since Jodie, Chloe, Janet and I live long distance we all packaged our Christmas gifts and sent them out a little earlier. I was receiving their gifts in fragments since they didn’t post it all at once and together. This last one was a lightly tinted lip balm in the form of a lipstick bullet from a brand called Dear Dahlia. I rolled my eyes and smiled, of course Jodie would post me a Korean product I’ve outwardly said that I’ve wanted to check out. I read the card and guess what it said: ‘Of course, what else?’. It was serendipitous I tell you.

I was in the middle of applying my moisturising gift when a knock sounded on my door. Maybe a package from a secret admirer this time?

“Oh, it’s you,” I blurted at Jasper when I opened the door.

He nodded. “Yeah, okay, sure.”

I shook my head. “Sorry—” I cleared my throat and puffed out my chest, plastering a long, fake smile— “oh, it’s you!”

“These are my only two options for greetings?”

“That’s it. Either, Monotonous Molly or Piercing Penny.”

“I think I’d rather have kind, gentle, Anna Parker.” He laughed, his cheeks a slight sheen of pink.

I rolled my eyes. Cringe. “Are you looking for something?”

“Are you going to let me in?”

“Sure, since I’m so kind and gentle.”

He grinned. “Thank you.”

He made a beeline for my living room where he spotted the delivery bag and brown parchment paper now ripped to shreds on my coffee table.

“You know, I’m getting ready for bed so…” my voice trailed off as he held up the lip balm. “Do you want to try it?” Like, why are you staring at me and saying nothing but holding up my gift like I’m supposed to be able to read your mind?

He chuckled. “What is it?”

“It’s a gift.”

His brows shot up. “From a boyfriend?”

I narrowed my eyes and shook my head. “No.”

He laughed and popped off the cap. “It’s a clear lipstick.”

“It’s not a lipstick. Just hand it over.” I snatched it from his hand, nearly taking off his finger in the process.

I sat on the sofa and he followed, sitting on the opposite end. “So, I have something for you.”

He handed over Ms Ice Sandwich by Mieko Kawakami with a flower peaking atop the pages.

“Thank you,” I said, rather robotically. No smile, not even looking at him.

He paused, and I could hear him holding his breath as he deliberated what to say next. “Do you hate it?” he asked slowly, the words spilling out like dollops of cream.

I shook my head. “No.”

“Then, what is it?”

“I’m—I’m just a little confused.”

“What about?”

“Well, you do remember tonight, right? It only happened a few hours ago.”

“What about tonight?”

“Aside from the fact that Julie is a psycho, you had a fight with Nate.”

He chuckled. “So? Everyone has fights.”

“Fistfights? No, not always.”

“It’s not a big deal.”

“Enough of a deal to end the dinner.”

“I’m sorry, were you having a good time?”

I tilted my head. He was being so nonchalant about this. “What were you fighting about?”

He shrugged. “It’s not important.”

“Important enough to fight about it.”

“Why do you do that?”

I laughed humourlessly. “I’m doing that because you keep playing down the night. Is it something he said?”

“He said plenty before.”

“So, then he started the fight?”

“What does it matter?”

“Is it about someone you know?”

“I know everyone.”

“About me?”

He smiled. “You would love that wouldn’t you? Two guys, fighting over the same girl.”

“Oh, yeah, it’s a real dream come true. My mission in life. So, then it was about Julie.” He remained muted. “Oh, it is about Julie. About the baby?” He remained silent still and flickered his eyes. “Is it…oh my god, it’s Nate’s?”

Jasper shifted in his seat. “It doesn’t matter.”

“What did he say?”

“He didn’t have to say anything,” he said, peering his eyes up almost shamefully.

“You never actually had a conversation with him about it, did you?”

“I didn’t need to.”

“Umm, yeah, you kind of do, actually. You don’t just go around beating people up because you assume they knocked up your girlfriend. You do know what happens when you assume, right?” Before he could reply I said, “You make an ass out of you, motherfucker.”

He rolled his eyes but kept the smile. “I don’t go around beating people up.”

“Did he ever actually say anything about it.”

“He denied it, of course.”

“Of course. Maybe it’s not him you should be worried about.”

“Oh, and what do you know?”

“I know you’re not having the conversation with the right person.”

“You?” he asked, dubiously.

“Wrong again. Julie.”

“Oh, right, of course you would say that.”

“Yeah, because I’m right.” I pulled out my lip balm and reapplied indulgently. “It’s exhausting being, right.” All I needed was someone to feed me grapes and a gilded fan and I was good.

“Do you at least like the book?” Jasper asked.

“I do, actually. Thank you.”

“Can’t believe you spent however much money on clear lipstick.” He said. Then, under his breath he muttered, “Girls are so weird sometimes.”

“It’s not clear lipstick,” I replied with my nose turned up, “it’s a moisturising balm.”

“So, it’s supposed to make your lips soft?”

“That’s the idea.”

“How can you tell?”

I smacked my lips together for show. “I can tell. I can feel it.”

“That’s not a true test.”

“No?”

Jasper shook his head and shimmied closer on the couch. “I have a better test in mind.”

I smiled. “You are so—”

“Irresistible, charming, I know.”

“I had a few choice words,” I mumbled as he lowered his head.

He watched my lips. “Yeah, maybe you can tell me them later.” I felt the cold tip of his nose before his lips pressed onto mine. “Is that okay?”

“Yes,” I said quickly and nodded.

The last time I remember an interaction like this I was telling him we should just call it off. And I thought I wouldn’t want more of him the closer he got on this sofa, but oddly enough, I was expectant. Waiting for him. And I’m glad he asked if it was okay all things considered. Yeah, it’s okay for now because I want him right now, and I want him to know I want him but just not by how much. I just hope I don’t regret this because that seems to be my issue these days.

I pushed him over and climbed on top of his legs, pushing my hips into his hard-on. He rolled off my top over my head and slipped his hands over my breasts and down to my waist, pulling me closer. I peeled off and watched as he was confused that I stopped.

“Are you coming?”

He smiled.

He followed me up the stairs and once we reached the top he held me from behind, planting kisses up and down my neck and shoulder, as we waddled over to my bedroom. We peeled our clothes off as I walked backwards, and he forwards, peeking for a kiss intermitted by each item of clothing stripped. I held his penis and rubbed him, missing sex. Why do I feel like it’s been forever?

“Lie back,” he said.

I threw myself over my bed and stared up as he hovered over me, grinning. I smiled back. Nope, definitely not going to regret this. His warm lips surrounded my breast, squeezing and sucking on my nipple, my back arching as he gently pulled and flicked his tongue over and over. He shifted down with his head between my legs and without teasing went straight in and lapped me up. I combed my fingers through his rustled but soft dark hair. My toes curled and uncurled by each flick of his pointed tongue over my clit, before inserting two fingers. I moaned and turned my head this way and that and looked down every so often to find him looking up at me eager to please, which made it that much hotter.

“I’m going to come,” I breathed.

At that, he moved his fingers faster, thrashed his tongue harder and slurped hungrily as I came into his mouth. My pelvis cracked once as I shuddered.

He moved up and positioned himself comfortably, before filling me up and driving into me. He grunted as he moved his hips back and forth. I clawed at his ass which only made him groan and sit up straight on his knees, holding my leg wider. I admired his toned body from this view. When he saw me bite my bottom lip as he squeezed my breast, he came. Moaning shakily and sucking in a sharp breath between his teeth.

He fell next to me and we slept together with his arms wrapped around me all night.

The Sun Is Melting

“This restaurant we’re going to is Italian,” Julie peered back and smiled.

“It’s pretty fancy and expensive so if you can’t afford it, I got you,” Jasper said, pressing his hand against his chest disingenuously.

“Thanks,” Nate said, “but I’m pretty sure I can handle it.”

“Good for you,” Julie chimed condescendingly.

My cell phone in my jacket pocket was going off from the group chat. I told Chloe, Janet and Jodie all about my adventures with the characters in looneyville and they all but hopped on a plane and jumped into the dinner to spectate tonight’s events. Which is safe to say already going awry.

“…so I told Ashley, sucking on step-daddy’s cock isn’t a relationship. And she ran away crying,” Julie chuckled.

“Oh my god,” I blurted and immediately regretted it.

Julie shrugged. “Bitches should have thicker skin and better reasons to talk to me. She literally came up to me just to tell me how to do my job. Like, I’ve been in this business my whole life and she has the audacity to tell me what to do?”

It was hard to imagine anyone telling Julie what to do, so I didn’t entirely believe the story, which doesn’t necessarily mean the story was entirely untrue. The words coming out of Julie’s mouth I can absolutely, 100% guarantee, believe. It was weird because isn’t it written somewhere in the law that that type of language isn’t exactly ideal, to put it lightly? And Julie is lawyer. And she talks like that? Oh, boy she must have power.

When we took our seat at the reserved table the first thing I did was take my vibrating cell phone out my jacket pocket and switch it to silent.

“May I take your coats and jackets?” the waiter asked.

We handed them off to him and he skedaddled. Perhaps the one moment I could see if I was overdressed or underdressed. Turns out I’m on par with everyone else in the sense that despite this being a fancy restaurant, we were all casually dressed. I think it mostly had to do with the fact that it was freezing beyond repair.

“You guys have to try the oysters,” Julie said, lively. She turned to me and held my gaze. “They’re better than anything you’ve ever put in your mouth, I’m sure.”

I narrowed my eyes as she smirked and looked down at her menu. Thankfully, Nate and Jasper were too deep into the menu themselves to notice her remark, but I’m sure that either way, if they heard what I heard and saw what I saw, they’d probably chalk it up to it all being in my head. ‘She just means food, don’t get ahead of yourself’, I imagine they’d say.

For a course called, stuzzichini I ordered two oysters with champagne pickled shallots, a wagyu carpaccio with malt shallots, gherkin and mustard crisp for primi, which I imagine is entrée, and crumbed flinders island lamb cutlets and braised shoulder with roasted Jerusalem artichoke for main, whatever the heck that meant but it sounded divine.

“You’re in a mood for food,” Julie noted aloud after I ordered.

I shrugged. “Well, we’re here to have a good time and eat, right?”

“Right,” Julie nodded. “I’m just surprised you rival a pregnant woman’s appetite.”

“Uh huh, and how’s that going for you?” I looked at Jasper. “For the two of you?”

“Well—” Julie locked her arms with Jasper’s— “we’re brainstorming names and baby shower details. I think it’s going to be the adventure of a lifetime for the both of us.”

“How about you, Jasper?” I pressed.

His nostrils flared. “Couldn’t be happier.” He said so monotone and robotically that everyone shifted in their seat.

“Well, congratulations to the both of you,” I said.

“How about you guys?” Julie asked.

“We’re not planning on children any time soon,” Nate said.

Julie threw her head back and laughed raucously as if she had front row seats to an Eddie Murphy comedy special. “No, duh, of course not. But, how long have you guys been dating?”

“This is our second date, technically,” Nate said.

To be honest, I didn’t consider a double date with Jasper and Medusa (that’s unfair; I respect Medusa!) to be an actual date. This felt more like the Spanish Inquisition than a date.

The food was generally intermitted by uncomfortable silences. Julie was the megaphone trying to get everyone to talk, but it was just awkward. Who thought this was a good idea!?

“…well anyway,” Julie stood. “I’m going to go freshen up before dessert. Let’s go, Anna.”

I looked up. “What?”

“Bathroom.” She tilted her head and shifted most of her weight to one leg as if this was my idea and she was waiting on me.

“Oh, I don’t—”

She gripped my arm and started to pull. “Come on,” she said, rolling her eyes.

I stumbled out of the booth. “I guess I’ll be back.”

The bathroom was like a mosaic museum. This restaurant clearly spared no expense; fancy, indeed.

“Are you having fun?” Julie asked and smiled.

I nodded. “Yeah, you picked a good place.”

Ugh, why did I compliment her?

“As always,” she said, fixing her hair and taking out what looked like a clear makeup bag filled with mascara, lipsticks, powders and a tiny travel-sized spray. “You know, Jasper was super successful in New York, and he had women harpooning after him there a lot. But small-town girls are something else,” she chuckled, “it’s like they’ve never met a man before, or a man like Jasper, at least. So, I can understand why some girls here are smitten with Jasper, but they shouldn’t be.” She turned her body to face me. “He’s mine. I claimed him in New York and I’ll claim him in this pitiful town.” Then, she smiled. “But I can tell you’re not like the other girls. I sort of think highly of you, you know. I think we could be good friends. But you don’t want me thinking that you’re the type of girl that thinks blowing a guy earns herself respect from him, do you? There are a lot of girls like that around town. Just ask Katya—” she snickered, and I winced a little.

“Katya’s a good person,” was all I could say after she beat me with a bat.

“Uh huh. Like I said, I see us becoming good friends someday. And who knows, maybe you’ll get to babysit for me one day.”

“I don’t think so,” I muttered.

Her smile was sharp and disjointed and disappeared quickly. “Well, you get it anyway. I’ll see you out there.”

I pulled out my cell and immediately started texting the group chat. I had 78 messages from all three girlfriends and I was about to get a ton more. Then, I texted Lucy, Katya, and Viv the exact same message. Honestly, this turned out to be more entertaining than I thought. Although, feeling like the shit-stirrer doesn’t feel all that good. But at the same time, I didn’t think of it as shit-stirring but more like venting and entertainment for us all. We could go back and laugh about it in retrospect, but I half-felt Lucy, Katya, and Viv are going to be like, ‘yeah, so what else is new’.

I heard a commotion the closer I got to my table. Bystanders were staring out the window where Julie stood screaming at a brawling Jasper and Nate. She yelled at people to do something and yelled at the to stop. Eventually, a group of guys pulled them off each other just as I stepped outside into the icy winter.

Julie was cuddling Jasper while Jasper watched Nate from behind him as he walked off. Nate stood with a cut, crimson lip and rustled hair that curled over his eyes.

“What the hell happened!?”

Nate sniffed. “Nothing.”

“Are you okay? You’re bleeding. Let me see.”

“I’m fine.”

“You don’t look fine.”

“Jasper doesn’t look fine either.”

“That’s not what I meant, would you just let me help you?”

He shimmied my hand off his shoulder. “I said I was fine!”

I nodded, watching him curiously. “Yeah, okay.”

“Look, I think we should call it a night.”

No, please, really? Can I come home with you right now?

***Recently finished the first expansion to my book. It’s been a long time coming. On to expansion number two! What music is everyone listening to lately? I’ve been listening to a lot of “lo-fi” on YouTube, mostly from channels like The Bootleg Boy. It’s so good! Speaking of which, anyone want me to share a picture or song on one of the post, comment below, be as vague or as specific as you want! I hope you enjoyed the post. See you soon! xo P.S. Picture credit: @Archillect***

Don’t Run, Spot, Don’t Run

Oddly enough, Julie’s last words sounded threatening to me. I don’t know if it was the fact that Julie was pregnant, and it was hormonal, or the fact that it was just Julie and how psycho she always comes off, but everyone agreed to this double date.

I woke up the morning of screaming my lungs out for Vivian’s dog. I was turning the house upside down, throwing cushions over and up as if he’d be snuggly fit under one. In a few hours’ time she was coming to pick him up and I was running around like a mad woman. My heart was racing, and I was heating up by the thought of having to explain losing her dog. I wracked my brain to think in business terms—present a problem only if you have a potential solution—the only thing I could think of was that at least he can’t have gone too far. I’m screwed, honestly.

My phone started ringing and without thought I answered immediately. If it was Vivian, I probably wouldn’t have answered.

I held my breath as if I was in a Wes Craven horror film.

“Hello?” a confused voice asked.

“Hi?” I blew.

“Anna?”

“Who is—?” I panted, peeling the phone away from my ear and glaring at the screen— “You know I’m seeing you tonight, right?”

“Okay?” Jasper replied, stretching the last syllable out.

“Listen, I can’t talk right now.”

“Is something wrong?” He sounded genuinely concerned and it bothered me.

“I’m just having a crisis at the moment and I don’t have time to talk, okay?”

“But—”

“—okay bye.”

I threw my cell on the misshapen sofa before sliding down onto the floor. For most of the time I was panicking so much a light sheen of sweat appeared. I brushed the hair from my face in such a frantic manner that it all flung back to my face, and after a while I forgot the purpose of my hand being so close to my face.

I scanned the room, thinking back to when I’d last seen Spot, but I was having difficulty. Was he even here? Oh my god, I’m going crazy!

“Hey, Anna!” an abrasive knock and shout sounded at my front door. Again, Wes Craven vibes.

I shot to my feet, heart racing and opened the door.

Jasper appraised me up and down. “Okay, good, so you’re not hurt. What the hell is going on?”

“What the hell are you doing here?” I asked.

He pushed past me, my mind too boggled for any swift reaction time. “You sounded like you were hiding from the mafia.” His eyes flowed across the room. over the overturned cushions, the chairs pulled out and out of place, my backyard door wide open. Jasper’s eyes grew wide open. “Were you robbed!? Who the fu—!?”

“—no—”

“—what—?”

I shook my head, vehemently. “No, that’s not what happened.” Great. Now I have a missing dog and Jasper to calm down.

“You really need to start making some sort of sense, like right now.” Jasper closed his eyes and pressed onto his temples with his fingertips.

“Spot is gone.”

“Spot?”

“Spot, Vivian’s dog, he’s gone. He’s gone and it’s all my fault and I have no idea where he went and if Vivian finds out she’s going to kill me.”

He rolled his eyes. “She’s not going to kill you.”

“Oh, what do you care!?” I scoffed.

“People who have their life all figured out are never killed. They just have the answers to everything.”

“Are you here just upset me even more? Like, what is this?”

Jasper stood silent before stomping away.

“Yeah, see you later, too!” I yelled before he slammed the door.

The following hour or so I got dressed and scoured the streets for Spot. I greeted neighbours and friends along the way with a sour smile, nothing that warranted more than a question to the state of my wellbeing. I had no time for pleasantries. I had no time, period.

I went as far as the lake and returned home empty handed. As I approached my house, sitting on the front porch with leash and collar…and Spot, in hand, was Jasper. Spot was lying down on the floor like nothing had ever happened, and Jasper sat as if he was waiting for ages.

My heart skipped. “Where did you find him?” I crouched down to Spot’s level and scratched his head.

“I have my ways.”

“Well, whatever you did, thank you.”

“Yeah.”

Jasper pushed off the steps and started to walk. He stopped and turned around. “Hey Anna?”

“Yeah?”

He held his breath for a moment and then his chest deflated. “Be more careful next time.”

***I’ve been reinvigorated to continue writing my book. What book\s have you been reading lately? Soul xo***

This Pregnant Lady Will Not Take ‘No’ For An Answer

Daniel and I spent the remainder of our stay in L.A. in my hotel room, naked, ordering room service and having sex whenever we weren’t talking. It was perhaps one of the happiest times I’ve spent with him in a long time. I missed the way we were back in college and a glimmer of those good times peeped through the opening that was thanksgiving.

I arrived back to my sleepy town just before the first snow fall and banners lined the streets for their annual snowman contest. Side-eyes were thrown over frozen waters as people judged other people’s sculptures. About every third sculpture was exquisitely detailed, and in the far corner, a little group of women made a snow-woman with a sign that read ‘feminism exists in the south pole’.

“Shit it’s freezing,” I said when I blasted into Lucy’s salon.

“I know right, I can barely lift a finger,” she said before sipping her hot chocolate.

I eyed the cup like a feral cat from the street. “Where’d you get that?”

“I made it. Do you want some?” she asked obliviously.

“Hell yeah. Please.” It was divine. I relayed the events of my thanksgiving and intermitted with sips. “How was yours? What did you guys do here?”

“Well, it was pretty eventful,” Lucy said and lifted a brow.

I narrowed my eyes playfully. “I’m intrigued.”

“It was pretty much same old same old until Julie and Jasper made a massive announcement. They’re pregnant!”

“Who?” My dumb ass was so confused that I needed clarification.

Lucy rolled her eyes. “Julie is pregnant. Jasper looked like he was going to throw up. I swear it was something straight out of Gone Girl.”

“Holy shit,” I mumbled.

“Yeah,” Lucy nodded, “Julie’s already begun to prepare for a baby shower even though there’s hardly a bump to be seen. She says she wants the pictures without a baby bump. I thought the whole idea is that you’d want to show it, you know? I don’t know,” she shrugged.

“Yeah, I don’t know.”

My own thoughts clouded Lucy’s voice. I was stunned. I couldn’t imagine being in Jasper’s situation. I could practically feel the entrapment from a mile away.

I seriously didn’t want to worry myself about it. The last thing I wanted was to make someone else’s issues my own. So, I spent the night home looking after Vivian’s dog.

Lately, I’ve been loving everything from Asian skincare brands. Say what you will but after experiencing Tatcha’s enzyme exfoliator and mask, I’ve decided Asian skincare will forever be emblazoned into my day and night time rituals. I’m not even kidding about the benefits and the fact that their products work. You know how all those people and brands, beauty gurus and what-have-you talk about reducing texture and shit? Well, the enzyme exfoliator. Actually. Reduces. Texture. And shit.

I’ve been testing out Sulwhasoo masks on my face for a month or so now and I have to say, it’s on my list right next to Tatcha. I had just folded the Sulwhasoo packet and put it into the fridge and rubbed the remainder of the serum into my face (and pat, pat, patting!) when a knock resounded on my front door.

Jasper had his hands stuffed into his jeans pockets and rolled back and forth onto the balls of his feet. I rolled my eyes. “Yes?”

“Welcome back.”

“Thanks.”

He tilted his head slightly. “You look different.”

“What can I say?” I threw my hands up in the air. “I’m the same.”

He glanced down. “That’s new.”

“What?” I followed his line of sight to my cute tattoo.

“Oh,” I covered it with a sweaty palm as swiftly as if I’d been burned. “Yeah, it’s new.”

“Got anything else new in any other places?” He joked and winked.

I rolled my eyes but failed to keep my smile on lockdown. “What are you here for again?”

“Well, I wanted to show you something.”

“Okay,” I said, waiting.

He chuckled. “We have to drive.” I peered at his black sedan. “Don’t worry,” he said, “there’s no kidnapping or ransom involved.”

“Do I really have to? It’s a lazy me day and I have to look after Vivian’s dog.” In all honesty, Vivian’s dog was too old to do anything but sleep. I don’t think he even knows that he’s at a completely different place.

He sighed and tilted his head. “Please?”

I stared for a moment, a little taken aback by his plea. I rolled my eyes. “Fine.”

I feel like I’ve been rolling my eyes so often lately that they’re eventually going to be stuck back there one day.

We travelled a few blocks down main street and stopped at a rundown house that looked like a worn version of the Charmed ones’ house. It had a sign outside with the word ‘SOLD’ emblazoned in big, red lettering.

My stomach churned. He and Julie are going to renovate and live here together, I thought. I was going to hurl right there and then, I swear.

Inside wasn’t all too bad. The place only seemed dusty and fragmented pieces of wood lied around, other than that, most of it seemed like it needed a clean up and polish.

“Do you like it?” Jasper asked.

I scanned the building. “It’s big. It’s nice. Is it for you?”

“And you,” he said. I furrowed my brows. He chuckled. “And everyone in this town. This is going to be where I practise medicine.”

I lifted my brows and widened my eyes, blinking in disbelief. “Oh, wow,” I breathed.

“Don’t look so stunned,” he laughed.

“You actually went and did it.”

He nodded. “I actually went and did it. It was time. It’s always been time.”

“I’m glad for you.”

His smile grew from ear to ear and he moved his eyes across the rooms with the same proud fondness a father would his child.

“Thanks.”

I started to walk away, thinking that was all he wanted to show me and that I could just take a long walk home.

“Julie’s pregnant,” he blurted.

I turned around and the same smile plastered on his face now seemed twisted and disturbed. Tainted by a wash of displeasure, twitching at the corners of his mouth, struggling to keep the smile up with all the intensity of someone pulling on a rope tied to an anchor in the depths of a black sea.

“I heard,” I said, as unemotionally invested as I could sound.

“Of course you would have.”

“Congratulations, I guess.”

He looked down. “It’s not mine.”

Plot twist.

“Uh…” I said, shakily.

“We haven’t had sex in a long time.” The way his jaw dropped on the second last word made me think it was a longer than long time.

“So, what are you going to do?” I bit my tongue immediately after, regretting that I asked that question.

He shrugged and sighed. “What I can do for that baby.”

His words tasted like vinegar and I scrunched my face. “Honestly?”

He smirked, looking me up and down with an elitist attitude. “I suppose you’d say to abandon the baby like I should abandon my father’s happiness. I should just ditch all my responsibilities.”

“You know what,” I said slowly, “I don’t give a fuck. You can do whatever the fuck you want. I literally cannot care any less. This information is as insignificant to me as the hair on my ass. And whatever you choose to do will have nothing to do with me. All you do is complain about how shit everything is and how you can’t change it. Well guess what? You can change it, you’re just too chicken-shit to try.”

He let me ramble on and hadn’t slipped a word in before I twirled around and departed swiftly. Sometimes I just think people around me make my head more clouded. That other people’s problems bring me down and I have no idea where the line of sympathy and carelessness is drawn. I feel like such a bitch, but I also feel that had I not spent the time I did with Daniel, I wouldn’t be saying what I said to Jasper. Not to blame Daniel or anything, but it just made me realise how much more I want to be happy as opposed to being enveloped in a dark cloud all the time.

That mentality is easier said than done considering Jasper always presents his problems to me as if I have the key to solving everything.

Anyway, later in the week I stopped by Nate’s shop to collect my car, I swear I feel like it’s been sitting there since the beginning of time. We had been texting each other back and forth and eventually made plans to have a second date. I wasn’t jumping up and down considering our first kiss was horrible, but I was optimistically hoping our second date would be way better.

But as I was talking and flirting with Nate—he was so cute, blushing and grinning confidently, I don’t think I’d ever seen him confident before—Julie came with the loudest, most obnoxious greeting I’ve ever heard.

I jumped so hard at her shriek that my boobs jiggled even under the fifty layers of clothing. “Hi,” I breathed. I noticed Jasper at her tow like the good little doggy he was (is that mean? Ugh, I’m just so annoyed that he’s so adamant to please everyone but himself; I don’t even know why it bugs me so much but there you go).

“What are you two little lovebirds doing here?” Julie asked us.

Nate and I stole each other’s glances, the both of us waiting for the other to speak. “Uhh, I’m picking up my car,” I said.

“That’s not what I heard,” Julie wriggled her brows. “A little birdy told me you guys are going on a second date.”

I turned bright red. “Hey, congratulations on the baby on the way by the way. So, are you guys going to get married soon, too?”

Petty, I know, but she was annoying me so much. Jasper raised his hands to rest on his hips and he shifted his weight between his feet. I think it irked him more than it did anything to Julie.

Julie put on a fake smile that barely reached her eyes. “I think, right now—” she rubbed her stomach with one hand and wrapped the other around Jasper’s waist— “after the baby is born we’re going to think about that. Until then, we’re just going to be focusing on the baby.”

I glanced at Jasper’s cold, dark eyes and looked down. Okay, I can’t help but feel a bit sorry for him. I don’t know; what am I supposed to feel!?

“We should actually go on a double date,” Julie ultimately suggested.

Everyone looked at her like she escaped from the loony bin and asked for two voodoo dolls and a box of chocolates.

“Oh, I don’t know…” I said.

Nate chuckled breathily.

“What?” Jasper asked.

“Yeah, come on, it’ll be fun,” Julie said with faux enthusiasm.

“It’s our second date, you know?” I said, scrunching my nose.

“All the more reason why you should join us,” Julie said. “Come on, this pregnant lady will not take ‘no’ for an answer.”

***Sorry it’s taken me so long to post! I was going to write more but then thought I would take forever to post something so I thought better to post something then now. How’s everyone doing? I hope everyone is going well. I hope you enjoy the song too. I wish it was longer, it’s so dreamy! As always, thanks for coming back! Soul xo***

Promise Not To Fall

Daniel was waiting outside for me with an Uber. After our little rendezvous I texted him asking if he wanted to come with me to see my mom. I was panicking so hard before sending that text my palms were getting clammy, I left fingerprints on my cell from the heat. In all honesty, I didn’t know what I was more nervous for, seeing my mom and her beau and possibly my half-brother after so long, or having my ex-boyfriend—oh wait, scratch that, ex-fiancé—tag along.

I was biting the skin around the rim of my nail, thinking about all the questions I could be bombarded with. I clearly didn’t think this through.

“Relax,” Daniel said to me as we got out of the car. “You’re so edgy. You’re acting like you’re preparing for the Spanish Inquisition.”

“I might as well be.”

He rolled his eyes and gently pushed me from behind. “Come on.”

“I didn’t ask you to come along so you can tow me, you know,” I said.

“So why did you then?”

I paused, wrangling my brain to find an answer. I sighed and rang the doorbell. Daniel smiled, and childishly, I stuck my tongue out just as the door flew open.

“Hiiiiii mom!” I gasped.

She literally scratched her earlobe. “Hello. Come in, come in.” She tucked me in a warm embrace, her arms wrapped around me feeling like a cloud. “It’s been so long, honey.”

“Hi,” I repeated. This time a lot less shrill.

“Daniel!” She leaned in and perched her chin onto his shoulder. “How are you, sweetie?”

“I’m fine, Mrs. Parker. How’s everything?”

“Oh, fine, fine, fine. Well, come in. I’m almost finished setting up.”

Daniel and I plonked on the sofa as my mom dove into the kitchen. I scanned the living room like a stranger assessing their surroundings.

“Looks different,” I muttered.

“You haven’t been here in a while,” Daniel said.

“That’s the third time I’ve heard that today.”

Daniel furrowed his brows. “Me? Your mom? And…?”

I bit my lip. “Janet.” Did I really want to tell him how my mind was overreacting again? Best to leave the crazy at bay as much as I can.

A cluster of picture frames huddled on a table in the corner caught my attention. I walked over and checked each one. I scoffed. “All new frames. All new pictures.”

“So?”

I pursed my lips. “It’s like she couldn’t wait to get rid of the memory of my dad.”

“Give her a break, will you, Anna?”

“What? It’s not like I’m keeping a grudge.” I glanced at Daniel staring intently, with a lifted brow, back at me. “What?”

He shook his head. “You said it not me.”

“Pretty sure you’re here for moral support.”

“I am. I’m morally supporting your mom,” he laughed.

I cracked a smile and rolled my eyes.

We got called to the dinner table with a feast fit to feed the entire Kardashian family if their asses needed sustenance. My stomach was full from last night but I couldn’t hold back. I figured if I didn’t keep eating I’d have to face my mom and Jim. I believe they call this emotional\stress eating. Jokes.

“So,” my mom darted her eyes between Daniel and I. she finally settled on the easier one. “How are you two doing?”

“Fine,” Daniel nodded. He looked at me. I nodded in agreement. At this point I still hadn’t even glimpsed Jim. He was hard to ignore though, he sat from across me and at times I noticed him looking at me from my peripheral vision. Fun fact (but not really): I used to pronounce ‘peripheral’ like ‘peri-feral’ when I was younger. I guess it was more fun that way.

“So, what do you do in New York?” My mom asked after a long pause.

Daniel started babbling away. My mom stared at him thoughtfully, nodding her head and smiling whenever the appropriate opportunity presented itself. They went back and forth like Jim and I weren’t here. I took one swift look at Jim and he threw up a little smile mid-chew, his food bulging through his cheek. I smiled back, unintentionally half-assed.

“I’m going to use the bathroom,” I said, pushing out my chair.

“Honey,” my called, “use the one upstairs, the one down here has some construction going on.”

“Okay.”

I skipped the stairs more rapid fire than a bunny rabbit and used the bathroom. As I was coming back, I noticed a door ajar. My old room. the walls were a neutral yellow. Not the way I left it. I peeked through and saw toys near a box in the corner, a mat on the floor, a changing cot, and crib by the window, it’s curtains fully closed.

My baby brother was sleeping soundly on his back, with his arms raised above his head like he’d been stopped by the police. He’d grown so much. I think. I couldn’t remember the last time I saw him.

This whole time I felt like my mom traded one for the other; her husband for Jim, and me for her newborn son. Words can’t describe the shame that came with the agony I felt. I knew she wasn’t making a trade, that this was just life, it goes on, it moves, it lives, but for some reason, I couldn’t put my selfishness behind me. Every time I saw my mom I’m reminded of the time she didn’t tell me my dad passed away. And every time I felt like it was my fault either way, despite her being a willing scapegoat. I hated that for a long time I hated her, and I hated that for a long time, she allowed me to hate her. No winners.

“He said his first word recently,” Jim said. I jumped around. “Sorry, I didn’t mean—”

“—No, it’s okay.”

He walked to the crib and stood beside me. “He pointed at a chair and said ‘chair’ twice. It was done breathily though so it’s up for debate on whether or not he meant ‘cha-cha’. We think the former,” he joked.

I nodded. “Sounds more plausible.”

“Yeah.”

I gulped. “I didn’t mean to barge in…”

“Oh, don’t be silly. It’s your house, too.”

“Yeah, well, I think that’s up for debate, too.”

Jim looked down and shoved his hands into his pockets. “Look, uhh, Anna, I, umm, I don’t want you to think we’re pushing you out. More so, that I’m making your mom push you out. I want you to be here with us and be a family and I hope our son grows up with a big sister.”

“That’s nice,” I muttered. It was all I could think to say.

“I know it’s weird sometimes, but I just want you to know that I’m on your side. We both are.” He paused. “Is there anything you want to tell me?”

I narrowed my eyes and thought. “You’ll never replace my dad, you know.”

He smiled, politely. “I don’t intend to. He was a great man.”

“You met him?”

“Oh, yeah. Plenty of times.”

“He is a great man.”

“I can only hope to do such a good job as he did with you.”

I smiled, reminiscing on all the times my dad refused to buy me a Barbie when I nagged incessantly. That, when he brushed and styled my hair when I was younger, I preferred his way as opposed to my mom. I remembered the clunky way he ran as he got older, the drugstore cologne he used, the way he let me score a goal between two posts in the backyard and when I hit a flower bed he consoled me by telling me he would take the blame.

“You will,” I said. “You already are.”

“Yeah? You think so?” he beamed, his grin super wide.

“Yeah. You already are.”

***

“Now that wasn’t so bad, was it?” Daniel asked as he escorted me to my hotel room. “I mean, after the awkward silences, once you came back from the bathroom it just all got simpler.”

“Yeah, I think it was a good time. Doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a tad bit difficult.”

“But you did good.”

“Yeah.”

“How’s your tattoo?”

I peered down at the cute little panda. “No regrets.”

He grinned. “I’m glad. Same here.”

“So, I guess this means I’ll see you.”

“Yeah.”

“You’re going back to New York.”

He smiled. “I had fun. I mean, I loved spending time with you where we didn’t hold resentment for each other for once.”

“Yeah, it was a good run.”

“You know, I’m pretty sure I mentioned this before, but I want to visit you some time.”

“You did.”

“I’ll text you some time about it.”

“I’d like that.” And it was the truth. Before I didn’t feel comfortable with him dropping by because I thought we’d just be angry at each other, but now, I was looking forward to it.

“Okay,” he stepped closer, “I guess I’ll see you.”

I had my back against the wall and could feel the heat from his body. “Yeah,” I breathed, staring at his lips and then lifting my eyes back up.

He smiled and cupped my face. I closed my eyes, awaiting the inevitable.

He pushed his lips onto mine and all my yearning for him exploded. He moved a hand down to my waist and clutched me closer. I felt him hard and it only made me want him more. I turned around and fumbled with my key card as he pulled my hair aside and kissed down my neck.

“Goddamnit,” I hissed.

He chuckled breathily, and the air rapidly hit my neck in flutters, tickling me. I finally got the door opened and I threw my clutch and our jackets onto the floor. We kicked off our shoes, and I undressed him—I unbucked his belt, and got on my knees and slipped him inside of my mouth. I circled the rim of the tip with my tongue and inched him deeper and deeper. He threw his head back momentarily and jutted his hips out for me, gently stroking the side of my face as I bobbed back and forth. I licked up his abs and balled up his shirt as I did until I pulled it over his head.

He lowered his head onto my chest and pushed my breasts up. He stuffed his face and I giggled, unable to catch my breath as he pulled my top down underneath my bra, and the cups of my bra underneath my breasts. He hungrily swirled his tongue over my nipples and clutched one between his lips. He tore my top off and I kicked my jeans away. He picked me up, my legs wrapped around his waist, and tossed me onto the bed. He crawled over me and kissed me once. Twice. Before lowering his head down to my thighs. I wriggled underneath his soft pecks. He pulled my underwear off, and I flinched once I felt his wet lips and tongue between my thighs. He moaned, and I gasped when he slid two fingers in while he sucked my clit.

I rustled his hair with my free hands. He pulled up and towered over me. He kissed my chest before he pushed inside of me. He filled me up in a way I missed. And as his brows furrowed and he peeked down to glance where we connected, I could tell he missed it too. He thrusted in harder and harder. I turned him over onto his back and lifted my hair as I moved my hips back and forth. He slapped my ass and gripped my thighs, leaving red hand marks and sizzles vibrating my skin. Once I felt my toes curl and the blood rush, I came. He flipped me over onto my hands and knees and slapped his hips against my beet-red ass until he grunted and held me tighter when he came, digging his fingertips into my hips.

We panted and crashed onto the pillows where Daniel embraced me all through the night.

W\O u, Tattoo

“So, it’s with great pleasure that I announce Stanley and I are getting a puppy!” Janet squealed the last word, the high-pitch piercing my ears.

I looked down and smiled. I noticed that my nails were digging into Daniel’s hand. He shook his head when I smiled apologetically to him and curved my brows upwards.

The night went on, I congratulated Janet and Stanley on getting a new addition to the family. I wanted to meet the puppy more than I wanted them to have a baby; how sad is that?

“Want to get out of here?” Daniel asked.

We hugged one of the walls of the house, in the shadows, away from most of the crowd. I sipped my water. “And go where? Everything’s closed.”

“Not everything.”

“Oh?”

“I happen to know a little dessert place that are open late tonight. If we catch them, we can grab something.”

“Dessert? The pie wasn’t enough for you?”

“You know me,” he rubbed his stomach.

I chuckled. “Alright, let’s go.”

“I hope you don’t mind…” Daniel trailed off once I noticed his motorbike.

Oh, that’s right. I shook my head. “No, it’s okay. I haven’t seen you on your bike in a long time.”

“I’ve missed it.”

We swerved the roads and dodged anything in motion you can name. my heart was racing, I forgot how fun it was to be on a bike. On Daniel’s bike. This little dessert hot spot doubled as a restaurant, but we decided to take ice-cream take away and perch on some steps.

“You seem different,” I finally said after some time of silence.

“Good different?”

“Really good different. I mean, you seem a lot happier.”

“I am.” He sighed, freely. “I don’t know what it was or how it happened, but I just stopped feeling sorry for myself at one point. Sounds weird, I know. But there was a moment where a switch just shut off and I thought, I can choose to be a miserable son of a bitch for the rest of my life, or make a better situation out of myself.”

“So zen-like of you.”

He laughed. “Yes, the Dalai Lama would be proud. No, I mean, of course I have bad days. Of course. And I’m not claiming to be perfect; I still get angry, sad or jealous, or whatever, but I think I’m learning to deal with it better.”

I narrowed my eyes. “Are you seeing a therapist?”

He grinned and nodded. “I am. She’s fantastic.”

“Oh, a ‘she’, huh?”

“Shut up,” he shook his head and rolled his eyes playfully.

I snickered. “I’m honestly really happy for you. It feels like you back in college again.”

He pretended to flip his hair. “The cool, brooding guy, right?” he flung his arms and smacked the cone against his chest. “Ah, shit.”

I laughed. “Totally. Oh, so cool.”

“Oh, shut up.” He bobbed my cone into my face.

The icy cream dotting the tip of my nose. I gasped, my mouth gaped open. “I can’t believe you did that!”

He laughed and licked his thumb. It looked so sexy I was momentarily distracted.

“Do you still feel like you?” He asked seriously.

I blinked myself a couple times out of his sexiness. “Umm, yeah, no, not all the time.”

“Want to talk about it?”

“Umm….” I said in a pitch only dogs could hear.

“Okay, okay, okay, fair enough. You know, sometimes it helps if you do something reckless.”

“Reckless?” I lifted a brow. “Like, paying the cell phone bill slightly late?”

“No, like, I don’t know, skydiving or bungee jumping or—”

“—do all your ideas involve a close call with death?”

“Okay,” he mused, “a tattoo.”

I chuckled. “Yeah, okay.”

“No, I’m serious. Let’s you and I get tattoos.”

“We’re not getting matching tattoos, are you crazy?”

“Not matching. You’re the one that’s always talking about getting a cute tattoo, you even had one in mind, remember?”

“That was a long time ago.”

“Do it now. I’m with you. Come on, how many times have you talked about getting a tattoo?”

I thought about it for a moment. “There is this cute panda—”

“Done.”

I laughed shakily. “I don’t know. What tattoo parlour is even open now? I good one, not a trashy, underground basement-slash-bomb-shelter one.”

“My boy Carter as a shop.”

“You’re ‘boy’?” I smiled, teasingly.

He held out his hand. “Are you in or are you out?”

A firework went off, blasting the night with warm fluttering sparks of light, it was like looking at Daniel under a closely lingering sea of stars. The moment was too perfect to let go just yet.

It stung like hell, but it was worth it.

Where Have You Been?

I am obsessed with the rain.

Growing up, my favourite moments in the night were listening to the wind plough the leaves. Without the rain, there was always a perfect calm non-existent anywhere else in life. There would be a comforting silence, almost identical to the one I’d only experience after sex with someone I loved, huddled together, not needing to talk, not needing anything. Time would stand still. With the rain, it was like adding a blissful smile to the mix. Almost melancholic, because you know it’ll end soon, and that’s disheartening, but you enjoy it for the moment.

Daniel reminded me of every feeling I used to feel when I felt those sleepless calm and breezy nights or wistful rains. His dimple pronounced his smile, his eyes crystallised amber, his muscled frame more toned now than I remember in New York. He wore a leather jacket and thick jeans, towing a helmet under his arm before dropping it at the coat hanger.

We sat down at the dining table when Janet called dinner was ready. Daniel and I sat next to each other, having not planned to sit together but rather drew to each other like magnets.

“How are you?” he asked, twirling his index finger in the palm of my hand as we waited for Janet to add the last bowl of greens onto the table.

I grinned, butterflies swarmed my stomach and swelled a flame. “I’m good. How are you?”

“I’m good,” he chuckled. It was contagious.

It was as if we hadn’t seen in each other in years.

The night carried on with all sorts of stories and conversations. Neither Daniel nor I hardly paid attention to any of them. I was interested in a lot of what was going on with Daniel since I last left him. Oh, even saying that ran a shiver down my spine. I left so much.

“…and how’s your father?” I asked.

The corner of Daniel’s mouth twitched minutely. “He’s okay. We’re okay-ish. We’re really cordial with each other. Strangely so. The way we talk to each other, if we ever talk, is really business-orientated. Like, we’re not even father and son anymore. Which is cool. I’m okay with that. I don’t want to pretend it’s anything else.”

I wondered if that had anything to do with my leaving.

“How’s the, uhh…” How do I put it delicately?

“The spawn of Satan?” That’ll work. We both laughed awkwardly. “No, uhh, we don’t…I don’t…they have they’re life and I have mine.”

“Oh.”

“That sounds bad doesn’t it?”

“No, I mean…” I shrugged.

“It’s okay, you can say it.”

“You make it sound so easy to cut off someone with so much certainty.”

“Not easy,” he shook his head, looking down for pause and trying to gather his thoughts. “I don’t know how to explain it.”

“You don’t have to.”

“Well, speaking of which, how’s your half-brother?”

My heart paced, I tried to act cool. “He’s good.” I looked away and bit my lip, acting as if I’m searching for beans or corn or some shit.

In all honesty, I hadn’t seen him in a long time. In fact, I don’t remember the last time I did see him. So, I was dreading Thanksgiving dinner with my mother and her baby and beau. Call me crazy, call me chicken, call me what you will, but half the people wouldn’t talk shit if they were in the same position.

“What about your book?”

I furrowed my brows. “My book?”

“Yeah, the one you sent to an editor? Had it, you know, edited?”

“Oh, oh, yeah,” I laughed nervously, “yeah, umm, I’m still working on it.”

“You better be,” he smiled.

I smiled back. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I’d slowed down like I was trudging through thick mud. When the editor gave back my manuscript, there were so many notes on it that it was bleeding. For some reason, I just couldn’t bring myself to edit. Then, I got caught up with this full-time gig at the magazine alongside some freelance work, I made the excuse that I was too busy to work on my dream.

Somehow, the topic of discussion at the table reverted to transgender dating.

“Honestly,” some guy said, “if you were dating a girl and you found they used to be a guy—”

“—how long did it take me to find out—” another replied.

“—no just wait—”

“—how serious are we?—”

“You don’t get details in this hypothetical, that’s the beauty of a hypothetical.”

“Okay, go on then.”

“So, you’re dating and you found out they used to be male, would you keep dating them?”

“Nah man,” the second one shook his head. “I wouldn’t.”

“Why?”

“He does this all the time,” Janet rolled her eyes at me and shook her head.

“It’s a good question, though, right,” the first guy said to Janet once he heard.

“It’s a hard question,” Janet replied.

“Come on,” the first guy nudged the second at his elbow, “what’s your reason for being transphobic?”

“Fuck you,” the second one spat. “Nah, it’s just the trust is gone because they hid it this all time.”

“Nice one dude,” a girl jumped in and winked, “pick the diplomatic answer.”

“It’s a good fucking answer,” the first one said.

Daniel and I smiled. I just wanted to go back to our world.

“Alright, wait,” the first guy continued, “what if they told you?”

The second guy thought for a moment. “No, definitely not.”

The conversation went from politics, to music, to Kanye—we practically considered all things. I hadn’t anticipated the conversation to get deep and meaningful at times, but it was a real eye-opener, I started wondering about my own views on certain things.

The evening began to die down. Food was almost all consumed. Janet stood up and clinked her glass.

“I have an announcement to make,” Janet smiled. “As many of you know, Stanley and I have been dating for a long time. We were first introduced to each other by our amazing friends—” she threw out a flat hand at us— “Anna and Daniel—” Daniel and I smiled bashfully, unknowingly put on the spot— “we’ve been through thick and thin and I somewhat can relate to Charles Dickens when he wrote ‘it was the best of times, it was the worst of times’—” she giggled, “but now, Stanley and I wanted to let everyone know—” she placed a hand on her stomach and my heart began to quicken.

Through my forced smile I was selfishly devastated. Janet was pregnant, I know it, and I’m happy for them but I just felt like it was too soon. It was all changing too fast. I’d grown sick of Facebook updates of people posting their marriages and proposals and new houses and pregnancies, and meanwhile, I was a mortifyingly single nomad, still renting property, and averse to having children. I had to remind myself like a mantra: be happy for her, be happy for her, be happy for her. I didn’t want to ruin it for her, but it’s not fair. I wanted more time with my best friends.

Meeting Him For The First Time, Again

I’m hardly an app-oriented person. I just never saw the intrigue behind downloading a game purely to pass the time. I’d grown up my whole life thinking I spent enough time on my phone to the point where I shouldn’t bother downloading extra incentives to be glued to the screen. That was until I found this game called Love Nikki – Dress-up Queen and the title alone speaks for itself. I wouldn’t say I’m totally obsessed with the game since I go weeks without even looking at the app, mostly because the app isn’t on the front page of my cell, but it’s the only app that’s stayed on my phone this long. The basic point of this game—and I shit you not—you play a character in an alternate reality where people battle each other by picking out outfits. The best outfit wins. Instagram had this app advertised and I don’t even go for ads like that anywhere let alone Instagram, but curiosity got the best of me and it was the first advertised app I’d ever downloaded and I’ve yet to delete it.

I was on my phone playing this game when I got a phone call from Lucy. As soon as her name popped up I immediately felt a yearning for all of them. I’d spent so much time in that small town I was beginning to cherish it despite the distance from Chloe, Jodie and Janet. I wished I could just bunch them all up in one place and stay there forever. Even Chloe was visiting from Chicago. Did I tell you? She got a promotion and moved to a firm up in Chicago. It’s as if college never happened sometimes.

“Heeeeey we miss you!” Lucy exclaimed. I heard Katya and Vivian chirping in the background.

“I miss you guys too!”

“You’re coming back for Christmas, right?”

I nodded. “Sure am.”

“Good, because when it’s snowing it’s like being in a snow globe,” Katya said.

Being in a snow globe doesn’t sound so appealing when I put it in Alice Sebold’s context. And that was all I could think of until thanksgiving dinner. I had been researching other works by Alice Sebold and, other than The Almost Moon, Lucky, and The Lovely Bones, she’d written nothing else. I wondered if anyone missed her. Her work stood out in the way that honey moved at a glacial speed, all consuming and rich in texture. Her words stuck to the roof of your mouth and were swallowed layer upon layer until the last drop, the last word trickling down like the wheezing hippopotamus in Jumanji. This is the last one; this is all I have left; I am done.

What is it about thanksgiving time that makes people look in retrospect and contemplate their life? Thanksgiving is the pivotal moment to look back and New Year’s provided the resolutions for the future. They worked hand in hand, didn’t they? Like Thelma and Louise; hated and loved.

I’d gotten to Janet’s before the festivities began and helped her set up the table. Turns out she’d invited more people than the one dining table could manage so she arranged for a long-ass, last supper looking table outside under a foray of white tents thin enough to see the stars. She was still cooking when people started rolling in and popped out every so often to greet them with Stanley and then they both vanished back into the kitchen. I’d somehow got stuck being a budget hostess and helped with drinks and greeting people as well, most of which I had absolutely no idea who they were and wondered if they’d find it strange that Janet and Stanley’s poor man’s bartender is sitting at the table with them. The bartender being me, of course.

Then, I saw familiar faces burst through the front door. Chloe had kept her hair short, but instead of it being a blunt bob she accented it with some curls. Jodie was showing off thick, tanned legs for the winter after coming off the coast of Australia on holiday with her new girlfriend, Tatiana; an equally mesmerising Adriana Lima clone.

“Hiiiiiii,” I squealed, throwing my hands out and running to Chloe and Jodie for hugs. I hugged Tatiana Lima (see what I did there?) a lot less tight than the other two.

“Okay, before we get down to anything tonight,” Chloe held up her hands palms out, “I have to borrow those shoes,” she said, pointing down at my feet.

“You like?” I twirled.

“I love!” Chloe said in an Italian accent, before kissing her fingertips and then flexing those fingers back.

“I’m after Chloe,” Jodie added with all the seriousness of a hunter ogling its prey.

The hemline of my long-sleeved, chiffon, fall-toned floral dress peaked just below my butt, inches away from my black Stuart Weitzman over the knee boots. I’d been going for a reddish-chocolate mood and my brown with black and gold accent press-on nails matched the ensemble perfectly. Lucy would kill me if she knew I preferred press-on nails.

“You guys know me, you know how I used to fool around a lot,” Jodie said to me and Chloe as Tatiana was getting us a few drinks. “Well, I thought Tatiana was going to be the same, and it was for a while, but then we started, I don’t know, as corny as this sounds—” she rolled her eyes— “we started connecting. It wasn’t just fun, but it was engaging and stimulating, and I started feeling all these feelings I hadn’t felt of much before. It honestly feels great.”

“So, you guys are serious?” Chloe asked.

Jodie nodded. “Yeah. Is that weird?”

“That’s awesome, Jodie,” I said.

“Yeah, what are you even talking about weird for? Weird doesn’t even exist nowadays.” Chloe furrowed her brows.

Jodie sighed. “It just feels so good.”

Tatiana came back carrying our drinks on a tray, somehow becoming the new hostess. We started getting to know her thoroughly, literally interrogating the poor girl, I’d like to defend myself by saying Chloe was doing most of the interrogating. We had somehow become good cop, bad cop.

I trickled away when my heart tumbled at the sight of man bearing the same likeness to Daniel, although, as he got closer, it wasn’t him. I told everyone I was going to get another mocktail when on my way there the front door opened and in came Daniel. With his brown hair and green eyes; his leather jacket and towing his motorcycle helmet underneath his arm. My heart began to pound. He greeted a few people on his way in. I was waiting for him to notice me, but he just kept catching sight of everyone else. My heart slowly started to calm down and I continued onwards to the bar when he went into the kitchen.

“You look familiar, do I know you from somewhere?” a deep voice asked.

I smiled at how coy and cute Daniel was being, but when I twirled it was none other than a complete stranger and my smile grew wider at the mistake. I started to go a bit red. “Oh, no, I don’t think so. Hello.”

“You here by yourself?” He leaned in closer, his bushy beard inches away from my face.

“Yeah—no, my girlfriends are out there,” I said, pointing to the back.

“Girlfriends, huh?” He wriggled his brows.

My cheeks tightened and lifted in disgust. Not at the thought of my girlfriends but at the thought of him with all of us. Is that weird? “Yeah,” I said. “The friends.” He knows what I mean, why am I even trying to clarify?

“I have to go,” I said.

“Well, here’s my card if you ever want to have some fun.”

“Thanks, but no thanks.” I bolted faster than Usain.

I thought the tap on the shoulder was him trying to catch up to me and give me his card, but I kept walking. Then I heard a hearty laugh. “Anna, it’s Daniel, wait up.”

I stopped in my tracks and he bumped into me, grunting. I turned around. “Hey,” I breathed.

He’d never looked better. Toner body, skin a healthy glow, dimples still popping behind the veil of sexy stumble, his brown hair shined as if he just got off the set of a Pantene commercial; I couldn’t believe how hot he looked and how much of him I had forgotten.

It was meeting him for the first time, again.

Remember Martin?

Remember Martin? He was the owner of the bar where I worked while at college. Well, I flew back home for thanksgiving and the first thing the girls and I did was visit the bar. Not for any special occasion but to catch up in a nostalgic arena. Everything was exactly the same; the lights glimmered orange, the floors were covered in peanut shells and spilled drinks, and UCLA students flocked at night like birds to a feather. I couldn’t believe how much it hadn’t changed.

“Like old times, huh?” Jodie said to me.

“Yeah,” I mumbled, scanning the bar.

“What ever happened to Tina?” Chloe wondered aloud.

I shrugged. “Beats me.”

“Last I heard,” Janet said, “she was in Chicago.”

“Doing what?” I asked.

Janet shrugged. “No idea. Hey, what about Adam?”

My heart crashed. “What about him?”

Chloe nudged me and wriggled her brows up and down. “Didn’t you guys have a thing?”

“No, no thing,” I said, shaking my head.

“Do you guys still see each other?” Jodie chimed in.

“Nope,” I simply said. The girls exchanged meaningful looks and then moved on to more nostalgic reminiscing.

Truth be told I hadn’t seen or heard from Adam in a long time. Last contact we had he was telling me about his new girlfriend with a baby on the way. Yes, a slobbering, pooping bundle of joy burrowing into the belly of a girlfriend to what was once my best friend, now a mere acquaintance. Is that weird? Yes. But do some relationships fall apart overtime? Hell yeah. The most important question above all is: do I miss him? And yes, I do miss him, but I can’t change what happened in the past. The weird thing is there’s no ill blood between us and we left things on a high note. So maybe there is hope for us.

In the meantime I was focusing on the shitfest that was thanksgiving. Great food; awkward family situation. Forget Adam, the person I should be keeping in contact with the most is my mother. We used to have such a great relationship but it’s been clouded by her beau, Joe, and their little bundle of joy. I’ve yet to see my baby brother—or, I should say, half-brother—and I wasn’t looking forward to our reunion on thanksgiving. It’s difficult to process and I know it shouldn’t be but it’s also one of those things where you put it off for so long, untouched, until it becomes this black hole of doubt and second-guessing.

“Oh!” Janet exclaimed. “Before I forget, Stanley invited Daniel. Is that okay?”

I shrugged before looking at their curious faces. “Yeah, I mean, it’s whatever.”

“Like, I know you guys have history, but he’s also Stanley’s friend, you know?”

“Yeah, I mean, is he coming?” I asked, keeping my voice monotone in an attempt to seem uninterested.

Janet nodded. “I should’ve told you sooner.”

“No, no, no,” I repeated in a high-pitched tone while shaking my head, trying to act all blasé but the Oscar does not go to me. I cleared my throat. “I mean, I’m not adverse to ex-boyfriends.”

“Okay, good.”

“See,” Chloe said, “I told you she’d be fine.”

I gulped. “Yeah, see, I’m fine.”

Janet stared at me, remaining unconvinced. “Okay.”

I almost wished she hadn’t told me while we were at Martin’s bar. All these thoughts of him came rushing back and the only way I snapped out of it was when I eavesdropped on a frat boy speaking to his waitress.

“…yeah, we go around saying ‘aye papi’ and throw confetti every five seconds,” the waitress said. “Do you want anything or not?”

The guy laughed with his friends. “Alright, alright, alright, don’t get your panties in a twist ‘mammi’.” He laughed again.

I groaned, wanting to punch him in the face when I heard Martin’s voice interject. “Is there a problem here?”

“No, sir,” the frat boy said, now solemn, all traces of humour evanescent.

“I’ll take it from here, Ava.” A short pause. “What do you wannabe attorneys want?”

“Uh..uhh..uh—” one of the guys stuttered.

“Got any ID?”

“We’re legal, dude,” another guy said.

“Not here you’re not. Get the fuck out.”

“Y—you can’t do that!?” a squeaker said.

“Call me when you pass the bar and sue. Until then, get the fuck out. I strongly advise that you don’t make me say it a third time.”

It was comforting to know Martin still had his employees’ back and hadn’t changed one bit.