Write: Girl Unclaimed

I threw the stick and watched Daisy run after it, her tongue lolling to one side, her stubby little legs pumping unrestrained excitement.

I glanced out over the water and became momentarily mesmerized by the light flirting with the small ripples from fish nibbling algae on the surface of the lake.

And then I saw it – a yellow spot among the tall, green grass gently swaying in the sweet twilight breeze. I narrowed my eyes to try and pick out the object without having to actually move closer to it. My peripheral vision blurred as I concentrated on the object that did not belong in this secluded spot. A slow feeling of dread started in my sternum and gently crept up to give my heart a warning squeeze.

Daisy dropped the stick on my sandal and I jumped – I had momentarily forgotten all about her. I bent to pick up the stick, my eyes never leaving that spot of yellow. From my lowered vantage point, my eyes focused on something new. Was that … an arm?

I quickly stood up, my breath caught behind the sudden fear in my throat.

I gripped the stick tighter in my hand and cautiously moved toward the object in the grass.

Daisy happily skipped alongside me. Her gait faltered as we got closer, her nose lifted and she suddenly growled low in her throat.

“I know, Daisy. Chillax,” I crooned in an attempt to keep her calm and not start a barrage of barking. The less noise we made the better.

I held the stick out in front of me – I guess I thought I could use it as a weapon. Though not long or sharp, it was thick enough that it might do temporary damage to a skull, or two.

My eyes never left the object, but I was keenly aware of where I was stepping. I had enough combat experience to slip back into that persona with very little effort. I had thought I had lost my edge but moving toward the target brought back a barrage of memories and I involuntarily winced as horrific images began to flicker and flit through my consciousness. Memories I had spent countless hours in therapy trying to eradicate.

My eyes narrowed as I got closer. It was definitely a body, a woman, no, a girl. She couldn’t have been more than twenty-years old. I paused to assess my surroundings. I looked out over the lake and studied the parameter. No movement. The birds continued to sing, a raccoon edged toward the far end of the lake and carelessly swiped at the water gently lapping the shore.

A soft breeze swept over the body. I crinkled my nose. Decomp – she had probably been dead for at least 24 hours.

“Damn it.” I sighed and slowly stepped back from the body. I couldn’t afford to leave any trace of myself on the body. I reached into my pocket and pulled out my cell phone. I pressed 9-1 and then stopped.

Even if I called in anonymously, they would still track my cell phone down. I couldn’t afford to be found. Not yet anyway. Not after I had spent the last three years making sure every trace of my existence had been erased.

I studied the girl’s face and slowly put my phone back into my pocket.

“I’m sorry,” I whispered regretfully. My apology dissipated on the summer breeze.

Fiction: Eve’s Empathy

It takes great courage to faithfully follow what we know to be true. – Sara Anderson

“Hey Eve,” a man in a tight turtleneck sweater said while rushing past. “Piper can’t make it in tonight, can you cover?” He continued his fast pace and didn’t wait for her to answer. “Thanks! I owe you!”

Eve sighed and watched the head of Human Resources make his way back to his wonderfully posh, and sweet smelling, office. She’d love to hole up in his office sometime, just to get away from all of the musty hospital smells she was forced to endure on a daily basis. She wouldn’t do much, just sleep. Was that too much to ask?

“Think he’ll ever pay up?” Vicki, Eve’s best friend, said practically in her ear.

The emergency room was hopping for a Thursday night and between the crying, the groans and the general loud talking over the equally loud television, it was sometimes necessary to get right up on someone’s ear in order to be heard.

She turned to her friend and gave her a weary smile. “It’s doubtful.”

“Why do you think Piper’s not coming in?”

Eve shrugged while replacing one chart and taking another. She gave it a quick once-over before answering her friend. “There’s no telling. Maybe she has a hangover. Or a hangnail. You never know with Piper. She’s such a wuss.”

“You can say that again,” Vicki nodded in agreement. “Oops, there goes my pager. Gotta go. Coffee later?”

“If not sooner!” Eve called after her friend as she scurried down the hall, the soft soles of her shoes squeaking slightly on the hard tile floor.

“Make way!” a man’s voice called and Eve looked toward the emergency room entrance. Her eyes widened in surprise when she recognized the man.

“Troy? Troy Wilson?” she asked while moving around the front desk.

Troy had his arm around a woman who was bent over with pain and obviously very pregnant.

“Eve Michaels?” he asked in surprise. “Wow. I didn’t know you went to med school.”

“Nursing school, actually,” she said and moved to grab a wheel chair. “Who’s your friend?” she asked while smiling at the woman and helping her into the chair.

“My wife,” Troy replied and Eve gave him a sharp look.

“Your wife?”

“Yeah, you got a problem with that?” the woman in the wheelchair growled between clenched teeth. Her growl quickly turned into a groan as a contraction ripped through her.

Eve laughed. “Not at all. Troy and I knew each other back in college. God, eons ago, right Troy?”

“Another lifetime ago,” Troy responded while making sure his wife was comfortable, or as comfortable as she could be, given the circumstances.

Eve helped them check in before taking hold of the wheelchair. “Let’s get you set up in your room, shall we?”

The woman opened her mouth to reply, but promptly closed it as every muscle in her body tightened with pain.

“How close are the contractions?” Eve asked.

“I’m clocking them about three minutes apart,” Troy said.

Eve nodded, suddenly all business. “Then we need to hustle.”

Together she and Troy moved his wife to the room and she left to give them privacy while his wife changed into a gown. After exactly five minutes, she re-entered the room and began taking the woman’s vitals while filling out her chart.

“You’ve called your doctor?” Eve asked, her eyes trained on the chart, her left hand busy making notes.

“Yeah. But he’s out of town, of course,” Troy grumbled. “I think they said that Dr. Lowe would be helping us?”

Eve smiled while she replaced the chart. “You’re in luck. She’s awesome.”

“Oh? The doctor is female?” the woman asked and sucked in a breath as another contraction hit. “Of course she is,” she ground out and grimaced with pain. “Troy will have her eating out of his hand in no time.”

Eve grinned at Troy. He hadn’t changed much, apparently. “The anesthesiologist should be along shortly,” she said while patting the woman’s hand, “hang in there.”

The woman snatched her hand away and gave Eve a dirty look. “Were you and Troy a couple in college?”

Troy sputtered an awkward chuckle while color flooded his cheeks. “Hardly. We were just friends.”

“I find that hard to believe,” the woman snapped and turned her back on the two of them as she tried to find a more comfortable position.

“Eve, I’m sorry about …” Troy helplessly gestured to his wife.

She held up a hand to silence him before he said something he might regret. “No need to apologize. She’s in pain and well … given your track record with women, I can understand her assumption.”

The woman laughed and turned her head to give Eve a good look. “I like you already. Thanks for your help.”

Eve patted the woman’s leg and nodded. “Any time. Good luck with the birth. I’ll check back in on you two later.”

Troy nodded, but only had eyes for his wife.

Eve re-read what she wrote on the woman’s chart and frowned. That wasn’t right, was it? She squinted down at what she wrote and then noticed her mistake. Correction, make that more than one mistake. Clenching her teeth in frustration, she erased her earlier notes and re-wrote fresh instructions before replacing the chart in the slot in the door.

She snuck a glance at Troy and his wife, but they were pre-occupied with getting through several contractions.

Eve unconsciously exhaled her relief. That was a close one.

She rubbed her eyes as she exited the room. It always got worse when she was tired, which was most of the time, quite frankly. She really should go see someone about her problem, but she was afraid that it would jeopardize her job. But at the same time, if she didn’t see someone about her problem, it could cost a patient his or her life.

Her heart jumped at the thought of being responsible for someone’s death all because she was too stubborn, and embarrassed, to do something about her Dyslexia.

“Did you get Mrs. Wilson settled in?” the head nurse asked Eve when she returned to the nurse’s station.

“Yep. She’s ready for her epidural. I hope they get there soon, her contractions are three minutes apart and she’s got that “look,” you know?”

“That look?” the head nurse repeated while raising her brows. “That’s a pretty technical diagnosis, Eve. I’ll have to remember that the next time I can’t be bothered with coming up with the correct technical term.”

Eve blushed and offered a small, apologetic smile. She knew the head nurse wasn’t exactly impressed with her. Especially since she had already discovered a few charts she had screwed up. She had been pretty diligent in making sure she double and triple checked her notations, but the head nurse had noticed them before she had.

That had been awkward to say the least. She was fast running out of excuses for her poor performance. Her stomach tightened at the stress of having to deal with her problem. She had worked so hard for this job and she loved it, she couldn’t imagine having to give it up because of her learning disability. But then again, how could she live with herself if it led to a misdiagnosis or worse, death?

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Fiction: The Trouble with Troy

If the dream is big enough, the facts don’t count.

My dad always had big dreams. He wanted to invent something that would not only be useful to others, but help mankind and of course, reap big rewards.

As in millions of dollars in rewards.

He was an inventor, of sorts. I remember he would spend entire weekends, for months on end, making plans, finding materials and then experimenting with various contraptions. All of them failed, but he never gave up.

I never understood that drive, that passion. To me, it seemed like so much work. Why not take the easy road and leave time for more fun things?

Like dating, or hanging with friends, or baseball.

I pretty much live for baseball.

I was never a good student. In fact, if it hadn’t been for Holly Lawson, I wouldn’t even have graduated from high school

I used her. I’ll admit it. I’m not proud of this fact, but there you have it. I knew she had a crush on me and I shamefully used that fact to manipulate her into doing what I wanted her to do.

That’s my gift, manipulating people. I’m quite good at it. I have a knack for honing in on people’s weaknesses and twisting them into something that I can use to benefit me.

At first, this bothered me. I wasn’t particularly proud of using people but it came so easy and people never had a problem trusting everything that I told them that I just sort of fell into the pattern – it was harder not to.

For the most part, I got over the guilt of using people. I mean, people come and go in our lives, in our relationships, they’re just blips on our life’s radar – meaningless really. Why waste time on them when there was so much fun to be had.

I’m not quite sure why I’m like this, maybe it has something to do with my mom, who worked two jobs to give my dad the freedom to do his experiments (that never paid off, by the way, I mentioned that part, right?) and worked herself to death.


Her heart simply gave out when she reached 48.

I was a Sophomore in high school when my mom passed away and it was from that point on that I knew what I wanted, which was to be nothing like my mom. I didn’t want to work my entire life away; life was simply too short.

And yet, I wasn’t willing to do what my dad did either. I can’t tell you the number of times I witnessed his disappointment, his dejection, his rejection all because he had the balls to stick his neck out there and try something different.

No. I was all about taking the easy road.

And of course, taking the easy route can not only be hard, but dangerous, too.

After I graduated from high school, I wasn’t sure what to do with my life. I mean, I could work, but I kept picturing my mother, worn down and bone tired from her two jobs and I didn’t want that for my life. So I decided to put my life on hold for a bit and go to college.

College wasn’t really work, it was more of a structured party with virtually no rules.

Save for the rules I made up along the way.

I quickly discovered that I simply wasn’t smart enough to be a college student. I had relied on Holly’s help, and I use that term loosely, throughout high school so much that in essence, I didn’t learn a freaking thing.

I had cheated my way through high school, so it seemed only natural that I’d cheat my way through college.

The challenge was finding the person who would make that happen.

It started out innocently enough. About halfway through my first semester I knew I needed help. I had failed nearly everything I had tried at that point and that wasn’t much, quite frankly. I was taking a full load, about 15 hours, and every single class was kicking my butt.

But I didn’t give up. I didn’t get discouraged. I got busy working out a four-year plan on how I was going to survive my college years with the least amount of effort on my part as possible.

I knew it could be done, I just wasn’t sure how it would shake out. I needed someone vulnerable, someone who craved attention and perhaps didn’t get it very often, who was sort of a social outcast. I needed someone smart and generous. I needed someone I could string along and manipulate into doing what I needed them to do without questioning my motives or seeing through my deception.

And that person came in the form of my college advisor, Lauren McCormick.

I knew, as soon as I walked into her office, she was the person I was looking for. She had the phone tucked under her chin and was scribbling on the top page of the first stack of papers littering her desk.

She was also chewing on a piece of licorice. The end stuck out from one corner of her mouth and I remember noticing how she was smearing deep red lipstick on the candy with each unconscious bite.

I stirred. I admit, it was sort of a turn on to watch her nibble on that piece of candy. I began fantasizing about what those soft lips felt like … and well, you get the drift, I’m sure.

She wasn’t really attractive, per se, but she exuded loads of intelligent confidence and I’ll be honest, that’s a turn on for me.

“Uh, Ms. McCormick?” I had rapped a few knocks on her office door, her receptionist said to go on in, and she had absently waved me to one of her chairs while she finished her conversation.

I plopped my backpack down on the floor next to me and I assumed a comfortable, and yes, a somewhat cocky pose. I couldn’t allow her to see how nervous I was, right? If I’ve learned anything from chicks, they don’t care for the wimpy, indecisive types.

I hid my smile when I noticed that she did indeed notice me. And it went beyond the advisor notices her student sort of awareness, she saw me as a man.

It was going to be like taking candy from a freaking baby.

She cut her conversation short. Again, a good sign. When she replaced the receiver she made a show out of organizing some papers, I’m assuming papers about me, but I knew she was really checking me out.

If there’s one thing I excel in, it’s women.

“Hi. Troy Wilson, right?” she asked and I watched her nervously lick her lips.

“That would be me,” I said and gave her my most charming smile. It never failed to melt a woman’s heart and it didn’t fail me this time, either.

“So, what can I do for you?” she asked.

I leaned forward, putting my arms on my legs and giving her my full, undivided attention. “I’m having a little trouble adjusting,” I said and nodded toward the paperwork. “I’m sure you can see, I haven’t exactly gotten off to the best start.”

“Well, sometimes it takes a few weeks for students to settle into a routine,” she began.
I interrupted. “True. But I’m afraid that’s not my problem,” I said with a feigned frown. “You see, my mom passed away recently and I’m having trouble concentrating. I just can’t seem to get my shit together.”

Her eyes had widened and I quickly made a mental note – doesn’t appreciate cursing. “I apologize for my crassness, Ms. McCormick, but I’m feeling desperate. This is a big opportunity for me and … well, it was my mother’s dream that I graduate from college.”

Which was true, she had wanted me to graduate from college, just probably not exactly this way.

“I see,” Lauren had said. “Well, I can probably set you up with some tutors …”

I sort of tuned out the rest of what she said as a soft rumbling caught my attention.

Lauren paused in the middle of her speech and clutched her stomach.

I smiled. The gods were certainly smiling down on me that day.

“You’re hungry.” I stated. “Which is understandable, considering it’s lunch time. Tell you what,” I offered, as if the thought had just occurred to me, “let’s talk about this over lunch.”

Her eyes had widened and she immediately began to shake her head no. But I could see it in her eyes, her head might have been saying no, but her heart? Very much wanted to say yes.

It took me a while to charm her, but after fifteen minutes, she caved in and we walked to the student center and had lunch. We talked about my scholastic troubles, but mainly, we talked and got to know one another.

Our relationship progressed very quickly from that point on. By the end of my first semester, we were friends.

By the end of my second semester, we were lovers.

She proved very useful over the course of my college years. Our relationship had to remain a secret of course, she would lose her job if anyone ever found out, which worked out perfectly for me because that allowed me to date other women and there really wasn’t much she could say about it. Lauren was putty in my hand. Whenever I wanted something from her, all I had to do was pour on the charm and smother her with attention.

Lauren intercepted quite a few professors for me and somehow convinced them to pass me. I also used other girls to help me get through classes, but mostly, I just cheated. I got to be quite good at cheating and my methods were legendary. In fact, I taught most of the guys in my fraternity the fine art of “passing” classes.

Did I feel guilty for treating people this way? I’d be lying if I said no. There were times, especially with women who I genuinely liked, that I felt like scum. But I always kept my eye on the ultimate prize – graduation.

My father was insanely proud of me. He often bragged to anyone who would listen about his “prodigal” son. That probably hurt the most, the fact that I was failing to live up to his basic expectations of me.

My life was going as planned. I was on top of the world. I was popular. I knew nearly everyone on campus and was friends with at least half of them. All the girls wanted me, all the guys wanted to be me, and Lauren was obsessed with me. So much so that at times, I felt suffocated, but what could I do? I needed her, at least for a few more semesters.

Everything was golden. I had gotten so used to burying my guilty conscience at the point that I rarely even saw it most days. I had become someone that I didn’t even recognize and my lies and deception soon consumed me.

I didn’t even recognize the person in the mirror anymore. I had become a stranger to myself.

Though I despised myself, I continued to live my charmed life. Everything was going according to plan, until the night of November 2, 2008.

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Fiction: Holly’s Hope

Holly stepped to one side of the hallway to allow the group of girls to pass her. She kept her eyes down and trained on the notes she had placed on top of her books so she wouldn’t have to see the other girls turn their noses up at her.

Unfortunately, it didn’t shield the snickers and nasty comments, she heard those loud and clear.

“Oh look, it’s Holy Holly. What are you praying for this time Holly? That you’ll actually get asked to the prom?”

The other girls howled with appreciation as they brushed past her. One of the larger girls deliberately bumped into her causing her to lose her grip on her books and drop them into a messy heap at her feet.

Holly closed her eyes, bit her lip and patiently waited for the girls to lose interest in her and continue on their way before stooping to neatly scoop her belongings up in her arms once more.

“Why do you put with that?” a male voice asked and Holly momentarily paused in surprise.

Cautiously, she glanced up. Her eyes landed on an Adam’s apple before slowly traveling up the neck to look into Troy Wilson’s face.

“Wh…what? Are you talking to me?” she stuttered and then immediately gave herself a mental kick in the pants. Of course he was talking to her! He was standing right in front of her, wearing a sexy smile and looking absolutely scrumptious. What a stupid question! He must think she’s such an idiot.

“Why do you allow those girls to give you such a hard time?”

Holly blinked, breaking the trance Troy always put her in before straightening to her full 5’6 height and offering a slight shrug.

“Wh … what exactly do you think I should do? If I talk back to them, it just gets worse. And there is no way I could physically do anything, there are like ten of them and one of me. And in case you haven’t noticed? I’m not exactly into the whole self defense thing.”

Troy sighed and reached out to take half of her books from the stack she held tightly against her chest. His knuckles lightly brushed against the “V” of her exposed skin with the movement. A white light exploded into a thousand shards of bright colors before her eyes and Holly’s breath caught in her throat. She felt light-headed and swayed slightly toward him before regaining her equilibrium, and her sense of sanity.

Yes. She was in love with Troy Wilson. She had been ever since she had been paired as his lab partner in Freshman Biology. He had been okay with the actual experiments, but when it came time for the computations, he had had to rely on her to get the answers. If it hadn’t been for her, he would have failed the entire class.

The other girls hadn’t picked on her as much back then. In fact, there was a time, a very brief time, shortly after she had started high school that she had thought she might actually fit in, be part of the “cool” crowd, but then some cheerleader … what was her name? Oh yes, Gabrielle, had singled her out for some reason and complimented her on her sweater. The other girls had gotten so jealous of the attention she had gotten from the most popular girl in the school, that they had immediately kicked her out of the group and had made it their personal mission, from that point on, to make her life a living hell.

She briefly wondered what had happened to Gabrielle. She had actually liked her if for no other reason than because for one small moment in time, she had made her feel like a human worthy of attention.

“There is going to come a time when you’ll have to stand up for yourself,” Troy said. He looped an arm around her shoulder and together, they continued on their way to the library.

“Yeah well, you let me know when that time comes, okay?” she replied, her voice raspy and breathy. She always reacted this way whenever Troy got close to her. She doubted that he had a clue how he made her feel. He treated her like a kid sister, an amusing and sometimes exasperating kid sister.

It was terribly annoying, not to mention, sort of insulting to her feminine wiles. Not that she thought she had any feminine wiles, but it would be nice to be treated as an object of desire as opposed to … well … an object.

“So, wh … what do you need help with today?” Holly asked. She hated her stutter. Especially as it only seemed to happen around Troy. And every time she was put into an awkward situation.

On second thought, it happened a lot. At school at least. She never noticed it whenever she was at home or at work.

He released a huge sigh, his breath stirring strands of her hair and causing them to brush lightly against her temple. “Math, what else.”

She suppressed her own sigh and gave him a sideways glance. “Again? I thought you were going to work on those problems last night.”

“I did!” he whined and quickly lowered his voice as nearby students gave them curious stares. “I swear to you on my mother’s grave …”

Holly winced. “I told you not to say that, it totally creeps me out.”

Troy continued as if she hadn’t spoken, “ … I worked on those damn problems for hours and I still couldn’t figure them out. I must lack some sort of math gene or something because I honestly can’t figure this shit out.”

Again, Holly winced. “Troy, please don’t curse. I can’t stand that.”

Troy blushed and paused to open the door to the library for her. “Yeah. Sorry. Is your old man still around? Or did he take off again?”

She couldn’t stand anyone cursing around her because of her father. Her father had a very colorful language; in fact, he cussed like a sailor because well, he WAS a sailor. “He took off again. I think he’ll be back in six months … or so.” She grit her teeth at the memory of her mother’s face. She tried so hard to be strong whenever it was time for her father to take off for assignment again, but Holly could see that it killed her just a bit more each time it happened.

She knew her mother was deeply in love with her father. But she wasn’t so sure about how her father felt about her mother. In fact, she suspected that her father had cheated several times on her mother. She suspected this because her mother often asked her to balance the accounts for her and she had stumbled across some very suspicious-looking credit card activity to various jewelry stores and clothing outlets.

She had taken the bull by the horns a few months back and confronted her father about the purchases, but he had laughed at her suspicions and told her she was reading something into nothing.

She couldn’t help but notice that their relationship had cooled several degrees since the confrontation.

She could see how much her father had hurt her mother over the years and she was determined, now more than ever, not to ever get in a situation where she had no choice but to rely on a man to take care of her. As a result, she was practically obsessed with getting into college after she graduated. She would accept any college, but she really had her heart set on Harvard.

As if she could afford Harvard. But she was going to try her hardest to make it happen if for no other reason than to show her father that she wasn’t some wallflower that had to be protected and coddled. She would show her father that she was very capable of taking care of herself. She didn’t need him, or any man, to support her.

“Look, before we get started,” Troy said as they moved to sit at their favorite table by the stained glass windows, “I have something to ask you.”

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Fiction: Gabby’s Secret

I have a secret. I have many secrets, actually. Secrets that could destroy my family. Secrets that could destroy me.

I feel like I should care about things, well, not things, per se, I’m not having a love affair with my iPod or anything, but no, I feel like I should care about people. And though I have a sliver of empathy for those around me, it’s not enough to sustain my existence, to incorporate me into this shitty reality I’m forced to call my life.

I feel like a loosened cork on a wine bottle, just barely contained and feeling the pressure to explode free from bondage.

Not that I know anything about wine, or bondage, for that matter. I mean, how can I? I’m only sixteen, but a very mature, and troubled, sixteen according to school officials.

Yes. I am a troubled teen. I’ve been labeled. I suppose someone with my background can’t be anything BUT messed up.

I’m being watched. Not in a blatant, in-your-face sort of way, but more in a sneaky, sideways, worried way. I can see the adults in my life pause and study me, though they try hard not to let on that they’re looking. I know that my teachers think I’m suicidal and I’ll admit, there are days I feel tempted to smash the mirror in the girls’ bathroom, take a large chunk and slice it across the railroad tracks of my wrist.

But I don’t. Something always holds me back. I don’t know what that something is, but it’s strong, stronger than my desire to end my miserable life.

I don’t have anyone I can talk to. I don’t really have any close friends, and my family is worthless.

I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking I’m a cliché, and I suppose, you’d be right. But this cliché is MY LIFE and I’m sick of being so predictable. I don’t want to be a bad girl anymore, I want to be a bad girl with good intentions.

Does that make sense? Probably not. I don’t make much sense nowadays. I’ve been experimenting with crack, but I’m thinking I’m not that crazy about it. I don’t see what the big deal is, but apparently, my mother, or the woman who takes care of me because trust me when I say, I don’t think of the woman who I live with as my mother, is quite into it. In fact, I can’t count on one hand the number of times my mother has not been high.

I know, how droll. How predictable. But this is my life.

I continue to stare into the girls’ bathroom mirror. I have come to terms with the fact that I’m not beautiful. Though I guess you could call me pretty, if you were stoned or something. I’m like one of those girls who look good in certain light and only on certain days and only if you’re wearing glasses.

I’m not trying to get your sympathy here, I am who I am; I have accepted the fact that my mother is the beauty in my small, and pathetic family and well … I’m not.

I turn to study my profile, which is not bad, if I say so myself. It’s strong, and a bit angular, but the lines are attractive and I’m probably one of the few teenage girls on the planet who is actually okay with the shape of her nose. It’s a little on the pixie side, though not too cutesy – it suits me, I think.

But then I turn to look straight ahead and the illusion of anything beautiful disappears. My eyes are a little too close together and my lips are so thin they are virtually non-existent. I’ve toyed around with the idea of possibly getting lip injections but with my luck, I’d end up looking like Angelina Jolie after a really bad crack trip and my lips would be so swollen my chin would ultimately disappear.

Though I’m unhappy with the shape of my eyes, I like the color – they’re blue, only not a deep blue, but rather a lighter shade of blue, almost a grayish-bluish color. I know, vague, right? But picture this: the ocean. Can you see how blue it is? Okay, now picture the tide coming, the waves are rolling in closer to land, note how the water gets lighter as it gets closer to shore until that last little lap or two transforms into a foamy, almost milky gray blue as it breaks over your feet. Yeah, that’s what my eyes remind me of: dirty ocean water.

I take a breath and step back from the mirror. I glance down at my watch and note the time: 12:46 – lunch is nearly over.

I spend most of my lunch hours in the girls’ bathroom. Why? Well, why the hell not? I don’t eat, I simply don’t have an appetite. And no, I’m not one of those girls who starves themselves simply because it’s “cool” to look like an undernourished bean pole. I just don’t eat that much. As a result, I’m thin, or painfully skinny, as my counselor likes to caution me. The bitch. As if I care what she thinks of me. She’s only pretending to care about me anyway – it’s her job. And besides, I can see the jealously in her eyes whenever she looks at me. I can tell, by her pudgy hands and hungry eyes, that she wants my life.

Why? Because I’m popular. And I have nice clothes. And I’m a cheerleader.

I sputter a bitter laugh and point at my reflection – I bet you didn’t see that one coming, did you.

Unhappy people come in all shades of miserable.

I run my hands down over my short, pleated skirt. Our uniform colors are purple and gold – my two favorite colors. It’s the homecoming game tonight and if all goes according to plan, I’ll be crowned homecoming queen. I laugh at my reflection, though I must admit, the sound is a bit hollow and certainly joyless.

Everyone likes me. Though for the life of me, I can’t figure out why. I’m nice enough, I suppose.

I shrug, flip my hair over one shoulder and thoughtfully examine the tips for split ends.

It’s about time for another trim.

I have nasty thoughts about nearly everyone at my school, save for Melinda.

I like Melinda. She sees through my bullshit. And she makes me laugh, and not one of those fake, bubbly stupid laughs either, but full belly laughs, the kind that bring tears to my eyes. She’s not funny in a ha-ha sort of way, but rather, she has a tendency to turn a simple situation into something … humorous so that people are left wondering, was she kidding or did she just insult them?

Not everyone gets Melinda. Not everyone likes Melinda. But nearly everyone is scared of Melinda, which is probably another big reason why I love being around her so much.

I smile as I think about her. She’s gorgeous, at least, in my eyes. Her eyes sparkle when she is about to say something witty and I love discussing literature with her, she has an uncanny knack for pointing out the macabre in nearly every story, and then giving it just enough twist to make it sexy and interesting.

The bathroom door swings open and a group of about six freshmen girls stumble through. The pack stops abruptly at seeing me causing the girls in the back of the group to bump into them. They look like something from a Three Stooges movie and for just a moment I’m tempted to smirk, I wish Melinda were there to help buffer my hypocrisy.

“Oh, hi Gabby,” the leader of the pack stutters out.

I lift a hand in greeting, relaying just the perfect combination of friendliness and nonchalance. “Actually, my friends call me Gabby, you can call me Gabrielle.” I reply and move away from the sinks so they can each have a turn to wash up.

I’m not sure why I said that. I wasn’t really in the mood to be nasty, but their blatant desire to be noticed and accepted reminded me all too well of my attempts to be popular when I was a freshman.

I glance at my watch again, 12:52, it’s nearly time for me to go back to class. Though I’m itching to remove myself from the awkward silence that has now ascended on the room, I claim a small bit of mirror space and lean in to make a show of examining my eye makeup.

I assume a relaxed, and somewhat bored expression, but my senses are on high alert and I watch every move they make in my peripheral vision.

“So, are you excited about the game tonight?” the leader of the pack asks me.

I shift my eyes over to her and deliberately wait a full five seconds before answering her. I’ve learned, through years of experience, that nothing makes a person more uncomfortable or insecure than long, provocative silences.

After my stare has her dutifully squirming, I shrug. “Sure. Why not.”

“I … I voted for you,” another smaller girl on the outskirts of the group says. I notice, with some slight amusement, that the three girls at the front of the group turn to give her a dirty look.

It doesn’t take me long to ascertain the pecking order of this particular group of hens. The mousey girl that spoke to me was obviously the low-girl on the totem pole. I decide to throw her a bone.

“Why thank you … uh … what’s your name again?” I offer the girl a soft smile and note with supreme pleasure the more popular girls of the group narrow their eyes in jealousy.

“Holly,” the girl replies shyly.

“Thanks Holly, I appreciate that.” I move toward her, purposefully ignoring the other girls. “I love your sweater. Where did you get it?” I ask while gently fingering the silky threads. Actually, I don’t particularly like the garment, but it always amuses me to play the nice girl now and again.

“O…O…oh, this?” the girl stutters and then blushes a lovely shade of fuchsia. “My mom found this on sale…” she stops herself from adding more as the other girls openly snicker. She said the “S” word – popular girls don’t talk about sales. But she’s sincere and I like her honesty, which is refreshing, so again, I pour on the charm.

I can hear the door to the restroom open and close in the distance, but I ignore it as I address Holly. “You have a smart mom. Why pay full price when you can get it for less? Only stupid girls pay full price.” And with that, my glance encompasses the rest of the pack with soft disdain.

“Party’s over, girls. Scram,” a voice breaks in and I hide my smile before turning around.


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Fiction Fix: A Mysterious Mutilation


“Oh God, she’s coming in.”

Bethany paused over her work, her hands lightly resting on either side of the material she was feeding through the sewing machine.


“That …” Robert hunched forward and stage whispered across the small shop. “That homeless woman.”

Bethany arched a brow before shifting her eyes back to the seam she was mending. “That homeless woman has a name, Robert – Coney.”

“Coney,” Robert snorted and scooted further into the shop as the woman neared the door. “What sort of lame ass name is that?”

“It’s short for Connie,” Bethany answered back and straightened up in her chair as the bell over the door chimed to indicate someone had entered.

Bethany noticed that Robert immediately pretended to be engrossed in the shelves that housed their scrap material and she resisted the urge to sigh. She loved her shop assistant, she truly did, but his snobbery really grated on her nerves at times.

“Hey Coney,” she said and grabbing a straight pin from her zebra pin cushion (her niece had given it to her for her last birthday), she marked a stopping point in the material before getting out of her chair to see what the woman wanted. She knew, from past experience, that Coney wouldn’t venture too far into the belly of the shop but preferred to remain just inside the door thereby insuring a quick and easy getaway if needed.

“H…h…hello Bethany,” the woman fairly whispered and Bethany gave her a warm smile. Coney had been coming to her shop, on and off, for the past six months and she was just now to the point where she felt comfortable enough to call her by name, the woman had insisted on addressing her as Miss Sewing Lady up until that point. It had taken Bethany nearly five months to gently coax the woman to call her by her first name.

Bethany paused to grab a sandwich from behind the counter before approaching Coney.

“What can I do for you today?” Bethany asked and as discretely as possible, she handed the sandwich over to Coney. The woman just as discretely pocketed the sandwich inside her over-sized apron.

Bethany never really understood why the woman insisted on wearing an apron over the four layers of clothes she always had on and every time she asked, Coney changed the subject. She presumed it was because Coney’s clothes were her most precious asset and she didn’t want to get them dirty or possibly damage them in any way, so she wore an apron over them to protect them.

“I,” her dark brown eyes darted over to Robert and she lowered her voice even more. She had to lean forward a bit in order to hear her. “I have some more clothes that need mending,” she said, a soft flush peeking through the grime on her cheeks.

“Oh?” Bethany smiled and looked down at the dirty trash bag Coney had clutched tightly in her fingers. “Let’s take a look, shall we?”

Coney nodded and together, they stepped over to the cutting table. Coney began pulling out articles of clothing – several t-shirts, three hoodies, a pair of gloves, two pairs of jeans, one pair of child’s size Mary Janes and one really thick jacket, the puffy fiber fill spilling out from several tears in big white cotton balls.

Bethany’s stomach dropped. Where did Coney get all of these clothes?


You can read the rest of the story here.