NaNoWriMo2020

Jax’s Pre-Story

(warning – language)

“Hey,” Jax said as he walked into the house.

“Hey,” Bethany answered without looking up from her phone.

Jax walked past his wife and shrugged out of his jacket tossing it across the back of his recliner. He peeled off his gun holster and walked into their bedroom to lock the gun in the safe. Even though guns were a big part of his life, he didn’t want his daughter to accidentally get a hold of them. Especially while she was young. He would teach her gun responsibility once she was old enough to understand and respect firearms and the importance of handling them correctly.

He washed his hands studying his reflection in the mirror. He looked tired. Light purple bags underscored his eyes and the fine lines around his mouth were more grooved. But that was to be expected, he supposed, having a three month old in the house that still wasn’t sleeping the whole night.

He peeked around the corner of the baby’s room. Gabriella was staring up at the mobile softly swinging above her. He smiled.

“Hey Gabi,” he said softly so as not to startle her. “I see you’re awake. Are you ready to join the land of the living?” He paused at the edge of her crib and gazed down at his beautiful daughter. She was his perfect angel. She had his dark hazel eyes and her mother’s heart-shaped mouth. She grinned up at him, a spit bubble popping near the corner of her mouth. He chuckled and reached down to scoop her up. Her small head fit his larger hand perfectly as he placed her against his chest. She snuggled against his shoulder and began rooting around.

“I see you’re hungry. Let’s go hunt mom down.” He carried her securely against him and walked back into the kitchen.

Bethany was busy tapping away on her phone. She was so engrossed in her conversation that she didn’t realize Jax was standing next to her until he cleared his throat.

“Who are you talking to?”

“Oh,” she squeaked out a nervous chuckle. “No one. Just responding to a Facebook post.”

“Bullshit.” He ground his teeth in irritation and narrowed his eyes. “You’re talking to HIM, aren’t you?”

She sighed and put her phone down while reaching for Gabi. “Don’t start, Jax. Jealously is not an attractive trait.”

He released his hold on Gabi and watched her carry their daughter to the sofa and settle down to breastfeed her.

“You could at least have the decency to not communicate with ‘your friend’ while I’m here,” he ground out and moved back to the kitchen. “And I could give a shit if you talk to him, just don’t do it in front of me.” He looked around the kitchen then opened the oven to peer inside. “What’s for dinner?”

“Whatever you’re making,” she responded while smiling down at her daughter who was now happily suckling away.

He sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “Look Bethany. I don’t expect you to be Betty Crocker but you’re home all day, the least you could do is fix dinner.”

“I didn’t have time.”

“Time from what?”

She kissed her daughter’s forehead before looking toward him. “Why do we have to have this conversation every night? I have responsibilities, Jax. Social media may not be a traditional 9-to-5 ‘job’ to you, but trust me, it’s very time consuming and I’m starting to make money from my videos and Instagram posts so … get over it.”

“But it’s taking time away from our daughter. How long was she awake in her crib? And there are dried tears on her cheeks. How long was she crying? Did you even know she was crying?”

Bethany continued to gaze down at Gabi with a soft smile and in a sweet, baby voice, she said, “Fuck you, Jax.”

He sighed and opened the fridge to gauge the food inventory. They had half a gallon of milk, a container of cottage cheese and an onion. He walked over to the pantry and yanked open the door. Three cans of pinto beans, half a package of spaghetti noodles and soy sauce. He slammed the door which startled Gabi who disconnected from Bethany to let out a startled cry.

“Shh,” Bethany soothed and rubbed her cheek. “Daddy is in a pissy mood, as usual. Just ignore him.”

“Seriously. There is nothing to eat!” He pulled out his phone to look at eating apps.

“Don’t order pizza. My waistline can’t take much more bread.”

“Yeah. You wouldn’t want to get fat for your boyfriend.”

Bethany lifted Gabi and placed her on her shoulder and began patting her back. “Jax, we talked about this. Are you seriously jealous? I don’t know what you want me to say. I’m a social media influencer. I’m going to have to interact with my fans, I can’t just ignore them!”

He ran a hand down the scruff of his 5 o’clock shadow. “Maybe you need to find another job. It’s killing our marriage.”

“It’s only killing our marriage because you’re allowing it to. Stop being so insecure. Also, what marriage?” A deep-seated burp emitted from Gabi and Bethany stood up. “Good one, baby girl.” She walked over and handed Gabi to Jax. “Can you take her for a while? I need to answer some emails.”

“Sure.” He grinned softly at his daughter who was drunk on milk and she cooed at him. His heart melted and he kissed her cheek while tickling her ribs. She erupted in giggles and his grin morphed into a full-fledged smile. “Come on, princess, let’s go grab some grub, shall well?” He grabbed the diaper bag that was always packed and ready by the door and without a backward glance, he left the house.

They arrived at the store and Jax slipped on the baby carrier. He had never used it before but had put it on just to figure out how it worked. He unsnapped Gabi from her car seat and tried to slip her inside the carrier but she was kicking her chubby little legs so much he couldn’t get her in.

“Listen here you little squirmy monkey,” he laughed as he tried to navigate her into the carrier.

“Do you need some help?” an attractive 20-something woman said as she was walking past.

“Actually, yes, if you don’t mind. Could you hold the carrier open while I put her inside?”

“No problem,” she said and moved forward to grab hold of the carrier and open it wide enough for him to put Gabi inside.

Gabi settled in with a squirm and flashed him a toothless grin.

“Thank you. I’m not sure I could have made that work on my own,” Jax grinned at the woman and moved to grab the diaper bag and shut the door.

“Glad to help. I have a niece about her age and I know my sister has a hard time getting her settled sometimes.”

Jax could tell she was interested in him and he tried not appear rude as he started walking away.

“Is that your daughter?”

“Yes,” he said while grabbing a cart from an outside cart corral. “I’m just running in to grab some dinner for my wife.”

“Ah,” she said, getting the hint. “Lucky woman. Well, take care.”

“Yeah, you too,” he said and nearly laughed out loud. Lucky woman indeed. He was pretty sure she didn’t feel she was lucky in their relationship.

Or whatever it was they were doing. Co-habituating maybe?

He snorted in disgust and pushed the cart into the store. What the hell was he doing? Was this really how he wanted to live his life? They hadn’t had sex since Gabi was born though he knew that women had to wait a while after giving birth before they were cleared to have sex, he knew for a fact that Bethany’s doctor had cleared her a long time ago. But somehow, neither one of them wanted to instigate anything.

It wasn’t that he didn’t find her attractive. He wasn’t one of those guys that lost sexual interest once the woman had given birth, he just wasn’t … interested. They had both been very into one another before they got married, in fact, that’s why they had gotten married so quickly, because she had gotten pregnant with Gabi and he wanted to do the right thing. He didn’t regret Gabi, not one bit, but he certainly wished he and Bethany had gotten to know each other first and were more careful before becoming an instant family.

He absently placed items in the cart while thinking over his relationship. Gabi was content to look at the lights, the colors and listen to passing people in her carrier. She really was a good baby. He just hoped he would be a good enough dad to her.

But did he really want to raise her with Bethany? He could tell she was pulling away. In fact, if he was being honest, he got the impression she lost interest shortly before she announced she was pregnant with Gabi.

God. What a clusterfuck. He should have listened to his father and not jumped into the whole  marriage thing. Raising a child as a single parent wasn’t ideal, but was it any better to raise a child in a loveless marriage?

Jax was in line checking out when Gabi started to get restless. She began to whimper and the cashier worked hard to keep her entertained while Jax hurriedly placed his items on the belt so they could leave. By the time he got back to the car, Gabi was in full crisis mode, screaming loudly enough it caught the attention of several people. A woman gave him a sympathetic nod, while a few young girls shook their head in disgust. Jax unloaded the groceries into his car, his ears ringing from her screaming, and hurriedly lifted her out of the carrier, her legs pumping angrily and tangling in the carrier straps.

“Good God, girl, you have a powerful set of lungs on you,” he grimaced while rocking her back and forth in an attempt to quiet her. He reached into the diaper bag and plucked out her pacifier. He slid it across her lips to get her attention and she desperately latched on to it while sucking furiously. “There now, better?” Her huge dark eyes glistened with unshed tears as she looked up at him.

He waited a few moments to make sure she had calmed down before putting her into her car seat. He strapped her in, parked the cart on to a nearby grassy curb and got behind the wheel.

Gabi started to whimper but continued to suck on her pacifier. He sighed with relief. He started the car and they began the long drive back home. He switched on the radio for some background noise hoping Gabi would take a nap on the way home.

He checked the time, nearly 7:00 PM. Another wave of irritation tickled his throat and he clamped it down. Dinner should have been done by now. He should have been giving Gabi a bath and putting her to bed, something he looked forward to each night. Instead, he was buying groceries and anticipating cooking dinner because he couldn’t count on his partner to do her share of the work.

He could feel the tips of his ears heating up and knew he was close to his boiling point. It would be one thing if this happened once in a while, we all lose track of time and he knew that taking care of a baby was a full-time job – she was a time suck. A cute time suck, but one none the less. But this was happening more and more frequently with little to no remorse and now he just felt like Bethany was taking advantage of him.

Again, he wondered why he was putting up with it. Did he feel guilty? After all, Bethany didn’t get pregnant on her own, he was just as much to blame for the situation but he felt like he was the only one that was making a true effort to try and make it work.

It was fully dark by the time he pulled into the driveway. The only light on in the house was the kitchen light though he could see a flickering, blue light coming from the second floor window on the left telling him that Bethany was still on her computer. Ever since her blog was showcased on the host’s webpage her views had gone way up and she felt compelled to produce more and more content to keep the momentum going. This lead to making an Instagram account and posting countless pictures of Gabi and then she started a YouTube channel to document her life as a new mom. He was glad she was working toward something that would potentially make them money but she was so consumed with making her online life perfect that she was neglecting her real life duties.

As soon as he turned off the engine, Gabi began to cry. He knew she was probably hungry again and it was past her bedtime so she was likely exhausted as well. He pulled her out of her seat and entered the house. He had assumed Bethany would hear him drive up and meet them at the door but she was no where to be seen.

“We’re home!” he yelled which only made Gabi cry harder. He recognized the cry. It was a warning cry and if we didn’t see to her needs in three minutes flat, she would begin screaming. “Bethany!” he yelled again and put Gabi in her playcrib. When Bethany still hadn’t made an appearance by the time he had settled Gabi and tried to give her another pacifier, which she promptly spit out when she realized it didn’t come with milk, he marched upstairs and barged into Bethany’s office. She had on headphones and was furiously typing in a chat room.

Seeing her so oblivious to the world, more specifically his and Gabi’s world, he briskly walked over to the wall and unplugged her computer.

“What the actual hell, Jax?” she yelled. She paused when she heard Gabi screaming. “What’s going on?”

“Get downstairs and feed your fucking daughter so I can unload the car,” he snarled. He turned on his heel and stomped out to the garage to grab the groceries. Gabi abruptly stopped screaming on his third trip into the house.

“Jesus, Jax, what is your problem?”

“My problem, Bethany? MY problem?” He slammed the fridge door after putting the milk away. “I work eight plus hours every day, even the weekends here lately with the election happening in a few weeks, only to come home to no dinner, no groceries and no help from you. It’s like you’ve checked out and would rather live in your virtual world than live your life. I’m sick of it!”

“It’s my job, Jax.”

“Oh, don’t give me that shit, Bethany. It’s your excuse to check out and pretend you’re anywhere else but here. Have you stopped to consider that I might hate my life as well? This sucks. This whole marriage sucks and you know it.”

“You’re the one that didn’t wear a condom,” she said quietly but not quietly enough that Jax didn’t hear her.

“It takes two to tangle, sweetheart,” he snapped back. He angrily grabbed food from the bags and began putting it away.

He watched Bethany breast feed Gabi while stroking her soft hair. “You’re right. I can’t do this anymore. I’ve met someone.” She paused, cleared her throat and said in a slighter stronger voice. “I want out.”

Jax froze on the spot, his hand lifted to put a box of spaghetti in the pantry. He could feel his blood pressure rising and he was breathing like he had just ran around the block. He closed his eyes briefly in an attempt to rein in his temper. He slammed the box down on the counter, breaking the box, dried noodles spilling out onto the floor.

“I knew it. I fucking knew it,” he said in a deceptively calm voice. “You know what?” He exited the kitchen and faced her. “I’m relieved, actually. Now you’ve given me permission to leave your sorry ass. This,” he gestured between the two of them, “hasn’t been working for a while now and I’m actually glad that you finally admitted it. Let’s get on with our lives.” He turned to go back to the kitchen.

“Where are you going?”

Continue reading “Jax’s Pre-Story”

NaNoWriMo2020

Caught on Film

It wasn’t as if she knew what she was doing.

Okay. She didn’t know what she was doing.

Whitney reached into her car and grabbed her camera bag. She unzipped it and pulled out her DLSR and lens. She hooked the strap around her neck and stuffed an extra battery into the pocket of her jacket. She was slipping her phone in her other jacket pocket when it dinged.

Where are you?

She stuck her car keys in the pocket of her jeans and locked the car before answering.

At Cricket Falls. Taking pictures for class. 

You’re still on the photography kick? 

You make it sound like a hobby.

Isn’t it?

Listen Seth, I have spent a lot of money on classes and I need to practice. I really want to make this into something. Why can’t you support me?

Because it’s stupid and a pipe dream. Stick with the bank. You have a future there.

Whitney sighed and rolled her eyes.

Why can’t you support me?? She typed furiously.

I’m trying to prevent you from making a mistake. 

Whitney was beginning to wonder if Seth was the mistake.

I can’t talk right now. I need to go before I lose the light. 

Fine.

She angrily tucked the phone into her other jeans pocket and briefly closed her eyes. She had been taking photography classes for nearly four months and she resented Seth for making her feel stupid. She wanted to enjoy the classes and he was making it impossible with his negativity and complaining.

Asshole, she thought.

She tugged a hairband in to push her curly black hair out of her eyes. She tested the door handle of her VW bug and set off toward the hiking trail. She hadn’t been to Cricket Falls in quite some time and she was looking forward to taking pictures at sunset.

She stopped just as she entered the tree line. She had forgotten her water bottle. She paused. She should probably go back and get it but it was already late afternoon and the sun would be setting in a little over two hours and it would take her nearly an hour to reach the falls.

She shrugged and continued down the path.

She stepped around tree roots and over smooth, flat rocks. She took deep, cleansing breaths. There was nothing like fresh air to clear the week’s cobwebs. She knew Seth wanted her to stay with the bank but she was bored. She wanted a job where she could be creative and spontaneous. She had no idea if she would be able to make any money at photography but she certainly wanted to try. She loved learning about F-stops and angles, lighting and focus points in class. It was challenging to look at something and then set up the perfect shot in order to try and capture the mood she wanted to portray.

The day was quickly cooling down and she was thankful she had grabbed a jacket. The sun was playing peek-a-boo behind distended gray clouds and it looked like a storm front was heading in. She paused to check the weather on her phone. She had to walk up an incline in order to get a better signal. Weather was definitely coming in but she figured she had about three hours before it reached her, plenty of time to shoot some pictures and make it back to her car before it rained.

Her phone dinged. She sighed and continued walking. It was probably Seth and she wasn’t in the mood to deal with him at the moment. She just wanted to enjoy the time she had and to focus on her pictures as she was hoping to touch them up and present them at her next class for critique. She ignored the text and kept moving. She glanced up at the sky. There were now more clouds than sun and she was beginning to think maybe she should head back to her car as she didn’t want to risk getting her camera equipment wet.

She was lost in thought and seriously thinking about turning around when she rounded a bend and there, in all it’s glory, was Cricket Falls.

She paused to to fully absorb the sheer magnificence of the beautiful waterfall. The falls were not as swollen as she had seen them in the past but she knew it would only be a matter of minutes after the rain started to turn the relatively calm waters into a raging, angry flow.

She heard a crack of thunder and it made her jump into action. She lifted her camera, adjusted her settings and began taking pictures from various angles. She was actually glad the sun had disappeared behind the clouds as it provided her with better light and a somber atmosphere. After taking about twenty shots, she was placing her lens cap back on the camera when another round of thunder reverberated above. She nervously eyed the sky and turned around to head back. She paused at the fork in the path and decided to take another route back to her car. She didn’t know for sure if it was quicker, but had hiked that particular path before and felt like the way back was less rocky.

She was weaving through the trees, dodging and dunking under branches when she heard a sound.

After being in the woods for over an hour, she had gotten used to the shuffling of critters in the leaves and the wind rustling the tree branches. But this sound was different. It sounded like a soft hiss, or scrape, then as if something was being dropped onto soft earth.

She broke through some trees and her phone dinged again.

She paused and dug it out of her pocket.

Another girl has gone missing. I don’t like you being out there all alone. Come home.

Whitney sent a quick text back to Seth.

You worry too much. I got my shots and am heading back. 

He answered back immediately.

Good.

She dropped her phone back into her pocket and squelched her irritation.  He was trying. She needed to try as well.

She entered the next clump of trees, carefully picking her way through the path when she heard the strange noise again.

Hiss.

Scrape.

Plop.

What was that sound? It seemed so out-of-place in the woods and yet, she felt like she had heard that sound before.

She veered off the path and crept toward where she thought the sound was coming from. She reached out to move a low-hanging branch only for it to swing back and slap her in the face.

“Ow!” She clapped a hand over her cheek to try and quell the sting.

The sound abruptly stopped.

Whitney also stopped and stood still. She could feel her heartbeat quickening even though she forced her breathing to slow and quiet. Something felt wrong. Why did the sound stop? A flash of lightening pierced the darkening sky above her. She counted silently in her head … 1 … 2 …3 … 4 … 5 … 6 … 7 … Thunder rolled across the sky and Whitney glanced at the time on her phone. She estimated she had about thirty minutes before the rain reached her. Though she knew she needed to move, she couldn’t. It was too quiet. Though she didn’t know what the sound was, she suddenly wished it would start back up again. She instinctively knew the sound resuming was safer than not.

She continued to stay still and she silently urged the sound to continue so she could move. She didn’t know why it was so important for the sound to resume but she was spooked enough that she didn’t feel like she should move until it did.

Her phone dinged and the sound seemed to echo loudly.

“Shit,” she reached in to her pocket and quickly muted her phone. She could hear a rustling up ahead of her and she quietly moved closer to the trees, off the path and into the shadows. She felt ridiculous for playing chicken with the mysterious sound but the goosebumps on her arms was enough to give her pause.

After long minutes, the sound started back up again and she slowly released the breath she hadn’t realized she was holding.

Hiss.

Scrape.

Plop.

She cautiously moved forward, careful to avoid disturbing the leaves and rocks in her way. She crept into a small batch of trees and tried to peer through.

She saw a flash of blue.

Was that a person?

Continue reading “Caught on Film”

NaNoWriMo2020

Interview with Jax

Hello Blogfam and welcome. I’d like to introduce Jaxson Fuller. He goes by Jax. Is that right?

Jax: Yes.

Me: Very good. Jax is the male lead in the story and Maya’s potential love interest though I believe you don’t make an appearance in the story for quite a while, is that right, Jax?

Jax: Correct.

Me: Well, welcome to my blog. Thanks for being here.

Jax: *nods and gives a small smile*

Me: So, Jax. Tell us about yourself.

Jax: I hate when people say that. Can’t you just give me a question?

Me: Okay. Tell me about your life before Maya.

Jax: I was a First Lieutenant in the Army. I served three tours in the Middle East and about five(ish) years ago, my unit was attacked. I sustained an injury and had to rethink my career. It wasn’t fun.

Me: What sort of injury?

Jax: *points to his left leg* I was shot several times in the left leg. Banged me up pretty good. I was honorably discharged shortly after that. I spent a year in rehabilitation and I can walk on it now, but I am gimpy.

Me: I’m sorry to hear that.

Jax: *shrugs* Comes with the territory. After I finished rehab, I ran into a buddy of mine who works for the Secret Service. He pulled some strings and I was able to get a job.

Me: The Secret Service, eh? Sounds exciting.

Jax: It’s not really. But you do have to be super vigilant.

Me: I can imagine. Who was assigned to you. Would I have known that person?

Jax: Possibly. I would rather not say who I watched over.

Me: Of course. They don’t call it “Secret” service for no reason. *laughs*

Jax: *smiles – though clearly not as amused*

Me: How long have you been in the Secret Service?

Jax: It’s been nearly … three years now.

Me: What is the most challenging part of your job?

Jax: Definitely the people. I’m either watching someone who is totally paranoid about being attacked or someone who doesn’t take it seriously and takes all kinds of risks. It can be exhausting.

Me: Can you tell us about one of your more challenging clients?

Jax: *sits for a bit, then nods brusquely* Sure. It was about six months ago, actually. I was assigned to watch a Senator’s daughter and she took it upon herself to sneak out of her house and go to a party that none of us knew about and certainly didn’t approve she could go to. I spent nearly an hour looking for her before I had to swallow some pride and call in reinforcements. It took us nearly two hours to find her and by the time we did, she was very drunk and very loud.

Me: I take that to mean, she wasn’t happy to see you.

Jax: You could say that. Her father was also not very happy to see me.

Me: Did he punish you?

Jax: No. *he flexes his jaw in irritation* He campaigned to have me fired.

Me: But it wasn’t your fault!

Jax: Doesn’t matter. She was my responsibility and I lost track of her. If something had happened to her, I would have been prosecuted and likely charged with negligence.

Me: Wow. Why do you stay in the job if there is that much pressure?

Jax: Because I’m very good at my job. I had allowed myself to become distracted in that case. That will not happen again.

Me: What distracted you?

Jax: I’d rather not say.

Me: It was a woman, wasn’t it? Was it Maya?

Jax: *face flushes a light red*

Me: Are you married?

Jax: I was.

Me: What happened?

Jax: *sighs* We were bad for each other. We were polar opposites, which was great in some ways, it was never boring. *soft smile of remembrance* But after a while, the novelty wore off and we just got tired of trying, I suppose.

Me: Any children?

Jax: One. But she died from SARS when she was four months old. That was the beginning of the end of our relationship.

Me: *blinks – clears throat* I’m sorry.

Jax: …..

Me: So. Any love interest now?

Jax: *arches a brow* I think you know the answer to that one.

Me: *sly grin* Just seeing if you were still with me. How did you and Maya meet?

Jax: Her dad … talked me into being her bodyguard.

Me: You didn’t volunteer for the job?

Jax; Not exactly.

Me: Why would Maya need protection?

Jax: Unclear. Though her father is head of the Secret Service to the President and when you’re that close, you tend to make enemies.

Me: What is Maya like to guard?

Jax: She’s a pain in the ass.

Me: Really? I would have thought Dree would be the pain in the ass.

Jax: Dree is tough, but she’s street smart. Maya is clueless to what goes on in the world. Thank God her father had the foresight to make her take kickboxing.

Me: *chuckles* Forgive me. But after meeting Maya, … kickboxing? Really? It just doesn’t compute.

Jax: *shrugs* Yeah. She’s a bit of a princess and her form sucks, but she’s got determination, I’ll give her that. She will get better.

Me: What makes you so sure?

Jax: Because I’ll make sure she can defend herself. You never know what life will throw at you. You need to be prepared.

Me: Sounds like an army slogan. *chuckles*

Jax: Be all you can be.

Me: Now you’re making fun of me.

Jax: *smirks*

Me: Do your parents live here?

Jax: My dad is a Colonel in the Army. Mom is a typical Army wife, sponsors fundraisers and events to help boost the troops’ families. They are stationed in West Virginia right now.

Me: So fairly close. Do you ever get to see them?

Jax: Not as often as I would like.

Me: Any siblings?

Jax: I have a younger brother, Mark.

Me: And what does Mark do?

Jax: He’s special ops. I haven’t seen him in nearly … five years, I think.

Me: Your parents must be proud – both of you serving your country.

Jax: *frown* I guess.

Me: You don’t think so?

Jax: *rubs the scruff on his face absently* No comment.

Me: Well, that’s intriguing. So Jax ..

(*a loud pop sounds outside and causes Me to jump and squeal*)

Jax: Get down! *jumps out of his chair causing it crash to the floor and whips his Glock semi automatic pistol out of his waist band. He points is at the window.

Continue reading “Interview with Jax”

NaNoWriMo

What If No One Likes My Writing?

MAN – I needed to hear this.

Also, shut that inner editor down – you’re trying to cross a finish line.

(video warning: language if you’re sensitive).

Haters gonna hate. There is nothing you can do about that but you can control how you react to them. People are hateful for a variety of reasons and most of those reasons have nothing to do with YOU. Haters are simply projecting their unhappiness on to you and unfortunately, you happen to be in their crosshairs at that moment in time. I know it’s easier said than done to shrug off hateful comments or behavior but people are flawed and terrible behavior comes with the territory.

Communication is a learned art. Not everyone pays attention to that lesson and/or they are never taught on how to communicate effectively. I’m telling my fellow MA’s that at work all the time. You can pretty much get anyone to do anything you want them to do if you recognize the art of communication. I took a communications class in college and it changed my life. I’ll never forget when we were assigned a speech where the objective was to persuade the class to our way of thinking. My subject? Legalize marijuana. We had to submit the assignment to our instructor before we got up in front of the class to present it and my instructor thought it was SO convincing that she asked that I put in “for medical purposes” into my speech. I was highly annoyed that she would suggest that but when I took my audience into consideration, young, impressionable, bored college kids, I got it.

But I learned HOW to communicate. The first rule of thumb – consider your audience. Who are you talking to? I consider this daily at work – what kind of patient am I speaking to? If they are young and hip, then I know talking to them as an “adult” will make them tune me out. If I’m talking to an elderly person, I know I have to slow down, enunciate fully and explain everything, BUT, don’t dumb it down so much that it seems I’m treating them like a child. I give patients controlled options when I speak to them – you can pick option 1 or option 2. And if they get upset and don’t understand why I won’t give or do what they want me to do, I explain why we can’t do option 3.

I also took a grammar class where we studied Aristotle which at the time I thought was DRY as sh*t, but I learned a lot about language and the importance of HOW to phrase my words when speaking to people. For example, don’t put people on the defensive when speaking to them – YOU need to do this or YOU shouldn’t do this. Like I said, communicating is an art. And offering someone constructive criticism is TRULY an art.

So, it’s challenging to receive constructive criticism but it’s also challenging to give constructive criticism. You can almost always tell, right away, if someone is truly trying to help you or if they’re having a crappy day and you’re the target. After you have determined the objective behind the comment, then you can proceed accordingly. It’s always best to ignore the hater – they WANT you to engage. They WANT you to fight. I don’t know about ya’ll, but I do not have the time, the energy, nor the desire to deal with someone else’s issues, I have plenty of my own crap to deal with, thank you very much.

But it still stings. We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t get our feelings hurt now and again. We just have to be the better person and walk away – out of sight, out of mind.

If you haven’t noticed, I’ve been posting a lot of fiction lately. Largely because of NaNoWriMo, OF COURSE, but I’ll be honest, it’s sort of scary. My writing style won’t please everyone and I don’t even know if it makes sense most of the time because I’m writing for quantity at this stage, not necessarily quality.

But I’m getting to know my characters and I’m having fun doing it so I guess that’s all that matters.

But putting your creative self out there is scary. I can definitely empathize with other content creators out there though I can’t imagine what it must be like to have millions of followers and EVERYONE has an opinion so that must be really hard. You’re constantly being criticized and analyzed and people think you should have done this, or shouldn’t have done that and it’s easy to have an opinion on something you didn’t sweat blood to produce. Because in case you haven’t noticed, creating something out of nothing is HARD WORK.

But it’s also strangely satisfying. However, if you’ve noticed, I don’t allow comments on my blog because quite frankly, I’m doing what I’m doing for ME, not for any one who happens to visit. If I take time to stop and read what people think, to hear constructive criticism, it will slow my momentum down and I’ll start to doubt myself. My thoughts and feelings are my own, agree or disagree, they’re still mine to share.

Also, the majority of people do not know how to effectively communicate their thoughts without attacking, name calling or just being assholes and I don’t care about those people. And I certainly don’t have time to weed through the muck to find the genuine ones so I simply don’t open myself up to that situation. It simplifies my life and right now, I think we would all agree, we need simple in our lives right now.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, I really don’t care anymore if anyone likes my writing or not because it’s just something I HAVE to do. I have to purge my thoughts and writing is the best way I know to do it. I let that fear hold me back for too many years and you know what? Life is getting shorter and shorter, especially for me because I’m old(ish).

Speaking of which …

Today is my birthday. Why don’t you follow me?  You want to make my special day special, right?

Just kidding. Do what you want. But I DO appreciate YOUR time when you read my crap. It means a lot. Thank you.

Have a lovely day!

NaNoWriMo2020

Dree’s Pre-Story

Dree studied her reflection in the mirror. Her cheeks were sunken in and she had dark circles around her eyes. She turned her head from side to side and casually smeared a droplet of blood dripping from her mouth across her chin.

She smiled.

“Wow. You look dead.”

She spun in her chair and grinned.

“Sick! You blackened your teeth!” Riley fully came into her room and plopped down on her bed.

“Does it look like I eat brains for breakfast?” She laughed while reaching for her wig.

“Totally. What do you think about my costume?”

She crunched up a dead leaf in her hand and rubbed it into her raggedy wig. “Love it. It really looks like some big zombie dude grabbed you by the head and ripped it off your shoulders. You need more blood though. Hang on.” She tucked her hair into her wig cap, bent forward, tugged the wig on and then sat back up, her long, black hair curling around her shoulders. “Wigs are so freakin’ hot.” She adjusted it more comfortably then reached for her fake blood. She got up and moved toward him. She began to smear blood around the corners of his mouth and ran a finger down his chin and neck.

“I wish they weren’t going to be there,” he whispered staring her straight in the eyes.

She shrugged. “Yeah. Me too. We would have more fun if they weren’t there, but whatever. We’re going to have fun regardless of the shit they pull tonight.” She backed away and smiled. “Perfect. You look like a headless person now. Bravo.”

He got up to look at himself in the mirror. “Yeah. Good job.” He turned to face her, his face falling serious. “You’re driving us, right?”

“That’s the plan short stuff.” She paused while putting her theatrical makeup away. “Did something happen again?” She turned to look over her shoulder at him.

“Not really. Just the same shit. This bruise here?” He pointed to his temple. “That’s not makeup.”

She narrowed her eyes and slammed the last of her makeup in her backup. “He’s such an asshole.”

“I’m so glad you’re living here, Dree. I don’t know how I would …” he trailed off. Dree reached out and ruffled his hair. “Don’t sweat it, short stuff. We’re a team. You’re not getting rid of me. Besides, this is the first time in months I’ve had a roof over my head and a real bed to sleep in. Why would I give that up?”

He smiled and nodded. “Okay. Let’s go have some fun.”

“Agreed. Come on.” She grabbed her purse and they exited the bedroom.

“Wow. You guys look great!” Mandy paused stirring the punch she planned on taking to the party and apprised them both. “Definitely scary looking.”

Dree bowed and Riley howled in mock pain.

“Pretty sure you guys will win the costume contest.”

Dree shrugged and tried to hide her pleased smile. “I don’t know, you’re looking pretty great yourself. Bride of Frankenstein?”

Mandy laughed. “Yeah. Let’s go with that. I think that’s my official costume but I’m not sure I actually carried it off. But I thought, what the hell, if Richard could go as Frankenstein then it seemed like a no brainer to go as his bride.”

“Oh. Is Dick coming?” Dree gave Riley the side eye. She hadn’t really anticipated Dick coming, she was hoping he would think a Halloween party was beneath him but whatever, they would just avoid him.

“Yeah. He decided to go at the last minute.” Many shrugged. “Seems weird, really. He has never seemed interested in going in year’s past.”

Dree sighed. He was going because she was going to be there. She never should have told him she was thinking of going. She silently berated herself for her stupidity.

“Okay. I guess we’ll see you there,” Dree said. She motioned for Riley to follow her.

“Oh. You guys are driving? I thought we could all go together.” Mandy looked wounded.

“Nah. That’s okay, Mandy. We may not want to stay as late as you guys so I’ll drive me and Riley. Did you want us to take anything?” She looked out over the spread on the kitchen table. It was covered with wrapped candy apples.

“Oh actually, yes.” Mandy glanced over shoulder and pulled out a carboard box. She began putting the apples into the box. “If you could take these, that would be great. This cider isn’t quite ready so …” she trailed off and Dree helped her load the apples.

Dree could sense Riley stiffening beside her. Dick had entered the room.

“Hey. What’s going on?” He moved to stand next to Dree. He reeked of pot and beer. Someone had started the party early.

“Just loading up the apples, Richard,” said Mandy. “Dree is driving them over. We’ll meet up with them later.”

“Nope. I’m driving all of us,” said Dick.

Riley practically threw the last apple into the box as Dree hugged it close to her chest and pulled it off the table. She completely ignored Dick.

“Let’s go Riley.”

Dick moved to block her. “I said I would drive us.”

Dree stared at his chest. She could feel the anger bubbling up inside her. She moved to sidestep Dick only for him to step back in front of her. She stood for long seconds before lifting to meet his eyes. She didn’t even bother hiding her disgust. He smirked down at her.

“Move, Dick.” She emphasized his name to imply that he was acting like a dick, too. He reached out as if to take the box from her.

“I can put this in the car,” said Dick, a challenging light in his eyes. Riley cowered back, his eyes volleying back and forth between them with fear.

“Oh my gosh!” Mandy yelled while moving toward the stove. Her cider was beginning to bubble over. Her cry of alarm was enough to distract Dick long enough for Dree to pull free of his grasp and slide past him.

“Hey!” Dick called after them.

“Let them go, Richard,” said Mandy. “We’ll catch up. No big deal,” she placated him.

Dree didn’t stick around to hear anymore. She kicked open the door and hurried down the front steps, Riley close on her heels.

“God, I hate him,” Dree muttered between clenched teeth.

“Yeah,” Riley said and opened the back door of her Chevy Malibu so Dree could shove the box of apples into the back seat.

“He’s not that bad,” said Riley. “He doesn’t hit me as often as my last foster family.”

Dree sighed and buckled her seat belt. “I don’t even know where to start with that statement.” She started the car and backed out of the driveway. She saw the front door open and accelerated. She slammed on her brakes when she heard a car horn, uncomfortably close, honk at her. The car continued to blast it’s horn as it maneuvered around her.

“Jesus!” Riley shouted, putting out both hands to catch himself before hitting the dashboard.

Dree gritted her teeth and stared at Dick. He was illuminated by the porch light and she could see his knowing smirk even from her distance.

“Riley. We’re not moving until you buckle up.”

“Damn Dree. You nearly killed us.” He reached around and snapped the belt into place.

“Yeah, sorry dude. I wasn’t expecting Dick to open the door. I thought he might come running after us.”

Riley studied her for long moments, but kept silent.

Dree forced herself to take deep, calming breaths. He was not going to hurt her again. She was ready for him if he tried. She had been working out at Jimbo’s Gym for several months and she had never felt stronger. She was also noticing muscles that hadn’t been there before. She also taught herself to use a punching bag. If she wasn’t at school or working, you could find her at the gym. In fact, she kept most of her clothes at the gym, the only thing she had at Mandy and Dick’s house were PJ’s and a toothbrush. Though she appreciated having a roof over her head and a comfy bed, she didn’t feel comfortable living with them. After the incident, she insisted on them putting a lock on her door. She had had to convince Mandy that one was necessary without telling her that her asshole husband was the reason she needed one.

She spent many long hours at the gym obsessively working out after the attack, trying to sweat the memory of him touching her out of her body. Jimbo watched her work herself into utter exhaustion before approaching her late one night.

“What’s up, kid?”

She had stopped punching the bag, putting a hand out to stop it’s forward momentum before reaching over to grab a towel and wipe the sweat from her face. “Nothing. Just blowing off some steam.”

“You have a lot of steam.”

She shrugged and moved to step past him and make her way to the locker room.

“I’ve worked with enough damaged people to recognize the signs.”

Dree froze in place. Her heart began to pound and she focused on breathing evenly. How would he know? She hadn’t told a soul. In fact, she worked extra hard to appear as normal as she could. Or at least, as normal as she thought people expected. She turned to face him.

“I’m fine, Jimbo.”

“Sure kid. I don’t believe you, but okay. Tell you what,” he reached for the disinfectant and began spraying down the punching bag. “Let’s get you into some kickboxing classes.”

“Kickboxing?” She tilted her head. She had seen several girls in the ring learning kickboxing but she had never thought she had the coordination to try it.

“I think you would be a natural. And if you need to defend yourself, there’s really no better way.” He paused cleaning the bag and gave her a knowing look.

He knew. She didn’t know how he knew, but he did. In some ways, she felt relieved that he knew but they didn’t have to talk about it. She smirked and nodded her head once in agreement. Jimbo had made sure she got into a class and came to check on her from time-to-time. That was four months ago. She wasn’t nearly as good as most of the people in her class but Jimbo had been right  – she felt stronger and more prepared to defend herself, if she needed to.

She hoped she never had to.

Continue reading “Dree’s Pre-Story”