Exceprt: Beyond the Fragile Glass (Unknown Chapter)

The ocean line expands before me, pulsating, tugging at my memories.
Sofi holds my hand, and Gloria stands rigid at my side. She looks over at me.
“I know this place,” she says.
I nod. “This was my favorite beach. We came here when we were girls.”
“Ah, we used to race to see how far we could swim. You were such a good swimmer for being so little.”
Her words feel like a wasp sting to my gut. “My parents brought me here when I was young–every summer–until…” I snap my mouth closed.
“Haize? Why are we here?”
There’s salt water running down my face, then. The stones in my chest multiply, but the pressure built behind my eyes for nearly twenty years rejoices. Relief and heartbreak–how these feelings are so deeply intertwined.
“Teddy’s here.” My voice is barely audible above the crashing waves.
“How do you know?” Sofi asks.
“This is where I left him.”
Gloria doesn’t speak. Sofi unclasps her hand from mine and wraps it tight around my waist. She’s young, but in that moment, I watch her childhood fade. She won’t remember Glass after today–none of us will. I can only pray that we remember each other.

Poem: Your Name

Like a dirty word,
Like an accusation,
Like an insult,
Like a crime.
I hear it, and
it’s like being punched
in the throat,
Like being slit from
breast to navel,
Like being startled to
A heart attack,
Like having someone leap
From around a corner.
How my entire body Jolts,
Intestines to stomach
and lungs to heart.
Like each part of my body
Can’t bear to stay in place,
Can’t handle the immobility.
Your name makes every
molecule of me,
desperate to flee.
The contents of my stomach,
Rebel against its tract,
Against the weight of your
Secrets coming to attack.
They revolt against the pressure.
They demand to purify,
To eat away at my esophagus.
Expelling what I’d eaten to
Cleanse me from the inside.

Short Story: Eight (Part One)

In the mountains of San Bernardino, just behind Resting Grace Cemetery, there’s a building unseen by patrons of the grave and citizens of the curious. It stands hidden behind rows of thick pines and forgotten loved ones. Polk Home for Disadvantaged Children houses the most vile rejects of the Foster Care system, including its caretakers—Bron and Binglie Choice. Mr. and Mrs. Choice care for their way-ward children with as much love and kindness as rabid lions.

Being the sole survivor of “The San Bernardino Orphanage Massacre,” I believe my story carries the most accuracy among the swirling and outrageous rumors. Permitted, I’d like to set the record straight. My name is Cane the Great, and this is the story of Arra Needers.

 

I sit at the window sill, anxiously awaiting Arra’s arrival. A man I presume to be the newest social worker assigned to the young girl he currently drags toward the building. His buzz cut contrasts his clean, silver suit that bulges over his muscles.

At barely 4’11 and seventy-eight pounds, Arra appears unthreatening, yet Jaime’s tan hand remains steady, even when they reach the door. She clenches a black trash bag, which carries all her belongings. I tried to convince her to steal a backpack or something from one of her old families’ houses, but she always refuses. “Stealing is bad,” she says. After everything that’s happened in her life, stealing seems a petty issue; she’s firm in her naïve views of good and bad, however.

Jaime’s strong arm pokes the door bell.  The low ringing bell sounds more like a bad omen than an alert to the arrival of guests.

“Don’t get any ideas, girl. This is the end for you,” I hear him say—his deep voice echoing through the door.

Arra’s eyes flick up, and a small smile pulls over her white teeth. Her hair twists down her back in tight braids, and her dark brown eyes scan the building in front of her. I know this building well. I’ve been here for quite some time—watching and learning everything I can to assist Arra’s transition.

The afternoon light casts dark shadows across the stone building. Every window is lined with bars, making escape impossible except through the back door or front door. Footsteps stomp toward the living room. I rush behind the curtain.

“Who is it?” A woman’s voice echoes.

“Jaime Villa,” the man says. “I have your newest daughter.”

The woman cackles—it comes from deep in her throat and explodes out of her mouth like thunder. The door swings open.

The little girl stands close enough that I can hear her heaving breathing. My heart yearns to comfort her, but I stay hidden for fear of being found by my newest hosts.

“Jaime, always a pleasure,” says the woman, whose name easily escapes my mind. I peek out from the curtain, just a little. The woman’s light green eyes look like slashes on her thin face. There isn’t a pore or freckle in sight, but a light dusting of make-up. Brown hair flows from her head like a waterfall to her slender waist.

“It’s been too long, Binglie,” says Jaime. Ah, that’s her ridiculous name.

The woman smiles, and Arra’s mouth falls open. There are no curves in Binglie’s teeth, only sharp shark-like teeth.

“It’ll be longer. The old man doesn’t want any more children.”

Jaime’s head cocks. “I thought this was his favorite business.”

“It’s mostly mine, but it pays the bills. When I see you again, it’ll be the usual—one child less.” Her eyes finally move from Jaime to Arra.

“Speaking of, who’s this?”

“Arra Needers,” he says. He hands her a file that he kept tucked under his free arm. “That’s everything you’ll need to know.”

Binglie looks through it, speed-reading each page. “Interesting.”

“I told you that you’d want her.”

She smiles again.

Excerpt: Here She Lies (Part 2)

This is the second installment of my YA Fiction novel. If you missed the first excerpt, you can find it here. Enjoy!

Charlie turns the radio down, and Van Halen fades away. Charlie looks over at Milly but can’t catch her eye.
“If he was that bad, you could have just come over earlier,” he asks.
Milly shakes her head, but she won’t look at him still. “It’s not a big deal. I’ve avoided him most of the morning.”
After a while Charlie asks, “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine.”
Milly plays with the bracelet on her wrist, rolling a circular bead over and over again, counting under her breath. One tire, two tires, three, four, five. “I already know what you’re thinking. It’s not that big of a deal.”
“You always say that.”
“Because it’s always true, Charlie. I’ve lasted this long. I just have to finish school, and I’m gone. Another year isn’t going to kill me.”
Charlie takes a deep breath. “You sure?”
“Yes.” Her eyes fixate on the road, away from Charlie’s gaze.
Charlie’s mouth opens to say something else, but he quickly shuts it again. Milly straightens her back and puts on a smile. “Would you just calm down? Stop worrying about me.”
“I won’t let this go.”
“Oh what do you know, Junior?”
“Hey! You say it like it’s a bad thing. ”
“It is,” she teases. “Just give it a rest. I can’t handle another lecture this summer.” Her smile remains plastered to her face, but her eyes aren’t wrinkled up like they are when she’s actually happy, and her knuckles turn white as she holds onto the bracelet.
Charlie focuses back on the road, taking a deep breath. It doesn’t matter how much this bothers her. Eventually, she’ll listen, he thinks.
“Maybe if you moved with your aunt, you’ll have to go to another school. But at least that way you won’t have to face everyone after last year…”
“Drop it, Charlie.” The smile leaves Milly’s face. “I’m not moving, and I’m not running away from anything or anyone. Last year is no one’s business: including yours. You promised.”
“I’m sorry,” he says.
“No one’ll remember what happened last year anyway,” she says. The pitch of her voice rises. “I’m sure a lot of things happened over the summer for everyone; they won’t even care about me anymore.”
The car is silent. They pull off the freeway. Palm trees spring up every few blocks, and front yard after front yard sports brown lawns. Charlie turns the air on. It feels like a boulder sits in his stomach—he shouldn’t have pushed it. Everything changed last year, even Milly and Charlie’s friendship. She won’t admit it, but Charlie knows she thinks about last year a lot. She shifts in her chair and plays with that stupid bracelet, rubbing it like a genie that can fix all her problems. He slows at a red light. The only noise comes from the traffic of the overpass and the incessant click-click-click of his blinker. He can’t stand it anymore.
“Nova?” She looks over at him, holding his gaze before the car has to move again. He pulls off the freeway. “Please let me do something. You’ve taken enough hits for me to last a lifetime.”
Milly lets out a deep breath and turns to face the window again.
When they were younger and Charlie’s parents were out of town—which was very frequent—they left him at her house. It was Nova and Charlie against the world ever since the time Milly was five and Charlie was four. The broken vase was one of their many adventures gone awry.
“You know, I wouldn’t have to protect you if you lived somewhere safer.”
“Charlie…” she says as a warning.
“I know, I know, but there’s got to be somewhere—someone—better.”
“We’ve been over this a thousand times; there is no one besides you.”
“And why can’t you ask your aunt?”
“Maybe I don’t want to live with her? I know it doesn’t make sense to you, but that’s home to me—”
“God knows why,” he says while rolling his eyes. She glares at him. “Sorry,” he says quickly as he pulls off the freeway.
“I know it’s really hard for you to understand, but I’m going to ask you one last time: don’t bring it up again. This is my senior year, and I’m not moving before it even starts. I feel really good about this year, and nothing that happened last year is going to stop me from having a good year. Just drop it, okay?”
“All right, all right. I just really hope you’re right,” he says.

Poem: Last Week Sucked (Poem In Progress)

I tuck my hand between my pillow and face, and the Fitbit on my left wrist lights up the room.

1:53 AM.

It snuffs out and the room goes dark. I shut my eyes again, but the seconds tick by and I am still awake.

Fluorescent light slithers between the threads of the curtain, despite the second sheet strewn over the curtain’s rods, and my eyelids flutter open.

I can’t help but notice the glowing, throbbing electric strobe coming from the neighbor’s backyard porch light.

It’s arms open wide ready to greet me, welcoming me to a restless night, saluting my futile clinging mental fibers.

The humming fan fights a losing battle to the owl hooting outside my window–a new addition to the soundtrack of my insomnia, but

it seems to fall in pace with the cricket hiding in my closet.

I roll onto my left side for the sixteenth time and close my eyes.

Chimes blow up on my phone, and a half-growl/half-groan erupts from my throat. I flick my Fitbit to check the time.

It’s 7:30 AM. Time to get ready for work.

Fiction Snippet: American Spirit

His legs splay out on the mattress, while the pillows and blankets sit at the foot of the bed as an offering to the Greek God Eros. His brow glistens with the mark of a job well done. 

“Fuck, it’s hot. Did you turn on the AC?”

“Yeah.” I slide back into bed, inches apart from him. The fan blows stale air at our heaving chests.

I breathe in deep, feeling the gentle tremble of my legs, and laugh.

“What?”

I shake my head. “Nothing.” My lips part into a wide smile. “Did you still want to smoke?”

“Yeah, kind of.”

“Jesus, you’re cliché.”

He shrugs. “It just feels right.”

I snort. “Well, come on then.”

I throw on a shirt and shorts while he grabs his black briefs and white v-neck undershirt. We file out of the room and venture past the living room onto the small porch of my apartment. He lights up and sucks hard and deep on his American Spirit.

A plume of smoke escapes his puckered lips and like my thoughts, it hangs in the winter air. I shiver and shrink back into the chair, tucking my feet beneath me.

“So,” he says before inhaling again.

“What?” I look up at the cig perched like a bird on his finger.

“Have you heard from him?” Smoke puffs out with each word, like the impending cloud of a train.

My eyes rest back to the dirt patch in front of me. It’s a graveyard of clay pots for crusted plants I forgot to water.

“No.”

He sighs. “Shit.”

“It’s all right. I think I stopped hoping he’ll reach out.”

“Think?”

I mumble a yes.

“All right, then.”

“Can I have one of those cigarettes?”

“Yeah, sure.” 

He tosses me the yellow carton. 

Poem: To have so much nothing with someone

When that nothingness becomes the air
and every molecule of oxygen becomes carbon monoxide.
The air is poison and all you know is that it once gave you life.
And once, every moment with that person filled your lungs and satisfied your hunger.

But now, when you see them, you are aware of your heaving chest
and your empty stomach, a
nd the starved cries of you cells.

And when you begin to wither away, you wonder where you went wrong
And wonder, “where was the sign that was supposed to say,
WRONG WAY, TURN BACK.”

 you have to run away 

in search of fertile land and 
For trees that will engulf the carbon monoxide,
And fill your lungs once again. 

your world becomes the earth and no longer a person.

Micro Story: Memories

From before my birth, my mother ran a daycare. My early memories are laced with the faded faces of children I barely remember or speak to anymore. Daycare was conducted in the garage-turned playroom of the single story home of my early childhood and planted on the corner of Second and Vicky.

It seemed so large to me, like walls running on for miles. I felt like a gold fish swimming in a backyard pool. The air was stale and flat, smelling of cement and car oil. Swamp coolers were the only relief from dead, garage air. The walls were the color of sea shells, with just as many imperfections. To the far back and on the right side, a white door let out to the grass land beside the small house.

Inside the room, I sit on a small translucent chair, a color a bright as snow white’s lips. There are cartoon faces on the seats, faded and scratched from jean pockets and constant stacking and unstacking.

A dirty-blonde haired girl I don’t like stalks toward me. Her curly hair nearly covers half of her round, chubby face. She starts to squat onto the chair next to me.

“You can’t seet here. It’s for summun else,” I stutter out. A feeling I don’t recognize pangs in my stomach. It feels like I could throw up, but not quite. I furrow my eyebrows at her. I’d do anything to not have her sit by me.  

“Oh,” she says. She walks away. A mix of pride and shame stir in my chest.

I am not quite four, and I have just told my very first lie.

Poem: Brave

I found her again.
The fearless traveler and the independent woman.
The unafraid to explore the unknown, unafraid of being lost, and unafraid of being alone woman.
The flirt and the extrovert—the confident and ready for anything woman.
The yes woman and the go-getter.
The sitting in a café enjoying every last drop of her Americano woman.
The I’ll-take-a-left-here-because-that’s-how-I-feel woman.
The not recognizing a thing but breathing easy anyway woman.
The dance in the rain and don’t give a damn woman.
The take a deep breath and exhale the panic woman.
The smiling at unrecognized streets and unabashedly disoriented woman.
T
he sit with strangers just to start conversation woman.
The peering out the window of a train, lost in thought woman.
The headphones creating a soundtrack to new memories woman.
The feeling small, looking at the skyline of a cathedral woman.
The future unplanned and spontaneous trips to Italy woman.
The yes to strangers and no to fear woman.

The unashamed of her broken past woman. 

The gleefully in tune with curiosity and abandoned restraint woman. 

The stripping layers of an old coat because it’s finally grown too big woman.

The woman I have dearly missed.
And the woman who turned out exactly as I always hoped she would.

Excerpt: Beyond the Fragile Glass (Part 1 of 3)

This is a new novel I’m working on–incomplete save a few chapters. This is a little snippet of the beginning (foul language involved).

When a hand jutted through my bedroom mirror, I was a little taken aback—okay, a lot taken aback. If I said my underwear was completely dry, I’d probably be lying.

My first thoughts when she completely came through the mirror resembled something like, shit, I should have cleaned my room and oh my god, my dirty underpants and bra are on the floor and my mom would kill me if she knew I had someone in my room when it looked like this and I wish I had brushed my hair and god, I really want to change my underwear, but quickly followed by the reality that this human came through my mirror, so it doesn’t actually matter that my room is messy or that my appearance is less than favorable because the uninvited, magical creature-human-thing walked through the fucking mirror.

“My name is Hana” is how she announced herself after she came through—her smile wide and welcoming, almost like everything was normal. It’s been a good five or so minutes of me just gaping at her, not speaking. She’s been gracious enough while I try to figure her out.

Her bright red hair—like red, not orange—falls along her hair line in a low ponytail that hides behind her shoulders and neck. She’s got some sharp-ass cheek bones and ice-silver eyes, but the weirdest part of her must be her lips—almost completely white. Even her olive-tone skin is darker, like olive undertone, but these lips are death embroidered in a living corpse. I’m pretty sure she isn’t a zombie, though, since she doesn’t have pale white skin and all her body parts seem to be intact and functioning. Her teeth aren’t pointy for cutting through flesh or sucking blood, so I can rule out vampire as well.

My tongue keeps wagging behind my mouth, but it’s not working to form actual words.

“Wha…what are you doing here?” I finally blurt out.

“I want to show you something,” she says.

I pinch the bridge of my nose. My voice makes some unnatural cracking noise, like a dinosaur or something. My brain already hurts, and my eyes feel heavy.

“And you couldn’t knock on the front door like everyone else?”

She chuckles, “Not really.”

This is a little much for one day. I think I’ll just take a nap. Maybe I’m already napping, and this is a bad dream. That’s probably the case.

“You’re not dreaming.” I look back at her. I hadn’t even realized I’d be staring at my unmade mess of a bed.  “This is the only way I could come. I’m not from around here,” says Hana.

“Well fucking obviously.” I roll my eyes and flop on my bed, making more inhuman grunting noises on my way down. The pile of clothes jumps a bit when I land on top of the mattress and a yellow and black flannel shirt tumbles to the ground. I grumble a few curse words and grab the shirt and throw it back on the bed, and plunk my butt right next to it. A steady stream of water dances on the roof and hits the edge of the window. Fog forms around the outside of my window sill. I inhale deeply, imaging the smell of wet concrete and moist air that will bless my nose. The tightness in my chest loosens a bit.