Novel Excerpt: Beyond the Fragile Glass (Unknown Future Chapter)

For a little background about the characters, go to the previous excerpts: Part One, Part Two, or Part Three

There’s a loose spring poking me in the ass of the vomit green couch I’m currently plastered to, but I can’t move. I miss the smell of pine that brought me so much comfort this time of year. God, I miss it. I miss that sense of same. My lungs are on fire, and my eyes are stinging, and I keep rubbing and rubbing and choking and sucking air into my lungs but nothing is working.

Mom wouldn’t buy a tree this year. She doesn’t even want to celebrate Christmas, like the rest of us don’t exist. I strung the lights myself and pulled all the goddamn decorations out of the garage myself and will celebrate Christmas myself. He’d want it this way. If he knew Mom wasn’t partaking in the holidays, he’d never forgive her. She’s sad. We’re all sad, but she doesn’t have to be a selfish bitch about it.

So I sit here in front of this plastic piece of shit. It doesn’t look real at all. It was twenty bucks at target, and I stole the money from her wallet to pay for it. If she were in her right mind, she’d understand and forgive me. She hasn’t even noticed.

I tried to make the wire branches look real, but nothing worked. I shoved that fucking tree in the corner where it belonged and threw some lights on it. I’m terrible at stringing lights. Like my six-year-old cousin could make this shit look better. I moved the baby grand piano, green and faded like a penny oxidized over the years and the ivory keys yellow like the dead elephants they came from, to the cherry wood table that was supposed to be the center of the family. It’s covered in dust and shoved in the corner of our dingy linoleum kitchen. The walls have outlines of sun stains save little brown squares, iridescent reminders of the life we should have fucking had. None of it matters anymore. Christmas is dead, but I’m going to fucking celebrate it. It’ll be the same. I’ll make it the same. It has to be the same. I choke some more and hack up some mucus and suck in more air. Nothing works.

I stand and hustle my legs into my room. If I have to stare at that tree any longer, I’ll go fucking crazy. I shouldn’t have bought it. I shouldn’t have tried to celebrate Christmas. I run past my parents’ room, plugging my ears. If I have to hear that woman cry one more time, I swear to God I will snap. The barren white hallway feels like a hospital. I hate hospitals.

I slam the door of my room, and the mirror behind it click-clacks against the door. I turn to look at it. I tacked one of my old princess sheets, folded in half and then half again, over the mirror. There’s a pin in each corner. I glare at the stupid sheet. Hana isn’t Santa. I don’t want her popping up on Christmas, sucking me into her god-forsaken world pretending everything is fine. It’s fucking not.

Novel Excerpt: Here She Lies (Part 3)

For part one, go here. Or part two, go here.

The car slows to a stop. Milly looks out and sees a long cement gate that encloses a green park, filled with tall cypress trees that cast shadows across the entire park. She takes a few deep breaths and exits the car. The hot summer sun pricks at her skin, and a stale breeze tugs at her cloths and hair.
She looks at the oxidized metal sign:
Hillside Memorial Park.
Open six AM to dusk.
A small breeze catches Milly’s hair as she lays out a white sheet from her bedroom to sit on. Scattered around, tall cypress and eucalyptus trees tower above her head, and although it’s midday, a shadow falls across the large park. Streams of light glow from the tops of the soaring trees and shoot to the ground like stars falling across the sky. Some of the rays fall on Milly’s face. She takes in a deep breath to steady her breathing as she and Charlie sit down. To her, this is home and she can’t imagine going anywhere that might take her away.
Milly reaches over the cotton sheet into a pink Easter basket, pulling Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches out. She place one in front of herself and passes the other to Charlie, but doesn’t take a bite; rather, she looks at a tombstone in the lawn next to her.
Elaine Milly Ray
Beloved Wife and Mother
August 2nd, 1969 – November 1st, 1999
Milly tried to write a letter to her mother earlier in the day about last year, but it was too hard. Instead,she told her mother about what she and Charlie had done over the summer, even the impromptu road trip up the coast to San Francisco. At the very bottom of the letter, she wrote, “Here’s to my last year of Hell and another great year in Heaven for you. I’m going to make this one the best of all. God help me,” as a pit formed in the bottom of her stomach.
“Hey, Char?” she calls, handing the newest letter to her best friend.
Charlie reaches out and grasps the sealed letter, marked Mom’s Birthday 2007 in his hands.
“With the others, please? And did you bring 2004’s letter?”
“Yeah. Here.” After shoving the first letter in his pocket, Charlie hands Milly an old, folded piece of paper. She opens it slowly, cautiously, like the words on the page would fall off and spill onto the ground if she moves too quickly, and reads:
Dear Mom, 8/2/04
I just wanted to wish you a happy birthday and tell you how much I love you. I miss you so much. I’m doing alright. I’m going to be a freshman! I’m so nervous. Charlie says it’ll be fine, but he doesn’t know anything about high school. I still don’t have boobs yet. When did you get boobs? Jonah makes fun of me all the time… He’s lucky that I don’t make fun of him for having them. We still don’t get along. He still drinks, but I guess I’m not surprised anymore.
Today, Charlie surprised me and came over. His grandma drove us to your grave, and we had an old fashioned picnic. It was really nice to talk to you again. I think Charlie misses you just as much I do. We’re gonna visit you every year on your birthday. I love you, Mom. See you next year.
Love,
Milli-pede
“Will you ever want the rest of those letters back?” Charlie asks. Milly folds the letter and thinks.
Elaine died of cancer sixteen days before Milly’s tenth birthday. Before she died, she gave Milly a box of letters: one written for every birthday Elaine would miss (until Milly was the age of twenty-five), a letter for all nine of her previous birthdays, and letters marking important moments in Milly’s life—first boyfriend, becoming a woman, high school, college, getting married, first baby, etc.
Milly tried to read all the letters right after her mom died, but most of the letters were complicated and hard for her to understand. It made her more angry and confused. Her mom was gone and she would have to face the fact that she was alone with Jonah. He tried to throw away the letters at one point, when Milly was eleven. Ever since then, she’s kept all of the letters she was given or wrote to her mother with Charlie.
“You ask me that every year,” she laughs.
“I’m just waiting for the day you want them back.”
“That won’t be for a long time,” she says.

Short Story: Eight (Part Two)

If you missed part one, go here.

She smiles again. Jaime’s phone starts ringing in his pocket.
“It looks like I need to get going.” He thrusts Arra through the door. She hits Binglie with a thud, but the small woman doesn’t move an inch. Arra turns back toward Jaime, but Binglie wraps an arm around Arra’s waist while the other hand grasps the file. Jaime gestures toward Binglie’s arms. “Do whatever you want with that.” It isn’t clear if he means the file or Arra. He throws Arra’s trash bag past Binglie and into the house.
“See you soon, Jaime.” Arra looks up.
Jaime laughs. “If you’re so certain, I suppose I will.” He starts to descend the stairs.
A small black blur crosses his neck and hides behind his collar.
“Jaime!” Arra’s voice is high-pitched but hoarse, like she hasn’t spoken in months.
He turns on his heel and glares at her.
“Eight,” Arra says.
He takes the stairs two at a time and wraps a massive hand around Arra’s throat. “What did you say to me?”
Her face begins to swell slightly, but her only response is a small smile. Jaime lets her go. Jaime and Binglie’s eyes meet. “I hope to see you soon… With this one obedient.”
Binglie nods.
“Drive safe,” Arra says.
He makes a deep guttural growl. He turns away, as Binglie yanks Arra inside and slams the door.
“I wanted to watch him leave,” she says.
“How does it feel to want, my dear?” Binglie pushes Arra through the living room. There’s a thin layer of dust on the top levels of cabinets and bookshelves and the prints of paintings lining the walls, otherwise, the house is spotless. Fresh lines of a vacuum mark the floors and arch around the furniture. The colors on the couch shine bright and crisp and unused. Arra scans the room harder. Spider webs hide in the cracks between some of the furniture. There’s a fire place in the center of the farthest wall, but ash doesn’t line the bottom like Arra’s previous parents’ home.
I come from my hiding spot and latch a thin, almost transparent rope to Arra’s back. She notices my appearance behind her and smiles.
“This place is so neat, Binglie” she says.
“When I speak to you, call me Mrs. Choice. Otherwise, don’t speak.”
“I don’t like it here. I’m glad my friends came.”
Binglie chuckles. “You have no friends here.”
Binglie leads Arra through the living room to the study in the back of the house. Bookshelves line the wall, but cob webs and dust cover nearly every shelf. A gold lamp illuminates the room in a dull yellow. A middle-aged man sits behind the desk, studying paperwork. He looks up when Binglie raps at the door. “Bron,” she says.
“Who’s this?”
“New girl.”
Bron rolls his eyes. “Thank you, dear. I can see that. What is her name?”
“Arra,” says Arra.
Bron stands and walks over to Arra. His eyes scan the little girl up and down. The left corner of his mouth pulls up. “She’s a confident little thing, isn’t she?”
Arra nods. Bron kneels down, so his eyes are level with hers. His fingers wrap around her mouth and dig into her cheeks.
“Don’t be.” He looks at Binglie. “How long until she’s eighteen?
“Nine years,” she says.
He sighs. “That won’t do.”
“I won’t be here that long,” Arra says.
Bron moans. “Make her stop.”
Binglie nods. She grabs the back of Arra’s shirt and pulls up, catching under her armpits. Suddenly, she’s two feet off the ground. She tries kicking Mrs. Choice, but her new mother just moves her out of kicking reach. Arra gives up and just hangs there, staring at Binglie.
“She’s our last,” he says.
“I know. We’ll take care of it before then.”
“Then why take her in?”
“Her story’s incredibly interesting.”
Bron raises an eyebrow. “What is her story, then?”
“All of her last foster families have died of things like heart attacks, organ failure, blood clots–seemingly normal, but when you add the multitude of dead.”
His voice rises like a child asking for candy. “That’s a lot of death surrounding one little girl. All of them, you say?” He’s smile widens.
“Yes,” Arra pipes up.

To be continued…

 

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.

Poem: Drag Night

The mahogany double doors open

and the woman submerges into a cloud of smoke.

The fog machine ushers her into the room

and into a crowd of cheering people.

A large woman, dressed in purple sequence,

clad in fish net tights and eyeshadow

sprawling from ridge to lid, descends the stairs.

The woman at the door ignores the parade.

High on tip-toes, brown sandals pushing up, 

she scans the bar, examines the booths, and

searches the crowd for the face she seeks.  

With a disgruntled breath, into the crowd

she plunges, deeper and deeper through the

veins of bodies standing shoulder to shoulder.

Screams of laughter erupt and the dancer

mimes the words of “Like a Virgin.”   

But the woman in jeans and the yellow blouse

pays no mind and hinders no search.

She escapes the sweating merriment

and to her relief, a familiar face sits.

At the bar, eyes glued to the performer

as she parades around the bar

and serenades her loyal onlookers

sits a man, beer in hand.  

The woman steps toward him,

placing her arm on his shoulder.

He looks up at her and she smiles. 

“Funny bumping into you.”

He pulls out a seat for her.

“You’re late.” His arms rests on her knee. 

“Looks to me like the show just began.”

“So it has.”

Poem: Auld Lang Syne by Robert Frost

In honor of the best worst year ending and the beginning of a better one, I’m posting my favorite poem. I’ve lost a lot this year, but I’ve gained a lot too. And I’m proud of the resilience I found and thankful for the friends that helped me find it.

Peace and happiness, my loves. Thank you for sticking with me for the last six months. It has been a privilege.

Cheers to many more Sunday’s with you all.

Sincerely,

Kariana

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And never brought to mind?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And auld lang syne!

For auld lang syne, my dear,

For auld lang syne.

We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,

For auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint stowp!

And surely I’ll be mine!

And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,

For auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,

For auld lang syne.

We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,

For auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes,

And pou’d the gowans fine;

But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,

Sin’ auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,

For auld lang syne.

We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,

For auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidl’d in the burn,

Frae morning sun till dine;

But seas between us braid hae roar’d

Sin’ auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,

For auld lang syne.

We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,

For auld lang syne.

And there’s a hand, my trusty fere!

And gie’s a hand o’ thine!

And we’ll tak a right gude-willie waught,

For auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,

For auld lang syne.

We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,

For auld lang syne.

Poem: How is it already the 24th

It is the smell of pine that reminds me to hope.

It is the taste of chocolate fudge that reminds me that life can be good.

It is the sight of wrapped secrets that bring back memories of being little.

It is the sound of Christmas music that makes me yearn for what was.

Merry Christmas, my loves. Believe in magic, today and always. Joy and peace to you all.

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: Taxman Jones

The Corolla screams as it slows to a stop, 

Resting at a weeping brick building.

Both the car and the walls are gray and peeling.

A flick of the wrist and the engine shimmies

And clunk, clunk, clunks.

Silence.

My frown deepens to the point

It hurts.

My hand caresses the handle and

SLAM.

My shoulder pops and the door pops,

And out I tumble into the wind.

I dust off my hands,

Tattooed with gravel,

To pull the thin crocheted sweater closer,

Closer,

Closer.

Mom made it white.

Time made it yellow.

My feet push on.

Left, left,

Left, right, left.

I stop at the front door.

At attention.

Jingling keys sing the national anthem,

Before I shove them into a weather-worn hole.

The shops walls are the patches of a quilt,

Stuffed with graffiti.

The “Closed” sign glares at me.

“You’re late,” it yells. I ignore it.

Again. Instead,

I scan the horizons for any sign of life,

But it’s gray up there.

Dark, then light, then dark.

No blue today.

Or yesterday.

Or the day before.

No blue tomorrow either.

My eye catches on the vinyl sign hanging above the shop doors.

It should read my name and profession.

It should trumpet in each day, and herald my exit,

but

instead, it dangles from a roof,

wishing it adorned another.

“Axman Jones,” it says.

An angry client tore out the “T,”

And not even a Sharpie could

Save the sign, much less

The business.

At ease solider.

My shoulders sink,

Deeper and deeper until I am nothing but a shell.

“Would Jesus even hang out with me?”

I scoff and straighten my back.

Jesus picked better sinners.  

The wind of ice and fury sings “Taps” in the distance.

I open the door and lock it tight behind me.