where awkward private thoughts become public knowledge.

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She stared at the intricate designs on the handles of the scissors; tilted her wrist up and down slowly to feel their weight.  Her hand, holding onto them rather loosely, dropped towards her side as she sighed and closed her eyes; the fire popped and crackled.

Sitting on the couch, straight backed and proper even with no one else in the room, she began to brush out her hair.  Her arm moved slowly and she could feel every strand being gently pushed into place by each firm yet motherly bristle.  Now, relaxed and foggy-headed, she once again closed her eyes and allowed her neck to remember the feel of his perfect lips just barely grazing the pale skin on her neck, and the way he’d breathe and it would roll across her skin like fog over the ocean.  The memory snaked up her spine and ended in a chill.

Memories like sparklers shined only for a few moments before losing their light and leaving her suddenly dark and chilled.  Her eyes opened and she focused on her task as she carefully split her hair into three sections and began to braid.

Careful not to leave any loose, she remembered without meaning to the way his fingers would drift through her hair and down to her waist.  He would lean closer and inhale the scent before tilting  her head up for a kiss as he brushed it out of her face. Sometimes he would emerge grinning with a long maple strand of hair clinging to the stubble on his cheek.

In one movement she had the braid finished and the scissors back in her hand.  The braid fell with a gentle thud onto the floor, and looked out of place laying on top of the polished wood.  She watched, dazed, as a few solitary locks drifted lazily down through the air and landed on the floor without much commotion.

In bed, she wore a scarf to keep her newly bare neck warm.  Her head felt light; she panicked, and feeling like she was missing something essential above her, moved her hand in the air above her head and felt nothing but the headboard.

Suddenly tired, she pulled the blankets up over her face and closed her eyes.  She held her clasped hands to her mouth. No sound came out as she prayed.


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Wednesday’s Story

Ted went on a walk and bought a chicken.  He named this chicken mini Ted.  Ted promised mini Ted that he would never be made into a nugget.

This helped mini Ted sleep at night.  He always slept under a grey and pink flannel blanket, and rarely forgot to blow out the candle at his bedside before he slept.

In the spring they would stroll through the park, Ted and mini Ted sporting matching red bandanas.  They both enjoyed egg salad so that is what they ate.  Life was good.

As time passed, both Ted and mini Ted aged.  Mini Ted, being a chicken, had a drastically shorter life span than Ted.  As mini Ted became weaker and weaker, he began to worry about Ted being alone.  Who would cook the stew?

Eventually mini Ted slipped into a coma, and died two days later.  As his body was being prepared for the funeral Ted sat by the riverside lost in thought.  He had never felt more alone.

At the funeral Ted said very little and looked at no one.  He lingered only a moment over mini Ted’s graveside, gently laid a single red rose on the coffin lid and walked slowly to the car.  Half way home he realized he was hungry.  If only mini Ted was there to make some stew.

Ted hung his coat in the hall closet.  As the days passed he grew used to being alone.  He never entered mini Ted’s room and never touched the aged Finnish whiskey that mini Ted had been saving for a “rainy day”.

Whenever Ted was approached by other chickens he politely excused himself from the conversation.  There would be none of that.  He instead found comfort to sleep in his faith and a few fingers of gin.  At night he dreamt of mini Ted and polar bears.

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the Last Straw

She laid back on the winter grass, surprised at  its sun-warmed softness.  Closing her eyes she laced her fingers behind her head and stretched her legs out toward the treeline that marked the border of the nature preserve.  Nature, she had always found, had a sedative effect on her often unquiet mind.

He’d left, of course, twenty minutes earlier with a roaring engine.  She’d watched his car quickly blur into the country scenery and then disappear altogether.  It was confusing to be happy for the solitude but want him to be laying beside her.  He would have pointed out the different birds and explained to her why trees lose their leaves in the fall.  Curling up closer to him, she would think that his voice was the perfect voice.  But, she reminded herself, he’d left.

“Do you love me?”

The question had dropped off of her lips and hung in the air between them like a puff of smoke, temporarily disorienting both of them.  The silence lasted for what felt like minutes and her heart started to race.  Silence was never good.  She couldn’t read his expression and wondered if she wanted to know what he was thinking.  Then he spoke, his voice confident and strong.

“Yes. Very, very much.”

So he loved her and for one brief moment she felt her heart skip.  But then all at once everything that had happened before that came crashing back down on her head.  Despair settled into her stomach like lead and they lapsed again into silence.  As the minutes ticked by she noticed him fiddle with his phone, his watch, his keys – signs of impatience.  Before she realized what was happening she felt tears dampen her face and turned away quickly, pretending to watch something on the road.  She sniffled.

She heard him sigh and stand up.  Then it was shoes crunching gravel and doors unlocking.  An engine starting.  His car had been at the end of the driveway before she could turn around.

Now alone and snuggled into the grass she felt her breathing start to slow down.  When she opened her eyes the grass looked like it was made of tiny green crystals; she could see the wind swirling around in the blue of the sky.  She wondered if anyone would think to look for her here.  What if no one noticed she was gone?  What if a stranger found her laying cold on the ground? What if at the very last second, she changed her mind?  It had all just been too much; the last hour and the last night and the last week and the last several months and years.  She was tired.

Drowsiness descended on her quieting mind and she closed her eyes.  She smelled the grass.  She heard the trees rustling.  She felt the warmth of the sun on her skin.  And then she stopped breathing.

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One Night in December

As soon as he opened the door he saw. He saw her left eye, blue and swollen; blood dripping from somewhere on her forehead and the perfect imprint of a hand across her windpipe. She was leaning against the doorway with her eyes closed. It had taken the last of her strength to climb the stairs to his apartment and ring the doorbell.

She opened her eyes and asked if she could come in. Moving aside, he tried to ask her questions but the words wouldn’t choke past his shock. She curled up on the couch and pulled a blanket over her lap. He notice that she rested her head on her arm, trying carefully not to bleed on his couch.

He stood and watched her for what seemed like an hour.

“What happened?” He heard his voice, shaking and timid. He had tried to sound calm and soothing. She looked up at him from the couch and held out her arms. Without a second thought he moved to hold her.

“Shh, shh. You’re safe. You’re safe with me,” he whispered over and over as he rocked her and she cried quietly into his shoulder. He pulled the blanket tighter around her and rested his head on hers. She hadn’t said a word and she hadn’t stopped crying.

Before they had broken up he held her all the time. He loved the way her small frame fit perfectly in his arms. He’d dated a lot of other women before, but he had never believed in love. When he met Caroline he realized what he’d been missing.

Their relationship had been strained. They could never seem to communicate and fought constantly over nothing. In return, though, he had someone who genuinely cared about him and made the world stop when they kissed. Since their breakup he’d thought less about the arguing and more about the things he missed: her things cluttering up his bathroom, laughing while they cooked together, the way his pillows smelled like her after she slept over. More often than not he’d woken up in the past months reaching to pull her to him only to grasp sheets and air. Sometimes he craved her so badly he began to think he was broken.

One night he’d caved in and contacted her in a moment of weakness. He asked for her friendship and she had reluctantly agreed. They’d had fun hanging out as friends. They played video games, watched movies, ate meals, went hiking. They did all of the things they had done as a couple without the physical intimacy.

He’d taken her out and after a glass of Chianti she’d admitted she still loved him. He hadn’t known what to say; he didn’t know what he wanted or how he felt. He had been enjoying her company without considering what it meant. She started to cry when after his silence he’d told her he wanted to be friends. He added that he still loved her too; whether he meant it or had said it to ease her pain wasn’t entirely clear to him. He disliked not being in control of his thoughts. He hated being overwhelmed by emotion. So after that night he’d made it a point to become distant and gradually her weekly phone calls didn’t come at all.

Holding her now, feeling her chest rise and fall with her breaths, he remembered what it felt like to feel connected to her. He wanted to know what had happened to her, why it had happened, the entire story and how and why she had ended up at his apartment. He wanted to know who had done it to her. He wanted to kill them.

After a minute she pulled away and sat up, wiping her face with the back of her hands. Managing a weak smile she said, “You should see the other guy.” She laughed. “Well, not really. I’m pretty weak. But upside, I should get some good painkillers!” More laughter. He thought she was too obviously trying to act normal.

He made what he hoped was a relaxed smile. “So….are you going to tell me what happened, or…” The sentence dragged into several moments of silence as he looked at her and she looked at the floor.

“It doesn’t matter, really,” she started. “I was with that guy I was telling you about – the one that lives in the city – and..and..” Her lip started to tremble. He waited as she suppressed tears and then continued. “It was such a typical thing. Wanted more than I wanted, and was angry when I tried to leave.” She fell silent and nervously threaded her fingers together and then apart. Scratched at some dried blood on her hand.

It was apparent that was the story in its entirety; or at least all she was going to tell him. He didn’t know what to say. He wanted to call the police, he wanted to drive to the city and make that asshole bleed until he cried. He wanted to turn back time. He wanted to cry.

He settled for saying nothing and instead taking her hand to lead her to his bathroom. They were silent. He started the water and undressed her, and then himself. He guided her into the stall and then stepped in. Gently and slowly, he washed away the blood from her body and made her clean.