The Cost of Choice

“Happy birthday, my sweet Angel,” her mother said smiling, handing Emily a few coins and a cup of black tea.

The summer of 1882 was the warmest season the twelve-year-old felt, yet. She sipped her tea beside her mother in the garden beside their living quarters at the Boyd’s Manchester summer home.

Emily gazed across the lawn to the patio where Dubby and his father sat, playing cards. Seeing that paternal bond wasn’t the first time the little girl thought of her own father. But she couldn’t restrain her curiosity any longer.

“Mum?”

“Yes, love?” her mother asked.

“Why didn’t daddy come to England with us?”

Avery paused mid-sip and sighed. She knew this day would come, but she wished it wouldn’t come so soon.

She glanced at the little inquirer, sitting tall in her chair with her chin tilted to the side like an inquisitive puppy.

“Sometimes, love,” Avery said slowly, choosing her words cautiously. “Mummies and daddies come from very different worlds. And sometimes those worlds don’t mesh.”

The mother recalled long days and nights, nursing Emily in the basement of the Donoghue mansion. If she even thought about taking the baby upstairs, she would risk everything. She would risk someone suspecting that the child’s distinct brown eyes mirrored those of Avery’s master.

“So you and daddy didn’t get along?” Emily asked, pulling Avery away from the memory. The question, however, yanked the mother back into another recollection.

She pondered the first time his lips ever pressed against hers so softly and so gently. She remembered the warmth between her legs and the longing to be in his skin, to feel every crevice of his thin, unyielding body wrap around her and consume her.

Colin had quietly crossed the barrier into her quarters as to not wake his mother sleeping in her bedroom on the floor above.

“No, dear,” Avery replied, snapping out of the scrumptious memory and returning to her daughter’s question. “We loved each other deeply. We loved each other very much.”

Avery took a deep breath and decided to protect her daughter from a broken promise.

The birds continued to chirp in the sunlight on that afternoon as Avery allowed her memory to drift back to those delicious nights when   he crept into her quarters and laid with her in the candlelight.

“I promise to love her,” he whispered sweetly in Avery’s ear. “I will make sure she is treated like a princess and has the life she always wanted.”

*

Emily’s birthdays seemed to be the mark of external change. On her seventeenth birthday, her mother fell ill and feverish.

She laid in bed, unable able to swallow broth or medicine. She grew thin, as if her own skin sucked into her bones. Avery felt drained from coughing up blood into her handkerchief and required Emily to take over caring for the Boyds.

“My love,” her mother whispered to her between coughs. “You are meant for greatness.”

Emily Donoghue, with long, braided brunette hair secured into a bonnet, gazed into her mother’s pale and perspired face.

“Shhh, rest now,” Emily cooed, pulling the bed covers over her mother’s shoulders. “You need to keep your strength.”

“Listen to me,” her mother argued, shaking her head. “I never told you the truth about your father.”

The mere mention of him was a shock to Emily’s bones. Her mother refused to speak more of him ever since that summer in Manchester.

“He was a good man,” Avery continued. “He wanted to take care of you. To give you a good life in Ireland.”

Her daughter’s brown eyes grew wide at the thought of living with him there. She could hardly picture the land they sailed away from when she was a wee Lass, swallowed up on that crowded, odorous vessel.

Emily recalled the salty scent of the green island that was lined with cobblestone roads and hills speckled with sheep.

She saw the dark skies they sailed beneath. The skies were even gloomier when they arrived on England’s soil.

Avery brought her back to the present, uttering softly and assuredly, “The choice is yours, Emily.”

The daughter watched as the light left her mother’s emerald eyes, and fell back into eternal stillness.

*

Emily could hardly rest peacefully that night of her mother’s burial. She couldn’t help but to feel the tugging pull of remorse for the loss of her mother and the news of her father.

She imagined that if she stayed in London, she’d die just like her mother: sick, too young, beneath a blank headstone.

Emily tried to repress the thought. When she finally stopped picturing her own death, she imagined, for the first time in her life, a future with her father. In the land she was born in.

Just the idea of sailing back on a ship away from the shackles of duty excited her.

She tossed and turned, her mind at war.

Duty, Em. Duty. You can’t just leave.

The sun peeked through her dusty window, signaling the time to rise and begin another day.

*

Emily carried on, folding sheets and preparing breakfast for Dubby. She remembered to grab his medicine this time on her way upstairs to his parlor, where he usually sits in the morning.

He lingered in the floral armchair, contemplating the reason why his third mistress left him in a fit of urgency.

Questions and concerns reeled through his mind for a moment… just a moment. Then it turned to his stomach which growled ferociously.

“Mr. Boyd?” Emily inquired from the doorway. The back of the chair faced her, but she could smell the thick scent of tobacco. “It’s time for your medication, sir.”

Dubbinger Chester Thomas Boyd III yawned loudly and dubiously, holding his long pipe before him, avoiding Emily’s calling.

“Mr. Boyd, are you in here?” called the young, fair-skinned woman dressed in her heavy, burgundy dress that she sewed together herself. She approached his side with a glass of water and the three red pills in her palm.

“Unfortunately, I am here,” replied the solemn bachelor. “I won’t be taking that with water today,” he said matter of factually. “Bring me the finest scotch we have – on the rocks.”

Dubby took a puff of his pipe, casting swirls of smoke toward the window overlooking their empty curb where his mistress had stolen their only horse and carriage.

Emily realized he was commanding her to walk three miles to the nearest liquor store.

“Scotch?” she asked. “I don’t believe we have any left in your father’s cabinet, sir.”

The young man with a curled mustache, dressed in a velvet robe, reached for his wallet inside his pocket. He elicited all of the pounds he had and handed them gingerly to her.

“Then buy me some,” he ordered in a low growl that sent shivers down her spine.

Emily bowed and took the money obediently. “Yes, sir.”

She slid the few pieces of bills inside her white apron along with the three red pills, and quietly exited the parlor, preparing for the long trek ahead.

*

Stepping onto the wet, muddy street, Emily clasped the money in her apron pocket. She wondered why she didn’t follow behind Madame Colette in an attempt to free herself from Mr. Boyd’s household.

She strolled down the dark, bustling avenue toward the Old Bell Tavern and counted the bills he had given her.

The young woman folded the bills over in her palm, weighing out the cost of whiskey in comparison to the cost of time she would be cleaning the mess he would make.

Emily considered another option.

But what about Ireland? My father?

The funds would be enough for one passenger, plus food and anything else she needed to travel and survive for one month. Emily Donoghue was ready to meet her family and cross the sea to her destiny.

She redirected her route towards the shipyard.

Abort

“What’s wrong?” he asks, glancing at me, sensing my loathing from his computer chair.

I’m lying on the couch with a James Patterson novel in my hand. A full glass of red wine that he poured for me sits on the coffee table.

“Nothing, babe,” I say, keeping my eyes on my book.

He turns back to his computer. I look at him longingly, hoping he would pause his work, but Jared’s hands remain glued to the keyboard.

*

He worked graveyard the night that little red ‘plus’ sign revealed itself. I leaned on the sink and glanced up at my reflection in the bathroom mirror. I caught the horror in my hazel eyes rimmed in charcoal eyeliner. My chest rose and fell with every audible exhalation.

I can’t afford it. I can’t be a mother… I can’t….  

I vomited my breakfast and spit out every last piece of scrambled eggs.

“Oh God,” I said into the toilet. I wiped my mouth and brushed my teeth.

My thin, long fingers trembled as I grabbed the stick. I placed it inside its small cardboard box. I wrapped it inside a Walgreens plastic bag, walked outside, and tossed it into the dumpster behind our apartment. I wrapped my arms around myself and shivered in the snowy November darkness.

I stepped inside, closed the door and leaned my forehead against it in agony. The weight of this thing growing inside me dragged me down. I sat with my back against the door, hugging my knees tightly to my chest.

“I’m so sorry, little one,” I whispered. “I can’t keep you.”

The following morning, I picked up my phone and called Planned Parenthood.

*

Today is the day that I scheduled the abortion, a Friday afternoon in December.

I glance at the clock above the couch.

2:59 p.m.

One more hour.

I lay the book on the coffee table and pick up the glass of wine, chugging it before heading to the bathroom, leaving Jared at his desk. Coming into the bathroom, I catch my reflection in the mirror.

Good Lord…

My dry, wavy hair is sticking up in every direction imaginable. Red blotches are scattered across my entire face. My eyebrows are bushy and misshapen, framing my eyes that have dark shadows underneath. The lines on my forehead trace the lack of sleep.

I turn on the shower and step inside, standing underneath its warm cascade. The water trickles down my skin, warming and massaging my aching muscles. Standing still, I let the drops fall on my shoulders and back.

My eyelashes, drenched and heavy, remain open as I gaze down and caress my soft, flat belly. I circle my hands around my navel, pausing a moment to see if I can feel any stirring. Nothing. I don’t know why I think I could feel something. It’s not even a month old, yet.

I close my eyes, imagining it growing bigger and wider into the size of a watermelon. I envision my skin stretching, carrying the little person. I feel it bumping, kicking and flipping. It flips until it pops out.

I see her evolve. The cycles continues as she becomes me, I become my mother, and Jared becomes my step-father.

I had long, brunette hair and danced in little dresses that she bought from the dollar store. He came home from work with a six-pack of Coors Light and ignored our existence. He touched me when mom was down the street, selling gas and lottery tickets.

I turned seventeen and dropped out of high school. I stole cash from her wallet to buy a one-way train ticket to become someone else.

Standing underneath the water, I wrap my arms around myself.

She never even searched for me…  

*

Stepping out of the shower, I shake off the memory by drying my hair with a towel and using it to wipe off the fogged mirror. My lips are dry and purple from the wine.

Wrapping the towel around my waist, I walk into the living room to retrieve my tumbler of water sitting on his computer desk.

I try to avoid distracting him from his work as I grab the tumbler.

“You’re beautiful,” he says sweetly and surprisingly.

I pause and hold the tumbler awkwardly. These words, although he says them often, catch me off guard after imagining him one day becoming the man who ignores his daughter.

“Thank you, babe.” I take a drink, still standing beside him in my towel.

“What are you getting ready for?” he asks.

Tell him… Stop being a coward…

“Abby invited me to pizza,” I say, recognizing my own shaky voice when I try to hide something.

His fingers pause from typing.

“You know you can talk to me about anything, right?” he says, his green, almond-shaped eyes looking away from his screen and into my blank expression.

I smile and nod nervously, not realizing I’m locking my knees and my thighs are shaking.

Tell him!

“Megan, you’re turning pale.”

Suddenly, I feel nauseous. My stomach turns as the room spins. His face goes blurry.

“Come on, let’s lay you down. Wrap your arm around my shoulder. There you go,” he says, walking me over to the couch.

Jared places a throw pillow underneath my head and swings my legs on the couch. My head pounds like someone beating my temples.

“I’m sorry,” I say, my words sounding more like a croak. “I’m sorry.”

“Shh, it’s okay.”

He picks up my tumbler from the floor and fills it from the kitchen sink. Coming back to my side, he orders me to sit up and drink. I wrap my lips around the bottle and sip down the cool water. The liquid feels refreshing along my throat. Goosebumps spread across my naked arms and legs.

Jared grabs a blanket from the bedroom and throws it on top of me. He brushes a few loose strands of wet hair from my face. He places the back of his hand against my forehead. “You’re not feverish.”

I take another sip of water and look at the clock.

4:06 p.m.

I missed the appointment.

“You need to rest,” he says worriedly.

He has always taken care of me.

He’s not going to leave me. I’m not going to become my mother…

“Jared… I’m pregnant.”

Screenplay Writing

I am super excited I self-published my memoir and I am incredibly thankful for the help from my friends and family, especially Terrill Thomas who designed the cover, and Tony Brucks and Renee Christopher who helped to edit the book from start to finish.

What a huge freaking milestone and I cannot emphasize how much I appreciate their support. I’m in the process of gathering, revising and adding short stories to compose a collection for my next book.

It’s a lot of fun, and it’s coming along.

My brother, Daniel, inspired me to take on a different project. Dan is a composer and producing music. He said half-jokingly recently that he was waiting for me to write a screenplay that could be turned into a film, so that he could compose for it!
I said with determination and wholeheartedly, “Hell yeah! Let’s do it!”
I’m hungry to challenge myself to write for film and theater. I’m eager to write something that could go somewhere, with something that could be a contribution to another line of artists, with something that could potentially be seen and heard from a wider audience.
I’ve never attempted to write a screenplay before. I honestly had to Google ‘screenplay templates’ because I’m so new to this style of writing. What I’m starting to do is turn my short stories into scenes that could be filmed.
A screenplay, from what I researched, is at least 90 pages long… looks like I have quite a ways to go, but nine pages of an intro is a good start.
It may be something, may be nothing.
People have forgotten how to tell a story. Stories don’t have a middle or an end anymore. They usually have a beginning that never stops beginning.
-Steven Spielberg

The Drive

The air felt cool and crisp on her naked glowing skin as she drove along the I-5 South toward Oregon. Johnny Cash strummed his raspy melody on her ancient 1998 stereo in her blue Grand Cherokee. Her thumbs pounded along to the beat. She breathed in the rare appearance of the sun on this Sunday morning she had off of work from the restaurant. Taylor felt tempted to go off-roading, but obediently stuck to the route.

She had removed her dirty jean jacket and rolled her window down, allowing her strong biceps to tan in the warm light. Her long cascades of true brunette falling into artificial mossy green tips tickled her pale shoulders. Her hazel eyes hid behind aviator sunglasses. She glimpsed toward the towering pine trees that lined the road.

Seattle had recently been hit with a snow storm that cut off half of the power in some neighborhoods. Luckily, Tacoma hadn’t been affected; they just received slosh and less business at the restaurant.  

Taylor wasn’t ready for this trip. Unlike any other 25-year-old girl, she couldn’t wait for her Spring Break to be over. She hated leaving the restaurant behind to manage itself. But even more, she felt no remorse for the death of her stepmother.

When she found out the woman had cancer a year ago, Taylor felt only guilt for her father who would care for her and pay the medical bills. It was bad enough he practically did everything for that woman.

Taylor didn’t care to go to Roberta’s funeral, but she was making the trip for her father. She knew he was in pain, but learning of her illness reaffirmed Taylor’s decision to move up north and start a new life for herself after high school.

The cancer wasn’t caused by genetics or bad luck. It had spread from the years of drug use.

Before she showed signs of addiction, Roberta was a successful businesswoman. She owned four car dealerships, one in the state of Oregon, two in California and one in Nevada. Roberta was sweet in the early days before the marriage. Taylor had just turned ten.

A year later, Roberta and Taylor’s father were married. They were the happiest trio anyone had ever seen in Salem. They went on hiking trips together, cooked together, and sometimes even fell asleep together on the couch watching episodes of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”

Taylor noticed that Roberta was gone on business trips more frequently. When she came home temporarily, she brought other guys over to the house. Taylor thought they were just friends, always having parties. She was thankful that her father was happy again, but Taylor didn’t understand why Roberta would have parties and not invite her.

“I love your spirit, child,” Roberta said with her perspiring glass of scotch in hand, shoving Taylor into her bedroom. “But you’re still too young for these kind of adult things.”   

In 2008, Roberta lost two of her stores to the recession. A year later, another one closed down. Her job, along with hundreds of others, dwindled. She spent less time with Taylor, and more time seeking comfort from her husband and other men.      

Taylor was reaching her senior year of high school. Her grades were above average, but she didn’t plan on going to college. She had no direction.  

Her father never mentioned her birth mother, or any other family member for that matter. If Taylor ever asked where she went or who she was, especially in Roberta’s presence, her father’s lips grew into a tight, straight line. His voice fell low and his sea green eyes became stern, sending warning shots to let it go.

No one else seemed to matter in his life during this time, except Roberta. He was focused on two primary things: doing well at his job and taking care of his wife. He knew that Taylor was a good, responsible kid and could handle herself. Although he took her out for ice cream on occasion and went to the movies with her, he spent less time bonding with her.      

Taylor compensated from the neglect in relationship with fighting. She took up boxing at a private, local gym. She had a trainer and met him three times a week. As graduation day approached and Roberta spent more time at home, Taylor took the bus to the gym every day.

She loved the independence. No one could hurt her, or push her away. And if they did, she could push them right back even harder.

On this drive down the freeway, she adored the final few hours she had on her own before meeting her father at her childhood home and reopening old wounds. Taylor cranked up a new song. Cash was getting a little too dull.

James Brown’s “This is a Man’s World” came on. She let it play, even though she didn’t know all of the words.

The song struck something deep in her chest, something burning and aching that she never felt before. It stung, and it lingered. Pain shot deep into her belly, and it crawled lower between her legs to a darker, intimate place. Tears spilled over her eyelids. Goopy mascara and eyeliner stained a perfect line down each cheek.

Man made electric light to take us out of the dark

Man made the boat for the water, like Noah made the ark

She felt his weight pinned against her. His grip on her hair, pressing her face onto the kitchen table, the other hand clutching onto her skirt.

“Relax,” Roberta’s friend moaned into her ear. Taylor wiggled and moaned as his fingers dug into her. “Stop fighting it, girl.”  

Whenever the nightmare haunted her, she would usually reach for a glass of wine from her cabinet to relax. Sometimes, she didn’t know what was a reliable source to help her decipher between dreams and reality. That was when she would turn to a punching bag or jump rope to sweat out the idea of her stepmother drugging her and allowing one of her guy friends to touch her.

When she finally beat every breath out of that imaginary woman on the punching bag, Taylor recalled that moment vividly.

The smell on Roberta’s breath was incredibly potent. Taylor’s innocent eyes glanced back and forth between the bag of needles and powdery mixtures, and her stepmother’s hungry eyes. She remembered that shove against the front door and feeling completely powerless against this woman she trusted and once admired. Taylor felt the incision of the needle in her forearm.

“Don’t worry,” Roberta growled. “This’ll only hurt for a second.”

The woman entered Taylor’s life and exited it with a suddenness that she could never explain, but just accept.  

She wiped her face with the back of her hand and shook off the memory of the drug hitting her hard, the way it made her muscles contract, her veins explode, her stomach ache. She remembered hanging her head over the toilet bowl the next morning and Roberta holding her hair out of the way.

“You poor thing,” she said. “I told you that you shouldn’t be messing with mommy’s things.”

Taylor felt a shiver down her spine and changed the song once again. Nina Simone woke her from the sickening trance.

It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me,

And I’m feelin’ good

She still wasn’t ready to face her father’s pain, but she was ready to see him without her. Without the woman who corrupted their relationship and brought a tornado of disaster into their lives.

She’s gone, Taylor told herself. She’s really gone. 

Taylor was ready to begin again now that she was older. Now that she was stronger. Now that she and her father were finally free.  

She sighed a breath of relief as she continued to drive down I-5 South and let go.

  

 

   

Strings

Her bony fingers stroked the six strings while her left hand slid along the neck of the glossy acoustic.

The world was quite literally at her fingertips.

Lilah felt no remorse for running away. It wasn’t like she saw herself as a role model for her 16-year-old sister Becca, anyway.

She hated high school. She couldn’t understand how anyone could find the appeal in being chained to a desk for hours, listening to boring teachers shove pointless theories down her throat, and brainwashing students into what success was supposed to be.

The only class she looked forward to was fifth period choir. A room full of self-proclaimed divas, goths, goody-two-shoes, and the in-betweens, who worked their ass off together in preparation for seasonal concerts. Despite the awkward clash of social status, most of the choir students got along.

Becca loved seeing Lilah sing on stage, but concealed the adoration when a tinge of jealousy and insecurity rose, aware of her musical and artistic deficiencies. She was more like their father in that way, which was why Lilah couldn’t stand the thought of living under his roof. He had full custody of both girls after filing for divorce from their ever-absent mother.

Lilah could see her father falling apart way before divorce even became a discussion. Still, she was turning to her guitar and Jeremy for comfort.

The music of his fingers gliding down her spine, opening her legs insistently, blanketed her from the atrocities of life at age seventeen, while showing her what being seventeen supposedly meant.

Greeting him at his front door late at night became a numbing routine. He would invite her inside with a half-empty bottle of vodka. Lilah stopped taking the guitar with her to his house.

Tangled in his sheets, Lilah so badly wanted him to give her more than pleasure. At the same time, she was too afraid of feeling anything more than lust for him.

Playing the guitar against the antique shop, Lilah remembered every curve of Jeremy’s muscular body, heard every moan emanating from his lips as she strummed harder and harder.

Lilah’s thin arms pounded against the instrument. Her weight had gone down with the loss of appetite and alcohol consumption.

When Lilah stumbled into her dad’s house at 6:30 a.m. that morning with smeared make-up across her face, Becca was sitting judgmentally on the living room couch.

“You forgot your guitar,” Becca said coldly in the thick darkness. She had propped her sister’s acoustic against the couch, the glossy wooden neck sticking up like a massive middle finger.

“Whatever,” Lilah said snatching her instrument. “Don’t touch my stuff.” She walked to their room and slammed their bedroom door. Lilah crawled into bed, still tipsy.

Eventually, she woke up that evening. After throwing on clean underwear, Lilah packed the necessities: a toothbrush, soap, a bag of bread, a jar of peanut butter, socks, loose cash, and a case of new guitar picks her mother had bought her for her birthday.

Music was really the only thing she had in common with her mom. She was hardly ever in the picture; she was hardly ever in the state of California, for that matter. Her mother was an owner of a large music label company in New York, and she traveled across the country on countless business trips.

Lilah gave up asking where her mother was when her father stopped knowing the answers.

She finished her packing, and this time, she sure as hell didn’t forget her guitar.

She didn’t know where she would go, but she would figure it out at the bus station. Lilah made up her mind to call Jeremy on a pay phone from wherever she ended up- Santa Monica, maybe?- and beg him to run away with her.

Then she could live… then, she would be free.

Carrying her guitar became tiresome after walking. She paused on University, outside the antique shop and rested. The sun was setting and a cool breeze wafted through the bustling streets, tall silhouette palm trees swaying in the distance.

Lilah lounged against the cool wall of the shop before removing her guitar from its black leather case. Unlatching the exterior felt like opening a treasure chest. Dust seemed to puff out of the velvet case as if the guitar was taking a breath of relief.

She pulled out the instrument and laid it on her lap. In a disruptive singular thought, she recalled Becca in the living room. You forgot your guitar.

Her throat closed up and tears poured from her hazel eyes, a stream of mascara trailing down her cheeks, dripping onto her torn jeans. She reached for one of the new picks her mother had bought her, thinking that a song would stop the water works.

It had been months since she played. Muscle memory, however, brought back precious melodies of time; a time last year when her father and sister saw her sing on stage at school.

She could feel her mother’s hug at the memory of the previous birthday they had briefly spent together.

The memory of Jeremy making love to her… she played to these melodies of time.

People gathered as she hummed along to her guitar, closing her drenched eyes. Humming transformed into howling lyrics she dug up from the pit of her soul.

Lilah opened her eyes and saw coins, dollar bills, and even some random pieces of candy in her guitar case. People were listening, hypnotized.

She sang louder and strummed faster from her very core. Farther and farther down, she dug.

During the chorus, Lilah locked eyes with Becca and her father. They stared down at her, perplexed. She played softer but raised her voice.

Tears surfaced again in the final note.

The crowd, mesmerized, applauded. Her fingers finally let go of the strings.

Taking a deep breath, Lilah bowed her head and wiped away her stained face. She turned her eyes to her sibling as she said, “Thank you.”

Pieces of Snow

Nestled on the pastel window seat, Lana rested her chin on her palm and sighed. A storm was yawning loudly outside her window. Nothing to do. Nowhere to go.

She was awfully sorry about the snow globe she had accidentally broken. The way the sparkly flakes floated inside the glass dome surrounding the Swedish dancer in the arms of her beloved captivated Lana like the soft raindrops falling outside. Her small hands shook in fear as Lana stared at the shattered pieces spread across her mother’s bedroom floor. She recalled the terror of her mother discovering her hiding behind the chair in the nursery, swiftly yanking her arm and spanking her all the way back to Lana’s room.

Tibbles, her fat black cat, squeezed in between the wooden doorframe and strolled into her room.

“Go away, Tibbs,” she groaned.

He purred as he continued making his way across the room.

“I can’t play with you,” she said. “Mama said I’m in big trouble.”

The cat unleashed a chuckle and shook his head.

“You really did it THIS time,” Tibbles said as he jumped onto the window seat beside her. Lana sighed and dropped her forehead to her arm resting on the sill.

“I know,” she grumbled. “I thought I was being really, really, really careful!”

“Not careful enough, kiddo. Do you know how important that snow globe was to your mother?”

“No….well…kinda,” she said. “I think my grandma got it from far away.”

The cat licked his paws one by one, slowly and meticulously. The rain began to pour down harder on the garden below her second story bedroom. Beyond the house lay endless open fields shadowed by the night sky. Lightning streaks cracked across the heavy clouds as if they were sharp roots clawing into the earth below.

“I think it was Sweden, where my great-grandma was born.”

Tibbles, bored from bathing himself, rolled onto his back exposing a fluffy white blob of belly. The little girl stroked it lightly.

“You can fix it, you know,” said the cat in between purrs. Turning onto his side and all fours, Tibbles leaped to the floor.

“How?” Lana, curious and eager to make amends, turned to the feline strolling to the door.

“By going to Sweden and getting a new one for her, of course!” He hopped out of the room, closing the door quietly behind him.

It seemed so simple to her. No wonder her mother was so furious! She simply wanted her snow globe back. And Lana was determined to get it.

She jumped off of the seat and grabbed her pink sandals. Thinking twice about the rainy weather, she threw them down and took her yellow rain boots. Opening her door and glancing down the hall, Lana made her exit seeing that the area was clear. She had no plan in her mind other than to find this land of Sweden and retrieve a beautiful, whole snow globe.

Lana was so excited that she had forgotten about the jump rope she left on the staircase and slipped on the rope, falling down each solid marble step.

The echoed screams woke her up instantly. She took a moment to remember where she was, and what she was doing on a plane. Lana was coming home to Nebraska from New York on the first flight out to her mother’s funeral. She glanced out of the small oval window, catching the setting sun across the silky, emerald fields. Patches of brown and gold freckled the diverse landscape.

She had changed out of her business suit and into some faded jeans and plaid shirt. Her long brown hair piled high atop her head in a messy bun. Taking a long and deep breath, Lana checked the time on her phone and counted the seven hours since she heard about her mother’s passing. A throbbing in her skull and knife in her chest brought tears to her eyes. She recalled their last conversation over the phone about the snow globe Lana had shipped to her mother while on a business trip in Stockholm; a globe containing a graceful dancer in the arms of her beloved.

Her mother had completely forgotten about that old globe she broke when she was five years-old. It brought a gleaming smile to her soft, wrinkly cheeks.

Something deeper had been preserved that day. A love so strong and enduring restored from an almost untraceable and unconscious past.

Detour

She glared at her reflection from the passenger seat window.

Long streaks of raindrops drizzled down the glass, mocking her wavy brunette hair she had tried to straighten earlier.

The taxicab driver, a loud and dark-skinned man with gray hair, swerved abruptly to the left. Maya’s temple banged against the window, causing her to release a massive “OW!”

“Sotty,” said the driver, not looking back. “Cal-ee-fornians can’t drive in zee rain!”

They zoomed passed a couple exiting the Brooklyn Bridge in a white sedan with a California license plate. The evening sky grew dark and heavy with the frigid October air.

Maya’s German Shepherd puppy, Kona, came to her throbbing head.

Crap. I forgot to tell Jackie to not give him any snacks.

She imagined the mess she would find on her return home. Maya rubbed her hand on her right temple and groaned.

All she wanted was a weekend getaway. She booked a cottage for one, non-smoking, overlooking the water in Marblehead. All Maya wanted was to be alone and breathe.

But she could only think about time; her nemesis. Time was winning. She was going to miss the train leaving in 20 minutes. The taxi came to a red light, digging any hope of making it on time into the sopping wet ground.

The air thickened around her, enclosing all worries into the only space left in her mind. She felt light-headed.

“Stop the car, please,” she shouted as the traffic light turned green.

“Wha?!” the driver shouted.

“Stop the car!” Maya repeated.

He glanced behind and furrowed his bushy eyebrows, and pulled over.

Maya pushed open the door and jumped into the pouring rain. She reached back for her umbrella.

“Just give me a minute,” she panted.

He shook his head and turned off the ignition.

Smoke rushed from her lips in the cold air. Maya slowed her breath and looked around. They had made it the edge of the city, not far from the station.

Maya counted her steps to 30 just as her therapist taught her to do when her anxiety attacks worsened. She fought to stop the twitching from her fingers reaching inside her jeans pocket for a cigarette. Despite taking weekly yoga classes, Maya’s boss noticed her anxiety increasing and gave her this weekend to relax.

Especially this weekend.

She remembered the warmth and joy she felt when her mother surprised her with Kona on her birthday. The comfort made her apartment feel partially whole again.

Maya’s black leather rain boots slapped on the ground as she landed on number 26. It took her a moment to realize that she was approaching the cemetery, the place they buried her husband.

She hadn’t felt strong enough to visit his grave since her office was reconstructed. Maya looked back at the taxi headlights beaming in the rain. She decided that a detour was what she needed.

Her movement became purposeful as she walked into the cemetery down the muddy path. In the dark, she spotted the silhouette tree in the distance that he lied beside.

She approached his headstone decorated with soaked American flags. Standing beside his grave, she couldn’t read the words, but had memorized them in her sleep:

IN LOVING MEMORY

TOM HAMILTON

BELOVED SON AND HUSBAND

JAN. 12, 1974 – SEPT. 11, 2001.

The horn honked from the taxi, signaling her. Maya couldn’t budge. Tears streamed down her cheeks. She could no longer hold the umbrella steady in her hand.

She remembered turning on the news that morning, seeing the towers go down. Maya was driving home to Boston to visit family while Tom stayed behind to work.

He was in the elevator when the planes crashed.

Maya fell to her knees in the soggy grass.

A soft hand landed on her shoulder. The cab driver shielded her from the rain with his umbrella. She forced a smiled and pushed herself up.

“Sotty,” he said. “Was he yours?”

“My husband,” she nodded.

“I am…. truly sotty.” The driver looked to the ground in sorrow.

“Thank you,” Maya said.

“Do you feel bettu now dat you have seen him?”

Her tired eyes looked back to his headstone.

“I can breathe again,” she sighed.