The Empty Space

Well, writing a new chapter every week hasn’t exactly worked out as I’d planned. I can think of 30 excuses for my lack of writing in the last several months, but I’d rather just move forward and try to get back on the ball.

This is a short story I wrote for my Place & Setting class. The assignment was to create a short story in a time and place different from my own – without mentioning where the time & place actually are. Happy reading!

 

Mia Champlaign was in a panic.

Her hair was a tangled mess, and wearing nothing but her slip and stockings, she raced around the chateau. She pulled clothes from their drawers, emptied closets. She even got on her hands and knees, crawling along the worn hardwood floors and plush area rugs, searching desperately.

The grandfather clock in the parlor struck noon, the loud, bellowing sound causing Mia to startle. She froze – felt a hollow dread sink in the pit of her stomach.

It was gone.

The reality of her situation hit her full-force, like a blow to her stomach that literally took her breath away. She got up from her hands and knees, brushed off her stockings, and sat on the divan, defeated. Her hands hung limply in her lap. She absently felt her left ring finger for the piece of her that she knew was missing. Why today?

Mia wasn’t sure how long she sat there, but the sound of an engine on the dirt road beside the chateau brought her back to reality. She rushed upstairs, panting from the exertion of her fruitless search, quickly getting ready for the day that she had been dreading.

It’s an omen, she thought to herself as she stepped into her lace trimmed drawers and re-fastened her silk stockings to her garters. She donned her favorite belted cotton frock with the squared yoke collar. Her dress, once a beautiful shade of cornflower blue, had faded from many washings. Her stockings had holes in them, her collar, once pure white, was now a soft grey.

Mia gathered her tangled mess of strawberry blonde curls and pinned them loosely to her head. She looked at herself in the mirror, observing her hollow cheekbones and sallow, pale skin. Dark bags hung under her eyes, and her brow was furrowed with worry. Her dress hung loosely around her thin frame. Her gaze fell to her left hand, and her heart sank at the absence of her wedding ring in her reflection.

Where could she have lost it? Did it fall down the drain when she was bathing the night before? Did she misplace it while tending her garden, her hands deep in the rich dirt? She went downstairs, looked at the clock, and the overpowering sense of dread she felt made her feel sick.

But it wasn’t the absence of the ring itself that unnerved Mia. It was a deeper dread that she felt because of it, the dull ache deep down in her bones that her missing wedding ring meant much more than just the absence of a diamond with a gold band. She wasn’t sure how she could make it through the day ahead of her without the comfort and solace the ring had provided for her in the last several months.

She grabbed her handbag and left the chateau, the intricately-carved oak door closing behind her with a thud. The finality of that sound made her stomach churn. Would this be the last time she left her home with a sense of hope  for her future?

She walked through the lush green grass of the yard, the smell of nearby hayfields and the sight of the blue cornflowers overwhelming her already overloaded senses. The sound of the sheets on the laundry line flapping in the breeze unnerved her even more. Mia made her way down the dirt road that led to town. Already, several women and children traveled along the road, making the same journey as she.

The dirt road gave way to worn cobblestone, and Mia observed the center square of town. Soldiers in black uniforms wielding whips and rifles dotted the once peaceful and quiet town she called home. She kept her eyes on the ground, focusing on the path directly in front of her.

Do not call attention to yourself, Remy had warned her as he packed his small cloth duffle bag.  Avoid eye contact, and keep your eyes on the ground. They do not need a reason to shoot you, mon cher.

Mortar crumbled from the stone walls of the baker’s shop. The ancient buildings in town had once seemed historic and beautiful. Now they appeared neglected, more than half of the shops abandoned and boarded up. Ivy grew up and down the sides and fronts of buildings, ironwork balconies hovered over the uneven and crooked streets. The town square, once teeming with life, once filled with patrons frequenting the cafes and produce stands and hat shops, was now eerily quiet and desolate, save for the soldiers in black.

The women and children scurried toward the town hall, heads down as their paces quickened.

Mia arrived at town hall and stood before the great stone steps for a moment, willing her pulse to steady as her heart clenched. She fought the tightness in her throat, swallowing the lump that had suddenly appeared. She was not ready for this. She would never be ready for this.

She hugged her handbag closer to her side and ascended the steps.

Inside the town hall was quiet chaos. Women she had grown up with and their children gathered around several large boards that lined the front of the room, dozens of pieces of paper pinned to each one. The women pushed others aside, crowding around the boards, holding onto their children’s hands tightly as the little ones whimpered and cried.

“Weiter machen!” a soldier yelled at a group of women in the front of the room. They seemed to be involved in a dispute over the amount of time one woman spent in the front of the crowd, checking the same board over and over.

“Schneller!” the soldier screamed at them, pointing his rifle, causing the women in the front group to scatter. The next wave of women and children quickly took their place in front of the board.

Mia took her place in the crowd, moving her way up to the first board on the left. The bodies of other women and their children pressed against her, forcing her to surge forward with a jolt. Her palms sweated, her heart raced. Finally, she stood close enough to the board, which had a large “A-F” labeled on top.

She squinted, her eyes quickly getting lost among hundreds of typed names on the lists. She took her pointer finger and moved up and down the alphabetical lists.

There.

Mia Champlaign.

Her heart sank.

She turned to the women surrounding her, panic taking over. Although Mia knew in her heart what it meant, she needed to hear it from someone else before it was real. “S’il vous plaît,” she spoke to no one in particular. “What does this mean?”

Mia pushed her way through the crowd, towards the black-uniformed men that lined the edges of the room. She shuddered as she approached them, rifles in hand, stern, cold looks upon their faces. She looked to her right and saw one, perhaps no older than twenty, his face soft, his eyes gentle.

“Monsieur, s’il vous plait,” Mia approached him cautiously, tears unwillingly filling her eyes. “My name, it is on the list. What does this mean?”

The young man looked at her, his eyes shifting to his left and right uncomfortably. “You should not be speaking to me, mademoiselle.” He looked around him, observing the other soldiers, looking afraid. “Aller, laisser,” he urged quietly.

A sigh of relief washed over her as she understood his language. Thank you, God, Mia thought to herself. He is one of us.

“S’il vous plait,” Mia’s voice broke. “I just need to know what it means…”

Something flashed across the young soldier’s face. Regret? Guilt?

“It means, mademoiselle,” his eyes locked on hers, his voice was tight, “that you will be leaving.”

The reality of his words sunk like a stone in Mia’s stomach. Unknowingly, subconsciously, her hand fell to cover her slightly swollen abdomen.

“Leaving?” she managed to choke. “Leaving to go where?”

At that moment, a deafening whistle blew in the hall. A sharp, stern looking soldier in the front of the room began barking commands at his fellow comrades in German. The soldiers in black began herding the women and children outside, swatting them with nightsticks like cattle when they did not move quickly enough.

“Merci,” Mia pleaded with the young soldier as the crowd began to force her away from him, towards the door that led to the town square. “What does this mean?” she wailed, but her voice was drowned out by the screams and cries of her neighbors and fellow townspeople.

The young soldier’s expression was pained as she was forced with the rest of the crowd outside, and Mia swore she saw unshed tears shining in his eyes. His mouth formed a word, unheard in the chaos. Mia read his lips as they spoke the word that she had most feared.

Auschwitz.

Mia surged forward, the crowd of women and children forced into the town square. Outside, dozens of soldiers in black wielding whips and clubs corralled the women and children towards the train station. She dropped her handbag in the chaos. The crowd was so overwhelming, like a living being moving forward as one, that she did not dare try to reclaim her handbag for the fear of being trampled.

Where are we going?

Are the rumors true?

Why is this happening?

How will our husbands know where we’ve gone if they return?

Women shrieked and called out questions that went unanswered. Although she did not know them all by name, she realized with a sinking feeling in her stomach that she recognized all of them from synagogue.

Mia’s heart raced, thudding like a trapped bird against her ribcage. Her hand remained on her abdomen subconsciously, feeling the slight swell that represented the tiny life inside of her.

Remy doesn’t even know. He will never know, she thought as she was thrust forward, towards the monstrous train bound for whatever awaited her in Auschwitz. He will never know.

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Changed.

Maybelle Montgomery was sufficiently drunk when she received the phone call from her step-father that her twin sister was alive.

She was so drunk that, believing the Jack Daniels was causing her to hallucinate (as it tended to do lately), she hung up on him. She had been passed out on the faux-leather couch in her living room when George, her mother’s second husband, had called her on her ancient house phone, bringing her to consciousness and out of her alcohol-induced haze. George and her mother were the only two people in the world that still called her house phone.

She knew from George’s clipped tone that he could tell she was wasted, which he and her mother had both deemed “inappropriate” and “irresponsible” behavior for a 26 year old woman at 6pm on a Wednesday.

Maybelle’s head swam as she tried to sit up, quickly giving up and lying back on the worn couch. George’s voice faded in and out, the sound of her pounding head drowning out most of his words.

“…can’t explain it right…just showed up…think your mother’s in shock…”

Maybelle pulled the phone away from her ear, looked at it incredulously, and hung it back up in its cradle. This would not be the first time her drunken imagination had concocted a phone call of this nature. She tried to blink away her blurry vision, squinting at the time on the old-fashioned clock on the living room wall. It was only 6:45pm, and she was so drunk she couldn’t stand. Perhaps she had hit the bottle a bit too hard and a bit too early that night.

It was when George called her back not more than 30 seconds later that Maybelle’s inebriated state dulled. The shrill ring of the telephone in the otherwise silent house made her stomach clench. As she sat up abruptly, the blood rushing to her head, a wave of panic washed over her.

She was stone-cold sober when she picked up the phone this time.

Even more sobering was the severity in George’s voice. Her typically even-keeled and level-headed step-father, the man her father had married when she was in middle school and whom she had maintained a cordial and businesslike relationship with at best, snapped at her to sober up and listen.

He told her that the doorbell had rung around dinner time, and that when her mother opened the door, her twin sister, Grace, was standing on their doorstep. Her mother had immediately fainted.

Today was the eleven year anniversary of the day Grace went missing.

George then told her to come to Traverse County Memorial Hospital immediately, where they were checking Grace over.

Maybelle stood up and began to look for her car keys, almost forgetting that the phone cord was anchoring her to the vicinity of the living room. She was hysterical, the reality of the situation hitting her like a Mack truck.

“She’s alive?” she managed to choke out.

“Yes,” George answered, testing the words out as if he were afraid to speak them out loud.

Maybelle collapsed back on the couch, the raw emotion rendering her unable to stand. “How did…what happened? Where has she been…”

George sighed into the phone. “You just need to come down to the hospital, Maybelle.”

As soon as Maybelle hung up the phone, she quickly got to her feet again in search of her car keys. Perhaps it was the overwhelming nature of the phone call, perhaps it was the Jack Daniels (more likely a combination of both), but Maybelle quickly decided that she was not able to drive to Traverse County Memorial. Her head was swimming. She quickly swallowed the bile that beckoned at the back of her throat and called a cab. Maybelle spent the next twenty minutes sitting on the cracked concrete steps in front of her house, head pounding, heart racing. She was opening the back door of the taxi before it came to a full stop.

During the fifteen minute cab ride to the hospital, Maybelle’s chest felt as if it were going to explode. Her head and heart were so full of memories and thoughts, fear and hope. Was this really happening? Or was this another of her drunken fantasies, which sometimes came in such vivid detail?

She found her hands trembling noticeably as she dug into her purse, pulling out her bottle of Xanax. It took her three tries to open the bottle, and she finally popped two tiny white pills into her mouth. She leaned her head back against the cracked backseat of the taxi, waiting for the relief the anxiety medication would bring her.  The cab driver looked at her through the rear view mirror with warranted disapproval and caution. She could only imagine the way she looked at the moment, half-cocked, frantic, and now popping pills in the backseat of the cab. She didn’t give a shit how she looked anymore.

The huge blue neon sign for Traverse County Memorial Hospital loomed above the cab. She threw a $20 over the driver’s shoulder, opening the backdoor to the cab before he put the car in park in front of the Emergency Room. She half ran, half stumbled through the sliding glass doors of the ER. The hustle and bustle of nurses, coughing patients in the waiting room, and phones ringing behind the front desk made her head pound even harder.

She walked up to the front desk, heart hammering in her chest like a bird trapped in a cage. A plump woman in blue scrubs held a phone between her ear and shoulder. She was explaining to the voice on the other end that she could not give the nature of the injury over the phone, they would have to come down to the hospital to get more information. She was also scanning through patient charts and didn’t register Maybelle’s presence.

Maybelle stood there for a minute or so, still unacknowledged by the nurse, or anyone else.

“Grace Montgomery?” she finally demanded. Her mother was apt to tell her that her social skills had withered away from the alcohol abuse.  The situation at hand coupled with the alcohol in her system also did not help her lack of manners, or caring, for that matter.

The woman behind the desk looked up at her, narrowing her eyes as if to say, Who the hell do you think you are?  Before Nurse Useless could respond, Maybelle’s step-father came through the double doors that led back into the exam rooms on her left.

George smiled tightly and was all business, as usual. “Maybelle,” he nodded. “You’re looking…well.”

She tried to smile, which came out more like a grimace.  Nurse Useless gave Maybelle a once-over, glanced back at George as if to say, This belongs to you?, and continued searching through her charts.

Maybelle followed George through the double doors, to the maze of hallways that made up the ER. Machines beeped, a nurse’s voice boomed over the loud speaker paging a Dr. Forest. Thin curtains were drawn to give privacy to the patients in the small alcoves that held the patient beds.

George stopped in front of a curtained-off alcove marked “E-11”. The irony that today was the eleventh anniversary of Grace’s disappearance was not lost on Maybelle. He turned to her, started to talk, and then stopped again.  This was the most disorganized, disheveled, and lost for words that Maybelle had ever seen her step-father. She ignored his attempt to speak, walked past him and drew open the curtain.

And there she was.

George was still speaking behind her, whispering urgently in hushed tones. Maybelle continued to ignore him. She was too busy staring at the tangle of long dark hair, the delicate frame, the wide-set nose that matched her own perfectly.

“May, what happened to you?”

Grace spoke. She sat there on the hospital bed, legs crossed, filthy. Her face was streaked with dirt, her hair was matted and strewn with leaves. She wore faded jeans with holes and tears, and a red sweater with pulls and loose threads that was three sizes too big for her.

But she was there. She was there, and she was talking. She had been assumed dead eleven years ago.

And here she was, back from the dead, and worried about how Maybelle looked.

The tears came, unbid and without warning. Maybelle dropped her purse, Tampax and pills and mini vodka bottle spilling out onto the linoleum floor. She stood in the threshold of the small room, frozen. Her identical twin sister, who she had not seen or spoken to in eleven years, was sitting just a foot away from her. And she was speechless.

Grace had aged more delicately than Maybelle. Years of alcohol abuse, anxiety and grief had carved fine lines in Maybelle’s forehead, left permanent bags under her eyes, and a pallid tone to her already pale skin. Other than the dirt that caked Grace’s clothes and skin, she was beautiful. Her skin was smooth porcelain, her eyes bright and alert. She seemed confused, but not upset.

Not like someone who had been missing and presumed dead for over a decade.

Grace observed Maybelle, looking her up and down with a look of…what was it, disgust? Pity? Revulsion?

“May,” she repeated sadly, “What happened?”

Despite her already overloaded emotional state, Maybelle found her cheeks burning from embarrassment. She had long since given up caring what she looked like, or what her future may hold. In the years after Grace’s disappearance, she had fallen into a bottomless pit of drinking binges and depression, with several toxic relationships and a few stints of rehab (both forced and voluntary) mixed in between.

“It’s been…” Maybelle started, clearing her throat and giving her step-father a sideways glance. “Hard, without you. Since you…disappeared.”

“What the hell is going on?”

Maybelle turned and found her mother standing in the threshold. Laurel Montgomery-Hughes was looking at Maybelle in disgust, but clearly addressing George.

“What the hell is she doing here?” Laurel snapped at her husband.

“Hello, mom,” Maybelle said dryly. “Nice to see you, too.”

George pinched the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes. “She deserved to know,” he tried to speak calmly, but annoyance broke through his words.

Laurel huffed. “I just thought we agreed to have the doctors examine Grace before we called anyone…”

Grace blinked, staring blankly at Maybelle. She shook her head apologetically “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude. I just don’t…how could you look so different, so quickly?”

Maybelle stared back at Grace, dumbfounded. She turned back to her mother and George, who were looming by the curtain, wearing pained expressions. Her mother looked bewildered, which was not an expression that Laurel Montgomery-Hughes wore often. George looked sad and helpless.

“Would someone please tell me what the fuck is going on here?” Maybelle demanded, her voice breaking.

“I would like to ask the same question, actually,” Grace interjected, exasperated. “Could someone please tell me why everyone looks so different?” Her voice was wavering. “Why the house is painted a different color than it was when I left this morning? Why there are new cars in the driveway? And why everyone looks so…so much older?”

Her questions met silence and nervous glances.

Maybelle’s eyes widened as she looked at her sister. The questions Grace asked were genuine, the confusion and impatience in her voice were not a façade.

“Why is everyone avoiding my questions?” Grace’s voice was escalating, her confusion and impatience boiling over to hysteria.

Maybelle turned once again to her mother and George, her eyes narrowing. “What the hell is she talking about? This morning?”

Laurel crossed her arms over her chest as George put an hand on her shoulder. She was fidgety, avoiding eye contact and stalling. “This is why I didn’t want to call you right away. We don’t know anything yet. We’re waiting for the doctors to give us some answers and for the police to interview Grace…”

“Stop!”

Everyone turned and looked at Grace. She looked angry and terrified, fists clenched in her lap.

“Can someone please tell me how I left for school this morning, and come home tonight to find everything completely changed?”

Brick.

No one understood anger better than Kate Harper.

Sometimes the anger would take her by surprise, creep up on her at the most inopportune times. She would be in a steaming hot shower in the morning, thinking about what she had to accomplish at work, what she was going to make for dinner, and reminding herself to buy stamps on her way home…and suddenly, there it was. Like a brick settling into the pit of her stomach, the anger would appear, unbid and unwelcome.  She could be driving home from work, stuck in traffic, listening to the radio and relishing the feeling of the warm sun after being indoors all day…and there it was, like a black cloud that she just couldn’t get away from.

The feeling would start out as the brick in her stomach, quickly radiating like wildfire all over her body. She could taste the bile in the back of her throat, feel her teeth grinding as she subconsciously clenched her jaw.  Within seconds, she would feel the hot tears threatening to form, stinging the back of her eyes, and her throat would tighten with the effort of concealing her rage.

By the time she got out of the shower or traffic began to move forward again, the feeling would dissipate. She would get dressed and start her day or continue her commute home, moving forward as though nothing had happened.

But then came the fear, the overwhelming sense of injustice that had come to mark its territory on her once seemingly perfect life. The fear left her nauseous, could take away her appetite for days at a time. The fear was what made her lose sleep.  It was what made her wake in the middle of the night with a start, leap from her bed and run down the hall to check to make sure Norah was still sound asleep in her bed.

The thought that everything she had worked for would be snatched away, and every single sacrifice she had made for her daughter would be for nothing, made her physically sick.

These thoughts crossed Kate’s mind as she sat at the worn oak table before the honorable judge Constance Ambrose, the birdlike woman rattling off her preamble to the custody decision.

“The State of Pennsylvania believes…father and mother should share equal custody, unless extenuating circumstances exist…”

Kate looked to her lawyer on her right, an arrogant but inexperienced public defender who couldn’t have done a shittier job of defending her case if he’d tried. She looked past her lawyer to the opposite side of the court room, where Lucas and his lawyer sat at the plaintiff’s table. Lucas, the man she had thought she’d marry. The man who had wanted nothing to do with their daughter for the last five years, who had never even met her or spoken to her on the phone. The man who hadn’t answered a single one of Kate’s letters over the last five years, asking for even the most meager amount of child support.

Lucas looked over and met Kate’s gaze. He smirked as his lawyer whispered something into his ear, never breaking eye contact with Kate.

She fucking hated that man.

That man had now decided, after five years of no contact, five years without sending a penny of child support or even a birthday card for his daughter, wanted primary custody of Norah.

Lucas claimed this newfound desire to be a father to Norah had nothing to do with his new wife, Candace, who was pregnant and wanted Lucas to have a “full, happy relationship” with the daughter he already had.

There it was…the anger, again.

“The state of Pennsylvania awards shared 50/50 custody of said minor, Norah Jane Harper, to Ms. Katheryn Harper and Mr. Lucas Dunning. A court-appointed mediator will be contacting you to work out a schedule that is befitting…”

Kate sensed movement beside her, and muffled voices. Her lawyer spoke some bullshit colloquialism about “winning some and losing some”, and she tuned the rest out, nodding. The room had suddenly grown too loud, too hot, too small. She grabbed her purse and briskly departed from the court room, briefly registering the smiling faces of Lucas, his lawyer, and an immensely pregnant Candace.

Kate practically ran out of the courthouse, the cool October air hitting her face as she burst through the revolving doors to the outside. She breathed in gulps, feeling as though she were hyperventilating and drowning at the same time.

She walked to her car, parked in the lot behind the Barton County Courthouse, but she couldn’t remember the journey. She floated there as if she were dreaming. She turned the key in the ignition, and on second thought, took the key out of the ignition again.

A primal, guttural sound startled her. It started out as a choking sound, and quickly escalated to a full-blown scream. It took Kate several minutes to realize the sound was coming from her.

She beat the steering wheel with her palms until they were numb. She elicited several stares from passerby, who avoided the vicinity of her car like a rabid animal.

Kate wasn’t sure how long the episode lasted, but when she had finally screamed and cried herself out, the wave of physical and emotional exhaustion that came over her was overwhelming. She looked at the clock: 3:12pm. She wiped her eyes with the back of her hands and put the keys in the ignition, actually starting the vehicle and moving forward this time.

She pulled up in front of Northridge Elementary School, where Norah attended kindergarten. Several minutes early for pick-up, Kate had time to register the reality of the afternoon’s events as they hit her like a tidal wave.

After five years of it being just Kate and Norah, she was going to have to share her with Lucas.

Lucas, the man Kate had once day-dreamt of marrying. Lucas, who had swept her off of her feet on their first date. Lucas, who Kate had fallen head-over-heels for the summer before she went to college.

Lucas, the man who had abused her sexually, physically, and emotionally. The man who had grown tired of her after only a few months of dating, and moved on to belittle and manipulate some other young girl.

This was the man she had kept her daughter from, who had had no interest in her daughter for the last five years. Every double shift Kate had worked, every late night she had spent studying and rocking Norah in her infant swing, meant absolutely nothing now.

And there wasn’t a damn thing she could do about it.

Or…was there?

Kate opened the vanity mirror above her steering wheel, applying concealer to the puffy blotches underneath her eyes. She didn’t want Norah to see her in this state.

Sure, she could file an appeal. She could try to testify to the abuse that Lucas had inflicted on her for their short relationship, but it wouldn’t do any good. Appeals could take months, even years. She had never reported a single act of abuse to police, too blinded by love and afraid of the consequences. And Lucas was relentless – Kate knew he would stop at nothing until he got what he wanted.

She had been a naïve, stupid teenage girl the first time Lucas Dunning had taken advantage of her. But she was not that girl anymore.

The school bell rang. Dozens of children flooded out of the elementary school’s double doors, a wave of backpacks and bright colored jackets. Kate exited her car and walked toward the front of the school, and felt a chill run up her spine. She pulled her jacket tighter around her, realizing the chill had not come from the cool October wind.

How could Kate protect her daughter from the evil she had endured, from this controlling and two-faced man who wanted to play “Daddy” to a child he had never wanted or taken responsibility for? How could she let him corrupt Norah the way he had corrupted her, making her feel worthless and letting her believe the things he said and did were truly what she deserved?

The answer was simple:  she would not let him do any of those things.

As Kate approached the curb in front of the school, she saw the top of her daughter’s raven-colored hair, bobbing along in the sea of children. It was the Friday before Halloween, and all the children were alive with the prospect of trick-or-treating and candy-induced comas. Norah came into view, her long dark braid flung over her shoulder. She smiled as she saw Kate, showing the dimple on her left cheek. The moment Kate embraced Norah in a warm hug, her decision was made.

As they walked to the car and Norah showed her the picture of a pumpkin patch she drew in art class that day, Kate was already mentally packing the two suitcases she owned. As her daughter described her day at school on the short car ride home, Kate was already mapping out their plan, withdrawing every penny from her savings account, leaving behind her credit cards, and buying two bus tickets to anywhere but Pennsylvania.

Kate made it a game: if you could only keep three toys, which ones would they be? Pack up as many clothes as you can fit in your suit case as fast as you can! Last one to the front door with their suitcase is a rotten egg.

Twelve minutes later, Kate held her daughter’s hand as they walked down the sidewalk to the bus station, leaving her car in her driveway. Norah looked up at her, smiling up at her at the prospect of this new, adventurous mommy who took her on crazy surprise adventures and made games out of necessity.

As they sat in the bus depot, the October sky fading to burnt orange and violet, Kate felt the anger rising again. But this time, she quickly turned the brick in her stomach to determination. She would not let the fear and anger take over. She wouldn’t let the rage make her stupid. She wouldn’t leave behind clues or footprints. She would use the fear and anger as fuel to protect Norah.

The bus pulled up to the station.

If Kate couldn’t protect Norah from Lucas, then they would run.

Where the hell have you been?

Well, so much for one chapter a week. Although this blog is supposed to only include chapters from my fiction, I figured I would write a little blurb about what’s been going on, and why I’ve sucked at keeping my promise (to myself, mostly) to post a new chapter every week.

The past three months have been chaotic, stressful, exciting, and exhausting. Erik and I bought our first house (yay!). If you own a house or have moved, period, you can relate. Because of unforeseen circumstances and Verizon sucking beyond belief, we still do not have internet (or cable) in our house. Therefore, posting on my blog was virtually impossible (pun intended). We have finally unpacked our last box, and are finally settling in.

Less than one week after we moved into our awesome new house, I was attacked by my neighbor’s dog. Anyone who knows me can understand how traumatic this was, because I am such an animal lover.  I got 15 stitches in both of my arms/wrists, a gnarly looking bite/contusion on my stomach, and some pretty wicked bruising on my legs/arms. Two weeks later, I have my stitches out, but have a hematoma on my left wrist (which will eventually go away) and still do not have full function back in my left hand and wrist. Needless to say, I’m a bit nervous around dogs for the time-being.

I started my new job as a copywriter at Aetna in Blue Bell two weeks ago. So far, the work, people and atmosphere are exactly what I’ve been searching for. My boss is wonderful, and I am very happy with the decision I made to make a drastic career switch.

Sophia started kindergarten on Monday, and despite my fear for her anxiety, she absolutely loves it. She woke up this morning disappointed that there was no school today.

Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of my start in my Master’s program. American Lit is 100% kicking my ass, but I absolutely love it.

Last, and most importantly, my mom has been very sick lately. She is in the process of undergoing medical tests and seeing specialists, and we are hoping and praying that they do not find anything serious. They found a mass on her pelvis, which will be removed along with a hysterectomy in October.  They will do a biopsy on the mass after it is removed. They also found spots on her lungs, which she is seeing a pulmonary specialist for this month and getting a PET scan. She has also seen an oncologist, just to be safe. She is tired all the time and just not herself, so needless to say we are very worried. And anyone who knows my mother knows she is not the greatest patient (you wonder where I get it from).

Since my mom is not up to watching Sophia in the afternoons anymore, she will be starting at Goddard in the afternoons after kindergarten. How does Sophia feel about that? When I talked to her about it, expecting tears and anxiety for yet another huge change in her awesome little life, she wanted to know when she could start. She also asked if she could tell her teacher and friends at school that she was going to Goddard. That kid never ceases to amaze me.

This summer was not a great one stress-wise and health-wise for us, but onward and upward. I am hoping that things will settle down from here on out, that we can look forward to many happy times in our new house, and that everything with my mom turns out okay. I’m not the greatest Christian, but thoughts and prayers for her would be greatly appreciated.

And when things settle down, I am making a vow (again, mostly to myself) to write more actively. You wouldn’t want to read the scattered, nervous, and jumbled thoughts and chapters I would be writing right now, anyway.

With love,

Ally

Run.

She parked in the driveway of the abandoned Cape Cod and found him waiting for her on the porch, and the memories of what had happened there crashed over her like a wave.

Her heart was hammering in her chest, seeing him standing there, alive. In the dark of the night, she could just make out his form, leaning against the dilapidated porch, head bent down in exhaustion or sadness.  No light shone from the porch light, the abandoned house long since without electricity.  He had always carried such a great weight on his shoulders, somewhat slumped, as if the weight of his decisions and past were just too much for him to bare.

She wiped the palms of her hands on her jeans, trying to calm her nerves, which felt like live wires pumping adrenaline through her veins. She took a deep breath and exited her car, the cool October night air giving her goose bumps.  She approached him on the porch, her breaths shaky as she drew closer to him, the closest she had been in 2 years.

This is real, she reminded herself. Unlike the countless dreams she had dreamt, all of which ended with him disappearing without a trace, he was actually standing there before her. Her heart ached, wanting desperately to be wrapped in his safe arms again.

He stood still, staring at her in the dark.  She stood five feet from him, her body aching to be closer still. They stood in silence, her heart thudding so loudly that she was sure he could hear it.

“It’s really you,” she finally spoke, barely a whisper, her words catching in her throat.

“Yeah, Hale,” he spoke, never taking his eyes off of her. “It’s me.”

She couldn’t help herself. A sob escaped from her throat, unwelcomed, and she ran into his arms. He didn’t hesitate for a second, wrapping her into a strong embrace.  The way he held onto her so tightly scared her, as if it were truly the last time he would ever hold her in his arms.  The thought of him leaving again without a trace sank like a rock in her stomach.

“You left me,” she sobbed, chastising herself for sounding so weak and vulnerable. She had pictured this moment in her mind a thousand times, the remote chance that she would ever see him again.  And now that the moment was here, standing on the porch of the house where it had all begun, she realized the love she felt for him had just grown stronger with his absence.

“I didn’t have a choice,” he whispered, the sound of unshed tears thick in his voice.  The look of hurt and sadness that washed over his face almost broke her heart.

“What was I supposed to do, Hale?” he pleaded. “I knew they would never stop looking for me, never stop hunting me, toying with me like I was their prey.  As long as you were close to me, you were in danger. I needed to lead them far away from you before they figured out that I wasn’t the one they really wanted.  We both know that they would have figured out the truth eventually.”

He was right, and she knew it. She’d known it all along. It didn’t make the abandonment hurt any less.

“I will never let them hurt you, ever again,” he promised.

She felt a pang in her left side, her hand instinctively touching the scar under her ribcage.

He observed her movement, and pain washed over his face. “Does it still hurt you?” he asked quietly as he looked away into the dark night. The sound of an owl screeching nearly sent shivers up her spine.

“No,” she lied, remembering the searing pain of the wound that had rendered her unconscious and nearly killed her just two years before.

He nodded almost imperceptibly. She reached into her jeans pocket and withdrew the crumpled up note that she had read at least a hundred times in the last several hours.

“Why now? Why after two years?” she held the note in front of her and read it out loud. “‘I’m back, for tonight. I need to see you. Meet me at the place where it all went wrong. –B’”.

He sucked in a breath, thinking intensely before he spoke. “Because they figured out who you are, Hale. They finally pieced together your part in all of this.  They know it’s not just me, and they’re coming for you, too.”

Panic and dread washed over her. So this was it. After two years of hiding her powers, two years of pretending to be just like everyone else. Two years of worrying that they would finally come back for her, of thinking the love of her life was captured, tortured, and killed by the Hunters.

And now they’d finally realized that they had been chasing the wrong witch.  She was the one with the power they craved.

“I knew we couldn’t hide you forever…” he trailed off, moving closer to her and brushing her dark hair away from her face, the feeling of his fingertips on her skin making her heart flutter.  “I just thought we’d have more time.”

She bit her lower lip, fighting back the tears she refused to cry. The wave of emotions that came over her threatened to break her composure. She remembered the night the Hunters had found them in Bennett’s Cape Cod, the porch on which they now stood filled with the dark witches whose life purpose was to capture the wipe out the Light.  She and Bennett had been caught so off-guard, asleep upstairs as they kicked down the door and invaded the house.  The chaos and confusion and the pain from being shot by a Dark Arrow on their narrow escape left the memory hazy for her.

The memories came back in waves. Bennett carrying her through the night, whispering he loved her and to hang on as the pain in her side seared in agony, causing black spots in her vision. He cried as loaded her into his truck, promising her he’d never let them get close enough to hurt her ever again.  She remembered Bennett running through the automatic doors of the emergency room, screaming that she was dying, begging someone to help. The doctors whisking her away, leaving Bennett blood-soaked and standing motionless in the lobby.

And most of all, she remembered waking up in the sterile, white hospital room two days later. Alone. And in that moment, she had known that he was gone.  That if he was okay, he would have been waiting by her side.

A tear slipped down her cheek, and Bennett wiped it away with his thumb. She placed her hand over his, her eyes closed, relishing the feeling of his touch, forcing the skin to skin contact to ground her, calming the sick feeling in her stomach.

She finally opened her eyes as they stood there alone on the porch, the sound of the owl screeching as it caught its prey breaking the silence. “What now?” she asked quietly, looking into his eyes, seeing the answer in the depth of his green eyes before he could speak the words.

“Now,” he ran his finger over her cheek. “We run.”

1. Going home

Clouds of red dust kicked up around Shiloh Greene’s Chevrolet as she and the car bounced down the dirt road that was clearly not designed for compact cars.

The early morning sun shone bright on that beautiful June morning, illuminating green fields surrounding the farm. The large, red barn loomed in the distance, bails of hay and grazing horses littering the landscape. Shiloh clenched her jaw, the jarring movement of the car on the unpaved road rattling her already shaken nerves. Her hands, white-knuckled, clenched the steering wheel for dear life as the road wound to the right, the Victorian-style house coming into view.

I swore I’d never come back here, she thought, resigned.

She reached for her cell phone on the passenger’s seat, fumbling through two days worth of candy wrappers, empty cigarette packs, and miscellaneous clothing items to find the device.

I’m not even back yet and the anxiety and impending chaos has me eating like shit and sneaking cigarettes, Shiloh cursed to herself.

She checked her phone for new messages. She had 19 new text messages from Adam.

Why are you doing this?

She never gave a flying fuck about you.

It took 6 years to undo the damage she’s done, and you’re going to throw it all away? 

What good could possibly come from this?

Don’t bother rushing home, I won’t be here when you get back.

Shiloh threw her phone into the back seat. Fantastic.

She rolled the car to a stop in front of the house, beside the ’72 El Camino on the dirt driveway. She swallowed the lump in her throat, bidding the tears that stung her eyes to go away until she was alone later that night. She always loved that stupid piece of junk, she thought.

She stepped out of her car, her back screaming in protest when she stretched her legs. Spending 18 straight hours in her small car had left her muscles sore, and the events that had led her back to her childhood home had left her emotionally exhausted. The Tennessee sun warmed her shoulders, the smell of hay and horses filling her nostrils.

Shiloh observed the outside of the house, dozens of childhood memories flooding her thoughts. She pushed them aside, gathering them in her head and placing them in a figurative box, packing them away neatly for another time. The memories won’t help you now, she convinced herself. She fought the lump in her throat and walked toward the house. The white wrap-around porch was desperately in need of a fresh coat of paint, the front door a less-vibrant red than she remembered. Weeds sprouted from the flower beds surrounding the front and sides of the house, and in the distance, she could see at least three weak spots in the wooden fencing that enclosed the horses. She shielded her eyes from the bright sun, trying to inventory the condition of the barn. That needed to be rebuilt ten years ago. 

The front porch creaked. Shiloh turned and found her standing there, her hands wringing the hem of her shirt, reddish brown hair braided down her shoulder. There were a few more streaks of grey in the braid than when Shiloh had seen her last. Her piercing green eyes, once alight with life and laughter, seemed dull, watered-down with sorrow. “What are you doing here?” the woman’s voice broke the silence, standing uncertainly on the threshold of the porch. Her eyes were puffy, her voice hoarse.

The woman who stood before her was a shell of the woman she remembered from her childhood. She couldn’t weigh more than 100 pounds, her thin frame barely supporting the weight of the sadness that emanated from her.

Shiloh sighed. She was only ten feet away from her, the closest she had been in 6 years. And yet she still felt a thousand miles from home. “Hello, mom.”

After a few moments of awkward silence, Abigail Dennis had asked her estranged daughter to come inside, into the house she was born and raised in. She didn’t so much as invite her in as to step inside without a word and look back at Shiloh expectantly. Quite the homecoming, she thought as she grabbed her hastily-packed duffel bag from her trunk and trudged inside.

The inside of the house was much unchanged since Shiloh had last been there. She remembered the night she left like it was yesterday…

Into the box, she thought again, filing that memory into the figurative box in her head with the rest of them.

The large foyer was filled with canvas oil paintings of horses, water colors of farmland and green pastures. Shiloh remembered a time when her mother had donned the sun room in the front of the house as her art studio. She would spend hours upon hours in that room, windows open to let the breeze in, painting on her canvas or sketching with her charcoal pencil. But that was a long time ago, when Shiloh was small….before her mother married Carl.

Shiloh followed her mother into the back of the house, stopping in the small kitchen that overlooked the barn. Her mother’s hands were shaking, her demeanor anxious and fidgety. She looked at Shiloh from the corner of her eye, busying herself with a shaken attempt at making a pot of coffee.

More silence. Shiloh finally sat on a worn, wooden bar stool at the kitchen’s island. 6 years and not much had changed inside the house. The faded yellow wallpaper still clung to the kitchen walls, the old white refrigerator humming in the background. The iron tea kettle that her mother had used as a child, handed down to her from her grandmother, sat on the stove.

Shiloh didn’t know what she had expected from this reunion. But the silence was suffocating her. Yet, she refused to be the one to break the deafening silence.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Abigail placed both of her hands on the counter, as though she were leaning on it for support. Her back to Shiloh, she whispered, “Why are you here, Shiloh?”

Shiloh almost laughed. The emotions that bubbled up inside of her-sadness, frustration, impatience-threatened to boil over the surface of her composure. She closed her eyes and gritted her teeth, waiting for a moment before speaking.

Finally, she replied as evenly as she could, “Gus called me.”

Abigail nodded slightly, barely visible, her back still turned to Shiloh. Abigail reached into a kitchen drawer and withdrew a spoon, setting it on the counter beside the percolating coffee pot. “Oh?” Her voice was strained, a controlled attempt at keeping it free of emotion.

Shiloh waited for her mother to expand on her answer, full well knowing that she wasn’t going to make this conversation easy. “Yes,” she finally replied. “He called me last night. He told me you were sick.”

Abigail nodded again, almost imperceptibly. She fidgeted with the silver spoon on the counter. She finally turned around, a look of defeat and yet determination on her face. “Well, he just worries about me, is all. Just had a few dizzy spells. No reason to get in a tizzy and drive all the way here from…where is it that you live, now?”

Shiloh winced. Is she really going to try to play the victim here? “Philadelphia,” Shiloh responded casually, her voice devoid of the overpowering anger she was fighting to keep hidden.

Abigail nodded again, her lips pressed into a thin line. “Right. Well, I’m fine. So there’s no reason for you to inconvenience yourself, worrying about me.” The coffee maker, an ancient thing that had been around for at least two decades,dinged, signaling the brew was finished. Abigail turned her back to her daughter again, busying herself with a shaky attempt at grabbing a coffee mug from the cabinet over her head.

Shiloh breathed in through her nostrils, exhaled through her mouth, counting the seconds to steady her temper. Her nerves felt as if they were live wires, the adrenaline coursing through her body. Her hands were rolled into fists, trying to keep her composure, knuckles white from the effort.

“No reason for you to be here, where you so clearly don’t want to be.” Abigail spoke, trying to keep her voice monotone and almost succeeding. “Get back to your new life in Philadelphia. There’s nothing for you here.”

And whose fault is that? Shiloh thought bitterly. She’d had enough.

“So you were just planning on dying without telling anyone? Without telling me?” Shiloh spat.

Abigail dropped the white ceramic mug in her hand onto the tiled floor, shards scattering all over the kitchen. She spun around to look at Shiloh, her green eyes glaring with condemnation. “What did you say?”

Shiloh gripped the edge of the wooden island for support, her hands shaking. “Gus told me everything. The fainting spells, the CAT Scan, the trip to Knoxville. Everything.”

Abigail closed her eyes, pinching the bridge of her nose. Her hands were visibly shaking, her delicate frame bent over with the weight of her secret. “He shouldn’t have called you.”

Shiloh snorted. “You’ve been sick for months. You finally seek medical attention, find out that you have terminal cancer, and the only person you tell is Gus. If you’re so content on dying alone, why even tell him?”

“Because I need him to find someone to buy this house and take care of the horses after I’m gone,” Abigail replied, defeated.

Her matter-of-fact response threw Shiloh.

They stood there in silence, the ceramic shards of the mug still scattered across the floor. Much like the pieces of Shiloh’s life she was forced to glue back together haphazardly after leaving Church Hill.

Abigail smiled bitterly. “And why would I contact you, Shiloh? You chose to leave, and you never looked back. Why would I try to bring you back to the place you hate so much?”

Tears spilled over Shiloh’s cheeks. Despite the past, despite the events that had led Shiloh to leave her home, her family, and never look back, Abigail was her mother. No matter how callused she had made herself, no matter how angry she had been with Abigail for so long, she was still her mother.

“Because you need me,” Shiloh responded with defeat. She wasn’t sure if she was trying to convince herself, or her mother.

Abigail bit her lower lip, nodding to herself. “If Carl was here, he would take care of me.”

The sound of his name made Shiloh’s skin crawl. Well he’s not here, because he drank himself to deathshe thought. She let the comment slide.

“So, what now?” Abigail asked, a hint of sarcasm in her voice. “You’re going to live here and take care of me, help Gus with the horses, settle back into the small town life you hated so much?”

“I didn’t hate the small town, mom.” Shiloh stood up, looking out the kitchen’s bay window to the barn. “I hated him.”

Shiloh swept up the shattered remains of the coffee mug. She excused herself from her mother’s presence saying she wanted to unpack the few belongings she had brought with her, knowing her mother really didn’t want her company at the moment. Shiloh also needed a break from the charade of acceptance and forgiveness she was putting on.

Shiloh walked up the wooden staircase that led to the three bedrooms upstairs. The master bedroom, the one her mother had shared with Carl, was to the right. She turned left at the top of the staircase and passed the hall bathroom, then past the spare bedroom that had mostly been used for storage. At the end of the hall, Shiloh stopped in front of the wooden door, a frosted pane of glass in the center. She ran her fingers over the glass, opened the door and entered her bedroom.

Shiloh had expected to step through time, back to when she was a child. Back into her light green bedroom with the lavender curtains, her stuffed animals scattered across her quilted twin bed.

The room was completely transformed. Not one ounce of Shiloh’s childhood memories had remained.

The walls were now an earthy brown, the curtains a creamy lace. Her mother’s sewing machine was placed under the window that overlooked the pastures, a white daybed under window on the opposite wall. The bed was covered in spools of thread, boxes filled with sewing supplies and photo albums. She dropped her duffel on the floor, and open the double doors to the closet. Inside were all of Carl’s clothes. His overalls, a handful of dress shirts and khaki pants, pressed and hung neatly as if he were going to return from the dead at any moment and retrieve his Sunday best for the 9 am church service.

Such a Godly man, Shiloh quickly closed the closet doors with a bit more vigor than required.

She moved the spools of thread and boxes that littered the bed, stacking them neatly in the corner of the room. She placed the last box on the floor, a box full of photo albums. Shiloh picked up the album on top of the pile, a brown leather-bound album. She opened it and thumbed through the pages of photographs.

Pictures of her mother and Carl, her step-father whom her mother married when she was ten years old, flashed before her eyes. Photographs her mother had taken of the horses, of the pastures, the barn. Shiloh paged through the entire album, finding empty slots here and there, the photos missing.

Not a single picture of Shiloh.

She picked up the next album. More pictures of her mother and Carl, Carl’s family, with Carl’s friends from the military…

No Shiloh.

Some of the photos had dates scribbled on the bottom of the page, and dated back to long before Shiloh had left. It was as if someone had gone through the photo albums and removed every trace of Shiloh’s existence.

It’s not as if, dumb ass, Shiloh scolded herself. It’s what someone did.

She threw the albums back into their box in the corner, and sat down on the edge of the daybed. Shiloh let the emotions and events of the day wash over her. If someone had asked her to explain the way she felt at that moment, the only word she could choose was full. She was full of anger, full of sadness and frustration and most of all, pure and utter exhaustion. She knew returning home after 6 years away was going to be hard, especially with her reason for returning. What she didn’t anticipate was that the anger had not only remained, but grown stronger. The unadulterated rage she felt towards him and the overpowering frustration she felt for her mother had not dissipated over time as she had hoped.

She lay back on the bed, the sound of birds chirping and the feel of the summer breeze from the open windows washing over her. She closed her eyes, reached into the depths of her mind and found the tightly-closed box of memories she refused to think about. Her mind opened the lid, and the memories came pouring out, flooding her with so much more raw emotion that she immediately had to choke back a sob.

She remembered the days when it was just her and her mother, after her father had left when she was a baby. Days filled with baking pies in the kitchen, flour covering their faces and hands, laughing. Days filled with farm chores and caring for the horses-her mother’s eyes had never been so alive as they were when she spent time with her horses.

Shiloh recalled her mother walking her to the end of their windy dirt drive every morning to see her off to school, hand-in-hand, her mother being there every afternoon when the bus dropped her off. She remembered when her mother had brought home that ’72 El Camino, taking Shiloh for a ride in the antique car to “see how she rode”.

Her memories shifted. She dug deeper into the figurative box in her mind, pulling out the memories she had buried so deep, hoping they would never surface again.

The memory of her mother leaving her with a babysitter, the neighbor’s daughter, while she went on her first date with Carl. She was 8 years old. The memory of their wedding, the farm transformed with lanterns and lilies for the ceremony and reception right on the property.

Then, the memory of her 12th birthday came to her, the first night that Carl had sneaked into her bedroom after dark. The feel of his rough, farm-work callused hands on her and the smell of whiskey on his breath.

Shiloh took the pillow from underneath her head, covered her face with it, and screamed.

Tears stung her eyes as she remembered confiding in her mother, telling her that Carl was a bad man and that he did things to her she didn’t like.

And she remembered her mother, not believing her. Being so in love with Carl that she took Shiloh’s plea for help as a cry for attention, the desperate attempt of a 13 year old girl who wasn’t accepting of her step-father.

Shiloh screamed into the feathery down of the pillow until her throat was raw and ached. If her mother heard her from downstairs, she didn’t acknowledge it.

She’s very good at looking the other way, Shiloh reminded herself bitterly.

Insert witty title for first blog post

I was cleaning out my bedroom closet a few days ago, and underneath the piles of clothes and shoes, I found a notebook that I’ve had since I was 17. Happy to temporarily abandon my spring cleaning project, I sat on my bedroom floor and thumbed through the notebook, hundreds of dog-eared pages of decade-old thoughts and ideas for writing. I sat there, reading idea after idea, character descriptions and plots and climaxes all mapped out in front of me…and all I could think was, Why haven’t I done anything with these creations?

I continued to read on, smiling at fictional characters I had yet to fully develop and stories I had yet to unfold, and I came across a page on which I had scribbled “Bucket List”.

There weren’t very many items on said “Bucket List”, but one caught my eye immediately. #1: Publish a novel before you’re 25.

I looked at the date on the top of the page: July 17th, 2008. I was 19 years old. 7 years ago, I had such enormous aspirations and plans for my writing. When did life happen and my aspirations got put on the back burner? Surrounded by my sweaters and boots that I was about to pack away in a box to go into storage, the irony was not lost on me. I had packed away my aspirations, my writing, my “unrealistic” dreams, when real life happened and distracted me, and I hadn’t even realized it.

So there I was, 26 years old, sitting on my bedroom floor, wondering where that inspired and dedicated 19 year old writer went.

That night, lying in bed next to Erik, I told him about the notebook and the half-developed ideas and characters inside of it. I contemplated out loud why I never wrote more than one chapter for each story idea, why I always got so critical of myself and second-guessed my ideas and convinced myself that the idea wouldn’t work. Then I would move on and think of another brand new idea, and the vicious cycle continued for years.

Thinking that I was talking to him (and why wouldn’t he? I’m talking in a normal, conversational tone, just to myself), Erik said, “Why don’t you write a blog?”

“I hardly think writing my thoughts and ideas on a blog would be any better than me writing them in a notebook.” I responded.

“Why don’t you write a WordPress blog, but only write one chapter of each story?” he suggested.

Hmm.

The excitement washed over me immediately. Instead of dwelling on my inability to commit to more than a dozen or so pages of a story, why didn’t I embrace it? Writer’s block hasn’t set in before Chapter 2 for me in years. I can avidly write the first chapter without second guessing myself or criticizing my idea before it’s even developed. Why don’t I share this collection of Chapter One’s, instead of sharing nothing at all?

So, this is my new plan. Screw the Bucket List-19 year old Ally didn’t have a 5 year old, didn’t work full time and go to school full time, and try to maintain some semblance of a family and social life. 19 year old Ally’s enormous ambitions really pissed me off. 26 year old Ally, through trial and error, numerous writing gigs, and overcoming some major bumps in the road, had gained the knowledge that not all of her writing was going to be perfect. Hell, most of my writing was probably going to suck. But somewhere over time, I had realized that not writing at all was certainly less productive than writing something.

So, I suppose this is Chapter One of Just Chapter One. I’ll post just one chapter, in the hopes of several things:

1. I stop panicking about other people reading and criticizing my writing.

2. Comments and the desire to read more about a particular story may encourage me and give me the encouragement to move forward with more than just one chapter.

3. Writing without thinking about how much it sucks will give me the experience and confidence boost I need to just keep writing.

So begins Just Chapter One.