A Light, A Cry
A Light, A Cry, Birth
We Are Brought Into This World
With No Thought In Mind
Thrown into Adolescence
New Thoughts, New Feelings
A Bright World Turns Dark
Harsh Reality Sets In
You Wished to Be Grown
Now You Watch The Clock In Hope
Tick Tock, Won't Go Back
Regrets Had, Time Lost
Youth Is Fleeting, It Is Gone
A Light, A Cry, Death
A treasure chest rests before me full of all the things I'd long thought gone.
The dollar store barbie dolls fashioned with my own sewings sleep atop one another. The stuffed hand me down animals lay lifelessly on their backs. My first baby doll still wearing the marker makeup I painted on her face so long ago. So many lost childhood items, and yet there's one thing I seek.
I remove each item from the top carefully: toys, 25 cent vending machine jewelry, skates, worn out shoes, fake makeup, dress up clothes, an old tea set, and various other items as I slowly make my way to its depths.
"She has to be here somewhere," I say as I dig deeper into the chest, removing photographs of my grandparents, a framed picture of my once happy family, a bottle of joy, a capsule of peace, and a canister of hope.
"Where could she be, come on." I'm almost at the bottom of the chest when I remove a white dress that belonged to my mother, and I would later use to pretend to be a bride. I raise it up and take in its simplicity and beauty. It's old in its fashion, but the sparkles remain intact along with its long trained veil. Memories flood of a young me, twirling in front of the mirror pretending to be a bride, hoping for a love like the one my parents once shared. I smile when the dress is snatched from my hand followed by a child's laughter.
There she is.
She twirls with the dress as her short, bouncy curls float in the air, and her dimples sink deep into her cheeks. So young, so innocent, so...pure.
"There you are," I say as she stares up at me with her deep green-blue eyes, full of promise and hope.
"Here I am," she giggles, "aren't I the prettiest bride? I'm going to marry the handsomest man and be in movies, and have kids, and have lots of money to buy 25 ponies."
"25 ponies? Don't you think thats a little too much?" I tease.
"No because I'm going to have a big house with a huge stable for the ponies, and lots of puppies. Oh, and a giant pool I can swim in whenever I want."
"Is that so?" I ask.
"Yes! when I'm a grown-up, I'll have everything I ever wanted and more. Maybe I'll even be a famous singer or...or a writer. My teacher says I'm the best writer in class, and I should write more stories."
I smile. I look at her studying every curvature of her face. The untainted skin and eyes full of so much life. Joy that can't be disrupted no matter the chaos. She always finds the good in everything...and everyone. She's everything I used to be...until I lost her.
"Well?" she asks as she fashions her dress in front of the mirror, "what do you want?"
A simple yet deep question. What do I want? I used to know, but somewhere along the journey I lost it. Dreams died. Hopes laid to rest. Pain deepened, and what I wanted didn't matter. I lost it. I lost her. The little girl who had big hopes and dreams, who looked at everything with wonder and possibility, soon replaced by a 30-year-old woman filled with fear and harsh realities.
"Well, I wanted to find you, and I did."
"Me? Why?" she says, crinkling her eyebrows in confusion.
"Because" I say picking up and putting on a familiar red dress that fits perfectly now. I grab the tea set in the corner of the treasure chest and set it on the ground, "I wanted to have a dress up tea party, and thought you'd be the perfect person to have it with. Are you in?"
She squeals with delight as she snatches the baby doll, the barbies and a few stuffed animals to join the party.
I admire her as she pours invisible liquid into the plastic tea cups, oblivious to the world that's falling apart around her. She doesn't have much, yet she has everything she needs, and big dreams for everything she wants.
"Will you tell me a story?" she asks.
"A story? Well, aren't you the best writer in class? Shouldn't you be telling me a story?" I say.
"Please?" she begs with her puppy-dog eyes. Damn, I was good.
"Okay," I say, "how about a story about a girl who loses her favorite dream and goes on an adventure to find it?"
"How does someone lose a dream?" she asks skeptically.
"How about you pour me some tea, and I'll tell you."
Her dimples sink deeply into her cheeks as she excitedly pours the tea, and I begin the story.
"Once upon a time, there was a girl who had a dream..."
Just Hold That Happy Thought Peter...
I brush his golden brown hair from his eye as he lays in the bed. A single tear drops upon his cheek, and I wipe it along with my own. I stare down at his innocent porcelain face, wondering how we could have gotten here. How did I allow my little Peter to end up in this bed, hooked up to all of these machines and wires within the most depressing four walls I've ever had the displeasure of encountering?
My once sweet, happy 8-year-old boy, lays unrecognizable to his own mother. No remnant of him seemingly left other than his body kept alive by a machine, and yet I can't let go. Doctors have given up hope, but I can't because I know he's still in there... and it's my fault he's here. It should have been me, but my punishment is at the cost my son's life. I knew I shouldn't have been driving in that weather, and yet I ignored everything in my gut because I had to be up early for work and Peter had school. I couldn't stay at my sister's because who would pay my bills? Yet, where is work now, right?
I had Peter when I was very young. His father was out of the picture the moment he learned of my pregnancy, and my parents disowned me just the same. I only reconnected with my sister a year ago, after our parents passed. I did not attend the funeral, and she needed the inheritance, of which she's kindly shared a bit, but not enough to allow me to quit my job. I shouldn't have forgiven her, but I was tired of being alone and without help. Perhaps, I should have left Peter with her when she offered, then the impact of my car and the deer that popped in the middle of a snowy road would have affected me alone and not my son. But, I've never been away from him, not even a single night. Peter is my everything. I dropped out of school to care for him, and I never regretted a moment. He's my joy, my life, my purpose and here he is, in this bed because of me. The person he trusted with his life. The mother who failed him. I was injured in the accident too, but Peter had apparently unbuckled his seatbelt without my noticing, and the rest was history. Finding him breathing was a miracle in of itself. I suffered from broken ribs, arm and leg as well as a concussion. Thankfully, an oncoming patrol car found us before we both died, though I wish I had most days.
I run my fingers through his soft hair. "Hey Peter, it's mom." They say that people in comas can hear us when we speak, and I haven't stopped for the past two months, regardless of what doctors or anyone says. My Peter is a fighter. He fought like hell when he was born prematurely, and doctors gave him no chance then, and I know he's fighting now.
I like to tell him happy stories, especially some from his younger days. Days, that at the time were so difficult, yet filled with stolen moments of joy. "I brought Mr. Turtle from home. I know how much you love him." I tuck the stuffed green toy underneath his tiny arm. God, he's lost so much weight. I go sit down next to him and take his hand in mine. "Sorry it took me so long to find him buddy. I know you were upset before we went to your aunt's house without him. But, I found him tucked in a corner in your closet. You hid him well in your last game." I swear he flinches for a moment, but I brush it off, as its known comatose patients will have body reactions outside of their control; or, at least, that's what the nurse told me last time I thought he'd moved.
"Remember the day we got him?" I chuckle. This story always makes Peter smile, and he loves telling it."Remember how we went to the fair, and when we got there, it started unexpectedly raining so they shut down most of the rides? Then it started storming, and they had to shut down the fair entirely? We were soaking wet, and you were so upset, you'd been looking forward to the fair for months, and the one day we went..." I had worked double shifts and saved money for months to take Peter to the fair. I had taken my first day off in years, and done everything to ensure Peter would have the best day, and of course everything went wrong. I felt like such a failure as a parent when I saw his face, but it's funny how little things can make kids so happy. I go on, "But then the nice man at one of the game booths saw how sad you were. He let you choose a toy, and you saw Mr. Turtle..." His hand flinches in mine. My eyes brighten. Could he be responding to the story, or is it just wishful thinking? I keep going anyways."You saw Mr. Turtle, and you loved him the second you laid eyes on him. When the nice man gave him to you, you were so happy. You hugged him and christened him Mr. Turtle. Suddenly, the fair shutting down didn't bother you anymore." I swear his hand squeezes mine, and is that a smile? His eyes are twitching, like they want to open. Is it finally working? "You skipped all the way to the car with Mr. Turtle in the pouring rain. You caught a nasty cold, but Mr. Turtle never left your side, like right now. He's been your best friend ever since." I see his eyes moving. He's moving. I'm not crazy. Peter is responding to the story.
"NURSE, NURSE!" I yell as Peter is surely coming to. The boy they had written off is coming to!
As the nurses rush in, I lean into Peter's ear and whisper...
"Just hold that happy thought Peter..."
Four minutes in and I knew I had made a colossal mistake.
It was supposed to be a joke.
I didn't think it was real, none of us did.
But it's too late now, and there's no way out.
Three disfigured bodies lay in a pool of blood, and her skeletal hand was reaching for me out of the broken mirror next.
Call me Ingrid
The bitter liquid is warm in my hand. My cold, blue eyes are frozen in the distance upon a sign that says, "You can't buy happiness, but you can buy alcohol and that's close enough."
I chuckle as I shoot the liquid to the back of my throat. It burns, but it's a welcomed burn.
"Another, Ms. Williams?"asks the bartender.
"Please, just call me Emily, and make it a double," I say.
He nods, "You got it...Emily."
His warm green eyes and inviting smile give me a sense of ease I haven't felt since I became "Emily Williams".
Ah, Emily Williams. The the day I created that alias, I never imagined it would reach these heights. The name would be plastered on every magazine, billboard, television and any empty space that could be filled for the public to consume.
Emily Williams, model, actress, singer, writer and CEO of a soon to be Fortune 500 company.
She has it all; beauty, money, fame and access to any man she wants at any time. What more could she want? Emily may say nothing, but Ingrid would disagree.
Ingrid Schmidt, the invisible girl. She was plain but sharp. The world wouldn't see her, but she would make them. Her parents abandoned her at an orphanage when she was three years old, and she would be on the streets before she was 16. Ingrid dreamed of having a family, a home and all the things she'd never known. Instead, fame found her, fortune became her, and life would never be the same. Ingrid Schmidt would change her brown locks to blond, her hourglass figure would form and Emily Williams would be born.
Yet, even as Emily, Ingrid would dream of her parents' return, and one day she would get her wish. As Emily Williams spread across the globe, the parents that abandoned her would find her. They'd use Ingrid to feed their addictions, steal from her, and break her heart once again.
Any remnants of Ingrid and the dreams she once possessed would die an agonizing death within Emily, and Emily's focus would not surpass money, fame nor self-preservation. She'd refuse her hand to various men, find a different bed each night and never stay in one place for too long lest her past, thoughts and loneliness caught up to her.
"Here you go, Ms- I mean Emily", says the bartender as he hands me my drink, and a noticeable silver band on his left hand glimmers under the bar light.
"Thank you," I say as I take drink and swirl it in my hand.
"Tell me..." I squint to read his name tag, "Jesse...what would you do with a million dollars right now?"
Jesse looks at me bewildered, as others before him often have.
"What do you mean?" he asks.
"I mean, if someone gave you a million dollars right now, what would you do with it?" I say persistently.
Without hesitation Jesse says, "I'd buy a house. My wife is pregnant, and we always dreamed of having a house to start our family. I was hoping I'd have enough saved but the baby came sooner than I thought."
I'd gotten a lot of answers over the years but none as sincere as this one.
"Hm," I say as a I take a sip, "how long have you been married?"
"Five years," he says.
"And what are you having?"
"A girl," he responds as he lights up, "I'm terrified, but I also can't wait. She'll be daddy's little girl."
I clear my throat in a grim attempt to mask my tears.
"Do you guys have a name?" I ask choked up.
"The wife and I can't agree. I wanted to name her Ingrid after my late grandmother, but the wife isn't a fan. Says it sounds too old-timey," he says.
I laugh. I always thought it sounded old-timey too.
"What's so funny?" he asks.
"Nothing,"I say. "nothing at all. That's a beautiful dream."
I pause, "Can I please get the check to close out the tab?"
"Sure." Jesse turns to go but stops, "I'm sorry to ask, you think I can also get an autograph for the wife? She's a huge fan, and actually so am I..." His cheeks turn a rosy hue.
"Absolutely," I say.
His smile stretches ear to ear, like a child left alone in a candy store. To think one signature could make someone so happy.
Jesse returns with a check in a holder.
I take the holder. "Thanks."
I wave a hundred dollars in front of him before I put it inside the holder on my lap and tell him to keep the change.
"Oh wow," he stammers, "thank you. I'll put it towards the house fund,"he jokes.
I keep the holder and pull out a piece of paper from my purse.
"Who am I making this out to?"
He says, "Oh, right, the autograph. Jesse and Laney Hanks please."
I fill out the piece of paper, put it in the holder atop the hundred dollar bill, close it and give it back to Jesse.
"I hope your dreams come true," I say as I down the drink and begin to leave.
I leave Jesse giddy with joy, but before I can step foot outside the bar he stops me from behind. I turn around to see that all the color has drained from his face and the piece of paper is in his hand.
"Ms-Emily, this is a check. A check for a million dollars, you must have made a mistake. I can't take this."
He tries to hand it back to me with trembling hands. I tighten his grip around the check and push his hands back.
"Yes, you can and you will. It's for you and your family. You deserve to have a house you can make a home in for your daughter."
His mouth is agape, his green eyes wide and moistened by tears. He can't seem to find the words to speak until he simply says with a quavering voice, "Thank you, Emily."
"Please...call me Ingrid," I say as I walk away.
To My Dreams
You give me hope in the darkest times
And when I come close to touch you
I stumble and fall
Farther and farther
And I must admire you from afar
When I think of you
My heart flutters
My stomach in knots
I crave your touch
Your kisses of life
Your beauty entrances me
It filters the darkness that surrounds
And lives within
It shows me what could be
In the vast ocean
You are the reason I keep swimming
Our stars are crossed
But one day,
One day, I pray we could be
Ah, the world we could make
Together, you and me.
There's no happily ever after
No silence filled with laughter
No pain without the dagger
No void that doesn't get blacker
There's just the tears filled with fears
And the screams no one hears
So you draw on a smile
Even though you feel vile
You walk the walk
You talk the talk
But when you look in the mirror
It couldn't be clearer
The sadness inside
That you've denied
Painted in your eyes
There's no surprise
But no one else can see
All that you may be
So you wipe your tears
Disguise your fears
Illuminate your teeth
And hide all that lies beneath
Tell me it’s okay
Tell me that the broken pieces of my heart will one day be mended. That if I just keep swimming I'll eventually reach the shore. Tell me that this isn't forever. That the crushing ache in my chest and the ever-flowing tears will stop, and I'll breathe again. Tell me I'll find my way, and that the days of wandering aimlessly through life without purpose will be long behind me. Tell me the sun will come out and light the darkness that imprisons my mind and cripples my soul. Tell me you see past my smile, and that one day it will be real.
Please, just tell me it's okay. Tell me because I don't believe myself. My once bright eyes have dimmed, and I'm struggling to swim. My arms have gotten heavy and my legs are numb. I'm in the middle of the ocean without a life jacket. The waves are crashing down on me without any breaks in between, and I fear I'll drown before I ever see the shore or the new horizons it will bring.