Hidden Amidst the Letters of Lady Glorianna Grant
To my dearest Luvena Haalstead,
For many a moon, I was able to put aside the attraction I felt towards you upon our first meeting; however, the moment I saw you riding on the back of your lovely stead - your long brown curls bouncing along with your horse's gallop, your maroon dress embracing your poised and slender frame, your big brown eyes glistening with such joy - I found that I no longer and here the letter abruptly ends with a smudge of ink.
The Flower Children
Fingertips of sunlight touch the buds
To wake them from their slumber.
They rise from their patches of soil,
Stretching their green limbs up towards the sky
As if they're acceping a hug from the morning light.
Invigorated, they prance over to the garden
Where they rejoice in the company of their friends,
Dancing in a beautiful display of colors.
The Reinforcement of Avoidance
The ice breaker at my college orientation left me frozen in my seat. I was in an auditorium full of strangers, who I was expected to, well, break the ice with. The professors who initiated this excercise had just given out bingo sheets that they printed out to everyone. A specific activity was typed up in each square. We were all supposed to ask around to see who did what, have them jot down their name there, and get three names in a row in order to get bingo. I don't remember there being a prize for winning, but I remember the bout of internal panic that I felt as a result of this.
It was all too much to process. The people, the instructions - all of it overwhelmed me. As everyone began to mingle, I dissociated from myself, easily falling back into the role of an observer. All the while, I tried to give the illusion that I was involved to the professors, turning around to look at all of the people around me. I thought I was doing fairly well. No one bothered with me so far. I just had to keep up this facade until it was all over.
Then, some guy who sat in front of me intiated contact. I forget what he said exactly, but it had something to do with the bingo sheet. The fact that he even spoke to me at all took me off guard. I was forced to connect back to the situation, which came to me as a struggle. When I didn't say anything, he flat-out asked me, "Are you retarded?"
I was too shocked to answer.
"You are retarded," he concluded, then spoke to someone else, like nothing happened.
His words hurt, not because I was "retarded", but because they poked at an old, festering wound. In my mind, they translated as "socially inept", which stemmed back to my social anxiety, something I hated myself for even having. They left me blinking away hot, stinging tears, just wanting this excercise to end already.
Bundle of Joy
When I first held her, she was two months old. Her hair still had its caramel color and it was soft to the touch, just like it is now. She was wagging her tail as she leaned up to kiss my face. I could feel her heart beating excitedly against her chest, so small yet full of so much love.
Appearance is Everything
A plethora of guests pulled up to the Wentworths' mansion in the Hamptons to celebrate the birth of their beautiful creation, Cinnia Wentworth. All of them were assisted out of their designer cars by their personal chauffeurs. In turn, the maids and butlers of the estate carried all of the expensive gifts the guests brought inside. It wasn't like they could buy her anything that she didn't already have, but it was a courteous gesture nonetheless.
Everyone gathered in the living room where there were already people serving an assortment of drinks and hor d'oeurves. They were all dressed to the nines, as the saying went, but in comparsion to the birthday girl, they all looked like paupers.
Cinnia made her grand entrance, adorned in a gown fit for a princess. The mere sight of her was surreal, as if she were a plastic doll brought to life. Whenever she wasn't within earshot, guests spoke in hushed murmurs about how off-putting she looked, but they were sure to offer her hollow compliments whenever she approached. The conversations that were had that evening didn't dare dig deeper than the surface level. Appetites were sated, but the satisfactions among everyone remained unfulfilled.
Rain is pouring down in sheets, running in rapid streams down the streets. The harsh wind turns my pocket umbrella inside out, leaving me exposed to the elements while I struggle to pull the black flaps back down into place. To stop this from happening again, I hold the handle close and clutch onto the top of the silver pole. I break out into a brisk pace and head down my block to see that no one is outside. As expected, they’re all in their homes, taking shelter from the downpour.
Once I reach the side door, I close my umbrella and slip it back into one of my bag’s side pockets, retrieving my keys so that I could get inside. Finally, I’m home. A sigh of relief escapes me as I wipe my shoes on the rug.
My shihpoo, Shana, appears at the top of the stairs, thrilled to bits to see me. Her paws tap excitedly on the wooden floor as her tail wags back and forth. A smile bursts across my face. I ascend the steps to greet her and pet her soft, caramel hair.
Shana follows me into the living room and jumps up onto the leather recliner where my mom is messaging her friends on Facebook. Mom looks up from her phone to welcome me back with a hug and asks how my day was. I tell her that class was boring. That’s not all it was, though. It was lonely, too, but I keep that part to myself because the loneliness was bearable. I tell her that I’m going to take a shower. All the while, Shana clamors for my attention. I pet her again and assure her that I’ll be right back down.
I go to my room upstairs to put down my bag and take off my shoes and socks. I grab a couple of towels from the closet beside the bathroom before I go inside and lock the door, freeing myself from my wet clothes shortly after. I turn the knobs until the water is warm, then step into the shower. The heat rushes the layer of cold off me and washes it down the drain. I take my time in cleansing myself. Massaging my head with shampoo and conditioner. Lathering my body with soap. Shaving away all of the unwanted hair. By the time I’m done, I feel nice and refreshed.
I return to my room and change into a comfortable pair of clothes, then go back downstairs to rejoin my mom and my little sister in the living room. Shana stands up on the recliner and wags her tail, going up on her hind legs when I’m within reach. She kisses my face as soon as I take her into my arms. She cuddles up against me and I nuzzle my cheek against her neck, reveling in her warmth.
I settle on the couch afterwards, turning on the TV to watch some YouTube videos. Although Mom doesn’t like or agree with most of the content I watch, there’s a silent agreement between us to agree to disagree. Some of our views align, some don’t. We’re different in many different ways, but we’re also the same. We share the same experiences. We share the same anxiety and depression. It’s not just blood that connects us together. It’s the love and empathy that we have for one another.
Hours later, after my hair is nice and dry, we all hear the side door open. Dad’s home. Shana barks and scampers off to go greet him with the same enthusiasm she did me. When Dad coos her like one would a baby, Mom and I share an amused smile. He peeks his bald head into the living room to say hi and we say hi back. I’m not nearly as close to my dad as I am with my mom, but I appreciate everything that he’s done for me. He hasn’t only financially supported me my whole life; he has emotionally supported me as well.
Not everyone can say this about their parents. Not everyone is as fortunate as I am. There are even those who take their parents for granted, but I don’t. I love them, I appreciate them, and I let them know that I do. I’ll forever be grateful to them for everything they have done for me and for everything they have given me, especially this beautiful home. It may not seem like much, but I do what I can for them.
I do what I can for this home because this place is everything to me.
Coming to Terms
When I was younger, I thought there was something wrong with me. I wasn’t like the other kids. I wasn’t able to socialize with the same ease as them. They made talking look as easy as breathing. It came so naturally for them. They were natural born speakers. I wasn’t.
I found it difficult to approach people. Even when they were talking with me, I found it hard to truly connect. I’d either draw blanks or ask myself what I should say. I felt more like an observer than an actual person, an alien that was studying and observing the humans around her. I was on the outside, looking in, wishing more than anything that I could be one of the in-people. I wanted to fit in, to belong.
The difference between me and them drew a wedge between me and reality. I’d distance myself from everyone and immerse myself in the worlds that I found in books and anime. I’d distance myself from the person I was and live through the character I was reading or watching. I’d break away from myself and by breaking away from myself, I’d be rejecting myself. Over and over and over. For minutes. For hours. For days. For months. For years.
I hated myself for not being someone else. I hated myself for being myself. This self-hatred became ingrained in me, feeding the bully that had already taken shape in my mind. A voice that constantly put me down. A voice that made me want to escape even more.
My mom sought help for me. She saw my anxiety. She saw how withdrawn I was. So, she led me to a person and a place where I could air out everything. Let out all of the feelings that had been plaguing me, drawing me closer and closer to an eternal silence. A permenant escape.
I was diagnosed with depression and social anxiety disorder, or S.A.D. for short. A fitting acronym, given the circumstances. I was put on medication, but that wasn’t the end to it. I still succumbed to the bully’s cruel words. I still hurt myself, as punishment for being myself, as an escape from the tumultuous feelings that I had inside.
Even so, I fought. I spoke back to the bully, but she didn’t go away. She would never go away because she was a part of me. She was my insecurity. She was my weakness. She was my mental illness. As long as I live, she’ll still be here in my head, but that doesn’t mean that she can’t change. That doesn’t mean that she’ll be a bully for the rest of my life.
I learned that it’s no good to keep fighting her. It’s just another way of denying her existence. In order to live a better, much more fulfilling life, I have to take the steps necessary to make peace with her. I have to embrace her, hold her close and apologize. Apologize for pushing her away and denying her for so long. I have to tell her that it’s okay for her to be here and that we’ll handle whatever problem that comes our way together. Because when all is said and done, she’s a part of me. She’s my insecurity, my weakness, my mental illness.
She deserves attention. She deserves to be taken care of. She deserves better. I deserve better and I will do better to see to it that I take care of every part of myself.
Eyes Cast in Shadow
They were sure to leave the castle before the break of dawn with an ample amount of rations and water in their possession. What remained of the castle town was dyed a deep blue hue from the early morning light. Makeshift tents lined the streets, set up in front of all of the homes that were destroyed during the war. Although victory was on their side, the casualties they suffered were great. Hundreds of lives were lost, that many more hearts were broken. In time, buildings could be restored, but human lives were irreplacable.
Under the leadership of the princess-turned-Queen, Lynn Felabeorht, Sigismonda was bound to be restored back to its former glory. Or perhaps she was going to lead the people of this kingdom into a golden age. With her love for drama and the arts, Darcy could see her sparking inspiration in many, breathing new life into their home. Unfortunately, he wouldn’t be here to see that happen.
There were more reasons to go than to stay. If he stayed, Darcy would have to return to a life of confinement. If the people were to see his black hair, they would recognize him as the late king’s illegitimate son. If the people were to see his red eyes, that’d be the end of him. After losing so much to the demons, it only made sense for them to be hostile towards any demon in their midst, even one who also had human blood coursing though his veins. That was why, if he chose to stay, he would have to go back into hiding, and lock himself away in the tower his father kept him in, forever destined to be the king’s dirty little secret. Now that he got a taste of freedom, Darcy no longer wished to live his lfie in chains. This was how he wished to live his life, venturing out into the world with Lukas by his side.
Lukas still stood tall as he strode uphill, carrying a lot more than just bags of rations and water. He lost many comrades on the battlefield to the demons who had slaughtered his people and conquered Concordia, the kingdom he once called home. There, he lost his father, a man Lukas revered for teaching him the art of swordsmanship, especially in a place where it was frowned upon to brandish a sword. The Concordians were known to be pacifists, who encouraged their people to create instruments instead of weapons, to learn how to play music instead of learning how to fight. What brought them peace and happiness ultimately turned out to be their downfall. Lukas had no choice but to leave and now here he was once again leaving a place he called home.
Unlike Darcy, he didn’t have to go. Lukas was a human. He had plenty of reasons to stay: the comrades who survived the war as well as his mentor, Saxon. However, Lukas chose to leave for one reason. For Darcy.
Halfway up the hill, Darcy stopped.
Lukas was quick to notice. “What’s wrong?” He asked.
Darcy’s chest grew taut with emotion. The man before him had gone through hell and back again. More than anything, Darcy wished for him to find peace. Darcy didn’t wish for him to be chained to his side. As much as it would pain him to let Lukas go, Darcy wished to do right by him, and it was only right to ask him. “Are you sure about this?”
“Yes,” Lukas replied with no doubt nor hesitation. “Why are you asking this now?”
“I just...” Darcy looked back. “I don’t want you to have any regrets.”
“There’s nothing to regret,” Lukas told him. “I paid my respects. I said my goodbyes.” Strong hands reached out to take a gentle hold of his. “I put a lot of thought into this. If I were to stay in Sigismonda and let you leave, that would be the biggest regret of my life.”
“Lukas,” Darcy murmured, touched.
The feelings, the love that had taken root in his heart so long ago grew that much more. He didn’t want to keep these feelings hidden any longer. He embraced the man he loved more than anything, more than the world, more than his kingdom, more than himself, and leaned up to kiss him. Lukas kissed him back, slow and deep, as if he were savoring the taste of his lips, his tongue. Darcy could taste the bread and fresh berries in his mouth. He could feel Lukas’ hands trail up his arms, his shoulders, his neck and caress his face. Darcy held him closer still.
Together, they faced and navigated through the darkness. Together, they stuffered, they bled, they cried...Now, the only thing that stood between them and the light was time.
She Keeps Me Warm
“You should eat more,” the other model told her. “Put more meat on those bones.”
It could’ve been a harmless comment, but it plagued Anna’s thoughts the whole way home. She thought that she was doing better. That she was eating more. That she had more meat on her bones. Not that much more, though. She still kept track of what she ate. She wanted to stay skinny, but she wanted to be healthy, too.
Anna stepped off the bus, once again exposed to the frigid weather. She hunched her shoulders and dug her hands into her coat pockets as she blinked away tears. Despite the layers of clothes she wore, the cold still found a way to seep in. She shivered and quickened her pace, heading straight home, back to the apartment she shared with her girlfriend.
Cassidy knew something was wrong the moment she walked in the door. As Anna unraveled, Cassidy was there to comfort her. She was there to wrap her up in blankets, to make her decaffienated tea that chased the chills from her body.
“You’re doing great, babe.” Cassidy reassured, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. “Don’t you ever let anyone tell you otherwise.”