Scrambled and Cracked Open
Like any rational adult who sees someone who'd ghosted them after a one-night stand, I freeze and feel my muscles tighten up. Ready to run.
"Masie?" Honestly Darian sounds more surprised than I feel. I still can’t move. He looks like he’s lost for words, shifting the box in his arms, then finally says, “Your hair is different.”
I’d almost forgotten about the pink streak of hair at the front of my head. It hadn’t returned to its regular blonde after a wash–I know I’d thought it was temporary dye that night I’d been drunk, but clearly it’s not. I’m immediately conscious of my physical state. I’ve recently gotten off a plane, which always leaves me kind of dirty-feeling, I’m wearing a matching gray set from Lululemon, which is both basic and drab, and my hair is in a braid that’s probably pretty messy, not that I’ve had time to check. I know he’s seen, well, all of me already, but still. This is not what I’d pictured when I’d imagined seeing him again.
The only person in the room who isn't shocked is Mariana, who comes out from behind her desk. “Darian?”
Darian comes back into the inn’s lobby, despite the fact that a moment ago he’d clearly been heading out. Before he has a chance to do anything like, say, set down the box he’s holding, my hand snaps out and grabs my suitcase, and I practically fly up the inn's stairs, accidentally banging my knee on the wall on the way up. I crash into the Violet room and shut the door, turning the lock for good measure.
There’s no way this is a coincidence.
I slide to the floor, my back against the door, because that's what dramatic people do after slamming a door shut. I pull out my phone. Bram picks up on the first ring. “Masie--god, are you ok? Your mom said you’re not at home, no one has seen you, we--”
“Did you know?” He sounds so sincere, but this feels like an elaborate prank. My eyes are squeezed shut. I can only see the blacks of my eyelids and echoes of color.
“About what? Masie, are you drunk right now?” He has so little faith in me.
I want to be angry--I am angry, but I feel like a blackhole. I can’t talk too loud, it all just gets swallowed back up. “No, Bram. Why is Darian here?” I’m so pitiful; I sound like a child.
There’s hesitation. Rustling. I picture Bram in his office, hair all perfect, standing up and taking a lap around his room. “You're actually in Windthrow Point?” He says the words slowly, like he doesn’t believe they’re coming out of his mouth.
I grab a fistful of my own hair, still in a fetal position, suddenly breathing hard. I’m in Windthrow Point. I’m in a small town I don’t know for no fucking reason at all. I’m a fool. Darian is here. And Mom was right, I can’t do this.
Bram’s repeating himself, asking where I am. “Yes!” I dig my fingers into my scalp. I’m out of the blackhole, clawing and loud. “Yes, and why did you send me here? It’s all a funny little joke to you? Huh? You knew Darian would be here, didn’t you?” When Bram doesn’t immediately answer, I shout, “Didn’t you?!”
“Yes!” he says back at me, barely raising his own voice, sounding defensive. “Yes, ok? I’m sorry, I didn’t--I would have told you, but I didn’t think you were going. And you ran out on me when I gave you the ticket.” I breathe into the phone, not sure whether I want to yell at him more. Not sure if it will make me feel any better. Bram continues, “It’s a nice town, Darian talks about it all the time. I thought you’d like it, what with the river and all. I thought… I was going to tell you that maybe you two could talk or--”
“It was never about me having a vacation.” My voice is flat. Usually that’s his thing.
I can feel Bram’s frustration. “No, that’s not true. I wanted you to get out of California for a while, and I thought--”
“You thought I’d like to see a guy that I royally messed things up with? Yeah, that’s a stroke of genius.” I barely sound like myself. My nails are still in my scalp. I think it hurts. “Fuck you,” I tell Bram. And I hang up.
I don’t know what to do next. I can’t think rationally, I can barely even breathe. Like I’m underwater and I don’t know which way is up. I count the seconds and push my fists against my eyes. At some point I can breathe again.
I know what I need to do next. Darian is, presumably, still downstairs. And I can't reasonably escape this room without going down there, though escaping through the window does sound tempting. I stand and riffle through my suitcase, and pull out a gold patterned bandana-style top and jean shorts. Simple. Beachy. I throw them on, then yank out my braid and restyle my hair into a slicked-back high ponytail. Intentional. Sexy. I wish I didn’t have the pink streak in my hair, but I’ve got to work with it. I grab my phone, which I’d left on the ground, apply mascara, and collect myself. Then, I step out of my room.
This time when I come downstairs, Mariana and Darian are talking lowly to each other, both standing in the center of the room. The conversation dies when I step off the last step. I glance at Mariana first, who looks a little concerned, and Darian next. He looks a little on edge, and his eyes skirt away from mine.
I smile pleasantly at both of them. “Oh, hi Darian. Lovely to see you again.” He does look lovely, in fact, with his wide nose and warm eyes and simple t-shirt and perfectly-fitting jacket.
He looks back at me, a crease now between his brows. “I–”
I’ve moved on to Mariana. “And thank you for the room, it’s perfect. I’ll see you again in the evening, presumably?” I’m already heading for the door, giving a charming smile and wave to both of them. Mariana looks at Darian, and Darian looks at me. And I walk out, nearly tripping on the box of books Darian now has sitting just outside the inn, and walk with very long strides in a direction I’m calling ‘away’.
The surrounding buildings are all businesses, and there’s no one around, at least not visibly. I check my phone, swipe away a missed call from Bram, and note that the time is 2:38 PM. There’s a lot of day left.
I wander down the street, focusing on the fact that all the buildings look different, like they weren’t even all added in the same time period. I'm only a few buildings down when I feel something whiz past my ear and then crack in the ground. I'm looking down at the broken egg, slowly oozing onto the sidewalk next to my Jimmy Choo sandals, when something hits me. A cold, wet feeling spreads from the back of my skull down to behind my left ear.
My head snaps up--up to the second story window of the closest building, where I can see a head of red hair disappearing back inside. I touch the back of my head slowly and look down at my fingers, smeared with egg. I feel a heaviness in the back of my throat, and I can't believe my body's first response to being pelted with a raw egg is to cry. This is disgusting. Fuck this town.
A heat building in my skull, I clench my fists and storm into the building, throwing open the door with enough force that the entry bell makes a cracking noise instead of a ding. "Who the fuck threw a fucking egg--" I start loudly, then suddenly stop.
There are three people staring at me, all wide-eyed. An elderly lady with curly hair, sitting at a table with a half-eaten sandwich, a middle-aged balding man standing at the counter holding a coffee, and a girl in an apron behind the counter, probably college age. This is a café, and I’ve just barged in covered in egg.
I’m saved from trying to come up with something else to say because a door behind the counter opens and a figure runs by me in a flash of red hair, a teenage boy if I saw him right. All the people in the café, me included, turn to watch him run full-force down the street. A crash turns everyone’s attention back to the behind-the-counter door, as yet another person arrives to the scene.
The door flings open, and a man flies out, an apron tied around his waist and his black hair in an aesthetic mess where it falls in waves around his temples. He skirts around the edge of the counter and then skids to a stop in the center of the café, eyes fixed out the front windows. His skin is tanned, his eyes are dark and squinted in frustration, and the muscles in his arms are clearly visible as he flexes his hands. “Goddamn that kid…” he says lowly, but all of us can hear. Everyone is silent.
The man holding a coffee clears his throat and mutters, “I’ll get him,” and then slinks past the tan apron man and out of the café.
“Walker?” hedges the girl behind the counter, clearly addressed to the man still standing in the middle of the room.
The man, Walker, purses his lips but turns. “Sorry, Mrs. Fairfield,” he grunts to the old lady, and she just shakes her head. Then his dark eyes turn to me, his expression still one of pure irritation. I watch his lips part as he takes me in, and then he sighs. “Well. Looks like the kid’s aim isn’t too bad.”
pt 8: https://www.theprose.com/post/764086/a-lack-of-apology
pt 6: https://www.theprose.com/post/761464/violet-surprise
My Uber drops me off in front of a two-story building that I’m ninety percent sure used to be a barn. It’s a large rectangle with brown siding and neutral-colored detailing around the windows and a similarly colored pointed roof. The only time I’ve seen anything similar is in historical exhibits or in Christmas movies that take place in small towns. ‘Honorary Inn’ is etched on the small sign out front, which is hanging off of a post emerging from the fence that surrounds the property. I’m still wrapping my head around the fact that I’m here.
So far, Illinois has consisted of stout buildings, trees and fields, and more empty space than I’d know what to do with. I’m used to every inch of space containing either a man-made structure or an actual human being. The only untouched plantlife I know remains in tact solely due to preservation laws. Around here, it’s something entirely different. It’s so green. And brown.
Inside the inn, a large black woman greets me from behind the counter. She’s wearing a white top with ruffled shoulders, and has her hair up in a frazzled bun. She pauses packing a bunch of books into a cardboard box and smiles at me, and I guess her to be around my mom’s age. “Hello there! Checking in?”
I drag my two suitcases and one duffel bag into the tiny, tiny room and glance around. Everything inside appears to be the same old, brown wood as outside, and the whole place even has a sort of musty smell--unless that’s just the books. There are some small photos hanging on the wall behind the woman, as well as a corkboard with advertisements: Hot Coffee & Wifi at the Briarstone Café, Gregson’s Stop: Fishing Supplies, Annual Windthrow Fête - August 3rd. I don’t know what a fête is, but it’s two weeks away, so I’ll be gone by then.
“Um, yes,” I tell the woman. I never um. What’s wrong with me? “Clements,” I say, in a normal and confident way. She smiles and checks a paper ledger. Paper? Maybe I’ve traveled back in time.
“Ah. You’ll be in the Violet Room,” she says, pulling a key out of a drawer and handing it to me. “And I’m Mariana, by the way. I own this place, so just let me know if you need anything. Your room is just upstairs.”
I thank her, and she returns to her book-packing. I hesitate, wanting to ask if there’s anyone to take my bags up, but it’s pretty obvious there’s not. I’m not going to be able to carry them all in one go, so I glance around and finally decide to leave them in this room, which I'm generously calling the lobby. Benefits of a deserted town, I guess, are that thievery is unlikely when there’s no one around to do it.
The staircase is extremely narrow, so I have to drag the suitcase behind me and hold my duffel bag in front, with no room to either side. I’m close enough to the wall to see the maroon paint peeling off the planks of wood.
The Violet room is conveniently labeled with a hand-painted sign of a violet flower, and inside, unsurprisingly, the whole room is decorated in dusty purples. It even smells floral. The room is sparse, but not in a modern way like a hotel. It looks more like someone thrifted some furniture and then barfed a grandma onto all of it. Everything is patterned: various faded flowers on the wallpaper and bedspread, a zig-zag-patterned crochet blanket over one of the chairs, doilies on the nightstand and dresser. There’s even a little flower-shaped rug under the window, and when I stand on it and glance out I have a surprisingly nice view of the street below. Not that there’s anything to see. It’s just tree branches shifting in the breeze. Everything’s so still.
The stillness is unsettling, but from what I hear about writers retreats, which is what I’m assuming this is meant to be, I know that they thrive in stillness and silence. Though I will not be confined to this room, that’s for damn sure. I’m already choking on the smell of lavender.
I sit on the edge of the bed and pull out my phone. I only have missed texts from Bram, which I’m honestly insulted about. No one else has tried to reach me? This whole time? Maybe the messages just haven’t come through yet. I open my conversation with Bram. I’d unblocked his number yesterday, and I’d seen this: I know you’re not going. It was a bad idea anyway. I shouldn’t have interfered.
I’d been irritated about his use of formal punctuation and clipped sentences, but pleased that he thought I wasn’t going anywhere. It would just make telling him that I am in Windthrow Point, Illinois more fun.
He’d also sent: PS please tell your mom to stop texting me or I will have to change my number. I find this amusing as well as concerning. I still don't know how or why my mother got a hold of Bram.
The new messages are these: Where are you?
If you’re in a bar I’m coming to pick you up
Masie where are you?
are you ok?
call me when you get this
I stare at my phone, suddenly getting that feeling I get when I drink too much--a familiar feeling. It’s like I’m drowning but it’s all air. It’s like someone’s squeezing my heart and too tight and squeezing it until it oozes black ichor or whatever else is in there. It feels like burning in the back of my throat. That he thinks I’m missing and he wants to help. It’s almost enough to feel guilty about.
I want to call, but I remember my second suitcase downstairs. I decide to shoot over a text, and I'll call him when I get back up here. I send: Bram I’m ok. I look at the message and then add, Thanks.
I’m kind of smiling, and tuck my phone into my pocket. One more trip down the world’s narrowest staircase later, I’m standing in the tiny lobby about to grab my suitcase, which no one has stolen, when I notice someone else in the room. My eyes land on the inn lady--Mariana--and then on the person standing in the doorway, halfway in and halfway out of the inn. He’s holding the freshly-packed cardboard box of books, his head peeking out from above the box.
We make eye contact. It’s the slowest couple of seconds of my life, watching recognition flash across his eyes, then surprise, then confusion.
Darian TV Producer Russel is… here.
pt 7: https://www.theprose.com/post/762227/scrambled-and-cracked-open
pt 5: https://www.theprose.com/post/760230/wrecking-a-funeral
Wrecking a Funeral
We walk to the beach for the funeral.
There are five of us now, inexplicably. I walk beside Mom, which makes me feel like a child again. Not in a bad way, just in a weird way. I’m still too hungover to be properly processing anything. Graham walks behind us, still holding the golden cat statue--urn, I suppose, actually. Jamie didn’t want to be left out, so he’s here too. And there was a petite woman who had never left the party last night, having accidentally locked herself in the downstairs bathroom. Surprisingly, despite the fact that I don’t recall seeing her ever in my life, she wanted to come to the beach with us too.
Mom looks over at me and plucks a stray thread off my pink denim jacket. “Masie.” I eye her suspiciously, noting her patronizing tone. “About your trip to… wherever it is.” She flicks a hand through the air as if shooing away the idea of the place.
“Honestly, it’s nothing. Bram--I don’t know what Bram told you, but I’m fine. I’m completely fine.” I kind of sound convincing.
“I’m glad you have so much faith in yourself, darling, but you’re not really one to travel. Think of how lonely you’d be, with all the dirt and sheep and things around.”
“Sheep? Where do you think I’d be going?” Are there sheep in Illinois? Never mind, it doesn’t matter because I won't be going anyway.
“I mean, seriously, when you were a little girl you wouldn’t imagine the trouble I had trying to get you to school, or a theater, or, god forbid, the lake house. Remember how you used to shout? And that’s just a few hours’ drive.”
I’m almost swallowed by the memories of the lake house, and I mentally rear back. The lake house with Rachael, and the lake house without Rachael. I feel my headache like a sucker-punch between the eyes. “Mom, yeah, ok. Don’t even worry about it. I’m not going.”
Mom’s shoulders visibly loosen, and she nods her head. “Oh, thank goodness. You wouldn’t survive out there,” she laughs. “You’ve always been my little homey artist with big, wild dreams.”
I scoff. I’d learned a long time ago that it’s best to let things that Mom says slide off me. But I don’t always care what’s best. “Little homey artist with big, wild dreams?” I repeat at her. “And what does that mean?”
Mom’s smile quirks. “Well, your nice little books and everything.” She says it like it’s obvious.
“Little books? I’m a New York Times bestseller!” I’ve raised my voice, and now Jamie and that random girl is looking back at us, and I don’t care at all.
Mom takes one of my hands in both of hers. “Everyone who writes a book is, darling.”
“No, actually.” I’ve stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, and I can see the beach but I’m suddenly determined not to so much as touch the sand. “I have a career! It’s a real thing. What do you want me to do, stumble into a million-dollar business, like you? Get famous acting, like Dad?” Mom is frowning at me, her eyes shaded under her blonde fringe, so I spit, “Run off to Broadway? Like Rachael?”
In that moment, I hadn’t realized that Graham had been standing right behind me, stunned into silence, and he’d been holding the golden cat precisely within arm-flailing range. Which is how, in an unfortunate turn of events, I knock it out of his hands, and it cracks on the sidewalk, sending golden cat shards skittering across the ground. The ashes almost immediately get taken up by the wind, and now there’s just a little pile left. Didn’t even make it onto the sand.
“How could you?” Mom is furious, suddenly. With her hands on her hips and the wing/cape-like construction of her dress, she looks like a black-and-white impenetrable wall. “My poor Coco!” She stares down at the small ash pile, not making any effort to get closer. Graham hesitantly tries to scoop it up in one hand. Jamie and many strangers nearby look on, aghast.
“Rachael should have been here,” I tell her, tears already forming.
“Look at what you did to Coco,” is all she says, looking me square in the eye.
I can barely contain myself, and I take off running in the direction of home.
I wait for someone to show up at my house. To yell at me or apologize, I don’t care. But no one comes.
I’m not surprised Mom hasn’t appeared. She’s probably preoccupied with something else by now, knowing her busy schedule, and she’s no good at talking anyway. All Jamie does is send me a text: “lol what got into your mom today??”. I wait for him to call, and he doesn’t. I acknowledge that I could call him, if I really wanted to talk about it, but the ‘dial’ button feels too far away and I’m too tired.
In the end, I crawl back into bed, my home still a confetti-y mess and the sheets still smelling like Jamie’s hair gel. I suddenly feel guilty for not working on my novel at all. I am a crap writer, aren’t I? A little girl with fantastical dreams.
I know these thoughts will lead to an ugly downward spiral. I know I’m not ok. But I also know that I’m not allowed to admit it. To my mother, I’m the daughter that got everything she asked for. To Jamie, I’m the fun-but-crazy friend that’s too ditsy to feel any real emotions. To strangers, I’m the spoiled brat that they envy. To Bram, I’m… probably a menace. And? And what am I supposed to do about any of that?
It’s not like I can just magically become a different person. It’s not like I’ve hit any particular rock bottom that I haven’t already become well-acquainted with. I’m practically a deep-sea diver in terms of rock-bottoms.
So. Maybe it’s time to do something spontaneous. Something big. Something that no one expects me to do. Maybe I do go to Middle of Nowhere, Illinois.
pt 6: https://www.theprose.com/post/761464/violet-surprise
pt 4: https://www.theprose.com/post/759869/hangovers-and-ashes
Hangovers and Ashes
The doorbell wakes me up. Sun is filtering through my windows like pointed claws, and I get a splitting headache as soon as I’m conscious enough to feel it.
Something about last night… Confetti. No, plastic straws? Definitely champagne. And something smells like strawberry. Arm. Not my arm.
I sit up, startled suddenly by the realization that someone else is in my bed. I look down at the fair-skinned arm slung over my midsection, then at the mess of short black hair and glittery eyeshadow on closed eyelids. It’s just Jamie.
Jamie’s one of those types of friends that you just acquire. He’s great for livening up an otherwise sub-par party, and decent at listening to laundry-list complaints about my family and work. Plus, he’s gay, so he’s the best to talk about guys with.
I throw his arm off me, and he groans, and I note that a clothing tornado has flown through my room. A wave of nausea hits me, and I stumble to the bathroom, trying to recall the details of yesterday. The bathroom clock says it’s 3:44 pm.
Yesterday, I went to the coffee shop with Bram. Bram. Bram phone. That’s right. He’d called me, and I hadn’t answered, since the last thing he’d said yesterday was “Don’t call me,” and I love being petty. And then he texted me, and I’d ignored it, and I recall hazily that I’d almost called him last night, later, and Jamie had taken my phone and blocked his number. It’s for the best. He’s trying to put me on a plane to freaking Illinois, after all.
He says I’m not ok. On the contrary, I had one hell of a time last night. Granted I’m only remembering bits and pieces: flashing lights, lips, jean shorts, alcohol. Hula hoop? And music. I do know how to throw a party.
Speaking of throwing, I do throw up. And then I hear the doorbell again, and I’d forgotten that it had woken me up in the first place, and I glance at myself in the mirror and… Not good. My hair’s stuck to itself in weird places, and when did I dye a pink streak in my hair? My makeup is still on but smudged everywhere, except for my eyeliner, which actually looks fantastic. I don’t recognize the t-shirt I’m wearing.
Quickly, I clean my face and fix my hair (kind of), and the doorbell is still going off--is it legal to have it removed? I put on a lime green exercise set and pull my hair into a ponytail.
Downstairs looks like a scene from an apocalypse movie in terms of destruction, but at least there are no people. Visibly. They could be underneath the half-empty bottles of alcohol. There is confetti, I was right about that. And a lot of starlight mints. I can’t explain why. I glance into the living room and see the furniture all rearranged, with the couch pushed back against the floor-to-ceiling windows, and the onyx coffee table in the far corner. It brings back a memory of last night.
“Get down, you brute!” Jamie’s shouting at a large man standing on the coffee table. It has the same effect as a cat bristling its fur at an elephant. “That’s expensive,” Jamie slurs at him.
The man is hollering, and the music is loud. I need more alcohol, and I tell someone I don’t know that they should invite their friends over.
Jamie’s yanking the man’s arm, and I realize that if he falls he’ll flatten Jamie, who’s built like a twig. I make my way over. “It’s fine! I’ll buy a new one!”
“All this is yours? Or you have a rich husband?” The man asks me. He’d be more attractive without the stubble and the glasses, but he’s not too bad. He’s clutching a bottle like he’s going to christen a ship with it.
“Mine,” I confirm. “Mine, mine, mine.”
Jamie throws his arm over my shoulder and hangs off me. “Rich mother.”
I shove him, and he loses his balance and falls onto the pink shag carpet. “I’m successful! I'm an author!” Jamie laughs uncontrollably, and the man does too.
“Nepo baby. So many nice things to play with,” the man coos. His glasses swim into my vision, then his nose, very close.
I spin away, shouting into the room, “WHO WANTS SHOTS?”
The doorbell’s still going off like the world’s most insistent metronome, so I trudge over and fling the front door open. A swirl of black-and-white striped fabric proceeds my mother as she whisks past me. I expect her to comment on the mess or the smells, or at the very least my appearance, but she doesn’t. Shocking.
It takes me a moment to realize someone is still standing on the doorstep. It’s Graham, my mother’s current empty-headed boyfriend. He steps into the foyer and holds out a golden cat statue that’s about a foot tall. “Masie. This is for you.”
I pointedly don’t take it, and grudgingly let him in. The three of us stand in the foyer, which is an architectural beauty. It’s two stories tall, with a spiral staircase that I custom-ordered on the far end, and a geometric light fixture that’s about as big as my body directly overhead. It’s securely suspended from the ceiling, but right now I’m wondering what it would feel like if it fell down and crushed me. It can’t be anything worse than my current headache.
My mother, in all her bleach-blonde glory, is touching up her red lipstick in the foyer mirror. I catch another glimpse of my own face and cringe. Graham is holding the cat statue in two meaty hands, making it look smaller than it is. He’s a huge person in general, which isn’t surprising, considering my mom’s current type is ex-pro-football players.
“Why are you here?” I ask the room. My voice echoes. I hear Mom smack her lips.
“Coco died,” Graham supplies, lifting the cat statue like a shrug.
I blink at him. Coco is--was--Mom’s cat. Then I hold up both hands in front of me to ward him off. “Oh god, don’t tell me there are ashes in there.”
I hear a sniffle from Mom’s direction, and I turn to see her patting the skin under her eyes. It’s hard to tell whether she’s actually crying or not.
“She wants you to spread them on the beach,” Graham says.
“No, why would I--Mom didn’t even like that cat!”
Mom’s red lipstick starts to tremble. “My poor Coco,” she says waveringly, throwing her hands into the air. It’s then that I realize that the black and white smock she’s wearing has some kind of wing-like feature that connects the arms and torso. She runs off to the kitchen, and I glare at Graham.
“Don’t you dare leave that cursed thing here,” I tell him, pointing at the golden cat. Its painted-on eyes pin me with a soulless look.
I find Mom deftly making two sangrias, completely ignoring the mess this is my kitchen. At least the ingredients were already out. “Seriously, Mom, what are you doing here?”
She hands me a small round glass of reddish liquid. “This will help with the hangover.” I roll my eyes and accept the glass, taking a sip. She’s very good at mixing drinks; I think she used to be a bartender in a former life. “I think we should have a farewell ceremony for Coco. Before you go.”
“You don’t even like Coco, you only have him because--” I stop. “Before I go? Before I go where?”
She sips her drink with a dainty pink straw. There are a bunch of bags of plastic straws on the counter. Why? “On your quaint little trip, darling. Bram told me about it.” She fluffs her bangs and looks at me like I’ve got half a brain.
I set my drink down on the counter with a loud clack. “Bram? He’s my agent. Why on earth are you talking to him?”
“Let’s not get jealous, Masie. You know--”
“Jealousy adds wrinkles to the brow. Yeah, I know, Mom. You say that all the time.”
She purses her lips into a smile. “Now, honestly, fix yourself up for the beach. You look like you’ve been dragged to hell and back. We need to spread Coco’s ashes before the sunset. You know he never liked the dark.”
I’m momentarily speechless, which only happens when Mom is around. “I--First of all, I don’t think the ashes will know the difference. Second of all, I barely ever knew Coco. He was Rach--”
“Graham! Graham, get in here!” Mom hollers over me. “Where on earth is that man?” she says, rolling her eyes and giving me a look while absentmindedly stirring her drink. On the surface level, the look means ‘aren’t men idiots?’, but because I know her, I know it really means ‘we don’t talk about Rachael’. Rachael, my sister Rachael.
My mother was blessed with two children before her husband left her, had an affair with her best friend, left her too, and then tragically drowned on the set of a reality TV show. I only remember him as a tall, loud-mouthed man who smelled like cologne, cigarette smoke, and other women’s perfume. He died when I was three and Rachael was seven. I don’t miss him.
Rachael, on the other hand, was something of a prodigy, having been a child actor on Broadway for many years of her life. And then she grew up and they stopped casting her. By then she was too big to be a child, too much of a heavy smoker to be a good singer, too heavy-handed in her acting to be cast on-screen. Mom was disappointed, and I was pleased that I wasn’t going to be the only one at home anymore. But Rachael never moved home. At the age of fifteen she took everything she had and moved in with some guy she’d met. For years I didn’t know where she was or what she was doing.
Then, three years ago, she’d appeared on Mom’s doorstep with nothing but the clothes on her back. She was in and out of rehab for months before Mom couldn’t take it any longer and kicked her out. It was during one of her more stable periods that Rachael had brought a cat home with her one day. She’d named it Coco.
If anyone wanted a farewell ceremony, it would be Rachael. Not me, and not Mom either. But Mom and Rachael don’t talk. Rachael and I don’t talk either, though she does beg me for money. Every once in a while I transfer a small sum into her empty account, but who knows what she does with it.
Graham materializes next to me, and I snap back into the real world. Jamie is here too, with a freshly-made sangria in his hand. “--but all he ever wants to do is go to the movies, and I just wish he actually wanted to go on a date where we could talk, you know?”
My mother, who is a full head shorter than Jamie, pats him on the head like he's a stray dog. “Yes. These are all very good points.” Her eyes, brown, the same as mine, dart to me. “Are you going to get changed for the beach or not?”
I’m tempted to say something to her about Rachael. We’ve never discussed her. I used to try and ask questions, but nowadays Mom pretends she doesn’t exist. So instead, I grumble something and take my sangria with me upstairs.
pt 5: https://www.theprose.com/post/760230/wrecking-a-funeral
pt 1: https://www.theprose.com/post/642933/living-in-the-moment
pt 2: https://www.theprose.com/post/708516/darian-tv-producer-russel
pt 3: https://www.theprose.com/post/759007/coffee-stained-egos
There aren’t too many things I seriously regret. This is really only because once I start, how do I stop? But right now, half-in and half-out of bed, only a large t-shirt on, my hair sliding out of my bun, I feel something worse than regret. Shame.
It’s like snakes on my skin, my hand beginning to shake as I clutch my phone and reread the email. And reread it again. And again.
We regret to inform you. We will not be moving forward with the screen adaptation of The Lakeside Haunt. Luck on future endeavors. Thank you.
What a load of bullshit.
I cannot believe this. Darian and I got on so well! Too well? Is that possible? Is the book not good enough? Was it that damn Tessa lady? Were they ever even considering me in the first place? Was I doomed to fail?
It’s barely nine a.m. and my life is crashing down around me, and I haven’t even put on clothes yet.
“You’re the one who told me we have this in the bag,” I bark into my phone, which is propped up against my face with one shoulder. Both my hands are occupied holding up expensive ballgowns to my body that I would never have an occasion to wear. Other than a movie premiere, perhaps. Oh wait.
Bram’s voice is aggressively calm. “I told you, Masie, that you had a good shot. It was never a guarantee. And listen, there will be more people and better deals down the road, we both know that.”
“Oh, we both know?” I snap, setting down a silver-sequin number that has a price tag almost as long as my credit card number. I wave over the saleswoman and ask her to grab me a medium. I’m pissed that the small is visibly too small. “Bram, I believe it’s your job to set this shit up, and now I don’t even know what I did wrong? They barely even gave me a chance.”
I can hear him exhaling through his nose, and picture for a brief moment his lovely nose, and punching it squarely. Not that I’m very handy with my fists, but a girl can daydream. “I set it up, yes. But you’re not free of responsibility. Maybe a more businesslike attitude will–”
“Will what?” I cut him off. The saleswoman is back, and I grab the dress and shuffle into a changing room with it and three others, putting Bram on speaker phone. “Are you saying if I knew everyone’s name and regurgitated business jargon it would be a done deal?”
I strip and put the sequin dress over my head, struggling with the scratchy and unforgiving fabric. “No, Masie. I think we both know that I’m saying maybe you shouldn’t have slept with the representative we were talking to.”
I yank the dress down and squint into the mirror: sparkly, but god is the bust loose. It looks like a paper bag. Good lord, it’s terrible. I let out a pained wail, and Bram has raised his voice but I can’t hear him, and the saleswoman knocks and knocks on the door. She finds me in a ball on the floor, one hand still punching at the hang up button on my phone screen even though the call is long since over, and my other hand wrapped around my skull to keep it in place.
There’s a horrible high-pitched whining noise, and it’s me, so I stop. My back is cold and bare, and I move my shoulder and hear another seam rip. The entire back of the dress is torn.
The saleswoman looks down at me, not a hair out of place, and informs me that she’ll be charging it to my card. She turns on her heel and leaves, shutting the changing room door behind me.
I don’t normally do this, but I cry. Because if ever you’re going to cry, you should do it alone, while sitting on the floor, wearing a medium-sized disco ball.
Bram has invited me to a local coffee shop, which is always a bad sign. It's the equivalent of meeting on neutral ground; we both know it's wrong to have a screaming match in the middle of someone enjoying their latte macchiato. I'm usually willing to forgo manners, when it suits me, but I need respect in this particular coffee shop or this one hot barista named Enrique might stop giving me the extra scones. And Bram wouldn't willingly come here because he is, like a freak of nature, not a fan of coffee.
I'm here early, which means I'm here half an hour early. Bram arrives everywhere fifteen minutes before the scheduled time, and today I was determined to beat him. I think I know what this is about. I haven't turned in any progress on Great Perfect Tides. I'm supposed to be writing it, I know, but I can't find the energy. Every time I have something else to do it's an excuse not to write, and every time I don't have anything to do I stare at a blank page until my eyes blur.
If Bram is surprised to see me here before he was, his face doesn't show it. His mouth is in a neutral line, and his sea-blue eyes briefly take me in before he sits down across from me. I push a blood-orange tea towards him, one hand still curled around my coffee.
"Thanks," he says, accepting the drink. I wait for him to continue, but he clams up and stares at his fingers, splayed out on the tabletop. He looks braced for something, which either means there's bad news for both of us, or the news for me is so bad that he's steeling himself for my reaction. Unfortunately, I expect the latter.
I cross one leg over the other, wondering if I should've worn something more loud. The plaid palazzo pants haven't gotten any attention yet. "Well?" I prompt.
"Maisie," Bram starts, like this is a business letter. He's staring me right in the eye, but he's got that blank gaze on his face. The one that makes me think maybe he's a robot. My mouth twitches into a frown.
“Bram,” I say back in a fake-serious voice.
Suddenly, his face softens, and I get the feeling he’s saying something other than what he’d meant to. “Are you ok?”
I laugh and raise my coffee to my lips, briefly thinking about the dream I had last night. I don’t remember much, but there had been this monstrous dog with no eyes that kept biting my arm and my sister was there but wouldn’t help me and she just kept grinning. “Is it the outfit? Too boring? I don’t usually try to impress you, but I’ll try harder next time,” I say from behind my coffee.
Bram looks away from me and his shoulders drop a little. I’m mad at myself that he’s so clearly disappointed in me, but what the hell kind of a question is that?
“You’re going on a trip,” he tells me evenly. He hasn’t looked back at me, and instead is pulling out a slip of paper from his messenger bag. I realize as he puts it on the table between us that it’s a plane ticket.
I put my coffee down, intrigued. Good lord, he’s such a downer. He makes vacation sound like a prison sentence. “Excellent! When are we going? What are we doing?” I do usually hate business but if it’s New York or somewhere equally as glamorous I’m down. And I love to do vacation shopping.
“It’s just you.”
I pick up the ticket slowly. “Ok? Who am I meeting?” This is both unusual and mysterious. I kinda like it. Then I squint at the ticket. “Illinois? Windthrow Point, Illinois? That’s not even a real place.” I glance at Bram, who’s fixing the button on his shirt sleeve. “This is a joke, right?”
“It’s not a joke.” His grim face, also, makes it clear that this is not a joke.
I give an incredulous laugh. “Ok, well I’m not going to the middle of nowhere.” I push the ticket back across the table.
Bram sets a hand over the slip of paper. “You need to take a break, Masie. It’s already set up. You’re going.”
I lean back in my chair, crossing one leg over the other. “Yeah, ok. Whatever you say. Oh wait, you’re not in charge of my personal life.” I let out a soft chuckle. “No thank you.”
“You’re leaving in two days.” He’s so fucking monotone.
I stand, and I'll have to apologize to Enrique, because I actually laugh and take the lid off my coffee, ever so careful so as not to drip any from the lid. Then. Then I chuck the cup upside-down onto the ticket, and Bram doesn’t have enough time to move his hand, and he yells “shit!” and everyone’s looking at my plaid palazzo pants now as I strut out of the shop.
I’m shouldering my way down the sidewalk, breathing heavily. Probably from the exercise, god, I should exercise more.
“Masie! Damn it, slow down!” There’s footsteps and I bump into an old man who has big glasses and glares at me, and then Bram’s got a hand on my forearm. When I stop, he lets go of me like I’m poisonous.
I want to apologize about burning his hand, but then he says, “I just want you to get out of California for a while. I don’t need to know everything that’s going on in your life, but you can’t go on like this.” His eyes are searching mine. He–he pities me.
I recoil from him and keep walking. I’m not going anywhere in particular. He keeps up. “Like this? Like what, Bram? I have money, and a house, and a career. I’m hot and single and desirable. I don’t really see what the problem is.” I make sure to sound just a twinge irritated, but not too bothered. That’s right, I’m Masie Clements and nothing bothers me. I’m un-botherable.
“Masie. Masie, you used to drunk call me once a month–which, let’s be honest, is already too often–and you’ve drunk called me twelve times in the last week.” I’m not looking at him, but he sounds earnest. He’s so snivelly and annoying.
“I’m not an alcoholic, if that's what you're implying. I just go to a lot of fun parties,” I tell him coolly. “If you need me to define fun party for you, since you’ve probably never–” I realize he’s no longer beside me, and I look behind me. Bram’s got his arms folded, which is irritating because he’s got nice arms that look extra nice like this: shirt fabric stretched over the muscle. His mouth’s in a tight line. I backtrack and stare at him like he’s the dramatic one.
“I won’t force you. But you should think about it.” His voice is rough, and I realize he’s angry. Well and truly. He pulls a coffee-stained plane ticket out of his pocket and hands it to me. “Don’t call me,” is all he says when he leaves.
I clutch the ticket and look up at the sun, resisting the urge to curse out loud and desperately fighting the tears trying to well in my eyes.
pt 1: https://www.theprose.com/post/642933/living-in-the-moment
pt 2: https://www.theprose.com/post/708516/darian-tv-producer-russel
like any other addiction, it slowly kills you
your heroine flits through the blood in your chest
and bangs against your ribcage causing blood to fill in the lungs
and you cough, spit it out, and take it again
pretty soon it's all you know and all you think you need
despite the fact that you no longer recognize your face,
it's red and puffed up and makes a mask of shame
because you let it breathe for you
so your heart stops when it's not around.
so one day in a drunken stupor, you look over
and notice how much you are giving
while all the time there is a black hole sitting
on your couch devouring everything
and punishing you for what it decides you aren't giving it.
So it's enough and you rip out the IV
and it bleeds for a while, might I add,
but you notice that you gasp for air while you're crying
and you can finally breathe again.
I lost control. And that's all she wrote. But then, no joke, I saw poetry in motion. Reality rhyming while I'm mindful of minding business big or small. I came to crawl out of my ego-crib, proceed to promptly sit up straight, witness to reality demonstrate its way with the Way. Okay? And here's what the jam-band would say. It's all atoms dancing, electrons prancing, gluons laughing - but then keep diving, your scuba gear binding, you will get to finding, that there's no separation, just pure space-ness, and upon the amazement and elation that mind-brush will be painting, you will feel the utter and absolute opposite of anxious.
I didn’t see the thorns.
I didn't see the thorns.
It's true, I didn't see them.
I thought it was the intricacies of love,
but it was nothing but a thorn in my side.
I didn't feel the thorns.
Its true, how could I feel them?
When its a story pointed towards romanticizing,
I grow numb to the sharp sting.
I didn't notice the red flag.
It's true, I didn't notice it.
Maybe because the red flag was crumpled up into a beautiful rose,
and nobody had ever given me a rose before.
If January had shattered me like glass
February was the shards that were left upon the floor
we were short, and sharp, and dangerous
leaving scars upon both of our hearts
broken broken broken
and there was no winner in our desperate grasp for freedom
shadowed by the force in which we crashed to the ground
You were red- a cherry, burning red
and I was blue- ice cold, leaching color
and together all we were was
broken broken broken
pieces of shatter glass upon the floor
I knew that falling out of love took months
but I suppose this time I was blindsided
clinging to past realities
I am content now but there lingers this pain
the pain that I don't feel the same
because you have changed.
my heart grows weak
unable to withstand all the pushes and the pulls
when you started to play the guitar on my heartstrings instead of your own.
You keep turning on me
and I no longer feel secured and loved by you
only your lingering judgment and your hesitancy.
That's not what growing old together should look like.
We do not grow weak
we grow stronger despite age
I am falling out of love because I can't hold on any longer when you give me nothing to hold on to.