Short Story: The price of love

Love is stupid. Yeah, I said it. Maybe love makes people stupid, or at least makes sane people do stupid things. Maybe it’s part of it, or all of it, or maybe it’s just me. I don’t know. I used to know, just like everyone’s an expert until you’re mired in something and you realize just how little you know. I just don’t know.

Right now she’s clinging to life on the barest of threads. The doctors say she’ll go at any moment, but they’ve been saying that for almost a week. Experts my ass! It hurts to see her like this, a woman in the prime of her life. She should be living her life, but the irony is that if she were, she wouldn’t be here with me. Like I said, love makes people stupid, me included.

I was never the kind of guy girls noticed. Sure they were nice to me, smiled at me, became my friend. I was, as I later learned, non-threatening. I was safe, the kind of guy they could trust, the guy they could talk to because I was understanding, and kind. I was the kind of nice they all claimed they wanted, but in reality didn’t. I soon came to believe that nice was code for loser.

Then I met Carly. Carly was like the rest of them, except she gave me something no one had ever given me: a chance. We started dating my sophomore year of college. She had broken up with her boyfriend, a star on the basketball team. He was the typical douche athlete, and all the women wanted him, and he obliged, never mind that he had a girlfriend.

So she dumped him and soon started dating me. I hadn’t realized it at the time, but I was just a rebound, worse still that she used me to make him jealous. Losing out to a guy like me made him crazy jealous, and I was too blind to see it. She soon dumped me and took him back. I was devastated.

Carly, just so you know, was, in those days, a beauty. The years and her illness have ravaged her, but beneath her withered and pained expression lingers the ghost of her former glory. She was blond, with hazel eyes, pale skin, and the cutest freckles on her nose. She had a magnetic personality, and she could make friends with anyone, even a recluse like me. She drew people to her, a flame pulling in another moth to become her next victim.

She was my first girlfriend, my first grown-up girlfriend, I should say. I had a few summer flings in camp growing up. Hold hands, an awkward peck on the lips, that sort of thing. I lost my virginity with her, fell madly in love with her, and it tore me to shreds being dumped the way she did me. I was just a cog in her plan to win back her dream boy.

I fell to pieces. No one knew it by seeing me. I was so straitlaced that no one would ever have seen my inner turmoil, not that anyone was close enough to have known. I was for all intents and purposes, friendless. I suffered alone. I just turned my attention to my studies to cope.

But I had become obsessed with her, but I just accepted it. What could I do? Even I, for all my naivette, understood that I had no chance to win her back. I could admit defeat and walk away with some vestiges of dignity, or I could pine for some woman who had made a fool of me.

Funny thing is that dating her had made me seem more interesting to some other woman. I began to date. I found a serious girlfriend my junior year, and we dated for almost two years, up until a week before graduation. I found myself as I broadened my horizons, and I found some confidence as I came into my own. I had become a man.

But I never got over Carly.

She would come around every so often, this damned woman. Every time she dumped a guy, or they dumped her, she would come by. I broke off a few relationships because of her, including that serious girlfriend, someone with whom I could have married. I know because she had been hinting at it for months. I loved her in a way, but she wasn’t Carly. She couldn’t compete with her, and she never knew she was competing with her. I did her wrong. I did to her what Carly had done to me, and I regret it.

Carly knew that I was obsessed with her, and she took advantage of it. She used me to boost her ego when she was feeling down. She used me to get over her failed relationships. I was nothing more than a plaything to occupy her time until some more suitable asshole stole her attention.

It went on like this for a couple of years, until the year we became 27. Almost everyone we knew was getting married, having children, settling down. Carly decided it was time to grow up and get with the agenda and get married, so she did, to a guy named Kurt. Just like that, I was cast aside for the last time.

By then I had grown used to it. I was tired of it and it came as a relief. Yes it hurt, and yes I cried, but I was also glad that I could gleam some measure of closure. This cruel game had come to an end, and I could finally move on.

I met a girl, dated, and we became engaged. Everything was going great, until Carly came into the picture to ruin my life one last time. My engagement fell apart, mainly because of Carly, but also because my fiancee was cheating on me with one of my friends, something Carly was all too happy to point out.

Carly’s marriage had fallen apart because her husband wanted a family, and she couldn’t conceive. It was impossible. Uterean cancer had taken her chance of having a family, and with it her hope for the life she had wanted.

The cancer was in remission, she told me, but I think she knew something that she didn’t let on, that the cancer would return, which it did a couple of years later. In the meantime, we rekindled our relationship, and this time it stuck. Carly had become domesticated. Gone was the wild girl I had fallen in love with. Her love was subdued, tamed, and I think it was because she knew she was dying soon.

We got married as soon as the ink from her divorce had dried. At thirty-one I had my dream woman, but I could sense that it was not going to last. Her fire had been extinguished, and she no longer felt the need to lead me on. I knew she was using me again, and because I was so in love with her, I let her, and I let her to this day.

She came back not because she loved me, but because I loved her. She knew no one would take her. Carly was damaged goods. Those are her words, by the way, not mine. She didn’t want to die, and though the doctors had told her that her cancer was gone, she felt that they were wrong.

After four years of marriage, the cancer came back. This time there was nothing to be done. It had spread to her lungs, her kidneys, her brain. It was attacking her, killing her slowly, and no chemotherapy, no radiation, could save her.

Now, a week before our fifth anniversary, she lays in our bed, a hospice worker coming in daily to check up on her, and a nurse does as well. She didn’t want to die alone and she knew I would take her back.

I hate myself for letting her do this to me, but I am powerless. I’ve come to believe that I don’t really love her. I think I’m obsessed with her as the woman I couldn’t hold on to, Now that I have her, I’ve come to see that I don’t love her like I thought I did. Even so, I never walked away. I’m a nice guy after all. I ended up with the girl, though not in the way I might have wanted, but I have her. Til death do us part. I just wish I hadn’t had to find a way to give her cancer to make her come back to me. I wish I didn’t need to kill her to keep her from leaving me again.

She’ll never know that my work with cancer was never to find a cure, but to learn to manipulate it, to weaponize it. She’ll never know, and soon, she’ll never know anything again.

Love is stupid? Maybe, but love turned me into a monster, and I’ll never be nice again.

 


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Dark thoughts

It’s dangerous when I’m home alone. I have nothing to occupy my time, and the dark thoughts that usually cloud my mind are free to run wild. My insecurities are ripping at my soul, and I feel lost, afraid, alone. It’s been a while since I’ve felt this way. At least to this degree.

I’m working on my project, reading and rewriting one scene at a time, but there’s something that is driving me crazy, a hope, a desire, a connection that I was praying would come about that I feel is slipping through my fingers, if even it existed in the first place. I’ve been beginning to question if it had.

The uncertainty is weighing me down, making me reevaluate what I want to do. I have nothing to tie me here anymore, and I’m beginning to believe it may be time to walk away and search for whatever it is I’m missing elsewhere. I don’t think I’ll find it here.

When I look at my job, it’s going well, better than I thought it would. I’m now considering my future with the company. Do I want to move up? Would it be possible to move out of working at the store level? What am I capable of doing? Do I possess the skills to be successful in this company?

I have always maintained that money is not what motivates me. It isn’t. Money, for the sake of money, doesn’t sustain my soul. I need something that motivates me, something to sustains me, something that makes me feel proud. I haven’t found that anywhere. I need something that does.

I have my writing, for sure, but even there I’m slacking. I don’t know if I have the skill necessary to write well enough to succeed as a writer. I don’t know if anyone would care to read what I write. Maybe all I lack is confidence, though I haven’t had anything to boost my confidence, either. I’m probably being too hard on myself.

As much as I’m complaining, I’m probably happier than I have ever been in my life. I feel freer than I ever have. I’ve been coming to terms with who I am, which has been a difficult road to travel. I’m not yet at the end of that particular journey, but I’m further along than I ever dreamt possible.

But for all my happiness, I feel as though I’m missing something, and that’s what has my dark thoughts depressing me. I’m looking forward to trip to Georgia later next month, and in a few months, my trip to Florida. I need an adventure, but I need more than that to sustain me. I need to recharge my soul, my sense of purpose. I want someone, too, to connect with. If only I were so bold.

And at that, I’ll get back to my writing.

My promise for 2017

writewhatscaresyouAnother year has come and gone. On a personal level, this year has been the best year so far. I’ve let a lot of my anger and bitterness go. I’ve accepted some hard truths about myself. I’ve opened myself up more than I ever have. I’ve discovered that I’m capable of loving and being loved. I’ve discovered that I am able to be happy.

However, this year has not been so good as far as my writing. I’m just not taking the time to do it like I should. Work has completely taken over everything, especially these past few months. I’ve taken on more responsibilities, and in turn, it has diminished the amount of time I have to simply sit down and write. When I have the time, I’m so exhausted that I end up vegging out in front of my laptop and while away watching videos on YouTube. I love Grav3yardgirl, in case you’re wondering.

I haven’t worked on anything other than my NaNoWriMo novel, which is no where near complete. I’ve written a lot in the way of short stories, but my blog has been neglected. I haven’t done any book reviews since February, and I promised someone I’d do one. I promise to get to it in January.

My blog is suffering. I don’t receive the number of views I was getting in previous years, mainly because I’m not writing. I don’t write much because I’m busy on a personal journey, one that I chronicle elsewhere, but not ready to share with you. It’s deeply personal, one of self-discovery and acceptance, but there is still a ways for me to go before I’ll share it here.

As for reading, I’m not reading as much anymore. I miss it. I miss sitting down and losing myself within a story, of tagging along for the journey, wondering where the author intends to take me. I miss letting my imagination run wild as I picture in my mind, the action written before me, translating words into action.

So, for my 2017 resolutions, this is what I resolve:

  1. Read more
  2. Blog at least twice a week
  3. Set aside time to write on my works in progress
  4. Love more and hate less
  5. Forgive and let go any lingering resentments
  6. Exercise my body as much as my mind
  7. Learn something new
  8. Travel as much as I can
  9. Learn to live and embrace what life has to offer
  10. Be happy

This is what I resolve. I want to improve my life, to find love, to find happiness. I want to get back to following my dreams of becoming a writer. I want to explore who I am, what I am, to write about my life. There’s a lot to do this next year. 2016 has brought me closer to the person I’m supposed to be. I can’t wait to see where 2017 takes me.

Happy New Year to all my readers, and keep reading!

Short Story: Shards

The look in Timothy’s eyes said it all. Grace saw him as he rounded the corner of the aisle as she stocked the shelves of the toy department. She had dreaded seeing in him for some time, dreaded the look he was now giving her. Her hands instinctively went to her belly, protecting her baby from his anger, though he was never prone to fits of outrage. His reaction was all the worse for it.

With one glance at her pregnant form, she could see waves of shock and surprise fighting with jealously and anger. She thought there was revulsion in there where, but she wondered if she was reading her own feelings in his eyes as they stared silently at one another. Her customers walked by them, oblivious to the awkwardness of the reunion.

“His?” Timothy muttered at last, once he found his voice.

She nodded. “Yeah, sorry I didn’t tell you. Me and Ken are, well…”

“I can see that,” Timothy said as he grappled with the unexpected feeling of betrayal. “You and him, huh?”

Grace nodded again, rubbing her belly absently, regretting the chain of events that led her to this moment, and not for the first time. “It was an accident, you see. Didn’t mean for it to happen.”

“Didn’t mean for it to happen,” he sighed quietly, closing his eyes as he tried to make sense of everything. “I thought he was only a bit of fun after your divorce. Wasn’t that why you and me didn’t happen?”

“I know,” she whined. “I know. He was only supposed to be someone to  play with before I settled down with someone a little more stable. I’m sorry. I know we were supposed to, but,” she shrugged helplessly. “You disappeared, and I know we kept in touch, but I thought I would never see you again.”

“I moved an hour away,” he retorted angrily, losing control of his emotions. “Promoted and moved one fucking hour away. I tried to call you, but you never answered. I text you, and the same. Oh, and you blocked me on everything. I guess you didn’t want me to know what was going on.”

“That was Ken’s doing,” she protested weakly. “Didn’t want me to get any ideas. He’s kind of controlling, and he’s always been jealous of you. You know how he’s like.”

“Oh, I remember Ken. Spent his whole marriage, or all three of them, controlling them, cheating on them, and just plain treating his wives like crap.”

“I know, but he promised it would be different this time.”

“Different? This time?” He said inquiringly as he pieced it all together. “You and Ken are married?”

“Well, no,” she shook her head, “but we’re supposed to get married in a month, once his divorce is finalized. “I don’t want to raise this baby without his father.”

“But you had no problem raising your other ones without their father,” Timothy argued heatedly. “What makes him so special.”

“I don’t know really,” she furrowed her brow in concentration, trying to explain the unexplainable. “It just is, you know. We’re together now. We’re going to have a family.”

Timothy scoffed, shaking his head in disbelief. “I must be the biggest fucking idiot.”

“No you’re not! Why would you even think that?”

“Because, I was hoping that maybe me and you could, but now this,” he pointed at her pregnancy. “I mean, holy fuck woman! You’re having Ken’s baby. And you’re marrying him? How fucking stupid can you be? How fucking stupid am I to hold on to the hope that maybe you’d finally decide to give me a chance. I mean, you said you loved me. You said you were in love with me.”

“I was,” she cried. “I still am, but it’s complicated.”

“No,” Timothy shook his head. “It’s simple, or at least it was. You chose him over me,” he said, tears streaming down his face. “Funny how everyone says I’m a nice guy, but it’s always the asshole that ends up with the girl. Either no one wants the nice guy, or maybe I’m really not as nice as everyone pretends I am.”

“You are, and I’m sorry,” Grace pleaded, sobbing into her hands, longing to fall into Timothy’s arms once more. “I fucked up. I should have picked you, but now I’m having his kid. I’m sorry.”

“No,” he shook his head. “Don’t be. I’m the one who should be sorry. I wasted all this time hoping that you’d give me a chance, but of course it was just that. I colossal waste of time. I – I have to go. Um, see you around, but probably not.”

He turned to walk away but Grace grabbed his arm and turned him around, pulling him towards her and kissing him. His resolve melted as he kissed her back, his need pulling him towards her in spite of himself. He ached for her and now there was nothing for him to do but walk away, but he couldn’t tear himself away.

Finally he wrenched himself from her grasp, unable to control the sobs tearing down his pride. “I love you, but I can’t do this. Not again. I’m sorry, but – goodbye.”

Without giving her a chance, he raced away. Grace stood there, rooted to the spot as he disappeared back around the corner, watching the man she was in love with get away, and she died a little.

***

A little over a year later, Timothy walked around his store, making sure the workers were busy with their tasks when he got a text. “It’s Grace. I need to see you. Can we meet?”

He stared at his phone the rest of the day, not knowing how to respond. Once he was home, he picked up the phone and replied. “I guess. I’m off tomorrow.”

“Okay.”

They agreed to meet at the city park. He waited on the bench by the pond as Grace walked up pushing a stroller and followed by her two other children, a boy and a girl.

“Thank you for meeting me,” she said timidly. “Can you guys go and play? I need to talk to Timothy for a minute.”

Her children ran towards the playground, not bothering to wonder why they had driven more than an hour to meet the strange man. She watched them for a moment before turning around and taking a seat next to Timothy who sat impassively watching the ducks waddle by.

“You wanted to meet?” He said in a cold voice.

“Yeah, I did,” she replied timidly.

“Ken know you’re here?”

“Me and Ken are getting a divorce,” Grace replied, picking up her baby from the stroller.

“That him?” Timothy pointed.

“Little Dexter,” she said lovingly. “He’s turning one next month.”

“Time flies doesn’t it?”

“Yeah.”

“So why are you here?” Timothy asked at last. “I mean, I don’t mean to be rude, but why bother driving all the way up here just to tell me you’re divorcing that sack of shit. I suppose you caught him?”

“Three times, the last time in my bed, while the kids were sleeping,” she whimpered. “That was the last straw. I kicked him out. That was last month. He doesn’t care enough to call to see how Dexter is doing.”

“Okay, but why are you here?”

“I fucked up, okay?” Grace choked. “I choose the wrong guy and let the right one walk away. I should never have decided to play with him and lose you in turn. That was not what I wanted.”

“But it’s what you did, and what you got. You can say sorry all you want, but it’ll never change the fact that you picked him over me. He was the one you wanted, not me. Why should I give a shit that you’re here apologizing?”

“Because,” she begged, “I was hoping you’d maybe give me another chance? Please?”

Timothy laughed. “You’re fucking unbelievable. You expect me to take you in after what you did?”

“I expect you to tell me to get lost,” she shook her head wearily, resigned at the idea of losing him for good. “I had to try anyways. I have to see if you’d give me another chance.”

“I don’t know,” Timothy shook his head slowly. “I’m tired of always coming in last. I’m never anyone’s first choice.”

“You’re my first choice now.”

“No, I’ll never be your first choice. You made sure of that the moment you went with him. I’ll always come in after that asshole, no matter what you try to say on the contrary. He married you, and you had his baby. No matter what, you’re linked forever. I can’t compete with him.”

“You don’t have to,” she cried. “He gone. Out of the picture. He moved in with that whore of a homewrecker.”

“As I recall, you broke up his last marriage. Don’t get mad that he treated you like he treated everyone else. You knew what he was like, and you choose him over me anyways.”

“You made your point. I guess I drove out here for nothing then?” She looked at Timothy, and he could feel his resolve slip away. She had a way of doing that when no one else could.

She stood and he joined her, looking deep into each other’s eyes. He had forgotten the striking blue of her eyes, or the dimple on the corners of her smile, or the way she’d squint when she smiled, as she did right now.

He had to have her, but he knew it would end in heartbreak. He also knew his heart would fail if he allowed her to walk away. Either way he’d end up hurt. It was a no-win situation, and he hated no-win situations.

They fell into each other’s arms before their lips met. She fit perfectly in his arms, and she felt it too. They were perfect for each other. They held on for a minute or two before they broke their embrace. He had to answer her. Yay or nay? Either way he would end up broken, and he wondered if he should bother. He looked at her, ready to give her the answer, wondering to himself as he spoke if there would be enough shards of his broken heart to put back together again.


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Short Story: My curse

There’s a certain inevitability to the whole endeavor. Writing it down, it appears as though I may have given up, which I wish I could say wasn’t the case, but for honesty’s sake, I have. I don’t mean to make my plight sound more grand than it is, though for me it comes as a bittersweet epiphany, that in spite of my heart’s desire, despite what other’s may say in contrary to my own belief, I am destined to be alone.

I know. Maybe I’m not qualified to speak in matters of the heart. I admit that I’m too close to see my situation clearly. All I have to speak from is my own experience. So, after searching and hoping for someone, of fighting for and losing countless times, of having my heart pulled out and my emotions drawn out on public display so that the world could see me at my most vulnerable, I have decided to retire. I cannot stomach another heartbreak.

Love. We call most profanities four-letter words. So many are and I’ve come to regard love as another profanity. Many see it as a blessing, but I’ve grown bitter as each subsequent betrayal and rejection tore me down that all I see is a curse. Love is my curse. I am accursed. My heart has been damned.

My issue is that I’m not free to love. My love comes with conditions, though ironically I fall in love freely. I fall in love too easily, and the pain of not having that love reciprocated haunts me. Once I tried in vain to forestall that misery by only becoming involved with only the facile and the shallow, and it worked at first. I gave in to companionship of the body, but my mind and soul desired more.

I wanted someone complex, subtle of mind and spirit. I needed someone to compliment my own desire for knowledge, and perhaps someone who surpassed me in order to force me to grow. But the price is that those who I desire need someone who compliments them, and those types have demands of their own. Most don’t subscribe to keeping secrets, at least the kinds of secrets I have in my closet, but to open myself to them has only ended in being rejected, no matter how delicately they try to do so.

I am not my own man. I don’t know how others like me have found love and kept it. I try, and when I fall in love and desire that sort of intimate connection, the type that compels me to give myself completely, I have no choice but to tell. I’m met with the same response, so often that I’ve come to believe myself defective in some way, unworthy of love and companionship.

I look into the mirror and it has become an abyss. I no longer see the man the world sees. I see a hollow man, a vacuous shadow. I have become more and more of the other sort, the one who believes to his core that he should have been born a girl. I don’t care what people say about gender and sexuality, that women don’t subscribe to needing a man. My experience is that they do expect their men to be men. I seem to be neither, though I wear my mask well enough to fool most.

The last rejection was the final blow, my last hope. I fell in love despite my precautions. I gave in to her when I knew well that allow her to see me would doom us before we had a chance. I told her and before I knew it, she gave me the tired excuse that she wasn’t’ ready to date.

So I give up, ready for a change. I think I see a curtain fall in the future, though I hope to delay it as long as possible. I had hoped to live long enough to maybe find someone who could tolerate me, even revel in my absurdity, but hope can only go so far.

I’m exhausted, and the hour has grown late. Love is fickle and I suppose it has passed me by. I’ll go quietly into oblivion’s outstretched arms. Perhaps in the nothing I will find a measure of peace. At least there, there will be no need for pretense any longer.


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