October and NaNoWriMo

I seriously can’t believe that it’s already a whole week into October. Time has flown past me these last few months. This is the week of midterms for me so really, I should be working on that right now. Ah well. It’s an essay question midterm which I’m actually kind of excited about. I think this might be my first essay question test since my SAT’s. Good news – my professor dropped the minimum word count from 400 to 250 so that makes my life a little easier. Oh and we can discuss this in groups. This is officially the easiest class I’ve taken so far in my college career.

In other college news, I got my “If I could Be” essay back from my professor and I got an A on it so I’m off to a good start grade-wise. It’s a little thing but it means a lot to me in the long run… Also because it’s October that means National Novel Writing Month is almost here! Now that is both an exciting and terrifying thing. If anyone follows me on here and/or Twitter you know I participate every year. This time is no different except I’m starting early. Yeah, great idea right? Because it’s not like I have any other projects to focus on. A few writers and bloggers out on the web started this thing called NaNoWarmUp month and it’s basically a time to prep yourself for November. The goal of the month is to write 25,000 words either in a new project or existing project. In my case I’m working on an existing project. At first I wasn’t sure if I wanted to join in but it’s actually really helped me. It’s the first week of October and I’ve added over 4,000 words to my story. That’s more progress than I’ve made in months. I think having a tangible goal of 800 words a day/25k for the month really helps. Instead of “oh I’m just going to sit down and write for an hour” it’s I have a specific word count goal and I’m going to make that. Plus it helps to have a community of writers around you that understand. I’m sure I sound a little crazy when I start going on about characters in my head and word count goals (: Perhaps as I keep writing I’ll post excerpts from my current story. It’s a fantasy YA story and it might be one of the more difficult stories I’ve written so far. The weird thing is, I’m not sure why. Maybe I’ll figure that out as I get deeper into it. What is life if you don’t venture into the unknown? I’d say boring. Anyway, that’s about it from me. Another 4am blog post from yours truly. I have to get up early in the morning to work on my midterm. Did I mention it’s due Wednesday and I haven’t started it yet? Yeah… about that…..

#NowPlaying 

Still With Me (Remix) by Tritonal (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6RylZqjwmk)

&

Youth by Daughter (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2QT5eGHCJdE)

 

P.S.

Indie music is where it’s at :) 

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“If I Could Be…”

If you could be anything in the world, what would it be?

For me, this question was posed to me in my anthropology class last week. We had a to write a minimum 3-page essay on what kind of anthropologist we would be, why and what would be our research focus. Before this class I was torn between becoming a museum curator or a forensic anthropologist. I couldn’t figure out how to bring my fascination for history and human remains/material culture together. Then in the course of researching for this essay I discovered historical archaeology and bio archaeology. They are pretty similar except historical archaeology deals with more material culture left behind by humans and the bio side deals with, well the human structure- our bones which are always the best preserved part of us. I know, I’m probably pretty weird for wanting to dig up and identify human remains but I’m highly interested in how much we could learn from our ancestors. I feel like because of that essay question, “If I could be anything” I have finally settled on what type of anthropology I will pursue for graduate school. It’s going to be archaeology (: Now I’m kind of glad I ended up taking that semester off because it gives me more time. It’s pretty bad for me to be a ‘junior’ and not have attended any kind of field school. I want that hands-on experience before I dedicate the rest of my school years to this focus (even though I’m almost 100% sure this is what I want). Honestly I’m pretty excited. I still haven’t declared a minor because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with anthropology in general. Now it will probably be biology or some other science. Unfortunately the sciences are not my strongest point but I’m determined to get through it. That’s why they have tutors, right? (: 

So here’s to another step I’m taking in the right direction. It’s a slow process but I’m learning that the most important thing is to just keep moving forward no matter the setbacks. 

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Writer’s Block aka Ramblings at 2am

So I’ve been working on a particular story for just over a year now and I’m only about 6 thousand words in (essentially I have a first chapter). I have almost a full notebook in research/planning though, so I’ve made some progress. What I like about this story is that I’m doing something different- planning. Honestly, I’m not a planner. At all. In life or in my writing and I think it’s starting to affect me. I have trouble completing stories. They lay half-written in notebooks and old Scrivener files until I stumble upon them years later. What can I ever accomplish from these “stories” that are paragraphs to (occasionally) pages long but not finished? Basically nothing. And that lesson is something that I’m learning in real life as well. I promise there’s a point to me rambling on about my writing habits.

So this school year marks a change. My goal is to actually finish my goals, if that makes sense. I’m very much that person who is all gung-ho about ideas/projects/music but it’s all in phases. I never stick to it and I’m getting tired of it. All I do is rack up a list of things I’ve started. So I’m changing it. Like by taking guitar lessons. My acoustic has been sitting in my various apartments for years as I basically ignore its existence. I would love to learn to play a new instrument but why bother when I haven’t conquered the basics of the instrument that I have right in front of me? How can we move on to the next thing  if we skipped a step? And this leads me all back to writing. As a writer, when I have writer’s block, I take a step back in an attempt to refocus. After staring for hours at a blank Word document the mind can get a little crazy. But sometimes after staring for hours, I want to move onto another story because I have the smallest of plot bunnies running around my head. It’s easier to write the first few pages of a story than it is to finish a complete novel, no matter the genre. I wonder why that is. Anyway, I guess my point to all of this is for me to say that this year I’m going to finish everything that I start. I swear I have ADD when it comes to new hobbies or interests, it’s ridiculous. I would like to set a deadline for this particular novel that I’m working on and maybe I will in coming weeks. I think working toward a tangible goal is more motivation than an abstract dream. So we’ll see how this goes then, yeah? :) 

 

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I’m back (Again)

So yes, I know. I’m terrible with actually keeping up with this blog. My apologies. But I always come back, right?? (: Anyway today was my first day of “junior” year! Credit-wise I’m still considered a sophomore because of the break I took, but I like the sound of junior. Yeah I’m weird. So due to complications and bad time management skills my first two years, I’m only taking one class this year- Survey of Applied Anthropology. Surprisingly it’s going to be a very interesting class. It’s essentially made up of guest lecturers from the anthropology faculty that will give an overview of their particular research. So this semester I’ll get to meet/hear from real anthropologists, archaeologists, forensic anthropologists, etc. I’m super excited. I’m hoping that this will help me make a final decision concerning my sub-field. Also, I don’t need to buy ANY books for this class. Who wouldn’t love that?

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BEDA | Growing up and Coming Home

We made it safely to South Carolina! I was so excited to see the “Welcome to South Carolina” sign. It definitely put a smile on my face. My family and I spent a good hour just driving around town talking about what’s changed, what hasn’t and on some occasions what should have been changed. I was in town a couple of months ago but I didn’t tour the city. That hasn’t happened since I moved away three years ago. Three years is a long time…. Life has changed so much. 

I got to see my old house today. I basically grew up in that house. Our neighborhood was a small one, just five streets and maybe 35-40 houses but it was awesome to me when I was younger. Every summer all of the neighborhood kids would get together and have wonderful misadventures… But now, our old house is just that- old. An older gentleman had bought it a couple of years ago but it’s been empty for almost 9 months, according to the other neighbors. It was so weird standing outside in the yard just remembering. Eight years is a long time to live in one place (for me at least) and there’s a lot of memories in that house. It consumed a large part of my life. Also, that’s the first time I’ve actually gone back to a place I used to live. Growing up, we moved a lot but it was always somewhere different. Always going forward never looking back.

But today, we met up with some of our childhood friends with and reminisced over dinner.  I felt kinda bad for the staff because we were very loud (: I hadn’t seen my friends since I left three years ago and we all grew up so fast. Course, I can’t even imagine how our parents feel looking at all of us together. It’s all so strangely familiar. I know this city so well but it feels like I lived a completely different life here… and I guess I did. I moved to Indianapolis senior year of high school. I started out hating the city, hating the winter, and in general missing the south. Now I’ve grown accustomed to the city and the weather but I’m still a southern gal at heart. Give me my sweet tea and mid winters and I shall be a happy person. Anyway that’s all from me today. I could ramble for another few paragraphs but it probably wouldn’t be very interesting to read. So I won’t. Tomorrow we’re going shopping! I’m quite excited (: 

Until Next Time, 

Andrea Joy

P.S. 

This is more like Blog Every Other Day April… 

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BEDA | Vacation Time

I’m on the tail end of a 55-hr work week and I can not WAIT for this weekend. I get to go see my best friend be married and I’m so excited. As a bonus, I get four days off work. It was getting to the point where my colleagues were asking if I slept at my job… You know, one of the plus sides of being there every single day is that I have a cot in the back. So anyway, tomorrow I have to get everything ready for my trip. I tend to procrastinate so even though I’ve known about this wedding for about a month or two, I have nothing prepared. It’s bad.

I’ll be taking my computer with me, so I’ll be posting another story or two the next couple of days. It’s about a 11 hour drive from Indy to South Carolina so I’ll have plenty of time to write (: You might get two or three stories out of me. And of course, I shall be tweeting the entire time (for those who follow me). I’m really excited because it’s going to be a small reunion for me. Some of my friends (including the bride, my bestie) I haven’t seen since graduation two years ago. For others it’s been longer than that. I can’t wait to go back home. 

In other news, I just started Daily Burn. It’s this workout site that is really pretty awesome. It has all types of workouts that you can do in the comfort of your own home. Plus you don’t have to own a lot of equipment for some of them. I started this Tactical Bodyweight Training one yesterday and my god is it intense. It’s a 28-day “body blast”. Day 1 was hard enough, I’m not exactly looking forward to day 2 but I felt good after the exercise. Also the trainer incorporates yoga moves into the workout which is pretty cool. I love yoga. So I’m off to go workout.

Until next time, 

Andrea Joy

Now Playing: Something Beautiful by NeedToBreathe 

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BEDA | Just Another Blog Post

 So work has pretty much consumed my life for the past three days and now I feel terrible for not posting anything at all. I can’t even make it through the first week without falling off the wagon… Le sigh. Ah well. I would say that I’ll post some awesome story to make up for it… But it’s not gonna happen. So I give my apologies for my lack of writing. 

Anyway, how about an update on my life? I’m currently on break from college, I’m going back this fall. I’m a sophomore at a local university studying anthropology. I’m trying to figure out what I’m going to minor in because that will dictate my focus when I go for my masters degree. I’m stuck between Spanish or Biology. The funny thing is, I’m kind of terrible at both so either way, I’m going to need some extra studying time. As for the job that consumes my life, I’m a server at Chili’s Bar and Grill. Working in a restaurant has been an experience so far. I’ve been with Chili’s for just over two years now. I spend about 40-45 hours a week there just cuz I love my job so much. Kidding. But really, I’m a full-time server (which they say shouldn’t exist). So yeah. Work always kills my brilliant ideas (like blogging every day). It kinda depresses me on occasions. But I just shrug my shoulders and move on. So anyway, that’s it for me tonight. I get to spend another 10 hours at work tomorrow and I need my beauty sleep (: 

Until next time,

A.J. 

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BEDA | “A Dragon’s Vengeance”

Me again! Day three of Blog Every Day and I’m kind of proud with the progress I’ve made. This story was a whole lot easier to write. The prompt was, “And you thought dragons didn’t exist.” This is where it led me. I’m excited because I got to incorporate a little fantasy into my short story. A little warning, this one is slightly darker than my other stories but I hope it works out well.

~~~~

The ringing of the church bell woke me from my sleep with a start. Today was market day but according to the priest, shops couldn’t open until church was over. He hoped it would encourage more people to attend the services but it just caused most to simply sleep in late. I rolled off my cot and immediately walked to the window. The sun was just beginning its morning arc, the sky was still tinged orange and purple from the sunrise. This was my favourite time. I breathed in deeply and smelled the sea. The salt-tinged air was comforting. I had lived in Greydale my entire life but I had dreams of embarking on an adventure, like the legends of old. But I couldn’t escape my reality. I had responsibilities- namely my sister Blayre. With both our parents gone, I had to provide a proper life for her. Keeping a house was the easy part. My father left us the whole estate in his will. Providing food? Well that was a little more difficult. Although I was born into a decently well-off family, not many businesses want to hire an orphan child. I could not understand the politics of it and I did not wish to. All I knew was that I had to become creative in my choices for work. My father’s last wish was for me to take care of my sister and I intended to do the best I could.

I crept downstairs and found her lying next to a cooling fire pit. Summer was early in birth and so the nights still carried spring’s chill. I paused before leaving to ensure that she was sleeping soundly. I preferred to visit the market while she was still sleep. That way she could eat the moment she awoke. She was still young and didn’t understand why we went hungry some days.

I pushed my through the throng of people that surround the open marketplace. The boats had just returned safely with the best catch Greydale has seen in weeks and everyone wanted a piece of fresh fish. I weaved my own way in and out looking for a specific seller. I had only seven copper coins left and I had to make the most of it. My destination was Tobin, who had been a friend to my father’s before the gods took him away from me. In honour of his late friend, Tobin always gave me the best fish and bread for the smallest coin. It was the only way Blayre and I had survived these last few months.

“Durien! Here, my boy!” I barely heard Tobin’s voice above the noise and did my best to follow it. When I got closer, I called out a greeting.

“Hello there Tobin. How’s the sea today?”

“As brutal a mistress as usual,” he replied with a chuckle. Tobin had been fishing these seas for as long I had known. There was no one else I trusted more in the market, or as captain. Our exchange flowed smoothly, both of us accustomed to doing business with each other. As Tobin’s wife was handing me a bag with my purchases a loud voice cut through the crowd.

“Dragons! Dragons have been sighted!”

Usually this would incite some sort of panic but dragons had not been seen for almost three hundred years, or so legend tells it. I remember listening to old bards under a moonlit sky singing of the great dragons. When I was younger I wished to see such beautiful sights. As I aged, however, I realised that I need to focus on what’s in front of my eyes, not what’s in my head. My favourite legend was about Sevelian, one of the biggest dragons to ever live. It was told that he could swallow three horses at one time. And that he was the size of a small town. The bards sang about his golden scales that shined bright as the sun- some say even brighter than the sun itself. Sevelian roamed the lands of Eriston obeying no man save one. This particular man was a dragon rider, the last of his kind. Ayalmar was his name and he was the only one who could ever control a dragon.

“We must flee! The dragon has come back!” Valentiln screamed, desperate to be heard.

But with the sudden discordant clanging of the citadel bells, everyone quieted and listened. It was a distress signal to all in the area. ‘Get home! Get safe!’ it seemed to say to me. Worried, I began to look around in an attempt to see this supposed danger. There was nothing. The market was still full and old Valentiln was still screaming about dragons even though no one listened.

“I should be getting back to Blayre,” I said to Tobin after a moment’s silence. “I dislike leaving her alone.”

“Hurry on home then,” Tobin’s wife replied and Tobin himself agreed. “We’ll see you next time,” she said as I turned to walk home. The journey home was faster than my journey to the market, for which I was thankful. I stopped on our doorstep reflecting for a moment before returning to my sister and that’s when it happened.

The sun disappeared.

For a long second the entire city was covered in darkness and I heard an unfamiliar noise… Whatever it was, it was huge. But no, there couldn’t be dragons. Could old Valentiln be right after all these years? I dropped the food at the doorstep and raced to the top of the closest city wall. The ringing of the bells seemed to be inside my very skull they were so loud. As I leaned over the rampart of the wall, the sun disappeared again, and this time I could see what was happening. It was a dragon, black as night and more than two full-mast ships long. It spread its wings and covered half of the citadel. From my place on the rampart I could see guards and knights running from barracks to greet this new threat.

“Cirahar! Cirahar has returned for vengeance!” I heard people screaming from below. Cirahar? I searched my memory for that particular legend. As the dragon made another turn around the city, the tale surfaced in my mind. Cirahar was the only dragon to ever be raised by humans, and they tortured it from birth until his assumed death. Dragons are already violent beasts but these humans created a pure demon. It was said that he vanished with the rest of the dragons. It even became a babe’s tale for young children who would not listen to parents. No one knew he would return.

“Blayre! Blayre! We have to leave!” I came to my senses and knew instantly I had to get my sister to safety. “Blayre! Now!”

She came running out of the house and I did not give her time to ask any questions. I just grabbed her hand and began running toward the docks. Unfortunately we were on the far side of the city- on a good day it took us about twenty minutes to reach the outskirts of the docks from our house. Just as we left the safety of our own roof was when the burning began.

Cirahar started with the towers. My view was obscured by the surrounding buildings but I could hear the screams. I had never heard the sound stone makes when heated to great temperatures- until now. If the guards were launching an attack they were having no affect on the beast. We ran. Everyone else was running with us. Children were crying, women were screaming. Some were carrying belongings like food or blankets. Others hadn’t even stopped to put on boots before fleeing. I could feel Blayre beginning to tire, the weight I was pulling grew heavier.

“Come on Blayre we have to make it!” She was only eight summers old but there was no way I could carry her and still keep my fast pace. I paused for just a moment to let her catch her breath. I glanced up to the sky and I could see that Cirahar was relentless in his assault. At least part of the city was burning and the wind carried the smoke directly into our faces. The smoke was black and burned our throats. Instantly we began to cough.

“I can’t breathe, Durien!” Blayre’s voice reached my ears. I tried to start moving again but by now we couldn’t escape the smoke. Our only hope was to escape the flames that were fast behind. I could feel the stones beneath my feet warming up from Cirahar’s flames. Was there no end to the burning? I held my sister’s hand tightly as we cut down a side street. There was less smoke and less people but who knew how long that was going to last? We had to move quickly. I led a winding, weaving path down side streets and alleys to avoid the worst of the flames. But when we got to the edge of the city where the docks began, Cirahar was already here. Most of the docks were on fire and my eyes burned from the charring. I scrubbed my eyes hard, hoping to at least retain some sight. After I moment I wished I hadn’t.

I could see families throwing themselves off of flaming docks, hoping a helping soul would save them- but none came. The stone buildings around us had already begun to collapse. Underneath one of the burning towers, I saw Tobin and his wife screaming for mercy. There was no mercy to be found. I closed my eyes to shut out the sights but that heightened my sense of the noise. The screaming, the crackling of the flames, the water I could hear boiling… there was no escape. We were all going to die here. Cirahar was exacting his vengeance.

I opened my eyes again searching for some small hope in this horror. There! A small boat tethered to the edge of the dock was untouched. I scooped my sister into my arms and began to run, praying to the gods for salvation. The dock was unsteady under my feet; the flames had already started feasting on this particular part. Cirahar was now circling the docks for this was where he had cornered hundreds of townspeople. Reaching the boat safely, I dropped Blayre into it and glanced back for just a moment. In that moment I saw Cirahar land on the stone dock, crushing some souls beneath his giant talons. Others that were within reach were snapped up between the dragon’s teeth. He was devouring my town and there was nothing I could do. Fear paralyzed me. Who was I to escape a dragon? If the gods decreed that I die this day there would be nothing I could do to change that. I closed my eyes in an attempt to steady myself. I could still feel Blayre’s hand in mine, grounding me. With a burst of determination I launched myself into the boat and quickly untethered it. Immediately the waves carried us up and away from the devastation and into freedom.

Perhaps it was the movement that caught the dragon’s huge eye, but no sooner than we had left the docks, Cirahar turned his attention to those on the water. He lifted his long neck and an unholy roar was released. His massive wings propelled his body into the air and in seconds he was above the water. Flames erupted from his snout and burned water and boat alike. As the flames reached our small dingy, I knew this was the end. I threw myself and Blayre into the water, but it was no relief from the heat or the flames. Cirahar boiled the water around us. I could feel my skin protesting from the intensity, lesions instantly rising on my arms and legs.

I never learned to swim but Blayre did. With my last breath, I imparted a final wish- “Live!” and pushed her toward the surface. The sea enveloped me, the saltiness I so loved on the air burning my eyes. As I floated I prayed for the gods to reunite with my father and mother. Within minutes, the water seemed much cooler against my skin and blackness tinged the edges of my vision. I closed my eyes one final time and knew no more.

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BEDA | “The Trouble with Gnomes”

Okay so this whole ‘new story every day’ idea was definitely a whole lot better in my head. My inner editor made writing this story particularly difficult. I’ll have to make sure to shut her in a box before this week is up. Anyway, here’s my BEDA day 2 story, “The Trouble with Gnomes.” It’s a random little thing….

P.S.

My internet went out for a good hour, otherwise I would have posted this on time

~~~~~~~

The knock on my office door interrupted my thoughts.

“Excuse me, Mrs. Hamilton?”

“Yes, Emily?” My voice was short. This was the third time my secretary had called my attention and it was starting to grate on my nerves. I had just hired the girl two weeks ago. I would hate to begin the search all over again.

She seems to pick up on my mood and began to stutter in answer, “Well, it’s just… There’s another one. And well I thought you might want to know about it.”

I rolled my eyes. “Another what? We are a big business and we receive a lot of packages on a daily business. Tell me specifically what it is.” I had no time to for this. My company was about to unveil a new make up line and I was chosen to headline it. As supervisor for this project I dedicated all of my energy to it.

“Well it’s just… I, um it’s more flowers.” She finally stuttered out.

I waved my hand in dismissal. “It’s fine, just leave them out there. I’ll see them on my way out.” For a moment I thought she was going to argue and my eyes flashed in irritation. I swear the temperature in the room cooled off a few degrees from the glare I directed at her. In response, Emily simply scurried out of the room and back to her desk. I sighed in relief. Finally, some peace and quiet. I had a feeling I knew exactly what poor Emily was talking about. It started about three weeks ago- flowers began arriving at the office for me. In the beginning I thought it was my husband (our seventh wedding anniversary was coming up) but he denied it. None of the gifts had notes and when I tried to question the florist on who had bought the flowers, she told me it was specifically anonymous and she couldn’t violate customer privacy. But the flowers were beautiful and they seemed to reflect my mood on that particular day. I would never admit it aloud but the sight of the flowers put a small smile on my face. My husband is attentive, I suppose but only when it counts- you know, the big ones. Anniversaries, Valentine’s, birthday… So I can’t complain, but with our work schedules we don’t get to see each other much except on the weekends. A random gift would be lovely, but of course he doesn’t think like that. Whoever this anonymous gifter was, he had good taste in flowers.

The rest of the day was uneventful until I was preparing to close down the office. That’s when Emily once again peeked her head around my oak office door.

“Uh Mrs. Hamilton? Before you leave, I have something for you. It’s another gift, I think.”

This surprised me. In the three weeks I had been receiving flowers, I never got two gifts in one day. “Well what is it?”

From behind her back, Emily produced a small brown box wrapped with twine. It was a very vintage style of gifting. This was most definitely not flowers.

“Thank you,” I said curtly and turned away to open the gift in the privacy of my office. Emily lingered for a moment, obviously hoping to be able to see what it was.

“Won’t I see you tomorrow?” I said in an attempt to dismiss her. It worked and she replied with a small, “Yes ma’am. Have a good night,” and exited my office.

I sat back down and turned the box over in my hands. There was nothing distinctive about it. It seemed to be wrapped in a brown paper bag and the twine was barely keeping it together. Curiosity was building inside of me. What could it be?

I slowly began to tear at the paper. Disappointment emerged quickly as I realised whatever the gift was, it was concealed in a plain blue gift box. This box had a lid and as I lifted it, a thought crossed my head. “If this is a bomb then I’m just screwed. Who knows how people are hiding those things nowadays”.

It wasn’t a bomb, thank God.

It was small ceramic garden gnome. It was wearing a red hat and sported a beard that reached its toes. The gift meant nothing to me. In fact, it gave me a strange feeling as I stared at it. I even shook it to see if something was hidden inside it but there was nothing. It was a simple gnome that you could probably find at a general store. I would’ve preferred the flowers, thank you, I thought. I was slightly upset but I couldn’t understand why. What I was expecting from the package, I couldn’t tell you but it wasn’t that. I quickly decided that it was not going to stay on my desk. I threw it into my trash bin and went on with my day.

Yet the randomness of the gnome tickled the back of my mind. I unlocked and entered my house not paying attention to my which caused me to stumble and knock the coat rack over which brought my husband running.

“Hey honey you okay? I heard a noise and…”

“Oh it was just me, Johnny. I tripped over the box here-” I cut myself off as I actually looked at the box I was pointing at. It was just like the one I got this afternoon but much bigger. Now this was getting weird. I understand getting packaged at my job. It’s not hard to send gifts to a business office but my house? That’s a little far for me. Johnny, not knowing the significance of it picked it up and began turning it over, looking for a sender.

“Did you order something, Laura?”

“… Not recently, no. You know what, we can just leave it there it will be fine.” I had enough strange for today, I did not want to bring it home with me. “Let’s just eat dinner, okay?”

“Well just open it. I would like to know what it is. You know my birthday is coming up, right?”

“As is our anniversary, dear. So how do I know that you didn’t order something to surprise me?”

I tried to play it off but I couldn’t keep avoiding the package without my husband picking up on my anxiety so I just snatched the box out of his hand and began walking toward our bedroom.

“I’ll just open it after dinner. I had a long day at work and I need to relax with a glass of wine first,” I called over my shoulder.

“Whatever you want then,” the response floated up the stairs and I barely registered it. I was already focused on this second package. I quickly went into the bathroom and shut the door. I sat on the edge of the bathtub and stared at the latest gift. With this box, it would make three gifts in one day. What caused the escalation in gifts? Why did they change from flowers to objects? How did this anonymous person get my personal address? So many questions raced through my mind as I turned this box over and over.

I untied the twine slowly and carefully. This box was bigger and it rested easily on my knees. Like the first one, the gift was enclosed in a outer gift box- it was blue again. I lifted the lid with apprehension. I just stared. Inside the box was a second gnome. This one was slightly different though. Its hat was a dark blue and instead of a beard, this gnome had some serious side burns. It also carried a spade in its hand. I lifted it out of the box and saw a note card at the bottom.

‘Like my friend?’ The note read.

Okay now that’s creepy. This time I took extra care to make sure the gnome was firmly planted in the trash can. There was no way this person could know I was throwing them away… Who would want to keep a gnome anyway? I didn’t keep anything close to a garden in my backyard so what would be the purpose of it?

Dinner was a quiet affair after I told Johnny about the gifts. Neither of us understand the significance of the gnomes but I was the only one unsettled by the physical appearance of them. It was something about their beady eyes… I couldn’t quite pinpoint it, but no matter what I did not want one of them in my house. We agreed to take the original packaging to the post office the next morning in an attempt to track the sender. But not before Johnny laughed at my weird fear(his words, not mine. Fear is a strong word for what I feel).

I went to sleep finally at peace with all the random gifts I had been receiving… and that disappeared by the next morning. I woke up and my first sight of the day was of another package resting on the edge of my bed.

“Johnny! Why is there a box on our bed?” I heard no reply. “Damn, must be in the kitchen,” I grumbled as I was forced to go find my husband. I grabbed the box on my way down the stairs.

“Johnny? Why is there a box here?” I repeated my question to him. He was in the middle of making breakfast for us. “I couldn’t tell you. I went out to check the mail and it was sitting on the front porch.” He paused to taste a bite of scrambled egg he was cooking. “Let me guess, no sender?”

“Right in one,” I replied. I was reaching a peak in my frustration.

“Well it shouldn’t hurt to at least open the package.” His curiosity got the best of him.

“But it’s not for us, isn’t that a federal offence?”

“Only if they find out,” came the quick reply.

“If we return these to the post office though, they’ll know.” Why did I always have to be the voice of reason in this house?

“Or we could just reseal it and be done with it.” By now he had finished cooking breakfast and was sliding his way toward the package. I could tell he planned on opening it whether I gave the go-ahead or not.

“Fine just open it. I know you want to,” It was too early for a stupid fight. I’ll just give him the fine, then we’ll see how curious he gets in the future.

Johnny threw me a stupid smile over his shoulder at being able to win this argument. I simply rolled my eyes. He carefully opened the package and like all the others, the actual gift was within a blue box. He took the lid off and then just stared for a good minute.

“Well what is it?” I asked impatiently.

“Um, well it’s a gnome.”

“Oh my god another one? How?”

“Wait a minute.” Johnny lifted the gnome out of the box and handed it to me. “There’s a card in here,” he said. I gingerly placed the gnome down on the counter as his eyes scanned quickly over the small note card. This one was just like the first one- an exact replica, I would say.

“’Be nice this time’” he read aloud.

Another beat of silence passed. By this point our breakfast was long gone cold but neither of us cared.

“Be nice this time…?’ Johnny repeated the words as a question toward me. I guiltily looked toward the ceiling as I replied, “Well I might have thrown the other gnomes out… I just don’t like them! If only this person would have kept on sending me flowers. I would have appreciated that more.”

Johnny tilted his head slightly. “I thought you didn’t like flowers…?”

I just glared and ignored the comment. “Look let’s just go to the post office right now. There’s no way I’m keeping this.”

With the force of my glare behind my demand, Johnny didn’t argue with me. Within ten minutes we were walking into the local post office with all the packages in our arms. Thankfully there was no one except a young, bored clerk behind the desk. This way we didn’t have to wait.

“Hi excuse me,” I paused to glance at her name, “Tracy. Could you help my husband and I? We’ve received several packages but the thing is, we don’t know who is sending them so we’d like to return them, if we can.”

Tracy popped her gum a couple of times before answering. “Nope.”

When I realised she wasn’t going to say anything else, I asked her, “What do you mean? Don’t you guys track packages or something?”

“Only if the person adds it on,” Tracy replied, popping her gum several more times between words.

“Well damn,” Johnny stated. That pretty much echoed my own thoughts. By this point I didn’t want to just send the gifts back, I wanted to give him a piece of my mind as well. As we were leaving, we literally ran into Emily, my secretary, who was dropping off clients’ orders. Everything went up in the air. The gnome smacked the pavement and shattered in dozens of ceramic pieces. The packages Emily was carrying were a little dirty and smashed but otherwise unharmed. The three of us just stared at the broken gnome then back at each other. It was Emily who noticed the second note card on the ground.

“Hey Mrs. Hamilton, check this out.” I noticed she seemed a lot more confident outside of the office. I made a mental note of that.

“Oh dear God, it’s another note. What does it say?” by this point I figured things couldn’t get any worse. Or more strange for that matter.

“’This cost me $20’” Emily read with a small chuckle. “More gifts I guess?”

“Indeed so. And now apparently this person is going to be upset with us but you know what good riddance. The gnome was actually starting to creep me out a little bit.” I said with a small shudder. “Maybe it was the beady eyes or something… I don’t know.”

Emily and Johnny just stared at me and I attempted to defend myself. “Look it was just weird okay? Let’s just get these packages sent so I can get to work, finally.”

The rest of the post office trip was uneventful, thankfully. I rode with Emily back to the office and felt a sense of peace settle on my shoulders as I pushed my office door open.

“What the hell?!” My cry brought my secretary and two clients running into my office. I leaned against the wall just staring at my desk. Just chilling on my desk was another gnome. Like the last one it was just staring at me.

“Now you know what the phrase, ‘watched like a hawk’ means,” Emily said completely unsympathetically and strolled back to her own desk outside. Clearly it was fate that I keep at least one of them. I decided quickly that I was done defying them and should probably just accept it. I carefully sat down at my desk and turned the gnome to face the wall. If this person was determined to make me keep a gnome, I would keep it.

But it wouldn’t look at me.

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BEDA | “Us Two”- a short story

So today is April 1st, the day to question everything and trust nothing. It’s also the first day of BEDA, blog every day April and this is officially my first post. I will be writing and posting a short story every day. It has a double bonus for me- my lonely blog will get some attention and I get to jump right back into writing. Now I will tell you, I’ve only written a few short stories so this will be a challenge for me. These won’t be anything amazing but I’m taking on the ideas behind National Novel Writing Month- quantity over quality and “embrace exuberant imperfection”. At least after this month I will have something written and have stories to work on instead of just staring at a blank Word document. So here’s my first story of the month- “Us Two”. I actually wrote this a couple of years ago, but I’ve never published it anywhere. So here goes nothing (:  Hope you enjoy.

 ~~~

“I’m sorry, sir. The tests are positive.”

With those simple words, my world collapsed. I held my wife’s hand tightly.

“No… no it can’t be positive. Please, Doctor, run the tests again.”

“Sir, we did the tests twice. There was no mistake. Your wife has cancer. And… She has at best, 3 months to live.”

If it hadn’t been for the hand my wife was holding, I would have broken down in tears. But somewhere deep inside, I knew I had to be strong for her.

“When do we start the chemo?”, she asks.

“As soon as possible. Would tomorrow work?”

There’s a pause as we consider it.

“Yes, that would work.” I say in a steady voice.

We drive home in silence. I’m sure we’re wondering the same thing. What are we going to tell our daughter? Poor Jamie, she’s too young to lose her mother. My wife breaks the news as gently as possible to her. Jamie, who is only six years old, doesn’t really understand. I can see it in her eyes. She doesn’t understand that one day mommy won’t be coming back from the hospital. And Jamie, sweet Jamie, runs upstairs to get her little Nurse Laura doll and promises, “Me and Nurse Laura will take of you Mommy. Don’t worry.” My wife and I have tears in our eyes. We can’t bear to tell her that “Nurse Laura” can’t do anything to help. Perhaps this will help her cope after… No, I can’t think about that right now. I need to focus on the now, on the moment. This moment, with the three of us; our small family.

The weeks pass quickly. Every Tuesday I drive my wife to the hospital for her chemo appointment. Every Tuesday I sit in agony, waiting for her to come out of the room. Every Tuesday, I pray to a God that I don’t believe in; praying that somehow, something will change and she will be spared. And then what I have feared comes to pass. Two months into chemo, my wife does not walk out of the room. The nurses have to push her out in a wheelchair. Despite having no hair, and a sallow complexion, she’s still beautiful to me. She smiles, a gentle smile- an understanding smile. The nurses pull to me one side,

“Sir, I’m sorry but the doctors think the chemo has stopped working. The cancer is spreading too fast. You can take her home for now but she will need to come back on Friday for some more tests.”

I can’t think. My heart stops beating.

“What? I’m sorry, surely you did not say what I think you said…”

“Yes, I’m afraid I did. Your wife fought the battle well, but she’s losing, fast.”

Suddenly, my grief turns into anger.

“How can you say that! This is not some rare form of cancer! Your doctors are supposed to be professionals!”

I’m pacing angrily, wanting to throw something, but there’s nothing within arms reach.

Then a quiet voice reaches my ears,

“Sweetheart, it’s alright. I’m ready.”

Such simple words, said not with my wife’s usual confident voice, but in a child’s voice. Innocent and young. You might be ready, but I’m not. Jamie’s not.

Friday comes and just like Tuesdays, I drive my wife to the hospital. She seems to have lost all life in the past three days. She stares listlessly out of the window as we ride. I’ve given up trying to get her attention when she’s like this. My wife is already gone in my mind. The woman that is in so much pain, the woman that is slowly fading away, is not my wife. But to Jamie, this woman is most definitely still her mommy.

I have come to hate Fridays almost as much as Tuesdays. I sit in the uncomfortable chairs in the hallway outside her room. I’m anxious and nervous. I tried burning off energy by walking, but that reminds me of the walks we took on the weekends; before she had cancer. I walk down a floor to the coffee machine, and that reminds me of her too. I close my eyes, and slide down the wall next to the coffee machine. All of the tears, all of the sadness that I had been suppressing over the last two months hits me like a two ton weight on my back. I know I’m supposed to stay strong for my wife and daughter, but I can’t. It’s too much.

Having exhausted myself through tears, I trudge back upstairs to the chair I have practically lived in for the past two months. I collapse into it and wait. A doctor comes out of the room with a notepad in his hand.

“Sir, I hate to tell you this but-”

“What’s going on? How is my wife? Can I see her yet?”

“The strain of the cancer on her body was too much, sir. She passed away fifteen minutes ago.”

“Fifteen minutes ago?! Why the hell did you not send for me? Did you not think that I would want to be with my wife as she died! What about my daughter? Don’t you think that she would want to say goodbye!”

“Sir, sir please calm down. I’m so sorry. It happened so fast, I couldn’t stop it.

Halfway through the doctor’s sympathetic remarks, I run into my wife’s room, wanting to see her for myself. She couldn’t be dead. We had so much planned… As I open the door, the nurse is tucking her into her bed. She looks like she could be sleeping. I barely make it to her bedside before I crash to my knees on the hard floor. I hold her hand and I weep. I weep for everything we lost, as a family, as a husband and wife. Inwardly, I’m cursing God for doing this to me. Why couldn’t you let her live? Why God? Take me instead! Please! Bring her back to me!

I don’t know how long I knelt there. Sooner than I would have liked, the nurse comes back in and helps me to my feet.

“Sir, I’m so sorry. I know words can’t describe what you’re feeling, and so I’m not going to try. I just want to let you know, if you ever need help with your daughter, please call me. It’s the least I can do.”

My throat is tight as I reply, “Th-Thank you. That.. It means a lot to us.. To me. I know Jamie thought of you as her favorite nurse.” The nurse smiles kindly and pats my hand. On this drive home, it is not quiet because my wife is sleeping. It’s quiet because she has left me forever. Jamie is home by the time I arrive. She runs and jumps into my arms.

“Oh Daddy, can we go see Mommy now? I drew a picture for her today! She needs something to brighten up her room.” I look at the piece of paper Jamie is waving in my face. She drew a picture of our family standing in a green meadow with the sun shining. I can see something that looks like a tent underneath a tree. We had promised to take Jamie camping for her birthday, which was in two weeks.

“Jamie sweetheart, I have some bad news. Mommy isn’t coming home from the hospital today.”

“Oh is she staying overnight? That’s alright. Can I spend the night with her? Please Daddy?

“No Jamie, you can’t. Mommy isn’t coming home because she’s…” How do you explain to a six-year old that her mom isn’t coming home? “She was really sick, and the doctor’s couldn’t save her. Mommy has gone on to a better place where she’s happy and not sick anymore.”

Jamie looks confused.

“But, I thought the doctors were going to save her?”

“Not this time, sweetheart. I’m so sorry. We can see her one last time though.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The funeral was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. Jamie finally realized what I meant about mommy not coming home. When we walked inside the funeral home, I could see my beautiful wife laying peacefully in the open coffin. Jamie ran ahead of me, crying hysterically.

“Mommy? Mommy wake up please! Mommy!”

With a huge effort, I picked Jamie up and held her close. She cried throughout the whole service. At the graveside, she refused to sit in the chairs, choosing instead to stand next to the coffin. I saw she held flowers in her hands and wondered briefly where she got them. As the men lowered the coffin into the grave, Jamie tossed her flowers on the top, one at a time. With each flower, she said what she loved best about her mommy. It was absolutely heartbreaking to watch.

The drive home was once again quiet. Jamie had emotionally exhausted herself and was asleep in the back seat. I cast my mind back to the very first drive home from the hospital. Once again, I started wondering, How are we going to get through this? I’m not ready for single-parenthood. It’s just us two now.

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