Short Stories

Heartbreakingly Beautiful

She checked the time again and glanced out the window at her driveway. The leafless trees were dusted with snow and the street was as lifeless as a winter postcard. Her fluffy orange feline perched up in her lap with slight concern but then decided she wasn’t that interested. They both sighed in synchrony.

It was almost time to pick up the children from school and she was never late. Placing the cat down in her pile of blankets, she sighed again unable to control her disappointment. Had she said something wrong? Maybe she shouldn’t have gotten him a gift. She checked to see that it was still securely snug under the tree (as if it could have grown feet and left) and then made her way out the door.

***

“Mama, look at the ornament I made!” her daughter said, lifting the craft up to her face.

“Its lovely, dear. Very sparkly indeed,” she said with as much enthusiasm as she could muster, wiping the glitter from her leggings.

Her son was already opening the candy cane he received from his teacher, “can I have this now, mom? Thanks!” and popped it into his mouth.

She closed the blinds on the front windows just as her mother pulled up the driveway and her heart gave a small flutter.

“Grandma’s here!” the children sang as they ran to open the door. The cat fled upstairs. Christmas suddenly felt resurrected.

***

They had kissed on this very couch, she thought, as she watched her little ones with her mother; talking and tickling and laughing. They had binge-watched shows and ate food and drank wine here. Even the cat had cuddled with him.

“Why is your mommy so quiet today?” she heard her mother say, breaking her reverie. They were all looking at her now, her mother’s eyebrows raised.

“Don’t know, grandma, she’s being weird!” the children concluded.

“Who wants hot chocolate?” she asked, getting up from the couch without waiting for an answer.

As she added marshmallows to the mugs and a sprinkling of peppermint shavings, she thought about the last time she had seen him. How tightly they embraced one another, the tender kisses, the exchange of hopes to see each other again soon. She remembered their hike through a forest at the end of the summer, how he carried her on his back and held her hand as she climbed over rocks. And when they finally made it to the waterfall, they just sat together taking in all its beauty. She thought about his eyes. How they changed from a cool sky blue to a warm hazel green.

“Bringing those hot chocolates?” said a voice from behind her.

Startled, she spilled some of the sweet drink on the counter and said, “just cooling them off a bit, mum. Don’t want the kids burning their tongues!”

“Right, here, let me,” her mother said, taking the mugs, “maybe you and I should have some tea and cookies, hmm?”

There was nothing she could hide from her mother. She knew. She always knew. And having tea and cookies meant talking about it. But she didn’t want to talk about this. She had a Christmas to execute. There was no time to dwell about the possibility of another holiday alone. Without a partner. A companion. A friend. A love. The children needed her. And she would not fail them.

***

The letter from Santa had been printed and perfectly placed next to the plate of cookie crumbs and empty milk glass. The gifts were all placed around the tree. Everyone was asleep. Except for her. She sat in her reading chair by the fireplace, flipping through the pages of a book.

“While pretty flowers are instantly plucked, few people pay attention to plants with thorns and prickles. But the truth is, great medicines are often made from these.”

She stared at the words and recalled when they had exchanged novels by Elif Shafak; she had given him The Bastard of Istanbul and he gave her his favourite book, The Forty Rules of Love. The one she now held in her hands.

He too, was a single parent, which she assumed was the perfect fit for the both of them. She had fantasized about their children playing together, becoming great friends. One big family.

But then, the doubts resurfaced, the ones she had tried to suppress. This was not the first time he had left her in the dark. On Thanksgiving she had posted on her social media about colonization and violence towards Indigenous communities. He replied immediately stating that he “hates guilt culture.” She didn’t hear from him again until four weeks later. And for four weeks she told herself it was for the best.

The memories of the way he looked at her, his kisses, his morning text messages are what kept her from hating him. And what made her chase him even after he cut her off.

Maybe it was because she made him laugh. Or because they both shared an interest in mental health. Because they both liked reading. Maybe it was because he told her she was heartbreakingly beautiful. Being intimate with someone didn’t just mean physically. It was being vulnerable and raw with emotion.

She closed her eyes trying to shut out the thoughts coming in.

Maybe she was just so broken that she would accept attention from anyone, even if it was abusive. That she would even buy them a Christmas gift. A perfectly wrapped Elif Shafak book titled, Honor, tied with gold ribbon and a shiny bow on top.

She opened her eyes again and looked down at the book in her lap, still open to the same page:

“As long as I knew myself, I would be alright.”

Setting the book aside, she leapt from her chair toward the tree. Moving the piles of gifts in front, she got down on all fours and reached back to find the one sitting on its own. She carefully removed the tag and placed the gift back.

***

The cat purred in her new bed as the children tried on their new winter jackets. The floor was covered in shredded wrapping paper, toys, books and clothes.

Her mother looked on, smiling at her grandchildren, her face aglow, bringing out a light radiating from within her.

“Mum. This one is for you,” she said, handing her mother the last gift under the tree.

“A new book! Wow!” her mother said after opening it. “Thank you.”

With her mind a little less foggy, her vision clearer, her heart fuller, she replied, “no, mum. Thank you.”

She looked out the window, the snow glittering under the sun, and decided that she hadn’t done or said anything wrong. She was a good person who met the wrong guy. Maybe she was a little broken. But that’s what made her beautiful.

Writings

Date Like a Mother

As DJ Khalid says, “and another one!”

I waited a full year before diving into the shark pool again. You know, the swiping and the messaging and the meeting. Then there’s the lying and the ghosting and the blocking.

Exhilarating stuff.

Once, this guy showed up high off his ass, wearing sunglasses indoors, jeans sliding down his non-existent waist. Inside of the RH Courtyard Cafe, he thought it’d be cool to take out his vape pen/stick/thing and start smoking around some very expensive furniture. He took out his phone to show me photos of his puppy and ended up showing me naked ones of his ex-girlfriend.

Ahh, the wonderful world of dating.

My marriage ended five years ago and because I’ve been a serial relationship-ist since the age of fifteen, I did not know how to exist as a single woman in her thirties, let alone as a single mother, who is also ostracized by the Indian/Punjabi/Sikh community.

Enter: terrifying dating apps.

No, dating is not what it once used to be.

I experienced love at first sight at fifteen, sitting on the couch at an Indian Aunty’s house, drinking tea with her and my mom, when her fifteen year old son walked in and we locked eyes. Of course, everyone labeled it “puppy love”, but we knew the authenticity of our feelings. And we assumed we would just be together for the rest of eternity.

Three years later I was accepted to a university four hours away from home. He asked me to stay. I didn’t. He married someone else.

Love happened to me two more times since; once with the boyfriend I had in university (whom I thought I would marry and I didn’t) and then with the man that I did end up marrying.

So, yes. Single. Thirties. Two Kids.

There was a small window that opened in which I saw myself finally settling down with someone. I even told my ex-husband about him. But it turned out he was cheating on me with one of my best friends who was cheating with him on her husband. Oh, and he “borrowed” thousands of dollars from me.

(Yes, you can definitely expect a novel about that one).

After my younger sister got married, I thought, “what the hell. It’s been a year. I’ve healed. This time will be better”, whilst love swirled in the air around me.

Nope. Nooooppeee.

Until….

I met Mr. Chivalrous himself: Prince Fucking Charming.

He held doors open for me. He looked into my eyes when I spoke. He complimented my accomplishments as a person, a woman, a mother, a writer. He told me how inspired he was by the many adversaries I’d overcome. He drove hundreds of kilometers just to give me a care package when I was sick (complete with Buckley’s, Thai soups and curries, a family-sized Nutella jar, chocolate, macaroons, cookies, a pink Orchid plant, etc). He paid for all our dinners and drinks because he thought it ungentlemanly of him not to. He always made the drive to make it easy on me. Brought a bottle of red wine with him. He laughed at all my jokes. We played a relationship card game called “Husbands and Wives.” He brought me roses, a balloon and a card on my birthday, because when he’d asked weeks earlier what an ideal birthday gift was, I said, “roses, balloons, and a birthday card.” He even made notes about what I need on my period! Finally, he asked me to be exclusive with him, wanting to see me more, wanting to know everything about me, wanting to get serious. I said yes. A week later he didn’t answer my phone call when he was supposed to meet with me. He said he was heading to Vancouver for work to deal with some issues.

You know. Work issues. It happens, right?

But, alas, Charming was not in Vancouver. He was in Toronto.

When I saw his Instagram story pop up on my dog’s IG and not on mine (I knew it was a good idea to have social media for pets) I texted him and … he blocked me.

And that, my friends, was that.

Swiping, messaging, meeting.
Lying, ghosting, blocking.
Dating.

Mind. Blown.

My news feeds are filled with couples posting their perfect photos and I don’t feel envy at what they share because there is no such thing as a perfect marriage or family. But I do, however, envy their unknowing of the vicious, bloody hunger games we singles call “the dating life.” They will always remember dating as something completely different. A courtship during high school. Meeting at a party. Office romance.

Not this.

My mother tells me not to question why this happened to me, but to ask myself, “what did I need to learn from this experience?” She also tells me I am worthy, I am kind and beautiful and wonderful. A good person who will one day be swept off her feet.

As much as I yearn for my daughters to see me being loved and respected by a partner, I fear that it will remain a dream. They are gonna grow up, move on with their lives and call each other every weekend to arrange who will be checking up on mom and all her random dogs.

Because there are a lot of cowards out there who don’t have the slightest clue how to date like a mother.

Anyone want a pink orchid?

Writings

Gratitude Journal

Why is it that when I sleep soundly, they are restless, yet when they sleep soundly, I’m wide awake?

I’m listening to my daughters’ light snores and even breathing, feeling at peace that they are next to each other, next to me. Several nights I tuck them into their own beds in their own bedroom, only to find them next to me in the middle of the night. But on other nights, like tonight, I do not fight their protests to sleeping in their own beds.

They don’t know this yet, but I need them more than they need me. Even when I do get a night when they let me sleep alone, I curl up to the same side of the bed, make myself small, and miss their small warm bodies sprawled next to me in deep slumber.

Just over two months ago, life was quite different. Parts of it, anyway. There were schedules and routines, timelines and curfews. Planned meals, packed lunches, pre-picked outfits. I only saw my daughters in the mornings for about an hour, and then in the evenings. On weekends there would be a hundred other things scheduled.

Now, we spend every moment together. Mornings, afternoons, evenings, nights, weekends, weekdays, everyday. Weekdays and weekends really have no border between them anymore. Its all the same. Some weeks have been delicious. So many cuddles, laughs, games, fun. Movies and baking and eating and dancing. Planting and walking and colouring. Other weeks have been torture. Sibling rivalry, yelling, crying, stomping, slamming. Needing space, solidarity, sanity.

Meanwhile, the world we’ve shut ourselves out of seems to have fallen into shambles. Sickness and death and panic and disorder. More death. Fear.

We’ve finally started going out again, other than just walking down our street. Driving the car again, although the brakes make sounds now, complaining to me that I waited too long to put them to use again. We wear masks, take shallow breaths and quick steps.

One thing has been constant, though. Our own form of medicine, comfort, cure. Which is our hugs and kisses. So many hugs. So many kisses. Maybe more so than before. Despite what has happened moments before, or what is happening outside our home, we tell each other, “I love you”, we kiss each other. We hug each other, tightly. Sometimes we don’t let go for a long time.

Writings

Not Hiring Single Moms

– “Upper management doesn’t care if you’re a single mother. What they care about is if you’re here, meeting business needs.”

– “I’m not telling this to put you down but you do have the highest number of absences in this office.”

– “Can’t you find a teenager in the neighborhood to watch your kids?”

– “You’ve already used your personal days to tend to your kids. Moving forward, you’ll need to use your vacation days.”

– “Why don’t you go live closer to your parents?”

– “You’ll need to make up the hours you missed when you left the office for your kids.”

– “It doesn’t matter that everyone else here is fresh out of school with no parenting responsibilities, I’m sure they have other responsibilities.”

– “No, we are not able to change your shift schedule.”

Photo courtesy of Tintalee Photography


The popular term ‘working mom’ is a redundant one. Being a mother is a job on it’s own. Annabella asked me about 15 mins ago, “is it hard being a mom?” It is. Of course it is. Being a mom to these two girls though? It’s a dream. Really, it is. I get them to myself for three weeks? Dream.

The quotes above were said to me directly, verbatim, during the times I struggled to be 100% present in the corporate world and 100% present for my children. What I learned was: it isn’t possible.

I often spent my rides on the TTC after having these conversations, sobbing, huddled into myself, wondering if I’d ever stop feeling like a failure. Until one morning I literally could not get out of bed because of the heaviness. I knew if I continued on like this, killing myself to get to an environment surrounded by negativity and uncompassionate behavior, that the light inside of me would burn out.

I chose motherhood. By choosing motherhood it meant also choosing myself. If I am mentally and emotionally unavailable for my children, being there physically is meaningless.

I had to evaluate myself, inside out, head to toe and decide to heal so my daughters can look at me without evaluation and say, “We love you mama. You’re the best.”

Tantrums, tears and tattle tales are rough, however feeling worthless is worse.

Writings

Beautiful Fear

July 11, 2018

Another writer from my workshop group told me she hated public speaking but promised her husband she would face her fear. She said, “you have to do it, Taneet!” And so we both wrote our names on the list.

Photo courtesy of Humber College (Lakeshore Campus)

So here I was, hair clinging to my forehead and neck with perspiration, heart pounding, pulse racing, hands shaking. I read a poem I had written at 3am several years prior.

And the words danced out of my mouth delicately, pirouetting en detours, completing a grand jeté before the timer rang. I kept my head down as I absorbed the applause, into my pores, into my veins, shocked that I shared dark words from my heart with award winning/critically acclaimed authors, my living inspirations.

Regardless of how shit scared I was, my words had a voice of their own that did not falter or tremble the way my fingers did. They were not just destined to be spoken. They were determined.

 

Writings

Dear Narcissist,

You must’ve celebrated your birthday yesterday because, well … how could you not? You’re a narcissist.

You didn’t send any wishes my way on my birthday. That’s okay. You gave me a much bigger gift: a realization. What did I realize? That you’re a thief because you literally and metaphorically stole from me? That you’re a pathological liar because you cannot keep your stories straight? That you’re unreliable because you never keep your promises? That you’re manipulative because you gaslight women? That you have a superiority complex because you refuse to respect any authoritative figures?

Nah. I already had those things figured out. You were so obvious with them. All of the signs. They were always there. I just chose to ignore them.

Your actions allowed me to realize that I am not a victim.

I learned that humans such as yourself (ones who constantly take) gravitate towards humans like me (ones who constantly give). A leech of your caliber will suck their prey dry and move on to the next. Often times, there is more than one person at a time that you mindfuck.

My realization allowed me to forgive myself for trusting you; for being vulnerable. Because it means that I was brave.

So – thank you for that.

Forgiving myself was nearly unbearable. But I did it. Forgiving you though? It’s currently out of the question. Maybe when justice has been served and you’ve been put in your place (the fiery pits of hell), I’ll consider it. Maybe when I’ve spread the word about you and so many others like you, to prevent innocent women from being denigrated the way I’ve been, I’ll consider forgiving you.

My birthday wish for you:

May you lose sleep over your corrupt lifestyle. May you lose your sense of entitlement. May you become educated. May you put the needs of your children before your own. May you admit to your wrongdoings. May you shed your many layers of facades and lies, finding peace in accepting who you truly are (the scum of the earth). May you gain a sense of work ethic. May you give back what you have taken.

Life is a temporary thing. That’s why I’ll never allow a narcissist into my life or my daughters’ lives again. You, too, should consider that our days are not promised and that life is not guaranteed. You can pretend and pretend until you die, but you aren’t fooling anyone but your slithering self. Riding on other people’s successes does not make you successful. Stealing money from others does not make you rich. Believing your own lies does not make you truthful. You gotta face your demons like everyone else on this earth does, and put an end to being a demon yourself.

Sincerely, the best thing that ever happened to you.

Writings

Storyteller

So happy to share a blurb about me from She Said Notes (a journal for the art-interested, the feminist-minded, curated to connect the unexpected) in a piece I wrote for them! Please check it out here

Taneet Grewal’s passion for storytelling began at the age of six with many fictional/magical characters. This grew into a love for journalism in post-secondary for human rights issues. Over the past few years, her writing has centralized on mental health, abuse, and support/empowerment for females of all ages. Currently, she’s working on a few long-term projects in creative non-fiction. For now, you can read her pieces here.

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