Short Stories

Daydream

The sun softly blinks into our bedroom to let us know it’s almost time. Then she slowly makes her way inside, sprawling out gently on our bed. I blink back and see a beautiful pair of brown eyes smiling into mine.

“Good morning my beautiful Jaan,” he says with his throaty Sunday morning voice. “Great morning my beautiful Ji,” I say back, lifting my hand to brush his scruffy beard. I breathe in the scent of his body and let my eyelids fall back down. Happiness exudes through each exhale as we both inhale the other. The universe has been good to us and we are therefore in a good place. Living in our dream home, all of us, together, in a gentle and calm neighbourhood. What makes this place a dream is not the purchase price of it or the square footage, but the simple fact that we are all in it and we were able to make these walls, shingles and bricks into a home.

The economy is booming, we both love what we do, the weather isn’t scary anymore. The stars have really aligned.  Of course, nothing is perfect, because that ideology no longer exists. Social media now serves as a support system for all human beings who may need it. Materialism, fake lives, narcissism, that’s all over. No one compares and despairs anymore. Even corrupt government has been abolished. World news is mostly headlined with the good that continues to circulate from country to country. War is a thing of the past. As is most suffering.

As I inhale him, I also breathe in the aroma of the roses he gifted me last night. Red roses, so cliche, but my absolute favourite. Flowers are still the universal symbol for love. And he gives them to me all the time without reason or obligation. Just because. We are best friends; mentally, spiritually, emotionally, physically, and there is no one else on this planet that can break such a powerful form of devotion. We are not insecure, we have no doubts. There are no questions. We worship one another. We are who we are and we are us. We are true.

I used to believe that marriage was a facade, an evil institution that society placed on a pedestal to bring humanity down. Weddings, money and monogamy were always celebrated and everything else was questioned. Most humans hid behind the shadows of their marriages as liars, cheaters, cowards and fake hashtags. They were missing honest to goodness truth and purity. Now I believe that love is real, it’s tangible, it’s not a facade. It is life. It is the very air I breathe. And I am breathing him in, into my lungs, stomach, brain. Even my fingertips.

Our daughters dance into the bedroom with our fluffy, jovial puppy and the eldest says, “good morning mom and dad! Shouldn’t we get breakfast started?” The youngest one jumps onto the bed in between us, squealing and snorting with laughter.

Today, like every Sunday, we take our food truck to the local park and feed as many hungry bellies as we can. He cooks, of course. I’ve used my creative skills to design everything, from marketing to menus. The girls love helping out and being part of the team. Giving back, sending gratitude into the universe in spades. We also speak to youth in different schools about addiction and mental health, every month. Which reminds me, I really need to organize this month’s talk: learning how to love yourself.

As our daughters and pup pile themselves onto the bed and into our arms, I think back to a time when all I could see was darkness, and all I could feel was pain. But the sun always has a way of shining through even the thickest, bleakest, heaviest wall of despondency. She extends her rays of light around all of us as we embrace each other, leaving me with the warmest, most delicious delight I have ever felt.

Short Stories

Diamonds for Dinner

He’s in the shower.  My mouth and throat are like sandpaper. My hands are clammy. My eyes are stinging. I was up late last night writing my final letter to him. The pounding in my chest is harder than usual. Or is that my head? The baby starts to cry in her high chair. Oh, shit. The cereal. The water has been boiling, what’s wrong with me?

“Mommy’s coming, baby! Here comes your num-num!” I tell her, as I mix the Gerber baby cereal with her little pink spoon.

“Foh me too, mama, foh me too?” my toddler’s voice is suddenly looping around the kitchen. “Of course, sweetie!” I tell her, grabbing another bowl. This stuff smells so good, it reminds me of when my mom used to make cream of wheat for us. The thought of eating now makes me nauseous. I hear the bathroom door open. He’s coming out. I rush out of the kitchen and into the living room, which is also our dining area.

I’m blowing on the cereal softly and can see him from the corner of my eye, stepping into the bedroom, and shutting the door. Baby is opening her mouth, waiting for her breakfast. Toddler’s got her eyes fixed on the TV, watching what’s-her-face on Treehouse. Dory? No. Dora. Do you have to explore so loud today, Dora? Shut up!

“Sweetie, remember to eat your breakfast!” I tell her in my trying-to-be-calm-but-not-actually-calm voice. I can’t believe this will be our last time eating breakfast here. My phone buzzes. New message. I turn it over. My throat feels even drier. Do I even have any saliva left? The bedroom door opens. Fuck, he’s coming.

“Yummy, num-num, baby!” I say in my sing-song voice, spoon going in. Baby smiles, cereal all over her little pink gums. Am I really ready for this? Yes. Yes, obviously, you cando this and you willdo this. I hear the jingle of his keys. He’s getting ready to leave.

“Sweetie,” I whisper to toddler, “go say bye to daddy.” She obediently gets up from the mini-table that he built for her, and runs to the den. “Byyyyeeeeeeeeee dadddaaaaaaa!” He’s lifting her up, hugging her. She gives him a kiss. My vision gets a little blurry, but I blink it away. He comes around to kiss baby’s head. As always, I’m invisible. The front door closes, and the lock turns.

I quickly pick up my phone and type: ‘He just left. Come up in ten minutes to be safe.’ Should be enough time so they don’t pass each other in the elevator. I hop over to the bedroom and open the closet door to start grabbing empty bags and see his long-sleeve, collared shirts hanging there. I’m transfixed on them when I hear the lock on the door turning again. Oh no. I scramble back to my chair next to baby and pick up the cereal bowl with trembling hands. He’s back. He marches into the living room.

“Where’s the car seats?” he asks, looking directly at me now.

“Oh,” I manage to say. I never was a good liar. “I brought them up to clean last night. There were milk stains,” I say, trying to maintain eye contact with him. He doesn’t seem convinced. What if he knows? Please just leave.

As if he hears my thoughts, he walks back towards the door without another word. Leaving a trail of fire behind him that I cannot put out. Not this time. I grab my phone again. New message: ‘I’m here. What do I do?’

I respond back: ‘Wait a few minutes. He came back.’ Now I rush over to the window to see his blue Nissan leave the parking lot for the last time.

Trying to remember to breath, I open the front door and look towards the elevators down the corridor. She’s here.

My mom looks terrified. She quickly walks over to our unit, pushing a trolley of empty suitcases. We’re too nervous to even hug each other. Once she’s inside, she hugs and kisses the girls.

“Do you think he’s going to come back again?” she asks me, quietly. I shake my head. “I don’t think so. I hope not. Let’s get going.”

Within a few hours, we’ve managed to pack up the pots and pans, some dishes, all of our clothes, and the girls’ toys and books. I had already packed shoes and other things over the past few weeks and hid the boxes, knowing we wouldn’t have much time today.

“Whey we goin’, mama?” little toddler asks, looking around the condo unit as it quickly gets emptied out. “Just on a little trip,” I tell her, “just us girls!”

“Yay!” she cheers, hugging her stuffy to her chest.

Once the movers have taken the last of the luggage, I sneak into the bedroom and place the letter on the dresser. I take my engagement ring, and then my wedding band, off my finger and place them next to the letter.

“What? You’re not keeping your rings?” mom exclaims.

“No,” I tell her, exhaling for the first time in a long time, “not keeping them.”

I can still hear his voice, slithering into my ear, telling me, “as long as that ring is on your finger, I can do what I want to you.”

Definitely not keeping the rings.

At long last, we are leaving. I look around and exhale again. I’m breathing. I’m actually breathing. As I lock up, I realize that I didn’t get around to cooking dinner. Oh well. He’s got something else waiting for him tonight.

Short Stories

Cut Free

It started out as just a tiny knot. The wide-tooth comb, at first, was gliding right over it. Then it was getting caught. Now some of the teeth had broken off. The rest of her silky raven hair cascaded down her back like a light laced wedding veil. Except for that tangled web on one side. She was usually so careful and took great care of herself. Except for the past summer. She began to let things slide. She hadn’t known it could get this bad.

The mess of knots was so close to her scalp that it was weighing the one side down. She was getting migraines again. It had taken forever to get rid of those. She wore her hair like it was the most precious of crowns. No one had touched it in years. Until recently of course. She began trusting too soon, far too soon.

She knew the tiny knot was there, and she continued to comb over it, hoping she had gotten it out. As time went on, the little bead of a knot became a ball, and then an intricate web, as if a spider had been living in it, catching its prey.

It was getting out of control.

This was not her. And only she could fix this. She could either try to painfully comb through it or cut it off immediately before it worsened – even if it hurt her to do so. Her pride, ego, appearance would all be affected. What would people think of her? But she could simply no longer cover it up and lie about it.

She had to forgive herself for letting her guard down and for allowing it to get this bad. But she had to let it go. There was no turning back now.

With trembling hands, she picked up the scissors and brought them up to her face. But her fingers released them, clattering against the counter. The same hands grabbed the electric razor instead. The buzzing lulled her into a numbing trance and as she rid herself of the agony directly at the root, she smiled at her gleaming reflection.

Short Stories

Blue

I’m screaming. I can see his face in front of me; lips blue, skin gone a pale yellowish. Like it would fall off his bones if I touched it. His eyes are wide open, but he doesn’t see me. He’s dead.

I wake up with a jolt, gasping for air. My throat is parched and my forehead is wet. As I slowly lift the comforter from my legs, I see a figure in the doorway, standing still, watching me.

“Mama?” a voice comes from the shadows, “are you okay?” it’s asking. I realize it’s the sweet voice of my six year old daughter. “Mama is okay,” I tell her, “just a bad dream.”

“Oh, I’m sorry mama,” she says hugging me. She looks up and asks, “Would you like some water?”

I kiss her forehead. What would I do without my little angels? My four year old daughter is still sleeping, surprisingly. “Thank you, sweetheart. But you should get back to bed, before your sister wakes up,” I respond, our arms still wrapped around each other.

“Okay,” she complies. “Good night, mama. I hope you dream about unicorns!”

I wish I could dream about unicorns, I think, as I make my way to the kitchen. I need cold water. And some Advil. My head is pounding. I’m leaning against the counter staring at the prescription bottles lined up. I pick up the Wellbutrin and open it. I pour the little blue pills into the palm of my hands. Such a beautiful blue. Reminds me of the ocean in Cuba. The water looks so blue, it almost seems fake. My mind is taking me back, lost in my reverie, to that day. That horrible, terrifying day.

*

We were sitting on the beach, the most beautiful one I had ever seen. Light and deep blue waves hugged each other, melting into that stellar crystal blue. The sand was velvety soft, a creamy white. The girls were in plain view, one jumping into the waves and the other with her little blue bucket, collecting the porcelain-like seashells. It was all so delicious. I was savoring every moment.

I couldn’t see my husband anywhere, which was even better. It was only the first day of our first-ever family vacation, and he was already being a complete nightmare. I was regretting inviting him on this trip, being well acquainted with his alcoholism, which is why I had taken my daughters away from him two years ago. But everyone deserves second chances, and I wanted more than anything to give our children memories of us being a family together. Memories that would stay with them forever.

There he was. I spotted him walking towards me, dragging his feet in the sand, and holding two cups. He set them down next to his lounge chair. I guess he realized I was glaring at him and he said, “Oh, did you want a drink?” Of course – both drinks were for him. God, it was still morning. He had barely eaten since we left for the airport the day before. I turned my attention to my girls, getting up from my chair. Their blue and pink bathing suits covered in sand. I wouldn’t let him ruin this for us.

Later, that evening, the girls and I got dolled up, deciding we would roam around the resort and take some family photos before dinner. We put on our cute dresses, I even wore make-up and opted for contact lenses instead of my oversized glasses. The maid had left pretty red flowers on the bed, butterfly flower or Mariposa, I think they were called. We placed them in our hair, tucking them securely behind our ears.

While doing a final check to make sure I was camera-ready, I saw my husband’s face in the mirror. I thought he was looking at me, and decided to do a little twirl for him.

“Doesn’t mommy look pretty, daddy? You look so pretty!” our eldest exclaimed. But he didn’t respond. He had a blank look in his eyes and his mouth looked like a bulldog’s – a very exaggerated upside down smile. He was sitting in front of us, but he wasn’t really there. I remembered he hadn’t eaten much of lunch, similar to breakfast, and dinner the night before. There was more rum in him than anything else.

“Are you okay?” I asked him. Again, he didn’t respond. He just slowly nodded his head. I sighed, and we all made our way out of the air conditioned room. We walked down the humid hallway towards the stairs leading out of the blue bungalow. Our eldest was in front of us, and our youngest next to me, holding my hand. Their daddy was close behind us, and I could see him from the corner of my right eye. As we descended down the stairs, he seemed to be doing a twirl of his own, a much bigger one. Turning around, like he was letting the warm breeze move him in a different direction. Did he look up at the blue sky? I called his name, but he didn’t respond.

He collapsed on to the concrete. I screamed his name.

“Daddy!!” the girls cried, “daddy, daddy!!”

His entire body was curling in, convulsing. His arms, hands and fingers folding in towards his body. His face was contorted; mouth slack on one side. I fell to my knees in shock, screaming his name. What was happening? An unfamiliar sound was coming from his lips, which were now turning blue. Pain. He was in pain. Foam bubbled and trailed down the side of his mouth.

Seizure. Seizure.

“He’s having a seizure!” I yelled, but no one was around us. The sound of our daughters’ sobs filled my ears. “HELP!” I yelled to the sky, “Someone, please help!”

An older couple walking by, down the path, heard my screams. He can’t die, I thought, as I stared at his blue lips. My husband. The father of our children. Our girls. They’ll be devastated. Don’t you dare die on me, asshole! Better to have a drunk father than a dead one.

But his face grew paler, and lips more blue. I felt my heart go from beating wildly, to stopping altogether. There were people around me now. Someone brought a blue square pillow out and placed it gently under his head. The voices around me were muffled.

Suddenly, I was having flashbacks of my father, laying on the bathroom floor, unconscious, with his vomit flowing over the tiles. My mother yelling into the phone, “you thought he doesn’t drink? Come take a look at your drunken son!”

“Ma’am? Ma’am?” a man was talking to me. What was happening? Where were my daughters?

“I’m a policeman, I’m Canadian. I’m here to help. What happened?” he asked me. I shook my head, the words choking me. “I… I don’t know. He fell. He started to seizure.”

“Is he epileptic? Has this happened before?”

“I don’t know. I don’t think so.”

I could see blood in my husband’s mouth. He must have bitten his tongue. His eyes were moving. But he wasn’t seeing me or anyone else. The Canadian man was talking to him. There were two staff members of the resort talking to each other. There were people behind me. But where were my babies?

“Senorita? There is an ambulance coming. They will take him to the hospital. You will need to bring your passports, please. Don’t worry, everything will be fine,” one of the employees was saying.

My daughters.

I got up and looked around. I saw my eldest standing at the top of the stairs, hiding, and crying. My little one was sitting in the lap of a woman I didn’t know. She had a little girl sitting next to her too. Her daughter, I assumed.

I climbed up to them, legs like jelly, extending my arms. “Come here, sweetie,” I said to my eldest, “daddy is okay, he’s okay.” I wiped her tears, and looked at my younger daughter, who was expressionless at this point. She looked comfortable in the woman’s lap.

“They’re taking daddy to the hospital now to check his ouchie,” I told both my girls.

The woman introduced herself to me, and told me she was staying in the same bungalow as us, with her husband and two daughters as well. They were also from Ontario. Fate.

“I’m happy to watch your girls for you,” she was saying. She asked another woman, who was also watching the scene unfold, for a pen and paper. She must have been the one who brought the pillow. Her room was likely close by, because she appeared a moment later with a pen and paper, as requested.

The woman holding my baby wrote her information down. Full name, phone number, room number. She said she would keep them entertained and taken care of while I accompanied my husband to the hospital.

After grabbing our passports and all of the cash we brought with us, I promised my daughters we would be back soon, and ran to the ambulance where they were taking my husband. The butterfly flowers were left on the concrete, soon to shrivel up.

The ambulance ride was nauseating. The stretcher he was resting on was moving around, the wheels weren’t locked. My heart was in my throat, thinking he was going to go flying out of the back doors at any moment. The paramedic focused on sticking what appeared to be ECG wires to my husband’s chest.

When we finally arrived, they transferred him into a wheelchair and brought him inside. It wasn’t exactly a hospital. It was a very quiet clinic, eerily quiet. No patients waiting anywhere. My eyes adjusted to the dim lighting inside, taking in the blue walls and high ceilings.

The room they brought him into was completely white. It was like being in a very large sugar cube. Only one bed, one chair, a sink, a few machines, and an IV drip.

I noticed when he was on the bed that my husband had soiled his shorts. It must have happened during the seizure. The same paramedic from the ambulance was inserting the IV needle into his arm, who also happened to be wearing completely white. He could have camouflaged right into the walls. Another man walked into the room, wearing regular clothes. He introduced himself as the doctor and began asking the required questions. His English was not very good and I was afraid he didn’t know what a seizure was. The extent of my Spanish was “hola”, “no habla espanol”, “per favore”, “gracias”, and “agua.” So I had to explain the seizure using actions. I wanted badly to just get the hell out of there and be with my daughters, but it didn’t look like that would be happening any time soon.

The doctor needed a urine test. They couldn’t take him off the bed, so he had to piss into a glass jar, right in front of me. I looked away. I remembered one of my co-workers snapping a poster on Snapchat from her doctor’s office, showing what healthy urine should look like. Clear. A little yellow is okay; just means you should be drinking more water.

His urine was dark brown.

I didn’t need a doctor to tell me he was severely dehydrated. All alcohol, no water. But he told me anyway, and also advised we would be there for at least another three hours. He left the room, saying he would return shortly.

We were alone in the room.

He looked up at me from the bed. I stood opposite him, my arms folded. Most people say when they see their loved ones in a hospital bed, that they look small. But he didn’t. He looked too tall and too skinny. I saw something else, too. His eyes were full of fear.

“What happened?” he asked me.

I took a deep breath and replied, “You had a seizure.”

“No I didn’t,” he scoffed. Of course. Mr. Denial was here now. He had always been in denial about his drinking. Why would it stop here?

Since there was never any winning with him, I knew there was no point in arguing.

“There are witnesses,” I simply said, “including our daughters.”

His large brown eyes grew even larger. I daresay he looked remorseful for a moment, but looking at him in his fragile condition only enraged me.

“You could have at least drank some fucking water,” I hissed.

He lowered his eyes, peering at the IV and then looked back up.

“I’m sorry,” he said. I didn’t know whether to embrace him or slap him. All I could say back was, “I thought you were dead.” My nose tingled, the lump rose higher into my throat, and when I felt the tears emerging, I left the room.

I walked into what appeared to be an office, where a nurse or receptionist was sitting at a desk. I asked her if it was possible to contact our resort so I could check in on my children. She was kind and eager to help out. I watched her dial the phone number, her long fingernails pressing down on each button. She tried many times, but wasn’t able to get through to them. I wished for some cold water to run over my dry throat and splash over my sweaty body. I needed to know if they were okay. I had never left them alone with anyone, except their teachers at school, let alone strangers in a foreign country.

A shrill ringing cut into my thoughts. The woman answered the phone and immediately handed it to me. It wasn’t my daughters, but it was one of the resort staff letting me know my children were fine. I finally exhaled. I don’t know how long I was holding my breath.

I walked around the empty clinic, not wanting to see that drunkard’s face. It was a mistake, I told myself, a huge mistake bringing him along. This was my fault. I should have come alone with the girls. When they think of their first family trip, this is what they’ll remember.

After getting several litres of water into his system, he was released and advised to not drink any alcohol for a few days. Only food and water.

“Of course,” he obligingly responded to the doctor, but I knew better. He couldn’t go a day without it. And I wasn’t going to stick around with my daughters to see how it played out.

That night, back at the blue bungalow, as he lay in his bed, and the girls and I in ours, I made a decision. It was over. Our marriage was over. Who was I kidding – we weren’t a family. I was foolish to think we could become one in seven magical days, with the Caribbean Sea at our feet.

“Mommy, are you crying?” my four year old whispered, lifting her head in the darkness.

“No,” I whispered back, through sobs.

I closed my eyes, and saw his face. Dead. Blue lips.

I didn’t sleep.

*

                I’m scooping the blue pills from my palm back into their bottle. See you guys tomorrow, I tell them. I check on the girls in their beds. Still asleep. I wonder if he is sleeping. Dead or alive? If he is alive, we wouldn’t know. I guess a drunk father isn’t better than a dead one. It’s the same to us. It’s not that beautiful smile that I see at night, the one I remember from our wedding. Not his warm eyes I see, looking down at me, while we dance. All I see when I close my eyes are the blue lips on his shriveled corpse.

Short Stories, Writings

The Savages, The Slut & The Sun

She was the second born child of three. The second daughter, the second sister. The middle child. She resented her younger sibling because he took the attention away from her. Everyone loved him most. Also, he was a boy. Which was, of course, more than a girl could ever be. She resented her elder sibling because she was too emotional, too kind. A stupid girl.

She often acted out at home and would be punished. The punishments were usually beatings. Sometimes she would steal from the grocery store for attention. But that just led to more punishment. The kids at school called her ugly and fat. So she found solace in nature; insects, plants, animals. There were times she would find injured birds or ducks and bring them home in shoe boxes, hoping to save them. But they died. They always died.

She cried. She sobbed loudly into her pillow, praying for a friend.

At school, she sat in the bathroom stall with a small pair of scissors and would cut herself on her arms. She was sure no one would notice. But some kids found out and told the teacher. That only led to more punishment.

During family gatherings, relatives would ask her why she was so fat and why her sister was so skinny. “Maybe you’ve been eating all of her food!”, they would say, laughing, and clapping their hands together.

As she grew into a teen, she began getting some attention. But not the right kind. Not the kind she had always longed for. There was a boy, a much older boy, whom she really liked. When he found out about her crush, he manipulated her and took advantage of her. She was only seventeen. And he was twenty-five years old. He told all of his friends about her. They took advantage of her, too. They all crushed her.

Soon, the word spread in the community. She was The Slut.

Her family sent her away; far away, to another country, where she could be disciplined. But she was taken advantage of there, too. Abused. Assaulted. Used.

Soon enough, she broke. She knew she would never be enough. She would never be loved. She would never be respected. She was untouchable. Dirty. Filthy. Slut.

One night she swallowed a bunch of sleeping pills, hoping to never wake up, but she survived. “She’s always looking for attention,” they all said behind her back.

For several weeks, she received a phone call in the middle of the night from a blocked number. When she answered, the voice would respond, “are you dead yet?”

She left the house one day, wearing a short skirt, low tank top, high heels, with a purse hanging from her shoulder. Her sister ran after her. “Please”, she begged, “don’t do this.” She looked at her elder sister’s face; wet with tears. “Get away from me”, she responded. And she left.

Abused. Assaulted. Used. She carried on. She became what they told her she was. She might as well be. The Slut. It’s what they all saw. It’s all they ever saw.

She held her head high, not letting them see her tears, her agony. She held her head high through miscarriages, depression,and more assault.

Her family said, “she is worse than a prostitute”, “she dresses like a whore”, “when will she learn her lesson?”, “she has no self-respect.”

And when she brought home a baby, they said, “it’s a bastard”, “she’s no longer welcome in this family”, “she should have died when she attempted suicide.”

She brought her baby to a homeless shelter, where she was given a crib, clothing, food, toys.

She read him books, sang him songs, and kissed his head as he fed from her breast. She taught him kindness and love. Through her child’s eyes, she began to see the world a little differently. Maybe it wasn’t so dark. Maybe it wasn’t so evil. Maybe she had a little bit of power to make it all better.

As she watched the sun rise higher every morning, her days became brighter. Her wounds, very slowly, began to heal. The sun’s rays reached into every dark corner of her life, chasing away the shadows of the past. The past that would haunt her in her dreams.

Until the morning came again. And the sun, her sun, lifted up her face, looked into her eyes and said, “mama, you’re so beautiful. I love you.”

 

 

 

 

Short Stories

Marguerite’s Marriage

Marguerite and The Masked Lover

Marguerite had just been rejected as a suitable wife and daughter in-law by her would-be parents in-law, who lived on the other side of the globe, in Sydney.

They had told her they had a problem with her height, but she concluded that clearly, she was simply not good enough for them.

Marguerite was devastated. She bought a pack of menthol cigarettes even though she had never smoked in her life. She wanted the clouds of smoke to choke out the pain of her rejection. But it didn’t work. She only made herself choke, so after a week of trying to become a smoker, she quit.

Marguerite started seeing someone who she worked with. He was tall and handsome and had a great smile. He seemed sweet and eager to spend time with her. She allowed herself to be consumed by him, in every way. They saw each other before work, during work, after work and of course, all weekend. She was hooked the way she could not force herself to be with those skinny, minty cigarettes.

Marguerite was finally feeling at peace with herself while she spent time with Miguel. One day, Miguel asked Marguerite if she would be his girlfriend. Marguerite was a little surprised. She didn’t realize Miguel wanted to move forward so quickly.  She told him she would think about it. Meanwhile, Miguel grew impatient. He told Marguerite that he wanted her to meet his family. Marguerite felt uncomfortable with this, because she felt it was too soon, but she thought to herself, ‘what could be the harm in doing this?’

So she met Miguel’s two elder brothers. Their significant others.  Then she met his mother and his father. Marguerite was given such a warm welcome by them all that she automatically felt like she was a part of the family. Since she lived alone and her family lived miles away, she loved spending time with Miguel’s family and feeling like she was a part of something special.

On two separate occasions, both Miguel’s eldest brother and his father asked Marguerite a very serious question. A question Marguerite hadn’t given much thought to. They both asked her if she loved Miguel. She believed they were just looking out for their brother/son, and since she felt that she was put on the spot, she quickly and thoughtlessly said, “yes.” She knew deep down that she wasn’t in love with him.  But it wasn’t a complete lie; she did love him and care about him. She did love spending her time with him.  She did love his family.  So she said yes.

A few short months later, Marguerite woke up with an unusual feeling. She knew something was wrong.  Something felt different inside her. She felt sick and weak. She was tired and nauseated. She wrapped her arms around her middle.

She walked over to the nearby clinic and took some tests. A day or so later, the clinic phoned her and asked her to come in. The doctor told her what she was dreading and what she feared most, what she already knew had happened.

Marguerite was pregnant.

Marguerite and The Masked Lover: Part II

Upon learning the news of his planted seed, Miguel did not embrace Marguerite with joy, nor did he offer her any comfort. What he did say to her was, “abortion.”

Hearing that word, Marguerite’s insides knotted up with despair. But she held up her head, took a deep breath and decided she could and she would do this on her own. She was going to have a baby. There was no greater blessing. When she was alone, she wrote Miguel a letter stating she in no way expected any involvement from him regarding the child they had conceived.

She thought of all the mornings and nights they had spent together, and wondered what moment it could have happened. ‘No more Spanish wine for me!’, she said to herself with a chuckle.

Miguel reviewed the letter Marguerite gave him. He met with his brothers for their advice.

One bright and beautiful Sunday afternoon, Miguel brought Marguerite to an Italian restaurant; Amore.

They sat across the table from each other and after ordering a gourmet pizza, Marguerite waited for Miguel to say something.

“I want to make you my wife”, he said.

Marguerite practically exploded with relief. This was it. She was going to get her fairytale. She was going to have a family of her own.

She placed her hand on her belly and smiled.

She had no idea what she was getting herself into.

Marguerite and The Masked Lover: Part II.I

Wedding planning wasn’t quite what she had expected. Especially since she was terribly sick from the moment she woke up in the mornings until she fell asleep every night. The term, “morning sickness” definitely did not apply to her.

Because of the culture Marguerite grew up in, she couldn’t exactly proclaim to the world that she was with-child. She told her mother, her sister and her cousin. Everyone else was told that for the sake of their employment, Miguel and Marguerite had to get married immediately. But they all knew better. However, no one said anything. Marguerite’s pregnancy was the big elephant in the room.

It seemed that everyone else happily posted their pregnancy news and made announcements proudly; especially in the day and age of social media. Everyone except her. She had to hide it, like the small bump under her clothes was a shameful reminder of her sins.

Miguel’s family was much more open. They were all fully aware that within the next eight months, there would be a new member of the family. They were overjoyed and congratulated Marguerite and Miguel; giving them their full support.  This gave Marguerite validation that she was doing the right thing with the right person and his family. She was completely thrilled.

After formally asking her parents for her hand in marriage, Miguel planned a proposal for Marguerite. She pretended not to know anything about it, when he met her outside her apartment one Friday evening. He already had a key and he led the way, walking briskly ahead of her up the stairs to the second floor.

He pushed open the door to her unit and Marguerite held her breath. The floor was sprinkled with red rose petals.  She followed the trail of petals to the dining table; which had a bottle of ‘Baby Duck’ champagne sitting on it and next to that, a letter. She picked up the letter and sat down to read it.  She was completely taken aback by his letter, because she had written him so many over the last several months and hadn’t received even one in return.  He expressed his love for her and wrote about how his parents and brothers all loved her too. When she looked up from the paper, there he was, down on one knee, holding up a beautiful wooden box. She held her breath and saw the shimmering diamond blinking it’s many eyes back at her.

“Marguerite, will you marry me?” Miguel asked quietly.

“Yes”, she replied, with barely a whisper of her breath.

The brilliant cut diamond was on her finger, and without her knowledge, the ring symbolized so much more than a promise of marriage. She couldn’t see it then, but a dark and evil fog cast over her at that very moment. A thick, black poison that slowly started to take her life, right from the base of her delicate little finger.

Marguerite and The Masked Lover: Part II.II

Their wedding was a huge success, with the exception of a few hiccups (the priest saying the wrong last name, the Deejay playing the wrong version of their song, seating arrangement issues).

It felt like a real fairytale.

Marguerite was now a wife. And she was so proud.

She had moved into Miguel’s family’s home. The house was occupied by Miguel’s parents, his eldest brother and his wife and son, his middle brother and his girlfriend and now, Miguel and Marguerite.

The house was very small and very old. She sometimes felt like she lived inside a sardine can. But Marguerite was okay with it because she knew it was only a temporary living arrangement. Or at least, at the time, what she was told.

Almost immediately after getting married, Marguerite started noticing a shift in Miguel’s behavior and attitude. He was different. It was as if  the romantic, sweet traits she loved about him, hadn’t even existed.

Miguel rarely spent any time with Marguerite, outside of their drive to work and home together. In the evenings, he sat in the living room with his brothers (and father if he was home) and drank rum while watching sports. Marguerite would sit with him and grow hungry, waiting for him to have dinner with her. But he preferred to continue drinking until late in the night, and ate his dinner alone when he was fully intoxicated.

Every night, Marguerite would eat dinner in solitude, and would go to bed alone. Miguel stumbled into the bedroom close to midnight. Every time she was woken by the sound of him slamming the bedroom door open and throwing all of his dead weight on to the bed. She would stay awake for most of the night, his loud snoring blaring next to her. Some nights she would have to sleep on the floor because he flung his arms and legs into her body and she feared it could harm the growing life inside her.

On weekends it was worse, because Miguel started drinking as soon as he got up in the mornings. It would start with a few beers and then gradually progress to rum.

Marguerite cursed herself. Why hadn’t she noticed how regularly Miguel drank when they were dating? She knew he liked drinking alcohol, but she hadn’t realized he was addicted to it. Him, his two brothers and their father. It was an endless circle of alcoholism.

Of course, none of them would admit to this. Marguerite told herself that there was no way Miguel would continue this behavior once his child came into the world. If he really loved her and wanted to be a responsible father and caregiver, she knew he wouldn’t continue on in this direction.

She assumed she could steer him in a healthier, more stable, more positive direction. But Marguerite lost control of her steering. In fact, she had no control over it at all. She was racing down a dangerous road, at full speed. There weren’t any brakes to slow down or a seat belt to protect her from the inevitable crash to come. And she wasn’t only fearing for her own life, but for life of her unborn baby.

But their lives were in the hands of Miguel, as he sped them into his selfish, dark and drowning world.

Marguerite and The Sad Mouse

As her baby continued to blossom and grow inside of her, Marguerite became increasingly anxious. Besides her OBGYN and the ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’ book, she didn’t often turn to many people for advice.

One night, Marguerite heard a disturbing sound coming from the smallest of the bedrooms upstairs. She still lived with her husband’s family. Miguel and his brothers didn’t seem to notice or hear what she heard, because she waited for a reaction and received nothing. They all continued to watch football. She looked up at Miguel’s father, but he too seemed to have turned deaf to the sound she was hearing.

Without any of them questioning her or even acknowledging Marguerite leaving the living room, she slowly made her way upstairs.

She stopped in front of the middle room, the smallest of all the bedrooms in the house, where a gut-wrenching sound ensued. Marguerite swallowed the lump in her throat and knocked on the door. There was no response.

Marguerite held her breath and opened the door. The feeling inside her grew from gut-wrenching to heartbreak.

She stepped closer to the bed that took up the entirety of the room. The sound was coming from there; tiny bones being swallowed by the bedsheets and pillows. There lay Marguerite’s mother in-law. The sound of her painful moans and sobs. The thick, pungent odor of her sweat, tears, and as Marguerite got closer realized even urine, filled the air.

How long had she been in here that she wet herself in the bed?

Marguerite felt an aching inside of her. She willed herself not to cry alongside this poor, shriveled up flower, that was once young and beautiful like her.

What could she do?

“Are….are you….okay?” she asked her mother in-law.

Miguel’s mother shook her head, slowly. From one side of the pillow to the other side; no….no….no…..no.

“I don’t know what he want from me!” she weeped.

Marguerite noticed the water sitting on the night table next to the bed and offered it to her husband’s mother.

She calmed down and through sobs, took sips of water and said:

“I’m okay, darlin’. Don’t worry. Miguel not like this. He love you. I know he do”, and placed her hand on Marguerite’s bump.

Marguerite nodded in agreement but she wondered who her mother in-law was trying to convince; herself or Marguerite.

When she knew her mother in-law wouldn’t be crying any longer, she left her alone.

She went straight downstairs to Miguel who was in front of the computer monitor, placing a bet, and informed him, horrified, that his mother had been crying all this time.

Miguel’s face remained blank. It was as if she had said, “the sky is blue.” He was completely unfazed. He simply advised her to speak with their father about it.

Marguerite was afraid of her father in-law. More than she was of snakes or suffocation. And yet, she went to him and told him, softly, about the broken, lifeless woman upstairs, who had been sobbing loudly. So loudly that Marguerite seemed certain it was intentional. A cry for help. Literally.

Without looking in Marguerite’s direction, her husband’s father continued to watch the television and said, “I hope she didn’t upset you.”

“Upset me? No. No, of course not.”

How confusing. How infuriating.

He didn’t care. None of them did.

Marguerite trembled at her own thoughts. How long had this been going on that all three of her mother in-law’s own sons, and husband were able to block out her desperate cries?

Again, Marguerite swallowed the lump in her throat, but it did no good. The lump wasn’t going away. It was starting to feel like she had swallowed a brick.

At that moment, she felt something else. Something that reminded her: you are not alone.

A tiny, but powerful kick.

Marguerite and The Masked Lover: Part III

His fingers were wrapped around her neck, yet he was smiling.

He wasn’t exactly choking her, but he definitely had the intent to. At least, he was showing Marguerite what he could potentially do to her in the future.

“Who were you with, huh?” Miguel sneered, his eyes glassy and bloodshot.

“Stop it”, Marguerite asked him gently, trying to lift his fingers from her access to breath. “You know I was just down the street with my family.”

Miguel didn’t let go. He pushed her into the kitchen, out of earshot and eyesight. His parents and brothers were just around the corner in the living room.

“Whose cock was in your mouth?”

“Stop it, Miguel. That’s disgusting!” Marguerite argued, shoving his arm away from her.

“You disgust me”, her husband said back to her, as he looked directly into her eyes. He licked his lips and his mouth eerily turned up into a smile. Marguerite felt herself shudder. He laughed and stumbled away, through the kitchen, back to his circle of alcoholism.

Marguerite’s heart raced. How could he so easily say these things to her? To his own wife?

The baby was due to arrive soon, and life at Miguel’s family’s home had only gotten worse.

The house was literally rotting. Water leaked from the decaying ceiling on the ground floor, underneath the bathtub upstairs. And the bathtub up there was lined with mold, bacteria, fungus. It smelled awful. The staples from the carpeting on the stairs were loose and pierced through Marguerite’s feet every time she went upstairs. The kitchen sink was falling into the rotting wood and was being held in place with different knives and paper towel bunched together.

They all made very decent salaries. Miguel and his brothers and father always had money for liquor. Expensive liquor. They all drove expensive, luxury vehicles. Yet no one stepped forward to acknowledge their house needed serious renovating. How was she supposed to raise a baby here?

To top it all off, her father in-law smoked cigarettes inside the house. In the same house where his pregnant daughter in-law resided.

She didn’t have Miguel’s support at all. If he wasn’t accusing her of ludicrous infidelities, he either neglected her completely or complained to her about how much money was spent on their wedding and her engagement ring.

One of his famous and regular lines soon became, ‘as long as that ring is on your finger, I can do whatever I want to you.’ 

Marguerite placed her hands around her stomach and silently prayed for her baby. Sometimes she just prayed for the day the baby arrived so that she could have a friend, someone to love and who would love her back.

She quietly headed up the stairs to bed, alone as always, while her husband reached the point of being inebriated. She felt his eyes on her back, and saw from her peripheral vision as she turned up the staircase that he was watching her every move. There was no love in his eyes. There wasn’t even hate. In order for him to feel hatred towards her, he would first have to feel. And Marguerite knew he felt nothing.

No, in his eyes was something much more frightening: emptiness.

She stopped going into her mother in-law’s bedroom to check on her. Every night was the same. Marguerite went into the bedroom she shared with Miguel and shut the door.

She lay in the bed, on her right side, feeling her baby swoosh and kick and stretch. She lay in the bed, in the dark, with her eyes open and put a pillow over her ear to drown out the sound of her mother in-law’s sobs.

Marguerite and the Bruised Beauty

She didn’t speak much. She didn’t seem interested in anything fun either. She wore a frown on her face and seemed to generally be in a serious mood.

“Why is she always so upset?” Marguerite’s grandmother asked her, while they waited for guests to arrive at her baby shower.

Marguerite sighed and gazed at Miguel’s sister in-law, Selena, from across the room. She looked cold and aloof, uninterested in her surroundings.

Selena didn’t participate in the baby shower games and activities. But she was a great help when it came time to clean up.

Marguerite didn’t have many opportunities to speak to Selena alone when they were at home, because Miguel and his brothers and father were always circling around them, like vultures. But Marguerite soon discovered that her mother in-law was not the only one shedding tears under the roof they all lived in.

One afternoon, Marguerite ran into Selena in the kitchen while she scrubbed the dishes piling up in the sink and onto the counter.

“Let me help you”, Marguerite offered, quietly.

“No, no. You go rest. You shouldn’t be lifting these heavy pots”, Selena replied, glancing over her shoulder.

Marguerite knew there was no arguing anyone these days about her doing anything, with her nearing the end of her pregnancy.

“Okay. I’ll keep you company then”, she tried.

“Sure.”

Marguerite made small talk with her husband’s sister in-law, hoping that soon they could actually be friends. She knew Selena struggled to express herself in English, and wondered if maybe that’s what kept her so silent around the family.

Soon, their small talks turned into more meaningful conversations. But the closer Marguerite got to Selena, the colder the atmosphere became in their household.

On an evening after her dinner, Marguerite decided to take her mind away from work and her upcoming maternity leave. She sat down in the living room, ready for relaxation mode. There were muffled voices coming from the foyer, and when Tina glanced over to see what was happening, she felt a wave of fear wash over her, prickling over her entire body.

Selena was pushed against the wall, cornered by her husband, Santiago. Marguerite could practically see the words firing out of his mouth, violent, red, large, attacking Selena with each letter, with every annunciation.

He was threatening her. Now he was headed toward the living room, and as quickly as Marguerite had glanced in their direction, she had just as quickly looked away, pretending she saw nothing.

Her heart was pounding against her chest, telling her to go. Go, go, go, get up and do something. But she was frozen in her seat and her tongue was as dry as sandpaper.

As Santiago approached the living room, Marguerite turned her attention to the television. She could see Selena’s shadow flowing up the stairs from the corner of her eye.

She didn’t want to make it too obvious, but she excused herself from the living room, and quickly made her way to Selena and Santiago’s bedroom, they they also shared with their two year old son.

Marguerite whispered through the door to Selena, “can I come in?”

When she didn’t hear a response, she turned the door handle and peered inside. She saw a suitcase on the bed, in which Selena was depositing all of her clothing.

“Selena…?”

Selena turned around to face Marguerite. And she finally saw it. Marguerite finally saw what everyone else ignored. Pain. Deep within Selena’s eyes, Marguerite could see and feel her pain, so intense like a raw and open wound.

How could someone treat such a beautiful, kind person so poorly? Marguerite supposed, well, the same way someone can also inflict pain upon their own mother.

Marguerite watched, helplessly, as her husband’s sister in law, her friend, pack her things and leave the dark house they all lived in.  What she didn’t know was that this wasn’t the first time, or the last. What she didn’t know was, it wasn’t only his words that attacked Selena, that she had many other bruises and scars, invisible to everyone around her.

Marguerite and the Poisonous Snake

She wondered how many hours it had been now. Six? Eight? She’d lost track. Their laughter and banter vibrated through the vent into her bedroom. She could hear the ice bucket being refilled. Over and over and over again.

Marguerite rubbed her hands over her stomach. One more month, and her baby would be in her arms. Maybe then, Miguel would actually spend time with her, instead of neglecting her, keeping her cooped up in this bedroom, while he sat downstairs, drinking. She remembered several months back, when she was in the living room down there with his brothers, basking in their approval and love for her and their soon to be niece or nephew.

Sal, the middle brother, said, “this is the best thing to happen to this family,” and Santiago, nodding his head, added, “absolutely.”

Sal also said to her, eyes focused and serious, despite his rum consumption that night, “Miguel has a lot of growing up to do. The drinking – it’s gotta stop.” Of course, Santiago agreed and added, “it will. Things are gonna be different when the baby comes.”

Marguerite could no longer control her sobs. How long had she been up here? She was tired, so sick and tired, of always sitting down there, watching them drink, watching them watch TV, watching their mother serve them. Watching them ignore her. She was invisible.

She began to cry harder. Silent crying had yet to resolve anything. She was going to explode. She held on to her belly, thoughts of her mother weaving in and out of her thoughts. “Mom!” she said, crying, “mommy!”

Even louder now, her sobs filled the room, hoping to push the walls back, away from her as far as possible. Otherwise, she would suffocate and die.

She heard Sal’s voice on the stairs, “Yo! Miguel! Marguerite’s crying.” This was followed by the sound of his steps descending back to the living room, and then more steps coming closer.

The door burst open. Marguerite hid her face in the sheets of the bed, her heart pounding in her ears.

“I know… ’bout your kind of people,” Miguel slurred, from the doorway, “spent over twenty grand on that wedding.”

She lifted her head and looked up at him, where he stood at the foot of the bed, arms folded across his chest. His eyes were red and glassy. Wasn’t he going to come closer? Hug her? Hold her? Wipe her tears? He frowned down at her, disgusted. She could clearly hear the Super Bowl playing now, with the door open.

“Better not harm that baby,” he said, without moving any closer to her. Then he left the room, slamming the door behind him.

Marguerite propped herself up. Her head was spinning. She looked over at the crib next to their bed. He was right. She was only bringing harm to the baby by sitting up here, weeping. Poor little baby. Miguel was right.

Only a month to go, little one, she thought, pulling herself up from the bed, looking into the crib. And you’ll be here.

She wiped her face and slowly made her way downstairs.