Writings

Grief Journal

He used to call me, “sweet cheeks”, “hussy” (inside joke), his “squeeze” and, of course, “babe”. When he was trying to be funny in front of his brothers, he would call me, “Puneet” instead of Taneet, and then I would reply with, “who the HELLLL is Puneet?” and we all laughed.

Sometimes he made me laugh really hard. Other times I made him laugh really hard. Lots of times we both just laughed and laughed, especially with our daughters. There were little things about me that he mocked which was actually hilarious to me. For instance, when he found out my family’s nickname for me has always been Mattu (pronounced ma-two if you don’t have an Indian accent), he (being a big Star Wars fan) called me “R2-D2”. Or whenever I made my weird Chewbacca sounds he echoed it so loud that my belly would ache from laughing. He knew how to be extra silly, and I think it came out more around me and our girls. He could be really quick-witted and I loved that about him.

The thing about having a partner/spouse is that you get to see all sides of them. Others only see just their professional side, or sporty side. I saw who he was as a son, a brother, a father, a cousin, a nephew, a grandson. And because we worked together in the same office, I also got to see him in the role of a manager, co-worker, businessman, and all-knowing insurance/sales guy. He showed me his vulnerable side time and time again. Outside of our home I knew when he was pretending in front of others and when he put up his walls. That’s what marriage is. Seeing, experiencing and accepting all truths, the ones nobody else sees.

He taught me so much. I knew nothing about sports when I met him. I was just a nerd getting through life with my nose constantly in a book. But he brought me into the world of horse racing, football, baseball, hockey, soccer. So I wouldn’t get bored when a game was on, he explained every rule, not to mention background stories, biographies of the players/coaches and history of the teams. Before I met him, I never attempted to reverse park. But he taught me how. And to this day, I still use his technique. And whenever Soca/Reggae/Calypso/Caribbean was on (and it was on a lot) he explained what the lyrics meant and where it all originated from. Since I didn’t grow up watching shows like The Simpsons and King of the Hill, he made sure I dove into that world as well.

He was basically obsessed with his brothers and parents. After we started dating for about two months, he asked me if he could introduce me to his family. He wanted the two things he loved most to come together. I became as attached as he was to his brothers; it was hard not to. They were an extension of him.

He loved wearing plaid. Actually, much of his plaid collection came from me. His favourite football team was the Denver Broncos (fave player was Peyton Manning, number 18), his favourite soccer team was Real Madrid (fave player was Cristiano Ronaldo, number 7 – which is also his birthdate), which reminds me; he loved soccer so much that a couple of days after our second baby was born and we were still in the hospital, he asked me if he could go home for a bit to watch the World Cup. I was like, “reeeeallly, dude?” (in my head though – but on the outside I just smiled and nodded because I knew how badly he wanted to see it. I did roll my eyes so hard that I’m pretty sure I felt it in my c-section stitches!)

Also – he was unusually obsessed with ice. Every morning he woke up, walked to the kitchen, opened the freezer and popped a few ice cubes into his mouth and chewed them very loudly. And he could not get through the morning without asking me to “squeeze” his head. I usually didn’t mind it because he had such soft, thick, lovely hair before having to get ready for work and putting that Axe hair product in it.

I knew what his favourite meals were that his mom made; spinach and chicken, and pumpkin and shrimp, but we both shared a deep love for Mexican food, specifically burritos, tacos, fajitas and quesadillas. When we wanted to really treat ourselves, we would look at each other and say, “BURRITOS FROM CHIPOTLE.” It was our thing. He also loved when I tucked him into bed so tight that he was a human burrito.

Just as I saw all sides of him, he saw all sides of me. He saw me in my truest form; a really messy, emotional nerd who hoarded books, documented everything and spoke in too many accents.
He always knew when I was in the washroom taking a poop because I would flush more than once (sorry – TMI) and he would say, “droppin’ a deuce in there?” and turn on the fan because the switch was on the outside of the washroom. I still remember the first time he farted in front of me when we were still dating, he just casually said, “excuse me”, but the first time he heard me fart was in the middle of the night when Annabella was a newborn and I was rocking her to sleep. He looked up from the bed and asked, “did you just fart?” and mortified, I said, “noooooo, that was the BABY.”

We could complain about our family members to each other, or talk smack about certain co-workers, and share our “dutty” jokes with each other (i.e. that’s-what-she-said jokes). Oh, he loved the show, The Office and Michael Scott was his favourite character. But he wasn’t into it as much when Michael left the show.

We shared a mutual love for Batman. I’ll never forget when we went to see The Dark Knight Rises in theatres. Our favourite scene was when all the bats emerged as Bruce finally escaped that cave. But again, he taught me a lot about superheroes and the original comic book stories that I didn’t know growing up. On the day of our wedding reception (which was two days after our ceremony) he pretended to be Christian Bale driving the Tumbler (in his Nissan 350Z) and yelled to me, “RACHELLLLLLLLL! HANG ON RACHELLLLLL!” And when I was on maternity leave, every morning when he left for work I would send him a quote from a Batman movie to his work email so that he would see it as soon as he got to the office.

The sweeter side of him told me I was beautiful, gorgeous, and recognized my strengths and talents. One day at work, I used my lunch break to walk around the office and get people to sign a birthday card for my team leader that I had made out of bristol board, and when I got to his office, he said to me, “this is what makes you so special.” He would tell people how easily I could personalize things through my writing.

He helped me pay off my student loan early in our marriage. Most of the downpayment for our condo came from his many years of savings. He used his line of credit to buy me and our girls a car after we separated. And when that car was totalled in an accident, he was the one I called first and the one to bring me home from the hospital.

When I got food poisoning at work one day, he was the one I called to pick me up (this is when we were separated) and he brought me home (to the condo we all used to live in) and then picked up the girls from daycare. We all stayed together that night and the next few days. When I fainted twice from having literally no energy or food in my system, he was the one who lifted me off the floor and carried me to bed.

Some of my favourite gifts from him are: one year for my birthday, Disney re-released Cinderella from the ‘vault’, as the Diamond Edition, and knowing it was my favourite, he got it for me; another time he got me a Kindle because I love reading (and also because he thought it would stop me from buying so many books – I didn’t stop by the way); a little Flamingo pin (which is currently sitting on my dresser), a tiny bear made out of glass with my birthstone in it for mother’s day, a random bouquet of flowers, and my absolute FAVOURITE; tickets to see Aladdin live in theatres, where I cried during the “a whole new world” scene and he looked at me and said, “are you CRYING?” and I said, “shut up.”

Of course, there were much darker times in our marriage which led to our separation, but after some time apart, although we lived at different addresses (five minutes away from each other and eventually an hour away from each other), we still managed to stay connected, every day. Mostly because of our daughters, but also because we were great friends. He didn’t agree with many things I shared through my writing, but he also made sure to applaud my parenting and my role as our daughters’ mother.

We worked together to ensure our girls knew we are still always a family.

I sometimes catch myself picking up my phone to call him and tell him something and have the sudden realization that he isn’t there to answer me.

And that’s when the pain hits.

I’ve read about the different stages of grief and mine are all over the place. It’s not linear and clear cut. One day I feel I’ve accepted his death. The next I’m screaming in my head, “HE CAN’T BE GONE.”

When I sleep, I dream of him – about him coming back to life.
When I’m awake, I see his face in the casket. And it’s like the wind gets knocked out of me.

I miss hugging him. He was so tall that my head was at his chest and my arms would wrap around his torso. We always greeted each other with a hug and kiss on the cheek whenever I dropped the girls off with him, and again when I picked them up. I always said, “I love you” before getting in the car and he always said it back. It was important to me that our girls saw this exchange so they understood, parents can be separated and still love and respect each other.

I’m remembering a time last year when I couldn’t sleep, it was around 3am. He couldn’t sleep either and he called me. We talked and laughed. I don’t know anymore what we said to each other but I remember a huge smile on my face.

photo from our honeymoon

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

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.

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.