fiction, Writing Portfolio

Third Date

Third Date


It feels like Paris. It’s dark out, but there’s too many lights from the city to actually comprehend that there could ever be night. The candle is burning low in some scent of linen that makes me think of clouds. 

He has some cute little music playing. It’s French, of course. He told me that he’d learned some famous cuisines from his trip in France, and he wanted to try them out on me. I’ve never had a man cook for me. 

He dances around to the cute little “Suis-moi,” and I tap my feet. Is he singing? I start to laugh, and he glances back at me and grins.  

When I first met Adam, I never imagined that such a goofy character could be as brilliant as the nation’s top neurosurgeon. He’d run into me while walking sideways to keep one eye on one of the city’s monuments. It wouldn’t have been so bad, except I had been honored with the task of gathering coffee for my coworkers that morning.  

My first thoughts of this person clumsily slamming into me were not very kind. He had apologized at least twelve times and attempted to help me pick of the remains of four americanos and two frappes. He probably would have gone further had I not stomped away. 

Well, this wasn’t the last I’d see of old Adam. He showed back up at my work on my floor carrying all of the coffee I had dropped. Of course, it wasn’t the way they were supposed to be ordered, but how was he supposed to know? 

He later told me that he’d found me by asking the man at the front desk which floor the angry looking woman had headed to. All of my girlfriends were quite impressed, not only with his smart, photographer looking smile, but also his initiative to follow me. He obviously wasn’t a city dweller, and I had always told myself that I would never marry a city man. 

“Do you like brussels sprouts?” 

“Yeah,” I laugh nervously. 

“Magnifique,” he says with a grin. I smell the green little “healthy foods” start to steam, and it’s mixed with olive oil and pepper. The other spices waft in circles over our heads, drowning out the candles, and I close my eyes and tug my librarian sweater tighter around my shoulders. Though steam is supposed to be warm, I feel these cold chills traveling down my arms. 

After Adam delivered the coffee, he told me that he absolutely was not going to leave until I agreed to let him make it up to me by taking me out. The guys at the office sneered at his corny behavior, while the girls all swooned, but I honestly wasn’t used to being asked out.  

I had recently lost ten pounds but was still seen as the “fat girl” of the workplace, so I was so much at a loss that I just grinned and handed him my number. He said something in French, bowed and winked at me as he left. They entire workplace erupted in laughter and chatter. This was the most exciting thing that had happened in a while, and I was filled with both butterflies and dread. 

“Le petit…” I heard Adam murmur, and the smoke from the chicken moved over to the table. I could practically taste it. It reminded me of where I had agreed to meet him for our first date. Downtown Diner. I had never been to a diner, and much to my horror, it wasn’t exactly a diet friendly place. When Adam showed up, with his huge smile, librarian glasses, and thick peppered hair combed across his forehead in loose waves, I couldn’t help but think of how he was very attractive. 

“Hey Anna, do you know where this song is from?” He calls out.  

“Um, no. Where?” 

He flashes me his signature grin. “Have you ever read ‘The Little Prince?'” 

“No?” 

He walks over, half skipping to the bouncy music. He sits across from me and blows out the candle. 

“Ugh, I didn’t have anything but a scented candle, and I figured it would be fine with my cooking. But it smells a lot better than I thought it would. It actually smells good. Like an actual meal. Don’t ya think?” 

“Yeah,” I laugh. I want to ask him why he has a scented candle. 

“Well, after we eat, we’re going to watch that movie. Don’t worry,” he smirks. “I won’t trouble you by showing the French version.” 

“I appreciate that.” 

He laughs, like even being a little flirty was too much for his personality. He’s always just so happy, and I have no idea how. I always want to ask him. 

He went through the trouble of asking me everything that I liked to eat when he saw that I was having trouble with the menu at the diner. I tried to act annoyed, but Adam never catches these things. Either that, or he doesn’t care. Just like when I spilled the coffee everywhere. I kept growling that it was fine, but Adam kept persisting that it wasn’t.  

On our date at the diner, I finally decided that I wasn’t going to be one of those girls and just let him order whatever for me. It ended up being really good, but the conversation was even better. 

“Oh my gosh, Anna! This chicken looks so good!” 

“Better than the first time you cooked it?” 

“I’ve never cooked it before!” He laughs. 

Adam is an expert in just about everything that he does. By the end of our first date, he figured out that I wasn’t exactly a very outgoing person, but he got me talking enough to know that I’d had past relationship problems… as in, I’ve never actually dated. I blame my confidence problems. The closest that I ever came to a date was with Brad – the popular linebacker from high school – who tried to woo me on a dare because he just assumed that I was a virgin, as one of my dear friends took the trouble of finding out for me. 

Shudders go up my arm, and I smell the rolls in the oven, mixed with the spices and the chicken. The combination sounds disgusting, but it’s actually so delicious smelling that I can almost block out all of my horrible memories. Adam takes the rolls out and sets them on the table. 

Ah, bread. My old friend. Immediately upon discovering the “Brad Plan” – as we later came to call it – I want to the bathroom and threw up everything I’d had for breakfast. My eating disorder did not result in my starving myself. It was one of the other kinds. The “Brad Plan” also resulted in a horrifying introverted, goth phase.  

And I explained all of this to Adam.  

On our first date.  

As my excuse for not being able to talk very well. 

After realizing everything that had spilled out of my mouth, I was mortified. And he looked mortified, too. As my insides wrung themselves dry, and I could feel the chocolate waffles traveling back up my stomach, Adam started to laugh. He told me that he thought Brad was a total jerk and hoped that he had a horrible life now. Then, to beat it all, Adam told me that Brad was a bland, uninteresting name. 

“Hey Adam, do you have this song on repeat, or something?” 

“I sure do! It’s really great. The only other song in the playlist that has words is really sad, and you can tell it’s depressing even without knowing what it’s saying.” 

“I hope this movie isn’t sad.” 

“Oh, you will probably cry.” 

“Cry?” 

“Yeah, probably.” He smiles sheepishly and shrugs. “But it is one of those things that make you the better for it at the end. I mean, I cried.” 

Precious Adam. I was honestly shocked when he asked me for a second date. I had thought that the first one was a disaster. I agreed, though I tried not to sound too enthusiastic. And I later regretted not showing more emotion because, what if I had acted too uninterested? Adam is very handsome, a dorky sort of handsome, but better looking than me Thankfully, he didn’t seem to notice how much I paled in comparison. 

He had decided to play it a little safer. By taking me to a drive in movie. I’ll be honest, I was not thrilled at watching some old movie outside amidst the bugs and damp air, but I’m a boring person. I didn’t want him to know that, so I agreed, just praying that I would have a better time than what I was expecting. 

A whiff of salad dressing joins the combination. 

“Adam, are you making a salad?” 

“Yeah.” 

“With the chicken and the bread and the brussel sprouts?” 

“This is a four course meal!” Adam laughs. “That’s how they do it over there. Dinner is a huge deal. It’s more of a feast,” he adds, raising an eyebrow at me. 

Our second date turned out to be one of the most fun times I’ve ever had. It was a silent film, and it was interesting seeing how humor back then is so different from comedy now.  

Once again, Adam had somehow gotten me talking. I explained to him that I worked out regularly. It was a decision that I’d made in my third year of college because I wanted to clean myself up and show all my high school peers just how beautiful I could be, though I knew in the back of my mind that they would never notice. They’d probably already forgotten who I even was. Fortunately, I refrained from sharing this tidbit of information.  

He told me that he wasn’t much of a gym guy, and he preferred hiking, boating, and basically anything that could easily become an adventure. I was honestly terrified because we’re so different. I didn’t want to lose him. 

It was also on this date, only a week ago, that he told me he had pushed me into going on a date with him because he could tell that I needed a friend. I remember my heart dropping through my chest, but he continued to tell me that he really liked me, and he asked me – as in actually asked me – if he could hold my hand. 

My face burned to a point that I knew it was glowing red, but Adam wasn’t looking, or he pretended not to notice. He was watching the movie. 

He asked me where I wanted to go for the third date, since he had decided the first two, and he actually pressured me into saying something. Being the boring person that I am, I said that a meal would be fine. So, here we are, with Adam cooking for me. 

He puts the plates down on the table, and I stand up wondering what I should do to help. He grins and throws the napkins at me.  

“Try to fold those into a ‘Three Cornered Hat.'” 

“Is that a thing?” 

“Yep.” 

He brings over the rest of the stuff and dips us both out some salad.  

“I made way too many rolls,” he mutters then smiles when I look at him. “There was a pack, so I figured I would just make them all.” 

“So this movie… Did you discover it while in France?” 

“No! This movie was actually the reason that I went to France. I read ‘The Little Prince’ forever ago, but then I discovered this movie. And I read it again. They have an English version, too, but the original is in French.” 

I laugh. “So that made you want to go to France?” 

“Yeah! I know, right? I mean, I already knew some French from high school, but I wanted to pick it back up and get fluent. What better place to learn French than in France! Plus…” He shrugs and smiles sheepishly. “We’re still young, right? Remember what it was like to be a kid with all of these huge dreams and stuff? Well, it’s not too late, and when that hit me, I decided, well, why not? So, I went to France! And then to London, and then to Tokyo. That’s one reason I took up photography along with my writing. I need the extra money, and there’s too many amazing things out there to not take pictures of.” 

“Wow. How could you afford to do all that?” 

“I didn’t go to college.” He laughed nervously. “I didn’t want to really. I’ve never really liked school, so all that money from high school jobs went towards a camera and a plane ticket.” 

“I didn’t like school either, but college just – I don’t know. It was where everyone was going.” 

“Well, it’s okay if it helps you get a degree to get a job you like. You like your job don’t you.” 

“Yeah,” I mumble. Adam glances at me, but remains quiet. “I wish I could just drop everything and go somewhere, but I have a good job now. Those can be hard to come by.”  

“I’m not quite that adventurous anymore. It takes a little time to save up the money to travel, you know.” 

“Yeah,” I mumble. 

“Hey! Maybe that’s why we’ve met, Anna. I’m going to help you escape the same rut that I escaped. It may not be photography or France, but it will be something.” 

I laugh but notice that he’s not laughing. He’s just smiling at me. We start to eat, and I occasionally glance at him and can’t help but notice that he’s glancing at me.  

“Do you like it?” 

“Yes! It’s – I think it’s amazing.” 

“Great! Maybe I can add connoisseur to my resume.”  

I start to feel awkward, trying to think of something to say, but Adam takes out a piece of paper and starts to write down the translation to the lyrics to the song. Somehow, that, and the smell of these spiced Brussel sprouts, take away all of my feelings of nauseousness. 

He hands me the translated lyrics and grins. Even if it is only our third date, I feel myself falling in love with him. Maybe it’s because I trust him. We could work, balance each other out, I hope. Even if we don’t, it’s going to be fine.  

 Live a little, Anna. Let yourself fall in love. 

 
Photo by Chris Karidis  

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Scribbles

Memories

Memories


(Prologue from a story I hope to soon publish.)

It was the same memory that popped up in his head over and over again, sometimes without warning. It was a memory he could not allow himself to forget. His father, eyes pale like melted silver and stature as tall and big as a tree, knelt way down to his height and put his hands on his shoulders. 

“Son, I’m going to go.” His voice was low and gruff, always sounding like storms in the distance. “You don’t need a coward for a father.” 

He hadn’t known what that meant. His father stood upright, now as tall as the sky, and stepped away, his white-hot eyes still staring, burning their place into his memory. 

Those had been the last words his father had ever said to him. 

This memory was all he had left. 

It was a memory she thought would long fade away through the years, but it was still here, fresh and tender as the moment it happened, even though the rest of her mind and body were beginning to fail. 

The mother had been beautiful, a gleaming light in a part of the world that was quickly growing darker. She had warned the mother to be careful, that two were enough, that these two had nearly killed her, but here they were for the third time. 

The mother, still beautiful even as her soul was in departing, reached up to touch the small, shrieking pink thing the maid now clasped in her arms. A smile emerged on the mother’s pretty lips. Tears emerged in her emerald eyes when she touched her baby’s head. 

She did not have to live. This daughter would take all of her vitality, beauty and kindness. The child would grow up to live a full life in her place, and so, the life left the mother’s body though her face remained content. 

The father, eyes wide in horror and pain, turned his gaze to the baby. He did not feel the same. 


Photo by Josipa Juras  

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fiction

Game Night

Game Night

It was game night. In the fifteen years since graduating high school, we’d only cancelled our monthly game night six times. Maybe seven. I couldn’t be sure.  

This month it was at Jena and Dan’s house, and the game was Pictionary. There was always a bit of Charades too because we probably didn’t play it right.   

Jena was a pharmacist, and Dan was a baseball coach. I was a doctor and was supposed to be the most successful. Cheryl and I had the biggest house, but we took turns where to have game night.  

We were in the family room, or something like that. About a nine-foot ceiling, white walls, a TV hanging on one, and decorative art on the others. The couches were a grayish suede. Maybe not suede, but not leather or regular fabric. A dark wooden table that normally sat in the middle had been pushed over under the TV, right next to the gas fireplace which wasn’t on, of course, because it was September.   

My eyes traced the glassy lines that flowed over the stained wood of the coffee table. Some were so dark they looked like oil. Six wine glasses were distinctly placed so everyone knew whose was whose, but instead of wine, cans of coke littered the table because Jamie was going to celebrate six years without a drink come next month. October 5th.  

Jack couldn’t make it, so Jamie and Donna were split up. Jamie on mine and Cheryl’s team. Donna on Jena and Dan’s team.  

Jack was dating someone. He was going to bring her tonight, but ended up not being able to make it. I had been really happy for him at first, but now I didn’t know how to feel.  

What was the score?  

I couldn’t tell, but it was probably the other team winning. All three seemed pretty excited. Even Jena. I wondered if she had any idea.  

It was our turn. I was supposed to up, but I forced a smile and explained I wasn’t feeling all too well. Again.  

Cheryl gazed at me for probably five, maybe six seconds. I watched her from the corner of my eye, and tried to read her expression.  

She went to the center and began drawing. Immediately, Jamie and Dan began calling out terms. It was some kind of flower, but Cheryl wasn’t the best artist. We used to joke about it. The drawing was just a circle with four simple petals. Cheryl probably didn’t know how to draw the exact flower, so began motioning with her hands for us to keep guessing.  

Jamie punched me in the shoulder.   

“You’ve gotta help me man!”  

I forced a smile, and said, “Tulip.”  

“Chrysanthemum, nightshade, orchid, daffodil!” Jena yelled.  

“Rose!” Dan grinned as he said it. It felt like a punch against my stomach.  

“Uhh…” Jamie snapped his fingers with eyes squeezed shut, trying to remember. “Uh, sunflower!” He pointed at Donna.  

“That’s your favorite, right?”   

Donna laughed.   

“Yeah, but not Cheryl’s.”   

Cheryl’s favorite was a hydrangea. Purple.  

She turned quickly and began furiously drawing more flowers. Still laughing, Donna called out, “Hydrangea.”  

Of course she would know. Donna was Cheryl’s best friend. I wondered how much else she knew.  

“Yes!” Cheryl grinned, then the realization dawned on her. “Aw, you’re not on my team!”  

Cheryl was beautiful. Slender limbs, round, hazel eyes, and blonde hair. It wasn’t a natural blonde, but she could pass for being one. She had been blonde when younger, like when we’d met in high school.  

I thought I was handsome, with my brown eyes and curly black hair. Same as in high school when we fell in love. I was a decent height. At least two or three inches taller than her. I felt my nose was too big sometimes though.  

“Okay, okay.” Cheryl picked up another card. She bounced on her toes. “Come on, my team.”  

How could she act so natural? There was a hole in my stomach that I didn’t know was there, and it just grew larger. I took a sip of coke.  

This time, lots of tiny dots and slashes and smiling stick people covered the whiteboard. She glanced my way and discreetly signed something. I think it was confetti or snow, but I looked past her and pretended not to see.  

The phrase was obviously related to a party, like Happy New Year, but everyone thought it was a birthday party, or a snow day, or a parade. Cheryl would’ve drawn a snowman, floats, or a cake if it was any of those.  

They would guess it eventually.  

“Hey, I think we should learn some sign language,” Cheryl had said to me one day around two years ago.   

I had just gotten home from work. I don’t remember how long I’d worked, but twelve-hour shifts could last anywhere between thirteen and sixteen hours on the right night, and it had been one of those nights.  

“Okay.” I’d sat down and held my eyes open as she went through all the different signs she’d learned. 

I made enough money for both of us, so Cheryl was a writer. She did editing and odd jobs but mostly focused her time on stories. I had wondered where she’d found the time to learn sign language. Maybe it was for a character. I should’ve asked.  

She thought it would be helpful on game nights, you know, if we used it sparingly and carefully. She had a smile that was so hard to say no to.  

I took another sip of coke, but my throat was almost too dry to force it down.  

“I’m trying to guess! Maybe if I got some help!” Jamie nudged me again, hard enough to almost make me drop my drink. “Hey, are you okay?”   

The room went quiet, and everyone looked at me. I try to focus only on Jamie, but the expressions of Cheryl and Dan still bled into my vision.  

“Yeah. Just really tired.”  

“He picked up an extra two shifts this week,” Cheryl said. She rubbed her hands against her sides and stared at me, but I blocked out the image of her face before allowing myself to read her expression.  

“Wow. Things at the hospital getting bad, huh.” Jamie’s face was scrunched up with his nose, eyebrows, and lips all wrinkled towards the center, meaning he was either concerned or thinking. Could he see it? Could he tell that something else was wrong?  

I didn’t know what to say, so I took another sip, but the hole in my stomach was so large that I thought I might get sick.  

Jamie was one of my best friends. We weren’t as close as Jack, but we were closer than Dan and I.   

Maybe that was the reason. 

“Hey, we’ll finish this round then end it,” Dan said.  

I stared at the ground between them and tried to watch for how they looked at each other.   

Dan was taller than me by several inches, and he had light brown hair and blue eyes. I thought my face was better-looking, but Dan was definitely more muscular. I didn’t have the time to exercise like I used to.  

They barely looked at each other, nothing more than what would be usual. Maybe. Perhaps they knew I was paying attention.  

“Hey,” Jamie whispered to me, but I shook my head. I couldn’t talk about this. How would I even begin to talk about this?  

“I’m just… dealing with a lot right now.” I tried to force down another sip.  

Jamie shook his head and shrugged.   

“Yeah, I mean. I’m just a foreman. I can’t begin to understand what you have to deal with every day.”  

“You guys, it’s your turn!” Donna elbowed Jamie.  

“Sorry! Sorry, uh…”  

Cheryl had drawn a box. There was a lightning strike and a pair of glasses. She didn’t seem nearly as excited as before.  

“Harry Potter?” Jena asked.  

“Uh… Uh, uh…” Jamie was snapping his fingers furiously, staring boggle-eyed at the drawing, like the answer was on the tip of his tongue. I smiled.  

Cheryl continued to draw, but I wasn’t paying attention anymore. I poured more coke into my glass even though it was still half full.  

“Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets!”  

From the corner of my eye, I could see Dan staring at me. I had figured that in such a situation I would get angry and not be able to contain myself, but instead, the hole in my stomach grew bigger.”  

“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone?”  

“No, Donna got it,” Cheryl said.  

Everyone stood up and got ready to say their goodbyes and leave. Finally.  

“What’s up with everyone tonight?” Donna laughed as she asked.  

“When old doc’s not himself, there’s no use in meeting. He’s the life of the party.” Jamie grinned. I forced myself to smile.  

We had made our way to the porch, mostly because everyone was following me, and I couldn’t stand to be in that house anymore. I had to get away from those four white walls before I suffocated.  

I almost stepped off the porch when I turned to Jamie and Donna – Jamie had once been an alcoholic, and he ran a team of ragged misfits to any construction site that needed extra help, and Donna was the daycare worker who had gotten let go from her teaching position when the school decided it didn’t have the funds for a music program. They were the ones who should be struggling.  

“You two take care of each other,” I said. Both Dan and Cheryl were out of view, but Jamie stared at me wide-eyed. Donna also had her eyebrows raised.   

I was walking back towards the car when I heard Jamie ask, “Did he watch someone die or something?”  

I smiled.   

One thing Cheryl did do was convince me to give them enough money to put a down payment on a house. Jamie still had no idea, and I hoped he would never find out. I hoped Donna would keep up that lie about the school giving her a boost of unemployment for feeling bad about letting her go. I wanted to give him more money, and I wished I knew of a way possible to do it so that he would never find out, and then he could take Donna on a good vacation. Somewhere like Italy or Greece. That’s where Cheryl and I had gone last summer.  

The drive home was only supposed to be fifteen minutes, but it felt like at least three hours.  

Cheryl kept glancing at me, and I knew she was watching me from the corner of her eye. She was biting her lip because she didn’t want to ask me what was wrong. Maybe because this time, she was afraid of the answer.  

“So, work has been really rough lately,” she said instead.  

I didn’t answer. It hadn’t been a question but an obvious statement that didn’t warrant an answer. Still, the silence between us made the air much denser, until it was nearly impossible to breathe.  

I licked my lips because they were growing increasingly chaff from having to wear that mask all the time at work, and I had been forgetting to put on Chapstick.  

Cheryl stared at me for a long time, and there was this look in her eyes, in the way her mouth was curved, it made the hole inside me swallow up my stomach and press hard against all my other organs until I was struggling for air. I could feel hot tears forming behind my eyes, but I clenched my jaw and focused on the road.  

Going to game night had been a bad idea. A terrible idea. But, I had to see them in the same room together, to see if she looked at him the way she had once looked at me. I had held everything together for an entire week just to make it to tonight.  

And I saw nothing. Nothing on their part slipped.  

Why?   

Why had it happened?  

I wanted to ask but was terrified of the answer. There was no justification, but surely there had been a reason. What was it?  

Would she even tell me?  

Cheryl was staring out the window now, so my eyes moved from the road to the platinum ring around my finger that reflected in the streetlights as we drove past them.  

Where did I go from here? What did I do? How was I going to explain this to everyone? What would happen to her? Did I care? Should I?  

I didn’t know what to feel, nor did I even know what I wanted to feel.  

A single hot tear slipped out my left eye, but I carefully exhaled and clenched my jaw, determined that no more should escape.  

“So…” My voice didn’t crack. That gave me the strength I needed to continue. “The next game night is supposed to be at my house. When do you think we should tell them it’s cancelled?” 


Photo by Thilak Lees

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poetry, Writing Portfolio

Chasing the Moon

Chasing the Moon


There was a man who chased the moon. 
He said it was for love. 
I chased him round until we flew, 
The ground beneath us gone. 

The stars all looked like splintered glass 
With emptiness between. 
I asked him why we floated so. 
He said it was for love. 

A floating, wandering, unkempt love 
In search of a lost moon. 
He said the ground was too below, 
And us, we’re too far gone. 

This love is new and rich, I thought, 
Unlike I’ve ever seen. 
She’s chased and chased, but never caught. 
I asked him why he cared. 

“Unsafe, unknown, and wild, this love, 
But would you ever know? 
Her smile at night and pale, white light 
I’d rather chase than forgo.” 


Photo by I 

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