Odd Girl Out

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The A&B Building was made entirely from driftwood.  Scarlett loved summer camp. The unusual architecture, the art classes, the great outdoors.  Scarlett opened the door and saw Maggie, her fellow camp counselor for the summer.  I didn’t think she’d come back. 

She glanced down at the scar on Maggie’s lower arm.  It was hardly noticeable any longer.  And she and the other girls were just playing a harmless joke.  It wasn’t their fault that Maggie was a loser.  It was an unspoken camp tradition.  The odd girl out always got hazed.

Charity, Regan, Laina, and Ashlee descended the stairs and stood behind Maggie.  Scarlett smiled and waved.  No one waved back. Laina locked the front door and turned out the lights.  Scarlett tried to escape upstairs but she felt a pair of hands dragging her back.  She’d scream but she knew it was useless.  They were the only ones here.

She’d never been the odd girl out.

In response to Mondays’ Finish the Story Challenge!

Read Odd Girl Out pt. 2

Failure IS An Option

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.

-Thomas Edison

I am a writer.  I do something else roughly between the hours and 9 am and 6 pm to pay the bills, but I am a writer.  And to be a writer, unless you have great connections, a famous last name, or juicy Hollywood secrets to spill, means getting used to failure.  A lot of it.

I wrote my first book, an intertwined collection of short stories, and self-published it with Amazon, totally excited that I’d achieved a lifelong dream.  But I had no idea how to market it.  I tried blogging, social media, paid advertising, raising and lowering the price, but nothing seemed to work.  I thought finishing the book was the hard part, but this was the worst.  I did research after the fact to figure out what I did wrong.  I didn’t build a readership BEFORE publishing.  I didn’t tweet.  I didn’t hire a professional graphic artist or proofreader.  I was clueless.

So, I have a second chance.  I’ll try and do things right, maybe even succeed.  I’ll spend days submitting my book(s) to literary agents, and if no one bites, I will self-publish.  I will blog on the regular.  I will design a beautiful cover.  I will tweet.  I will get more followers.  And, after doing all that, if I still only make $6 in sales, I’ll buy another coffee and pastry with my earnings, sit in the corner of the coffee shop with my laptop and start all over again.  9,998 chances to go.

Corporation X

Corporation X.  You know it.  You probably work there.  You started out like most of us do, full of youthful arrogance and promise, with dreams of changing the world with our words, writing the great American novel, city lights, exciting travel.  But Corporation X is where most of us end up.

It’s located in a generic office park somewhere out in the boonies, not in some skyscraper downtown overlooking the city skyline as Hollywood movies would have you believe.  The building is two stories, maybe three.  Every window has a view of the parking lot, or the alley behind the parking lot.  There’s a grimy microwave in the break room, with a crudely written sign taped above it that screams, “Your mama doesn’t live here so clean up your mess!”  The aroma of stale coffee and disinfectant and hundreds of thousands of frozen meals and household leftovers sticks to your clothes after your lunch break. And despite the time of year or the state of the weather outside, temperatures are kept at a frigid 50 degrees or lower at all times.

It doesn’t matter if Corporation X sells office supplies, bottled water, feminine products, or computer equipment.  Maybe they don’t sell anything tangible at all.   Because what we all do, is sit in a 5×5 cubicle with our heads down, a blanket wrapped around a shivering, hovered forms, shuffling figures around spreadsheets, dodging calls, answering emails, sneaking to Facebook and Netflix to break the monotony, and waiting for the day to end. It’s amazing that Corporation X has lasted this long, with so little actual work taking place.  If they really knew, they’d fire nearly everyone, keep the one or two brownnosers that actually puts in an honest 8+ hours a day. But they don’t know, because you’ve mastered the masquerade.  The furrowed brow, the furious typing, the half wave, or nod that says, I’m very busy, can we talk later?  The Man never has to know that you’re really posting a rant on your Facebook wall about whomever Shonda killed off last night during Grey’s Anatomy.

If you aren’t careful, Corporation X will steal your soul, like it has stolen so many others.  You’ll leave here in 40 years with a dwindling 401K, a plaque with the gold paint already peeling, and a slap on the back from the boss for your trouble, driving yourself home in a daze wondering, is this really it?  Or, you’ll do what I’ve decided to do.  Rebel.  One day I will leave here, but on my own terms, head high, soul intact.

Writing 101, Day Sixteen: First Love

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Imagine you had a job in which you had to sift through forgotten or lost belongings. Describe a day in which you come upon something peculiar, or tell a story about something interesting you find in a pile.

The day has finally come.  Mom and Dad have retired; they’re moving to the coast.  It’s been their dream for as long as I can remember.  My brother and I are both in town today, to go through our old stuff in the attic before the junk haulers come and take it all away.  I’m sure most of it’s trash.  Old homework assignments and toys that I’d lost and forgotten about long ago.  When I climb the stairs I see my brother is already there, covered in dust, knee deep in childhood mementos.  He holds up a golden trophy with a big smile.  It’s the award we both won in the talent show back in elementary school.  We’d performed a choreographed Michael Jackson routine that had brought the house down.   I go to give him a hug before heading to my side of the attic.

It’s just as I thought, a lot of junk.  There’s a few hilarious diaries from my tween and teen years that I’d like to save.  They’re dripping with nostalgia.  I open the last diary I ever kept, from my senior year of high school, and start to read.  Every entry is about the boy across the street.  The one I’d been in love with since I was five but had only gotten the nerve to speak to the summer after graduation, when I’d finally come out of my self-imposed shell when it came to boys.  I could get up on a stage and sing and dance for a packed theater, perform a monologue during an audition for a room full of strangers, but when it came to the opposite gender, for some reason I clammed up, my knees melted, I couldn’t seem to open my mouth to say anything remotely coherent.  My best friend had been telling me for years that he liked me too, but I never believed her.  I always avoided him at school, ran in the house when I saw him coming down our street.  It was almost as if I loved the fantasy him so much that I just wanted to keep things that way, didn’t want to ruin the relationship of my imagination with unpredictable reality.

But on the first day of that bittersweet summer, I was in the same attic; it was the best place to spy without anyone noticing.  I saw him step out of his shiny new red Acura, a graduation gift.  I’d leaned against the glass and sighed, thinking about how I’d wasted the past 12 years.  He’d be moving away soon and so would I – I was going to New York City try my hand at performing.  He was moving to Boston for college.  But then I realized.  We had these next three months.  There were three more months before everything changed forever.  I wasn’t going to waste anymore time.  I ran downstairs out the door and across the street.  I stood in front of him, breathlessly.  He smiled at me.

“Hi.”

“Hi.”

We stood in a not so awkward silence for a few beats, then I said, “Would you like to come in for a soda?”  Not quite the over the top romantic first date of my dreams, but it was the first thing that came out.

He nodded, took my hand and led me across the street to my front door.  Twelve years as neighbors and it was his first time inside our home.  It was the first of many dates; we were  inseparable that summer.  We fell in love quickly, in a scary, all-consuming way, but the feeling was irresistible.

Then, inevitably, the summer ended and we moved to separate cities.  We tried to make it work, Boston and New York weren’t that far apart after all.  But we were both so busy, the distance was greater than we imagined; we mutually decided to end it.  I’d heard through the  grapevine that he was successful, had moved back to our hometown, working as an attorney at a small boutique firm.  He’d been engaged but had called it off a few months ago and had just bought a house in town. In contrast, I still lived in New York but was thinking about making a move. I’d gotten a few parts here and there, but 10 years later, I was still waiting tables and doing other odd jobs to make ends meet.  My counterparts were buying homes, getting married and having babies, and I still lived in a cramped roach-infested apartment with roommates, waiting for my big break.  Being a successful stage actress had always been my dream, but sometimes dreams change.

This thought strikes me again as I see him pull up in his parents’ driveway through the attic window.  I get that same feeling I did ten summers ago.  Now or never.  I race down the stairs and out the front door, not stopping until I’m standing in front of him in the driveway as he’s slamming the car door.  I’m restless and excited, 18 once again.

“Hi,” I say with a smile.

“Hi.”  He smiles back.

albert-einstein-quote

 

Pick up the nearest book and flip to page 29. What’s the first word that jumps off the page? Use this word as your springboard for inspiration. If you need a boost, Google the word and see what images appear, and then go from there. 

Today’s twist: write the post in the form of a letter.

 

I have a  Bible with an introduction that lists a series of scriptures that have practical application for everyday life.  And this was on pg. 29:

“Make sure of the most important things.”  Philippians 1:10

 

Dear Nameless Man Three Beach Chairs Down From Me On Vacation,

Have you noticed what a perfect day this is?  I don’t use the word perfect often, but today it’s appropriate.  Not a cloud in the sky, temperatures in the eighties, a soft, gentle, salty breeze blowing off the ocean.

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I’ve been here for hours.  I’ve gone for a swim with my friends, devoured a delicious juicy burger from the Shake Shack across the street, the best I’ve ever had, finished a great book, gotten tanned lying here just marveling at the scenery.  And what have you done?  I’ve heard you make multiple, very loud business calls (I hope you close the deal with the potential client by the way), ignore your children’s constant pleas to play or build sandcastles, yell at one of your kids for making one of those requests one time too many, and brusquely demand your wife return to your hotel suite to bring you yet another electronic device without a please or thank you.

So the question is – what’s more important?  Your children are beautiful.  I’m not a parent myself, but even I know how quickly time passes.  Soon they’ll be slamming their bedroom doors in your face, rolling their eyes and releasing elongated annoyed sighs when the time for family vacation rolls around.  I think maybe then you’ll think back on this day with regret, wishing you could go back, build a sandcastle, frolic in the waves.  But there will be no time.

The day is nearly over.  It will be dark soon.  People are starting to pack up to leave.  I’m going to lie here for a while with the people that are the most important to me in the world and watch the sun set over the water.  It’s a glorious sight.  I would tell you to go stand on the pier with your family and watch it with them.  You’d get the best view from there.  But I know it’s pointless.  Your wife is packing up your children’s things alone, your children are already lugging their toys up the beach toward the resort.  Have you noticed they’re leaving?  Probably not. If you’ll be here tomorrow, and I hope you will be, put the phone and the tablets down, and look up.  Look into your children’s faces.  Record their sweet laughter in your head for future reference – they’re only that sweet for so long.  Look at the ocean.  Feel the salt air on your face.  Tell your wife you appreciate her.  Remember what’s really important. And for goodness sakes, build your kids a sandcastle.

Sincerely,

Jenn

P.S. Since you have your tablet handy already, head over to iTunes and download Cats in the Cradle, I hear it’s a great song!

Writing 101, Day Thirteen: Finding Quinn

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On day four, you wrote a post about losing something. Today, write about finding something.  Today’s twist: if you wrote day four’s post as the first in a series, use this one as the second installment — loosely defined. 

I decided to take on a new subject instead of adding to my last “serial killer” post.

It had been one of the most difficult periods of my life.  After years of not asking for help, not crying when I needed to cry, screaming when I need to scream, I broke.  The anxiety took on a life of its own, in dramatic fashion, it took over my body.  I collapsed to the ground, paralyzed, my body seizing, tears flooding my eyes.  I didn’t know why.  I was confined to my bedroom for weeks, not able to go out into the world without the sensation taking over my body again.  My head feeling like it was going to explode from pressure, my legs going to mush, my entire body overheating, my breath quickening to the point of hyperventilation.  It was misery.

With the help, love and support of my family, my sweet doctor, plus my hope and faith, I was able to go back out into the world again, taking slow tentative steps into the sun.  It wasn’t easy at first, and I still felt empty inside.  I found myself up late at night, searching online for a new member to add to our family, someone to give me purpose.  And then I saw her.  The shelter had named her Quinn.  A sweet baby girl with big brown eyes as sad as mine, an adorable brown spot on her ear and her side.  I knew she was mine before we even met.

The day we went to pick her up, I knelt in front of her cage, and she wagged her tail and smiled at me (yes puppies can smile, despite what my husband says). She seemed to know I was her mom. The days that followed were sleepless and a lot of work, but I loved every minute of it.  I had a reason to get up in the morning with the sunrise, usually awakened by a sloppy kiss on my cheek.  I walked around my neighborhood with my new baby at my side, a smile on my face, a greeting for the neighbors, some of whom I hadn’t seen in months.  I started to remember what happiness felt like.

I’m healthier now, almost a year later.  I’ve found my voice once again, and I’m vowing never to lose it.  Quinn is still a handful, though she’s calmed down a lot.  I give her a lot of leeway, maybe too much some might say.  When my husband asks me why I don’t get angry when I find another shoe destroyed or a throw pillow torn apart with the stuffing strewn all over the floor, I smile as I clean up and tell him it’s simple, she saved my life.  And that’s worth more than anything.

quinns path of destruction

 

If you live in the Atlanta area and are looking for a new friend, please check out Dekalb Animal Services:  http://dekalbanimalservices.com/adopt-a-pet/dogs-for-adoption.  So many sweet animals that need homes!

Writing 101, Day Eleven: My Backyard

Tell us about the home where you lived when you were twelve. Which town, city, or country? Was it a house or an apartment? A boarding school or foster home? An airstream or an RV? Who lived there with you?

Today’s twist: pay attention to your sentence lengths and use short, medium, and long sentences as you compose your response about the home you lived in when you were twelve.

Cozy is the word that comes to mind.  The home I lived in from infancy through adulthood was cozy and warm.  A sturdy brick home in suburbia with white shutters and a big porch that ran the length of the house.  The best part – the  backyard.  It seemed to go on for days.  A gentle sloping hill, great for riding anything with wheels.  Trees lining the fence on both sides.  And a two tall pines standing next to each other smack in the middle.  My dad used those trees to make a tent for us in the summer.  We weren’t allowed to sleep there overnight, but we’d stay inside it all day sometimes.  Pretending.  The backyard was many things to my brother and our friends during those days.  An obstacle course.  An Olympic course. An undiscovered planet.  A crime scene.  A cattle ranch.  A zoo.  A strange country where monsters and other furry creatures lurked everywhere.  It was all ours.

Sometimes childhood can be lonely.  You’re always full of stories and energy  that the adults in your world don’t always have time to entertain.  And your peers are all too eager to leave childhood behind prematurely.  Maybe school had been a disaster that day.  Maybe our parents were too busy to listen. Maybe our classmates were being jerks.  But we always had the backyard, spread out in front of us like a magical faraway land, where just being a kid was always okay.

Writing 101, Day Ten: Franks and Beans

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Tell us about your favorite childhood meal — the one that was always a treat, that meant “celebration,” or that comforted you and has deep roots in your memory.

It’s so funny to think of it now, but my favorite meal as a kid, simple as it is, was franks and beans. My brother and I visited my maternal grandmother often as small children. My Gram would always ask what we wanted for lunch – pizza? burgers and fries? mac and cheese? But we would always shout in a loud chorus, “Franks and beans!” Gram would chuckle and shake her head, heading toward the stove.

My favorite memory is a rainy afternoon, me and my brother sitting around my Gram’s dark wooden table in her warm, sweet-smelling kitchen, looking out the small window next to the cabinets as the raindrops streaked down the glass. I remember feeling so safe as my brother and I played some game we’d made up, the rules of which I can’t even remember now, as our lunch simmered on the stove. My Gram would pull a huge canister of our favorite beverage at the time, sweet peach juice, from her cavernous pantry and opened it with her dangerous-looking can-opener, deftly creating two perfect triangular holes on each side, it seemed like magic to me.

Looking back on it now, I realize now why that meal was always my favorite as a kid, besides the fact that Gram made it best, it meant fun, Gram’s house, playing with my brother, no worries, simplicity, safety, love. Not bad for a can of beans and some cut up hot dogs. Sometimes, every blue moon, and maybe today qualifies since there’s a full moon on Friday the 13th, I still make it for myself, curl up on the couch, watch cartoons, and pretend to be five all over again.

Writing 101, Day Nine: Changing Moccasins — Point of View

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Today’s assignment:  A man and a woman walk through the park together, holding hands. They pass an old woman sitting on a bench. The old woman is knitting a small, red sweater. The man begins to cry. Write this scene.

Today’s twist: write the scene from three different points of view: from the perspective of the man, then the woman, and finally the old woman.

It was a pleasant morning. This would be easier if it wasn’t such a beautiful day. The kind of day where children were running across the grass in the park, kicking soccer balls around and playing exuberant games of tag and hide and seek. The sounds of their laughter pierced Dave’s heart, but he forced himself to maintain his composure. He didn’t want to be a burden to Maria any longer. The last year had been the worst of their lives. Their young son, Sebastian, had been born on a frigid winter day last February. They’d been parents for eight wonderful, devastating, anxiety-ridden days, and then he was gone.

Maria had been Maria, the fixer. She went home and robotically packed away the baby clothes and furniture, donating them all to a charity, she went to grief counseling, planned a small memorial service for their child. Dave had fallen apart. He spent everyday in bed, in the same bathrobe, ignoring Maria’s requests to accompany her to counseling, to help her plan the funeral, to get outside and get some fresh air. Maria did the best she could, tried to take care of him, nurture him through the dark times, get him to the other side, but it seemed impossible. She’d expended all of her energy on him, she had nothing left for herself. A month ago, she’d had her first panic attack, in the middle of work. She’d put her head on her desk and breathed her way through it, but it was the beginning of the end. Last week, Maria told him she wanted out. They both needed to heal. Being around each other was only making things worse in her mind. Dave had wished there was another way, but he knew she was right.

He glanced sideways, noticing an older woman with brilliant white hair sitting on a bench. In her lap was a tiny red sweater she was in the middle of knitting, her hands working furiously. It would have been just the right size to fit Sebastian, had he been here. Dave’s resistance faltered, and his eyes filled with tears.

Maria looked at Dave, saw the tears streaking down his cheeks and took his hand, feeling like a horrible person for the knot of annoyance beginning to form in her stomach. She was the one who’d carried Sebastian for nine months, given birth to him after 20 hours of labor, pressed his soft little body against her skin for only a moment before the doctors ripped him from her arms. She should have been the one to have the breakdown, not Dave. He should have been the one to plan the memorial service, to find the grief counselor, to get her out of bed every morning and make her breakfast, take her on long walks, hold her as she cried. She shouldn’t have had to sob alone in the shower each morning, for fear that Dave would hear her and start to regress, she shouldn’t have had to lean solely on her sister for comfort. It should have been Dave. Dave should have been her rock. And she couldn’t stop resenting him for that. Maybe if he’d agree to go to counseling, couples counseling, grief counseling, anything, it would make things different, give her some hope. But he seemed stuck, refusing to move forward. So now they were on their way to meet both sets of parents for brunch, to tell them that they were splitting up for good. She could see the cafe where they would meet up ahead. Maria was bracing herself for their cries of protest, the pleads to try one more time. She’d probably have to comfort Dave through that too. But that would be it. She was moving in with her sister tonight. She needed to be selfish, she needed her own time to heal.

The old woman finished the tiny sweater and admired it. Her grandson was coming for a visit this weekend. He would look adorable in it. She glanced up and noticed a young couple walking by. The man met her eye line, his eyes beginning to water. She recognized the pain in his eyes. Many years ago, she’d lost her own child, a daughter. She’d been two months old. The doctors had told her it was crib death, something that just happened, no fault of her own, but that didn’t make her feel any less guilty. For years, she couldn’t look at baby clothes or toys without bursting into tears. But the pain, though it never truly disappeared, had diminished over the years, and she had her wonderful son, and her grandson, whom she loved more than anything in the world.

“Wait!” The woman yelled, as loudly as her frail voice would allow. The man stopped and turned, his wife looked at him curiously, then turned to face her as well. The woman stood and quickly approached them with a smile on her face. She handed them the sweater with a wink, before turning and heading down the trail away from them.

Maria held the tiny sweater in her hands, and her heart seemed to burst. The tears came, like a flood she couldn’t control. She leaned her head on Dave’s chest. It was the first time she’d cried in front of Dave since Sebastian died. Her shoulders relaxed, she felt Dave’s strong arms around her, taking care of her, nurturing her. She felt safe. Dave kissed her forehead.

“I love you, Maria,” he whispered into her hair.

“I love you too.”

She looked up at him, wiping her face with her sleeve. “Will you come to group with me? It’s tonight.”

Dave nodded. “I’m here.” He squeezed her hand. “I’m here.”

They did a U-turn and headed back down the tree-lined path that led to their apartment building.  Dave kept his arm around Maria and she leaned her body into his, letting the sun light their way home.

 

Writing 101, Day Nine: Changing Moccasins — Point of View

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Today’s assignment:  A man and a woman walk through the park together, holding hands. They pass an old woman sitting on a bench. The old woman is knitting a small, red sweater. The man begins to cry. Write this scene.

Today’s twist: write the scene from three different points of view: from the perspective of the man, then the woman, and finally the old woman.

It was a pleasant morning. This would be easier if it wasn’t such a beautiful day. The kind of day where children were running across the grass in the park, kicking soccer balls around and playing exuberant games of tag and hide and seek. The sounds of their laughter pierced Dave’s heart, but he forced himself to maintain his composure. He didn’t want to be a burden to Maria any longer. The last year had been the worst of their lives. Their young son, Sebastian, had been born on a frigid winter day last February. They’d been parents for eight wonderful, devastating, anxiety-ridden days, and then he was gone.

Maria had been Maria, the fixer. She went home and robotically packed away the baby clothes and furniture, donating them all to a charity, she went to grief counseling, planned a small memorial service for their child. Dave had fallen apart. He spent everyday in bed, in the same bathrobe, ignoring Maria’s requests to accompany her to counseling, to help her plan the funeral, to get outside and get some fresh air. Maria did the best she could, tried to take care of him, nurture him through the dark times, get him to the other side, but it seemed impossible. She’d expended all of her energy on him, she had nothing left for herself. A month ago, she’d had her first panic attack, in the middle of work. She’d put her head on her desk and breathed her way through it, but it was the beginning of the end. Last week, Maria told him she wanted out. They both needed to heal. Being around each other was only making things worse in her mind. Dave had wished there was another way, but her knew she was right.

He glanced sideways, noticing an older woman with brilliant white hair sitting on a bench. In her lap was a tiny red sweater she was in the middle of knitting, her hands working furiously. It would have been just the right size to fit Sebastian, had he been here. Dave’s resistance faltered, and his eyes filled with tears.

Maria looked at Dave, saw the tears streaking down his cheeks and took his hand, feeling like a horrible person for the knot of annoyance beginning to form in her stomach. She was the one who’d carried Sebastian for nine months, given birth to him after 20 hours of labor, pressed his soft little body against her skin for only a moment before the doctors ripped him from her arms. She should have been the one to have the breakdown, not Dave. He should have been the one to plan the memorial service, to find the grief counselor, to get her out of bed every morning and make her breakfast, take her on long walks, hold her as she cried. She shouldn’t have had to sob alone in the shower each morning, for fear that Dave would hear her and start to regress, she shouldn’t have had to lean solely on her sister for comfort. It should have been Dave. Dave should have been her rock. And she couldn’t stop resenting him for that. Maybe if he’d agree to go to counseling, couples counseling, grief counseling, anything, it would make things different, give her some hope. But he seemed stuck, refusing to move forward. So now they were on their way to meet both sets of parents for brunch, to tell them that they were splitting up for good. She could see the cafe where they would meet up ahead. Maria was bracing herself for their cries of protest, the pleads to try one more time. She’d probably have to comfort Dave through that too. But that would be it. She was moving in with her sister tonight. She needed to be selfish, she needed her own time to heal.

The old woman finished the tiny sweater and admired it. Her grandson was coming for a visit this weekend. He would look adorable in it. She glanced up and noticed a young couple walking by. The man met her eyeline, his eyes beginning to water. She recognized the pain in his eyes. Many years ago, she’d lost her own child, a daughter. She’d been two months old. The doctors had told her it was crib death, something that just happened, no fault of her own, but that didn’t make her feel any less guilty. For years, she couldn’t look at baby clothes or toys without bursting into tears. But the pain, though it never truly disappeared, had diminished over the years, and she had her wonderful son, and her grandson, whom she loved more than anything in the world.

“Wait!” The woman yelled, as loudly as her frail voice would allow. The man stopped and turned, his wife looked at him curiously, then turned to face her as well. The woman stood and quickly approached them with a smile on her face. She handed them the sweater with a wink, before turning and heading down the trail away from them.

Maria held the tiny sweater in her hands, and her heart seemed to burst. The tears came, like a flood she couldn’t control. She leaned her head on Dave’s chest. It was the first time she’d cried in front of Dave since Sebastian died. Her shoulders relaxed, she felt Dave’s strong arms around her, taking care of her, nurturing her. She felt safe. Dave kissed her forehead.

“I love you, Maria,” he whispered into her hair.

“I love you too.”

She looked up at him, wiping her face with her sleeve. “Will you come to group with me? It’s tonight.”

Dave nodded. “I’m here.” He squeezed her hand. “I’m here.”

They did a U-turn and headed back down the tree-lined path that led to their apartment building.  Dave kept his arm around Maria and she leaned her body into his, letting the sun light their way home.