Best Friends

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On physical impossibilities.

Published July 12, 2017 by mandileighbean

I’m going to save the apology for the lapse in posting and refrain from the typical slew of empty promises and resolutions. You know the drill; sometimes I post, sometimes I don’t, but please believe me when I say I always want to. Writing fulfills me in a way that nothing else really does (except maybe Popeye’s chicken), and it needs to be more of a priority. Also, they’re building a Popeye’s near me, so how’s that for a sign from the universe?

I’m proud of this week’s writing prompt for a couple of different reasons. First, it’s the beginning of a better writing schedule (last empty promise I make, I swear (well, other than that last one)). Second, I use first-person point of view, which is something I never do. Using first-person point of view feels like a confession or admission, like it’s too personal to build a character that isn’t just me with a different name. All my writing might be like that, now that I think about it. Third, it is personal and I think I tackle a very real fear for woman of a certain age without being melodramatic. This voice I use could be fleshed out into a very real and very endearing character were I to pursue and develop this idea further.

Hope you enjoy! Please comment and let me know what you think, and please share.

WEEKLY WRITING PROMPT #3.2017: The day before helping her best friend give birth, a woman of thirty learns that she will never have children of her own.

These days, you can’t fucking smoke anywhere.

I mean, the hospital I get; no one should be smoking there for obvious reasons I don’t have to enumerate to make my case. But walking across the street from the hospital – and then ten more yards for good measure – seems closer to ridiculous than anything else. And doing so in ninety-degree weather isn’t helping my mood. It’s incredibly hard to be rational when I’m sweaty and uncomfortable and in desperate, desperate need of a cigarette. I’m filling up with something awful as I halt at the end of the hospital property, teetering on the curb before the busy highway in cheap flip flops. I look left and then right and then right again, because my mom raised me right, and then dart across.

All things considered, getting mowed down by a truck doesn’t seem like the end of the world. I should have lingered just a few moments more, maybe. But that kind of thinking is irrational and morbid and goddamn, I just don’t want to think anymore. I just want a cigarette.

It’s easy to find the other smokers, huddled shamefully beneath a weak-looking tree at the far end of a parking lot for a quaint plaza. The weak-looking tree is the only source of shade and as I approach, I realize everyone beneath the tree is dressed in scrubs and smiling and laughing; they’re all hospital staff and they’re all friends. I think I’ll stand just a few feet away. I’m in no mood to make new friends or yuck it up, but I don’t want to be a bitch.

Scratch that; I don’t know what I want.

Wait, that’s wrong. I know what I want. I want a cigarette. And in this poor, poor excuse for Shangri La, I will have one.

As I light up, I consider the irony of doctors and nurses who smoke. Why anyone willingly inhales carcinogens, myself included, is beyond me, but it seems especially asinine for people who spend their lives saving lives to engage in a wildly unnecessary and risky behavior such as smoking. But fuck me, right? Here I am, puffing away. I might as well enjoy the irony, like an extra in a film who gets casts as an Oscar winner. That kind of irony is less dangerous and more humorous, kind of like how I always thought I’d never have kids because I’d never find a good man. But after thirty long and lonely years, I found a good man – the best man – and he’ll never be a father because my fallopian tubes are too narrow.

I’ll never be a mother. Thinking it aloud in my head forces me to acknowledge the idea with a fatal finality, and I take a seat on the grass beneath the three. I want to take up as little space as possible, curl all up around myself, and shrink into nonexistence; the ultimate Irish exit.

Taking a long drag, I know I’m bordering on morbidity and irrationality again, but there’s definitely something crushing about finding out you physically cannot have children. It wasn’t a choice I made, part of some chic, progressive lifestyle (I’m not being judgmental; to each his own, man. Live and let live, I say). I knew I was lucky to meet Frank; for a while there I thought I’d die alone, like really and truly alone, where the only people at my funeral are friends who have outlived me and cemetery staff. I wanted love and to be loved so badly I was on the verge of doing something reckless and desperate, like online dating (that’s a joke; I don’t judge). Enter Frank, the knight in shining armor; a decent-looking man with a great sense of humor, steady income, and a tolerance for feminine bullshit that is otherworldly. He’s been so patient and forgiving, and I don’t deserve him; I really don’t.

But he deserves children. He wants them; we’ve talked about it. And I can’t give that to him.

I know there’s adoption and fostering and surrogates and a seemingly endless list of possibilities. I know, somewhere deep down inside that this doesn’t have to be the end of the discussion, but it’s different and anyone who says different is selling something.

So maybe I should amend my earlier assertion: I’ll never be a mother on my own terms.

I suppose that sounds kind of selfish and twisted and grotesque, but hey; that’s me all over. Like right now, I’m smoking this cigarette in the July heat when I’m supposed to be at Kathleen’s side, holding her hand and feeding her ice chips, the whole delivery shebang. I snuck out because I needed a cigarette because those roles will never be reversed. I can’t have kids.

And it’s obviously jacking me up real bad, but I can never ever say anything to Kathleen about this, especially not today, which is ironic because it’s the one day it’s dismantling my psyche. Kathleen’s my best friend – another love I don’t really deserve – and she’d be the most supportive person in the world. Seriously, if I told her right now about all of this, she’d Google solutions on her phone from her hospital bed, shouting search results to me as they move her into the delivery room. But it’s her day and I just need to handle my shit.

If I had a daughter, that’s a lesson I’d teach her, that being a strong woman means that sometimes, you just have to handle it. You can break later but in the moment, step up.

I could teach my son that lesson too, because really, strength transcends gender.

Great; I’m crying. I’m sweaty, smell like smoke, and mascara’s running down my cheeks. I’m a mess, and everyone will know and everyone will ask, and we all know that only makes things worse.

Fuck. Shit. Balls.

I haven’t told Frank yet either. Think he’ll leave? He won’t, like I said he’s a good man, but he’ll think about it. And who could blame him?

I take one last drag and stub the cigarette out on the curb behind me. I have to stretch to the point of almost laying down, so fuck it. I lay down in the grass with my head uncomfortably on the curb to watch the sky through the leaves of the weak tree.

What a world.Generic-smoking

On making things better … or worse.

Published October 6, 2016 by mandileighbean

About three weeks ago, I went on a date with some guy I met online. We met on the boardwalk, which I liked. He looked only a little bit like his picture, but I’m sure the same could be said for me – I’ve definitely gained weight since the pictures I posted were taken. None of the mattered, really, because he was INCREDIBLY smart – knew more than a little bit about nearly everything. The conversation was great – enthralling, interesting. We talked for four hours, until the restaurants closed. At one point, he was explaining the scientific reasoning behind why men tend to react with violence while women are more emotional and tend to react with malicious manipulation. He posed a hypothetical question, asking me what I would do if a woman I hated, like really hated, keyed my car. I told him I’d go to the police, and he had to alter the scenario and tell me that wasn’t an option. I think he wanted to prove that eventually I would become violent (although in retrospect, I don’t see how that helps his argument at all, so maybe I misunderstood because he was SO much smarter than me). That inspired the short story below.

But some more about the date: he said “you see” a lot and removed his glasses to pinch and massage the bridge of his nose and pushed air through his nose awkwardly, almost like snorting but not exactly. In hindsight, it seems pretentious and textbook intellectual, but in the moment, it wasn’t so bad. There were even a few moments where I nearly convinced myself he was handsome, sitting on a bench overlooking the beach, calmly explaining the cosmos to the young woman beside him as a chilly wind whipped the finer strands of hair about his face.

But I think it was just the moonlight and me endeavoring to force a fairy tale where there wasn’t one. I haven’t heard from him.

WEEKLY WRITING PROMPT #30: “Let’s just agree that we both hate her, okay?”

“Let’s just agree that we both hate her, okay?” Ashley pleaded. She was sitting in her Chrysler Sebring convertible with her best friend. The engine was running to keep the heat going; it was unseasonably cold, and tiny tremors assaulted Ashley’s body. The cloth top did little to keep the icy wind from seeping in and making the interior cold and uncomfortable. She watched her breath escape her lips in tiny, white puffs, disappearing as soon as they appeared. Despite the heat blasting from the vents, Ashley was shivering. For a moment, but only a moment, Ashley wondered how her best friend was faring, if she was as cold. But Ashley’s concern was fleeting. She wasn’t looking at Danielle, but stayed focus on the lone break in the curbing that served as both the entrance and exit of the parking lot. Neon lights and halogen bulbs lit up the night sky around them, and Ashley used the glare of the harsh and unflattering lights to peer into windshields and survey the colors of incoming cars. Oncoming headlights would blind her momentarily, but she would shut her eyes tight against them for a just a few seconds, all she could spare, and then she’d stare hard and long to make out the figures in the cars, to determine the exact shade of the paint of the exteriors of the cars. Ashley’s eyes shifted restlessly from side to side, scanning and searching for one driver in particular, one woman that was scheduled to meet a man in the diver bar that owned the parking lot. The man in question happened to be the love of Ashley’s life (at the very least, Ashley had convinced herself that was the case), and the woman in question was the current topic of conversation.

“I’m not going to do that,” Danielle refused. She crossed her arms over her chest and stared through the windshield. She forced her breath out of her lungs in short bursts, emphasizing her displeasure. Not unlike Ashley, Danielle wasn’t so eager to make eye contact. Everything had gone too far, much too far, and Danielle was having trouble comprehending that the woman gripping the steering wheel in tight, pulsating waves was the same woman she’d known for years and years, and had claimed as her best friend. Ashley was unrecognizable to Danielle. Sure, she looked the same, but the jealousy and ager that consumed Ashley and simmered somewhere just beneath the surface of her skin had caused her to mutate into something ugly, something horrible.

“Then why are you even here?” Ashley asked. She finally turned to face Danielle. Her tone was sharp so that the question was more of a piercing challenge. In her juvenile rage, Ashley wanted Danielle to leave so that Ashley could feel abandoned and awful, and thereby rationalize her unnerving desire to cause destruction and excuse her cowardly and dastardly behavior.

“To talk sense, Ashley; I need to convince you that this is really dumb, not to mention illegal. We need to leave before you do something stupid.”

There was a beat of silence. It was the calm before the storm; after just a moment more, Ashley slammed her palms against the dashboard and growled. It was a subdued scream that turned animalistic and cold and hard. Danielle felt uneasy but turned toward Ashley, willing to make eye contact and survey if Ashley was even present in the conversation, if she was even listening. “Go to hell,” Ashley sneered. “You don’t know what this feels like, okay? Save your self-righteous bullshit for your students.”

“If you weren’t acting like a child, I wouldn’t have to treat you like one, or talk to you like one,” Danielle retorted. “What is keying her car going to do, honestly?”

Ashley thought for a moment. “It’ll make me feel better.”

Danielle rolled her eyes. “Yeah, maybe, but then what? Will it make Russ suddenly realize he’s been a douche? How will it prove you were the right choice?”

Silence settled upon the pair. The truth was that Ashley couldn’t answer Danielle’s questions because Danielle was right. It was stupid, completely asinine, but for the moment, Ashley didn’t care. She wanted to feel satisfied and to feel justified – she wanted to feel better about the whole messed up situation between her and Russ and their feelings (or lack thereof). “Why can’t you just let me have this?” Ashley demanded of her best friend. Her voice cracked and allowed the tears to finally spring up.

“What kind of friend would I be if I let you be a stupid, awful, petty bitch?” Danielle asked. She extended her arm to rub Ashley’s back as she sat behind the wheel and cried. “You’re better than all of this, and you deserve better than Russ.” Danielle spoke in softened tone, doing her best to soothe Ashley and her broken heart. “Let’s get out of here, okay? We’ll get milkshakes and fries and talk shit.” Danielle laughed to show Ashley that she honestly believed there was a light at the end of the long, dark tunnel. Danielle needed Ashley to know that eventually, things did get better.

“Fine,” Ashley growled. She wanted to hold onto her anger because she wanted to be in control of something. She couldn’t change how Russ felt and she couldn’t deny Danielle’s logic, but she could decide how she felt, dammit, and she was going to be angry, downright furious. Without giving it much thought, Ashley abruptly changed gears and had every intention of peeling out of the parking lot and leaving the whole aborted revenge plot behind her – in more ways than one – and Ashley would have done just that.

Unfortunately, a young, beautiful woman with bouncy hair, tits that were a cause of envy, and a smile that belonged in toothpaste commercials, came walking up between Ashley’s car and the car beside it. The young, beautiful woman was not paying attention to anything other than her phone, busily composing a text message to let a popular man named Russ that she was walking into the bar, and that she had just parked. Her green Hyundai had pulled in just as Ashley had started crying, and were it not for the tears in her contemptuous eyes, Ashley might have seen the vehicle, recognized it, and done something else, anything else. As fate would have it, neither Ashley nor Danielle saw the young, beautiful woman’s car enter the parking lot, and so neither woman knew she was even there, where she was supposed to be, where they had anticipated and expected her to be. The young, beautiful woman walking between Ashley’s car and another was busy envisioning the entrance she would make and entertaining the endless romantic possibilities her rendezvous offered. She didn’t see Ashley’s car turning and accelerating fast enough to make the tires squeal, so hell bent was Ashley on making an exit the same way the young, beautiful woman was intent on making an entrance that would impress the entire bar. The young, beautiful woman never saw the impact coming.

The left headlight rammed against the young, beautiful woman’s shin, hard enough to break it and hard enough to knock her to the ground. The collision happened just outside of Danielle’s window, just outside of the front passenger door. She thought she saw bouncy hair pass by her field of vision on its way to the pavement, but she couldn’t be sure. It was dark and her attention was elsewhere. But Danielle and Ashley heard flesh and bone smash sickeningly against metal and plastic and rubber. They knew they’d hit something, but the enormity of the tragedy had not landed home yet. The front tires ran up and over the young woman’s body before Ashley could slam on the brakes and screech to a halt. “What the hell was that?” Ashley asked.

Danielle had a sinking, awful, terrible suspicion, but how could she say it aloud? How could she tell Ashley that in trying to avoid a misdemeanor, they had committed a felony? How could she explain that in trying to do the right thing, they had made everything worse, much worse? Pale and trembling, Danielle could only state the obvious. “You hit something,” she said.

“Yeah, but what?” Ashley asked. Danielle shrugged, was too shocked and too stupid to articulate anything meaningful or useful. Ashley threw the car in reverse, unknowingly rolling her tires over the young, beautiful woman a second time. The car jostled its occupants from side to side as it traversed speedily over the body. Ashley thought returning to the parking spot and surveying the scene from that vantage point was the best way to assess the damage and understand what had happened. It wasn’t until the sickening thud of the tires rolling over something soft and alive reached her ears a second time that Ashley understood that it was bad and wrong, all bad and all wrong. She put the car in park and battling nausea, Ashley threw her door open and climbed out of the car and onto legs that were wobbly and weak, and didn’t quite support her weight. Hobbling as if she were the victim instead of the perpetrator, Ashley stumbled to the front of the car, using the vehicle to support her weight. She crossed the front of the vehicle, placing palm over palm as she desperately tried to steady herself and walk, and when the body came into view, she promptly vomited.

pedestrian-accident

On being the Duckie.

Published February 21, 2016 by mandileighbean

prettyinpink

I love 80’s culture; movies, music, fashion – all of it. I’m something like a girl anachronism, born 18 years too late. I should have come of age in that decade of magic, of decadence. It was the last era of wholesomeness (even despite the extravagance). Things really seemed possible then.

One of the greatest artistic – and yes, I used the word “artistic” – endeavors from that decade is the movie “Pretty in Pink.” I wrote a blog post two years ago about when I met Andrew McCarthy and was irrevocably charmed. He was intelligent, charismatic, and incredibly talented. Because of my undying affection for the actor, I can honestly say I’ve seen that film close to twenty times. One such time was Wednesday night, when a good friend and I traveled close to an hour to watch the movie on the big screen. The film was released for a brief second time to commemorate its 30th anniversary.

We knew the lines, we knew the plot, and we knew the music. What sense did it make to pay to see the film? One could argue it did not make any sense at all, but then again, I was shocked to see how many others had traveled to see a movie they’d already seen. I have always had a decidedly human problem of thinking my inclinations and hobbies are unique and singular and special. I’m proven wrong time and time again, but in frustratingly human fashion, I’m still always surprised when I realize my passions are shared.

At any rate, the film as was entertaining as ever, and there was something thrilling about seeing it on the big screen. I could imagine I hadn’t missed my favorite decade, that it was opening weekend and I was enjoying it all in real time for the first time. In danger of overdosing on nostalgia that was never really mine to begin with, my good friend leaned over and asked me if I ever had a “Duckie” while attending high school.

For those of you who may not know, Duckie is a character from the film. He’s hopelessly, shamelessly, desperately, and even embarrassingly devoted to his best friend, madly in love and utterly heartbroken over the unrequited nature of the relationship. He admits he would die for her, stands by and patiently suffers as she chases after another guy, and even lets her go so she can fulfill her wildest, romantic dreams while his remain unfulfilled. It may not be as traumatic and dramatic as all that, but forgive me; I have never had a Duckie.

I’ve always been Duckie.

I’ve always been the friend in the background, lingering and pining secretly – sometimes creepily – for a friend I never really had a chance with. I remember at one high school dance, I was asked by a mutual friend to break up with her boyfriend for her; a boy who was my close friend and whom I had been crushing on fairly seriously. Why I agreed to be the harbinger of such devastation I’ll never know. Maybe it was because I was eager for any excuse to talk to the boy, and maybe because such an episode could escalate and strengthen the friendship. I hope it was because I wanted him to hear it from me, a real friend, because I could soften the blow and handle the whole thing delicately, properly. Whatever the reason, I took a deep breath to steady myself, to prepare myself, and left the gymnasium. I stepped out of the double doors and into the bright hallway, blinking against the harsh fluorescent lights. I looked for my friend, and he wasn’t hard to find.

He had tried to hide himself on the far side of a short but wide trophy case, but his long legs stuck out. He was sitting on the gross floor with his back against the uncomfortable and random brick wall. He was opposite the refreshment table, but despite the flurry of activity, he was looking down at the dirty floor with a can of soda clutched in his hand. He was out there all alone and looking especially despondent, like he already knew what was coming. I breathed a small sigh of relief; my job would be easier. I walked over and sat beside him.

“Hey,” I said.

“Hey,” he said.

I figured it’d be best to just come out with it, do it fast like ripping off a band-aid. “Hannah wanted me to-”

“Yeah, I know,” he said. He cut me off, but didn’t say anything else. He took a swig from his can.

“Oh,” I said. I was slightly dismayed by the building, awkward silence. I looked down at my hands and tried to think of what else to say.

“You don’t have to sit out here with me,” he mumbled. He hadn’t made eye contact with me.

“I know I don’t have to. I want to,” I smiled. He looked up and returned the smile.

I don’t remember the rest of the conversation, but I remember we had a good time. So while being Duckie can be limiting and heartbreaking, it’s also pretty awesome because being a friend is awesome. Sometimes a friend is all a person needs.

Or at least that’s what I’ve been telling myself as of late.

 

 

On objections.

Published July 15, 2015 by mandileighbean

“Love is a book that never closes.”

I need to stop drinking spoiled milk.

A respected coworker of mine read the manuscript for Moody Blue and told me she enjoyed it, believed it had merit and promise. She readily commiserated with me about how every literary agent has been rejecting me. I received one such rejection in the mail yesterday, which makes it seem very official and makes it sting just a little more. Well, I think it was a rejection – just my query letter sent back to me in a self-addressed stamped envelope; feels a little like suicide. It’s an odd feeling to be rejected by one’s own hand.

WEEKLY WRITING PROMPT #25: “I think I survived pretty good, actually. You should see everybody else.”

“Though we cry, we must stay alive.”

canterbury-cathedral-stairs

Gerard was sitting on the last of the long, stone steps that led to the solid, impressive-looking double doors of the church. Blood from his mouth and nose stained the front of expensive button-down shirt. His mouth had finally stopped leaking crimson, but his nose was still dripping. He had been watching fat, scarlet droplets fall and explode onto the concrete between his feet, which were stuffed into shiny shoes. Carefully, he prodded at his swollen, bleeding nose. Gerard winced from the pain. He thought it might be broken and he nearly laughed aloud. That’d be perfect, just fucking perfect.

What a sight this poor devil made for the casual passerby; some unapologetic sinner cast away, nearly sprawled out on the cathedral steps, bruised and bloody. A humorless smile stretched his thin lips as he cautiously felt around his left eye, which was puffy. A black eye was rapidly appearing and though he probably deserved it, all of it, it didn’t make the sores better. If anything, it made it worse. He hugged his knees, bringing them close together, and rested his aching head upon them. He thought about what had happened, relived every aching, humiliating moment, just like he would from time to time for years after, until he gave his last breath. He lapsed into these deep thoughts and lost his surroundings.

“Holy shit.” The words were drawn out – each syllable was emphasized. The voice broke Gerard’s reverie, startled him to attention. He perked up and saw Frankie walking towards him across the parking lot. She was his best friend – only because she was his only friend – and she was smiling ruefully, like she was only moments away from gleefully shouting, “I told you so!” Gerard supposed he deserved that too, just like everything else. As Frankie neared, she stated the obvious. “You look terrible,” she said, seating herself beside Gerard, but two steps higher so her knees weren’t somewhere near her chin. She stretched out her legs, perfectly content to be where she was, perfectly content to blatantly ignore the dramatics and their consequences in favor of the sunshine. Gerard thought it indecent.

“I survived pretty good, actually. You should see everybody else.”

“Had to fight your way out of the church, huh?” Frankie asked, snorting laughter. “Makes sense.”

Gerard shut his eyes tight in a lame, cliched attempt to block everything out. He tilted his head back so the sun could shine against his face to perhaps calm and soothe him. In a tired voice, he said, “Look Frankie, I only called for a ride. I didn’t ask for-”

“For what? A lecture? Well, too fucking bad,” Frankie growled. “You told Ronnie you could handle it, promised her you wouldn’t make a scene. And what did you do, Gerard?” She was met with silence. After a few moments, Frankie roared, “Tell me what you did!”

“I objected!” Gerard fired back. His eyes shot open and he spun to face Frankie, aching, spinning head be damned. “I stood up and objected, just like in the movies! I waited until the priest asked, and then I jumped up and told the whole goddamn church and everyone in it that I still loved Ronnie!”

“Why?” Frankie asked. She was pushing it, but didn’t seem to care. She never did. “Why would you do that after -”

“Because I thought it would work, obviously!” It was Gerard’s turn to interrupt. “That was my plan the whole time!” He pointed an accusing finger towards Frankie. “And don’t you dare act like you didn’t know! Don’t play shocked and innocent with me, Frankie. If you really didn’t know, you wouldn’t have warned me against going.”

“I don’t know why I even bother,” Frankie said. She sounded disgusted, but she wasn’t yelling anymore. “I should just save my breath because you never listen.”

Gerard turned away, sheepish and ashamed. He looked down at his trembling hands, eyed the minor scrapes, defensive wounds. Truth be told though, he didn’t really fight back. How could he? He was wrong. Done fighting, he said, “You were right, Frankie. You told me so.” He took a second to compose himself, to try and keep his voice from cracking. “Can you please take me home?” He failed – the evident tremor in his voice roused compassion from Frankie. She squeezed his shoulder.

“Of course,” Frankie said. She got to her feet and moved to stand before Gerard. She offered her hands. He hesitated just a moment before accepting the offer. Frankie pulled him up into a standing position and as the moved to stand beside one another, Gerard slung his arm around Frankie’s shoulders. To help Gerard gain some stability, Frankie looped an arm around his waist. Together, they began wobbling towards Frankie’s car. Gerard squinted against the bright sunlight and licked the right corner of his lips. He could still taste blood.

“So,” Frankie began because if there was ever silence she would always be the one to break it, “who beat the hell out of you?”

Gerard smirked but hung his head. “Kevin,” he answered.

“That fits, since he’s the groom and all,” Frankie conceded. “But honestly, I had my money on Mr. Gates kicking you in the balls.”

“Ronnie’s dad? No way – that guy loves me.”

“Even now?” Frankie asked, skeptical.

Gerard considered. “Well, he didn’t exactly stop the villagers with the pitchforks, but I wouldn’t say he encouraged them either.”

Frankie snorted laughter. “So what now?”

Gerard sighed. “I don’t know,” he confessed.

On invites to pity parties.

Published January 19, 2015 by mandileighbean

I know that the above song is by Sam Smith, but I feel the need to share my belief that Lana Del Rey is my power animal.

I have a sore on the inside of my left cheek, right near the corner of my lips.  The sensitive area keeps getting pierced by my braces and pinched by the rubber bands.  Whenever I have a sore in my mouth, I am always reminded of one of my favorite lines from the novel FIGHT CLUB.  The narrator compares the character Marla Singer to a small but irritating cut on the roof of one’s mouth that would go away if only he could stop tonguing it.  I love that analogy; it’s so original.  That’s the kind of woman I aspire to be.

I want to drive west and race the sun, perpetuate daylight and keep the night at bay, to meet the far coast victorious.

I’m on chapter nine of the first draft of my new novel, MOODY BLUE.  I should finish before the school year ends.  I would love to have some advanced readers to offer some constructive criticism.  Anyone interested?  Feel free to comment.

I just finished teaching PRIDE & PREJUDICE.  I’ve decided that I’m going to learn to play the piano.  But then again, maybe it’d be easier to stop being so easily and heavily influenced by historical romances.

WRITING PROMPT #20: “‘Weird little things remind me of her.  I don’t even know why.  Cabbage, for instance.'”

Danielle dropped her gaze and flicked the cap of the lid on her Styrofoam cup filled with coffee open and shut, open and shut.  She was fishing, seeming preoccupied with troubling thoughts and consumed with an overall air of sadness because she wanted Ellen to ask what was wrong.  Danielle wanted Ellen to engage her in a discussion about everything that was bothering her in her mediocre life because, in Danielle’s mind, accepting an invitation to a pity party was better than accepting one, no matter how contrived said invitation may be.  Ellen understood this about her best friend, and accepted this about her best friend.  She took a hearty bite of her blueberry muffin for sustenance and strength, and then she asked, “What’s wrong?”

Danielle shrugged, half-halfheartedly battling against her friend’s inquisition.  She still didn’t look up, but refrained from flicking the lid.  She said, “Weird little things remind me of her.  I don’t even know why.  Cabbage, for instance.”

“Bullshit,” Ellen immediately countered, a small smile upon her lips.

Danielle looked scandalized and somewhat offended.  “What?”

“I call bullshit,” Ellen patiently repeated.  “There’s no way cabbage reminds you of her.  Frankie doesn’t even like cabbage.  You’re lying because you want to talk about her, but don’t want to admit it because you’re afraid of being label obsessed.”

“Of course I’m not obsessed.  Frankie’s my sister, Ellen.”

“I know,” Ellen agreed, “but that doesn’t mean you can’t be obsessed with her.  You haven’t been able to speak with her for months.  You have all this unresolved anger, unanswered questions and unavoidable guilt for how everything happened and how everything went down.  You need to talk about it, but she’s not here, so anyone else will do.”  Ellen reached out and tenderly squeezed her friend’s hand.  “It’s nothing to be ashamed of.  If you want to talk about Frankie, let’s talk about Frankie.”

Danielle colored, blushing with embarrassment from being so easily read.  “But aren’t you bored with it?  Talking about it gets me nowhere.  At least, it hasn’t helped so far.”

“You’re not here to entertain me.  Besides, it doesn’t bore me because it matters to you, and that’s all that matters.”

Gratefully, Danielle smiled and rehashed the story about Frankie, her younger sister who was currently in rehab for a number of reasons.  She listed all of her sister’s offenses, blindly defended her parents’ actions but openly criticized her own.  She was worried, feeling guilty, missing her sister, and all of that was emotionally messy and certainly draining, but it was also all normal.  Ellen patiently listened, marveling at how human beings could be so preoccupied with the perception of others that they would deny themselves what they need.

On the fact that yearbooks never lie.

Published July 22, 2013 by mandileighbean

“The space between the tears we cry is the laughter that keeps us coming back for more.”
– Dave Matthews Band

Life, for a complete and utter lack of a better adjective, is crazy.  As people, we experience and live through events that make and/or break us in varying degrees of intensity.  We feel triumph in finding a parking spot near our destination in a crowded city.  We feel triumph when we finally land that dream job or finally purchase the dream car.  We can be devastated if we miss out on an incredible deal.  We can be devastated when we get into a car accident or misplace something valuable.  Every human has major and mini crises throughout the day; there is no revelation in such an observation, but I think what strikes me is how often these events occur and how differently each individual reacts to a particular set of circumstances.  Because of problems within my immediate family, I have been doing some soul searching and deep thinking as of later, and as far as rationalization and understanding go, this paragraph is all I could come up with.  The kick in the proverbial pants is that there is no explanation for all of the things that happen.  And what’s more, even if there was, people would reject what was in front of them in search for something better, something more suited to what they want it all to mean.  Is that cynical?  Am I losing faith?

I finished the first chapter of my next novel, which is currently titled Moody Blue.  I feel proud and accomplished, but I am worried that I rushed the ending of the chapter.  I printed a copy for my mother to read; she helped me edit my first novel and it was only after I took her advice that I was published – and on her birthday, no less.  She’s my good luck charm.

I am currently scheduling an author talk and signing at the Manchester Branch of the Ocean County Library for sometime in October or November.  I think this latter half of 2013 is going to prove to be an exciting time for me.  Between you and I, I need it to be better.  I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.

I went for an ultrasound of my gall bladder last week, and the results came back clean.  My doctor, and my best friend, and my mother, all seem to think it is stress that is tearing my insides apart.  This makes sense to me, especially when I think about how many nights are restless, and how often I toss and turn, unable to escape my own head and the endless list of worries.  I am even beginning to have horrible dreams.  Most recently, I had a dream that featured someone who is dead and has been dead.  In the dream, this person was in a darkened bedroom with only the light from the blaring television and perhaps a bedside lamp.  I do not know if this was inside a house, or an apartment, or what – the surroundings were completely unfamiliar.  As a matter of fact, the person did not even look familiar, but I understood who it was and I knew that this individual was supposed to be dead.  I was in the bedroom, but I had no desire to be there.  It felt horribly wrong and it was bizarre.  The blanket and sheet were pulled down and away so that they pooled near his waist and his bare, pale chest and loose stomach were exposed.  On his chest and stomach was balanced a large glass bowl and two tall glasses.  I made to move them, to pick them up and carry them to a kitchen somewhere.  I was hesitant in approaching because his eyes were only slightly closed.  It was like he was awake and aware, and only pretending to sleep.  I think I called out to him and said his name once or twice.  But I was scared and so I ran, only grabbing the glass bowl which turned out to be full of water (so were the two tall glasses), and the dream ended as quickly as it began.

My father knocks on bedroom doors before entering, even when he know there is no one inside.

Thursday, I traveled to Hartford, Connecticut to listen to Stephen King have a conversation with some pretentious blowhard.  It was 103 degrees, and I walked around Hartford in that ungodly heat in a panic, looking for somewhere to quickly eat before the event began.  I arrived ninety minutes later than I had planned because of horrendous, horrific traffic.  I ate a restaurant called Hook and Ladder, located next to the firehouse.  The décor and atmosphere were great, but I was really disappointed in my grilled cheese sandwich.  I can’t believe I broke my diet for that.  But the event was awesome; King is a brilliant, accessible mind.  He shares my passion for the Boss, believes in God, and believes that love can be and should be and most often is limitless.  Ali from MSU was there, but we didn’t get a chance to speak.  She purchased a copy of his newest book Joyland, pre-signed, for $200.  I used to be that dedicated.  Or maybe I am just more fiscally responsible than I used to be.

There were fireworks that night.  So many cars were pulled over on I-84 to watch them explode.

I hit another 90 minutes of traffic traversing onto the George Washington Bridge.  Such is life.

But I promised in my last entry to accentuate the positive.  So, here goes nothing: I lost seven pounds in my first week of dieting and exercising.  I spent a birthday with two absolutely amazing friends in Brooklyn after surviving the drive in.  I was totally enchanted by Brooklyn and developed a crush on a friend’s neighbor, which is exciting and fun.  I have that story to tell, in my overly romantic way, for next week’s blog.

friends1 friends2

Stay golden. xoxo

On helping best friends.

Published April 2, 2012 by mandileighbean

Most of the time, I wish that I was stronger. I have no problem finding strength in my friends and family members, and I admire so many of them for so many different reasons. When it comes to finding strength within myself, however, I usually come up short. I guess most of us – most of us humans – are like that, though. Self-realization is a scary thing, probably because it is also a very powerful thing. I guess in a way it can be limiting, too. To know your potential essentially defines your limits, and no one wants to be limited. Everyone, or at least mostly everyone (I know it’s dangerous to speak generally and universally), would like to believe they are capable of amazing things, and that they were promised a life of intrigue and wealth – but not just of the monetary kind. No one wants to be mediocre.

I don’t want to sound too cocky, but I really do believe I can be something more than average. What scares me is that I also really believe that my own insecurities and fears could trap me. I worry that I’m not strong enough to overcome those obstacles, and I’ll be complacent for the rest of my life because it’s comfortable.

I don’t know if any of this rambling has anything to do with the prompt. You tell me.

THE PROMPT: “Best Friends Need Your Help”
You receive a phone call from your two best friends. “Hey, we’ve done something terribly wrong and need your help. We can’t talk about it over the phone. Please meet us at the spot where we made our pact back in high school. You know the place.” Nervously, you grab your coat and car keys.

THE PIECE:

Melissa had been sleeping pretty soundly when her ringtone rudely interrupted. Popping one eye open groggily, she reached out a thin arm to the lower shelf of her bookshelf and clutched the phone. She flopped over onto her back and squinted, narrowing her eyes to better discern the name printed across the display screen. Brittany was calling, which was strange because it was so late and like Melissa, Brittany had to be at work in just a few hours. It also struck Melissa as strange because she had just seen Brittany earlier. They had eaten a late lunch together, and made tentative plans for the upcoming weekend. Was everything okay? Sitting up, she answered the phone and called out, “Hello?”

“Melissa?” Brittany responded. She sounded breathless, and was talking louder than was usual.  Melissa’s trepidation rapidly increased.

“Yeah, it’s me. What’s up? Is everything okay?”

There was a pregnant pause, a moment of hesitation that terrified Melissa. Brittany said, “Helen’s with me.” Brittany swallowed hard. “Listen, Melissa; something really bad happened. Helen and I, we did something terribly wrong. We need your help.”

Melissa felt the blood pool in her feet after it drastically departed from every other part of her body. She felt cold and dizzy; like she could fall right back on the mattress and pass out. “Brittany, what’s wrong? What’s happened?”

More silence greeted Melissa and she absolutely hated it. Under normal circumstances, Melissa couldn’t stand being left out and not knowing everything. Under these circumstances, it was torture. Why couldn’t Brittany just explain things? What was so terrible that her best friend had to operate under such secrecy? Melissa could hear Brittany’s voice thicken with emotion as she said, “I can’t talk about it over the phone. We, we can’t talk about it over the phone.” Helen was speaking very fast in the background and when she grew silent, Brittany began speaking again. “Listen, please, please, please meet us at the spot where we made our pact back in high school.”

Melissa was confused, and not just because it was late and she was exhausted.  She placed a head on her forehead, as if that could calm the thoughts racing back and forth and refusing to form an orderly line so that they could be processed and filed appropriately. “Pact? What-“

“Melissa, you know the place. You know exactly where I’m talking about,“ Brittany interrupted, and she sounded like she was quickly losing patience.

“Okay, okay; I’m leaving now.” Melissa hung up the phone and took a moment to stare into the darkness of her room. She honestly did not remember making any kind of pact, and she was worried she wouldn’t show up at the right place. Or worse, she’d be too late and whatever mess her two best friends had gotten themselves into would only escalate and become some horrible, invincible monster that they would fall victim to. She wondered, very briefly, if she was being overdramatic, but she didn’t think so. Brittany’s tone and shady behavior were certainly causes for alarm as they were completely out of character. Back in high school, Melissa had idolized Brittany – Brittany had been smart across the board, and not just in a few subjects like Melissa. Brittany had been pretty in an unexpected way that made it all the more special (Melissa had often compared Brittany to the actress Molly Ringwald, and the two definitely shared a chemistry and appeal that were hard to define). Melissa had been overweight and remarkably lonely. Brittany had navigated the halls of the high school with an easy and enviable confidence that Melissa had always tried to replicate, but her imitation was only an imitation, and came off as lame. Helen was more like Brittany than Melissa, so the two together should have been a dream team of sorts. Together, they could have taken over the world and not one soul would have complained, or worried about the consequences. It seemed unfathomable that these two amazing woman who personified everything Melissa had ever wanted to be, would now be calling Melissa for help. What could she possibly do to help? She was weak, stupid, still overweight and afraid, always afraid. She felt her face flush with embarrassment even now, even years later when she was alone in her darkened bedroom, when she remembered how she had broken down and sobbed in Brittany’s old, red Jeep. They had been sitting in it, exposing themselves in ways that made them most vulnerable, parked at the lake that was one town over. They had spent the majority of more than one summer parked at that lake-

Melissa’s heart leaped into her throat. Helen and Brittany were at the lake. They would be parked by the second dock site when you took the thin, meandering road to the left of the parking lot. The water would be dark, and the moon would reflect off it beautifully, the way it had those summer nights, when the warm air would coax them from the jeep and onto the dock. It didn’t matter that the wood creaked suspiciously beneath their feet, or that the white paint was chipping. When you’re young, you’re immortal – or rather, you believe that you are, even in a place as dangerous as high school. Melissa flung the sheet and blanket far from her, scrambling into boots and a coat. She grabbed her keys from the hook beside the bedroom door, forgot her wallet with her license and everything important, and headed out to her car, barely remembering to shut the front door behind her.

She sped along the highway, thankful it was late so that she could speed and so that she could catch every green light. Melissa had to slow some when she got into the sleepy town that housed the lake within, not wanting to attract any unnecessary attention. As she drove, her nostrils were suddenly filled with the pungent smell of frying oil, and she could almost feel the chunks of salt that would stick to her fingers amid the grease as she ate the French fries. The memory was so clear and so completely filled her senses, but came unexpectedly. Was it because she had passed a McDonald’s, or because she, Helen and Brittany had always stopped there before heading out to the lake? She felt decidedly uncomfortable in her own skin and had a strong desire to just turn around. If Melissa could pretend as if she had never answered the phone, then she’d be infinitely happy. However, that was not a logical choice of action, and she sighed heavily as she turned into the parking lot at the lake’s shore, anxiety building. She stayed to the left, and noticed how creepy the road really was. If someone wanted to kill someone and dump the body somewhere, this would be the place. Oh Lord, what if Helen and Brittany had done that? They weren’t capable of such an atrocity. Were they? Melissa felt nauseous as she came around the bend, and worried she would vomit all over herself when Brittany and Helen came into view. They were parked alongside the trees on the wrong side of the road, standing outside Brittany’s car – which was a new, blue economy car as the jeep did not live through the college years.
Melissa pulled in behind them, killing the headlights and the engine. She felt tears crowd around the edges of her eyes and never before had she felt so helpless. Tremors wracked her body as she slid from behind the driver’s seat. Her door shut loudly behind her, smashing the silence all around them into dangerous shards. Slowly, haltingly, she walked over to her two friends. “Are you guys okay?” she asked.

“Yeah, we’re okay,” Helen said. “We’ve calmed down since we called you. I’m sorry if we scared you, but we were pretty shaken up when we called.”

Melissa’s heart started working double time. “Why? What happened?”

“Look,” Brittany said sadly. Melissa had made her way over to the two young women, who stepped to opposite sides to allow Melissa to see what they had been crowded around. A dog lay dead. A collar hung heavily around its neck. Blood had slowly leaked from the dog’s mouth, and it’s back legs were bent at impossible angles. It was a sad sight to see, and when Melissa looked closer at Helen and Brittany, she could see they had been crying.

“Did you guys hit the dog?”

Brittany nodded, and began crying again. “We were coming to the lake, you know, like we used to, and he came out of nowhere! He darted right out in front of us, and there was nothing we could do.”

“We weren’t going that fast, but by the time we saw him it was too late, and –“ she paused to gulp down the tears that were welling up, and then said, “we hit him pretty hard.”

Melissa knelt down to look a little closer at the dog. She was close to smiling – an accident was no big deal. An accident was easily remedied. She looked up at Brittany and Helen. “The way you two were talking, I thought you had killed someone.”

“But we hit a dog! This was someone’s pet!” Brittany said.

“Why couldn’t you talk about it over the phone?”

Helen shrugged. “We panicked, and just wanted you down here. We needed someone to tell us what to do.”

Melissa laughed, though there was not much humor in it – more a tone of surprise than anything else. “So you called me, to tell you what to do?”

Helen and Brittany didn’t exactly answer Melissa’s inquiry, but they looked to one another, and then dropped their eyes to the pavement. Melissa stepped closer to Helen, who was nearer, and asked for her cell phone. They would call the cops and go from there. It was sad, but it was just an accident. Melissa was about to dial when she paused. “What pact were you talking about?”

Brittany eyed Melissa skeptically. “Are you telling me you don’t remember?”

Helen popped a hip and rested a thin, bony hand upon it. “You don’t remember how we promised to stay friends forever, no matter what? We did that the summer after senior year, before we all went to college.”

Melissa smiled. “I remember. I just considered that more of a promise than a pact.”

Helen and Brittany both smiled softly.

The three girls were different, but all felt very silly.

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