Boyfriend

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On new material.

Published April 17, 2016 by mandileighbean

Last week was seemingly the longest week of my life. I could list all the challenges, frustrations, and disappointments and create a self-serving litany of complaints, but what good would that honestly do anyone? What kind of energy is that to offer up to the Universe? Instead, here’s an excerpt from the novel I am currently working on. I hope you enjoy it! Please comment with any comments or suggestions you may have – everything is greatly appreciated! 🙂

 

James’ eyes were bloodshot, whether from lack of sleep or too much drink Charlotte couldn’t tell. His eyes were also wide and vacant as he stood beside the coffee maker, staring into some void that only he could see. James seemed mesmerized, entranced, and it was creepy, terribly unsettling the way he could be present and a million miles away all at the same time. Charlotte wanted to call out to him and break that awful concentration, but she was too sick, too tired. She just continued shuffling by, too exhausted to even pick her feet up off the ground. It could have been her oh-so-clever subconscious, discreetly forcing her to make noise to call James to attention, but Charlotte was too sick to think. And truth be told, Charlotte had never really been all that clever, certainly not clever enough to figure out her own subconscious. And so, she shuffled outside.

The sun was hot and bright, but Charlotte didn’t remove any of her excessive layers of clothing. She was too tired, simply too tired, and besides, maybe she’d sweat the fever out – wasn’t that how it worked? She couldn’t remember. She was too tired.

Charlotte breathed heavily through her mouth, as her nose was congested enough to be rendered useless. She stared across the quiet street, too exhausted to turn her head, and her squinting, bleary eyes fell upon one of the only kids inhabiting the whole apartment complex. The kids belonged to the wonderfully nice family who had moved in a month ago much to Charlotte’s delight. The young girl currently in Charlotte’s view was a little sister to a big brother, both under ten years old. The last time Charlotte had seen them, they were yelling with youthful abandon, chasing one another in twisting, ever-widening circles across the dry lawns of their adjacent neighbors. What a beautiful sight! What joyous noise! Charlotte had been absolutely thrilled to encounter signs of life – FINALLY – at her new home. Once poor Kelly left, the remaining inhabitants had all been so odd, frighteningly so, and they had all been dying, or so it seemed.

Charlotte could certainly understand that now.

And apparently so could the kids Charlotte had affectionately begun to think of as Jem and Scout. She was looking at Scout now, and Scout was sitting at the start of her squat driveway, crying. Huge, mournful-looking tears leaked from her eyes and rolled down her round cheeks as if they were trying to be discreet, trying to avoid a scene. Her soft whimpers cut the silence and they sounded so pitiful. Had it not been so tired, Charlotte was sure her heart would have simply shattered. The little girl sat cross-legged on the hot asphalt, just crying. What was wrong? Where was Jem? Despite her extreme exhaustion and growing concern that any kind of movement would kill her, Charlotte turned her head to the left and moved it slowly to the right, endeavoring to scan the landscape to find the brother.

Charlotte didn’t have to look far.

Jem was standing in the middle of his lawn, just a few diagonal paces forward from his sister, standing and sweating in the sun, and staring, staring at Charlotte.

Their eyes locked.

Charlotte gasped and stumbled back a pace or two, unnerved to recognize the look in the little boy’s eyes. James was somewhere behind her in the house, presumably still in the kitchen, with an identical expression. But Jem was much too young to be lost in his own thoughts in such an unsettling way. What ghosts could he possibly have to gawk at? What horrors from his past could he possibly have recalled to the surface to relive in some masochistic ploy? The stare remained intact, unbroken, as Charlotte lost herself in her questions, in imagined possibilities of Jem’s infant traumas, each one more horrible and devastating than the next.

So when James appeared beside her, Charlotte screamed and lost her balance, falling into one of the cheap patio chairs. The plastic was unforgiving and her teeth clacked together as she landed hard on her ass. She could taste blood in her mouth.

“Jesus Christ, Charlotte,” James growled, closing his eyes against her shrill tones. “Do you always have to be so goddamn loud? I told you I’ve been battlin’ a headache for days. Or do you not give a shit about no one but yourself?” He looked down at Charlotte. The vacant expression was gone. James was clearly present in the moment, and him and his eyes were all impatience and contempt.

“I’m s-sorry, James. I-I w-was -” Charlotte stuttered. She wanted to apologize, but she was just so fucking tired.

“I brought you out some coffee because all do is think about you,” James sneered. He thrust the mug at her. The kind and thoughtful gesture was anything but considering his hostile, impatient tone and the muted violence in his actions. Charlotte flinched, but took the mug. She mumbled gratitude, but either James didn’t hear or didn’t care. “I’m going to work even though I feel like shit because one of us should do something.” James roughly dragged his hands along the edges of his face. “I feel god awful,” he groaned. He was wallowing in his misery until he snapped his gaze back to Charlotte. “Ain’t you gonna drink that coffee? I went through the trouble of making it so you’d enjoy it, not let it sit there and cool!”

Charlotte nodded slowly and lowered her gaze like a shameful child. “I will, I promise.”

She was so tired.

James looked at her for just another moment before storming to his truck. Charlotte listened to his boots thud heavily against the grass and then crunch against the gravel, making his progress. She didn’t want to look at him – he was being so cruel. He was especially cruel in the mornings lately. But Charlotte didn’t hear the expected opening and slamming of the truck door, or the expected and familiar roar of the engine coming to life, so she looked to James, to see of everything was alright in the thick heat, in the muggy silence broken only by buzzing insects and the soft whimpers of the little girl. When Charlotte looked, James was staring at her. This time, there was something dangerously close to pure hatred in his eyes. He was glaring at her. “Drink the goddamn coffee, woman!” James barked the order.

Charlotte flinched again, but did as she was told. Once she started drinking from the mug, James got moving again. He climbed into his truck, started the engine, backed out of the driveway, and drove away. Only then did Charlotte stop drinking and pull the mug from her lips. It had been quite the gulp, a few gulps really, and so Charlotte went to lick her lips clean, first the bottom then the top.

As her tongue swept her top lip, Charlotte froze. Something was wrong, terribly wrong. There was a bitter and metallic taste, something that reminded Charlotte of the feel of aluminum foil. It was a bad taste, a yucky taste. Something was wrong with the coffee. Coffee should never ever taste like metal.

The mug fell from her hands. It shattered against the concrete, exploding into sharp shards at her bare feet. Later, Charlotte would discover tiny cuts on her feet and wonder how they got there, where they came from. But currently, Charlotte was experiencing one hell of a moment of clarity. For that moment, she didn’t feel sick or tired or sweaty or scared. She didn’t feel anything. The sudden knowledge was expansive and it filled her completely.

Charlotte knew the coffee was poisoned.

Charlotte knew James wanted her dead.

In the distance, Scout was still crying.

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Be sure to let me know what you thought! xoxo

On being clean.

Published July 16, 2012 by mandileighbean

I had a really wonderful time with loved ones yesterday at Cheryl’s surprise 50th birthday party.  Cheryl is the mother of my best friend, so I view her as my mother by extension.  She is extremely caring, loyal, honest and strong.  I am blessed to have her in my life and be counted as her loved one.  I am also blessed to have such a large extended family, blood relations notwithstanding.  At the party, I was one of the few people who were not related to Cheryl by either blood or marriage.  I viewed myself as a kind of ambassador, representing my family, and it got me thinking about why it becomes so difficult to mix different groups of friends; I believe it is because different people allow one to show different sides of him or herself.  We love myriads of people.  Hopefully, most of us are surrounded by people who bring out the best in us.  But now and again, we develop toxic relationships and love the people who hurt us and bring out the worst in us.  Some people see that as being weak, and as being taken advantage of.  I prefer to see it as being brave.  To give love unconditionally time and time again no matter how many bruises it inflicts is a beautiful and precious gift that is clearly deserving of being shared with everyone.

Never stop loving.

“Oh Jesus, I’ve fallen. I don’t mind the rain if I meet my Maker; I’ll meet my Maker clean. But Jesus, the truth is I struggle so hard to believe I’ll meet my Maker.  I need my Maker.”

– “Get Me Right,” Dashboard Confessional

“And can you kneel before the King and say, ‘I’m clean, I’m clean’?”

– “White Blank Page,” Mumford & Sons

PROMPT: “He was pretty religious once.”

PIECE: Marilyn was slowly walking from the church.  Her high heels were clicking against the concrete and the sound echoed out into the almost deserted parking lot.  She paused at the curb, fumbling with her tiny purse, looking for her pack of cigarettes and lighter.  Will didn’t like her smoking in the car, so she figured she’d feed the craving before climbing inside.  It was an act of consideration and wisely played, because Will would most likely be incredibly cantankerous – he had waited for Saturday evening mass to end in his car in the dry summer heat without air conditioning.  Marilyn had tried to use the lack of comfort and cool air as an incentive for Will to join her inside the church, aside from the fact that doing so could save his immortal soul and provide his life with some kind of moral center.  Her pleas had fallen on deaf ears; Will was not to be shaken from his lack of faith.  She lit up and took a long drag, exhaling the smoke towards the moving sky.  It looked like a severe, sudden summer storm was on its way.

“Will still sitting in the car, huh?” a familiar voice asked.  Marilyn turned to see her best friend, Hannah.  Hannah was smiling, sunglasses blocking her eyes.

“Yeah,” Marilyn answered.  “I’ve tried everything, dude.  Maybe it’s not that important.  Maybe I should stop pushing my values on him.”  She flicked the ashes from the end of the cigarette, and watched them flutter to the pavement.

“Maybe; you know your relationship better than anyone else, aside from Will, of course.”  Hannah paused.  “He’s lucky to have you, you know?”

Marilyn shrugged.  “He keeps saying that, and I keep trying to tell him that it works both ways.  Sometimes, I think he gets upset because he works down at the masonry center and he thinks it’s nothing glamorous and that I think the same.”  She turned to face Hannah fully.  “Do you think I’m pretentious?  Do I give off that vibe?”

Hannah shook her head.  “Not at all; and Will’s fears and doubts are Will’s fears and doubts.  It’s his baggage that he needs to work through.”

Again, Marilyn only shrugged.  “I know, but I just want to help.”  Hannah was silent beside her, out of clichéd things to say she’d learned from sitcoms with female target audiences.  Marilyn turned to face the parking lot, seeming to look out beyond it all and into the past.  “He was pretty religious once,” Marilyn said.

“Really; Will was religious?”

Nodding, Marilyn said, “Yeah.  He would go to mass every week, confession every two weeks.  Every night before bed, he’d hit his knees and pray.  He had a Bible beside his bed and he’d try to read a little bit of it every day.”

“What happened?” Hannah asked.

“I’m not entirely sure,” Marilyn admitted.  “It’s weird.  He won’t go to church, but he brings me every Sunday and he doesn’t go home.  He waits in the car.  What’s that about?”

“Maybe he’s waiting for a reason to go in,” Hannah offered.

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