No More


Marriage Cert


52-Week Writing Challenge: Week 24
Scene from an ongoing WIP and continues on from Good Morning, Mother. Quinn Landon stumbles upon a long-held secret of still more betrayal by Oscar and plans to use the information to end her husband’s endless delays to their divorce.

“If you grip that pen any tighter, it’ll break.”

Quinn looked up at her attorney, not missing the concerned look in his eyes.

“I guess I am a bit keyed up, huh?” She exhaled heavily. “This day has seemed out of my reach for far too long. You have no idea what it means to me to sign these documents.”

Morris Dabney chuckled easily. “Did you forget who you’re talking to?”

The young woman bit her lip, heat flooding her face.

“Sorry, Morris. I forgot… you’ve been through this too.”

“Been through it? My dear, four divorces make me an expert at divorce, my profession notwithstanding.”

Quinn signed her name one last time with a marked flourish.

“Done!” She slid the papers across the table. “And you’re just too easily distracted by a pretty face, Morris. You can’t marry all the pretty women.”

“Yes, they were all attractive, but they also were able to make me believe they truly cared about me… loved me.”

Quinn’s heart broke at the sadness in his eyes.

Morris smacked the conference table and grabbed the signed documents. “Fortunately for you, and all my other clients, I’m a far better litigator than I am a judge of women allegedly interested in me.”

He stood and walked to his desk, adding the documents to a file folder. “I know you’re relieved to at last sign dissolution documents for the filing, Quinn. But you know at this point, it still isn’t a done deal, right? Oscar can still contest the divorce and drag this out for some time.”

Quinn Smirked.

“He can try.”

Morris considered her remark, eyebrow raised. He retook his seat across from her.

“This is the third time we’ve been here, Quinn. The first two times, you seemed more fragile, more broken. Your emotions were all over the place.”

“The first time was so hard for me. Finding out that the man you love with all your heart and soul is cheating on you is a real confidence killer. Then to have him get on his knees and beg for forgiveness and another chance… well, it’s the stuff romance novels are full of. I believed him because I wanted to believe IN him.” She shook her head slowly. “Things were okay for a while… a short while. I began to have female problems, and it only took a visit to my doctor to find out I had a serious STD… courtesy of my husband.”

“And yet, you didn’t go through with the divorce proceedings either time, Quinn.”

Nodding her head, this time it was Quinn who stood. She walked over to the large office window overlooking the river.

“I know, I know. I was so confused. I knew I had the right to divorce Oscar. But our families, especially our parents, they just… kept at me. All their ‘marriage is for a lifetime’, ‘it’s sanctioned by God’, and my personal favorite, ‘for better or for worse’.”

“I’m sorry, Quinn. I didn’t know of your religious beliefs.”

“Religious beliefs? Please. Religion has nothing to do with it. During one of my mother’s pseudo-religious rants, I interrupted to remind her that committing adultery was breaking one of the Ten Commandments… and she called me JUDGMENTAL!”

Folding her arms across her chest, Quinn paced. “You know what the Clark/Butler family prides itself in, Morris? Longevity. And not just longevity of life… but of marriages. Do you know my mother has photos of her parents and grandparents hanging in her family room? And the common denominator is not that they’re family, it’s that the photos were taken after each couple celebrated at least fifty years of marriage.”

Morris’ eyes widened.

Quinn waved away his surprise. “Dad’s family was the same way. His grandparents were married for sixty-four years before my great-grandmother died of respiratory failure.”

“I don’t know what to say…”

“There’s nothing to say, Morris. I’m sorry I didn’t share all of this with you before. I was just too ashamed and embarrassed to admit I’d allowed myself to be bullied and too terrified to stand up for myself. I didn’t want to go against our families.”

“I’m your attorney, Quinn. I look out for your best interests.”

“Yes, you do, Morris, and I’m more grateful than you know. Not many attorneys would be bothered with a crazy lady who kept changing her mind about getting a divorce.”

“Getting a divorce is a major decision. Everyone second guesses themselves at some point. It’s normal. But tell me. You changed your mind twice, yet here we are a few months later with signed papers. Care to share?”

Quinn’s smirk returned with an eerie malevolent tinge.

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Good Morning, Mother

Breakfast Tray

52-Week Writing Challenge: Week 23

A scene from an ongoing WIP. Much to the horror of her family, Quinn Landon has filed for divorce from her adulterous husband. Her family doesn’t miss an opportunity to bully and berate her for ending a “sacred” union, and the number one bully is her mother.


Feeling rejuvenated after a good night’s sleep, Quinn danced around the kitchen to her favorite playlist while making herself a quick breakfast.

Today was the end of the work-week for Phero’s staff since Friday was a company holiday — the founder’s birthday.

Ronan Gaetan decided if countries could celebrate long-dead presidents, document signings, and wars, why couldn’t the company he started from the ground up celebrate his birthday as a paid holiday? For twenty-four years, Phero’s four sites in the U.S., Italy, and France honored their founder by not working on the date of his birth.

Quinn knew it was a concept American corporations would never embrace.

She planned to spend her day off at the Veteran’s Outreach Center. Quinn found volunteering there for the past five years personally rewarding, and it had given Quinn perspective.

Her current situation was not ideal, but helping others get back into the mainstream of living made Quinn realize how fortunate she was. Work kept her from volunteering for several weeks, and now she was anxious to reconnect with the men and women whose trust she’d earned.

Pouring her first cup of coffee, Quinn headed to her breakfast nook to go over her calendar for the day when her phone rang. Swearing under her breath, she reached for the cell, knowing only one person on the planet would call her before six in the morning.

“Good morning, mother.” She could hear Katherine Clark chuff over the phone.

“You sound awfully pleasant this morning. I’m at a loss at why you’re so chipper when you’re breaking your husband’s heart.”

And there it was… again.

“I’m doing great, mom… thanks for asking. How are you and daddy doing?”

“Don’t be flippant with me, young lady!”

“Wouldn’t dream of it, mom. Give me a blindfold and a cigarette at dawn if I’m ever flippant.”

“Where did I go wrong with you? Honestly, I believe you’re being stubborn just to defy me.”

Quinn inhaled slowly… her anger building.

“Yes, mother. This is all about you. I’m divorcing my lying, cheating, low-down snake of a husband just to spite you.”

“Quinn Avery! Do not speak to me in that manner.”

“What do you want, mother? I mean, besides for me to stop the divorce proceedings, which is never going to happen. What do you want?”

“I want you to be reasonable, dear, and think this through. No good can come of a divorce. It will only leave you both bitter and disillusioned.”

“Too late, mom. I got over the bitterness after Oscar’s THIRD affair… you know… FOUR affairs back? But the disillusionment? That’s still hanging around. Mostly because I cannot understand why MY family paints me as the villain when it was Oscar who mocked his wedding vows and disrespected our marriage.”

“You’re still young dear, and learning about the little indiscretions of men.”

Quinn had enough.

“I’ll let you get away with saying one affair is an indiscretion, mom, but seven? That’s just an unfaithful, disrespectful jerk. And I’m three years away from forty, mom — hardly a child. While some women may feel it’s okay for men to stray, I’m not in that club. I hold everyone to the same standards — honesty, fidelity, trust. I no longer have any of those with Oscar. Way past time to end our farce of marriage.”

“Marriage is for a lifetime, dear… and ordained by God.”

Ding, ding, ding! Katherine Clark was hitting all the markers today.

“The union of marriage is ordained by God, mother, but if God didn’t bring two people together, why is He used to keep them together? And, correct me if I’m wrong here, but isn’t adultery the only acceptable reason for divorce in the Bible? And isn’t it listed in the Big Ten?”

Katherine Clark was silent.

“Oscar has been to church only a handful of times since we were married — you don’t get to play the God-card with me, mom.”

“People in our family do not get divorced, Quinn. You know this.”

Quinn chuckled.

“Yes, I do know, mom. I’ve seen the photos of long dead relatives who would rather have had their tongues cut out than divorce.”

“Quinn-…”

“I watch my brothers and their wives, barely able to be in the same room with each other, but too afraid of upsetting you, so they languish in marriages that should never have been. I do not intend to spend my life that way. I’m not stopping the divorce.”

“Your brothers are all happily married!”

“No, mother. YOU are happy they’re married. Myron and Aaron both never smile anymore. They bring their families for Sunday dinner to appease you and daddy, but always look like they’d rather be somewhere else.”

“You do not know everything, young lady. Aaron and Cecelia are talking about having another baby. They’re very much in love.”

“Oh mother, please! They’re talking about it because you suggested it. Cecelia is just as unhappy as Aaron and wants to be closer to her family back east.”

“Cecelia has loving family right here.”

“No, she has you and daddy, always butting in trying to run their marriage.”

“Quinn Avery! How dare you? I will not tolerate your disrespectful attitude!”

“Then we should end this call, mom, because I’m just being honest. I refuse to live in your fairy tale. Enjoy your day, mom.” Quinn ended the call, gripping the phone tightly. She took a couple of deeps breaths, then gently placed the cell on the counter.

Quinn emptied her now-cold coffee down the drain, and poured a fresh cup. A faint smile graced her lips. She’d endured one of her mother’s self-serving phone calls and was already mentally moving past it — all in less than twenty minutes.

Quinn remembered times when the same phone call would have thrown her off her game and ruined her entire day.

Not this time.

Things were definitely looking up.

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The Visit

River Ridge


52-Week Writing Challenge: Week 22 – Scene from current WIP. Still struggling to overcome her issues of abandonment and salvage her personal life… and sanity, attorney Olivia Chandler attempts to visit the mother she hasn’t seen in five years and who’s been a resident at a private mental facility for almost thirty years.

“Olivia Chandler? I’m Sandra Riley, Sarina’s case manager.”

The tall woman grasped Olivia’s hand into both of her own, shaking briskly. “We’re so glad you’re here today. This is a big step forward for your mother.”

“Nice to meet you, Sandra, and honestly, it’s a big step for me too.”

“Oh, I’m sure, Olivia. Any questions for me before you visit with Sarina?”

Visit with Sarina. She made it sound so cute and homey, Olivia thought.

“Does she know I planned to be here today?”

“Yes, she does. When Sarina asked about you a few weeks ago, she said she also knew you’d have little or no reason to want to see her, but she’d always hoped you come someday.””

Olivia stared at the woman blankly, not knowing how to respond to the comment.

“I’m sure this is confusing, Olivia, and now isn’t the time for me to explain all that Sarina has gone through, but please know she is fully cognizant of her aging, of you, her late husband”, Sandra paused only for a second, “she even remembers the accident. It’s everything between the accident and a few months ago that’s fuzzy for her. It’s as though a switch was flipped off in her brain that was recently turned back on.”

Olivia frowned but didn’t ask the question on the tip of her tongue.

“May I see her now?”

“Of course! Follow me.”

The case manager’s long legs covered the distance across the sitting area in no time at all, with Olivia almost scurrying to keep up with her. Margot and Randie were always teasing Olivia about her brisk walking pace, but she had nothing on Sandra Riley! Olivia would guess Sandra to be at least six feet tall… and light on her feet.

Reaching an unmarked door in the far corner, Sandra held it open for Olivia, who walked through and found herself standing in yet another sitting room, only this one resembled the average family room. Large, overstuffed chairs, throw rugs and even a flat screen television graced the area.

“Welcome to Honey Ridge East, Olivia.”

“Honey Ridge East? I don’t understand.”

Sandra pointed to a bulletin board on the wall near the door they’d just come through.

“The residents here are grouped by floor, the severity of mental disorder, and the amount of care and supervision needed. The healthiest, most independent residents reside here in Honey Ridge.”

“My mother is here…in this section?”

She nodded.

Olivia tried to digest the information. Her mother was healthy? Required little or no supervision? Trying to reconcile this new Sarina with the bedridden, incoherent woman she last saw five years ago was difficult for Olivia.

“How long has she lived here?”

Sandra pursed her lips, thinking. Then she nodded.

“I’m pretty sure Sarina was here for the group’s Valentine’s Day dinner dance, so that makes it eight months.” Sandra tried not to laugh at the horrified expression on Olivia’s face.

“Don’t be shocked. We also have Easter Egg hunts and 4th of July barbecues. Most of the residents have signed up for hayrides next week for Halloween, and…” she leaned in towards Olivia, “I heard Santa will visit on Christmas Eve.”

Shaking her head, Olivia was incredulous.

“What kind of mental hospital is this? I mean, um…I thought…”

The case manager guided Olivia past the sitting area while answering.

“River Ridge Meadows is a private care, private pay, voluntary commitment facility. We’re fully licensed by the state and the federal government. Insurance isn’t accepted here, and no resident is here against their will. We currently have one hundred and sixty-one residents ranging in age from seven to eighty-six. Most are from throughout the state, but there are a few from other parts of the country, and even four from Europe. River Ridge has two permanent, board certified psychiatrists, two permanent, board certified medical doctors, six psychologists, and a nursing staff of 40 that includes licensed physical therapists.

The residents here are used to a certain way of life, and we provide that here, within reason. That’s why we also have an event planner and a social activities director on staff.”

Sandra stopped at the top end of a short hallway. “But we have all the time in the world for me to tell you about River Ridge, and even give you a tour, if you like.” She nodded towards the end of the hall. “Your mother is expecting you.”

Olivia pressed her hand against her stomach, the tiny nervous tremors threatening to morph into a full-fledged earthquake. Heat enveloped her body as the familiar tang of bile crept up the back of her throat. Closing her eyes, the nervous woman tried to will the anxiety away.

You’ve come this far, Chandler, don’t you dare freak out now!

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After Work: #WritingChallenge #Week21

Elevator photo

Week 21: 52-Week Writing Challenge.

A scene from a current WIP which I am absolutely clueless about!


Making her way to the elevator just after 6:30, Quinn was glad to see the end of the day. She spent the afternoon wheeling and dealing like a Wall Street broker securing new health plans to replace Martech after their premium rate hike. Quinn was successful so far, but at the expense of a migraine trying to form behind her eyes.

Pushing the down button, Quinn leaned her head against the cool, marble wall while she waited for the elevator.

“That kind of day, huh?

Quinn turned to find Fletcher Morgan… standing unusually close to her. She hadn’t even heard him approach.

“Unfortunately, yes. But it’s over… for now. It’s safe to make my escape.”

Fletcher nodded, knowingly. “Funny how a forty-hour work week so easily turns into sixty… or more. It seems like we’re always here. I’m sure your husband will be happy to see you walk through the door.”

Quinn quickly looked away and was saved from responding when the elevator doors opened.

Frowning, Fletcher followed her into the car. “Where are you parked?”

“Um… garage level four. Thanks.”

“I’m on four, too.” Pushing the button, Fletcher leaned against the lift wall. “Quinn, did I say something wrong?”

She stared at the descending floor numbers.

“Quinn?”

Smiling faintly with a half shrug, Quinn looked into Fletcher’s eyes for the first time. “I’m going through a divorce, Fletcher.”

The young man froze… momentarily speechless.

“Quinn, I-I… dammit! I feel like such an idiot! I had no idea. Please forgive me for speaking out of turn.”

“It’s okay, Fletcher. You didn’t know. Although, I’m pretty sure you’re probably one of the last few in the building who didn’t know.” She laughed easily.

Fletcher watched her… confused.

“Well… um, you seem to be dealing with it pretty well.”

“It didn’t just happen. It’s been a few months, and honestly — I waited far too long.” Before Fletcher could respond, the elevator doors opened. Quinn quickly exited the lift, heading for her car, pausing long enough for a quick goodbye. “Have a good eve-…”

“How are you really doing, Quinn? I know it’s stressful. My divorce two years ago had me drinking way too much.”

“That bad, huh?”

He nodded.

“It has been stressful. He keeps finding ways to stall, and while he’s stalling, he, along with our families gang up on me trying to make me change my mind.”

“He’s still in love with you?”

“Oscar is in love with Oscar… and the thought of marriage.”

“If he’s going through so much trouble to stall, maybe he’s learned his lesson and reconciliation is possible.”

Quinn smirked.

“It might be a possibility for him, but not for me. He should have thought about that before he cheated… several times.” She saw a flash of anger in his eyes, but it quickly disappeared.

“Are you kidding me? The man was married to you”, he pointed at her, “and he cheated? Is he a sighted man?”

The laugh escaped her lips before she could stop it.

“Seriously, Quinn Landon. You’re a beautiful woman. I don’t know you well personally, but I hear nothing but good things about you around the company. Forgive me for being so forward, but I think your husband — soon-to-be-ex-husband — is an idiot.”

Ducking her head as heat flooded her face, Quinn was grateful her mocha skin hid her blush.

“Thank you, Fletcher. That’s so kind of you to say.”

“You’re welcome. May I ask if you have a good attorney? Your assets being protected?”

“He’s a great attorney, and I’m not giving up a thing. What’s mine stays mine.”

“Good. My ex-wife came into the marriage with nothing, attempted to spend half of what I had while we were married, and tried to take the rest with her after I filed for divorce. This is a community property state, but no need to get carried away.”

“Exactly!”

He reached out and touched her arm. “It will get better, you know?”

Quinn nodded.

“I know. I’m just ready for the storm to pass. I need some sunshine in my life.”

Fletcher nodded in agreement, the firm set of his jaw instantly making Quinn think of John Wick. Damn that Priscilla! She bit the inside of her jaw to keep from smiling.

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Downsized

Supermarket

Week 20: 52-Week Writing Challenge
Word prompt – downsized

 

Ramsey felt God had punished him enough.

An honors graduate of Northwestern with nineteen years professional business experience should not be managing a second-rate grocery store.

He fumed thinking about the brand new sixty-foot boat his brother now owned.

Ramsey Carter’s pulse quickened remembering the sadness of his wife’s eyes viewing the photos from her sister’s European vacation.

The former new accounts director owned a boat once. Ramsey took his wife to Europe for their eleventh wedding anniversary… thirteen years ago.

But that was all in the past. The boat was sold two years ago in Ramsey’s second full year of unemployment. Unless they won the lottery, the Carters may never see Europe again.

Closing his laptop, Ramsey pinched the bridge of his noise. Grateful the new work schedule was complete, Ramsey wasn’t looking forward to the usual employee complaints. His penny-pinching regional manager decreased Ramsey’s allotted monthly staffing hours again. The deli and bakery would have to close five hours early to keep checkout lanes and customer service staffed.

Senior employees would scream. Insisting they’d already paid their dues by working the inconvenient shifts and doing grunt work, being scheduled for swing or short shifts was a slap in the face to long term staff.

Ramsey Carter agreed with them. He believed years of service and loyalty to an employer should mean something… have some value.

Or at least he used to.

He believed it right up to the day Bentek Corp’s security escorted him to the parking garage. Security manager Dick Roddy took Ramsey’s employee identification card, handed him an envelope, and walked away.

Downsized.

So, while understanding employee anger at their situation, Ramsey had a job to do. Take the newly allotted hours and staff the store for eighteen hours a day, seven days a week.

At least he wasn’t firing anyone. Yet.

Easing his tired body from the chair, Ramsey headed for shipping and receiving to double check the evening lock-down.

Passing through Household Goods and hearing his name called, Ramsey turned. The throbbing in his head was immediate along with the bitter taste in his mouth.

Delia Pennock, health and beauty clerk, teetered toward him on heels too high… and unsafe for the workplace.

How many times would Ramsey have to warn this woman?

Before Delia caught up to him, Ramsey’s inter-store walkie buzzed. The display showed the call was coming from Ramsey’s intended destination — shipping and receiving.

“What’s up, Minas?”

“Need you back here, Ramsey. Now.”

“On my way.”

Red-faced and out of breath, Delia reached Ramsey as he returned the walkie to his belt-clip.

“Ramsey, I know you’re working on the next schedule. Do be a dear and not schedule me for the opening shift or on the checkout stands.”

“Sorry, Delia. The schedule’s done. You open on the express checkout week two of the schedule.”

He turned to leave, but Delia caught hold of his arm. Ramsey looked back to find the bottle-blonde attempting a full-fledged pout. Pursing his lips, Ramsey stepped out of Delia’s grip.

“Ramsey! Six in the morning is just too early for someone with a social life as active as mine.”

“It’s your turn, Delia. You know the rotation.”

Delia had gall. He had to give her that. Most employee scheduling concerns were about babysitting issues, evening classes and caring for disabled family members. Only Delia would want special treatment so she could sit in a bar all night.

Though her employee file carried a birth-date making Delia thirty-nine years old, Ramsey Carter would swear in open court sitting on top of Bible-mountain she was older than his forty-seven years. Even from where he stood, Ramsey could see the layers of makeup on Delia’s face intended to hide wrinkles. It didn’t.

“But, Ramsey-”

“I have to go, Delia. Problem in S and R. And Delia,” he looked at her feet, “the shoes.”

“Oh, okay. We’ll talk… later.”

Ramsey walked away in double-time to keep from laughing in the woman’s face.

If the employee rumor mill were to be believed, Delia Pennock lured three of the last four store managers into sexual trysts outside… and inside the store. The fourth manager was female and not into women, even though it was said Delia tried anyway.

Ramsey Carter had no intention of becoming the over-the-hill party girl’s latest conquest.

Toni Temple-Carter was the sunshine in Ramsey’s life. He’d loved her since the day she’d walked into their seventh-grade English class. But the shy, awkward Ramsey Carter resigned to be just friends with the dark-skinned beauty. For six years Ramsey watched Toni date other guys, his heart breaking piece by piece each time. When he learned Toni would also be attending Northwestern, it cheered him to know he would still get to see Toni from time to time.

Ramsey’s world spun out of control the day Toni Temple plopped down on the bench next to him in the Student Union.

“Do you like me, Ramsey… at all?”

Ramsey, still gawky at nineteen, sputtered for the right words.

“Huh? Like you? Of… of course, Toni. We’re… friends. Have been for a l-long time.”

“Why haven’t you ever asked me out?”

Ramsey’s eyes widened in disbelief.

“Ask… you out? Because… I thought… we’re friends. I didn’t think-”

“Ask me out.”

“Huh?”

“Ask me out.”

Understanding registered with Ramsey and the two young people shared a grin.

“Will you go out me, Toni?”

“Yes, Ramsey Carter. I thought you’d never ask.”

They’d been inseparable ever since, marrying five years later.

Committed to each other, the Carters had avoided most of the pitfalls which darken some marriages. When their second son entered college, Toni and Ramsey were excited about the future and making plans. Plans which imploded less than a year later when Ramsey was downsized out of Bentek Corp.

Toni was steadfast, never complaining about their financial situation. At the end of her work day, the nursing manager would often pick up extra hours in patient care to help with their household budget. Toni never blamed Ramsey or even Bentek for their lot and Ramsey was in awe of her. Each time he looked at her, Ramsey saw nothing but love in her eyes.

Other downsized Bentek employees lost everything… homes, savings, and their marriages. But Toni was Ramsey’s fortress, holding him up and shielding him from the depression which threatened to take him.

Yes, the Carters sold their boat, the cabin upstate, and their timeshares. And they no longer splurged on artsy furnishings or ate out. But they had saved their home and kept both their sons in college. Toni often said they were an unbeatable team, but Ramsey knew better. Toni’s love for him was his armor against the world, but her endless faith in him gave him the strength to keep moving forward.

When Ramsey suggested putting their artistic sides to good use by getting into the on-line graphic arts business, Toni not only agreed, but she researched and found the best on-line classes they could afford. Eighteen months later, the couple was close to realizing their dream and beginning a new journey together. Ramsey knew it would be a struggle at first, both of them working full-time while trying to start their own business.  But Ramsey looked forward to the day when he was his own boss.

Opening the security door separating shipping and receiving from the rest of the store. Ramsey Carter gawked at the sight before him.

Department manager, Minas Fortuni, stood at the bay doors attempting to unbend metal around a three-foot hole in the door.

“What the hell?” Ramsey inched forward, his stomach churning at the paperwork in his immediate future. “What happened, Minas?”

Shaking his head, Minas gave up his futile attempts to close the hole.

“That last delivery guy… from Buckley Dairy… didn’t swing the back end of his trailer wide end enough. Backed right into the door. He leaned out the window and saw what he’d done. Know what he did then, Ramsey?”

The store manager stared at the hole in the door, still incredulous.

Minas continued. “He said, “Oops, sorry, dude” and drove off. Just like that.”

Ramsey hung his head defeated. He was tired, hungry and he wanted to go home. This day had to end.

Ramsey Carter decided it was time to delegate. “You busy this evening, Minas?”

“No, and I already put in a call to Rolla-Doorz. It’s going to cost extra, but they’re sending a guy over.”

“Good thinking, Minas. If you’re willing to stay and cover for me, I’ll authorize the overtime… as long as it takes.”

“Of course, I’ll stay. It’s Patty’s turn to host girls’ night. You’re saving me from watching a bunch of baby boomer females get drunk and cavort around the house to the soundtrack from “Grease.” It’s a win-win situation for us both. Go home, man… I got you covered.”

“Thanks, Minas. I owe you for this… big-time!”

Returning to his office in record time, Ramsey made quick notes about the incident and put the Buckley Dairy file on his desk for tomorrow. Before Ramsey could lock his file cabinet, Dale Johnson from the meat department leaned into his office.

“Hey, Ramsey… got a slip and fall near aisle twelve. The woman says the floor was wet and Good Buy Foods is going to pay for her pain and suffering.”

Ramsey leaned against his desk, ready to scream.

“Is the woman okay? Anything broken? Bleeding? Do we need to get paramedics here?”

Dale smirked. “Ramsey… she’s fine.”

“Is someone with her?”

“Yeah. Gail from the front desk.”

“Okay, on my way.”

Ramsey pulled an accident report from the file cabinet along with the store’s Polaroid and headed out of his office. He stopped and returned to his desk, grabbing his cell phone.

Ramsey had to let Toni know he’d be late getting home… again.

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Addiction

Internet Addiction

Week 18: 52-Week Writing Challenge  Word prompt: addiction

Laura cringed as his finger found the trigger. Though it was aimed away from her, the blast of the shotgun knocked Laura off her feet.

Scrambling in a half-crawl half-walk, she tried to push past him when another blast rang out. Sinking to the floor, Laura howled in anguish.

“Why? Why did you do that? It wasn’t necessary!”

Without responding, Cory Ganz checked the gun’s chamber, wiped the barrel, and replaced it in its pristine case. He then turned and faced his hysterical wife.

“It had to be done.”

Laura crawled over to the devastation her husband of twenty-one-years had wrought. She reached out an arm but pulled back, glaring at him through her tears.

“You did not have to shoot my laptop!”

“Yes, I did, Laura. And I’m not sorry. I had to get your attention.” Cory left the room and returned a few minutes later with a shovel and a box. He began to scoop up the remains of the still smoldering device.

Laura Ganz stood and paced around him.

“Get my attention? For what? What is so important you had to take out a deadly weapon and shoot an inanimate object? That cost me nine hundred dollars, by the way.”

Cory took a deep breath in an attempt to quell his anger. “Let’s work backward, shall we? When we agreed you needed a new laptop, we also agreed on a price and that we’d pay cash. The very next day, you spent three times the amount decided on and you used our credit card… our emergencies only credit card.” The frustrated husband dragged his hand through his collar-length dark hair. “And you didn’t even tell me, sweets. I had to find out when the bill came in the mail.”

Laura hung her head in shame, then tried to rebound. “But I thought it would be a good investment.” The words rang hollow to her own ears.

“Investment in what, Laura? Neither of us works on-line. We’re not in school or distance learners. Hell, we can’t even get the bill-pay program to work right.” Cory leaned the shovel against the desk and approached his wife.

“But you know what does work for you, honey? Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, iChat, Facetime.” He raised a finger as he named each social network. “You’re LinkedIn, you StumbleUpon, you have Pinterest, and don’t even get me started on your blogs! Enough already!”

Red-faced and defensive, Laura folded her arms across her chest. “I enjoy the Internet. Is that so wrong? Dena Gibbs is out four nights a week spending hundreds to play Bingo. Ann Kemp spends thousands of dollars in Nordstroms and she doesn’t even have a job!” She unfolded her arms reaching out to her husband. “I was wrong to buy the more expensive laptop, and I was wrong for not telling you, but honey, is it really such a bad way for me to spend time? For a few bucks a month, I chat with friends on-line. I’m not like Leslie Van Dyke, hitting the male strip clubs every time Harvey works a double shift.”

He would have laughed if their situation weren’t so serious. “A few bucks? You spent two hundred dollars on Amazon last month! And you upgraded our basic Internet package to premium… that’s an additional forty bucks a month.”

“So this is about the money.”

“No, it’s not about the money! This is about you and us… your family! Donna and I have been on our own for months! She cooks, I do the laundry. She cleans the house, I shop for food. We eat our meals alone… because you’re in front of the laptop, caught up in the personal drama of people you don’t even know!”

“You are upset because you actually have to do some work around the house? Take care of OUR home… take care of yourselves? Excuse me for discontinuing maid service!”

Cory’s jaws were rigid, the timbre of his voice a full octave deeper. “Knock it off, Laura! You know better than that!” He sat on the arm of the sofa, resting his hands on his thighs.

“Your shift begins at six in the morning. You sit on-line until one… sometimes two in the morning. When you fall into bed… if you come to bed at all, you have your cell in your hand. It’s like you can’t miss a second of anything happening on the Internet. When you come home from work, you start all over again. It needs to stop, honey. Your life is here… with your daughter and your husband. Not the world wide web.”

“I think you’re over-exaggerating this-”

“You have a problem, honey… an addiction… to the Internet.”

Backing away, Laura began to laugh. She waved her arms in front of her. Glancing at Cory every few seconds made her laugh harder.

His expression was blank as he watched his wife.

“Oh, Cory… honey! Addicted to the Internet? Really?” She wiped the tears from laughter off her cheeks. “Okay, I may have over-indulged just a tad bit, but, honey… let’s not add to the madness.” Laura motioned toward the box containing her former laptop.

“You called into work twice this month… sick. Only you weren’t. You spent both days typing… chatting… whatever, on-line.”

“Baby, c’mon! You know those days were more of a protest because Rina gave the lead operator position to Willa. I’ve been a 911 operator for ten years. That position was mine. Hell, I trained Willa!”

“And you would have gotten that position and the raise which comes with it… were it not for all the recent reprimands in your personnel file.”

Laura’s laughter was replaced by a smirk. “I only did it twice.”

“That you told me about,” he said. “You know logging on-line at your job is a serious infraction. Hackers are always looking for a way into the 911 database. You opened a port for them and risked your job just to chat with friends.”

Tired and embarrassed by her husband’s lecture, Laura walked toward the kitchen. “Are we done here?”

“You called in today.”

Laura whirled around to face Cory.

“You saw me when I woke up! Eyes puffy and swollen, sinuses draining… and I could barely talk. I need my voice for my job, Cory.”

“Yes, I did, and yes, you do. But I also saw you grab your sinus pills and a bottle of water and park yourself in front of the laptop. I had to call your name twice to get your attention before I left… to remind you of the assembly at Donna’s school this afternoon.”

A mournful groan escaped her lips. Donna was one of four students being honored for maintaining a perfect grade point average for their entire school career. The honor students were to be presented with full four-year scholarships to USC in neighboring California, and checks for twenty-five hundred dollars each. Laura had missed it all.

“I-I… I’m so sorry. So, so sorry. Was she upset?”

“Oh, yes! She said, “Guess I’m not important enough for mom to drag herself away from her precious laptop.””

Laura shook her head as the tears began again. “I was just chatting with friends… updating my blog. Oh, my God. How do I fix this? Can I fix this?” She had missed a very important event for her child and hurt her… all because she was in an on-line book party for an author whose books she had no interest in reading. Because her friends were there. Because she felt empty when she wasn’t logged into a social network.

Cory pulled his wife into his arms. They rocked back and forth while he stroked her long, dark hair. Pulling back, he regarded her. “We can’t do it alone.”

“I don’t see what I’m doing as a problem, Cory. And definitely not as an addiction. But, I don’t see what you see. What our daughter sees.” She rested her head against his chest. “I’m ashamed for what I’ve put you through and my behavior. But most of all,” she looked up into his eyes. “I’m ashamed because even though I know I’ve caused my family pain and possibly jeopardized my job, I’m thinking about how I’ll replace the laptop.”

“I’ll replace the laptop, honey after we get you some help, and they-”

“Some help? What kind of help?”

“Allan says there’s a psychologist who works with the police department and has experience with Internet addiction. He gave me the guy’s number.”

She was horrified. “You told your brother about this?”

“Honey, I just dislodged a firearm… twice! I didn’t want SWAT surrounding our home.”

“And he agreed to this?”

Cory kissed Laura on the forehead and began gathering the shovel and box of laptop remnants. “Yup! My gun is registered and we live outside of the city limits, so I didn’t break any laws or ordinances.” He looked down into the box. “And it had to be done. I didn’t know how else to get your attention and make you see how serious this is.”

He headed toward the garage, stopping to plant a quick kiss on her cheek. “I’ll call this guy in a sec and see if I can get us an appointment for next week.”

Laura frowned. Next week? She was already feeling anxious. She’d never make it.

“What am I going to do until next week, Cory? I’m already anxious and it’s been less than an hour.” She looked around the room feeling trapped. “I can’t do this, Cory, I can’t!”

Re-entering the room, Cory squeezed his wife’s shoulder on his way to the kitchen.

“Yes, you can… we can. We’re in this together. I’m going to call this guy and lock in an appointment time. Donna will be home soon and we’ll go out for a nice dinner… as a family.”

Laura wrung her hands as her husband left the room. She looked over at the desk only to have the char marks remind her of what had just happened.

Evening approached. All her friends would be on-line. They would wonder why she was absent. There would be new followers on Twitter. New posts on Facebook. Charlene would be posting new photos from the author’s convention.

She was missing it all.

Standing in the middle of the room, Laura turned in circles several times.

Now what?

Tears threatened to reappear when Laura saw her handbag sitting on the vestibule table.

Her cell phone!

She dashed to the handbag, stealing several glimpses over her shoulder to make sure Cory didn’t catch her.

Grabbing the cell phone from the side pocket, Laura swiped the screen several times, confused. Had Cory done something to her phone? She tried again and realized her hands were shaking and the cell screen was wet… because her hands were wet… from perspiration.

This doesn’t make any sense.

Shaking her head, Laura caught her reflection in the mirror over the table. Her eyes were wild and frantic, and her skin flushed. A tiny sheen of sweat was visible on her lips. Dropping the cell as if it burned her, Laura backed away from the hall table until the wall stopped her. She slumped to the floor in a heap, staring at her shaking, sweaty hands.


While this is a fictional story, Internet addiction is real, and is characterized by excessive or poorly controlled preoccupations, urges or behaviors regarding computer use and internet access that lead to impairment or distress. There are no evidence-based treatments for internet addiction. Cognitive behavioral approaches may be helpful. There is no proven role for psychotropic medication. Marital and family therapy may help in selected cases, and online self-help books and tapes are available. Lastly, a self-imposed ban on computer use and Internet access may be necessary in some cases.

Dumped

Homeless Man

Week 17 – 52-Week Writing Challenge
Word Prompt – “Dumped”
Based on a true event.

Angry and upset, Bradley strode from the office building. The meeting had not gone as he hoped. The marketing deal did not go through. Sam, his boss, would not be happy. Bradley decided not to prolong the inevitable and pulled out his cell. Head down, focused on his phone, Bradley didn’t see the man sitting on the sidewalk until he tripped over him.

“What the hell? You idiot! You better hope my cell phone isn’t broken!” Bradley jumped to his feet and checked out his cell, turning it over in his hands. The screen wasn’t damaged, but there was a small scratch on the titanium case.

“Son of a bitch! Do you have any idea how much this phone cost me?” He smirked at the unresponsive man. “Of course, you don’t. I’ll bet you know the price of the cheapest bottle of wine the liquor store sells though, huh?”

The disheveled man remained silent, but Bradley Harper noticed his shoulders slump. He leaned toward him.

The clothes he wore were not his own. The coat, too hot and heavy for summer, was at least two sizes too large. The pants stopped just below his calves, leaving his long, pale, ashen legs exposed. Ragged white socks covered his feet, but instead of shoes, he wore light slippers.

“What’s wrong with you? Can’t you talk?” The man said nothing. Bradley glanced around the trendy Inland Empire business square. People went about their day. No one paid any attention to them.

“The cops are good about keeping this area clear of your kind. How did you get this far downtown without being stopped?”

The man mumbled something, still not meeting Bradley’s gaze.

“Oh, great! A homeless drunk who makes no sense. I do not have time for this bullshit. I’ll let the cops deal with you, buddy.” Bradley backed away from the man, looking around the area for security. More mumbled words caught his ear. “Are you saying something?”

He tried to nod, but Bradley noticed the movement caused the man’s whole body to shake.

“I don’t have time for this! I need to get back to my office and find out if I still have a job.”

The man struggled to remove something from his pocket. Without raising his head, he thrust a handful of folded papers in Bradley’s direction.

Exhaling with a growl, the harried advertising executive shook his head, walked back to the man and took the papers from his outstretched hand. Bradley unfolded the thick bundle and read, his brow furrowed. Bradley’s eyes widened at the information the documents held.

“These are hospital discharge papers. Dated today.”

One nod from the silent man.

Bradley read on. “You’re Patrick Peterson?”

Another single nod.

“You spent the last three days in San Antonio Regional Hospital with pneumonia and they discharged you this morning.” Bradley frowned. “But how did you get here?”

“Van.”

“Van? A van brought you here? What kind of van? Why?”

“Hospital… van. No insurance.”

“Patrick? Are you telling me the hospital discharged you and dumped you on the street because you have no insurance?”

“Yes.”

“Son of a bitch! Those heartless bastards! This can’t be legal! Damn! Patrick, I’m sorry about my-”

A violent coughing spasm wracked Patrick’s body. Bradley could hear the wet, phlegmy infection rattle in the gaunt man’s chest and throat. Patrick’s body convulsed. Bradley Harper thought the man might lose consciousness.

“You’re still sick. They dumped you on the street… and you’re still sick.” Bradley shook his head. “This is too fucked up for words.”

Patrick thrust his head back, gasping for air. The movement helped, and the coughing subsided, but his breathing was so shallow, Patrick rested his upturned head against the building taking in as much air as he could.

Bradley saw the chain around his neck. He waited a few more minutes for the coughing to stop.

“Patrick, were you military?”

“Yes. Marines.”

Bradley fumed. This was no way to treat someone who served their country.

“Why didn’t they take you to the Veteran’s hospital?”

“No beds.”

“Family?”

“Don’t want me… too much trouble.”

“You’re too much trouble for your family? What the hell?” Bradley caught himself and gave Patrick an inquisitive look. “Why does your family feel you’re too much trouble?”

Patrick hesitated. He clenched and unclenched his emaciated hands several times before allowing them to rest limply on the sidewalk.

“PTSD.”

Bradley wasn’t surprised by Patrick’s answer. “Are you violent?”

Patrick shook his head. “I… never… hurt anyone.”

Frustrated, Bradley waved the papers around like a mad man.

“Man, I don’t understand! If you’re not violent, how are you too much trouble? Why did your family just turn their backs? That’s some evil bullshit!”

For the first time since Bradley tripped over him, Patrick raised his head and looked Bradley in the face. The haunted look of the ex-Marine’s piercing, ice blue eyes shocked and saddened the concerned accountant.

“Because… I’m not myself. Voices… from that morning… fire fight. First Lieutenant. Sargent. Hollenbeck. All gone.”

Bradley watched as the distraught man’s eyes pooled with tears.

“It plays on repeat in my… head. No one… can make it… stop.” Fatigued from illness and conversation, the poor man slumped back against the building.

Compassion and anger battled inside Bradley Harper. This man served his country and watched his team die. He was blessed to be alive himself… to return home and live on the streets. Patrick Peterson deserved better. He deserved treatment. He deserved proper care. Patrick deserved respect, not to be treated like trash.

There was no way Bradley could walk away from Patrick. He had nowhere to go. Bradley knew if he abandoned the sick man, it would only be a matter of days before his lifeless body was found.

Pulling out his cell again, Bradley scrolled to Sam’s name and clicked Call. He wasn’t concerned with the customer inside the building or any damn contract. Bradley wasn’t even concerned about his job for the moment.

Sam Lemmer was a retired Marine and would know how best to help Patrick. It took little to send the former Captain off on a tangent about the country’s treatment of its military personnel. Meeting Patrick and hearing his story would be spark enough to set the decorated war hero into action.

Light snores caused Bradley to glance down at the abandoned man.

“Don’t worry, buddy. You’ll never sleep on a sidewalk again.”

Image from Google.

©Copyright Felicia Denise 2017

Minus One

Marriage Cert

Week 16 – 52 Week Writing Challenge

Perri Norton was exhausted. Her joints throbbed with each step. Beads of sweat ran down her back as she approached the parking garage. She should never have come alone. Perri should have told someone. She should have asked someone to come with her. Three blocks were a breeze for a healthy person, but for someone dealing with multiple chronic illnesses like Perri Norton, they may as well have been a mile.

It had been much easier to make the short walk when she’d arrived three hours earlier. Now, not only was the sun high in the sky, Perri was certain Los Angeles would record a new high temperature for this mid-August day. Combined with the slight incline back to the parking garage, Perri knew she could trigger a flare up which would have her immobile for days. She said a silent prayer as she reached her Lexus LX SUV.

Giving her car remote a click, Perri opened the rear driver-side door. A blast of heat hit her in the face, taking her breath away. The car’s interior was stifling. Another quick click started the car, and Perri was grateful she had remembered to leave the air conditioning settings on high. Sitting her bag on the back seat, Perri removed her linen blazer, grabbed her cell phone from the pocket, the manila folder from the side of her bag, and laid the blazer over the bag. Closing the door to give the car time to cool off, she turned and looked out at the Los Angeles skyline. Thick, brown smog hung over the city like a blanket. Perri could not wait to get back to the less oppressive environs of Brentwood. She loved the frenzied, cacophonous atmosphere of the shopping district, but it was humid, smoggy days like this that reminded her of why she moved away.

Her lips curved into a faint smile as she glanced at the Los Angeles Court House. The few hours she had spent there, and the exhausting walk back to her car was a small price to pay for what the folder held inside. She opened the car door and stuck her head inside. Satisfied with the cooler temperature, Perri slid into the driver’s seat and closed the door. A sense of euphoria washed over her as she stared at the folder. She opened it, removed the formal document and read the bold heading.

FINAL JUDGEMENT FOR DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE,”

It was over. Leaning back against the seat, Perri ran her fingers over the paper. No more pretending.

No more phony smiles or empty promises.

No more sad, pitiful looks from family and friends.

No more dreaming of the day when her farce of a marriage would end. Today was that day.

She knew she should feel remorse or regret, but Perri had to stop herself from laughing out loud. She was giddy… happy, and she wanted to celebrate.

Sobering, Perri realized again no one knew where she was. It was no secret she had filed for divorce. The week after Marlena’s eighteenth birthday party, Perri hosted a small dinner party and made her announcement during the first course. No one was surprised. Most were relieved and applauded her decision to dump Parker. Her children were ecstatic.

But no one knew today was the official end to the Norton marriage.

However, they all knew Parker well enough to know he would never just agree to a divorce, and he had not made it easy for her. But as Perri prevailed and walked away, she still had the hope of a reconciliation between Parker and their children… children who had long ago reconciled their feelings for the father who all but ignored them. Had the twins, Daniel and Ethan, had their way, she would have sought a divorce seven years ago. The young men had had the misfortune to witness firsthand their father’s adulterous ways and wanted their mother as far away from him as possible. Having grown up in a household ripped apart by the ugliness of divorce, Perri assured her two oldest children that evening she knew of their father’s after work “activities”, and she could handle it for the time being.

A few short months away from their twenty-first birthday, and less than a year away from their college graduation, Perri’s boys argued that she should at least start the proceedings and they would return after finishing school to help with their two younger siblings. She remembered the pride she’d felt seeing the seriousness in their faces. Perri wasn’t in the habit of explaining herself to anyone, but her children were the life’s blood that kept her going. It had taken most of the evening, but her boys understood and had promised not to confront their father. Ethan was even complimentary on her way of thinking, saying he almost felt sorry for anyone who was silly enough to underestimate her.

Underestimate. The word brought Margaret Gower Bradford front and center to Perri’s mind. The unsympathetic family matriarch was adamant Perri caused all her own problems. From her straying husband to her chronic health issues. If Perri had done enough, given enough, been enough, none of her problems would exist. Margaret didn’t even see them as problems, but more like Perri’s issues. She had cautioned Perri to not even consider divorce. Marriage was forever in the eyes of God. This sentiment from a woman who had been divorced for forty years, refused to remarry, and still found a reason to fight with Maynard Bradford anytime they were in the same zip code.

No, Perri would not be calling her mother anytime soon.

She thought about her small, close group of friends — or the “old broads” as she liked to refer to them. They hated that label. Tory, Sarah, Connie and Valerie were always the cause of Perri’s fits of hysterical laughter. None of the women had an OFF button. No subject was sacred and anyone with a pulse was fair game for their biting, caustic remarks. She picked up her phone and dialed Tory’s number, but hit End instead of Call. A celebration with the girls would involve a long evening with way too much alcohol. Better to save that party for the weekend. She’d call them all later and set it up.

Glancing down at the court documents again, Perri knew there was only one person she wanted to call. The only person who knew all she had gone through and understood. The only person who was always there giving her emotional support. Her fingers hovered over his name on her contact list. She hadn’t told him about this morning’s court date. He would be upset. He would have offered to go with her.

Perri dropped the phone onto the seat. She would not tell him over the phone, but he would be the first one she told. After all the years he’d held her together when she thought she was at the end of her rope, she owed Grayson that much.

Easing the car into the flow of mid-day L.A. traffic, Perri focused on the task at hand… surviving the drive home. No one could maneuver the crush of downtown traffic or its many surrounding freeways unless they were a bit unbalanced, and she fit right in for sure today. Perri couldn’t name the light, bouncy, but apprehensive feelings that buzzed just under her skin. It didn’t matter. She liked it. She liked it a lot.

She felt free.

©Copyright Felicia Denise 2017

Her End Game #FlashFiction 18+

Her End Game

52-Week Writing Challenge – Week 14.  Prompt: games

Derrick slammed the door of his Denali and kicked it for good measure. Turning abruptly and heading for his second-floor condo, Derrick stopped, his shoulders slumping.

That was stupid.

He looked back at the gunmetal gray vehicle he’d saved so diligently to buy searching for signs of damage from his size thirteen Ferragamo loafers.

Relieved at finding none, Derrick Greene followed the walkway leading to his private entrance.

He had to calm down. Anger wouldn’t change his situation, and it certainly wouldn’t help it. After entering his condo, Derrick tried to close the door quietly. He then plopped down on his sofa and massaged his temples.

I am such a fool!

His friends had warned him, but Derrick had been too smitten to listen. He thought himself hopelessly in love with Anita Banks, and no one could convince him otherwise. For the last ten weeks, he had made her his world. Taken her out for expensive dinners and shows. On weekend getaways and even assisted with her monthly bills.

Derrick wasn’t deterred two weeks ago when he saw Anita snuggled up with a former boyfriend outside an all-night taco stand on the east side of town. She’d explained she’d met with him to tell the man about Derrick and to make a clean break. The old beau became upset over losing Anita and she’d offered him a moment’s comfort.

Sounded reasonable to a love-struck Derrick Greene.

But his friends weren’t buying it.

“Man, she is playing you.”

“She’s nothing but a party girl.”

“Anita is always on the prowl for the fattest wallets and deepest pockets.”

“Neither one of them live or work on the east side, Derrick. Why go all that way for a damn taco unless they wanted to hide and not be recognized?”

But Derrick had seen them. Returning from dinner with his brother’s family. A dinner he had invited Anita to, but she declined, saying she had to prepare a presentation for work the next day.

I am too stupid for my own good! Fuck! I’m too stupid to live!

Determined to be a good boyfriend, Derrick was always trying to show Anita how important she was to him. She was home off work again today with one of her terrible migraines. Anita was complaining about them often. Derrick stopped by her favorite restaurant and got her favorite salad, hoping his surprise visit with lunch would make her feel better.

Parking behind her late model Saab, Derrick let himself into Anita’s duplex with the key she’d given him.

He wasn’t surprised to find the living room dark. Derrick’s chest tightened at the thought of the agony the bright light caused his woman.

Walking towards Anita’s bedroom, Derrick was about to call out to her — not wanting to startle her with his presence — when he heard noises coming from the kitchen.

Changing direction, Derrick headed for the kitchen. His steps slowed. He recognized those sounds. It was Anita, and those whimpering and moans meant one thing.

His first thought was to leave and never come back.

But he couldn’t. Derrick had to see for himself. He had to face the truth about the woman he was so sure he loved. And she needed to see him. Anita would have no wiggle room to talk her way out of this.

Derrick paused in the archway which separated the kitchen from the dining area. His anger dissipated and Derrick Greene pursed his lips to keep from laughing aloud at the scene before him.

Anita Banks was naked and covered in sweat, reclined on the countertop next to the sink. Her skinny legs gripped the back of some guy who had his head buried in her neck… and his pants around his ankles.

Neither of them spoke, each lost in their own lusty race for climax.

Since both were still unaware of his presence… and showing no signs of stopping soon, Derrick felt it was time for a reality check and cleared his throat.

Anita’s attention snapped to the archway, her eyes widening. She pushed the anonymous man away from her as though he’d been attacking her. She half jumped, half fell off the counter, attempting to cover her body with her hands as she approached Derrick.

He took two steps backward and glared at her. Glancing over at the still unnamed man who was scurrying to get his pants up and fastened, Derrick spotted the company logo on his shirt.

He laughed aloud this time, but it was more of a joyless growl.

“The water delivery man, Anita? You’re fucking the water delivery man?”

“B-Baby, no! It’s not what you-”

“Shut up, Anita!”

Giving up on her futile attempt to cover herself, Anita reached out to him. “Baby, listen for-”

Derrick stepped back again. This left enough room for the hapless water delivery man to squeeze past Derrick, his back sliding along the wall. He kept his eyes on Derrick Greene… waiting for the man to attack.

Derrick shook his head and returned his cold gaze to the naked woman before him.

“Let me explain, Derrick! Willie and I go way back and-”

“And you told him what? You’re with me now? Then what? You thought you’d just give him one fuck for old time’s sake?”

“No! No! It’s not like that! I’m not like that!”

“No, Anita, you’re not. You’re worse. You can lie to my face about loving me, and as soon as I turn my back, you got your legs spread wide for any man willing!”

“Don’t talk like that, Derrick! I’m not a slut!”

“Name it and claim it, Anita.”

Derrick bolted for the front door, wanting to be anywhere but near Anita Banks. He froze midway through the living room when he realized he was still holding his keys in one hand and Anita’s lunch in the other. Setting the bag down, he removed Anita’s door key from his key chain. When he turned around, Anita was rushing toward him, wrapping an old brown throw around herself.

“Here’s your key, Anita.”

“No, Derrick, please? Let’s sit down and talk about this. We can fix this.”

He frowned and tossed the key at her feet.

“We? We? There’s no “we” here, Anita. There’s just you, Miss Fuck-‘Em-All, and me, the dumb-ass who fell for your games.” He grabbed the bag. “I came here today because I was worried about you… worried! You said your head hurt so bad you couldn’t see straight. I decided to surprise you with lunch.”

He upended the bag. The southwestern salad with grilled chipotle chicken and house dressing on the side fell to the floor in a colorful, but messy pile.

“Surprise! Enjoy!”

Before she could respond, Derrick stormed out of Anita’s apartment, never looking back.

She watched him speed off, then closed her door.

Why did I ever give him a key?

Anita Banks wasn’t sorry Derrick caught her cheating. She was angry with herself for not being more on her guard. Derrick Greene was pissed off for right now, but she’d win him back. Nice guys like Derrick were no match for her wiles. Anita would wear him down… in time. Just in time for that trip to Ensenada he’d promised her.

(Image from Google)

The Pain Game

Week 13 of the 52-Week Writing Challenge

Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and tenderness in localized areas of the body. It is the second most common musculoskeletal condition after osteoarthritis. Over five million people in the U.S. suffer from Fibromyalgia. The cause is unknown, and there is no cure. Research continues.


The pain associated with Fibromyalgia comes in many forms.

Image from Pinterest

Many who suffer with Fibromyalgia can relate to these pain descriptions. Unfortunately, it is possible… and quite common… to suffer with more than one type of pain at the same time!

Regardless of the type of pain, most sufferers can agree — the degree of pain can vary from annoying to irritating to debilitating to… just-shoot-me-now!

Annoying pain can either be tolerated, or treated with over-the-counter medications.

Irritating pain is distracting and can lead to a break in activity. Heating pads, cold compresses, body stretches, hot tea, meditation/prayer, elevating legs, or a short nap along with prescription medications are some of the things which may bring some relief.

Debilitating pain brings life to a screeching halt.

It hurts to stand.

It hurts to sit.

It hurts to lie down.

It hurts to breathe.

Everything… hurts.

This is when it’s time to reach for THAT medication. The one which says, “May cause drowsiness.”

Talk about an understatement! Moments after taking it, you feel yourself slipping into a heavy, drug-induced stupor. Moments after that… you’re snoring!

Did the pain stop?

Nope!

Do you care?

Nope!

You get fifteen or twenty “pain-free” minutes… if you don’t move around while sleeping.

The just-shoot-me-now pain is mind-altering.

Image from Google

You don’t bother with packs, compresses, teas, or pills.

What’s the point? They will not work.

No, with the just-shoot-me-now pain, you find the most comfortable position your body can take — in a chair or in bed — and you do not move!

You don’t notice the lone tear sliding down your cheek as you wonder, “How did I end up like this?”

Vivid memories of 5K-runs and ruling the dance floor on Saturday nights tease and mock you.

Brain fog is setting in. You think you hear your daughter’s laughter as the two of you crossed the finish line to win first place in the sack races during a PTA field day.

Anger rises from the dark abyss in your mind you visit far too often and joins the pain. Painful, swollen hands become clammy, clenched fists.

You curse yourself for whatever you did to bring this bastard of an illness into your body.

You curse yourself for not being stronger.

You curse family and friends and their flippant remarks of, “You just need to try harder.”

You curse neighbors and Co-workers for their asinine comments of, “Are you really sick?” or “You look fine to me.” or the brain-numbing “Be thankful it isn’t cancer.”

You curse doctors and researchers for dragging their asses in finding a cure — more concerned with whom the latest study will be named after or who gets credited than with the millions of people who deal with the pain each day.

People like the twenty-nine-year-old mother who cries each time she picks up and cradles her baby… because the simple task wracks her body with pain.

People like the fifty-two-year-old woman who retired early to care for her husband who lost his legs to diabetes, and now she must have visiting nurses come in… to care for them both. Fibromyalgia has ravaged her body and weakened her resolve.

People like the thirty-five-year-old wife and mother who’s been a jogger for over twenty years, but now needs a cane to navigate her own home.

Image from Google

Because your stress level has increased… along with your blood pressure, the just-shoot-me-now pain takes you to new heights of agony…

… and you curse God — for allowing this darkness to rule your body and change your life.

The life you’ve spent trying to love your neighbor, spread kindness and practice compassion.

Where’s the compassion for you?

Where’s the cure?

Because this is no way to live.

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