Not Exactly A Cinderella Story

Her bass drum heart boomed so loudly the band on the stage could have used it to keep time. The trumpet crooned and the snare drum begged her to follow her dreams across the room to the beautiful brunette leaning against the bar. She took one last sip and set her glass down on the table. Pulling her courage on, she hummed along as she wove through the crowds. Stepping in alongside, she smiled and held out a small bunch of lavenders.
“How’s about a dance, sweetheart?”
The brunette turned, smiling shyly as she took in the flower and the suited woman offering it. Taking it, she slid away from the bar and tucked it into her hair in a fluid motion.
“Sounds swell.”

The night went on like that, with laughing and dancing until the midnight hour approached. The doors were suddenly flung open, church bells tolling the midnight hour somewhere in the distance. Heads snapped up all over the room as the lights came up and the police poured in. She turned, meaning to run together, but the brunette was gone. All that was left were their memories. She had no time, though, to worry about that. She had to make it out before she got caught.

“I didn’t get her name.” The realization hit her like a truck as she stepped into her small apartment. “Dammit!”
Running her fingers through her short blond hair, she wondered if they would ever see each other again. But it was so unlikely. So unlikely that it hurt. With a sigh, her shoulder slumped and she hung her coat by the door. Leaning against the wall, she wondered. That club would be closed for a while after the raid. How could she possibly know which one to go to to find her again? It was like looking for a needle in a haystack or trying to find Cinderella without her glass slipper. Hopeless.

A Chance to Regret – Part 3

Soon enough, I had Chubs safely strapped onto the back of my motorcycle and we were off. Of course, I knew where I was going. Sure, the streets looked a little different and the old bodega was some 24-hour convenience store now, but the taqueria across the street was still the same old place. The paint was peeling and the windows were dark, but I remembered every inch of the inside. When I parked my bike, I stood by the windows and looked in, wondering if Maria’s folks still owned it. Probably. If they were alright, anyway. That brought me right back down to Earth. Would she meet me on the streets? Or did I have to go inside? First thing’s first, though, I had to unstrap the cat carrier from the back of my bike.
Carrier in hand, I went to the door of the taqueria and waited, uncertain. There were no lights on inside and the door didn’t budge when I pushed it. Then I heard a click and looked up fast. A man stood in the alley between the storefronts, a mask over the lower half of his face. But I recognized him without trouble. He was thinner than I’d remembered, paler too. It was like the color had been washed out of him. But there was no question he was Maria’s Papi. He looked me over, stepping out onto the sidewalk.
“She’s upstairs, Chiquita.” He held out a hand for the carrier and then pressed a mask into my hands. “I didn’t think we would be seeing you. Too dangerous.”
I shook my head and smiled ruefully.
“Well, no one ever said I was smart when it comes to Mari.”
Then I pulled the mask on, not quite sure why I needed it if we were going inside. I wasn’t sick and Chubs sure didn’t have whatever this mess was. Then a chill shot through me. What about Maria’s Mama? Was she alright?


Part 2: here
Part 1: here

Second Chances – Teaser

I know I don’t normally preface my writing, but I feel like this one needs it. This is the (largely unedited) opening to my novel-in-progress for NaNoWriMo this year. Just a snippet, a teaser. Just enough to whet the appetite, as it were. If you have any feedback about this, I would love it. More especially since I’m hoping to publish the completed work when it’s…you know…completed. So without further ado, please enjoy the first 425 words of Second Chances.

Continue reading “Second Chances – Teaser”

A Chance to Regret – Part 2

“I’m sorry.”
Those were the last words I ever expected to see in stark text on my phone when I woke up. I pulled my knees up to my chest and stared at them in wonder.
“I should be the one saying that, Mari.”
I whispered the words as I typed them out, breaking the morning silence.
“I’m scared, Jess.”
“Where are you?”
Silently, I begged her to tell me, to allow me back in.
“Too dangerous.”
“Please?”
There were hot tears on my cheeks again, just like every morning since she’d left me.
“Stay safe.”
“Maria, I love you.”
“I know.”
My hands were shaking and the phone fell from my fingers. It wasn’t right. It couldn’t possibly end like this. I had to see her again, keep her safe and ward off her fears. I had to make up for what I’d done. I ran my fingers nervously through my hair, trying to keep down the sudden surge of anxiety that was screaming horrors in my mind.
“Jess, if you think you can make it safely, come to where we first met.”
The message flashed at me from within the blankets and I nearly started sobbing again in joy. Then another message.
“And if you don’t bring the Purritto, I will never forgive you.”

Chubs hated his carrier. It was a well-known fact of life, one made more troublesome by his nearly seventeen pounds of feline glory. I managed to coax him in with the last vestiges of carefully hoarded catnip supply and prepared to go. I’d pulled on a jacket and gloves, despite the warmth and wished I had a face mask.
“Come on, you monster, we’re going to see Maria.”
I was so happy I nearly sang. Chubs, for his part, merely yawned and started to sleep.
“Some moral support you are.”

A Chance to Regret – Part 1

Neither of us was watching the tv, though it sat on and the news anchor was talking. It didn’t matter, it was inconsequential compared to the small war happening in our apartment. Tensions had been rising, and the week of Cold War had finally gone hot. Maria flung her hairbrush at me and it smacked the wall resoundingly. For my part, my hands were up defensively and there were tears running down my cheeks. But I had no words to defend myself. I had done what she’d accused me of. It hadn’t just been a one-time indiscretion either. I hung my head in shame, trying to find words, to find promises that would make her stay. Her slap stung my cheek, but I didn’t try to stop her, not even when she turned to stride into our bedroom yelling about how she couldn’t believe I’d abused her trust like this. I wanted to chase after her, tell her she was right and I was worthless. Instead, I sunk to the floor and cried.
I must have fallen asleep like that because I woke up on the floor the next morning when my cat unceremoniously sat on my chest and started meowing in my face.
“Morning, Chubs…”
My voice was rough, even a bit hoarse. I with a sigh, I pulled myself to my feet to get a start on my morning routine, knowing that I at least had to feed the cat before I let my world come crashing down.
“-advised to avoid public places and reminded to wash their hands thoroughly after any contact with others.”
I nearly jumped out of my own skin at the sudden voice. The tv was still on. So, she hadn’t turned it off before she left. I felt the first pangs of pain and squashed them down.
“Feed Chubs now, be a fuck up later.”
He rubbed against my ankles and I smiled weakly. A few minutes later, I left Chubs happily eating and went to go find clean clothes and my shower. Our- My room was absolutely ransacked. I just sighed, shoulders drooped, and picked a clean pair of boxers from the floor. I’d clean it up after work. Adding a bra, a shirt and a pair of jeans to my armload, I trudge into the bathroom.

“What?”
I couldn’t possibly have heard right.
“I said, don’t bother coming in. We’re closed. The Governor issued a state of emergency, right after the CDC said we’re dealing with an epidemic. Have you been under a rock or something, Jess?”
For a moment, my mind was swamped with images of Maria screaming at me the night before.
“Something like that…”
“Well, pull yourself together and watch the news. You can’t miss it.”
“Thanks, Boss. I will.”
With that, I hung up the phone and plopped myself down in front of the tv. There was a different news anchor now, a blond woman in an uncomfortable looking plaid pantsuit. She had a map behind her and was talking about disease spread and the vectors of transfer. A list of symptoms scrolled across the screen as she talked about home treatments.
“-should be on the lookout for fever, rashes, extreme fatigue, soreness in the joints and periods of dizziness…”
I waited for them to say something about a cure, anything. Nothing. It never came. I fiddled with my phone, trying to decide what to do. I needed food and maybe bottled water. But my eyes kept being drawn to the door. Where was Maria now? Was she safe? Who was she with? Chubs climbed up into my lap and purred, rubbing against my hand.
“Don’t worry, buddy. I’ll make sure to pick up crunchies for you too.”

Hours turned to days and soon, it had been just over two full weeks. I’d started pacing a furrow in my carpet with all my worrying. Chubs and I were running out of food and I’d spent the better part of the morning online learning how to boil the impurities out of water correctly. The whole time, though, all I could think of was Maria. Flopping back into my chair, I looked again at my phone. Then a new resolve overtook me. I unlocked my phone and sent her a text.
“Are you okay?”
That was it. Safe enough. She might even respond. Setting the phone back down, I went to the window to look out at the city I called home. There was smoke coming from somewhere near the harbor and I silently prayed that the city wasn’t burning. It was strange seeing the place like this, no cars on the roads and hardly anyone out. Mostly it was just officials in hazmat suits. The place had turned into a wasteland. Turning away, I went back to the tv. Reports were still coming in, but the hosts seemed stricken now. And they didn’t leave their station anymore. My phone sitting beside me buzzed and I nearly threw it in the excited scramble to scoop it up.
“Yeah. You?”
It wasn’t much of a message, but those bare few words held me. They were a promise and they were my only hope of salvation.
“Not sick. Me and Chubs are alright.” I hesitated for a moment and then added two more words. “Miss you.”
I hit send before I could change my mind and put the phone in my pocket as I went into the small kitchen to scrounge up something to eat.