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More (A Poem/Short Story)

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She kept the bouquets
Given in bloom
Before reverence was a ghost
Rancid lilies
On the bedside table
Patronizing her
With their shelf-life devotion

“Never again will I love,” she proclaimed
“Never again will I give,” she explained
“Never again will I chase the chaser”
“Stroke the ego”
“Be led by reins made from frays of detachment”

She told herself
Life was brilliant, easier
When she kept her heart guarded
Though at the point of sale
She didn’t buy
What she was pushing

Yet she existed without living
Thought without reasoning
Reached for tomorrow
Inside ancient history
Plagued by its confines
As the floor met the ceiling
And the walls closed in

She took to sand and sea
Cloud gazing in the dunes
Spongy beds beneath her spine
Bursts of freckles just a sun-kiss away
As she finally came to

Her fractured fairytale
Still pierced her mind
But its jabs were brief
And its frequency was fading

Oh, but she was slow
To usher in…him
A knight without the armor 
Bold and uninvited
Extracting her from that comfy corner
Of complacency

She took his attention
With a side of suspicion
Despite emotions upending
Without permission
Blending then curving
In all directions

Ah, but it felt too good

Too rare
Too risky
Too scary
Too much
Too fast
Too soon

She charted an escape
A path to resistance
Right there for the taking

She clung to it
Bathed in it
Slept in it
Woke to it
Gorged herself on it
And wore it
Like a second skin

But damn
If he wasn’t persistent
And beautiful
And so easy to adore

But surely
Her surrender
To that exquisite ache
Adhering to her frantic pulse
Was merely a prelude
To a greater pain to come?

No
Yes

Predictions were tangled
And often convoluted
So she took a leap of fate
For this joy was worth
Every maybe

When he showed her the stars
She was infinite
When he opened his arms
She fell home
When he pulled her close
Her body remembered
What she told it to forget
Its artful formation
Both courageous and kind

When he held out his heart
She slipped it on for size
Its perfect fit
Impossible to ignore

And when she let out her crazy
He took out his scars
And when she let down her hair
He caught all her fears
And when he kept coming back
She stopped asking why
And when he loved her
She loved him more

 

Copyright © S. A. Healey

 

Image source: pixabay.com

 

 

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Anything (a short story)

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We were each to come separately.

We had to be smart. Cautious. Cover our tracks. Travel as far as the money would take us. Away from the horrors of the past.

The location was perfect, a tourist’s seventh heaven—presently cloaked in the kind of night that reverberated a palpable electricity, prickling my skin with its righteous appeal. Fireflies sparked the air while a seemingly endless band of katydids worked the crowd, crooning en masse in a harmonious buzz of rhythmic exultation. But I wasn’t here for the music or the ambiance.

I was here for her, the only woman in this world who ever gave a damn about me. The one person I’d do anything for.  Anything.

I could still smell the blood on my hands.

For a fleeting moment, I wondered if she’d actually go through with it—uproot her life for a bastard like me. A small part of me secretly hoped she’d bail on the arrangement, maybe turn me in. Not because I didn’t value my freedom or want her here.

But because she deserved better.

Then, I felt it—that tug—her heart in proximity, drawing me forward. Emerging through the tea-lit trees, she looked wired, nervous. She fussed with her hair, blunt red layers that were a far cry from her signature jet-black curls. Still, I’d have known her anywhere. Even downcast and uncertain, those big brown eyes always gave her away…

My beloved Leila.

Wearing a baggy olive dress that hung to her ankles, she hugged herself gracefully against the wind and I sighed. Only she could don such an outfit and make it regal. Puffing out her chest, she filled her lungs with the moony sky. She lifted her gaze to take in her surroundings—and froze.

She saw me.

Of their own accord, my knees grew weak, yet my feet persisted, propelling me to my fate. I inched closer while noticing the rapid rise and fall of her chest, indicating that she was just as affected as I.

I wanted to say something. Something important. Something profound. My mouth opened but the syllables hid under my tongue.

Searching her face, I aimed to process her expression. My efforts were awarded with a heart-stopping smile. I took her hand, relishing the contact and the warmth of her skin. Studying our entwined fingers, she chewed her lower lip then put her head on my shoulder. And that was all that needed to be said.

All the plans we made and all the dreams we shared and all the times we ached with the desire to have something tangible, culminated in this moment—our clean slate.

I felt happy. And hopeful. For the first time in my life.

I had no idea how long we stood like this while vacationers thrust to action around us, oblivious to who we were and everything we’d been through to get here. All I knew was that I suddenly stopped breathing. And then I heard it:

The slow-crunch approach of vehicles from behind. Too many to count.

No. Please God…

My fingers went numb—she was squeezing me, hard. She heard it too. The telltale drawl of engines was distant then on top of us.

I shot her a look…

Run.

I let go of her hand and she took off, yet my boots remained rooted to the ground. Like I said, I’d do anything for her.

Anything.

Initially, she made good distance before coming to an abrupt stop, as if sensing the growing gulf between us. Her head whipped around. Her body followed suit. Her eyes held mine for a beat before registering what it all meant. Vigorously shaking her head, she held out her arms and started to run…this time, to me.

No. Go back, foolish girl.

Boys in blue appeared from the shadows, detaining Leila in short order, resulting in the sort of outburst I never thought she was capable of, a sound akin to a person being burned alive. She wailed. She sobbed. She shrieked incomprehensible language. It made me crazy to watch her unravel this way, yet the rational part of my brain knew she was merely being held for her protection.

I was the one they had come for.

Emotion sliced through me like a hot blade. Sadness for the person I should’ve been. Envy for the better man who would one day give the only woman I ever loved all the things I never could. Remorse for the tender heart in front of me that I would have to leave behind. Regret for all the time I wasted doing wrong.

But tonight…I would do something right.

With a deep inhale, I made my peace with what I couldn’t change. I would give them what they wanted: The pretender with more aliases than there were months in the year. The grifter with outstanding warrants all over the U.S. The shyster who wouldn’t know an honest dollar if it bit him in the ass. The cutthroat who rid a subpar human of his breath and resilience.

Truth be told, I wasn’t a killer by nature. I simply did what I had to do…for her. She was always my reason. Always the exception.

After all, this was no ordinary love.

They say every man has his breaking point. I learned mine the day I encountered her father, and the way he looked at her—the way no blood relation had any business doing. Upon being welcomed into his home, it was clear I was touching upon something outside my criminal realm…something vile and sinister. Even with Leila right at my side, he never took his eyes off her, continuously adjusting himself in his too-tight polyester slacks as if to entice, sucking on home-rolled smokes until their ashes became one with the carpet.

I took special interest in his “wall of fame” as he called it, where dozens of dusty photographs of Leila dangled from rusted nails—as well as one of her mother.

God rest her soul.

First thing I noticed was that Leila didn’t smile. Not in the pictures or in her father’s company. Second, was the fear written all over her face…in past and present tense. So absolute it made my blood curdle.

Then all I could think about were her headaches. The anxiety. The tremors in her hands. How she cried the first time we made love…flinched whenever I touched her hair. How the smell of tobacco made her languid and nauseous. How the scars on her right breast resembled inflicted burns from cigarettes. The way she called out in her sleep…

“Mommy, can you hear me?”

And I realized that being summoned to the place where she grew up was her way of turning a spotlight on the secrets she could never say out loud. She needed me to see…to understand…

Because she loved me.

So as I broke his nose and spit in his eye, he only laughed…while his daughter cried. That’s when I stepped out of my right mind to commit a crime worthy of a true sinner.

Then, just like that, it was over.

And now, so it was…for me.

I was surrounded. The tourists were gone. I could no longer see her, though I still heard her crying.

Don’t be sad, my beloved. He can’t hurt you anymore.

I went for my pocket. That always made them twitch. But I did it for Leila. Because, for her, I’d do anything.

“Leila, can you hear me? I love you.”

Click.

 

Copyright © S. A. Healey

 

Image source: flickr.com – Danielle Elder, photographer

 

A Best Friend from Creation

Newborn baby holding mother's hand. Baby is only 8 days old.

To this day, I have a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that this incredible person came from inside of me, a tiny body attached to a cherub’s face, gifted with the eyes of a much older soul. She first connected with my cradled arms, a human burrito with a single clenched fist that managed to escape its bunting, sticking defiantly up in the air in a salute to freedom. All she needed was a torch and she could have passed for a miniature Statue of Liberty.

Her high-pitched, newborn battle cries were impressive, and I would have thought her distressed if not for her eyes, which told a different story. They locked with mine, peering through them like windows, finding the parts of me I had long kept tucked away. It didn’t seem possible that this brand new creation could see straight to the chasm where my dreams lay in waiting, but I felt it with each expansion of my heart. Those almond-shaped eyes held a kind of wisdom that would take me years to understand. This was not just any child. This was Elizabeth, my treasure beyond measure — a soulmate forever connected by blood and veins.

Hours after her birth, my husband and I were dumbfounded by a visit from Elizabeth’s pediatrician, who spoke to us about things like Down syndrome, Trisomy 21, mental retardation and delayed development. We were told she had a greater chance of developing leukemia and Alzheimer’s disease than the general population. We were advised to enroll her in early intervention, yet prepare ourselves for the possibility that she may never speak, read, write or attend a regular school. Descriptive phrases were tossed into the air, like low-toned, flat-nosed, short-necked, and protrusive-tongued. The rational part of me knew the doctor was merely doing his job, while the irrational part imagined screaming profanities in his face while enlightening him on the concept of bedside manner. But as my attention shifted from his moving lips to the bassinette-on-wheels stationed next to my bed, I couldn’t recognize this child he spoke of. Instead of an assemblage of defects, I saw a gift, a daughter, a product of love’s procreation — eyes full of wonder and a chest gloriously rising and falling with each tiny breath. I saw my own quiet countenance and my husband’s zest for life. I saw Heaven. I saw God.

I saw my best friend.

Elizabeth is fifteen now, a freshman in high school. She sings in the chorus. She swims. She bowls. She lives and breathes music and is somewhat obsessed with One Direction and Miley Cyrus. In many ways, she’s just like any other typical teen. And in other ways, she’s not.

Down syndrome is a label that will follow her around her entire life. And because it takes her longer to achieve certain milestones than most, she is considered a “special child” by society’s standards. Well, I have to agree. She certainly is special. And I’ll tell you why.

When she looks, she sees. When she listens, she hears, ingesting the words and much of what goes unspoken.

She is my kindred spirit.

Here is a person who never judges, admonishes, or has a negative word to say about anyone. She tells me, “I love you, Mom” without fail, every single day. She understands me in a way that most people twice her age can’t, while at the same time embracing my entirety, even the parts that aren’t always pretty. I’ve never known anyone so completely attuned to human emotion, and whenever I’m having a crappy day, she puts her arm around me and asks, “Are you okay?” When I cry, she cries too, internalizing my pain as if she’d rather take it on herself so I no longer have to.

Through the years, we’ve carved out our own special nook amid the hustle and bustle that monopolizes such a large chunk of life in these modern times. We take it slow. We observe nature. We listen to songs on repeat until we know the lyrics by heart. We cuddle. We hold hands. We share. We smile. We joke and laugh.

We love.

Elizabeth projects love in its purest form, and it rolls off her in waves until I’m soaked to the soul. When I experience this love, I cannot help but want to be a better person…someone more selfless, more patient. She fills me with confidence. She brings me clarity. She is my biggest cheerleader. Through her, I have learned that each day is a gift to be unwrapped with Christmas morning excitement — that everything I ever needed was always in front of me, right at my fingertips.

I have learned to see through her eyes, to witness the beauty in ordinary things — things many of us take for granted, like cotton candy clouds and the smell of rain-fresh pavement.

Elizabeth may never attend Harvard or become a lawyer or earn a million dollars in her lifetime. But she is the epitome of what it means to be a good person. She is the best daughter a mother could ever ask for. She is my treasure beyond measure, designed with the exquisite almond eyes of a wise old soul.

She is my best friend.

Oh, and did I mention that she is an amazing big sister to my other bestie? Well, that’s a story for another day. 🙂

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S A Healey, a happily married mother of two, is and will forever remain, a lover of words and a sucker for romance. You can find out more about her novels and other works at http://www.sahealey.com

A Tale of Two Kisses (Part 2 of 2)

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A TALE OF TWO KISSES (Part 2 of 2)

The next year passed…uneventfully. I whittled away the hours, married to a job I hated, while my limited blocks of playtime lent themselves to bar hopping and frog kissing. All I had to show for it was a borderline anxiety disorder, an occasional hangover and a prince who was still at large.

Something had to give.

I sat in an Irish pub, diving into my third tumbler of Rum and Coke and swimming in the warm, murky sensation that flooded my arms and legs. My good sense was barely staying afloat, which was fine by me since I had every intention of obliterating all memory of the previous 12 hours that had constituted a workday from hell.

Fishing a cherry out of the brownish liquid set before me, I popped it into my mouth, hoping I didn’t appear desperate sitting at the bar all alone. I wondered what was taking my date so long. A quick glance at my watch confirmed that he was already half an hour late.

Maybe this was a bad idea.

He was a corporate bigwig who worked in the office building adjacent to mine. We ran into each other most mornings, grabbing coffee at the local Starbucks. He always acknowledged me with a tilt of the chin and a crooked grin that offered just the slightest peek at his pearly whites. Each time they glinted, my cheeks would ignite into flames.

There was no denying he was handsome, but it was his boyish charm and that lopsided smile that reduced me to a puddle of goo. He was a slice of Mickey Rourke circa Nine and a Half Weeks with a large helping of Bruce Willis from his Moonlighting days.

Just. My. Type.

Though we crossed paths often, we didn’t speak much until two mornings ago, when I nearly bowled him over in my mad dash for a caffeine fix. He was milling outside the entrance to Starbucks with an extra coffee in hand…for me. After catching my breath, I accepted it graciously while he complimented me on my business attire. And then he popped the big question.

“Are you free Friday night?”

My nerves shot through the roof, and instead of giving him a straight answer, I jibber jabbered something about the weather and the price of gasoline before finally blurting out…

“Yes.”

Despite my Nervous Nellie impersonation, he forged ahead with his plans, choosing a time and location for our date. So now, as I waited with bated breath for him to make his grand entrance at the pub, I prayed that the gods of dating karma would have mercy on me and leave all my faculties in tact.

The minutes grew heavy, crawling by painfully…slow; their weight topped off by a sinking feeling that my night was destined to end the way it had begun – with me, all by my lonesome. But I decided to stick around for one more drink before cutting my losses and heading home. I no sooner signaled the bartender when I felt a pair of eyes on me.

A slight twist of my barstool brought me face to face with Mr. Moonlighting himself. Though I was a nervous wreck on the inside, I tried to appear collected; offering a cheeky smile while taking a long, languid sip from my tumbler. But the cherry bobbing and weaving around my mouth had other plans, wiping out my bid for ladylike composure. It plunged inside and slid to the back of my throat, dancing dangerously close to my windpipe. I coughed like a seal for what seemed like an eternity before hurling the red blob into my cocktail napkin. Mortified, I lifted my gaze, convinced my uncouth behavior would have set-off a string of excuses on his part, beginning with the ever popular, “It’s not you, it’s me.” Yet, to my surprise, there he sat, looking at me with a hint of laughter in his eyes – and I smiled. And then he smiled back. Damn.

I was a goner.

Before long, my nerves melted away into conversation and I was surprised by how easy he was to talk to. We discussed everything from mundane topics to the world’s most pressing political issues. And then he mentioned his diehard devotion to all things Coldplay, and I just knew…it was kismet.

But as comfortable as I felt around him, I had a hard time controlling the flutter in my belly that escalated each time he took a swig from his beer mug. I watched in fascination as he swallowed, the bulge in his neck rising up and then down again between gulps. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.

I needed to get a hold of myself.

And I couldn’t help but notice the way he studied me as we talked, with eyes warm yet intense as they held mine, occasionally breaking contact to rove over the length of my hair before stopping on my lips. Naturally, that prompted me to fixate on his lips, which in turn caused my mind to wander to impure places.

As if sensing our growing need for privacy, the inebriated and boisterous pub crowd burst into a terribly off-key rendition of Fisherman’s Blues. We exchanged a quick look while raising our brows in unison – conveying our readiness to get the hell out of Dodge.

He rose from his barstool and held out a hand to me. “Let’s go for a walk.”

He didn’t have to tell me twice.

I placed my hand in his and we left the clatter of the pub behind, eager to embrace the tranquility that only came with a summer night such as this. The air was intoxicating, mildly humid and breezy with a trace of the Atlantic’s fragrant sea. His hand never left mine was we walked and talked; meandering lazily yet fluidly for several blocks before happening upon a park consisting of nothing but large, billowing weeping willows and acres upon acres of the lushest looking grass I’d ever seen.

The place was completely deserted, wide open and inviting. I couldn’t resist the childlike impulse to run. Giggling, I broke into a sprint, feeling him hot on my trail and kicking my adrenaline into overdrive. I picked up more speed, but he gained on me instantly, grabbing me around the waist and sending us tumbling into the thick lawn below.

Despite my obvious amusement, his eyes grew wide with concern. “I’m sorry. Are you ok?”

Oh, I was more than ok.

“Yes, I’m perfectly fine,” I assured him as I struggled to stifle my laughter.

“Thank God,” he said, reaching out to tuck a curl behind my ear…and I stopped laughing. The simple, gentle graze of his fingers emanated all the way to my feet, curling my toes.

Suddenly, our lighthearted fun was replaced with a stillness that amplified the sound of my beating heart. I became inertly aware of every ounce of nature…the sway of the tall blades of grass as the wind carried them to and fro, the crickets gracing us with their romantic serenade, the rustling of the willows as they danced in the night air. And we simply sat there for a moment, watching each other. I had to remind myself to breathe.

All I could think about was touching my lips to his. Needing to feel…needing to taste. But I wasn’t confident enough to make the first move. So, I resorted to mental telepathy.

“Kiss me. Kiss me. Kiss me. Kiss me dammit,” I chanted inside my head.

When that didn’t work, I pulled out the big guns, narrowing my eyes at him for full effect as I called upon God to throw me a favor of successful thought transference. “Pleeeeaaassseee…if you don’t kiss me right now I will die!

That one did it.

And in a move that nearly made my heart leap out of my chest, he pulled me astride his lap and before I could even prepare for what was about to happen, he pressed his lips to mine. Instinctively, I locked my arms around his neck and melted into his kiss, our lips sliding over one another’s as if they had finally found their way home. And when my mouth parted and he slipped his tongue inside, I became overwhelmed by the current that pulsed through me. It was physical, chemical…an internal combustion. And yet it was something more…connection.

My head swam with thoughts of wild orchids and passion fruit and fireworks and unicorns jumping over rainbows. It was a kiss so off the charts I couldn’t help but wonder about…other things. And the way his hard on was nudging me through his Dockers indicated he had been swimming in the very same thoughts.

But despite our increasing arousal, we didn’t take it any further than kissing. His lips, the heat of his breath, and the wetness of his tongue…they were all I could feel, all that I needed. As our connection intensified, so did our courage as we teased, sucked and bit at each other’s mouths. We drew out moans as we took turns running our tongues along each other’s necks. We kissed for hours, our mouths finding one another over and over again, unable to get enough. It was the single most erotic experience of my life. And he never even laid a hand on me. He didn’t have to.

It was in the kiss.

MeRed

S A Healey, a happily married mother of two, is and will forever remain, a sucker for romance. You can currently read her first novel, Empty Me Out, for free on Wattpad.  http://www.wattpad.com/story/3361337-empty-me-out

A Tale of Two Kisses (Part 1 of 2)

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A TALE OF TWO KISSES (Part 1 of 2)

It was summertime. The sky flashed its happy-go-lucky smile, yet my mood was sullen.

Weird.

He was due to arrive at any moment. After all, it was a momentous occasion – our fourth anniversary as a couple. We’d been together since I was 18. We didn’t exactly fit Webster’s definition of compatibility, but our differences had a way of making us click somehow. Our vibe was intense, sometimes volatile, but we sure managed to create a lot of happy memories together. He was a good man. And I cared for him deeply.

Ever the poster child for punctuality, he pulled up to my apartment complex at precisely 6 PM, just as he had promised. I peered through the slats in the window blinds down at the street below, narrowing my eyes at the white Mustang that had come to represent our marathon kisses and sneaky hand blisses. But the giddy tingles that normally surfaced to jump-start the butterflies in my tummy seemed to be slacking on the job.

Weird.

After securing myself in the passenger seat of his pride and joy on wheels, we set off toward our favorite eatery. Well, actually, it was his favorite eatery. Mine was too far of a drive he had said. Who was I to argue? Would it have made a difference in the scheme of things?

Probably not.

We arrived at an Italian bistro that had seen more than its share of marinara stains and overcooked manicotti. We slid into our usual booth, the holes in the upholstery tempting my fingers to fish inside them for loose change. Then I glanced across the table to where he sat, staring. Only he wasn’t staring at me, per se…more like through me. He wore a perplexing expression and that mirrored one of my own. And then what followed was an awkward silence of biblical proportions, rearing its ugly head and swallowing us whole. I tore off a piece of Ciabatta from the semi-stale loaf set between us and gnawed on it like it was my job. The sound of my chewing reached unreasonable decibels inside my head, and I tried desperately to come up with a conversation piece in order to make it go away. But the concept of engaging in easy chatter with my boyfriend suddenly felt quite foreign.

Weird.

After two hours of trading fragmented pleasantries and plastered-on smiles, we settled our check and stepped outside. He made no attempt to hold my hand as we walked across the parking lot. Hardly a word exchanged between us, yet there was the one question he had tossed into the air, which landed with a thunderous crash against the pavement.

“Do you mind if we make it an early night?”

An early night??? Is that what four years has come to?

We settled back into the ‘Stang,’ meandering leisurely along the scenic route we’ve traveled so many times before, usually with the intention of scoffing at all the trophy homes dotting the coastline, snorting our disapproval and rolling our eyes at their extravagance while secretly wishing we had the means to live in such luxury. But tonight was different. This time we rode in complete silence.

Weird.

Without further conversation or fanfare, he took me home. As the Stang sat idling in front of my apartment complex, I wondered if I could still salvage the night somehow. It was barely 9:30 PM…a most inadequate time to conclude a date such as this. I needed to try.

I leaned over the center console and draped my arms around his neck. He angled his head toward mine, and I descended upon his mouth with gratuitous gusto. It was a kiss with a purpose – a kiss to elicit the man I missed, the man who used to call me babe and make me pretty. The man who went out of his way to spend time with me. The man who made me laugh and feel adored.

But his lips were clammy and lifeless. They pressed me with the cold, hard truth…that the man I missed didn’t exist anymore. He was different now.

Or maybe I was.

There was no denying that my pulse remained even, despite our mingling tongues. My mouth felt numb – my body even more so. And his lips spoke volumes, backing up a heart that was no longer in the game. His lack of fervor rang as clear as a bell, chiming its last hello…and our final goodbye.

My lips ceased all movement. I pulled back and allowed my hands to fall to my lap with an exaggerated slap. My fingers fidgeted awkwardly, and I could sense his focus on them as he waited for me to say something. But I remained silent, still stunned by the realization that our connection was gone. And he heard every unspoken word.

Four years. Gone. He had been my “first.” I thought he would have been my last. I was young. I was naïve. I didn’t know any better.

But now I knew.

It was in the kiss.

MeRed

S A Healey, a happily married mother of two, is and will forever remain, a sucker for romance. You can currently read her first novel, Empty Me Out, for free on Wattpad. http://www.wattpad.com/story/3361337-empty-me-out