Listen to me read an excerpt from my book of short stories ❤
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Listen to me read an excerpt from my book of short stories ❤
Thanks for watching! ❤ If you like my blog, please consider supporting me by checking out my books 🙂
I dreamt I sat at the dinner table
Next to one of my heroes
Her hair was silky smooth
Her smile amused and inviting
She was soft in a leather jacket
She was tough in a tiny frame
She said, “It’s been nice talking to you.”
And I woke up too soon.
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[I wrote this story a few years ago. While my writing has evolved quite a bit since then, this continues to be one of my favorite stories that I’ve done.]
I stood in front of the Lindherst Concert House, where my name was up in lights. It said in big, shining letters, “Tonight, Cindy Kale, Live Performance: The Hottest Ticket in Town.” So, this is what it feels like to see your dreams come true, I thought. I stood outside in the cloak of night as strangers passed me by in the street. I wondered, would any of them see my show tonight? Would any of them see the mountains I’d climbed, the desperation, the hard work, and the tears that led me to this very moment? When they heard me, would they remember my voice, or would it only be another insignificant moment in their memory bank, stored away only to be forgotten? I shook the thoughts away as I held my coat closed over my chest, took a breath of the cool night air, and made my way into the building for my sound check.
My heals clicked softly as I walked across the stage. I sang my “do re mi’s” and my “mi fa sol’s” as the sound guy cued me and the stage lights gleamed into my eyes. Then, I sang the first few bars of my opening song. “Keep me here, don’t let me go, if you really loved me, then you’d stay. Our hearts, they still can beat as one, even if we’re miles away…”
“Okay, you’re good.” The sound guy told me. I smiled a charming smile and thanked him for his time, and then let the owner of the fine establishment show me to my dressing room. I took in the sight of the white walls, the mirrors lined with lights, and the neat display of make-up brushes paired with eyeliner and face powder. There was a table with bottled water, flowers and fruit, and beside that was the clothing rack that contained all of my costumes. I scanned the rack for the blue, glittery, strapless dress that I’d be wearing for my show tonight. When I spotted it, my heart leaped in my chest, and that’s when it all began to feel real. I was performing tonight, and people were coming from all over town to see me. I looked back at the manager to see that a golden plaque hung from the dressing room door, and engraved on it was my name: “Cindy S. Kale.”
“You’ll be on in forty-five minutes, Miss Kale.” The manager told me. I thanked him and he went on his way, closing the door behind him. I pulled out a stool and sat down in front of a mirror, and looked back at the painted smile and pretty red curls that stared back at me. My lips have learned to smile on command, but my blue eyes couldn’t lie, and they told me the whole, sad-hearted truth. I made myself busy with placing my make-up in front of me. I pulled out all of my brushes, shadow, highlight, and lipstick; my make-up sponges, powder, mascara, and eyeliner. Then, just as the pressure began to build, I let the tears fall, cool and salty, down my cheeks, just missing the corners of my quivering lips. I felt a lot of things in that moment.
I felt the things I knew I should feel: the excitement, the fulfillment, the sense of joy and achievement. But mostly, I felt empty, because there was someone I missed. Someone I left behind in pursuit of this life. And even though I knew I was about to embrace the stage lights and the audience and the piano keys, I knew there was another love I wished to embrace. Someone who I ran away from, someone who I was afraid to love in return, someone I pushed away when I needed to let the music in. And I knew that he hated me for it. I knew that he wouldn’t come to my show, even though all I wanted was to see him there, sitting in the front row, hearing me sing, that way, I would know that we weren’t completely lost. That way, I wouldn’t feel forgotten.
I wiped the tears away with my hands. I dabbed my face with a cloth and began applying my eye makeup. I applied my shadow and blush, my lipstick and my false lashes. I applied powder and smacked my lips together, and then smiled, my blue eyes bright this time with the adrenaline of getting ready to perform.
“Break a leg,” he said. My memory brought me back to a time when my love was still with me. We stood outside of Coffee and Jazz, a hole in the wall café in a secluded location. It had an open-mic night and the best cheesecake you’ve ever tasted. I was there to sing, and he was there to watch me. He gave me a kiss on the cheek and held my hands in his.
“You’re going to watch me sing, aren’t you Brian?” I’d asked him. Light snow flurries had begun to fall, and I watched his sweater collect the glimmering crystals.
“Are you kidding? I’ll be in the front row, cheering you on. And afterwards, I’ll take you out to celebrate, anywhere you want to go,” he told me. I told him that sounded wonderful and he gave me a gentle kiss for luck. He walked me inside, and later that evening, I got up on stage and I sang. Brian kept his word, and he sat right there, in the front row. It didn’t matter that there weren’t many other people there. I was really only singing to him, anyway.
“You’re on in five minutes Miss Kale.” The manager called through the door, pulling me out of my memory. A tinge of sadness was left behind as I realized it would be only that, a memory. I slipped out of my jeans and into my dress and my heals. Shimmering, dolled up, and pretty as a sunset, I took one last look in the mirror.
“I’m living my dream, I’m living my dream, I’m living my dream,” I told myself. The manager knocked on my door and I opened it up, my smile easy and natural, and my body energized. I told him I was ready to go on, and he led me to my entrance onto the stage. He walked out to greet the audience and to introduce me, and I felt my heart pounding, accompanied by sweaty palms.
“Ladies and gentleman, now, the moment you have all been waiting for. I present to you, Miss Cindy Kale, the hottest ticket in town.” The audience clapped as I walked out, showered by the love of their applause. The piano keys started playing on cue, and I started singing my song. I didn’t need to do much of an acting job. The feelings I needed were already there.
“Keep me here, don’t let me go, if you really loved me, then you’d stay. Our hearts, they still can beat as one, even if we’re—“ And I stopped. I couldn’t continue. Confused, the piano keys dwindled to silence, and all I could do was stare. I knew it was unprofessional, but I couldn’t help it. I only did it because I saw a familiar face sitting in the front row. When I saw Brian, I was caught off guard, and all I wanted was to step off the stage and into his arms. I wanted to touch his face, to see if he was real. I wanted to say his name. But instead, I remembered where I was, and decided to sing another song.
“Sorry about that, but if you all don’t mind, I’d uh, I’d like to start off with something a little different.” I cued the piano man to switch to song number three, and when he was there, he gave me the okay.
“This song is for all of the couples out there tonight. This song is for anyone who’s ever been in love.” The piano came back to life and I started to sing.
“You held me, that’s how I knew that you loved me. You kissed me, that’s how I knew that you loved me. You told me, that’s how I knew that you loved me…You held me, that’s how I knew that you loved me. You kissed me, that’s how I knew that you loved me. You loved me, that’s how I knew you were mine…” When I finished my number, everyone whistled and clapped, but the only person I saw was Brian. He clapped in his calm, yet enthusiastic way, and when I smiled he winked at me. I did the rest of my show, just as I had rehearsed.
And I don’t know if everyone thought it was great, and I don’t know if everyone really believed that I was the hottest ticket in town. But it didn’t matter, because Brian did. And he told me so after the show when he presented me with a kiss and a bouquet of roses. I gave him apologies and he gave me forgetfulness. He asked if he could take me to dinner, and I said yes in a thousand languages. A lot of people came to see me sing that night, and that was a dream come true. But being there with Brian, with his roses and his kisses, for the first time that night, my dream felt complete. For the first time, my heart lacked nothing, and I truly believed that I could spread my wings and fly.
I opened up a book
And got lost in a perfect world
This world didn’t judge me
This world didn’t keep secrets
It didn’t matter what they looked like
They were all beautiful to me
And I was beautiful to them
I didn’t have to hide
When the book came to an end
And I read those final words
I felt sad
But also better than before
Because, for a while, I escaped
Into a world that was beautiful
And dark and complex and tragic
And it accepted that I was, too.
Lori stood in the middle of the desert. She wiped the sweat from her forehead and pulled her blond hair back into a pony tail. Her heart was racing and she wrung her hands. Mae leaned against the faded red truck and guzzled cool water from her canteen, letting it drip onto her chin. She wiped her mouth and smiled a half smile, but Lori couldn’t bring herself to calm down. She always felt at peace when she was around Mae, but now she wished she could hide under a desert rock and never come out.
The sun was scorching and the air was dry. The dirt could be heard grinding under Lori’s boots as she paced back and forth. She fiddled with the canteen that was strapped onto the belt of her denim shorts and smoothed out her tank top. She put on some lip balm and picked at her nails, anything to postpone doing the thing she came here to do. Mae cleared her throat and asked her what she waiting for.
“What did you wanna show me? We’re only a few miles from town,” she said. Her shoulder-length brown hair hung down, loose strands blowing into her face. Her skin was tan and her brown eyes sparked with curiosity, but were also steady with trust. One sandaled foot was crossed over the other as she leaned against the truck without a care in the world. Lori took a breath and wondered if it were obvious that her hands were shaking.
“Do you trust me?” she asked. Mae nodded.
“Mhmm,” she said, and took another sip of water. She crossed her arms and looked amused the way she always did when Lori was stressing out over nothing. But this time, it wasn’t for nothing. For better or worse, this was going to change everything. It was the worse part that Lori was afraid of. She decided to stop procrastinating and walked away from the faded trail and toward the sand dunes. There was the occasional shrub that poked out of the ground, but for the most part, this area was all sand. She picked up a fistful of the hot, smooth sand and let it slip through her fingers. The familiar feel of it comforted her. This was her place, and for a moment, she almost forgot that she had something to lose.
She thought of facing Mae, of explaining why she brought her out here. Of telling her that this wouldn’t change anything, and that she’s still the same person she’s always been. Instead, she stood up straight and closed her eyes. The sun was hot on her skin and she focused on the quiet rhythm of her breath. The ground was soft beneath her feet and she channeled her connection to it, her connection to the earth. Her hands moved back and forth in slow movements, as if she were conducting an orchestra, until the sand around her began to move, too. She opened her eyes and let the sand twirl until two rows of it were spiraling toward the sky. She paused, letting the sand hover for a moment, and then she lowered her hands, one over the other, until the sand lay flat on the ground again.
Every time she used her powers, she felt a connection to her ancestors. This was who she was, this was where she belonged. But that good feeling was interrupted by the fear of what Mae would think now that she knew her secret. She turned around, inch by inch, until she was facing her again. Mae looked at her, but said nothing, and it was hard to read her expression from this small distance. Her hands were at her sides and she didn’t move. Lori walked over to her until she was just a few feet away. She met her eyes, but her expression was blank.
“Mae?” Lori asked. She wanted to reach out and stroke the loose strands of hair from her face. Instead, she waited to see what she would say. She was afraid that she wouldn’t say anything at all when Mae cleared her throat and furrowed her brow.
“I had a hallucination,” she said. Lori shook her head and when she spoke, her voice shook.
“No. It was real. What you just saw, what I just did, it really happened.” The words hung in the air for a moment. This time, Mae shook her head.
“But you’re not a—“
“—a telekinetic. I am.” She toyed with the silver and ruby ring on her index finger that Mae had given her a few weeks ago. “I know I should have told you sooner it’s just I only just found out about it myself. I’ve been seeing a teacher, a master actually. Master Jong. He’s been teaching me about my tribe and my history. I know it’s a lot to take in, but I—“
“No.” Mae looked at her with her wide eyes and a single tear streamed down her face. “N-no. You c-can’t. You can’t be one of them!” she spat.
“Let me explain. I’m still the same person. Please, just hear me out.” She took a step forward and Mae jerked away.
“Don’t touch me.” She reached for the door handle to get in the driver’s side of the truck. Lori used her powers again. She didn’t mean to. It was a reflex, she panicked. With a flick of the wrist, she sent the truck flying ten feet ahead of them, kicking up dirt on the road. Mae screamed and glared at her. “You could have run over my feet!”
“Sorry, sorry, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean it, I panicked. Please, if you just let me explain—“
“You’re a monster,” she said. The words stung and tears welled up in Lori’s eyes. She reached out and Mae backed away. “I’m leaving and you’re not going to stop me.” Her voice was firm but her eyes had a hint of uncertainty. She knew her words were powerless. “I’m taking the truck. You can walk back to town by yourself.”
“Please,” Lori started. She was sobbing now. Hot tears streamed down her face and she sniffled. “Please, d-don’t do th-this. You s-said you l-loved me.” Mae clutched her hands together and her expression was pained.
“Just stay away from me.” She went over to the truck, looking over her shoulder to make sure Lori wouldn’t use her powers again. She hopped in the truck and drove off, leaving a trail of dust behind her. Lori watched as the truck moved farther away. She ran and yelled after it.
“Fine, just go! Just take my truck and go!!” She yelled. She stopped running to catch her breath, placing her hands on her knees for support. Still sobbing, she let herself collapse onto her hands and knees and cried into the palms of her hands. She had a sweater wrapped around her waist and used its sleeve to wipe the snot from her nose. She knew this would be a lot to take in, but she didn’t expect her to leave her in the middle of the desert. Was this it then? Were they over? Mae meant more to her than anything else in the world. She would give all this up, if she could…
She thought about how she would have felt three months ago if someone had told her they were a telekinetic. She would have run off, too, no doubt about it. She expected this kind of reaction, but she wasn’t prepared for how much it would hurt. She tried to compose herself and reached for her canteen when she realized she had no water left. All the extra food and water was on the truck. Her truck. She was still a good 6.5 miles away from town and everything she owned was at Mae’s apartment. She didn’t even have her cell phone. The sun was hot on her skin and she was fatigued from using her powers, especially after moving something as heavy as a car. But that didn’t matter. Feeling sorry for herself would have to wait until later. Right now, she had to get out of this desert.
She’d barely been walking five minutes when she began to feel faint. She was about to sit down at the side of the road when she heard a vehicle coming toward her. It was Mae driving her truck. She pulled over and sat for a moment, still clutching the steering wheel. She got out and walked over to Lori, pausing a few feet and away, her eyes cautious. She started to reach out, but then pulled her hand back. Lori couldn’t stand to see her be afraid of her. Her blue eyes met Mae’s and she tried to express everything she was feeling with one look. When she spoke, it came out in a whisper.
“I swear I’m not going to hurt you.” Mae nodded and tears welled up in her eyes.
“I know,” she said. She reached out, still cautious, and placed a hand on Lori’s cheek. She pressed her forehead against hers and lay her gentle hands around her neck. Tears streamed down her cheeks. “I’m so sorry I left like that. I do love you, I would never leave you alone like that.”
“I know.” Mae gripped her in a tight hug and didn’t let go when she continued speaking.
“One of the tribes killed my family. I was just a little girl.”
“I know,” Lori said. She stroked Mae’s hair. Her body was warm against her and it didn’t help with the intense heat of the desert, but she didn’t care. She was so relieved to have Mae back in her arms.
“I’ve spent my whole life hating the tribes. I can’t just forgive them.”
Lori stroked her back. “I’m not asking you to.” Mae pulled away and placed her hands on Lori’s shoulders.
“You’ve been carrying this secret. I can only imagine—“
“I’ve been so terrified of losing you,” Lori said. Mae held her hands in hers and smiled through her tears.
“I’m not going anywhere. I’ll listen. You can tell me everything. But first, let’s go home.” She opened the passenger door for Lori and they drove off back to town. The worst was over, Lori thought. No matter what happened from this point forward, they still had each other. And that mattered more than anything.