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Demons

Demons.

We all had them. Some of us were just able to deal with them more than others. Sometimes it was merely an annoyance, like a bee buzzing near your ear that you wanted to swat away. It’d eventually lead to a sharp sting if you weren’t careful.

Other times, demons buried you so deep you were unable to climb out of the hellhole you’d been tossed into. At least, not without someone offering a helping hand.

My demons lived with me, enveloped me and kept me warm like a fur winter coat. Embraced me like a comforting hug from a friend. Caressed me like a lover. My demons planted a seed inside me and slowly grew like a beautiful poisonous flower.

Now that they’d blossomed, my existence had only just begun.

…………………

Excerpt from Never Letting Go, available on Amazon and other ebook retailers.

Featured

Manifesting Miracles: Cheltenham Badlands

It started off like any other Saturday.

I woke up in the comfort of my warm, cozy bed, my mind instantly on the frequency of gratitude. I was grateful for seeing another day. I was grateful for the coffee that would be coming my way. I was also grateful to be able to see the Cheltenham Badlands later on with a friend.

It was only days before that I had even heard of this place. A coworker of mine had been sitting next to me during lunch as we chatted about the current news playing in the background, the latest movie we saw, and things to do around town before the storm of 2018 hits the city.

“Have you ever heard of the Cheltenham Badlands?” She instantly shoved her phone in my face, showing me her Instagram. I took the phone from her hand and stared at the image on my screen.

It was beautiful. People were standing on, what looked like, Mars. Like chocolate marshmallow, it was a natural phenomenon. In reality, it was a geological formation that developed over a course of the past 450 million years.

All the people in the photos looked like they were having a blast and I also wanted to experience that. Without a second thought, I immediately texted my friend, Sidney, one of the photos.

ME: Can we go here?

SID: I’ve always wanted to go there. Sure!

And like that, it was a done deal. I knew the following weekend, I would be visiting the Cheltenham Badlands. I was happy that I would have the opportunity to experience some of the beauty my province had to offer.

Plus I was really stoked on the idea that it was called the badlands because I legitimately felt like I was going Into the Badlands.

Only I wasn’t. As I laid in my cozy bed, and Google mapped the address that Saturday, I got the following words float across my phone screen:

CLOSED PERMANENTLY.

Excuse me?

I went to the website link and my heart sank the more I read about not being able to gain access to the badlands due to “massive overuse” and “failure to follow the rules”.

I understood the need to preserve nature and not have outsiders, humans, ruin it all, but it sucked. Like that, my day was over before it even started. There would be no me standing atop the badlands feeling badass, like The Widow defeating all the other barons. Nope, not in the cards.

And if you are bent out of sorts about not understanding my context, please, go watch the first episode of Into the Badlands on Netflix. It’s there.

At least, on the Canadian Netflix.

(Disclaimer: Please don’t watch if blood and violence make you squeamish.)

So the idea of going to the Cheltenham Badlands evaporated from my mind. This left Sid and I in a pickle. What were we going to do this fall morning instead?

ME: So where else can we go that isn’t a million miles away?

SID: There’s a Hop and Harvest festival going on at Kelso Conservation.

I was okay with that but it seemed more of a food spending expenditure, something I wasn’t particularly in the mood for. I started doing my own search for things to do in the area and I saw there was something similar called Terra Cotta’s Fall Festival. Seemed more up my alley.

Sid agreed and the day was reset. No Cheltenham Badlands but Terra Cotta here we come!

So I drove us the half hour it took to get there and I even conquered my fear of heights on the way. The roads were so up and down. I felt as if I were literally on a roller coaster!

Not my scene.

Anyway, we finally reached, successfully parked, and made out way to the festival. Forgot to capture pics of the festival but check out this awesome fall view below.

IMG_0440
Terra Cotta Conservation Area, Terra Cotta ON

There was a little store that sold items like maple syrup and pastries but that’s not what caught Sid’s attention. She turned to me.

“You want to go on the wagon ride?”

I shrugged. “Sure.”

So we quickly paid for our tickets and found ourselves on a wagon, exploring the area and learning the type of wildlife that lived in the conservation area. It was fun, a simple ride where I got to experience the beautiful fall day. One of the tour guides toward the end of the wagon ride mentioned a free bus that would take us from Terra Cotta to the badlands, and back to Terra Cotta.

Sid and I looked at each other, instantly on the same wavelength. That would be our next item for the day.

I was excited. I may not be able to see the Cheltenham Badlands like we had planned, but I got to see another badlands to make up for being cheated with the former.

So we got off the wagon and made our way to the info booth.

“Which way to the bus that will take us to the badlands?”

The poor guy had no clue so we walked back into the little store. One of the girls stationed there showed us a map. All I heard was Parking 3 and 45 degree angle but I knew we’d figure it out.

And we did, as we made our way to this yellow school bus in the parking lot, like it was waiting for us and only us.

I forgot to mention I had brought my camera. However, said camera was not auto-focusing and I was disappointed that all my photos for the day would be a midst of out of focus, blurry shots.

Blah.

The bus driver was pleasant to speak to but as he turned on the ignition, the bus decided it was not in the mood to cooperate. So as our new friend, the bus driver, tried to get the bus up and running, I felt it was the perfect time to attempt at getting my camera working.

Good news: After some time, I did manage to get my camera working.

Bad news: The bus wouldn’t start, no badlands 2.0.

IMG_0450
On the broken bus in Terra Cotta as I capture a shot of Sid.

So we went home after that.

I’m lying. Our great bus driver radioed another bus driver and like that, we were on another functioning bus. I took in the beautiful scenery as we past by, this magical bus taking us to God knows where.

But as we inched closer and closer to the badlands, I had a revelation once we reached our destination.

I was at THE Cheltenham Badlands.

It was one and the same. And I felt like a complete fool for not realizing until it was staring me right in the face that I was at the one place I wanted to be this entire day.

 

Cheltenham Badlands
Cheltenham Badlands, Calendon ON

Isn’t that amazing?

And no I didn’t get to jump on the mountain of brown marshmallow.

But I got a lot of perks out of this day.

Perk 1: I didn’t have to pay the $10 parking fee to get to the badlands, take a few pictures, only to turn around and go back home.

Perk 2: I got to experience the beauty of Terra Cotta and go on my first wagon ride.

Perk 3: A free magic school bus drove me straight to the badlands where I got to relish in my surroundings.

What’s the whole point of this rambling story, you ask?

Sometimes all you have to say is yes in order to experience all that life has to offer.

And sometimes, life has a way of giving you exactly what you want, even when you least expect it.

Digital Decluttering

Spring has finally sprung. Or at least, it’s trying to.

I actually saw snow a few days ago and to say I wasn’t impressed would be an understatement.

Regardless of how the weather is acting, the beginning of spring always sparks some decluttering bug inside me. And despite being on this minimalism journey, I’ve been slowly seeing an influx of … stuff creeping back into my life lately. Not good.

I need to throw away hoards of clothes, or take a stack of old documents to the shredder.

But that isn’t what I’m focusing on right now. Now, my focus is on my digital clutter.

Emails.

Files.

Social media.

I spent one evening after work deleting one of my personal emails. It’s been something I’ve wanted to do for such a long time since moving over to my current email address and I have to admit, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. It might sound weird, but it was satisfying seeing email after email get tossed into the trash.

Success!

The next day proved more difficult. The task? To delete my old author email. Like my personal, I changed to another platform and no longer had use for my old email account. But this account was linked to many websites, and so began the process of updating my email across the board.

Deleting old online purchase receipts from 2013.

Deleting old email correspondence with people I know longer correspond with.

I actually found an old short story while reviewing the hundreds of emails I had. Perhaps I’ll post it for Halloween.

And yes, I said hundreds.

So this task might take longer than I originally anticipated. It’s okay though, the first step is to admit there’s a problem.

And it’s definitely not my only one.

I received a random email from Facebook recently about my page apparently breaking some sort of protocol. I’m too lazy to reach for my phone right now to get the actual verbiage but it was along those lines. I thought it was a weird email to be getting in the middle of the night, especially since the only thing I post on my Facebook page are my blog post notifications.

So my knee-jerk reaction was to delete my Facebook page.

I received another email from Facebook the following day stating that the original email sent to me was in error and to disregard it. I strongly believe everything happens for a reason and my impulse to immediately get rid of my Facebook page is one I don’t regret. The page had served its purpose: it was originally about my books, book sales, book tours, book giveaways, etc.

Now it’s just this empty space I fill with notifications that I posted a blog.

So in that sense, I’m not sad to see it go.

I’m far from being done in regards to decluttering my digital life. This is a continual effort on my part and it’s something I need to stay diligent with before all my stuff consumes my whole life, which doesn’t seem very minimal.

Or stress-free.

I’ve committed to myself, every day, to get rid of some form or other of digital declutter:

  • Deleting my Notes on my iPhone (I currently have 161).
  • Deleting random pictures off my phone.
  • Deleting my old author/book email.
  • Getting my main inbox cleared.
  • Pinterest: should it stay or should it go?
  • Removing old apps on my phone that I no longer use.
  • Cleaning up my desktop.
  • Organizing my computer files.

The solution is a simple click of the delete button.

Guardian

I stood atop the 32-story building overlooking the city. It was a place I would call home, if only for a little while. Taking a deep breath, I closed my eyes, concentrating on the source of the Light I felt situated in the city streets of Toronto, its flashing lights and booming sounds.

Focusing my energy on the Light, I blocked out everything: sirens blaring, horns honking, the low rumble of engines, the chiming of bicyclists weaving in and out of traffic. The arguing of two co-workers below at the bar; the sound of passionate love-making coming from the building across the street; the steady stream of jazz music playing within the club. It all just started to fade away.

I had reached a point of complete and utter stillness.

Squeezing my eyes tighter, I focused solely on drawing in the energy I searched for. At first there was nothing and I began to feel frustrated. Although as a Guardian, I wasn’t supposed to feel frustrated. We weren’t supposed to feel anything, really.

But that was besides the point.

I was feeling what would be described as “frustration” when I finally noticed it.

I smelt chocolate.

It was the scent of rich, smooth cocoa filling my nostrils to a point that caused my mouth to–I could almost taste it. It had been some time since I had tasted chocolate. In actuality, I didn’t recall the act of ever eating chocolate before but it seemed so familiar to me.

So I must have, right?

I attempted at focusing on my other senses instead of the deliciousness of chocolate wafting into my nostrils. I began hearing the chatter of voices, followed by a vision of people conjured in my mind. Everything was hazy at first but the first thing I could distinctly see was the pulsating rhythm of Light coming from one person in particular. It glowed brightly, its ray of beauty within the essence of the being, as if winking back at me. The being was sitting off to the side, alone.

It was almost as if they were waiting for someone.

Snapping out of the vision I opened my eyes and a sense of calm passed over me. Placing on my sunglasses I smiled to myself, pleased.

My mission had finally started.

…………………

Excerpt from Bless, unpublished work.

In the Shadows

I was five when I knew something was different about me.

My first memory.

I had no recollection of who my parents were or what they even looked like. All I knew was that I was alone at the orphanage, disconnected from the outside world. I picture it even now, almost like an oil painting: the thick bristles of the paintbrush created the bright blue sky as it connected to the shockingly white snow. The snow blanketed everything around me, as if protecting me, the green forest displayed at every angle.

The orphanage was out of place in such a nature-infused environment. A large, two-story building, its windows seemed to cover almost every surface. I remembered the brightness of the sun as it hit my sleepy face through one of those many windows. It would instantly warm my body, greeting me to yet another day.

Vines covered old gray bricks as they coursed over the external surface of the orphanage. I had nightmares about those same vines making their way into my room as I slept. They’d appear ominously as their shadows pounded against the walls, taunting me as a storm brewed on outside. Venturing toward my bed, the vines would slither across my body, trapping me in place. One would wrap around my neck, squeezing tightly, as I struggled for air. Rendered frozen, the feeling of fear would take hold, bubbling up deep inside my chest. And as I felt the burning pain in my throat, a thought would flash through my mind of thismoment being my last. It never was, though, as I would instantly wake up.

I always did have a wild imagination.

To chase away the terror, I would stand before my windowpane the morning after. Sighing in relief, my eyes would be drawn to the vast forest off in the distance. It surrounded the orphanage, like a gatekeeper, the leaves of the trees bristling in irritation. The wind blew right through those tall structures, whistling, as my ears picked up the all too familiar sound.

I somehow found myself standing directly in front of that very forest. My memory was hazy on exactly how I got there but I recalled waking up, after one of my many dreams, to the feeling of immense hunger as my body stirred in discomfort.

Then suddenly I was at the foot of the forest.

I would not describe the sensation as simple hunger. I would almost describe it as a feeling of starvation, like there was some essential component my body was missing. Whatever it was, this need was so powerful I was weak in the knees with the pain; my belly contracted and released, contracted and released, continually. Food provided temporary relief for me, but there was always this presence in the corner of my mind as my brain searched for the one thing my body craved.

I ignored that nagging voice in my head, the one whispering for the one thing I needed. It was something unfathomable yet inherent. I paid it no attention and just openly stared at the forest beckoning me. Taking shallow breaths, the cool air blew in and out between my cold, chapped lips.

It was at that exact moment I realized the forest isolated me from everything and everyone outside of its confines—almost like a hungry bird circling its prey. Even young, my instincts picked up on that, immediately telling me something.

Eyes were watching me.

…………………

Excerpt from Dahlia, available on Amazon and other ebook retailers.

The Leftovers

I’ve fallen in love with a show that’s been cancelled.

The concept is rather addicting and I’m all about a good supernatural drama. But even more than the television series itself, the music soundtrack for The Leftovers made the show even that much better. The music left me in pieces.

Utter pieces.

I would be so engrossed in a scene and then slowly, gradually, ever so softly, this melody would creep into my ears. The most pleasant of surprises, and the song would be the perfect piece to the puzzle within the scene.

In that moment, I knew I had to get a hold of the soundtrack and listen to its entirety. And after sitting on my bed cross-legged, headphones over my ears, eyes closed, it was like I had gone through a spiritual awakening.

It left me feeling raw. That if anyone was to look at me in that exact moment, they would see into my soul, and not merely the mask that we sometimes show the world.

Listening brought me joy. The kind of joy that hits you so perfectly, tears spring to your eyes. Beauty. Rawness. Purity. Honesty. Humanity. Inspiration. Peace. It was like everything was supposed to be as it was. This moment was meant to be.

The show was good. The show was great. But my god, my heart, my soul and my ears rejoiced. It was like reuniting with a best friend after what seemed like a lifetime apart.

Can a song be someone’s soul mate? Because if so, I think I’ve found my mate.

I wanted for nothing listening to The Leftovers soundtrack and I am grateful to have been given the privilege of listening to some of the most beautiful sounds in the world.

Max Richter, you are a genius.

I’ll leave you with two of my favourites in the soundtrack and let you in on a little secret.

It’s even better if you close your eyes.

Four Letters Christmas (Part 4)

When I opened my eyes again, I stared back into Reed’s calming face. But I wasn’t outside, freezing my behind and trying to get warmth from his body.

No. I was back in my bedroom with the love of my life.

Reed stroked my face, almost like butterfly wings.

“Merry Christmas,” he said. Then he bent down and tenderly kissed my stomach. “Merry Christmas, baby.”

I smiled widely, placing my hand against my full belly.

“You feeling better?” he asked.

I nodded. “Yeah, but I had the weirdest dream.”

“Really?” he asked, scooting closer to me. He brushed my hair back. “What about?”

“I was living the life I would have lived if I was never adopted. Connor was still my ex—”

“Figures—”

“My parents were Amelia and Dan instead of Mom and Dad. B was a stranger but Keener was performing at a party. And I was blonde.”

“You, blonde? Completely messed up.” Reed’s body shook with laughter. “What about me?”

I stared at him. “You were a douche.”

He looked shocked. “Me?”

“Yes,” I said with a straight face. “You were totally hitting on me at the Christmas party.” I rubbed my chin on his shoulders like a cat. “You wanted to get in my pants.”

“In real life and in your dreams.”

“It was awesome though, in a way. I got to spend Christmas with Amelia, Dan and the kids. And I saw Nina. It was so surreal.”

“I’m sure it was amazing to see her again.”

I nodded. “Yes. Yes, it was.”

“So what?” he asked. “You wish you were living your dream world instead?”

I thought about it seriously and answered truthfully. “It was like the perfect life that could have been. But, it’s not my life. I enjoy the craziness. In this world, I have two families. I’ve known you all my life. We’re creating a baby, which is so much bigger than you and I. I wouldn’t trade my life for anything.”

“And you’re not blonde.”

I laughed. “And I’m not blonde.” My name isn’t Jade Callaghan.“What’s my name?” I asked suddenly.

Reed smiled in question at the random question. “Jade Reamer.”

“What will be my name?”

“Jade Donahue, of course.”

I shook my head. “Jade Reamer-Donahue, please and–”

“Shh,” Reed interrupted, placing his finger against my lips. I looked straight into his eyes. “I don’t care what your name is, all I know is that I love you.”

“I love you too.”

He gave a wink and I swore I melted then and there.

“Before I forget.”

Reed pulled out a present wrapped in red wrapping paper.

“Merry Christmas, Jade.”

Grinning, I took the gift from his hand but before I could open it, a knock sounded. I jumped out of bed, rushing to the front door. I opened it to see our family grinning from ear to ear.

“Jade!” exclaimed B, rushing forward. He picked me up, spinning me around.

I slapped him on the back. “Put me down, B.”

“But it’s Christmas,” B said happily, but he obliged my request. “You have to be perky Jade today.”

I grinned then gave him a peck on the cheek. “Merry Christmas, Bryn.” Then I looked at everyone else. Mom, Dad, Reed’s parents, Amelia, Dan, and the girls. “Merry Christmas, guys.”

Reed came up from behind me, giving a squeeze and I knew all was right with the world.

“Hey, look! It’s snowing,” Marie exclaimed as she pointed at the living room window.

I looked out the window and sure enough, snow was falling from the sky, slowly blanketing the city. It was the perfect Christmas because I had everything I wanted. My family, my love, and a beautiful winter wonderland.

Thanks, Nina.

Merry Christmas indeed.

…………………

Four Letters Christmas, a short story from the Four Letters universe.


Books in the series:

 

Four Letters Christmas (Part 3)

I woke up to my name being called over and over again. My eyes fluttering open, I looked up into concerned faces. No. This wasn’t still happening. Why hadn’t I waken up yet? I quickly sat up, determined.

“This isn’t real,” I mumbled to myself.

“Do you need me to call a doctor, honey?” Amelia asked, placing the back of her hand against my forehead. She glanced over at Dan. “No fever but I think we should call a doctor.”

“Maybe she hit her head or something.”

Yup, this was definitely a dream. There was no way I had been transported like Alice in Wonderland where my parents were Amelia and Dan, and not Mom with her blue contacts and Dad with his stern, you better listen to me or else, persona. This was some weird alternate version of my life where Bryn Reamer was not my brother and I had mini-mes waking up next to me every Christmas morning in matching red Christmas themed pajamas.

I looked at faces I’d only known for a few months, yet were the closest people to me in the world, at least, biologically close. Since I wasn’t getting out of this dream by force, I guess that meant I had to play along.

But no Reed and family? No fun at all.

“I’m fine … Mom.” Seriously, that was super strange. “Must have been some bad juice or something.”

Amelia raised a brow. “Are you sure you should go to the party tonight? You might be pushing it.”

“Tonight?”

Two parties in a row?

Damn, Jade.

Marie gave a toothy grin. “Yeah, that Christmas party at the outdoor rink your weirdo boyfriend invited you to.”

“Weirdo ex-boyfriend,” supplied Annabella.

“Thank god,” muttered Dan as he gave Amelia a pointed look.

“Oh yeah,” I said, pretending like I knew who the hell they were talking about. As long as it wasn’t Connor, I was cool.

“Enough party talk for now.” I stood, getting out of bed. “And I’m really fine—I promise!”

My family looked at me skeptically.

“Well, come on,” I urged, heading toward the door. “It’s officially Christmas! Let’s open up these presents.” I wasn’t particularly being my normal self but it was a dream so there were no rules.

The entire gang followed me down the staircase. Stepping into the foyer, I was unsure where to go.

Marie noticed my hesitation and grabbed my arm, pulling me to the left where it opened to a living room. At the end near the fireplace was this huge Christmas tree decorated in blue and silver ornaments. It was rather breathtaking and as I walked closer, my eyes took in the beauty of the sparkle and shine that seemed to be bouncing off the tree.

I turned around to say something then burst out laughing when I finally noticed that all of us were wearing matching reindeer print pajamas in red.

Good lord.

I shook my head, trying to muffle my laughs. “Whose idea was it for our Christmas getup, anyways?”

“Um … yours,” said Annabella.

I immediately got myself together. “Right.”

Settling around the Christmas tree, we started exchanging gifts. I watched the kiddos get excited by the latest tech gadget or outfit. I stared across at Amelia and Dan staring lovingly at each other. I’d gag if it were anyone else—hell, I’d gag if it were Mom and Dad—but to see them this way opened me up to what I had missed all these years apart from them.

But it was bittersweet because being with the Callaghans like this made me really miss my family.

It made me miss Reed.

I felt the tears well up in my eyes and I immediately excused myself and headed to the bathroom.

I almost screamed again when I saw myself in the mirror.

“Holy crap on everything that’s holy.”

My hair looked like it was dipped in fucking French vanilla ice cream.

I was blonde.

“What the hell,” I stated, pulling at a curly tendril. This Jade liked to experiment with hair. I started inspecting my body further. “What else is different in this world, Reamer?”

I had three tattoos of the most random of things in the most random of places. A ladybug on my left shoulder, a treble clef on the inside of my right wrist, and a sprinkle of stars across my back.

Random.

And let’s not forget the most obvious thing. I wasn’t preggers. My surprise baby was a surprise no more. Apparently in this world, I knew what a freaking condom was and remembered how to use one.

I didn’t know what to think about this. I had gotten used to being pregnant. Sill had a mini meltdown session on the daily about giving birth and being in charge of a living tiny person that wasn’t a pet, but yeah, I had gotten used to it. And not being pregnant now was a complete mind fuck and I didn’t know how to feel. I mean, I want this baby, and I can’t wait to meet our baby. Reed—

Damn.

I stared at my reflection in the mirror before closing my eyes and sighed.

Reed.

In this world, I didn’t even know who or where he was.

I came out of the bathroom and bypassed the family, rushing back up the stairs to what apparently was my bedroom.

“Bingo,” I said, eyes immediately landing on a cell phone on the nightstand next to the bed. I pulled the charger from the phone and stared down at the screen momentarily. I wondered if Reed would have the same phone number in this world. But I’d call him and then what? It wasn’t like he knew who I was. I was a stranger to him.

Would he even be the same Reed that I grew up with?

But the urge to hear his voice was something fierce so I punched the familiar numbers into the cell that were no longer programmed as a contact.

I brought my cell up to my ear, listening to the ringing that seemed to go on and on forever. My chest felt full when his familiar voice answered.

“Hey—”

“Reed,” I breathed.

“—you’ve reached Donahue. Not here to get your message but leave the details right after the beep and I’ll be sure to get back to you.”

I was frozen in my spot and the only thing that brought me back was the beep signaling for me to record a message.

“I’m sorry,” I said quickly. “Wrong number.”

I ended the call immediately. “What is wrong with you? You freak out over a voice message—a voice message! Get it together, Jade.”

It’s not like this was real or anything.

I needed some fresh air, stat.

Jogging down the stairs, I grabbed a coat thrown over the staircase, shouting back into the house.

“Going for a walk!”

Slamming the door shut before anyone could reply, I made my way to the sidewalk, not even caring that I probably looked like a homeless person wearing pajamas outdoors and what looked like Dan’s winter coat. I was cold, my breath making its presence known in the cool air. I hunched my shoulders and tucked my hands into the warmth of the jacket pockets, cursing the fact that I didn’t look for a hat or scarf or something.

I paused by a park only to find a girl sitting on the bench. She was blonde and bundled up and I wondered why she sat so still by herself on Christmas day. I walked over closer, then closer still until I saw her face. Then did my best to not break down right then and there.

It was Nina.

I opened my mouth but no words came out. I didn’t know if this was the worse dream or best dream of my life.

Jade, keep it together.

It was just your best friend, your dead best friend, right in front of you.

“Hey,” I finally said softly.

“Hey there,” Nina said, smiling back. She tilted her head to the side, eyes narrowing slightly. “Do I know you?”

I shook my head. “No.”

Not in this world.

“Well then,” she said with a shrug. “I know it’s still early but hope your Christmas is a blast so far.”

I stared back at her as if she’d disappear at any second, then shrugged. “Well it’s definitely … something.”

Silently, I sat next to her on the bench and stared forward, looking at the mass of Christmas trees. There was no snow coating the scenery, hopes of a white Christmas dying as each second passed. But that didn’t really matter. I was sitting in the middle of a park with my best friend who I had slowly forgotten what she even looked like. But seeing her again, her mass of blonde hair, vivid blue eyes, and that mischievous glint across her face, it was like she was never gone. We said nothing to each other and I welcomed the comfortable silence shared between us.

“It’s not even snowing.”

I glanced back at Nina who spoke as if we were in mid conversation, then looked back at the brittle grass brownish in color, the ground with a fine layer of ice where you would slip if you weren’t careful.

“No,” I said. “The one thing I love about Christmas is when it snows. Oh well, maybe next year.”

“Well if I could, I’d totally give you snow as your Christmas gift.”

I chuckled. “Well that’s definitely cost-saving, but I don’t know if Mother Nature will give you that favor though.” I turned, staring at Nina’s profile. “What do you want for Christmas?”

Nina finally turned until she faced me directly and I blinked, trying to prevent any tears that threatened to fall when I saw the somber expression on her face.

“Forgiveness,” she whispered, a tear streaking down her cheek. “For some reason, I feel as if I need the whole world to just forgive me. I don’t think I’ve been a very good friend.”

I placed my hand on top of hers and squeezed gently. “I forgive you.”

She smiled tearfully. “You don’t even know me.”

“Don’t be so sure about that.”

“Thank you.”

The two of us remained in that park for I don’t even know how long. Just sitting side-by-side, each staring at the scenery before us, wishing things were different.

A cell phone buzzed in my pocket and I pulled it out. I was surprised to find myself staring at a familiar number.

“Connor?” I answered in confusion.

“Yo. Jade!”

It really was Connor. Did that make him my peeping Tom ex-boyfriend?

Creepy.

“So—” he burst out before I had a chance to speak and I breathed a sigh of relief that I didn’t have to come up with anything. “You coming to the Christmas party tonight?”

“Right, the Christmas party.”

How many parties did this Jade attend in a weekend?

“Yeah. You promised me you would, Jade. Don’t wimp out on me now.”

Wait … were we dating?

“My favourite band will be playing. Plus you know I have a thing for Bianca and she’s gonna be there. You need to be my wing-man.”

Alright, not dating. Thank god. “Don’t you mean, wing-woman?”

“Yeah, sure. Whatever you want.”

I closed my phone shut and turned to Nina to apologize but she was gone, and I was alone. I wondered if I had imagined the entire encounter. Then I remembered this whole thing was a dream to begin with.

Standing up from the bench, I looked around one last final time before making myself back to the Callaghan residence. It would be bizarre to call it home.

I didn’t know how time worked here but it was suddenly dark outside, and I found myself getting ready for a Christmas party. My closet was completely different from the usual black attire I found myself in, but I managed to find a pair of black skinny jeans and a cute red sweater.

Then like a film moving on to its next scene, I found myself standing amongst a winter wonderland. A regular skating rink was now the centerpiece for holiday festivities. While people took advantage of the skating rink, some chose the less sober option by partying it up in one of the various giant dome-like tents surrounding the rink.

I walked into the closest tent and found even more excitement. Loud music, bodies dancing, and booze.

All the ingredients to a successful party.

I actually managed to find Connor quite quickly. He was making out in the corner with, who I assumed was the Bianca that he was talking about earlier. Not needing my duties as a wing-woman anymore, I made my way to a section of the tent that was less crowded. A glass of vodka and Coke seemed to magically appear in my hand by the time I got there and I sipped on it slowly, wondering why I was here in the first place.

“I love how in real life and in my dream, I still manage to have Connor as an ex-boyfriend,” I mumbled to myself.

“Are you okay over there?”

My eyes widened at the sound of the familiar voice. I turned slowly and turned to find glinting green eyes staring down at me inquisitively.

“Re—” I breathed then stopped myself. Reed didn’t know who I was in this reality. I inhaled and tried again. “Yes. I’m fine.”

“Really?” He stepped closer and I impulsively stepped back.

Get it together, Jade. This may not be your Reed but he is Reed.

Shaking my head, I settled my drink on a nearby table. Shoulders back, I looked up at him directly. He smiled when I caught his eye.

“It’s just—” Reed continued. “I don’t know what to think when I see everyone having fun at my party except this one girl who apparently likes to talk to herself.”

“Your party?” I asked, surprised. “And I was not talking to myself—”

“Well, okay, then mumbling to yourself.”

“I was not—” I shook my head exasperatedly. “Okay, fine. But it was just a short conversation.”

Reed grinned. “I like a girl who’s honest.”

I tried not to make it show how much his smile affected me.

“I’m glad you approve.”

His eyes seemed to scan my entire body from top to bottom until it settled straight into mine. “Yes. I do.”

If he kept going, I’d be preggers all over again.

“So you mentioned this was your Christmas party?” I asked, breaking off our connection.

He nodded, the grin not leaving his face. “Yeah. I manage Keener.”

I almost choked. “Keener!”

“I see you’ve heard of them. Yeah, the lead guitarist, Bryn, is my best friend,” he gestured to the stage.

My eyes immediately followed. “B,” I whispered, a grin on my face. I didn’t know how I could have possibly missed him. Yeah, he was playing Christmas tunes instead of rock ones, but you’d think I’d recognize his voice. He had this easy aura to him as he strummed on a guitar, singing in unison with the rest of the band.

You made it, B!

“Well, no one’s ever called him that but it has a nice ring to it,” Reed said. He moved closer, green eyes staring into mine.  “I know this might sound too forward, but I want to show you something.”

His fingers encircled my wrist, tugging me toward him. I followed him through the crowd of people as we weaved in and out between them.

We stepped outside of the tent. “Where are you taking me?”

Reed looked back, grinning. “Don’t worry, I’m not sneaking away to have my way with you.”

I snorted. “I’m not worried.”

“The fact that you just snorted makes it even less likely.”

I pulled my hand away from him, eyes narrowed. “Excuse you.”

“I’m just kidding,” he smirked, taking my hand in his again. He squeezed softly and continued to pull me forward. I looked around and realized he had pulled me across the street where a giant Christmas tree was on display. The lights shone brilliantly in the night and we could still hear the sounds of music playing from the party.

“I’m being selfish bringing you here but it was way too loud in there, and I wanted to hear your voice.”

“Who would have thought the organizer would be complaining about the noise level of their own party.”

He looked as if he didn’t hear me; he seemed focused on something else. “Your voice…”

“What about it?”

“It sounds familiar somehow.”

I remembered the phone message I had left him earlier. “I get that a lot.”

“Do you?” He appeared doubtful but he let it go to my relief. “Care to dance?” offered Reed, hands out to me.

“Should I curtsy now?” I asked with raised brows.

“Come on now. It’s been crazy organizing this party and you’ve been the highlight of the day, conversing with a girl who doesn’t seem to care about my job, and actually engages in conversation.”

Nodding my head once, I grabbed on to his hand and he pulled me into his arms. We swayed back and forth to the sound of Christmas jams played by my brother’s band, and I relished in just being with him.

“What’s your name?”

I smiled into his chest then looked up. “It took you long enough to ask.”

“So why are you keeping me waiting?”

“Jade.”

“Jade,” Reed said to himself. “That’s a very pretty name.” He tilted his head to my ear. “My name’s Reed in case you’re wondering.”

I said nothing, just smiled softly to myself.

“What?” Reed said, looking down at my face.

“Would you believe me if I told you this wasn’t our first dance?”

Reed replied by pulling me closer, whispering in my ear. “I’d believe anything you say, Jade. And I’m pretty sure this won’t be our last.”

I saw that he was going to say more but I quieted him by placing my fingers against his lips.

“Don’t speak,” I murmured, resting my head against his shoulders as I listened to his heartbeat. “Let’s just listen.”

Reed tightened his hold around me and we swayed back and forth to the music coming faintly from the party. We danced like we were the only ones in the world. I closed my eyes and just relished in the moment of being in Reed’s arms on a perfect Christmas night.

…………………

Four Letters Christmas, a short story from the Four Letters universe.
Chapters posted weekly until Christmas day.

Four Letters Christmas (Part 2)

The sound of Jingle Bells being sung by some sort of choir who sounded like they were high on drugs crashed into my eardrums. I quickly covered my ears and shoved my head under my pillow to prevent any further torture.

“Make it stop. Please,” I moaned.

A few beats later and I was greeted by silence. Heaving a sigh of relief, I burrowed myself even deeper into the bed, definitely not in the mood for Christmas cheer.

Just five more minutes, please.

A hand touched my arm. “Jade.”

“Go away, Reed,” I whined, waving a hand.

Two more minutes. Tops.

“Who’s Reed?”

I paused, my brain trying to decipher the voice speaking to me. It was a voice that didn’t sound like Reed at all. A voice that sounded like a preteen more than anything.

What the…

Raising my head from beneath the pillow, I stared at my bedmate.

Or rather, bedmates.

My sisters stared back at me in confusion while I did the same.

“What are you two doing here?”

Annabella and Marie gave each other a look, then two pairs of eyes were directed back to me again.

“It’s Christmas, Jade,” offered Marie.

“Yeah,” thirteen-year-old Annabella said slowly. She shook her full head of hair off her face and stretched. “We always sleep in the same bed Christmas Eve. It’s tradition.”

“Duh,” supplied nine-year-old Marie.

I frowned as I continued to look from one sister to the other. Then I glanced around my room, my frown deepening when nothing looked familiar. “Where the hell am I?”

“Jade!”

I glanced at Annabella who gave me a stern look. She gestured to Marie.

“Sorry,” I mumbled, clearing my throat. “Where the H-E double hockey sticks am I?”

“In your bedroom,” Marie said simply like I was the dumbest person on earth.

“This is not my room. And where the—” I paused, shooting Annabella a pointed stare. “—heck is Reed?”

“You mentioned that name earlier. Reed. Was he your date last night at the college party you went to with Kimber and Star against Mom and Dad’s strong suggestion not to?”

“What?”

“Is it spelled R-E-I-D or R-E-E-D?” implored Marie.

Seriously, what the fuck was going on?

“Did you have too many drinks and now you’re having some sort of mental fit that Kimber says Star always has on Friday nights, sometimes Saturdays?” questioned Annabella.

I shook my head firmly, as if that would put my entire life back into place, and then gave each of them a look. “Look, kiddos. I don’t know what kind of crazy prank you and Reed are pulling—”

“Who’s Reed?” Marie asked again.

“—and if I had to guess, this has B written all other it—”

“Is that supposed to be a name?” asked Annabella.

“I’ve had enough of this,” I screamed, yanking the covers off of my body. How in the world did they move me in my sleep without me knowing? But then I completely flipped when I looked down at myself and saw that my belly was not a belly.

I was no longer pregnant.

Just as I started feeling dizzy, the door to my room burst open and there stood my biological parents, identical looks of confusion on their faces.

“What’s going on, honey?” Dan said. “We heard screaming.”

Amelia made a face as she looked over at the window near the head of the bed. “I swear, if it’s that peeping Tom ex-boyfriend of yours again, Jade Callaghan, I will go bonkers on his ass.”

Annabella raised two furrowed brows. “Mom, language.”

It took a moment before I registered what Amelia just said. Jade Callaghan. I glanced around the room, seeing unfamiliar photos of myself with my biological family at different stages in my life. I saw pics of me with my newfound cousin, Kimber and her BFF, Star, and random people I had never seen before in my life.

Then I glanced down and hesitantly touched my flat stomach. It felt surreal to no longer be carrying this being that had been inside of me for half a freaking year.

Seriously, what was going on right now?

I looked around at the concerned faces of the people in the room. Jade Callaghan?

They really weren’t playing. They actually thought that I was where I was supposed to be … with them. People that, yes, were related to me but I had never lived with before!

There were only a couple of reasonable explanations for this. I was high, drunk, or this was all a messed up dream. But I didn’t drink nor do drugs since I was pregnant eight hours ago so that meant this shit wasn’t real.

It must have been the damn Chinese food.

In a situation like this, I did the only thing that any rational person would do: I squeezed the flesh of my forearm so hard it brought tears to my eyes. When that didn’t work, and I was still staring across at four people who looked at me as if I were from outer-freaking-space, I did the next best thing.

I passed out like a patsy.

…………………

Four Letters Christmas, a short story from the Four Letters universe.
Chapters posted weekly until Christmas day.

Four Letters Christmas (Part 1)

The smirk on Reed’s face made me want to smack him.

I mean, really. Who was I engaged to again, and was there a way for me to get an exchange or refund?

Or were there no refunds allowed?

“Why’d you make me eat all this, Reed, huh?” I stared at him from across our tiny kitchen table over a mountain of food. The Chinese takeout in their Styrofoam containers littered the red and green tablecloth decorated courtesy of one Bryn Reamer.

My stomach would be turning from all the Christmas adornments showered across our condo by Reed and my brother, Bryn, if it weren’t already catapulting from the food that was currently trying to digest in my pitiful stomach.

Unsuccessfully.

Reed raised his hands, quickly shaking his head in denial. “Don’t look at me, Jade.”

I continued to stare. “I feel like I’m going to projectile vomit.”

Reed narrowed his eyes, unsure if I were serious. “You were the one begging me for Chinese food. I’ve learned that when baby wants food, you give baby food. No arguments.”

I rubbed my distended belly in discomfort. “Well, baby made a mistake.”

Reed got up from the chair and walked over to me, leaned down, and kissed me on the forehead. “You really gonna hurl?” he asked, brows high.

“No,” I said slowly, forcing my body to listen to my words. “But if you say it again, I might just surprise you.”

He straightened, tugging on my ponytail gently and I made a face at him. “A girl after my own heart.”

I followed suit and rose from my seat, but definitely at a slower pace courtesy of the gut I was rocking. Yay for being almost six months pregnant! Reed stepped closer to me and gave a sexy wink. I wrapped my arms around his neck, my fingers finding a comfortable home at the nape of his neck. I smirked right back at him. It was not like I could stay mad at him forever. “I already own your heart, babe.”

His hands slid slowly up and down my sides and I instantly reacted to his touch when a shiver passed through me. He bent his head and I tilted back my own, falling into his arms. Our lips met on a sigh and I sunk further into him, kissing him deeply. I honest to god didn’t want to stop feeling his lips against mine but we finally came up for air when he pulled back.

I breathed heavily as I gave him a look. “Why’d you stop?” I asked. Reed’s kisses made me forget my head sometimes.

Hell, for those seconds I forgot I was experiencing major gastrointestinal distress.

He placed his palm against my cheek and smiled. “Have I ever told you that I’m the luckiest guy in the world?”

I smiled back but tried my best to hide it as I gave a stern look. “Are you being sappy because of the holidays, Reed? ‘Cause I don’t know how I’m supposed to handle both you and B if you continue to be this sentimental. B was going on how he was gonna learn to knit so he could make a sweater for the baby. I’d rather not subject our future child to the fashion sense of my brother.”

Reed gave a chuckle but soon lost his grin. “I mean it, Jade. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

“Well,” I said, pulling him closer, the only thing preventing us from full body contact was our future kid. “You’re stuck with me. In this life and the next.”

Reed wrapped his arms around me and squeezed, resting his chin on the top of my head. “Now who’s being sappy?”

I gave him a slap on the back and he jumped, pulling back.

“Seriously, Jade. I think you’re getting stronger with the pregnancy.”

My eyes narrowed. “And I’ll be she-woman if you don’t knock it off.”

He ignored my deathly stare and grabbed my hand, tugging me toward our bedroom.

I let him.

“You seem pretty eager to get to bed,” I observed, watching him toss the sheets back and tear off his shirt.

Throwing the shirt in the hamper next to the closet, he turned back to me, his tattoos on full display. He decided to add on more tats and now his left arm was a full sleeve. It was sexy as hell and I had contemplated getting a tattoo of my own, but Reed still hadn’t been able to get me into the chair.

I wasn’t particularly good with pain.

“You know, this will be our first Christmas together as a couple.”

I raised a brow in mock surprise. “And?”

“And the quicker we get to sleep, the quicker you can sleep off the food poisoning—”

“Which is totally your fault—”

“Which is totally not my fault, by the way.” He settled into the bed, resting against the headboard. “Then you’ll wake up as chipper Jade and not bitter Jade, and we can have a fantastic time with our family who you know is going to get here at the crack of dawn.”

I huffed, but he was right.

“Well, then,” I simply said.

The fact that I didn’t mind going to bed before midnight when normal people my age would have been out partying was a disgusting thought. But who the hell cared, my stomach hurt.

And I needed to use the bathroom ASAP.

Making my exit as chill as possible, I rushed into the smaller room and did my thing. I felt slightly better but knew a good night’s sleep would definitely help with the slight discomfort. After taking the fastest shower known to mankind, I slipped into my pajamas, and quickly brushed my teeth. When I came out of the bathroom, I saw Reed passed out on the comforter.

The bedtime was more for him than me, apparently.

Making my way into the bed, I snuggled up against Reed, then yanked as much of the comforter from under him, pulling as much as I could over myself. Placing a soft kiss against his cheek, I whispered to him softly.

“Merry Christmas, love.”

…………………

Four Letters Christmas, a short story from the Four Letters universe.
Chapters posted weekly until Christmas day.

Habits: Breaking Old and Creating New

They say it takes 21 days to form a new habit.

I have no idea who they are but it must be true, right? Because every time I try to create a new habit, I seem to self-sabotage myself way before the three weeks is due and BOOM, habit never quite reaches its full fruition.

I’ll give you a few examples:

Quit coffee. I think I lasted a week before I realized coffee makes me way too happy to deprive myself of it, and that I will continue to drip my cuppa (or two) to bring a little bit of joy into my life. The withdrawal symptoms also didn’t help.

Exercise daily. This lasted maybe four days before I told myself that Monday, the first work day of the week, should always be a day of rest; Friday should not include any exercise because it’s well, Friday; and errands occur on Saturday so that clearly counts as exercising.

Get rid of 5 items daily. Weird, right? But in my journey of minimalism, I have this strong urge to discard of any and all things. And it worked, for a while, a long while actually. I was easily picking 5 items out of my collection of things I own and either tossed, gave to family and friends, or donated. But now it’s been a couple of months since I’ve actually thrown out an item that wasn’t a cardboard box courtesy of Amazon, and I realize that I’m starting to… collect things again.

Ugh.

I have the best intention to improve my life and well-being but it’s almost like I’m afraid. Of what? I don’t know. There’s obviously something blocking me, something I haven’t quite tapped into, that makes me want to run away and hide at the notion of change. Like change is a bad thing.

But not all change is bad. Some change is good… great even! And it’s not to say that I’m failing at all of the new habits I’m trying to form. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, I promise.

I’m drinking water. Lemon water, but water, nonetheless. Yes, I was one of those annoying people that would say they hated water. What kind of blasphemy is that? you’re thinking. Well, in my mindset, water tasted like nothing so what was the point? This mindset lasted the majority of my life until a minor case of strep throat put me in check to the point that it’s now mandatory for me to have a water bottle at arm’s length at all times.

Water: 1 | Christina: 0

Water’s not the only habit I’m succeeding with. I now get up at 5AM daily. Okay, I lie. Sometimes it’s 5AM, sometimes it’s 6AM, sometimes a little something in between. This is a huge improvement from rolling out of bed at 7:30AM and rushing to make it to work. Or sleeping in until 9AM or 10AM on the weekends. I now love being the first person to wake up. I relish in the moment when the house is silent except for those odd house-sounding sounds. Where I can just sit and contemplate life, drink my coffee, and just be.

So yeah, I may never quit coffee. I will eat a chocolate bar here and there. Sushi is life.

But I also enjoy being a minimalist newbie and learning about what minimalism means to me. I love not having so much excess in my life. I love making life simple. I enjoy getting rid of things that no longer serve a purpose or bring joy in my life, and it is a habit that I will continue to work on.

I do enjoy exercising. When I’m in the moment of sweating my butt off on the treadmill listening to 50 Cent or Justin Timberlake, I feel invincible! I might not be doing it daily, but I try as much as I can, and that’s all I can really do.

I have learned not to stress when implementing a new habit in my life. How? Well, below are a list of a few things I tell myself, or do, whenever trying to break those nasty habits or start new ones:

Guided meditation. Meditating is new for me and I find that guided meditation is a great way of introducing me to it. After a session, I feel great! Content and relaxed, I feel that I can take on the world and it leaves me in a better mindset to tackle my goals.

Write it down. I’m a post-it note, agenda-writing individual, and I find that writing things down hits the spot. It makes it more real. By not attaining the goals that I have written down, it only makes me disappointed in myself. And that’s the last thing I want to do! As a result, habits are created and formed.

Take one day at a time. Remember to breathe. It’s okay if I have that piece of chocolate (it’s dark!) or decide to ditch the exercise routine for a movie… with popcorn. Tomorrow is a new day and a new day equals RESTART!

Healthy habits will bring me nothing but joy. It might seem like work at first, but the more I do, the more it’ll feel like second nature. Look at my love of drinking water now!

I drink water effortlessly to nourish my body.

I exercise and move my body freely.

I only eat what brings me joy, and feel no regrets.

I remove things in my life that no longer serve a purpose.

I write everyday, whether my blog, a story, scripting, a to-do list. I write.

I write the above in the present because I am affirming it all. These are my habits, and a part of my daily living that I will continually work on.

When I find my self-sabotaging creeping in, I reset by applying my list of guided meditation, writing it down, and taking one day at a time, and it pushes me to try and do better. But like I said, I will no longer feel bad about my so-called “failures” because to me, they’re not failures. It’s called life. Enjoy it. Feeling bad about not eating a certain amount of calories a day, or not hitting the gym on the daily defeats the entire process. This is a journey, not a race. This is my journey, and the only person I’m competing with is myself.

Because in the end, isn’t that all that really matters?