…You Would Cry Too If It Happened To You

16. Write abut a confrontation at a birthday party.

I’m sitting in my closet with the door closed, knees to my chest. Well, not quite. I’m a bit chubby and have a growing set of boobs, so my knees don’t actually reach my chest, but you get the point. The tears on my face are dry now, no doubt staining my face. Why do tears stain your face? Salt I guess. Answering my own questions. It’s dark in here. Warm. Comfortable. Safe. The safest. This closet has always been my refuge. I used to hide in here when another kid said something mean to me, or when I’d had a bad day at school or when I missed my old friends, or when I had a bad dream. I keep a special teddy in here, my little soldier. My uncle gave him to me, said soldiers protect everybody and my little soldier would protect me. I think he has done a pretty good job so far. Middle School isn’t as fun as I thought it would be, so I spend more time in here than I did in Elementary. People at school would laugh at me if they could see this. That makes me sad too, that I even still need this safety closet. Aren’t I supposed to be a big girl now? Usually I come in here to hide from the outside things, the scary things. But today the scary things are the inside things. The things that are supposed to make me feel safe and loved and respected. And today of all the days. I can hear them still, yelling at each other. My grandpa brought his new girlfriend to my birthday party. I don’t even know why old people still want girlfriends and boyfriends, but I met her before and she was nice so it didn’t bother me. Grandma felt differently, even though she brought her new husband. She used the word “disrespectful” a lot. She also used other words I’m not supposed to repeat, but it was kind of funny. At first. Mom tried to calm everybody down, but Grandma called her a “hussy” and Nana didn’t like that so she stood up and started yelling too. Dad tried to get between them, but Pops told him not to “get between pecking hens” which made the yelling go up a pitch higher. Even I know not to call women hens, chicks, heifers, or any other kind of farm animal, and I haven’t even gotten to high school yet. Nonetheless…. I learned that word from my dad and I think it’s fun to say. Nonetheless. Nonetheless. Nonetheless…. Nonetheless, Pops made it all worse. Grandma and Nana started yelling at him, and then I guess Grandpa’s girlfriend breathed wrong because then Grandma turned on her. I just sat there with my fork in my hand watching the entire world unravel. Then it happened. Grandma picked up my cake…. My cake was beautiful. It was two small tiers, the bottom one dark dark purple, and the top dark dark red. Covered in glitter. On top it had three little rows of library book shelves, and on one side it had a little chair with a little girl sitting in it reading a book. That little girl was supposed to be me. She was wearing my favorite yellow polka dot dress, and no shoes. You couldn’t see any expression on her face really because she was so tiny, but I knew it was me because that’s what I asked for. I didn’t want any gifts from my parents. Just some new fantasy books—didn’t even care which ones—Chinese takeout, and that cake. That perfect, beautiful cake. That perfect, beautiful cake that my Grandma ruined along with all my hopes and dreams. You know how people say something dramatic or romantic happened in slow motion? I always thought that was garbage. Until I saw my Grandmother pick up my cake. It really was like slow motion the way everyone’s heads moved in her direction, that weirdly baritone “Nooooooooooooo!” that came out of Nana’s mouth, my mom covering her face, grandpa reaching his arm across his girlfriend’s chest, and all my tiny little library books being smashed into his arm and her dress with so much force that it tipped her chair and sent her on a free-fall towards the floor that seemed to take minutes rather than seconds. As soon as she hit the floor everything went back to normal speed. And you’d think everybody would go quiet and most would rush to help her up, but nope. The yelling got even louder as girlfriend joined in, and nobody, and I mean NO BODY even looked in my direction. I ran straight to my room and into my safe space and let the tears that started with “why the hell did you bring her here David” continue to fall down my face until the water stores were empty. My little soldier absorbed most of them. I can still hear them fussing. Not yelling anymore. And not as many voices. Nana. Mom. Then I hear my name. Somebody asking where I am, referring to me as “that poor child”. I hear my mom groan about my cake, and that brings a fresh new stream of tears. I really wanted that cake. And I didn’t even get to cut it. Or taste it. I don’t even know if mom got a picture of it between setting the table and trying to keep Grandma and Grandpa apart. I’ll remember it, though. I’ll see it in my dreams. My grandparents will remember it too, I’ll make sure of that…when I decide to start talking to them again. Maybe by the time I graduate from college, they’ll both be mature enough to not ruin my special day. I’m sure Nana will be the first to find me. Dad and Pops are probably outside pretending to take out the trash, and I’m sure mom is still cleaning my tiny polka dot dress off the floor. Nana is like my spirit animal. She always knows were I’m hiding. I mean, I’m always hiding in here, so if you know once then you know, but my parents tend to look everywhere else first. Nana—and here she comes—doesn’t just find me, she sits with me in my little closet and waits for me to talk to her, and doesn’t make me turn on the light.

Next Lifetime

18. Recreate a memory you have

Why did I do that? Why did I let my boyfriend drive off with my best friend?

I asked myself that question so many times over the years. As much as I want to say I’d forgiven them both, I just couldn’t get it out of my head. Something inside me was connected to something inside him, and it has never been possible for me to truly let it go.

Was it love? Maybe? I’ve never felt love from or for anyone else so I have nothing to compare it to. And there’s so much pain associated with it that even if it is love it’s tainted. But for the sake of argument we’ll call it love. And I’ve loved this man for my entire adult life.

So it’s no wonder I’ve found myself back here, in his arms. He’s watching animal documentaries, and I’m watching him watch animal documentaries. I’ve never felt closer to him than I do in this moment. He’s always been everything I want, but I know I fall short of his desires. I still don’t trust him. I still can’t give myself to him fully. And I know, if you’re going to go back to someone who’s hurt you, you better let that hurt go or leave that person alone. I can’t keep coming back here and bringing up the same old stuff. And I do mean old stuff—it was twelve years ago.

He asks me to refill his drink and it breaks my train of thought. In this moment I would do anything for him…except have his babies. I want to be right here, but something in the back of my head keeps telling me to remember that night. Remember the tears I cried and the yelling at myself. Remember how awful I felt. But I don’t want to remember any of that. I only want to remember this.

He asks me what I’m thinking. Nothing. He says he knows me better than that. True.

“Would you say yes to marry me if I asked you?”

Yes, without hesitation yes. MaybeWhy? Are you gonna ask me to marry you? He returns to his animals.

The show ends and he says he’s got to run an errand. He’ll pick up dinner while he’s out. He suggests I take advantage of the quiet to write a little. I’ve been distracted all weekend.


I went home that next day with an engagement ring on my finger. I know why I said yes, and then I don’t. But I was in it. It’s been a year since that day, four months since we got married. Most days I’m at peace, comfortable, sometimes even elated to be his wife. Somedays, though, I ask myself why the hell I let him drive off with my best friend.

To: Liam

4. Write a letter from one of your characters to another

I can’t believe how suddenly you showed up in my life. It was so easy to let my guard down. This is not a break-up letter, so don’t worry. When I was at my lowest point you came through for me. Yours was the only hand that reached down into my darkness when my best friend died and the sun went away. I never would’ve expected you to catch me so effortlessly when I was falling so hard. Especially not after a couple of dates. You are the type of man fairy tales are written about. You are beautiful and charming and smart and strong and safe. You are safe. You are safe and that scares me because I’ve never felt safe before. I grew up not knowing what safe was.  The only one I could count on was Dais and now that she’s gone….I know you are the kind of man I could really let myself love. You’ve already caught me once, so I know it’s okay to fall for you. If this were a movie I’d be expecting the worst right now. You have some wife hiding in another city, or you’re actually a serial killer, or your brother is actually your son, or you’re a rival trying to steal my business, or you’re one of my father’s cronies trying to…I don’t even know what he’d be trying to do. Honestly, any of that could actually be true because we don’t really know each other. What you’ve shown me could all be an act. Only time will tell. Even Bundy had someone he loved, you know? My intuition is usually pretty solid, which is why I’m in the business I’m in, and there are no sirens when it comes to you. I don’t see red flags or warning signs. All I see are green eyes, compassion, and strength when I look at you. You over analyze things which means you’re always prepared. Even for me, as rough as I can be. I know I’m not easy. I’ve had difficult things in my life. You are not a difficult thing. You are what makes me want to let go of difficult things. You make me see light. You make me feel more than hurt and frustration. You didn’t bring a bulldozer and try to break down my walls, you power washed them first. You hosed down all the gritty nasty stuff that I was projecting, then you started climbing that wall instead of hammering at it. Okay, that’s a really bad analogy, I know. But you get what I’m saying right? Thank you for showing me how to be cared for instead of trying to break into my heart. I think I love you. Or, at least, I’m starting to.