Saturday, April 4, 2020

The Week After the Canceled Nuptials

Gino pulled up to Leah's apartment building. He put the car in park and turned to her. "Here we are." 

She smiled at him. "Thanks for a fun evening, Gino." 

"The pleasure was mine." He leaned over to kiss her and to his credit, he didn't go overboard on the tongue or anything. It was her first date after ditching Luke on their wedding day a week ago and she was in no big hurry to start something new just yet. Gino said, "Sit tight," and got out and came around to the passenger side. He opened the door and held a hand out to her, and helped her out of the car. 

They stood on the sidewalk and he gave her another little kiss. He touched her leg and said, "Nice stockings, by the way." 

Leah laughed. "Thank you." Since she'd broken it off with Luke, she'd been feeling a little more adventurous. She'd met Gino in the coffee shop earlier in the week and when he asked her out, she had said yes. She'd decided to wear an LBD and fishnet stockings on their date tonight, and she was glad she did. 

Gino said, "No...thank you." He put his forehead on hers and said, "Can I see you again?"

"I'd like that." 

He smiled. "Great! I'll call you this week, okay?"

"Sounds good. Good night, Gino." 

"Good night." He watched her get into the building safely before getting into the car and speeding off, giving her a little honk on the horn as he did so. 

She waved and went into the lobby. She decided to take the stairs rather than the elevator and as she walked slowly up to her apartment, she thought about the previous week. Ditching Luke had been the best thing she'd ever done. She felt like her own person again. Last night, she'd gone to Happy Hour with her friend Raquel who had told her that she was like a different person. She'd said, "Glad you ditched him. He was a total dick. You know that, right?" Leah had said, "I do now!" They'd both laughed and ordered another round. 

Leah made it up to her fourth-floor apartment and unlocked the door. She went inside, looking around to make sure everything was cool, once again appreciating the little home she'd made for herself. She was fortunate that her place hadn't been leased out and she was able to re-up after she'd split with Luke. She had a job, she had an apartment, she had a car, and so what if she no longer had a fiancé? She was better off on her own. 

She kicked off her ankle boots and grabbed a beer from the fridge. She headed into her bedroom and sat down on the bed. She peeled off her tights and flung them towards the hamper, then pulled her dress over her head and off of her. It ended up fairly close to the tights. She put on a pair of lounge pants and a t-shirt and grabbed her beer and headed back to the living room. She turned on the TV and went into the kitchen to grab a snack. Gino had taken her out to dinner, but that was a few hours ago and she'd danced most of that off. She needed a little something. 

As she waited for her bag of popcorn to finish in the microwave, she thought that if Gino asked her out next week, she was pretty sure of the "little something" she needed. She said to no one in particular, "Based on our slow dances tonight, it's not so little," and then she cracked up. She'd have to tell Raquel that one when they talked this week. 

The microwave beeped and she grabbed the bag out of the microwave and dumped the popcorn into a bowl. She liked to be fancy like that, rather than eating out of the bag. She snickered to herself and went out to the couch. She settled back and clicked around until she found something mindless to watch. She munched on her popcorn and felt genuinely content and happy. What would her life have been like if she'd actually said "I do" last weekend? She'd probably be fluffing Luke right now so he could get hard enough to procreate with her. She snorted again and said, "What a fucking dick you were." She had talked to herself often this past week but she didn't care. She was free. 

She heard a rattling at her door and stopped munching the popcorn for a moment to listen. Probably the guys next door coming back from a party and trying to get into the wrong apartment. It wouldn't be the first time. When she heard the lock disengage and the door ease open, she jumped up off of the couch, the bowl of popcorn falling to the floor, popcorn flying everywhere. She reached into the space between the couch and the end table and grabbed her baseball bat. You didn't live on your own without some kind of weapon, and she could swing that bat if she needed to. 

The back of the living room was in shadows and she stepped back into them. She had her cell phone and punched in 911. She laid her phone quietly on the end table and watched the hallway to see who might appear. She hoped whoever it was would go away, that maybe the TV being on would make the person realize that someone was home and they would leave. 

She watched from the shadows as someone emerged into the light of the living room from the dark hallway. It wasn't a stranger. It was Luke. 

She stepped out of the dark and said, "What the fuck are you doing here? How did you get in?" She was gratified to see him jump like a startled cat. 

He quickly regained his composure. "I'm here because you're my fiancée. And I got in because I still have a key." He held it up and jangled it. "Remember?"

She gave herself a mental kick in the ass. Why hadn't she thought to get the key from him? She regained her composure, too. "I'm not your fiancée anymore. Remember?" She put a nice sarcastic spin on that last word. "Get out of my apartment, Luke." 

He stepped closer to her. "No." 

She gripped the baseball bat tighter. "Get. The fuck. Out." 

He laughed. "What are you going to do? Hit me with that?"

"Don't tempt me." 

He didn't say anything. He just looked at her. "Look at you." 


"Tight t-shirt. No bra. You look like you're just asking for it."

She rolled her eyes. "That's right, Luke. I'm lounging around in the privacy of my own apartment, not wearing a bra, 'asking for it.' If I'm asking for anything, it's a little comfort and some fucking peace and quiet!" 

"Quite a mouth on you." 

"Fuck off." 

He stepped closer to her. 

She raised the baseball bat a little higher. "I'm serious, Luke. Get out. This is my place. Not yours. I gave your engagement ring back, remember? In fact, I left the dress with you, too. By the way, have you worn it yet?"

His eyes narrowed. "Shut your whore mouth." 

Despite knowing him and how he was, that startled her a bit. She was starting to realize that he was more than a little off. 

He wasn't done. "I saw you with your boyfriend tonight. In your whore clothes. How was your night of drinking and dancing? And...fornicating?" He spat out the last word. 

She knew it was probably a bad idea but she couldn't help it. She burst into laughter. "Fornicating? Seriously? It was my first date with him. What do you think I am? Oh, that's right. A whore. His name is Gino, by the way. And if I have a second date with him, yeah, we'll probably fornicate. In fact, we'll probably fornicate all fucking night!" She laughed again. 

Luke clenched his fists and took another step towards her. "Jezebel." 

Leah put on a puzzled face and pointed at herself. "Me? No. LEAH." She laughed again. She saw that every time she laughed, he got more and more pissed off, but she couldn't help it. A couple of years of pent-up rage and oppression were finally coming out and for her, it was coming out in laughter. 

As she was laughing, he moved towards her lightning-fast and grabbed her. The baseball bat dropped to the floor and she struggled with him. He spun her around and she managed to break free and run to the kitchen. He ran after her and she tried to paw through the drawers to find some sort of weapon. His eyes weren't normal and she saw nothing in there of the man she had almost married. He was gone. He slapped at her hands and tried to punch her. She managed to duck in time to avoid one to the jaw, but he connected with her left shoulder and her arm went slightly numb. 

She fell against the wall, a little "oof" escaping her, and she realized that if she didn't do something, he was going to kill her. He'd probably rape her first. Or maybe he'd kill her then rape her. 

That wasn't going to happen. 

As he wrapped his hands around her throat and pushed her against the wall—she was disgusted but not surprised to realize that he had a raging hardon—she summoned every ounce of strength and shoved against him, just enough to get him off-balance. In the split-second she had, she grabbed her cast-iron Dutch oven off of the stovetop, the lid falling to the floor with a loud clang. She gripped the bowl of it by the handle and swung it with all her might towards his head. 

She connected and he went down like a ton of bricks. She didn't think she'd hit him that hard but on the way down, his head hit the corner of the countertop, and when he fell to the floor, his head hit with a definite 'splat' sound. She looked down at him and watched the spreading pool of blood under his head. She was gasping for breath, and when the door burst in and a couple of police came in, she looked up at them. They held their guns on her and yelled, "Drop it!" 

She dropped the Dutch oven and it fell right on Luke's head, with another 'splat.'

She put her hands up and said, "No...I...I called you. He attacked me." 

The cops holstered their guns and the taller one said, "We know. It's okay. Just...step away, okay?"

She did. 

The tall cop said, "Are you okay?"

She nodded. 

"We're going to have to take you down to get a statement, okay? And...well, we'll need a forensic crew to come in here. But it's pretty obvious what happened. We heard everything on the phone call." 

She nodded again and walked to the door. The cop held her back. "Wait. Do you want some socks and shoes? Maybe a jacket?"

She looked down at herself and said, "Oh yeah." 

She walked to her bedroom and got those things as the cops waited for her. As they walked her out of her apartment, the forensic team was on its way in, and she nodded at them. 

As she walked down the hallway, seeing all the neighbors peeking out of their doorways, she wondered if Gino was going to call her this week and if she'd see him this weekend. She hoped so. She thought about how much she'd tell him about this and decided to just play it by ear. 

She straightened up and tossed her hair back. Her kitchen floor needed a good mopping, anyway, and now it was going to get a professional cleaning. Maybe she'd invite Gino back to her place next weekend. 

She smiled. Yes, she liked that idea. 

**Note** This is for my friend Raquel who wanted a little more murder and mayhem. I hope this does the trick, my dear friend! 

Friday, April 3, 2020

The Upcoming Nuptials

Luke took Leah's hand and said, "Are you ready to do this tomorrow?"

She gazed up at him adoringly and said, "I am so ready!" She grabbed him by the belt loops and pulled his hips toward hers.

Luke held his hands up. "Whoa, whoa! What are you doing?" He pushed her away from him. 

She stumbled back a bit and looked at him, then looked down. "I'm sorry." 

He brushed his shirt with his hands like he was brushing her off of him. "Leah, come on. You know we can't do anything before we're married! Goodness, gracious." He turned away from her. 

She put her hand on his shoulder. "You're right. I'm so sorry." 

He shrugged her hand off of him, and she stepped back. He took a breath and turned back to her with a smile. "I'm sorry, darling." He took hold of her upper arms and pulled him to her. "I've waited so long. Tomorrow is the night." She felt him against her and then he was pushing her away from him. "Not tonight. You need to go." 

"Can't we just...I don't know...cuddle on the couch?"

"No! You need to go!" He saw the look on her face and said, "I'm sorry, my dear." He kissed her on the forehead. "I need to go." He grabbed her shoulders and said, "You know how much I look forward to our wedding night. But it would be a sin to do anything before tomorrow. You know how I feel." 

Leah nodded. "Of course." 

He kissed her on the forehead again and turned her around and pointed her to the door of his apartment. "Off you go." 

She turned back to him. "Aren't you going to take me home?"

"I can't. I need to get up early for a phone call. I can call you an Uber, though. Okay?"

She nodded. Was this really what she was signing up for? She pushed the thought aside. 

He tapped at his phone and said, "There you go! They should be here in five minutes. And I've got some freebies, so I'm paying for it! Don't say I never did anything for you!"

She gave him a wan smile and murmured, "Thank you." She walked to the door and turned and said, "Good night, Luke." 

He kissed her forehead. "Good night!" He nudged her out the door. "Sleep tight!" He waved his fingers at her before he closed the door. "See you tomorrow! Our wedding day!"

She smiled. "Yes." 

"Are you excited?"

"Of course." 

"And tomorrow night...well, it will be our wedding night." He wiggled his eyebrows at her. 

She smiled again and said, "Yes. Good night, Luke." She turned and walked down the hallway and heard his door close behind her. She leaned against the wall and took a deep breath. Was this really the right thing to do? She was starting to have some serious doubts. It was okay. He was a godly man. Her parents loved him and gave their full approval. She walked down the stairs and to the sidewalk. Her Uber was there and she got in and settled back as the driver took her to her apartment. 

Her lease was up in a week. She'd be moving in with Luke. As she got out of the car, she tipped the driver a fiver and went up the stairs to her apartment. She unlocked the door and looked around her place. She'd lived here for five years, and it had been a good home. She'd be sorry to say goodbye to it, but she had already started moving things over to Luke's apartment. She closed the door behind her and went to her bedroom. Luke had never been in here. He said that "It wasn't the Christianly thing to do" to stay with her. She threw her purse down on the bed. It wasn't like she'd told him he had to have sex with her. She'd just asked him to stay the night with her. 

Leah realized that as she undressed, she was throwing her clothes into the laundry bin. Probably a little harder than warranted. She ran her hands through her hair. She was wide awake and after wrapping her robe around her, she walked out to the kitchen and grabbed a beer from the refrigerator. Luke didn't drink and didn't approve of her drinking. She snorted as she popped the top on the beer and drank half of it down. She grabbed another one and took it out to the living room. She sat back on the couch and looked at her wedding dress hanging in the corner. It was very demure, with a high collar and long sleeves. She had been partial to the strapless one, but when she told Luke about it, he had given her an emphatic no. "My mother will be there!" he had said. So she hadn't chosen the strapless gown that she loved. 

She stared out the window, looking at the lights of the city. She sat quietly and finished both beers, and then went to bed. Tomorrow was her wedding day, after all. 


She woke up the next morning and looked at the clock. She'd overslept. On her wedding day. She thought to herself, "You're a terrible wife and you aren't even married yet" and she snorted laughter. She sat up. It was her wedding day. So why wasn't she excited? 

Her phone buzzed on the nightstand. She picked it up and saw that it was a text message from Luke. He'd sent several, asking where she was. She texted that she was on her way and then headed into the bathroom for a quick shower. She put on some makeup, realizing that she wasn't going to be as glamorous as expected, and threw on some sweats. She grabbed her wedding dress and rushed down the stairs, and threw the dress into the back of her Mini. She sped off to the church. 

She pulled up and grabbed her dress from the back of the car and went inside. The pastor was already there and gave her a look when he saw her sweats. She ignored it and went into the dressing room. Her maid of honor, Sharon, was already there and dressed. "Leah! Where have you been?"

Leah shook her head. "I overslept." 

Sharon looked at her. "On your wedding day? Okay." 

Leah didn't look up. 

Sharon said, "Hey, you aren't dressed yet, so it's okay for someone to say hello to you!" She went to the door and yelled down the hallway. Leah heard steps and then saw Luke. He stepped into the room and the first thing he said was, "Why aren't you dressed yet?"

Leah looked at him. She turned to Sharon and said, "I need a moment with my fiancé." 

Sharon said, "Sure!" and went out into the hallway. 

Luke stepped close to her and grabbed her by her upper arms. "Seriously, Leah. Why aren't you dressed yet? People will be here soon! And what is up with your makeup?" He reached a hand up to her face and touched it.

She slapped his hand away and he stepped back. She saw the dark look on his face and she stepped back, too. 

"How dare you treat me that way?" He stepped closer to her. Her back was against the wall, so she couldn't go anywhere. He pushed against her, grinding his hips against hers. "You'll be mine tonight. Taketh my staff, woman." He grabbed her hand and pulled it to his crotch. He was already hard, and she thought back to all the times in her apartment and in his, when he had brought her to the brink but then had talked about how it would be a sin. She thought about how he'd cried when he'd pulled away from her as if the most natural thing in the world was shameful. She thought about his disapproval of her revealing dresses when they had first started going out and how he said that the people at church would disapprove. 

She thought about all these things and then she looked at her wedding dress hanging in the corner. She looked at the lace, the high collar, the long sleeves. She thought about the dress she had wanted and that Luke had told her was inappropriate. 

She looked him in the eye, put her hands on his shoulders, and gave him a mighty shove. He stumbled back and looked at her in shock. He said, "What are you doing?"

Leah hitched her sweatpants up, pulled her sweatshirt down, and said, "I'm not marrying you." She pulled the engagement ring off of her finger and threw it at him. "In fact, I want nothing to do with you, ever again." 

Luke stared at her. "You're nuts." 

Leah laughed. "Maybe. But I am not stupid." She grabbed her purse and headed towards the door. She looked up at the wedding dress in the corner. "That's your dress. Do with it what you want. Wear it in a drag ball, for all I care. It's on your credit card." 

She smiled as she walked out of the room and closed the door behind her. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Your last normal day

It's just another day, there's murder in the air
It drags me when I walk, I smell it everywhere
It's just another day where people cling to light
To drive away the fear that comes with every night

~~ "Just Another Day" by Oingo Boingo

In one of the many newsletters I read every day, the author posed an interesting question that someone had posed to him: when was your last normal day?

I thought about it and it didn't take me long to come up with the answer: March 7th. I had to pull up the calendar to make sure that was right because that was over three weeks ago! But yes, it was correct. Ken and I went downtown and met Shane and Matt at one of our favorite places, Woochi, for some Asian fusion cuisine. We had wonderful meals (as always), we had warm sake (also as always), and we had fun chatting about this and that. Then we walked down to the Morris and enjoyed a wonderful show, The Lion King. After the show, we had a drink at WXYZ Bar and talked about how much we enjoyed the show, and it was a very enjoyable evening. We walked back to our cars and parted ways with hugs all around. 

Shit, thinking about all that makes me want to cry. It seems like forever ago. I miss our nights out and I miss Shane and Matt. I miss my sisters and I miss my Mom. I miss seeing friends out and about and miss the buzz of a crowd enjoying a show. When I think about it, it's kind of dumb because I don't mind being at home and am actually quite content here. Even as introverted as I am, I still need an occasional boost from being around dear friends and family. It's hard to realize that we can't have that for a while. 

I went out to the grocery store after that but there was already plenty of buzz about social isolation and being careful. About a week after, we were set to have a fundraiser for the non-profit at one of our local favorites, South Bend Brew Werks. On the morning of the fundraiser, Ken got an email from the owner, Steve, who said that they were closing at noon and the fundraiser was off. That's when we knew shit was going to get real. I went to the store again the day after that and that was the last time I had been out until today. 

I had to go to pick up a prescription so decided to stock up for the long haul. I'm already well-stocked, but I wanted to get lots of fresh produce and will work on using that up. I'm sure I'll need to go out again at some point, but it will be a while. Being at the store today was a very strange experience. I felt very anxious. I felt in a hurry. I felt almost claustrophobic every time someone got a little too near. The stores weren't crowded and everyone behaved themselves but I still felt weirded out. I had no desire to dawdle and my main goal was to get what I needed and get out. The roads and parking lots weren't deserted, by any means, and I saw no stark images of desolation like the photos we're seeing of places like Times Square and Bourbon Street...usually bustling places that are now deserted. I'm sure our downtown area is a little more desolate because so many of those establishments are now shuttered. 

Usually, I enjoy being out in my Mustang, blasting some fun music, hearing that engine I felt like a little old lady, keeping my eye out for other cars more than usual, listening to our local NPR station as our Governor had a conference call with people around the state. I felt like I was paranoid and on high alert. Like danger was just around the corner! 

That's a little overly dramatic...but not by much. It was surreal. I posted a little about it on Facebook after I got home and I was both heartened and dismayed to see that others had had that same feeling when they had to go out. It was heartening because it was good to know that I wasn't alone in my feelings, but it was also dismaying to see that others are experiencing those same feelings. A couple of dear friends even said that they cried after they got home. That just broke my heart. 

This is anxiety-inducing for everyone. So please, please don't hesitate to reach out to others for support. Hit me up anytime if you need an ear. I'm not an endless wellspring of either strength or information but I will do my level best to listen and do what I can to answer your questions or just provide a word of encouragement. And believe me, there may come a time when I ask for encouragement myself. 

This is going to be weird for a while and we're going to start seeing some pretty grim numbers in the next couple of weeks. There is no getting around that. That kind of thing is out of our control. What we can control is our response. Will we treat others with kindness or hatred? Will we let fear control us or will we temper our fear with reliable information and science? Will we grasp desperately at nonsensical conspiracy theories or will we use our brains and THINK? 

I know what I plan on doing—and part of dealing with this is most definitely thinking things through and planning—and I hope you know what to do, too. Peace, love, rock & roll, and handwashing!