Sugar Free

He asked me if I could go a month without sugar.

I hadn’t considered that he wasn’t referring to the pint of ice cream I’d eaten by myself when I told him yes.

The next morning, I reached up for a kiss, and he pushed me away. “Day one,” he said.

By Day 7, I was making love to my body-sized pillow.

On Day 15, he told me prayer could help. “It’ll teach you how to survive on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

“But I thought the test was to survive without sex.”

He still questions if I’m really religious.

I made it all the way to Day 29 without touching him, though I touched myself a few times–Lord, forgive me. 

On the eve of Day 30, I parked my car in his driveway with the Bible in my lap, waited until the clock struck midnight, then knocked on his door and demanded, “Give me some sugar.”


Challenge: Monday’s One-Minute Fiction (#1MinFiction)
Objective: Think up or write a complete story in one minute or less
Prompt: sugar

Forecast

“Careful. Hurricane’s out there churning.” Steve says. “Rip currents are strong.”

Always the meteorologist. Even on vacation. I hate it. I don’t need his job reminding me of how sad I am.

I step closer to the water’s edge, seashells making crescent moon imprints on the soles of my feet, spume from the crest of the waves kissing my toes.

It’s forecast veer north, fizzle out in the ocean, but how I wish it would stay the course. Make landfall. Pull me under and drag me out to sea. How I pray he would dive in after me, swim through the crashing waves, the salt in his eyes, the entangling seaweed and obstructing driftwood, to bring me back to him. Hell or high water. My life guard to press his lips against mine, breath the air back into my lungs, the beat into my heart.

Two days ago, he proposed, and when I told him no, he said work was moving him to Texas. There he’ll be an anchor, he tried to justify, more than just a weekend weatherman. People will see him.

How far is Texas? I Googled—nearly 1,500 miles. And away from me. He makes a living predicting the future in weather patterns, but he can’t see what’s right in front of him—the storm clouds gathering above my head, that I’m caught in a whirlwind, being pulled and tossed in different directions, falling apart.

Though he hasn’t explicitly said it, this trip feels like goodbye. Why continue in a relationship that will never end in marriage?

But the truth is I love him. More than the air in my lungs, more than the salt in the sea. More than I want to see the sun rise over the ocean in the morning, or his back shrinking behind the radar green screen.

Water splashes my hips. I’m deeper than I want to be, and when I turn around, he’s a retreating blur in my periphery. I’ve been drawn so far out already. Maybe it’s easier this way. He can climb back over the sand dunes and leave me here to prune. At least then he won’t see me cry, and I won’t have to explain again why it hurts too much to marry him.

Nortina

#1MinFiction: Final Stop

“No, sun. Go away.” Half her face hidden underneath covers, Leah watches Mischa stand in front of the balcony window, fully naked, only the ocean to see what gave her so much pleasure the night before.

She doesn’t want this cruise to end, doesn’t want to go back to Seattle, or Mischa to the other side of the Atlantic.

“Sink back into the sea,” she begs the sun. Give her one more night of love.

© Nortina Simmons


Monday’s One-Minute Fiction challenges you to write a story in one minute, no more, no less, based on the prompt provided. We’re finishing September with one last Alaska-themed prompt: an early morning sunrise.

Moving In

“Did you pack enough boxes?” he asks as he folds the cardboard box he just emptied of all my china under his arm and tosses it toward the trashcan, missing it completely.

I don’t tell him about the two bins still in my trunk stuffed with decorations for almost every holiday—Christmas, New Year’s Thanksgiving, Halloween, Easter, Fourth of July, even President’s Day. I’ll wait to unpack those tomorrow, while he’s at work.

I admit I’m a bit of a hoarder, but just as he would’ve inherited a single mother’s snot-nosed kids, all my stuff instantaneously became his the day he married me.

At least we can both agree children will never be in the picture. I have no intentions of sharing him . . . ever. And in this big house, there are so many places we have yet to christen. Including the kitchen counter.

It takes me a few hops to pull myself on top of it, and once I’m up, I spin around to face him, shimmy my shoulders and let the spaghetti straps of my top fall to my elbows like melting ice cream.

“Are we ever going to eat off these?” he asks, oblivious to my advances. He taps his knuckles against the stack of gilded porcelain plates.

“Of course,” I lie, waving off the flying dust. We haven’t used them since Grandma died and left them for me in her will. Only for show, Mama always said. It’s good to have nice things.

“But not tonight.” Tonight, I have other plans. I pull him to my lips by his shirt collar and he stumbles over the box still containing all of my kitchen gadgets next to his feet—the handheld and electronic mixers (because I couldn’t have just one), the blender, food processor, and Spiralizer (how many ways can one chop up veggies?), the juicer that I’ve only used once since buying it five years ago.

Photo by @_WILLPOWER_ from nappy.co

“We’ve wasted enough time already,” he breathes into my mouth, reminding me of the housewarming we’ve pushed back twice now.

“But we have the rest of our lives,” I say. What are ten more boxes left—or twenty. I’ve lost count. My head spins when his bare chest is pressed against mine. His body heat melts my candle wax like fire.

“This is all I need,” I tell him, and he mounts the counter top to join me.

© Nortina Simmons

Spawning

The thunderous roar of the rushing water captures everyone’s attention. Waterfalls have a knack for drawing in large crowds.

No one bothers to look upstream, where the salmon spawn. Where Rick and I undress, neatly fold our clothes and lie them on the dampened boulders that line the banks.

The water is warmer than I expect. But then I’m burning with impatience, and I’m numb below my waist, eager only for his touch.

He slowly approaches, and I drop to me knees, as gracefully as I can, splashing the shallow water, sinking into the sediment and broken-up rocks, hoping not to disturb the female laying her eggs next to me.

His everything in my face, I open my mouth and let him in, and it’s as if everything in this dense Alaskan rainforest—one hundred years ago buried under sheets of ice—goes silent. Watching.

A drop on my forehead, and then a drizzle. We hear the patter of feet as waterfall spectators race back to the shelter. No one veering off the path, where the shrubs part, to climb down the steep hill and catch a glimpse of mother nature doing her best work.

The ripples in the water multiple as we lie midstream, the surface barely covering his back. The rain picks up, urging him on, and with each draw back and thrust forward, he creates tiny waves that crash against the back of my thighs as we copulate alongside the salmon in a place reserved for wildlife, letting our primal instincts loose.

—Nortina

Total Eclipse

She stares afar off, as if in a trance.

“Tell me what you’re thinking,” he says, curls a lock of hair behind her ear.

She tries, but doesn’t know. Thinks, but her mind is empty. She likes it when everything is blank. When the anger and the hatred of the world can’t touch her. When all she has is the blue in the sky, the green in the grass, as she imagines them. And him, lightly pecking the bone of her shoulders with his soft butter lips.

“I love you,” he whispers. She’s waited thirty years to hear those words, since the last time she’s looked at the sun. Though she can’t see his eyes, she pictures them as they were at fifteen, pools of aquamarine, dripping with affection.

She turns her head and finds his mouth. Sends her tongue searching as the silence descends, as the air cools.

“Look up,” she breathes, kissing the lids of his bare eyes. “Look up and see me.”

O is for Optional

Originally published April 17, 2015 for the A to Z Challenge. A version of this poem will appear in Chapter One of the novella, when Jessica looks at another “option” from Whitmore on her blind date with Bruce. 😉


Optional
A poem by Jessica Ryan

Relationships are optional.
You cannot mandate my marriage
to cure your loneliness, and I
do not need your love
to make my life complete.

I’ve kissed more boys
than I can count
and have loved less.
My feelings intensify and
fade like the seasons.
Do not mention marriage in the summer
and never children in the snow.
Laugh at my jokes and I’ll
pretend your confessions of
undying infatuation don’t amuse me.

I do not require the world,
only a small park bench outside where
the wood can rot; the paint can chip.
Sit next to me and hold my hand.
Ask of nothing; demand even less.
If mandates spew from your lips,
eliminating my free will, I’ll add you
to my list of boys I’ve kissed
and never loved.

—Nortina

 

N is for Nice Guys

This poem, originally published April 16, 2015 for the A to Z Challenge, received a major revision last month (see “Chivalry is Dead”). The revision will be in the novella as part of Chapter 2. In fact all of Chapter 2 will see some significant changes from the A to Z Challenge. While I didn’t break the original challenge up into chapters, G is for Girlfriend Whisperer, I is for Insecure, J is for Jealous, and this post are all part of Chapter 2. When I finish the novella, you’ll see how much they’ve changed. 😉

While I did revise the poem, I still enjoy reading the original. It describes Whitmore and his “priorities” so well! I hope you enjoy it too. 🙂


Jessica stared into her blurred reflection as the steam filled the bathroom and condensation accumulated on the mirror. She thought about something that Alex once told her:

“It’s the ‘nice guys’ you have to watch out for. They think that because they don’t curse, or drink, or smoke, or do drugs, or beat you, or cheat, or do whatever, they deserve special privileges. And when they don’t get those special privileges, when they don’t get the girl, when they don’t get the mind-blowing sex from the beautiful damsel that misogynist TV promised them, they go nuts. Whitmore is a ‘nice guy,’ and he’s going nuts right now because you won’t give him what he wants.”

Whitmore wasn’t a nice guy. He wouldn’t be so cruel as to make a woman feel guilty for not loving him. She did care for him in the beginning, but it was so hard to fall in love with a man who tried to make her become his personal savior, who would die if she weren’t near. Why put her under so much pressure? Why give her so much control? Why have his life and happiness so dependent on whether she loves him back?

“Nice guys always finish last,” Whitmore had told her when they were still getting to know each other. They were on their third date and had arrived to the movie theater half an hour early. Jessica had suggested they play in the small arcade in the lobby while they waited. Because that was the type of woman she was. She liked to dive back into her childhood whenever she could. She wanted to race, shoot hoops, play air hockey, battle in Mortal Kombat, swing her hips and jump on arrows while Dance Dance Revolution played “It’s Raining Men.” Whitmore was too serious. After she beaten him in a motorcycle race through the streets of Los Angeles, he wanted to talk about why all his past relationships failed.

“I think it’s because we go for the wrong kinds of women. The ones who can’t see how lucky they are. They’d rather chase the dirt they’ve been with most of their lives than cherish the good thing they have in us.”

Jessica turned around and unplugged the tub drain for the second time that night. At this rate, she would never take her bath, but she needed to write how she was feeling while it was still fresh on her mind. Maybe a poem could assuage her torment better than a hot, bubble bath.

 

Last in the Race

A poem by Jessica Ryan

He runs.
And runs.
And keeps running.
But there’s never a finish line.
Never a blond, busty babe
Waving a checkered flag,
Indicating he’s won.
And why should there be?

Why should he expect the
Congratulatory kiss from
A woman who’s last love interest
Was his reciprocal?
A 6’5 delinquent who
Blanketed himself in tattoos,
Wore his hat cocked to the side,
Held his pants up by the crotch
Because he didn’t believe in belts,
Had a drawer full of wife beaters,
And become one himself.

He runs.
Runs towards his unattainable dream girl
At the end of the tunnel.
A woman he believes he can
Save from all the heartbreaking, abusive
Cheaters of the world.
His heart driven only by
the smile on her face.
Until he realizes heartbreak and abuse
Are what she craves.
She jerks her hand away
When he leans to kiss it.
She speaks of feminism
When he opens doors,
Guides her through.
Chivalry is dead.
Chivalry is an excuse for men
To treat us as objects.
She breaks into hives
When he sends her daisies.
She complains.
Why ask me what I want all the time?
Stop being so nice.
I can’t stand a Yes Man!

He runs blindly,
Chasing after an angel
With a devil’s attitude,
Not realizing her independence
Will drive him away,
Too desperate to have
Her lustful appearances
Strike jealousy in the hearts
Of the boys back home
Whose definitions for beauty
And booty are the same, and
Intelligence is of no relation.

He competes against able-bodied men
Who can hoist their conceited winnings
Above their heads
Without trembling.
His only trophy is an hourglass.
Each grain of sand
Falling to the base,
Counting the hours, minutes, seconds
He runs in a race he’ll never finish.

M is for Makeout Session

Originally posted April 15, 2015 for the A to Z Challenge.

He kissed her. And he kissed her again. And again. And before they both knew what was happening, Jessica had one leg wrapped around Bruce’s hips, his hand running up and down her thigh. She cupped the back of his neck and dug her fingers into his scalp, pulling him closer, biting and sucking his bottom lip, all while the music played and couples danced around them, oblivious to the rising sexual tension at the center of the dance floor.

Bruce was the first to break away.

“Let’s get out of here,” Jessica said under heavy breathing.

“Following you,” Bruce said.

***

When Bruce pulled into the parking lot of Jessica’s apartment complex, he had barely enough time to put the car into park before Jessica was on his lap, showering his neck with quick wet kisses.

“Should we give your neighbors a show or go inside?” Bruce asked. He had one hand underneath her shirt and the other inching closer and closer inside her yoga pants.

“It’ll be more comfortable.” Jessica swung the door open and climbed out, honking the horn in the process.

They raced up the stairs. Once on the third floor, Bruce picked her up in his arms and wrapped her legs around his waist. Kissing her, he pinned her against the door to her apartment. The door gave way behind their pressure, and they fell inside. Jessica hit her head on the hardwood underneath the thin carpet of her living room floor.

“Ouch!” She rubbed the back of her head.

“Your door is flicted,” Bruce said. He pulled her to her feet and closed the door behind him.

“You have to slam it,” Jessica said.

“It’s alright.” He turned the deadbolt and pounded the door with his fist to make sure it was secure.

“So . . .” Jessica said, rocking on her heels.

“So . . . ” Bruce imitated. “What do you want to do?”

“Well that entrance kind of killed the mood.”

“It doesn’t have to.” Bruce leaned down and lightly kissed her chin, grazing over her bottom lip.

Jessica felt like butter. She sunk into his embrace as he tilted her head back and kissed her chin again, and then her lips, nose, forehead, and back down. “I wish I met you two years ago,” she moaned.

“Tell me what you want now,” Bruce whispered in her ear. He closed his mouth around her earlobe and sucked it gently.

“I want—” Jessica closed her eyes and let him massage her face with his lips. She wanted to forget about Whitmore. Not just for the moment, but forever. If only Bruce could kiss her forehead and absorb the memories of the last two years onto his tongue like a sponge and wring them out over the balcony. If she could spend one night with him and be free of her contractual obligation of love, marriage, and children to Whitmore. Just to lie in Bruce’s arms and not have to worry if it would produce a relationship, if he’ll want more than just sex from her, or if he’ll try to force her into something she wasn’t ready for.

She wanted something easy. Comfortable. She wanted to feel without a controlling hand. She wanted to live for tonight and not worry about tomorrow. She wanted spontaneity. She wanted to fuck. She wanted to have an orgasm. She didn’t care that it was cheating. That it would kill the man who had been killing her slowly for the last two years, draining her with his expectations, his demands, his insecurities, his need for a woman to be the foundation of his existence.

She was sick of planning, Whitmore. She was sick of having to prove herself, Whitmore. She was sick of feeling shackled down, Whitmore.

She tugged at Bruce’s pants. “I’ll tell you what I don’t want,” she said.

“Tonight, he doesn’t exist.”

Jessica nodded and backed down the hallway, swaying her hips. “Are you coming?”

“Lead the way.” Bruce undid his belt, and Jessica grabbed the buckle and pulled him down the hall to her bedroom.

—Norina

L is for Lesbian Feminist

The original story behind how Whitmore and Jessica met, posted April 14, 2015 for the A to Z Challenge. Their background has changed significantly since then (see here).

As you know, I’m trying to make Whitmore less of a creeper—he was “likable” at one point. Ultimately I want the reader not to like Whitmore, not to hate him either, but just to feel sorry for him. He just flew too close to the sun…


Whitmore was never a confident man. He attended poetry readings and stalked women from the corners of darkened auditoriums, hazy hookah bars, and damp cafeteria halls, praying that one of them would notice his stance against the wall—left hand under right armpit, right hand scratching goatee, left leg crossed over right leg, ankles touching—the soft-spoken, introverted gentleman no woman could resist ignoring. He stared intensely as women chanted, “What happened to me was not my fault!”

“Excuse me. Is anyone sitting here?” he would ask softly to the women chanting the loudest, and they would shake their heads, invite him to join their tables, remark on how well dressed he was in his dark, gray vest, and burgundy shirt with cuff-links, the collar spritzed with a cinnamon scented cologne. He would show off that crooked grin, one eyebrow raised higher than the other, one eye squinting while the other wide open, and the women would laugh at his sense of humor, deceived by a mask that hid a broken man inside who was hurting because of a woman, and who wished to fool other women into assuming those wounds under the illusion of love, respect, and loyalty.

If only Jessica had told him the seat next to her was taken. If only she had told him that her best friend had gone to the ladies’ room and would be right back, or that she was expecting her boyfriend to arrive very soon. But she didn’t. She saw him hovering over her and she smiled, invited him to sit down.

“I love Staceyann Chin,” she whispered to him while the poet performed. “She is so inspiring! So liberating! She motivates me to be angry. To confront all the bullshit in this world. The bullshit done to women!”

“Do you come to her readings a lot?” Whitmore asked.

“Oh, yes. And before you ask, no, I am not a lesbian.”

“Why would I ask that?”

“I’ve been to at least five of her readings, and there’s always one guy surfing through the audience using that tired-ass pick-up line, because apparently, all feminists are men-hating lesbians. Please tell me you’re not that guy tonight.”

“Nope, just a fellow lover of poetry.”

“It’s like therapy, isn’t it? Do you write?”

“I’m not as dynamic as she is,” he said over the roaring crowd as Staceyann Chin finished her final poem and held her arms out to the side to bow in front of her applauding fans.

Jessica stood to her feet, clapping and screaming over everyone else. She turned to Whitmore. “Write me something,” she said, pinching his upper arm, “and I’ll be the judge of that.”

Whitmore nodded. “Can I call you sometime?”

“Sure.” She recited her number as he keyed it into his phone. She was gone before he could ask for her name, pushing her way into the line for autographs and pictures. He thought to follow her, but decided against it. He watched as Jessica’s face lit up when her favorite poet wrapped her arms around her and posed for a picture. Staring into her bright eyes and glowing smile, Whitmore forged lines of poetry in his mind.

… I lay dead this morning…

… then an angel descended from heaven…

… clothed in silk …

… breathed divine oxygen into my lungs…

… her smile …

“I have to see that smile again,” Whitmore said to himself. “It is my therapy.”

—Nortina