After Therapy (Sabine)

Photo by Brian Jiz on

After therapy, I follow Dr. Sims’ advice and take myself out on a date.

“Ask yourself why you choose to live in fantasy,” her words echo.

When the waiter comes to take my order, he asks if anyone will be joining.

I consider saying yes, but more pathetic than eating at a restaurant alone is being stood up by a date who doesn’t exist. And it doesn’t cure my ADHD—attention-deficit/hyperactive daydreaming.

Okay, that’s not a real diagnosis, but it was enough to get me an appointment with Dr. Sims.

And, as the waiter sits across from me, possibly…a date?

© 2023 Nortina Simmons

Previous: Back in Therapy (Hannah)

It’s StoryADay May! I’m not promising that I will write a story every day this month, but I’m going to try. Today’s prompt is simply to write a 100-word story. I had another story in mind for my Therapy Sessions series, but that one is much longer than 100 words. Maybe I’ll post it tomorrow or at a later date. For now, say hello to our newest character, Sabine!


I’ve come to realize that most men don’t know what they want.

The last time we talked, his answers were short. He seemed cold—standoffish even—like he was annoyed by my attempting to have a conversation with him, even though he was the one who had initiated it.

I decided to let him be. No use in wasting my time with a man I wasn’t even sure I was interested in. I was only entertaining him because I thought he liked me, but apparently, in our short courtship, I did or said something that he found unattractive, and rather than tell me plainly what that was, he decided it would be better to give me the cold shoulder and leave me guessing as to the cause of his sudden shift in attitude toward me.


I didn’t hear from him for a few weeks—long enough for me to forget him but short enough for me to wonder what was up when out of the blue, a text from him flashed on my screen. “Hi.”

I didn’t respond initially, but after a couple days, curiosity got the better of me and I replied back, “Hey!”

No response.

Fuck. Me.

It was obvious he was playing mind games with me now. Or maybe I was being a little too sensitive. I deleted the thread and moved on.

Or so I thought.

Two days later, he texted me again. “Hellllooo.”

Is this a drunk text? I thought, and I told myself in a mantra to ignore him: Just delete the message. What’s the point in trading “hellos” back and forth? You don’t want him—that’s clear—and he only wants to drive you insane with this hot and cold act. Don’t give him the satisfaction. Don’t give him the satisfaction. Do not give him the fucking satisfaction!

But the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. So I texted back, “Hi… How are you?”

Stupid move, because the ensuing conversation was the strangest interaction I’ve ever had with another “alleged” human being (because I’m starting to question whether this man is even real).

“I’m in a bad mood” was his answer.


“Don’t know.”

“You don’t know why you’re in a bad mood?”

“Why would I lie?”

“Because most people know why they’re in a bad mood— Or you’re lying to yourself.”

“I’m not.”

“Okay then.”

“But thx.”

I’m really beginning to wonder why I’m not a lesbian already because the mental gymnastics women have to go through just to understand what the fuck these indecisive men are thinking is exhausting.

© 2023 Nortina Simmons

It’s StoryADay May! I’m not promising that I will write a story every day this month, but I’m going to try. I had every intention to write a story inspired by today’s prompt, but then I had the strangest conversation, and I really need you guys to tell me I’m not the crazy one here because I don’t understand why this guy continues to consciously pick up his phone to text me only to say ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! The only reason why he’s not blocked yet is because he’s giving me material. 😂

While washing dishes

It’s ironic that something as mundane as washing dishes would summarize a tumultuous seven years in such a violent, sudsy clatter.

At mediation, when my soon-to-be ex-husband demands I return the ring, I whisper to my lawyer about the broken garbage disposal.

Joshua’s razor-sharp hearing picks up on my words immediately. Funny how he couldn’t put that superpower to use when I listed for him the things he needed to do to save our marriage.

Number 1 was Don’t fuck your secretary.

“You lost it on purpose,” he scoffs.

“I didn’t feel the ring slip off my finger.”

“And I suppose it’s my fault you never got it resized.”

“Silly me for expecting the man I’d been in a relationship with for half my life to know my ring size.” Twelve years of dating and seven years married, and he still can’t stand my sarcasm. I lean back in my chair satisfied that I’ve gotten under his skin.

“Did you even try to look for it?” he asks.

“Yes, I stuffed my whole fist into the tiny hole. You know what that feels like, right?” It was the exact position I found him in when I stopped by his office for a surprise lunch date, the secretary spread eagle on his desk.

Of the three of us, only the secretary was surprised.

“Let’s stay on task, please,” the mediator says, rubbing his eyes under his glasses. We’ve been at this for weeks, and we’re no closer to reaching a resolution now than we were when we first began the process.

It’s Joshua’s fault. He keeps adding things that shouldn’t even be on the table. Why should I give him the ring when it was his actions that dissolved our marriage? And if he is to succeed in his pursuit to get the house, I’ll need that ring to be able to afford a place to live!

“I told you I never wanted that garbage disposal installed!” I blurt out. “I watch too many horror movies.” My marriage was a horror. It took me 19 years to realize I was with a man who never respected me, who would add another dish caked with dried up marinara sauce to the sink after watching me clean the kitchen for 20 minutes. He’s destroyed my dignity, my self-worth and still isn’t satisfied. He wishes to take the last of what I own to complete the looting of my heart.

He would’ve loved it if my fear of a phantom garbage disposal suddenly switching on with my hand still inside had come true—shredded flesh and blood splatter spraying the dishes I’d just cleaned drying on the rack.

All for the twinkle of a half-carat diamond caught in a black abyss.

“Tell you what,” I say. “If you get the house, you can have the ring. If you can find it.”

But I will fight tooth and nail to keep this roof over my head, and when the divorce is finalized and he’s the one left with nothing, I’m ripping that goddamn garbage disposal out with my bare fucking hands.

© 2023 Nortina Simmons

It’s StoryADay May! I’m not promising that I will write a story every day this month, but I’m going to try. Today’s prompt is “Write a scene in which a character is looking for something or someone that has been lost.”

To Rewind Time

I remember that he’s married now, so I ask about his wife.

“Pregnant,” he says.

I wait for details, but he only adds, “Very pregnant.”

Out of decency, I think to congratulate him, recite some drivel about how happy I am for him, how I wish him nothing but the best—all lies.

“How’ve you been?” he asks. Such a generic question, but there’s a hint of genuine concern in his voice, as if he’s picked up on my misery—I make no effort to hid it, and he had always been empathetic toward my feelings, even when he was the cause of my grief.

I look up into his eyes, and their weariness makes me feel safe. Reason would convince me that his visible tiredness is because of a demanding wife who, big with child, has driven him to take extra shifts—ringing up chips and smokes for night owls and runaways like me being less strenuous than whatever hormonal crisis is unfolding at home—but I hold onto hope that seeing me again for the first time in five years has brought him to hate his own life, as I do mine.

“I’m being stalked by my boyfriend,” I tell him.

He laughs at what he thinks is an obvious joke, and a customer I don’t hear approach from behind taps my shoulder. It startles me so that a current of electricity shoots through me, surging underneath my skin, and it’s as if I’ve literally jumped out of my own body. I drop my bag of nabs along with the gallon bottled water onto the floor, hitting my big toe, and bite my tongue to keep from crying out.

“Excuse me, ma’am, I didn’t mean to scare you,” he says. He bends down to help me, but I push him away and quickly gather my things— I’ve stayed too long anyway. What good will it do me to explain to an ex, happily married, that I’ve continued making bad choices, even after he was gone? I’d be giving Craig more time to find me and force me back into his bed. I’ve wasted enough time; I must leave.

But I make the mistake of turning back before I exit the door, and he stares at me as he takes cash from the other customer. And I am still frozen by the door when the man rushes past, and we are again left alone in this silent gas station, save for the hum of the coolers on the back wall, there to let us know we are still being watched.

“Why don’t you call the police?” he asks.

I’ve tried. Even amid campaigns to end domestic violence, to look for the signs, pay close attention to the most subtle, they don’t believe me. The absence of physical scars doesn’t help, and the fact that they know Craig further discredits my case.

“He is the police,” I say.

“Damn.” He drums the tips of his fingers against the counter. I notice the nails are clipped too close to his skin, and I wonder if he still makes a habit of chewing them. He turns his head toward the short-circuit television, which displays the security cam footage in the store, and I step back, just out of shot, as another customer walks in, drawing the cool air outside with a draft. The bell above the door jingles, and I look down at the time on my wrist watch. Fifteen minutes and counting.

“Hey.” He comes from behind the counter, and in two strides he is right on top of me. I forget how tall he is—almost seven feet. He towers over me. I remember how he frightened me at times, even more when we argued. Now his eyes show a fierce anger, the deep amber in his irises pops out as in those of a predator, and all I want to do is faint into his arms like a damsel.

“I get off at eleven. Will you wait?” he asks.

I know I shouldn’t, and it’s selfish of me to keep him from his growing family, to worry him with my own feeble problems, especially when I’ve done this to myself, but his breath on my lips drowns me. My eyes roll closed, and I imagine how different my life would be if five years ago I had only said those four simple words he was desperate to hear come back to him as he cradled the velvet box behind his back: “I love you too.”


We’ve finally reached the last day Short Story A Day May, and today’s prompt sought to mock me. In attempt to write a story about a writer, I decided to write a story about a writer who couldn’t think of anything to write, and . . . well, I couldn’t think of anything to write. So I went back to an earlier story. I hope you enjoyed all of these short stories. Some were harder to write than others.

For the Sake of Humanity

Johnny hears the bells ringing, the booming whistle of the locomotive, and he races out of the house to the backyard, where the railroad plows right down the center and the grass and weeds have grown as tall as his hips.

“They’re here! We’re saved!” he shouts.

Sasha listens from the kitchen sink. She drops his plate into the soapy water, and using a wash rag, scrubs at the burnt goat cheese stuck to the bottom.

It’s been like this for months now. Johnny running out to greet rescue that will never come. People don’t exist anymore, at least not on this end of the tracks, not since the bomb.

She’s never even seen a train before in her life, except for pictures in books. And she regrets ever teaching him to read, because now those stories that fill the dusty bookshelves of his mother’s four by four closet-sized library flood his mind with ideas that they aren’t the only two people left in the world, that there are big cities and metropolises crowded with millions of people, that there are police departments, and fire departments, and army, and navy, and pararescue, and federal bureaus, and they are all out there desperately searching for them to bring them back to society.

Sasha was optimistic like that once. Until one day Johnny’s mother took her out onto the tracks, and they walked hours, until sundown, and there was nothing for miles, nothing but the brown overgrown grass, no sign of human life other than the rundown shack where they lived.

“Where did everyone go?” Sasha asked. She was too young to remember the bomb, but she remembered the chaos, the crime, the absence of government. She remembered watching a man stab her mother three times in the neck before stealing the worthless three dollars she’d stuffed in her bra. She remembered wandering onto Johnny and his mother’s farm delirious after going two days, three nights without food and water.

She will forever be grateful to Johnny’s mother for giving her shelter, although she knew the woman had other motives, motives she finally made clear on her deathbed when she made Sasha promise that when Johnny was old enough, she would be more than just an adoptive mother to him.

Sasha is nine years older than Johnny. When she first arrived on the farm she was fifteen and had just started her period amid all the anarchy, terrified of men and what they could do to her. When Johnny’s mother saw the blood on the back of her skirt, she must have thought of the future, of the possibility that Sasha and Johnny could be the only man and woman left, on this part of the earth at least, and that it was their responsibility to repopulate, the fate of human existence in their hands.

Sasha looks out the kitchen window. Johnny is standing on the rail platform waving his arms over his head for his imaginary train. He turns fourteen tomorrow. To her, he’s still a child, but he’s capable now, and she knows he’s curious. A few nights she’s woken up with him in her bed, his hands fumbling in his pants.

But is she ready?

She dries her hand on the apron tied around her waist. She made the old woman a promise, no matter how uncomfortable it makes her feel, Sasha owes this to her after everything she’s done to help her.

But she has to be sure that she and Johnny are the only humans left. So tomorrow she’ll take him down the train tracks, just as his mother had shown her, but this time they’ll go farther, as far as they have to. She’ll pack up enough food to last them days, weeks even. She won’t give up until she’s confident they are humanity’s only option.


It is Short Story A Day May, and today’s prompt asks us to write a Hansel and Gretel story, and while I thought I would skip out on this prompt, after reading Julie Duffy’s tips on the “Hansel and Gretel” story structure, I realize this story sounds more like Hansel and Gretel than anything I would have ever come up with if I had consciously tried to write it exactly. Don’t you love when that happens?


“Marry me,” she says.

I stare up at her from my hospital bed. If not for the morphine, I would half believe what I see is true. But then she touches my leg, and I feel nothing.

I try to say her name, “Shelia,” but my voice is raspy, my throat dry, as if I haven’t had a drink in days. I swallow and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. “Water.” It can’t be above a whisper, but she looks up and our eyes meet.

“You’re awake!” She turns and calls for a nurse, then drops to her knees. She scoops up and kisses my hand at my side over and over. I’m relieved to at least feel her soft, moist lips on my skin. “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” she repeats, and again she says, “Marry me,” but I’m still confused why she’s here, why we’re both here.

The nurse enters and says, “Mr. Boston, how are we feeling today?”

I shake my head. I can say nothing else.

“Do you remember being in a car accident?”

It’s foggy to me, but I do remember Shelia. I remember leaving the baseball game together after the fireworks show. I was mesmerized by how her eyes lit up the night, more even than the bursting kaleidoscope in the sky, and even though I should have been focused on the road and the stopped car in front of me—its break lights reflected in her olive skin—I wanted to lean over and kiss her, this girl I’ve loved since I was eleven, and tell her everything I ever felt, confess that I couldn’t be satisfied with just a friendship anymore, because I loved her too damn much to watch her give her heart to another man who could never treat her like the treasure she was, not like I could.

And now I wake up to her voice pleading, “Marry me,” and in my head I scream yes, yes, a thousand times, yes, even thought my lips don’t move.

“Can you feel that?” she asks. My heart beating through my chest? Of course I can, but she’s referring to the nurse who stands at the foot of the bed, the covers pulled back to my ankles. She pinches my big toe between her index finger and thumb and wiggles it around, but if I weren’t watching her I never would have registered that she was even in the room.

I close my eyes and pretend this isn’t my new reality, that I’m not paralyzed  from the waist down. But if this is just a dream I’ve woken into, then that means my love for Shelia continues unrequited, and somehow that seems like the bigger nightmare, so I open my eyes, the tears trailing down. Shelia is crying too. She leans down and kisses me on the cheek, so close to my mouth that my bottom lip tingles, and it’s the only feeling I could ever want.


It is Short Story A Day May, and today’s prompt asks us to write an ugly duckling story, but after receiving absolutely no inspiration from the prompt and spending all day writing, erasing, writing, erasing, I turned on the TV, and a man was saying he woke up in the hospital (after being run over by a train— ouch!) to a woman he never even dated asking him to marry him… And they got married! So this is my story. 🙂

Watermelon Season

I dreamt I ran him over, and the white women from work watched. Their eyes sought to spite me. I screamed to get help, but no one moved. “You’ll burn in hell for this, witch,” the woman in the center sneered. Her face grew redder with the inflection in her voice.

Looking in the rearview mirror, I see his blond hair first, combed to the right side of his head, the sides buzzed off. He stands behind my trunk, and I think about my dream, how I stood before a lynch mob as he lay dying. I’m tempted to shift the gear in reverse, fulfill the prophesy and accept my fate, but I take the key out of the ignition, shoulder my purse, and step out.

“Hey,” he says, waving both hands.

I nod, glance over my shoulder at the eight-floor office building looming over the parking lot.

“So do you have any plans for the weekend?”

I shrug. A car pulls into the empty space beside me. It’s the woman from my dream. Her brunette hair is chopped short and curled inside up to her ear. She cuts her eyes at me, and I quickly look down at my feet.

“Well, if you’re not busy, I was wondering if you wanted to go to the watermelon patch.”


He shakes his head, and his hair shuffles to the front of his face. He smiles, but I don’t smile back, and the loud door slam to the right turns our attention to the woman spying us over the top of her car.

I step closer, and whisper so she can’t hear. “Because I’m black, you think I like watermelon.”

“No, no!” His eyes widen. He backs up and instinctively looks to the woman, who still stares. She’s barely taller than her own car; she has to stand on her toes to watch us. I wish she’d go inside already. My throat tightens at the thought of her lassoing a noose around my neck and stringing me up onto the branches of one of the magnolias lining the walkway.

“It’s watermelon season. My uncle owns a watermelon patch. I like watermelon. I thought…”

“You thought what?”

The woman finally leaves us, but not before casting a scolding look in my direction. She must be content that he’s in no danger. He’s completed his job in offending me, and now I will leave too, scurry off to my tiny cubicle in the back of the office, segregated from the rest of them, and do my work silently as I’m told.

When the woman is out of earshot, he shoves his hands into his pockets and sighs. “I’m trying to ask you out on a date. Obviously I’m not doing a good job of it.”

I watch him as he looks everywhere but at me, and I wonder if he too is thinking of the consequences of my saying yes, if he’s dreamt of my death by his hand, of a mob of angry black women shooting curses, taking off belts, breaking off switches with which to whip him—the same weapons his people used to beat their souls down into the ground.

“We don’t have to go to the watermelon patch. We could do something different, like the movies, or dinner—what kinds of food do you like? I just wanted to do something different, something out of the box. You’re special, you’re different. I just wanted to do something nice for you.”

“Just be quiet.”

He instantly shuts his mouth, midsentence, and I lean against my side mirror. He waits for my answer, but I’m lost for words. My mind is stuck on “You’re special, you’re different.” Does he refer to my blackness? And again, I fear this proposal will only lead to our demise, that I will again be reminded of what we are. I am black, and he is white, and the world will always hate us for what we mean together, for what we are about to do.

And so I tell him, “I like watermelons too.”


It is Short Story A Day May, and today’s prompt asks us to write a non-traditional love story

A Mother Still

When she returned home from the hospital, she locked her doors and lay in the bed alone. She didn’t move; she couldn’t, the pain was too great. She felt as if pieces of her had been ripped out from the inside—they had. She felt she was hemorrhaging enough blood for two persons—She was.

When she bled through her pad, she didn’t attempt to change it. She couldn’t if she wanted. She was too sore to roll over onto her stomach—empty and full at the same time—slide one leg off the edge of the bed, and then the other, crouch onto the floor and then pull herself up, take one step, and then another to the bathroom too far away.

She couldn’t imagine sitting on the toilet, wincing under the ache of the muscles in her thighs and abdomen pulled tight, looking down between her thighs into the bowl of the commode and seeing remnants of a life swirling and blending with urine and water. To see it caught up in the fibers of a maxipad clung to her skin, like a nightmare trapped in the dreamcatcher’s net. To feel drops trickle down her legs when she stood and slowly dragged forever filthy clothing back over her hips.

She curled around the pill bottle clutched in her fist. Prescription pain medicine strong enough for her to become addicted to after the physical pain had left her, but the emotional trauma still remained. She hacked up saliva and mucus from the back of her mouth and used it to push two down her throat. She lay on her back, watching the ceiling spin overhead. When she closed her eyes, she dreamt of drowning, of splashing to the surface gasping for air, and tiny little hands, stubby little fingers, dunking her head back under.

She woke choking, unable to breathe, and when she looked up, she thought she saw eyes, narrowed and burrowing. She sat up. Through the pain, she crawled to the other end of the bed, to her purse hanging over the bedpost, and retrieved a pen from the front pocket. Lying back, she wrote upside down, crooked letters on he stomach, below her navel, against her throbbing womb, in red ink.

Believe me, I loved
you—Before Winter’s smitten
death—And even still.

© 2017 Nortina Simmons

It is Short Story A Day May, and today’s prompt asks us to write a story in the form of a series of letters. This haibun is the result of how I was inspired by the prompt—my “series of letters” coming together to form the melancholic haiku at the end of the story. 


Still no tug on the line. Rick takes a swig of water from his bottle, sloshes it in his mouth and swallows. We’ve been drifting four days now. If we don’t catch anything tonight, we’ll live, but our water supply is dwindling. Rick spits another mouthful into the ocean.

My mouth is parched. The salt in the air further dehydrates me. The sunburn on the back of my neck stings like I’ve been scraped with sandpaper, but I must reserve my water. My bottle is a quarter full, but it is more that what he has.

From the stern on the opposite end, Rick eyes the plastic bottle between my legs, licks his lips. “Lemme have a sip.”

My line suddenly starts to spin, and I snatch up the rod and reel it in, but it fights me, pulls me and the boat further out to sea. I take my eye off Rick for just a moment, when the head of the giant grouper breaks the surface, and he dives over to my side, nearly tipping the boat, and guzzles my water, every last drop.

Now we have three days.


It is Short Story A Day May, and today’s prompt asks us to write a prose sonnet: a story 14 sentences long. My favorite sonnet form is the Petrarchan sonnet, so this is a short story based loosely on that structure. And no, it is not a love story—not all sonnets are about love, obviously. 😉


She stares at the blaze reflected in the pond.

“What have I done?”

Emergency personnel will arrive soon. A fire of that size can’t go on unnoticed. She needs to disappear.

She cups her hands, sinks them beneath the surface, and splashes water on her face to wipe away the soot, but she feels she’s only smudged it deeper into the soft tissue of her skin, darkening her complexion to that of a solider in camouflage deployed to the South Asian jungle. He aims his rifle at the half-naked boy holding the grenade and debates whether to shoot, or let them both die.

She coughs into her arm, a dry, raspy cough that constricts her lungs. Smoke inhalation from staying inside too long, lingering by the crib in the nursery. She could’ve at least taken the baby. It never asked to be here, but then, it never asked to stay either.

And it was so much easier to escape without the burden of having to quell a crying child.


It is Short Story A Day May, and today’s prompt asks us to write a story with a hidden message. This is kind of a stretch, but I would say my hidden message is “between the lines,” meaning let the reader figure it out. What did our protagonist do that would force her to run away, and can you speculate why she did it?  By the way, the title is also a clue. 😉