Love is #4

Love is

when he’s holding your hand

and struts down the street

like he’s a peacock in the zoo

because he’s got the smartest,

kindest,

prettiest

woman to call his wife

(and you know this is true

because he tells you

in so many ways

everyday).

(C) Sara Ackerman, 2017

 

Love is #3

Embed from Getty Images

Love is

when he prefers sleeping hot

but still lets you put

 your icy hands on

his back.

(C) Sara Ackerman, 2017

 

So We Ran

Embed from Getty Images

I found her lying on the cracked linoleum floor, soaked in a pool of her own blood. The door thrashed on its hinges as the wind whipped through the tiny kitchen to blow the papers she had stacked with painstaking precision around the room. A blizzard of fluttering white swarmed my mother, the rarest of winter roses, who blossomed beneath the papers’ hurried flight, her body blooming in vibrant, rich pools encircling the fragile remains of her broken shell. 

Her eyes were still open, and her pupils dilated until the irises were nothing more than brown rims around fathomless black pools. Fear hung heavy on the air, its metallic tang fueling my own anxiety until an erratic thrum pounded through my veins, urging me to flee.

I knelt beside her and took her hand. Her eyes rolled in her head, but my whispered “Mama?” focused her gaze on me. She squeezed me hand and whispered, “Run,” then took a shuddering breath, a wispy fragment of remembered humanity, and died. 

I took the stairs two at a time, woke my younger sister, grabbed our emergency packs we stored underneath our beds and fled into the enveloping darkness. 

We ran. We ran through the night, past towering pines and over beds of fragrant sweet grass. No one who followed would notice the path of our hurried flight. We were surefooted and silent as does. Even the animals  avoided us, perhaps because we still smelled of fear and grief, so we ran unhindered farther and farther into the forest. The dense foliage hid us from circling helicopters, their angry buzz becoming less incessant the deeper we ran. Even the search dogs’ barking grew fainter, their scenting abilities confused by our masked scent. Day after day, we ran.

At least with our feet in motion flying across the fragrant forest floor, we could pretend for just a little bit longer she hadn’t died. We could imagine a childhood free from paranoia, locked doors, furtive whispers and from hiding in plain sight. We could convince ourselves she had been a normal mother who taught us to bake instead of how to load and shoot a weapon in less than a minute, or that family trips had been to the mall and not survival training deep in the wilderness. That photos on the wall were of family members and loved ones, not a complicated web of key government officials and their biographies she had forced us to remember.  While running, we could pretend her mania had been the over protective instincts of a single mom and not symptoms of a deeper disturbance.

Because to stop running was to give up hope. It was admitting the monsters she had warned us about weren’t real, a truth more frightening than the evil who trailed us even now.

Running held back fear. Running kept us alive. It was the only thing we knew how to do.

So we ran. 

(C) Sara Ackerman, 2017

The Gypsy Curse Part 3

One week later, Amelia and her sisters were in the fields near the forest playing hide and seek, and she had been it for the last quarter of an hour. She hated being it because she could never find anyone. Five minutes of half-hearted searching later, she gave up, too bored to continue.  With an unladylike plop, she slumped to the ground and leaned  on a fallen log, grateful the sun was shining. The gentle rays helped chase away the nagging fear  plaguing her all week. Flinging an arm over her eyes, she slipped into drowsy relaxation.

The warmth disappeared, and the field darkened. A shiver stole up her spine, and she rolled over, curling  on her side to continue her rest. “Oh, bother. Go away clouds. I am trying to sleep,” she muttered. The clouds, alas, were immovable.  She cracked open an eye to investigate but a looming shadow obscured her vision. It blocked the sun and inspired a grim sort of dread which beat a steady rhythm in her head. The shadow advanced, and two gnarled, weathered talons outstretched to grab her.  She opened her mouth and screamed.

The figure moved and her eyes, now accustomed to the unnatural twilight, discerned an old woman dressed in a faded blue dress with a wide purple velvet sash tied in the middle. A colorful shawl draped over her stooped shoulders and a scarf wrapped round her head, neatly framing her wild mane of silvering hair.

“Are you one of my little liars?” she asked, her thick accent clipping each syllable until the words were nothing more than a litany of jagged consonants firing in her mind.

“You’re supposed to be gone! My papa told you to leave a week ago.”

The old woman cackled and rubbed her hands together. “You know who I am. Good.”

She shrank against the log and wrapped her arms about her knees.

“I see you are afraid. That is also good.”

“What do you want with me?” she whispered.

“Not just you, little girl. I also want your sisters, too.” A delighted smile cracked her tanned, wizened  visage, but her gap-toothed smile did nothing to ease her fear.

“They’re not here.”

“They’ll come. I saw them hiding not too far away from here.”

From the forest  came a loud cracking of branches alerting her to the truth of the old woman’s statement. Her two sisters emerged from the forest and ran to her, Beatrice yelling at the top of her lungs, “Amelia! We’re coming!”

Spying the old woman, they skidded to a halt and in wary apprehension, looked at her and the old woman. Evie whimpered and ran to huddle beside Amelia while Beatrice, ever the eldest, stood  in front of her sisters. Drawing herself up to her full height, she demanded,“Who are you and what do you want with my sister?”

Amelia admired her sister’s bravado, for she saw what it cost her. Small hands clutched her skirts in a white-knuckled death grip and the usual rosy sheen which graced her young face  had been leeched of color.

“I am just an old woman passing through the forest.”

Beatrice assessed the old woman, taking in her faded garments and weathered face. “You’re a gypsy!” With her chin held high, she waved her hand in the air in a blatant act of dismissal. “Be gone!  My father has evicted  your kind for your treachery against his hospitality!”

“Our treachery, Lady Beatrice?” The old woman whispered, venom lacing each word. She advanced on the girls, pinning them against the fallen log. Soon, her wrinkled face was looming over Beatrice’s, her eyes dark and angry. “Don’t you mean yours?”

“How do you know my name?” Beatrice stammered, her eyes darting  from the old woman to her sisters behind her. Having reached the end of her courage, she held out her hand to Amelia and grasped it in her own. She pulled Beatrice down with a plunk to sit beside her.

“I knew we wouldn’t get away with it, Bea.”

The old woman had heard, and she nodded.”I know all about you three and what you did last week.”

Amelia’s lower lip trembled and she asked, “What are you going to do to us?” Because there had to be a consequence. There was always a consequence.

“I intend to make it right.” The old woman raised her arms and the clearing stilled. The bird song quieted and the gentle wind which had been rustling the leaves and feathering the grass ceased.  A terrible light gleamed from the gypsy woman’s aged eyes.

“For your lie, an innocent man was tried and found guilty of a crime he did not commit.” The once dormant wind rose and whipped through the clearing, slashing her silvered hair against her face and howling its outrage as it tore across the grass and through the tree grove. Clouds rolled up and over each other, ripping apart the sky with its upheaval.

“It was you who were too weak to tell the truth, and have forever condemned an innocent to life far from his family!” She pointed a gnarled finger at the three sisters. “And so, I curse you.”

When the last of the three had been cursed, the old woman’s arms dropped. Revenge faded from her eyes only to be replaced with sad resignation. The winds died and the clouds sped across the sky. Light flooded the clearing, but the girls could not see. Fear clouded their vision and possessed their minds.

The old woman raised her right hand and made the sign of the cross, a sad smile on her face. “Te aves yertime mander tai te yertil tut o Del.”* With a final look at the three sisters, the old gypsy woman walked to  the woods and vanished.

 

*I forgive you and may God forgive you as I do.

© Sara Ackerman 2016

World Wide Release Wednesday

Little White Lies ebook available as of today! It’s 50% off at Wild Rose Press, Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I’ll be available from 12:30-2:30 CST for live chat on my Facebook page. Stop on over at https://www.facebook.com/saraeackerman/ to chat. #TWRPLittle White Lies poster 16 ackerman

Friends?

I hurt your feelings today when I told you I was not your friend. I saw the disappointment and confusion on your face, and believe it or not, it pained me to say it. I want to explain. I do like you; in fact, I think you are a pretty amazing person. Our relationship is important, yet I wouldn’t call it a friendship.

Think for a moment about what a friend is. You’ve probably had many who have filled different needs as you matured and made your way through life, so you’ve got a pretty good idea what a friend is and isn’t. At this age, a friend is probably someone you share your secrets with. She’s someone to text in the middle of the night, chatting about the latest gossip or what to wear the next day. A friend is the person who knows what makes you laugh  and can comfort you when you are sad. Together, you do all sorts of stuff like hanging out, listening to music, going to the movies or staying at home binging on cookie dough and watching TV. Your friend is there for you no matter what.

Except for when she’s not. There may be times when your friend is distant. She may have her own struggles you know nothing about. You will fight, as girls usually do, and there will be long periods where you don’t talk, where she ignores you and hangs out with other people. Then you have to figure out if your friendship is worth saving. If it’s not, you’ll find a new friend, someone else with whom you can post photos on Instagram. Another person will fill the seat next to yours on the couch as you two marathon the latest episodes of your favorite show on Netflix.

That person can not be me. Do not think that because I am not your friend I do not care. I do care. Your well-being and success in life are my number one concern. I am your loudest cheerleader and your strongest supporter. I am here for you no matter what.

I don’t care what you wear, what music you think is cool, or who should get together on some TV show. If you get mad and yell at me, I won’t go into a pout and refuse to speak to you. I won’t talk about you behind your back, or cut you out of social functions. You are important to me, and I value our relationship.

But it’s not friendship. Because those times you do get mad and lash out, I will correct you and hold you responsible for your actions. If you falter, I will pick you up, and I will teach you how to stay strong. Those times you find you are alone and in need of rescuing, I am a phone call or a text away, even if it means driving to some back-woods party at 2 a.m. to pick you up because there was no one else for you to call.

So, dear child, we can’t be friends because I am something far more durable than that; I am your teacher, and whether you’re fifteen or fifty, I will be there for you.

 

Stories from the Trenches: In which I almost become someone’s tia (Part 1)

Embed from Getty Images

‘It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman in possession of hips as wide as the Panama Canal and knockers that could pass as cantaloupes must be in want of a husband.’–Jane Austen (er, as paraphrased by me)

Whenever I visited families, there was always a group of women whose curious brown eyes assessed me covertly, taking the measure of my character and noting the ample acreage of my hips. Upon discovering that I was a single mother, their eagerness to see me wed into their family only increased. Over time, their covert gazes turned into outright interrogation as these Latina mamas began a stealthy campaign to have me married to any eligible bachelor that lingered about their family tree. At first I thought I could easily evade their attempts at matchmaking–not ready to tie the knot quite yet–but I soon discovered that their methods rivaled those of any seasoned military officer.

Stage 1: The Interrogation

“So, maestra,” Maria, the mother of two of my high schoolers innocently asks, “you’re not married, are you?”

“No, I’m not married,” I respond. I notice a glance pass between Maria and Maria’s sister, Sofia. “Some day I’d like to be married, though.”

“You’ve dated before?” she continues a little more aggressively.

“Yes, I’ve dated before,” I say a bit defensively. “I’m just focusing on my career right now, not on my personal relationships.”

Maria smiles sweetly and continues to pry, “You do find Latino men attractive, no?”

I stare at her, mouth slightly agape, unsure of when the conversation took this turn.

Sensing my hesitation, Maria laughs lightly and leans toward me conspiratorially. “Oh, come now, maestra. We are all women here. You can tell us that you honestly think.”

“Yes maestra,” Sofia, chimes in with a sideways glance at her sister, “what do you think of our Latino men?”

Cautiously, I respond with what I hope is a diplomatic answer, “I find the Latino people to be a handsome people.”

Apparently not satisfied with my response, Maria walks to the bookshelf on the far side of the room and reaches for a well-worn photo album. Flipping through the pages, she finds what she is looking for and says rather impatiently, “Here, look at him.”

She hands me a photograph of a smiling Latino man standing next to her husband in a photo taken somewhere in Mexico. “Don’t you think he is a handsome man?” she asks smiling sweetly pointing to the photo in my hand.

Two can play this game, Maria, I think to myself. Smiling innocently at her, I reply, “Yes, your husband is a handsome man.” I point at photos of her children on the wall and add, “You have beautiful children, too.”

I can see she is beginning to lose patience with me but before she can demand another answer, her husband calls from the kitchen, “Maria, the timer!”

Gratefully, I use this distraction as an excuse to check my watch.

“Oh, my,” I say with feigned surprise. “It’s 4:12? Already? I really must be leaving for another appointment I just remembered I have.” With a polite smile and hurried good byes, I make it to my car and out of the parking lot in less than two minutes.

I ponder Maria’s strategy and think to myself, She’s good. But I won today.

Maria 0, me 1

Stay tuned for part 2 of “In which I almost become someone’s tia” and find out how Maria used foot soldiers (aka her children) to try and break down my defenses.

Remember to like this story on my page if you enjoyed it!