The Struggle Is Real

I’m struggling, y’all. Struggling to find inspiration. Struggling to write something worth reading. Struggling to write anything that won’t get decimated when my trigger-happy finger presses the backspace key. I can’t even think of a good Monday’s #1MinFiction prompt. Hence why there hasn’t been one for the last two weeks.

I guess I’ve been busy. I got a new job editing “science-y” articles. I’m not a “science-y” person, and the “science-y” lingo is frying my brain. Who knows if that’s the true reason for this current bout with writer’s block, but that’s the excuse I’m going with for now.

Then again, I don’t really want to use it as an excuse, because I actually like my job… A LOT. Some nights, I sit up and think, “Wow, I actually made it. I actually found a job in my field. And it has benefits. Paid vacation. Paid holiday. An optional work from home week for the Fourth of July! All that money I wasted, er, paid (am still paying) for a degree actually means something now! Shoot, maybe I’ll get my degree framed. Maybe I’ll hang it up on the wall!” And it’s nights like those when I feel most inspired to write again, and I post encouraging tidbits like this.

But the fiction has been few and far between, the poetry even less. I don’t know why that is, I don’t know why the creativity in me is so spent, especially when the ideas have all been there. It’s the writing, the writing . The turning it into an actual story or poem, a piece of art (because what are writers if not artists?) that just can’t come together for me.

Recently, I received an email from Camp NaNoWriMo. Yes, camp is starting again, and I want to use this year’s camp to find my drive for writing again. Writing something, anything, even if it’s just 100 words a day, even if those 100 words are total rubbish, at least they’ll be rubbish that I wrote and rubbish that I was confident enough about to hit publish for. And no, I won’t wait until to July to get started. Any more waiting, and I’ll just talk myself right out of doing. I’ve been talking myself out of doing a lot of things for far too long. That ends today…

“Hiding in Bathrooms” — An Excerpt from Love Poetry

Now she really had to go to the bathroom. She pushed her way into the narrow stall directly behind her, hiked up her skirt, dropped her panties to her knees and fell into a squat over the too short toilet, suitable more for kids than anyone over five feet, despite being in a facility requiring an eighteen-year age minimum. She held her phone away from her ear and let herself go, hoping the sound of her peeing would deter him, but either he didn’t hear it or he chose to ignore it because he continued to talk. 

“If you had answered any of my earlier phone calls–“ 

“What do you want, Whitmore?” Jessica repeated more sternly, speaking over the automatic flush of the toilet.  

There was a long pause; he must have heard it this time, contemplating whether or not to continue with the conversation, Jessica having no more respect for him than to wait until they were off the phone before she decided to use the bathroom. But there was also the possibility that it flattered him, that she valued their relationship so much that she would stay with him on the phone, even while having to relieve bodily urges. Bile rose at the back of her throat. Please don’t let it be the latter. She didn’t want to give him any more hope that this relationship could be saved. As far as she was concerned, it was over. There was no coming back from the invasion of her privacy, even if he suspected her of cheating. Confront her like a normal person and break things off. But she knew Whitmore could never do that. He was too desperate to be loved, even if it meant forcing a relationship with a women who didn’t love him back. 

“I just want to apologize for this morning.” 

“You can’t even say what you did.” Which told Jessica he didn’t think what he did was wrong, and if he in anyway tried to justify himself, she would hang up. 

“But you’ve got to understand my point of view.” 

Hang up, Jessica. 

“I didn’t know where you were, and I kept thinking about what happened with Layla.” 

Hang up, Jessica. 

“She was cheating right under my nose, and I was too stupid and naïve to see it.” 

Hang up, Jessica. 

“It killed me, and I couldn’t help but go back to that dark place when you–“ 

Finally she hung up. Pressed her thump firmly on the end key. She wasn’t listening to that sob story again. How he attempted suicide the night Layla finally called it quits, took half a bottle of sleeping pills and washed it down with vodka. Whitmore was the type of person to threaten with self-harm to guilt a woman in to submission, but not for a second did Jessica believe he actually went through with it. And she wasn’t going to let his little pity part keep her hostage in this bathroom another second.  

It was times like this, when she wished they were still in the flip phone age of cell phones, she would slam the top down with such emphasis. Or if she had a landline she would slam that handset back on the switch hook, knowing surely he would hear the force behind it, at it loudly collided with different parts of the base before at last connecting with the hook, sounding the final dial tone to solidify her complete annoyance and frustration in having to speak with him at all, leaving no doubt in his mind that the conversation was over and that she wanted to hear nothing more from him that night. 

The touch screen hang up was too soft, easily misinterpreted for a weak signal, a dropped call, and inadvertent swiping of the face which ended in an accidental disconnect. It would prompt him to call back, innocently asking questions like “What happened?” and “Are you still there?” 

Not wanting to give him the chance, Jessica quickly pressed the power button until the screen faded to black. If there was any question behind why she hung up, going straight to voicemail would give him his answer. At the very least she could finish this night without further distractions. 

She shoved the door open, clouds of smoke engulfing her. She was greeted by a shower of applause. Not good. Out of habit she checked her phone for the time, and groaned at the black screen. She cursed Whitmore under her breath, then sped walked down the corridor. Seeing the shadow of someone standing at the end, she assumed it’s Yolanda, and fabricated some excuse for why she missed her own deadline. Emergency on the phone, that time of the month, duty calls? She looked to the stage, Jamie Marie already at the mic, preparing to perform her first piece to the background music of the string bass and piano. Behind her a whisper in her ear. 

“Hey there. Still hiding in bathrooms, are we?” 

She turned and met the wide gaze of Bruce. The color of his eyes looked even darker under the haze of the hookah bar.  

“Very funny,” she said. She tried to hide her phone behind her and subtly drop it into her purse, but he caught her, literally. She suddenly felt his arms around her waist, under her jacket, the tips of his fingers on her hip, too close to skin. Fire ignited deep within her, and it’s as if she could exhale smoke. 

She broke away, if only to catch her breath from the sudden sexual tension between them, but his demeanor didn’t seem to change. He leaned back, one foot and the opposite shoulder propped against the wall.  He faced the stage but his eyes were still on her. It reminded her of the way Whitmore looked at her whenever he was trying to catch her in a lie, though not at all as invasive or exposing. Mostly endearing, admiring, like looking at fine art. Thank God she’s wearing something she’s comfortable in, something that’s definitely her. 

She wanted to spin for him, give him the full effect. Better yet she wanted to undress for him. Imagining Whitmore as Bruce did her no favors last night, not now that she has seen where his hands have been, those lips, that tongue. She glanced below his belt then quickly looked away. Not here. Not in front of all these people, and her boss, standing at the bottom of the stage, a scolding look in her eyes. She should probably try to explain herself, but she felt the heat rising again, Bruce had snuck up on her, she turned her head and their lips were mere inches apart, a continuation of how their date ended last night. Before this night is over, she will kiss him, can’t stand the teasing anymore. 

© Nortina Simmons


Just a P..S.A., these excerpts are roughly edited, and I’m still struggling to decide if I want the novella to be in past or present tense, so if it reads kind of crazy, please go easy on me! 😉

“Morning Run” — An Excerpt from Love Poetry

Whitmore pulls the comforter to his chin, and she snatches her hand back as he rolls over to face the wall, stretching his feet to the end of the bed before drawing them back into the fetal position. Jessica lies stiff until his breathing returns to a steady rhythm, and then she dashes out of the bed, sprints toward the window where her little friend has long since flown away, and the room feels deafeningly silent, as if it’s not yet morning, as if the sun hasn’t risen, as if she is back in last night and Whitmore is still breathing down her neck, pressuring her to sleep with him, refusing to take no for an answer, already in the process of laying his claim.

She spins around and watches Whitmore’s chest rise and fall. She looks down at her breasts, goosebumps rising under the spinning ceiling fan above her. Suddenly the room feels too small and Whitmore too close. It’s the last place she wants to be when he finally does wake up, standing at the foot of the bed, fully naked, nipples harden from the chill in the air.

She bends over the dresser, feeling exposed, quickly puts on a pair of sweats, tames her breasts with a bra, throws on the first t-shirt she sees, Wrightsville Beach splayed across the chest. She reaches under her bed for the worn pumas, the only tennis shoes she owns, and steps into them, no thought about socks. She creeps out the door, closing it behind her, down the hall a little faster now, picking up pace, as she grabs the keys and her phone off the kitchen counter, where she left them last night, on her way out front door.

By the time she reaches the stairway she’s running. And when she gets to the bottom, she’s sprinting through the parking lot, dodging Whitmore’s Sonata, parked crookedly in the space reserved for her. She continues to the sidewalk that forms a semicircle around the back of the next building in her complex, turns to run parallel to the road for a quarter of a mile, before veering off into the scenic greenway leading into the heart of town. She runs the whole time and doesn’t stop until she can no longer see her apartment jetting out above the trees when she turns to look over her shoulder.

When she stops, she wants to collapse. She plants her hands on her knees, puts her face between her legs and gulps in sharp inhales of breath. Her heart is breaking through her chest, her lungs on fire, she’s never run like this before. In fact, she can’t remember ever having to run, except in required gym class in high school, and twice she tripped over her own feet, and dove face first into the hardwood floor, sliding across the court, the high squeak echoing in her ear as her skin on her cheeks tore.

How pathetic is she that’s she’s let Whitmore run her out of her own damn apartment? She looks back, then takes off again, a bench in sight. When she gets there, the thought crosses her mind that teenagers could have had sex here, homeless men could have masturbated here—the trees surrounding them, extensive branches heavy with leaves overhead to cover their secrets—bugs crawling in and out of the cracks, bird droppings in hidden places. But she’s too tired to care. So  she falls onto the bench, spreads her legs, throws her head over the back, waiting for all of her feeling to come back to her.

When a real jogger passes by, she folds into faux stretches, but the woman barely notices, eyes on the path, ears plugged in. Maybe that’s what Jessica needs to relax herself too. She takes out her phone and turns on the FM radio station app. She finds herself tuning to 107.1. The sound is fuzzy coming in, because she doesn’t have headphones to work as an antenna, but she turns the volume up, holds the phone to her ear, and lies back on the bench, listening to the croons of Shawn Mendez push through the static, and the soulful melancholic cries of Sam Smith, and when she begins to drift, a familiar name comes to her ear.

“Good morning, good morning, Triad! You’re listening to 107.1 the B.E.A.T. The time is 10:21 AM. I’m your boy, D.J. Ronnie G, and I’m here with our host . . .”

Jessica perks up when she hears his voice, low and nonchalant like last night, slightly muffled from his lips being too close to the microphone. Like a drum roll, he mumbles, “The Girlfriend Whisperer.”

Bruce.

© Nortina Simmons

“Asking All Them Questions” — An Excerpt from Love Poetry

“I was with Alex.” She said it without thinking, surprising herself at how naturally the lie flowed from her lips. Technically, Alex was the reason she was out with Bruce, and she was with her earlier that day, so it wasn’t a total lie, but she still felt guilty for trying to deceive him. Maybe she was more like Layla than she wanted to admit. She spun around, took three steps to her right toward the kitchen, and flung the Styrofoam to-go box in the trash. Her rumbling stomach filled the silence between them, but she wouldn’t touch that lumpy mush that place had the audacity to call authentic risotto. She absently opened the refrigerator and considered the leftover Chinese food from two nights ago, but remembering that Whitmore was still there, promptly shut it, turned around and drummed her fingers on the edge of the island counter.  

“Dressed like that?” Whitmore pointed at the dress under her cardigan. He stared at her—she hated when he stared—his eyes shifting back and forth as the scenarios played out. He analyzed everything—her dress, the style of her hair, the light makeup on her face, the gait in her walk, the sway in her hips, anything to indicate she was anywhere other than where she had said. 

“We were going through her closet,” Jessica said. “This is hers.”  

“And you went to eat like that?”  

“Yes.” She kept her answer short. Any further explanation would cloud the lie. With less information for him to over-analyze, maybe he would believe her.  

His eyes were on the trashcan now, the smell of lobster rising from the lemon-scented bag. It wasn’t fresh; that’s why it looked like rubber. She would have to take it to the dumpster before her whole floor started to smell like a fish market. She wondered if Whitmore would take it out for her, on his way out the door, to his car, and back to his own apartment.  

But now Whitmore was next to her behind the counter. Whitmore was only a breath taller than Jessica, but despite having such short legs, he moved quickly. Before she could react, he clasped her face in his hands and pulled her in for a long, drawn out kiss, until her lips were almost raw. He pulled her hard, putting tension on her neck and she tried to break away. But he wouldn’t let go for anything, as if he were afraid he would lose her for good if he did. He pressured his nose into hers, making it harder to breath. She opened her mouth for air and received his tongue instead, pushing deep inside until their teeth knocked, and the saliva dripped from his glands onto her bottom lip. He backed her into the stove, peeled the cardigan off her shoulders, and feeling how naked she was underneath, he stepped back and further examined her. 

“Why did Alex give you that?” 

“Good question.” Without letting him speak, she took him by the wrist and dragged him down the hallway. He would keep asking questions until she gave him what he wanted. This was their routine now. Whitmore’s persistent prodding, his insecurities and suspicions mounting with each evasive answer she gave until finally she caved, frustrated with always having to explain herself, desperate to do anything to shut him up…

© Nortina Simmons

 

Getting Rid of August To-Do Lists

I’ll admit . . . I’m still on vacation. My brain stayed behind in Alaska while the rest of my body returned home. It’s been a struggle getting back into the swing of things, especially when all I can think about are bright blue glaciers, mountain goats and black bears, sea lions, whales, salmon, sharks if you can believe it, the jagged edges of mountain sides, the calming teal color of sediment-enriched glacial melt, hiking through the Alaskan rainforest, conoeing towards mighty rivers of ice, making bids at art auctions, buying too much jewelry, being rocked to and fro by the waves of the Pacific ocean, meeting the literal man of my dreams and not having the courage to talk to him. Oh, Alaska! I want to go back!

But it’s time to get back to business. I’ve kept you waiting long enough. I know you’re dying for an update on the Love Poetry novella, so here it is . . .

I’ll be completely transparent with you. I don’t want to say I fizzled out . . . but the second half of July got very busy very fast, and while on vacation, I decided to say “Screw it!” with all my self-imposed deadlines. I didn’t come on a week-long cruise to Alaska to be camped behind a computer the whole time. So I tossed my laptop to the 40mph catabatic glacier winds (not literally—my entire life is on that thing!) and decided to enjoy my once in a lifetime (hopefully not) luxury vacation.

Oh, by the way, I’ve decided I want to move to Alaska. I don’t know how bad winters are in that part of the last frontier, but the summers are amazing!

Anyway, getting back to what’s on the agenda for August. Right now, I am currently purging myself of the things that have taken me away from my writing for much too long. By the end of August I hope to have the majority of those burdensome projects off my plate.

Camp NaNoWriMo 2.0 is definitely a go because I am determined to finish this novella once and for all! Basically, I’m just gonna pick up where I left of and keep writing until I’m finished (and nip this problem on never finishing what I start in the bud) like it’s still July. I’ll try to post excerpts here, if nothing else, to keep myself accountable.

Other posts you’ll see from me this month: Monday’s One-Minute Fiction will be returning, and for the next several weeks, they’ll all be Alaska themed (because as I said earlier, my brain is still there). Also coming back is Throwback Thursdays—quickly becoming a staple for my Thursday posts.

But, because I promised to be transparent, I’ll admit you really won’t see much from me in August. My #1 goal for this month is to de-clutter my overcrowded to-do list. I always seem to have so much to do and never enough time to do it. It’s times like this when I often consider quitting my day job, or at least picking up some part time work so I can dedicate more time to my writing, but then bills . . .

Seriously, I don’t know why I always do this to myself. Clearly I’m not superwoman. And if I’m being honest, having a day job isn’t what’s holding me back, because what’s my excuse for the weekends? And while I sleep (or try to sleep) eight hours a day and work another eight hours, why are those last eight hours of the day never enough? I’m not good at managing my time. Which is sad, because my goal for this year is to get better organized, and with more than half of 2017 gone, I fear I’ve gotten worse. I’ve been back from Alaska a full two weeks now, and I still haven’t put up my suitcase, or folded my washed laundry from the trip (drastic temperature differences prevents me from just wearing them to get rid of the pile).

But I will hold onto the hope that purging myself of the weight of time-consuming projects I no longer have a passion for will finally free me up to do what I love . . . and clean my room.

On another note, I’m revamping the Lovely Curses blog. I wouldn’t call it an overhaul per se, but since reading this very insightful article, I’m finally going to do what I should’ve done over a year ago—back when I first had my writer’s meltdown—and that is create a blog content plan.

This is another reason why I’ll be relatively absent for the month of August— because I’m busy writing posts for the next six months! What types of posts will I be focusing on? The typical fiction and poetry of course, as well as more 1MinFiction prompts, frightful Friday ghost stories, serials, throwbacks, and more!

What I’m really learning now, is to write shorter posts. Sticking to flash fiction, which I’m come to enjoy, between 100-300 words. On those days when the inspiration bug really hits me, I know I will more than likely go over, but the whole point of keeping it short and sweet is so I can have more time to write outside of this blog. Because, you know, my publication list is getting kind of dusty, and I know you all are waiting for that damn book! Plus I want to be totally free to write and just write, worrying about nothing else, this November when I participate in NaNoWriMo.

So enough chit chat! I only stopped by to let you know I haven’t disappeared again. (Don’t send out a search party!) I’m nearly done with the first purge, I can almost taste it! Camp NaNoWriMo 2.0 is underway. I’m already thinking up six new posts to get started on my blog plan for the rest of the year, and . . .  that’s it? That’s it. Don’t want to do too much. I am trying to trim down my to-do list, after all!

Love Poetry Novella: An Interlude

I’ve crawled out of my cave briefly to chat and share some new developments from Camp NaNoWriMo.

The first three days of camp were beyond productive. I built myself a whopping ten day cushion going well past my daily goal of 968 words, which came in handy yesterday because I wrote absolutely nothing, just ate dry hamburgers, undercooked Bratwurst sausages, and bland potato salad ( 😦 ), slurped melted homemade strawberry ice cream, and spat out seeds from sweet, locally grown watermelons at my granddaddy’s 4th of July cookout.

I’m so happy that I drew out an outline for Love Poetry. Each day I come back to my computer, I know exactly what I’m going to write for that day. Sometimes I even go back to add to what I wrote the previous day, a wave of inspiration coming upon me as I read over the selection.

I’m trying to refrain from editing anything. Editing too soon lead to my downfall my last attempt at NaNoWriMo. So no editing. A first draft should read like a first draft. Write it first. Edit later.

I had a mini heart attack on day two of camp. While praising myself for writing an outline, I suddenly remembered my outline for my planned NaNoWriMo novel, Lost Boy, also scribbled on a scrap sheet of paper, and slightly different from the outline I shared back in April. I nearly tore up my room looking for that damn outline! Everything I found was for a different, abandoned story. Why do I have so many story ideas on scrap sheets of paper?

Eventually, I found it. Folded in an unused 2017 planner in my desk drawer. *sigh*  One of these days, I’ll make use of the OneNote program in my Microsoft Office Suite.

But not now. Now I have to get back to writing Love Poetry. But before I leave you, here’s a very short excerpt from what I’ve written so far. Enjoy. 🙂


Camp Excerpt from Love Poetry

She turns around in her seat, and Bruce is staring at her, one eyebrow raised. He glances at the couple then back at her, and there’s that damn smile again, slowly spread across his face like the Cheshire cat. Jessica can’t help but feel of tinge of jealousy toward the woman now that Bruce has seen her, which is idiotic, she knows. She’s descended, head over heels into her own personal wonderland, but she wants to take back some semblance of control. She wants him to see how she really is, not this frazzled wretch, who couldn’t care to look presentable, whose attention is snatched everywhere but to him. Can we have a do-over? she wants to ask. Go someplace else, somewhere less red, less intimate to make her nervous, preferable out of the country where Whitmore can’t find her. In her comfort zone, Jessica would look like that woman too, wearing something semi-decent, something more in her style, less overly available cocktail waitress, more catch me if you can bartender…

© Nortina Simmons

D is for Drunk

These girls sure know how to throw ’em back don’t they? Only a non-drinker of wine would write a scene this obnoxious. Obviously it’s coming out. But have a laugh with me as you read another “Love Poetry” flashback scene, originally posted April 4, 2015 for the A to Z Challenge.


“I have a bottle of Chardonnay in front of me, and I’m trying to figure out why it’s not empty,” Alex, Jessica’s roommate from college, said into the phone.

“Girl, it’s not even eleven,” Jessica said laughing.

“I don’t care. It’s five o’clock somewhere. Get over here!”

***

Ten minutes later, Jessica was at the front door of Alex’s pool house apartment she rented from her grandfather, holding up two wine glasses.

“I’ve already started,” Alex said with a smirk.

“You’re such an alcoholic.”

Alex flicked her brownish blond corkscrew-curly bangs from her face and motioned for Jessica to come inside. Jessica was often jealous of Alex’s hair. She’d tried everything to achieve those perfect curls that came naturally to Alex. She succeeded once. Beginner’s luck, more than likely, because with each attempt after that, she ended up with a frizzy mop on top of her head. Alex, on the other hand, hated her hair, blaming it and her biracial background for those awkward conversations she had with complete strangers that often started with the question, “So what are you?”

The living room was surprisingly clean. Usually Alex had clothes tossed over the couch, the coffee table, the television set. Sometimes, Jessica couldn’t even see the carpet for all the panties, club dresses, and stiletto heels, thrown about. Today, the place was spotless. The dust on the teal window curtains had been vacuumed, the wood coffee table polished, even the the Merlot stain on the couch had been blotted away, although, Alex might have just flipped the cushion over.

Alex stood behind the kitchen counter and poured Chardonnay into the two glasses.

Jessica noticed that the wine left in the bottle came to just above the label. “You already drank half.”

“Yep,” Alex said, making a popping sound with her lips.

Jessica sat on the stool at the counter, and Alex slid the wine glass down to her. “I feel like I’m at a bar.”

“For sure.” Alex took a sip from her own glass.

“So what’s the occasion?” Jessica asked.

“Pop’s kicking me out.” Alex took giant gulp.

“Really? I thought he liked you living here. He could use you as a taxi whenever he wanted to go somewhere.”

“Well, he got pissed when I dumped the last guy I was dating.”

“Rick?”

“Yeah. I think he only liked him because he was white. Pop can be kinda racist sometimes.” Alex refilled her glass, and Jessica pushed hers forward for Alex to top it off.

“He’s old,” Jessica said over her tipped glass. “So why’d you break up with Rick? He seemed nice.”

“You have terrible taste in men,” Alex snapped.

Jessica choked while drinking and coughed to clear her throat, returning the glass to the counter and wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. “OK, you’re drunk,” she said in a raspy voice.

“No, I’m being serious. You have terrible taste in men if you think Rick was a nice guy. He’s just like that Whitmore of yours.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Needy, controlling, possessive. Did you have to ask him permission to come here?”

Jessica opened her mouth to respond but was interrupted by the muffled sound of Magic’s “Rude” coming from her purse on the stool next to her. She retrieved her phone from the front pocket to see Whitmore’s lips twitching to the lyrics, “Marry that girl. Marry her anyway. Marry that girl. No matter what you say. Marry that girl. And we’ll be a family,” playing repeatedly. When had he changed my ringtone? Jessica thought.

“Speak of the damn devil!” Alex leaned over the counter and snatched the phone from Jessica. “Whitmore . . . This is Alex . . . Alexandria, idiot. Who else? . . . What do you want?. . . She’s with me . . . No you may not . . . We’re having a girls’ day . . . Is she not allowed to spend the day with her girl? . . . Don’t you have friends? . . . Bye, Whitmore . . . Goodbye, Whitmore!” She hung up the phone and slammed it onto the counter.

“That was rude,” Jessica said.

“No, what’s rude is him accusing you of cheating whenever you’re not with him.”

“Did he say that?”

“Yeah, talking ’bout, ‘Who the fuck is Alex?’ with that fake-ass, deep voice like he’s trying to intimidate someone. I hate you’re boyfriend, Jess. I hardly ever see you anymore.” She wiped tears from her face as she poured more Chardonnay into her wine glass.

“Maybe that’s enough—” Jessica started.

“Don’t you ever get tired?” Alex asked, swallowing hard.

Jessica snatched up her glass and slurped what was left. Alex held up the the bottle, the liquid now below the label, and Jessica let her fill the glass all the way to the rim. They toasted to the ceiling and proceeded to empty their glasses.

“I need to be drunk to talk about Whitmore and his . . . everything,” Jessica said.

“Hell, I got some Tequila.” Alex pointed to the cabinets behind her.

“This is so irresponsible,” Jessica said.

“College was only five years ago. I think we’re allowed.” Alex untwisted the lid to the 1800 Coconut Tequila and poured it. “I don’t know what I did with my shot glasses.”

“A wine glass works just fine.” Jessica brought the glass to her lips and threw her head back. “What?” she asked when she noticed Alex staring.

“I want to set you up with someone. Bruce. He works with me at the radio station. He’s dope.”

Jessica drummed her fingers on the counter. She didn’t think Alex had ever liked Whitmore. She was always throwing better options Jessica’s way—oftentimes, while Whitmore was present. However, this time, Jessica put some thought into Alex’s proposition.

It might have been the alcohol. It might have been the impromptu marriage proposal playing on her phone’s speakers. Jessica didn’t waste any time searching for a reasonable explanation. She only said yes.

—Nortina

C is for Condom

This scene, originally posted April 3, 2015 for the A to Z Challenge, may or may not change as I continue in my writing process for Camp NaNoWriMo. I want to make Whitmore sound a little less rapey, yet still oppressive and demanding over Jessica. We’ll see how it works out.


“It’s our anniversary,” Whitmore said, standing behind Jessica as she unlocked the door to her apartment and walked inside. They had just returned from dinner at The Melting Pot, a popular fondue restaurant downtown. Dinner was almost $100. Thirty per entree, and thirty for the appetizer. Jessica wasn’t sure what exactly they were paying for. All the kitchen did was dice meats and fruits and mix up different broths and cheeses for them to dip and cook their own food in at their table. When Jessica had returned from the restroom, she’d found a red rose on her seat.

“It’s our anniversary,” Whitmore said.

Jessica hesitated to sit down. She was afraid a ring was next. She knew Whitmore was starting to get impatient. Two years was too long. When they first started dating, he had expressed his desire to get married and have children. He was obsessed with it. Two months into their relationship, he was already asking her to move in with him, and thinking of baby names. Their daughter would be Whitney, named after him.

Jessica had asked him to give her three years. However, Whitmore saw that as enough time for her to realize she didn’t need him like he needed her. So he pushed her. Told her that she would never find another man to love her as much as he did, and if he’d “accidentally” gotten her pregnant, she would have to marry him. Three years or not.

“Do you want to come in?” Jessica  asked flatly.

“I mean, it is our anniversary. What do couples do on their anniversary?” He stepped inside and kissed her, biting her bottom lip and sucking it hard. He took her hand and led her to her bedroom.

Jessica wasn’t in the mood for sex. In fact, she wanted him to go home, but denying him what he believed was central to every relationship on their anniversary of all nights would mean that she didn’t love him, that she never cared for him, that she had been stringing him along for the last two years. Hadn’t she?

Her plan was to come to dinner and end the relationship; the significance of that night never crossed her mind. Now he was in her room undressing her, kissing her stomach and between her thighs, promising to be with her and love her always, as if it were their wedding night.

Jessica opened the drawer to the nightstand next to her bed and pulled out a condom.

“What’s this?” Whitmore asked, snatching it from her hand.

“I forgot to take my pill this morning. We need some kind of protection.”

Whitmore sat up on his knees. Jessica thought he was about to put it on, but he tossed it to the floor and continued on his conquest.

“You don’t want me to touch you?” He said as he kissed her, as he climbed on top of her, as he pressed between her legs. “You don’t want to feel me inside you?”

“I don’t want to get pregnant, Whitmore!” she said, pushed against his chest. “You drank a lot of wine tonight. You might not be as careful.”

“It’s our anniversary. We should make this night special. We always use condoms. Tonight I want to touch you. Tonight I want to make you mine.” He pinned both of her hands over her head and lay on top of her. As he pushed himself inside, he whispered, “This will bring us closer together.”

“But I don’t—”

“Shhh. If it happens, it happens.”

Jessica cringed as Whitmore thrust hard and deep.

 

—Nortina

B is for Buzzzzz…

Originally posted April 2, 2015 for the A to Z Challenge. This scene is where “Love Poetry” opens. Here, Jessica and Bruce meet for the first time on a date that keeps getting interrupted by something . . . or someone . . .


Jessica wanted to give Bruce her undivided attention, but she could hear it. The buzzing. That incessant buzzing. It vibrated inside of her skull in the way that a fly with all the space in the world would hover over one’s ear, buzzing.

She was having lunch on the patio at the popular, gourmet burger restaurant,  Newk’s. Bruce sat across from her, eating a cheese burger with lettuce, tomato, pancetta, mayonnaise, and a quail egg. Jessica, on the other hand, had ordered a chicken wrap, which lay on her plate untouched, getting cold. She watched the other patrons at the surrounding tables bite into different variations of the classic hamburger and could only guess that a Southwestern chicken wrap was ordered once or twice a day.

Jessica dipped a steak fry into a glob of ketchup and took a small bite. She dropped the fry onto her plate and looked down at her purse on the floor next to her feet where, inside the front pocket, her cellphone continued to vibrate as it had been doing for the past ten minutes. She didn’t need to remove the phone from the pocket to know who was calling. She could  already picture Whitmore’s face displayed on the screen. When she had taken that photo of him at the botanical gardens in Uptown, she laughed at how silly his crooked smile and uneven eyebrows made him look. He was self-conscious of his flaws, but Jessica had simply kissed his lips and massaged his eyebrows, saying, “I love a man who can make me laugh.” Two years later, and she can’t remember the last time the corners of her lips curled upward into a wide grin at his corny jokes and his involuntarily awkward facial expressions.

Bruce looked up from his plate and smiled. Mayonnaise clung to the corner of his mouth. Jessica kept quiet about it. She liked how it made him appear as a little boy, and she didn’t want him to wipe it away, erase the youth, and remind her that she was on a date with another man. She couldn’t deny that Bruce was attractive, and when her buzzing phone wasn’t distracting her, she struggled to resist the urge to reach over the table and play in his soft, brown hair. She was curious about how he made it swoop over his forehead. Did it swoop naturally, or did he use a mousse to achieve the style? So adorable, she thought. She needed that. Something adorable to remind her that life could be carefree, without demands, restrictions.

“You must not be hungry. Or your mind is somewhere else.” Bruce licked the mayo from the corner of his mouth.

“I’m sorry, I—” The fly was flapping its tiny wings next to her eardrum again. She quickly scooped her vibrating purse up off the floor. “I have to go to the little girls’ room. I’ll be right back.”

—Nortina

A is for Attached

A prequel of Whitmore’s last relationship before he met Jessica. Originally posted for the A to Z Challenge April 1, 2015.


It was New Year’s Eve, and Whitmore was sitting up in a cold hotel bed with a bottle of flat champagne next to him, calling his girlfriend Layla for the fifteenth straight time.

The ball had already dropped, lights and confetti exploding around the illuminated numbers, 2014. All of the televised parties and concerts had gone off the air an hour ago. He was watching MTV count down the best music videos of 2013. He cupped his crotch, and hoped the half-naked women dancing across the television screen would ease the tension in his groin.

His pants were half way down when he heard a knock on the door. It was Layla.

“Where the hell have you been?”

Layla brushed by him and sat on the bed. She had a slight limp in her gait. She took her phone from her purse and began to scroll through the missed calls. “If I don’t answer after the first time, or the second time, or the third, or the goddamn twenty-third, why do you continue calling!”

Whitmore slammed the door. “We had plans, Layla. We were going to spend New Year’s together here.”

“At some shoddy hotel, drinking cheap-ass wine.” She flicked the bottle onto the floor. It rolled underneath the bed.

“Champagne,” Whitmore corrected.

“Whatever.” Layla stood and ran her fingers through her hair. “It’s freaking New Year’s, Whitmore. I don’t wanna stay cooped up inside. I want to go out. Party. Take some shots. Bring in the new year with my friends.”

Whitmore cocked his head to the side. “So you don’t want to spend time with me? You don’t love me?”

“Why do you always go from one extreme to the next, Whitmore? You can come with, or you can hang with your friends.” There was a sarcastic tone in her voice. She curled her lip and snickered. They both knew his only friend was his girlfriend, much to the vexation of Layla. “I mean, I just feel like you always wanna keep me to yourself. I do have a life.”

Whitmore scratched the stubble on his chin and folded his arms across his chest. “So why is your shirt inside out? Why are your pants unbuttoned? Why is your belt only through two loops? Why do you smell like Old Spice?” he asked circling, inspecting her.

“What are you getting at?”

“Who you been with?”

Layla picked up her purse and walked to the door. “If I’m gonna get interrogated, I’m leaving.”

She was gone before he could protest. He found himself alone on the bed once again watching raunchy music videos and contemplating masturbation. He shuffled out of his pants and boxers.

He was losing Layla. He could feel her slowly pulling away. He saw how she’d flirted with the waiter on their last date. Just the night before, he’d found pictures of men naked from the waist down in her phone. She’d been texting someone named Roc for the past month. She had one foot out the door, and he needed to act quickly to ensure that she would stay with him forever.

The idea came to him as he spilled onto the white bed sheets and fell limp. No more pulling out while they made love. He would get her pregnant.

—Nortina