#WeekendRewind: 7 Things I Want to Do Before 2018

I can’t take full credit for this post. It was definitely inspired by Marquessa’s list, 30 Things You Can Still Do Before 2018. Read Part 1 on Planet Simon and Part 2 on Marquessa’s blog, Simply Marquessa.

Oh, 2017, I’d like to say it’s been real, but like 2016, I’m ready to be rid of you! While this year probably wasn’t as bad as I’m making it out to be, these last few months have definitely been difficult. I’ve said it before— I’m not satisfied with where I’m at in life right now. The fire that should have been lit at the end of 2016 (but fizzled out before February) is now blazing!

If I want next year to be different, I’ve got to be committed to making a change, and as someone who still struggles with procrastination, I’m not waiting until January 1 to do it. You can’t limp into the New Year expecting to miraculously leap once the clock strikes 12. You’ve got to start taking those steps toward recovery now. So, with that being said, here are seven things that I want to do before 2018.

1. Lose five pounds.


I’ve been on this weight loss journey since June of 2016, and while I’ve lost around 40 pounds, I still can’t fit in that size 4 dress collecting dust in my closet (well, I can, but it doesn’t look cute 😉 ). This October, I finally passed another milestone: I’m no longer plateaued! Yes, I’m back on my downward trend. It only took me a year to do! Originally my goal was to maintain that weight through the fattening foods of the holidays, but now I’m taking a more aggressive approach. I want to continue that downward trend. I might not make it to five pounds, but any weight loss before the end of the year is a step in the right direction!

2. Create a sleeping habit.

For someone who can barely keep her eyes open past 10PM most nights (and some nights even earlier), I never go to bed on time. I’ve been up after midnight, one o’clock, two, and when I pulled my all-nighter, FIVE IN THE MORNING! Funny thing is, I’m not a night person at all. The only good thing I’ve ever done at night was be born, but when it comes to productivity, I function so much better in the morning. The problem is getting out of bed, washing my face, brushing my teeth, and eating a balance breakfast in order to start my day, and I can’t do that if I’m only getting 4 to 5 hours of sleep.

I read somewhere that in order to get your body in the habit of going to bed at a certain time (I’m aiming for 9:30 or 10PM), set your alarm to 45-50 minutes before to alert you to start preparing for bed (like do hair, wash/brush, pack lunch for the next day, do nighttime exercises, write down everything you have to do in the morning so you’re not laying in bed worrying over it, etc.) so that when it’s bedtime, all you have to do is get in the bed and close your eyes. I’m going to give it a try, and hopefully, by January, cranky, irritable, baggy-eyed, needing a nap in her car after lunch, Nortina will be a thing of the past!

3. Wean myself off of phone dependence.

Every morning, the first thing I reach for (after I slam my hand down on my alarm’s snooze button for the eighth time) is my phone. And that backlight is sooo bright in the morning! I’ve dimmed it, and it’s still blinding! And what am I really checking? I’m not that big on social media—you won’t know my life by looking at my Facebook page, my last Instagram post was in August, Snapchat is stupid to me, and while I do want to tweet more to build my online author platform, I’m not there yet. Most of my emails are spam or notifications I could care less about, and while I do check WordPress comments, it still takes me a couple days to reply to them. So really, what am I checking my phone for?

Earlier this year, I went two months without a phone. I actually thought my phone had died and I needed a new one– I just didn’t have the money to buy a new one at the time (I still don’t). Surprisingly, it turned back on one morning, but those two months disconnected from the digital world were liberating! Yes, I still had my computer, and I was able to connect with people that way, but a bulky, seven-pound laptop is not the same as a phone, and I’m not going to carry that around with me everywhere I go. Not having a phone gave me the freedom to look at the world and enjoy it. I wasn’t distracted, plugged in, or feeling hypersensitive because of that damn backlight!

When my phone came back to life, I slowly started to become dependent on it again, until it reestablished itself as my permanent crutch. The moment I realized my phone had to go was when I was hanging out with a guy from work (not on a date, but I know he’s interested in me), and all he could do was look at his phone, scroll through his friends’ Facebook posts, show me shit I couldn’t care less about, tell me crazy crap our government is doing (and try to convince me he’s not reading “fake news”). I was just really bored with him. You mean to tell me all the conversation we can have has to be initiated by your phone? No thanks! So I’m officially killing my phone again, and whatever relationship that could have been. Quite frankly, I was never looking to be anything more than just friends with him– now I’m even reconsidering that!

4. Organize. Organize. Organize.

I’m sick of talking about getting organized and never doing anything about it. To finish this year, I want to be proactive in my organization. This week I cleaned my room . . . again . . . but there are still some things I want to declutter, like my closet and dresser. I guarantee about 70% of the clothes I have I never wear. Time to fill up those donation bins (and get a tax credit too!). There are too many people in need in this world for me to be hoarding all this stuff!

There are actually three facets to my organization goal. The first is my room; the second is my blog. At the beginning of 2016, my blog got a total overall. I changed the layout, the background, the title. 2016 was the year I really wanted to establish my writer platform, and I think I did that successfully. But I let some older posts that don’t fit in the direction I want to take my blog stick around. Even today they still get views, and I am sick of seeing them in my site stats.

So, come January, all of those posts will be deleted! There really aren’t that many—maybe about 50 out of over 800. And I’m pretty sure the people reading them aren’t staying to read my newer stuff, so I don’t think the posts will be missed (and Google can stop directing random searchers to my blog!). I may see my site stats go down, but I think over time, this will be a good move, because then Lovely Curses will only have one focus: my writing.

The third facet is organizing my email. I have so many unread emails, and as I mentioned in my previous point, about 90% of them are notifications and subscriptions that I don’t read. And the important emails, that require a response, get lost in the sea of unread emails. While my email has automatically organized my inbox to help weed out some of the spam I get, I think I want to take it a step further. I could waste my time unsubscribing to everything, but Marquessa suggested something that sounds even better. Trash it all!

5. Look for available apartments.

While 2017 was unfortunately a year of complacency, 2018 will absolutely be a year of big change! There were three big changes I considered making last year that I never did: Quit my job, go back to school and get my masters, move out of my mom’s house. I’m so close to paying off my student loans, so I’m hesitant to go back to school. I think eventually I will go back to get my MFA, but until I decide on what I really want to do career-wise, I’m going to hold off on that.

However, one thing I can change now is my living arrangement. I’m almost 26, and according to the healthcare law (has it been repealed yet?), 26 is the age to finally sever your dependence on your parents. I think it’s time. I love my mom and my brother, but I’m sick of living with them. And if I ever want to truly feel like an adult, I’ve got to start doing adult things, that includes venturing out on my own. It’s one of the main reasons I want to clear out my room: make it easier to move. So for the next two weeks I’ll be making my list of apartment candidates, I’ll start looking at and applying for the ones I like in January, and hopefully by my birthday in March, I’ll be moving out!

6. Aggressively look for a new job.

I need a change. Period. While my current jobs does put food on the table, it’s not permanent, I don’t get benefits, I don’t get paid vacation or holiday, which SUCKS during Christmas, and there’s no path for career development.

Call me crazy, but I’m the type of person who actually wants to work in her passion—you know, the field of study I got a degree for. Time to stop settling for complacency and hit that pavement to find the job that’s gonna make me eager for Monday mornings again!

7. Chill the f*** out!

One last thing I have to do going into the New Year… CHILL THE F*** OUT! Yes, I’m hypersensitive. I’ve come to accept that. And when I start to think about life and the future and goals, etc., I feel a variety of emotions: anxiety, depression, excitement, sadness, anger. I really do need a playlist for all these feelings. Marquessa mentioned it in her post; I think I’ll do it. I’m actually a step ahead—my playlists are already created. I have an “Acoustic” playlist for when I’m “in my feelings”; I just need to update it. I have a “Gospel” playlist for when I need inspiration and when I need to be reminded that God is still in control. And I recently created a “Vibe” playlist for when I’m in a good mood and I just want to dance. And guess what. I’m feeling good today, so I think I’ll blast my “Vibe” playlist on the speakers!

And that’s my list. So sorry for the length of this post, guys! I didn’t intend for it to clock in at just under 2,000 words, but if you read it all the way to the end, I really hope this list inspired you like Marquessa’s list inspired me. Is there anything you’d like to add? Let me know in the comments! Oh, and by the way, good luck on finishing out this year strong! I wish you a happy, productive, and fulfilled 2018!

—Nortina

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I Think I Killed a Butterfly

It’s been a long time coming, but Amina and I are back at it again! Yes, I am talking about a long overdue collaborative poem. You can check out our previous collaborations here and here.

Today’s poem was inspired by a series of events that occurred while I was driving my car, which lead to me thinking that I had… killed a butterfly.

Of course, this poem has nothing to do with those events. A very abstract response to the first line (which is actually the title to the poem). As usual, we wrote what came to us, however the previous line inspired us, letting our muses (possibly the resurrected butterfly?) take us wherever the wind blew. So interpret this poem however you like, and I hope you enjoy!


I Think I Killed a Butterfly

Broken wings
Shattered dreams
Time aloof
Time away

I spy
Abandoned Cocoons
Scattered in disarray
On abandoned tree leaves

Winter’s come
Early this season
Breath caught
On a cloud
Words that never
Passed my lips
Reached your ears
Pirouette overhead
In the breezy chill

Heart beats–
flutters. Stops–
cold. And I burrow
Myself deep
In the earth
With those who
Hibernate

If I dig deeper
Will I just burrow
Further into the earth
Or will I circle round
And find myself in the skies
Broken wings
Shattered dreams
Time aloof
Time away

I find myself
Inside myself
Walking paths
Yet unfinished

I am kept warm
By thoughts unspoken
Topsy turvy

Like the hungry caterpillar
who ate himself into a shell
and emerged a butterfly
soaring above
in search of death and life,
and love.

—Nortina & Amina ❤

Saved by Grace

It wasn’t enough to sign, “We can’t see each other anymore.” He doesn’t take no for an answer, in any language. And when Felicity confided to her best friend that she feared Darrel was stalking her, Tippy scoffed and said she was overreacting.

But she’s seen his car drive past her window twice, and now there’s a light knock on her door, turned to a pound, turned to a kick. And then a sudden blast.

He has a gun.

It wasn’t enough that he had stolen Tippy from her. Tippy still thinks she’s clueless. Mute doesn’t equal dumb. She’s seen the naked photos, the video in his phone. Tippy was willing to do everything Felicity’s morals commanded her to forsake. Tippy could make as much noise as her stronger vocal chords could carry, egging him to press harder, stroke faster.

But he wanted them both.

Felicity dedicated her voice to the Lord the first time Darrel raped her. She speaks only to Him now. She offers her body only to Him.

But Darrel could never take no for an answer, and now no one but God will hear her scream.

She hides in the bathroom closet, praying for deliverance, fully aware that He could tell her no, like He refused to remove the thorn from Paul’s side—because His grace is sufficient. All things work together, she reminds herself. Not her will but His be done. His power is made perfect in her weakness. She was not given the spirit of fear, so she will not panic. She only wishes not be touched again, that she be made holy and taken into His glory.

Darrel taps the heavy metal on the closet door and rips it open. He’s always wanted to boast his strength, impose his dominance over her. He wields the gun in her face, and she exhales—closes her eyes and exhales—slow, smooth, as time freezes, and all of her breath flows from her body.

No words exchanged—his hatred has consumed him now. He pulls the trigger—a quick blast—and she is caught up in a cloud of fire.

—Nortina


It is Short Story A Day May, and today’s prompt, “Writer’s Clue” was kind of a cop out. No offense to LJ Cohen, but c’mon, girl, all you did was tell us to write a basic story! So I took a little inspiration from the Daily Prompt: panicked. It worked out in the end. Maybe that was her point all along…

Carved Soul

Her eyes are what I remember most, and I carve them into the wood first. Round and full, the shape of figs. I remember them being deep brown, but under the sun’s rays, a hint of auburn glowed in her irises, matching the highlights of her wavy hair cascading down her back. I used to call her Anime Jane because she loved cosplay. Now these Sailor Moon dolls are all I have left of her.

I’m distracted from my work by the woman in my shop. We are the only two. She pretends to browse the shelves, but for the third time, our eyes meet, and she quickly glances away.

“Is there something I can help you with, ma’am?”

She shakes her head and picks up a doll from the shelf. It’s one of my favorites. Jane’s hair is styled in a side fishtail braid hanging over her right shoulder. Her ruffled red skirt just grazes the tops of her thighs, and the pink bow snapped to the front of her blouse is like a bow to a present I wish to open. I remember the night I first opened Jane. She was wearing the exact outfit, and I untied her bow, twirled her braid around my index finger, and with her hair still wrapped around my finger, tilted her small chin and draw her lips toward mine.

The woman suddenly slings her wrist through the handles of her hand bag and rushes to my counter. She notices the unfinished work I hold—only a face to the polished smooth naked round body.

“Do you carve all off these by hand?”

I nod, and she pauses to look around the shop. I have three aisles of wood cases in the center of the shop, all shoulder height and each shelf lined with three rows of dolls, ranging between seven and ten inches tall. Mounted on the walls are even more, bigger sizes, some of them life-sized. One stands in a corner behind the register. She is the most realistic Jane doll I’ve made to date. I molded her from flesh colored wax, sewed real human hair into her scalp. Her arms and legs bend at my command, and on days when the sun is bright and I miss her laughter, I take a spatula of acacia wood and sculpt her mouth open, push back her lips to reveal her gleaming teeth.

“It seems like it would take a lot of time,” the woman says.

“This is my livelihood. I enjoying doing it.”

She places the doll on the counter. “How much?”

“Ten.”

“Only ten dollars?” She takes her wallet from her bag, licks her finger and begins counting bills. “All of these dolls are handcrafted. You put your love and devotion into each of them. I’m willing to pay more.”

“If you wish.”

She slides five ten dollar bills across the counter top. “I do have one question.”

“Anything,” I say as I put one in the register and fold the other four into my pants pocket.

“Why are they all the same? The outfits, the hairstyles—they’re different—but the faces . . . it’s like I’m looking into the eyes of the same sad girl.”

“You believe she’s sad?”

“Isn’t she?”

I remember our last night, as we lay in bed together and she looked up at me with those childlike eyes, her lips parted and puckered. The moonlight through the single bedroom window illuminated her face, draining it of all color—her skin was like alabaster, her lips ash—but it also could have been the phone cord I’d loosened from around her neck.

I shake my head. “No, you’re wrong. It is I who am sad.”

“What happened to her?”

“Lust,” I say, but I can’t bring myself to tell her of the other man. The one who left Jane lying in my bed when their rough role playing tragically backfired. I can’t tarnish the chastity of the spirit that fills my shop today. The woman waits for me to continue, but I say no more.

“Oh, well I’m sorry for your loss.” She bows her head, thanks me for the doll and hurries out of the door.

I look longingly after her. Jane was never mine to keep or lose. I was one of many men, but I like to think I am the last, because I stayed behind and guided her into the afterlife, into my shop, where I keep her alive in her wood carved replicas. I look down at the newborn Jane in my hand and decide to give her the red skirt and pink bow and fishtail braid. It is my fondest memory of her, and the woman just bought my last one.

—Nortina


It is Short Story A Day May, and while I said I would only write 100-300 words a day, I got carried away with yet another great prompt from Kylie Quillinan: “The Doll Maker.” I’m on a roll! Looking forward to what’s in store for tomorrow…

Accessory (Buried Series)

The odor was even more intoxicating when we returned to his apartment. I wondered if it was affecting my judgment. Maybe the stench had manifested itself into a barrier that intercepted alert signals from my brain telling my legs to run. It kept my arms stiff by my side when I should’ve been snatching up the phone to dial 9-1-1 with hands not yet soiled by the dirt we would bury her body.

“How’re we doing this?” he asked as I took each suitcase out of the other and lined them up in front of the bed.

“We’re gonna pack her body up in the big one,” I said.

“Can she even fit?”

“We’ll make her fit.”

“Wouldn’t it just be easier to chop off her arms and legs?” he said, measuring the width of the suitcase with his forearms.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” I said placing my hands on my hips. “Do you have a machete packed in your trunk? Because I don’t.”

He turned his back and sighed audibly.

“It’s extremely hard to dismember a human body,” I continued. “You’re cutting through bone, and you can’t do that with a regular old kitchen knife.”

He didn’t answer, only shook his head. Maybe he was finally starting to realize how deep into the sludge we were headed. A boiling tar pit that would singe our skin and fossilize our bodies. Forever preserved like the citizens of Pompeii imprisoned in an crusted shell of molten rock because they ignored the warning signs of impending doom, failed to escape before their world came crashing down in a barrage of fire and brimstone.

“Fine,” he said scratching the back of his neck. “I wouldn’t have made it this far without you, so I’ll follow your lead.”

My stomach lurched, an unsettling reminder that I hadn’t eaten since earlier that evening, and with the devil’s hour quickly approaching, our surroundings seemed to grow darker—the lights in the hall were dim, the curtains were drawn, outside the clouds and trees blocked illumination from the moon and distant stars—setting the tone for sinister activity to take place.

How quickly had he shifted the responsibility to me, as if I was the one to smother his ex, and he only followed along, fearful that he would be next if he didn’t cooperate. My decisions were digging a deeper grave for myself, well past six feet, the shovel of my tongue knocking on the gates of Hell, and despite my fear of a face-to-face meeting with Satan, I couldn’t compel myself to stop.

“Take the shower curtain from the bathroom,” I instruct him. “We’ll line the suitcase with it. Hopefully the plastic will catch any body fluids that seep through her clothes.

He left the room, and I removed the sheets from the body, taking the corners and folding them across the bed, avoiding any areas that might have touched her, absorbed her sweat, her blood, her urine, her tears. Holding them away from me like dirty underwear, I threw them into the closest suitcase, quickly zipped it up, and wiped my hands on the front of my jeans. I would have to remember to toss them too as soon as we were done.

He returned with the shower curtain ripped from the rings and pressed it into the suitcase as if lining a foil sheet in a baking pan. Then I kicked the suitcase forward, closer to the foot of the bed.

“Just pull her feet and drag her in,” I directed.

“You won’t help me?”

“Hell no! I’m not touching her!” I declared, as if avoiding physical contact with the deceased would clear me of any wrong doing.

He smiled, which sickened me further. Did he think this was a joke? A dream we could wake up from? A movie we could turn off?

The body slid down the bed, pulling the fitted sheet off the mattress—satin clinging to her moist skin. I turned away as he pulled her closer, not wanting to see her eyes begging me why. Then came the solid thump when she fell into the suitcase. He balled the sheet and tossed it over her face, relieving me of the pull of her stare. Her neck bowed in front of the short end of the suitcase, and the crown of her head stuck out above the zipper.

“Can you like . . . push it down?” I asked, holding my hands in front of me, but instead of nudging it down, he pushed all of his weight into it as if tightly packing clothes, and I heard a crack.

“Oh my god!” I turned and squeezed me shoulders to my ears.

“She’s already dead,” he said flatly.

“Just . . . fix her legs,” I said over my shoulder.

He picked up her legs, which were hanging over the edge of the suitcase, and bent them forward, folding them like an accordion so that she lay inside the suitcase in the fetal position.

“Zip it up,” I said, and the zipper made a low, deep buzz as he pulled it around the suitcase.

I looked up at the bare mattress. From what I could see through the dim  light, it was clear, a creamy white, but I imagined a stain at it’s center in the shape of a body like the chalk outlines crime scene investigators draw around a homicide victim to mark where he was killed.

“We have to get rid of the whole bed,” I said.

“I agree. It still stinks in here,” he said. I was relieved to know that he had not gotten accustomed to the smell. Even now, it still made me dizzy.

“I could take it downstairs to the dumpster. That wouldn’t be too suspicious, right?” he asked.

I shrugged my shoulders. “We can say you had bedbugs.”

“Oh, nice.” He rolled his neck and proceeded to lift the twin-size mattress. “Not too heavy,” he said balance, it above his head.

“Just don’t drop it.” As he turned sideways to fit the mattress through the doorway, I added, “We should pack some clothes too. Make it look like we’re going on a trip and not moving something fishy out of the apartment in the middle of the night.”

“Your call,” he said and continued down the hall toward the front door.

I quickly scooted out of my jeans and put them in the suitcase with the sheets. Then taking the smallest suitcase, I went across the hall into his room, opened his drawers, and threw the first articles of clothing I could see—white t-shirts, sweatpants, plaid boxers, socks.

As I zipped the suitcase, I heard a faint whine. At first I thought it was him opening the front door, coming back for the box spring. A terrifying thought quickly ran across my mind that maybe his ex wasn’t dead. Maybe she was gasping for breath through her plastic cocoon, trying to claw her way out of the suitcase. However as I approached the sound, it came from some place past her room, closer to the front of the apartment, behind a door I’d assumed was a second bathroom, though I’d never been inside. I pressed my ear against the wood, and the sound sharpened into a cry. A baby’s cry.

His son had been here the whole time.

—Nortina

Next:
Motherhood

Catch up on previous installments:
Drive
To Live
Murderer
Body
Odor
Ringer

Drive (Buried Series)

Of course, he didn’t own a suitcase. That would’ve been too simple. He didn’t have many clothes—you tend to pack light when you drift from place to place. He’d only been in town six months when we met at the DMV—I renewing my license, he getting his CDL.

“I’d make a great truck driver,” he’d said later that afternoon over coffee. “I can’t stay put in one area for long.” He then recited the cities he’d lived before temporarily settling in Greensboro, North Carolina. Boston, Newark, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Richmond.

Repeatedly he’d expressed his desire to live in Atlanta, or further south in Florida, possibly Miami, with its white beaches and exotic women. However, he loved how quiet Greensboro was and reveled in our small town atmosphere. By then, I was already smitten, so I convinced him to give my quaint little city a year, enough time for him to fall in love with it, and subsequently, with me too.

“I don’t want to be a burden,” he said.

“It’s a little late for that,” I scoffed as I backed out of the parking space in front of his apartment.

“I mean, I don’t want you to get your hands dirty.”

“Then why even show me…her?” I couldn’t make myself say body, still in shock that I was agreeing to help him. How could I blatantly ignore another woman’s voice silenced forever? Could I be that blindly in love after only a few months?

Our first night together was in the backseat of his Toyota, under the clear, starry night sky. We’d pretended to have found the perfect spot for a date when truthfully, the blanket lining the backseat, the pillow propped against the door handle, the pile of laundry rising from underneath the driver’s seat, and the toothbrush and tube of toothpaste in the cup holder had always been there.

We’d just finished watching his favorite movie on Netflix, Doomsday. He had an unsettling obsession with graphic deaths—blood squirting from the neck of a decapitated body; a man with half his face blown off from a shotgun, blood splattering on the camera lens; cannibals surrounding a pyre, a primal chant of hunger exiting their lungs as a crane lowered their hostage into the dancing flames.

My pizza had been sitting at the back of my throat, waiting to resurface as the scenes became gorier. I squirmed in the seat, but he put his arm around me, stilled my body, kissed my neck and my collarbone and lower, unbuttoning my blouse.

“I love to give you pleasure,” he’d whispered, going further to say that he couldn’t be aroused until he knew I was, until he knew my entire body was quivering under his touch, until he knew I was gushing to have him inside of me. But I could already feel him rising during the movie, when I was still shielding my eyes behind my fingers, when I turned my head every time a sword severed a limb. Was it my moans that turned him on, or could it have been the last breaths of the dying characters on screen?

How easy it was for him to kiss me back at his apartment, to touch me, give me pleasure while his dead girlfriend decomposed in the bedroom. How easy it was for me to return his affections. Was I really any better than him?

“Are we going to the store?” he asked.

“We can’t leave a trail.”

“You sound like you’ve done this before,” he said jokingly. I was never a fan of his dry humor. It came at the most inappropriate of times. His voice often carried when he spoke distastefully of “trannies” and referred to white women as “snowbunnies” in public.

“I’ve watched enough forensic files cases on TV to know that killers are always caught when video of them buying weird items at Wal-Mart, or Home Depot comes out,” I said, keeping my eyes on the road, both hands on the wheel, making sure my tone remained stern so that he could understand the seriousness of what we were doing.

“What could be weird about buying a suitcase?” he asked.

“In the middle of the night?” I pointed to the clock on the dashboard displaying the time. 1:45 AM. “And what if they find your girlfriend’s body inside a suitcase that you recently bought. They would have the receipt, the tape. The evidence is stacking up against you already.”

“She’s not my girlfriend.”

“Fine! You’re baby mama!” I sharped right into my driveway and put the car in park.

“How would they know it’s not your suitcase then?” he asked.

“It was a gift from my parents back in college. A luggage set to go to Mexico for Spring Break with a couple of my roommates. I’ll take my nametag off it and it’ll just be a plain black suitcase. No trail.”

He nodded and moved to unbuckle his seatbelt.

“Stay here,” I said, and taking the keys from the ignition, I trotted up the steps into my house. The luggage set was in the back corner of my bedroom closet. I packed the three smaller suitcases inside the larger one, lugged it back down the steps and heaved it into the trunk.

—Nortina

Next:
Accessory

Catch up on previous installments:
To Live
Murderer
Body
Odor
Ringer

To Live (Buried Series)

I could feel him standing behind me, watching as I retched into his downstairs neighbor’s garden. As my shoulders hunched and my body shuddered, I anticipated his palm on the center of my back, between the shoulder blades, that slight nudge that would send me over. There was no reason to keep me around, spare my life. He’d shown me the devil, etched away the thin crust and revealed to me the darkness he’d kept buried inside his heart for most of our relationship, and I had rejected it.

“Will you call the police?” he asked softly, with the same voice he used to tell me he needed me, pleading, desperate. I turned around and looked into his eyes, glowing gray in the moonlight, tears shimmering as they collected around his lower eyelid. One tear dripped from the corner, began to glide down his cheek. I reached up to wipe it away, and he snatched my wrist. “Will you call the police?” he said again, more forceful this time, the bass growing in his voice. He squeezed my wrist, the tips of his fingers pressing deep into bone, drawing up blue veins, cutting off circulation, curling my hand forward, drawing me to my knees.

“We have to,” I said finally, and he tossed my wrist back into my face and spun around, scratching his head with both hands.

“Why?”

“Because there’s a dead girl in your bed!” I snapped.

He knelt in front of me, curled his hand around the back of my neck. “You still don’t get it, do you?”

I hung my head as he tickled my spine. His hand was large—his thumb running up and down my throat while the rest of his palm cupped behind my neck. Would he press forward, cut off the air to my lungs? Would he snap my neck, bend his hand as if twisting the lid off a glass soda bottle.

“We can tell them she went to bed drunk and choked on her vomit during the night,” I suggested.

“They’ll check her stomach.” He patted my shoulder as if to say, thanks for trying. I’d shown him an inclination to help. My life was saved— for now.

“Plus they’ll wonder why I took so long to call,” he added, standing and leaning against the patio door.

“How long…has it been?”

“Couple days.”

“A couple days!” I stumbled back into the railing, the metal hitting the center of my spine directly. I put both hands on the bar to brace myself and keep from flipping backward at yet another shocking bomb dropped onto my conscience. His dead ex-girlfriend in his bed. Her body festering for a couple days. What was next?

“It’s a wonder your neighbors don’t smell anything. I could smell it as soon as I got here. I thought it was an animal.”

“That’s why you have to help me!” He rushed to me, swept me into his embrace, bending my back over the banister. He kissed my shoulder and neck hurriedly, but as he moved higher he slowed, biting on my cheekbone, planting a row of kisses down to my lips.

“Stop,” I whined, but he wouldn’t let go, holding tighter, kissing harder, slipping his hands into the front my jeans. Before I knew it, we were back inside, where I again couldn’t breathe, the reek of decomposition impairing my better judgement. He laid me on the loveseat, knocking litter off the coffee table as he wrestled me out of my clothes and mounted me. It was then that I realized this was another way to live. If I couldn’t help him rid himself of his ex permanently, the least I could do was relieve the tension in his groin, make him feel he didn’t waste his time showing me his evil secret. Though lying on her back got the last one killed, if I could give him what every man expected and wanted from a woman, silently, maybe he would feel less murderous, less vengeful. Maybe his desires of being a father would awaken once again. Maybe we could forget what he’d done, start over with a clean slate, save my life and cleanse his soul.

When he finished, he sat on the arm of the couch and lit a cigarette while I slid back into my clothes. He took a long drag then turned and handed it to me. “Why not?” He shrugged. He knew I didn’t smoke, but what was the point of being righteous now, wanting to extend my life? We all died eventually. If not by the hands of someone else, someone we undoubtedly knew and loved, then by our own hands.

I held the cigarette between my index and middle fingers, inhaled the nicotine, and listened to the echo of the final nail being driven into my coffin. “Do you have a suitcase?” I asked.

—Nortina

Next
Drive

Catch up on previous installments:
Murderer
Body
Odor
Ringer