MAP MAKING Diary.

Just a little update on my current map project,

 

What do you like? What do you enjoy?

What do you hate :)?

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Chapter 1 LA

WIP.

Editing phase  : 1

Chapter I

Pink walls. A bed at the far side of the room. Opposite the bed, a wooden door. This room is large, with a couch and a television in the corner left of the door. On the bed, a seventeen year old girl, holding a half finished bottle of smirnoff ice.

This girls name is Colleen. Colleen is drunk, and her eyes stare lazily at the door, as down the hall, past the three other bedrooms, her step mother and father are having a screaming match.

Some things are getting tossed.

Some things are being said, and yet, her fathers voice rises above all other noises; echoing in large estate.

Colleen stares at the door.

Her step mother screams.

Her father—

“YOU TAKE MY FUCKING THRONE, YOU STEAL MY FUCKING HEART, AND NOW—

Colleen stands, screws the cap on the bottle and tosses it to the bed.

“LISTEN TO ME LAURA, THIS ISN’T A GAME ANYMORE. THIS IS THE WORLD, MY WORLD. OUR WORLD. OUR CHILDRENS WORLD.”

“I KNOW!”

“THEN GET HIM OUT OF MY FUCKING PRESENCE—”

Colleen opens the door to her room, and steps towards the office. A few doors down, Colleens younger brother, Michael, is standing half way out of his bedroom. His one hand loosely holds a freshly opened beer, the condensation still dripping on its sides, shining in the low light illumination of the hall.

She smirks.

Son and daughter like father, no?

Michael turns to the sound of a closing door, he spots his sister, who, in Winnie the pooh pj’s, and an overtly long, curtain like tank top; looks as if she just stepped out of bed.

“Hey sis,” Michael says, swallowing. Immediately he clenches his beer and attempts to hide it; futile.

“Before we get into why we’re both listening, give me the fucking beer. If dad knew you were drinking again, he’d have a fit.”

Colleen, with an extended and opened hand, approaches her brother like a mother who just caught their kids digging into the candy jar.

Michael bites his tongue, tilts his head to the side, and gnaws at his lips.

“C’mon Coll, it’s friday night and mom and dad are at it. I was already drinking before they started losing their shit.”

Colleen heaves a sigh, not wanting to press it.

“Whatever, just close your fucking door and go back to doing whatever you were doing—”

Michael nods, and without arguing, slides back into his room and closes the door; locking tight.

It’s here, Colleen can feel the numbness of the liquor start to fill her. How her body is starting to lose the sense of touch, as she walks her hand across the wall. How her ears feel like she’s high up in the sky, the sound washing—

And then a gunshot.

Her heart jumps. Her feet pound the floor, her hands fire off the wall.

A thousand thoughts fill her mind.

Five more shots ring out—Colleen is half way down the hall.

She hits the large office door, the size of a cathedral entrance.

Above the door, a large painting of angels and demons with a volcanic eruption raining down a wave of fire above the burnt lands.

Colleen boot kicks the door in—

* * *

The white curtains blow in the wind from the open glass doors that lead to the wooden porch. Through the curtains—transparency of a night gown; you can see the back yard with a pool, a garden, a fountain, and an open gate. The sound of a car starting, revving, and screeching tires fills the fall air.

`A cloudless, midnight black sky with exuberant stars fills the horizon.

The silent groans of a man begging for breath, struggling as he inhales— clawing at his chest to exhale. From the glass door, a shattered vase, a destroyed bouquet of roses. Adjacent to the glass door, in the corner of the room is a thrown over chair with a black fedora hat and trench coat on the beneath it. In the center, a coffee table and a trail of ash that leads to a metal tray where three cigars still burn. Parallel to the coffee table, there is a yellow couch littered with bullet holes that has fallen forward. A pile of empty golden shells sink into the velvet maroon carpet, showing a Hanzel and Gretel path of golden gum drops; leading to the untouched, and unmarked mahogany desk. On the back wall, dozens of novels, exploded and destroyed, sending pages upon pages to the floor, and behind the desk—a man, with one hand grasping at his chest, the other gripping his M1911 loosely; his eyes opening and closing to the faint beat of his heart that gets slower. . . and slower.

His eyes fall to the large, double oak doors, that begins to open.

Oh, Colleen—please

He struggles to breathe as blood fills his mouth, and he spits it out—staining his teeth wine red. And every time he exhales, an open neck wound gurgles and gargles as his main artery sprays up the wall like a fountain. He knows his death is near, he can see it in the way his memories flash in front of him, projecting on the desk and couch showing the memories of his childhood, and his father that taught him everything he knew. The next flash, one of he and his mother in the kitchen—oh that naive woman whom who never learned of how good a man she had at home. The next scene, of he and his late wife playing with his daughter in the lawn of the their new home. Oh, she was such a cutie—his daughter, not that late wife of his—the one that was stolen from him, the one he was forced to put down like a dog. It’s amazing—how such a whore could give him such an angel. He closes his eyes, fidgeting with his neck—trying to keep the blood inside his body—yet unable.

He’s accepted death, it comes with the business after all. However it is not without its regrets.

The sight of his daughter, her glass eyes soaked with tears; tells all.

I’m sorry you have to see your father like this.

He cackles. He can only wonder if this his how is father felt on the old ports of Italy, when he, young sixteen year-old Bobby walked in on his father being hung upside down and tortured like pig. Isn’t that how his uncle brought him into the business?

.

Join the family, Bobby, Join the Vellet family, you see your dad’s throat here? Cut it—from ear to ear. Cut him like a fish and watch it spray—

“DADDY!” Colleen rushes across the room, dropping to his side.

Panic fills her, tears in her eyes, Colleen lashes out, gripping his pearl white suite soaked in blood with both hands,

Bobby smirks, and with all his might, takes her hands in his.

“It’s a dog eat dog—”

A surge of pain fills his cheek, as his head whips to the side.

She had just slapped him.

The slap reignites his dying flame, as his eyes fall to the desk, looking more and more lifeless each second.

Colleen tries to hold back the tears.

She shakes him.

“Tell me dad, don’t leave me the same way you abandoned your father—”

Blood sprays up the side of the wall, and with his fleeting strength, he turns to face his daughter.

“Look, don’t hate your mother for this, please,”

“Dad!”

Bobby’s face grows stern and serious, as he tightens his grip around her hands and pulls Colleen inches from his face—they look on, crossed eyed.

She can hear the spit and blood that gargles in his mouth.

Chills fill her core.

“I need you to call Mr. Deen, Gramps, remember? You met him once—”

Bobby takes a deep inhale, his chest fluttering. He feels like he’s drowning.

He spits. Bubbles of saliva mixed blood form at his lips, he tries to speak; clenching harder.

“I don’t have much time. But I’ll go to my grave with this. I’m the devil, and I’ll be back.”

The projector inside his head stops, and the once velvet carpet and yellow couch turn a white and black.

“Dad! Answer me!”

Like his life, his time now is fainting, falling deeper, and deeper from reality.

“What are you saying!” His eyes closes, and he finds himself unable to open them—

“Dad!”

They’re heavy and he no longer cares to breathe.

He cackles and shakes his head.

“It’s a dog eat dog world, remember that.”

Colleen stands, staring down at a corpse. Anger fills her.

The sound of the double oak doors closing, Colleen—heightened senses, turns around.

It’s Michael.

“Dad’s dead,” Colleen begins,

“I’m sorry,”

Colleen tightens her fists to her hips.

She turns.

“And it’s on your fucking blood. You’re fucking coward of a mother killed him!”

Rage. Anger. Hatred. Three emotions that can be seen on Colleens face.

Three emotions that send Michael looking around, in a fury of fear.

“Look, Coll, please don’t take this out on me.”

Colleen steps forward, traversing the room; all rational thought—gone.

“Coll, I’m on your side, please,”

Colleen stops in front of her brother, looking up at him, and yet, staring down.

She wants to strike him. She wants to kick and scream and slit his throat.

You killed my father. I’ll kill your son.

Colleen wipes the tears from her eyes.

“I have nothing left Michael. Both of my parents are now dead. And the worse part? It’s all been at each others hands.”

“Colleen,” Michael opens his arms, prepared to embrace his older sister; to comfort.

She stands tall.

“No Michael. Our father killed my mother. And now your mother, killed our father.”

Colleen shakes her head, and her lips tremble. She refuses to cry.

“And now,” She inhales deeply,

“I won’t stop until your mother is dead.

Michael looks away, steadying his breath.

“It doesn’t have to be this way. We don’t have to continue the family tradition, eye for an eye.”

Colleen nods. “It doesn’t have to be this way, but it will be this way. The question remains, what are you doing to do about it?”

“You think I’m going to kill you to avenge my mother?”

“I’m asking if you’re going to kill me to avenger your mother,”

Michael looks down at his feet, hands slapped on his hips.

“No.”

Colleen nods,

“Good, now I have a phone call to make.”

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Chapter 1

Below is a snippit of a WIP.

Currently in Editing phase 2.

August 1st Year 4030

ACT I : Chapter 1

The elevator opens. I grip the armrests of my wheelchair tight. I stare into the hall. A blue flare bounces off the cool-toned walls. I and my dead twigs for legs roll into the silver, steel smooth hallway. Above, old ceiling fans. In the background, the faint hum of a generator. I hate this place. I hate the smell of death that leeches from the walls. I hate the smiles on the fresh recruits. I don’t know how people can smile at death. I pity them. And yet I envy their ignorance.

I wish I were able to open up this hallway the same way a coroner open’s up a corpse; a scalpel to skin. If I had that power, I’d cut out the halls damn beating heart. I’d watch the madness die.

And then I’d smile. And then I’d write that damn event down in my journal, making sure my psychologist read it. He’d be happy to hear that I’ve smiled. He’d be delighted to hear that I was happy in that brief moment of time. Or not.

I shake my head. I continue down the hallway. I should show more respect for the dead. But it’s hard to be nice to fools. I don’t get it. I don’t understand how they can suit up in gear that’s older than their grandparents; with guns that have been in stockpile since the Colony wars, and fight to the death on a planet that we lost too long ago. And it doesn’t matter what I say to them. All they do is grin and look at me with rose-tinted irises, and twinkle filled eyeballs.

You’re a living Legend.

You’re a hero.

How did you survive?

You must be proud of the medals on your chest.

My response? I roll away. Because there is no medicine to treat a fool. A fool who stares down death with the subtle chance of having a meaning to life, through death.

And in the off chance they defy the odds and are given the opportunity to be me—I don’t want to be me.

No one—should want to be me.

“YOU’RE ALL FOOLS! TOOLS! SARDINES! WAITING TO DIE!”

Spit flies from my mouth. My cheeks burn red. The corridor echoes back my words; taunting. I hate this war, this stupid, helpless war.

A war where the enemy is machine, and the planet we wish to conquer—timid.

A war where our soldiers do not fight; they run.

The same way we’ve been running since we abandoned Earth as a civilization and inhabited the moon and mars. And despite my warnings to the United Universe, my words of wisdom fall on deaf ears.

The United Universe, fearful of repeating the Colony wars, have indulged in an ideology to treat Earth as the enemy greater than ourselves.

A method I never would have imagined; utilizing a common aspiration between two nations as a way to surmount war. I used to agree with it. But since the Colony wars on Mars, The Unifers have become a totalitarianism government.

If you ask me, I feel cheated, and I feel duped. I only wonder if those who had a grasp on history saw it coming. At first, the treaty was minimal; exports and imports increased between Mars and the Moon. But slowly, over the years, as politics got involved, the United Universe starting pooling resources from both armies, eventually flying an official banner; a nation without land to claim.

And don’t be fooled. Despite what the United Universe may say, it has citizens all over mars and the moon.

And, like a disease, it’s infected each generation after mine, going as far as entering our schools under the guise of peace; eventually teaching every child in the universe the new, official anthem.

We are from Earth,

The planet we call Paradise.

We are from Earth,

The planet we call Home.

We are from Earth,

We will return.

My daughters sang it to me once. I slapped them both. To this day, that damn song reminds me of these damn fools beyond these doors. Do they not see there is no honor in death? Do they not look at the papers that hang to their door by a simple metal tac; and see nothing more than an early gravestone?

But then again, why do I even care?

Is it because in a way, I feel at fault?

Is it because, for every death in this room, I profit?

I wonder if they hate me when they die?

I shutter. Hell, to them, they probably think nothing of these damn piece of paper that bears their names. All they see is a piece of paper that is no longer straight. They don’t know the symbolism. They don’t see the lies. Even as I proceed down the hallway, I see the little wind from the ceiling fans is enough to make the piece of paper flutter, looking to fly. That’s how thin and nimble these pieces are. They aren’t even all the same. Some are crumpled around the edges, others are torn. They remind me of office paper clippings. Further proof that is what these people are: scrap and fodder to be killed. I stop in the dead center of the hall, and I turn my chair to face a door. My door. And while my door looks the same as everyone else; the way my name is written is what sets it apart. Not on paper, no, not written in marker, no. It’s a piece of gold, etched inside: Thomas Deliah. I can’t help but chuckle. After all, I’m a hypocrite to judge. As it wasn’t more than a decade ago, I was in their same position. So, how can I criticize their march to death? Am I nothing but the same? Or am I worse? After all, I went to earth and came back three times. I’m the only one to return to Mars, ever. And with a heavy heart—what they don’t know—what haunts me to this day, is that I never played by the same rules, did I? Because while the stories told are that of Thomas Deliah, a foot soldier; the only time my feet touched the ground was the day I lost my ability to move them.

So, maybe that’s why I hate this war.

Because all these millions of soldiers who’ve died have gone to Earth thinking I was one of them. But I was never one of them.

I will never be one of them.

As I was a pilot. The pilot of the greatest secret humanity has ever held.

A giant machine that stands nearly twice as tall as the machines of our Enemy.

A giant machine found in old pictures and paintings; thought to be of Legend and Myth.

The X11Z MECHX Halcyon.

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Chapter 36

Authors Note

I’ve never been good with revealing my emotions. My high school sweetheart always considers me “bottled up.” So it’s to people read my writing that I’m quite an emotional person. While I don’t know the exact reason for it, I can only guess it’s because I’m scared.

I’m scared of throwing my work out to the world and that the world will hate it. I’m fearful of failure, but aren’t we all? It was because of that fear, however, that I sat in my room, many nights, going over my work—over and over and over again.

I have many amazing memories of this process. Whether it’s writing till two or three a.m. during school days, or upon graduation before I joined the Armed Forces, having a drink of Captain Morgan as I scratched out my work.

I have to say there is something to gain by listening to others who’ve been in the same position as I am in right now, and listening to their hardships through music in the early hours of the morning that just touches the core.

And the best part? We can all relate to that feeling of failure; we can all relate to that desire of needing to be successful, to accomplish our goals.

So, I’ve made a decision through Valentine, and that is my promise to you, my readers, that I will open up, and bring you on a loving journey. I refuse to let my fear trump my desire to be an author.

And for any of you who are reading this, don’t let your goals die. Please, don’t let your goals die because someone told you that you couldn’t do something.

Because if I had listened to those people, you wouldn’t be reading this.

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Chapter 35

I can’t stress this enough. If you like what you read, PLEASE share it on any platform.

Like my twitter @ElliottMBooks

But most of all, comment! Tell me what you think. It takes a few minutes out of your day, but it helps so much more than you realize! 

A one click ad can cost me as much as 1.00$. Think about that! If you share or tweet it, and four people click on it, that’s a max of 4.00$ in free advertising for me! 

CHAPTER XXXV

September 5, 1998

When Sawyer drops Lia off, she is no longer crying, and Sawyer is now calm. He passes her a brown envelope—which she declines—and a large pack of problem-solver medicine. Which Lia accepts without question.

She steps inside the house, walking like a zombie as she reflects the inner pandemonium of two men that weigh equally on her heart. Lia hides the package of cocaine beneath the bed and returns to the front porch to clean up her makeshift tea table. But before she begins, she immediately puts on her promise ring, now cold from the outside air. Even then, looking at it in the sun, the ring almost seems as worthless as those rings made of plastic you find in the old cereal boxes. And it’s all her fault. Should she tell him? While she knows it will do nothing but break his heart?

For Jack.

For Love.

For Jack.

For—

And she can’t help crying. What is she feeling? What is this knot in her heart?

She has never felt this… this feeling. This sense of knowing she has done a deed that will surely ruin everything.

Was it worth it? It’s always worth it until it’s done, then there is no going back.

I look down at my pad. Penned in-between these lines are the various derogatory terms you feel like saying.

This feeling of love and lust and—what does it even mean to love and lust if everyone is just the same?

I’ll never take this ring off again.

Lia hugs the ring between her breasts, trying to warm it up, trying to rekindle their love, not wanting to believe it’s all but dead.

And yet, Lia heads upstairs, grabs the wrapped package of cocaine, and heads towards the bathroom. With her two fingers, she unravels the tape and inside finds many, many prepackaged pills. At least fifty of them. Lia takes a few pills, opens one on the sink and snorts the line. She does this again and again and again.

Satisfied, Lia turns around and drops to the bathroom floor waiting, waiting for all her problems to go away.

I need to get laid.

I need to fuck him. If I fuck him, all the problems will go away.

All of this, all of this will go away. All these feelings of guilt will vanish.

Because surely, if those novels and movies have taught her anything, having sex solves everything. Because sex is only for two people in love right? It makes things simple, not more complicated. Because having sex means you’re now a grown adult and you have your head on your shoulders and are old enough and mature to know what to…

Who the fuck are you kidding, Lia?

Sex is like playing Russian roulette with a full chamber. No matter what, you’re leaving with an orgasm and a foot in your ass out of childhood.

But he’ll be my first, and being first matters more to any man.

I can’t stress this enough. If you like what you read, PLEASE share it on any platform.

Like my twitter @ElliottMBooks

But most of all, comment! Tell me what you think. It takes a few minutes out of your day, but it helps so much more than you realize! 

A one click ad can cost me as much as 1.00$. Think about that! If you share or tweet it, and four people click on it, that’s a max of 4.00$ in free advertising for me! 

CHAPTER XXXVI

When Jack enters the house just after work, he finds the bedroom lights on and an odd silence in the air.

“Lia?” he calls. He shuts the front door, takes off his leather jacket, and throws it on the couch.

“Up here.”

Currently, Lia is upstairs in the attic staring at all the big-breasted girls, reading, reading up on her homework to give Jack the best sex of his life. Surely that will make all the problems go away.

RIGHT?

RIGHT?

And that is when she hears Jack enter the bedroom, and ascend the wooden ladder into the closet.

Lia looks up from her Playboy magazine and wrinkles her nose at Jack standing with the moonlight illuminating his presence. His features are enhanced, reliable, and strong. She feels like leaping into his lap and crying to him, begging for his forgiveness at what she’s done. Her heart jumps in her chest, and fear boils on her skin.

She’s beautiful. She’s perfect. She’s my angel, Jack thinks. His heart races at the sight of his most prized possession sitting naked on Playboy magazines. And to his right is a makeshift bed adjacent to the attic window, with a few blankets and pillows, prepped and ready.

It’s finally time.

Jack approaches her side and sits down, consumed by her beauty. What he doesn’t know is behind his left foot, underneath the couch are three empty capsules of problem-solver medicine. But one could argue that that’s not important right now.

Jack leans in and kisses Lia on the lips, slowly working his way to her chin and to her neck. Lia closes the Playboy magazine and places it at her side—yet to Lia, she just handed off the Playboy magazine to the dark figure who has been nothing but silent tonight.

Lia opens her arms towards Jack—engaging his kisses thoughtfully and beautifully and heavenly and… sacredly.

Is this love?

The moon floats in the sky like a spotlight on their private encounter for the whole world to see, at last giving us the view of first-time teenage sex. We watch as Jack carefully picks her up and walks her over to the makeshift bed, lost in her presence.

Is this real? Is this finally happening?

They kiss and kiss and kiss, and Lia, for the first time, wraps her legs around his waist. They lay there in silence, feeling their hearts as they match the fluttering rhythm of EUPHORIA.

His ear to her breast, the sound of her breath, the sound of the wind graciously touching the side of the house allows them to live in the moment as he works his way down from her neck to her waist, ensuring he never forgets this moment until the day he dies.

“Love,” she whispers as she closes her eyes, leaving Jack to his own desires.

“Love,” Jack repeats as he begins to remove his clothes.

And when he’s finished, and his waist meets hers, Lia opens her eyes with the courage to look out the attic window at me sitting in the stars along with the men in yellow lab coats.

Yet she doesn’t care.

She turns back to face Jack, who’s lying between her legs, with his hardworking hands glued to her breasts and his pelvis on the edge of her flower, one that he hopes he will be able to harvest.

Lia can feel the presence of the dark figure over her as she brushes her hair away from her face, and she knows the dark figure is looking down at her, helping her, yet she refuses to look away from me.

“You enjoying the stars?” Jack asks and kisses her neck.

“Mhm.”

“Well, you just let me know when you’re ready, my angel,” he whispers.

Lia turns her head to face Jack and smiles.

“I’m ready,” she whispers back.

And before he can speak, she pulls his lips to hers.

Then a subtle release, and like a real first time, Lia can feel the weight of a man bearing down on her. A man that daddy always warned her about. A man that she loves. Her man. A man that loves her for her and wants her to grow and be the greatest, most amazing woman ever to exist.

Empowerment fills her as she offers her love, her body, herself to this man.

She is his at last.

She remembers his penis. The fear…

No, there isn’t any fear. There isn’t any worry or a feeling of being scared. Only love. Only love… Only. Love.

Is it her luminous body? Her purity? Or was it abstinence that is now keeping his erection stronger than ever?

Slowly, Jack moves in closer, his pelvis rubbing against hers.

“Can I?” she asks.

Jack nods, and Lia wraps her hand around his penis, edging it closer to her purity. Jack is shaking. He’s never seen Lia so calm, yet he so nervous. He’s anxious, and for the first time, he thinks will ejaculate prematurely—which may not be a bad thing.

He shakes away the thought. His lungs tighten, his breath catches. He is ready. She raises her hips, and slowly guides him in.

She lets out a squeak like a cute little doll.

Is it pain? Pleasure? He doesn’t know.

But Lia can tell you it’s the sound of relief. The idea that after this, all the problems will go away as the love of her life consumes himself in her wetness and the warmth of her body that’s now his and only his.

And she can feel them becoming something. Becoming one.

Slowly, the sensation of pleasure fills Lia, and it begins to slide in easier and easier as Jack rocks his hips forward and back until finally…

Lia and Jack smile.

It’s all in, and her hand drops from their zone of pleasure and slides up to Jack’s cheek. She caresses the side of his face and he leans in and kisses her and begins to lose himself in the greatest euphoric stimulation known to humanity.

“You’re my baby, my dear.”

“I love you,” he whispers.

“I love you too,” she whispers back.

Slowly, they rock back and forth for some time. Ten minutes no more. But it’s enough for Lia to feel the pleasure, heightened by the powder.

She feels complete. She feels that what she has given is something he will treasure for a lifetime to come. Something that he can use as a sign of possession. A sign of security. She feels like her friends were wrong, oh they were. She now feels like she understands the real purpose of sex.

“I want to grow old and die with you. I want you to be my forever—and only.”

Lia pulls him closer, and whispers in his ear. “Let us start a family, and signify our love.”

And with a few hard strokes, the lovemaking is over.

But they do not move. Instead, they lie there on the couch, connected.

They finally made love. It was everything Jack imagined.

And Lia sheds a silent tear.

I can’t stress this enough. If you like what you read, PLEASE share it on any platform.

Like my twitter @ElliottMBooks

But most of all, comment! Tell me what you think. It takes a few minutes out of your day, but it helps so much more than you realize! 

A one click ad can cost me as much as 1.00$. Think about that! If you share or tweet it, and four people click on it, that’s a max of 4.00$ in free advertising for me! 

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Chapter 34

I can’t stress this enough. If you like what you read, PLEASE share it on any platform.

Like my twitter @ElliottMBooks

But most of all, comment! Tell me what you think. It takes a few minutes out of your day, but it helps so much more than you realize! 

A one click ad can cost me as much as 1.00$. Think about that! If you share or tweet it, and four people click on it, that’s a max of 4.00$ in free advertising for me! 

CHAPTER XXXIV

September 5, 1998

The banana truck turns onto Grosvenor Line without Sawyer saying a word, yet when they reach Family Line, Sawyer continues heading straight and drives over the red bridge. They come to a forked road. The left fork leads to Yellowtail Park; the right fork is a path that runs up and over the overly green forest hills.

The yellow truck heads right.

Lia, taking notice of the distance between her and her home, looks at Sawyer in fear. “Where are we going, Sawyer? Jack will be getting home soon. We need to go back.”

“I’m taking you to a particular spot. I was going to save it till later, but now, no. You’re coming with me right now, and we are going to see this special spot, and you’re going to change your mind. Besides, we’ve had so much fun these past two days. What’s another hour going to hurt?”

Lia sees the look in Sawyer’s eyes, and she is starting to feel the effects of post-cocaine use: the tension rising in her shoulders, the small prickles on her skin, the pressing hands on her neck, squeezing.

She is starting to see the little bit scary side of Sawyer, the part of a man who is drowning in love with her, love of her body—nothing less.

“I can’t stay, Sawyer; please take me home. If I stay, what am I going to say to Jack when he gets back?”

“You tell him the truth.”

“But Sawy—”

“SHUT UP! AND BE QUIET!”

Lia is taken aback at his words. She looks like a woman who just caught a glimpse of the future where she is fifty years older and ninety pounds heavier.

Sawyer is crying; tears are flowing slowly but steadily.

When they reach the top of the hill, two lines of unbroken pine and oak trees emerge on both sides. Further up the path is a significant break in the forest where it looks like a giant boulder fell from the sky and left nothing but tree trunks in its wake.

The banana truck turns right off the path and into the forest, following already driven tire grooves as if it’s well traveled by the locals, and only the locals. Sawyer slows the vehicle down to go up and over large tree roots, fallen trees, and displaced earth. Sawyer locks the doors.

Lia’s heart is racing in her chest, and the idea that Sawyer may have lost his mind finally sets in. At this point, she wonders if she teased the dog for too long and now he’s going to bite her. Besides, she’s being set up for failure, and she knows it. Sawyer has taken her this far out of town because he wants Jack to find her and him—surely to piss Jack off no doubt.

This isn’t fair, she thinks. She didn’t want this to happen—ever. But right now, Sawyer isn’t thinking about them. He’s thinking about himself; he’s thinking about ruining this relationship for himself.

He wants her, and what better way to have her than for her to come back late with another man like no fucks given.

“Sawyer, take me home now! This isn’t fair; I didn’t ask for this!”

Sawyer ignores her plea, and instead reaches his right hand across the shift stick and places it on her knee, rubbing circles, feeling her soft whorish skin on his hands.

“Can you just forget about Jack for once? Let us just enjoy this,” he says as the truck exits the forest to a view like no other.

Lia sees his hand on her thigh. Goosebumps climb up her skin. She starts to speak…

This is the end. He’s gone insane. This is the end of…

The words that dance on her lips… Dissipate.

They are on a cliff that sits above a canyon with a roaring river tumbling down many, many rocks and past creeks from the left. Above them are purple-pink clouds that set her in awe the same way cotton candy puts a smile on a child’s face.

Below them, about five hundred feet or so, is a lake that has many little row boats and small cottages littering the break wall the same way people litter the world—in condensed yet rather abundant fashion.

And surrounding the lake are sparse fields of farmland, trees, and a large white tower that stands as an ugly scar of humanity.

Sawyer rolls down both windows, and she is hit with the sudden, yet constant, stream of warm, fresh air on her face. Sawyer finishes by crawling the truck up to the edge of a cliff that rides the horizon line, splitting Montana like a dagger.

Gusts of wind descend from the hill, and the light breeze rushes through the truck’s cab. Sawyer reaches over, rubs his eyes and wipes his face, controlling his emotions.

“Can you just forget about Jack? Can you not just marry me?” he pleads as desperation fills his eyes.

“Even if I wanted too, I can’t.”

“And why can’t you?”

“Because.” she says, staring down at the brown envelope.

“Because why?” He reaches for the ignition and turns it off. Silence.

Lia looks at him, and shakes her head to remove the potential for tears.

“Because I need to remember Jack is always busy. He works hard, and while I don’t see him often, I know he loves me. I need to hold on to those feelings of before. I need to remember that love so I don’t do something stupid. I’m sorry; I’m a fool, I’m a fragile fool, and I’m sorry for putting you through this because I know what it’s like to have your heart broken. But I can’t do it. I love Jack. I do. But I still took advantage of both of you.”

“But what about your love for me? These past few weeks I’ve never had so much fun in my life! We get high together, we write together, and we talk and talk for hours on end and I feel so comfortable around you. I can talk to you about anything and everything. I love you, Lia.”

“I know you love me, Sawyer. Don’t you see? I knew you loved me the day you put your eyes on me. So, I’m sorry. I’m sorry for dragging you around like this. I’m sorry for teasing you. I’m sorry, okay? I’m just weak… I’m just weak… I wanted someone to love me when I felt like I wasn’t being loved. But I was being loved—always. I’m just so dumb and so foolish.”

“Then be dumb and foolish with me!” Sawyers begs, wanting her to reconsider, as he feels nothing but Jack’s heavy foot on his heart and Jack’s presence in his mind. The thought that he will never have Lia makes it difficult for him to even breathe. Hell, he can barely control his feelings—his feelings of reaching out and kissing her, his feelings of screaming, his feelings of crying. Oh, he has never felt so stuck in a torrent of emotions, and for once in his life he feels like he has been duped, set up to fail, just like he’d done to her.

“No. Enough of this. Take me home.”

Sawyer shakes his head; anger boils beneath him. “Why are you so scared to leave Jack? Why are you so afraid to do what makes you happy?”

“I love Jack.”

“No, you fucking don’t! I see it in your eyes, Lia. I see your love for me!” Warm tears brush his cheeks as he slams his fist into his chest. “Every time you see me, the world around us lights up, and we get brighter. Every time we see each other, our hearts beat stronger, faster. You may tell yourself you don’t love me, you don’t want me, but you can’t hide what your heart feels, Lia! You may not like it, but it’s the truth.”

Out of breath, Sawyer thinks his ribcage is going to snap under the weight of Jack’s foot. “You love me!”

“No,” Lia says weakly, fighting—fighting her feelings, fighting the doubt that’s climbing into her heart and pulling at her strings.

“I don’t love or lust for you,” she whispers. Then her voice rises in a crescendo. “I don’t! Lia doesn’t love or lust for you!” And she says it that way again, and again, as if telling herself in the third person will reaffirm her conclusion.

She lifts her left hand, looking for her ring which she realizes is still at home—underneath the table, hidden. Why? Because she’s not dumb. She knows she’s been sitting on the shoulders of a man who likes her just as well. She shakes her head. What is she doing?

I’m drowning them both and they’re taking me with them.

Sawyer unbuckles his seat belt, and Lia can feel his heart radiate from his chest. Or is it her heart she feels? She looks at this man who has made her so happy, but the ring, Lia, remember the ring! Remember the kids! REMEMBER JACK, FOR GOD’S SAKE!

NO, OUR HEARTS DON’T GET STRONGER, DON’T BEAT BRIGHTER.

JACK IS MY MAN.

“Why do you fight what is true?” Sawyer begs to know as he leans forward and finds Lia unable to move back—frozen at his gaze. He closes his eyes, leans over, and kisses Lia on her lips.

Just a peck, but a peck is all he needs. Sawyer opens his eyes and sits back in the driver’s seat.

“Please, don’t. Please take me home. I have built too much with Jack.”

“And things change. And hearts move on. And people find better people for them all the time!”

She shakes her head.

“No. No. That’s bullshit! What we feel right now isn’t love, it’s lust. Lust is fun. Lust is immediate happiness. Lust is those bubbles in your stomach that drive your head crazy and your heart into a frenzy. Love isn’t like that. Love… love is hard. Love is building something for the future. Love is being able to look into someone’s eyes and feel security. Love is about overcoming those lusts and knowing that they will always be by your side and—”

“No. It sounds to me you don’t love Jack at all. Love is about smiling at each other every day and feeling those bubbly moments in your stomach every time you look at them. Love is about falling head over heels for one another, and nothing will come between you—ever. Love is about being the soul mate for the rest of your life, building something but always feeling something.”

“No, you’re wrong. That’s not love! That’s love meant for fairy tales and movies. Love isn’t like that. In real life, love isn’t at first sight. Love isn’t at first sex. Love is being able to look at someone and say, ‘I want to build something with that person.’”

“Then why don’t you build something with me?”

“Because, I’ve already built the foundations with Jack. We are building a home, we’re going to have kids, we’re going to die together. That’s set in stone, Sawyer. You can be my friend, and we can keep having fun and keeping playing around, and you can find another girl, and have kids with her and—”

“No! That’s bullshit. How am I supposed to move on from someone if I see them every day? If my heart aches for the woman being fucked by a man whore, a murderer, and a pathetic piece of trash that doesn’t deserve you! I love you Lia and if my love is something out of fairy tales, so be it! I’ve loved you since I laid my eyes on you. I loved you since I saw you smile, since I saw those eyes light up like little glowing lanterns every time we meet each other. You can’t deny me that, not even after today, when we danced to the radio and had tea, and read these short stories and created characters and…”

Lia knows she’s now crying too. Her heart is crying, her heart is aching for both. Why does she have to choose?

She shakes her head. “But don’t you see? It’s having fun. That’s all it is.” Lia says it as sternly as she can—which isn’t stern at all. She looks at her little bread-ring finger, only to tear it off and throw it to the floor.

“That’s all this is, two children who are just having fun at the moment. But relationships are more than fun. What if one day we argue, and you decide that I’m not worth it. Or maybe I decide you’re not worth it. What if one day I—”

“One day you what, Lia?”

“I—I,” Lia breaks into a full-on wail, her face falling into her hands. “I don’t know!” she screams.

“There will never be arguments. Our relationship will be flawless, just like you.” He extends his hand to her shoulder rubbing circles, leaning forward, and kissing her neck at her hair line.

Lia shakes her head in her hands, mumbling some foreign-sounding language as she tries to get her thoughts through her hands.

“I can’t, I can’t do this… I can’t do this.”

And Sawyer falls back into his seat in disbelief.

“I can’t believe this. With all this… all this fun we’ve had, all these things we’ve done—and yet you affirm your love for a man whore, a brute, and an asshole. Is this how all girls are nowadays? Falling in love with men who are better off sticking their dick in a common whore?”

“Watch your tongue! I love that man you speak of, and he has done nothing wrong but love me!”

“Do you know that?” He whispers, “Do you? Do you really love him as much as you say? Or do you feel like you must service him for life as he came and saved yours?”

Lia feels as if this is a repeat of before, this time being played in a different tune.

“I…” She doesn’t want to face a man who has done nothing but shit on her choice of a man.

“I can give you the world, I have money, and with money is power. All you have is a weak man who will be working the mines until he dies. He’s fucked. Do you really want to be poor your whole fucking life? Do you really want to continue living like this until you die?”

Lia struggles to regain her composure; her wailing cries have been muffled to just tears. Her voice box feels like it’s been glued together with sticky tack, making it difficult to speak, but she manages. With the courage she has she manages to tell Sawyer how it is.

“All I know is that it was not two weeks ago I cried to him, telling him I was afraid he was going to leave me for another girl, another girl because of me not being good enough. And despite my issues for him to fuck me, he has been very considerate and very loving and caring. And if I know anything about my father and men, if any male can hold his dick to wait and wait until his girlfriend is ready… then that’s the man for me. Jack is mine.”

Lia wipes her tears, but they just keep coming.

“Besides, he gave me a promise ring. He told me when he gets enough money he’s going to marry me, he’s going to marry me!”

She turns and faces the eyes of shock and disbelief.

“Don’t you see? He gave me a ring.”

He grins. “And you took it off.”

And Lia, with the sound of guilt rising from her voice like a dormant volcano that she wishes never woke, can only nod.

“I know it, you know it. You love me like I love you.”

Sawyer, feeling as if victory is in reach, turns on the ignition and looks back at Lia, whose skin has turned ghostly pale from the truth. But in those eyes Lia is no longer paying attention to Sawyer. She’s ogling at the dark figure hunching over the driver’s side window, leaning into the truck. He smiles at her, pushing Sawyer over the seat towards her. The dark figure is helping Sawyer into Lia’s space.

And Sawyer begins to speak. “You keep telling yourself you’re in love him. But prove this to me…”

Lia can’t speak, or move, as Sawyer leans in and kisses her on the lips. Lia, like a mannequin, wide-eyed, shocked, can only accept everything that will happen next.

Sawyer lowers his hand to her waist, pulls up the dress slightly, and shoves his hand into her panties.

A surge of lust runs through her as Sawyer smiles in satisfaction and kisses her again, and again, and again.

Ten minutes later Sawyer throws the truck into reverse and drives Lia home. On the drive home, Lia does nothing but stare outside at the moving fields.

Lia starts to cry, as silently as she can.

Sawyer feels not sadness, not remorse, but happiness as he looks at his right hand, as he smells his right hand. She smells like roses. He got all he needed from her. After all, actions speak louder than words.

And to Lia, allowing Sawyer’s action is the equivalent of a man finding out there is no man in the sky. The inner turmoil that follows sometimes drives people to the edge of their life—believing everything is but a lie.

But what comes next… for Sawyer it is the equivalent of the world crashing down—imploding on itself.

“When you drop me off, I don’t want to see you again—ever.”

He wasn’t expecting this outcome, and before he can open his mouth, the dark figure covers it and whispers something in his ear that can only make him smile.

Standard

Chapter 33

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CHAPTER XXXIII

September 5, 1998

“Hello, Albott? It’s Gord, from the Vancouver Police Department.” […]

“Yeah, uh huh, thanks, I’m glad you’re doing okay.” […]

“Yeah.” […]

“Uh huh, yeah. You see, I called you a few days ago—” […]

“Oh, You’ve been busy have you… You need me to call you back—” […]

“No? Okay, Look, I’m calling on behalf of that forty thousand you—” […]

“No refunds? I’m not looking for refunds. I’m just—” […]

Albott, they’re doing good? I’m glad… I’m glad, I truly am… I’m trying to let you know that my two top detectives have just filed dismissal forms and they’re—” […]

I understand that Albott, I do. No, loo—” […]

ALBOTT, CAN YOU LISTEN FOR ONE SECOND? I’M TRYING TO TELL YOU THAT YOU HAVE TWO DETECTIVES THAT ARE COMING TO TOWN!”

* * *

“Where to, Liabug?” Sawyer asks as they turn left onto Maim Street.

Lia turns to the first page and places the pen on the top line.

“Well, if I were Isabella, I would want to walk up Maim Street and look for something to do. What is there to do, Sawyer?”

“Well, we have Chaz’s market and bar, an old theater that’s long abandoned, and a small variety store.”

“That sounds like no fun.” Lia’s eyes light up for a moment, remembering the little boy who dropped his loaf of bread, staring at her the first time she came to town. “We have a local bakery, do we not?”

“We do. You want to go there?”

“Of course! Let’s go to the local bakery so we can eat some fresh bread, have a slice, and if we’re lucky a muffin or two!”

“That sounds like a splendid idea.”

“You think so, Sawyer?”

“I can smell the bread already.”

* * *

“Hey, boss!”

Rusty, standing just outside the sleeping quarters with a shovel in hand looks up. It’s Jack.

“Ah, what do you need, my boy?” He forces his shovel straight down into the dirt. Jack approaches and extends his hand for a shake. Rusty takes a rag from his back pocket and cleans his hands. He’s okay to take a break. After all, thanks to Jack they’re ahead of schedule. They shake hands.

“The sleeping quarters are looking great, boss.”

“Thanks, Jack. The flooring is almost done, plumbing will be finished later in the week, and those poles of ours are holding quite well. We did a damn good job, I tell ya.”

“When do you think you’ll be ready to move Linda and them up here?”

“Hopefully next week, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I’m likin’ the silence,” Rusty says with a laugh.

“Now, what’s on your mind? Or should I say who?”

“It’s a who. It’s Lia.”

“And how can I help you with her?”

“I just don’t know what to do with Lia anymore, boss. She’s too stubborn. She loves your place but refuses to go more than once or twice a week and I don’t get it one bit. You know how happy she was when I picked her up from your place? She was smiling, genuinely smiling for the first time in a long time and I haven’t seen this smile since we ran away. Still, she doesn’t want to go every day, or even every other day and I don’t know if she is afraid, embarrassed, or just unwilling, but it’s like I’m dealing with a toddler. She used to be so good just to follow, and recently—”

“She’s been rebelling against everything.”

“Of course you know,” Jack smiles, feeling a bit relieved. “You always know.”

“Look, I don’t want to get too personal into that life of yours, but from man to man, dating a good girl who has daddy issues is like dating a sinking ship. It may take you ten years to fix all those holes, and she may sink before you even do. Even if you manage to fix all those fucking holes, it’s still got war wounds, and those holes will still leak time to time, and so you’ll always be stuck running around to maintain the ship. So normally those girls need patient boyfriends. They need boyfriends that want to put in the time to get the reward.

“But right now you can’t put in the time working all these hours, and we both know you can’t leave her alone because she might just sink. So let me just be straight with you, Jack. There is no option here. You need to get her to come to my wife’s place more than once or twice a week. Hell, if you can, you need her there for a while, get her out of the home and out of her head. You need to trust the girls will help her.”

“But what if I can’t? Do you expect me to just drag her out there and tie her down to a chair every day?”

“If that’s what it takes,” Rusty affirms, taking his shovel out of the ground and beginning to dig a hole.

“And what if I don’t want to do that?”

“Then leave her alone. But let it be known to her that you will be leaving her to sink in her nightmares, her thoughts, and she’ll end up thinking stupid things or worse.”

Rusty looks Jack in the eyes.

“She will do stupid things. You don’t know how these people work, and neither do I, Jack. But they don’t think straight. I tell you, crazy people, they think in loops and shapes. Something that’s simple to us ain’t simple to them.”

Jack takes a deep breath, wondering just how much he’ll be able to do what Rusty suggests. After all, Lia is her own person, but he’s scared for her. He wants the best for her, but he wonders how far he’ll need to go to get it.

“You’re right. I’ll figure out something, boss.”

And with that, Rusty extends his hand and pats him on the shoulder.

“I have all the faith in the world you’ll do just fine, Jack. You guys are strong, and I can see the bond. So if you have any worry in that head of yours, get rid of it. It’ll take more than a rough patch for you guys to lose hope in one another.”

“You think so?” Jack asks, feeling a bit of relief, before nodding himself, realizing that, yes, they will go through this after all. “I got her a ring by the way.”

Rusty stops shoveling, and looks up at Jack with a smile on his face. “I already heard. Rita told me all about it. “

“She did?”

“Yeah, she told me how Lia just went on and on about how great you are, as a boyfriend, and as a friend. She adores you, Jack. She looks up to you.”

She looks up to me? I never knew that.

“But Rita also told me that you disappoint her, Jack. She say’s Lia has tried to talk to you numerous times about this figure or father of hers or whatever, yet you always get angry at her or shut her down. Is she right?”

Jack doesn’t say a word as he reaches into his pocket and pulls out an unopened packet of cigarettes.

Rusty raises an eye, taking the butt end of a cigarette as a yes. “You smoking now?”

Jack nods. “A friend suggested it to me. She said it would help me control my temper and keep me in check.”

“You getting stressed?”

“Of course, who isn’t stressed these days? I was told the stress could be accumulative concussions, withdrawal of football, or the five- to six-hour sleep. I think it has more to do with me wondering what Lia is doing every single fucking second of the day and trying to keep her childish behaviour on a leash while I’m stuck a few miles out at the mine.”

“Very well, you’re a grown man. I won’t advise you against smoking.”

It seems everyone’s a hypocrite these days Rusty thinks, watching Jack take a few puffs, and looks off into the cavern below where the bumblebee trucks drive up and down loading and unloading coal like little ants on an ant hill. It makes Rusty realize just how far Jack has come. He wants to pretend he can imagine how Jack feels, but he can’t. And he wants nothing more than to tell Jack it will get better, but he doesn’t know.

I just hope you’ll figure it out soon, Jack. Believe in yourself, and I’ll believe in you.

The word boss rises to Rusty’s lips, a name Jack had given him, yet a name he doesn’t deserve. Rusty has never been the boss, as much as he’s never been king. Sure he has a happy wife and a few kids, but he’s not one for Jack to look up at as a role model. He’s made his fair share of mistakes and lives every day in regret.

“Jack, if you need anything, if you require a day off or two to deal with this, you just let me know, okay? John and I, we understand.” He placed both hands on Jack’s shoulders.

“We understand how hard it is for you, for her, for anybody to transition to this life. So I don’t blame ya, if you need to smoke a pack a day and need the extra change, I’m all here okay? We will get you and your girlfriend sorted out. By the end of this month, she will be ready for bed, and she will be loving, caring, happy…”

Jack sucks deeply on the cigarette, feeling the poison hit his lungs and fill his blood. “It’s not about loving and caring at this point. We talk about all these things: love, family, future, children. I just feel she’s hiding something from me. I’m starting to see she’s smarter than we give her credit for. I’m starting to see she acts like a child because it’s easier to act like a child than a young adult. Last night she told me she wanted to make a kiddie’s room to put positive thoughts instead of negative ones on sex. But it’s bigger than that. Nothing is that easy or black and white, and I appreciate Rita trying to help but… I just don’t think she’s telling me the full story.”

“She’s just rebellious, Jack. She’s trying to figure herself out now too. You gotta remember that it’s been very hard on her as well.”

“Very hard on her? How about very fucking hard on me!” Jack raises his hand, closes his eyes, and rubs his index finger and thumb across his face. He takes a deep breath, trying to calm himself. He takes a drag from his cigarette.

“Look, I’m sorry for the outburst. But I’m also not sorry because I’m sick and tired of giving her every excuse in the book. I’m feeling lost, okay? I don’t mean to yell, but I find if I don’t no one listens. I tell you I’m worried about her, and we just give reasons and reasons on why she feels this way, giving her a free pass, and I’ve had enough of it. Like, I go and get her a ring, and I go and promise to do all these things and I do. I do everything for her, and she still turns around and has the nerve to tell me I don’t listen to her. Is it too much to ask of her to go to fucking Rita’s every damn day? And then I even tell her I want to marry her, and yet I look in her eyes, and I find myself wondering, am I not enough for her?”

Jack coughs, exhaling smoke from his lungs. He doesn’t know what or how to think anymore. All Jack knows is he’s tired and sick of the bullshit. He’s tired of the issues.

“I think you just need to keep talking and grinding out your issues. Eventually she will wake up, Jack. I know it’s hard. You don’t have a lot of time in a day. But you gotta try.”

“I do try. But you don’t understand, boss.”

“Well, then enlighten me.”

“There are days I’ll come home, and I’ll hear her giggling upstairs in our room. Every time I go to see her, she’ll stop giggling, and she’ll just be sitting on the bed as if doing nothing. But I know she’s doing something.”

“Do you ask her why she’s giggling?”

“No.”

“Well, there is your problem. It sounds to me you guys don’t communicate.”

“We do communicate, but I feel like I’m walking on eggshells with her. I watch my words, watch what I say. I just want things to get better.”

“You guys both want things to get better.”

“Does she? It seems no matter what I do and whatever she says, she’s always having a hella good time when I’m not around. It’s as if I scare her, and I just want to see her smile more than when we talk about the future, and I want her to laugh when we talk about now. I want her to smile when she looks at me, a real smile. I want our kisses to be like when I gave her that promise ring. It seems every time we take two steps forward, something just hits her, something that makes her unsure, and she take two steps back.”

* * *

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The sun beams overhead with a light sprinkle of rain. It’s one of those light rains where it feels good on your skin, and complements the day instead of destroying it. If you look at Maim Street, past Chaz’s Market and Bar and the old theater, you’ll find a banana-yellow truck parked outside the bakery, and in the window, Sawyer and Lia are sitting at a table with their bare manuscript in hand sharing a quarter loaf of bread.

Lia is writing, and Sawyer is caught with his head between his hands admiring the enthusiasm exhibited by this beautiful girl towards his passion of writing stories. The two love birds are so wrapped in a bubble of bread, lust, and storytelling that they fail to hear the two old ladies over at the counter whispering to each other as they prep flour for tomorrow’s batch of fresh bread.

The two old ladies smile and giggle like two school girls unable to contain their admiration of young love. One of the old ladies remarks about her first boyfriend and his companions and how they used to sneak away after school and go down to the gully beneath the red bridge towards Yellowtail park. There, they would smoke cigarettes they stole from their parents, drink beers, and go skinny dipping. She also tells of a day her mother came down to the gully after finding out through the grapevine that one of the boys on the street had taken her innocence. Thinking it was sex, of course, she was not pleased, and when she showed up with a bat in hand, it was the talk of the town for months. Her mother was relieved, to say the least, when she found out it was no more than a game of spin the bottle that turned into a walk in the woods and a peck on the cheek. Even back then rumors had a way of growing exponentially. People always love good gossip. Her mother still beat that boy senseless.

If we look back at the table where the two young lovebirds sit, you will see they are talking wildly—

“And then Isabella gets invited to make a fresh loaf of bread.”

“With Loyl falling in a bucket of flour, coating his teddy bear fur with flour!”

“And he’ll pretend to be a snowman!” she adds as she writes profusely, then leans back to admire her handiwork. Then, as quickly as she leaned back, she launches herself forward, hunching down and writing again. Lia feels like William Shakespeare.

“I also want them to make some bread swords with Loyl wearing bread armour! He will sneak up on Isabella as she is making her loaf of bread!” she yells, trying to write down as fast as she can think. The flow of thoughts rush through her at the speed of cocaine-induced euphoria.

“Yes, do that, yes!” Sawyer takes a bite from his piece of bread, and a smile falls on him with the sudden intensity of a nuclear bomb. He has a dazzling idea. As Lia creates the scene, completely enveloped in her racing thoughts, Sawyer aggressively digs his fingers into the belly of the bread. With a decent portion of white innards in his hand, he begins rolling the white innards into two balls the size of marbles. Then Sawyer takes one and sticks his index finger through it, pulling it down until it sits past his knuckle. He then rounds the edges to create a ring entirely made of fresh bread.

Proud of his accomplishment, he takes the other ball of bread and holds it beneath the table, smiling wide. One of the female bakers behind the counter glances at the small yet cute gesture, nodding to her co-worker in sweet approval.

Oh I wish I was young again.

“Hey, Liabug.”

“Yes, Sawyer?”

“Close your eyes and pass me your left hand.”

“Okay!” Lia finishes her sentence and drops her pen. She closes her eyes and extends her hand across the table.

Sawyer takes her hand, and Lia feels a piece of something warm and soft wrap around her ring finger. Unable to hold in her excitement of anticipation, she opens her eyes before he can say it himself.

“Oh, it’s a ring!” she says.

He shakes his head playfully. “I didn’t tell you to open your eyes yet!”

“It’s not even done yet. Here, you need to smooth the edges out.” Sawyer holds her delicate hands in his. He watches her eyes, her attentive stare, as he flattens the bread around her finger. He wonders what’s in those eyes, those little balls of light that have so many thoughts and feelings.

“Why are you staring at me like that? Is something wrong?”

Sawyer looks down at her hands and lets out a little sigh and finishes her bread ring. “No, no, nothing is wrong, Liabug. I was just thinking…”

Lia takes her hand back, admiring the ring in all its beauty. Sure, to any normal adult it would be nothing more than pudgy innards from a fresh loaf of bread wrapped around her finger. But to Lia and her vibrant imagination, it’s more than that. To her, it’s the thought of creating a ring out of something so simple that turns the simple bread ring into a ring made of white gold with a shine that can outmatch any pearl from the deepest blue sea. It’s the thought that allows all the pink and red jewels that sit in the light to sparkle the brightest. And while no one else may think it’s real—not even her Sawyer—she thinks it’s real. And that’s all that matters.

“What did you think about?”

Sawyer sits back in his chair, staring at her hands and the ring of bread. He will never forget this moment—ever.

Lia smiles at him, and with her free hand, she pulls her hair back from her face.

“This ring is the most beautiful ring I’ve ever seen.”

And Sawyer looks up at her with a slight smile. He raises his hand, showing his breaded ring. “And they match.”

“What do you mean?”

Sawyer leans over the table, and raises her hand to his lips, kissing her hand. “We’re married!” he says, laughing.

Lia blushes, but Sawyer feels her tighten her hand and pull back. “Oh, don’t be silly, we can’t get married, you fool.”

“What do you mean we can’t get married?” he says. His smile cuts off.

“I’m going to be married to Jack one day, and if I remember correctly, you can only marry one person! Not two, you silly goose!”

“You say that now, Lia, but things change, they always do.” He says as jealousy grips the balls between his legs.

Lia pulls her hand away from his and looks down at her bread ring, like a spot of uncertainty lies in her heart, and Sawyer knows this look all too well.

Lia rubs her fingers around the bread ring. The soft dough adds weight to her marriage finger.

“That can be real gold one day with any gem you’d want. I will make the world our castle. We can go anywhere you want. I have more money than you’ll every know, Lia—”

“This is terribly kind, and terribly sweet, but I have Jack. It will never work.”

“But it can work, it can! Give it a chance. Forget about that boy and remember me.”

“Don’t be like this, please. I don’t want to choose, I really don’t. Can’t you just accept that I want to marry him, and I want you to be my best friend?”

“And that will never work Lia.” Sawyer speaks sternly now; his face shows genuine anger.

“Sawyer,” Lia says his name softly, soft as an angel to calm a beast—an animal. Lia extends her arm across the table and places her delicate hand on his cheek, her cold skin against his burning flesh, as if taking an ice pack to a sunburn.

Sawyer shakes his head. “I love you, you know that,” he finally admits. “I know you love me, and I…”

Sawyer arches his brow and can see how Lia stares at him to carefully navigate her words. She doesn’t want to give him a false idea, give him false hope—

“And you?” he asks. The phrase of optimism rests on his lips, presses on his heart.

Lia looks towards the banana truck outside, licks her lips, and takes a deep breath. “I think we should go,” she murmurs.

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