Authors: Alina Man
All rights reserved.
This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be resold or given away to others unless a separate copy has been purchased. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2013 Alina Man
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
WARNING: Advised for audiences 17+ years.
*Includes a sample of Finding My Way Home
I’ve been really fortunate to meet some wonderful people since I started my journey as an author. One of these people is Marcia Woodell who has been there for me from day one. I can’t thank you enough for everything you’ve done for me. Love ya sweets.
A special thank you to
Skye Roth Turner (make sure to check out her Alluring Turmoil series), Becky Wimmer, Donna Fisher, Angel Davis Perry, Jennifer Brain, and Shelly Pratt for all your encouragement. Your support means the world to me.
Bungo, my editor, who spends the time to make my stories better – I don’t know what I would do without your help. You’re really awesome.
my Facebook fans and readers – I can’t thank you enough. Without you these stories mean nothing.
Thank you to my amazing little family: Romeo, Stefan, Daniel and Nicholas. You guys are my world and I hope I make you proud.
Table of Contents
“Do you guys need a few minutes to talk this over? Just keep in mind that there are a few other applications already in for this place
, so it’s not guaranteed that you’ll be approved. If you decide this is the place for you, we need to act fast.”
“Give us a few minutes please,” Sam tells Mrs.
Scrofanni. The middle aged woman smiles politely and leaves us in the middle of the empty kitchen. I’m sure she knows we love the apartment. “What do you think babe?” I look up at Sam whose smile still makes me weak in the knees.
“Well, it needs a lot of work
, and we really need to pretty much gut the bathroom.”
“Love, tell me
yay or nay. Whatever you say, I’m all for it.”
“Are you kidding me? I love it
, baby. This is exactly what we wanted, and we’re right in the middle of all the action.”
“Let’s go for it.”
“Mrs. Harmon, did you hear me?”
“I’m sorry, what did you say?”
“It’s alright. I was just saying that I hope you’ll be happy in this place. The neighborhood is one of the best, very family oriented.”
“Thank you. I’m sure it will do.” I had to cut her short. She had no idea what the word family did to me inside. Family. Those six letters had the power to cut through my heart like a sharp knife—making me bleed, yet I did not die. It was a slow agonizing pain, never-ending, simmering in the background where no one could see it. And just when the flame was ready to die, someone would tender the flame, reminding me that I would never be ok.
Mrs. Meyers doesn’t know need to know that I would not be making any friends in this neighborhood, that the only reason I purchased the place was because it was new and hidden on the tidy cul-de-sac, or that it was exactly what Sam would’ve wanted.
. Just thinking of him fills me with pain. But the nice Mrs. Meyers doesn’t need to know that.
“Thank you for all your help.”
“Well if there’s anything you need, don’t hesitate to give me a call. Congratulations again. It’s a beautiful home.” I shake her hand and walk her to the door. I’m left alone in the empty house, wishing I was anywhere but here.
“Well Sam, I hope you love this place because this is our home now.”
Looks like our hour’s up, but I have to tell you, you’re making great progress.” She smiles politely like she always does when she’s ready to get rid of me. I don’t bother to smile back. I know she doesn’t expect me to. I nod, my way of saying goodbye, and grab my bag that’s been sitting on the floor next to the plush sofa. I walk out in the bright August sun, letting the heat warm up my skin. I wish I could just stand still in this very spot. I wish the whole world would stop and I was all alone. I know that sounds crazy, but then again, I AM crazy. At least that’s what my doctors say. If you don’t believe me, all you have to do is check my file; or should I say one of my
files. My name is Jennifer Harmon and I suffer from PTSD: post-traumatic stress disorder. I guess that’s what they have to name it since they don’t teach about “broken heart” syndrome in medical school. Not yet, anyway.
the last five years I’ve been hospitalized in a mental institution – several times, followed by “intense” psychiatric visits. Once they decided I was no longer a threat to myself, or anyone else for that matter, I was finally pushed into the care of Dr. Collins, psychotherapist specializing in emotional and mental behaviors. Five years of probing and medication, and they still haven’t been able to crack through the thick layer of ice that’s been wrapped around my heart and soul. I don’t mind, actually. Opening up would mean having emotions, and my emotions died the same day Sam was taken away from me.
I walk slowly, without purpose, toward my new neighborhood, pushing the memories back into the hidden box.
After months of some heavy deliberation, I finally caved and purchased a new house. It’s located in a ritzy neighborhood, surrounded by large houses that will never feel like homes. I don’t know any of my neighbors, and I hope it stays this way. I have no intention of getting a social life. I’m content with the way things are. For months now I’ve been stopping by my house only at night, arranging furniture, putting up pictures, organizing cabinets—trying to make a new home. At night I don’t have to worry about inquisitive neighbors, I don’t have to bother introducing myself, or risk being asked about my past.
In the dark I can pretend the outside world no longer exists, that I’m just a shadow waiting for its finish line. A ghost shell lost in space unsure of what’s about to come next. At night, I’m me, the unhappy, depressed widow who no longer has the will to live but is forced to keep on going for the sake of others. Or maybe I’m just a coward who has no clue on how to face the living world. Either way, here I am for the first time in month, walking toward my place in bright daylight, praying that I’ll make it ok inside.
The house comes into view, giving me the sliver of hope and happiness that I get when I’m close to safety. I hear the child’s laughter before I actually see her and I stop, my legs unwilling to move from the spot I’m frozen in. It’s a little girl, not older than three or four, riding one of those little bikes with three wheels, while her dad follows close by. The happy scene in front of me brings back painful memories, and I shake the familiar feeling, trying to concentrate on the house ahead, forcing my legs to move from the spot they’ve been cemented on.
From the corner of my eye, I look at the father closely. He’s very tall and slender, dressed casually in jeans and a grey t-shirt with some writing on that I can’t make out from where I stand. His hair is black and straight. He has not seen me yet, so I dare to look closer at his profile. Straight nose, strong arms, long legs. I try to remember where I’ve seen him before and that’s when it hits me. He’s the same man that’s been waving hello to me every time I drive by on my way to the house. The same man I’ve ignored all these times.
Hoping to make my escape without getting his attention, I push forward like a zombie rushing to its prey.
Oh no. I ignore his voice and walk faster. I push the iron gate of my yard open and I don’t stop until I’m safe inside, behind the closed door, my heart pounding in my ears.
That was so close. I pant against the locked door and try to calm myself. This would
n’t happen if I would take the medication the nice Dr. Collins keeps prescribing. My bag is laying at my feet now, its contents thrown all over the floor, the white little bottle mocking me.
I’m stronger than this.
Deep breaths help me regain my strength. I slowly bend down and pick up the few things from the floor, then move toward the kitchen.
While I may not like the neighborhood, I do love the house. If Sam w
ere here, he would love everything I’ve done with the place. The walls are bright and sunny, while the windows are covered in heavy dark curtains. The contrast somehow works. It keeps the light out but also keeps me safe from the world outside. It doesn’t match who I am today, but it’s what Sam would’ve wanted in our new home.
“Sorry I’m late babe. I’ll make us some tea right now.” As usual, I talk to him. And
, as usual, there is no answer. “Did you have a chance to look around some more? I got the last few pieces of furniture delivered yesterday so it’s all finished now.” I busy myself with the tea kettle and turn the stove on. “Tonight is our first night here babe. I didn’t want us to sleep here until it was just right.” The boiling kettle rattles and scares the living daylight out of me, making me jump. I turn it off and pour the water in two small cups. I know he won’t drink it, but I still do this every time.
“So Dr. Collins said I’m making progress.
Pretty funny, right? I mean, if buying a house is considered progress than who am I to disagree with her.” I look around the beautiful new kitchen and feel a sense of pride. I’ve done it all on my own. “Sam, I hope you’re not mad that I used some of the insurance money to buy this place. I should’ve asked you first but I couldn’t stand being at my mom’s place. She was driving me crazy, forcing me to take those damn pills. The pills are what’s making me crazy, you know that don’t you?” I take another sip of my tea and let the hot liquid make its way down to my cold stomach. Everything inside me is cold and empty.
“Babe why did you make me
promise? How could you be so selfish?” A sob escapes me, and I know the tears are not too far behind. “How could I possibly make it without you?” I wipe my face with the bottom of my shirt. He would not be happy with me losing it like this; for him I have to stay strong. I promised and I’d never break any of the promises I made to him. “I’m ok. I’m sorry babe; I guess I’m just tired. The visits with Dr. Collins are always tiring. Do you like your tea?”
This is a typical day in my new life. I see the doctor,
drive or walk around aimlessly until the sun starts to set, come home and have tea with Sam, then hide in my office and write. I’m an author; struggling author, but an author nonetheless. I write dark and scary stories that somehow people find intriguing, and so far the bills get paid on time, thanks to them. None of my stories have a happy ending. There is no long lasting love, just pain and heartache and death. The sad, disturbing words pour out of me like a river, covering page after page. It is in here that I find my peace. Here I don’t have to pretend that I’m ok. I can be
. Sad, and lonely, and unhappy. A place where no one is allowed to remind me that Sam is not coming back.
I don’t know how long I’m locked away in my writing cave
, but my stomach reminds me that all I had all day was coffee and tea. I rub my tired eyes and push my way back to the kitchen. The clock on the microwave tells me it’s already ten at night, not that it makes any difference. Time has no meaning or value to me. I grab a can of soup and empty the gooey contents in a saucepan. Sam would have my hide for even having these in the house, but these days cooking is no longer a priority. I find the bottle of pills in my bag and take two out. They feel heavy in the palm of my hand and part of me urges me to take them. Instead I throw them in the trash. It’s easier this way to lie to the doctor when she asks how many I have left. The phone rings several times before the machine picks up. I already know it’s my mom; she’s the only one that has my home number. I contemplate weather to answer or not. If I don’t she’ll just keep on ringing and eventually she’ll just show up at the door.
Mom,” I say.
“You’re there. Hi honey. I was leaving a message. Just wanted to check with you and see how the visit went.”
“It went fine. She said I’m making progress.”
“I’m so happy
, sweetheart. I knew you would come out of it eventually. It’s what Sam would want.”
don’t say his name.”
“Sorry. I just thought-”
“No, you don’t have to apologize. Just don’t say his name. So was there anything else?” I know I’m being bitchy, but I can’t help it. She can’t possibly understand what I’m feeling, what I’m going through. She’s doing more damage than she realizes, and I don’t know how to make her understand that. Why don’t they all understand that all I need is to be left alone?!
, honey. Just wanted to say hi, I guess. Did you have dinner already? Don’t forget your pills.”
Arhh, Mom, I have to go, ok? I’m fine but I was actually on my way to bed so, yeah. Thanks for the call. Love you.” I hang up before she has a chance to say anything else. I feel terrible for doing this to her, but the need to be alone is much stronger than anything else. I throw the half eaten soup in the sink and rinse my dish before putting it into the dishwasher. Instead of going back to my writing cave, I opt for a quick shower. In the past year or so I’ve learned that the lack of personal hygiene always alarms others of your wellbeing. No matter how I feel, I try to keep a clean house and shower daily, like a robot programmed for daily routine.
I step into the cold shower and turn the water on as hot as my tired body would allow it. I scrub away until my skin is red and numb. I allow one quick look in the big mirror and gasp at the image looking back at me. It’s been a while since I paid any attention to my looks.
Part of my torso and ribcage is covered in tattoos, and no matter how pretty the colors from the ink look, I still can’t stand seeing myself naked. It’s what’s underneath that no one can see. All the little scars hiding just barely under the beautiful drawings. They are almost gone, even to the touch, but I know they are there. Like an invisible reminder of what I went through right after Sam died. Little cuts that were supposed to damage me even more; painful yet painless. It was my way of dealing with all the bad things that happened that night. The scars are now replaced by beautiful cherry blossom branches and other meaningless drawings. My ribs are protruding from under my skin like aliens from a scary movie, and they feel funny as I run my hands over them. And my once beautiful breasts are now almost gone. I don’t recognize this woman anymore than she recognizes me. We’re two strangers trapped in the same body, trying to survive. I wonder which one will win in the end?
on some pants and one of Sam’s t-shirts and go to bed. I know I won’t fall asleep right away, so I pick up my reader and try to pretend I’m reading. The night creeps up on me like an evil blanket, trying to get inside my head and pull me back to that frightful night. I don’t ever want to go back there. Even in my dreams it feels so real, the pain cutting through my skin deeper and deeper. My eyes grow heavier, and I know I’m about to lose that battle. I can’t help but fall into the darkness. At first I don’t recognize the room I’m in. It’s really dark and too quiet. I see Sam’s body lying on the carpeted floor now covered in blood. I try to run to him but there’s something heavy on top of me. My vision is blurry and I hurt everywhere. Then the scene changes before me and it all becomes clear. There are three men in our house. I’m screaming in my head, louder and louder, but Sam is not looking at me; he’s not coming to help me. The man is pushing on top of me harder and harder and I can’t do anything but lay there, my eyes locked on Sam, praying that when all is done and over I’ll be dead.