Authors: Donna Joy Usher
The Seven Steps to Closure Copyright © 2012 by Donna Joy Usher.
This book was produced using
I would like to take this opportunity to thank my husband for listening patiently to my monologue, in-depth discussions on my writing, my Mother and my friends – Nicky, Kirsty, Stephanie, Vicki, Tracy, Laura and Michelle – for reading
The Seven Steps to Closure
and offering such valuable input, and my muse – for entrusting me with this story and having the faith that I would get it right.
Thank you for reading
The Seven Steps to Closure
. I really hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you’d like to contact me or are interested in my other books please visit my blogsite at
, or follow me on twitter @DonnaJoyUsher.
have just completed book one in The Chanel Series –
Cocoa and Chanel
. It will be ready for release August 2013.
I am also excited about my new Young Adult Fiction Urban Fantasy trilogy – The War Faery Series, and have recently completed book two in the series. I am hoping to have the first book ready for release by June 2014.
Polly want a crackhead. Polly want a crackhead.’
The voice, more piercing than any alarm, dragged me from my slumber.
‘Who’s a pretty boy?’
I peered blurrily at my bedside table. What time was it? What day was it? Snapshots of the night before flashed before my eyes. Dancing on a table?
‘Mary had a little lesbian.’
Harrumphing in annoyance I lifted my head and pummelled my pillow into a more comfortable shape. My efforts were rewarded with a spinning head and an urge to throw up.
I had a killer hangover.
What did I get up to last night?
I concentrated hard and finally more flashes of memory assaulted me – bad karaoke, skolling wine out of a bottle, falling over in a bar, telling complete strangers how my husband had left me, and finally being taken home in a taxi while I sobbed uncontrollably.
I groaned in shame.
‘The money’s on the dresser.’
Rolling my eyes, I turned my attention to the problem at hand. It was really no surprise Cocky had ended up at the animal shelter where my mother volunteered, but I was still perplexed as to why she’d given him to me.
‘He talks,’ she’d advised when she’d dropped him off. ‘It’ll do you good to have some proper company.’
‘Show us your knockers.’
It begged the question: just how sad did she think I’d become if this was proper company?
Gingerly, I swung my legs out of bed and sat with my head between my knees as I made my plan. A quick dash across the lounge to the toilet, ten or so minutes of puking my heart out, and then I could deal with the bird.
He waited until I was almost at the bathroom. ‘You’ve got a fat ass.’
I spun menacingly towards the cage.
‘Nice tits though.’
‘Thanks,’ I said, automatically looking down. I stopped and sighed, realising there was a chance that the cockatiel’s compliment was the nicest thing that would happen to me that day. I had obviously reached a low point in my life.
I looked at Cocky bobbing up and down on his perch, obviously very pleased with himself. ‘What am I going to do with you?’ I asked. I was glaring into his beady eyes – determined to outstare him, when all of a sudden a hot sweat and waves of nausea washed over me. Breaking eye contact I rushed to the toilet just in time to relieve the contents of my stomach in a terribly undignified manner. I heard his cackles echoing around the lounge room and into the bathroom where I lay panting on the floor, tears rolling down my face.
Quarter of an hour later, my face pressed to the cold floor tiles, I considered my options. I couldn’t give him to anyone. I couldn’t kill him – I mean really, I couldn’t.
‘Mary had a little lesbian.’
I’d have to let him go; there really was no other option.
Before I had time to rethink my decision I placed the cage on my balcony, with the door open, and then riffled desperately through my pantry searching for the Nurofen. After I had consumed two I went back to bed willing myself to sleep. But sleep wouldn’t come. I sighed, letting my mind wander where it wanted to. It did an experimental poke at my heart. Ouch. It still hurt, after all this time.
Why couldn’t I get over him? Last night had been the anniversary of our break up; surely now I should be able to move on. Instead I felt caught in an emotional time warp. I yearned for the day I would wake up and know that deep inside me, the wounds had healed – but at the same time I still fantasised about a reunion with him. I had become an emotional schizophrenic.
It wasn’t like I hadn’t tried. I’d seen a therapist, a psychologist and a palm reader. I’d read heaps of self-help books, even done an exercise from one; feeling a little stupid as I’d stared into the mirror visualising Jake’s face instead of my own tear-swollen reflection, while quoting lines from different movies, sitcoms and songs.
‘Tomorrow is another day.’
‘Asta la vista baby.’
‘Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.’
‘Goodbye and thanks for all the fish.’
‘And that, my friend, is closure.’
I practised them again and again, but no matter how hard I tried, how much emphasis I put into it, how much I wished it and willed it, I couldn’t get the thrilling feeling of power that I felt when I said them to stick. The sad truth is – even now – after all this time, if he walked through my door I would beg him to stay. And even sadder, I knew I wouldn’t be happy. Yet it seemed I couldn’t be happy without him.
‘Men,’ I sighed, rolling over and trying to get comfortable, ‘you can’t live with them…..’
And in my case, that about summed it up.
‘Polly want a crackhead. Polly want a crackhead.’
I sighed, realising he was still in his cage, and then clambered back out of bed. If he didn’t want to leave I was going to have to give him some encouragement. Initially I tried to grab him, intending to gently remove him from the cage and place him on the table, but the little bastard was far too fast for me. He darted around the cage, biting me as hard as he could whenever my hand got close. I stopped to rethink the situation and moved to Plan B.
Plan B quickly evolved into quite a nasty situation during which I held the cage up and shook it as hard as I could – while he clung to the bars with his little feet and squawked at the top of his lungs. ‘Let go, let go’, I shrieked, in time with my shaking. It all ended quite dramatically when he lost his grip and ricocheted around the cage before flopping onto the table with his little eyes closed.
I’ve actually killed him.
Filled with remorse I picked him up, cradling him in my hands. ‘There, there,’ I crooned softly, stroking his feathery neck as tears welled in my eyes. And then, one beady eye popped open and glared at me. Apprehensively, I tried to place him back on the table. Unfortunately I wasn’t quite fast enough.
‘Ayeeeee!’ I screeched as he latched onto the delicate skin between my thumb and first finger and bit with all his might. Jumping up and down yelping, I shook my hand frantically trying to break his hold. Finally he launched into the air and I watched in horror as he smacked into the ceiling before thumping back onto the deck.
I reached out a toe to nudge him and then thought better of it. I waited breathlessly, staring at him, searching for any signs of life. Finally, he shook himself violently, squawked, ‘Fucking Bitch’, and flew off over the balcony.
The whole episode left me feeling hollow and guilty. Pushing thoughts of my mother out of my mind, I clambered back into bed and finally fell asleep.
* * *
I was woken again at 11.30 am by the burbling of my phone. It was a text from Dinah, one of my best friends.
Wake up Tara. Don’t forget Café Mudslide at 12.45
Hmmmm. I must have made lunch plans last night. I lifted my head experimentally off the pillow. No agonising pain, no head spin and no urge to puke. Fantastic. I swung my legs out of bed and stood gingerly, waiting for any nasty side-effects. All seemed to be in working order, so I texted Dinah and went to have a shower.
Natalie, Dinah and Elaine – my three best friends – were already at the café when I arrived. It was evident by the empty coffee cups they had been there a while. I wasn’t sure why, but that made me nervous. I caught the eye of a waiter to order a latte and then sat down at the table.
‘Give it to me gently,’ I said. ‘How bad was I?’
‘Not as bad as me on my thirtieth,’ Elaine informed me.
I felt a little better until Nat pushed her thick blonde hair back behind her shoulders and said huskily, ‘You drank other people’s leftovers.’
I concentrated on my few foggy memories from the night before, horrified when one of drinking remnants out of discarded glasses crystallised.
‘One of them had a cigarette butt floating in it. I only just stopped you from skolling it.’
I put my hand up to stop her, my hangover still too raw to think about things like swallowing someone else’s soggy cigarette butt.
‘You snogged the barman,’ continued Elaine, smiling cheekily.
Another slice of memory surfaced: me, kissing a stranger who stood like a statue, his arms by his side. I covered my face in shame.
‘I was actually eyeing him off myself,’ she said.
‘It was my birthday,’ I mumbled into my hands, ‘get your own barman.’ I looked up at them. ‘Probably best not to go back there for a while.’
‘Yeah, his girlfriend wasn’t too impressed,’ said Nat.
‘Oh no. I don’t remember a girlfriend.’ I slumped a little more in my chair.
Nat laughed, her blue eyes twinkling. ‘Remember that poor chick you cornered in the toilets when you were crying?’ she asked.
‘Nope, can’t remember.’
‘You were talking to her for about 45 minutes.’
I shook my head.
‘You told her all about Jake and Tash.’
A vague memory of a woman with a bored expression, handing me toilet paper to blow my nose on, floated into my conscious mind.
‘She was a good listener.’
‘She couldn’t get around you to get out.’
‘That would explain it.’
Dinah was watching me with obvious amusement. Her short brown hair, flecked with reds and caramels, framed her face, giving her a cute tomboyish look. ‘Do you remember throwing up in the cab?’ she asked.
‘Noooooo,’ I said mortified, ‘I didn’t?’
‘Nahh, just kidding.’
I punched her in the shoulder.
‘Sucker,’ she replied, rubbing her arm.
Nat, Dinah and I all went to school together. Nat and I had hung out in the sandpit together in kindergarten. Dinah had turned our twosome into a threesome in Grade 5 when she had moved schools. Nat and I had been hiding under the stairs behind the gym from the Grade 6 bullies when we first met her. They had increased the torture they subjected us to from simple name calling to hair pulling and wedgies, and just that morning we had overheard them mentioning toilets, heads and flushing in the same sentence. We had been under the stairs ever since. Unfortunately, we were ratted out by another terrified student and had been discovered. They were poking us with rulers when a new pair of legs arrived on the scene.
‘What are you doing?’ asked the newcomer curiously. She wore battered school shoes and mismatched socks.
‘Oh look,’ said the gang leader with glee. ‘It’s the new girl. Let’s get her.’
Nat and I, torn between guilt and relief, inched out from under the stairs just far enough to watch. Dinah looked so small and vulnerable.
‘Run, run,’ I shrieked, hiccupping between my terrified sobs. But Dinah stayed calm. Then there was a blur of motion, at the end of which the bully was down on her back and the rest of the gang had disappeared. It’s one of my favourite childhood memories.
Dinah, at five foot four and a size eight, is still petite and dangerous: she earned a second Dan black belt in karate a couple of years ago. Now a dentist with her own practice, she’s also my boss. When I married Jake he had convinced me to be his personal assistant, a job I didn’t need my business degree for. Consequently, when he left me I was out of a job. Luckily for me, Dinah had been looking for a new practice manager at the same time. Not wanting to risk our friendship we had decided to give it a three-month trial. It had quickly turned into a permanent position when we realised how well we worked together.
Natalie, blonde and beautiful, is a lawyer. She has a pert little nose, wide sensuous mouth, aquamarine blue eyes and a voluptuous body. Breasts and hips; something Dinah and I are a little short on. There are always men lining up to date her, but so far she hasn’t found anyone worth having a relationship with. She has turned her eye to a partnership at the law firm she works for.
Elaine – I’ve known for four years. We met taking a boxercise class at the local gym, which had consisted of a gay instructor jumping up and down in front of us shrieking, ‘And punch, punch, punch,’ as he flicked his limp wrists around. We had started laughing and then, catching each other’s eyes, had laughed so hard we had to leave the class. I came very close to wetting myself. We ditched the gym, found a café and later enrolled in kick boxing classes. We’ve been taking various classes together since.
Elaine works in marketing. Out of all of us she is the most sophisticated and glamorous. Five-eight without her heels, (but you never catch her without them on), she has gorgeous olive skin and green eyes, and has her blonde foils maintained by the Australian Hairdresser of the Year – Tristan – who happens to be her brother. She is also a self-proclaimed cougar, being thirty-seven years old and ‘
vowing never to date a guy over twenty-eight’.
She says the sex keeps her lean. Her favourite man though, is her pet Chihuahua, Benny, who was just a teeny, weeny puppy when we first met. He often comes to cafés with us in her handbag.
‘Tara, there’s something you need to see.’ Elaine started digging around in her handbag, moving Benny to one side.
That sounded ominous. I wondered what it was. A photo of my ass in the skirt I had worn the night before?
She finally emerged triumphantly with the
Sydney Morning Herald
and handed it to me, open at the social pages.
I glanced down with trepidation. Yep, there they were, Jake, with my cousin Tash – she looked gorgeous as usual. Just once I’d like to see a photo of her that wasn’t great. Maybe one where they’d caught her at the wrong angle and she had big bags under her eyes or a huge zit on the end of her nose. I stared closer, noting how perfectly straight her nose was – remembering the day she fell off her horse and broke it – and wondering how much it cost to have it fixed. In my mind I superimposed myself into the photo, taking her place by Jake’s side.
The visual swap didn’t quite work. To start with, she is a size eight; I am a twelve, maybe a fourteen on a bad day – it really depends where I shop. (All right, all right, so on occasion I’ve had to buy size sixteen pants. I put it down to the fact that most clothes these days are made in China. Everybody knows Chinese women are tiny.) She wears all clothes like a catwalk model; I look best in long pants and tank tops. She has blonde hair; mine is dark. She is petite; I’m tall. She has perfect creamy skin; mine is olive, with a few annoying freckles on my nose. She is naturally skinny; if I don’t exercise I morph into a blimp.