I am working on another part of my Aurelius series, but am traveling for work. It’s harder to find the time I need to write a part of a story when I’m traveling. I find a few minutes here or there, but nothing solid enough to finish. Hopefully this weekend things will be slow enough that I can finish it.
I’m standing in the door to my shop. Aurelius is playing with Philo, our felnus. He’s a four-legged animal that thrives on companionship. Since I have no other children, am an only child myself, and don’t live near any other parents, I knew I needed to get a pet. Aurelius needed more than just a mother. Philo never leaves Aurelius’s side. Even when we are working through Aurelius’s studies, Philo is at his feet beneath the table.
Things are not what they used to be. I knew my life would change after Aurelius, but I thought he would be the one to change it, not a madman, self-proclaimed king. Our planet is in ruin. Not just the part I live in, the whole planet. We’re in the middle of a war. He’s brainwashed men into thinking they can gain some sort of power and riches by joining his forces. What power? What riches? The only power he gave them was the power to kill at will. The only riches he gave them is the richness of blood on their hands.
Since we live in such a remote area, we have yet to be hit with the hardest of the war. We are still able to carry on with our daily lives, but our traveling merchants have felt it like no other. Those who have decided to sell from home have lost most of what they had. Those who decided to risk the Carnage have not come back or have come back in pieces when they were unwilling to join the cause.
I’ve shielded Aurelius from most of the gore. I tell him what is happening, but I’m not sure he knows how bad it is. My shop has lost a lot of business. I’ve been keeping a stock of pirpusus hidden in case vandals or, gods forbid, the army decides to take what is ours. Vandals I could handle. Most of them are just starved and desperate for food. The army, however, I fear they would try to take more than my food supply.
I am a strong woman, of that I am confident. But there is also a part of me that wishes he was still here. He seemed so powerful and, even if he wasn’t exactly powerful, his sheer mass would be enough to keep them at bay. I still haven’t forgiven him for disappearing the way he did. He gave me something beautiful, but it’s like he knew. It’s as if he knew the responsibility that would follow and left before I had a chance to corner him with it.
Gods he was beautiful though. His large hands were gentle when they caressed my skin. His eyes were kind and caring. He came into my shop almost every day for three months. At first he spent hours looking around only to buy the same thing – one raw pirpusus. I finally started to tease him about it and he teased me back.
“You know, you’re the first person I’ve seen take this long to pick out one fruit.” I told him one day after giving him his change.
“And you’re the first shop owner I’ve met who hasn’t told me to stop loitering.” His eyes danced with mischief.
“So you do this often? Come into a women’s shop, browse her wares, making you think you’ll buy the whole store, only to buy one small thing?” I shoot back across the counter. His face makes me feel incredibly comfortable with him. That confident gaze is unyielding, but the smile that is constantly playing on his lips makes him seem younger, more playful.
“Not usually. Do you often give your faithful patrons such a hard time about buying fruit?” I lean my forearms on the counter to get closer and whisper to him.
“Only the ones who take forever to buy it.” He leaned into the counter as well, his face inches from mine. His massive frame taking up all of my view.
“What if I told you I take that long because the gardener is more beautiful than the fruit? And that I take so long because I know as soon as I have what I came for, our business will be done.” There was a slight shift in his gaze. The stars left for a second and were replaced with a small amount of sadness I didn’t understand. He blinked and it went away, the stars came back.
“Same time tomorrow?” He asks, that hint of a smile coming back. I nod. He doesn’t move and I feel unable to move. I stare into his eyes which seem to get deeper. It’s like there are worlds inside them. It’s like there’s an infinite amount of knowledge and wisdom behind them. I don’t even realize he’s been moving until I can feel his breath against my face. I feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end.
The sound of the shop door opening breaks the trance. I stand abruptly and smile at the new customer. My cheeks feel like they are on fire. He hasn’t moved. He’s still leaning across the counter staring at me. Slowly he stands. Slowly, deliberately he stretches his hand out and lightly runs a finger down my blushing cheek. He winks, turns and leaves. Now that he’s gone I realize my heart is pounding and that I’ve been holding my breath. I slowly breathe in and hope the customer doesn’t notice how flustered I feel.
That was a long time ago. I can still feel his finger brushing my skin. I can still feel his eyes on me. I shake my head to clear the memory. I look at Aurelius’s smiling face. He has his father’s eyes, but that smile is all me. He throws another stick and Philo takes off after it. Both our hearts stop. I see Aurelius’s hand drop out of the air where it had hung after throwing the stick.
“Mother?” He says unsteadily backing toward me.
“Take Philo inside.” I tell him. The felnus runs back with the stick in his jaw. Aurelius takes the stick, drops it on the ground, and walks toward the door. Philo follows at his heels, completely unaware of what’s to come. I stand staring at the horizon. I thought we were far enough away from the big cities. I was so sure we’d be safe. The cloud of dust and subtle rumble tell otherwise.
“I’d rather you write.” Those were words my husband said to me last night. The conversation didn’t even start off talking about my writing. It started off talking about me wanting to work for my parents to relieve a little of their burden. I’d love to be able to work for them part-time while I write. We aren’t financially set up for that kind of career move, but that could be my 5-10 year goal.
He said those words out of the blue last night. I feel like they may be an echo of something he said years ago when I was talking of wanting to be a photographer. I enjoy taking pictures. I enjoy the composition and editing. I thought maybe one day of become a photo journalist. I think I’d get bored being a studio photographer. Back then he said he didn’t see me as a “real photographer”. It hurt my feelings at the time, but I also understood what he meant. I didn’t take my camera everywhere I went. If I did take my camera I didn’t always use it.
Writing has been a constant in my life and I think even back then he told me that about photography that he thinks I should give it a go as an author instead. Last night he said that the way I talk about writing, he’s never heard me talk about photography in that way. He may not have realized it, but lately I haven’t mentioned being a photographer and I also haven’t been taking my camera as many places. It’s the truth though. I don’t feel toward anything the way I feel toward writing. It’s a part of me. It’s a part of my soul.
I have stacks and stacks of journals. I have stacks of poems and even a few books. I can find something to write about even when I think I have nothing. Once I get the tiniest spark of an idea going, I could write for hours. I hate only being able to write, at most, 30-45 minutes a day. I want to sit for 8 hours straight and write like I did in highschool.
Even though I want more, those 30-45 minutes are a haven for me. They give me a feeling of accomplishment. I feel like I’m working toward my ultimate goal of becoming a writer. Sometimes those minutes go too fast and I can’t finish my thought (aka post), but I just make sure to come back the next day or even later the same day and finish it. I love hearing other authors talk about their writing. I love reading their stories. I love the world of writing.
I’d rather I write. I’m so glad I have my husband’s full support.
I wonder what my family thinks when I say “You’re in my prayers” or “I’ll pray for you”. Normally that wouldn’t be something to wonder about. Normally people would take it for what it is – someone who cares requesting a favor from the God they believe in. But I’ve had quite a few of my relatives who (through some conversations and comments) made it clear they don’t think I believe in any God.
I do believe in a divine being, a creator. But I don’t believe the Bible is his work and this confuses a lot of my family. They think belief in God and belief in the Bible HAVE to go hand in hand. That really isn’t the case. I have a cousin whose son is very sick and has been since he was born. They have been working on getting him well enough to go home and on her latest update post she asked for even more prayer as they prepare to do more intense therapy. I told her I’d be praying extra hard.
I placed that on a post she put on social media and then it got me thinking. Many of my aunts, uncles, and cousins see those update posts. What do they think when they see my name attached to those words? Do they think I’m a hypocrite? Do they think I’m a liar (that I won’t really be praying)? Do they think my prayers won’t count because I’m not praying to “their” God?
Even my own brother-in-law can’t separate me (a person who believes there is a divine being who created all) from an atheist. I have a friend who is an atheist and I don’t give him a hard time about his belief in science and only that. I can still appreciate his point of view and talk with him openly about our differences of opinion. Why is it so hard for my Bible believing relatives to do the same with me? We’re not even on opposite sides.
Panic and dread cover me like a dark cloud. Why isn’t he a screaming? Why isn’t he crying? Where are the sounds I hear every mother talk about? I look down toward the physician, but he has his back to me. I can see his arms moving quickly. What is he doing?
“Is he ok? Why don’t I hear anything?” He turns around with the unmoving baby in his arms. He looks so tiny wrapped up in all the blood and mucus stained towels.
“He’s fine. Just a little shocked to be in this new world.” The doctor says with a satisfied smile as he finishes wiping Aurelius clean. The doctor places him on my chest as a rush of relief washes over me. His skin is soft against mine and I’m surprised to feel tiny breaths brushing against my skin as I watch his back move up and down in a soft rythym. I wish he were here to see how perfect our son is.
This tiny being is now mine to care for. Mine to raise into a good-hearted, strong man. Mine to feed and shelter. Mine to protect even after he’s strong enough to protect himself. I know instantly that I will never be able to let him go. I know I will never give up on him. Looking at him now I feel confirmation of what I’ve known since the moment I felt that tiny change in my body.
“You are going to do great things.” I whisper. His round cheeks twitch. His fingers curl and uncurl. They are so tiny. I shift him so that he is cradled in the crook of my arm and I can see his face more fully.
His blue eyes blink open and look straight into mine. He doesn’t make a peep. I continue to whisper my love to him. His eyes move over my face as if he is making sure to memorize this is who will keep him safe. He is so relaxed. I continue to whisper to him. Then both my heart and my air catch in my chest as he reaches his tiny little hand to touch my face. A baby-sized smile spreads across his mouth and I watch it move in an effort to talk back.
I know now, this is why I was born. As peace fills me and I smile at my Aurelius, I know this is where I’m meant to be. I lean my head back against the pillow and realize the physician has left the room. He is a wise old man and sweet for giving me time alone with my son. I had thought about letting my mother stay in the room, but a few hours in, I told her it would be better for her to take care of the shop. I would be fine. I thought I might regret it, but I don’t. I felt powerful on my own. I can’t explain it. There seemed to be another force helping me push my son into this world.
“You can.” She is the perfect specimen. She has no idea the destiny the gods have aligned for her. Her innocence and disposition are exactly what is needed. I wondered how long it would take her to ask if I need help. She is studious in her work. I watch a nervous smile cross her face.
“What kind of help would you like?” I glance around the shop and then lock eyes with her again. Her red hair falls in soft waves, hanging far below her shoulders. Her bronze skin shows time spent in the sun, but gives way to no wrinkles and few lines. The lines that appear on her face are those created from years of laughter. She is definitely one who loves to laugh. Her green eyes sparkle with mystery, both her own and wondering at mine.
“I’m quite new to eating pirpusus. I’ve seen the fruit itself.” I say holding one up. “But never all this other stuff you seem to have made out of it.” Pride dances in her eyes.
“Let me show you.” I set my clipboard down on the counter. I’ve decided his eyes are what is most unsettling about him. Although he stares openly at me, it doesn’t make me weary of his intentions. The steadiness of them is what makes them unsettling. His eyes are confident and unwavering. A small hint of a smile dances around his mouth. He doesn’t break eye contact. Most people break away after a moment, but not him.
It’s almost as if he’s staring not at you, but through you. Not in the sense you are invisible to him, but in the sense that he sees into your soul. I get the feeling lying to him would be useless. It makes me uncomfortable, but also secure at the same time. It’s odd and doesn’t make much sense but his gaze is both calming and unsettling at the same time. I wonder what he is thinking about. What he thinks about me.
As she shows me the different tonics, jams, salves, and raw fruits of her shop I listen to her with interest. She has a beautiful mind. Pirpusus is rare on this planet and for her to know as much as she does has taken her years of research, trial and error, and frustration. She hasn’t told me that, but I know. As we circle the displays, I watch her body sway softly. Her shoulders are straight as is her back. Not in a harsh schoolmarm way. It is from confidence. She is speaking about what she loves and this helps her hold herself up, proud.
“So that’s everything.” She turns to me with a smile on her face. I can’t help myself.
“You are captivating.”
He says the words almost as a release of air. His sure, confident eyes locked on mine. I look away embarassed and try to cover my awkward smile with my hand. He reaches up and softly pulls my hand from my face, but says nothing. His eyes continue to see through me.
“Thank you.” It comes out weak. I clear my throat. “I’ll just be behind the counter. Let me know if you need anything.” I retreat quickly. My hand tingling where he had been holding it. When I get to the counter and turn around he is still staring at me. He smiles a crooked smile and turns to look at the tonics again.
I watch him for a bit. I hadn’t realized just how tall he was until he had been standing right in front of me. I didn’t just have to look up to see his face, I had to bend my neck backward. His body is thick, solid. Normally having such a large, powerful person in my shop would make me a little nervous. I have weapons under the counter, but you never know how they might pull you away from it. He, however, doesn’t make me nervous at all. Which also makes me nervous. The more innocent he seems, the more I’m likely to trust him and the easier it’ll be for him to rob me. I’m extremely confused by my feelings toward his presence.
His face is aged, but still handsome. The tips of his wavvy, silver hair just barely touch his shoulders. His beard and mustache are trimmed neatly. His skin is the same as those native to our planet so I don’t think he is an outsider, but there is definitely something foreign about him.
I’m standing next to our vehicle. I’ve never felt this much pressure and pain. He wants out and he wants out now! I place one hand on the side of the car and wrap my other hand around my stomach as another wave of tension moves across my back and abdomen. Just wait another 10 minutes Aurelius. I whisper to my eager boy.
No one had told me he was a boy. I just knew. I knew from the moment I first felt my body change. I knew from the moment I realized I was pregnant. The physician confirmed it, but I wouldn’t have needed him. The same was true for his name. I didn’t know why, but one day when I felt him move, I unconsciously whispered “You are going to do great things Aurelius”. I had surprised even myself. I rolled the name over in my mind a few times and decided to keep it.
My mom arrives with the doctor just as the contraction subsides. They help me into his home. They get me into a room as the time between contractions tightens. Through the pain and agony all I can see is his face. All I can think is why did he do this to me. He was handsome, but that’s not what had attracted me to him.
I’ve heard of worlds that are full of soft green grass. Worlds that grow foods that are yellow, orange, red, and blue. Worlds full of color. Worlds that rely on blue waters for life. Their people live in houses too big for their number and drives cars that cost more than their houses.
Here things are simpler. We rely on triteum. It is a dry, dense crop that serves many purposes. It can be eaten raw. It can be ground into a powder. It can be chopped and cooked. We rely on one liquid. Liqua. It is thick and its color is a deep sparkling purple. Liqua and triteum can be mixed together and some people find it a rich blend. The rarest of foods to be found is pirpusus. It is a rich, succulent fruit. It takes five years to grow. Those are our three sources of life.
Our homes are humble. We build only what we need. We do not tear down more of the nature that surrounds us than what we will use. They are made from the wood of the hard unblooming trees and the mud beneath them. I am fortunate enough to have once found a pirpusus seed and now have a modest sized shop to sell from.
That is where I met him. He came into my shop. I had just opened that morning and was still going through my inventory. I didn’t give him much thought at first. I get plenty of unknown faces. He walked around my shop without interrupting my work. He was quiet and moved softly. It was surprising how smooth he moved for someone his size. It wasn’t until I realized he had been there for quite some time that I looked up from my logs.
“Can I help you?”
I feel like I’m……..
A teacher in high school once made us do a writing assignment. She told us that she didn’t care what we wrote about. She didn’t care if we repeated the same word or sentence over and over, her only rule was that for 15 minutes we had to continuously write. I don’t even remember what the goal of the assignment was.
This came to mind just now because I’m not sure how to go on. I want to write about what I’m feeling, but I don’t even understand what I’m feeling. I feel half crazy. I have a lump in my throat and I feel like the air is thinning, but for no reason at all. I’ve gone through some pretty intense emotional, mental, and even physical trials over the last 9 days. The only problem is – I don’t know if that’s what’s causing it.
I want to talk to someone, but am not sure who to talk to. Do I spend the money to go to a therapist? Will it even help? Am I chemically imbalanced and that’s why I can’t understand my own moods.
I was angry earlier for no reason. I just felt irritation and my chest was tightening. I couldn’t explain why. Not knowing the answer to the why question is driving me nuts. I like to know how things work, what makes things function. This becomes more difficult when you don’t even understand yourself. How do I answer my husband when he asks me what’s wrong and I have no idea what’s wrong?
Well I guess the advice to just not stop writing worked.
Took another small step today. I’m trying to work my way up to sharing my writing with all, but I’m still not sure I can face the inevitable music of sharing it with my friends/extended family. I did, however, decide to start sharing my posts on Pinterest. Not too many people follow my Pinterest as far as I know, but it is still me branching out. I think I’ll figure out a way to celebrate this small step toward being more outgoing and less fearful of responses.
Her figure stands just behind me
Always reminding me I’m not in control
Always making my heart beat faster
My chest tighten, my head spin
Does she realize I see her shadow?
Everywhere I go, she’s there
I try to shake her eerie gaze
A chill runs down my spine when no wind is present
I turn and yell
“I know you’re there!”
She is quiet and patient
What she is waiting for, I know not
Why she looms day after day
If I knew, maybe I could help
Maybe I could free her
Can others sense her presence?
Do they feel her piercing eyes?
Do I dare ask?
I lie in the dark and still her shadow covers me
I stand in the sunshine, but it’s rays do not reach me
“What do you want?”
I whisper in the stillness
How do I rid myself of that which I do not understand?
On the softest of breezes I hear my name
I turn, but no one is there
No one but the shadow
The ghost of someone in torment
The ghost of someone broken
The remnants of someone defeated
The ghost of…Me?